Sunday, 19 August 2018 11:26

I sometimes joke that everything I’ve learned since college is because I read mysteries. I will use that sentence time and again as mysteries teach me something I didn’t know.

The latest addition to my education is a dark sky park, which Lori Rader-Day utilizes so well in her latest Under a Dark Sky.

I had never heard of a dark sky park before.

For those, such as myself, unfamiliar with this, a dark sky park is where light is kept to an absolute minimum so that stargazers can enjoy the delights of the night sky without light pollution.

What a cool way to be one with nature.

It also makes for a terrific setting for a mystery about a woman who suffers from an extreme fear of the dark that has heightened since her husband’s death. In sorting through his papers, she finds that he had booked a week at a dark sky park for their 10th anniversary. It’s an odd gift indeed, but also the push the grieving widow needs.

Rader-Day has invented the Straits Point International Dark Sky Park in Michigan as the setting for her novel. The beauty of the dark sky that she shows is what can be enjoyed at dozens of similar nocturnal environments at recreation areas throughout the world.

Under a Dark Sky delivers a shrewd plot that moves briskly to a logical conclusion. The darkness of the park also is a sharp metaphor for the emotions and secrets of the realistic characters.

By the way, Rader-Day has proven herself a strong author with plots that draw you in and believable characters. No wonder she has won several awards. Her debut mystery, The Black Hour, won the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the 2015 Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her second novel, Little Pretty Things, won the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and was a nominee for the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original.

Her novel The Day I Died is nominated for an Anthony Award in the paperback original category for Bouchercon 2018, which will be September 6 through 9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Straits Point International Dark Sky Park is a fictional place. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw, Michigan, provided the model for Rader-Day.

Information about other dark sky parks around the world can be accessed at www.darksky.org, which also gives a list of other such parks.

And I have one suggestion for those wanting to visit a dark sky park—take a copy of Lori Rader-Day’s Under a Dark Sky. The novel will enhance your visit.

Lori Rader-Day Is Under a Dark Sky Park
Oline H Cogdill
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Saturday, 11 August 2018 11:59

Many people who don’t live in Florida tend to think of the Sunshine State as a wild frontier, a place where the weirdest, oddest, and downright stupidest events happen.

Hey, I live here and I know that is part of Florida’s reality.

Florida Man gets a lot of press. You know “Florida Man” did something so bizarre no one can believe it. Just google “Florida Man.”

Tim Dorsey’s goofy novels also enhance Florida’s reputation. Dorsey’s antihero Serge A. Storms is a serial killer who only preys on jerks, criminals, and those who disrespect Florida and its history. The Pope of Palm Beach is Serge’s 21st appearance.

These comic mysteries, which I have compared to the Three Stooges, have a huge fan base that goes well beyond the state.

Dorsey will no doubt talk about why his novels have a far reach as the local guest of honor during Bouchercon 2018, to be held September 6 to 9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

He also hints at all things Florida in his introductory essay to the Bouchercon short story collection Florida Happens, an anthology with proceeds going to a literacy charity.

For a close-up view of Florida, Dorsey’s annual “Stomp in the Swamp” is scheduled from noon until dark on October 27.

This is Dorsey’s eighth year of taking readers into the Everglades and, as far as I know, Serge would approve as it is a tribute to Florida.

The October stomp is the rescheduled event that was rained out earlier this year.

The rescheduled jamboree also will be at a new location that is another tribute to Florida—the historic old railroad station at the end of the “tracks” in Everglades City at 102 Collier Avenue.

The building has been preserved and is now the Taste of the Everglades (formerly the Seafood Depot).

The site features plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. A giant outdoor deck and tiki bar overlooks the water and mangroves in the Ten Thousand Islands region.

The Stomp in the Swamp is scheduled to take place rain or shine.

Just don’t do anything that will bring the wrath of Serge.

Tim Dorsey Visits the Everglades
Oline H. Cogdill
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Saturday, 04 August 2018 22:57

A couple of months ago, I caught the tail end of a marathon run of the TV crime drama Decoy, which also was, at times, called Decoy Police Woman.

This was considered to be a groundbreaking show, as it was the first American police series that focused on a female police detective. Its 39 half-hour episodes aired from 1957 to 1958.

And having binged on the ten or so episodes I saw, it was indeed groundbreaking, and holds up pretty well.

Decoy had me from the opening scene, with actress Beverly Garland, who played police detective Patricia “Casey” Jones, running from a building and pausing to light a cigarette against the backdrop of New York City. New York’s looming image lets us know that the city is as much a character in this series as any person.

Casey works undercover, mostly dealing with women as victims but also occasionally as criminals. She moves into an apartment to get to know a woman whose boyfriend is a suspected thief. She also poses as a model to catch a murderer in the garment district, as a nurse to find the source of illegal narcotics, and as prisoner in a women's jail, among other undercover assignments.

While the assignments involved women, these were sometimes dangerous assignments. Casey often was in danger and her professionalism and calm under fire—literally—earned her the respect of her male colleagues. Considering the times, that was no easy feat.

At the end of each episode, Casey talks directly to the audience about the crime, showing much empathy for the women who have been victimized. Each episode was dedicated to the Bureau of Policewomen of the New York Police Department.

The glamorous Garland was perfect as Casey. I’ve been a longtime fan of the late actress who played Steve Douglas’ second wife in My Three Sons, among other myriad roles.

While Garland was the only reoccurring actor in Decoy, the series featured a lot of bit actors whose names are recognizable now, such as Edward Asner, Martin Balsam, Barbara Barrie, Peter Falk, Colleen Dewhurst, Larry Hagman, Diane Ladd, Lois Nettleton, Phyllis Newman, and Suzanne Pleshette, among others.

Decoy is a nearly forgotten gem.

“Decoy” a Classic
Oline H. Cogdill
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