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Enter the Black Light this Halloween selected BLACK LIGHT by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Stephen Romano as one of their Spooky reads for Halloween, calling the book, “over-the-top fun, the action nonstop, and a bit like a haunted house ride at an amusement park.”

Watch the video trailer for the book to get you in the mood for the scariest day of the year!

Hardie vs. the Fire

To celebrate the publication of HELL & GONE by Duane Swierczynski, Duane has collaborated with SWEETS author/illustrator Kody Chamberlain on an original Charlie Hardie comic. Click here to view the comic. If you are on an iPhone or iPad, you should view it through this link. Duane sat down with Kody recently to talk about what he’s working on.

DS: Did the idea for SWEETS start with Katrina, or had the idea been bouncing around your head in other forms?

KC: I was working on the core mystery in SWEETS almost two years before Katrina hit and I had about 80% of a rough first draft complete. The major story turns were there along with the setting and most of the main characters, but I hit a few roadblocks with the story and it just wasn’t working. Around that time, freelance work starting coming in so I put my script on the shelf for a while and illustrated books with Steve Niles, Keith Giffen, Josh Fialkov, and a few others. I learned a lot by working with so many good writers along the way and I spent many nights and weekends reading professional comic and film scripts, grinding through various books on scriptwriting, and brainstorming new concepts. I was determined to learn as much as I could before giving my script another pass.

When Katrina hit New Orleans and Mississippi, I remember seeing a news report a few hours before the storm and a reporter asked about a high-profile murder investigation that was in progress. The police spokesman said they were hard at work on the investigation, but he was clearly spin doctoring and I remember thinking how tough it must have been to try to get any actual police work done during the chaos of hurricane preparation and the logistics of a major evacuation. That press conference rolled around in my head for a while and I kept coming back to it and thinking about the family of that murder victim and their desire for justice.

Two weeks after Katrina, my area was hit by Hurricane Rita. Major portions of neighboring Cameron Parish had flooding as high or higher than New Orleans, and several costal towns were wiped off the map completely. Thankfully, my neighborhood didn’t flood, we mostly got high winds, rain, and power outages. I’m no stranger to hurricanes, I’ve been through a half dozen major storms in my lifetime, but for Rita, I was having to deal with the stress of several strict comic book deadlines and doing my absolute best to wrap up an issue before the storm. I did my best, but I still blew the deadline.

After the cleanup, the story pieces for SWEETS started to snap into place and I understood how a murder investigation preceding a devastating hurricane would be a nightmare scenario for a dedicated homicide detective. If there was ever an opportunity to get away with murder in New Orleans, what better time than the days before Katrina? Both Katrina and Rita were still fresh in my mind, and my personal experiences started to inform my fictional story. I couldn’t help but wonder how many killers, robbers, and rapists got off because of the chaos, the evacuation, and the mountains of evidence that got destroyed. That storm was a ticking time bomb for any detective trying to solve a murder, and for a killer, it was the perfect cover.

Continue reading “Hardie vs. the Fire”

Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito

Tufts of golden grasses blanket the ground while off in the distance a visible rainstorm douses the plains.
Rain in the distance viewed from Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito. Photo © Tjeerd Wiersma, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The world’s most famous carrion carnivore, the majestic Andean condor, reaches its easternmost range in the Altas Cumbres (High Summits) of the Sierras de Córdoba, where it lends its name to the area’s only national park. Because of its year-round accessibility, the park makes an ideal excursion from Villa Carlos Paz or even the provincial capital, or a stopover en route to or from San Luis Province.

Quebrada del Condorito is 55 kilometers southwest of Villa Carlos Paz and 90 kilometers southwest of Córdoba via RP 20, the Camino Altas Cumbres, which continues west to Mina Clavero and San Luis. Comprising some 37,000 hectares of rolling high terrain cut by eastward-draining streams on the Pampa de Achala, up to 2,300 meters above sea level, the park lies mostly south of the highway.

The average annual temperature is about 8°C, but at these altitudes winter temperatures can fall to ‑25°C. Most precipitation falls in spring and summer (Nov.–Mar.), so it snows only three to five times per year.

Flora and Fauna

Most of the park consists of high-altitude grasslands where high evaporation discourages trees and even shrubs. The slopes of its sheltered, well-watered canyons, though, support dwarf forests of tabaquillo and maitén, along with ferns and a host of endemics.

Its signature animal, of course, is the condor, which soars overhead and breeds on rocky outcrops in the canyon that bears its name. It is also home to mammals like the puma and red fox and a host of other birds including the red-and-blackheaded turkey vultures. If hiking, watch carefully for the highly venomous pit viper yarará ñata; fortunately, most reptiles are harmless lizards.

Senda a La Quebrada del Condorito

The most accessible sight/activity is the nine-kilometer hike, a signed trail from Paraje La Pampilla, on the highway, to Balcón Norte, the Río Condorito Canyon’s northern overlook. Unlike most mountain trails, this one starts high and descends gradually, over undulating terrain, to the Quebrada’s edge.

The Quebrada itself is a V-shaped canyon, 800 meters deep, 1.5 kilometers wide, and about 12 kilometers long; a short lateral descends through scrub forest and ferns to an overlook for the condor nesting site—colloquially known as the Escuela de Vuelo (Flight School)—on the nearly vertical south-side walls.

Hiking the trail—really an abandoned road for most of its length—takes about 2–2.5 hours one-way; carry water and snacks. While the trail is well-signed and the weather is normally clear, fog banks can disrupt visibility. Bicycles are permitted in dry weather only.

Accommodations and Food

The nearest hotels are in Villa Carlos Paz and Mina Clavero, both some distance from the park. Park rangers, though, will grant permission to camp at Cañada del Hospital, near the new visitors center; Pampa Pajosa, near Balcón Norte; and at Puesto Condorito, about 20 minutes across the Río Condorito. The latter involves a steep descent and river ford.

About nine kilometers before Paraje La Pampilla, the Fundación Cóndor has a respectable restaurant with standard Argentine food and regional specialties like locro. Campers must bring camp stoves—no fires are allowed within the park.


About two kilometers south of Paraje La Pampilla, rangers staff the new Centro de Visitantes, open 7 a.m.–8 p.m. daily. Nine kilometers east of La Pampilla, the Fundación Cóndor is a private foundation that also has a Córdoba office (José J. Díaz 1036, tel. 0351/464-6537, or

The APN has its Intendencia in Villa Carlos Paz (Resistencia 30, tel. 03541/43-3371, There is still no entry fee, but this may change.

Getting There

Contact travel agencies in Córdoba or the Fundación Cóndor for guided excursions. Otherwise, it’s possible to take Ciudad de Córdoba buses (tel. 0351/428-2811) from Córdoba to La Pampilla (about 1.5 hours) at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and 1:15, 4:45, 7:30, and 11:30 p.m.; return buses from Mina Clavero pass La Pampilla at 4:45 a.m. and 12:45, 4, 6:35, and 8:35 p.m. Schedules can change, though, so visitors should verify times. Buses from Córdoba can be caught about 50 minutes later in Villa Carlos Paz.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Argentina.

The Crime Fiction Academy

Lately I’ve been thinking about coincidence. You know, you forget your keys, go back home and it cuts three minutes off your morning commute, the one where there’s a five-car pile-up that you would have been in had you been on time. Morbid? Hey, it’s my stock and trade. I write mysteries, thrillers really, where timing is everything and despite the fact that my cop characters will tell you there is no such thing as coincidence I’m not so sure.

Like meeting Noreen Tomassi, the director of the Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, and finding out that Edgar Allen Poe wrote at one of the their desks reserved for writers in the 19th century, and now Noreen is creating the first Crime Fiction Academy at the same organization. Call me superstitious or mad (like Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart protagonist continually denies), but I can’t help thinking there’s something going on here, inside the walls or under the floorboards, the ghost of Poe kicking up a little dust or throwing back a glass of absinthe in honor of this first-class ‘criminal’ venture in one Manhattan’s most impressive literary venues.

I have another feeling too, that a few years from now people will be talking it, the crime writing school started at the center, That amazing place right in midtown Manhattan, where what’s-his-name and what’s-her-name studied with Lee Child and Linda Fairstein and Laura Lippman and a whole host of other brave and generous crime writers, who knew a good thing when they saw it, and just look at that so-called newbie writer now, number one on the NY Times bestseller list, breaking Amazon records with that nascent novel he or she just knew they had inside them when they signed up at Crime Fiction Academy.

I can just see this new generation of crime writers’ acknowledgment pages, all those special thanksto Thomas H. Cook and SJ Rozan for guidance, Megan Abbott and Lawrence Block for inspiration, and everyone thanking Noreen Tomassi for her vision and creation.

So what is Crime Fiction Academy?

It’s the first ongoing, rigorous program exclusively dedicated to crime writing in all its forms.

And what will it be like?

Here it is, what the Crime Fiction Academy’s challenging and thoroughly engaging curriculum will include:

  • a 14-week writing workshop
  • a monthly Master Class
  • a crime fiction reading seminar
  • special lectures and discussions with editors, agents and distinguished persons from the world of crime fiction and publishing
  • 24-hour access to the Center for Fiction’s Writers Studio
  • Use of the extensive circulating collection (the Center for Fiction recently won a Raven Award for their amazing in-depth crime fiction collection)
  • Free admission to all Center for Fiction events.


Impressive? You bet. Seems to me it’s what every potential writer of crime fiction has been waiting for—an opportunity to shape that novel you’ve been thinking about, working on, but just couldn’t finish, a chance to hone your writing skills with successfully published crime fiction authors like Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Thomas H. Cook, Linda Fairstein, Susan Isaacs, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Joyce Carol Oates, SJ Rozan, Karin Slaughter and more signing on every day.

But let’s get back to coincidence for just a minute.

Suppose you forgot your keys this morning, got locked out of your apartment, did not get back home till late and then, too tired to check out the Mulholland website, fell into bed and missed this post about the new Crime Fiction Academy. And that novel, the one you’ve been talking about forever, the one you need help finishing, just continued to linger in the back of your mind, unwritten.

Or, suppose you went to the Mulholland website today, like every day, to read one of the amazing pieces that appear daily by so many terrific writers and you came upon this post about Crime Fiction Academy, went to the website, applied, ended up in class taught by SJ Rozan or Tom Cook, sat at Lee Child’s feet while he gave his Master Class talk, “Tell don’t show: why writing rules are mostly wrong,” finished that novel, which went straight to number one, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, had Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese vying for the film rights.

Hey, it happens.

How to make it possible?

Visit the website, which will tell you how to apply. But don’t wait. There are a limited number of spaces. And from what I hear, Poe is dusting his off.

JONATHAN SANTLOFER is the author of 5 novels, THE DEATH ARTIST, COLOR BLIND, THE KILLING ART, ANATOMY OF FEAR, and THE MURDER NOTEBOOK. He is the recipient of a Nero Wolfe Award for best crime fiction novel of 2008, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy In Rome, the Vermont Studio Center and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S. He is co-editor, contributor and illustrator of the anthology, THE DARK END OF THE STREET, and his short stories appear in such collections as The Best of the Mystery Writers of America, and the 2010 International Crime Writers Anthology, among others. Also a well known artist, his work is in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Tokyo’s Institute of Contemporary Art.


As Chuck Palahniuk recently pointed out, there is nothing quite as sad as a zombie in the rain. But how about a writer chasing a zombie through the rain, trying to find out where he bought his shoes? Or a six year-old zombie girl who tells you in the squeaky-clean voice of uncorrupted innocence that her favorite movie of all time is SAW 3D? And if that’s not enough, picture ten thousand screaming comic book fans in costumes packed into a space not quite large enough to contain them, all worshiping at the multicolored altar of anything and everything having to do with zombies, monsters, aliens, avengers of evil . . . and every other damn thing that glitters and geeks.

Okay, that last part wasn’t exactly sad, I admit. But if you’ve ever been to the New York City ComicCon, you know that it’s humbling, to say the least. A gargantuan media convention to rival its summer sister event in San Diego, the relatively new east coast October spin-off is a sparkling, multicolored, million-decibel freakout that brings the fans running—and they run in every shape, size, color and creed. Yes, some of them dress like zombies, too. And Boba Fett. You never escape any gathering like this without running into Boba Fett at least once.

I’m here on Friday October 14th 2011 with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, my co-authors on BLACK LIGHT, to promote our book by way of signings, interviews and even a panel, which is a conceit that sort of amazes me, actually. In this high-tech, multi-level convention center brimming with every imaginable alter to geekdom—witness fifty-foot high display monuments that champion SPIDER-MAN and the new AVENGERS movie and clusters of video game demos that take up enough space to fill an entire city block—I wonder out loud how many of these people will even be able to FIND our panel in such an overwhelming maelstrom. It’s a hell of a spectacle, to be sure, and the fans are committed. They totally prove it, too, by packing our panel later that day with standing room only. This comes at the end of an exodus that takes the BLACK LIGHT boys from one end of the show to the other, through a sea of badass pirates and hotties in spandex, horror fans dripping with bloody fangs and Just Plain Geeks loaded down with bags of freebies and memorabilia nuggets. (The dealer area here is huge, and they’re selling everything from original comic art to stuffed animals that look like Jesus with a shotgun.) In some areas of the show, there are so many of these crazy motherfuckers that you can hardly move forward at a respectable pace. I keep wondering how Zach Galifanakis would do here. He’s claustrophobic, you see. Continue reading “COMICON and ZOMBCON through the BLACK LIGHT”

Visiting the Village of San Ignacio in Misiones Province

Carved pillars in orange stone remain on two sections of freestanding walls.
The remains of the walls at San Ignacio Miní. Photo © David Bacon, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Home to Argentina’s best-kept Jesuit-mission ruins, the village of San Ignacio is an essential stopover on the overland route to or from Iguazú’s famous falls. It also enjoys literary celebrity as the home of writer Horacio Quiroga, who produced some of his finest fiction in a residence that still survives here.

San Ignacio (pop. about 7,000) is 56 kilometers northeast of Posadas via RN 12. From the highway junction, Avenida Sarmiento leads to Calle Rivadavia, which leads six blocks north to the ruins.

San Ignacio Miní

In terms of preservation, including the architectural and sculptural details that typify “Guaraní baroque,” San Ignacio Miní is one of the best surviving examples of the 30 Jesuit missions in the region. It’s a tourist favorite for its accessibility in the midst of the present-day village of San Ignacio.

[pullquote align=”right”]San Ignacio’s centerpiece was Italian architect Juan Brasanelli’s monumental church, 74 meters long and 24 meters wide, with red sandstone walls two meters thick and ceramic tile floors.[/pullquote] San Ignacio’s centerpiece was Italian architect Juan Brasanelli’s monumental church, 74 meters long and 24 meters wide, with red sandstone walls two meters thick and ceramic tile floors. Overlooking the plaza, decorated by Guaraní artisans, it’s arguably the finest remaining structure of its kind; the adjacent compound included a kitchen, dining room, classrooms, and workshops. The priests’ quarters and the cemetery were also here, while more than 200 Guaraní residences—whose inhabitants numbered 4,000 at the mission’s zenith in 1733—surrounded the plaza.

Founded in 1609 in present-day Paraguay, San Ignacio Guazú moved to the Río Yabebiry in 1632 and to its present location in 1697, but it declined rapidly with the Jesuits’ expulsion in 1767. In 1817, Paraguayan troops under paranoid dictator Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia razed what remained.

Rediscovered in 1897, San Ignacio gained some notoriety after poet Leopoldo Lugones led an expedition here in 1903, but restoration had to wait until the 1940s. Parts of the ruins are still precarious, supported by sorethumb scaffolding that obscures the complex’s essential harmony but does not affect individual features.

Visitors enter the grounds through the Centro de Interpretación Regional, a mission museum (Alberdi between Rivadavia and Bolívar, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, US$7, valid for other Jesuit sites in the province). A nightly light-and-sound show, lasting 50 minutes, costs an additional US$7. Outside the exit, on Rivadavia, eyesore souvenir stands detract from the mission’s impact.

Casa de Horacio Quiroga

One of the first Latin American writers to reject the city for the frontier, novelist, storyteller, and poet Horacio Quiroga (1878–1937) spent the prime of life in his self-built house overlooking the Paraná just southwest of downtown San Ignacio. While he made writing his career, Quiroga also worked as a cotton farmer and charcoal maker. He took notable photographs of San Ignacio’s Jesuit ruins, incorporating his outside interests into his writing.

His life plagued by violence—Quiroga accidentally shot a youthful friend to death, and his stepfather and first wife both committed suicide—the writer lived here from 1910 to 1917, and again from 1931 until his own cyanide-induced death. The home is now a museum with 1930s furniture, photographs of his life, and personal belongings. This was not Quiroga’s first house; a replica of that, built for director Nemesio Juárez’s film Historias de Amor, de Locura y de Muerte (Stories of Love, Madness and Death, 1996), stands nearby.

The grounds of Quiroga’s house (Avenida Quiroga s/n, US$0.50) are open 7 a.m.–dusk daily.

Other Practicalities

At the junction of RN 12 and Avenida Sarmiento, the helpful Oficina de Información Turística is open 7:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m.–6 p.m. daily. Banco Macro (San Martín and Sarmiento) has an ATM.

Buses arrive and leave from the new Terminal de Ómnibus across the highway from the tourist office. The main destinations are Posadas (1 hour, US$3) and Puerto Iguazú (3 hours, US$9). Milk-run buses are considerably slower than express services.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Argentina.

The Lineup: Weekly Links

Police lineup

Mark your calendars–this Friday THE DOUBLE hits theaters, starring Richard Gere and Topher Grace and co-written by Mulholland Books’ and Popcorn Fiction’s own Derek Haas! Don’t miss Derek’s post on the projects origins, and if you haven’t spotted the trailer yet, check it out below:

In other suspense film news, have you been checking Mouth Taped Shut for official-unofficial Girl with a Dragon Tattoo set pics and more?

Looking for Halloween reads? We’ve got you covered! Check out BLACK LIGHT, which featured in a scary reads round-up, and HELL AND GONE, coming right on Halloween and recently reviewed by The Review Broads and Crime Fiction Lover.

And don’t miss Sebastian Rotella’s interview on CBS News’ Author Talk and great reviews of THE REVISIONISTS by BookPage and I’m Booking It, too!

Did we missing something sweet? Share it in the comments! We’re always open to suggestions for next week’s post! Get in touch or DM us on Twitter.

Disappearing Women

Hands from a centenarianThis essay originally appeared on Murderati and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Tess Gerritsen.

Now that I’m in my fifties, I’m noticing more and more what generations of women have complained about: that right around this age, we start to disappear in the eyes of the world.  As we grow gray we become invisible, dismissed and ignored.  No wonder there’s a spike in suicides as women pass the frightening threshold of fifty. Invisibility happens to us all, whether we were once fashion models, prom queens, or hot actresses.  (With the possible exception of Betty White.)  When we lose the dewy glow of reproductive fitness, suddenly society thinks we are no longer worth the attention.  Yet men in their fifties still get plenty of attention, both in real life and in the movies.  Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery, were alll playing sexy action heroes in their fifties.  Silver-haired men, at their peak of political or financial power, are considered hot catches and Hollywood producers don’t bat an eye at the thought of casting a 50-year-old film hero with a 30-year-old heroine.  But a celluloid romance between a young man and an older woman?  Well, that’s got to be an outrageous comedy, right?  A story that no one would really believe, like Harold and Maude. Because while fiftyish men can be sexy as hell, a fiftyish woman is just, well, somebody’s boring mother.

Life is so unfair. Continue reading “Disappearing Women”

When to Go to Brazil

Stormy skies above a beach
Photo © Michael Sommers.

A small, but crucial part of every travel writer’s fundamental duties is providing a response to the oft-posed question: “When to Go?”

I can’t speak for my colleagues, but from my own experience writing about Brazil, “When to Go?” used to be one of the easier questions tossed my way. Though lacking a background in meteorology or climatology, I used to feel fairly sure in my predictions as to what kind of weather my readers would likely encounter in a given region, at a given time of year. This is because, traditionally, much of Brazil possessed very stable and distinctive weather systems.

Recently, however, all bets are off.

Early this week, in the company of my frequent traveling companion Annie (aka my sister), I left my adopted hometown of Salvador heading south along the coast of Bahia. I’ve lived in Bahia for 13 years and know its tropical seasons well…

March, April, and May are characterized by torrential rains that herald the end of the summer and last for hours or days on end.

June, July, and August are marked by cold fronts that sweep up from Argentina, bringing dark clouds, cool winds and drizzle or downpours that last for 1-3 days.

The rest of the year delivers sun, sun, and more sun (with the occasional 5-10-minute tropical cloudburst). It was precisely with the “sun, sun, and more sun” in mind that I planned our trip to the south of Bahia for the pre-summer period of late October/beginning of November.

Having carefully adhered to this climatological calendar, how is that when we awakened on the first morning of our journey, and tore open the curtains masking the panoramic view of alluring Tiririca Beach, in Itacaré, we were greeted by ominous grey clouds shrouding the entire sky?

Moreover, how come, just as we were digging into our delicious morning tapioca (a Northeast version of a crepe made of crunchy manioc flour), did it begin to rain?

And how come the rain, gunmetal grey skies, and wind that howled as if as if it were a sound effect in a Wuthering Heights remake didn’t stop throughout the entire day?

Nor the day after that…

Nor the days after…

Oh, there were brief, tantalizing slivers of blue.

There were even a couple of 20-30 minute teasers when a lemony ball of noon heat pressed against the clouds, creating faint shadows when we raised our hands above our naked bellies, and cruelly tricking us into slathering sun protector all over our desperately prone bodies.

However, no sooner had we began lolling beneath the ultraviolet rays when the clouds resumed their oppressive shades of grey and winds sent us diving deep into our knapsacks for hoodies.

Although we try to soak up the otherwise relaxing surroundings, a certain angst takes hold as we surreptitiously scan the sky, trying to read the clouds, constantly searching for signs.

What’s with this weather in October? “Cold front up from Rio de Janeiro.”

How long is it going to last? “Probably all day.”; “At least today—and maybe tomorrow.”; “For five days.”; “Until next week.”

Why is this happening? “Global warming.”; “God works in mysterious ways.”; “This is karmic payback—I tempted Fate by packing too many warm clothes just in case” (this last from my superstitious sister Annie).

Wherever we go, whomever we meet, the state of the sky inevitably becomes the prime conversational ice breaker.

There are those who:

— tell us how exceptional this weather is (which makes us feel: 1. better that our original plans weren’t stupidly laid and 2. worse because why has Mother Nature singled us out?)

— give us play-by-play, hour-by-hour weather updates—and then regale us with reassuring tales of how often past weather forecasts have been completely wrong (no such luck this time).

— encouragingly indicate a sudden square inch of almost blue in a peripheral portion of sky and say that this “janela aberta de azul” (open window of blue) is a sign of clear skies to come.

— gaze discouragingly at the other 99 percent of the cloud covered sky, shake their heads, and mincing no words, tell us that things don’t look good.

— express sympathy for our plight (which makes us feel like superficial whiners—just how important is a sunny beach in the global scheme of things?)

— confess to feeling guilty (mostly hotel owners/employees), as if they were somehow responsible for offering their guests perfect weather along with clean sheets and plumped pillows.

— cheerily announce that the sun won’t appear for another 5 or 6 days—then ask if we’d like some more coconut water or passion fruit juice.

— advise us not to lose hope and to pray to São Pedro (patron saint of matters related to rain)—advice that we’ve taken…

In the meantime, each morning we awaken with an increasingly acute mixture of dread and hope as we muster up courage to open the blinds and see what the skies hold in store for us.

On the upside, we’ve managed to transform breakfast into a leisurely 2-hour affair, we’ve caught up on Brazilian society gossip going back to the 1990s (via old magazines), and we’ll have enough leftover sun block to last us for a couple of years.

As Carlos, a curly-headed surfing instructor from Itacaré confessed, the weather in Bahia used to function like a finely-tuned máquina (machine). For whatever reason, the maquina is breaking down.

All this is to say that the next time you plan a trip to Brazil based on one of those “When to Go” indications, take the precaution of packing an umbrella, a couple of sweaters, and plenty of extra reading material.

The Philly Phenomenon Strikes Again: A Review of Hell and Gone

HELL & GONE is the second in a trilogy of Charlie Hardie novels by Duane Swierczynski. The first, FUN & GAMES, was relentlessly fast-paced, suspenseful and completely outrageous. Well, guess what? This second entry is all that and then some, as difficult as that might be to imagine.

Picking up immediately at the conclusion of that novel, ex-cop Hardie is carried away in an ambulance after being shot and nearly killed. He passes out en route, and awakes to find himself transported to a secret facility hidden deep underground.

This facility, he learns, is a high-security prison holding some of the most dangerous criminals on earth. What’s more, Hardie is the prison’s new warden. As he’s introduced to fellow guards and frightening inmates, he discovers there is no escaping this underground prison, not even for the staff.

Through his clandestine exchanges with some of the inmates, he senses that the so-called prisoners might really be the good guys, and the guards and the shadowy agency that runs the prison are the ones to be feared. So Hardie and the inmates attempt a desperate and dangerous escape. As the plan unfolds, however, revelations and complications pile up that threaten Hardie’s life at seemingly every moment.

The paranoia of a secret agency that really controls the country, hinted at in FUN & GAMES, is turned up to full blast here in the guise of “The Industry,” which operates the prison and heaven knows what all else. Whether you buy into it or not doesn’t matter, because Swierczysnki keeps the narrative and its endless stream of twists and surprises moving so fast, you hardly have time to dwell on the logic or possibility of a “Secret America.”

Not knowing who the real prisoners are, and hence, Hardie’s real allies, is the major appeal of this madcap novel. Swierczynski eventually straightens it all out for the reader, but not before tossing in a few more disclosures to keep us surprised right up to the very end.

Swierczynski’s style, as in the preceding work, is hip, slightly sarcastic, immersed in pop culture and amazingly effective for this wild-ass ride. Not many writers can run their characters through all kinds of unimaginable existential and physical hell, and keep you laughing all the way, but this Philly phenomenon does.

Can things get any more weird and strange for Charlie Hardie? Sure they can, as the final chapter of HELL & GONE implies. But we’re going to have to wait until March for POINT & SHOOT, the final book of the trilogy, to find out where Swierczynski’s explosive imagination takes us.

In the meantime, for those of you who didn’t get around to introducing yourselves to Charlie Hardie in the first novel, proceed immediately and then treat yourself to HELL & GONE. Be warned: Don’t expect anything near normal or calm. Swierczynski is expanding and creating new narrative boundaries with each of these books — and then gleefully blasting them all to … well, to hell and gone, as he shift gears, floors it, and leaves us coughing out the dust.

Originally posted on Re-posted with Permission.

Alan Cranis reviews books for

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