ITW 2017 Thriller Award Winners Announced

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The International Thriller Writers (ITW) 2017 Thriller Awards winners were announced on July 15, 2017, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City during the ITW Thrillerfest XII (July 11-15, 2017).

Congratulations to the winners, marked below in bold red.

 

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown and Company)
Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (Grand Central Publishing)
Arrowood, by Laura McHugh (Spiegel & Grau)
Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters (Mulholland Books)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
Deadly Kiss, by Bob Bickford (Black Opal Books)
Type and Cross, by J.L. Delozier (WiDo Publishing)
Recall, by David McCaleb (Lyrical Underground)
The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Palindrome, by E.Z. Rinsky (Witness Impulse)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL
In the Clearing, by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer)
The Body Reader, by Anne Frasier (Thomas & Mercer)
The Minoan Cipher, by Paul Kemprecos (Suspense Publishing)
Kill Switch, by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Salvage, by Stephen Maher (Dundurn)

BEST SHORT STORY
"The Business of Death," by Eric Beetner in Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns (Down & Out Books)
"The Peter Rabbit Killers," by Laura Benedict in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
"The Man from Away," by Brendan DuBois in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
"Big Momma," by Joyce Carol Oates in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
"Parallel Play," by Art Taylor in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (Wildside Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Morning Star, by Pierce Brown (Del Rey)
Holding Smoke, by Elle Cosimano (Disney-Hyperion)
Steeplejack, by A.J. Hartley (TOR Teen)
Thieving Weasels, by Billy Taylor (Dial Books)
The Darkest Corners, by Kara Thomas (Delacorte Press)

BEST EBOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL
Romeo's Way, by James Scott Bell (Compendium Press)
The Edge of Alone, by Sean Black (Sean Black)
Untouchable, by Sibel Hodge (Wonder Women Publishing)
Destroyer of Worlds, by J.F. Penn (J.F. Penn)
Breaker, by Richard Thomas (Alibi)

THE THRILLER LEGEND AWARD
Tom Doherty

SILVER BULLET LITERARY AWARD (for charitable work)
Lisa Gardner

Teri Duerr
Sunday, 16 July 2017 04:07
JASON PINTER: THE CASTLE

Mystery Scene continues its look at authors’ writing process. Today, Jason Pinter shares how he wrote The Castle, a political thriller.

Politics With a Twist

By Jason Pinter

pinterjason thecastle
How do you write a political thriller about a billionaire businessman who runs for president on a populist campaign, upturning the political landscape like a bull in a china shop, and not have it feel a little too familiar?

That was the question I faced while writing my new novel The Castle, which centers a young man, Remy Stanton who joins the campaign of billionaire Rawson Griggs and watches the country nearly tear itself apart.

So how do you make a story that’s led the news every day for two years feel fresh?

First off, you take everything people will think they know about the characters, and make them do a 180 degree turn.

So “you know who” in the White House appears to lack impulse control?

Well, there’s a method to Rawson Griggs’s madness. If Rawson appears unhinged—that may be how he wants to appear.

He’s thought this through. He knows how to play emotions—and voters—like a Stradivarius.

And what about Alena Griggs, the brilliant, poised heiress to one of the world’s biggest companies?

Does that person familiar? Well, not in this book.

You see, in The Castle, Alena may be the billionaire’s daughter, but she has some serious reservations what money and fame have done to her personal life.

She may be her father’s daughter, but Alena has serious reservations about following in his footsteps.

In fact, she married an accountant (yes, an accountant) because she wanted a normal life.

And how’s that regular dude holding up in the face of the media and political scrutiny? Not so great…

So, as a writer, how do you stay away from political reality?

Well, Rawson Griggs isn’t running for President as a Republican. But he’s not running as a Democrat either.

So how is he running? Let’s just say he’s looking toward America’s past to pave its future. What came before the tea party?

As for Remy Stanton, my protagonist, well, Remy is just like us. He works a soulless corporate job.

He didn’t expect to find himself in the eye of the hurricane of the most controversial election ever.

Part of Remy, a big part, loves the power and attention that comes with being in Rawson’s campaign. But when he starts to notice a nasty undercurrent, he may have to give it all up to protect the ones he loves. And that might just include an heiress.

The Castle is a thrilled that takes today’s headlines and your expectations, throws them in a blender, and presses puree.

 I hope you enjoy the read. And just remember: Politics is War.

Jason Pinter is the author of the new novel The Castle, as well as the bestselling author of five novels in his Henry Parker series, which have been nominated for the Thriller, Strand Critics, Shamus, Barry and RT Reviewers Choice awards, with over a million copies in print worldwide. He is also the founder and publisher of Polis Books. Visit him at www.JasonPinter.com or follow him at @JasonPinter.

Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 29 July 2017 08:07
GRIPPANDO HONORED WITH HARPER LEE AWARD

grippandojames goneagain
By OLINE H. COGDILL

James Grippando’s skill with suspenseful plots reached another level in his gripping  Gone Again,  published in 2016.

In this 13th novel about Miami attorney Jack Swyteck, Grippando lead the reader on a twisting tale about grief, obsession and the disintegration of a family—which I said in my review of Gone Again.

“In a career highlighted by a number of superb novels, “Gone Again” ranks at the top of Grippando’s work,” said in my review

I wasn’t the only one who was enjoyed Gone Again.

Gone Again has been awarded the 2017 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.


The award was selected by a panel who included Deborah Johnson, winner of the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and author of The Secret of Magic, Cassandra King, author of The Same Sweet Girls Guide to Life; Don Noble, host of Alabama Public Radio's book review series as well as host of Bookmark, which airs on Alabama Public Television; and Han Nolan, author of Dancing on the Edge.

In the press release announcing the award, Han Nolan remarked “It best exemplifies Harper Lee's desire for a work of fiction that illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. Jack Swyteck is a lawyer's lawyer. He works within the system, relentlessly searching for the truth as he races against time to defend a death row inmate."

Don Noble added, "If I am ever in legal trouble, there is no lawyer I would rather have than Grippando's Jack Swyteck," he said. "The man is dedicated to social justice, resourceful and tireless."

Needless to say, Grippando is thrilled. “This is pretty amazing ... and the autographed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird has me over the moon.”
The 2017 prize will be awarded at The University of Alabama School of Law on Sept. 14.

Meanwhile, the best congratulations for Grippando would be to pick up a copy of Gone Again.

In Gone Again, Jack takes on Debra Burgette as a client for Miami’s Freedom Institute. Deborah’s daughter teenage daughter Sashi was murdered about five years before. Ex-con Dylan Reeves is on death row, awaiting execution.

But Debra’s tale isn’t what Jack expects. She wants to stop the execution because Debra maintains that Sashi is still alive.

In my review, I said “Debra’s fanaticism is realistically portrayed and while it is easy to understand her motives Grippando also shows the destructive nature of her fixation. Grippando also gracefully weaves in Jack’s pending fatherhood and his loving relationship with his pregnant wife, Andie, a FBI agent, without losing the story’s suspense.”

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 08:08
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Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 09:07
Fire and Ashes and Arson

vietselaineCR CristianaPecheanu

 

 

Fire and Ashes, the latest Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, is an exploration of a fatal fire. To research this novel, Viets delved into the devastating consequences of junk science and arson investigations.

  

Fire and Ashes, my latest Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, is an exploration of a fatal fire. To research this novel, I learned about the devastating consequences of junk science—that's untested science, and it's still used today in some arson investigations. By the way, deliberately set fires are officially "incendiary fires"—arson is the crime.

Like many mystery lovers, I thought I knew the signs of deadly arson fires.

If the investigator found alligator char—large, shiny char blisters on burned wood—the killer had used gasoline to start the fatal fire.

Pour patterns, irregularly shaped patterns on the burned floor, was another sign of spilled gasoline and the crime of arson. So was "crazing," or crazed glass, tiny cracks in glass.

Once the investigators found the signs, they photographed the evidence and arrested the killer.

Wrong. Those are examples of junk science, which has sent innocent people to death row. One was Todd Willingham, a Texas man who got the needle for burning his three children. Willingham was innocent, and his death compounded that family tragedy.

To research Fire and Ashes, I had multiple interviews with a fire investigator in Delray Beach, Florida. He recommended a long session with a textbook, Fire Investigator: Principles and Practice to NFPA 921 and 1033 Fourth Edition. This book is definitely not bedtime reading. NFPA 921's photos of burned bodies will keep you awake nights.

Florida arson expert John Lentini is one investigator who fights to discredit junk science and save the unjustly accused. Remember the Oakland Hills firestorm in October 1991? Reports say that wildfire killed some 25 people, injured 150, and destroyed almost 3,500 homes, condos and apartments. The losses were estimated at a billion and a half dollars.

But some good came out of that epic loss. Lentini was one of the investigators who studied the aftermath of the California wildfire. These experts found crazed glass, pour patterns, and other so-called signs of arson, when they knew the fires could not have been set deliberately. Crazed glass, for instance. Lentini told reporters crazing "used to be evidence of arson. You cannot make crazed glass by heating it rapidly, but you can by cooling it rapidly"—and firefighters' hoses can provide the rapid cooling.

aligator charAs for alligator char, you've seen those large, shiny blisters on the logs in your fireplace—and you sure didn't start that fire with gasoline. And pour patterns? Lots of things can cause those, even improperly applied glue on wall-to-wall carpet.

Why does junk science persist? There aren't enough controlled scientific studies. And some investigators hang onto unproven fire folklore. When they were starting out, they heard the old-timers tell them about pour patterns, crazing and alligator char. Firefighters believed those old smoke eaters knew their craft—their conclusions didn't need to be tested.

Fire and Ashes tackles an incendiary mix: local prejudice and junk science. Death investigator Angela Richman, who works for the medical examiner in wealthy Chouteau County, Missouri, is in charge of the body at a fatal fire. She arrives at an exclusive, gated community as Luther Delor's body is carried out of his burning mansion. Luther is a scandalous 70. The old souse left his socialite wife for a 20-year-old Mexican-American manicurist, Kendra Salvato. Local gossip says the old man gave his pretty young mistress $2 million to wear his ring and she'll get another $2 million to marry him. The community that disapproved of Luther's bed hopping is united against Kendra. She's painted as a gold-digger killer, who set fire to her fiancé.

Angela has to gather the forensic facts during a firestorm of gossip, and hope cold, hard science can save Kendra.

Elaine Viets returns to her hardboiled roots with Brain Storm, the first Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, which debuted in 2017. Elaine passed the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course for forensic professionals. She's written 29 mysteries in three bestselling series. The Art of Murder is her 15th Dead-End Job mystery.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 27 July 2017 03:07

vietselaineCR CristianaPecheanuFire and Ashes, the latest Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, is an exploration of a fatal fire. To research this novel, Viets delved into the devastating consequences of junk science and arson investigations.

Linda Fairstein on Childhood Reading

fairstein linda

 

 

 

My favorite childhood memories all involve books.

The earliest images I recall are of me, leaning against the pillow in my narrow bed, while my mother sat beside me and read to me. It was the singsong rhythm of poetry that she used to try to lull me to sleep—Robert Louis Stevenson and A.A. Milne being my favorites. I can still recite most of the poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses, which is also the first book I bought for my granddaughter when she was born two years ago.

When I began to read by myself, my mother and I would make trips every other Saturday to the public library in our town. In those days, we were allowed to take out three books at a time. I always made a beeline to my favorite librarian in the children’s section, and when I told her how much I liked Pippi Longstockings or The Secret Garden, I could count on her to put another story to engage me in my hands.

stevenson achildsgardenofversesMy first addictions to series fiction were crime driven—first the Hardy Boys, because I had an older brother who introduced me to them—and then, Nancy Drew. How I loved that teenage sleuth and everything about her—her friends, the roadster, the sage advice about crime-solving, and her crime-riddled town of River Heights.

I can only think of one flaw in my mother’s makeup. She didn’t like to read detective fiction. It was in my teenage years that my father’s taste in literature took over, as he had clearly deposited that gene in my DNA. It was he who put Edgar Allan Poe in my hands, and then, he sat me down with the greatest storyteller—to me—of all times: Arthur Conan Doyle.

I was hooked. There was no turning back. I was a very athletic kid—ballet class and swim competition and bike riding were daily activities. But I had a book in my hand wherever I went, in case there were moments to sit on the sidelines and amuse myself. Then I would somehow maneuver a way to keep a light on late into the night, even when my parents had gone to sleep, to read the mysteries that fueled my imagination.

I still have some of the books I owned as a kid—gifts from my parents on birthdays and holidays—and the pages of each one capture, and hold to this day, a precious memory.

 

Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America's foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

This “Writers on Reading” essay was originally published in At the Scene enews August 2017 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
Thursday, 27 July 2017 03:07

fairstein lindaThe earliest images I recall are of me, leaning against the pillow in my narrow bed, while my mother sat beside me and read to me. It was the singsong rhythm of poetry that she used to try to lull me to sleep.

The Late Show
Craig Sisterson

A quarter century ago, neophyte novelist Michael Connelly introduced himself and dogged LAPD Detective Harry Bosch to the mystery world with The Black Echo. In the years since, Connelly cemented himself as the modern king of California crime, and one of the world’s greatest living mystery writers.

In his 30th novel, Connelly swerves. There’s no Bosch, nor maverick attorney Mickey Haller. Instead, a new hero emerges: Renee Ballard, a paddleboarding Hawaiian who’s been relegated to the midnight shift in Hollywood after a failed sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor. Often flying solo, she’s the detective called in to all manner of overnight cases, big and small, before handing them over to various daytime detectives. Ballard starts cases, rarely finishes them. But when a trans woman is put in a coma and a bar worker is caught up in a nightclub shooting, she finds it hard to let go.

Connelly absolutely nails the tricky balance between familiarity and freshness with The Late Show. For longtime fans, Ballard has some Bosch-like characteristics (trouble with superiors, extremely driven, solving crimes in LA) while being a fascinating, fully formed character all of her own. Ballard is fierce, has a different way of looking at the world, and faces issues as a female detective that haven’t been addressed in other Connelly tales. The Late Show starts well and gets even better as the pages turn, as we learn more about Ballard and her LA world, and are handcuffed by a sublimely wrought crime tale.

A brilliant start to a new series from a true master of the craft.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 07 August 2017 12:08

connelly lateshowThere’s no Bosch, nor maverick attorney Mickey Haller. Instead, a new hero emerges: Renee Ballard, a paddleboarding Hawaiian who’s been relegated to the midnight shift in Hollywood after a failed sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor.

HE SAID/SHE SAID AND THE SOLAR ECLIPSE

By OLINE H. COGDILL

kellyerin hesaidshesaid
When the total solar eclipse begins around 10 a.m. on Aug. 21, its path will start in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. Along the way, certain areas and towns have been designated by scientists as the best place to view this feat of nature.

 In all, 12 states are in the totality path to this point. And places in the totality path are expected to attract up to tens of thousands of people who come to view the eclipse as well as enjoy the many festivals that will held during the solar event.

Small towns of less than 10,000 may be overrun with more than 50,000 visitors, some of whom may have to stay in hotels two hours away, who come to see this phenomenon. Rural areas with wide open spaces are the best, such as Marshall, Missouri.

These eclipse chasers plan for years to attend the best viewing spots, spending time charting the eclipse with maps, and visiting forums and social media. Here’s a chart about where the best viewing will be.

OK, so all this is very interesting, but what does it have to do with mysteries?

A month or so ago, I would have wondered the same thing until I read the brilliant thriller He Said/She Said (Minotar) by Erin Kelly.

These eclipse chasers, who relish “celestial mechanics,” provide the background for this innovative mystery. While Kelly includes plenty of lore about seeing an eclipse, the author also delivers an unusual psychological thriller about a marriage, as well as obsessions, secrets and how rape is viewed.

At first glance, it would seem that eclipses are about an insular community of people who travel great distances to watch. But He Said/She Said  shows that it’s not just a small group but a wide swatch of people, some of whom who have never seen an eclipse and others who have no interest in the science behind it.

Christopher “Kit” McCall has chased solar eclipses his entire life, and considers “real life as the boring bit between eclipses.” Kit and his girlfriend, Laura Langrishe are celebrating the 1999 solar eclipse at a festival in Cornwall when they stop the apparent rape of a stranger. The lives of Kit and Laura are entwined for years in the lives of the victim and her abuser.

He Said/She Said ialternates between 1999 and 16 years later when Kit and Laura are married and expecting twins. Now another eclipse looms, and the best place to view is the Faroe Islands. Kit will go while Laura stays home because of her advanced pregnancy.

The eclipse is an exciting background to He Said/She Said  as Kelly adds enough science and sky lore to make readers want to rush out to get those glasses one is supposed to wear during a viewing. But Kelly never allows the science to overwhelm her unusual thriller.

He Said/She Said is the perfect companion to the 2017 solar eclipse.

Oline Cogdill
Sunday, 13 August 2017 03:08
JACK GETZE AND HIS BLACK KACHINA

Posted by Oline H. Cogdill

getzejack black kachina
Mystery Scene
continues its look at authors’ writing process. Today, Jack Getze,at left,  discusses how a souvenir led to his novel The Black Kachina, though the process wasn’t smooth.

A former Los Angeles Times reporter, Jack Getze’s news and feature stories have been published in more than 500 newspapers and periodicals.His novels include Big Numbers, Big Money, Big Mojo and his latest, The Black Kachina. His short stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir and Beat to a Pulp.

Chasing the Black Kachina
By Jack Getze   
Once in a shop for tourists I was attracted to a bright, stitched emblem of Nataska the Black Ogre, a kachina (spirit) of the Hopi tribe. The horns, his hand saw, his alligator-like mouth, and sharp teeth poked my curiosity.

He was described as The Punisher of Wicked Children; so I hurried to the cashier to make my purchase.

A wonderful story of revenge and justice lurked around such an inspirational character, I decided, and the hunch proved accurate. Others will decide how wonderful it is, but my new thriller from Down & Out Books, The Black Kachina—based on that emblem—hit the market this month.  
The only rub? That souvenir shop purchase was 23 years ago—the summer of 1994.

What follows is a nasty tale in bullet form, a warning for newer writers (“If my novel took that long to see daylight, I’d hang myself,”) authors of some experience (“Nice to see another manuscript start out so badly”) and for readers, perhaps a peek behind the creative curtain.

Getze jack
The first part of this tale -- say at least the first decade -- is not about persistence in the face of obstacles. It’s about me improving my craft. Two million words as a newspaper writer and two published novels in the first person didn’t totally prepare me for telling a third-person tale from multiple points of view.

And that’s my message for other writers here: Sometimes other people are better judges of your strengths and weaknesses.

Listening to your critique group, your agent, or your new, would-be editor is always a solid idea, and sometimes taking their advice to heart is the best thing for you and your story.

Over the course of two decades, at least two dozen people have put their finger in this pie, writers, half a dozen paid editors, two different agents, a New York book editor who showed interest, and finally Down & Out’s copyeditor Chris Rhatigan.

I wrote every single word. I made up each and every character’s crazy actions.

This is my work. But all along the way, I grabbed and held onto bunches of good advice.

Summer 1994: I work on character scenes and a potential outline. I want to write about a guy who dresses up like a scary kachina.

Spring 1998: At Writer’s Retreat Workshop, my outline looks interesting to others, but the opening chapter, not so much. Seems I know very little about writing third-person fiction. Being an ex-newspaper writer had drawbacks. In particular, point of view escapes me. I study published novels.

Spring 2002:
Taking my first version of The Black Kachina to this year’s writers workshop, a New York agent agrees to help me with a chapter-by-chapter rewrite. “Don’t tell anybody,” she says.

Fall 2004:
My agent says the latest version of Black Kachina sucks lemons, do I have “anything else in the drawer.” I send her Big Numbers, my first person story featuring Austin Carr. She likes it, finds a small publisher, and I drop the kachina story for years. (I’m not that guy in the critique group who won’t change novels. Bruce Lee says you must “be like water.”)

Summer 2009: The agent hasn’t sold Austin Carr numbers three and four, nor does she like a much revised Black Kachina. I’ve paid two professional editors to tell me what’s wrong with it and made revisions on their comments. I do notice the story gets better as I follow some of the editors’ advice, but I’ve had it with my agent. The feeling is mutual.

Summer 2012: With more editors, another major revision, the Black Kachina manuscript attracts a new agent. She loves my characters, especially a new one, Air Force Colonel Maggie Black. In fact, the new agent thinks Maggie should be the star. I tell her I’ll add more Maggie but this is not Maggie’s story.

Spring 2014: My rewrite gets a year of rejection, but one editor calls the agent nine months after saying no, tells her he can’t forget Colonel Maggie. He reads the manuscript again and wants to talk to me on the phone. He loves Maggie but thinks she needs to be the star—“it’s her story, her series.” He says he can’t take Black Kachina to his board the way it is, but he’ll work with me if I agree to rewrite Maggie into the main role. This is the first big shot who ever called me, I can tell you, so I say yes and work hard all summer.

Summer 2014: I started making Maggie the star and realized the truth within one week. It is her story. It always was her story. She designed and then loses a secret weapon. She has to get it back. If I could slap my forehead here, I would. Why was I so stubborn? The answer is too much research into Cahuilla tribes.

Fall 2014: My agent forwards a brief rejection of my rewrite from the New York editor. My agent can’t understand, calls it mysterious because she loves the new draft and the editor had agreed to work with us. Her email sent me to the shrink. “I can’t take it!”

Fall 2014: Weeks later, the editor gets fired. That’s the solution to our mystery, my agent says. Maybe she was trying to make me feel better. I don’t know. But I’m glad he didn’t sign me and then get fired. My agent keeps shopping Black Kachina.

Fall 2016: Over dinner and maybe a few drinks, I previously wowed my Austin Carr publisher Eric Campbell of Down & Out Books with tales of The Black Kachina and a stolen missile. I mail him the book and he thinks it’s great. Especially Colonel Maggie.

August 2017: The Black Kachina—and a Colonel Maggie series—sees print.

Oline Cogdill
Thursday, 17 August 2017 04:08
BRENDA BLETHYN AS VERA

By OLINE H. COGDILL

vera series 7 Brenda Blethyn Kenny Doughty
So many people help make the mystery genre what it is today—authors, editors, publishers, (a few critics).

Add to that list those actors, directors and more who bring the mystery genre to the screen.

One of those actors is Brenda Blethyn, the Academy Award and Emmy nominated, Golden Globe winning actress who stars as DCI Vera Stanhope in the series Vera, based on Ann Cleeves’ novels.

So it makes perfect sense that Blethyn is being honored with the Poirot Award for Malice Domestic 30, which will be held April 27 - 29, 2018.

I love the TV series Vera, not only because I am fan of Cleeves’ novels but also because of Blethyn.

The actress so winningly brings to life this cantankerous but brilliant detective who solves unthinkable crimes in northeast England.

veraseason7 Brenda Blethyn
Blethyn gets to the heart of Vera, showing, of course, her crusty side but also her vulnerability.

Vera thinks like no other detective she works with, and she wants to impart this knowledge to her young colleague DS Aiden Healy (well played by Kenny Doughty) who joined the series in the fifth season.

The announcement of the Poirot Award couldn’t be more timely as the seventh season of Vera has just been released on Acorn TV.

The four episodes that comprise Vera’s seventh season are 90 minutes each, and each is a standout, proving why the series one of Britain’s most popular detective dramas.

The series can be viewed at Acorn. Or you can buy the DVD at Acorn.

Here’s a synopsis of the four episodes:

Natural Selection: Vera investigates a wildlife ranger’s death, taking the detective to a remote island off the coast of Northumberland.

Dark Angel: Vera looks at an old case to find out who killed a drug addict.

Broken Promise: Vera’s latest case is finding out if a promising university student who fell to his death in suspicious circumstances was murdered.

The Blanket Mire: This may be my favorite of the four as Vera looks into the death of a teenager, whose body was found buried on the moors. Vera doesn’t just accept the findings of the original investigation as she delves into the victim’s secret life.

PHOTOS: Top,  Kenny Doughty and Brenda Blethyn. Bottom, Brenda Blethyn. Photos courtesy Acorn TV


Oline Cogdill
Saturday, 19 August 2017 05:08
NEW MYSTERY DESTINATION: COTTONWOOD, CALIF

By OLINE H. COGDILL

burleyjohn quietchild
Welcome to Cottonwood, California.

Until last month, I had never heard of Cottonwood, Calif.

That’s no offense to the good people of Cottonwood, a town of about 3,300 located in Shasta County in the northern part of California.

I’m from a small town, and doubt many people have heard of my hometown of Charleston, Missouri. Or the nearby towns of Bertrand, East Prairie or Wyatt in Southeast Missouri, nicknamed The Bootheel.

For history buffs, Cottonwood was a stagecoach town with a settlement established in 1849. The first Post Office opened in 1852.

During 1997, the movie Almost Heroes was filmed there. The movie starred Matthew Perry and Chris Farley; it was Farley’s last film.

And now Cotttonwood, California, makes an appearance in two excellent mystery novels—The Quiet Child by John Burley and Y Is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton.

Burley sets his The Quiet Child in 1954, and Cottonwood becomes a metaphor for fear.

Here, the residents of Cottonwood are uncomfortable in the presence of 6-year-old Danny McCray who has “elective mutism.” He doesn’t speak, ever, and the townspeople blame Danny for the town’s economic decline and any of the residents’ suffering. To them, Danny is “a ghost child, a quiet child the townspeople referred only to in whispers.”

Then, Danny is kidnapped along with his 10-year-old brother, Sean, who is the only person who seems to truly love Danny. The kidnapping—and the search—launches the tight, gripping plot of The Quiet Child.  People care about Sean but few want Danny found.

graftonsue yforyesterday
Burley keeps the suspense high and the story realistic as he looks at family relationships, unconditional love and fear in The Quiet Child.

Kinsey Millhone makes a trek to Cottonwood, Calif., during the course of an investigation in Sue Grafton’s Y Is for Yesterday.

Kinsey remembers as a child reading about naturally occurring asphalt that was discovered near Cottonwood. It is a memory of Kinsey’s childhood as she read about it in an old encyclopedia that her Aunt Gin had bought.

Y Is for Yesterday is, of course, the second to last Kinsey novel that Grafton has planned. Regardless of the plot, many of us look forward to each Grafton novel because we just want to know what Kinsey’s been up to.

And Grafton is ending her series on a high note with the outstanding Y Is for Yesterday.

Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 06:08
Warren Adler on Reading

adler warren

 

 

It is my belief that fiction provides the soul of education and allows us to attain a deep understanding of what makes us human. 

 

My childhood love for reading has deeply influenced the course of my life, starting at a very young age when my parents bought me a set of books called My Book House. It was a beautifully produced 12-volume collection that first introduced me to nursery rhymes, and as I grew older, to fairy tales and eventually Shakespeare. I loved those books, but unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to the original set my parents had given me.

mybookhouseseriesLuckily, one day during my adulthood, I was browsing through Marshall Field’s in Chicago when much to my amazement, I found My Book House. I was so excited to rediscover the books that I immediately purchased them, allowing me to share a fragment of my childhood with my children. I loved those books so much and I’ll bet the barn that they had a profound influence on my career choice to become a novelist.

I also fondly recall the moment I entered the hushed, sacred precinct of the Brownsville Children's Library in Brooklyn where I grew up in the mid-1930s. Ever since then, I’ve been a passionate advocate for public libraries. My most profoundly joyous memory is walking through the crowded, noisy, aroma-filled atmosphere of Sutter Avenue, between rows of pushcarts selling anything edible and wearable, on my way to that vine-covered magic castle of books. It was like crossing a moat from the reality of a contemporary world of struggle and strife, to a paradise of storytelling, which opened infinite possibilities and aspirations in a young boy confronting a strange and scary future.

Most delectable was the homeward journey, back over the same route, but this time heavy with the anticipation of reading the books I was carrying in my arms. I think I cleared the library shelves and read every book of Bomba the Jungle Boy, The Hardy Boys, and Allies Boys. I lived with the illusion of stamped library cards piling up, until I had read every book designated for my age group. I think I got pretty close.

My love affair with reading inspired my dream to become a novelist by the time I was 15. After high school, I went to New York University and pursued a degree in English Literature, where I was introduced to the roster of great American novelists, becoming bewitched by the works of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald. My freshman English professor, Dr. Don Wolfe, inspired me, and I later went on to study creative writing with him at the New School, along with Mario Puzo and William Styron. Throughout the years I’ve had many careers, but even when I was working a million jobs to make ends meet, I always made time to write and frequent the library—I could not stop doing either.

adler undertowI didn’t end up publishing my first novel until I was 45, when luck and hard work finally came together. After enduring a seamless series of rejection, a brilliant man walked into the advertising agency I was running at the time and he asked me if I could promote his books. He then asked me what my fee would be. I was intrigued, and with careful consideration, I told him that if he could get his publisher (Whitmore Publishing Company) to consider my first novel, there would be no fee. And that’s how I published my then titled novel Undertow.

It is my belief that fiction provides the soul of education and allows us to attain a deep understanding of what makes us human. Life, past and present, is a story, our story, and it springs from the imagination of those who have dug deeply into this mysterious well of truth to speak to us, inform us of the joys, perils, and insights of the human experience.

As a writer of the imagination and a reader of works of the imagination, I believe it has given me insight, understanding, and greater comprehension of the human condition on all levels. It has taken me out of the living moment into the mind and motivation of others, both past and present, and showed me a path to empathy and potential wisdom. Perhaps, I like to think so.

Warren Adler is the bestselling author of 50+ novels, hundreds of short stories, plays and essays including The War of the Roses, Private Lies, and Random Hearts (which was also a hit movie). 

This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" enews September 2017 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 22 August 2017 02:08
HOUSTON BOOKSTORES VS. HARVEY

 

By OLINE H. COGDILL

houstonbythebook
The heartbreaking news and photographs show the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston and the surrounding areas.

But the news and photos also show us the spirit of people, of complete strangers coming to the aid of another. A truck driver rescued. People carrying that what means the most to them—their children and pets. Volunteers from across the country who want to help.

So most people might think that reading a book is the last thing on anyone’s mind. A novel pales next to having your home and most precious possessions underwater.

But Houston bookstores also are proving that they are than a place to buy a book, but are vital parts of their community.

Many of Houston’s bookstores seemed to have had little damage during Harvey, but, of course, are closed and have canceled events.

But these stores want to reach out to offer a bit of refuge.

That’s because brick and mortar stores do what online shopping cannot—care about the community and the residents. People aren’t just faceless customers but friends and neighbors.

McKenna Jordan, owner of Murder by the Book in Houston, reported on the store’s Facebook page that it “has a few damp places where water came in, but it is minimal compared to what we expected.”

Monday, the store opened, not to sell books but to offer a bit of comfort.

Murder by the Book, at left, offered free coffee, cookies, charging stations, wi-fi and restrooms to anyone who came by. Free books also were available.

“No need to buy anything. Come visit, let us know you're ok, and take shelter from the storm. We'll be doing the same thing all week for those who can't make it,” Jordan wrote on Facebook. “Please pass this along for those who have lost electricity, or who just need a break from sitting home in the rain.”

The homes of all Murder by the Book staff are dry and have power, Jordan reported. “We're, of course, all still watching the weather, and have a few rough days ahead, but so far we feel very fortunate. Stay safe, be kind, and we hope to see you tomorrow." Of course, Jordan stressed that no one should venture out unless it is safe.

Jack Reacher also will be on hand to greet people at Murder by the Book. No, not the character in the novels, but Jordan’s dog who is the namesake of Lee Child’s character.

“Those who came in were SO appreciative of the coffee and being able to get out of their houses. We've all been feeling a lot of cabin fever. I expect for us to have many more in [rest of the week]. So many people are still unable to leave their immediate area,” Jordan wrote in an email to Mystery Scene.

Murder by the Book still has on its calendar appearances by Louise Penny, Tess Gerritsen, and Craig Johnson.

Book industry newsletter Shelf Awareness reported that Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston canceled its “signature poetry event of the year.” But the store’s Facebook page said, “We stopped by the shop, and all is well. We are very lucky. We continue to keep our bookselling friends and community in our thoughts and hearts.”

Before Harvey, the Galveston Bookshop in Galveston cleared its lower shelves of books and canceled upcoming events. According to Shelf Awareness, the store was “dry, undamaged as of Saturday afternoon.”

Brazos Bookstore in Houston also canceled its events, including Customer Appreciation Day. The store stated on Facebook that it “might have to retitle [the event] Hurricane Appreciation Day.” September author events remain on Brazos’ schedule, including Attica Locke’s signing for Bluebird, Bluebird, scheduled for Sept. 13.

Katy Budget Books in Houston reported on Facebook that the store will make its decision day by day whether to remain closed.

Richard Deupree, manager of Katy Budget Books, told Shelf Awareness in an interview that “A crisis like this brings out the best in people. Utility linemen working to restore power in blistering winds and driving rain, risking their lives so others will be more comfortable. People from Louisiana (they call themselves the Cajun Navy) working their way to Houston as we speak, with small boats in tow to help with search and rescue. Neighbors helping neighbors...

“Ironic is it not: out of catastrophe comes unity."

Photo: Murder by the Book montage courtsey McKenna Jordan

Oline Cogdill
Monday, 28 August 2017 07:08
The Freddie Is for Writers
Oline H. Cogdill

sleuthfestFreddieAward
Sleuthfest
, sponsored by the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, has earned its reputation as being one of the best conferences for writers. Panels about the craft of writing and publishing give a boost to would-be writers. Plus, writers have the chance to talk with agents and editors.

The 24th Sleuthfest will be held March 1-4, 2018, at Embassy Suites, 661 NW 53rd St., Boca Raton.

And now is the time to polish those words of wisdom and enter the 2017 Freddie Award for Writing Excellence.

The Freddie Award is accepting submissions now through October 15 in two categories, mystery and thriller. This contest is a rare opportunity for unpublished writers. All entrants will receive feedback on their unpublished mystery or thriller manuscript: the judges' score sheet critiques of their writing.

A free three-day registration for the 2019 Sleuthfest is one of the prizes that come with the award.

The top five entrants in the Freddie Award Mystery and Thriller categories will be read by an acquiring agent or editor. All 10 finalists will be introduced to the editors during a special ceremony at SleuthFest 2018 and the winners will be announced at the same ceremony.

In addition to the three-day early registration, the top mystery and thriller winners will also receive a crystal plaque.

The contest fee is $25 for MWA members, $30 for nonmembers. You do NOT need to be an MWA member to enter.

For details go to http://mwaflorida.org/ and click on Contest for rules, entry forms, and more.    

The Sleuthfest keynote speaker will be Andrew Gross and the Forensic Guest of Honor is Katherine Ramsland.

Guest Authors who will teach workshops will include Hallie Ephron, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), Hank Phillippi Ryan, and James R. Benn. Neil Nyren of G.P. Putnam's Sons returns as the Editor in Chief.

Yes, it’s not even Halloween yet, so why should we worry about March?

Because this is the time to save on registration.

An early bird rate of $360 for the Friday through Sunday conference and an $85 for the 3rd Degree Thursday on March 1 will be honored through September 30. To register, visit http://www.sleuthfest.com or email SleuthFestinfo@gmail.com.

Oline Cogdill
Thursday, 31 August 2017 09:08
Bluebird, Bluebird

Racial injustices from the past alongside the continuing present-day divide set the scene for Attica Locke's new novel set in East Texas.

Darren Matthews is a Texas Ranger, one of those near-mythical law enforcement officers of the Lone Star State who are the stuff of movie heroes. But being a black man having grown up in East Texas, he's keenly aware of how things work when it comes to interactions between the police and the black community.

On suspension and facing possible termination, Darren finds himself nagged by family members to quit his job and go into the legal field. His estranged wife has kicked him out and he's drinking just a bit too much, but when he's offered a temporary reprieve from his suspension to look into two murders, both a week apart, in barely-a-dot-on-the-map Lark, Texas, he ends up finding a whole lot more than he expected.

The murders of a black man and a white woman look to be connected, but how exactly seems unclear. Matthews soons finds that while they briefly spoke to one another, they didn't really know each other. What was the man doing in Lark, and is there a connection to drugs and the white supremacist gang of crooks that inhabit the town?

The story also looks at the interwined lives of the townspeople of Lark. While they aren't really all that friendly, they just can't seem to stay away from each other. Ranger Matthews receives little help from the locals. The sheriff is more interested in currying favor with the town's bigwig than solving the murder of a black man, and the local food shack owner Geneva Sweet, who clearly knows something, is keeping things close to the vest and doesn't trust Matthews despite their shared background.

The twists and turns of the narrative will keep readers on edge right through the fiery hail of gunfire climax. There is a resolution to the murders, but Locke wisely leaves the underlying reasons behind them unresolved, just as they so often are in real life. Despite an unsatisfying kind of cliffhanger epilogue, Bluebird, Bluebird sharply defines on man's resolve to solve a crime, despite his own doubts about his past, his future, and those friends and foes standing in his way as he looks for answers on all fronts. Fueled by booze, barbecue, and the music of the blues, Bluebird, Bluebird is an instantly gripping thriller.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 29 August 2017 02:08
Bluebird, Bluebird
Jay Roberts

Racial injustices from the past alongside the continuing present-day divide set the scene for Attica Locke's new novel set in East Texas.

Darren Matthews is a Texas Ranger, one of those near-mythical law enforcement officers of the Lone Star State who are the stuff of movie heroes. But being a black man having grown up in East Texas, he's keenly aware of how things work when it comes to interactions between the police and the black community.

On suspension and facing possible termination, Darren finds himself nagged by family members to quit his job and go into the legal field. His estranged wife has kicked him out and he's drinking just a bit too much, but when he's offered a temporary reprieve from his suspension to look into two murders, both a week apart, in barely-a-dot-on-the-map Lark, Texas, he ends up finding a whole lot more than he expected.

The murders of a black man and a white woman look to be connected, but how exactly seems unclear. Matthews soons finds that while they briefly spoke to one another, they didn't really know each other. What was the man doing in Lark, and is there a connection to drugs and the white supremacist gang of crooks that inhabit the town?

The story also looks at the interwined lives of the townspeople of Lark. While they aren't really all that friendly, they just can't seem to stay away from each other. Ranger Matthews receives little help from the locals. The sheriff is more interested in currying favor with the town's bigwig than solving the murder of a black man, and the local food shack owner Geneva Sweet, who clearly knows something, is keeping things close to the vest and doesn't trust Matthews despite their shared background.

The twists and turns of the narrative will keep readers on edge right through the fiery hail of gunfire climax. There is a resolution to the murders, but Locke wisely leaves the underlying reasons behind them unresolved, just as they so often are in real life. Despite an unsatisfying kind of cliffhanger epilogue, Bluebird, Bluebird sharply defines on man's resolve to solve a crime, despite his own doubts about his past, his future, and those friends and foes standing in his way as he looks for answers on all fronts. Fueled by booze, barbecue, and the music of the blues, Bluebird, Bluebird is an instantly gripping thriller.

Teri Duerr
Tuesday, 29 August 2017 03:08

locke bluebirdbluebirdRacial injustices from the past alongside the continuing present-day divide set the scene for Attica Locke's new novel set in East Texas.

The Last Girl
Betty Webb

Danny Lopez’s The Last Girl is a stellar example of the enjoyably bleak subgenre of mysteries featuring former journalists, written by former journalists. Out-of-work Sarasota journalist Dexter Vega is hired by scuzzy porn millionaire Nick Zavala to find Maya, his disappeared, twentysomething daughter. Ordinarily, Vega wouldn’t touch such a shifty sounding case—the porn business setup alone makes him queasy—but since he is flat broke, he agrees. Complications arise. Soon after Vega begins looking for Maya, porn king Zavala is found bludgeoned to death by a three-foot-tall bronze penis. (Remember my mention of dark humor?) The Sarasota Police Department doesn’t buy Vega’s tale of trying to find a runaway daughter, because, as it turns out, Zavala never had a daughter. The porn king did, however, have a girlfriend named Maya whom he’d been helping through college. The scenery then shifts from Sarasota to Mexico City, where Maya, a biologist, is rumored to be searching for a rare salamander thought to be extinct in the wild. The last wild axolotl was found in the Xochimilco section of the city, famed for its floating gardens. Vega, who has flown to Mexico City, meets up with a team of other biologists who are also searching for the salamander, but they all claim never to have heard of Maya. Their story eventually changes, but saying more would spoil the bleak fun. The Last Girl is a fascinating tale, mixing murder and beatdowns with a dose of environmental science. Author Lopez assuredly knows how to write, meticulously describing each scene, from sticky-floored barrooms to beautiful-but-threatening Xochimilco. Lopez also displays a deft hand at characterization, right down to the hungry children Vega meets near one of the Xochimilco canals. Travelers will enjoy The Last Girl for its near-travelogue scenery, but mystery lovers will love the way Vega slowly comes to realize that nothing his client told him is true. When the truth comes out, which it always does, Vega is forced to make another decision: leave Maya alone, or just write up the case as a magazine article. Never has a protagonist’s ambivalence proved more bleakly intriguing.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 12:09
The Devil’s Triangle
Betty Webb

Be sure and catch Howard Owen’s terrific The Devil’s Triangle, which brings back irascible reporter Willie Black for a sixth outing (after Oregon Hill, Grace, etc.). This time out, the murderous stakes are raised when a small plane purposely crashes into the Richmond, Virginia, watering hole where attorneys have gone to celebrate the close of a successful case. As the death toll climbs past two dozen, Willie must fight his wackadoodle publisher for permission to probe more deeply into the pilot’s past. Grim though the subject matter may be, there is—again—a plethora of dark humor to be found here. Newspaperman Willie, himself multiracial, is a sly historian, especially when confronting Richmond’s racist past. When the mayor makes a speech about the tragedy, Willie snarks, “He said a few words about our city’s darkest day, maybe forgetting the time the Confederate troops accidentally burned the place to the ground in their haste to flee the approaching Union army.” The plot—why did pilot David Biggio wipe out a bar filled with attorneys?—is intriguing, but Willie is so entertaining that he could headline a much duller plot and his many loyal readers would still follow him. No one and no thing is safe from Willie’s rapier wit, not even himself. While waiting to see if he is among those destined to lose his job as his newspaper straggles into oblivion, he considers his prospects. “I’m pretty much the whole package: 56 years old, good salary, a well-earned reputation for antagonizing the powers that be, maybe a wee bit of a drinking problem. I’m a human resources ax-wielder’s dream.” Yet Willie isn’t the only colorful character in this comedy/drama of a book. Along for the ride are renegades like Pistol Pete, Peachy Love, Bootie Carmichael, Goat Johnson, and Awesome Dude (Willie’s mom’s pot-smoking boyfriend). Ironically, with all his faults, Willie’s is the strongest voice for decency and honor, which is one of the reasons his three ex-wives and numerous ex-girlfriends still like him. Author Owen, who besides writing superb mysteries also writes superb literary novels (Littlejohn, Rock of Ages, etc.) is to be lauded for creating a character as flawed yet lovable as Willie Black. Yes, the man is a rascal, and yes, he drinks too much, but Willie is truly a man for all seasons.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 12:09

The irascible reporter Willie Black returns for a sixth outing in which a small plane purposely crashes into the Richmond, Virginia, in a terrorist attack.

The Force
Dick Lochte

Don Winslow’s new novel involves the activities of the NYPD’s ultra-elite Manhattan North Special Task Force, whose leader, decorated detective sergeant Denny Malone, and his quick-thinking, brave, brutal, hard-charging, and hard-playing crew have been given unrestrained authority to “hold the line” against the city’s gangs and their guns and drugs. This, and the book’s title, may suggest that it is a police procedural. It is not. It is, instead, an open- and stink-eyed study of Malone, who, like his close-knit squad, is as corrupt and nearly as vicious as the gangsters he’s been assigned to combat. No spoiler here; the novel begins with Malone facing jail time and feeling remorse for ratting out his closest bros-in-blue, detectives Russo and Big Monty. Using prose powerful and persuasive, Winslow charts the downfall of these “kings of the city” who are smart and cynical enough to realize they are not just beyond the law but beyond salvation. As Winslow sees it, they’re not alone in their corruption. Their city is roiling with other crooked cops, crooked lawyers on both sides of the court, crooked judges, and of course crooked politicians. Finding a character to like is harder than winning the New York Lottery. But likability is not always a required ingredient for literary success. (Hi, there, Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth!). And this is, make no mistake, a significant work. Winslow knows how to string words and, along with many action sequences that should not be pacemaker-approved, there are several rants and raves about Manhattan that are pure hardboiled poetry. Especially as delivered with heart-pounding and, at times, heartbreaking intensity by reader Dion Graham (The Wire). The actor is particularly good at creating distinctive voices, primarily Malone’s growl, which is relentlessly tough-as-nails even when altered by physical pain or self-disgust or genuine regret. Russo sounds brash, emotional and very Italian-American, while Monty speaks with a deep African-American mix of strength and self-confidence. Past the main characters, Graham gives their police chief a harsh, demanding attitude, and the gang leaders a cheerily sneering, faux-friendly but cutthroat approach. Malone’s wife is, for her few scenes, justifiably in-your-face angry, while his drug-addicted nurse girlfriend sounds as if she’s falling asleep mid-sentence. The feds are overly aggressive, ruthlessly ambitious, heartless, and as annoyed as if they, too, are off-put at having found no one in the novel likable, least of all Malone.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09
Ten Dead Comedians
Dick Lochte

Fred Van Lente (coauthor of Cowboys & Aliens, Deadpool) goes from graphic to words-only novel with this parody of Agatha Christie’s famous standalone finally labeled And Then There Were None after its original Ten Little... titles failed to find an ethnic category that wasn’t offensive to modern readers. Van Lente’s whodunit has legendary comic Dustin Walker inviting nine less-than-legendary funny folk to his compound on a secluded island in the West Indies to work with him on an exciting new project. Needless to say, the invitation is a ruse. His purpose is to make them pay with their lives for their “crimes against comedy.” Adding to the amusement are characters who are composites of real comedians living and dead, samples of their stand-up routines, snarky showbiz references, and a plot stocked with as many red herrings as Dame Christie’s, with an ending even she might have had trouble guessing. Like any project this comedy obsessed, it faces a “could be funnier” critique, but there are laughs enough to merit a listen. J.D. Jackson does an admirable job of juggling all the aggressively extroverted voices, male and female—not to mention performing their routines in character using a reasonably effective, well-paced stand-up delivery. Still, if ever a book deserved a full-cast reading, this is it. (That goes for the Christie novel, too, now that I think of it.)

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09
Leo Margulies Giant of the Pulps: His Thrilling, Exciting, and Popular Journey
Jon L. Breen

Leo Margulies (1900-1975) was one of the most successful and long-serving pulp magazine editors and publishers. Most familiar of his titles to today’s readers is Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, in format a digest but in spirit a pulp, which began in 1956 and outlived him by a decade. Along with titles from the science fiction, sports, Western, romance, and aviation genres, he oversaw such crime pulps as G-Men, Mystery Book Magazine, Popular Detective, Phantom Detective, and Thrilling Detective. He was the original publisher of The Saint Detective Magazine, and later launched shorter-lived digests fronted by Charlie Chan, Shell Scott, The Man from UNCLE, and The Girl from UNCLE.

The author is a relative and provides personal and family insights along with the account of his uncle’s professional life. While he could be prickly and difficult, Margulies was clearly a fair and decent man, as well as a good writer and editor. Over a hundred pages of appendices include listings of his magazines arranged by publishing imprint, anthologies, novels published by his Gateway Books imprint, comic books, his own published writings, (a short story and anthology introduction serve as examples), and posthumous tributes by Forest J. Ackerman and Will Murray. Statistical buffs will be interested in the approximate numbers of contributions bought from his most prolific writers. Topping the list is Norman Daniels (270). Some others include Johnston McCulley (170), Louis L’Amour (140), Dennis Lynds (110), Michael Avallone (70), and Henry Kuttner (40).

Sherman is an experienced researcher and careful scholar, whose rare errors may be owing to a limited knowledge of popular fiction genres and their authors. A series of short story collections by Leslie Charteris from the 1950s and 1960s, including The Saint in Europe and The Saint on the Spanish Main among others, are described as anthologies rather than single-author works. And Sherman seems surprised that Leo Margulies was not credited as their editor, stating that Leslie Charteris was. The implication is that the stories were not actually written by Charteris. While this is possible, it seems more likely that Sherman is confusing these collections with a series of paperback anthologies from the ’40s with the title The Saint’s Choice and edited by Charteris.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09
It’s All One Case: The Illustrated Ross Macdonald Archives
Jon L. Breen

In 1976 rock critic Paul Nelson taped 40 or more hours of interviews with Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) with a Rolling Stone article and eventual book in mind. When Nelson died in 2006 neither had been written, but the interviews now have been topically and thematically organized by Nelson biographer Kevin Avery. They are accompanied in this handsome coffee-table book by copious photographs, manuscripts, typescripts, letters, and color reproductions of book and magazine covers, most from the collection of graphic designer and Macdonald enthusiast Jeff Wong.

Nelson, a brilliant journalist and interviewer, was well prepared with specific questions for a subject not interested in small talk. Macdonald, who thought before he spoke and replied in complete sentences, is consistently insightful, serious, challenging, and articulate in his responses. The conversations, augmented by Avery’s footnotes, cover nearly all aspects of Millar/Macdonald’s life and work, including his opinions of other writers, environmental concerns, and attitude toward religion. (“I think that religion is like a forest fire, which just simply has to be not put out but kept under control.”) Closest to a taboo topic is the life and death of his daughter Linda, who is mostly referenced in captions and photographs. At one point, when her name comes up, Macdonald asks the interviewer to shut off the recorder; when the recording resumes, no more is said about her.

The 30 chapters extend from Beginnings and First Works to California and Beyond Archer. Among the topics in between: jazz, detective fiction, romanticism, critics and criticism, Hollywood, painters and other artists. Some chapters focus on groups of works, a few on individual book titles (The Instant Enemy, The Doomsters, The Blue Hammer). Though a number of other writers are discussed at length (including Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and Marshall McLuhan), only three have a chapter to themselves (seven pages on Hammett, two on Chandler, three on Fitzgerald). Macdonald’s constant reference to the centrality of structure in his writing methods shows his respect for classical detective fiction plotting and may explain why Anthony Boucher believed him a greater novelist than Hammett or Chandler. While Macdonald revered Hammett, he believed Chandler neglected structure and “didn’t take the form as seriously as he should have.”

The interviews were made after the publication of The Blue Hammer, Macdonald’s last novel, in which uncharacteristic errors (some of them corrected for later editions) suggested he was already in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. At one point, struggling to recall a detail from his favorite book, The Great Gatsby, Macdonald says, “Excuse me, sometimes I have a hard time remembering my name,” but indications of his failing powers are rare.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09

Forty-plus hours of interviews with Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) edited into a beautiful coffee-table book with copious photographs, color reproductions of book and magazine covers, and 30 chapters from Beginnings and First Works to California and Beyond Archer.

Bibliomysteries
Ben Boulden

Bibliomysteries, edited by Otto Penzler, is a welcome anthology for bibliophiles. It features 15 tales with an impressive range—international thriller, whodunit, hardboiled, and contemporary Western—with a single unifying theme: books and the people who love them. The quality of the tales is unusually high and it is, at least as of this writing, the best anthology I’ve read all year.

“The Book of Ghosts,” by Reed Farrel Coleman, is a new twist on an old story. Jacob Weisen, a survivor of Birkenau, gained fame for his retelling of a fellow prisoner’s lost novel The Book of Ghosts, a book Weisen is certain was destroyed during the war. But when it reappears decades later, it brings with it a grim dilemma.

Laura Lippmann’s “The Book Thing” is a sentimental tale with an uncommon bibliophile. Tess Monaghan is a private detective with an admiration for one of Baltimore’s final surviving children’s bookstores. When Tess learns books are disappearing from the store, she decides to find the thief. The answer and the perpetrator are surprising, and if you own more books than you can read (like I do), it’s also thought provoking.

My favorite story in the anthology is David Bell’s poignant “Rides a Stranger.” It weaves a collectable pulp Western paperback, a murder, and a son’s journey to understand his deceased father into a thought-provoking and relevant tale.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09
New Haven Noir
Ben Boulden

New Haven Noir, edited by Amy Bloom, is the most recent anthology in Akashic’s popular Noir Series. Included are 15 stories with one common thread: New Haven, Connecticut. The forgotten Elm City, midway between New York City and Boston, is rife with potential for the dark trappings of noir with its working-class identity overshadowed by the ubiquity of Yale. But only a few stories included are noir, at least in the traditional sense, because many are steeped with hope and redemption; qualities as far from noir as Little House on the Prairie, the television series, is from a traditional Western.

This eclectic anthology, noir or not, is brimming with an abundance of good storytelling, entertaining tales, and meaningful narrative. Stephen L. Carter’s “Evening Prayer,” with its evocative setting and rich characters, is a powerful story about race in mid-20th-century America as viewed by a young African-American boy. “I’ve Never Been to Paris,” by Amy Bloom, the book’s editor, is a nicely rendered traditional mystery with a very scholarly murder. Chris Knopf’s “Crossing Harry,” with its unreliable narration and nicely executed climactic twist, is as much a horror story as anything, but very good nonetheless.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09
The Forever Spy
Hank Wagner

The gripping sequel to Jeffrey Layton’s first Yuri Kirov thriller, 2016’s The Good Spy, The Forever Spy finds the former Russian operative trying to adapt to his new situation (cohabiting with his paramour, entrepreneur Laura Newman, and her infant daughter, Maddy), along with his new identity. He has made great progress disappearing into his new life, but his past still exerts a terrific pull on him, as when a former colleague, the opportunistic Elena Krestyanova, recognizes him from a piece of news footage. Seeing a chance to manipulate him, Elena collaborates with Chinese operatives to implicate Yuri in a sinister plan to foster a military conflict between the United States and Russia. Yuri finds all he holds dear threatened.

From its opening chapter, set in Alaska’s Icy Cape, to its exciting finale in the Pacific waters off the coast of Washington State, The Forever Spy delivers plentiful, high-octane action, coupled with copious amounts of personal drama, as Yuri and Laura struggle against outside forces that threaten the life they are struggling to build together. Layton clearly understands that good thriller fiction is about how your protagonists deal with reversals, creating scenarios so daunting that it will take all their inventiveness and ingenuity to survive. Readers will enjoy the arresting experience of watching the couple do just that.

Teri Duerr
Monday, 11 September 2017 01:09