Rick’s recent reads

One of the nice things about travel is that it gives me time to read. Below are some of my recent discoveries that kept me entertained on my trip to England.

James Sallis, Drive. This is an adult mystery novel, a perfect example of noir fiction. It’s only about 150 pages long, but Sallis really packs a punch. His writing is powerful and so well-crafted it should be framed as a work of art. This book reminded me why I fell in love with noir fiction in the first place. If you like Hammett, Chandler, Cain and Himes, you will love this book. Also highly recommended: Cyprus Grove, another new, fine mystery from Jim Sallis. As the LA Times recently said, Sallis is so good he deserves to be a national bestseller. That he isn’t just proves that quality fiction is not always popular fiction, and vice versa.

Andrey Kurkov, Death and the Penguin. Another slim book, more or less a crime novel, this is a translation of a Ukrainian book. The main character, who has adopted a penguin from the local zoo, gets a job writing obituaries, then learns that he is writing obituaries for people who are about to die! Great premise. A quick and refreshing read, and the penguin is a terrific character. I understand there is a sequel too, though given the ending of the book, I don’t know how Kurkov will pull that off. The book gave a very depressing glimpse into modern Ukrainian problems. I hope things really aren’t as bad as portrayed, but I have a feeling the author had a lot of real-life material to draw from.

Neverwhere, Nail Gaiman. Okay, so people have been telling me to read Neil Gaiman for ages. They assume I’ve read American Gods because the premise is similar to the Percy Jackson series. Well, I still haven’t read American Gods, but I did pick up Neverwhere in the Heathrow airport and read it on the way back home. I enjoyed it a lot. Great fantasy, wonderful sense of humor. I can understand why Gaiman is so popular. I’ll have to look up his other books.

Rick Riordan