Denise Hamilton Makes Scents
Oline Cogdill

altDenise Hamilton's latest novel, Damage Control, revolves around a woman who works for a high-powered public relations firm in Los Angeles that specializes in “damage control” for its uber-wealthy clientele.

As she does in her series about L.A. Times reporter Eve Diamond, Hamilton uses this standalone novel to explore issues of classism and identity. Maggie Silver, Damage Control's heroine, knows how to spin doctor the facts for her elite clients because she's done the same thing for her life.

Here's a link to my review of Damage Control.

An ongoing aspect of Maggie's personality is how scents trigger her memory. The smell of a plane passing overhead, the sand and sea all are part of Maggie's history.

But what intrigued me most was that Maggie's olfactory sense was especially spiked by perfumes. Scene after scene had Maggie applying perfumes or catching a whiff of another's perfume and, in both cases, sending her on a memory journey. Think of Proust's description of that madeleine.

I could so relate to Maggie's love of perfume. It's one of my enjoyments, too.

Here's Maggie applying a scent: "...clean, crisp notes of citrus, bergamot and verbena. Nothing cloying or clobbering... Just a subtle scent amulet to infuse me with secret grace and power."

When Maggie spoke about spraying on Mitsouko by Guerlain and gave its history, it made me remember wearing this fragrance on one of my first dates with the man who is now my husband. I don't know how much Mitsouko had to do with it—the man now cannot smell burning toast.

But Hamilton's reference triggered my memory: "Mitsouko was one of the original Orientals: a sweet, spicy, leathery, mossy fragrance with hints of peach and oak." Makes me want this perfume again, although it is no longer sold in department stories.

Her description of Dune by Christian Dior as "the bleakest beauty in all of perfumery" was right on the money as that is what I used to think when I wore Dune.

Christian Dior's Jules with its tones of cedar and sage provides a clue to Damage Control's plot, and made me remember how much I love that scent.

I don't know where my love of perfume came from. My mother never wore scents although one of her most cherished possessions was a little trolley of five miniature perfumes that my father had brought her back from WWII. She never opened the perfumes, preferring to look at the lovely gold-plated display. I now have it and it makes me remember my parents and the deep love they had for each other. The perfumes have evaporated through the years and have never been opened.

In high school, I loved Yardley, Heaven Scent, and Jean Nate, appropriate scents for a high school girl. But on my first date, I doused myself with Intimate by Revlon, which prompted my first boyfriend to ask if we spilt some perfume in the house.

I've learned a bit of subtlety since, but during the '80s I would wear too much perfume to work to counteract my boss' cigarette smoking.

Unlike me, Hamilton is an expert on fragrances and writes a perfume column for the Los Angeles Times. Mystery fans will especially be interested in the column she wrote about perfume as clues to crimes.

Like Maggie, I've gone through various phrases—from Halston to freesia; from high-end fragrances to those available at drug stores to only those sold at the Body Shop or Bath and Bodyworks. I have sought out perfumeries that will mix up a special blend, as well as the Aveda stores that do the same. I've even gone through phases when I wore no scents.

There have been times I wore only Ruffles by Oscar de la Renta (a scent I would probably not like now) or only Joy (still a favorite) or Shalimar (which I can't seem to find anymore). On my first trip to Paris I brought back four bottles of LouLou by Cacharel because it was no longer being sold in the US; I now am down to one bottle.

Right now, my tastes are varied. I alternate between Lola by Marc Jacobs; the entire Dolce & Gabbana line; Summer Linen by Clean; Burberry Summer Perfume by Burberry for women; Bermuda Breeze, a Bermuda-made fragrance I bought on the island; Euphoria by Calvin Klein; Jo Malone's entire line; and the Grapefruit and Sweetgrass fragrances made by the Charleston Soap Chef in South Carolina.

It was nice to find a kindred spirit in Hamilton's Maggie Silver.

Xav ID 577
2011-10-16 10:41:34

altDenise Hamilton's latest novel, Damage Control, revolves around a woman who works for a high-powered public relations firm in Los Angeles that specializes in “damage control” for its uber-wealthy clientele.

As she does in her series about L.A. Times reporter Eve Diamond, Hamilton uses this standalone novel to explore issues of classism and identity. Maggie Silver, Damage Control's heroine, knows how to spin doctor the facts for her elite clients because she's done the same thing for her life.

Here's a link to my review of Damage Control.

An ongoing aspect of Maggie's personality is how scents trigger her memory. The smell of a plane passing overhead, the sand and sea all are part of Maggie's history.

But what intrigued me most was that Maggie's olfactory sense was especially spiked by perfumes. Scene after scene had Maggie applying perfumes or catching a whiff of another's perfume and, in both cases, sending her on a memory journey. Think of Proust's description of that madeleine.

I could so relate to Maggie's love of perfume. It's one of my enjoyments, too.

Here's Maggie applying a scent: "...clean, crisp notes of citrus, bergamot and verbena. Nothing cloying or clobbering... Just a subtle scent amulet to infuse me with secret grace and power."

When Maggie spoke about spraying on Mitsouko by Guerlain and gave its history, it made me remember wearing this fragrance on one of my first dates with the man who is now my husband. I don't know how much Mitsouko had to do with it—the man now cannot smell burning toast.

But Hamilton's reference triggered my memory: "Mitsouko was one of the original Orientals: a sweet, spicy, leathery, mossy fragrance with hints of peach and oak." Makes me want this perfume again, although it is no longer sold in department stories.

Her description of Dune by Christian Dior as "the bleakest beauty in all of perfumery" was right on the money as that is what I used to think when I wore Dune.

Christian Dior's Jules with its tones of cedar and sage provides a clue to Damage Control's plot, and made me remember how much I love that scent.

I don't know where my love of perfume came from. My mother never wore scents although one of her most cherished possessions was a little trolley of five miniature perfumes that my father had brought her back from WWII. She never opened the perfumes, preferring to look at the lovely gold-plated display. I now have it and it makes me remember my parents and the deep love they had for each other. The perfumes have evaporated through the years and have never been opened.

In high school, I loved Yardley, Heaven Scent, and Jean Nate, appropriate scents for a high school girl. But on my first date, I doused myself with Intimate by Revlon, which prompted my first boyfriend to ask if we spilt some perfume in the house.

I've learned a bit of subtlety since, but during the '80s I would wear too much perfume to work to counteract my boss' cigarette smoking.

Unlike me, Hamilton is an expert on fragrances and writes a perfume column for the Los Angeles Times. Mystery fans will especially be interested in the column she wrote about perfume as clues to crimes.

Like Maggie, I've gone through various phrases—from Halston to freesia; from high-end fragrances to those available at drug stores to only those sold at the Body Shop or Bath and Bodyworks. I have sought out perfumeries that will mix up a special blend, as well as the Aveda stores that do the same. I've even gone through phases when I wore no scents.

There have been times I wore only Ruffles by Oscar de la Renta (a scent I would probably not like now) or only Joy (still a favorite) or Shalimar (which I can't seem to find anymore). On my first trip to Paris I brought back four bottles of LouLou by Cacharel because it was no longer being sold in the US; I now am down to one bottle.

Right now, my tastes are varied. I alternate between Lola by Marc Jacobs; the entire Dolce & Gabbana line; Summer Linen by Clean; Burberry Summer Perfume by Burberry for women; Bermuda Breeze, a Bermuda-made fragrance I bought on the island; Euphoria by Calvin Klein; Jo Malone's entire line; and the Grapefruit and Sweetgrass fragrances made by the Charleston Soap Chef in South Carolina.

It was nice to find a kindred spirit in Hamilton's Maggie Silver.

Dennis Lehane: Writer, Publisher
Oline Cogdill

alt
Publishers often have several imprints to market works to different demographic consumers. Think of St. Martin's Minotaur imprint and you automatically know that it is one of its mystery lines.

Soon we'll see Dennis Lehane Books, a new imprint at HarperCollins.

HarperCollins has announced that the author of Mystic River, Moonlight Mile, and other thrillers will oversee his own imprint. According to HarperCollins, Dennis Lehane Books will issue "a select" number of literary fiction works each year that have "a dark urban edge."

Apparently, Lehane won't be just a name on a masthead but will be directly involved in selecting manuscripts. The manuscripts will be submitted to him with authors' names removed so reputation and friendship will not influence his decisions.

The publisher has not set a date for the first book.

Authors such as Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Charlaine Harris, and Laura Lippman, to name just a few, are brand names as when readers see their names on books they pretty much know what they are getting.

I think Lehane will make a great fit in selecting books for his imprint. He knows what it means to be a urban writer. Mystic River, Shutter Island and The Given Day were each, in their own way, urban novels about moral ambiguity and the loss of innocence, themes that Lehane began in his 1994 debut, the Shamus-winning A Drink Before the War.

During our interview for Mystery Scene magazine, we talked about this.

“I read The Wanderers and it changed my life," said Lehane during our interview. "When I met Richard Price, I told him that his novels lead me to write Mystic River.” Richard said that some kid in Bensonhurst is now reading Mystic River and that would lead him to write something. If people are having a conversation about those great urban classics and I get mentioned in that conversation, then I am happy. All I ever wanted to be was a great urban novelist.”

Now Lehane can help other urban novelists see their work published.

Xav ID 577
2011-10-19 10:40:52

alt
Publishers often have several imprints to market works to different demographic consumers. Think of St. Martin's Minotaur imprint and you automatically know that it is one of its mystery lines.

Soon we'll see Dennis Lehane Books, a new imprint at HarperCollins.

HarperCollins has announced that the author of Mystic River, Moonlight Mile, and other thrillers will oversee his own imprint. According to HarperCollins, Dennis Lehane Books will issue "a select" number of literary fiction works each year that have "a dark urban edge."

Apparently, Lehane won't be just a name on a masthead but will be directly involved in selecting manuscripts. The manuscripts will be submitted to him with authors' names removed so reputation and friendship will not influence his decisions.

The publisher has not set a date for the first book.

Authors such as Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Charlaine Harris, and Laura Lippman, to name just a few, are brand names as when readers see their names on books they pretty much know what they are getting.

I think Lehane will make a great fit in selecting books for his imprint. He knows what it means to be a urban writer. Mystic River, Shutter Island and The Given Day were each, in their own way, urban novels about moral ambiguity and the loss of innocence, themes that Lehane began in his 1994 debut, the Shamus-winning A Drink Before the War.

During our interview for Mystery Scene magazine, we talked about this.

“I read The Wanderers and it changed my life," said Lehane during our interview. "When I met Richard Price, I told him that his novels lead me to write Mystic River.” Richard said that some kid in Bensonhurst is now reading Mystic River and that would lead him to write something. If people are having a conversation about those great urban classics and I get mentioned in that conversation, then I am happy. All I ever wanted to be was a great urban novelist.”

Now Lehane can help other urban novelists see their work published.

Dexter Offers a Killing Season
Oline Cogdill

alt

The sixth season of Showtime's Dexter illustrates how this fine series continues to explore new aspects of its murderous hero, played by Michael C. Hall, at left.

Dexter, based on Jeff Lindsay's novels, follows Miami's most unusual serial killer -- a murderer who gleefully dispatches his victims but whose code, honed by his adoptive father, requires him to prey only on those much worse than he. Dexter would never kill a child or any innocent person. But child killers, pedophiles, wife muderers, gangsters and the like are fair game.

In many ways, the Showtime series has proved to be a stronger, more emotionally involved and thoughtful examination of Dexter Morgan than have Lindsay's novels. Both meld humor with hard-boiled plots with existentialist musings from this serial killer. By day, Dexter works as a blood splatter expert in the Miami Police Department.

Both TV and book series tap into the feeling of being an outsider. Dexter is constantly trying to figure out if he fits in, if his reaction to events of the day are what a normal person would have. Each of us – whether we admit it or not – worries when we’ll be “unmasked,” in our professional or personal life. We also worry about how others perceive us.

I said in one of my book reviews: "Lindsay keeps the reader off kilter by making Dexter a bundle of contractions: a funny, killing machine who is genuinely concerned about children; guiltless about his actions, yet meticulous that he be right about his victims’ corruption. Dexter should be repulsive, but isn’t."

And reality is what the TV series maintains while the novels have often veered into the supernatural. While I have disagreed with a few changes the TV series has made -- especially the ending of season four -- Showtime's Dexter has never strayed from the killer's complicated and complex personality.

As Dexter, Michael C. Hall is perfect, showing every emotion and even the character's innocence. The TV series keeps the episodes crisp, the dialogue real and everyone looks as if they really are a cop or, in the case of Dexter, a blood splatter expert. And they also look as if they have just been in the oppressive heat of South Florida.

Each season has focused on how Dexter deals with life -- marriage, fatherhood, loss, family life.

This year, Dexter's spiritually, or lack of it, is explored as two religious loons, played by Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos prey on South Florida.

The sixth season's opener in which Dexter attends his high school reunion was priceless. Unlike in high school, Dexter is now quite the hunk and finds that many of the women are lusting after him. But he is there for one reason. In high school, only one girl was nice to him. Dexter wants to find out if the girl's high school boyfriend who became her husband murdered her. Dexter is not disapponted at the reunion.

Oddly, for a TV series that deals with an unmerciful killer, the way the opening segment plays on perceptions is often the most violent.

Lindsay's sixth novel Double Dexter is now out and is one of the author's strongest.

Dexter airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on Showtime with frequent encores.

Admin
2011-10-30 10:48:35

alt

The sixth season of Showtime's Dexter illustrates how this fine series continues to explore new aspects of its murderous hero, played by Michael C. Hall, at left.

Dexter, based on Jeff Lindsay's novels, follows Miami's most unusual serial killer -- a murderer who gleefully dispatches his victims but whose code, honed by his adoptive father, requires him to prey only on those much worse than he. Dexter would never kill a child or any innocent person. But child killers, pedophiles, wife muderers, gangsters and the like are fair game.

In many ways, the Showtime series has proved to be a stronger, more emotionally involved and thoughtful examination of Dexter Morgan than have Lindsay's novels. Both meld humor with hard-boiled plots with existentialist musings from this serial killer. By day, Dexter works as a blood splatter expert in the Miami Police Department.

Both TV and book series tap into the feeling of being an outsider. Dexter is constantly trying to figure out if he fits in, if his reaction to events of the day are what a normal person would have. Each of us – whether we admit it or not – worries when we’ll be “unmasked,” in our professional or personal life. We also worry about how others perceive us.

I said in one of my book reviews: "Lindsay keeps the reader off kilter by making Dexter a bundle of contractions: a funny, killing machine who is genuinely concerned about children; guiltless about his actions, yet meticulous that he be right about his victims’ corruption. Dexter should be repulsive, but isn’t."

And reality is what the TV series maintains while the novels have often veered into the supernatural. While I have disagreed with a few changes the TV series has made -- especially the ending of season four -- Showtime's Dexter has never strayed from the killer's complicated and complex personality.

As Dexter, Michael C. Hall is perfect, showing every emotion and even the character's innocence. The TV series keeps the episodes crisp, the dialogue real and everyone looks as if they really are a cop or, in the case of Dexter, a blood splatter expert. And they also look as if they have just been in the oppressive heat of South Florida.

Each season has focused on how Dexter deals with life -- marriage, fatherhood, loss, family life.

This year, Dexter's spiritually, or lack of it, is explored as two religious loons, played by Colin Hanks and Edward James Olmos prey on South Florida.

The sixth season's opener in which Dexter attends his high school reunion was priceless. Unlike in high school, Dexter is now quite the hunk and finds that many of the women are lusting after him. But he is there for one reason. In high school, only one girl was nice to him. Dexter wants to find out if the girl's high school boyfriend who became her husband murdered her. Dexter is not disapponted at the reunion.

Oddly, for a TV series that deals with an unmerciful killer, the way the opening segment plays on perceptions is often the most violent.

Lindsay's sixth novel Double Dexter is now out and is one of the author's strongest.

Dexter airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on Showtime with frequent encores.

New Novels From Ice-T & Wife Coco
Oline Cogdill

title
Ice-T's career as a rapper lead to his career as an actor, mostly for his role as "Fin" Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit since that show debuted. (Ice-T, left, came in on the last show of the first season.)

Nicole “Coco” Marrow is an actor and model, but is best known as Ice-T's wife.

Together, the couple, along with their bulldog, star in the reality TV series Ice Loves Coco on E!.

altThe couple, married since 2005, often show up together on talk shows and Coco has appeared twice on Law & Order: SVU, both times as a porn actress.

Both now are making their debut in the book world with their novels released on the same day by Forge Books.

Ice-T offers a gritty street drama about an aged gangster fresh out of prison and looking for revenge.with Kings of Vice.

Coco visits the spiritual side with Angel, the story of a woman who survives a plane wreck but has no idea who she is.

Ice-T and Coco are quite watchable. The couple seems to really like being with each other and Ice-T often seems amused by his wife.

altAs far as writers, well, we'll see.

Both have been making the talk show rounds touting their books. Both are quite open that they had co-authors on their project.

Mal Radcliff is listed on the cover and inside as Ice-T's co-author. But I couldn't find any info about Radcliff during my myriad Internet searches.

I had better luck with Laura Hayden, who is listed on the cover and inside as Coco's co-author. Hayden has written several romantic suspense novels and has co-authored a couple of mysteries with Susan Ford, the daughter of President Gerald Ford.

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood, Ice-T’s memoir, established him as a compelling storyteller. (He had a co-author on that project, too.)

Xav ID 577
2011-10-26 10:04:16

title
Ice-T's career as a rapper lead to his career as an actor, mostly for his role as "Fin" Tutuola on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit since that show debuted. (Ice-T, left, came in on the last show of the first season.)

Nicole “Coco” Marrow is an actor and model, but is best known as Ice-T's wife.

Together, the couple, along with their bulldog, star in the reality TV series Ice Loves Coco on E!.

altThe couple, married since 2005, often show up together on talk shows and Coco has appeared twice on Law & Order: SVU, both times as a porn actress.

Both now are making their debut in the book world with their novels released on the same day by Forge Books.

Ice-T offers a gritty street drama about an aged gangster fresh out of prison and looking for revenge.with Kings of Vice.

Coco visits the spiritual side with Angel, the story of a woman who survives a plane wreck but has no idea who she is.

Ice-T and Coco are quite watchable. The couple seems to really like being with each other and Ice-T often seems amused by his wife.

altAs far as writers, well, we'll see.

Both have been making the talk show rounds touting their books. Both are quite open that they had co-authors on their project.

Mal Radcliff is listed on the cover and inside as Ice-T's co-author. But I couldn't find any info about Radcliff during my myriad Internet searches.

I had better luck with Laura Hayden, who is listed on the cover and inside as Coco's co-author. Hayden has written several romantic suspense novels and has co-authored a couple of mysteries with Susan Ford, the daughter of President Gerald Ford.

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood, Ice-T’s memoir, established him as a compelling storyteller. (He had a co-author on that project, too.)

John Sandford's Certain Prey on Usa
Oline Cogdill

alt

The producers who cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the upcoming movie based on Lee Child's novels should take a cue from those who put Mark Harmon in the lead in John Sandford's Certain Prey.

If the advance clips I saw are any indication, the casting of Harmon as Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Lucas Davenport is inspired.

The Emmy and Golden Globe nominated Harmon is best known for his role as Special Agent Jethro Gibbs on the long-running and perpetually in reruns NCIS.


John Sandford's Certain Prey will air at 9 p.m. Nov. 6 on USA Network. A marathon of NCIS reruns will lead up to Certain Prey.

Harmon has long been a personal favorite and his ability to deliver strong performances has earned him a long career. He's a perfect match for Sandford's long-running and popular series.


altThe made for TV movie is based on Sandford's 10th novel.

The movie was written and directed by Chris Gerolmo (Citizen X, Mississippi Burning).

In Certain Prey, Davenport is called to the scene when a cop is shot after witnessing the murder of a local real estate lawyer's wife.

The husband is the first suspect until evidence suggests elusive hit woman Clara Rinker (Tatiana Maslany).

Davenport believes that Cara is working with Carmel Loan (Lola Glaudini), a high-powered attorney with an intense obsession for the real estate lawyer.

Let's hope that John Sandford's Certain Prey proves a hit with viewers. Sandford has 20 novels in this series, plenty of fodder for TV movies.

I also hope this brings even more readers to Sandford.

Photos courtesy USA Network

Xav ID 577
2011-11-06 10:25:03

alt

The producers who cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the upcoming movie based on Lee Child's novels should take a cue from those who put Mark Harmon in the lead in John Sandford's Certain Prey.

If the advance clips I saw are any indication, the casting of Harmon as Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Lucas Davenport is inspired.

The Emmy and Golden Globe nominated Harmon is best known for his role as Special Agent Jethro Gibbs on the long-running and perpetually in reruns NCIS.


John Sandford's Certain Prey will air at 9 p.m. Nov. 6 on USA Network. A marathon of NCIS reruns will lead up to Certain Prey.

Harmon has long been a personal favorite and his ability to deliver strong performances has earned him a long career. He's a perfect match for Sandford's long-running and popular series.


altThe made for TV movie is based on Sandford's 10th novel.

The movie was written and directed by Chris Gerolmo (Citizen X, Mississippi Burning).

In Certain Prey, Davenport is called to the scene when a cop is shot after witnessing the murder of a local real estate lawyer's wife.

The husband is the first suspect until evidence suggests elusive hit woman Clara Rinker (Tatiana Maslany).

Davenport believes that Cara is working with Carmel Loan (Lola Glaudini), a high-powered attorney with an intense obsession for the real estate lawyer.

Let's hope that John Sandford's Certain Prey proves a hit with viewers. Sandford has 20 novels in this series, plenty of fodder for TV movies.

I also hope this brings even more readers to Sandford.

Photos courtesy USA Network

Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories on Pbs
Oline Cogdill

altScottish author Kate Atkinson’s cerebral novels about Jackson Brodie, a former cop turned private detective, gracefully make the transition to the screen in the three-episode Case Histories, as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! series now airing Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS.

The first installment, based on the novel Case Histories, ran Oct. 16; One Good Turn is slated for Oct. 23; and When Will There Be Good News? will be on Oct. 30. Each episode is two hours. Check your local listings for time changes and encore showings. A DVD of all three episodes will be released by Acorn Media Nov. 8.

In the Case Histories series, Jason Isaacs, left, changes the long blond wig he wore as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies for the jeans-wearing Jackson Brodie who does his best thinking while driving along the Scottish countryside. Brodie is the epitome of the insightful wounded private detective, haunted by his past, at odds with most of his former police colleagues and a soft touch for seemingly lost causes. Isaacs perfectly captures the brooding Brodie without making him a caricature.

Atkinson’s luxurious storytelling transitions well to the PBS series. While luxurious isn’t just another word for slow, Case Histories unfolds thoughtfully at a leisurely pace that emphasizes character rather than action.

Any crimes that affect children or women trigger Brodie’s memories of his sister’s murder that occurred when he was a boy. Brodie often relives that scene, a situation that is core to the novels but on screen seems, at least at first, confusing.

altIn the first episode, Brodie takes on three cases. Two sisters, cleaning out the house of their recently deceased father, find a stuffed blue mouse in his desk. The toy was the favorite of their other sister who disappeared more than 30 years before. A grieving father (character actor Phil Davis) wants to know who murdered his daughter in his own office on her first day of work. The stranger showed up, stabbed her and then disappeared. And, in what seems like a tacked on plot, an aunt wants Brodie to find her niece who disappeared from foster care more than a decade ago. The child’s mother was in jail at the time for murdering her husband.

In One Good Turn (Oct. 23), Brodie jumps into the Firth of Forth to retrieve the body of young woman who drowned. But Brodie loses the body and the police are reluctant to believe the body even exists. DCI Louise Munroe (Amanda Abbington, left with Isaacs), his one ally on the police force, is even more skeptical when Brodie seems to see the young woman walking around Edinburgh. A complicated set of other plot threads also are set in motion.

In When Will There Be Good News? (Oct. 30) Brodie wakes up in the hospital after trying to pull an elderly woman from a car that landed on railroad tracks. Brodie’s life has been saved by a whip-smart girl who wants the detective to find her missing employer. This novel is a personal favorite of mine and this episode shines with an emotional ending.

Case Histories does justice to Atkinson’s work but the filmed version points out flaws that erupt when print becomes film. Without Atkinson’s graceful prose, the first episode seems to rely too much on coicidence and stretches credibility. That Jackson has three similar cases in the first episode and is able to solve a 30-year disappearance and a weeks-old murder that have stumped the police seems unbelievable. Atkinson juggles several plot lines in her novels, which work for readers but may tax viewers’ comprehension.

But despite the production’s flaws, Atkinson’s storytelling shines. Supporting characters are richly explored, especially the sisters in the first episode; the teenager and a lunatic husband in the third episode.

Jason Isaacs, who also co-starred in Brotherhood, The State Within and other films and TV series, is quite familiar with Atkinson’s novels, having recorded several of the audio versions. He brings a sense of power and vulnerability to the role of Jackson Brodie.

He doesn’t recover quickly when he is beaten up. And he seems to genuinely care about his clients and finding them justice. A divorced father, he dotes on his daughter and we feel his pain when his ex-wife tells him she is taking a job in New Zealand. And, just to be frivolous, many of us enjoyed Isaacs’ frequent lack of a shirt.

The lovely soundtrack features lots of Nanci Griffin (a personal favorite), Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent—all of which go well with the Brodie’s personality.

Case Histories airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! series. Episode 2, based on One Good Turn, on Oct. 23; Episode 3, based on When Will There Be Good News?, on Oct. 30. Episode 1, based on the novel Case Histories, aired Oct. 16 but is in reruns. Check your local listings. A DVD of all three episodes will be released by Acorn Media Nov. 8.

Photos of Jason Isaacs, top; Isaacs with Amanda Abbington, center. Photos courtesy PBS.

Xav ID 577
2011-10-23 10:46:21

altScottish author Kate Atkinson’s cerebral novels about Jackson Brodie, a former cop turned private detective, gracefully make the transition to the screen in the three-episode Case Histories, as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! series now airing Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS.

The first installment, based on the novel Case Histories, ran Oct. 16; One Good Turn is slated for Oct. 23; and When Will There Be Good News? will be on Oct. 30. Each episode is two hours. Check your local listings for time changes and encore showings. A DVD of all three episodes will be released by Acorn Media Nov. 8.

In the Case Histories series, Jason Isaacs, left, changes the long blond wig he wore as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies for the jeans-wearing Jackson Brodie who does his best thinking while driving along the Scottish countryside. Brodie is the epitome of the insightful wounded private detective, haunted by his past, at odds with most of his former police colleagues and a soft touch for seemingly lost causes. Isaacs perfectly captures the brooding Brodie without making him a caricature.

Atkinson’s luxurious storytelling transitions well to the PBS series. While luxurious isn’t just another word for slow, Case Histories unfolds thoughtfully at a leisurely pace that emphasizes character rather than action.

Any crimes that affect children or women trigger Brodie’s memories of his sister’s murder that occurred when he was a boy. Brodie often relives that scene, a situation that is core to the novels but on screen seems, at least at first, confusing.

altIn the first episode, Brodie takes on three cases. Two sisters, cleaning out the house of their recently deceased father, find a stuffed blue mouse in his desk. The toy was the favorite of their other sister who disappeared more than 30 years before. A grieving father (character actor Phil Davis) wants to know who murdered his daughter in his own office on her first day of work. The stranger showed up, stabbed her and then disappeared. And, in what seems like a tacked on plot, an aunt wants Brodie to find her niece who disappeared from foster care more than a decade ago. The child’s mother was in jail at the time for murdering her husband.

In One Good Turn (Oct. 23), Brodie jumps into the Firth of Forth to retrieve the body of young woman who drowned. But Brodie loses the body and the police are reluctant to believe the body even exists. DCI Louise Munroe (Amanda Abbington, left with Isaacs), his one ally on the police force, is even more skeptical when Brodie seems to see the young woman walking around Edinburgh. A complicated set of other plot threads also are set in motion.

In When Will There Be Good News? (Oct. 30) Brodie wakes up in the hospital after trying to pull an elderly woman from a car that landed on railroad tracks. Brodie’s life has been saved by a whip-smart girl who wants the detective to find her missing employer. This novel is a personal favorite of mine and this episode shines with an emotional ending.

Case Histories does justice to Atkinson’s work but the filmed version points out flaws that erupt when print becomes film. Without Atkinson’s graceful prose, the first episode seems to rely too much on coicidence and stretches credibility. That Jackson has three similar cases in the first episode and is able to solve a 30-year disappearance and a weeks-old murder that have stumped the police seems unbelievable. Atkinson juggles several plot lines in her novels, which work for readers but may tax viewers’ comprehension.

But despite the production’s flaws, Atkinson’s storytelling shines. Supporting characters are richly explored, especially the sisters in the first episode; the teenager and a lunatic husband in the third episode.

Jason Isaacs, who also co-starred in Brotherhood, The State Within and other films and TV series, is quite familiar with Atkinson’s novels, having recorded several of the audio versions. He brings a sense of power and vulnerability to the role of Jackson Brodie.

He doesn’t recover quickly when he is beaten up. And he seems to genuinely care about his clients and finding them justice. A divorced father, he dotes on his daughter and we feel his pain when his ex-wife tells him she is taking a job in New Zealand. And, just to be frivolous, many of us enjoyed Isaacs’ frequent lack of a shirt.

The lovely soundtrack features lots of Nanci Griffin (a personal favorite), Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent—all of which go well with the Brodie’s personality.

Case Histories airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Mystery! series. Episode 2, based on One Good Turn, on Oct. 23; Episode 3, based on When Will There Be Good News?, on Oct. 30. Episode 1, based on the novel Case Histories, aired Oct. 16 but is in reruns. Check your local listings. A DVD of all three episodes will be released by Acorn Media Nov. 8.

Photos of Jason Isaacs, top; Isaacs with Amanda Abbington, center. Photos courtesy PBS.

A Death in Summer
Dick Lochte

It has never been a secret that Black is the pseudonym employed by mainstream Irish novelist John Banville when penning crime fictions, most of which have featured Dublin pathologist Garret Quirke. This is the fourth in the series, and, maybe I’m imagining it, but it seems that with each Quirke investigation the author has been moving further from Man Booker prize-winner to potential Edgar winner, crafting ever more emotion-and-action-filled plots while easing up a bit on the literary pedal. Not that A Death in Summer would be compared to a Donald Westlake caper. It deals with murder, infidelity, and any number of dark elements that, to keep this review spoiler-free, shall go unmentioned (except to note that Jonathan Kellerman may find one plot device a bit familiar).

Quirke, moody and dark and irresistibly fond of the grape, has become a refreshing reminder of what sleuths used to be in the politically incorrect days of yore, a somewhat selfish boozer and debaucher. If, unlike them, he’s weighed down by guilt for his sins, so be it. He’s Irish. Reader Keating, a television actor (Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie) and member of the theatrical Irish Rep Company, compliments the protagonist’s every mood. He narrates the objectively told novel with an Emerald Isle lilt that keeps us mindful of the locale but is subtle enough that it does not interfere with the serious, sometimes somber atmosphere created by the prose. He smartly separates the voices along socioeconomic lines, adding the sound of arrogance to both an overbearing media mogul and his snobbish, if troubled, son, while capturing the whining pettiness the author reserved for a journo, a recurring character, now working for a bottom rung newspaper. Keating even manages to create acceptable extreme accents for two female characters—the elegant, very French widow of a murdered newspaper tycoon and Quirke’s honey-voiced Dixie-born sister-in-law.

Teri Duerr
2011-10-27 17:28:18

black_deathinsummer_audioBlack is the pseudonym of Irish novelist John Banville when penning crime fictions, most of which have featured Dublin pathologist Garret Quirke. It seems that with each Quirke investigation the author has moves further from Man Booker prize-winner to potential Edgar winner...

Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection: an Annotated Repertoire
Jon L. Breen

The third volume of this monumental reference work lives up to the high standard of the first two. Defining crime and mystery broadly as any story involving a crime or the threat of a crime, Kabatchnik begins chronologically with the Damon Runyon-inspired musical Guys and Dolls, a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows in service of Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics, and finishes with Graham Greene’s The Return of A.J. Raffles with over a hundred other stops along the way.

Among the print mystery writers represented are Agatha Christie (most frequently), Audrey and William Roos (aka Kelley Roos), Helen MacInnes, Michael Gilbert, James Yaffe, Henry Cecil (in collaboration with William Saroyan), Hugh Wheeler aka Patrick Quentin), and Lucille Fletcher. Famous playwrights represent a wide range: Sidney Kingsley, William Faulkner, Horton Foote, Arthur Miller, Brendan Behan, Maxwell Anderson, Bertolt Brecht, Elmer Rice, Woody Allen, Tom Stoppard, Jules Feiffer, and John Osborne, plus a few renowned actors: Emlyn Williams, Raymond Massey, and Michael Redgrave. Plays covered include suspense classics (Dial M for Murder, Witness for the Prosecution, Wait Until Dark, Sleuth, Equus), along with more surprising inclusions (Stalag 17, The Crucible, Advise and Consent, The Best Man) and a few interesting turkeys, such as Ouida Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, an unsuccessful vehicle for husband Basil.

A typical entry, running from two or three to over ten pages, includes a synopsis (surprise solution included), critical response, production history, biographies of the playwright and (in the case of adaptations) author of the original work, availability of acting edition, awards and honors if any, and notes. Appendices on plays concerning poison, courtroom drama, death row, and children in peril span the whole 20th century and repeat material from earlier volumes, while providing additional information and corrections. The 23-page index covers personal names and titles.

Teri Duerr
2011-10-27 17:56:40

kabatchnik_bloodonthestage19501975The third volume of this monumental reference work lives up to the high standard of the first two.

Die Buying
Lynne F. Maxwell

Laura DiSilverio (actually Lila Dare) has come up with a unique hook whereby she reels in her readers. In Die Buying, DiSilverio introduces E.J. Ferris, mall cop. E.J. isn’t your average mall cop (not that I know any). Ex-military, she takes a job as a mall cop because injuries sustained during her time in Iraq and Afghanistan prevent ready employment in standard police departments. Using a Segway, she diligently patrols Fernglen Galleria, located in small-town Virginia. Secretly, though, she is the daughter of Hollywood heartthrob Ethan Jarrett, who exhorts her to seek more suitable (in his eyes) employment. Ever independent, though, E.J. makes a go of it on her own. Much to her surprise, the sleepy job of mall cop takes a turn for the exciting when an intruder “liberates” all of the reptiles from a pet store, and that’s just the beginning, since murders ensue, as well. I’m eager to read the next installment in this offbeat series.

Teri Duerr
2011-10-27 18:12:07

Laura DiSilverio (actually Lila Dare) has come up with a unique hook whereby she reels in her readers. In Die Buying, DiSilverio introduces E.J. Ferris, mall cop. E.J. isn’t your average mall cop (not that I know any). Ex-military, she takes a job as a mall cop because injuries sustained during her time in Iraq and Afghanistan prevent ready employment in standard police departments. Using a Segway, she diligently patrols Fernglen Galleria, located in small-town Virginia. Secretly, though, she is the daughter of Hollywood heartthrob Ethan Jarrett, who exhorts her to seek more suitable (in his eyes) employment. Ever independent, though, E.J. makes a go of it on her own. Much to her surprise, the sleepy job of mall cop takes a turn for the exciting when an intruder “liberates” all of the reptiles from a pet store, and that’s just the beginning, since murders ensue, as well. I’m eager to read the next installment in this offbeat series.

Black Orchid Blues
Betty Webb

One of the things I like about historical mysteries is that they teach us so much about interesting times. Some of the best selling of these historicals have taken us back to Roman times, Byzantium, medieval Italy, and Victorian England.

But we don’t need to travel back that far or row across the pond to get good history lessons. One of the most intriguing historicals I’ve yet come across is Persia Walker’s Black Orchid Blues, set in the Harlem of the 1920s. Here we learn about Strivers’ Row, the neighborhood where upper class African-Americans hold court in elegant brownstones and sophisticated salons. The Black Orchid of the title is Queenie, a transvestite jazz singer, whose beauty and voice have made her the talk—and scandal—of the town. When Queenie is kidnapped during a bloodbath at a Harlem nightclub, society columnist Lanie Price, curious about Queenie’s growing reputation, is there to witness the entire thing. A shaken Lanie meets her deadline, then uses her society connections to find out who might be behind Queenie’s kidnapping and its attendant killings. The search immerses her in the world of organized crime, Harlem’s hard-partying gay community, and the conflicts about gender identity at a time and place where Harlem’s “strivers” are desperately seeking equality in a Jim Crow world.

Author Walker’s skills are more than up to the task of dealing with serious topics. She shows us each side of an issue, then lets us draw our own conclusions. Her intricate plot takes so many twists and turns that it’s often difficult to tell villain from hero, evil from expediency. Walker cares about the small stuff, too. Her period details are dead on, from the radio programs of the day, right down to the shape of the telephones. And her characters? In a word, superb. Lanie makes an intelligent, sympathetic protagonist/sleuth, yet in the end, it’s the spectacular Queenie herself who remains with us when we close this breathtaking book.

Teri Duerr
2011-10-27 18:20:06

walker_blackorchidbluesA historical mystery set in 1920s Harlem, where African Americans held court in sophisticated salons.

A Tribute to Michael Gilbert (1912-2006)
Martin Edwards

gilbertmichael_smallThis writer combined elegant prose, intricate story lines, and sharp-eyed social commentary to craft intelligent and amusing crime fiction.

Few British crime writers have been lauded as extensively on both sides of the Atlantic as Michael Gilbert, who died in 2006 at the age of 93.

The Mystery Writers of America recognized his contribution to the genre with its highest honour, the Grand Master Award. The Crime Writers Association did likewise when he received the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger.

The Queen appointed him a Commander of the British Empire in 1980 and his books—fact as well as fiction—stage plays, television scripts and radio plays have earned an admiring audience since his first novel, Close Quarters, appeared in 1947. Two of his other novels were adapted into films.

Yet his was never a household name. This was not due to any lack of talent, but simply because he belonged to a generation and a class of Englishmen that regarded the seeking of personal publicity as unseemly. He preferred to let his work speak for itself. And how well it spoke of his gifts for writing clear and attractive prose and for composing intricate and delightful storylines.

Michael Gilbert was born in 1912, the same year as the legendary crime critic and novelist Julian Symons, who became a good friend from the time when, in 1953, they were asked by John Creasey to help found the Crime Writers Association. Educated at Blundell’s, a well-known private school, and London University, Gilbert had a short spell as a schoolteacher before the Second World War intervened.

gilbert_close_quartersBy then his enthusiasm for detective fiction had prompted him to start work on Close Quarters. Conceived in the spirit of Golden Age mystery writing, and still an agreeable read today, this whodunit was set in a fictitious Cathedral close. Before he managed to finish the book, he had served in the Royal Horse Artillery, been mentioned in dispatches, and become a prisoner of war. His experiences in an Italian POW camp provided him with background material for Death in Captivity, a first-rate whodunit. By the time that book appeared in 1952, Gilbert had already published five others and qualified as a solicitor.

Gilbert seems to have had an extraordinary ability to succeed at anything he seriously turned his mind to. He did not merely dabble in legal work whilst trying to build a career as a novelist; he rose to become second most senior partner in a prestigious firm and numbered amongst his clients not only the Conservative Party and the Sultan of Bahrain—but also Raymond Chandler. His legal knowledge informed many of his short stories and novels—including the witty and ingenious Smallbone Deceased, which many regard as his masterpiece.

Cyril Hare, a barrister who became a judge and who also wrote crime fiction, was an influence. Gilbert came across Hare’s classic mystery Tragedy at Law whilst imprisoned in Italy. The men later became good friends and, after Hare’s early death, Gilbert edited a first class collection, Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare. Hare was an excellent writer whose reputation has stood the test of time. But Gilbert’s range—even in his books focusing on legal themes, a small proportion of his total output—was much wider.

Death has Deep Roots cleverly combines a courtroom drama with a thriller set largely in France. Flashpoint, narrated in part by a lawyer who works for the Law Society (the body which regulates the conduct of solicitors), involves political intrigue and dirty tricks played by the security services. The Crack in the Teacup finds a young lawyer running up against corruption in local government. The Queen against Karl Mullen, an outstanding and astonishingly overlooked late work, treats with great skill tricky questions about the fallibility of British justice.

gilbert_danger_withinThe themes are serious, yet invariably Gilbert wrote with a light touch. If he wished to convey a message, he did so with the utmost subtlety. Perhaps that is why the sharp-eyed social commentary in several of his books has so often been underestimated. Legal issues and settings surface in many of the hundreds of short stories that he turned out over more than half a century. Stay of Execution includes several minor masterpieces, not least the short-short “Back on the Shelf.” Anything for a Quiet Life brings together nine stories about Jonas Pickett, a solicitor who leaves London for a quiet Sussex resort but finds himself repeatedly confronted by mysteries that demand to be solved.

Jonas Pickett had earlier appeared in The Long Journey Home, another book which makes good use of Gilbert’s war-time experiences. It is a feature of this author’s work that he regularly created fresh and engaging characters who would pop up in various novels and short stories, without any one achieving dominance. His first series detective was Chief Inspector Hazlerigg, of whom he said (in introducing the Crippen & Landru collection The Man Who Hated Banks): “He was what you might call a standard pattern policeman.”

Soon he introduced Sergeant Patrick Petrella, son of an Englishwoman and a senior Spanish detective. Petrella’s first book appearance was in Blood and Judgment, a police procedural which opens with the discovery of a woman’s body on Bonfire Night.

Although Hazlerigg investigated in Smallbone Deceased, the book also saw the debut of an appealing amateur sleuth, the lawyer Henry Bohun. As Gilbert said: “Bohun’s detective activities arose by chance. Since he suffered from a form of parainsomnia which never allowed him more than two hours’ sleep each night, and sometimes none at all, this left him with a lot of time on his hands which he spent…thinking out answers to the problems that he encountered.” Bohun appeared in no other novels, but five of the short stories about him may be found in The Man Who Hated Banks.

That collection also includes three tales about the unscrupulous former DCI Mercer, whose first outing was in The Body of a Girl. I presume that Gilbert’s political instincts were conservative, but he was never reluctant to explore the dark and dirty corners of establishment life in his writing. There are corrupt cops as well as honourable ones, together with innumerable dodgy politicians. In his espionage stories, especially the highly praised series concerning the veteran agents Calder and Behrens, he does not flinch from the reality that spying is a brutal business.

Gilbert_crack_in_teacupGilbert somehow found time, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, to write extensively for stage, radio, and TV, as well as to coedit the first four CWA short story anthologies and an excellent series of Classics of Detection and Adventure for Hodder & Stoughton. His nonfiction is always worth seeking out and it is a matter for regret that he did not write more regularly about his chosen genre. Had he done so, one suspects that his reputation as an incisive, if traditionally inclined, commentator might have rivalled that of Symons. He contributed a chapter to a book edited by H.R.F. Keating (who wrote an affectionate and perceptive obituary of Gilbert for The Guardian) about Agatha Christie, but perhaps his most original and fascinating essay is to be found in a book he edited himself, Crime in Good Company, a gathering of pieces on criminals and crime-writing put out under the auspices of the CWA.

In “The Moment of Violence,” Gilbert argues that “a thriller is more difficult to write than a detective story.” (He, of course, was skilled at both forms.) He went on to claim that “because thrillers are more difficult, they are, on the whole, written by professionals. Detective stories of the greatest excellence are produced by school-mistresses, dons, County Court judges, poets, lawyers, Army Commanders, chemists, critics and other members of those underpaid professional classes who have to use their spare time productively or starve.” Note, incidentally, how a telling point is wrapped up with dry humour. This is typical of Gilbert. His essay was written nearly 50 years ago and remains a good read today—not least for his explanation, based on personal experience, of what it sounds like to be shot at when you are running away.

Gilbert’s essay is prefaced by a note from the master of the impossible crime, John Dickson Carr:

“Mr. Gilbert is an affable soul about seven feet tall in a bowler hat…”
‘I maintain,’ Gilbert says, carefully, ‘or have maintained so far a steady balance of production both in books and children…two books to one child…I have maintained this rate of production so far and I mean to go on doing it until my powers fail in one direction or the other.’
Gilbert adds wryly, ‘up-to-date figures are ten books and six children, which would seem to give Mrs Gilbert a clear two point lead.’

In fact the Gilberts had seven children in all (one, Harriet, herself became a successful novelist), though Michael Gilbert focused increasingly on producing novels: his final tally reached 30.

One of Michael Gilbert’s unintended achievements was to prompt me to combine qualifying as a solicitor with writing crime fiction. I was much encouraged as a teenager to learn that he did his writing on the train into work, although after I became a lawyer I made the mistake of moving to a house nowhere near a railway station. By then Gilbert had become one of my literary heroes and in 1987, before I had managed to publish a novel, the Law Society commissioned me to interview him for its magazine, the Gazette. He proved to be charm and courtesy itself and I have to this day the letters he wrote to me thanking me for the piece about him:

Gilbert_Night_of_twelfth“In the old days it would, no doubt, have been condemned as advertising. When I started to write reviewers had to be warned that the most they could say about me was that I was ‘a practising solicitor’–extended later to ‘a Lincoln’s Inn solicitor.’ Not so now, of course, with firms competing in the advertising line—to the detriment, in the end, of their clients whose bills will be inflated by the cost. As Dorothy Sayers pointed out, in the end advertising is paid for by the customer.”

These are the views of a member of the old school, and I fear that they would get a modern lawyer nowhere (even though there is much truth in what he and Sayers said.) But above all, they are the views of an honourable and modest man.

I owe Michael Gilbert even more than most crime fiction fans. After I achieved publication of my novels about Harry Devlin, a Liverpudlian solicitor much more down-at-heel than any of his own legal sleuths, he was quick to offer praise that meant much more to me than he can ever have realised.

Gilbert was generous, too. When—having taken over the editorship of the CWA anthologies that he, along with Symons and Josephine Bell had inaugurated four decades earlier—I asked permission to reproduce his stories in collections, he was always willing to help. The last time we were in touch was when he agreed to my reprinting a lovely short story called “A Case for Gourmets” in the 2005 CWA anthology, Crime on the Move.

There is so much in Michael Gilbert’s work to savour—he is never dull, he never writes the same book twice. As well as the titles already mentioned, I would highlight two more. The Night of the Twelfth is an excellent police novel, while The Dust and the Heat (also known as Overdrive) is very different from his other whodunits and action- packed thrillers. It combines an unusual plot with an intriguing character study of Oliver Nugent, a successful businessman with a dark secret dating back to the days immediately after the end of the Second World War. And—guess what?—along the way, Gilbert also pokes a great deal of fun at advertising campaigns. He enjoyed writing his mysteries every bit as much as readers who relish intelligent and amusing crime fiction will continue to enjoy devouring them.

Gilbert_Danger_within_posterAll Grist for the Mill

During World War II Michael Gilbert served in the Royal Horse Artillery in North Africa and Europe. He was captured in 1943 in North Africa and sent to a military prison near Parma in Italy. During his time as a POW, he became interested in crime novels after reading Cyril Hare’s Tragedy at Law. After the Italian surrender, Gilbert managed to escape from the camp with two friends. Approaching the Allied lines one of his friends was shot and recaptured, but Gilbert succeeded in crossing the lines with his other friend. This experience he later used in the 1952 novel Death in Captivity (published in the US as The Danger Within). This novel was the basis for the 1959 film Danger Within, released in the US as Breakout.

A Selected Michael Gilbert Reading List

Crime Novels
Close Quarters, 1947* (Insp. Hazelrigg)
They Never Looked Inside, 1948 (Insp.Hazelrigg) In US, He Didn’t Mind Danger
The Doors Open, 1949 (Insp.Hazelrigg)
Smallbone Deceased, 1950 (Insp.Hazelrigg)
Death Has Deep Roots, 1951 (Insp.Hazelrigg)
Death in Captivity, 1952 In US, The Danger Within
Fear to Tread, 1953 (Insp.Hazelrigg)
Sky High, 1955 In US, The Country-House Burglar
Be Shot for Sixpence, 1956
Blood and Judgement, 1959
After the Fine Weather, 1963
The Crack in the Teacup, 1966
The Dust and the Heat, 1967 In US, Overdrive
The Etruscan Net, 1969 In US, The Family Tomb
The Body of a Girl, 1972
The Ninety-Second Tiger, 1973
Flash Point, 1974
The Night of the Twelfth, 1976
The Empty House, 1978
Death of a Favorite Girl, 1980 In US, The Killing of Katie Steelstock
The Final Throw, 1982 In US, End-Game
The Black Seraphim, 1983
The Long Journey Home, 1985
Trouble, 1987
Paint, Gold and Blood, 1989
The Queen Aagainst Karl Mullen, 1991
Roller Coaster, 1993 (Patrick Petrenella)
Ring of Terror, 1995 (Luke Pagan)
Into Battle, 1997 (Luke Pagan)
Over and Out, 1998 (Luke Pagan)
The Curious Conspiracy, 2002

Short Story Collections
Game Without Rules, 1967 (US)
Stay of Execution and Other Stories, 1971
Amateur in Violence, 1973 (US only)
Petrella at Q, 1977
Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens, 1982
Young Petrella, 1988 (Patrick Petrenella)
Anything for a Quiet Life, 1990
The Man Who Hated Banks, 1997 (US)
The Mathematics of Murder: A Fearne and Bracknell Collection, 2000
The Curious Conspiracy, 2002 (US)

Other
Editor, Crime in Good Company: Essays on Criminals and Crime Writing, 1959
Editor, Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare, 1959; also in US as Death Among Friends and Other Detective Stories
Editor, The Oxford Book of Legal Anecdotes, 1986

*Dates are for first publication. All books published first in the UK, unless otherwise noted.

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

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

Teri Duerr
2011-10-27 19:04:20

gilbertmichael_smallA crime writer who combined elegant prose, intricate story lines, and sharp-eyed social commentary.

The Whole Gorey Story
Kevin Burton Smith & Mystery Scene

It's not too late to get ghouled up for the year's most wicked holiday. Around this time, we here at Mystery Scene begin thinking about our annual "Mystery Lovers Gift Guide." When we stumbled across the Edward Gorey House Store, we couldn't resist getting a head(less) start on sharing some of the great gifts ideas we found.

gorey_cat_pin$40-$100 The Edward Gorey Cats & Bats Jewelry Collection

They're creepy and they're gruesome, but mystery-loving (or is that Mystery!-loving?) cat fans will dig the Edward Gorey-inspired pins, necklaces, earrings and charms, featuring assorted felines and bats in suspicious positions. Readers in particular will cotton to the slightly creepy Book Cat Pin ($63.90) which they bill as "a take-it-with-you reminder of one of life's simpler pleasures." Sure, it's just an innocent tabby sprawled on an innocent stack of books—or is that just what they want you to think?

Click to buy

gorey_alphabetmug$12.95 each The Edward Gorey Tinies Alphabet Mugs

A series of 26 11-ounce mugs, suitable for sipping coffee, tea or mercury cyanide, running from A to Z, and each featuring a wrap around image by Gorey. Of particular interest to certain editors is "K is for Kate who was struck with an axe," which adorns one side, while Death and the Gashlycrumb Tinies kids frolic on the mug's reverse side. Or collect them all! "'A' is forAmy who fell down the stairs," "'B' is for Basil assaulted by bears," etc. Dishwasher and microwave safe so you can get out those damned spots.

Click to buy

gorey_gashlycrumblunchbox$16.99 Gashlycrumb Tinies Lunchbox

And while we're on all things Gorey, what disturbed little boy or ghoul wouldn't want to trot off to school with his or her very own Edward Gorey Lunchbox? This full-size lunchbox, which features the complete text from Gorey's classic 1963 alphabet reader (see above) narrates the sad fates of all 26 "Tinies." Suddenly peanut butter sandwiches can be cool again...

Click to buy

gorey_draculamousepad

$13.95 Edward Gorey Dracula Mousepad

It's creepy and it's kooky, mysterious and spooky. Yep, Gorey takes on Bram Stoker's venerable old bloodsucker, and the red, white and black result, captured on this washable, water- and coffee-resistant natural rubber mousepad, is all together ooky. But rest easy, PETA members: the fine people at pomegranate.com assured me that "No mice were injured in testing this product."

Click to buy

Teri Duerr
2011-10-27 19:47:51

gorey_draculamousepadIt's not too late to get ghouled up for the year's most wicked holiday. Four Gorey gifts featuring the illustrations of Edward Gorey. Read more...

The Blond Leading the Blond
Jackie Houchin

Ellery Tinsdale is a 40-something third-grade teacher with gray-blond hair who tops out at 6 feet and 200 pounds. To her surprise, she's been summoned to Braddocks Beach, Ohio, to claim an inheritance left by an aunt she never knew she had. Turns out Aunt Izzy Tinsdale was the town's very rich "Queen Bee" and Ellery is her only living relative. When Chief Bennett learns of Ellery and her large inheritance, he promptly accuses her of murdering her Aunt Izzy for the money as it "just stands to reason."

Enter the second blond to the rescue, Samantha Greene. This petite firecracker with a pile of cascading platinum curls that barely reach Ellery's earlobe, quickly dismisses the Police Chief as a fool and sets about introducing the town's new "royalty" to its inhabitants. Not only does Sam make over Ellery's wardrobe, social calendar, and etiquette, she enlists Ellery’s reluctant help in finding "Mizizzy's" real killer.

Soon this unlikely sleuthing duo is up to their respective chins in madcap pandemonium. From potlucks to potshots the women wend their way through a maze of clues and suspects, disregarding civil rules (but never social decorum!) to bring the villain to justice.

Ormerod is adept in the use of metaphor and simile, packing her prose with hundreds of laugh out loud comparisons. She also has an amazing talent for creating unforgettable characters that readers will quickly adore. And wisely, she's left readers with a hint of a new case to anticipate in Blond Luck.

Teri Duerr
2011-10-28 20:38:31

ormerod_blondleadingtheblondAn unlikely sleuthing duo, completely opposite save the color of their hair, take on crime in the Midwestern lakeside town of Braddocks Beach.

A Night in Noir Town (or All Femmes Are Fatale)
Kevin Burton Smith

Look around. Anyone who's ever dipped their toe in the crime fiction stream knows that life is a hard and unforgiving journey through a bittersweet world of bad choices and worse luck. But, really, does EVERYTHING have to be labeled “noir”? Your Honour, let me present my case:

noir_gotham_city_ring$225 Gotham City Ring, nOir Jewelry

Started 14 years ago by designer and stylist Leeora Catalan, nOir offers a “fresh and cheeky take on style” that “blends glamour with an edgy street influence.” No, really, that's what they say, and it seems to be working. Their jewellery is worn by such People Magazine A-listers as Lady Gaga, Madonna, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Katy Perry, and Fergie. Still, I'm not so sure how “noir” any of it is—I mean, among their collections are ones featuring designs inspired by Walt Disney... and Mattel's Barbie. Still, the Gotham City Ring from the DC Comics Collection is sorta cool, in a dark, creepy and tacky sort of way—just like Gotham City, actually. The ring is solid brass plated in Gunmetal and has Cubic Zirconia stones that make up the windows of the buildings. And what a steal at a mere $225 simoles! Although, given the heft of this thing and the way it juts out, it just might make for a dandy weapon.

Click to buy

kissmedeadly_vargasdress$80.00 The Vargas Dress, Kiss Me Deadly

And speaking of seamed stockings...has your best gal ever complained about how difficult it is to find a decent garter set or vintage lingerie these days? Well, the British clothing company Kiss Me Deadly feels their pain. They make period lingerie for “glamorous, sensual and intelligent women” who truly understand that even nice girls like to play naughty sometimes—and that getting dressed in a retro cocktail dress is a little like building something from the ground up. Seems they were called foundation garments for a reason. The people at Kiss Me Deadly understand, and will ship all over the world. The Vargas Dress in Black is their perennial best seller. Alternately called a corselette, body briefer, body shaper, all-in-one, and a host of other names, it's essentially a bra and girdle combo. The underwired, supportive bra is made from lace over lingerie mesh, and underneath, there's a double layer of stretchy control mesh, finished off with six metal garter tabs for stockings.

Click to buy

dortheascloset_floraldressinggown$255.00 The Floral Print Dressing Gown, The Noir Boudoir

Of course, a girl can't wander around ALL the time in her underthings, can she? So perhaps an era-appropriate dressing gown is in order, and the Noir Boudoir (part of the much larger dorotheasclosetvintage.com site) may just have your number. They have an awesome selection of vintage dressing gowns, like this 1930s-styled zippered front dressing gown in polished cotton that puts the hubba back into hubba hubba. A black background boasts a bold pink hydrangea floral pattern, with a wide rounded collar, a bow tie at the neck and a sash at the waist. It measures 36” at the bust, 26” at the waist, 44” at the hips and it's 57” long, but if that's not quite you, they've got plenty of other great choices.

Click to buy

victoriassecret_noirperfume

$29.00-$60.00 The Sexy Little Things Noir Perfume, Victoria's Secret

Of course, any femme fatale worth her seamed stockings doesn't just want to look noir—she wants to smell noir too. With its hints of amber, cattelaya orchid, water lily, apple, sparkling citrus, pineapple, velvet musk, guanabana, pear, red fruit, bergamot, muguet, sparkling nectarine, cyclamen, jasmine, plum, vanilla, dewberry, cassis, musk and, I'm sure, some other ingredients they just made up, this is a scent, slightly fruity, slightly floral and all woman, that has more mystery to it than a shelf full of James M. Cain novels. But on the right dame? Smells like sin to me...

cotedor_noirdenoir$5.99 Noir de Noir 150, Cote D'Or

Like chocolate? The Cote D'Or's Noir de Noir 150 is 150 grams (a little over five ounces) of sinfully delicious plain dark chocolate, imported from Belgium, where noir is just another word for “black.” Sure, at six bucks a pop, it may seem pricey, but after sinking your teeth into some real chocolate, you'll realize that this is the real McCoy, and that biting into most American chocolate is like biting into a birthday candle.

So, she meets you at the door to the apartment in her floral dressing gown, the whisper of silk underthings battling the subtle but insistent hint of a perfume that's making your head swim. She chucks you under the chin and slowly strokes your cheek with the back of her hand, letting that ring lightly graze the side of your face. She gives you a playful slap, tells you in that slightly breathless voice of hers that you need a shave, and then she offers you chocolate. Really, really good chocolate. And all the time she's got those baby blues fastened on you. If that doesn't make you guys wanna push an unwanted husband or two off a train, I don't know what will…

Click to buy

Teri Duerr
2011-10-30 01:50:24

victoriassecret_noirperfumeLook around. Anyone who's ever dipped their toe in the crime fiction stream knows that life is a hard and unforgiving journey through a bittersweet world of bad choices and worse luck. But, really, does EVERYTHING have to be labeled “noir”? Your Honour, let me present my case...

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Holds Up Well
By Bill Hirschman

By Bill Hirschman

altThe zeitgeist of the world long ago caught up to John le Carré’s Cold War vision of gray civil servants wearily battling their bureaucratic masters as much as the external evils threatening the public, an almost Sisysphean task of protecting society in a world of uncertain loyalties, debatable ethics and ephemeral outcomes.

So the overwhelming but total justification to revisit the 1979 BBC TV mini-series le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (just re-released on DVD from Acorn Media) is not to learn anything new. It’s to revel in the superb artistry of cinematic storytellers deftly transferring a complex, thought-provoking work from one medium to another.

Notable for the work of Alec Guinness, director John Irvin and screenwriter Arthur Hopcraft, this brooding yet riveting six-hour spy story is the product of a troupe of highly skilled craftsmen creating what le Carré himself says is the best adaptation of his work.

The premise sounds simple but it is dense, elliptical and covertly suspenseful in its unveiling: A bureaucratic coup has ousted old-line British spymaster Control and his second in command, the graying George Smiley (Guinness). The coup came just as Control was trying to discover who in his top-level of lieutenants is actually a long-time Russian mole. Smiley is quietly asked by Whitehall to come out of retirement to discover the traitor inside the intelligence service named the Circus, despite having few resources, no authority and almost no one to trust.

Le Carré’s books and films, starting with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, are often described as the real world antithesis of James Bond. This is spycraft without gadgets: a simple wedge in a door is used to keep out interlopers during a black bag job.

Records are not computerized, but kept in dog-earred file folders. There is no glamour or glory, only self-doubt whether the altruistic ends justify the ethically-challenged means. The sparing amounts of violence, on screen and off, are all the more harrowing because the consequences here are prolonged torture and sudden death.

More importantly, the books and this film capture the paranoia and fear as well as any historical document can. Some critics predicted when the Cold War ended that le Carré’s career was over because his genre became irrelevant. This mini-series underscores why that didn’t happen: le Carré’s real focus were the people operating in, around and despite institutions that used ethics and pragmatism, loyalty and betrayal as the coins of the realm. Tales investigating moral ambiguity never go out of style.

Irvin, cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts and production designer Austen Spriggs evoke a gloomy and ominous sense of place, not just in England, but of the purgatory of Czechoslovakia (which you’ll be saddened to hear was really filmed in a downtrodden region outside Glasgow.

Another of the film’s virtue is its pacing. Never plodding, its stately gait actually ratchets up the tension. For six hours, (and it’s a plus to see it in one or two sittings) you think of that old cliché, the noose tightening – a noose that strangles people to a very real and horrible death. At the end of each hour’s episode, I found myself not taking a break, but sticking the next DVD in the machine.

Tinker marks one of Guinness’ last great performances (it was sandwiched between the first two Star Wars films). It’s a testament to his genius at internalized acting, often using a subtle pained glance or slight cock of the head to communicate severely-banked emotions and an incisive mind cloaked in a deceptively bland exterior.

The rest of the cast is an amazing collection of character actors whose faces everyone knows if not their names, many of them now dead: Ian Bannen as the consummate field agent, Ian Richardson as an urbane supervisor and Alexander Knox, looking dead already, as the fatally ill Control who is stunned by the horror of the betrayal of his staff. Patrick Stewart has a memorable scene as a captured Soviet spy who does not utter a word and simply glares malevolently with the steadfast ferocity of a true believer.

Hopcraft pulled off the daunting task of making as clear as possible le Carré’s elliptical storytelling. Le Carré’s love of Byzantine plotting here (brought to a head in A Perfect Spy) communicates the author’s goal of making the reader/viewer feel as confused and unmoored as the characters.

A new film version starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth is due out in December; the trailers look promising. But two questions: first, why bother remaking Casablanca or Citizen Kane? Second, at two hours rather than six, a great deal is going to have to be excised when the complexity is the point.

This package contains a booklet listing the entire cast, a dictionary of le Carré’s totally invented spycraft jargon, a description of who each character is to help viewers sort out the mess, a 20-minute interview with le Carré (or David Cornwall), and abbreviated filmographies of the major actors so you don ‘t have to run to IMDB.

Side note: If you love this kind of work, catch the continuing modern British spy series, MI-5 (known as Spooks in Britain), and, even better but harder to find, The Sandbaggers (1978-1970) a British TV series covering the same territory as le Carré, but even darker. All are on DVD.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy available on Acorn Media

Xav ID 577
2011-11-20 10:13:25

By Bill Hirschman

altThe zeitgeist of the world long ago caught up to John le Carré’s Cold War vision of gray civil servants wearily battling their bureaucratic masters as much as the external evils threatening the public, an almost Sisysphean task of protecting society in a world of uncertain loyalties, debatable ethics and ephemeral outcomes.

So the overwhelming but total justification to revisit the 1979 BBC TV mini-series le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (just re-released on DVD from Acorn Media) is not to learn anything new. It’s to revel in the superb artistry of cinematic storytellers deftly transferring a complex, thought-provoking work from one medium to another.

Notable for the work of Alec Guinness, director John Irvin and screenwriter Arthur Hopcraft, this brooding yet riveting six-hour spy story is the product of a troupe of highly skilled craftsmen creating what le Carré himself says is the best adaptation of his work.

The premise sounds simple but it is dense, elliptical and covertly suspenseful in its unveiling: A bureaucratic coup has ousted old-line British spymaster Control and his second in command, the graying George Smiley (Guinness). The coup came just as Control was trying to discover who in his top-level of lieutenants is actually a long-time Russian mole. Smiley is quietly asked by Whitehall to come out of retirement to discover the traitor inside the intelligence service named the Circus, despite having few resources, no authority and almost no one to trust.

Le Carré’s books and films, starting with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, are often described as the real world antithesis of James Bond. This is spycraft without gadgets: a simple wedge in a door is used to keep out interlopers during a black bag job.

Records are not computerized, but kept in dog-earred file folders. There is no glamour or glory, only self-doubt whether the altruistic ends justify the ethically-challenged means. The sparing amounts of violence, on screen and off, are all the more harrowing because the consequences here are prolonged torture and sudden death.

More importantly, the books and this film capture the paranoia and fear as well as any historical document can. Some critics predicted when the Cold War ended that le Carré’s career was over because his genre became irrelevant. This mini-series underscores why that didn’t happen: le Carré’s real focus were the people operating in, around and despite institutions that used ethics and pragmatism, loyalty and betrayal as the coins of the realm. Tales investigating moral ambiguity never go out of style.

Irvin, cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts and production designer Austen Spriggs evoke a gloomy and ominous sense of place, not just in England, but of the purgatory of Czechoslovakia (which you’ll be saddened to hear was really filmed in a downtrodden region outside Glasgow.

Another of the film’s virtue is its pacing. Never plodding, its stately gait actually ratchets up the tension. For six hours, (and it’s a plus to see it in one or two sittings) you think of that old cliché, the noose tightening – a noose that strangles people to a very real and horrible death. At the end of each hour’s episode, I found myself not taking a break, but sticking the next DVD in the machine.

Tinker marks one of Guinness’ last great performances (it was sandwiched between the first two Star Wars films). It’s a testament to his genius at internalized acting, often using a subtle pained glance or slight cock of the head to communicate severely-banked emotions and an incisive mind cloaked in a deceptively bland exterior.

The rest of the cast is an amazing collection of character actors whose faces everyone knows if not their names, many of them now dead: Ian Bannen as the consummate field agent, Ian Richardson as an urbane supervisor and Alexander Knox, looking dead already, as the fatally ill Control who is stunned by the horror of the betrayal of his staff. Patrick Stewart has a memorable scene as a captured Soviet spy who does not utter a word and simply glares malevolently with the steadfast ferocity of a true believer.

Hopcraft pulled off the daunting task of making as clear as possible le Carré’s elliptical storytelling. Le Carré’s love of Byzantine plotting here (brought to a head in A Perfect Spy) communicates the author’s goal of making the reader/viewer feel as confused and unmoored as the characters.

A new film version starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth is due out in December; the trailers look promising. But two questions: first, why bother remaking Casablanca or Citizen Kane? Second, at two hours rather than six, a great deal is going to have to be excised when the complexity is the point.

This package contains a booklet listing the entire cast, a dictionary of le Carré’s totally invented spycraft jargon, a description of who each character is to help viewers sort out the mess, a 20-minute interview with le Carré (or David Cornwall), and abbreviated filmographies of the major actors so you don ‘t have to run to IMDB.

Side note: If you love this kind of work, catch the continuing modern British spy series, MI-5 (known as Spooks in Britain), and, even better but harder to find, The Sandbaggers (1978-1970) a British TV series covering the same territory as le Carré, but even darker. All are on DVD.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy available on Acorn Media

Denise Hamilton's Homage to Writers
Oline Cogdill

altI always am looking for those tributes that authors give other writers in novels.

In Denise Hamilton's Damage Control, her heroine Maggie Silver finds that perfumes trigger her deepest memories. (See my post here)

But Maggie also is a reader and Hamilton shows Maggie's personality by telling the reader the books on her nightstand.

During Damage Control, Maggie reads a lot. The books she mentions are:

Toby Barlow’s first book, Sharp Teeth, a verse novel about werewolves: "Fangs, claws, furs. What's not to like?"

Georges Simenon: "whose dogged Paris police inspector understood how affairs of the heart could turn -- given the right mix of motive and circumstance -- to affairs of blood.

Charlaine Harris: "binging on vampires."

Hamilton, who writes a perfume column for the Los Angeles Times, mentions several authors, such as Jeffrey Marks' The Scent of Murder, in the column she wrote about perfume as clues to crimes.

Xav ID 577
2011-12-25 10:28:45

altI always am looking for those tributes that authors give other writers in novels.

In Denise Hamilton's Damage Control, her heroine Maggie Silver finds that perfumes trigger her deepest memories. (See my post here)

But Maggie also is a reader and Hamilton shows Maggie's personality by telling the reader the books on her nightstand.

During Damage Control, Maggie reads a lot. The books she mentions are:

Toby Barlow’s first book, Sharp Teeth, a verse novel about werewolves: "Fangs, claws, furs. What's not to like?"

Georges Simenon: "whose dogged Paris police inspector understood how affairs of the heart could turn -- given the right mix of motive and circumstance -- to affairs of blood.

Charlaine Harris: "binging on vampires."

Hamilton, who writes a perfume column for the Los Angeles Times, mentions several authors, such as Jeffrey Marks' The Scent of Murder, in the column she wrote about perfume as clues to crimes.

Authors Vie for Unusual Naming Rights
Oline Cogdill

altCorporations do it; so do organizations; and so do people.

Having something named after you such as a stadium, a school, a library, a theater or even a seat in a theater not only allows your name to be remembered but also shows your support.

Now a group of mystery authors are in a contest to see who can raise the most money to have a morgue at Dundee University in Scotland named after them.

Well, why not?

Crime writers Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs (left), Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver (below), Jeff Lindsay, Stuart MacBride, Peter James and Val McDermid are each trying to get the most votes in the "Million for a Morgue" campaign.

The author with the most public votes will have the morgue named after them.

altFans can vote for a favorite author online - with each vote contributing £1 to the fund raiser. A British £1 is equal to about $1.50 in American money, but the exchange rate changes daily.

Dundee University has committed one million pounds to the project, but another million pounds needs to be raised.

According to BBC News, the new morgue will adopt a "revolutionary" way of embalming - called the Thiel method - which keeps bodies flexible for longer.

This gives medics and researchers a more realistic way of testing techniques and practicing procedures, as well as developing new equipment and approaches, according to BBC News.

Dr. Sue Black, director of Dundee's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, is no stranger to crime novelists. According to the BBC News, authors often use her expertise.

According to BBC News, McDermid has used Black's advice when constructing the "grisly technical detail" in her novels.

"She has this rare ability to put things in layman's terms," McDermid was quoted.

By the way, my profile of McDermid is Mystery Scene's current cover story.

Xav ID 577
2011-11-09 10:20:01

altCorporations do it; so do organizations; and so do people.

Having something named after you such as a stadium, a school, a library, a theater or even a seat in a theater not only allows your name to be remembered but also shows your support.

Now a group of mystery authors are in a contest to see who can raise the most money to have a morgue at Dundee University in Scotland named after them.

Well, why not?

Crime writers Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs (left), Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver (below), Jeff Lindsay, Stuart MacBride, Peter James and Val McDermid are each trying to get the most votes in the "Million for a Morgue" campaign.

The author with the most public votes will have the morgue named after them.

altFans can vote for a favorite author online - with each vote contributing £1 to the fund raiser. A British £1 is equal to about $1.50 in American money, but the exchange rate changes daily.

Dundee University has committed one million pounds to the project, but another million pounds needs to be raised.

According to BBC News, the new morgue will adopt a "revolutionary" way of embalming - called the Thiel method - which keeps bodies flexible for longer.

This gives medics and researchers a more realistic way of testing techniques and practicing procedures, as well as developing new equipment and approaches, according to BBC News.

Dr. Sue Black, director of Dundee's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, is no stranger to crime novelists. According to the BBC News, authors often use her expertise.

According to BBC News, McDermid has used Black's advice when constructing the "grisly technical detail" in her novels.

"She has this rare ability to put things in layman's terms," McDermid was quoted.

By the way, my profile of McDermid is Mystery Scene's current cover story.

Authors Tackle Social Issues
Oline Cogdill

altCrime fiction's relevance comes up daily. Many of the novels I read seem to have their plots ripped from the headlines, tackling the issues that our society deals with. These novels are not just who-done-its but the modern social novel, giving us insight to world events with plots that put us on the scene.

The issue of immigrants, drug cartels and the trials of border patrol are in the news just about every day.

And mystery fiction has been tackling these issues, showing how people are affected as well as how politics enter the fray.

In Triple Crossing (Mulholland Books), journalist Sebastian Rotella delivers an intense novel about immigration's hot-button issues.

In this novel, rookie Border Patrol agent Valentine Pescatore is often uneasy about rounding up the illegal aliens along the California-Mexican border. While many of the patrol agents with whom he works are honest, Valentine also is pressured by those who enjoy using violence and cruelty toward the immigrants. They want him to be as inhumane as they are.

altValentine is recruited by a U.S. agent to infiltrate a powerful Mexican mafia family. Valentine ends up at the “triple border” of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay that is full of smugglers and terrorists.

In The Territory (Minotaur), Tricia Fields also shows the personal side of lawless drug cartels. Fields, the 2010 Tony Hillerman Prize winner, brings the reader to the war zone of Artemis, Texas, located along the Rio Grande at the border of Mexico. The decent people are under constant siege by two rival drug cartels. Chief of Police Josie Gray and her small department are outmanned by the wealthy, well-armed cartels.

In The Ninth Day (Harper), Jamie Freveletti has her biochemist Emma Caldridge taken prisoner by drug lord La Valle when she is in a remote area of Mexico. La Valle's top marijuana crop has been infected by a flesh-eating toxin that kills even those who just touch the leaves. He wants to send these leaves to America to spread the toxins.

Each of these authors brings the hot-button, massive issue to very personal stories populated by characters you grow to care about.

altWhen the relentless violence of the drug cartels reach innocent people, the reader feels for each character affected. Many of us can't wrap our brains about how massive are the issues of immigration and drug cartels. These seem like unsolvable problems fraught with politics, bribes and violence.

But without taking political sides, each of these authors put the human face on the issues and show us that solutions are attainable.

And the novels illustrate things that most Americans probably don't know about.

Rotella's Triple Crossing shows that many ethnicities use the Mexican border to come into the U.S. The smuggling non-Mexicans is incredibly lucrative with Chinese refugees paying up to $70,000 a piece.

There is a sense of compassion in each of these novels for those innocent people caught up in the cross-fire of battling drug cartels; for refugees who want a better life for themselves in the U.S.; and for the cops and agents trying to be the first line of defense.

And while the issues they tackle are tough, none of the novels are depressing. Each of these authors also knows they are writing crime fiction.

Freveletti has several books under her belt and has been tapped by the Estate of Robert Ludlum to write the next novel in the Covert One series about a team of political and technical experts.

Sebastian Rotella's Triple Crossing and Tricia Fields' The Territory are these authors first foray into fiction. I hope we hear more from each of these authors.

Xav ID 577
2011-11-13 10:08:28

altCrime fiction's relevance comes up daily. Many of the novels I read seem to have their plots ripped from the headlines, tackling the issues that our society deals with. These novels are not just who-done-its but the modern social novel, giving us insight to world events with plots that put us on the scene.

The issue of immigrants, drug cartels and the trials of border patrol are in the news just about every day.

And mystery fiction has been tackling these issues, showing how people are affected as well as how politics enter the fray.

In Triple Crossing (Mulholland Books), journalist Sebastian Rotella delivers an intense novel about immigration's hot-button issues.

In this novel, rookie Border Patrol agent Valentine Pescatore is often uneasy about rounding up the illegal aliens along the California-Mexican border. While many of the patrol agents with whom he works are honest, Valentine also is pressured by those who enjoy using violence and cruelty toward the immigrants. They want him to be as inhumane as they are.

altValentine is recruited by a U.S. agent to infiltrate a powerful Mexican mafia family. Valentine ends up at the “triple border” of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay that is full of smugglers and terrorists.

In The Territory (Minotaur), Tricia Fields also shows the personal side of lawless drug cartels. Fields, the 2010 Tony Hillerman Prize winner, brings the reader to the war zone of Artemis, Texas, located along the Rio Grande at the border of Mexico. The decent people are under constant siege by two rival drug cartels. Chief of Police Josie Gray and her small department are outmanned by the wealthy, well-armed cartels.

In The Ninth Day (Harper), Jamie Freveletti has her biochemist Emma Caldridge taken prisoner by drug lord La Valle when she is in a remote area of Mexico. La Valle's top marijuana crop has been infected by a flesh-eating toxin that kills even those who just touch the leaves. He wants to send these leaves to America to spread the toxins.

Each of these authors brings the hot-button, massive issue to very personal stories populated by characters you grow to care about.

altWhen the relentless violence of the drug cartels reach innocent people, the reader feels for each character affected. Many of us can't wrap our brains about how massive are the issues of immigration and drug cartels. These seem like unsolvable problems fraught with politics, bribes and violence.

But without taking political sides, each of these authors put the human face on the issues and show us that solutions are attainable.

And the novels illustrate things that most Americans probably don't know about.

Rotella's Triple Crossing shows that many ethnicities use the Mexican border to come into the U.S. The smuggling non-Mexicans is incredibly lucrative with Chinese refugees paying up to $70,000 a piece.

There is a sense of compassion in each of these novels for those innocent people caught up in the cross-fire of battling drug cartels; for refugees who want a better life for themselves in the U.S.; and for the cops and agents trying to be the first line of defense.

And while the issues they tackle are tough, none of the novels are depressing. Each of these authors also knows they are writing crime fiction.

Freveletti has several books under her belt and has been tapped by the Estate of Robert Ludlum to write the next novel in the Covert One series about a team of political and technical experts.

Sebastian Rotella's Triple Crossing and Tricia Fields' The Territory are these authors first foray into fiction. I hope we hear more from each of these authors.

Short Story's Second Life
Oline Cogdill

altThe ebook phenomenon has allowed many authors to republish their back lists, those novels out of print and even redo some work.

It also allows those authors trying to build up a fan base to be "discovered."

Take Paul Guyot.

Or rather, take his short story What a Wonderful World now available on Kindle.

What a Wonderful World is about a St. Louis cop obsessed with the death of a young woman who sold hot dogs. The short story originally appeared in the Mystery Writers of America compilation Blue Religion edited by Michael Connelly.

So who's Paul Guyot?

Guyot is a television producer and script writer who also has been writing some well-received crime short stories.

When I reviewed Blue Religion, Guyot's offering was one I made of point of mentioning.

Guyot's story stood out for me and I want to point out that he was in good company as the other authors in Blue Religion included T. Jefferson Parker, Alafair Burke, John Harvey, James O. Born, Paula Woods, Leslie Glass, Laurie King, the late Edward Hoch, Peter Robinson, and Greg Rucka.

Currently, Guyot is working on more short stories and a novel.

And Guyot's day job is still in television. He is a writer and producer of the TNT heist series Leverage, one of my husband's favorites. He also spent three years writing and producing the CBS drama Judging Amy.

Xav ID 577
2011-11-16 10:23:30

altThe ebook phenomenon has allowed many authors to republish their back lists, those novels out of print and even redo some work.

It also allows those authors trying to build up a fan base to be "discovered."

Take Paul Guyot.

Or rather, take his short story What a Wonderful World now available on Kindle.

What a Wonderful World is about a St. Louis cop obsessed with the death of a young woman who sold hot dogs. The short story originally appeared in the Mystery Writers of America compilation Blue Religion edited by Michael Connelly.

So who's Paul Guyot?

Guyot is a television producer and script writer who also has been writing some well-received crime short stories.

When I reviewed Blue Religion, Guyot's offering was one I made of point of mentioning.

Guyot's story stood out for me and I want to point out that he was in good company as the other authors in Blue Religion included T. Jefferson Parker, Alafair Burke, John Harvey, James O. Born, Paula Woods, Leslie Glass, Laurie King, the late Edward Hoch, Peter Robinson, and Greg Rucka.

Currently, Guyot is working on more short stories and a novel.

And Guyot's day job is still in television. He is a writer and producer of the TNT heist series Leverage, one of my husband's favorites. He also spent three years writing and producing the CBS drama Judging Amy.

Peter and the Starcatcher Broadway Bound
Oline Cogdill

altDave Barry and Ridley Pearson's popular 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatcher tells the story of Peter, an orphan who becomes Peter Pan.

The series resonated with readers, especially boys, who could not resist Peter's tales of pirates, sea battles, flying camels, devious villains, and worthy heroes.

Peter and the Starcatcher is adventure telling at its finest.

And soon the creation of Barry and Pearson will be coming to Broadway.

Disney Theatrical Productions is developing Peter and the Starcatcher to open next spring on Broadway.

The theatrical version of Peter and the Starcatcher was well received last spring by critics and viewers during its run at the New York Theatre Workshop.

Casting has not yet been finalized for the Broadway run, but Adam Chanler-Berat who starred as Peter in the workshop version is expected to return to the role.

According to several newspaper and web sources, the production is being adapted by Rick Elice (The Addams Family, Jersey Boys) and will include the same creative team as the New York Theatre Workshop production, with Roger Rees directing. The British actor Rees also directed The Addams Family, which closed a couple of months ago on Broadway but is now having a second life in tour.

Can't get to New York City? Then, as usual, I highly recommend the books.

Xav ID 577
2011-12-28 10:00:18

altDave Barry and Ridley Pearson's popular 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatcher tells the story of Peter, an orphan who becomes Peter Pan.

The series resonated with readers, especially boys, who could not resist Peter's tales of pirates, sea battles, flying camels, devious villains, and worthy heroes.

Peter and the Starcatcher is adventure telling at its finest.

And soon the creation of Barry and Pearson will be coming to Broadway.

Disney Theatrical Productions is developing Peter and the Starcatcher to open next spring on Broadway.

The theatrical version of Peter and the Starcatcher was well received last spring by critics and viewers during its run at the New York Theatre Workshop.

Casting has not yet been finalized for the Broadway run, but Adam Chanler-Berat who starred as Peter in the workshop version is expected to return to the role.

According to several newspaper and web sources, the production is being adapted by Rick Elice (The Addams Family, Jersey Boys) and will include the same creative team as the New York Theatre Workshop production, with Roger Rees directing. The British actor Rees also directed The Addams Family, which closed a couple of months ago on Broadway but is now having a second life in tour.

Can't get to New York City? Then, as usual, I highly recommend the books.

First-Class Plot, Acting on Pbs' Page Eight
Bill Hirschman

altIt’s worth re-watching the 1979 mini-series of John LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy because David Hare’s Page Eight on Sunday, Nov. 6, on PBS’ Masterpiece Contemporary series illustrates how little things have changed in the ethically murky world of intelligence gathering.

In the 21st Century, Hare shows, the Soviet threat has simply been replaced with the terrorist threat; there’s still as much treachery inside MI-5 as outside. Only now, the bastardized use of that intelligence is even more about the expediency of political survival by the powers-that-be.

Blessed with a first-rate cast down to the supporting players plus an incisive script and deft direction by Hare, Page Eight is a riveting yet underplayed political thriller that is equally an inquiry into the internal human struggle between corruption and integrity.

The plot focuses on Johnny Worricker (the brilliant Bill Nighy), a world-weary intelligence analyst who is second in command to MI-5’s chief, the aging Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon).

Baron has discovered a document revealing with undeniable specificity that the British’s intelligence partner, the Americans, have been torturing people in secret prisons around the world – and that somebody highly-placed in the British government has known about it and suppressed information that could have saved British lives.

The resulting machinations and maneuverings force Johnny into a series of seemingly no-win choices that will test his skill and his honor.

The tall, slender Nighy inhabits the skin of a latter-day George Smiley, externally a gray drone, but internally the master of a vital and keen intelligence. You can see his mind evaluating everyone he meets to consider whether they are a friend, an enemy, a friend-turned-enemy.

Worricker is an old-school true believer. He tells a disenchanted field agent: “The purpose of intelligence is to find the truth, not to confirm what we already believe. We’re meant to look for what’s there, not what we want to be there.”

But the agent responds, “Come on, Johnny. Once they wanted Communists; we gave them Communists. Now they decide they want Arabs; we find them Arabs. Nothing’s changed.”

altThis territory is not new. The ongoing British TV series MI-5 (or Spooks) covers similar ground, as did the 1978-80 British TV series The Sandbaggers.

But throughout a career writing plays and making films, Hare has returned repeatedly to exploring the difficulty of maintaining one’s ethics in a morally ambiguous world. Like John le Carré, Hare knows that the real fascination is not the drab bureaucracy of intelligence work, but the damage that a morally compromised world inflicts on individual’s humanity.

Throughout Page Eight, the questions people ask each other have to do with loyalty and trust and, by extension, the principles that define worthwhile human beings.

At one point, Benedict tells Worricker after regretting not briefing him, “Distrust is a terrible habit. You find that? There’s a fine line between calculation and deceit.”

Hare has collected a simply impeccable cast led by the subtle skills of Nighy and Gambon. But also on board are the lovely Rachel Weisz as his suddenly-friendly Syrian neighbor with a tragic past; a care-worn Judy Davis as Worricker’s pragmatic nemesis inside MI-5, Alice Krige as Worricker’s ex-wife, Saskia Reeves (the first season boss in Luther) as the Home Secretary out of her depth, and Ralph Fiennes delivering a slick, creepy political equivalent of Voldemort as Prime Minister. Even the cameos are staffed with stellar actors such as Marthe Keller.

This is don’t miss television. And if you do miss it, you can catch Page Eight on pbs.org or on DVD, which will be released Nov. 8. It’s worth the effort.

While we’re in the neighborhood, here’s a final question: Why have almost all great filmed political thrillers originated in England (Costa Gavras’ Z and John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate notwithstanding). With a few exceptions, all American films of this ilk are thefts and remakes of British originals.

Page Eight airs at 9 p.m. Nov. 6 on PBS; check your local listings.

Photos: Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz; Judy Davis. PBS photos

Xav ID 577
2011-11-03 00:14:42

altIt’s worth re-watching the 1979 mini-series of John LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy because David Hare’s Page Eight on Sunday, Nov. 6, on PBS’ Masterpiece Contemporary series illustrates how little things have changed in the ethically murky world of intelligence gathering.

In the 21st Century, Hare shows, the Soviet threat has simply been replaced with the terrorist threat; there’s still as much treachery inside MI-5 as outside. Only now, the bastardized use of that intelligence is even more about the expediency of political survival by the powers-that-be.

Blessed with a first-rate cast down to the supporting players plus an incisive script and deft direction by Hare, Page Eight is a riveting yet underplayed political thriller that is equally an inquiry into the internal human struggle between corruption and integrity.

The plot focuses on Johnny Worricker (the brilliant Bill Nighy), a world-weary intelligence analyst who is second in command to MI-5’s chief, the aging Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon).

Baron has discovered a document revealing with undeniable specificity that the British’s intelligence partner, the Americans, have been torturing people in secret prisons around the world – and that somebody highly-placed in the British government has known about it and suppressed information that could have saved British lives.

The resulting machinations and maneuverings force Johnny into a series of seemingly no-win choices that will test his skill and his honor.

The tall, slender Nighy inhabits the skin of a latter-day George Smiley, externally a gray drone, but internally the master of a vital and keen intelligence. You can see his mind evaluating everyone he meets to consider whether they are a friend, an enemy, a friend-turned-enemy.

Worricker is an old-school true believer. He tells a disenchanted field agent: “The purpose of intelligence is to find the truth, not to confirm what we already believe. We’re meant to look for what’s there, not what we want to be there.”

But the agent responds, “Come on, Johnny. Once they wanted Communists; we gave them Communists. Now they decide they want Arabs; we find them Arabs. Nothing’s changed.”

altThis territory is not new. The ongoing British TV series MI-5 (or Spooks) covers similar ground, as did the 1978-80 British TV series The Sandbaggers.

But throughout a career writing plays and making films, Hare has returned repeatedly to exploring the difficulty of maintaining one’s ethics in a morally ambiguous world. Like John le Carré, Hare knows that the real fascination is not the drab bureaucracy of intelligence work, but the damage that a morally compromised world inflicts on individual’s humanity.

Throughout Page Eight, the questions people ask each other have to do with loyalty and trust and, by extension, the principles that define worthwhile human beings.

At one point, Benedict tells Worricker after regretting not briefing him, “Distrust is a terrible habit. You find that? There’s a fine line between calculation and deceit.”

Hare has collected a simply impeccable cast led by the subtle skills of Nighy and Gambon. But also on board are the lovely Rachel Weisz as his suddenly-friendly Syrian neighbor with a tragic past; a care-worn Judy Davis as Worricker’s pragmatic nemesis inside MI-5, Alice Krige as Worricker’s ex-wife, Saskia Reeves (the first season boss in Luther) as the Home Secretary out of her depth, and Ralph Fiennes delivering a slick, creepy political equivalent of Voldemort as Prime Minister. Even the cameos are staffed with stellar actors such as Marthe Keller.

This is don’t miss television. And if you do miss it, you can catch Page Eight on pbs.org or on DVD, which will be released Nov. 8. It’s worth the effort.

While we’re in the neighborhood, here’s a final question: Why have almost all great filmed political thrillers originated in England (Costa Gavras’ Z and John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate notwithstanding). With a few exceptions, all American films of this ilk are thefts and remakes of British originals.

Page Eight airs at 9 p.m. Nov. 6 on PBS; check your local listings.

Photos: Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz; Judy Davis. PBS photos

The Rich and the Dead (Audiobook)
Dick Lochte

As F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway famously observed in The Great Gatsby, the rich are different from you and me. But along with all the good stuff, like wealth and power and independence, the differences also include an increased proximity to crime and criminals, a point entertainingly made by this new short story collection from the Mystery Writers of America. The 20 tales, nearly all set in the mansions, private clubs, boardrooms, or penthouse apartments of the folks who get all those fat tax breaks, come from authors such as Lee Child, Michael Connelly, David Morrell, and the book’s editor Nelson DeMille, several of whom probably breathe a lot of that rarified air themselves. To do justice to the first-class material, a gallery of top narrators has been assembled, including David Colacci, Dick Hill, Joyce Bean, Phil Gigante, and Susan Ericksen.

The stories range from the short and sweet—like S.J. Rozan’s cold suggestion of how to handle tabloid journalists, “Iterations,” crisply narrated by Christopher Lane—to the novella-size—exemplified by Angela Zeman’s “Daphne, Unrequited,” which reads like an homage to the late Dominick Dunne, delivered with a cynical edge by Ericksen, and Ted Bell’s breezy blackmail yarn, “The Pirate of Palm Beach,” read with wry amusement by Hill. It was inevitable that the Bernard Madoff con be referenced—there are at least two—Twist Phelan’s “Happine$$,” read by Dan John Miller, and Michael Connelly’s “Blood Washes Off,” a mordant dialogue between Harry Bosch and a victim’s wife, nicely enacted by Hill and Sandy Burr. From Frank Cook’s “The Gift,” an inventive big business tale involving ear worms, read by Luke Daniels, to Harley Jane Kozak’s mixture of murder and romance, “Lamborghini Mommy,” narrated by Ericksen, this is a particularly well-produced audio package. It even includes a helpful cover index of each story’s disk and track location.

Teri Duerr
2011-11-03 16:41:44

As F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway famously observed in The Great Gatsby, the rich are different from you and me. But along with all the good stuff, like wealth and power and independence, the differences also include an increased proximity to crime and criminals, a point entertainingly made by this new short story collection from the Mystery Writers of America. The 20 tales, nearly all set in the mansions, private clubs, boardrooms, or penthouse apartments of the folks who get all those fat tax breaks, come from authors such as Lee Child, Michael Connelly, David Morrell, and the book’s editor Nelson DeMille, several of whom probably breathe a lot of that rarified air themselves. To do justice to the first-class material, a gallery of top narrators has been assembled, including David Colacci, Dick Hill, Joyce Bean, Phil Gigante, and Susan Ericksen.

The stories range from the short and sweet—like S.J. Rozan’s cold suggestion of how to handle tabloid journalists, “Iterations,” crisply narrated by Christopher Lane—to the novella-size—exemplified by Angela Zeman’s “Daphne, Unrequited,” which reads like an homage to the late Dominick Dunne, delivered with a cynical edge by Ericksen, and Ted Bell’s breezy blackmail yarn, “The Pirate of Palm Beach,” read with wry amusement by Hill. It was inevitable that the Bernard Madoff con be referenced—there are at least two—Twist Phelan’s “Happine$$,” read by Dan John Miller, and Michael Connelly’s “Blood Washes Off,” a mordant dialogue between Harry Bosch and a victim’s wife, nicely enacted by Hill and Sandy Burr. From Frank Cook’s “The Gift,” an inventive big business tale involving ear worms, read by Luke Daniels, to Harley Jane Kozak’s mixture of murder and romance, “Lamborghini Mommy,” narrated by Ericksen, this is a particularly well-produced audio package. It even includes a helpful cover index of each story’s disk and track location.

Misery Bay (Audiobook)
Dick Lochte

Hamilton, winner of last year’s Best Novel Edgar for the standalone thriller The Lock Artist, returns to his Alex McKnight series after a protracted layoff, picking up more or less where he left off with another powerful, dark tale of soul-chilling murder at body-chilling temperature (set in wintertime in Michigan’s frosty Upper Peninsula). It’s a particularly icy March when McKnight, a former baseball player, ex-cop-turned-cabin-owner-manager, and reluctant private eye, is persuaded to put on his gumshoe snow shoes by his old nemesis, Police Chief Roy Maven. The chief’s former partner’s son has been transformed into a human ice at the appropriately named Misery Bay, an apparent suicide. Maven wants McKnight to investigate, mainly to convince his pal that the boy really did take his life. But fictional death, like life, is never simple. And when Maven’s partner is murdered in the chief’s home, the investigation, along with the anti-buddy relationship of McKnight and the chief, is subjected to a few sharp twists and turns. Dan John Miller was an inspired choice to read the novel. Not only is he an actor and Earphones Award-winner, his professionalism clearly evident in the novel’s conversational set pieces that he transforms into radio-like drama, he, like the book’s narrator, McKnight, is Michigan-born. It would take a better ear than mine to pick out a Wolverine state accent, but I can only assume that his is as authentic as any native son’s. In any case, if you’re not yet a fan of Hamilton’s fiction, this neatly constructed crime yarn, compellingly performed by Miller should be all the prompting you’ll need to join the club.

Teri Duerr
2011-11-03 17:00:24

hamiltonsteve2_miserybayHamilton, winner of last year’s Best Novel Edgar for the standalone thriller The Lock Artist, returns.

100 Most Popular Contemporary Mystery Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies
Jon L. Breen

The hundred choices, all of whom write in English and were living at the time of the book’s preparation, are about evenly divided between men and women. They are generally an excellent selection. The absence of several major figures—Walter Mosley (whose name is consistently misspelled Moseley), Mary Higgins Clark, Elmore Leonard, P.D. James, Sara Paretsky, Ruth Rendell—is accounted for by their presence in other volumes in the publisher’s popular author series. While the same is probably true of an especially surprising omission, Michael Connelly, I suspect Simon Brett and Robert Barnard, certainly more important and probably more popular than many of the writers included, have fallen through the cracks.

Each entry includes a feature-article-style biography and career summary, heavily reliant on secondary sources, a list of fiction books by series (a continuing character being an apparent requirement for inclusion), and a list of sources of further information, including print and online sources. Black-and-white passport-size head shots illustrate many of the entries.

As a few examples will show, this is among the all-too-plentiful reference sources harmed by excessive errors and inconsistency of coverage. Listings of books contributed to range from seemingly exhaustive (Bill Crider, Lawrence Block) to annoyingly sparse (Joe Lansdale, Bill Pronzini). Carolyn Hart’s Secrets is not a contributed-to anthology but a single-author short story collection. The entry for Laurie King should note that The Art of Detection belongs to both the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli series. Though some tabloid sensations are noted (e.g. Rita Mae Brown’s relationship with Martina Navratilova), the Anne Perry entry, while giving her real name of Juliet Hulme, says nothing about her involvement as defendant in a New Zealand murder case—or indeed that she ever lived in New Zealand. The Donald Bain entry makes no reference to his widely known ghostwriting of Margaret Truman’s mystery novels. Of Max Allan Collins’ posthumous collaborations with Mickey Spillane, listed here as Mike Hammer novels, Dead Street does not include Hammer, and King of the Weeds was apparently retitled Kiss Her Goodbye and not published until 2011. Jack Webb’s The Badge, referenced in the James Ellroy entry, is not a novel but a nonfiction work. And finally, in the Carole Nelson Douglas entry, Drew has listed at least one pure phantom: Probable Cause (1993), a collection of four novellas about a fictitious California law firm written by Douglas, Carolyn Banks, William Bernhardt, and yours truly—it would have been fun, but alas, it was never published or even written.

While this might be a passable inclusion for a small public or school library reference collection, there’s little to interest the serious fan or scholar. The secondary bibliographies are the most useful feature, but they are very spotty in their scope, rarely including material from genre-specific publications like Mystery Scene or The Armchair Detective.

Teri Duerr
2011-11-03 17:12:32

The hundred choices, all of whom write in English and were living at the time of the book’s preparation, are about evenly divided between men and women. They are generally an excellent selection. The absence of several major figures—Walter Mosley (whose name is consistently misspelled Moseley), Mary Higgins Clark, Elmore Leonard, P.D. James, Sara Paretsky, Ruth Rendell—is accounted for by their presence in other volumes in the publisher’s popular author series. While the same is probably true of an especially surprising omission, Michael Connelly, I suspect Simon Brett and Robert Barnard, certainly more important and probably more popular than many of the writers included, have fallen through the cracks.

Each entry includes a feature-article-style biography and career summary, heavily reliant on secondary sources, a list of fiction books by series (a continuing character being an apparent requirement for inclusion), and a list of sources of further information, including print and online sources. Black-and-white passport-size head shots illustrate many of the entries.

As a few examples will show, this is among the all-too-plentiful reference sources harmed by excessive errors and inconsistency of coverage. Listings of books contributed to range from seemingly exhaustive (Bill Crider, Lawrence Block) to annoyingly sparse (Joe Lansdale, Bill Pronzini). Carolyn Hart’s Secrets is not a contributed-to anthology but a single-author short story collection. The entry for Laurie King should note that The Art of Detection belongs to both the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli series. Though some tabloid sensations are noted (e.g. Rita Mae Brown’s relationship with Martina Navratilova), the Anne Perry entry, while giving her real name of Juliet Hulme, says nothing about her involvement as defendant in a New Zealand murder case—or indeed that she ever lived in New Zealand. The Donald Bain entry makes no reference to his widely known ghostwriting of Margaret Truman’s mystery novels. Of Max Allan Collins’ posthumous collaborations with Mickey Spillane, listed here as Mike Hammer novels, Dead Street does not include Hammer, and King of the Weeds was apparently retitled Kiss Her Goodbye and not published until 2011. Jack Webb’s The Badge, referenced in the James Ellroy entry, is not a novel but a nonfiction work. And finally, in the Carole Nelson Douglas entry, Drew has listed at least one pure phantom: Probable Cause (1993), a collection of four novellas about a fictitious California law firm written by Douglas, Carolyn Banks, William Bernhardt, and yours truly—it would have been fun, but alas, it was never published or even written.

While this might be a passable inclusion for a small public or school library reference collection, there’s little to interest the serious fan or scholar. The secondary bibliographies are the most useful feature, but they are very spotty in their scope, rarely including material from genre-specific publications like Mystery Scene or The Armchair Detective.