Lady of Ashes
Kristin Centorcelli

Ladies in 1861 London are expected to be the very picture of decorum, so the thought of a woman undertaker may offend a few delicate sensibilities. Fortunately, Violet Morgan isn’t concerned with those sensibilities in the least. When she married her husband, Graham Morgan, eight years ago, he was thrilled that he’d met a woman, and a beautiful one at that, who was more than eager to learn the profession of undertaking, and Violet has since thrown herself into the business. Unfortunately for Graham, Violet isn’t much of a housewife and he’s begun to point out her shortcomings in the keeping of the house and the quality of their help. Soon, Graham becomes preoccupied with a business venture with his brother, and it seems to have something to do with his hate of America and a perceived slight that his grandfather suffered at the hands of Americans. He’s loathe to share details with Violet, but she’s so busy with the business that she has no time to worry about it, until his treatment of her begins to deteriorate. In fact, Violet will soon have more than enough to worry about, and her housekeeping skills, or lack of, will be the least of her problems. She begins to notice strange markings on some of the bodies she’s been called on to handle, and suspects foul play may be involved. But who could possibly want to hurt these people, and why?

Lady of Ashes is the first of a new historical mystery series by Christine Trent, the author of three historical fiction novels. It covers about three years in the life of Violet Morgan, a London undertaker. I was entranced with Violet and her world from page one, and was perfectly content to follow her on her many adventures. Violet seems to be a bit of a trouble magnet, but also manages to charm nearly everyone she meets, which includes Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and a very enigmatic and handsome American lawyer. Set against the rich backdrop of Victorian England, with the shadow of the Civil War looming in the background, Lady of Ashes is a book you can sink your teeth into, with characters you’ll fall in love with. Although the narrative is almost immediately interspersed with mysterious diary entries from a disturbed individual, the mystery really doesn’t come into play until the last quarter of the book, and things wrap up rather quickly. I was too fascinated with Violet and her unusual profession to let that bother me, and even if the big reveal seemed a bit rushed, I’ll be more than ready for the next novel in this immersive historical series.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 02:04

Ladies in 1861 London are expected to be the very picture of decorum, so the thought of a woman undertaker may offend a few delicate sensibilities. Fortunately, Violet Morgan isn’t concerned with those sensibilities in the least. When she married her husband, Graham Morgan, eight years ago, he was thrilled that he’d met a woman, and a beautiful one at that, who was more than eager to learn the profession of undertaking, and Violet has since thrown herself into the business. Unfortunately for Graham, Violet isn’t much of a housewife and he’s begun to point out her shortcomings in the keeping of the house and the quality of their help. Soon, Graham becomes preoccupied with a business venture with his brother, and it seems to have something to do with his hate of America and a perceived slight that his grandfather suffered at the hands of Americans. He’s loathe to share details with Violet, but she’s so busy with the business that she has no time to worry about it, until his treatment of her begins to deteriorate. In fact, Violet will soon have more than enough to worry about, and her housekeeping skills, or lack of, will be the least of her problems. She begins to notice strange markings on some of the bodies she’s been called on to handle, and suspects foul play may be involved. But who could possibly want to hurt these people, and why?

Lady of Ashes is the first of a new historical mystery series by Christine Trent, the author of three historical fiction novels. It covers about three years in the life of Violet Morgan, a London undertaker. I was entranced with Violet and her world from page one, and was perfectly content to follow her on her many adventures. Violet seems to be a bit of a trouble magnet, but also manages to charm nearly everyone she meets, which includes Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and a very enigmatic and handsome American lawyer. Set against the rich backdrop of Victorian England, with the shadow of the Civil War looming in the background, Lady of Ashes is a book you can sink your teeth into, with characters you’ll fall in love with. Although the narrative is almost immediately interspersed with mysterious diary entries from a disturbed individual, the mystery really doesn’t come into play until the last quarter of the book, and things wrap up rather quickly. I was too fascinated with Violet and her unusual profession to let that bother me, and even if the big reveal seemed a bit rushed, I’ll be more than ready for the next novel in this immersive historical series.

When the Devil Doesn’t Show
Debbi Mack

Three bodies are discovered in a burning house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Further investigation reveals that one of them was hung from the ceiling and set on fire—while still alive. The others, two gay men, were tortured and appear to be the victims of a hate crime. When another house fire occurs and more bodies are found, Detective Gil Montoya, a longtime resident, and his partner, Joe Phillips, an East Coast transplant, feel the pressure to solve the case as quickly as possible—especially when they discover there may be a deeply personal connection between one of the torturers and Montoya’s father, who was a judge.

The detectives are unofficially assisted by Lucy Newroe, a volunteer firefighter and reporter for the local newspaper. Lucy must walk a fine line between helping the investigators and being a good journalist, while dealing with personal family issues, her alcohol problem, and her on-and-off relationship with her ex-boyfriend Nathan.

Christine Barber’s experience as a journalist, firefighter, and emergency medical technician in New Mexico gives the story great authenticity. The author writes with rich detail about the beauty and culture of the region. In addition, the two detectives work together as a sort of good cop/bad cop duo, with Montoya clearly the friendly local boy and Phillips the skeptical outsider. This story is a thrilling combination of suspense, mystery, police procedure, and noir. Highly recommended.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 02:04

Three bodies are discovered in a burning house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Further investigation reveals that one of them was hung from the ceiling and set on fire—while still alive. The others, two gay men, were tortured and appear to be the victims of a hate crime. When another house fire occurs and more bodies are found, Detective Gil Montoya, a longtime resident, and his partner, Joe Phillips, an East Coast transplant, feel the pressure to solve the case as quickly as possible—especially when they discover there may be a deeply personal connection between one of the torturers and Montoya’s father, who was a judge.

The detectives are unofficially assisted by Lucy Newroe, a volunteer firefighter and reporter for the local newspaper. Lucy must walk a fine line between helping the investigators and being a good journalist, while dealing with personal family issues, her alcohol problem, and her on-and-off relationship with her ex-boyfriend Nathan.

Christine Barber’s experience as a journalist, firefighter, and emergency medical technician in New Mexico gives the story great authenticity. The author writes with rich detail about the beauty and culture of the region. In addition, the two detectives work together as a sort of good cop/bad cop duo, with Montoya clearly the friendly local boy and Phillips the skeptical outsider. This story is a thrilling combination of suspense, mystery, police procedure, and noir. Highly recommended.

Grave Sight
Hank Wagner

Harper Connelly has a true “strange” talent—she can locate dead people, simultaneously getting a sense of how they spent their last moments. It’s a useful skill, in that she can provide closure to the deceased’s loved ones. It’s also a little off-putting, as those she assists often don’t really want to know the things she uncovers. Still, a girl’s got to make a living, so, assisted by her stepbrother Tolliver, she hires herself out, slowly gaining a reputation as a finder of lost persons.

In this illustrated adaptation of Grave Sight, Harper travels to Sarne, Arkansas, to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. Harper’s success in finding the body polarizes the town, creating two groups, those who anxiously seek her out for help with their own problems, and those who wish she’d cease and desist, before their darkest, most dangerous secrets are revealed. As they learn more about the populace, Harper and Tolliver are compelled to dig deeper into Sarne’s sordid secrets, even though it could very well cost them their lives.

Adapted from Charlaine Harris’ 2006 novel of the same name, this graphic novel successfully captures the dark tone of its source material, delivering a jolting tale of mystery and the macabre. Readers get a deep sense of Harper and Tolliver’s unique psyches within a few short pages, totally conveyed via dialogue and art. William Harms deserves kudos for boiling Harris’ story down to its essentials; illustrator Denis Medri and colorist Paolo Francescutto merit praise for the palpable sense of menace conveyed by their artwork.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 02:04

Harper Connelly has a true “strange” talent—she can locate dead people, simultaneously getting a sense of how they spent their last moments. It’s a useful skill, in that she can provide closure to the deceased’s loved ones. It’s also a little off-putting, as those she assists often don’t really want to know the things she uncovers. Still, a girl’s got to make a living, so, assisted by her stepbrother Tolliver, she hires herself out, slowly gaining a reputation as a finder of lost persons.

In this illustrated adaptation of Grave Sight, Harper travels to Sarne, Arkansas, to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. Harper’s success in finding the body polarizes the town, creating two groups, those who anxiously seek her out for help with their own problems, and those who wish she’d cease and desist, before their darkest, most dangerous secrets are revealed. As they learn more about the populace, Harper and Tolliver are compelled to dig deeper into Sarne’s sordid secrets, even though it could very well cost them their lives.

Adapted from Charlaine Harris’ 2006 novel of the same name, this graphic novel successfully captures the dark tone of its source material, delivering a jolting tale of mystery and the macabre. Readers get a deep sense of Harper and Tolliver’s unique psyches within a few short pages, totally conveyed via dialogue and art. William Harms deserves kudos for boiling Harris’ story down to its essentials; illustrator Denis Medri and colorist Paolo Francescutto merit praise for the palpable sense of menace conveyed by their artwork.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
Tea Dee

Timmy Failure is the founder, president, and CEO of Failure, Inc. And for those of you who haven’t heard, be informed that it’s “the best detective agency in town, probably the state. Perhaps the nation.”

In this first outing, Timmy and sidekick Total, his stuffed polar bear business partner, tackle several cases: a teepee vandal (case note: “Work of monkeys?”), a dead hamster (note: “Was he involved in criminal activity?”), missing Halloween candy (note: “Candy gone.”), and Timmy's mother's stolen Segway (note: "Timmy dead.").

And if this heavy case load wasn’t tough enough, Timmy is reluctantly saddled with an “idiot” best friend Charles “Rollo” Tuckus (who only has a 4.6 grade average because he studies), yucked-out by his classmate admirer Molly Moskins (who smells like tangeriness!), and plagued by his PI competitor, the “evil” owner of “the worst detective agency in town, probably the state, perhaps the nation,” Corinna Corinna, aka “The Beast.”

Stephan Pastis’ funny and tenderhearted “historical record” of Timmy’s life as a detective is told from the hilariously unreliable first-person perspective of Timmy, an imaginative kid hero in the tradition of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, and Greg Heffley of the popular Diary of A Wimpy Kid series.

Beneath the romp and pomp, Timmy is an elementary school mischief-maker failing school with a 0.6 grade average while being raised by a loving but often exasperated single mom who works tirelessly to make ends meet. At the heart of Timmy’s grandiose drive to be the head of the world’s largest detective agency is a heartfelt desire to make his mom proud and alleviate their troubles once he’s a multibillionaire.

Timmy and Total’s many well-intentioned disasters are illustrated throughout by Pastis’ playful line drawings—which my kid testers loved, along with Timmy’s outlandish and silly exploits. Grown-ups will appreciate Pastis’ sly humor and the many good-natured pokes at the tropes of PI genre fiction. All, young or old, are sure to be charmed.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 02:04

Timmy Failure is the founder, president, and CEO of Failure, Inc. And for those of you who haven’t heard, be informed that it’s “the best detective agency in town, probably the state. Perhaps the nation.”

In this first outing, Timmy and sidekick Total, his stuffed polar bear business partner, tackle several cases: a teepee vandal (case note: “Work of monkeys?”), a dead hamster (note: “Was he involved in criminal activity?”), missing Halloween candy (note: “Candy gone.”), and Timmy's mother's stolen Segway (note: "Timmy dead.").

And if this heavy case load wasn’t tough enough, Timmy is reluctantly saddled with an “idiot” best friend Charles “Rollo” Tuckus (who only has a 4.6 grade average because he studies), yucked-out by his classmate admirer Molly Moskins (who smells like tangeriness!), and plagued by his PI competitor, the “evil” owner of “the worst detective agency in town, probably the state, perhaps the nation,” Corinna Corinna, aka “The Beast.”

Stephan Pastis’ funny and tenderhearted “historical record” of Timmy’s life as a detective is told from the hilariously unreliable first-person perspective of Timmy, an imaginative kid hero in the tradition of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, and Greg Heffley of the popular Diary of A Wimpy Kid series.

Beneath the romp and pomp, Timmy is an elementary school mischief-maker failing school with a 0.6 grade average while being raised by a loving but often exasperated single mom who works tirelessly to make ends meet. At the heart of Timmy’s grandiose drive to be the head of the world’s largest detective agency is a heartfelt desire to make his mom proud and alleviate their troubles once he’s a multibillionaire.

Timmy and Total’s many well-intentioned disasters are illustrated throughout by Pastis’ playful line drawings—which my kid testers loved, along with Timmy’s outlandish and silly exploits. Grown-ups will appreciate Pastis’ sly humor and the many good-natured pokes at the tropes of PI genre fiction. All, young or old, are sure to be charmed.

Another Sun
Hank Wagner

English by birth, Timothy Williams made a name for himself in the mystery genre writing five highly praised crime novels about an Italian character named Commissario Piero Trotti, the last one coming in 1996. His new mystery, Another Sun, is the first novel he has published in English in 15 years. (It was first published in France in March 2011 as Un autre soleil.)

Set in 1980, in the Carribean Island of Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France, the book tells the story of juge d’instruction Anne Marie Laveaud, who, under the island’s system of justice, is tasked with investigating the murder of a local plantation owner. What at first blush seems to be an open-and-shut case against an elderly black man bearing a grudge against the deceased turns out to be far more complicated. Laveaud must make her way through a maze of fear, deceit, bureaucracy, prejudice, and politics to discover the truth, an arduous and difficult process which threatens her mental and physical well-being.

Another Sun is a complex, atmospheric novel, made all the more fascinating by Williams’ painstaking attention to sensory, sociopolitical, and historical detail, and by the author’s obvious passion for the written word. Laveaud is a compelling, intelligent heroine, her strengths and foibles so well depicted that readers will feel they have truly come to know her by novel’s end. Although long-standing Williams fans may miss their old friend Signor Trotti, they will be more than pleased at having made the acquaintance of the lovely, but formidable, Madame Laveaud.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 02:04

English by birth, Timothy Williams made a name for himself in the mystery genre writing five highly praised crime novels about an Italian character named Commissario Piero Trotti, the last one coming in 1996. His new mystery, Another Sun, is the first novel he has published in English in 15 years. (It was first published in France in March 2011 as Un autre soleil.)

Set in 1980, in the Carribean Island of Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France, the book tells the story of juge d’instruction Anne Marie Laveaud, who, under the island’s system of justice, is tasked with investigating the murder of a local plantation owner. What at first blush seems to be an open-and-shut case against an elderly black man bearing a grudge against the deceased turns out to be far more complicated. Laveaud must make her way through a maze of fear, deceit, bureaucracy, prejudice, and politics to discover the truth, an arduous and difficult process which threatens her mental and physical well-being.

Another Sun is a complex, atmospheric novel, made all the more fascinating by Williams’ painstaking attention to sensory, sociopolitical, and historical detail, and by the author’s obvious passion for the written word. Laveaud is a compelling, intelligent heroine, her strengths and foibles so well depicted that readers will feel they have truly come to know her by novel’s end. Although long-standing Williams fans may miss their old friend Signor Trotti, they will be more than pleased at having made the acquaintance of the lovely, but formidable, Madame Laveaud.

Borderlands: the Crime Fiction of Ellis Peters
Martin Edwards

brother_cadfael_rose_davidaustinrosesThere and back again


The popular Brother Cadfael Rose, named after the famous monk in Ellis Peters' novels. Sold at David Austin Roses.

The border country between England and Wales is rural and relatively remote, a place of enigmas, legends, and mysteries. Its very boundaries are uncertain and elusive. Apparently tranquil, long ago it saw fierce conflicts between the English and Welsh and to this day it may be said to host a clash of cultures between the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon traditions. Such an evocative area seems to offer fertile ground for fictional crime, so it is surprising how few detective novelists have made use of it. However, many of Ellis Peters’ most memorable books, including the Brother Cadfael series which earned her international renown, are set in the borderlands. Above all, she depicts her native Shropshire—a green and pleasant county which, amazingly, was also the cradle of the Industrial Revolution—with loving attention to detail.

Ellis Peters’ real name was Edith Pargeter (1913-1995). The duality of the borderlands was part of her personal heritage: she had a Welsh grandmother, but her parents were both English. Born in a village called Horsehay, she went to school in Ironbridge Gorge, now designated a World Heritage Site in recognition of Abraham Darby’s iron-smelting furnace which was founded a couple of centuries before she was born.

Early on, she showed a facility for writing. She published a short historical novel with the less-than-snappy title Hortensius, Friend of Nero in 1936 and her debut crime novel appeared in 1938. Murder in the Dispensary made little impact and remained little known and largely unavailable until Post Mortem Books recently produced a limited edition reprint. It was the first of four crime novels, initally appearing as newspaper serials, which Peters produced in the space of a couple of years under the name Jolyon Carr. She was fond of male pseudonyms: her second (non-criminous) book appeared as by Peter Benedict and in 1940 she published The Victim Needs a Nurse disguised as John Redfern.

Using her own name, she wrote no fewer than 36 novels, including two notable historical sequences, The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet and The Heaven Tree Trilogy. As Pargeter, she also wrote Fallen Into the Pit, which introduced the policeman George Felse and his family; Felse began as a sergeant and eventually became a detective superintendent. One more non-Felse crime novel appeared under her own name before she transformed into Ellis Peters with the publication of Death Mask in 1959. She retained the Peters name for books featuring Felse and, increasingly, his son Dominic.

Just as Agatha Christie was capable of setting books in locations far distant from St. Mary Mead, so Peters refused for most of her career to be confined exclusively to the borderlands. The adult Dominic Felse appears, for instance, in two books set in India: Mourning Raga (1969) and Death to the Landlords! (1972). She was also fascinated by Czech society and was responsible for no fewer than sixteen translations from Czech literature. But in everyday life as well as in her writing career, she was most at home in Shropshire.

Peters_Ellis_2“She saw the Welsh as more romantic than the English,” says Margaret Lewis, author of the critical biography Edith Pargeter: Ellis Peters (revised edition, 2003). “The contrast between the English and Welsh ways of life was a theme consciously addressed in many of the book and she explored the notion of very different social and legal systems existing so close to each other. For example, in The Holy Thief she refers to the little-known fact that the Normans condoned slavery—but the Welsh did not.”

In the Felse books, Shropshire is disguised as “Midshire” and in Flight of a Witch (1964), the Hallowmount, a historic and eerie hill with a dark pagan past plays a central part in the story. Although it does not mirror a feature of the real border landscape, the Hallowmount is so atmospherically described that it sticks in the reader’s memory long after details of the plot are likely to have faded. Peters’ acute sense of the history of the borderlands is showcased in the character of young teacher Tom Kenyon:

The Hallowmount withdrew itself at morning and evening into mist, shrouding the Altar and its ring of decrepit trees. He wondered if the small, unaccountable ground-wind had abandoned, until next spring, its nightly ascent by the old paths to the old places where Annet had vanished for a while into her secret world, and whether the reverberations of her tragedy had already seeped away like spilt blood into that already saturated soil.

Other highlights of the Felse series include the Edgar-winning Death and the Joyful Woman (1964) and Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Heart (1967). Follymead, the Gothic house featured in the latter book, is based, albeit distantly, on Attingham Park, a much-visited stately home near Shrewsbury. The trouble with the Felse books is George Felse himself. Decent as he is, he scarcely ranks as a memorable detective. Compared to the likes of Dalziel, Rebus, Wexford, and Dalgleish, he simply does not measure up.

Peters’ master-stroke was to conjure up a new hero, a truly great fictional sleuth who happened to be a 12th-century monk. Brother Cadfael made his appearance in 1977 with the publication of A Morbid Taste for Bones. The book was never intended to be the first in a series and neither the 64-year-old author nor her publisher appreciated the potential of the new character; initially, the novel did not even earn publication in paperback. Once Peters had the idea for a follow-up story, however, she was hooked, and Felse was allowed to slip away into well-earned retirement.

Some have thought that the international success of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1983) helped to establish a wide readership for medieval detective fiction. However, when this was put to Peters, she retorted that she had produced seven Cadfael books by the time that Eco achieved best-selling status. She might have added that Monk’s Hood (1980) had by then won the CWA Silver Dagger. Yet although Eco’s aims were different from hers—she once said to the critic Mike Ashley that she was “not on the same wavelength” as Eco—it is perhaps fair to say that he finally threw open the door at which Peters had been knocking for several years. Thereafter, the series achieved ever-increasing commercial success, boosted by television adaptations starring Derek Jacobi as Cadfael, and in 1993 Peters was awarded the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in her crime-writing career.

Peters_Ellis_w-Derek_JacobiPargeter with Derek Jacobi, who played her detective Brother Cadfael in the BBC series.

From the start, the Cadfael books benefited from their setting and from Peters’ knowledge of its history. As Margaret Lewis says in her insightful book, “to escape across the border meant freedom, just as fugitives fleeing from justice in the United States frequently head for the Mexican border. Almost always the guilty in Cadfael’s world speed westwards along the quiet forest paths to reach Wales, only about ten miles away.” She argues that “the territorial border plays an important role in the development of the narratives, providing a psychological as well as physical boundary of mountain and dyke.” The point is illustrated by a passage from The Raven in the Foregate (1986):

Powys might be a wild land, but it had no quarrel with a soldier of the Empress more than with an officer of King Stephen, and would by instinct take the part of the hunted rather than the forces of English law.

Cadfael is a Welshman by birth, and was a Crusader before settling down at Shrewsbury Abbey, where for many years he has been in charge of the herb garden. In A Morbid Taste for Bones he accompanies a delegation to his native country to acquire the relics of St. Winifred and bring them back to the abbey. Cadfael’s ability to speak Welsh, at a time when the borderline marked a sharp linguistic divide, is significant to the storyline and his ability to be at ease in a wide variety of situations (a useful characteristic in a series hero) is soon evident. The second book in the sequence, One Corpse Too Many (1979) was inspired by Peters’ research into King Stephen’s siege of Shrewsbury castle and the massacre of the garrison in 1138. Cadfael assists with the burials, only to discover that there is one more body than there should have been. Time and again in the Cadfael Chronicles, the borderlands are crucial to the storyline and the herbalist makes regular forays across and into Wales. In Dead Man’s Ransom (1984), for instance, his task is to negotiate an exchange of prisoners, while in The Summer of the Danes (1991) he acts as interpreter on a trip to the revived Welsh diocese of St. Asaph.

Peters’ humanity and powerful, romantic imagination is evident throughout a substantial body of work of sustained merit, produced over the course of almost 60 years. So is her love of the borderlands. Yet although her non-series novels and her underestimated short stories include a number of gems, it was in writing about Cadfael and his community that her talent flowered most brilliantly.

The sobering thought for any crime writer is that her “apprenticeship” lasted almost four decades.

AN ELLIS PETERS READING LIST

LPeters_A_Rare_BenedictineThe Chronicles of Brother Cadfael
A Morbid Taste for Bones, 1977
One Corpse Too Many, 1978
Monk’s Hood, 1979
St. Peter’s Fair, 1981
The Leper of St. Giles, 1981
The Virgin in the Ice, 1983
The Sanctuary Sparrow, 1983
The Devil’s Novice, 1983
Dead Man’s Ransom, 1984
The Pilgrim of Hate, 1984
An Excellent Mystery, 1985
The Raven in the Foregate, 1986
The Rose Rent, 1986
The Hermit of Eyton Forest, 1987
The Confession of Brother Haluin, 1988
The Heretic’s Apprentice, 1989
The Potter’s Field, 1989
The Summer of the Danes, 1991
The Holy Thief, 1992
Brother Cadfael’s Penance, 1994

Short Stories
A Rare Benedectine, 1989

The Felse Mysteries
Fallen Into the Pit, 1951
Death and the Joyful Woman, 1961
Flight of a Witch, 1964
A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs, 1965
The Piper of the Mountain, 1966
Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Heart, 1967
The Grass-Widow’s Tale, 1968
The House of Green Turf, 1969
Mourning Raga, 1969
The Knocker on Death’s Door, 1970
Death to the Landlords!, 1972
City of Gold and Shadows, 1973
Rainbow’s End, 1978

The Heaven Tree Trilogy
The Heaven Tree, 1960
The Green Branch, 1962
The Scarlet Seed, 1963

The Brothers of Gwynedd
Sunrise in the West, 1974
The Dragon at Noonday, 1975
The Hounds of Sunset, 1976
Afterglow and Nightfall, 1977

Nonfiction
Shropshire, with Roy Morgan, 1992
Strongholds and Sanctuaries, with Roy Morgan, 1993

Martin Edwards’ sixth Lake District Mystery is The Frozen Shroud (Poisoned Pen Press). He has also written eight whodunits featuring Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, two stand-alone novels, and over 50 short stories. He has edited 21 anthologies and is Archivist of the Detection Club.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Spring Issue #84.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 04:04

Peters_Ellis_w-Derek_JacobiThere and back again

Most Mysterious Moms and the Kids Who Write With Them
Teri Duerr

For Mother's Day this May, Mystery Scene asked some of contemporary mystery's most beloved mother-daughter/mother-son writing teams to share their thoughts on writing together as coauthors—and reading together as parent and child. To moms everywhere, Happy Mother's Day!

Charles Todd
Caroline and Charles Todd
Ian Rutledge series and Bess Crawford series

todd_charlescarolineOn writing together
Caroline: If I’d been planning to write with one of my children, genes had already decided it was to be Charles. Linda had inherited her father’s superb scientific mind, Charles had inherited my love of books and history. All that was to the good when we began collaborating. I’d anticipated it. But that was all I could take for granted.

Here was a grown man who’d lived on his own longer than we’d had him at home. He had his own opinions and tastes and way of seeing things. He was no longer the child I’d had to remind to eat his Brussels sprouts or not to track mud across the floor. I discovered we could argue and disagree without getting mad. We were equals.

He had to listen to me about some things, but I had to listen to him about others. Pulling rank was not an option. And yet in many things we thought alike. Reacted alike. Had the same wacky sense of humor. Confusing signals, to say the least. And not at all like writing with, say, Reed Farrell Coleman or Margaret Maron, where you’d expect differences to start with. Working it all out was a terrific experience.

stevenson_childsgardenofversesOn reading together
Charles: Our home was always full of books. My mother read to us when we were children, every night when our homework was finished and the dishes were done. Long before we could pick out a book for ourselves, she introduced us to the fascinating world of the library. She opened a door to my love of history, and she shared her own love of great movies and Masterpiece Theatre/Mystery!—and all these things were given freely and without strings. I didn’t realize until I was much older how they had shaped who I was and what I could do. In turn, I introduced my mother to Monty Python, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Young Frankenstein, to complete her education.

Caroline: Probably the earliest favorite was A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The lamplighter, the sick child playing on his counterpane, the swing on a summer’s day—children seem to respond to the rhythm of poetry, which is probably why nursery rhymes are so popular. Stevenson could paint the most wonderful word pictures. The odd thing was, when it came time to write the poetry that was the key to the murders in Wings on Fire, we both drew on this legacy to help us find the right words for O. A. Manniing.

Charles: And then when I was a little older, it was most certainly was Sherlock Holmes. Here was 1890 foggy, gas-lit London and Doctor Watson with his revolver at the ready, or the Hound of the Baskervilles howling in the Cornish night, or The Speckled Band slithering down the bell cord in a locked room—it didn’t matter which story was up that evening, as long as it was Sherlock Holmes. Solid excitement, and even now I like reading them again. That’s why we enjoyed collaborating last year on a short story for the anthology, A Study in Sherlock. It sort of brought Holmes full circle.

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother and son writing who share a long abiding passion for history and storytelling. Together, they pen the award-winning Inspector Ian Rutledge series set in post-World War I England and the Bess Crawford series following the investigations of a British nurse during the Great War. Visit their author site at charlestodd.com.

A Charles Todd Reading List

todd_proofofguiltInspector Ian Rutledge series
A Test of Wills (1996)
Wings of Fire (1998)
Search the Dark (1999)
Legacy of the Dead (2000)
Watchers of Time (2001)
A Fearsome Doubt (2002)
A Cold Treachery (2005)
A Long Shadow (2006)
A False Mirror (2007)
A Pale Horse (2008)todd_unmarkedgrave
A Matter of Justice (2009)
The Red Door (2010)
A Lonely Death (2011)
The Confession (2012)
Proof of Guilt (2013)

Bess Crawford series
A Duty to the Dead (2009)
An Impartial Witness (2010)
A Bitter Truth (2011)todd_walnuttree
An Unmarked Grave (2012)
A Question of Honor (2013)

Standalone Novels
The Murder Stone (2003)
The Walnut Tree (2012)


Victoria Abbott
Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini
Book Collector Mystery series

maffini_maryjanevictoriaOn writing together
Mary Jane: Victoria showed me how to lighten up, take more chances, and enjoy more wimsey in the writing (and Wimsey too, but that's the next book, The Sayers Swindle).

Victoria: In the course of writing The Christie Curse, my mother taught me about using the peaks and valleys of plotting in order to keep people engaged.

On reading together
When Victoria was just learning to read, we enjoyed Frog and Toad are Friends (an I Can Read book by Arnold Lobel ). We loved these gentle, funny characters and their collaboration. We still do. Later, we shared the Narnia series, especially The Lion,The Witch and the Wardrobe, read together in the "good" living room on the sofa. This was such a special time cuddled up together with books that were magical, memorable, and a little bit scary.

Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between the always funny and creative artist, photographer, and short story author, Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories. Their three miniature dachshunds are understandably outraged that a pug and some Siamese cats have wiggled their way into the series. Visit their sites victoria-abbott.com and maryjanemaffini.com.

A Victoria Abbott Reading Listabbott_thechristiecurse

Book Collector Mystery series
The Christie Curse (2013)
The Sayers Swindle (2013)


Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson
Mysteries in Our National Parks series

skurzynski_gloriaalane_fergusonOn writing together
Gloria: By middle school I was able to borrow my neighbors’ National Geographic magazines and learn more about the great big world out there. Who could have foreseen that decades later, Alane and I would write children’s mysteries for National Geographic? Alane is much better at creating the interaction between the characters. She understands social signals more than I do—it’s a gift she carries into her writing. I rely on Alane’s social instincts; she relies on my science research about endangered species in nature. We make a good team.

Alane: I'd say the best team ever! Watching my mother create her own fictional worlds as a published author, I witnessed firsthand her amazing work ethic. She taught me to never settle for good, but to strive for great. As we wrote the parks mysteries together, the lesson was underlined even more: Always give your best while writing harder, climbing higher.

spyri_heidiOn reading together
Gloria: I was seven years old, living in a steel town that was just emerging from the Great Depression—and I’d never owned a book. Then, as I lay in bed with whooping cough, my mother's friend brought me a copy of Johanna Spyri's novel Heidi. For me! To keep! Joy! A generation later I read the book to Alane, and now it’s hers to keep.

Alane: I, too, remember falling in love with Heidi. When my mom gave me the book, I realized that through the magic of reading, I could walk hand-in-hand with Heidi over flower-strewn Alps while sipping fresh goat milk and nibbling goat cheese. (It was only later I discovered the goat-thing wasn't nearly as delicious as Heidi made it sound!) Through that book, as well as many others, my mom taught me to love the written word.

Children's book author Gloria Skurzynski and Edgar-Award winning author Alane Ferguson collaborated from 1997-2003 on 13 National Geographic children's novels based around science, nature, and the US National Parks system for their Mysteries in the National Parks Mysteries series. For more information visit National Geographic and Skurzynski's site gloriabooks.com and Ferguson's site alaneferguson.com.

Mysteries in Our National Parks series

ferguson_nightoftheblackbearWolf Stalker (1997)
Rage of Fire (1998)
Cliff-hanger (1999)
Deadly Waters (1999)
The Hunted (2000)
Ghost Horses (2000)
Valley of Death (2001)
Over the Edge (2001)
Running Scared (2002)
Out of the Deep (2002)
Escape From Fear (2002)
Buried Alive (2003)
Night of the Black Bear (2007)


Mary and Carol Higgins Clark
The Holiday Mystery Books series

higginsclark_marycaroline_cr_theresaartigasphotographyOn writing together
Mary: Carol had her first book contract before I knew she was even considering writing. Her ability to translate everything she had studied as an actress into creating bestselling novels delighted me.

On what I learned from my mother
Carol: An important lesson I learned from my mother was how important it is to be optimistic and have a sense of humor. After my father died, it wasn't easy raising five children alone, but she worked hard, believed in herself, and four and a half years later had her first book published, Aspire to the Heavens, a biographical novel about George Washington. When that book didn't sell, she didn't become discouraged. Instead, she decided to try writing suspense. That worked for her!!!

On reading together
Mary: A book I remember that became such a favorite that she could recite it by heart was Little Sally Mandy by Helen R. Van Derveer.

Carol: The book she was referring to was actually The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge. We even used it as a clue in the first Christmas book we wrote together, Deck The Halls.

Mary Higgins, the "Queen of Suspense" and Carol Higgins Clark, author of the Regan Reilly Mystery series, are both well-established forces in the mystery writing world, but have been collaborating together on seasonal holiday mysteries since 2000.

Photo credit: Theresa Artigas Photography

The Holiday Mystery Books series

higginsclark_dashingthroughthesnowDeck the Halls (2000)
He Sees You When You’re Sleeping (2001)
The Christmas Thief (2004)
Santa Cruise (2006)
Dashing Through the Snow (2008)

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 04:05

higginsclark_marycaroline_cr_theresaartigasphotographyMother-daughter and mother-son teams reflect on reading and writing together.

An a to Z Killing Spree
Donna Moore

 

 

blood_splatterA is for Alfie, whose life was Abridged,
When pickled in Aspic and stuffed in the fridge.
Slain by the Accountant at his old Alma mater,
And served up with Asparagus and a potater.
The Accountant—poor Al—had a motive Abstruse
Four years of hideous verbal Abuse,
From Alfie, whose tongue was as sharp as an Adder
And just made timid Al slowly madder and madder.

B brings us on to the tale of poor Bertie,
Brained by a Billiard Ball before he was 30.
At a Bed and Breakfast in Bath, where he paid with his life
For an afternoon’s Bonk with a Baronet’s wife.

C is for Curtis, whose end was quite silly,
Hung from a Cable Car in the mountains of Chile.
He Courted a most Captivating Calypsoing diva,
And in her had sparked a murderous fever,
When he Callously Chucked her and went out with her mother,
Her Cousin, her grandma, her aunt and her brother.

D is for Derek, who should have known not to Dally
With Delphine, a Delicious Danceuse from the ballet.
To Dance was this Damsel’s only Delight,
She Danced in the Day and she Danced in the night.
She Danced in her Dreams when one of her feet,
Gave Derek a kick in The Nutcracker Suite.
He jumped from the bed in need of pain medication,
Crashed through the window and died of Defenestration.

E is for Eric, an Embezzler from Ealing
Who stole an Enormous Emerald from the Earl of Darjeeling
The Earl (who of the police had no Expectation)
Embalmed poor Eric following Evisceration.

F is for Frederick, next in this Fable
Who routinely drank his Friends under the table.
He Fetched up in France, on a Farm Filled with vines
Where his Felonious Flaw of Filching Fine wines
Made the Farmer Fed up of light Fingered Fred,
So Full of Fury he took a Flagon to Fred’s head,
And beat him quite senseless, and with Frenzy demented
Left him Face down in a vat where poor Fred Fermented.
(PS—a wine taster Found bottled Fred “Quite shoddy
A Feeble vintage—no Flavour, no body.”)

MeatCleaverThumbG is for George, whose fate was so Gory
That I hesitate to include poor George in this story.
For his habit of flashing—so Gross and obscene
He had an appointment with Madame Guillotine.
And, without being Gruesome, he ended up dead
But what was chopped off—well, it wasn’t his head.
For George’s Ghastly crime of Grim saturnalia,
Poor George went to hell—without Genitalia.

H is for Harold, who disliked Hanky-panky
When his wife said “Yes please,” he replied “Oh, no thank ‘ee.”
When shot with a Harpoon he died in the Hydrangeas
And his wife laid the blame on a party of strangers.

I is for Idris, travelling through Indonesia
When he started to suffer strange bouts of amnesia
And pains he assumed a bug of the Intestinal persuasion,
But which turned out to be Invading alien Infestation.
He was taken in a spaceship to a galaxy afar, so
He may not be dead, just Incommunicado.

J is for Justin relaxing in his Jacuzzi,
When a Juvenile burst in brandishing an Uzi
Justin Jumped up, attempting a wild Judo tackle
But was mown down by Junior, enacting Day of The Jackal.

K is for Kevin, Kidnapped by Knaves wearing Khaki,
And spirited away to some caves in Karachi.
They roasted him with Kumquats and dined on his Kidneys
Made him into Kebabs which they gave their King, Sidney.

L is for Lionel an ex-Legionnaire
Who Left his Lovely wife Letty to begin an affair
With a Libidinous Lapdancer named Lola, from Leith,
Whose top half was Lithe but who was tubby beneath.
“Oh Lola, you’re Luscious, but I hope you won’t mind,
If I say you need Liposuction on your behind.”
Well, Lola was Livid and quite Lachrymose
So she picked up a Lamp and Landed some blows
Then she chopped him in bits and stuffed them in a cushion
And used it to rest her Lovely Large tush on.

M is for Malcolm, who worked at the Met,
And fell in love with Miranda, a drum Majorette.
They met in a band, where he was playing Maracas
About each other they were totally crackers.
But as Marriage went on things began to go wrong,
All they had in common were Mahler and Mahjong.
To bring back the Magic, they Moved to Malawi,
But Miranda said “We’re just not compatible, are we?”
With Malice aforethought quite Machiavellian,
She seduced a young chemist, by the name of Trevelyan.
She made him procure her some Mercuric Chloride,
Which she put in some Mushrooms—stuffed, and deep fried,
Malcom’s favourite dish, so she loaded his plate
And with Macabre relish watched poor Malc Masticate.

gun_bulletN is for Norman, from Loch Ness, a Ned
With a Nylon clad body, and empty space in his head,
Fell out of a window while escaping detection,
Not murder, just Darwinian Natural selection.

O is for Oswald—Optometrist from Oklahoma
Who was found in his Office one day in a coma.
After making suggestions Obscene and Offensive
To his secretary, Olive, who went on the defensive,
And hit him on the head with the base of the phone,
Making a bit of a mess of his Occipital bone.

P is for Percy and Phil, Paleontologists Par excellence,
Father and son, on a dig in Paris (that’s France)
A fossil found by Percy caused quite a Palaver
Sending Phil into Paroxysms of jealousy at his father.
With Poison he injected his Pater’s Pastrami,
And was tried for Parricide—but found utterly barmy.

Q is for Quentin, a Quantum mechanic,
Whose girlfriend, Queenie, about dancing was manic
So he left his work early at the government Quango
And took Queenie out to a dancehall to tango.
But while Quentin amused himself solving Quadratic equations,
Queenie with a Quarterback had carnal relations.
So Quentin challenged the Quarterback to a duel
But the Quarterback fought foul, not by Queensberry rules.
He grabbed poor Quentin by the scruff of the neck
And threw him in Quicksand off the coast of Quebec.

R is for Reggie, a Rockstar from Rome
Who modelled himself on Dee Dee Ramone.
His Rock and Roll antics were quite Rabelaisian
And he always lived down to his bad Reputation.
So no-one was surprised when he ended up dead,
When on stage with a Rabid Rat he bit off its head.

S is for Simeon, Serial Seducer from Streatham,
Got some Sausages in the post and, Starving hungry, et ‘em.
But those Sausages were Sabotaged and Stuffed with Salmonella
Sent to Simeon by his latest victim, Stella.

T is for Theo, a Televangelist who Transgressed
And was found in a Toyota with Tiffany, undressed.
With Theatrical Tears for TV viewers’ Titillation
He Told all his sins to a Tantalised nation,
But his Tormented wife found his behaviour appalling
So she killed him and wrapped him in a Tarpaulin.
Took him to a Taxidermist in Tulsa called Tony
And had him stuffed and mounted so she’d never be lonely.

U is for Umberto who was caught Unawares
With his trousers Unzipped at the foot of the stairs,
By Ursula who took Umbrage at the Unwitting fella
And stabbed him in the Umbilicus with her pointed Umbrella

corpse_outlineV is for Victor—Veterinary surgeon from Venice
Who practiced on humans—the Villainous menace.
When Virile Vince Visited expecting a swift appendectomy,
That Vagabond Vic gave Vince a Vasectomy.
Poor Vince understandably turned Vigilante
And shot poor Vic in his delicto flagrantes.

W is for Wallace, a Wizard from Wells
Who tried very hard but just couldn’t cast spells.
He tried to conjure up a Woman with sex on the brain
But ended up in Wandsworth with a Wrestler called Wayne.
When Wayne embraced Wallace and squeezed him too tight,
Wallace passed out and died of sheer fright.

X is for Xavier, an X-ray astronomer
Who could do marvellous things with a mercury thermometer.
I cannot divulge because most were X-rated
But I’ll tell you they left his girlfriend Xena elated.
So when with a Xylophonist from Xiangstan she found him in bed
She gassed them with Xenon and left them for dead.

Y is for Yves, a Yachtsman no less
Who when Yvonne said “No” thought she really meant “Yes.”
The Yobbish Yahoo tried it on with Yvonne
So she kicked him overboard; he Yelled, and was gone.

Z is for Zebediah a Zoot-suited Zoologist
Who began to court Zesty Zara, an animal psychologist.
When he told her the Zebra was a Zodiacal sign
She realised that Zeb was out of his mind,
That he was a Zero, a nothing, a phony,
So she sneaked some Zinc Sulphate into his Zabaglione.

 

moore_donna

 

Donna Moore is the author of  Go To Helena Handbasket (PointBlank Press, 2006), a crime-fiction spoof, and the 2007 winner of the Lefty Award for most humorous crime novel. She lives in Scotland.

 

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Fall Issue #101.

 
Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 07:05

blood_splatterAuthor Donna Moore's ABCs of murder

 

Witness This From Harpercollins
Oline Cogdill
bookshelf1_foster.jpt
About two years ago, the Avon Books imprint, which is part of HarperCollins, launched its digital romance imprint called Impulse.

Now HarperCollins/William Morrow is launching Witness, which is being called its “digital-original” mystery, suspense and thriller line.

Witness will feature new titles, international bestsellers not previously available in the U.S. and newly digitized backlist classics, according to press releases.

According to the publisher, 100 titles already have been selected for Witness with the first 10 titles to be released in October.

In addition to new titles, Witness will include digital versions of Agatha Christie’s short stories. All the Hercule Poirot short stories will be released as digital singles, and then together in a single omnibus edition.

The books will not automatically move into print but it seems likely that some will, especially given Impulse’s track record. More than 60 percent of Impulse titles also are available in print.


The price of Witness titles will range from 99 cents to $2.99. And, while I have no idea how any of this works, apparently author royalties will be the same as the publisher’s other digital-first imprints.

More details of Witness are here.

Anything that brings more authors to the publishing table is a good thing for all of us.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 06:05
bookshelf1_foster.jpt
About two years ago, the Avon Books imprint, which is part of HarperCollins, launched its digital romance imprint called Impulse.

Now HarperCollins/William Morrow is launching Witness, which is being called its “digital-original” mystery, suspense and thriller line.

Witness will feature new titles, international bestsellers not previously available in the U.S. and newly digitized backlist classics, according to press releases.

According to the publisher, 100 titles already have been selected for Witness with the first 10 titles to be released in October.

In addition to new titles, Witness will include digital versions of Agatha Christie’s short stories. All the Hercule Poirot short stories will be released as digital singles, and then together in a single omnibus edition.

The books will not automatically move into print but it seems likely that some will, especially given Impulse’s track record. More than 60 percent of Impulse titles also are available in print.


The price of Witness titles will range from 99 cents to $2.99. And, while I have no idea how any of this works, apparently author royalties will be the same as the publisher’s other digital-first imprints.

More details of Witness are here.

Anything that brings more authors to the publishing table is a good thing for all of us.

Penguin’s Read Humane for Cats, Dogs
Oline Cogdill
penguincampaing_readhumane

Buy a book—or several—and help animals while being entertained.

Sounds like a plan that wins for everyone.

Penguin Group USA's Read Humane campaign does just that.

Launched in 2012, Read Humane fights animal cruelty and ties in with May’s National Pet Month to support the Humane Society of the United States.

Special editions of animal-themed titles highlight the campaign with Read Humane seals on their covers and further information inside.

jamesmiranda_filemmurderThose novels include Till Death Do Us Bark by Judi McCoy, The Cat, the Wife and the Weapon by Leann Sweeney, File M for Murder by Miranda James, Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon, Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis, and Hounds Abound by Linda O. Johnston.

As part of the campaign, Penguin is donating $25,000 to the Humane Society, regardless of book sales.

Funds are allocated directly to the organization's Animal Rescue Team, which works with law enforcement to investigate illegal animal cruelty as well as save animals from puppy mills, fighting rings and other life-threatening situations.

The group also does disaster relief work. For example, when Hurricane Sandy struck last fall, the Humane Society rescued animals from devastated communities and provided pet owners with assistance, including temporarily caring for the animal family members whose humans were recovering from the storm. The Humane Society volunteers have done that during most of the natural disasters during the past 20 years.

I spoke very briefly with Miranda James, also known as Dean James, about this project while we were waiting for an elevator at the Malice Domestic conference, and then followed up with an email.

sweeneyleann_catwifeweapon
"As both an animal lover and a writer whose work features a cat in a prominent role, I am thrilled to have one of my books be part of the "Read Humane" program," said James.

"I hope this will encourage readers to become more aware of the needs of abused and neglected animals in our country," added James.

Leann Sweeney also is happy to be included in this project.

"Thanks to my publisher, Penguin, I am fortunate enough to be part of the Read Humane event along with five other mass market paperback authors," Sweeney said.

The authors share an approach to using animals in their novels, she added.

"All of us write stories involving animals and we take great pride in that," Sweeney said. "We believe our books indeed live up to the Read Humane initiative. Animals are treated with dignity and respect between the covers of our titles. My book, The Cat, The Wife and The Weapon, features three rescue cats and a rat terrier. The animals do not talk or think, they just act like the amazing pets they are!"

Diane A.S. Stuckart, who also writes as Ali Brandon, hopes Read Humane spotlights the Humane Society’s rescue efforts.

brandonali_doublebookedfordeath
Instances of animal cruelty happen every single day, in every town and city in this country. Sometimes, we can see the abuse and step in to prevent it; most times, however, these things occur out of our sight. That’s why we need The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team,” said Brandon.

She added, “They work tirelessly with law enforcement to investigate cases of animal abuse, including such cruel practices as puppy mills and dog fighting.

"As the owner of four dogs and two cats—all but one of them rescues—I’m thrilled to be part of Penguin’s Read Humane campaign designed to bring additional awareness to the Team’s fabulous advocacy on behalf of our furred and feathered friends,” Brandon added.

More than 3,000 retailers nationwide are participating in Read Humane, from independent bookstores to Barnes & Noble and CVS.

I think this project is terrific. All through my life, my dogs (sorry, allergic to cats) have always been rescues. Their love and personalities have carried me through happy and sad times.

Read Humane was inspired partly by the publisher's four-year-old Read Pink campaign, which supports breast cancer research and awareness, and also by the many writers on its list whose books feature animals.

This year's Read Humane spokesperson is Jill Shalvis, author of the Animal Magnetism series, contemporary romances centered on a kennel owner, a veterinarian and other characters who care for critters.

For details on Read Humane, visit this web site.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 06:05
penguincampaing_readhumane

Buy a book—or several—and help animals while being entertained.

Sounds like a plan that wins for everyone.

Penguin Group USA's Read Humane campaign does just that.

Launched in 2012, Read Humane fights animal cruelty and ties in with May’s National Pet Month to support the Humane Society of the United States.

Special editions of animal-themed titles highlight the campaign with Read Humane seals on their covers and further information inside.

jamesmiranda_filemmurderThose novels include Till Death Do Us Bark by Judi McCoy, The Cat, the Wife and the Weapon by Leann Sweeney, File M for Murder by Miranda James, Double Booked for Death by Ali Brandon, Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis, and Hounds Abound by Linda O. Johnston.

As part of the campaign, Penguin is donating $25,000 to the Humane Society, regardless of book sales.

Funds are allocated directly to the organization's Animal Rescue Team, which works with law enforcement to investigate illegal animal cruelty as well as save animals from puppy mills, fighting rings and other life-threatening situations.

The group also does disaster relief work. For example, when Hurricane Sandy struck last fall, the Humane Society rescued animals from devastated communities and provided pet owners with assistance, including temporarily caring for the animal family members whose humans were recovering from the storm. The Humane Society volunteers have done that during most of the natural disasters during the past 20 years.

I spoke very briefly with Miranda James, also known as Dean James, about this project while we were waiting for an elevator at the Malice Domestic conference, and then followed up with an email.

sweeneyleann_catwifeweapon
"As both an animal lover and a writer whose work features a cat in a prominent role, I am thrilled to have one of my books be part of the "Read Humane" program," said James.

"I hope this will encourage readers to become more aware of the needs of abused and neglected animals in our country," added James.

Leann Sweeney also is happy to be included in this project.

"Thanks to my publisher, Penguin, I am fortunate enough to be part of the Read Humane event along with five other mass market paperback authors," Sweeney said.

The authors share an approach to using animals in their novels, she added.

"All of us write stories involving animals and we take great pride in that," Sweeney said. "We believe our books indeed live up to the Read Humane initiative. Animals are treated with dignity and respect between the covers of our titles. My book, The Cat, The Wife and The Weapon, features three rescue cats and a rat terrier. The animals do not talk or think, they just act like the amazing pets they are!"

Diane A.S. Stuckart, who also writes as Ali Brandon, hopes Read Humane spotlights the Humane Society’s rescue efforts.

brandonali_doublebookedfordeath
Instances of animal cruelty happen every single day, in every town and city in this country. Sometimes, we can see the abuse and step in to prevent it; most times, however, these things occur out of our sight. That’s why we need The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team,” said Brandon.

She added, “They work tirelessly with law enforcement to investigate cases of animal abuse, including such cruel practices as puppy mills and dog fighting.

"As the owner of four dogs and two cats—all but one of them rescues—I’m thrilled to be part of Penguin’s Read Humane campaign designed to bring additional awareness to the Team’s fabulous advocacy on behalf of our furred and feathered friends,” Brandon added.

More than 3,000 retailers nationwide are participating in Read Humane, from independent bookstores to Barnes & Noble and CVS.

I think this project is terrific. All through my life, my dogs (sorry, allergic to cats) have always been rescues. Their love and personalities have carried me through happy and sad times.

Read Humane was inspired partly by the publisher's four-year-old Read Pink campaign, which supports breast cancer research and awareness, and also by the many writers on its list whose books feature animals.

This year's Read Humane spokesperson is Jill Shalvis, author of the Animal Magnetism series, contemporary romances centered on a kennel owner, a veterinarian and other characters who care for critters.

For details on Read Humane, visit this web site.

Chris Culver's the Abbey and the Outsider Giveaway

WIN A 2-BOOK SET

THE OUTSIDER and THE ABBEY by Chris Culver

EMAIL SUBSCRIBE@MYSTERYSCENEMAG.COM

- full name
- US mailing address (sorry, no PO Boxes)


culver_abbey

In THE ABBEY, Ash Rashid is a former homicide detective who can’t stand the thought of handling another death investigation. In another year, he’ll be out of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department completely. That’s the plan, at least, until his niece’s body is found in the guest home of one of his city’s most wealthy citizens. The coroner calls it an overdose, but the case doesn’t add up. Against orders, Ash launches an investigation to find his niece’s murderer, but the longer he searches, the more entangled he becomes in a case that hits increasingly close to home. If he doesn’t solve it fast, his niece won’t be the only family member he has to bury.


culver_outsiderIn THE OUTSIDER, Ash Rashid stands alone. A 12-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and one of the few Muslim-Americans on the force, he’s unafraid of bending the rules in the pursuit of justice. But now Ash wants out. He’s finished law school and is aiming to become a prosecutor. The last thing he wants is to become embroiled in a new homicide investigation. That changes when he hears that the mother of one of his daughter’s friends was murdered in front of her home—a crime that members of his department would seemingly rather ignore than investigate. Ash launches an inquiry and quickly becomes entangled in a case involving a dangerous mix of election-year politics, crime, and street justice. And what he finds may have repercussions for the entire city….

Learn more about THE ABBEY and THE OUTSIDER by Christ Culver at Hachette Book Group.

ENTER TO WIN by emailing SUBSCRIBE@MYSTERYSCENEMAG.COM. Include your full name and US mailing address (sorry, no PO Boxes).

Offer Terms and Conditions

Mysery Scene and Hachette Book Group is giving away five (5) sets of the books THE ABBEY and THE OUTSIDER by Chris Culver. One set each will be sent to five (f) eligible respondentd drawn at random. ARV of each 2-book set is: $19.98 US. Offer available to legal residents of the US only who have reached the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence. Limit one book per household. Offer ends May 31, 2013 , 11:59 p.m. (ET). Winner will be announced and notified by Mystery Scene.
Personal information is collected in accordance with Mystery Scene Magazine’s privacy policy.
Teri Duerr
Friday, 25 February 2011 12:02

WIN A 2-BOOK SET

THE OUTSIDER and THE ABBEY by Chris Culver

EMAIL SUBSCRIBE@MYSTERYSCENEMAG.COM

- full name
- US mailing address (sorry, no PO Boxes)


culver_abbey

In THE ABBEY, Ash Rashid is a former homicide detective who can’t stand the thought of handling another death investigation. In another year, he’ll be out of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department completely. That’s the plan, at least, until his niece’s body is found in the guest home of one of his city’s most wealthy citizens. The coroner calls it an overdose, but the case doesn’t add up. Against orders, Ash launches an investigation to find his niece’s murderer, but the longer he searches, the more entangled he becomes in a case that hits increasingly close to home. If he doesn’t solve it fast, his niece won’t be the only family member he has to bury.


culver_outsiderIn THE OUTSIDER, Ash Rashid stands alone. A 12-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and one of the few Muslim-Americans on the force, he’s unafraid of bending the rules in the pursuit of justice. But now Ash wants out. He’s finished law school and is aiming to become a prosecutor. The last thing he wants is to become embroiled in a new homicide investigation. That changes when he hears that the mother of one of his daughter’s friends was murdered in front of her home—a crime that members of his department would seemingly rather ignore than investigate. Ash launches an inquiry and quickly becomes entangled in a case involving a dangerous mix of election-year politics, crime, and street justice. And what he finds may have repercussions for the entire city….

Learn more about THE ABBEY and THE OUTSIDER by Christ Culver at Hachette Book Group.

ENTER TO WIN by emailing SUBSCRIBE@MYSTERYSCENEMAG.COM. Include your full name and US mailing address (sorry, no PO Boxes).

Offer Terms and Conditions

Mysery Scene and Hachette Book Group is giving away five (5) sets of the books THE ABBEY and THE OUTSIDER by Chris Culver. One set each will be sent to five (f) eligible respondentd drawn at random. ARV of each 2-book set is: $19.98 US. Offer available to legal residents of the US only who have reached the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence. Limit one book per household. Offer ends May 31, 2013 , 11:59 p.m. (ET). Winner will be announced and notified by Mystery Scene.
Personal information is collected in accordance with Mystery Scene Magazine’s privacy policy.
2013 Anthony Nominations Announced
Oline Cogdill

The season of awards continues.

The Anthony Award nominees for 2013 have just been announced. The Anthony Awards are given during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention.

The winners will be chosen by the full-time members of the 44th Bouchercon September 19-22, in Albany, New York.

This is a terrific list. Congratulations to all the nominees.


BEST NOVEL
Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Reagan Arthur)
The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover (Thomas & Mercer)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman (Thomas Dunne)
The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen (Putnam)
The Expats by Chris Pavone (Crown)
The 500 by Matthew Quirk (Reagan Arthur)
Black Fridays by Michael Sears (Putnam)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
Whiplash River by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Berkley Prime Crime)
And She Was by Alison Gaylin (Harper)
Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn (Emily Bestler)
Big Maria by Johnny Shaw (Thomas & Mercer)

BEST SHORT STORY
"Mischief in Mesopotamia" by Dana Cameron, EQMM, Nov 2012
"Kept in the Dark" by Shelia Connolly, Best New England Crime Stories: Blood Moon (Level Best)
"The Lord is My Shamus" by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder, p.97 (Wildside)
"Peaches" by Todd Robinson, Grift, Spring 2012, p.80
"The Unremarkable Heart" by Karin Slaughter, Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance, p.177 (Mulholland)

BEST CRITICAL NONFICTION WORK
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels by John Connolly and Declan Burke, eds. (Hodder & Stoughton/Emily Bestler)
Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 - Joseph Goodrich, ed. (Perfect Crime)
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle, M.D. (Medallion)
The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie by Mathew Prichard, ed. (Harper)
In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero by Otto Penzler, ed. (Smart Pop)

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 11:05

The season of awards continues.

The Anthony Award nominees for 2013 have just been announced. The Anthony Awards are given during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention.

The winners will be chosen by the full-time members of the 44th Bouchercon September 19-22, in Albany, New York.

This is a terrific list. Congratulations to all the nominees.


BEST NOVEL
Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Reagan Arthur)
The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover (Thomas & Mercer)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman (Thomas Dunne)
The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen (Putnam)
The Expats by Chris Pavone (Crown)
The 500 by Matthew Quirk (Reagan Arthur)
Black Fridays by Michael Sears (Putnam)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
Whiplash River by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (Berkley Prime Crime)
And She Was by Alison Gaylin (Harper)
Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn (Emily Bestler)
Big Maria by Johnny Shaw (Thomas & Mercer)

BEST SHORT STORY
"Mischief in Mesopotamia" by Dana Cameron, EQMM, Nov 2012
"Kept in the Dark" by Shelia Connolly, Best New England Crime Stories: Blood Moon (Level Best)
"The Lord is My Shamus" by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder, p.97 (Wildside)
"Peaches" by Todd Robinson, Grift, Spring 2012, p.80
"The Unremarkable Heart" by Karin Slaughter, Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance, p.177 (Mulholland)

BEST CRITICAL NONFICTION WORK
Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels by John Connolly and Declan Burke, eds. (Hodder & Stoughton/Emily Bestler)
Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 - Joseph Goodrich, ed. (Perfect Crime)
More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered by D.P. Lyle, M.D. (Medallion)
The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie by Mathew Prichard, ed. (Harper)
In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero by Otto Penzler, ed. (Smart Pop)

Jonny Quest: Drawn to Adventure
Michael Mallory

JohnnyQuestCard10Jonny Quest redirected the course of popular cartooning. It paved the way for every action, sci-fi, and mystery cartoon series that followed. And it was one of the coolest things on the tube.


Artist Doug Wildey (1922-1994) is best remembered today for his groundbreaking work on Jonny Quest. He went on to work on a number of animated shows, including The Submariner, Iron Man, and The Fantastic Four, in the late '60s, and Godzilla in the '70s. All images © Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc.


Television over the last half-century has offered a plethora of crime shows, suspense shows, action/adventure shows, and cartoon shows, but only one program brought all of those elements together in a single prime-time package: Hanna-Barbera’s Jonny Quest. The animated exploits of a globe-trotting 11-year-old adventurer, who battles antagonists ranging from lost-world creatures to Bondian super villains, became an instant baby boomer classic, and its influence can still be seen today.

With the recent passing of cartoon producer/director Joseph Barbera, television historians have begun to reassess the innovative work resulting from his long-running partnership with William Hanna (who died in 2001). With Jonny Quest, the team redirected the course of popular cartooning like never before. Quest was not just another ha-ha cartoon show; it was the first half-hour dramatic cartoon, the first cartoon series to feature realistically rendered characters, and it paved the way for every action, sci-fi, and/or mystery cartoon series that followed, from Space Ghost to Justice League.

On top of that, it was one of the coolest things on the tube; who didn’t want to be Jonny Quest?

The idea to try an animated action show arose after Barbera saw the first James Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. The earliest plans were to base the show on the old radio program Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, with a dollop of the adventure comic strip Terry and the Pirates thrown in for good measure. Because the project required a radically different look than their other prime-time shows, The Flintstones and The Jetsons, Hanna-Barbera brought in comic-book artist Doug Wildey to develop it. Wildey’s resume, interestingly, included drawing a comic-strip adaptation of Leslie Charteris’ The Saint.

When getting the rights to Jack Armstrong hit a snag, Wildey started developing an original property called The Saga of Chip Balloo, which was eventually transformed into something called Quest File 037. In addition to being considerably less awkward, the new title cannily reflected the then-red-hot spy craze (Ipcress File/007, anyone?). As development progressed, plucky young Jonny (no “h”—it’s short for “Jonathan”) Quest took star billing.

JohnnyQuestCard11Jonny was a remarkably rounded character for a television cartoon. Brave, intelligent, precociously skilled in the operation of motorized vehicles, yet still a kid with a fun-loving, mischievous streak, he was something of a Cold War-era Huck Finn. He could think his way out of jams and even go on the offense when necessary, but he never fell into the trap of phony invincibility. Whenever Jonny was in danger, whether the threat came from a criminal mastermind, a band of sea pirates, or a living mummy, the danger was real, and we knew it. When he escaped that danger, it was through real resourcefulness and courage, and we knew that, too.

Sharing in Jonny’s adventures were his brilliant scientist father, Dr. Benton Quest; former secret agent Roger “Race” Bannon, who served as Jonny’s mentor and bodyguard; Hadji, a turban-wearing junior fakir from India, and Jonny’s best friend; and the family bulldog Bandit, who unlike most cartoon canines actually acted like a dog. The team travels the globe in a private jet, often on secret missions for the US government.

Jonny’s mom is completely off the radar screen. “I remember talk about Jonny’s mother,” veteran studio layout artist Iwao Takamoto recalled in 2006, “and Joe [Barbera] said, ‘Just ignore it, we don’t need her…besides, no mother would let her son do the sort of things that he’s doing.’”

To prove that a weekly animated series featuring realistic-looking characters could be done in the “limited animation” style pioneered by Hanna-Barbera—in which only those parts of a figure that absolutely had to move actually moved—the studio produced a short presentation film. “We couldn’t explain to anybody what we were trying to do,” Joe Barbera recalled in 1999. “I took it [the promo reel] back to New York, and it blew them out of the projection room! It had more action and more sound and that great theme…holy mackerel!”

Because of the show’s heavy reliance on plots instead of animation sight gags, its writing staff was a mix of comic-book talent, animation specialists, and live-action writers. Among the latter was Walter Black, who would go on to write for such crime shows as Hawaii 5-O, The Streets of San Francisco, and the lighthearted British series The Persuaders.

Over the course of 26 episodes, the Quest team battled bad guys and other assorted menaces in the Arctic Circle, Egypt, India, Central America, Thailand, Canada, and all points in between, including quite a few unspecified mysterious islands and nations. Their antagonists ranged from the horrifyingly real, such as Nazi war criminal Von Duffel, who showed up in the episode “The Devil’s Tower,” to the fantastical, mysterious entity made of pure energy from “The Invisible Monster.” The team’s only recurring nemesis was Dr. Zin, an evil megalomaniac and powerful member of a large international crime and terror organization, who was a cross between Ian Fleming’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Dr. Fu Manchu.

Jonny Quest was well received in its initial run, but it lasted only one season. The tricky logistics of translating comic book artwork to animation made it an expensive show—about $64,000 an episode—which was enough to scare its network, ABC, out of committing to a second season. It did, however, have additional life on Saturday morning throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, and in 1987 a new batch of episodes were produced for syndication.

JohnnyQuestCard16In 1996, new management at Hanna-Barbera decided to do an updated, “hipper” version of Jonny called The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. While the result pleased no one, it did demonstrate by comparison why the original worked so well: it was fast-paced, colorful, and sensory (its wailing soundtracks were punctuated by Hoyt Curtin’s dynamic, driving jazz scores), but most importantly it was honest…and innocent. No matter how fantastic the stories or the settings were, the show was played straight, without a trace of self-conscious spoofery. Young actor Tim Matthieson (who as Tim Matheson later starred in such films as Animal House and 1941) gave Jonny’s voice just the right mix of I’m-in-trouble gravity and gee-whiz awe, and achieved the kind of retro simplicity that is impossible to replicate for today’s edgier, more cynical era.

It is hard to deny that some of Jonny Quest’s characters (particularly the foreign villains and henchmen) veer dangerously close to being demeaning stereotypes, or that the level of violence and gunplay is by today’s standards only borderline acceptable (even in 1964 it raised concerns, and was subsequently toned down). But neither can anyone deny that 40-plus years distance has done nothing to diminish the level of action, suspense, and excitement in the stories (presented in perfect three-act format), the dazzling appeal of the clean, comic-inspired graphic style, or the subtly subversive message that a youngster could be extraordinary but still be a normal kid at heart…or vice versa.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #98.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 05:05

JohnnyQuestCard10It paved the way for every action, sci-fi, and mystery cartoon series that followed—and was the coolest.

Crime Writers of Canada
Oline Cogdill
arthurellisaward_crimewriterscanada
On May 30, the Crime Writers of Canada will award its 2013 Arthur Ellis Awards for excellence in Canadian crime writing.

This year marks the 30th presentation of the prestigious awards, named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman, at left.

The awards are presented for seven crime-writing categories: novel, first novel, nonfiction/true crime, juvenile, short story, and book in the French language. For the first time since 2000, there is a new published-book category: the novella.

In addition, the CWC has an award for yet-to-be-published crime writers – the Unhanged Arthur for the best unpublished first crime novel.

Crime Writers of Canada was established as a professional organization in June 1982 by Derrick Murdoch, the Globe and Mail’s crime fiction reviewer, and other writers interested in the quality of Canadian mystery and crime writing. The Arthur Ellis Awards were launched the next year.

The Crime Writers of Canada has two goals: author promotion and professional development, which they do through discussions, workshops and other events.

For more information on the Crime Writers of Canada and the Arthur Ellis Awards, which will be awarded at the Arts & Letters Club in downtown Toronto, visit the website.

Meanwhile, here are the nominees for the awards.

American audiences will recognize many names, especially Linwood Barclay, Sean Chercover, Carsten Stroud, and Giles Blunt.

2013 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists (with authors’ hometowns)

crimewriterscanada_logo
Best First Novel
Peggy Blair, The Beggar’s Opera (Penguin Canada) – Ottawa, ON

Deryn Collier, Confined Space (Simon & Schuster) – Vancouver, BC

Peter Kirby, The Dead of Winter (Linda Leith Publishing) – Montreal, QC

Chris Laing, A Private Man (Seraphim) – Hamilton, ON

Simone St. James, The Haunting of Maddy Clare (NAL) – Toronto, ON

Best Novel
Linwood Barclay, Trust Your Eyes (Doubleday Canada) – Oakville, ON

Giles Blunt, Until the Night (Random House Canada) – Toronto, ON

Sean Chercover, The Trinity Game (Thomas & Mercer) – Toronto, ON

Stephen Miller, The Messenger (Delacorte Press) – Vancouver, BC

Carsten Stroud, Niceville (Knopf) – west coast US

Best Novella
Lou Allin, Contingency Plan (Orca) – Sooke, BC

Vicki Delany, A Winter Kill (Orca) – Picton, ON

Barbara Fradkin, Evil behind that Door (Orca) – Ottawa, ON

Christopher Moore, “Reunion” in Phnom Penh Noir (Heaven Lake Press) – Bangkok, Thailand

Best Short Story
Melodie Campbell, “Life without George” in Over My Dead Body Mystery Magazine (August 2012) – Oakville, ON

Sandy Conrad, “Sins of the Fathers” in Daughters and Other Strangers (The Brucedale Press) – Paisley, ON

Scott MacKay, “Cruel Coast” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (July 2012) – Toronto, ON

Jas R. Petrin, “Mad Dog” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (October 2012) – United States

Yasuko Thanh, “Spring-blade Knife” in Floating Like the Dead (McClelland & Stewart) – Victoria, BC

Best Nonfiction
Anita Arvast, Bloody Justice: The Truth behind the Bandidos Massacre at Shedden (John Wiley & Sons) – Toronto, ON

Guy Lawson, Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con (Crown Books/Random House) – upstate NY

Steve Lillebuen, The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room (McClelland & Stewart) – Edmonton, AB

Bruce Livesey, Thieves of Bay Street: How Banks, Brokerages and the Wealthy Steal Billions from Canadians (Random House Canada) – Toronto, ON

Best Juvenile/YA
Lisa Harrington, Live to Tell (Cormorant Books) – Halifax, NS

Y.S. Lee, The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel (Candlewick Press) – Kingston, ON

Sylvia McNicoll, Crush Candy Corpse (James Lorimer & Company) – Burlington, ON

Shane Peacock, Becoming Holmes (Tundra Books) – Cobourg, ON

Elizabeth Stewart, The Lynching of Louie Sam (Annick Press) – Vancouver, BC

Best Crime Writing in French
Mario Bolduc, La Nuit des albinos: Sur les traces de Max O’Brien (Libre Expression) – Montreal, QC

André Jacques, De pierres et de sang (Druide) – Sherbrooke, QC

Jean Lemieux, L’homme du jeudi (La courte échelle) – Iles de la Madeleine, QC

Martin Michaud, Je me souviens (Goélette) – Quebec, QC

Richard Ste Marie, L’inaveu (Alire) – Montreal, QC

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel: the Unhanged Arthur
William Hall, Cold Black Tide – Toronto, ON

Ilonka Halsband, The Raffle Baby – Moosejaw, SK

Coleen Steele, Sins Revisited – Bowmanville, ON

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 07:05
arthurellisaward_crimewriterscanada
On May 30, the Crime Writers of Canada will award its 2013 Arthur Ellis Awards for excellence in Canadian crime writing.

This year marks the 30th presentation of the prestigious awards, named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman, at left.

The awards are presented for seven crime-writing categories: novel, first novel, nonfiction/true crime, juvenile, short story, and book in the French language. For the first time since 2000, there is a new published-book category: the novella.

In addition, the CWC has an award for yet-to-be-published crime writers – the Unhanged Arthur for the best unpublished first crime novel.

Crime Writers of Canada was established as a professional organization in June 1982 by Derrick Murdoch, the Globe and Mail’s crime fiction reviewer, and other writers interested in the quality of Canadian mystery and crime writing. The Arthur Ellis Awards were launched the next year.

The Crime Writers of Canada has two goals: author promotion and professional development, which they do through discussions, workshops and other events.

For more information on the Crime Writers of Canada and the Arthur Ellis Awards, which will be awarded at the Arts & Letters Club in downtown Toronto, visit the website.

Meanwhile, here are the nominees for the awards.

American audiences will recognize many names, especially Linwood Barclay, Sean Chercover, Carsten Stroud, and Giles Blunt.

2013 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists (with authors’ hometowns)

crimewriterscanada_logo
Best First Novel
Peggy Blair, The Beggar’s Opera (Penguin Canada) – Ottawa, ON

Deryn Collier, Confined Space (Simon & Schuster) – Vancouver, BC

Peter Kirby, The Dead of Winter (Linda Leith Publishing) – Montreal, QC

Chris Laing, A Private Man (Seraphim) – Hamilton, ON

Simone St. James, The Haunting of Maddy Clare (NAL) – Toronto, ON

Best Novel
Linwood Barclay, Trust Your Eyes (Doubleday Canada) – Oakville, ON

Giles Blunt, Until the Night (Random House Canada) – Toronto, ON

Sean Chercover, The Trinity Game (Thomas & Mercer) – Toronto, ON

Stephen Miller, The Messenger (Delacorte Press) – Vancouver, BC

Carsten Stroud, Niceville (Knopf) – west coast US

Best Novella
Lou Allin, Contingency Plan (Orca) – Sooke, BC

Vicki Delany, A Winter Kill (Orca) – Picton, ON

Barbara Fradkin, Evil behind that Door (Orca) – Ottawa, ON

Christopher Moore, “Reunion” in Phnom Penh Noir (Heaven Lake Press) – Bangkok, Thailand

Best Short Story
Melodie Campbell, “Life without George” in Over My Dead Body Mystery Magazine (August 2012) – Oakville, ON

Sandy Conrad, “Sins of the Fathers” in Daughters and Other Strangers (The Brucedale Press) – Paisley, ON

Scott MacKay, “Cruel Coast” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (July 2012) – Toronto, ON

Jas R. Petrin, “Mad Dog” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (October 2012) – United States

Yasuko Thanh, “Spring-blade Knife” in Floating Like the Dead (McClelland & Stewart) – Victoria, BC

Best Nonfiction
Anita Arvast, Bloody Justice: The Truth behind the Bandidos Massacre at Shedden (John Wiley & Sons) – Toronto, ON

Guy Lawson, Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con (Crown Books/Random House) – upstate NY

Steve Lillebuen, The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room (McClelland & Stewart) – Edmonton, AB

Bruce Livesey, Thieves of Bay Street: How Banks, Brokerages and the Wealthy Steal Billions from Canadians (Random House Canada) – Toronto, ON

Best Juvenile/YA
Lisa Harrington, Live to Tell (Cormorant Books) – Halifax, NS

Y.S. Lee, The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel (Candlewick Press) – Kingston, ON

Sylvia McNicoll, Crush Candy Corpse (James Lorimer & Company) – Burlington, ON

Shane Peacock, Becoming Holmes (Tundra Books) – Cobourg, ON

Elizabeth Stewart, The Lynching of Louie Sam (Annick Press) – Vancouver, BC

Best Crime Writing in French
Mario Bolduc, La Nuit des albinos: Sur les traces de Max O’Brien (Libre Expression) – Montreal, QC

André Jacques, De pierres et de sang (Druide) – Sherbrooke, QC

Jean Lemieux, L’homme du jeudi (La courte échelle) – Iles de la Madeleine, QC

Martin Michaud, Je me souviens (Goélette) – Quebec, QC

Richard Ste Marie, L’inaveu (Alire) – Montreal, QC

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel: the Unhanged Arthur
William Hall, Cold Black Tide – Toronto, ON

Ilonka Halsband, The Raffle Baby – Moosejaw, SK

Coleen Steele, Sins Revisited – Bowmanville, ON

A Farewell to Southland
southland_reginaking
I had been planning to write a blog about this season of TV dramas that have intrigued me.

But before I could begin my essay, it was announced that one of my top shows, Southland, has been canceled.

And Southland deserves its own essay.

While I was a fan of Southland from the first episode, I can’t say I am surprised that TNT has decided not to review the police drama for a sixth season.

Southland ran for one season on NBC before TNT picked it up for four more seasons.

While its low ratings improved on TNT, Southland always was hanging by a thread, never quite achieving the following of The Closer, Major Crimes or Rizzoli & Isles.

Southland also was probably the best drama that most people never saw.

southland_ben2
Last year’s new cop show Southland seemed to signal a new turn in police drama. Southland’s gritty, realistic approach harked back to Hill Street Blues and Homicide: Life on the Streets – dramas that were believable and felt almost unscripted.

And we did feel as if we were watching a documentary rather than actors who included Ben McKenzie and Regina King.

Southland’s plots turn on the little dramas and big problems that the cops endure daily, both professional and personal.

It was easy to be drawn into the characters’ personal lives that affected their professional lives.

southland_johnBen McKenzie left far behind his days on The O.C. On Southland, he played Ben Sherman who started the series as an idealistic rich boy wanting to make a difference. His descent into becoming a corrupt cop was disheartening to watch, yet felt realistic and added to the show’s tension.

Regina King’s Detective Lydia Adams began the series torn between pressure on the job and at home where she is her mother’s primary caregiver. Then she became a single mother juggling her son and her mother.

The most intriguing character was intense veteran John Cooper, superbly played by Michael Cudlitz. A tough man, a lonely man, an excellent cop, a rage-filled man, John Cooper also was gay. As he once said, “being gay is not my problem.” And wasn’t.

southland_regina2
The scriptwriters and producers were careful to show John’s problems came from various sources but never his sexuality.

This last season saw John put through tremendously harrowing situations that chipped away at his sanity.

Cudlitz was excellent in this role, turning in Emmy-worthy performances week after week. He showed pain and world-weariness in each movement.

This season’s last episode and, as it turns out, the series’ finale wrapped up some plot threads but also had an ending that could be taken several ways.

I wanted the next season to start with hope, that what we think happened didn’t happen.

But perhaps that wouldn’t have been real and Southland was all about realism, as gritty as it could be.

PHOTOS: Top: Dorian Missick, Regina King; Second: Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy; Third: Michael Cudlitz; Bottom: Regina King, left, Dorian Missick, right. TNT photos

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 02 June 2013 06:06
southland_reginaking
I had been planning to write a blog about this season of TV dramas that have intrigued me.

But before I could begin my essay, it was announced that one of my top shows, Southland, has been canceled.

And Southland deserves its own essay.

While I was a fan of Southland from the first episode, I can’t say I am surprised that TNT has decided not to review the police drama for a sixth season.

Southland ran for one season on NBC before TNT picked it up for four more seasons.

While its low ratings improved on TNT, Southland always was hanging by a thread, never quite achieving the following of The Closer, Major Crimes or Rizzoli & Isles.

Southland also was probably the best drama that most people never saw.

southland_ben2
Last year’s new cop show Southland seemed to signal a new turn in police drama. Southland’s gritty, realistic approach harked back to Hill Street Blues and Homicide: Life on the Streets – dramas that were believable and felt almost unscripted.

And we did feel as if we were watching a documentary rather than actors who included Ben McKenzie and Regina King.

Southland’s plots turn on the little dramas and big problems that the cops endure daily, both professional and personal.

It was easy to be drawn into the characters’ personal lives that affected their professional lives.

southland_johnBen McKenzie left far behind his days on The O.C. On Southland, he played Ben Sherman who started the series as an idealistic rich boy wanting to make a difference. His descent into becoming a corrupt cop was disheartening to watch, yet felt realistic and added to the show’s tension.

Regina King’s Detective Lydia Adams began the series torn between pressure on the job and at home where she is her mother’s primary caregiver. Then she became a single mother juggling her son and her mother.

The most intriguing character was intense veteran John Cooper, superbly played by Michael Cudlitz. A tough man, a lonely man, an excellent cop, a rage-filled man, John Cooper also was gay. As he once said, “being gay is not my problem.” And wasn’t.

southland_regina2
The scriptwriters and producers were careful to show John’s problems came from various sources but never his sexuality.

This last season saw John put through tremendously harrowing situations that chipped away at his sanity.

Cudlitz was excellent in this role, turning in Emmy-worthy performances week after week. He showed pain and world-weariness in each movement.

This season’s last episode and, as it turns out, the series’ finale wrapped up some plot threads but also had an ending that could be taken several ways.

I wanted the next season to start with hope, that what we think happened didn’t happen.

But perhaps that wouldn’t have been real and Southland was all about realism, as gritty as it could be.

PHOTOS: Top: Dorian Missick, Regina King; Second: Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy; Third: Michael Cudlitz; Bottom: Regina King, left, Dorian Missick, right. TNT photos

Robert B. Parker: “a Code and a Quest”
David Corbett

Knight_horse_crColin_StittHe respected the genre, which is to say he respected us.

Photo: Colin Stitt

The following is the prepared text for a tribute given by David Corbett during the Anthony Award Ceremonies at Bouchercon 2006 in Madison, Wisconsin, to commemorate the Lifetime Achievement Award given to Robert B. Parker.

When I was thinking of what to say tonight, to a room full of people who know as much if not more about Robert B. Parker than I do, I kept coming back to a conversation I had a few years ago with an editor from a major publishing house—a man who shall remain nameless—in which he talked about those writers who, in his estimation, do or do not “respect the genre.”

In his opinion, James Patterson and Michael Connelly are clear-cut examples of writers who do, indeed, respect the genre, and their followings (or more to the point, their numbers) demonstrated that fact.

In contrast, two writers who do not respect the genre, as far as this gentleman was concerned, are George Pelecanos and Walter Mosley. “Neither one of them have sales anywhere near what their reputations would suggest,” he said, trying to justify himself—then, even more poignantly: “If you slap the words ‘race riot’ on the back of a book, don’t expect it to fly off the shelves.”

Now, you may infer from this, as I did, that this particular editor was confusing respecting the genre with respecting the bottom line. And I have to admit, having as I do a great admiration for both Mosley and Pelecanos, I felt a bit protective, which is a polite way to say I got pissed off. I thought this editor was slamming two first-rate and one-of-a-kind writers for being innovative—for not just taking the genre as an ironclad set of conventions, but trying to expand it by making their own distinctive contributions.

Now, if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that if you take a second look at what’s pushing your buttons, there’s almost always something else lurking in the background, daring you to figure it out.

And so I stopped getting mad, thought about it some more, and realized there really was a legitimate point to be made— though it may not have been the point this particular gentleman was trying to make.

Dennis Lehane once said that the two men who more than anyone else inspired him to write crime fiction were James Crumley and James Lee Burke. Both men appeared at about the same time—the early to mid-'70s—and they both contributed significant stylistic innovations of which I’m sure everyone’s aware. And I don’t think anyone in his right mind would say that either James Lee Burke or Jim Crumley doesn’t respect the genre.

But of course there was another crime writer who emerged at this same time, and though he may have lacked the stylistic gifts of Crumley and Burke, he was no less creative and innovative in his way. That writer was Robert B. Parker.

His innovation, as everyone knows, was to see the historical thread from the chivalric romance through to the modern detective story. He saw that the conventions that define the genre have a historical and a cultural and a psychological resonance—that the stories weren’t the result of modern urban angst, but had their roots in something much deeper, something intrinsic to who we are.

Parker_Robert_headNow I asked myself: Was this innovation, like Crumley’s and Burke’s, a case of “respecting the genre”? Isn’t trying to add something distinctive and unique to the genre a case of respecting it? Why work so hard to add something new to a form of artistic expression you don’t respect? Then again, playing devil’s advocate, I wondered whether Parker’s innovation wasn’t instead just a backhanded attempt to “transcend the genre,” that odious phrase that gets tossed around whenever literary authors go slumming in crime fiction.

Well, 33 years after the appearance of The Godwulf Manuscript, I think the answer’s pretty obvious: If Bob Parker doesn’t respect the genre, nobody does. He wasn’t trying to make it something else, something “better,” he was seeing it for what it was, and showed us all something we may not have recognized before. There was an impressive history here, a tradition. One we could learn from, and which could inspire us, if we let it.

Robert B. Parker

That point was brought home to me even more vividly one night when my wife was still alive. She was a lawyer, and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. But once the workday was done, around 9 o'clock at night usually, she’d turn off the phone, put on her PJs, climb into bed with the dogs, and open up a mystery novel. More times than not, that mystery was written by Bob Parker.

She could easily devour an entire Parker novel in one sitting. One night, as I was getting into bed, she tossed down the particular book she’d been reading, sat up in bed, flexed her muscles and said, in a singularly goofy voice: “I wanna be Spenser! I want a code and a quest!”

A light went on when she did that. I realized what a gift it is to be able to create a character readers love that much, to write a book people feel that way about, a book they can get lost in—people who work hard every day, trying to make the world at least a slightly better place. To write those kinds of books—that’s important work, it’s noble work. And I think that’s something Bob Parker, a working-class Irish kid from Boston, never lost sight of.

A buddy of mine once put it this way: There’s nothing wrong with entertainment, just entertainment that insults your intelligence.

Well, you can say what you want about whether the Spenser series is still as vibrant as it once was, or debate whether the Sunny Randall series measures up, or if the Jesse Stone books do, and so on and so forth—and I’m sure just about everyone at this conference has opinions on all of that—it doesn’t change the fact that for 33 years, during which he’s given us over 50 books, Bob Parker’s not only been stepping to the plate, he’s been making contact. He’s never insulted our intelligence. He’s been honest. He’s been funny. He knows how to keep the action clean and taut, so we keep turning pages. And though you may not find the words “race riot” on any of his jacket covers, he’s never shied away from talking about race in America, or about any other subject he considered important. And in the meantime, we all got that break from the grind we needed, so we could get back to work the next day, and try again to make things a little bit better for all of us.

He respected the genre, which is to say he respected us. And I think it’s for that reason, as much as any other, that we’re honoring him here tonight.

David Corbett’s latest novel is Do They Know I'm Running?.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Winter Issue #98.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 09:05

Parker_Robert_headHe respected the genre, which is to say he respected us.

Walt Longmire Back in Print, Tv
Oline Cogdill
johnson_craig2
May is a big month for Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire novels.

A Serpent’s Tooth, the ninth in his series about the Wyoming sheriff, just hit the bookstores and reading devices.

Longmire, the TV series based on Johnson’s novels, begins its second season at 10 p.m. (EST) Monday, May 27, on the A&E Network.

We caught up with Johnson to discuss his novels and the TV series.

What myths about Wyoming do you hope your novels dispel?
You always hear about the West being a place where people take care of their own problems and that everyone stands alone, but the history of Wyoming doesn’t really indicate that. In the most desolate areas of the frontier, even today, people count on each other more than they do in cities. In urban areas people have the resources so that they can ignore each other, but in ranching communities people depend their neighbors more—just try and have a calving or a branding by yourself… I think that’s why I made my protagonist, Walt Longmire a sheriff—he’s emblematic of a community that works together.

johnsoncraig_serpentstooth
Are there issues unique to Wyoming that you explore in your novels?

Sure, we have some fairly unique issues here connected to the energy business, ranching and tourism, but my secret weapons are Wyomingites who can be a strange bunch and are pretty proud of it. People always ask me if I ever worry about running out of ideas and I always ask them, “You’re not from Wyoming, are you?”

You also do well in other European countries? Any ideas why?
I think it’s the same reason as with the French; there is still a romantic allure to the American West; open spaces like Wyoming just don’t exist in Europe and for them the idea of vast, uninhabited space is ultimately intriguing.

What is the oddest or funniest think you’ve come across in researching your novels?

Generally it’s the stories I get from sheriffs and sheriff deputies from all over the country. With the popularity of the books and the TV show, I get a lot of stories from those guys and I have to come clean and tell you that the more outrageous tales in my books are true. Inevitably, somebody will write me and say, “That story on page 167 is a little over the top, don’t you think?” And I tell them, “Well meet Sheriff Goody Pickering of Big Horn County, Montana, who actually had that happen.”

Westerns in film and on TV seem to have vanished but mystery authors such as yourself seem to be keeping the American western alive. Why do you think the western is thriving in fiction?
Well, there’s one TV show that’s doing pretty well… (Longmire was the highest-rated, scripted drama in A&E’s network history) I don’t know about thriving in fiction, but if there is such a thing I think it’s a case of readers looking for something different; you can turn on the TV or roam through a bookstore and see 50 New York or Los Angeles novels for every one that takes place in the West. It might be that people are getting tired of the CSI/Armani-suit thing. But I think it always comes down to the writing; if you try and write the best book you can, readers might be more inclined to respond no matter where it’s set.

You always manage to add a good dose of humor to your novels. Why?
Anybody who’s ever had a tough job knows that’s how you get through the day; sometimes it’s just a question of laughing or crying. Walt Longmire is a truly tough guy, and the toughest people I know have the keenest senses of humor.

What makes you laugh?
My wife, Judy, she’s the funniest person I know—scathing, but funny.

How did you come up with the character of Walt Longmire?
I was looking for the guy who I could count on—Walt Longmire is the man I want pulling up behind me from running off the highway in a blizzard or worse.

Are there any changes you wished you’d made to Walt’s character but are now part of the series and can’t change?
Nope, not a one.

What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?
The emails I get most are the ones telling me I’m beating up on Walt too much and need to take it easy on him in the next book. The other is, “There was not enough of (insert Henry Standing Bear, Vic Moretti, Lucian Connally, Dog, etc.) my favorite character in your last book.

How different from the novels is the TV series?
Not a lot, other than they backed up their point of entry into the stories a few years before my first book, The Cold Dish—that, and everybody is better looking than the people in my head…

Has the TV series drawn on plots from your novels?
Bits and pieces, some more than others, but what I appreciate is that when the do borrow plots from my books they change the endings, that way the books and the TV show don’t take anything away from each other.

Walt and Henry are Wyoming natives, but why bring in a city slicker like Vic?

I thought the books needed an urban voice, something to put in counterpoint to the dominant rural chorus of the books, and I have to admit that it was one of the smartest things I did; that, and surrounding Walt with an ensemble of strong-willed females.

Some authors have had tours created around their characters’ environment. Will we ever have a Walt Longmire tour of Wyoming?
There are already some smaller ones from some of the local colleges, chambers of commerce and the Wyoming Office of Tourism—but anybody is welcome to show up in Buffalo, Wyoming and have lunch at the Busy Bee on Main Street.

Is there a book – fiction or nonfiction – that is a favorite?
About Ed Ricketts, the forward to Steinbeck’s Log of the Sea of Cortez. It’s only about sixty pages long, but I love it.

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 25 May 2013 10:05
johnson_craig2
May is a big month for Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire novels.

A Serpent’s Tooth, the ninth in his series about the Wyoming sheriff, just hit the bookstores and reading devices.

Longmire, the TV series based on Johnson’s novels, begins its second season at 10 p.m. (EST) Monday, May 27, on the A&E Network.

We caught up with Johnson to discuss his novels and the TV series.

What myths about Wyoming do you hope your novels dispel?
You always hear about the West being a place where people take care of their own problems and that everyone stands alone, but the history of Wyoming doesn’t really indicate that. In the most desolate areas of the frontier, even today, people count on each other more than they do in cities. In urban areas people have the resources so that they can ignore each other, but in ranching communities people depend their neighbors more—just try and have a calving or a branding by yourself… I think that’s why I made my protagonist, Walt Longmire a sheriff—he’s emblematic of a community that works together.

johnsoncraig_serpentstooth
Are there issues unique to Wyoming that you explore in your novels?

Sure, we have some fairly unique issues here connected to the energy business, ranching and tourism, but my secret weapons are Wyomingites who can be a strange bunch and are pretty proud of it. People always ask me if I ever worry about running out of ideas and I always ask them, “You’re not from Wyoming, are you?”

You also do well in other European countries? Any ideas why?
I think it’s the same reason as with the French; there is still a romantic allure to the American West; open spaces like Wyoming just don’t exist in Europe and for them the idea of vast, uninhabited space is ultimately intriguing.

What is the oddest or funniest think you’ve come across in researching your novels?

Generally it’s the stories I get from sheriffs and sheriff deputies from all over the country. With the popularity of the books and the TV show, I get a lot of stories from those guys and I have to come clean and tell you that the more outrageous tales in my books are true. Inevitably, somebody will write me and say, “That story on page 167 is a little over the top, don’t you think?” And I tell them, “Well meet Sheriff Goody Pickering of Big Horn County, Montana, who actually had that happen.”

Westerns in film and on TV seem to have vanished but mystery authors such as yourself seem to be keeping the American western alive. Why do you think the western is thriving in fiction?
Well, there’s one TV show that’s doing pretty well… (Longmire was the highest-rated, scripted drama in A&E’s network history) I don’t know about thriving in fiction, but if there is such a thing I think it’s a case of readers looking for something different; you can turn on the TV or roam through a bookstore and see 50 New York or Los Angeles novels for every one that takes place in the West. It might be that people are getting tired of the CSI/Armani-suit thing. But I think it always comes down to the writing; if you try and write the best book you can, readers might be more inclined to respond no matter where it’s set.

You always manage to add a good dose of humor to your novels. Why?
Anybody who’s ever had a tough job knows that’s how you get through the day; sometimes it’s just a question of laughing or crying. Walt Longmire is a truly tough guy, and the toughest people I know have the keenest senses of humor.

What makes you laugh?
My wife, Judy, she’s the funniest person I know—scathing, but funny.

How did you come up with the character of Walt Longmire?
I was looking for the guy who I could count on—Walt Longmire is the man I want pulling up behind me from running off the highway in a blizzard or worse.

Are there any changes you wished you’d made to Walt’s character but are now part of the series and can’t change?
Nope, not a one.

What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?
The emails I get most are the ones telling me I’m beating up on Walt too much and need to take it easy on him in the next book. The other is, “There was not enough of (insert Henry Standing Bear, Vic Moretti, Lucian Connally, Dog, etc.) my favorite character in your last book.

How different from the novels is the TV series?
Not a lot, other than they backed up their point of entry into the stories a few years before my first book, The Cold Dish—that, and everybody is better looking than the people in my head…

Has the TV series drawn on plots from your novels?
Bits and pieces, some more than others, but what I appreciate is that when the do borrow plots from my books they change the endings, that way the books and the TV show don’t take anything away from each other.

Walt and Henry are Wyoming natives, but why bring in a city slicker like Vic?

I thought the books needed an urban voice, something to put in counterpoint to the dominant rural chorus of the books, and I have to admit that it was one of the smartest things I did; that, and surrounding Walt with an ensemble of strong-willed females.

Some authors have had tours created around their characters’ environment. Will we ever have a Walt Longmire tour of Wyoming?
There are already some smaller ones from some of the local colleges, chambers of commerce and the Wyoming Office of Tourism—but anybody is welcome to show up in Buffalo, Wyoming and have lunch at the Busy Bee on Main Street.

Is there a book – fiction or nonfiction – that is a favorite?
About Ed Ricketts, the forward to Steinbeck’s Log of the Sea of Cortez. It’s only about sixty pages long, but I love it.

Michael Connelly on Journalism, Novels
Oline Cogdill

connellymichael2_author.jpg
Back in 1992, Michael Connelly hit the ground running with his debut The Black Echo, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel and introduced L.A.P.D. detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch.

Since then, Connelly has won just about every literary award and Harry Bosch has become one of crime fiction’s most iconic characters worldwide.


More than 20 years later, Connelly has written 25 novels and one nonfiction book that have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated in 39 languages.

Connelly’s last novel, The Black Box paid homage to those two decades by having Harry involved with a case in which a recent crime is linked to a crime back in 1992. The Black Box came out in December.

Connelly’s next novel The Gods of Guilt comes out this December and will feature attorney Mickey Haller.

Meanwhile, Connelly talked about his journalism career and his novels during an interview, which was a fundraiser for the Broward Bulldog, an online investigative journalism site. Follow this link for the interview.

It’s a pretty interesting interview, even if I do say so myself.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 06:05

connellymichael2_author.jpg
Back in 1992, Michael Connelly hit the ground running with his debut The Black Echo, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel and introduced L.A.P.D. detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch.

Since then, Connelly has won just about every literary award and Harry Bosch has become one of crime fiction’s most iconic characters worldwide.


More than 20 years later, Connelly has written 25 novels and one nonfiction book that have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated in 39 languages.

Connelly’s last novel, The Black Box paid homage to those two decades by having Harry involved with a case in which a recent crime is linked to a crime back in 1992. The Black Box came out in December.

Connelly’s next novel The Gods of Guilt comes out this December and will feature attorney Mickey Haller.

Meanwhile, Connelly talked about his journalism career and his novels during an interview, which was a fundraiser for the Broward Bulldog, an online investigative journalism site. Follow this link for the interview.

It’s a pretty interesting interview, even if I do say so myself.

Across the Great Divide: K.C. Constantine Takes the Detective Novel Into Uncharted Territory
Jeff Siegel

constantine_brush_backUntil he revealed his true identity in 2011, K.C. Constantine was something of an enigma to the publishing world. But whether under his own name—Carl Kosak—or a pseudonym, the Mario Balzic mysteries have won a legion of fans.


One of the biggest challenges in writing mystery fiction is to take the form to the next level, to somehow transform a style happily associated with airport page-turners into literature. Raymond Chandler wrote and re-wrote The Long Goodbye and never quite managed the trick. Most writers never even try.

Which does not mean that it’s not worth trying. Chandler’s novels are none the worse because they’re wonderful fiction instead of literature, while James Lee Burke has enjoyed a successful career by pushing the Dave Robicheaux novels smack up against the boundary. The less well-known, although no less talented, James Sallis has come equally close with Lew Griffin.

Yet no one, including Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald, has approached the divide in quite the way that K.C. Constantine has over the past 17 novels and 30 years. In fact, the pseudonymous Constantine, in his chronicles of the not-so-fictional town of Rocksburg, Pennsylvania, may have come closer than anyone else ever has before.

In the first book, The Rocksburg Railroad Murders (1972), the hero is police Chief Mario Balzic, and the plot is mostly an Ed McBain–style police procedural. By No. 17, last summer’s Saving Room for Dessert, there is little sign of a proper puzzle (and hasn’t been for years) and the most important characters are mostly new. The only constant is Rocksburg—worn-out, played-out Rocksburg, the buckle on the Rust Belt.

It is against this backdrop that Constantine has chronicled three decades of American history, and, in the process, taken the detective novel into mostly uncharted territory.

For all of the mystery surrounding his pseudonym, there are ample details about K.C. Constantine’s writing life. He even does interviews, provided they’re by email. Constantine is an ex-Marine, ex–baseball player, and ex-newspaperman (though he calls himself a proofreader, and notes he was fired in 1993) who wrote the first Rocksburg novel after no one wanted to publish his literary fiction. He grew up in western Pennsylvania, attended the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and watched, firsthand, as the United States changed from a manufacturing to a service economy. Most importantly, as he watched, he took notes.

Rocksburg’s decline is the story of this country’s transformation from a high-wage, unionized, industrial economy to a low-wage, shipping-jobs-overseas service economy. The townspeople, mostly the children and grandchildren of Italian and Eastern European immigrants who worked in mines, mills, and factories that no longer exist, watch what happens in a daze, vaguely aware of what’s happening but not rich enough or educated enough or confident enough to know if there is anything they can do about it. When they finally do act, Constantine’s cops (mostly Balzic, but also detective Rugs Carlucci) are all too often called into service.

This social, cultural, and economic change is the focus of every Rocksburg novel, regardless of the main characters or the nominal plot (and some of the plots are pretty nominal). In Rocksburg Railroad Murders, there are hints of what is to come, with asides about Nixon and Agnew and the murder of perhaps the last man in town who still takes the train. By Cranks and Shadows (1995), the city is broke, crushed by 12 years of supply-side economics that have turned the downtown into a puzzle of empty buildings and left its residents so poor that no supermarket chain has a store in the town. In Saving Room for Dessert, Rocksburg has evolved into a postmodern American city, deserted by the educated and the middle class, where the inhabitants live on unemployment, public assistance, and Social Security.

In this, Constantine is political in a way that few other American writers, save Chester Himes (and, in his own bizarre way, Mickey Spillane), have ever been. Chandler and Hammett were cynical, but neither much pursued the point past describing society’s corruption. Constantine does pursue it, and in no uncertain terms. Big business, in league with corrupt and compliant politicians of all persuasions, has destroyed Rocksburg—and Rocksburg is nothing but a metaphor for the post–World War II prosperity that allowed even blue-collar families to live in comfortable homes, send their children to college, and look forward to retirement. In Rocksburg, as in so many other towns and cities, that prosperity has vanished in the trinity of shuttered factories, looted pension plans, and government privatization.

There’s a terrific scene in the Carlucci-led Grievance (2000), in which one of the characters tries to explain the difference between Medicare and Medicaid to Rugs and a state trooper. The trooper, who is one of those cops who doesn’t understand why most people don’t like cops, tries to brush the old man off. Fine, says the old man, you say you don’t care now. But one day, and sooner than you think, you’ll need to know the difference, because you’ll be filling out the forms. The trooper still doesn’t understand (and never will), but the reader can almost see Rugs’ eyes widen in comprehension.

But do not think that because Constantine is political—and often polemical—that he can’t write. He can, with a style and assurance that is rare in fiction, let alone genre fiction. The critic Julian Symons has written that Chandler is read “first of all for the writing” and that description applies to Constantine as well. There are no awkward sentences, no slick, movie-script winks and nods, no characters who disappear as soon as the page is turned.

The dialogue, meanwhile, reads like a transcript, down to the pauses in each sentence, the four-letter words, and the local slang (“You tryin’ to crush my onions?”). Constantine understands not just that dialogue is important; he understands why dialogue is important, and he understands how to use dialogue to flesh out characters. There are few, if any, physical descriptions of Balzic in the books. Instead, Constantine lets Balzic describe himself through his language.

This, to paraphrase Chandler, is writing done by someone who has a reason for doing it. Consider Blood Mud (1999), featuring Balzic:

“He loved that phrase: ‘…if certain symptoms appeared.’ Yeah, right. Like you were walking from the bedroom to the kitchen and all of a sudden who should appear but Mister Shortness of Breath? Who was running from Mister Buzzing in the Throat, who was accompanied by his pistoleros, Mister Burning in the Esophagus, Mister Tingling and Numbness in the Extremities, and the goombah, Mister Crushing Sensation in the Chesteroonie.”

constantine_slow_tomatoesThe characters, even the minor ones, are skillfully written. Vinnie the bartender is so well drawn he's spooky, and Muscotti’s, the bar where he works and Balzic drinks, may be the best written joint in the history of detective fiction. Mo Valcanas, the lawyer who defends many of the people caught in Constantine’s contradictions, drinks too much, lusts too much, and complains too much, though his reasons make perfect sense. The list goes on—Iron City Steve, the itinerant alcoholic who serves as a Greek chorus; Father Marrazo, the poker-playing priest; Sal Bruno, who runs a local funeral home; Mrs. Comito and Mrs. Viola, the neighbor ladies who watch Carlucci’s mother during the day.

That the leading characters stand out even more is a further testament to Constantine’s skill. Balzic is the kind of man everyone of the so-called Greatest Generation wishes they could be—tough and compassionate, yet self-aware enough to know when his pride and stubbornness and prejudices get in the way. Carlucci, of the Vietnam generation, lacks Balzic’s self-assurance, but makes up for it with an attention to detail and to doing the right thing that is almost obsessive. Carlucci’s aging, paranoid (even vicious) mother drives readers, as she drives her son, to both anger and pity.

Yet, as well-defined as those characters are, the two most impressive may be Balzic’s wife and his mother. Ruth Balzic is a cop’s wife who understands there are things about being a cop’s wife she doesn’t understand. That she doesn’t hold this knowledge against Mario, which would be the easiest thing for character and author to do, is the first indication of her depth. Marie Balzic, Mario’s mother, dies midway through the series, yet her presence is felt even in the books that come afterward. How many other authors can do that?

The obvious comparison, of course, is to William Faulkner, and Rocksburg to Yoknapatawpha County. But Faulkner wrote about a South that had already changed, while Constantine’s Rocksburg is still evolving. Constantine himself points to Flannery O’Connor as an influence, especially in her use of language and in the way she uses the vernacular to present complicated ideas. (Though he is quick to point out he doesn’t share her enthusiasm for religion or redemption.)

There may even be traces of William Kennedy’s Albany cycle, which includes the Pulitzer Prize–winning Ironweed. Again, though, Kennedy focuses on the past, while his characters struggle to find some kind of redemption, no matter how slight and no matter how unattainable it seems. Ironweed even has a reasonably happy ending. There are no happy endings in Rocksburg, and not even much in the way of endings—only moments in between.

At the conclusion of Joey’s Case (1988), a woman wants Balzic to arrest her son as part of a convoluted family dispute. You’re the cops, she cries, I want justice. Says Balzic: “Where the hell do people get this crap from?”

It’s the question Constantine has been asking for more than 30 years.

A ROCKSBURG READER

Not all of K.C. Constantine’s Rocksburg books are in print (a fact he takes remarkably well). But even the out-of-print ones aren’t too difficult to find in used bookstores and online, and all are well worth reading. The basics include:

Joey's Case (1988)

Constantine may not be interested in redemption, but he is interested in the value of human life. Balzic investigates a murder in which the dead man, a local thug, did everyone a favor by getting himself killed, which is why no one seems to care whether anyone is punished for the crime.

constantine_sunshine_enemiesSunshine Enemies (1990)

The puzzle revolves around a murder in a porn shop’s parking lot, but the novel is mostly about family and the inevitable changes that families face. One scene, in which a distraught mother confronts Balzic at the most inopportune time imaginable, is something other writers only dream of doing.

Good Sons (1996)

The first Carlucci book, worth reading if only for the relationship between Rugs and his mother. Ostensibly it’s about a brutal rape and murder, but there are so many layers and levels to the story that those are almost secondary.

Blood Mud (1999)

Balzic has a heart attack, Constantine has a little fun with the private-eye novel, and the crime—a gun shop break-in—gives the author a chance to assess the insurance and newspaper businesses, the Mob as antihero, the war against drugs, and, again, the value of each human life.

Jeff Siegel, who lives in Dallas, is the author of The American Detective: An Illustrated History.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Fall Issue #81.

Teri Duerr
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 06:05

constantine_brush_backThe Mario Balzic mysteries of K.C. Constantine, the pseudonym of Carl Kosak, have won a legion of fans.

Mystery Lovers' Kitchen: Donuts Vs Chocolate Ice Cream
Teri Duerr

mysteryloverskitchen_header

Mystery authors share treats perfect for June.

Since 2009, the authors behind Mystery Lovers' Kitchen (MLK) have been cooking up crime and culinary delights with wit and wisdom for their voracious readership.

Exhibiting impressive élan for the delectable in the face of swimsuit weather, MLK authors Jessica Beck, Annie Knox/Wendy Lyn Watson, and Janet Bolin were kind enough to share a wonderful donut recipe, a fabulous chocolate peanut-butter ice cream recipe, and a hot fudge recipe. Enjoy! I know I will...

If you enjoy these recipes or have more to share, please let us know at our Mystery Scene Facebook page.

A GOOD BEGINNING DONUT RECIPE (from Glazed Murder)
This recipe is courtesy of Jessica Beck, New York Times best-selling author of Deadly Donuts.

donuts3INGREDIENTS
4-5 cups bread flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 dashes of salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

DIRECTIONS
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and sift it into another bowl. Add the beaten egg to the dry mix, then add the sour cream and the buttermilk to the mixture and stir it all in lightly. You may need more buttermilk or flour to get the dough to a workable mix. This varies based on temperature and humidity, and the dough should resemble bread dough when you’re finished. That is, it shouldn’t stick to your hands when you touch it, but it should be moist enough to remain flexible. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

Knead this mix lightly, then roll it out to about 1/4 of an inch. Then, take your donut hole cutter-a simple circle with a removable center-and press out your donut shapes, reserving the holes for a later frying. The cutters are inexpensive, and worth having on hand, but a floured drinking glass could be used, too.

Set your fryer for 375 degrees, and when the oil is ready, put four to six donuts in the basket, depending on the size of your equipment. This can also be done in a deep pot, but I find the precision of the fryer worth the money, especially if you’re going to make donuts very often at all.

Let the donuts cook for around two minutes on one side, then check one. If it’s golden brown, the shade I prefer, flip it over with a large chopstick or wooden skewer, and let that side cook another two minutes.

Once the donuts are finished, remove them to a cooling rack or a plate lined with paper towels, being sure to drain them thoroughly before serving. You can coat the top with butter and then sprinkle them with powdered sugar, cinnamon, or eat them plain.

View the original post at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE VEGAN ICE CREAM (Adapted from The Veganomicon)
by Annie Knox, aka Wendy Lyn Watson (Mysteries a la Mode)

vegan_icecreamINGREDIENTS
6 ounces silken tofu (1/2 of a tetrapack)
1 cup soy/almond/rice milk
1/2 cup coconut cream*
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, room temperature

* Coconut cream is the dense part of coconut milk. You can buy coconut cream in some supermarkets and Asian groceries (do not use the sweetened cream of coconut—like Coco Lopez—that is sold in the liquor/mixer aisle of the store; there's no sugar in coconut cream). If you cannot find coconut cream, put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. Open carefully and scoop the dense cream from the top of the can.

DIRECTIONS
Blend the tofu, non-dairy "milk," coconut cream, vanilla, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Add the cooled chocolate and blend well.
Transfer base to a bowl or large measuring cup. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Process in your ice cream maker, drizzling the peanut butter into the canister when the mixture is almost frozen.
Or—if your ice cream freezer breaks down like mine did—simply transfer the thickened base to a plastic container with a good lid. Drizzle the peanut butter over the top and marble with a knife. Cover and freeze for 3-4 hours.

View the original post at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.

EASY SEMI-SWEET HOT FUDGE SAUCE
by Janet Bolin (Threadville Mysteries)

Janet_Bolin_hot_fudge_sauce_1DIRECTIONS
In a microwaveable dish, combine:

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons of cold water—added two at a time and stirred after each addition

Stir to create a thickish paste. Add:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Cover the dish and heat in your microwave oven for approximately 2 minutes on a medium/low to medium setting.
Stir to completely melt the butter and blend it into the paste (which will now resemble a sauce!)
Cool slightly.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
If necessary, reheat (gently) before drizzling the sauce on ice cream.

Hints: The rules for making fudge sauce are similar to the rules for making candy. For best results, make your sauce on a non-humid, non-rainy day. Cooking the sauce longer makes it (or the candy) harder. Don’t beat the sauce. Stir it gently to prevent it from becoming sugary. But don’t worry if it does separate. It will still taste good…

Make it in small batches—each time you reheat the sauce, you risk causing it to separate or turn into something resembling chocolate chips (which, as I said, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

View the original post at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 11:06

icecreamdonut3Who says you can't have your ice-cream donut sandwich and eat it too?

2013 Arthur Ellis Awards Announced
Oline Cogdill

arthurellisaward_crimewriterscanada
The Crime Writers of Canada
has announced the winners of the 30th presentation of the Arthur Ellis Awards. The awards are named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman. (I think the award is darn cool.)

For a complete list of the nominees, please visit my previous blog.

Mystery Scene sends our congratulations to all!

Best First Novel:
The Haunting of Maddy Clare, by Simone St. James (NAL)

Best Novel:
Until the Night, by Giles Blunt (Random House Canada)

Best Novella:
Contingency Plan, by Lou Allin (Orca Rapid Reads)

Best Short Story:
“Spring-blade Knife,” by Yasuko Thanh (from Floating Like the Dead, McClelland & Stewart)

Best Non-fiction:
The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room, by Steve Lillebuen

Best Juvenile/Young Adult:
Becoming Holmes, by Shane Peacock (Tundra)

Best Crime Book in French:
La Nuit des albinos: Sur les traces de Max O’Brien, by Mario Bolduc (Libre Expression)

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel (“The Unhanged Arthur”):
Sins Revisited, by Coleen Steele

Oline Cogdill
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 03:06

arthurellisaward_crimewriterscanada
The Crime Writers of Canada
has announced the winners of the 30th presentation of the Arthur Ellis Awards. The awards are named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman. (I think the award is darn cool.)

For a complete list of the nominees, please visit my previous blog.

Mystery Scene sends our congratulations to all!

Best First Novel:
The Haunting of Maddy Clare, by Simone St. James (NAL)

Best Novel:
Until the Night, by Giles Blunt (Random House Canada)

Best Novella:
Contingency Plan, by Lou Allin (Orca Rapid Reads)

Best Short Story:
“Spring-blade Knife,” by Yasuko Thanh (from Floating Like the Dead, McClelland & Stewart)

Best Non-fiction:
The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room, by Steve Lillebuen

Best Juvenile/Young Adult:
Becoming Holmes, by Shane Peacock (Tundra)

Best Crime Book in French:
La Nuit des albinos: Sur les traces de Max O’Brien, by Mario Bolduc (Libre Expression)

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel (“The Unhanged Arthur”):
Sins Revisited, by Coleen Steele

Eyewitness: Beautiful Losers
Kevin Burton Smith

Hickey__Boggs_culp_robert_hickeyA slap in the face to notions of what film noir is supposed to be.


Robert Culp in the sadly neglected noir gem Hickey & Boggs (1972), which he both directed and starred in. Photo courtesy of United Artists.

Actor Robert Culp passed away in March and the tributes were immediate and heartfelt. Culp was, by all accounts, that rarest of Hollywood items: a genuinely nice guy. It helped, of course, that he's best remembered for his role as the amiable, dashing tennis pro/secret agent Kelly Robinson in I Spy, the 1960s TV show. Culp and co-star Bill Cosby, who posed as Culp's "trainer" (and cracked television's prime-time drama color barrier along the way), played two suave, wisecracking, globetrotting doofuses who somehow managed to save the world on a regular basis. Culp made numerous other appearances over his long career on television, many of them crime-related, including a starring role as the driven Texas Ranger in Trackdown (1957-59), and guest spots on everything from 87th Precinct and Cain's Hundred to Diagnosis: Murder and Columbo.

But for my money, Culp's greatest achievement was Hickey & Boggs, an obscure but deliciously nasty little film noir from 1972. Culp not only starred in it (along with Cosby) but also directed it, based on a screenplay by rookie screenwriter Walter Hill. Frank Boggs (Culp) and Al Hickey (Cosby) are two small-time Los Angeles private eyes in an almost complete role reversal of their beloved TV personas. Gone are the aw-shucks idealism and glib heroism of I Spy (and, indeed, of much private-eye fiction of the time), replaced by a dark brew of rage, cynicism, and almost crippling impotence (Culp laments, variously, that he needs a better car, a bigger house, and, tellingly, a bigger gun). They're burnouts, losers barely there for themselves, never mind each other, latching onto one last case: Find a lawyer's missing girlfriend. But what seems like a fairly routine job soon descends into a morass of lies and deceit and brutal violence involving Chicano radicals, bank-robbery loot, black activists, and the mob. Even as bitter, alcoholic Boggs swears they must "try to even it up, make it right," there's the sinking feeling that nothing he or Hickey do will make much difference. Outmaneuvered, outnumbered, and outgunned, the two are less catalysts than bystanders; pawns whose ability to survive may be more a consequence of their own unimportance than anything else.

hickey-and-boggs-movie-posterBut the film not only subverts the inherent romance of much PI fiction; it's also pretty much a slap in the face to the notions of what film noir is supposed to be. Gone are the crowded and claustrophobic play of light and shadows so beloved of classic film noir; instead much of Hickey and Boggs is played out in light-bleached emptiness: deserted stadiums and parking lots, desolate beaches, and the wide-open (and eerily deserted) city streets of Los Angeles.

Culp's low-key direction is deft and spot-on, and the film remains, even now, powerful and unsettling. Perhaps too unsettling—the film is almost forgotten these days and rarely seen on television. A possibly bootlegged DVD release from a few years ago, a grainy blurry mess, quietly appeared and then even more quietly disappeared, and there seem to be no plans to re-release it.

Why it remains unreleased or obscure is a mystery. Too bleak, too vicious? Or did it just conflict with Cosby's subsequent career as a family-friendly comedian and pitchman? Still, never say never. iTunes currently has an excellent and clear-cut transfer of the film available to rent or download.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #115.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 06 June 2013 01:06

Hickey__Boggs_culp_robert_hickeyA slap in the face to notions of what film noir is supposed to be.

Ed Gorman on the Care and Feeding of Forgotten Writers
Ed Gorman

williams_charlesThe crime field’s past is rich with memorable works both long and short; I’m always surprised that some mystery readers have no interest in it.


Gold Medal author Charles Williams. Photo courtesy of Mysterious Press.


On my blog, New Improved Gorman, I probably review as many old books as I do new ones. I have nothing against contemporary writers. This is indisputably the true Golden Age of crime fiction. So many, many contemporary writers have taken the traditions and tropes of our field and turned them into rich, exciting new jewels. And this goes for all genres and sub-genres from hardboiled and noir to traditional and cozy.

Maybe it's my age—or the fact that I’m a sentimental fool—but I’m still fascinated by those that brought us to the dance in the first place. One example is Charles Williams. He’s probably the most discussed forgotten hardboiled writer in history. He was a master whose influence can be found in the work of three generations. I once recommended him to a young writer who said he couldn’t get past “all the '50s talk and attitudes.” By that measure we shouldn’t read anything published before 2006. If you have any interest in perhaps the finest of the Gold Medal boys (the great publisher of paperback originals) go immediately to Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press via Open Road, where you’ll find many of Williams’ books. Otto did us a great favor. Williams has been out of print for years.

holding_theblankwallElizabeth Sanxay Holding is in my top ten list of all-time finest crime writers. Raymond Chandler called her the best suspense writer of his generation. That wasn’t hyperbole. She began by writing romances but when she needed better money she started writing mysteries unlike any that had come before. Her novels are miasmas of darkness and dread. Dorothy B. Hughes certainly learned from her and her influence can be found today in both suspense and horror. She was able to mix tart social commentary (she was not exactly a fan of the wealthy) with anxiety-attack twists and turns from start to finish. Stark House Press has brought back several of her novels. The Blank Wall is her masterpiece. Chandler raved about it. You will, too.

As I mentioned, not all the readers of my blog care for my reviews of old books. I get the occasional letter saying, essentially, who cares about those old duffers when there are so many great new books and so little reading time. Fair enough, but the crime field’s past is so rich with memorable works both long and short; I’m always surprised that some mystery readers have no interest in it.

I have a friend whose 15-year-old son gets upset when his dad wants to watch a an older movie that’s in black-and-white. That silly old crap. That’s what some of my blog readers say to me. As you may have guessed, I don’t agree with them.

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" enews June 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
Friday, 07 June 2013 04:06

holding_theblankwallThe crime field’s past is so rich with memorable works both long and short that I’m always surprised that some mystery readers have no interest in it.

Florida Bound? Read a Mystery
Oline Cogdill
hiaasen_badmonkey
Each year since I have been writing this blog, I have tried to do a state by state list of mystery fiction.

Summer, after all, is the time of the family road trip, the time when that wide stretch of road reaches beyond our imagination, the time when the family in the back seat—whether they be kids or adults—reaches a pitch when you wish you actually in a mystery story.

So here is an irregular look at mystery fiction that showcases the various states. I will try to do at least one more in the next few weeks, but don't hold me to it.

I am starting with Florida. Mainly because since I live here, it is the easiest for me to write about.

Florida in the summer?

Of course.

People do brave the humidity and the threat of hurricanes to visit Florida during the summer. There are the various aspects of Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens, the Everglades and the many cruise ships leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa and Cape Canaveral.

Florida has a rich history of mystery fiction and here are some authors that will show you the intricacies of the Sunshine State. I have not listed every author, so please let us know your favorites.

Here are some novels to get you going, whether you listen to them as an audio book or read them. (Many of the descriptions come from reviews I have written.)

dorsey_riptide
Carl Hiaasen:
This satirist wields a heavy comic hand as he gives a Swiftian look at the changes in the state. No matter how over the top Hiassen’s storytelling scales, he grounds it in reality, the Florida type of reality where scams and schemes co-exist on every corner. Bad Monkey, Hiaasen’s latest, centers on Andrew Yancy, a former Miami cop and soon to be former Monroe County sheriff’s deputy, who can’t turn off those cop instincts when he thinks there’s something very fishy about a man’s arm that turns up on the end of a tourist’s fishing line. Bad Monkey is Hiaasen’s 13th novel. Bad Monkey starts in the Keys, travels to Miami and ends up in the Caribbean.

Tim Dorsey: Tim Dorsey’s novels will never be accused of offering sophisticated humor as does Hiaasen. Nor will Dorsey’s novels will never be mistaken for works of art. He has taken what is essentially a gimmick—a serial killer so enamored with Florida that he attacks those who don’t share his passion, or are just rude—and lathered it with broad, slapstick humor and made it work. Series “hero” Serge A. Storms never changes, never grows, but has amassed a solid following that continue with The Riptide Ultra-Glide, the 16th in the Tampa author’s series. Dorsey’s novels feature all of Florida.

Elaine Viets: Viets’ Helen Hawthorne novels cover the Fort Lauderdale area as Helen takes a series of low-paying jobs that have kept her off the grid. Viets uses real restaurants, hotels and stores to give her novels a dose of reality. In Board Stiff, her 12th outing with Helen, Viets delivers a unique look at South Florida’s tourism industry – not from the viewpoint of the big hotels or upscale restaurants but from the small beach-front companies that are the lifeblood of tourism. Although she uses a fictional town in Board Stiff, Viets perfectly captures the attitude and flavor of a Florida beach, from the tackier than ever T-shirt shops to the causal cafes.

viets_boardstiff
Randy Wayne White:
White owns the Gulf coast with his Doc Ford novels set at Dinkn’s Bay in Sanibel Island. In Night Moves, White takes one of Florida’s most iconic historical mysteries – the 1945 disappearance of Flight 19 that sparked rumors of the Bermuda Triangle – and turns it into a tailor-made story for his own icon, “Doc” Ford in the 20th novel in this series. Although he’s a reluctant sleuth at first, Flight 19 soon becomes the kind of mystery that allows Ford to use all aspects of his background as a marine biologist, a committed ecologist and, oh yeah, his “shadow” role as a government agent.

James W. Hall: The prolific Hall is the heir apparent to John D. MacDonald with his Thorn novels set in the Keys. One of my favorite Hall novels is Magic City, which came out in 2007. In Magic City, Hall uses a “random snapshot taken at a cosmically inappropriate split second” illustrating a historical event. This “unsparing” black and white photograph puts in focus the time when Miami was on the cusp of changing, when Florida was emerging and when race relations in America were evolving. By the end of the potent Magic City, extended families, new families and old families will have disintegrated because of this photograph. The photograph that sets off the action in Magic City was taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston heavyweight-championship fight in Miami. 1964 was a heady time for Miami when the fight, visits from the Beatles, famous actors and politicians made the city “the center of the universe.” But it’s not the shot of Clay’s winning punch that causes an uproar, but rather who’s in the audience.

John D. MacDonald: No list of Florida mysteries would be complete without at least a mention of MacDonald and Travis McGee, self-described beach bum and salvage expert. Random House is republishing all 70 of John D. MacDonald’s novels both in trade paperback and ebook. Much has changed in the genre since the Harvard educated MacDonald introduced Travis McGee in 1964’s The Deep Blue Goodbye. But The Deep Blue Goodbye launched themes that reverberate today, through the works of not just Florida writers but all mystery writers. Travis McGee cared very much about the environment, overdevelopment and the political infrastructure that punished the poor and made the wealthy richer.

Lawrence Shames: Although Shames is no longer writing mysteries, his comic novels brought retired mafia to the Key West, complete with old grudges and little dogs.

Barbara Parker: The late Barbara Parker’s novels in her “Suspicion” series were about Miami lawyers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. The series illustrated the changing landscape of South Florida, contrasting long-time Miami residents with the influence of Cuban-Americans. At least two of Parker’s novels landed on the New York Times Best-Sellers List.

Jonathon King: King’s Max Freeman novels traveled deep into the Everglades to give “the River of Grass” a new view.

Charles Willeford: Willeford wrote in 1984 about a Miami Beach that was clearly changing, reflected in his unusual protagonist. Hoke Moseley was a detective with badly fitted dentures who lived in a run-down Art Deco hotel on the verge of being condemned to make way for the development that would become South Beach. Moseley wasn’t comfortable with the changes in Miami or with his new savvy partner, a Cuban-American woman. But mostly Moseley wasn't comfortable with himself.

Other Florida authors to check out include Edna Buchanan, Paul Levine, Christine Kling, James O. Born, Tom Corcoran, James Grippando, Mary Anna Evans, Stuart Kaminsky, Stuart Woods, Glynn Marsh Alam, Nancy J. Cohen, and Jeff Lindsay.

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 08 June 2013 03:06
hiaasen_badmonkey
Each year since I have been writing this blog, I have tried to do a state by state list of mystery fiction.

Summer, after all, is the time of the family road trip, the time when that wide stretch of road reaches beyond our imagination, the time when the family in the back seat—whether they be kids or adults—reaches a pitch when you wish you actually in a mystery story.

So here is an irregular look at mystery fiction that showcases the various states. I will try to do at least one more in the next few weeks, but don't hold me to it.

I am starting with Florida. Mainly because since I live here, it is the easiest for me to write about.

Florida in the summer?

Of course.

People do brave the humidity and the threat of hurricanes to visit Florida during the summer. There are the various aspects of Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens, the Everglades and the many cruise ships leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa and Cape Canaveral.

Florida has a rich history of mystery fiction and here are some authors that will show you the intricacies of the Sunshine State. I have not listed every author, so please let us know your favorites.

Here are some novels to get you going, whether you listen to them as an audio book or read them. (Many of the descriptions come from reviews I have written.)

dorsey_riptide
Carl Hiaasen:
This satirist wields a heavy comic hand as he gives a Swiftian look at the changes in the state. No matter how over the top Hiassen’s storytelling scales, he grounds it in reality, the Florida type of reality where scams and schemes co-exist on every corner. Bad Monkey, Hiaasen’s latest, centers on Andrew Yancy, a former Miami cop and soon to be former Monroe County sheriff’s deputy, who can’t turn off those cop instincts when he thinks there’s something very fishy about a man’s arm that turns up on the end of a tourist’s fishing line. Bad Monkey is Hiaasen’s 13th novel. Bad Monkey starts in the Keys, travels to Miami and ends up in the Caribbean.

Tim Dorsey: Tim Dorsey’s novels will never be accused of offering sophisticated humor as does Hiaasen. Nor will Dorsey’s novels will never be mistaken for works of art. He has taken what is essentially a gimmick—a serial killer so enamored with Florida that he attacks those who don’t share his passion, or are just rude—and lathered it with broad, slapstick humor and made it work. Series “hero” Serge A. Storms never changes, never grows, but has amassed a solid following that continue with The Riptide Ultra-Glide, the 16th in the Tampa author’s series. Dorsey’s novels feature all of Florida.

Elaine Viets: Viets’ Helen Hawthorne novels cover the Fort Lauderdale area as Helen takes a series of low-paying jobs that have kept her off the grid. Viets uses real restaurants, hotels and stores to give her novels a dose of reality. In Board Stiff, her 12th outing with Helen, Viets delivers a unique look at South Florida’s tourism industry – not from the viewpoint of the big hotels or upscale restaurants but from the small beach-front companies that are the lifeblood of tourism. Although she uses a fictional town in Board Stiff, Viets perfectly captures the attitude and flavor of a Florida beach, from the tackier than ever T-shirt shops to the causal cafes.

viets_boardstiff
Randy Wayne White:
White owns the Gulf coast with his Doc Ford novels set at Dinkn’s Bay in Sanibel Island. In Night Moves, White takes one of Florida’s most iconic historical mysteries – the 1945 disappearance of Flight 19 that sparked rumors of the Bermuda Triangle – and turns it into a tailor-made story for his own icon, “Doc” Ford in the 20th novel in this series. Although he’s a reluctant sleuth at first, Flight 19 soon becomes the kind of mystery that allows Ford to use all aspects of his background as a marine biologist, a committed ecologist and, oh yeah, his “shadow” role as a government agent.

James W. Hall: The prolific Hall is the heir apparent to John D. MacDonald with his Thorn novels set in the Keys. One of my favorite Hall novels is Magic City, which came out in 2007. In Magic City, Hall uses a “random snapshot taken at a cosmically inappropriate split second” illustrating a historical event. This “unsparing” black and white photograph puts in focus the time when Miami was on the cusp of changing, when Florida was emerging and when race relations in America were evolving. By the end of the potent Magic City, extended families, new families and old families will have disintegrated because of this photograph. The photograph that sets off the action in Magic City was taken during the 1964 Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston heavyweight-championship fight in Miami. 1964 was a heady time for Miami when the fight, visits from the Beatles, famous actors and politicians made the city “the center of the universe.” But it’s not the shot of Clay’s winning punch that causes an uproar, but rather who’s in the audience.

John D. MacDonald: No list of Florida mysteries would be complete without at least a mention of MacDonald and Travis McGee, self-described beach bum and salvage expert. Random House is republishing all 70 of John D. MacDonald’s novels both in trade paperback and ebook. Much has changed in the genre since the Harvard educated MacDonald introduced Travis McGee in 1964’s The Deep Blue Goodbye. But The Deep Blue Goodbye launched themes that reverberate today, through the works of not just Florida writers but all mystery writers. Travis McGee cared very much about the environment, overdevelopment and the political infrastructure that punished the poor and made the wealthy richer.

Lawrence Shames: Although Shames is no longer writing mysteries, his comic novels brought retired mafia to the Key West, complete with old grudges and little dogs.

Barbara Parker: The late Barbara Parker’s novels in her “Suspicion” series were about Miami lawyers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. The series illustrated the changing landscape of South Florida, contrasting long-time Miami residents with the influence of Cuban-Americans. At least two of Parker’s novels landed on the New York Times Best-Sellers List.

Jonathon King: King’s Max Freeman novels traveled deep into the Everglades to give “the River of Grass” a new view.

Charles Willeford: Willeford wrote in 1984 about a Miami Beach that was clearly changing, reflected in his unusual protagonist. Hoke Moseley was a detective with badly fitted dentures who lived in a run-down Art Deco hotel on the verge of being condemned to make way for the development that would become South Beach. Moseley wasn’t comfortable with the changes in Miami or with his new savvy partner, a Cuban-American woman. But mostly Moseley wasn't comfortable with himself.

Other Florida authors to check out include Edna Buchanan, Paul Levine, Christine Kling, James O. Born, Tom Corcoran, James Grippando, Mary Anna Evans, Stuart Kaminsky, Stuart Woods, Glynn Marsh Alam, Nancy J. Cohen, and Jeff Lindsay.

The Magnificent Brain of Alvin Fernald, Clifford B. Hicks' Charming Kid Crime-Solver
Steven Nester

geer_marvelousinventionspg39“What my mind can conceive, I can achieve."
—Alvin Fernald’s motto


Illustration by Charles Geer from The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald, Purple House Press, 2006.

Many kids have literary pals, favorite characters they emulate and revisit. Nancy Drew turned some readers into crafty manipulators while Jim Hawkins compelled others to dig up their backyards in search of treasure. These books, and others like them, succeed because young readers connect so strongly with the characters. Alvin Fernald, detective and inventor, is one of these characters. “What my mind can conceive, I can achieve,” he declares in The Wacky World of Alvin Fernald. Kids who read his adventures took it as their motto. I know I did.

The creation of writer and editor Clifford B. Hicks, Alvin Fernald starred in a series of nine books between 1960 and 1986, and last year Hicks wrote the tenth installment, Alvin Fernald’s Incredible Buried Treasure. The now 90-year-old Hicks, a veteran of WWII and the Marine Corps, built a career as a writer and an editor at Popular Mechanics before his retirement some years ago. He said he wrote the new book to combat boredom and the sedentary life forced on him by two strokes and a heart attack.

Throughout the series, Alvin Fernald invents and sleuths his way along as a secret agent, cryptographer, TV anchorman, pollution fighter, and master of disguises. His sidekick, Wilfred (“Shoie”) Shoemaker, is an amiable jock and the best athlete at Roosevelt High. Fernald’s kid sister Daphne is dubbed “The Pest” and is a perpetual tagalong who sometimes comes in handy. In the first book of the series, The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald, Alvin, Shoie, and Daphne rescue an elderly woman who is being held captive by an evil nephew, and it’s Alvin’s detective ability and his creative inventions that make the happy ending possible.

hicks_clifford_rghHe begins by inventing his “Sure Shot Paper Slinger,” a contrivance to lighten the load of his morning paper route, made from a broom handle, an inner-tube rubber, two screen-door springs, and a tube made of cardboard. Then, in just over 100 pages, he invents an Electric Periscope, a Supersecret Eavesdropper, a One-Jerk Bed Maker, a Jet-Powered Message Carrier, and an Automatic Mantrap—all from what he finds around the house and in his workshop. The appeal to preteen tinkerers is obvious, and a little Alvin is evident in Hicks’ personality, as well.

Author Clifford B. Hicks (right), who passed away
in 2010, with wife, Rachel.

There have been many young-adult adventure series published from the turn of the century to now, but up to and through the early 1960s, the Stratemeyer Syndicate juggernaut, with its ever-updated incarnations of Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew, ruled the earth. The adventures of the Swift series in particular was just what kids at the beginning of the space and technology age craved, except for one thing. When it came time for the reader to take something from the books and apply it in the real world, there was a large technology gap between Tom Swift’s laboratory and what was available in dad’s home workshop. There was no such problem with Alvin’s ingenious use of everyday materials. His self-proclaimed “magnificent brain” made him a sleuthing amalgam of Thomas Edison and MacGyver.

There was nothing flashy about Alvin. A regular kid in sneakers and jeans from Riverton, Indiana, he possessed a pluckiness and determination that was very attractive to preteen and young adolescent readers. While the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift competed in the adult world, in effect urging readers to grow up and join them, some young readers with healthy imaginations preferred to remain what they were—kids. They wanted to interact in the adult world but on their own terms. Alvin’s adventures satisfied these practical types by combining strong plots, reasonably realistic settings, and ingenious uses for easily obtainable old machine gears and other scraps gathering dust in a basement or garage.

hicks_marvinventionscvr_color_copyEncyclopedia Brown, another young detective who started his career a few years after Alvin, possessed stone-cold deductive skills that were second to none, but he also had the personality of a Univac vacuum-tube computer. There was little for a kid to emulate, especially when his detecting skill was a result of reading the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Many kids, no matter how curious, weren’t going to spend time working their way through thousands of pages of an encyclopedia when there were things to invent.

Hicks attributes the staying power of his series to the fact that “kids today like the same things they did a generation ago.” Five of the books are in print, and the series is still in circulation in many libraries.

Lest any skeptic think that only the nostalgia of baby boomers keeps the series alive, the library tells a different story. Children’s Librarian Kelli Phelan of McKinney, Texas, says that in the competitive world of preteen and juvenile fiction, the Fernald series remains in demand. Any book that’s checked out two or three times a year is great, she says, and the Fernald books do better than that. “Any book that lets a kid use his imagination is going to be popular, as is any book that lets the kids be the hero, because it makes them feel empowered,” she says.

“I worked at Popular Mechanics when the Russians shot Sputnik into space and there was a great deal of worry about that,” says Hicks. “Then I wrote a book called First Boy on the Moon and the publisher was agreeable to any other approach. I was writing to make Popular Mechanics a resource for inventors and thought I could use that background to write a boy into adventures and back out again.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only boy who repaired to a basement or attic laboratory after reading Alvin Fernald. In my parent’s attic, dusty and scattered with old electric motors, an Erector Set, magnets, test tubes, and my sister’s depleted Gilbert Chemistry Lab, I was determined to see what I could invent. I did take a tiny battery-powered electric motor and nail it to my brother’s skateboard; it propelled me down the driveway until the motor seized. Also under the influence of Alvin I constructed a spear gun using an enormous rubber band, an expandable curtain rod, and a length of dowel wood for the spear. My fifth grade teacher approved it as a prop in our school play, and it functioned so well that everybody in class tried to shoot somebody else with it until the teacher locked it up. Finally, when I realized that I liked the idea of inventing more than inventing itself, I quit, but I continued to enjoy the books.

hicks_af_buriedAnd now there is a new book. Alvin Fernald’s Incredible Buried Treasure involves both sleuthing and inventing, and author Hicks mostly leaves the Fernald characters and setting unchanged. One small concession to the passage of 23 years since the previous book is Daphne’s interest in yoga. Another such concession is larger and an integral part of the plot; but don’t sweat it, there are no computers or cell phones or anything digital here.

The mystery in Alvin Fernald’s Incredible Buried Treasure is a search for a cache of priceless cultural artifacts gathered by a runaway slave named Caleb well over a hundred years ago. Befriended by Lincoln and a resident in the White House for several years until the President’s assassination, Caleb grew close to the Lincoln family, and kept a diary of their relationship. Caleb eventually became a printer and settled in Riverton, Indiana. A dealer in antiquities comes upon the diary and asks Alvin to help him decode clues to the whereabouts of the priceless historical documents Caleb describes. And that’s as far as I’ll take you into the latest book.

Jill Morgan of Purple House Press, the publisher of the new book, says she’s also reissued The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald because she’s a longtime fan. According to Morgan, the factors that keep Alvin Fernald alive are a combination of things. “Most people say they want the books for themselves,” she says, “And if they have children they hope the books become special to them as well. I wanted to pass on my favorite stories to my kids.” Bethlehem Books has also reissued three titles, among them Alvin’s Secret Code, one of the most popular books in the series.

With the publication of Alvin Fernald’s Incredible Buried Treasure, a chance for new fans to meet Alvin, and for older ones to reacquaint themselves with him, has arrived. It’s time to get workshops organized, and to replenish the inventing bench with visits to the hardware store or by helping a neighbor clean out the garage. Ask a son or daughter to help—Alvin Fernald rides again, and the entire family can get involved.

A CLIFFORD B. HICKS READING LIST

The Alvin Fernald Novels
The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald (1960)
Alvin's Secret Code (1963)
Alvin Fernald, Foreign Trader (1966)
Alvin Fernald, Mayor for a Day (1970)
Alvin Fernald, Superweasel (1974)
Alvin's Swap Shop (1976)
Alvin Fernald, TV Anchorman (1980)
The Wacky World of Alvin Fernald (1981)
Alvin Fernald, Master of a Thousand Disguises (1986)
Alvin Fernald's Incredible Buried Treasure (2009)

Steven Nester is an educator, freelance writer, and radio host whose mystery author interview show, Poets of the Tabloid Murder, can be heard at Public Radio Exchange and on KRTS Marfa Public Radio. He lives in McKinney, Texas.

This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Summer Issue #115.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 10:06

hicks_marvinventionscvr_color_copy“What my mind can conceive, I can achieve."
—Alvin Fernald’s motto