Saturday, 14 January 2017 12:01


Not every discussion during an interview makes it into the final story. It’s just a fact of journalism that sometimes interesting little tidbits aren’t included, because the main part of the story is long enough.

That’s also true of the submitted copy. Again, sometimes the story is just too long and a bit of editing is needed. As a longtime editor and copy editor, I know the best tools are knowing how to cut a story without ruining it.

So it is with my interview with Lee Child for the cover story of the current issue of Mystery Scene (Holiday Issue No. 147, published in December 2016).

So here is what was trimmed—and it makes a pretty good blog post, too.

Child and I were discussing family issues—how Reacher is alone, but Child is close to his family.

grantandrew falsefriend
Reacher may be a loner, but writing is a kind of family affair in Child’s life. Child’s brother, Andrew Grant, who is 14 years younger, has written five published action-packed thrillers, and the sixth, False Friend, comes out in January 2017. But big brother says he doesn’t offer Andrew advice.

“We are both alike—stubborn—and I wouldn’t offer advice and I know he wouldn’t take it,” said Child with a laugh. “His career is his own. A book has to be organic. It has to be vibrant on its own. And it has to be written by only one person. As soon as an author starts to wonder, ‘Well, my brother would do it differently. Or Stephen King or Michael Connelly would do it differently,’ then you are lost.”  

During Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans, brief interviews were conducted on authors’ most memorable Bouchercon moments. Without hesitation, Child mentioned the 2008 conference in Baltimore, when he stepped away from the bar for a few moments. When he returned Grant was talking with Tasha Alexander, who writes historical mystery fiction. The two were married in 2010. “That’s how I met my future sister-in-law,” Child recounted with a smile. (An interview with Tasha Alexander appears in the Holiday issue No. 117, published in 2010.)

A couple of years ago, Child and his daughter, Ruth, collaborated on a pilot for a TV series that was sold, but, as of now, has not been picked up.

“It was fun doing the pilot and very illuminating to work together as two equal people—rather than as father and daughter. It was a wonderful experience,” said Child, who recently traveled to Los Angeles to pitch a TV series unrelated to Reacher.

“TV is a hungry beast and it constantly needs ideas. Most [pitches and pilots] don’t get picked up.”

Wednesday, 11 January 2017 12:01

toddcharles racing
Mystery writers are nice.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been to one of the mystery writers conferences and experienced firsthand how nice they can be.

For the most part, mystery writers are very engaging with their readers, taking the time to talk with them, sign their books, or just have a good discussion.

And, for the most part, mystery writers are pretty generous with each other—promoting another’s work to a fan, praising another author during a panel, or just enjoying each other’s company at the bar or over a meal.

For me, it is just business as usual. I expect no less from mystery writers. Of course, there are a few who are not so nice, but that is their problem.

A few days ago, a friend went with me to the 20th anniversary of Murder on the Beach, the mystery bookstore in Delray Beach, Florida.

The bookstore is in the circulation area of the Sun Sentinel newspaper, for which I freelance book reviews. Often, my reviews refer to an author who will appear at Murder on the Beach.

While I talked with a couple of authors with whom I have an upcoming panel, my friend, Pat, bought books and got them signed by Charles Todd, PJ Parrish, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Andrew Gross.

While I talked with a few others who were there, and saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while, Pat listened to the authors talk to readers, and joined in a few conversations.

On our way home, Pat immediately said, “Those mystery writers were so nice.”

She was impressed with how engaged they were with their readers. How one author listened patiently as someone talked about the book they were writing and asked for advice.

These authors made a new fan that night.

But I expected nothing less.

Friday, 06 January 2017 09:01

lehanecon Murderatthe42ndStreetLibrary
Ah, the library—a bastion of knowledge, a home for books of all kinds, a place where one can relax and read or research.

And a pretty good place to set a mystery.

I love libraries.

I spent a lot of my childhood happily in the library of my small Missouri town, reading just about everything in the children’s section. 

That’s why I gravitated to mysteries so early—I needed another kind of book than those for children.

And I am happy to give presentations or speeches at area libraries.

Libraries have been able to change with the times, offering audiobooks, DVDs, and ebooks, and that makes them as relevant today as ever.

May libraries and librarians rule forever.

Lately, it seems as if there has been an explosion of mysteries set in libraries—which makes perfect sense to me.

In large libraries, there are lots of places to hide among the stacks or conduct clandestine business or spy on people, and that leads suspense.
jamesmiranda arsenicandoldbooks

So here are a few library-based mysteries worth checking out.

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris: After a 13-year absence, Lawrenceton, Georgia librarian Aurora Teagarden makes her return in this lively novel. Charlaine Harris put Aurora on hiatus back in 2003 after Poppy Done to Death. Understandable, since Harris has been a bit busy with other kinds of novels. As usual, Harris uses her amateur sleuth to look at contemporary issues such as bullying and entitlement.

Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane: What better place to launch a new series than the beautiful and iconic New York Public Library on 42nd Street in Manhattan, with its stone lions in front, multiple levels, and history? Here, librarian Raymond “Ray” Ambler heads the library’s crime fiction section, and his insight into the workings of the criminal mind go beyond his job. Readers will enjoy an inside look at the building’s various floors, forgotten stacks, and the veranda overlooking Bryant Park.

Better Late Than Never by Jenn McKinlay: This series has an apt subtitle—”The Library Lover’s Mysteries.” As the director of the Briar Creek Public Library, Lindsey Norris handles patrons and authors with skill. In her latest adventure, Lindsey finds that the Briar Creek Public Library’s first overdue-book amnesty day—no fines for late returns—brings in more materials than she or her staff can handle. But what is that copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye doing there? It was checked out more than 20 years ago by Candice Whitley, a  school teacher who was murdered. Her killer was never found. (McKinlay’s previous effort, A Likely Story, is also just out in paperback.)

Arsenic and Old Books by Miranda James: Miranda James’ novels about Mississippi librarian Charlie and his Maine Coon cat Diesel are just delightful. There is no other word for them. Subtitled “Cat in the Stack Mysteries,” the six novels are an homage to libraries, cats, and small towns. In Arsenic and Old Books, Charlie is asked to preserve and to substantiate a set of Civil War-era diaries to the archives of Athena College. Miranda James is the pen name of Agatha Award-winning author Dean James, who writes several series.