Before Portlandia made my hometown’s quirks the object of loving ridicule, the most common complaint against the city was the rain. Fair. But in Portland, the rain is more ambient than pounding, surfaces reflecting the opalescent sky. Elliott Smith is the soundtrack to a wet Portland day–and he’s still in my head on green-gray day in New York. This October marks the 10-year anniversary of Smith’s death, and there’s a new biography: “Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith,” by William Todd Schultz. What is the thing that Smith had that we haven’t heard since? I asked Schultz to propose a few theories why Elliott Smith is still in our heads.
Drilled to the wall through the heart. Beaten and drowned in a river by droids. Stabbed through the heart with a stiletto. Poisoned with a pie. Suicide by hanging, induced by mind controlling virtual-reality goggles. Raped, sodomized and strangled with a Christmas garland. Bled by artificial vampire fangs. Bludgeoned with a Maltese Falcon statue. These are just some of the deaths in J.D. Robb’s bestselling series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke: “In Death.” Robb’s latest installment, “Thankless in Death,” is her 46th in the series, and by now Eve has dealt with a lot of creative carnage. Here, we pay tribute to the thrillers that have given us the ghastliest murderers and the most deranged demises that fiction has to offer, from Sherlock Holmes to Stephen King.
Still, we can’t help but wonder… so I asked David Gilbert, Ramona Ausubel, Toby Barlow and Teddy Wayne to offer their Thomas Pynchon conspiracy theories. Pilot? Pot Smuggler? Sounds plausible to me.
With the final season of “Breaking Bad” ramping up, we’re eager to see just how far down the road to perdition Walter White will go. Walt’s turn to the dark side has plenty of literary precedence–from Macbeth to Jack Torrance in “The Shining” and “Gone Girl” Amy Dunne.
Stephen King and John Grisham give fans sequels to their early classics; Lee Child, Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly all introduce new installments in their iconic thriller series; patriarch of the legal thriller Scott Turow has a new standalone novel and William Boyd reinvents James Bond–plus two novels starring identical twins and two new books that could be the next film vehicles for Matthew McConaughey.
This fall’s must-read fiction includes novels set in China, India, London, San Francisco and New York; two exciting debuts by Australian writers; stories from authors who’ve received the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer and more; hotly anticipated titles from book-club favorites including Jhumpa Lahiri, Elizabeth Gilbert and Wally Lamb; triumphant returns from reclusive legends Donna Tartt and Thomas Pynchon; stories of revolutions both political and scientific; hilarious novels about misfired relationships and tomes that grapple with the meaning of life in the past and present.