Cross Examinations: Crime in Columbus
Bill Crider

John Hegenberger’s Cross Examinations: Crime in Columbus is currently available only as an ebook. It’s a collection of four short stories, all of which have “ache” in the title. They feature a private eye named Eliot Cross in 1980s Columbus, Ohio, and the stories are traditional first-person PI stories. I liked “Neckache” especially, because of the setting, a late-80s comic-book convention, but all the stories are fast-moving fun.

Teri Duerr
2015-10-28 21:38:56
Ken Follett and the Triumph of Suspense: A Popular Writer Transcends Genre
Jon L. Breen

Ken Follett’s career, from the early pseudonymous novels to his 20th-century trilogy culminating in Edge of Eternity (2014), is discussed by the author of the earlier Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer (1999). Access to his subject’s papers, plus a decade and a half of new work, provides a wealth of new material.

An opening chapter on Whiteout (2003), a model of expert thriller construction and execution, outlines Follett’s painstaking writing methods, including research, outlining, revising, and consultations with agent and editors. Subsequent chapters recount his journalistic career, his short-lived efforts at writing series characters, and film and television work as it influenced his later writing. The discussion of his breakthrough bestseller Eye of the Needle (1978; British title Storm Island) and the books that followed recounts his stormy relationship with Arbor House editor-publisher Donald Fine, whom Follett would later sue to prevent being promoted as principal author of a nonfiction book on which he had only done a final polish. In another lawsuit, Follett defended against a groundless plagiarism claim directed at The Key to Rebecca (1980).

The nonfictional On Wings of Eagles (1983), about the rescue of two Electronic Data Systems employees from captivity in Iran, was commissioned by H. Ross Perot, with whom Follett clashed (apparently in a mostly friendly way) over the inclusion of facts and inferences that might have put the billionaire and later presidential candidate in a bad light. Follett fought to stick to his journalistic principles. A chapter on political themes, including Follett’s denunciation from the left of Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, includes some very interesting discussion of historical fiction.

Illustrated with manuscript pages and correspondence, along with photographs and book covers, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read on the career and methods of a popular novelist. If that patronizing cliché about transcending genres discourages you, ignore the subtitle and read the book.

Teri Duerr
2015-10-28 21:45:57
Never Die Alone
Hank Wagner

In Lisa Jackson’s Never Die Alone, Zoe Denning awakens under the most horrific of circumstances. Roused by dripping water, she finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings, naked and bound. Slowly, she comes to realize her twin, Chloe, is also in the dank and dismal chamber, as well as a strange man, clad only in a leather apron. The man, we later discover, has been dubbed the 21 Killer, due to his penchant for kidnapping twins on the eve of their 21st birthdays, then dispatching them at the exact time of their births.

The only ones to realize that something is wrong are the twins’ mother, Selma, and Selma’s counselor, Brianna Hayward, who runs a “twinless twins” help group. Together, they desperately seek to convince New Orleans detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya and newspaperman Jase Bridges that the girls are in imminent peril.

Immediate and visceral, Jackson’s latest is a superlative beach book, guaranteed to keep you glued to your folding chair until the sunlight fades. Especially gripping are Zoe and Chloe’s struggle to survive their ordeal, which takes the narrative in surprising directions. Although the revelations, which come toward the end of the tale, reek of deus ex machina, the book is compelling. Jackson definitely knows how to keep readers riveted.

Teri Duerr
2015-10-28 21:54:16
Laying Down the Paw
Lynne F. Maxwell

Laying Down the Paw, Diane Kelly’s third installment in her Paw Enforcement series, brings back Fort Worth, Texas police officers Megan and Brigit. The very human Megan partners with Brigit, a lovable—and willful—German shepherd K-9 officer. The Paw Enforcement books are generally clever and lighthearted, and Laying Down the Paw follows that pattern to a certain extent. Surprisingly, though, this superb book deviates from the formula, blazing new territory into more serious concerns. The book explores issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug addiction, child abuse, poverty, crime, and stereotyping. In the aftermath of a tornado, Megan and Brigit encounter a trio of young looters, one of whom pulls a weapon. One of the young men, though, defuses the situation so that violence does not ensue. He even gives Brigit some of his stolen beef jerky. When this young man is suspected of murder and burglary, Megan doesn’t believe that he is the culprit. In the end, he behaves in heroic fashion and earns a happy ending. Complex and touching, Laying Down the Paw has a heart the size of Texas.

Teri Duerr
2015-10-28 21:57:55
Robin Burcell Continues Others' Series

burcell robinBy OLINE H. COGDILL

Robin Burcell’s more than 30 years in law enforcement have given her 10 novels an authenticity that has won her fans and awards.

Burcell is now embarking on a new chapter in her career—of continuing established series.

She will be co-writing Clive Cussler’s Fargo series about husband and wife treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo. Currently, the action/adventure series has seven novels and Burcell is working on the eighth, still untitled installment that is expected to be out in September 2016.

But that’s not all.

Burcell also will be continuing the late Carolyn Weston’s series about homicide detectives Al Krug and Casey Kellog, who worked for the Santa Monica, California, police.

Weston’s novel Poor, Poor Ophelia was adapted into the 1972 pilot film for ABC’s The Streets of San Francisco, which starred Michael Douglas and Karl Malden.

While Weston’s work is no longer in print, Brash Books, an independent publisher, has come to the rescue.

Brash Books has acquired the rights to the Krug/Kellog novels from her heirs and has reissued Weston’s three novels in this series during the past year.

Brash also has signed Burcell to write new novels in the Krug and Kellog series. The first one, The Last Good Place, is due out in November and will find the detectives truly on those streets of San Francisco.

burcellrobin lastgoodplace
The experience of working on the Cussler and the Weston series was “two different processes,” she said.

“Working on the Weston novels, I knew I’d have to meld her original characters with modern-day policing, while trying to keep them true to how she envisioned them,” she told Mystery Scene in an email.

“I thought it would be easy to bring the stories to present day. All I needed to do was read her three books and voila! I’d have the gist. But not so. I found it to be much harder, because so much has changed in policing since then, and I can’t exactly ask anyone if I have any questions,” she said.

“Working with Clive Cussler is a much different experience,” she added.

“There are seven Fargo books that came before, so there’s a lot more history to draw from while writing the main characters of Sam and Remi Fargo. The trick—if you can call it that—is keeping my writing in line with the Cussler brand.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill. Not only in the previous Fargo writers who came before me, but in working with Clive himself and making sure that I embrace his particular style of action and adventure. The beauty about working with him is that there’s instant feedback if I don’t get it right or have any questions. He’s just an email or phone call away.”

Burcell’s law enforcement career includes work as a police officer, hostage negotiator, and a detective, investigating sexual assault, child abuse, crimes against persons, crimes against property (burglaries, thefts, embezzlements), and welfare fraud.

She has testified as an expert in the fields of forensic art, fingerprints, and child abuse. An FBI Academy-trained forensic artist, her drawings have been used to solve a number of crimes, including homicides, bank robberies, and hate crimes, and she was called upon by the various Valley law enforcement entities, including the FBI, for this skill.

Burcell says she also plans to continue her own series. Incidentally, Burcell is one of those extremely nice authors who always seems to have time to talk with her readers during mystery conferences.

Oline Cogdill
2015-10-29 00:16:36
25 Years of Kay Scarpetta

cornwell patricia
By OLINE H. COGDILL

Twenty-five years can go by in the blink of an eye.

So it was a shock to find out that this year is the 25th anniversary of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta character.

When Post Mortem hit the bookstores in 1990, it was a revelation. Here was a story about a medical examiner that was unflinching in its descriptions about what goes on in the autopsy room.

As the medical examiner of Richmond, Virginia, Scarpetta took readers where they had not gone before, showing how the evidence that a medical examiner can uncover may change an investigation. In many ways, she helped launch a fascination with forensic research.

There is no question that Scarpetta was a groundbreaker.

She was on the scene first—before there were the television series CSI, NCIS, and all the others.

Cornwell’s early novels were a revelation—well plotted, with unusual characters and a lesson in science and forensics for readers.

cornwellpatricia depravedheart
Even those readers who didn’t think they cared about science learned how a lot. And came back for more, novel after novel.

Cornwell also has used her success for science.

She has co-founded the Conservation Scientist Chair at the Harvard University Art Museums, and serves as a member of Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council, where she advocates for psychiatric research. She’s helped fund the ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the scientific study of a Confederate submarine, the archaeological excavation of Jamestown, and a variety of law enforcement charities. Cornwell also has helped fund scholarships and literacy programs.

Depraved Heart, Cornwell’s 23rd novel in her Scarpetta series, is now out.

The plot touches on the suspicious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, and videos from a relative’s past that threaten Scarpetta’s personal life.

Oline Cogdill
2015-10-31 02:10:00
Charlaine Harris Back on TV

by Oline H. Cogdill

harris charlaine2015
Charlaine Harris
’ Sookie Stackhouse novels made a smooth transition to television in the uber-sexy HBO series True Blood.

This vampire series with its Southern Gothic approach not only benefited from the terrific source material from Harris but also from the leadership of executive producer Alan Ball, an Emmy winner for his HBO series Six Feet Under and an Oscar winner for the screenplay of the 1999 film American Beauty.

And it was a killer cast with Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton and a slew of other actors who understood the story and brought it every week.

True Blood also intelligently paralleled real-world problems such as religious and racial intolerance.

But True Blood’s TV run is over—going out on a high note after seven seasons—and Harris also ended her series, again leaving on a high note.

On to new work.

NBC is developing a drama for fall 2016 that will be based on Harris’ best-selling Midnight, Texas series, which focuses on a town in the Lone Star state in which humans and the supernatural co-exist.

And naturally, everyone has a secret.

Harris’ novels in this series are Midnight Crossroad and Day Shift. Night Shift will be published in spring 2016.

harrischarlaine dayshift
Midnight’s residents include a phone psychic, an assassin, and a vampire, among others. As in her Stackhouse novels, Harris’ novels featured plenty of humor, mystery, and, of course, the paranormal.

If NBC greenlights the series, it will be called Midnight, Texas.

According to NBC, the series will be written/executive produced by Monica Owusu-Breen (Lost) and executive produced by David Janollari (Six Feet Under).

"I'm excited by the prospect of being on network television. The journey from my book to the product on the screen is always interesting," said Harris in an email to Mystery Scene.

Harris’ work translates well to television.

Two of her novels about librarian and mystery maven Aurora Teagarden aired this year on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Candace Cameron Bure (Full House) starred as Aurora and the two movies were terrific. I hope there will be more.

And if network executives want another fresh, original series, I hope they will take a look at Harris’ Shakespeare series.

Her five Lily Bard novels, beginning with Shakespeare’s Landlord (1996), focused on a character who was the survivor of a horrific crime. As a result, Lily had chosen a solitary life and was confrontational and obsessed with self defense. Despite a first-rate education, Lily preferred to eke out a living as a cleaning woman.

I loved those novels, and they could translate so well to cable or network TV, or Netflix.

Meanwhile, I am rooting for multiple visits to Midnight, Texas.

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-07 02:10:00
Agatha Christie’s "Mousetrap" Endures

by Oline H. Cogdill

mousetrap christiemaltz
There is a reason why Agatha Christie is still revered by readers generations after her death, and why one of the most prestigious mystery awards is called the Agatha.

Dame Christie is one of the toughest plotters in the mystery genre.

In addition to her novels, Christie also has translated well to film.

Certainly the TV films and series based on the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot novels have been wonderful. The BBC version of Tommy and Tuppence has received terrific reviews.

And films based on her novels are also among my favorites, including Murder on the Orient Express, Evil Under the Sun, Death on the Nile, Appointment With Death, and, of course, Witness for the Prosecution.

These films captured Christie’s clear-eyed look at the differences between the classes, at the often foolishness of the uber wealthy, and even her wry humor.

And then there is the play The Mousetrap, which opened in London’s West End during 1952 and has the longest initial run of any play in history, as well as the longest running show (of any type) of the modern era. Its 25,000th performance was on November 18, 2012. Of course, it has a twist ending that audiences are asked not to reveal to others.

And when I first saw The Mousetrap in London, I was totally bored.

Maybe it was because the cast had been doing the play for so long that their energy was down. Maybe it was the monotone delivery that most of the actors had. Maybe it was because it was the first play during our week of mega-theater-going (at least one, often two plays a day and one day of three plays).

I felt we had to see The Mousetrap since it was an icon—like seeing Buckingham Palace or visiting Harrods.

I remember falling asleep quite soon into The Mousetrap, waking up a couple of times only to observe that just about everyone else in the theater was asleep.

But I have now changed my mind about The Mousetrap, thanks to an excellent production I recently saw at the Maltz Theatre in Jupiter, Florida.

The Maltz production got what Christie was trying to do with this basically locked-room tale.

The production played the melodramatic parts straight, making them work, and also got the humor that Christie often added.

Christie often would weave in social issues into her work, especially in regards to the treatment of children. For once, this came through to me in the production.

The professional actors, most of whom live in South Florida, also elevated Maltz’s production of The Mousetrap, including Barbara Bradshaw, Katherine Amadeo, and Barry Tarallo.

For a full review on The Mousetrap at the Maltz, visit Florida Theater on Stage.

While I have always been a fan of Agatha Christie, I have changed my mind about The Mousetrap and now see the value to this play.

Photo: Katherine Amadeo and Richard Iverson in the Maltz Theatre production of The Mousetrap. Photos courtesy Maltz

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-03 17:50:00
Honoring the Novella and Rex Stout

by Oline H. Cogdill

Stout Rex 1975 viking
I adore short stories. While novels have the luxury of space, short stories are intricate snapshots that must pack in character development, an intense plot, and a sense of place in such a small framework.

I feel the same way about the novella and am glad to see authors keeping this art form alive.

One of the ways the novella is honored is with the Black Orchid Novella Award (BONA), which is given out each year in December by the Wolfe Pack, which promotes the 73 Nero Wolfe books and novellas written by Rex Stout, left, in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

This year’s award will be given out during the 38th Annual Black Orchid Weekend on December 4, 5, and 6, 2015, at two different venues in New York City.

In addition to the awards, the weekend will include Stout’s 1969 interview on The Dick Cavett Show and his 1956 appearance on the TV anthology series Omnibus, as well as an excerpt from the first episode of the most recent TV adaptation of the Nero Wolfe corpus—the 2012 Italian version of Fer-de-Lance (in Italian, with English subtitles).

For more information, visit http://www.nerowolfe.org/index.htm.

The Black Orchid Novella Award celebrates the literary tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. The Black Orchid Novella Award is awarded to the best previously unpublished novella each year. The winner gets $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Entries should not contain overt sex or violence, nor include characters from the original series, but should emphasize the deductive skills of the sleuth.
And 2016 will be the 10th anniversary of the Black Orchid Novella Award.

I am starting to see a rise in the number of novellas published, and Stout, who popularized the form, remains on the list of must-reads.

“Many of Stout’s novellas have been issued as “three-fers,” three novellas in one book,” said Jane Cleland, long-term Wolfe Pack member and chair of the award. Cleland is the author of the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries.

And don’t think of a novella as just a long short story. A novella has a nuance all its own, honed with skill and care by its author.

As Linda Landrigan, editor-in-chief Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine says on the award’s website, "We need to stress that a novella is not a padded short story. A novella needs to be as tight and fast-paced as a short story or a novel. Authors need to ensure that the story they want to tell is properly sized for whatever format they choose."
So true.

To enter next year’s contest, entries must be 15,000 to 20,000 words in length, and must be postmarked by May 31, 2016. The winner will be announced at The Wolfe Pack’s Annual Black Orchid Banquet in New York City on December 3, 2016. Please visit www.nerowolfe.org for information on how to enter. Or, if you have questions, contact Jane K. Cleland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And get busy, if no “acceptable” candidates are received, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and The Wolfe Pack reserve the right to declare no winner in any given year.
Here’s the list of past winners: http://www.nerowolfe.org/htm/literary_awards/black_orchid_award/Black_Orchid_awardees.htm.

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-10 18:15:00
Reality Infuses Julia Keller's "Last Ragged Breath"

by Oline H. Cogdill

keller julia
Many authors weave real events into their novels, making their fiction that much stronger, and even meaningful.

And the best authors use real events to complement their plot, careful not to go so overboard in reporting the facts that they lose sight of the novel.

Julia Keller is one of those authors who knows how to infuse reality into a gripping novel.

Keller’s latest novel Last Ragged Breath is a compelling story and the fact that real events are woven into the plot makes the story that much more intriguing. (Julia Keller is profiled in the latest issue of Mystery Scene magazine; Fall 2015 issue, No. 141.)

On February 26, 1972, the Buffalo Creek flood disaster occurred when the Pittston Coal Company's coal slurry impoundment dam, which was located on a hillside in Logan County, West Virginia, burst. Four days before, the dam had been declared “satisfactory” by a federal mine inspector.

The area was decimated.

The flood unleashed about 132,000,000 gallons of black waste water, which crested more than 30 feet high over 16 coal towns along Buffalo Creek Hollow.

Of the 5,000 people living in the area, 125 were killed, 1,121 were injured, and more than 4,000 were left homeless. The flood destroyed 507 houses, 44 mobile homes, and about 30 businesses.

The settlement to the families was small as Pittston Coal called the accident “an Act of God” in its legal filings.

Those are the facts.

kellerjulia lastraggedbreath
And while Keller doesn’t change the facts, she makes us see the human faces that suffered because of that flood in Last Ragged Breath, the fourth in her series about prosecutor Bell Elkins.

“The financial settlement was meager and most [residents] were left living in trailers,” said Keller in the Mystery Scene interview.

Last Ragged Breath “is my most overtly political novel—not in terms of Republican or Democratic—but in terms of social justice and what we expect of our elected officials and of corporations and their responsibilities to the community,” said Keller.

“The novel also gave me a chance to explore West Virginia history and to tie that history to the present day.”

Last Ragged Breath gives Keller a chance to reflect on social justice.

“Buffalo Creek was such an egregious case of corporation malfeasance. It’s the same kind of thing we still deal with today when we talk about social justice and the responsibilities of corporations to the communities in which they are set. Buffalo Creek was a perfect poster incident of that,” said Keller, who is working on her fifth novel in the series.

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-28 07:10:00
Hannah Swensen Bakes for the Holidays

by Oline H. Cogdill

fluke murdershebakedplumpudding
I am so enjoying made-for-TV movies based on mystery writers’ series that have been airing on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.

These light mysteries based on several amateur sleuth series are that breath of fresh air many of us need. I love hard-hitting series such as Bosch and Longmire, but sometimes I also crave something light and fun.

And Hallmark is delivering.

The latest is Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery, based on the culinary mystery series by Joanne Fluke, which airs at 9 p.m. Nov. 22 on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. And of course, there will be encores.

This is the second made-for-TV movie based on a Fluke novel; the first was Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery, which ran earlier this year. A third film is schedule for February 2016.

Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery finds Hannah trying to solve the murder of a local entrepreneur known for his wild ideas. His body is found in his office. Suspects are abundant, including ex-wives and angry investors.

Meanwhile, Hannah is trying to make a plum pudding—hence, the title—and get ready for the holidays.

fluke murdershebakedplumpudding2
The movie hardly breaks new ground, but it is entertaining and allowed a good break from the Criminal Minds marathon I was caught up with.

Alison Sweeney makes an appealing Hannah, showing the character’s intelligence, strength, and even vulnerability. Sweeney is best known for her Emmy-nominated role of Sami Brady on Days of Our Lives. She also has hosted The Biggest Loser for 13 seasons. And if that wasn’t enough, Sweeney directs episodes of General Hospital and Days of Our Lives.

Emmy-nominated actor Cameron Mathison is exactly what we want from detective Mike Kingston—a handsome and safely sexy foil for Hannah.

There is only one problem with Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. Fluke has a habit of making chocolate chip cookies to share with her readers at her book events.

Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery airs at 9 p.m. Nov. 22 on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel, with encores.

Photos: Top, Alison Sweeney and Cameron Mathison; bottom, Alison Sweeney in Murder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery. Photos courtesy Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-21 21:15:00
Lynn Hightower on Wendell Berry
Lynn Hightower

img hightowerlynn author photo 11344842530I was a 16-year-old college freshman taking every writing class on campus when I walked into Wendell Berry’s Imaginative Writing class. It was a sun-drenched day in Kentucky that required air conditioning and simple faith that fall was actually on the way and we could stop sweltering and carve pumpkins in just a few weeks. Berry was a god on the University of Kentucky campus, and since I knew everything back then, I went in wondering what all the fuss was about.

Berry is tall. He has presence—handsome, broad-shouldered, slim, and confident with fine brown hair and very blue eyes that held a smile behind the stern look he turned on our writing egos. I think it took all of eight minutes for me to realize this man was the real deal, and the best thing I could do was shut up and listen. I went out that day and bought The Memory of Old Jack, and then I knew how lucky I was to wander into that classroom.

The Memory of Old Jack begins with Jack Beechum on a small-town bench in Port Royal, Kentucky. Aching, tired, getting vague with age, and full of the memories of a life that spanned a marriage that was doomed to fail, a mistress who died in a fire, the birth of a child, the death of friends and family, and the struggle to build a farm and a life while the economy went to hell and the country went to war.

berry thememoryofoldjackBerrys novels take you to a place you want to go. Though they may unfold in a small town in Kentucky, make no mistake, these are the stories of each and every one of us, and how we yearn for safety, love, and the ties of family and community in a life of inevitable loss and occasional pleasure.

We engage with Jacks dreams for his farm—what it is and what it can be. We take satisfaction when he works side by side with a team of horses, and we learn right with him how to be a careful steward of the land. There is as much pleasure when we see Jack come together with his family and neighbors to gather in a crop and settle to a table of fried chicken, fresh baked bread, and ice tea, as there is grief when Jack overreaches and almost loses the land and the home he loves. And when he comes in after a long day, exhausted and hungry, to a wife who is silent and accusing, blaming him for her own disappointments, we understand why he winds up in the arms of a woman who smiles when he walks in the door.

Berry is eloquent, wise, and a formidable talent, but he is most importantly a storyteller. We are the people who live in his books. And when we see Jack Beechum get back up and stay in the fight no matter how life brings him to his knees, then we know that we can do the same. And this I think is why we are compelled to read—because not only are we entertained, we know we are not alone.

Lynn Hightower is the author of 10 novels, including two mystery series—one featuring homicide detective Sonora Blair and the other featuring private investigator Lena Padgett. Flashpoint, the first Sonora Blair mystery, was a New York Times Notable Book.

Recently, Open Road Media has released the first-ever ebook editions of her Sonora Blair mystery series and the Elaki series of futuristic police procedurals, which begins with Alien Blues.

Hightower teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, where she was named Creative Writing Instructor of the Year in 2012. The author lives with her husband in Kentucky.

This “Writers on Reading” essay was originally published in At the Scene” eNews November 2015 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2015-11-06 20:44:22

img hightowerlynn author photo 11344842530"I was a 16-year-old college freshman taking every writing class on campus when I walked into Wendell Berry’s Imaginative Writing class..."

Brash Books: Celebrating a Year of Great Books

by Oline H. Cogdill

butlerjack truegrift
Back in the mid-1990s, one of my favorite series was about Blanche White, an African American woman who worked as a maid in the Boston area.

Written by Barbara Neely, the Blanche novels explored class and race with much humor. But these novels were never lightweight. During the four-novel series, Neely also looked at violence against women, racism, class boundaries, and sexism.

Blanche on the Lam (1992) received several best first novel honors including an Agatha, an Anthony, the Go on Girl! Award from the Black Women's Reading Club, and a Macavity. Neely’s other novels in the series were Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994), Blanche Cleans Up (1998), and Blanche Passes Go (2000).
As far as I and Blanche's many readers were concerned, the series ended too soon.

Another series I was quite taken with featured private investigator Frank Pavlicek, an ex-NYPD cop and an avid falconer. The series by Andy Straka won a Shamus Award and was nominated for an Anthony and an Agatha Award. Early on, Publishers Weekly named Straka one of “ten rising stars” in crime fiction.

Readers also owe a debt of gratitude to Maxine O’Callaghan, whose series about female PI Delilah West predated novels from Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, and Sara Paretsky. Delilah was introduced in a short story in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

I mention these authors because they are among some of the 28 authors whose backlists have found a new home with publisher Brash Books.

Brash Books was launched in fall 2014 by veteran crime novelists and longtime friends Joel Goldman and Lee Goldberg.

It started with about 30 crime titles that Brash re-released in print and digital through a partnership with Amazon. That connection recently helped Brash Books’ authors Straka and Phoef Sutton (Fifteen Minutes to Live) top the hardboiled bestseller list on Amazon.

Goldberg, who lives in Los Angeles, and Goldman, who is based in Kansas City, began talking about their frustrations with publishing. Both authors had turned to self-publishing, while also continuing to release work with traditional publishers. They also shared a fondness for many series no longer in print.

From their concerns and passions, Brash Books was formed.

“Brash Books' first year has been a fun, exciting experience in which we've learned a tremendous amount about the opportunities and challenges in today's publishing environment,” said Goldman in an email to Mystery Scene.

“We began with a mission to publish ‘the best crime novels in existence’ and we're doing that with the 46 titles we've released since September 2014,” he added.

Goldman published eight novels in his Lou Mason and Jack Davis thriller series with Kensington between 2002-2012. Goldberg has written more than 40 books, including coauthor of the Fox & O’Hare series with Janet Evanovich with the latest novel The Scam; he also is listed as an executive producer on the TV series Diagnosis Murder, among others.

And while much of their list consists of returning favorites, Brash Books is not a reprint house interested only in reviving backlists. It publishes original works, the first of which was Treasure Coast by Tom Kakonis, and also includes Storme Warning by W.L. Ripley, Off & Running by Phil Reed, and Go Down Hard by Craig Faustus Buck.

This November, Brash is releasing three new novels that Goldman says reflect Brash Books' "focus on new titles.”

genelinmichael dignifieddead

1) The Last Good Place, by Robin Burcell, continues the Krug & Kellog thriller series written by Carolyn Weston that began with Poor Poor Ophelia, on which the hit TV series, The Streets of San Francisco (1972-77), was based. According to Brash Books, Alafair Burke, Alison Gaylin, Jamie Freveletti, Michele Gagnon, J.T. Ellison, Naomi Hirahara, and Paul Bishop are already fans. “Robin has done a fabulous job of bringing Weston's series into the present day and moving it from Santa Monica to San Francisco," said Goldman. "With her background as a cop and living in Northern California and her credentials as an award winning crime writer, there was no one better suited to continue this great series."

2) For the Dignified Dead, by Michael Genelin, is the fifth book in the acclaimed Commander Jana Matinova series. It recently garnered positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

3) True Grift launches a very funny debut by Jack Bunker, about an insurance scam gone awry, which Publishers Weekly called in a starred review a "fun, fast read, kind of like Elmore Leonard meets Donald Westlake, or the Golf Channel hosting a season of Better Call Saul."

And more new works are planned, while Brash Books also expands its reach to Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Greece and Israel, to start. “We continue to search for and, happily, find great new titles from established and debut authors as we move toward a list balanced between backlist and front list titles,” said Goldman.

New publishers such as Brash Books and Polis fill a much-needed gap left by large publishers. Needless to say, the diversity offerted by new publishers is welcomed by authors and readers, alike.

“One of the most exciting things for us has been how enthusiastically the mystery and thriller crime fiction community has embraced Brash," said Goldman.

"At every conference, we hear from authors and readers how much they enjoy our books and our videos and how happy they are that Brash is doing what we do."

www.Brash-Books.com

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-14 13:50:00
Jack Bunker on the Importance of Being Funny
Jack Bunker

bunker jackLike most writers, I’ve always been a big reader. In college I discovered Joseph Wambaugh—in my mid-20s, Elmore Leonard. With both authors I was less absorbed in the plots themselves than by the flawless dialogue. Unique as Hemingway was, when it comes to dialogue, he couldn’t carry Elmore Leonard’s jock.

I tried to pare to a handful a roster of authors I would hope have influenced my own writing. In addition to the greats cited above, I’d have to include: Dan Jenkins, William Kennedy, Tom Wolfe, Paul Theroux, and John Gregory Dunne.

Just as Wambaugh and Leonard craft(ed) unforgettable dialogue, Paul Theroux and William Kennedy create a sense of place that stays with the reader long after the story ends. Kennedy’s Roscoe is my personal favorite. Like his better known books in the Albany cycle, its setting is every bit as palpable as the lush and exotic Singapores, Indias, and Africas of Theroux’s more peripatetic oeuvre. Beyond the breathless pace of Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe gently layered multiple tissues of arcane references and inside jokes. I couldn’t say how many times I’ve read John Gregory Dunne’s True Confessions, but it never gets old.

bunker truegriftWhich brings me to Dan Jenkins. Whether set in football locker rooms, hardscrabble golf courses or network television studios, Dan Jenkins novels share at least one common denominator with the other authors listed above:

Wit.

Every single writer I’ve cited has a sense of humor. I doubt anyone has read Dan Jenkins’s Life Its Ownself more than I have. I can still remember lines from Joseph Wambaugh’s The Choirboys more than 30 years later. True Confessions is no comedy, but every time I read it, I laugh.

And maybe that’s the nub. When you know a line or a scene is coming and you still laugh, that’s when you know it’s funny. Over the years, thousands of characters, plots, and themes have run together, but the writers with a special wit are the ones I remember. The books that made me laugh kept me coming back.

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews December 2015 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2015-11-16 16:42:51
Walter Mosley Named Grand Master; Raven, Ellery Queen Nominees

by Oline H. Cogdill

mosley walter
Walter Mosley
has been chosen as the 2016 Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America (MWA).

MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Mr. Mosley will receive his award at the 70th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

This is a well-deserved honor as Mosley has proved himself to be a groundbreaker in the genre.

He started writing when he was 34 years old and has to date published more than 40 novels.

Mosley is best known for his Easy Rawlins series, beginning with Devil in a Blue Dress, which was made into a film starring Denzel Washington.This series shows what life was life for an African American in post-WWII Los Angeles.

He has also written three other series, featuring Fearless Jones, Leonid McGill, and Socrates Fortlaw. In addition, he has written science fiction, nonfiction, social criticism, young-adult fiction, plays, graphic novels, and numerous short stories.

Previous Grand Masters include Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

THE RAVEN AWARD

ravenoline mwa
I have to admit that the Raven Award probably is my favorite award. Mainly because—full disclosure—I was honored with this award in 2013. The Raven recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

Two Raven Awards will be awarded in 2016: one to Margaret Kinsman and the other to Sisters in Crime. These are two inspired choices.

As a mentor, teacher, scholar, and editor, Margaret Kinsman has supported and promoted both the mystery genre as a whole and many individual writers. As senior lecturer in popular culture at Southbank University in London from 1991 to 2012, she played a leading role in making crime fiction an important and legitimate field of study. She has worked hard both to expand readership of our genre in the general public and to expand understanding of the genre as a powerful form of social commentary.

From 2004 to 2011, Kinsman served as executive editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection, the only American scholarly journal dedicated to mysteries. She continues to serve Clues as a consulting editor. She is an international authority on Margery Allingham and has published extensively on other American crime writers. She is a U.S. citizen who divides her time between London and Iowa City, Iowa, where she is conducting research in the Nancy Drew archives at the University of Iowa.

Sisters in Crime has its roots at the 1986 Bouchercon in Baltimore. Sara Paretsky convened an initial meeting of women writers who were concerned about both the rising tide of graphic violence against women in mysteries and the lack of equity in review, award nominations, advances, and other measures of a writer’s success.

The following year during Edgars week, a group of women writers met in Sandra Scoppettone's SoHo loft for breakfast and formed Sisters in Crime. Initial steering committee members were a who’s who of women mystery writers, including Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, Betty Francis, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard, and Susan Dunlap.

The mission of Sisters in Crime is to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. Membership is open to all persons worldwide who have a special interest in mystery writing and in furthering the purposes of SinC. The organization has approximately 3,600 members in some 50 regional chapters in the United States and Canada.

Previous Raven winners include Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

ELLERY QUEEN
The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry." This year the Board chose to honor Janet A. Rudolph.

Rudolph is the director of the fan-based Mystery Readers International, editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, a teacher of mystery fiction, and has been a columnist for most of the mystery periodicals. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in Berkeley, California, where she completed a master's degree in art history, a credential in secondary education, and a PhD in religion and literature specializing in mystery fiction. She has received two Fulbright grants—one to India and another to Brazil.

Mystery Readers Journal, her brainchild, is the official publication of Mystery Readers International. Originally started as a newsletter to update the local mystery community on fun events, it is now one of the most important periodicals in the field. A quarterly, each issue focuses on a specific theme with major articles, author essays, special columns, and a calendar of events. Members of MRI award the coveted Macavity for excellence in mystery writing.

Again, Rudolph is an inspired choice. I met her at my first Bouchercon back in 1997 and consider her a friend.

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Mystery Scene publishers Kate Stine and Brian Skupin, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.

For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit www.mysterywriters.org.

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-23 14:15:13
Quick Gift Ideas

by Oline H. Cogdill

foyleswarcollection
First, to all our readers, Happy Thanksgiving. We at Mystery Scene are thankful for each of our readers and look forward to giving you more insight into the genre as we move into 2016.

May your Thanksgiving—and upcoming holidays—be filled with happiness.

And that brings us to what to give people on your gift list. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many of you will be checking that list and trying to figure out what to give people.

If you have readers of the mystery genre on your list, we have some good suggestions.

Check out Mystery Scene’s monthly reviews if you are looking for book to give. I also review for other venues so Google my name for more suggestions.

DVDS
FOYLE’S WAR: THE COMPLETE SAGA: I don’t think there has ever been a better series about life in England during and immediately after WWII.

Excellent acting from Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle, a police detective who solves crimes during WWII and then uses his talents at MI5 during the Cold War.

The series never shied away from showing how people respond with both good and bad intentions during the war, allowing their prejudices to override their common sense.

rebus
And death often came into the picture when viewers least expected it.

Adding to the terrific performances are Foyle’s driver, Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) and DS Paul Milner (Anthony Howell). They were aided throughout the series by guest stars such as Rosamund Pike, James McAvoy, Charles Dance, David Tennant, and John Mahoney.

Though set in England, the concerns of anyone who has lived through a war are relatable.

Foyle’s War: The Complete Saga is a collector’s edition contains all 28 episodes of the series on 29 discs, plus 6 hours of bonus features. It is $199.99, visit AcornOnline.com. The entire series is also available to stream anytime on Acorn TV at www.Acorn.TV.

The set also includes a retrospective called Foyle’s War Revisited; interviews with series writer and creator Anthony Horowitz and stars Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks. There are also making-of documentaries, behind-the-scenes features, and a look at the era in which Foyle’s War is set. A 16-page collector’s guide includes episode synopses, character profiles, and reflections about the show.

REBUS: THE KEN STOTT COLLECTION: Ian Rankin’s series about Scotland detective John Rebus has long been a personal favorite.

So I was not surprised to love the film version of this series. I could watch this all day, episode after episode, and have.

Three-time BAFTA Award nominee Ken Stott (The Hobbit trilogy) stars as Detective Inspector John Rebus. The series kept the spirit—and much of the plot—of Rankin’s novels, showing the atmospheric city of Edinburgh, Scotland. The novels that translated to film include The Falls, Fleshmarket Close, The Black Book, A Question of Blood, Strip Jack, Let It Bleed, Resurrection Men, The First Stone, The Naming of the Dead, and Knots and Crosses.

restless
All four seasons of this series is on this Rebus collection that includes 10 episodes, plus bonus features, on 5 discs. Rebus: The Ken Stott Collection is $59.99, AcornOnline.com. The entire series is also available to watch   on Acorn TV, at www.Acorn.TV.

RESTLESS: This is a new British thriller and I have been totally hooked since the first episode. Like Foyle’s War, it is a period piece that seamlessly moves between the 1970s and 1939 as it recounts a young woman’s discovery that her mother was recruited to be a spy during WWII.

Restless is based on the bestselling spy novel by William Boyd. Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery) is stunned to learn that her mother, Sally (Charlotte Rampling), has been living a double life. Her real name is Eva Delectorskaya (Haley Atwell), she worked as a spy for the British Secret Service in the 1940s, and now someone is stalking her.

The casting could not be more perfect—many A-list British stars who also will be familiar to American audiences. These include Hayley Atwell (Captain America, Marvel’s Agent Carter), Rufus Sewell (The Pillars of the Earth), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Broadchurch), and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter films).

The Restless DVD features two full-length episodes and is $34.99, visit AcornOnline.com. The miniseries is also available to watch on Acorn TV, at www.Acorn.TV.

BOOKS
weinmnasarah womencrimewriters
Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & '50s, edited by Sarah Weinman, Library of America, two volumes, $35/$70, 1,512 pages:
 Who hasn’t been enthralled by the 1944 film Laura, with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb?

But Laura in author Vera Caspary's story of the same title is a different woman.

Patricia Highsmith is best known for The Talented Mr. Ripley. But her story The Blunderer in this collection echoes her other famous Strangers on a Train as a corporate lawyer trapped in an unhappy marriage considers murdering his wife after reading a newspaper article about another murderer.

The works by Caspary and Highsmith, along with Dolores Hitchens, Dorothy B. Hughes, Charlotte Armstrong, Helen Eustis, Margaret Millar, and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding illustrate the range of these often-forgotten works by women writers, some of whom are neglected by today’s readers. Sarah Weinman has done an excellent job of choosing stories that will make readers want to investigate more works by these women writers. And readers also will want to have Weinman’s other compilation Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories From the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense.

Full disclosure: I consider Weinman a friend and have been on several panels with her. Even if I didn’t know her, I would still recommend Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & '50s.
 
Nancy Drew Mystery Stories Books 1-4, Grosset & Dunlap, $31.96, 768 pages: This beautiful box set is perfect for both the adult and the child on your list, maybe even encouraging a marathon reading between the two. More sets will be coming—for future gift giving! The covers are beautiful and are like the covers when the series was first published. As for the plots, hey, you all know Nancy Drew.

mysterywriterscookbook 2015
Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets, Reservoir Square Books, $24.99, 256 pages:
Part nonfiction, part cocktail recipe cookbook, this slim book covers the drinking habits of gangsters and detectives—real and fictional. The gimlet featured in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, the scotch and soda from Woman in the Window, and the champagne bellini from While the City Sleeps as well as the drinking habits of Al Capone and Meyer Lansky. Don’t drive while reading!

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn, Crown, $9.99, 62 pages. Looking for a stocking stuffer that will take the edge off all the holiday cheer and put a bit of fear in your gift giving? Gillian Flynn creates a modern-day ghost story that is reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw and far from her uber-selling Gone Girl. This novella can be read in about an hour—sometimes that’s all you need in taking a break from family.

Cookbooks
Cookbooks with a mystery theme made a delicious splash this year.

I recommend Goldy's Kitchen Cookbook by Diane Mott Davidson, from HarperCollins; The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For, edited by Kate White, from Quirk Books; and The Cozy Cookbook published by Berkley.

A final thought
And of course, a subscription to Mystery Scene is a good gift that lasts year-round.

Oline Cogdill
2015-11-24 14:45:00
Red Icon
Betty Webb

Sam Eastland’s Red Icon, set mainly in Russia during World War I and World War II, covers the fall of the Romanovs and the rise of Stalin. Hardly the best of times, but a period so laden with drama that it’s a terrific choice for a top-notch thriller—which Red Icon is. Yet there is also a nostalgic sweetness in this book, provided by The Shepherd, a 900-year-old icon owned by Tsar Nicholas II which is rumored to magically ensure the eternal survival of Russia itself. With the rise of the Bolshevik threat, the Tsar orders young Inspector Pekkala to guard the icon, but the Bolsheviks soon depose the Tsar, and murder him and the entire royal family. Because of Pekkala’s royalist ties, he is imprisoned, and the icon vanishes. By the beginning of WWII, Pekkala has been successfully “reeducated” and now works directly for Joseph Stalin. During the war, The Shepherd resurfaces, and the icon winds up with Stalin, an avowed atheist. Nevertheless, Stalin plans to announce that Russia’s salvation from the invading German army is now assured. Out of an abundance of caution, he orders Pekkala to make certain the icon isn’t a fake and Pekkala follows orders. The gang’s all here in this extraordinarily well-researched book: the Tsar and the Tsarina, Rasputin, Stalin, and Hitler, as well as a mysterious religious cult that has somehow managed to survive hidden away in the vast Siberian countryside. This is the sixth Inspector Pekkala thriller (after last year’s Beast in the Red Forest), and the series continues to educate and astound. Although the reader will learn a lot about 20th century Russian history (every page is a revelation), the fictional Pekkala is definitely the star here. Intelligent and cynical, he deals equally well with peasants and dictators, and he’s not afraid to cross into enemy lines to verify The Shepherd’s provenance. One caution: what appear to be minor characters at the beginning of the book often turn out to be almost as pivotal as Pekkala himself, so careful reading is advised. Not that it will be a chore. Even with all that history, and all those characters, Red Icon remains an unputdownable book, and it’s every bit as exciting as it is smart.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-04 18:02:30
Tales
Bill Crider

Some fans of Charles Todd’s novels featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge and WWI battlefield nurse Bess Crawford might not be aware that the two have also appeared in four short stories. These stories have now been collected in Tales. Two stories, “The Kidnapping” and “Cold Comfort,” have Rutledge as the main character, while the other two, “The Girl on the Beach” and “The Maharani’s Pearls,” bring Crawford to the fore. The latter story is a prequel of sorts, as it takes place in India when Crawford was a young girl and shows that early on she had developed qualities that served her well later in her life. “Cold Comfort” is a war-time story that finds Rutledge on the battlefield where he learns that not all the threats come from the enemy.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-04 19:50:18
The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle
Lynne F. Maxwell

Not everyone can live up to the detecting standards established by Agatha Christie’s brilliant Hercule Poirot, but one can learn from his example, as Amy-Faye Johnson demonstrates in Laura DiSilverio’s The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle. On the heels of last year’s The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco, the initial entry in the “Book Club Mystery Series,” this entertaining, well-written, and well-plotted sophomore effort reprises Amy-Faye’s role as amateur sleuth, as well as superb event planner in the town of Heaven, Colorado. As an inveterate lover of mysteries, Amy-Faye initiated The Readaholics Mystery Book Club, enlisting as charter members her closest friends. In this novel, the Readaholics have taken on Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and puzzle over the conspiratorial nature of the murder featured in the book. How, they wonder, can multiple people come together to plot the demise of an unsavory character? Doesn’t Christie’s plot strain credulity in this regard? While reasonable minds can differ on that question, there is no doubt that Christie’s tightly knit plot informs this new book. Indeed, it is a happy coincidence that Amy-Faye has recently pondered the elements of conspiracy in Christie’s masterpiece because the notion of conspiracy is precisely what she needs to consider when her brother Derek’s obnoxious business partner Gordon is murdered and Derek is the primary person of interest. In addition to Derek, whose business venture was on the verge of failure because of Gordon’s irrational and erratic behavior, the list of potential suspects is considerable. Well-documented as a serial philanderer, whose numerous wives and lovers have reason to assassinate him, Gordon was also feuding with his irresponsible son, Kolby, who stood to inherit Gordon’s substantial wealth. Perhaps the culprit was his sister or brother-in-law, who blamed Gordon for the death of their daughter. They believe Gordon was driving while intoxicated, and thereby killed their beloved daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Or maybe the culprits were members of a group of women dedicated to “outing” serial adulterers? And the list continues. DiSilverio will keep readers guessing as Amy-Faye and the colorful Readaholics work together to bring the killer—or killers (remember Poirot’s conspiracy puzzle)—to justice. What evil will beset Heaven next? Stay tuned for next year’s follow-up, The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala, when Amy-Faye and friends prove once again how rewarding reading can be!

Teri Duerr
2015-12-04 20:00:05
Powerless
Hank Wagner

Powerless, by Tim Washburn, opens as a massive solar event known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, triggers blackout conditions for most of the globe, with a special impact on the United States and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Given that the effect of the CME’s is felt almost immediately, there is little to do except to deal with the technological chaos which ensues, as hospitals lose power, planes are stripped of the ability to navigate, and nuclear power plants face the prospect of imminent meltdown. Apocalypse has come, and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces.

Washburn’s unsettling narrative follows the lives of several players in the post-disaster landscape, including army veteran Zeke Marshall, Drs. Samuel Blake and Kaylee Connor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Paul Harris, the president of the United States. Washburn shows formidable storytelling skills, juggling multiple and varied narratives, all the time maintaining the reader’s intense interest in each. The only problem with Powerless is that, despite its considerable length, you find yourself wishing it were longer.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-04 20:05:43
X
Dick Lochte

The title may seem a bit incomplete, but in Grafton’s latest dip into SoCal sleuth Kinsey Millhone’s circa-1980s career milestones, the “X” no doubt stands for Teddy Xanakis. She’s a client who hires Kinsey to find her estranged son, a bank robber recently released from prison. This being a private eye novel, Xanakis is, of course, lying. Kinsey quickly discovers that she is, in fact, a recent divorcee, still furious with her wealthy ex for knocking boots with her best friend. Her plan is to enlist the ex-con’s help in stealing a valuable painting that fell on hubby’s side in the settlement. Grafton is always generous with her plots and, along with thwarting the vengeful Teddy, Kinsey agrees to help the widow of a fellow private eye put his affairs in order, a task that turns into a hunt for his murderer. And she also has to deal with neighbors from hell, a truly monstrous couple of elderly and very slippery con artists who are bringing down the quality of life for her loveable, avuncular landlord, Henry Pitt. As always, actress Kaye vocally epitomizes the intelligent, streetwise Kinsey with an attitude that’s flippant and hardboiled without sacrificing femininity or intelligence. And, with the detective approaching the end of the 1980s (just as Grafton is running out of alphabet), Kaye adds a note of wistfulness to the character’s concern for her ability to stay relevant in a computer-ruled future.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-04 20:10:12
The Man With the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters
Jon L. Breen

The editor, a nephew of James Bond’s creator, arranges the letters chronologically, providing in his connecting narrative biographical context as well as summaries of the novels. The emphasis is professional correspondence with publishers, editors, agents, readers, and fellow writers, including Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward. Topics often include contracts, royalty rates, ad budgets, cover illustrations, and choice of titles. (Early on, Live and Let Die was to be called The Undertaker’s Wind, which may be a more evocative title.)

Occasionally letters to Fleming are included where needed for clarification. Most of the chapters are named after Bond novels, but four are devoted to individual correspondents: journalist and intelligence operative Ernest Cuneo, gun expert Geoffrey Boothroyd, fellow novelist Raymond Chandler, and Yale librarian Herman W. Liebert. There is a minimum of personal material. With a few exceptions, letters to his long-suffering wife were unavailable.

Ian Fleming was a highly amusing, invariably polite, sometimes facetious letter writer. His correspondence with fans, usually those who caught him (or believed they did) in errors, is notably friendly. Exchanges with personnel at his British publishers Jonathan Cape show how receptive he was to criticism and close editing of his manuscripts. The arc of his writing success is demonstrated by two references to thriller writer Peter Cheyney: early on he aspires to rise to the Cheyney class (commercially), but later is worried about descending to it.

Fleming apparently tired of Bond even more quickly than Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes. As early as 1954, he feared self-parody, “which is obviously a great danger when writing of characters like James Bond in whom one doesn’t believe….Readers don’t mind how fantastic one is but they must feel that the author believes in his fantasy.”

In a banner year for secondary sources in the crime/mystery/thriller genre, this is another winner. Reviewed from advance reading copy; index not seen.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-04 20:37:42
Winner of Tony Hillerman Prize

by Oline H. Cogdill

wolf kevin
The Tony Hillerman Prize for best first mystery has become one of my favorite annual contests because of the quality of debut authors it has launched.

The crime fiction that wins the Hillerman Prize is set in the Southwest and honors the spirit of those wonderful mysteries that Hillerman wrote.

The latest winner of the contest is Kevin Wolf, who is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Crested Butte Writers. He lives in Littleton, Colorado, with his wife of 40 years and their two beagles. Wolf’s novel The Homeplace will be published during 2016.

Wolf joins an elite group of writers. Previous winners include John Fortunato’s Dark Reservations; CB McKenzie’s Bad Country, which was nominated for a 2014 Edgar Award; Andrew Hunt’s City of Saints; Tricia Fields’ The Territory; Roy Chaney’s The Ragged End of Nowhere; and Christine Barber’s The Replacement Child.

I have found the authors who take the Hillerman Prize write such affecting plots that capture the scenery so well. Many of their novels have made it to my best-of-the-year list.

Thomas Dunne Books/Minotaur Books and Wordharvest co-sponsor the award that is given annually at the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries were set on the Navajo reservation and are considered to be the first "regional" mysteries to become national bestsellers. Hillerman’s novels combined Navajo traditions and beliefs in contemporary plots. His books have been translated into many languages and frequently make the New York Times bestseller list. Hillerman died at age 83 on October 26, 2008.

Hillerman’s daughter, Anne Hillerman, brought back Leaphorn and Chee in her 2013 novel Spider Woman’s Daughter; her novel Rock With Wings was published this year.

Anne Hillerman launched the first Tony Hillerman Writers Conference, Focus on Mystery, in 2004 through Wordharvest, the business which she co-founded with Jean Schaumberg.

For more information about the Hillerman Prize, please visit http://wordharvest.com/contest/.

Oline Cogdill
2015-12-06 15:24:45
Ivory
Benjamin Boulden

Ivory is the second thriller to be published in the United States from veteran Australian writer Tony Park. Set in Africa, with action spanning the Indian Ocean, Mozambique, and South Africa, it features Alex Tremain, a former member of the British Special Air Service, struggling hotelier, and highly skilled modern pirate.

Alex operates from his family’s now-dilapidated hotel on the Island of Dreams, a small island off the coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. Alex has decided to refurbish the once-luxurious hotel owned by his parents, and turns to piracy for funds. When an opportunity for a big score arrives—a mysterious package, reportedly worth £1 million to be exchanged between a small decrepit Chinese vessel and a British container ship—he and his team make a play for it. The operation goes sideways and the package goes missing. Alex leaves with an alluring lawyer named Jane Humphries as a hostage, a mission to find the package, and information about another lucrative play. This time it’s a heist of four tons of elephant ivory set to be harvested from a sanctioned cull of South African elephants.

The elephant cull, or hunt, is described in disturbing detail, and acts as a foil for Alex’s darker aspirations. His desire for easy gain is overshadowed by his sympathy for the animals. Park’s cast is filled with the usual larger-than-life villains, including a sociopath mercenary named Piet Van Zyl, and a womanizing, borderline-psychopath businessman. There is also a developing love interest in Jane that is satisfyingly problematic (a love triangle). But what makes this thriller far from ordinary are the scenic descriptions of southern Africa, an impressively intricate plot with two or three sharp twists, heady action from the first to last page, and a likable, if roguish, protagonist. Ivory was so far from ordinary that it reminded this reader how good thrillers can be.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-07 17:57:28
What You See
Oline H. Cogdill

Jane is in the middle of a job interview with Channel 2’s news director when a stabbing occurs in a public square across from Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall in broad daylight. Already on location, Jane is asked to cover the story as a freelancer. Jake and his partner also are on the scene investigating the crime, and trying to round up witnesses who may have photographed the crime on their cell phones. Meanwhile, Tenley Siskel, in Boston’s traffic surveillance office at City Hall, prepares to record the chaos at Faneuil Hall when she is stopped by her boss.

Jane’s assignment is further complicated when she receives a frantic call from her sister, Melissa, who claims that the nine-year-old daughter of her fiancé may have been kidnapped by the child’s stepfather. Will Jane put her family crisis above her career?

Ryan shrewdly builds her intricate plot into a tightly wound story, pulling in each aspect and connecting them with aplomb. Ryan’s perspective on the ethics of journalism and politics adds another compelling layer to What You See.

Teri Duerr
2015-12-07 19:04:19