Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Nairobi Heat coverA dead white woman is found outside Joshua Hakizimana’s house. Joshua is a bit of a celebrity. During the Rwandan genocide he was headmaster of a school, which he turned into a safe haven for Tutsis. The genocidaires respected him because they were his former students. Joshua is the public face of the Never Again Foundation which receives support from many people, some famous, others not.

The case lands in the lap of Ishmael, a black detective in a very white town, Madison, WI. The leads peter out quickly, the racial dimensions take over, the black police chief is under pressure to produce result. The Joshua’ fame doesn’t quite make up for the fact that he’s African and the victim was white and female.

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Red Planet Blues by Robert Sawyer

Book CoverA sci-fi hard-boiled detective story? I could imagine many ways in which this mash-up could go wrong. So I was a little reluctant to read it. Boy was I wrong. This story works at many levels. Like all hard-boiled detective stories, it begins with a beautiful woman entering the PI’s office. Alex Lomax, also known as “double X,” wonders about her because she is a “transfer.” That is, she’s transferred her consciousness to a new, mechanical body. I told you, it’s sci-fi.

The action takes place on Mars in a colony called New Klondike that exists under a large dome. Unlike most sci-fi cities on other planets, this is a scruffy, rough place, full of prospectors who are trying to find fossils of the early creatures that inhabited the red planet. The entire city is a private enterprise, so the cops only get involved if someone threatens the business. Hence Alex Lomax’s detective agency.

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When Elephants Fight, the Grass is Trampled

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The Hachette/Amazon conflagration is an interesting example of what happens when a oligopoly picks a fight with a monopsony. The oligopoly in this case is Hachette, one of the few massive publishing houses that have absorbed smaller publishers over the past decade and a half. In the wake of that acquisition binge, the publishing world has changed dramatically. Gone are the days where mid list authors were the mainstay of a publisher. Yes, there were bestsellers, but publishing focused on a broad range of offerings.

The new world of publishing is bestseller fixated. The corporate model of global corporations demands consistently high returns. It’s harder than ever to find a published and when you do, it won’t offer much in terms of services. That doesn’t matter if you are a big star since you can spring for your own publicist, editor, etc. But mid list authors and those starting out face an almost insurmountable barrier. Does this model generate bestsellers? Not necessarily. Does it generate better books? Don’t bet on it. Fortunately, there are small and independent publishers and university presses, that offer at least a modicum of what passes for competition.

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