The nominations for the Macavity Awards have been announced. These awards are nominated and voted on by members and friends of Mystery Readers International.
Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in Long Beach, Calif., on November 13. Congratulations to all nominees.
Best Mystery Novel
Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
Dead Lions by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur Books)
Best First Mystery
Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books) Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)
Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (Faber & Faber)
A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)
Best Mystery Short Story
“The Terminal” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
“The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
“The Dragon’s Tail” by Martin Limon (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
“The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)
The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo (William Morrow)
Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard by Charles J. Rzepka (Johns Hopkins University Press)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)
Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award
A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur Books) Saving Lincoln by Robert Kresge (ABQ Press)
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Little, Brown)
Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)
Several opportunities exist to help new or unpublished writers receive grants and awards. Sometimes even a small grant or a scholarship to a writers’ class can mean a big difference.
The Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award is a one-time grant of $1,500 for an emerging writer of color.
An unpublished writer is preferred, although publication of one work of short fiction or academic work will not disqualify an applicant.
This grant is intended to support the recipient in activities related to writing and career development, including workshops, seminars, conferences, and retreats; online courses; and research activities required for completion of the work.
Sisters in Crime administers the grant.
Bland, at left, was a pioneer in crime fiction.
Dead Time, her first novel in the Marti MacAlister series was published in 1992. Marti was an African American female police detective working and living in a Midwestern American town that closely resembled Waukegan, Illinois, where Bland lived.
The author also published several works of short crime fiction and edited a collection titled Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors (2004).
When she passed away in 2010, she was one of the most prolific African-American authors in the genre.
The works by two respected crime fiction writers are making it to the movies.
Joe R. Lansdale’s 1989 novel Cold in July is now in limited release in movie theaters across the country.
Michael C. Hall (Dexter) stars as Richard Dane who shoots in self-defense a burglar breaking into his home. Dane is soon hailed as a hero by everyone in his small town, except for Ben Russell (Sam Shepard), the ex-con father of the dead man.
Adding to the plot is a crazy private investigator Jim Bob Luke (played by Don Johnson). The reviews have been mixed—I haven’t seen it yet as hasn’t come to my area—but apparently Don Johnson steals the show. And if you have any doubt that Johnson can make a sleazy character intriguing, catch The Hot Spot (1990).
This isn’t the first time that a Lansdale work has made it to the screen. His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. And if you haven’t seen Bubba Hotep, I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s a strange film but it’s always pleasure to see Bruce Campbell in anything.
Lansdale’s story "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was adapted to film for Showtime's Masters of Horror series.
And that leads us to the late, never to be forgotten Elmore Leonard. On Aug. 29, the film Life of Crime will hit the movie theaters. When I first saw the previews that popped up a couple weeks ago, I wondered why the story and dialogue sounded so familiar.
Life of Crime is based on Leonard’s 1978 novel Switch in which a wealthy man’s wife is kidnapped. But he doesn't want to pay her ransom because he’s filed for divorce. If she is killed, well, that saves him a lot of money in alimony.
Tim Robbins stars as Frank Dawson and Mickey, his estranged wife, is played by Jennifer Aniston. Isla Fisher is Frank’s new girlfriend. Mos Def and Will Forte also co-star.
Life of Crime received a good reception when it was the closing night movie of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. According to a couple of sites, the film was previously in development at 20th Century Fox in 1986, with Diane Keaton attached, but the project was shelved after being deemed too similar to Ruthless People.
A little bit of trivia for Leonard fans. The kidnappers are Louis Gara, played by John Hawkes, and Ordell Robbie, played by Mos Def using the name Yasiin Bey. Louis and Ordell returned in Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch, which was made into the 1997 film Jackie Brown.
The other Louis and Ordell were played by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown.
Leonard’s work has been treated with respect in recent films so Life of Crime may follow that pattern, even if it does star Jennifer Aniston.
Photo: Jennifer Aniston in Life of Crime. Roadside Attractions photo
For more than four decades, Mary Higgins Clark’s standalone novels have been a mainstay of best sellers lists.
For the past decade, Alafair Burke has proven to be a skillful writer, creating both series and standalone novels with involving plots and believable characters who readers care about.
Both authors have amassed a solid following and their readers often overlap.
Now readers will have both authors in one book.
Clark and Burke will collaborative on one novel.
The Cinderella Murder will be published in November and feature characters Clark introduced in her most recent No. 1 New York Times bestseller, I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
The Cinderella Murder will be the first collaboration novel Clark has written with an outside author, and the first time she has undertaken a continuing series.
The deal for The Cinderella Murder was announced jointly by Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster; Marysue Rucci, vice president and editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster; and Louise Burke, president and publisher of Pocket Books.
This collaboration has been a well-known secret for a few months as it has been posted for advance buys on several online retail sites.
Needless to say, the publishers are excited about this venture, which I think will attract a lot of readers.
“This suspenseful collaboration is going to produce a lot of sleep-deprived readers,” said Karp in the press release.
Added Rucci in the same release: “Mary Higgins Clark’s astonishing talent and popularity are bar none. We’ve long wished we could clone her! This exciting collaboration with the wonderfully talented Alafair Burke is the next best thing.”
The Cinderella Murder will continue the story of television producer Laurie Moran’s investigations into cold case murders. Laurie’s show investigates the decades-old murder of a beautiful UCLA student whose body was found in the Hollywood Hills missing a shoe. The murder was dubbed the “Cinderella Case” by the press.
This sounds like the kind of story that both Clark and Burke handle well. Both authors imbue their novels with believable suspense.
“I'm so honored to be working with Mary Higgins Clark, whom I've admired both personally and professionally for years. Watching her at work is like a master class,” said Burke in an email to Mystery Scene.
“She [Clark] really does have a way of putting suspense on every single page. Hopefully I can take those lessons back to my own work,” added Burke in the same email.
Both authors will continue to write their own novels, in addition to this collaboration.
Clark’s first novel, Where Are The Children?, was published in 1975 by Simon & Schuster in 1975. Since then, she has published 46 books, 33 of which are suspense novels. She coauthored five holiday mysteries with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. Her books have appeared 20 times in the No. 1 slot on the New York Times and have sold more than 100 million copies in the United States alone.
Burke’s 10 bestselling novels include If You Were Here and most recently, All Day and a Night, the fifth in her Ellie Hatcher series. Her Samantha Kincaid series is set in the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, (Portland, Ore.) where Burke worked in the 1990s. Her other series features NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher.
Her novels often draw on real-world crimes and are known for their authentic plots. Burke also is a former prosecutor who currently teaches criminal law at Hofstra University in New York.
Photos: Top: Mary Higgins Clark; second photo, Alafair Burke
David Tennant is one of the best British actors working in film today.
While his fellow countrymen (and woman) might be better known in the U.S., Tennant has amassed a following that continues to grow.
Some may recognized this Scottish actor from the Doctor Who series, while others will remember him as the melancholy detective sergeant of last year’s Broadchurch.
He made such an impact in Broadchurch that he will do the same role in Fox’s American remake Gracepoint, scheduled for television this fall. He also does a lot of work in the theatre in London's West End.
The other reasons to watch The Escape Artist are evident in the first few minutes of the airing—its whip-smart plot that brings a fresh view to the standard law and order series, its realistic dialogue and compelling acting.
While delving deep into legal ethics, The Escape Artist also is an in-depth character study of lawyers—or should we say solicitors since this is Great Britain—who grapple with the consequences and aftermath of winning and losing.
Tennant plays Will Burton, a London defense attorney who’s nicknamed “the escape artist” because he has never lost a case.
He’s also called Houdini for pulling off audacious escapes for his clients.
There is, of course, little thought about the criminals who are guilty but get off because Burton is their attorney. He is fond of saying “I like to get my hands dirty” when delving into an impossible case.
His colleagues and bosses say he is “destined for silk,” which means the honor of Queen’s Counsel. But he is too busy working and finding what little time he can for his wife, Kate (Ashley Jensen), and son, Jamie (Gus Barry).
Unlike most dramas in which the workaholic attorney’s family constantly nag him about being married to his work, Burton’s family is rather understanding. They know the pressures he is under and how his hard work allows them to have a beautiful apartment in London and an even better country house to which they frequent most weekends.
Burton takes the case of Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell), a recluse who keeps an assortment of predator birds. He’s charged with the torture murder of a female medical student. Burton sees a loophole and, although he is repulsed by being in the same room as Foyle, easily gets his client cleared.
And then the twists begin and continue as The Escape Artist evolves into an even more gripping story with a surprise ending.
The cast, without exception, is excellent. Burton’s main rival is barrister Maggie Gardner, played with steel resolve by Sophie Okonedo, who just won a Tony Award for A Raisin in the Sun and co-starred in Hotel Rwanda. Maggie is cut from the same cloth as Burton and may even be more ambitious. Kebbell is creepily composed.
Jensen shows her range as a fine dramatic actress, making the role of Burton’s wife a solid character. Jensen may be best known to American audiences for her role on Ugly Betty or co-starring with Ricky Gervais on Extras.
And then there is Tennant, able to show his character’s vulnerability and ruthlessness at once. He forces the viewers to feel empathy for Burton while also being taken back by his actions. The scene in which Burton and his son are eating macaroni and cheese without really tasting it while watching the news without really seeing as each is consumed by emotions shows how fully vested Tennant is with his characters.
The Escape Artist doesn’t lag, even when the audience can guess—or think they can guess—what is coming next. That kind of inspired manipulation can be credited to creator and scriptwriter David Wolstencroft, who brings that same approach to MI-5.
The Escape Artist is top notch.
Masterpiece Mystery!: The Escape Artist begins June 15 at 9 p.m. on most PBS stations with the second part airing June 22. Each episode is 90 minutes. Check local listings as some PBS stations may air The Escape Artist on Mondays.
PHOTOS: From top, David Tennant; Tennant; Tennant at right with Ashley Jensen and Gus Barry, right; Sophie Okonedo. Photos courtesy of PBS.