Monthly Archives: February 2012

The setting is Naples in Jean Harrington’s latest

“Designed for Death,” by Jean Harrington. Carina Press.   E-book. $4.99.

Naples, Florida is the setting for Jean Harrington’s latest adventure in fiction. After two exciting and carefully researched Irish historical romances set during the renaissance period, “The Barefoot Queen” and “In the Lion’s Mouth,” Ms. Harrington has shifted gears to the here and now. The here is the beachfront condo world of Naples, the fictional but probable Surfside condos where Interior designer Devalera “Deva” Dunne, recently widowed, has settled to restart her life. Little did she know what her new community had in store for her. 

The here and now also means e-publishing . Ms. Harrington’s connection with Carina Press puts her inside of the Harlequin empire. Carina is a division of Harlequin devoted to e-publishing on a large scale. Certain Carina Press titles may later be selected for print publication. 

Jean Harrington’s new protagonist, Deva, is trying to re-establish her interior design career by helping Surfside’s owner, Dick Parker, turn rental apartments into condos. She is also getting business from the new condo owners who are looking to individualize their homes. One of these clients is a tall, striking woman named Treasure, once a regular at the Foxy Lady Lounge on route 951. Deva and Treasure are getting along fine selecting the ingredients for the classic Hollywood décor Treasure desires. Before long, however, Deva finds Treasure murdered in the condo – a gruesome ending to a brief friendship.

Not satisfied with Lieutenant Victor Rossi’s official investigation, Deva begins her own sleuthing, much to the handsome policeman’s dismay. Emotionally vulnerable after the loss of her husband, Deva is suspicious of the advances of several Surfside residents: (supposed) bachelor Simon Yeager, Neal Tomson, and married man Dick Parker, who is Deva’s main source of income. Could either of the bickering partners Chip and AudreyAnn be guilty of infidelity and murder? And what about Faye LaBelle, drag queen extraordinaire, who was once Treasure’s roommate? Faye no doubt felt betrayed when Treasure, his gay lover once named Tom, underwent a sex change operation to become a woman.

Along the way, Rossi discovers that the blood trail on Treasure’s carpet was a woman’s. But does the blood belong to the murderer?

Jean Harrington

Notable scenes in the book include Deva’s visit to the Foxy Lady Lounge, where she picks up pieces of information and witnesses a colorful scene that includes drag queen Hedda Lettuce, Faye’s partner in the establishment.  Another enticing scene is Treasure’s funeral, more like an Irish wake, in which good memories and high spirits help friends and acquaintances cope with their loss.

As Deva’s investigation advances, she is always butting heads (figuratively, though she wouldn’t mind if it happened literally) with Rossi. There are signs that he may be attracted to her and that his gruff warnings for her to leave the police work to him are motivated by something other than professional policy or pride. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 23, 2012 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly and the February 29 Fort Myers edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Jean Harrington pdf

Note: Jean Harrington’s work is reviewed elsewhere on this site. Enter her name in the search box and you’ll find reviews of her first two books.

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Zestful debut puts Lucy Burdette in the limelight

“An Appetite for Murder,” by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian. 320 pp. $7.99.

Part time Key West resident Roberta Isleib, well established as a mystery writer under her own name, has just adopted the pen name Lucy Burdette to launch a new series. “An Appetite for Murder,” which inaugurates the Key West Food Critic Mystery series, is a terrific start.

Hayley Snow, the protagonist, is a darling young woman who is venturing forth to make an independent life of her own a couple of years out of college.

She has fallen in love with Key West as a place to try her wings. Hayley has a couple of good friends who already live there, and she recently fell for a man who asked her to come there and move in with him. On the romance score, the move turned out to be a bad decision, as this aggressive divorce lawyer dumped her within a few months. It seems as if the guy was on the rebound from a break-up when he met Hayley, but then returned to the other woman. In fact, Hayley walked in on the two of them.

To complicate matters a bit (actually, more that a bit), that woman, Kristen Faulkner, comes from a wealthy and influential Key West family. She heads a new venture, a lifestyle magazine named “Key Zest,” and Hayley is seeking the announced position as its food critic. Can she get a job working for her rival? No matter, before long Kristen Faulkner is found poisoned to death and Hayley is the primary suspect.  Was it the key lime pie?

Lucy Burdette

Though the police would rather she didn’t, Hayley can’t help but put her own intelligence to work toward solving the mystery. Her suggestions are essentially ignored, and she remains a “person of interest” through much of the novel. Without an alibi, with opportunity, and with a good enough motive (jealousy), Hayley is a very convenient suspect.

While the twists and turns of Hayley’s investigation provide plenty of suspense, including a threat to her life, her desperate pursuit of the food critic position provides another suspenseful plot. It also provides plenty of interest regarding the restaurant business, food preparation, and even recipes. Hayley is a diehard foodie.  There are even a few recipes at the end of the book!

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 15, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 16 issue of the Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Lucy Burdette pdf


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“Shear Murder” is a Sheer Delight

Shear Murder, by Nancy J. Cohen. Five Star. 246 pages. $25.95.

Nancy J. Cohen extends her “Bad Hair Day” mystery series with this latest entry in which Marla Shore, beauty parlor owner and expert hairdresser, once again has trouble find her. And once again, Marla cannot resist taking a lead role in solving the crime.

It all begins at a wedding. One of Marla’s best friends, Jill Barlow, is marrying Arnie, owner of Bagel Busters, a business located near Marla’s. Everyone at the wedding reception is in a celebratory mood until Jill’s sister Torrie is discovered under the cake table with a knife plunged into her chest. Need you ask who made the discovery? 

Fortunately, Marla’s fiancé – homicide detective Dalton Vail – is with her and keeps things under control until other policemen show up to begin the investigation. The shock of such an experience threatens to overload Marla, who has several other matters to juggle. These include the final arrangements for her own upcoming marriage, handling the bickering relatives, and expanding her business.  There is also a new house awaiting Marla and Dalton that requires a lot of frenzied attention. A great planner and manager, Marla tries to hold everything together while dealing with the irresistible lure of investigating the death of her friend’s sister.

Torrie, who is the fashion reporter for a local lifestyle magazine, has made some enemies. She is one of two women carrying on with the magazine’s photographer, Griff Beasley. Does Hally Leeds, the society columnist, want Torrie out of the way? Is Scott Miller, Torrie’s husband, fed up with her cheating? Is the photographer making a rather blunt choice between the two women? Was Hally jealous enough to murder Torrie? Well, no, because Hally turns up dead soon after. Was there something Griff wanted to hide that both women had discovered?

And what about Jill? The two sisters seem to have been bickering about how to handle a piece of commercial property that they inherited. Torrie’s death could resolve that disagreement in a hurry. Also, Torrie may have had some secret to hold over Jill’s head – something about Jill’s past.

Marla, in her straight-ahead manner, asks the questions that push the investigation along. She does such a good job that someone sets fire to her hair salon! Is she getting too close to the truth?

. . . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 8, 2012 Fort Myers edition of Florida Weekly and in the February 9 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Nancy J. Cohen pdf

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The changing face of classical music

“Driven: Six Incredible Musical Journeys,” by Nick Romeo. From the Top, Inc.  136 pages. $14.95.

Nick Romeo’s interview-based profiles relate heart-warming success stories in an arena in which the odds for survival, let alone success, are slim. These six young musicians come from different walks of life, but each is committed to invigorating the world of classical music performance so that its audience is broadened. Each appeared on the PBS show “From the Top,” which goes beyond conventional performance videos to represent young classical artists as appealing individuals through interviews and life stories. 

Nick Romeo

Charles Yang, a prodigious classical violinist, is also an accomplished rock and blues guitarist. His activities as a crossover artist are one model of how the classical repertory can be brought to a wider audience. Mr. Yang’s personal style involves a degree of informality and spontaneity that vanquishes the stuffiness associated with the protocols of classical performance, building a dynamic artist/audience relationship.

Similar motives spur Greg Anderson, a Julliard-trained pianist, to team up with classmate Liz Roe and develop exciting performance art to go along with their piano duo concerts. They create original narrations to interact with the music. They incorporate theatrical elements into their recitals, adapting popular hits and adding dance and costume elements into videos that have gained enormous popularity on You Tube. Such innovations provoke audience response and even participation. Mr. Anderson’s DMA dissertation at Yale examines the question “What can we do as performers and programmers to make recitals more interesting?”  He and others are “expanding  . . . what a classical recital can be” while maintaining the expectation of superb musicianship.

Nick Romeo’s narrative about soprano Nadine Sierra and the Metropolitan Opera competitions is one of several that track the competitive, high-pressure world of classical performance and the toll it takes on a young individual’s life. Mr. Romeo traces Ms. Sierra’s journey from her childhood in Fort Lauderdale where her teacher recognized her talent to a teenager whose vocal gift developed at a remarkably young age. She worked with the Palm Beach Opera and later trained at the Mannes School of Music in New York with renowned teacher Ruth Falcon. Mr. Romeo builds narrative tension as he traces Ms. Sierra’s preparation for each step in the Metro competition to ultimate success.

In exploring trumpeter Matt Muckey’s path to a seat in the New York Philharmonic, author Romeo stresses the need for an auditioning musician to maintain the combination of calm and focus that makes an optimal performance possible. He also underscores the need to anticipate and industriously prepare the pieces that candidates will most likely be asked to play.  The seat at the New York Philharmonic for which Muckey competed had been open for years, as winners of past competitions were not considered good enough to claim the seat! After Matt Muckey earned it, his comprehensive method of preparation became imitated by others.

Clifton Williams’ story, like all the others, is suspenseful and uplifting. Williams was introduced to music education through the Shirley Abrams Gospel Ministry as a young boy. Soon playing church gigs, he was accepted into Washington, DC’s prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts. His piano teacher recognized Williams’ exceptional talent, especially his ability to play anything after hearing it once. The church music performance style that Williams mastered required improvisational skills and the ability to interact with the audience. Clifton Williams has become a crossover performer, his love of gospel, jazz, and classical music blossoming in powerful and complementary ways. 

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 2, 2012 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Nick Romeo pdf 1 and here: Florida Weekly – Nick Romeo pdf 2

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Naples novelists get Hollywood Nibbles and Bites

Two local authors have had nibbles (in one case more than a nibble) from Hollywood production companies about turning their recent novels into films. The authors, Suzi Weinert and Howard Giordano, have a few things in common. Both found a publisher through the networking opportunities at the Naples Press Club Authors and Books Festival. In fact, both have the same publisher, Naples-based Barringer Publishing headed by Jeff Schlesinger. Also, both have had the benefit of Naples writer and literary agent Carole J. Greene as manuscript editor.

Otherwise, the stories are quite different.

A new Los Angeles production company headed by Rob Goodrich found Mr. Giordano’s thriller “Tracking Terror” by browsing through publishers’ web sites looking for viable properties. When he found, on the Barringer site, the description of a brand new novel that involves a terrorist plan to bomb New York’s Belmont Park Racetrack during the running of the prestigious Belmont Stakes, he and his associates had to take a closer look.  One never knows what first provokes interest. In this case, says Mr. Schlesinger,” it was the book cover that grabbed their attention.” They loved the concept and optioned the novel.

An option is a time-defined exclusive rights agreement. It keeps a book or manuscript off the market so that the option purchaser can move ahead with project development. In this case, “Tracking Terror” is being held for three consecutive 6-month options by Mr. Goodrich’s organization. For Jeff Schlesinger and Howard Giordano, it’s wait and see what comes of the process. The film rights have not yet actually been purchased – that will involve another kind of contract.

Schlesinger is optimistic. “It’s a matter of luck,” he says. “This is just what they were looking for.” He says that Goodrich and his team, which includes Naples partner Bruce Barone, Jr., were greatly impressed by the depth of the main character.

Rob Goodrich has been connected with such recent films as “Zookeeper,” “Never Say Never” (Justin Bieber docu-pic) and Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups.”

Howard Giordano is not surprised that filmmakers have an interest in “Tracking Terror”:  “I always felt the story, the scenes and plot, lent themselves to film. I am a visual person, and when I write I can see the scenes as I form them on the page. There are some great graphic opportunities in this novel and I am certain it would make a riveting movie.”

Already at work on his next novel, Mr. Giordano followed a career in advertising with the position of Director of Marketing for the New York Racing Authority (Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks).  Later, he was president of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation. Mr. Giordano retired to Naples to find more time to writing. The move led him to participate in workshops at the NPC Authors and Books Festival.

In the book’s acknowledgments, Mr. Giordano thanks not only Carole Greene, but also James Robison, the novelist and short story writer who has for many years led Renaissance Academy writing workshops at FGCU’s Naples Center. He also thanks his critique group that included locals Don Wilson, Linda Bilodeau, and Pina Olson.  Coincidently, the room where that critique group met is the same room where Howard Giordano met Jeff Schlesinger.

Has Naples become a hotbed of literary activity? Clearly the dynamic of supportive interaction is alive and well here. 

Weinert (left) with editor-agent Greene

Suzi Weinert’s “Garage Sale Stalker” came out just over a year ago (and was reviewed last winter in FW). Now the rights have been sold for its next life as a movie on the Hallmark Channel as a Hallmark Original Movie. Producer Jonathan Axelrod, best known for the “Dave’s World” series, and Director Michael Scott will bring screenwriter Ron Parker’s adaptation to the 87 million households that Hallmark reaches. These gentlemen all have strong track records in the industry.  Mr. Parker’s credits include the “Joan of Arc” television mini-series. . . .

To read this article in full, as it appears in the January 26,2012 issue of Naples Florida Weekly, as well as in other editions, click here:  Naples novelists get Hollywood attention

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