On Throwback Thursday I will bring a brief re-introduction to a book out of print.
Last week it was a serial romance; this week I push back even further, to 1964 with a hard-boiled espionage thriller from Edward S. Aarons, Assignment Sulu Sea. This book was originally published in 1964 and went right to paperback. It was reprinted three more times, all by Fawcett - 1968, 1974, and 1981. It is the 20th book by Aarons featuring CIA agent Sam Durrell. It has a 3.54 star rating on Goodreads.
This novel, like the other 41 in the series, was set outside the U.S. and in the same temporal period as it was written (i.e. the 1960s). So the themes are the Cold War themes of the day. Aarons sold over 23 million books in the Durrell series, rivalling, at the time, Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in popularity.
Assignment Sulu Sea is short, only 160 pages, so can be read in an evening. Durrell finds himself in a mystery with a missing submarine, friends in unexpected places, murder, and political intrigue in a Pacific island chain. It can be bought for as little as $5.63 on Biblio.
Sarah and Lincoln is a novel with adventure in which I am about 50% done. It was a NaNoWriMo project that will not complete this November because my day job got in the way. The first 300 words introduce the first protagonist:
Sarah sat silently on the slider. It swung slightly in the warm summer breeze that ruffled the wheat that was starting to head out in the field in front of her. The sun was warm and the old tabby cat lay nearby on the white painted porch.
She wore a plain gingham dress with a broad-brimmed straw hat. It was actually her favorite dress. She’d had it for almost twenty years; bought at a barn-raising when the Amish had first moved into the area. She liked the hat, too, though it was a more recent purchase, at the Marshall’s over in Sioux City.
A pensive smile rested on her face, her eyes focused at something impossibly far away. Her hands were folded peacefully on her lap, a small white leather clutch held lightly. They, like her face, were lined and tanned.
From the field came the call of a whippoorwill. Two grackles swooped onto the yard and cocked their heads at Sarah and the cat, intrigued by their quiescence. They soon lost interest and looped back to the field.
Bemused, Sarah put a hand on the arm of the slider and levered herself slowly upright. She was ready. The decision had been well considered and she was comfortable with it. The shock would be palpable nonetheless. She almost looked forward to what was to come.
She walked slowly, with a step more struggle than would be expected from the rest of her appearance. The cat looked up but did not otherwise stir. He had his priorities.
The screen door opened easily under Sarah’s touch and she entered the relative dimness of the rear parlor. It was empty, as she knew it would be. The room was rarely used these days. The time of card parties past midnight, sweet sixteens, and sleepovers well past.
Just a "warning" --- there will be a wide variety of books posted here!
First in is Redding Walters romance, Even Seahorses are Free.
Next is a military history of a valiant, but doomed, expedition, Pleshakov's The Tsar's Last Armada, about the epic voyage to the fateful battle of Tsushima in 1905.
And, finally, there's my own book of poetry and short stories, Scenes, which I have had the honor to share this holiday.
And so we have come to another Thanksgiving, a holiday that had a serious reason for being (I would say raison d'etre but I don't speak French) but has devolved into an excuse to eat, get the family together, and go shopping.
I don't mind the first two; I can't stand the shopping part and am opposed to the over-commercialization of all holidays - Halloween and Christmas as well. I do spend time every Thanksgiving to reflect on the things I am thankful for; I hope you all have plenty, as I do, to be thankful for.
Interestingly, despite the above condemnation of shopping and commercialization, I do also perversely look forward to the discussion of Christmas gifts. In my family Thanksgiving has always been the time the children write out their lists to Santa and the adults would then plot out who would give what for whom, or at least start the process.
I have gotten many great books under the Christmas tree as a result of this process since, of course, the subject of "what would you like" inevitably comes up.
The other twist on the commercialism concept is that, as a bookstore owner for years, an author, and an online merchant I certainly want other people to go out shopping, especially if they want to buy what I am (or was) selling. This does have, of course, more nuances than I am willing to write about (or you want to read about), but I will mention at least one.
The online book market is dominated by Amazon. Not only do they sell directly but if you want to have a presence in the used book market as an independent seller, no matter how big or small your inventory, you have to sell on Amazon. The second largest used book seller online, Abebooks, is owned by Amazon. I sell, by necessity, on both sites.
Amazon is indubitably the simplest way to buy books online. They have every book, you can buy the books with one click and you can get free shipping for a small subscription. However, independent sellers and publishers get smaller "cuts" of their sales on Amazon than on other sites. For this reason alone I try to buy my used books on other sites, like Biblio and Alibris or, if I can, the publisher's or author's direct site.
I admit this process is much more time consuming and can be slightly more expensive. In this season of giving thanks, though, it is one small way I try to give thanks to the small independent publishers, and booksellers.
With my sincere thanks for all of you who read this I wish you and yours a fabulous Thanksgiving.
Let me start by saying that, although I own a Kindle, I still prefer the feel of a paper book in my hands. It is my plan to provide periodically a review of a book that is no longer in print but is available in the secondary market for a reasonable amount.
Let me further inform you, before we get any further along, that I used to own a used book store with the largest collection of serial romance novels in New York, as far as I can tell.
Romance novels, at least since the early 1970s in the United States, have been massively successful and the primary success, until recently, in terms of actual titles and copies printed, was in the serial romance category, colloquially known by the name of the powerhouse publisher as “harlequins”. Each title typically had only a single print run and was released once, as part of a group of books, or “series” that were similar in format and level of eroticism and adventure.
By design then almost all serial romances are no longer in print and often were printed in relatively small numbers per title. One such title, from the Temptation series, is Alyssa Dean’s Manhunting in Miami. Dean wrote 6 novels for the series in all and Manhunting in Miami is probably her best. She got 4 stars from Romantic Times when the book came out and has an overall rating of 3.57 stars on Goodreads. Described as “lighthearted and humorous” it involves a professional woman who hires an investigator to find her husband candidates who will satisfy both herself and her upper-crust family.
Manhunting in Miami is available for as little as $4.75 from Biblio.
For a variety of reasons I was only able to read Pan. This was truly unfortunate because K. R. Thompson has done a superb job spinning the prequels to Barrie's children's classic. We are brought into the world through Tinkerbell's eyes and see the roots of Peter's character as well as some background on Neverland in an extremely well-written and seamlessly integrated way with the original. Why does Peter Pan flit between depression and manic joy? What is the origin of the lost boys? Ever wonder about the crocodile? And then there's Captain Hook and the merpeople. Thompson brings the backstory to life. Five stars! Highly recommended! Read on!
Pan is available on Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. Look for the other titles in the series while you're there!
I've seen a bunch of tweets recently asking various questions about boys, specifically, and reading. As a boy, with two grown sons, I figure I am qualified to respond, at least generally.
I never had any trouble. I read early and often, as the saying goes. Voraciously. Fiction and nonfiction, biography, history, mystery, and adventure all were consumed almost as fast as I could take new books out of the library. But them I've seen the other side. Boys who refused to crack a book. Who balked at doing any homework that involved reading more than a couple small paragraphs.
Until, that is, the boy found something that interested him. Interested him enough to make it important for him to read instead of run outside and play baseball, or video games, or watch TV.
That, I think is one crux. In our society, for boys, these other things are often valued more than reading. For girls there is not as much social stigma, inside their peer group and from parents, to spending time reading. We do our boys a disservice, in general.
However, there is another side; a biological side. This thing our brain does converting spots of ink on a piece of paper into intelligible language is a thing that requires the pathways that are linked to genes, many of which are sex-linked. Dyslexia occurs with a much higher frequency in males than females. It is hard to explain to the non-dyslexic how difficult reading is; how difficult learning to read is; if you are dyslexic.
For the dyslexic (I have several examples in my immediate family) it is a very difficult thing to learn to read. It is painful, especially in the light of others learning the skill with apparent effortlessness. Once you have adapted, once you have built those pathways painstakingly where genes would have built them seamlessly, then you have the opportunity to find something interesting.
So it is a triple problem - interest, social pressures, and genes. The first is easy - plenty of exposure to many genres and styles. The second is an evolutionary process which we, as parents and advocates, need to encourage, as we need to in many areas, the removal of gender as a criteria for one preferred behavior over another. The last is out of our immediate control except for the patience, encouragement, understanding, and assistance we can give to make the process shorter and less painful.
Alison Cragin Herzig and Jane Lawrence Hall spin a short, lively middle grades Halloween tale. A mysterious masked man and his two large dogs move in next door to Casey. She and her friends Cats and Benny think he must be some villain hiding from the law. But in a childhood adventure full of the wild plans and innocent pitfalls of childish imagination they find that the truth is both more frightening and more sympathetic and happy than they had imagined.
Herzig and Hall do a wonderful job in this unsung story. The characters are real, the plot quick and tight, and the story, though a bit dated, brings home the honesty of disability and prejudice against appearances.
The book is a recommended read for middle grades readers.
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)