Oline Cogdill

California author p.g. sturges (yep, all lowercased) received an early Christmas gift from Michael Connelly.

Sturges’ “gift” came during Connelly’s appearance this past Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation during which four authors talked about books with Bob Schieffer.

Each author was asked to name one of the best books they had read this past year.

Connelly mentioned sturges’ series that is called “the shortcut man.”

The “hero” of this series is Dick Henry, who has been called the shortcut man because he can quickly get to the heart of a problem. He’s not a detective or a cop, just a guy who does jobs for others.

Sturges has three novels in his series—Shortcut Man, Tribulations of the Shortcut Man, and Angel’s Gate.
Sturges, the son of writer-director Preston Sturges, laces his hard-boiled series with gallows humor.

Connelly, of course, is the author of the Harry Bosch series. Connelly’s latest novel The Gods of Guilt returns to his Lincoln Lawyer character Mickey Haller. (The Gods of Guilt is my pick for best crime fiction of the year.)

Oline Cogdill

This time of year, there are myriad lists about the year’s best books. And heaven knows Mystery Scene has one to come. And I have one that is being published across the country. Here’s a link to my personal best of 2013.

But let’s take this time to take a look at the future. Who are the newest authors we should be reading? This list isn’t to take away from our current top mystery writers. We know who they are and they continue to enthrall us with solid stories.

But here are 12 new authors who I consider to be ones to watch for. By new, I am focusing on authors who have three or less novels to their name. And this list is not in any particular order. And after I compiled it, I realized I left off about another dozen authors. If anyone has a favorite, please post in the comments.

(And if you are still looking for holiday gifts for your reader friends, this list also makes a good start.)

Owen Laukkanen: This Canadian author has made the current economic woes his genre niche while creating action-packed stories that also are contemporary cautionary tales. His debut The Professionals set the tone -- a suspenseful and insightful thriller about four out-of-work, newly graduated college friends who become kidnappers. He followed that up with Criminal Enterprise in which a wealthy man, who defines himself by his possessions and career, turns to bank robbery when he is downsized. Laukkanen’s next novel Kill Fee comes out in March. While Laukkanen makes us care about his finely drawn characters, the real heroes of his novels are FBI agent Carla Windermere and Minnesota state cop Kirk Stevens.

Ivy Pochoda
Ivy Pochoda’s novel Visitation Street ranked No. 2 on my best of 2013, a close close second to Michael Connelly’s The Gods of Guilt. Visitation Street is the second novel under the Dennis Lehane imprint. It is a poignant look at the bonds that link a Red Hook neighborhood when a teenage girl disappears following an accident on the water. Pochoda looks at the entire neighborhood, from an immigrant who owns a local convenience store to a teenage boy whose father was murdered outside their apartment. Her first novel was The Art of Disappearing, published in 2009.

Elisabeth Elo: You’ll have to wait until next year for Elisabeth Elo’s debut North of Boston to hit the bookstores. But the wait is worth it. In this novel, Pirio Kasparov’s ability to withstand extreme weather works as a metaphor for survival. The heir to a perfume company and the daughter of Russian immigrants, Pirio maneuvers various strata of Boston society. The brisk plot moves without getting lost among such far-flung subjects as environmental issues, the fish industry and perfume.

Michael Sears: Michael Sears has been able to turn complex financial dealings into thrilling plots that don’t overwhelm the reader with the machinations of the stock market and without dumbing down such shenanigans. Greed, mismanaged money and cheating are sears_mortalbonds
solid foundations for many thrillers—Sears just takes them to another level. As a result he was nominated for just about every mystery fiction award last year. His debut, Black Fridays, introduced Wall Street hotshot Jason Stafford who never started out to be a criminal. A simple accounting error snowballed into a felony when his portfolio lost more than $500 million. “I was the first alumnus from my MBA class to make Managing Director. I was also the first, as far as I know, to go to prison,” says Jason. But Sears delivers more than a financial series. Jason is the father of a very difficult special needs child. Mortal Bonds is Sears’ second novel; his third comes out next summer.

Ingrid Thoft: Ingrid Thoft is off to a great start with Loyalty, her debut about a private detective whose family of high-powered Boston attorneys are as ruthless as any mob family. Identity comes out next June.

Alex Marwood: Alex Marwood is the pseudonym for a British journalist who has three other novels under her own name. The Wicket Girls is a stand alone about two girls who are convicted of the death of another child, and the women they became 25 years later. Marwood examines the class system and gossip. Her next novel, slated for U.S. publication next summer, will be called The Killer Next Door. I am not alone in my praise of this novel. Stephen King recently mentioned it as one of his top reads of the year.

Tim O’Mara: Tim O’Mara brings a fresh approach to the academic mystery with marwood_thewickedgirlshis novels about Raymond Donne, a former NYPD detective turned middle-school teacher in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. O’Mara’s debut Sacrifice Fly and his recent Crooked Numbers explore this complex character whose devotion to his students and making their lives better brings him a new start. And he uses his investigative skills even more as a teacher.

Wiley Cash: In his 2012 debut, A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash melded crime fiction with Southern gothic for an emotional story about the power of forgiveness, the strength of family bonds and how religion can be misused to seduce and dominate. A 9-year-old boy, a sheriff and a midwife alternate narrating “A Land More Kind Than Home,” set in Marshall, “a little speck of a town” in western North Carolina. The three are bonded not only by geography but by the evil that slyly yet forcefully slithers into the community. This Dark Road to Mercy comes out in January. In his second novel, Cash focuses on two young sisters forced into foster care until their wayward father who disappeared years before suddenly returns.

Julia Keller: Julia Keller’s two novels, A Killing in the Hills and Bitter River, are insightful looks at a poverty-stricken community in West Virginia whose residents are determined to make a better life.

Tricia Fields: Tricia Fields debuted as the 2010 Tony Hillerman Prize winner with The Territory, an action-packed yet personal story about the infiltration of Mexican drug cartels in a small Texas town. Chief of Police Josie Gray is a fully realized character who fights the good fight against all odds. Fields followed up with Scratchgravel Road. Her third novel Wrecked comes out in March 2014.

Patrick Lee: Patrick Lee has three best-selling paperback originals to his name. But his hardcover debut Runner with its mix of sci-fi, Tom Clancy and adventure should put him over the top. You’ll have to wait until April to see what all the fuss is about.

Amanda Kyle Williams: Amanda Kyle Williams hit the ground running with The Stranger You Seek, a character-rich tale of self-discovery about Keye Street, a Chinese-American private detective who knows that her flaws are part of her persona. Keye knows little about her Asian heritage, but all about the South because she was adopted at age five by a white Georgia family. She followed The Stranger You Seek with The Stranger in the Room. Her third novel Don’t Talk to Strangers is due out in July 2014.

(Michael Sears and Amanda Kyle Williams are among the authors who will be at Sleuthfest 2014. Details here.)

Oline Cogdill

The Fall (Series 1). Acorn Media. 5 episodes, 2 discs, 306 minutes with bonus behind-the-scenes feature lasting 12 minutes. $39.99.

The face of evil, of a killer, isn’t always obvious. The most terrifying face of evil is the one that looks kind, looks normal, looks exactly like a neighbor. Or, in the case of the gripping series The Fall, looks exactly like a grief counselor to whom one would pour out one’s heart, exposing every vulnerability.

The Fall continues the string of excellent crime dramas that have come out of the United Kingdom in the past decade. A police procedural in the finest sense, The Fall was the highest-rated drama premiere in eight years when it debuted on BBC Two in May, 2013, and is just now making its U.S. debut via Acorn Media. The season has just been renewed for a second season in Great Britain.

The Fall
follows the hunt for a serial killer who is targeting successful professional women who are single. From the beginning, the viewer knows that the killer is Paul Spector, icily played by Jamie Dornan (Once Upon a Time, Marie Antoinette). Paul works as a bereavement counselor and is married to a neo-natal nurse with whom he has two small children, a daughter and son who both dote on him.

While the idea of a family man moonlighting as a serial killer isn’t new, The Fall’s tense plots make this seem fresh and original. And as ruthless as Dornan’s performance is, the real revelation here is Gillian Anderson—Dana Scully of The X Files.

Anderson has proved herself to be a versatile actress since The X Files series ended in 2002. She has done several British TV series such as Bleak House and Great Expectations and played the Duchess of Windsor in the miniseries Any Human Heart. Most recently, she has played a psychiatrist in the NBC series Hannibal.

Anderson is flawless as Stella Gibson, a detective superintendent from London’s Metropolitan Police who has come to Belfast to review the investigation. Steely and determined, Stella is clearly the smartest person in the room as she plunges into the investigation. Too often she is pulled into office politics against her will because her intelligence threatens the Belfast detectives.

The Fall follows Paul’s chilling preparations for his next victim and his almost banal family life as Stella tries to figure out the missing link between each of the seemingly random victims.

The Fall
relies heavily on the tenets of the psychological thriller.

The seemingly compassionate Paul is always on the verge and we wonder if he will turn his violence and hatred of women on his own family.

Stella is able to filter out all the noise surrounding the investigation and zero in on what is important.

The Fall maintains a sense of realism throughout the five episodes. I am very much looking forward to the second season and more of Anderson’s intense performance.

Photos: The Fall with Gillian Anderson; Jamie Dornan. Photos courtesy Acorn Media

Oline Cogdill

I have long thought that television and film waste a wonderful source of good drama by not tapping more into the crime fiction genre. Look at how long it took Michael’s Connelly’s Harry Bosch series to make it be filmed. (Details here.)

So I am always pleased when I hear that network executives are at least considering crime fiction as a source.

The latest that may make it to the small screen—and I say may because nothing is ever in stone when it comes to TV or film—is a series based on Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford novels.

CBS has put in development the appropriately named Doc Ford series based on White's series of 20 novels.

Marion “Doc” Ford is a retired NSA agent who is now a mild-mannered marine biologist who lives in a tight-knit marina in Sanibel Island, which is located on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Doc Ford is mild-mannered and unassuming, except, of course, when he is seeking justice for those in need or called back into service to use his very special skills. Of course, Doc Ford is called back into service a lot.

White’s series began with Sanibel Flats in 1990 and includes Night Moves, published last year. Gerolmo (Mississippi Burning, The Bridge) is writing the TV adaptation.

White’s series has the potential to make great TV. The novels include lots of adventure, an interesting hero, and a wide range of supporting characters. (A profile of White ran in Mystery Scene’s Winter 2010 issue, No. 113)

The Sanibel Island and Captiva areas of Florida are just gorgeous—pristine waters, land that hasn’t been overdeveloped, and beautiful beaches. Since Florida has a number of very good actors, the producers should make good use of local talent as did other series filmed here such as Burn Notice, The Glades, Graceland, as well as others. Doc Ford’s adventures center around Florida but also take him other places so there will be good fodder for scenery.

“I’ve worked with Randy for twenty books now, and I’m still constantly surprised by the stories he creates for Doc Ford and Tomlinson and his wonderful new character, Hannah Smith. Getting to read their adventures before anyone else does is one of the tremendous perks of my job!” said Neil S. Nyren, senior vice-president, publisher, and editor in chief at G. P. Putnam's Sons. Nyren’s quote came during a recent email exchange I had with him.

White has been awarded the Conch Republic Prize for Literature and the John D. Macdonald Award for Literary Excellency. His national PBS documentary, The Gift of the Game, which he wrote and narrated, won the 2002 Woods Hole Film Festival Best of Festival award.

A fishing and nature enthusiast, he has also written extensively for National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal, Playboy and Men’s Health.

In a press release, White said “The thing I love most to write about is Doc Ford and his friends at Dinkin’s Bay. I was a light tackle fishing guide at Tarpon Bay Marina on Sanibel Island, Florida for 13 years, and the Ford novels afford me the opportunity to revisit a time, and people, about which I care deeply.”

In the same release, White also said why Florida is the perfect setting for his novels. “Florida is an American microcosm that lures the best and the worst sort of people from all of the Americas, not just the U.S. I love the social diversity as much as I adore the varieties of subtropical land and waterscapes."

White continued, "For much of my life here, I’ve lived in an old Cracker house, tin-roofed, with a fireplace for heat, built atop the remnants of a shell pyramid that was constructed more than three thousand years ago by contemporaries of the Maya. Florida is an ancient place, but as modern as the latest South Beach fads in fashion and food. From my acre on the bay I can stand atop a mound, where kings once parlayed with Conquistadors, and watch the Space Shuttle arch toward the moon.”

Photos: Top, Randy Wayne White photo by Wendy Webb; Center, Randy Wayne White on his annual swim across Tampa Bay, a fund-raiser for the Navy SEALS, photo by Bill Hirschman

Oline Cogdill

The prolific Robert Ludlum, who died in 2001, is one of those authors whose characters are still with us.

Douglas Corleone, left, author of the exciting Good As Gone, is the latest author who has been tapped to continue Ludham’s brand.

Corleone will be the author of Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Equation, the fourth novel in the Paul Janson series. No word yet when the novel will be published.

The Janson novels—not to be confused with the Jason Bourne series—have an interesting history.

The first The Janson Directive was published posthumously in 2002, the year after Ludlum’s death. Other authors also have been tapped in the past to continue other Ludlum series.

The second and third novel were finished byPaul Garrison.

Paul Janson follows the footsteps of Ludlum’s other characters.

Janson is a former Navy SEAL and former member of a U.S. government covert agency Consular Operations. He is haunted by his memories of the Vietnam War during which he was captured and tortured by the Viet Cong. Janson is now a corporate security consultant who is in much demand so he picks which jobs he takes.

Needless to say, Corleone is quite happy about this opportunity. "I'm thrilled that the Ludlum legacy lives on and that I get to be a part of that," Corleone emailed me.

Corleone’s Good As Gone shows that he can produce an action-packed story.

In my review of Good As Gone, I said: “Simon Fisk, the hero of Douglas Corleone’s new series, could easily be a cousin of Jack Reacher. Like Reacher, the hero of Lee Child’s best-selling novels, Simon is a loner constantly on the move, with a background in law enforcement and a penchant for coming to the rescue of those in need.

“And like Child, Corleone delivers an adrenalin-fueled plot with believable, complex characters. Reacher and Simon could indeed be cousins, but each is a distinct character. As Good as Gone proves, Corleone shapes Simon with a unique personality and background, intriguing enough to maintain a long-running series.”