Monday, November 20, 2017
Books

Review: Psychic has dangerous dilemma in James Swain's 'Dark Magic'

RECOMMENDED READING


With Dark Magic, author James Swain pulls a new card from his deck, smoothly switching from hard-boiled mystery to paranormal thriller.

Swain, who lives in Odessa, has written two successful crime fiction series featuring former cops: one about Tony Valentine, a casino security expert; the other about Jack Carpenter, who specializes in recovering abducted children.

They're both gritty, real-world series. In Dark Magic, Swain, who is an accomplished magician, pulls aside the veil on another world.

Its main character, Peter Warlock, is a successful young magician with his own theater in New York's hip Meatpacking District, an edgy act and a swarm of teenage fans who discuss his tricks on Internet forums.

Edgy it may be, but Peter's act is based on ancient craft and simple tricks like having his assistants chat up audience members on the way to their seats, then feed him information via a hidden earbud so his mind-reading evokes gasps.

What no one but a small group of seven people knows is that Peter's magical powers are real. The book opens with a powerful demonstration of that. At a meeting of the seven, who call themselves the Friday night psychics, in an apartment at the Dakota on Central Park West, he has a detailed vision.

He finds himself in the middle of a mysterious disaster occurring in Times Square, killing masses of people where they stand. Among them stalks a cruel-looking stranger who seems untouched by the fatal force. And on the news ticker scrolling across the ABC News building is a sports score that tells Peter the attack is only four days away.

Peter and his colleagues have no doubt of the vision's accuracy, but they can't just call 911. It isn't that they fear the authorities won't believe them; it's that they know what happened to another psychic, Peter's friend Nemo, whose predictions of the future caught the attention of the CIA. Now Nemo's living, like it or not, at an undisclosed location in Virginia, pressed into permanent service by the agency.

Peter has no intention of joining Nemo. So he turns his considerable powers to finding out who the mystery man is, quickly discovering through a combination of magical manipulations and computer hacking that he's a professional assassin named Wolfe and that his hit list seems to consist of the seven members of the Friday night psychics.

Swain keeps the story hurtling along as Peter tries to keep his friends safe, find Wolfe and determine who has employed him, and keep several arms of law enforcement at bay — not to mention wrangling his romantic relationship with Liza, one of his assistants, who has no clue about his real powers, and plumbing the dark secrets of his own past.

Swain brings all sorts of paranormal phenomena into play: visions of the past and future, ghosts, astral projection, mind-reading, channeling, possession, revenants, everything but Houdini's kitchen sink. One popular phenom is missing, though; as Peter tells Liza: "Vampires don't exist anymore. There were a few in Arizona, but they got wiped out."

Swain grounds all that in New York City's very real streets, as in a scene where a young witch uses her powers to turn a dogwalker's yapping charges into a savage pack of hounds to avert Wolfe's attack. For Dark Magic, leave your logic meter at home and enjoy the trip.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

WINNERS:Taylor SwiftFollowing the death of his mother, Gloria, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon shared a touching story with the audience about his mom squeezing his hand three times and saying "I love you," when he was a kid. "Last week, I was in ...
Published: 11/17/17
Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

The parents in Runaways really are the worst.Hulu's new Marvel series follows a ragtag group of teenagers who have to band together to defeat their own parents, who are collective members of a secret criminal organization called the Pride.In the wake...
Published: 11/17/17
What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

GRIEF AND GUNS: THE PUNISHERMarvel fans first saw Marine veteran Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) in Netflix's Daredevil series. The brutish anti-hero finally gets his own series with The Punisher, exploring what he did after helping Daredevil (Charlie Co...
Published: 11/17/17
Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward is having a good year.At a glamorous ceremony Wednesday night in New York, Ward was named the winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about a Mississippi family's epic road trip. The book is Ward's third novel ...
Published: 11/16/17
Review: George Saunders’ ‘Sea Oak’ makes a dead-funny TV comedy

Review: George Saunders’ ‘Sea Oak’ makes a dead-funny TV comedy

Recently, George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.And now he has a TV show about zombies!Saunders, one of America’s best writers of fiction, won the 2017 Booker for his splendid novel Lincoln in t...
Published: 11/16/17

Events: Tampa historians to sign books at hurricane relief benefit

Book TalkNancy Christie (Rut-Busting Book for Writers) will sign her book at 11 a.m. Nov. 20 at 321 Books, 6901 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg.John Cinchett (Vintage Tampa Storefronts and Scenes), Rex Gordon (History of Hillsborough High School), Linda ...
Published: 11/16/17
What’s Elaine M. Hayes reading?

What’s Elaine M. Hayes reading?

NightstandElaine M. HayesHayes, the author of Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan, said she was a college student when Vaughan’s voice first captivated her. "My roommate played a lot of her in our daily life. I remember thinking that s...
Published: 11/16/17
Your heart can go on when ‘Titanic’ returns to theaters

Your heart can go on when ‘Titanic’ returns to theaters

It's the holiday season, so why not capitalize on a beloved film by bringing it back to theaters for a limited engagement?That's what Dolby Laboratories, Paramount Pictures and AMC Theaters are doing, announcing that a remastered version of Titanic w...
Published: 11/15/17
Review: ‘The Punisher’ packs a punch tackling grief and revenge

Review: ‘The Punisher’ packs a punch tackling grief and revenge

If Frank Castle sees someone committing an act of evil, he has no problem ending them.Castle (Jon Bernthal) is The Punisher in Netflix's new Marvel series, spun off from another popular superhero series, Daredevil. The Punisher follows the former mar...
Published: 11/14/17