The Ice Maiden Cometh Not
Oline H. Cogdill

Amateur investigator Gil Yates with his malapropisms is one of the most peculiar sleuths in mystery fiction, and his return after an eight-year absence provides an amusing, albeit flawed, story.

In The Ice Maiden Cometh Not, Gil overcomes his fear of flying in order to travel to Pennsylvania to meet a potential client, the arrogant heart surgeon Chester Kulp. What’s a couple of cross-country plane rides when the payoff will be Gil’s exorbitant fee of $10,000 a day?

The doctor wants Gil to prove that his son-in-law, Sandy Straus, didn’t commit suicide by jumping from his family’s department store. The evidence points to suicide and the cops have closed the case, but the doctor’s beautiful daughter, Ginger, cannot accept that verdict. Gil dislikes the belligerent doctor from their first meeting, but figures he can spend several days on the case and pick up $100,000—which will go a long way to relieving the boredom of his life with his manipulative wife and father-in-law back in California.

Alistair Boyle succinctly illustrates the ennui of the conservative town of Muhlenheim, Pennsylvania, and the rivalry between its two locally owned department stores. Gil slyly plows through conversations with moguls and secretaries to find the truth about whether Sandy’s demise had anything to do with Kulp’s meddling in his daughter’s life. Since he rarely constructs the most common phrase correctly, Gil adds comedy without realizing it every time he speaks. For Gil, snitches blow the trombones instead of a whistle, and one saws, not hammers, out details.

Boyle’s breezy style serves his story well and gives The Ice Maiden Cometh Not an old-fashioned feel, as if it were written in the 1950s. Well-placed red herrings are sprinkled throughout, adding to the surprise of the denouement, but there is little suspense and no tension to the story. This ninth outing in the series becomes annoyingly shallow midway through and the motive behind Sandy’s death is unbelievable and silly. Boyle’s early novels about Gil were fresh, but the detective’s quirkiness has grown stale.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-05 17:41:46

Amateur investigator Gil Yates with his malapropisms is one of the most peculiar sleuths in mystery fiction, and his return after an eight-year absence provides an amusing, albeit flawed, story.

In The Ice Maiden Cometh Not, Gil overcomes his fear of flying in order to travel to Pennsylvania to meet a potential client, the arrogant heart surgeon Chester Kulp. What’s a couple of cross-country plane rides when the payoff will be Gil’s exorbitant fee of $10,000 a day?

The doctor wants Gil to prove that his son-in-law, Sandy Straus, didn’t commit suicide by jumping from his family’s department store. The evidence points to suicide and the cops have closed the case, but the doctor’s beautiful daughter, Ginger, cannot accept that verdict. Gil dislikes the belligerent doctor from their first meeting, but figures he can spend several days on the case and pick up $100,000—which will go a long way to relieving the boredom of his life with his manipulative wife and father-in-law back in California.

Alistair Boyle succinctly illustrates the ennui of the conservative town of Muhlenheim, Pennsylvania, and the rivalry between its two locally owned department stores. Gil slyly plows through conversations with moguls and secretaries to find the truth about whether Sandy’s demise had anything to do with Kulp’s meddling in his daughter’s life. Since he rarely constructs the most common phrase correctly, Gil adds comedy without realizing it every time he speaks. For Gil, snitches blow the trombones instead of a whistle, and one saws, not hammers, out details.

Boyle’s breezy style serves his story well and gives The Ice Maiden Cometh Not an old-fashioned feel, as if it were written in the 1950s. Well-placed red herrings are sprinkled throughout, adding to the surprise of the denouement, but there is little suspense and no tension to the story. This ninth outing in the series becomes annoyingly shallow midway through and the motive behind Sandy’s death is unbelievable and silly. Boyle’s early novels about Gil were fresh, but the detective’s quirkiness has grown stale.

Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers
Bill Crider

Native Texan Charlie Boeckman, who writes as Charles Beckman, Jr., among many other pseudonyms, is, at age 92, one of the last pulp writers standing. Last year Wildside Press reissued Honky-Tonk Girl, a novel published by Falcon Books more than 60 years ago, and now Boeckman has collected 24 of his pulp tales in a volume titled Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers. Boeckman is a jazz clarinetist (at last report he was still playing in the Charlie Boeckman Hot Swing Band), and his musical background has a part in some of the stories. If you’ve been looking for some of the Good Old Stuff, you’ll certainly find it here. More good news: this is volume one, so there’s more to come.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-05 18:35:24

Native Texan Charlie Boeckman, who writes as Charles Beckman, Jr., among many other pseudonyms, is, at age 92, one of the last pulp writers standing. Last year Wildside Press reissued Honky-Tonk Girl, a novel published by Falcon Books more than 60 years ago, and now Boeckman has collected 24 of his pulp tales in a volume titled Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers. Boeckman is a jazz clarinetist (at last report he was still playing in the Charlie Boeckman Hot Swing Band), and his musical background has a part in some of the stories. If you’ve been looking for some of the Good Old Stuff, you’ll certainly find it here. More good news: this is volume one, so there’s more to come.

Fort Worth Nights
Bill Crider

Native Texan James Reasoner is the author of Texas Wind, one of the best private-eye novels of the 1980s, or any other decade for that matter. The main character and narrator is named Cody, and he’s also appeared in five short stories. Now Reasoner has collected all five of them into one volume and added a 10,000-word novelette. The collection is called Fort Worth Nights. I was especially happy to see the new story “Assisted Dying.” Cody has gotten a good bit older than he was back in 1980, as have we all, and as Dirty Harry said in Magnum Force, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Cody certainly knows his, but that doesn’t mean you can mess with him and get away with it. If you’re not familiar with Reasoner’s work, you should be, and Fort Worth Nights is a great place to start.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-05 18:41:09

Native Texan James Reasoner is the author of Texas Wind, one of the best private-eye novels of the 1980s, or any other decade for that matter. The main character and narrator is named Cody, and he’s also appeared in five short stories. Now Reasoner has collected all five of them into one volume and added a 10,000-word novelette. The collection is called Fort Worth Nights. I was especially happy to see the new story “Assisted Dying.” Cody has gotten a good bit older than he was back in 1980, as have we all, and as Dirty Harry said in Magnum Force, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Cody certainly knows his, but that doesn’t mean you can mess with him and get away with it. If you’re not familiar with Reasoner’s work, you should be, and Fort Worth Nights is a great place to start.

Beat to a Pulp: Superhero
Bill Crider

Don’t let the title scare you. These aren’t comic book stories. They’re crime stories, most of them with a dark edge, and the superhero characters will surprise you with their variety. James Reasoner’s story, for example, is set during the American Revolution. You didn’t know there were superheroes then? Now’s the time to find out all about it. This is a surprising and entertaining anthology.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-05 18:46:37

Don’t let the title scare you. These aren’t comic book stories. They’re crime stories, most of them with a dark edge, and the superhero characters will surprise you with their variety. James Reasoner’s story, for example, is set during the American Revolution. You didn’t know there were superheroes then? Now’s the time to find out all about it. This is a surprising and entertaining anthology.

Protectors: Stories to Benefit Project Protect
Bill Crider

Protectors: Stories to Benefit Project PROTECT has a noble cause. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the book’s sales go to Project PROTECT, which lobbies “for legislation that protects children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.” According to PROTECT, here are some of its victories: “The Protect Our Children Act of 2008, which mandated that the Justice Department change course and design a new national nerve center for law enforcement to wage a war on child exploitation, the Hero to Hero program, which employs disabled veterans in the battle against child abuse, and Alicia’s Law.” The book features 41 writers and they’re all powerhouses. I can’t list them all, but James Reasoner and Joe Lansdale are here. And Ken Bruen, George Pelecanos, Andrew Vachss, Chet Williamson, Ray Banks, Charles de Lint, Dave White, Keith Rawson, Richard Prosch, and on and on. Good stories for a good cause. You can’t go wrong.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-05 18:53:11

Protectors: Stories to Benefit Project PROTECT has a noble cause. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the book’s sales go to Project PROTECT, which lobbies “for legislation that protects children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.” According to PROTECT, here are some of its victories: “The Protect Our Children Act of 2008, which mandated that the Justice Department change course and design a new national nerve center for law enforcement to wage a war on child exploitation, the Hero to Hero program, which employs disabled veterans in the battle against child abuse, and Alicia’s Law.” The book features 41 writers and they’re all powerhouses. I can’t list them all, but James Reasoner and Joe Lansdale are here. And Ken Bruen, George Pelecanos, Andrew Vachss, Chet Williamson, Ray Banks, Charles de Lint, Dave White, Keith Rawson, Richard Prosch, and on and on. Good stories for a good cause. You can’t go wrong.

Chris Grabenstein’s Fund Raiser
Oline Cogdill


grabenstein_chrisxx
As a South Floridian, I am no stranger to hurricanes. And I know no matter how prepared one is, one is never completely prepared.

So my heart goes out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy’s devastating visit to the Northeast, effects of that continue to impact
lives.

Author Chris Grabenstein found inspiration in the Jersey Shore for his about Iraqi War veteran John Ceepak turned police detective.

Grabenstein set his novels in the Jersey Shore town of Sea Haven, a fictional combination of the very real towns of Seaside Heights and Beach Haven, both of which were slammed by Sandy. The roller coaster that inspired his novel Mad Mouse is now under water following Sandy’s visit.

Now Grabenstein wants to do his part to help Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

During December, Grabenstein will donate all the money from the Kindle and Nook sales of four of his Ceepak novels: Tilt A Whirl, Mad Mouse, Whack a Mole and Ring Toss.

Grabenstein also will donate all the proceeds from his two self-published ebooks, The Explorers’ Gate and The Christmas Tree (Kindle story only).

The money will be donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

Xav ID 577
2012-12-12 03:08:00


grabenstein_chrisxx
As a South Floridian, I am no stranger to hurricanes. And I know no matter how prepared one is, one is never completely prepared.

So my heart goes out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy’s devastating visit to the Northeast, effects of that continue to impact
lives.

Author Chris Grabenstein found inspiration in the Jersey Shore for his about Iraqi War veteran John Ceepak turned police detective.

Grabenstein set his novels in the Jersey Shore town of Sea Haven, a fictional combination of the very real towns of Seaside Heights and Beach Haven, both of which were slammed by Sandy. The roller coaster that inspired his novel Mad Mouse is now under water following Sandy’s visit.

Now Grabenstein wants to do his part to help Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

During December, Grabenstein will donate all the money from the Kindle and Nook sales of four of his Ceepak novels: Tilt A Whirl, Mad Mouse, Whack a Mole and Ring Toss.

Grabenstein also will donate all the proceeds from his two self-published ebooks, The Explorers’ Gate and The Christmas Tree (Kindle story only).

The money will be donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

Emotional Terrorists: How We Love to Read About Them

ryanphillipphank_theotherwomanDuring a tense scene of Happy, a play getting a rolling world premiere at several theaters across the country, including New Theatre in Coral Gables, an especially vile character is called an emotional terrorist.

I had never heard that term before but I immediately thought of how “emotional terrorist” perfectly sums up the tension, suspense and plot points of several mysteries.

The conflict between people whether that is spurned on by greed, revenge, love, lust, or power make for great mystery plots.

I imagine that, at one time or another, each of us has known people who love to plays mind games on others; people whose need to one up another makes for toxic relationships.

Hopefully, you have excised those people from your lives.

But, boy, do we love to read about them.

Here are some novels that revolve around emotional terrorists. I reviewed each of these books this past year and am quoting from some of my reviews.

Take Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On the surface, Nick and Amy Dunne have a perfect marriage. Then Amy disappears on their fifth anniversary and what some may see as a sublime life begins to crumble. The couple’s individual personalities emerge, especially showing Amy to be an emotional terrorist, overly obsessed with being perfect and having her own way. Flynn’s unpredictable plot of Gone Girl careens down an emotional highway.

omaratim_sacrificefly2.jpgIn Laura Lippman’s And When She Was Good, Heloise Lewis is a suburban madam who operates a successful prostitution ring, falling into the career because she felt that line of work was her only option. Confident, unashamed, and devoted to her son, Heloise, nevertheless, is a victim of an emotional terrorist who could destroy her world in an instance. Without glamorizing or judging prostitution, Lippman delivers an insightful character study of a woman who has learned self-preservation at all costs. To free herself of this terrorist, Heloise must realize that her options in life are limitless. Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere also features an emotional terrorist.

In Michael Connelly’s The Black Box, LAPD detective Harry Bosch investigates a 20-year-old crime. Harry comes across a set of villains who are bond together by an emotional terrorist. (The latest issue of Mystery Scene features a profile of Connelly.)

As a teacher in a tough Brooklyn school, Raymond Donne meets a lot of kids, and families, held together by emotional terrorists, as Tim O’Mara shows in his exciting debut Sacrifice Fly. Whether these “terrorists” use physical, sexual or verbal abuse, the result is often the same: Children who cannot move forward, families forever stuck in horrible situations.

mcdermid_vanishingpointA British reality show star becomes an emotional terrorist to all who come within her orbit in Val McDermid’s The Vanishing Point. Reality shows can be the consummate scam, as McDermid’s plot illustrates.

Several women are emotional terrorists in The Other Woman, the hardcover debut by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Politics, dirty campaigns and compromised candidates are acompelling plot foundations in any year, but especially in this presidential election year. Ryan combines both a timely tale and a suspenseful multi-layered plot. (Ryan was profiled in the Fall No. 126 issue of Mystery Scene.)

British author Elizabeth HaynesInto the Darkest Corner delivers a gripping psychological thriller that chronicles an abusive relationship, from its seemingly harmless beginning to a searing conclusion. Catherine Bailey is young, happy woman who parties nearly every night at a different club in Lancaster, England, and, yes, is sexually active. Then she meets a supposedly charming man who is the ultimate emotional terrorist.

Xav ID 577
2012-12-16 08:52:54

ryanphillipphank_theotherwomanDuring a tense scene of Happy, a play getting a rolling world premiere at several theaters across the country, including New Theatre in Coral Gables, an especially vile character is called an emotional terrorist.

I had never heard that term before but I immediately thought of how “emotional terrorist” perfectly sums up the tension, suspense and plot points of several mysteries.

The conflict between people whether that is spurned on by greed, revenge, love, lust, or power make for great mystery plots.

I imagine that, at one time or another, each of us has known people who love to plays mind games on others; people whose need to one up another makes for toxic relationships.

Hopefully, you have excised those people from your lives.

But, boy, do we love to read about them.

Here are some novels that revolve around emotional terrorists. I reviewed each of these books this past year and am quoting from some of my reviews.

Take Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On the surface, Nick and Amy Dunne have a perfect marriage. Then Amy disappears on their fifth anniversary and what some may see as a sublime life begins to crumble. The couple’s individual personalities emerge, especially showing Amy to be an emotional terrorist, overly obsessed with being perfect and having her own way. Flynn’s unpredictable plot of Gone Girl careens down an emotional highway.

omaratim_sacrificefly2.jpgIn Laura Lippman’s And When She Was Good, Heloise Lewis is a suburban madam who operates a successful prostitution ring, falling into the career because she felt that line of work was her only option. Confident, unashamed, and devoted to her son, Heloise, nevertheless, is a victim of an emotional terrorist who could destroy her world in an instance. Without glamorizing or judging prostitution, Lippman delivers an insightful character study of a woman who has learned self-preservation at all costs. To free herself of this terrorist, Heloise must realize that her options in life are limitless. Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere also features an emotional terrorist.

In Michael Connelly’s The Black Box, LAPD detective Harry Bosch investigates a 20-year-old crime. Harry comes across a set of villains who are bond together by an emotional terrorist. (The latest issue of Mystery Scene features a profile of Connelly.)

As a teacher in a tough Brooklyn school, Raymond Donne meets a lot of kids, and families, held together by emotional terrorists, as Tim O’Mara shows in his exciting debut Sacrifice Fly. Whether these “terrorists” use physical, sexual or verbal abuse, the result is often the same: Children who cannot move forward, families forever stuck in horrible situations.

mcdermid_vanishingpointA British reality show star becomes an emotional terrorist to all who come within her orbit in Val McDermid’s The Vanishing Point. Reality shows can be the consummate scam, as McDermid’s plot illustrates.

Several women are emotional terrorists in The Other Woman, the hardcover debut by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Politics, dirty campaigns and compromised candidates are acompelling plot foundations in any year, but especially in this presidential election year. Ryan combines both a timely tale and a suspenseful multi-layered plot. (Ryan was profiled in the Fall No. 126 issue of Mystery Scene.)

British author Elizabeth HaynesInto the Darkest Corner delivers a gripping psychological thriller that chronicles an abusive relationship, from its seemingly harmless beginning to a searing conclusion. Catherine Bailey is young, happy woman who parties nearly every night at a different club in Lancaster, England, and, yes, is sexually active. Then she meets a supposedly charming man who is the ultimate emotional terrorist.

My Book: Dark Lie
Nancy Springer

springer_nancyThe unsung heroes of our society are the ordinary women with neither style nor beauty who take up the slack every single day...

I wrote the final draft of Dark Lie in Chile, South America, with bronchitis. My husband took me there to visit his native country, but I spent the vacation mostly sitting up in bed writing Dark Lie on my laptop computer, coughing, and cocooned in my alpaca fleece hoodie because Chile was chilly. Uniformly. And for some inexplicable Chilean reason it was necessary for the windows always to be wide open so that it was cold indoors and out.

While I did not appreciate this local custom at the time, it might have been a fortunate circumstance that I was sick, because I was writing about a chronically ill protagonist. Dorrie White, the middle-aged woman who becomes the unlikely hero of Dark Lie, has a severe case of lupus.

To add another fortunate circumstance, one of my husband’s Chileno relatives happens to be married to a gringa like me, and she has lupus. It was from the Chilean connection and years of friendship with her that I had learned about lupus, and appreciated why its name is derived from the Latin word for wolf. Lupus ravages. I saw for myself its unpredictable flare-ups and fatigue, its red, rough skin rash, the effects of the steroids used to treat it, and the many ways in which it manages to lower a woman’s self-esteem and mess up her life.

springer_darklieIn Dark Lie, Dorrie’s marriage remains childless because of her lupus, and she yearns for the baby she gave up for adoption when she was a teenager. She locates this child, Juliet, only to see a predatory male abduct her and drive away with her. And then Dorrie takes action.

For a long time now (ever since my stint as a mom and housewife), I have been convinced that the most frequent unsung heroes of our society are the ordinary women with neither style nor beauty who take up the slack every single day, doing what needs to be done no matter what it costs them. Dorrie is one of these. Her immediate, instinctive reaction to rescue Juliet leads her deeper and deeper into the dangerous shadows of her own past, exposing the lies that have sickened her own psyche.

My bronchitis eventually went away, of course. No big deal. But being held captive by sickness in a cold, foreign land seemed to give me some extra depth of insight. I realized that Dorrie’s lupus, while a practical problem, is also symbolic of predation in Dark Lie and in our lives. Everywhere women go they are stalked by a wolf pack of domestic violence, rape, abduction, even murder. Dorrie White confronts the same wolves that eat at many women, and that comprise part of our society’s “dark lie.”

Dark Lie by Nancy Springer, NAL, November 2012, $14.00

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Holiday Issue #127.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-13 20:42:17

springer_darklieThe unsung heroes of our society are the ordinary women who take up the slack every single day...

My Book: Death of a Furry Animal
JoAnna Carl

carl_joannaAny reader or writer of cozy mysteries knows that even fictionally killing a furry animal is an absolute taboo.


OMG! I’m afraid I’ve killed a furry animal. Any reader or writer of traditional or “cozy” mysteries knows that killing a furry animal is an absolute taboo in these books. Years ago, in the rough draft of my second mystery, I killed a feral cat offstage. My editor called the minute she saw the reference. “I want you to think about that,” she said. “Big Writer X won’t even give a blurb to any book that kills so much as a mouse.”

Then a writer pal of mine did kill a cat in one of her books. This was an anonymous stray cat, not a cat who was a character. I was standing beside her at a convention when a fan came up and berated her over it. Berated her very angrily.

So, in my long-ago book, The Devil Down Home (written as Eve K. Sandstrom), I recast the feral cat role to be a rattlesnake. Then—just to add my own quirky outlook—I threw in a lot of stuff about how valuable snakes are to the environment and how harmful it is to kill them indiscriminately.

Nobody said a word.

Twenty years later, I was mulling over possible titles for my next book at the lunch table, and my husband said, “How about The Chocolate Moose Mystery?” I loved the pun. My editor suggested that it should be Motive rather than Mystery, which was fine with me, and the artist came up with a goofy chocolate moose for the cover. We were in business.

carl_chocolatemoosemotiveBut in order to put a moose in my Lake Michigan resort setting, I had to make it a stuffed moose. There are no moose around Warner Pier.

If you have a stuffed moose, you have a taxidermist. I visited a taxidermist and found the operation fascinating. So as part of the setting I created a similar shop, filled with mounted animals and fish. I described the lifelike raccoons, squirrels, ducks, geese, and one moose that occupy it.

Only months later, when it was too late to change the entire book, did I realize that at least a dozen fictional furry animals had given their imaginary lives to make my setting realistic.

Where did this furry animal thing get started? Even in a cozy mystery, the writer can kill, maim, or torture people by any method. But we mustn’t harm animals. Furry animals. Snakes, apparently, are fair game.

If you try to analyze it, it’s incomprehensible. Do cozy readers like animals better than people? Surely not. Do they find animals more lovable then people? Maybe so. Why can we kill one, but not the other?

At any rate, readers should be assured that no real, live animals died to produce The Chocolate Moose Motive. And I’m only going to accept complaints from vegetarians wearing plastic shoes.

The Chocolate Moose Motive by JoAnna Carl, NAL, October 2012, $22.95

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Holiday Issue #127.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-13 20:55:59

carl_chocolatemoosemotiveAny reader or writer of cozy mysteries knows that fictionally killing a furry animal is a taboo.

Hank Phillippi Ryan Interviews Kate Stine
Oline Cogdill

127cover_250Those of us who work for Mystery Scene feel we are part of a family united not by blood but by common interests.

We also are united by Kate Stine and Brian Skupin, Mystery Scene’s publisher and co-publisher who also are married.

Ever since I joined the Mystery Scene team, I have felt that Kate and Brian go out of their way to make us all feel incredibly welcomed.

When Kate and Brian were the Fan Guests of Honor during the 2011 Bouchercon in St. Louis, they elected not to have the usual one-on-one interview. Instead, they had several of their contributors participate on a panel with them.

So I want all our readers to know that Kate is the subject of the latest Sisters in Crime interview. Kate is interviewed by Hank Phillippi Ryan, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and a fine mystery writer. By the way, I interviewed Hank for the Fall 2012 issue (No. 126).

Here’s the link to the interview:

http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/2012/12/interview-with-publisher-kate-stine-of.html

Xav ID 577
2012-12-19 08:05:47

127cover_250Those of us who work for Mystery Scene feel we are part of a family united not by blood but by common interests.

We also are united by Kate Stine and Brian Skupin, Mystery Scene’s publisher and co-publisher who also are married.

Ever since I joined the Mystery Scene team, I have felt that Kate and Brian go out of their way to make us all feel incredibly welcomed.

When Kate and Brian were the Fan Guests of Honor during the 2011 Bouchercon in St. Louis, they elected not to have the usual one-on-one interview. Instead, they had several of their contributors participate on a panel with them.

So I want all our readers to know that Kate is the subject of the latest Sisters in Crime interview. Kate is interviewed by Hank Phillippi Ryan, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and a fine mystery writer. By the way, I interviewed Hank for the Fall 2012 issue (No. 126).

Here’s the link to the interview:

http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/2012/12/interview-with-publisher-kate-stine-of.html

Peter Dickinson: a Writer to Remember
H.R.F. Keating

dickinson_peterH.R.F. Keating considers the extraordinary imagination of Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson. Photo © Fay Godwin

You might feel that a successful crime novelist whose final book, Some Deaths Before Dying, came out in America as recently as 1999 would still be holding his place in readers’ minds. But think how many hundreds of mysteries have appeared since that not-so-distant time. The pace of modern living: that’s the cliché. Unless a mystery writer produces, more or less, a book a year, the shades soon fall. As they did for Peter Dickinson when his British publisher abruptly declined Some Deaths, and, though it was published in the States to appreciative reviews (“like caviar, an acquired taste that can easily become an addiction”—Time), he had to struggle to find another publisher in Britain. He came to feel then that the effort required to write mysteries at the level he aimed for—and the effort is as demanding as that of running a whole business—was too much. He has, however, continued to give us his fine stories for children.

No doubt, here and there, you can still find readers who have some at least of his score of mystery novels securely in their heads. You could not easily forget, for example, a classic detective story set in an upside- down palace in Arabia with a delightful female chimpanzee as the sleuth, who, in a Christie-style final confrontation, exposes the murderer by arranging childlike, coloured shapes into a meaningful order. That’s the plot of The Poison Oracle, Dickinson’s 1974 book. And it is typical of the extraordinary imagination that is his chief gift to the crime novel.

dickinson_Glass-Sided-Ants-Nest-jacket1Another brief example is his 1968 debut, The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest (which originally had to be called Skin Deep in England because an old wiseacre at his publisher said books with insects in the title never did well) had murder among a primitive New Guinea tribe who had come to inhabit—guess where—the attics of a row of London houses. The book won the Gold Dagger for that year. As did, in the next year—a feat not yet surpassed—his mystery called, in England, punningly, A Pride of Heroes, and in the US The Old English Peep Show (because a smart New York publisher didn’t get that pun?).

Dickinson’s multifarious imagination, however, is not his only gift to crime fiction. He so much liked detective stories that, during his seventeen years on the staff of that now defunct but once essential magazine Punch, he regularly reviewed the then still highly popular genre. In his own books, he has said, his aim was to keep closely to the play-fair rules, the puzzle solved by intelligence, the clues scrupulously present however disguised. But to those clues he brought his own frolicking style. As you read The Lizard in the Cup, where Superintendent Pibble, protagonist of the first five Dickinson books, is wandering around a nursing home after he has had a mysterious breakdown, you come across a fleeting reference to the kitchen preparing that former staple of British school fare, roly-poly pudding. You smile, perhaps. But later when the enticing odour enters Pibble’s nostrils once more, he takes note, while the reader is busy smiling, of the fact that leads him to solve the crime. Only Dickinson could do that, true detection cunningly made to look like no more than an amusing social detail from past times.

Almost all Dickinson books—the later ones less pure puzzle stories—are set, or partly set, in one particular past time. This is that now literally fabulous era that trickled to its end in the years just after World War Two, carrying with it a whole cargo of upper-class life. At that time, it was the accepted thing to incarcerate your sons in boarding schools such as Eton, where Dickinson himself was educated, and there to feed them on such suety stuff as roly-poly pudding. These sons were also inculcated into a code of behaviour which, for example, made the esoteric game of cricket into a sort of fetish, or which insisted on the particular wearing of special clothes for special occasions (how many buttons, it stipulated, you should fasten on your waistcoat). No wonder the Time reviewer I quoted earlier felt obliged to warn that the Dickinson books are “an acquired taste.”

dickinson_SleepIt is a taste British readers, doubtless, find easier to acquire than American ones, who are perhaps baffled by that rule-bound code of good manners added to by the habit of peppering speech with the odd Latin tag. But sip at the edges of this almost fairy-tale way of life, and there is to be found sweetness beyond even roly-poly pudding.

The underlying reason for that tastiness in such abundance is that Peter Dickinson is a very fine novelist per se (excuse my Latin). His writing is wonderfully evocative and wonderfully easy to read, bar perhaps the occasional learned word—accipitrine or columbaceous, both describing noses. But keep the dictionary for later. Read dizzyingly on. As you do, you will find such descriptions of opening the door to that New Guinea tribe in their London attics “as the caged smells weltered out.” Or, in that solve-the-puzzle story, which also puts into a reader’s mind the way we are all thoughtlessly accepting that we are destroying the world we live in, The Poison Oracle, there is a passage evoking the “the ugly noise of the lung-fish adapting themselves over thousands of generations to live in an altered world.” There, in a single phrase, we are given not only the marshes that surround the palace—all Arabia is not sandy desert, remember—but the ideas that lie behind the weirdnesses of that story. A truly remarkable writer.

A PETER DICKINSON READING LIST
Mystery fiction for adults

James Pibble series
Skin Deep (1968); US: The Glass-Sided Ants' Nest
A Pride of Heroes (1969); US: The Old English Peep Show
The Seals (1970); US: The Sinful Stones
Sleep and His Brother (1971)
The Lizard in the Cup (1972)
One Foot in the Grave (1979)

Other novels
The Green Gene (1973)
The Poison Oracle (1974)
The Lively Dead (1975)
King and Joker (1976)
Walking Dead (1977)
A Summer in the Twenties (1981)
The Last Houseparty (1982)
Hindsight (1983)
Death of a Unicorn (1984)
Tefuga (1985)
Skeleton-in-Waiting (1987)
Perfect Gallows (1988)
Play Dead (1991)
The Yellow Room Conspiracy (1992)
Some Deaths Before Dying (1999)

In addition to his highly regarded literary criticism, H.R.F. Keating (1926-2011) was also the creator of the Inspector Ghote series and the "Hard Detective" series featuring Det. Superintendent Harriet Martens.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #90.

Teri Duerr
2012-12-17 19:31:16

dickinson_peterH.R.F. Keating considers the extraordinary imagination of Peter Dickinson.

Movie Review: Jack Reacher: Two Stars
Oline Cogdill

jackreacher_movie2
The real curiosity about the movie Jack Reacher is not about the plot or or the action; it’s about the star.

Can Tom Cruise, not known for his height or his brawn, slip into the shoes of Jack Reacher, described in Lee Child’s novels as 6' 5" tall with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds?

Well. . .Cruise may play Jack Reacher, but he is no Jack Reacher.

And it is not because physically Cruise doesn’t resemble the Reacher described in the novels.

Granted, movies have a history of those rather short of stature playing bigger than life heroes. Alan Ladd, at 5 feet-6 inches, is about the same height as Cruise, but no one sat higher in the saddle than he did in Shane. (Ladd’s height has been reported to be anywhere from 5-5 to 5-9 with 5-6 being the most accepted.)

It’s not the lack of height that shortens the appeal of Cruise as Reacher.

jackreacher_movie4It’s Cruise himself, and the script.

His personal oddities aside, I generally like Cruise as an actor. He has proven himself to be a decent action hero as Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series and as a man caught up in situations beyond his control in The Firm and A Few Good Men. As a romantic lead, he’s had me at hello in Jerry Maguire and Top Gun. He’s even shown he has a sense of humor and can riff off his image in Tropic Thunder and Rock of Ages. And we sometimes forget that Cruise can be a really good actor as witnessed in The Color of Money and Born on the Fourth of July.

His performance isn’t bad and often is entertaining, but he should not be in this role.

But, Cruise brings nothing new to the role, no nuance, no reason to make those unfamiliar with Child’s novels understand why they are like the crack cocaine of mystery fiction. He is simply Tom Cruise delivering the kind of performance that has worked time and again for him.

Entertaining? Yes? Nuanced? No.

jackreacher_movie7Cruise is playing dress up; he is saying the right things and trying to act like the hero. But it is difficult to buy him as Reacher, even in the scene where he is shirtless.

It’s as if Ethan Hunt from the MI franchise went undercover as Jack Reacher. Any moment he will take off his mask to reveal he is. . . Tom Cruise!

It would have been better to cast an unknown as Jack Reacher, an actor who could make us believe in this character and who would find himself in a star-making role.

But Cruise brings in the big bucks. And that is what counts.

But Jack Reacher ’s shortfall isn’t totally Cruise’s fault.

Spread some of the blame to writer and director Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, The Tourist).

On the page, Child’s drifter-hero mixes the thriller with an old-fashioned western. With his military police background, Reacher knows how to clean up a town, and when to leave. True, there is a formula to the books but it is a formula that is invisible and works every time.

On the screen, that formula overwhelms nearly every scene. Jack Reacher isn’t a bad thriller film, but it’s one we’ve seen way too many times and the predictability blares too loudly.

If you have seen any of the Die Hards, the Bournes or any James Bond films, then you have seen Jack Reacher .

jackreacher_movie6We’ve seen the car chases, the action clichés and we’ve heard the dialogue before, too, though snatches of it are quite clever. And I do want to give mad props to one car chase that doesn't appear to use any computer graphics.

Jack Reacher is based on Child’s 2005 novel One Shot, the ninth in his series.

Evidence points to James Barr, a former military sniper, in the shooting of five people. Reacher has different ideas. Taking a job as an investigator for the accused man’s defense attorney, Reacher comes up against a hired killer and a Russian called “the Zec.”

British actress Rosamund Pike plays the defense attorney and director Werner Herzog gives a turn as a Russian mobster. Both have done better work, as has Robert Duvall who plays the cantankerous owner of a gun range. Look for Lee Child playing a silent desk sergeant.

There are many differences between the novel One Shot and Jack Reacher , none of which add or detract from the story. In the novel, the action takes place in Indiana. The movie moves the action to Pittsburgh; Barr’s sister and a TV reporter who help Reacher are missing.

Jack Reacher features a lot of violence, shootings and fighting. I wish someone could explain to me how this was rated PG-13 and the comedy This Is 40 is rated R (for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material.)

Will Jack Reacher interest new readers to Child’s novels? I hope so. Because then those who are unfamiliar with the novels would know what the fuss over Reacher is really all about.

Jack Reacher is rated PG-13: Violence, some drug material and language. Running time 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photos: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, top two photos. Cruise with Lee Child and Rosamund Pike. Cruise with Robert Duvall. Photos from Paramount Pictures

Xav ID 577
2012-12-22 02:53:42

jackreacher_movie2
The real curiosity about the movie Jack Reacher is not about the plot or or the action; it’s about the star.

Can Tom Cruise, not known for his height or his brawn, slip into the shoes of Jack Reacher, described in Lee Child’s novels as 6' 5" tall with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds?

Well. . .Cruise may play Jack Reacher, but he is no Jack Reacher.

And it is not because physically Cruise doesn’t resemble the Reacher described in the novels.

Granted, movies have a history of those rather short of stature playing bigger than life heroes. Alan Ladd, at 5 feet-6 inches, is about the same height as Cruise, but no one sat higher in the saddle than he did in Shane. (Ladd’s height has been reported to be anywhere from 5-5 to 5-9 with 5-6 being the most accepted.)

It’s not the lack of height that shortens the appeal of Cruise as Reacher.

jackreacher_movie4It’s Cruise himself, and the script.

His personal oddities aside, I generally like Cruise as an actor. He has proven himself to be a decent action hero as Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series and as a man caught up in situations beyond his control in The Firm and A Few Good Men. As a romantic lead, he’s had me at hello in Jerry Maguire and Top Gun. He’s even shown he has a sense of humor and can riff off his image in Tropic Thunder and Rock of Ages. And we sometimes forget that Cruise can be a really good actor as witnessed in The Color of Money and Born on the Fourth of July.

His performance isn’t bad and often is entertaining, but he should not be in this role.

But, Cruise brings nothing new to the role, no nuance, no reason to make those unfamiliar with Child’s novels understand why they are like the crack cocaine of mystery fiction. He is simply Tom Cruise delivering the kind of performance that has worked time and again for him.

Entertaining? Yes? Nuanced? No.

jackreacher_movie7Cruise is playing dress up; he is saying the right things and trying to act like the hero. But it is difficult to buy him as Reacher, even in the scene where he is shirtless.

It’s as if Ethan Hunt from the MI franchise went undercover as Jack Reacher. Any moment he will take off his mask to reveal he is. . . Tom Cruise!

It would have been better to cast an unknown as Jack Reacher, an actor who could make us believe in this character and who would find himself in a star-making role.

But Cruise brings in the big bucks. And that is what counts.

But Jack Reacher ’s shortfall isn’t totally Cruise’s fault.

Spread some of the blame to writer and director Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, The Tourist).

On the page, Child’s drifter-hero mixes the thriller with an old-fashioned western. With his military police background, Reacher knows how to clean up a town, and when to leave. True, there is a formula to the books but it is a formula that is invisible and works every time.

On the screen, that formula overwhelms nearly every scene. Jack Reacher isn’t a bad thriller film, but it’s one we’ve seen way too many times and the predictability blares too loudly.

If you have seen any of the Die Hards, the Bournes or any James Bond films, then you have seen Jack Reacher .

jackreacher_movie6We’ve seen the car chases, the action clichés and we’ve heard the dialogue before, too, though snatches of it are quite clever. And I do want to give mad props to one car chase that doesn't appear to use any computer graphics.

Jack Reacher is based on Child’s 2005 novel One Shot, the ninth in his series.

Evidence points to James Barr, a former military sniper, in the shooting of five people. Reacher has different ideas. Taking a job as an investigator for the accused man’s defense attorney, Reacher comes up against a hired killer and a Russian called “the Zec.”

British actress Rosamund Pike plays the defense attorney and director Werner Herzog gives a turn as a Russian mobster. Both have done better work, as has Robert Duvall who plays the cantankerous owner of a gun range. Look for Lee Child playing a silent desk sergeant.

There are many differences between the novel One Shot and Jack Reacher , none of which add or detract from the story. In the novel, the action takes place in Indiana. The movie moves the action to Pittsburgh; Barr’s sister and a TV reporter who help Reacher are missing.

Jack Reacher features a lot of violence, shootings and fighting. I wish someone could explain to me how this was rated PG-13 and the comedy This Is 40 is rated R (for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material.)

Will Jack Reacher interest new readers to Child’s novels? I hope so. Because then those who are unfamiliar with the novels would know what the fuss over Reacher is really all about.

Jack Reacher is rated PG-13: Violence, some drug material and language. Running time 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photos: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, top two photos. Cruise with Lee Child and Rosamund Pike. Cruise with Robert Duvall. Photos from Paramount Pictures

Books to Die for a Lively Assortment
Oline Cogdill


connolly_bookstodiefor
OK, so Christmas is over, but does that mean all the gifts have been bought? Or sent? (I promise mine are in the mail!) And some people celebrate Boxing Day.

So if you are still looking for that perfect gift for a mystery fan, there is one book I think everyone should have: Books To Die For, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke.

Connolly and Burke assembled 119 top-notch authors from 20 countries to discuss which writers’ words encouraged them to become storytellers. But these are not gushing fan tributes but thoughtful tributes to fellow writers. We learn as much about the author who inspired as we do about the author who was inspired in Books To Die For.

Michael Connelly cites Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister with its evocative descriptions of Los Angeles. In turn, Connelly’s 1992 Edgar Award-winning The Black Echo inspired co-editor John Connolly who calls it “a stunningly accomplished piece of work.” John Connolly, author of 16 novels, including the Charlie Parker novels, also chooses The Chill, written in 1964 by Ross D. Macdonald. Canadian Linwood Barclay (Trust Your Eyes) cites Macdonald’s The Goodbye Look as he remembers a correspondence and a dinner meeting with the creator of Lew Archer.

Kelli Stanley of San Francisco and Lauren Henderson of Great Britain both cite different Agatha Christie novels.

Sara Paretsky mentions Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and, in turn, Paretsky is honored by Natasha Cooper and Dreda Say Mitchell. Margaret Maron and Louise Penny both honor Josephine Tey.

John Connolly’s intriguing essay on John D. Macdonald in Books To Die For was reprinted in the Fall (No. 126) 2012 issue of Mystery Scene.

Even if all your holiday presents are accounted for, don’t forget that 2013 brings a fresh set of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

Xav ID 577
2012-12-26 11:30:01


connolly_bookstodiefor
OK, so Christmas is over, but does that mean all the gifts have been bought? Or sent? (I promise mine are in the mail!) And some people celebrate Boxing Day.

So if you are still looking for that perfect gift for a mystery fan, there is one book I think everyone should have: Books To Die For, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke.

Connolly and Burke assembled 119 top-notch authors from 20 countries to discuss which writers’ words encouraged them to become storytellers. But these are not gushing fan tributes but thoughtful tributes to fellow writers. We learn as much about the author who inspired as we do about the author who was inspired in Books To Die For.

Michael Connelly cites Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister with its evocative descriptions of Los Angeles. In turn, Connelly’s 1992 Edgar Award-winning The Black Echo inspired co-editor John Connolly who calls it “a stunningly accomplished piece of work.” John Connolly, author of 16 novels, including the Charlie Parker novels, also chooses The Chill, written in 1964 by Ross D. Macdonald. Canadian Linwood Barclay (Trust Your Eyes) cites Macdonald’s The Goodbye Look as he remembers a correspondence and a dinner meeting with the creator of Lew Archer.

Kelli Stanley of San Francisco and Lauren Henderson of Great Britain both cite different Agatha Christie novels.

Sara Paretsky mentions Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and, in turn, Paretsky is honored by Natasha Cooper and Dreda Say Mitchell. Margaret Maron and Louise Penny both honor Josephine Tey.

John Connolly’s intriguing essay on John D. Macdonald in Books To Die For was reprinted in the Fall (No. 126) 2012 issue of Mystery Scene.

Even if all your holiday presents are accounted for, don’t forget that 2013 brings a fresh set of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

A Bit More of Michael Connelly
Oline Cogdill

connelly_theblackbox
No matter how I try, no profile can encompass every snippet of an interview.

And I certainly tried to include every quote in the profile of Michael Connelly, which is the cover article in the current issue of Mystery Scene.

But some things just have to hit the cutting room floor.

Several people offered quotes about Connelly’s well-respected reputation.

Here’s what McKenna Jordan, owner of Murder by the Book in Houston, said:

“In my experience, the vast majority of authors within the mystery community are terrific people: smart, funny, self-deprecating, and truly appreciative of the support of an independent bookseller,” she said.

“Michael Connelly embodies these qualities and more. He is a true gentleman, one whom we are always honored to host, and one whose books are consistently among the best of the year.”

And Connelly, whose latest novel is The Black Box, told me that he prefers to write novels rather than scripts. But Connelly is again “deviating” from his plans by writing a script based on his short story "The Safe Man," a ghost tale that was published anonymously in The Secret Society of Demolition Writers in 2005. The Safe Man is now being sold as ebook and audio book under his name.

“It’s not what I normally write, but I thought it would be a cool writing challenge to do a script based on it. It’s a very visual story.”

Xav ID 577
2012-12-30 04:00:19

connelly_theblackbox
No matter how I try, no profile can encompass every snippet of an interview.

And I certainly tried to include every quote in the profile of Michael Connelly, which is the cover article in the current issue of Mystery Scene.

But some things just have to hit the cutting room floor.

Several people offered quotes about Connelly’s well-respected reputation.

Here’s what McKenna Jordan, owner of Murder by the Book in Houston, said:

“In my experience, the vast majority of authors within the mystery community are terrific people: smart, funny, self-deprecating, and truly appreciative of the support of an independent bookseller,” she said.

“Michael Connelly embodies these qualities and more. He is a true gentleman, one whom we are always honored to host, and one whose books are consistently among the best of the year.”

And Connelly, whose latest novel is The Black Box, told me that he prefers to write novels rather than scripts. But Connelly is again “deviating” from his plans by writing a script based on his short story "The Safe Man," a ghost tale that was published anonymously in The Secret Society of Demolition Writers in 2005. The Safe Man is now being sold as ebook and audio book under his name.

“It’s not what I normally write, but I thought it would be a cool writing challenge to do a script based on it. It’s a very visual story.”

Crime Beat Radio Schedule
Oline Cogdill


Happy New Year.

pennsean_gangstersquad
We at Mystery Scene hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and we wish all our readers a healthy, happy 2013.

On Jan. 2, many of us are going back to work and school; for others, Jan. 7 is the get back to normal day.

To help you plan the month, here is the schedule for Crime Beat, a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST on Artist First World Radio Network. You can listen here http://artistfirst.com/crimebeat.htm.

Crime Beat has been on the air since January, 2011, and averages 130,000 listeners each week.

January 3: Paul Lieberman, author of Gangster Squad, which is the inspiration for the movie by the same name, starring Sean Penn, left, as Mickey Cohen.

January 10: Phil Leonetti and Scott Burnstein, authors of Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Crime Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra.

January 17: Robert Lombardo , author of Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia.

January 24: Gill Revill, author of Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers and the Meeting that Unmasked the Mob.

January 31: Noam Chomsky, world renowned activist will discuss the U.S. election and crime issues. Lois Banner, the author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, will discuss "Marilyn Monroe, the Mob and the Rat Pack."

February 7: Jack Cole, co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and longtime undercover narcotics officer, will discuss the war on drugs.

February 14: JJ Leyden on "Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope."

February 21: Norma Ramos, executive director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and Stella Marr, founding member of The Survivors Connect Network.

February 28: Greg Kading, author of Murder Rap: The Untold Story of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

Xav ID 577
2013-01-03 04:43:19


Happy New Year.

pennsean_gangstersquad
We at Mystery Scene hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and we wish all our readers a healthy, happy 2013.

On Jan. 2, many of us are going back to work and school; for others, Jan. 7 is the get back to normal day.

To help you plan the month, here is the schedule for Crime Beat, a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST on Artist First World Radio Network. You can listen here http://artistfirst.com/crimebeat.htm.

Crime Beat has been on the air since January, 2011, and averages 130,000 listeners each week.

January 3: Paul Lieberman, author of Gangster Squad, which is the inspiration for the movie by the same name, starring Sean Penn, left, as Mickey Cohen.

January 10: Phil Leonetti and Scott Burnstein, authors of Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Crime Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra.

January 17: Robert Lombardo , author of Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia.

January 24: Gill Revill, author of Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers and the Meeting that Unmasked the Mob.

January 31: Noam Chomsky, world renowned activist will discuss the U.S. election and crime issues. Lois Banner, the author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, will discuss "Marilyn Monroe, the Mob and the Rat Pack."

February 7: Jack Cole, co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and longtime undercover narcotics officer, will discuss the war on drugs.

February 14: JJ Leyden on "Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope."

February 21: Norma Ramos, executive director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and Stella Marr, founding member of The Survivors Connect Network.

February 28: Greg Kading, author of Murder Rap: The Untold Story of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

Elizabeth George on Reading
Elizabeth George

george_elizabeth

Reading's pleasure is solitary, but it is also infinite. There is very little in life that gives us so much and asks so little...

It seems to me that I have always been in the midst of reading a book. I can’t remember a time when it was otherwise, although there is a distinct possibility that I wasn’t doing any reading in the crib. But from my earliest memories of being a child, I was surrounded by books, and books and libraries loom large in my personal legend. I became a writer largely because I loved reading. Reading, I found myself swept up in other worlds and in the lives of people whose largeness of experience lived within me long after the covers of the book were closed. Reading, I developed a desire to do the same thing that was going on on the page. But by this I mean that what I wanted to do was write. For what was on the page constituted words, and it was the words themselves that created in my mind the images of Anne Shirley, of Laura Ingalls, of Nancy Drew, of the Boxcar Children, and on and on.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, there were few distractions to lure a child away from books, but I didn’t cling to books because they were the only relief I had from boredom. Indeed, in the neighborhood in which I lived, there were children aplenty so there was very little boredom. We played like demons, returning home only when the “five o’clock whistle” blew at the packing plant in Mountain View, California, down by the railroad tracks but with enough velocity that it could be heard all over town. Our play was filled with games of imagination that always began with one of the children offering the magic words, “Let’s say…” and completing the sentence with something like “we live on the prairie and over there under the plum tree will be our sod house” or “I’m the mother and you’re the father” or “I’m the teacher and you’re the bad kids.” We also played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can and mother-may-I and tag. But when darkness fell or when rain visited the Santa Clara valley, we had books. Or perhaps I should say more specifically, I had books.

I cannot imagine a life in which there are no books. Nor can I imagine a life in which books are merely a second, third, fourth, or fifth choice of entertainment. When I finish one book, I pick up another and to me there never exists the anxiety of "What will I do next?" or "What will I do alone?" or "What will I do while I wait?" I have a stack of to-be-read books that will give me pleasure for at least a decade, and whenever I enter our local bookstore, I buy another and add it to the stack.

obrien_inthelakeofthewoodsI have my favorites, of course. I have read To Kill a Mockingbird at least ten times, and Possession by A.S. Byatt will probably always reign as my choice of best novel ever written although In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien takes a close second to that. I have discovered writers whose work has taken my breath away—who can do otherwise but celebrate the discovery of Tana French, for example?—and I have lived in the descriptive elegance of people who have been writing for years.

As a novelist myself now, I am thrilled when someone tells me they walked down the King’s Road in London to look at the exact house at the corner of Cheyne Row and Lordship Place where my character Simon St. James lives, and I am delighted when I learn that someone else went to a location in one of my novels because I made it so real that they “just had to see it.” For these are things that I myself have done as a reader, eager to experience in part what a writer whom I will never meet has so lovingly crafted on the page.

I celebrate reading, probably more than anything. Its pleasure is solitary, but it is also infinite. There is very little in life that gives us so much and asks so little of us: just to find a chair, to open the pages, and to fall into the embrace of story.

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews January 2013 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2013-01-03 03:07:12

george_elizabethReading's pleasure is solitary. There is very little in life that gives us so much and asks so little...

Dennis Lehane’s Beagle Still Missing
Oline Cogdill

lehanedennis_tessa
This is a blog I was hoping not to write.

More than a week ago, Dennis Lehane appealed via Facebook, Twitter, the media, posters, such as the one at left, and just about any other method to find his lost dog, Tessa. The beagle went missing on Dec. 24 after she escaped from the yard of Lehane’s home in Brookline, Mass.

Lehane has even offered a reward: In his next novel, he’ll name a character after the person who brings back Tessa. (Lehane’s latest novel is Live by Night.)

The search for Tessa has been shared and posted and tweeted and reshared and reposted and retweeted myriad times. Stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Associated Press and in the Boston media. In addition to his own Facebook page, a Finding Tessa page has been set up.

Still no Tessa.

So if anyone who has not heard of Tessa’s plight finds a stray beagle roaming the Boston area, please take her to the nearest veterinarian. Tessa was not wearing her collar but she does have a microchip.

In an Associated Press story a couple of days ago, Lehane was quoted as saying “No dog since Lassie ever got this attention.” In the same AP story Lehane added that finding Tessa was “a no-questions-asked issue.” “Bring the dog to a shelter or call me and I will pick up the dog.”

As a dog lover, I know how Lehane feels. I would be devastated if any of our dogs went missing.

Tessa is a rescue dog. What often doesn’t show up in profiles on Lehane is that he and his wife support several causes, including Beagle Rescue. Many successful authors, such as Lehane, quietly contribute to a number of causes.

I am hoping that within an hour of this blog being posted that it will be old news, that Tessa will be reunited with Lehane and his family.

Xav ID 577
2013-01-06 09:48:09

lehanedennis_tessa
This is a blog I was hoping not to write.

More than a week ago, Dennis Lehane appealed via Facebook, Twitter, the media, posters, such as the one at left, and just about any other method to find his lost dog, Tessa. The beagle went missing on Dec. 24 after she escaped from the yard of Lehane’s home in Brookline, Mass.

Lehane has even offered a reward: In his next novel, he’ll name a character after the person who brings back Tessa. (Lehane’s latest novel is Live by Night.)

The search for Tessa has been shared and posted and tweeted and reshared and reposted and retweeted myriad times. Stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Associated Press and in the Boston media. In addition to his own Facebook page, a Finding Tessa page has been set up.

Still no Tessa.

So if anyone who has not heard of Tessa’s plight finds a stray beagle roaming the Boston area, please take her to the nearest veterinarian. Tessa was not wearing her collar but she does have a microchip.

In an Associated Press story a couple of days ago, Lehane was quoted as saying “No dog since Lassie ever got this attention.” In the same AP story Lehane added that finding Tessa was “a no-questions-asked issue.” “Bring the dog to a shelter or call me and I will pick up the dog.”

As a dog lover, I know how Lehane feels. I would be devastated if any of our dogs went missing.

Tessa is a rescue dog. What often doesn’t show up in profiles on Lehane is that he and his wife support several causes, including Beagle Rescue. Many successful authors, such as Lehane, quietly contribute to a number of causes.

I am hoping that within an hour of this blog being posted that it will be old news, that Tessa will be reunited with Lehane and his family.

W.J. Burley
Martin Edwards

Burley_WJ_seaAlthough he enjoyed a long and successful career culminating in a popular TV series based on his thoughtful Superintendent Wycliffe novels, W.J. Burley has attracted surprisingly little critical attention. Here are some reasons to seek out his work.

Photo courtesy of the W.J. Burley website and ©Alan Burley.

W.J. Burley is best known for the novels featuring Chief Superintendent Wycliffe, which form the most notable detective series ever to have been set in Burley’s beautiful native county, Cornwall. Yet when he died in 2002, Burley’s passing was scarcely noticed in the crime fiction world, a mystery in itself.

The solution to the puzzle lies in Burley’s private nature. He was for many years a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, but he never involved himself in its activities and seems to have spent little time socialising with fellow mystery novelists. He seldom sought personal publicity after turning to fiction, relatively late: he was 52 when his first novel, A Taste of Power, was published in 1966.

The book received relatively scant attention, but it launched a career that was to last for three and a half decades. Throughout that time, Burley’s main preoccupation was to develop his craft. Almost alone amongst major British crime writers, he modeled his style on that of Georges Simenon, whose work he much admired. His books, like Simenon’s, were short and crisply written, but unlike the Belgian master, he did not write full-time until retiring from his career as a teacher.

Intensely self-critical, Burley confessed in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers that he had “never felt very happy with my books—they seemed rather too derivative, following too closely an established pattern.” By that time, Wycliffe was already well-established, but Burley resolved “to break new ground.” He said of Charles and Elizabeth, a Gothic novel of suspense published in 1979: “For the first time I feel that I have written a book which offers something a little different.” Yet despite his efforts to break away from the constraints of formula, he kept returning to Wycliffe, and as the series progressed it displayed an increasing assurance of style. Happily, Burley’s reputation is likely to benefit from the creation of a new and impressive website by a Cornwall-based enthusiast, Mario de Pace. So this is perhaps an opportune moment to take another look at his career.

William John Burley (known as John) was born in the pretty port of Falmouth in 1914. Married with two sons, he worked as an engineer before seizing the opportunity to change direction and study zoology as a mature student at Oxford University. At Oxford, he attended Balliol College, best known to mystery lovers as the alma mater of Lord Peter Wimsey. (Balliol has produced close to 40 writers of crime fiction over the years.) Afterwards, Burley taught biology at Newquay School.

burley_threetoedpussyLike many teachers, he was meticulous in his habits. When he bought a book for his personal library, he not only wrote his name inside it, but also recorded the date of acquisition. Such attention to detail is an excellent qualification for an author of tightly plotted traditional mysteries. Burley went further by compiling “plot books” with plans for his stories. These make fascinating reading and extracts can be seen on the website, which also contains informative material about Burley’s unfinished work—he remained a committed writer up to the very end of his life.

Burley began with books about an amateur detective before deciding to concentrate on the unfolding career of a professional policeman. A Taste of Power involved poison pen letters in a school setting and introduced Henry Pym. Henry is a zoologist with a keen interest in murder and a convenient friendship with senior police officer, Detective Superintendent Judd.

Pym reappears in Death in Willow Pattern (1969), a high-spirited example of the traditional detective novel that, shorn of a few modern touches, might have been published 30 years earlier. Pym is invited, along with his glamorous secretary Susan, to spend Christmas at Peel Place, a Cornish mansion steeped in dark legends. His host, Sir Francis Leigh, wants his advice on the disposal of antiquarian books and manuscripts, but it soon emerges that Sir Francis may have an ulterior motive for asking Pym to stay. A couple of local girls have gone missing and there are hints that Sir Francis may have inherited the esoteric sexual tastes of a notorious ancestor.

“Crime isn’t a chess problem,” Pym tells Susan. “There can be no dependence on mathematical logic as a tool for unravelling the workings of the human mind.” This is hardly the credo of a disciple of Sherlock Holmes, and Burley seems to have realised that the classic whodunit form was unlikely to give him the scope he needed to explore criminal psychology. So Henry was abandoned—the hint at the end of the book is that he will marry Susan—and Wycliffe, who had made his bow in Three-Toed Pussy (1968), moved on to centre stage in To Kill a Cat (1970).

Burley explained in 1991 that he wanted Wycliffe “to be diligent but compassionate, earnest but with a wry sense of humour, and sufficiently idiosyncratic to be interesting.” He also said, “My next five books exploited the Wycliffe character and three of them, Guilt-Edged, Wycliffe and the Pea-Green Boat, and Wycliffe and the Schoolgirls, adopted a more psychological approach. This trend culminated in The Schoolmaster, a non-Wycliffe crime story which tells how a sensitive, introspective schoolmaster with a load of guilt finds his way to some sort of salvation.”

One senses that Burley, like so many crime writers, was torn between concentrating on his series and venturing into other territories. For him, the Wycliffe books were not a mere refuge from more testing challenges; he was keen to lift his series above the formulaic. Yet from time to time he succumbed to the urge to try something different. In 1978, he even tried his hand at a different genre. The Sixth Day is a little-known science fiction novel (which is unlikely to become better known unless someone reprints it—the price of the first and only edition are prohibitive to all but the most passionate fan) and he did not repeat the experiment. After The House of Care (1980), which treats the tangled relationships of the Care family in another Cornwall-based Gothic mystery, he seems to have decided to stick to Wycliffe.

This decision was finally vindicated when he was over 80 and HTV, on the strength of a successful pilot show, decided to produce a series about Wycliffe, with the detective played by an excellent, edgy actor, Jack Shepherd. The glamorous Cornish locations may well have attracted the television moguls even more than the mystery puzzles, but the results were consistently watchable and attracted high viewer ratings. Burley preferred the original scripts based on his characters to those adapted from his own novels: “The breakdown in structure involved with adaptation seemed to lose much of the point of the books.”

burley_wycliffecycleofdeathBurley summed up his work thus:

Most of my books are set in the far southwest, and they are concerned with the tensions which arise within small groups of people who live or work together in close proximity—the family in a country house; the partners in a family business; the people living in a village street or town square. My criminals are never professionals but ordinary people who feel driven by repressed emotions of fear, hatred or jealousy to commit crimes which in other circumstances they would find unthinkable. In my more recent books I have used actual locations in Cornwall and Devon, confusing the topography slightly in order to avoid the risk of seeming to represent actual people.

The rural settings suit Burley’s low-key style and offer further confirmation of Sherlock Holmes’ belief, expressed in “The Copper Beeches,” that “the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” By focusing on a region he knew intimately, Burley evoked atmosphere with an insider’s sure touch.

In Burley’s books, the policeman’s lot is far from glamorous. Wycliffe is much given to introspection, especially as a tough case draws to a conclusion. Take, for instance, this passage from the final page of Wycliffe and the Schoolgirls (1976):

Wycliffe went up to his office and stood by the window in the darkness. He was trying to come to terms with himself. Why had he subjected [the culprit] to an interrogation which served no recognised professional end? Out of curiosity? If that meant that he needed to understand. Surely that was more important than knowing about the electrostatic detection of footprints or the latest methods of recording and analysing the statistics of crime.

It is this need to understand the psychological make-up of murderers that drives his detective work. The mood as he solves a mystery is not triumphalist but melancholy, verging on the anticlimactic, and occasionally judgmental. At the end of Wycliffe and the Winsor Blue (1987), he reflects that the killer’s need for a scapegoat “excluded every other consideration. That to me is wickedness. There is no other word.” In the final pages of Wycliffe and the Four Jacks (1985), “the atmosphere in the Incident Room was lethargic, deflated, the process of winding down had started.” Brooding, Wycliffe says to his attractive sidekick Lucy Lane, “That’s what this case has been about—people who have never grown up.” In Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery (1993) the scene is domestic but equally downbeat:

The Wycliffes were in their living room. Outside the light was fading, the curtains were undrawn and in the garden shapes and shadows merged in the melancholy twilight. It suited Wycliffe’s mood. As often before when an investigation culminated in an arrest, he was experiencing a feeling of anticlimax, even of futility.

Downbeat, yes, but not depressing. Thoughtful seems to me to be the right word to describe Charles Wycliffe and the books about him. For readers prepared to have their own thoughts provoked, there is much in the novels to relish.

Cornwall_Porthcurno_beachInevitably, Burley’s bleak yet clear-eyed perspective of human nature does not always make for comfortable, light entertainment. Wycliffe is nothing like Marlowe, Wimsey, or even Inspector Morse. He is a pragmatist first and foremost—and all the more credible a human being for it. We are told in Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death (1990) that the detective “believed the criminal law should aim at damage limitation rather than at some abstraction called justice.”

The plots of Burley’s books are competently constructed, but for him the exploration of criminal motivation is much more important than the weaving of an ingenious puzzle. Although he does not go in for fireworks—he is scarcely as witty as Reginald Hill, and his stories lack the bizarre originality of Ruth Rendell—his economical style makes for vivid characterisation, a lively pace, and contributes to a rapid and enjoyable read.

And then, perhaps above all, there is the romantic peninsula of Cornwall, evoked lovingly but without resorting to sentimentality or purple prose. Forget the travel brochures. If you seek a vivid portrayal of this varied and fascinating English county, with its old tin mines and its sandy beaches, you can do no better than reach for the books of W.J. Burley.

A SELECTED W.J. BURLEY READING LIST

The Superintendent Charles Wycliffe Novels
Three-Toed Pussy, 1968
To Kill a Cat, 1970
Guilt Edged, 1971
Death in a Salubrious Place, 1973
Death in Stanley Street, 1975
Wycliffe and the Pea-Green Boat, 1975
Wycliffe and the Schoolgirls, 1976
Wycliffe and the Scapegoat, 1978
Wycliffe in Paul’s Court, 1980
Wycliffe’s Wild Goose Chase, 1982
Wycliffe and the Beales, 1983
Wycliffe and the Four Jacks, 1985
Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin, 1986
Wycliffe and the Winsor Blue, 1987
Wycliffe and the Tangled Web, 1988
Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death, 1990
Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist, 1991
Wycliffe and the Last Rites, 1992
Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery, 1994
Wycliffe and the House of Fear, 1995
Wycliffe and the Redhead, 1997
Wycliffe and the Guild of Nine, 2000

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #93.

Teri Duerr
2013-01-08 19:11:26

Burley_WJ_seaDespite his successful Supt. Wycliffe novels, Burley gets surprisingly little critical attention.

Getting Justified for the 4th Time
Oline Cogdill
justified_olyphant9
Timothy Olyphant’s intriguing portrayal of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, above, is one of the main draws that keep us riveted to Justified. But the comely actor isn’t the only reason.


Justified is just so darn well written that it doesn’t fall into any predictable rut.

Each season of Justified takes a different angle than the last while delving deeper into the psyches and souls of the core cast of characters. That’s a lot to ask from a TV series, but Justified, which started its fourth season Jan. 8 on FX, does that each year.

The villains may vary—and we hope they continue to rotate new bad guys each time—but the central characters bring us back to the rough and tumble area of Harlan County, Ky.

Raylan is that rare mix of super tough guy, confident in his skills as a gunman, a lawman who often takes liberties with the law and, yet the same time, a man with integrity. His complicated personal life includes his criminal father Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) who is in jail after killing a man he thought was his son, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) who is pregnant with his child.

Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is the man we love to hate, or hate to love. A drug dealer, a killer and a preacher, Boyd grew up with Raylan and they continue to be both enemies and friends.

During previous seasons, Raylan has chased one villain and been involved with one story arc. Season four’s primary plot is a 30-year-old case that involved a man falling from the sky with a parachute and a bag of cocaine. The case involved Arlo and will force Raylan to look at his own fractured childhood. But there will be more subplots, so many that Raylan and Boyd don’t even meet until the fifth episode.

Raylan will start moonlighting as a bounty hunter to earn extra money because he will become a father. No matter what Raylan does, it is unlikely he will be as bad a father as Arlo was. Boyd’s Oxy revenue is threatened by a preacher, and this will not end well, I predict.

New faces this season will include Patton Oswalt as a constable Raylan hires to watch Arlo’s house; Joe Mazzello as a snake-handling preacher who wants to muscle in on Boyd’s Oxy revenue, and Ron Eldard as an old friend and new partner of Boyd.

Justified is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 novella Fire in the Hole published in his collection When the Women Come Out to Dance. Leonard returned to Raylan Givens in his novel Raylan, released last year. In Raylan, the marshal tackles a pair of dope-dealing brothers, a nurse who sells kidneys on the black market and a ruthless coal executive; several of these subplots have showed up in Justified.

Justified airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on the FX Channel with frequent encores.

Xav ID 577
2013-01-09 04:37:02
justified_olyphant9
Timothy Olyphant’s intriguing portrayal of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, above, is one of the main draws that keep us riveted to Justified. But the comely actor isn’t the only reason.


Justified is just so darn well written that it doesn’t fall into any predictable rut.

Each season of Justified takes a different angle than the last while delving deeper into the psyches and souls of the core cast of characters. That’s a lot to ask from a TV series, but Justified, which started its fourth season Jan. 8 on FX, does that each year.

The villains may vary—and we hope they continue to rotate new bad guys each time—but the central characters bring us back to the rough and tumble area of Harlan County, Ky.

Raylan is that rare mix of super tough guy, confident in his skills as a gunman, a lawman who often takes liberties with the law and, yet the same time, a man with integrity. His complicated personal life includes his criminal father Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) who is in jail after killing a man he thought was his son, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) who is pregnant with his child.

Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is the man we love to hate, or hate to love. A drug dealer, a killer and a preacher, Boyd grew up with Raylan and they continue to be both enemies and friends.

During previous seasons, Raylan has chased one villain and been involved with one story arc. Season four’s primary plot is a 30-year-old case that involved a man falling from the sky with a parachute and a bag of cocaine. The case involved Arlo and will force Raylan to look at his own fractured childhood. But there will be more subplots, so many that Raylan and Boyd don’t even meet until the fifth episode.

Raylan will start moonlighting as a bounty hunter to earn extra money because he will become a father. No matter what Raylan does, it is unlikely he will be as bad a father as Arlo was. Boyd’s Oxy revenue is threatened by a preacher, and this will not end well, I predict.

New faces this season will include Patton Oswalt as a constable Raylan hires to watch Arlo’s house; Joe Mazzello as a snake-handling preacher who wants to muscle in on Boyd’s Oxy revenue, and Ron Eldard as an old friend and new partner of Boyd.

Justified is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 novella Fire in the Hole published in his collection When the Women Come Out to Dance. Leonard returned to Raylan Givens in his novel Raylan, released last year. In Raylan, the marshal tackles a pair of dope-dealing brothers, a nurse who sells kidneys on the black market and a ruthless coal executive; several of these subplots have showed up in Justified.

Justified airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on the FX Channel with frequent encores.

The Shaker Influence
Oline Cogdill


kuhnseleanor_asimplemurder
The year has barely a month old so it’s time for my annual office cleanup. As part of the out with the old, in with the new, I have come across several ideas for blogs I meant to write.

Ah, so many ideas, so little time.

As I have said before, mystery fiction can bring us a new view of history, help us understand who were are and who we were.

This past year, at least one novel gave me insight into a piece of history I knew little about.

In A Simple Murder, Eleanor Kuhns took readers back to the mid-19th century when the Shakers were the largest and most successful utopian group in existence. These tight-knit communities were scattered throughout the Northeast and in Kentucky.

Before I read Kuhns’ novel, I had only thought of the Shakers as group that practiced celibacy and made wonderfully graceful but simple ladder-back furniture and crafts. I also had always meant to visit the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Ky., which is the largest restored Shaker community in America and supposed to have a great restaurant that serves authentic Shaker recipes.

In her debut, Kuhns, a career librarian, shows how the Shakers lived, their daily routines and their faith, as well as how others were often suspicious of them.

I didn’t know until I read A Simple Murder that this religious sect stressed equality of the sexes and pacifism, or that orphans and abused wives often came to a Shaker village seeking refuge.

Sexual relations, even among married couples were forbidden, making it a difficult religion for many to follow. Married couples often joined after they’d had several children. Today, one Shaker community remains in Maine as well as several heritage villages and museums.

A Simple Murder, which won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America’s 2011 First Crime Novel Competition, is set in 1795. Kuhns' next novel, Death of a Dyer, will be out in June 2013.

Widowed weaver Will Rees arrives at a Shaker community seeking his 13-year-old son who had been under the care of his sister. Hoping to repair the relationship with his son, Will agrees to help the Shakers find out who killed one of their female members.

In my review that ran in the Sun Sentinel, I said: “A Simple Murder works as an intense historical but also a heartfelt story about families, especially the bonds between fathers and sons, and the grievances that can pull relatives apart.”


Xav ID 577
2013-01-30 09:14:58


kuhnseleanor_asimplemurder
The year has barely a month old so it’s time for my annual office cleanup. As part of the out with the old, in with the new, I have come across several ideas for blogs I meant to write.

Ah, so many ideas, so little time.

As I have said before, mystery fiction can bring us a new view of history, help us understand who were are and who we were.

This past year, at least one novel gave me insight into a piece of history I knew little about.

In A Simple Murder, Eleanor Kuhns took readers back to the mid-19th century when the Shakers were the largest and most successful utopian group in existence. These tight-knit communities were scattered throughout the Northeast and in Kentucky.

Before I read Kuhns’ novel, I had only thought of the Shakers as group that practiced celibacy and made wonderfully graceful but simple ladder-back furniture and crafts. I also had always meant to visit the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Ky., which is the largest restored Shaker community in America and supposed to have a great restaurant that serves authentic Shaker recipes.

In her debut, Kuhns, a career librarian, shows how the Shakers lived, their daily routines and their faith, as well as how others were often suspicious of them.

I didn’t know until I read A Simple Murder that this religious sect stressed equality of the sexes and pacifism, or that orphans and abused wives often came to a Shaker village seeking refuge.

Sexual relations, even among married couples were forbidden, making it a difficult religion for many to follow. Married couples often joined after they’d had several children. Today, one Shaker community remains in Maine as well as several heritage villages and museums.

A Simple Murder, which won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America’s 2011 First Crime Novel Competition, is set in 1795. Kuhns' next novel, Death of a Dyer, will be out in June 2013.

Widowed weaver Will Rees arrives at a Shaker community seeking his 13-year-old son who had been under the care of his sister. Hoping to repair the relationship with his son, Will agrees to help the Shakers find out who killed one of their female members.

In my review that ran in the Sun Sentinel, I said: “A Simple Murder works as an intense historical but also a heartfelt story about families, especially the bonds between fathers and sons, and the grievances that can pull relatives apart.”


Friends as Important as Villains
Oline Cogdill

laukkanen_professionals
A well-devised, crafty and evil villain is worth his or her weight in gold in mystery fiction. Without great villains, the suspense wouldn’t be as high, interest would wane and the story would fizzle. After all, a good hero or heroine needs the challenge of a villain to prove their mettle.

But heroes and heroines also need friends. That circle of friends can elevate a plot, make dialogue seem more realistic and give the main characters a sense of purpose. In real life, where would we be without friends? The same goes for mystery fiction.

Friendship plays a major part in a scheme that jumpstarts The Professionals, Owen Laukkanen’s excellent debut.

Laukkanen mixes the economic downturn and a bleak job market to produce an insightful thriller about four out-of-work, newly graduated college friends who become kidnappers, as I stated in a review. Laukkanen allows the reader to care about each of these friends, but never asks readers to approve of what they are doing. They become too caught up in “some crazy Robin Hood thing, this gang of broke kids, outsmarting the rich, redistributing the wealth” to realize that what they are doing is “hard-core, no safe word, wrong.”

Friendship spurs on the four college buddies who have an annual reunion in The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos.

kardos_three-dayaffairThat’s the only way to explain how these ordinary, upstanding Princeton graduates turn kidnappers after stopping at a convenience store. When one of them drags out a young store clerk after just robbing the place, they stick together. In a review for Mystery Scene, I said “Kardos does a masterful job of forcing these ordinary characters into the heart of darkness to uncover their ethics in times of stress. Kardos, author of the short story collection One Last Good Time, explores the friends’ moral dilemma with the precision of a surgeon as each man learns what kind of person he is. Kardos imbues The Three-Day Affair with unpredictable twists and steamrolls to a shocking finale.”

In 1975, two young female cops forge a friendship that lasts for decades in Criminal by Karin Slaughter.

Usually Slaughter only writes about the older Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell, but seeing these two women in their 20s allows us insight into how they became who they are today. While Criminal is a contemporary mystery the novel also shows the ramifications of a decades-old murder. Back in 1975, Amanda and Evelyn notice a pattern of young prostitutes disappearing in a crime-ridden neighborhood. None of the male cops are interested in the case, so the two women begin their own investigation. That will be their career-making case.

While Criminal continues the story of physician Sara Linton and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent, the younger Amanda and Evelyn stay in our minds.

A different kind of friendship haunts the neighbors in The Playdate by Louise Millar. Suzy Howard and Callie Roberts live on the same London street and appear to be best friends. But Callie’s decision to return to work begins a frisson in the women’s friendship that is exacerbated by their new neighbor, a teacher with a dark history and fragile mental health. A lot of secrets thrive on this lovely London street.

Neighbors become a sounding board for each other in Cloudland by Joseph Olshan. But the regular coffee klatches provide a superficial friendship, until they learn more about each other.

Some friendships are a staple of a series and without them the main character would be diminished.

Sara Paretsky's private detective V.I. Warshawski needs Charlotte “Lotty” Herschel and Max Loewenthal as much as a sense of justice that her cases provide her. Although she might not admit it, V.I. also needs her neighbor, Salvatore Contreras, not just because they share two dogs. Contreras is a busy body and a bit overbearing at times but part of V.I. wants that in her life.

And the assortment of eccentrics who live at Helen Hawthorne’s apartment building are more than just background in Elaine VietsDead-End Job series. Landlady Margery Flax acts as Helen’s mother, friend and sister as do the other permanent residents.

Helen needs them all, and so do the readers.

Xav ID 577
2013-01-27 09:38:08

laukkanen_professionals
A well-devised, crafty and evil villain is worth his or her weight in gold in mystery fiction. Without great villains, the suspense wouldn’t be as high, interest would wane and the story would fizzle. After all, a good hero or heroine needs the challenge of a villain to prove their mettle.

But heroes and heroines also need friends. That circle of friends can elevate a plot, make dialogue seem more realistic and give the main characters a sense of purpose. In real life, where would we be without friends? The same goes for mystery fiction.

Friendship plays a major part in a scheme that jumpstarts The Professionals, Owen Laukkanen’s excellent debut.

Laukkanen mixes the economic downturn and a bleak job market to produce an insightful thriller about four out-of-work, newly graduated college friends who become kidnappers, as I stated in a review. Laukkanen allows the reader to care about each of these friends, but never asks readers to approve of what they are doing. They become too caught up in “some crazy Robin Hood thing, this gang of broke kids, outsmarting the rich, redistributing the wealth” to realize that what they are doing is “hard-core, no safe word, wrong.”

Friendship spurs on the four college buddies who have an annual reunion in The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos.

kardos_three-dayaffairThat’s the only way to explain how these ordinary, upstanding Princeton graduates turn kidnappers after stopping at a convenience store. When one of them drags out a young store clerk after just robbing the place, they stick together. In a review for Mystery Scene, I said “Kardos does a masterful job of forcing these ordinary characters into the heart of darkness to uncover their ethics in times of stress. Kardos, author of the short story collection One Last Good Time, explores the friends’ moral dilemma with the precision of a surgeon as each man learns what kind of person he is. Kardos imbues The Three-Day Affair with unpredictable twists and steamrolls to a shocking finale.”

In 1975, two young female cops forge a friendship that lasts for decades in Criminal by Karin Slaughter.

Usually Slaughter only writes about the older Amanda Wagner and Evelyn Mitchell, but seeing these two women in their 20s allows us insight into how they became who they are today. While Criminal is a contemporary mystery the novel also shows the ramifications of a decades-old murder. Back in 1975, Amanda and Evelyn notice a pattern of young prostitutes disappearing in a crime-ridden neighborhood. None of the male cops are interested in the case, so the two women begin their own investigation. That will be their career-making case.

While Criminal continues the story of physician Sara Linton and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent, the younger Amanda and Evelyn stay in our minds.

A different kind of friendship haunts the neighbors in The Playdate by Louise Millar. Suzy Howard and Callie Roberts live on the same London street and appear to be best friends. But Callie’s decision to return to work begins a frisson in the women’s friendship that is exacerbated by their new neighbor, a teacher with a dark history and fragile mental health. A lot of secrets thrive on this lovely London street.

Neighbors become a sounding board for each other in Cloudland by Joseph Olshan. But the regular coffee klatches provide a superficial friendship, until they learn more about each other.

Some friendships are a staple of a series and without them the main character would be diminished.

Sara Paretsky's private detective V.I. Warshawski needs Charlotte “Lotty” Herschel and Max Loewenthal as much as a sense of justice that her cases provide her. Although she might not admit it, V.I. also needs her neighbor, Salvatore Contreras, not just because they share two dogs. Contreras is a busy body and a bit overbearing at times but part of V.I. wants that in her life.

And the assortment of eccentrics who live at Helen Hawthorne’s apartment building are more than just background in Elaine VietsDead-End Job series. Landlady Margery Flax acts as Helen’s mother, friend and sister as do the other permanent residents.

Helen needs them all, and so do the readers.

Talking With Brad Meltzer
Oline Cogdill

meltzerbrad_fifthassassin
A killer re-creates the crimes of presidential assassins in The Fifth Assassin, the latest thriller from Brad Meltzer.

True to form, Meltzer peppers myriad historical facts in this novel. Meltzer’s work includes the novels The Inner Circle and The Book of Lies; five comic books, including the Eisner Award-winning Justice League of America; two nonfiction books; and is the host of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on the History Channel.

We caught up with Meltzer just before he launched his book tour. For other questions, visit the interview we did for the Sun Sentinel.

The Fifth Assassin is your second novel featuring young archivist Beecher White; will there be more?
That's certainly the goal.

An archivist hardly seems like the stuff of heroes; what makes Beecher a hero?
It's funny you say that. Someone else just said that. And I'm so nerdy, I didn't even realize that archivists are considered nerdy. I just wanted a hero I hadn't seen before. A real person. From that, Beecher was born.

In addition to your thrillers, you¹ve written 5 comic books and two nonfiction books. You also are a co-creators of the TV show, Jack & Bobby and host Brad Meltzer¹s Decoded on the History Channel. When do you sleep?
What is this 'sleep' you speak of?

What¹s the best thing about being an author?
Talking to my imaginary friends.

What¹s the worst thing?
When they answer back.

On your web site, you also have two very funny videos that are self-deprecating about the book business: Everyone Hates Brad Meltzer and Books Vs. McDonalds Happy Meals. Why?
You kidding? Y'know how much therapy those things saved me from? Maybe the best video we've ever put out there [is Everyone Hates Brad Meltzer].

Xav ID 577
2013-01-20 09:19:28

meltzerbrad_fifthassassin
A killer re-creates the crimes of presidential assassins in The Fifth Assassin, the latest thriller from Brad Meltzer.

True to form, Meltzer peppers myriad historical facts in this novel. Meltzer’s work includes the novels The Inner Circle and The Book of Lies; five comic books, including the Eisner Award-winning Justice League of America; two nonfiction books; and is the host of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on the History Channel.

We caught up with Meltzer just before he launched his book tour. For other questions, visit the interview we did for the Sun Sentinel.

The Fifth Assassin is your second novel featuring young archivist Beecher White; will there be more?
That's certainly the goal.

An archivist hardly seems like the stuff of heroes; what makes Beecher a hero?
It's funny you say that. Someone else just said that. And I'm so nerdy, I didn't even realize that archivists are considered nerdy. I just wanted a hero I hadn't seen before. A real person. From that, Beecher was born.

In addition to your thrillers, you¹ve written 5 comic books and two nonfiction books. You also are a co-creators of the TV show, Jack & Bobby and host Brad Meltzer¹s Decoded on the History Channel. When do you sleep?
What is this 'sleep' you speak of?

What¹s the best thing about being an author?
Talking to my imaginary friends.

What¹s the worst thing?
When they answer back.

On your web site, you also have two very funny videos that are self-deprecating about the book business: Everyone Hates Brad Meltzer and Books Vs. McDonalds Happy Meals. Why?
You kidding? Y'know how much therapy those things saved me from? Maybe the best video we've ever put out there [is Everyone Hates Brad Meltzer].

2013 Edgar Nominations
Oline Cogdill

follettken_follett
Once again the awards season for mystery fiction officially begins with the Mystery Writers of America's nominations for the 2013 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2012.

All the awards will be presented during the 67th Edgar Awards banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

Mystery Scene offers its congratulations to all the nominees.

2012 was a terrific year for mystery fiction and we are sure the judges had a difficult time narrowing down the lists to these nominees.

BEST NOVEL

The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn (Crown Publishers)
Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Sunset by Al Lamanda (Gale Cengage Learning – Five Star)
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley (Penguin Group USA – Riverhead Books)


BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay (Random House Publishing– Ballantine)
Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman (Minotaur Books - Thomas Dunne Books)
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal (Random House Publishing– Bantam Books)
The Expats by Chris Pavone (Crown Publishers)
The 500 by Matthew Quirk (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Reagan Arthur)
Black Fridays by Michael Sears (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)


BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

Complication by Isaac Adamson (Soft Skull Press)
Whiplash River by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Bloodland by Alan Glynn (Picador)
Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books - Emily Bestler Books)
The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)


BEST FACT CRIME
Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French (Penguin Group USA - Penguin Books)
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers' Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle, MD (Medallion Press)
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (Crown Publishers)
The People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo – and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry (Farrar Straus & Giroux Originals)


BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: The Hard-Boiled Detective Transformed by John Paul Athanasourelis (McFarland and Company)
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books – Emily Bestler Books)
The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics by James O’Brien (Oxford University Press)
In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero edited by Otto Penzler (Smart Pop)


BEST SHORT STORY
"Iphigenia in Aulis" – An Apple for the Creature by Mike Carey (Penguin Group USA – Ace Books)
"Hot Sugar Blues" – Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance by Steve Liskow (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Mulholland Books)
"The Void it Often Brings With It” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Tom Piccirilli (Dell Magazines)
"The Unremarkable Heart" – Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance by Karin Slaughter (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Mulholland Books)
"Still Life No. 41" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Teresa Solana (Dell Magazines)


BEST JUVENILE
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind by Tom Angleberger (Abrams – Amulet Books)
13 Hangmen by Art Corriveau (Abrams – Amulet Books)
The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Abrams – Amulet Books)
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dial Books for Young Readers)


BEST YOUNG ADULT
Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Roaring Brook Press)
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking)
Crusher by Niall Leonard (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte BFYR)
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Disney Publishing Worldwide - Hyperion)


BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Pilot” – Longmire, Teleplay by Hunt Baldwin & John Coveny (A&E/Warner Horizon Television)
“Child Predator” – elemeNtarY, Teleplay by Peter Blake (CBS Productions)
“Slaughterhouse” – Justified, Teleplay by Fred Golan (Sony Pictures Television/FX Productions)
“A Scandal in Belgravia” – Sherlock, Teleplay by Steven Moffat (BBC/Masterpiece)
“New Car Smell” – Homeland, Teleplay by Meredith Stiehm (Showtime/Fox21)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"When They Are Done With Us" – Staten Island Noir by Patricia Smith (Akashic Books)
maronmargaret_author
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, May 1, 2013)
Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
A City of Broken Glass by Rebecca Cantrell (Forge Books)
The Reckoning by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Sleepwalker by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper)

It has been previously annouced that Ken Follett, top left, and Margaret Maron, right, are both named the Grand Master.

The 2013 Ellery Queen Award will be given to Johnny Temple, founder and editor of Akashic Books. The Ellery Queen award is given to editors or publishers who have distinguished themselves by their generous and wide-ranging support of the genre.

The 2013 Raven Award has two honorees.

The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego and Redondo Beach, California, will receive the Raven, which was established in 1953 to recognize outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

The other Raven honoree is journalist Oline Cogdill. Yes, that’s right. Me. My reviews, blogs and author profiles appear, obviously in Mystery Scene. I also review for the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and those reviews are syndicated around the world.

Xav ID 577
2013-01-16 14:25:51

follettken_follett
Once again the awards season for mystery fiction officially begins with the Mystery Writers of America's nominations for the 2013 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2012.

All the awards will be presented during the 67th Edgar Awards banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

Mystery Scene offers its congratulations to all the nominees.

2012 was a terrific year for mystery fiction and we are sure the judges had a difficult time narrowing down the lists to these nominees.

BEST NOVEL

The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn (Crown Publishers)
Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Sunset by Al Lamanda (Gale Cengage Learning – Five Star)
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley (Penguin Group USA – Riverhead Books)


BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay (Random House Publishing– Ballantine)
Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman (Minotaur Books - Thomas Dunne Books)
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal (Random House Publishing– Bantam Books)
The Expats by Chris Pavone (Crown Publishers)
The 500 by Matthew Quirk (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Reagan Arthur)
Black Fridays by Michael Sears (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)


BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

Complication by Isaac Adamson (Soft Skull Press)
Whiplash River by Lou Berney (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Bloodland by Alan Glynn (Picador)
Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books - Emily Bestler Books)
The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)


BEST FACT CRIME
Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French (Penguin Group USA - Penguin Books)
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers' Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle, MD (Medallion Press)
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (Crown Publishers)
The People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo – and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry (Farrar Straus & Giroux Originals)


BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: The Hard-Boiled Detective Transformed by John Paul Athanasourelis (McFarland and Company)
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books – Emily Bestler Books)
The Scientific Sherlock Holmes: Cracking the Case with Science and Forensics by James O’Brien (Oxford University Press)
In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero edited by Otto Penzler (Smart Pop)


BEST SHORT STORY
"Iphigenia in Aulis" – An Apple for the Creature by Mike Carey (Penguin Group USA – Ace Books)
"Hot Sugar Blues" – Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance by Steve Liskow (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Mulholland Books)
"The Void it Often Brings With It” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Tom Piccirilli (Dell Magazines)
"The Unremarkable Heart" – Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance by Karin Slaughter (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Mulholland Books)
"Still Life No. 41" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Teresa Solana (Dell Magazines)


BEST JUVENILE
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind by Tom Angleberger (Abrams – Amulet Books)
13 Hangmen by Art Corriveau (Abrams – Amulet Books)
The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Abrams – Amulet Books)
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dial Books for Young Readers)


BEST YOUNG ADULT
Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Roaring Brook Press)
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking)
Crusher by Niall Leonard (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte BFYR)
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Disney Publishing Worldwide - Hyperion)


BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

“Pilot” – Longmire, Teleplay by Hunt Baldwin & John Coveny (A&E/Warner Horizon Television)
“Child Predator” – elemeNtarY, Teleplay by Peter Blake (CBS Productions)
“Slaughterhouse” – Justified, Teleplay by Fred Golan (Sony Pictures Television/FX Productions)
“A Scandal in Belgravia” – Sherlock, Teleplay by Steven Moffat (BBC/Masterpiece)
“New Car Smell” – Homeland, Teleplay by Meredith Stiehm (Showtime/Fox21)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"When They Are Done With Us" – Staten Island Noir by Patricia Smith (Akashic Books)
maronmargaret_author
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, May 1, 2013)
Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
A City of Broken Glass by Rebecca Cantrell (Forge Books)
The Reckoning by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Sleepwalker by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper)

It has been previously annouced that Ken Follett, top left, and Margaret Maron, right, are both named the Grand Master.

The 2013 Ellery Queen Award will be given to Johnny Temple, founder and editor of Akashic Books. The Ellery Queen award is given to editors or publishers who have distinguished themselves by their generous and wide-ranging support of the genre.

The 2013 Raven Award has two honorees.

The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego and Redondo Beach, California, will receive the Raven, which was established in 1953 to recognize outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

The other Raven honoree is journalist Oline Cogdill. Yes, that’s right. Me. My reviews, blogs and author profiles appear, obviously in Mystery Scene. I also review for the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and those reviews are syndicated around the world.

Agatha Christie on the Radio, on Stage
Bill Hirschman

(NOTE: Bill Hirschman is the editor and publisher of Florida Theater on Stage, an online arts publication dedicated to covering live theater. A portion of this article ran in Florida Theater on Stage. Bill is a frequent Mystery Scene contributor.)

By Bill Hirschman

bbcmurders_amywalkergarysandy
Veteran Broadway producer and impresario Zev Buffman foresees a future for stage theater — in radio.

Not just for any theater, but orphans like the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale that are too big for local theater troupes and too small for Broadway tours.

And he wants to do it in part by reviving the genre of mystery/thriller plays.

Buffman's first foray began this month with his production of Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders, four radio plays lost for a half- century, uncovered by Buffman’s detective work and adapted by grafting full-fledged theater techniques onto a vintage radio drama foundation.

The BBC Murders are now in the middle of a three-week run at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse. Here is Florida Theater on Stage's review.

The episodes’ origins as radio dramas before and after World War II in London dictate that the first piece opens in a vintage BBC radio studio with actors reading from scripts into stand-up microphones. Sound effects are provided in ingenious ways by a “Foley artist” and his assistant.

But as the evening ensues, ever-increasing theatricality seeps in: actors become untethered from their microphones and relate to each other, costumes and lights are added, musical underscoring increases, projected scenery appears, and the sound become increasingly more sophisticated (moving around the auditorium like Quadropehenia) until the production emerges as a complete
stage undertaking.

Melinda Peterson as Christie

buffmanzev_theaterowensAmong the four pieces is Three Blind Mice, the forerunner to Christie’s The Mousetrap, which holds the record for the longest continuous production still playing to audiences. Yellow Iris, featuring Christie’s fastidious detective Hercule Poirot, is augmented with original music by Broadway composer and mystery writer Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood)
because the last piece occurs in a jazz cabaret.

The show features 20 actors, musicians and Foley artists including Gary Sandy, a seasoned stage actor best known for TV’s WKRP in Cincinnati; Phil Proctor, a founder of the counterculture comedy troupe Firesign Theater; actress/singer Amy Walker whose UTube video features her performing 21 accents in two minutes; Proctor’s wife Melinda Peterson impersonating Christie
herself as the hostess and narrator, plus South Florida actresses Elizabeth Dimon and Angie Radosh.

The tales are:

Butter In A Lordly Dish: First performed by the BBC on January 13, 1948 in a series entitled Mystery Playhouse Presents The Detection Club. Christie’s drama follows a lawyer’s relationship with a mysterious woman who he meets while convicting a man for a series of vicious murders.

Three Blind Mice: A snowstorm and a psychotic killer on the loose have a cast of characters locked in a guest house full of accusations and anxiety. It was first performed on May 30, 1947 as part of an evening program in honor of Queen Mary’s 80th birthday. The BBC approached the Queen some months prior and she requested a new mystery by Agatha Christie, a writer the Queen deeply admired.

Personal Call: This mystery mixes “a strong drink of delicious deception into a haunting story of lies and betrayal. Superstition takes you on a murderous adventure through London train stations and provides a ghostly encounter.” This never published thriller was Christie’s final play for the BBC and reuses the character of Inspector Narracott from the 1931 novel The Sittaford
Mystery.

Yellow Iris: The past comes to haunt dinner guests during a party held in a cabaret on the one-year anniversary of a murder. Fear is the centerpiece of a table decorated with a yellow iris as Poirot tries to solve the first murder to prevent a fresh one. First presented on the BBC National Program in 1937.

bbcmurdrers_actorsThe idea of radio as a setting for theater is not new. Musicals ranging from The 1940s Radio Hour to Million Dollar Quartet are set in recording studios. South Florida actor Gordon McConnell’s local company AirPlayz performed radio plays for several years including The Maltese Falcon and The War of the Worlds. But this production is complex enough to require 577 sound and light cues, Buffman bragged.

The path Buffman, 82, and The BBC Murders took back to the Parker stretches back more than a decade when he lived in Palm Desert, California.

“I was hanging with Angie” — Angie being Angela Lansbury –‘We had done three shows together and we talked about the disappearance of mystery thrillers from the New York, Toronto and London stage.” Indeed, at one time, works like Dial M For Murder, Sleuth and Deathtrap were regular Broadway staples. Lansbury, the star of Murder, She Wrote agreed with him that all the playwrights writing mysteries had defected to the more remunerative and reliable film and television industries.

Buffman moved in 2003 to Owensboro, a small college town in western Kentucky where an ailing sister lived. He agreed to manage a local theater complex but it needed “product.” He gathered Lansbury and an equally well-known collection of friends to help create an International Mystery Writers Festival that would choose and produce mount full productions or readings of complete plays, one-acts and radio scripts. The first edition in 2007 sorted through 1,000 entries and mounted 12 productions.

To help produce them he enlisted Proctor, Phil Austin, David Ossman, Ossman’s wife Judith Walcutt and Peter Bergman from Firesign Theater whose irreverent, surrealistic albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s combined radio drama techniques with a counter-culture sensibility.

The Christie project came about because Buffman had read in her biographies about titles only produced on radio once and whose current whereabouts were a mystery, even to the Christie Estate. The conventional wisdom was that some were lost during the bombing of London by the Germans and the rest disappeared in later post-war cleanup projects. But during a persistent treasure hunt, Buffman finally located them in the archives of a London library.

The pages were tattered and weather-beaten, but they still contained the actor’s notes in the margins and marks to cut sections to fit the time slot. The library allowed Buffman to copy these scripts, which he then reproduced on paper approximating the kind used by the BBC. The works adapted and directed by Walcutt and Ossman became the centerpiece of his 2009 edition of
Buffman’s continuing festival.

It has had only one other outing: last November in Clearwater where Buffman says the audience “fell in love with it.”

Buffman is negotiating with theaters in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco to present the Clearwater/Fort Lauderdale production. But The BBC Murders and what Buffman dubs “radio theater” is really a trial balloon for a much larger project.

He sees a severe need for tightly-produced original programming like this to fill mid-sized theaters with about 1,000 seats.

Financially, that’s too small to support the cost of mega-tours like Wicked and too big for a regional theater to fill over a three- to five-week run. The grand plan is for Buffman to produce those works and tour them across the country.

The radio theater concept might be the answer, said the genial Gary Sandy, who has been in several of Buffman productions and admires his integrity. But it has to be satisfying theater, not just a stunt.

“It’s a work in progress. If Zev and David and Phil can figure out a way to put radio on the stage and make it more than just a gimmick or a novelty. In the first 20 minutes, the audience is fascinated by how it’s done, but after 20 minutes, they’ve seen it, and you have to find (material) that will hold them.”

Sandy has become a Buffman fan since hooking up with the original production. “He has integrity. Three years ago he said, I’m going to do this someday and I’ll want to you to do it.” Sure enough, the call came earlier this year. “By God, he did.”

The idea that an 82-year-old is running an entertainment complex on Florida’s west coast, helming what he hopes will be a national tour and changing the fate of empty theatres across the country doesn’t strike him as strange.

He laughs off the mention of about retirement. With that slight Israeli accent, Buffman asks, “What would I do?”

Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders runs through Feb. 3 at the Parker Playhouse, 707 Northeast 8th Street, Fort Lauderdale. Performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $26.50 – $66.50. For tickets and information, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.parkerplayhouse.com.

Photos: Top, Amy Walker and Gary Sandy; Center, Zev Buffman; Bottom, Alex Jorth, David Ossman and Amy Walker create an eerie aura in Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders

Review link
http://www.floridatheateronstage.com/reviews/agatha-christies-radio-plays-the-bbc-murders-intriguing-entertaining-but-not-
riveting/

Xav ID 577
2013-01-23 09:59:04

(NOTE: Bill Hirschman is the editor and publisher of Florida Theater on Stage, an online arts publication dedicated to covering live theater. A portion of this article ran in Florida Theater on Stage. Bill is a frequent Mystery Scene contributor.)

By Bill Hirschman

bbcmurders_amywalkergarysandy
Veteran Broadway producer and impresario Zev Buffman foresees a future for stage theater — in radio.

Not just for any theater, but orphans like the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale that are too big for local theater troupes and too small for Broadway tours.

And he wants to do it in part by reviving the genre of mystery/thriller plays.

Buffman's first foray began this month with his production of Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders, four radio plays lost for a half- century, uncovered by Buffman’s detective work and adapted by grafting full-fledged theater techniques onto a vintage radio drama foundation.

The BBC Murders are now in the middle of a three-week run at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse. Here is Florida Theater on Stage's review.

The episodes’ origins as radio dramas before and after World War II in London dictate that the first piece opens in a vintage BBC radio studio with actors reading from scripts into stand-up microphones. Sound effects are provided in ingenious ways by a “Foley artist” and his assistant.

But as the evening ensues, ever-increasing theatricality seeps in: actors become untethered from their microphones and relate to each other, costumes and lights are added, musical underscoring increases, projected scenery appears, and the sound become increasingly more sophisticated (moving around the auditorium like Quadropehenia) until the production emerges as a complete
stage undertaking.

Melinda Peterson as Christie

buffmanzev_theaterowensAmong the four pieces is Three Blind Mice, the forerunner to Christie’s The Mousetrap, which holds the record for the longest continuous production still playing to audiences. Yellow Iris, featuring Christie’s fastidious detective Hercule Poirot, is augmented with original music by Broadway composer and mystery writer Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood)
because the last piece occurs in a jazz cabaret.

The show features 20 actors, musicians and Foley artists including Gary Sandy, a seasoned stage actor best known for TV’s WKRP in Cincinnati; Phil Proctor, a founder of the counterculture comedy troupe Firesign Theater; actress/singer Amy Walker whose UTube video features her performing 21 accents in two minutes; Proctor’s wife Melinda Peterson impersonating Christie
herself as the hostess and narrator, plus South Florida actresses Elizabeth Dimon and Angie Radosh.

The tales are:

Butter In A Lordly Dish: First performed by the BBC on January 13, 1948 in a series entitled Mystery Playhouse Presents The Detection Club. Christie’s drama follows a lawyer’s relationship with a mysterious woman who he meets while convicting a man for a series of vicious murders.

Three Blind Mice: A snowstorm and a psychotic killer on the loose have a cast of characters locked in a guest house full of accusations and anxiety. It was first performed on May 30, 1947 as part of an evening program in honor of Queen Mary’s 80th birthday. The BBC approached the Queen some months prior and she requested a new mystery by Agatha Christie, a writer the Queen deeply admired.

Personal Call: This mystery mixes “a strong drink of delicious deception into a haunting story of lies and betrayal. Superstition takes you on a murderous adventure through London train stations and provides a ghostly encounter.” This never published thriller was Christie’s final play for the BBC and reuses the character of Inspector Narracott from the 1931 novel The Sittaford
Mystery.

Yellow Iris: The past comes to haunt dinner guests during a party held in a cabaret on the one-year anniversary of a murder. Fear is the centerpiece of a table decorated with a yellow iris as Poirot tries to solve the first murder to prevent a fresh one. First presented on the BBC National Program in 1937.

bbcmurdrers_actorsThe idea of radio as a setting for theater is not new. Musicals ranging from The 1940s Radio Hour to Million Dollar Quartet are set in recording studios. South Florida actor Gordon McConnell’s local company AirPlayz performed radio plays for several years including The Maltese Falcon and The War of the Worlds. But this production is complex enough to require 577 sound and light cues, Buffman bragged.

The path Buffman, 82, and The BBC Murders took back to the Parker stretches back more than a decade when he lived in Palm Desert, California.

“I was hanging with Angie” — Angie being Angela Lansbury –‘We had done three shows together and we talked about the disappearance of mystery thrillers from the New York, Toronto and London stage.” Indeed, at one time, works like Dial M For Murder, Sleuth and Deathtrap were regular Broadway staples. Lansbury, the star of Murder, She Wrote agreed with him that all the playwrights writing mysteries had defected to the more remunerative and reliable film and television industries.

Buffman moved in 2003 to Owensboro, a small college town in western Kentucky where an ailing sister lived. He agreed to manage a local theater complex but it needed “product.” He gathered Lansbury and an equally well-known collection of friends to help create an International Mystery Writers Festival that would choose and produce mount full productions or readings of complete plays, one-acts and radio scripts. The first edition in 2007 sorted through 1,000 entries and mounted 12 productions.

To help produce them he enlisted Proctor, Phil Austin, David Ossman, Ossman’s wife Judith Walcutt and Peter Bergman from Firesign Theater whose irreverent, surrealistic albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s combined radio drama techniques with a counter-culture sensibility.

The Christie project came about because Buffman had read in her biographies about titles only produced on radio once and whose current whereabouts were a mystery, even to the Christie Estate. The conventional wisdom was that some were lost during the bombing of London by the Germans and the rest disappeared in later post-war cleanup projects. But during a persistent treasure hunt, Buffman finally located them in the archives of a London library.

The pages were tattered and weather-beaten, but they still contained the actor’s notes in the margins and marks to cut sections to fit the time slot. The library allowed Buffman to copy these scripts, which he then reproduced on paper approximating the kind used by the BBC. The works adapted and directed by Walcutt and Ossman became the centerpiece of his 2009 edition of
Buffman’s continuing festival.

It has had only one other outing: last November in Clearwater where Buffman says the audience “fell in love with it.”

Buffman is negotiating with theaters in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco to present the Clearwater/Fort Lauderdale production. But The BBC Murders and what Buffman dubs “radio theater” is really a trial balloon for a much larger project.

He sees a severe need for tightly-produced original programming like this to fill mid-sized theaters with about 1,000 seats.

Financially, that’s too small to support the cost of mega-tours like Wicked and too big for a regional theater to fill over a three- to five-week run. The grand plan is for Buffman to produce those works and tour them across the country.

The radio theater concept might be the answer, said the genial Gary Sandy, who has been in several of Buffman productions and admires his integrity. But it has to be satisfying theater, not just a stunt.

“It’s a work in progress. If Zev and David and Phil can figure out a way to put radio on the stage and make it more than just a gimmick or a novelty. In the first 20 minutes, the audience is fascinated by how it’s done, but after 20 minutes, they’ve seen it, and you have to find (material) that will hold them.”

Sandy has become a Buffman fan since hooking up with the original production. “He has integrity. Three years ago he said, I’m going to do this someday and I’ll want to you to do it.” Sure enough, the call came earlier this year. “By God, he did.”

The idea that an 82-year-old is running an entertainment complex on Florida’s west coast, helming what he hopes will be a national tour and changing the fate of empty theatres across the country doesn’t strike him as strange.

He laughs off the mention of about retirement. With that slight Israeli accent, Buffman asks, “What would I do?”

Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders runs through Feb. 3 at the Parker Playhouse, 707 Northeast 8th Street, Fort Lauderdale. Performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $26.50 – $66.50. For tickets and information, call 954-462-0222 or visit www.parkerplayhouse.com.

Photos: Top, Amy Walker and Gary Sandy; Center, Zev Buffman; Bottom, Alex Jorth, David Ossman and Amy Walker create an eerie aura in Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders

Review link
http://www.floridatheateronstage.com/reviews/agatha-christies-radio-plays-the-bbc-murders-intriguing-entertaining-but-not-
riveting/

My 10 Favorite Character Actors
Ed Gorman

A Few Good Partners in Crime


lumet_12angrymen

1. JACK WARDEN
He never missed. My favorite Warden role was a double one in Used Cars (1980). I even enjoyed his crime show Crazy Like a Fox. Not great TV, but great Warden. He really shines in 12 Angry Men (1957), too. 

Jack Warden (wearing hat) in 12 Angry Men (1957)


grahame_gloria

2. GLORIA GRAHAME

The ultimate femme fatale because she was not only sexy, she was also intelligent and knew how to adjust the fatale to the particular story being played out. In a Lonely Place (1950) made her immortal. The Big Heat (1953) is one of her other masterpieces. 

Gloria Grahame was the ultimate femme fatale in noir films such as Crossfire (1947), In a Lonely Place (1950), and The Big Heat (1953). 

gunsmoke_harrydeanstanton

3. HARRY DEAN STANTON

One look at him and you knew nothing good had ever happened to this man. His life seemed to be a quest to understand why he was being punished by the cosmos. His Philo Skinner in The Black Marble (1980) is spot on. Paris, Texas (1984) and Repo Man (1984) are also triumphs. 

Harry Dean Stanton in Gunsmoke (1958)


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4. WARREN OATES
A spiritual brother of Harry Dean Stanton. But unlike the ruminative Stanton, he fights his fate. In Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), Oates never seems to question the task he’s given. Don’t most guys have to behead somebody somewhere along the line? The Border (1982) and Cockfighter (1974) demonstrate his ability to survive in the darkest of circumstances. 

Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

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5. FRANCES McDORMAND

Watching her waddle down those snow-blown Minnesota highways and listening to her comfort her husband in Fargo (1996), make her pregnant Police Chief Marge Gunderson one of the most endearing characters in all of film history. Blood Simple (1984) and Laurel Canyon (2002) prove she’s got the chops for any role that comes her way. 

Frances McDormand in Laurel Canyon (2002)


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6. JACK WESTON

He always worked as a counterpoint. His neuroses and anxiety saved any number of bad crime movies. He was real in a way many of the macho men surrounding him were not. Weston was an underappreciated craftsman who was at his best in Wait Until Dark (1967), and who then turned Ed McBain’s Meyer Meyer into a movie icon in Fuzz (1972).  

Jack Weston in a Wait Until Dark (1967)

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7. CHARLES McGRAW
As an infant, McGraw was found in a basket wrapped in pulp magazine covers and left on the doorstep of a B-movie producer who raised him to be the toughest guy on the screen, no matter who else was on hand. He didn’t need to fake it. The Narrow Margin (1952) and Armored Car Robbery (1950) made B-movie history. 

In Armored Car Robbery (1950), Charles McGraw (center) plays Lt. Jim Cordell, out to avenge the death of a fellow cop killed in a heist gone wrong.


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8. LEE VAN CLEEF
What can I say? The snake eyes, the sneer, the it-tolls-for-thee voice. Like McGraw, he didn’t need to fake it. He just stood there snacking on razor blades and never taking his eyes off you. His big break came in spaghetti westerns made in Europe. Death Rides a Horse (1967) is probably the best example of his work in them. Escape From New York (1981) is another strong entry. 

Lee Van Cleef in High Noon (1953)

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9. DAN HEDAYA

Even at his sleaziest there is a curious melancholy in Hedaya’s performances that enrich his bad guys. The Usual Suspects (1994), Mullholland Drive (2001), Blood Simple (1984)—quite a list. You could feel his rage and pain as Matt Dillon’s father in To Die For (1995). 

Dan Hedaya (left) in The Usual Suspects (1995)

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10. ELISHA COOK, JR.

Nobody like him before or since. Born to wince, cringe, and plead. The cosmos had it in for him and it never let him forget it. Not for a second. So many performances, but my personal favorites are The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Born to Kill (1947). 

Elisha Cook (right) in The Maltese Falcon (1941)



This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Holiday Issue #127.

Teri Duerr
2013-01-25 16:30:22


laurelcanyon_francemcdormandA few good partners in crime