Oline Cogdill

The awards season continues with the announcement of ITW's (International Thriller Writers) 2014 Thriller Award nominees.

The winners will be announced during Thrillerfest IX July 8-12 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

Linda Castillo – HER LAST BREATH (Minotaur Books)
Lee Child – NEVER GO BACK (Delacorte Press)
Lisa Gardner – TOUCH AND GO (Dutton Adult)
Stephen King – DOCTOR SLEEP (Scribner)
Owen Laukkanen CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE (Putnam Adult)
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – WHITE FIRE (Grand Central Publishing)
Andrew Pyper – THE DEMONOLOGIST (Simon & Schuster)

Gwen Florio – MONTANA (Permanent Press)
J.J. Hensley – RESOLVE (Permanent Press)
Becky Masterman RAGE AGAINST THE DYING (Minotaur Books)
Jason Matthews – RED SPARROW (Scribner)
Carla NortonTHE EDGE OF NORMAL (Minotaur Books)
Hank Steinberg – OUT OF RANGE (William Morrow)
Dick Wolf – THE INTERCEPT (Harper)

Allison Brennan – COLD SNAP (Minotaur Books)
Kendra Elliot – BURIED (Montlake Romance)
Susan Elia MacNeal – HIS MAJESTY’S HOPE (Bantam)
Jennifer McMahon – THE ONE I LEFT BEHIND (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Nele Neuhaus – SNOW WHITE MUST DIE (Minotaur Books)
Michael Stanley – DEADLY HARVEST (Harper Paperbacks)

Eric Guignard – “Baggage of Eternal Night” (JournalStone)
Laura Lippman – “Waco 1982” (Grand Central)
Kevin Mims – “The Gallows Bird” (Ellery Queen)
Twist Phelan – “Footprints in the Water” (Ellery Queen)
Stephen Vessels – “Doloroso” (Ellery Queen)

Ashley Elston – THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING (Disney-Hyperion)
Mari Mancusi – SCORCHED (Sourcebooks Fire)
Elisa Nader – ESCAPE FROM EDEN (Merit Press)
Cristin Terrill – ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (Disney-Hyperion)
Allen Zadoff – BOY NOBODY (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Rebecca Cantrell – THE WORLD BENEATH (Rebecca Cantrell)
J.G. Faherty – THE BURNING TIME (JournalStone)
Joshua Graham – TERMINUS (Redhaven Books)
James Lepore and Carlos Davis – NO DAWN FOR MEN (The Story Plant)
Luke Preston – OUT OF EXILE (Momentum)

Bill Hirschman

Today, we have a guest blogger—Bill Hirschman who occasionally has written about theater for Mystery Scene.

A former newspaper reporter, Bill is the publisher, editor and chief critic for Florida Theater on Stage (, an online journalism arts publication.

He’s also my husband, which is how I persuaded him to include one of his reviews on our blog.

According to Bill, “A critic’s trip to New York City to overdose on theater is like taking a semester’s worth of object lessons for both audience members and theatrical professionals.”

Sublime Silliness: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder

If you’re planning to go to New York in the near future, do it before the Tony Awards because one of the funniest, most inventive shows since The Book of Mormon is just hanging on at the box office and likely won’t survive past awards season.

This musical by people you’ve never heard of (Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak) directed by someone you’ve never heard of (Darko Tresnjak) is a dryly witty spoof of Edwardian/Dickensian plots about likable young men trying to rise from poverty to wealth by dint of pure pluck and intelligence.

In this case, the handsome young man (played by the callow Bryce Pinkham) discovers he is the disavowed bastard son of a wealthy lord and could inherit his estate – except there are seven relatives with more proximate call on the fortune. So the enterprising young man sets out to murder everyone in his path – with aplomb and style, of course. Pinkham is also inspired by his pursuit of the snobbish money-worshiping socialite Sibella (Lisa O’Hare) and the seemingly virginal cousin Phoebe (Lauren Worsham).

It borrows its plot from a 1907 novel that also inspired the 1949 British comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. In both the film and this show, all of the stumbling blocks are played by the same actor, Alec Guinness on film and here on stage gloriously and profligately portrayed by Jefferson Mays, left. Mays, many of you know, has serious roles to his credit such as Journey’s End, but his fame comes from playing dozens of characters in I Am My Own Wife.

Here he has an absolute field day playing a snotty scion, a doddering old lady, a dissolute clergymen, a hapless do-gooder among others. Each has a unique bearing and physical appearance, but all of them share that slightly demented gleam in Mays’ eyes. To belie what we said about irreplaceable actors, certainly other actors can play this part(s), but it’s hard to imagine anyone else whose scene-munching skill could be as contagious and joyously fun as he and the creative team mercilessly skewer the dissolute, callous and clueless upper class.

It is nearly impossible to relate just how perfectly the creative team lampoons the fantasy of a stiff upper lip, high-buttoned English society being undermined by the conscienceless ambition of someone with no regard for the calcified straitjacket of Britain’s turn-of-the-century social strata. The score echoes the English music hall via Gilbert and Sullivan; the lyrics and script bow to Oscar Wilde.

When our hero pursues the social climber, he asks, “Sibella, has it ever occurred to you to marry for love?” To which she responds, “Don’t be cruel.”

The whole thing is imaginatively stage in a faux toy theater with Edward Gorey overtones.

Mays’ performance and the opulent production values make it a don’t miss stop in New York over the next two months before it’s too late.

Oddly, and here’s the lesson, it may be too smart for mainstream audiences. Easily the most acclaimed musical to open to date, it’s only selling three-quarters of its seats. There’s no accounting for taste among tasteless tourists.

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You Part 1: Murder For Two

Imagine a comic mystery musical spoof with just two actors doubling as the entire orchestra and playing even more roles than the aforementioned Mr. Mays, all created on a postage stamp of a stage in a small house with a modest amount of lights, sound and set costs. In other words, this is catnip to a small local theater.

This quite cute and maniacally kinetic two-hander by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair is made for small theaters whose troupes boast a couple of chameleonic clowns and an inventive director.

Still running in New York through mid-summer, the mothership production stars the Mutt and Jeff team of Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback under Scott Schwartz’s direction.

Essentially, it’s one of those tweedy English mysteries with a forthright detective played by one actor and a manse-full of suspects played by the other actor – although both play the piano to accompany the songs and both occasionally play each other’s parts. The thing is batty and punny fun invoking every hoary cliché in the canon including a shelf that just happens to hold all of the weapons used the in the board game Clue and even having a real light bulb go off over someone’s head when he gets a bright idea.

Like the two men who change characters in a nano-second in The Thirty-Nine Steps, these two slip in and out of different personas and voices with a contortionist’s speed and grace.

We’re taking bets on how long will it take before this hits regional theaters across the country. Pick a month within the next season.

Photo: Jefferson Mays in one of his characters in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

Oline H. Cogdill

James Patterson
, left, leads the list of the 10 top-selling authors during the last decade, according to a list put together by Nielsen Bookscan.

While the list has to do with quantity, not quality, it’s interesting that three other mystery writers also are on the list.

Coming in at No. 5 is John Grisham; No. 7 is Dan Brown and No. 9 is Janet Evanovich.

Mystery writers also can claim J.K. Rowling, at No. 2, as her Harry Potter novels are quasi mysteries, and Stephen King, at No. 11, as he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Nora Roberts, at No. 3, also crosses into mystery territory with her J.D. Robb series. (And I don't know why the list includes a No. 11 since the list is billed as the top 10!)

Patterson, of course, is the author of the mega-selling Alex Cross series, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, as well as many, many other novels co-written with a string of authors.

Patterson’s books have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. In 2013, one in five suspense/thriller books sold was a James Patterson book.

He is the first author to have No. 1 new titles simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children's bestsellers lists and is the only author to have five new hardcover novels debut at No. 1 on the list in one year—a record-breaking feat he's accomplished every year since 2005.

And if that were not enough, Patterson has had 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds the New York Times record for most Hardcover Fiction bestselling titles by a single author (63 total), which is also a Guinness World Record.

Oline Cogdill

I offer an appreciation as well as a fond farewell to two vastly different crime dramas: Psych, which ended its eighth-year run last week on USA network, and Justified, which ends its fifth season this week on FX but will return for its final sixth season.

(The season finale of Justified begins at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday on FX.)

The two shows could not be more different—one a comic-drama mystery, the other a hard-charging, often violent series—yet each was/is completely satisfying in its own way with realistic characters who drew you in to their exploits, good plots and, especially in Justified’s case, crisp dialogue.

Psych finished its series—no spoilers here, I promise—with an episode that paid homage to the series’ comedy, yet also gave a bit of a serious subtext; it wrapped up certain story threads, yet left room for a glimpse of these character’s future. And there were also a couple of clever surprises and a brilliant reference to a former, much beloved USA series about another defective detective.

Psych is about Shawn Spencer, wonderfully played by James Roday, whose claims of being a psychic somehow lead to him being a consultant for the Santa Barbara police department and setting up a private detective agency with his best friend Gus Guster, the equally terrific Dule Hill.

Shawn’s “heightened observational skills,” of course, have nothing to do with him being a psychic but from the intense training he got since childhood from his father Henry, a former officer with the Santa Barbara police department.

Henry, perfectly played by Corbin Bernsen, wanted his only son to be a cop but Shawn’s rebelliousness lead him to a different path. A bit of a slacker, Shawn used this early training into what began as a con game but developed into real career at which he was quite good.

Psych had its roots in those same “heightened observational skills” in the novels about Sherlock Holmes, the TV series The Mentalist and so many other detective stories in which a detective uses his wits and intuitiveness to solve a crime. Shawn could spot an errant button, a spot of blood, a misplaced book a mile a way and use that information to save the day.

The last episode featured Billy Zane, who has been referenced so many times on Psych that he has deserved an ending credit for years. And we finally got to meet Det. Dobson, played by another actor mentioned numerous times on Psych. I’ll let you figure out which police consultant was referenced as being “in the kitchen, alphabetizing the pantry.”

During the season run, Shawn, perhaps against his nature, began to grow up. He began to see his father not as an adversary but as a concerned parent. His growing relationship with Juliet "Jules" O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) has been a catalyst for the past three season’s action.

But a main point of Psych has been the unshakeable friendship between Shawn and Gus. Buddies since they were children, they are the epitome of the bro-mance. It has always been obvious how much these two men care for each other as true friends who believe in each other and support each other. Gus is the more solid, more adult but he never gives up on Shawn, even when Shawn is messing up or acting immature, which has been often in the series.

A “bro-mance” of sorts also is at the heart of Justified. But this one is quite a different kind.

The story of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by Timothy Olyphant, right) and the criminal Boyd Crowder (also played to perfection by Walton Goggins) has given an extra texture to Justified.

The two men grew up together and know how each other thinks. As each is fond of saying, “We shovelled coal together,” a phrase that may not mean anything outside of Kentucky's hills but implies a code of mutual obligation for those who live in Harlan County.

Each man could easily have turned the other way and each knows that.

We root for Raylan, of course, as he is supposed to be the good guy, but, in a way, we also want to see Boyd succeed. Both men are capable of incredible violence and incredible tenderness. Raylan can never completely commit to a woman, while Boyd is devoted to Ava (Joelle Carter).

This season of Justified has been perhaps the darkest in a very dark series with Ava in jail and Boyd caught up with even nastier people than usual both for business but also to get Ava freed. Too many people from big cities have underestimated the country Boyd. Hint, never smoke a cigarette with Boyd.

Raylan’s tangling with the very odd and very criminal Crowe family has brought another set of issues, including a turn in Raylan’s relationship with Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy). Art is the kind of father that Raylan’s own father wasn’t; Art, as Raylan said, “is the only man I truly care about.”

Each actor on Justified is terrific. This year the main villain in the Crowe family is played by a sneering, no holding back Michael Rapaport as Darryl Crowe, Jr. The dialogue is pitch perfect, as it should be since it is based on Elmore Leonard’s 2001 novella Fire in the Hole.

TV will be a little less fun without Psych and Justified.

Photos: Top: James Roday as Shawn Spencer, Dule Hill as Gus Guster on Psych. USA Network photo
Center:Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). FX photo

Oline H. Cogdill

No author can be everywhere, not even Harlan Coben, at left.

And book tours often alternate between areas—parts of the East Coast one year, parts of the Midwest the next. Publishers and authors want to make sure they don’t visit the same regions year after year.

If an author can’t come to your local bookstore, maybe you can go to the author’s home.

Virtually, that is.

In addition to Coben’s regular in-person stops at myriad bookstores, the author and his publisher are trying something new for the launch of his latest novel Missing You.

Several bookstores across the country will feature “At Home with Harlan,” a live streaming interview with Harlan Coben in his living room talking about his latest novel Missing You, showing off his home and also taking questions.

Kinda like a fireside chat, though I don't know if he even has a fireplace.

The talk will be about 20 minutes and will feature a question and answer session with Coben.

The live web event begins at 7 p.m. March 25. And, yes, you do have to be in the store to hear Coben’s talk.

For details, contact the stores that will host Coben’s talk.

The stores participating are

Alabama Booksmith in Homewood

Book Passage in Corte Madera
Kepler's Books & Magazines in Menlo Park
Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego

Books & Books in Coral Gables
Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach

Left Bank Books in St. Louis

Schuler Books in Lansing

White Birch Books in North Conway

BookTowne in Manasquan

Bookmark Shoppe in Brooklyn

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café in Asheville

Barrington Books in Barrington

Murder by the Book in Houston

The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City