Sunday, March 25, 2007

Summery Judgment 2007

Here in Ohio, spring is in the air. Natives to the Buckeye State know that you’re not out of reach of a rogue snowstorm until mid-April, but over the last few days we’ve had a nice preview of summer. In the Miller household, this means many things: copious amounts of Sauvignon Blanc on the deck, live music under the stars, and lots of good summertime reading. In keeping with a Rap Sheet tradition (meaning “for the second year in a row”), here are the books I’m most looking forward to reading during the next six months:

Donald E. Westlake has yet another John Dortmunder caper (after 2004’s Watch Your Back!) coming out in April. What’s So Funny (Warner) finds the beleagured master thief and his crew attempting to steal a gold chess set from a Manhattan vault. The set was intended for Russia’s final czar, but was liberated by U.S. soldiers during the First World War. Unless Dortmunder can pull this off, he heads to jail for being the best thief not currently in the slammer, at least in the view of the crooked cop who blackmails Dortmunder into taking this “assignment.”

Little Girl Lost was one of the great finds of 2004, and was instrumental in launching the paperback imprint Hard Case Crime. Now, author Richard Aleas (known to the rest of us as Hard Case honcho Charles Ardai) returns in his second tale featuring New York City private eye John Blake. Songs of Innocence picks up where the previous book left off, with Blake looking into the suicide of a college student who led a dangerous double life. Songs of Innocence will be released in July.

Allan Guthrie’s Kiss Her Goodbye was published by Hard Case Crime and scored an Edgar Award nomination back in 2006. Guthrie’s U.S. hardcover debut, Hard Man, (Harcourt), will be out in June. In this new book, Guthrie takes us deep into the bleak Edinburgh realm of Gordon Pearce, an ex-con known as a tough customer. Pearce tries to resist being hired by thug Jacob Baxter, who wants his daughter rescued from an abusive marriage. Resistance eventually proves futile, as Pearce is forced to act to save the one thing he values most: his three-legged Dandie Dinmont Terrier.

Earlier this year, I raved about Ken Kuhlken’s The Do-Re-Mi, which was published by Poisoned Pen Press. Kuhlken recently told me that the earlier works in his historical series featuring P.I. Tom Hickey are being reissued by his new publisher. The Loud Adios, which won the 1991 Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press award for Best First Private Eye Novel, is already available again in bookstores. The Venus Deal is due out in June, with The Angel Gang to appear in September. The Hickey series is a diamond in the rough, and Poisoned Pen Press is to be commended for bringing Kuhlken’s earlier works back into print.

Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of noir short-story collections set in different locales. Peter Speigelman, creator of the superb John March series (Red Cat), edits Wall Street Noir, an anthology of tales set in a place where “fear and greed have always held sway.” Contributors include Jason Starr, Jim Fusilli, Twist Phelan, and The Rap Sheet’s own Megan Abbott. Wall Street Noir will be out in June, just ahead of Bronx Noir, edited by S. J. Rozan, which will be gracing store shelves in August. Looking further ahead, Akashic tells us to look forward to forthcoming entries in the Noir series set in Brooklyn (for the third time), Delhi, Las Vegas, Detroit, and Paris.

And, since this man cannot live by crime fiction alone, I’m waiting for one of my public libraries to purchase New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, by Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture and leading light of the neoclassical movement. Stern’s buildings range from the cloying and hyper-sentimental to spot-on perfect, but as an architectural historian, he is unmatched. His look into the last 30 years of New York City architecture should be enlightening.

READ MORE: J. Kingston Pierce’s Summer 2007 Picks; Anthony Rainone’s Summer 2007 Reading Picks; Linda L. Richards Summer 2007 Picks.

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