Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Job

Davitt Awards: Sisters in Crime Australia

Earlier this week Sisters in Crime Australia announced the winners of its 2017 Davitt Awards, celebrating “the best crime books by Australian women.”

Adult Novel: The Dry by Jane Harper
YA Novel: Frankie by Shivaun Plozza
Children's Novel: Wormwood Mire by Judith Rossell
Non-Fiction Book: Look What You Made Me do: Fathers Who Kill by Megan Norris
Debut: Ghost Girls by Cath Ferla
Readers' Choice: The Dry by Jane Harper

For all the nominees, go to Fair Dinkum Crime

HT: Fair Dinkum Crime

Keyboard Waffle Iron: Qwerky Qwerty Cuisine!

If this didn't take up so much space in my kitchen, I'd buy it now! Love this Keyboard Waffle Iron. Qwerty Cuisine!

Enjoy a breakfast that's Control-Alt-Delicious with this geek-chic waffle iron by Chris Dimino. Made from die-cast aluminum and featuring bake-lite heat resistant handles, this design can be put on the grill or even gas or electric stovetops, letting you enjoy gourmet Belgian-style waffles whether you're camping, tailgating, or simply brunching at home--a perfect way to encourage playing with your food, no matter what your typing speed.

Features a unique wide format plate that creates a delicious Belgian-style waffle in the shape of your beloved computer keyboard. We've also added a comfortable curved handle for easy flipping. All of this in a simple and sleek design that compliments your kitchen. Just add heat, batter, and toppings!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Benefits of Books

McIlvanney Prize: Scottish Book of the Year Shortlist

Shortlist for the McIlvanny Prize - Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

Craig Robertson – Murderabilia (Simon & Schuster)

Val McDermid - Out of Bounds (Little, Brown)

Denise Mina - The Long Drop (Random House)

Craig Russell - The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid (Quercus)

Jay Stringer - How to Kill Friends and Implicate People (Thomas & Mercer)

Killer Nashville Falchion Awards

The Falchion Awards were given out last weekend at Killer Nashville.   To see all awards, go Here.
Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Mystery:
Fighting for Anna, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins (SkipJack) 

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Thriller:
Clawback, by J.A. Jance (Touchstone)

Silver Falchion Award: Best Fiction Action/Adventure
The Medinandi License, by Randall Reneau

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Suspense:
Waking Up in Medellin, by Kathryn Lane (Pen-L)

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Anthology/Collection:
Eight Mystery Writers You Should Be Reading Now, by Michael Guillebeau (Madison Press)

Max Allan Collins was given the John Seigenthaler Legends Award

Richard Helms received this year’s Magnolia Award, the highest honor presented by the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA), given in recognition of service to the organization

Beth Terrell (Jaden Terrell) was presented with the 2017 Builder's Award.

Kierstin Marquet was presented with the C.Auguste Dupin Detective Award

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Bookworm Group

Some Thoughts on In-Person Research: Guest Post by Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor is the author of the Hugo Marston novels The Bookseller, The Crypt Thief, The Blood Promise, The Button Man, The Reluctant Matador, and The Paris Librarian, as well as the novels Hollow Man and Dominic. He has also published the true-crime book As She Lay Sleeping. A native of Hertfordshire, England, he is an assistant district attorney in Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children. 

Mark Pryor:
Some Thoughts on In-Person Research 

I initially titled this article, “The Importance of In-Person Research,” but I am always wary of writers who lay out their practices and procedures and suggest every author needs to adopt them. In fact, when asked the only good piece of writing advice I give is: do what works best for you. Also, the original title doesn’t really work if you’re writing about Mars or Atlantis, or 17th century Belgium, since you’re not doing much in-person research. I assume…

So, maybe this should really be called: Why in-person research is important to me, and why it might be good for you to do it, but please don’t feel obliged. Hmm, accurate enough if not all that snappy…


I go to the places that I write about for several reasons. The first is that I like to travel, and so do my wife and kids. Setting a book in a new place, then, is the equivalent of packing a bag—once I’ve done it, we’re going! (I have friends who set their books in east Texas and rural New York. Truly wonderful books, but hardly the most exotic research jaunts!)

Another reason is that for my series, I try to make the place another character: it throws up obstacles to my detectives, and provides flavor and atmosphere for the reader to enjoy. Now it’s true, I can find locations and street names online, I can be geographically accurate that way but, if I did all my research that way, I’d miss this (true story):

I was walking in Paris to meet my mum at the train station. A fairly drab part of Paris, nothing for the tourists to enjoy really. But then I turned the corner into a short but wide pedestrian street that sloped gently uphill. The tarmac gave way to cobbles, and on either side the street was lined with small stores. A cheese shop to my right, and beside it a bakery. Across the way the proprietor stood in the doorway to his little restaurant smoking a cigarette, perhaps waiting for customers or maybe just someone to chat with. I looked ahead, past the flower stalls, as a pretty girl on a bicycle free-wheeled towards me, her hair, scarf and coat fluttering in the wind behind her, a smile plastered across her face as she and the rolling suitcase she was pulling bounced across the cobbles and past me.

It was a perfect moment, and one that went straight into a book, a moment I’d never get from Google maps.

Another one: in the old town of Barcelona the small, winding streets are lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Most of them are roughly the same size and fronted with large, square windows that are protected during closing hours by metal shutters that are pulled down to the ground. When they’re down, you have absolutely no idea what the business is behind them, it could be a toy shop, a perfumery, or a hat store. Those shutters are very often covered in graffiti, but more often than not quite beautifully, delightfully expressive artwork of all colors and styles.

And so one October morning, as I walked through Barcelona’s narrow and ancient streets, I had the sensation that I was strolling through an advent calendar, these colorful square shutters scrolling up and open to reveal some new delight I couldn’t have guessed at. Again, that’s something you can’t get from the kind of moment-in-time snapshot an internet map would give you.

To me, it’s not just Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower that give Paris its unique ambience. It’s also these little moments, a glimpse into someone’s day or a passing mail van with a message stenciled on its side: Smile. There could be a love letter for you inside! I mean, could that be anywhere but Paris? And how would I know about it, how would I see it if I don’t go there in person?

Ah, yes. You’re right. I do have a trip to plan. Merci beaucoup!

Mark Pryor’s The Sorbonne Affair (Seventh Street Books) hit the shelves last week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Frederick Ramsay: R.I.P.

Frederick Ramsay: R.I.P.  Sad News. Fred will be missed.

Eleanor Ramsay posted this on his Facebook Page:

Dear friends and fans of Fred. It is my sad task to let you know that he passed away into the arms of the angels in the early morning hours of August 23. He had been battling an aggressive return of kidney cancer and, despite our hopes that he might benefit from new immunotherapy treatments, the cancer could not be contained. If you know him, you knew that he was the definition of a Renaissance Man. He was a teacher, ordained minister, scholar, artist and, of course, a writer of 19 wonderful mysteries. He was almost finished his 20th book, The Onion, which will be completed and published.

Fred was a loving husband to his wife Susan, and a father to her three children, Julie, Karen and Sam. He had three children from his previous marriage; Jeff, Eleanor and Matt. In addition, he was grandpa extraordinaire to his son Jeff's children Kopano, Ati, and Alex; to Julie's daughters Kiri and Allie; and to Sam's child, Wyatt.

A man of deep faith and a marvelous sense of humor, it was said he could even make the angels laugh.

Services will be held at La Casa de Christo, 6300 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale, AZ, on Wednesday, August 30 at 11am. The service will also be live streamed at the church's website.

While we will miss him terribly, we are comforted by the knowledge that he lived an amazingly rich life, touched so many people, and leaves a remarkable legacy.


Dr. Frederick Ramsay was born in Baltimore, the son of a respected teacher researcher and scientist. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia and received his doctorate from the University of Illinois. After a stint in the Army, he joined the faculty of the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, where he taught Anatomy, Embryology and Histology; engaged in research and served as an Associate Dean. He is the author of several scientific research and general technical articles. During this time he also pursued studies in theology and in 1971 was ordained an Episcopal priest. After leaving the University, he served two congregations in the Baltimore area full time and several part-time.

After retiring from full-time ministry, he began writing full time. His first novel, Artscape, was published by Poisoned Pen Press and launched July, 2004. His second, Secrets, (Poisoned Pen Press), was published in August of 2005 and Impulse, July 2006, was cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the one hundred best books 2006. He is the author of the Ike Schwartz mysteries, a series beginning with Predators set in Botswana, and a stand alone, religious historical fiction-Judas the Gospel of betrayal. 19 Books in all with a twentieth almost finished.

Jesse Kellerman Literary Salon: August 30

Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening with Award Winning Author Jesse Kellerman!

When: Wednesday, August 30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA)
This is a free event, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend.
RSVP required. Address of venue sent with acceptance.
RSVP: janet @

JESSE KELLERMAN is the author of five novels --- SUNSTROKE, TROUBLE, THE GENIUS, THE EXECUTOR and POTBOILER --- as well as the co-author with Jonathan Kellerman of the Golem novels and CRIME SCENE. He has won several awards for his writing, including the 2003 Princess Grace Award, given to America’s most promising young playwright, and the 2010 Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle, for THE GENIUS. POTBOILER was also nominated for a best novel Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America.

Upcoming Literary Salons in Berkeley:

September 13: Amy Stewart, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Autobiography

Call for Articles: Big City Cops


The next two issues of Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 33:3 & 4) will focus on Big City Cops. Looking for reviews, articles, and Author! Author! essays. Reviews: 50-250 words; Articles: 250-1000 words; Author! Author! essays: 1000-2500 words. Author essays are first person, about yourself, your books, and the 'Big City Cops' connection. Think of it as chatting with friends and other writers in the bar or cafe about your work and your Big City Cops connection. Add title and 2-3 sentence bio/tagline.  

Deadline: September 10. Let me know if you need more time. We will have two issues. There will be a second deadline.

Send to: Janet Rudolph, Editor. janet @ Please forward this request to anyone you think should be included.

Call for Articles for 2017 (Volume 33): Big City Cops 1, Big City Cops 2). Have titles, articles or suggestions for these upcoming issues? 
Want to write an Author! Author! essay?  
email Janet Rudolph  janet @

Prison Visits: Guest post by Kathryn Casey

Kathryn Casey is the author of fourteen books, her most recent POSSESSED: The Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder. In Plain Sight, on the Kaufman County prosecutor murders, is scheduled for publication by HarperCollins in early 2018. Ann Rule called Casey “one of the best in the true crime genre.”

Kathryn Casey:
Prison Visits

The door opens, and suddenly he’s there. Minutes later, he grins, his excitement palpable, as he describes the murders of four women. A crime writer’s life can take strange turns. 

I started covering sensational cases for magazines in the eighties, and it stuck. In the mid-nineties, I began writing true crime books. Eleven books later, I traveled Texas interviewing folks for Deliver Us (Harper, 2015), investigating more than two dozen unsolved murders that unfolded between 1971 and 1997 near Interstate 45, south of Houston.

I’d considered writing this particular book for some time. The cases haunted me. Over the years, I’d collected Houston Chronicle articles on the killings in a folder I kept in my desk drawer. At times, I took it out, reread them, and wondered. The murders were, after all, the ultimate mysteries, and I felt compelled to find out what happened to so many young women.

In many ways, true crime isn’t an easy life. I do an incredible amount of research, spend long weeks even months on stiff-backed wooden courthouse benches during trials, and over the years I’ve had to get used to pretty strong reactions from people I approach asking for interviews. It comes with the territory. For the most part, those involved agree to talk to me. Some, however, aren’t happy to see me when they open their doors.

As I dug into the I-45 murders, I realized that although the cases remained unsolved, there were suspects. The majority of the killings appeared to fall into three groups, divided by decades and linked by proximity. I always try to interview everyone involved, so I journeyed between five Texas prisons, where the main suspects are inmates serving long sentences for unrelated crimes. Most of the men denied they’d murdered anyone.

One glaring exception: Mark Roland Stallings.

Tall, muscular, bald, edgy, Stallings is suspected in one of the murders tied to the notorious Texas Killing Field. Between 1983 and 1991, four sets of remains were recovered from under trees in what was an overgrown oil patch, a mile from the highway. The victims included: a 23-year-old waitress, Heide Fye, a high school student, Laura Miller, and two unidentified women, Jane and Janet Doe.

While all the bodies were found in the same area, the fourth killing differed from the first three, suggesting two killers. Stallings was the prime suspect in the death of the final victim, Janet Doe.

That day I walked into the prison, I felt a familiar knot in my chest when the metal prison doors clanked shut behind me. The place was grim. Prisons pretty much all are. A special building reserved for high-risk inmates, that section of the Gib Lewis Unit struck me as even more suffocating than most. Moments after I arrived, a guard brought Stallings out and locked him in a metal cage opposite me. I felt a surge of gratitude for the thick window that separated us, as Stallings picked up the phone on his side of the Plexiglas to talk to me.

In truth, I’d assumed Stallings would claim innocence, like most of the others I’d interviewed. To my surprise, he instead recounted in vivid detail how he strangled Janet Doe and his involvement in the murders of three other women.

The experience was more than unsettling.

Most of the killers I’d interviewed in the past and since acted for some form of personal gain, money or possessions, for revenge, many to dispose of significant others who became inconvenient. While tragic, the killings had some twisted logic.

Mark Stallings murdered for a more primal reason: he enjoyed it.

I’m not new at this. I’ve heard and seen a lot over the years, but it’s hard to interact with someone like Stallings. He talked with a detached delight about his years in the Texas Killing Fields. And he didn’t blame himself or hold himself accountable for his crimes. Instead, he felt justified. The women were at fault. They were troubled. They were disposable.

Why write a book on men who commit such horrific crimes? For one reason: to understand.

More than any other aspect, I’ve always been interested in the psychology of the cases I cover, and as we talked, Stallings recounted a common history for serial killers, one involving childhood sexual abuse and early experiences that mixed sex and violence.

While his history didn’t in any way mitigate his abhorrent crimes, perhaps it explained some of the volcanic rage that consumed him.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Eclipse

Solar Eclipse Fiction

I was thinking about books that feature solar eclipses, and the one that immediately came to mind was Jane Langton's Dark Nantucket Noon (Homer Kelly #2). I haven't read it in many years, but I do remember the opening scene with the eclipse. Thought I'd make a short list of some Eclipse Novels--not all mystery.

Eclipse Novels
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (not a mystery, but a classic)
Prisoners of the Sun by Herge´(Tintin)
King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (adventure)
The Secret Mountain by Enid Blyton (Children's Lit)
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg (science fiction)
He Said/ She Said by Erin Kelly
Dark Nantucket Noon by Jane Langton
Gerald's Game; Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
Solar Eclipse by John Farris
Eclipse; Shroud by John Banville (not mysteries)
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart
Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, edited by Kaye George

Sunday, August 20, 2017

221B Baker Street Key Pendant

Here's a cool pendant--a Sherlock 221B Baker Street Key. Love it! It's definitely the perfect fashion accessory for any Sherlockian.

It's at the Spookyisland shop on Etsy. $13.31

Comes with a chain in a variety of widths.

And, if the Sherlock 221B Baker Street Key pendant and necklace isn't your "cup of tea," Spookyisland also had a great Alice in Wonderland necklace, a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver, and a human brain (I like this one!)

More information here.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Book Group

Live-In Library: Rocky Mountain Land Library

Oh this sounds wonderful!

From National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Along the banks of the South Platte River in Colorado, against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, an idea is beginning to take shape. It’s a live-in library, a place where books and nature and history come together, and where writers, researchers, and anyone else can bring a suitcase and stay awhile. 

It’s called the Rocky Mountain Land Library, and it’s the vision of Jeff Lee and Ann Martin, two longtime employees at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver. It’s an idea that’s been decades in the making, after Lee and Martin traveled to the London Book Fair in the mid-1990s and took a weekend jaunt to Wales, where they stayed at what is now called Gladstone’s Library. It was a cross between a library and a dormitory, and provided them with a perfect jumping-off point for learning about the country they were visiting. 

“We fell in love with the place,” Lee says. “And it really clicked. We thought wouldn’t it be great to have a nature library like that—to have a place where you’ve got this direct connection between the books and the subject. And Colorado is blessed with so many wonderful areas that could host a land library. So when we got back, we started a site search that took us across the state.” The horse barn will eventually host specialty libraries on topics such as mining history and the fur trade. 

Their search eventually took them to South Park, where they found Buffalo Peaks Ranch, an abandoned ranch 10 miles south of Fairplay, Colorado, and about 100 miles southwest of Denver. 

“It’s a working landscape,” Lee says. “It’s exactly what we’re all about—recognizing that the relationship to the land isn’t just enjoying natural beauty, but also how people make a living on the land. How they use it. [This ranch] felt right to us.” 
It’s a fitting undertaking for a library focused on all things related to the history, culture, and ecology of American West. And it’s an undertaking that excites Jim Lindberg, vice president for research and policy at the National Trust, based in the Denver field office. It was Lindberg who steered Lee and Martin to look for a site in Park County, Colorado.

“The Land Library is an inspiring idea and a great example of adaptive use,” Lindberg says. “A retreat for learning about real places, surrounded by physical books, seems almost revolutionary in our digital era.”

Read more here.

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.