Friday, August 18, 2017

Vera Season 7 & Poirot Award for Brenda Blethyn

Vera returns to the U.S. this month on Acorn TVBrenda Blethyn stars as the brilliant detective chief inspector. Kenny Doughty returns as her go-to detective sergeant, Aiden Healy, in four new stand-alone episodes. Natural Selection, Dark Angel, Broken Promise, and The Blanket Mire. I've seen them all, and they're outstanding! Such great acting and storylines.

Called “One of the best mysteries…in the last decade” (The Baltimore Sun), Edgar-winner Vera follows a cantankerous but brilliant detective who solves unthinkable crimes in northeast England. Two-time Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn imbues DCI Vera Stanhope with “a monumental intelligence” (The Guardian) in this hit detective drama inspired by Ann Cleeves’ bestselling crime fiction. 

FYI,  Acorn TV has all seven seasons available for streaming.

And Malice Domestic announced this week that Brenda Blethyn will be the Poirot Award Honoree for Malice Domestic 30. Ms. Blethyn is the Academy Award and Emmy nominated, Golden Globe winning actress who stars as DCI Vera Stanhope in the series Vera, based on the books by Ann Cleeves.

Cartoon of the Day

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Perk

Inspired by a Book: Guest Post by Jack Getze

Former newsman Jack Getze is Fiction Editor for Anthony-nominated Spinetingler Magazine, one of the internet's oldest websites for noir, crime and horror short stories. His screwball mysteries -- BIG NUMBERS, BIG MONEY, BIG MOJO, and BIG SHOES -- were published by Down and Out Books. His new thriller is THE BLACK KACHINA. His short stories have appeared online at A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, The Big Adios, and several anthologies.

Jack Getze:
Inspired by a Book

While researching The Black Kachina -- work spanning twenty years and two rows of my guest bedroom’s bookshelf -- I ran across the story of a special man named Charles Alexander Eastman and his book, The Soul of an Indian. Born in 1858 with the name Hakadah, later called Ohiyesa, finally renamed Charles, this awe-inspiring Native American spent the first fifteen years of his life living the nomadic, natural life of a Santee Sioux (or Dakota tribe) of southern Minnesota. Then Eastman went to college, graduated from Dartmouth, earned his medical degree at Boston University, became famous writing popular books, and served two U.S. Presidents.

If you haven’t read Soul of an Indian, you should. His spiritual ideas about nature not only gave heart and meaning to my novel’s half-breed character, Asdrubal Torres, they helped create a villain many readers will root for. I know I did. Even more personally, the book critically changed my view of the world.

The son of a mixed-race Sioux leader and an army officer’s daughter, Charles certainly experienced an unusual life. A few highlights:

As revenge against the white man for killing his father, the 15-year-old Ohiyesa was planning an attack when the supposedly dead father showed up to claim him.

When the U.S. Army killed several hundred Sioux at Wounded Knee, Eastman was one of the first physicians to treat victims on the battlefield.

President Theodore Roosevelt asked him to find a better way of protecting Native American property rights and land titles.

He served President Calvin Coolidge as an U.S. Indian Inspector.

Charles was one of three founders of an organization that became the Boy Scouts of America.

Toward the end of his writing and speaking life, he purchased land and lived alone in the woods.

It’s that last entry that helps explain my personal attachment, I think -- how Charles’ book, by delving into the spiritual side of man, nature, and what he calls “The Great Mystery” of the “Unseen and Eternal,” twisted my worldview. I’d never thought about nature the way Charles Eastman did, and I bet few of you have either. Basically, he saw nature (like all Native Americans, he said) as God. He didn’t believe in churches when he could worship on a mountain top or inside a virgin forest.

“One of the things that makes you feel good is to get out into nature,” he wrote. “Go walking, go hiking, go swimming in the ocean, or wherever you live, in a river or a lake, experience the beauty of America, experience how America is such a sacred place. Everywhere you go in this land, our people have been there and they have said, “This place is sacred.””

I won’t directly discuss religion or politics. Promise. But like many people, I love the beach and ocean for the sense of calm it gives. Until reading Eastman’s book, however, I never considered lakes and oceans might be a deity. I don’t think I do now either, but I obviously feel something of what Eastman wrote about when I’m alone in nature. I feel part of the living things around me. I sure did when I walked alone in the deserts and badlands around California’s Salton Sea for research on my novel. My attachment to nature was undeniable. The noisy talking of birds; the memories that might be in the rocks; the opposing gifts of wisdom and death provided by bark from an elephant tree: All of these ideas ended up in my story as the result of Eastman’s writings.

“The spirit of God is not breathed into humans alone,” he wrote in The Soul of an Indian. “We believe the spirit invades all creation and that every creature possesses a soul …”

What works for a tribe of hundreds might not work for millions, but I offer another Eastman quote, not as criticism of any economic system, but as an example of Native American ideas that influenced my novel’s character and perhaps myself. I’m still reading, still trying to understand everything Eastman suggested.

“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome,” Eastman wrote. “Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Trial

B.K. Stevens: R.I.P.

Such sad and unexpected news. Bonnie Stevens: R.I.P. She will be missed by so many in the mystery community. Sending sympathy to her family and friends.

B.K. Stevens wrote mysteries, both novels and short stories. Interpretation of Murder, published by Black Opal Books, is a traditional whodunit; Fighting Chance, set in Virginia, is a martial arts mystery for young adults and was published by Poisoned Pen Press. B.K. also published over fifty short stories, most in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Eleven of those stories are collected in Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime, published by Wildside Press. She was awarded the Derringer and was nominated for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. 

Her husband Dennis Stevens posted this on B.K. Stevens' Facebook page.

It hurts me to post this message, but my wife Bonnie, B.k. Stevens, passed away today. She was preparing to give a joint presentation with Art Taylor at the Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Writers' Festival when she collapsed. She never recovered. Her two daughters, Sarah Gershone and Rachel Stevens, came to be by her side and to support me. They will never know how important this seemingly simple act was and how much it meant to me. 

Over the years, B.K. made great friends in the mystery community--fellow authors, fellow readers, editors, and publishers. She always looked forward to the Malice Domestic and Bouchercon conferences. Many people know of her short stories and novels, but not everyone knows that she was a college professor for many years before turning to mysteries. She published a book on writing, a book (co-authored with a colleague) on literary criticism, and a book on Jewish education. And in spite of her great love of mysteries, her favorite author was always William Wordsworth. The poem that she loved the most was "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," and she asked that lines from that poem be read at her funeral. She was the greatest wife, friend, and companion a man could have. I will miss her so. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Support Group

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists

There’s fresh blood aplenty in the local crime writing ranks and the usual suspects were nowhere to be found as the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists were named today. I was so pleased to be a judge in the awards process.

Now in their eighth year, the Ngaio Marsh Awards celebrate the best New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller writing; fiction and non-fiction. “It’s been a remarkable year, and a tough one for our international judging panels,” said awards founder Craig Sisterson. “After record entries last year, we really weren't sure what to expect in 2017. None of our previous winners were in the running, nor some other great Kiwi crime writers who'd been multiple-times finalists. In fact, eighteen of the nineteen authors who'd been finalists in the first few years of the awards were MIA.”

But instead of a lull, this year’s Ngaios hit a new high-tide mark, powered by a flood of fresh voices joining the genre – both debutant authors and established writers turning to crime.

“Entries in our fiction categories were up fifty percent, and the quality and variety has been really outstanding,” said Sisterson. “New Zealand readers love crime, and our local authors are offering plenty of world-class writing, both traditional detective tales and books stretching the borders.”

The international judging panels (thirteen authors, critics, and editors from five countries) praised the inventiveness and freshness of the stories our Kiwi writers were producing. “Talk about judging apples and pears,” said Paddy Richardson, a two-time finalist and now one of seven judges for the Best Crime Novel category. “It was more like apples, asparagus, avocados, and melons!”

This year’s finalists will be celebrated, and winners announced, at a special WORD Christchurch event to be held on 28 October.

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists

• Pancake Money by Finn Bell
• Spare Me The Truth by CJ Carver (Zaffre)
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• Marshall's Law by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
• The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

• Dead Lemons by Finn Bell
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell (Bush Press)
• The Student Body by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Days are Like Grass by Sue Younger (Eunoia Publishing)

• In Dark Places by Michael Bennett (Paul Little Books)
• The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)
• Double-Edged Sword by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan Publishing)
• The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings (AUP)
• Blockbuster! by Lucy Sussex (Text Publishing)

Each category winner will receive a Ngaio Marsh Awards trophy and a cash prize.

For more information on the Ngaio Marsh Awards, this year’s finalists or comments from the judges, please contact Craig Sisterson at

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Blunt Object

Ned Kelly Awards Shortlist

The Australian Crime Writers Association 
announced its shortlist for the 2017 Ned Kelly Awards, in three categories.

Best Fiction:
• An Isolated Incident, by Emily Maquire (Picador)
• Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox (Bantam)
• Out of the Ice, by Ann Turner (Simon & Schuster)
• Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian
McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
• The Golden Child, by Wendy James (Commercial Women’s Fiction)
• The Rules of Backyard Cricket, by Jock Serong (Text)

Best First Fiction:
• Burn Patterns, by Ron Elliott (Fremantle Press)
• Goodwood, by Holly Throsby (Allen & Unwin)
• Only Daughter, by Anna Snoekstra (Harlequin)
• Something for Nothing, by Andy Muir (Affirm Press)
• The Dry, by Jane Harper (Pan)
• The Love of a Bad Man, by Laura Elizabeth Woollett (Scribe)

True Crime:
• Code of Silence, by Colin Dillon with Tom Gilling (Allen & Unwin)
• Denny Day, by Terry Smyth (Ebury)
• Getting Away with Murder, by Duncan McNab (Vintage)
• Murder at Myall Creek, by Mark Tedeschi (Simon & Schuster)
• The Drowned Man, by Brendan James Murray (Echo)

Winners will be announced on September 1 during the annual Ned Kelly Awards Presentation in Melbourne.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Jesse Kellerman

I wanted to share this great article about Jesse Kellerman by Frances Dinkelspiel that appeared on Berkeleyside today.

Mystery Readers NorCal will be hosting Jesse Kellerman on Wednesday, August 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Berkeley. More info to come.

Cartoon of the Day: Baggage Claim

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Charles Todd: Writing About War

I decided to post some of the author essays from the recent Mystery Readers Journal: Murder in Wartime issue. This author essay is by Charles Todd. Charles Todd is the mother-son writing team of Charles and Caroline Todd. Together they write the bestselling Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries. They have also written two stand-alone novels. 

The latest issue of Mystery Readers Journal (33:2) focuses on Murder in Wartime is available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.

Charles Todd: 
Writing About War

You don’t study the past in any depth without coming to the conclusion that war is one of the main threads running through human history. Look at Egyptian monuments, where stone armies race across the front of great gates, and enemies are trampled beneath the Pharaoh’s chariot wheels. Warriors have always gotten great press. Hannibal. King Arthur. Attila the Hun. Genghiz Khan. Spend any time in Peru or Mexico, and you can’t miss the story of Spanish conquests. The Bayeux Tapestry is a colorful account of the Battle of Hastings—from the view point of William the Conqueror. Or look at the American West, where battles between cavalry and Indians made great film material.

And murder isn’t very far behind. Cain and Abel. The story of Horus in Egyptian mythology. Even King David sent his rival into the forefront of battle, so that he could have Bathsheba.

When we were casting about for a war to write about, we naturally looked at our favorite periods. Charles knows the American Civil War inside out. I’d specialized in European and Asian History. We had both learned a great deal about World War II because our parents and grandparents had talked about it.

The problem was, many great mysteries have been set in WWII. Spies were all the rage too. We were both reading Alastair Maclean, John Le Carre, Frederick Forsyth, Jack Higgins. Then there was World War I. Often in the Golden Age of Mystery, it had been a recurrent theme because readers at that time had just experienced the war. It would have seemed odd not to mention it. And so we had Lord Peter Wimsey and his butler/batman Bunter and Captain Hastings, while Poirot was a Belgian refugee.

But no one had been writing about The Great War recently—this was 1994—and the centennial was still ten years away. It also offered us something that we liked. Forensics was in its infancy. To solve a case, a detective still had to rely on his wits, his experience, and his knowledge of people. That appealed to both of us. In their dramas, the Greeks had always felt that a strong protagonist must face an equally strong villain, or the struggle was uneven. Sherlock Holmes had also demonstrated that. The excitement in a good mystery lay in the chase, in the game of wits. And this meant that the writing would prove to be more of a challenge, more intriguing to work out.

Now we had our war, and a detective who must rely on his wits in the grand tradition of mystery. But where did this new detective of ours live? If we were to set our first Great War mystery in the US, we’d have very little war to play with as a backdrop. The US didn’t declare war on Germany until April 1917. And the number of US casualties could be absorbed by the larger, more widespread population here. One might know a veteran of that war, but he didn’t stand begging on every street corner. Hmmm. If we chose England as our backdrop, there were all kinds of intriguing possibilities. After all, the British and the Commonwealth fought for four long bloody years, and they lost a generation of young men.

Still, this presented a few problems. We were American. In addition to learning all about the period, we’d have to see it mostly through British eyes. The war as well. Were we up to that?

The answer was that two naïve people starting out with great enthusiasm thought we just might be able to bring it off. But it added a whole new dimension to our research.

Next question. Should Rutledge work at the Yard during the war? After all, crime didn’t stop just because the world had gone mad and everyone had enlisted. But wouldn’t it seem odd that a perfectly healthy young man didn’t fight? On the other hand, if he was serving, he couldn’t very well solve murders at home too. After the war, though, hindsight was available. And if he’d come home from four bloody years, Rutledge would know all about that, would know how the war had ended, and he would be drawn into the terrible aftermath of the trenches too. (We quickly learned, researching the period, how much of the war we couldn’t put into a book—how much was too horrible to describe.) Another plus? There were still trenches we could walk in, and even today bits of the fighting were being turned up in plowed fields and new roadways.

The biggest dilemma we faced—well, the one we recognized at the start of the book—was how we could demonstrate to the reader what men like Rutledge went through in the trenches, and how this had taken a toll of their families. First of all, if Rutledge had seen the kind of fighting that took place on the Somme, it was likely that he’d been severely wounded. And if he was, he couldn’t return to his position at the Yard. But if he came home without some evidence of what he’d gone through, if the war hadn’t touched him, how could he possibly relate to the men who had? That’s when shellshock and Hamish MacLeod entered the picture—and that complicated our lives even more. Just how do you handle PTSD without making it sound like a gimmick you planned to ditch in a book or two? It was a life and death matter for too many soldiers, and we had to address it as such.

It took us two years to write the first Rutledge. Fortunately we both knew a little about England to start with—but far from enough. That meant going back numerous times to get it right. Still, we persevered. How would they say that in Britain—what would a woman wear in the rain—what food shortages were there--how do you shift a 1914 motorcar—the list went on. The language, the times, the war, characters, the setting, the plot had to be carefully researched. But in the end, we had something we hoped might pass muster. We hadn’t even thought as far as a series. Then, while we were waiting to see if anyone at St. Martin’s wanted to read A TEST OF WILLS, the ideas started fizzing around in our heads, leading to WINGS OF FIRE. Rutledge was here to stay—we hadn’t said all there was to say about this man.

From the start, we’d toyed with looking at the women’s role in the war, but we had our hands full with Rutledge. It wasn’t until about ten books into the series that we felt confident enough in our research and our plot ideas for Rutledge that we could even talk about a book featuring Bess Crawford. Once we got to know her and the world she lived in, we were hooked. They were so different, Bess and Rutledge. And plots that weren’t suitable for one of them often worked a treat with the other.

An unexpected bonus was the fact that we could use some rather sophisticated plot ideas in both series. War creates upheaval in a society that wasn’t used to change on such a large scale. People who hadn’t traveled ten miles from the place where they were born were suddenly thrust into situations they had no experience of. Men who had never owned a weapon were taught to kill. The women waiting at home faced unexpected challenges. Villages that hadn’t seen a murder in a decade suddenly had to deal with a killer in their midst. And that allowed us to explore why normal people might turn to murder as a solution to their problems. It was, in a sense, the personal version of war. A breakdown in human relations where war is a breakdown in relations between nations. No drug kingpins or street gangs or terrorists for us—too predictable! Instead, it was far more frightening to delve into people and their secrets, the pressures and fears and love or hate that turn them to murder. And the settings, those fascinating, seemingly bucolic villages, feel the pull of the past even in the present.

The most important discovery in many ways was that pressing need to go to England—you learn more and faster on the ground, looking for pitfalls and potential. We needed to visit the military museums, to travel to France where the war was fought. You can make up a good many things if you’re an accomplished writer, but a reader somewhere is sure to find you out. Our personal libraries overflowed, looking for first -hand accounts of the war. Bookcases mushroomed in whatever odd space they could be squeezed into. Ceilings groaned. We’ve brought suitcases full of books back from England.

We introduced a third character a few years back. Lady Elspeth, who was in Paris when the Germans crossed the frontier and marched south toward the city. Then she got caught up in a battle as she struggled to get back to England, and had two very good reasons for wanting to fight back. That was more a Christmas tale, heavy on the love story, with only a little crime in it. But it had something to say about people in a time of war, and how personal loss could change the direction of their lives. She wasn’t intended to be a series, but we’d like to write about her again, this time in a more involving mystery.

All in all, war has done well by us. We hope we’ve done well by it. There are still a lot of stories to tell about it. War is a powerful backdrop for murder. And it has changed us as well. We hadn’t expected that.

This is a look at how two writers chose and used war in their mysteries, and some of the decisions we had to make along the way. It’s not the only method, of course, but it’s one that has worked for more than a few books

Janelle Brown's Watch Me Disappear optioned

Deadline reports that The Gotham Group has optioned Janelle Brown's suspense thriller Watch Me Disappear that debuted in July on the NYT bestseller's list at #13.

The Gotham Group Founder and CEO Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Lindsay Williams are producing this one for the big screen. It was The Gotham’s Group track record of turning books into films that got Brown’s interest, the author said. “I’m thrilled to be working with Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and her team, whose intuitive understanding of my characters and their journey mean that the film adaptation of Watch Me Disappear will be something truly special,” said Janelle Brown whose book was published by Spiiegel & Grau. “I think audiences will find that the film is as much a roller coaster ride as the book.”

Watch Me Disappear begins with the death of the character Billie, a beautiful, charismatic, outdoorsy California mom who has come a long way from her reckless youth. She and her husband Jonathan seemingly have an enviable life with their daughter Olive. But one day on a solo hike, Billie vanishes from the trail. The only thing found is a hiking boot. She is presumed dead, but then a year after her Mom’s disappearance, Olive starts having “waking dreams” but not sure if they are hallucinations. She believes her mother is still alive as her father worries about his daughter’s mental health. However, once he unearths a secret, he begins his own quest for the truth. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Bookstore

Finishing Elizabeth Peters' The Painted Queen: Guest Post by Joan Hess

Longtime devotees of Elizabeth Peters will relish Amelia Peabody's return in this final masterwork that fills in a missing (and juicy) archeological season in a saga that spans the years 1884 to 1923. Based on extensive notes and conversations with Barbara, her devoted friend, Joan Hess, took on the task of completing the last edition of this cherished series. An award-winning mystery writer in her own right, and former president of the American Crime Writers League, Joan delivers a story brimming with intrigue and humor, blending Victorian formality with a clever, tongue-in-cheek wit, true to Barbara’s style. 

Joan Hess is the author of the Claire Malloy Mysteries and the Arly Hanks Mysteries, formally known as the Maggody Mysteries. She is a winner of the American Mystery Award, the Agatha Award, for which she has been nominated five times, and is a member of Sisters in Crime and a former president of the American Crime Writers League. She has contributed to multiple anthologies and book series, including Crosswinds, Deadly Allies, Malice Domestic, and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. She also writes the Theo Bloomer mystery series under the pseudonym Joan Hadley. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Joan Hess:
Finishing The Painted Queen

I first met Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters) at the 1986 Bouchercon. She was chatting with Charlotte MacLeod, who was also one of my favorite authors. Awe-stricken, I approached them and managed to croak out compliments. We became close friends over the years, meeting at mystery conventions and later having our infamous Grouchercons that included Margaret Maron, Dorothy Cannell, Sara Caudwell, Patricia Moyes, and Alexandria Ripley. I visited Barbara several times a year, and we talked on the phone often. When she died, I flew to Frederick MD for the funeral. Afterward, Dominick Abel (Barbara's agent and mine as well), Beth Mertz (Barbara's daughter), and I were sitting at the kitchen table when the two of them, obviously colluding, asked me if I would finish The Painted Queen. I vehemently declined, but had to admit I was the logical one to capture the voice and rhythm of the Amelia Peabody series. The hitch was that I was not an Egyptologist nor was I versed in Egypt's complex history. I was promised that Dr. Salima Ikram, a professor in Cairo and a dear friend, would help with the research and advise my of my errors.

The Painted Queen is set in what Barbara called the "lost years" between completed novels, since she didn't want to deal with WW1. The year was 1912 and centers on the discovery of the Nefertiti bust that somewhat mysteriously ended up in a museum in Berlin. (Note to Germans: Egypt wants it back.) Salima, Beth and I met and brainstormed for three days over carrot cake and vodka. Barbara had written the first third of the book and left indecipherable notes in the margins. She and I had discussed the plot and how to avoid libeling the actual Egyptologists. She was worried that her three assassins could not be stretched the the final scene. I assured her she could have as many as she wished. She upped the number, but had not decided how to thwart them. Salima and I skyped madly to devise a satisfactory plot; Beth provided useful information from previous books. The numerous drafts were passed along to others knowledgeable about the sites and excavation procedures. I googled so often that I expected black helicopters in my back yard. I kept as much of her prose as I could, although I had to move bits around to suit the plot. Barbara had indulged herself by writing the final scene, which worked perfectly.

This was the hardest project I'd ever written. I thought about Barbara every time I sat at my desk, remembering her hearty laughter and hugs. I will never be as fine a writer as she was, but I did everything I could to make her proud of The Painted Queen. We made the NYT bestseller list on the strength of her popularity with fans worldwide. I stand in her shadow, and I still miss her.


Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters, began her career with a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.  A recognized academic authority on Egyptology, her nonfiction books, including Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt, and Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt, are in print today, thirty years after their publication. After early publishing success, Mertz found that as the Institute's youngest female graduate at 23, her career options in the field were limited. She turned to writing fiction, using pen names to distinguish that work from her scholarly efforts.  As Barbara Michaels, she published 28 thrillers. As Elizabeth Peters, creator of the legendary Amelia Peabody series, she wrote 20 novels, expressing her passions for adventure, archeology, humor, Edwardian England, and the sands of Egypt.

Over the course of her 50-year career, Barbara was the recipient of numerous writing awards, starting with her first Anthony Award for Best Novel in 1989. A cascade of prestigious awards and nominations followed over the years, including grandmaster and lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America, Malice Domestic, and Boucheron. In 2012, she was given the first Amelia Peabody Award, created in her honor, at the Malice Domestic convention. She died in 2013, leaving a partially completed manuscript of The Painted Queen.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: On the Bedside Table

Bulwer-Lytton Awards: Crime/Detective Category

I love the Bulwer-Lytton Awards. They're always such fun, especially for readers. Following: The Winner and Runners-up in the Crime/Detective Category.

Conceived to honor the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton and to encourage unpublished authors who do not have the time to actually write entire books, the contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Bulwer was selected as patron of the competition because he opened his novel "Paul Clifford" (1830) with the immortal words, "It was a dark and stormy night." Lytton’s sentence actually parodied the line and went on to make a real sentence of it, but he did originate the line "The pen is mightier than the sword," and the expression "the great unwashed." His best known work, one on the book shelves of many of our great-grandparents, is The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), an historical novel that has been adapted for film multiple times.

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
 --Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

2017 Winner, Crime/Detective
  • Detective Sam Steel stood at the crime scene staring puzzled at the chalk outline of Ms. Mulgrave's body which was really just a stick figure with a dress, curly hair, boobs, and a smiley face because the police chalk guy had the day off.  Doug Self, Brunswick, Maine
Dishonorable Mentions, Crime/Detective:

  • She walked into my office and brayed, “I want you to put a tail on my husband.” — Steve Lynch, Tuscon, Arizona
  • The warehouse was completely empty except for the mutilated corpse wearing a tuxedo covered with bloodstains, and a Mortimer Snerd dummy lying nearby on the floor, and Detective McIntosh knew Snerd wouldn’t talk. — Doug Purdy, Roseville, California
  • “Not cucumber sandwiches again,” Earl “The Embezzler” DeWitt’s thoughts turned dark as he trudged through the chow line at Hummingbird State Correctional Institute, lamenting his culinary fate for the thousandth time and dreaming of the greasy sloppy joe he might be enjoying instead, if he’d only committed a manly felony, like murder, and ended up at Riker’s instead of this ersatz country club for white-collar wimps. — Maureen Donohue, Paso Robles, California
  • The church was deathly quiet: suddenly a shot rang out, a woman screamed, and somewhere in the back, a baby cried because that baby hadn't been taken to the nursery, even though the sign on the door clearly states that babies should be taken to the nursery.— Mark Schweizer, Tryon, North Carolina
  • As hard-boiled detective Max Baxter ate his soft-boiled egg, he thought about the gorgeous dame he'd found last night lying in a pool of her own blood—it being inconvenient to lie in a pool of someone else's blood—and wondered how she liked her eggs.— Pam Tallman, Huntington Beach, California
  • Detective Robertson knew he had Joyce Winters dead to rights for the murder—at the crime scene he had found Winters’ fingerprints, shell casings matching the gun registered to her, and, most damning of all, a Starbucks cup with the name “Josie” scrawled on it.— Doug Purdy, Roseville, California
  • Nobody messed with Rocky “The Anvil' Roselli, the toughest, badass mob enforcer that ever walked the mean streets of downtown LA, but for some time now he had been considering an alternative career in interior design, a secret kept well hidden from his felonious contemporaries; like a strawberry jam sandwich lying buried at the bottom of a sack of brussels sprouts.— Ted Downes, Cardiff, Wales
  • “It’s a classic,” she muttered, as she flicked the hair from the old fur coat purchased from eBay for sixty-eight dollars plus overnight shipping for the purpose of this very moment when she stuck out her hip, pulled the trigger, and shot him in that stupid face of his.— Beth Armogida, Sierra Madre, California
  • So many questions raced through the heiress's mind: Who had killed the maid and which guests were lying to her and who the hell was going to clean up all this goddamned blood because it sure as hell wasn't going to be her, she could tell you that much.— Samantha Bates, Columbia, Tennessee
  • The horizontal array of rectangular golden sunshafts that filtered through my shutters was interrupted by a statuesque silhouette appearing at my office door, her widow’s pillbox with netted veil only slightly obscuring her opalescent eyes, her alabaster décolletage accented by a sizeable amethyst pendant, and a silky floor-length ebony gown that revealed a muffin-top that clearly lacked of any kind of abdominal exercise regimen. — Peter S. Bjorkman, Rocklin, California
  • Captain Duke Ellsworth of the Poughkeepsie Police Department wondered, as he stood in the brightly lit room and stared at the gun lying on the floor, if its barrel were still warm, and what his wife was making for dinner that evening, which he would no doubt have to eat cold when he finally finished up here, especially if he paid his mistress in Fishkill a visit on the way home. — Rich Zaleski, Stevenson, Connecticut

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Seattle Mystery Bookshop for Sale

Sad news! 

The Seattle Mystery Bookshop posted this on their website today:

For Sale: One Bookshop 

As of today, Tuesday, August 1st, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop is for sale.

It is our hope that someone who cares deeply about this shop, will help SMB continue past its 27th year.

Some time ago, we were gratified by the results of a Go Fund Me drive which brought in enough funds to allow us to pay off overdue bills and to sock away enough to see us through this past winter. It bought us a year – but barely, and that has taken its toll. While we could do another such fund raiser, that’s not a viable way to continue in business.

What this shop needs is someone who will invest their time and money in it. Should you or someone you know seriously want to become a bookshop owner, please let us know. Founder Bill Farley used to joke that everything in the shop was for sale, even the paint on the walls. Now that is true.

Going Forward:
* Outstanding credit slips and unused gift certificates must be used by August 31st.
* We will not be accepting any used books for credit or collectable books for consignment.
* Special Orders & New Releases (any book published in 2017) are not part of the sale
* Special orders will have to be paid for in advance.
* We will be filling current orders for new releases through August & Signings in September.
* All used books are 40% off. All in stock, regular priced books are 25% off - non new releases (obviously)

Thank you for your support through all these years!

JB Dickey

Cartoon of the Day: My Library

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rough Cider in the Making: Peter Lovesey

The latest issue of Mystery Readers Journal (33:2) focuses on Murder in Wartime  Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.

I decided to post some of the articles here on Mystery Fanfare. This one is by Peter Lovesey. Peter is one of my favorite authors--and one of my favorite people! Peter Lovesey has been a crime writer since 1970. He was guest of honor at this year’s CrimeFest and will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Bouchercon in Dallas. 

Peter Lovesey: 
Rough Cider in the Making

The book of mine closest to my own experience is Rough Cider, written over thirty years ago in 1986. It has remained in print and is often mentioned by readers as a personal favourite, a non-series ‘one-off’ written in the first person as if by a university lecturer, who is persuaded or compelled to recall traumatic events from 1943 in rural England during World War II. Much of it drew on my own memories of being made homeless and moved from suburban London to a farm in the West Country.

In 1944 my home was destroyed by a V-1 rocket, one of those pilotless planes that Hitler sent over from France. Miraculously, all my family survived while everyone in the other half of the semi-detached house was killed. My mother had gone shopping when the air-raid siren sounded. She had left two of her three sons in the house. I was at school nearby and our father was away in the army. Mother had told my brother John, who was 14, to make sure that if the warning came he took my younger brother, Andrew, who was 3, under the Morrison shelter—a cast-iron table that had been offered by the government to all houses within range of the rockets. The table held up under the weight of the rubble and the two boys were dug out alive.

Being homeless, we slept for a few nights on the vicar’s living-room floor until arrangements were made to send us to a temporary home out of London. So my mother and her three sons took a long train journey to Cornwall in the West Country and were found accommodation on an isolated farm. The farmer and his wife and grown-up son had no choice but to accept this family from miles away. We were ‘billeted’—to use the terminology of the time. With hindsight I can understand how our hosts must have felt to have a woman in a state of shock and three noisy kids foisted on them at harvest time, but for us it was difficult to understand why we were not more welcome. The farmhouse was dark inside and lit by oil-lamps, and had curtains across all the doors to keep draughts to a minimum. As an 8-year-old, I found it spooky. Good thing I wasn’t without my family, as many so-called evacuees had found themselves earlier in the war when they were sent to the country for their own safety.

We didn’t remain there long—perhaps as little as a month. My father, on compassionate leave, found us a temporary house back in London, and we returned, much relieved, to the bomb-infested suburbs. But the memory of that time is still vivid in my mind. When I came to write Rough Cider forty years later, it was easy to get back into the thought process of a child, watching events unfold without fully understanding them. I began the book with a sentence that plunges the reader straight into that world:

“When I was nine, I fell in love with a girl of twenty called Barbara, who killed herself.”

Of course, the writer’s imagination moves on from remembered things to events that didn’t happen in reality. There was no suicide on the farm, no murder and no cider that I can recall. But the novel is centered around a plot involving an American soldier posted to England, and as a boy I did get to meet GIs at the local American Army base. After our return to London, we Lovesey boys were invited to a party put on specially by the GIs for ‘bombed-out’ kids—and it was wonderful. I can still remember the silent films they projected onto a screen for us—Buster Keaton and Chaplin—and the magician, and the food! Food we didn’t know existed. I was one of the first British children to taste a Hershey Bar and chewing gum. No wonder I can understand how the boy Theo came to idolize the soldier called Duke.

So there it is. I mustn’t give away more of the plot. Rough Cider remains a personal favorite for reasons you will now understand.