Tuesday, October 11, 2016

HELL FIRE :: Karin Fossum

"It was always the small things, the links between people and where they could lead."

Karin Fossum is one of crime fiction's gems, and Hell Fire continues the stellar Inspector Konrad Sejer series set in her native Norway. By all accounts, Bonnie Hayden is simply a single mother eking out a living as a caretaker, beloved by her elderly clientele. But someone was enraged enough to butcher Bonnie and her young son in an abandoned camper, and Inspector Sejer must apprehend the monster with little in the way of evidence.

Alternating between the investigation and the months before the murders, Sejer's perspective is deftly woven with those of Bonnie and the Malthes, Mass and her co-dependent twenty-one-year-old son Eddie. Eddie, though not formally diagnosed, is troubled and obsessed with death. He searches the internet for execution methods, dreams of frying newborn chicks and tries desperately to find his father's grave. A connection between the families may begin to seem ominously obvious, but Fossum is crafty enough to create doubt.

Fossum doesn't normalize violence, and while Sejer takes a secondary role in the plot, he is used effectively to show the impact of brutality on those in its wake. Hell Fire is more a compelling study of character and hardscrabble living than a strict procedural, and even the most dismal scenes and mundane tasks are absorbing. The plot is a tight, slow burn that details the hardships of two mothers and their sons, putting them through the wringer as the date of the murders approaches and their lives intersect.

STREET SENSE: Hell Fire reads like a documentary view of life on society's fringes. I appreciated Fossum's real-world view. There are no superheroes here, no fantastical discovery or event that makes this story sensational. It's gritty reality, from both ends of the murder. This is the first of Fossum's Inspector Sejer series that I've read, but it certainly won't be the last.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: Bonnie looked at his large white ear, and thought suddenly that it reminded her of a beautiful conch shell. She wondered, if she put her ear to his, whether she would hear the sound of his long life. Which was over now.

COVER NERD SAYS:  Hell Fire's cover is somewhat plain and basic, yet the fire image remains provocative. I think Fossum's name might be the biggest draw here, so couldn't argue with a larger font on that front, even though I really like the way her name sits on this cover. The fiery image alone would probably get me to pick this one up, but wouldn't be enough to get me to purchase it without knowing more.

A version of this review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

BLOOD WEDDING :: Pierre Lemaitre

"I am afraid. The dead are surfacing. In the darkness. I can count them one by one. In the darkness, I see them sitting at a table, side by side. In the darkness."

Pierre Lemaitre has one of the most wonderfully twisted minds of crime fiction and the psychological thriller. On the heels of his award-winning Commandant Verhoeven trilogy (Alex, Irene and Camille, two of which won the prestigious CWA International Dagger Award), Lemaitre has written a tremendous standalone novel in Blood Wedding.

Sophie Duguet is losing her mind. She's forgetting things (where she parked her car, the date she and her husband have theater tickets, items she put in her purse while shopping), becoming uncharacteristically unreliable, and spiraling into depression and paranoia. Worse, the visions she has of hurting people start playing out in real life.

When the bodies connected to Sophie start adding up, she goes on the run, changing her name and location repeatedly to stay ahead of the authorities. Safety is hard to come by when she doesn't understand what she's running from, but as Sophie looks back she begins to figure out she’s up against more than her own mind. Unsettling and smart, Blood Wedding is intricately plotted along parallel timelines, and the screws tighten skillfully as Lemaitre winds through Sophie’s nightmare and toward the ultimate reveal.

Lemaitre's work is inspired and disturbing and can't be trusted. With precise yet elegant prose, he manipulates and unnerves. Like Sophie, the only thing the reader can be sure of is that things aren’t what they seem. Although Lemaitre’s work is not normally for the faint of heart, Blood Wedding is more about psychology than violence and thus relatively safe for the squeamish.

STREET SENSE: If you are a fan of the psychological thriller, of being held in suspense along with your protagonist and not knowing what's happening under the surface, grab this one. If you like a bit of twisted with your thriller, grab this one. Lemaitre is a master. If you're into crime fiction, read the trilogy. Read any Lemaitre, an author this good should be more well-known here in the U.S.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  Sophie never measures the years since she first went mad. It goes back too far. Perhaps because of the anguish involved, she feels the years count double. It began as a gradual descent, but as the months passed she be an to feel she was on a toboggan, hurtling downhill. Sophie was married then. It was a time before...all this...A therapist suggested a spell in the hospital. She refused, until death arrived, uninvited, to join her madness.

COVER NERD SAYS:  Lemaitre's covers are usually quite simple, a single image against a dark background. I'm not a huge fan of the single flower covers, which seem to have flooded the cover market as of late. However, I do like the fact that this dark red rose is tinged with black, and I love what they've done with Lemaitre's name. Overall I think the cover is ominously effective, I just wish the image was something other than a flower.

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Tom Rinaldi's The Red Bandanna is ample evidence that compelling stories remain to be told fifteen years after September 11, 2001. Following the attacks, survivors mentioned a man wearing a red bandanna who repeatedly led others to safety only to go back up into the inferno. They didn't know who he was, only that he saved their lives. One woman read about that man and knew she had found her son.

This remarkable story of selflessness is that of 24-year-old Welles Crowther, who dreamed of being a firefighter and carried that bandanna every day since he was 7. It is a story about what defines September 11--acts of compassion, sacrifice and heroism. It is the story of an extraordinary young man, those he left behind and the lives he saved, now forever bound by the man in the red bandanna.

During President Obama's speech at the 2014 memorial museum dedication, he shared a story of heroism and mentioned one name. That name was Welles Crowther. Reading Welles' story reminds us to bear witness, that in times of tragedy, heroes are among us, and perhaps even inside us.

Rinaldi, a reporter for ESPN, writes in a straightforward manner which feels rather staid for the first portion of the book. But as the story shifts to 9/11 and beyond, that tone is perfect, allowing the facts to communicate the drama without becoming overwrought. Grab a blanket, you're going to suffer more than one case of the chills as you work through this one.

STREET SENSE:  It's the emotion Rinaldi evokes that makes this a recommended read. And while one could argue any story of 9/11 would be evocative, a great story still needs a great teller with the right tone. Stick through the first half of background, the payoff is well worth it.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  Young sat for what she believed was ten minutes, perhaps longer, paralyzed by fear. Then she heard a voice calling out, clear and strong. Instantly she turned toward the sound. "I found the stairs," the voice said. "Follow me. Only help the ones that you can help. And follow me."

COVER NERD SAYS:  I've never been a huge fan of the bandanna. If I hadn't known what this book was about, hadn't seen the subtitle (A life. A choice. A legacy.) I might have passed it by altogether. Perhaps if I was really perusing the bookstore shelves or tables the title might have intrigued me, but it wouldn't have been in the first group of books I went for. Now that I've read it, of course, the cover couldn't be anything else. I'm glad I didn't pass this one by.

A version of this review previously ran in Shelf Awareness and appears here with permission.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Earlier this week, I posted my review of Dustin M. Hoffman's One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist, one of my favorite reads of the year thus far. I loved it so much I tracked down poor Dustin like the weakest wildebeest on the Serengeti to tell him so. He could not have been nicer or more appreciative, and the more we got to chatting I realized I wanted all of you to get to know him as well. So here are a few insights into the mind that wrote the sixteen fantastic stories in One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist.

This is hard cheese right out of the box, but I ask because I'm going to steal your answer. What is your one-sentence elevator speech (it's a short ride) for One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist

Only one sentence!? That’s such a tough one, especially for a story collection when so many strands are at play and…Oh crap, the elevator door is already closing! Here we go: One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist is a story collection about people who work with their hands, people struggling to survive the toughest and weirdest jobs.

Although the stories vary in style, format, voice, and about every way I can think of, they all have tradespeople in common. You worked in the trades for ten years. What was it about that experience that influenced you so profoundly? 

The folks building houses with me had such striking stories, such unique voices, and I spent twelve hours a day working next to them. And I didn’t read about them much—working-class people. So the absence of representation in literature influenced me. But maybe more than that, it was a desire to try and find a greater significance in grueling labor beyond an hourly wage and a house I helped build but would never live in. I wanted some permanent monument for me and the men and women I worked with, folks who rarely have job security and rarely get recognition.

A bit of a chicken and egg question: Did your time in the trades drive you to write about the working class (i.e., did it form your blue collar voice), or did you go into the trades seeking further authenticity for a voice or interest that already existed? If the latter, where did that voice originate?

I got into the trades first. It was how I supported myself for many years and how I managed to pay for a class or two in English or audio production or art history. Once I started seriously writing, I didn’t think that working world would overwhelm my art, but it did. It wouldn’t let go. Still hasn’t. I can’t seem to punch out, and I think I’m okay with that.

Your stories and poems have appeared in a wide variety of publications since 2008 (you can find links to Dustin's other work on this page of his website), and many of those that don't appear in One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist are also blue-collar themed. How did you pick which stories were going to be in the collection? 

It was so tough, and this collection started forming back then in 2008. Almost every single story that was originally in the collection got cut and replaced by a better one. Once I wrote “Building Walls” years later I really started to see what the collection needed to be. Then it was a matter of which stories communicated with that story in the most interesting ways. So I had to find the book’s gravitational pull. The stories that reacted to that gravity stayed. But I’ve always been really self-conscious about hitting redundant notes. I wanted variety. I get frustrated when I’m reading a story collection and I start to see the writer’s patterns and themes and by the end there are no surprises left. I wanted every story to harmonize toward a larger purpose, yet still have the ability to jar the reader at least a little bit.

Of those that were left out, which is your favorite, the one it killed you not to include? 

I wrote this weird story about animatronic president repairmen called “Mr. James K. Polk, Please Hold My Windbreaker” that fit this book’s themes perfectly and it made me laugh. Also, I keep thinking now that my flash piece “Silence in Forty-two” would’ve fit nicely. But those stories will find their place, and I’ve been lucky enough to have already published them with great magazines. 

I'm going to ask the worst thing you can ask a parent and see if you will admit to having a favorite child. Is there a particular story in One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist that is most personal or meaningful to you? 

I already mentioned “Building Walls,” and that continues to be a story I love. My mentor Jaimy Gordon once described this story as a long prose poem, and I like to think of it that way. This was where I think I really found the song in work voices.

How old were you when you started writing and what is the earliest piece you remember? 

Well, here’s the big cliché: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. The earliest piece I wrote is kind of fabled in my family. It was a novel about my parents’ dog, a wired-hair fox terrier named…Foxy. We weren’t the best at naming pets. The novel was called Ninja Foxy and heavily featured a sidekick named Hammy the Hamster (again, not so great with names) who sported a mini missile launcher strapped to his back.

You have some very interesting voices in your head. How many times did you get sent to the Principal's office for your writing? 

Well, never made it to the principal. But for a few summers I went to this summer writers workshop for little kids. They’d annually publish our work in an anthology, and I never seemed to fail at embarrassing my parents. I once wrote a story about my dad crashing his van into the school. To set the record straight: It’s pure fiction. Dad’s a swell driver!

I do have a vivid memory of being in seventh grade and making a joke in an art class about pubic hair. The teacher pulled me into the hall and lectured me about how that was “locker room talk” and I shouldn’t say that stuff around girls. Most of my friends were girls then. And I was pissed, wondering why only boys should hear crass jokes. I think my anger at that point was formative to me as an artist. In the decade following that encounter, I played punk rock and cussed a bunch and pretended to be a little rebel. And then I started making art that transported what that teacher would’ve called “locker room talk” into the open in all its glory and horror. I think there can be poetry in swearing, art in filth and grit and grime and shit—maybe the most interesting, human art—and it’s not just for guys in locker rooms. That kind of gendered censorship condescends to huge swaths of readers, I think.

You currently teach creative writing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. What is the one lesson/manta/motto you most try to drive home to your students? 

There are two big ones for me: 1) Read voraciously. Everything you can get your hands on. Everything people you respect recommend. Stuff you wouldn’t think you’d like, and stuff that drives you nuts with adoration and obsession. 2) Writing is work, and it’s hard. To get anywhere with this trade of threading words together, it’s a matter of coming at it like a job. I highly recommend a regular schedule for writing. If you only write when you feel like it, when the muse hits, you’ll never get anywhere. I don’t think I believe in muses.

What are you reading right now and what's next in the queue?

I’m always reading a ton of stuff at once. I just finished Donald Ray Pollock’s stunning novel The Heavenly Table. I think it’s his best work yet, and I love all his books. I was doing NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names on audiobook, and I adored it. I’ve been rereading it and teaching it in print. Next in the queue is Anne Valente’s brand new novel Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down out October 4th, which I know will be amazing. In the meantime, I have some comfort reading: Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday.

If someone wanted to watch a movie or television show that was akin to the worlds you create in One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist, where would you point them? 

That’s a fun question. I liked Dirty Jobs, which did a good job of highlighting a lot of previously invisible occupations. And I appreciated how Mike Rowe never talked down to the workers, but met them for who they were, skilled tradesmen taking pride in their tough jobs.

I don't believe in guilty pleasures, but who is the author most outside your reading/writing wheelhouse that you love to read? 

I love reading Studs Terkel’s interviews in Working. But if we’re really talking guilty here, I love baseball history. Most of all statistics. I could look up numbers on Baseball-Reference.com for hours. There are such stories in those numbers. So boring and nerdy, right?

I'll pick up whatever you write next regardless of what it is, but tell us a little about a project you're currently working on. 

Thanks so much for saying that, Lauren.

I just finished a novel tentatively called No City, Michigan, which is set in my hometown. It’s kind of a love triangle story between these kids named Tack, Hector, and April. It’s about being dangerously cooped up in a small town in the dead of a Michigan winter. It’s my first real stab at a novel. Though sometimes I think of it as a really long short story that’s still doing all the things I dig about stories: unified effect and all. Maybe the novel let me play with point of view and structure more than I could’ve with a story. That was a lot of fun and really damn frustrating at the same time.

*  *  *

Thanks to Dustin for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully. If what I tell you about One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist doesn't get you to read it, I can't believe this quote won't:

"I think there can be poetry in swearing, art in filth and grit and grime and shit—maybe the most interesting, human art—and it’s not just for guys in locker rooms."

Dustin gets it. And I can't be the only one clamoring for the publication of Ninja Foxy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I didn't know anything about this book or its author when I spied the cover while perusing upcoming releases several months ago and it immediately jumped out at me. Once I cracked the cover it didn't take me long to realize I'd happened upon something special.

One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist is one of those reads that makes you want to scream about it from the rooftops immediately upon finishing. It also makes you want to contact the author to thank them. Which I did, and discovered that Dustin M. Hoffman is as much a gem as his book. Dustin was even nice enough to sit down and answer some questions in an interview that will run later this week.

Hoffman has one of the most extraordinary voices I've read in a long while. To be more accurate, he has many voices, as evidenced in the sixteen distinct stories in this debut collection. They are wonderful and weird and gross and gritty and ingenious. Some made me swear out loud in the best possible way, others simply left me silent with awe. Although the blue collar theme is carried throughout, each piece stands alone with a unique voice.

This collection is going to be a favorite of mine for 2016 and I'm now on the lookout for whatever Dustin has coming. I hope you'll pick up a copy. What follows is a version of the review that previously ran in Shelf Awareness:

"Life is full of lemon givers, and a smart man takes his fate and makes more than just complacent lemonade."

Dustin M. Hoffman's One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist is an ode to the men and women who are handed lemons on a regular basis--blue collar workers. The working class is often invisible and forgotten, folks trying to make their way despite the pressures exerted from above and at home, often under dismal circumstances. It is these pressures and circumstances Hoffman depicts so superbly over the course of sixteen stories.

Hoffman painted houses for ten years, but it is his craftsmanship with the written word that infuses these stories with atmosphere often visceral to the point of gut-knotting. From the commission salesman stressed to make sales so his manager's children can eat, to the ice cream truck driver who, despite beatings from rival thugs, keeps going to save money for his estranged children, to the hardscaping crew driven to violent conflict after a verbal sparring session gone awry, Hoffman shines a light on some dark slices of life in the trenches.

These are not easy stories. They are in turn crude, violent, outlandish, harsh and sometimes outright bizarre. But Hoffman deftly paints them with lines of beauty, determination and subtle humor that keep them from devolving into an exercise in depression. They are as varied as the trades they depict, but across the board they are engaging, bursting with authenticity, and often just plain brilliant.

STREET SENSE: Winner of the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, this nifty set of sixteen short stories takes a compelling trip through the pressure-cooker world of the blue-collar worker. Several of these stories blew my socks off. Highly recommended.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: I could type passages most of the day and not tire of re-reading them. This was a difficult choice. Hoffman is my favorite kind of writer - one who can write a glorious run-on and also express an idea in one short sentence. I picked the first quote because it was one (the first line of the second story) that really had me feeling I was in for something special:

We backhoed a gash through the silky sod, brown like a week-old scab, red at the center. That hole in the Glavine family's front lawn was a big dig, so deep it split us into pieces, and we were never right again.

And then there was this little line, almost a throwaway, that the woodworker in me adored:

Ramon's bare torso is so thin, as if God ran him through the planer.

COVER NERD SAYS: So simple, yet so effective. Many covers that go for simplicity miss the mark and end up looking like something thrown together over a kitchen table at midnight. Not so here. I saw this cover and was so intrigued by the title and imagery I knew I had to read it. Who doesn't want to know about a one-hundred-knuckled fist? This one goes in the big win basket as far as covers are concerned. Well done.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


"As he slept, he dreamt of dying. Of rebirth."

The second entry in Chris Holm's Michael Hendricks series, Red Right Hand, comes out next month (September 13, to be exact), and as a brief reminder of Hendricks's first outing (if you've read it) or precursor (if you've not), I thought this would be a good time to talk a bit about The Killing Kind.

Hendricks is a former military man who believed in the romantic notion that God and country were worth fighting and killing for. Although his talents as "the killing kind" landed him a spot in black ops, Hendricks is also the sentimental, do-right kind.

Thought dead after his unit is devastated by an IED, Hendricks takes advantage of his newly deceased status to give his beloved fiance the life he thinks she deserves--one without him in it. Having lost his moral center in service, Hendricks tries the best way he knows to atone and balance his accounts--by killing.

Hendricks doesn't become just any old assassin, but an assassin of assassins. He's found a way to identify the targets of hits taken out by various crime families and when his investigation deems it warranted, Hendricks takes out the hitter before the hit goes down. For a price, of course.

When the Council, representatives of assorted New York crime families, figures out what's going on, they do what comes naturally--they hire a hitter to take out the hitter of their hitters. That right there, folks, is what you call a stellar story idea. But story is one thing, execution (see what I did there?) is a whole other target, and with The Killing Kind Holm has perfected his kill shot. (I'll stop soon, promise.)

What follows is about as close as you can get to a perfect thriller experience, as Holm masterfully wields every weapon (so I lied) in his writing arsenal. There are some truly clever f'ing moments in this novel, but they never come close to annoying or sanctimonious. I experienced several instances of "Oh damn, that was crafty." Holm uses every element of storytelling to his advantage.

Case in point, The Killing Kind's secondary and one-off characters. Particularly the (assumed) one-offs, who Holm uses artfully to set a scene or transition the plot. This runs the danger of becoming tedious filler, but it's done so well here that you're glad you've spent even a few pages or paragraphs with these characters, who meld so seamlessly into the rest of the story you don't even realize they were background. And in a book filled with hitmen, it's no small feat to make each one unique and interesting in their own right.

The scene-setting is fantastic. At different times I felt immersed in the sweltering heat of Miami (holy hell, Florida, I really don't think I want to visit you), a barbershop that had me stepping into 1953, a casino showroom, and a Southern California playground-cum-drug dealer's paradise. As a really tough audience for scene-setting work (I'm a little impatient to get on with it), these hit the sweet spot.

The Killing Kind has been nominated for just about every award the mystery community has to offer (Macavity, Anthony, Barry and Lefty), and rightfully so (it's also based on an Anthony-nominated short story, The Hitter, which you can find in this issue of the fabulous Needle Mag). The plotting is a jigsaw with no bent corners, no last piece you have to jam in to make it fit. It flows at a perfect pace while still providing flesh and detail that make the whole more special and never feel superfluous.

Holm gets 1,000 bonus points from me for using Robert McCall as a pseudonym for Hendricks at one point, whether or not his intent was to evoke The Equalizer (only one of the best characters in television crime fiction evah).

STREET SENSE:  More than worthy of all the nominations it has garnered, The Killing Kind is written with the leanness of a crime writer but the soul of a romantic. Now is the best time to pick up a copy, as you can slide right into Red Right Hand come September 13.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  The booze had eaten through his stomach, his marriage, and his reputation, etching its mark deep into the lines of his face, into the broken corpuscles draped like lace across his nose and cheeks. It drove away his wife and friends, and left his children flinching every time the phone rang, not knowing if the voice at the other end would be that of their maudlin old man, or the inevitable rote sympathy of some faraway police officer, informing them they needn't flinch any longer.

COVER NERD SAYS: This is a great cover, despite the fact that the image looks disconcertingly like Chris himself. Even more so on the paperback edition, which makes me wonder if Mulholland has some genius cross-career plans for him (but which had nothing to do with the views expressed here). The Killing Kind's cover is lean and clean and representative without being testosterone-laden, which would have been an easy line to cross given the subject matter. (And psst, have you gotten a gander at the cover of Red Right Hand? Take a look at this beauty and tell me you don't want to get a copy just to hang on your wall.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


"On the run. Fugitives. An ex-hitman and an orphan girl."

Lars and Shaine are back! Two years following the escapades that brought them together in Eric Beetner's The Devil Doesn't Want Me, the pair has carved out a nice quiet life in Hawaii. They escaped the mainland with very little, but have a cool million in the bank and spend their days surfing, home schooling and firearm training. Lars may be retired, but he wants Shaine to be prepared, just in case.

Did I say "retired?" Ha. We all know better than that, right? Eric might write a lot of great things, but the only type of retirement he writes has some serious finger quotes around it. When former employer Nikki Senior calls asking Lars for "one last favor," the qualities that make an excellent hitman a questionable hitman kick in. Loyalty and conscience have Lars heading back to the mainland, Shaine at his side. One quick hit. In and out, no problem, done forever.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy, especially in a Beetner novel. Soon enough, Lars and Shaine are caught up in mobster hijinks, personal vendettas, ghosts of Lars's past and the FBI net that Nikki has used to try and protect himself by turning on his former associates and going into witness protection. And while Lars may have loyalty to Nikki, Shaine has nothing but revenge on her mind when it comes to the man who ordered her father killed.

A  slim volume at 224 pages, When The Devil Comes to Call is what we've all come to expect from Eric - fast-paced, tightly-plotted shenanigans that always entertain, even when everything is covered in brains, blood and putrefying corpses. It's a fast run through a gritty world that makes mayhem and violence the norm.  

Book 2 in the Lars and Shaine saga digs into Lars's past in a new and somewhat unexpected way and introduces some great new characters that a girl can only hope she gets to revisit in further entries to this shotgun blast of a series.

STREET SENSE:  If you like high-octane crimefests with plenty of gun play and action to burn, When the Devil Comes to Call is definitely recommended, along with Eric's other work. Best get ready for the next installment in the McGraw series by reading Rumrunners (if you haven't already, and if you haven't already I'm not even sure what to do with you) before Leadfoot comes out in November.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  Lars had suffered a broken heart. Shaine knew he had one, she wouldn't be alive if he didn't, but she always thought of his heart as solid, like polished marble. She didn't consider it had a warm, gooey center. And this Lenore, she turned his heart hard, calcified and carved with her initials.

COVER NERD SAYS: 280 Steps does a great job with its covers, and When the Devil Comes to Call is no exception. Although all the covers have a similar feel, they are also relevant to the content, and this cover aptly depicts all the pulpy innards.

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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