Whitney Awards follow up: Lemon Tart

Back when I shared my 2010 Whitney Awards ballot, I mentioned the possibility of also doing a post-awards review of the Mystery/Suspense category. It looks like that probably won’t happen, but I do want to mention the one novel in that category that I did read: Josi S. Kilpack’s Lemon Tart: A Culinary MysteryAmazon ).

Lemon Tart is a Miss Marple-style mystery (what the marketing copy calls a “cozie”) — that is, it feature an older woman who gets drawn in to a murder case (here, it’s the murder of a neighbor) and uses her pluck, life experience, natural curiosity, and local connections to help solve the case. What I liked about the novel is that it succeeds as a cozie, but that it also brings some character and plot elements in that have a real impact on the protagonist Sadie Hoffmiller. The emotional, physical and family/community/romantic repercussions from not just the murder, but also solving the murder are not glossed over at all. There’s just enough grit to it to make it work for a reader like me. And, in particular, the climactic sequences are fairly thrilling. The danger is real. Continue reading “Whitney Awards follow up: Lemon Tart”

What About Jer3miah?

The final episode of the first season of The Book of Jer3miah is supposed to be posted sometime today. I watched all 19 of the previous episodes earlier this week (each episode is only about 5 minutes long), and I have to say that I think its worth a look. Continue reading “What About Jer3miah?”

LDS Market Mystery

Quick: What’s the largest genre in fiction? Among Science Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Espionage/Thriller, Mystery/Detective Fiction, etc., what sells the most books?

And, why is there so little of the largest genre in the LDS market?

Continue reading “LDS Market Mystery”

A Spoonful of Detective Fiction

Makes the anti-Mormon propaganda go down. Also: putting the sleuth of Baker Street in his place on completely neutral terms unrelated to century-old tribal grudges. Continue reading “A Spoonful of Detective Fiction”

Horror In Happy Valley: “Turn of the Screw” and “Nosferatu”

Something wicked this way comes to Utah Valley in the form of two shadowed shapes, masquerading as highly theatrical plays. The Turn of the Screw at The Covey Center for the Arts, and Nosferatu at Utah Valley University are both superb pieces of theater that deserve sold out audiences and loud applause. They both boast superb casts and visionary directors. If you live in the Utah Valley area, run, yea, scream to the box office, if you have to. Whatever you do, pick up tickets to these shows, if you have the slightest enjoyment of theater or Halloween… you won’t regret it.

I remember thinking several years ago that Halloween seemed to be a missed opportunity when it came to Utah’s theater community.  The past few years, however, have seemed to alter that, as theater producers have been realizing how popular seasonal events like these can be. Not too many years ago the Hale Center Theater in Orem put on a superb production of Wait Until Dark. BYU recently finished up a production of the classic thriller Dial M For Murder (why they didn’t play it through Halloween is beyond me). Performances of plays as varied Blithe Spirit and Sweeney Todd and The Crucible have planned their productions around the haunting season this year. Utah Valley University seems to be making it a semi-regular tradition now, having not too many years ago put up my adaptation of Legends of Sleepy Hollow (to a completely sold out run… I’m telling you, Halloween sells) and now Nosferatu. Continue reading “Horror In Happy Valley: “Turn of the Screw” and “Nosferatu””

The Art of Friends, Not Rivals: Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer

Several months ago my lovely wife Anne and I had the privilege to go to a retreat hosted twice a year by the Mormon Artists Foundation. Founded by James Christensen (rightfully famous for his art of fantasy and his fantastic art) and Doug Stewart (playwright of the groundbreaking Saturday’s Warrior), it’s always one of the chief highlights of the year for my wife and I. An uplifting experience, not because of the number of recognizable names on the roster (which was a little intimidating at first, until their relaxed manner and cheerful comradery told me that they were only human and weren’t looking down on my comparatively pitiful contribution to Mormon Arts), but because of the focus it brought to the spiritual aspect of our art, and the complicated ways our religion informs and doesn’t inform our Art. It was a true inspiration to see all of these gifted Mormons from the visual arts, literature, film, drama and music band together for a weekend of reminding each other why they’re artists and why they’re Mormons, and what a wonderfully strange and beautiful mixture that is. Continue reading “The Art of Friends, Not Rivals: Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer”

Eugene Woodbury’s new novel — published by Zarahemla, serialized for free

Mormon author Eugene Woodbury is continuing the experiment with giving away his work for free that he and I discussed in an April 20 Q&A. His new novel Angel Falling Softly will be published by Zarahemla Books this fall, but starting next month Eugene will begin posting a chapter of the novel each week.

Here is the description of the novel from Eugene and Zarahemla Books:

Over the past six months, Rachel Forsythe’s perfect life has descended from the ideal to the tragic. The younger of her two daughters is dying of cancer. Despite her standing as the wife of a respected
Mormon bishop, neither God nor medical science has blessed her with a cure.

Or has He?

Milada Daranyi, chief investment officer at Daranyi Enterprises International, has come to Utah to finalize the takeover of a Salt Lake City-based medical technology company. Bored with her downtown hotel accommodations, she rents a house in the Sandy suburbs.

And then the welcome wagon shows up. Her neighbors perceive her to be a beautiful, intelligent, and daunting young woman. But Rachel senses something about Milada that leads her in a completely different–and very dangerous–direction.

Rachel’s suspicions are right: Milada is homo lamia. A vampire. Fallen. And possibly the only person in the world who can save Rachel’s daughter.

As Rachel uncovers Milada’s secrets, she becomes convinced that, as Milton writes, “all this good of evil shall produce.” As the two women push against every moral boundary in order to protect their families,
the price of redemption will prove higher than either of them could have possibly imagined.

A Mormon middlebrow-literary, domestic drama, mystery, vampire novel. And one that quotes Milton. If that sounds interesting to you, check out Eugene’s other work. This is exactly the kind of thing one expects from him. Or to put it another way — the novel description didn’t cause me to raise my eyebrows because it had Eugene’s name attached to it. I look forward to reading it.

Coke Newell’s semi-autobiographical novel and publishing momentum

Dallas Robbins has already posted an announcement about three new titles from Zarahemla Books over at This Mormon Life. I have read one of the new books — Coke Newell’s semi-autobiographical novel On the Road to Heavenand highly recommend it. The plot itself doesn’t break much ground. It’s the typical conversion/missionary novel thing with a large dose of romance. But the writing itself is fantastic. I especially like the nature writing in the beginning as the mountain hippie protagonist explores the meaning of life through a mix of nature love and Eastern philosophy. It introduces some aspects in to Mormonism that are often missing, exploring where some of the stuff that was swirling around during the ’60s meshes with LDS doctrine (and where it doesn’t so much). Continue reading “Coke Newell’s semi-autobiographical novel and publishing momentum”

BOOK REVIEW: “Brother Brigham” by D. Michael Martindale

Brother Brigham, a supernatural thriller by D. Michael Martindale, is one of Zarahemla Books flagship titles for the year (in fact, one of its first titles). It is a book whose title I have heard bandied about for quite some time, had even read a segment of it which Martindale had put a teaser on the internet, but the novel seemed to be having a hard time finding a publisher to give it a home. And I can see why. It certainly has what I would deem very mature material, espcially for an LDS novel. A good deal of sexual material, a scene of Satan worship, drug use, spiritual possession, polygamy– yeah, it’s not going to be on the top of Deseret Book or Covenant’s acquisition list.

Fortunately, the newly christened Zarahemla Books, under their commitment to publish “adventurous” Mormon fiction, has taken a chance upon this book, to test whether there is a significant audience for daring Mormon fiction. Martindale certainly pushed my own sensibilities beyond a few limits. I didn’t mind that there was mature material, but I did think it could have been toned down a bit– sometimes a little too much detail for my taste. However, that being said, in the novel there is always a reason for vices to be included– ironcially, almost always a moral reason. Evil is never presented as good, and for every wrong decision a character makes, there are consequences– severe consequences. In many ways the novel is a morality tale. A warning against sin. Yet don’t expect some syrupy, cliched piece of propaganda here. It is skillfully written, creating a realistic, complex, difficult world where everything is not as it initially seems. It’s a page turner, the novel is a real heavy weight. Brother Brigham is a significant, thought provoking, faith affirming, intelligently written novel. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: “Brother Brigham” by D. Michael Martindale”