Thrilled to Death
Betty Webb

I’ve always been fascinated by L.J. Sellers headline-conscious mysteries, where super detectives don’t exist, but bright and idealistic justice seekers can be found on every page. In Sellers’ Thrilled to Death two Eugene, Oregon women disappear on the same day. One is wealthy and spoiled, the other a desperate single mother on the verge of giving up her baby for adoption. Normally, this would be just another day at the office for Eugene homicide detective Wade Jackson, but he has fallen ill and is facing surgery that will either kill him or, at the very least, keep him out of work for months. When the rich girl turns up dead, Jackson ignores his own health issues to find the other girl before she meets the same fate.

Sellers, the author of excellent The Sex Club and the just-as-good Secrets to Die For, knows how to wring as much tension as possible from her intricate, socially relevant plots, but it is her talent for creating intriguing characters that makes her suspense novels so memorable. In fact, she’s so good that it’s surprising she hasn’t yet broken through the mid-list barrier and into suspense superstardom.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 05:01

I’ve always been fascinated by L.J. Sellers headline-conscious mysteries, where super detectives don’t exist, but bright and idealistic justice seekers can be found on every page. In Sellers’ Thrilled to Death two Eugene, Oregon women disappear on the same day. One is wealthy and spoiled, the other a desperate single mother on the verge of giving up her baby for adoption. Normally, this would be just another day at the office for Eugene homicide detective Wade Jackson, but he has fallen ill and is facing surgery that will either kill him or, at the very least, keep him out of work for months. When the rich girl turns up dead, Jackson ignores his own health issues to find the other girl before she meets the same fate.

Sellers, the author of excellent The Sex Club and the just-as-good Secrets to Die For, knows how to wring as much tension as possible from her intricate, socially relevant plots, but it is her talent for creating intriguing characters that makes her suspense novels so memorable. In fact, she’s so good that it’s surprising she hasn’t yet broken through the mid-list barrier and into suspense superstardom.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Betty Webb

In Don Bruns’ Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, newly-licensed Miami PIs Skip Moore and James Lessor are well-meaning bumblers, but they’re still heaps smarter than the hapless carnies they encounter when they go underground at a carnival. Someone has been sabotaging the rides, resulting in one death and the near-fatal injury of another man.

Told from Skip’s hilarious first-person POV, we see his frustration as his partner falls in lust with a carnival-loving hottie, to the further detriment of his already poor detecting skills. Aware that they’re in over their heads, the two purchase a trunk full of spy gear, then belatedly realize that they don’t even know how to work the stuff. In the meantime, the carnie body count rises. A ride operator is found murdered while answering a call of nature (yes, we’re talking toilet humor, and lots of it, too), and Skip is threatened while walking through the darkened Funhouse.

One warning: political correctness in nowhere to be found in this book. In the scenes that include a dwarf who runs a petting zoo, Skip and James never miss a chance to let fly ribald short jokes. Nevertheless, Bruns treats us to an amusing mystery about two bungling detectives who crack enough one-liners to star in their own sitcom. This is a new direction for Bruns, who is best known for his popular Caribbean mystery series which includes Bahama Burnout and St. Barts Breakdown.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 05:01

bruns_dontsweatthesmallstuffSkip and James, two bungling detectives, crack one-liners and cases in Bruns' latest caper.

Front Page Teaser
Betty Webb

Rosemary Herbert’s Front Page Teaser is set nine months before the horrific events of 9/11, which lends an international thriller aspect to a story about a missing mother. The action begins when Ellen Johansson, intrigued by her Arabic-speaking cabdriver, unwisely says good-by to him using an Arabic phrase she’s learned from a Middle Eastern pen pal. She has no way of knowing that the cab driver is a part of the 9/11 plot, and that her friendly gesture will put her in harm’s way. As the clock ticks down, the action shifts back and forth from Boston to New York, creeping ever closer to the day terrorists attacked America.

The looming tragedy is both the novel’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness, because the memories of the World Trade Center crumbling into dust can’t help but overshadow the book’s characters and plot. Protagonist Liz Higgins, a reporter who is investigating Ellen’s disappearance, is wily and likeable; so is her banjo-playing Irish boyfriend. But as pleasant as the two are, they can’t compete with the world-changing events we know are to come. Even the missing mother’s dire situation seems minor in comparison.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 05:01

Rosemary Herbert’s Front Page Teaser is set nine months before the horrific events of 9/11, which lends an international thriller aspect to a story about a missing mother. The action begins when Ellen Johansson, intrigued by her Arabic-speaking cabdriver, unwisely says good-by to him using an Arabic phrase she’s learned from a Middle Eastern pen pal. She has no way of knowing that the cab driver is a part of the 9/11 plot, and that her friendly gesture will put her in harm’s way. As the clock ticks down, the action shifts back and forth from Boston to New York, creeping ever closer to the day terrorists attacked America.

The looming tragedy is both the novel’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness, because the memories of the World Trade Center crumbling into dust can’t help but overshadow the book’s characters and plot. Protagonist Liz Higgins, a reporter who is investigating Ellen’s disappearance, is wily and likeable; so is her banjo-playing Irish boyfriend. But as pleasant as the two are, they can’t compete with the world-changing events we know are to come. Even the missing mother’s dire situation seems minor in comparison.

Murder at the Pta
Lynne F. Maxwell

In Laura Alden’s Murder at the PTA, accidental sleuth Beth Kennedy, mother and children’s bookstore owner, is something less than thrilled when her best friend strong-arms her into accepting the position of PTA secretary. Being secretary of any organization is a notoriously thankless task, particularly when trouble erupts. In Beth’s case disaster strikes when the school’s autocratic principal unilaterally decides to build a new elementary school. Not only does she announce this project as an edict, but apparently it is already a done deal, with architectural plans finalized. Not surprisingly, the townsfolk are aghast and there is a predictable outcry. Still, this news is shortly eclipsed by the murder of Agnes, the selfsame principal, and by Beth’s struggle to discover who Agnes was. Where, for instance, did she acquire the capital to finance such a gargantuan project? Who was she before she came to town and assumed her draconian role as elementary school principal? Much of this book’s thrust, then, is devoted to Beth’s quest to answer a fundamental mystery: Can we ever truly know another human being? Alden’s exploration of this conundrum in Murder at the PTA is well worth your time.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

In Laura Alden’s Murder at the PTA, accidental sleuth Beth Kennedy, mother and children’s bookstore owner, is something less than thrilled when her best friend strong-arms her into accepting the position of PTA secretary. Being secretary of any organization is a notoriously thankless task, particularly when trouble erupts. In Beth’s case disaster strikes when the school’s autocratic principal unilaterally decides to build a new elementary school. Not only does she announce this project as an edict, but apparently it is already a done deal, with architectural plans finalized. Not surprisingly, the townsfolk are aghast and there is a predictable outcry. Still, this news is shortly eclipsed by the murder of Agnes, the selfsame principal, and by Beth’s struggle to discover who Agnes was. Where, for instance, did she acquire the capital to finance such a gargantuan project? Who was she before she came to town and assumed her draconian role as elementary school principal? Much of this book’s thrust, then, is devoted to Beth’s quest to answer a fundamental mystery: Can we ever truly know another human being? Alden’s exploration of this conundrum in Murder at the PTA is well worth your time.

Fundraising the Dead
Lynne F. Maxwell

Sheila Connolly’s Fundraising the Dead also delves into the mysteries of the human psyche, this time emphasizing the allure of money and power. Connolly’s new Museum Mystery series is quite a bit darker than her delightful Apple Orchard Mystery series, but it is even more skillfully executed. Set in Philadelphia, repository of old money and blue bloods, this series debut features astute fundraiser Nell Pratt, director of development for a small but prestigious museum holding collections of valuable papers and objects of local historical significance.

As the story begins, Nell is nervously presiding over a gala fundraiser when she learns that a number of museum items have mysteriously vanished. As the gala unfolds, the museum employee attempting to track down the missing materials meets an untimely demise. Coincidence? Murder? At the instigation of the eccentric Marty, one of the blue-blooded donors, Nell sets out to investigate. While the reader may not be entirely surprised when the criminal is exposed, the motivation for the crimes will come as a shock and it’s a pleasure to accompany Nell on her quest. Fundraising the Dead is a promising debut with a winning protagonist.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

Sheila Connolly’s Fundraising the Dead also delves into the mysteries of the human psyche, this time emphasizing the allure of money and power. Connolly’s new Museum Mystery series is quite a bit darker than her delightful Apple Orchard Mystery series, but it is even more skillfully executed. Set in Philadelphia, repository of old money and blue bloods, this series debut features astute fundraiser Nell Pratt, director of development for a small but prestigious museum holding collections of valuable papers and objects of local historical significance.

As the story begins, Nell is nervously presiding over a gala fundraiser when she learns that a number of museum items have mysteriously vanished. As the gala unfolds, the museum employee attempting to track down the missing materials meets an untimely demise. Coincidence? Murder? At the instigation of the eccentric Marty, one of the blue-blooded donors, Nell sets out to investigate. While the reader may not be entirely surprised when the criminal is exposed, the motivation for the crimes will come as a shock and it’s a pleasure to accompany Nell on her quest. Fundraising the Dead is a promising debut with a winning protagonist.

An Uplifting Murder
Elaine Viets

Welcome the return of an old favorite, Elaine Viets, with the sixth entry in her series featuring Josie Marcus, employed as a mystery shopper in St. Louis. Viets, also the author of the hilarious Helen Hawthorne series, somehow always manages to write energetic, humorous mysteries with fresh plot twists and additional nuances of character. Accordingly, we come to know Josie better with each outing.

In An Uplifting Murder Josie receives a new much-needed mystery shopping assignment. Her destination? An upscale lingerie store. The “uplift” of the title refers, of course, to the bras that Josie must try on as part of her assignment. Accompanied by her customary sidekick Alice—unlike Josie, a prosperous suburban housewife—Josie braves the bra store, only to discover that the manager is her former favorite teacher, one who long ago rescued her from the class bully. To compound the coincidence apparently common in “small town” St. Louis, that very bully also appears on the scene and she hasn’t changed a whit over the many intervening years.

You will undoubtedly guess who becomes a murder victim, but you will want to devour this entertaining book to find out why. As always, Viets creates a heroine replete with wit, intelligence and a sense of humor and entwines her in complicated plot strands. So, for an uplifting read experience Elaine Viets’ An Uplifting Murder.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

Welcome the return of an old favorite, Elaine Viets, with the sixth entry in her series featuring Josie Marcus, employed as a mystery shopper in St. Louis. Viets, also the author of the hilarious Helen Hawthorne series, somehow always manages to write energetic, humorous mysteries with fresh plot twists and additional nuances of character. Accordingly, we come to know Josie better with each outing.

In An Uplifting Murder Josie receives a new much-needed mystery shopping assignment. Her destination? An upscale lingerie store. The “uplift” of the title refers, of course, to the bras that Josie must try on as part of her assignment. Accompanied by her customary sidekick Alice—unlike Josie, a prosperous suburban housewife—Josie braves the bra store, only to discover that the manager is her former favorite teacher, one who long ago rescued her from the class bully. To compound the coincidence apparently common in “small town” St. Louis, that very bully also appears on the scene and she hasn’t changed a whit over the many intervening years.

You will undoubtedly guess who becomes a murder victim, but you will want to devour this entertaining book to find out why. As always, Viets creates a heroine replete with wit, intelligence and a sense of humor and entwines her in complicated plot strands. So, for an uplifting read experience Elaine Viets’ An Uplifting Murder.

Injustice for All
Lynne F. Maxwell

And now, for something completely different, consider Scott Pratt’s Injustice for All. Remember the John Grisham of A Time to Kill and The Firm? Well, if you liked those books then you’re going to enjoy Scott Pratt’s work. Pratt has mastered the disciplines of characterization, plot and narrative, making for an incredible roller coaster of a ride in this compelling book. From the stunning beginning to the equally breathtaking conclusion, Pratt will surely hold you hostage as he portrays Joe Dillard, a Tennessee prosecutor, and his furious quest for justice. Joe’s close friend Ray Miller commits suicide in a public courtroom, which is perhaps the ultimate closing statement. That’s not the end of the horror, though, because the judge presiding over that courtroom shortly meets his own death by hanging. Read on as Joe uncovers layers upon layers of dangerous secrets. In the end, though, has justice been meted out at all? As one of my law school professors commented: “This is law school; if you want justice, go across the street to the theology school.” Injustice for All echoes that sort of cynicism, even as it strives to offer hope.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

And now, for something completely different, consider Scott Pratt’s Injustice for All. Remember the John Grisham of A Time to Kill and The Firm? Well, if you liked those books then you’re going to enjoy Scott Pratt’s work. Pratt has mastered the disciplines of characterization, plot and narrative, making for an incredible roller coaster of a ride in this compelling book. From the stunning beginning to the equally breathtaking conclusion, Pratt will surely hold you hostage as he portrays Joe Dillard, a Tennessee prosecutor, and his furious quest for justice. Joe’s close friend Ray Miller commits suicide in a public courtroom, which is perhaps the ultimate closing statement. That’s not the end of the horror, though, because the judge presiding over that courtroom shortly meets his own death by hanging. Read on as Joe uncovers layers upon layers of dangerous secrets. In the end, though, has justice been meted out at all? As one of my law school professors commented: “This is law school; if you want justice, go across the street to the theology school.” Injustice for All echoes that sort of cynicism, even as it strives to offer hope.

Beat to a Pulp: Round One
Bill Crider

I’m going to begin with a disclaimer, because I wrote the “Foreword” for Beat to a Pulp: Round One edited by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash. It was David Cranmer’s idea to publish a short story online every week at Beat to a Pulp . The stories are in the pulp tradition, and they’ve proved to be so popular that they’ve led to the publication of this collection. Not all the stories in the book have appeared on the website.

The contents include a story by the late Paul S. Powers, whose 2007 memoir entitled Pulp Writer, I commend to your attention. It tells of his “twenty years in the American Grub Street,” and it’s an interesting and poignant tale, indeed. His “The Strange Death of Ambrose Bierce” was unpublished during his lifetime. James Reasoner has a haunting war story, “Heliotrope,” that you won’t soon forget, and Robert J. Randisi offers a story featuring his series PI Miles Jacoby. There are other excellent crime stories by writers both well-known and not-so-well-known, SF stories, and even a pirate story, “The Ghost Ship,” by Evan Lewis. Don’t pass up Beat to a Pulp: Round One.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

I’m going to begin with a disclaimer, because I wrote the “Foreword” for Beat to a Pulp: Round One edited by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash. It was David Cranmer’s idea to publish a short story online every week at Beat to a Pulp . The stories are in the pulp tradition, and they’ve proved to be so popular that they’ve led to the publication of this collection. Not all the stories in the book have appeared on the website.

The contents include a story by the late Paul S. Powers, whose 2007 memoir entitled Pulp Writer, I commend to your attention. It tells of his “twenty years in the American Grub Street,” and it’s an interesting and poignant tale, indeed. His “The Strange Death of Ambrose Bierce” was unpublished during his lifetime. James Reasoner has a haunting war story, “Heliotrope,” that you won’t soon forget, and Robert J. Randisi offers a story featuring his series PI Miles Jacoby. There are other excellent crime stories by writers both well-known and not-so-well-known, SF stories, and even a pirate story, “The Ghost Ship,” by Evan Lewis. Don’t pass up Beat to a Pulp: Round One.

The Shamus Winners, Volume I: 1982-1995
Bill Crider

Each year since 1982, the Private-Eye Writers of America organization has given out awards for PI fiction. Now all the winners for best short story have been collected into The Shamus Winners, Volume I: 1982-1995 and Volume II: 1996-2009, both edited by Robert J. Randisi. There are even bonus stories in each volume, stories that were nominated and could easily have won the award.

The tables of contents read like a “Who’s Who” of crime fiction, and there are far too many names for me to list here, so I’ll just mention a few of my favorite stories. One is “The Killing Man,” by Mickey Spillane. Why is it a favorite? Because I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have win a Shamus than Spillane. It’s Mike Hammer at his best. Another favorite is “By the Dawn’s Early Light” by Lawrence Block. This story was later the basis for When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. The story’s just as powerful as the novel. “Akitada’s First Case” shows that private-eye fiction doesn’t have to be set in the US. In fact, I.J. Parker’s excellent story is set in ancient Japan, in the Heian Period. For those of you who aren’t up on your history, that period covered the years 794 to 1185. That’s a long way from the mean streets that Philip Marlowe walked. On the other hand, Cornelia Read’s “Hungry Enough” is set in the L.A. environs that Marlowe would know quite well, in the late ’50s. And in fact...well, I’m not telling. You’ll just have to read it.

But wait. There’s more. Editor Randisi contributes an insightful introduction to each volume, and in each there’s also an appendix that lists not just the Shamus winners in all categories but the nominees as well. Besides all this, the two hefty paperback volumes look great on the bookshelf. Perfect Crime is doing quality work.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

Each year since 1982, the Private-Eye Writers of America organization has given out awards for PI fiction. Now all the winners for best short story have been collected into The Shamus Winners, Volume I: 1982-1995 and Volume II: 1996-2009, both edited by Robert J. Randisi. There are even bonus stories in each volume, stories that were nominated and could easily have won the award.

The tables of contents read like a “Who’s Who” of crime fiction, and there are far too many names for me to list here, so I’ll just mention a few of my favorite stories. One is “The Killing Man,” by Mickey Spillane. Why is it a favorite? Because I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have win a Shamus than Spillane. It’s Mike Hammer at his best. Another favorite is “By the Dawn’s Early Light” by Lawrence Block. This story was later the basis for When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. The story’s just as powerful as the novel. “Akitada’s First Case” shows that private-eye fiction doesn’t have to be set in the US. In fact, I.J. Parker’s excellent story is set in ancient Japan, in the Heian Period. For those of you who aren’t up on your history, that period covered the years 794 to 1185. That’s a long way from the mean streets that Philip Marlowe walked. On the other hand, Cornelia Read’s “Hungry Enough” is set in the L.A. environs that Marlowe would know quite well, in the late ’50s. And in fact...well, I’m not telling. You’ll just have to read it.

But wait. There’s more. Editor Randisi contributes an insightful introduction to each volume, and in each there’s also an appendix that lists not just the Shamus winners in all categories but the nominees as well. Besides all this, the two hefty paperback volumes look great on the bookshelf. Perfect Crime is doing quality work.

The Boy Detectives: Essays on the Hardy Boys and Others
Jon L. Breen

This companion volume to the editor’s Nancy Drew and Her Sister Sleuths: Essays on the Fiction of Girl Detectives (2008; reviewed here in issue #111) is not as successful overall, much more pretentious and prone to academic jargon, but there is still plenty of valuable information and analysis. Of those pieces centered on the Hardys, less than half the book, the most entertaining from a fan perspective is Brian Taves’ account of the brothers’ various TV incarnations, good pop culture history without professorial excesses. On the other extreme, Larry T. Shillock’s application of narrative theory and Freud to The Tower Treasure at times reads like a parody of highbrow publish-or-perish literary criticism. Other Hardy-centered essays: C.M. Gill’s pointed gender study contrasting the Hardys, who have a sense of community, with Nancy Drew, who exhibits lone-wolf tendencies; and Christopher Schaberg on airport settings in Hardy cases from 1930, 1987, and 1993, including some humorous allusions and comparisons. John Finlay Kerr’s concluding piece on contemporary boy detectives covers the latest Hardy Boys updates, finishing with their incarnation in computer games.

Best of the non-Hardy pieces may be Elizabeth D. Blum’s environmentalist consideration of Tom Swift. Other contributors include Fred Erisman on the most obscure series character discussed, Graham M. Dean’s Tim Murphy, aviator-hero of four novels between 1931 and 1934; Charlotte Beyer on Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s one-shot Rasmus and the Tramp; Alan Pickrell on Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators series, created by Robert Arthur (Freud strikes again); editor Cornelius on Christopher Cool, a late and short-lived product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, created in response to the James Bond fad; and Nicola Allen on Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 06:01

This companion volume to the editor’s Nancy Drew and Her Sister Sleuths: Essays on the Fiction of Girl Detectives (2008; reviewed here in issue #111) is not as successful overall, much more pretentious and prone to academic jargon, but there is still plenty of valuable information and analysis. Of those pieces centered on the Hardys, less than half the book, the most entertaining from a fan perspective is Brian Taves’ account of the brothers’ various TV incarnations, good pop culture history without professorial excesses. On the other extreme, Larry T. Shillock’s application of narrative theory and Freud to The Tower Treasure at times reads like a parody of highbrow publish-or-perish literary criticism. Other Hardy-centered essays: C.M. Gill’s pointed gender study contrasting the Hardys, who have a sense of community, with Nancy Drew, who exhibits lone-wolf tendencies; and Christopher Schaberg on airport settings in Hardy cases from 1930, 1987, and 1993, including some humorous allusions and comparisons. John Finlay Kerr’s concluding piece on contemporary boy detectives covers the latest Hardy Boys updates, finishing with their incarnation in computer games.

Best of the non-Hardy pieces may be Elizabeth D. Blum’s environmentalist consideration of Tom Swift. Other contributors include Fred Erisman on the most obscure series character discussed, Graham M. Dean’s Tim Murphy, aviator-hero of four novels between 1931 and 1934; Charlotte Beyer on Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s one-shot Rasmus and the Tramp; Alan Pickrell on Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators series, created by Robert Arthur (Freud strikes again); editor Cornelius on Christopher Cool, a late and short-lived product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, created in response to the James Bond fad; and Nicola Allen on Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Ruth Cavin, Crime Fiction Editor for St. Martin's Press
Oline Cogdill
It was hard to miss Ruth Cavin, the long-time crime fiction editor for St. Martin's Press, at mystery fiction conferences.

Tall, graceful and usually wearing sneakers, Cavin often was surrounded by a cadre of much younger editors, publicists and authors.
 
 And with good reason.
 
Cavin, who died Jan. 9 at age 92, really was a legend in her own time.

She was one of those responsible for the Minotaur Books imprint that launched myriad authors.
 
Cavin was one of those editors who took great pleasure in new writers. The list of authors who came under her direction is endless. My colleague Sarah Weinman has a nice tribute to Calvin. Mike Shatzkin offers a lovely, personal tribute to Calvin, who he had known all his life.

I agree with everything these two said, and can add nothing more.

Cavin was a force of nature. The energy she exhibited put those decades younger to shame.

Cavin leaves a wonderful legacy for the mystery genre. Rest in peace. 
Super User
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 05:01
It was hard to miss Ruth Cavin, the long-time crime fiction editor for St. Martin's Press, at mystery fiction conferences.

Tall, graceful and usually wearing sneakers, Cavin often was surrounded by a cadre of much younger editors, publicists and authors.
 
 And with good reason.
 
Cavin, who died Jan. 9 at age 92, really was a legend in her own time.

She was one of those responsible for the Minotaur Books imprint that launched myriad authors.
 
Cavin was one of those editors who took great pleasure in new writers. The list of authors who came under her direction is endless. My colleague Sarah Weinman has a nice tribute to Calvin. Mike Shatzkin offers a lovely, personal tribute to Calvin, who he had known all his life.

I agree with everything these two said, and can add nothing more.

Cavin was a force of nature. The energy she exhibited put those decades younger to shame.

Cavin leaves a wonderful legacy for the mystery genre. Rest in peace. 
James Ellroy on Tv
Oline Cogdill
titleJames Ellroy (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia) has never been sublte in his crime novels. Now he brings that lurid tabloid look at the world to television with James Ellroy's L.A. City of Demons beginning tonight (Jan. 19) at 10 p.m. on the Investigation Discovery channel.
 
In this six-part series, Ellroy will give a documentary-style look into L.A.'s dark past and its high-profile murders. Along for the ride will be a bus full of television journalists.
 
The series will include the 1958 unsolved murder of his own mother, which he wrote about in his memoir My Dark Places. He'll also touch on the stabbing of Lana Turner's mobster boyfriend, by her own daughter, as well as other celebrity-related crimes.
 
Ellroy has always been a no-holds barred type of writer, anxious to shock as well as tell a salacious story.
 
I've seen a couple of clips of his new series and it has the look and feel of his documentary-style film James Ellroy: Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction, which
went from being tabloid lurid, emotional to downright odd.
 
In other words, pure Ellroy 
Super User
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 05:01
titleJames Ellroy (L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia) has never been sublte in his crime novels. Now he brings that lurid tabloid look at the world to television with James Ellroy's L.A. City of Demons beginning tonight (Jan. 19) at 10 p.m. on the Investigation Discovery channel.
 
In this six-part series, Ellroy will give a documentary-style look into L.A.'s dark past and its high-profile murders. Along for the ride will be a bus full of television journalists.
 
The series will include the 1958 unsolved murder of his own mother, which he wrote about in his memoir My Dark Places. He'll also touch on the stabbing of Lana Turner's mobster boyfriend, by her own daughter, as well as other celebrity-related crimes.
 
Ellroy has always been a no-holds barred type of writer, anxious to shock as well as tell a salacious story.
 
I've seen a couple of clips of his new series and it has the look and feel of his documentary-style film James Ellroy: Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction, which
went from being tabloid lurid, emotional to downright odd.
 
In other words, pure Ellroy 
2011 Edgar Awards Announced
Oline Cogdill
The announcement from the Mystery Writers of America just dropped into our email and we're posting it asap.

Later, we'll comment on it and offer some perspectvie but for now, here's the information. Congratulations to all the worthy nominees.
Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce on the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2010. The Edgar Awards will be presented to the winners at our 65th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

BEST NOVEL
Caught by Harlan Coben (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Faithful Place by Tana French (Penguin Group USA - Viking)
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books)
I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty Associates – Forge Books)
The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
The Serialist: A Novel by David Gordon (Simon & Schuster)
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Snow Angels by James Thompson (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard (Random House - Bantam)
The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn (Henry Holt)
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski (Minotaur Books)
Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis (Random House Trade Paperbacks)
Ten Little Herrings by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)

BEST FACT CRIME
Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry (University of Nebraska Press – Bison Original)
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in Jim Crow South
by Alex Heard (HarperCollins)
Finding Chandra: A True Washington Murder Mystery
by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr and the International Hunt for his Assassin by Hampton Sides (Random House - Doubleday)
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science
by Douglas Starr (Alfred A. Knopf)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran (HarperCollins)
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle and David A. Crowder (Wiley)
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendevouz with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton)
Thrillers: 100 Must Reads edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner (Oceanview Publishing)
BEST SHORT STORY
"The Scent of Lilacs"Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
"The Plot"First Thrills by Jeffery Deaver (Tom Doherty – Forge Books)
"A Good Safe Place”Thin Ice by Judith Green (Level Best Books)
"Monsieur Alice is Absent"Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
by Stephen Ross (Dell Magazines)
"The Creative Writing Murders"Dark End of the Street by Edmund White (Bloomsbury)
BEST JUVENILE
Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler (Albert Whitman & Co.)
The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee (Feiwel & Friends)
Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)
The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)
7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)
The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price
(Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers)
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)

BEST PLAY
The Psychic by Sam Bobrick (Falcon Theatre – Burbank, CA)
The Tangled Skirt by Steve Braunstein (New Jersey Repertory Company)
The Fall of the House by Robert Ford (Alabama Shakespeare Festival)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“Episode 1” – Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)
“Episode 4” – Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)
“Full Measure” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC/Sony)
“No Mas” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC/Sony)
“The Next One’s Gonna Go In Your Throat” – Damages, Teleplay by Todd A. Kessler,
Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman (FX Networks)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man"Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Evan Lewis (Dell Magazines)

GRAND MASTER
Sara Paretsky

RAVEN AWARDS
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, Illinois
Once Upon A Crime Bookstore, Minneapolis, Minnesota

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 27, 2010)
Wild Penance by Sandi Ault (Penguin Group – Berkley Prime Crime)
Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Down River by Karen Harper (MIRA Books)
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Live to Tell by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins - Avon)
Super User
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 09:01
The announcement from the Mystery Writers of America just dropped into our email and we're posting it asap.

Later, we'll comment on it and offer some perspectvie but for now, here's the information. Congratulations to all the worthy nominees.
Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce on the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2010. The Edgar Awards will be presented to the winners at our 65th Gala Banquet, April 28, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

BEST NOVEL
Caught by Harlan Coben (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Faithful Place by Tana French (Penguin Group USA - Viking)
The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books)
I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Tom Doherty Associates – Forge Books)
The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
The Serialist: A Novel by David Gordon (Simon & Schuster)
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Snow Angels by James Thompson (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
Long Time Coming by Robert Goddard (Random House - Bantam)
The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn (Henry Holt)
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski (Minotaur Books)
Vienna Secrets by Frank Tallis (Random House Trade Paperbacks)
Ten Little Herrings by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)

BEST FACT CRIME
Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime and Complicity by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry (University of Nebraska Press – Bison Original)
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in Jim Crow South
by Alex Heard (HarperCollins)
Finding Chandra: A True Washington Murder Mystery
by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr and the International Hunt for his Assassin by Hampton Sides (Random House - Doubleday)
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science
by Douglas Starr (Alfred A. Knopf)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez (Grove Atlantic – Grove Press)
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran (HarperCollins)
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle and David A. Crowder (Wiley)
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendevouz with American History by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton)
Thrillers: 100 Must Reads edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner (Oceanview Publishing)
BEST SHORT STORY
"The Scent of Lilacs"Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
"The Plot"First Thrills by Jeffery Deaver (Tom Doherty – Forge Books)
"A Good Safe Place”Thin Ice by Judith Green (Level Best Books)
"Monsieur Alice is Absent"Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
by Stephen Ross (Dell Magazines)
"The Creative Writing Murders"Dark End of the Street by Edmund White (Bloomsbury)
BEST JUVENILE
Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler (Albert Whitman & Co.)
The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee (Feiwel & Friends)
Griff Carver: Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)
The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)
7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)
The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price
(Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers)
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (Penguin Young Readers Group - Razorbill)

BEST PLAY
The Psychic by Sam Bobrick (Falcon Theatre – Burbank, CA)
The Tangled Skirt by Steve Braunstein (New Jersey Repertory Company)
The Fall of the House by Robert Ford (Alabama Shakespeare Festival)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“Episode 1” – Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)
“Episode 4” – Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC America)
“Full Measure” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC/Sony)
“No Mas” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC/Sony)
“The Next One’s Gonna Go In Your Throat” – Damages, Teleplay by Todd A. Kessler,
Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman (FX Networks)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man"Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Evan Lewis (Dell Magazines)

GRAND MASTER
Sara Paretsky

RAVEN AWARDS
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, Illinois
Once Upon A Crime Bookstore, Minneapolis, Minnesota

THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 27, 2010)
Wild Penance by Sandi Ault (Penguin Group – Berkley Prime Crime)
Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Down River by Karen Harper (MIRA Books)
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Live to Tell by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins - Avon)
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies
Kevin Burton Smith

Yes, it's true! The worlds's most popular fictional character finally comes to the world's most ubiquitous reference series, and the results are everything you'd expect: comprehensive, cheeky, and surprisingly readable, clearly written by someone who knows and loves their stuff. Except for the geekiest of geeks, this is more Holmes than most folks will ever need, featuring historical backgrounds, novel-by-novel breakdowns of the entire canon, plus memorable quotes, essays on Holmes' impact on literature, mystery writing, and detective work, subsequent portrayals in television and film, theatrical presentation, and pastiche.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 10:01

Yes, it's true! The worlds's most popular fictional character finally comes to the world's most ubiquitous reference series, and the results are everything you'd expect: comprehensive, cheeky, and surprisingly readable, clearly written by someone who knows and loves their stuff. Except for the geekiest of geeks, this is more Holmes than most folks will ever need, featuring historical backgrounds, novel-by-novel breakdowns of the entire canon, plus memorable quotes, essays on Holmes' impact on literature, mystery writing, and detective work, subsequent portrayals in television and film, theatrical presentation, and pastiche.

Charles Todd's Ebook Sales
Oline Cogdill
altEvery airport, every doctor's office, darn near everywhere, I see more and more people reading on a device.
Maybe people finally learned how to work all those reading devices they received as holiday gifts.

And the proof of the devices' popularity is in the sales.
USA Today recently reported that the "the e-book outsold the print version for 18 of the top 50 books on the newspaper's bestselling books list, including all three Stieg Larsson novels. The week before, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. That was the first time the top 50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print."

Wow!

More proof?
Charles Todd's newly released A Lonely Death sold approximately the same number of e-books as it did physical books.
Happy reading.
Super User
Sunday, 23 January 2011 06:01
altEvery airport, every doctor's office, darn near everywhere, I see more and more people reading on a device.
Maybe people finally learned how to work all those reading devices they received as holiday gifts.

And the proof of the devices' popularity is in the sales.
USA Today recently reported that the "the e-book outsold the print version for 18 of the top 50 books on the newspaper's bestselling books list, including all three Stieg Larsson novels. The week before, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. That was the first time the top 50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print."

Wow!

More proof?
Charles Todd's newly released A Lonely Death sold approximately the same number of e-books as it did physical books.
Happy reading.
Donald Westlake, 1933-2008
Ed Gorman

In Mystery Scene’s 2008 Fall Issue #106, Ed Gorman interviewed the author about his work.

DONALD WESTLAKE: THE STARK TRUTH

Levi Stahl, the publicity manager of the University of Chicago Press, has exciting news for Richard Stark fans. “While we don’t reprint many mysteries, we explained to the editorial board that these weren’t just any crime novels, these were regarded as masterpieces…. great novels that have influenced writers around the world. We’re starting with The HunterThe Man with the Getaway Face and The Outfit but we’re already negotiating for more books in the series.” This means, the Press hopes, that the initial three will be followed in chronological order by the next thirteen Parker novels, ending with Butcher’s Moon, originally published in 1974.

Ed Gorman for Mystery Scene: For all the ferocity of the criminals in the Stark novels, you present a hierarchy based on competence. Strictly Darwinian. There are times when I almost feel sorry for a few of the more feckless ones.

Donald Westlake: Okay, let’s see what we got here. You begin by suggesting the Parker novels are about competence, an idea I like very much. I’ve always said Parker is basically a workman, with the professional workman’s goal of getting the job done ably, efficiently and without interruption. It’s true his job is a dramatic one, but it’s still a job. The only way somebody’s going to be interested in watching a guy take the hinges off a door is if there’s a hundred thousand dollars on the other side.

Gorman: Brian Garfield wrote that you once described  Parker as a 1930s Depression character. Then as more European than American. Were you trying to avoid the various hardboiled clichés of the early sixties by thinking of him in these terms?

Westlake: It’s true that Parker comes out of the 30s bank robbers, and I knew in the 60s he was already from another era. The fact is, for a guy in the Midwest in the 30s who had brains and daring but no education and no contacts, crime was one of the very few open career paths. Later on, as other career paths opened up, fewer competent people went in that direction. In that way, he’s an anachronism, but anachronisms have their uses, like chiaroscuro, to highlight the contrasts. Every once in a while in the books, somebody living in our world finds himself in confrontation with this unreconstructed guy from a much harder age. I always like to watch those meetings.

Let me tell you a story about my father. He was a low-pay traveling salesman for much of his life. When I was a kid in Albany, NY, his territory for the various things he sold—you don’t make a living from one item—was eastern Pennsylvania through all of New England except Maine. He’d had a couple of heart attacks and one Friday, in Harrisburg, he felt another one coming on. (There’s no health insurance in this story.) He told the desk clerk he’d stay for the weekend, then bought a bottle of rye and went to bed. Every time he woke up he’d sip a little rye, and Monday morning he woke up hungry and alive. He never told the family until, a few years later, when he was hospitalized with another one, the doctors found the evidence and he admitted to it. That unblinking attitude of just-keep-moving is much of Parker.

Early on, I made a couple mistakes with Parker—socializing him in one way or another—but it was like a cook putting just the wrong thing in a recipe; you could taste it right away. So, as I got to know him better, I stopped making those mistakes. He’s already there; just let him be himself and everything will be fine.

Gorman: Is the story true that you showed a portion of The Hunter to some of your writer friends for their input before you finished it? Did your group back then do that often?

Westlake: I didn’t show The Hunter to anybody for input. I’ve rarely done that with any book. In fact, the only time I can remember doing that was with my first mystery, The Mercenaries, when I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing and I showed the first draft to a writer friend of mine, Larry Harris (who later, for some reason, became Larry Janifer), because I knew he was a good writer and a good editor and far better attuned to the market than I was. He called and said he wanted to come over and talk. When he got to the apartment he had the manuscript box in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other, and he said, “We’re in trouble.” We went through the manuscript, and if there was a beginner’s mistake I hadn’t made I can’t think what it might be. It was a terrific learning experience, and the next draft sold to Lee Wright at Random House, who later became Larry’s editor as well. Otherwise, my first three readers, only when the book is done, are, in order, my wife, my agent and my editor.

Gorman: One critic noted “Westlake has been the mad scientist of crime fiction for nearly 40 years now, and the Stark books showcase some of his more daring experiments with style and structure.” Do you make a conscious decision about approach before you write or do you let the story make the decisions?

Westlake: Story defines the books for two reasons, both because story is what fiction is about and because, since I don’t outline or prepare in any other way, the story is forced to emerge or die. “Narrative push,” as I know you know. Once we have the fuel on board—and then, and then, and then—it’s nice to be able to try different things. Not to get digressive, but to give the story little extras. For instance, in one book I saw I had an opportunity, if I wanted, to tell one section in first person from Parker’s point of view. Since he isn’t someone who tends to want to tell other people anything, particularly anything unnecessary, I wondered if I could do it, what he would sound like, and would it turn out to be one of those false notes. In the event, it was fine.  (And no, I can’t right now remember which book.) More recently, in Ask the Parrot, I suddenly realized I could do one chapter from the parrot’s point of view, and that made me very, very happy.

Gorman: You’ve written that you didn’t know how editors let alone readers would react to a hero like Parker. Were you surprised when your editor asked for more?

Westlake: When I wrote The Hunter it was supposed to be a one-off. A difficult unpleasant guy without redeeming qualities bent on revenge. Then Bucklyn Moon, an editor at Pocket Books, said he liked the book and wondered if Parker could escape at the end and me write “three more books a year about him.” (I actually did, the first two years.) I really had to concentrate on that, because Parker was everything a main character in a novel was supposed to not be. The big question was, could I go back to him, knowing he was going to be a series character, meeting the readers again and again, and not soften him. No sidekick or girlfriend to have conversations with, no quirks or hobbies. That was the goal. Somebody who, in a western, would be a lone traveler in the dimness on the other side of the campfire from the hero. Now that menacing but unimportant minor character would be asking for everybody’s attention. No, not asking, assuming.

Gorman: Do you still hear from prisoners commenting on Parker’s skills and offering suggestions for taking care of business?

Westlake: Prisoners used to be readers, but now they’re weightlifters. I used to get letters from guys because they thought they could shoptalk with me, that I wouldn’t moralize or condescend. Techniques and stuff weren’t part of it, but they did have some very nice stories to tell, none of which got directly into any book, though the attitudes show through.

Gorman: There have been so many editions of the Stark books around the world that you might be forgiven for not getting excited each time you see a new one. But given the breadth of the University of Chicago publishing program for the Parkers, you must feel pretty damned proud.

Westlake: I know I should get over being astonished by Parker’s longevity and success, and pretty soon I will. The University of Chicago Press was not a scalp I ever expected to see on my belt. Just to get that 3-D effect, later this month at a comics convention in San Diego, a small outfit is announcing the launch (some day) of Parker graphic novels. (They’ve promised me a T-shirt.) The illustrator, Darwyn Cooke, is hard at work in Canada. When you’ve got the University of Chicago Press and a graphic novel publisher both looking at the same material, the only thing to do is just keep moving on.

Gorman: Finally, the late Bill DeAndrea once quoted you as saying `You don’t know what it’s like to have a pen name who’s doing better than you are.” How do you feel about that today?

Westlake: The issue of being one-upped by your pen name—it isn’t quite the same thing as Evan Hunter, who was just about drowned out completely by Ed McBain, but Stark does tend to outperform Westlake whenever they start even. It happened the first time around, when Point Blank became one of the seminal movies of the twentieth century and Stark was earning more than Westlake, and it’s happened again this time around. I am very glad I don’t have to figure that out.


This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, January 2009.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 24 January 2011 03:01
westlake_donald

A sad finale to 2008 came with news of Donald Westlake’s death. Donald Edwin Westlake (July 12, 1933-December 31, 2008) was a giant on the contemporary crime scene, with over a hundred novels and non-fiction books to his credit. He was a three-time Edgar Award winner (1968, Best Novel, God Save the Mark; 1990, Best Short Story, “Too Many Crooks”; 1991, Best Motion Picture Screenplay, The Grifters). In 1993, the Mystery Writers of America named Westlake a Grand Master, the highest honor bestowed by the society. Westlake also wrote the Parker crime novels under the name Richard Stark.

Burn Notice Still Heating Up
Oline H. Cogdill

burn_notice

Gabrielle Anwar, Jeffrey Donovan. USA Network photo

This is how mystery fans—whether in novels, movies or TV—help each other: We are shameless about introducing our friends and family to new works.

Several months ago, I mentioned to Kate and Brian about this terrific new television show I was enjoying called Burn Notice. It’s a spy show, sure, but it is also a witty detective show; a bit The Rockford Files, a bit MacGyver.

So Kate did what any good editor does—she asked me if I wanted to do a review.

And I did what any good critic does, I wrote one.

Which, she tells me, inspired Kate to watch the series and, yes, become a fan.

Burn Notice is about Michael Weston (played by Jeffrey Donovan), a spy who was fired—or got his “burn notice”—during a covert sting operation. Without money or a government agency to back him, he’s forced to make his own way after being dumped in his hometown of Miami. His only backup are Fiona Glenanne, (Gabrielle Anwar) a former girlfriend who cut her arms-dealing teeth in the I.R.A., and Sam Axe, (Bruce Campbell) a retired spy who’s not above informing on Weston, especially if a free dinner and drinks are on the agenda. There’s also a brother who’s had more than a few scraps with the law and a mother (Sharon Gless) who clearly adores Michael but also knows how to manipulate him.

Burn Notice mixes wide swaths of humor with a serious plot and a breathtaking view of South Florida. To make a living while trying to find out who “burned” him, Weston plays private detective.

For more information and TV schedule, visit usanetwork.com/series/burnnotice/

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, February 2009.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 24 January 2011 04:01

burn_notice

Gabrielle Anwar, Jeffrey Donovan. USA Network photo

This is how mystery fans—whether in novels, movies or TV—help each other: We are shameless about introducing our friends and family to new works.

Several months ago, I mentioned to Kate and Brian about this terrific new television show I was enjoying called Burn Notice. It’s a spy show, sure, but it is also a witty detective show; a bit The Rockford Files, a bit MacGyver.

So Kate did what any good editor does—she asked me if I wanted to do a review.

And I did what any good critic does, I wrote one.

Which, she tells me, inspired Kate to watch the series and, yes, become a fan.

Burn Notice is about Michael Weston (played by Jeffrey Donovan), a spy who was fired—or got his “burn notice”—during a covert sting operation. Without money or a government agency to back him, he’s forced to make his own way after being dumped in his hometown of Miami. His only backup are Fiona Glenanne, (Gabrielle Anwar) a former girlfriend who cut her arms-dealing teeth in the I.R.A., and Sam Axe, (Bruce Campbell) a retired spy who’s not above informing on Weston, especially if a free dinner and drinks are on the agenda. There’s also a brother who’s had more than a few scraps with the law and a mother (Sharon Gless) who clearly adores Michael but also knows how to manipulate him.

Burn Notice mixes wide swaths of humor with a serious plot and a breathtaking view of South Florida. To make a living while trying to find out who “burned” him, Weston plays private detective.

For more information and TV schedule, visit usanetwork.com/series/burnnotice/

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, February 2009.

On the Road With International Mysteries
Oline H. Cogdill

I may never get to Norway. I’d like to someday. There’s not much stopping me, frankly.

But as I get older, I realize that there are so many places I want to visit, so little time and that one has to sacrifice some places to enjoy others.

My father used to tell me you can’t do everything in this world. Took me a long time to believe him.

nesbo_nemesisInstead, mysteries have given me the chance to vicariously visit the world. That’s why when I am asked to review a mystery set in a foreign country, I seldom turn it down.

So Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis gave me a view of Norway that was off the beaten path, showing the country and Oslo in particular as only an insider can. Amaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir have brought me to Iceland. Cara Black to Paris. The list is endless.

I’ve been in London and England nearly a dozen times and for years I have relished novels written by authors from the United Kingdom about their countries. Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Peter Robinson, and Ian Rankin have given us insider’s views of England and Scotland. Declan Hughes’ The Wrong Kind of Blood opened up Ireland to me.

mcdermid_darkerdomainMcDermid’s latest novel, A Darker Domain, not only showed me a part of Scotland that few know exist, but also took me on a side trip to Italy.

A few months ago while getting ready for a cruise that would go to England, France and Ireland, then trans-Atlantic to Canada, I packed the essentials. Oh, yeah, sure, clothes, make up and money were already in the suitcase.

I am talking about the real essentials of any trip—books. The cruise was 12 days and I worried that I was only packing 12 mysteries. (For the record, 12 novels taken, 12 read; had my suitcase been able to handle more I would have taken another five as I did run out of books. GASP!)

It wasn’t until I was in England that I realized that subconsciously every mystery I had chosen was written by a U.K. author. So while I was in London, I was reading Mark Billingham’s standalone, In the Dark, Mo Hayder’s Ritual and Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News?

Aside from the thrilling plots and complex characters, mysteries sometimes act as travelogues. So I wonder what foreign-set novels have given you an unusual glimpse of a country or city?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, February 2009.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 24 January 2011 04:01

I may never get to Norway. I’d like to someday. There’s not much stopping me, frankly.

But as I get older, I realize that there are so many places I want to visit, so little time and that one has to sacrifice some places to enjoy others.

My father used to tell me you can’t do everything in this world. Took me a long time to believe him.

nesbo_nemesisInstead, mysteries have given me the chance to vicariously visit the world. That’s why when I am asked to review a mystery set in a foreign country, I seldom turn it down.

So Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis gave me a view of Norway that was off the beaten path, showing the country and Oslo in particular as only an insider can. Amaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir have brought me to Iceland. Cara Black to Paris. The list is endless.

I’ve been in London and England nearly a dozen times and for years I have relished novels written by authors from the United Kingdom about their countries. Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Peter Robinson, and Ian Rankin have given us insider’s views of England and Scotland. Declan Hughes’ The Wrong Kind of Blood opened up Ireland to me.

mcdermid_darkerdomainMcDermid’s latest novel, A Darker Domain, not only showed me a part of Scotland that few know exist, but also took me on a side trip to Italy.

A few months ago while getting ready for a cruise that would go to England, France and Ireland, then trans-Atlantic to Canada, I packed the essentials. Oh, yeah, sure, clothes, make up and money were already in the suitcase.

I am talking about the real essentials of any trip—books. The cruise was 12 days and I worried that I was only packing 12 mysteries. (For the record, 12 novels taken, 12 read; had my suitcase been able to handle more I would have taken another five as I did run out of books. GASP!)

It wasn’t until I was in England that I realized that subconsciously every mystery I had chosen was written by a U.K. author. So while I was in London, I was reading Mark Billingham’s standalone, In the Dark, Mo Hayder’s Ritual and Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News?

Aside from the thrilling plots and complex characters, mysteries sometimes act as travelogues. So I wonder what foreign-set novels have given you an unusual glimpse of a country or city?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, February 2009.

First Book It, Then See It: Novels to Screen
Oline H. Cogdill

no1ladiesdetectiveagency

I started to ramble on to a question raised by one of our intelligent readers and authors, Deborah Shlian, about whether it’s better to see the filmed version before reading a book.

The question came up in the blog about HBO's The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I think that the beautifully filmed and acted The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency can be enjoyed by those who have not yet read the novels as well as those who helped make them bestsellers.

But the filmed version of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels are an exception.

Most of the time, it’s obvious to me—read the novel, savor the novel, enjoy the novel. Then, if there is a filmed version, see it but realize that no film version can match the intricacies of the novel.

First, there’s the reality of time. An averaged-sized novel would be too long to be filmed entirely for the movies; not even a miniseries could capture all the nuances of a novel.

And it’s that word nuances that really matters.

Authors feature wonderful large and small nuances about their characters, scenery, plot and dialogue.

The best novel to screen projects are those that capture the essence of the book.

mysticriverThey show you through talented actors and directing the essence of what the characters are thinking and respect the source material.

(For another perspective on this, be sure to read Kevin Burton Smith’s excellent article “The Casting Couch” on casting mystery characters in film and television in Mystery Scene's Spring 2009 issue.)

Mystic River was an excellent filmed version of Dennis Lehane’s novel. The cast, including Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, and Laura Linney, could not have been better.

Anyone could see that movie and be satisfied.

But they would have missed Lehane’s nuances. Like those lovely paragraphs talking about the fathers who worked in the candy factory and “carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.” Because of that, Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus “developed a hatred of sweets so total” they never had dessert.

Or the line, “Brendan Harris loved Katie Marcus like crazy, loved her like movie love…,” which Lehane once said was one of the first lines he wrote for Mystic River.

Imagine James Crumley’s 1978 The Last Good Kiss as a film. Sure it would make a great action film.

And the first scene would have to be of a man and a bulldog drinking in a falling down bar.

But could any film capture what is considered to be one of the best beginnings of any novel?

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

Sometimes there isn’t even an attempt to capture that essence of a novel. Take Michael Connelly’s Blood Work: a good novel, a mediocre film.

rebusOr Burglar, based on Lawrence Block’s funny Bernie the Burglar novels. I mean really…did anyone in their right mind imagine Whoopi Goldberg as Bernie?

But let’s end this on a positive note.

Those that do work include Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels reimagined as HBO’s True Blood and Ian Rankin's John Rebus novels shown on BBC America as Rebus, now available on Acorn Media.

I also am looking forward to seeing Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution, which got nothing but rave reviews when it was shown on television last year in England.

Surely I have missed some. What do you think?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 24 January 2011 05:01

no1ladiesdetectiveagency

I started to ramble on to a question raised by one of our intelligent readers and authors, Deborah Shlian, about whether it’s better to see the filmed version before reading a book.

The question came up in the blog about HBO's The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I think that the beautifully filmed and acted The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency can be enjoyed by those who have not yet read the novels as well as those who helped make them bestsellers.

But the filmed version of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels are an exception.

Most of the time, it’s obvious to me—read the novel, savor the novel, enjoy the novel. Then, if there is a filmed version, see it but realize that no film version can match the intricacies of the novel.

First, there’s the reality of time. An averaged-sized novel would be too long to be filmed entirely for the movies; not even a miniseries could capture all the nuances of a novel.

And it’s that word nuances that really matters.

Authors feature wonderful large and small nuances about their characters, scenery, plot and dialogue.

The best novel to screen projects are those that capture the essence of the book.

mysticriverThey show you through talented actors and directing the essence of what the characters are thinking and respect the source material.

(For another perspective on this, be sure to read Kevin Burton Smith’s excellent article “The Casting Couch” on casting mystery characters in film and television in Mystery Scene's Spring 2009 issue.)

Mystic River was an excellent filmed version of Dennis Lehane’s novel. The cast, including Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, and Laura Linney, could not have been better.

Anyone could see that movie and be satisfied.

But they would have missed Lehane’s nuances. Like those lovely paragraphs talking about the fathers who worked in the candy factory and “carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.” Because of that, Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus “developed a hatred of sweets so total” they never had dessert.

Or the line, “Brendan Harris loved Katie Marcus like crazy, loved her like movie love…,” which Lehane once said was one of the first lines he wrote for Mystic River.

Imagine James Crumley’s 1978 The Last Good Kiss as a film. Sure it would make a great action film.

And the first scene would have to be of a man and a bulldog drinking in a falling down bar.

But could any film capture what is considered to be one of the best beginnings of any novel?

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

Sometimes there isn’t even an attempt to capture that essence of a novel. Take Michael Connelly’s Blood Work: a good novel, a mediocre film.

rebusOr Burglar, based on Lawrence Block’s funny Bernie the Burglar novels. I mean really…did anyone in their right mind imagine Whoopi Goldberg as Bernie?

But let’s end this on a positive note.

Those that do work include Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels reimagined as HBO’s True Blood and Ian Rankin's John Rebus novels shown on BBC America as Rebus, now available on Acorn Media.

I also am looking forward to seeing Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution, which got nothing but rave reviews when it was shown on television last year in England.

Surely I have missed some. What do you think?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Oline H. Cogdill

jillscott_no1ladiesdetective

Jill Scott as Precious; Keith Bernstein photo/HBO

If the advance screenings and sneak peeks I’ve seen are any indication, HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency should be a winner.

Based on the lovely, yet provocative novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the HBO series will feature the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the Botswanan divorcee turned private investigator.

American singer Jill Scott seems perfect for the role of Precious. Scott captures Precious’ intelligence, her independence, her confidence, her refusal to submit to conventional thought.

Precious knows that she won’t make much money as a private investigator. But then no one else does either in the poor, dusty neighborhood of Gaborone.

But Precious knows that poor people have the same problems as the more affluent, but less opportunities to get help. Precious is there to help the “lost, the frightened.” She knows she can change people’s lives.

While there is an optimistic feel to Precious and her career choice, the series, like the novels, also delves into the darker side. Precious was an abused wife who lost her baby because of her husband’s beatings.

In addition to the wonderful Scott, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose makes a great turn as the whip-smart assistant, proud of making the highest grade at her business school. Rose’s plain clothes and thick glasses are a huge change from her role in Dreamgirls.

Except for the addition of a new character, B.K., The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series seems fairly faithful to the novels.

At least the clips I saw were right on target.

So, readers, what do you think of HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 24 January 2011 06:01

jillscott_no1ladiesdetective

Jill Scott as Precious; Keith Bernstein photo/HBO

If the advance screenings and sneak peeks I’ve seen are any indication, HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency should be a winner.

Based on the lovely, yet provocative novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the HBO series will feature the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the Botswanan divorcee turned private investigator.

American singer Jill Scott seems perfect for the role of Precious. Scott captures Precious’ intelligence, her independence, her confidence, her refusal to submit to conventional thought.

Precious knows that she won’t make much money as a private investigator. But then no one else does either in the poor, dusty neighborhood of Gaborone.

But Precious knows that poor people have the same problems as the more affluent, but less opportunities to get help. Precious is there to help the “lost, the frightened.” She knows she can change people’s lives.

While there is an optimistic feel to Precious and her career choice, the series, like the novels, also delves into the darker side. Precious was an abused wife who lost her baby because of her husband’s beatings.

In addition to the wonderful Scott, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose makes a great turn as the whip-smart assistant, proud of making the highest grade at her business school. Rose’s plain clothes and thick glasses are a huge change from her role in Dreamgirls.

Except for the addition of a new character, B.K., The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series seems fairly faithful to the novels.

At least the clips I saw were right on target.

So, readers, what do you think of HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Jack Reacher's Quiet Cameo in Sean Doolittle's Safer
Oline H. Cogdill

doolittle_safer

Sometimes authors’ homages to other mystery authors are a little mystery in themselves.

Take Sean Doolittle’s new novel Safer about married college professors whose move to a small Iowa city turns into a lesson in terror and obsessive neighbors.

Safer is Doolittle’s first hardcover after four quite good paperback originals.

Like his other novels, Doolittle shows the tension and fear that can erupt in a small town. It’s a refreshing change from the myriad novels set in big cities and Doolittle works this to his advantage.

Here’s a link to a review I recently did on Safer.

Doolittle also has a nice little mystery in his mystery that astute readers (that’s all of you) will pick up on.

In Safer, Paul Callaway has to contend with a burglar on the first night in his new home. After the ordeal and the questioning by the police, Paul relaxes with a novel.

child_worthdyingforNaturally, it’s a thriller.

Although the title and author are not named, Paul gives enough hints about what he is reading: “The main character . . was a guy who drifted from town to town fixing people’s problems. It was a hell of a story and I couldn’t stop turning the pages.”

Sure sounds like one of Lee’s Child’s novels about Jack Reacher to me.

And no, I don’t know which Child novel Doolittle was alluding to in Safer; I just pulled a copy of his latest thriller.

Anyone want to take a guess about the title of the novel that Doolittle’s character is reading?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 24 January 2011 06:01

doolittle_safer

Sometimes authors’ homages to other mystery authors are a little mystery in themselves.

Take Sean Doolittle’s new novel Safer about married college professors whose move to a small Iowa city turns into a lesson in terror and obsessive neighbors.

Safer is Doolittle’s first hardcover after four quite good paperback originals.

Like his other novels, Doolittle shows the tension and fear that can erupt in a small town. It’s a refreshing change from the myriad novels set in big cities and Doolittle works this to his advantage.

Here’s a link to a review I recently did on Safer.

Doolittle also has a nice little mystery in his mystery that astute readers (that’s all of you) will pick up on.

In Safer, Paul Callaway has to contend with a burglar on the first night in his new home. After the ordeal and the questioning by the police, Paul relaxes with a novel.

child_worthdyingforNaturally, it’s a thriller.

Although the title and author are not named, Paul gives enough hints about what he is reading: “The main character . . was a guy who drifted from town to town fixing people’s problems. It was a hell of a story and I couldn’t stop turning the pages.”

Sure sounds like one of Lee’s Child’s novels about Jack Reacher to me.

And no, I don’t know which Child novel Doolittle was alluding to in Safer; I just pulled a copy of his latest thriller.

Anyone want to take a guess about the title of the novel that Doolittle’s character is reading?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

An In-Joke From the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Oline H. Cogdill

larsson_girlwithdragontattooI always get a kick out of seeing those little inside jokes in mysteries.

Linda Fairstein always has a tribute to her husband in each of her novels.

Alafair Burke once had one of her characters call Louisiana police detective Dave Robicheaux, the hero of James Lee Burke’s series. James Lee and Alafair Burke, as you well know, are father and daughter.

One of the latest in-jokes I came across was in the late Stieg Larsson’s brilliant The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I recently listened to Larsson’s debut on audio (I also read it last year).

During the course of the novel, the lead character, disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist reads to relax.

mcdermid_wireinthebloodDon’t we all.

One of the novels Blomkvist reads is Val McDermid’s The Wire in the Blood and he also offers a little (positive) review.

As soon as he is done with McDermid’s novel, Blomkvist picks up a novel by Sara Paretsky.

It works because Blomkvist is an intelligent, articulate and well-read man. So naturally he reads mysteries.

Any inside jokes or homages to other authors that you’ve seen lately?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 12:01

larsson_girlwithdragontattooI always get a kick out of seeing those little inside jokes in mysteries.

Linda Fairstein always has a tribute to her husband in each of her novels.

Alafair Burke once had one of her characters call Louisiana police detective Dave Robicheaux, the hero of James Lee Burke’s series. James Lee and Alafair Burke, as you well know, are father and daughter.

One of the latest in-jokes I came across was in the late Stieg Larsson’s brilliant The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I recently listened to Larsson’s debut on audio (I also read it last year).

During the course of the novel, the lead character, disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist reads to relax.

mcdermid_wireinthebloodDon’t we all.

One of the novels Blomkvist reads is Val McDermid’s The Wire in the Blood and he also offers a little (positive) review.

As soon as he is done with McDermid’s novel, Blomkvist picks up a novel by Sara Paretsky.

It works because Blomkvist is an intelligent, articulate and well-read man. So naturally he reads mysteries.

Any inside jokes or homages to other authors that you’ve seen lately?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Sean Chercover and the Dilys
Oline H. Cogdill

Nominations have been announced for the Edgars, the Agatha, the L.A. Times Book Prize (all of which you can read about on this blog). Anyone attending the Indianapolis Bouchercon probably has already received a nomination ballot.

Left Coast Crime recently announced its winners.

And we—well I—certainly can’t let these winners just take their prize and leave.

Comments must be made.

chercover_triggercityFirst, I want to commend the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) for choosing Sean Chercover’s Trigger City as the winner of its 2009 Dilys Award.

To be truthful, I am happy for any author who wins this prize.

Independent mystery bookstore owners are the unsung heroes of the genre.

They, more so than chain stores or online sites, know their customers. They are well versed in the genre and keep their customers buying books and coming back for more.

Every author owes these stores a ton of gratitude. Especially when it seems that there are fewer of these wonderful stores each year.

So back to Sean.

I interviewed him for Mystery Scene’s Holiday 2008 Issue. (That’s the one with Donna Andrews on the cover, if you want to order it.)

Sean is one of the genre’s up and coming authors. His 2007 debut Big City, Bad Blood has won the Shamus and the Gumshoe Award, was nominated for a slew of other awards and made several best of the year lists. (That includes the annual list I do for the Sun-Sentinel.)

Trigger City was named a Killer Book by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, an alternate selection by several book clubs and earned just as many positive reviews as his first. It also made several best of the year lists, again, mine included.

During our interview, Sean discussed the private eye novel.

Here is an excerpt from the article that ran in Mystery Scene:

“In his novels, Chercover took the hard-boiled route with a nod to the old-fashioned gumshoe but with a modern spin. Series character Ray Dudgeon is a disillusioned newspaper reporter-turned-private detective. Nearing 40, Dudgeon keeps a gun and a bottle in his bottom drawer with his name etched in gold on the frosted window outside his seedy office.
“Ray is cynical, but he also is a wounded idealist. He wants officials to be honest but he’s not surprised when they turn out to be corrupt,” said Chercover.
While Chercover pays homage to the clichéd p.i., the author avoids stereotypes by slowing revealing Dudgeon’s backstory that includes his mother’s suicide.
“The p.i. novels I love are those in which each of the characters all seem very different from each other. Ray isn’t as self-destructive as [Ken Bruen’s] Jack Taylor. Ray doesn’t understand himself as well as [Lawrence Block’s] Scudder does himself but it took a long time for Scudder to get where he is. Characters who change and grow are appealing. I wanted my character to be affected by the changes he goes through.”

Sean has good company with the Dilys Award.

Previous winners include William Kent Kruger, Thunder Bay; Louise Penny, Still Life; Colin Cotterill, Thirty-Three Teeth; Jeffrey Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter;  Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book; Julia Spencer-Fleming, In the Bleak Midwinter; Dennis Lehane, Mystic River; Val McDermid, A Place of Execution; Robert Crais, L.A. Requiem.

 

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 12:01

This is indeed the season of awards for mystery fiction.

Idris Elba: Beyond the Wire
Oline H. Cogdill

idris_thewire
HBO photo

When it comes to crime drama, whether it’s movies or television, let me throw one name out at you:

Idris Elba.

Oh, come on, you know who he is.

Most of us first became aware of the British actor Idris Elba when he played Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s brilliant series The Wire.

thewireEach time he was onscreen, Elba showed the complex personality of Stringer Bell—ruthless, compassionate, uncaring, loyal friend, murderous, streetwise, book smart, intelligent, dimwitted.

A drug dealer by trade, he was a businessman at heart, taking classes to better understand how an industry grows into an empire.

He could order—or commit—a murder without blinking an eye.

One could believe he truly cared about his best friend and partner Avon Barksdale and yet also be willing to kill him without hesitation.

I also have to add that Idris Elba is one sexy, handsome man.

He’s currently in the feeble Obsessed, a Fatal Attraction knock-off that disappoints on so many levels, except for Elba.

In Obsessed, Elba’s character Derek Charles is married with child to Beyonce Knowles but being stalked by the unstoppable Ali Larter (Heroes).

The plot never works and the twists are predictable. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen the movie.

But the cast makes Obsessed almost watchable, especially Elba.

Elba’s complicated charisma seems to show in just about every role he takes. His turn as crime boss Charlie Gotso in HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was a chilling piece of acting.

Elba made Gotso almost sympathetic at first but within seconds the crime boss’ dark heart was obvious.

Even Elba’s recent role as Charles Miner on the NBC comedy The Office showed a touch of malice. As Michael Scott’s new boss, Charles Miner was not going to suffer fools.

Elba could easily be the next face of crime drama.

Should Hollywood ever decide to film more of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels, Elba could easily fit in that role, taking over from Denzel Washington. While I liked Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, but he is getting a little too old to play the Easy of the earlier novels.

(By the way, Elba had a role in Washington’s American Gangster.)

I could certainly see Elba taking over as Lincoln Rhyme from the Jeffrey Deaver's novels, should that series ever be filmed again.

Yeah, that would mean Elba would be taking over another of Denzel Washington’s roles. But the Academy Award winning actor doesn’t seem to lack for roles.

But I also could see Elba in myriad roles. Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme wasn’t originally written as an African-American. But Washington was so perfect for the role that race didn’t matter. And frankly, race should not matter. Cast Elba because he is a good actor and can do just about any role.

Let Matt Damon have the franchise on action films.

Just give us Elba for the intelligent crime dramas.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, April 2009.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 03:01

idris_thewire
HBO photo

When it comes to crime drama, whether it’s movies or television, let me throw one name out at you:

Idris Elba.

Oh, come on, you know who he is.

Most of us first became aware of the British actor Idris Elba when he played Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s brilliant series The Wire.

thewireEach time he was onscreen, Elba showed the complex personality of Stringer Bell—ruthless, compassionate, uncaring, loyal friend, murderous, streetwise, book smart, intelligent, dimwitted.

A drug dealer by trade, he was a businessman at heart, taking classes to better understand how an industry grows into an empire.

He could order—or commit—a murder without blinking an eye.

One could believe he truly cared about his best friend and partner Avon Barksdale and yet also be willing to kill him without hesitation.

I also have to add that Idris Elba is one sexy, handsome man.

He’s currently in the feeble Obsessed, a Fatal Attraction knock-off that disappoints on so many levels, except for Elba.

In Obsessed, Elba’s character Derek Charles is married with child to Beyonce Knowles but being stalked by the unstoppable Ali Larter (Heroes).

The plot never works and the twists are predictable. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen the movie.

But the cast makes Obsessed almost watchable, especially Elba.

Elba’s complicated charisma seems to show in just about every role he takes. His turn as crime boss Charlie Gotso in HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was a chilling piece of acting.

Elba made Gotso almost sympathetic at first but within seconds the crime boss’ dark heart was obvious.

Even Elba’s recent role as Charles Miner on the NBC comedy The Office showed a touch of malice. As Michael Scott’s new boss, Charles Miner was not going to suffer fools.

Elba could easily be the next face of crime drama.

Should Hollywood ever decide to film more of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels, Elba could easily fit in that role, taking over from Denzel Washington. While I liked Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, but he is getting a little too old to play the Easy of the earlier novels.

(By the way, Elba had a role in Washington’s American Gangster.)

I could certainly see Elba taking over as Lincoln Rhyme from the Jeffrey Deaver's novels, should that series ever be filmed again.

Yeah, that would mean Elba would be taking over another of Denzel Washington’s roles. But the Academy Award winning actor doesn’t seem to lack for roles.

But I also could see Elba in myriad roles. Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme wasn’t originally written as an African-American. But Washington was so perfect for the role that race didn’t matter. And frankly, race should not matter. Cast Elba because he is a good actor and can do just about any role.

Let Matt Damon have the franchise on action films.

Just give us Elba for the intelligent crime dramas.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, April 2009.

Linda L. Richards and the Economy
Oline H. Cogdill

“In this economy…”

OK, so how many times a day do you hear this phrase from newscasters, friends, waiters, sales people or even just floating through your brain like some modern-day mantra.

Makes you wish you had the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies instead of this terror-inducing phrase in your head.

Hopefully, “in this economy….” will not stop you from buying books, preferably mysteries, and mystery-oriented magazines.

richards_lindaSo it should come as no surprise how Linda L. Richards’ newest Kitty Pangborn novel Death Was in the Picture feels so contemporary, even though the novel is set in 1930.

But what’s a Great Depression between friends?

Richards’s heroine Kitty has to deal with some of the same financial situations that her readers do in reality.

Sure, the financially strapped hero/heroine is a staple of the mystery genre.

Very few sleuths are wealthy, unless they are a Lord or something.

But very few exist in an economy that we have now.

Can you say Bernie Madoff?

Kitty came from a fairly affluent family, but the 1929 crash hit her family hard. Her father committed suicide.

While she still lives in the family home, she takes in boarders to make ends meet.

richards_deathwasinpictureThe scenes in which Kitty saves money, trims little things here and there will hit home with many readers.

When she is given money by a client to buy new clothes, she’s both giddy with excitement and frightened by spending all that cash on just clothes, instead of, say, for food.

In Mystery Scene's Winter 2009 Issue (No. 108), Kevin Burton Smith presents an insightful article about Richards, delving into how she made the secretary to a private detective the lead character.

I, too, found this quite interesting. (By the way, here’s a link to my review of Death Was in the Picture.)

After all, most of us—well, we women readers anyway—knew that Effie Perrine, Della Street and Peggy (on Mannix) were the real reasons those private detectives were so successful.

Like many mystery writers, Linda L. Richards includes a lot of layers in her novels.

And like most historical mysteries, her plots are a mirror to contemporary times.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, April 2009.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 04:01

“In this economy…”

OK, so how many times a day do you hear this phrase from newscasters, friends, waiters, sales people or even just floating through your brain like some modern-day mantra.

Makes you wish you had the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies instead of this terror-inducing phrase in your head.

Hopefully, “in this economy….” will not stop you from buying books, preferably mysteries, and mystery-oriented magazines.

richards_lindaSo it should come as no surprise how Linda L. Richards’ newest Kitty Pangborn novel Death Was in the Picture feels so contemporary, even though the novel is set in 1930.

But what’s a Great Depression between friends?

Richards’s heroine Kitty has to deal with some of the same financial situations that her readers do in reality.

Sure, the financially strapped hero/heroine is a staple of the mystery genre.

Very few sleuths are wealthy, unless they are a Lord or something.

But very few exist in an economy that we have now.

Can you say Bernie Madoff?

Kitty came from a fairly affluent family, but the 1929 crash hit her family hard. Her father committed suicide.

While she still lives in the family home, she takes in boarders to make ends meet.

richards_deathwasinpictureThe scenes in which Kitty saves money, trims little things here and there will hit home with many readers.

When she is given money by a client to buy new clothes, she’s both giddy with excitement and frightened by spending all that cash on just clothes, instead of, say, for food.

In Mystery Scene's Winter 2009 Issue (No. 108), Kevin Burton Smith presents an insightful article about Richards, delving into how she made the secretary to a private detective the lead character.

I, too, found this quite interesting. (By the way, here’s a link to my review of Death Was in the Picture.)

After all, most of us—well, we women readers anyway—knew that Effie Perrine, Della Street and Peggy (on Mannix) were the real reasons those private detectives were so successful.

Like many mystery writers, Linda L. Richards includes a lot of layers in her novels.

And like most historical mysteries, her plots are a mirror to contemporary times.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, April 2009.