Sunday, 15 January 2012

justified2_olyphant.jpg

Justified didn't start out to be quite the involving piece of work that it has become.


The FX series about US Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by the intriguing Timothy Olyphant, top) started as the 2001 novella Fire in the Hole by crime writer Elmore Leonard.

Actually more of a short story published in the collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, Fire in the Hole sets the premise on which the TV series is based. Givens is sent back to Kentucky where he grew up to shut down Boyd Crowder, a Bible-quoting neo-Nazi with a penchant for terrorist acts.

The two men share a history and it becomes obvious that it was luck that each ended up on the other side of the law. Characters who thrive on the FX series don't make it to the end in Fire in the Hole.

The FX series, which returns at 10 pm Jan. 17, captures Elmore's flair for creating iconic characters, such as Givens and Crowder, as well as the author's masterful way with dialogue. Leonard has always been able to say so much with so few words, using simple dialogue that's loaded with depth. The FX producers wisely continue Leonard's approach to dialogue.

(As someone who grew up near Paducah, Kentucky, I can tell you that the accents are dead-on.)

The series also illustrates a recurring theme in Leonard's 44 novels—the thin line that is ever shifting between good and evil.

One critic mentioned that "Leonard's books put characters of dubious goodness and charming badness on a collision course." I'd say that's about right. Leonard's criminals exist in a universe in which they are indeed the heroes of their own stories. In Leonard's novels, black and white don't exist; even gray may be too definitive.

Leonard, who started as a writer of westerns and occasionally returns that genre, also infused a strong western element to Fire in the Hole. Givens is there to clean up his hometown; that he has to deal with his shady family, his connection to the area criminals and his own demons are not situations that Marshal Dillon of Gunsmoke ever dealt with.


The last season of Justified was magnificent. Just watching Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of a crime family, was mesmerizing. Martindale, of course, won't be back; Mags drank her last moonshine and Martindale took her richly deserved Emmy.

Season 3, which begins on Jan. 17, will see the return of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) to the criminal life.

leonardelmore_raylanxBut Boyd and his crew will not be the only ones making a play to rule the Harlan underworld. Givens will be up against dirty politicians, hidden fortunes, a mysterious man named “Limehouse” and an enterprising and lethal criminal from the Motor City.

The ever-watchable Carla Gugino will play Karen Goodall, who has a history with Givens, which should make his relationship with Winona (Natalie Zea) interesting.

As ever, Olyphant is perfect as Givens, giving a nuanced performance to this complicated character. (On a personal note, I have to say that Olyphant is quite easy on the eyes. He and Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice make crime fighting a handsome business.)

The television screen isn't the only place that will see the return of Raylan Givens. Leonard's new novel Raylan debuts the same day as the return of the FX series.

Leonard has been working on a full-length novel about Raylan for a year or so.

In Raylan, the marshal tackles a pair of dope-dealing brothers, a nurse who sells kidneys on the black market and a ruthless coal executive.

Elmore Leonard in print and on TV with Timothy Olyphant. Who could ask for more?

PHOTO: Timothy Olyphant/FX photo

Get Justified With Elmore Leonard
Oline Cogdill
get-justified-with-elmore-leonard

justified2_olyphant.jpg

Justified didn't start out to be quite the involving piece of work that it has become.


The FX series about US Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by the intriguing Timothy Olyphant, top) started as the 2001 novella Fire in the Hole by crime writer Elmore Leonard.

Actually more of a short story published in the collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, Fire in the Hole sets the premise on which the TV series is based. Givens is sent back to Kentucky where he grew up to shut down Boyd Crowder, a Bible-quoting neo-Nazi with a penchant for terrorist acts.

The two men share a history and it becomes obvious that it was luck that each ended up on the other side of the law. Characters who thrive on the FX series don't make it to the end in Fire in the Hole.

The FX series, which returns at 10 pm Jan. 17, captures Elmore's flair for creating iconic characters, such as Givens and Crowder, as well as the author's masterful way with dialogue. Leonard has always been able to say so much with so few words, using simple dialogue that's loaded with depth. The FX producers wisely continue Leonard's approach to dialogue.

(As someone who grew up near Paducah, Kentucky, I can tell you that the accents are dead-on.)

The series also illustrates a recurring theme in Leonard's 44 novels—the thin line that is ever shifting between good and evil.

One critic mentioned that "Leonard's books put characters of dubious goodness and charming badness on a collision course." I'd say that's about right. Leonard's criminals exist in a universe in which they are indeed the heroes of their own stories. In Leonard's novels, black and white don't exist; even gray may be too definitive.

Leonard, who started as a writer of westerns and occasionally returns that genre, also infused a strong western element to Fire in the Hole. Givens is there to clean up his hometown; that he has to deal with his shady family, his connection to the area criminals and his own demons are not situations that Marshal Dillon of Gunsmoke ever dealt with.


The last season of Justified was magnificent. Just watching Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of a crime family, was mesmerizing. Martindale, of course, won't be back; Mags drank her last moonshine and Martindale took her richly deserved Emmy.

Season 3, which begins on Jan. 17, will see the return of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) to the criminal life.

leonardelmore_raylanxBut Boyd and his crew will not be the only ones making a play to rule the Harlan underworld. Givens will be up against dirty politicians, hidden fortunes, a mysterious man named “Limehouse” and an enterprising and lethal criminal from the Motor City.

The ever-watchable Carla Gugino will play Karen Goodall, who has a history with Givens, which should make his relationship with Winona (Natalie Zea) interesting.

As ever, Olyphant is perfect as Givens, giving a nuanced performance to this complicated character. (On a personal note, I have to say that Olyphant is quite easy on the eyes. He and Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice make crime fighting a handsome business.)

The television screen isn't the only place that will see the return of Raylan Givens. Leonard's new novel Raylan debuts the same day as the return of the FX series.

Leonard has been working on a full-length novel about Raylan for a year or so.

In Raylan, the marshal tackles a pair of dope-dealing brothers, a nurse who sells kidneys on the black market and a ruthless coal executive.

Elmore Leonard in print and on TV with Timothy Olyphant. Who could ask for more?

PHOTO: Timothy Olyphant/FX photo

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

deaver_jeffrey

Pictured: Jeffery Deaver

Chris Grabenstein, Anthony Award winner and bestselling author of adult and middle grade thrillers, has a good reason for spending a week of his winter in Orlando, Florida.

While he'll be near Disney World and can even walk to Downtown Disney from his hotel room, the Mouse is not the draw for this author of the John Ceepak series.

He'll be there to kick off Sleuthfest, the mystery writers conference March 1 to 4 in Orlando.

"I'm coming to Sleuthfest because I have always heard that it is THE best con for writers working on their craft," said Grabenstein. "I'm looking forward to sharing a few secrets about using improvisational comedy techniques as a writing tool and picking up pointers from some of the best writers in our genre. The fact that it is being held at Disney World in Florida in March (a k a the middle of winter) doesn't hurt either. Hey, it's nine degrees in NYC today. I need some Florida sunshine."

Grabenstein kicks off Sleuthfest as the guest of honor during the all-day workshop Third Degree Thursday on March 1.

Grabenstein will be joined by two other top-notch authors.

Jeffery Deaver, above, award-winning, international bestselling author of the Lincoln Rhyme novels and the new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche, is the guest on Friday, March 2.

harris-Charlaine-official-pic-smallCharlaine Harris, left, the New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, which inspired the popular HBO series, True Blood, is the guest on Saturday, March 3.

About 20 years ago, only a handful of conferences that catered to mystery fiction existed. Bouchercon, of course. And Malice Domestic. And just a couple more.

Then along came Sleuthfest, sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, Florida chapter, with a different approach. Instead of appealing to fans, giving them the chance to hear favorite authors discuss their works, Sleuthfest was geared to writers. Of course, fans are always welcomed, but Sleuthfest is mainly for writers -- published and unpublished. It is one of the few conferences that has panels for writing and for crime scene detection.

Sleuthfest will be March 1 to 4, 2012. And for the first time since its inception, the conference will be held in the Orlando area.

A new venue but still the same approach -- writers helping other writers.

Editors, agents, authors and forensic experts will be on hand to discuss writing March 2 and 3. Sleuthfest
concludes on March 4 with an interview with the guests of honor.

Fee for Sleuthfest is $255 for MWA members and $275 for nonmembers until Jan. 15. The fee goes up after that. The rate includes some meals. One-day attendance also is available. Information and registration is at www.sleuthfest.com.

In addition, mystery authors Peter Abrahams (aka Spencer Quinn), Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, Peter
Blauner, Jamie Freveletti, John Gilstrap, Heather Graham, Mary Burton, Sandra Balzo, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Reed Coleman, Keith Thomson, Brendan DuBois, Alan Orloff, Dana Cameron, Lisa Unger, Julie Compton, Marcia Talley, PJ Parrish, Lisa Black, Toni Kelner, Lori Roy, Daniel Palmer, Elaine Viets and more will attend.

Authors and Florida in the winter. . . time to pack the bags.

Charlaine Harris, Jeffery Deaver, Chris Grabenstein at Sleuthfest
Oline Cogdill
charlaine-harris-jeffery-deaver-chris-grabenstein-at-sleuthfest

deaver_jeffrey

Pictured: Jeffery Deaver

Chris Grabenstein, Anthony Award winner and bestselling author of adult and middle grade thrillers, has a good reason for spending a week of his winter in Orlando, Florida.

While he'll be near Disney World and can even walk to Downtown Disney from his hotel room, the Mouse is not the draw for this author of the John Ceepak series.

He'll be there to kick off Sleuthfest, the mystery writers conference March 1 to 4 in Orlando.

"I'm coming to Sleuthfest because I have always heard that it is THE best con for writers working on their craft," said Grabenstein. "I'm looking forward to sharing a few secrets about using improvisational comedy techniques as a writing tool and picking up pointers from some of the best writers in our genre. The fact that it is being held at Disney World in Florida in March (a k a the middle of winter) doesn't hurt either. Hey, it's nine degrees in NYC today. I need some Florida sunshine."

Grabenstein kicks off Sleuthfest as the guest of honor during the all-day workshop Third Degree Thursday on March 1.

Grabenstein will be joined by two other top-notch authors.

Jeffery Deaver, above, award-winning, international bestselling author of the Lincoln Rhyme novels and the new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche, is the guest on Friday, March 2.

harris-Charlaine-official-pic-smallCharlaine Harris, left, the New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, which inspired the popular HBO series, True Blood, is the guest on Saturday, March 3.

About 20 years ago, only a handful of conferences that catered to mystery fiction existed. Bouchercon, of course. And Malice Domestic. And just a couple more.

Then along came Sleuthfest, sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, Florida chapter, with a different approach. Instead of appealing to fans, giving them the chance to hear favorite authors discuss their works, Sleuthfest was geared to writers. Of course, fans are always welcomed, but Sleuthfest is mainly for writers -- published and unpublished. It is one of the few conferences that has panels for writing and for crime scene detection.

Sleuthfest will be March 1 to 4, 2012. And for the first time since its inception, the conference will be held in the Orlando area.

A new venue but still the same approach -- writers helping other writers.

Editors, agents, authors and forensic experts will be on hand to discuss writing March 2 and 3. Sleuthfest
concludes on March 4 with an interview with the guests of honor.

Fee for Sleuthfest is $255 for MWA members and $275 for nonmembers until Jan. 15. The fee goes up after that. The rate includes some meals. One-day attendance also is available. Information and registration is at www.sleuthfest.com.

In addition, mystery authors Peter Abrahams (aka Spencer Quinn), Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, Peter
Blauner, Jamie Freveletti, John Gilstrap, Heather Graham, Mary Burton, Sandra Balzo, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Reed Coleman, Keith Thomson, Brendan DuBois, Alan Orloff, Dana Cameron, Lisa Unger, Julie Compton, Marcia Talley, PJ Parrish, Lisa Black, Toni Kelner, Lori Roy, Daniel Palmer, Elaine Viets and more will attend.

Authors and Florida in the winter. . . time to pack the bags.

Sunday, 08 January 2012

murderbythebook4_portland

Mid-morning on a Tuesday normally isn't a prime shopping time. Yet, there's a steady stream of customers dropping by Murder by the Book, a charming bookstore tucked between a lovely old duplex and a store that sells cutlery, T-shirts and gifts on a small eclectic block abutting a residential area in Portland, Oregon. A variety of restaurants, pizza places and boutiques are nearby.


The customers are a mix of local residents, neighbors from down the street and out-of-towners. One couple has driven several hours and is prowling the aisles loading up two hand-held baskets, checking off the titles on a list they are holding, occasionally asking for help. Their preference is cozies but the pair is open to other types of novels.

It's business as usual for Murder by the Book, which has been serving Portland readers since 1983.

"Portland is a big walking town and the Hawthorne area [of Portland] is a destination spot," said store manager Jean May, who has been with Murder by the Book since 1986. "People come to Hawthorne for the restaurants, the coffee shops and the shopping, plus we are near a park. And they discover us. We also have an active business association—many of the stores on Hawthorne are locally owned businesses—and we promote each other. We are all part of a community."

Like other bookstores specializing in mystery fiction, Murder by the Book knows its customers.

"It's like being a bartender," said May. "People talk to you and not just about books. The relationship isn't just about selling, it's about trust. Our customers look to us as someone whose opinion they can trust about a book. You keep your customer in mind and suggest books they will want to read. Our customers are not afraid to try new authors. I also will tell our customers that a book isn't for them. They trust us."

Naturally, May is a fan of the genre. "Why else would I be here?" she said with a smile. "There's a mystery out there for every kind of reader. I like people to tell me what they like, even if they say they don't read a mystery. I can find a mystery for them." May's daughter, Jordan Foster, inherited her mother's love of the genre and is now a book critic.

A presence on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter are standard now for bookstores of all sizes as are a newsletter and reviews of new issues. In addition to new hardcovers and paperbacks, the store tries to keep in stock all the novels in a series and carries a selection of used books for sale. Murder by the Book also has found success in other marketing plans. The store will rent hardcovers to readers. Some of those who rent can't afford the price of a hardcover or lack the space for a home library.

Jana Flores of Portland is one of the store's frequent renters. She was returning the latest from J.A. Jance, Tana French and Jan Burke and was deciding which other books to rent. "This is a great store and they make great suggestions," Flores said. "I rent the hardcovers and then buy the paperbacks. I ask that all my gifts be gift certificates to Murder by the Book. I don't want anything else."

That kind of customer loyalty inspires the store's staff.

"Our philosophy is that we are here because we are passionate about books and we enjoy the hand-selling process," said co-owner Barbara Tom.

murderbythebook5_portlandPortland's Murder by the Book was begun in 1983 by Jill Hinckley, a huge Rex Stout fan who named her store after the 1951 Nero Wolfe novel. Hinckley was joined a couple of years later by co-owner Carolyn Lane.

When Hinckley retired in 2008, Barbara Tom became a partner. Along with store manager May, the staff includes Nick Slosser, Jackie McQuiston and John Caruso.

The store is well organized and arranged by sub-genre with novels listed in chronological order, with new and used side by side. The owners and staff's sense of humor is evident in the signs that divide the various categories. The Butler Did It is for the Golden Age novels; legal thrillers are found in A Reasonable Doubt. Guess which authors are in the Wild Women: Flashy, sassy & a little trashy section.

Murder by the Book also hosts a number of book signings. During one of the hottest Augusts a couple of years "a bestselling author" arrived the day the air conditioner broke. It was 105 degrees. No customers came but the author was upbeat and signed stock, said Tom. "We ended up talking for hours and had a great time." Craig Johnson's signing last summer was "packed," said Tom. "It's so easy to sell his books because he is very nice and his books are great."

Although Murder by the Book can get cramped during a book signing, the staff uses this to the store's advantage.

"The writers are very accommodating," said May. "During signings here, authors get a chance to talk with their readers and really connect. Rather than a formal signing in which an author only has a few minutes to talk, they are able to have an experience with the customers."

Murder by the Book's customers come in all ages and the classics sell just as well to the younger readers.

"Young women will come in seeking Agatha Christie," said Tom. "The guys want Jim Thompson, Chandler, Hammett and the noir. And after they read those, they want the new authors."

"There's a mystery for everyone," said May. "We just try to figure out which is the right mystery for which customer."

Photos: Jean May and Barbara Tom in Murder by the Book in Portland, Oregon; and the street scene outside the store. Credit: Bill Hirschman

Portland's Murder by the Book
Oline Cogdill
portlands-murder-by-the-book

murderbythebook4_portland

Mid-morning on a Tuesday normally isn't a prime shopping time. Yet, there's a steady stream of customers dropping by Murder by the Book, a charming bookstore tucked between a lovely old duplex and a store that sells cutlery, T-shirts and gifts on a small eclectic block abutting a residential area in Portland, Oregon. A variety of restaurants, pizza places and boutiques are nearby.


The customers are a mix of local residents, neighbors from down the street and out-of-towners. One couple has driven several hours and is prowling the aisles loading up two hand-held baskets, checking off the titles on a list they are holding, occasionally asking for help. Their preference is cozies but the pair is open to other types of novels.

It's business as usual for Murder by the Book, which has been serving Portland readers since 1983.

"Portland is a big walking town and the Hawthorne area [of Portland] is a destination spot," said store manager Jean May, who has been with Murder by the Book since 1986. "People come to Hawthorne for the restaurants, the coffee shops and the shopping, plus we are near a park. And they discover us. We also have an active business association—many of the stores on Hawthorne are locally owned businesses—and we promote each other. We are all part of a community."

Like other bookstores specializing in mystery fiction, Murder by the Book knows its customers.

"It's like being a bartender," said May. "People talk to you and not just about books. The relationship isn't just about selling, it's about trust. Our customers look to us as someone whose opinion they can trust about a book. You keep your customer in mind and suggest books they will want to read. Our customers are not afraid to try new authors. I also will tell our customers that a book isn't for them. They trust us."

Naturally, May is a fan of the genre. "Why else would I be here?" she said with a smile. "There's a mystery out there for every kind of reader. I like people to tell me what they like, even if they say they don't read a mystery. I can find a mystery for them." May's daughter, Jordan Foster, inherited her mother's love of the genre and is now a book critic.

A presence on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter are standard now for bookstores of all sizes as are a newsletter and reviews of new issues. In addition to new hardcovers and paperbacks, the store tries to keep in stock all the novels in a series and carries a selection of used books for sale. Murder by the Book also has found success in other marketing plans. The store will rent hardcovers to readers. Some of those who rent can't afford the price of a hardcover or lack the space for a home library.

Jana Flores of Portland is one of the store's frequent renters. She was returning the latest from J.A. Jance, Tana French and Jan Burke and was deciding which other books to rent. "This is a great store and they make great suggestions," Flores said. "I rent the hardcovers and then buy the paperbacks. I ask that all my gifts be gift certificates to Murder by the Book. I don't want anything else."

That kind of customer loyalty inspires the store's staff.

"Our philosophy is that we are here because we are passionate about books and we enjoy the hand-selling process," said co-owner Barbara Tom.

murderbythebook5_portlandPortland's Murder by the Book was begun in 1983 by Jill Hinckley, a huge Rex Stout fan who named her store after the 1951 Nero Wolfe novel. Hinckley was joined a couple of years later by co-owner Carolyn Lane.

When Hinckley retired in 2008, Barbara Tom became a partner. Along with store manager May, the staff includes Nick Slosser, Jackie McQuiston and John Caruso.

The store is well organized and arranged by sub-genre with novels listed in chronological order, with new and used side by side. The owners and staff's sense of humor is evident in the signs that divide the various categories. The Butler Did It is for the Golden Age novels; legal thrillers are found in A Reasonable Doubt. Guess which authors are in the Wild Women: Flashy, sassy & a little trashy section.

Murder by the Book also hosts a number of book signings. During one of the hottest Augusts a couple of years "a bestselling author" arrived the day the air conditioner broke. It was 105 degrees. No customers came but the author was upbeat and signed stock, said Tom. "We ended up talking for hours and had a great time." Craig Johnson's signing last summer was "packed," said Tom. "It's so easy to sell his books because he is very nice and his books are great."

Although Murder by the Book can get cramped during a book signing, the staff uses this to the store's advantage.

"The writers are very accommodating," said May. "During signings here, authors get a chance to talk with their readers and really connect. Rather than a formal signing in which an author only has a few minutes to talk, they are able to have an experience with the customers."

Murder by the Book's customers come in all ages and the classics sell just as well to the younger readers.

"Young women will come in seeking Agatha Christie," said Tom. "The guys want Jim Thompson, Chandler, Hammett and the noir. And after they read those, they want the new authors."

"There's a mystery for everyone," said May. "We just try to figure out which is the right mystery for which customer."

Photos: Jean May and Barbara Tom in Murder by the Book in Portland, Oregon; and the street scene outside the store. Credit: Bill Hirschman