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November 24, 2014

Those pesky Kindle files: A Guide to Downloading Kindle Ebooks

Getting your files to open in a Kindle, if you didn’t purchase them directly on the Kindle from Amazon, is not the most intuitive of processes, so here is a step-by-step guide (the short version of this is: you need to make sure to move the file into your Kindle “documents” folder before it will open).

There are two ways to get your Kindle files onto your Kindle: You may email them to your Kindle email, or transfer them via USB cable from your computer to your Kindle.
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The Faces of Angels, by Lucretia Grindle

Thanksgiving Week Ebook Sale!

It’s Thanksgiving week, a week of heavy travel, and lots (and lots!) of family time. Here at Felony & Mayhem we hold the opinion that nothing helps a person get through long flights, weather cancellations, and that post-Thanksgiving slump like a good book. And if you make it an ebook, well, then you can take as many with you as your heart desires. So this week, we’re offering a serious ebook sale: each title in our ebook catalog for just $4.99. Go ahead, read the entire Julian Kestrel series, it’s a long weekend!

Here are some highlights from the backlist: Caroline Graham’s “Inspector Barnaby” series, as well as her very funny stand-alone parody of a country house mystery, Murder at Madingley Grange; Bob Cook’s Paper Chase and Disorderly Elements, two underrated espionage capers that never take themselves too seriously; Sarah Rayne’s chilling trio of psychological suspense novels (deliciously long too; now here are some books to get lost in!); the genteel yet felonious world of Elizabeth Daly’s 1940s New York; Maggie Joel’s The Past and Other Lies, with a family at its center that will make your family seem utterly angelic, no matter their shortcomings! And, of course, get to know Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn, from Enter a Murderer to Singing in the Shrouds.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Vermillion

November 10, 2014

Felonies of the Week: The Valentine and Lovelace series, by Nathan Aldyne

So here I am, still in the hospital, and still wedded to my habit of reading only books I have read (and loved) before. But for the moment, I have strayed from the F&M line-up, and am happily wallowing in A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s marvelous tale of his attempts – successful and otherwise – to hike the Appalachian Trail. I’m a city girl, born and bred, so the Nature Stuff is, frankly, of limited interest to me. What I love about this book, what keeps me reading it again and again, is the relationship between Bryson – middle-aged, with a gut and a wheeze and a taste for niceties like flush toilets, and his pal Katz, who makes Bryson look svelte and fit and low-maintenance. Katz, whose idea of how to pack for an epic journey in the wildness involves many cartons of Little Debbie snack cakes. Katz, who essentially defines the term “pain in the butt.” Katz, who has known Bryson since the two of them represented the entire teenage Bad Element of the state of Iowa, and who therefore represents both a kind and a degree of friendship that cannot be gainsaid by any amount of stupid packing, irritating behavior, or flatulence. I love many things about this book, but most of all I love its hymn to friendship – a relationship that fiction too often overlooks, I think, in favor of the glamor of romance and the meatiness of the parent-child bond.

Sadly, we can’t offer a discount on Mr. Bryon’s work, but the thought did send me looking through our list, to see what we have to say about friendship. I thought first about Anna Blundy’s sharp punch of a story, The Bad News Bible, in that the death of one friend sends another on a quest. It’s a wonderful book – and in fact, I can’t wait to reread it – but in honor of Katz, I wanted something where the friendship is a living thing. So the Valentine and Lovelace series it is, because as many of your female friends will tell you, great friendships don’t get a whole lot greater than those between straight women and their gay best friends. Michael McDowell, who wrote the series with his friend Dennis Schuetz, very consciously based it on the “Thin Man” moves starring Myrna Loy and William Powell. The books are set in Boston and environs in the early 1980s, but they nevertheless do a tremendous job of channeling that glorious “Thin Man” ethos where the wit sparkles as deliciously as the champagne, the martinis are cold, the music is hot, and one solves crimes because really, darling, one can only drive around in fabulous cars so many hours of the day. True, the protagonists of “The Thin Man” are married, but it’s a very swanky, sexless sort of marriage – and very much like the swanky, sexless friendship between Daniel Valentine and Clarisse Lovelace, both of whom would look great in satin piped pajamas. It’s a massive stretch, I know, from Clarisse and Valentine (much less from Powell and Loy) to Bryson and Katz…but it isn’t really. Because the thing about friendship is, it may take many different shapes, may be giddy or reserved or centered around burping contests, but at bottom, if it’s there…it’s there. Robert Frost famously said that home is where, when you go there, they have take you in. I’d suggest that a friend is who, when you call them, they come out – in a snowstorm, at 4 in the morning, kvetching all the way – and drive you there. This week only, 25% off on all four of the delightful Valentine and Lovelace books, and in the hope that you all have at least one such good friend. And if I may, it comes complete with a shout-out to the wonderful friends of mine who kept me such good company while I’ve been laid up. I’m a lucky woman.

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The Truth About Unicorns, by Bonnie Jones Reynolds

November 5, 2014

Cover Story: The Truth About Unicorns

The Truth About Unicorns is one of my favorite books on the F&M list, but I’m betting that Yien Yip, the young illustrator we hired for the cover, wouldn’t read it if you paid her. She wound up doing a terrific job, but boy, we – I – sure put her through hell to get there.

The book is set in the 1920s and ‘30s, in an small farming community in upstate New York. We’re very definitely in Shirley Jackson territory (shades of “The Lottery”), in that this charming little town, all green fields and red barns and girls in starched white dresses, is concealing a black, black secret: It’s positively obsessed with witchcraft, and particularly with the witchy evil of readheaded women.

As in “The Lottery,” that brilliant, classic tale of village chills, there is talk about the supernatural – witches, in this case – but the real evil is supplied by the real humans, courtesy of the miseries they can inflict on one another. In other words, the story may be horrifying in parts, but it’s a long, cool way from Horror.
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Elephants in thye Distance, by Daniel Stashtower

November 3, 2014

Felony of the Week: Elephants in the Distance, by Daniel Stashower

In The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley’s indelibly delightful salute to both bookselling and Brooklyn, the proprietor of the shop in question offers some thoughts as to how his customers might best be served. Posted on the wall of the shop is a sign, in a neat, un-showy hand, reading:

If your mind needs phosphorus, try “Trivia,” by Logan Pearsall Smith.

If your mind needs a whiff of strong air, blue and cleansing, from hilltops and primrose valleys, try “The Story of My Heart,” by Richard Jefferies.

If your mind needs a tonic of iron and wine, and a thorough rough-and-tumbling, try Samuel Butler’s “Notebooks” or “The Man Who Was Thursday,” by Chesterton.

If you need “all manner of Irish,” and a relapse into irresponsible freakishness, try “The Demi-Gods,” by James Stephens. It is a better book than one deserves or expects.

It’s a good thing to turn your mind upside down now and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the other way.

One who loves the English tongue can have a lot of fun with a Latin dictionary.

I often thought of that sign and its prescriptions when I worked at the bookstore. I used to say that I felt sometimes like the village pharmacist: People would come in with one ailment or another, and my job was to figure out what book would answer their needs. Sometimes they would ask me the titles of my favorite books, and I would always explain that that didn’t really matter, that I wanted to find the right book for them.

And what that book might be could change from one day to the next. Just as a pharmacist’s client may have a sore throat on one day, and the jitters the next, a given customer of mine might need a chuckle on Monday, something calming on Tuesday, and a book to take on a plane, so absorbing as to make him forget the cramped seat and the lousy meal, for the weekend.

I’m thinking about book-prescriptions right now because I’m headed into the hospital on Wednesday, and I’m planning what books I’ll take with me. I won’t want anything really complicated – no Cold War espionage with back-room betrayals and Russian names to keep straight, and certainly nothing hugely violent or upsetting. I will need to be both soothed and absorbed, and a giggle or two would not go amiss.

For soothing, I will almost certainly turn to books I’ve already read and know I love. I know there are people who don’t reread – my mother never did – but for me, a well loved book is like a blanket with a comforting, familiar smell. The giggles are tough: In my experience, there are a lot more writers who think they’re funny than there are actually funny books. But happily, F&M publishes some dandy ones. Finally, “absorbing”…I’d like a book that has enough of a plot to keep me interested, to help block out the bleeping machines and the sharp smells of antiseptic and the ghastly Jello they always want you to eat. I’m going to have to bring a whole bunch of books of course – because if you want to see my vital signs go wacky in a hurry, lock me in a hospital room with AN INSUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF READING MATTER – but what am I going to start with? What’s the book that will see me through that first day, when I’ll be snappish with nerves and peevish at the forms and needle-jabs?

Got it: The wonderful Elephants in the Distance, by Daniel Stashower. Dan has by this point won so many Edgar awards that he could field a (somewhat static) baseball team, but this was one of his early novels. It may not be backed by the extraordinary research that underpins the biography and non-fiction he specializes in, but it has two very powerful hallmarks: A deep familiarity with the history of magic, and a great love for the old geezers with the arthritic rabbits and the moth-eaten top hats. The first scene in the book, in which an elderly, once celebrated magician is making balloon-animals at a toddler’s birthday party, reflecting with some grief – but little sourness – on the fact that he used to perform for princes…it’s a killer. I read it, and I keep reading even though I know the book, because I want so badly to see justice done for the nice old fellow.

Want to read along with me? It would give me enormous pleasure to know that I had some company in Stashower’s world. So this week, we’re offering 25% off the wry, clever, gentle and altogether lovely Elephants in the Distance.

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SarahRayneCastle

October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

On this Halloween, a bucket of shivery treats for you:

Sarah Rayne writes about a malevolent castle from her childhood, and talks to us about scary things and spooky houses.

If you’re in a mood to be scared, we cannot recommend Sarah’s books highly enough (they’re available as ebooks – instant gratification!).

Here, too, is a complete short story that is guaranteed to give you a chill, William Fryer Harvey’s “August Heat.”

And finally, here is a reading of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, because we find Ms. Jackson’s work both terrifying and terrific.

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October 22, 2014

Getting the Cover Right: In the Spider’s House

Sometimes a cover comes together in a snap: A concept emerges right away, or you find just the right image, or you are working with someone like Eduardo Recife, who can come up with the perfect yet unexpected cover on the spot.

And then other times, as was the case with the cover for Sarah Diamond’s In the Spider’s House (due out next year) it’s endless iterations where nothing seems quite right.

We started here, with variations on the original British edition:

Then we came up with the idea of having the protagonist look in the mirror and see the child whose story she is becoming obsessed with.

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Unsatisfied, we veered in a completely different direction:

IN_THE_SPIDERS_HOUSE_7-FRONT

And even went sort of horror:

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From this latest version we ended up preserving the spidery font, which is in fact an Eduardo Recife designed font called “disgusting behavior” (love that name!).

But we still wanted the cover to convey something of the doubling of writer and research subject, the sense of increasing identification between the two, and so we kept coming back to the mirror and the little girl reflected there. Somewhere in the process we came back to the idea of a split cover, with the lower and upper halves (above and below the author band) being different images, and the lower image stuck, but we were still not happy with the upper image.

And then we realized we had to make the little girl a little less angelic, to depart from the physical description provided in the novel. And there we were.

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What do you think?

Death of a Dormouse, by Reginald Hill

October 20, 2014

Felony of the Week: Death of a Dormouse, by Reginald Hill

It’s probably a good thing I’m not a physicist. Well, given how lousy I am at math, it’s a very good thing. But what I was thinking of was the tendency for physicists to slide down intellectual rabbit-holes, increasingly in thrall to the lure of the ToE – in science-land, that refers to the holy grail, the ultimate prize, the Theory of Everything.

I have never had quite the arrogance to imagine that I could discover the Big Toe, but I do love the hunt for patterns, the sense of stumbling, almost by accident, through the gates of a larger game than I knew was being played. I’ve mentioned before that as a mystery reader, my secret trashy passion is for conspiracy thrillers, yarns in which characters discover, sometimes too late, that they have merely been disposable pawns in someone else’s chess match, and that what they have viewed as simple coincidence has, all too often, been determined and laid down long ago.

I’m thinking of this because of one name that has of late cropped up – more than once – on my radar screen: George Orwell. The folks at Amazon are no doubt painfully familiar with Mr. Orwell’s name by now: They sought to invoke it to bolster their position in their ongoing dispute with Hachette, only to learn that, in fact, Orwell was saying exactly the opposite of what they had believed.

Taking a break from the news about Amazonian doings, I have been re-reading an old Robert Goddard novel set in part during the Spanish Civil War. And whose name should jump off the page but Mr. Orwell’s: His Homage to Catalonia is referenced, in the novel, in a ransom demand.

As any lover of conspiracy theories could tell you, that much Orwell is beyond coincidence; it is clearly some sort of message, some kind of coded instruction. And who am I to disobey? It was obvious to me that I was intended to offer a discount this week on something having to do with Orwell.

Orwell’s books themselves were clearly out of the question: If we had the rights to publish them and sell them, I’d be a richer and happier woman. But we do have a book – a wonderful conspiracy thriller, as it happens – in which Mr. Orwell makes an appearance of sorts. Death of a Dormouse, by Reginald Hill, is probably one of the maestro’s lesser-known titles. It’s not part of the “Pascoe and Dalziel” series, for which he was justly famous, and its protagonist is a depressed middle-aged woman – about as far from glamorous or buzz-worthy as it’s possible for a character to get. But Hill happens to have been astonishingly good at female characters, perhaps particularly good at those who for one reason or another are not considered shag-worthy. He doesn’t pity them or condescend to them or sneer at them or put them on pedestals, but renders them with an absolutely awesome clarity. And in that clear, cold light, Trudi Adamson – the dormouse – is revealed as a true heroine. If the universe is indeed sending a message, I will be very happy to be directed to spend more time – and to encourage you to spend time – with Trudi. She’s a good reminder of the fierceness that lurks within us all, waiting for circumstance to force us to find it. And this week only, that reminder’s going cheap: 25% off on Death of a Dormouse.

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