If last week was a drought, this week is a deluge:
- Timothy B. Benford, The Ardennes Tapes. Thriller/horror. "Christmas Eve, 1944. The Ardennes Forest was thick with blood as the Battle of the Bulge raged on. But in the midst of combat, two hundred troops -- Americans and Germans alike -- abruptly ceased fighting, uniting to face one common -- and unspeakable -- enemy...Only two men survived. Noe, four decades later, one still lives, institutionalized and unable -- or unwilling -- to speak. Suddenly, he begins to rant, shieking in terror about the unmentionable horrors of Ardennes...Pray that somebody listens!'
- J. T. Edson, Ranch War. Western. "It seems when a lady's called 'Calamity,' chaos follows wherever she goes -- even to the most peaceful railroad town of Mulrooney, Kansas. Martha Jane Canary's always been free as the prairie wind, tied to no place or person, so she never expected to inherit a hardscrabble ranch that other folks have been working. She might have ignored the legal summons to claim her property...if someone hadn't tried to kill her first. Now, whether she wants the spread or not, Jane's going to fight for what's hers -- taking on bushwackers, crooked lawyers...and a woman with a greedy heart, and a plan to steal Jane's land with bullets and brutality, But Calamity's got an ally -- a baby-face Texas gun called the Ysabel Kid -- not o mention stony courage, a strong and sure whip hand...and a mule-stubborn willingness to lay down her life for what's right." This book was published in England as White Stallion, Red Mare. Edson was a British writer who published 137 books, mostly westerns, many of which were about the Floating Outfit, of which the Ysobel Kid was a member. Calamity Jane, a historical figure, also appeared in a number of his books. The author, whose political and racial beliefs were evidently far to the right of Attila the Hun, has fallen out of favor in recent years.
- P. N. Elrod, editor, Dark and Stormy Knights. Urban fantasy anthology. "They're the shadowy defenders of humanity -- modern-day knights committing the darkest of deeds for all the right reasons. In this all-star collection, nine of today's hottest urban fantasy authors bring us thrilling, all-new stories of the supernatural brimming with magic, mystery, and mayhem." Presented alphabetically, the authors are Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Shannon K. Butcher, Rachel Caine, P. N. Elrod, Deidre Knight, Vicki Petterson, Lilith Saintcrow, and Carrie Vaughn.
- James Ellroy, guest editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2002. Mystery anthology. Twenty mystery and suspense stories from 2001 chosen from a longer list compiled by series editor Otto Penzler. Authors are John Biguenet, Michael Connelly, Thomas H. Cook, Sean Doolittle, Michael Downs, Brendan DuBois, David Edgerly Gates, Joe Gores, James Grady, Clark Howard, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Malone, Fred Melton, Annette Meyers, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert B. Parker, F. X. O'Toole, Daniel Waterman, and Scott Wolven. Six of the stories are reprinted from anthologies edited by Penzler (three from Murderer's Row and three from Murder on the Ropes), while another three are from The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology, which has a forward by Penzler (who was the founder of Mysterious Press). EQMM, AHMM, and Playboy each have one story represented.
- Alan Dean Foster, Flinx's Folly. SF novel, the ninth published in the Pip and Flinx series, and the eighth chronologically; The Pip and Flinx series is a subset of the much larger Humanx Commonwealth series. "It's a good thingFlinx is no stranger to trouble, because he's swimming in it. After surviving an attack by a new gang of assailants, Flinx is spirited away and enlisted in a battle against an extra-galactic threat. Hidden behind the Great Emptiness, in a place where it seems matter and energy have never been, thee is only evil. Pure evil that is approaching him, accelerating. This terrifying high-stakes adventure through perilous new realms will rocket Flinx into the very heart of danger -- and into the arms of the only woman he's ever loved. As he and Pip bravely travel to a place where no man or mini-drag has gone before, Flinx discovers he has a few more friends than he thought -- and far more enemies than he ever imagined."
- David Gerrold, The Galactic Whirlpool. Star Trek television tie-in novel. "Beyond the realm of the Federation, beyond the edge of the galaxy, a lost colony of humans in space drifts inexorably toward the galactic whirlpool. Kirk blazes new star trails to these strange people, isolated for centuries. Unless he can convince them that the Enterprise crew members are not 'demons,' they will be sucked into a churning one-way tunnel of doom!" Gerrold, a well-known SF writer, got his start by creating the tribbles for Star Trek.
- Paul Johnson, The Nameless Dead. Thriller. "Crime writer Matt Wells hasn't had much time for a career of late -- he's been too busy fighting for his life. And now he can' trust anyone, not even himself. His thoughts are not his own -- his subconscious has been infiltrated and a single word can trigger hidden orders buried deep within Matt's memory, turning him into a killing machine. The FBI aims him at the man responsible for his conditioning: an architect of Nazi revival and devotee of the Antichurch of Lucifer Triumphant. This man Took Matt's life away and must pay. Even in a nation rife with antigovernment paranoia and conspiracy theories, nobody could believe the things Matt has seen. In a nation infected with trained assassins and ritual murderers, only he can piece together the truth and save the U.S. from impending disaster."
- Scott Nicholson, The Harvest. Horror. "AS THE SEASON TURNS...Nestled deep in the Southern Appalachian Mountains is the town of Windshake. Living among the populace of good ol' boy moonshiners and God-fearing folk are psychologist Tamara Leon and her family. All her life Tamara has been plagued by dark dreams and visions. She calls them 'Gloomies.' They have an uncanny way of foreshadowing tragic events to come -- and her instincts tell her something unnatural is happening....SOMETHING WICKED GROWS Because a new presence has taken up residence in Windshake. It feeds off everything in its path, consuming life to fuel its malevolent purpose. Its evil can be seen in the eyes if it converts as they proceed to spread its influence from neighbor to neighbor. And its hunger will not be sated until it has remade Windshake in its own image..."
- Joyce Carol Oates, guest editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2005. Mystery and suspense anthology with twenty stories from 2004 chosen from a list provided by series editor Otto Penzler. Authors this time out are Richard Burgin, Louise Erdrich, Daniel Handler, George V. Higgins, Edward P. Jones, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Tim McLoughlin, Lou Manfredo, David Means, Kent Nelson, Daniel Orozco, David Rachel, Joseph Raiche, John Sayles, Sam Shaw, Oz Spies, Scott Turow, and Scott Wolven. Most of the stories here are reprinted from mainstream and small press magazines. Only two stories came from genre sources: one from EQMM and one from the plotswithguns.com website; another two came from Akashic Books Brooklyn Noir anthology.
- Ann Perry, editor, A Century of British Mystery and Suspense. Mystery and suspense anthology with 32 stories first published in the 20th century. Many of the older standby authors are represented (Doyle, Chesterton, Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham), along with a number of noted authors from the mid-century (Michael Gilbert, Nicholas Blake, Patricia Moyes, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Ferrars, Ian Fleming) and beyond (Ruth Rendell, Ann Perry, Frances Fyfield, Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Antonia Fraser, Reginald Hill, Peter Lovesey). There's even a story by John Dickson Carr, who, though not a Brit, certainly wished he could have been one. A very good collection of both the familiar and the unfamiliar.
- Robert J. Randisi, Texas Bluff. Western, the third in The Gamblers series. "Professional gambler Ty Butler knows he should keep moving to stay ahead of the killers who wiped out his family and are now gunning for him. But when a serious card player finds a challenging game in an honest house, he wants to stay a while. For Butler, a certain gambling hall is paradise -- though the emporium's notorious owner, Little Luke Short can't seem to steer clear of Hell's Half Acre, a corrupt and festering boil in the middle of Fort Worth. Short's been waging an on-going war with a crooked kingin, and now he's making it Ty's fight as well. The stakes get higher when the criminal is murdered and the law comes running for Little Luke. But Ty Butler recognizes a bluff when he sees one -- not to mention the unmistakable hand of a hired killer. He may end up taking a bullet, but he's not cashing out of this game until real justice is done." It's amazing how the extremely prolific Randisi (over 500 books and more than 30 anthologies) maintains a high quality in his writing.
- Ruth Rendell, The Babes in the Woods and End in Tears. Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford mysteries, the 19th and 20th novels in the series, respectively. In the first book, as floods threaten "both the town of Kingsmarkham and his own home and no end to the rain in sight, Chief Inspector Wexford already has his hands full when he learns that two local teenagers have gone missing with their sitter, Joanna Troy. Their hysterical mother is convinced that all three have drowned, and as the hours stretch into days Wexford suspects a case of kidnapping, perhaps connected with an unusual sect called the Church of the Good Gospel. But when the sitter's smashed-up car is found at the bottom of a local quarry -- occupied by a battered corpse -- the investigation takes on a very different turn." As for the second book, "When Mavis Ambrose is killed by a falling chunk of concrete, the police have no reason to suspect mischief. However, the bludgeoning of the young and gorgeous Amber Marshalson that follows is clearly murder. In the midst of the hottest summer onrecord, Inspector Wexford is called to investigate. He discovers the two cases might be linked, and that amber was at the scene of Mavis's death. When a third body is found. the case takes a disturbing and unexpected turn. The deeper Wexford digs, the darker the realities become, and what he finds leaves him feeling lost in a world absent of morals." I enjoy Rendell's Inspector Wexford series far more than her psychological crimes novels. Not sure why.
- Dan Simmons, Darwin's Blade. Standalone mystery novel. "A series of high-speed fatal car wrecks -- accidents that seem as if they may have been stages -- is leading Darwin Minor down a dangerous road. A reluctant expert on violent ways to die, he sifts clues from wreckage the way a brilliant coroner extracts damning information from a victim's corpse. But the deeper he digs, the more enemies he seems to make, and the wider the conspiracy seems to grow. Before long, he'll find himself relying on deadly resources of his own in order to save his life -- and those of untold others." Simmons writes big, fat books, and writes them brilliantly. I absolutely have to make time to read more by him.
- Jack Williamson, Firechild. SF novel. "Alphamega: child of one man's unlimited imagination, the product of genetic manipulation experiments to create new life forms. The only survivor of a fiery assault by Bioscience Alert, God's watchdogs who have named all scientific research the devil's handiwork. to the U.S. government, she is a menace -- a plague carrier to be destroyed on sight. But to Sax Belcraft, she is the only link to his lost brother. And to Panchito Torres, who knows her best, she is an angel come to Earth, able to heal with a touch. Alphamega. What is she...and what will she become?" Williamson had a sixty-nine-year career as a popular and influential science fiction writer published his last novel the year before he died at age 98. I have enjoyed everything I have read by him, and he seemed to get only better with age.