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Transgressions: Ten Brand-New Novellas Hardcover – April 21, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As editor McBain admits in his introduction, it was a bit of a challenge to persuade 10 superstar authors (well, only nine, since he's also a contributor) to each write an original novella, with its awkward length between 10,000 and 40,000 words, for this excellent crime and suspense anthology, but he's come up with an impressive roster. One can't help wondering how a writer like Donald E. Westlake, who writes so much under several names, can fit in a jolly new story, "Walking Around Money," about his humorous burglar hero Dortmunder . And how does Anne Perry, who now writes three separate series and is probably planning another, move to a completely different period with "Hostages," a touching portrait of a woman caught up in the current Irish troubles who tries to keep her sanity by doing household chores? Walter Mosley, on the other hand, seems to be looking for new ways to get his points across: his "Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large: Walking the Line" might be the fuse to light a fire. McBain's own "Merely Hate" lends fresh insight into his 87th Precinct series. The remaining novellas, from the ubiquitous Joyce Carol Oates and the welcome return of Lawrence Block's hit man Keller to the diverse pleasures of Sharyn McCrumb and Stephen King, make this hefty volume pound-for-pound the best reading value of the season. Agent, Jane Gelfman at Gelfman-Schneider Literary. $200,000 marketing budget. (May 10)
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Reading an anthology is a bit like listening to a musical sampler (what record collectors once lovingly called a mix tape); it's always tempting to have your favorite bands cued up one after another, but sometimes you're not in the mood to change moods every few minutes. These 10 brand-new novellas offer longer grooves than short stories, but it's still a valid concern: Can fans of Anne Perry also shake it to Ed McBain? Maybe it's the relief of not having to carry a book by themselves, or maybe it's the fun of trying a rarely used format, but these big-name authors write like the pressure is off. In "Walking around Money," Donald Westlake sidles his thief, Dortmunder, through a deadpan-hilarious tale that should also serve as a Zen how-to for budding writers; in "The Corn Maiden," Joyce Carol Oates offers an impressionistic tabloid thriller about a mean girl who abducts a slow classmate for ritual sacrifice; in "Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large," Walter Mosley profiles an irresistible, offbeat hero through a journalism student who answers a want ad for a "scribe"; in "Keller's Adjustment," Lawrence Block's reliable assassin finds himself having existential thoughts about golf communities after 9/11. So how's the mix? It's as if it were made by a good friend who knows just what you like--and even remembers that you like to be surprised once in a while. Keir Graff
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Top customer reviews
The result was one of my most enjoyable reads of 2006. I don't know why I don't read more anthologies. It was in an anthology that I first experienced Stuart Kaminsky, Sharyn McCrumb, and Lawrence Block.
Coincidentally, one of the best novellas in this anthology is one by Block. Block returns with his enigmatic hit man Keller in KELLER'S ADJUSTMENT. Block manages to make us feel empathy for the man. Although he has sex with a Phoenix real estate saleslady, Keller is essentially a lonely man. He needs somebody to talk to. He once had a dog, but a former girlfriend took it with him when she left; he went to a therapist, but the therapist turned into a snoop, and he had to dust him. Unwilling to take a chance on a living breathing entity, Keller buys a stuffed animal to talk to.
Jeffrey Deaver also responded to the call with FOREVER. In it he introduces Tal Simms, a mathematician/statistician working for Westbrook County Sheriff's Department. Simms is considered a "computer geek" by the rest of the detective squad, especially homicide detective Greg "Bear" LaTour. Simms and his eventual partner LaTour are confronted with several suspicious suicides. Older rich couples are killing themselves under dubious circumstances. In most respects, the underdog character Simms is every bit as likable as Lincoln Rhymes. I would definitely buy a full length novel featuring Simms.
A new discovery for me was John Farris. Farris's THE RANSOME WOMEN concerns a beautiful art appraiser named Echo Halloran who agrees to pose for the great artist John Leland Ransome. She's not only flattered, but as a budding artist herself, she wants to learn from him. Her boyfriend, police detective Peter O'Neil, is suspicious, and with good reason. I enjoyed this novella so much I ran right out and bought FURY, THE TERROR Farris's masterwork.
I have to admit that Ed McBain's own contribution, MERELY HATE, was my principal motivation for purchasing the anthology. I needed my 87th Precinct fix, and it's great as usual. It is post 9/11 in Isola, and the detectives are called to investigate the murder of a Muslim cab driver. Through these cab driver murders, McBain capsulizes the reason for the problems in the Mid East.
Other writers who contributed novellas were Donald Westlake, Anne Perry, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Sharyn McCrumb, and Stephen King. All of them were excellent.