Making Bones

bonesI have a review in the latest Missoula Independent. The book is called Making Bones, by Bill Vaughn. It’s a crime novel set in the Missouri Breaks region of Central Montana and features a fantastic female lead character. You can check the review out HERE, and I urge you to do so because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t recommend it enough.

Normally I’d run a clip from the review here, but instead I’m going to share the book excerpt that Vaughn published online; I doubt he’ll mind if I copy and paste it here:

IZZY sprawled in her lawn chair, holding hands with Mark and trading gossip about the latest acquisition of the local polygamist, while they waited for the sheriff. Rolex, Izzy’s bay-and-white paint, and Sally, Mark’s long, tall buckskin mare, were saddled up and tied to Mark’s trailer.

At ten a streamer of dust on the horizon announced the arrival of the local constabulary. Smudge Iverson was already red-faced and out of breath as he lowered his considerable heft from the county’s old stock truck to the ground. He’d brought along one of his three deputies, a scarred and wiry Cree named Fenton Welch. Their horses stomped in the rack, eager to get out and get on with it.

“Porta,” the sheriff rasped, apparently unwilling to waste any additional effort to shake hands. Mark had told Izzy that Iverson informed him in their most recent professional conversation that he was no different than his constituents in the matter of their position on Washington D.C. and its most visible presence in the Breaks, the Bureau of Land Management.

“What did he really say?”

Mark shrugged “We don’t need your kind here.”

“Does he mean Rangers? Or Italians?”

Mark shrugged.

Izzy watched Smudge examine her in a guy way, chest first, then crotch. Then he looked again, in reverse order. “Hey, Smudge . . . .” She resisted the temptation to ask him if he’d like her to turn around so he could check out her ass.

“Izzy,” Iverson rasped, ignoring her to deal with Mark. “What’s this, Porta? You bringin a date to a body search?”

Despite herself, Izzy laughed. Everyone in Hilger County knew that she and Mark were doing more than sniffing around each other. After all, they were high-profile individuals—Izzy resented because she inherited a big spread in a part of the world where there wasn’t enough ranch to go around for even the male heirs of these old families, Mark reviled because he worked for the land-grabbing socialist government that was trying to confiscate their property so rich liberals on the Coasts could have even more playground in the Big Empty.

“She’s here in an official capacity,” Mark told the sheriff.

“Welch will take all the pictures we need,” Iverson rasped. “You know we cain’t take no civilians along.”

She went to her saddle bag and came back with her badge. The BLM office in Lewistown had issued the shield to her after Mark convinced his bosses that her knowledge of the Upper Breaks qualified her to be sworn in on the Castel case as a special deputy ranger.

“Ain’t no civilians round here,” she said. Iverson took the badge and poked it with what seemed to her an unwholesome gesture.

“Well, fuck me and the horse I rode in on.”

Izzy tapped her index finger on her lips. “Um, how about just the horse?”

What is unique about this particular outing is that it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a book for the Indy that is available only via Kindle eBook. It’s possible this is the first time they’ve ever published one at all, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you one thing: if more Kindle-only releases were as good as this one, I think I’d be reading more than the dwindling number I do every year. Most, with a few exceptions from reliable writers I’ve come to trust (like Gramlich, and Badelaire), are shit. Maybe I’ve just been on a bad run the last couple years, but the quality in self-published fiction has been on the decline. Either that or I’m just getting pickier. Or grouchier. Probably all of the above, but heaviest on that last possibility.

Anyway, give Making Bones a chance. Here is the link on Amazon. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and if Bill Vaughn’s name sounds familiar, it’s because last year I reviewed his nonfiction work Hawthorn: The Tree That Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired Through the Ages, also for the Indy. That book was recently selected for Honor Book recognition for the 2015 Montana Book Award. So kudos to Vaughn for unleashing two excellent, totally different books in about a year.

Keeping it Pulpy

I’ve made a conscious effort over the last year or so to keep much of my reading grounded in what is typically labeled as “literary” fiction, something I’ve avoided over the years. When I was reading a ton of short stories last year I realized more literary work was getting the job done for me than the genre stuff was. I hit a patch where I was reading so much crime fiction that I was getting pretty burned out on it. It all started feeling interchangeable to me. So I backed off. I’ve also made an effort to get back to reading more nonfiction (something I went several years reading almost exclusively).

I still like a healthy dose of the stuff I love most, though: pulp. Action/adventure stories. Blood. Guts. Mayhem. To that end I usually have one or two books going at the same time, just to keep the enthusiasm up. This weekend I finished a couple great reads in time to make room for a couple more. I figured I’d mention them here.

Under the Ember Star by Charles Allen Gramlich

Charles is a friend of mine who you will see comment here now and again. He almost single-handedly led me back to reading Sword & Sorcery stuff after I read his story collection, Bitter Steel, a couple years ago. Ember Star is science fiction. This is the review I wrote on Amazon for this book:

There is a lot packed into this Gramlich novella. The world building is excellent; much depth of history, interesting cultures, and an intriguing premise. It is a fast-paced pulp sci-fi romp of the highest order. The book is very cinematic, and I mean that as a high compliment. I’d love to see more stories written here. Hell, I’d play this setting as a video game or RPG. There just seems a ton of stuff that could be done on the world of Kelmer. Here’s to hoping we’ll get to see more, particularly featuring our heroine, Ginn Hollis!

Commando: Operation Bedlam by Jack Badelaire

Another one from a guy you’ll see comment here now and again. This is the follow-up to Jack’s first Commando novel, Operation Arrowhead. I’ve read them both, and really enjoyed them. These are WWII adventure novels, something I had essentially no history of reading. Here are the reviews I threw up on Amazon for the two of them:

As I was reading this book, I realized that, outside of some flashbacks in Captain America comics, I hadn’t read any WWII fiction since reading THE GUNS OF NAVARONE back in high school. I had a great time reading this, and I’ll certainly be back for more. This is guns blazing, never-a-dull-moment action adventure stuff that I love to spend time with on those occasions when I simply want to be entertained. A couple strong characters take it above the usual fare, and I’m eager to read more adventures from this crew. (Arrowhead)

I thoroughly enjoyed Badelaire’s first COMMANDO novel, so much so that when the opportunity to read this one came along it vaulted to the top of the TBR pile. I wasn’t disappointed. I’m no scholar of WWII, certainly, but these books read like Baudelaire has certainly done his homework. The detail on the weapons, the settings, the equipment . . . they all contribute to putting the reader right in the thick of the action without feeling like the author is pulling one of those, “Hey, look at me and how much research I did!”-style information dumps. I appreciate that. The stories are fast-paced, no BS, all-out action. Which is exactly what I want from a pulp novel. The fact that I get more than an average amount of character development doesn’t hurt. Nice work. Can’t wait for the next one. (Bedlam)

What’s next? I’ve had In the Clear, Black Fields of Night by Chad Eagleton queued up for a while. I really enjoyed the original A Rip Through Time story that David Cranmer (yes, another commenter here; see a theme going, by chance?) from Beat to a Pulp put out, and I just haven’t gotten to this follow-up yet. That’s about to change. Hell, I’ve read a bunch of the stuff Cranmer has put out, and there is a bunch I have yet to read as well. All well worth checking out.

Finally, Blood & Tacos #4 is out. This is a must-read, folks. You can get it for free from the official website, or buy it from Amazon. Lots of cool stuff happening in the B&T world as well; I urge you to check it out. And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that it’s never too late to get B&T #3, which includes my story, “Blood and Sweetgrass In: This Rez is Mine.”