Wednesday, 28 September 2016 02:09

girlonthetrain emilyblunt
I am not a fan of process stories—those statistics-laden stories meant to tell us how things work. Usually, they just make my eyes glaze over.

But when it comes to books and reading habits, I am happy to hear statistics that show good news.

According to The New York Times, paperback book sales are up. Independent bookstores are thriving again, and e-book sales have tumbled.

The Times reports: “Sales of adult books fell by 10.3 percent in the first three months of 2016, and children’s books dropped by 2.1 percent. E-book sales fell by 21.8 percent, and hardcover sales were down 8.5 percent. The strongest categories were digital audiobooks, which rose by 35.3 percent, and paperback sales, which were up by 6.1 percent.”

OK, so it is not all good news.

But any increase of books, no matter the platform, is good news.

The Times acknowledges that several factors might have made book sales at the beginning of this year slightly worse than those in the same period last year.

The Times states that “like the movie business, publishing depends heavily on a few outsize hits each season to drive profits. In the early part of this year, there wasn’t a huge, breakout bestseller, certainly nothing like 2015’s The Girl on the Train, which came out in January and sold two million copies in just over four months.”

But I am sure that we’ll see an increase in the sale of the paperback version of The Girl on the Train when the movie version comes out in a few weeks.

The advance clips of the film version, starring Emily Blunt (pictured), look great.

And I hope that inspires more people to buy Paula Hawkins’ book, as well as other mystery novels.

If you are looking for a list of mysteries written by women that are equal to or even better than The Girl on the Train, let me suggest a few: Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, Megan Abbott, Julia Keller, Clare Mackintosh, Jennifer McMahon, Val McDermid, Alafair Burke, Allison Brennan, Lisa Unger, Karin Slaughter, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Elizabeth Hand, and a slew of others.

And yes, there are an equal number of wonderful mystery writers who are men, but I am making the comparison to The Girl on the Train, not Boy on the Train.

Bottom line: read, buy books, buy audiobooks, buy paperbacks.

Just read.

Photo: Emily Blunt in The Girl on the Train. Photo courtesy DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment

Sunday, 25 September 2016 01:09

marwoodakex darkestsecret
Some people call them Easter eggs, others little gems.

I call them bits of business, and sometimes homages.

I am referring to those little references to other authors that many writers include in their plots. A kind of wink-wink to readers.

Some writers will have their characters reading others’ novels. Some will have their characters run into another character, or even another author, making the encounter an organic part of the plot.

For example, in Ace Atkins Robert B. Parker’s Kickback, Boston private detective Spenser makes the evening news. His story is reported by Hank Phillippi Ryan, who, in addition to being the award-winning author of the Jane Ryland series, also is an award-winning television journalist, having won 32 Emmys and 13 Edward R. Murrow awards for her reporting.

But one of the most unusual—and poignant—references is in Alex Marwood’s newest novel, The Darkest Secret.

Marwood, who is profiled in the latest issue of Mystery Scene magazine (Fall 2016, No. 146), honors her grandmothers, who were both authors.

Marwood, whose real name is Serena Mackesy, comes from a line of authors.

Both her grandmothers were successful novelists in Great Britain. 

Her maternal grandmother was the award-winning Margaret Kennedy, whose novel The Constant Nymph was the top bestseller of the 1920s and was recently relaunched in the U.K.

Her paternal grandmother, Leonora Mackesy, supported her family by writing under the names Leonora Staff and Dorothy Rivers in the genre called “housemaids novels,” or, as Marwood added, “straight-up romance.”

So Marwood sprinkles references to her grandmothers’ works throughout The Darkest Secret. One character is referred to as The Constant Nymph.

There are references to The Midas Touch, which was published by Kennedy in 1938 and was a Daily Mail book of the month.

Marwood makes several references to works by her grandmothers, both of whom would, I think, be proud of their granddaughter’s gripping, well-plotted novels.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016 04:09


clark marciaSMALL
One of the hot topics to come out of the Emmy Awards last Sunday was actress Sarah Paulson’s win for lead actress in a limited series for her role playing prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, which aired on FX.

It wasn’t her well-deserved win, but what Paulson said about the person whom she was portraying on-screen.

Paulson has been widely quoted in a variety of publications saying that it wasn’t just a win for herself, but also a win for Clark.

In her acceptance speech, Paulson offered an apology to Clark, whom the actress brought along as her date for the ceremony.

“I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial in my judgment, and I’m glad that I’m able to stand here in front of everyone today and say, ‘I’m sorry’,” said Paulson in her speech.

Paulson was referring to how Clark was ridiculed in the news during the trial. Clark often was accused of blowing the prosecution, which resulted in Simpson going free.

Everything from her clothes to her hairstyle was targeted.
clarkmarcia moraldefense

But in many ways, Paulson’s sympathetic portrayal of Clark—and the series’ popularity—made people see the former prosecutor in a different light.

In an interview with Variety, Paulson said, “The thing I kept coming back to was I wanted to cut to the quick of how abandoned I felt she was by women, almost as a collective. It just felt like everyone wanted to drop the hot potato that was Marcia Clark. I so felt for her, having only played it. Multiply that by a million, and also have it be your actual life,” Paulson told Variety.

Clark not only was Paulson’s date, but the trophy was engraved with both of their names: “Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark.”

I think everyone should applaud Paulson’s insight about Clark. I well remember that trial and felt, at the time, that Clark was being unfairly singled out.

For some years now, the mystery community has proudly called Marcia Clark one of our own.

Her four novels about LA district attorney Rachel Clark and her two novels about defense attorney Samantha Brinkman are terrific legal thrillers. In both series, Clark delivers well-rounded, realistic characters and insight into the legal system.

Her second Samantha Brinkman novel, Moral Defense, comes out in November.

Clark also was featured in a profile in Mystery Scene’s summer issue (Summer 2016, #145).

I have met Marcia Clark several times at mystery writers’ conferences and found her to be gracious, witty, and very interested in her fans.

And now she has an Emmy.

Author photo: Claudia Kunin