Saturday, 03 December 2016 02:12


By OLINE H. COGDILL

collins maxallen
The Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Masters are perhaps the greatest honor the MWA presents, perhaps even more of an honor than winning an Edgar.

That’s because the Grand Masters have been a reflection of the state of the genre, showing how crime fiction continues to evolve as well as honoring the genre’s history.

This year is no different—the Grand Masters, the Raven and Ellery Queen honorees are truly deserving. (OK, full disclosure, I received the Raven in 2013 so my affection for that category is extreme.)

All will receive their awards at the 71st Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

GRAND MASTER
hart ellen
This year, MWA is honoring two Grand Masters—Max Allan Collins, top left and Ellen Hart, at left.

As the MWA states, “… Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.”

Collins, left,  has been a mainstay of the genre since he sold his first two novels in 1972 while a student at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.  

Since then, he has written more than a hundred novels. Those include his award-winning and groundbreaking Nathan Heller historical series, starting with True Detective (1983).

His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) was the basis of the Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks.

He also has written the syndicated strip Dick Tracy; his own Ms. Tree; and Batman. For the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, he wrote 10 novels selling millions of copies worldwide, and his movie-tie in novels include Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, and American Gangster.


Hart’s credentials are equally impressive.

Hart has written 32 crime novels.

She is the six-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, the four-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, and the three-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award for mystery.

In addition, Hart has taught crime writing for seventeen years through the Loft Literary Center, the largest independent writing community in the nation.  
 
Previous Grand Masters include Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

RAVEN AWARD
druann love
The MWA describes the Raven Award as recognizing “outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.”

Dru Ann Love, at right, will be honored with the 2017 Raven Award.
 
Dru Ann Love is owner/editor of dru’s book musings (https://drusbookmusing.com/), a blog where characters give a glimpse into a day in their life, as well as her musings.

She also is a guest blogger at the Stiletto Gang.

Dru Ann’s blog was nominated for a 2015 Anthony Award for Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work. She also serves on the Bouchercon standing committee.
 
Previous Raven winners include Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

ELLERY QUEEN
The MWA established the Ellery Queen Award in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”

I can’t think of a better honoree than Neil Nyren.
 
nyren neil
Neil Nyren,left, is the Executive VP, associate publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House.

He has been at Putnam for over 32 years, and before that, at E.P. Dutton, Little Brown, Random House, Arbor House, and Atheneum.
 
Nyren’s current crime authors include Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, C.J. Box, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, Frederick Forsyth, Randy Wayne White, Alex Berenson, Ace Atkins, Alex Grecian, Carol O’Connell, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Sears, and Todd Moss.

Nyren also worked with Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Daniel Silva, Martha Grimes, Ed McBain, Thomas H. Cook, and Thomas Perry

Nyren was the first to publish books by Carl Hiaasen, Jonathan Kellerman, Gerald Seymour, Garrison Keillor, and Ian McEwan.
 
Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Janet Rudolph, Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.       

Saturday, 19 November 2016 02:11

 

harrischarlaine allthelittleliars
Charlaine Harris
’ All the Little Liars begins with a wedding announcement of Aurora Teagarden.

Yes, after 13 years, the favorite librarian of Lawrenceton, Georgia, is back.

And Harris wastes no time in reestablishing her appealing character.

Since the wedding announcement is the first paragraph of All the Little Liars, we are not giving anything away.

The best man is the groom’s best friend—Jeff Abbott of Austin, Texas.

Abbott, of course, is a bestselling author, now best known for his globe-jumping Sam Capra novels.

This makes sense because Aurora’s husband, Robin Crusoe, is a mystery writer. Abbott, of course, also is an award-winning author.

Abbott’s latest novel in his Sam Capra series is The First Order.

Harris’ reference to another mystery writer is one of those little Easter eggs that readers adore.

 

"Jeff and I have known each other for many, many years. I picked Jeff because he is a friendly guy, and Robin is too, and they write the same sort of books. They might easily bond. Plus, Jeff is a Southerner also. But mostly because he said "yes" when I asked him,” said Harris in an email.

abbottjeff thefirstorder“I have only used names of my close friends before, to give them a fist bump," Harris added.

For his part, Abbott almost forgot about his debut in Harris’ book.

“Charlaine and I are friends; she had asked me a couple of years back if she could use my name and I said yes, but had forgotten about it until someone with an ARC posted about it on Facebook. I haven't read the book yet, it's on order but hasn't arrived. I hope ‘Jeff Abbott’ survives until the next book,” Abbott said in an email.

Read All the Little Liars to find out the fictional Jeff Abbott's fate.

Saturday, 12 November 2016 10:11

 

goodbehavior tnt
Some mystery novels make a fairly smooth transition to television.  

Michael Connelly’s Bosch, Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood), and Elmore Leonard’s Justified instantly come to mind.

As do the light mysteries on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel, including the Aurora Teagarden films—again from Charlaine Harris; Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series; Suzi Weinert’s garage sale series; and Kate Collins’ flower shop series.

This, of course, doesn’t count the numerous successful movies based on solid crime fiction.

But sometimes that magic just doesn’t work, even for TNT, which has a good record of delivering involving series and movies with a mystery approach.

After watching twice the first three episodes of Good Behavior, based on Blake Crouch’s novels, I am still on the fence as to whether this new TNT series will be able to make viewers care about these characters, or the plots. Good Behavior debuts November 15, with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. on TNT.

goodbehavior michelledockeryOne thing for sure, Good Behavior is no Rizzoli & Isles.

Nor do I think it has the staying power of Major Crimes—my favorite—or The Closer.

What Good Behavior does have going for it is Michelle Dockery, who dons an American accent and various wigs to play con artist and ex-con Letty Raines.

Letty Raines is about as far from Lady Mary, the character whom Dockery played on Downton Abbey, as you can get. Letty is anything but the buttoned-up, posh upperclass Lady Mary. But Lady Mary always had a subversive streak—remember her brief affair—though nowhere near as felonious as Letty.

Letty has recently been released from prison and she really does try to do better.

She would like to have a relationship, or at least be able to see, her 10-year-old son, who is being raised by her mother, Estelle (Lusia Strus). And she is trying to show up for those mandatory check-ins with her parole officer, Christian (Terry Kinney), who understands her a lot more than either realizes.

But Letty is at heart a thief and a con artist, and she always well be, despite those self-help empowerment tapes she listens to constantly.

goodbehavior Juan Diego Botto
She can’t resist indulging in stealing valuables from wealthy patrons at uber-expensive hotels.

 A bit of jewelry, a bit of cash, some expensive perfume, some couture frocks and Jimmy Choo shoes—Letty just loves to steal, but she also keeps some things for herself to enjoy.

She’s in the middle of one of those heists when she gets a call that the hotel guest is returning. She barely has time to hide in the massive closet before the door opens. While there, she hears hit man Javier Pereira (Juan Diego Botto) being hired to kill the guest’s wife.

Letty wants to do good. She really does.

So she sets out to stop the hit, which makes her an adversary of Javier, who forces her to team up with him, and pulls her into even darker crime than she can handle.

Dockery’s no-holds-barred performance keeps Good Behavior on track. She is mesmerizing to watch as she goes through the different sides of Letty and makes the banterlike dialogue seem effortless.

Botto is certainly easy on the eyes and his calm exterior hides an amoral interior, which the actor well uses. Character actor Kinney is always delivers his best and his Christian is a man riddled with guilt, doubt, and the need for redemption.

crouchblake goodbehavior
The chemistry of Dockery, Botto, and Kinney works well, making us believe in their complicated relationships.

The scenes in which Letty and Javier try to find a charging station for their stolen Tesla are terrific.

The problem with the episodes of Good Behavior that I saw is the source material. Good Behavior is better as a novel than on the screen. Author Blake Crouch’s Good Behavior combines three novellas—The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab. In the book Letty Raines is Letty Dobesh.

Good Behavior reads better than it views. In the novels, Crouch is able to show why Letty is worth rooting for.  Unfortunately, the episodes I viewed make it hard to care about any of the characters. Crouch is listed as one of the series writers and as an executive producer.

I love the antihero, the person you shouldn’t root for but have to. Dockery’s performance almost achieves that but the scripts soon become the same—Javier has another assignment, Letty wants to stop him, Letty can’t.

As a viewer, I need more than what Good Behavior is offering. The series Wayward Pines, based on Crouch’s trilogy, was a better example of the author’s work.   
I’ll give Good Behavior another chance. But frankly, I can’t wait for Major Crimes to return.

Good Behavior debuts November 15, with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. on TNT. It will regularly air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.

Photos: Juan Diego Botto as Javier Pereira and Michelle Dockery as Letty Raines. Photos courtesy TNT