Starting way down south in quake-shaken Christchurch, New Zealand, where crime novelist Paul Cleave (left) has won the coveted Ngaio Marsh Award for his thriller, Blood Men.
Still on crime, but way up north in Wyoming, Craig Johnson had the rare pleasure of watching his novels being turned into a pilot for a TV series. Look for Longmire on A&E.
And, though it's not up for an award or TV stardom, Henry Lee wrote the best short true-crime story I've read in one long time… but if you have trouble with a woman stabbing her boyfriend's bearded dragon "in cold blood," you'd best not read http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/08/21/BANA1KO3HB.DTL
There's life beyond Lifeguards, and a lot of it's in books. Including — since we're theming here — books about crime.
I read a lot of books about crime, almost all of them imaginary crime in crime novels. I even tweet — that embarrassingly silly verb — about crime novels, though I warn you, unless you're interested in the genre, there's no reason to "follow" me — another Twitter verb that makes me cringe — in my guise as NovelCrimes.
Because I read a lot of books about crime, I read a lot of dreck: mediocre, stereotyped, predictable, cookie-cutter, standard-issue dreck. I'd just started and stopped two deeply uninspired novels when I opened Savages by Don Winslow.
The two-word first chapter put me off, and I almost put it down. I mean "Fuck you" makes a statement, but the statement I took home was, I'm a show-off demonstrating how delightfully daring I yam.
Oh, boy. Am I glad I kept reading. Savages is not only the best crime fiction I've read in years, it's the best book, full stop.
Again: not for everybody. But if you like a novel that mixes profound love and silly laughs, profanity and poetry, cruelty and loyalty, brutal murder and philosophical riffs, sex and drugs and Southern California… and cannot even pretend to resist persistent word play, Savages may well be the book you've been missing in your life.
Though in theme or style it's nothing like any of them, it reminded me of three other books I love. For sheer energy, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. For daring innovation, Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts. And for pure poetry, Lifeguard Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust.
You'll also see reflections of a film, but it feels too much like a spoiler for me to say which film.
Here's something else I love. I sent it around years ago, a reminder of the power of sound and light, human skill and human spirit: