Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 9/17

I bet you thought I'd forgotten, right? (And I had.)

But I'm back, and let's see what I was reading this week in 1996:
  • Karen Kijewski, Honky Tonk Kat (9/10)
    I really enjoyed this mystery series at the time (I was reading it through most of the '90s, as I recall), but I haven't touched or seen a Kijewski book in years. Although, as I try to remember the details, I keep getting it confused with the Linda Barnes series about a female PI/cab driver in Boston. The Kijewski books are set somewhere out West (Colorado?), and also have a female lead. One quick trip to Amazon later: Kat Colorado is the series heroine, but I can't tell where these take place. The last one was Stray Kat Waltz in 1998 (two books after this one). If you like Barnes or Marcia Muller, digging out Kijewski's books would probably be worth your time; she wasn't super-colossal, but she wrote good mysteries. (And then disappeared, I guess.)
  • Donald E. Westlake, Sacred Monster (9/11)
    One of Westlake's less-funny books -- though it does have some laughs, as all of his books do (though some have very dark laughs) -- is a Hollywood cautionary tale, proving that he can write absolutely anything.
  • Marcia Muller, The Broken Promise Land (9/12)
    A middle Sharon McCone book. This series got encrusted with stuff -- too many characters, too many subplots, too much emotional baggage -- a few books later, and I think I've now basically stopped reading it. But the first fifteen or so of them are quite good.
  • Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Return to the Same City (9/13)
    Taibo was a Mexican writer, as I recall, and this was a PI story set in...let's say Mexico City, and that's probably right. I don't have much of a memory of it.
  • C.L. Moore, Jirel of Joiry (9/14)
    The original sword-slinging heroine, who didn't actually impress me as much as I'd hoped. The prose gets Lovecraftianly purple at times, but it didn't work for me with Moore as it did with Lovecraft. Like many great originators, it's not very much at all like the things being published under similar labels today, and, for that reason alone, more people should seek it out.
  • Bill Amend, Wildly FoxTrot (9/14)
    A big collection of the strip cartoon.
  • Lawrence Block, Even the Wicked (9/14)
    One of the later Matt Scudder novels, which are all excellent mystery/thriller novels. I prefer the earlier ones -- they're mysteries rather than thrillers, and more is at stake for Scudder -- but the '90s books are great examples of their type. I think this was one of the lighter and puffier entries in the series.
  • Julie Smith, The Kindness of Strangers (9/16)
    One of her cop-in-New-Orleans novels. The first one of the series, New Orleans Mourning, won the Edgar Award and is just stunning. Each book after that was a little less impressive, and I finally gave up on the series. I think this one was fairly late. So my advice is to read New Orleans Mourning, if you haven't yet, and then maybe continue until you hit one you don't like.
This was clearly one of my periodic mystery binges; I haven't done them as much lately, since I haven't had as much uninterrupted reading time. (In the old days, I could knock off a mystery in a day without a problem.)

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