Author Archive Adam Chromy

Blog, Craft, Fan's Note, Other People's Books

A Fan’s Note: Ingrid Thoft on John Singer Sargent and the Fine Art of Suspense

June 24, 2014 by

Today, we welcome author Ingrid Thoft for her thoughts on John Singer Sargent and the mystery and suspense hidden in the shadows of his work:

Anticipation. Suspense. Anxiety. These elements are essential to a good thriller or a good mystery novel, and the same can be said of movies, TV shows and also, fine arts. That’s right—paintings by dead guys that have nothing to do with murder or mayhem offer their own brand of intrigue.

Growing up and during my college years, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was the local museum for field trips, family outings and class assignments. Full disclosure: I wasn’t an art history major, and I’ve been known to warm the benches in galleries while waiting for my companions. However, I like to think that I am a poster child for art appreciation: I get something out of it even if I don’t read all the placards.

It was at the MFA that I first viewed the work of John Singer Sargent. A successful portrait painter and darling of Boston’s upper class, Sargent also worked in watercolors and did landscapes in far flung locations like Venice, the Isle of Capri and Corfu. Complex and often pleasing to the eye, it’s the drama and suspense that he injected into his work that I find so captivating.

Some paintings present a scene or snapshot in time, but Sargent’s paintings—whether portraits or landscapes, oils or watercolors—prompt questions and elicit anticipation, just like the best mysteries. The desire to know how things end, the peeling back of layers, is what snares and enthralls mystery readers. But you needn’t pick up the latest hardback to engage in the singular pleasure of trying to solve a puzzle. Browse through the masterpieces of John Singer Sargent, or any other fine artist who piques your interest, and a whole new world of mysteries will be revealed.

Still not convinced? Take a look at a few of his creations:

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“The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” 1882

Perhaps Sargent’s most famous work, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” has always been one of my favorites, in part because I’m the youngest in a family of four girls.  But what I find most compelling about the painting is the questions that this seemingly placid portrait poses:  Why do three girls face the artist, but one does not?  What is lurking in the dark background?  What is the context in which the eldest daughter is allowed to lounge against an exquisite antique?  Did the girls choose their positions or were they posed that way?  Art historians have spent their careers investigating the story behind the painting, and some answers can be found, but in the moment that the viewer studies the painting—without any expertise or historical knowledge—a world of mystery unfolds.  There is no movement in that moment, but an enormous sense of life and interaction.

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“A Hotel Room,” 1907

The intrigue in this painting is more obvious: Whose suitcase is splayed open on the floor?  Whose clothes are in a heap?  Where is this room into which the sun peeks through the slatted blinds, and what happened in that bed?  The viewer can concoct any number of stories to narrate the picture, and isn’t that what art is supposed to do?  Create a bridge between the creator and the participant?  Reading, watching and viewing may be categorized as physically passive activities, but the mental engagement required, the invitation by the artist to engage, is anything but.

JSS3

“Corfu: Lights and Shadows,” 1909

Many people look at this painting and see not only light and shadow, but also color and nature.  To me, it is a visual depiction of anticipation.  What, exactly, is around that corner?  Is it a spectacular view of the sea?  A table laid for an afternoon lunch?  Two lovers napping in the grass?  The picture is dominated by the cottage, but it’s the slice of scenery on the right to which my eye is drawn—large enough to pique my curiosity, but small enough to remain mysterious.

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“A Street in Venice,” 1882

Is the woman going inside the building?  Will the man follow her?  And perhaps more compelling—what would the viewer find if he or she were to continue down the alleyway into the bright light?   I wonder if the woman’s hand is on her hip or if she’s concealing something under her layers.  And do you notice how she seems to be looking directly back at you?  It’s as if she sees you, too, but how is that possible?

What happens next?  That’s the question that keeps readers glued to the page and viewers frozen in front of a screen.  Though perhaps in a less obvious way, that same question draws art lovers to canvases and sculptures and installations.  Excitement and anticipation are the ties that bind the observer and the artist together and create genuine engagement.  Just think, 132 years have passed, and I still want to know the story of the Boit sisters.

 

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Ingrid Thoft worked as a tech, entertainment and education writer before making the transition to fiction. Her interest in the PI life and her desire to create a believable PI character led her to the certificate program in private investigation at the University of Washington, where she learned about investigation and surveillance, accident reconstruction, cyber and domestic investigations, and interviewing techniques. She is an avid traveler, scuba diver, and pop-culture connoisseur.

Check her out at IngridThoft.com@IngridThoft or Facebook

And be sure to pick up her latest Fina Ludlow novel Identity available now from G.P. Putnam - “A quirky and empathetic heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a surprise ending make this a winner.”Publishers Weekly


Blog, Reviews & Press

“Bangkok Cowboy” a Nook First Pick of the Day

June 6, 2014 by

Congrats to Ron McMillan – his Thailand set thriller “Bangkok Cowboy” is the B&N Nook First Pick of the Day!

NOOK First: Compelling Reads from Emerging Authors
When notorious Bangkok mobster Raymond Long approached private eye Mason to find his missing American accountant, he didn’t expect the missing person to be his friend Nathalie West. Together with his Thai partner Dixie, the duo are determined to find Nathalie before Long’s gang of goons find her-and the missing hard drive she’s taken with her in this first action-packed novel in a new series.

 

Bangkok Cowboy thumbnail cover

 

 


Blog

The Rogue Reader Publishes Ron McMillan’s “Bangkok Cowboy”

May 9, 2014 by

At The Rogue Reader, we try to bring you the very best of fiction from the bleeding edge.  So far we’ve published two Spinetingler Magazine Top Picks (Under the Dixie Moon by Ro Cuzon, and Dark as Night by Mark T. Conard) and a Library Journal Staff Pick (Under the Dixie Moon).  With Court Haslett’s Tenderloin (Raven Crime Reads described it in a rave review as “a 70‘s set version of The Wire.”) we expanded into historical noir, and now we are happy to announce publication of our first international author, Ron McMillan, and his riveting Thailand set thriller Bangkok Cowboy

 

Ron McMillan in Bangkok

One of Ron McMillan’s alter-ego web identities is ‘properjob’, chosen because he hasn’t held a regular job in nearly thirty years. And when you consider that he has spent most of the last thirty-five years scouring Asia for diversions to satisfy a near-insatiable thirst for variety and challenge, it’s hardly surprising that the guy who re-invented himself as a photojournalist at the age of 30 – and went on to work for some of the world’s top magazines – has stories to draw from that turn up in his crime fiction.

Newsweek Cover

This is a man who cut his photography teeth in the middle of vast student demonstrations that laid waste to South Korean city centres in the 1980s; who was smuggled into war-torn Afghanistan with the help of the mujahideen in 1989, wrapped in traditional tribal garb that fooled nobody; who has lied to men carrying guns throughout Asia; who performed nearly fifty editorial and commercial photography assignments all over China; and who conjured his way into the hermit kingdom of North Korea posing as a tourist five times, each time secretly on assignment for top publications in North America, Asia and Europe.

Now, with the arrival of Bangkok Cowboy, Ron makes for a truly international addition to the Rogue Reader stable.

Bangkok Cowboy thumbnail cover

The first in a series of crime thrillers set in and around Thailand, Bangkok Cowboy introduces one of the most original private eye duos in modern crime fiction. They are Mason & Dixie.

McMillan: “I chose the single name ‘Mason’ in homage to one-name fictional characters whom I never tire of re-reading: Robert B. Parker’s ‘Spenser’, ‘Burke’ from Andrew Vachss, and James W. Hall’s ‘Thorn’. After settling on ‘Mason’, I needed a short name for his transgender partner, and chose ‘Dixie’. That American reviewers have already taken exception to a nod at a dark line in America’s recent history only tells me that I’m striking a chord. Sure, Mason & Dixie books are primarily crime thrillers, but they are also about how people of extraordinarily different backgrounds and sexualities can mesh as the most loyal of friends.”

Ron McMillan’s website

Follow Ron McMillan’s Mason & Dixie thrillers on Twitter

Mason & Dixie Thrillers on Facebook

Readers and reviewers clamoring for more from Mason & Dixie will not have long to wait. The sequel, Bangkok Belle, is in the works. Watch this space.

Details of Bangkok Cowboy and a lengthy excerpt are available at The Rogue Reader’s book page.

 


Blog, Fan's Note, Other People's Books

A Fan’s Note: Owen Laukkanen on Gangster Rap and Crime Fiction

April 7, 2014 by

Today, we welcome author Owen Laukkanen to reveal how the hip hop beat of gangster rap drives his high intensity thrillers…

I grew up on rap music. I was your typical middle-class kid, playing hockey and going to piano recitals and turning the radio dial to WJLB Detroit (“Where hip-hop lives”) whenever my parents were out of earshot. Strange as it sounds, rap music is as responsible as books and violent movies for pushing me into writing crime fiction.

The gangster rap I discovered as a rebellious teen was just as violent and cinematic as the mob movies I was watching—hell, some of them were influenced explicitly by the same. The songs that resulted were gritty, three-minute noir sagas, populated by desperate, small-time crooks straight out of your favorite pulp magazine. Their creators were dark, funny, and inventive with language—just the kind of role models an aspiring crime writer needed. These days, when I need a hit of quick and bloody inspiration, these are the songs I put on:

Note #1: It probably goes without saying, but these songs are loaded with explicit content and adult situations. Be warned.
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Note #2: I’m leaving out a lot of classics here, I know, especially from the West Coast. I grew up to East Coast rap, though, and this is what I vibed to when I was just finding my way.

notorious b.i.g. somebody gotta die

1. The Notorious B.I.G. – N***as Bleed
Your classic double-cross story. In the first verse, Biggie’s alter ego, Frank White (a shout-out to Christopher Walken’s New York crime kingpin in King of New York) preps for a seven-figure drug deal at a local motel. By all accounts, Frank’s dealing with some shady cats, both on his side and the other, but that doesn’t stop the wheels from turning:

Think about it now, that’s damn near one point five [million]. I kill ‘em all, I’ll be set for life.
(Frank, pay attention…promise you won’t rob them.)
I promised, but of course you know I had my fingers crossed.

From there, the heist is on, and it plays out like a scene from a Brian De Palma movie, complete with bloody, climactic shootout and a funny and unexpected finale.

Fishscale-Ghostface

2. Ghostface Killah – Shakey Dog
Another heist story, another double cross, albeit with lower stakes and an insane, frenetic energy. Ghost enlists some dude named Frank to help him rob his cocaine connection in some shady tenement in uptown Manhattan. This thing is a song in the loosest sense of the word – there’s no chorus here, just Ghost describing the preparation, the characters in play and the stickup itself with a crime-writer’s eye for detail and dialogue. The writing itself is laugh out loud funny, and Ghost’s breathless storytelling propels the listener full ahead to the last line of the song, when he pulls the rug out from under us and stops the action dead on some Sopranos finale tip. There’s a sequel, featuring Raekwon, but like all sequels, it pales in comparison to the original.

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Blog, Craft

Rogue Craft: The Uncanny “GIRLS” Lena Dunham’s Horror Masterpiece

February 17, 2014 by

Many fans of The Rogue Reader were undoubtedly tuned in last night to the riveting spectacle of HBO’s True Detectives brilliantly scripted by Nic Pizzolatto and hypnotically directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.  But those who stuck around (perhaps at their significant other’s insistence or just to unwind from TD) for the following episode of Girls received an unexpected Master’s class in storytelling in the horror tradition.

 girls plunge

While some skeptics complain about the triviality of the characters or the lack of laughs in Girls, I’m a fan of the show even more for its craft than for its content.  Clearly, Zosia is not the only Mamet with an effect on the show: Lena Dunham and her creative team have studied David Mamet’s On Directing and execute his idea of “cutting” as well as anyone else in television.  And I am willing to bet that Lena, and Jenni Konner and Judd Apatow, her co-writers of last night’s nearly stand-alone dream-like episode “Beach Girls,” leaned on Freud and his The Uncanny to deliver a nightmarish homage to the horror master Stanley Kubrick.

 kubrick horror

Horror is definitely a hot genre, not only in the movies where low budget horror films like The Ring and Paranormal Activity out earn huge-budgeted star-driven tent poles, but also in commercial fiction as Gillian Flynn’s horror novel GONE GIRL topped the best-seller lists for over a year.  (Gillian Flynn on her horror influences.)  But the DNA of horror can also be found in lighter storytelling if we know where to look.

In The Uncanny, Freud explains that true horror begins with an idyll or in German heimlich (roughly translated to “home love” or “home sweet home”) then, like in a nightmare, the idyll becomes undermined and heimlich becomes un-heimlich (un-“home sweet home”).  We are faced with the darkness behind the idyll or under the surface – think about Jaws starting with the idyll of the innocence of summer and the beach undermined by the beast below the surface.  Then the deeper the story/nightmare goes the more unheimlich it gets until the final crisis and catharsis when beast/shark is killed and the heimlich is restored the audience’s great relief (and enjoyment).

Jaws_00250H

In this Girls episode, Marnie is attempting to put together the perfect weekend idyll (heimlich) for her circle of friends with flower arrangements and a perfectly arranged dinner party at a beautiful shore house.  But the idyll is soon subtly undermined by her philistine friends/guests, the revelation that the house is not in the Hamptons, and is in fact borrowed.  It only goes downhill from there as Marnie’s plans really go off the rails and Hannah invites additional unwanted guests.  Ultimately, the final crisis involves the revelation of dark truths that lie beneath the friendships until their relationships are ripped asunder.  That is until the morning brings a new day and the restoration of the idyll of friendship in a coda that says, “They might be fucked up people, but they will always be friends.”

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Blog, Fan's Note

A Fan’s Notes: Eric C. Leuthardt on Sci-fi Noir

February 15, 2014 by

This week, we invite our friend and mad scientist (literally, he is a mad genius neurosurgeon and novelist inventing the future) Eric C. Leuthardt to share his thoughts on the intersection of science fiction and noir as his own debut novel RedDevil4 has just been published by Tor to amazing reviews.

 EricLeuthardt-Web-19_crop_21

One of the things that I love about science fiction is that it imagines the world as it could be.  Distinct from other fantasy genre, these are worlds that are built on real possibilities.  So in a sense, they crystallize the future endeavors of scientists and engineers of the future.  Clearly, Star Trek influenced the design of some of the early cell phones and Isaac Asimov bred a whole generation of computer scientists who have worked to create artificial intelligence and robots. Science fiction in essence speaks to our optimism about the future that humans can create.

1966-1969-captain-kirks-gold-cell-phone-in-star-trek

Noir fiction/film is a different beast. Things aren’t so great.  They are often dark and flawed and ambiguous.  There are numerous crime novels where it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the criminals and the crime-fighters.  Distinct from Sci-fi, the reason we love it is because it explores our imperfections.  The hard, jagged edges of our darker side that gives us a sensual uniqueness.  Ultimately,  we can relate.  As the characters grapple with their own obsessions and insecurities, we can see in an amplified version the struggle that we all experience in the story of our own lives.

When you combine the two genres, I think you get a speculative fiction that becomes relevant far beyond the time that it was created.  The characters live in a world more advanced then are our own, but that world, like their inner psyche,  is filled with uncertainties, conflicts, and unexpected events.   Some of my favorite examples in movies and books include:

dvd_alien

1.  Alien.  A film that shows us the great promise of inter-stellar space travel, but reveals that the real danger in this new frontier is not a gnashing acid dripping monster, it is human greed.

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Blog

Happy Birthday to The Rogue Reader!

November 8, 2013 by

I’m happy and proud to announce that The Rogue Reader has made it to its first birthday.  We’ve published some great books, introduced some of our favorite authors, and met countless wonderful fans and readers along way.  We are also excited to announce that The Rogue Reader looks forward to an even bigger and better second year.

To celebrate this auspicious milestone we will make the entire Rogue backlist of novels from Mark T. Conard and Ro Cuzon available for the 99 cents during the month of November.  Be sure to take advantage of this fan appreciation pricing to complete your Rogue library.

And looking to the future, we introduce Court Haslett as the next Rogue author.  Stay tuned for news about Court’s terrific debut novel Tenderloin (A Sleeper Hayes Mystery) and his upcoming tenure as editor of The Rogue Reader with an eclectic mix of content including interviews with writers like Brian Koppelman, Urban Waite, and Chuck Greaves, as well as interesting supplemental material about the TL, San Francisco, and Jim Jones.

Thanks for being here and join us for another year!


Blog

Call him Dr. Noir

October 3, 2013 by

Mark T. Conard has been busy of late doing great interviews with Loren Kleinman at and Meg Collett, not to mention a kick ass short on ShotGunHoney.net

I hope he still has time to finish the forthcoming Breaking Character…stay tuned.


Blog

Catch Rogue Author Mark T. Conard reading At the Inkwell

September 6, 2013 by

Conard_Dark_cover

COVER_Conard_Coda_Kindle

Mark T. Conard, author of the Philly Payback Series novels among other books, will be reading at NYC’s KGB Bar at 7pm Saturday in The Fall Reading Series of At The Inkwell.

 


Blog, Other People's Books, Reviews & Press

Don Rearden and The Raven’s Gift

August 15, 2013 by

I have been working with Don Rearden since he queried me for a novella entitled Permafrost Heart on March 23 of 2006.  I loved the story that blended unique glimpses of the “bush” country and the people of Alaska that Don so clearly loves told in cuts and flashes reminiscent of the film “Momento.”

Alas, the novella did not sell.  (how many do?)  But over the years Don kept writing, working, and disappearing into the bush only to return each time an even better writer.  His next book, a novel entitled The Raven’s Gift, eventually followed and is a true revelation of the beauty and horror of his world.

For several years Don’s fiction, like private dispatches from the edge of the world, have always thrilled and shocked me and often made me cry.  But now, finally after so much of Don’s hard work and so many revisions, I get to share his amazing work with others…

The Raven’s Gift was published by Pintail, Penguin Group this summer.  And judging from this amazing review by Michael Dirda in The Washington Post Don is finally getting the accolades and growing readership he deserves.

 

Pintail_RAVEN'S GIFT_cover

Any number of writers could have produced a fine literary novel about a young couple discovering Yup’ik culture. But only an exceptional writer could write that fine literary novel and then relegate it to backstory, using its fragments to heighten the eeriness and drama of what is an intense thriller. And yet “The Raven’s Gift” also remains a love story — in fact, two love stories. What more could you ask? — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post.

http://www.donrearden.com/