Oline H. Cogdill

As readers of mystery fiction, I think we can all agree on how important literacy programs are and how important it is to support our local libraries.

I love libraries and try to always make myself available to moderate a panel, introduce an author, etc., when asked by area libraries.

Each year in the Fort Lauderdale area there is a terrific event called the Literary Feast sponsored by the Broward County Public Library Foundation.

And next month I will be moderating some panels during Palm Beach Peril put on by the Palm Beach Library System.

Now some of you readers who don’t live in Florida are wondering "what this has to do with me?"

Well, everything.

The Florida connection doesn’t matter. What matters is that each of you has a local library and supporting a library is vital to a community.

During the mystery fiction panel I moderated, everyone one of us had a story that was either shared with the audience or said later in private about how much a library can mean to a community.

My panel included Michael Sears, Archer Mayor, Karin Slaughter and John Searles.

During the panel, Searles, author of the highly rated Help for the Haunted, talked about how as a child he would often go to the library after school to avoid the bullies. The library became a refuge for him and a place to learn about the world outside his home.

Karin Slaughter
is one of the founders of Save the Libraries Foundation, which raises money for libraries around the country. Slaughter told our audience how much she values libraries.

Michael Sears and Archer Mayor also love libraries

I also conducted the interview with Martha Grimes and a separate interview with Robin Cook. Before both events, we chatted about the Literary Feast and how important libraries are.

These library events usually offer books for sale and there also is a ripple effect.

A reader may end up buying more books by an author after the event, or encourage their friends and family to buy those books.

The Literary Feast brings authors to the schools and those high schoolers often will then buy the book or encourage their parents to buy the book.

A library also was important to me as a child. I spent countless hours after school and on Saturdays at the library in my hometown of Charleston, Missouri. I learned so much about the world beyond myself there. And it was after I had pretty much exhausted every children’s book there that my mother suggested I try her mystery novels.

The rest is, as they say, history.

For readers, libraries supply us with so many reading options.

For authors, libraries buy books and often will buy more books by an author if enough readers demand it.

Everyone wins when there is a local library.

Everyone loses when a library closes.

Oline Cogdill

The latest copy of Mystery Scene magazine had barely been printed when we got the news that Laura Lippman, at right, whose feature article graces the cover of the latest issue, was being honored with the 2014 Pinckley Prize.

Lippman will share the inaugural Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction with Gwen Florio.

The Pinckley Prizes are named to honor the memory of Diana Pinckley, longtime crime fiction columnist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The prizes will be presented March 22, 2014, at the 28th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. The presentation will take place at the historic Beauregard-Keyes House at 5 p.m. The Prizes are presented by the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans, of which Diana Pinckley was a founding member.

A Baltimore native and now part-time New Orleans resident, Laura Lippman, whose latest novel is After I'm Gone, has been chosen for the first Pinckley Prize for a Distinguished Body of Work.

In their statement about the choice of Lippman, the committee said, “Laura Lippman is one of those writers whose dedication to her home town of Baltimore has captivated American readers. She has created an enduring sleuth in Tess Monaghan, a complex character dealing with the issues that every contemporary woman confronts. And more than that, in her stand-alone works, Lippman has transcended the limits and challenges of genre to become a distinguished writer of social realism. All that, and she has a wicked sense of humor!”

In a statement, Lippman, said, “Of course I'm gratified to receive this award, but it is especially meaningful to me as I had the great luck to meet Diana, socially and professionally. I know we like to think that our culture, our society has moved beyond a point where we need prizes that are for certain genres or genders. But we haven't. And to have a prize that recognizes one's body of work, and to have that prize be part of Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans, a city that truly embraces reading -- I am overwhelmed at the honor of being the recipient. I love my second hometown.”

Montana resident Gwen Florio wins the Pinckley Prize for a Debut Novel, for her first book, Montana, published by Permanent Press.

The committee’s statement is: “Out of a field of excellent debut crime novels, we picked Montana because we completely fell in love with the main character. It’s often difficult to pinpoint why someone is lovable. Suffice to say that Gwen Florio’s protagonist Lola fully lives on the page, and what is even more compelling about this brave, irascible character is that she continues to live after the book is closed. She's fearless, flawed, intelligent, reckless, and funny, but most of all, she is defined by loyalty to her friend and a relentless pursuit of her killer.”

In a statement Florio said, “As a recovering journalist, I’m honored and humbled that my novel featuring an investigative reporter has received this inaugural award named for a newspaper columnist – and that I share the award with another former journalist. It’s especially meaningful to receive it in this city long known for treasuring journalism, particularly in these difficult times.”

The Prizes were created in 2012 to honor Diana Pinckley, who was a founding member of the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans, as well as a civic activist who gave her time and energy to local and national causes. The WNBA-NOLA group, composed of writers, librarians, publishers, and booklovers, was founded in 2011; it is the local affiliate of the national group, which was founded in 1917.

The judges this year were memoirist Constance Adler; Mary McCay, founding director of the Walker Percy Center for Writing and Publishing at Loyola University; and novelist Christine Wiltz.

Lippman and Florio will each receive a $2,500 cash award, as well as a beautiful paper rosette fashioned from the pages of their books, created by New Orleans artist Yuka Petz.

Submissions for the 2015 Prizes will be open April 1.

Oline H. Cogdill

The HBO series True Detective, which wraps up Sunday (March 9) at 9 p.m., has been a showcase for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who play partners in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division.

As Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson), the two actors dial down their usual on-screen personas to create a multi-layered story about the hunt for a killer that spans over 17 years.

McConaughey, in his pre-Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club, is mesmerizing as Cohle, a man who has lost everything when the series begins in 1995 and has further spiralled down when he and Hart are called back when the investigation reopens in 2012.

Harrelson’s bombastic personality is channelled into Hart’s arrogance and inability to see anything but his own needs.

As good as McConaughey and Harrelson are, another star is even more important to True Detective—the series’ writer, creator and executive producer Nic Pizzolatto.

Pizzolatto deserves full credit for what True Detective is—a complex look at how an investigation into a horrible murder affects the two detectives, neither of whom was all that mentally secure to begin with.

Pizzolatto’s first novel Galveston was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award. He also has written a couple of short story collections.

In addition to True Detective, Pizzolatto has been hired by Universal to write the script for The Rockford Files movie. Vince Vaughn is slated to play the iconic private detective James Rockford in the film.

Mystery Scene caught up with Nic Pizzolatto before the series began and, with the eight-season series now ending, this seemed the right time to post our interview. And if you are new to True Detective, start at the beginning, which is being encored on HBO and also is On Demand. Or wait for the DVD.

Mystery Scene: How did your background as a Louisiana native play intoTrue Detective’s scenery.
The landscape there has always haunted me and that setting was very important to me during my formative years. I’ve always been one of those people affected by my surroundings. I think of the landscape as the third lead in True Detective.

Mystery Scene: Your novel Galveston was nominated for an Edgar in 2010, and True Detective is very much crime fiction. What are your thoughts on crime fiction?
I certainly have crime fiction authors I love, but I am not a genre guy. I pushed myself into the crime genre because I like a plot. Most of my artistic obsessions—time, memory, character, the unknowability of our lives—that all fits very nicely under sort of existentialism of crime fiction embraced by noir.

I just like a good story. Fundamentally, I am always concerned about character, and I think you see that in True Detective. I am not interested in serial killers and I am not in some competition to see who can come up with the most disgusting serial killer.

I am just concerned about the humanism of these characters locked in this situation. And if you are going to trade in realistic plots, the ones that feature some form of criminality are the ones that are easiest for me to latch onto.

Mystery Scene: Did any one novel or movie influenceTrue Detective?
There have been so many influences from TV and books, but my love of theater also influenced True Detective. Particularly in the narrative style of having the story told. Theater is great story telling and great acting. And in True Detective you see a lot of scenes of the actors by themselves just talking to the camera. I have always had a love for the theatrical concept of the monologue. I love to see characters being given the chance to account for themselves.

Great plays are just characters telling a story. I like that intimacy that gives you a direct link to the character and allows you to see all their evasions and flaws. It also brings out those layered nuances that you have in fiction and that have great appeal to me

Mystery Scene: So many partners in cop novels and films are best friends. Yours are not.
Tension, in any genre, is fundamental in character, and Cohle and Hart have a lot of tension between them. When I started to write this during the summer of 2010, I thought True Detectivewould become a book. And in a way it is a novel that has taken a different form. It’s mainly a two first-person narrative, as it might be in a novel.

Most compelling to me was how these two men react to each other. They are both very complicated men. Each represents a number of contradictions. Neither knows how to live properly and they don’t know how to live in completely different ways. Hart, on the surface, should be the most grounded. He has all the things—family, children, marriage—that should anchor him. Cole is more of an island yet behaves with more control, responsibility and integrity. Both willing to cross the line of civilized behavior if their sense of justice is violated.

Mystery Scene: Were Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson who you pictured in these roles?
It was written with them in mind, and they really make the most of that tension. Then after they really were cast, I went back to the first two episodes and retooled them for Matthew and Woody so True Detective would have their voice.

Photo: Nic Pizzolatto on the set of True Detective. Photo courtesy HBO/Michele K. Short

True Detective's finale airs at 9 p.m. (EST/Pt) Sunday, March 9, on HBO. Frequent encores will run each week. True Detective is available On Demand; DVD will be coming soon.

Oline Cogdill

Sara Paretsky, as most of us know, is best known for her mystery fiction about Chicago private detective V.I. Warshawski.

But it’s Paretsky’s 2008 stand-alone novel Bleeding Kansas that is getting a push in Kansas.

The Kansas Center for the Book has picked Bleeding Kansas as its “Kansas Reads” novel.

Kansas Reads is a one-book/one-state reading and discussion project for adult readers. According to its website, “titles are selected for broad-based appeal to encourage spirited discussion among readers at libraries, booksellers and other partners statewide. This year, our selection reflects the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement.”

Bleeding Kansas is a tale about farmers, feuds, religion, bigotry and forgiveness.

In my review of Bleeding Kansas, I described the plot as such:

Two farming families are at the heart of the story -- the Grelliers and the Schapens, both of whose ancestors settled into the same valley during the 1850s as antislavery emigrants. Animosity through the years have turned the families into enemies and Paretsky sharply divides the characters into the good, the Grelliers, and the bad, the Schapens. Jim Grellier is a hard-working farmer whose wife, Susan, is into “big causes,” throwing herself into one failed farm project after another. She’s obsessed about the lives and sacrifices made by her husband’s pioneer ancestors.

The Schapens also work hard at their farm, but they also work even harder at spewing hate toward their neighbors. Matriarch Myra maintains a Web site on which she venomously discusses her neighbors’ lives. Both families are devout Christians, yet the Schapens believe only their brand of religion is right.

Paretsky perfectly captures the hardships of family farms, the money woes and each family’s dependence on the other. Kansas is vividly presented, giving not just a view of its beauty but also its political and social landscape, I stated later in my review.

Oline Cogdill

It was with great sadness that we report that author Aimée Thurlo has died this week from cancer.

Aimée Thurlo and her husband, David, wrote three separate mystery series, each focusing on a very different investigator but each also showcased the Southwest.

Together and separately, the Thurlos published more than 70 novels.

In one of those twists of life, our latest Holiday Issue No. 132 featured Lynn Kaczmarek’s insightful interview with Aimée and David Thurlo. You can read the full feature online HERE.

Their main series featured Ella Clah, a special investigator for the Navajo Police Department.

The Sister Agatha novels revolved around the former Mary Naughton who was an investigative reporter and teacher before she became Sister Agatha of Our Lady of Hope, a cloistered, financially struggling monastery in New Mexico.

The couple went to the supernatural for their novels about Lee Nez that featured the unusual partnership between New Mexico State Police Officer Lee Nez, who is a nightwalker, a Navajo vampire, and FBI Agent Diane Lopez.

The couple’s latest novel is Pawnbroker, about Charlie Henry who recently returned from special ops work in Iraq and now runs the Three Balls pawnshop.

Their last novel will be Eagle’s Last Stand, due to come out later in 2014.

The Thurlos have received the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, a Willa Cather Award for Contemporary Fiction, and the New Mexico Book Award for Mystery and Suspense.

Our deepest sympathies go to the Thurlo family.