2011 Uk Crimefest Awards Winners Announced
Mystery Scene

crimefestThe CrimeFest Awards were handed out at the CrimeFest Gala Dinner May 21, 2011, at the Marriott Royal Hotel in Bristol, United Kingdom. This year's awards were for crime publications published in the UK in 2010. The annual convention draws top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world and gives delegates the opportunity to celebrate the genre in an informal atmosphere.

Congratulation to all the winners and nominees.

Winners

tyler_herringinthelibraryLast Laugh Award (best humorous crime novel first)
L.C. Tyler for The Herring in the Library (Macmillan)

E-Dunnit Award (best crime fiction ebook)
Field Grey, by Philip Kerr (Quercus)

Sounds of Crime Awards (best abridged and unabridged crime audiobooks)
Abridged: Our Kind of Traitor, by John le Carré; read by John le Carré, abridged by Peter Mackie (AudioGO)

Unabridged: Dead Like You, by Peter James; read by David Bauckham (Whole Story Audio Books)

For a complete list of nominees and winners please visit CrimeFest.com.

Teri Duerr
2011-05-23 15:53:52

crimefestThe CrimeFest Awards were handed out at the CrimeFest Gala Dinner May 21, 2011, at the Marriott Royal Hotel in Bristol, United Kingdom. This year's awards were for crime publications published in the UK in 2010. The annual convention draws top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world and gives delegates the opportunity to celebrate the genre in an informal atmosphere.

Congratulation to all the winners and nominees.

Winners

tyler_herringinthelibraryLast Laugh Award (best humorous crime novel first)
L.C. Tyler for The Herring in the Library (Macmillan)

E-Dunnit Award (best crime fiction ebook)
Field Grey, by Philip Kerr (Quercus)

Sounds of Crime Awards (best abridged and unabridged crime audiobooks)
Abridged: Our Kind of Traitor, by John le Carré; read by John le Carré, abridged by Peter Mackie (AudioGO)

Unabridged: Dead Like You, by Peter James; read by David Bauckham (Whole Story Audio Books)

For a complete list of nominees and winners please visit CrimeFest.com.

Waddling in Dwight Was a Delight
Sue Owens Wright

bassett_hound_1Riddle: Why did the basset hound cross the road?

Answer: To get to the Illinois Basset Waddle.

It isn’t every day when you see nearly 1,000 basset hounds cross the road. I did last September at the Basset Waddle in the small Illinois town of Dwight, where I was invited to come and talk about my basset lover’s mystery novel, Howling Bloody Murder. Seeing alien crop circles dotting the cornfields would have been no more astonishing to me than witnessing this furry phenomenon, hosted yearly by Guardian Angel Basset Rescue (GABR). Of course, unbeknownst to the hounds and their owners, while observing this bizarre event for the first time, I was also taking notes.

When I saw basset hounds waddling around in the lobby of the Days Inn Hotel and heard mournful howls echoing from the hallway, I suspected I was checking in for a wacky weekend. I had to wait for the next ride up to my second floor room because the elevator was filled to capacity with hound dogs. Days Inn is to be commended for being so dog friendly to the Waddlers, even hosting a nightly “Yappy Happy Hour” for hotel guests and their dogs in the converted canine conference room. Refreshments were placed well out of basset-scarfing range, of course.

Saturday’s Basset Bash was an off-leash, jowl-flapping hound happening that included food, contests, raffles, and vendors selling bassetabilia galore. Dogs participated in a Drooler’s Decathlon that included competitions for Largest Paws; Longest Wingspan, measured tip-to-tip while extending ears Dumbo style; and Lowest Ground Clearance, measured tummy-to-turf.

wright_howling_harlequinI helped judge the Best Howl and Best Trick contests, but I think the prizes should have really been awarded to the humans, who performed admirably while coaxing along the reluctant contestants in the judging ring. Any food slave who has ever been owned by a basset hound knows these dogs aren’t inclined to do much of anything on command except eat, which is why there’s a contest for Lowest Ground Clearance.

I met a contender for the Best Counter Cruising division when my attention was diverted momentarily from my hamburger while signing a copy of my book for a fan. No basset ever moves that fast unless there’s grub involved. The wily little burger burglar snatched the whole thing right from under my nose and even came back for seconds.

Sunday morning’s Waddle boasted beaucoup de bassét, as they would say in the country where this scent hound originated. Study the blasé behavior of these dogs for very long and you begin to understand something about the French.

Many of the dogs wore costumes worthy of a feature spread in Waddle Wear Daily. In their usual unflappable manner, the bassets endured for the pleasure of their masters being made to look ridiculous in doggy dress-up. The paws-down winner of the costume contest was a basset Boeing 747.

basett_hound_2Bassets from all over the United States and Canada assembled to waddle en masse, along with their owners, down Main Street, USA. The Waddle King and Queen, crowned the night before in a canine coronation, loafed regally in royal raiment atop their float, ready to lead hordes of hounds through the town. At long last, we heard the signal for the parade to commence, “Let’s Waddle!” And we did.

I tried my best to capture all of the thrilling action on film but would later discover that every shot I snapped looked about the same—just a bunch of waddling basset assets.

My weekend at GABR’s Basset Bash and Waddle to benefit homeless bassets was one I’ll never forget. I met so many wonderful, caring people and the adorable, lovable bassets they’ve adopted as well as the ones that are fostered until a permanent home can be found. There are plenty of “foster flunkies,” as GABR affectionately refers to people who fall in love with those sad-sack faces and just can’t part with their furry foster kids.

The best part of the fun-filled weekend was that nearly all the hounds available for adoption found their forever homes with families who will provide them with the lifelong compassion, care, and love they deserve. As GABR’s slogan states, “It’s all about the dogs.”

wright_EmbarkingOnMurder-harlequinI left the Illinois Basset Waddle with plenty of background for writing a sequel mystery in which Beanie and Cruiser will be Waddling to a Murder. But now whenever I walk my two bassets at our neighborhood park, I find myself looking around hopefully for hundreds of other long-eared beauties waddling through the grass.

Sue Owens Wright is a two-time winner of the Maxwell Award by the Dog Writers Association of America. Her latest is Embarking on Murder (Five Star, 2009). Sue has owned six basset hounds over the years, five of which were rescued from pounds and shelters in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and two bassets.

Guardian Angel Basset Rescue, Inc. rescues basset hounds from abusive and unwanted situations. For more information: www.bassetrescue.org.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #80.

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Teri Duerr
2011-05-23 17:49:32

bassett_hound_1Q: Why did the basset hound cross the road? A: To get to the Illinois Basset Waddle.

Carolyn G. Hart on Claire Blank's Classic Beverly Gray Novels
Carolyn G. Hart

hart_carolyn

How the classic Beverly Gray novels of Clair Blank changed my life.

blank_beverlygrayreporterI look back over a lifetime of reading and remember books from many wonderful writers. I learned from them all, suspense from Alexandre Dumas, courage from Louisa May Alcott, protest from Charles Dickens, the imaginable unimaginable from William Faulkner, anguish from Edna St. Vincent Millay, clear-eyed judgment from Agatha Christie.

But if I peel back the years and tell the truth, the books that directed the course of my life were simply written books for girls, the Beverly Graynovels by Clair Blank. The books chart her college years and her success as a reporter and writer. These books first suggested to me that one could have a life as a writer and as a reporter. I grew up determined to be a reporter. I worked on school newspapers, majored in journalism, worked briefly as a reporter, then turned to fiction in my late twenties.

Thank you, Beverly Gray.

Carolyn G. Hart is the award-winning author of numerous traditional mysteries including those in her Bailey Ruth Raeburn series, Death on Demand series, and Henrie O series. www.carolynhart.com

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews April 2010 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2011-05-26 03:44:51

hart_carolynHow the classic Beverly Gray novels of Clair Blank changed my life.

Making Room in the Mind and Heart: a Conversation With Joseph Hansen
William Harry Harding

hansen_joseph2

Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter novels prompted the Los Angeles Times to pronounce him, “Quite simply the most exciting and effective writer of the classic California private-eye novel working today."

When Brandstetter—a gay insurance investigator—came on the scene in 1970, he was Hansen’s direct response to the negative homosexual stereotypes then prevalent in mystery fiction. Spanning 21 years and 12 books, the Brandstetter series earned Hansen much acclaim and, in 1992, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.

Hansen is also the author of numerous non-mystery novels, several collections of poetry, and many short stories. Here’s what Booklist had to say about Bohannon’s Women (Five Star, 2002) his third collection featuring Hack Bohannon, ex-deputy sheriff and sometimes private eye:

“Is it possible to hit one out of the park gently, gracefully, with almost tender, devoted finesse? If stories were baseballs, Hansen would do it every time.”

Hansen, 79, sat down for this exclusive interview at his Laguna Beach cottage with a friend he has mentored for 30 years, writer William Harry Harding.

Mystery Scene: The stories in Bohannon’s Women vary greatly in substance and style.

Joseph Hansen: They do take up different subjects. There is a lot to life. I want to look at all of it I can. Writing stories gives me a break in that way, letting me move from one problem, situation, set of characters to another. Novels fence you in, limit you.

MS: One story doesn’t even include Hack Bohannon.

Hansen: Sometimes a story comes to mind that I think is for Bohannon and that he won’t step into. This happened with “Storm Damage” (and earlier with “McIntyre’s Donald” in Bohannon’s Country). They are set in Bohannon’s bailiwick, but he seems busy elsewhere. He isn’t even mentioned. I don’t know why, you’d have to ask him.

MS: Why did you write “Widower’s Walk” in the present tense, when all the other stories here are in the past tense?

Hansen: I hadn’t written a Bohannon story for years. I’d been writing the Nathan Reed novels that are in the present tense and I simply forgot.

MS: How did Hack Bohannon come into being?

hansen_Bohannons_country5Hansen: In the 1970s, a publisher asked me for a series with a macho central character, and I chose a traditionally masculine job for the man, where he would also meet a variety of people day to day. The publisher did not go ahead with that line of mysteries, but I put Bohannon in a drawer until 1982, when Eleanor Sullivan of Ellery Queen Magazine began asking me for stories.

MS: What distinguishes a Joseph Hansen novel or short story from all the others out there?

Hansen: To my chagrin, that the writer keeps demanding of the reader that he make room in his mind and heart for characters and attitudes he is apt to be uncomfortable with. This is less true of the short stories. Where they differ is in structure: they are not traditional, connect-thedots mystery short stories, but rather novels-in-brief.

MS: You rely on current events to fuel many of your plots. Have you noticed any changes or trends in recent headlines?

Hansen: Tomorrow’s world is going to be unrecognizably different from the one I grew up in. The greatest change has been the vast movements of immigrants from one corner of the world to another. This will mean culture clashes before the successful, quiet blending of the best of all cultures into one another. But that will come. Today I’m disturbed by a president who cannot let us enjoy our children in peace but wants to lead us back into a war his father couldn’t finish.

MS: What’s the future of the mystery novel?

HS: I think the balance will continue to be 99 percent junk, one percent literature. But part of the secret of the novel of detection is its very repetitiveness—it’s always by and large the same mixture as before, and readers seem to want this. The mystery short story is every year becoming less mechanical, edging closer to the literary short story, breaking down the barrier between the two.

MS: You’ve shown extraordinary range, writing mainstream novels, short stories, poetry, and the Dave Brandstetter mysteries series.

Hansen: I don’t like being bound by a single kind of novel. I had more to say about the homosexual dilemma than I was able to with the Brandstetter books. So I wrote A Smile In His Lifetime (1981) and Job’s Year (1983), meaning to follow up with a third. But the New York Times ignored Job’s Year, so I gave up on the “big” novel idea for a while. It came back in the 1990s with the Nathan Reed books, which I meant to form one long, 12-book novel. I meant to tell my own life story, weaving the times I lived through into the fabric. It was a young man’s idea—I was only 70 when I had it.

MS: The first two Nathan Reed novels, Jack of Hearts and Living Upstairs, winner of the Lambda award, were well received. The third installment has just been published?

hansen_fadeoutHansen: Living Upstairs sold out three printings in hardcover and three more in paperback. But I had to publish the third in the series, The Cutbank Path, on my own, through the online print-on-demand service Xlibris. I offer this as my comment on what’s happened to book publishing in the last five years.

MS: While reviewers everywhere praise your mysteries, you are rarely mentioned in the same sentence with mainstream literary writers. How do you account for this?

Hansen: I’m grateful for the praise my writing has received, but it’s readers who keep writers alive by buying our books. And readers come in two kinds—those who care how well a whodunit is written, and those who don’t even notice, and the last out-number the first by roughly nine to one. As to jumping genres, who among us can honestly claim ever to have read Christie when she abandoned clues and corpses and called herself Mary Westmacott?

MS: Having taught at distinguished universities, what are your feelings toward today’s writing programs?

Hansen: To say I enjoyed teaching would be to understate the case. And my classes were always crowded. Yet it bothered me that just a handful of writers emerged from them. I came to conclude at last that writing can, indeed, be taught, but only rarely can it be learned. I was self-taught, and it took a painful long time, but I am disposed to believe maybe that’s the best way, after all.

MS: What do you consider your main influence on the mystery novel?

Hansen: When I started the first Brandstetter book in 1967, I wanted the mystery novel to stop treating homosexuals as one-dimensional figures, loathsome or pathetic or both. So I began writing about all sorts of homosexuals with the central figure of every book a decent man who happens to be gay. And after quite a lapse of years, other writers rather timidly came along with male and female homosexual sleuths.

MS: Any regrets?

Hansen: In 1974, living in London, I began to write a play. I have a feeling my life might have taken a different turn at that point, but I had a disabling accident, and the press of other duties after I recovered kept me from finishing the play. That’s something I sometimes regret. But my mysteries have pleased a lot of readers and are still selling in the US and overseas, so I’ve had my share of good luck, and I’m not complaining.

A Joseph Hansen Reading List

DAVE BRANDSETTER SERIES
Fadeout (1970)
Death Claims (1973)
Troublemaker (1975)
The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of (1978)
Skinflick (1979)
Gravedigger (1982)
Nightwork (1984)
The Little Dog Laughed (1986)
Early Graves (1987)
Obedience (1988)
The Boy Who Was Buried This Morning (1990)
A Country of Old Men (1991) (Lambda winner)

HACK BOHANNON SHORT STORIES
Bohannon's Book (1988)
Bohannon's Country (1993)
Bohannon’s Women (2002)

NON-SERIES MYSTERIES
Backtrack (1982)
Pretty Boy Dead (1984)
Steps Going Down (1985)

William Harry Harding has written three novels (Rainbow [1979], Young Hart [1983], Mill Song [1986]) and a children’s book (Alvin’s Famous No-Horse [1992]). He is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review. A portion of Mill Song is being anthologized in Italian-American Writers of New Jersey (Rutgers University Press, 2003).

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Holiday Issue #77.

Teri Duerr
2011-05-31 22:02:12

hansen_joseph2Four decades of solving crimes and shattering homosexual stereotypes in fiction.

2011 Arthur Ellis Award Winners Announced
Mystery Scene

Arthur-Ellis-AwardThe Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) announced the winners for the 28th annual Arthur Ellis Awards on June 2, in Victoria, British Columbia. The Arthur Ellis is Canada’s premier award for excellence in crime writing. The 2011 awards are for books and short stories published in 2010. Crime Writers celebrate all facets of the genre, including crime, detective, espionage, mystery, suspense, or thriller, and include fictional or factual accounts of criminal doings and literary works with a criminal theme.

BEST NOVEL
Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny (Little, Brown UK)
[Read the Mystery Scene book review]

BEST SHORT STORY
“So Much in Common,” Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

BEST NONFICTION
On the Farm, Stevie Cameron (Knopf Canada)

BEST JUVENILE/ YOUNG ADULT
The Worst Thing She Ever Did, Alice Kuipers (HarperCollins)

BEST CRIME WRITING IN FRENCH
Dans le quartier des agités, Jacques Côté (Alire)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
The Debba, Avner Mandleman (Other Press)

UNHANGED ARTHUR (Best Unpublished First Crime Novel)
Better Off Dead, John Jeneroux

For additional information on Crime Writers Canada and the Arthur Ellis Awards: www.crimewriterscanada.com

Teri Duerr
2011-06-02 17:01:33

Arthur-Ellis-AwardThe Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) announced the winners for the 28th annual Arthur Ellis Awards on June 2, in Victoria, British Columbia. The Arthur Ellis is Canada’s premier award for excellence in crime writing. The 2011 awards are for books and short stories published in 2010. Crime Writers celebrate all facets of the genre, including crime, detective, espionage, mystery, suspense, or thriller, and include fictional or factual accounts of criminal doings and literary works with a criminal theme.

BEST NOVEL
Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny (Little, Brown UK)
[Read the Mystery Scene book review]

BEST SHORT STORY
“So Much in Common,” Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

BEST NONFICTION
On the Farm, Stevie Cameron (Knopf Canada)

BEST JUVENILE/ YOUNG ADULT
The Worst Thing She Ever Did, Alice Kuipers (HarperCollins)

BEST CRIME WRITING IN FRENCH
Dans le quartier des agités, Jacques Côté (Alire)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
The Debba, Avner Mandleman (Other Press)

UNHANGED ARTHUR (Best Unpublished First Crime Novel)
Better Off Dead, John Jeneroux

For additional information on Crime Writers Canada and the Arthur Ellis Awards: www.crimewriterscanada.com

Mary Jane Maffini: Comic Crime Confections
Martha Edwards

maffiniwindowsmallCozy mysteries—with their puzzle plots, engaging characters, and reassuringly familiar settings—often don’t get the respect they deserve. Over the past two decades, conflicted private eyes, crazed serial killers, and cynical cops may have appeared to dominate bookstores, but cozies quietly sell, year in and year out, to a huge audience.

Over the same period there’s been a boom in crime fiction in Canada. Thirty years ago you might have been hard pressed to name a Canadian crime writer, but in the early 1980s Howard Engel changed all that by writing his Benny Cooperman mysteries, and by founding the Crime Writers of Canada, paving the way for the later success of Eric Wright, Peter Robinson, and Louise Penny.

Canadian Mary Jane Maffini, writer of three cozy mystery series, is at the intersection of these two trends. Her newest book, The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder, was published in April 2011. It’s the fifth in the Charlotte Adams series, set in the Hudson Valley, about a professional organizer who catches crooks while clearing away clutter.

She also writes the Fiona Silk series, about a failed romance writer living in Quebec, and the Camilla MacPhee series, featuring a lawyer working for social justice in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. Maffini has had 13 books published since 2003.

While the Charlotte Adams series is pure fun, with organizing tips starting each chapter (“Organize your closet by color, type of clothing, and season”), the MacPhee books are a bit more serious and grew out of her childhood and family life.

Her companionship with books and writing goes back a long way. In grade school in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Mary Jane created and used her first private detective, Mike Chisel (modeled after Mike Hammer), to tell her stories when she was called on to produce those what-did-you-do-on-your-vacation assignments. “I read every book I could get my hands on. I loved all the usual suspects including ‘the boy detectives’ and Nancy,” she remembers.

Meanwhile Maffini was getting an education at the dinner table. “My family had animated discussions about the Coffin case.” In 1956, Wilbert Coffin was convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence in a highly controversial case. He was hanged and this triggered a huge debate on capital punishment in Canada. “Early on, I realized that an innocent person could be convicted. As a mystery writer, I still follow court cases in the papers, and think, what really happened? Like many readers, I am often disappointed in the outcomes. Creating my own stories lets me fix that, to my satisfaction. My character Camilla MacPhee, a lawyer who works as a victim’s advocate, is particularly driven by a need to seek justice.”

Maffini was born and raised in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Her future husband, Giulio, wooed her by arranging dates at bookstores. They have two daughters. Maffini obtained her master's degree in library science at Dalhousie University, and had her first job at a library in Halifax. “I got to select mysteries for the system,” Maffini remembers. “I was always worried they’d find out how much I loved it and stop paying me!”

Eventually the family moved to Ottawa, Ontario, where she worked as the librarian for the Brewers Association of Canada, and was encouraged to drink beer at her desk. She went on to the Canadian Library Association and eventually became the director of Canada’s National Science Library.

“I didn’t do much writing until I was in my mid-thirties—I didn’t think I had much to say,” says Maffini. Then for several years, she wrote mysteries from 6 am to 7 am in the morning, creating “unreadable tomes, which over time, became readable.”

In the early nineties, Maffini wrote “Death Before Doughnuts,” which won The Ottawa Citizen’s short story contest. “Then through a local writing group, Capital Crime Writers, I learned that mystery conferences existed.” Her world changed. A late-night discussion with fellow Canadians Peter Sellers and Vicki Cameron at the 1993 Bouchercon in Omaha resulted in Maffini’s short story, “Naked Truths,” being published in the Cold Blood V anthology. (The mystery involved covering up clues in a nudist camp—think of a small, easily accessible weapon and something on a nudist that looks too good to be true.)

Maffini took another step into the mystery world in 1995 when she became part owner of Ottawa’s Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore with fellow mystery writer Linda Wiken. “The big thing for me was the books, mysteries floor to ceiling, and more coming every day. I was a customer long before owning the store and I still am—it’s one of my favorite places on earth.”

mafiniladieskillingcirclesmallMaffini wrote her first Fiona Silk mystery, Lament for a Lounge Lizard, in 2003. Fiona is a failed romance writer with no sex life—and finding her murdered ex-lover in her bed only adds insult to injury. Fiona lives in St. Aubaine, Quebec, a picturesque tourist town of two thousand, and this is just the sort of thing to get the neighbors’ tongues wagging in both official languages. Eventually the police investigation threatens those close to her. “That’s what drives these books,” says Maffini. “Despite Fiona’s failings, in the darkest hour, she does what needs to be done to save the people she cares about.”

THE LADIES’ KILLING CIRCLE Joan Boswell, Vicki Cameron,
Barbara Fradkin, Sue Pike, Linda Wiken and Mary Jane Maffini
enjoying a trip to Florida

Maffini has found her greatest success with her amusing Camilla MacPhee mysteries. The irascible Camilla, “the black sheep of her perfect, blonde family,” runs a legal advocacy agency called Justice for Victims. She lives in Ottawa where she is surrounded by peculiar friends and an eccentric family. The first book, Speak Ill of the Dead, is set during Ottawa’s annual Tulip Festival; The Icing on the Corpse, during Winterlude; and each subsequent book involves one of the many festivals held in our nation’s capital. Law & Disorder, the sixth in the series, was published in 2009 by Canada’s RenzdezVous Press.

The MacPhee books have been optioned by Toronto-based Thump Entertainment for TV. Talks are underway to option the Fiona Silk books, as well.

For a change of pace, Maffini introduced Charlotte Adams, the professional organizer, in 2007’s Organize Your Corpses, so now she has three cozy series on the go.

She’s not slacking off in other areas, either. Maffini is a member in good standing of the Ladies’ Killing Circle, a group of Canadian women mystery writers. Together they have produced seven short story anthologies, garnering ten Arthur Ellis nominations and scooping up three.

In addition to the Ladies’ Killing Circle anthologies, Maffini’s short stories have appeared in numerous other anthologies and in publications such as Chatelaine. She has been voted one of the top 10 favorites of the year by readers of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and her book, The Dead Don’t Get Out Much, was nominated for a Barry Award.

Maffini served two terms as President of Crime Writers of Canada and was awarded the Derrick Murdoch Award for her contributions to the organization. She also earned Arthur Ellis Awards for two of her short stories, and has been nominated for several more.

Maffini was the 2006 Guest of Honor at Bloody Words, Canada’s premier mystery conference, and is slated to be master of ceremonies at the 2009 conference. She also teaches writing workshops across Canada, nurturing the genre’s next generation.

Maffini still remembers the thrill of discovering there actually were Canadian mystery writers. “I found Howard Engel and Eric Wright first.” Today she reads dozens of Canadian crime novels a year. “Canadian mystery writing is coming into its own. We have Peter Robinson, Giles Blunt, Barbara Fradkin, Lyn Hamilton, Rosemary Aubert, Louise Penny, and the list goes on and on.

“A lot of these writers reflect our culture and society. I know, for instance, far more about the condition of our native people in Saskatchewan from reading Gail Bowen’s books than from reading the Globe and Mail. It’s a new golden age for Canadian mystery writers,” she states.

And no writer is more a part of this new Golden Age of Canadian Mystery than Mary Jane Maffini herself.

A Mary Jane Maffini Reading List

THE CHARLOTTE ADAMS NOVELS
Organize Your Corpses (2007)
The Cluttered Corpse (2008)
Death Loves a Messy Desk (2009)
Closet Confidential (2010)
The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder (2011)

THE CAMILLA MACPHEE NOVELS
Speak Ill of the Dead (1999)
The Icing on the Corpse (2001)
Little Boy Blues (2002)
The Devil’s in the Details (2004)
The Dead Don’t Get Out Much (2005)
Law & Disorder (2009)

THE FIONA SILK NOVELS
Lament for a Lounge Lizard (2003)
Too Hot to Handle (2007)

Canadian Martha Edwards is a freelance writer and a lifetime mystery enthusiast. She is on the lam from corporate writing and is president of her local chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and has served as a library trustee and library board chair for many years.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Spring Issue #109.

Teri Duerr
2011-06-02 20:15:50

maffiniwindowsmallcroppedPuzzle plots, lady sleuths, and good humor—the 2011 Arthur Ellis winner discusses her three series.

Louise Penny on Charlotte's Web
Louise Penny

penny_louise_wblue_shawlA lifelong love of spiders... and literature

At the age of eight I sat on the edge of my bed, reading. To this day I can feel the nubbily bedspread under my hand. My other hand held a book that I didn't yet realize would change my life. That moment would come in a few seconds. I was in my bedroom because I was always in my bedroom. It was where I felt safe. The only place I felt secure in a world that had only ever shown me kindness, and yet I felt was scary and threatening.

Everything scared me. Except reading. In my bedroom.

I was reading Charlotte's Web.

High on the list of things to fear was spiders.

white_charlotteswebBut in that instant three things happened. I realized that Charlotte was a spider and that I loved her. In that moment I lost my fear of spiders. And in that moment I realized that the written word was the most powerful thing in the world. It could remove a fear. How amazing is that?! But I knew something else.

In that moment I knew I wanted to be a writer. It took 40 years, as I sifted through other fears, but finally Charlotte prevailed. And I got to be what that eight year old dreamed of becoming. A writer.

Louise Penny is the author of the award-winning Chief Inspector Gamache series. www.louisepenny.com

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews October 2010 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2011-06-02 22:35:05

penny_louise_wblue_shawlA lifelong love of spiders...and literature

A Most Ingenious Legal Mind: Sarah Caudwell
Martin Edwards

Caudwell_Sarah_small

“The Chancery Bar is the ideal home for the amateur sleuth of classic detective fiction. After all, money is often the motive for murder and inheritance and complications and other financial tangles provide plenty of clues for those who specialise in that area of the law.”

So Sarah Caudwell (1939-2000) plausibly explained in a conversation 15 years ago about how she came to write mysteries with a legal background. We were from different generations, but we were both lawyers, and although my career as a novelist had yet to begin, I had been commissioned by a professional magazine to write an interview-article about her. Suffice it to say that I have never met anyone quite like Sarah: a gruffvoiced pipe smoker with a sense of humour as formidable as her intellect, fond of a drink and of good company, and, I suspect, equally capable of charm and selfindulgence. I found her fascinating and supportive and was always delighted to renew the acquaintance at crime fiction conventions. A drinks evening that she hosted at central London’s The Bung Hole (fictionalised in her novels as The Corkscrew) at the time of the 1990 Bouchercon is still vivid in my memory. News of her premature death from cancer came as a shock, the more so as she left so few books to remember her by. But what books they are: mysteries whose international success proved that skilful contemporary writers can still turn out traditional whodunits that stand comparison with the best work of “the Golden Age.”

Of the six key characters who recur in Caudwell’s novels, five are barristers practising in Lincoln’s Inn. Scatty and sexy Julia Larwood is a member of the small set of Revenue Chambers in 63 New Square; her friends Timothy Shepherd, Desmond Ragwort, Michael Cantrip, and Selena Jardine are to be found next door at Number 62. The final member of this unusual band of partners in crime is Professor Hilary Tamar, tutor in Legal History at St George’s College, Oxford, whose “interest in the principles of English law wanes with the Middle Ages.” Hilary is, in part, narrator of the stories, and the extraordinarily elaborate, mannered style with which the tales are told is an important part of their charm for many readers. One hardly expects a modern crime novel to begin: “Cost candour what it may, I will not deceive my readers.” But that is the opening sentence of The Shortest Way To Hades, and it captures accurately the Tamar voice.

“Hilary’s voice was in my head,” Sarah Caudwell told me, “before any of the plots. I knew from the outset Hilary must be an Oxford don—but of equivocal sex and even equivocal age, resembling that precise, donnish kind of individual who starts being elderly at the age of 22.”

caudwell_sirens_sangLike many crime writers in the traditional vein (Colin Dexter and Robert Barnard are examples who spring to mind) Sarah loved crossword puzzles and she often reached the finals of The Times crossword competition, in which the standards are very high. Her plotting is invariably as complicated and satisfying as the best crosswords, but there is more to her books than the puzzles. One of her strengths which has been under-valued by most critics is an effective use of settings as varied as Venice, the Ionian Sea and Sark. Meticulous in her craft (and also fond of travel) she visited the Channel Islands, Monaco and the Cayman Islands in search of a suitable locale for The Sirens Sang of Murder, which has been described as “a saga of sex, international tax planning, and witchcraft.” Another distinctive feature of the Caudwell style is her recurrent use of the epistolary form, influenced by her fondness for 18th century fiction, in which letters often played a significant part. In Thus Was Adonis Murdered, for instance, Julia’s messages from Venice not only drive the action forward but also provide clues to enable Hilary to solve a baffling case of murder. In The Shortest Way to Hades, Selena’s letters to Julia from on board ship and from Corfu perform a similar function. The same is true of Cantrip’s telexes (remember them?) from Sark in The Sirens Sang of Murder. Careful handling of this tricky device enabled Caudwell to avoid repeating herself and allowed her the flexibility of a multiple viewpoint which is much less limiting than strict adherence to first person narrative.

Sarah Caudwell’s books are admittedly an acquired taste. Subtle, complicated and witty, they appeal most to readers who hanker after the Golden Age of crime writing—Hades boasts both a family tree and a Thirties-style room plan showing the scene of the crime—and to those whose sense of humour demands something more elitist than the belly laugh. Readers who crave penetrating social comment or in-depth characterisation in their mysteries should look elsewhere. A criticism occasionally made is that she did not develop her writing much in the course of twenty years; it is, perhaps, fairer to say that the style she chose to work in carried severe restrictions which suited her, because they challenged her to spin variations on a limited range of themes.

When Adonis appeared in 1981, Caudwell was a full-time working barrister and so she chose to publish under a pseudonym. Her real name was Sarah Cockburn and she is the daughter of famous parents—the writer Claud Cockburn and the actress and journalist Jean Ross. Ross lived in Berlin in the 1930s and is widely regarded as the original of Christopher Isherwood’s character Sally Bowles (most renowned as a result of Liza Minelli’s memorable portrayal in the film version of Cabaret). Sarah graduated in Classics from Aberdeen University and then read Law at St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she became noted for her love of pipe-smoking. According to her obituary in The Times, “she also devoted her leisure to intrigues devoted to secure the admission of women to the Union, and supported her fellow students… when they dressed up as men to get into the debating chamber, from which women at that time were excluded. When the discriminatory rule was finally removed, Caudwell became one of the first women to make a speech as a member rather than as a guest.” She lectured in law for a while before being called to the Bar. After a number of years in private practice, she joined Lloyds Bank, where she specialised in international tax planning.

caudwell_sibyl_in_graveBy her own admission a desperately slow writer, she eventually left Lloyd’s to concentrate on her writing whilst struggling to finish Sirens. When she and I first met, she had produced just three novels, plus an excellent tale which demonstrated a mastery of the short form, “An Acquaintance With Mr Collins.” She was at that time working on her fourth novel, but also tinkering with other projects. Perhaps the digressions gave her an excuse for not making swifter progress with the Tamar series; they included a collaboration with four other mystery writers on the theme of the perfect murder and a historical play based on the case of Daniel M’Naghten, who gave his name to the infamous M’Naghten Rules, which have long complicated murder cases where the sanity of the accused is in dispute.

Sarah assured me more than once that writing novels remained her priority, but years passed with no sign of the next Tamar novel. She had told me that it would feature the wheeler-dealers of the City of London and Hilary’s attempt to employ the methods of Scholarship to dispel Error and reveal Truth in England’s financial industry. Along with her many fans, I yearned for it to appear, but her publishers, HarperCollins, grew tired of waiting and eventually dropped her. As a result—bizarrely for a quintessentially English author whose earlier work had earned such acclaim—when The Sibyl in Her Grave finally achieved publication, it was after Sarah’s death, and in the US. A British edition did not appear until 2002 (thirteen years after its predecessor), when Robinson brought it out together with welcome reprints of the first three Tamar narratives.

The Sibyl in her Grave takes as its starting point the financial misadventures of Julia Larwood’s Aunt Regina. Full of characteristic Caudwell touches, it offers a map of Parsons Haver, the village in West Sussex where Regina lives. Once again, copious use is made of letters to move the story along. Posthumously published books tend not to excite the critics (think of the muted reaction to Agatha Christie’s Curtain, which is arguably one of her cleverest novels) and some commentators suggested that The Sibyl was but a pale shadow of its predecessors. Others took a more generous view and Amanda Cross, who could be acerbic in her views of fellow crime novelists, highlighted the novel’s considerable virtues: “wit and forbearance, intellect and passion, above all, humour and perfection of language.” There could be no better summary of the strengths of an entertaining and polished writer whose contribution to the genre, although limited, was hugely enjoyable and entirely distinctive.

Lincolns_Inn_Fields_smallA SARAH CAUDWELL READING LIST

Thus Was Adonis Murdered (1981)
The Shortest Way to Hades (1984)
The Sirens Sang of Murder (1989)
The Sibyl in Her Grave (1999)

Sarah Caudwell studied law at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, was called to the Chancery Bar, and practiced as a barrister for several years in Lincoln’s Inn. The Inns of Court are ancient unincorporated bodies of lawyers which for five centuries and more have had the power to call to the Bar those of their members who have duly qualified for the rank or degree of Barrister-at-Law. With the power of call goes a power to disbar or otherwise punish for misconduct. Lincoln’s Inn is one of London’s four Inns of Court. The other three are Gray’s Inn, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. Lincoln’s Inn, next to one of London’s finest residential squares, is the most beautiful and least altered of the Inns. Its buildings date from the late 15th century.

Martin Edwards is an award-winning crime writer. His latest is The Hanging Wood (Poisoned Pen Press), a Lake District mystery.

Author Photo: Miriam Berkley

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Holiday Issue #87.

Teri Duerr
2011-06-08 22:21:08

Caudwell_Sarah_smallThe Hilary Tamar legal mysteries set in London appeal to lovers of the Golden Age of crime writing.

Watching the Detectives
Oline Cogdill

altI remember a time when TV was at its slowest during the summer. Those days are gone.

Now the summer not only is filled with original episodes, but there's quite a number of series designed for the mystery fan.

Here's a smattering:

THE GLADES (A&E, Sundays at 10 p.m.) Season two of this guilty pleasure should have some personal and professional changes for Jim Longworth, a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who is based in the fictional town of Palm Glade, Florida. The series shoots in South Florida, especially in the Fort Lauderdale area.

NORA ROBERTS’ CARNAL INNOCENCE (Lifetime, June 13 at 8 p.m.) Gabrielle Anwar (“Burn Notice”) plays a world-famous violinist who wants peace and quiet and instead is stalked by a serial killer.

MEMPHIS BEAT (TNT, June 14 at 9 p.m.) Who knew that Jason Lee could play a convincing cop? OK, so Memphis Beat isn't exactly Homicide: Life on the Streets, but there are some interesting plots that showcase Lee's character Dwight Hendricks. And who doesn't love Alfre Woodard’s as Dwight's lieutenant.

altBURN NOTICE (USA, June 23 at 8 p.m.) Jeffrey Donovan returns as Michael Westen, the burned spy in the fifth season, which is shot in South Florida. Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless and Gabrielle Anwar co-star. This is a personal favorite. Burn Notice remains fresh because each year the writers tackle a new aspect of Michael Westen's life.

SUITS (USA, June 23 at 10 p.m.) Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) is a brilliant college-dropout who lands a job with one of New York City's best attorneys, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). Mike's raw talent and photographic memory impresses his new boss. Of course, this happens all the time -- dropouts pretend to be lawyers and handle high-profile cases. Hey, I live in Florida.

TRUE BLOOD (HBO, June 26 at 9 p.m.) Expect new characters in the fourth season of this Southern-gothic series based on Charlaine Harris' novels. Fiona Shaw will play Marnie, a witch. Gary Cole will play as Sookie Stackhouse’s grandfather, Earl. But wait, isn't he dead?

LEVERAGE (TNT, June 26, at 9 p.m.) The best gang of con artists return.

Photos: Top, Memphis Beat with Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard. TNT photo. Jeffery Donavan in Burn Notice. USA photo

Xav ID 577
2011-06-12 10:59:44

altI remember a time when TV was at its slowest during the summer. Those days are gone.

Now the summer not only is filled with original episodes, but there's quite a number of series designed for the mystery fan.

Here's a smattering:

THE GLADES (A&E, Sundays at 10 p.m.) Season two of this guilty pleasure should have some personal and professional changes for Jim Longworth, a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who is based in the fictional town of Palm Glade, Florida. The series shoots in South Florida, especially in the Fort Lauderdale area.

NORA ROBERTS’ CARNAL INNOCENCE (Lifetime, June 13 at 8 p.m.) Gabrielle Anwar (“Burn Notice”) plays a world-famous violinist who wants peace and quiet and instead is stalked by a serial killer.

MEMPHIS BEAT (TNT, June 14 at 9 p.m.) Who knew that Jason Lee could play a convincing cop? OK, so Memphis Beat isn't exactly Homicide: Life on the Streets, but there are some interesting plots that showcase Lee's character Dwight Hendricks. And who doesn't love Alfre Woodard’s as Dwight's lieutenant.

altBURN NOTICE (USA, June 23 at 8 p.m.) Jeffrey Donovan returns as Michael Westen, the burned spy in the fifth season, which is shot in South Florida. Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless and Gabrielle Anwar co-star. This is a personal favorite. Burn Notice remains fresh because each year the writers tackle a new aspect of Michael Westen's life.

SUITS (USA, June 23 at 10 p.m.) Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) is a brilliant college-dropout who lands a job with one of New York City's best attorneys, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). Mike's raw talent and photographic memory impresses his new boss. Of course, this happens all the time -- dropouts pretend to be lawyers and handle high-profile cases. Hey, I live in Florida.

TRUE BLOOD (HBO, June 26 at 9 p.m.) Expect new characters in the fourth season of this Southern-gothic series based on Charlaine Harris' novels. Fiona Shaw will play Marnie, a witch. Gary Cole will play as Sookie Stackhouse’s grandfather, Earl. But wait, isn't he dead?

LEVERAGE (TNT, June 26, at 9 p.m.) The best gang of con artists return.

Photos: Top, Memphis Beat with Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard. TNT photo. Jeffery Donavan in Burn Notice. USA photo

July Mystery Tv Offerings
Oline Cogdill

altHere's what the mystery fan can look forward to on TV this month.

RIZZOLI & ISLES (TNT, July 11 at 10 p.m.) Boston detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) return for the second series in this police procedural based on the novels by Tess Gerritsen.

THE CLOSER (TNT, July 11 at 9 p.m.) This will be the final season for Kyra Sedgwick as the unorthodox, and very polite but determined, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. But we won't be done with this L.A. police squad. The Closer will spin off a new series about Mary McDonnell’s Captain Raydor.

DAMAGES (DirecTV, July 13, at 9 p.m.) Glenn Close's legal barracuda returns for the fourth season.

ZEN (PBS, July 17, at 9 p.m.) Michael Dibdin's series about Aurelio Zen makes its three-episode debut. The good news is that it's shot in Rome. The better news is it stars Rufus Sewell.

Photo: The Closer with Kyra Sedgwick and Jon Tenney. TNT photo

Xav ID 577
2011-07-03 10:19:36

altHere's what the mystery fan can look forward to on TV this month.

RIZZOLI & ISLES (TNT, July 11 at 10 p.m.) Boston detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) return for the second series in this police procedural based on the novels by Tess Gerritsen.

THE CLOSER (TNT, July 11 at 9 p.m.) This will be the final season for Kyra Sedgwick as the unorthodox, and very polite but determined, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. But we won't be done with this L.A. police squad. The Closer will spin off a new series about Mary McDonnell’s Captain Raydor.

DAMAGES (DirecTV, July 13, at 9 p.m.) Glenn Close's legal barracuda returns for the fourth season.

ZEN (PBS, July 17, at 9 p.m.) Michael Dibdin's series about Aurelio Zen makes its three-episode debut. The good news is that it's shot in Rome. The better news is it stars Rufus Sewell.

Photo: The Closer with Kyra Sedgwick and Jon Tenney. TNT photo

Beekeeping With Laurie King
Oline Cogdill

altThere are always two sides to each story.

And that makes for good storytelling as Laurie R. King shows in her "e-novella" Beekeeping for Beginners.

Back in 1994, King imagined a meeting between 15-year-old Mary Russell and the retired Sherlock Holmes in the brilliant The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

It was an inspired meeting that lead to Russell and Holmes becoming partners and, through the 11 novels, a devoted couple. The Pirate King, the latest novel in the series, comes out in September.

But even the best stories can be revisited.

In the "e-novella," Beekeeping for Beginners gives a new and exciting twist to the Russell-Holmes meeting.

Beekeeping for Beginners goes on sale July 6 in e-book format. There's no denying that e-books are taking over and I think offering a short story or "e-novella" electronically is a brilliant piece of marketing.

The Beekeepers Apprentice was nominated for the Agatha best novel award and was deemed a Notable Young Adult book by the American Library Association.

The Beekeepers Apprentice also is a personal favorite. I would have loved to have had this novel when I was a teenager. The Beekeepers Apprentice shows an intelligent, confident young woman -- a girl power for the ages.

But The Beekeepers Apprentice cuts across all ages and it works perfectly well for adult readers.

Xav ID 577
2011-07-06 10:26:45

altThere are always two sides to each story.

And that makes for good storytelling as Laurie R. King shows in her "e-novella" Beekeeping for Beginners.

Back in 1994, King imagined a meeting between 15-year-old Mary Russell and the retired Sherlock Holmes in the brilliant The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

It was an inspired meeting that lead to Russell and Holmes becoming partners and, through the 11 novels, a devoted couple. The Pirate King, the latest novel in the series, comes out in September.

But even the best stories can be revisited.

In the "e-novella," Beekeeping for Beginners gives a new and exciting twist to the Russell-Holmes meeting.

Beekeeping for Beginners goes on sale July 6 in e-book format. There's no denying that e-books are taking over and I think offering a short story or "e-novella" electronically is a brilliant piece of marketing.

The Beekeepers Apprentice was nominated for the Agatha best novel award and was deemed a Notable Young Adult book by the American Library Association.

The Beekeepers Apprentice also is a personal favorite. I would have loved to have had this novel when I was a teenager. The Beekeepers Apprentice shows an intelligent, confident young woman -- a girl power for the ages.

But The Beekeepers Apprentice cuts across all ages and it works perfectly well for adult readers.

The 2011 Nero Award Nominees
Oline Cogdill

altI know that the mystery genre seems to have an abundance of awards, but I, for one, enjoy hearing about them.

I especially like it when the nominees of the various awards don't overlap. To me, that is just another way of honoring the many good books that are out there.

The 2011 Nero Award finalists have just been announced and, as usual, it honors some exceptional work.

I'm glad I don't have to make the final decision as it would be hard to pick just one book.

The Nero Award celebrates literary excellence in the mystery genre.

The Nero Award is presented each year to an author for the best mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City.

altPast winners have included Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, and Martha Grimes.

This year, the nominees are:

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen (Ballantine Books)

The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds (St. Martin’s Press)

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)

The Midnight Show Murders by Al Roker (Delacorte)

Think of a Number by John Verdon (Crown)


The Wolfe Pack, the literary society that celebrates all things Nero Wolfe, also presents the Black Orchid Novella Award (BONA) in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the Novella format popularized by Rex Stout. The BONA is also announced at the Black Orchid Banquet in December.

The Wolfe Pack, founded in 1977, is a forum to discuss, explore, and enjoy the 72 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout. The organization has more than 450 members worldwide.

For more information, visit the Wolfe Pack or email Jane K. Cleland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Xav ID 577
2011-06-15 11:55:30

altI know that the mystery genre seems to have an abundance of awards, but I, for one, enjoy hearing about them.

I especially like it when the nominees of the various awards don't overlap. To me, that is just another way of honoring the many good books that are out there.

The 2011 Nero Award finalists have just been announced and, as usual, it honors some exceptional work.

I'm glad I don't have to make the final decision as it would be hard to pick just one book.

The Nero Award celebrates literary excellence in the mystery genre.

The Nero Award is presented each year to an author for the best mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. It is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City.

altPast winners have included Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, and Martha Grimes.

This year, the nominees are:

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen (Ballantine Books)

The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds (St. Martin’s Press)

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)

The Midnight Show Murders by Al Roker (Delacorte)

Think of a Number by John Verdon (Crown)


The Wolfe Pack, the literary society that celebrates all things Nero Wolfe, also presents the Black Orchid Novella Award (BONA) in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the Novella format popularized by Rex Stout. The BONA is also announced at the Black Orchid Banquet in December.

The Wolfe Pack, founded in 1977, is a forum to discuss, explore, and enjoy the 72 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout. The organization has more than 450 members worldwide.

For more information, visit the Wolfe Pack or email Jane K. Cleland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Karin Slaughter: Guest Blog
Oline Cogdill

altKarin Slaughter's dark vision has made her an international bestselling author.

A long-time resident of Atlanta, Karin writes about the emotional consequences of violence as well as social issues such as racism, classism, corruption and greed. Her novels are decidedly hard-boiled with undertones of the Southern gothic.

Though her novels often reveal secrets about the most important relationships in our lives—our families—her latest novel, Fallen, is perhaps her most family-centric novel to date.

Along with Mary Kay Andrews and Kathryn Stockett, Karin also has spearheaded the Save the Libraries program. Her pilot program has helped raise more than $50,000 for the 25 libraries in the the Dekalb County Public Library System in Georgia.

altKarin begins her tour this week for her latest novel, Fallen, in which Faith Mitchell, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, deals with a very personal hostage situation.

Before she hit the road, Karin wrote this guest blog for Mystery Scene. Karin also will be the cover profile of Mystery Scene's summer issue.

Here are Karin's thoughts on why families influence her writing, and a Christmas gift that backfired:

"My grandmother got me hooked on crime fiction. She passed away before I became a published author, but I think she would’ve been startled—and slightly embarrassed—to know she was the one who gave me my vocation.

"When I was a kid, she used to get this magazine called True Crime. She hid it under her bed, but my sister and I rooted it out every Sunday we went to visit. The magazine was awful—containing the sort of stories that might be just shy of snuff porn today. The front cover always had a woman looking over her shoulder, panic in her eyes, as a dark shadow descended. The shoutlines said things like, “She should’ve listened to her husband!” or “Why was she out after dark?”

"This was not the sort of magazine you found at our local Piggly Wiggly.

"My grandmother used to get in her car and drive to the grocery store on the other side of town to get her weekly copy. One Christmas, when we were trying to think of what to get her, I suggested we get her a subscription to True Crime.

"I can still remember the tears in her eyes when we told her that Christmas morning. Not tears of pleasure, or tears of thoughtfulness, but tears of outrage and shame. “I don’t want my mailman to know I read THAT,” she told us.

"And suddenly, it made sense why she kept True Crime hidden under her bed. She wasn’t hiding it from her nosey, impressionable grandkids. She was hiding it from herself. She didn’t want anyone to know that she read those kinds of stories. It made her feel common and unladylike.

"Fallen, my new book, talks about the relationship between parent and child, mother and daughter, mother and grandson.

"As a Southerner, I am keenly aware of the influence of family in my work, but this is the first full-fledged family story I have ever written. It opens with Faith Mitchell pulling into her mother’s driveway and finding out something very bad has happened.

"The story brings Faith into conflict with her partner, Will Trent, and makes her turn against the people she should be trusting. While the plot has a woman who is in jeopardy, it also has several strong women who pull together to do what’s right.

"I think it’s the kind of read my grandmother would’ve loved. She might’ve even kept it on her bookshelf instead of hidden under her bed.

Xav ID 577
2011-06-19 10:50:55

altKarin Slaughter's dark vision has made her an international bestselling author.

A long-time resident of Atlanta, Karin writes about the emotional consequences of violence as well as social issues such as racism, classism, corruption and greed. Her novels are decidedly hard-boiled with undertones of the Southern gothic.

Though her novels often reveal secrets about the most important relationships in our lives—our families—her latest novel, Fallen, is perhaps her most family-centric novel to date.

Along with Mary Kay Andrews and Kathryn Stockett, Karin also has spearheaded the Save the Libraries program. Her pilot program has helped raise more than $50,000 for the 25 libraries in the the Dekalb County Public Library System in Georgia.

altKarin begins her tour this week for her latest novel, Fallen, in which Faith Mitchell, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, deals with a very personal hostage situation.

Before she hit the road, Karin wrote this guest blog for Mystery Scene. Karin also will be the cover profile of Mystery Scene's summer issue.

Here are Karin's thoughts on why families influence her writing, and a Christmas gift that backfired:

"My grandmother got me hooked on crime fiction. She passed away before I became a published author, but I think she would’ve been startled—and slightly embarrassed—to know she was the one who gave me my vocation.

"When I was a kid, she used to get this magazine called True Crime. She hid it under her bed, but my sister and I rooted it out every Sunday we went to visit. The magazine was awful—containing the sort of stories that might be just shy of snuff porn today. The front cover always had a woman looking over her shoulder, panic in her eyes, as a dark shadow descended. The shoutlines said things like, “She should’ve listened to her husband!” or “Why was she out after dark?”

"This was not the sort of magazine you found at our local Piggly Wiggly.

"My grandmother used to get in her car and drive to the grocery store on the other side of town to get her weekly copy. One Christmas, when we were trying to think of what to get her, I suggested we get her a subscription to True Crime.

"I can still remember the tears in her eyes when we told her that Christmas morning. Not tears of pleasure, or tears of thoughtfulness, but tears of outrage and shame. “I don’t want my mailman to know I read THAT,” she told us.

"And suddenly, it made sense why she kept True Crime hidden under her bed. She wasn’t hiding it from her nosey, impressionable grandkids. She was hiding it from herself. She didn’t want anyone to know that she read those kinds of stories. It made her feel common and unladylike.

"Fallen, my new book, talks about the relationship between parent and child, mother and daughter, mother and grandson.

"As a Southerner, I am keenly aware of the influence of family in my work, but this is the first full-fledged family story I have ever written. It opens with Faith Mitchell pulling into her mother’s driveway and finding out something very bad has happened.

"The story brings Faith into conflict with her partner, Will Trent, and makes her turn against the people she should be trusting. While the plot has a woman who is in jeopardy, it also has several strong women who pull together to do what’s right.

"I think it’s the kind of read my grandmother would’ve loved. She might’ve even kept it on her bookshelf instead of hidden under her bed.

Duffer Awards Have Bite
Oline Cogdill

All month, I have been amused by The Duffer Awards.

OK, so they may not quite be in the same league as the prestigious Edgars, the Anthonys or the Agathas.

But how can you not love an award that is subtitled: "Legendary Characters, Ridiculous Awards."

Started by Alafair Burke, the Duffers also are a cool way of kicking off buzz about her new novel, Long Gone, which is her first stand-alone work.

In Long Gone, the manager of a new art gallery arrives at work to find the gallery stripped bare as if it never exitsted and a dead body on the floor.

But back to the Duffers and how they work. The Duffers pit two crime fiction characters "matched head-to-head" against each other. As Alafair says on her blog, these are "very, very serious award categories like Most Likely to Win a Hot Dog Eating Contest and Odd Couples Most Likely to Win on Amazing Race."

altThe Duffers are simply for fun and, apparently, will become an annual event. I sure hope so.

And the readers are the winners because Alafair has been giving away books and more on her web site.

As Alafair says on her blog, "I think crime fiction characters need these kinds of very, very serious awards."

Here's a few examples:

Most Likely to Marry His Ex-Wife
Mickey Haller (Michael Connelly) v. Jesse Stone (Robert B. Parker)

Most Likely to Make a 15-mile Detour for Good Junk Food
Tess Monaghan (Laura Lippman) v. Kinsey Milhone (Sue Grafton)

Most Badass Sidekick
Bubba Rogowski (Dennis Lehane) v. Clinton "Skink" Tyree (Carl Hiaasen)

The Duffers, by the way, are named after Alafair's French bulldog, Duffer, at left, who is an absolute cutie.

Xav ID 577
2011-06-29 10:51:16

All month, I have been amused by The Duffer Awards.

OK, so they may not quite be in the same league as the prestigious Edgars, the Anthonys or the Agathas.

But how can you not love an award that is subtitled: "Legendary Characters, Ridiculous Awards."

Started by Alafair Burke, the Duffers also are a cool way of kicking off buzz about her new novel, Long Gone, which is her first stand-alone work.

In Long Gone, the manager of a new art gallery arrives at work to find the gallery stripped bare as if it never exitsted and a dead body on the floor.

But back to the Duffers and how they work. The Duffers pit two crime fiction characters "matched head-to-head" against each other. As Alafair says on her blog, these are "very, very serious award categories like Most Likely to Win a Hot Dog Eating Contest and Odd Couples Most Likely to Win on Amazing Race."

altThe Duffers are simply for fun and, apparently, will become an annual event. I sure hope so.

And the readers are the winners because Alafair has been giving away books and more on her web site.

As Alafair says on her blog, "I think crime fiction characters need these kinds of very, very serious awards."

Here's a few examples:

Most Likely to Marry His Ex-Wife
Mickey Haller (Michael Connelly) v. Jesse Stone (Robert B. Parker)

Most Likely to Make a 15-mile Detour for Good Junk Food
Tess Monaghan (Laura Lippman) v. Kinsey Milhone (Sue Grafton)

Most Badass Sidekick
Bubba Rogowski (Dennis Lehane) v. Clinton "Skink" Tyree (Carl Hiaasen)

The Duffers, by the way, are named after Alafair's French bulldog, Duffer, at left, who is an absolute cutie.

Shaken Offers Relief to Japan

altWhen disasters and tragedies occur, the natural tendency is to try to help. Donate to the Red Cross or bring canned goods to the local food bank.

Writers write.

Shaken: Stories for Japan is a collection of original stories with 100 percent of the royalties going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund, administered by the Japan America Society of Southern California.

All proceeds will be sent to non-governmental organizations in Japan that have experience with both immediate humanitarian relief and long-term recovery of devastated areas affected by the Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami waves and radiation crisis in northeastern Japan.

Shaken, which retails at $3.99, is published as an ebook on Amazon.com's Kindle platform. Kindle publication makes it possible for all author royalties to be deposited directly into the nonprofit organization's bank account.

In addition, Amazon is passing on its normal 30 percent publication fee so the entire sales price goes to the relief effort.

Shaken is the brainchild of author Timothy Hallinan, who writes the Poke Rafferty novels, which are set in Thailand. His The Queen of Patpong was nominated for an Edgar as Best Novel of 2010.

The book opens with Adrian McKinty's elegaic piece on 17th-century haiku master Basho in Sendai, inspired by McKinty's having followed in Basho's footsteps. Hallinan thought it would add a new dimension to the book if he could link the stories with haiku. But when he tried to find one to link to McKinty's story, he said he discovered there were no Basho translations in English that are in the public domain.

"The international haiku community rallied around, and within three days I had ermission to use all the poems I wanted from a 2008 Kodansha book called Basho: The Complete Haiku, translated by Jane Reichhold," said Hallinan in an email. "These are held in really elevated esteem among haiku cogniscenti and we received permission to use whatever we wanted."

Shaken is now structured with each story followed by a haiku. "I think it brings an entirely different texture to the collection," said Hallinan.

Although Hallinan called on the mystery writers for stories, not every story is a mystery. But each story has a link to Japan.

And the writers, many of whom have won the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Shamus, are impressive: Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Timothy Hallinan, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, and Jeri Westerson. No writer is accepting a royalty for Shaken.

The cover design is by author Gar Anthony Haywood, who also donated his time.

“This was a labor of love for all the authors who offered to contribute a story, and all worked to turn out something special,” said Hallinan, in a release.

For more information Japan relief, visit the Japan America Society of Southern California.

Xav ID 577
2011-06-22 10:44:30

altWhen disasters and tragedies occur, the natural tendency is to try to help. Donate to the Red Cross or bring canned goods to the local food bank.

Writers write.

Shaken: Stories for Japan is a collection of original stories with 100 percent of the royalties going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund, administered by the Japan America Society of Southern California.

All proceeds will be sent to non-governmental organizations in Japan that have experience with both immediate humanitarian relief and long-term recovery of devastated areas affected by the Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami waves and radiation crisis in northeastern Japan.

Shaken, which retails at $3.99, is published as an ebook on Amazon.com's Kindle platform. Kindle publication makes it possible for all author royalties to be deposited directly into the nonprofit organization's bank account.

In addition, Amazon is passing on its normal 30 percent publication fee so the entire sales price goes to the relief effort.

Shaken is the brainchild of author Timothy Hallinan, who writes the Poke Rafferty novels, which are set in Thailand. His The Queen of Patpong was nominated for an Edgar as Best Novel of 2010.

The book opens with Adrian McKinty's elegaic piece on 17th-century haiku master Basho in Sendai, inspired by McKinty's having followed in Basho's footsteps. Hallinan thought it would add a new dimension to the book if he could link the stories with haiku. But when he tried to find one to link to McKinty's story, he said he discovered there were no Basho translations in English that are in the public domain.

"The international haiku community rallied around, and within three days I had ermission to use all the poems I wanted from a 2008 Kodansha book called Basho: The Complete Haiku, translated by Jane Reichhold," said Hallinan in an email. "These are held in really elevated esteem among haiku cogniscenti and we received permission to use whatever we wanted."

Shaken is now structured with each story followed by a haiku. "I think it brings an entirely different texture to the collection," said Hallinan.

Although Hallinan called on the mystery writers for stories, not every story is a mystery. But each story has a link to Japan.

And the writers, many of whom have won the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Shamus, are impressive: Brett Battles, Cara Black, Vicki Doudera, Dianne Emley, Dale Furutani, Timothy Hallinan, Stefan Hammond, Rosemary Harris, Naomi Hirahara, Wendy Hornsby, Ken Kuhlken, Debbi Mack, Adrian McKinty, I.J. Parker, Gary Phillips, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger, Kelli Stanley, C.J. West, and Jeri Westerson. No writer is accepting a royalty for Shaken.

The cover design is by author Gar Anthony Haywood, who also donated his time.

“This was a labor of love for all the authors who offered to contribute a story, and all worked to turn out something special,” said Hallinan, in a release.

For more information Japan relief, visit the Japan America Society of Southern California.

Return to Skull Mountain: the Gift of Reading From Father to Son
Daniel Stashower

stashower_daniel_smallWhen I was growing up, my father carried a slip of paper in his wallet marked with the number of whatever Hardy Boys mystery I was reading at the time. Four was The Missing Chums. Fifteen was The Sinister Signpost. Twenty-seven was The Secret of Skull Mountain. Whenever my father took a business trip, he always came back with the next book in the series.

I loved everything about Frank and Joe. I loved their motorbikes and their fingerprint kit and their ice boat. I loved their rotund and freckled-faced friend Chet and his yellow jalopy. I loved their stern and peppery Aunt Gertrude. I loved their generous, almost profligate use of exclamation points—“Oh! Oh! That Oscar Smuff is a rascal!” exclaimed Callie. I even loved the “throw-ahead,” in which they harkened back to their first case, The Tower Treasure, and offered a teasing hint of coming adventures.

The whole thing went sour at 47: The Mystery of the Whale Tattoo. I can’t tell you why, but somehow Frank and Joe just didn’t seem to have their hearts in it. So I asked my father what he had thought of the book, and after some dissembling he admitted that he hadn’t read it. I was shocked and indignant. On closer examination, it emerged that my father hadn’t read a single Hardy Boys book—not even The Tower Treasure.

So we hammered out a deal—he would read one of my books, and I would read one of his. I gave him The House on the Cliff; he gave me The Roman Hat Mystery. I gave him The Mystery of Cabin Island; he gave me And Then There Were None. I gave him The Phantom Freighter; he gave me The Maltese Falcon. By the time I got to the “when a man’s partner is killed” passage, life had changed.

The_Secret_of_Skull_MoutainI left Frank and Joe in Bayport and headed off to see the world. The village of St. Mary Mead. The brownstone on West 35th Street. The apartment at 132 Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. At some point I climbed the 17 steps to Baker Street and never quite came back down. (And I couldn’t help but notice that Dr. Watson, like the Hardy boys, was no slouch with the exclamation points—“My dear Holmes!" I ejaculated. “Oh, there could be no question as to the superimposing of the footmarks!”)

Soon enough, my father and I branched out. I believe the transitional figure was Ross Macdonald. We both liked him, and we were both reading him for the first time. I remember sitting in the back seat of the station wagon as my parents drove me home from a matinee of The Drowning Pool. I remarked—with what I imagined to be a delightful air of nonchalance—that I had enjoyed the movie almost as much as the book. This seemed extraordinarily clever to me. The sort of thing Nick Charles might say.

Presently I discovered girls. Somehow I summoned the nerve to ask a young lady of my acquaintance to a showing of Sleuth. Afterward, while Dad drove us home, I remarked—with that same carefully honed air of nonchalance—that I had enjoyed the movie almost as much as the play. It’s not easy to sound like Nick Charles when you and your date are riding in the back of a station wagon.

When the time came to go off to college I took a freshman seminar with a professor by the name of Kaminsky. This was the first mystery writer I had ever met and, I think we can all agree, it was a pretty good place to start. Together my father and I worked through the Kaminsky canon. Toby Peters. Inspector Rostnikov. Abe Lieberman. I can’t remember the subject of the freshman seminar, but I’ll never forget A Cold Red Sunrise.

Stashower_Sons_smallSince then, my father and I have traded dozens, perhaps hundreds of books back and forth. Ed McBain. Ross Thomas. Donald Westlake. Lawrence Block in all his infinite variety. And, of course, the new Lew Fonesca books from Professor Kaminsky. Then there are the new kids, the ones I take pride in recommending—with my now-legendary air of nonchalance—by their first names: By the way, Dad, I see that Harlan has a new standalone out next month. Have you finished Jan’s book yet?

You can probably see where this is going. I have two sons of my own now, and also a station wagon. Sam, my five-year-old, recently put aside Curious George and moved on to chapter books. The other day a package arrived from my father. Inside was a copy of The Tower Treasure. Tucked into the flyleaf was a small slip of paper. The message was short and sweet. It read, simply, “One.”

Stashower and his sons Sam (standing) and Jack (pondering a clue)

Daniel Stashower is the author of five mystery novels and several works of nonfiction, including the Edgar-winning Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Spring Issue #94.

Teri Duerr
2011-06-16 03:30:03

stashower_daniel_cropped"I gave him The Phantom Freighter; he gave me The Maltese Falcon."

The Adventures of Doc Savage
Dick Lochte

About 25 years ago, two tales featuring pulp-master Lester Dent’s 1930s adventure hero Doc Savage—Fear Cay and The Thousand-Headed Man—were adapted by producer Roger Rittner and author Will Murray for a rip-snorting 13-part series that aired on National Public Radio. The result, commercially unavailable until now, is an entertaining replication of radio’s golden age, when a muscled renaissance Man of Bronze and his gifted but eccentric crew could do battle with seemingly unconquerable foes, wind up in trouble at the end of each episode and just as easily escape in the next.

In the seven-part adaptation of the 1934 adventure, Fear Cay, Doc and his gang fly to a dangerous Caribbean Isle where they fight a wily old bird who claims to be the 130-year-old discoverer of the Fountain of Youth. The other story, presented in six chapters, finds our heroes in Indo-China battling baddies and deadly serpents in the City of the Thousand-Headed Man.

The stories and the performances by Daniel Chodos as Doc and the other cast members, are properly a bit over the top. It’s good clean fun. The package also includes an audio documentary about the making of the series. And there are two lagniappe examples of genuine old time detective radio shows—a 1948 episode of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe (“The August Lion”) starring Gerald Mohr and The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, (“A Problem in Murder”) a 1949 episode set in New Orleans starring Jeff Chandler.

Teri Duerr
2011-06-16 15:25:29

dent_adventuresofdocsavageTwo rip-snorting NPR radio adaptations featuring pulp-master Lester Dent’s 1930s adventure hero Doc Savage, Fear Cay and The Thousand-Headed Man, are now available.

Murder of a Bookstore Babe
Lynne F. Maxwell

In Murder of a Bookstore Babe, her decidedly lucky 13th entry in her series featuring Illinois school psychologist Skye Denison, Denise Swanson delivers a mystery guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of all of us bookstore browsing. Skye is thrilled when a new bookstore, Tales and Treats, opens in small-town Scumble River, but her grisly discovery of a body crushed beneath a toppled bookcase rapidly reveals the grim reality that not all bookstores are respites and refuges from the outside world. To make matters worse, there is concerted resistance to the bookstore by factions of townsfolk. Is the murder a result of acute business rivalry, or is it personal? And what is the real history of the owners? As always, the personable down-to-earth Skye plunges into the murder investigation, using her psychological acumen to ferret out murderer and motive. As a reader, the deadly literary venue is not enough to drive me screaming to the ebook, but still...

Teri Duerr
2011-06-16 15:53:11

swanson_murderofabookstorebabeThis 13th in the series is guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of all of us bookstore browsing.

The Pink Tarantula
Bill Crider

One of the more interesting new small presses is Perfect Crime Books, who have just released the collection The Pink Tarantula by Tim Wohlforth. Sure, the subtitle is “A Novel in 9 Episodes,” but it’s really a novel made up of short stories previously published online in Plots with Guns, Thuglit, Demolition, and Back Alley.

The connected stories all concern Tom Bateman, called “Crip” by his body-pierced PI partner, Henrietta, because he’s in a wheelchair. Don’t let that fool you, though. Bateman’s as tough as the come, and so is Henrietta. The relationship between the two is a big part of what makes these stories well worth your time.

Teri Duerr
2011-06-16 16:03:33
wohlforth_pinktarantulajpgThe collected stories of tough, outcast California PIs Tom "Crip" Bateman and Henrietta.

"There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me
Jon L. Breen

Swedish architect Eva Gabrielsson was the life partner of Stieg Larsson, whose posthumously published Millennium trilogy, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, would make him a worldwide bestselling author. Although they intended to marry and exchanged rings in 1983, they never did, ostensibly for safety reasons Larsson's journalistic activity as an outspoken enemy of racism and advocate for left-wing causes had led to death threats, and they feared revealing their addresses as a requirement to marry could put their lives at risk. When Larsson died suddenly at age 50, he left no valid will to protect Gabrielsson's interests, and Swedish law did not recognize a common-law marriage. Thus, Larsson's father and brother inherited virtually everything, and a still-continuing battle was underway.

Gabrielsson, horrified at the commercialization (actual and potential) of Larsson by the so-called "Stieg industry," holds one important bargaining chip: the unfinished fourth novel in the series, which the heirs would love to get their hands on and Gabrielsson wants to finish herself. This thinnish book offers an effective summary of Gabrielsson's case, asserting her moral (if not legal) right to Larsson's literary legacy. Persuasive as it is, it is admittedly only one side of the story.

The portrait of Larsson is obviously loving but short of hagiography. A feminist and champion of the oppressed, he was also a workaholic who consistently neglected his health and sometimes neglected his partner. Gabrielsson describes her life with Larsson in left-wing journalism and science fiction fandom, through various jobs and family vicissitudes, from poverty to the prospect of sudden wealth. Originals are cited for many of the characters, settings, and events in the novels, with the aim of demonstrating how they sprang from the couple's life together. There are already several books about Larsson and his work on the market, with more and better ones undoubtedly to come, and Gabrielsson's account will be a primary source for future critics and biographers.

Xav ID 577
2011-06-21 19:03:45

gabrielsson_eva_croppedEva Gabrielsson recounts her life with Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millennium trilogy.

Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), the Chinese Cat
Xav ID 577
2011-06-22 20:43:05

"You should get married and raise large family. Once you have large family, all other troubles mean nothing."

—Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), The Chinese Cat, 1944, screenplay by George Callahan based on the Charlie Chan novels by Earl Derr Biggers

Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) in Get Shorty
Xav ID 577
2011-06-22 20:44:06

"I once asked this literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said, 'ransom notes.'"

—Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) in Get Shorty, 1995, screenplay by Elmore Leonard and Scott Frank based on Leonard's novel.

Kinsey Millhone, "B" Is for Burglar
Xav ID 577
2011-06-22 20:49:05

"There's no place in a PI's life for impatience, faintheartedness, or sloppiness. I understand the same qualifications apply for housewives."

—Kinsey Millhone, "B" is for Burglar, 1985, by Sue Grafton