Saturday, 28 September 2019 12:02

Congratulations to Megan Abbott, left, and Sarah St. Vincent, below left, the recipients of the 2019 Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.

The Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction for women writers were established in 2012 by the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans.

The prizes honor the memory of Diana Pinckley (1952-2012), a longtime crime fiction columnist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune, and her passion for mysteries. Pinckley was a founding member of the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans, as well as a civic activist for local and national causes.

The author of 10 novels, Megan Abbott is the winner of the Pinckley Prize for Distinguished Body of Work.

Her books include Give Me Your Hand depicting the rivalry between two female graduate students in the world of high-stakes science. You Will Know Me about competitive gymnastics and Dare Me, currently being produced as a USA Network series.

Abbott's novels often delve the dark side of female friendship and ambition.

She also is the author of the nonfiction, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Crime Fiction, and the editor of the anthology, A Hell of a Woman. Her novels have either won or have been nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger, the International Thriller Writers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and five Edgar awards, Abbott also is a writer on HBO's The Deuce.

According to the press release, the judges praised Abbott's fierce feminism, her brilliant prose style, and her laser-sharp insight into female friendships and ambition, particularly in her treatment of striving and gifted adolescent girls.

I would agree. Abbott is one of the top writers and her novels are terrific.

Sarah St. Vincent is the winner of the Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel for her novel Ways to Hide in Winter, published by Melville house.

Ways to Hide in Winter was one of my picks for best debut of 2018.

In my review, I wrote “widow Kathleen McElwain’s hermit-like life is upended by a stranger who appears at the store at which she works ‘tucked away in the forgotten forests of Pennsylvania.’ The man claims to be a student from Uzbekistan and his stories make Kathleen consider finally leaving the area. The tightly plotted tale combines a story of regret with the war on terror.”

St. Vincent is a human rights attorney, working for survivors of domestic violence. She also researches national security and surveillance for Human Rights Watch. Her first novel blends her concerns with domestic violence and human rights in a chilling tale of a fugitive and the woman who gets to know him over a wintry season in a state park.

According to the press release, “St. Vincent's exquisitely written novel is eerily timely, said the judges, as issues of domestic violence and immigration continue to lead the news.”

Both authors are well deserving of this honor.

Previous winners include Ellen Hart, Louise Penny, Laura Lippman, Sara Paretsky, among others.

Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 21 September 2019 16:19

Stumptown, debuting at 10 p.m. Sept. 25 on ABC, has the kind of crime fiction pedigree that has been missing from TV for several years.

First, the lead character Dex Parios, played by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Avengers), will find her calling as a private detective, a job that will allow her to channel her propensity for action and justice.

Second, and perhaps most important, Stumptown is adapted from Greg Rucka’s graphic novels, Stumptown. Mystery readers also may recognize Rucka’s name from his series of well received mystery novels.

Beginning with Keeper in 1997, Rucka wrote seven novels about professional bodyguard Atticus Kodiak, published by Bantam. I was a big fan of this series, which went on hiatus following Walking Dead (2010) as Rucker began to concentrate on his graphic novels and other works.

In my Sun Sentinel review of Smoker (1999), I wrote “. . . Greg Rucka easily melds the thriller and mystery genres in a cohesive, complex plot that turns on its own unpredictability. Surveillance scenes, usually a plot-stopper, have a real sense of urgency.

Smoker seals Rucka's status as a rising star whose books crackle with energy while examining current issues…

“Rucka's characters have depth. In Atticus Kodiak, Rucka designs a true modern hero whose vulnerability and toughness are interlinked. Self-doubt fuels his personality and makes him more cautious, but does not keep him from taking action when required.”

My reviews also mentioned Rucka’s flair for realistic women characters, which he has also brought to Stumptown and the character of Dex Parios.

Smulders may always be remembered for role in the comedy How I Met Your Mother—after all that sitcom seems to be in reruns as least twice a day, like Law & Order is.

But she shows a different range in Stumptown, which is, oddly, billed as a dramady.

Well, OK, there is humor but the focus in Stumptown seems to be more drama. Those a scene featuring a Neil Diamond song is pretty funny.

Dex is a veteran, adrift after leaving the service about a decade before. A heavy drinker with a heavier gambling debt, Dex can’t keep a job. She also suffers from PSTD, the result of her military tours, and cares for her brother who has Down Syndrome.

A redemption, of sorts, comes with her becoming a private investigator.

She’s not particularly good at it, but she tries.

The setting of Portland, Ore., which is nicknamed Stumptown, should lend itself to good background shots.

Brash and often out of control, Dex is the kind of character more seen on cable shows than a mainstream network.

I am looking forward to that edgy character and, I have high hopes as Rucka’s source material is solid.

Stumptown will air at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.

Photos of Cobie Smulders/ABC

By Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 31 August 2019 11:46

Mystery readers also will be able to see some favorites on the screen.

Jonathan Lethem

The film version of Jonathan Lethem’s compelling 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn is set to have its New York premiere during the closing night of the 2019 New York Film Festival on October 13.

The official trailer also has been released.

The trailer looks good and the movie has a good pedigree.

Edward Norton wrote, directed and stars in Motherless Brooklyn.

The Motherless Brooklyn cast also includes Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, Robert Ray Wisdom, Fisher Stevens, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.

Set in 1950s New York, the very noir film revolve around lonely private detective Lionel Essrog (Norton) who has Tourette syndrome. With scant clues and his own obsessive mind, Lionel investigates the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Willis). As the case takes several twists, Lionel uncovers myriad secrets of the city.

Tragedy struck the filming of Motherless Brooklyn during March 2018 when a fire broke out below the set that engulfed the building. New York City firefighter Michael R. Davidson died after he was separated from his fellow firefighters in the thick smoke.

Residents of the Harlem building sued Norton's production company Class 5 Films and the property's owner for $7 million each, claiming claimed that the production company kept highly flammable equipment in the building's basement. The New York Fire Department ultimately determined that a boiler venting heat was the cause of the fire, according to news reports.

Lisa Lutz
Fox Entertainment has acquired the rights to The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz’s highly entertaining six novels about the Spellmans, a family of private investigators.

The novels, which were launched in 1997, are to be developed as a drama series. No word, yet, as to the progress of this deal or when it might be filmed, or who might play Isabel Spellman.

Lutz’s novels are a fine mix of solid plotting and wry humor, especially in the character of Isabel, a 28-year-old private investigator whose past includes many romantic mistakes, excessive drinking and a bit of creative vandalism. She also is addicted to Get Smart reruns and is quite adapt at entering homes through windows.

Isabel is a juicy part and there are many young up-and-coming actresses who could nail this role.

Lutz’s latest novel is The Swallows, about a New England teacher who starts a gender war at the prep school where she works.

Emily St John Mandel

Readers may be familiar with Emily St John Mandel’s first four books—Last Night In Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, The Lola Quartet and Station Eleven, which was nominated for a National Book Award and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

But her fifth novel The Glass Hotel already is causing a buzz, and it won’t be out until March 2020 from Knopf.

The Glass Hotel may become a television series as NBCUniversal International Studios has acquired the rights.

Mandel will write the pilot, her first television screenplay.

In The Glass Hotel, the disappearance of a woman from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania eventually leads to a massive ponzi scheme New York that destroys many fortunes and lives. The action moves from Manhattan to northern Vancouver Island. The novel is described as a dark look at “greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts,” according to a press release.

By Oline H Cogdill