Posts Tagged reviews

Blog, Reviews & Press

Learning from Booklist and Library Journal “Books for Dudes”

October 21, 2014 by

Not long ago a great Booklist review suddenly appeared on the Amazon Page of The Raven’s Gift. In today’s world it can be incredibly difficult to get a review anywhere and I was fortunate to land some incredible reviews here at home in Alaska and one giant one in The Washington Post. Naturally that one surprised the hell out of me, but this review came as a surprise because I never heard about my novel landing a Booklist review until the review appeared. I think most writers are savvy enough to have Google Alerts in place to catch reviews good and bad (and damn, I’ve been crazy fortunate in the good department), but one thing I’ve learned is to also have a few alerts for your name misspelled. When I figured that out I learned The Raven’s Gift had been selected as a Top Five Summer Reads for Dudes! And of course I learned this around October that same year. Things like this help with publicity, when you get a chance to publicize them, right? At times this sort of discovery can be frustrating when the news comes too late, but my agent has been keen to point out to me that good reviews and book lists don’t go away. I’ve remembered that.

Back to the Booklist review. I appreciate what the reviewer, Connie Fletcher had to say, and I really loved the imagery of the last line:

This is part dystopian survival tale, part Jack London wilderness saga, and part Stephen King/Michael Crichton–style suspense story. Holding it all together, and making this much more than a what happens when people can’t defend against a massive threat exercise, is Alaska native Rearden’s deep knowledge of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and the culture of the Yupik Eskimos living there. Rearden takes an adventurous, idealistic young couple (John and Anna), gives them jobs as first-year teachers, and plunks them in a tiny village in a tiny home free of all amenities. From the start, though, readers will know something is off: Why, in the scene before the couple’s job interview, are an unidentified man and woman crawling through the snow, looking for signs of life? The narrative consists of three separate time lines—what happened before almost everyone in the village disappeared; John and Anna’s first efforts to teach and adjust; and John’s desperate efforts to survive and return to Anna. This narrative mix is deliberately confusing, like following tracks in the snow, and just as engrossing. –Booklist, Connie Fletcher

I’ll take that review with a grin, and of course have no problems with the Jack London/Stephen King/Michael Crichton comparison! So who needs a timely “starred review” with those stars involved, right? Plus, this reviewer was kind enough to post the review on Amazon herself AND spell my name correctly.

ravens gift cover

Don Rearden grew up on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska, an experience that informed his critically acclaimed debut literary thriller The Raven’s Gift. While calling Don “a master of the cliffhanger” The Washington Post went on to praise the novel’s “hunter-hunted suspense of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, the post-apocalyptic bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the haunting mysteriousness of The X-Files.”

Stay tuned for more posts from Don Rearden and his upcoming Alaskan thriller only from The Rogue Reader.

Blog, Craft, Shorts & Excerpts

Yin Yang Tattoo by Ron McMillan

April 2, 2014 by

In 2010 my first published novel, Yin Yang Tattoo, was launched in paperback by Sandstone Press in the UK. I sat around for a few weeks waiting for reviewers to beat a path to my door, a path that never saw a single footfall. With the awareness slowly dawning that this was going to be a lot more difficult than I had ever imagined, I started pitching the book as aggressively as I could, searching out potential print media review sources. I quickly found out how near-impossible the new task was. Thankless? You bet your ass it was thankless.

Document 1

I succeeded in securing reviews at a handful of websites. The highly-regarded Scottish Review of Books called it a ‘superior thriller’; a blogsite devoted to all things Korean kicked me square between the legs with the aside that it wasn’t in the same league as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And a sweet review in the online crime fiction website Shots Magazine deemed it ‘lean and pacy, just what you want a thriller to be’.

Much later, two other online reviews, one at Asia Times Online, the other at the Asian travel blog site Wowasis, were more than generous with their praise, but long before they arrived I found myself in classic published author limbo. Few reviews, nobody discussing the book, zero market awareness. Even worse, I suffered the ignominy of securing an invite to the Hongkong International Literary Festival, only for the invitation to be rescinded after the festival chairman read the book and deemed it  ‘altogether too highly coloured for our kind of festival – pretty strong meat.’ I can now laugh at it – wear it as a badge of honour, even – but at the time it hurt.

I decided it was time to do something different. I searched YouTube for inspired book promotions, and found none. Authors standing at a lectern reading out chunks of their novels didn’t strike me as particularly ground-breaking. And so I set about making my own clip. I asked around and found a young illustrator who was a devotee of the graphic novel. Azlan Ahmad McKechnie agreed to do the artwork for the clip, and a musician friend in Bangkok, Keith Nolan, composed the backing track as a favour that, over the years since, has seen me purchase coffees too many to count.

I’d love to say the clip created an avalanche of sales, but that, sadly was not the case. Nevertheless, I think it stands up as a clever piece of online promotion.

[Note: URLs for Azlan Mckechnie and Keith Nolan embedded in the clip are no longer current. My website URL remains alive and well.]

The text for the narration follows.
read more →


The Deep

May 17, 2013 by


Move over, Björk. With the blockbuster 2 Guns (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) set to explode across U.S. multiplexes this summer, renegade filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur (Contraband) is about to become Iceland’s most popular cultural export. But first, the man once called the “Mayor of Reykjavik” has just released The Deep, an intimate, Icelandic film exploring survival, miracles and the perilous life of fishermen.


What constitutes a miracle?

This question runs through Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur’s most recent film, The Deep, which chronicles the life of Gulli (played pitch perfectly by Olafur Darri Olafsson), a simple man who survives a night in the frigid North Atlantic Ocean after his ship sinks.

The Deep is based on the true story of the trawler Breki that capsized in 1984 off the coast of Iceland’s Westman Islands. Doctors speculated that Gulli, the lone survivor, stayed alive because he was, metaphorically, part seal due to his rotund frame being insulated by a remarkable amount of body fat. An object of fascination to Icelanders, Gulli quickly became a national icon and the subject of intense scientific investigation into why he didn’t die.

In a nation where the economy is tied so heavily to the fishing industry, Gulli’s miraculous story still resonates, even more so now that the country has been forced to redefine its cultural identity since the banking and finance industries precipitated Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008.

“Bankers are not our heroes. They didn’t give birth to our nation. Our fathers and grandfathers aren’t businessmen,” said Kormakur, currently in Los Angeles wrapping up post production on the blockbuster film 2 Guns.

“Our true heroes wear fishing gear and raincoats.”

Observing his country transform from one rooted in the blue collar fishing industry to one dominated by runaway capitalism, Kormakur “felt we had lost our way, so I wanted to make a movie that reminded us of who we are.”

read more →

Blog, Other People's Books

JUNKIE LOVE by Joe Clifford

May 1, 2013 by


In a spoon, mix some On the Road with a drop of vinegar and a squirt of water. Bring to a boil and let it cool, then add just the right amount of Catcher in the Rye. Suction through the balled up cotton of a cigarette Pulp/Noir filter. Find a vein. Inject and wait for the rush.

Junkie Love, Joe Clifford’s second novel (his third book if you include his great short-story collection Choice Cuts) is as raw and candid a story as you’ll ever experience. It’s a gritty literary memoir that reads like the fiction of a James M. Cain or Jim Thompson and will take you on a visceral trip down the darkest alleys of drug addiction.

Early in the novel, Joe wonders “how a good-looking, lapsed Catholic from Connecticut turned into a no-good, thieving junkie, homeless on the streets of San Francisco.” Junkie Love is, at least in part, the author’s attempt to answer that question. At this stage in the story, however, one of the explanations Joe offers us is that he may have read too many books. 

There aren’t many possibilities left for true adventure in our world today for a rebellious young man stuck in a small town, his mind ablaze with the stories of Conrad, Melville, and the spirit of the Beats, his dreams pulsing to a rock & roll soundtrack. There are no more riverboats languidly wheel-paddling up and down the Mississippi River, and hopping freight trains across America just doesn’t have the same romantic appeal it once had before the Interstate Highway System. In theory, one can still embark on a ship across the oceans, though it is hard to imagine anything more boring that being stuck on one of these storm-proof, container-laden supertankers for weeks on end with a foreign crew.

This, I believe, is one of the numerous reasons why the world of drugs can appear so seductive to many young people. Dark and dangerous, but still romantic—at least in an 18th Century Romanticism sense—drugs represent one of the last, readily accessible roads away from conformity and a square, boring life. For kids who may not fit in with the mainstream and polite society, kids who feel they are different, special even, drugs are the ultimate fuck you.

And they make you high.

They are of course also a trap.

Some, the lucky ones, will realize this and pull back in time. For others, it will be too late.

Joe Clifford belongs to the latter group, a young man who went to San Francisco with rock & roll dreams of making it as a musician, only to end up living on the streets, swallowed whole by a spiraling addiction to methamphetamines then heroin. Committing crimes to feed his habit, he ends up betraying and breaking the heart of everyone who ever loved him, as junkies are wont to do.

Very few people make it out of that world; fewer still end up creating art out of their experiences. Poignant, horrific, and at times uproariously funny, Junkie Love is not only a journey through hell and back but also a story of redemption and hope.

One must be careful not to glorify an addict’s ‘war stories’, Joe points out somewhere in the book. This is very true, for any junkie’s suffering is, at least originally, self-inflicted.

The fact remains that, in a roundabout, twisted, painful way ten years in the making, Joe Clifford may have achieved what he set out to do when he first hit the highway in search of adventure. “The best teacher is experience,” writes Jack Kerouac in On the Road. Joe Clifford embarked on a wild perilous trip, pushed his luck as far as it would go and almost didn’t make it back. But he did, and in the process found his identity and his own unique voice, creating music not out of notes but out of words.

Go west, young man, go west. It amazes me that Joe and I both headed that call the same year, in 1991. He was twenty-one at the time, I was twenty-two. He came from Connecticut and I from France, but we both ended up in the same place, physically and metaphorically. Although we never met back then, we lived in the same San Francisco neighborhood, and, to be sure, frequented some of the same places and characters.

Two decades later, we are both published writers. We both have families of our own.

Sometimes, real-life Noir stories have happy endings.

Ro Cuzon is the author of the Adel Destin crime series, including the critically acclaimed Under the Dixie Moon and Under the Carib Sun. Hailed by George Pelecanos, Sean Chercover, Laura Lippman, and James Sallis as a writer to watch, Ro’s novels are all available here at the Rogue Reader and at ebook retailers everywhere. 




Blog, Other People's Books

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

April 29, 2013 by


A demon puts on a scavenger hunt for a university professor, and the prize for winning is the chance to bring his daughter back from purgatory.

The one-sentence summary of Andrew Pyper’s latest novel, The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster: 304 pp., $25), doesn’t do it justice. The narrative of this Canadian native’s latest delves much deeper than one might expect from a such a high-concept thriller, and Pyper delivers an emotionally-charged, high-energy, spine-tingling story that brings you right into the mind of a skeptic faced with an unsettling truth.

Professor David Ullman, the novel’s well-educated and chronically-morose protagonist, is an odd combination of ardent atheist and scholar of biblical texts, and an enthusiast of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. When a disturbingly thin woman approaches David with an invitation to spend an all-expenses-paid weekend in Venice, he is unable to decline the generous offer. Taking his daughter Tess on the Italian excursion, he leaves her with a nanny one afternoon so that he can uphold his end of the bargain and witness whatever happening he was brought here to view.

The phenomenon – a man in a dark room, chained to a chair, with an unnatural voice and speaking of future events – horrifies David and begins immediately to corrupt his atheist beliefs. Back at his hotel and eager to return to his New York City home, David loses his daughter for a moment, only to find her on the roof of the hotel, standing on  its ledge and speaking in the same unnatural voice as the man in the dark room. Just before Tess’s possessed body plummets into the Venice canal, David hears Tess’s real voice utter, find me.

The experience leaves David broken and hollow, yet determined to carry through with his daughter’s request. Armed only with a video recording he made of the man in the dark room, his mastery of the mythology of Paradise Lost, and the conviction his daughter must still be alive, David tries to interpret the signs that have begun to pop up around him–signs that suggest there are more things in heaven and earth than he had dreamed of his philosophy, signs he hopes will lead to his daughter’s safe return.

David’s journey, like Milton’s hero’s, proves circuitous and difficult, and he’s without a kind guide to show him the way to hell and back. Instead, he stumbles forward into a paranoid-filled road trip across the U.S. in which he attempts to escape the forces pursuing him, and pursue the forces that have escaped with the thing in life he loved most. Along his journey, David comes across haunting examples of the demon’s handiwork, and with the help (and occasional ridicule) of his close friend, Elaine O’Brien, he tries to find place these strange encounters inside the larger puzzle, in order to understand what the demon wants–and why it wanted Tess.

The Demonologist is filled to the brim with disturbing images, exhilarating danger, and a provocative sense of the numinous. But where Andrew Pyper really excels is in his ability to convey the thoughts and feelings swirling around in the mind of his hero. Balancing bullet-fast pacing with internal struggle, Pyper gives us a thriller that’s as cerebral as it is muscular. David’s constant melancholy–his loving an unobtainable woman, experiencing an event that puts his entire belief system into question, being instantly driven into a state of urgency at the thought of saving Tess–somehow doesn’t spiral into indulgence, but instead raises the stakes even higher. (Pyper himself addresses this tactic in his recent piece in the Wall Street Journal.)

Pyper’s novel might be properly categorized not as suspense, but as horror, a genre that has proven again and again–from Poe to James to King to Cronin–that it can marry plot with a prose that reaches a higher literary register. With The Demonologist, Pyper has won himself a place on that list.

Despite its lovely prose and thoughtful execution, we offer a word of caution before you dive headfirst into Pyper’s latest: don’t plan on getting a good night’s sleep. Between your desperate attempt to finish it in one sitting and the novel’s abundance of absolutely frightening passages, you’ll be searching for sleep as desperately as Pyper’s hero searches for answers. And it will be just as difficult to find.

Other People's Books

Roger Hobbs’ debut: Ghostman

March 7, 2013 by

R0213-ghostman-roger-hobbsoger Hobbs stunning debut thriller Ghostman is the story of five epic heists, four happening concurrently, between the sun-baked concrete and sticky waters of Atlantic City, and one occurring in a past that won’t stay gone. The full fist of heists are connected in ways apparent and hidden, and the consequences of each layer on top of each other to form a richly imbricated story world of crime and conscience. The novel itself is sheer pleasure, with Hobbs delivering details of armored trucks, guns, getaway cars with an easy expertise. Violent without being gratuitous, set in a character-rich world of high-stakes thievery, the novel employs the standard tropes of heist fiction to great effect. The valuable Macguffin. The thugs and goonies as expendable as the cars. The Nameless Hero with a hidden past and a brilliant, unquiet mind (he sometimes goes by the name of Jack, but if you think that’s really his name, he’s fooled you already). The ticking time bomb that injects urgency into every minute (in this book, it’s literal: the money will explode if not found in a day and a half, and the countdown begins by page five). In the hands of lesser writers, these devices would seem familiar and perhaps uninspired. But Hobbs is not a lesser writer (see Heist #5).

Heist #1: The Inciting Incident

In Hobbs’ explosive first chapter, two thugs lie in wait in a casino parking garage, counting down the nervous early-morning minutes before their target arrives–an armored truck scheduled to drop a platter of cash before the casino’s opening. It’s an operation that should have been simple–if not easy: a 40 second flurry of guns and blood, followed by a dash of heavy feet, a squeal of tires, and a sprint to the hideout with a federal payload. Its the kind of operation the distant and diabolically brilliant heistmaster Marcus once excelled at. But unlike a typical Marcus heist, it’s the kind of heist that was doomed from the start. A lone gunman watched the burglary from the back of the garage, his rifle aimed at the gunmen waiting for the armored car. Before the half-minute heist is done, one of the theives is dead, the other mortally wounded. Who the gunman was, how they knew, and what they want–these are why Marcus calls Ghostman out of hiding and back into action. That, and he’s got to get his money back, which is currently in the car of a dying thief hiding somewhere in New Jersey, waiting to blow up.

Heist #2: The Botched Job

That call wasn’t the first Ghostman had received from Marcus. A few years before the book begins Marcus tapped Ghostman to be part of an elite team that would target a high security bank, stealing millions in one of the most daring and inventive heists in bank-breaking history. Two days before zero hour, Ghostman makes the smallest of errors, setting into motion a chain of events that would leave the team broken, its members dead or captured or on the run, and force Ghostman to leave behind the only woman he’s ever loved. And it would put him in the debt of Marcus, a man who does not write off losses (for example, look for the shudder-inducing scene with the force-feeding of nutmeg…).

read more →

Reviews & Press

A no holds barred, sexy, violent noir with a liberal dash of NOLA

October 10, 2012 by

The latest review of Ro Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon:

“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


Other People's Books

Shake Off by Mischa Hiller

September 21, 2012 by

Just down the road from the White House, across the street from the grand art museums of the U.S. capital, you’ll find a small museum dedicated to espionage: the International Spy Museum. As museums go, the institution is an infant, barely a decade old. It’s a post-Cold War luxury, to turn our Berlin spy apparatus into an installation, our Cuban intelligence strategy into an interactive exhibit. The ASM doesn’t pretend to the formality of the Portrait Gallery or the Library of Congress; its charms are mostly in its accessibility, and its full awareness that, despite the fact that spying is not a game and government intelligence is a dangerous field, thinking about the world of espionage is just plain fun. In a city full of serious edifices, the museum is a lark for any visitor, though it’s probably most enjoyable if you go with a twelve year old boy–or are able to pretend you still are one.

Who, at some point in their childhood, doesn’t want to grow up to be a spy? Once we realize superhero is too supernatural a career goal, spy seems the next best option. To be smart, strong, slick, and gadget-equipped? If you can’t be Batman, be Bond.

read more →

Reviews & Press

What People Have to Say

September 21, 2012 by

Rogue Authors are a breed apart. Chosen for quality and originality, these are the best new voices in suspense fiction. Each month, The Rogue Reader introduces our community to one of these breakout authors.

“Ro Cuzon is among the rising stars of the new generation of noir novelists who are moving the form forward in exciting, innovative ways.”  – George Pelecanos

“New Orleans is a postcard city, but Ro somehow gets under its skin. One of the best new voices in crime fiction.” - Sean Chercover

“Violence washes over all the characters in this novel, sparing no one. I read it in two greedy sittings, but I feel as if I had the luxury of spending an entire season in St. Barts, albeit one the tourists never see.” - Laura Lippman

Join the Rogue Email List. and receive regular updates on the best in suspense fiction.

Connect with The Rogue Reader