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“All you could ever want from a murder mystery” – Review of Another Number for the Road

Thanks to writer Leigh Verrill-Rhys for this generous review of Boom-Books author CJ Verburg’s new Cory Goodwin mystery!

Featured Book: Review

CJ Verburg’s Another Number for the Road  has all you could ever want from a murder mystery set in two iconic periods of American history: the 1960s: Free Speech, Free Love, Stop the War, Civil Rights and sex, drugs, rock and roll; and 1980s: Reaganomics, Cold War Collapse, Punk Rock, big hair and bigger shoulders.

Rock journo cum detective, Cory Goodwin (who has as many names as identities) goes on a “Magical Mystery Tour,” and then some, to recover her true inner self which has been consumed and subsumed by the demands of her multimillionaire son-of-the-founder-of-a-cosmetics-conglomerate husband’s boardroom betrayal of all they meant to each other as writing romantics who eloped in creative Paris and crashed in corporate necessity in Boston.

Cordelia Goodwin Thorne had many years of protest activism and rock star groupie antics to keep her from sinking into the paradox of her journo daydreams and her cosmetic charity dinner reality.

She joins the “Magical Mystery Tour” when she learns that The Rind is the mystery band—a group she interviewed for a magazine as a teenager. She aims to rekindle her past admiration for the much-maligned strongman of the band, the appropriately named, Dan Quasi, who, after the brutal murder of his friend and co-band member, Mickey Ascher, takes a runner and hides out for the twenty year hiatus, having lost his wife and his French bit to aforementioned co-band member.

Did this Quasi musician kill his best friend? Or was it the French bit? Or possibly her jilted lover and third band member, also appropriately named, Roach? Or has the mild-mannered Terry, fourth band member, been hiding a violent temper all these years?

The process of discovery is further energized by the author’s experience as a playwright and director. CJ Verburg makes use of the theatrical technique of juxtaposing two scenes on stage at once: flashbacks, backstory, supposition and real time, one upon the other, while skillfully  juggling a cast of characters that would daunt Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffiths.

Another Number for the Road  will satisfy all fans of complex, convoluted whodunits who remember the Sixties with longing and survived the Eighties, Nineties and are in deep with the Twentieth Century.

CJ Verburg signing 2 new mysteries on Cape Cod, Aug. 1-3

C J Verburg, author of the Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod mysteries and Cory Goodwin mysteries, will be on Cape Cod speaking and signing two new books Aug. 1-3:

Bourne Library, 19 Sandwich Rd., Bourne – 7 PM Tues., Aug. 1

Yellow Umbrella Books, 501 Main St., Chatham – 11 AM-1 PM Wed., Aug. 2

Yarmouth Port Library, 279 Main St. (Rt. 6A), Yarmouth Port – 3 PM Thurs., Aug. 3

Author C J (Carol) Verburg lived in Centerville, West Dennis, and Falmouth before settling in Yarmouth Port in the late 1980s. With her friend, neighbor, and fellow mystery fan Edward Gorey, she spent more than a decade writing and directing plays for Cape theater companies from Provincetown to Bourne. Her pivot to crime fiction began with a half-joking “idée du jour” over lunch at their local café. Gorey’s death left that project in Verburg’s hands. The result was Croaked: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery—with a thinly disguised Edward Gorey as a sleuth instead of coauthor. Now Cape artist “Edgar Rowdey” is back to steer the seaside village of Quansett through another disaster in Book Two, Zapped.

C J Verburg’s second mystery series grew out of her dream of traveling to exotic places where she could write novels. Narrator Cory Goodwin is the Boston journalist daughter of legendary New York private eye Archie Goodwin. Silent Night Violent Night finds Cory helping a frightened friend at a science publisher’s posh holiday party. In the brand-new sequel, Another Number for the Road, Cory’s off to Paris on the trail of an unsolved murder and a vanished ‘60s rock band. Another Number for the Road: a Cory Goodwin Mystery is a literary novel for music fans—complete with a live original soundtrack.

Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout – Review by CJ Verburg

Some Buried Caesar (Nero Wolfe, #6)Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout
CJ Verburg

This may be my favorite Rex Stout novel. For one thing, it’s early enough in the series that Wolfe is still regularly breaking his ironclad rule never to leave the house. Here, an orchid show in upstate NY pries him out of Manhattan, proves his horror of automobiles, and lands him at a dairy farm where he’s faced with the murder of a victim already marked for death. Even better, this is the one where Wolfe and narrator Archie Goodwin first meet Lily Rowan. She calls Archie Escamillo (after the sexy bullfighter in Carmen), while entrancing every man in sight; he calls her bauble, plaything, and trifle, while recruiting her to help solve what’s now a multiple murder case. The banter is delightful, the plot is satisfyingly complicated, the cops and suspects are antagonistic but never stereotypical, and I learned a lot about cattle.

View all my reviews

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – review by CJ Verburg

Beautiful RuinsIt took author Jess Walter 15 years to write this wonderful book. I’d have called it something other than “Beautiful Ruins” (maybe one of his working titles, “The Hotel Adequate View”?), because the varied kinds of destruction it chronicles are intertwined with constructive vitality and persistence. Any of Walters’s characters would be easy to dismiss as having ruined or wasted his or her life; yet that’s not how they see themselves, and as we get to know them better, neither do we. Likewise, the story is as intricately constructed as a mosaic; yet it spreads over enough time for the connections between disparate people and incidents to feel plausible rather than ingenious.

I wasn’t intrigued by the opening scenes, in an Italian cliffside hamlet after WWII: a frustrated hotelier, an uprooted actress, a bunch of eccentric villagers, picturesque scenery; so . . . ? Then suddenly we’re in present-day Hollywood, in the midst of a new fracas with a new bunch of eccentrics, and soon I couldn’t put the book down. Clearly it’s all connected, but how? Where will this roller-coaster tale go next? How can it ever reach anything like a resolution?

Shifts in POV as well as chronology continue, each so deft that although I was often jolted, I was never confused. Kudos to Jess Walter for that….and for writing a novel that no Hollywood star or studio is likely to jump on. Unlike the many books that cry out for a movie deal, “Beautiful Ruins” is immune (or at least highly resistant) to film, because one of its key characters is not fictional. From what I know of actor Richard Burton, this is a realistic depiction, both of him as a human earthquake and of the aftershocks he was wont to send juddering through other people’s lives. No one else could have played this role in the story, and who on earth could play him (and his even more famous wife) on screen? Score one for literature!

5 of 5 stars
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Miss the Summer of Love? Get It While You Can

It’s been 20+ years since Cory Goodwin broke into journalism by interviewing Mickey Ascher and Dan Quasi of The Rind at an antiwar march in DC. Mickey’s long dead, bludgeoned with a champagne bottle after a party in his Back Bay penthouse. The Rind broke up. Dan — murder suspect #1 — disappeared. Cory swung a summer assignment in Paris and came home married. Now she’s teaching school, separated, wondering what the hell she’s doing . . . until her old editor at Phases offers her a gig in Paris covering a Mystery Band.

That’s where Cory’s search for lost time collides with Dan Quasi’s.

What the hell is he doing? Is Boston’s onetime rock-protest hero really playing for an upscale networking program? Why would Dan and the other Rind survivors pick the Eiffel Tower, EuroDisney, and a village strawberry festival for their long-awaited comeback?

And what does this trip have to do with Mickey Ascher’s murder?

CJ Verburg’s brand-new Cory Goodwin mystery Another Number for the Road will whirl you back to the best of times and the worst of times: music, love, and flowers / drugs, sex, and violence. The leitmotif is music. This jukebox novel overflows with familiar songs and new ones, including some you can listen to with a click — interspersed with T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and sneak peeks at a rock opera in Fantasyland.

To celebrate this unique book’s debut, we’re pricing the Kindle version at just 99 cents/pence until Memorial Day. Paperback $14.99.

Get it while you can!

Romance, Spring, Recollection, and Flowers

by Charisse Howard

As an avid writer and reader of historical romances, I’m attracted to today’s Thoroughly Depressing Word, shared by BK Magazine (the blog of publisher Berrett-Koehler) from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

Avenoir (noun)*: The desire that memory could flow backward. We take it for granted that life moves forward. But you move as a rower moves, facing backwards: you can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way…

I once blurted out a moment of avenoir to a man I loved: How ironic that when an affair ends badly (as ours soon would), you can always look back to the beginning and spot the warning signs. If only time worked differently, what heartache we could avoid! He pointed out that one could equally well look back to the beginning and spot warning signs in an affair that thrives. Only then we don’t see them as warning signs — charming eccentricities, maybe; signals of our distinctiveness, our unique affinity.

The catch to avenoir in real life is that one is not always the rower. Often one is the lucky passenger in the stern, facing forward, looking at the scenery ahead and at the generous friend who’s pulling the oars.

Spring is a season for looking forward, and also for looking around at the miraculous bounty Nature unfurls every year. I recently had the good fortune to visit San Francisco’s Botanical Garden, AKA Strybing Arboretum, which always — every single time — has something new to show me. This particular day was a cornucopia of azaleas and rhododendrons. They’re closely related, and thanks to creative growers, sometimes you can’t tell which is which.

Their frilly skirts remind me of the young ladies who used to stroll through Kew Gardens, my favorite place to wander and goggle on the other side of the world. I imagine how erotically these blossoms must have charged the mood when two lovers (in the old sense of that word) walked together down a path, itching to brush against each other, yearning to be even closer.

Whatever your own romantic situation right now, shake off your avenoir and go visit some flowers. Revel in their beauty, their magical recurrence, and the centuries of feverish appreciation they embody. Picture the variety of ladies’ pelisses and gentlemen’s topcoats that have set a tremulous barrier between skin and skin. Savor the thousands of romances that have been kindled and fueled by the lush flowers of a garden, or the tiny hidden splashes of color along a woodland path — thousands past, and thousands more ahead. Including yours? Is it time to pick a blossom and inhale the rich fragrance of remembrance? Or offer your flower to someone whose company unfurls your soul into radiant bloom?

 

Of Chuck Berry, JS Bach, Derek Walcott, & Miranda’s Hamilton – Pt 2

by C J Verburg

Part 1 of this post appears on Boom-Books author C J Verburg’s website.

Another great artist died two days before Chuck Berry, at age 87. Poet Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. He was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where he got a classic British education, steeped in Odysseus and Julius Caesar, Henry V and Good King Wenceslas. When I met him he’d moved to Boston, teaching poetry and playwriting at Boston University.

Derek Walcott embraced his identity as a Caribbean writer, but when he won a Macarthur Fellowship, he used the award money to build the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, where B.U. students and alumni could see their work onstage. That’s as crucial to a playwright as keyboards and bass were to J.S. Bach and Chuck Berry.

Whoever wrote the New York Times obituary didn’t seem to know what to make of Derek Walcott: this lyrical lilting Caribbean voice, speaking intricately literate poetry, expressing deep insights about human nature, and also values, in small vivid details of human behavior and the natural landscape. From his poem “Europa” (in his book The Fortunate Traveller):

The full moon is so fierce that I can count the
coconuts’ cross-hatched shade on bungalows,
their white walls raging with insomnia.
The stars leak drop by drop on the tin plates
of the sea almonds, and the jeering clouds
are luminously rumpled as the sheets.


The obituary writer mentioned that Walcott was friends with fellow poets Seamus Heaney and Joseph Brodsky, without apparently appreciating that all three of them were members of an international fellowship of all poets — writers who spent time in the United States, where if you spoke English you could earn money in academia and publishing, but whose home might be Ireland or Russia, Colombia or Peru or Nigeria, and whose vision, curiosity, and reach went way beyond landing a tenure-track job at Harvard.

Poets of the Caribbean: Anna Walcott (Derek’s daughter), Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney

One of Derek Walcott’s many wonderful short poems is “Love After Love.” A number of famous actors have recorded it, but if you want to hear it as it was written, listen to the reading by Jamaican-born English poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. The central image is how you recover from the pain of unpinning your heart and your identity from another person, and come back to where you can see your own self in the mirror again.

That international fellowship of all poets who met at the U.S. crossroads is mirrored in the musical Hamilton, which I saw just before it opened in San Francisco. Hamilton is a breakthrough on many levels; and one of them is showing us our identity in a mirror, where we can see back into history and sideways into the varied national, racial, cultural, and creedal heritage that is God’s gift to this country. A key line is sung by the diverse immigrants who invented the United States: “Just like my country I’m young scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwin away my shot.”

Alexander Hamilton, like Derek Walcott, was born on a Caribbean island. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show, was born in New York’s Washington Heights, but his mixed-race family went back often to Puerto Rico. He understands and uses not just the complexity of American history, but the whole range of American music — rap or jazz or pop, depending who’s singing about what. But the real genius of Hamilton is the mirror that Miranda and his gifted young collaborators hold up to those other gifted young collaborators they portray — Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, the three Schuyler sisters, the Marquis de Lafayette, and a dozen others. Roll over, Beethoven. We belong here too. We are this country. We are your future.

Social Media for Writers, & Building a Wall WITH Mexico

Breaking news: US & Mexico to Partner with Christo on Border Wall

But first:

Always a bright spot in our In box is Bay Area publisher Berrett-Koehler’s BKCommunique. Among today’s high points:

  • Above the masthead, this unattributed insight:

    “The sinking of the Titanic must have been a miracle to the live lobsters in the kitchen.”

  • “10 Ways First-Time Writers Can Get Noticed on Social Media,” a guest post by Emily Sweet, the Executive Director of Brand Development and Client Initiatives at Park Literary & Media, on “The Writer’s Dig” blog by Brian Klems on Writer’s Digest’s website.
  • and this news flash from Entertainment: “Alec Baldwin to co-write book as President Trump”

Speak of the devil: OK, we weren’t listening all that closely, but WOW! What a great idea from the White House! — commissioning Christo to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico!

We hear this grand project will be a partnership between the Mexican and U.S. governments, underwritten on our side by a big expansion of the National Endowment for the Arts. Between artists, construction workers, and the PBS crew filming the whole thing for public television, thousands of jobs will be created on both sides of the border. Income from tourism is estimated at over $100 million.

U.S.-Mexico Border Wall by Christo: a multifaceted win-win in the finest tradition of American enterprise.

Why (and How) to Launch a Book

Here at Boom-Books we’re excited to be preparing for the Spring 2017 launch of ANOTHER NUMBER FOR THE ROAD by C J Verburg. While the manuscript undergoes some final tweaks, we’re asking: How do we connect this unique story with readers who’ll love it?

Book 2 in C J Verburg’s Cory Goodwin Mystery series couldn’t be more different from Book 1, SILENT NIGHT VIOLENT NIGHT. With great ambivalence, Cordelia Goodwin Thorne has quit journalism in the hope of saving her marriage. But on a nostalgia trip from Boston to Paris, where her first overseas job ended with a wedding ring, a reunited 60s rock-protest band sweeps Cory into a deeper, deadlier search for lost time.

Like the Cory Goodwin mystery series, the publishing industry has changed radically these past few years. Even if we were sure what worked for the previous book, which centered on rivalries among New England scientists, would it work for this one? In our algorithm-dominated era, how do you define the target audience for a mystery that jumps from a posh Boston hotel to the Eiffel Tower, a Seine cruise, and a small-town Strawberry Festival? How do you classify a narrator who’s the daughter of a New York private detective, the wife of a cosmetics executive, a stringer for a popular-culture magazine, and the media consultant for an upscale international exchange program?

As a micropublisher, what’s Boom-Books’s best course to introduce this distinctive new mystery to a welcoming audience?

Exploring that question required our own recherche du temps perdu. We started with some good advice posted by blogger J B Simmons in A Successful Book Launch: Fuel To Reach The Stars back in October 2014. Simmons recommends four steps before launch and four more on the big day:

1. Send out advance copies and requests so you have reviews ready to go with the book.

2. Prepare the book’s (& author’s) Amazon page, and use the preorder page to make sure everything looks right.

3. Go on tour: offer ARCs, interviews, and guest posts to relevant bloggers.

4. Set up a Goodreads giveaway.

5. When you publish, buy your own first copy and check it carefully.

6. Announce the launch to your mailing list — your most important step.

7. Use social media to notify the world: only a couple times per platform, staggered over a few days.

8. Ignore the rankings. Start writing your next book.

More insights came from author and marketing expert Beth Bacon in a November 2014 DBW post entitled “Ignore the Expensive Launch.” As Bacon sees it, the bells-whistles-&-fireworks launch we all remember (& covet) from the heyday of traditional publishing is beside the point in the digital age. Now that shelf space is virtually unlimited, authors (and publishers) have time to build their audience rather than try to win it in a single shot.

Bacon describes the yo-yo experience of one author she worked with, whose launch was followed by “two months of sales that barely moved the meter.” The author tried a free promotion on Amazon, which moved books and also — briefly — made her #1 in her category. When sales fell again, she sought Bacon’s help, and they adopted a longer-term promotion strategy.

“Every month, she does a single email promotion, she regularly monitors her customer reviews and author profile and she enters awards contests whenever possible. This steady, consistent plan has grown her sales and keeps them high.

“. . . Low early sales do not indicate a lack of customer interest. All they indicate is a lack of awareness among readers. On the Internet, generating awareness takes time. And luckily, authors have the luxury of time on the Internet because they’re not competing for shelf space there. So . . . instead of worrying about your launch, create a strategy that includes regular, consistent price promotions, positive reviews by influential bloggers and a long list of customer reviews.”

In the 21st century, publishers have finally recognized that readers buy a book because of its author, not its publisher. That revelation has been a mixed blessing for authors. Yet even as publishers happily share their traditional marketing responsibilities, it’s crucial for everyone involved — in a book as in a band — to listen, advise, inspire, and work together.

Up Sides of the Digital Revolution: #1: The Lazarus Back-List (from DBW)

Digital Book World (an indispensable resource for 21st-century publishers) posted this succinct advice in April 2014. Still valuable today.

Three Tips for Monetizing Your Back-List

By: |

Back-lists offer a potential “pool of resources…to mined based on movements and trends in [the] mercurial marketplace” of digital publishing. That’s how Ed Nawotka, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, put it in his introductory remarks at the “Monetizing the Backlist” conference in New York City yesterday. The trick for publishers — and the focus of the day’s talks and panel discussions — is turning those resources into revenue.

Experts from across the digital publishing community suggested a number of methods for doing that successfully. Here are three that stood out.

Related: Selling Back-List Titles? Think Audience and Metadata

1. Free samples: “The way to make money off of your back-list titles is giving people free samples,” said Amanda Mecke, ebook rights and contracts specialist at unglue.it. “You used to be able to sample an entire book in a bookstore when you stood there and flipped through it.”

Not only can replicating that experience for digital content keep readers engaged, it can help them discover things they otherwise might not. According to Mecke, that’s especially true when it comes to back-list titles.

2. Look at the numbers: Publishers eagerly devour all the metrics they can get on best-selling and front-list titles–more often than not, they’re still left hungry for more. The same data-based approach can be taken with back-list books. Neil Baptista, CEO of the discovery platform Riffle, suggests looking closely at the available information to identify “latent demand for a title, then [to] unlock that demand with a price incentive.”

The results of such investigations can sometimes be unexpected. Baptista admitted he was startled to learn that there was an apparently disproportionate demand within the thriller and crime fiction category for Mario Puzo’s The Sicilian long after its original publication. But, given a special price promotion, the book sold briskly all over again.

3. Keep it in perspective: Corey Pressman, president of Exprima Media, put it this way: the front-list is the portion of the human population consisting of celebrities, and the back-list is everyone else. That tiny sliver gets a lot more attention and always will, but it’s still a tiny sliver.

Much the way the digital technologies made it possible for regular folks to raise their profiles and attract an audience, digital publishing–through many of those same technologies–can lift back-list content out of obscurity. And since there’s just so much of it out there, a little boost in a lot of places can make a big difference.

In support of that point of view, Sherisse Hawkins, co-founder and CEO of Beneath the Ink, remarked, “There’s a magical aspect [to] rediscovering something…an emotional connection” that’s absent from the first-time encounter publishers strive to create for readers with their front-list titles. The term “back-list” doesn’t do justice to that special feeling, but it’s one publishers should promote with equal enthusiasm.