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A blog about books and other things speculative

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2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History Nominees


The nominees for the 2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History have been announced.

Finalists for 2016 Best Short-Form Alternate History

Finalists for 2016 Best Long-Form Alternate History

The Sidewise Awards have been presented annually since 1995 to recognize excellence in alternate historical fiction. This year’s panel of judges included Stephen Baxter, Karen Hellekson, Matt Mitrovich, Jim Rittenhouse, Kurt Sidaway, and Steven H Silver. Winners will be announced August 20, 2017.


2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History Nominees2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History Nominees
2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History Nominees2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History Nominees

Guest Blog by Ben H. Winters - And His Little Dog, Too - July 17, 2014


Please welcome Ben H. Winters back to The Qwillery. World of Trouble, the 3rd and final novel in the The Last Policeman Trilogy, was published on July 15, 2014.  This is a fabulous series and you should rush out and get all 3 books today! No waiting to find out what happens. You can find the other stops on the World of Trouble Blog Tour here.







AND HIS LITTLE DOG, TOO

So I have to make a confession here, and it’s one I feel kind of bad about, considering how many readers of The Last Policeman and its sequels have told me how much they love Hank’s dog, Houdini.

I never really wanted Hank to have a dog. When I imagined the character I always imagined him on his own, just the determined man and his gun, and a cute little white doggie trotting along beside him never fit that picture.

But best-laid plans, like homework, sometimes get eaten by dogs. (Is that an expression? It should be.)

What happened was, I wrote a scene, about halfway through the first book, with this little dirty scared dog in it—and the only reason was to illuminate the nature of the dog’s owner, a burly thug named JT Toussaint. I thought it would be both funny and interesting for Toussaint to have a small furry creature bouncing around in his dingy ramshackle house.

But then I wrote this speech for Toussaint, part of his long (and successful) effort to intimidate Detective Palace:

“I’m gonna have to shoot this dog,” Toussaint says, suddenly,
absently, matter-of-fact, and stands up. “At the end, I mean.”

“What?”

“He’s a little scaredy cat, this one.” Toussaint is looking down at
the dog, his head tilted, as if evaluating, trying to imagine how it’s
going to feel. “Can’t think of him dying like that, fire or cold or
drowning. Probably I’m gonna go ahead and shoot him.”


After that, it only seemed right, once Toussaint was out of the picture, for Palace—a born protector, and himself a bit of a scaredy cat—to grudgingly adopt the thing.

But then I had to write the damn dog for two more books!

I did some research. I called my brother-in-law, Mike, and asked him all about his old dog, Wiley, and it turned out that Wiley was a Bichon Frisé, and so that’s what Houdini turned out to be. I found myself plotting out the arc of their relationship, Detective Palace and his little dog, so that by the time I started World of Trouble I knew that the first line (prologue excepted) was going to be: “I’m worried about my dog.”

Well, you know how the rest of this goes: I fell in love with the thing. Just like Palace did! I ended up appreciating the authorial challenge of it, figuring out how to register the actions and attitude of an animal in text, how to portray this character who is just bursting with complicated emotions and motivations, but who can’t express them in words. (Unless it’s a dog in Animal Farm or The Phantom Tollbooth, but this isn’t that kind of book).

Here’s the dog, in one of his very last appearances in the Last Policeman trilogy.:

Houdini ducks in and out of my footsteps, snorfeling at the dirt, and I bend and scratch the white fur behind his head, and he growls low and contented.

I’m gonna miss Detective Palace, and a lot of these other characters I’ve been hanging out with for three years now. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to miss that little dog the most.





The Last Policeman Trilogy

World of Trouble
The Last Policeman Trilogy 3
Quirk Books, July 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Critically acclaimed author Ben H. Winters delivers this explosive final installment in the Edgar Award winning Last Policeman series. With the doomsday asteroid looming, Detective Hank Palace has found sanctuary in the woods of New England, secure in a well-stocked safe house with other onetime members of the Concord police force.

But with time ticking away before the asteroid makes landfall, Hank’s safety is only relative, and his only relative—his sister Nico—isn’t safe. Soon, it’s clear that there’s more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it’s up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out . . . for everyone.



Countdown City
The Last Policeman Trilogy 2
Quirk Books, July 16, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

The Last Policeman received the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original--along with plenty of glowing reviews.

Now Detective Hank Palace returns in Countdown City, the second volume of the Last Policeman trilogy. There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over...until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.

Countdown City presents another fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse--and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond "whodunit." What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?



The Last Policeman
The Last Policeman Trilogy 1
Quirk Books, May 13, 2013 (new cover)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
(originally published on July 10, 2012)

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die? Detective Hank Palace has asked this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. Several kilometers wide, it’s on a collision course with planet Earth, with just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. Industry is grinding to a halt. Most people have abandoned their jobs. But not Hank Palace. As our story opens, he’s investigating the latest suicide in a city that’s full of suicides—only this one feels wrong. This one feels like homicide. And Palace is the only one who cares. What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die?

The Last Policeman offers a story we’ve never read before: A police procedural set on the brink of an apocalypse. What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?








About Ben

Ben H. Winters is the author of eight novels, including most recently World of Trouble (Quirk). Countdown City (Quirk), an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, is the sequel to The Last Policeman, which was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate.

Ben’s other books Literally Disturbed (Price Stern Sloan), a book of scary poems for kids; the New York Times bestselling parody novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Quirk); and a novel for young readers, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman (HarperCollins), which was a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2011 as well as an Edgar Nominee in the juvenile category.

Ben has also written extensively for the theater, and was a 2009-2010 Fellow of the Dramatists Guild; his plays for young audiences include The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, A (Tooth) Fairy Tale and Uncle Pirate and his plays for not-young audiences include the 2008 Off-Broadway musical Slut and the “jukebox musical” Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, which is produced frequently across the country and around the world. Ben’s journalism has appeared in The Chicago Reader, The Nation, In These Times, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and lots of other places.

Ben grew up in suburban Maryland, went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, and has subsequently lived in six different cities—seven if you count Brooklyn twice for two different times. Presently he lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife Diana, a law professor, and their three children.

Website  ~  Twitter @BenHWinters  ~  Facebook  ~  The Last Policeman on Facebook



2013 Philip K. Dick Award - Winner

The Philip K. Dick Award  award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society. The ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society.

The nominees for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award::


The winner was announced on April 18th at Norwescon:

Countdown City
Ben H. Winters
The Last Policeman 2
Quirk Books, July 16, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages


2013 Philip K. Dick Award - Winner
The Last Policeman received the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original--along with plenty of glowing reviews.

Now Detective Hank Palace returns in Countdown City, the second volume of the Last Policeman trilogy. There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over...until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.

Countdown City presents another fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse--and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond "whodunit." What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?



Interview with Ben H. Winters - July 23, 2012

Please welcome Ben H. Winters to The Qwillery. Ben's most recent novel is The Last Policeman, a police procedural set 6 months prior to the end of the world. The Last Policeman is the first in a trilogy.




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery!

Ben:  Hey, well, thanks for having me.


TQ:  Writing quirks! What are some of yours?

Ben:  For many years I made my living as a transcriptionist, so I type very quickly. This doesn’t mean I write very quickly, necessarily, but I do tend to bang out the words onto the page at a very rapid rate. I have at various times shared a writing space, and I always wondered if other people thought I was showing off, because it sounds like tappa-tappa-tappa-tappa, ninety miles an hour. Trust me, a huge amount of those words are nonsense, but they do come out fast.


TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers?

Ben:  The all-time favorite is Charles Dickens, the current favorite is Patricia Highsmith. But I could answer this question forever; PD James, Ruth Rendell, George Elliot, JD Salinger, David Foster Wallace, Ira Levin. What writer doesn’t have a thousand favorite writers? Gerard Manley Hopkins, Philip Larkin, Tom Waits. The list goes on.


TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ben:  I don’t care what writer you’re talking to, the answer to this question has to be “some mixture of the two”; the only real question is as to proportion. As I’ve grown as a writer, my level of advance plotting has risen, as I’ve learned that A) knowing your own intentions in advance is more useful than waiting for some abstract force of divination to discover them for you, and B) having an outline does not force you to abide by it.

So what I do is, I have a very strong outline as I begin, and then, where the process of writing reveals interesting information—as it does in that magical way from time to time—I revise the outline.


TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ben:  Finishing. Ideas, frankly, are the easy part. You find ideas in the newspaper, walking down the street, eavesdropping on conversations at the food court. The hard part is once you’ve got that idea, taking it and living with it until you see whether there’s a real story there—and then building it out, adding characters, figuring out the structure, and sticking with it till it’s done.


TQ:  What inspired you to write The Last Policeman?

Ben:  I’ve always loved mysteries set in surprising times and places, or speculative universes, like Isaac Asimov’s robot mysteries, or Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. All great mystery stories set up a devilish puzzle and then present a series of challenges to keep the hero from solving the puzzle. If nothing else, the impending end of the world creates some serious challenges for Detective Palace.


TQ:  Tell us something about The Last Policeman that is not in the book description.

Ben:  In the book, because of infrastructure failure and mass retirements, cellular and digital technology are starting to become unreliable, and will soon disappear entirely. If this scenario were really taking place, this would be, for me, a silver living. I am, personally, deeply ambivalent about our total reliance and obsession with our machines, and it’s fun for me to imagine a world without them.


TQ:  What is the oddest bit of information that you came across in your research for The Last Policeman?

Ben:  I learned a lot of fascinating tidbits about forensic pathology, some of which turns up in the book and some of which does not. Forensic pathologists are incredible. They can tell if someone was murdered or committed suicide based on the angle of the neck bruise; they can tell what drugs someone took, and when, by analyzing a single strand of hair.


TQ:  In The Last Policeman who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Ben:  The easiest was the hero, Detective Henry Palace, once I figured out—after many months of not figuring it out—that I wanted this to be in the first person. Then I really got a handle on his voice and style, and could see and write the world from his POV. The hardest character might have been JT Toussaint, the burly quarryman who was the victim’s childhood friend; I wanted him to be roughhewn and working class, without being a stereotype of those things.


TQThe Last Policeman is set 6 months prior to asteroid 2011GV1 (Maia) smashing into earth in an extinction level event. While you give glimpses into what is going on worldwide, you chose to set the novel in small-ish town New Hampshire. Why did you choose to set the novel primarily in New Hampshire rather than a large metropolitan area?

Ben:  The fancy-author reason is that my narrative conceit required a small-but-not-too-small setting, so I could show how the impending doom affects an “average American city”, its economy and sociology. Plus I wanted this to be neither a big-city crime novel nor a small-town sheriff kind of crime novel.

The real reason is that my brother lives in Concord and this gave me an excuse to see him a bunch of times.


TQ:  Which character in The Last Policeman has surprised you the most?

Ben:  Probably Nico Palace, Hank’s sister. She kept evolving as I was writing, becoming less and less of a zany-screwup type and more and more of a complex human being.


TQ:  Without giving anything away what is/are your favorite scene(s) in the novel?

Ben:  I love the two scenes featuring the Coffee Doctor, a completely ancillary character. Just as Detective Palace is determined to stay on the job until the end, solving crimes, the Coffee Doctor is determined to run his espresso kiosk in Harvard Square until doomsday. If there was any way to write a spinoff of this novel, where people just come in and the Coffee Doctor offers them sage-but-eccentric advice, I would totally do it.


TQ:  What's next?

Ben:  Right now I’m working on two things—the first sequel to The Last Policeman, as-yet-unnamed, and a book of scary poems for kids, called Literally Disturbed. Both of these things are due out in summer 2013, so I better get back to work on them.


TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ben:  My pleasure. Thanks so much for your questions!



The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman
Quirk Books, July 10, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die? Detective Hank Palace has asked this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. Several kilometers wide, it’s on a collision course with planet Earth, with just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. Industry is grinding to a halt. Most people have abandoned their jobs. But not Hank Palace. As our story opens, he’s investigating the latest suicide in a city that’s full of suicides—only this one feels wrong. This one feels like homicide. And Palace is the only one who cares. What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die?

The Last Policeman offers a story we’ve never read before: A police procedural set on the brink of an apocalypse. What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?







About Ben

Ben H. Winters is the author of five novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and the middle-grade novel The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, an Edgar Award nominee and a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of 2011. Winters’ other books include the science-fiction Tolstoy parody Android Karenina, the Finkleman sequel The Mystery of the Missing Everything, and the supernatural thriller Bedbugs.

Winters also wrote the book and lyrics for three musicals for young audiences: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, A (Tooth) Fairy Tale, and Uncle Pirate, based on the award-winning children’s book by Douglas Rees.

Ben’s new novel, The Last Policeman, is forthcoming from Quirk Books in July of 2012; he is at work on a book of scary poems for kids, to be published by Price Stern Sloan in spring, 2013.




The View From Monday - July 23, 2012

Happy Penultimate Monday in July. I spent yesterday at Brass City Comic Con. It's a small one day con, but a great deal of fun. I took many photos. It's given me an idea for a series on Comics in Connecticut featuring some of the comic book writers, artists, pencilers, etc. that live in the state.  So look for that soon and a post about Brass City Comic Con sometime this week.

Also this week:

Monday - Interview with Ben H. Winters. His most recent novel is The Last Policeman, a mystery set in pre-apocalyptic New Hampshire. It's the first novel in a trilogy. The Last Policeman was published on July 10, 2012.

Tuesday -  ParaCozyMysMo with Michelle Rowen. Blood Bath & Beyond (An Immortality Bites Mystery 1) is the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series featuring Sarah Dearly from Michelle's Immortality Bites series. Blood Bath & Beyond will be published on August 7, 2012.

Wednesday - ParaCozyMysMo with E.J. Copperman. Old Haunts (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery 3) was published on February 7, 2012.

Thursday - ParaCozyMysMo with Annette Blair. Annette writes, among other books and series, the Vintage Magic Mysteries. Cloaked in Malice (A Vintage Magic Mystery 5) was published on July 3, 2012.

Friday - ParaCozyMysMo with Nancy Atherton who writes the Aunt Dimity series. Aunt Dimity & the Village Witch (Aunt Dimity 17) was published on April 26, 2012.

Saturday - ParaCozyMysMo with Casey Daniels, author of the Pepper Martin Mysteries. Wild Wild Death (A Pepper Martin Mystery 8) was published on January 3, 2012.

Sunday -We wrap up ParaCozyMysMo with Sharon Pape. Sharon writes the Portrait of Crime Mysteries. Sketch a Falling Star (A Portrait of Crime Mystery 3) was published on March 6, 2012.


There are not many books out this week. Watch out for the 31st of July though!!


July 23, 2012
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
The Drowned World (50th Anniversary Edition)
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
J. G. Ballard SF



July 24, 2012
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Best Served Cold (h2tp)
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Joe Abercrombie F
Thirteen
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Kelley Armstrong UF - Women of the Otherworld 13
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling (d)
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Michael Boccacino G
Tiger Bound
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Doranna Durgin PNR - Sentinels 4
Dragon Justice
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Laura Anne Gilman UF - Paranormal Scene Investigations
Dead Man Vol 3
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Lee Goldberg
William Rabkin
H
Secrets of the Wolves (h2tp)
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Dorothy Hearst F - Wolf Chronicles 2
Technomancer
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
B.V. Larson UF - Unspeakable Things 1
11/22/63 (h2emm)
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Stephen King AH
Seduced by Blood
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Laurie London PNR - Sweetblood 4
Darksiders: The Abomination Vault
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Ari Marmell F
The Legend of Sigmar
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Graham McNeill F - Time of Legends Omnibus
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
John Jackson Miller SF
There But For The (h2tp)
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Ali Smith UF
The Covert Wolf
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Bonnie Vanak PNR - Phoenix Force



July 27, 2012
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Galactic Creatures
The View From Monday - July 23, 2012
Elektra Hammond (ed) SF


d - Debut
h2emm - Hardcover to Enhanced Mass Market Paperback
     (larger than a standard Mass Market Paperback)
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperbacl

AH - Alternate History
F - Fantasy
G - Gothic
H - Horror
PNR - Paranormal Romance
SF - Science Fiction
UF - Urban Fantasy

Release Day Review - Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters - 4 Qwills

Bedbugs
AuthorBen H. Winters
Format:  Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher:  Quirk Books (September 6, 2011)
Price:  $14.95
Language:  English
Genre:  Horror
ISBN: 9781594745232
Review Copy:  Provided by Publisher

Cover and description:

Alex and Susan Wendt are the perfect couple in search of the perfect brownstone-and they find their dream house in the heart of Brooklyn Heights. Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric, and the handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the previous tenants. But the rent is so low, it's too good to pass up!

Big mistake: Susan soon discovers that the brownstone is crawling with bedbugs . . . Or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. Exterminators search the property and turn up nothing. Neighbors insist the building is clean. Susan fears that she's going mad-but as the mysteries deepen, a more sinister explanation presents itself: She may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from hell.

An understated horror story filled with loving references to Rosemary's Baby and other classic tales of urban paranoia, Bedbugs will keep your skin crawling into the wee hours of the night.






My thoughts:

I opened Ben H. Winters newest novel, Bedbugs, with a great deal of trepidation. I live not so far from New York City (NYC). I've been hearing about the bedbug 'problem' there for a while. I generally don't stay overnight in NYC despite the assurances that New York hotels post that they are bedbug free. All it takes is one bedbug hitchhiker on my suitcase or in my clothes and I could end up with an infestation. No one wants that. Not me, not the Wendts of the novel.

Bedbugs is the story of Susan and Alex Wendt and their new apartment. Susan is the main character. She's a would-be artist and is just the tiniest bit paranoid. She looks for meanings behind things that may or may not be there. Her husband, Alex, is a nice guy who is somewhat distracted by his business. They have a daughter Emma. They are a happy couple. They move from a cramped apartment to a 2 floor apartment in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. The rent is affordable. It's almost too good to be true. Cue creepy music!

Is Susan being attacked by bedbugs, is she crazy or is it something else altogether? Alex clearly loves his wife and wants the best for her, but with the distractions of work he's not always there for her. This only serves to feed her growing paranoia. While reading, I felt, like Susan, that something was going terribly wrong. But while I had an inkling of what it might be, I did not guess what was going to happen.

Bedbugs is fast moving story that slowly ratchets up the tension and fear. This is subtle horror to a point. As we get to the end of the story and things become clear, the subtleties drop away.  I really enjoyed the writing. While far from sparse, the story is told as compactly as possible. There are no excesses to bog things down. Bedbugs reaches a satisfying conclusion, but I feel that the end came with a question mark for Susan. Is this truly over? Bedbugs may make you want to boil your sheets and clothes, but it's a book you will not be able to put down.

I give Bedbugs 4 Qwills.

2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History NomineesGuest Blog by Ben H. Winters - And His Little Dog, Too - July 17, 20142013 Philip K. Dick Award - WinnerInterview with Ben H. Winters, author of The Last Policeman and Countdown City - July 12, 2013Interview with Ben H. Winters - July 23, 2012The View From Monday - July 23, 2012Release Day Review - Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters - 4 Qwills

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