We live in a culture that restricts the use of some very powerful drugs. Some of these drugs can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor. Others can only be found through illicit channels. You have to be an adult to purchase alcohol and nicotine products. No such regulations restrict the usage of one of the most ubiquitous drug substances in our society. Little kids can find it almost anywhere. Many adults cannot face the day without it. The drug is caffeine and oh how we love it.

Here's another debut crime novel on the Minotaur imprint by a promising young author. Ausma Zehanat Khan has set her story in the Canadian city of Toronto. This is a story the author felt compelled to tell. The novel opens with a mysterious death. A man has died after falling off of a cliff one dark night. It looks like it was an accident. We know better, don't we?

If I had ever read any crime novels or mysteries prior to 1994 I cannot recall what they would have been. No Sherlock Holmes. No Agatha Christie. I had not even discovered Ed McBain yet. Then I started interviewing authors on the radio. That has changed everything. I started reading crime novels and mysteries and thrillers and now I'm completely hooked.  They are like potato chips. I cannot stop after just one. I have to keep reading them. 

Last summer I spent several months reading an advance copy of this first volume of Stephen Kotkin's planned three book biography of the Soviet dictator Stalin. I would read a chapter then set the book aside for a while so I could mull over what I was learning. I also needed to rest my arms because this book weighs a lot! Stalin, who died in 1953, still casts a long shadow-he had an impact upon millions of souls. Those people that he ruled, that he terrorized, that he killed are nearly impossible to tabulate. My father's parents were among them.

Almost every day somebody will ask me, "Gee, Vick, when are you going to post a podcast link for such and such an interview?" I know, I'm slow. But eventually I do get stuff done. It just takes a while. My 2nd grade teacher Mrs. McIlhon was quite perceptive. She began calling me "Molasses" because it often took me so long to finish an assignment. I always wanted to get it right. She's also the one who ratted me out for squinting at the blackboard: "I think Victor is having trouble seeing. Maybe he needs glasses?" Thanks to her my classmates called me "Four Eyes" after that.

This is one of the breakout novels of 2015. Here's my review which ran in the Cox Ohio newspapers:


In “Descent” Tim Johnston has written a literary mystery that is wrought with lovely craftiness. We can become emotionally involved and will want some of these characters to survive perils Johnston has imagined for them. It won’t be easy as outcomes remain in doubt. He takes us through baffling twists and turns.

WYSO listeners will recognize the calm, reflective voice of Bill Felker. Bill's meditations upon nature and the changing seasons are a long-time staple on the WYSO airwaves and in publications across America. Bill recently published his latest "Poor Will's Almanack 2015." I always enjoy my interviews with Bill because I can usually surprise him with a question or a topic that he probably wasn't expecting. In this interview we discussed Bill's SAD table, a new feature in this latest edition of a series that he has been producing for many years.

Peter James has created a crafty series of crime novels set in the English city of Brighton. Detective Roy Grace is his protagonist in what I like to call his "Dead  Series" because every book has the word "dead" in the title. Grace is a determined sleuth. These books are carefully plotted. James spends a lot of time consulting with advisors, veteran police officers, to make sure that he has gotten all his details right. 

Chris West began collecting stamps when he was a boy in England. A couple of years ago West published a collection of essays inspired by various British stamps. Each essay was a reflection upon the British history evoked by a particular stamp. West knows his British stamps and his British history.

Do you feed your dog canned dog food? Do you ever think that perhaps your dog deserves better fare than that? I have just the book for you. Judith Jones has known and loved many dogs over the course of her long life. Her current dog, Mabon, gets the same food for his dinner that Jones has prepared for herself. In her book "Love Me, Feed Me - Sharing With Your Dog the Everyday Good Food You Cook and Enjoy" the author explains how she came to the point of deciding that Mabon deserved better dinners than canned dog food.