Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch on Tv?

connelly_michael3.jpgCan it finally be true that Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch will make it to the TV screen?

Well, maybe. Possibly. Perhaps. We'll see.

Connelly has partnered with Fuse Entertainment (The Killing, The Good Guys) and writer-producer Eric Overmyer (Treme) "in hopes of finally bringing his Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch character to series TV," Deadline.com reported.

Overmyer is to develop the series and also will act as the showrunner and lead writer. According to Deadline.com's story, Connelly has the option to write one episode per season.

But no network or even a pilot deal is in the works just yet.

And there is a reason for that, Michael Connelly told me in an email.

"The plan is to sell the show to networks around the world based on the popularity of the books in other countries," said Connelly. "This will allow us to make the show and license it to an American distributor, most likely a cable network. We are hoping this way of doing it will allow us to keep control over the story and characters, and not give them up to the network."

"I've been waiting a long time for the right circumstances to come together for me to take another stab at Hollywood with Harry Bosch," said Connelly in the email. "I think this is that moment. I am trusting Harry with a writer-producer whose work I've admired for two decades and with a proven production company that has pushed the bounds of storytelling on television. I have high hopes that Harry will come to the screen with the integrity of his character fully intact."

I would love to see Bosch on the screen and I think it would have to be on a cable network, preferably a network such as HBO, Showtime or TNT that understands the nuances of good crime fiction. And it would be ideal if Connelly has some influence over the scripts, casting and production.

In my opinion, Bosch should not be played by well known actor. I think that Tim Abell, the actor who played Bosch in the trailer for Echo Park, could handle the role.

Harry Bosch isn't Connelly's only current screen project.

Connelly also is producing a documentary film about the late jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan. The film, Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Project, will focus on the musician’s tale of redemption from drug addict, conman and convict to beloved elder statesman of jazz. This documentary film is being directed by N.C. Heikin.

Connelly discusses why he took on this project on what Morgan's music means to him on his website. You also can follow the progress of the documentary on its Facebook page.

Super User
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 05:07

connelly_michael3.jpgCan it finally be true that Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch will make it to the TV screen?

Well, maybe. Possibly. Perhaps. We'll see.

Connelly has partnered with Fuse Entertainment (The Killing, The Good Guys) and writer-producer Eric Overmyer (Treme) "in hopes of finally bringing his Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch character to series TV," Deadline.com reported.

Overmyer is to develop the series and also will act as the showrunner and lead writer. According to Deadline.com's story, Connelly has the option to write one episode per season.

But no network or even a pilot deal is in the works just yet.

And there is a reason for that, Michael Connelly told me in an email.

"The plan is to sell the show to networks around the world based on the popularity of the books in other countries," said Connelly. "This will allow us to make the show and license it to an American distributor, most likely a cable network. We are hoping this way of doing it will allow us to keep control over the story and characters, and not give them up to the network."

"I've been waiting a long time for the right circumstances to come together for me to take another stab at Hollywood with Harry Bosch," said Connelly in the email. "I think this is that moment. I am trusting Harry with a writer-producer whose work I've admired for two decades and with a proven production company that has pushed the bounds of storytelling on television. I have high hopes that Harry will come to the screen with the integrity of his character fully intact."

I would love to see Bosch on the screen and I think it would have to be on a cable network, preferably a network such as HBO, Showtime or TNT that understands the nuances of good crime fiction. And it would be ideal if Connelly has some influence over the scripts, casting and production.

In my opinion, Bosch should not be played by well known actor. I think that Tim Abell, the actor who played Bosch in the trailer for Echo Park, could handle the role.

Harry Bosch isn't Connelly's only current screen project.

Connelly also is producing a documentary film about the late jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan. The film, Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Project, will focus on the musician’s tale of redemption from drug addict, conman and convict to beloved elder statesman of jazz. This documentary film is being directed by N.C. Heikin.

Connelly discusses why he took on this project on what Morgan's music means to him on his website. You also can follow the progress of the documentary on its Facebook page.

The Closer Is Closing
Oline Cogdill

closer2_tntI am going to miss Brenda.

That's Brenda Leigh Johnson, the Los Angeles deputy police chief so richly portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer. The TNT series is in the middle of its last six weeks, with The Closer's finale slated for 9 p.m. EST; 8 p.m. CST, on Aug. 13.

Throughout its seven years, The Closer has never been predictable, starting with its unlikely heroine.

During a first meeting, and especially during the first couple of seasons, Brenda came off as a Southern belle with her sometimes exaggerated accent, especially her syrupy "thank yew," which seemed like eight syllables, her overly feminine frocks and those big hats. Even her bright red lipstick didn't seem to belong in the department.

She made it easy for her fellow officers, her staff and especially villains to underestimate her. Brenda is aware that many dismiss her and she uses that to disarm suspects, and prove herself to her staff.

Brenda may have talked like Scarlett O'Hara, but, just like that Margaret Mitchell heroine, she showed she could rise above everything. When Brenda finally won the respect and loyalty of her squad, it was a thing of beauty.

I could relate to her addiction to chocolate, though I am not sure that Ding Dongs count. In one episode, Brenda became emotional about a case so Lt. Mike Tao (Michael Paul Chan) gave her two éclairs to try to calm her down, saying "Please, for all our sakes."

closer4_tntThe stash of chocolate in her drawer and the way biting into a bar gave her comfort brought a much needed levity to the series.

Unlike some other cop shows on cable networks, The Closer was never into humor, despite a couple of episodes in which the pairing of Lt. Andy Flynn (Tony Denison) and Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) have brought some comic relief.

The Closer dealt more with real-life crime, the kind that the real L.A. cops deal with daily. Gang wars, family strife, jealous spouses, greedy criminals, and hit-and-run drivers have kept the Major Crimes Division busy.

Brenda is called "the closer" because of her ability to close cases or get a confession, sometimes through sometimes questionable methods. It's those questionable methods that have put her under investigation and the subject of a lawsuit in the death of confessed murderer Terrell Baylor who was escorted to his home and left there, and was subsequently murdered by fellow gang members.

That case shows Brenda's uncompromising views of justice, even if it means she sometimes makes her own laws.

closer5_tntSedgwick is a fine actress, bringing a complexity to her nuanced performance. The Closer also has a superb supporting case including Jon Tenney as Brenda’s husband, FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard; J.K. Simmons as Brenda’s current boss, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope; Robert Gossett as Commander Taylor; Corey Reynolds as Brenda’s right-hand man Detective Sergeant David Gabriel; Tony Denison as Lieutenant Andy Flynn; G.W. Bailey as Lieutenant Provenza; Michael Paul Chan as the squad’s tech guru, Lieutenant Mike Tao; Raymond Cruz as gang expert Detective Julio Sanchez; and Phillip P. Keene as audio-visual technician Buzz Watson.

And while Brenda is the lead character, each member of the cast has had his or her own show.

Personal favorites have been the episode in which the squad try to track down a missing boy who attends the summer camp where Tao’s son works. A highlight of that episode is when Tao's son sees his father in a professional light and gains new respect for him.

The episode in which Buzz's sister, Casey Watson (Christine Woods, Perfect Couples, FlashForward) comes for a visit from Seattle was a perfect Christmas show.

Flynn and Provenza's scheme to serve court papers goes horribly awry featured Emmy-winning actor/director Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope, Sons of Anarchy, Northern Exposure) as a financier who pulled off a Ponzi scheme and what has to be the world's stupidest lawyer.

How Brenda exits from The Closer and what will happen to her is being played out during these last few weeks of the series. But viewers won't be leaving the squad. The squard will continue with the series Major Crimes starring Mary McDonnell as Captain Raydor.

For another view of The Closer, see June Thomas' essay in Mystery Scene's Winter 2012 issue, No. 123.

The Closer airs on TNT at 9 p.m. EST; 8 p.m. CST. The finale is scheduled for Aug. 13.

PHOTOS: Top, Tony Denison, Kyra Sedgwick and G.W. Bailey; Center, Sedgwick, Mary McDonnell and J.K. Simmons; Bottom,Jon Tenney, Corey Reynolds, Kyra Sedgwick, G.W. Bailey, Mary McDonnell and Phillip P. Keene.

Super User
Sunday, 29 July 2012 05:07

closer2_tntI am going to miss Brenda.

That's Brenda Leigh Johnson, the Los Angeles deputy police chief so richly portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer. The TNT series is in the middle of its last six weeks, with The Closer's finale slated for 9 p.m. EST; 8 p.m. CST, on Aug. 13.

Throughout its seven years, The Closer has never been predictable, starting with its unlikely heroine.

During a first meeting, and especially during the first couple of seasons, Brenda came off as a Southern belle with her sometimes exaggerated accent, especially her syrupy "thank yew," which seemed like eight syllables, her overly feminine frocks and those big hats. Even her bright red lipstick didn't seem to belong in the department.

She made it easy for her fellow officers, her staff and especially villains to underestimate her. Brenda is aware that many dismiss her and she uses that to disarm suspects, and prove herself to her staff.

Brenda may have talked like Scarlett O'Hara, but, just like that Margaret Mitchell heroine, she showed she could rise above everything. When Brenda finally won the respect and loyalty of her squad, it was a thing of beauty.

I could relate to her addiction to chocolate, though I am not sure that Ding Dongs count. In one episode, Brenda became emotional about a case so Lt. Mike Tao (Michael Paul Chan) gave her two éclairs to try to calm her down, saying "Please, for all our sakes."

closer4_tntThe stash of chocolate in her drawer and the way biting into a bar gave her comfort brought a much needed levity to the series.

Unlike some other cop shows on cable networks, The Closer was never into humor, despite a couple of episodes in which the pairing of Lt. Andy Flynn (Tony Denison) and Lt. Provenza (G.W. Bailey) have brought some comic relief.

The Closer dealt more with real-life crime, the kind that the real L.A. cops deal with daily. Gang wars, family strife, jealous spouses, greedy criminals, and hit-and-run drivers have kept the Major Crimes Division busy.

Brenda is called "the closer" because of her ability to close cases or get a confession, sometimes through sometimes questionable methods. It's those questionable methods that have put her under investigation and the subject of a lawsuit in the death of confessed murderer Terrell Baylor who was escorted to his home and left there, and was subsequently murdered by fellow gang members.

That case shows Brenda's uncompromising views of justice, even if it means she sometimes makes her own laws.

closer5_tntSedgwick is a fine actress, bringing a complexity to her nuanced performance. The Closer also has a superb supporting case including Jon Tenney as Brenda’s husband, FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard; J.K. Simmons as Brenda’s current boss, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope; Robert Gossett as Commander Taylor; Corey Reynolds as Brenda’s right-hand man Detective Sergeant David Gabriel; Tony Denison as Lieutenant Andy Flynn; G.W. Bailey as Lieutenant Provenza; Michael Paul Chan as the squad’s tech guru, Lieutenant Mike Tao; Raymond Cruz as gang expert Detective Julio Sanchez; and Phillip P. Keene as audio-visual technician Buzz Watson.

And while Brenda is the lead character, each member of the cast has had his or her own show.

Personal favorites have been the episode in which the squad try to track down a missing boy who attends the summer camp where Tao’s son works. A highlight of that episode is when Tao's son sees his father in a professional light and gains new respect for him.

The episode in which Buzz's sister, Casey Watson (Christine Woods, Perfect Couples, FlashForward) comes for a visit from Seattle was a perfect Christmas show.

Flynn and Provenza's scheme to serve court papers goes horribly awry featured Emmy-winning actor/director Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope, Sons of Anarchy, Northern Exposure) as a financier who pulled off a Ponzi scheme and what has to be the world's stupidest lawyer.

How Brenda exits from The Closer and what will happen to her is being played out during these last few weeks of the series. But viewers won't be leaving the squad. The squard will continue with the series Major Crimes starring Mary McDonnell as Captain Raydor.

For another view of The Closer, see June Thomas' essay in Mystery Scene's Winter 2012 issue, No. 123.

The Closer airs on TNT at 9 p.m. EST; 8 p.m. CST. The finale is scheduled for Aug. 13.

PHOTOS: Top, Tony Denison, Kyra Sedgwick and G.W. Bailey; Center, Sedgwick, Mary McDonnell and J.K. Simmons; Bottom,Jon Tenney, Corey Reynolds, Kyra Sedgwick, G.W. Bailey, Mary McDonnell and Phillip P. Keene.

2012 Thriller Winners Announced
Oline Cogdill

abbott_jeffThriller Writers took over New York City this past weekend for the annual International Thriller Writers conference.

Here are the winners of the 2012 Thriller Awards announced July 14, 2012, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Best Hardcover Novel: 11/22/63 by Stephen King (Scribner)

Best Paperback Original: The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott, at left, (Sphere/Little, Brown UK)

Best First Novel: Spiral by Paul McEuen (Dial Press)

Best Short Story: "Half-Lives" by Tim L. Williams (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Thrillermaster Award: Jack Higgins

Silver Bullet Award: Richard North Patterson

True Thriller Award: Ann Rule

Super User
Monday, 16 July 2012 01:07

abbott_jeffThriller Writers took over New York City this past weekend for the annual International Thriller Writers conference.

Here are the winners of the 2012 Thriller Awards announced July 14, 2012, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Best Hardcover Novel: 11/22/63 by Stephen King (Scribner)

Best Paperback Original: The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott, at left, (Sphere/Little, Brown UK)

Best First Novel: Spiral by Paul McEuen (Dial Press)

Best Short Story: "Half-Lives" by Tim L. Williams (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Thrillermaster Award: Jack Higgins

Silver Bullet Award: Richard North Patterson

True Thriller Award: Ann Rule

Bookstore Sales Up
Oline Cogdill
bookstack_open_copyEvery now and then, this blog posts about what's going on in the book industry as a whole.

We do this just to give ourselves a bit of a reality check, especially if the news is good.

Bookstore sales apparently are up, despite all the dire predictions that people aren't buying books.

May bookstore sales rose 5.7%, to $1.09 billion, compared to May 2011, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have been level at $5.937 billion.

In January, bookstore sales were even with the same period as in 2011 while in February and March bookstore sales dropped 4% and 3.8%, respectively, then rebounded in April by 3.8%.

Total retail sales in May rose 7%, to $423.7 billion, compared to May 2011. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 7%, to $1,978.8 billion.

OK, so all those numbers make my eyes glaze over, too. But I am delighted to see numbers that prove that people are still buying books. We mystery fiction fans have known that for a long time, but it is good to see that we are right.

And what's even more interesting is how the Census Bureau defines bookstore sales.

Under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books; these sales do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.

Which means that book sales are probably even higher if the bureau included ebook sales.

If you need suggestions about what to read, just look through Mystery Scene magazine's pages of reviews.

Meanwhile, I'll see you at the bookstore.
Super User
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 05:08
bookstack_open_copyEvery now and then, this blog posts about what's going on in the book industry as a whole.

We do this just to give ourselves a bit of a reality check, especially if the news is good.

Bookstore sales apparently are up, despite all the dire predictions that people aren't buying books.

May bookstore sales rose 5.7%, to $1.09 billion, compared to May 2011, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have been level at $5.937 billion.

In January, bookstore sales were even with the same period as in 2011 while in February and March bookstore sales dropped 4% and 3.8%, respectively, then rebounded in April by 3.8%.

Total retail sales in May rose 7%, to $423.7 billion, compared to May 2011. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 7%, to $1,978.8 billion.

OK, so all those numbers make my eyes glaze over, too. But I am delighted to see numbers that prove that people are still buying books. We mystery fiction fans have known that for a long time, but it is good to see that we are right.

And what's even more interesting is how the Census Bureau defines bookstore sales.

Under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books; these sales do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.

Which means that book sales are probably even higher if the bureau included ebook sales.

If you need suggestions about what to read, just look through Mystery Scene magazine's pages of reviews.

Meanwhile, I'll see you at the bookstore.
Kate Carlisle on Pat Conroy's "the Prince of Tides"
Kate Carlisle

carlisle_kateThe first time I read Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides was a revelation to me. An awakening. Right from the prologue, I was captivated by Conroy’s masculine lyricism, his masterful blend of toughness and sensitivity, his descriptions that were at once tender and macho. “I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low-country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders.”

The story is phenomenal and bizarre, compelling, weird, complex, internal. But it’s the prose that swept me away, not the plot.

I had always been a reader from a family of readers, but this book, The Prince of Tides, this is a book that made me think about being a writer. I read it again, almost immediately after I finished the first time, and I kept a notebook of sentences that awed me.

Protagonist Tom and his wife on the beach, and “Orion the Hunter walked the skies above us, belted and armed, in the star-struck, moonless night.”

conroy_princeoftidesI love Conroy’s writing. I discover new nuances each time I re-read the story, new insights into what it is that makes us human. But I think my revelation had more to do with timing than with the story itself. I was at a point in my life when, like Tom, I’d had to let go of one dream but hadn’t yet found another to take its place. I couldn’t imagine being content with simply existing, going to work every day to a job, helping my employers pursue their dreams but having none of my own. If I wasn’t pursuing a goal, then what was the point?

I’d done a lot of soul searching and had opened myself to whatever ideas the universe might send. So when I stumbled upon The Prince of Tides and immersed myself in the lush prose of a master storyteller, it felt like a sign.

Try this. Do this.

Years passed before I published my first book, but they were happy years because I’d found my purpose. I read, first for pleasure, and then again to analyze what worked, what didn’t, and why. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I studied, learned, practiced, improved…and I dreamed that one day readers could be swept away by my words, the way I had been swept away by his.

conroy_princeoftidescarlislecopy

Book of note: Author Kate Carlisle's well-read and well-loved personal copy of Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides.


This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews August 2012 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 02:07

carlisle_kateThe first time I read Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides was a revelation to me. An awakening. Right from the prologue, I was captivated by Conroy’s masculine lyricism, his masterful blend of toughness and sensitivity, his descriptions that were at once tender and macho. “I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low-country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders.”

The story is phenomenal and bizarre, compelling, weird, complex, internal. But it’s the prose that swept me away, not the plot.

I had always been a reader from a family of readers, but this book, The Prince of Tides, this is a book that made me think about being a writer. I read it again, almost immediately after I finished the first time, and I kept a notebook of sentences that awed me.

Protagonist Tom and his wife on the beach, and “Orion the Hunter walked the skies above us, belted and armed, in the star-struck, moonless night.”

conroy_princeoftidesI love Conroy’s writing. I discover new nuances each time I re-read the story, new insights into what it is that makes us human. But I think my revelation had more to do with timing than with the story itself. I was at a point in my life when, like Tom, I’d had to let go of one dream but hadn’t yet found another to take its place. I couldn’t imagine being content with simply existing, going to work every day to a job, helping my employers pursue their dreams but having none of my own. If I wasn’t pursuing a goal, then what was the point?

I’d done a lot of soul searching and had opened myself to whatever ideas the universe might send. So when I stumbled upon The Prince of Tides and immersed myself in the lush prose of a master storyteller, it felt like a sign.

Try this. Do this.

Years passed before I published my first book, but they were happy years because I’d found my purpose. I read, first for pleasure, and then again to analyze what worked, what didn’t, and why. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I studied, learned, practiced, improved…and I dreamed that one day readers could be swept away by my words, the way I had been swept away by his.

conroy_princeoftidescarlislecopy

Book of note: Author Kate Carlisle's well-read and well-loved personal copy of Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides.


This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews August 2012 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Broken Harbor
Cheryl Solimini

In need of a breezy beach read? “Look elsewhere, old son,” as Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy of Dublin’s Murder Squad might say. You won’t be finding safe mooring in Broken Harbor. Tana French’s latest is a bracing gulp of sea air—a contemporary police procedural/ psychological thriller that builds with all the humor and pathos, sidetracks and straightaways of classic, spellbinding Irish storytelling.

The coastal village, rechristened Brianstown to lure Dubliners into a 45-minute commute, can’t shake off its origins as Broken (a linguistic corruption of breacadh, meaning “daybreak”) Harbor. The gusts off the Irish Sea rattle rather than refresh the “New Revelation in Premier Living” that is Ocean View estates, a nearly abandoned development of jerry-built but luxury-look homes bought into by a few Yuppies who now can’t afford to leave. Underlying the dissonance is the keening of the once-roaring Celtic Tiger—Ireland’s economic explosion that ignited in 1995 after generations of poverty and fizzled by 2008. Those who grew up during the plenty have reached their twenties, ill-equipped to navigate the churned-up waters.

To cocksure middle-aged cop Kennedy, the Spain family seems to be the downturn’s most wretched casualties. Patrick, unemployed for the past year, and his two children, six-year-old Emma and three-year-old Jack, are dead. His brutally wounded wife, Jenny, lies unconscious in the hospital. Staking his claim on the highest solve rate in the Squad, Kennedy welcomes the high-profile gig, which he sees as a slam-dunk: “This case should have gone like clockwork. It should have ended up in the textbooks as a shining example of how to get everything right.” He, better than anyone, should’ve known not to put his faith in should haves. The Spains, too, tried to get everything right, and look how that turned out.

As he schools his rookie partner, Richie Curran, in by-the-book detective work, Kennedy holds back some pages from his own past in Broken Harbor, which Richie has dubbed “the village of the damned.” Tana French layers the tension not with the walking dead but with spine-tingling signs of disturbance amongst domesticity: weeds poking through the untrodden walkways, random holes smashed into the walls of the Spains’ otherwise immaculate home, baby monitors aimed at an open attic door, a souvenir pen gone missing, a child’s crayon drawing spattered with blood. Suspicion falls on the desperate Patrick. Then, when the team discover that a squatter has set up housekeeping in an empty apartment with a binocular view into the Spains’ lives, it seems that all the partners have to do is wait for Our Man to reappear.

Even in such a suburban wasteland, French’s always sinuous, sensual prose and attention to detail, both physical and emotional, paints a rich portrait of a picture-perfect couple whose frame ended up cracked. Also among the reasons to anticipate and enjoy another installment in French’s series-that’s-not-a-series is seeing how the actor-turned-author takes on the voice and MO of a bit player from one novel to her next. Scorcher Kennedy was scorned and one-upped by Frank Mackey, the undercover star, master manipulator, and narrator of French’s previous thriller, Faithful Place (after cameos in In the Woods and The Likeness). Here, the rule-reciting detective comes out from under Mackey’s jaundiced gaze and gets his due, and our sympathy, as we learn of the forces that shaped Mick’s self-control and that make his working mantra, “You need us” so much more poignant than arrogant.

As in Tana French’s other crime and character dissections, the unresolved past and fiercely defended vulnerabilities are what set everyone adrift in Broken Harbor, far from shore. That we hope, against all odds, they will find their way back is what keeps us turning these pages.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 19 July 2012 12:07

french_brokenharborA bracing gulp of sea air—a contemporary police procedural/ psychological thriller that builds with all the humor and pathos of classic Irish storytelling.

11/22/63
Dick Lochte

King’s novel, in which a present day schoolteacher uses a time portal to try and prevent the assassination of John Kennedy, may clock in at 31 hours of listening time, but is worth every minute. It’s arguably the best example of the art of storytelling currently available on audio. The author puts everything into the mix—a genuinely likeable, humane hero, the fantasy of time travel, polished nuggets of recent US history, including a well-thought-out examination of known information about the death of the 35th president, patriotism, espionage, crooked gamblers, violence, romance, adventure and genuine friendship. King even manages to better the master, Ray Bradbury, in fashioning the kind of American small town anyone would want to call home.

Topping that off is the narrative skill of actor Wasson. He’s the same gifted talent who performed so admirably on the 2010 audio for James Ellroy’s massive Blood’s a Rover, a work that was praised by King in a long essay in Entertainment Weekly. One assumes that the author was equally satisfied with the excellent job Wasson has done here.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 19 July 2012 03:07

King’s novel, in which a present day schoolteacher uses a time portal to try and prevent the assassination of John Kennedy, may clock in at 31 hours of listening time, but is worth every minute. It’s arguably the best example of the art of storytelling currently available on audio. The author puts everything into the mix—a genuinely likeable, humane hero, the fantasy of time travel, polished nuggets of recent US history, including a well-thought-out examination of known information about the death of the 35th president, patriotism, espionage, crooked gamblers, violence, romance, adventure and genuine friendship. King even manages to better the master, Ray Bradbury, in fashioning the kind of American small town anyone would want to call home.

Topping that off is the narrative skill of actor Wasson. He’s the same gifted talent who performed so admirably on the 2010 audio for James Ellroy’s massive Blood’s a Rover, a work that was praised by King in a long essay in Entertainment Weekly. One assumes that the author was equally satisfied with the excellent job Wasson has done here.

1q84
Dick Lochte

Murakami’s 925-page novel is broken into three stories. One is devoted to Aomame, an attractive young physical therapist whose second job is seducing and dispatching men who have raped and/or murdered women. Late for an “appointment” and following the advice of a mysterious cabbie, she deserts his taxi on a traffic-jammed expressway and uses a mysterious emergency stairwell. The stairs take her to a surface street below and also to a parallel universe, 1Q(uestion mark)84, that is almost identical to the 1984 Tokyo she's just left, with a few curious exceptions. Like two moons in the night sky.

The second story involves Tengo, a writer who agrees to ghost-edit a novel for a brilliant, possibly autistic beautiful seventeen-year-old. These two plots travel along parallel lines until the final section arrives. Its protagonist is Ushikawa, an odd little sleuth with a huge head who’s been hired to hunt down Aomame by the elders of a religious cult whose leader she has assassinated. His dogged investigation uncovers a connection between Aomame and Tengo and leads to the book’s inevitable but still satisfying denouement. It’s not surprising that three readers were employed. Vietor and Boyett effectively handle Tengo and Ushikawa, as well as the other males, from the sinister cult thugs and their aged leader to the smarmy sophisticate who ensnares Tengo in the ghosting scheme. But it is the soft, lilting voice of Hiroto—perfect for the other-worldly teen and somehow just as appropriate for Aomame and her elderly patron, the dowager—that distinguishes this unusual and fascinating audio novel.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 19 July 2012 03:07

Murakami’s 925-page novel is broken into three stories. One is devoted to Aomame, an attractive young physical therapist whose second job is seducing and dispatching men who have raped and/or murdered women. Late for an “appointment” and following the advice of a mysterious cabbie, she deserts his taxi on a traffic-jammed expressway and uses a mysterious emergency stairwell. The stairs take her to a surface street below and also to a parallel universe, 1Q(uestion mark)84, that is almost identical to the 1984 Tokyo she's just left, with a few curious exceptions. Like two moons in the night sky.

The second story involves Tengo, a writer who agrees to ghost-edit a novel for a brilliant, possibly autistic beautiful seventeen-year-old. These two plots travel along parallel lines until the final section arrives. Its protagonist is Ushikawa, an odd little sleuth with a huge head who’s been hired to hunt down Aomame by the elders of a religious cult whose leader she has assassinated. His dogged investigation uncovers a connection between Aomame and Tengo and leads to the book’s inevitable but still satisfying denouement. It’s not surprising that three readers were employed. Vietor and Boyett effectively handle Tengo and Ushikawa, as well as the other males, from the sinister cult thugs and their aged leader to the smarmy sophisticate who ensnares Tengo in the ghosting scheme. But it is the soft, lilting voice of Hiroto—perfect for the other-worldly teen and somehow just as appropriate for Aomame and her elderly patron, the dowager—that distinguishes this unusual and fascinating audio novel.

Paul Levine on Solomon and Lord, Lassiter
Oline Cogdill
levine_paul.jpgPaul Levine jumped on the bandwagon of Florida-based mysteries in the early 1990s when he published To Speak for the Dead, which introduced Jake Lassiter, a former Miami Dolphins linebacker turned hard-nosed lawyer.

Levine also writes the Solomon vs. Lord series about two Florida attorneys who battle each other. The Solomon/Lord novels just came out as ebook editions. Levine also has published the original e-novella Last Chance Lassiter, a prequel to the Jake Lassiter series.

We recently talked with Paul about his work.

What prompted you to write the Solomon/Lord series?
Paul Levine: I’ve always loved sharply written banter between men and women. Also, having been married three times, I know a thing or two about squabbling. I was influenced by Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man and the series of William Powell/Myrna Loy movies that it spawned. Then there was the rat-a-tat bickering between David and Maddie on Moonlighting. And how about Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, which slyly winked at Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. So all of that—literary and personal—led to “Solomon vs. Lord.”

There are so many legal thrillers out today, how do you think this category of mysteries has changed since you began writing novels?
Paul Levine:
Certainly, one thing that has changed is the sheer number of legal thrillers. I blame Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent (1987) and John Grisham’s The Firm (1991) for this. Presumed Innocent, by the way, remains my favorite legal thriller. In film, it would have to be Witness for the Prosecution, adapted from Agatha Christie’s play. The Verdict, adapted by David Mamet from Barry Reed’s novel, gets an honorable mention. Nowadays, every probate lawyer who’s handled a dispute over a will wants to write a book about it.

A Coral Gables blueblood, Victoria plays by the book while Coconut Grove beach bum Steve ignores the rules in favor of Solomon's Laws. In these two characters you capture the culture of South Florida. What makes Florida such a rich area for writers?
Paul Levine:
I think it was Carl Hiaasen who said something to the effect that the country seems to have been tilted to the southeast so that all the loose marbles rolled to Florida. This is not a new development. John D. MacDonald was mining corruption and venality in the Sunshine State 50 years ago. The Miami Herald recently did a story about Florida being the home of an unbelievable number of Ponzi schemes. Personally, I blame the humidity.

You now live in LA; how often do you get back to Florida?
Paul Levine:
I’m becoming bi-coastal. Hoping to have an apartment in Miami soon.

In researching your novels, what is the funniest or oddest thing you've come across?
Paul Levine:
I traveled to Cuba to research scenes for False Dawn, one of the early Jake Lassiter novels. Whereupon I was surprised to learn I couldn’t speak Spanish. I traveled to the Big Island (Hawaii) to research Slashback (now titled Riptide on Kindle). I flew in a helicopter over the erupting volcano Kilauea because in the book, I wanted to dump a guy from a chopper into the flowing lava. Later, I learned that we were flying way too close to the volcano, and the sulfur fumes could have damaged the engine and brought us down.

What prompted you to do a prequel to the Lassiter series? How does Last Chance Lassiter enhance your novels?
Paul Levine:
Over the years, I’ve had a number of readers suggest prequels. A couple people suggested a story where Jake was still a second-string linebacker with the Miami Dolphins. Or while he was struggling through night law school at the University of Miami. I thought it might be fun to see Jake in his formative stage as a young lawyer. He’s just beginning to develop his own code of conduct, and he’s offended by the notion that the rich and powerful can buy justice. So in his first case as a solo practitioner in Last Chance Lassiter, he represents a down-and-out blues musician against the wealthy hip-hop artist who stole his song. Making the case even juicier, Jake’s opponent is his old boss, the sleazy Lyle Krippendorf. I think the prequel gives us hints of what’s to come for young Jake.
Super User
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 11:07
levine_paul.jpgPaul Levine jumped on the bandwagon of Florida-based mysteries in the early 1990s when he published To Speak for the Dead, which introduced Jake Lassiter, a former Miami Dolphins linebacker turned hard-nosed lawyer.

Levine also writes the Solomon vs. Lord series about two Florida attorneys who battle each other. The Solomon/Lord novels just came out as ebook editions. Levine also has published the original e-novella Last Chance Lassiter, a prequel to the Jake Lassiter series.

We recently talked with Paul about his work.

What prompted you to write the Solomon/Lord series?
Paul Levine: I’ve always loved sharply written banter between men and women. Also, having been married three times, I know a thing or two about squabbling. I was influenced by Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man and the series of William Powell/Myrna Loy movies that it spawned. Then there was the rat-a-tat bickering between David and Maddie on Moonlighting. And how about Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, which slyly winked at Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. So all of that—literary and personal—led to “Solomon vs. Lord.”

There are so many legal thrillers out today, how do you think this category of mysteries has changed since you began writing novels?
Paul Levine:
Certainly, one thing that has changed is the sheer number of legal thrillers. I blame Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent (1987) and John Grisham’s The Firm (1991) for this. Presumed Innocent, by the way, remains my favorite legal thriller. In film, it would have to be Witness for the Prosecution, adapted from Agatha Christie’s play. The Verdict, adapted by David Mamet from Barry Reed’s novel, gets an honorable mention. Nowadays, every probate lawyer who’s handled a dispute over a will wants to write a book about it.

A Coral Gables blueblood, Victoria plays by the book while Coconut Grove beach bum Steve ignores the rules in favor of Solomon's Laws. In these two characters you capture the culture of South Florida. What makes Florida such a rich area for writers?
Paul Levine:
I think it was Carl Hiaasen who said something to the effect that the country seems to have been tilted to the southeast so that all the loose marbles rolled to Florida. This is not a new development. John D. MacDonald was mining corruption and venality in the Sunshine State 50 years ago. The Miami Herald recently did a story about Florida being the home of an unbelievable number of Ponzi schemes. Personally, I blame the humidity.

You now live in LA; how often do you get back to Florida?
Paul Levine:
I’m becoming bi-coastal. Hoping to have an apartment in Miami soon.

In researching your novels, what is the funniest or oddest thing you've come across?
Paul Levine:
I traveled to Cuba to research scenes for False Dawn, one of the early Jake Lassiter novels. Whereupon I was surprised to learn I couldn’t speak Spanish. I traveled to the Big Island (Hawaii) to research Slashback (now titled Riptide on Kindle). I flew in a helicopter over the erupting volcano Kilauea because in the book, I wanted to dump a guy from a chopper into the flowing lava. Later, I learned that we were flying way too close to the volcano, and the sulfur fumes could have damaged the engine and brought us down.

What prompted you to do a prequel to the Lassiter series? How does Last Chance Lassiter enhance your novels?
Paul Levine:
Over the years, I’ve had a number of readers suggest prequels. A couple people suggested a story where Jake was still a second-string linebacker with the Miami Dolphins. Or while he was struggling through night law school at the University of Miami. I thought it might be fun to see Jake in his formative stage as a young lawyer. He’s just beginning to develop his own code of conduct, and he’s offended by the notion that the rich and powerful can buy justice. So in his first case as a solo practitioner in Last Chance Lassiter, he represents a down-and-out blues musician against the wealthy hip-hop artist who stole his song. Making the case even juicier, Jake’s opponent is his old boss, the sleazy Lyle Krippendorf. I think the prequel gives us hints of what’s to come for young Jake.
Murder Buys a T-Shirt
Lynne Maxwell

In Christy Fifield’s new series opener, Murder Buys a T-Shirt, readers are introduced to Glory Martine, who inherited her uncle’s antique shop after he died a number of years ago. Only now, though, does she realize that there is something decidedly peculiar about the shop, Southern Treasures. Vintage newspapers and other items in the shop, for instance, have a way, at times, of disarranging themselves, sua sponte, into baffling chaos. Perhaps this is simply a manifestation of entropy, but when Bluebeard, Glory’s inherited parrot, begins spouting cryptic utterances in the voice of her deceased Uncle Louis, Glory knows it’s time to get to the bottom of several mysteries, beginning with the death of the star captain of the football team.

In Glory Martine, Fifield, the nom de plume of Oregon writer Christina F. York, introduces a refreshing new sleuth who still has a lot to uncover about her personal history. As the series progresses, I’m looking forward to learning more about Uncle Louis and his mysterious reluctance to move into the Great Beyond.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 07:07

fifield_murderbuysatshirtMeet Glory Martine, a refreshing new sleuth and owner of a haunted souvenir shop.

The Big Kitty
Lynne Maxwell

Claire Donally’s The Big Kitty is a fine debut. Meet series feline Shadow, green-eyed, gray-striped and larger than life, if you believe the cover. Depending upon whose perspective you credit, Shadow either acquires, or is acquired by, Sunny Coolidge, who, in order to assist her ailing father, has returned to her small-town home in Maine from her New York City life as a successful journalist. Underemployed and underworked, Sunny can’t resist investigating the sudden death of Ada Spruance, the local cat lady, who has made enemies of other animal owners whose pets have tangled with, or been devoured by, Ada’s cats. Ada’s death is particularly suspicious because her body was found at the bottom of stairs that she refused to use. Moreover, she had just claimed to be the winner of a large lottery jackpot (the other “big kitty” in the book), if only she could locate the misplaced ticket. Sunny joins forces with Will Price, the hunky local constable, and Shadow, who true to name, turns up everywhere and sees everything.

The Big Kitty moves nimbly from Shadow’s perspective to Sunny’s and back again. Donally does cat especially well, I must say, and I’m looking forward to getting to know both Shadow and Sunny much better in the future.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 07:07

Claire Donally’s The Big Kitty is a fine debut. Meet series feline Shadow, green-eyed, gray-striped and larger than life, if you believe the cover. Depending upon whose perspective you credit, Shadow either acquires, or is acquired by, Sunny Coolidge, who, in order to assist her ailing father, has returned to her small-town home in Maine from her New York City life as a successful journalist. Underemployed and underworked, Sunny can’t resist investigating the sudden death of Ada Spruance, the local cat lady, who has made enemies of other animal owners whose pets have tangled with, or been devoured by, Ada’s cats. Ada’s death is particularly suspicious because her body was found at the bottom of stairs that she refused to use. Moreover, she had just claimed to be the winner of a large lottery jackpot (the other “big kitty” in the book), if only she could locate the misplaced ticket. Sunny joins forces with Will Price, the hunky local constable, and Shadow, who true to name, turns up everywhere and sees everything.

The Big Kitty moves nimbly from Shadow’s perspective to Sunny’s and back again. Donally does cat especially well, I must say, and I’m looking forward to getting to know both Shadow and Sunny much better in the future.

Due or Die
Lynne Maxwell
Jenn McKinlay’s Due or Die takes place during a blizzard. This second mystery in the series by McKinlay (who also writes under the names of Lucy Lawrence and Josie Belle) again features novice library director Lindsey Norris, who has ventured into the treacherous world of libraryland (trust me: I know whereof I speak). In addition to dealing with the resentment of a longtime staffer, Lindsey must weather the discord of the—in this instance—dubiously named “Friends of the Library.” Politics abound when an upstart unseats the stodgy long-term president of the Friends. Matters are complicated when the unlikable husband of Carrie Rushton, the new President of the Friends, is murdered and Carrie comes under suspicion. Fortunately, Lindsey, her almost-boyfriend Sully, and her friend Beth, the children’s librarian, are on hand—even in the thick of a major blizzard— to solve the mystery. Also, a new character appears to steal the show: Heathcliff, the puppy. Like Dewey, the famous small town library cat of Spencer, Iowa, Heathcliff was deposited in the library book drop, and like Dewey, Heathcliff becomes a true friend of the library. I can’t wait to watch him mature along with this delightful series!
Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07
Jenn McKinlay’s Due or Die takes place during a blizzard. This second mystery in the series by McKinlay (who also writes under the names of Lucy Lawrence and Josie Belle) again features novice library director Lindsey Norris, who has ventured into the treacherous world of libraryland (trust me: I know whereof I speak). In addition to dealing with the resentment of a longtime staffer, Lindsey must weather the discord of the—in this instance—dubiously named “Friends of the Library.” Politics abound when an upstart unseats the stodgy long-term president of the Friends. Matters are complicated when the unlikable husband of Carrie Rushton, the new President of the Friends, is murdered and Carrie comes under suspicion. Fortunately, Lindsey, her almost-boyfriend Sully, and her friend Beth, the children’s librarian, are on hand—even in the thick of a major blizzard— to solve the mystery. Also, a new character appears to steal the show: Heathcliff, the puppy. Like Dewey, the famous small town library cat of Spencer, Iowa, Heathcliff was deposited in the library book drop, and like Dewey, Heathcliff becomes a true friend of the library. I can’t wait to watch him mature along with this delightful series!
Where the Ripped Edges Peel Away
Art Taylor

hand_elizabethFierce, beautiful, startling, Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary novels explore the mysteries of creative brilliance


In Greek Mythology, Cassandra was the prophetess unheeded, a woman both gifted and cursed by her foresight of death and destruction (the fall of Troy, the slaying of Agamemnon) and scorned by an audience of mockers who refused to believe her dark visions.

Cassandra Neary, the could’ve-been-somebody photographer in Elizabeth Hand’s Generation Loss and Available Dark, possesses a special sight as well. As a youth, she experienced visions no one else shared: a striated eye looming in the sky, for example, and a man with green-flecked eyes touching her forehead in a dream, leaving a blinding flash on the very morning she received a camera as a birthday present. As a photographer years later, especially during the heyday of New York’s punk scene, she shot “whatever was going on, speed, smack, sex, broken teeth, broken bottles, zip knives” before moving on to even bleaker subjects: “Pigeons flattened upon the curb; a corpse washed up on the shore of the East River, flesh like soft gray flannel folded into the mud; a stripper at a Broadway club sleeping between acts, her exposed breast like a red balloon where the silicone had leaked beneath the skin.” Her own single work of photography was the collection Dead Girls, which included self-portraits recreating macabre tableaux from famous paintings.

Cass’ shot at real fame has long since passed her by, but the cult status of Dead Girls—a collector’s item 30 years after its publication—sparks Cass’ noirish journeys in both Generation Loss and Available Dark, travels that take her into even darker corners of the craft of photography, and not only into some of the world’s colder climes but also into ravaged psychological terrains, both her own and others.

hand_generationlossIn Generation Loss, Cass is summoned to Maine to interview one of her idols, reclusive photographer Aphrodite Kamestos, a supposed admirer of Dead Girls. Aphrodite’s own photography books had been a major influence on Cass—among them Mors, “a catalog of places where terrible things had happened. Suicide, a murder, sexual torture”—but Cass quickly finds herself an unwelcome guest in the midst of a very tight community, one stung by a string of recent disappearances among the region’s youth. Both a suspect and then an unwitting investigator, Cass stumbles into various layers of trouble that connect the past with the present, including a bristling romance with a man with a green-flecked eye (echoing that dream from her youth) and a budding obsession with a series of Polaroids that “pumped out damage” and reeked like “someone had dumped rotting fish on top of a dead skunk.”

At the start of Available Dark, back in New York after the desperate end of her trip to Maine, Cass receives an unexpected commission: travel to Finland to consult on a series of photographs of corpses whose killings were inspired by the Yuleboys of Icelandic folklore—figures with names like Door Slammer, Spoon Licker, and Meat Hook. Cass finds the images “unspeakably lovely,” but scarcely has she completed her consultation than a fresh series of murders echo those photos—drawing her once more into trouble. And a side trip to visit an old lover in Iceland reveals those photographs’ complex connections to other artistic pursuits: specifically, black metal music, echoing—literally—with its own agonized cries.

“Now made in the USA: Nordic crime fiction,” declared the New York Post in its review of Available Dark, and readers might well be forgiven for wondering if the immense popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction impelled Hand to send her anti-heroine in that geographical direction, especially since Cass herself has frequently been likened to Lisbeth Salander of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. It’s a comparison that’s easy to understand: two intelligent, relentlessly edgy, frequently amoral women; androgynous but physically striking (Cass towers more than six feet tall); each of them traumatized by brutal sexual assaults earlier in their lives and, as a result, now unafraid to lash out in physical violence of their own. Like Lisbeth, Cass bears a tattoo as well: “Too Tough to Die” emblazoned on the scar tissue on her pelvis, a souvenir of her rape. “Scary Neary” is the nickname she earned during her punk days, and she describes herself as “what your mother dreams about in the middle of the night when you don’t come home.” Even in the novels’ present, she fuels her days with Jack Daniels and any of a wide variety of drugs.

hand_availabledarkBut despite similarities, Cass stands clearly as an unforgettable character in her own right (and it’s important to point out that Generation Loss debuted a year before the English translation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). And Hand’s concerns are certainly her own as well. Each book explores the passions and perils of artistic endeavor, for example, and Hand writes with equally compelling authority not only about photography and music (her descriptions of individual photographs are among the many highpoints of each book) but about the creative impulse, the compulsions behind those works. Each book also charts the dangerous influences of old religions, legends, and rituals on modern consciousness. Generation Loss features the troubled history of a hippie commune that one participant described as “less Summer of Love than…Lord of the Flies,” with rustic animal masks from those days cropping up in unlikely places. In Available Dark, Nordic legends are revived to uncomfortable ends. And the bitter landscapes against which those artistic and religious obsessions are catalogued—coastal Maine, Helsinki, and Reykjavík—offer vivid backdrops to the equally chilling existential journeys that Cass herself takes—into her past, into herself—alongside the cases she’s found herself tasked with solving.

Reflecting on her own photography, Cass claims to see “where the ripped edges of the world begin to peel away and something else shows through”—a description that echoes once more her mythic namesake. That description might easily apply to Hand herself too, whose exquisite prose, with its crisp details and frequently startling imagery, enriches these relentless inquiries into dark subject matters and reveals with grace and unflinching precision both the damage and the resilience of her characters. Already a veteran of the science fiction and fantasy genres, Hand has quickly established herself as a master in the mystery field as well, and Generation Loss and Available Dark have the feel of instant classics—must-haves for the bookshelf and (it doesn’t take a visionary to predict this) a firm foundation for a promising series ahead.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Spring Issue #124.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 07:07

hand_elizabethFierce, beautiful, startling, Elizabeth Hand’s novels explore the mysteries of creative brilliance.

Triple Play: a Nathan Heller Casebook
Bill Crider

There are times when I have to cheat just a little, and this is one of those times. I don’t consider it serious. All I’m going to do is stretch the “short story” mandate to include works that are a bit longer so that I can talk about Triple Play: A Nathan Heller Casebook by Max Allan Collins. The collection contains three novellas, each one a case for private eye Nathan Heller, who’s been around in book form since 1983 but whose fictional career started back in the Prohibition days.

Heller served in WWII, and “Dying in the Post-War World” gets Heller back into private-eye action with the case of the infamous Lipstick Killer, William Hierens. The story is based, as are all Heller’s cases, on actual events, and this one even resulted in Collins receiving letters from behind prison walls from Hierens himself.

“Kisses of Death” brings Heller into contact with Marilyn Monroe, whom he meets again years later in Collins’ recent novel Bye Bye, Baby. Collins gives us a Marilyn that seems as real as any portrait of her ever written. The final story is “Strike Zone,” and I’m old enough (and baseball fan enough) to remember Bill Veeck (rhymes with wreck) well. Veeck was one of the great characters in the sport, and “colorful” hardly begins to describe him. One of his famous stunts was to send in a midget to pinch hit in a major league game, and Heller is called on to investigate the death of that pinch hitter. If you’re looking for superb plotting and vivid historical recreation, Triple Play will give you full satisfaction.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

There are times when I have to cheat just a little, and this is one of those times. I don’t consider it serious. All I’m going to do is stretch the “short story” mandate to include works that are a bit longer so that I can talk about Triple Play: A Nathan Heller Casebook by Max Allan Collins. The collection contains three novellas, each one a case for private eye Nathan Heller, who’s been around in book form since 1983 but whose fictional career started back in the Prohibition days.

Heller served in WWII, and “Dying in the Post-War World” gets Heller back into private-eye action with the case of the infamous Lipstick Killer, William Hierens. The story is based, as are all Heller’s cases, on actual events, and this one even resulted in Collins receiving letters from behind prison walls from Hierens himself.

“Kisses of Death” brings Heller into contact with Marilyn Monroe, whom he meets again years later in Collins’ recent novel Bye Bye, Baby. Collins gives us a Marilyn that seems as real as any portrait of her ever written. The final story is “Strike Zone,” and I’m old enough (and baseball fan enough) to remember Bill Veeck (rhymes with wreck) well. Veeck was one of the great characters in the sport, and “colorful” hardly begins to describe him. One of his famous stunts was to send in a midget to pinch hit in a major league game, and Heller is called on to investigate the death of that pinch hitter. If you’re looking for superb plotting and vivid historical recreation, Triple Play will give you full satisfaction.

Battling Boxing Stories: Thrilling Tales of Pugilistic Puissance
Bill Crider

Hardboiled boxing stories with criminous elements seem to be making something of a comeback, and Gary Lovisi has edited a slam-bang anthology called Battling Boxing Stories: Thrilling Tales of Pugilistic Puissance.

Wayne Dundee opens the volume with a combination called “Quick Hands.” It’s a western boxing story, good stuff about a tough guy who travels to mining camps with a medicine show and takes on the best men the camps can throw at him. Not for fun, you understand. There’s money involved, and where there’s money, things can get complicated.

Lovisi’s own story is “Boxing, Babes, and Bullets.” That ought to be enough to tempt you right there, but in case you need more, it’s about a guy who’s back from WWII, back in the ring, and bucking the mob. This one’s fast and tough. “A Bullet for a Boxer” by Arlette Lees has a terrific opening sentence: “As I walked across the street between the pawn shop and the Rescue Mission, a bullet slammed into my head and dropped me to my knees.” Things don’t let up after that.

All in all, a dandy collection for everybody who appreciates the sweet science, and also for those who like good fiction with a setting that’s a little different from the usual.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

lovisi_battlingboxingstoriesHardboiled boxing stories with slam-bang criminous elements.

Vengeance
Bill Crider

Lee Child is the editor of the latest Mystery Writers of America anthology. It’s called Vengeance and it has 21 stories by some of the biggest names in the crime and mystery field. The title tells you what the theme is, so you know that many of the stories won’t be exactly lighthearted.

In fact, Karin Slaughter says “The Unremarkable Heart” is “the nastiest story she’s ever written.” You can be the judge. Child’s “The Hollywood I Remember,” which closes the volume, is a nasty one, too. Adam Meyer’s “Blood and Sunshine” is a twisted little number with a shocker of an ending. There’s a new Harry Bosch tale by Michael Connelly, “A Fine Mist of Blood.” Brendan DuBois, one of the best short-story writers around, presents “The Final Ballot,” and Alafair Burke delivers a stunner with the ending of “The Mother.”

That just scratches the surface of what’s available in this volume. It’s a top-notch collection of stories. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these on the Edgar ballot next year.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

Lee Child is the editor of the latest Mystery Writers of America anthology. It’s called Vengeance and it has 21 stories by some of the biggest names in the crime and mystery field. The title tells you what the theme is, so you know that many of the stories won’t be exactly lighthearted.

In fact, Karin Slaughter says “The Unremarkable Heart” is “the nastiest story she’s ever written.” You can be the judge. Child’s “The Hollywood I Remember,” which closes the volume, is a nasty one, too. Adam Meyer’s “Blood and Sunshine” is a twisted little number with a shocker of an ending. There’s a new Harry Bosch tale by Michael Connelly, “A Fine Mist of Blood.” Brendan DuBois, one of the best short-story writers around, presents “The Final Ballot,” and Alafair Burke delivers a stunner with the ending of “The Mother.”

That just scratches the surface of what’s available in this volume. It’s a top-notch collection of stories. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these on the Edgar ballot next year.

A Study in Celluloid: a Producer’s Account of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes
Jon L. Breen

cox_studyincelluloidFirst published in Great Britain by Rupert Books in 1999, Cox’s memoir offers an insider’s view of the Granada Television series, which between 1984 and 1994 introduced one of the best Sherlock Holmes impersonators. Writing, design, directorial, and main cast credits are given for each episode, followed by several pages of commentary, not tedious and unnecessary plot synopses but frank discussions of the problems presented, decisions made, what worked and what didn’t.

Cox is almost always laudatory of his coworkers, but his candor about dubious decisions and what he would change in retrospect erase any suspicion of puffery. Jeremy Brett is shown as kind, generous, and totally professional in his approach to his craft despite his personal troubles, including hospitalization for bipolar disorder. A genuine student of the original stories, he would carefully compare them with their adaptations and he sometimes disputed changes the writers had made. His hope to do all the stories was prevented by his own declining health, along with the difficulties presented by some of the stories, whether of rights, expense, or adaptability.

One of Cox’s most intriguing subjects, albeit non-criminous in the conventional sense, is the commercialization and consequent erosion in quality of British TV. The Broadcasting Act of 1990 brought about “the British television industry we enjoy today, in which ratings and cost-efficiency are all-important and programme decisions are taken by schedulers and accountants.” Speaking of the latter group, after noting complaints about budget items like travel and lodging expenses that do not “show on the screen,” Cox notes, “Neither, of course, does the cost of accountancy.”

Available through Gasogene Books.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

cox_studyincelluloidFirst published in Great Britain by Rupert Books in 1999, Cox’s memoir offers an insider’s view of the Granada Television series, which between 1984 and 1994 introduced one of the best Sherlock Holmes impersonators. Writing, design, directorial, and main cast credits are given for each episode, followed by several pages of commentary, not tedious and unnecessary plot synopses but frank discussions of the problems presented, decisions made, what worked and what didn’t.

Cox is almost always laudatory of his coworkers, but his candor about dubious decisions and what he would change in retrospect erase any suspicion of puffery. Jeremy Brett is shown as kind, generous, and totally professional in his approach to his craft despite his personal troubles, including hospitalization for bipolar disorder. A genuine student of the original stories, he would carefully compare them with their adaptations and he sometimes disputed changes the writers had made. His hope to do all the stories was prevented by his own declining health, along with the difficulties presented by some of the stories, whether of rights, expense, or adaptability.

One of Cox’s most intriguing subjects, albeit non-criminous in the conventional sense, is the commercialization and consequent erosion in quality of British TV. The Broadcasting Act of 1990 brought about “the British television industry we enjoy today, in which ratings and cost-efficiency are all-important and programme decisions are taken by schedulers and accountants.” Speaking of the latter group, after noting complaints about budget items like travel and lodging expenses that do not “show on the screen,” Cox notes, “Neither, of course, does the cost of accountancy.”

Available through Gasogene Books.

The Illustrated Speckled Band: the Original 1910 Stage Production in Script and Photographs
Jon L. Breen


klinger_illustratedspeckledbandOf interest is The Illustrated Speckled Band: The Original 1910 Stage Production in Script and Photographs, edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s play is joined by a contemporary review, notes on the principal actors involved (among them Lyn Harding as Moriarty and H.A. Saintsbury as Holmes), and an essay by R. Dixon Smith on the original story and its stage adaptation and production.

Wessex Press also offers a CD of historical interest to Baker Street buffs: Starrett Speaks: The Lost Recordings ($12.95). Several brief readings by Vincent Starrett of his own work are joined by the audio of Robert Cromie’s half hour TV interview of Starrett and fellow Sherlockian Orlando Park.

Available through Gasogene Books.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07


klinger_illustratedspeckledbandOf interest is The Illustrated Speckled Band: The Original 1910 Stage Production in Script and Photographs, edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s play is joined by a contemporary review, notes on the principal actors involved (among them Lyn Harding as Moriarty and H.A. Saintsbury as Holmes), and an essay by R. Dixon Smith on the original story and its stage adaptation and production.

Wessex Press also offers a CD of historical interest to Baker Street buffs: Starrett Speaks: The Lost Recordings ($12.95). Several brief readings by Vincent Starrett of his own work are joined by the audio of Robert Cromie’s half hour TV interview of Starrett and fellow Sherlockian Orlando Park.

Available through Gasogene Books.

Pulp and Prejudice: Essays in Search of Books, Culture, and God
Jon L. Breen

Among these 16 essays from The Atlantic, The Weekly Standard, and other periodicals is a substantial piece on religious subjects in mystery fiction, “God and the Detectives.” Among the authors discussed are Charles Merrill Smith, Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Melville Davisson Post, G.K. Chesterton, and Margery Allingham.

Many other writers are briefly touched on, bespeaking a wide knowledge of the genre and a hoard of forthright, sometimes contrarian opinions. Other topics range widely: Dickens, Tom Wolfe, T.S. Eliot, P.G. Wodehouse; music, science, memoirists, goth culture. Bottum is consistently stimulating and entertaining.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

Among these 16 essays from The Atlantic, The Weekly Standard, and other periodicals is a substantial piece on religious subjects in mystery fiction, “God and the Detectives.” Among the authors discussed are Charles Merrill Smith, Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Melville Davisson Post, G.K. Chesterton, and Margery Allingham.

Many other writers are briefly touched on, bespeaking a wide knowledge of the genre and a hoard of forthright, sometimes contrarian opinions. Other topics range widely: Dickens, Tom Wolfe, T.S. Eliot, P.G. Wodehouse; music, science, memoirists, goth culture. Bottum is consistently stimulating and entertaining.

Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure
Jon L. Breen
In a legal equivalent to D.P. Lyle’s books on medical issues in mysteries, a lawyer and short-story writer answers questions about courtroom procedure, citing online information sources, novels (by Margaret Maron, John Grisham, Perri O’Shaughnessy, and others), films and TV programs, and famous cases (Balloon Boy, Beltway Sniper, O.J. Simpson). Thorough, well-organized, and authoritative, this excellent reference also has touches of humor, e.g. the author’s favorite lawyer joke: “Did you hear the one about the lawyer who quit his practice to write a novel, because he wanted to make a lot of money?”
Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07
In a legal equivalent to D.P. Lyle’s books on medical issues in mysteries, a lawyer and short-story writer answers questions about courtroom procedure, citing online information sources, novels (by Margaret Maron, John Grisham, Perri O’Shaughnessy, and others), films and TV programs, and famous cases (Balloon Boy, Beltway Sniper, O.J. Simpson). Thorough, well-organized, and authoritative, this excellent reference also has touches of humor, e.g. the author’s favorite lawyer joke: “Did you hear the one about the lawyer who quit his practice to write a novel, because he wanted to make a lot of money?”
Now Write! Mysteries: Suspense, Crime, Thriller, and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises From Today’s Best Writers and Teachers
Jon L. Breen

This is not a step-by-step guide but rather a reference source, in which each of eighty-plus contributors gives advice on a specific step in the mystery-writing process (e.g. research, plot development, characters, point of view, dialogue, background, revision, series management), followed by an exercise for the fledgling writer to address the issue.

Some of the contributors are quite well-known (Louise Penny, John Lutz, Simon Brett, Hallie Ephron, Katherine Hall Page, Rhys Bowen, Bill Crider, and others), and all have solid professional credentials. Most are interesting, at least some potentially useful to the reader willing to follow instructions.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

This is not a step-by-step guide but rather a reference source, in which each of eighty-plus contributors gives advice on a specific step in the mystery-writing process (e.g. research, plot development, characters, point of view, dialogue, background, revision, series management), followed by an exercise for the fledgling writer to address the issue.

Some of the contributors are quite well-known (Louise Penny, John Lutz, Simon Brett, Hallie Ephron, Katherine Hall Page, Rhys Bowen, Bill Crider, and others), and all have solid professional credentials. Most are interesting, at least some potentially useful to the reader willing to follow instructions.

Arguably: Essays
Jon L. Breen

Hitchens, who died in 2011, was one of the most entertaining, witty, and acerbic essayist/ critics of our time. A few entries in this massive collection touch on crime, mystery, or thriller fiction: a devastating pan of John Updike’s Terrorist, John Buchan as thriller pioneer (with passing mentions of Fleming, le Carré, and Oppenheim), Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman series (with side references to Sherlock Holmes and James Bond), the Harry Potter saga, and Stieg Larsson. Other subjects with some criminous connection: Twain, Dickens, Maugham, Wodehouse (whose fans are compared to the Holmes Irregulars), J.G. Ballard, and Saki.

No one will agree with Hitchens on everything, but he was never less than stimulating. An earlier Hitchens collection, Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere (2000) includes witheringly negative assessments of Charles McCarry and Tom Clancy plus a more positive piece on Holmes and Doyle, though he prefers the latter’s historical fiction.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 08:07

Hitchens, who died in 2011, was one of the most entertaining, witty, and acerbic essayist/ critics of our time. A few entries in this massive collection touch on crime, mystery, or thriller fiction: a devastating pan of John Updike’s Terrorist, John Buchan as thriller pioneer (with passing mentions of Fleming, le Carré, and Oppenheim), Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman series (with side references to Sherlock Holmes and James Bond), the Harry Potter saga, and Stieg Larsson. Other subjects with some criminous connection: Twain, Dickens, Maugham, Wodehouse (whose fans are compared to the Holmes Irregulars), J.G. Ballard, and Saki.

No one will agree with Hitchens on everything, but he was never less than stimulating. An earlier Hitchens collection, Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere (2000) includes witheringly negative assessments of Charles McCarry and Tom Clancy plus a more positive piece on Holmes and Doyle, though he prefers the latter’s historical fiction.

Before Sherlock Holmes: How Magazines and Newspapers Invented the Detective Story
Jon L. Breen

Few academic mystery scholars are as readable and learned and surely none is as prolific as Panek, whose latest topic is the 19th-Century development of the detective story. Some pre-history (William Godwin, Vidocq, Bulwer-Lytton and other writers of “Newgate novels”) is followed by solid material on Poe, Dickens, Collins, and other usual suspects.

Plucked from obscurity are lesser known figures who flourished in newspapers and magazines at a time trans-Atlantic plagiarism was rampant. Many of the early stories are quoted, including a passage from Andrew Forrester’s “The Unknown Weapon,” a story in The Female Detective (1864) that foreshadows the close analysis of the Golden Age of Detection. With more and more early material coming to light thanks to the Internet and ebook publishers, Panek states this study is “only a first step” with “a great deal of material yet to be collected and discussed.” Until the full history is written, this book will be indispensable to serious scholars of early mystery fiction history.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 09:07

Few academic mystery scholars are as readable and learned and surely none is as prolific as Panek, whose latest topic is the 19th-Century development of the detective story. Some pre-history (William Godwin, Vidocq, Bulwer-Lytton and other writers of “Newgate novels”) is followed by solid material on Poe, Dickens, Collins, and other usual suspects.

Plucked from obscurity are lesser known figures who flourished in newspapers and magazines at a time trans-Atlantic plagiarism was rampant. Many of the early stories are quoted, including a passage from Andrew Forrester’s “The Unknown Weapon,” a story in The Female Detective (1864) that foreshadows the close analysis of the Golden Age of Detection. With more and more early material coming to light thanks to the Internet and ebook publishers, Panek states this study is “only a first step” with “a great deal of material yet to be collected and discussed.” Until the full history is written, this book will be indispensable to serious scholars of early mystery fiction history.

87th Precinct Series
Dick Lochte

mcbain_killerswedgeThe Brilliance Audio arm of the mighty Amazon empire is making the world a happier place for fans of Ed McBain, and crime fiction lovers in general, by bringing many of the late author’s early 87th Precinct novels back into print, ebook and, most important to those of us who enjoy a good listen, audiobooks. Regarding the latter, the disks are packaged in matching hard cases and, even better, feature the hardboiled voice of reader Dick Hill. A master at catching the laconic delivery and sardonic attitude of smart cops at work, Hill also has fun with the dim bulbs on the job that McBain uses for comic relief, as well as the slightly larger than life villains that keep the plots boiling. Brilliance has just announced the release of Cop Hater, the first 87th Precinct, in January 2013.

Unfortunately, the rights to the third, The Pusher (in which McBain famously tried and failed to kill his lead detective Steve Carella) have proven more elusive. Regardless, there’s much to enjoy in the titles that are already available—The Mugger, The Con Man, Killer’s Choice, Lady Killer, Killer’s Wedge, and King’s Ransom, all originally published during the years 1956-1959, shortly after the author had broken through to the bestseller lists as Evan Hunter with The Blackboard Jungle.

Of these, Lady Killer demonstrates just how much tension can be packed into a 12-hour period, as the detectives, led surprisingly by Cotton Hawes, not Carella, search for the identity of a woman marked for death. Hawes also rises to the occasion in a big way in Killer’s Wedge, when a vengeful woman threatens the squad room with a container of nitro. The Con Man offers two separate confidence games, the more suspenseful one involving a movie-star-handsome maniac who romances unassuming women and, in the course of a few hours, marries them, has them tattooed, then feeds them arsenic. Meanwhile other officers are on the prowl for two bottom feeders who’ve cheated a young girl out of five dollars. Thanks to McBain’s vigorous, character-rich storytelling, not to mention Hill’s winning narration, both plots are equally compelling.

King’s Ransom features what is probably the series’ most inventive plot—thugs try to kidnap a rich man’s son but get his chauffeur’s son instead. The wealthy man needs all of his money for a make-or-break deal; does he pay the ransom or let the boy die? Not only was the book adapted for the famous 1963 Kurosawa film, High and Low, it’s been ripped off by just about every TV crime series since it was first published. These are entertaining and important crime novels, but it’s good to bear in mind that they were written more than half a century ago, when political correctness was still as vague a concept as, well, gender equality. For example, some may find the cop talk crude or mildly offensive and be annoyed that there are no women and only one black man wearing a badge at the 87th. So, if your head is too much in the 21st century to appreciate McBain’s literary achievement or his seminal approach to police procedurals, you may be better off enjoying all the up-to-date realism on the latest episodes of CSI or Castle.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 09:07

mcbain_killerswedgeBrilliance Audio bringing many of the late McBain’s early 87th Precinct novels back in audiobook format.

An American Spy
Dick Lochte

Steinhauer caused quite a stir when he introduced his protagonist Milo Weaver in 2010’s The Tourist. Then, Milo, a former member of the CIA’s clandestine black ops Department of Tourism, had been reassigned to an Agency desk job in New York, the better to pursue a normal life as husband and father. Alas, events conspired to pull him back into the Tourist life.

Last year, book two in the series, The Nearest Exit, opened with Weaver having paid the price for his actions in the previous novel. In its course, he was once again reluctantly drawn to the dark department, suffering an even more punishing penalty. Now, in An American Spy, he’s retired, recovering from wounds incurred in book two and once again experiencing the normal joy of family life when…you guessed it. Like Michael Corleone, just when he thinks he’s out, they keep pulling him back in.

The truly intriguing thing about this series is that, though its base storylines are surprisingly similar, what Steinhauer does to make the novels unique is quite marvelous. Here, there’s an intricate plot involving Weaver’s former boss, Alan Drummond, who seemingly has gone rogue, a villainous Chinese spy named Xin Zhu who’s in trouble with his people, Weaver’s father, Yevgeny Primakov, the “secret ear” of the UN, a charming and deadly Tourist sociopath named Leticia Jones and assorted other international characters, meanspirited in the main, who are as fascinating as they are deceptive.

Since the author uses a canvas broad enough to cover the free world and part of the not-so-free, reader David Pittu’s polyglot potential is put to the test and found much better than merely adequate. Additionally, the award-winning American theater actor presents us with a wary but capable Weaver, catching the very necessary sense of reluctance that marks the character. Faced with a long section of the novel involving Xin Zhu, his wily mentor, his feckless young wife, and several members of the opposition, he ably imitates a complete Chinese theater troupe. The production ends with a short interview with Steinhauer that provides the surprising info that there are autobiographical elements in Milo, along with the not-sosurprising news that his main influences have been John le Carré and Raymond Chandler.

Teri Duerr
Friday, 27 July 2012 09:07

Steinhauer caused quite a stir when he introduced his protagonist Milo Weaver in 2010’s The Tourist. Then, Milo, a former member of the CIA’s clandestine black ops Department of Tourism, had been reassigned to an Agency desk job in New York, the better to pursue a normal life as husband and father. Alas, events conspired to pull him back into the Tourist life.

Last year, book two in the series, The Nearest Exit, opened with Weaver having paid the price for his actions in the previous novel. In its course, he was once again reluctantly drawn to the dark department, suffering an even more punishing penalty. Now, in An American Spy, he’s retired, recovering from wounds incurred in book two and once again experiencing the normal joy of family life when…you guessed it. Like Michael Corleone, just when he thinks he’s out, they keep pulling him back in.

The truly intriguing thing about this series is that, though its base storylines are surprisingly similar, what Steinhauer does to make the novels unique is quite marvelous. Here, there’s an intricate plot involving Weaver’s former boss, Alan Drummond, who seemingly has gone rogue, a villainous Chinese spy named Xin Zhu who’s in trouble with his people, Weaver’s father, Yevgeny Primakov, the “secret ear” of the UN, a charming and deadly Tourist sociopath named Leticia Jones and assorted other international characters, meanspirited in the main, who are as fascinating as they are deceptive.

Since the author uses a canvas broad enough to cover the free world and part of the not-so-free, reader David Pittu’s polyglot potential is put to the test and found much better than merely adequate. Additionally, the award-winning American theater actor presents us with a wary but capable Weaver, catching the very necessary sense of reluctance that marks the character. Faced with a long section of the novel involving Xin Zhu, his wily mentor, his feckless young wife, and several members of the opposition, he ably imitates a complete Chinese theater troupe. The production ends with a short interview with Steinhauer that provides the surprising info that there are autobiographical elements in Milo, along with the not-sosurprising news that his main influences have been John le Carré and Raymond Chandler.