A review of The Devil and the Diva

CARE FOR A DOCK TALE?

Here it is: my official declaration that “The Devil and the Diva” is the season’s first “dock book,” perfect for reading on a lazy day at the lake, on the cool porch or in a leafy back yard.

“The Devil and the Diva” by David Housewright and Renee Valois (Down & Out Books, $17.95 paperback, $4.99 e-book): Fans of Housewright’s award-winning crime series featuring Holland Taylor and, separately, Rushmore McKenzie, will see his lighter side in this pop-culture-meets-“Phantom-of-the-Opera” story written with his wife, who occasionally reviews theater for the Pioneer Press. The book is also Housewright’s first plunge into electronic self-publishing.

The “Diva” of the story is singer Clarisse Dufresne, whose voice sounds just like that of famous pop diva Sheila Lewis. When Lewis dies, Clarisse is snatched from the street by a masked man who whisks her to his Summit Avenue mansion. The mysterious man, Maurice, says he’s holding Clarisse a prisoner to protect her from bad guys who want her to participate in a fraud using her voice to release records that supposedly were made by Lewis before she died. The bad men come, and Clarisse has to fight her way to freedom while falling in love with Maurice.

Down & Out Books, which published “The Devil and the Diva,” specializes in self-published noir e-books. But it obviously wanted this novel to get wide circulation, because it’s the first to be published simultaneously in a print edition.

“This is quite a departure from my usual thing,” Housewright admits, adding that at one time, he was “dead-set against” e-books and self-publishing. But like other established Minnesota writers, such as R.D. Zimmerman, he changed his mind.

“Renee wrote this book while she was in college, and I added some chase scenes and a few jokes,” Housewright says. “We call it a ‘gothic suspense romantic thriller crime novel,’ which explains why we had a hard time finding a legacy publisher. It has gun battles, sword fights, dungeons, secret passageways, ghosts, smoky jazz joints, ancient ex-Nazis longing for the good old days, Viet Cong guerrillas turned entrepreneurs, voodoo-practicing Haitians, crime lords and, yes, sex.”

For information, go to createspace or independent bookstores for the print edition; http://downandoutbooks.com/ for the e-book.

Book critic Mary Ann Grossmann can be reached at mgrossmann@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5574.

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