Thursday, January 14, 2021

Literary Cures for Winter Boredom



Victorian England’s most famous pair of sleuths investigate the onstage slaying of an Italian escape artist. A Norwegian-American widow lures men to her rural Indiana home with promises of marriage … and then kills them, one after another. A Boston private eye suffering from severe narcolepsy endeavors to track down the supposedly missing fingers of a reality-TV contestant who may or may not have asked for his help. A woman detective in Ghana struggles to solve the murder of a fashion icon and social media celebrity. The son of a well-off Lebanese family wrestles with whether or not to join the terrorists planning an attack on the United States in September 2001. And an increasingly paranoid contingent of demoted spies in London seek to learn whether they’ve been targeted to die.

Those are brief plot sketches of some of the crime, mystery, and thriller novels making their debuts during this first quarter of the new year, 2021. But there will be myriad other works reaching store shelves over the next two and a half months, among them books by such established talents as Ace Atkins, Amy Stewart, Stuart MacBride, Charles Finch, Elly Griffiths, Paul Vidich, Peter Robinson, Faye Kellerman, and Peter May, as well as others credited to rising authors on the order of Chris Hammer, Vanda Symon, Kwei Quartey, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, and Will Dean. Lee Goldberg’s Bone Canyon, his second yarn starring Eve Ronin, the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, is already out, to be followed by Shiver, Allie Reynolds’ locked-room thriller, and Robert Thorogood’s The Marlow Murder Club, a humorous whodunit from the creator of BBC-TV’s Death in Paradise. Be on the lookout, too, for Walter Mosley’s rewarding 15th Easy Rawlins novel, Blood Grove; Lara Thompson’s 1930s-set detective story, One Night, New York, which won the inaugural Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award; Peter Swanson’s Every Vow You Break, about a new bride being pursued by the man with whom she had an intoxicated one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend; Simon Scarrow’s consuming thriller, Blackout, which imagines a World War II-era Berlin criminal inspector being pressured to solve a succession of homicides that will lead him dangerously close to the Reich’s clashing factions; Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Committed, a sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 novel, The Sympathizer; and reissued classics by Donald E. Westlzke, Margot Bennett, and John Dickson Carr.

Below is a selection of more than 320 titles, which should satisfy a broad spread of this genre’s readership. All are scheduled for release—on one side of the Atlantic or the other—between now and April Fool’s Day. As usual, these picks are primarily novels and short-story collections, though the list is also peppered with non-fiction works of likely interest to crime-fiction enthusiasts. Books marked with an asterisk (*) are non-fiction; the remainder are fiction.

JANUARY (U.S.):
At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman (Algonquin)
Before She Disappeared, by Lisa Gardner (Dutton)
Before the Ruins, by Victoria Gosling (Henry Holt)
The Blood Is Still, by Douglas Skelton (Arcade Crimewise)
Bloodline, by Jess Lourey (Thomas & Mercer)
Bone Canyon, by Lee Goldberg (Thomas & Mercer)
The Breaker, by Nick Petrie (Putnam)
The Bride Wore Black, by Cornell Woolrich
(American Mystery Classics)
Bryant & May: Oranges and Lemons, by Christopher Fowler (Bantam)
The Butterfly House, by Katrine Engberg (Gallery/Scout Press)
The Captive, by Fiona King Foster (Ecco)
A Crooked Tree, by Una Mannion (Harper)
A Deadly Fortune, by Stacie Murphy (Pegasus Crime)
Dear Miss Kopp, by Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Death in the Great Dismal, by Eleanor Kuhns (Severn House)
Deep into the Dark, by P.J. Tracy (Minotaur)
The Devil’s Harmony, by Sarah Rayne (Severn House)
Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith,
by Richard Bradford (Bloomsbury Caravel)*
Every Waking Hour, by Joanna Schaffhausen (Minotaur)
The Fabergé Secret, by Charles Belfoure (Severn House)
Fatal Divisions, by Claire Booth (Severn House)
Final Verdict, by William Bernhardt (Babylon)
High Treason at the Grand Hotel, by Kelly Oliver (Historia)
The Historians, by Cecilia Ekbäck (Harper Perennial)
House of the Patriarch, by Barbara Hambly (Severn House)
The House on Vesper Sands, by Paraic O’Donnell (Tin House)
Hymn to Murder, by Paul Doherty (Headline)
If I Disappear, by Eliza Jane Brazier (Berkley)
The Innkeeper’s Daughter,
by Bianca M. Schwarz (Central Avenue)
In the Garden of Spite,
by Camilla Bruce (Berkley)
Knock Knock, by Anders Roslund (Putnam)
Lady Jail, by John Farrow (Severn House)
The Last Exit, by Michael Kaufman (Crooked Lane)
Laying Bones, by Reavis Z. Wortham (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Little Sleep, by Paul
Tremblay (Morrow)
The Lost Boys, by Faye Kellerman (Morrow)
The Man Who Didn’t Fly, by Margot Bennett (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Mitford Trial, by Jessica Fellowes (Minotaur)
Murder by Numbers, by Eric Brown (Severn House)
Murder in Canaryville: The True Story Behind a Cold Case and a Chicago Cover-Up, by Jeff Coen (Chicago Review Press)*
Murder Ink, by Betty Hechtman (Severn House)
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, by Marie Benedict
(Sourcebooks Landmark)
The Paradise Affair, by Bill Pronzini (Forge)
People Like Her, by Ellery Lloyd (Harper)
The Perfect Guests, by Emma Rous (Berkley)
Pickard County Atlas, by Chris Harding Thornton (MCD)
Picnic in the Ruins, by Todd Robert Petersen (Counterpoint)
Portrait of Peril, by Laura Joh Rowland (Crooked Lane)
Prodigal Son, by Gregg Hurwitz (Minotaur)
The Push, by Ashley Audrain (Pamela Dorman)
Robert B. Parker’s Someone to Watch Over Me,
by Ace Atkins (Putnam)
The Rough Cut, by Douglas Corleone (Severn House)
Savage Road, by Chris Hauty (Atria/Emily Bestler)
Scot on the Rocks, by Catriona McPherson (Severn House)
Shanghai Secrets, by Sulari Gentill (Poisoned Pen Press)
Shiver, by Allie Reynolds (Putnam)
The Sign of the Gallows, by Susanna Calkins (Severn House)
A Sinister Service, by Alyssa Maxwell (Kensington)
Sirocco, by Dana Haynes (Blackstone)
Sleep Well, My Lady, by Kwei Quartey (Soho Crime)
Spiteful Bones, by Jeri Westerson (Severn House)
The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, by Timothy Miller
(Seventh Street)
A Stranger at the Door, by Jason Pinter (Thomas & Mercer)
Tricky, by Josh Stallings (Agora)
Tropic of Stupid, by Tim Dorsey (Morrow)
Twenty, by James Grippando (Harper)
What Could Be Saved, by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz (Atria)
What Waits for You, by Joseph Schneider (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Woman Outside My Door, by Rachel Ryan (Gallery)

JANUARY (UK):
The Appeal, by Janice Hallett (Viper)
Blackwood, by Michael Farris Smith (No Exit Press)
Blotto, Twinks and the Maharajah’s Jewel,
by Simon Brett (Constable)
The Captive, by Deborah O’Connor (Zaffre)
The Coffinmaker’s Garden, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins)
The Dark Room, by Sam Blake (Corvus)
End of the Line, by Robert Scragg (Allison & Busby)
Evil Impulse, by Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)
The F*ck-it List, by John Niven (Windmill)
The Garden of Angels, by David Hewson (Severn House)
The Girl Who ..., by Andreina Cordani (Atom)
House with No Doors, by Jeff Noon (Doubleday)
The Ice, by John Kåre Raake
(Pushkin Vertigo)
Last Flight to Stalingrad, by Graham Hurley (Head of Zeus)
The Last Thing to Burn, by Will Dean (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Little Grave, by Carolyn Arnold (Bookouture)
The Marlow Murder Club, by Robert Thorogood (HQ)
The Mirror Dance, by Catriona McPherson (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Missing Woman, by Georgina Cross (Bookouture)
Murder at the Ritz, by Jim Eldridge (Allison & Busby)
The Night Agent, by Matthew Quick (Head of Zeus)
On Borrowed Time, by Graeme Hall (Rodrigues Court Press)
One Night, New York, by Lara Thompson (Virago)
Our Little Cruelties, by Liz Nugent (Penguin)
The Pact, by Dawn Goodwin (Aria)
Post Mortem, by Gary Bell (Raven)
Powder Smoke, by Andrew Martin (Corsair)
A Prince and a Spy, by Rory Clements (Zaffre)
Prince of Spies, by Alex Gerlis (Canelo Action)
Radio Life, by Derek B. Miller (Jo Fletcher)
Red Corona, by Tim Glister (Point Blank)
The Rosary Garden, by Nicola White (Viper)
The Shape of Darkness, by Laura Purcell (Raven)
Single Mother, by Samantha Hayes (Bookouture)
Solea, by Jean-Claude Izzo (Europa Editions)
Their Frozen Graves, by Ruhi Choudhary (Bookouture)
Three Single Wives, by Gina LaManna (Sphere)
Trust, by Chris Hammer (Wildfire)
Two Wrongs, by Rebecca Reid (Corgi)
Under a Dark Angel’s Eye: The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith, by Patricia Highsmith (Virago)
A Violent Gentleman, by Danny O’Leary (Orion)
What I Did, by Kate Bradley (Zaffre)
The Wife Who Knew Too Much, by Michele Campbell (HQ)
Your Neighbour’s Wife, by Tony Parsons (Century)

FEBRUARY (U.S.):
American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years, 1950-2000, by Peter Vronsky (Berkley)*
Bad Habits, by Amy Gentry (Mariner)
Black Coral, by Andrew Mayne (Thomas & Mercer)
Black Widows, by Cate Quinn (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Blood Grove, by Walter Mosley (Mulholland)
The Burning Girls, by C.J. Tudor (Ballantine)
Checkmate to Murder, by E.C.R. Lorac (Poisoned Pen Press)
Children of Chicago, by Cynthia Pelayo (Agora)
Comes the War, by Ed Ruggero (Forge)
Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters, and Shapeshifters of the Feminine Persuasion, by Tori Telfer (Harper)*
Crimson Phoenix, by John
Gilstrap (Kensington)
Dangerous Women, by Hope
Adams (Berkley)
The Diabolical Bones, by Bella
Ellis (Berkley)
Do No Harm, by Christina
McDonald (Gallery)
Downfall, by Robert Rotenberg (Touchstone)
The Downstairs Neighbor, by Helen Cooper (Putnam)
The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey (Tor)
Exit, by Belinda Bauer (Atlantic Monthly Press)
An Extravagant Death, by Charles Finch (Minotaur)
An Eye for an Eye, by Carol Wyer (Thomas & Mercer)
A Fatal Lie, by Charles Todd (Morrow)
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, by Elle Cosimano (Minotaur)
Flowers of Darkness, by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s Press)
The Ghost Moths, by Harry Farthing (Blackstone)
Girl A, by Abigail Dean (Viking)
The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing, by Sonia Feleiro (Grove Press)*
The Gorge, by Matt Brolly (Thomas & Mercer)
Hide in Place, by Emilya Naymark (Crooked Lane)
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, by Cherie S.A. Jones (Little, Brown)
The Kaiser’s Web, by Steve Berry (Minotaur)
Last Seen Wearing, by Hillary Waugh (Poisoned Pen Press)
Love and Other Lies, by Ben McPherson (Morrow)
The Low Desert, by Tod Goldberg (Counterpoint)
Magpie Lane, by Lucy Atkins (Quercus)
The Mercenary, by Paul Vidich (Pegasus Crime)
The Minders, by John Marrs (Berkley)
My Brother, by Karin Smirnoff (Pushkin Press)
Never Far Away, by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown)
Nighthawking, by Russ Thomas (Putnam)
The 19th Hijacker, by James Reston Jr. (Republic)
The Package, by Sebastian Fitzek (Head of Zeus)
The Plague Court Murders, by John Dickson Carr
(American Mystery Classics)
Possession, by Katie Lowe (St. Martin’s Press)
The Power Couple, by Alex Berenson (Simon & Schuster)
Quiet in Her Bones, by Nalini Singh (Berkley)
The Rope: A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACP, by Alex Tresniowski (37 Ink)*
The Ruthless, by David Putnam (Oceanview)
The Sharpest Needle, by Renee Patrick (Severn House)
A Simple Murder, by Linda Castillo (Minotaur)
The Sinner, by Martyn Waites (Blackstone)
Slough House, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob, by Russell
Shorto (Norton)*
Smoke, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)
Spoils of the Dead, by Dana Stabenow (Head of Zeus)
A Stranger in Town, by Kelley Armstrong (Minotaur)
The Survivors, by Jane Harper (Flatiron)
A Tip for the Hangman, by Allison
Epstein (Doubleday)
Twist, by Tom Grass (Pegasus Crime)
The Unwilling, by John Hart (St.
Martin’s Press)
Valentino Will Die, by Donis Casey (Poisoned Pen Press)

FEBRUARY (UK):
The Accident, by Dawn Goodwin (Aria)
Allegation, by R .G. Adams (Riverrun)
The Art of Death, by David Fennell (Zaffre)
The Art of the Assassin, by Kevin Sullivan (Allison & Busby)
Call Me Mummy, by Tina Baker (Viper)
City of Vengeance, by D.V. Bishop (Macmillan)
The Crocodile Hunter, by Gerald Seymour (Hodder & Stoughton)
Daughters of Night, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Mantle)
Dead Head, by C.J. Skuse (HQ)
Death of a Green-Eyed Monster, by M.C. Beaton (Constable)
Deity, by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda)
The Diplomat’s Wife, by Michael Ridpath (Corvus)
The Downstairs Neighbour, by Helen Cooper (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Fatal Isles, by Maria Adolfsson (Zaffre)
The Favour, by Laura Vaughan (Corvus)
Find You First, by Linwood Barclay (HQ)
A Hostile State, by Adrian Magson (Severn House)
Hyde, by Craig Russell (Constable)
The Killing Choice, by Will Shindler (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Last Snow, by Stina Jackson (Corvus)
Lie Beside Me, by Gytha Lodge (Michael Joseph)
London, Burning, by Anthony Quinn (Little, Brown)
The Long Dark Road, by P.R. Black (Head of Zeus)
The Murder List, by T.F. Muir (Constable)
Never Ask the Dead, by Gary Donnelly (Allison & Busby)
The Night Hawks, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
The Oxford Brotherhood, by Guillermo Martínez (Little, Brown)
Proof of Life, by R.J. Ellory (Orion)
Repentance, by Eloísa Díaz (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Robert Ludlum’s The Treadstone Exile, by Joshua Hood
(Head of Zeus)
Run for Cover, by Michael Ledwidge (Hanover Square Press)
Ruthless Women, by Melanie Blake (Head of Zeus)
Safe and Sound, by Philippa East (HQ)
The Sanatorium, by Sarah Pearse (Bantam Press)
Shadow of a Doubt, by Michelle Davies (Orion)
Silent Voices, by Patricia Gibney (Bookouture)
Smoke Screen, by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (Orenda)
What They Knew, by Marion Todd (Canelo)
What Will Burn, by James Oswald (Wildfire)

MARCH (U.S.):
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World, by Mark
Aldridge (Morrow)*
The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer, by Liza Rodman and Jennifer
Jordan (Atria)*
Becoming Inspector Chen, by Qiu Xiaolong (Severn House)
The Beirut Protocol, by Joel C. Rosenberg (Tyndale House)
The Bounty, by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Atria)
Castle in the Air, by Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime)
City of Fallen Angels, by Paul Buchanan (Legend Press)
The Committed, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press)
The Conductors, by Nicole Glover (John Joseph Adams/Mariner)
The Consequences of Fear, by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)
The Cook of the Halcyon, by Andrea Camilleri (Penguin)
The Dark Heart of Florence, by Tasha Alexander (Minotaur)
Dark Sky, by C.J. Box (Putnam)
Dead Space, by Kali Wallace (Berkley)
Drown Her Sorrows, by Melinda Leigh (Montlake)
The Eagle and the Viper, by Loren D. Estleman (Forge)
The Eighth Girl, by Maxine Mei-Fung Chun (Morrow)
Every Last Fear, by Alex Finlay (Minotaur)
Everything Is Mine, by Ruth Lillegraven (Amazon Crossing)
Every Vow You Break, by Peter Swanson (Morrow)
Fallen Angels, by Gunnar Staalesen (Orenda)
A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome, by Emma Southon (Abrams Press)*
The Foreign Girls, by Sergio Olguín (Bitter Lemon Press)
Forget Me Not, by Alexandra Oliva (Ballantine)
Gathering Dark, by Candice Fox (Forge)
The Girls Are All So Nice Here, by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
(Simon & Schuster)
Heartbreak Bay, by Rachel Caine (Thomas & Mercer)
Her Dark Lies, by J.T. Ellison (Mira)
The Hiding Place, by Paula Munier (Minotaur)
Infinite, by Brian Freeman (Thomas & Mercer)
In the Shadow of the Fire, by Hervé Le Corre (Europa Editions)
The Jigsaw Man, by Nadine Matheson (Hanover Square Press)
Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York, by Elon Green (Celadon)*
Last Nocturne, by M.J. Trow (Severn House)
Later, by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime)
Lightseekers, by Femi Kayode (Mulholland)
The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner (Park Row)
The Lost Village, by Camilla Sten (Minotaur)
Maniac: The Bath School Disaster and the Birth of the Modern Mass Killer, by Harold Schechter (Little A)*
A Matter of Life and Death, by Phillip Margolin (Minotaur)
The Night Gate, by Peter May (Quercus)
Northern Spy, by Flynn Berry (Viking)
Not Dark Yet, by Peter Robinson (Morrow)
On Harrow Hill, by John Verdon (Counterpoint)
The Postscript Murders, by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Red Widow, by Alma Katsu (Putnam)
Ride the Pink Horse, by Dorothy B. Hughes (American
Mystery Classics)
The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn (Morrow)
Saving Grace, by Debbie Babitt (Scarlet)
The Scapegoat, by Sara Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Search for Her, by Rick Mofina (Mira)
She’s Too Pretty to Burn, by Wendy Heard (Henry Holt—YA)
The Silenced Women, by Frederick Weisel (Poisoned Pen Press)
The Stone of Destiny, by Paul Doherty (Severn House)
Tell No Lies, by Allison Brennan (Mira)
The Three Locks, by Bonnie MacBird (Collins Crime Club)
Too Good to Be True, by Carola Lovering (St. Martin’s Press)
Transient Desires, by Donna Leon (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Turncoat, by Anthony J. Quinn (No Exit Press)
An Unexpected Peril, by Deanna Raybourn (Berkley)
The Water Rituals, by Eva García Sáenz (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
We Begin at the End, by Chris Whitaker (Henry Holt)
Wedding Station, by David Downing (Soho Crime)
Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews (Little, Brown)
Win, by Harlan Coben (Grand Central)
Windhall, by Ava Barry (Pegasus Crime)
The Windsor Knot, by S.J. Bennett (Morrow)
Winterkill, by Ragnar Jónasson (Orenda)
You’ll Thank Me for This, by Nina Siegal (Mulholland)

MARCH (UK):
American Sherlocks, by edited by Nick Rennison (No Exit Press)
The April Dead, by Alan Parks (Canongate)
Before the Storm, by Alex Gray (Sphere)
Blackout, by Simon Scarrow (Headline)
Blood Runs Thicker, by Sarah
Hawkswood (Allison & Busby)
Blood Ties, by Brian McGilloway (Constable)
Bound, by Vanda Symon (Orenda)
Brazilian Psycho, by Joe Thomas (Arcadia)
The Cut, by Chris Brookmyre
(Little, Brown)
The Dockland Murder, by Mike Hollow (Allison & Busby)
The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer, by Joël Dicker (MacLehose Press)
The Dare, by Lesley Kara (Bantam Press)
Edge of the Grave, by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan)
The Embalmer, by Alison Belsham (Trapeze)
The Fine Art of Invisible Detection, by Robert Goddard
(Bantam Press)
Future Perfect, by Felicia Yap (Wildfire)
Hotel Cartagena, by Simone Buchholz (Orenda)
The Last House on Needless Street, by Catriona Ward (Viper)
The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer: Arthur Conan Doyle, George Edalji and the Case of the Foreigner in the English Village,
by Shrabani Basu (Bloomsbury)*
This Nowhere Place, by Natasha Bell (Michael Joseph)
One Way Street, by Trevor Wood (Quercus)
The Silent Friend, by Diane Jeffrey (HQ)
Trust Me, by T.M. Logan (Zaffre)
Two Wrongs, by Mel McGrath (HQ)
The Ullswater Undertaking, by Rebecca Tope (Allison & Busby)

As incredible as it may seem, this inventory represents only a fraction of the books scheduled for publication during the current season. If you know of other works deserving special recognition, please let us know about them in the Comments section at the end of this post.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Last of Lutz

I’m sorry to have to report this morning that St. Louis, Missouri, crime, mystery, and suspense writer John Lutz—known especially for his Alo Nudger and Fred Carver private-eye series—has died at age 81. According to Wikipedia, he passed away on January 9.

John Thomas Lutz was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 11, 1939. As Francis M. Nevins explained in Cornucopia of Crime: Memories and Summations (2010), Lutz was 4 years old when he moved with his tavern-owning father and their family to St. Louis. He graduated from high school in 1957, became a movie theater usher, and married fellow theater employee Barbara Jean Bradley at age 19. He subsequently labored as a forklift operator and a warehouseman, and signed on for night shifts as a civilian switchboard operator at the St. Louis Police Department. Lutz also became an insatiable reader, poring through novels by Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Roald Dahl, and others, all the while gaining confidence that he could take up a writer’s career himself. After collecting many rejection slips, in 1966 he sold his first story, “Thieves’ Honor,” to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Hundreds of short stories spilled from Lutz’s imagination in the decades since, along with dozens of novels, among them SWF Seeks Same (1990), which was adapted into the 1992 Bridget Fonda/Jennifer Jason Leigh film, Single White Female. If I’m not mistaken, his most recent novel was The Havana Game (2019), the second of his books starring clandestine operative Thomas Laker. (It was preceded by 2018's Honorable Traitors.) He also composed more than half a dozen books about Frank Quinn, an ex-homicide detective with the New York City Police Department, who’s become a freelance criminal profiler specializing in the apprehension of serial killers.

I first discovered Lutz’s fiction when I read Tropical Heat (1986), the initial entry in his 10-book Carver series. Over the years, I have enjoyed other Carver tales, plus a few Nudgers and several of his standalones, including The Eye, the 1984 serial-killer yarn he penned in tandem with Bill Pronzini. Lutz was a past president of the Mystery Writers of America as well as the Private Eye Writers of America. His prolificacy and storytelling skills were well recognized. Along with Edgar and Shamus awards, in 1995 Lutz and Robert B. Parker were both given lifetime achievement awards by the Private Eye Writers of America. And in 2001, Lutz received the Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

In his blog, Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine editor George Easter recalls Lutz as “a quiet, but distinguished presence at several Bouchercons.” Judging by my own single, unexpected encounter with Lutz and his wife, remembered here (scroll down to locate the item), I can do naught but agree. John Lutz was a fine writer and, it seems, a fine man. He deserved many more years among us.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

FOLLOW-UP: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a bit more on the circumstances surrounding Lutz’s demise. It reports: “John Lutz, dean of St. Louis crime writers as author of more than 50 books, died Saturday (Jan. 9, 2021) after living for years with Lewy body dementia and a recent diagnosis of COVID-19. He was 81. Mr. Lutz died in a nursing facility in Chesterfield [a St. Louis suburb], said his wife, Barbara. Although his last coronavirus test was negative, he spiked a fever the day he died, she said.”

READ MORE:Sarasota Resident John Lutz, Author of Single White Female, Dies at 81,” by Jay Handelman (Sarasota Herald-Tribune).

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Trial Runs

The year 2020 was isolating, frightening, and discouraging in so many respects. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, racial-justice protests, business shutdowns, escalating unemployment, and the anti-democratic antics of an amateur U.S. president determined to ignore both law and traditions (behavior that led ultimately to his inciting this week’s insurrectionist attack on the Capitol in Washington, D.C.), Americans were lashed by the twin torments of upheaval and uncertainty. Some people saw in those challenges a rare opportunity to try new things, to redefine their lives or work; others hunkered down amid the comforts of the familiar, hoping thereby to restore a sense of order.

I fell more into the latter category. Confined in varying degrees to my home, I eschewed chances to learn the fine art of bread baking or to binge-watch popular TV series, instead concentrating on my reading and especially my writing. I realize now that, even when it came to my book choices, I tended—amid all of the year’s turmoil—to more often pick up works by authors I’d enjoyed previously than by those with whom I had no acquaintance. This had a deleterious effect on my annual count of new-to-me writer “discoveries.”

As regular Rap Sheet followers know, ever since 2008 I have been keeping track of the writers to whose work I was freshly introduced each year—not just crime-fictionists, but others as well. The high point in this series of assessments was reached in 2015, when the list of books I consumed included 47 by wordsmiths new to me. My tally for 2019 came in at a comparatively paltry 29. Some of that falloff can obviously be traced to the fact that my experience with writers in print grows with each passing year; the more authors I sample over time and the more of those I relish, the greater is the likelihood that I shall purchase their works again, rather than hungering incessantly after different voices. My reading picks for 2020 featured a number of wordsmiths I have “discovered” over the 12 years I’ve been maintaining this inventory, among them John O’Hara (Butterfield 8), Abir Mukherjee (Death in the East), Bonnie MacBird (Art in the Blood), John Lawton (Hammer to Fall), and William Shaw (Grave’s End). While I am not sorry to have cracked open any of the dozens of books I did in 2020, my tendency during last year’s troubles to favor known writers over others did, sadly, result in my reaching a new low as far as experimenting with unfamiliar scribblers: just 26 fresh finds. (Note: That includes two writers, Brian Thornton and Craig Sisterson, whose work I knew—but who had never before published books.)

I look forward to reading more from several of last year’s new-to-me authors, notably Stuart Turton, Ben Creed (a pseudonym employed by Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson), TaraShea Nesbit, and C.W. Grafton (father to the late alphabet mystery-maker Sue Grafton), whose 1950 courtroom drama, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, I already have in hand and hope to review on this page sometime soon. However, in the interests of educating myself further in this genre, I’d like to do a better job in 2021 of investigating writers not already represented on my bookshelves. Perhaps as the world settles down a bit in coming months, thanks to a new, more experienced U.S. president and the availability of COVID vaccines, literary experimentation can again be a greater part of my game plan.

Below you will find my catalogue of fictionists whose output I read for the first time in 2020. Debut releases are boldfaced. Only two—marked with asterisks—do not fall within the crime, mystery, and thriller category.

Matthew Carr (Black Sun Rising)
• Ben Creed (City of Ghosts)
• Harald Gilbers (Germania)
• C.W. Grafton (The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope)
Alfred Harris (Baroni)
Jack Iams (What Rhymes with Murder?)
Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories)*
• Nev March (Murder in Old Bombay)
TaraShea Nesbit (Beheld)*
Joel Townsley Rogers (The Red Right Hand)
Catherine Steadman (Mr. Nobody)
• Brian Thornton (Suicide Blonde: Three Novellas)
Stuart Turton (The Devil and the Dark Water)
• David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Winter Counts)

Typically, my reading diet comprises works of non-fiction as well as fiction. Last year, I apparently enjoyed almost as many authors producing books about history, politics, literary criticism, and film entertainment as I did those turning out made-up stories.

Michael Benson (Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece)
David W. Blight (Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom)
Daniel Brook (The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction)
Steve Inskeep (Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause
the Civil War
)
Steven Johnson (Enemy of All Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History’s First Global Manhunt)
Susanna Lee (Detective in the Shadows:
A Hard-Boiled History
)
Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz (Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House)
Doug Most (The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway)
Evan Osnos (Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now)
• Craig Sisterton (Southern Cross Crime: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film & TV of Australia and New Zealand)
Paul Starobin (A Most Wicked Conspiracy: The Last Great Swindle
of the Gilded Age
)
Laura Thompson (Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life)
Sam Wasson (The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years
of Hollywood
)

So those are my new-author encounters for 2020. How do your own compare? I’m sure others would be interested to know. Please tell us about them in the Comments section at the end of this post.