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Drop Dead Punk: Coleridge Taylor Mystery
By: Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: August 2015
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 3, 2015
It’s 1975 and the place is New York City. It’s a time when the city, fraught with financial woes, is fighting for its very survival. It’s also a time when Coleridge Taylor, a crime reporter at the struggling Messenger-Telegram newspaper, is about to be thrown, head first, into the biggest case of his career.
As the story opens, we meet Taylor, a seasoned crime reporter who is a bit bored at the moment. It seems all anyone is talking about is the impending bankruptcy of New York and the fact that President Ford told the City to “Drop Dead.” However, that’s the last thing Taylor wants to talk about. Can you say ‘boring’ with a capital B? Alas, it seems to be a slow news day for New York’s criminals so Taylor’s boss sends him to City Hall to report on the Mayor’s response to Ford. On the way out, he calls one of his contacts at 1 Police Plaza. Jackpot! A shooting with two dead, one a cop.
Taylor hustles to the scene of the crime and fortunately, is the first reporter to arrive. He is able to view the crime scene where he finds a young mugger and a cop, both dead. But something isn’t right. The position of the bodies and the gunshot wounds just don’t add up. Taylor’s sleuthing instincts go into high gear as he starts to dig deeper into the shooting. The dead mugger, Johnny Mort, was well liked and repeatedly described as gentle with an intense interest in helping stray dogs. Mort sure doesn’t fit the mold of the typical mugger. Add in the fact that the dead cop’s partner, Samantha Callahan, is being accused of abandoning her partner while she insists she was misled by the police radio, and you have one growing mystery. Was it a simple mugging gone bad or is there a cover-up at 1 Police Plaza? Taylor doesn’t know but he sure is going to find out, if it’s the last thing he does...
Drop Dead Punk is the second book in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series and you definitely do not have to read the first to get sucked into this story. One recent rainy afternoon, I started reading and planned to just read a few chapters to get started. I wound up skipping dinner so I could finish the story as I needed to find out ‘who dunnit.’ There were plenty of twists and turns and unexpected connections (pay attention!) that are the cornerstones of a good crime mystery. The author’s description of the gritty world that was New York in the 70s, as well as his research into the near bankruptcy of New York in 1975 was spot on and really added to the character of the story. Callahan’s struggle with being one of the first woman cops in New York comes up repeatedly and gives the reader great insight into what must have been a very difficult time for women on the force. Add in the author’s real-life experiences as a reporter for over 30 years that seep through the pages, and you have a definite winner. I thoroughly enjoyed Drop Dead Punk and look forward to the next book in this new series.
Quill says: If you like a quick reading crime mystery that will keep you guessing, check out Drop Dead Punk. You won’t be disappointed!
For more information on Drop Dead Punk: Coleridge Taylor Mystery, please visit the author's website at: www.richzahradnik.com
By: Stephen King
Publication Date: June 2015
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 25, 2015
What happens when you have a crazed fan, a stack of unread manuscripts from said fan’s favorite author, and an unlucky teen who happens to get in the way? In the hands of author Stephen King, you get an intense, nail-biting thriller that will take over every crevice of your mind.
Author John Rothstein is an elderly man who, after writing the famed Jimmy Gold trilogy, retired to New Hampshire where he lives as a recluse. Rumors abound about additional Jimmy Gold books. Rothstein’s number one fan, Morris Bellamy, will do anything to get those manuscripts including killing Rothstein. The story opens with Rothstein’s death at the hands of Bellamy but before Bellamy can read his bounty, he is arrested for another crime and sentenced to life in prison.
Before his arrest, Bellamy managed to bury his treasure in an old trunk and as he rots in prison, the only thing that keeps him going is the thought of one day getting out and reading more Jimmy Gold books. Unknown to Bellamy, a young teen, Pete Saubers, who has the misfortune of living in Bellamy’s old house, stumbles upon the trunk and, together with a stash of cash that was also stolen, finds the manuscripts. Like Bellamy, Saubers is a big John Rothstein fan and devours the unpublished stories of Jimmy Gold, careful to hide the manuscripts from everybody, lest he be accused of stealing them. At the same time, he slowly and anonymously dishes out the cash to his parents. Of course, the reader of Finder’s Keepers knows that Bellamy will get out of jail one day and that he will go after Saubers. And that’s where the story really explodes.
I’ve been a long time fan of King’s, dating back to the Cujo and Pet Semetary days. The last few books of his that I have read, however, haven’t kept my interest like those previous books. I’m happy to report that Finder’s Keepers grabbed me on the very first page and while I finished the book last night, it still hasn’t let go. King slowly, methodically, builds the tension from the time of Rothstein’s murder in 1978 to present day where Bellamy and Saubers will meet.
Finder’s Keepers is the sequel to Mr. Mercedes, but you needn’t read the first to dive right into this newest offering. There are numerous references to the first book, and some chilling scenes between the villain from that first book and Hodges, a detective out to save Pete Saubers, that nicely sets things up for a third book, but again, King guides the new reader through those characters/events so there’ll be no problems following along.
Quill says: Finder’s Keepers is Stephen King at his absolute best. I loved it!
Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat
By: Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle
Publication Date: April 2015
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 21, 2015
I’ll be the first one to admit it – I like hats, but I’m certainly not knowledgeable about various styles, histories, and the role of hats in the evolution of fashion. But after reading this beautiful book about Patricia Underwood, THE milliner who set the standard for all others to follow, I have a new love and appreciation for hats and the fun, and yes, important, role they play in creating the perfect ensemble.
The book opens with a forward by Isaac Mizrahi, in which the famed designer gives us a peek into the life of Patricia Underwood. He talks about how Underwood turned an often overlooked accessory into an important part of any outfit. Truly, the hat, under Underwood’s skillful eye, became the part that ‘finished’ an ensemble. And Underwood believed that a hat couldn’t be just pretty, it had to “look good and function.”
An interesting biography by Doria de la Chapelle accompanied by photos of Underwood, her family, business partners as well as early models sporting Underwood creations follows. We read about the milliner’s early challenges, entering a field that, at the time, seemed to be dying out. After all, who in the early 70s was thinking about hats? This was a time when “A hat was about the last thing a girl thought to wear with her long peasant dresses and shag haircut.” (pg. 28) Underwood certainly had her work cut out for her!
Not one to give up, Underwood’s hats gradually found their way into iconic New York fashion stores such as Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman, and the milliner’s hard work began to pay off. Unlike so many of her competitors, Underwood’s hats were “...both an artistic and a functional endeavor, a balance that demands the combination of fine materials and flawless construction.” (pg. 25)
The bulk of this visual treat of a book is Underwood’s portfolio – page after page of beautiful images of models showcasing the many creations of Patricia Underwood. Some are in color, others in black and white, and there’s no doubt you will find many within these pages that you absolutely love. At the back of the book is a ‘hats off’ tribute to some of those people who ran the business that is Patricia Underwood, along with a four page history/explanation of Underwood’s favorite hats. Overall, I have to say that this book was the most fun to review in a very long time – what a great way to spend time – ogling beautiful hats and learning the history behind them. Thank you, Ms. Underwood, for creating such gorgeous hats that those of us out in the ‘real world’ can enjoy!
Quill says: Stunning, gorgeous, informative – this is far more than a coffee table book to decorate your favorite room. There’s no doubt that after reading this book, you’ll have a new appreciation for the role of ‘The Hat’ in that perfect outfit.