Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reason #173 Why You Should Support Indy Bookstores

I've never visited the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC, which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. But now it's on my list of must-stop places, all on account of what co-owner Tom Campbell had to say in a story in the Independent Weekly:

"I think we're in the curiosity business. If people are curious about the world, they're going to read books, because you really can't dig into something any other way. I think a lot of people are afraid to be curious these days. Like they're afraid of what they're going to find out: 'The world's becoming a darker place, I don't want to know about it.' I think we've gone through a time where people felt like that, but now I think that people are starting to get curious again. I think that as long as people are curious, we'll be O.K."

Never Again Will I Go Swamp-Walking in the Nude

Since one of the missions of this blog is to shine the light on all manner of Floridada, it would be wrong, just wrong, to ignore NAKED MAN RESCUED FROM JAWS OF ALLIGATOR.

Hmmm, as I sit here writing this, the TODAY Show just ran a bit about this story but failed to mention that the guy was naked. I mean, where the hell is their news judgment?

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Toast to RJ....

Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving around our house without the traditional drinking of Old Fashioneds. I'm not sure exactly how the tradition began, but my father, R.J., started it. R.J. was a devoted bourbon man. Evan Williams and Sprite, that was his drink. So I suppose that an Old Fashioned, being a supreme vehicle for bourbon, was just a way to fancify things on Thanksgiving.

All I know is that a couple of Old Fashioneds, taken around noon on Thanksgiving, will help the rest of the day unfold in a splendid manner. R.J. passed away five years ago this coming March, but we will toast him on Thursday. And here's the recipe so you can do your own toasting:

(makes one)

2 teaspoons sugar
2 dashes of bitters
2 oz bourbon
2 oz club soda
slice of orange

Put sugar in bottom of a short cocktail glass and douse it with bitters. Pour in bourbon and muddle. Add club soda. Fill glass with crushed ice and joogle it around some to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Garnish with orange. This will help you tolerate relatives who are otherwise intolerable.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Show Me the Love

No sooner had I posted my little rant below ("I'm Not Bitching. Really. I'm Not.") than Marc Resnick, my editor at St. Martin's, forwarded me this review of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ:
"One spends a lot of time laughing when reading one of Morris's books. Zach and Boggy need to transplant 8 enormous palm trees to an estate in Bermuda and they get involved in the murders of divers looking for historic relics in shipwrecks. Money laundering and the illegal sale of found treasures add to the mystery. The characters are not only fun but described in a way that makes them seem real. If you haven't read a Zach Chasteen mystery, you need to start now!"
Those kind words come from Susan Wasson, of Bookworks, a fine indy bookstore in Albuquerque, NM. What makes them even more meaningful is that they were posted on the Booksense Picks site, run by the American Booksellers Association. The ABA offers a list of Booksense Picks each month, which goes a long way toward getting those books a little extra attention around the country.

I'm lucky. BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD were both Booksense Picks when they came out. I've probably already jinxed it by even mentioning it, but here's hoping the same good luck holds forth for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ.

And Susan Wasson, if I'm ever in Albuquerque, the rum is on me...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If I Did It, Here Is How It Would Happen

In light of the news that OJ is publishing a book about how he would have done it if he had really, you know, done it (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), a few scenarios on how the slimebag might himself be offed:

* Dragged behind a white Bronco on the 405 through LA.
* Pummelled to a pulp by Ron Goldman's father wielding one of OJ's golf clubs.
* Staked to the fifty-yard line at this Saturday's USC football game while the entire Trojans team stomps the life out of him in front of paying customers.

As for publisher/pimp Judith Regan and anyone who buys OJ's book — they deserve only slightly less punishment...

I'm Not Bitching. Really I'm Not.

The first review of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ is in. It's from Publisher's Weekly, which had nice things to say about BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD. This latest review is, whew, a good one, too. PW didn't award B.S. a much-coveted star, as it did for THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, by Thomas H. Cook, which came right after the B.S. review. But neither did it say "lacking in style and substance," as it did of SANTA CRUISE, by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, which came right before.

I won't bother you with the entire thing, but here are some snippets:
"Wisecracking ex-NFL player Zack Chasteen hunts treasure—and people willing to kill for it—in Morris's offbeat third island-themed adventure. Zack, who now raises palm trees in Florida, embarks for Bermuda with his British girlfriend, Barbara Pickering, and loyal South American associate, Boggy, to deliver some magnificent Madagascar palms to Barbara's wealthy Aunt Trula ... "
A lot of plot regurgiation then unfolds, until the review ends with:
"Wry humor and engaging Bermuda history help propel the plot."
OK, don't get me wrong, here. I am delighted that PW has chosen to review all my books. The magazine has room for only about 75-100 reviews per issue, maybe 5,000 reviews annually, which accounts for less than ten percent of the books published each year. So just getting noticed is awesome. With luck, Library Journal, Booklist and, groan, Kirkus will follow (Kirkus always finds a way to say something snippy about every book, and I mean every book. Last year, reviewing JAMAICA ME DEAD, Kirkus had great things to say—"action-packed," "fast-paced," "snappy-dialogue," "great visuals" and then ended with "Perhaps Morris should stick to travel writing." I mean, go freaking figure...)

But here's what gets me about the PW review, aside from the fact there's no sizzling quote I can extract for a future book blurb (OK, "wry humor" isn't awful, but it just kinda sits there. And while "offbeat" is a badge of honor, a case could be made that the Unabomber was "offbeat.") The first snippet above contains not one, but two fact errors. For starters, Boggy hails from the Dominican Republic which, last time I checked, was well north of South America. And the palm trees Zack hauls to Bermuda are Bismarck palms, not Madagascars.

No, these aren't giant glitches. But they are a mite irksome. And you tell me, should I be feeling just a bit miffed by it all? Or should I just say screw it and give thanks that B.S. got reviewed? (Methinks the latter, of course, but hey, I just needed to vent.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bangkok Me Dead

As amusing as it has been to read all the entries in the "Guess Where the Book Is" Contest (rim shots included everywhere from Bermuda and England to Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Malaysia), it's time to announce: We have a winner!

Thom Delcomyn, of St. Augustine, correctly guessed that the photo in the previous post was taken in Bangkok, with one of its many canals in the background. Thom admits he had a distinct advantage. He has twice visited Bangkok and will return in April.

While there, perhaps Thom can find his way to Dasa Book Cafe, which is owned by Don Gilliland. Or at least check out Don's blog Bangkok Dazed, which offers a thoughtful/funny/poignant ex-pat look at all things Southeast Asian.

Back in the 1980-90s Don owned the late, lamented Murmur Records in Orlando and has been living/working in Thailand for the past several years. He was walking around in Bangkok not long ago when he popped into Kinokuniya, a Japanese chain store that sells English language books in Thailand (this is one great world, isn't it?) and JAMAICA ME DEAD jumped off the shelf at him.

This is one of the many, many things that puzzles me about the book biz. I walked into a local independent bookstore last week to pick up a copy of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, a store where I have done a couple of signings in the past, a store that I try to support whenever possible. As usual, I looked to see if they had copies of my books on the shelves. Nope. And yet, clear on the other side of the world, in Bangkok, you can buy 'em at a Japanese book store. Beats hell out of me.

But enough pissing and moaning. Because there have beeen some great victories on the book front lately. The folks at St. Martin's have been doing a helluva job foisting my words onto an unsuspecting world. I mean, the JAMAICA ME DEAD p-back is in Publix for gosh sakes. Publix! Right between laundry detergent and bottled water. It's been popping up at lots of the airport bookstores, too. And last week my mom called to say that she was shopping at the Winn-Dixie in Leesburg and saw it on the rack. Winn-Dixie! OK, it ain't Publix, but still. My mom, bless her, also said she walked around the store for ten minutes hoping to spot someone she knew so she could drag 'em to the book aisle and show 'em her son's book. But no such luck. You gotta love moms.

Anyway, congrats to Thom for winning a copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. Thanks to Don for finding me in Bangkok, taking photos of JAMAICA ME DEAD on location (including the one of his pal with the grinning elephant above.) And more thanks to all of you who made valiant guesses but came up a little short.

And stay tuned. There will be more chances to win free stuff in the very near future.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jamaica Me Where?

I keep promising to make these blog entries more frequent but, ya know, there's been a lot going on lately.

Good things, mind you. I've been swamped with freelance magazine assignments (by the way, I've got a feature, "Extreme Caribbean," in this month's issue of "National Geographic Traveler.") And I've been trying to punch out the first hundred pages of my next book. No, it's not part of the Zack/Caribbean series. It's a standalone thriller set in Costa Rica. Tentative title: "The Good Scout." It's way different than the Zack books. Darker, creepier. So dark and creepy that my wife, after reading the first chapter, makes me sleep in the guest bedroom.

OK, maybe not quite that dark and creepy. Still, it's a shift.

When I get it to the point where I really-really like it, then my agent, Mighty Joe Veltre, will start showing it around, with the good folks at St. Martin's getting first peek. And with luck, I'll land another multi-book deal. Which would be most nice because I've already begun mapping out books four and five in the Zack series -- "Bimini Split" and "Trinidaddyo."

Soooooo ... while all that good stuff simmers, we take time out today for a bit of diversion. A reader (a long-lost friend actually) recently sent me this photo. It was shot in the city where he now lives and where he came across the new paperback release of "Jamaica Me Dead" in a bookstore.

If you can identify the city where the photo was taken, then you win, let's see, you win a signed copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ when I finally get my hands on one (pub date isn't until Feb. 6.)

The usual rules apply: 1) You can't win if you've won something here before. 2) Uh, right now I can't think of any other rules, but I defer the right to make up more rules as I see fit.

So...Jamaica Me Where?