REVIEWS OF VANITY FIRE
Entrepreneur Fritz Marburger persuades Santa Barbara poetry publisher Guy Mallon to publish singer Lorraine Evans first novel in hopes of expanding his business. Fritz also rents him a warehouse to store the books, which Guy must share with a crooked vanity publisher. Unfortunately, Lorraine reneges on her offer to publicize the novel, leaving Guys business in deep financial trouble, compounded by an arson fire that destroys his warehouse stock, leaving him without any books to sell. The fiasco is further compounded when a body is found in the wreckage, and Guys partner, Carol, leaves him as the publisher slides down the slippery slope of lost integrity in an effort to recover his financial losses. Along with stripper Kitty Katz (an employee of the vanity publisher), Guy investigates, hoping to find the murderer and salvage his career. Fast pacing, a strong sense of place, and plenty of publishing-business details combine with a likable although flawed main character to produce an engrossing read.
In Daniels engaging second Guy Mallon whodunit (after 2005s The Poets Funeral ), an unscrupulous businessman, Fritz Marburger, offers Mallon, a smalltime poetry publisher and bookseller based in Santa Barbara, Calif., a chance to branch out. Marburger is willing to front the money to enable Mallon to publish a romanà clef by Sweet Lorraine Evans, a celebrity jazz singer. Despite the misgivings of his longtime manager and lover, Carol Murphy, Mallon succumbs to temptation and soon finds himself in bed with assorted unsavory characters. When the book deal implodes and a dead body turns up in the torched ruins of Mallons warehouse, the publisher must clear his name by conducting an independent inquiry. Mallon is a sympathetic, flawed protagonist, though the solution is too obvious to satisfy those who want mental exercise from their mysteries.
The latest Guy Mallon adventure turns up the seamy side of publishing and sends Mr. Daniels short but plucky hero on a roller coaster quest to reclaim his soul and his woman.
Mr. Daniel keeps this light and moving. Vanity Fire is good funit never takes itself too seriously, but Mr. Daniel offers good pacing and enough tension to make this an engaging tale.
Lin Rolens, Santa Barbara News-Press
Vanity Fire is truly a suspense novel that as you piece together the facts, you will always come up short. Never ending guessing evolves into utter surprise as you read into the lives of the characters and think you know the answers. The key word here is Think. Fortunately for us, Mr. Daniel knows how to keep you drawing conclusions but never finding answers.
This nonstop thriller will seriously challenge the best of mystery solvers. Vanity Fire is a well-written piece of literature that truly would be a wonderful addition to any mystery and thriller collector.
Guy and Carol think all their dreams have come true as they are suddenly blessed with an offer they cant refuse that will put their tiny, lifeless publishing business into the headlines with a best selling novel and a financial backing. But is the dream for real or does it come with unthinkable consequences?
Peppering the story with absolutely wonderful characters, so well described that you know exactly the type hes talking about, you will enjoy seeing some of the most interesting people youve met in a long time become fully engulfed in a rather scorching situation. Combining mystery, business, romance, murder and some pretty good disappearing acts, you will come up drawing conclusion after conclusion only to read a few pages further and go I cant believe it! as your intuitions are quickly put back on the shelf to rest.
Excellent writing, wonderful characterizations, and an even more intense plot than some of the best mystery writers of todays literature have been able to bring out. Highly recommended for anyone that just cant seem to find a book they truly cant figure out before the end, because I guarantee that what you think is happening, definitely is not!
Beverly Pechin for Reader Views
Guy Mallon is perfectly content running his small publishing company with his business partner and lover Carol Murphy. Trouble comes to the happy couple when retired businessman Fritz Marburger offers to pay them to publish his young lovers book. The author is fancy jazz singer Lorraine Evans. Once Carol and Guy read it, they believe they have a hit on their hands. Marburger is Lorraines agent and together they set up a publicity scenario where the singer appears on Oprah and does a spread in People.
When Lorraine nixes the People article and refuses to go on Oprah, sales plummet. The warehouse that Guy rents from Marburger to store the books inside also has a tenant, Roger, who is running a POD scam and making a fortune. Carol leaves Guy in order to avoid bankruptcy; he goes in on the POD scam with one of his authors. The warehouse burns down and all his books are gone. The police determine the cause of the fire is arson and a body is found in the ruins. Roger has disappeared and Guy intends to find him and earn back his self esteem that he lost by dealing with a criminal.
John M. Daniel has written an adrenaline racing, heart bumping crime caper that has so many interesting plot twists that readers really dont have a clue who besides Roger is the antagonist. What this reviewer likes about Vanity Fire is that nobody can predict what will happen next. This leads to a one sitting reading to find out how Guys problem all turn out.
Vanity Fires a very funny book in which the heros life begins to fall apart when hes forced to share quarters with a sleazy pornographer turned vanity publisher. Daniel is dead on target about what happens when naive writers pursuing the dream (or delusion) of literary glory fall into the clutches of an unscrupulous crook.
Guy Mallon's day is about to get better or so he thinks. Hes a small-time publisher, along with partner Carol Murphy. So far theyre just breaking even but arent worried as they are enjoying their lifestyle. Along comes Fritz with too much money and time on his hands. He offers Guy a deal to go into the publishing business with him and offers to let Guy publish a well-known singers story. Fritz offers him a warehouse to store the books, along with an unwanted partner to split the cost of the rent on the other half of the warehouse. The unwanted partner, Roger, turns out to be a part-time porn publisher, as well as a possible criminal.
Success is short lived when the singer has a breakdown and no longer wants her books sold. Guy is injured by an angry would-be author and a stack of books, the warehouse burns to the ground and someone is dead. Between Guy and Rosa, the lady cop investigating this mess, hopefully one of them will get it resolved and get Guy his life back. Whatever is left of it that is.
A very entertaining read. A quirky and eccentric story with odd characters who make you want to keep turning the pages. Find out if Guys bad luck ever changes for the better.
Last years The Poets Funeral by John M. Daniel was one of my favorites by a newcomer, so its no surprise that the reprise, Vanity Fire is another mystery that I can strongly recommend. Series character Guy Mallon, a publisher, receives a serious wakeup call when his warehouse and stock are destroyed and his girlfriend departs, and thats only the beginning in this subtle, allegorical mystery.
Lynne Maxwell, Mystery Lovers Bookshop News
Five foot tall Guy Mallon is a happy man. Hes a publisher of books of poetry. His best friend and lover, Carol Murphy, is also his partner. Theyre making ends meet. What more could a man want?
Enter the villains and Guys perfect life explodes. A pornographer, his two cocaine-sniffing actresses, and an entrepreneurial retired businessman all walk into his life and refuse to leave. Bad goes to worse very quickly, leaving Guy to solve two murders, an arson, drug trafficking, a car theft and an assault by cartons of books. The police are of some help minimally in Guy's mind.
Vanity Fire moves quickly through lots of action. Guy is the kind of man youd take home to meet your mother. The locales shift from Santa Barbara to an island off the coast of Honduras. This is a good, fun read.
Mary Ann Smyth, BookLoons
The phone rings in the middle of the night. Never good news, right? What if the call was the police, telling you your life and livelihood had just gone up in smoke? Welcome to the world of publisher Guy Mallon, who learns his book warehouse has burned to the ground. Not only that, when he arrives at the scene of the crime it turns out there is a burned body in the wreckage.
Mallon is the brainchild and continuing character of authorand former McKinleyville High School teacherJohn M. Daniel. Daniel is doing a book signing for his latest release, Vanity Fire, at Blakes Books in McKinleyville on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Daniel is the author of eight published books including three mystery novels and two story collections and boasts a line of literary and teaching accomplishments as long as your arm. He and his wife Susan are the founders and proprietors of Daniel & Daniel, Publishers, Inc., a small literary press that publishes several high-quality books each year.
Poisoned Pen Press published Vanity Fire and a sample of the book is posted at poisonedpenpress.com . Daniels style is spare and reads like the best of the whodunit genre.
One reader/reviewer on Amazon.com put it this way: Daniel has transformed the hard-boiled format into the omelet. Reader reviews are a great grassroots measure of a book, and on Amazon, readers give Daniel high marks.
His writerly pedigree is formidable. A Stanford graduate in American Literature, he also did graduate study as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in the Creative Writing Program (those of you who are writers are gnashing your teeth now, I know).
Carla Baku, Eureka Times-Standard
John M. Daniels Vanity Fire tells of a publishing firm which burns to the ground, leaving a body and a total loss. For Guy, it's the end of a career and a lover and possibly the beginning of a new career and encounters with two strippers. Its a Faustian arrangement that blends the irony and terror of murder with a pact that could rescue or condemn Guy in this excellent mystery.
Midwest Book Review