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Some authors hide behind their words and author photos, unrecognized by the general public and are happy with that. On the other hand, there are authors who become a celebrity in their own right (and no, I don’t mean the celebrity “memoirs” or, God-forbid, the “books” written by Lauren Conrad or Heidi & Spencer).

Some authors achieve this status through talk show appearances (James Frey, anyone?) while others build a hugely loyal reading fan base.  I think Robert Crais, bestselling crime fiction author, is the latter.

The video you see above is the second author video I’ve worked on, and working with Bob was like working with a seasoned journalist.  You can tell he’s comfortable in front of the camera and gave us so many sound bites to work with, it was hard to keep the video under three minutes!  So Oprah, if you’re reading this, I suggest you have this charismatic and well-written author on your show before you retire.

In other Crais news, his latest Joe Pike novel (you all should know who Joe Pike is, of the sexy tattoos who exudes sex appeal) went on sale yesterday!  You can find THE FIRST RULE at your favorite bookseller nationwide.  It was my first Crais novel, and I’ve since visited his backlist and never been disappointed.

There’s something unique about Crais’s two main characters, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole.  They’re smart and dangerous, but not unemotional.  Though they’re crime books about very bad people (ahem, the Serbian mob – scary), the friendships and relationships depicted go much deeper than the surface, giving these novels a depth beyond the typical title in this genre.

Bob is on tour for several weeks (details) and if you’re anywhere in the vicinity I highly suggest you stop by.  My sister is attending the event in Dayton, OH and I’m going to try to convince her to do a guest post about it.  I know Jen Forbus is driving several hours to the same event (now that is a loyal fan!).

JUST IN: I am not the only one to think of Crais as a leading man!  Check out this new post, “Hot (& Talented) Authors!” – don’t miss the People’s Sexiest Man article they link to as well!

What other authors do you think have achieved a celebrity status and following?

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It appears I need to change my gmail signature from “Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over & updated regularly: http://www.novelwhore.wordpress.com” to read more along the lines of:

“Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over regularly, but rarely updated, though every time I write I really enjoy it, so keep on visiting until it  gets more exciting.”

And, like the headline suggests, I am going to re-post my article from http://www.beneaththecover.com right now, since not only does it take  minimal effort since it’s already written, but I’m able to justify to myself that my blog is now updated!  So, for all you readers that I really do appreciate, here’s my latest column:

HANDLE WITH CARE

What are books, exactly—treasured artifacts to be displayed behind glass, or objects to be enjoyed and devoured, like a good meal?

I know that no book I actually enjoy leaves the experience unscathed. For the lucky few that I enjoy, I’ll refer back to the content often, dog-eared pages in my wake. While stories offer escape within the language, for the books I reread I get taken back to where I was the first time, whether it be via the stains of soy sauce from unsuccessfully trying to read while enjoying sushi, or the sand that spills out as remnants of a long-forgotten vacation.

Obviously, with that description in mind, you can see that the books on my shelf may never make it into a museum exhibition of classics preserved in immaculate conditions. But what are books for if not to be loved, smelled, handled, and passed around? To me, the print medium is so important—though after lugging home a complete manuscript to read this evening (even with double-sided printing, 204 sheets is heavy!), my shoulder disagrees and would prefer a Kindle copy.

I admit that so much of my fervor for print comes from its history. I didn’t stay up past my bedtime with a computer screen under my bedspread, but a flashlight, as I stealthily flipped pages. I get a special thrill from going back to my parents’ house and seeing the children’s books I wrote my name in, using my “best hand writing” in 4th grade. While it took me a while to get to this rather obvious realization, it came with the help of journalist and author Allison Hoover Bartlett.

Her upcoming book (available from Riverhead Books next month, September 2009), The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, tracks an unrepentant book thief and the “bibliodick” determined to take him down. It’s a story of passion and addiction, and has made me compulsively check all the books sold out of boxes on the streets of NYC for rare 1st editions awaiting discovery.

In this true tale about catching a wily 1st edition book thief, books are believed to be treasures, investments, or a drug, pacifying a need. While I admit it would be nice to have that 1st edition of Gone with the Wind standing proudly on my shelf (actually, it would be behind glass, it’s so rare!), I don’t need an intact dust jacket to accompany it that’s worth far beyond the cover price. The content and history between the pages is enough for me.

And the stuff within the pages may be enough for you, too. On the publishing blog GalleyCat.com, Ron Hogan thoughtfully deciphered a recent survey from the Pepsi Optimism Project citing the “optimism booster” cited by more respondents than any other—88 percent—was “books.”

As Bartlett notes towards the end of her book, “[Books] root us in something larger than ourselves, something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive, even long after e-books have become popular . . . I can’t help think that our connection to books is still, after all these centuries, as important as it is intangible.

So while I may want that Kindle for the sake of my poor shoulders, I don’t think I’ll give up my search for the elusive and meaningful hardcover finds, including a Margaret Mitchell 1st edition.

Sometimes the life of a drug lord seems a little like the mob – dangerous and violent, but sexy in that easy-money sort of way.  I don’t have the heart for it – I can’t take the pictures of the starving children in Africa that come up on those religious commercials, much less personally contributing to addicts (is that a logical chain of thought?).  Not to mention drugs, weapons and police scare me… But they do make for a good story, as long as the violence and danger stay on the page, unlike the Mexican Cartels currently doing their best to wreak havoc in the States…

Elizabeth Lowell had no idea how current her fictional novel, The Wrong Hostage, would seem right now, with news outlets daily covering the influx of drugs and violence from Mexico and the issues going on within the drug world down there.

Published as the second book within her “St. Kilda” series (of which I’ve

How I like to picture MX

How I like to picture MX

never read the first), The Wrong Hostage takes place during a harrowing weekend in which California Judge Grace Silva is forced to go toe-to-toe with the feared Mexican drug lord, Hector Rivas Osuna, in order to rescue her 15-year-old son.  Held hostage against money Silva’s ex-husband owes, she takes action.  Instead of wasting time in tracking down her lousy ex, missing for weeks, she calls the super-secret St. Kilda firm, known only to her due to a brief, passionate love affair with an operative… If you’re a fan of the “Romantic Suspense” genre, I bet you can guess this operative is also, ta-da, the son’s real father.

Through scary roads in Mexico, being witness to cold-hearted murder within the drug community (reminiscent of the Chicago Mob: https://novelwhore.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/operation-gambat-when-corruption-was-king-of-chicago/) and all the while reigniting  long-lost passion, this is a fast-paced novel that leaves your heart in your throat as you just wish the family to be reunited, frolicking on a white-sand beach and off the drug-ridden streets of Tijuana.

Crazily enough, I read this novel last year and as quickly as I finished the last page it left my thoughts, just to spring to mind as I was reading The New York Times two days ago:  “More than 7,000 people [in Mexico], most of them connected to the drug trade or law enforcement, have died since January 2008. Many of the victims were tortured. Beheadings have become common.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&em.

There are numerous additional articles covering home invasions and kidnappings in the United States, all related to the Mexican drug trade, making me wonder if a situation like Lowell portrayed in The Wrong Hostage happened to an ordinary family unconnected with underground, all-powerful rescue rings (do these even exist in real life?), what would happen?  Would the news even be publicized, or would one family be in unbearable private pain?

It’s scary when what I would consider to be outlandish fiction comes alive in the newspaper.  While I enjoyed reading this book throughout its 406 pages, I don’t like the reading of individual newspaper articles that don’t always have the same caliber of ending (trying not to give anything aware, being sly).

Give this book a try if you like action, suspense, guns and violence with an undercurrent of sexual tension, but skip it if you would rather not take a behind-the-scenes peek at what may be happening as we speak.

And I even love Mexico – Cancun vacation, anyone!?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B
  • Title: The Wrong Hostage
  • Author: Elizabeth Lowell
  • Publisher: Avon

The other night a group of 11 of us girls got together for a 25th birthday dinner for a friend.  Quartino’s, the fun Gold Coast spot we chose for shared small-plates and affordable wine was smart enough to seat our loud-chattering and wine-induced crowd into our own private, window enclosed room.  In which we could look through the glass at the other diners if we so chose, or had the option of pulling the shades, making out own secret room.  Romantic? Maybe with a different crowd.  Prestigious? Potentially, if we weren’t buying the cheapest liters of house wine from the menu.  Secretive?  Definitely.  My mind immediately went to the “Mob-like” activities that could have, and most likely did, occur in similar rooms throughout Chicago in the 1990s.

“Most cities have one overriding claim to fame.  Say Los Angeles and you think about the movies; say Paris, you think art; Detroit, cars.  But when people the world over, say Chicago, they think of something less marketable:  Organized Crime.” -Robert Cooley

Since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve had time to wander the city (please note my updated To Do: Chicago list) and really have begun to appreciate the history that’s apparent on every street.  To delve into the past, I’ve decided to embark on a trip down the darker side of Chicago, that of the Mob, and Robert Cooley, cited above, is the rabble-rousing teenager -> policeman -> lawyer -> crooked lawyer -> government informant who is the source to take us behind the scenes of the once all-powerful Chicago Outfit.

Certain aspects of mob life are rather appealing… The glitz and glamour, bottles of champagne (as opposed to the house wine!) at all the hottest bars and clubs, the notoriety and special attention, almost like a modern day celebrity with an underlying aspect of danger (Chris Brown, anyone?!)… But of course, that’s ignoring the drugs, violence, total un-loyalty and the all too common occurrence of being unaware you’re being treated to your last supper before being violently disposed of in a very inhumane way, most likely by a trusted confidant.

This is a memoir/autobiography told from one immersed in the mob, and character_cooleynot always on the right side of the law – When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down.

Robert Cooley was the “Mechanic” for the Chicago Mafia – nothing to do with cars, he was the lawyer responsible for buying judges and guaranteeing a “Not Guilty” verdict for hitmen and gamblers alike.  In return for his services, Cooley enjoyed protected as well as a steady influx of cash to feed any vice in which he chose to indulge, and there were many.

I tend to be naive, but I believe that even for those jaded, cynical people, the depth of corruption was shocking – from the police force to government officials, the Mob had ties, and typically high-ranking officials, in every office.

Harry Aleman in 1977. He was the Outfit’s top Hit Man, "the killing machine."

The Outfit’s top Hit Man, "the killing machine."

In an inexplicable attack of conscience, Cooley strolled into the office of the FBI’s Organized Crime Strike Force and turned the tables on the mob, wearing a wire from 1986-1989, eventually becoming responsible for more than 30 convictions.

An intense book about a piece of Chicago’s history many would rather was forgotten, this is a nail-biting tale that manages to drag the reader in even though Cooley isn’t always likable.  I guess to put your life in danger with a notoriously violence group who will put a $1MM reward on your head takes a cocky man, and Cooley definitely fits the bill.

Read this if: You’re into gangster lore, crime stories, Chicago’s history, or are still upset The Sopranos went off-air.

Avoid this if: You believe justice is always served fair and equal, and want to remain believe so.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down
  • Author: Robert Cooley with Hillel Levin
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers, an imprint of Avalon

NovelWhore rambling: Much of this book takes place in my Gold Coast neighborhood, and I have to admit my over-active imagination has been taking me places with every well-dressed man I see walking down the street, especially those with an entourage and a bulge (imagined? possibly…) beneath a suit jacket that could very likely be a gun… Could a group so in-charge and infamous as recent as the 1990s be really be made obsolete?  I can’t help wondering what lucrative business deals the mob has a hold on now, though I like to believe they have refocused their sites on the less-popular prostitution and gambling rings and the courts are now clean… Thoughts?!

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