Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Joan Livingston's "Redneck's Revenge" Book Review and Interview


-->

Joan Livingston, author of the fabulous Isabel Long PI series, lives in the United States. But, she told me, she has a Portuguese background. So before we get onto her new book "Redneck's Revenge", here's her article entitled "Portuguese Forever" in which she talks about herself and her lovely main character in the series, Isabel Long:

Portuguese Forever
I am a hundred percent Portuguese and proud of it. My grandparents came over on the boat, as they say, from the Madeira and Azores islands. The same is true for Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery series, including the latest, Redneck’s Revenge. She’s proud of her heritage as well.
Isabel was born with the last name Ferreira but took Long when she married. I used Ferreira because that’s my mother’s family name. (My father’s family name is Medeiros.)
Let me tell you a little bit about her. Isabel was a long-time journalist who lost her job as a newspaper’s managing editor when it went corporate. With time on her hands, she decided to solve a missing person’s case — her first big story as a rookie reporter. The case also happened in the tiny hilltown where Isabel lives in rural Western Massachusetts. Also, Isabel was also coming off a bad year that included the death of her husband. She was ready to reinvent herself.
Her mother, Maria Ferreira also moved in with her. Here, I’ll let Isabel tell you about it.
Ma moved in with me last year because she was tired of living alone. I was alone, too, after my Sam died. Our three kids, Ruth, Matt, and Alex, are out of the house although they don’t live too far from me. It’s worked out well with Ma. She’s a fun companion. Who would have thought when I was younger and wilder? She’s a good cook, and like the fine Portuguese woman she is, she keeps me in kale soup, a staple of our people. Yes, Long is my married name. Ferreira is the name I got at birth. I’m a hundred percent Portagee and proud that I’ve invaded a Yankee stronghold in the hilltowns.
Yes, kale soup or Caldo Verde is a staple in their household, as it is mine, at least in the cold weather months. I love other dishes when I can get them, usually when I visit my hometown.
As a child I grew up in Southeastern Massachusetts, where many Portuguese immigrants settled. They found work on the fishing boats and in the case of my mother’s parents, the textile mills. It was a huge adjustment from the rural lives they once led “back home” although both sets of grandparents kept animals and large gardens to support their families. I have fond memories of the time I spent with them.
Let me tell you about my grandmother, Angela Ferreira. She was the youngest of a large family in Madeira. Her older sister worked for a wealthy family who wanted a companion for their daughter, so my grandmother went to live with them. Every day she carried the girl’s books to school and waited in the back of the room until they went home to play. One day the teacher caught her trying to read. She got permission for my grandmother to go to school.
When my grandmother was sixteen, she and her sister went by boat to the U.S., a trip that included a huge storm in which people were swept out to sea. I admire my grandmother’s bravery.
My childhood was a mixture of celebrating our heritage, especially at local feasts, still going strong in the New Bedford area, to being as American as possible.
I will admit there is a lot of me in Isabel Long. She’s sassy and savvy. She doesn’t take crap from anybody. She’s got a good heart and cares. Plus she has that arsenal of skills she acquired as a journalist.
All of this comes in handy for her second case, in Redneck’s Revenge. A woman hires her to find out how her father, an ornery so-and-so, died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house caught fire. She says he was murdered.
But before she can take any case, Isabel has some business to attend to after the cops tell her there are legal requirements if she wants to be a P.I. She’s also a bit ungrounded after solving her first case — for personal and professional reasons. Here’s an excerpt.
Mostly, I moped.
Ma noticed it, too.
“When are you going to find something to do?” she asked me one day.
“What do you mean?”
“Like when you solved that mystery.”
“You heard what the state cop said about getting a license,” I reminded her. “I need to find a licensed P.I. to take me on.”
“What’s stopping you?”
Ma had a point. I have a hard head and an iron will. I suppose I’m generalizing when I say it’s because I’m a full-blooded Portagee. But I’m descended from people who went all over the world in tiny wooden ships. My grandparents came over from the Madeira and Azores islands in them.

Yes, try stopping us.

Thank you Joan! What a lovely story about your grandmother. In the book, I just loved Isabel and her mother's wonderful relationship. Let's get onto "Redneck's Revenge". It's the second in the series - the first being "Chasing the Case" (see HERE ). 
First the summary
Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.
Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

 MY REVIEW

Redneck’s Revenge is a novel that will stay with you for a long time. Well, it will with me because I rank it up there with Fanny Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café”, one of my favourite books, and that’s not because “Redneck’s Revenge” is set in a café or that there’s any sign of green tomatoes, hell, it’s not even the same genre. It’s because of the author’s brilliant voice, the way she lets the characters jump off the page: they’re so real, quirky and unforgettable. You have rednecks galore (I hope that’s not pejorative because I adored reading about the folk of the small hilltop towns in Massachusetts – the Old Farts, the junkyard owners, the bar owners…so many) but my favourite is Isabel Long herself – a sassy, adorable, down-to-earth but take-no-prisoners type of gal (see? I picked up the lingo) who has a mother as wise and courageous as Isabel.
I was immersed in the setting, which comes alive with the characters and as the story continues. The ending was a surprise, although I did pick up a hint of it earlier in the story, but dismissed it. Very clever plot.

Joan Livingston is a professional journalist and this shows in her excellent style of writing. She’s a born fiction writer and I dearly look forward to the next Isabel Long case.

Definitely a 5 star read and thoroughly recommended.


All about Joan:


Joan Livingston Bio
 Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.
 An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston on social media:

Twitter: @joanlivingston 

Book links to Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge: