If you love a comfortable murder-detection-solution book, then look away now…Sistine is edgy, lyrical, dark and sometimes downright peculiar…but after a while it becomes clear what Hogan is doing with his complex and innovative story structure. I judge this to be a brilliant book by a fine writer…
Reviews & Press
February 28, 2013 by Jason Ashlock
February 27, 2013 by Jason Ashlock
BY AGATHO of Mysterious Matters
I love a good tagline. And The Rogue Reader‘s tagline, “Fiction from the bleeding edge,” is as good as it gets. I love a book that beats me up and leaves me bleeding. Sadly, there aren’t many of them. Too many novels (especially those with a darker edge) miss the balance, a phenomenon I call “working too hard to to be hard-boiled.”
Michael Hogan’s Burial of the Dead is one of those rare books that gets almost everything right. I discovered it a few years ago, and it has become one of my most-recommended books. I should mention that I am an editor at an independent publishing house, but I was not the editor who originally found and published Burial of the Dead. But I wish I had been.
I often think about, and sometimes blog about, the constraints of genre fiction. On the one hand, we (publishers, that is) like books that fit into a formula that is easily marketable. On the other hand, editors (like me) seek books that push the limits of the genre, that seek to do something new, different, bold, brave, exciting. It’s a tough balance to pull off, and it requires a special writer.
Burial of the Dead is such a book. Fans of the genre can be assured that it falls clearly into the “mystery” category. Every single page, chapter, and part of this book is suffused with mystery. For every question that is answered, doubts are raised and new questions arise. We almost never know who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and who’s allied with whom. When those questions are answered, the only result is more mystery as the reader must adjust everything s/he thought s/he knew.
The plot is, on the surface, quite simple. A wealthy older woman, owner of a successful funeral home and rich in her own right, has died. Was it suicide, or was she killed? Throughout the pages of Burial of the Dead, we see a parade of characters, all of whom stand to benefit in some way by the woman’s death. There’s her long-lost great niece; her late husband’s business partner; various employees; and various policemen and politicos, all of whom have a stake in finding out what really happened, or in trying to hide the truth. Each chapter mystifies as much as it enlightens, and the result is a book that grabs you and won’t let you go, as layers upon layers are peeled back and revealed.
The setting is Connecticut, which is deconstructed in a rather alarming and brilliant way throughout. We’re treated to a slice of life in which every character is somehow linked to other characters in sometimes subtle and always mysterious ways. Many books, I think, can be lifted from their setting and plopped down somewhere else with little damage to the story, but I don’t think that’s the case here, which is testimony to the author’s abilities as a writer and social observer.
I do not exaggerate when I say that Burial of the Dead is one of the most provocative, intense, mysterious books I have read in the last decade. In its pages the author has perfected the art of deceit: staying three or four steps ahead of the reader at every turn. I can’t remember the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed being so thoroughly deceived.
January 9, 2013 by Jason Ashlock
Barnes and Noble has selected Edward Weinman‘s Icelandic crime novel The Ring Road for its Nook First program. You can see it listed here as a “compelling read from emerging author”. Congratulations to Edward as we watch him climb the Nook charts!
January 4, 2013 by Jason Ashlock
“In the past I’ve written that the PI novel is the haiku of crime fiction, there may be only 17 syllables but in the right hands those syllables will sing; that there is the potential for a lot of power in that framework. Ro Cuzon has written one of the freshest PI novels in years. Great characters, great sense of place, and great action. The third person POV allows a wider cast and more interactions that pays off strongly as the story lines come together.”
December 7, 2012 by Jason Ashlock
HUGE congratulations to Ro Cuzon! Under the Dixie Moon is a Library Journal Staff Pick for one of the Best Books of 2012. Here’s what they say:
“A no-holds-barred, sexy and violent noir with a liberal dash of NOLA, Ro Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon is one part Charlie Huston’s Hank Thompson novels and one part Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder titles. It delivers an unblinking look at the dirty underbelly of a corrupt society, complete with ugly consequences and melancholy endings.”
Check out the rest of their excellent picks here.
December 2, 2012 by Jason Ashlock
Eve Bridburg at Grub Street Writers in Boston asks Jason Allen Ashlock 5 questions about The Rogue Reader.
Is there anything in particular that you look for in successful submissions?
What we’re looking for most in our authors is that they be rogue storytellers. That they really know their genre, enough to know how to effectively break the rules. We don’t want to offer the expected or the predictable. We also want them to be advanced in their craft, gutsy in their storytelling. And we want publishing insurgents: writers who dare to do it differently, who are willing to directly engage with their audience and are already doing that.
Read the full piece here.
The sparsity of Hogan’s prose, it’s sheer economy, its simplicity and bull’s eye precision are awesome to behold.
November 23, 2012 by Jason Ashlock
It will be hard to write a review about this novel without sounding like a foolish acolyte.
If this novel were a human being, it would be a quiet, welterweight MMA fighter with less than 1% body fat.
The sparsity of Hogan’s prose, it’s sheer economy, its simplicity and bull’s eye precision are awesome to behold. Yet, Hogan mixes this brutal efficiency with the cadence of sentences peppered with “ands” that draw you short of breath until you delight in the pause to reread, just for the thrill of the second pass. For the first time since owning a kindle (2 years), I utilized the notes feature to save examples. A couple of them:
Describing the face of a hired killer:
It was more than just the absence of life, it was the presence of another life, the vacuum of the hatred he’d built up in himself over the years, living with his swollen head tottering like a party mask on his pencil neck.
From the perspective of a punk kid in the grasp of a hired killer:
And somewhere in the telling of it the kid realized that he was going to die, and like a wash of clarity wiping away all of the drug induced, alcohol induced semi-oblivion of lost youth, the kid knew it was over and tried to pull away.
This is noir in a way that Cormac McCarthy would write it. McCarthy or Hemingway, with a way Flannery O’Connor might have used her dark, sick humor to describe the depravity of man.
As another reviewer observed, Bollo Walsh is a beautiful man, a loser you can root for, because despite the hopelessness of his predicament, you know he is a man with a conscience and moral ethic who, when the moment occurs, will not hesitate to make use of his opportunity.
Mike Hogan is one of two of the debut authors of The Rogue Reader (the other Ro Cuzon), a product of the current publishing environment, where seasoned veterans of the traditional industry saw an opportunity to create their own brand and bring strong, fresh voices to the digital marketplace. I am a huge fan of Mike Hogan, Ro Cuzon and The Rogue Reader.
October 10, 2012 by Jason Ashlock
“A no holds barred, sexy and violent noir with a liberal dash of NOLA, Ro Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon is one part Charlie Huston’s Hank Thompson novels, one part Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder novels, delivering an unblinking look at the dirty underbelly of a corrupt society, complete with ugly consequences and melancholy endings. The plot hits all the right genre notes — corrupt cops, perverted serial killer, lesbian bartender — but Cuzon nails the relentless pacing and gritty tone, and creates a compelling ensemble cast that rises above their archetypes, led by the enigmatic Adel Destin, who’s absolutely begging for a turn on the big screen. An impressive debut and highly recommended.” – Guy Gonzalez
October 3, 2012 by Jason Ashlock
Bestselling author, and fellow Rogue, Sean Chercover popped into one of our favorite bars in the city, Domaine Bar a Vins, to chat about books and such. Here’s Sean’s video endorsement of The Rogue Reader’s debut novelist Ro Cuzon. You can see their full conversation on The Rogue Reader YouTube Channel.