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.

Super User
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 05:11

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.

Super User
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 05:12

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

Super User
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 08:11

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
Thursday, 03 November 2011 12:11

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
Thursday, 03 November 2011 01:11

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
Thursday, 03 November 2011 01:11

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.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I
Jon L. Breen

To establish the mystery writing credentials of Mark Twain, there’s no need to dig into Tom Sawyer, Detective, A Double-Barreled Detective Story, or Pudd’nhead Wilson. Look no further than the Great American Novel itself, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is full of crime (mostly confidence games), suspense, menace, pursuit, impersonation, and genuine detective work by various characters. Admittedly, there’s not much related to mystery fiction in this unexpurgated edition of Twain’s autobiography, which was banned from complete publication until a century after his death. But anyone with an interest in Twain, the writing life, the evolution of American humor, or American literature of the 19th and early 20th century will be captivated by this first of three projected volumes. Illustrations include photographs and manuscript pages. An introduction and meticulous editorial notes make up over a third of the page count. Literary scholarship was never more entertaining.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 01:11

To establish the mystery writing credentials of Mark Twain, there’s no need to dig into Tom Sawyer, Detective, A Double-Barreled Detective Story, or Pudd’nhead Wilson. Look no further than the Great American Novel itself, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is full of crime (mostly confidence games), suspense, menace, pursuit, impersonation, and genuine detective work by various characters. Admittedly, there’s not much related to mystery fiction in this unexpurgated edition of Twain’s autobiography, which was banned from complete publication until a century after his death. But anyone with an interest in Twain, the writing life, the evolution of American humor, or American literature of the 19th and early 20th century will be captivated by this first of three projected volumes. Illustrations include photographs and manuscript pages. An introduction and meticulous editorial notes make up over a third of the page count. Literary scholarship was never more entertaining.

Liver Let Die
Lynne F. Maxwell

For an offbeat light read, consider Liz Lipperman’s Liver Let Die, a series opener that features Jordan McAllister, an accidental food critic for the Ranchero Globe. This small-town Texas paper is quite a step down for Jordan, who was accustomed to higher profile gigs in Austin. Still, she has managed to create physical distance from her longstanding, but two-timing, boyfriend, Brett. Dreaming of a career as sportswriter and having trained for it in college, she finds herself in a seemingly dead-end job writing personals. Thus, when her editor summons Jordan to his office, she never guesses that she is about to receive a “promotion,” of sorts, to temporary food editor. While this assignment might seem like a dream job for most of us, Jordan is terrified because she has no familiarity with fine food, and she certainly has no stockpile of recipes for publication in her column. Fine dining, however, becomes dangerous as she ignorantly orders foie gras, hates it and becomes fodder for some deadly characters, indeed. In a fast-paced mystery that moves in unexpected directions, illegal diamond trafficking brings Jordan into close relationships with her beloved, motley crew of friends and a stunning new love interest.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 02:11

For an offbeat light read, consider Liz Lipperman’s Liver Let Die, a series opener that features Jordan McAllister, an accidental food critic for the Ranchero Globe. This small-town Texas paper is quite a step down for Jordan, who was accustomed to higher profile gigs in Austin. Still, she has managed to create physical distance from her longstanding, but two-timing, boyfriend, Brett. Dreaming of a career as sportswriter and having trained for it in college, she finds herself in a seemingly dead-end job writing personals. Thus, when her editor summons Jordan to his office, she never guesses that she is about to receive a “promotion,” of sorts, to temporary food editor. While this assignment might seem like a dream job for most of us, Jordan is terrified because she has no familiarity with fine food, and she certainly has no stockpile of recipes for publication in her column. Fine dining, however, becomes dangerous as she ignorantly orders foie gras, hates it and becomes fodder for some deadly characters, indeed. In a fast-paced mystery that moves in unexpected directions, illegal diamond trafficking brings Jordan into close relationships with her beloved, motley crew of friends and a stunning new love interest.

Claim of Innocence
Lynne F. Maxwell

Claim of Innocence, Laura Caldwell’s latest, returns series heroine Izzy McNeil to her original career as an attorney. Back from her hiatus as a private investigator, Izzy is enlisted by her closest friend to participate in a complicated criminal trial. While this is a challenging lure back to lawyerdom, there is a major problem: Izzy’s experience has been in the radically different realm of civil litigation. Author Caldwell, a former civil litigator and current law professor, knows whereof she writes when she throws Izzy into a high profile case involving an accusation of murder by poisoning, an illicit love affair, and massive deceit all around. Izzy learns by immersion that clients don’t necessarily tell the truth, and, at times, it behooves attorneys to steer clear of examination of innocence. At any rate, Izzy assumes the case and takes on additional investigative responsibility in this cleverly plotted novel. Not only does Caldwell do a particularly good job in developing the character of Izzy, but, not surprisingly, she is also spot-on in her presentation of matters pertaining to the law. She’s not so bad on the conflicting love interests, either. Forget John Grisham; Laura Caldwell is the real deal.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 02:11

caldwell_claimofinnocenceLaura Caldwell’s latest, returns series heroine, PI Izzy McNeil, to her original career as an attorney.

Mind Over Murder
Lynne F. Maxwell

If you’re like me, you will heartily embrace the new series by Allison Kingsley, inaugurated by Mind Over Murder, the first Raven’s Nest mystery. Introducing series protagonist Clara Quinn, and deviating from the usual mystery bookshop setting, Kingsley creates a new twist on the bookshop subgenre—i.e., the Raven’s Nest, the bookstore in question, houses an eclectic mix of new age and occult books, along with an extensive selection of cookbooks. Clara, cousin of the owner of the Raven’s Nest, is a recent refugee from New York and failed love. When she returns to her quaint Maine hometown, her cousin Stephanie strong-arms her into helping out in the store. Shortly after her arrival, the body of Ana, the nasty busybody from the adjoining shop, is discovered in the basement of the Raven’s Nest. Unfortunately, bookshop employee Molly becomes the prime suspect since she closed the store on the night in question and, even worse, made an untimely comment the previous day out of exasperation with Ana. In order to prove Molly innocent, Stephanie convinces Clara to use the Quinn Sense, a potent psychic power, to discover the true murderer from a pool of viable suspects. What follows is a skillful amalgam of mystery new age and romantic plot strands, certain to appeal to fans of these genres—and to numerous others, as well. Kingsley and her heroine Clara Quinn will return soon—but not soon enough—to continue the saga set in the happy, yet hapless, bookshop. And with the demise of the big-box bookstores, we wish the Raven’s Nest and its ilk all the luck—albeit fraught with murder and mayhem—in the world.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 02:11

If you’re like me, you will heartily embrace the new series by Allison Kingsley, inaugurated by Mind Over Murder, the first Raven’s Nest mystery. Introducing series protagonist Clara Quinn, and deviating from the usual mystery bookshop setting, Kingsley creates a new twist on the bookshop subgenre—i.e., the Raven’s Nest, the bookstore in question, houses an eclectic mix of new age and occult books, along with an extensive selection of cookbooks. Clara, cousin of the owner of the Raven’s Nest, is a recent refugee from New York and failed love. When she returns to her quaint Maine hometown, her cousin Stephanie strong-arms her into helping out in the store. Shortly after her arrival, the body of Ana, the nasty busybody from the adjoining shop, is discovered in the basement of the Raven’s Nest. Unfortunately, bookshop employee Molly becomes the prime suspect since she closed the store on the night in question and, even worse, made an untimely comment the previous day out of exasperation with Ana. In order to prove Molly innocent, Stephanie convinces Clara to use the Quinn Sense, a potent psychic power, to discover the true murderer from a pool of viable suspects. What follows is a skillful amalgam of mystery new age and romantic plot strands, certain to appeal to fans of these genres—and to numerous others, as well. Kingsley and her heroine Clara Quinn will return soon—but not soon enough—to continue the saga set in the happy, yet hapless, bookshop. And with the demise of the big-box bookstores, we wish the Raven’s Nest and its ilk all the luck—albeit fraught with murder and mayhem—in the world.

The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense
Bill Crider

Black Dog Books has just published a collection of 13 stories by Sax Rohmer, best known for the creation of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense represents Rohmer at the beginning of his career, and four of the stories it includes have never before appeared in print in the US. For me the high point is “The Zayat Kiss,” the very first story to feature Dr. Fu Manchu. The story, which forms a portion of the first novel about the evil doctor, was originally published almost 100 years ago. “The Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom” stands on its own, though it’s a selection from the second Fu Manchu novel. Fine, creepy stuff.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 03:11

Black Dog Books has just published a collection of 13 stories by Sax Rohmer, best known for the creation of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense represents Rohmer at the beginning of his career, and four of the stories it includes have never before appeared in print in the US. For me the high point is “The Zayat Kiss,” the very first story to feature Dr. Fu Manchu. The story, which forms a portion of the first novel about the evil doctor, was originally published almost 100 years ago. “The Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom” stands on its own, though it’s a selection from the second Fu Manchu novel. Fine, creepy stuff.

Valentino: Film Detective
Bill Crider

Loren Estleman’s stories about Valentino, the film detective, not the movie star, have been appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for over ten years now. Valentino lives in an old renovated movie theater, and he makes the money he needs to continue the renovations by tracking down prints of films that are thought to be lost forever. Often there’s murder involved, and Valentino has to become another kind of sleuth. Now all the stories have been collected into one volume, Valentino: Film Detective and there’s also an introduction by Estleman, who obviously loves old movies as much as his character. If you like films and good writing, you need a copy of this book.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 03:11

Loren Estleman’s stories about Valentino, the film detective, not the movie star, have been appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for over ten years now. Valentino lives in an old renovated movie theater, and he makes the money he needs to continue the renovations by tracking down prints of films that are thought to be lost forever. Often there’s murder involved, and Valentino has to become another kind of sleuth. Now all the stories have been collected into one volume, Valentino: Film Detective and there’s also an introduction by Estleman, who obviously loves old movies as much as his character. If you like films and good writing, you need a copy of this book.

Fish Tales: the Guppy Anthology
Bill Crider

From Wildside Press comes Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long. For those who don’t know, the Guppies are members of Sisters in Crime’s online chapter for “the great unpublished.” Except that some of them have been published before in other genres, and some have published other crime stories and novels. Now 22 of them have been published in this anthology of stories with a watery theme. Annette Dashofy’s “A Murder Runs Through It” is about a riverside picnic spoiled by murder. Beth Groundwater is a successful mystery novelist already. Her story, “Fatal Fish Flop,” has a great opening line for an anthology like this one. Kaye George’s “The Truck Contest” proves that sometimes pickups and ice-covered lakes aren’t a good combination. All the stories are well done, and this volume is a great opportunity for you to discover some writers just beginning what are sure to be long careers.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 03:11

From Wildside Press comes Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long. For those who don’t know, the Guppies are members of Sisters in Crime’s online chapter for “the great unpublished.” Except that some of them have been published before in other genres, and some have published other crime stories and novels. Now 22 of them have been published in this anthology of stories with a watery theme. Annette Dashofy’s “A Murder Runs Through It” is about a riverside picnic spoiled by murder. Beth Groundwater is a successful mystery novelist already. Her story, “Fatal Fish Flop,” has a great opening line for an anthology like this one. Kaye George’s “The Truck Contest” proves that sometimes pickups and ice-covered lakes aren’t a good combination. All the stories are well done, and this volume is a great opportunity for you to discover some writers just beginning what are sure to be long careers.

Crimes in Southern Indiana
Bill Crider

These stories are as tough as they come, full of meth cookers and dogfights and rusty pickup trucks, populated by characters as vivid as your neighbors, except that you wouldn’t want to live next door to any of them. Bill’s career is going to take off fast, since the first three stories in the book, collectively called “The Hill Clan Trilogy,” are scheduled to appear in Playboy. Here’s a chance to read a writer who’s going to be around a long time.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 03:11

These stories are as tough as they come, full of meth cookers and dogfights and rusty pickup trucks, populated by characters as vivid as your neighbors, except that you wouldn’t want to live next door to any of them. Bill’s career is going to take off fast, since the first three stories in the book, collectively called “The Hill Clan Trilogy,” are scheduled to appear in Playboy. Here’s a chance to read a writer who’s going to be around a long time.

The Rich and the Dead
Bill Crider

The most recent anthology from the Mystery Writers of America is The Rich and the Dead, edited by Nelson DeMille, who also contributes an introduction and the first story in the book. The theme is crimes involving great wealth, and the lineup of authors is a powerhouse mix. Want to know the difference between the rich and the super rich? Read Harley Jane Kozak’s “Lamborghini Mommy.” In the mood for a dandy little revenge story? You can’t go wrong with Daniel J. Hale’s “The Precipice.” For something a little lighter, there’s Ted Bell’s very funny story of a con man, “The Pirate of Palm Beach.” It’s a great anthology, and some of the other stories are by Lee Child (stepping away from Jack Reacher for a moment), Michael Connelly (this one features Harry Bosch), S. J. Rozan, Angela Zeman, and a host of others who all provide plenty of quality entertainment. Don’t miss this one.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 03:11

demille_therichandthedeadThe theme is crimes involving great wealth, and the lineup of authors is a powerhouse mix.

The Vices
Betty Webb

There aren’t a lot of mystery novels out there where philosophers’ names get tossed around like confetti (Hegel, Strindberg, Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, Kant, et al.), but in Lawrence Douglas’ The Vices you’ll run into a baker’s dozen of them. In deeply reflective, gorgeous prose, Douglas spins the yarn of brilliant but disturbed philosopher Oliver Vice, the fictional author of Paradoxes of Self, who disappears during an ocean voyage. Was he murdered? Did he commit suicide? Or did he simply think himself into a more elevated plane of existence? Oliver’s friend, the unnamed narrator of the story, finds himself sucked into the dysfunctional Vice family dynamics when he attempts to find out what really did happen aboard that ship. The main players here are aging Hungarian beauty Francizka, Oliver’s manipulative mother; Bartholomew, Olivier’s elephantine, slow-witted brother; and a coterie of hangers-on, all of whom are hiding something.

In an adults-only flashback, we are whisked alongside Oliver into a no-holds-barred sex club. The philosopher is so jaded that although he partakes of the sexual smorgasbord, he finds it all pretty dull. In between the eyebrow-raising escapades of this peculiar cast of characters, we are treated to several pages of Oliver’s cerebral tome. Readers who are philosophically inclined will gobble it up; those who aren’t won’t. As for myself, I became so intrigued with Paradoxes of Self that I was disappointed when the author stopped quoting from it and began exploring the more mundane worlds of art forgery and blackmail. While there are mysteries galore in The Vices, it’s actually a literary novel. Or a philosophy treatise. Or an abnormal psychology monograph. Or...oh, what difference does it make? Oliver and his family and friends are so outrageously entertaining in their neurotic complexities that you’ll find yourself enjoying every perverse one of them, whatever they do or to whom they do it.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 04:11

There aren’t a lot of mystery novels out there where philosophers’ names get tossed around like confetti (Hegel, Strindberg, Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, Kant, et al.), but in Lawrence Douglas’ The Vices you’ll run into a baker’s dozen of them. In deeply reflective, gorgeous prose, Douglas spins the yarn of brilliant but disturbed philosopher Oliver Vice, the fictional author of Paradoxes of Self, who disappears during an ocean voyage. Was he murdered? Did he commit suicide? Or did he simply think himself into a more elevated plane of existence? Oliver’s friend, the unnamed narrator of the story, finds himself sucked into the dysfunctional Vice family dynamics when he attempts to find out what really did happen aboard that ship. The main players here are aging Hungarian beauty Francizka, Oliver’s manipulative mother; Bartholomew, Olivier’s elephantine, slow-witted brother; and a coterie of hangers-on, all of whom are hiding something.

In an adults-only flashback, we are whisked alongside Oliver into a no-holds-barred sex club. The philosopher is so jaded that although he partakes of the sexual smorgasbord, he finds it all pretty dull. In between the eyebrow-raising escapades of this peculiar cast of characters, we are treated to several pages of Oliver’s cerebral tome. Readers who are philosophically inclined will gobble it up; those who aren’t won’t. As for myself, I became so intrigued with Paradoxes of Self that I was disappointed when the author stopped quoting from it and began exploring the more mundane worlds of art forgery and blackmail. While there are mysteries galore in The Vices, it’s actually a literary novel. Or a philosophy treatise. Or an abnormal psychology monograph. Or...oh, what difference does it make? Oliver and his family and friends are so outrageously entertaining in their neurotic complexities that you’ll find yourself enjoying every perverse one of them, whatever they do or to whom they do it.

Public Anatomy
Betty Webb

A robot may have committed murder in A. Scott Pearson’s Memphis-set Public Anatomy, when a medical procedure manned by a human surgeon goes fatally awry—and is seen on a live television broadcast. Before the blood is wiped off the camera lens, Dr. Liza French finds her professional reputation ruined and her hospital’s robotic surgery program in danger of being shut down. French’s personality is so abrasive that few colleagues come to her rescue, surgeon Eli Branch proves the lone exception.

Branch has his own problems. His left hand was slashed in a knife attack and he can no longer perform surgery, so to hold body and soul together—and keep his medical licence alive—he pinch-hits at various emergency rooms. Complicated though Branch’s life is, he answers the call when his friend, homicide detective Nate Lipsky, begs for help with a series of grisly murders. In each case, one of the victim’s organs was surgically removed, and a beautifully-rendered drawing of it is left near the scene. Intrigued, Branch can’t say no to either French or Lipsky, and once again (after Pearson’s debut novel, Rupture) finds himself on a murderer’s hit list.

Author Pearson is himself a Tennessee surgeon, and it’s his knowledge of medicine and medical procedures that lend credence to even the most startling plot lines. Unlike some docs who have turned to literature, his characters, especially Eli Branch, have emotional depth. They hate, love, are petty and self-sacrificing. And they carry grudges. Pearson is a dab hand at settings, too. He paints his beloved Memphis so vividly that you can almost smell the barbecue. But in the end, it’s Pearson’s ability to keep you on the edge of your seat amidst the bloodbaths that makes Public Anatomy the kind of book you’ll want to read in one sitting: it’s that good.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 04:11

A robot may have committed murder in A. Scott Pearson’s Memphis-set Public Anatomy, when a medical procedure manned by a human surgeon goes fatally awry—and is seen on a live television broadcast. Before the blood is wiped off the camera lens, Dr. Liza French finds her professional reputation ruined and her hospital’s robotic surgery program in danger of being shut down. French’s personality is so abrasive that few colleagues come to her rescue, surgeon Eli Branch proves the lone exception.

Branch has his own problems. His left hand was slashed in a knife attack and he can no longer perform surgery, so to hold body and soul together—and keep his medical licence alive—he pinch-hits at various emergency rooms. Complicated though Branch’s life is, he answers the call when his friend, homicide detective Nate Lipsky, begs for help with a series of grisly murders. In each case, one of the victim’s organs was surgically removed, and a beautifully-rendered drawing of it is left near the scene. Intrigued, Branch can’t say no to either French or Lipsky, and once again (after Pearson’s debut novel, Rupture) finds himself on a murderer’s hit list.

Author Pearson is himself a Tennessee surgeon, and it’s his knowledge of medicine and medical procedures that lend credence to even the most startling plot lines. Unlike some docs who have turned to literature, his characters, especially Eli Branch, have emotional depth. They hate, love, are petty and self-sacrificing. And they carry grudges. Pearson is a dab hand at settings, too. He paints his beloved Memphis so vividly that you can almost smell the barbecue. But in the end, it’s Pearson’s ability to keep you on the edge of your seat amidst the bloodbaths that makes Public Anatomy the kind of book you’ll want to read in one sitting: it’s that good.

Danger Sector
Betty Webb

Those wanting to sample the fresh sea air will be drawn to Jenifer LeClair’s Maine-set mystery, Danger Sector. Brie Beaumont, a Minneapolis homicide detective suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a shooting that killed her partner, rethinks her future as she works on the Maine Wind, a windjammer that cruises around Maine’s bays and islands. While on shore leave on Sentinel Island, she discovers that a local artist is missing, maybe drowned. Since the artist’s disappearance is similar to the drowning of a famed archeologist years earlier, Brie finds herself in the middle of yet another homicide investigation.

Danger Sector moves slowly, and could easily have been trimmed back, but patient readers will be rewarded by beautiful passages describing the lure of the sea and the brave ships that sail her.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 04:11

Those wanting to sample the fresh sea air will be drawn to Jenifer LeClair’s Maine-set mystery, Danger Sector. Brie Beaumont, a Minneapolis homicide detective suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a shooting that killed her partner, rethinks her future as she works on the Maine Wind, a windjammer that cruises around Maine’s bays and islands. While on shore leave on Sentinel Island, she discovers that a local artist is missing, maybe drowned. Since the artist’s disappearance is similar to the drowning of a famed archeologist years earlier, Brie finds herself in the middle of yet another homicide investigation.

Danger Sector moves slowly, and could easily have been trimmed back, but patient readers will be rewarded by beautiful passages describing the lure of the sea and the brave ships that sail her.

The Herring in the Library
Betty Webb

Every now and then we all love a little snark, and L.C. Tyler’s The Herring in the Library dishes it up in a generous serving. With a wink and a nod to the coy English cozies of yesteryear, Tyler delivers the laugh-intensive story of “third rate crime writer” Ethelred Tressider, and his astute, long-suffering agent Elsie Thirkettle. The death of the story duly arrives when Sir Robert “Shagger” Muntham invites Ethelred to Muntham Court for dinner. Shagger is dead by dessert, found strangled in his study, which is, of course, locked from the inside.

Whodunnit? Among the wildly eccentric characters in attendance at this deadly dinner are Lady Muntham, Shagger’s voluptuous wife (rumor has it Shagger met her in a topless bar and fell in love during a lap dance); Felicity Hooper, an acid-tongued novelist once rejected by Ethelred’s agent; and Clive Brent, the business partner Shagger involved in a dishonest deal, then abandoned to face the music alone.

Told in first person narratives by Ethelred and Elsie, the two often sound like an old married couple who loves to bicker. Ethelred is hilariously blockheaded, especially where beautiful women are concerned, but sharp-eyed Elsie sees things as they are. She’s delightfully waspish in her commentaries on the British upper class, most of whom she considers beneath contempt. In addition to these dual points of view, we also hear from Master Thomas, Ethelred’s fictional series character, who is based on the clerk in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Master Thomas is smarter than Ethelred, but not by much. The droll humor in this frothy mystery will have you snickering for days.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 03 November 2011 04:11

Every now and then we all love a little snark, and L.C. Tyler’s The Herring in the Library dishes it up in a generous serving. With a wink and a nod to the coy English cozies of yesteryear, Tyler delivers the laugh-intensive story of “third rate crime writer” Ethelred Tressider, and his astute, long-suffering agent Elsie Thirkettle. The death of the story duly arrives when Sir Robert “Shagger” Muntham invites Ethelred to Muntham Court for dinner. Shagger is dead by dessert, found strangled in his study, which is, of course, locked from the inside.

Whodunnit? Among the wildly eccentric characters in attendance at this deadly dinner are Lady Muntham, Shagger’s voluptuous wife (rumor has it Shagger met her in a topless bar and fell in love during a lap dance); Felicity Hooper, an acid-tongued novelist once rejected by Ethelred’s agent; and Clive Brent, the business partner Shagger involved in a dishonest deal, then abandoned to face the music alone.

Told in first person narratives by Ethelred and Elsie, the two often sound like an old married couple who loves to bicker. Ethelred is hilariously blockheaded, especially where beautiful women are concerned, but sharp-eyed Elsie sees things as they are. She’s delightfully waspish in her commentaries on the British upper class, most of whom she considers beneath contempt. In addition to these dual points of view, we also hear from Master Thomas, Ethelred’s fictional series character, who is based on the clerk in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Master Thomas is smarter than Ethelred, but not by much. The droll humor in this frothy mystery will have you snickering for days.

The Writer: a Tribute to Howard Fast
Gary Phillips

Fasttestifies_to_Congress“I am not ashamed of anything I have done. I fought against war, Negro oppression, and social injustice. I am proud of my books. I regret that in some of my political articles I went overboard—but by and large I stand by what I wrote.”

Howard Fast testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to cooperate and served jail time.


I never met the man, but I understand he enjoyed the occasional cigar, so right there, he must have been okay. The fact that Howard Fast’s life plays out much like one of his proletarian novels no doubt tickled him, and that he had a long life and produced work in various mediums is something to envy.

Born into poverty in New York City in 1914, Howard was the son of Ukrainian immigrant Barney Fast and Ida Miller, a Britisher by way of Lithuania. His mother died when he was eight and a half. Fast and his brother Jerome worked odd jobs from delivering the Bronx Home News to cleaning up in butcher shops. They discovered Poe, Twain, Karl Marx, Hawthorne and many others at the public library. In particular, Fast recounts in his autobiography, Being Red, that it was George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism that set him on the road to become a leftist.

Despite his family’s poverty, Fast managed to graduate from George Washington High School. In 1933 he published his first novel, Two Valleys, at the age of 19. This would be the first of more than 80 books of fiction and nonfiction he would write over nearly seven decades. Greenwich was his last published novel in 2000. And what awe and magic he pounded out in those years on the pages, and what a life he lived.

In Citizen Tom Paine, Fast portrayed the trials of writer and soldier Tom Paine who was a pamphleteer, a prairie propagandist who would one day find himself at odds with fellow insurrectionists such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin because of his atheist notions.

Paine was anti-slavery, an advocate for a constitution, social security, and a believer, to use the modern argot, in marrying theory and practice. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” he began in The Crisis, speaking of the American Revolution. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

fast_citizentompaineFast was drawn to historical figures like Paine and the themes of the common man and woman shaped by their experiences and environment, often struggling to right a wrong.

In Freedom Road, published in 1944, his protagonist is Gideon Jackson, a black man and ex-Union soldier who finds that he must learn a new way to fight to ensure advancement for the freed slaves during Reconstruction. But Fast, who joined the Communist Party while writing Citizen Tom Paine, also suffused the novel with a class analysis.

“And the plantation kings, the men behind the war, the men who had engineered it, made it, and plunged their hands elbow-deep in blood that their great empires of cotton, rice and sugar and tobacco might endure, saw the impossible happen, the slaves emancipated, millions and millions and millions of dollars of capital they once owned taken from them and overnight dissolved into thin air.”

A bit didactic? Yep. But that was Fast. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor was bombed, he was working for the Office of War Information spinning propaganda for Voice of America broadcasts. In 1945, Fast was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was ordered to identify people who contributed to build a hospital in France for anti-fascist fighters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigades. He refused and served three months in jail for contempt. Citizen Tom Paine was banned in high school libraries in New York. Fast was not deterred. He wrote for the Daily Worker and ran unsuccessfully for congress on the American Labor Party ticket.

In the '50s, blacklisted, with publishers intimidated by the FBI, Fast self-published Spartacus, arguably his most famous novel, about a revolt led by a Roman slave. It was a story he was inspired to write while in jail. He was awarded the Stalin International Peace Prize in 1954. And when the monstrosity of Stalin was finally and irrefutably revealed in Khrushchev’s so-called secret speech in 1957, he broke with the Communist Party, but never named names. He would write mystery novels about a Japanese-American detective with the Beverly Hills Police Department as E.V. Cunningham, and see several of his books, April Morning, The Immigrants, Freedom Road, Citizen Tom Paine, and Spartacus, turned into films, plays, and TV shows.

Howard Fast truly lived the writer’s life.

“I am not ashamed of anything I have done. I fought against war, Negro oppression, and social injustice. I am proud of my books. I regret that in some of my political articles I went overboard—but by and large I stand by what I wrote.”

Gary Phillips’ latest book is The Underbelly from PM Press.

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

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 10 November 2011 09:11

Fasttestifies_to_Congress“I'm not ashamed of anything I have done. I fought against war, Negro oppression, and social injustice.”

Holiday, Issue #122 Contents
Mystery Scene

122cover_250

Features

And Justice for All

A brief on current legal thrillers sure to delight fans of courtroom drama.
by Jon L. Breen

Livia J. Washburn

Humor, appealing characters, small-town charm, and the occasional romance make this author’s several series cozy favorites.
by Brett Weiss

Garrow’s Law

A fascinating TV series about the 18th-century barrister dubbed “The Robin Hood of the courts.”
by Jon L. Breen

Stephen Hunter

Early misfortune only spurred this author to work harder—and today it still enriches his work.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Gifts for Mystery Lovers

Make yourself popular this holiday season with these surefire hits.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Marcia Muller

On being friends with your PI, sending messages to readers, and the immortality of books.
by Oline H. Cogdill

John C. Boland

What if evolution presented mankind with present-day competition?
by Ethan Cross

Protecting Your Book Collection

by Nate Pedersen

The Murders in Memory Lane: Scott Meredith, Part II

Meredith ran his agency like a pirate ship, as one former cabin boy recalls.
by Lawrence Block

What’s Happening with Peter Bowen?

A chat with the author of the Gabriel Du Pré mysteries set in Montana.
by Brian Skupin

Departments

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

Anthony Awards, Shamus Awards, Ned Kelly Awards, CWA Daggers, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Fashion

Gormania

Zero Cool by John Lange, Mike Resnick
by Ed Gorman

MS Online

Mysterious Activities on Facebook, Twitter, eNews, Blog & Website

The Hook

First Lines That Caught Our Attention

A Season for Murder Crossword

by Verna Suit

New Books

When Worlds Collide
by Margaret Maron

Who Defines Normal?
by Dennis Palumbo

Desperate Housedogs
by Sparkle Abbey

Chasing History
by Mary Fremont Schoenecker


Reviews

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous


The Docket

Letters

Readers Recommend

Advertiser Index

Advertiser Info

Admin
Monday, 05 April 2010 10:04

122cover_250

Features

And Justice for All

A brief on current legal thrillers sure to delight fans of courtroom drama.
by Jon L. Breen

Livia J. Washburn

Humor, appealing characters, small-town charm, and the occasional romance make this author’s several series cozy favorites.
by Brett Weiss

Garrow’s Law

A fascinating TV series about the 18th-century barrister dubbed “The Robin Hood of the courts.”
by Jon L. Breen

Stephen Hunter

Early misfortune only spurred this author to work harder—and today it still enriches his work.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Gifts for Mystery Lovers

Make yourself popular this holiday season with these surefire hits.
by Kevin Burton Smith

Marcia Muller

On being friends with your PI, sending messages to readers, and the immortality of books.
by Oline H. Cogdill

John C. Boland

What if evolution presented mankind with present-day competition?
by Ethan Cross

Protecting Your Book Collection

by Nate Pedersen

The Murders in Memory Lane: Scott Meredith, Part II

Meredith ran his agency like a pirate ship, as one former cabin boy recalls.
by Lawrence Block

What’s Happening with Peter Bowen?

A chat with the author of the Gabriel Du Pré mysteries set in Montana.
by Brian Skupin

Departments

At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

Anthony Awards, Shamus Awards, Ned Kelly Awards, CWA Daggers, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Fashion

Gormania

Zero Cool by John Lange, Mike Resnick
by Ed Gorman

MS Online

Mysterious Activities on Facebook, Twitter, eNews, Blog & Website

The Hook

First Lines That Caught Our Attention

A Season for Murder Crossword

by Verna Suit

New Books

When Worlds Collide
by Margaret Maron

Who Defines Normal?
by Dennis Palumbo

Desperate Housedogs
by Sparkle Abbey

Chasing History
by Mary Fremont Schoenecker


Reviews

Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Betty Webb

Short & Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Bill Crider

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Lynne Maxwell

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

Mystery Scene Reviews

Miscellaneous


The Docket

Letters

Readers Recommend

Advertiser Index

Advertiser Info

At the Scene, Holiday Issue #122
Kate Stine

122cover_250Hi everyone!

The writers we talk to in this issue couldn’t be more different, but each of them has spun literary gold from the real-life straw of their circumstances and experiences.

Stephen Hunter is a case in point. His lifelong interest in guns and the military are front and center in the hard-hitting Bob Lee Swagger novels (Point of Impact, Dead Zero) and other thrillers. But the father and son dynamic is the real engine of his storytelling and Hunter traces that to his own abusive father. “I seem to have gotten a lot more out of my imagination than I ever suspected was there by investigating those issues of good fathers and bad fathers.” Be sure not to miss this fascinating profile.

Small town charm, good humor, and warm friendships characterize Livia J. Washburn’s increasingly popular Fresh-Baked Mysteries and Literary Tour Mysteries. Her career began as a volunteer typist for her husband, the writer James Reasoner. “I kept telling him of other ways his stories could have gone until he finally suggested that I try to write my own,” she recalls. Good advice! John Boland has had many different jobs—journalist, hedge fund manager, small press publisher. His books and short stories are just as varied, including his new, highly praised thriller Hominid, which draws on provocative issues of evolution, genetics, and archaeology. Our reviewer loved the book and I think you’ll enjoy our interview.

Marcia Muller has an unusual hobby: creating dollhouses and miniature rooms based on her popular Sharon McCone private eye novels. “They help me visualize certain scenes, so these do feed into my work,” she says. “Some rooms I created and then wrote into the books; others, like the kitchen of the All Souls Co-op (shown on page 35), came from the books.” Muller, of course, has had a long and distinguished career, and is generally credited with pioneering the female private eye novel in the 1970s. Particularly amusing in this interview are her thoughts on putting “social messages” in novels.

This year the “Gift Guide for Mystery Lovers” offers some real gems. I’ve already bought a pair of the stylish Sherlock-Watson earrings and have my eyes on the Detective Montalbano and Commissario Brunetti DVDs... And if you often loan out your books, then the “Stolen From” Bookplates might come in handy.

Sticky-fingered friends aren’t the only threats to your personal library. Nate Pedersen describes a multitude of ills that can afflict your books—pets, dust, tape, improper shelving—and offers solutions. As he notes, “A first edition of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, commands over $50,000 with a fine dust jacket, but less than $4,000 without one.”

The next issue of Mystery Scene will arrive in February 2012. Over the next few months, we will be publishing more original articles, book reviews, and commentary at the MS Website. “At the Scene,” our monthly e-newsletter will offer updates on events, reviews of new books, contests, fun quotes, and the popular “Writers on Reading” feature. (You may sign up for the free e-newsletter at our website.) We’ll also be active on Twitter and Facebook.

All of us here at Mystery Scene wish you a merry holiday season and a wonderful 2012. Happy reading!

Kate Stine
Editor-in-chief

Teri Duerr
Friday, 04 March 2011 11:03

Read Kate's Holiday #122 "At the Scene."

Dido Hoare: Antiquarian Sleuth
Verna Suit

Macdonald_Marianne_small“Dido Hoare, the world-famous soft-touch antiquarian book dealer,” is how Marianne Macdonald’s sleuth introduces herself in Death’s Autograph, the first entry of a delightful bibliomystery series.


Marianne Macdonald. Photo: Carol Latimer.


Dido makes her living in the book trade but it’s the human interest stories that follow the books as they move from owner to owner over decades or centuries that really grab her interest. Getting involved in those stories sometimes threatens her life—and makes for compelling reading.

Dido, The Woman

Dido was named, as she tells it in Ghost Walk, for “the Queen of Carthage whom Aeneas had abandoned on his way to more important masculine pursuits like founding the city of Rome.” Hoare, pronounced in one syllable, is a venerable English name that author Marianne Macdonald may have chosen to be mischievous.

Dido herself is immediately likeable. She speaks her mind, drinks her share, and has chronically poor judgement when it comes to attractive men.

The reason she’s a store owner in the first place is because she couldn’t resist the charm and good looks of her ex-husband Davey. Davey dealt in antique prints and Dido worked in the book business, so when they married, her father Barnabas thought it appropriate to set them up with their own shop as a wedding present. Davey soon departed and the sign above the door was changed to read simply, “Dido Hoare Antiquarian Books and Prints”.

Like her creator, Dido went to Oxford. According to Marianne Macdonald, after Dido finished her studies she went to New York with a friend and worked in the publishing business for a couple of years, returning to England after her mother died to keep an eye on her aging father, who was a bibliophile himself. Dido learned about rare books over the next two years working at a big Charing Cross Road bookshop specializing in 19th and 20th century titles.

Dido’s Business

Dido Hoare Antiquarian Books and Prints occupies the first floor of a two-story Georgian cottage in Islington, “an up and coming area of North London.” Her stock fills overflowing floor-to-ceiling shelves that leave only narrow aisles for maneuvering.

For anyone interested in the book business, the day-to-day details that Macdonald incorporates into the stories make fascinating reading. In Death’s Autograph, Smoke Screen, and Three Monkeys, for instance, the reader accompanies Dido to private homes to inspect libraries for sale, and learns first-hand her process for appraising a collection and making a bid. There are also the logistical problems of storing boxes of books until she has time to deal with them, and what to do with the excess when she buys too much. She attends book auctions, and uses catalogs from other dealers to look for good deals and to help price her own stock.

antiquarianDido sells books both to customers who come into the store and to attendees at the periodic book fairs she participates in, such as the regular monthly book fair on Russell Square. But the bulk of her sales come through the mail. A constant in the series is the necessity of working on her own catalog, which she issues four to five times a year mostly for the benefit of the British and foreign university libraries which form the backbone of her customer list. In Smoke Screen Dido finally gets online and enters the world of internet sales. By Road Kill she has her own website.

Psalmista monasticum, Courtesy Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense

Dido’s Circle

Dido’s ex-husband Davey only appears in the first book, Death’s Autograph. He works his way back into Dido’s life, causes mischief, then suddenly departs again leaving her to try to make sense of the considerable muddle he has created.

Besides leaving Dido with a bookstore, Davey also leaves her with a cat, called Mr. Spock, and a baby on the way. Baby Ben makes his first appearance in Ghost Walk. By Smoke Screen he’s ten months old and by Road Kill he’s started to walk and talk. The character of Ben helps MacDonald mark the passage of time by the stages of his development. He also serves as an admirable asset in her investigations: an excuse for Dido to end an interview and get home, a reason to grab the diaper bag (which holds her cellphone) and conveniently disappear into the bathroom, or simply as a way to attract attention and get people talking to her. Ben also deepens the story through Dido’s new understanding of love and commitment and the complications of her life as a single mother.

Dido’s father, Barnabas, is the co-star of the series and serves as sage advisor, business partner, and sometimes cohort in crime. Professor Barnabas Hoare held an Oxford chair in English. After retirement, and especially after his wife died, he found himself at loose ends. As Dido’s business and personal life grew more demanding, he stepped in to help.

The interplay between Dido and Barnabas is one of the great pleasures of Macdonald’s series. They live apart—he in a flat in a converted mid-Victorian villa, she in an apartment above the store—but they keep close tabs on one another. Barnabas is four months past a heart attack when we first meet him and Dido is concerned about his health.

Dido’s family is rounded out by her older sister Pat, respectable and married with a house and family in the suburbs. Pat tends to be overprotective but she can be counted on to “be there” when needed.

Despite her busy schedule, Dido also has her share of romantic entanglements. She first encounters Detective Inspector Paul Grant in Death’s Autograph and he continues in her life in an on-again-off-again relationship “similar to the one he has with his wife.” Investigative journalist Chris Kennedy first trifles with her affections in Die Once and makes a return appearance in Three Monkeys.

macdonald_deathsautographWith each book Dido enlarges her circle, with characters reappearing as needed and sometimes providing stories’ central complications. Babysitter Phyllis, a no-nonsense Australian, regularly looks after Ben and frees up Dido to run her book business and chase down killers. College student Ernie, born in Sierra Leone and “built like a tank,” is directed to Dido when she has need of a computer guru.

Dido’s Creator

Marianne Macdonald had her first book published when she was 16 years old. A native of Canada, she studied at McGill University and Oxford, and then spent years as a university instructor before returning to writing with the Dido books. The first in the series, Death’s Autograph, came out in 1996, and the eighth, Faking It, is coming out from Severn House this fall.

In the front pages of one of the novels, Macdonald gives the candid caveat that “all the characters in my books are purely autobiographical.” One can only guess at how much of Dido comes from Macdonald herself, and at the sources of her other characters. Surely Barnabas and his colleagues had their inspiration in Macdonald’s days studying at Oxford and teaching at various British universities. Macdonald credits her now-former husband, antiquarian bookdealer Eric Korn of ME Korn Books, with advising her on bookselling practices, and being the mother of sons undoubtedly contributed to Macdonald’s endearing characterization of Ben.

The Dido Hoare series borders on being a “cozy” because of the continuing cast of regular characters, and the homey scenes of daily life in Dido’s little flat although the tone and the world view are darker than one might expect. The bookstore milieu is certainly comfortable and pleasant. The stories unfold at a pace befitting the antiquarian book trade and if plots tend to ramble and loose ends get left dangling—well, life is like that.

Ideally, one should start reading this series with the first book, but it’s by no means a necessity. For a full appreciation, it does help to have an interest in books and the book business. But then, you wouldn’t have read this far if you didn’t already have that, would you?

The Dido Hoare Novels

Death’s Autograph, 1996
Ghost Walk, 1997
Smoke Screen, 1999
Road Kill, 2000
Blood Lies, 2001
Die Once, 2003
Three Monkeys, 2005
Faking It, 2006

Verna Suit reviews mysteries, writes occasional short fiction, and constructs crossword puzzles professionally.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Fall Issue #96.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 11:11

Macdonald_Marianne_smallMeet Dido Hoare, the book dealer heroine of Marianne Macdonald’s bibliomystery series.

Martha Grimes Grand Master
Oline Cogdill

altThe Grand Master is the highest honor that the Mystery Writers of America gives to an author. And the 2012 Grand Master is Martha Grimes, a deserving author known for her Richard Jury series.

According to MWA, "The Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality."

I'd say that about sums up Grimes and her work, as well as the work by the previous Grand Masters.

Grimes will be presented her Grand Master award during the Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 26, 2012.

In addition to the Richard Jury series, Grimes also writes the Andi Olivier and Emma Graham series. She is also the author of several novels outside the mystery genre.

She has published a book (sometimes two) every year for the past 25 years.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Martha Grimes began as a poet, but then turned to mystery novels.

Previous Grand Masters include Sara Paretsky, Dorothy Gilman, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

Like I said, all deserving authors.

Super User
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 05:11

altThe Grand Master is the highest honor that the Mystery Writers of America gives to an author. And the 2012 Grand Master is Martha Grimes, a deserving author known for her Richard Jury series.

According to MWA, "The Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality."

I'd say that about sums up Grimes and her work, as well as the work by the previous Grand Masters.

Grimes will be presented her Grand Master award during the Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 26, 2012.

In addition to the Richard Jury series, Grimes also writes the Andi Olivier and Emma Graham series. She is also the author of several novels outside the mystery genre.

She has published a book (sometimes two) every year for the past 25 years.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Martha Grimes began as a poet, but then turned to mystery novels.

Previous Grand Masters include Sara Paretsky, Dorothy Gilman, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

Like I said, all deserving authors.