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One of our favorite bloggers - Sarah from Bookworm Blues - has attended two Brandon Sanderson signings over the course of a month. One was badly organized and miserable, the other was well organized and enjoyable. This makes a better case study than any of our "Post-Scripts" series. We harp on a lot about how fans should behave, but booksellers, please remember that just getting the author into the venue doesn't mean your job is done - any more than sending out invitations makes for a good party.

New Releases: The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel

The Cardinal's Blades The Cardinal's Blades(2009 UK / October 2010 USA) by Pierre Pevel is another fine example of the English-speaking world playing catch-up with the spellbinding genre fiction coming out of Europe. In this case, at least, we're only a couple years behind...

Mr Pevel goes completely bonkers in this fantastic reinterpretation of Dumas' literary universe. Cardinal Richelieu, the most powerful man in France, is playing a dangerous game to keep his country's foes at bay. When an important visiting dignitary goes missing, the Cardinal recalls his troop of pet warriors to duty - The Cardinal's Blades. The Blades are known for getting the hard jobs done - generally in roundabout, infuriating, illegal ways. Disbanded after a disastrous outing at the siege of La Rochelle (tip of the feathered hat to Dumas), the Blades had been sulking in their inactivity (again, very Dumas).

Once regathered, all hell breaks loose. The men (and woman) of the Blades are soon surrounded by enemies old and new. And, to be fair, their friends aren't particularly reliable. There's a race against time to track down the noble (who is quickly eclipsed by other missing personages), defeat an evil cult, and, naturally, skewer a lot of bad guys.

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"For The Peddler they needed a pen name so I went with Douglas King. You know, I've mentioned elsewhere that the name Douglas had a macho sound and King was sort of royal. When the book came out though, the name on the cover was Douglas Ring. The editor changed it and I haven't felt right about editors since then and that was in 1952." - Richard S. Prather

Underground Reading: One Fearful Yellow Eye by John D. MacDonald

One Fearful Yellow EyeOne Fearful Yellow Eye (1966) is the eighth novel in the adventures of Travis McGee, as penned by Pornokitsch favorite, John D. MacDonald.

The pitiful cry of an old friend brings Travis away from his Florida stomping grounds and up to snowy Chicago. Travis, as seen previously in Pink, is uncomfortable in urban places - prone to whining about the smog, the clutter and (in general) enclosed spaces. The wandering McGee is best in small towns and big oceans. Cities throw him off his stride.

Appropriately, MacDonald's best thrillers are set in small towns (Death Trap, One Monday We Killed Them All). And, likewise, many of his best character studies are based on the "growing pains" of small things becoming Big Things, with all the burdens and traps thus entailed (One More Sunday, The Crossroads). It is when he tries to write urban adventures in a big metropolis that things fall apart.

Following this trend, One Fearful Yellow Eye is a lackluster effort from Mr MacDonald - a ramshackle plot, artificially buoyed by cheap titillation.

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"Just once I'd like to know what happens in the middle of the book before I've got the ending. Dusk Watchman progresses, but trying to balance the needs of a novel with the needs of the series and the needs of characters to have a resolution, continues to do my head in. More than tempted to just start killing people and see what happens, but that might make me less than popular with the readers." - Tom Lloyd, on the writing process.

Underground Reading: Streetlethal by Steven Barnes

Streetlethal (1983) Streetlethalby Steven Barnes, takes place in a post-quake California, controlled by corrupt corporations and a powerful crime ring, the Ortegas. Aubry Knight, space-boxing expert, just wanted to do his thing (his thing being "Maxine"), but the Ortegas wouldn't let him. Set up for murder, Knight is sent off to jail for life. He vows revenge, etc. etc.

The entire book reads like a particularly florid transcription of a forgettable 1980's action movie. Knight punches his way out of jail, punches his way through LA, punches his way through the rebel underground and then punches his way up the corporate ladder. 

The book was half decent (as a fist-fest) until Knight gets mixed up with some sort of super-mushroom and achieves philosophical transcendence. Armed with the aforementioned fists and a particularly repellent need to spout off about the nature of love, he's an unstoppable force. That which he can't punch, he can wrap his love-mind around. That which he can't love-mind, he punches. 

By the end, I wasn't just cheering for the bad guys, I was praying for another earthquake.

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Underground Reading: Darker than Amber by John D. MacDonald

Darker than Amber 1966 brings us Darker than Amber, the 7th book in the series, Darker than Amber, featuring John MacDonald's pernicious anti-hero, Travis McGee. 

Travis needs to unwind after two weeks of sexual healing, so he's hanging out with his friend Meyer. They're having a beer, swapping stories and chasing fish when, out of the blue, they're rudely interrupted by a woman being chucked out of an automobile (and into the water). Travis rescues her (naturally), only to discover that she's a looker. (This prompts the best line in the series so far, as Meyer wryly quips, "Damned handy Travis. As soon as you run out, they drop you another one.")

Vandy may be a hottie, but she's no lay-dee. 

It doesn't take much for her to open up to Travis and Meyer. She's been a prostitute since puberty (with occasional breaks for erotic photography and exotic dancing) and, as foxy as she is, to the proper and virginal (snort) Travis, she's pretty disgusting. 

Still, she's got a job for the fearless McGee. Apparently pre-being-chucked-off-a-bridge, she was part of something very lucrative. If Travis helps her get her money out of storage, she'll give him a cut.

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Red Dawn

The latest issue of the frankly excellent Escapist magazine is stuffed full of pieces about the new 'Red Box' - the latest iteration of a Dungeons and Dragons starter set. We'll be talking about the Red Box, and the current explosion of D&D formats, soon enough - but for now, The Escapist is the place to be.

Although its focus is computer gaming, the magazine has always carried a healthy number of features on tabletop games, but never this many. There's a bunch of good reading there for anyone interested in D&D, or gaming in general. 

Mark Millar has identified "a gap in the market for a woman's comic" and wants to fill it with the female version of CLiNT. Given his penchant for blatant misogyny, hideous rape fantasies and naming titles after rude words for a woman's genitalia, I'm not sure he's quite the shining champion of progressive graphic fiction that the industry needs. (Still, any excuse to dredge up the lolmillarz.)