My Top 12 Favorite True Crime Novels

Alright.  Moving on to the very best in True Crime.  THESE are my Top 12 favorites…

Tc12

#12. Down City: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Memory, and Murder – Leah Carroll

Leah Carroll’s mother, a gifted amateur photographer, was murdered by two drug dealers with Mafia connections when Leah was four years old. Her father, a charming alcoholic who hurtled between depression and mania, was dead by the time she was eighteen. Why did her mother have to die? Why did the man who killed her receive such a light sentence? What darkness did Leah inherit from her parents? Leah was left to put together her own future and, now in her memoir, she explores the mystery of her parents’ lives, through interviews, photos, and police records.

DOWN CITY is a raw, wrenching memoir of a broken family and an indelible portrait of Rhode Island- a tiny state where the ghosts of mafia kingpins live alongside the feisty, stubborn people working hard just to get by. Heartbreaking, and mesmerizing, it’s the story of a resilient young woman’s determination to discover the truth about a mother she never knew and the deeply troubled father who raised her–a man who was, Leah writes, “both my greatest champion and biggest obstacle.”

Tc9

#11. Siberian Education:Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld – Nicolai Lilin

n a contested, lawless region between Moldova and Ukraine known as Transnistria, a tightly knit group of “honest criminals”—exiled there by Stalin-live according to strict codes of ritualized respect and fierce loyalty. Here, tattoos tell the story of a man’s life, “honest” weapons are separated from “sinful” ones, and authority is always to be distrusted. Beyond the control of any government and outside the bounds of “society” as we know it, these men uphold values including respect for elders and an unwavering adherence to the truth with passion-and often by brute force.

In a voice utterly compelling and unforgettable, Nicolai Lilin, born and raised within this exotic subculture, tells the story of his moral education among the Siberian Urkas. A bestseller in his home country of Italy, this unique tale of an extreme boyhood “will produce a thrill of pleasure that is hard to forget”

Tc11

#10. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Live in a Vanishing Land – Monica Hesse

Shocked by a five-month arson spree that left rural Virginia reeling, Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse drove down to Accomack County to cover the trial of Charlie Smith, who pled guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But Charlie wasn’t lighting fires alone: he had an accomplice, his girlfriend Tonya Bundick. Through her depiction of the dangerous shift that happened in their passionate relationship, Hesse brilliantly brings to life the once-thriving coastal community and its distressed inhabitants, who had already been decimated by a punishing economy before they were terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. Incorporating this drama into the long-overlooked history of arson in the United States, American Fire re-creates the anguished nights that this quiet county spent lit up in flames, mesmerizingly evoking a microcosm of rural America – a land half gutted before the fires even began.

Tc10

#9. Bloodlines: The True Story of a Drug Cartel, the FBI, and the Battle for a Horse-Racing Dynasty –  Melissa del Bosque

Drugs, money, cartels: this is what FBI rookie Scott Lawson expected when he was sent to the border town of Laredo, but instead he’s deskbound writing intelligence reports about the drug war. Then, one day, Lawson is asked to check out an anonymous tip: a horse was sold at an Oklahoma auction house for a record-topping price, and the buyer was Miguel Treviño, one of the leaders of the Zetas, Mexico’s most brutal drug cartel. The source suggested that Treviño was laundering money through American quarter horse racing. If this was true, it offered a rookie like Lawson the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the cartel. Lawson teams up with a more experienced agent, Alma Perez, and, taking on impossible odds, sets out to take down one of the world’s most fearsome drug lords.

In Bloodlines, Emmy and National Magazine Award-winning journalist Melissa del Bosque follows Lawson and Perez’s harrowing attempt to dismantle a cartel leader’s American racing dynasty built on extortion and blood money.

Tc8

#8. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Tc7

#7. El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency – Ioan Grillo

The world has watched stunned at the bloodshed in Mexico. Thirty thousand murdered since 2006; police chiefs shot within hours of taking office; mass graves comparable to those of civil wars; car bombs shattering storefronts; headless corpses heaped in town squares. And it is all because a few Americans are getting high. Or is it? The United States throws Black Hawk helicopters and drug agents at the problem. But in secret, Washington is confused and divided about what to do. Who are these mysterious figures tearing Mexico apart? they wonder. What is El Narco? El Narco draws the first definitive portrait of Mexico’s drug cartels and how they have radically transformed in the last decade. El Narco is not a gang; it is a movement and an industry drawing in hundreds of thousands from bullet-ridden barrios to marijuana-growing mountains. And it has created paramilitary death squads with tens of thousands of men-at-arms from Guatemala to the Texas border. Journalist Ioan Grillo has spent a decade in Mexico reporting on the drug wars from the front lines. This piercing book joins testimonies from inside the cartels with firsthand dispatches and unsparing analysis. The devastation may be south of the Rio Grande, El Narco shows, but America is knee-deep in this conflict.

Tc6

#6. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland – Patrick Radden Keefe

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.

Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.

Tc5

#5. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir – Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.

Tc4

#4. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI  – David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

Tc3

#3. Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found – Gilbert King

In December 1957, the wife of a Florida citrus baron is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a “husky Negro” did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. But within days, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Soon Jesse is railroaded up to the state hospital for the insane, and locked away without trial.
But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese cannot stop fretting over the case and its baffling outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursues the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface.

Beneath a Ruthless Sun tells a powerful, page-turning story rooted in the fears that rippled through the South as integration began to take hold, sparking a surge of virulent racism that savaged the vulnerable, debased the powerful, and roils our own times still.

Tc2

#2. Wise Guy – Nicholas Pileggi

“Wiseguy” is Nicholas Pileggi’s remarkable bestseller, the most intimate account ever printed of life inside the deadly high-stakes world of what some people call the Mafia. “Wiseguy” is Henry Hill’s story, in fascinating, brutal detail, the never-before-revealed day-to-day life of a working mobster – his violence, his wild spending sprees, his wife, his mistresses, his code of honor.

#1. The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer – Philip Carlo

There were times at home when Richard would have one of his outbursts and break things and then lock himself in his office.  Merrick would ask him to please calm down, to “please relax, Daddy.”  During these episodes, Richard would explain in a matter-of-fact way, “You know if . . . if I kill Mommy, if something happens and she dies, I’ll have to kill you all . . .  I can’t leave any witnesses.”

“Yes, Daddy.  I know, Daddy,” she said.

As strange and horrible a thing as this was to tell a child, Richard was trying to let Merrick know in advance—out of consideration—what might happen.  He wanted her to understand that he was doing such a thing out of . . . love.  Only out of love.

He loved Barbara too much.

He loved the children too much.

That was the problem.  The only way he could deal with their loss, if he inadvertently killed Barbara, was to kill them.  That was how Richard had dealt with all his problems since he was a child.

“But you, Merrick . . . You’ll be the hardest to kill.  You understand that?”

“Yes. Daddy,” she said, and she did understand this.  She knew she was his favorite, and she coveted that.

Some of my favorite books by black authors

Covering everything from General Fiction to Non-Fiction – sci-fi, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and short fiction.  Previously featured on this blog, these are some of my favorite books by black authors.

Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, the Serial Killer

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Octavia E. Butler – Parable of the Talents/Sower

Parable of the Sower: In the aftermath of worldwide ecological and economic apocalypse, minister’s daughter Lauren Oya Olamina escapes the slaughter that claims the lives of her family and nearly every other member of their gated California community. Heading north with two young companions through an American wasteland, the courageous young woman faces dangers at every turn while spreading the word of a remarkable new religion that embraces survival and change.

***

Parable of the Talents: Called to the new, hard truth of Earthseed, the small community of the dispossessed that now surrounds Lauren Olamina looks to her—their leader—for guidance. But when the evil that has grown out of the ashes of human society destroys all she has built, the prophet is forced to choose between preserving her faith or her family.

1-4

David Anthony Durham – The Acacia series

Leodan Akaran, ruler of the Known World, has inherited generations of apparent peace and prosperity, won ages ago by his ancestors. A widower of high intelligence, he presides over an empire called Acacia, after the idyllic island from which he rules. He dotes on his four children and hides from them the dark realities of traffic in drugs and human lives on which their prosperity depends. He hopes that he might change this, but powerful forces stand in his way. And then a deadly assassin sent from a race called the Mein, exiled long ago to an ice-locked stronghold in the frozen north, strikes at Leodan in the heart of Acacia while they unleash surprise attacks across the empire. On his deathbed, Leodan puts into play a plan to allow his children to escape, each to their separate destiny. And so his children begin a quest to avenge their father’s death and restore the Acacian empire — this time on the basis of universal freedom.

1-5 

Tayari Jones – An American Marriage

Newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is artist on the brink of an exciting career. They are settling into the routine of their life together, when they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

1-6

Victor Lavalle – The Ballad of Black Tom

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

1-7

Attica Locke – Bluebird, Bluebird

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules–a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders–a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman–have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes–and save himself in the process–before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

1-8

Bryan Stevenson – Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

1-9

Nafissa Thompson-Spires – Heads of the Colored People

A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes.

Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.

1-10

Tade Thompson – The Wormwood Trilogy

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

Colson Whitehead – The Nickel Boys/The Underground Railroad
The Nickel Boys: As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors. Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.

***
The Underground Railroad: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

January 3, 2020: So far…in 2020!

So I was going through my blog archives in search of something else and I came across the following video from back in the day.  Actors Jamil Walker-Smith, Brian J. Smith, and David Blue watching the finished cut of SGU’s Time –

Good times!

I’ve decided to start a new feature on twitter titled – #AmazingPeopleWithWhomIHaveWorked

My modest attempt to add a little positivity to an overwhelmingly negative platform.  I’m going to try to post one a day.

The candidates so far…

Things have been quiet on the home front since Lulu’s passing.  We’ve noticed Suji has been a little more needy and has taken to circling the apartment, looking for her adoptive sis.

So, Akemi and I have started having preliminary discussions about getting Suji a friend.  On the one hand, she’s a definite alpha, loves being the center of attention and wants ALL the love; on the other hand, she was a lot more comfortable with another dog in the house, especially when we would go out.

Which brings up another problem.  On the rare occasions when Akemi and I traveled, we felt comfortable leaving Suji with a dog sitter because Lulu went with her.  Now that she’s alone, this seems a less likely option give my gal’s separation anxiety.

Meanwhile, 2020 has been a fairly productive year so far.  I’ve made it a point to stick to a bit of a routine and ensure I accomplish a few things every day.  Namely:

A morning work-out.

Two walks for Suji.

Half an hour of spoken Japanese.

Two exercises of written Japanese (hiragana and katakana).

Progress on any of my ongoing projects (the horror script, the outline for the second episode of TimEscape, various pitches, continued research on that comic book project).

A blog entry.

So far, so good.

An unflinching look behind the scenes of a television production!

An Unflinching Look Behind The Scenes Of A Television Production!

Actor Jeff Teravainen with the bottle of Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

An Unflinching Look Behind The Scenes Of A Television Production!

VFX Supervisor Greg Behrens with the bottle of Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Scotch Whiskey.

Props Master Victoria Klein with the pan-seared steel cut oatmeal with coconut milk, brown sugar, blueberries, and cashew and maple cream.

And this was just today!

An Unflinching Look Behind The Scenes Of A Television Production!

Line Producer Robbie David – a little too relaxed for the Art Department meeting.

An Unflinching Look Behind The Scenes Of A Television Production!

Shenanigans in the Wardrobe Department.

Finally, my tribute to Peter Mayhew: Chewbacca socks and Death Star cufflinks.

March 4, 2019: And so it begins…

Today, we kicked off official prep on this new sci-fi series with a good old-fashioned concept meeting.  In attendance: show creator/director/Executive Producer R.T. Thorne, myself, and a bunch of familiar faces from my Dark Matter days (including Production Manager Catherine Lang, Production Designer Ian Brock, Art Director Kelly Diamond, Graphics Roxanne Borris, Costume Designer Noreen Landry, Props Master Victoria Klein, Line Producer Robbie David, and On Set Producer Ivon Bartok).  I welcomed everyone back after a refreshing two year hiatus and then we rolled right into our first two episodes, touching on everything from force shields to holograms, night shoots to mealworms.  We went from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., stopping only for a quick lunch and a conference call with the network to discuss music, casting, and genetics.

Tomorrow, the Wardrobe and Art Department convene for the big palette meeting.

I shit you not.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

Prep Day #1 look = blue suit, black design shirt, red lantern cufflinks, pocket handkerchief, and ninja cat socks.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

Slowly restocking my in-office whiskey collection.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

And thanks to my buddy Jeff, I no longer have to drink straight out of the bottle.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

Hey.  Who called this meeting?

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

A little pre-paint wall texture.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

Frank and Rick.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

Craig and Mean Jean.

March 4, 2019: And So It Begins…

And this seems to be coming along nicely.  Whatever it is.

Meanwhile, one step closer on both the Untitled Awesome Project and the Super Project.

It’s gonna be a big month!

December 4, 2018: Tokyo Day #4!

I woke up this morning feeling as though I’d gargled glass shards, leading me to believe either: a) I was coming down with something or, b) Someone had tampered with my bedside water bottle.  After clearing the water bottle, it became apparent that I was, in fact, suffering from some sort of nose and throat thing.  On the one hand, it hurt to swallow.  On the other hand, I had two and half days of Tokyo fooding to pack in so I didn’t have the luxury of whining about it.  Instead, I picked up a couple of soothing candies, one with a flavor remarkably similar to apple juice; the other tasting like a Chinese apothecary.

Feeling as good as could be expected, I forged ahead with my day.  Our first stop was Tokyo Station where Akemi tracked down my favorite Japanese treat: Hattendo cream buns.  I couldn’t decide between the cream, custard, matcha, and the new red bean and butter, so I got all four.  I had the matcha bun for breakfast (wolfing it down in the hotel lobby before anyone could catch me as our room was being serviced at the time), then squirrelled the rest away in our hotel mini-bar before heading for…

Lunch – Round 1!  We met up with my old friend, Moro-san, for lunch at Pizza Seirinkan, profiled on David Chang’s Ugly Delicious as one of the world’s best pizzas.  Moro-san had introduced it to me some five years ago and it’s been on my to-eat places every time I come into town.  They only serve two types of pizza – margherita and marinara – and stop serving when they sell out.  I say they and, although there’s a staff, it’s only one guy –  owner Susumu Kakinuma – slinging pies.  Outstanding.

IMG_20181204_114843.jpg

Lunch – Round 2!  We took a ten minute stroll and found ourselves, not by accident, at the Wagyu Mafia Sandwich Shop, notorious for its pricey wagyu sandwiches.  The menu offers a variety, from the modest $30 knuckle sandwich to the $350 60-day dry-aged kobe beef.  On this day, they were out of the dry-aged beef so we settled for the Kobe Chateaubriand.  Equally outstanding.  The place apparently caters mostly to foreigners and, when we walked in to order there were two large English-speaking groups already there.  It’s cheap but it’s a singular experience.

We took another walk and eventually found ourselves at Green Bean to Bar Chocolate, one of the city’s premiere’s bean to bar chocolate shops.  There, we enjoyed a chocolate medley including one of the thickest chocolatiest chocolate drinks I’ve ever enjoyed.

We returned to the hotel for a quick change, and then we were off again – to Roppongi where we spent the better part of the late afternoon strolling through Midtown and the Hills before making our way to our dining destination, Eneko, where we enjoyed one hell of a meal.

We were escorted into a reception area where we were present with drinks and picnic basket containing an assortment of goodies: an eel brioche, lemon foie gras brulee, something called Kaipintxa that was a delicate gel bubble bursting with red wine flavor.

We were ushered upstairs into a garden set-up where we were greeted by our second host who explained what we were eating.  Halfway through his overview, I noted how, so far, dinner was proceeding like a video game where each food room was a level – which, I suppose, made him one of the bosses.  He pretended not to understand what I was saying and politely pressed ahead.  This round included something called sea txakoli which Akemi likened to a green drink, a spicy tomato cornet with crisp egg roll wrapper cone, a hazelnut and foie gras bonbon, and a curious mushroom praline.

Finally, we were shown to our private dining room where the real eating games began: an egg yolk which was injected with a 6-hour truffle solution that semi-cooked the whole, a prawn and vegetable puree with ginger slush, and a  sea urchin.

Next came the warm starters: the Basque-style eringi mushrooms (Akemi’s favorite), a quadruple textural artichoke offering with pesto and goat cheese, and lobster with coffee butter.

For the mains, it was tempura fish with roasted red pepper sauce and pickled daikon to start, then one of two meat dishes: the Matsusaka beef with aubergine and sweet potato, and the deer with chestnut puree and blueberries.

I love innovative cuisine, but my fun stops at dessert as I find the more daring mixing of ingredients never fares well when it comes to sweets: an avocado and mango dish that Akemi really enjoyed, a yogurt in textures, a back and yogurt lollipop, a raspberry macaron (that tasted minty and reminded me of toothpaste), a berry and pepper jelly, a lemon bonbon, and a wine bonbon.  We were served tea accompanied by a fragrant dry ice five-spice display.

A terrific meal and, to top things off, our waiter was a huge Stargate fan!

Alright.  Off to bed.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Tokyo and I have a lot to pack in including the Mori Arts Museum, Akihabara, Omote-Sando, and Coco Ichi, a Japanese curry chain!

March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion!

A huge thank you to Stargate fans worldwide who came together over the past 48 hours to blow up twitter – with a little help from some familiar faces…

March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion! March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion!

March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion!

Yep.  Quite the turnout.  Between the two events, 250k+ tweets and counting the last time I checked.

So, what’s next for #TheDriveToRevive?  Well…

Okay –

March 11, 2018: Our Massive Online Stargate Reunion!

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books of 2017!

2017 was a banner reading year for me.  I read anywhere and everywhere: on set, in bed, at red lights.  All told, I blazed through a staggering 265 titles on the year covering a wide variety of genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, thrillers, crime, non-fiction, and general fiction).  Over half of those were 2017 releases, so when it came time to selecting this year’s top reads, I felt I was in a better position to do so than most.

Of course, narrowing down my selects proved an immense challenge and I truly agonized as I whittled down my initial shortlist from 40 to 34 and, finally, to 30, inevitably abandoning my plan to make it a Top 25.  I ignored the critics, the big awards talk, and applied a fairly straightforward criteria to the selection process.  I asked myself: Did the book grab me?  Was I engrossed in the story?  Did I love the characters?  Was I compelled to continue reading?  Did it touch me, amuse me, surprise me?  Was I ultimately satisfied with my reading experience?

And, when all was said and done, these were my picks for The Top Books of 2017:

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#30 – Elmet by Fiona Mozley

The family thought the little house they had made themselves in Elmet, a corner of Yorkshire, was theirs, that their peaceful, self-sufficient life was safe. Cathy and Daniel roamed the woods freely, occasionally visiting a local woman for some schooling, living outside all conventions. Their father built things and hunted, working with his hands; sometimes he would disappear, forced to do secret, brutal work for money, but to them he was a gentle protector.

Narrated by Daniel after a catastrophic event has occurred, Elmet mesmerizes even as it becomes clear the family’s solitary idyll will not last. When a local landowner shows up on their doorstep, their precarious existence is threatened, their innocence lost. Daddy and Cathy, both of them fierce, strong, and unyielding, set out to protect themselves and their neighbors, putting into motion a chain of events that can only end in violence.

The very last book I read in 2017 captures the final spot in my Top 30.  A story about family, independence, and what people will do when what little they have is threatened.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#29 – Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns

Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.

A rip-roarin’ recommendation that came my way via The Verve’s Andrew Liptak.  Sci-fi should be this much fun.  

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#28 – The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

What’s real in a marriage built on sand and how do you abandon a man you’ve loved since the age of fifteen?

Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their family and neighbors?

Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.

From Brooklyn to Greenwich to Manhattan, from penthouse to prison, with tragic consequences rippling well beyond Wall Street, The Widow of Wall Street exposes a woman struggling to redefine her life and marriage as everything she thought she knew crumbles around her.

The fascinating flip side to The Wolf of Wall Street tells the tale of a fraudster’s wife left to pick up the pieces as a social pariah following her husband’s conviction.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#27 – Brave Deeds by David Abrams

From Fobbit author David Abrams, Brave Deeds is a powerful novel of war, brotherhood, and America. Spanning eight hours, the novel follows a squad of six AWOL soldiers as they attempt to cross war-torn Baghdad on foot to attend the funeral of their leader, Staff Sergeant Rafe Morgan. In an inhospitable landscape, these men recall the most ancient of warriors while portraying a cross section of twenty-first century America—sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but subject to the same human flaws as all of us.

Drew is reliable in the field, but unfaithful at home. Cheever, overweight and whining, is a friend to no one—least of all, himself. Specialist Olijandro, or O, is distracted by dangerous romantic thoughts of his ex-wife. Fish’s propensity for violence is what drew him to the military and could be a catalyst for the day’s events. Park is the quiet one, but his quick thinking may make him the day’s hero. And platoon commander Dmitri “Arrow” Arogapoulos, is stalwart, yet troubled with questions about his own identity and sexuality. As the six march across Baghdad, their complicated histories, hopes, and fears are told in a chorus of voices that merge into a powerful portrait of the modern war zone and the deepest concerns of us all, military and civilian alike. Moving, thoughtful, funny, and smart, Brave Deeds is a gripping story of combat and of brotherhood, and an important addition to the oeuvre of contemporary war fiction.

A stirring account of the incredible lengths a group of soldiers will go to in order to pay their respects to a fallen comrade.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#26 – Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules–a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders–a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman–have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes–and save himself in the process–before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

A gripping thriller with a remarkably atypical protagonist in Texas Ranger Darren Mathews.  Hopefully the first in a long series.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#25 – Such Small Hands by Andrés Barb-a

It was once a happy city; we were once happy girls. . . . Life changes at the orphanage the day Marina shows up. As she tries to find her place, she creates a game whose rules are dictated by a haunting violence. In hypnotic, lyrical prose, Andrés Barba evokes the pain of loss and the hunger for acceptance—a masterwork from the Spanish writer at the peak of his powers.

A haunting little tale that will get under your skin – and stay there.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#24 – Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen

Officer Denny Rakestraw, “Negro Officers” Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, and Sergeant McInnis have their hands full in an overcrowded and rapidly changing Atlanta. It’s 1950 and color lines are shifting and racial tensions are simmering. Black families—including Smith’s sister and brother-in-law—are moving into Rake’s formerly all-white neighborhood, leading some residents to raise money to buy them out, while others advocate a more violent solution. Rake’s brother-in-law, Dale, a proud Klansman, launches a scheme to rally his fellow Kluxers to save their neighborhood. When those efforts spiral out of control and leave a man dead, Rake is forced to choose between loyalty to family or the law.

He isn’t the only one with family troubles. Boggs has outraged his preacher father by courting a domestic, and now her ex-boyfriend has been released from prison. As Boggs, Smith, and their all-black precinct contend with violent drug dealers fighting for turf in new territory, their personal dramas draw them closer to the fires that threaten to consume Atlanta once again.

The second book in a (the Darktown) series, that reads like the first.  A fascinating look at the professional and personal struggles on both sides of the racial divide in 1950’s Atlanta.  

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#23 – The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan

Warren Botts is a disillusioned Ph.D., taking a break from his lab to teach middle-school science. Gentle, soft-spoken, and lonely, he innocently befriends Amanda, one of his students. But one morning, Amanda is found dead in his backyard, and Warren, shocked, flees the scene.

As the small community slowly turns against him, an anonymous narrator, a person of extreme intelligence and emotional detachment, offers insight into events past and present. As the tension builds, we gain an intimate understanding of the power of secrets, illusions, and memories.

A taunt thriller with a final reveal I never saw coming.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#22 – Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

Why do we consume 35 percent more food when eating with one other person, and 75 percent more when dining with three? How do we explain the fact that people who like strong coffee drink more of it under bright lighting? And why does green ketchup just not work?

The answer is gastrophysics, the new area of sensory science pioneered by Oxford professor Charles Spence. Now he’s stepping out of his lab to lift the lid on the entire eating experience how the taste, the aroma, and our overall enjoyment of food are influenced by all of our senses, as well as by our mood and expectations.

The pleasures of food lie mostly in the mind, not in the mouth. Get that straight and you can start to understand what really makes food enjoyable, stimulating, and, most important, memorable. Spence reveals in amusing detail the importance of all the off the plate elements of a meal: the weight of cutlery, the color of the plate, the background music, and much more. Whether we re dining alone or at a dinner party, on a plane or in front of the TV, he reveals how to understand what we re tasting and influence what others experience.

I always wondered why I craved tomato juice on long haul flights.  I’ll take food science over food porn any day.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#21 – The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

This thriller stands out among so many others on the year for its deeply flawed but incredibly engaging protagonist, Roxanne Weary.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#20 – The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan

A neighborhood café in Tehran is at the center of this powerful and transporting story of love, family, friendship, and homecoming told against the backdrop of Iran’s rich, yet tragic, history.

When Noor returns to her native Iran for the first time in thirty years, so much about her homeland is different. But Café Leila–the restaurant Noor’s family has run for three generations–hasn’t changed. Zod, Noor’s father, is still at the café’s helm, a much-loved patriarch offering laughter, solace, and nourishment to the makeshift family of regulars and waiters who call Café Leila home. With her discontented, very American teenage daughter, Lily, reluctantly at her side, Noor struggles to maintain a semblance of family life. But Tehran is a place of contradictions, where grace and brutal violence both have a foothold, and it’s not long before rebellious Lily is caught up in both.

As the novel folds back in time, stories emerge of Noor’s ancestors, particularly of her mother, who was killed when Noor was a teenager. As past and present converge, Noor begins to understand her place in–and her responsibility to–this world and to the many souls who have sought refuge at the café. The Last Days of Café Leila is a powerful debut about the delicate, sometimes dangerous balance between history and progress, and the resilience of a family in the face of upheaval.

I was thoroughly swept away by this tale of one family’s journey from the horror’s of war to the hope of a new world, and then back to the home they once knew.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#19 – Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

Lawrence sets aside the grimdark trappings of his Broken Empire Trilogy for this much more hopeful but no less epic adventure which focuses on the rise of a bold new fantasy heroine.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#18 – The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Old Man’s War is and will forever by my favorite Scalzi novel, but The Collapsing Empire, with its BIG sci-fi concepts, clever plot, and sense of humor, is now a strong second.  

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#17 – History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Fourteen-year-old Madeline lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Madeline is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Madeline as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong.

And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Madeline finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy, Paul. It seems that her life finally has purpose but with this new sense of belonging she is also drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand. Over the course of a few days, Madeline makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. As she struggles to find a way out of the sequestered world into which she was born, Madeline confronts the life-and-death consequences of the things people do—and fail to do—for the people they love.

A story as strange and unique as its young protagonist.  This one will stay with you…

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#16 – Ill Will by Dan Chaon

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

“That was dark!”was my friend Alex’s review after taking me up on my recommendation to check out this book.  Hell, yes.  By the time the pieces of the mystery fall into place, it’ll have you by the throat.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#15 – American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate—there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning.

The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America. Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie’s confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder. He wasn’t lighting fires alone; his crimes were galvanized by a surprising love story. Over a year of investigating, Hesse uncovered the motives of Charlie and his accomplice, girlfriend Tonya Bundick, a woman of steel-like strength and an inscrutable past. Theirs was a love built on impossibly tight budgets and simple pleasures. They were each other’s inspiration and escape…until they weren’t.

A great real life mystery particularly notable for the odd relationship at its center.  We begin with a small community in the grips of a serial arsonist and end with a trial charged with shocking revelations.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#14 – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?

VanderMeer’s recent Southern Reach series was an insidious, slow-burn departure from his fungi and celaphod-inspired early work, but Borne finds him at his brazenly bizarre best.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#13 – Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

No mystery gripped me tighter than this true crime account of the mysterious murders that plagued Oklahama’s wealthy Osage Nation. Grann’s search for answers almost one hundred years later makes for one of 2017’s most compelling reads.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#12 – The Power by Naomi Alderman

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This one made a bunch of Best Of lists which, on the one hand, put it on my radar but, on the other, made me a little dubious going in.  It grabbed me in its first twenty pages and never let go.  A critical darling wholly deserving of its praise.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#11 – Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

From electrifying horror author Nick Cutter comes a haunting new novel, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridianand Stephen King’s It, in which a trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. Shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. Stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust grips the settlement. The escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. The remaining occupants are forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is now marshaling its powers…and it wants them all.

As far as I’m concerned, Nick Cutter ranks alongside Stephen King as a must-read author of the genre.  His latest book is eerie and unsettling, but, as always, its characters are as crucial as the horror.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#10 – The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere. It’s just her and bigger-than-life Polly.

Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly’s life pre-Willow. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

Polly, a caustic and colorful senior raising her teenage grand-daughter, is one of 2017’s most memorable fictional characters and, alone, well worth the price of admission.  Or the cover price anyway.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#9 – Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini

Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippieish filmmaker parents and transplanted to the strange suburban world of the San Fernando Valley. With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle to make it big, Hollywood fashion, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips and Bloods and Persian gang members, and a car-based environment of 99-cent stores and obscure fast-food franchises and all-night raves. She forges friendships with Henry, who runs his mother’s movie memorabilia store, and the bewitching Deva, who introduces her to the alternate cultural universe that is Topanga Canyon. And then the 1994 earthquake rocks the foundations not only of Eugenia’s home but of the future she’d been imagining for herself.

From local celebrity (after her family is cast in an Italian Spam commercial) to inner city outsider, Barzini’s offbeat protagonist, Eugenia, is a force of nature as strong as the titular quake.  Joyously transportative. 

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#8 – The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

Arriving on the Greek island of Patmos broke and humiliated, Ian Bledsoe is fleeing the emotional and financial fallout from his father’s death. His childhood friend Charlie—rich, exuberant, and basking in the success of his new venture on the island—could be his last hope.

At first Patmos appears to be a dream—long sun-soaked days on Charlie’s yacht and the reappearance of a girlfriend from Ian’s past—and Charlie readily offers Ian the lifeline he so desperately needs. But, like Charlie himself, this beautiful island conceals a darkness beneath, and it isn’t long before the dream begins to fragment. When Charlie suddenly vanishes, Ian finds himself caught up in deception after deception. As he grapples with the turmoil left in his friend’s wake, he is reminded of an imaginary game called Destroyers they played as children—a game, he now realizes, they may have never stopped playing.

An incredibly suspenseful read.  Once I started, I became so engrossed that I ended up setting aside the entire day to finishing it.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#7 – To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell

Meet the visionaries, billionaires, professors, and programmers who are using groundbreaking technology to push the limits of the human body our senses, intelligence, and our lifespans.

Once relegated to the fringes of society, transhumanism (the use of technology to enhance human intellectual and physical capability) is now poised to enter our cultural mainstream. It has found adherents in Silicon Valley billionaires Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. Google has entered the picture, establishing a bio-tech subsidiary aimed at solving the problem of aging.

In To Be a Machine, journalist Mark O’Connell takes a headlong dive into this burgeoning movement. He travels to the laboratories, conferences, and basements of today’s foremost transhumanists, where he’s presented with the staggering possibilities and moral quandaries of new technologies like mind uploading, artificial superintelligence, cryonics, and device implants.

Informative, funny, and at times altogether bizarre, this book explores the concept of transhumanism through its contemporary proponents – all of them fascinating, several of them downright weird.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#6 – Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry

On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,500 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.

It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis, and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings. He met a priest who performed exorcisms on people possessed by the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village which had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.

What really happened to the local children as they waited in the school playground in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?

At turns shocking, touching, and maddening, Parry’s book touches on the victims of the 2011 tsunami, their personal stories of survival, and their ensuing attempts to recover lost loved ones and the truth about the tragic circumstances at one ill-fated elementary school.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#5 – Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed “The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas” by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI – despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.

As the son of a former minister, I could relate to a certain degree, but Lockwood’s hilarious account of her relationship with her colorful father is beyond imagining. 

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#4 – Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash

Foxcatcher meets The Art of Fielding, Stephen Florida follows a college wrestler in his senior season, when every practice, every match, is a step closer to greatness and a step further from sanity. Profane, manic, and tipping into the uncanny, it’s a story of loneliness, obsession, and the drive to leave a mark.

The biggest surprise of my 2017 reading list was this book about a college wrestler and his single-minded mission to achieve victory at all costs. Unputdownable.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#3 – The Force by Don Winslow

All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.

He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given carte blanche to fight gangs, drugs, and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

Winslow’s The Winter of Frankie Machine is one of my all-time favorite crime novels, so I was prepared to be underwhelmed by comparison. Instead, I ended up staying up until 3 a.m. to finish the last 400 pages of this cracking read.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#2 – Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter

Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today’s products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.

Informative and downright shocking at times, this book has made me much more mindful of my technological dependencies.  And makes me thankful I never disappeared down the rabbit hole that is World of Warcraft.

December 31, 2017: The Top 30 Books Of 2017!

#1 – The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

I read this one early in the year and it stayed #1 on my list through the next nine months on the strength of the wonderful father-daughter relationship at the heart of this wholly wonderful novel.

So, those were my picks for The Best Books of 2017.  I’d love to know yours.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week of November 20th, 2017!

Another Wednesday brings us another vast selection of great comic books to discover and, with it, a slew of fantastic comic book covers worth noting.  These were my favorites –

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Black Panther #167 (cover art by Brian Stelfreeze)

The Klaw’s sonic emitter offers a simultaneous yet alternating glimpse at both the murderous master of sound and Black Panther, the Wakandan protector.  Gorgeous yet very clever in its efficiency, I love the in-your-face boldness of this cover.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Star Wars: Darth Vader #9 (cover art by Jim Cheung)

Another week, another Star Wars: Darth Vader cover, this one illustrated by Jim Cheung.  I’ll admit to a certain childhood affinity for the character and this cover, with its stirring blacks and reds illuminated by the blinding white heat of the light saber, reawakens the love I held for this franchise.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

God Complex #2  (cover art by Hendry Prasetya)

There’s a slick, stylistic weirdness to Prasetya’s cover art, a surprisingly complimentary melding of disparate worlds: humanity and technology.  Gold and greys mark the sleek cybernetic marriage of realism and alien incongruity.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Gung Ho #1 (cover art by ?)

Representing the small press is this title from Red Fox Comics that offers up a delightful weird amalgamation of gorilla, grenades, and banana.  It all hints at a hyper-realistic over-the-top fun but I’ll be damned if that gorilla doesn’t look mighty peeved.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Heat Vision #1 (cover art by ?)

Echoes of the pulp SF magazines of the 50’s makes this yet another nostalgia-fueled pick.  It’s James Bonds meets Lovecraft by way of Fantastic Magazine.

 

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Luke Cage #167 (cover art by Rahzza)

Check out this hypnotic cover by single-named artist, Rahzza, with its center shocks of vibrant colors against a double-hued purple backdrop.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Optimus Prime #13 (cover art by Kei Zama)

Full admission: I have never owned a Transformers toy, watched a Transformers movie, or read a Transformers book in my life, but I’ve got to give it up to artist Kei Zama’s bad-ass low angle shot of our towering heroes.  They are the good guys, right?

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Star Wars #39 (cover art by David Marquez)

It’s hard not to see the beauty in this admittedly unnerving character design by David Marquez, another glorious confluence of man, machine, and unknown other.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Swordquest #5 (cover art by Goni Montes)

Love the way this one plays with light and shadow, the advancing primaries bathed in that background darkness.  The blue skin tone is a delightfully creepy touch.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

The Beautiful Death #3 (cover art by Mathieu Bablet)

Strange as it sounds, there is a certain sense of comfort in the underlying herbaceousness to Mathieu Bablet’s post apocalyptic vision that contrasts the death of glass and steel with the rebirth of nature.  And, at the heart of it, two lonely figures gaze out on the seemingly empty world.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

The Shadow #4 (cover art by Lee Weeks)

This one captures an infinitesimal instant of flow and fury, the train streaking out of the tunnel, The Shadow making the leap to board, guns in hand, his trailing crimson cape the single punctuation of colorful in a world of black and white.

November 22, 2017: Awesome Comic Book Covers – Week Of November 20th, 2017!

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War #4 (cover art by David Sondred)

Big-ass gun?  Check.  Big-ass battle suit?  Check.  Blood red foreground palette backed by the smoked-out greys of destruction?  Check-check.  I’m not exactly sold on that modesty curtain cover…what exactly?  His nuts and bolt?…but otherwise a very cool character design.

 

November 13, 2017: Time Enough at Last!

There are time when I feel like Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last”.  The episode focuses on Henry, a bank teller played by Burgess Meredith, who is constantly prevented from doing the one thing he loves most: read.  One day, during his lunch break, he retreats to the bank’s vault to get some reading in, only to be knocked unconscious by a concussive blast.  He awakens and exits the vault to discover humanity has been wiped out but, in a fortuitous stroke, the public library is still standing.  Henry is delighted and, after sorting through countless books and compiling a huge stack, he prepares to get started – only to stumble and break his glasses, preventing him from doing the one thing he loves most of all.

Anyway, not to make too much of it, but there are times when I feel like Henry Bemis.  Despite my crazy production schedule for much of the year (I do some of my best reading between set-ups and before turning in for the night), I managed to set a pretty torrid reading pace this year.  I figured the show’s cancellation would allow me to get even  more reading in but the truth is I’ve been as busy these last couple of months than I was working on Dark Matter’s third season.  Still, it looks like I’ll surpass my record of 185 books read in 2014 as I just finished my 185th book of 2017, American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in the Vanishing Land, a terrific work of non-fiction about the serial arsonists who plagued Accomack County, Virginia back in the fall of 2012.  A great read.  Sure, on the surface it looks impress, but truth is a good 15% of those 185 titles were graphic novels or novellas.

But looking ahead to composing my list of Best Books of 2017 (which specifically covers books published in 2017, as opposed to my Best Reads of 2017 which covers a more expansive list of books I happened to read in the 2017 calendar year), I realized I really need to pull up my bootstraps if I want to to weigh in with an informed opinion.  By my count, of the 185 books I’ve read to date, a mere 67 were published in 2017, and 9 of them were graphic novels.  Pretty sad.

In order to expedite things ahead of my spring Best Books of 2017 blog entry (I give myself some leeway to catch up on those late December titles), I put together a list of 2017 titles I still need to get around to between now and said blog entry. The list so far, in no particular order:

The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico

Homesick for Another World by Otessa Moshfegh
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
The Force by Don Winslow
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Redfire: A Red Peace by Spencer Ellsworth
Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
Redemption Road by John Hart
The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
The Lightning Men by Thomas Mullen
A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon
Age of Assassins by RJ Barker
Words on a Bathroom Wall by Julia Watson
The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Ferocity by Nicola Lagioia and
Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker
The Acolyte by Nick Cutter
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
The Unseen World – Liz Moore
She Rides Shotgun – Jordan Harper
Spaceman of Bohemia, Jaroslav Kalfar
Quicksand, Malin Persson Giolito
The Widow of Wall Street, Randy Susan Meyers
Down City, Leah Carroll
Book of American Martyrs, Joyce Carol Oates
Sycamore, Bryn Chancellor
Startup, Doree Shafrir
The Destroyers, Christopher Bollen
Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin
Strange Contagion, Lee Daniel Kravetz
To Be A Machine, Mark O’Connell
The Unit, Ninni Holmquist
My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent
If The Creek Don’t Rise, Leah Weiss
A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Caca Dolce, Chelsea Martin
Reincarnation Blues, Michael Poore
Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann
Bunk – Kevin Young
Improvement – Joan Silber
***
Whew!  Read any of the aforementioned?  Thoughts?  Are there any I should move to the top of the list?  Others I should move down?  Let’s hear it, fellow readers!

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 of 91!

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 Of 91!

Jodelle Ferland does Goth Chick chic.

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 Of 91!

Line Producer Norman Denver and Roger Cross strategize over the big screen.

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 Of 91!

The Ferrous Corp guns are red.  The Mikkei guards are blue.  So who have the green guns?

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 Of 91!

Blocking on the bridge with director Melanie Orr.

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 Of 91!

Dr. Shaw’s secret lab.

Wait.  Who’s Dr. Shaw?

March 20, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 71 Of 91!

What (or who?) resides within this storage unit.  The answer will surprise!

Only four weeks to go before wrap!  This week, Melanie Orr finishes up on Episode 310 while Steve DiMarco helms Episode 311 and Bruce McDonald preps Episode 312.  I’ll be receiving John Stead’s director’s cut of Episode 308 on Tuesday night, then Craig David Wallace’s director’s cut of 309 on Thursday.  Wrote an additional scene for Episode 311 today and received some as-always-wonderful input from Zoie Palmer, did a pass on the Episode 312 script, AND started putting together the game plan for season 4.  Ideally, I’d like to convene the writers’ room in June for  a few weeks.  An early pick-up sure would be great!

Hey!  I make this list twice (although, in all fairness, the all-inclusive “franchise” designation makes it more like four times)!

9 Best Sci-Fi Space Operas To Stream Right Now

March 2, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 60 of 91!

March 2, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 60 Of 91!

Adorable, no?

While the action continued and blueberry pie came into play in Fort Falls, Wisconsin, I was back at the office prepping Episode 310 with director Melanie Orr who has been a delight to work with.  Just ask Co-Executive Producer Robbie David –

March 2, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 60 Of 91!

Pictured during today’s props meeting, Melanie makes a very good point.

Oh, hey!  We’ve got another episode title!  The votes have been tabulated and the winner is…

March 2, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 60 Of 91!

“Episode 31: Give It Up, Princess”

5 episode titles down, 8 to go!

March 2, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 60 Of 91!

From the mind of Set Designer Karl Crosby.

March 2, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 60 Of 91!

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 of 91!

Today, the crew of The Raza hit Fort Falls, Wisconsin…

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Android, dressed for the weather.

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91! February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Carmen, Matt, and Alyssa show off their cycling skills.

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91! February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91! February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91! February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Directing Craig David Wallace, popping and locking.

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Goth chick!

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Akemi preps for Thursday’s big blueberry pie scene.

While tomorrow…

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Today, Bubba attended his first acupuncture session:

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

How’d he do?  Well, hard to tell but I’m going to guess he didn’t exactly enjoy himself.  I’ll be interested to see if there are any discernible results.

February 28, 2017: Dark Matter Season 3 – Day 58 Of 91!

Meanwhile, Akemi continues his love therapy.

Tomorrow: A new episode title poll!

August 31, 2016: L.A.! Meals! Dogs!

I was getting dressed, fifteen minutes out from heading downstairs to catch a cab, when I received the call from my agent’s assistant.  “I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he said.

Oh shit, I thought.  I was prepared for the worst.

“We’re going to have to reschedule your first meeting today.”

“That’s it?”I asked.  I was expecting worse.  Much worse.  Something like “Hey, the guy you’re meeting today broke up with his girlfriend last night so he’s going to be in a really bad mood…” or “We caught your old Stargate episode, Irresponsible, last night and, unfortunately, we’re going to have to withdraw our offer of representation…”.  But a canceled meeting?  It was like being back in elementary school and waking up to a snow day.  Well, half show day anyway.

I took advantage of the free time to brush up on my Japanese (our Tokyo/Osaka trip is less than two weeks away0, and take a stroll through Beverly Hills which is – and correct me if I’m wrong – the “small-dog-carrying” capital of the U.S.  In the half hour I was out and about, I passed about a half dozen people clutching yorkies, chihuahuas, and, in one instant, either a giant ball of yarn or a very relaxed maltese.

Last night, I had dinner wth Bob Picardo who you may remember from such shows as Star Trek: Voyager or Stargate: Atlantis, but you’ll no doubt definitely recall from his last visit to Vancouver that I profiled on this very blog a couple of weeks ago.

Today, it was deli lunch with this guy –

August 31, 2016: L.a.!  Meals!  Dogs!

David Blue (SGU‘s Eli Wallace).  Akemi is going to be sooooo jealous!

Then tonight, it’s southern-style dining with Dark Matter’s Misaki Han – Ellen Wong

Well, three days down and one more to go.  And how have the meetings gone?  As Robert Cooper used to say: “You always leave L.A. feeling like a million bucks!”. Everyone is positive, complimentary, and interested.  Everyone says they want to work with you.  And then…you head back home to reality.  I can honestly say I’ve met some very nice, really smart people on this trip and would love to have the opportunity to work with them sometime in the future.  But who knows?

Meanwhile, Akemi has been keeping me apprised of developments on the home front:

August 31, 2016: L.a.!  Meals!  Dogs!

Bubba got a new hat and, of course, like toys and the dog beds, Lulu has immediately claimed ownership

August 31, 2016: L.a.!  Meals!  Dogs!

Bubba’s Lulu’s new hat.

August 31, 2016: L.a.!  Meals!  Dogs!

Okay, now they’re both happy.

August 31, 2016: L.a.!  Meals!  Dogs!

The dogs prepare for a return trip to Toronto.