Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal

1998 Writer's Market | First Degree Burn | Getting Hooked

First Degree Burn, by Peter Lance

New York: Berkley, 1997.
361 pp. ISBN 0-425-15698-2
Mass market paperback.
Ordering information:

In Manhattan, a sociopathic serial arsonist nicknamed "Superman" torches a historic Lower East Side row house in a horrible act of arson which kills an infant and severely injures New York Fire Marshall Eddie Burke.
First Degree Burn
When he gets back on the job, Eddie is called to investigate another fire in which an art restorer in Soho dies while restoring a long-lost WPA mural. The fire looks like a cover-up for a lovers' quarrel which ended in murder, and the case is closed. But for Eddie Burke it's only the beginning of a deadly mystery as more people die for the missing mural and Eddie is drawn into a spiderweb of deceit and lies. His search for the truth takes him from the dregs of New York's culture to the bastions of the rich and powerful.

Peter Lance, in his novel debut, has penned a winner which sizzles with excitement and scorching, non-stop action. Eddie Burke is a hero for the 90s. Reeling from a painful divorce and fighting to stay out of the shadow of his legendary hero-cop father, Eddie is a complex man with hints of being a romantic at heart whose passion for the truth could easily get him killed. Lance creates equally fascinating female characters with his creation of the troubled art history professor Caroline Drexel and Auschwitz survivor and therapist Dr. Helen Liebman, who becomes mentor and mother figure to the beautiful, rich, but tortured Caroline. Lance deftly plays on stereotypes of the beautiful but weak female leads of older, traditional hardboiled novels and turns the stereotypes upside down. Caroline has reserves of strength that are particularly exhibited in one hilarious scene in the hospital where she successfully does battle with a bureaucratic ER nurse who is more interested in filling out insurance forms than in saving the injured Eddie's life.

Meticulously researched and written with the authority that one would expect from an award-winning investigative journalist who went undercover in Chicago in the mid-80's to crack an arson-for-profit ring, First Degree Burn is jam-packed with fascinating details of both the underbelly and the top strata of New York society. Lance deftly weaves a fascinating tale of a mystery involving a lost mural painted in the 1930's that holds a deadly secret and a mysterious dream with the gut-wrenching story of Eddie's relationships with his father and with Caroline (who has her own demons), without ever losing the threads of these different themes. Lance's eye for detail, his brilliance at painting a vivid picture of the sounds and scenes of New York and his gift for storytelling add up to a fascinating book that is impossible to put down. Whether you're a hardboiled fan, thriller fan or a mystery fan there's something for everyone in this outstanding debut. Welcome, Eddie Burke, we're glad to have you.

--Claire E. White

1998 Writer's Market®, Ed., Kirsten C. Holm (Book), Mark Garvey (CD-ROM)

Writer's Digest Books
1084 pp. ISBN 0898798027
Book and CD ROM Version
Ordering information:

The 1998 Writer's Market® is a massive resource for the freelance writer. Editor Kirsten C. Holm and the Writer's Digest staff have done a superlative job of collecting great quantities of all kinds of paying markets for writers.
Cover 1998 Writer's Market by Writer's Digest Books
The book is organized into the following major categories: book publishers, consumer magazines and trade publications. Each of these main headings is also divided into sections. The 1998 version is larger, is in paperback, and has expanded information about pay rates (including royalty rates and advances), columns, departments and word lengths. There are over 4000 market listings each containing contact information (many of the listings include email and web addresses), circulation, payment information, what the publisher is looking for, how to submit and brief tips from the editors. Although the listings do not contain the individual publication's complete guidelines, they do provide information on obtaining sample copies and a way to obtain a more detailed or current copy of the publication's writers' guidelines. If you are looking for a comprehensive resource of markets with contact and payment information, then this is the book to buy.


The book can be purchased with or without the CD-ROM, or the CD-ROM may be purchased alone. A typical CD-ROM for an interactive game may cost you $50-60 U.S. The book alone has a list price of $27.99; the book & CD-ROM together as a set has a list price of $49.99, so you are getting the CD-ROM for an additional $22.00, although the CD-ROM alone retails for $39.99. Considering the fact that a typical CD- ROM interactive game may cost you $50-$60 U.S., this CD ROM is a great value when purchased with the book.

The CD-ROM allows you to search the listings by a number of criteria. For example, for book publishers search criteria include: number of books published per year, location, formats, types of rights purchased, and genres published. The Writer's Encyclopedia is also included. The electonic version also allows you to create your own custom market database and allows you to track your submissions. The only drawback is that at this time there is not a way to download upgrades online: perhaps this feature will be available in the future. With its handy search tools and comprehensive market listings, the CD-ROM is an invaluable tool for the working writer.

System Requirements for CD-ROM: Windows® 3.1 or later, 486DX/66, 8MB RAM, 640x840, 256 color display, mouse, MS-DOS 5.1 or later, 15MB available hard disk space, double speed CD-ROM drive.

Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950s-1990s, Ed., Sharon Rendell-Smock

89 pp. ISBN 0-965-4981-0-7
Paperback, 1996, $7.95 U.S.
Ordering information:

"We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge."
--John D. MacDonald, Darker Than Amber, 1996.

Ever wonder how other people came up with that killer first line for their novel? This interesting little gem, edited by Florida author and journalist Sharon Rendell-Smock, takes a look at the best opening lines from novels from the 1950s to the 1990s, along with trends and world events that were happening at the time the novel was published.