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Best Books of 2012

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I recently asked some knowledgeable book people for the best books they’d read in 2012 (whether they were published this year or not.) Since I’m a reader as well as a writer, I’m always looking for something interesting to read. I loved the suggestions–I’d only heard of about a third of the titles, so my 2013 reading list is already underway. Dig in, see what you love, what you don’t know, what you maybe didn’t like as well as these people did, and feel free to add your own comments to the list below.

The Story of Little Orphan Courtenay, Written and Illustrated by Sara Paretsky

Ayo Onatade & Kelly Hager – Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season

Sara Jayne Townsend, Linda Gustavson, Izzanie Ismail, & Stephanie Wilkinson Hargett – Stephen King’s 11.22.63

Bob Calder – Rebecca Stott’s Darwin’s Ghosts

Lisa Eichholtz & Mary Kay Thompson – Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl

Jeffrey Robert Broido – Cornell Woolrich’s Night Has a Thousand Eyes

Debra Polk – Beth McMullen’s To Sin Again

Shirley Schwartz – Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance

Pema Newton – Malla Nunn’s The Silent Valley

Beverly Henrich – J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

Robert Coupée – Molly Ringwald’s When it Happens to You

Patrice Brown – Tana French’s Broken Harbor

Susan Hewitt – Michael Buckley’s The Sister’s Grimm

Stephanie K. Eller – Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power

Christine Morton – Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies

Ken Eisenstein – Chad Hardbach’s The Art of Fielding, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Pattern, A Rumor of War by Phillip Caputo


Crows Over A Cornfield

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

I am writing like a maniac, trying to finish the new book before the end of the year, but the end seems to be receding–kind of like the horizon in Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” A while back, I posted the first chapter here. While I try  to get the baddies and V I and her young protegés all together in the same place at the same time, here’s part of chapter 2

Crows Over a Cornfield (Van Gogh)




“Your friend wasn’t there, but I did find one of her fellow communards. Or drug dealers, as we call them on the south side.” I was in Lotty Herschel’s living room, leaning back in her Barcelona chair, watching the colors change in the glass of brandy she’d given me.

“Oh, Vic, no.” Lotty’s face crumpled in distress. “I hoped—I thought—I wanted to believe she was making a change in her life.”

It was past nine and Lotty was almost as tired as I was, but neither of us had wanted to wait until morning to talk.

I’d driven the crows away from the dead body by flinging my flashlight and a screwdriver at them. They took off in a great black circle, flying around with angry cries just long enough for me to look at the body and see that it had been a man, not a woman. After that I backed away as fast as I could through the thick hot jungle of corn. I didn’t call the sheriff until I reached the edge of the road.

The dog wouldn’t leave her vigil at the entrance to the field, despite my pleas and commands. While we waited for the law, I poured more water over her head and into her mouth. She tried to lick my arm, but fell asleep instead, lifting her head with a jerk when two squad cars raced up, lights flashing, white lettering in dark brown stripes assuring us that Palfry County’s law cared while they served. Three deputies spilled out of the cars. Two, a young man and an older woman, followed the bent stalks of corn to the body. They left a youngish man with me to take a brief statement and phone headquarters for instructions. At the end of the call, my youngish man, Deputy Davilats, told me I was to go into town and explain myself in person to the sheriff.

I heard shots from the middle of the field and saw the crows rise up again.

I asked the deputy to help me lift the dog into my car. “Even though the dead guy in the field might have given her some of these wounds, she won’t leave while he’s out there,” I said.

When the deputy came over to help me shift the dog, she curled her lip at him and growled.

The deputy backed away. “You probably should just shoot her, weak as she is and mean as she is.”

I was a hundred miles from home, the law here was a law unto itself and could make my life miserable: I needed to not lose my temper. “You could be right. In the meantime, she’s innocent until proven guilty. If you’ll take her back legs, I’ll get her around the neck so she can’t bite.”

The dog struggled, but feebly. By the time we had her shifted into the back of my Mustang, the two other deputies stumbled out of the field at a shambling run. They had both turned a greeny-white beneath their sunburns.

“We gotta get a meat wagon out here while there’s still some of the body left for the ME,” the woman said, her voice thick. “Glenn, you call it in. I’m going—“ she turned away from us and was sick in the ditch by the road. Her partner made it as far as their squad car before he was ill.

My deputy called back to headquarters. “Davilats here. Got us an 0110…Don’t know who; I drew the long straw and didn’t have to see the body, but Jenny and Fred say the crows been doing a good job having dinner off of it.”

The voice at the other end told Officer Davilats to guard the entrance to the field while I followed Jenny and Fred back to the county seat, where the local sheriff met us. To my surprise and great gratitude, Sheriff Kossel didn’t keep me long. He had Jenny stay with me while Fred drove him to the cornfield. Once he’d viewed the body he demanded my credentials.

“Warshawski? You related to the auto-parts people?” he asked.

““No,” I said for perhaps the fifty thousandth time in my career. “They spell it with a ‘y’. I’m related to I V Warshawski, the Yiddish writer.” I don’t know why I added that, since it wasn’t true.


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December 2012