Never Kill a Friend

9780977378708 Ebook

I recently raced through Martin Hill’s NEVER KILL A FRIEND. I gobbled it down like a fiend in two sittings, staying up late two nights in a row.

This is the debut of a new series starring Detective Shelley Krieg of Washington, DC, an African-American woman who just happens to be 6-foot-4 in stocking feet. Shelley takes her job seriously and is a tough interrogator. As the book opens, she thinks she’s got a perp in hand. His brother’s lying there dead, and he’s basically admitted to the murder. But very soon Shelley starts to question the young man’s innocence. As soon as she starts verbalizing her concerns, disturbing things start happening to her and to the accused man, whom Shelley is convinced is falsely imprisoned.

There were so many things I liked and admired about this book. First, the pace is relentless. Once you pick it up, you can’t put it down. Second, the writing’s terrific. Hill has a clear, direct, no-nonsense style that combines elegance with wisdom. Something I particularly liked is the fact that, while the book has a dark side, the characters have some humor, warmth, and light–in other words, it’s not all hardboiled, all the time.

Most of all, I liked that Hill didn’t do anything predictable. You’d think the plot would be based on political machinations because it’s Washington, DC–but it isn’t. You’d think Shelley would be juggling two suitors–but she isn’t. You’d think she’d have a typical sidekick–but she doesn’t. Well, she DOES have a sidekick, but she’s actually a former friend and the two of them are quite a hoot together, sort of a yin and yang who stick together. They’re fictional characters, but to me they seemed liked real and true friends to each other. Quite the Odd Couple–the giantess and the petite gal, the detective and the lab scientist, the straight-and-narrow and the often-inappropriate.

This is my first book by Mr. Hill but it certainly won’t be my last.

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Happy Birthday to My Cousin

Studs in TrainingSR and JM 2014-2

Left: Me and my cousin John, age <1 year.

Right: Me and my cousin John, ~50 years later, fighting the battle of the schnozzes (I win).

Today I wish a happy birthday to my cousin John … Huck Finn to my Tom Sawyer, Don Quixote to my Sancho Panza, Batman to my Robin.

Some have asked why Miss Felicity Prim and her sister, Celia, refer to each other as “Sister” rather than using their given names. Is this a reference to the way Mma Ramotswe and her friends often refer to each other as “sister”? As much as I adore Alexander McCall Smith’s books, Mma Ramotswe was not the inspiration behind the Prim Sisters’ term of endearment. Rather, years ago, for reasons I cannot remember in the least, my cousin John and I began calling each other “Cousin.” He doesn’t say, “Hello, Steve” — he says, “Hello, Cousin.”  I don’t say “How’s it going, John?” — I say, “How’s it going, Cousin?” Somehow I was reminded of this when Celia Prim finds her way onto the pages of The Outsmarting of Criminals … and now you know the inside story.

Today I wish John (no longer John John, as I knew him for the first 20+ years of our lives — that name is now reserved for his son, John III) the happiest of landmark birthdays. Half a century later, I’m feeling nostalgic for some of the stunts we pulled – like spiking a pot of coffee with saccharine tablets; and watering my grandfather’s tomato garden with gasoline; and falling into the brook next to my house on Thanksgiving day and sitting huddled in our underwear in the basement while  waiting for our clothes to come out of the dryer and hoping no adults came downstairs (which, of course, they did). We lived two towns apart and thought nothing of riding our bikes to each other’s houses, down main streets and through county parks — an act which, today, would land our parents in jail and us in foster homes. It is John who had some of the experiences I wish I could have had, like being at a party in which a cocky dude tossed a pie into the face of the host (I thought that “getting pied” happened only on TV).

And I realize that in our half century of cohabiting the Earth, we’ve never had a fight or had ill words or bad feelings–just laughter, good times, and a bit of mischief (though, to hear our Italian parents talk about it, you’d think we were the devil’s spawn). So, Cousin, Happy Birthday from One Cousin to Another.

Simple Pleasure #3: A Good CD

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Continuing with my list of simple pleasures, I have to add:

A GOOD CD (or, as some of us still call them, albums)

Here I am thinking in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. This is just an estimate, but I think the usual price of a CD is about $9.99. If you’re like me, you have probably listened to your favorite albums/CD’s dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of times. (No exaggeration — I am sure I have listened to Blondie’s Parallel Lines, above, at least 1,000 times since it was released in 1978. That was 1,924 weeks ago, and I am sure I have listened to it at least once a week over that period, so yes, we are into the 4-digits.)

There are 12 songs on the album, and let’s say the value to me of hearing each song is $1. That means that I should probably pay Blondie about $12,000. However, I paid only $10 for the CD (and probably $4.99 for the vinyl record when it came out). I am greatly, greatly ahead of Blondie in this equation. I probably owe similar amounts of money to The Cure, Depeche Mode, A Flock of Seagulls, Train, Jethro Tull, and many others.

So, that is a heck of a lot of pleasure for very, very little money. A good CD not only takes you back; it also makes today more pleasant. It is a simple pleasure that exists solely for your enjoyment.

Oh – and a brief aside to the gentleman who sat to my left at the recent Blondie/Morrissey concert at Madison Square Garden: If you had taken your eyes off your cell phone for even 10 seconds and looked to your right, you would have witnessed two performers at the top of their game. Why on earth would you pay 100 bucks to sit in a public forum to ignore a concert filled with rabid fans screaming their heads off?

Who Doesn’t Love a Sale?

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So, who doesn’t love a sale?

My publisher notified me yesterday that all of my ebooks are now available for the delightfully low price of $4.99 on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes (i.e., the usual suspects). So, if you are wondering what else (beyond The Outsmarting of Criminals) lurks in my twisted little mind, here’s your chance to find out for a good price.

Even better, Outsmarting is now $4.99 as an ebook, too. I’m not sure how these pricing decisions are made, but I’m happy that my books may find a home on more e-readers.