Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Revue of Reviewers, 7-8-20

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

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Virtual Victories

Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, CrimeFest 2020—which was to have taken place in Bristol, England, from June 4 to 7—had to be cancelled. However, the winners of that convention’s annual prizes (plus a new commendation: the Specsavers Crime Fiction Debut Award) were announced online earlier today.

Specsavers Crime Fiction Debut Award: Blood & Sugar, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Mantle)

Also nominated: The Chemical Detective, by Fiona Erskine (Point Blank); Evil Things, by Katja Ivar (Bitter Lemon Press); The Conviction of Cora Burns, by Carolyn Kirby (No Exit Press); The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (Orion); and To the Lions, by Holly Watt (Raven)

Audible Sounds of Crime Award: Blue Moon, by Lee Child, read by Jeff Harding (Penguin Random House Audio)

Also nominated: Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson, read by Jason Isaacs (Penguin Random House Audio); My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite, read by Weruche Opia (W.F. Howes); Winter Dark, by Alex Callister, read by Ell Potter (Audibe Studios); The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell, read by Tamaryn Payne, Bea Holland, and Dominic Thorburn (Penguin Random House Audio); The Holiday, by T.M. Logan, read by Laura Kirman (Zaffre); The Man with No Face, by Peter May, read by Peter Forbes (Quercus); and The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides, read by Louise Brealey and Jack Hawkins (Orion)

eDunnit Award: To the Lions, by Holly Watt (Raven)

Also nominated: Worst Case Scenario, by Helen FitzGerald (Orenda); Never Be Broken, by Sarah Hilary (Headline); The King’s Evil, by Andrew Taylor (HarperFiction); The Maltese Herring, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby); and The Border, by Don Winslow (HarperFiction)

H.R.F. Keating Award: The Hooded Gunman: An Illustrated History of Collins Crime Club, by John Curran (HarperCollins Crime Club)

Also nominated: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan, by Ursula Buchan (Bloomsbury); and Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)

Last Laugh Award: Worst Case Scenario, by Helen FitzGerald (Orenda)

Also nominated: A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, by William Boyle (No Exit Press); Tidings of Death at Honeychurch Hall, by Hannah Dennison (Constable); Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour, by Christopher Fowler (Transworld); Little Siberia, by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda); and The Maltese Herring, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)

Best Crime Novel for Children (ages 8-12): Malamander, by
Thomas Taylor (Walker)

Also nominated: The Great Brain Robbery, by P.G. Bell (Usborne); The Steam Whistle Theatre Company, by Vivian French (Walker); Potkin and Stubbs, by Sophie Green (Bonnier); The Garden of Lost Secrets, by A.M. Howell (Usborne); and The Haven, by Simon Lelic (Hodder Children’s Books)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (ages 12-16): Beauty Sleep, by Kathryn Evans for (Usborne)

Also nominated: Theodore Boone: The Accomplice, by John Grisham (Hodder & Stoughton); The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods, by Samuel J. Halpin (Usborne); Hey Sherlock! by Simon Mason (David Fickling); Heartstream, by Tom Pollock (Walker); and The Boxer, by Nikesh Shukla (Hodder Children’s Books)

I am particularly pleased to see that Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s historical mystery, Blood & Sugar, has picked up the Specsavers Crime Fiction Debut Award, as it was one of my favorite books from last year. But, really, all of the contenders here deserve our applause.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Mosley Takes the Bird

Walter Mosley’s Down the River Unto the Sea has won this year’s Falcon Award, presented by Japan’s Maltese Falcon Society to a superior work of hard-boiled crime fiction. Mosley’s novel, first published in the States in 2018, introduced a welcome new protagonist, New York City policeman turned private eye Joe King Oliver.

This marks Mosley’s first Falcon Award win. Last year’s prize was presented to Don Winslow for The Force.

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Friday, July 03, 2020

PaperBack: “The Same Lie Twice”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

The Same Lie Twice, by Ron Goulart (Ace, 1973). The third of four novels featuring Southern California hipster P.I. John Easy.

Cover illustration by Elaine Duillo.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Ringing In Reid’s Victory

Independent London bookseller Goldsboro Books today announced that Daisy Jones and the Six, a coming-of-age yarn by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Cornerstone), has won its 2020 Glass Bell Award.

There were two crime/mystery novels—Blood & Sugar, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Mantle), and My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic)—also vying for this annual commendation, which celebrates “the best storytelling across contemporary fiction.” I was hoping one of them (especially Shepherd-Robinson’s historical whodunit) would come out ahead, but alas, neither did. In addition, three mainstream works were in the running: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton); The Lost Ones, by Anita Frank (HQ); and The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker).

Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees!

Braithwaite Helps Make History

Nigerian-UK author Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer (Atlantic), has been declared the 2020 Crime & Thriller Book of the Year as part of the British Book Awards competition, concluded this week with an announcement of recipients.

Also contending for that honor were:

The Hunting Party, by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins)
How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (Orion)
Impostor, by L.J. Ross (Dark Skies)
Blue Moon, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)

In Reference to Murder notes that “Braithwaite was the first Black author to win her category, joining fellow authors Candice Carty-Williams and Bernardine Evaristo who became become the first Black authors to win top British Book awards for book of the year and author of the year, respectively.”

In addition to Crime & Thriller Book of the Year, 2020 British Book Awards—also known as Nibbies—were dispensed in more than two dozen other categories. You’ll find all of the recipients here. The Nibbies are administered annually by The Bookseller.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Kiwi Crime Standouts

Organizers of New Zealand’s annual Ngaio Marsh Awards for crime fiction have announced their longlist of nominees for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel, as follows:

Shadow of Doubt, by S.L. Beaumont (Paperback Writers)
Trust Me, I’m Dead, by Sherryl Clark (Verve)
Whatever It Takes, by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
One Single Thing, by Tina Clough (Lightpool)
Girl from the Tree House, by Gudrun Frerichs (Self-published)
Auē, by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
The Nancys, by R.W.R. McDonald (Allen & Unwin)
Hide, by S.J. Morgan (MidnightSun)
The Great Divide, by L.J.M. Owen (Echo)
In the Clearing, by J.P. Pomare (Hachette New Zealand)
The Wild Card, by Renée (Cuba Press)
A Madness of Sunshine, by Nalini Singh (Hachette New Zealand)

“Tenth anniversary, 11th season—however you term it, our wee award we began back in 2010 is hurtling towards the teenage years now,” writes judging convener Craig Sisterson on Facebook. “Great to see Kiwi crime writing flourishing, and the broad range of authors, settings, and styles making up our take on the genre. The ladies are taking over a bit this year, with nine of the 12 novels on the longlist written by women, and two of the others featuring female protagonists too. Plenty of playing with crime-fiction tropes and upturning ideas about rescued/rescuer and other things. Really cool to see so many fresh voices and first-time entrants.”

Sisterson adds that “The finalists for the 2020 Ngaios (in both the Best Novel and Best First Novel categories) will be announced later this year, with the authors celebrated and the winners revealed at a special event at the WORD Christchurch Festival to be held from 29 October to 1 November 2020.”

Congratulations to all of the contenders!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bullet Points: Adios to June Edition

• The Columbophile continues to roll out what it says—quite credibly—are “The 100 Greatest Columbo Scenes of the 1970s.” Compiling all of these videos, with commentary, must be a tremendous amount of work. Yet the project is only a week old, and already four series installments have been posted: Part 1 (100-91), Part 2 (90-81), Part 3 (80-71), and Part 4 (70-61). The most recent choices include the fabulous “gotcha” finale from Season 4’s “An Exercise in Fatality,” guest-starring Robert Conrad; the opening murder scene from “Suitable for Framing,” a Season 1 entry featuring Conrad’s Wild Wild West co-star, Ross Martin; and a demonstration of brotherly love … er, rather brotherly hate, from one of my all-time-favorite episodes, Season 3’s “Any Old Port in a Storm,” showcasing Donald Pleasence as a wine-making murderer. The Web site’s unidentified author promises that Part 5 (60-51) will appear on Sunday.

Just the sort of garb every Columbo fan needs!

• The Summer 2020 edition of Mystery Readers Journal is devoted to Italian mysteries. If you don’t already subscribe to MRJ, click here to purchase a copy of either this issue or previous editions.

• Which reminds me, I forgot to remark on the Summer 2020 edition of Mystery Scene. Blame it on the pandemic and the confusion it has caused, even in the traditionally relaxed and sumptuous Rap Sheet offices. Chief among this issue’s contents, of course, is the fine cover profile, by Oline H. Cogdill, of the intriguing Ivy Pochoda, author of the new novel These Women. But its pages also offer Michael Mallory’s retrospective on “Grand Dame Guignol” films; Lawrence Block’s “interview” with his burglar protagonist, Bernie Rhodenbarr; Joseph Goodrich’s feature on author-screenwriter Barry Gifford; Craig Sisterson’s look at Val McDermid’s storied writing career; and Ben Boulden’s introduction to four private-eye series set in small U.S. towns. To acquire your own copy of this issue, click here.

• I read Eleanor Catton’s 2013 yarn, The Luminaries, back when I was still serving as a judge for New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Although that 830-plus-page historical mystery won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, it lost out on the Ngaio Marsh Award in 2014 to Where the Dead Men Go, by Liam McIlvanney. Ever since that time, I have wondered whether a motion picture or TV mini-series might be made from the book—and now that’s exactly what has happened. In fact, the six-part small-screen version of The Luminaries, starring Eve Hewson, Himesh Patel, and former “Bond girl” Eva Green, is currently being broadcast on BBC One in the UK, after having premiered in New Zealand last month. Here’s the official plot synopsis, from Radio Times:
The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th-century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush.

The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?
You can watch a trailer for this limited series here, and The Killing Times reviews Episode 1 here. I don’t see any news yet about The Luminaries coming to the States, but I do hope it does soon.

• Back in March, right before the start of the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown, I mentioned that next year’s Bouchercon—set to take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from August 25 to 29, 2021—was offering a discounted registration price of $175 to the first 200 people who signed up. Amazingly, the convention’s Web site says there are still 46 such discounted spots available. After they’re gone, the charge will go up to $195. Further registration information is available here.

• Optimistic that we will have reached some safety point with the pandemic before next August, I went ahead and registered for Bouchercon 2021 myself. Since I had such a great time in New Orleans at Bouchercon 2016, and since my friend and colleague Ali Karim has been tapped as the convention’s Fan Guest of Honor, I wasn’t about to miss out on another few days spent in the Big Easy. Even knowing that August can be particularly brutal, heat-wise, in the South.

• Speaking of COVID-19, I was shocked to read in Vox the results of a new Pew Research Center poll showing that even as cases of this novel coronavirus are surging again in the United States (thanks at least in part to the reopening of businesses nationwide), “40 percent of Americans now believe the worst … is in the past, up from 26 percent in early April. That number includes the majority of Republicans, 61 percent of whom said the country has already suffered the worst of the pandemic.” By comparison, says Pew, “just 23% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say that the worst is behind us when it comes to problems from the coronavirus; more than three times as many Democrats (76%) say the worst is still to come.” This is a case where politics threatens public health. Please, everyone, listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when he counsels, “Everybody should wear a mask when out in public.” All of our lives depend on everyone being careful and respectful of others in the face of this deadly infection.

• Congratulations to Kate Jackson’s exceptional blog, Cross-Examining Crime, which today celebrates its fifth anniversary!

• Given my longstanding interest in graphic design, I was saddened to hear that artist-designer Milton Glaser, who created that “I ♥ NY” logo and co-founded New York magazine (with Clay Felker), died yesteray—which also happened to be his 91st birthday.

• Author Lee Child admits to The Guardian that he doesn’t much like his protagonist creation, Jack Reacher, and that he once “thought he would have to conclude the series with the brutal killing of his main character.” The final book even had a title: Die Lonely.

• The last I heard, Showtime’s eight-part TV drama Ripley, based on Patricia Highsmith’s best-selling Tom Ripley novels, was due to begin shooting this September in Italy. Meanwhile, British author Sarah Hilary (Never Be Broken) has an essay in CrimeReads that includes this explanation of her Highsmith’s continuing popularity:
If today much of Highsmith’s writing still feels contemporary, it is because her stories are so often unresolved; neat endings elude us in 2020 much as they did in 1950. Instead, Highsmith drops us down into the psychology of her characters where we grope in the dark, squinting and squirming, and delighting in Tom Ripley’s many perversions, including murder, because she has given us the gift of falling into the story. We are lost for the time we’re reading her books, adrift from our moral moorings, from political correctness, even common decency. We may tell ourselves we have a more liberal definition of “common decency” than her contemporaries, but this hardly bears close scrutiny in the age of social media when judgement is reached so rapidly and with condemnation so hot on its heels. While it is probably a good thing Highsmith did not live to see the age of Twitter, it is fair to say she understood human psychology more keenly than many of her contemporaries.
Click here to enjoy the entirety of Hilary’s essay.

• Summer began last weekend, but only now has Janet Rudolph posted her lengthy list of summertime mysteries.

What a clever title for a hard-boiled crime yarn!

• And I can only assume that this men’s magazine title must have sold more than a few copies as well.

• Finally, Lisa Levy has undertaken a daunting mission for CrimeReads: documenting the escalating variety of crime novels that feature “Girl” in their titles. “The surprising thing,” she observes, “is that even though the word shot up in popularity post Gone Girl, it’s been in the mix for a long time”—long enough that Levy is now four entries into her series (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV), with presumably many more installments to come.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Book You Have to Read:
“King Suckerman,” by George Pelecanos

(Editor’s note: This is the 164th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
King Suckerman reads like a blaxploitation blast from the past, with its references to that film genre, the soundtrack of the era (this tale is set in 1976, and the U.S. bicentennial is only days away), the vocabulary of young black inner-city America (with a profusion of the “N” word), and the glorification of the urban anti-hero. But beneath all of that, inextricable from the nonstop action in this 1997 George Pelecanos masterpiece, is a spot-on critique of racism, cultural appropriation, personal responsibility, and the hypocrisy of popular culture.

The themes in King Suckerman are seamlessly integrated into the story’s action. That’s as true when Real Right Records owner Marcus Clay admonishes a young employee for filing Jimi Hendrix albums under Soul, not Rock—really, a racial commentary here—as it is when the blasts of bicentennial fireworks blend with the gunfire of the good guys liberating themselves from the threat of nihilistic criminals at the book’s conclusion.

This adventure begins at a small-town North Carolina drive-in movie theater, where Wilton Cooper, a cool and manipulative ex-con, witnesses Bobby Roy “BR” Clagget—“a white boy, wanna-be-a-black-boy cracker” who sports an afro, four-inch heels, and a shirt with “Tarzan swinging on the vines”—strut into the projection building and murder his boss in cold blood. Cooper wants a trigger man for an upcoming dope deal, and in Clagget he sees talent, as well as a kid much in need of direction. Cooper approaches him, and after a smooth Q & A, the sure-handed sociopath expertly plays the stone-faced kid, calls him his “little brother,” and seals the deal for Clagget to star in the blaxploitation flick playing in his head.

Pelecanos’ plot revolves mostly around Cooper and Clagget’s crime spree, but a lesser story line, one quite salient on a thematic level, is the much-anticipated premiere of the blaxploitation movie King Suckerman (“The Man with the Master Plan Who Be Taking It to the Man”). It’s the talk of Washington, D.C., but the film turns out to be a huge disappointment to all, save for a few people. The audience expected the movie to offer the standard blaxploitation trope of anti-hero pimp as badass role model, but King Suckerman turns that stereotype upside down. In the end, the character of King Suckerman dies broken and behind bars, the film bombs, and a crestfallen BR is told the facts of life. “Little Brother?” says the nihilistic Cooper, who knows what he’s talking about. “That was the real deal.”

Delving deeper into the movie, Rasheed, the “woke” employee of Marcus Clay who miscategorized Hendrix, sees things differently. He recognizes racism and the perpetuation of stereotypes for profit, and fires off this bit of wisdom: “Those white producers tryin’ to exploit our culture, showin’ us what our ghetto thing is all about. And us, givin’ them our money like stone suckers.”

Then Rasheed explains it from the angle of a film fan who wants escapism and the kind of empowerment that can only come from fantasy. Outside the theater, he schools a coworker in this exchange:
“You know that picture’s not gonna do any business.”

“Oh yeah?”

“’Cause it tells the truth. And the brothers out here, they don’t want the truth.”
Back in the real world, where Cooper and Clagget live, the truth gets lurid quickly. Before they visit a biker gang to score some cocaine for an out-of-state associate, they pay a $20,000 finder’s fee to Eddie Marchetti, the creep who brokered the deal. Marchetti is a small-time fence and weed dealer who wishes to make it big, but his intelligence and gangster pretense are laughable. His right-hand man, Clarence Tate, runs the business due to Marchetti’s incompetence; but even so, Marchetti treats him, and his own girlfriend, Vivian Lee, with a lack of respect that’s as breathtaking as a punch to the gut.

Cooper and Marchetti are conducting business when Marcus Clay and his Greek pal, Dimitri Karras, approach them. Karras is a D.C. weed dealer in need of a pound. A slacker of little consequence, he’d rather play pick-up basketball and get high than find a job. Clay, meanwhile, is a Vietnam vet. (These same two characters will appear in subsequent Pelecanos novels. But in King Suckerman, they make their bones as stand-up guys who take personal responsibility for their actions and finish what they start.)

(Right) Author George Pelecanos

As this scene develops, Marchetti begins to throw his weight around and berate his associate, Tate; then he slaps Vivian. Karras, in turn, belts him. Clay disarms BR and knocks his front teeth out. As Clay and Karras leave, Clay impulsively grabs the $20,000, and Karras steers Vivian away from her toxic relationship. Karras and Clay know full well that they’ve put themselves into a position only violence can solve.

Cooper, Clagget, and their associates move rapidly to conclude the dope deal, which under Cooper’s direction becomes a massacre. A meeting is arranged for the return of the $20,000 to Cooper, but everybody knows that’s a pretense for an ambush, and King Suckerman, the book, ends even bloodier than the movie. By the close of this tale, Clay and Karras have grown a set, and more importantly, Karras has grown up.

It’s interesting to imagine how King Suckerman might be viewed, were it first released in our present age of “wokeness.” Pelecanos’ frequent use of the “N” word could be denounced as racist, and because King Suckerman was written by a Caucasian it might be shouted down as cultural appropriation. But the novel is not a cheap or shallow representation of lower-income African Americans. It’s the story of the melting pot, of interactions between African Americans and Caucasians, and a hard excoriation of stereotypes, as exemplified by BR Clagget, and the titular King Suckerman.

The tag line of King Suckerman, the motion picture—“The Man with the Master Plan Who Be Taking It to the Man”—may sound clumsy and redundant, but Pelecanos, who’s published 21 books and was part of the team behind HBO-TV’s The Wire, is neither of those. Exactly which “man” is Suckerman taking it to? The overlords of the society that oppress him? Or, more likely, to himself, “the man with the plan,” and the obvious sucker for the meretricious lure of the criminal life so glorified in popular culture.

Turkey Is on the Menu

It looks as though Barbara Nadel’s hard-drinking Istanbul police inspector, Çetin İkmen, will soon become the star of his own television series. From The Hollywood Reporter:
ViacomCBS’ ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS) has struck a deal with Miramax, in which the entertainment giant owns a 49-percent stake, to co-produce The Turkish Detective, a detective series set in modern-day Istanbul based on the 21 books in The Çetin İkmen Crime Novels series by Barbara Nadel.

The agreement, announced on Wednesday, marks the first co-production between the company and Miramax, which is controlled by beIN Media Group, since ViacomCBS acquired its stake in the studio for $375 million. …

The Turkish Detective will consist of hourlong episodes and focus on Inspector Cetin Ikmen and his partner Mehmet Süleyman who are "solving crimes and experiencing euphoric highs and tragic lows." Each crime story in the series is "heavily rooted in the rich and varied culture and history of Istanbul and set against the vibrant, dazzling and frenzied world of modern-day Turkey," the partners said.
There appears to be no word yet on who might play the series’ principal characters. But production on The Turkish Detective is already slated to begin next spring 2021 in Istanbul.

(Hat tip to The Killing Times.)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

All Eyes on P.I.s

I was just getting ready to shut down my office for the day, when I learned that the Private Eye Writers of America organization has announced the winners of its 2020 Shamus Awards.

Best Original Private Eye Paperback: Behind the Wall of Sleep, by James D.F. Hannah (Self-published)

Also nominated: The Skin Game, by J.D. Allen (Midnight Ink); Paid in Spades, by Richard Helms (Clay Stafford); Ration of Lies, by M. Ruth Myers (Self-published); and The Bird Boys, by Lisa Sandlin (Cinco Puntos Press)

Best Private Eye Short Story: “Sac-A-Lait Man” by O’Neil De Noux (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], September/October 2019)

Also nominated: “The Smoking Bandit of Lakeside Terrace,” by Chad Baker (EQMM, May/June 2019); “The Dunes of Saulkrasti,” by William Burton McCormick (EQMM, September/October 2019); “The Fourteenth Floor,” by Adam Meyer (from Crime Travel, edited by Barb Goffman; Wildside Press); and “Weathering the Storm” by Michael Pool (from The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, edited by Michael Bracken; Down & Out)

Best Private Eye Novel: Lost Tomorrows, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)

Also nominated: The Tower of Songs, by Casey Barrett (Kensington); The Shallows, by Matt Goldman (Forge); Below the Line, by Michael Gould (Dutton); and The Cold Way Home, by Julia Keller (Minotaur)

(Hat tip to In Reference to Murder.)

PaperBack: “Ex-Con”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

Ex-Con, by Stuart Friedman (Pyramid, 1954). This novel was published originally in 1954 by Abelard-Schuman under the title Free Are the Dead. Cover illustrator unidentified.

Half Done, Fully Satisfied

With 2020 already half over as of next Tuesday, June 30, you can expect to see blogs, Web sites, and individual reviewers declaring which works of crime and thriller fiction (all published in the United States) they believe are “the best of the year … so far.”

CrimeReads made its 10 picks yesterday, including Ivy Pochoda’s These Women (Ecco), Don Winslow’s Broken (Morrow), Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture (Viking), Kwei Quartey’s The Missing American (Soho Crime), and Jennifer Hillier’s Little Secrets (Minotaur).

Amazon, meanwhile, turns thumbs-up on 20 books from this genre—most of them written by women—that have been released since January 1. Among those are Kimberly McCreight’s A Good Marriage (Harper), Michael Connelly’s Fair Warning (Little, Brown), Mindy Mejia’s Strike Me Down (Atria/Emily Bestler), Hye-young Pyun’s The Law of Lines (Arcade), and Sara Sliger’s Take Me Apart (MCD).

My own reading tastes differ somewhat from those of the folks responsible for the aforementioned lists. There are also a few works they applaud (notably These Women and Fair Warning) that I have still not cracked open. All that now said, let me offer my own list of favorite crime novels from the first six months of 2020:

The Decent Inn of Death, by Rennie Airth (Penguin)
Three Hours in Paris, by Cara Black (Soho Crime)
Black Sun Rising, by Matthew Carr (Pegasus)
Do No Harm, by Max Allan Collins (Forge)
The Good Killer, by Harry Dolan (Mysterious Press)
Hammer to Fall, by John Lawton (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Death in the East, by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)
Dead Land, by Sara Paretsky (Morrow)
Mr. Nobody, by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine)
The Coldest Warrior, by Paul Vidich (Pegasus)

These preferences are likely to change between now and year’s end, when I post my Favorite Crime Fiction of 2020 selections. For the present, however, I’m feeling good about them all.

So, which 2020 releases in this genre have you read since January that you think the rest of us would also relish? Suggestions are welcome in the Comments section at the end of this post.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Top Scots

Organizers of the annual Bloody Scotland festival—sadly cancelled this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis—today announced their nominees for two awards recognizing excellence in Scottish crime fiction. First we have the shortlisted titles vying for the honor of being named 2020 Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year:

Hold Your Tongue, by Deborah Masson (Corgi)
The Crown Agent, by Stephen O’Rourke (Sandstone Press)
See Them Run, by Marion Todd (Canelo)
Pine, by Francine Toon (Doubleday)

Next comes the longlist of contenders seeking the 2020 McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year:

Time for the Dead, by Lin Anderson (Macmillan)
Bad Memory, by Lisa Gray (Thomas & Mercer)
Whirligig, by Andrew James Greig (Fledgling Press)
A Dark Matter, by Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Island, by Ben McPherson (HarperCollins)
Bury Them Deep, by James Oswald (Wildfire)
The Art of Dying, by Ambrose Parry (Canongate)
The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing, by Mary Paulson-Ellis (Mantle)
The Red Red Snow, by Caro Ramsay (Severn House)
Watch Him Die, by Craig Robertson (Simon & Schuster)
Pine, by Francine Toon (Doubleday)

A short video mentioning all of these hopefuls (and starring Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, Richard Osman and Karen Robinson) is here.

According to a press release, “The shortlist for the McIlvanney Prize will be announced on the 1st of September before the winners of both prizes will be revealed on the 18th of September.”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Bullet Points: Pre-Father’s Day Edition

• If you’re not sufficiently aware of this already, tomorrow night will bring the debut of HBO-TV’s eight-part Perry Mason mini-series starring Matthew Rhys (The Americans). It’s conceived as a prequel to the classic 1957-1966 CBS series of that same name, which cast Raymond Burr as the almost unbeatable Los Angeles criminal defense attorney introduced by Erle Stanley Gardner in 1933’s The Case of the Velvet Claws. HBO’s version, set just one year before that—in 1932—imagines Mason as a down-and-out, heavy-drinking private eye “retained for a sensational child kidnapping trial, and his investigation portends major consequences for Mason, his client, and the city itself.” The character Rhys plays here is actually closer than Burr’s portrayal was to Gardner’s original conception of Mason as (to quote from Otto Penzler’s The Private Lives of Private Eyes, Spies, Crime Fighters and Other Good Guys) a “hard-boiled, two-fisted and noncerebral” advocate for justice. But writers/showrunners Ron Fitzgerald and Rolin Jones have sought to flesh out their protagonist’s back story, as well. The Killing Times explains: “Mason is haunted by his wartime experiences in France and suffering the effects of a broken marriage.” An extended, noir-accented trailer (found here) nicely captures Depression-era L.A., with its recent Olympic Games, its unlikely “evangelical fervor,” the rise of the oil industry, and of course its Hollywood glamour. Vulture calls this new Perry Mason “a simultaneously gorgeous, gritty, and sometimes downright gory period piece filled with fine performances.” John Lithgow, Tatiana Maslany, Shea Whigham, Stephen Root, and Robert Patrick join Rhys in the cast. After disappointing previous attempts to revive Perry Mason (remember Monte Markham’s The New Perry Mason of 1973-1974?), it will be nice if HBO can draw upon what fans like about Gardner’s protagonist, while imbuing his story with greater emotional depth and substance. I’ll be watching with my fingers crossed.

• Scottish writer Lee Randall contributes a useful backgrounder about Gardner to CrimeReads, in which she recalls the lawyer-turned-author’s original intent with Mason: “I want to make my hero a fighter, not by having him be ruthless with women and underlings, but by having him wade into the opposition and battle his way through to victory. … [T]he character I am trying to create for him is that of a fighter who is possessed of infinite patience. He tries to jockey his enemies into a position where he can deliver one good knockout punch.” Yep, that nicely sums up the typical Mason yarn.

• Florida journalist Craig Pittman provides something of a public-service piece to aspiring legal-thriller writers, consulting various attorneys who have become novelists on how one might best compose realistic courtroom dramas. “I would suggest that authors treat courtroom scenes much like any other and not let the legal and technical details override the narrative,” says Alafair Burke, once a prosecutor in Oregon and now a professor at New York’s Hofstra University School of Law. “Too many courtroom scenes read like an intentional display of the research the author conducted to prepare for the scene. Instead, focus on character, setting, plot, dialogue—all the things that drive a good book. If the legal details don’t further a critical aspect of the narrative, skip them.”

Crimespree Magazine brings word that writer Val McDermid “has unveiled the hotly tipped ‘New Blood’ authors for 2020, showcasing the year’s best breakout crime-writing talent.” Her choices:

— Deepa Anappara, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Chatto & Windus)
— Elizabeth Kay, Seven Lies (Sphere)
— Jessica Moor, Keeper (Penguin)
— Trevor Wood, The Man on the Street (Quercus)

“Since 2004,” explains Crimespree’s Erin Mitchell, “the best-selling Scottish author of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series has curated an annual celebration of the most formidable debuts taking the crime and thriller genre by storm, with an invitation to join the line-up of the world’s largest and most prestigious crime-fiction festival: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.” Although this year’s festival was cancelled due to the pandemic, Mitchell says McDermid’s 2020 “New Blood” showcase “will be streamed on the festival’s HIF Player on what would have been the legendary weekender on Saturday 25 July 2020.” You should be able to access the audio here at that time.

• I know, I know, it’s the frickin’ middle of June already, but only now am I finally getting around to remarking upon Mike Ripley’s latest edition of his “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots. Featured among his plentiful subjects this time are: older books he’s taken up reading during the COVID-19 lockdown; forgotten writers Douglas Sanderson (Blondes Are My Trouble) and Peter Leslie (Bootleg Angel); fresh crime fiction by Sharon Bolton, Douglas Lindsay, Barbara Nadel, and Martin Walker; and the end of the line for the Top Notch Thrillers and Ostara Crime imprints, for which Ripley served as editor.

• In Reference to Murder features this tidbit:
Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards announced this year's winners, including in the Mystery Category. The Gold winner was Below the Fold by R.G. Belsky; Silver winner was A Plain Vanilla Murder by Susan Wittig Albert; and Bronze winner was Moonscape by Julie Weston. In the Thriller Category, the Gold winner was The Nine by Jeanne Blasberg; the Silver winner was The Unrepentant by E.A. Aymar; and the Bronze winner was Green Valley by Louis Greenberg. The Guilt We Carry by Samuel W. Gailey was also a Thriller Honorable Mention.
• Congratulations to Joe Kenney for 10 years at the helm of Glorious Trash, one of the best blogs about forgotten (and sometimes best-forgotten) works of paperback fiction.

What a beautiful selection of vintage B-movie posters, all painted by Albert Kallis. I’m particularly fond of his placards for The Brain Eaters and The Astounding She-Monster, two science-fiction productions released in 1958.

• Like so many other writers, San Francisco-area author Mark Coggins has decided to launch a podcast during the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s called Riordan’s Desk, after his series private eye, August Riordan, and he’s currently reading chapters from his latest Riordan novel, The Dead Beat Scroll (2019). Chapter 15 just went up a few days ago. To listen, look for Riordan's Desk on iTunes or any of the popular podcast directories. Or, to listen from the Web, click here.

• Seeing as we’re now just a little over a month away from the TNT-TV premiere of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, the eight-episode mini-series sequel to last year’s acclaimed Victorian-era thriller, The Alienist, don’t you think it’s time to watch a trailer for that new production? You’ll find a good one embedded above. Both shows are adapted from crime novels published in the 1990s by Caleb Carr. The Killing Times offers this synopsis of the coming sequel:
In The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, Sara [Howard] has opened her own private detective agency and is leading the charge on a brand-new case. She reunites with Dr. [Laszlo] Kreizler and John Moore, now a New York Times reporter, to find Ana Linares, the kidnapped infant daughter of the Spanish Consular. Their investigation leads them down a sinister path of murder and deceit, heading towards a dangerous and elusive killer.

The promo blurb says that series two will “shine a light on the provocative issues of the era—the corruption of institutions, income inequality, yellow press sensationalism, and the role of women in society—themes that still resonate today.”
This new mini-series is set to drop on Sunday, July 26.

• In other small-screen news, Variety reports that “Amazon is developing a series centered on Lisbeth Salander, the character created by Stieg Larsson for the so-called Millenium books. The project, which is currently titled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, will not be a sequel or continuation of the story from the books or the films into which they were adapted. It will instead take Salander and place her in today’s world with a wholly new setting, new characters, and a new story. No writer or lead actress is currently attached to the series.”

• And January Magazine recommends that Harlan Coben followers tune in to “a six-part Netflix mini-series based on The Woods, Coben’s 2007 novel,” it’s action transferred from New Jersey to Poland. “The switch creates some real magic: Coben’s terrific storytelling reimagined here with a gritty European sensibility,” January enthuses. Netflix debuted this six-part mini-series on June 12.

• For some reason, Janet Rudolph posted her list of Father’s Day mysteries last month. But tomorrow is actually Father’s Day here in the States, so let’s revisit that collection of titles now.

• As a veteran newspaper guy, I was interested to read this excerpt of a story from The Wall Street Journal about how some struggling local papers “are shutting down their [printing] presses and, to save money for distant corporate owners, printing their daily editions at other newspaper headquarters hours away. The papers still bear the names of the cities where they’re read, but they roll off presses elsewhere, sometimes in different states.” Included with that excerpt is a fabulous scene from the 1952 picture Deadline—U.S.A., in which “crusading managing editor” Humphrey Bogart instructs his press room foreman to start running the giant presses, churning out copies of the broadsheet containing an exposé of a mobster’s misdeeds. “That’s the press, baby. The press,” he tells the doomed hood over the phone. “And there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing.”

• November 1 is the deadline for essay proposals on the theme of “Historical Crime Fiction,” the focus of a future edition of Clues: A Journal of Detection. The mag’s managing editor, Elizabeth Foxwell, explains that Rosemary Erickson Johnsen (Contemporary Feminist Historical Crime Fiction) will act guest-edit that issue.

• I’m very sorry to learn that Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón, best known worldwide for penning 2001’s The Shadow of the Wind, died Friday from colorectal cancer. He was only 55 years old. An obituary in The Guardian notes that this Barcelona-born fictionist “was frequently described as the most-read Spanish author since Cervantes,” and it quotes Zafón as saying “he felt he had ‘no other choice’ but to be a writer: ‘Sometimes people ask me what piece of advice I would give to an aspiring author. I’d tell them that you should only become a writer if the possibility of not becoming one would kill you. Otherwise, you’d be better off doing something else. I became a writer, a teller of tales, because otherwise I would have died, or worse.’”

• Also announced was the demise of Grace F. Edwards, a Harlem mystery writer and former executive director of the Harlem Writers Guild, who passed away on February 25 of this year, at age 87. “Though she began writing at age 7,” recalls The New York Times, “Grace F. Edwards waited until she was 55 to publish her first novel. That book, In the Shadow of the Peacock, was a lush portrayal of Harlem during World War II, a girl’s coming-of-age story set against the race riots of the time. It was a placeholder for the six detective stories she would later write, mysteries set in Harlem starring a female cop turned sociologist and accidental sleuth named Mali Anderson, always with a backbeat of jazz. The first of these, If I Should Die, was published in 1997, when Ms. Edwards was 64.”

• Finally, I offer a sad good-bye to Dennis “Denny” O’Neil. The Spy Command explains that O’Neil was “a comic book writer and editor who [in the 1970s] returned Batman to his dark origins,” following a very lighthearted period “during the run of the 1966-68 television series starring Adam West.” In an obituary of his own, author Scott D. Parker describes O’Neil as “easily one of the people you’d put on the Mt. Rushmore of Batman creators.” Meanwhile, Terence Towles Canote writes that “In addition to his work in comic books, Dennis O’Neil also wrote several novels, including The Bite of Monsters (1971) and Dragon’s Fists – Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Master (with Jim Berry, 1974), as well as novels ... featuring Batman and Green Lantern. Over the years he also wrote several stories and novellas published in such magazines as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories, and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction.” O’Neil died on June 11 at age 81.

• A few author interviews worth your attention: For her excellent Speaking of Mysteries podcast, Nancie Clare talks with both Craig Robertson (Watch Him Die) and Paul D. Marks (The Blues Don’t Care); Steve Powell goes one-on-one with Shelley Blanton Stroud (Copy Boy); Rich Ehisen quizzes Timothy Jay Smith (A Fire on the Island); and MysteryPeople’s Scott Montgomery chats with James Wade about the latter’s new novel, All Things Left Wild.

• Len Deighton enthusiast Rob Mallows relates the tale of his longtime search for “a simple postcard, part of the marketing materials for the first UK edition of SS-GB.”

• My late father and I generally had quite different TV-watching tastes. He was partial to fare such as Hee Haw, The Benny Hill Show, Hunter, The A-Team, and Walker, Texas Ranger, none of which I fancied. However, we did watch The Rockford Files together. In fact, I think I may have introduced him to that 1974-1980 NBC detective series, after enjoying its pilot film. Only later did I learn that my father had been a fan of actor James Garner ever since the late 1950s, when he starred in Maverick. But my point here is that I enjoyed Rockford when it was originally broadcast, and I take just as much pleasure in watching episodes occasionally more than four decades later. So I was a prime candidate to appreciate Nathan Ward’s recent tribute to the show, in CrimeReads. It contains numerous smile-inducing reminders of what the series offered, the first of those being Ward’s fond memory of the 1974 pilot:
The first show did not reek of tough-guy promise. First of all, [Rockford] turned down the job he was hired for not once but twice, and except for his California P.I. license he seemed like just another big affable guy with ordinary problems: an understocked fridge, people hectoring him through his answering machine. His concerns seemed unheroic and, perhaps worst of all, he did not even carry a gun, keeping one only for emergencies in a cookie jar in the kitchen of his house trailer. And when at one point his client asked, a little concerned, “You’re not afraid of him, are you?” he told her the truth, “You’re damn right I am.”

But what grabbed me from the first episode was one hilarious scene: Jim Rockford, tired of being trailed by … [a] muscular killer (William Smith) in a long red convertible, pulls into the Mayfair Music Hall, a Santa Monica venue of vaudeville-era entertainments. The bow-tied bartender greets Rockford and asks “The usual?” as a young woman performs a slow split atop a wire, meaning Jim either comes here often to lose a tail or he likes novelty acts. After his brawny pursuer enters the bar and growls his drink order, Jim heads to the men’s room to prepare his trap. The Mayfair switches to a troupe of dancing poodles as Rockford’s man stalks to the bathroom, where Jim has drizzled hand soap across the floor and retrieved a roll of nickels from his coat pocket, taunting, “You musclebound guys are always overcompensating.” The charge of latency draws a macho scream and a high kick that slides him back onto the soapy tile, where Jim lands a cheap insurance shot. According to Ed Robertson’s history of
The Rockford Files, this scene nearly broke the ASI meter when the pilot was tested, and may have made the show. It did for me. By cheating a little, it seemed a clever man could take down a bully. I was hooked.
Ward has much more to say about The Rockford Files here.

• Not to go overboard in promoting recent CrimeReads articles, but here are a few more I have enjoyed: Olivia Rutigliano’s excellent analysis of Inspector Bucket, Charles Dickens’ “devious, hypocritical ‘nice guy’ cop” in Bleak House (1853); Shane Mawe’s profile of Freeman Wills Crofts, once a prolific Irish mystery novelist (The Cask, The 12:30 from Croydon, etc.) and “a contemporary of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, … [whose] reputation has failed to match that of these luminaries”; Chris McGinley’s profile of Virginia Kellogg, who “wrote some of the greatest crime movies in Hollywood's Golden Age,” but is today pretty much forgotten; and Paul French’s exploration of the various books and authors that have helped make Sydney “Australia’s undisputed capital of Noir.”

• Are you a big Ian Rankin admirer? If you, you might be interested to know that the Scottish creator of Inspector John Rebus is the subject of the latest entry in the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series. At more than 400 pages long, Ian Rankin: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction is said to include “alphabetized entries on Rankin’s works, characters, and themes; a biography; a chronology; maps of Rebus’ Edinburgh; and an annotated bibliography.”

• Martin Edwards also recommends H.R.F. Keating: A Life of Crime, by Sheila Mitchell (Level Best). He describes this study of the British author behind Indian policeman Inspector Ganesh Ghote as “affectionate and entertaining” and says it “gives wonderful insights into the ups and downs of the crime writing life,” as well as a few curious bits of triva. “For instance,” remarks Edwards, “one thing I didn’t know was that Harry wrote the novelisation of Neil Simon’s Murder by Death.” The prolific Keating passed away in 2011.

• Thirteen years after The Sopranos ended its six-season run on HBO, creator/writer David Chase has finally revealed the meaning of its last episode’s ambiguous ending.

• And the next time you need a musical pick-me-up, try this.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Book You Have to Read:
“Tender Is Levine,” by Andrew Bergman

(Editor’s note: This is the 163rd installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
Author Andrew Bergman exhibits real chutzpah when he combines kitsch, high art, and the mob in Tender Is LeVine, his third—and as far as one can tell, final—Jack LeVine mystery. Divorced, alone, and drinking too much, New York City private eye LeVine is a “depressed dick” in desperate need of a psychic kick in the pants. Luckily for him, he’s jolted from the middle-aged blues when violin player Fritz Stern asks for Jack’s assistance, making the summer of 1950 the most interesting one in his life.

Stern is a tentative, self-effacing, German immigrant who possesses “the nervous attentiveness of a refuge who had never stopped escaping.” His manner doesn’t give LeVine much confidence in his story, and it’s a whopper: Stern and several others in the world-famous NBC (Radio) Symphony Orchestra believe their maestro, octogenarian Arturo Toscanini, has been kidnapped and replaced with a look-alike. This might be too preposterous for anyone to swallow, especially since Toscanini is one of the most recognizable men in the world. However Jack needs to get his act together and start making some money, so he takes the case.

LeVine’s initial stop is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (aka Radio City), the home of NBC, to pay a visit to Sidney Aaron, the executive who oversees the orchestra. Aaron looks like he “had made it on his own, leaving numerous casualties in his wake,” and he’s the first of many barriers LeVine will face in his quest. Aaron pooh-poohs the notion of Toscanini’s snatching; however LeVine, ever the skeptic, just has to ask: “If you’re so positive this claim is bullshit, why did you want to see me?” Aaron fast-talks around that point, but LeVine knows a lie when he hears one. So the next morning, he and Stern try to drop in on the Maestro at his Westchester home, only to be put off by a couple of torpedoes. When Jack spots those two guards tailing them back to Manhattan, he’s convinced something is actually amiss.

His suspicions are fatally confirmed when Fritz Stern is murdered on a deserted west side dock later that same day. Aaron then finally tells Jack that Toscanini has been grabbed, and he hires Jack to look into the matter, showing him a ransom note written on stationary from a mob-owned hotel in Havana. When Jack flies down to Cuba to investigate further, this tale becomes interesting, developing a convergence between its plot and the theme of old-school criminals who, to survive, must adapt to a fast-changing crime-scape, involving the rising gambling town of Las Vegas.

Tender Is LeVine is long on action and plot twists, but as with Bergman’s first two LeVine novels—The Big Kiss-Off of 1944 (1974) and Hollywood and LeVine (1975)—it’s also a nostalgic appreciation of a place that no longer exists, post-World War II New York City, and is therefore a lamentation on the passage of time; yet this story is more so, because the cultural changes are not only evident but imminent—and deadly. In Havana, notorious American mobster Meyer Lansky allows the P.I. to connect some of the dots he’s encountered. The NBC Symphony, LeVine learns, is a money-losing organization, and in 1950, television is beginning to overtake radio as the premier in-home source of entertainment. NBC wants to jettison Toscanini and, to add a little class to Las Vegas, it hopes to relocate the NBC Symphony to a hotel that Lanksy, his criminal associate Lucky Luciano, and executive Aaron are planning to build in Nevada. Toscanini would never go for such an idea. Hence, the plastic-surgery-altered stand-in. The bonus from this scheme is a quick fortune the ransom demand would provide to all of those involved.

As LeVine talks with Lansky, he’s astounded to find violinist Stern’s college-age daughter, Barbara, approaching their table. LeVine had already met Barbara in New York, and she’s as intelligent and calculating as she is comely. (“She had thick black hair, brown, almond-shaped eyes, a beautifully sculpted nose, and a mouth you couldn’t look at for long without becoming thoroughly ashamed of yourself.”) Barbara admits that at a tender age, she’d been the elder Lansky’s lover. It was a time in her precocious youth which she calls a “totally fascinating episode.” Their affair, though, is long over, and she and LeVine embark on a tryst that very night. But they’ve hardly pulled down the bedsheets, when LeVine is extracted from the hotel with help from a blackjack. He awakens aboard a yacht bound for Miami, Florida, and discovers his fellow passenger is the real Toscanini, who believes the FBI is protecting him from Italian fascist gunmen. From that point onward, things move very quickly and in much better focus, beginning with the next stop: Vegas.

(Right) Author Andrew Bergman

There, LeVine manages to escape his captors, and—disguised in a hideous toupee—commences to snoop. He realizes how deep in trouble he is when he sees Lucky Luciano gambling in a casino. The putatively persona non grata mobster, and Lansky’s wingman—deported to Italy back in 1946—is in the country illegally, and without a doubt is conniving with both Lansky and NBC’s Aaron. After Barbara shows up in Sin City herself, she and LeVine grab Toscanini and then negotiate a cross-country obstacle course to get the genuine Maestro back to New York, and safety.

Released in 2001, this third installment in the LeVine series was a definite late-comer, arriving in bookstores 26 years after the publication of Hollywood and Levine. No doubt that delay was due to Bergman’s intense work schedule as a Hollywood screenwriter and director. His film credits include Blazing Saddles, The Freshman, and Honeymoon in Vegas.

Whether the now 75-year-old Bergman will ever offer up a fourth LeVine yarn is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he’s sequestered Jack in some literary Witness Protection Program until it’s safe for him to emerge once more. After all, in Tender Is LeVine, that Jewish gumshoe managed to foil the grand plans of the most powerful criminals in the world and, at the end of the book, reached an unspoken and undefined détente with them. But isn’t two decades of his silence long enough? With the world as crazy as it is these days, it would seem an excellent time for Bergman to bring Jack LeVine out of the shadows and back onto the gritty streets of Gotham.

Scaring Up a Few Contestants

Shotsmag Confidential has posted the list of nominees for the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards, which celebrate “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.” There are half a dozen categories of contenders. The books vying for Best Novel honors are:

The Book of X, by Sarah Rose Etter (Two Dollar Radio)
Curious Toys, by Elizabeth Hand (Little, Brown)
Goodnight Stranger, by Miciah Bay Gault (Park Row)
Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo (Flatiron)
Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson (Ecco)
Tinfoil Butterfly, by Rachel Eve Moulton (MCD x FSG Originals)

We are assured that “Details on the ceremony for the 2019 Shirley Jackson Awards will be forthcoming.”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Revue of Reviewers, 6-18-20

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