SHAKEN: Coming in Fall, 2024

If her injury means the end

of what she loves most,

then what’s left?

 

COMING SEPTEMBER 10th!

Be Still My Heart

GREAT NEWS: Four Books Coming in 2024!

 

Four new books? Well, ish.

I’ll explain.

 

COMING APRIL 23rd . . .

BLOOD MOUNTAIN

 

 

Not quite new, but . . . a new cover and new in paperback. Surely that counts for something. Grace and Carter and their dog, Sitka, struggle to survive in a mountain wilderness. Ages 9-up.

A Junior Library Guild Selection!

 

COMING JUNE 25th . . .

SCARY TALES: 3 SPOOKY STORIES IN 1

I’m thrilled about this 300-page collection, which brings together Nightmareland, One Eyed Doll and Swamp Monster in one heart-stopping, fast-paced collection. All for only $8.99. It is literally the deal of the century. Featuring the incredible art of Iacopo Bruno. Ages 8-up.

COMING SEPT. 10th . . .

SHAKEN (Hardcover)

For 7th-grader Kristy Barrett, soccer is life. It has always been at the center of Kristy’s world. Her friendships and self-worth, her dreams and daily activities, all revolve around the sport. Until she suffers from a serious concussion and has to set soccer aside. Kristy begins to experience stress, anxiety, and panic attacks which ultimately bring her to some questionable decisions . . . and the care of a therapist. Ages 10-up.

 

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST . . .

 

COMING IN SEPTEMBER 24th . . .

TWO BIRDS . . . AND A MOOSE!

 

A Level 1 easy-reader featuring an aspirational moose! I’m so happy to have a new book out for the youngest readers. My first at this age level since Wake Me In Spring and Hiccups for Elephant. Ages 3-6.

 

So that’s that.  My year in books. 

 

I’m proud of the range here. A well-reviewed wilderness survival thriller . . . three popular “horror” tales for readers who can’t get enough of heart-pumping, scary stories . . . an ambitious hardcover about a 7th-grade athlete whose life spirals after suffering from post-concussion syndrome . . . and an irrepressible moose who only wants to go up, up, up!

 

It’s not too early to think about school visits in 2024-25!

 

GOOD NEWS: Coming in August, My First “Easy-to-Read” in 30 Years!

Coming in August, this aspirational moose!

 

This sweet little book, wonderfully illustrated by Abigail Burch, is my first easy-to-read since WAKE ME IN SPRING and HICCUPS FOR ELEPHANT (both sold over 1 million copies and both are out of print). Published those two 30 years ago. It was time.

I like this moose. 

On Watching “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” and David Shire, and a Sneeze, and Chekhov’s Gun

Netflix recently added a bunch of movies from the 70s and “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” caught my eye (the original 1974 film, not the remake). I remembered seeing it in the theater in my early teens. Walter Matthau and the gritty old NYC vibe. Not quite the caliber of “The French Connection” or “Serpico,” but drawing from those same mean streets. And what a cast, in addition to Matthau, there’s Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Jerry Stiller, and more, including Lee Wallace spoofing NYC Mayor Koch. 

    

Anyway, I watched it again. I don’t know that it stood up all that well, but I enjoyed it, partly for nostalgic reasons. It brought me back.

That said: The opening theme, written by legendary composer David Shire, is out of this world good. Brassy and propulsive and energetic, a jazz-funk theme that announces a city that is alive and muscular, gritty and tough.

Give it a listen . . . it’s fabulous. 

 

One thing of note. There’s a moment early in the film when one of the bad guys sneezes and Matthau’s character — Garber — says “Gesundheit.” It was enough of a moment, including that extra beat, that made me think, Hmmmm, why are they doing this here?

I knew something was up with that sneeze.

The film goes on and, wow, again, the bad guy (Green) sneezes. And again, Gesundheit. So not only do we notice it, we notice Garber noticing it. And if I didn’t realize after the first sneeze, by this time I knew for damn certain that the movie would include one more sneeze. A pivotal sneeze. And that it would be how Green gets caught.

(Sidenote: I assume this is where Tarantino lifted the idea for all the criminals in “Reservoir Dogs” using colors for code names: Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, etc.)

Anyway, this is why my long-suffering wife Lisa hates watching movies with me. To the point where I’ve had to promise to keep my big mouth shut. Or else I’ll ruin things by musing out loud on the (obvious!) ending in the first few minutes of a movie. I’m sure other writers, especially mystery writers (there are 42 Jigsaw Jones books, after all, so I’ve learned a thing or two about laying out clues), do this all the time. We notice things. The odd clue that’s put forward unexpectedly, with just a touch too much emphasis. Why have that minor character sneeze like that? It must mean something. Or we know that it will mean something later on.

This is, of course, Chekhov’s Gun. The idea that if a writer introduces a gun in the first act, it must go off by the third act. Otherwise, don’t include the gun at all. Or the sneeze. Every element is essential to the story or irrelevant.

Anyway, the film dutifully gives us that sneeze at the end of the film, as I knew it must.

                           

       

               

                       

 

And the scene was perfect, and waiting for it held its own deep satisfaction. And then we got the film’s final shot, Matthau’s mug, hearing it, and knowing: he’s got his man.

End scene, end movie.

Just perfect.