Summer is a great time to catch up on the books piling up on the bedside table. Because the summer, or at least the early months, can be gray and gloomy in San Diego, here are a few books I've enjoyed or am looking forward to cozying up with during the dark days ahead...
Ocean Beach by Clayton Truscott
When I was in the Navy, Ocean Beach was where the sailors on my ship would go to score speed. The last time I went there with my family, a drug deal was going down in the parking lot. That's the Ocean Beach you'll find in Clayton Truscott's e-book. These four short stories of wayward husbands, drunken taxidermists, malevolent street kids and beach people with nowhere to go capture the eccentric charm and occasional menace of San Diego's most consistently funky neighborhood.
Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk
San Diego writer Matthew Quirk's latest book pits two men against each other in a high stakes game of cat and mouse. One is a former U.S. Navy combat surgeon, the other a highly motivated rogue agent from the surgeon's past with some serious scores to settle. Much of the action in the New York Times bestselling author's latest thriller takes place in and around America's Finest City. Quirk's novel, The 500 is being developed into a movie, and we can only hope that the scenes in Cold Barrel Zero will one day make their way to the screen.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Set in Harlem, Flushing Meadows and Red Hook during the jazz age, The Ballad of Black Tom doesn't have a San Diego connection—unless H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Gods lurk in the kelp beds offshore. Hmmm...The slim little novel uses the situation from Lovecraftís short story "The Horror at Red Hook" and expands on it to present a fuller picture with an unexpected twist. An unrepentant racist, Lovecraft has become problematic for contemporary readers and writers of horror. LaValle's solution is to situate a black protagonist in the middle of Lovecraft's story and violently shake things up.
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
Leave it to Stephen Graham Jones, author of more than 20 works of fiction, to write a contemporary werewolf novel that is both hilarious and horrifying. Mongrels tells the story of a young boy who grew up listening to his grandfather's adventures as a lycanthrope. As the narrator anticipates his future, Jones serves up a harrowing tale with nods to the classics, yet is impressively inventive. Like The Ballad of Black Tom, Mongrels is story rooted in class and what it means to be shunned.
The Other One by Hasanthika Sirisena
Sirisena's outstanding short stories are about Sir Lankans at home and abroad in the aftermath of the brutal civil war that lasted more than a quarter of a century. "The Chief Inspector's Daughter," which is about a young girl coming to terms with the dark realities of her father's occupation, feels like it could have been written by Roberto Bolaño. My favorite stories deal with characters caught between two cultures. In "Treble Seven Double Naught" a woman goes in search of a distant cousin she suspects may have been the victim of foul play by her American husband. "The Other One" describes the fate of a North Carolina cricket team when they invite a young American woman to join their squad. The Other One is easily one of my favorite short story collections of 2016.
Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay (June)
The author of the acclaimed horror novel Head Full of Ghosts about a young girl who may or may not be possessed returns with a tale seemingly ripped from the headlines. A 13-year-old boy disappears after a night out with his friends. The story is situated in classic Tremblay territory: Is this the tale of a tragic yet otherwise ordinary disappearance or is something sinister afoot?
Go Between by Lisa Brackmann (July)
The San Diego author of an acclaimed series of novels that take place in modern-day China (Rock Paper Tiger, Year of the Rat and Dragon Day) is back with a sequel to her thriller Getaway. A woman with a dark past is blackmailed into spying on a political advocacy group that is hell-bent on pushing for tougher crime measures. A novel of political intrigue sounds like just the antidote to relentless election campaign coverage.