Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

I’m Off To Mexico!

MexicoThis Saturday my girlfriend and I are flying to Mexico. We’re staying at an all-inclusive resort for a week, which should be great for a variety of reasons – one of which is it’s supposed to snow (again) here in Philly. During this trip I plan on eating a lot, snorkeling, exploring Mayan ruins as well as cenotes, and of course, lounging on the beach and by the pool while reading a great book. I won’t be posting anything until I return, but I’m sure I’ll have great photos and stories to share when I come back. Talk to you soon!

Second Son, Deep Down and High Heat by Lee Child

Lee Child - High HeatAs any longtime reader of my blog knows, I’m a big fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. I just started Bad Luck and Trouble, the 11th novel in the series, and I recently finished three Jack Reacher short stories: Second SonDeep Down and High Heat.

Lee Child has admitted at book signings that he only started writing Jack Reacher short stories because his publisher asked him to, thinking it would drum up excitement for a new novel. I guess it’s working because now Child has written three. But are they any good? Below are my thoughts on each one.

Second Son

  • Second Son was an entertaining read because it provided me with a glimpse into Reacher’s adolescence, as well as what his parents were like. His brother, Joe, also plays a prominent role in the short story, so it’s nice to see how they interacted in their younger days.

Deep Down

  • This short story is the weakest of the three. There isn’t much action, just a lot of talking. There’s nothing wrong with dialogue, but it felt as if this story didn’t have that signature momentum that Child is known for. It’s not a bad story, it’s just not a very interesting one.

High Heat

  • This is my favorite of the three and it’s the most recent. Perhaps the third time really is the charm. This novella takes place in July 1977, with the Son of Sam killings and a massive New York City blackout and heatwave as a backdrop. Not only did this make for a cool cultural reference, but Child did such a good job describing the extreme heat that I felt as if I was in Reacher’s shoes.

If you’re a Jack Reacher fan, I recommend reading all three of these short stories. Collectively, they provide a greater understanding of a fascinating character we’ve come to know and love.

I listened to all three stories in audiobook form. As always, the excellent Dick Hill did a superb job with the narration. If you haven’t heard him, you owe it to yourself to check him out. He’s the perfect voice for Reacher.

Below is a video clip of Lee Child talking about High Heat:

Die Another Day – Live Tweet

Die Another DayI recently contributed an article about the James Bond film Die Another Day to the 007 fansite www.007hertzrumble.com. You can read the article here.

Wednesday, January 15th at 9 p.m. EST I’m participating in a live tweet about the film, so make sure to stop by and join the discussion by using the hashtag #Bond_age_ on Twitter.

WWE Network Coming February 24

WWE NetworkWWE, the iconic sports entertainment company that made professional wrestlers like The Rock, Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin household names, just announced WWE Network. This 24/7 streaming network, launching February 24, will provide subscribers with access to all 12 live WWE pay-per-views, including WrestleMania, as well as “original programming, reality shows, documentaries, classic matches and more than 1,500 hours of video on demand at launch.” The best part is subscribers only have to pay $9.99 a month for all this content, and it can be streamed through the WWE app on nearly every device you can think of (i.e., desktop/laptop computers, iOS and Android devices, Kindle Fire tablets, Roku, Xbox 360/Xbox One, Playstation 3/4, etc.).

What has me most excited about this news isn’t that I’ll be able to access every WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-view ever – although that is awesome – it’s that this service doesn’t require me to have an existing relationship with a cable provider like HBO GO does. WWE is the first cable content provider to cut out the middle man and provide its product directly to consumers through a paid streaming service. And unlike Netflix and Hulu Plus, WWE doesn’t need to pay movie studios large amounts of money to lease this content because they already own it. For WWE, this will be a huge revenue stream for the company and a smart way to provide pay-per-view content to fans at an extremely attractive price.

Needless to say, I’m very impressed by this announcement and excited to try out WWE Network on February 24. Check out the videos below for a taste of what’s to come.

 

Janis Ian – This Train Still Runs

Janis IanMy musical tastes are eclectic – I like everything from Patti LaBelle to Chromeo. Regardless of musical genre, I’m a sucker for a good melody and a great lyric. “This Train Still Runs” by Janis Ian has both. My favorite part of the song is:

“Sure as a baby loves the teat
Sure as a high heel on concrete
Sure as the songs I’ve left unsung
This train still runs”

And my favorite line is “sure as a high heel on concrete” because it’s incredibly visual without being overly descriptive.

Below are the rest of the lyrics and a live recording of the song. Enjoy!

This Train Still Runs

Janis Ian/Jess Leary

“I felt a rumble in my heart, over the mountains
as the engine ate the spark, spitting out the miles
Times when I tried to jump the track
Weight of the world upon my back
Still after all is said and done

This train still runs
It doesn’t matter where it’s gone
This train still runs
and though the baggage weighs a ton,
we carry on
Nothing is forever young
I’m not done – his train still runs

I had a friend I left behind, back at the station
We used to burn the power lines, racing with the wind
But time has the manners of a thief
Young love turns bittersweet
Still we keep that lantern hung – this train still runs

This train still runs
It doesn’t matter where it’s gone
This train still runs
and though the baggage weighs a ton,
we carry on
No one is forever young
I’m not done this train still runs

Got a ticket in my pocket & I’m ready to ride
Got a motor rolling over to an easy glide
I’m gonna travel on the gravel to the other side
Sure as a baby loves the teat
Sure as a high heel on concrete
Sure as the songs I’ve left unsung
This train still runs

This train still runs
It doesn’t matter where it’s gone
This train still runs
and though the baggage weighs a ton,
we carry on
Nothing is forever young
I’m not done – this train still runs
This train still runs
This train still runs”

Author Interview: Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods Photo Credit Harry BensonStuart Woods is one of the first thriller writers whose work I fell in love with. His characters have fantastic names like Felicity Devonshire, Vance Calder and, my all-time favorite, Stone Barrington. I’m constantly impressed by the fluidity of his prose, as well as his wonderfully descriptive romantic scenes. There have been countless occasions when I stopped reading one of his books to recite a passage to a friend because I was so impressed by the use of adjectives, verbs and metaphors. Simply stated, he’s a terrific writer everyone should read. Speaking of which, Stuart Woods has a new Stone Barrington novel available: Standup Guy. Make sure to pick up a copy after reading my interview with the author below.

After graduating college, you started out working at several advertising agencies. What made you realize advertising wasn’t for you, and how did your time in the industry influence your future writing?

I found the advertising business to be a wonderful preparation for writing professionally. I always advise young people who want to write for a living to find a job in advertising, journalism, PR – any profession that requires you to sit down and write a thousand words a day, whether you feel like it or not. Advertising did that for me, and in addition, I had to satisfy some very demanding bosses – some of the best writers in the business – who wanted persuasive writing and every word to count. I left because I felt I had gone as far as I was going to go in that business, and because I had wanted to write fiction since I was a child, and leaving advertising forced me to finally write the novel I had been thinking about since I was ten.

Chiefs - Stuart Woods

Your first novel, Chiefs, earned you an Edgar Award. How did it feel to be honored by your peers for your first novel?

I didn’t know the Mystery Writers of America were my peers, since I had never heard of the award, though I was very happy to receive it. I thought I had written a novel about how small towns worked, but I was delighted that they found it to be mysterious.

Chiefs was turned into a TV miniseries with a stellar cast of actors, including Charlton Heston, Danny Glover, Billy Dee Williams, and John Goodman. Did you have an active role in the creation of the miniseries, and did it live up to your expectations?

I didn’t write the screenplay, but the producers were kind enough (and smart enough) to send me every draft of the screenplay and solicit my comments and suggestions. I made a lot of those, and they even accepted some of them, particularly in casting. Heston’s character, Hugh Holmes was based on James S. Peters, a father of my home town, and I interviewed him at length about the town’s history. I loaned the tapes of that interview to Heston, and he used them to create his character and his accent. I was delighted with the miniseries; I thought it true to both the plot of the novel and its intent. I played a small part in the mini-series, and they made me travel to New York to read for it. I had a two-minute scene with Billy Dee Williams, a fine actor who, for some reason, could not remember his lines. We rehearsed at length, shot it, then rehearsed some more and shot it a couple of more times. He finally got his lines right, whereas I was perfect throughout. I thought, “This acting thing isn’t so tough; after all I knew my lines.” Then I saw the series at a screening: Billy Dee was wonderful, and I came off as a blithering idiot. I thought, “Maybe there’s something to this acting thing, after all.”

Under The Lake - Stuart WoodsI thought your standalone thriller, Under the Lake, was one of your best. It’s very different from your other work but just as captivating. It even attracted the attention of Stephen King, who lauded the book by saying, “it scared the living hell” out of him. More than 25 years later, what’s your opinion on the novel?

I reread it when someone was writing a screenplay (ultimately unproduced) from it, and I liked it a lot. I tried to get Simon & Schuster to use King’s comment, which was one line in a fulsome letter he wrote about the book, and they wouldn’t. They wanted to say, “It scared the living heck out of me.” (!)

For the past several years you’ve been providing fans with a steady flow of Stone Barrington novels. Do you plan on revisiting any of your other series or writing any new standalone thrillers?

My publisher persuaded me to write only Stone novels in a new contract (he offered me money, and I can be bought). I think he meant that he wanted the words, “A Stone Barrington Novel” on every cover. I tricked him by including all the other series characters in the various novels. Anyway, my readers who write to me like Stone best.

Having written 28 Stone Barrington novels, how do you keep your books fresh?

I have a fevered imagination and a rich fantasy life, which helps with the sex scenes.

Blue Water, Green Skipper - Stuart Woods

Your memoir about sailing, Blue Water, Green Skipper, was re-released in 2012. How did the fans of your thrillers respond to Blue Water, Green Skipper when it was, once again, made available to the public?

I’ve had a great deal of mail about the book from readers – most of them, yachtsmen, and they were all warm in their praise. Reading it allowed me to revisit a happy time in my life. One day, I’ll write a full-blown autobiography, and I’ve reserved the right to plug the old book into the new one. I don’t think I can write about that time of my life any better.

Many popular writers, including James Patterson, have increased their productivity by collaborating with other authors on novels. Some readers don’t care for this practice because they feel having a co-author dilutes the end product, while others are perfectly fine with it. What’s your opinion on the matter, and would you ever collaborate with another author on a book?

I’ve never done that, though my publisher says he would like it. I’ve instructed my widow-to-be to call my agent as soon as I’m dead and hire a few writers, and I’ve explained to her that Jim Patterson makes more money than God.

Standup Guy jacket

Since you’re working on and releasing multiple books a year, how do you go about keeping track of all the characters and details from novel to novel?

My characters exist for me in an alternate universe; I know exactly what’s happened to them, though they know nothing about me. Apparently, they don’t read. I seem to have a gift for keeping their stories in memory.

What are you working on now and what’s next for Stone Barrington?
There are two Stone novels completed and awaiting publication, and I’ll finish another this week. Standup Guy is coming out on January 7th. 

Book Review – Singularity by Steven James

Singularity by Steven JamesI recently finished Steven James’ latest novel, Singularity, the sequel to a book I enjoyed quite a bit, Placebo. So, how does this measure up to the last one in the Jevin Banks series? I’d say it’s just as good, if not a little better, than Placebo.

Having already become acquainted with these characters, I was happy to see them grow and mature in Singularity. As a matter of fact, I’d say character interaction and development is what James does best. While the sometimes-too-long scientific descriptions took me out of the story, the terrific dialogue, humor and dash of romance made up for it. Similar to Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar and his sidekick Win, James has an equally compelling dynamic duo with Jevin and Xavier. And the supporting cast is wonderfully nuanced and intriguing, especially Fiona and her brilliant children.

Other than the copious amount of scientific information, the only other detractor for me from the story was the amount of sub-plots. Several times in every chapter there are breaks and the reader is transported to a different storyline. I understand that this was done because the storylines eventually overlap, but if you don’t plan on finishing the book in a sitting or two, or if you stop in mid-chapter, it might take you several pages to remember what happened last and what’s happening at that given moment. To me, I really only cared about the main cast of characters, not the tertiary ones, so I think keeping only one subplot would have made for a cleaner read.

Regardless of my stylistic quibbles, Singularity is a solid novel that tells a compelling story featuring charming characters whom I’ve grown to like even more than I did after reading Placebo. If you’re not sure what to read next, give this book a shot. It’ll keep you engaged from start to finish and whet your appetite for the next installment in this promising series.

Below is the book’s synopsis, and make sure to check out my interview with Steven James too.

Synopsis

When his friend is murdered, illusionist Jevin Banks is determined to find out what really happened. Drawn into a web of conspiracy and top-secret research on human consciousness, Jevin won’t stop digging until the truth is revealed. Soon he uncovers a dark secret–one that could change the very fabric of human life on the planet.

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