Teri Duerr

This week kicks off the seventh annual University Press Week, and this year scholarly publishers hope to #TurnItUP by highlighting the "unheard or underrepresented voices, stories, and scholarly areas in the publishing ecosystem." Though one doesn't generally think of university presses first or foremost when one thinks of mystery or crime writing, more and more university presses are putting their great minds to some great murders.

In honor of UPW, Mystery Scene presents here your course syllabus for "University Press Mysteries 101" this year. A full run-down of all UP Week events can be found at www.universitypressweek.org.


Since its founding in Athens, Ohio, in 1964, Ohio University Press (including its trade imprint, Swallow Press) has published books from academic monographs to regional histories to internationally acclaimed literary works, including those of Anaïs Nin. Its currently has two mystery authors on its illustrious roster, Andrew Welsh Huggins and Nancy Tingley.

"One of our missions as a university press is to enrich the cultural community not only of our home institution, but of our town, state, and region," said a spokesperson for the press. "Mystery writers have long woven social issues, observations about identity and place, and insights into subcultures into their stories and series. At Ohio University Press, our authors have situated their stories in place —Ohio Amish Country, Columbus, Ohio, and the Southeast Asian art world—that, through the power of setting, allow their tales of murder and crime to offer keen insight into people’s struggles with the societies in which they live or choose to visit. In this way, our mystery novels serve as terrifically fun complements to our nonfiction offerings, and put us on the map with new and devoted readerships."


"Our press has a long history of publishing native voices," said the University of Arizona Press. "We’re committed to presenting nuanced, accurate, and respectful representations of Indigenous life. Authors such as Cherokee author Sara Sue Hoklotubbe and Tom Holm (The Osage Rose, 2008) bring readers into their communities. They use the mystery genre to highlight real issues within these communities, making them visible and engaging to audiences beyond what perhaps traditional monographs might reach."

"I spent 21 years working in the banking business and had very little time for reading," said Hoklotubbe in a UAP interview, "But when I discovered Tony Hillerman’s mysteries, that all changed. I loved how he wrote mysteries and wove in Navajo and Hopi culture. Even though Tony was non‐Indian, he wrote with such accuracy and respect for Indians that the Navajo Nation gave him their blessing. That’s when I decided I wanted to write mysteries about my people, the Cherokee."


"At Indiana University Press, we believe that true crime and regional true mysteries offer a fun and exciting way for readers to dive into history and explore the past," said a spokesperson for the press. To this end, IUP has put out two fun nonfiction crime books this year.


The University of Wisconsin Press, based out of Madison, Wisconsin, is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals with nearly 1,500 titles in print. A very small fraction of those are mysteries, but the UWP \publishes the well-received Dave Cubiak mysteries by Patricia Skalka and considers its mystery and crime-related offerings to be an important part of the family: "Publishing mysteries gives us the opportunity to share intriguing and shocking stories crafted by talented authors against the backdrop of scenic Wisconsin settings. The complex and endearing characters supporting these stories feel familiar, inspired by people and experiences that are deeply Midwestern."

"The plot for Death Stalks Door County, the first book in the series, is based on the simple premise that there are sinister forces at work beneath the surface of the picture-perfect veneer of Door County [Wisconsin]," said Skalka. "For the story to work, I needed a protagonist who knew nothing of the longtime residents and their interpersonal histories – the grudges and animosities, the wrongs that had been done years back. Enter Dave Cubiak, a complete stranger from Chicago. But I also needed someone who knew how to solve a series of murders, so it seemed only natural that he’d be a former homicide detective." 

  • Death in Cold Water, by Patricia Skalka (November 2018)
  • Death by the Bay, by Patricia Skalka (May 2019)
  • The Dead of Achill Island, by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden (May 2019) 


The University of Iowa Press says it is a place where first-class writing matters, whether the subject is Whitman or Shakespeare, prairie or poetry, memoirs or medical literature, or, in this case true crime.

"Publishing true crime is important to the University of Iowa Press because these books are inclusive in the nonfiction genre, encompassing historical substance, place, and biography among other topics," said the publisher. "Our books also avoid sensationalism or exploitation of the crimes or victims. We hope that our true crime books will find the readers who are interested in all of these facets of the story, rather than solely about the violent crimes themselves."