Teasing Blake Crouch

- July 30th, 2014

I think I know someone famous. Certainly I’ve seen my fare share of famous people. Like the time I was watching a play on Broadway and there was Nicole Kidman, to my right and a couple of rows ahead of me. Or the time I was in Memphis and there was Eva Longoria in the parking lot, getting ready to enter the National Civil Rights Museum to receive an award.

But now I know someone who is becoming a celebrity. Of. he would probably deny it, but Blake Crouch is finally starting to make a bigger name for himself. Not that there was anything wrong with the name he had before. I started reading Blake’s (yes, we’re on a first-name basis) books about 10 years ago. It might have even been longer than that. I don’t know how it happened but I think Blake discovered one of my reviews and sent me an e-mail to say thanks. I asked if I could interview him and over the years I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him several times.

Recently his third novel in the Wayward Pines series came out. (The Last Town). The big news is that Fox is turning the trilogy into a TV series with a heavy hitter cast. As a little tease, here’s the first Q&A. Full interview to be published on the Sun website later this week.

Q. First, congrats on finishing the third book. I’ve seen the trailer for the show. How the heck did that come about? And congrats on that, too.

A. Thank you! A guy named Chad Hodge, who is a phenomenally gifted screenwriter and television producer, wrote a spec pilot script based on Pines in the fall of 2012. Based off that script, we were able to attach M. Night Shyamalan as an executive producer for the series and director for the pilot episode. Then we went on to sell the show in a competitive bidding situation to FOX. Production wrapped this spring.

The best e-reader

- July 24th, 2014

Regular readers know I’ve gone through several e-readers and tablets in order to perfect my reading experience. My wife still uses the Kindle 2. I have a soft spot for it. I like the fact you don’t have to touch the screen to turn the page. Clicking the button on the side always gets you a result. Even on my iPad and iPad mini, it sometimes takes a second touch or swipe to turn the page.

I had the second version of the Kindle Paperwhite. I hated the fact it was black. It was always dusty looking with fingerprints. There were still some shadows around the edges, although the latest Paperwhites reportedly have a better display. I also tried out the Kobo arc HD. That was a gorgeous screen and I liked the body as well. The problem is I didn’t have access to my Kindle library.

The iPad is good, but a little heavy. Finally, I ended up with the mini. A few months ago, I blogged that this tablet was the perfect e-reader. Light but with some substance. Super fast, easy on the eyes, just the right size. Access to numerous reading apps. And its speed and screen made for a better shopping experience as well.

A few people suggested it was unfair to compare the mini with a true e-reader advice. They are two different products. One is an e-reader and one is a tablet. Good point. Perhaps a better way to have framed the discussion was to look at what is the best reading device — a tablet or an e-reader. Either way, I still stick with my original conclusion. If you have the money, a tablet makes for the best e-reading experience.

So what’s new? Well, I’m starting to think that the latest version of the iPad, the one that weighs one pound, might turn out to be better than the mini. Of course, I can only really test that theory by buying a new iPad. Hmmm. Let’s see. I’ve own two Kindles and two iPads. Do I dare bring a fifth device home? Stay tuned.

Game of Thrones

- July 23rd, 2014

Millions of people have read the Game of Thrones series. I really had no interest, but after I finish the latest mystery I’m reading, I think I’d like to tackle some different genres over the next few weeks.

I was at Chapters the other day and Game of Thrones was in a prominent spot, so I decided to read the first few pages. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but I am a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A lot of people have said Game of Thrones is the best fantasy series, ranking up there with Lord of the Rings, perhaps even surpassing it. That’s high praise.

I checked the Kindle as there is now way I’m going to read an 800-page novel any other way. Great news. I can have the first Game of Thrones for $11. That’s a great price. There’s also a boxed set for $40 that contains the first five novels. However, readers have complained that it comes as one 5,000-page book. They would have rather seen five separate covers.

If there are any Game of Thrones fans out there, drop me a line. I’d like to know what you think of the series or at the very least, the first book.

Lee Child and John D. Macdonald

- July 22nd, 2014

I started reading the Travis McGee series by the late John D. MacDonald. I have most of the books in paperback editions but I wanted to start with the first book again and do the whole series in order. The books were re-released a couple of years ago and the covers are beautiful and look great as well on the iPad mini.

I’m on book 4, The Quick Red Fox. I had noticed that these new editions came with a forward by Lee Child, another favourite author of mine and the creator of the Jack Reacher series. At first I thought, oh, that’s nice. Lee Child is a John D. Macdonald fan.

But then it hit me, there are a lot of similarities between Travis McGee and Jack Reacher. Both are big, both stand out in a crowd, they like their privacy, they make sure they do as little as possible to end up on anyone’s grid. In fact, it’s impossible to find Reacher. He’ll find you if he’s interested. McGee lives on a houseboat but is no more suited for the 9-5 world than Reacher. Although the difference is that Reacher for more than a decade was pretty good at following orders and working 9-5. But then again, McGee served in the army as well. Both are strong and rarely lose a fight. They have their own ideas about what justice means and when they are on your side, they are on your side to the end. Neither really cares about material things. McGee owns stuff, but as he muses in The Quick Red Fox, if it all sank, he wouldn’t miss most of it. He just wants enough money to avoid having to work full-time. In the early books, Reacher did need money and so he took jobs here and there — once as a bouncer, once as a pool digger.

So the most important question: Who would win a fight between the two men? Reacher could probably beat McGee, but it would be a hell of a battle. But McGee can probably think quicker on his feet. He’s better at improvisation. Reacher doesn’t really have much need or desire to disguise himself or pretend he’s anything other than what he is — a guy moving from town to town.

I love both characters and I’m sure I’ll read the books again when I’m looking for guaranteed enjoyment.

Reading the Internet

- July 21st, 2014

For the last decade, the Internet has turned upside down the way we consume news, entertainment, the way we shop, the way we research, all sorts of things. If you’re in the media, the Internet is one of the reasons the business is going down the toilet, but it’s also the reason why you can reach out to your audience anywhere and any time. As long as you have something the reader wants.

In the world of books, the Internet has made it easier to buy books, find out-of-print books, discover new authors, etc. But some will point out that the Internet has also ruined the art of reading, either with they-all-look-the-same e-books or just by the fact that people would rather read snippets of anything on the Net than sit down with a book.

I was reading a piece by New York Times writer David Carr this morning. He was writing about how print has a hard time competing with the Internet on breaking news like the downed airliner or the fighting in the Middle East. He also wrote about how staying informed when so much changes so quickly and is so readily available requires being constantly plugged in. There’s always another click of the mouse just waiting. There was one line in the article, though, that really stuck out for me.

“Then again, there are those who say that we see everything and remember nothing because we don’t have to, that the web now serves as our memory.”

What a wonderful line. It reminds me of the book, The Word Exchange, that I read this spring. With the Internet a memory of sorts, and with its ability to point us to things we don’t even know we want, it’s almost as if we’ve given up some control to the web. Looking for a book to read? Don’t worry, Kobo, Amazon, Chapters will all have suggestions for you based on your previous browsing experience and purchases. NetFlix does it, too. You like The IT Crowd? Here’s another British comedy we hope you will enjoy. Can’t remember if it’s i before e, don’t worry, just Google it.

In the world of books, the Internet has changed the way we consume books but not at the expense of the experience. Last week, I read My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard. The fact that I read it on my e-reader made it no less enjoyable or thought-provoking. The impact the Internet has on reading novels is that the Internet is another form of competition that wants to take your time away from books or whatever is your favourite activity. Thinking on what Carr wrote about the Internet serving as our memory, I’m glad I still read books and magazines. I’m forced to think, and hopefully to remember. Yes, I read the Internet, but thankfully I still find the time to read a good book.