Jeff's Ranch Reading

Jeff and Robert Englund

Author and MG co-owner Jeff (JJM)reads mostly thrillers with well-drawn characters and lots of tension. If there's a supernatural element to them, that's even better.






Jeff and fellow author Robert Englund admire a blow-up cover of one of Jeff's novels at Comic-Con 2009.










Book List
ISBN-13: 9780312622947
Availability: In Stock - Click title for store location.
Published: Minotaur Books, 3/2013
From the very first pages of this debut novel, the reader is propelled through the adventures of 59-year-old protagonist Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent now living in Arizona and trying to enjoy a tranquil life with a new husband and a couple of pugs. When echoes from her past intrude upon her present, Brigid must rely on skills she thought she’d left behind—on violence and dishonesty and a disturbing familiarity with the worst of humanity—to try to put her personal history to rest, once and for all. Becky has created a thoroughly original heroine, given her a believable life and realistic challenges, and written a first novel that reads like an old master’s best. Do not pass this one up.
–Jeffrey Mariotte

11/22/63 (Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9781451627299
Availability: In Stock - Click title for store location.
Published: Gallery Books, 10/2012


That’s pretty much the only reasonable reaction to Stephen King’s magnificent 11/22/63. The time-travel novel nominally focuses on an effort to change the future by preventing Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK, but it’s about so much more, including personal responsibility, the costs (and benefits) of love, the differences between America in 2011 and in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. It includes nods to earlier favorites (including Christine and It), but this one, while offering suspense of the highest order, rejects the supernatural and instead offers an explanation for its events rooted in current theoretical physics. 11/22/63 is a seminal work by an American master at the peak of his powers. Don’t miss it. -- JJM

Feast Day of Fools (Mass Market Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9781451643121
Availability: Not in stock, but can usually be shipped within the week.
Published: Pocket Books, 8/2012
Feast Day of Fools is a sprawling, magnificent beast of a thriller. In it, Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland has to face a rogue’s gallery to match Dick Tracy’s—except that where Tracy’s were all about garish visuals and character tics, each of the foes Hack has to deal with is a fully developed character with his own reasons for doing wrong (usually while believing it’s the right—or only—thing to do). James has created some of the most memorable villains in all of fiction, and in this book there’s a double-handful of them. Of course, Hack has his own demons to wrestle, and  the combination of outer and inner influences ratchets up the tension and suspense to almost unbearable limits. James’s 30th novel just might be his masterpiece. -- JJM

Under the Dome, Part 1 (Mass Market Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9781476767277
Availability: Not in stock, but can usually be shipped within the week.
Published: Pocket Books, 2/2014
At 1072 pages, Under The Dome is likely the biggest book you'll read all year. But reading it doesn't feel like a chore or a long slog. The tension begins in the first chapter and never lets up for a second. Following something like 100 characters, the author creates a realistic, suspenseful depiction of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine, just down the street from familiar Castle Rock, in a state of mortal crisis as it's cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Just about every aspect of life in this strange isolation chamber is examined, all in the service of a story that moves inexorably toward a dramatic climax.

It isn't a perfect book -- I had problems with a couple of major elements, including the source of the Dome itself. But it's a tour de force, and in spite of its flaws, it's still one of the best books I've read in years. Very good King is better than 99% of the best books by most other writers, and this is indeed very good King.

Also Part II


The Cold Spot (Mass Market Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9780553590845
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Bantam, 4/2008
The Cold Spot is a hard-charging, adrenaline-fueled crime novel that roars to a start, races over America's highways and byways, and never slows down. At fifteen, Chase is already a career criminal, a skilled wheelman for his grandfather's crew. Things go bad and Chase heads out on his own. Before racing to its conclusion, the book has been a savage novel of crime and violence, a surprisingly tender love story, and an insightful examination of what family means. Whichever aspect appeals to you the most, The Cold Spot is a hell of a ride.


Duma Key (Mass Market Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9781416552963
Availability: Not in stock, but can usually be shipped within the week.
Published: Pocket Books, 10/2008
While not as strong as 2006's Stoker Award winning, World Fantasy Award nominated Lisey's Story, Duma Key is still a powerful tale of supernatural terror. Injured in a worksite accident, millionaire builder Edgar Freemantle finds his life falling apart as what's left of his body begins to heal. He takes refuge on a Florida island (new turf for the author), where a talent for art he never knew he had comes to the fore. The trouble is, his paintings can not only predict the future but also shape reality--and he might not be responsible for the reality he's creating... Duma Key is precisely 100 pages longer than Lisey's Story, but never drags for an instant, and it reminds us that Stephen King has become one of the finest American novelists, never afraid to take chances or to face uncomfortable truths.

-- JJM

Lisey's Story (Mass Market Paperback)

ISBN-13: 9781416523352
Availability: Not in stock, but can usually be shipped within the week.
Published: Pocket Books, 6/2007
A 2007 World Fantasy Nominee for Best Novel:

It was a long haul--not just because the book is 513 pages long, but because while I was trying to read it I was interrupted by having to brush up on two different TV series, and had to proof galleys for two novels and a short story--but I have finally finished Stephen King's novel, Lisey's Story.

I've heard that it's too long, and can agree with that, to a point. King might have been able to shave a hundred or so pages from it. But to do so would have hurt it, because it's not a book that's about a breakneck pace or a twisty plot (although it does have that). It's a book about a person, who is as fully realized as any person in recent fiction that I've read. Life is messy and complicated and filled with digressions and asides. In Lisey's case, she is missing a husband who died two years earlier, and her life's vocabulary is full of words and phrases that come from Scott Landon, her husband, as well as from the all-sister Debusher family she was born into, and these words, phrases, and stories (Scott was a writer of some note and more success) lead her down many different paths, albeit all of them heading toward one ultimate destination.

It's hard to be more precise without giving away too much. There are characters who want Scott's papers, the incunabula of a writer's life. There is a sister who becomes catatonic. There is the memory of Scott's brush with a would-be assassin. Laying it out in these terms vastly oversimplifies the story, which weaves in and out of itself, in and out of its own history, its own language, our world and another, like the threads of an afghan (an african, in Debusher/Landon-ese).

And then there's the prose. King has always been a good writer. But this one stands head and shoulders above the rest of his books in terms of the sheer beauty of the writing. It's like The Cell, which I considered pedestrian, especially for King, was just a quick keyboard exercise getting him ready to launch into what has to be considered his masterpiece (always leaving room, of course, for a later book to top it). With Lisey's Story, Stephen King should be elevated to the top ranks of American novelists, now or ever.

It's beautiful. It's moving. It's honest. It's about where stories come from and what they can do for (to) us. It's unforgettable.

Do yourself a favor.

-- JJM