So the first chapter peaked my interest. The scenario amazingly curious, but then the novel devolves into too much interior life of Claire and her trauma over her father's disappearance, mother's attack, and nanny's murder when she was 4 years old (I think). Then around page 93 the book kicks back into gear and sweeps you along as Claire attempts to unravel the mystery of her father's disappearance and the murders he's accused of. She is an amateur sleuth who has struggled with this for so long that she only has a few disjointed relationships with friends and her brother. Everyone worries about her all the time and because it's more or less all she can think about, for the most part any relationship ultimately needs to carry her closer to the truth or comfort her in some manner. A story about isolation and need, this book delivers but you have to be patient. I especially loved her description of what it's like to be alone in someone else's home when they are away. She crafts sentences very well and as an American she has an amazing ability to capture the British way of speaking. I have not read Under the Harrow but that is on my short list. I look forward to more from Ms. Berry.
As you can see my reviews are not timely. I read what comes to me then write about it. Ian Fleming came up because a reviewer of Dark Paradise mentioned Fleming as someone I compared to favorably, a wonderful compliment, then I decided to tackle a James Bond novel to remind myself after many years of not reading a Fleming book, how it would come across. Well, pretty favorably. On Goodreads and Amazon, I have this sucker 4-stars. Here's the gist:
Bond and a policewoman team up to uncover a plot under the British government’s nose by a terrorist named Hugo Drax, who is in fact an SS officer who survived, but because he grew up in England, convinced the Brits he was another man, then got them to finance him to build a “test” atomic rocket called “The Moonraker” that’s to be tested in the north sea, but under the noses of the Brits he got a real warhead from the Russians and has aimed the missile at London. Bond and Gala Brand of Scotland Yard, who has worked undercover on the project race against time. Issue: makes it look like Gala is an idiot and Bond figures it all out in 4 days…also seems kind of obvious when reading that Drax is a bad dude, but they don’t see it. Also, how did the Brits let a group of Germans have total control only 10 years after the war. Well written but a bit far fetched.
Wow, what a fun, literary yarn straight from the world of Holmes and Doyle, but better with a female protagonist named Harrison "Harry" Fearing Pell, the nineteen-year-old younger sister of a legendary detective Myrtle Fearing Pell, who remains mysterious throughout as we only learn about her from the viewpoint of Harry. I loved the skepticism Harry shows throughout about what's happening. Her best friend, John Weston (Dr. Weston), is convinced it's supernatural as the victim, Becky, performed a seance to bring forth a demon, then was murdered. The Bradys show up and hire Harry on the assumption she is Myrtle, an assumption Harry does not dispel. Harry is smart and eager to prove she has worth beyond simply being the younger sister of Myrtle. Using her wits, charm, and good-looks, she makes her way through the slums, high society, and supernatural worlds to pursue a serial killer terrorizing NYC only months before the more infamous Jack the Ripper began his spree in London. A fascinating story of whodunnit that thrusts the reader into danger at every turn, I loved this story. The characters had unique voices and the writing made me feel claustrophobic when called for (I had to stop reading because the feeling overwhelmed me) and giddy with anticipation. I thought a lot about the book and I appreciated that I could play along with Harry in using the clues to make an attempt to solve the murders. Ross' metaphors were descriptive without overburdening the prose. The nods to other stories like Arthur Conan Doyle's and J.K. Rowling's also made it delightful for someone who enjoys literary references.
My first book signing even for Dark Paradise is scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, California from 5-8pm. Please come out and support my book and this great store! Families and kids welcome. I will be selling and signing copies of the novel. Thanks for the support.
Address: 1807 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
A Deeper Look Into the Inspiration Behind Dark Paradise
What was the inspiration behind Boise Montague’s character?
Boise is a name I’ve only heard twice in my life. One was a man who worked for my father and the other was an acquaintance in Los Angeles. The man who worked for my father wound up dead on a beach. I liked him when I was a kid, so the name is an homage to that man and a nod to his untimely death in a mysterious and tragic manner. Boise’s evolution as a character begins when he returns home to “find his sea legs” so to speak. He needs to figure out his place in the world. How and if he does this is the crux of the story, so I’ll leave the reader to see how successful he is in evolving.
How has your childhood in St. Thomas influenced and inspired this noir novel?
St. Thomas has a great influence on me, even on my mannerisms, which are deeply ingrained in me. The ever-present smile and open attitude that island life instills in you is something that may not be imprinted on people who live in urban, fast-paced cities, abroad and in the U.S. Growing up on St. Thomas has made me feel comfortable in racially heterogeneous environments. I prefer the company of diverse communities and people of varied backgrounds. To be quite frank, I don’t like how distant my neighbors are in my Los Angeles community. St. Thomas also taught me to be very happy with very little. The electricity constantly went out and we sometimes had no running water. Daily life required you learn to live without amenities that we sometimes take for granted elsewhere.
What do you think about the influence that St. Thomas has on Boise and on Dana?
Boise needs the island as a salve and an escape. He’s avoiding constant reminders of his dead wife. For Dana, the island is a place where she can be free to be herself in terms of her sexual preferences, her boisterous attitude, and, of course, her drinking. My experience in St. Thomas was there’s less regulation the farther one gets away from the mainland. The thing that Boise and Dana have in common is their open contempt for incompetence and debauchery, yet they love St. Thomas. It is their true home.
What aspects of Dark Paradise make it a noir novel?
Noir has a lot to do with the setting. Most notably people associate American noir with Los Angeles in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s and with the authors Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In the case of Dark Paradise, the Caribbean lent itself well to noir themes. Like Los Angeles, it’s glossy on the surface with sunshine and beauty. Beneath the gloss lurks hidden evils. The presence of alcohol and drugs in the Virgin Islands, the corrosive effects of money on relationships and people, and the anxieties about masculinity all lend themselves to the genre.
What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?
For sure the book title is harder. It’s so immediate, so vital as a first impression, akin to the book cover. You can draw a reader in or shoo them away. The names of characters, while important are rarely deal-breakers as far as someone picking up the book or even continuing to read. Interesting and meaningful character names do not necessarily matter in many cases and analyzing why an author named a character yields few results except in obvious cases like Voldemort.
In fact, obscure or everyday names are chosen more often than not to no ill effect. I sometimes
choose names from the credits of a movie or by combining first and last names I’ve heard. Human names are easy to come by and many are unique and interesting or common and easy to remember. Titles that tell you something about the story are rare and give so much of a feel to the entire text, especially before you have a completed cover. It's hard to overstate the pressure I feel when choosing a book title.
Read my short story that follows Boise Montague, the protagonist in my upcoming book Dark Paradise, on Medium. Originally published in Beyond Imagination Digital Literary Magazine, this quick read will give you a taste of what is to come when Dark Paradise hits shelves on June 25th.
Yes, it’s embarrassing to say I didn’t read some of these at a younger age. I’d like to blame my schools, teachers, parents, and anyone except myself, but really, I have only myself to blame.
There is one I read when I was younger, but I’m putting it on the list because upon re-reading it at an older age, I gained a deeper understanding of how special it is.
- CATCHER IN THE RYE (1945) by J.D. Salinger: What a novel. It felt like this man, Salinger, had taken up residence in my brain, even at the age of forty-three. Although the book is about Holden Caulfield, a high school student who is extremely jaded about all the people around him, the plot is secondary to Holden’s observations and feelings about life, which Holden sums up as “phony.”
- COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE (2014) by Haruki Murakami: I read this book on a recommendation from my tennis pal, Kate. I loved it, but after reading some other reviews, it seems his Kafka-esque repetitions are wearing thin. In my opinion, Murakami is a favorite for a Nobel sometime in the next ten years and based on this novel, I’d say he has an exceptional grasp of language and the ability to portray the loneliness and isolation we all experience. This was a favorite theme of Kafka too, so no surprise there. However, what I loved was the mystery aspect woven into this story that provided a substantial plot to go along with the meditations on Tsukuru’s colorless existence. Tsukuru wants to find out why he did not fit in with his classmates years ago. This backdrop drives him to explore his existence and makes for a thought-provoking read.
- ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (1992) by Cormac McCarthy: Exceptional story, but more of an exceptional exploration of the barren, lonely nature of the West as seen through the eyes of a linguistic genius. The book haunted me about a part of the world I've never really cared about that much. I plan to re-read this book sometime soon because there's so much emotional depth in the simple, powerful language.
- DRACULA (1897) by Bram Stoker: The first time I read it as a younger man, I hated the diary-entry style. On my second reading though, I loved the realism this style created. This book deserves its place among the classics. The confusion we would all feel upon confronting the people, superstition, and mystery associated with Count Dracula in his foreboding homeland and, what’s more, the fact that Dracula has decided to follow you back to your home in secret pursuit of a more sinister desire, is what makes Harker’s entries so eerily powerful.
- MYSTIC RIVER (2001) by Dennis Lehane: Dave Boyle, the loser who Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus begrudgingly tolerate, gets taken by the worst kind of men. He survives, physically, but really, he’s a shell. He does not connect with others in the town, and with a push from the right place, Jimmy could believe whatever is necessary to solve the killing of his daughter, an event that coincides with Dave being covered in blood. Sean is the cop caught in the middle of this mystery. Did Dave kill Katie? If so, should it be Sean’s justice, or Jimmy’s? Riveting drama and a compelling examination of a parent’s worst fears realized.
- TALES OF FALLING AND FLYING (2017) by Ben Loory: A really fun and different book. When he says "short" story, Ben Loory means short. I could read almost every story in under five minutes. There are differing degrees of satisfaction with the conclusion, but the journey is always backwards and upside down. It’s well worth the time with memorable, fable-type tales that keep you guessing and wondering what these unusual characters will do next.
- TWO KINDS OF TRUTH (2017) by Michael Connelly: Harry Bosch investigates a double-homicide of a father and son who own a farmacia for the San Fernando P.D. He goes undercover then tries to help Elizabeth, a drug addict he meets with help from Cisco. The rest would give too much away, but know that this crime novel is one you can’t put down.
- LIVIA LONE (2016) by Barry Eisler: I wrote about this book recently in a book review on this blog and it makes the list, although one caveat: it’s very violent and graphic. I loaned it to someone and they were shocked by some of the intense violence. If you can handle a strong woman who does whatever it takes to get the job done, this book is for you. Livia is a truly powerful character. I loved the way Eisler switched between her origin story, training, and the present mission she's engaged in. The first chapter is one of the best I've read in a long time, immediately drawing me into the world of crime and intrigue, along with a strong awareness of the predatory nature of rapists. It also provides a glimpse into the world of white supremacist hate groups and their high level of organization.
- READY PLAYER ONE (2011) by Ernest Cline: If you enjoy 1980’s pop culture and thinking about reality and whether our reality is really the reality, then this novel is for you. The Matrix made me think about interdimensional realities more than I ever did before, as did Twin Peaks. This book deals with the question of reality in a more humorous, adolescent manner. Wade Watts is a kid with not much to live for in the “real world.” But, in the Oasis, he lives for the quest for Halliday’s Easter Egg, a promise of $240 billion and a controlling share of the company that owns the Oasis. What is the Oasis? A video-game reality that has taken over the world to the point where most folks spend more time plugged into that reality than in the actual world, which has degenerated into a dystopian future where everyone is stuck because of the global energy crisis. The story is teeming with pop culture references and fascinating puzzles. The characters are somewhat emotionally stunted, but Wade, the main character has a snarky voice and a way of explaining the tragic nature of life that is both philosophical and humorous.
- THE GUARDS (2001) by Ken Bruen: This mystery focuses on the degenerative nature of alcoholism, a subject near and dear to my own heart. For the first fifty pages I disliked Bruen’s writing style, but then the brief, machine-gun barrage that lacked pronouns grew on me and began to have a bigger and bigger effect. Verbs have power. Short sentences, shorter chapters. Give it a chance.