Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It’s Double Owls This Year

Authors Chelsea Cain and Johnny Shaw are the joint winners of this year’s Spotted Owl Award. This commendation is presented by the Portland, Oregon-based Friends of Mystery group to celebrate mystery novels by authors living in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington).

Cain receives her prize specifically for One Kick (Simon & Schuster), published last year, while it’s Shaw’s Plaster City (Thomas & Mercere) that earned him the same honor.

There were nine runners-up for the 2015 Spotted Owl were: Crooked River, by Valerie Geary (Morrow); Cold Storage, Alaska, by John Straley (Soho Crime); Identity, by Ingrid Thoft (Putnam); The Ascendant, by Drew Chapman (Simon & Schuster); Chump Change, by G.M. Ford (Thomas & Mercer); My Sister’s Grave, by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer); Dead Float, by Warren Easley (Poisoned Pen Press); House Reckoning, by Mike Lawson (Atlantic Monthly Press); and Street Justice, by Kris Nelscott (WMG).

Congratulations to all of the contenders.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bouchercon Procrastinators, Repent!

The deadline for sending in your ballots is only five days away.

Anyone who attended Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, or who has registered for Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina, should have received--via e-mail--a personal link to an online ballot, inviting you to nominate books and stories in six Anthony Awards categories. If you’re eligible to vote, but have not received your ballot, promptly e-mail B.G. Ritts with your name and the information of whether you were at Long Beach or have registered for the Raleigh convention.

These ballots must be returned electronically by this coming Thursday, April 30. The top five candidates in each category will be announced after May 1, and the Anthonys are to be presented during a ceremony in Raleigh on Saturday, October 10.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Story Behind the Story:
“The Word,” by Hubert Crouch

(Editor’s note: This 57th entry in our “Story Behind the Story” series introduces to The Rap Sheet Hubert Crouch, a veteran trial lawyer practicing in Dallas, Texas. He’s the author now of two legal thrillers, the latest being The Word, which was released earlier this month--in print and e-book versions--by Serpentine Books.)

Having been a trial lawyer for a number of years, I’ve handled cases that are a testament to the old adage that “fact is stranger than fiction.” A macabre grave robbery was the impetus for one of the more bizarre cases I handled, and served as the inspiration for my first novel, Cried for No One (2013). Critics and readers alike said they loved that book and wanted to see more of its hard-charging trial lawyer, Jace Forman, his resourceful paralegal, Darrin McKenzie, savvy police detective Jackie McLaughlin, and up-and-coming journalist Leah Rosen. Gratified, I began writing the sequel.

While I had always planned on penning a trilogy of novels featuring these characters, I had not decided on a central theme for the second book. It was during the course of teaching Free Speech and the First Amendment to undergraduates at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, that the theme finally began to form. One of the cases we examined in class was Snyder v. Phelps. The Snyder case addressed the question of whether a religious group had the First Amendment right to protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers. The United States Supreme Court held that it did. The Court’s decision was hotly debated in my class: Did the Court correctly balance the right of a family burying a loved one with the right of a religious sect to voice its views?

With the Snyder case in mind, I thought back on a wedding I had attended several years prior. During the ceremony the presiding minister emphasized the importance of the bride being submissive to her husband. He based his lesson on Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV): “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also should wives submit in everything to their husbands.”

That message troubled me. Why should a woman be submissive to her husband? Shouldn’t husband and wife be equal partners in the commitment they are solemnly undertaking? Does scripture mandate unquestioning obedience from the wife even if she genuinely believes her husband is morally or legally wrong?

The passage raised an even more fundamental issue for me. Don’t we have the obligation to read and carefully consider what we profess to believe? So, with study guides in hand, I did something I had never done before–I read the Bible from beginning to end. And what a rewarding, enlightening and, at times, confusing journey it was! In considering the differing interpretations that have been given to identical verses by scholars, rabbis, priests, and ministers over time, I often wondered whether anyone had the “true” answers as to what certain passages in the Bible actually meant. No doubt, many have professed with unwavering conviction to know the true--and only--meanings. But do they really? These musings spawned one of the central figures in my second Jace Forman novel--a self-assured, narcissistic “prophet” who leads his followers on a misdirected, pain-inflicting odyssey.

The importance of this central theme has recently been graphically spotlighted by current events--most recently, the atrocities committed by ISIS and the senseless murders of political satirists in Paris. How could any so-called religious belief require the beheading of human beings? What religious justification could there be for the gruesome executions of unarmed journalists/cartoonists?

The perversion of religion is nothing new. It has occurred time after time, century after century--charismatic, power-hungry individuals preaching intolerant, judgmental doctrines that fit their purposes. Their messages all have a common commandment: follow my rules and teachings lest you be doomed to eternal damnation or, more immediately, lose your head (literally). Unquestioning obedience to another’s agenda--whether it be a movement, a religion, or a person can lead down a dangerous path with dire consequences--a path I explore in my new, second book, The Word.

(Left) Author Hubert Crouch

Intertwined with religion and freedom of speech, women’s rights are a central focus of The Word. My interest in women’s rights was piqued in the late 1960s and early ’70s as I watched demonstrations staged by Gloria Steinem and others. At the time, it was more abstract than personal. But that changed in my last year of law school. One of my close friends and study partners graduated number one in our class and yet received a cold shoulder from premier law firms when applying for employment. Why? There could only be one answer--my friend was a woman. Rather than accept this inequity, she and several of my other female classmates filed suit, and a settlement was reached with the firms in question, opening the doors of opportunity for countless female law students who graduated in the years after. I’ve dedicated The Word to their courage and convictions.

So, what’s The Word about? Self-proclaimed prophet Ezekiel Shaw and his fanatical followers travel the country staging protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers. But when they disrupt the funeral of Second Lieutenant Lauren Hanson, a West Point graduate killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, they find themselves being relentlessly pursued through the courts by Fort Worth trial attorney Jace Forman, who is determined to put an end to their crazed crusade, no matter the cost.

Kirkus Reviews remarks that “the pages all but turn themselves as each scene builds on the next,” and calls the novel “a topical, lively legal thriller.” Meanwhile, the book review Web site Readers’ Choice warned readers, “Be ready for a wild ride! … Corruption, greed, and danger criss-cross with the pursuit of honesty and truth for a page-turning, action packed story. ... The writing is high caliber and the story is engaging and realistic, with memorable characters. Top notch.”

I wanted to write a novel that was exciting as well as provocative. Based upon these early reviews, it seems I’ve accomplished that goal.

Championing Canadian Crime

Crime Writers of Canada has announced its shortlist of nominees for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Awards. These prizes highlight “excellence in Canadian crime writing.” Winners will be announced on May 28 during a “gala” affair at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto.

Best Novel:
Cold Mourning, by Brenda Chapman (Dundurn Press)
None So Blind, by Barbara Fradkin (Dundurn Press)
Plague, by C.C. Humphreys (Doubleday Canada)
No Known Grave, by Maureen Jennings (McClelland & Stewart)
Killing Pilgrim, by Alen Mattich (House of Anansi)

Best First Novel:
A Quiet Kill, by Janet Brons (Touchwood)
Siege of Bitterns, by Steve Burrows (Dundurn Press)
Windigo Fire, by M.H. Callway (Seraphim)
No Worst, There Is None, by Eve McBride (Dundurn Press)
Last of the Independents, by Sam Wiebe (Dundurn Press)

Best Novella:
The Boom Room, by Rick Blechta (Orca)
Juba Good, by Vicki Delany (Orca)
The Dragon Head of Hong Kong, by Ian Hamilton (House of Anansi)
A Knock on the Door, by Jas. R. Petrin (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2014)

Best Short Story:
Stone Mattress,” by Margaret Atwood (from Stone Mattress: Nine Stories, by Margaret Atwood; McClelland & Stewart)
Hook, Line and Sinker,” by Melodie Campbell (NorthWord)
Therapy,” by Peter Clement (Belgrave House)
First Impressions,” by Madona Skaff (from The Whole She-Bang 2: 24 Stories by Sisters in Crime Canada, edited by Janet Costello; Toronto Sisters in Crime)
Writers Block,” by Kevin P. Thornton (from World Enough and Crime, edited by Donna Carrick; Carrick Publishing) 

Best Book in French:
Jack: Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, by Hervé Gagnon (Expression noir/Groupe librex)
Bondrée, by Andrée Michaud (Editions Québec Amérique)
Meurtre à l’hôtel Despréaux, by Maryse Rouy (Édition Druide)
Repentirs, by Richard Ste Marie (Alire)

Best Juvenile/Young Adult Book:
Face-Off, by Michael Betcherman (Penguin Canada)
Dead Man’s Switch, by Sigmund Brouwer (Harvest House)
The Voice Inside My Head, by S.J. Laidlaw (Tundra)
About That Night, by Norah McClintock (Orca)
The Bodies We Wear, by Jeyn Roberts (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Best Non-fiction Book:
Being Uncle Charlie, by Bob Deasy, with Mark Ebner (Penguin Random House)
The Massey Murder, by Charlotte Gray (HarperCollins)
Innocence on Trial: The Framing of Ivan Henry, by Joan McEwen (Heritage House)
Life Real Loud: John Lefebvre, Neteller, and the Revolution in Online Gambling, by Bill Reynolds (ECW Press)
Extreme Mean, by Paula Todd (McClelland & Stewart)

Unhanged Arthur (for best unpublished first crime novel):
Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred
Full Curl, by Dave Butler
Crisis Point, by Dwayne Clayden
Afghan Redemption, by Bill Prentice
Strange Things Done, by Elle Wild

In addition, Sylvia McConnell has been given the 2015 Derrick Murdoch Award, with this explanation: “In 1998, Sylvia McConnell began RendezVous Crime, a publishing house with the mandate to publish crime novels written by Canadians set in Canada. Over the next thirteen years she published 80 works of crime fiction, many of which were nominated for or won prestigious awards. For her belief in the value of Canadians telling Canadian stories, for her encouragement of new Canadian authors, and for her recognition of talent with staying power, she was given the Derrick Murdoch Award.”

And Crime Writers of Canada is creating a new Lou Allin Memorial Award, named in honor of Canadian mystery writer Allin, who died last July at age 69. “Lou was a board member of CWC, a co-chair of the 2011 Bloody Words Conference, an award-winning writer, and a mentor to many. This award is particularly fitting, as she was the winner of the first Arthur Ellis Novella Award.”

* * *

Last but not least, I somehow missed seeing the recent news about this year’s two winners of the Pinckley Prize for Achievement in Crime Fiction. Nevada Barr, known for her novels about crimes in U.S. national parks, has won the first Pinckley for her body of work, while Adrianne Harun has picked up the second for her 2014 debut novel, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain (Penguin).

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bullet Points: Break from Earth Day Edition

I don’t usually post crime-fiction news wrap-ups in such quick succession, but since last Friday’s batch of “Bullet Points,” there seem to have been quite a number of developments worth mentioning in some manner, no matter how briefly.

• Yesterday seemed to be full of notices about a new online resource called The Life Sentence, which promises to become “the destination sophisticated crime fiction/noir fans go to for reviews and stimulating criticism.” Lisa Levy, formerly the noir and mystery editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, is this new site’s editor in chief, while the editor’s seat is held by Faith Black Ross, previously an editor with the Berkley Publishing Group. The contents thus far range from an interview with Laura Lippman and an overview of Thomas Perry’s thrillers to a critique of Ted Lewis’ 1980 “masterwork,” GBH, and a piece about “falafal noir” (aka Middle Eastern crime writing). The site’s editorial board is packed with important names, including those of Megan Abbott, Jonathan Lethem, Sarah Weinman, Art Taylor, and Michael Koryta, so Levy & Co. have clearly set The Life Sentence up to be A Big Deal. To keep an eye on its development, subscribe to its newsletter, The Verdict. I’ve added The Life Sentence to The Rap Sheet’s blogroll, and will be checking back for new contents.

• In February, I mentioned on this page that I’d been asked by a Wall Street Journal writer about my interest in collecting the main title sequences for older TV crime dramas--the basis for The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page. At the time I told him there were a few such introductions I had still not found, including one for the 1973-1974 NBC cop drama Chase, starring Mitchell Ryan. Well, thanks to author Lee Goldberg, who shares my obsession with these classic small-screen openings, I’ve finally added the Chase intro to my collection:



• Cable-TV network HBO is still a month away from the second-season debut of True Detective (mark your calendars for Sunday, June 21!), but it recently made a teaser video available and today released three (slightly) animated posters promoting TD’s return.

The Bookseller reports that two new TV dramas based on UK author Mark Billingham’s crime fiction are in the works at the BBC: “The first series will be based on Billingham’s 2008 novel, In the Dark (Sphere), and the second is based on his new novel being published this Thursday (23rd April), Time of Death (Little, Brown). BBC Drama North is adapting both books. Filming will begin early next year and both series will launch in autumn 2016. No casting details have been revealed yet.”

From In Reference to Murder: “Author Jeanne Matthews takes note of a mystery author who may soon receive canonization by The Catholic Church. The process is underway of deciding whether to bestow sainthood on G.K. Chesterton, who, among other ecclesiastical works, created the Father Brown mystery series. It doesn’t hurt that Pope Francis is apparently a long-time fan of the author’s novels.”

• Max Allan Collins is the focus of this delightful new video entry in Amazon’s Kindle Most Wanted series. The prolific Iowa author talks about his love of comics, his years of writing the Dick Tracy comic strip, his “legacy work” on the Nathan Heller private-eye series, the comic mystery novels he composes with his wife, the U.S. government-focused thrillers he’s writing for Thomas & Mercer, and much more.

• While we’re on the subject of Max Allan Collins (and don’t we often seem to be?), note that publisher Hard Case Crime today announced that, with the new Cinemax TV series Quarry, based on his hit-man series of novels, currently in production in New Orleans, it “will publish brand new editions of Collins’ five original Quarry novels--the first editions to appear in stores in almost 30 years. The five books--Quarry, Quarry’s List, Quarry’s Deal, Quarry’s Cut, and Quarry’s Vote--will all feature cover paintings by legendary illustrator Robert McGinnis.” Those new editions are due out in October.

• Crime Fiction Lover recommends 10 Latin American crime novelists whose work we all ought to try, including Claudia Piñeiro, Ernesto Mallo (check), Juan Gabriel Vasquez, and Leonardo Padura (check).

• The Minnesota Book Award doesn’t have a crime-fiction category, but it does honor a Best Genre Fiction winner. And last weekend that prize went to Julie Klassen for The Secret of Pembrooke Park.

• Emma Myers has a thoughtful piece in The Dissolve that looks at Humphrey Bogart’s posthumous film roles and portrayals. “Overindulging in noir conventions,” she concludes, “the post-Bogart comedies merely set out to remind viewers of a world that was once filled with dames and bourbon, quixotic ideals, and perpetually wet pavement. This world no longer exists, and perhaps it never really did. No man will ever really be a Humphrey Bogart character. But while we can’t help but move relentlessly forward, all we want to do is look back and have him play it again.”

• Scottish author Malcolm Mackay, the author of three much-heralded thrillers--his Glasgow Trilogy--is Nancie Clare’s latest guest on her Speaking of Mysteries podcast.

• I already featured one trailer for the forthcoming film Mr. Holmes on this page, but Mystery Fanfare now brings us a second. I must say, I’m looking forward to Ian McKellan’s turn as an aged Holmes, in a story based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind.

• Bad news from The Gumshoe Site.Charlene Weir (rhymes with cheer) died on April 4 in El Cerrito, California. The former nurse started writing after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Before winning the St. Martin’s Malice Domestic contest for The Winter Widow (St. Martin, 1992), introducing Susan Wren, police chief in Hampstead, Kansas, she contributed several stories for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. The seventh Wren novel, Edge of Midnight (St. Martin’s, 2007), is her most recent book. She was 77.” Mystery Fanfare offers more.

• Fans of Lovejoy, the classic BBC-TV comedy-drama based on Jonathan Gash’s novels and starring Ian McShane (later to do such a fine turn in Deadwood), will want to watch for the complete series release coming from Acorn Media on June 16.

• And this is weird news. According to the Los Angeles Times, 84-year-old Seattle-area true-crime writer Ann Rule “is in poor health and ‘on oxygen at all times,’” and her two sons, Michael and Andrew Rule, “have been charged with theft and forgery after authorities say they stole more than $100,000 from their mother … Prosecutors have set an April 30 arraignment date for the Rule brothers, who have been released on their own recognizance.” More here.

Britain, Canada Announce Prize Rivals

Thanks to Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare, we now have the shortlists of nominees for four annual awards to be handed out on Saturday, May 16, as part of this year’s CrimeFest convention in Bristol, England.

The Audible Sounds of Crime Award
(for the best unabridged crime audiobook first published in the UK in 2014 in both printed and audio formats):
Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovitch; read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Orion)
Personal, by Lee Child; read by Jeff Harding (Penguin)
The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling); read by Robert Glenister (Little, Brown)
Moriarty, by Anthony Horowitz; read by Derek Jacobi and Julian Rhind-Tutt (Orion)
Want You Dead, by Peter James; read by Daniel Weyman (Macmillan)
Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King; read by Will Patton
(Hodder & Stoughton)
The Son, by Jo Nesbø; read by Sean Barrett (Penguin)
The Hangman’s Song, by James Oswald; read by Ian Hanmore (Penguin)

E-Dunnit Award
(for the best crime fiction e-book first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the British Isles in 2014):
No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay (Orion)
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, by Lawrence Block (Orion)
A Colder War, by Charles Cumming (HarperCollins)
Dark Tides, by Chris Ewan (Faber & Faber)
Natchez Burning, by Greg Illes (HarperCollins)
Hollow Mountain, by Thomas Mogford (Bloomsbury)
Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Thomas Sweterlitsch (Headline)
The Silent Boy, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)

The Goldsboro Last Laugh Award
(for the best humorous crime novel first published in the British Isles in 2014):
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, by Lawrence Block (Orion)
Crime Always Pays, by Declan Burke (Severn House)
Bryant & May: The Bleeding Heart, by Christopher Fowler (Bantam)
Kill Your Boss, by Shane Kuhn (Little, Brown)
The Accident, by Chris Pavone (Faber & Faber)
Crooked Herring, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)

The H.R.F. Keating Award
(for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction first published in the British Isles between 2013 and 2014):
Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction, by Pamela Bedore (Palgrave)
Late Victorian Crime Fiction in the Shadows of Sherlock, by Clare Clarke (Palgrave)
Nordic Noir, by Barry Forshaw (Pocket Essentials)
Euro Noir, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)
Crime Scene: Britain & Ireland, by John Martin (Five Leaves)
A Very British Murder, by Lucy Worsley (BBC Books)

* * *

Meanwhile, we also have the five contenders for this year’s Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery. They are:

The Corpse with the Platinum Hair, by Cathy Ace (Touchwood)
Many Unpleasant Returns, by Judith Alguire (Signature)
Seeing the Light, by E.C. Bell (Tyche)
Night of the Living Thread, by Janet Bolin (Berkley Prime Crime)
The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish, by Allan Stratton
(Dundurn Press)

A winner will be announced on May 29 during the Bony Blithe Bash at The Hot House Restaurant in Toronto, Ontario.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

“Dry Bones” Kills in L.A.

Pennsylvania author Tom Bouman has been awarded the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category for his novel, Dry Bones in the Valley (Norton). His was one of several commendations handed out this evening during the Times Festival of Books, held on the University of Southern California campus.

This year’s other Mystery/Thriller nominees were: The Painter, by Peter Heller (Knopf); After I’m Gone, by Laura Lippman (Morrow); Sins of Our Fathers, by Shawn Lawrence Otto (Milkweed); and The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, by Peter Swanson (Morrow).

You’ll find the complete list of tonight’s prize winners here.

READ: MORE:L.A. Times Festival of Books 2015,” by Jeri Westerson (Getting Medieval).

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bullet Points: Something for Everyone Edition

Every Secret Thing, the film based on Laura Lippman’s 2004 standalone novel of that same name, debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and is being prepared for a nationwide release on May 15. But until today, I hadn’t spotted a trailer for this picture starring Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, and Diane Lane. Click here to see the preview in Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare blog.

• The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books begins tomorrow on the University of Southern California campus and continues through Sunday. If I lived in L.A., I’d be present for all the festivities, especially since they’re free to the public. But at least I can report on the 2015 Times Book Prize competition, the winners of which will be announced on Saturday night. Here are the five contestants in the Mystery/Thriller category; a list of all the nominees is here.

• Earlier this week I was paging through The Seattle Times, when I happened onto this front-page story about Roy Price, the 47-year-old vice president of Amazon Studios, which you’ll know is behind the Michael Connelly-created crime drama Bosch (covered here and here). What most interested me, though, was this sentence: “His grandfather, Roy Huggins, was a legendary television writer who created such classic series as Maverick, The Fugitive, and The Rockford Files.” Holy crap! I’ve long been a fan of Huggins’ work, both his television projects and his early endeavors as a novelist. I didn’t know I was living in the same city--Seattle--where his grandson can often be found laboring over a desk. I might have to come up with some way to interview Price in the very near future …

• I need the first volume mentioned in this Bookgasm review!

• Bouchercon organizers announced on their Facebook page that they’ve chosen a “brand-new logo for Bouchercon National! Each year--including 2015 in Raleigh--will still have their own logo, but this one will cover the organization as a whole.” I’ve embedded that new artwork on the left.

• As somebody who was very fond of British author Paul Johnston’s series of near-future-set thrillers starring Edinburgh senior cop-turned-private eye Quintilian Dalrymple (last seen in 2001’s The House of Dust), it’s pretty exciting to know the author is returning with a new, sixth installment of that series, Head or Hearts, out this month in the UK from Severn House and due in U.S. stores come July. Euro Crime has posted a synopsis of the new yarn.

• By the way, if you haven’t read Ali Karim’s 2003 interview with Paul Johnston, in which they talk about the Quint books, do so now.

• I never owned a Pet Rock, but I do remember when those low-commitment companions first rolled onto the market in the mid-1970s. So I was saddened to hear that Gary Dahl, the creator of the Pet Rock fad (which Newsweek called “one of the most ridiculously successful marketing schemes ever”) died recently at age 78.

• Over in the Killer Covers blog, we have posted a look back at the “sexpionage” novels of Ted Mark, published mostly during the 1960s and ’70s, as well as the latest entry in our still-new “Friday Finds” series, which highlights “context-free covers we love.” Today’s pick: The Flesh and Mr. Rawlie (1963).

• Back in February, I mentioned that the blog Criminal Element was launching a regular short-story competition called “The M.O.” The initial deadline for tales was March 6 and the theme for all submissions was “Long Gone.” Readers of Criminal Element were asked to vote for their favorite entries. Today the blog has posted the winner of its first “M.O.” contest, “Fix Me,” by Los Angeles “writer and drummer” S.W. Lauden. According to its schedule, Criminal Element will announce its next short-story contest--with a new theme--on May 1.

Honey West star Anne Francis melted hearts looking like this.

• MSNBC-TV host Rachel Maddow did an excellent interview last night with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), during which they talked about Reid’s long political history, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “historic candidacy” for president of the United States in 2016, and the current Republican leadership in Congress (“I think they’ve been absolute failures”). You can now watch it all here.

These are some of the most spectacular aerial shots ever! They come from a Web site called AirPano, where you can find still more breathtaking photos. Copy them to your computer now!

• California author J. Sydney Jones has made an excellent reputation for himself over the last half-dozen years penning mystery novels set in early 20th-century Vienna. However his new release, Basic Law (Severn House)--the first entry in a trilogy--is a more contemporary thriller featuring “expat American journalist Sam Kramer.” To better acquaint readers with Kramer, he’s just posted “Body Blows,” a short story featuring the same protagonist.

• Author Declan Burke recently introduced me to a new blog called Crime Fiction Ireland, which he says “pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. Edited by Lucy Dalton, the blog covers crime and mystery fiction of all hues, TV and film, provides author profiles and a ‘What’s On’ slot, and also offers a Short Fiction selection.” I’ve added Crime Fiction Ireland to The Rap Sheet’s selection of links.

• I haven’t yet seen any notices about PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! umbrella series picking up the concluding three-episode season of Foyle’s War, the wonderful Michael Kitchen/Honeysuckle Weeks period drama from British broadcaster ITV that debuted in 2002. That last season began showing in the UK back in January, and is available to people who subscribe to the online viewing service Acorn Media. (You’ll find all Foyle’s War episodes here.) National Public Radio’s John Powers posted a fine wrap-up of Foyle’s final run here, and you can purchase a DVD set of the series’ last three eps here. But for Americans like me who prefer to watch Kitchen’s show on Masterpiece for free, all of this just adds up to a painful reminder of what we’re missing. C’mon, PBS, step up and add this one last Foyle’s War run to your summer 2015 schedule!

Here’s one reason why you can’t trust amateur online reviews.

• Finally, my old friend Matthew, who has spent years talking up Sinbad and Me, the 1966 adventure/mystery novel for children by Kin Platt (author of the Max Roper detective series), reports that the book is back in print this month after being commercially unavailable for decades. Sinbad and Me captured the 1967 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery Fiction. The new edition is available from Amazon in both hardcover and paperback, but Matthew--who shares my adoration for books--asked me to “encourage your readers to order from their local independent bookseller.” I can’t but endorse that suggestion. Amazon, for all the purchasing advantages it offers, has proved to be a killer of small neighborhood stores, whether they sell books or other goods. I provide links from The Rap Sheet to Amazon pages, but that’s simply for the convenience of my readers. I always try to buy from independent bookstores. And you should too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Artistic Star Fades Out

Rudy Nappi, a New York-born illustrator renowned for his pulpish paperback fronts of the mid- to late-20th century, died last month in his early 90s. I’ve posted a piece--complete with examples of Nappi’s work and links to many more--in the Killer Covers blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Brady’s Path from Newsie to Novelist

Irish former newspaper editor Conor Brady’s story of getting his first novel into print is pretty much guaranteed to stir jealousy among other writers who’ve spent long years arduously toiling over their manuscripts, fighting uncooperative scenes down to the mat and polishing their prose to a blinding sheen before they could convince an editor to so much as notice their work--and not promptly reject it.

“I really put it together over a period of, I suppose, two or three years, maybe,” Brady told the Irish online magazine Writing.ie. “I didn’t sit down at nine o’clock every morning and say, ‘I’m going to do this now until lunchtime,’ or something. What I did was, I did it weekends, take your laptop on an airplane with you, do a bit on holidays. And before I knew it, I had a story and I had a plot and I had characters. And I didn’t quite know what to do with them.” A friend pointed him at Dublin publisher New Island, which quickly agreed to take on Brady’s yarn, and then after several months of reshaping and editing the work (“because it was a first draft, and rather scrappy and rather untidy in many ways”), it was finally fed into the pipeline for release. That novel, a densely composed and captivating mystery set in 1887 Dublin, titled A June of Ordinary Murders--the first installment in a new series starring Detective Sergeant Joseph Swallow of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP)--reached bookstores in Ireland back in 2012. But only now is it set to be published in America by Minotaur Books.

Brady had an advantage on most first-time novelists: he’d spent a decade and a half as editor of The Irish Times in Dublin, and was well known for his knowledge of Ireland’s policing history. Nonetheless, A June of Ordinary Murders ultimately had to win over readers and critics alike, as it seems to have done. Declan Burke, writing in Brady’s old broadsheet, opined that this author “weaves a police procedural that does full justice to the complex nature of the social, political, and criminal labyrinth that was Dublin in the summer of 1887. He paints a vivid picture of the city as it bakes beneath the unrelenting sun, employing Joe Swallow’s sharp eye and the character’s ambitions as an amateur painter to deftly sketch both its landmarks and its less salubrious corners.” Kirkus Reviews adds, “Brady’s powerful first mystery novel is evocative of the period. The many aspects of life in 19th-century Dublin are cleverly woven through a baffling mystery.”

With today’s posting of my latest column for Kirkus, I add my voice to this mix. Here’s my brief sketch of Ordinary Murders’ opening:
… Brady summons members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) to Phoenix Park, an expansive walled reserve west of the town center, to look into a discovery of two corpses. The deceased appear to be a slightly built man wearing attire of “indifferent quality,” and a boy “perhaps 8 or 9 years old.” Neither victim bears any sort of identification, but both have been shot, and the elder casualty’s face is horribly mutilated, which will make it still more difficult to put a name to him. This isn’t exactly a favorable beginning for a murder inquiry, but Det. Sgt. Joseph Swallow--who, at 42, has already spent more than two decades with the city’s constabulary--figures he can get a decent launch on things with help from Dr. Henry Lafeyre, Dublin’s forensic examiner and a former medical officer who served with a mounted police unit in South Africa. (Lafeyre calls himself “a copper with a stethoscope.”)
After consuming A June of Ordinary Murders at a rather breakneck pace, I contacted Conor Brady’s publisher and requested an interview with him. Some of the author’s thoughtful responses to my e-mailed questions managed to find homes in today’s Kirkus column, but, sadly, most didn’t fit. So I am presenting our complete exchange below, which covers Brady’s journalism career, his family’s law-enforcement connections, his research into Dublin’s Victorian era, and what challenges he next has in store for Joe Swallow.

J. Kingston Pierce: Where were you born?

Conor Brady: In Dublin, in 1949. But that was a technicality. My parents were living in Tullamore, a county town in the Irish midlands. It’s famous as the home of Tullamore Dew, the mellow whiskey beloved of Joe Swallow. My mother wasn’t a young mum. She was 43. I had two older sisters, but they had left home by the time I was born. So it was decided she should go to the National Maternity Hospital in the capital to see me into the world. My father was the superintendent of police in the midlands area.

(Left) Author Conor Brady. Photo by Bryan Meade.

JKP: And what were your growing-up years like? What are your fondest and most horrifying memories of boyhood?

CB: Contrary to many Irish childhood memories, mine are the happiest. I grew up secure in a loving home. My memories are of warm summer days with my friends at the town swimming pool, of walking country fields with my Irish Terrier, “Rusty,” and of playing golf with my mother, Amy.

My most horrifying memory is the death of my father when I was 13. He had had a number of small strokes, but I never thought he would die. I remember the screaming of my mother in the garden that night when her friend, our local doctor, came to tell her that her beloved husband was gone.

JKP: So how did you wind up in journalism?

CB: After my father’s death I went to boarding school at Roscrea College [in County Tipperary]. It was run by the monks of the Cistercian order, or Trappists. It was a very positive experience and I was very happy there. It’s still operating with 180 students. It’s set in beautiful farmland and there are still 15 monks in the community. There was a student newspaper in the school and I got involved and I loved the buzz of it all. Later at University College Dublin, I got involved with the student newspaper, Campus UCD News, and was editor in my second year. These were exciting times for student journalism. We’re talking the 1960s with student power on the move in the U.S., in Europe, and even in Ireland.

JKP: Am I correct that you later went on to spend more than a decade and a half as editor of The Irish Times?

CB: I did 16 years as editor and a previous 14 years in a variety of roles, from reporter on the streets of Belfast, to covering the war in Rhodesia, to night editor, to features editor, to deputy editor. I was exposed to every aspect of newspaper journalism, plus a couple of stints on radio and TV.

JKP: Before you went to the Times, what sorts of other post-college journalism jobs did you hold?

CB: I did four years at The Irish Times after graduating from college. Then I left to edit the Garda Review, the monthly magazine of the Irish police. I went from there to RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, where I worked on a prime-time news program as a reporter/presenter. Then I edited a broadsheet Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Tribune.

JKP: What would you say now was your principal accomplishment as editor of The Irish Times?

CB: Undoubtedly, our support for the peace process in Northern Ireland. We committed the paper to the search for a solution that would eschew violence. Some Irish media were very skeptical of the peace process to the point of hostility. I put the weight of The Irish Times behind the peacemakers. I’ll always be glad I did.

JKP: It sounds as if your later years at the Times were fraught with financial problems and staff layoffs. Were those the cause of your departure from the paper, or were there additional factors involved?

CB: Not really. I had stayed longer than I intended anyway. I had already told my senior staff that my editorship was coming to an end. And I stayed to see a restructuring in place that involved quite a few voluntary redundancies and so on. I thought it best that I should do those things, leaving my successor as editor to make a fresh, clean start. The problem was top-fold. The organization had become rather bloated, and not just the editorial departments. Too many time-servers and too much feather-bedding. Then the mini-recession of post-9/11 struck and revenues dropped.

JKP: Had you been thinking about becoming a fiction writer before you left the newspaper, or did you only decide upon that future after you were out of work?

CB: I didn’t start writing the Joe Swallow stories until I was perhaps 10, 12 years out of The Irish Times. I did a few things in the interim, including two years as a visiting professor at John Jay College [of Criminal Justice], City University of New York. But the challenge of creative writing was always there, lurking under the surface of a dull, stilted newsman’s prose.

JKP: So tell me: What was the hardest thing about transitioning from writing non-fiction to penning fiction?

CB: That’s a really penetrating question. News journalists are conditioned to being factual, detailed, and detached. Or at least they should be. Creative writing requires quite different impulses and talents. And I found that the former skills-set militated against the latter. I had tried to put too much detail in and I found that I simply had to pull most of it out again in order to achieve the free-flowing narrative one needs for a novel.

JKP: It sounds, though, as if your research talents came in handy.

CB: Researching this period of Irish history and Irish society is relatively easy. This was the new era of the newspaper industry, with big circulation numbers. Reporters covered everything from the police courts to society weddings. So the raw material is all there in the newspaper archives.

JKP: What was it that made you choose 1887 as your time-frame for A June of Ordinary Murders? Were you attracted primarily by Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee?

CB: The Jubilee became the focus for extraordinary political tension in Ireland. Those loyal to Britain wanted to celebrate, while those who believed in Irish nationalism opposed any acknowledgment of Victoria's long reign. She had sat on the throne while the Great Famine ravaged the country. A million died and two million were driven out by hunger to America, Britain, Australia, and elsewhere.

Detective Joe Swallow’s usual haunt: Dublin Castle’s Lower Yard, as it appeared in the late 19th century.

JKP: While conducting your research for Ordinary Murders, what was the most unusual thing you learned about life in Dublin or Ireland during the 1880s?

CB: Probably the extent to which alcohol played a part in the lives of working people. There were very few comforts other than drink, so when anybody had a few shillings to spare they generally invested in the oblivion of alcohol.

JKP: You make it sound in your book as if the Dublin Metropolitan Police force was rampant with divisions between the Catholic Irish officers and their Protestant English superiors. I kept expecting there to be more fireworks as a result of those differences. But was 1887 still too early for such disparities to become a problem?

CB: The tensions were there. But as in any disciplined force they were generally kept in check. The rank-and-file Catholic members did feel themselves cut off from the higher ranks. John Mallon, Swallow’s boss, was a real-life character. He was the exception that proved the rule. The son of a Catholic farmer from County Armagh, he went on to head the detective division—G Division—and attained the rank of assistant commissioner.

JKP: You published a book in 2000 titled Guardians of the Peace, a history of Irish policing from the 1920s onward. How did law enforcement in Ireland change from Swallow’s time to the Jazz Age?

CB: The changes were significant at one level, but minimal at another. Regime change is often accompanied by changes in visible, outward symbols of authority such as policing arrangements. So the government of the new Irish state in 1922 decided to disband the old Royal Irish Constabulary [RIC] and replace it with a new force, the Garda Síochána or “Guardians of the Peace.” It operated as an unarmed force. Dublin’s separate police force, the Dublin Metropolitan Police, continued until 1925 but was then amalgamated with the Garda. Outwardly, this was all new. But it was essentially the same administrative model as before, with a police chief appointed by government and accountable to central authority. This was quite different to the system in Britain where police forces were locally accountable.

JKP: What’s this I hear about your grandfather having been a copper? Is that how your interest in the history of Irish policing began?

CB: My grandfather, William Brady, was in the RIC. But he died 35 years before I was born, so I know very little about him. His record shows he was a fairly typical “ranker.” A Catholic, his family operated a small public house in Cavan. He achieved no promotion, no distinctions, and no reprimands.

My father had a more successful police career. He had been a teacher of English and French before the 1919-1921 War of Independence. He took neither side in the civil war that followed, so he was well placed for a senior rank when the new state established its own police. He was appointed a superintendent at 24 years of age.

JKP: Let’s talk a little about Sergeant Swallow. He’s a rather extraordinary figure, a 42-year-old Catholic man with an unfortunate fondness for drink, whose family has operated a public house in County Kildare for generations. Yet he chose to make a living keeping the peace in Dublin. Why did you settle on him as your ideal protagonist?

CB: Like most fictional characters, I suspect, Swallow is an amalgam of various individuals a writer will have encountered. He is a conflicted man, both personally and politically. I think he would have been fairly typical of his generation and class. He has become a policeman by default, having drunk his way out of medical school. But paradoxically, it turns out, he’s quite good at sleuthing.

JKP: He’s also carrying on a relationship with a younger public-house proprietress named Maria Walsh, despite the DMP frowning on such relationships. How do you see Maria Walsh’s role in this story?

CB: Again, I think Maria would be fairly typical of women of her generation and class. Most women had no career options. They could marry or become a nun. Most clerical or secretarial work was still done by men. The licensed trade was one of the few areas in which a woman could make a business career. So Maria is quite a strong character, if a little dull and unexciting. She’s a grounded woman and a realist. Her role, among other things, is to keep Swallow grounded too.

JKP: There’s a great deal of early forensic science employed in Ordinary Murders, thanks to your inclusion of the character Dr. Henry Lafeyre, the Dublin medical examiner. Can I presume that you did considerable research into the subject before you sat down to write your first novel? And was that research conducted in books or among modern experts in the field?

CB: I went no further than the definitive Manual of Forensic Jurisprudence, by Professor A.S. [Alfred Swaine] Taylor of Edinburgh (1893 edition). Taylor has it all. The symptoms of poisoning, drowning, asphyxiation, etc. Henry Lafeyre has, of course, studied under Taylor at Edinburgh.

JKP: Although it’s comfortably rolled into your story, you offer a considerable amount of Irish history and culture in this novel--much of which would not be familiar to the majority of American readers. Did you have to do some editing of your novel after Minotaur Books bought it, to make it easier for readers in the States to understand?

CB: No, happily not. I guess the editors at Minotaur took the view that if readers were going to go through this story they’d simply have to make an effort to take in the historical context. And it’s not that complicated, really. Moreover, I think a great many Americans would have a basic understanding of the historic difficulties in the relation between Ireland and Britain.

JKP: A June of Ordinary Murders was originally published in Ireland back in 2012. A year later saw the release of a sequel, The Eloquence of the Dead. I am delighted to hear that Eloquence will also be released in the States, probably in early 2016. Can you tell us something about the story you offer in that second Swallow yarn?

CB: The second story opens with the murder of a pawnbroker in his shop at Lamb Alley, near Dublin Castle. When Swallow investigates he uncovers a massive fraud on Her Majesty’s exchequer, organized around the purchase scheme through which tenant farmers are buying out their holdings from the big landlords. The story brings him to London where he gets an attractive job offer from Scotland Yard. And a possible rival to Maria comes on the scene.

The third story, A Hunt in Winter, brings us into 1888, which was the year that Jack the Ripper did his bloody work in the east end of London. Also in that year, a commission of inquiry in London examined alleged links between the great Irish parliamentary leader, [Charles Stewart]_Parnell, and political violence. The two themes intertwine in what I think is a good yarn.

JKP: When you’re not writing crime and mystery fiction, which other authors in the genre do you enjoy reading?

CB: My favorite is the Brother Cadfael series, set in the 13th century in the Benedictine Abbey of Shrewsbury, in England. The author, Ellis Peters, is now deceased. She wrote, I think, some 20 stories about Cadfael. He’s a monk of Shrewsbury but also a man of action, having been a crusader who has known military action.

JKP: Are you surprised by the rapid and fairly recent growth of Irish crime fiction as a subgenre?

CB: Not really. The Irish are an imaginative people. And many celebrated Irish writers have touched on criminal themes in the past. Some of what’s coming out is really good. But some is also merely imitative and predictable.

JKP: If you could have written any book--fiction or non-fiction--that doesn’t currently carry your byline, what would it have been?

CB: I’d like to have written The Day of the Jackal [1971], by Frederick Forsyth. It's the perfect thriller, pacy, tightly written, and wonderfully evocative of the atmosphere of France in the troubled 1950s and 1960s. Besides, I’d also be very rich!

JKP: Finally, since you are a newspaper veteran, let me ask you this: We now live in an era of marked newspaper decline, perhaps also a period of decline for journalism in general. What do you think the costs are to society of such declines, and do you see the news media finding firmer roles for themselves in the near future?

CB: I’ve been very pessimistic for traditional news media, watching the collapse of the various business models that sustained them. But I’m starting to be a little more hopeful now. I think good journalism is reasserting itself. There’s an absolute torrent of drivel and posturing on the Internet, but I think people are starting to be a lot more discerning.

READ MORE:A June of Ordinary Murders: New Excerpt
(Criminal Element).

“A Downward Spiral ... They Cannot Escape”

Thanks to author-blogger Bill Crider for pointing me toward this definition of noir fiction, offered by editor and bookseller Otto Penzler in a 2010 column for The Huffington Post:
Noir fiction has attracted some of the best writers in the United States (mostly) and many of its aficionados are among the most sophisticated readers in the crime genre. Having said that, I am constantly baffled by the fact that a huge number of those readers don't seem to know what noir fiction is. When they begin to speak of their favorite titles in the category, they invariably include a preponderance of books and short stories that are about as noir as strawberry shortcake.

Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they'd be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let's face it, they deserve it.

Pretty much everyone in a noir story (or film) is driven by greed, lust, jealousy or alienation, a path that inevitably sucks them into a downward spiral from which they cannot escape. They couldn't find the exit from their personal highway to hell if flashing neon lights pointed to a town named Hope. It is their own lack of morality that blindly drives them to ruin.
Penzler’s full piece can be found here.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Story Behind The Story:
“Murder Boy,” by Bryon Quertermous

(Editor’s note: This 56th entry in our “Story Behind the Story” series brings to The Rap Sheet Bryon Quertermous, who I first encountered back when he was editing an e-zine called Demolition--long since demolished itself. Born and reared in Michigan, and now living outside of Detroit, Quertermous has penned short stories for Plots With Guns, ThugLit, and Crime Factory. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger Award from the UK Crime Writers’ Association. His first novel, Murder Boy--about which he writes here--was released last month by Polis Books.)

I remember exactly where I was when the idea for Murder Boy popped into my head. I was driving along State Street, in downtown Ann Arbor, and passed by Angell Hall where the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program for the University of Michigan is housed. I was a student down the road at Eastern Michigan University in its less-prestigious writing program, and was struggling between a desire to attend a high-profile program like Michigan’s and go on to write boring, high-profile literary short stories, and be a famed writing teacher, or go all in with my pulp influences and take whatever job I could find while writing fun and crazy books and stories as quickly as I could.

That was my mindset as I drove by that hallowed hall, when a snotty voice popped into my head and said, “The great American novel can’t be about murder.”

I spent the rest of the day thinking about that line and the person who was saying it. The story sprung almost completely formed in my mind about a disgruntled creative-writing student who wanted to write crime fiction and the professor who was making his life hell because of it. I fiddled around with it in my head for a while, trying to figure out the best way to tell that story, before writing a long and messy novella version of it. Eventually I cut that down to a manageable length and it found a home in the Webzine ThugLit, and then it found a more permanent home in the ThugLit print anthology Hardcore Hardboiled (2008). But I wasn’t done with those characters. I knew there was a novel there--I just had no idea how to write it yet. The struggle to figure that out would consume me for more than six years, almost ruin my honeymoon, and lead me to such a debilitating case of anxiety that I quit writing for a year.

But before you can fully understand how I got to that point, we need to go back a ways to the moment I knew I was meant to be the next great private-eye fiction writer.

My earliest reading and writing was in science fiction and fantasy. I spend most of junior high reading Star Trek and Star Wars novels, plus the occasional epic fantasy. I wrote a few stories here and there that conformed to all of the worst stereotypes of beginning science-fiction writing. There was nothing to indicate any sort of talent or originality in my voice. But around high school I discovered crime fiction. This was the early ’90s and crime fiction was in the midst of a private detective novel renaissance. I would spend most of that decade reading nothing but P.I. fiction: Robert Crais, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, Harlan Coben, Sara Paretsky, Dennis Lehane, S.J. Rozan, and so many others. These were the writers who formed the core of my influence. It started, though, with Robert B. Parker and his 1988 Spenser novel, Crimson Joy.

That novel itself is rather mediocre, but it was the first time I’d read a novel and immediately wanted to go out and write my own version. It was also my first exposure to series fiction and the idea that I could work out my fantasies and my struggles and my life influences through fiction. I promptly set about writing some of the worst Parker knockoffs in history. And I loved it. The more I read, and the more I wrote, the more I began to develop my own voice. Parker’s fiction was so important to me that, in 2008 when my first kid was born, I named him Spenser. Shortly after he was born, I finished the first draft of my third P.I. novel, Ruins of Detroit. It was the best book I’d written so far, but it still didn’t work. It didn’t have a very good ending and I hated how much it had taken out of me without giving me back a book I could be proud of. I knew deep down that I had reached the ceiling on what I could do with that form and I’d need to write something different going forward. Unfortunately, I had too much invested in the P.I. novel form to let it go that easily.

I tried to write another P.I. novel, but it was just awful. I tried to write a P.I. novel version of Murder Boy that was even worse. I tried to write a mixed third-person/first-person thriller P.I. novel that was the worst of them all. I even wrote a draft of a Murder Boy novel that wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have any soul. I also wrote two more version of Ruins that got closer to being good, but not totally. The draw of Murder Boy was strong, and everyone I told about it said that was the book I needed to be working on, but I’d banked my identity on being the next great P.I. writer and I had a very, very hard time letting go of that. At this same time, my life changed drastically in a short period of time. I changed jobs, I bought a house, I got married and had two kids back-to-back. My life was exciting and these changes were good, but it was very disorienting. To balance that out, I tried to find solace in the familiarity of a form I knew rather than try and figure out how to write this weird literary/pulp hybrid novel I couldn’t stop thinking about. So for five years, I went back and forth like that, trying to bang a doomed P.I. novel into shape, or trying to write an Elmore Leonard knockoff that I couldn’t manage to tap into emotionally at all. Eventually it just got to be too much and I stopped writing.

After another year or so and some other failed experiments (the less I say about the screenplay adaptation the better), I finally switched Murder Boy to first-person and realized that point of view had been as much of the draw to P.I. fiction as anything. I set about pouring every bit of struggle and triumph and fear and inspiration into that book and that character. I blitzed it with autobiography and then kicked it up to an absurd level. It was cathartic and freeing, and the effort resulted in a book that has been praised as much for it’s emotion as for its over-the-top plotting.

I can’t bask long in that relief, though. Now I have to write a sequel.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Teasing “True Detective” 2

Over the last several months we’ve received dribs and drabs of information regarding the cast and story lined up for Season 2 of the HBO-TV crime drama True Detective, but haven’t really learned much about what to expect. Until today. HBO has released a teaser video for Season 2, which comes with this brief story description:
A bizarre murder brings together three law-enforcement officers and a career criminal, each of whom must navigate a web of conspiracy and betrayal in the scorched landscapes of California. Colin Farrell is Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective in the all-industrial City of Vinci, L.A. County. Vince Vaughn plays Frank Semyon, a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life’s work, while his wife and closest ally (Kelly Reilly) struggles with his choices and her own. Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective often at odds with the system she serves, while Taylor Kitsch plays Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol who discovers a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law-enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars.
We also hear that the first two of this coming season’s episodes will be directed by Justin Lin, who’s known for his work on The Fast and the Furious 3–6 and the TV series Community.

True Detective is set to return to HBO on Sunday, June 21.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Show Your “Cards”

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If, in this second decade of the 21st century, the popularity of a TV series can be judged by the number of folks who want to try their hands at refashioning its opening title sequence, then Netflix’s often-cutthroat American political drama, House of Cards--now in its third season--is very popular indeed.

The fan-made videos below were found on YouTube. They all employ the same sort of time-lapse photography used in the original House of Cards introduction (embedded above), and every one of them features Jeff Beal’s theme music. However, the first nine imagine the series’ action being moved to other cities than Washington, D.C. (a real treat for someone like me, who enjoys traveling). Clips 10 and 11 provide an identical style of opening, but adapt it to other familiar TV programs, while the final clip reworks the House of Cards introduction in imitation of another admired political drama.

New Orleans, Louisiana
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Vienna, Austria
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Budapest, Hungary
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Paris, France
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Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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The Hague, The Netherlands
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Pisa, Italy
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Brasília, Brazil
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Beijing, China
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Breaking Bad TV opening, House of Cards-style
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Sherlock TV opening, House of Cards-style
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House of Cards TV opening, The West Wing-style
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