With frantic bargain-hunting shoppers crowding the malls and streets of our society, cyberspace might be the safest or at least quietest place to search for that last minute stocking stuffer.
Fortunately, if you happen to know any readers personally, even if they are an endangered species, you can send them a thoughtful present with the click of a button, since Kindle books can be gifted.
Of course, many of us still prefer print editions, and if you order now, you can probably have the book rush-shipped.
But hey, for true literature lovers, any time of year is a good time to receive a good book in the mail, virtually or otherwise.
And now, in no particular order, are my personal recommendations…
December Boys (Joe Clifford)
The second in the Jay Porters series published by Oceanview Publishing (the first being Lamentation and the third, Give Up the Dead, slated for 2017) showcases the emotionally intense but accessible and relatable character development which is one of this brilliant author’s hallmarks, along with his very readable, cinematic narrative style. Essentially, he's the literary equivalent of Bruce Springsteen.
Design for Dying (Renee Patrick)
The lauded debut of a series of period mystery novels featuring legendary Hollywood wardrobe queen Edith Head, who teams with an intrepid shop-girl to find the killer of her “party girl” roommate. You will feel like you’ve been transported to 1937 Los Angeles, surrounded by glamour and danger at every turn, immersed in sexy style, since “Renee Patrick” is really the nom de plum of noted Seattle film noir experts Vince and Rosemarie Keenan.
Rat City (Curt Colbert)
This hard-boiled detective novel set amid the jazz scene of 1940s Seattle is a stylishly syncopated throwback to the glory days of Hammett and Chandler, but with a unique sense of time, place and voice that gives it a special distinction. Highly entertaining and exceptionally evocative of the period.
A Negro and an Ofay (Danny Gardner)
This young author, a former standup comic, is not only the heir apparent to Chester Himes and Walter Mosley, but the subtle social commentary laced almost invisibly within the beautifully crafted saga of an African American police detective fighting the ramifications of a frame that derailed his career, along with routine racism in 1950s Chicago, shows the promise of a contemporary James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison. Originally published by the short lived Double Life Press, this instant classic is being reissued by Down and Out Books in 2017. Look for it.
Triggerfish (Dietrich Kalteis)
In his third novel, this veteran Canadian author combines familiar ingredients – bitter ex-cop mixed up with drugs, guns, sex and bikers, amongst other embroiling elements – and creates his own unique recipe for escapist entertainment of the highest order, largely due to the intriguing nature of the narrative voice and the spectacularly scenic setting of Vancouver, as well as his own uniquely flavorful spicing, like a sexy animal rights activist…
New Alleys for Nothing Men (Michael Pool)
This collection is an outstanding introduction to the one of the most promising young writers in today’s marketplace, each story concisely crafted like a standalone episode of an award-winning cable crime series, only his voice and imagination are much more inventive and incisive than HBO’s True Detective. That’s because his empathetically emotional rural world is equal parts Raymond Chandler and Raymond Carver, making his people and situations both colorfully eccentric and authentically down-to-Earth.
Route 12 (Marietta Miles)
These two novellas are set in 1970s/1980s Appalachia, and the plights of the protagonists – whether facing polio, complicated pregnancy, or financial desperation – as well as their repercussions prove that true noir is found in every remote corner of the globe, not just on the rainy streets and in the dark alleys of big cities. This author’s skills as a brutally truthful storyteller exploring the darkest corners of the human condition are nothing short of revelatory.
Invisible Dead (Sam Wiebe)
One of Canada’s most commercially and artistically successful young authors does it again, this time offering a sharply observed slice of life on the darker side of Vancouver, as his PI Dave Wakefield deals with not only his own demons, but the tragic anonymity of fringe dwellers that vanish from society as if they were never here, the narrative voice aching with sadness and empathy.
The Selena Series (Greg Barth)
One of my very favorite literary series features one of the most audacious and compelling anti-heroines in literary history, taking on rapists, crime lords and assorted other lowlifes with stylish vengeance. Selena, Diesel Therapy, Suicide Lounge, and the latest, Road Carnage (with more in the pipeline!) are now available from All Due Respect Books.
The Dancing Mai Tai (Darren Long)
The first in a hopefully limitless series of very entertaining eBooks featuring San Francisco private eye Dirk Daiquiri – the second two so far being The Golden Chanteuse of Chinatown and Frantic in the Fog – that are like portable, colorfully ambient 1950s time capsules, organically pulpy and pleasantly engaging.
There you go: ten slam-dunk picks, with ten more equally secure suggestions saved for the next column...
PHOTO: OCEANVIEW PUBLISHING