Saturday, 14 February 2015 17:03

patterson privatevegas
Not too long ago, it wasn’t uncommon for authors and publishers to occasionally add “gimmicks” to the packages of books sent to reviewers.

I well remember the time when I opened a box containing a mystery set around the Fourth of July only to have large pieces of glitter spray from the package. I was not a happy camper as the glitter landed on my dress, in my hair, and all over my desk. I was still finding glitter hidden on my desk on the day I left the newspaper.

And then there was the time I was at the newspaper around 10 at night, finishing up the weekly entertainment section. A box containing a book was rigged so that when it was opened fake spiders and netting made to resemble a web sprang out. I was even less thrilled.

So I thought the days of gimmicks were—fortunately—over.

But leave it to James Patterson to come up with a new idea.

If you have $300,000, you can buy his new novel Private Vegas and have quite an experience, too.

OK, to be fair, it won’t cost you $300,000—only $294,038.

For that, a reader—and, yes, only one reader—will get a copy of Private Vegas that will self-destruct 24 hours after the buyer begins to read it.

So better read fast!

The price tag, according to the website, also comes with a first-class flight to an undisclosed location, two nights’ stay in a luxury hotel, “a splendid reading space including perfectly chilled Champagne,” a pair of “gold, not golden” binoculars inside a fine-leather case engraved with Patterson's initials, and a five-course dinner with Patterson.

The buyer also will receive the autographed Alex Cross book series.

And if you prefer mixed drinks to Champagne, apparently that can be arranged. I would hope so. That much money would buy a lot of Grey Goose.

Details of how the book will be exploded are secret but it will involve a bomb squad. The video is pretty funny as it explains what may happen.

Only one “James Patterson Self-Destructing Book Experience” will be sold on “a first-come, first-served basis” and it is only for one person, according to the website.

The website also makes this statement: “We will use reasonable efforts to ensure the Experience is a happy and memorable one for you and your fellow guests for all the right reasons, however we cannot be liable for distress caused by circumstances beyond our control (including but not limited to the weather conditions).” There also are a lot of other terms and conditions.

So who would pay that much money for this experience?

Who knows.

Representatives of Little, Brown, his publisher, have stated that Patterson has friends who would not bat an eye at that price. And of course, what a conversation starter that “experience” would be.

OK, this is an interesting idea, but since it was announced on January 20, no one has bid on this book.

And for those of us who don’t have that kind of cash lying around the house, a regular old non-destructive copy of Private Vegas, which lists Maxine Paetro as co-writer, is available for under $30 in hardcover and as an e-book.

Patterson will be the guest speaker during Sleuthfest, the annual writers’ conference sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America.

Sleuthfest is February 26 to March 1 in Deerfield Beach, Florida, just a little north of Fort Lauderdale.

And remember, Sleuthfest is in Florida and it is February.

James Patterson's Novel Explodes
Saturday, 07 February 2015 15:32

mckenzie badcountry
The Tony Hillerman Prize
for a best first mystery novel is one of my favorite competitions to launch new authors.

It is sponsored by Thomas Dunne Books and Minotaur Books, imprints of St. Martin's Press, and Wordharvest, co-founded by Hillerman’s daughter, Anne.

The Hillerman Prize is awarded annually to the best debut crime fiction set in the Southwest, which gives readers a new view of this region. The prize has garnered a reputation for introducing excellent authors, whose novels also respect the memory of the late Hillerman, who died in 2008

Some of the previous authors have made my best-of-the-year debuts.

Andrew Hunt’s City of Saints, which won in 2012, is set in Depression-era Utah. Hunt’s novel shows that Salt Lake City in 1930 is an evocative setting to explore Utah’s history, its people, and how a person with a deep faith lives in an increasingly secular world.

Tricia FieldsThe Territory, which won in 2010, delivers 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.

I also enjoyed Roy Chaney’s 2009 debut The Ragged End of Nowhere, a story about modern Las Vegas that also works as a novel about the quest for identity as a man delves into the life of his estranged brother who recently died.

Last year, the competition introduced C.B. McKenzie’s Bad Country, set in Tucson, the Pascua Yaqui and Tohona O’odham reservations, and southernmost Arizona. And McKenzie is now up for an Edgar Award, which was announced recently.

The next author to bear the Tony Hillerman stamp will be John Fortunato, at left, whose Dark Reservations will come out in 2015.

Fortunato JohnHillermanprize
According to his bio, Fortunato was a captain in the U.S. Army, Military Intelligence, who served at the Pentagon during the early part of the Global War on Terrorism. He is now a Special Agent with the FBI and has earned an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. A native of Philadelphia, he currently lives in Michigan with his wife and three daughters.

I’ve always thought that a series that keeps alive the spirit of the late Hillerman’s novels is a terrific idea. The Southwest is a fascinating region and this contest has maintained a quality in its selections.

Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries, set on the Navajo reservation, were the first “regional” mysteries to become national bestsellers. Hillerman, who died at the age of 83, was able to combine Navajo traditions and beliefs along with the stark beauty of the Southwest in involving plots.

Hillerman’s daughter, Anne, launched the first Tony Hillerman Writers Conference in 2004. And Anne Hillerman brought back Leaphorn and Chee in her novel Spider Woman’s Daughter in 2013.

For more information, contact Hector DeJean at 646-307-5560 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The deadline for submissions to next year's competition will be June 1, 2015. For complete guidelines, visit

Next Author for Tony Hillerman Prize
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 13:47

Bosch1 tvtitus
—the new series based on Michael Connelly’s novels that begins streaming on Amazon Prime on February 13—hits the ground running, literally, as a street chase across downtown Los Angeles ends with a shooting.

This chase, in which L.A. police detective Harry Bosch follows a man he suspects of killing prostitutes, kicks off the TV series. But Bosch—much like Connelly’s 19 novels about this cop—is a police procedural that doubles as a perceptive character study about a man with a mission to uncover the truth about crime, no matter the odds, as well as a showcase for Los Angeles.

Bosch certainly will have its share of chases and guns—as needed—but the four episodes I viewed in advance of the February 13 launch concentrate more on the essence of the character and on the City of Angels. It starts with Harry—expertly performed by Titus Welliver—following the suspect through the streets, past Angel’s Flight, down into the subway and through Mariachi Plaza, all of which Connelly has written about in his novels.

And while Bosch doesn’t break new ground in the already overcrowded field of television crime drama, it operates on a higher plane than most series. The well-constructed episodes, which draw from several Connelly novels, are tightly focused, but it is Harry—his angst, his rage, his compassion—that keeps Bosch spinning.

bosch2 tvtitusjamie
gives us the Harry Bosch that readers have been waiting for. The series keeps the spirit of Connelly’s novels—helped, in some instance, by the author also writing some of the screenplays—and doesn’t stray too far from the source material. (Connelly, who also is listed as executive producer, shares a writing credit for the fourth episode’s teleplay with crime writer George Pelecanos, who also co-wrote some episodes of The Wire.)

And when the detective walks out on his balcony, surveying the city that he protects, a vital scene in each novel, viewers will know that they are home with Harry.

Yes, there are some differences between the Harry of the novels and the Harry on the screen. But these changes make sense and keep the contemporary feel of the series. In the novels, Harry is a Vietnam vet, and ages. That works for the novels, but a TV series needs an immediate feel.

So now Harry is about 47 years old, a cop for about 20 years. He fought in the first Gulf War during 1991 where he was Special Forces, part of the team that cleared the tunnels. (Long-time readers will remember that Harry often was down in the tunnels in Connelly’s Edgar-winning debut, The Black Echo.) In the TV series, Harry re-upped with the Army following 9/11, serving in Afghanistan, and back to the tunnels, and then back to the police force. In the TV series, Harry also has a daughter who lives in Las Vegas with her mother.

bosch3 tvamys
The initial episodes—and I think this will continue through the first season—draw from Connelly’s novels City of Bones and The Concrete Blonde. Several plotlines run through the episodes, making Bosch realistic since detectives often juggle several investigations at one time.

The beginning chase in which Harry shoots the suspect is a flashback. Two years later, Harry is being sued in a civil case for wrongful death by the suspect’s wife, despite being cleared by the department. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Honey “Money” Chandler (Mimi Rogers), claims that Harry planted a gun on the suspect.

Although he is not supposed to be on active duty, Harry can’t just sit around, so he maneuvers to take the weekend shift of two other detectives. He’s called to investigate the human bones found by a retired doctor’s dog in the woods.

The bones turn out to be those of a 12-year-old boy who was horribly abused, murdered during the late 1980s, and buried in the woods. The investigation leads Harry to a serial killer who has remained off the grid for a long time.

Longtime readers will recognize the different plot threads and certain twists from the novels. But it’s been several years since these novels were published and it’s easy to forget what exactly happened and to whom, and reading the novels won’t spoil the viewing.

Bosch has assembled a good cast. Rogers is steely as the never-lose attorney and Jason Gedrick is frightening as a killer. Look for a bearded Scott Wilson (Walking Dead, In Cold Blood) as the doctor whose golden retriever finds the bone.

bosch4 tvlance
But it is Titus Welliver’s performance that elevates Bosch. Although for some reason, I always pictured Harry with dark hair, any preconceived idea of what Harry should look like soon vanishes because Welliver quickly owns the role. Welliver has long been one of the best character actors around, whether he is in Deadwood, The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, or the Comcast commercials. Welliver’s range of emotions does justice to Harry Bosch, showing all the colors of this detective.

Welliver’s chemistry with Jamie Hector as his partner Jerry Edgar works well. Hector (Marlo of The Wire) and Welliver are believable as detectives and their realistic banter brings a levity to Bosch. Hector proved his range in The Wire, and he continues to show his acting chops in Bosch.

Lance Reddick, also from The Wire, is the epitome of a man of power as Irvin Irving. Amy Aquino, long a personal favorite, nails Lt. Grace Billets.

As in the novels, Los Angeles is as vital a character as any actor. Bosch shows us the city that Connelly writes about, from the opening aerial scenes to the dry Los Angeles River to the nooks and alleyways.

For many viewers, Amazon Prime is still a new way to watch television. But the quality of alternatives to network television has been attracting viewers—and awards. Being on Amazon Prime didn’t stop Transparent from picking up two Golden Globes and a slew of nominations in January. And Amazon Prime won’t stop Connelly’s fans from seeking out this superior crime drama.

All 10 episodes of Bosch will begin streaming on February 13, 2015, on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the USA and the UK. For details on viewings, visit

Photos: Top, Titus Welliver; second photo, Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector; third photo, Amy Aquino; fourth photo, Lance Reddick. Photos courtesy Amazon Prime

TV Series "Bosch" Is the Harry Readers Have Been Waiting For