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Immortal Game (August Riordan Mysteries) [Paperback]

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Item description for Immortal Game (August Riordan Mysteries) by Mark Coggins...

Meet Edwin Bishop: a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who has founded and taken public several very successful software game companies. Highly intelligent, arrogant, yet unschooled in social graces, Bishop lives an eccentric life in his Silicon Valley mansion with several paid female companions.

Bishop has developed a software program to play chess against human opponents that he claims is the most advanced ever written, but before it is released, he finds that the software has been stolen when he stumbles across a vendor demonstrating the game at a trade show.

Enter August Riordan: a jazz bass-playing private eye who is cynical, irreverent and given to speaking his mind with unreconstructed candor. Although Bishop wants to hire a discreet private detective with a strong sense of professional ethics, as Riordan says, It was his tough luck he happened to pick me.

Riordan careens through the very modern milieu of Silicon Valley in his quest for the chess program, enmeshing himself in more than just high technology. Jazz music, the underground world of S&M and an unlikely partnership with Chris Duckworth, a smart aleck gay man whom he meets at a bar called The Stigmata, are all part of the intriguing adventure.

Full of well-drawn, idiosyncratic characters, fast dialogue and compelling and realistic portrayals of many San Francisco Bay Area locales, The Immortal Game is a very fresh and entertaining mystery in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

This special edition from Poltroon Press is illustrated with 30 photographs and incorporates many of the design elements of the famous Borzoi Books first edition of The Big Sleep published by Knopf in 1939.

Outline Review
Penzler Pick, June 2000: Here's a first novel that pays homage to Hammett, Chandler, and every wisecracking PI in the genre, and then some. It also introduces one of the most delightful characters to come along in some time: August Riordan, a jazz bass-playing PI who is cynical, irreverent, and a laugh a minute. Mark Coggins slyly references his mentors--Riordan is superstitious about the clock in front of Samuel's Jewelers, and he eats at John's Grill. Although mystery buffs will find these references throughout the story, readers who do not pick up on them will not come away feeling cheated. The setting here is present-day San Francisco and the very modern world of Silicon Valley, where software theft has replaced "the stuff that dreams are made of."

The aptly named Edwin Bishop, a multimillionaire entrepreneur, has developed advanced chess software able to make decisions while playing human opponents, unlike the usual software that tends to follow set moves. Bishop himself is a highly intelligent, arrogant man who lives his eccentric life in his mansion with several paid female companions. He is unaware that his software has been stolen until he stumbles across a vendor demonstrating his game at a trade show. Enter Riordan, who must negotiate his way through the world of high technology, jazz, and the underground arena of S/M as he searches for the missing software. His sometime partner in this venture is Chris Duckworth, who works part-time for Bishop's competitor, and who, in his spare time, works as a transvestite at the Stigmata bar. The characters in this charming, fresh, and entertaining mystery are fully fleshed; the dialogue is fast, compelling, and witty; and the grainy photographs that accompany each chapter opening add a pleasing dimension to this delightful first outing. --Otto Penzler

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Item Specifications...

Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.3" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 15, 2006
Publisher   Bleak House Books
ISBN  1932557156  
ISBN13  9781932557152  

Availability  0 units.

More About Mark Coggins

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Coggins earned two degrees and a Phi Beta Kappa key from Stanford University. He has worked for a number of Silicon Valley computer and venture capital firms, including Netscape Communications and three software start-ups.

Mark Coggins currently resides in San Francisco, in the state of California. Mark Coggins was born in 1957.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
4Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General
5Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > Hard-Boiled

Reviews - What do customers think about Immortal Game (August Riordan Mysteries)?

A solid effort with nods to the greats  Aug 5, 2008
I had heard a few reviews of this book and was happily impressed that it lived up to most of them. The dialogue was pretty snappy and the pace kept up pretty steadily. You can definitely tell the author is a big fan of Chandler and Hammett - especially with the wise-cracking protaganist, but hey, who isn't?

The character of Riordan is likable, though a bit on the dopey side. He definitely asks a few questions once in a while that easily can be seen as ways for the author to explain something to readers who might not know about the subject, but so it goes.

I might pick up the next book in this "series" and give it a go.
A New Detective Joins San Francisco's Best  May 2, 2002
Mark Coggins is a writer to look forward to. He evokes a San Francisco reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. Despite being set in a modern day, Silicon Valley-contemporary environment, Coggins manages to cast a fustiness over the sunny San Francisco cityscape he depicts in word and photograph. His frequently sexually contorted characters stand up well. In the case of his main character, private detective August Riordan, and his part time sidekick (also part time transvestite), Chris Duckworth, you hope to see them again in a future novel. The technology theft of a chess game and the subsequent trail of murders in interesting circumstances and locations is challenging enough to keep us guessing and reading.

Mark Coggins has done his own photography for the book. Each chapter starts with a photo related to the action or locale of the chapter's action, adding greatly to the sense of place, and to the texture of the story.

The Immortal Game is a gritty story. It is one of those books can't put down, hate to finish, and are left wondering what the main charaters are doing today.

Excellent mystery!  Mar 12, 2002
This book, while reminiscent of Chandler and other great mysteries, is packed with wit and intelligence, not to mention light descriptions of S&M and one very sexy character. The photographs are beautifully matched to Coggins' pen and the story is anything but boring with great twists and a push to hurry to the finish. Highly recommended and looking forward to the next one!
Great Mystery Novel with a Fun Chess Twist  Jun 28, 2001
If you love Raymond Chandler's novels, you'll love this book. It is stylishly written, with a good plot and fun characters. It is particularly enjoyable to see how the San Francisco Bay Area is woven into the fabric of the story.

I should add that for me personally the chess theme was a guaranteed hook; I used to play chess professionally and I wrote the Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess. But while the chess aspect of the story is fun, this is really a mystery thriller written as an homage to Raymond Chandler. Read this book because you love a well-written hard-boiled mystery, not because you love chess. (Although loving chess will add to your pleasure!)

A bonus to this book is that there are many inside winks to people who are knowledgeable about Raymond Chandler or the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, each chapter is framed by a photo of some place in the Bay Area, and some of these photos are quite nice.

Compulsively Readable  Jun 14, 2000
"The Immortal Game" - chess afficionados willrecognize it as the famous battle between Anderssen and Kieseritzkywith the ingenious endgame, while mystery fans will instantly draw parallels with other crime novels that carried chess themes. This is a more than competent debut by Mark Coggins and he successfully recreates a Chandler-esque flavor throughout the novel. In fact, many fans will no doubt enjoy spotting various little references to Chandler and other hard-boiled greats.

The premise itself is relatively simple: millionaire game developer, Edwin Bishop, has had the latest - and only - copy of his Grand Master-level, computer chess game stolen. He comes across an almost identical game at a trade convention and hires PI August Riordan to track down the stolen program and Tracy McCulloch, his former live-in female companion whom he suspects for the crime. What ensues is a page-turning tour through the Bay Area's more "interesting" locales. Riordan encounters thugs, killers, computer geeks, transvestite entertainers, socialites and a fair share of dominatrices. Highly entertaining and compulsively readable, I zipped through this one in no time at all. Will I pick up Mr. Coggins' next novel (tentatively titled "Vulture Capital")? Most definitely - he's a very good writer with a solid grasp of pacing and dialogue. The characters are well drawn too, especially that of Chris Duckworth, Riordan's sidekick wannabe. There is a lot of material here that can be solidly followed up on in subsequent novels - there is at least one other August Riordan novel in the works.

Now for the quibbles. As an homage to Chandler, Hammett, etc., "The Immortal Game" fulfills every expectation I had of it. However, Mr. Coggins mentioned in his this interview that the novel carries a major chess theme, and I have no choice but to take issue with that. Sure, the plot of the novel surrounds a stolen piece of chess software and the solution to the mystery does have something to do with The Immortal Game, but that's about as far as it goes. Riordan himself does not know much about chess, although he does learn quite a bit about it by the end of the case. The other major quibble is that Mr. Coggins' description of the stolen piece of software just doesn't seem all that compelling. There is a virtual reality game interface and an artificial intelligence or human emulation engine built into it that allows the computer to perform like a real player, i.e. declining gambits, accepting tactical sacrifices for positional/strategic gains, etc. Well, there are quite a few examples of chess games out there that already do this and have for some time. In fact, the stolen chess game could have been substituted for just about anything else - some other kind of software, jewellery, confidential documents - and the novel would still have been as good.

As things stand, I think I'd say that chess appears more as a device rather than a theme or motif. If you're an avid chess fan, you'll be disappointed by the intermittent role that the game plays in the story - look for Paolo Maurensig's "The Luneberg Variation" or Arturo Perez-Reverte's "The Flanders Panel" instead. I'm sure that most mystery fans will enjoy "The Immortal Game" and those who don't already know much about Anderssen Vs. Kieseritzky might feel inspired enough to do some of their own research afterwards. If the sign of a good book is its ability to open the doors to new worlds and interests, then I'm sure that Mark Coggins has done an admirable job with this fine debut effort.


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