Monday, May 16, 2016

Daniel Silva's THE ENGLISH SPY, on The Book is Reviewed Here, #1

The Book is Reviewed Here, #1

The English Spy is the fifteenth installment in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series, and I read it with the same enthusiasm and excitement (and alacrity) as The Kill Artist, which was the first book of the series, published way back in 2000. When you think about it, that is saying something. My favorite media series ever was MASH, which fizzled out after eleven years. Seinfeld was groundbreaking and hilarious, but lost ground after seven seasons and went under
after nine. Tom's Clancy's Jack Ryan series smolders on but lost its zip somewhere between The Sum of All Fears and Debt of Honor.

So what is it about the Gabriel Allon series that sets it apart, and gives it such great staying power? To my mind it is the characters he creates; if there is an author who makes better characters--more real, more memorable, more available to the reader--I haven't discovered him/her yet. Moreover, no one does a better job of using them, in their usual roles, yes (such as Eli Lavon being called upon for surveillance) but in new ones as well. In The English Spy, the former SAS soldier and now mercenary for hire Christopher Keller once again pairs up with Allon, but in a new paradigm from which there is no going back. That's Silva's brilliance in a nutshell, a blend of the new and the familiar, put together with Silva's trademark prose.

No review of a Daniel Silva book could be complete without discussing his prose. Effortlessly glossy, literary and yet still readable at the pace a thriller should go, memorable without being pretentious, and flowing, Silva's prose is unequaled.

If there is a criticism of Silva--and that is a big if--some reviewers do complain he is too formulaic. And although I get what they are referring to, let me say this: seven out of his last eight books reached #1 on the NYT Bestseller lists. (And the off one reached #2.) If your formula is memorable characters, crisp prose, genuine dialogue and superb plotting, you stay with it.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, Gabriel Allon is a art restorer who has been recruited by the Mossad to be an assassin. Allon is guided by his boss and mentor Ari Shamron, Israel's avenger since Israel's independence was declared in 1947. In the subsequent years (and volumes of the series) Shamron and Allon have waged their secret war against the whole gamut of the enemies of the State of Israel: Islamic terror groups of every shape and size, exiled Nazis, the Russian mob, and the IRA. But the years have gotten to Shamron (something his enemies were never able to do to) and Allon the protege must become Allon the mentor. Enter Keller, the man who had been hired hired to kill Allon, who now risks his life to save Allon's. The English Spy is more than a first-class thriller by the preeminent name in spy fiction, it is a changing of the guard, and Silva manages to narrate it with the deftness and the soft touch we have come to expect.

If you haven't read any of the Allon series yet, get The Kill Artist and the next three or four books, take a week off work, and escape into a world of terror, intrigue, and the best prose in any genre, including literary fiction. Silva is really that good. And in case, like me, you have read all fifteen, The Black Widow is coming out next month (June 2016) and is available for pre-order now.

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

7 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors You Won’t Believe Have Never Won a Nebula Award for Best Novel

Kindle e-book available
for 99 cents, May 10-17, 2016

To celebrate the 2016 Nebula Award Conference, which takes place this weekend in Chicago, my publisher has put the ebook version of my fantasy debut, Dreamwielder, on sale for 99 cents. No, Dreamwielder isn’t a Nebula nominee (I wish!), but a guy needs something to aspire to, right? And even if I never work myself up to the top echelon of sci-fi and fantasy writers, I’ll still find myself in good company.

Here are seven of the genre’s best novelists that have never won a Nebula award for Best Novel.

From the Beginning

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) first started giving out the Nebula Awards in 1966, and in that inaugural year Philip K. Dick was nominated for two novels…and still lost. To be fair, his novels, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb, did lose that year to Frank Herbert’s Dune. Sort of hard to begrudge Dune. Still, the whole nominated…and lost pattern happened again for Dick in 1969, 1975, and 1989. The most notable of Dick’s losses has to be with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (later turned into the film Bladerunner), which lost to Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage in 1969.

Right there along with Dick is Poul Anderson, who is tied with Dick with five Best Novel nominations and no awards for best novel. Anderson was nominated in the inaugural year with The Star Fox, and then again in 1972, 1974, 1976, and 1990.

The Mainstreamers

Literary writers, critics, and academics tend to be prejudiced against genre fiction, and the prejudice apparently goes both ways. Kurt Vonnegut, whose novels often have a clear science fiction concept, more often get categorized as mainstream fiction. Slaughterhouse Five was nominated for a Nebula in 1970, but lost to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Again, it’s hard to argue The Left Hand of Darkness shouldn’t have taken the prize, but that ended up being Vonnegut’s only nomination in any category for the Nebulas. While Philip K. Dick and Poul Anderson at least were nominated or won Nebulas in short fiction categories, Vonnegut—the person who wrote the sci-fi classic short stories “Harrison Bergeron” and “Welcome to the Monkey House” (albeit prior to 1966)—never got another head nod from the Nebulas.

Similarly, Margaret Atwood is an author who incorporates clear sci-fi and fantasy elements but identifies more as a mainstream writer. On top of that, the Nebulas, like most awards, have historically overlooked women and people of color. (Notable exceptions when it comes to the Best Novel category would be Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis, and Octavia Butler.) Taking these factors into consideration, it’s perhaps not surprising that Atwood has only been nominated once for Best Novel, and lost. For Atwood, it was her 1987 classic The Handmaid’s Tale that lost to Orson Scott Card’s Speaker of the Dead.

Funny Business

Humorists tend to get overlooked when it comes to critical acclaim, and it’s no different when it comes to the Nebulas. Terry Pratchett, despite authoring more than 50 novels and being beloved in the sci-fi and fantasy community, was only nominated for Best Novel twice. Going Postal was nominated in 2006 but lost to Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage, and Making Money was nominated in 2009 but lost to Le Guin’s Powers.

While not as prolific of a sci-fi and fantasy writer as Pratchett was, Douglas Adams authored one of the best-selling sci-fi novels of all time with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Despite its huge popularity and commercial success, Adams never received a nomination for Best Novel, not for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, first published in 1979, nor any of the sequels or Adams’ Dirk Gently novels.

The Big Gun

It’s hard to think of any name bigger in the sci-fi and fantasy world right now than George R.R. Martin. His A Song of Ice and Fire series was already critically acclaimed and a best-seller well before the HBO adaptation of the series, and now with the success of Game of Thrones on television, Martin is practically a rock star. Amazingly, he’s received no Nebula Award for Best Novel. Book 1 in the series was nominated in 1998 but lost to Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun. Books 2 and 3 were subsequently nominated in 2000 and 2002 but both also lost. If and when Martin does finally finish the series, don’t be surprised if the SFWA awards him the Best Novel award for that final book, much in the same way the movie adaptation of Tolkien’s Return of the King cleaned house at the Academy Awards.

Garrett Calcaterra is author of The Dreamwielder Chronicles and other works of dark speculative fiction.

 To celebrate the Nebula Awards, the Kindle version of Dreamwielder is available for only 99 cents between May 10 – 17, 2016.

Book 2, Souldrifter, is also available now in ebook and paperback formats from Diversion Books. Learn more at

Monday, May 2, 2016


In the firmament of Scandinavian noir writers, Åsa Larssen’s star shines the brightest.  Larsson has three likeable detectives, and of the three Rebecka Martinsson is the most compelling. Rebecka isn’t a detective at all, but a tax attorney working her butt off in Stockholm.

In Larssen’s first book Sun Storm, Rebecka is called back to her home, the northernmost town of Kiruna. Think about “northernmost” and “Sweden” and you get a sense of the frozen exoticism of this land of forests, rivers and wolves, polar night and the Aurora Borealis.

Rebecka is an unlikely detective: she’s unqualified as an investigator, she hovers somewhere between introverted and autistic, and if that weren’t hard enough, she left Kiruna years ago under a cloud of disgrace. Yet it’s Rebecka who solves the case. In Larsson’s next books: The Blood Spilt and The Black Path, Rebecka continues as a reluctant but gifted investigator.

With Larsson’s series, we have a fascinating detective, and great, twisty plots, but I have other reasons for worshipping Åsa Larsson. Larssen sees deep within the human heart and records shame, longing, loneliness, love and comfort. Here’s an example: “She had put the tray of coffee and sandwiches down on the floor. Then she crept up behind him, kneeling on the bed. His hips between her thighs. She had let her dressing gown fall open and pressed her breasts and her cheek against his back while her hands caressed his firm shoulders. ‘Astrid’ was all he said. Troubled and suffering. Filled her name with apologies and feelings of guilt. She had fled the kitchen. Switched on the radio and the dishwasher. Picked up Baloo and wept into the dog’s fur.”

The landscapes are gorgeous: “At quarter past three in the morning it begins to snow. Just a few flakes at first, then more and more. Above the dense clouds the Aurora Borealis hurls herself recklessly across the heavens. Writhing like a snake. Opening herself up to the constellations.”

And I love her endings. Endings are the devil, but Larssen finishes her stories with a 10-point land. Each one leaves me breathless.

Although each novel is a stand-alone, I recommend reading her books in order. And then you, too, will worship at the altar of Åsa Larssen.

Lily Gardner lives in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon with her husband, two corgis and several thousand books. Her two hard-boiled detective novels, Betting Blind and A Bitch Called Hope are published by Diversion Books and available everywhere. Check out her film noir reviews at