Key West reading/signing this coming Sunday, Feb. 15, noon

Coffee Plantation FlyerFor friends, colleagues et al in Key West and environs: I’ll be doing a brief reading/book signing of my new mystery novel FAIL, Sunday, noon, at the Coffee Plantation, 713 Caroline St. Free and open to the public. Great coffee, cakes, quiche, etc. available via hosts Diane and Theo Glorie. Book sales proceeds to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Keys Area.

FAIL reviews

You can read Rick Boettger’s thoughtful review of FAIL in Key West’s Blue Paper here.

Also, following is novelist Rosalind Brackenbury’s perceptive review of my novel, published in Konk Life:

“When I attended the 2014 Key West Literary Seminar on “The Dark Side”, I learned some things about writers of crime fiction. They know how to do plots and they are good at endings. Also, they aren’t gloomy as people – far from it, they seem rather cheerful. Perhaps it’s because they know that what they are doing succeeds. Rick Skwiot’s crime novel, “Fail”, set in St. Louis, Missouri, falls squarely into the genre, with its mean streets, its corrupt bosses and its flawed, only-too-human detective.

“But he’s hit several very contemporary nails on their heads, too. The victim here is not a corpse – although one washes up in the great Mississippi – but a system of education that lets down inner city kids and sends them, most of them African-Americans, out into the wide world unarmed, at least by learning.

“His likeable cop, a demoted lieutenant who has made some mistakes in his past, is Carlo Gabriel – black, divorced, not entirely cynical, a lapsed but not totally lapsed Catholic, a snappy dresser with an eye for women and a taste for bourbon. (Do demoted cops in St. Louis earn salaries that allow for cashmere overcoats and Ferragamo loafers, I wondered?) He’s set here between a corrupt mayor with Mob connections and an idealistic white college professor who has lost his job and his wife and may be heading for the morgue on account of what he knows. Gabriel walks an uneasy line between the two, but helped by a Jesuit priest, Saint Anthony, patron of lost people and things, the ghost of Mark Twain and some fairly smart women, comes out on the right side even if he hasn’t changed the system. Stone, the professor, hasn’t changed the system either – but who knows, things may improve incrementally – and he has become a little less squeaky-clean and wide-eyed in the process of staying alive.

“Skwiot has a good ear for dialogue and an appropriately noir sense of humor, and the action cracks along at a satisfying rate. “Fail”, with its literary allusions, hints of Catholic morality as well as Machiavellian game-playing, its sense of place – Skwiot grew up in St. Louis, and the action takes place not far from Ferguson, a place we have all, unfortunately, heard of by now – was a page-turner even for this non-reader of detective fiction. What we look for on the page, whatever the genre, is surely intelligence. This short novel has it in quantities. Rick Skwiot has found his niche in among the best of American crime writers.”


FYI, I’m reading tonight at the renovated Central Library in St. Louis, 6:30 p.m.

For my St. Louis friends, colleagues et al, today, Wed., Jan. 28, I am reading frostlpl_i20_hm FAIL and signing books, courtesy of Left Bank Books, at the impressive Central Library, 1301 Olive Street in downtown St. Louis, 6:30 p.m., in the Carnegie Room. You can learn more here. Also, a new review of my book has just been published today in the West End Word: “Rick Skwiot Tackles St. Louis Corruption & More in ‘Fail.'” Hope to see you there.


Upcoming readings/book signings in St. Louis, Columbia, Mo., and Key West



FYI, I’ll be reading from my new mystery novel Fail at these venues in the coming days and weeks:

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr St., Columbia, Mo. Also speaking that night will be plein air landscape painter Brian Mahieu.

Thursday, Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m., STL Books, 100 W. Jefferson Ave., Kirkwood, Mo. It’s a party, with wine and snacks, hosted by bookstore owner Robin Theiss and my publisher, Blank Slate Press.

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m., St. Louis Public Library, Central Library, 1301 Olive Street, St. Louis. The beautiful old Carnegie-funded building has been recently renovated, and I’m eager to see the results.

Sunday, Feb. 15, noon, Coffee Plantation, 713 Caroline St., Key West. Hosts Dianne and Theo Glorie will be serving great coffee and baked goods.


Recommended: A compact Cuban history by a noted Cuban exile author

220px-Montaner,_Carlos_AlbertoSome three years ago I was asked to edit the English language version of noted Cuban exile author Carlos Alberto Montaner‘s compact history of the Cuban people, The Cubans. The history–ranging from 1492 to possible future scenarios for the island–serves as a good foundation for understanding the island’s politics and people as we debate the U.S. role in its future. You can buy the Kindle version for $2.99

“Fail” cited in year’s favorite books in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

UnknownThanks to Robin Theiss of STL Books & Gifts for her recommendation in Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch story on the year’s favorite books:

“Fail” by Rick Skwiot (fiction) • This novel has also been in high demand, possibly spurred by the situation in Ferguson. Skwiot shows off his versatility with this thriller, the story of a disgraced African-American police lieutenant who, while trying to redeem himself, lands in a life-threatening hotbed of corruption.

You can read the entire article here.

By the way, I will be doing a reading at STL Books on Thursday, January 22.




The best book on tropes ever written–not hyperbole.

20893512This sentence describing a dismal dinner is, says Mark Forsyth, “perhaps the greatest anadiplosis” ever written:

“If the soup had been as warm as the wine, and the wine as old as the fish, and the fish as young as the maid, and the maid as willing as the hostess, it would have been a very good meal.”

The anadiplosis, a figure of speech where the last word in a phrase or sentence becomes the first word in the next, is but one of 39 such rhetorical devices that Forsyth, who blogs as The Inky Fool, wittily describes in “The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase,” released in the USA in October 2014 by Berkley Books. In it he uses ample examples of deft phrasings from Shakespeare, Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Lennon & McCartney and more to explicate all manner of trope.

In it you will learn that syllepsis results from using one word in two incongruous ways, as did Dorothy Parker when commenting on her small apartment: “I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.”

And that isocolon employs “two clauses that are grammatically parallel, two sentences that are structurally the same,” as Winston Churchill did in describing Field Marshall Montgomery: “In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.”

The book is a treasure for writers, public speakers, boulevardiers and anyone who wants to sound smart and witty. As Forsyth posits: “For though we have nothing to say, we can at least say it well.”

To say that his book is not without its uses would be, I learned, an example of litotes, understatement that results from affirming something that denies its opposite.” As when, says Forsyth, Emperor Hirohito announced to his people, after two atomic bombs had been dropped on them, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

This is a fine book, a great read and a valuable reference.

Inspector Chen creator Qiu Xiaolong praises the mystery FAIL

WU-Alum-Qiu-Xiaolong-authorQiu Xiaolong, author, most recently, of Enigma of China: An Inspector Chen Novel and ten other fiction and poetry books, recently read and praised my new St. Louis-based mystery novel Fail:

“A page-turner not to be missed in any circumstances, an eye-and-mind-opener to be held against the backdrop of Ferguson tragedy, Rick Skwiot’s Fail is a compelling crime novel in the cool and crisp language, but also much more than that with convincing insight into the cultural and political problems prevalent in today’s American society.”

Likewise, I am a fan of his work, and was particularly taken with his linked short story collection Years of Red Dust (St. Martin’s Press, 2010). His Shanghai Inspector Chen Cao mysteries show the long shadow that Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution—which rent Qiu’s family—still casts over contemporary China.

I first became acquainted with Qiu and his work two years ago when I interviewed him in St. Louis, where he now lives, for an article in Washington magazine. I spent a chill October morning sipping green tea with Qiu in his living room while he told me of his first published writing, which I described thus:

“In 1966, at age 13, Qiu was forced to write the confession for his capitalist father, who was in the hospital recovering from eye surgery, and then to stand by him at his public humiliation as it was read aloud.

“‘My father had to be mass criticized, to stand on stage as a target, where people denounced him and chanted slogans for hours,’ Qiu says.”

You can read the entire article here: China’s Punitive Past Colors Writer & Work.


Holiday reading: a nostalgic Christmas book

As the holidayAB_SkwiotLongLakeCover-187x300 season approaches, those looking for something to cheer them and put them in a nostalgic holiday mood might turn to my critically acclaimed childhood memoir Christmas at Long Lake. Set on Christmas Eve and Christmas day 1953 in St. Louis and nearby rural Illinois, it depicts a six-year-old boy, a family and a culture on the brink of a loss of innocence and independence. You can read an excerpt here.

By the way, the book was recently being read in southern Illinois middle school and high school literature classes, that is to say it’s a suitable gift for people of all ages. It’s available at and other online sellers and, in St. Louis, at STL Books in Kirkwood.


“Skwiot’s vivid descriptions of the physical and emotional landscape…are poignant, entertaining, and instructional… There is magic in this depiction of a setting and a way of life that can be described only as Edenic.”–Library Journal

“Rick Skwiot works his own magic… As usual, Skwiot’s writing is sure…And his tale has a gritty, blue-collar cachet…This is good reading.” –Kansas City Star

Kayaking in the Budd Keys

photo-6 copy 3Yesterday, Monday, November 24, 2014, it was 85 degrees F with 7 mph east-southeast winds late morning, so I took the kayak up to the Budd Keys, some 20 miles east of Key West and a mile or two out in the Gulf of Mexico. On one of the keys there I found a perfectly clear lagoon–very pretty. Lots of birds, sharks and rays about on the flats–and no people other than me.