Wednesday, 20 May 2015 12:50

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Years ago, Charlaine Harris, at left, put her librarian heroine Aurora Teagarden on vacation.

Harris had a few other ideas in mind she wanted to tackle.

Something about vampires and a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse. You may have heard of those novels. I think there was an HBO series, too? Something about True Blood.

Aurora’s vacation seemed permanent as Harris went on to other projects.

But Aurora will return. According to Publishers Weekly, Harris will do two more Aurora Teagarden novels for Minotaur. The last Teagarden, Poppy Done to Death, was released by Minotaur in 2003; the new novels are set for 2017 and 2018, according to Publishers Weekly.

I loved this series, which featured six novels, and applaud Aurora’s return. Aurora is a young librarian who regularly meets with a group who study unsolved crimes. Naturally, those crimes have a way of being solved during the course of the novels.

On the surface, the Aurora novels seem to be very light and cozy—even her name suggests that. But Harris had an uncanny knack for adding just the touch of needed darkness to these novels.

And now fans of Aurora will have a double dose of the librarian. The series is the basis for two made-for-TV movies—and I hope there will be more—on the Hallmark Channel and the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel.

Candace Cameron Bure stars as Aurora. A Bone to Pick, the first Aurora, aired in April, but you can catch it in reruns and on demand.

Aurora Teagarden to Return
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Saturday, 16 May 2015 13:10


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Can a book change the world, or at least change a perception of the world?

Of course it can.

Just look at the Gutenberg Bible, which was a game changer for books. Before the Gutenberg Bible, books were hand-written, which meant they were available only to the upper-upper class. The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed in the West using movable type and it began the age of the printed book in the West. Now even common people could possess a book—and that start a change in the social and political landscape.

OK, I am not suggesting that any of these books have the same impact as the Gutenberg, but I have noticed a mini trend of mysteries using a book as a pivotal part of the plot.

The Accident by Chris Pavone: Pavone, who won the best first novel Edgar Award for The Expats, has a mysterious manuscript at the center of his second novel. In The Accident, literary agent Isabel Reed knows that the anonymous manuscript she has received has the power to bring down very powerful people and mega-corporations. Who wrote the manuscript and what it suggests keeps the action going as Pavone doles out bits and pieces of the story behind the manuscript. And just who is that author, hiding out in Zurich and trying to atone for his life of lies and betrayals, knowing that at any minute the wrong people could find him? The world of book publishing is full of peril and intrigue in Pavone’s The Accident.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker. This was hailed as the book of the summer of 2014. While it didn’t quite catch fire as the publishers hoped—the length (656 pages) may have had something to do with it—I felt it was a fascinating look at loyalty and the cult of the celebrity. In this novel, Marcus Goldman—Harry Quebert’s most successful protégé—has a severe case of writer’s block. Marcus’ first novel was a runaway success but he can barely finish a sentence on his next novel. Then the remains of a teenager and a manuscript of Harry’s bestseller The Origins of Evil are found on his estate 33 years after the girl disappeared. Marcus travels to Somerset, New Hampshire, to help Harry. But Marcus also is a writer and he sees a book in this tragedy. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair could easily have been trimmed 200 or so pages but it remains a fast read.

Countdown City by Ben H. Winters: Countdown City is the second novel to Winters’ Edgar-winning paperback The Last Policeman, in which the world will soon be destroyed by a massive asteroid that is hurtling toward Earth. Societies start to break down, as do businesses, education, manners, and everything we think of as civilization. Why save money or be nice to each other or diet when we are all going to die in six months? And there is no more Internet. So books become the go-to source of knowledge and entertainment—as they have been for years—and a library is now a commune in Countdown City. That is, if you want to spend your last days just reading. Imagine a world in which no one opened a book because the Internet is even more powerful. Detective Hank Palace actually has to open a book at the library/commune. And it’s the Yellow Pages—when was the last time any of us used the Yellow Pages. Ironically, before all the mess happened, the library was running a program called “How to Eat Less and Live.”

Checked Out by Elaine Viets: Set in a library, Viets’ 14th Dead-End Job mystery finds Helen Hawthorne searching through thousands of donated books to find which one contains a valuable watercolor that was stashed in it by a wealthy Fort Lauderdale pioneer. The search for the book gives Viets a chance to show how a library can be a center for a community as well as a hotbed of intrigue, jealousy and social standing.

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango. German scriptwriter Sascha Arango’s novel comes out in June and it is an amusing look at a man who has become one of the world’s top mystery writers, without ever having written a word. Henry Hayden’s wife is the real author and she is fine with him being in the limelight as long as no one knows she is the real author. Harry has carefully constructed a world in which he lives quite well, enjoys the fame, and has a house, car, and money beyond his expectations. And then he pretty much destroys everything that is good in his life.


Mysteries That Change the World
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Saturday, 09 May 2015 10:35

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In addition to becoming an annual event, the second Mystery Writers Key West Fest will launch a writing award to honor an author who made Florida his home.

The first Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award—“The Jerry”—will be presented during the event, August 14-16 in Key West, Florida. The winner will receive a book publishing contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, free Mystery Writers Key West Fest registration, hotel accommodations for two nights, and a bobble-headed Jerry trophy (shown at left).

Healy, who died in August 2014, was the author of 13 novels about Boston-based private detective John Francis Cuddy and, under the pseudonym Terry Devane, wrote the Mairead O'Clare legal thriller series. Healy’s writing career began while a professor at the New England School of Law, where he taught for almost two decades. Healy wrote 18 novels and over 60 short stories, 15 of which won or were nominated for the Shamus Award.

A graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, Healy’s career path included stints as a military police lieutenant and a trial attorney.

For nearly 20 years, Healy lived in Fort Lauderdale, where he was active in the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the writers conference Sleuthfest. He also served as moderator and panelist at the first Mystery Writers Key West Fest in 2014.

“The Jerry” is sponsored by Absolutely Amazing eBooks. Candidates for the Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award should submit the first three pages of a finished, unpublished manuscript no later than June 30, 2015. There is no fee to enter, finalists will be notified August 1, and will have until August 10 to submit full manuscripts.

The award judging committee will be led by Healy's fiancée, mystery author Sandra Balzo, and includes Shirrel Rhoades, author, film critic, media consultant and publisher of Absolutely Amazing eBooks; Ted Hertel, attorney, author, reviewer and immediate past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America; and Gary Warren Niebuhr, library director, reviewer and author of numerous nonfiction works on crime fiction, including Make Mine a Mystery: A Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction and Read 'em Their Writes: A Handbook for Mystery Book Discussions.

This year’s Mystery Writers Key West Fest—“Murder & Mayhem in Paradise”—includes multiple workshops, presentations, panel discussions, and social events with crime fiction and true crime writers.

For information on the Second Annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest and complete Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award competition guidelines and submission details, visit www.mysterywriterskeywestfest.com.

Key West Competition, Award to Honor Jeremiah Healy
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