Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day and Labor Unions in Crime Fiction

Another holiday, another list! There aren't a lot of mysteries set during the Labor Day Holiday: Lee Harris' Labor Day Murder and Sharyn McCrumb's Highland Laddie Gone. There's also the short story "Labor Day" by R.T. Lawton in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

This is an updated Crime Fiction list  involving Labor Unions. HT: Murder, Mystery & Mayhem for putting together the original list of Labor Day Mysteries involving unions, tradesman and works. Please let me know about any books that should be added to this list.


The Knife Behind You by James Benet (Department Store Union Organizer)
For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen (Garment Workers Union)
White Hot by Sandra Brown (Labor Dispute)
Big Boned by Meg Cabot (Graduate Student Union)
Airframe by Michael Crichton (Union Trouble)
Cactus Blood by Lucha Corpi (Farm Workers' Union)
The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle (Union Group called the Scowrers)
Third Strike by Philip Craig and William Tapply (Steamship Authority Strike)
October Heat by Gordon DeMarco (1934 San Francisco General Strike-Longshoremen)
Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle (The Scowrers)
The Bramble Bush (aka Worse than Murder) by David Duncan (San Francisco General Strike)
American Tabloid by James Ellroy (Teamsters)
LA Quartet by James Ellroy (Movie Unions)
A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett (Coal Mines)
Dead Reckoning by Patricia Hall (Union Strike)
The Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (IWW organizer & Strike Breaking)
A More Perfect Union by J.A. Jance (Iron Workers' Union)
As Dead As it Gets by Cady Kalian (Creative Artists' Union) 
Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane (Hotel Workers' Union)
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (Police Union)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (Long Shoremen's Union)
Deadly Dues by Lulu Malone (Actors' Union)
Stiff by Shane Maloney (Meat Packing)
Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti  (Union rep in Cathode-ray Tube industry)
Conferences are Murder by Val McDermid (Journalists' Union)
Death at Pullman by Frances McNamara (American Railway Union)
The Viewless Winds by Murray Morgan (Murder of a Labor Leader's wife)
A Red Death by Walter Mosley (Aircraft Manufacturer and Labor Union organizer)
Death and Blintzes by Dorothy and Sidney Rosen (Garment Workers Union)
A Bitter Feast by S. J. Rozan (Restaurant Workers' Union)
Some Cuts Never Heal by Timothy Sheard (Shop Steward)
Judas Incorporated by "Kurt Steel" (Rudolf Kagey) (Pro-Union)
The Labor Union Murder aka Fourth of July Picnic by Rex Stout (novella)
Absolute Rage by Robert K. Tanenbaum (Coal Miners' Union)
The Porkchoppers, Yellow Dog Contract by Ross Thomas (Politics & Unions)
Killy by Donald Westlake (Manufacturing Union)

Have a great Labor Day Holiday!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anthony Bruno: R.I.P.

Sad News. Crime writer Anthony Bruno passed away on August 28 of a massive cerebral hemorrhage near his home in Philadelphia. Details to follow.


News just in! Thanks to Craig Sisterson for all he does for New Zealand Crime Writers. 

Liam McIlvanney has won the prestigious Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel for Where the Dead Men Go!

Dunedin-based McIlvanney was announced as the winner, for his “fascinating, brilliant, and challenging” novel WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO, before a packed house at the conclusion of the lively Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival on Saturday 30 August. “In a year where we had our strongest, deepest, and most diverse long list ever, and four truly fantastic finalists, WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO got the nod for its terrific, page-turning storytelling powered by superb prose, fascinating characters, and an evocative sense of place,” said Judging Convenor Craig Sisterson. “It’s the kind of book that lingers in your mind beyond the final page.”

In WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO, Glasgow stands on the precipice: of the Commonwealth Games, a national vote on Scottish independence, and an explosive rekindling of a brutal gangland war. Gerry Conway is a jaded, jobbing journo, the golden child fallen, clinging to the coat-tails of his former protégé, Martin Moir. When Moir’s body is discovered as a big story breaks, Conway steps into his shoes; a very dangerous place, as gangsters, politicians, and other predators swirl around.

The judging panel, consisting of crime fiction experts from New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, called WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO “a thought-provoking novel with very real characters and a fascinating, complex plot”. McIlvanney puts a lot into this book: the state of the news media, what it takes to be a good reporter, politics, family life, and even a New Zealand connection, said one judge. “Excellent writing makes it all fit together very nicely indeed.” Conway was described by the judges as “an unlikely hero perhaps, as the mainstream media around the world are going down the gurgler… he keeps digging away like a real reporter should, even when his bosses are less than supportive.”

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, established in 2010, is named for Dame Ngaio Marsh, who is renowned worldwide as one of the four Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Dame Ngaio published 32 novels featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn between 1934 and her death in 1982. With sales in the millions, and her books still in print to this day, Dame Ngaio is one of New Zealand’s most successful authors in history. Dame Ngaio’s closest living relative, John Dacres-Manning, gave his blessing for the New Zealand crime writing award to be named in her honour, saying that “I know that Dame Ngaio would be so proud… to know that her name is associated with the award”.

In addition to the award itself, McIlvanney wins a set of Dame Ngaio’s novels, courtesy of HarperCollins, and a cheque for $1,000 from the Christchurch Writers’ Festival Trust.

Cartoon of the Day: The Line-Up

Friday, August 29, 2014

Developing the Francis Bacon Series: Guest Post by Janice Law

Today I welcome Janice Law winner of the Lambda Award for The Prisoner of the Riviera.  Her latest novel, Moon Over Tangier (Mysterious Press), is the sequel to the The Prisoner of the Riviera The Watergate scandal inspired her to write her first novel, The Big Payoff (1977), which introduced Anna Peters, a street-smart young woman who blackmails her boss, a corrupt oil executive. This novel was an Edgar nominee, and Law went on to write eight more in the series, including Death Under Par and Cross-Check. After Death Under Par, Law set aside the character for several years to write historical mysteries The Countess and All the King’s Ladies. After concluding the Peters series, she wrote three stand-alone suspense novels: The Night Bus (2000), The Lost Diaries of Iris Weed, and Voices.

Janice Law
Developing the Francis Bacon Series

One of the nice things about writing mysteries is that the genre is flexible enough to include the writer’s interests and obsessions. Sure, the body has to be in the basement and the killer in the attic– or vice versa– but there are few restrictions on where that basement is or what the killer’s other interests might be in his– or her– off hours.

There is even more freedom with one’s detective. She can be interested in birds or cooking. He can like opera or fine weapons, or, like the grandaddy of them all, Sherlock Holmes, play the violin and dabble in recreational drugs.

With Francis, my somewhat reluctant detective of Fires of London and the Lambda award winning The Prisoner of the Riviera, I’ve gotten to indulge one of my passions– painting. I drew quite well long before I could read, and only a colossal lack of confidence kept me from majoring in art and embarking on a different sort of La Vie Boheme than writing.

Although I preferred then – and still prefer now– to get rejections at long distance instead of beside someone who finds my latest effort just won’t fit over the sofa, I never gave up the brushes, and after I retired from teaching, I began filling up the barn with paintings.

So when I first thought of using Francis, inspired by the Anglo-Irish artist Francis Bacon, one of the positives was that he was a painter, whose art was the chief stabilizing force in a rackety existence. In the great era of abstraction, Bacon swam upstream with grotesquely distorted and vigorously brushed figurative work, immortalizing his friends and lovers, and in his screaming popes, wrestlers, and animals, revealing a peculiar and passionate nature.

Of course, there were downsides. I’m not usually keen to use historical figures in mysteries, although I have written and published a couple of historical novels that did include notables of the time. Then, too, there was Bacon’s promiscuous gay lifestyle in ‘50’s London and his taste for rough trade: Research needed there.

Fortunately for me, painting– along with the fact that he lived with his old nanny until her death– gave me a way into his personality. Besides, he began whispering in my ear, as good characters do, and soon took on a distinct personality. This was close enough not to distort what I knew about the historical figure but separate enough to put into mystery plots that the real man never entered.

For the first two books, there were also other ingredients: Fires is set during the London blitz, when the real Francis was an Air Raid Preparedness warden. This was an easy enough job at first, consisting of reminding people about their black out curtains and gas masks, but not so nice later when there were terrible road accidents and pedestrian casualties, not to mention the carnage once the bombs started falling. I do not think it is coincidence that the painter’s figures become increasingly distorted and mutilated post war.

The Prisoner of the Riviera is set immediately after the conflict, and I was able to use material on the French Resistance that I’d gathered for a previous novel– never throw research away! I had a fine cast of resistants, collaborators, and opportunists, but best of all, I was able to add another of my interests, the greatest of the grand tour bike races, the Tour de France, which at the time I sent the fictional Francis to the continent, was being revived after the hiatus of the war years.

That the real Francis may have been ignorant of this splendid event was quite likely. But that’s the beauty of fiction. A handsome young bicycle mechanic and amateur cyclist was quite sufficient to ignite my Francis’ interests, especially when the lad appeared in a most fetching and form fitting cycling costume. Soon Francis was entangled in old feuds and old hatreds and struggling, as he is wont to do, with mechanical conveyances, crooks, and rascals.

Along the way, I had the fun of writing about his painting, set him to work as a beach front artiste – something the real man would have loathed and my Francis disliked– and put him to work as a decorator of sorts, something his prototype did in real life. Along the way, I discovered something we had in common – both of us were essentially self taught in our craft. Of course, he had genius, which I can’t claim, but I think I can say that all three of us, Francis Bacon, my Francis, and me, love putting paint on canvas, and in my case, putting paint on canvas in mysteries as well.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oakland's Laurel Book Store Relocating

Well, it's now public! Laurel Book Store in Oakland will be moving into a ground floor space in the First National Bank Building, now known as the Lionel Wilson Building at 14th and Broadway. It was most recently a bank, so it looks very elegant.

From Luan Strauss, owner:

Dear Reader & Friend of Laurel Book Store,

     I am so happy to announce that we have secured a new location for the store!     
     As many of you know, about a year ago, knowing that our lease would end last month, I started looking for a larger space with better flexibility for events, better access to transportation, and a bit more foot traffic. The store took a hit when Lucky's supermarket left and it didn't get any better with the discount market that took its place. Many of the businesses on the boulevard have felt the slowdown.
     I began working with a great team of real estate professionals in Heidi Kearsley and Nicolette Sommer, and they showed me quite a few places. All of them needed this done or that done or were in locations that just didn't seem right.
     Then they asked me to meet them at a spot that was both larger than I specified and closer to downtown than we had been looking into so far.
     Do you know that feeling when you walk into a place and it just feels right? Like you can instantly imagine what you'd do with the space, how you'd spend your time there, and who would walk in and be happy to be there?
     That's what happened to me. I felt it. But just to make sure, we arranged another visit and I took two rational, level-headed people to see it. They immediately had the same feeling I did.
     And now, after much working of paper, many sleepless nights, and a great deal of planning, it's finally real.
     We will be moving into a ground floor space in the First National Bank Building, now known as the Lionel Wilson Building at 14th and Broadway. It was most recently a bank, so it looks very elegant. (And one friend wisely noted that it's used to money already.)  

The corner spot at the pointed end of the building right next to us is under construction to be the Downtown Wine Merchants. Oaklandish, Bittersweet, Awaken Cafe, The Tribune Tavern, and Pro Arts are all just steps away. The Marriott is four blocks away, the Fox is five and the Paramount is seven. There is a daily population of 100,000 office workers, and yes, there is parking. (Some with validation!) Several lots are within a short block and there are many on street spaces on the other side of Broadway. Plus there are buses and of course BART. We still have online ordering and can mail your books and of course we will continue to offer ebooks right from our website.
     We would never have been able to take this step had it not been for 13 amazing years in the Laurel District with some of the most wonderful customers and friends anywhere. That's why I won't change the store name, I know where my roots are.
     We're already fielding questions, so here are some FAQs. (Or in some cases FOQs- Freaking Out Questions)

Why? (or, Why are you doing this to me?) I love the neighborhood, I live in Maxwell Park, and I hope to see many of my customers in the shiny new location. I never thought I'd stay in this 900 sq. ft. space for 13 years. I've always planned for a larger store. While it would have been nice to stay in the Laurel or nearby, economics led me to widen my search field. I am looking forward to temperature control, not to have to move heavy bookcases for events, and most of all, the opportunity to truly grow the business.

When Will It Happen? (or, When do I have to pick up the book I ordered?)  Much depends on the work that needs to be done. I have a crackerjack contractor and we'll work hard to open as soon as possible. Best guess is early October. It looks like we'll be in the current store through September, but that could change. (So pick up your book now.)

Why downtown? It's so far away! (or, Why can't you stay close to my house?) See above. And I've heard people say that they either take BART often or they go downtown for social events as often as I have from people who predict that they will never see us again. If you haven't been downtown lately- give it a chance. There is more life there now than there has been in many years thanks to the enterprising business people who are there. I'm honored to be joining the mix.

Is There Parking? (or, Okay, I'll try, but how far will I have to walk?)  Yes, there's parking. Many on street spots and several lots within a block or so.

What About All Those Other Things You Do? (or, What about package receiving, Maxwell Park items, and getting my book quickly?)  I'm making arrangements for a business on the boulevard to offer to accept packages for those who need that. I'm talking with others about carrying the Maxwell Park shirts, and I'm even talking with a business about having a book hold bin so that we have a secure place to drop off your order where it would be easy to pick up. And you can always have something mailed to you. Of course we want you to come to the store, but I understand the reality of geography.

Okay, okay. Sounds great. How Can I Help? (or, I'm reluctantly happy for you.) We're so grateful for all the offers to help that we've already received. We will definitely be having a book-packing party at the current store, and an unpacking party at the new store. Please continue to support us while we're here and bring your business downtown when we move.
     In addition to our investment and an SBA loan, we are raising funds through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Please click here to join in and get some great perks in the bargain.
     And please spread the word. If you work downtown, let people know that they will now have a bookstore in the neighborhood. If you want a flier to post, I'll have one ready soon.
     And again, thank you for all your support. I couldn't have done it without you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Call for Articles: Bibliomysteries

The next issue of the Mystery Readers Journal (30:3) will focus on Bibliomysteries: Crime fiction set in the world of books (bookstores, libraries, publishing) or concerns itself with books, manuscripts, writers, editors. 

We're looking for articles, reviews and author essays. 

Author! Author! essays are first person, upclose and personal about yourself, your books, and the 'book/biblio" connection. 500-1500 words.  

Deadline September 9. 

Have a look at past issues of Mystery Readers Journal for past themed issue articles. 

If you'd like to contribute to this issue, make a comment below with your email or go to Janet @ mysteryreaders dot org. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Map Back Monday!

Today,  I'm starting a new feature on Mystery Fanfare: Map Back Monday! I've been collecting the iconic Dell Map Backs for years, and recently my sister in law sent me my late brother-in-law's collection. Stan always said he was going to send them to me, but never got around to it. Well, he was a collector like me, so I'm sure it was hard to part with any books. I sent him some of my dupes, so maybe they've come to roost. My postings will be in no particular order.

Dell Map Books were printed in the 1940s and 50s, and they were something really special! They were great paperbacks, not only for the books themselves, but for the sturdy laminated covers that also had maps of the scene of the crime on the back! How cool is that? Most of my Dell Map Backs are mysteries, but I think I saw a romance in Stan's collection, so I may post that cover at some time. This will be a discovery for me, as well.

So to begin my Map Back Mondays, here's the cover and map back from Leslie Ford's The Philadelphia Murder Story! I'm from Philadelphia, after all, and I'm drawn to anything Philly! The Map Back features lots of my haunts--well maybe not the Police Station. And the mystery is a'bibliomystery"...the theme of the next issue of Mystery Readers Journal. Perfect timing!

"The Death of an Author Upsets Society and The SatEvePost in "the Philadelphia Murder Story"  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Something Queer at the Ball Park!

Picked up a copy of Something Queer at the Ball Park last weekend at a garage sale. Love the illustrations and story! Should have reviewed it for the Sports Mystery issue of Mystery Readers Journal.

This is part of The Fletcher Mysteries (originally called Something Queer is Going On), a children's mystery book series written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Mordicai Gershstein.

The books feature the cases of girl sleuths Jill and Gwen (and Jill's basset hound).
I've just ordered Something Queer at the Library, so I'll have another posting soon!

Request for Tributes to Jerry Healy

The MWA Florida Chapter is collecting remembrances of Jerry Healy.
Please send your tributes of 250 words or less to
Favorite photos (Jpg and gif files) are also welcome.
Tributes must be received by Tuesday, August 26.
Please limit your tribute items to 250 words.

So sad...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Asa Larsson discusses Female Victims in Crime Fiction

Swedish writer Asa Larsson, author of the the Rebecka Martinsson mysteries, addresses why there are more women victims in crime fiction.  This appeared in the Huffington Post. HERE

"On Dead Women in Crime Fiction"

It has come to my attention that people are grumbling about how Swedish crime writers murder piles of women in their books. As a Swedish author of crime fiction, I instinctively want to raise my hand and call out, "Not me! Not me!" It's a problem that I've always carefully considered. 

Read the rest of the article HERE.

HT: TheRapSheet

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tom Hanks' Typewriter App: Hanx Writer

Here's a fun app for your iPad. There are others like this, but since this has Tom Hanks name attached, it's getting a lot of press. How fun!

Hanx Writer is available in the iTunes App Store. 

Hanx Writer will turn your iPad into an old-fashioned typewriter, offering a fake analog typing experience. The bangs of key presses, hard returns, and chimes that sound when you reach the end of a new line, sit alongside modern conveniences like the ability to correct without white tape or whiteout, and options to print, email or share your documents when complete.

This app is lots of fun!

Memorial Gathering for LOU ALLIN

From Kay Stewart:

Memorial Gathering 

Sunday, September 14, 2014 
2-4:30 p.m. 
Victoria, BC 

With Lou Allin’s death on July 10, many of us lost a friend. 

CWC also lost a long-time member, award-winning author, and energetic supporter of Canadian crime writing. During her tenure as BC/Yukon VP and membership chair, Lou organized many CWC events and encouraged scores of new and established writers to join. She also gave generously of her time to mentor aspiring authors and to review books for anyone who asked (and some who didn’t). A dedicated conference participant, she never missed a Bloody Words and co-chaired Bloody Words 2011 in Victoria. She will be greatly missed in our community. 

The memorial gathering on September 14 will provide an opportunity to honor Lou as friend and colleague. 

You are invited to email your thoughts, anecdotes, photos, and/or favorite passages from Lou’s books (please include the title!) to by September 7. These messages will be available for reading during the gathering and will then be collected for presentation to Lou’s partner. 

If you plan to attend, please email Kay Stewart at the above address for further details.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cartoon of the Day: Publishers


Sisters in Crime Australia announced the nominees for the 2014 Davitt Awards, named for Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud (1865), that honor the best in Down Under crime/mystery fiction by women.

Best Adult Novel:
• Dark Horse, by Honey Brown (Penguin Books Australia)
• Nefarious Doings, by Ilsa Evans (Momentum Press)
• A Bitter Taste, by Annie Hauxwell (Penguin Books Australia)
• Web of Deceit, by Katherine Howell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
• Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Picador Books)
• The Dying Beach, by Angela Savage (Text)

Best Young Adult Novel:
• The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee (UQP)
• Girl Defective, by Simmone Howell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
• Cry Blue Murder, by Kim Kane and Marion Roberts (UQP)
• Every Breath, by Ellie Marney (Allen & Unwin)
• A Ring Through Time, by Felicity Pulman (Harper Collins)

Best Children’s Novel:
• The Perplexing Pineapple: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta), Book 1, by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen & Unwin)
• The Looming Lamplight: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta), Book 2, by Ursula Dubosarsky (Allen & Unwin)
• Verity Sparks: Lost and Found, by Susan Green (Walker Books)
• Truly Tan: Jinxed!, by Jen Storer (Harper Collins)
• Truly Tan: Spooked!, by Jen Storer (Harper Collins)

Best True Crime Book:
• Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, by Anna Krien (Black Inc)
• Deadly Australian Women, by Kay Saunders (ABC Books)

Best Debut Book (any category):
• A Trifle Dead, by Livia Day (Twelfth Planet Press)
• The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee (UQP)
• Girl Defective, by Simmone Howell (Pan Macmillan Australia)
• Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Picador Books)
• Every Breath, by Ellie Marney (Allen & Unwin)

In addition, 660 members of Sisters in Crime Australia will cast votes for their Readers’ Choice award recipient of the year.

The winners in all six categories will be announced on August 30.

HT: The Rap Sheet

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rennie Airth: A Cautionary Word - Guest Post

Rennie Airth, winner of France’s esteemed Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, and the author of three critically acclaimed John Madden novels returns with THE RECKONING, the latest in the series. Rennie Airth was born in South Africa and worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters news service for many years.  He wrote two previous novels, SNATCH and ONCE A SPY.  Airth’s River of Darkness was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony and Macavity Awards. He lives in Cortona, Italy. Rennie Airth wrote an article for the London II issue of Mystery Readers Journal that appeared in 2011.

Rennie Airth:
A Cautionary Word

‘No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.’

 (And no woman either, presumably.)

Dr Johnson’s famous dictum must have occurred to more than one writer as he (or she) toiled to produce yet another tortured paragraph on those black days when the words won’t come. The peculiar punishment we inflict on ourselves ranging from the simple struggle with a recalcitrant sentence to the greatest terror of all, the never-to-be-mentioned curse of the writer’s block, is a form of masochism unique to our calling. No one forces us to write, after all. But daily we confront our computer screens heedless of the dangers we risk to our fragile egos.

Nor are we alone in our misery. What about all those other sufferers, victims of the collateral damage we inflict? What about the wives, husbands, partners; what about the children (God help us)? What about the neglected dogs longing to be taken for a walk? All have to endure this orgy of self-flagellation, forbidden to make a sound or inquire if the writing is going well, left to struggle as best they can with the mundane business of daily life (which in the case of the writer as often as not is exactly what he is trying to describe, however fruitlessly). As he sinks deeper into the fictional world he has created and tries to bring his characters to life, the real people around him, like Tolkien’s ring-wraiths begin to fade and grow insubstantial. It is the figures in his imagination who hold centre stage.

There are writers of course who have solved the problem of inconvenient interruptions. Flaubert had his mother who looked after him in Normandy until he was fifty, feeding him great meals, pampering him as best she could; and turning a blind eye to the periodic trips he made to Paris to satisfy the grosser demands of the flesh. Proust, on the other hand, took refuge in his cork-lined room. Outside it he had his faithful Celeste who kept him fuelled with croissants and café au lait and even took down whole paragraphs of the wonderfully convoluted prose which Marcel dictated to her as his physical powers were failing. We salute them all.

Children, of course, are a separate problem, and one not easily solved. Being as they are, insistent, noisy, and generally unimpressed by the earth-shattering importance of whatever it is that’s going on behind the closed door where their parent closets himself (or herself) day after day, they present difficulties best dealt with by strategies of avoidance. The work must be done in their absence. Here summer camps (and the longer the better) can prove a boon. Few writers, though, have shown the courage and scorn for popular opinion that distinguished Evelyn Waugh’s treatment of his brood. It’s reliably reported they were only permitted to see him once during the day in the late afternoon ‘for ten, I hope, awe-inspiring minutes’. Rough stuff, you might say. But my goodness, he wrote some wonderful books.

So there we have it. The agonies and…I was going to say ecstasies, but alas, we’re seldom that fortunate. Rather, like marathon runners, we finally reach the tape, exhausted; written out. But at least we can say the work is over. The book is done. All that’s needed now is to find some way to sell it. Publishers do what they can, of course, but how often we have wished for a touch of magic; for that unexpected blessing that seems to fall from on high on some books, lifting them from the shelves where they sit side by side with their competitors hoping to catch a buyer’s eye into some other realm where their titles are suddenly on everyone’s lips; where the possibility of sales seems limitless.

Years ago when I was a reporter in Washington I remember an occasion when it became known – by what means I never discovered – that among the books President Kennedy was taking to Hyannis Port on a week-end break from Washington was a recently published book called The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. The effect was electric. Almost overnight it was impossible to buy a copy anywhere. Far be it from me to suggest that JFK’s bedside reading was responsible for the success of John Le Carre’s wonderful Cold War thriller. But it certainly didn’t do it any harm.

But even our fondest hopes can be disappointed. More than two hundred years have passed since the great historian Edward Gibbon thought to improve the prospects of his monumental history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by presenting his latest volume to one of Britain’s royal dukes in the hope that his patronage would send sales of the work soaring. Alas again. Although the story is well known – it was included in Boswell’s life of Johnson – it’s perhaps worth repeating here. Presented with the hefty tome by its author, the duke could only groan. ‘Another damned, thick, square book,’ he is reported to have said in dismay. ‘Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr Gibbon?’

President Kennedy was leaving for a week-end.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

NOIRCON: October 29-November 2

NoirCon 2014: October 29-November 2: Philadelphia, PA
To register, go HERE.

Fuminori Nakamura 
David L. Goodis Award Winner 
Bronwen Hruska of SOHO PRESS 
Eddie Muller
Jay and Deen Kogan Award Winner for Literary Excellence
Eric Miles Williamson Keynote Speaker
Charles Benoit Master of Ceremonies

Wednesday, October 29th 
TBA Misconduct Tavern,1511 Locust Street 19102, 215-732-5797

Thursday, October 30th 
1:00 – 4:00 PM International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, 19104,, 215-387-5125
1. The Movie: The Prowler
2. Interview with Eddie Muller and Jared Case
TBA – 11:30 PM Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art, 531 N 12th Street, 19123,, 267-519-9651

Friday, October 31st – Halloween 
8:30 – 9:00 at Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S 8th Street,, 215-923-0210 Registration
9:10 – 11:15 The Black Dahlia
11:30 – 12:30 Beyond Black: Bad Behavior and Outright Evil in Patricia Highsmith and Flannery O’Connor
12:30 – 1:40 LUNCH
1:45 – 2:30 Interview with Bronwen Hruska, SOHO Publisher
2:45 – 3:45 Ross MacDonald Panel
4:00 – 5:30 Three Minutes of Terror
Moderator: Joseph Samuel Starnes
8:00 – 11: 30 at Rembrandt’s Bar and Grill, 741 N 23rd Street, 19130, 215-763-2228
SOHO HALLOWEEN PARTY: Readings by Fuminori Nakamura, Stuart Neville (and as Ted Lewis). 9:15 Paul Oliver presents GET CARTER (The Movie) - Costumes optional

Saturday, November 1st at the Society Hill Playhouse 507 S 8th Street,, 215-923-0210 
 9:00 – 10:00 Key Note Speaker - Eric Miles Williamson
10:10 – 11:00 Fuminori Nakamura
11:10 – 12:15 LOST DOGS
12:30 – 1:30 LUNCH
1:45 – 2:45 Politics of Noir
3:00 – 3:45 Jewish Noir
4:00 – 5:15 Existential Noir 7:00
Award Dinner at Penn Landing Caterers, 1301 S Columbus Blvd, 19147 215-336-7404

Sunday, November 2nd at Society Hill Playhouse 507 S 8th Street,, 215-923-0210 
9:45 – 11:45 MOST EVIL - Steve Hodel
12:15 Hybrid Noir/Port Richmond Books, 3037 Richmond Street, 215-425-3385

Cartoon of the Day: Cats and Dogs

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Popularity of Legal Thrillers by the late Jeremiah Healy

I am so saddened by the death of mystery writer Jeremiah Healy. The Mystery community is stunned and the postings of photos and  outpouring memories is huge. My heart and sympathy go out to Sandra Balzo, his wife, and his family and friends. Such a loss. Jerry was so supportive of other writers and friends. Trying to take his death in, I perused some of his books and then came across this article he wrote in 2000 for the Mystery Readers Journal: Legal Mysteries issue.

Jeremiah Healy:
The Popularity of Legal Thrillers

Why do we – and here I mean both readers and authors – seem to have such a fascination with the sub-genre of crime novels now known as "Legal Thrillers?" While most of my published fiction has involved John Francis Cuddy, a private investigator in Boston, many of the thirteen books and forty short stories in that series have dealt with issues confronting the justice system, such as reporters’ confidential sources (Yesterday’s News), the right to assisted suicide a la Dr. Kevorkian (Right To Die), and revenge killings of male divorce attorneys by disgruntled husband/opponents (The Only Good Lawyer). Also, in July, 1998, a legal thriller of my own entitled The Stalking of Sheilah Quinn focused on the "John-Grisham-meets-Elmore-Leonard" problem of a female criminal defense attorney being targeted by the very murder defendant she gets out on bail. Accordingly, this sub-genre has been on my mind for a while, and I have some thoughts about the reasons for its popularity.

First, I think we baby-boomers have contributed substantially to this phenomenon. All of us remember vividly Raymond Burr on television as Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason. In addition, major legal cases dominated the news at significant points in our lives: the Army-McCarthy hearings in the fifties, the Manson Family trials in the sixties, and the Watergate proceedings in the seventies. All of these, I believe, whetted our appetites for the "renaissance" begun with Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent in 1987 and continued ever since by John Grisham, Jay Brandon, Lia Matera, William Bernhardt, Perri O’Shaughnessy, Paul Levine, Lisa Scottoline, Philip Margolin, Barbara Parker, and Steve Martini.

Also, I think people who aren’t themselves lawyers are fascinated both by how the law works–and perhaps more importantly, by how it doesn’t work–in specific areas of human relations. In effect, the author of a legal thriller is explaining the courtroom to the reader just as the writer of a medical thriller explains the operating room, with any professional jargon first identified, so the reader can vicariously experience the sense of being a litigator or a surgeon without having to plow through a textbook on Criminal Procedure or Human Anatomy.

I’m hoping this wave of popularity will last a bit longer, as my next book–currently being submitted to editors by my agent–is a legal thriller about a young Boston lawyer who grows disenchanted with her large-firm practice and allies herself with an older criminal-defense attorney. Their first case together: the brutal murder of a homeless man, allegedly by an Irish-American "hermit" living in a "cave."

Of course, as a "recovering" lawyer myself, I have to concede one possible, if cynical, reason for the popularity of legal thrillers: Given that there are a million attorneys currently alive in this country, and that many of them are unhappy practicing law, courtroom novels are simply being bought up in huge numbers by frustrated lawyers wanting to learn the "trick" of becoming successful novelists.

Good reading to all, and thanks to Janet Rudolph for offering this opportunity to express my views.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jeremiah Healy: R.I.P.

This is such sad news in a week of sad news. Mystery author Jerry Healy died last night.

From Sandy Balzo, his wife, via Mary Frisque at AIEP:  

"My heart breaks to send you all this news, especially by email. As you may know, Jerry has battled chronic severe depression for years, mostly controlled bymedication, but exacerbated by alcohol. Last night he took his own life. Jerry was the smartest, kindest man I've ever met, and I thought we'd continue to grow old together. His demons had other plans. Please keep Jerry in your heart, as you all were in his."

Jerry always had a kind word for everyone he met. I remember so many conversations over the years at Bouchercon and other mystery conventions. I'm reeling from this very sad news. Jerry was 66.

My heart and sympathy go out to Sandy, his family, and friends. 

Cartoon of the Day: Police Work

HT: Janet Appel

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Alfred Hitchcock Collection: Bodega, CA

Tucked away in the General Store in the tiny town of Bodega is the Alfred Hitchcock Collection. This small 'museum' dedicated to Hitch's The Birds is jam-packed with memorabilia--from stills to programs to..well lots of other 'odd' things. The store even sells souvenirs. Just an FYI, the town of Bodega is 5 miles inland from Bodega Bay. Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds in both places, but the actual Schoolhouse, the Church and this odd little museum are in the town of Bodega, not Bodega Bay, in case you go looking. The Museum is located in the Bodega Country Store. Alfred Hitchcock stands outside!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cartoon of the Day: iPad

WEIRD NEWS: Man asked Siri to find place to hide body.

SiliconBeat reports:

In a trial in Gainesville, Florida Tuesday, police said a defendant accused of killing his roommate turned to his iPhone’s virtual assistant and said, “I need to hide my roommate.” WTEV reports that among Siri’s answers were: “What kind of place are you looking for? Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps.”

The report also said that according to police, Pedro Bravo’s phone had other possibly incriminating evidence, including location information that contradicts where he said he was on a September night in 2012, and that his phone’s flashlight was used for more than 48 minutes that night. Bravo is accused of killing Christian Aguilar, a Florida University student.

Apple holds on to information about users’ interaction with Siri for two years, as our own Pat May wrote last year. Apple said at the time that it keeps the data because it helps the company “train” Siri to keep improving.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Killer Downstairs: Guest post by Alex Marwood

Today I welcome Alex Marwood. "Raised by wolves, Alex Marwood passed her formative years in the lands beyond the Arctic circle, developing pack skills, excellent night vision and an ability to survive on raw protein. Ideally equipped for a life on Fleet Street, she then became a journalist. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, was published by Sphere, in 2012. In 2013 it was shortlisted for an ITW award, and included in Stephen King's Ten Best Books of the Year list. It was published by Penguin in the US in 2013, and was shortlisted for an Edgar Allen Poe award, and is up for a Macavity Award.  The Killer Next Door, described by The Sun as "nasty, compelling and original", was released as an ebook in 2013, and came out as a paperback in June 2014. Alex herself is a figment of the imagination of the novelist and sometime journalist Serena Mackesy. If you're interested in a more truthful biog, an FAQ and other books, visit her website, here"

Alex Marwood:
The Killer Downstairs

One of the entertaining by-products of being a novelist is how many people seem to be unable to distinguish between fiction and memoir. In the same way that soap actors get harangued in the street for something the character they play has done, novelists will often find people will talk to them completely differently depending on their packaging. Even the most lighthearted of literary novelists will find themselves sucked into leaden discussions about deconstruction when all they really want to talk about is the Real Housewives franchise. When, writing under my real name, my work was being packaged under the egregiously damning ‘chick lit’ label, strangers often spoke to me patronisingly, and asked if I were married myself. And now I am on the crime lists, I will find, every now and then, that people suck air in through their teeth when they hear what I do, and look nervous, as though I’ve just actually said that I am a professional criminal. A woman once crossed herself at me; I’m not kidding.

That said, and although most novelists would deny that their work is autobiographical, it’s almost impossible to stop the things that are going on in the world around one from leaking onto the page. I ate my first (and probably last, I must say) Korean bibimbap while I was writing The Killer Next Door and couldn’t avoid it turning up as a descriptor for something else. I don’t suppose for a second that the theme of The Wicked Girls wasn’t driven by the fact that it was my first foray into writing under a pseudonym, and I was facing a brave new world of becoming someone else. And then there are the times when the life-imitating-art thing gets so twisted up in itself that it’s hard to tell which is which. Authors like to pretend that our inspirations come from a higher plane, but usually, in all truth, they’re Whatever Is Weighing on My Mind Right Now. And what was weighing on my mind as I started The Killer Next Door was the fact that Clyde’s drains were blocked.

I was thinking a lot, that summer, about Dennis Nilsen, one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers. I think if you’re British and live in a built-up area, Nilsen inevitably flits through your mind from time to time. Nilsen murdered twelve young men, possibly more, in two flats of which he was a tenant. The first had a garden, and ridding himself of the inconvenient evidence, once it became too corrupted even for him to keep around for company, was less of a problem for him there than it became after he was unwillingly moved to a top-floor flat. He’s far from the only serial killer to operate at close quarters with his neighbours, but for Londoners, particularly, he raises a shiver, because, while everyone wonders out loud how he got away with it for so long, a little bit of all of us knows exactly how.

I live in one of those enclaves of south London where the terraced houses consist of three apartments, one on top of the other, carved out of relatively modest Victorian brick buildings. Clyde, on the ground floor, has a little patch of garden up against the house. I, on the second floor, have a balcony, a staircase and the sunnier patch of garden away from it. Alessandro and Imogen, on top of us, have a little balcony with a lovely view of the Dickensian rooftops. The houses on either side are the same: fifteen or so of us, who manage to live completely on top of each other and maintain cordial relations while, most of the time, pretending that we are completely alone. It’s less a reflection of the standoffishness of Londoners than of a strange sort of courtesy. We all say hello when we’re out in the evenings, help each other out if help is needed, and some of the best friends of my life have come from this living arrangement, but you’d go mad if you didn’t just pretend.

But Clyde: it’s difficult to pretend that Clyde doesn’t exist, because – there’s no kind way of putting this – he stinks like old eggs frying in hell. Or his flat stinks, at least. He’s a nice enough man, a bit suspiciously muscular, but each to their own, and he never seems to stink when you meet him in the street. But oh, when he opens his windows, a fetid stench of old cooking oil, warm steroid-enhanced armpit and cheap air freshener explodes into the neighbourhood and all the windows around slam down. The smell is so bad it actually feels hotter than the air it’s replacing. I have been known, on bad days, to go to the shop and buy cigarettes to improve the air quality, holding my breath as I dash past his front door, which he often leaves standing open for ventilation. And I work in my bedroom, which overlooks the gardens.

Clyde’s habits began to bleed into the book. If I ever felt that I was flagging descriptively, losing the sense of oppressive suffocation that would come from sharing a house with a bunch of corpses in a heatwave, all I had to do was blow out my scented candle and inhale deeply through my nose. And yet, like a good Londoner, I never complained. I never have. He’s a nice guy, and otherwise a good neighbour. The tenants before were students who liked to party all night and, it being a non-smoking flat, would do so in the garden. The ones before him had prolonged rows, and eventually did a midnight flit leaving piles of unpaid bills and a stream of bailiffs knocking on our doors in error. I’d rather have Clyde than many neighbours. And he’s away a lot, which helps.

Halfway through the summer, his drains got blocked. Not, fortunately, the ones attached to the toilets, but the ones carrying the bathwater, the cooking water, the cleaning water down to the sewers. Every time someone had a shower, a puddle of greasy greyish gunge would bubble up onto his crazy paving and take an hour or more to drain away. I came down to his garden to do that thing the middle classes do when something to do with maintenance comes up: we stood side by side, scratching our heads. ‘How long’s it been doing this?’ I asked. ‘At least a couple of weeks,’ he said. ‘Didn’t you notice the smell?’

Nilsen was eventually unmasked because the drains at his own shared house got gunked up by adipose tissue from the dead young men whose corpses he was boiling, bit by bit, in a big pot on his two-ring stove. When the tenant downstairs told him that Dyno-Rod were consulting the police, he reacted by rushing up to Cricklewood High Street and buying a Bargain Bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He peeled off the secret recipe crispy coating and threw the flesh and bones down the manhole, in the hope that PC Plod would be fooled. PC Plod was not.

I thought about this while I gazed down at the small pile of grey-black gunk that Clyde had scooped from our own manhole and considered replying ‘no, I didn’t notice because you smell so bad on a day to day basis that there really isn’t much difference’. And of course I bottled it and offered to split the cost of rodding instead. After all, it’s the frying-pan scrapings of three flats going through that little pipe, and it only seemed fair.

‘Funnily enough,’ I said conversationally, as I began the process of hyperventilation that would see me back to my own front door, ‘I’m writing a book about all the people who were living in the house with Dennis Nilsen at the moment’.

Clyde looked at me blankly. Then he looked a nervous.

Pulp Prizes: PulpFest

Two prizes were awarded at PulpFest 2014 this past weekend.

J. Randolph Cox, a former editor-publisher of Dime Novel Round-Up and author of the bibliography Man of Magic & Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson, won the Munsey Award, “presented annually to a person who has worked for the betterment of the pulp community.”

J. Barry Traylor won the Rusty Award, “designed to recognize those individuals who have worked long and hard for the pulp community with little thought for individual recognition, it is meant to reward especially good works and is thus reserved for those individuals who are most deserving.”

HT: The Rap Sheet

Saturday, August 9, 2014


NED KELLY AWARDS SHORTLIST: Australian Crime Fiction. Winners will be announced in September at the Brisbane Writers Festival.


Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH


Candice Fox, HADES
Ellie Marney, EVERY BREATH


John Kidman & Denise Hofman, FOREVER NINE
Eleanor Learmonth & Jenny Tabakoff, NO MERCY


Louise Bassett, HOUSEWARMING
Darcy-Lee Tindale, THE SCARS OF NOIR
Roger Vickery, VOICES OF SOI 22
Emma Viskic, SPLINTER
Emma Viskic, WEB DESIGN

HT: Karen Chisholm

Photo of the Day: Bones

Saw this today while driving through the backroads of Sonoma County. Wonder if any are buried there.

Cartoon of the Day: Write What You Know

Friday, August 8, 2014

Lawrence Block: 1970s New York

Don't miss this great article about Lawrence Block on NPR. "Mystery Writer Evokes the Sights, Sound and Grime of 1970s New York."

Crime fiction writer Lawrence Block lives in New York's West Village, in a stately art deco building overlooking Abingdon Square. He bought an apartment there decades before actress Jennifer Aniston did. (She sold hers shortly thereafter.) Block is 76, silver-haired and keen-eyed; and in his pastel shirt and khakis, he looks decidedly more Hamptons than downtown.

Sitting on a park bench in Abingdon Square, Block points out a building on the corner that used to be a nursing home. Before gentrification, ambulances constantly rushed its inhabitants to St. Vincent's Hospital, sirens wailing. Now, both are multimillion-dollar condos.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

James Thompson: R.I.P.

Jim Thompson was an amazing writer of Finnish Noir. He died too soon. James Thompson was the author of the Inspector Vaara novels, including Helsinki Blood, Helsinki White, Lucifer's Tears, Snow Angels. His novel Snow Angels, the first book in his acclaimed Kari Vaara series, was one of Booklist’s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Critics awards. Kirkus selected Lucifer’s Tears, the second book in the series, as one of the best books of 2011.

Born in eastern Kentucky in 1964, he died unexpectedly a few days ago. He was an American-Finnish crime writer based in Lahti. He had a Master's degree in English philology from The University of Helsinki, where he also studied Finnish, in which he was fluent. American by birth, Thompson lived in Finland for fifteen years. He resided in Helsinki with his Finnish wife. In the past, Thompson worked as a bartender, bouncer, construction worker, and soldier.

Helsinki Noir will be published by Akashic Books November 2014. It is an anthology edited by Thompson and it includes one story he wrote. Helsinki Dead was scheduled for release later in 2014, but was unfinished at the time of his death.

Read Gareth Rice's moving tribute here.

Read an interview here. 

Spencer Quinn: Secrets of Chet and Bernie Revealed

Today I welcome back Spencer Quinn on the publication of his 7th Chet and Bernie mystery. Spencer Quinn is the pseudonmym of Massachusetts author Peter Abrahams, who has written literary thrillers such as Oblivion and Lights Out. His Chet and Bernie books, starting with 2009's Dog on It have brought him a whole new base of fans. In their latest adventure, Chet and his private-eye human head to Washington, D.C., for a case involving political corruption, an insidious international conspiracy and a menacing guinea pig named Barnum.

Spencer Quinn
Secrets of Chet and Bernie Revealed: 

I saw this sign somewhere recently: “If there are no dogs in heaven, I want to go where they go.”

Welcome to the world where dogs take center stage! I’m part of that world, although it happened pretty much by accident. One day my wife said, “You should do something with dogs.” Dogs have wandered in and out of many of my novels – there’s Buster in OBLIVION, for example, singled out for praise by the L.A. Times reviewer, but I was brought up never to descend to the level of mentioning my own reviews, so forget this part. The point is, I’d never written from the dog’s POV before, in fact, had almost never written in the first person. Yet somehow I knew right away – this is the fun kind of thing that can happen in the writing biz – that I wanted to write detective fiction through the eyes, and way more important, the ears and nose, of the detective’s dog. And this dog would not be a talking dog! Not a human dressed up in a dog suit! Not knowing and ironic! But a dog, a dog as canine as I could make him. Thus: Chet.

The Chet and Bernie novels are classic mysteries of the sidekick narration school, which goes all the way back to Conan Doyle. Plotting mysteries is a lot like solving real crimes: you sift through clues until a logical chain starts to reveal itself. Well, logical chains are not Chet’s thing. And even if they were, at the moment a logical clue was about to emerge he might sniff a cheeto under a couch and become instantly non-present. So – as I happily discovered not far into DOG ON IT, first in the series – Chet turned out to be an unreliable narrator, big time. To marry the unreliable narrator to the traditional mystery is exciting, fun, and challenging, which keeps things interesting for the writer. That’s important: There’s no faking interest, as readers of series that have gone dead in midstream well know.

PAW AND ORDER is the seventh book in the series, and second on a dangerous road trip Chet and Bernie have taken, away from their home territory out west – actually Arizona, a fact Chet finally picked up in THE SOUND AND THE FURRY, book six. People often ask if the series should be read in any particular order. That is not a question Chet would ever ask! He’s the type who just dives in. You’re welcome to do likewise!

The Chet and Bernie novels are not cozies. There’s darkness and suffering. Chet goes through some harsh and difficult things. But – and I noticed this more as a reader than a writer – he bounces back to his reset position pretty quickly. His reset position is one of optimism and joie de vie. I myself am not a quick bouncer back, but here’s a strange thing: since Chet came along, I find myself copying him in this regard. How strange that a figment of your own imagination could change you! Chet’s sunny disposition has struck many readers, by the way, and the most rewarding thing about the series for me are the emails and comments I get about how these books have brightened some lives. I never set out to do that. It’s humbling.

Readers at signings often ask about my approach to research. So now I’d like to introduce my crack research team: Audrey on the left, Pearl on the right. Plus here’s Willow, an intern just added to the west coast office, under the direction of one of my daughters. They do sleep on the job quite a bit, but they’ve never steered me wrong, and they work for chew strips and pats. If there’s a better business plan than mine, let me know.