The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Neil Gaiman

I sat in my office, nursing a glass of hooch and idly cleaning my automatic. Outside the rain fell steadily, like it seems to do most of the time in our fair city, whatever the tourist board says. Hell, I didn't care. I'm not on the tourist board. I'm a private dick, and one of the best, although you wouldn't have known it; the office was crumbling, the rent was unpaid and the hooch was my last.

Things are tough all over.

To cap it all the only client I'd had all week never showed up on the street corner where I'd waited for him. He said it was going to be a big job, but now I'd never know: he kept a prior appointment in the morgue.

So when the dame walked into my office I was sure my luck had changed for the better.

"What are you selling, lady?"

She gave me a look that would have induced heavy breathing in a pumpkin, and which shot my heartbeat up to three figures. She had long blonde hair and a figure that would have made Thomas Aquinas forget his vows. I forgot all mine about never taking cases from dames.

"What would you say to some of the green stuff?" she asked, in a husky voice, getting straight to the point.

"Continue, sister." I didn't want her to know how bad I needed the dough, so I held my hand in front of my mouth; it doesn't help if a client sees you salivate.

She opened her purse and flipped out a photograph. Glossy eight by ten. "Do you recognise that man?"

In my business you know who people are. "Yeah."

"He's dead."

"I know that too, sweetheart. It's old news. It was an accident."

Her gaze went so icy you could have chipped it into cubes and cooled a cocktail with it. "My brother's death was no accident."  

Star Wars on Your Bookshelf

I am an unashamed fan of the original Star Wars movies, a staunch outcrier of the "new" trilogy and terribly nervous about whatever hell the new movies will bring. As a big sci-fi and fantasy reader, it was inevitable that Star Wars literature would end up on my bookshelf. I read through about four or five different authors and takes on the Star Wars universe before I ended up at A.C. Crispin's Han Solo trilogy. This trilogy is fan fiction as it should be done. Of all the Star Wars books I have read, this trilogy is the only one that puts me in the mood for the original experiences, which is what good fan fiction should accomplish. It should be new on its own, while holding true to the experience that created the fans.

Book one, The Paradise Snare, is by far my favorite. Han and Murgh, his Torogian cat friend, end up on the Yelsian pilgrimage world which is actually enslaving the pilgrims and forcing them to mine spice. The ruling sentients perform what's called the Exultation, a physical sensation that pushes the pilgrims to the brink of physical ecstasy. He falls in love for a young pilgrim from Corellia, his home world. After he realizes the truth behind the planet, he risks everything to free her.

Book two is the entitled The Hutt Gambit. Han's been kicked out of the Imperial Navy for saving a wookie from a life of slavery. The wookie (I'm sure you can guess who) swears a life debt to Han and the two seek work on the Smuggler's Moon in the Outer Rim. They end up in the employ of the Hutts as smugglers and high in their favor. As Palpatine gains power, he seeks to make an example of the Outer Rim, starting with Hutt territory. The Hutts withdraw their protection and leave the Smuggler's Moon to fend off the Imperial attack alone. Han's imperial experience and swagger unite the smugglers into a planned defense against the imperial attack.

Book three, Rebel Dawn, is the beginning of the Rebel Alliance. Han frustratingly disappears from the book as Hutts slither and battle, the Alliance grows and we see Lando. Destroying the Hutt slave enterprise will bring the Alliance recruits and spice to sell, and enough money to sit out a few runs for the smugglers who are guiding the way. It ends and all you want to do is watch the movies, to keep the world alive.

So if you're looking for a new adventure within the Star Wars world (and can't stand the sound of Darth Vader being referred to as "Annie"), then I cannot recommend these enough. The characters are true to their original inspiration and it's a fun read.
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This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.