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.”


Super User
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 04:01

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.

Super User
Sunday, 27 January 2013 04:01
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].

Super User
Sunday, 20 January 2013 04:01
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.

Super User
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 09:01

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/
Super User
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 04:01
(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)


oates_warren

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)

laurelcanyon_francemcdormand

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)


waituntildark_jackweston

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)

armoredcarrobbery_charles_mcgraw

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.


vancleef_lee

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)

usualsuspects_dan_hedaya

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)

cook_elisha

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
Friday, 25 January 2013 11:01


laurelcanyon_francemcdormandA few good partners in crime

Project Runway and Fashionable Mysteries
Oline Cogdill

byerrumellen_veiledrevenge
I have been a fan of Project Runway since the middle of the first season. I kept avoiding it, despite the rave reviews from a deskmate.

Ah, reality shows. I could care less, I thought.

But things of changed. I admit to being a fan of the Real Housewives shows and, I also admit, that I have no excuse for this lapse in judgment.

Except….I can’t help myself.

But Project Runway was my first reality show, and remains a guilty pleasure.

For me, Project Runway isn’t so much about the clothes, although that runway show is a great bonus. Instead, I love to see the creative process, watching people see a piece of work from start to finish. I love to see how fashion designers think and how they have to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn says.

And then there is that glimpse into a world we don’t know. How many of us knew about draping or how often those sewing machines mess up or how much muslin is used? I have watched Project Runway during the good seasons and the bad. Those include the priceless episode when designer Michael Knight defended a fellow castmate who was being ridiculed by another. Knight then uttered that show stopping phrase: “I wasn’t trying to play no Captain Save a Ho.”

Or the dreadful Gretchen-gate when an irritating and not so talented designer won over the multi-talented Mondo. Really? Over Mondo.

herren_fashionvictim
Project Runway
just started its 11th season, airing at 9 p.m. EST Thursdays on Lifetime. The season already is fraught with drama, inflated egos, talent, and even pathos. And with all the backstabbing that sometimes goes on, the one ups manship that permeates the competition, I naturally thought about mysteries wrapped around the fashion world.

After all, these people work with pinking shears; and much can be done with that fabric from Mood.

Here’s a few for Project Runway fans, as well as for readers who could care less about why Michael Kors isn’t on this season. In compiling this list, I received much help from the readers on DorothyL, and I thank each of you who responded to my request both to me personally and on the site. (I won’t try to thank each person as I am sure to miss someone.)

I am not reviewing the following novels, but offering a compilation. And I am sure I have missed several, so please add to the list in our comments.

Ellen Byerrum’s Crime of Fashion mysteries feature Washington, D.C., style scribe Lacey Smithsonian, who writes about style snafus in her Crimes of Fashion columns and Fashion Bites. The series includes Veiled Revenge, Death on Heels and Hostile Makeover.

Elaine Viets’ Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series has the single mother constantly looking at fashions, including handbags in Dying in Style; high heels in High Heels Are Murder; scarves in Accessory to Murder; and lingerie in An Uplifting Murder.

Gregg Herren’s Fashion Victim is about a reporter assigned to profile a fashion designer who ends up dead 15 minutes after the interview. One blurb calls it “Devil Wears Prada meets Agatha Christie.”

ryanhank_airtime2
Hank Phillippi Ryan
’s Air Time is all about counterfeit designer clothes and purses and the crime of pirating designs. The major plot line is intrigue in the fashion industry.

Rex Stout's wife, Pola, was a fabric designer and several of his stories involved the fashion world, including The Red Box (1937) and The Red Threads (1939).

Rosemary Stevens has shown the historical importance of fashion in her series about Beau Brummell, who was the arbiter of fashion in the Regency era of Great Britain. Her Murder A Go Go novels featured the fashions of the 1960s.

Sondra Luger’s newly published Drop Me Off In Harlem is a jazz age mystery set 1927 at a NYC fashion house were a model is murdered. The suspects are two models, one white, one black who team up to find the culprit.

Margery Allingham's The Fashion in Shrouds introduced Albert Campion's sister, a successful fashion designer.

Patricia Moyes's Murder à la Mode involves Henry Tibbett's niece, who is a model, the murder of a writer for a fashion magazine and the smuggling of the latest Paris designs.

Christine DeMaio-Rice’s Fashion Avenue series include Death of a Fashion Model and Dead Is the New Black.

Super User
Sunday, 03 February 2013 09:02

byerrumellen_veiledrevenge
I have been a fan of Project Runway since the middle of the first season. I kept avoiding it, despite the rave reviews from a deskmate.

Ah, reality shows. I could care less, I thought.

But things of changed. I admit to being a fan of the Real Housewives shows and, I also admit, that I have no excuse for this lapse in judgment.

Except….I can’t help myself.

But Project Runway was my first reality show, and remains a guilty pleasure.

For me, Project Runway isn’t so much about the clothes, although that runway show is a great bonus. Instead, I love to see the creative process, watching people see a piece of work from start to finish. I love to see how fashion designers think and how they have to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn says.

And then there is that glimpse into a world we don’t know. How many of us knew about draping or how often those sewing machines mess up or how much muslin is used? I have watched Project Runway during the good seasons and the bad. Those include the priceless episode when designer Michael Knight defended a fellow castmate who was being ridiculed by another. Knight then uttered that show stopping phrase: “I wasn’t trying to play no Captain Save a Ho.”

Or the dreadful Gretchen-gate when an irritating and not so talented designer won over the multi-talented Mondo. Really? Over Mondo.

herren_fashionvictim
Project Runway
just started its 11th season, airing at 9 p.m. EST Thursdays on Lifetime. The season already is fraught with drama, inflated egos, talent, and even pathos. And with all the backstabbing that sometimes goes on, the one ups manship that permeates the competition, I naturally thought about mysteries wrapped around the fashion world.

After all, these people work with pinking shears; and much can be done with that fabric from Mood.

Here’s a few for Project Runway fans, as well as for readers who could care less about why Michael Kors isn’t on this season. In compiling this list, I received much help from the readers on DorothyL, and I thank each of you who responded to my request both to me personally and on the site. (I won’t try to thank each person as I am sure to miss someone.)

I am not reviewing the following novels, but offering a compilation. And I am sure I have missed several, so please add to the list in our comments.

Ellen Byerrum’s Crime of Fashion mysteries feature Washington, D.C., style scribe Lacey Smithsonian, who writes about style snafus in her Crimes of Fashion columns and Fashion Bites. The series includes Veiled Revenge, Death on Heels and Hostile Makeover.

Elaine Viets’ Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series has the single mother constantly looking at fashions, including handbags in Dying in Style; high heels in High Heels Are Murder; scarves in Accessory to Murder; and lingerie in An Uplifting Murder.

Gregg Herren’s Fashion Victim is about a reporter assigned to profile a fashion designer who ends up dead 15 minutes after the interview. One blurb calls it “Devil Wears Prada meets Agatha Christie.”

ryanhank_airtime2
Hank Phillippi Ryan
’s Air Time is all about counterfeit designer clothes and purses and the crime of pirating designs. The major plot line is intrigue in the fashion industry.

Rex Stout's wife, Pola, was a fabric designer and several of his stories involved the fashion world, including The Red Box (1937) and The Red Threads (1939).

Rosemary Stevens has shown the historical importance of fashion in her series about Beau Brummell, who was the arbiter of fashion in the Regency era of Great Britain. Her Murder A Go Go novels featured the fashions of the 1960s.

Sondra Luger’s newly published Drop Me Off In Harlem is a jazz age mystery set 1927 at a NYC fashion house were a model is murdered. The suspects are two models, one white, one black who team up to find the culprit.

Margery Allingham's The Fashion in Shrouds introduced Albert Campion's sister, a successful fashion designer.

Patricia Moyes's Murder à la Mode involves Henry Tibbett's niece, who is a model, the murder of a writer for a fashion magazine and the smuggling of the latest Paris designs.

Christine DeMaio-Rice’s Fashion Avenue series include Death of a Fashion Model and Dead Is the New Black.

Abbott, Gaylin Graphic Novel Optioned
Oline Cogdill


abbottmeg_dareme
Megan Abbott
and Alison Gaylin are both known for their suspense-filled novels.

Abbott often writes noir from a historical perspective such as Bury Me Deep and Queenpin.

But she also is an expert at contemporary suspense, with a twist, such as her 2012 Dare Me, which looked at the cut-throat world of cheerleading.

Dare Me
was named a “summer read” by O Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday and the Wall Street Journal.

Gaylin’s latest novel is the suspense-filled Into the Dark, the second in her new series about Brenna Spector, a missing persons whose rare neurological disorder enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life.

A couple of years ago, Abbott and Gaylin teamed up for a graphic novel Normandy Gold.

gaylinAlison_intothedark
Normandy Gold
has been described as a Tarantino-esque graphic novel about a female sheriff who comes to 1970s Washington, D.C., to avenge the murder of her call girl sister.

Perhaps that comparison to Tarantino will soon be more than just a description.

Normandy Gold
has been optioned to New Regency, with Abbott and Gaylin to adapt.

We all know that an option is a long way from a property actually becoming a film.

But it’s a good start.

And I’m looking forward to the team of Abbott and Gaylin making it to the big screen.

Super User
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 08:02


abbottmeg_dareme
Megan Abbott
and Alison Gaylin are both known for their suspense-filled novels.

Abbott often writes noir from a historical perspective such as Bury Me Deep and Queenpin.

But she also is an expert at contemporary suspense, with a twist, such as her 2012 Dare Me, which looked at the cut-throat world of cheerleading.

Dare Me
was named a “summer read” by O Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday and the Wall Street Journal.

Gaylin’s latest novel is the suspense-filled Into the Dark, the second in her new series about Brenna Spector, a missing persons whose rare neurological disorder enables her to recall every detail of every day of her life.

A couple of years ago, Abbott and Gaylin teamed up for a graphic novel Normandy Gold.

gaylinAlison_intothedark
Normandy Gold
has been described as a Tarantino-esque graphic novel about a female sheriff who comes to 1970s Washington, D.C., to avenge the murder of her call girl sister.

Perhaps that comparison to Tarantino will soon be more than just a description.

Normandy Gold
has been optioned to New Regency, with Abbott and Gaylin to adapt.

We all know that an option is a long way from a property actually becoming a film.

But it’s a good start.

And I’m looking forward to the team of Abbott and Gaylin making it to the big screen.

James Grippando’s 20-Novel Milestone
Oline Cogdill

grippando_james
Publishing 20 well-received, suspenseful thrillers is a milestone.

So congratulations to James Grippando, whose thrillers deliver “ripped from the headlines” plots while offering a vivid view of life in South Florida.

Most of Grippando’s novels feature Miami defense attorney Jack Swyteck. The son of a former governor and a Cuban mother, Jack’s background is steeped in South Florida lore.

But, like most mystery novels, Grippando’s stories could take place anywhere.

Grippando’s use of current events adds realism to his novels, and often brings a sense of urgency to his works.

In Need You Now, Grippando showed how the plague of Ponzi schemes, such as Madoff and their ilk, reaches into every strata, affecting the wealthy, the middle class, corporations and charities, even mobsters. After all criminals also need a place to park their money and, unlike most Ponzi victims, they tend to be bit more vengeful, as I said in my review.

Money To Burn looks at the Wall Street meltdown.

His Afraid of the Dark may be one of the scariest novels I have ever read, frightening in its uncovering a horrifying conspiracy among terrorists that most of us cannot even imagine happening.

grippandojames_bloodmoney
Afraid of the Dark
touches on terrorists, the treatment of political prisoners, cyber security, the war in Iraq and even teenage sexting. It’s a heady brew of plot points, but Grippando skillfully balances each tendril, as I said in my review of the novel. To say more would spoil the myriad twists that Grippando deftly adds to this multi-layered plot, but every plot twist, every nuance feels authentic.

And Grippando continued that focus on newsmakers in his 20th and latest novel, Blood Money. It’s also his 10th one about Jack Swyteck.

Grippando used the Casey Anthony case as the inspiration for the meticulously plotted Blood Money.

But Blood Money was not just a look at this case that is still making headlines.

Grippando spins Blood Money into an intriguing look at the media, vengeance-seeking crusaders and our perception of defendants and their attorneys, as I said in a review.

Super User
Saturday, 09 February 2013 09:02

grippando_james
Publishing 20 well-received, suspenseful thrillers is a milestone.

So congratulations to James Grippando, whose thrillers deliver “ripped from the headlines” plots while offering a vivid view of life in South Florida.

Most of Grippando’s novels feature Miami defense attorney Jack Swyteck. The son of a former governor and a Cuban mother, Jack’s background is steeped in South Florida lore.

But, like most mystery novels, Grippando’s stories could take place anywhere.

Grippando’s use of current events adds realism to his novels, and often brings a sense of urgency to his works.

In Need You Now, Grippando showed how the plague of Ponzi schemes, such as Madoff and their ilk, reaches into every strata, affecting the wealthy, the middle class, corporations and charities, even mobsters. After all criminals also need a place to park their money and, unlike most Ponzi victims, they tend to be bit more vengeful, as I said in my review.

Money To Burn looks at the Wall Street meltdown.

His Afraid of the Dark may be one of the scariest novels I have ever read, frightening in its uncovering a horrifying conspiracy among terrorists that most of us cannot even imagine happening.

grippandojames_bloodmoney
Afraid of the Dark
touches on terrorists, the treatment of political prisoners, cyber security, the war in Iraq and even teenage sexting. It’s a heady brew of plot points, but Grippando skillfully balances each tendril, as I said in my review of the novel. To say more would spoil the myriad twists that Grippando deftly adds to this multi-layered plot, but every plot twist, every nuance feels authentic.

And Grippando continued that focus on newsmakers in his 20th and latest novel, Blood Money. It’s also his 10th one about Jack Swyteck.

Grippando used the Casey Anthony case as the inspiration for the meticulously plotted Blood Money.

But Blood Money was not just a look at this case that is still making headlines.

Grippando spins Blood Money into an intriguing look at the media, vengeance-seeking crusaders and our perception of defendants and their attorneys, as I said in a review.

Dana Stabenow on "the Lion's Paw" by Robb White
Dana Stabenow

stabenow_danaI was raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. In port, at low tide, it was a 42-foot climb up an often ice-encrusted ladder to get to the library, but if you’re a born reader and an icy climb is the only way you can get to the library, you climb.

The Seldovia Public Library was one room in the basement of city hall. It was open once a week, on Monday nights, for three hours, seven to ten. Because there were so few books, each patron could check out only four at a time. Susan the librarian started me on Nancy Drew.

I read all the Nancy Drew Susan had in short order, and then I read everything else on her shelves. Because I was a kid on a boat, I was always looking for stories about other kids on boats. Eventually, Susan found me a copy of The Lion’s Paw by Robb White.

It’s World War II. Fifteen-year-old Ben’s father is lost at sea in the Pacific. Penny and Nick are siblings on the lam from the orphanage that would split them up. They stow away in Ben’s sailboat, the Hard A Lee. Ben’s uncle is going to sell it, so Ben, Penny and Nick decide to run away on the Hard a Lee together.

My favorite kind of book is a how-to book. You can’t put enough detail into a book about how someone lives their life or does their job or falls in love or commits a crime to suit me. The Lion’s Paw is a how-to book. How to run away. How to sail a boat. How to be a captain. How to be crew. How to hide a sailboat in plain sight. How not to wrestle an alligator.

white_lionspawHow to go on a quest.

There is that one book every writer can point to as the story that inspired them to tell their own. The Lion’s Paw may be the first book I ever read where I looked at the author’s name on the cover and wondered, “Who is this guy? How does he know all this stuff?” and more importantly “Did he write anything else?”

He did, and I read it all. And then I started writing my own.

Dana Stabenow writes two series of mystery novels set in Alaska: The PI Kate Shugak series, and the Alaskan state trooper Liam Campbell series. She also pens the sci-fi series Star Svendotter in addition to several standalone novels and anthologies. She is a proud native of Anchorage, Alaska.

Author website: www.stabenow.com

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" enews February 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
Monday, 04 February 2013 08:02

stabenow_danaThe Alaskan author recalls braving snow and ice for the Seldovia library and the book The Lion's Paw.

The Little Woods
Sarah Prindle

When Calista “Cally” Wood, a high school junior, transfers to St. Bede’s Academy on a full scholarship, she hopes it will begin a new chapter of her life. Soon after her arrival she makes many friends (from the popular Helen to the excitable “Pigeon”), becomes the third member in a love triangle, and begins to find a place for herself in spite of her own quirks (for instance, she shaves her head!).

However, Cally learns the “little woods” surrounding the school holds many a dark secret. A girl named Iris vanished there a few months before…just as her own sister Clare, along with her friend Laurel, disappeared from St. Bede’s ten years ago. Iris is thought to be a runaway, and the other girls were assumed to have been killed. As Cally tries to piece together what happened to her sister, Laurel, and now Iris, a body is discovered in the woods. Closing in on the truth, she risks becoming part of the terrifying history of the little woods.

While The Little Woods (McCormick Templeman’s first novel) succeeds as a mystery story, it does have a few problems. Many of the characters are well done, but some feel hollow and flat; others are hard to tell apart. The love triangle seems forced, as if it exists just to satisfy the obligation of romance. In spite of these weaknesses, the story grows more gripping and the mystery of the missing girls keeps the reader hooked throughout the last half of the book. Many twists are thrown in, along with a creepy setting, and there is a strong conclusion and a nice wrap-up of questions at the end. While The Little Woods seems to struggle at first, it is well worth the read—a chilling but charming young adult mystery.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 02:02

templeman_thelittlewoodsMissing girls, prep school, and a mysterious woods make for an atmospheric first novel.

Toby Peters Over Hollywood
Michael Mallory

hollywood_at_night_vintage

Stuart Kaminsky's Tinseltown 'tec brings the 1940s to Technicolor life


FADE IN:

1 INT. A SEEDY OFFICE IN L.A. (1943) – DAY

A man in his mid-forties sits behind a desk in a cramped office. He is TOBY PETERS—medium height, wiry, and with a face that shows even more signs of ill-use than his suit.

As the CAMERA PUSHES IN we hear...

TOBY (V.O.)
This is a job for a lazy man with muscles and not too many brains. The pay stinks, I get hit a lot, and I eat badly. So why do I do it? Because every once in a while, it makes me feel really alive.
 

Philip Marlowe may have owned the mean streets of Los Angeles, but it is Toby Peters who holds the deed to Hollywood. The downtrodden, broken-nosed hero of 24 humorous murder mysteries written by Stuart M. Kaminsky, Peters is not your typical 1940s detective. He works out of a room sublet from an incompetent dentist, which he describes as “probably the only office in California where you could get your teeth filled and your runaway grandmother found in one visit.” He’s more of a wiseass than a streetwise philosopher. He’s a terrible shot, admits he’s not the smartest shamus in the phone book, and usually gets the worst out of a fight (“You look like Daffy Duck in one of those cartoons where Bugs Bunny blows him up,” his friend Anita informs him after one encounter). Peters isn’t even his real name; it’s Tobias Leo Pevsner.

But he possesses a quality that is invaluable when dealing with the rich and famous: he can be trusted to keep a secret.

kaminsky_stuart_crJean-Luc_ValetjpgToby first got his close-up in Bullet for a Star (1977), a fast, funny B-movie of a novel set in 1940, in which Toby is invited to Warner Bros., where he once worked as a security guard, to deal with a blackmailer who has an incriminating photo purporting to show Errol Flynn in flagrante delicto with an underage girl. The blackmail case turns into a murder case, and Toby is assisted in solving it by the likes of Peter Lorre, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart.

Over the next 27 years Kaminsky turned out Toby Peters books at an amazing pace, drawing on public figures not only from Hollywood, but also from sports, politics, and the arts to populate the stories.

Stuart Kaminsky. Photo: Luc Valet.

These included Judy Garland (Murder on the Yellow Brick Road), the Marx Brothers (You Bet Your Life), Howard Hughes (The Howard Hughes Affair, which found Basil Rathbone acting as Toby’s assistant), Bela Lugosi (Never Cross a Vampire), Gary Cooper (High Midnight), Emmett Kelly (Catch a Falling Clown), Mae West (He Done Her Wrong), Eleanor Roosevelt (The Fala Factor), Joe Louis (Down for the Count), John Wayne (The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance), Albert Einstein (Smart Moves), Peter Lorre (Think Fast, Mr. Peters), General Douglas MacArthur (Buried Caesars), Leopold Stokowski (Poor Butterfly), Salvador Dali (The Melting Clock), Bette Davis (The Devil Met a Lady), Clark Gable (Tomorrow Is Another Day), Fred Astaire (Dancing in the Dark), W.C. Fields (A Fatal Glass of Beer), Cary Grant (To Catch a Spy), Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierced), and magician Harry Blackstone (Now You See It).

west_maeThe only copy of Mae West’s sizzling autobiography goes missing in He Done Her Wrong. 

In each of the books, Toby is aided (and sometimes hindered) by a regular supporting cast of characters that includes the dapper, diminutive Swiss linguist Gunther Wherthman, who had played a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz; Dr. Sheldon Minck, the butcher dentist who delusionally believes he’s an artist in enamel; mountainous Jeremy Butler, a former wrestler and poet who owns the office building; and Irene Plaut, Toby’s comically deaf landlady, whom he describes as “somewhere between seventy-five and ninety, with the constitution of [prizefighter] Primo Carnera and the energy of Ray Bolger.” The police are chiefly represented by Toby’s older brother, Lieutenant (and later Captain) Phil Pevsner, who has severe anger management problems, particularly around Toby, and Sergeant John Cawelti, who hates them both.

As time went on, the breezy lightheartedness of the early books was toned down, and Toby Peters’ adventures became a little more serious and weighty. One often-employed device was to open a novel at the story’s climax point, with Toby facing the unidentified murder, and then step back and recount the action from the start that led up to that moment. In nearly all of them, Toby’s next client contacts him at the very end of the book as a teaser for the follow-up adventure. One aspect of the series that never changed, though, was its cleverness. Kaminsky’s skill at plotting, misdirection and, in particular, setting clues was often breathtaking. A case in point was the trick he pulled in Catch a Falling Clown (1982), which also featured Alfred Hitchcock...as a suspect! Without giving anything away, the author’s handling of such a recognizable figure was one of the neatest twists of modern mystery fiction.

What makes the Toby Peters series stand out from the pack even more is that the author was also a genuine authority on Golden Age Hollywood and its stars, whom he depicts as the people they were, not simply the personas they played. In Never Cross a Vampire (1980), for instance, Toby comments on client Bela Lugosi’s oversized sense of drama, even off-camera: “Lugosi caught my eye, a massive false smile on his face, and nodded toward the door in a way that would make it clear even to the Frankenstein monster that he wanted out.”

wayne_johnToby Peters wakes up with a headache, a body on the hotel-room bed and a gun in his face—held by John Wayne—in The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance.

A cinema professor at Northwestern University, Kaminsky had already published several nonfiction books about Hollywood by the time he undertook Bullet for a Star, his first novel. He continued to write nonfiction books and somehow found the time to turn out three other long-running mystery series featuring Inspector Rostnikov (whose 1988 adventure A Cold Red Sunrise earned Kaminsky an Edgar for Best Novel), Lew Fonseca, and Abe Lieberman. He also wrote tie-in novels for The Rockford Files and CSI: New York, a few film and television scripts, and even some graphic novels.

By Now You See It, which was published in 2004, some surprising changes had taken place in Toby’s life. It is set in 1945, five hard years after Bullet for a Star, and he is now partnered with his slightly mellowed brother Phil, who resigned the LAPD after the death of his wife. The fact that no new client turns up on the final page to cue the next adventure indicates this was intended to be Toby Peters’ last case, even though Kaminsky went on to write several more books for his other series. Stuart Kaminsky died in 2009 at age 75, having received the MWA’s highest honor, its Grand Master Award, three years earlier.

The great thing about mysteries set in the 1940s is that they never get old. The great thing about the adventures of Toby Peters is that an author who knew and loved the workings of Golden Age Hollywood was happy to share that knowledge and love with the rest of us. 

MUSIC SWELLS AS WE...FADE TO BLACK

A STUART KAMINSKY READING LIST

Toby Peters Novels
Bullet for a Star (1977)
Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (1977)
You Bet Your Life (1978)
The Howard Hughes Affair (1979)
Never Cross a Vampire (1980)
High Midnight (1981)
Catch a Falling Clown (1982)
He Done Her Wrong (1983)
The Fala Factor (1984)
Down for the Count (1985)
The Man Who Shot Lewis Vance (1986)
Smart Moves (1986)
Think Fast, Mr. Peters (1987)
Buried Caesars (1989)
Poor Butterfly (1990)
The Melting Clock (1991)
The Devil Met a Lady (1993)
Tomorrow Is Another Day (1995)
Dancing in the Dark (1996)
A Fatal Glass of Beer (1997)
A Few Minutes Past Midnight (2001)
To Catch a Spy (2002)
Mildred Pierced (2003)
Now You See It (2004)

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #125.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 03:02

west_maeStuart Kaminsky's Tinseltown 'tec brings the 1940s to Technicolor life

Agatha Nominations, Child's Dagger
Oline Cogdill

malice_domestic
Along with authors and readers, I also am one of those who anticipate the annual lists of award nominations.

I love to see who gets recommended not only because I love the genre but also because I like to see how my choices line up with the judges and readers.

The Edgar Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America, will be held on Thursday, May 2, 2013, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. That’s going to be a very special night and a list of the nominees, along with the Grand Master and other awards to be given that night are at this link.

And after the Edgars, come the Agathas, just a couple of days later.

The Agatha is given each year at the Malice Domestic, a conference that celebrates the traditional mystery.Malice Domestic will be May 3-5, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bethesda, MD.

Here are the Agatha Award Nominees for books published in 2012.

And just for the record, many of my choices for best novels of the year have made it to the Edgar and Agatha lists.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

AGATHA AWARD NOMINATIONS

Best Novel:
The Diva Digs Up the Dirt by Krista Davis
A Fatal Winter by G.M. Malliet
The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best First Novel:
Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown
A Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan
A Killer Read by Erika Chase
Faithful Unto Death by Stephanie Jaye Evans

Best Non-fiction:
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels by John Connolly/Declan Burke
Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 by Joseph Goodrich, Editor
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie by Mathew Prichard, Editor

Best Short Story:
"Mischief in Mesopotamia" by Dana Cameron (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
"Kept in the Dark" by Shelia Connolly (Best New England Crime Stories 2013: Blood Moon Anthology)
"The Lord is My Shamus" by Barb Goffman (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)
"Thea's First Husband" by B.K. Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"When Duty Calls", by Art Taylor (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)

Best Children's/Young Adult Novel:
Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse by Penny Warner
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Best Historical Novel:
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson
Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson
An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear


CWA Diamond Dagger


And speaking of awards, it was announced this past weekend that Lee Child has won this year's Crime Writers Association's Diamond Dagger award, which recognizes an author whose career is "marked by sustained excellence" and who has "made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation." Child will be honored at a ceremony next summer.

The British-born Child, of course, writes the very American Jack Reacher series.

In making the announcement, Peter James, chair of the CWA, is quoted as saying Child "is one of the few British crime thriller authors to have become a global brand name; he is also an extremely charming and open person and a tireless promoter of our genre."

Super User
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 06:02

malice_domestic
Along with authors and readers, I also am one of those who anticipate the annual lists of award nominations.

I love to see who gets recommended not only because I love the genre but also because I like to see how my choices line up with the judges and readers.

The Edgar Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America, will be held on Thursday, May 2, 2013, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. That’s going to be a very special night and a list of the nominees, along with the Grand Master and other awards to be given that night are at this link.

And after the Edgars, come the Agathas, just a couple of days later.

The Agatha is given each year at the Malice Domestic, a conference that celebrates the traditional mystery.Malice Domestic will be May 3-5, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bethesda, MD.

Here are the Agatha Award Nominees for books published in 2012.

And just for the record, many of my choices for best novels of the year have made it to the Edgar and Agatha lists.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

AGATHA AWARD NOMINATIONS

Best Novel:
The Diva Digs Up the Dirt by Krista Davis
A Fatal Winter by G.M. Malliet
The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Best First Novel:
Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown
A Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan
A Killer Read by Erika Chase
Faithful Unto Death by Stephanie Jaye Evans

Best Non-fiction:
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels by John Connolly/Declan Burke
Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 by Joseph Goodrich, Editor
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie by Mathew Prichard, Editor

Best Short Story:
"Mischief in Mesopotamia" by Dana Cameron (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
"Kept in the Dark" by Shelia Connolly (Best New England Crime Stories 2013: Blood Moon Anthology)
"The Lord is My Shamus" by Barb Goffman (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)
"Thea's First Husband" by B.K. Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
"When Duty Calls", by Art Taylor (Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder)

Best Children's/Young Adult Novel:
Seconds Away by Harlan Coben
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
The Code Busters Club, Case #2: The Haunted Lighthouse by Penny Warner
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Best Historical Novel:
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catriona McPherson
Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson
An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear


CWA Diamond Dagger


And speaking of awards, it was announced this past weekend that Lee Child has won this year's Crime Writers Association's Diamond Dagger award, which recognizes an author whose career is "marked by sustained excellence" and who has "made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation." Child will be honored at a ceremony next summer.

The British-born Child, of course, writes the very American Jack Reacher series.

In making the announcement, Peter James, chair of the CWA, is quoted as saying Child "is one of the few British crime thriller authors to have become a global brand name; he is also an extremely charming and open person and a tireless promoter of our genre."

Andrew Klavan Focuses on Heroes, Victims
Oline Cogdill
klavanandrew_akillerinthewind

Andrew Klavan is the author of more than 15 internationally bestselling novels, including Empire of Lies, True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. He has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice.

Klavan’s latest novel is A Killer in the Wind.

In this mini-interview, Klavan gives Mystery Scene readers insight about his work and future plans.

A Killer in the Wind deals with repressed memory and hallucinations. What was your inspiration?
I began with an incident in my mind. A man has a dream of a woman—not a real woman, just a dream that obsesses him. Then one day, impossibly, against all logic, she washes up on the banks of a river. At first, he thinks she's dead. But then she looks at him and says, “They're coming after us!” That's where I started. So then I had to ask myself: Who's the guy? How is this situation possible? What happens next? I built the story backwards from there.

klavanandrew_killerinwindeA Killer in the Wind is unflinching in its look at child trafficking, yet the novel is never lurid. What is the greatest challenge as a novelist in using sex trafficking as a background?
You hit it right on the head. I did not want to be lurid or in any way prurient. I wanted the reader's mind and heart with the victims and with the hero at every moment. There are a lot of writers and filmmakers who pride themselves on taking a sympathetic look at evil, bringing the audience into the mind of, say, a killer. Well, I'm sympathetic toward the soul that's lost to evil—that's a spiritual tragedy—but I think fiction perverts the moral universe when it leads you into the mind of a villian without giving you a full understanding, awareness and empathy for the victims of his crime.

Will we see more of Dan Champion, the hero of A Killer in the Wind?
I don't know. This is a unique story in his life, but it could be formative, you know, the story that makes him who he is. He was a great character to write so I wouldn't say no out of hand.

So many authors are now writing Y.A., and you did too with Crazy Dangerous. How different is the approach to writing Y.A. as opposed to writing thrillers?
I've always put a bit of what you might call method acting into writing my books. That is, I've learned to inhabit the minds of the characters I write and try to write them from the inside. I didn't find it difficult to inhabit a younger person's mind, and once you do that, the point of view sort of writes itself. I don't try to pull off any hipper-than-thou slang or anything, so once I had the young person's attitude, it wasn't any harder or easier than writing books for adults.

klavan_truecrime
You’ve had success with your novels being turned into film, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word. What do you think of the films based on your novels?

I think they're pretty good. True Crime is well written and Clint Eastwood is an icon. Don't Say A Word is very exciting and was a big hit. I haven't yet seen a film of one of my books where I thought—yeah, that's it. That's what I wanted it to be. But maybe that never happens.

You also have written screenplays—the film A Shock to the System based on Simon Brett’s novel is a personal favorite—do you think about how a novel will play on screen when you are writing?
Never. They're two different forms. I mean, look, I learned a lot of my plotting technique from watching Hitchcock and other suspense movies as a kid, so there's a cinematic element to what I do. But books travel on the track laid down by the consciousness of the characters, movies travel on the track of events. The structure of a movie is just much more rigid, less expansive than a novel. If you wrote your novels like movies, you'd be cheating the reader out of some very good stuff.

You have adapted the trilogy of Dynamite Road, Shotgun Alley and Damnation Street into a screenplay titled Damnation Street. What’s the status?
It's been optioned by an outfit called Fox Hill Films and they're now trying to attach a filmmaker or a star. That's kind of the new Hollywood paradigm for pictures of this sort—I mean, stuff that isn't Spider-man or something huge like that. You put the picture together first, then you get a studio to buy in.

And why did you condense all three into one screenplay?
Well, because the trilogy is this sprawling story with lots of little subplots thrown in, but the central story starts in the first book and concludes in the last. There was no way to tell that central story without taking stuff from each book.

What is the best part of being a novelist?
I love what I do. Love telling stories. Love working with language. When it goes right, it's a weirdly spiritual thing—it orders your inner universe in a wonderfully harmonic way. And then there's that great thing where what happened to you in the writing happens to a reader in the reading, when a reader writes to you and says, I loved this, I couldn't put it down, I was up all night, one of my favorite books. That's kind of magical. Plus I get to work at home and my wife makes me lunch. I'm very fond of my wife.

What is the worst part of being a novelist?
When commercial considerations limit what you feel you can do. I'm not complaining about commerciality. I think art should have to make its own living. I don't believe in government grants and such—art should entertain people enough for them to pay for it. But I like to try new things, take different tacks, create something totally different than the last time and that just hurts you in the commercial world. If people like something, they want to see it again and again. I'm a natural experimenter. It goes against my grain to do the same thing twice.

What are you working on now?

Speaking of new stuff... I'm doing a new Y.A. series with a science fiction element. I've never really done that before and it's sort of mind blowing. Plus I have a ghost story film coming out and we're already starting the sequel. I'm busy.

Super User
Sunday, 17 February 2013 05:02
klavanandrew_akillerinthewind

Andrew Klavan is the author of more than 15 internationally bestselling novels, including Empire of Lies, True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. He has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice.

Klavan’s latest novel is A Killer in the Wind.

In this mini-interview, Klavan gives Mystery Scene readers insight about his work and future plans.

A Killer in the Wind deals with repressed memory and hallucinations. What was your inspiration?
I began with an incident in my mind. A man has a dream of a woman—not a real woman, just a dream that obsesses him. Then one day, impossibly, against all logic, she washes up on the banks of a river. At first, he thinks she's dead. But then she looks at him and says, “They're coming after us!” That's where I started. So then I had to ask myself: Who's the guy? How is this situation possible? What happens next? I built the story backwards from there.

klavanandrew_killerinwindeA Killer in the Wind is unflinching in its look at child trafficking, yet the novel is never lurid. What is the greatest challenge as a novelist in using sex trafficking as a background?
You hit it right on the head. I did not want to be lurid or in any way prurient. I wanted the reader's mind and heart with the victims and with the hero at every moment. There are a lot of writers and filmmakers who pride themselves on taking a sympathetic look at evil, bringing the audience into the mind of, say, a killer. Well, I'm sympathetic toward the soul that's lost to evil—that's a spiritual tragedy—but I think fiction perverts the moral universe when it leads you into the mind of a villian without giving you a full understanding, awareness and empathy for the victims of his crime.

Will we see more of Dan Champion, the hero of A Killer in the Wind?
I don't know. This is a unique story in his life, but it could be formative, you know, the story that makes him who he is. He was a great character to write so I wouldn't say no out of hand.

So many authors are now writing Y.A., and you did too with Crazy Dangerous. How different is the approach to writing Y.A. as opposed to writing thrillers?
I've always put a bit of what you might call method acting into writing my books. That is, I've learned to inhabit the minds of the characters I write and try to write them from the inside. I didn't find it difficult to inhabit a younger person's mind, and once you do that, the point of view sort of writes itself. I don't try to pull off any hipper-than-thou slang or anything, so once I had the young person's attitude, it wasn't any harder or easier than writing books for adults.

klavan_truecrime
You’ve had success with your novels being turned into film, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word. What do you think of the films based on your novels?

I think they're pretty good. True Crime is well written and Clint Eastwood is an icon. Don't Say A Word is very exciting and was a big hit. I haven't yet seen a film of one of my books where I thought—yeah, that's it. That's what I wanted it to be. But maybe that never happens.

You also have written screenplays—the film A Shock to the System based on Simon Brett’s novel is a personal favorite—do you think about how a novel will play on screen when you are writing?
Never. They're two different forms. I mean, look, I learned a lot of my plotting technique from watching Hitchcock and other suspense movies as a kid, so there's a cinematic element to what I do. But books travel on the track laid down by the consciousness of the characters, movies travel on the track of events. The structure of a movie is just much more rigid, less expansive than a novel. If you wrote your novels like movies, you'd be cheating the reader out of some very good stuff.

You have adapted the trilogy of Dynamite Road, Shotgun Alley and Damnation Street into a screenplay titled Damnation Street. What’s the status?
It's been optioned by an outfit called Fox Hill Films and they're now trying to attach a filmmaker or a star. That's kind of the new Hollywood paradigm for pictures of this sort—I mean, stuff that isn't Spider-man or something huge like that. You put the picture together first, then you get a studio to buy in.

And why did you condense all three into one screenplay?
Well, because the trilogy is this sprawling story with lots of little subplots thrown in, but the central story starts in the first book and concludes in the last. There was no way to tell that central story without taking stuff from each book.

What is the best part of being a novelist?
I love what I do. Love telling stories. Love working with language. When it goes right, it's a weirdly spiritual thing—it orders your inner universe in a wonderfully harmonic way. And then there's that great thing where what happened to you in the writing happens to a reader in the reading, when a reader writes to you and says, I loved this, I couldn't put it down, I was up all night, one of my favorite books. That's kind of magical. Plus I get to work at home and my wife makes me lunch. I'm very fond of my wife.

What is the worst part of being a novelist?
When commercial considerations limit what you feel you can do. I'm not complaining about commerciality. I think art should have to make its own living. I don't believe in government grants and such—art should entertain people enough for them to pay for it. But I like to try new things, take different tacks, create something totally different than the last time and that just hurts you in the commercial world. If people like something, they want to see it again and again. I'm a natural experimenter. It goes against my grain to do the same thing twice.

What are you working on now?

Speaking of new stuff... I'm doing a new Y.A. series with a science fiction element. I've never really done that before and it's sort of mind blowing. Plus I have a ghost story film coming out and we're already starting the sequel. I'm busy.

Fletch Lives: Gregory Mcdonald’s Revolutionary Sleuth
Steve Hockensmith

Mcdonald_Gregory__Cr_Nancy_CramptonFletch Lives


Gregory Mcdonald, 1937-2008. Photo: Nancy Crampton.

It’s not Gregory Mcdonald’s epitaph, but it may as well be. Mcdonald wrote 26 published books over the course of a decades-long career, yet when he died last September at the age of 71, tribute after tribute turned not only to the same novel but the same excerpt to illustrate his considerable gifts as a storyteller.

It was a fitting choice for a fond farewell, as the passage had been, years before, an introduction—a bold fanfare that announced to the mystery world that someone important had just arrived on the scene. Two someones, actually: Mcdonald and a new kind of sleuth.

But why not let those words speak for themselves?

“What’s your name?”
“Fletch.”
“What’s your full name?”
“Fletcher.”
“What’s your first name?”
“Irwin.”
“What?”
“Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch.”
“Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars for just listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, and never tell anyone we talked. Fair enough?”
“Is it criminal? I mean, what you want me to do?”
“Of course.”
“Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to murder me.”

Even readers who never picked it up themselves can guess the novel that begins with those punchy, pithy lines. It’s Fletch, of course.

And those readers who haven’t read the book? I can’t believe, after reading that opening, that they’re not running straight to the nearest bookstore to look for a copy. To my mind, it’s one of the great openings of the mystery genre: so compact, almost spare, yet full of intrigue, wit and promise. If people keep reading Mcdonald in the decades to come—and I believe they will—those 101 words will have a lot to do with it.

In fact, I know how sharp Fletch’s opening hook is from personal experience. I first encountered Mcdonald’s Fletch mysteries under what I’d call the ideal circumstances: I was on vacation with my wife and in-laws, and it was raining...and raining...and raining. After finishing the book I’d brought with me and growing absolutely sick of Scrabble and Rummikub, I started hunting for something else to do. Fortunately, the beach house we were renting had bookshelves lined with old paperbacks.

I remember seeing The Amityville Horror, The Ghost of Flight 401, a lot of Michael Crichton, a lot of James Michener.

And then—cue the “Hallelujah” chorus—lots and lots of Gregory Mcdonald.

mcdonald_fletchThough Mcdonald’s Fletch mysteries were hugely popular throughout the 1970s and ’80s, with tens of millions of copies in print, I somehow managed to miss the hullabaloo. All I knew were the two Fletch movies starring Chevy Chase. And, by another stroke of luck, I’d only seen the first, which ain’t too shabby. (The 1989 sequel, Fletch Lives? Shabby.)

So I slid Fletch off the shelf, glanced at those killer opening lines...and didn’t stop reading until I ran out of sequels two days later. Somewhere in there, it stopped raining, but I barely even noticed.

The books I zoomed through—the first six of Mcdonald’s nine Fletch novels—were lean but not slight, fast-paced but not frenzied, and comical but not cartoonish, all with mysteries that managed to be satisfyingly complex yet not convoluted.

And there was more to them than just good stories well told (though they certainly were that). Yes, these were traditional mysteries in the sense that crimes were committed, clues accumulated, and culprits caught. Yet the approach didn’t feel traditional at all.

There was a spartan style, whole chapters whipping by with nothing but sharp, often hilarious dialogue pushing the plot forward.

There was a unique, slightly askew world view, rebellious, sly, sometimes absurdist, with flashes of tenderhearted compassion.

And, most of all, there was a unique hero.

Of course, when the first Fletch novel was published in 1974, there’d already been mysteries that didn’t star private eyes or cops or snoopy old ladies. There’d even been some that starred (as does Fletch) a journalist. But none featured a journalist hero who was so, shall we say, ethically flexible.

Lies. Masquerades. Sex. Fletch used them all, when they suited his purposes. And he wasn’t above some wicked trickery when it came to evading his alimony-hunting ex-wives, too. Yet he had an idiosyncratic code of honor, as well: Though he won the Bronze Star while serving as a Marine, he refused to accept the award for reasons known only to himself.

Imagine that. A decorated war hero protagonist who wasn’t portrayed as an unstoppable killing machine. No, Fletch was a lover (and liar), not a fighter.

“The only question resolved by violence is who is the stronger—not the height of intelligence, interest or value,” Mcdonald said to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine columnist J. Rentilly in a rare interview shortly before his death. “A violent resolution mostly impedes understanding.”

Not that Fletch was some kind of hippie—though he did have an aversion to authority figures and (in his first adventure, at least) wearing shoes. But his cynicism and air of sardonic detachment were certainly symptomatic of the late ’60s/early ’70s zeitgeist that birthed him.

Just call him Cool Hand Fletch.

Over the years, Mcdonald launched several other, less successful series, all of them starring charming rogues who doggedly sniff out the truth without resorting to violence or macho bluster. “Sunlight mysteries,” a critic once dubbed them, and Mcdonald told Rentilly he was proud to think of himself as a master of the form.

Yet Mcdonald’s writing wasn’t all sunshine and light. His first published novel, Running Scared (1964), is about a college student who refuses to intervene when his roommate commits suicide. A later book, The Brave (1991), is a grim look at a down-on-his-luck Native American who agrees to sacrifice himself in a snuff film. And in the mid-1980s, Mcdonald abandoned the still-popular Fletch series to focus on a proposed “quartet” of philosophically minded literary novels. (Only three were published, and Mcdonald returned to writing mysteries with the Fletch spin-off Son of Fletch in 1993.)

mcdonald_souvenirs_of_blown_worldIn fact, though he was a two-time Edgar winner and a former president of the Mystery Writers of America, Mcdonald seemed to feel ambivalent about the genre that made him rich and famous.

“I think the mystery may be the greatest form for social criticism,” his official website quotes him as saying, “simply because it is pedestrian.”

High praise...or backhanded compliment?

Like his greatest creation, it seems, Mcdonald didn’t like to be pinned down.

Born and raised in New England, Mcdonald put himself through Harvard sailing and servicing yachts for East Coast blue bloods. He started writing young, working out a draft of what would become his 1988 literary novel Exits and Entrances at the age of 16 and publishing Running Scared when he was only 27. His first novel met with a mixed reception, however, and he made his living as a Boston Globe reporter and editor until the instant success of Fletch gave him the freedom to quit.

Yet he never enjoyed life as a jet-setting, best-selling publishing superstar. According to The New York Times, if a fellow airplane passenger asked he what he did for a living, he’d say he sold insurance—thus guaranteeing a quick end to the conversation. Mcdonald also complained in interviews about bookstore mob scenes and grabby female fans.

Eventually, he moved to a Tennessee farm, stopped making public appearances, and developed a reputation (in the publishing world, at least) as a recluse. When he died of prostate cancer last fall, fans hadn’t seen a new novel from him in nine years.

The man who’d won fame and fortune for beginning things with a bang had gone out very, very quietly.

Not that Mcdonald’s story is over. A Fletch film franchise reboot has been in the works for nearly a decade, with top Hollywood writers like Clerks auteur Kevin Smith and Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence hailing the original books as an early inspiration. And Vintage has been keeping not just the Fletch novels but also Mcdonald’s Son of Fletch and Flynn series in print, hopefully drawing new fans to the author’s “sunshine mysteries.”

And then there’s what I think is the best cause for hope of all: Fletch itself. And that opening.

Years after stumbling across it on that fortuitously rainy day, I reread it. Mcdonald had just passed away, and it seemed like the right time to revisit my old friend Fletch.

And wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t stop at 101 words. I couldn’t stop at one page. I had to reread the whole book. And then the next and then the next. And I don’t think I’ll be the only one who still finds that old hook as sharp as ever. The movie may have stunk, but the sentiment holds true: Fletch lives.

A GREGORY MCDONALD SELECTED READING LIST

Fletch Novels
Fletch, 1974
Confess, Fletch, 1976
Fletch's Fortune, 1978
Fletch and the Widow Bradley, 1981
Fletch's Moxie, 1982
Fletch and the Man Who, 1983
Carioca Fletch, 1984
Fletch Won, 1985
Fletch, Too, 1986

Flynn Novels
Flynn, 1977
The Buck Passes Flynn, 1981
Flynn's In, 1984
Flynn's World, 2003

Son of Fletch Novels
Son of Fletch, 1993
Fletch Reflected, 1994

Skylar Novels
Skylar, 1995
Skylar in Yankeeland, 1997

Steve Hockensmith is the author of the “Holmes on the Range” historical mysteries. The latest book is Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #108.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 14 February 2013 10:02

fletch_splashFletch Lives!

Who Do You Love? Readers' Favorite Crime-Fighting Couples
Teri Duerr

mysteryheartcrop

In honor of Valentine's Day, Mystery Scene surveyed our romantic readers on their favorite couples of mystery and crime. And the winning couple is...

nicknorakiss

1

Nick & Nora Charles
created by Dashiell Hammett

Winners by a landslide with more than 48% of the vote, the equal parts sass-and-class duo from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man (1934) left all other couple contenders in their wake. Most readers agreed their favorite manifestation of the couple was not from Hammett's original novel, though, but rather from W.S. Van Dyke's popular films of the 1930s and '40s. Nick and Nora of the screen were played in all six films by William Powell and Myrna Loy (pictured). The Charleses also appear on radio and on stage. As voter Ann Mettert summed up, "Wit and class and equals." And as reader Kate Rohloff added, "Don't forget Asta, too!" We raise our martini glasses to our readers' all-time favorites.

tommytuppence

2 (tie)

Tommy & Tuppence Beresford
created by Agatha Christie

Thomas and Prudence "Tuppence" Beresford tied with another power couple for second place in Mystery Scene's reader poll. Tommy and Tuppence bill themselves as "two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused" in their first Agatha Christie outing The Secret Adversary (1922). The detectives go on to appear in three more Agatha Christie novels as well as several short stories. Their complementary combo of Tommy's steady focus and Tuppence's energy and insight makes for a match made in sleuth heaven. "[They] were such an interesting pair of sleuths," wrote reader Valerie Williams Tucker, "plus a very intriguing couple!"

(Pictured left is the first known illustration of Agatha Christie's characters of Tommy and Tuppence from the December 1923 issue of The Grand Magazine by Arthur Ferrier.)

wimseyvane

2 (tie)

Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane
created by Dorothy L. Sayers

Mystery writer Harriet Deborah Vane first meets lord and criminologist Peter Wimsey while on trial for poisoning her lover in Dorothy L. Sayers' novel Strong Poison (1930). Needless to say, by book's end the dashing Lord Wimsey proves that there's no antidote like true love—even if its full effects don't kick in until two books later in Gaudy Night (1936) later when the resistent Harriet finally gives in to his affections. In Masterpiece Mystery!: The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries of the 1970s, the literary and lordly Harriet and Peter are played by Harriet Walter and Edward Petherbridge (pictured).

russellholmes

3

Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes
created by Laurie R. King, Sherlock created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Who knew the whip-smart fifteen-year-old Mary Russell of Laurie R. King's first series novel The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994) was going to crack some serious cases and Sherlock Holmes' heart? Readers are thrilled that 14 books later, the latest of which is The Garment of Shadows (2012), the evolving relationship of Mary and Sherlock is still stronger and richer than ever.

Finally, as one voter, Airieanne Andrews, said, "...and...and...too many to choose just one." Worthy runners-up include Mr. and Mrs. North, created by married writers Frances and Richard Lockridge, Egyptologists Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson of Elizabeth Peters' popular series, and socialite Sarah Kelling and detective Max Bittersohn from author Charlotte MacLeod, plus several other great nominations from the page, stage and screen. Thank you to all our readers for your votes and comments. We will announce our free book winner soon!

With love, Mystery Scene

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 14 February 2013 01:02

mysteryheartIn honor of Valentine's Day, Mystery Scene surveyed our romantic readers on their favorite couples of mystery and crime. And the winning couple is...

Pierce Brosnan in Stuart Neville Thriller
Oline Cogdill

neville_stuartghosts2
Stuart Neville
’s noir thriller The Ghosts of Belfast was a stunning debut.

In my review, I said “Stuart Neville delivers an inspired, gritty view of how violence’s aftermath lasts for years and the toll it takes on each person involved. The Ghosts of Belfast also insightfully delves into Irish politics, the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland, redemption, guilt and responsibility.”

The novel revolves around Gerry Fegan, who is both the hero and villain in the novel.

A former IRA hit man, he spent a dozen years in prison for some of the 12 murders he committed for the cause. “He was a foot solider, and one of their best, or worst, depending on your point of view. A killer, plain and simple.”

In the past, Gerry had believed being an assassin was “a job. Just a job to be done with no care or feeling behind it. … It only took a certain hardness of the soul, a casual brutality.”

Now out of prison, Gerry is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed.

bronson_pierce2
When it was released in Europe, The Ghosts of Belfast was called The Twelve.

I am proud to say that I was a judge on the panel the year that The Ghosts of Belfast was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller.

The Ghosts of Belfast now may be coming to the screen.

It has been announced that Pierce Brosnan, right, will play the lead in the film adaptation of The Ghosts of Belfast. Neville’s novel now has a third name and has been titled Last Man Out for production.

As reported by various sources, the screenplay is being adapted for film by CBS late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson and Ted Mulkerin. Terry Loane is attached to direct and presales have begun in the European film market, it was reported in various publications.

Last Man Out is scheduled to begin shooting at the end of 2013. No other cast announcements have been made.

Super User
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 04:02

neville_stuartghosts2
Stuart Neville
’s noir thriller The Ghosts of Belfast was a stunning debut.

In my review, I said “Stuart Neville delivers an inspired, gritty view of how violence’s aftermath lasts for years and the toll it takes on each person involved. The Ghosts of Belfast also insightfully delves into Irish politics, the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland, redemption, guilt and responsibility.”

The novel revolves around Gerry Fegan, who is both the hero and villain in the novel.

A former IRA hit man, he spent a dozen years in prison for some of the 12 murders he committed for the cause. “He was a foot solider, and one of their best, or worst, depending on your point of view. A killer, plain and simple.”

In the past, Gerry had believed being an assassin was “a job. Just a job to be done with no care or feeling behind it. … It only took a certain hardness of the soul, a casual brutality.”

Now out of prison, Gerry is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed.

bronson_pierce2
When it was released in Europe, The Ghosts of Belfast was called The Twelve.

I am proud to say that I was a judge on the panel the year that The Ghosts of Belfast was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller.

The Ghosts of Belfast now may be coming to the screen.

It has been announced that Pierce Brosnan, right, will play the lead in the film adaptation of The Ghosts of Belfast. Neville’s novel now has a third name and has been titled Last Man Out for production.

As reported by various sources, the screenplay is being adapted for film by CBS late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson and Ted Mulkerin. Terry Loane is attached to direct and presales have begun in the European film market, it was reported in various publications.

Last Man Out is scheduled to begin shooting at the end of 2013. No other cast announcements have been made.

Father Brown
Steven Steinbock

chesterton_frbrown_cr_Frank_G_Jefferies_1924How G.K. Chesterton’s "little priest" saved the soul of detective fiction


1924 illustration by Frank G. Jefferies

In 1910 the world was on the brink of a new era. George V succeeded his father, King Edward, to the throne of England. Halley’s Comet made its perihelion, and a day later, as he predicted he would, Mark Twain died. William James and Leo Tolstoy passed later that same year. Enrico Caruso’s performance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera became the world’s first live musical broadcast on radio. Gaslit streets and hansom cabs were giving way to electric lights and motor cars.

And one humble Catholic priest from Essex was about to shake up an entire literary genre.

The priest was Father Brown, the invention of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), a novelist, poet, and general man of letters. The story was “The Blue Cross,” first published in 1910.

G.K. Chesterton eventually wrote over 50 stories about Father Brown. Their impact on crime fiction was enormous. According to critic Howard Haycraft, Chesterton’s “brilliant style and fertile imagination brought new blood to the genre; gave it a needed and distinctly ‘literary’ turn that was to have far-reaching effect.”

The character of Father Brown was largely inspired by Chesterton’s friendship with Father John O’Connor. Chesterton met the parish priest in 1904 while on a lecture tour in Yorkshire. He was struck by the deep understanding this priest had of the human condition. Far from being a sheltered innocent, in the course of his ministry Father O’Connor had observed humanity at its lowest. Chesterton wrote, “It was a curious experience to find that this quiet and pleasant celibate had plumbed those abysses far deeper than I.”

chesterton_fr_john_oconnor_1870-1952Once, when Chesterton and O’Conner were in a pub chatting with a pair of Cambridge undergraduates, one of the students commented that people like O’Connor are “all shut up in a sort of cloister” and that rather than facing the evil that’s in the world, the priest was “afraid of knowledge.” Chesterton was intrigued by the comment and the extent to which his friend was underestimated, writing, “To me, still almost shivering with the appallingly practical facts of which the priest had warned me, this comment came with such a colossal and crushing irony, that I nearly burst into a loud harsh laugh.”

Ever a lover of paradox, Chesterton began thinking about “making some artistic use of these comic yet tragic cross-purposes; and constructing a comedy in which a priest should appear to know nothing and in fact know more about crime than criminals.”

Father John O’Connor (1870 - 1952), the
inspiration for Chesterton’s clerical sleuth.

A New Kind of Detective

At the time of the publication of the first Father Brown story, crime fiction fit into three fairly distinct categories based on the type of hero in the story: Police Officers, Great Detectives, and Gentleman Thieves.

Police heroes include Charles Dickens’ Inspector Bucket in Bleak House, Wilkie Collins’ Scotland Yard detective Sgt. Cuff in The Moonstone, and a host of others in the sensational periodicals of the day.

Sherlock Holmes exemplifies the Great Detective, a sleuth with seemingly superhuman intellectual abilities and often an ego and other personality flaws to match.

In 1898, E.W. Hornung updated the Robin Hood legend with his cricket-champion gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, thereby creating the third category of crime fiction hero.

In creating Father Brown, Chesterton gave an entirely fresh approach to detective fiction. As author Neil Gaiman said, Father Brown “seems created less as a detective than as a reaction to detectives.” While still in the tradition of the Great Detective, Father Brown is “Great” with a twist. He is humble, and doesn’t claim to have any extraordinary mental skills. He is neither a professional policeman nor an amateur sleuth. In his very first case, the priest outsmarts a notorious criminal, outdoes the police, and performs it all with humility and with a desire to save a man’s soul rather than to solve a crime.

“The Blue Cross,” Chesterton’s first Father Brown story, opens with a police detective determined to track down a famous French thief named Flambeau who has just arrived in London. The detective is Aristide Valentin, whom we learn is no less than “the head of the Paris Police.” Notice that already two of the traditional hero-types are on stage: the cop and the crook. Their very names give us a hint of the sort of archetypes they represent: Flambeau—from the French for “torch”—carries an implication of flamboyance, while Valentin—from the Latin for “worthy”—suggests a worthy rival, and like Saint Valentine, a pious and doggedly determined character.

chesterton_incredulity_UK_1st_Cassell_1926Valentin learns that a priest is arriving from Essex with a valuable silver crucifix inset with sapphires to present at a religious conclave. Certain he knows Flambeau’s target, Valentin sets out to trap the thief. But then Valentin loses the trail and finds himself in the wake of a series of bizarre pranks—events which have, nonetheless, led him to his quarry. He considers the odd course of his investigation as he hides behind a tree, eavesdropping as Flambeau, disguised as a priest, discusses theology with Father Brown:

But when Valentin thought of all that had happened in between, of all that had led him to his triumph, he racked his brains for the smallest rhyme or reason in it. What had the stealing of a blue-and-silver cross from a priest from Essex to do with chucking soup at wall paper? What had it to do with calling nuts oranges, or with paying for windows first and breaking them afterwards? He had come to the end of his chase; yet somehow he had missed the middle of it. When he failed (which was seldom), he had usually grasped the clue, but nevertheless missed the criminal. Here he had grasped the criminal, but still he could not grasp the clue.

The prankster, of course, is Father Brown and his purpose was to both discern the motives of the disguised Flambeau and keep Valentin on hand in case of trouble.

Despite himself, Flambeau can’t resist boasting about his criminal prowess, but he soon gets a lesson in his craft from the little Essex priest. Finally, at a word from Father Brown, Valentin and his fellow officers reveal themselves:

...the three policemen came out from under the twilight trees. Flambeau was an artist and a sportsman. He stepped back and swept Valentin a great bow.

“Do not bow to me, mon ami,” said Valentin with silver clearness. “Let us both bow to our master.”

And they both stood an instant uncovered while the little Essex priest blinked about for his umbrella.

Lofty Goals and Unusual Methods

Father Brown broke the rules—often literally—as we see throughout “The Blue Cross,” and in various other stories, allowing crimes to be committed when it served a higher purpose. He saw himself as the agent of a Divine Power with an authority that could trump the laws of man. The paramount goal is saving a soul, not catching a criminal or solving a mystery.

chesterton_Father_Brown_Film_1954Although he was perfectly capable of brilliant deductions, Father Brown, unlike Holmes, often made use of intuition to solve crimes. He knew “whodunit” because he understood the mind of the sinner.

In “The Secret of Father Brown” (1927) he describes his method with the shocking revelation:

“You see, it was I who killed all those people.”

And then he explains:

“I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”

That a man of God could look into the heart of evil is a prime example of a Chestertonian paradox. Paradox was at the heart of everything G.K. Chesterton did. He loved putting seemingly opposite ideas and images together to make a startling, and usually funny, point. He once described courage as “a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” A sane man is one “who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” In his essay “Two Kinds of Paradox” he quipped that he often saw the word cosmic misprinted as comic, but that “the two are much the same.” This sort of paradoxical playfulness permeates all of Chesterton’s writing: theology, politics, poetry, and of course, his Father Brown stories.

We find a good example of such a paradox at the end of “The Queer Feet” (1910), when Father Brown faces the wealthy and elite members of a dining club, ironically called “The Twelve True Fishermen,” and returns stolen silverware that he has taken from the repentant crook. When the club members ask about the thief, the priest responds:

“I don’t know his real name...but I know something of his fighting weight, and a great deal about his spiritual difficulties. I formed the physical estimate when he was trying to throttle me, and the moral estimate when he repented.”

“Oh, I say—repented!” cried young Chester, with a sort of crow of laughter.

Father Brown got to his feet, putting his hands behind him. “Odd, isn’t it,” he said, “that a thief and a vagabond should repent, when so many who are rich and secure remain hard and frivolous, and without fruit for God or man?”

A bit later comes this exchange:

“Did you catch this man?” asked the colonel, frowning.

Father Brown looked him full in his frowning face. “Yes,” he said, “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

The Metaphysical Detective Story

Howard Haycraft said that “it may well be Chesterton’s chief contribution to the genre that he perfected the metaphysical detective story.” This last notion—the metaphysical detective story—is easily misunderstood by the modern reader. What I believe Haycraft meant was that the little detective’s task was not to solve the crime, but, in some surprising and paradoxical manner, to set the world back to some semblance of moral order.

chesterton_gk_vanity_fair_1912_by_StricklandWhat made this innocuous cleric and his exploits unique? The Father Brown stories had a depth that hadn’t been seen before in detective fiction. Chesterton infused his puzzles with profound ideas, humor, morality, and paradox. They fulfill what Chesterton saw as the essential value of detective fiction, “that it is the earliest and only form of popular literature in which is expressed some sense of the poetry of modern life.”

G.K. Chesterton in a 1912 caricature by Strickland published in Vanity Fair.

• "By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece."

G.K. Chesterton, “On Detective Novels,” Generally Speaking

• “The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool.”

G.K. Chesterton, “On Detective Novels,” Generally Speaking

Steven Steinbock is a freelance journalist living in Maine. Every Friday he blogs about mystery short stories at criminalbrief.com.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #113.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 02:02

chesterton_frbrown_cr_Frank_G_Jefferies_1924How G.K. Chesterton’s "little priest" saved the soul of detective fiction

Footprints in the Sand
Hilary Daninhirsch

Mary Jane Clark’s latest Piper Donovan mystery is an ideal accompaniment for a trip to the beach or a trip to the couch in front of a roaring fireplace. This book is the third installment in the series known as the Wedding Cake Mysteries.

Piper Donovan is a budding actress and, along with her mother, is skilled in the art of wedding cake baking and decorating. Piper and her parents fly to Sarasota, Florida, for her cousin Kathy’s wedding, but the disappearance of one of the other bridesmaids mars the festivities. When the missing bridesmaid’s body is discovered, Piper learns that the woman had connections to several other characters, some of whom would surely benefit if she were out of the picture.

Soon another death stuns the community, and a beloved elderly neighbor, who may be the only witness to the murder, is run off the road and loses her memory. As Piper tries to put the pieces together, she ends up becoming targeted by the killer as well.

Clark weaves an intriguing Amish theme into this fast-paced novel: Piper’s purchase of an Amish hex sign as a wedding gift for Kathy may have a deeper meaning than she originally thought and could end up helping her solve the case. Other Amish characters and the Amish way of life are also touched upon, though not in great detail. An underlying romance between Piper and her FBI agent boyfriend add an extra dimension to the story line.

The author skillfully aligns the suspects in an alternating-viewpoint style of writing so that the reader is kept guessing until the end. If you like your mysteries full of gore and grit, this is not the book for you; this book is about as light and breezy as a mystery gets.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 01:02

clark_footprintsinthesandWedding cake decorator Piper Donovan is back for matrimony and murder with an Amish twist.

Death on a Pale Horse
Sheila M. Merritt

There’s nothing elementary about Death on a Pale Horse: Sherlock Holmes on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the title clearly indicates that national security is an aspect of the plot, the novel is firmly grounded in classic Sherlockian mystery fundamentals. And while readers don’t necessarily associate espionage with the great detective, Sherlock has dealt with political treachery before. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the detective becomes involved in royal intrigue, and with “His Last Bow,” Doyle wrote a patriotic spy tale starring his sleuth. Author Donald Thomas adroitly displays his knowledge of the Doyle-Holmes canon. He laces Death on a Pale Horse with clever references, and maintains firm control of the complicated narrative.

The diabolical villain of the piece, Colonel Moran, is a sadistic blackguard with a grudge. Seeking vengeance for a humiliating punishment by a desert kangaroo court, his agenda includes sabotaging financial holdings and military operations of the British Empire. Moran is bent on retaliation: the fellow soldiers that disciplined him for heinous misconduct are also on his hit list. He is rumored to be an aide-de-camp of the fiendish Professor Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-enemy and criminal extraordinaire. Moriarty does not appear in the yarn, but his malevolent influence is echoed through the deeds of Moran, who is a kindred spirit, indeed.

Holmes and his brother Mycroft are aware of Moran’s danger to individuals and Empire. Murders that require Sherlock’s unique deduction skills ensue. Mycroft, being privy to governmental goings-on, employs his acumen to focus on the global ramifications of the case. Crossing within each other’s area of expertise allows for intellectual banter. These exchanges brilliantly reflect their ongoing sibling rivalry, and provide insight into their respective eccentricities. Mycroft’s rampant misanthropy, for example, makes Sherlock seem positively social by comparison.

Ably balancing the Holmes brothers’ cerebral contemplations with action sequences such as an exciting horse race at Epsom Downs, Thomas smooths the transitions between armchair detective cogitations and physical feats and confrontations. Shifts in locale and time frame are also extremely well executed. Through the skirmishes and sabotage, memorable characters emerge and the possibility of a sequel is set up. With six other praiseworthy Sherlock volumes under his belt, Donald Thomas is on a winning streak.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 01:02

There’s nothing elementary about Death on a Pale Horse: Sherlock Holmes on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the title clearly indicates that national security is an aspect of the plot, the novel is firmly grounded in classic Sherlockian mystery fundamentals. And while readers don’t necessarily associate espionage with the great detective, Sherlock has dealt with political treachery before. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the detective becomes involved in royal intrigue, and with “His Last Bow,” Doyle wrote a patriotic spy tale starring his sleuth. Author Donald Thomas adroitly displays his knowledge of the Doyle-Holmes canon. He laces Death on a Pale Horse with clever references, and maintains firm control of the complicated narrative.

The diabolical villain of the piece, Colonel Moran, is a sadistic blackguard with a grudge. Seeking vengeance for a humiliating punishment by a desert kangaroo court, his agenda includes sabotaging financial holdings and military operations of the British Empire. Moran is bent on retaliation: the fellow soldiers that disciplined him for heinous misconduct are also on his hit list. He is rumored to be an aide-de-camp of the fiendish Professor Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-enemy and criminal extraordinaire. Moriarty does not appear in the yarn, but his malevolent influence is echoed through the deeds of Moran, who is a kindred spirit, indeed.

Holmes and his brother Mycroft are aware of Moran’s danger to individuals and Empire. Murders that require Sherlock’s unique deduction skills ensue. Mycroft, being privy to governmental goings-on, employs his acumen to focus on the global ramifications of the case. Crossing within each other’s area of expertise allows for intellectual banter. These exchanges brilliantly reflect their ongoing sibling rivalry, and provide insight into their respective eccentricities. Mycroft’s rampant misanthropy, for example, makes Sherlock seem positively social by comparison.

Ably balancing the Holmes brothers’ cerebral contemplations with action sequences such as an exciting horse race at Epsom Downs, Thomas smooths the transitions between armchair detective cogitations and physical feats and confrontations. Shifts in locale and time frame are also extremely well executed. Through the skirmishes and sabotage, memorable characters emerge and the possibility of a sequel is set up. With six other praiseworthy Sherlock volumes under his belt, Donald Thomas is on a winning streak.

Airtight
Jackie Houchin

Best known for his popular Andy Carpenter novels, David Rosenfelt is gaining a broader audience with his recent standalone thrillers. Although I enjoy his dog-loving, “nice-guy” lawyer and hope to see more of him, the thrillers give Rosenfelt a chance to explore crime and justice outside the courtroom. Airtight, his fifth and most complex and suspenseful novel so far, takes readers into the minds of a cop, a soldier, and a killer. In this multiple-point-of-view story, New Jersey Police Lieutenant Luke Somers investigates the murder of a judge. Acting on a tip, he quickly moves to apprehend suspect Steven Gallagher. But in what he believes is self-defense, he kills the young man before he can be questioned. Somers’ actions are cleared when DNA evidence proves Gallagher’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Or does it?

In a righteous rage at what he believes was the unjustified killing of his brother, rogue Marine Force Recon soldier Chris Gallagher sets into motion a malicious time bomb to force Somers into exonerating Steven. Racing against the clock to avoid the unthinkable, the lieutenant uncovers a more disturbing conspiracy, which makes him question who the real criminal is.

While Rosenfelt’s signature wry humor can be glimpsed in portions of dialogue in Airtight, it is his taut narration, escalating suspense, and double-twisted plot that propel readers to the final satisfying page. The ethical questions Airtight asks about whether violence is ever justified may inspire some interesting debate.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 01:02

Best known for his popular Andy Carpenter novels, David Rosenfelt is gaining a broader audience with his recent standalone thrillers. Although I enjoy his dog-loving, “nice-guy” lawyer and hope to see more of him, the thrillers give Rosenfelt a chance to explore crime and justice outside the courtroom. Airtight, his fifth and most complex and suspenseful novel so far, takes readers into the minds of a cop, a soldier, and a killer. In this multiple-point-of-view story, New Jersey Police Lieutenant Luke Somers investigates the murder of a judge. Acting on a tip, he quickly moves to apprehend suspect Steven Gallagher. But in what he believes is self-defense, he kills the young man before he can be questioned. Somers’ actions are cleared when DNA evidence proves Gallagher’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Or does it?

In a righteous rage at what he believes was the unjustified killing of his brother, rogue Marine Force Recon soldier Chris Gallagher sets into motion a malicious time bomb to force Somers into exonerating Steven. Racing against the clock to avoid the unthinkable, the lieutenant uncovers a more disturbing conspiracy, which makes him question who the real criminal is.

While Rosenfelt’s signature wry humor can be glimpsed in portions of dialogue in Airtight, it is his taut narration, escalating suspense, and double-twisted plot that propel readers to the final satisfying page. The ethical questions Airtight asks about whether violence is ever justified may inspire some interesting debate.

The Night Ranger
Derek Hill

Four college-age American aid workers based at a refugee camp in Kenya are kidnapped by Somali bandits and held for ransom. Ex-CIA agent John Wells is convinced by his estranged son Evan to help. (Evan is seeing the younger sister of one of the kidnapped women.) Wells journeys to Kenya to ferret out the bandits and rescue the workers. That’s easier said than done, of course, and Wells finds himself in plenty of danger, dealing with al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab while also keeping the political pressure back home from ruining his chances to save the aid workers.

This seventh book featuring the resourceful Wells is gripping from its first pages and offers up plenty of plot twists as it progresses toward its satisfying finale. What makes this so splendid is how Berenson carefully balances character depth with the narrative suspense we crave in a thriller like this. It’s also filled with vivid detail. From the overcrowded refugee camps to the streets of Nairobi to the hostile, lonely expanses of desert, The Night Ranger effortlessly plunges us into some fascinating places. Happily, it doesn’t come off like an exotic travelogue or an offensive Africa-is-hell warning, using the continent as a hackneyed symbol for all things anarchic and scary beyond Western understanding. Wells, of course, does run into danger, but it’s grounded in everyday political realities. That sense of realism extends to the action sequences, Berenson knows how to deliver excitement without stretching credibility too much. It’s a solid, entertaining read.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 01:02

Four college-age American aid workers based at a refugee camp in Kenya are kidnapped by Somali bandits and held for ransom. Ex-CIA agent John Wells is convinced by his estranged son Evan to help. (Evan is seeing the younger sister of one of the kidnapped women.) Wells journeys to Kenya to ferret out the bandits and rescue the workers. That’s easier said than done, of course, and Wells finds himself in plenty of danger, dealing with al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab while also keeping the political pressure back home from ruining his chances to save the aid workers.

This seventh book featuring the resourceful Wells is gripping from its first pages and offers up plenty of plot twists as it progresses toward its satisfying finale. What makes this so splendid is how Berenson carefully balances character depth with the narrative suspense we crave in a thriller like this. It’s also filled with vivid detail. From the overcrowded refugee camps to the streets of Nairobi to the hostile, lonely expanses of desert, The Night Ranger effortlessly plunges us into some fascinating places. Happily, it doesn’t come off like an exotic travelogue or an offensive Africa-is-hell warning, using the continent as a hackneyed symbol for all things anarchic and scary beyond Western understanding. Wells, of course, does run into danger, but it’s grounded in everyday political realities. That sense of realism extends to the action sequences, Berenson knows how to deliver excitement without stretching credibility too much. It’s a solid, entertaining read.

A Medal for Murder
Joseph Scarpato, Jr.

The traditional British mystery is alive and well, thanks in part to Frances Brody and her lady detective, Kate Shackleton. In this, her second case, the year is 1922, the place, Harrogate, England. Kate and her assistant, ex-policeman Jim Sykes, are hired by a jewelry pawnshop owner who has recently been robbed. They are to locate the original owners of the pawned items that were stolen to let them know what happened and to offer recompense for the loss. Finding the robber, with very little to go on, would be a bonus, but is not expected.

Coming across a murder is even less likely. However, in the course of the initial assignment, that's exactly what happens and, because she discovered the body, Kate is thrust into an investigation involving a kidnapping, greed, revenge, and sins from the past. Although the timing here is shortly after World War I, the circumstances surrounding the crime have more to do with the Boer War at the turn of the century.

Kate is very adept at sizing people up and maximizing the information that she can get from them. Because she is not the police, she has more access to people on a “friend” basis. Because her inside information and her insights are helpful to the detective in charge, Inspector Marcus Charles, she has access to police information as well. In fact, a romance blossoms between the two during the investigation of the case. As a result, we get to know a lot about Kate from a number of different perspectives. My only quibble is that I would like to have seen more interplay between her and Jim Sykes.

I especially liked the number of curves the author threw in toward the end of the novel.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 01:02

The traditional British mystery is alive and well, thanks in part to Frances Brody and her lady detective, Kate Shackleton. In this, her second case, the year is 1922, the place, Harrogate, England. Kate and her assistant, ex-policeman Jim Sykes, are hired by a jewelry pawnshop owner who has recently been robbed. They are to locate the original owners of the pawned items that were stolen to let them know what happened and to offer recompense for the loss. Finding the robber, with very little to go on, would be a bonus, but is not expected.

Coming across a murder is even less likely. However, in the course of the initial assignment, that's exactly what happens and, because she discovered the body, Kate is thrust into an investigation involving a kidnapping, greed, revenge, and sins from the past. Although the timing here is shortly after World War I, the circumstances surrounding the crime have more to do with the Boer War at the turn of the century.

Kate is very adept at sizing people up and maximizing the information that she can get from them. Because she is not the police, she has more access to people on a “friend” basis. Because her inside information and her insights are helpful to the detective in charge, Inspector Marcus Charles, she has access to police information as well. In fact, a romance blossoms between the two during the investigation of the case. As a result, we get to know a lot about Kate from a number of different perspectives. My only quibble is that I would like to have seen more interplay between her and Jim Sykes.

I especially liked the number of curves the author threw in toward the end of the novel.

A Killer in the Wind
Sue Emmons

Once a top undercover vice cop in New York City, a broken and disillusioned Dan Champion now patrols the backwoods of a small town, a man haunted by dreams—or are they hallucinations?—of his past. First, a dead child infiltrates his dreams—a young boy who first appeared to him in New York but may never have existed—as does Samantha, a lovely woman that he may have loved. Or was she, too, unreal? When a body washes ashore in his new, bucolic environment, the victim matches exactly the woman he remembers—the woman who never was. Whatever is etched in his sometimes-shaky memory, recovering addict Champion realizes he must confront his demons.

Two-time Edgar Award winner Andrew Klavan is a master at psychological suspense, and this may be his best yet. In A Killer in the Wind, an arch-villain, the infamous Fat Woman, makes her entrance with unforgettable impact. Champion failed to catch her for innumerable, unspeakable crimes in New York, but he now has a second chance. In doing so, this flawed, but likable, cop may find the answers to his own dilemmas.

This is Klavan’s 30th novel, including those written under the pseudonyms of Margaret Tracy and Keith Peterson. Two of them, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word, have been adapted as movies. He’s at the top of his game here and that is very good indeed.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 02:02

Once a top undercover vice cop in New York City, a broken and disillusioned Dan Champion now patrols the backwoods of a small town, a man haunted by dreams—or are they hallucinations?—of his past. First, a dead child infiltrates his dreams—a young boy who first appeared to him in New York but may never have existed—as does Samantha, a lovely woman that he may have loved. Or was she, too, unreal? When a body washes ashore in his new, bucolic environment, the victim matches exactly the woman he remembers—the woman who never was. Whatever is etched in his sometimes-shaky memory, recovering addict Champion realizes he must confront his demons.

Two-time Edgar Award winner Andrew Klavan is a master at psychological suspense, and this may be his best yet. In A Killer in the Wind, an arch-villain, the infamous Fat Woman, makes her entrance with unforgettable impact. Champion failed to catch her for innumerable, unspeakable crimes in New York, but he now has a second chance. In doing so, this flawed, but likable, cop may find the answers to his own dilemmas.

This is Klavan’s 30th novel, including those written under the pseudonyms of Margaret Tracy and Keith Peterson. Two of them, True Crime and Don’t Say a Word, have been adapted as movies. He’s at the top of his game here and that is very good indeed.

A Good Death
Kevin Burton Smith

This auspicious first novel starts as a classic fish-out-of-water, hardboiled detective story, but soon morphs into something altogether more engaging and original. The case seems simple enough: New England private eye Sebastian Damon, who could certainly use a break, has been dispatched to Thailand by a large US insurance company to scrape up anything he can find on the death of Linda Watt, a beautiful Laotian refugee turned promising (and heavily insured) Boston banker who apparently overdosed in a Bangkok flophouse.

Sebastian stumbles through the rounds, visiting the strip clubs, dives, and expat hangouts of a town awash in sin and corruption—in other words, about what you’ve come to expect of a novel set in Thailand, which has proven to be incredibly fertile ground of late for those working the shamus game (see: Christopher G. Moore, Timothy Hallinan, Angela Savage, et al.).

But journalist Cox takes it all one step further. Soon enough, Sebastian has left the pavement of Sin City far behind, lighting out for the territories, travelling through the wilds of Thailand and Vietnam and up into the uncharted frontier of the Laotian hill country in search of an alleged American POW from the Vietnam era who may have gone native. But in this upriver journey that recalls nothing so much as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the real horror is yet to come.

Sebastian and his small party (including Honeyman, a grizzled old military buddy of Sebastian’s disapproving father) soon find themselves in a world of danger, as ravenous global corporations, indifferent governments, and the forces of progress square off against the increasingly endangered and defiant primitive hill tribes who are every bit as capable of cold-blooded savagery as their more “civilized” foes. It’s a world where genocide, neglect, disease, laissez-faire environmental policies, superstition, ignorance, stupidity, and good old-fashioned violence are facts of life.

At one point someone says to Sebastian, “Sometimes God smiles on foolish shamans and small children...and even on wayward private detectives,” but in this downbeat and gripping adventure yarn, God doesn’t seem to be doing much smiling. Pack the mosquito netting and keep your weapon close—this one’s a keeper.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 21 February 2013 02:02

This auspicious first novel starts as a classic fish-out-of-water, hardboiled detective story, but soon morphs into something altogether more engaging and original. The case seems simple enough: New England private eye Sebastian Damon, who could certainly use a break, has been dispatched to Thailand by a large US insurance company to scrape up anything he can find on the death of Linda Watt, a beautiful Laotian refugee turned promising (and heavily insured) Boston banker who apparently overdosed in a Bangkok flophouse.

Sebastian stumbles through the rounds, visiting the strip clubs, dives, and expat hangouts of a town awash in sin and corruption—in other words, about what you’ve come to expect of a novel set in Thailand, which has proven to be incredibly fertile ground of late for those working the shamus game (see: Christopher G. Moore, Timothy Hallinan, Angela Savage, et al.).

But journalist Cox takes it all one step further. Soon enough, Sebastian has left the pavement of Sin City far behind, lighting out for the territories, travelling through the wilds of Thailand and Vietnam and up into the uncharted frontier of the Laotian hill country in search of an alleged American POW from the Vietnam era who may have gone native. But in this upriver journey that recalls nothing so much as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the real horror is yet to come.

Sebastian and his small party (including Honeyman, a grizzled old military buddy of Sebastian’s disapproving father) soon find themselves in a world of danger, as ravenous global corporations, indifferent governments, and the forces of progress square off against the increasingly endangered and defiant primitive hill tribes who are every bit as capable of cold-blooded savagery as their more “civilized” foes. It’s a world where genocide, neglect, disease, laissez-faire environmental policies, superstition, ignorance, stupidity, and good old-fashioned violence are facts of life.

At one point someone says to Sebastian, “Sometimes God smiles on foolish shamans and small children...and even on wayward private detectives,” but in this downbeat and gripping adventure yarn, God doesn’t seem to be doing much smiling. Pack the mosquito netting and keep your weapon close—this one’s a keeper.