Winning Remarks: 2011 Mwa Grand Master Sara Paretsky
Kathie Felix, Sisters In Crime

paretsky_and_pickens_2011_mwa_awardOn Thursday, April 28, 2011, Mystery Writers of America presented its Grand Master Award to Sisters in Crime founding sister Sara Paretsky at the annual Edgar Awards banquet in New York City. Below are remarks from the ceremony reprinted here with permission of SinC Mystery. For more about the 2011 Grand Master and her trailblazing female detective V. I. Warshawski, also see the Mystery Scene feature "Playing Hardball" now online.

Pictured Sara Paretsky (L) and Cathy Pickens (R) at the 2011 MWA Edgar Awards Banquet. (Photo: Matt Peyton Photography.)

THE INTRODUCTION

SinC President and MWA board member Cathy Pickens introduced Paretsky at the ceremony with the following remarks:

In 1980, with the visionary thinking we know to expect in publishing, thirteen publishers rejected Indemnity Only. The first V. I. Warshawski novel "does not meet our needs at this time," they said. Visionary indeed.

Fortunately, V. I. hit the streets of Chicago and bookshelves in 1982, breaking the barriers that said women in mysteries could be only victims or vamps.

That would've been enough, creating a body of work that does what the best of fiction should do in keeping the genre alive and relevant.

But social justice can't always be sought only on the pages of a novel. In the mid-1980s, Sara Paretsky saw that, while women wrote one-third of the mystery novels published, they were receiving less than 10% of the review space. So she gathered a group of like-minded women mystery writers and began monitoring reviews and educating reviewers.

Today, women write roughly half of the mysteries published. The gap in review coverage still exists, but it is much smaller than it was. And it is significantly smaller for mysteries than the recently publicized and debated gap that exists in the reviews of literary fiction.

And that would've been enough. But Sara and this band of Sisters in Crime didn't think it was enough. They set about educating writers about what it means to be a professional in this business, and they encouraged and mentored and shared their wisdom.

I remember poring over my copy of Shameless Promotion for Brazen Hussies (you've got to buy a book with a title like that! It's now available in its third edition). And I've learned much from countless Sisters who have become my mentors and friends.

Sisters in Crime has grown to 3,000 members, an inclusive group of writers and readers, booksellers and librarians, women and men, who continue to encourage the professional development of writers.

So, as a reader, I thank you for V. I. Warshawski, who has shown us how tough women can be and how we all should be, fighting for things that matter.

As a writer, I thank you for the mentoring, education and support.

And, as the 24th president of Sisters in Crime and on behalf of MWA, it is with delight that I present to Sara Paretsky this much-deserved Grand Master Award.

THE ACCEPTANCE

The following are Sara Paretsky's acceptance remarks for the Grand Master Award at the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Dinner:

I went to my first Edgar dinner in 1982. I watched the icons of my reading life talking and joking, but I was painfully shy and didn’t try to introduce myself to anyone. I was seated at a table at the outermost reach of the Sheraton ballroom, and the high point of the meal was when a waiter slugged one of my tablemates for not relinquishing his salad plate on schedule.

I’m amazed, and grateful, to join the company of Grand Masters whose work I have long admired, but it is unsettling to realize how quickly twenty-nine years have passed.

Many people helped me reach this point. Stuart Kaminsky, whom we mourn, mentored me as I wrote my first book. My agent, Dominick Abel, agreed to represent me all those years ago; he has never faltered in his support.

Thanks to my editor, Chris Pepe, and my publishers, Putnam, for their hard work, and their presence at the banquet. (Although the company is known as GP Putnam’s Sons, it was George Putnam’s daughter, Mary, who was a leading 19th century writer and feminist. It seems fitting that my novels bear the name of the woman who forced England to accept women as doctors.) I have been fortunate in the friendship of Dorothy Salisbury Davis. Her advice as a writer, and her guidance in the business of living, have been my lodestar for many years.

Above all, I thank my husband, the distinguished physicist Courtenay Wright, who has listened to twenty-nine years of fears and self-doubts; his steadfast support has kept the wind beneath my sails. To him and to Dorothy, this award and these remarks are equally dedicated.

The world of books has seen major changes since my first Edgar dinner. It had been hard for me to find a publisher for a woman PI in America’s heartland; now, as a result of the revolution I helped start, detectives of all stripes and locations are commonplace.

I was lucky: in 1982, there were many more publishers to approach than exist today.

We live in a world of conglomerated publishers and distributors; we writers are often told that we are not creating stories or characters, but brands, as if the chief difference between our stories and toilet paper is that you can’t upload Charmin to your iPad. At least, not yet. In such a world it is hard to remember that we are storytellers, not accountants, marketers or vending machines.

This is not a new problem. When Melville published Moby Dick in 1851, the reception by both public and critics was hostile: he had left his brand, his travelogue novels. During Melville’s life, this astonishing masterpiece sold 500 copies. In a bitter weariness, Melville wrote Hawthorne: The silent grass-growing mood in which a [person] ought to compose—that can seldom be mine. Dollars damn me.

Melville lived through times as turbulent as ours—slavery, the Civil War, the changes wrought by industrialization. But ours is also a time that thrives on slick one-liners, and on lies, made easier to swallow because we devalue literacy.

Today, close to one in four American adults can’t read or write well enough to handle a job application, let alone read a novel.

It took a 12th-grade vocabulary for Melville to follow the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but our most recent presidential debates use the language of sixth graders. Some candidates have devolved to the pre-school level.

We writers owe a duty to our gifts. We’ve been given the gift of language, and we need to dig deep into words. We need to relish wordplay, not rely on clichés as we stumble toward the marketplace, or settle for the slick, repackaged street-talk we pick up from rap and TV.

And we owe a duty to our other gift, our stories. In the cacophony of sound that fills our broadband waves, amid the lies and shrill self-promotions, it is essential that we writers return to Melville’s silent grass-growing place and find the truths that fiction can lay bare.

Our fictions are myths, of course, not histories: they show heroes vanquishing monsters. Theseus versus the wicked Minotaur, Marlowe versus the wicked temptress, V. I. Warshawski versus the wicked corporation, they’re all the same story.

But these fictions tell essential truths, about our emotional lives, what we fear, what we want, what we need. Writing is a form of auto-surgery: the closer we cut to our own bones, force ourselves to emotional truth, the more authentic will our voices become.

As the poet Sappho wrote, more than 2600 years ago,

Although they are only breath
Words, which I command
Are immortal.

What we remember from Sappho’s time, and from Melville’s, are not brand names or spreadsheets, but poets. For in the end, it is that word which is only breath which endures.

Sara Paretsky, the 2011 MWA Grand Master, is the award-winning author of the 14-book mystery series featuring female detective V.I. Warshawski. The newest title in the series is Body Work. Sara is the founding sister of Sisters in Crime.

Cathy Pickens, the national president of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the award-winning Southern Fried mystery series featuring South Carolina attorney Avery Andrews. The most recent title in the series is Can’t Never Tell.

These remarks were originally published April 30, 2011 online at the Sisters in Crime blog SinC Mystery.

For more on Sara Paretsky and V. I. Warshawski see the Mystery Scene feature "Playing Hardball."

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Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 03:05

paretsky_and_pickens_2011_mwa_awardOn Thursday, April 28, 2011, Mystery Writers of America presented its Grand Master Award to Sisters in Crime founding sister Sara Paretsky at the annual Edgar Awards banquet in New York City. Below are remarks from the ceremony reprinted here with permission of SinC Mystery. For more about the 2011 Grand Master and her trailblazing female detective V. I. Warshawski, also see the Mystery Scene feature "Playing Hardball" now online.

Pictured Sara Paretsky (L) and Cathy Pickens (R) at the 2011 MWA Edgar Awards Banquet. (Photo: Matt Peyton Photography.)

THE INTRODUCTION

SinC President and MWA board member Cathy Pickens introduced Paretsky at the ceremony with the following remarks:

In 1980, with the visionary thinking we know to expect in publishing, thirteen publishers rejected Indemnity Only. The first V. I. Warshawski novel "does not meet our needs at this time," they said. Visionary indeed.

Fortunately, V. I. hit the streets of Chicago and bookshelves in 1982, breaking the barriers that said women in mysteries could be only victims or vamps.

That would've been enough, creating a body of work that does what the best of fiction should do in keeping the genre alive and relevant.

But social justice can't always be sought only on the pages of a novel. In the mid-1980s, Sara Paretsky saw that, while women wrote one-third of the mystery novels published, they were receiving less than 10% of the review space. So she gathered a group of like-minded women mystery writers and began monitoring reviews and educating reviewers.

Today, women write roughly half of the mysteries published. The gap in review coverage still exists, but it is much smaller than it was. And it is significantly smaller for mysteries than the recently publicized and debated gap that exists in the reviews of literary fiction.

And that would've been enough. But Sara and this band of Sisters in Crime didn't think it was enough. They set about educating writers about what it means to be a professional in this business, and they encouraged and mentored and shared their wisdom.

I remember poring over my copy of Shameless Promotion for Brazen Hussies (you've got to buy a book with a title like that! It's now available in its third edition). And I've learned much from countless Sisters who have become my mentors and friends.

Sisters in Crime has grown to 3,000 members, an inclusive group of writers and readers, booksellers and librarians, women and men, who continue to encourage the professional development of writers.

So, as a reader, I thank you for V. I. Warshawski, who has shown us how tough women can be and how we all should be, fighting for things that matter.

As a writer, I thank you for the mentoring, education and support.

And, as the 24th president of Sisters in Crime and on behalf of MWA, it is with delight that I present to Sara Paretsky this much-deserved Grand Master Award.

THE ACCEPTANCE

The following are Sara Paretsky's acceptance remarks for the Grand Master Award at the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Dinner:

I went to my first Edgar dinner in 1982. I watched the icons of my reading life talking and joking, but I was painfully shy and didn’t try to introduce myself to anyone. I was seated at a table at the outermost reach of the Sheraton ballroom, and the high point of the meal was when a waiter slugged one of my tablemates for not relinquishing his salad plate on schedule.

I’m amazed, and grateful, to join the company of Grand Masters whose work I have long admired, but it is unsettling to realize how quickly twenty-nine years have passed.

Many people helped me reach this point. Stuart Kaminsky, whom we mourn, mentored me as I wrote my first book. My agent, Dominick Abel, agreed to represent me all those years ago; he has never faltered in his support.

Thanks to my editor, Chris Pepe, and my publishers, Putnam, for their hard work, and their presence at the banquet. (Although the company is known as GP Putnam’s Sons, it was George Putnam’s daughter, Mary, who was a leading 19th century writer and feminist. It seems fitting that my novels bear the name of the woman who forced England to accept women as doctors.) I have been fortunate in the friendship of Dorothy Salisbury Davis. Her advice as a writer, and her guidance in the business of living, have been my lodestar for many years.

Above all, I thank my husband, the distinguished physicist Courtenay Wright, who has listened to twenty-nine years of fears and self-doubts; his steadfast support has kept the wind beneath my sails. To him and to Dorothy, this award and these remarks are equally dedicated.

The world of books has seen major changes since my first Edgar dinner. It had been hard for me to find a publisher for a woman PI in America’s heartland; now, as a result of the revolution I helped start, detectives of all stripes and locations are commonplace.

I was lucky: in 1982, there were many more publishers to approach than exist today.

We live in a world of conglomerated publishers and distributors; we writers are often told that we are not creating stories or characters, but brands, as if the chief difference between our stories and toilet paper is that you can’t upload Charmin to your iPad. At least, not yet. In such a world it is hard to remember that we are storytellers, not accountants, marketers or vending machines.

This is not a new problem. When Melville published Moby Dick in 1851, the reception by both public and critics was hostile: he had left his brand, his travelogue novels. During Melville’s life, this astonishing masterpiece sold 500 copies. In a bitter weariness, Melville wrote Hawthorne: The silent grass-growing mood in which a [person] ought to compose—that can seldom be mine. Dollars damn me.

Melville lived through times as turbulent as ours—slavery, the Civil War, the changes wrought by industrialization. But ours is also a time that thrives on slick one-liners, and on lies, made easier to swallow because we devalue literacy.

Today, close to one in four American adults can’t read or write well enough to handle a job application, let alone read a novel.

It took a 12th-grade vocabulary for Melville to follow the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but our most recent presidential debates use the language of sixth graders. Some candidates have devolved to the pre-school level.

We writers owe a duty to our gifts. We’ve been given the gift of language, and we need to dig deep into words. We need to relish wordplay, not rely on clichés as we stumble toward the marketplace, or settle for the slick, repackaged street-talk we pick up from rap and TV.

And we owe a duty to our other gift, our stories. In the cacophony of sound that fills our broadband waves, amid the lies and shrill self-promotions, it is essential that we writers return to Melville’s silent grass-growing place and find the truths that fiction can lay bare.

Our fictions are myths, of course, not histories: they show heroes vanquishing monsters. Theseus versus the wicked Minotaur, Marlowe versus the wicked temptress, V. I. Warshawski versus the wicked corporation, they’re all the same story.

But these fictions tell essential truths, about our emotional lives, what we fear, what we want, what we need. Writing is a form of auto-surgery: the closer we cut to our own bones, force ourselves to emotional truth, the more authentic will our voices become.

As the poet Sappho wrote, more than 2600 years ago,

Although they are only breath
Words, which I command
Are immortal.

What we remember from Sappho’s time, and from Melville’s, are not brand names or spreadsheets, but poets. For in the end, it is that word which is only breath which endures.

Sara Paretsky, the 2011 MWA Grand Master, is the award-winning author of the 14-book mystery series featuring female detective V.I. Warshawski. The newest title in the series is Body Work. Sara is the founding sister of Sisters in Crime.

Cathy Pickens, the national president of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the award-winning Southern Fried mystery series featuring South Carolina attorney Avery Andrews. The most recent title in the series is Can’t Never Tell.

These remarks were originally published April 30, 2011 online at the Sisters in Crime blog SinC Mystery.

For more on Sara Paretsky and V. I. Warshawski see the Mystery Scene feature "Playing Hardball."

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L.A. Noire: Video Game
Oline Cogdill

I never got into the video game kick.

altThat's just as well because I'm really bad at video games as I discovered during the few games of Wii with my godchildren. Oh yes, I've have lost big time to a 12-year-old, an 8-year-old and the 6-year-old. So instead of video games, I spend more time than I should on Facebook.

But I am most intrigued with L.A. Noire, the new game released by Rockstar. Since I have not played the game -- yet -- this is not a review of L.A. Noire but rather my thoughts on why this seems like a game players of any age can relate.

L.A. Noire melds a classic mystery with social issues without, as the articles I read indicated, being heavy-handed.

L.A. Noire is definitely a game but you also don't get lost in the need to blow up things as with many video games.

L.A. Noire is set in early 1947, just before the horrible murder of actress Elizabeth Short was found. The still unsolved murder became known as the Black Dahlia because of the flower that Short often wore tucked behind an ear.

altThe game's main character is Cole Phelps, a L.A. police detective who was a decorated Marine during World War II. (At left is a scene from the game.)

In L.A. Noire, players follow Phelps through each aspect of police work, including other murders that occured just after the Black Dahlia.

Cole constantly fights his own demons as he tries to adjust from the violence of WWII to civilian life and police work.

Video games seldom show the post-traumatic stress of war veterans. The problems of WWII veterans especially were never really given a platform by society as were those by Vietnam vets and those who served in the Gulf wars.

The members of the Greatest Generation were expected to come back home, get married and get to work. There wasn't a lot of opportunity or concern about what these young men had gone through during the trenches of WWII.

Perhaps the only medium that illustrated WWII veterans' problems were the noir films.

The Blue Dahlia, released in 1946, was about an ex-bomber pilot suspected of murdering his unfaithful wife. It starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake; the script is credited to Raymond Chandler. Gun Crazy (1950) revolved around a former WWII marksman whose criminal tendencies are released by his new girlfriend. Gun Crazy also is presented as part of a film noir package. (I'll have more of these movies in a future blog.)

But to have a video game that is decidedly 21st century acknowledge these problems and honor WWII veterans is pretty amazing.

Perhaps L.A. Noire also will draw its players to the mystery fiction genre. It might even attract readers to play video games.

Super User
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 08:06

I never got into the video game kick.

altThat's just as well because I'm really bad at video games as I discovered during the few games of Wii with my godchildren. Oh yes, I've have lost big time to a 12-year-old, an 8-year-old and the 6-year-old. So instead of video games, I spend more time than I should on Facebook.

But I am most intrigued with L.A. Noire, the new game released by Rockstar. Since I have not played the game -- yet -- this is not a review of L.A. Noire but rather my thoughts on why this seems like a game players of any age can relate.

L.A. Noire melds a classic mystery with social issues without, as the articles I read indicated, being heavy-handed.

L.A. Noire is definitely a game but you also don't get lost in the need to blow up things as with many video games.

L.A. Noire is set in early 1947, just before the horrible murder of actress Elizabeth Short was found. The still unsolved murder became known as the Black Dahlia because of the flower that Short often wore tucked behind an ear.

altThe game's main character is Cole Phelps, a L.A. police detective who was a decorated Marine during World War II. (At left is a scene from the game.)

In L.A. Noire, players follow Phelps through each aspect of police work, including other murders that occured just after the Black Dahlia.

Cole constantly fights his own demons as he tries to adjust from the violence of WWII to civilian life and police work.

Video games seldom show the post-traumatic stress of war veterans. The problems of WWII veterans especially were never really given a platform by society as were those by Vietnam vets and those who served in the Gulf wars.

The members of the Greatest Generation were expected to come back home, get married and get to work. There wasn't a lot of opportunity or concern about what these young men had gone through during the trenches of WWII.

Perhaps the only medium that illustrated WWII veterans' problems were the noir films.

The Blue Dahlia, released in 1946, was about an ex-bomber pilot suspected of murdering his unfaithful wife. It starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake; the script is credited to Raymond Chandler. Gun Crazy (1950) revolved around a former WWII marksman whose criminal tendencies are released by his new girlfriend. Gun Crazy also is presented as part of a film noir package. (I'll have more of these movies in a future blog.)

But to have a video game that is decidedly 21st century acknowledge these problems and honor WWII veterans is pretty amazing.

Perhaps L.A. Noire also will draw its players to the mystery fiction genre. It might even attract readers to play video games.

Criminal Intent's Team Is Back
Oline Cogdill

alt

This season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent is bittersweet.

I am thrilled that Criminal Intent has again reunited Detectives Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe), the original team and my personal favorites.

But it also saddens me that this 10th season will be Criminal Intent's last.

Criminal Intent airs at 9 pm Sundays on the USA Network.

I am a Law & Order junkie and can watch rerun after rerun of each of the spinoffs. I am a big fan of the original, or, as my husband calls it, the mothership. But Criminal Intent is my favorite.

Criminal Intent takes more risks with its plots and provocative themes by focusing on the criminals' actions and motives, rather than on the police and prosecutions.

Goren and Eames seamlessly return to the Major Case Squad, as if they never left. Last year, Goren was fired for insubordination and Eames quit. The lead detectives were then played by Jeff Goldblum and Saffron Burrows who were enjoyable, but they were not Goren and Eames.

The chemistry between Goren and Eames is pitch perfect for two professionals who respect each other, know each other's quirks and can guess each other's thoughts. I love the fact that they are not romantically involved and that Eames is Goren's boss.

Criminal Intent's last season is still taking chances. Joseph Hannah (Jay O. Sanders), a friend of Goren’s since their academy days, is the squad's new captain. Goren has mandatory sessions with a police psychologist to help him with his tortured past.

Character actor Sanders has been in every Law & Order, playing victims, criminals, attorneys and, I think, once a judge.

According to network reports, Criminal Intent's ninth season was strong, with 3.6 million total viewers to the series. Maybe if this season has equally strong viewership, Criminal Intent will have an 11th season. It's happened before.

And if that doesn't work, we'll always have Criminal Intent on DVD.

A special note to Kathryn Erbe if you are reading this: my husband and I were in front of you at the matinee of The House of Blue Leaves. I was the one who told you how much I have enjoyed your work and was happy that you were back on Criminal Intent.

Photo: Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe USA Network photo

Super User
Sunday, 05 June 2011 06:06

alt

This season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent is bittersweet.

I am thrilled that Criminal Intent has again reunited Detectives Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe), the original team and my personal favorites.

But it also saddens me that this 10th season will be Criminal Intent's last.

Criminal Intent airs at 9 pm Sundays on the USA Network.

I am a Law & Order junkie and can watch rerun after rerun of each of the spinoffs. I am a big fan of the original, or, as my husband calls it, the mothership. But Criminal Intent is my favorite.

Criminal Intent takes more risks with its plots and provocative themes by focusing on the criminals' actions and motives, rather than on the police and prosecutions.

Goren and Eames seamlessly return to the Major Case Squad, as if they never left. Last year, Goren was fired for insubordination and Eames quit. The lead detectives were then played by Jeff Goldblum and Saffron Burrows who were enjoyable, but they were not Goren and Eames.

The chemistry between Goren and Eames is pitch perfect for two professionals who respect each other, know each other's quirks and can guess each other's thoughts. I love the fact that they are not romantically involved and that Eames is Goren's boss.

Criminal Intent's last season is still taking chances. Joseph Hannah (Jay O. Sanders), a friend of Goren’s since their academy days, is the squad's new captain. Goren has mandatory sessions with a police psychologist to help him with his tortured past.

Character actor Sanders has been in every Law & Order, playing victims, criminals, attorneys and, I think, once a judge.

According to network reports, Criminal Intent's ninth season was strong, with 3.6 million total viewers to the series. Maybe if this season has equally strong viewership, Criminal Intent will have an 11th season. It's happened before.

And if that doesn't work, we'll always have Criminal Intent on DVD.

A special note to Kathryn Erbe if you are reading this: my husband and I were in front of you at the matinee of The House of Blue Leaves. I was the one who told you how much I have enjoyed your work and was happy that you were back on Criminal Intent.

Photo: Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe USA Network photo

Kelli Stanley: Author, Guide
Oline Cogdill

altIf you have the newest issue of Mystery Scene—and I hope you have—perhaps you've read my interview with Kelli Stanley, which I hope you have.

(That's the Spring Issue, 2011, No. 119)

My interview with Kelli, left, starts with a walking tour of Chinatown in San Francisco, continues during a two-hour lunch of dim sum and continues with another trip through Chinatown.

I never ate so well during an interview. And while I had a wonderful time talking with Kelli—and enjoying the wonderful dim sum—the walking tour was just as valuable. Kelli gave me an upclose and personal view of the Chinatown setting for her Miranda Corbie novel City of Dragons. (Stanely's next San Francisco-based novel is City of Secrets, which comes out in September.)

I've been to San Francisco several times—it is one of my favorite American cities. And Chinatown is a must-stop on each of those trips.

altBut this was the first time I glimpsed some of the side streets with all its colorful aspects. The click of mah jong tiles from behind the screen doors in the basements. The laundry that hangs from some of the balconies. The cooking smells that come from bakeries, restaurants and apartments. All that shows up in City of Dragons.

Kelli gave me a view of Chinatown that I have never seen and may not have seen on my own.

And that is what often happens with mystery authors—they show us a part of their world we may never have seen without them.

Regardless of whether a novel takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown or New York's Chinatown, as do those novels by S.J. Rozan and Henry Chang, or a Virginia winery as do those novels by Ellen Crosby, or a small Illinois town as do those novels by Denise Swanson.

It's one of the things that mystery writers do best. And each region, each city, even those individual neighborhoods have distinct personalities.

Take Los Angeles.

Michael Connelly's Los Angeles is different from Robert Crais' Los Angeles, which is different from Denise Hamilton's Los Angeles, which is different from Robert Ellis' Los Angeles. Each author's view of Los Angeles can overlap, of course, but each also brings a unique perspective to their area.

And that is one of the things I love about mysteries.

Super User
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 06:06

altIf you have the newest issue of Mystery Scene—and I hope you have—perhaps you've read my interview with Kelli Stanley, which I hope you have.

(That's the Spring Issue, 2011, No. 119)

My interview with Kelli, left, starts with a walking tour of Chinatown in San Francisco, continues during a two-hour lunch of dim sum and continues with another trip through Chinatown.

I never ate so well during an interview. And while I had a wonderful time talking with Kelli—and enjoying the wonderful dim sum—the walking tour was just as valuable. Kelli gave me an upclose and personal view of the Chinatown setting for her Miranda Corbie novel City of Dragons. (Stanely's next San Francisco-based novel is City of Secrets, which comes out in September.)

I've been to San Francisco several times—it is one of my favorite American cities. And Chinatown is a must-stop on each of those trips.

altBut this was the first time I glimpsed some of the side streets with all its colorful aspects. The click of mah jong tiles from behind the screen doors in the basements. The laundry that hangs from some of the balconies. The cooking smells that come from bakeries, restaurants and apartments. All that shows up in City of Dragons.

Kelli gave me a view of Chinatown that I have never seen and may not have seen on my own.

And that is what often happens with mystery authors—they show us a part of their world we may never have seen without them.

Regardless of whether a novel takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown or New York's Chinatown, as do those novels by S.J. Rozan and Henry Chang, or a Virginia winery as do those novels by Ellen Crosby, or a small Illinois town as do those novels by Denise Swanson.

It's one of the things that mystery writers do best. And each region, each city, even those individual neighborhoods have distinct personalities.

Take Los Angeles.

Michael Connelly's Los Angeles is different from Robert Crais' Los Angeles, which is different from Denise Hamilton's Los Angeles, which is different from Robert Ellis' Los Angeles. Each author's view of Los Angeles can overlap, of course, but each also brings a unique perspective to their area.

And that is one of the things I love about mysteries.

Craig Johnson's Longmire
Oline Cogdill

titleI think that many of us play the casting game when we read a series—wondering which actors we'd like to see play our favorite characters.

Readers of Craig Johnson's (left) Walt Longmire series don't have to wonder anymore. The pilot for Longmire, based on Johnson's novels, has just been filmed for the A&E Network. However, at present the TV series is not part A&E's fall lineup.

Personally speaking, I think Longmire would make a dynamite TV series. The novels have multilayered plots, rich characters and breathtaking scenery. Johnson's 2010 novel Junkyard Dogs was a terrific read. I think Longmire would fit nicely with the A&E lineup.

I'd watch it.

A&E has a reputation for quality programming and for treating mystery series with respect. Johnson's novels seem to be in good hands with Emmy-winning Greer Shephard (The Closer, Nip/Tuck, Trust Me) and Mike Robin (The Closer, Rizzoli and Isles, Nip/Tuck, NYPD Blue) executive producing and John Coveny (The Closer, Trust Me) and Hunt Baldwin (The Closer, Trust Me), writing the script and also executive producing. Chris Chulack (Southland, ER) is an Emmy award-winning director who is directing the pilot episode. "He’s a regular guy, and I think that might be the highest praise I know how to give," said Johnson in an email.

altOf course, expect a few changes from the novels but the few liberties make sense for the TV audience. Walt will be a bit younger in the A&E series than he is in the novels. A few names will be changed and look for Cady to move back to Wyoming so there will be more interaction with father and daughter.

The Longmire novels are set in Wyoming, but filming was in Las Vegas, and New Mexico's Taos and Santa Fe because Wyoming’s weather can be a bit unpredictable.

If the series is picked up, plots will include original stories as well as some taken from the novels.

OK, so what each of us really wants to know is who's in the cast. I have to say, I am very impressed with the lineup.

The tall, rangy Robert Taylor, left, (Matrix, Vertical Limit) plays Sheriff Walt Longmire. Henry Standing Bear will be played by Lou Diamond Phillips, below left, (Young Guns, La Bamba). Again, I think that is inspirational casting. Phillips is a personal favorite and I can so see him in this role. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, 24) will play Vic Moretti. Anyone who saw her play Starbuck knows that she exudes emotional and physical strength. Cassidy Freeman (Smallville, CSI: Crime

Actor Robert Taylor plays Walt Longmire.

Scene Investigation) will play Cady Longmire.
Baily Chase (Saving Grace, Damages) plays the role of Turk/Branch Connally. This character underwent the biggest change from the books. Turk is now Branch, still Lucian Connally’s nephew, but he has become a regular foil as opposed to a one-time character.

Johnson has been on the film set and said he couldn't be more pleased with the casting and the way his novels are being treated.

"I don't think most author's experiences have been like mine—the producers and writers kept me in the loop from day one and then invited

me down for the entire shoot," Johnson told me in an email. "In all honesty, I'm just a seven-book author and really don't have the leverage of a Stephen King or Clive Clussler so I had to look at the people who were courting me and see what their track record was, and whether they really respected the novels and what they had to say.

Louis Diamond Phillips plays Henry Standing Bear."They do, and it's coming through in the production in spades. The direction and performances are amazing.The man who plays Walt Longmire, Robert Taylor, IS Walt. Lou Diamond Phillips is stupendous as Henry Standing Bear—even went to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to get a feel for the land and the people, and Katee Sackhoff? Well, she was born Vic."But for Johnson, the novels continue.

Hell is Empty just came out and Johnson is touring to promote this latest installment of Longmire's adventures, which, I hope, will eventually make it to the TV screen.

Photos: Craig Johnson, top, Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips. Photos courtesy Craig Johnson and A&E.

Super User
Sunday, 29 May 2011 06:05

titleI think that many of us play the casting game when we read a series—wondering which actors we'd like to see play our favorite characters.

Readers of Craig Johnson's (left) Walt Longmire series don't have to wonder anymore. The pilot for Longmire, based on Johnson's novels, has just been filmed for the A&E Network. However, at present the TV series is not part A&E's fall lineup.

Personally speaking, I think Longmire would make a dynamite TV series. The novels have multilayered plots, rich characters and breathtaking scenery. Johnson's 2010 novel Junkyard Dogs was a terrific read. I think Longmire would fit nicely with the A&E lineup.

I'd watch it.

A&E has a reputation for quality programming and for treating mystery series with respect. Johnson's novels seem to be in good hands with Emmy-winning Greer Shephard (The Closer, Nip/Tuck, Trust Me) and Mike Robin (The Closer, Rizzoli and Isles, Nip/Tuck, NYPD Blue) executive producing and John Coveny (The Closer, Trust Me) and Hunt Baldwin (The Closer, Trust Me), writing the script and also executive producing. Chris Chulack (Southland, ER) is an Emmy award-winning director who is directing the pilot episode. "He’s a regular guy, and I think that might be the highest praise I know how to give," said Johnson in an email.

altOf course, expect a few changes from the novels but the few liberties make sense for the TV audience. Walt will be a bit younger in the A&E series than he is in the novels. A few names will be changed and look for Cady to move back to Wyoming so there will be more interaction with father and daughter.

The Longmire novels are set in Wyoming, but filming was in Las Vegas, and New Mexico's Taos and Santa Fe because Wyoming’s weather can be a bit unpredictable.

If the series is picked up, plots will include original stories as well as some taken from the novels.

OK, so what each of us really wants to know is who's in the cast. I have to say, I am very impressed with the lineup.

The tall, rangy Robert Taylor, left, (Matrix, Vertical Limit) plays Sheriff Walt Longmire. Henry Standing Bear will be played by Lou Diamond Phillips, below left, (Young Guns, La Bamba). Again, I think that is inspirational casting. Phillips is a personal favorite and I can so see him in this role. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, 24) will play Vic Moretti. Anyone who saw her play Starbuck knows that she exudes emotional and physical strength. Cassidy Freeman (Smallville, CSI: Crime

Actor Robert Taylor plays Walt Longmire.

Scene Investigation) will play Cady Longmire.
Baily Chase (Saving Grace, Damages) plays the role of Turk/Branch Connally. This character underwent the biggest change from the books. Turk is now Branch, still Lucian Connally’s nephew, but he has become a regular foil as opposed to a one-time character.

Johnson has been on the film set and said he couldn't be more pleased with the casting and the way his novels are being treated.

"I don't think most author's experiences have been like mine—the producers and writers kept me in the loop from day one and then invited

me down for the entire shoot," Johnson told me in an email. "In all honesty, I'm just a seven-book author and really don't have the leverage of a Stephen King or Clive Clussler so I had to look at the people who were courting me and see what their track record was, and whether they really respected the novels and what they had to say.

Louis Diamond Phillips plays Henry Standing Bear."They do, and it's coming through in the production in spades. The direction and performances are amazing.The man who plays Walt Longmire, Robert Taylor, IS Walt. Lou Diamond Phillips is stupendous as Henry Standing Bear—even went to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to get a feel for the land and the people, and Katee Sackhoff? Well, she was born Vic."But for Johnson, the novels continue.

Hell is Empty just came out and Johnson is touring to promote this latest installment of Longmire's adventures, which, I hope, will eventually make it to the TV screen.

Photos: Craig Johnson, top, Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips. Photos courtesy Craig Johnson and A&E.

Vienna Twilight
Sue Emmons

Frank Tallis deftly moves into the first rank of British mystery writers with his fifth Dr. Max Liebermann and Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt tale. Set in turbulent Vienna in the early 1900s, this intriguing tale sees Reinhardt again calling on the skills of Liebermann, a psychopathologist, as they investigate to help solve the bizarre killings of young women, each murdered with a hat pin while in the throes of consensual sex.

This is masterful storytelling, centered on the workings of the mind rather than the traditional forensics of police detection. The psychological puzzle grabs the reader early on, but Vienna Twilight will haunt long after the last page is read, in large part thanks to the author’s skill in building characters. Tallis, himself a clinical psychologist and expert in obsessive states, evokes the period of Freud’s Vienna with both imagination and expertise. He also uses his skill to give insight into the yearnings of Liebermann, who has an unresolved obsession with one of his patients. Rich with insight into the psyches of its characters and offering a compelling, complex plot, Vienna Twilight this novel featuring the team of detective and doctor will be welcome in many sequels.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 20 May 2011 01:05

Frank Tallis deftly moves into the first rank of British mystery writers with his fifth Dr. Max Liebermann and Detective Inspector Oskar Reinhardt tale. Set in turbulent Vienna in the early 1900s, this intriguing tale sees Reinhardt again calling on the skills of Liebermann, a psychopathologist, as they investigate to help solve the bizarre killings of young women, each murdered with a hat pin while in the throes of consensual sex.

This is masterful storytelling, centered on the workings of the mind rather than the traditional forensics of police detection. The psychological puzzle grabs the reader early on, but Vienna Twilight will haunt long after the last page is read, in large part thanks to the author’s skill in building characters. Tallis, himself a clinical psychologist and expert in obsessive states, evokes the period of Freud’s Vienna with both imagination and expertise. He also uses his skill to give insight into the yearnings of Liebermann, who has an unresolved obsession with one of his patients. Rich with insight into the psyches of its characters and offering a compelling, complex plot, Vienna Twilight this novel featuring the team of detective and doctor will be welcome in many sequels.

Cold Wind
Leslie Doran

Joe Pickett, readers’ favorite everyman hero, really has his hands full in Cold Wind, the 11th book in author C. J. Box’s series about a hardworking Wyoming game warden and dedicated family man. After a sleepless night fielding frantic phone calls from his challenging mother-in-law, Missy, about her missing husband, Earl Alden, Joe is the unlucky one to discover Earl’s body being whipped about at the top of a massive wind turbine 250 feet above ground. (Box’s description of what happens to a body after being subjected to the effects of centrifugal forces is nothing if not disturbing.) Adding to the shock of finding “The Earl” is the news that Missy is being arrested for his murder. This begins Joe’s quest to prove Missy’s innocence, made more difficult, since Missy and husband number five have done nothing to endear themselves to the locals.

Box utilizes each Pickett story to bring attention to issues that are vital to the new American West. This time the theme highlights the rapid rise of wind farms on previously untouched, pristine lands. While looking into this new energy source, Joe discovers a pool of possible suspects who wanted Earl dead. This is welcome news for Joe who wants Missy to be innocent for his wife Marybeth’s sake.

Meanwhile Joe’s estranged friend, Nate Romanowski, a man with a dark and mysterious past involving black ops, is still hiding out from the FBI at Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon. Joe and Nate have not talked since the explosive ending of Nowhere to Run when their differing values about justice caused them to part ways. Eventually the two old friends join forces once again, after discovering a surprising, shared enemy.

Cool Wind cements author Box’s place as a consummate creator of memorable characters, and a master of utilizing the sense of place. The wild, unforgiving landscape of Wyoming is used by Box to save, hide, and even kill characters. His ability to weave a plot rife with complications and subplots draws readers into each installment of the complicated life of Joe Pickett. As a sworn lawman he discovers that justice is not always served by imprisoning those who cross the line. Being able to watch Joe’s character grow and evolve, especially when he is confronted with hard moral choices, is fascinating.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 20 May 2011 01:05

Joe Pickett, readers’ favorite everyman hero, really has his hands full in Cold Wind, the 11th book in author C. J. Box’s series about a hardworking Wyoming game warden and dedicated family man. After a sleepless night fielding frantic phone calls from his challenging mother-in-law, Missy, about her missing husband, Earl Alden, Joe is the unlucky one to discover Earl’s body being whipped about at the top of a massive wind turbine 250 feet above ground. (Box’s description of what happens to a body after being subjected to the effects of centrifugal forces is nothing if not disturbing.) Adding to the shock of finding “The Earl” is the news that Missy is being arrested for his murder. This begins Joe’s quest to prove Missy’s innocence, made more difficult, since Missy and husband number five have done nothing to endear themselves to the locals.

Box utilizes each Pickett story to bring attention to issues that are vital to the new American West. This time the theme highlights the rapid rise of wind farms on previously untouched, pristine lands. While looking into this new energy source, Joe discovers a pool of possible suspects who wanted Earl dead. This is welcome news for Joe who wants Missy to be innocent for his wife Marybeth’s sake.

Meanwhile Joe’s estranged friend, Nate Romanowski, a man with a dark and mysterious past involving black ops, is still hiding out from the FBI at Hole-in-the-Wall Canyon. Joe and Nate have not talked since the explosive ending of Nowhere to Run when their differing values about justice caused them to part ways. Eventually the two old friends join forces once again, after discovering a surprising, shared enemy.

Cool Wind cements author Box’s place as a consummate creator of memorable characters, and a master of utilizing the sense of place. The wild, unforgiving landscape of Wyoming is used by Box to save, hide, and even kill characters. His ability to weave a plot rife with complications and subplots draws readers into each installment of the complicated life of Joe Pickett. As a sworn lawman he discovers that justice is not always served by imprisoning those who cross the line. Being able to watch Joe’s character grow and evolve, especially when he is confronted with hard moral choices, is fascinating.

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
Monday, 23 May 2011 11:05

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
Monday, 23 May 2011 01:05

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
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 11:05

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
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 06:05

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
Thursday, 02 June 2011 01:06

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
Thursday, 02 June 2011 04:06

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
Thursday, 02 June 2011 06:06

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
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 06:06

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

Super User
Sunday, 12 June 2011 06:06

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

Super User
Sunday, 03 July 2011 06:07

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.

Super User
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 06:07

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 NeroAwardChair@nerowolfe.org.

Super User
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 07:06

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 NeroAwardChair@nerowolfe.org.

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.

Super User
Sunday, 19 June 2011 06:06

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.

Super User
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 06:06

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.

Super User
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:06

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
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 11:06

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
Thursday, 16 June 2011 11:06

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
Thursday, 16 June 2011 11:06

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