During a recent trip to San Diego to visit a longtime friend, the conversation turned, as it always does, to the people we went to high school with and those people who live in our hometown in Missouri.
We reminisced about mutual friends and acquaintances and about people who are no longer a part of our lives. Some of whom we miss and some of whom we could care less about.
So this seems like a perfect time to reminisce about characters. With so many mysteries published each year, it is easy to forget about a favorite character when they are missing for a year or two. But when an author brings back that hero or heroine after a few years absence, we instantly remember how much enjoyment those stories brought us.
Series characters become a part of our lives. We can't wait to read the next installment of their adventures and many of use wish authors would write faster.
So it was like getting out old photos and years of yearbooks when three authors recently brought back their characters after several years of hiatus.
Steve Hamilton returns to his reluctant private investigator Alex McKnight in Misery Bay. The last time Steve Hamilton published an Alex McKnight novel was A Stolen Season in 2006, but it's not as if Hamilton has been idle. His 2010 novel The Lock Artist won the Edgar for best novel this year.
Five years is a long time, but Hamilton quickly reestablishes the complex Alex in Misery Bay's enthralling plot.
Julia Spencer-Fleming last delved into the life of the Rev. Clare Fergusson in 2008’s I Shall Not Want. It's a different—but no less compelling—Claire who returns in the newly published One Was a Soldier.
Just back from the 18 months she spent flying helicopters in Iraq, Claire has returned with several bad habits and doubts about herself and even her calling as a minister.
Claire's flaws are realistically explored in One Was a Soldier and make readers connect with her even more.
Darryl Wimberley smoothly reintroduces Barrett “Bear” Raines, a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Devil’s Slew.
The last time Bear fought crime was in 2007’s Pepperfish Keys. In Devil's Slew, Wimberley again shows how racism seeps into an investigation as Bear, an African-American, tries to find out why a returning veteran snapped.
Each of these novels has freshness as if we are reading these characters for the first time. But I am hoping these characters won't be so long in returning.
When disasters and tragedies occur, the natural tendency is to try to help. Donate to the Red Cross or bring canned goods to the local food bank.
Shaken: Stories for Japan is a collection of original stories with 100 percent of the royalties going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund, administered by the Japan America Society of Southern California.
All proceeds will be sent to non-governmental organizations in Japan that have experience with both immediate humanitarian relief and long-term recovery of devastated areas affected by the Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami waves and radiation crisis in northeastern Japan.
Shaken, which retails at $3.99, is published as an ebook on Amazon.com's Kindle platform. Kindle publication makes it possible for all author royalties to be deposited directly into the nonprofit organization's bank account.
In addition, Amazon is passing on its normal 30 percent publication fee so the entire sales price goes to the relief effort.
The book opens with Adrian McKinty's elegaic piece on 17th-century haiku master Basho in Sendai, inspired by McKinty's having followed in Basho's footsteps. Hallinan thought it would add a new dimension to the book if he could link the stories with haiku. But when he tried to find one to link to McKinty's story, he said he discovered there were no Basho translations in English that are in the public domain.
"The international haiku community rallied around, and within three days I had ermission to use all the poems I wanted from a 2008 Kodansha book called Basho: The Complete Haiku, translated by Jane Reichhold," said Hallinan in an email. "These are held in really elevated esteem among haiku cogniscenti and we received permission to use whatever we wanted."
Shaken is now structured with each story followed by a haiku. "I think it brings an entirely different texture to the collection," said Hallinan.
Although Hallinan called on the mystery writers for stories, not every story is a mystery. But each story has a link to Japan.
And the writers, many of whom have won the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Shamus, are impressive: Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Timothy Hallinan, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, and Jeri Westerson. No writer is accepting a royalty for Shaken.
The cover design is by author Gar Anthony Haywood, who also donated his time.
“This was a labor of love for all the authors who offered to contribute a story, and all worked to turn out something special,” said Hallinan, in a release.
For more information Japan relief, visit the Japan America Society of Southern California.