Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Classic Review

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Mad Dogs

By Brian Hodge

Cemetery Dance

Brian Hodge Layers Crime Novel with Philosophy (if you look for it)

(November 2008)

When Jamey Sheppard pulls into a remote Stop-n-Gulp, he has no idea the drive to his imminent wedding is about to go terribly wrong. Jamey’s last acting job was portraying wanted fugitive Duncan MacGregor for a TV re-enactment on one of those crime shows. But the boozed-up deputy who mistakes Jamey for the real MacGregor doesn’t want his autograph – he wants a bust. While frisking Jamey, a freak accident occurs and the cop shoots himself dead. Almost before he knows it, Jamey’s on the run for real, wanted for the deputy’s murder. The whole world’s watching and turning Jamey into a star, if he can only survive. For unfortunately, it’s not just the police who are on his trail, but also a dysfunctional family of criminal opportunists, a revenge-driven friend of the dead cop, the real sword-wielding outlaw Duncan (who wants to meet his alter ego), and some rather incompetent but motivated hitmen sent by… but why spoil it for you? There’s more to this zany novel than its surface action. It’s a serio-comic road caper that screams nihilistic existentialism from every page while poking society for its cult of news and infotainment (and the blurred lines between them), short attention spans, and greed culture. Hodge’s work (World of Hurt, Wild Horses, The Darker Saints) is always deeper than it seems, here recalling Bradley Denton’s Laughin’ Boy when examining how television and the media tend to shape our realities.


Classic Review

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Dirty Martini

By J.A. Konrath


The Drinks Books Continue to Deliver a Punch

Like a long gulp of the titular drink, this fourth Jack Daniels thriller goes down smoothly but kicking. Chicago insomniac homicide cop Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels is up to her ears in family trouble again when a madman dubbed “the Chemist” goes on a poisoning rampage intending to bring the city to its knees. Saddled with an eccentric mom, a father she didn’t know she had, a killer house cat, a loyal but suddenly reticent partner, and a marriage proposal, you might think Jack doesn’t have time to mess with crazed mass murderers, but you’d be wrong. The Chemist soon develops a bizarre relationship with Jack, toying with her in “Dirty Harry” style even as he targets cops all around her with his deadly traps. Narrating in a deadpan comic pseudo-noir first person that alternates with the Chemist’s creepy point of view, Konrath will keep you in stitches even as the killer parades around the city, dosing random innocents with rare toxins and diseases. Of course, he has a grand finale in mind, but will Jack catch on before it’s too late? Konrath’s thrillers are sometimes shockingly dark, yet breezy and fun – all action and humor, perfectly laid out for the screenwriter. If you like the taste of this Dirty Martini, stock the bar and mix up a Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, and Rusty Nail, too. Your funny bone may never be the same. And you may never look at a salad bar the same way again, either.

Classic Review

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm


By Tim Powers

William Morrow


(March 2001)

Note: Review originally published in BookPage


Although my favorite Tim Powers novels will always be The Stress of Her Regard, The Anubis Gates, Last Call, and On Stranger Tides, there is no doubt that Declare belongs in the top ranks of fantasy novels this or any year. Marketed as straight espionage fiction (which may or may not be a mistake), the novel weaves a subtle web of supernatural strands around various political events and time periods, successfully constructing an elaborate subtext based on elements as varied as World War 2, Middle East politics and folklore, the infamous Kim Philby British spy case, the Arabian Nights and Biblical references (of which the title is one). Oh, and add a tragic and very believable love story between characters fated to resurface as enemies. Tim Powers is the foremost American magic realist, and a novel such as Declare can only serve to reiterate and drive home the point.

Old and new book reviews to be added to M&M blog!

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

As many of you know, the Gagliani half of the team of Benton & Gagliani has been a book reviewer since 1986. His book reviews, articles, interviews and other nonfiction have appeared in publications such as The Milwaukee Journal SentinelCemetery Dance, HorrorWorld, Chizine (The Chiaroscuro), Hellnotes, BookLoversBookPageHorror Magazine, The Scream Factory, Flesh & Blood, Bare Bones, and various others. A rather lengthy list of reviews written originally for The Chiaroscuro can be found in alphabetical order by title at Of course a fair number of reviews have also been posted at over the last few years. Some of those older (“classic”) reviews will now be posted to this blog for your “blast from the past” enjoyment. They have all appeared somewhere before, and they represent some of W.D. Gagliani’s favorites over the years. Newer reviews will also start appearing here, mostly just following the patterns of his reading. Enjoy!