Oline Cogdill
Is there any mystery fiction reader alive who has not heard of the Encyclopedia Brown series?

These wonderful stories were about Leroy Brown, the son of a local police chief in the fictional town of Idaville.

A smart boy with a wide range of knowledge, Leroy naturally was nicknamed Encyclopedia. His curiosity was a perfect fit for him to run his own detective agency out of the family garage.

Encyclopedia Brown’s agency helped neighborhood children solve cases for “25 cents per day, plus expenses - No case too small.”

Encyclopedia Brown often got assistance from his friend Sally Kimball, who also acted as his “bodyguard.”

And while Encyclopedia was the head of the agency, Sally held her own, especially against local bully Bugs Meany who often was the culprit in their investigations. Bugs committed many petty crimes.

Author Donald J. Sobol wrote 28 novels in the series, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, published in 1963. Sobol’s last novel in the series, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, was published in October 2012, three months after the author died from gastric lymphoma.

The Encyclopedia Brown novels have never been out of print and have been translated into 12 languages. The series also is popular with elementary school teachers as a way to encourage students to read. A 1995 study guide for use in the classroom was written by Duncan Searl, J. Friedland and Rikki Kessler.

The Mystery Writers of America honored Sobol and Encyclopedia Brown with a Special Edgar Award in 1976.

An Encyclopedia Brown daily and Sunday comic strip ran from Dec. 3, 1978, to Sept. 20, 1980. HBO premiered an Encyclopedia Brown series in 1989. The series lasted for 10 episodes, each 30 minutes, and featured Scott Bremner as Encyclopedia and Laura Bridge as Sally.

Through the years, a full-length Encyclopedia Brown film has been in the planning stages but nothing has ever happened.

Until now.


According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Warner Bros is in final negotiations for movie rights to the Encyclopedia Brown children's book series, aiming for an adaptation to be produced by Roy Lee and Howard David Deutsch.”

I could so see this as a film that would appeal to children and adults as do the novels.

Let’s hope these “final negotiations” don’t end up as other plans have.

Apparently, director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law) was “attached” to a film version in the early 2000s and Ridley Scott also was interested at one point.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. also looked at a film version of Encyclopedia Brown as a project for Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in the early 1980s.


Just because Foul Play worked doesn’t mean Chase and Hawn would work in Encyclopedia Brown. I mean, did anyone see Seems Like Old Times?

Perhaps what this needs is Encyclopedia Brown on the case: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Movie. My money’s on Sally.

Oline Cogdill
I am often asked by friends, family and complete strangers “what’s good to read?” Or “what do you recommend?” Or “what would I like?”

The mystery genre offers so many choices that the hard part is narrowing it down to just a couple of books. I always tell people that if they can’t find a mystery they like, they aren’t reading the right books.

Here’s a fun way to pick a mystery. HarperCollins and Investigation Discovery Channel have teamed up to launch a Mystery Match quiz on the channel’s official Facebook page. Here’s how to get to the quiz:

I don’t know how scientific this is, but it is fun. I took the quiz several times, answering differently each time. Was that wrong? I like to think it was more in the name of research.

Depending on the various answers, the books recommended included Laura Lippman’s And When She Was Good, Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street, Faye Kellerman’s The Beast and Robert Kolker’s true crime book Lost Girls.

The accompanying video that recommended programs on the Investigation Discovery Channel worked well with each book suggested.

Quiz aside, I don’t mind being asked what book to read. Oddly enough, each of the choices that popped up during my quizzes are books I would recommend.

Oline Cogdill
I love lists and this is one of my favorites—Forbes annual list of the top-earning authors.

While some authors seem to be permanent fixtures to this list, there is a shakeup this year. E.L. James not only makes the list—she tops it.

Here is Forbes’ list of top-earning authors, ranked by earnings between June 2012 and June 2013.

1. E.L. James ($95 million)

2. James Patterson ($91 million)

3. Suzanne Collins ($55 million)

4. Bill O'Reilly ($28 million)

5. Danielle Steel ($26 million)

6. Jeff Kinney ($24 million)

7. Janet Evanovich ($24 million

8. Nora Roberts ($23 million)

9. Dan Brown ($22 million)

10. Stephen King ($20 million)

11. Dean Koontz ($20 million)

12. John Grisham ($18 million)

13. David Baldacci ($15 million)

14. Rick Riordan ($14 million)

15. J.K. Rowling ($13 million)

16. George R.R. Martin ($12 million)

Oline Cogdill

Elmore Leonard
has always been one of our coolest authors.

Leonard, left, didn’t just write about criminals and low-lifes.

He blurred the lines between good and bad, writing about characters who, no matter how violent had a soupcon of decency, as well as people who we were supposed to root for, but who had a streak of amorality.

Leonard did all that with minimalistic dialogue that seemed deceptively simple, until you realized just how much punch a few words could bring.

He did it with as little description about the scenery as possible until you realized just how much he showed about the setting.

And he did this with as spare and lean a story as possible, until you realized that he indeed was following one of his own rules of writing—“leave out the part that people tend to skip.” Leonard never used an “a” or “the” or “that” without a lot of thought.

Leonard, who died last week, Aug. 20, 2013, at age 87, left behind a legacy of more than 45 novels that appealed to readers of many generations.

If Leonard was to be known only for the brilliant TV series Justified (FX) based on his 2001 novella Fire in the Hole, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Justified is typical Leonard in which the fine line constantly shifts between the choices we make in life.

, set in the hills of Kentucky, revolves around U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played to perfection by Timothy Olyphant, right in photo at right) and the criminal Boyd Crowder (also played to perfection by Walton Goggins, left in same photo).

The two men grew up together and know how each other thinks.

As each is fond of saying, “We shoveled coal together,” a phrase that may not mean anything to those outside of these Kentucky hills but is the upmost code for those who live in Harlan County. Each man could easily have turned the other way and each knows that.

succeeds because Graham Yost, the executive producer, head writer and showrunner, is wise enough to respect Leonard’s work as far as the nuances of character and dialogue. The fifth season is scheduled for 2014.

Leonard, who also was credited as an executive producer on the television series, returned to Raylan Givens in his 2012 novel Raylan. In Raylan, the marshal tackles a pair of dope-dealing brothers, a nurse who sells kidneys on the black market and a ruthless coal executive. Several of these subplots have showed up in Justified.

Leonard always made us reconsider who we should be rooting for.

Take Harry Mitchell, the amoral businessman who is being blackmailed over his affair with a stripper in Leonard’s 1974 novel 52 Pick-Up (made into a film in 1986 starring Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret). Harry is vulnerable to the blackmailers because his wife is running for city council. But Harry is more worried about his own business than his wife and in trying to outwit the blackmailers he puts his wife in danger.

Remember the movie buff loanshark Chili Palmer of Leonard’s 1990 novel Get Shorty? Chili’s criminal enterprises are comparable to the ruthlessness of Hollywood.

One of my favorite Leonard novels, Killshot (1989), probably wasn’t his best but I have an affection for it because it takes place mainly in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, which is located about 30 minutes from my hometown and a city I knew well. There’s also a few scenes in Cairo, Illinois, located seven miles from my family’s farm and the town in which I was born.

In Killshot, Detroit suburbanites Carmen and Wayne Colson are relocated by the feds to Cape after learning about an extortion plot by two crooks. They like Cape, especially Carmen. But the local marshal who is supposed to help the couple turns out to be as villainous as the two killers who are still on their trail.

For the most part, Leonard’s work translated well to the movie screen. Jackie Brown (based on Rum Punch), Get Shorty, Be Cool, Out of Sight, Hombre, and many more.

Aside from Justified, his stories haven’t been as successful on the small screen. Maximum Bob lasted only seven episodes in 1998 as did 2003’s even better Karen Sisco, based on the character from Out of Sight.

I think that is because ABC didn’t go far enough in the spirit of Leonard’s creation with the bombastic judge of Maximum Bob nor with the tough U.S. Marshal played by the terrific Carla Gugino (Jennifer Lopez played the role in the movie).

Cable is a much better fit for Leonard.

I’m not going into Leonard’s life history. Several good obits did just that and here the links to the Washington Post and the New York Times’ versions.

Since Leonard died, there have been numerous tributes and remembrances of him by authors wanting to honor him.

Some of the links are below, including a lovely appreciation by Michael Connelly; heart-felt tributes by Joseph Wambaugh, Denise Hamilton, Attica Locke, among others.

Meg Abbott has a terrific Q&A with Leonard that kicks off with the excepted---Leonard watching the musical film Top Hat.

And here is a link to his 10 rules of writing, which includes the wonderful word hooptedoodle.

There also have been a lot of postings and blogs by authors who may have brushed by Leonard in a hallway or met him at a signing and are trying to cash in on his death by their “memories.” Take Leonard’s advice and skip those.

Rest in peace, Elmore Leonard, and thank you for all the wonderful stories you’ve given us. You will always been one cool writer.


What separated Adam Cassidy in Joseph Finder’s 2004 novel Paranoia from other characters caught up in deceit was his ability to make people want to root for him almost without reserve. Adam’s charisma easily translates to the screen in the entertaining, but flawed film Paranoia.

The credit is due the charming Liam Hemsworth as the ambitious young tech wiz recruited to spy on his boss’s archrival. Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) not only proves himself to be charming—and quite handsome—but also able to hold his own when pitted against his veteran co-stars, Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford.

How charming is Hemsworth? Charming enough to be forgiven by his best friends, even when his actions put them in danger. Charming enough that the viewer is ready to give him another chance, even when he has made a pact with the devil.

Hemsworth may not be ready to take over the Indiana Jones franchise and he doesn’t quite have the villainy chops that Oldman has displayed so many times.

But this Australian-born actor is more than a pretty face. Although that face is pretty darn pretty. It runs in the family: Liam Hemsworth’s older brothers are Chris (Thor, The Avengers) and Luke (various Australian TV series).

In my review of Finder’s fourth novel, I said: “Although Paranoia is plagued with more than a few cliches, it’s easy to forgive the thriller’s flaws when the premise is so well executed, the action exhaustive and the characters realistically shaped.”

And that is exactly what is right—and wrong—with the film version. Yes, it is riddled with clichés and several plot holes.

But the film also is well executed and, even when you see a plot twist coming, you’re willing to go along with the ride.

Paranoia makes industrial espionage as exciting as any James Bond spy thriller, and more believable. In Paranoia, the fate of the world isn’t at risk—just two titans of industry.

Adam Cassidy (Hemsworth) and his equally brilliant gang of pals have devised a new phone that they think will set the world on fire.

But their presentation in front of their arrogant boss Nicolas Wyatt (Oldman) goes so badly the gang is fired.

It doesn’t help Adam’s cause that he comes to the most important meeting of their career looking like he just crawled out of bed and is late for a college class, or that he is so distracted by Wyatt’s seemingly lack of interest that he mouths off at him.

Adam still has his corporate credit card so he treats his buddies to a night on the town, spending $16,000 during one evening at a nightclub.

Wyatt calls that embezzling company funds and wants his money back, but Adam doesn’t have it. Plus Adam already owes some $40,000 for the care of his father, Frank (Richard Dreyfuss), because Wyatt’s company canceled his health insurance several days before.

But Wyatt has an option. Go to work for Wyatt’s former partner and rival Jock Goddard (Ford) at Elkon Corp. and steal his secrets.

Adam undergoes a metamorphosis from “bridge and tunnel guy” to a sophisticated sharp dresser. In what seems like a huge leap of faith, Adam is quickly recruited by Elkon and quicker than the latest phone can go out of style, he’s hired and in Goddard’s inner circle.

Adam also has acquired a girlfriend, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard, NBC’s short-lived The Playboy Club). They meet cute on the dance floor during that nightclub binge and have a one-night stand. By coincidence, she turns out to be the marketing director for Elkon.

Adam doesn’t quite realize how volatile the two tycoons’ lifelong feud has become. This isn’t just business; it’s a ruthless hatred that more than once erupts into violence. And Adam may be the collateral damage.

In the world of high-tech, it’s easy to become paranoid when it seems as if every aspect of one’s life is under surveillance. As Adam learns the true meaning of Wyatt’s comment that privacy doesn’t exist anymore, his apartment resembles a scene from the 1974 film The Conversation.

Oldman struts like a bantam when he goes up against Ford’s rabid fox. We instantly know that the sophisticated Oldman is the devil incarnate, from his too sharp clothes to a house surrounded by armed guards. Grizzled Ford prefers comfortable jeans and invites his staff to his airy home for a lawn party. But sometimes the devil wears disguises.

When Oldman and Ford go after each other, it’s like Air Force One all over again.

Australian director Robert Luketic showed a flair for comedy in Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law, and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! Paranoia doesn’t concoct any new entries in the drama lexicon, but suspense is not out of Luketic’s wheelhouse. A late-night break-in to a secure floor in a high-rise office building mounts the tension, though the scenes aren’t exactly nail biting.

The film and novel version of Paranoia differ slightly—even the names of the companies have been changed. But the spirit of Finder’s book remains.

In the novel, Adam was an underachiever whose greatest talent was winning people over. He hated his job and his biggest achievement at Wyatt Industries (check on name) was charging to the company a lavish, unauthorized retirement party for one of the men on the loading dock. Adam ends up owing the company $78,000 for the party. In the film version, there isn’t even a loading dock in sight.

In the film version, Adam is an ambitious young man who wants “more” than he had growing up in the poor neighborhood of Brooklyn where he still lives with his father.

Both Adams contend with a dying father, but in the novel the father was cantankerous and verbally abusing. In the film version, Richard Dreyfuss’ Frank Cassidy genuinely loves and supports his son, and wants him to do the right thing. His only sin was working all his life as a low-paid security guard.

The change in Adam and his father in the film version work well. While Finder made us care about Adam, this “antihero” persona may not have transferred well to the screen. Hemsworth’s Adam wants a finer life—a better career, money, an upscale house, and that is easier to relate to in a movie.

Finder has proven himself to be one of the top thriller writers, turning the potentially eye-glazing subjects of industrial espionage into breathless thrillers. He recently signed a three-book deal with Dutton; his next novel will be Suspicion, due out next year.

Production notes: Rated PG-13; 106 minutes

PHOTOS: Top, Liam Hemsworth shows just how charming he can be; Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman's showdown; Ford, Amber Heard, and Hemsworth at Goddard's party; Oldman and Hemsworth in a battle of wits on Wyatt's armed fortress of a house; bottom, Hemsworth, Oldman and Embeth Davidtz after Adam has been changed into a sophisticated executive.
Photos courtesy of Relativity Media