Smokey the Cat
Michael Sears

Sixty seconds with Michael Sears...

Michael Sears was sixty-one when his first novel, Black Fridays, was published. After nine years as a professional actor, he got an MBA from Columbia University and spent more than twenty years on Wall Street, rising to become the managing director in the bond trade and underwriting divisions of Paine Webber and, later, Jefferies & Co., before heeding his father’s advice: “When it stops being fun, get out.” He did so in 2005, and returned to what had always given him the greatest joy—writing—studying at NYU and the New School. His latest novel, SAVING JASON, was published earlier this year.
Sears holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, and he lives in Sea Cliff, New York, with his wife, artist Barbara Segal. They have two sons.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Sears: If all goes according to plan, I will become a grandfather next year.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Sears: The Last Waltz (which is actually a double album).

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Sears: Cowboy, astronaut, rock and roller, financial wizard, actor, writer -- I got four out of six. Not bad.

Judith Flanders

Sixty seconds with Judith Flanders...

David Rosenfelt

Sixty seconds with David Rosenfelt...

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October 8 , 2016

It's a holiday weekend in Canada today - Thanksgiving - so we're wishing all our Canadian readers a very happy holiday. Many readers everywhere also celebrated Rosh Hashanah earlier this week and we hope they will have a happy new year. Finally, it's also Columbus Day weekend, which I believe is a time to buy coats on sale. However you are celebrating, we hope you enjoy it.

We begin today with the latest foray by Ian McEwan into the world of crime fiction. How well NUTSHELL, told from the unusual viewpoint of a foetus in a prospective murderer's womb, succeeds is perhaps a matter of taste. I myself was unpersuaded, but others may differ.

Several of the books this week may employ more ordinary narrative strategies but they take us to out of the ordinary locales. Jim Napier thought highly of Peter May's COFFIN ROAD, which he says is "exquisitely-layered," and draws on the barren landscapes of the Hebrides to "bridge the gap between Scotland and Scandinavian Noir." Mario Bolduc's THE KASHMIR TRAP follows a con man as he investigates a terrorist attack on his Canadian diplomat nephew in New Delhi. Christine Zibas applauds the brilliant trick at the end that brings everything together. Sharon Mensing was somewhat disappointed in the latest Longmire, Craig Johnson's AN OBVIOUS FACT, but that was in part because the Wyoming natural setting takes second place to events in town.

The past may also provide its own kind of exoticism. This is certainly the case for Elsa Hart's THE WHITE MIRROR, set in 18th century China. Rebecca Nesvet quotes a character's remark: "it is possible to experience all the epiphanies of travel within the mind, to move through distant landscapes without leaving home," to describe the aim of Elsa Hart's historical fiction. Less distant from our own day but still removed is Paris, 1900, the setting for Frances McNamara's DEATH AT THE PARIS EXPOSITION. Caryn St Clair enjoyed the recreation of the times and the fair but regretted that the mystery tended to take second place to the historical detail.

Sometimes a work of non-fiction can have a similar hold on the reader as a novel. Kate Summerscale's THE WICKED BOY, which examines a true crime in late Victorian London involving a young boy killing his mother is, I thought, just such a book, filled with interesting detail but retaining a kind of suspense that was admirable.

Sharon Mensing was very enthusiastic about Kevin Wolf's debut, THE HOMEPLACE, which chronicles the return of the main character to his home in the tiny Colorado town of Brandon, a place that the author represents with compelling authenticity and peoples with fully realized characters. Another promising debut is B.A. Paris's BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, which is, as the title suggests, about domestic abuse. Christine Zibas thought it worked very well.

Stephen Maher may work in Ottawa, but he really knows the south shore of Nova Scotia, says Susan Hoover, who lives there. His SALVAGE is the real thing, she says, and good contemporary noir into the bargain. Rich Zahradnick's A BLACK SAIL takes place a generation ago, during the US celebration of its bi-centennial against the backdrop of the tall ships in the harbour. Diana Borse says this one's a real treat.

Our thriller this week is J.T. Ellison's KILLFILE, which also includes a soupçon of the paranormal, in that its protagonist is a telepath hired by the government to read people's minds. Despite a few reservations, PJ Coldren thought it would certainly grip the reader the way a good thriller should. At the opposite end of the crime fiction spectrum, PJ also reviewed CAT WITH A CLUE, by Laurie Cass, the fifth in the Bookmobile Cat series. She reports happily that it's a series that has not yet run out of lives.

Finally, Lourdes Venard recommends a short story collection with an interesting premise, CRIME PLUS MUSIC, edited by Jim Fusilli, rock and pop critic for the Wall Street Journal and crime novelist. The stories all involve music and all lean toward noir and all in all make for a strong collection.

Our guest in the Sixty Seconds this week is Michael Sears - not the South African one but the American one. Do pay him a visit.

If it's more British fare you're after, pay our friends at CRIMEREVIEW a visit, where you'll find their latest issue.

We'll be back before the end of the month with more comments on what's on offer from publishers on this side of the ocean. Do come back and see.

And also remember to go out and check on the foliage. It's beginning to be marvellous here and soon will be where you are. Don't miss it.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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