Smokey the Cat
Bill Rapp

Sixty seconds with Bill Rapp...

Bill Rapp recently retired from the Central Intelligence Agency after thirty-five years as an analyst, diplomat, and senior manager. Bill taught European History at Iowa State University for a year before heading off to Washington, D.C. The Hapsburg Variation is the second book in the Cold War Spy series featuring Karl Baier. Bill also has a three-book series of detective fiction set outside Chicago with P.I. Bill Habermann, and a thriller set during the fall of the Berlin Wall. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife, two daughters, two miniature schnauzers, and a cat.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Rapp: I would describe myself as a retired historian and intelligence officer eager to translate his knowledge and experience into intriguing, literary thrillers and mysteries.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Rapp: I would have to take “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” given its impact on the world of rock and roll, and its impression on one 16-year-old in particular.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Rapp: That goal has changed; I started with a dream of becoming a civil engineer like my father, later a biologist, then historian and academic, before settling on a foreign affairs specialist.

Spencer Kope

Sixty seconds with Spencer Kope...

Iona Whishaw

Sixty seconds with Iona Whishaw...

Search Now:
In Association with

MILLER'S MOVIE COLLECTIBLES, The Film Poster Book by Rudy and Barbara Franchi. 325 illustrations plus extensive text on all aspects of collecting movie paper, with current values, sources, history, terminology, and trends. Order one at


Home | About | Reviews | Search | Submit | Links | Cons | Subscribe  Subscribe

June 30 2018

Summer is full on for most of us by now - time for lemonade or G & Ts and sitting in (or out of) the sun. And of course, time to take a look at what's new in crime fiction. Much of what we've read this time suits a relaxed frame of mind, but some, of course, take a sterner view.

We begin with a couple of veterans. Daniel Fesperman has long been producing novels firmly rooted in the history of the last hundred years, going back as early as the First World War and coming forward very close to the present day in the Balkans, Guantanamo, and post-9/11 terrorism. SAFE HOUSES alternates between Cold War Berlin and the present and Barbara Fister reports that Fesperman is ever the masterful storyteller. Anthony Horowitz is also a veteran in the trade, especially on TV and he writes himself into his current novel, THE WORD IS MURDER, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction. I was not sure how well it all works, but it is a diverting idea.

Jim Napier observes that novels written by celebrities often have little going for them aside from the presence of the big name on the title page. But he says that he was not disappointed in CNN host Jake Tapper's debut thriller THE HELLFIRE CLUB, set in Washington in the 1950s.

James A. McLaughlin's BEARSKIN is a debut too and one that impressed Sharon Mensing both for the beauty of its language and its propulsive action. She says that it is at once as much a naturalist's paean to the beauty of the Appalachian wilderness as it is a violent thriller.

Larissa Kyser was also impressed with Sonya Terjanian's THE RUNAWAYS in which two women from two different backgrounds share a remote cabin in a snow storm. Larissa says that the book takes on class difference in America in a thoughtful way while still ratchetting up the tensions. The British novelist Araminta Hall makes her American debut with OUR KIND OF CRUELTY, in which class difference is also at issue as well as the relation between gender and justice. I thought it had its limitations but was certainly provocative.

OVERKILL by Ted Bell represents the kind of thriller that many of us turn to when stuck in an airport or rained in at the beach. As Susan Hoover remarks, it is filled with superheroes, commando raids, fantastic love interest and everything we have come to expect of Ted Bell.

Fuminori Nakamura is a very popular crime writer in his native Japan and an exponent of noir heavily influenced by 19th century Russian literature. His latest and longest book to appear in English, CULT X, deals, as the title suggests, with Japanese cults of differing ideologies. Nicola Nixon, while admitting that Nakamura captures the darkness and hopelessness of noir fiction, still found this five hundred plus page opus frustratingly repetitive.

Two much more light-hearted novels are set in earlier days. Lourdes Venard enjoyed R.J. Koreto's THE BODY IN THE BALLROOM in which Alice Roosevelt (Teddy's daughter) is a rebellious teenager who does her best to discover who poisoned a guest at ball she was attending. Cathy Downs was also charmed by Sulari Gentill's GENTLEMEN FORMERLY DRESSED, in which the Australian novelist turns to London in 1933 as the setting for the adventures of her series protagonist Rowly Sinclair in confronting the mounting menace of Fascism. Although you might expect this to be a heavy trip, in fact it is quite the opposite and Cathy Downs says that she can heartily recommend this "lighthearted read about a heavy time in history." Stevyn Colgan's A MURDER TO DIE FOR does not actually return to an earlier historical era, but does cheerfully send up the conventions of Golden Age mysteries, much to Meredith Frazier's delight.

Diana Borse was also pleased with Annie Hogsett's MURDER TO THE METAL, which she found "engrossing, well thought-out, and just plain fun." Caryn St Clair, on the other hand, was somewhat less enthusiastic about Steve Burrows' latest Bird murder mystery series, A TIDING OF MAGPIES, largely because it depends upon a close familiarity with earlier Bird books. But happily, PJ Coldren approved of the thorough professionalism that Kaitlyn Dunnett displays in the first of her new series, CRIME AND PUNCTUATION.

Our guest in the "Sixty Seconds With..." corner today is Bill Rapp, ex-CIA analyst and author of Cold War thrillers.

You'll find the latest reports on crime fiction across the sea at CRIMEREVIEW, where our friends take a good look at what's going on in crime fiction in Britain.

We'd like to wish our Canadian readers a very happy Canada Day and the same goes for our American readers, who will be celebrating the 4th of July very soon. We'll be back toward the end of July with more to say about what we've been reading. Please remember to come back and check it all out. And please drop us a line if you have something you'd like us to hear.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

Recent Reviews:

We have thousands of reviews archived on this site. Use the form below to search by title, author's name, or keyword (e.g., noir, cozy, PI, female, thriller, gay, cats).




Publishers or authors wishing to submit books for review should contact the editor. Please note, before approaching us, that the publishing house must be a print publisher, pay advances and issue royalty statements, edit books, create covers, neither solicit nor accept financial payments from its authors, never copyright an author's title under the publisher's name, and never expect or ask authors to buy a certain number of copies of the author's books. As a general rule we will only consider books for review which have been published by publishers listed on the Mystery Writers of America approved list. We can never guarantee that a review will appear. And our reviewers are given a free rein to express their opinions constructively and honestly.

Please note that we review crime fiction and selected science fiction and horror. We have a policy of not accepting any religious books—and that includes religious crime fiction. We are unable to review any ebooks, unbound galleys, PODs, or PDF files or self-published work.


Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

Contact: Yvonne Klein (

[ Home | About | Reviews | Search | Submit | Links | Cons ]