While the mystery genre has a number of well-respected awards, there’s always room for one more, especially when it comes from such a group with a tradition of honoring excellence.
The Women's National Book Association of New Orleans is establishing two prizes for crime fiction to honor the late Diana Pinckley, longtime director of university relations at Tulane University and founder of communications firm Pinckley Inc.
Pinckley also was a long-time supporter of mystery fiction and wrote the "Get a Clue!," column about crime fiction, in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, for more than 23 years.
Pinckley also was a founding member of Women's National Book Association of New Orleans, which began in 2011.
The Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel will honor a debut novelist in adult crime fiction, and the Pinckley Prize for Achievement in Crime Fiction will honor an established writer who has created a significant body of work.
The prizes will be presented for the first time at the 2014 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, which will be held March 19-23.
The entry forms and the website do not stipulate that the authors have to be from Louisiana nor that the novels have to be set in New Orleans or the state. But authors may want to contact the contest organizers first for more details.
The achievement award will be selected by a jury; the debut novel prize judges are accepting submissions of first novels published in 2013.
For more information, go to pinckleyprizes.org.
Historical mystery fiction often weaves in real people to add to the sense of place and time. While some authors use these historical figures as gimmicks, most authors make sure that these people have a purpose to the plot.
Susan Elia MacNeal’s vivid use of real people gives texture to her novels about Maggie Hope, a young woman who works as a “typist” for Winston Churchill during WWII.
During the course of these four novels, beginning with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary in 2012, Maggie grows from a typist, or secretary, to a spy, as in Princess Elizabeth's Spy.
In the latest novel, His Majesty’s Hope, Maggie is now an elite member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE)—a black ops organization designed to aid the British effort abroad. In this novel, Maggie is sent into Nazi-controlled Berlin where she infiltrates the highest level of German society.
MacNeal uses myriad real people, from Churchill to Hitler, in her novel, people well known to readers.
But MacNeal’s meticulously researched novels include people who may not be as well known to readers. (MacNeal is the main profile of the current issue of Mystery Scene.)
In one brief scene in His Majesty’s Hope, Alan Turing makes an appearance. His presence lasts only a page or two, but Turing provides a vital clue that adds to the plot.
Turing was a British mathematician who is considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
His research often is credited with helping the Allies win World War II. During WWII, Turing devised several techniques for breaking German ciphers, which directed the courses of German U-boats and other vital military maneuvers. This was a major turn during the war and allowed the Allies to have a much needed edge in defeating the Nazis.
Winston Churchill once proclaimed that Turing’s work in breaking the complex Nazi Enigma code may almost single-handedly turned the outcome of World War II.
After the war, Turing continued his research and, among other achievements, designed the ACE, one of the first plans for a stored-program computer.
Turing also was a gay man during an era when homosexuality was considered a crime in the United Kingdom. Despite all his achievements and work, he was prosecuted for being a homosexual in 1952.
As an alternative to prison, Turing received treatment with female hormones. Turing died in 1954 from cyanide poisoning, just a few weeks before his 42nd birthday. His death was ruled a suicide but many believed the death was accidental.
After a robust internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordan Brown made an official public apology in 2009 on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way [Turing] was treated.” About time, I’d say.
Turing has been the subject of an excellent play called Breaking the Code. I saw a superb production of this play back in 1993 with South Florida actor and theater professor Hugh Murphy.
Now Turing’s life is set to become a movie.
The Imitation Game, scheduled for 2014, will star Benedict Cumberbatch, right, as Turing.
Cumberbatch has become well-known to audiences for, among other roles, as Sherlock Holmes in the reboot of the famous detective.
Allen Leech, best known for his role of former chauffeur Tom Branson on Downton Abbey, will play a Scottish spy for the Soviets, who plots against Turing.
Keira Knightley will play a "woman from a very conservative background who not only forms a complicated relationship with Turing but is there for him until the end," according to Variety.
The ads for the new film The Family seem to come every 10 minutes on television.
For those three people who have not seen the clips from this film that opens on Sept. 13, it stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, John D'Leo and Dianna Agron (Glee) as a mafia family living under the witness protection program in France. Tommy Lee Jones is the agent trying to keep them safe.
The clips are so detailed I feel as if I have seen the movie already.
Some readers may feel as if the story is familiar, too.
Although the film clips barely acknowledge it, The Family is based on the 2010 novel Malavita, which translates to Badfellas, by award-winning French author Tonino Benacquista. Benacquista also is a co-writer of the script; The Family is directed by Luc Besson.
According to The Family’s press release, “a mafia boss and his family are relocated to a sleepy town in France under the witness protection program after snitching on the mob. Despite the best efforts to keep them in line, Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro), his wife Maggie (Pfeiffer) and their children, Belle (Agron) and Warren (John D'Leo) cannot help but revert to old habits and blow their cover by handling their problems the "family" way, enabling their former mafia cronies to track them down.”
Malavita refers to the family’s dog that accompanies De Niro’s character everywhere. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any photos of the dog in the press photos.
The Family is rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality.
Photo: Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Dianna Agron, and John D'Leo; photo courtesy Relativity Media
Laurie R. King’s novels about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are renown for her vivid re-imagining of the Holmes cannon.
These novels also are intensely linked to the time and place, beginning with the couple’s first meeting in 1915 Sussex Downs. The latest novel in this series, Garment of Shadows, finds Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes in Morocco.
(Here's a link to a profile Mystery Scene ran on Laurie R. King.)
King goes back in time again for her latest novel, The Bones of Paris, which has just been released.
The Bones of Paris, a follow up of sorts to her 2007 Touchstone, transports the reader back to 1929 Paris, a heady time during which Americans found a refuge in the City of Lights.
The Bones of Paris revolves around Harris Stuyvesant, a former agent with the American Bureau of Investigation turned private investigator. Harris is hired to find a missing American girl who was living in Paris.
The well-designed plot takes the reader through the streets of Paris.
“A dizzying panorama of rooftops: Tiles and tin, brick and timber, steeples and drying laundry; centuries of chimneypots and a narrow slice of stone magnificence in the distance. Children’s voices and taxi horns competed with a tram rattle from the rue de Rennes and a neighbor’s accordion, mournfully wading through a lively tune.”—The Bones of Paris
King adds texture and a solid sense of place to The Bones of Paris by injecting real people into the story.
Paris in 1929 had a thriving ex-pat community of artists and writers and King makes the most of these.
“The Dôme was the most American of the American-driven cafes on the boulevard Montparnasse. Every second shouting mouth bore a New York accent, and the rest were from Chicago or Jersey.”—The Bones of Paris
King uses such historical figures as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, artist Salvador Dali, and Surrealist photographer Man Ray.
“Why do so few Americans bother to learn the language? People like that Stein woman—you know her? She has been here for years, yet can scarcely order a cup of coffee.” —The Bones of Paris
These people, as well as a few others, are added to give the story texture and King uses them sparingly.
On Sylvia Beach, the owner of the wonderful bookstore Shakespeare & Co., King writes: “Sylvia Beach stood in the doorway of Shakespeare and Company, looking like a wind-blown city sparrow. She was talking to a poet. Stuyvesant knew he was a poet by the hair, not so much cut as pruned—but then, who in Montparnasse wasn't a poet? .”— The Bones of Paris
A terrific slide show of Paris is on King’s web site as is an interactive map that refers to scenes in the The Bones of Paris.
Art imitates art in the seventh of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels, as Showtime TV’s version calls its final “Cut!” in its eighth and last season. Everybody’s favorite serial killer may be severing his relationship with Hollywood on the small screen, but, on these pages, it’s just beginning.
BTN (Big Ticket Network) is in town to shoot—a pilot, that is, for a CSI rip-off that will be a make-or-break vehicle for aging ingénue Jackie Forrest and famous-on-the-verge-of-has-been Robert Chase. Chase’s role: to “shadow” Dexter. He tells Dexter, “I need to watch you, learn what you do, figure out how to be you.”
“But why?” Dexter shoots. back “Don’t you like who you are?”
Dexter could be asking himself the same question. As the cast does its ridealong research, it turns out Dexter’s “Dark Passenger” has a prime-time counterpart as well, who makes an entrance with the mutilation-murder of a pair of Jackie Forrest lookalikes. While the rest of the Miami PD appears star-struck (even Deborah grudgingly takes a shine to her shadow, Jackie), Dexter struggles with how to ditch Chase—who has become obsessed with his role model—while tracking his next worthy prey.
Then forensics retreats backstage as Dexter instead is tapped as the bodyguard for one of the stars. Room-service meals and Town-Car transport give the always hungry hunter a taste for the high life, whetted by his deepening relationship with his charge. As Dexter compares his grisly existence to the glitz, he seriously considers a change of scene.
Perhaps Dexter—who, like many celebrities, often refers to himself in the third person—relates more to the amoral actors than to his so-called peers. “After all, I had been acting my whole life, playing the part of a human being and a very nice guy, two things I certainly was not.” It is just this distraction that blunts his own killer instincts, leads to a third murder and all but destroys Dexter’s carefully crafted cover of “normalcy. “
As fans know, the books and the show diverged in characters and development long ago. What Lindsay’s prose brings that was not as easily transmitted even through HDTV is his protagonist’s nonstop point of view—the wit that masks his affectlessness and the longing to feel anything besides a scalpel between his fingers. This time out, with tongue still firmly in cheek, Lindsay also offers an insider’s look behind the seamy scenes of an industry that has long hidden its own bad behavior behind a beautifully coiffed public image. And Lindsay seems to have picked up a plotting clue or two from those teleplays, with an end-of-season cliffhanger that leaves viewers…er, readers breathlessly awaiting the next episode.