At the Scene, Winter Issue #166

166 Winter Cover, James RollinsHello Everyone!

There is much of interest in Oline Cogdill’s profile of thriller writer James Rollins. He was a veterinarian, for instance, and started writing surrounded by barking and meowing patients. Then there’s his impressive list of bestsellers—particularly the Sigma Force novels about gun-toting scientists. But what really caught my eye was this: “He also subscribes to 24 magazines on topics such as research, history, and scuba diving...” Now there’s someone after a magazine publisher’s heart!

It’s been 60 years since the deceptively humble Lt. Columbo debuted on live TV and became an immediate hit. But you might not have recognized him—three other actors portrayed Columbo before Peter Falk took over the role and made it his own. Michael Mallory reveals all in his entertaining article.

“The dynamic between a man and a woman in a long-term marriage is fascinating to me. It’s rare to meet a couple who’ve accepted their share of the power cake, the battle is ongoing over decades in many cases,” Lisa Jewell says. John B. Valeri talks to Jewell about her latest novel, Invisible Girl, which looks at the delicate shifting balances of a relationship over time.

It’s time for the annual “Mystery Lovers’ Gift Guide” and our favorite little elf, Kevin Burton Smith, has been scurrying about finding treasures to melt the heart of even the grouchiest Grinch. And wait, haven’t you been very good this year, too?

You’ll find Alex Erickson on the cozier side of the crime fiction street—he revels in small-town Ohio life in his charming Bookstore Cafe mysteries featuring Krissy Hancock. “The pandemic won’t happen in this world,” Erickson says. “People need an escape from reality sometimes, and I don’t think it would help anything to have Krissy struggle with real-world problems when many of us want a chance to forget about such things for a while.” Amen to that!

A few years ago, the British Library launched its reprint series of classic crime novels from the Golden Age of Detection. The series, brought to the US by Poisoned Pen Press, was a huge hit. Now, the Library of Congress has mined the history of American detective fiction for its own crime classics line, again with the assistance of Poisoned Pen Press. Jon L. Breen takes a look at these handsome reprints, each carefully chosen to represent some strand of American crime fiction and offering introductions by mystery maven Les Klinger. Bravo!

Craig Sisterson has an interesting conversation with Irish novelist Liz Nugent in this issue. Nugent has always been fascinated by villains and as a child wanted to be the witch in school plays. “All those Disney kinds of princesses were just saps,” says Nugent. That little girl was on to something...

Like many writers in the 1940s, James M. Cain followed the siren call of Hollywood but his own screenwriting never amounted to much. Hollywood struck gold, however, when it put Cain’s novels on the screen. Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce—these films are still admired today. Pat H. Broeske gives us the lowdown on these movie highlights.

This year, Kevin O’Brien celebrates 23 years and 20 books—a milestone capped by his first ever continuation novel, The Bad Sister. John B. Valeri talks with O’Brien, who credits his publisher with essential support.

Also in this issue, we have interesting My Book essays contributed by M.E. Browning, Andrea J. Johnson, Maya Corrigan, and Becky Clark.


Kate Stine

Teri Duerr
2020-11-13 05:03:32
Winter Issue #166
Teri Duerr
2020-11-20 15:33:21
Libby Fischer Hellman on Historical Fiction
Oline Cogdill

Mystery Scene continues its ongoing series in which authors give a behind-the-scenes look at their novels and writing process.

Today, Libby Fischer Hellmann, left, talks about the challenges of writing historical fiction as she does in her latest novel, A Bend in the River.

Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, D.C., and moved to Chicago more than 35 years ago, where she began to write gritty crime fiction.

She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony and three times for Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year. She has also been nominated for the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers' Choice Award multiple times. Hellman hosts a TV interview show and conducts writing workshops at libraries and other venues, and has served as the national president of Sisters In Crime. Her books have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese.

Hellmann’s latest novel is A Bend in the River.

A Bend in the River is about two young Vietnamese sisters who flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is burned to the ground in 1968. The only survivors of the massacre that killed their family, the sisters struggle to survive but become estranged, separated by sharply different choices and ideologies. Mai ekes out a living as a GI bar girl, but Tam’s anger festers, and she heads into jungle terrain to fight with the Viet Cong. For nearly 10 years, neither sister knows if the other is alive.

Writing Tips for Historical Novels
How I Learned About Guerilla Booby Traps Without Losing a Limb

“What’s with all these crime authors writing historicals?” I’ve heard this more than once over the past year. Apparently, writing about the past is the latest trend. I never noticed it, but I’ve been alternating between historical and contemporary thrillers for 15 years. So, I took a look around, and, by gosh, it seems to be true.

In May 2019, the New York Times Magazine explored the subject with an article. “Why Are We Living in a Golden Age of Historical Fiction?”

The answer isn’t difficult. The article says, “In tumultuous times, novels tend to look forward to a dystopian future, but authors are increasingly writing about the past.” Certainly, the events of the past four years, upending precedents and norms, have been tumultuous. Some believe we’re already living in a dystopian-ish world. Margaret Atwood aside, why duplicate the misery and oppression such a world presents?

Going backward rather than forward can feel more relevant. There’s a certainty about the past.

While events and facts are often interpreted differently—via historiography—there’s little dispute about the events themselves.

“Alternative facts” don’t carry much weight.

In addition, the genre of historical fiction, crime or not, has widened its reach, allowing writers to focus on historical characters once considered marginal. Many of those characters, sometimes fictional themselves, are unique. As long as the history surrounding them is accurate and credible, it makes for fascinating reading. Still others use history and characters to elicit parallels to the present, both the strengths and the failings. And thriller authors have used historical settings for decades to describe heroic deeds.

I’ve now written five historical novels and about half a dozen historical short stories, but when asked to write about the craft of historical fiction, I come up blank. For me, writing a historical novel demands the same mastery of craft as any other novel. In some cases, writing a historical novel can even be easier. I’ll explain below. So, I’d rather call these “Tips.” Or How I Learned About Guerilla Booby Traps Without Losing a Limb.”

Choose Your Conflict Carefully
Conflict is the root of every story, even if it’s just a character who wants a glass of water and can’t get it. That applies to historical novels, too.

When I’m conceptualizing a historical novel, I look for the underlying conflict as my premise. In fact, I look for intense, multi-layered conflict. That’s why I focus on revolutions, wars, and other societal conflicts. Not so much because of the existential conflict, but because its effects on a country, a city, a neighborhood, a family, an individual, or all of the above.

The intense conflicts of the Cuban Revolution, the Islamic Revolution, World War Two, the late Sixties, and now the Vietnam War (A Bend in the River) turns some characters into heroes, others into cowards. Intense conflict can lead to violent change and devastating consequences, or in some cases, freedom and justice. I love to imagine the repercussions of such conflict, the people who are affected by them, and how they do or don’t cope with them.

Not all of us are Ken Follett, who seamlessly writes about any historical period he wants. Choosing the period of history, you want to focus on affects the story in a multitude of ways. The language, tone, lifestyle, characters’ behavior, and plot development must be accurate and relevant to the time. I’m drawn to recent history, basically the past hundred years.

As a former video producer and filmmaker, I revel in and study visual materials in my research: photographs, videos, films, audio interviews, all of which proliferated during the past century.

What’s more, periods of intense conflict lend themselves to visual representations. My college thesis (surprise --I majored in history) was about visual propaganda during World War One. Posters about marauding Huns and proud young British soldiers filled my paper. More recently, for A Bitter Veil, I watched the speech Ayatollah Khomeini gave when he returned from Paris after the Shah was deposed. I didn’t understand a word, but his rising pitch and angry expressions coupled with the audience’s reaction was enough. (I read the transcript as well, of course.)

Let Research Drive Plot
Many authors believe that research is the most satisfying part of the writing process.

We can get lost in research.

My first step, once I’ve decided what era I’m writing about, is to read as much fiction and non-fiction That’s set in the era. I do so more to reassure myself that the era I’ve chosen is “doable”—that I can add something to the body of literature that’s already there. For example, I hesitated writing about World War Two. Yes, it was a period of intense conflict, perhaps the last time we had clarity on who were heroes and who were enemies.

But what could I possibly add to the body of literature that already exists? It wasn’t until I discovered there were German POW camps in most of the states that I realized I could use one to fashion a novella for War, Spies and Bobby Sox. Similarly, I was in Vietnam touring the Cu Chi Tunnels, which connect to the Ho Chi Minh trail, a major North Vietnamese supply route during the Vietnam war, when I realized how the tunnels could be a major part of my story.

Which is why I believe that research drives plot. It’s hugely satisfying to weave actual bits of history into the plot, and I look for opportunities to do that with through my research. In many cases, this makes plotting a historical novel easier. Making the high points of my research “personal” can reveal character as well as drive plot.

Look for Surprises
Finally, I often find unexpected historical surprises that capture my imagination in ways I never expected. For example, in the excellent reference book, Vietnam, A History, author Stanley Karnow interviews a female doctor, who, during the war was an insider with the Diem administration. At the same time, she was a committed Communist, and spied for the North. The idea of a female double agent fascinated me, so I created a similar character who has a huge influence on one of my protagonists.

Another surprise was the fact that the Americans used German shepherds to sniff out Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers in the Cu Chi Tunnels. It worked for a while but then didn’t. Why? The GIs smelled like American soap. The Vietnamese, not so much. When the Vietnamese realized this, they started using American soap to trick the dogs. It worked. The dogs, scenting familiar American odors, no longer raised an alarm.

Finally, I learned, again through research, how the Viet Cong, despite being vastly under supplied compared to American forces, devised booby traps that could kill or seriously maim anyone who stepped or bumped into them. Many of the weapons used in these traps were sharpened bamboo spears smeared with feces to spur infection, spikes, wires, and grenades. The Viet Cong recognized the signs of a nearby trap; Americans didn’t, and they paid a price. That, too, made its way into my book, and as the title of this article indicates, I now know the signs.

I hope these tips help you frame an accurate historical crime novel that’s unique—not only for the period—but also for readers. Historical thrillers and historical crime, like its present-day sibling, offers us plenty of lessons.

Oline Cogdill
2020-11-22 02:31:10
MWA 2021 Grand Masters Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris, Raven Recipient Malice Domestic Announced
Oline H. Cogdill

Authors Charlaine Harris and Jeffery Deaver have been named the 2021 Grand Masters and the Malice Domestic conference will receive the Raven Award, the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced today.

They will receive their awards at the 75th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony, which will be held April 29, 2021.

Mystery Scene congratulations Harris, Deaver and Malice Domestic.

“Over the course of decades, Deaver and Harris have gripped tens of millions of readers while broadening the reach of the genre with transformative books—notably, Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, and Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels—and while generously encouraging and supporting fellow writers and the reading public. We’re delighted to recognize their achievements,” stated MWA President Meg Gardiner in the MWA announcement.

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, according to the organization’s announcement.

Jeffery Deaver has published more than 40 novels since the early 1990’s, including two series besides the Lincoln Rhyme novels, numerous stand-alone and short story collections.

In the MWA announcement, Deaver said, “When I was a (relatively) young writer new to this business of penning novels, many years ago, the first professional organization I joined was Mystery Writers of America. Signing on felt to me like coming home—being welcomed into a community of fellow authors willing to share their expertise and offer support in a profession that was largely, well, a ‘mystery’ to me.

“Besides, how could I not join? MWA was the real deal; for proof, one had only to look at those in the ranks of the Grand Masters: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, James M. Cain . . . and so many others whose works populated my bookshelves. Yet it never once occurred to me, in all my years as a member and my two terms as president, that I might be invited into those very ranks. I wish to express by boundless gratitude to MWA for this honor, which stands, without question, as the high point of my career,” he added.

Charlaine Harris has published 13 novels in the Southern Vampire series (adapted into the popular HBO series True Blood), which proved so popular that at one point her novels took half of the top 10 slots on New York Times’ bestseller list. Her other series include the Aurora Teagarden novels, the Lily Bard (Shakespeare) books, the Midnight Texas trilogy (adapted for television) and numerous others, as well as several standalones.

Harris said in the announcement, “This is like winning the lottery and the Pulitzer Prize in one day. I am so honored and thrilled to join the ranks of revered writers who are Grand Masters. I thank the MWA Board from the bottom of my heart.”

Previous Grand Masters include Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

For 2021, Mystery Writers of America selected the Malice Domestic mystery conference, founded in 1989 and held every spring since. Malice Domestic focuses primarily on traditional mysteries, their authors and fans, and also presents the Agatha Awards, with six categories.

“Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day?” said Verena Rose, currently chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. “Certainly, not me. This morning I received a call from Greg Herren, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, letting me know that Malice Domestic has been selected to receive the Raven Award in 2021. What an absolutely, amazing surprise and as the Chair, I can’t wait to give my fellow Board members the news. This is an honor we are beyond thrilled to receive.”

I have to add that the Raven is my favorite category—and for a selfish reason. I was honored with the Raven in 2013 and make sure I look at the lovely bird every day.

Other Raven winners include Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 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, Eudora Welty, Zev Buffman, Bill Clinton and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Edgar Awards are named after MWA’s patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre.

The organization has some 3,000 members including authors, screen and television writers, publishers, editors, and literary agents.

For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website:

Oline Cogdill
2020-11-23 20:47:19
Cleaning Up With Authors
Oline H Cogdill

Like many others, I have been trying to carve out some time to clean, declutter and organize during this pandemic.

And like many, I have had intermediate success. A little bit here, some there, time to stop. First few weeks my husband and I put out more than 12 bags of recyclable paper. And that went on for at least 6 weeks. Now, down to a bag or two, usually filled with recent newspapers.

Last week, I had another surge that resulted in 6 recycling bags.

So naturally, during this organizing, my mind turned to mysteries.

First, I have little regard for Marie Kondo’s decluttering theory about discarding things that don’t spark joy. I like stuff. My stuff gives me joy, whether I have used that stuff recently or 10 years ago.

Yes, I attach sentimental feelings to a lot of stuff.

If you do too, great.

If you don’t, that’s fine, too.

Just don’t tell me that I must feel so good to get rid of stuff.

No. I feel good about myself all the time.

If that purging makes you feel better about yourself—OK, fine. Though why didn’t you feel good about yourself all along? And if you feel you have too much stuff, stop shopping.
OK, back to mysteries.


Hallie Ephron’s 2019 novel Careful What You Wish For (Wm. Morrow) may have been one of the first to use Kondo’s philosophy as a plot device. I say “may have been” because once I get too decisive an astute reader will come up with more ideas.

In her sixth novel, Ephron delivers an in-depth look at how an emotional attachment to things affects people. Emily Harlow was happiest when she was paring down her belongings.

So much joy in that action that she and her partner Becca Jain started the business, Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers to help others be organized.

What doesn’t bring Emily joy is her husband Frank’s obsession with his stuff.

Their basement is overstuffed with stuff, mainly because of Frank’s “compulsive yard-sale-ing.” But Emily has a hard-fast rule—do not touch another’s property unless they give you permission. And that goes for her own home, too.

Hired to clean out a storage unit, Emily and her partners find body hidden among all the stuff that may have been stolen years before.

Ephron keeps the suspense high and the fear factor dangling with each visit to the storage unit. Anyone who has rented one of those storage units and visited it at night, knows that sense of dread grows with each ding of the elevator, each car that arrives.

Ephron’s Careful What You Wish For is a stand-alone but there are at least two series wrapped around decluttering.

Ritter Ames’ Organized for Murder series features organization expert Kate McKenzie whose new business Stacked in Your Favor is part of the plan for her family to make a fresh start in her husband’s small hometown in Vermont.

Organized for Picnic Panic is the sixth and latest in this cozy series. In Organized for Picnic Panic, The Vermont town of Hazelton is planning its popular annual Labor Day Picnic.

Kate has put her organizing skills to work helping her family and neighbors enjoy the community event. The McKenzies are still new to the town and are anxious to be a part of this tradition. Of course, the picnic won’t go as smoothly as hoped.


British writer Simon Brett’s latest series has the tagline of “The Decluttering Mysteries” and revolve around, you guessed it, a declutter.

Clutter Corpse, which came out June 2020, introduces Ellen Curtis, whose business is helping people who are running out of space.

According to the novel’s description, “As a declutterer, she is used to encountering all sorts of weird and wonderful objects in the course of her work. What she has never before encountered is a dead body.”

When Ellen finds a young woman’s body in an over-cluttered apartment, suspicion lands on the deceased homeowner's son, recently released from prison.

Actually, I think reading about decluttering is more fun than decluttering.

Oline Cogdill
2020-12-05 00:23:49
Going Places With Jeff Abbott, Lisa Unger, and Brian Panowich
Oline H Cogdill

The importance of location in mysteries can never be stressed enough.

Mysteries that give us a sense of place make that area—be it a city, region or country—a true character that effects the plot and the people who inhabit the story.

And that place can vary from author to author. Michael Connelly’s Los Angeles is different from Robert Crais and a different city than that of Denise Hamilton or Rachel Howzell Hall or Steph Cha. And these different visions make for more involving novels.

But sometimes it’s the location that is the constant as different characters inhabit the landscape.

Jeff Abbott has set his last three stand-alone novels in the affluent Lakehaven neighborhood of Austin, Texas.

The novels have focused on different families but Lakehaven has remained the constant. While Lakehaven doesn’t change, its influence affects Abbott’s characters differently.

Abbott’s latest novel Never Ask Me, which also is his 20th novel, shows the secrets that run rampant through Lakehaven.

Never Ask Me revolves around Iris and Kyle Pollitt and their much-loved teenage children, Julia and Grant, whose lives are changed when their neighbor Danielle Roberts is murdered; her body found in a neighborhood part. An adoption consultant, Danielle had facilitated many neighborhood couples seeking international adoptions, including the Pollitts.

In Zoom book event a couple of months ago, Abbott discussed his use of Lakehaven, which is fictional though based on a composite of several Austin neighborhoods. Abbott said the use of Lakehaven allows him to show “a spectrum of all kinds of people.”

But he keeps it simple so the location resonates with many readers, he said.

And the real residents of Austin have picked up on Lakehaven. “People in Austin argue which neighborhood is the fictional Lakehaven,” he said.

Abbott is not telling.

The Hollows, a quaint fictional town outside of New York City that seethes with family secrets and rife, has been a long-time background of Lisa Unger’s novels.

In an interview for Mystery Scene, (2012 Summer issue, No. 125) Unger explained The Hollows, which played prominently in Fragile (2010) and Darkness, My Old Friend (2011). Also, In the Blood, Crazy Love You, The Whispering Hollows, and Ink and Bone.

“At first The Hollows was just a place where the story was happening. It was not dissimilar from the place I grew up, but it was kind of a dreamlike combination of where I grew up and what might have been the place. The Hollows has an energy and in some ways an agenda. It’s not malicious but it also isn’t benevolent. The Hollows encourages paths to cross,” she said.

Although she has set some novels elsewhere, Unger often returns to The Hollows. “I definitely will return to The Hollows and I don’t say that lightly. I already know what will happen next there.”

In another interview, Unger said that “The Hollows keep calling me back.”

Unger also writes about The Hollows on her web site.

Unger’s latest novel Confessions on the 7:45 is set in New York City. The plot is jumpstarted when Selena Murphy Selena finds a seat on a train next to a woman who calls herself Martha. She feels an instant connection to “Martha” and the two start spilling secrets. Selena reveals that her husband is having an affair with their nanny while Martha is having an affair with her boss.

Trading secrets seems safe as Selena thinks she will never see Martha again.

“Sometimes a stranger was the safest place in your life,” muses Selena Murphy, whose encounter with a stranger on a train leads to a vortex of pain.”

Of course, nothing is safe in an Unger novel.

And despite the New York City setting, Unger works in a mention of The Hollows, which will thrill her readers.

Bull Mountain and McFalls County, located in northern Georgia’s Waymore Valley, has made a sturdy background for Brian Panowich’s three novels, Bull Mountain (2015), Like Lions (2019) and Hard Cash Valley (2020).

The area has fit well will with the criminal enterprises that have thrived in this region, especially with the violent Burroughs family who have controlled the area for generations.

Hard Cash Valley revolves around Dane Kirby, a life-long resident and ex-arson investigator for McFalls County.

Consulting on a brutal murder in a Jacksonville, Florida, he and FBI Special Agent Roselita Velasquez begin an investigation that leads back to the criminal circles of his own backyard.

Hideo Yokoyama sets his stories in the same tumultuous Japanese police precinct.

Prefecture D is a quartet of novellas set in 1998. Through these four tales, Yokoyama explores moral ambiguity, interdepartmental police politics, ethics, investigations and the various motives of the police detectives.

The four novellas in Prefecture D are written as if they are stand-alones but the connective tissue links each to the next.

Yokoyama first found an audience with Six Four, about a cold kidnapping case that shed light on police corruption in Japan. Six Four unfolded over 14 years and clocked in at 576 pages.

It sold more than one million copies in Japan before being published in the U.S.

Prefecture D is just 274 pages.

The fictional Dublin Murder Squad was the setting for Tana French’s first six novels, beginning with the award-winning In the Woods. That 2007 novel won the best debut crime novel category for the Edgar, Anthony, Barry and Macavity awards.

Each of those first six novels focused on different detectives and how their personal lives affected the investigations.

Oline Cogdill
2020-12-12 16:37:40
Owen Laukkanen's Pet Project
Oline H. Cogdill

Last summer, author Owen Laukkanen started Project Puppies. The plan was that he and a friend would drive across Canada, finding dogs that needed rescuing with the goal of finding them forever homes.

But summer turned into winter and now Project Puppies is a year-round mission.

To date, Project Puppies has rescued 71 dogs and one cat. That includes four or five litters of puppies and one pregnant dog who gave birth shortly after the rescue mission. They have all found homes or are in the process of being homed.

He also is chronicling the rescues in the blog Project Nomad.

“The germ of this first trip came when my friend Alexis Tanner and I learned that animal welfare agencies in our area were having a hard time accessing dogs in need of rescue,” Laukkanen wrote in an email.

“The agency from whom I adopted my dog Lucy, Raincoast Dog Rescue Society, typically brings animals from across Canada and the United States, as well as Mexico and as far away as Lebanon and Africa. But due to travel restrictions around the coronavirus situation they were unable to fly with dogs,” added Laukkanen.

“Sensing an opportunity for adventure, and to do something good in the midst of the pandemic, we half-jokingly offered our services as drivers,” Laukkanen said.
Raincoast Dog Rescue Society “to our surprise and delight agreed.”

Laukkanen is proud to note that the rescue agency said this has been the most successful year in Raincoast's history.

“There has been just incredible interest in all of our dogs,” he said.

Project Puppies began at the end of May as the two friends planned a rescue mission to remote northern Saskatchewan, 1,150 miles from their home.

Their destination was the Little Red River Reserve near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where they met with a team of local animal rescuers. There, they rescued their first seven dogs. Subsequent dogs have come from native communities across northern Saskatchewan and also Bella Bella, British Columbia.

They partnered with First Nations communities and with frontline rescue workers to find at risk dogs and get them homed. They also arranged for spay/neuter and return programs where they will take family pets from those northern communities and get them fixed at no cost to the owner and brought back to prevent more unwanted puppies being born. They also distributed multiple bags of dog food to families in need.

“It goes without saying that we couldn’t have done any of this without the partnership of the Little Red River Cree Nation, whose members welcomed us onto their land and helped us look for animals in crisis,” Laukkanen said.

Working on the reserve for about six hours, they packed their truck with seven dogs and one cat and immediately set out to drive back to Vancouver. “We drove nonstop through the night, and after about 24 hours on the road and a few chaotic potty/meal breaks, we’d arrived back on the coast and were delivering the dogs to Raincoast,” Laukkanen said.

Each of the animals they transported were dealing with a number of health issues from fleas and (many, many) ticks to upset tummies to broken bones and signs of abuse. “But, they were all heartbreakingly lovely, tender and trusting dogs who warmed to us very quickly, despite the hardships they’d obviously suffered.

“It is truly, truly overwhelming to watch dogs you’ve seen crippled by fear and pain start to flourish and come into their own as happy, carefree animals, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to take part in this mission,” said Laukkanen, adding that those animals quickly received medical attention and were places in foster homes. The dogs are either now with permanent families, or awaiting adoption.

Lone Jack Trail

Laukkanen’s pet project coincided with the publication of his newest novel Lone Jack Trail, the second in his excellent series about former Marine Jess Winslow, ex-convict Mason Burke and Lucy, Jess’ rescued service dog who is the glue that holds together the couple.

Set in Washington State, the series delves deep into these fragile characters with action-packed plots about redemption, survival, fresh starts and sacrifice.

In my review, I also said “Lone Jack Trail is rich storytelling at its best—and with a really great dog. This is a series that will only get better.”

The Jess/Mason/Lucy novels will be continuing and the rescue project has given Laukkanen fodder for the series’ third installment. “I do plan to set the next Deception Cove/Lucy book around a rescue mission like the ones I've been going on!” he said.

“The dog stuff has taken up a lot of my writing time, as has just general 2020 distraction, but I have a young adult novel coming out in January and after that I'm planning to set my course on another Lucy book,” he said.

Special dogs
Some of the rescues are memorable, such as Toby, who had an injured leg that had to be amputated. “But Toby has been adopted into a wonderful home and seems to like being a tri-paw just fine,” Laukkanen said. And then there was Rosie, who was days from death with severe mange. “I had to feed and water from my hand and who is now recovered, happy and energetic and currently up for adoption,” he added.

And a couple of dogs ended up in homes Laukkanen personally knew. His best friend, Alexis, adopted a dog named Bentley from their first rescue mission. Bentley had health issues but is now thriving and has become best friends with Laukkanen’s Lucy who is also a Raincoast alum.

So far, Laukkanen has resisted adopting a second rescue. “I don't know how I haven't adopted a bunch of our other rescues myself; every batch there is at least one where I seem to fall in love,” he said.

Of course, there’s still time for him to add another dog to his home.

Project Puppies will get started on more missions in January. “We already are planning our next rescue mission; we’re addicted now,” Laukkanen added.

“There are no shortages of dogs who are still needing rescuing, especially in the cold winter months,” he added.

For more information on Raincoast, visit the web site, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Photos: Top, Owen Laukkanen with Lucy, puppies rescued. Photos courtesy Owen Laukkanen

Oline Cogdill
2020-12-17 19:40:11
Jeff Lindsay on Reading... Pretty Much Everything

Jeff Lindsay"As a teenager, I read so much and so fast that I had to grab what I could between trips to the library or bookstore."

I don’t know what got me started. I suspect it was my mother. She loved to read, and could recite appropriate poetry for any occasion. She certainly read to me, especially A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young. I can still recite from it, and so can my three kids. In any case, by the time I was 3 or 4, I was reading on my own.

My father was an ambitious professor, so we moved frequently as he got better positions. I got used to being a stranger and crawling into a book to hide. By fourth grade, I’d read everything in the elementary school library and got special permission to get books from the high school library.

I loved the old Landmark series of histories and biographies and read all of them I could find. And I stumbled onto a bunch of adventure series from the ’30s and ’40sRadio Boys and Adventure Boys were two of those. But the discovery that changed everything forever was finding Edgar Rice Burroughs. I was hooked so completely that I even began toshudderdo actual, physical work, odd jobs, for cash to buy more of them. They were 50 cents back then, paperbacks from Ballantine with the double-facing “B’s” on the spine. I still have most of them.

As a teenager, I read so much and so fast that I had to grab what I could between trips to the library or bookstore. I went through my mother’s vast collection of mysteries: Rex Stout was a favorite. And later, when she deemed me old enough to deal with the idea of sex, I moved on to John D. MacDonald. Another sea change: I devoured everything he wrote. And at a certain point, my obsession with his hero, Travis McGee, led me around a corner to, “That’s what I want to do.”

It still is. And Riley Wolfe owes McGee a debtmaybe not in any way you notice, but I know it’s there. So thanks, John D. And thanks, Edgar. And Rex, and Agatha, and Erle, and Mickey, and all the other wonderful people who showed me the way. Without you, I might have had a normal life. And what fun is that?

Jeff Lindsay is the author of the Riley Wolfe novels, and the New York Times bestselling author of the Dexter novels, which debuted in 2004 with Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

This “Writers on Reading” essay was originally published in “At the Scene” enews December 2020 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2020-12-17 05:14:30
Susan Cox and the Theo Bogart Series

Susan Cox is the author of the Theo Bogart mysteries, and winner of the Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Novel Prize for The Man on the Washing Machine.

Theo Bogart, the lead in Susan Cox's series, is a British expat hiding out from a family tragedy in San Francisco, making a new life for herself. Cox is a vivid, engaging writer, and seemingly fearless. I love the way she tells a story, throwing everything into it, and coming out with a great narrative in the process. Her new book is The Man in the Microwave Oven.

Robin Agnew for Mystery Scene: What was it like to win the St Martin's/MWA First Novel Prize? Was this your first approach to publication? What was the process like?

Susan Cox: It was validating, exciting, and yes, life-changing.

No one who knows me well will be surprised by this, but I need a solid eight or nine hours of sleep a night. I’m not an early riser and I’m definitely not a night owl, but as a friend once told me, I can rock 11 am like nobody’s business! All of which meant that, unlike some writers who can somehow add four hours at the beginning or end of their day in order to write, I took a leap of faith instead.

I left my job as a nonprofit fundraiser and gave myself 18 months to be a full-time writer. I never even considered writing anything except a mystery and when I read about the MWA/Minotaur Books contest for an unpublished first crime novel, I was all in. I submitted the manuscript in December knowing I’d have until the end of March, when the results were decided, to dream about being a published author. (In the same way, buying a lottery ticket lets you enjoy your world cruise and new home on a Bali lagoon until someone else’s numbers are chosen.) I almost forgot about the contest in the months that followed, until I received a telephone call from Minotaur Press at three o’clock in the afternoon on the last day of March.

I can’t say enough about the effort that goes into choosing the winner of this award. Hundreds of submitted manuscripts are given to a committee of Mystery Writer of America authors. They read and rate the novels and submit their top candidates to the editorial staff at Minotaur Press. Once there, the manuscripts are read again and the winner picked from the short list. The prize is substantial—a $10,000 contract with one of the New York publishing industry’s top names. A winner isn’t chosen every year, which, if anything, adds extra prestige to the thrill of having your novel chosen.

It has been quite a bit of time between the publication of our first book and this one. Can you talk about that a little bit?

It’s quite a harrowing story. I wrote my second Theo Bogart mystery and was about to send it to my editor when I had a burglary at my home. I wasn’t saving my documents to the cloud at the time, and the burglar came into my home while I was asleep and stole all of my small electronics, including my phone and e-reader, my two laptops, and the external hard drive back-up, too. He even got the memory stick I was using as a backup to the backup; I kept it in my purse, with the idea that I could grab it and run in the event of a fire, but the burglar stole my purse, too. I lost everything I had been working on for years—not only the completed manuscript for The Man in the Microwave Oven, but several other half-finished novels, too.

I know there are people who can bounce back right away from something like this, but I learned I’m not one of them. It took me a long time to regroup before I could rewrite the novel from scratch using some handwritten notes and my memory. In a way, it was lucky that I had so recently finished the novel because it was fairly fresh in my mind. By the time I had rewritten it, I found it almost impossible to recreate my other novels. My laptops have never been recovered, although the burglar was eventually caught. Perhaps I’ll use the story in a novel some day.

I love your heroine, Theo Bogart, with her nod to both the British and the American detective traditions. You've made her an expat—a stranger in a strange land, perfect for a detective. How did you come up with and develop her character?

I wanted to write a mystery with a San Francisco setting, partly because I lived there for so long and love it. It’s a young city, and its founding families weren’t aristocrats or religious leaders or anything really, except blue-collar working people. They were grocers or tailors or they made shovels and pickaxes. They were all from somewhere else and a lot of them fled some disaster back home or wanted to build something new out of nothing. Maybe because of that history, San Francisco is still welcoming to everyone and doesn’t ask too many questions. It seemed like the perfect place for someone with secrets to hide, so in a way, San Francisco formed Theo, even though she was born 5,000 miles away.

I haven't read the first book, but in this book you do flesh out her backstory a bit, and the reason she's fled England. Do you plan to circle back to that part of her story at any point?

Definitely. Parts of her past will come back to haunt her and cause even more trouble for her in Theo #3.

Is the neighborhood in San Francisco a real one, or an amalgam of a real neighborhood? The details feel real.

Thank you! It’s completely imaginary, although in a way, Theo lives in the building my husband and I lived in for nearly 15 years, in a different neighborhood. Like Theo, we used to live on a hill (It’s hard to find somewhere completely flat there!) and I'd look out of our top-floor back window onto the backyards of the other buildings on our block and imagine how it would look if all the yards were combined into a single, large garden space. Fabian Gardens is definitely the result of that fantasy! I chose to place it on a block of Polk Street because it’s an interesting neighborhood of small shops and restaurants, near the California Street cable car line, close to a bus route, within easy reach of the Tenderloin, Chinatown, the Civic Center, and even the Financial District. It’s a neighborhood, in other words, where anything can happen.

I loved that you weren't afraid to change up what was happening in different parts of the novel. By turns it's an espionage novel, a girl finding herself novel, and a (sort of) traditional cozy novel. What was the through line for you when you were plotting your book—what was most important?

I wanted to develop a story line for Theo’s grandfather, one of my favorite characters from the first novel, The Man on the Washing Machine. He isn’t a warm and fuzzy kind of grandad, quite the opposite in many ways, and I thought if he was somehow suspected of murder, he and Theo’s relationship would develop further, perhaps in surprising ways. We know from a few hints in the first novel that he had a background in espionage and I thought it would make an interesting secondary plot alongside the murder investigation. I was able to use some of the (very few) stories my father told me about his own undercover activities, too.

I love the people who surround Theo—Nat, her grandfather, her employees and friends. This is traditional for a cozy mystery, but in your case it's so grounded and really feels organic. How did you develop what I call a character matrix for her?

Perhaps it feels organic because that’s how it grew. She starts in The Man on the Washing Machine as a stranger to the city and all the people she knows are introduced to us almost as she meets them. As the story develops the characters acquire greater or less importance to Theo and the plot more or less at the same time.

Who are your influences, mystery wise?

The Golden Age of detective fiction is a great favorite. It may be strange considering that I love a good murder and I create characters who do the very worst things, often for the worst of motives, but I enjoy reading about, and writing, characters who behave honorably. Agatha Christie—each of her books is a master class in plotting--Dorothy Sayers, Dick Francis, Peter Lovesey.

Can you name a book that was transformational for you?

Oddly enough, I can’t remember the title, but it was an Agatha Christie mystery. I was about 15 I think, and I had been reading science fiction a lot—probably because my dad was a great reader of science fiction—when I found myself on a station platform in London with nothing to read. In our family, the thought of a three-hour journey without a book was the stuff of nightmares. I had three minutes to catch my train and enough money in my pocket to buy one book, so I grabbed an Agatha Christie novel at random. By the end of the trip—I have no recollection where I was headed—I was a fan. I switched from science fiction to mysteries in the space of that journey and never went back.

Finally, what's next for Theo? I hope we can look forward to another book!

Her third adventure is already underway. I’m trying to think of a working title for it and I need a sinister appliance!

Susan Cox's first mystery novel, The Man on the Washing Machine, won the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Award. Before that, Cox was a newspaper reporter, designed marketing and public relations for a safari park, raised funds for nonprofit organizations, and was president of the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Attractions Association. She previously served on the board of the Florida chapter, Women’s National Book Association. When not writing, you can often find her gardening or enjoying time with her family and their standard poodle Picasso and cat Midnight.

Teri Duerr
2020-12-17 06:26:38
Red Hands
Hank Wagner

Ben Walker, the stoic star of 2017’s Ararat and 2019’s The Pandora Room, is back in Red Hands on another life-or-death, top secret mission. This time out, he faces an implacable, silent foe, an ancient virus (or perhaps an ancient entity?) that inhabits its hosts, turning them into murder machines able to kill with a single touch.

When the virus infects a civilian, Walker is asked to bring in the sick for the host’s safety, as well as the safety of all those in the area. Although he questions the real motives of his superiors, Walker embarks on his mission, hoping to prevent any further loss of life. Doing so, he’s forced to contend with local authorities, interagency infighting, foreign agents, the victim’s family and friends, a hostile terrain, and a virus that seems almost sentient at times.

Well-crafted, cleverly plotted, and expertly paced, Christopher Golden’s latest features him doing what he does best, creating realistic, vividly rendered characters whom readers quickly come to identify and empathize with—then putting them through some of the most stressful scenarios imaginable.

Walker again proves to be a versatile, admirable, yet subtly flawed hero, who struggles with his personal life even as he deals with problems that would break a normal person. Chilling, terrifying, and featuring some truly terrific action set pieces, Red Hands is a heart-pounder that you are both oddly relieved, yet noticeably saddened, to finish.

Teri Duerr
2020-12-17 07:02:03
Oline H. Cogdill

Mystery Writers of America announces nominees for the 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2020. The 75th Annual Edgar® Awards will be celebrated on April 29, 2021.

Mystery Scene congratulates each of the nominees.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (Penguin Random House – Random House)
Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney (Poisoned Pen Press)
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Penguin Random House - Pamela Dorman Books)
These Women by Ivy Pochoda (HarperCollins Publishers - Ecco)
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
The Distant Dead by Heather Young (HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow)

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March (Minotaur Books)
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (Simon & Schuster – Gallery Books)
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (HarperCollins Publishers - Ecco)
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (Penguin Random House - Berkley)

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow)
The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman (Blackstone Publishing)
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
The Keeper by Jessica Moor (Penguin Random House - Penguin Books)
East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper 360)

Blood Runs Coal: The Yablonski Murders and the Battle for the United Mine Workers of America by Mark A. Bradley (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hachette Book Group – Hachette Books)
Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch (Penguin Random House – Random House)
Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man, and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife by Ariel Sabar (Penguin Random House - Doubleday)

Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club edited by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper360/Collins Crime Club)
Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock by Christina Lane (Chicago Review Press)
Ian Rankin: A Companion to the Mystery & Fiction by Erin E. MacDonald (McFarland)
Guilt Rules All: Irish Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction by Elizabeth Mannion & Brian Cliff (Syracuse University Press)
This Time Next Year We'll be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear (Soho Press)

"The Summer Uncle Cat Came to Stay," Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Leslie Elman (Dell Magazines)
"Dust, Ash, Flight," Addis Ababa Noir by Maaza Mengiste (Akashic Books)
"Etta at the End of the World," Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Joseph S. Walker (Dell Magazines)
“The Twenty-Five Year Engagement,” In League with Sherlock Holmes by James W. Ziskin (Pegasus Books – Pegasus Crime)

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Workman Publishing - Algonquin Young Readers)
Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (Penguin Random House Canada - Puffin Canada)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (HarperCollins Children's Books - Katherine Tegen Books)
Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor (Penguin Young Readers – Viking BFYR)
Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage (Random House Children's Books - Crown BFYR)
Coop Knows the Scoop by Taryn Souders (Sourcebooks Young Readers)

The Companion by Katie Alender (Penguin Young Readers – G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR)
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)
They Went Left by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)
Silence of Bones by June Hur (Macmillan Children’s Books – Feiwel & Friends)
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus (Penguin Random House – Delacorte Press)

“Episode 1, The Stranger” – Harlan Coben’s The Stranger, Written by Danny Brocklehurst (Netflix)
“Episode 1, Open Water” – The Sounds, Written by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1, Photochemistry” – Dead Still, Written by John Morton (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” - Des, Written by Luke Neal (Sundance Now)
“What I Know” – The Boys, Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine, based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Amazon)

"The Bite,” Tampa Bay Noir by Colette Bancroft (Akashic Books)

Death of an American Beauty by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart (Minotaur Books)
The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Cold Wind by Paige Shelton (Minotaur Books)

The Burn by Kathleen Kent (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
Riviera Gold by Laurie R. King (Penguin Random House – Ballantine Books)
Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (Tin House Books)
Dead Land by Sara Paretsky (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Sleeping Nymph by Ilaria Tuti (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
Turn to Stone by James W. Ziskin (Start Publishing – Seventh Street Books)

Jeffery Deaver
Charlaine Harris

Malice Domestic

Reagan Arthur, Publisher – Alfred A. Knopf

Oline Cogdill
2021-01-25 23:56:38
Oline H Cogdill

I am always looking for those little Easter eggs that show up in novels in which authors reference another author’s characters and novels.

I’ve noticed several of these little Easter eggs popping up on TV, as well.

So here’s a few I have noticed. Let us know if you know of others.

The Amazon Prime Video series Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s novels, is a treasure trove. The cast is spot on, starting with Titus Welliver, who plays LAPD detective Harry Bosch, as well as Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar; Amy Aquino Lt. Grace Billets; Lance Reddick as Irvin Irving and Madison Lintz as Maddie Bosch.

Here's the Mystery Scene review when Bosch first debuted.

In season 5, episode 5 of Bosch, the court stenographer reads Alafair Burke’s novel The Ex during her lunch break. Excellent product placement. (photo 1)

Michael Connelly also makes a couple of cameos in the Bosch series.

Here he is at the bar, at the left, while Titus Welliver, far right, who plays Harry Bosch, talks with a suspect. I don’t remember the season or the episode but am sure our astute readers will. (photo 2)

In the last scene in Season 6, Connelly makes an appearance in the squad room, walking by a detective who says “Hi, Michael.” (photo 3)

I am sure there are other Connelly sightings in Bosch, readers, let us know.

Shooting recently wrapped up the seventh and final season of Bosch, which has been a hit for Amazon Prime.

The series keeps the spirit of the novels and may be one of the best novel to screen treatments ever. I will miss Bosch. I would binge each season and may have to start from the beginning again to get my fix.

But Connelly’s characters will continue on TV as a series based on his Lincoln Lawyer novels has been picked up by Netflix.

The Lincoln Lawyer series will star Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller, the lawyer who runs his law practice out of the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car.

Readers know that Mickey and Harry are half brothers. But due to contracts, it is doubtful that the character of Harry Bosch will make an appearance.

And we hope to see more Connelly cameos and references to other authors’ novels in the Lincoln Lawyer series.

Author Gary Phillips, whose latest novel is Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem, spotted a reading of the short story collection Orange County Noir in an episode of the TV series Modern Family. Here’s the character Mitchell Pritchett, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, engrossed in the collection that was edited by Phillips and includes a forward by T. Jefferson Parker.

Authors who contributed to the series include Gordon McAlpine, Susan Straight, Robert S. Levinson, Rob Roberge, Nathan Walpow, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Dan Duling, Mary Castillo, Lawrence Maddox, Dick Lochte, Robert Ward, Gary Phillips, Martin J. Smith, and Patricia McFall. (photo 4)

While I am sure this skit on Saturday Night Live was funny, one reader was more interested in the bookcase behind the actors. Some of the books are by John Stanford, Tom Clancy and more. Let us know if there are other titles you recognize. (photo 5)

Let us know if you have spotted other Easter eggs on TV.

Photos One, Two and Three are screenshots from Bosch on Amazon Prime; photo four is a screenshot from Modern Family on ABC; photo five a screenshot from Saturday Night Live on NBC.

Oline Cogdill
2021-02-06 13:00:03
Oline H. Cogdill

It should come as no surprise to mystery readers that Sisters in Crime would be the first to launch an award geared toward LGBTQIA+ writers.

The organization has always been at the forefront in supporting diversity in publishing. Sisters in Crime’s highly respected Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award has helped launch the careers of several deserving authors since the award has been given annually since 2014.

Registration is now open for its inaugural Pride Award for Emerging LGBTQIA+ Crime Writers.

A $2,000 grant will be awarded to an up-and-coming writer who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I would also hope that publishers would pay attention to the winners of this award.

Candidates must apply by March 15, 2021.

The winner will be announced in April, 2021.

The award is being established as the legacy project of former Sisters in Crime president Sherry Harris.

“Sisters in Crime was founded more than thirty years ago as an advocacy group for women crime writers. When considering my legacy project, I knew I wanted to establish a way for us to build on our traditions of expanding inclusiveness in crime fiction publishing and helping to lift up voices that need to be heard,” explained Harris in a press release.

The grant, funded for 2021 by an anonymous donor, is intended for a crime writer beginning their career and will support activities related to career development including workshops, seminars, conferences, retreats, online courses, and research activities required for completion of his, her, or their work.

The winner and five runners-up will also be awarded a one-year Sisters in Crime membership and each will receive a critique from an established Sisters in Crime member.

The judges for the inaugural Pride award are Sisters in Crimes members John Copenhaver, Cheryl Head, and Kristen Lepionka, who have all written award-winning LGBTQIA+ crime fiction.

“We are thrilled to have this exceptional group of authors to judge our first-ever contest,” said Grants and Award Liaison V.M. (Valerie) Burns in the same press release. “We see this as an opportunity to inspire the future of crime fiction by connecting emerging LGBTQIA+ writers with influential authors of today.”

Copenhaver added: “Representation for queer authors is key within the mystery writing community. Not too many years ago, gay and lesbian mysteries weren’t even shelved in the mystery section of chain bookstores, but in the ‘Gay and Lesbian section,’ usually at the back of the store. The award offers individual support for new voices in queer mystery and is a symbolic gesture, reminding the broader reading and writing community of the validity of our perspective and our ability to tell great crime stories.”

Sisters in Crime recognizes that not all LGBTQIA+ community members can be out, and each individual’s privacy is valued. Winners and any runners-up who wish to maintain their anonymity may do so, or they may choose to select a pen name for announcement.

Sisters in Crime (SinC) was founded in 1986 to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. Today, the organization boasts 4,200 members and more than 60 chapters worldwide

In addition to the annual Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. Sisters in Crime also offers other scholarships; grants for academic research into the roles of women and underserved voices in crime fiction; cash awards to libraries and bookstores; and surveys and monitoring projects which determine visibility and representation of women and diverse voices in the genre and across the marketplace.

Complete guidelines and the application can be found at

Oline Cogdill
2021-01-30 18:17:10
At the Scene, Spring Issue #167

167 Spring Cover, J.T. EllisonHello Everyone!

Look who we found hiding out with the crockery at a Connecticut estate sale! Because the sale included items from many sources, there’s no easy way to establish ownership. But, of course, there are only a few people that it could have belonged to. Was it Jack Webb’s Edgar for the radio drama Dragnet? It would be fitting if it once belonged to John Collier.

For this issue, Art Taylor assigned himself the task of reading all the Edgar short story winners from the founding of Mystery Writers of America to the present. In 1952, Collier’s “outlandish and gymnastic prose” resulted in an Edgar Award for the collection Fancies and Goodnights, which Art called “a masterpiece.”

In any case, 69 years later this prodigal son is on his way home to MWA. What a long, strange trip it’s been!

J.T. Ellison reveals her soft spot for the two lovers who star in her new novel, Her Dark Lies:

They are soul mates with deep secrets, secrets they’re sure will drive the other away. Their lives together are starting under such duress...what a fun way to start a marriage!

Well, fun for the author and readers, sure, but maybe not so much for the characters... John B. Valeri talks with Ellison in this issue. Chances are you’re familiar with Miklós Rózsa’s work, even if you don’t realize it. He’s the maestro behind a slew of noir film scores including Double Indemnity (1944) and The Killers (1946). Michael Mallory takes a look at his career in this issue.

Charles Finch has one foot in the past, as the author of the acclaimed historical novels about London aristocrat Charles Lenox. His obsession with Victorian London began while reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Finch is interviewed in this issue by Oline Cogdill. C.J. Tudor has created an interesting detective in her female Reverend Jack Brooks.

“Jack finds great comfort in God—in that idea of forgiveness,” Tudor says. “But she also uses her faith to protect herself. I find her conflicted relationship with religion interesting. The collar to her is armor in many ways—as she says, ‘Most people don’t look past (it).’” John B. Valeri talks to Tudor in this issue.

One of my most enjoyable projects every year is collecting lists of favorite books, TV shows, audiobooks, and short stories from our contributors. There’s a lot of great entertainment in our “Faves Raves of 2020,” don’t miss it!

Edwin Hill was inspired by his librarian grandmother and the vital role she played in her community when he created his detective, Harvard librarian Hester Thursby. Hill talks to Oline Cogdill in this issue.

Edmund Crispin was barely out of university himself when he created his sleuth Gervase Fen, an absentminded Oxford don. In The Moving Toyshop and other classics of the Golden Age, Crispin’s humorous, erudite style makes for sophisticated entertainment. Martin Edwards takes a look at Crispin’s work.

Jon L. Breen surveys current legal thrillers in “Disorder in the Court.” Also in this issue, we have an interesting My Book essay contributed by Catherine Maiorisi.


Kate Stine
Editor in Chief

Teri Duerr
2021-02-16 11:34:55
Spring Issue #167 Contents

167 Spring Cover, J.T. Ellison



The intricacies of a troubled wedding lie at the heart of Ellison’s new thriller, Her Dark Lies. “I love the will-they-or-won’t-they nature of a wedding facing issues,” says Ellison. “What impediments can I throw in their path?” Quite a few, as it turns out.
by John B. Valeri

Miklós Rózsa: The Maestro of Film Noir

This composer’s uniquely characteristic sound pervades many classic film noirs.
by Michael Mallory

Disorder in the Court

An overview of current legal thrillers.
by John B. Valeri

Charles Finch

Although he has written 14 novels set in Victorian England, Finch is very much a 21st-century man.
by Oline H. Cogdill

My Book: A Message in Blood

NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli shows the way.
by Catherine Maiorisi

Tales of Mystery & Imagination

A history of the Edgar Allan Poe Short Story Award.
by Art Taylor

C.J. Tudor

A pastor who is no paragon but still very much believes in God is the complicated heroine of Tudor’s twisty new novel.
by John B. Valeri

Our Fave Raves

Mystery Scene critics share their selection of the outstanding mystery and crime fiction of 2020.

Edwin Hill

A childhood devotion to Agatha Christie and a beloved librarian grandmother resulted in an award-winning sleuth.
by Oline H. Cogdill

Striking the Right Note: Celebrating the Centenary of Edmund Crispin

by Martin Edwards

Kevin O’Brien

Two bickering half-sisters join forces to sleuth in O’Brien’s latest thriller.
by John B. Valeri

Out of the Box Crossword

by Verna Suit


At the Scene

by Kate Stine

Mystery Miscellany

by Louis Phillips

Hints & Allegations

The 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Award nominations


Small Press Reviews: Covering the Independents

by Katrina Niidas Holm

Very Original: Paperback Originals Reviewed

by Hank Wagner and Robin Agnew

Sounds of Suspense: Audiobooks Reviewed

by Dick Lochte

What About Murder? Reference Books Reviewed

by Jon L. Breen

Short and Sweet: Short Stories Considered

by Ben Boulden

Mystery Scene Reviews


The Docket


Advertising Info

Teri Duerr
2021-02-16 11:54:13
Spring Issue #167
Teri Duerr
2021-02-16 12:23:45
Jay Roberts

"ACTIVE SHOOTER ON CAMPUS." Four words that strike fear into the hearts of every parent. When attorney Jack Swyteck receives the text about a shooting at his young daughter's school, little does he know that the unfolding tragedy will put both his professional and personal lives in jeopardy.

The shooting leaves multiple people dead and injured. Xavier, the oldest son of a friend of both Jack and his FBI agent wife, Andie, claims to be the killer and is immediately arrested. Jack ends up taking on Xavier's defense, but it isn't going to be easy for Jack. His client isn't talking and the prosecutor, who won't stop talking to the press, won't settle for anything less than a death penalty plea.

To make matters worse, the more Jack digs into the particulars of the case, the more it looks like he's being stonewalled. Not just by his client, but by any number of federal agencies looking to make the shooting a federal terrorism case because of Xavier's Muslim background. Faced with federal interference, a lawsuit from the school looking to pass blame, and complaints filed against Andie for actions she took during the shooting, Jack has to get his client talking to find out the truth.

James Grippando's taut and briskly paced story grips the reader from the opening chapter and then keeps them close as Jack Swyteck and his associates race to uncover the forces bent on keeping the truth of the tragedy hidden. Twenty is a highly addictive novel and it is impossible to put down.

Teri Duerr
2021-02-25 21:47:14