The Sopranos Sessions
Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz
(Harry N. Abrams $50)
Spurred on by the 20th anniversary celebrations of what many consider the greatest TV series ever I recently pulled out my DVD box sets (remember those?) and sat down and watched all six seasons. I'd loved the show when it first aired but was prepared for disappointment - can it really have been as good as I remembered? After two months of nightly viewing I can report that it's even better - watching the seasons consecutively reveals how perfectly plotted the shows were - and the first season is one of the best of any drama ever. The authors were covering television for New Jersey's Star Ledger during the show's original run and their knowledge and insights make this the definitive book about the show. As well as detailed recaps of all episodes this also includes a new interview with media-shy series creator David Chase where he addresses for the first time that famous fade-to-black ending.
And most surprisingly, despite the flip-phones, the show hasn't dated a jot; Tony's a racist, sexist and depressed mobster who uses charm and bullying to get what he wants - remind you of anyone? As critic Stephen Whitty has pointed out - "We used to marvel at the world of The Sopranos, once. Now, 20 years later, we live in it."
(Text Publishing $32)
Disher's Wyatt series is one of the joys of Australian crime fiction. If you're a fan of hard-boiled crime they're some of the best around and deserve to be much better known here. Last year his contribution to the genre was acknowledged when Disher won the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award.
This is the ninth book in the series and as a good a place as any to start. Disher's upfront about the influence of Richard Stark's Parker books - Wyatt's an old school thief with a conscience, he has no Christian name, works alone (his jobs given to him by a day-release prisoner) and is a meticulous planner. The plot here revolves around a notorious Ponzi schemer, who Wyatt reckons is about to skip bail with a million dollars in cash which he aims to relieve him of.
(Polis Books $32.99)
With the right writer locations in crime fiction can become a character in itself - think Michael Connelly's LA, Pelecanos's Washington or Ian Rankin's Edinburgh. A recent visit to Miami had me reaching for Alex Segura's acclaimed Pete Fernandez Mystery series, all set in the Magic City. Like those heavyweights Segura, whose fifth Fernandez novel Miami Midnight is out in August, conveys the city's energy and verve while delivering a tight, driven narrative. Throughout the series Fernandez roams America's most surreal city - from the dour Little Haiti to the glam of South Beach and all points between. Pete's a sharp PI who's also an alcoholic trying to stay clean - a stereotype Segura finds fresh angles for amongst the action. Blackout begins with Fernandez in New York but he's soon back in his old stomping grounds, with long suffering partner Kathy, investigating a cold case that appears to have personal connections.
Rules of Prey
(Simon & Schuster $21.95)
Sandford is one of the genre's most prolific stars and this re-release of the first in his Prey series - now up to book 28 - is a reminder of how good he can be. What's surprising is how dark Rules of Prey - first published in 1989 - is. Lucas Davenport, a detective with the Minneapolis Police Department - at least in the early novels - is independently wealthy, good looking and a ruthless womaniser, and all-too-ready to bend the rules when it suits him. The villain here - a serial killer who goes by the name of Maddog - remains one of his most memorable and is given plenty of page time. The other Sandford paperback now in stores is Holy Ghost - is part of a much lighter-toned series (spun off from the Davenport) featuring Virgil Flowers. But Rules is a superb, gritty opener to this much-loved series - and remains one of Sandford's best - just look past its hero's stone-wash jeans.