Sunday, 29 January 2017 01:20

mayo michael
Mystery Scene
occasionally welcomes guest bloggers. Today, Michael Mayo, left, discusses the research behind Jimmy Quinn, who appears in his three novels set during Prohibition-era New York. His latest novel in this series is Jimmy and Fay.

The Jimmy Quinn series also includes Jimmy the Stick and Everybody Goes to Jimmy’s.

Mayo has written about film for The Washington Post and The Roanoke Times. He was the host of the nationally syndicated Movie Show on Radio and Max and Mike on the Movies. His books include American Murder: Criminals, Crime and the Media, VideoHound’s Video Premieres, Horror Show, and War Movies.

Meet Jimmy Quinn
by Michael Mayo

“I’ve been a thief, a bootlegger, a bagman, and the proprietor of one of New York’s better gin mills. I helped corrupt dozens of cops and politicians, and I was in on the fix of a World Series. It’s been a good life.”

mayomichael jimmyandfay
That’s how Jimmy Quinn introduces himself in Jimmy the Stick. He may not be a model citizen or a conventional hero for a suspense novel, but he is engaging, mostly honest, and he has a sense of humor. He was born while I was doing research for another book, American Murder: Criminals, Crime and the Media. That was non-fiction.

As I learned more about what went on in New York during Prohibition, I realized that if I wanted to go deeper into the subject, I had to approach it through fiction. (Hey, it worked for Damon Runyon.)

I read a lot, particularly the firsthand accounts of day-to-day life in the city. I was surprised to realize early on that many of the most famous characters got into the business at a remarkably young age. Meyer Lansky was 18 when Prohibition began; Ben “Bugsy” Siegel was 14. Luciano was 23.

I wanted my guy to be a little younger than them and to come from their world. I knew he was a kid who grew up on the streets, but has retained enough of an attitude to be a companionable narrator. I also knew the people he’d meet and the real events he’d be part of, but I didn’t have much more. He was an idea, not a person.

My break came with a library book, New York Photographs 1850-1950 (Benjamin Blom. Dutton. 1982). It’s a massive, heavy thing filled with surprising images. I went through it page by page, sticking little flags on the pictures I meant to photocopy, and was almost at the end when I found them—two boys on South Street below the Manhattan Bridge pier, around 1910.

They’re arm in arm, walking on a sidewalk, and you can tell right away they’re up to something. They’re dressed in knee pants, coats and caps, ties yanked to one side. The one on the right looks at the camera and can barely contain a laugh. The kid on the left has a big basket on his shoulder. He’s more serious but there’s intelligent mischief or evasion in his expression.

As soon as I saw him, I knew that was my guy, and I knew his name was Jimmy Quinn. After that, the details filled themselves in.

He was the child of Irish immigrants. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was young, his father wandered off, and Jimmy was raised by Mother Moon, the crafty old gal who owned the Hell’s Kitchen tenement where he lived. He never saw his upbringing as deprived or unusual. Times were good, times were hard, at Mother Moon’s they got by. The kids in her building stole or sold newspapers. She made her payoffs to Alderman Jimmy Hines, so she was able to put food on the table and buy the occasional tin of opium for herself.

Because Jimmy was small, fast and quick, she hired him out to work as a messenger for the gambler Arnold Rothstein. Through Rothstein, Jimmy met a kindred spirit, Meyer Lansky—another young man who refused to let his short stature define him. Lansky was also interested in making money, and would work with anyone who’d help him. He and Jimmy got along.

In the present of the novels, Jimmy lives in the Chelsea Hotel. His speakeasy is right around the corner on the lower floor of a brownstone with a restaurant upstairs. Both cops and gang guys are welcome. Interesting people drop in and unusual things happen.

Photo: Michael Mayo photo courtesy Michael Mayo

Author Michael Mayo on Jimmy Quinn
Sunday, 22 January 2017 00:30

pintoffStephanie cityonedge
Like many readers, I enjoy knowing the “real” story that inspires a novel, especially if historical facts are woven into the plot.

Stefanie Pintoff built her career on utilizing history in her novels.

Her debut In the Shadow of Gotham introduced New York Police Detective Simon Ziele, who was mourning the loss of his fiancée in the 1904 General Slocum steamship disaster. Ziele teamed up with criminologist Alistair Sinclair to hunt criminals in old Manhattan.

Pintoff’s research shows the beginnings of forensics as well as life at the turn of the 20th century.

In the Shadow of Gotham won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author and was nominated for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards.

Pintoff’s new series, which began with Hostage Taker and continues with her latest, City on Edge, is set in contemporary times but still honors the past.

FBI special agent Evangeline “Eve” Rossi leads her Vidocq team of “ex-cons and barely reformed thugs,” whose nontraditional ways allow them to go where normal detectives can’t. Eve’s team knows how criminals think, because each of them used to be one—which doesn’t hurt, either.

Eve’s team is based on Eugène François Vidocq, a French criminal and criminalist during the 19th century.

According to books and websites, he turned from being a criminal to become the founder and first director of the crime-detection Sûreté Nationale. He was also the head of the first known private detective agency.

Considered to be the father of modern criminology, Vidocq also inspired stories by Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe, and Honoré de Balzac.

To add to the authenticity in her novels, Pintoff includes a dossier on each of Eve’s team members.

In my Mystery Scene review of City on Edge, I wrote about “Pintoff’s affinity for the hidden corners of New York City, as Eve and her crew go into parts of the city that few people know about. Pintoff keeps the suspense high while keeping readers’ expectations off-kilter. Anything can happen in City on Edge, and does.”

History in Stefanie Pintoff Novels
Oline H. Cogdill
Thursday, 19 January 2017 14:11

Edgar Statues
Those of us who love mysteries/crime fiction know that the Edgar Awards are the Oscars of the genre.

Actually, for some of us the awards, named after Edgar Allan Poe, are better than the Oscars. I have seen only a couple of movies the past year, but have read just about everything on this list.

The Edgar Awards are given by the Mystery Writers of America, and the nominations are announced on Poe’s birthday. This year marks the 208th anniversary of his birth.

The 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2016.

The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at the 71st gala banquet on April 27, 2017, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

The Ex by Alafair Burke (Harper)
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow)
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Grand Central Publishing)

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Books)
Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown Publishing Group)
IQ by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books)
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Dancing With the Tiger by Lili Wright (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Lost Girls by Heather Young (William Morrow)

Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott (Polis Books)
Come Twilight by Tyler Dilts (Thomas & Mercer)
The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer)
Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street Books)
A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum (Seventh Street Books)
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell (St. Martin’s Press)
The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (William Morrow)
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder That Shocked Victorian England by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus Books)
While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent Into Madness by Eli Sanders (Viking Books)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Press)

Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese)
Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967 by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland & Company)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (Liveright)
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula by David J. Skal (Liveright)

“Oxford Girl” by Megan Abbott (Mississippi Noir, Akashic Books)
A Paler Shade of Death by Laura Benedict (St. Louis Noir, Akashic Books)
Autumn at the Automat by Lawrence Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow, Pegasus Books)
The Music Room by Stephen King (In Sunlight or in Shadow, Pegasus Books)
The Crawl Space by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Dell Magazines)

Summerlost by Ally Condie (Dutton BFYR)
OCDaniel by Wesley King (Paula Wiseman Books)
The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere (Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Framed! by James Ponti (Aladdin)
Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught (Paula Wiseman Books)

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (Simon Pulse)
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry (Henry Holt BFYR)
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Little, Brown BFYR)
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Teen)
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor (Dial Books)

Episode 1 - From the Ashes of TragedyThe People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Teleplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (FX Network)
The Abominable Bride - Sherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
Episode 1 - Dark Road - Vera, Teleplay by Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)
A Blade of GrassPenny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)
Return 0Person of Interest, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan and Denise The (CBS/Warner Brothers)
The Bicameral Mind” – Westworld, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (HBO/Warner Bros. Television)

The Truth of the Moment by E. Gabriel Flores (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Dell Magazines)

Max Allan Collins
Ellen Hart

Dru Ann Love


Neil Nyren


The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub (William Morrow)
The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (William Morrow)

2017 Edgar Nominees
Oline H. Cogdill