Sunday, April 30, 2017

Marks Makes the Grade

There seem to have been an uncommon number of crime-fiction awards announcements lately, and here’s yet another one to consider: According to The Gumshoe Site, author Paul D. Marks has won first place in the 2017 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award competition for his short story “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” (which appeared originally in the December 2016 edition of EQMM).

Second-place honors belong to “Puncher’s Chance,” by Doug Allyn (June 2016), while “The Dropout,” also by Doug Allyn (March/April 2016), was the third-place victor.

These prizes were handed out during a special ceremony held in New York City on Thursday, April 27.

Of Cozies and Critical Acclaim

Since I was away from my office all of yesterday, running around Seattle on the Independent Bookstore Day “Champion Challenge” (more on that subject later), I missed hearing about the winners of the 2016 Agatha Awards competition and seeing the list of nominees for the 2017 Strand Magazine Critics Awards.

Both sets of results are now posted below.

The latest set of recipients was announced during a Saturday night banquet at the 28th Malice Domestic conference, held in Bethesda, Maryland (April 28-30). The Agathas are intended to honor the “traditional mystery”—i.e, those containing “no explicit sex” and “no excessive gore or gratuitous violence.”

Best Contemporary Novel: A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Body on the Bayou, by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane); Quiet Neighbors, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink); Fogged Inn, by Barbara Ross (Kensington); and Say No More, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

Best Historical Novel: The Reek of Red Herrings, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Whispers Beyond the Veil, by Jessica Estevao (Berkley); Get Me to the Grave on Time, by D.E. Ireland (Grainger Press); Delivering the Truth, by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink); and Murder in Morningside Heights, by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel: The Semester of Our Discontent, by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)

Also nominated: Terror in Taffeta, by Marla Cooper (Minotaur); Murder in G Major, by Alexia Gordon (Henery Press); Decanting a Murder, by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink); and Design for Dying, by Renee Patrick (Forge)

Best Non-fiction: Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats, by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest)

Also nominated: A Good Man with a Dog: A Game Warden’s 25 Years in the Maine Woods, by Roger Guay with Kate Clark Flora (Skyhorse); and Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction, by Margaret Kinsman (McFarland)

Best Short Story: “Parallel Play,” by Art Taylor (from Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Wildside Press)

Also nominated: “Double Jinx,” by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press); “The Best-Laid Plans,” by Barb Goffman (from Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional, edited by Verena Rose, Barb Goffman, and Rita Owen; Wildside Press); “The Mayor and the Midwife,” by Edith Maxwell (from Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016, edited by Greg Herren; Down & Out); and “The Last Blue Glass,” by B.K. Stevens (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2016)

Best Children’s/Young Adult: The Secret of the Puzzle Box: The Code Busters Club, by Penny Warner (Darby Creek)

Also nominated: Trapped, by P.A. DeVoe (Drum Tower Press); Spy Ski School, by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster); Tag, You’re Dead, by J.C. Lane (Poisoned Pen Press); and The Mystery of Hollow Places, by Rebecca Podos (Balzer & Bray)

Lifetime Achievement: Charlaine Harris

Poirot Award: Martin Edwards

Presented by The Strand Magazine, these annual commendations, “recognizing excellence in the field of mystery fiction,” are “judged by a select group of book critics and journalists.” Winners will be announced during “an invitation-only cocktail party in New York City, hosted by The Strand on July 12, 2017.” And the nominees are …

Best Novel:
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)
The Wrong Side of Goodbye, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
The Trespasser, by Tana French (Viking)
What Remains of Me, by Alison Gaylin (Morrow)
Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid (Atlantic Monthly Press)
The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (Gallery)

Best Debut Novel:
The Widow, by Fiona Barton (NAL)
IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)
The Madwoman Upstairs, by Catherine Lowell (Touchstone)
A Deadly Affection, by Cuyler Overholt (Sourcebooks Landmark)
The Homeplace, by Kevin Wolf (Minotaur)
The Lost Girls, by Heather Young (Morrow)

In addition, Clive Cussler will be honored with The Strand’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

READ MORE:The Malice That Was …,” by Les Blatt (Classic Mysteries); “Malice Domestic 2017—the BOLO Books Recap,” by Kristopher Zgorski (BOLO Books).

Friday, April 28, 2017

Readying for a Retail Marathon

If you do not hear from me tomorrow, Saturday, it will be because I am busily engaged in Seattle’s third annual Independent Bookstore Day. Part of a national campaign to promote small, non-corporate booksellers, the Seattle event (held in Amazon’s backyard!) challenges bibliophiles and other fun-loving folk to visit at least 19 of 23 participating shops within the span of a single business day. Winners will subsequently receive a card ensuring them a 25-percent discount at all 23 of the stores for an entire year.

In 2016—the first time I jumped into this race—the minimum was 17 store visits, so the stakes have risen a bit (presumably to cut down on the number of winners; there were 120 last year, up from only 40 in 2015). I will be making this weekend’s run together with my favorite niece (and fellow bookaholic), Amie-June. She and I both entered Seattle’s 2016 bookstore tourney, and finished in the money—though we did so separately, without having discussed it in advance; and we didn’t even know we were both on the course until the frantic festivities were over. We’ll see if we can now combine what we’ve learned of this contest to our mutual advantage.

Despite the rivalrous nature of the Independent Bookstore Day “Champion Challenge,” it’s also immensely entertaining and a welcome incentive to explore bookshops you may not have called on previously. (No, you don’t have to buy something everywhere you go; you just need to pick up a printed “passport” at your first stop, and then have it stamped at each new place along the way.) A number of the retailers have scheduled special events for Saturday. A map of participating Seattle-area stores, with business hours, can be found here.

I’ll let you know in a near-future post how the day went.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

And That’s a Wrap on the 2017 Edgars

It’s been an unusual evening at the Edgar Awards banquet in New York City. The Mystery Writers of America’s newly minted president, Jeffery Deaver, collapsed on stage (allegedly from exhaustion) and was quickly attended to by emergency medical technicians, while fellow author Donna Andrews was enlisted to take over the event hosting. “It was a tense and strange little while,” one attendee reported on Twitter. “Real-life drama here,” proclaimed another. But Deaver was later said to be in stable condition, and the night’s prize presentations and speeches continued on, as scheduled.

Here are the final results:

Best Novel: Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (Grand Central)

Also nominated: The Ex, by Alafair Burke (Harper); Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam); Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam); and What Remains of Me, by Alison Gaylin (Morrow)

Best First Novel by an American Author: Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry (Penguin)

Also nominated: Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown); IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland); The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam); Dancing with the Tiger, by Lili Wright (Marian Wood Book/Putnam); and The Lost Girls,
by Heather Young (Morrow)

Best Paperback Original: Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty
(Seventh Street)

Also nominated: Shot in Detroit, by Patricia Abbott (Polis); Come Twilight, by Tyler Dilts (Thomas & Mercer); The 7th Canon, by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer); A Brilliant Death, by Robin Yocum (Seventh Street); and Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)

Best Fact Crime: The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Press)

Also nominated: Morgue: A Life in Death, by Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell (St. Martin’s Press); The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan, by Laurence Leamer (Morrow); Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder that Shocked Victorian England, by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus); and While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness,
by Eli Sanders (Viking)

Best Critical/Biographical: Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin (Liveright)

Also nominated: Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life, by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese); Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden Since 1967, by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland & Company); and Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula, by David J. Skal (Liveright)

Best Short Story: “Autumn at the Automat,” by Lawrence Block (from In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block; Pegasus)

Also nominated: “Oxford Girl,” by Megan Abbott (from Mississippi Noir, edited by Tom Franklin; Akashic); “A Paler Shade of Death,” by Laura Benedict (from St. Louis Noir, edited by Scott Phillips; Akashic); “The Music Room” by Stephen King (from In Sunlight or in Shadow); and “The Crawl Space,” by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September-October 2016)

Best Juvenile: OCDaniel, by Wesley King (Paula Wiseman)

Also nominated: Summerlost, by Ally Condie (Dutton Books for Young Readers); The Bad Kid, by Sarah Lariviere (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers); Some Kind of Happiness, by Claire Legrand (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers); Framed! by James Ponti (Aladdin), and Things Too Huge to Fix, by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught
(Paula Wiseman)

Best Young Adult: Girl in the Blue Coat, by Monica Hesse (Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers)

Also nominated: Three Truths and a Lie, by Brent Hartinger (Simon Pulse); The Girl I Used to Be, by April Henry (Henry Holt); My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Teen); and Thieving Weasels, by Billy Taylor (Dial)

Best Television Episode Teleplay: “A Blade of Grass,” Penny Dreadful, teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)

Also nominated: Episode 1: “From the Ashes of Tragedy,” The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, teleplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (FX Network); “The Abominable Bride,” Sherlock, teleplay by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece); Episode 1: “Dark Road,” Vera, teleplay by Martha Hillier (Acorn TV); “Return 0,” Person of Interest, teleplay by Jonathan Nolan and Denise The (CBS/Warner Bros.); and “The Bicameral Mind,” Westworld, teleplay by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
(HBO/Warner Bros.)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award: “The Truth of the Moment,” by E. Gabriel Flores (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2016)

Grand Master: Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart

Raven Award: Dru Ann Love

Ellery Queen Award: Neil Nyren

The Simon & Schuster–Mary Higgins Clark Award: The Shattered Tree, by Charles Todd (Morrow)

Also nominated: The Other Sister, by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks Landmark); Quiet Neighbors, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink); Say No More, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge); and Blue Moon, by Wendy Corsi Staub (Morrow)

Congratulations to all the winners as well as the other nominees!

READ MORE:The 71st Annual Edgar Awards,” by Irma Heldman
(Open Letters Monthly); “At the 2017 Edgar Awards, with Acceptance Speeches!” by Peter Rozovsky (Detectives Beyond Borders).

David Up for Grabs

Via Les Blatt’s Classic Mysteries blog comes the news that “Deadly Ink, the mystery conference held each summer in New Jersey, has announced the slate of nominees for the David Award, presented for the best mystery published in 2016.”

This year’s five contenders are:

Blonde Ice, by R. G. Belsky (Atria)
Written Off, by E. J. Copperman (Crooked Lane)
Death of a Toy Soldier, by Barbara Early (Crooked Lane)
Seconds to Live, by Melinda Leigh (Montlake Romance)
Yom Killer, by Ilene Schneider (Aakenbaaken & Kent)

Deadly Ink is scheduled to be held from June 16 to 18 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rockaway, New Jersey. The winner of the David Award, named in memory of David G. Sasher Sr., will be announced during a special dinner on Saturday the 17th.

Congratulations, Reed Farrel Coleman!

From the Web site Deadline Hollywood comes this news:
After a long manhunt that involved months of interviews with substantial authors, Michael Mann has found his co-writer for the prequel novel to Mann’s landmark [1995] crime film Heat. Writing with Mann will be Reed Farrel Coleman, the four-time Edgar Award-nominated author who is up for the award tonight for his 2016 novel Where It Hurts, part of mystery series that revolves around the retired Suffolk County cop Gus Murphy. Coleman will collaborate with Mann to tell an origin story involving the characters that populated the Al Pacino-Robert De Niro-led ensemble drama that Mann scripted, directed, and produced. The novel will be published next year under the Michael Mann imprint at William Morrow/HarperCollins.
(Hat tip to Linda L. Richards)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A “Gentle Soul” of Great Accomplishment

The New York City-born Montana novelist who gave us private investigator Harry Angel (in 1978’s Falling Angel), the lively detective pairing of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini (in 1994’s Nevermore), and a drug-fueled nightmare excursion through 1960s Mexico (in 2015’s Mañana) passed away this last Saturday night of pancreatic cancer. Author William Hjortsberg, who was known to friends simply as “Gatz,” was 76 years old.

Livingston has lost another of its literary legends,” The Livingston Enterprise—Hjortsberg’s Montana hometown newspaper—reported on Monday afternoon, adding: “Hjortsberg was a central character in the area’s literary scene since the 1970s, which included other renowned authors Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison and Richard Brautigan, and celebrities, including Jimmy Buffett.”

McGuane, who moved to Big Sky Country in the 1970s, not long before Hjortsberg, is quoted in the Enterprise as saying of his friend:
“I met Gatz in our first graduate school year [1963, at Yale Drama School] and we became friends because we were the only people there who fished. Gatz had gone to Dartmouth on such meager funds that he worked the night shift in a pizza place and went to school in the day. Those limited available hours trained in him an almost photographic memory, grasping material at a glance, allowing him a full night’s sleep while I crammed for the same exams and never did as well.

“Our love of writing was extreme and we kept up our discussion from then on. We were each [Wallace] Stegner Fellows at Stanford and started our writing careers at the same time. When I borrowed a house in Pray in the late Sixties, Gatz soon arrived and we’ve been here ever since. In the intervening years, we fished in Montana, the Catskills, the mountains of Spain, and the Caribbean.

“Gatz was at bottom such a gentle soul that it was surprising how fearless he was, delivering a speech, ocean diving, rock climbing, or riding a bull. Along the way he wrote wonderful books that are still being discovered. He lacked a passion for self-promotion and so many of the facts of his accomplishment still lie ahead while readers discover why writers like John Cheever and Stephen King thought so much of him. Very modestly, as was his habit, he leaves a great vacancy.”
In addition to his three books mentioned previously, Hjortsberg penned novels such as Alp (1969) and Gray Matters (1971), and a 2012 biography of fellow wordsmith Richard Brautigan titled Jubilee Hitchhiker. A full bibliography is available at his Web site. Hjortsberg also wrote several screenplays, including for the 1985, Ridley Scott-directed dark fantasy film Legend.

At the time of his death, Hjortsberg is said to have been working on a sequel to Falling Angel, a yarn that was adapted into the 1987 Mickey Rourke/Robert DeNiro mystery-thriller film, Angel Heart.

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

READ MORE:William Hjortsberg: The Guardian Obituary,” by Michael Carlson (Irresistible Targets).

Picking the Best for CrimeFest

Organizers of the 2017 CrimeFest convention, which is to be held in Bristol, England (May 18-21), have announced the shortlists of nominees for half a dozen prizes scheduled to be presented to authors during a “gala dinner” on Saturday, May 21. The categories include two new ones, applauding works aimed at younger readers.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award
(for best unabridged crime audiobook):

Kill Me Again, by Rachel Abbott; read by Lisa Coleman
(Bolinda /Audible)
The Widow, by Fiona Barton; read by Clare Corbett (Bolinda /Audible)
I See You, by Clare Mackintosh; read by Rachel Atkins (Sphere)
Try Not to Breathe, by Holly Seddon; read by Jot Davies, Lucy Middleweek, and Katy Sobey (Bolinda)
The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch; read by Kobna Holdbrook–Smith (Orion)
Night School, by Lee Child; read by Jeff Harding (Transworld Digital)
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz; read by Allan Corduner
and Samantha Bond (Orion)
Coffin Road, by Peter May; read by Peter Forbes (Riverrun)

eDunnit Award
(for the best crime fiction e-book):
The Twenty–Three, by Linwood Barclay (Orion)
Deep Down Dead, by Steph Broadribb (Orenda)
The Wrong Side of Goodbye, by Michael Connelly (Orion)
Blackout, by Ragnar Jónasson (Orenda)
Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)
Rather Be the Devil, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
The Ashes of London, by Andrew Taylor (HarperFiction)
Cat Among the Herrings, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)

The Last Laugh Award
(for the best humorous crime novel):
PIMP, by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr (Hard Case Crime)
I Don’t Like Where This Is Going, by John Dufresne (Serpent’s Tail)
A Cast of Vultures, by Judith Flanders (Allison & Busby)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen (Little, Brown)
The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown, by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton)
Cat Among the Herrings, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)
Tall Oaks, by Chris Whitaker (Twenty7)

The H.R.F. Keating Award
(for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction):
Agatha Christie on Screen, by Mark Aldridge (Palgrave Macmillan)
Queering Agatha Christie, by J.C. Berthnal (Palgrave Macmillan)
Brit Noir, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)
Crime Uncovered: Private investigator, by Rachel Franks
and Alistair Rolls (Intellect)
Crime Fiction in German: Der Krimi, by Katharina Hall
(University of Wales Press)
Gender and Representation in British “Golden Age” Crime Fiction,
by Megan Hoffman (Palgrave Macmillan)
The Contemporary Irish Detective Novel, by Elizabeth Mannion (Palgrave Macmillan)

Best Crime Novel for Children (8-12):
Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret, by Lyn Gardner (Nosy Crow)
Murder in Midwinter, by Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow)
The Thornthwaite Betrayal, by Gareth P. Jones (Piccadilly Press)
The Accidental Secret Agent, by Tom McLaughlin
(Oxford University Press)
Murder Most Unladylike: Jolly Foul Play, by Robin Stevens (Puffin)
Murder Most Unladylike: Mistletoe and Murder,
by Robin Stevens (Puffin)
Violet and the Smugglers, by Harriet Whitehorn (Simon & Schuster)
The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, by Katherine Woodfine (Egmont)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (12-16):
Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo (Hachette Children’s Group)
Cell 7, by Kerry Drewery (Hot Key Books)
Theodore Boone: The Scandal, by John Grisham
(Hodder & Stoughton)
Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah, by Erin Lange (Faber and Faber)
Orangeboy, by Patrice Lawrence (Hachette Children’s Group)
Kid Got Shot, by Simon Mason (David Fickling)
Blame, by Simon Mayo (Penguin)
In the Dark, In the Woods, by Eliza Wass (Hachette Children’s Group)

Also expected to be announced during May’s CrimeFest dinner is the winner of the 2017 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The list of contenders for that commendation was previously broadcast.

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

READ MORE:CrimeFest Announces Star-Studded 2017 Lineup and Programme” (Spinetingler Magazine).

Revue of Reviewers, 4-25-17

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

Happy 100th, Ella!

Early Hardship Couldn’t Muffle Ella Fitzgerald’s Joy,” by Susan Stamberg; and “Remembering Ella Fitzgerald, Who Made Great Songs Greater,” by Tom Vitale (National Public Radio).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Reinvigorating a “Labor of Love”

Spinetingler Magazine has gone through a number of changes over the last decade. It was once an online, issue-based periodical with the financial wherewithal to pay its contributors and confidence enough to hand out annual awards (one of which The Rap Sheet won back in 2009). Then it relaunched in a continuous-publication format that seemed to offer the hope of greater reportorial and critical coverage. But over the last couple of years, it has become a blog of sorts, offering a mix of book reviews and short fiction.

So I am pleased to learn, via Spinetingler editor Sandra Ruttan’s post today in Do Some Damage, that the mag is getting a second wind. “Spinetingler will have its first issue in years this fall,” Ruttan writes. “We’re currently accepting fiction submissions, scheduling author interviews, selling limited ad space, and pulling things together.” This new edition of Spinetingler is scheduled for posting in October, and the call has already gone out for freelance submissions, with writers to be paid “$25 for short stories and $75 for short novellas.”

Ruttan remarks in Do Some Damage that “Spinetingler has always been a labor of love, and primarily self-financed. As a result, our output has varied over the years. [Fiction editor] Jack Getze and I would like to thank you for your ongoing support throughout the years.” I, for one, will be pleased to welcome Spinetingler’s latest incarnation.

Saving Lives—and Houses—in Detroit

Frequent Rap Sheet contributor Steven Nester has a new review up this morning in January Magazine. The book under investigation: August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones. Nester writes, in part:
Stephen Mack Jones is a poet and an award-winning playwright, which has served him well in writing August Snow. He’s able to channel an inner-Chandler on command, with off-hand hardness (“I might as well have been talking to a freshly cut slab of slaughterhouse beef”). But stylistically he’s his own man, as when he turns deceit into poetry: “If you’re gonna lie, go big and wear other people like camouflage.”
Click here to read Nester’s full critique.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

You Want Awards? You’ve Got ’Em!

I was away from my office all day yesterday (babysitting my niece’s infant son, which I have been doing now for the last year), and wouldn’t you know it? All kinds of crime-fiction awards news came streaming in during my absence.

First of all, we have the winner of the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller: It’s the already acclaimed Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown). That announcement was made on the eve of this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books kicking off at L.A.’s University of Southern California campus.

Also nominated in the Best Mystery/Thriller category were: His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae, by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse); The Girls, by Emma Cline (Random House); The North Water, by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt); and Darktown, by Thomas Mullen (37 Ink/Atria Books).

* * *

Meanwhile, the Crime Writers of Canada has broadcast its shortlist of contenders for the 2017 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. They are as follows:

Best Novel:
City of the Lost, by Kelley Armstrong (Penguin Random
House of Canada)
After James, by Michael Helm (McClelland & Stewart)
Dead Ground in Between, by Maureen Jennings
(McClelland & Stewart)
Wishful Seeing, by Janet Kellough (Dundurn Press)
The Fortunate Brother, by Donna Morrissey (Viking Canada)

Best First Novel:
Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (Five Star)
Cold Girl, by R.M. Greenaway (Dundurn Press)
Where the Bodies Lie, by Mark Lisac (NeWest Press)
Still Mine, by Amy Stuart (Simon & Schuster Canada)
Strange Things Done, by Elle Wild (Dundurn Press)

Best Novella -- The Lou Allin Memorial Award:
Rundown, by Rick Blechta (Orca)
No Trace, by Brenda Chapman (Grass Roots Press)
“The Devil You Know,” by Jas. R. Petrin (Alfred Hitchcock
Mystery Magazine
, March 2016)
When Blood Lies, by Linda L. Richards (Orca)
“The Village That Lost Its Head,” by Peter Robinson (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], September/October 2016)

Best Short Story:
“Steve’s Story,” by Cathy Ace (from The Whole She-Bang 3, edited by Janet Costello; Toronto Sisters in Crime)
“A Death at the Parsonage,” by Susan Daly (from The Whole She-Bang 3)
“Where There’s a Will,” by Elizabeth Hosang (from The Whole She-Bang 3)
“The Ascent,” by Scott Mackay (EQMM, August 2016)
“The Granite Kitchen,” by David Morrell (EQMM, July 2016)

Best Book in French:
Red Light: Adieu, Mignonne, by Marie-Eve Bourassa (VLB éditeur)
Vrai ou faux, by Chrystine Brouillet (Éditions Druide)
Terreur domestique, by Guillaume Morrissette
(Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur)
Rinzen et l’homme perdu, by Johanne Seymour (Libre Expression)
Le Blues des sacrifiés, by Richard Ste-Marie (Éditions Alire)

Best Juvenile/Young Adult Book:
Masterminds: Criminal Destiny, by Gordon Korman (Harper Collins)
Trial by Fire, by Nora McClintock (Orca)
The Girl in a Coma, by John Moss (The Poisoned Pencil/
Poisoned Pen Press)
Shooter, by Caroline Pignat (Tundra)
Another Me, by Eva Wiseman (Tundra)

Best Non-fiction Book:
Life Sentence: Stories from Four Decades of Court Reporting — or, How I Fell Out of Love with the Canadian Justice System, by Christie Blatchford (Doubleday Canada)
The Ballad of Danny Wolfe: Life of a Modern Outlaw, by Joe Friesen (Signal/McClelland & Stewart)
A Daughter’s Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story, by Jeremy Grimaldi (Dundurn Press)
Black River Road: An Unthinkable Crime, an Unlikely Suspect, and the Question of Character, by Debra Komar (Goose Lane)
Shadow of Doubt: The Trial of Dennis Oland, by Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon (Goose Lane)

Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel:
An Absence of Empathy, by Mary Fernando
The Golkonda Project, by S.J. Jennings
Concrete Becomes Her, by Charlotte Morganti
Celtic Knot, by Ann Shortell
The Last Dragon, by Mark Thomas

The winners of all these commendations will be declared during a ceremony to be held on May 25 in Toronto, Ontario.

In addition, the 2017 Derrick Murdoch Award goes to Christina Jennings, founder, chairman, and CEO of Shaftesbury Films.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

* * *

Finally, in the competition for the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Michelle Cox’s A Girl Like You (She Writes Press) has won the Gold Medal in the Mystery/Cozy/Noir category. Capturing the Silver is Delivering the Truth, by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink), with Catriona McPherson’s Quiet Neighbors (Midnight Ink) picking up the Bronze.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Book You Have to Read:
“Durango Street,” by Frank Bonham

(Editor’s note: This is the 147th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
Wedged between the obsolete fairy tale of Little Black Sambo and the “say-it-loud” of Superfly, is Frank Bonham’s young-adult novel of the ghetto, Durango Street (1965). Originally published as Watts burned and Alabama freedom marchers were bludgeoned, these days Durango Street reads more like a well-meaning period piece rather than a sharp stick in the eye. But for many young white readers back in the day, it was their first glimpse of a gritty and poverty-stricken America they didn’t know existed. Still, half a century since its publication, Durango Street retains some sting.

Black teen Rufus Henry is home from the Pine Valley Honor Camp—a place old-school parents used to call reform school. Rufus is no angel, but he has plenty going for him. Intelligent, charismatic, a born leader with plenty of athletic ability, Rufus knows that if he doesn’t heed the admonishments of a cigar-chomping, cardboard cutout of a Coast City Police officer to “straighten up and fly right,” he’s bound for trouble.

The reality of living near the Durango Street Projects makes it necessary that Henry join a “fighting gang.” Without that protection, he is prey; but with it, he faces the huge chance of returning to crime and going to prison. Henry has few choices for positive behavior beyond working in the grime of a tire retread shop and his planned return to high school in the fall. His frustration at his no-win situation is expressed through irony, as he evinces a growing and more sophisticated method of processing his predicament: “What am I supposed to do?” he asks of his parole officer. “Join the Sea Scouts?”

Stalled at the crossroads of lawless adult and responsible adult, Rufus is aware he needs to make a decision. So he mans-up and thinks beyond the safety-in-numbers mentality of gang life, and the adults who mean well, and determines that he’s “been around long enough to know that the only person who could do anything about Rufus’ problem was Rufus.” But also, he’s aware that, for the time being, he’s trapped by his environment, and gang life is inescapable.

Rufus’ tentative return to the projects immediately heads south when his younger sister unwittingly gets him into trouble with a gang by talking to the police. The members of that gang—the Gassers—believe Rufus ratted them out. Now a wanted man, he has no choice but to seek protection from their rivals, the Moors. The beef eventually leads to war, and this reveals the depth of Henry’s ability to survive and rise. He usurps the Moors’ leader, Bantu, and guides members along the tricky route of avoiding the police, nosey social worker Alex Robbins, and various adversaries, while maintaining his pride, street code integrity—and the gang’s turf.

Gang life is self-destructive, and Rufus knows that “A gang has to be kept busy. Busy meant fighting.” He carries on his nimble negotiation of the mean streets, and while the violence between the Moors and the Gassers escalates, he succeeds in skirting the police because he believes he’s meant for greater things. Rufus carries with him a secret that has sustained his spirit in the darkest of times, and prevented him from entering thug life at full throttle. This hope for a better future is the Hail Mary dream of becoming a professional football player. He believes he has an entry into the sport beyond his natural athletic ability, and it started with a little white lie.

Years ago, in order to placate her over-curious young son, Rufus’ mother told him his that father was football star Ernie Brown, whom she had married when she was a young girl and then divorced. Raising the Cinderella story to a higher level of expectation and anticipation, is that Brown now plays for Coast City’s home team, the Marauders. Rufus’ expectation of a deus ex machina is tantalizing, but pulp writer Bonham is too seasoned to kill this book with an overdose of sugar. He knows irony is the bittersweet basis of life, and that introducing a glass slipper—or in this instance, a cleat—would imbue Durango Street with all the spit-in-your-eye of a Hallmark Hall of Fame television presentation. Fortunately, Rufus can roll with the punches.

In a moment of deep reflection, he observes how his mother’s cavalier lie served the purpose of keeping him safe, as he “carried Ernie around like a pistol, for protection.” At the novel’s end, Rufus is still not out of the woods, and further trouble entering mainstream life is anticipated. The attitude he shows toward authority may be irreverent up to this book’s final pages, but it’s hopeful and realistic to Rufus’ self. “These cats were always trying to rush you off to the nearest scoutmaster, just because you passed up a chance to get into trouble,” he thinks, after making the decision to avoid mayhem at the climax of Durango Street.

Californian Frank Bonham (1914-1988) was a prolific pulp writer with a highly polished prose style, which makes for a smooth and effortless read. He captures some of the nuances of speech inner-city youths of the 1960s used without sounding stereotypical or racist—or going completely indigenous as Twain did with Huckleberry Finn.

Gang violence continues to be an issue in the inner cities, even today, but another topic for young-adult authors has gained prominence in our politically charged time, that of racial bias and police brutality toward African Americans, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give (a phrase borrowed from Tupac Shakur), Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, and the forthcoming Tyler Johnson Was Here, by Jay Coles, are some noteworthy recent titles along this line.

Finally, it might be asked how it’s possible that a novel about black teens could be written by a middle-aged white man and have any semblance of authenticity. In a lengthy postscript, Bonham gives a detailed shout-out to the police, social workers, and civil-rights leaders who aided him in his research and vetted this book for accuracy. That said, while the maxim, “Write what you know,” is perhaps the first thing writers learn in the game, another component is imagination. Perhaps even more important is empathy, which Bonham uses to great effect. Walking in another person’s shoes is a method more people should employ as a way of understanding their fellow citizen, their needs and concerns, and how one might behave in order to make this country live up to some of the principals on which it was founded.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Story Behind the Story:
“In the Pines,” by Chris Orlet

(Editor’s note: This is the 71st installment in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s contribution comes from Chris Orlet, an Illinois native now living in St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife, son, and baby daughter. An online bio note explains that “He has worked a multitude of dead-end jobs, including bartender, sportswriter, gun seller, Peace Corps volunteer, tech writer, salesman for a trailer parts company, and other occupations too unsavory to mention.” Fortunately, Orlet seems to have found a potentially more interesting career path as a writer. He has contributed stories to Exquisite Corpse, Salon, Utne Reader, McSweeneys, and Hardboiled Wonderland. His first novel—the background of which he relates below—is a mystery yarn, In the Pines.)

Ever since I was a kid I have enjoyed unsolved mysteries. I may not have been much of a reader in my youth, but I was fascinated by cheap paperbacks with titles such as Chariots of the Gods?, The Devil’s Triangle, and Limbo of the Lost, which hinted at strange and mystifying worlds beyond my mundane existence in Belleville, Illinois. When I wasn’t busily perusing cheesy paranormal bunkum, I would peddle my bike to the Saturday matinee at the Lincoln Theater to watch low-budget documentaries about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and ancient astronauts. My favorite television show was—you guessed it— In Search of... hosted by Leonard Nimoy.

Four decades later, I get the same rush from unsolved mysteries. I can’t help it. When it comes to whodunits, I prefer not knowing to knowing.

Now, I enjoy a cozy or a true-crime tale as much as the next guy, but after the mystery is resolved, after the wretched scofflaw is captured and dealt his comeuppance, what more is there to dwell upon? Conversely, an unsolved mystery—as evidenced by the first season of the wildly popular podcast Serial—continues to resonate, continues to haunt months and years later.

Australians, for example, are still haunted by the true-life disappearance of the Beaumont children, a case which dates back a half century.

As am I.

Not familiar with their story? The Beaumont children were three siblings—Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4—who vanished from a beach near Adelaide, South Australia, during an outing on January 26, 1966. Apart from a brief sighting by a postman early that afternoon, there have been no other sightings of the children since. The disappearance of the Beaumont children has never been explained and remains the country’s most infamous cold case.

Film-wise, one of the most haunting movies I’ve seen is Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Weir’s film, based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay, tells the story of a group of Australian boarding-school girls and their teacher, who, while picnicking northwest of Melbourne in 1900, inexplicably vanish into the thin Australian air.

The film drew praise from critics for its hallucinatory depiction of “the chasm between settlers from Europe and the mysteries of their ancient new home,” but groans from some moviegoers who found the picture evasive and insisted on knowing what happened to the girls. They wanted more police procedural and less uncertainty.

Of course, I wanted to know what happened at Hanging Rock, too. Who wouldn’t? Weir certainly did. He even asked the author, Lady Lindsay, about it, even though he was explicitly told not to. Did the school girls fall into a crevice? Were they abducted by aliens, as the author of the book The Murders at Hanging Rock theorizes?

“All of the above,” Joan Lindsay replied.

Lady Lindsay’s point, I think, was that solving the mystery would have been anti-climatic. And indeed, she did provide an explanation in early drafts of the novel. The girls fall into a time warp. Fortunately, her publisher made her excise that final chapter from the published novel.

Such was my mindset when I set out to write In the Pines: A Small Town Noir (New Pulp Press). This novel is based loosely on a true story I discovered nearly three decades ago in the morgue of a small country newspaper where I worked. On long summer afternoons, I would sometimes thumb through bound volumes of yellowing and crumbling newspapers. One day I came across a front-page story about a local high-school girl who’d died suddenly and inexplicably. The following week’s paper contained another front-page piece, this story about the funeral service and the upcoming coroner’s inquest. A week later there was a detailed account of the testimony given at that inquest. It turned out the young woman died from arsenic poisoning. And yet, nothing about her manner of death made sense. She’d been a normal high-school girl from a normal small-town family, full of life and well liked, busy with school and after-school activities, with plans to attend college. There had been no break-up, no unplanned pregnancy, no hints of abuse, and certainly no arsenic in the home.

After that week, the news accounts stopped. There was never another mention of the young woman and her mysterious death.

(Left) Author Chris Orlet

I was intrigued by the results of the inquest. A coroner’s inquest is supposed to decide whether a death is suicide, accident, homicide, natural, or undetermined. The jury came back with the finding of undetermined. After hours of testimony, after painfully reconstructing the last few days of her life based on eyewitness accounts, the jury had no clue as to how the young woman ended up with a belly full of arsenic.

We simply would never know what happened to her.

The story left an indelible impression on me. And yet I did nothing with it for decades. Why would I? After all, you can’t build a crime story around an unsolved mystery. Or so I believed.

Then, a few years ago, I happened to catch Picnic at Hanging Rock on a late-night TV movie channel. As Weir’s film inched toward its inevitable conclusion, I waited for the mystery of the missing girls to be resolved. An alien abduction, perhaps, or a handful of girls cartoonishly tumbling into a bottomless pit.

Then the credits began to roll.

There was no resolution.

“My God!” I thought. “It can be done! And done extremely well.”

In fact, for director Weir, the unsolved nature of the mystery was what made the story a challenge worth pursuing. “My only worry was whether an audience would accept such an outrageous idea,” he told an interviewer. “Personally, I always found it the most satisfying and fascinating aspect of the film. I usually find endings disappointing: they’re totally unnatural. You are creating life on the screen, and life doesn’t have endings. It’s always moving on to something else and there are always unexplained elements.”

Later in the same exchange he said, “I did everything in my power to hypnotize the audience away from the possibility of solutions.”

Moviegoers, for the most part, accepted the ambiguous ending, and today the film is considered a celluloid masterpiece.

I was determined to try something similar (though, obviously, on a more modest scale). My story would be based on true events from 55 years ago, and unlike Weir’s film would have a plot, one involving a grief-stricken father’s maniacal investigation into his daughter’s unexplained death. The story would be structured as a traditional crime novel, though one in which the “crime” remains unsolved. And if readers didn’t like it …

Oh well.

Thus far the reaction has been positive. Readers seem to appreciate the story line, the pacing, and the characters. Still, from time to time, a reader will come up to me and demand to know “what happened to her?” Did the 17-year-old girl in my tale commit suicide or take poison accidentally? Did her mother murder her? Were aliens involved?

To which I can only respond: All of the above.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bullet Points: On the Mend Edition

After spending most of the last two weeks under the weather, it appears I am finally on the rocky road to recovery. My recent decimation of the world’s Kleenex supply has diminished significantly, and I am no longer coughing my way through whatever program happens to be playing on television any given night. I would say these are favorable signs. Maybe I can get back to a more regular schedule of blog writing soon. For the time being, though, here are a few odds and ends drawn from my file of recent crime-fiction news bits.

• Blogger Gerald So, a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, has posted brief, formatted interviews with all 19 of the finalists for this year’s Derringer Awards. The winners of those commendations, in four categories, will be chosen through an online vote of eligible SMFS members (polls to remain open through April 29), with the names of this year’s prize recipients to be declared on May 1.

• Organizers of Bouchercon 2017 have announced the roster of authors whose work will appear in the Passport to Murder Anthology, scheduled to be available for advance ordering this coming summer and on hand for purchase during the Toronto convention in October. Among the 22 honored fictionists are Craig Fautus Buck, Hilary Davidson, Gary Phillips, and Chris Grabenstein.

• Speaking of Bouchercon, anyone who is eligible to nominate this year’s Anthony Awards contenders but has not yet filled out the survey (which should have been sent via e-mail) should remember that the deadline is April 30!

• Here’s a gift opportunity to keep in mind when shopping for Agent 007 fans: The Complete James Bond: Goldfinger—The Classic Comic Strip Collection, 1960-66, released this month by Titan Books. The blog Spy Vibe points out that this is the third in Titan’s series of volumes collecting Bond comic strips that were originally syndicated in British newspapers from 1958 to 1983. Those strips covered 52 story arcs, the earliest ones being based on Ian Fleming’s stories. “The new hardcover edition,” says Spy Vibe, “includes strips from 1960-1966: Goldfinger, Risico, From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Man with the Golden Gun, and The Living Daylights.” The two previous volumes, issued last year, were James Bond: Spectre: The Complete Comic Strip Collection and The Complete James Bond: Dr No—The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1958-60. Amazon shows a fourth book, The Complete James Bond: The Hildebrand Rarity—The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-69, as due for release this coming November.

• By the way, From Russia with Love—Fleming’s fifth Bond escapade—celebrated its 60th anniversary earlier this month. As The Book Bond notes, the book was first published on April 8, 1957.

• Happy birthday also to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre! That famous Hollywood Boulevard landmark, now known as the TCL Chinese Theatre, opened on May 18, 1927—meaning it commemorates its 90th anniversary of operation today.

• supplies some context to America’s early 20th-century “movie palace” boom.

• Having greatly enjoyed 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I am pleased to read that a sequel might finally be in the works. In its post about this, though, The Spy Command cautions that the plan is still in its infancy, and “studios and production offices are littered with scripts that were never made into films.” I’ll keep my eye on this.

• Huh. I hadn’t heard this before. According to Sergio Angelini at Tipping My Fedora, screenwriter Howard Rodman’s “unlikely inspiration” for the 1974 TV film Smile Jenny, You’re Dead—the second of two feature-length pilots for Harry O, the often-underrated 1974-1976 ABC private-eye series—“was Harry Greener, the aged ex-vaudevillian in Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust reduced to peddling ‘Miracle Solvent’ silver polish door-to-door until he finally keels over and dies. That book’s feeling for California’s alienated and disenfranchised also comes through in the romantic and mytho-poetic undercurrent to this vehicle for David Janssen.”

• Screen Daily reports that “principal photography has wrapped in Sudbury, Ontario, on Never Saw It Coming,” a suspense film based on Linwood Barclay’s 2013 novel of the same name. The site explains that the story focuses on “a young woman who passes herself off as a psychic. When the charlatan targets the family of a missing woman, she becomes entangled in the dark secrets of the husband and daughter.” The supposed clairvoyant, Keisha Ceylon, is being played on-screen by Montreal-born Emily Hampshire (from the Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek); Eric Roberts plays Wendell Garfield, whose wife has gone missing. The Toronto Star says, “the aim is for Never Saw It Coming to be finished by late summer, in time for fall film festivals.”

• Linwood Barclay’s latest thriller, Parting Shot, comes out this week in Great Britain, and Ali Karim had a chance to talk with him for Shotsmag Confidential.

• Elsewhere in that same blog, Ayo Onatade has word of Henning Mankell’s final novel, After the Fire, which is due out on both sides of the Atlantic in October. Here’s the plot brief:
Fredrik Welin is a seventy-year-old retired doctor. Years ago he retreated to the Swedish archipelago, where he lives alone on an island. He swims in the sea every day, cutting a hole in the ice if necessary. He lives a quiet life. Until he wakes up one night to find his house on fire.

Fredrik escapes just in time, wearing two left-footed wellies, as neighboring islanders arrive to help douse the flames. All that remains in the morning is a stinking ruin and evidence of arson. The house that has been in his family for generations and all his worldly belongings are gone. He cannot think who would do such a thing, or why. Without a suspect, the police begin to think he started the fire himself.
Mankell died back in October 2015.

• “CBS Television Studios has pre-emptively bought the rights to Edgar-winning author Meg Gardiner’s forthcoming novel, UNSUB, to adapt for television,” reports In Reference to Murder. “The thriller follows a female detective on the trail of an infamous serial killer—inspired by the still-unsolved Zodiac case—when he breaks his silence and begins killing again. The detective, who grew up watching her father destroy himself and his family chasing the killer, now finds herself facing the same monster.”

• Look for the May 21 premiere of Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery, a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries TV presentation based on Dana Cameron’s novels. It’s the opening installment in the network’s newest teleflick franchise, Emma Fielding Mysteries. As Mystery Fanfare explains, Courtney Thorne-Smith (formerly of According to Jim and Ally McBeal) will star as Fielding, “a brilliant, dedicated, and driven archaeologist who discovers artifacts that have been lost for hundreds of years—and she's very, very good at it. Emma has recently unearthed evidence of a possible 17th-century coastal Maine settlement that predates Jamestown, one of the most significant archaeological finds in years. But the dead body she uncovers on the site pushes Emma into a different kind of exploration. Her dig site is suddenly in jeopardy of being shut down, due to the meddling of local treasure-hunters and a second suspicious murder. Emma must team with the handsome FBI agent investigating the case to dig up dirt on the killer, before Emma and her excavation are ancient history.”

• I finally caught up with Season 4 of the British TV series Ripper Street on Netflix. (Yeah, I know, I’m a bit late to the party—again.) I’ve mentioned before what a fan I have become of that sometimes brutal but nonetheless elegantly written crime drama, set in London in the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s 1888 murder spree. But Season 4 really demonstrates this program’s strengths, with plots involving Detective Inspector Bennet Drake’s promotion as commander of Whitechapel’s H Division police force, forensic expert Homer Jackson’s desperate efforts to save his wife (former brothel madam “Long Susan” Hart) from hanging, Edmund Reid’s return to detective duties after a self-imposed exile (with his once-lost daughter, Matilda) on the English seacoast, police corruption, and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Oh, and there are rumors of a golem leaping about the rooftops of the East End, biting bloody chunks out of his victims, and a rabbi’s murder may be in need of some further investigation. Believe me, this isn’t a program through which one is likely to sleep. What I hadn’t expected was that Season 4 would conclude with such a shocking cliffhanger! A great set-up for the fifth and perhaps concluding series of Ripper Street, which was already broadcast in Britain last October, but likely won’t make it to Netflix in the States until this coming October. You can watch the trailers for Seasons 4 and 5 here.

• Criminal defense attorney-turned-author Allen Eskens has won the 2017 Minnesota Book Award, in the Genre Fiction category, for The Heavens May Fall (Seventh Street).

• Donald Trump isn’t an enthusiastic reader, unlike President Barack Obama, his Democratic predecessor. But yesterday, Republican Trump finally took to Twitter to praise a new book. Wouldn’t you know it, though, the work he touted has no words in it.

Raymond Chandler was no fan of the FBI.

But count me as a Mary Ann fan.

• Nancie Clare’s most recent guest on her Speaking of Mysteries podcast is Alex Segura, whose Dangerous Ends—the third novel featuring Miami gumshoe Pete Fernandez—was recently released. You can listen to their exchange here.

• Meanwhile, the third episode of Writer Types, hosted by S.W. Lauden and Eric Beetner, “was mostly recorded on site at the inaugural Murder & Mayhem in Chicago conference and features interviews with none other than Sara Paretsky, William Kent Kreuger, Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey, Dana Kaye and Lori Rader-Day, among many others.” Click here to hear the whole show.

• And on the latest edition of Two Crime Writers and a Microphone, Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste talk with Steve Mosby “about his brand-new book, You Can Run, his career so far, the dark side of crime fiction, … [and] whether beards have more fun.”

• Other recent interviews of significance: Jeffery Deaver talks with Crimespree Magazine about his new novel, Burial Hour; Robin Yokum answers questions about A Welcome Murder; Joe Ide speaks with S.W. Lauden about his first Isaiah Quintabe novel, IQ, and its coming sequel; Lori Rader-Day (The Day I Died) submits to at least two sets of questions, one from Chicago Review of Books, the other from Mystery Playground; Crime Fiction Lover asks Mason Cross about his new Carter Blake thriller, Don’t Look for Me; Jenni L. Walsh recounts the background of her Bonnie and Clyde novel, Becoming Bonnie, for the Tor/Forge Blog; the Kirkus Reviews Web site carries a brief exchange with authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan on the subject of their second Lillian Frost/Edith Head mystery, Dangerous to Know; Megan Miranda offers MysteryPeople some insights into her latest psychological suspense yarn, The Perfect Stranger; and in advance of this year’s Malice Domestic conference (April 28-30), Art Taylor chats with Martin Edwards, winner of the 2017 Poirot Award.

• Crime drama news from TV Shows on DVD: Be on the lookout for the release of Police Story, Season Two on July 25; T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series on July 18; and the re-release of McCloud: Season One on June 13. Oh, and The Rockford Files: The Complete Series will go on sale—in both DVD and Blu-ray formats—in June.

• Finally, Crime Fiction Ireland offers a selection of noteworthy authors slated to take part in this year’s St. Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Conference, scheduled for August 18-20 in Oxford, England. Iceland’s Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is to be the guest of honor.

Monday, April 17, 2017

James Made Loathsomeness Watchable

Clifton James was an actor I hadn’t thought about in some while, but when he passed away this last Saturday, April 15, at age 96, the memories suddenly came flooding back.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that, although he hailed originally from Spokane, Washington, and lived during most of his career in New York, James “often played a convincing Southerner … One of his first significant roles playing a Southerner was as a cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 classic Cool Hand Luke.” Still more memorably, perhaps, the portly James appeared as “a redneck sheriff in two 007 films …,” recalls The Spy Command. “James embodied a 1970s shift in James Bond films to a lighter, more comedic tone. He played Sheriff J.W. Pepper, a Louisiana lawman who was comic relief in 1973’s Live and Let Die and 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun.” Wikipedia adds that James was seen as “a very similar character in both Silver Streak (1976) and Superman II (1980), and had a more serious role in The Reivers (1969). In that last movie, opposite Steve McQueen, James played a mean,corrupt, bungling country sheriff.”

All of this reminds of the first time I really noticed James on screen, in the short-lived 1976 NBC-TV drama City of Angels. That show featured ex-M*A*S*H co-star Wayne Rogers as not-too-tough and poorly recompensed 1930s Los Angeles private eye Jake Axminster. James held a recurring role as Murray Quint, a thoroughly repellent, again cigar-chomping, police lieutenant who thrived on graft and greed, and found particular delight in making Axminster’s life hell, whenever their paths crossed. Clifton James’ résumé is long and quite impressive, with parts played in TV shows from Naked City and Mannix to Gunsmoke, Hart to Hart, Quincy, M.E., The Fall Guy, and The A-Team. But it’s as Quint that he’s likely to stick in my memory. Below is a scene from “The November Plan,” the three-part introductory episode of City of Angels, in which Quint sends some of his cops out to roust Axminster from bed for a late-night grilling.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Your Summer Just Got More Mysterious

Fans of PBS-TV’s Sunday-night Masterpiece umbrella series should be glad to hear that season premiere dates have finally been nailed down for several popular crime dramas. According to this PBS Web page, the seven-episode third season of Grantchester, starring James Norton as a mystery-solving Anglican vicar, will debut on Sunday, June 18. Meanwhile, Endeavour—inspired by Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, and featuring both Shaun Evans and Roger Allam—is set to return on Sunday, August 20, with the first of four new episodes.

Oh, and Prime Suspect: Tennison, a prequel to the 1991-2006 Helen Mirren police procedural series—with Stefanie Martini (Doctor Thorne) holding the leading role—will make a splash with three 90-minute installments, beginning on Sunday, June 25.

Finally, in case you somehow forgot to write this into your calendar, note that the single-night presentation of Dark Angel, starring Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt as—gasp!—a Victorian serial killer, is being readied for broadcast on Sunday, May 21. You can watch a short preview of that production here.

Provisionally Peculier

Peter May, Antonia Hodgson, Mark Billingham, and Susie Steiner are among the 18 authors whose works are vying for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, according to an announcement. Here’s the full list:

Die of Shame, by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
Night School, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)
Lie With Me, by Sabine Durrant (Mulholland)
Tastes Like Fear, by Sarah Hilary (Headline)
The Darkest Secret, by Alex Marwood (Sphere)
Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
Birdwatcher, by William Shaw (Riverrun)
The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker)
Black Widow, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
After You Die, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder & Stoughton)
Coffin Road, by Peter May (Riverrun)
Those We Left Behind, by Stuart Neville (Harvill Secker)
Murderabilia, by Craig Robertson (Simon & Schuster)
Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner (Borough Press)
Stasi Wolf, by David Young (Zaffre)

From these choices, judges will develop a shortlist of half a dozen titles, to be publicized on May 20. The overall winner will be selected by those judges, as well as through a public online vote, and is scheduled to be declared on July 20 during the 15th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Revue of Reviewers, 4-14-17

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bony-ing Up

Per Mystery Fanfare comes word of the five finalists contending for the 2017 Bloody Words Light Mystery Award (aka the Bony Blithe Award). This will be the sixth annual presentation of that Canadian commendation, which “celebrates traditional, feel-good mysteries” capable of making the judges smile. The nominees are:

The Corpse with the Garnet Face, by Cathy Ace (Touchwood)
Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (Five Star)
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, by Alan Bradley
(Doubleday Canada)
Murder on the Hour, by Elizabeth J. Duncan (St. Martin’s Press)
A Long Ways from Home, by Mike Martin (Friesen Press)

The winner will be announced, and the prize presented, on Friday, May 26, during the Bony Blithe Mini-con and Award Gala to be held at Toronto, Ontario’s High Park Club (100 Indian Road). For more information or to purchase a ticket for the daylong convention, go the Web site here, or send e-mail to

Last year’s Bony Blithe recipient was The Marsh Madness, by Victoria Abbott (a pseudonym shared by the mother-daughter writing team of Mary Jane Maffini and Victoria Maffini).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

More “Girl” Talk

A couple of months back, The Bookseller brought word that Swedish writer David Lagercrantz’s second Lisbeth Salander/Mikael Blomkvist thriller—and the fifth entry in the Millennium series created by Stieg Larsson—was being readied for publication. Shotsmag Confidential has now announced that this new work will be titled The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, and that it should reach bookstores this coming September. If the cover shown in Shotsmag’s post looks familiar, it’s because it looks quite similar to the front of The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2015), Lagercrantz’s first Larsson continuation novel.

Tyrus Toppled

Sorry that this page has been rather quiet for the last few days, but I’ve come down with a hell of a cold, and my head at present suffers from a certain pernicious fuzziness. Nevertheless, I am endeavoring to stay abreast of news developments in the crime-fiction world. That includes the sad item below, from Publishers Weekly:
Simon & Schuster shut down its Tyrus Books imprint last week, according to its publisher, Ben LeRoy, who announced the news Friday afternoon on social media. LeRoy tweeted to his followers, “Hey! For all the folks who know me as Tyrus Books, Tyrus is closing down and now you can just know me as some dude on Twitter.” …

S&S acquired Tyrus Books in November 2016, when it bought Adams Media from F+W. Tyrus Books was one of Adams Media’s three fiction imprints. There are more than 100 Tyrus books in print; the press released about 10 titles each year.

LeRoy founded Tyrus Books in Madison, Wisc., in 2009, after selling his previous company, Bleak House, to Big Earth Publishing. Tyrus then focused on hard-boiled crime fiction. F&W acquired Tyrus in 2013 and its focus expanded; it began publishing literary fiction, including novels with ecological themes.

Disclosing that he will likely return to publishing at a later date, LeRoy said he now intends to focus on political and social justice activism. “After I help stop the world from burning, then I can go back to worrying about books.”
PW adds that “forthcoming summer and fall releases”—such as Loren D. Estleman’s latest short-story collection, Nearly Nero: The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe—“will be published by S&S under its Gallery Books imprint.”

(Hat tip to Kevin’s Corner.)

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Story Behind the Story:
“Dangerous to Know,” by Renee Patrick

(Editor’s note: For this 70th entry in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series, we welcome Seattle, Washington, blogger and screenwriter Vince Keenan—who recently wrote on this page about Ellery Queen’s The Origin of Evil—along with his wife, Rosemarie Keenan, a research administrator and poet. Under the joint pseudonym Renee Patrick, they’ve now penned two well-received mystery novels, both set in Golden Age Hollywood and featuring the snooping duo of Lillian Frost, a former aspiring actress, and real-life fashion designer Edith Head. The second of those, Dangerous to Know, is due out next week from Forge. Below, the Keenans recall the roots of their interest in vintage Tinseltown and in setting crime fiction there.)

In the beginning, for both of us, there were the movies. We grew up in outer-borough New York City, several subway stations and worlds apart, hooked on Hollywood.

Rosemarie: For me it was 42nd Street (1933). I found it on TV one afternoon and was so entranced that when my friend knocked on the door and asked me to come out and play, I said no. My mother warned me that if I made a habit of it, they might stop knocking. But I had to go back to that world. I loved the camaraderie among the women, the romantic view of the effort it took to put on a show. Above all, I loved Ruby Keeler. Still do. I responded to her lack of sophistication and her desire to be sophisticated. She came across as a nice person willing to work herself to the bone to get what she wanted. I responded to that, instantly.

Vince: Blame The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), from an Eric Ambler novel. Which doesn’t even rank in the top three Sydney Greenstreet/Peter Lorre movies. I was 7 years old when I saw it. What I remember most is my parents commenting on how odd it was, a kid that young held rapt by an old movie. But those faces mesmerized me. And the atmosphere. Dark, sensuous, mysterious. It seemed … adult, in a way new movies were not. I stepped into those shadows decades ago and never came out.

We met in Florida, got married—more than 25 years ago now—and headed west. Not all the way to Tinseltown, but at least we were in the same time zone. Turner Classic Movies was our constant soundtrack, unless the Mets were playing.

Whenever a classic film was revived, we’d be at the theater. 2007 found us in cinephile heaven. That’s when Eddie Muller brought his Noir City Film Festival to Seattle. Double-bills of vintage crime films, every night for a week. We introduced ourselves to Eddie. Within a few years we were manning the Film Noir Foundation table in the theater lobby. Once we even filled in for Eddie, introducing a full day’s slate of movies. Vince was contributing articles to the Film Noir Foundation’s magazine, on his way to becoming managing editor.

Then Rosemarie had an idea. As Jimmy Durante said, “Everybody wants to get into the act.”

Rosemarie: I decided to write an article about costume design in film noir. I started with Edith Head, because of all the classics she’d worked on: Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, the Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake films. I began reading about her and couldn’t stop.

(Left) Rosemarie and Vince Keenan (photo by David Hiller, 2015)

Head’s career remains one of the most amazing in film history. Spanning seven decades, from the silent era of the 1920s to the dawn of corporate Hollywood. For her final film, 1982’s Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, she dressed Steve Martin so he could interact seamlessly with clips from movies she’d designed in the 1940s, even reworking a Barbara Stanwyck costume for him. She would be nominated for 35 Academy Awards, winning eight, the most of any woman.

Unlike her contemporaries and mentors, Head didn’t have a background in fashion. Born Edith Posener, she grew up in Nevada mining camps where no one ever struck a mother lode of glamour. She was working as a teacher in Hollywood—among her charges were the daughters of director Cecil B. DeMille—but sought a better-paying position. Spotting a classified ad seeking sketch artists at Paramount Pictures, she bluffed her way through the interview, passing off her fellow art students’ work as her own. Once in the job, she set about making herself indispensable. Like Ruby Keeler, she was willing to work herself to the bone to get what she wanted. For all her innate talent at costume design, she was an even more accomplished politician, adept at wrangling actresses, pleasing executives, and collaborating with directors. She’d tell whatever story was necessary to achieve her aims; her three biographies frequently contradict each other, and in later years she’d even discredit her own 1959 memoir, The Dress Doctor. About the only point everyone agrees on when it comes to Edith Head is she was a tireless employee.

Time to put a little more on her plate.

Rosemarie: I wanted to make her a detective, not only because she had such a long career and knew everyone, but because of the nature of her job. She deals with performers when they’re at their most vulnerable. She knows their secrets and keeps them.

Vince: As soon as Rosemarie suggested it, I wanted in. Costume design provided a fantastic window into the old Hollywood studio system. Even more exciting, it would be a true collaboration. Rosemarie knew the period, the movies, and especially the clothes. Plus it was her idea.

Our only problem? Edith’s aforementioned workload kept her tethered to the studio. She couldn’t set aside her sketch pad to go chase down a lead at the Trocadero. Clearly, she would require an accomplice. Here’s where our other shared love, of classic crime fiction, paid dividends. We were both huge Rex Stout fans. If Edith was our Nero Wolfe, she’d need a wisecracking Archie Goodwin.

Enter Lillian Frost.

We made her a New Yorker, hailing from Rosemarie’s neighborhood. The promise of a screen test brought her, like so many other young women of the era, to Hollywood. Lillian quickly realizes she’s no actress. But we didn’t want her to join the roster of also-rans and never-weres that haunt Hollywood novels of the 1930s, like The Day of the Locust and Horace McCoy’s underrated I Should Have Stayed Home. Instead, Lillian is savvy enough to realize she can make a life if not a name for herself in Southern California, appreciating that whatever hardships she may face her new home always offers the hope, as the song from the Academy Award-winning musical La La Land says, of “Another Day of Sun.” A levelheaded woman still occasionally susceptible to stardust would make the ideal complement to the no-nonsense Edith Head.

Our debut novel, last year’s Design for Dying (nominated for both an Agatha Award and a Left Coast Crime Award), tells how Lillian came into Edith’s orbit. It features cameo appearances from the likes of Barbara Stanwyck, Bob Hope, and Preston Sturges, and brims with jokes. The follow-up, Dangerous to Know, hews to the same template but broadens the scale and ups the stakes. We wove in plenty of the Hollywood history that fascinates us, including a long-forgotten 1938 scandal in which two of Paramount’s biggest stars found themselves brought up on smuggling charges, and the still-being-unearthed saga of the studio moguls’ clandestine plan to battle the Nazi influence in Southern California in the years before World War II.

All of it viewed through the prism of two career women trying to make their way in a society that didn’t always welcome them. Our ultimate fantasy for the series is to pen a fanciful, fictionalized, female-centered chronicle of the movie industry. If it takes focusing on gorgeous gowns to get there, so be it.

READ MORE:Dangerous to Know: New Excerpt” (Criminal Element).