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A review of REACH THE SHINING RIVER by the winner of our Christmas Prize Draw

January 16, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

‘It was Wardell found the body.’

Kansas City, 1935. Emmett Watson, a county prosecutor of Irish decent, is married to Fay, a high society woman, who is the daughter of one of the movers and shakers in the city, and unhappy in her marriage. At a closed-door meeting with his father-in-law, and other high rollers, Emmett is asked to investigate the brutal murder of a local black, jazz piano player, and he soon finds himself taking on a corrupt political machine, mobsters and cops on the pad.

All around Emmett, is fear and silence surrounding the murder, and blatant racial hatred, that puts his life and career at risk.

One of the most engaging characters in the novel is Arlene Gray, the jazz
singer whose voice can still the room in a smoky Kansas City nightclub.
Arlene, a woman of tremendous grace, and vulnerability, is the mother of Wardell, the young boy who found the bullet-ridden body on a bank by the river. She also was the murdered Eddie Sloan’s lover. She is determined to
protect he son at all cost, and her anguish at losing Eddie, is a deeply moving part of the novel.

There is a bluesy, jazzy ebb and flow throughout the novel. Swirling and dipping in language and imagery. While reading it I often had music by Billie Holiday, Bud Powell, Lester Young, and Bill “Count” Basie playing
across the room. The music supplementing the rhythm and phrasing of the writer’s words. The richness of the many characters, and the honest writing that cut right to the quick.

It is always a pleasure to discover a novel and a writer whose vibrant prose, and dialogue, make me reluctant to turn the final page. Reach the Shining River is such a novel.”

–Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions

Link to the original review on Facebook: here.

Excerpt from Patricia Ketola’s “Dirty Pictures”

August 18, 2016

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Patricia 1“On the day of the big event I walked through the hours until seven like I was living in zombie land. I started dressing around five, making sure I wore a disposable polyester dress that wouldn’t leave any fibers scattered around the murder site. It was a plain black number purchased at Walmart for fifteen dollars and it didn’t look half bad when I got it on. I brushed out my hair and then sprayed it stiff and put it up in a tight French twist. The effect was très Catherine Deneuve, and I prayed no incriminating hair would get loose from the tightly coiled hair style. On my feet I wore flat shoes similar to the ones seen on Madame Sarkozy, but mine were not for the purpose of making a tiny politician seem slightly less miniscule; mine were for running away from a crime scene.

I prepared myself well, no perfume, no lipstick, no jewelry. When I looked in the mirror I was pleased with my image, and decided I would conduct myself as though I was in a French movie, a noir thriller starring Catherine Deneuve where she played a snaky bitch out to kill her double-crossing ex.

By the time I got to Terry’s I was well into my Deneuve persona, it was just as well; I probably couldn’t go on with the murder unless I was pretending to be someone else. The front door was unlocked and I walked down the hall to the sitting room. Terry was at the bar, drinking a shot of vodka. He looked fine and healthy, and when I kissed his cheek he smelled fresh.

‘I guess this is it, isn’t it, Martel?’

‘I guess,’ I said, pouring myself a shot.

‘What is it the Irish say?’

‘I think they say see you on the other side.’

‘Yes,’ he raised his glass and we clinked, ‘see you on the other side, Elizabeth.’  He used my first name, it sounded strange, but it also sounded correct in this solemn moment.

Just then the doorbell rang and we both knew it was Preston. I gave Terry another kiss, a final kiss, and ran out of the room to answer the door.”

 

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“Patricia Ketola’s clever and sexy debut novel is an audacious genre mash-up, elevated and enlivened by the salty, up-from-the-heels voice of narrator Elizabeth Martel, a sort of lusty spin on Patricia Highsmith’s magnetic sociopath Tom Ripley. Dirty Pictures heralds the arrival of a clever, gutsy new voice that fearlessly swings for the fences.” 

Craig McDonald, Edgar-Anthony Award Finalist

Dirty Pictures is available here

E-book rights to Kevin Stevens’ novel “Reach the Shining River” licensed to Endeavour Press

August 17, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

Following on from the success of “Francesca” by Donald Finnaeus Mayo, we are delighted to announce the new release of the Ebook edition of Kevin Stevens’ novel “Reach the Shining River” by the UK’s leading independent digital publisher, Endeavour Press.

It is now available for order on Amazon here.

Reach the Shining River

 

Our own trade paperback is also available here: viewBook.at/REACH_Stevens

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“Not only a solid murder mystery, but equally a colourful and thought-provoking study of a moment in time. With the rhythm and cadence of the prose, echoing the blues soundtrack that underscored the whole book, Stevens easily achieved that balance between crime fiction and literary fiction due to his exceptional characterization and engaging prose.” —Raven Crime Reads


Kansas City, 1935

The effects of the Depression are still being felt, gangsters are running the show, and the police are corrupt. Emmett Whelan, an idealistic county prosecutor who has left behind his Irish roots and married into the country club set, takes on the city’s corrupt political machine when he investigates the brutal murder of a black musician. Emmett starts poking around and soon finds that there has been no investigation into the man’s death. He starts to wonder why a gentle man like Eddie was murdered?

As Emmett probes the case and meets another outsider, black jazz singer Arlene Gray, he discovers the city’s underbelly of racism and criminality.

Emmett hires a PI to help him, Mickey McDermott lost his job as a cop when he wouldn’t play by the rules. Soon they see that Eddie’s death is connected to some pretty powerful men in town. But as Emmett works harder and harder for justice, his marriage starts to disintegrate. And the more he digs, the more he sees he’s being played.

The closer he gets to the heart of the corruption, the more he sees that it is deeper and closer than he has ever suspected. When the truth finally unfolds – about the killings, the machine, Emmett’s wife – a surprising and devastating climax reverberates at every level of the city…

Reach the Shining River is an urban crime drama about money, race, and class. Tense and full of memorable characters, it has the smell of a big river, the atmosphere of 1930s America, and a soundtrack that is pure jazz and blues.

REACH THE SHINING RIVER: “Lover man”, excerpt & soundtrack

May 29, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Bill Call leaned over his coffee, peering at Arlene. “When was the last time you saw Eddie?”

Without answering him or even excusing herself, Arlene rose and went to the bathroom. She locked the door, splashed water on her face, and sat on the toilet. On the back of the door was a framed photograph of Paul Robeson. Leonora had placed little baskets along the rim of the wash basin, each filled with a different colored soap.

She covered her face with her hands and cried noiselessly. There was Eddie in her mind’s eye, standing tall in her front doorway on that last evening, molding the crown of his hat with forefinger and thumb, wearing the dark suit with pencil stripes that he favored when the sun went down.

“I’m not inclined,” he had said.

“Well, then, don’t bother,” she answered. “Don’t bother on my account.”

“Tomorrow night be better. Our customary evening.”

This last phrase Eddie spoke with a sly tone, his way of offering to end the spat on friendly terms.

But she was angry. “You rather spend time with Virgil than me then you go right ahead. See if I care.”

He frowned, put his hat on his greased head, and wandered into the night. See if I care. Her last words to him. Words he carried into the next world. Words she would carry through the rest of her earthly life.

And Virgil gone missing. Maybe murdered as well. What had they done? Who had they crossed?

She and Eddie had rarely argued. He was a peacemaker, even when he was unhappy with something (her wedding ring, not being able to come by the house when Wardell was home). The secrecy of their affair suited them both, and was easy to disguise because of their musical partnership. He liked to slide along the easy way, Eddie did, and keep his head low.

But lately he’d been prickly. He had to borrow a few bucks from her once or twice, which hurt his pride, and couldn’t find work outside the weekend gig at the Sunset (Emmanuel Baptist didn’t pay). His needs were modest, but he liked his reefer and new threads when he could get them, and bought her flowers every week. He was feeling the bite of hard times, she knew that.

Their songs would not leave her alone. Lyrics took on sharper meanings:

 I don’t know why but I’m feeling so sad
I long to try something I never had
Never had no kissin’
Oh, what I’ve been missin’
Lover man, oh where can you be?

  REACHx2700_NEW   Kevin Stevens’ novel is available HERE

Writing, reading, music, and “far-awayness”. David Hogan interviews Colin O’Sullivan

May 27, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

David Hogan: You’re in the long tradition of writers leaving Ireland in order to write about it.  Is there something unique about the country that pushes you away while at the same time drawing you back?

Colin O’Sullivan: The Irish have always been a migrant race as you know, for many reasons too long to get into here , and I’ve always been fascinated by those great Irish writers who left and became the geniuses we know today – I’m thinking specifically of Joyce and Beckett, two artists who loom very large in my writing life. I never understood it until I actually did it, I suppose. That is until I upped and left Ireland and spent years abroad, I never really understood the idea of exile and writing about your native country from a distance (physical and emotional). But I think it has made me a better writer. I don’t think I’d write as much or as well if I had stayed at home – I think I’d be far too busy drinking Guinness and watching football (nothing at all wrong with those pursuits, but I don’t think I’d write very much). The fact that those delights aren’t available to me here means I have to get down to work and the hard graft of writing. And following on from that, I then have, I suppose, the time and inclination to look back and contemplate my native land. That’s not to say that all my work will be set in Ireland – my new work is wildly different and has nothing at all to do with my homeland.

D.H.: What are you working on now then?

C.O’S.: I won’t go into too much detail (might jinx the whole endeavour) and even to describe it might not do it justice, but let’s for the moment say it is an: existentialist-gothic-tragi-political-satirical-absurdo-comedy…with wolves, set in Japan 2045. If that doesn’t whet the appetite I don’t know what will!! If Killarney Blues was my Blue period, then I’m just moving into my Cubist period – do you like the way I align myself with geniuses?

D.H.: Bernard in Killarney Blues loves American blues “Because it’s exotic. From far away.”  You’re an Irishman living in Japan; can this sentiment be applied to yourself in anyway? 

C.O’S.: Yes, I think that can be applied to me in many ways. Not just because I live in Japan and appreciate the “difference” in culture, but in my artistic tastes too. Growing up I didn’t like traditional Irish music at all (I’ve since changed my mind) and wanted only rock, and certainly not Irish rock music, but British or American only. The further away the better from Irish shores the more authentic, I had foolishly thought. I don’t know why this was, a form of teenage rebellion I suppose. And I went through a phase of reading loads of American literature and eschewed anything from Ireland too. Maturity in thought and a sense of balance comes with age of course and I’m not so silly and dismissive anymore. But I still have a lot of Bernard in me – been going through a jazz phase over the last few years, which has of course absolutely nothing to do with Ireland and I enjoy it’s “far-awayness”.

D.H.: Funny you should mention jazz, your writing has a jazzy, improvisational feel to it.  Are you able to get into ‘a zone’ where this flows?   Does it come in the editing?  Do you have to be careful not to over-edit?

C.O’S.: The zone. Yes, that’s a good word, I suppose I do get into it and try to go with that particular flow. It’s difficult to describe. But I do aim for that intensity of thought and concentration, whatever happens within that, whether it is jazzy or not, I don’t know. I’m looking for that voice I suppose. In Killarney Blues I was trying to get Bernard’s voice or Jack’s or whoever, yes, and improvising around them. As for editing, well, I can’t stop. I can go over pages again and again for hours, and still might miss something! There comes a stage when you have to call in another pair of eyes. Luckily I have a great editor at Betimes Books to help with that.

D.H.: Did you listen to the blues while writing “Blues?”  Something else?

C.O’S.: I did listen to a lot of blues at that time yes, while going for a walk or whatever, or just doing work around the house, not during the actual writing time though: I prefer silence. Instrumental music I can take, a little; I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I write, I get too involved. Drone-like stuff works best. But yeah, you can’t beat silence when you’re trying to get the words down.

D.H.: There’s the great line in Killarney Blues: “The kind of person you’d release from prison on the back of songs.  As if music, and music alone was enough.”  This speaks to the redemptive power of music and, by inference, literature.  What are the respective powers of the two mediums to you?  How are they alike or different?

C.O’S.: They’ve always been there for me, that’s about as much as I know. I’ve always been fascinated by books, music, all art in fact, and have always found them to be my salvation. That sounds very pretentious, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I’ve always needed books and music around me at all times and I get antsy when they are out of reach. Music from my teenage years still gets me tremendously excited as do books that I’ve read and cherished several times. And I love that feeling of being overwhelmed and utterly excited by art. It’s thrilling, and I’ve never lost it.

D.H.: The demise of long forms (e.g. the album as opposed to singles and the novel) has long been predicted.  Are you concerned about this?  What will be lost or gained?

C.O’S.: I’m not overly concerned; I think music will always find a way. I do miss things, the long playing albums like you say, the cover art that isn’t so important anymore, sleeve notes, that kind of thing. Something like Bowie’s Low is hard to conceive as anything other than a two-sided record: listening to it straight on the iPod, it misses something; you feel like you have to turn over for the very different second “side”. But musicians are still making all kinds of great music and it’s still finding a way to get to us, so I’m happy enough about that, I guess. The novel will also endure. As an art form it’s too important not to.

D.H.: Desert island question: would you take a book or an album?  Which one?

C.O’S.: A book, something huge, like The Complete Shakespeare, or War and Peace. I already have music playing in my head 24 hours anyway. Even my dreams have a soundtrack and I wake up thinking: Wow, I haven’t heard that song in years.

D.H.: What type and color of hat are you wearing these days? 

C.O’S.: This grey one:

FullBW

D.H.: What are you reading and/or listening to? 

C.O’S.: On the current playlist: Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, PIL, The Fall, Swans and Nick Cave/Warren Ellis.

Reading: Tim Winton’s Eyrie, Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary, and Kevin Barry’s short story collection Dark Lies the Island.

D.H. What does Colin do for fun?

C.O’S.: Music and books, what else is there? Actually I do enjoy watching football (that’s soccer to you David) movies, and good TV dramas too, the usual box set stuff that everyone loves, and if there’s a good comedy out there I’m on it, like Veep or Louie – boy, do we need a laugh in the world these days… but that’s another story, eh?

New cover art for REACH THE SHINING RIVER

May 22, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

REACHx2700_NEW   Cover art: Keith Mallett

Cover design: JT Lindroos

We hope you would agree that this is a striking new cover for Kevin Stevens’ novel REACH THE SHINING RIVER, with its soundtrack of jazz and blues.

The lady on the cover is, of course, Arlene Gray, wonderfully described in this reader’s review: “Arlene cleans hotel rooms by day and by night she sings of heartbreak in a blues club. Arlene knows what she is singing about…”

Read the full review — and more — here and an excerpt about Arlene Gray here  (with a soundtrack!).

We would like to thank the artist Keith Mallet who has graciously allowed us to use his artwork “Jazz Café” and, as always, our favourite designer JT Lindroos.

Excerpt from Gifts: Bittersweet Christmas Stories by Kevin Stevens

December 4, 2014

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From “The Return of Eddie Sloan” by Kevin Stevens:

“She checked on Wardell. He was fast asleep, dreaming of sugar plums. All the doors were locked. The backyard was deserted and the thin cover of fresh snow showed no footprints. In the parlor, the Christmas tree stood lightless and lonely, the angel on top askew. She pulled her robe tight around her shoulders and returned to bed. Passing the threshold, she examined the smudge of ash on the pinewood floor. It was in the shape of a heart.”

CHRISTMAS OFFER!

Read or download GIFTS for free here: http://bit.ly/1racUfN
Buy a collector edition here: http://viewbook.at/ChristmasGifts
Or get an e-book here: http://viewbook.at/ChristmasGiftsKindle

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“Cities, Bars, and Crime” by Kevin Stevens

October 13, 2014

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Reach the Shining River

electric_noir

These days, big cities go out of their way to proclaim their cleanliness and safety. New York, LA, London, Paris…the city fathers of each note regularly how, compared with a few decades ago, their metropolises are much better to visit and live in. Crime rates have fallen. The cops are friendly. The streets are litter-free. What vice there is is socially acceptable or decidely unseedy. And who’d have it any other way?

Well, readers of crime fiction, perhaps. Crime novels and cities go together like guns and ammo. And traditionally, dirty, unsafe streets with heavy fog and crumbling neighborhoods not only create atmosphere but plot opportunities as well.

But fiction moves with the times. And these days noir is as much a state of mind as a physical phenomenon. The twenty-first century urban landscape is slick and anonymous, at least in the developed world, and writers now look to these characteristics – while not…

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“My Literary Neighborhood” by Kevin Stevens

October 9, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Reach the Shining River

mark-twain

There ought to be a room in every house to swear in.                                    Mark Twain

I live near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass, in a “Harlow buidling.” These beautiful brick structures were designed by Hamilton Harlow in the early decades of the twentieth century and were designed to blend in with the features of Harvard University buildings – red brick, elegant ironwork, and leaded glass windows.

It’s a cool neighborhood. A really cool neighborhood for a writer, partly because so many famous authors lived nearby. Two doors up from my building is where William Dean Howells lived in the 1870s, when he was editor of the Atlantic Monthly.

howells sign

There is a great story in Justin Kaplan’s biography of Mark Twain which details Twain’s visit to this house in April, 1876, and the ill-fated attempt of Howells and Twain to get to Concord by train for centennial celebrations presided over…

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