Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Novels Take a Step Back in Time

Summer's almost over, so here's a look at a few entertaining books you might have missed.

"Blockade Billy" by Stephen King (Scribner, $14.99) is a slim hardback that includes the 80-page title novella and a bonus short story that originally appeared in Esquire.

King's bloody little baseball tale showcases William "Blockade Billy" Blakely,
an Iowa farm league catcher who's called up to the New Jersey Titans at the beginning of the 1957 season.

The Titans' old third-base coach and narrator of this tale aptly notes "this ain't no kids' sports novel" and he's right. King deftly captures the flavor of 1950s baseball as he explores the dark reasons why the sport has tried to eliminate any mention of the quirky young player.
"Morality" is a brief tale about a desperate couple, tough decisions and unexpected effects. This book is ideal for die-hard King fans who can't wait for his next novel.

"So Cold the River" by award-winning crime novelist Michael Koryta (Little Brown, $24.99) is a powerful step into the supernatural for the highly talented author.

Eric Shaw is a washed-up filmmaker who's hired to make a video of the early history of a dying billionaire's career. It leads him to a small Indiana resort town and a particularly creepy hotel.

Shaw has strange visions and odd reactions when he cracks open a bottle of "Pluto Water" that the billionaire had saved for years. There are many deftly handled flashback scenes of the 1920s,
While it takes a while to develop, Koryta's mesmerizing tale is easily one of the year's best supernatural novels.

"The Big Bang" by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25) is the last book starring iconic private eye Mike Hammer.
The fast-paced collaboration is based on a lost Spillane manuscript completed by Collins. It smoothly captures life in the 1960s, dealing with drug trafficking in New York City.

It has all the elements that made Spillane one of America's top selling authors: lots of violence, sexual innuendoes, a devious killer and a twisted plot. Dedicated Mike Hammer lovers will enjoy one last fling with Spillane's memorable characters.

Ray Walsh, owner of the Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly for the Lansing State Journal since 1987.

(Originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 5, 2010.)

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