Nantucket Five-spot

Author Steven Axxelrod, Poisoned Pen Press and Partners in Crime blog Tours have been incredibly generous. In addition to a copy of Nantucket Five-Spot in exchange for a review I’m able to offer you a giveaway of a BOX of Poisoned Pen Press books through the Rafflecopter below. Also, leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Nantucket Five-Spot. TWO giveaways in one day. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Nantucket Five-Spot

by Steven Axelrod

on Tour March 1-31, 2015

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Publication Date: Jan 6, 2015

Number of Pages: 296

ISBN: 9781464203428

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Henry Kennis, Nantucket island’s poetry-writing police chief who will remind readers of Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone and Spenser, works a second challenging case in Nantucket Five-Spot.
At the height of the summer tourist season, a threat to bomb the annual Boston Pops Concert could destroy the island’s economy, along with its cachet as a safe, if mostly summer-time, haven for America’s ruling class. The threat of terrorism brings The Department of Homeland Security to the island, along with prospects for a rekindled love affair –Henry’s lost love works for the DHS now.
The “terrorism” aspects of the attack prove to be a red herring. The truth lies much closer to home. At first suspicion falls on local carpenter Billy Delavane, but Henry investigates the case and proves that Billy is being framed. Then it turns out that Henry’s new suspect is also being framed –for the bizarre and almost undetectable crime of framing someone else. Every piece of evidence works three ways in the investigation of a crime rooted in betrayed friendship, infidelity, and the quiet poisonous feuds of small town life. Henry traces the origin of the attacks back almost twenty years and uncovers an obsessive revenge conspiracy that he must unravel –now alone, discredited and on the run –before further disaster strikes.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One
Arrivals
Finally, I was having dinner alone with Franny Tate. It was a mild summer night, we were dining at Cru, overlooking Nantucket harbor. I was leaning across the table to kiss her when the first bomb went off.
A hole punched into the air, a muffled thump that bypassed my ears and smacked straight into my stomach, like those ominous fireworks that flash once and leave no sparks. The blast wave hit a second later, shaking tables and knocking over glasses, rattling windows in their frames. Franny mouthed the word ‘bomb,’ her lips parting in silence and pressing together again, not wanting to say the word aloud, or thinking I couldn’t hear her through the veil of trembling air.
I pushed my chair back, pointing toward the Steamboat Wharf. We ran out into a night tattered by running feet and sirens.
Our romantic evening lay across the stained tablecloth behind us, tipped over and shattered with the restaurant stemware.
Something bad had arrived on my little island, an evil alert, a violation and a threat like a dog with its throat cut dropped on a front parlor rug. It was up to me and my officers to answer that threat, to make sense of it and set things right. I didn’t explain this to Franny. I didn’t need to. She was running right beside me.
At that point, I thought it all began with the first bomb threat, two weeks earlier, but I wasn’t even close. It takes a long time to make a bomb from scratch. Lighting the fuse is the quick part.
I can tell you the exact moment when the match touched the cord, though.
It was a bright humid morning in June. An eleven-year-old girl named Deborah Garrison stepped off the boat from Hyannis and skipped ahead of her mother down into the crowded seaside streets. As it happened, I was at the Steamship Authority that morning, picking up my assistant chief, Haden Krakauer. We actually saw Debbie in her pony tails and Justin Bieber t-shirt.
She didn’t seem special, just another adorable little girl on a holiday island crowded with them.
And Debbie didn’t actually do anything. Nothing that happened later was her fault. The simple, irreducible fact of her presence was enough. Even years later, the consequences and implications of Debbie’s arrival seem bizarre and implausible, far too weighty to balance on those thin sunburned shoulders.
It was like setting off an avalanche with a sigh.
The next time I saw Debbie, it was a week later and she was holding hands with my friend Billy Delavane when he came to the station to report a stolen wallet. She’d been tagging along with him everywhere, since the day she came to Nantucket. They had met in the surf at Madaket when he pulled her out of the white water after a bad wipeout.
“She’d launch on anything, but she kept slipping,” Billy told me later. “She couldn’t figure it out. No one told her she had to wax the board.”
She was happy to let Billy get everything organized and push her into some smaller waves and even happier to share a cup of hot chocolate with a few other kids at Billy’s beach shack when hypothermia set in.
They’d been inseparable ever since.
Barnaby Toll took Billy’s stolen property report and then buzzed my office. He knew I’d be pleased that Billy had shown up at “Valhalla” as he liked to call it. Billy had been one of the more vocal opponents of the new police station, dragging himself to several Town Meetings and fidgeting through all the boring warrant articles to take his stand against the giant new facility on Fairgrounds Road.
I understood his point. I had been against the construction myself, initially. But, like driving in a luxury car or eating at good restaurants, I adapted to the change shockingly fast. Now I couldn’t imagine working in the cramped crumbling building on South Water Street.
I found the two downstairs in the administration conference room.
Billy tilted his head as I walked in. “Nice place. Lots of parking.
In America, where nothing else matters.”
I ignored him, looking down. “Who’s this?”
Debbie spoke up without waiting for him. I liked that.
“Debbie Garrison.” She extended her hand and I tipped down a little to shake it.
“Police Chief Henry Kennis.”
“Glad to meet you, Chief Kennis. Can I have a tour? I think this place is awesome.”
“Absolutely. How old are you?”
“Eleven,” Billy volunteered.
“I’ll be twelve in September,” Debbie corrected him.
“That’s my son’s age,” I said. “You should meet him.”
“Most eleven-year-old boys are extremely immature.”
I let that one go and offered Debbie my arm. “Shall we?”
“Yay!” She grabbed my hand and led me into the corridor.
“Can we see the jail cells?”
“Sure.”
The place was buzzing on a June morning. We had Girl Scouts gathering in the selectman’s meeting room and people milling in the front lobby, complaining about the neighbors’ noise violations and picking up over-sand stickers. Last night’s DUIs, the unlicensed, uninsured, or unregistered drivers (a couple of them always hit the trifecta).
On the way down to the booking room I asked Debbie what she thought so far.
“Well, the upstairs where we came in reminds me of a mall. That hole in the ceiling where you can see up to the second floor? I was like—is there a GAP store up there? This part is more like my school. But nicer.”
“Well, it’s new.”
“New is good,” she announced decisively and I thought,you’ve come to the right place.
“So are you spending a lot of time with Billy?” We pushed through into the booking room. It was crowded, phones were ringing. A bald geezer who looked like he was constructed out of sinew and tattoo ink was being hustled inside from the garage. Debbie stared at him. He was obviously sloshed out of his mind at ten in the morning.
I took her hand and led her around the big horseshoe-shaped desk toward the holding cells. “Debbie?”
“It—what?”
“Billy? You’re spending a lot of time with him?”
“That guy is creepy.”
“He’s sad. His kid was killed in Afghanistan. He drinks a lot, that’s all.”
“Ugh. Those tattoos.”
“They’re bad.” She’d probably have one herself by the time she was sixteen, but you can always hope.
She moved on. “Billy’s great.” Then, “What’s behind that door?”
I followed her gaze to the corner. “That’s our padded cell.”
“For crazy people?”
“Well…for people who might try to hurt themselves.”
“Cool! Can I see it?”
“Sure.”
We went inside. “Padded” is a slight exaggeration—the beige walls and floor have the consistency of a pencil eraser. “Billy’s not like I expected.” She pushed the walls, bouncing tentatively on the balls of her feet. “I mean, he’s not crazy or dangerous or anything.”
“Who told you he was dangerous?”
“Oh, I don’t know…just—people.”
“They were probably talking about his brother, Ed, who actually is crazy. And dangerous. But he’s going to be in jail for a long, long time. So I wouldn’t worry about him.”
“Billy is so the opposite of that. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. I mean, he’s sad about all the changes here, but he knows he can’t stop them. He’s not like some kind of terrorist or anything.”
I put a hand on her shoulder to stop the bouncing. “Debbie.”
She looked up at me. “Someone’s been calling Billy Delavane a terrorist?”
“I don’t know. I guess so. It’s just—people talk. People say stupid stuff all the time. Gossip and stuff.”
“I guess. But you’ve only been here a week, and you’re already hearing hardcore gossip about Billy Delavane? I don’t see how that’s possible. Are the kids talking about him?”
“The kids love him.”
“Then who? Your mother? Your mother’s friends?”
“Yeah, right.”
The idea of her talking to her mother’s friends was obviously so crazy only a clueless grown-up could entertain it.
We went to the jail cells next, three for the women and six for the men, simple rooms with built-in stainless steel sinks and toilets and a blue cement slab bed. The men’s side was full, so I walked her into the women’s block which was empty for the moment.
Debbie pointed at one of the slabs. “How can anyone sleep on that?”
“We have special bedding, but people don’t usually stay here overnight.”
“What’s that for?” She was looking at the stainless steel rail than ran along the length of the slab, eight inches off the floor.
“That’s called a Murphy bar—it’s for handcuffing people.”
“Oooo.” She shuddered

Author Bio:

Steven Axelrod holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and remains a member of the WGA despite a long absence from Hollywood. His work has been featured on various websites, including the literary e-zine Numéro Cinq, where he is on the masthead. His work has also appeared at Salon.com and The GoodMen Project, as well as the magazines PulpModern and BigPulp. A father of two, he lives on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where he paints houses and writes, often at the same time, much to the annoyance of his customers.

Catch Up:

Review:

At first, I was not enjoying the timeline for Nantucket Five-Spot. Parts of it were in the present, parts of it were ten weeks ago, five years ago, two hours ago. Happily all the jumps to the past were clearly labeled so you weren’t flailing around wondering what time period you were in. As I continued to read I realized that this jumping from time to time, although confusing, was a great way to mirror the confusion Police Chief Henry Kennis felt during the investigation. Just like Henry, you the reader are getting bits of information here, there, from different time periods and trying to slide everything into the right spot.

This was book two in the series and it wasn’t difficult to jump into Book 2 but you may find yourself wanting to read Book 1 also. Although the first section of the book is heavy on investigation/stand-offs by competing law enforcement agencies (locals vs. state police vs. Homeland Security vs. FBI), once the action starts it doesn’t let up. I love that these guys that seem like they are barely capable of patrolling the 4th of July parade really step up to the plate and finally begin working together once they have a common enemy.

The setting details are great, making the book more memorable, funny and occasionally beautiful.

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How I Became a Writer

Becoming a writer is a mysterious process — how did it begin, when did you decide to write a book, where do your ideas come from? Debut children’s author Janice Wills Kingsbury shares a bit about her journey to writer here.

Lexi Goes on Vacation to the Outer Banks Author

Janice and a furry pal chill at the beach.

How I Became a Writer

I started writing in first grade.  I wrote so many stories that my teacher told the class that I didn’t have to write at story time.  This same teacher always encouraged me to write, sent one of my stories in for publication, and told me one day I would become a writer.  That was many years ago.  I haven’t had the confidence to go public until recently.

For many years I wrote reports for my job and papers for graduate school, but my personal writing was for my eyes only.  I loved to write down all of the thoughts and found it cathartic to do so.   When I left my public school job, I had many thoughts and feelings to sort out.  The last few years had been difficult for me.  Lots of pressure in school, long hours, demands at home, loss of a parent and 3 pets. I began to write about these things.  The more I wrote the easier it became.

I started to think about writing for others, but I wanted to enjoy myself. I love children’s books and the entire process of writing, choosing a cover, and planning the illustrations is exciting and fun for me.  I spend a lot of time refining details and editing trying to get everything just right.

I spend part of my time in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and its here that I feel most creative.  I love the area and it’s always been my escape from the fast pace of the north. I’m relaxed, on the beach with my dogs, and talking to hundreds of people.  Vacationers come up to us all the time, and our walks span into hours.  I guess it’s not a common sight to see 6 dogs running freely on the beach, unleashed, chasing birds and Frisbees, or just hanging out.  They all come to a whistle if needed. People will stop me and ask questions, play with the dogs, take pictures and have fun.  Some people will come year after year and look for us on the beach. So many people tell us that watching the dogs running free on the beach and chasing birds is the highlight of their vacation.  Ideas would come to me often from the conversations I’ve had there.  My book, “Lexi Goes on Vacation,” is a culmination of telling the story so many times at the beach.

I’ve since written four other books.  My favorite of the four will be out soon. I’ve also started my own publishing company. It’s amazing that since I started writing it has become my passion and career.  I work everyday on writing, marketing, reading, and book signings. I couldn’t be happier.

More About Janice:

Janice Wills Kingsbury grew up in New Jersey. She worked as a teacher and later as a School Psychologist for 18 years. Janice also taught reading and has a love of children’s literature. Janice is also involved in animal rescue. Her children’s books are written from the heart and portray her love of and knowledge about children and animals. The stories will capture children’s interest and imagination.

Website: http://www.outerbooks.comLexi Goes on Vacation to the Outer Banks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jwillskingsbury

Twitter: https://twitter.com/janicekingsbury

More About Lexi Goes on Vacation:

Ms. Janice and Mr. Rob have vacationed in the seashore town of Duck in North Carolina for 10 years. Duck is a friendly place with sandy beaches where children and dogs romp to their hearts content. This year Lexi, a new addition to their dog family, will come too. But the vacation will be like no other and as the sun sets on the beach it promises to be a long night, one the family will never forget!

Full color illustrations appeal to children and make the book come alive. The action and adventure encourage children to read to the end and learn new vocabulary. Even reluctant readers will want to finish the story.Age 6-12, but suitable for all ages, even adults.

Lexi Goes on Vacation can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Outer Books.

 

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Due for Discard

due_for_discard_300-640x1024Due for Discard (Aimee Machado Mystery)

Author:Sharon St. George

Paperback: 340 pages (also available in e-format)

Publisher: Camel Press (March 1, 2015)

Synposis:

Aimee Machado is thrilled to be starting her first job as a forensic librarian at the medical center in the town of Timbergate, north of Sacramento, California. Her ebullient mood is somewhat dampened by her recent breakup with her former live-in boyfriend, Nick Alexander. And then there’s a little matter of murder: on Aimee’s first day on the job, a body is found in the hospital Dumpster, soon identified as her supervisor’s wife, Bonnie Beardsley. Aimee’s heartbreaker of a brother and best friend, Harry, just happens to be one of the last people to see Bonnie alive, but he is hardly the only suspect. Bonnie was notorious for her wild partying and man-stealing ways, and she has left a trail of broken hearts and bitterness. Aimee is determined to get her brother off the suspect list. Aimee’s snooping quickly makes her a target. Isolated on her grandparents’ llama farm where she fled post-breakup, she realizes exactly how vulnerable she is. Three men have pledged to protect her: her brother Harry, her ex, Nick, and the dashing hospital administrator with a reputation for womanizing, Jared Quinn. But they can’t be on the alert every minute, not when Aimee is so bent on cracking the case with or without their help. Book 1 of a new series featuring amateur sleuth Aimee Machado.

Review:

If you enjoy starting a new mystery series try Due for Discard, the first book in the Aimee Machado mystery series. Author Sharon St. George does a great job of sneaking some humor into this mystery with the help of a few quirky animals: spitting llamas, tough guy birds, attack cats and loud turkeys to name a few. I feel there will be a lot of potential if St. George chooses to develop some interesting characters like Aimee’s grandparents, Lola the retired librarian/hospital volunteer and the fill-in security guard. The community itself also seems interesting as it includes everything from farms complete with ranch hands to country clubs to cutting edge hospitals — and hospital librarian Aimee is a part of all these worlds.

My only issue was that their is so much back story thrown in, enough so that I began thinking I was reading book #2 and had already missed a book. I wish it could have given us a bit of back story in a more light handed manner.

The Witch of Painted Sorrow

The Witch of Painted Sorrows

Author: M.J. Rosecover_witch_sorrows

Hardcover: 384 pages (also available in e-books and audiobooks)

Publisher: Atria Books (March 17, 2015)

Synposis:

Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten–her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

Review:

M.J. Rose is a relatively new author to me (read my review of The Collector of Dying Breaths here) and The Witch of Painted Sorrows is like The Collector of Dying Breaths in that it has a supernatural element and a sadness underlying it. However The Witch of Painted Sorrows is darker than dark, it feels a bit hopeless at times. At times I felt like no one would “win” the battle. I would sympathize with various characters at various times but then they would do…something…and I wouldn’t like them very much.

But M.J. Rose definitely knows how to set a thick mood. Reading this book I felt enveloped in the Paris world — accepted times for meeting mistresses, shocking nightclubs, believers in dark magic, courtesans, women dressing as men — it was quite fascinating. If you want to delve into an entirely different world you will find it in The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

You can read an excerpt of The Witch of Painted Sorrows here

Running Scared: The Most Terrifying Tale Ever Told

Inkitt, a free platform for writers to cultivate ideas and watch their stories grow, is holding their second horror writing contest this month! Inkitt is a place where writers and readers collaborate, giving each other feedback and improving their work. Inkitt wants to help writers get the exposure they deserve and the publishing deals they covet without suffering the frustrations and bias of traditional printing and self- publishing.
The theme of Inkitt‘s March horror contest is “Running Scared: The Most Terrifying Tale Ever Told.”  In the tradition of classic horror flicks and monster movies, they want the freakiest, flashiest fables you can come up with. prizes_800X600Make them scream!
Inkitt is accepting all frightening fiction up to 15,000 words. The contest opens on March 3rd and closes on March 31st. It’s free to enter, and you’ll retain all rights to any work submitted. By collecting the most community votes, the top 10% of entries will be bumped into judging by Inkitt’s guest judges (horror authors J.D. Horn, Armand Rosamilia, and J. Thorn). They’re pretty unshakeable guys, so pull out all the stops to get them quaking in their boots!
Win and you’ll receive a petrifying prize package, including Amazon gift cards and Inkitt custom mugs. The first place winner will also get a custom poster spotlighting their story! Readers, be on your toes, too: there’s an Amazon gift card up for grabs for one lucky reviewer!
Got gore on your mind and fear in your heart? Enter the contest now at http://www.inkitt.com/runningscared? for all the (literal) guts and glory!

All the Old Knives

All the Old Knivesknives

Author: Olen Steinhauer

Paperback: 3o4 pages (also available in e-books, hardcover and audiobooks)

Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 10, 2015)

Synposis:

Six years ago in Vienna, terrorists took over a hundred hostages, and the rescue attempt went terribly wrong. The CIA’s Vienna station was witness to this tragedy, gathering intel from its sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground and from an agent on the inside. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how?

Two of the CIA’s case officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and on the night of the hostage crisis Celia decided she’d had enough. She left the agency, married and had children, and is now living an ordinary life in the idyllic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry is still a case officer in Vienna, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.

But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised? If so, how? Each also wonders what role tonight’s dinner companion might have played in the way the tragedy unfolded six years ago.

Check out an excerpt of All the Old Knives here.

Review:

When I found out that 95% of this book takes place when two people are sitting at a table: talking, thinking, eating I was worried it would be…static. But this book was incredible! I want everyone to read it as well as everything else author Olen Steinhauer has written (and there’s quite a bit to choose from).

At first this seems like a straightforward plot: two agents (one retired) are getting together to tie up a few loose ends from an “incident” that happened five years ago…by “incident” they mean a terrorist group taking over a plane in Vienna and how it was dealt with by the agents in Vienna. Except maybe it isn’t about that…maybe it’s about lost love. Except maybe it isn’t about that…maybe it’s about blaming someone. Except maybe it isn’t about that…maybe it’s about protecting someone. Except maybe…

Reading All the Old Knives is like trying to decipher the picture in a jigsaw puzzle when you only have half the pieces. Only two characters are telling the story so you would think there would only be two “sides” to the story but it is much more complicated than that. Each time I felt as if I understood what happened five years ago one of the characters would reveal another detail, either in their conversation or their thoughts, that put an entirely new spin on the event. Steinhauer has the ability to make the tiniest word or event completely change how you look at these two characters and their part in the “incident”.

After you read page 304 ask yourself, “What choices would I have made?” Perfect book to debate with a friend!

A Spoonful of Murder

A Spoonful of Murder: A Soup Lover’s Mysteryspoonful of murder

Author: Connie Archer

Paperback: 304 pages (also available in ebook format)

Publisher: Berkley Books (August 7, 2012)

Synposis:

Winter is big business in small-town Snowflake, Vermont. Tourists arrive to hit the ski slopes–and what could be more satisfying after a chilly day of carving powder than a steaming bowl of soup?

When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents’ soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it’s time to take stock of her life. Should she sell her parents’ house or move in herself? Does she really want to run a restaurant business? And what about her grandfather Jack, who seems to be showing signs of Alzheimer’s?

But her life decisions are moved to the back burner after an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop. and Lucky is bowled over when her soup chef, Sage DuBois, is led out of the kitchen by the police. As suspicion and speculations snowball, Lucky decides that the only way to save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist–and landed her chef in the soup…

Recipes included!

ladle_homeReview:

We’ve been dealing with subzero temperatures outside of my front door so any book that talks about soup is perfect. A Spoonful of Murder is the first in Connie Archer’s soup series so there was a bit of introducing the characters and their relationships to main character (soup restaurant owner and amateur sleuth Lucky Jamieson). But once we get to the murder the fun really starts. Archer does a good job of showing us several characters that Lucky (and readers) will consider as possible murderers. Then she turns the tables and suddenly the most unlikely people seem to be the ones who did the evil deed! I look forward to Archer further developing this soup of characters. My only complaint was that it took us too long to get to the murder. I know, how ghoulish of me! But I like to dive right into the action.

I came late to the party! Even though this is a review of the first book in the Soup Lover’s Mystery series Archer is releasing book four today! Check out her blog tour stops here — maybe you’ll find a chance to win a free copy of Book #4 Ladle to the Grave.

Paris with Cara Black

I had never heard of Soho Press (shame on me!) until I attended a writer’s conference and met the exuberant Juliet Grames, associate publisher. Even if you never picked up a mystery in your life, after ten minutes with Juliet you would be promising to read Soho’s entire backlist. Soho specializes in mysteries set in other countries (two of my favorite things) and Juliet kindly gave me Cara Black’s Murder in the Palais Royal and I’ve acquired a few more since then. Champ4

Author Cara Black loves Paris so much she has set over a dozen murder mysteries in notable parts of  the City of Lights. To celebrate the release of her latest book in the Aimee Leduc series Murder on the Champ de Mars, Soho Press, Politics and Prose bookstore and Black are sponsoring a contest for one of her readers to win a guided trip to Paris. With one of the best guides ever — Cara Black herself!  Check out some details about this dream trip. The trip is from October 24 to October 31 and the winner will be announced on May 20.

There are three ways to enter: buy a print copy, buy an ebook or get an entry blank at a participating library or bookstore (check out the list here). Need to catch up on the Aimee Leduc series before reading Murder on the Champ de Mars? You can download a FREE copy of The Aimee Leduc Companion which will bring you up to speed.

Word Freak

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble PlayerswordFreak

Author: Stefan Fastis

Paperback: 416 pages

Publisher: Penguin Books (July 30, 2002)

Synposis:

Scrabble may be truly called America’s game. But for every group of “living-room players” there is someone who is “at one with the board.” In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis introduces readers to those few, exploring the underground world of colorful characters for which the Scrabble game is life-playing competitively in tournaments across the country. It is also the story of how the Scrabble game was invented by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression and how it has grown into the hugely successful, challenging, and beloved game it is today. Along the way, Fatsis chronicles his own obsession with the game and his development as a player from novice to expert. More than a book about hardcore Scrabble players, Word Freak is also an examination of notions of brilliance, memory, language, competition, and the mind that celebrates the uncanny creative powers in us all.

Review:

I thought chess champs were crazy! I didn’t even know they had complimentary eccentrics in the world of Scrabble. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a competitive Scrabble world. Work Freak is for a very specific audience. Scrabble lovers (living room and competitive — and yes, they are practically two different games), word lovers, eccentric/obsessive lovers. And you have to have a bit of interest in history since the roots of Scrabble reach back into 40s and the games it’s compared to reach back centuries.

This book isn’t arranged in chronological order so in one chapter Stefan may be talking about reaching the 1700 level and in the next chapter he’ll be back to a tournament where he hits rock bottom. So, it is easy to become confused about what happens when. Also, it’s tough to pigeonhole. Is it a memoir about Stefan’s crazy obsession with words and becoming a Scrabble champion or is it about the convoluted history of the game of Scrabble as well as the present day Scrabble champs? A little of both, if you ask me.

At some points I wanted to slap author Stefan Fastis (sorry, Stefan) as well as a few other Scrabble champs and tell them to “get a life” — a life that doesn’t involve Scrabble. At other times I was fascinated that these people exist. This book is about a board game – a board game! – so at times it plods a bit. I mean, how fast can you move along a board game tournament? Personally, I found the invention, complicated evolution and sale of the game through the years more enthralling than the eccentrics that have now made Scrabble the focus of their lives.

But is you want a peek at people with one overwhelming purpose for their life or get a few amazing words for your next living room Scrabble game (qat — use your Q when you don’t have a U) try Word Freak.

Readers Write

The Sun is a fabulous magazine to set your imagination on fire. It’s a combination of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry and photography. If you’d like a complimentary one-year subscription, enter your writing in the Readers Write section of the magazine. Typed and double-spaced please. You can send brief nonfiction pieces (you can opt to have it published without your name if you prefer) to Readers Write, The Sun, 107 N. Roberson St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516. The upcoming themes and deadlines are:

Making Ends Meet                                            March 1

Noise                                                                    April 1

Saying No                                                            May 1

Flying                                                                   June 1

Being Single                                                        July 1

Breakfast                                                             August 1