Saturday, July 30, 2016

Copycat Covers: Face to Face

A new entry in our series about remarkably look-alike book fronts.

The Final Seven, by Erica Spindler (Doubleshot Press, 2016); and Fifteen Minutes to Live, by Phoef Sutton (Brash Books, 2015).

(Hat tip to Lee Goldberg.)

Sun, Sleuthing, and Suspense

This Sunday’s New York Times Book Review takes as its theme “Summer Thrills,” packing in a variety of reviews focused around crime and thriller fiction. New novels by Megan Abbott, Erik Axl Sund, and Flynn Berry all come under the spotlight. In addition, columnist Marilyn Stasio tackles a variety of true-crime works. No need to wait until tomorrow to read these contents, though. Just click here.

Also, don’t fail to appreciate the main artwork on the Book Review’s Web contents page, drawn and animated by Paul Rogers (who previously created a lovely map of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles.)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Best Wishes to Bill Crider

Judging from his previous online notes, today is the 75th birthday of prolific Alvin, Texas, educator-turned-novelist Bill Crider. This would also have been his father’s 101st birthday, and it’s the 14th anniversary of his launching the widely read, often-humorous, and usually active blog Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.

As most Rap Sheet readers probably know, Bill has been hit recently with a health scare. He reported last week that his doctor wanted him to “check into the hospital ASAP, as he thinks I might be having kidney failure. This can’t be good.” A few days later he confided that he’d been diagnosed with a “very aggressive form” of cancer. “Looks bad,” he added. “Love to you all.” That note—which elicited a flurry of sympathetic comments from his fans and friends—was followed in short order by this still more worrisome one:
Hey, blog fans. I’m out of the hospital after being poked, prodded, tested. and humiliated. I’m in much worse shape than when I went in. It’s a long story. Next week I’ll try to get into [the University of Texas] M.D. Anderson [Cancer Center]. The outlook isn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine. I might not be posting here again, so I want to say now how moved I’ve been by your comments. You guys are the best. Even if we’ve never met in person, you are truly my friends. Love to you all.
Then, on Tuesday of this week, Bill reported that he had been successful in scheduling his first appointment at M.D. Anderson for today, Thursday. No word yet on the results of his tests.

I don’t know Bill well. I’ve seen him during a few Bouchercons (the last time at the 2015 convention in Raleigh, North Carolina), corresponded with him on and off over the last 15 years or so, and once upon a time published an excellent piece he wrote for January Magazine about mysteries set in America’s Wild West. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to stay current with his life, thanks to his blog, which—though it often concentrates on crocodiles, Paris Hilton and Nicolas Cage, old paperback covers, baseball, vintage music and advertisements, forgotten books and movies, and people who’ve somehow tumbled across remarkable riches (while Bill has not been so lucky)—has also been deeply personal at times. I was sad to hear when his wife of 49 years, Judy, passed away back in 2014, and then delighted to learn that he’d recently adopted three abandoned kittens—the ever-mischievous “VBKs” (or Very Bad Kitties): Keanu, Ginger Tom, and Gilligan—who quickly became Internet sensations. Bill is acclaimed by those who know him better than I do as perhaps the nicest author in the Lone Star State, while his fellow writers have often thanked him for his generosity in either promoting their books or assisting them in their fiction-writing efforts. I’m sorry that I haven’t spent more time with Bill when we’ve encountered each other in the past. I only hope that the future will offer me chances to rectify that negligence. We can only hope his diagnosis is encouraging, and that he’ll be with us for a great deal longer. Borrowing a headline he’s often set atop posts having to do with remarkable turns of events, “I want to believe!”

Meanwhile, with this being Bill Crider’s birthday, it would be great if we could all send him our best and warmest wishes. You’re welcome to do so in the Comments section at the bottom of this post (I’ll let him know to look there). Or drop him a fond note at his own blog. And remember that Bill has a new novel coming out early next month, Survivors Will Be Shot Again (Minotaur), starring his series sleuth Sheriff Dan Rhodes (who is already set to make another appearance in 2017’s Dead, to Begin With, which he sent away to his agent before he learned he was ill). Since Bill might not be in the position to promote this book much, he’d probably appreciate the assistance of anyone who can help spread the word about its publication. I’ve already ordered my own copy.

Happy birthday, Bill. We’re all rooting for you!

UPDATE: It seems Bill Crider received at least one welcome present on his birthday—the fragile gift of hope. “My visit to M.D. Anderson today was a good one,” he wrote this afternoon on his Facebook page. “I like my doctor [Eleni Efstathiou] very much, and she was very optimistic about the whole situation. They still haven’t determined the exact problem, so I’ll have to undergo a whole new battery of tests. It’s too soon, then, to be sure or anything, but at the moment the future looks brighter than it did a few days ago. I’ll be getting the tests ASAP, and the doctor wants to begin treatment ASAP, too. Can’t do too much until all the test results are in, of course, but if all goes as planned, I’ll be meeting the doctor again next week for a more complete plan of action. I learned from going through Judy’s treatments that optimism can turn to despair in minutes, so I’m not getting too carried away. Still, things do look better for the moment.”

He added in a short post on his blog that his new doctor “believes I have a treatable form of prostate cancer, but that’s yet to be determined. If I do, it’s odd because some of the indicators don’t point to that. Let’s hope she's right.”

Lining Up for Daggers

Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) has announced its shortlists of nominees for nine 2016 Dagger Awards. Two of these collections of competitors—for the Non-fiction Dagger and the Short Story Dagger—have not altered since May’s announcement of this year’s longlisted works. If you’d like brief descriptions of each book in the competition, refer to the CWA Web site.

CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger
(for the best crime novel of the year):

Black Widow, by Christopher Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
Blood Salt Water, by Denise Mina (Orion)
Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (No Exit Press)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger
(for the best crime thriller of the year):

The Cartel, by Don Winslow (William Heinemann)
The English Spy, by Daniel Silva (HarperCollins)
Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Make Me, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger
(for the best debut crime novel):

Fever City, by Tim Baker (Faber and Faber)
Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (No Exit Press)
Freedom’s Child, by Jax Miller (HarperCollins)
Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
The Good Liar, by Nicholas Searle (Viking)

CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger
(for the best historical crime novel):

The House at Baker Street, by Michelle Birkby (Pan)
The Other Side of Silence, by Philip Kerr (Quercus)
A Book of Scars, by William Shaw (Quercus)
The Jazz Files, by Fiona Veitch Smith (Lion Fiction)
Striking Murder, by A.J. Wright (Allison & Busby)
Stasi Child, by David Young, (Twenty7Books)

CWA Non-fiction Dagger:
The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story, by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)
Sexy Beasts: The Hatton Garden Mob, by Wensley Clarkson (Quercus)
You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life (You Are Raoul Moat), by Andrew Hankinson (Scribe)
A Very Expensive Poison: The Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko and Russia’s War with the West, by Luke Harding
(Guardian Faber)
Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories: From Lady Chatterley’s Lover to Howard Marks, by Thomas Grant (John Murray)
John le Carré: The Biography, by Adam Sisman (Bloomsbury)

CWA Short Story Dagger
(for a short crime story published in the UK):

“As Alice Did,” by Andrea Camilleri (from Montalbano’s First Cases, by Andrea Camilleri; Pan Macmillan)
“On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier,” by John Connolly (from Nocturnes 2: Night Music, by John Connolly; Hodder & Stoughton)
“Holmes on the Range: A Tale of the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository,” by John Connolly (from Nocturnes 2: Night Music)
“Bryant & May and the Nameless Woman,” by Christopher Fowler (from London’s Glory, by Christopher Fowler; Bantam)
“Stray Bullets,” by Alberto Barrera (from Crimes, by Alberto Barrera Tyszka; MacLehose Press)
“Rosenlaui,” by Conrad Williams (from The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty: The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’s Nemesis, edited by Maxim Jakubowski; Constable & Robinson)

CWA International Dagger
(for crime fiction translated into English and published in the UK):

The Truth and Other Lies, by Sascha Arango;
translated by Imogen Taylor (Simon & Schuster)
The Great Swindle, by Pierre Lemaître;
translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
Icarus, by Deon Meyer;
translated by K.L. Seegers (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Murderer in Ruins, by Cay Rademacher;
translated by Peter Millar (Arcadia)
Six Four, by Hideo Yokoyama;
translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davis (Quercus)

CWA Dagger in the Library
(for the author of the most enjoyed collection of work in libraries):

Tony Black, published by Black & White
Alison Bruce, published by Constable & Robinson
Elly Griffiths, published by Quercus
Quintin Jardine, published by Headline

Debut Dagger (for the opening of a crime novel by an author
with no publishing contract):

Dark Valley, by John Kennedy
The Devil’s Dice, by Roz Watkins
A Reconstructed Man, by Graham Brack
A State of Grace, by Rita Catching
Wimmera, by Mark Brandi

This year’s victorious works and authors will be declared during an awards dinner to be held in London on October 11. Also during that affair, best-selling author Peter James will be presented with this year’s Diamond Dagger. The speaker that evening will be James Runcie, author of The Grantchester Mysteries; master of ceremonies will be crime-fiction authority Barry Forshaw.

(Hat tip to Euro Crime.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Wide Range of Kiwi Crime

This week has already delivered news about a couple of other varieties of Down Under crime-fiction prizes, the Australian Davitt Awards and Ned Kelly Awards. Now, organizers of New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh Awards competition have announced the finalists in two categories—one of which, Best First Novel, is new this year.

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel:
Inside the Black Horse, by Ray Berard (Mary Egan)
Made to Kill, by Adam Christopher (Titan)
Trust No One, by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
The Legend of Winstone Blackhat, by Tanya Moir (RHNZ Vintage)
American Blood, by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel:
Inside the Black Horse, by Ray Berard (Mary Egan)
The Fixer, by John Daniell (Upstart Press)
The Gentlemen’s Club, by Jen Shieff (Mary Egan)
Twister, by Jane Woodham (Makaro Press)

Craig Sisterson, who acts as judging convener for these prizes (and also founded the Ngaio Marsh Award back in 2010) is quoted in a press release as saying, “We had a record number of entrants this year, which gave several headaches to our international judging panel. Not only are our local authors producing novels of exceptional international quality, they are breaking the shackles of convention and stretching the boundaries of genre to explore crime storytelling in unique and exciting ways. We were comparing apples with feijoas.” Sisterson tells me there were “12 entrants to the Best First Novel Award [competition]” this year, and 18 for Best Crime Novel—that list of contestants cut down to nine in early June.

Winners will be declared on August 27 during the Great New Zealand Crime Debate at WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival.

Paul Cleave won last year’s Marsh Award for Five Minutes Alone.

This is the first time in the last four years that I have not served as a judge for the Ngaio Marsh Award contest. I was very grateful to Sisterson for inviting me to take part, and I greatly enjoyed my service as an adjudicator. But I was simply too busy with other reading assignments to participate this time around. So I’m only now hearing about the shortlisted titles, just like the rest of you. We’ll all have to keep our eyes out for some of these contenders in the future.

Paring Down the Ned Rivals

Courtesy of AustCrime, we can now bring you the shortlist of nominees for the 2016 Ned Kelly Awards, sponsored by the Australian Crime Writers Association.

Best Fiction:
Ash Island, by Barry Maitland (Text)
Before It Breaks, by Dave Warner (Fremantle Press)
Fall, by Candice Fox (Bantam)
R&R, by Mark Dapin (Viking Australia)
Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Allen & Unwin)
The Heat, by Garry Disher (Text)

Best First Fiction:
Amplify, by Mark Hollands (Kylie Davis)
Four Days, by Iain Ryan (Broken River)
Good Money, by J.M. Green (Scribe)
Please Don’t Leave Me Here, by Tania Chandler (Scribe)
Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Echo)
Skin Deep, by Gary Kemble (Echo)

True Crime:
A Murder Without Motive, by Martin McKenzie-Murray (Scribe)
Certain Admissions, by Gideon Haigh (Penguin)
Kidnapped, by Mark Tedeschi (Simon & Schuster)
Killing Love, by Rebecca Poulson (Simon & Schuster)
The Sting, by Kate Kyriacou (Echo)

In addition, AustCrime reports, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Carmel Shute, “a founder and national co-convener of Sisters in Crime Australia ... [who] has spent 25 years supporting and nurturing Australian women crime writers.”

The full roster of 2016 winners will be announced on Sunday, August 28, during the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Round Two, Aussie Style

Fair Dinkum Crime, the blog hosted by Adelaide-based mystery-fiction enthusiasts Kerrie Smith and Bernadette Bean, brings us the shortlist of nominees for the 2016 Davitt Awards, sponsored by Sisters in Crime Australia and “celebrating the best in crime writing by Australian women.” The winners will be declared on August 27.

Adult Novel:
Medea’s Curse: Natalie King, Forensic Psychiatrist,
by Anne Buist (Text)
Fall, by Candice Fox (Penguin Random House)
Give the Devil His Due, by Sulari Gentill (Pantera Press)
Storm Clouds, by Bronwyn Parry (Hachette Australia)
Time to Run, by J.M. Peace, (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Echo)

Young Adult Novel:
In the Skin of a Monster, by Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)
Risk, by Fleur Ferris (Penguin Random House)
Every Move, by Ellie Marney (Allen & Unwin)
Stay with Me, by Maureen McCarthy (Allen & Unwin)

Children’s Novel:
Verity Sparks and the Scarlet Hand, by Susan Green (Walker Press)
Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief, by Catherine Jinks
(Allen & Unwin)
Friday Barnes 2: Under Suspicion, by R.A. Spratt
(Penguin Random House)

Black Widow, by Carol Baxter (Allen & Unwin)
Why Did They Do It?, by Cheryl Critchley and Helen McGrath
(Pan Macmillan Australia)
The Sting, by Kate Kyriacou (Echo)
Wild Man, by Alecia Simmonds (Affirm Press)
Behind Closed Doors, by Sue Smetherst (Simon & Schuster)
You’re Just Too Good to Be True, by Sofija Stefanovic (Penguin Random House)

In the Skin of a Monster, by Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)
Medea’s Curse: Natalie King, Forensic Psychiatrist,
by Anne Buist (Text)
Please Don’t Leave Me Here, by Tania Chandler (Scribe)
Double Madness, by Caroline de Costa (Margaret River Press)
Risk, by Fleur Ferris (Penguin Random House)
Good Money, by J.M. Green (Scribe)
Time to Run, by J.M. Peace (Pan Macmillan Australia)
The Lost Swimmer, by Ann Turner (Simon & Schuster)
Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Echo)

The longlist of 2016 Davitt nominees was announced in June. Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Revue of Reviewers, 7-26-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

A Warm Reception for “Cold”

This comes from B.V. Lawson’s blog, In Reference to Murder:
Following the success of John le Carré’s spy novel adaptation The Night Manager, Paramount TV is tackling another of the author’s works for the BBC, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Le Carré’s 1963 breakthrough novel). The book tells the story of Alec Leamas, a veteran British spy tasked with bringing down one of the most senior figures in the East German Intelligence Service, and is regarded a classic of its genre that was made into a film in 1965 with Richard Burton in the lead role.
Deadline Hollywood notes that a film company called The Ink Factory “will finance and produce [the mini-series] in association with Paramount TV and Character 7.” Ink Factory’s Stephen Cornwell and Simon Cornwell, and Character 7’s Stephen Garrett—all of whom worked as executive producers on The Night Manager—will collaborate again on this TV version of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. No broadcast date has yet been announced.

Technology to the Rescue of Indie Bookshops?

We have recently become quite unaccustomed to hearing hopeful news about small independent bookstores, so it’s interesting to read this piece in the Seattle Review of Books blog that focuses on Oren Teicher, the chief executive officer of the American Booksellers Association (ABA). It seems he has developed a contrary opinion to the received wisdom that such shops are “always just about to be wiped off the face of the country because of a new challenge.
First, he says, it was that the B. Dalton and Waldenbooks outlets in every mall would kill local stores. Then, the big boxes like Barnes & Nobles and Borders. After that, the deep discounters like Crown Books. And onward to mass merchandisers like Walmart and membership stores like Costco. And, finally, along came Amazon, he says, followed by Amazon selling e-books.

But after years of shrinking sales and locations, indie stores have seen a slightly accelerating tick upwards since 2009 in new businesses, more stores, a bigger slice of the retailing pie, and a growth in overall revenue. Teicher cites several reasons, but one of them is the same wave of technology that, the story was supposed to go, would drown non-chain stores once and for all.
Freelancer Glenn Fleishman’s article could have benefited from more assiduous copy editing, but it’s still worth reading.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Happy Hundredth, John D.!

A Deadly Shade of Gold, by John D. MacDonald (Fawcett Gold Medal, 1975). Illustration by Robert McGinnis.

If you’ve checked in recently on my other blog, Killer Covers, you know that I’ve been running a two-week-long series of posts there showcasing the vintage fronts from John D. MacDonald novels. That series ends today—but in a big way. With this being the 100th anniversary of MacDonald’s birth, I have put together a gallery of 76 book covers, taken not only from his 21 Travis McGee novels, but also from the twice as many standalones he penned over his almost 40-year career. Artists represented in this collection range from Robert McGinnis and Ron Lesser to Mitchell Hooks, Victor Kalin, and Owen Kampen. Click here to see the full display.

READ MORE:John D. MacDonald’s 100th Birthday Celebration” and “John D. and Me: John Jakes—the Finale” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune); “Born 100 Years Ago, Mystery Writer John D. Macdonald Foresaw the Risks Facing Florida’s Beauty,” by Craig Pittman (Tampa Bay Times); “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: A Century of John D.  MacDonald,” by Bob Byrne (Black Gate).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tie-in Triumphs

It was announced yesterday which authors and books won the 2016 Scribe Awards, given out by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. The Scribes honor “licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books.”

There were five categories of contestants in line for this year’s prizes, not all of them dominated by crime, mystery, or thriller fiction. However, a TV thriller-oriented tie-in novel, 24: Rogue, by David Mack (Forge), did win in the Best Original Novel—General division. Three other candidates vied for that same commendation: Elementary: The Ghost Line, by Adam Christopher (Titan); Kill Me, Darling, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Titan); and Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: Desert Falcons, by Michael A. Black (Gold Eagle).

In addition, the 2016 Best Short Story prize went to “Fallout,” a Mike Hammer yarn by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, originally printed in The Strand Magazine (November 2014-February 2015).

You’ll find the full rundown of nominees in author David Mack’s blog.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Living It Up with the Dead Goods

Thanks to the ever-reliable Ali Karim, our man at this weekend’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England, we now have the winners of the 2016 Dead Good Reader Awards, sponsored by the UK-based crime-fiction Web site Dead Good. The announcement of victorious books and authors was made during a special event held this evening at the festival.

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book:
Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Little, Brown)

Also nominated: Die of Shame, by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown); In Her Wake, by Amanda Jennings (Orenda); The Missing, by C.L. Taylor (Avon); Tastes Like Fear, by Sarah Hilary (Headline); and Untouchable Things, by Tara Guha (Legend Press)

The Tess Gerritsen Award for Best Series:
Roy Grace, created by Peter James (Macmillan)

Also nominated: Jack Reacher, created by Lee Child (Transworld); Marnie Rome, created by Sarah Hilary (Headline); Logan McRae, created by Stuart MacBride (Harper Collins); Ruth Galloway, created by Elly Griffiths (Quercus); and George MacKenzie, created by Marnie Riches (Maze)

The Linwood Barclay Award for Most Surprising Twist:
Little Black Lies, by Sharon Bolton (Transworld)

Also nominated: Disclaimer, by Renee Knight (Transworld); The Ice Twins, by S.K. Tremayne (Harper Collins); I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere); The Kind Worth Killing, by Peter Swanson (Faber & Faber); and When She Was Bad, by Tammy Cohen (Transworld)

The Papercut Award for Best Page Turner:
The Girl in the Ice, by Robert Bryndza (Bookouture)

Also nominated: Broken Promise, by Linwood Barclay (Orion); Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Little, Brown); Follow Me, by Angela Clarke (Avon); In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware (Vintage); and Splinter the Silence, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)

The Hotel Chocolat Award for Darkest Moment:
In the Cold Dark Ground, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins)

Also nominated: Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris (Mira); The Darkest Secret, by Alex Marwood (Sphere); Little Boy Blue, by M.J. Arlidge (Michael Joseph); The Teacher, by Katerina Diamond (Avon); and Viral, by Helen Fitzgerald (Faber & Faber)

The Mörda Award for Captivating Crime in Translation:
Nightblind, by Ragnar Jónasson (Orenda Books)

Also nominated: Camille, by Pierre Lemaitre (MacLehose Press); The Crow Girl, by Erik Axl Sund (Vintage); The Defenceless, by Kati Hiekkapelto (Orenda Books); I’m Travelling Alone, by Samuel Bjork (Doubleday); and The Undesired, by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
(Hodder & Stoughton)

Congratulations to all of this year’s contenders!

The Book You Have to Read:
“Sidewalk Caesar,” by Donald Honig

(Editor’s note: This is the 139th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
Every once in a while a touch of literary schadenfreude is just the thing when you’re down in the dumps. Observing the mess a fictional character has made of his or her life can put a bounce back in your step; and what might make it even more uplifting is knowing that no real humans were harmed in the improvement of your mood. Therefore, if even hearing the name Theodore Dreiser puts you in a whistling disposition, then the atmospheric and beautifully written Sidewalk Caesar, by Donald Honig (originally published in 1958, but later reissued as The Operator), belongs in your medicine cabinet right next to the Xanax.

In the downtrodden New York City outer-borough neighborhood of Capstone, where the houses are “bunched together like old men in the cold,” loser Milton Dono plots to change his luck—yet accomplishes anything but that. Known in his school days as Milton Don’t Know, he’s looking for more than casual approbation. Milton wishes to transcend from lowly bartender to exalted local bookie to, he hopes, gambling kingpin—and plans thereafter to show anyone and everyone who ever mocked him the meaning of the word respect.

For a certain kind of young woman, Milton is irresistible. Lucille Maxwell, the aimless neighborhood hussy, is that girl. Milton, we’re told, “could produce so searing an eruption in her flesh, [that it] seemed possessed of potent fire, believable and capable, sufficient perhaps to kindle with its dreams the stores and paths of men.” Lucille believes in his self-aggrandizing plans, and gives herself to him as a result. This shameless pair rut in public places like alley cats (“he crouched in mad performance, she leaning away, swooned”), and so the inevitable happens—Lucille is knocked up and Milton, an illiterate crumb of a man, couldn’t care less. Lucille hopes he’ll marry her, but as folks might’ve said in the backwater of Capstone, “that ain’t gonna happen.” Instead, she agrees to begin a courtship with Milton’s brother Paul, a responsible and honest young man, as well as a virgin and a bit of a chump, actually; then seduce and pin the pregnancy on him … which, further down the line, kind of succeeds.

Upon becoming a bookie, Milton, in an exquisite display of meretricious egoism, buys a fedora and crowns himself heir to the weed-strewn neighborhood’s bookmaking hierarchy. The locals who are in the know welcome Milton to it. Milton doesn’t learn from the mistakes of Walter Kinney, the local rummy and busted former bookie who becomes Milton’s runner, nor from the respected businessman, Mr. McMurtry, who back in the day had been one of Walter’s employees. Milton is blinded by his greed and insecurity (disguised as ambition), and is not intelligent enough to understand that when the odds, the tools of his trade which he ought to know intimately, point to the slim chances he has of achieving success, he ought to pay some heed. Unwilling to listen to wiser men, and unable to see that the deck is stacked against him, Milton’s downfall is inevitable—and what a tumble it turns out to be.

Sidewalk Caesar is a novel of psychological realism, making its plot secondary to the inner workings of the characters’ thoughts and motivations. Readers could well experience some cognitive dissonance as the omniscient narrator sounds several stations above the neighborhood flunkies and their tawdry lives, which are described in prose that is verbose, flowery, at times a bit opaque, and alien to the tabloid subjects of abortion, theft, insurance fraud, attempted murder, and immolation.

Think Henry James talking about bookmaking with the demimonde instead of discussing morality in tidy Edwardian drawing rooms with those to the manor born. Thankfully, author Honig has no inhibitions about getting off his high horse to dirty his boots and describe the characters here with accuracy and empathy. He gets inside them with tough and terse dialogue, and allows readers to eavesdrop on interior monologues that succeed in duplicating how a character with limited education and expectations might sound.

(Left) Author Donald Honig

Honig uses descriptions such as “the whish of cars [seems] … remote, like the boundless flight of comets”; a “face as white as a moon”; Manhattan is “like another galaxy”; and car headlights are “twin moons,” all of which saturate the characters and their environs with a sense of helplessness and preordained destiny, as if they’re merely additional components in a harsh universe, condemned to wander through life along predetermined paths, devoid of introspection.

Honig also pays a visit to Yoknapatawpha County with a plethora of Faulknerian flourishes, on the order of “sullen man-gone loneliness,” “child-calm,” “utter round-eyed astonishment,” and “the colossal rushing thundering froth.” These may lead to some head scratching among readers, but when appreciated for their own sake, the beauty of the poetics soon alleviates any confusion.

Milton Dono’s life spirals out of control when a bet made by McMurtry winds up bankrupting him. An alliance born of desperation with a deadbeat gambler—“a camaraderie … like two men who have shaken hands through the bars of adjoining death cells and both of them are praying that the other will be dispatched first”—turns young Milton and his plan into cinders.

Donald Honig is a novelist and was once a frequent contributor of short stories to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, but he’s now best known as a prolific baseball historian. With Sidewalk Caesar, he really hit one out of the park. During the golden age of pulp fiction, Sidewalk Caesar might have seemed too literary a yarn to make its way into the back pocket of an IRT motorman or a hot dog vendor roaming Yankee Stadium; nowadays, it has no hope of finding its way onto a literature class syllabus. True, the book jacket teases that “greed and sex betrayed him,” but it’s belied by a sophisticated writing style, as if John Updike took on the rise and fall of Whitey Bulger. Sidewalk Caesar is a cautionary tale with a simple yet inventive plot about a tired and desperate inner-city existence. It’s a reminder that in a world where the individual answers to no one but himself, even a person claiming the cheapest and most venal of lives deserves a dignified portrayal, if only because he makes the attempt to stand tall and shape a destiny that is mostly out of his control.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mackintosh Prevails

British freelance journalist and author Clare Mackintosh has won the 2016 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award for her thriller I Let You Go (Sphere). That announcement was made this evening during a special opening-night event at the 14th Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

Also shortlisted for that prize were Time of Death, by Mark Billingham (Sphere); Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere); Tell No Tales, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker); Disclaimer, by Renée Knight (Black Swan); and Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail).

The original, longlist of 18 contenders is here.

Also receiving recognition tonight was Scottish writer Val McDermid, who—as Crime Fiction Lover reports—“becomes the seventh winner of the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award, following Sara Paretsky, Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Colin Dexter, and Reginald Hill. Well known for her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, as well as her fine standalone novels, her books have sold over 10 million copies in more than 30 languages. Her 30th novel, Out of Bounds, is due out in September.”

READ MORE:Feeling Old and Peculier in Harrogate,” by Craig Sisterson (Crime Watch).

You’d Better Make Them Doubles

Megan Abbott, author of the new novel You Will Know Me (Little, Brown), is the latest focus of The New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” interview column. Abbott’s answers in the past to questions about her work and the crime-fiction genre in general have almost invariably proved to be interesting, and that’s no less true here. When pressed to say which three writers, dead or alive, she would want to invite to a dinner party, she responds:
Emily Brontë, Freud, and Flannery O’Connor. That’s a tough, tough crew. I’m not getting away with anything at that table. There will definitely need to be martinis.
You will find the whole Book Review piece here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bullet Points: Happy Distractions Edition

If you can tear your eyes away from this week’s train wreck of a Republican Party convention in Cleveland, here are some crime-fiction-related items worth your attention.

• Please take a moment today to send good wishes in the direction of Alvin, Texas, author Bill Crider (Survivors Will Be Shot Again), whose 75th birthday is coming up on July 28. He reported in his blog yesterday that his doctor wanted him to “check into the hospital ASAP, as he thinks I might be having kidney failure. This can’t be good.” Crider, whose wife of 49 years, Judy, passed away in 2014, has always come across—in print and in person (on those several occasions I’ve seen him at Bouchercons)—as a fine and funny individual. His recent adoption of three abandoned kittens demonstrated his generosity, as well. Our thoughts are with you, Bill. Get well soon.

• Having gained renown for bringing out hard-boiled paperback crime fiction, Hard Case Crime is now preparing to launch a companion comic-books line in association with publishing partner Titan. “Kicking-off the imprint,” reports Comic Book Resources, “are two new crime series: Triggerman by writer Walter Hill, the acclaimed director of The Warriors, and artist Matz (Body and Soul), and Peepland from crime authors Christa Faust and Gary Phillips and artist Andrea Camerini (Il Troio). Also launching in 2017 is a comic adaptation of author Max Allan Collins’ Quarry, which is currently being developed for television.” News-a-Rama adds that Triggerman—which will debut in stores on October 5, “is an operatic Prohibition-era mini-series,” while Peepland—scheduled to be available a week later—is “a semi-autobiographical neo-noir mini-series with a punk edge set in the seedy Times Square peep booths of 1980s New York City.” In his blog, author Collins explains that “no artist has been selected” for his Quarry tale, “and I probably won’t start writing for two or three months; the graphic novel will likely be called Quarry’s War and will deal more directly with his Vietnam experiences than I’ve ever done in the novels.” It’s been many years since I was a regular reader of comic books, but these Hard Case releases are definitely of interest to me, if only because I know some of the writers involved. Also, the issues I’ve seen boast beautiful covers, one of which is shown on the right.

• By the way, that Collins post I just mentioned also features a new trailer for the coming Cinemax TV series, Quarry. It’s apparently narrated by South Africa-born actress Jodi Balfour, who plays Joni, the ex-wife of Collins’ protagonist—looking quite a bit less glamorous than she did in the Canadian series Bomb Girls, which my wife and I are currently in the process of watching on Netflix.

• Another graphic novel of interest: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (12 Gauge), an adaptation of Ace Atkins’ first story starring Louisiana footballer-turned-sometime private eye Nick Travers. The Crimespree Magazine blog says the artwork dramatizing Atkins’ story was done by Marco Finnegan, who is “a fan of the Travers stories and the genre of crime. You feel the mood and the atmosphere on every page.”

MysteryPeople also weighs in on Atkins’ graphic novel.

• There are apparently three finalists vying for the 2016T. Jefferson Parker Mystery and Thriller Award: Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (Grand Central); Orphan X, by Gregg Hurwitz (Minotaur); and The Promise, by Robert Crais (Putnam). The Parker award is given out annually by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. It is one of seven categories of prizes sponsored by SCIBA. Winners are expected to be announced during the SCIBA Trade Show to be held in Los Angeles, October 21-22.

• Jose Ignacio Escribano reports in A Crime Is Afoot that “The 2016 Dashiell Hammett Prize—awarded each year by the International Crime Fiction Festival, la Semana Negra de Gijón—has been bestowed to the novel Subsuelo, by the Argentine writer Marcelo Luján.”

• Blogger-editor Janet Rudolph needs submissions to her next edition of Mystery Readers Journal. She says that issue “will focus on mysteries featuring Small Town Cops,” and that she’s “looking for reviews, articles, and Author! Author! essays. Reviews: 50-250 words; articles: 250-1000 words; Author! Author! essays: 500-1,500 words.” The deadline for submissions is August 10. Learn more here.

• Just last month I mentioned on this page that I was very happy to see David Cranmer writing, in the Criminal Element blog, about Isaac Asimov’s trilogy of Elijah Baley/Daneel Olivaw yarns. Yesterday Cranmer completed his critiques of those science-fiction whodunits, posting this fine piece about The Robots of Dawn (1983) to add to his earlier remarks on The Caves of Steel (1954) and The Naked Sun (1957). Good going, Mr. Cranmer!

This is an interesting development: “Steeger Properties, LLC, is pleased to announce that it has added the most prominent pulp magazine ever published, Black Mask, to its intellectual property holdings. As the periodical where the hard-boiled detective story was created and cultivated, Black Mask’s historical significance in popular fiction is unequaled. … Black Mask rejoins Dime Detective and Detective Fiction Weekly in Steeger Properties, LLC’s holdings once owned by Popular Publications Inc. ... This marks the first time in over 50 years that all three titles [are] owned by one entity.”

• If you need a Caribbean mystery fix, check this out.

Columbo star Peter Falk, who passed away in 2011 at age 83, will be the subject of this week’s installment of TV Confidential, Ed Robertson’s popular two-hour radio talk show. William Link (who, with Richard Levinson, created that NBC Mystery Movie series) and TV critic Mark Dawidziak will join Robertson on the show, which is set to air from Friday, July 22, through Monday, July 25, on a variety of radio stations. It will later be archived here for your enjoyment.

• It was two years ago yesterday that prolific actor James Garner died at 86 years of age. Quite to my surprise, I am still discovering new films and small-screen productions in which he starred. Just last week, for instance, I finally got around to watching 1997’s Dead Silence, adapted from Jeffery Deaver’s 1995 novel, A Maiden’s Grave, and starring Garner as a hostage negotiator.

• Author brothers Lee and Tod Goldberg have won valuable attention in Palm Springs, California’s Desert Sun newspaper for the fact that they “have pulled off a rare feat by both appearing on the same New York Times Best Sellers list at the same time for different books.” (Yes, I know I mentioned this previously.)

The real reason Showtime’s Penny Dreadful was canceled?

• I was just thinking the other night about how much I’d like to rewatch last year’s thrills-packed Guy Ritchie picture, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.—which I very much enjoyed at the time of its release—when what should appear in Bill Crider’s blog but this favorable assessment of that flick as an “overlooked movie.” (Crider also offered this trailer.) These stars having thus aligned, I now have The Man from U.N.C.L.E. stored in my TV queue for imminent viewing.

• Sadly, while Ritchie’s U.N.C.L.E. survived the first round of online voting in the 2016 MTV Fandom of the Year awards, it fell out of the running in round two.

• Stephen Bowie presents a superior write-up in The Classic TV History Blog about The Defenders, the often-acclaimed 1961-1965 CBS-TV legal drama, Season One of which was finally released in DVD format last week by Shout! Factory.

• Meanwhile, Ivan G. Shreve Jr. applauds Shout!’s recent release of Lou Grant: Season One. Lou Grant, you will recall, was the excellent 1977-1982 CBS series in which Edward Asner played the tough but thoughtful city editor of the (fictional) Los Angeles Tribune newspaper. He’d previously appeared as Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Lou Grant: Season Two will go on sale in August.

• Again on the subject of TV programs, have you heard about Wayne State University Press’ evolving collection of releases about such memorable boob-tube productions as Have Gun—Will Travel, The X Files, Maverick, The Fugitive, and Miami Vice? This might be something to keep a watch on for the near future.

• Some author interviews worth your attention: Underground Airlines’ Ben H. Winters goes one-on-one with Lori Rader-Day for the Chicago Review of Books; in that same publication, Lauren Sacks quizzes David Baker (Vintage); Todd Robinson (Rough Trade) chats with Crimespree Magazine; writer-publisher Jason Pinter submits to an interrogation by S.W. Lauden; MysteryPeople turns its attention to both Peter Spiegelman (Dr. Knox) and Douglas Graham Purdy (We Were Kings); James Henry, aka James Gurbutt, talks with Cleopatra Loves Books about his new UK release, Blackwater; Mystery Playground fires questions at Terrence McCauley (A Murder of Crows); In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel discusses the old Sergeant Cuff novels with Martin Edwards; and Camilla Way (Watching Edie) stops by for a bit of a palaver with Crime Fiction Lover.

• Seattleite Vince Keenan, the managing editor of Noir City (the Film Noir Foundation’s “house rag”), offers this short but snappy look back at the film and television career or Roy Huggins, the creator of Maverick and the co-creator of The Rockford Files.

• Despite its hype and publishing success, I found Stephanie Meyer’s vampire-themed Twilight series unreadable, so I won’t be buying her forthcoming adult thriller, The Chemist, which she describes as “the love child created from the union of my romantic sensibilities and my obsession with Jason Bourne/Aaron Cross.” But for those of you who are curious to know more, click over to this Omnivoracious post.

• Darn! I wish I could be in Britain this week to watch “BBC 1’s lavish new adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel, The Secret Agent.” (There’s a trailer at the link.) Fortunately, Wikipedia says this three-part mini-series, starring Toby Jones, will cross the Atlantic at some as-yet-unannounced date, courtesy of Acorn TV.

• In The Guardian, Mark Lawson calls Conrad’s The Secret Agent “a prescient masterpiece that has shaped depictions of terrorism and espionage.” It’s hard to argue with that assessment.

• For folks who like lists, try these on for size. Wolf Lake author John Verdon recommends the “10 Best Whodunits” in Publishers Weekly, while Joseph Finder (Guilty Minds) serves up his picks of the “10 Best Movie Thrillers” on the Strand Magazine Web site.

• Among Brooklyn Magazine’s list of “100 Books to Read for the Rest of 2016” are several crime and mystery fiction picks, including Good as Gone, by Amy Gentry, The Kingdom, by Fuminori Nakamura, and Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters.

From In Reference to Murder:There are plans afoot to bring the Idris Elba-starring crime drama Luther to the big screen. Luther creator Neil Cross indicated that the Luther movie would play as [a] prequel to the series, meaning that some of the characters from early in the show could return, including Luther’s old partner Ian Reed (Steven Mackintosh), and his sidekick Justin Ripley (Warren Brown). Cross added, ‘It will follow his career in the earlier days when he is still married to Zoe [Indira Varma], and the final scene in the film is the first of the initial TV series.’”

• With only two months to go now (yikes!) before Bouchercon 2016 kicks off in New Orleans, Louisiana, conference organizes have made all six of this year’s Anthony Award-nominated short stories available online here for your consideration.

• Finally, because Donald Trump & Co. are still huffing and puffing and blowing themselves up on stage in Ohio, here’s a note of interest from the online Seattle Review of Books: “Would you care to guess what Donald Trump reads? Is ‘not much of anything’ your answer? The good news is, you’re right! (The bad news is: you’re right.)” More about Trump’s anti-intellectualism can be found here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Revue of Reviewers, 7-19-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Lion-Hearted Leo Rides Again

While other Seattle-based fictional private eyes have come and gone, G.M. Ford’s Leo Waterman is still on the case—and doing pretty well at it. My new Kirkus Reviews column—posted earlier this morning—looks at Ford’s new novel, Salvation Lake. You will find the piece here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hard-boiled Tale in Softcover Glory

If, for some odd reason, you haven’t been keeping up with Killer Covers’ tribute series to John D. MacDonald—timed to what would have been that author’s 100th birthday (on July 24)—then note that it has now entered its second week. Today’s fabulous paperback front comes from an early 1970s edition of The Executioners, the novel that was adapted into the Robert Mitchum/Gregory Peck suspense film Cape Fear. See the cover for yourself here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

She Has It All Locke-d Up

Los Angeles writer Attica Locke’s third novel, Pleasantville (Harper), has won the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, according to a joint announcement made by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. That same news release adds: “The prize, authorized by Lee [who died earlier this year], is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. … Locke’s novel will be honored during a ceremony on September 22, at 5:30 p.m., at the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival.”

Locke is only the sixth author to win the Harper Lee Prize. It was previously given to Deborah Johnson (in 2015) for The Secret of Magic; John Grisham (2014) for Sycamore Row; Paul Goldstein (2013) for Havana Requiem; Michael Connelly (2012) for The Fifth Witness; and John Grisham (2011) for The Confession.

In addition to Pleasantville, there were a couple of other 2015 novels in contention for this year’s award. They were Tom & Lucky (and George & Cokey Flo), by C. Joseph Greaves (Bloomsbury USA), and Allegiance, by Kermit Roosevelt (Regan Arts).

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cheyney’s Dark Times

(Editor’s note: Most modern readers have forgotten or never even heard of 20th-century British hard-boiled fictionist Peter Cheyney, but he was once a huge best-seller in Europe, his many crime novels, in a variety of series, issued and reissued in multiple editions. In the essay below, Michael Keyton—a resident of Monmouth, Wales, who’s penned several works of horror and speculative fiction, as well as the horror/comedy/noir yarn Clay Cross—offers background to his latest book, a biography titled Cheyney Behave!: Peter Cheyney: A Darker World, plus some period context for Cheyney’s storytelling. Much of the piece is devoted to the Dark Series, which featured players such as Michael Kane, Johnny Vallon, Shaun O’Mara, and of course, Peter Everard Quayle, the operations director for a UK intelligence unit combating Nazi agents.)

I first came across author Peter Cheyney when I was somewhere between 12 and 13 years old. At a church bazaar or second-hand bookshop—the memory is blurred. I forgot all about him for almost 40 more years. And this “forgetting” is key to the whole story. Peter Cheyney (1896-1951) was the most popular and prolific British author of his day. He was also the most highly paid. His curse, perhaps, is that he undoubtedly influenced Ian Fleming, for James Bond is nothing more than a glamorous composite of the Cheyney “hero.” Cheyney created the template that Fleming developed, and the rest is history. Bond got Chubby Broccoli and celluloid fame, Peter Cheyney obscurity and critical censure.

John le Carré, when asked about spy books that might have influenced him as a child, bowed dutifully to the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, John Buchan, and Graham Greene. But then he mentioned the “awful, mercifully forgotten chauvinistic writers like Peter Cheyney and Co.” Professor John Sutherland made a similar point when he referred to Cheyney’s eight-book Dark Series (Dark Duet, Dark Bahama, etc.) as the “high point of a resolutely low-flying career.” These two wonderfully pithy assessments are true to a point. They are also skewed by the cultural backgrounds and literary talents of both men.

So why write a book about Cheyney, other than for the fact that the only previous biography devoted to his life and work (Peter Cheyney: Prince of Hokum, by Michael Harrison) was penned by a fairly uncritical friend of his back in 1954? The reason is the same one that draws me to the works of Edgar Wallace and Sapper (aka H.C. McNeile), Mickey Spillane and Richard S. Prather. They may not be great literature, even though they offer some wonderful vignettes, but they open windows into cultures and mores now largely unknown. Edgar Wallace and Sax Rohmer, for instance, illustrate wonderfully the underlying unease and hysteria shared by great swaths of the population after the Great War; they offer insights into the fantasies and prejudices of ordinary readers. Peter Cheyney, coming on the scene a little later, does the same, his greatest achievement catching the zeitgeist of the Second World War in his justly acclaimed Dark Series.

Out of the Dark Series (left to right): Dark Interlude (Pan, 1950) and Dark Duet (Pan, 1960)—both of which boast cover art by Sam Peffer, aka “Peff”—and The Dark Street (Pan, 1963), with an illustration by J. Oval (alias Ben Ostrick).

The Dark Series—debuting in 1942 and following his introduction of two other crime series, one starring hard-nosed FBI agent Lemmy Caution, the other featuring British private investigator Slim Callaghan—was immensely popular because it tapped into what people wanted to believe. There is little subtlety in those spy tales. Women are lovingly described for men far from home; and in his lavish and detailed accounts of what his female characters are wearing, Cheyney appealed to women suffering from rationing and austerity in Europe. To both, he offered wish fulfillment when wishes were all that was un-rationed. He also offered hope.

During the dark years of World War II, Cheyney’s novels were carried into combat zones and exchanged for 10 cigarettes apiece in POW camps; and during an era when fabric was rationed, women fantasized about the glamorous Cheyney femmes fatales in their satin and silks, sheer stockings, ruffles and bows. Read Cheyney and you’re reading violence and brutality set in a fashion catalogue.

The Dark Series tapped into a zeitgeist, when hope and belief trumped sophistication. Britain was fighting a war, its very existence at stake. This central fact perhaps best explains why so many Peter Cheyney books were found in the battlefields of Europe. The books were propaganda gold, offering what every Briton wanted to believe.

They also held a mirror up to a truth the authorities of the time denied—a startling loosening of sexual mores.

Half a dozen years of total warfare brought unimaginable violence to “ordinary people,” and when faced with disruption and imminent death, moral restraint appears quaint rather than admirable. War coarsened people in their need for immediacy and the pleasures of now. The English poet Philip Larkin once famously said, “Sex was invented in 1963 … between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban … And the Beatles’ first LP.” A snappy sound bite, but essentially false.

The truth was far different. Sexual permissiveness was kick-started by the Second World War and was not the sole preserve of the young. In his 1985 book, Virtue Under Fire: How World War II Changed Our Social and Sexual Attitudes, Scottish-born historian John Costello took as his central premise that the drama and excitement of international battle had eroded moral restraints, the totality of war bringing the urgent licentiousness of the front lines closer to home. In the words of one American soldier: “We were young and could die tomorrow.”

(Left) Peter Cheyney, from the back of the 1950 Collins edition of Dark Bahama.

Costello’s analysis, which many thought an eye-opener in the mid-1980s, was actually predated by Peter Cheyney and brought to life in his Dark Series four decades earlier. What makes Cheyney so significant, and explains his popularity, is that his books reflected what officialdom wouldn’t concede about societal change, and reflected it without judgment.

Putting together Cheyney, Behave! involved addictive research, contacting his old school and various golf clubs, and searching through old maps. It required my scouring second-hand bookshops (directly or through the Amazon online sales site), exploiting the generosity of Adrian Sensicle—the man responsible for the Official Peter Cheyney Website—and amassing a treasure trove of magical pulp fiction.

The process has also been a learning experience—from contacting the Cheyney estate for permission to quote from the author’s work, to finding someone who could simplify maps that allow the reader to follow in the footsteps of Cheyney’s various heroes. The Cheyney estate sold me a license to quote up to 1,300 words. Plenty, I thought … until I began systematically counting and realized I had used far more. Cheyney’s prose is addictive. The subsequent editing has, I think, made for a notably tighter book.

Perhaps the greatest learning experience of all has been in marketing. Some readers might buy my book out of simple curiosity, but I am really in search of Peter Cheyney enthusiasts—a narrow fan base, but one that’s scattered worldwide. I hope that, having been given the chance to write this article for The Rap Sheet, I can spread word of the book’s existence a bit farther than might otherwise be possible.

In Cheyney, Behave you will find misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism, and chauvinism, but at its core is idealism and profound vulnerability. Peter Cheyney’s success as the highest-paid writer of his time does not necessarily qualify him as a literary giant, but it does show that his fiction reflected the attitudes and moods of a huge portion of the population, amplified them, and played them back to readers. Cheyney talked to the Everyman rather than the educated elite, and it was the Everyman who bought his books in droves. His fiction reveals the nuances of a world long past, one very different from our own, but still fascinating and worth understanding.

READ MORE:Peter Cheyney, Part I: The Lemmy Caution Novels,” by Steve Holland (Bear Alley).

French Twists

Today is Bastille Day (aka French National Day), commemorating the July 14, 1789, public storming of Paris’ Bastille Saint-Antoine, a fortress-prison that was seen as symbolizing King Louis XVI’s increasingly oppressive and oblivious monarchy. Consider this a perfect occasion to revisit the large collection of beautiful French book fronts I put together last year for my other blog, Killer Covers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In Pursuit of Deadly’s David

With just over three weeks to go now before the opening of this year’s Deadly Ink Mystery Conference (August 5-7) in New Brunswick, New Jersey, organizers have announced their selection of nominees for the 2016 David Award. Here they are:

Ornaments of Death, by Jane K. Cleland (Minotaur)
Big Shoes, by Jack Getze (Down & Out)
What You See, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)
Forgiving Mariela Camacho, by A.J. Sidransky (Berwick Court)
Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter (Morrow)

Convention attendees will choose the recipient of this prize for the best mystery novel published in 2015, and the declaration of a winner will take place during a banquet on Saturday, August 6.

In case you don’t know this, the David Award is named in memory of David G. Sasher Sr., a New Jersey resident who passed away in 2006 at age 66, after working on the Deadly Ink convention.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Revue of Reviewers, 7-12-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Among the components I always enjoyed of Sarah Weinman’s now sadly defunct blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, were her regular “Smatterings” posts, in which she provided links to crime-fiction-related offerings—features, author interviews, book critiques, etc.—appearing elsewhere on the Web. I’ve tried to do something along the same lines with The Rap Sheet’s “Bullet Points” posts. But I haven’t typically highlighted straight-out book reviews, in large part because … well, there are so many of them available from myriad sources. (A happy consequence of this genre’s popularity.)

Lately, though, I have been thinking there must be some way to mention at least a few of the better book appraisals on this page. So today, I am launching what I hope will become a regular new feature of The Rap Sheet: “Revue of Reviewers.” While these posts won’t cover every recent critique, they’ll point you toward three to six commentaries—covering primarily novels (from both sides of the Atlantic), but also occasionally non-fiction studies of this genre—that I’ve found enjoyable or enlightening. Just click on the covers above to leap to the individual reviews.

Please let me know what you think about this new element of The Rap Sheet, as it evolves over the next few weeks.

Have You Had Your Say Yet?

Just a reminder, that you have only three days left to vote online for your favorite nominee among the half-dozen works shortlisted for the 2016 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. As mentioned in a previous post, the nominees are:

Time of Death, by Mark Billingham (Sphere)
Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)
Tell No Tales, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)
Disclaimer, by Renée Knight (Black Swan)
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)

Click here to make your preference known. You have until this coming Friday, July 15, to cast a ballot.

As contest organizers have explained, “The overall winner will be decided by a panel of judges, alongside the public vote.” An announcement of this year’s Crime Novel of the Year prize recipient will be made on July 21, the opening night of the 14th Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

* * *

Also, if you have not yet voted on behalf of your favorite nominees in the 2016 Dead Good Reader Awards competition, you can still do so here. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the winners are set to be declared during a special event on Friday, July 22, during the Theakstons Harrogate festival.

Monday, July 11, 2016

In the Shadow of Jackson

This weekend brought the announcement of which books and authors won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Awards, intended to recognize “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.” These awards are, of course, named in honor of Shirley Jackson, the author of such classic works as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. There are six prize categories; below are the winners of the top two.

Best Novel:
Experimental Film, by Gemma Files (ChiZine Publications)

Also nominated: Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press); The Glittering World, by Robert Levy (Gallery); Lord Byron’s Prophecy, by Sean Eads (Lethe Press); and When We Were Animals, by Joshua Gaylord (Mulholland)

Best Novella:
Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing/Open Road)

Also nominated: The Box Jumper, by Lisa Mannetti (Smart Rhino); In the Lovecraft Museum, by Steve Tem (PS Publishing); Unusual Concentrations, by S.J. Spurrier (Simon Spurrier); and The Visible Filth, by Nathan Ballingrud (This Is Horror)

Click here to see all of the winners and finalists.