Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chanukah Crime Fiction/Hanukah Mysteries

Chanukah (Hanukah, Hanukkah) is celebrated for eight days. Jewish Holidays are aligned with the lunar calendar, so they vary every year, and this year Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Chanukah. Given that there are eight days, you'll have plenty of time to read all of these titles! Let me know if I've missed any.

Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle (mostly about Christmas but Hanukah is mentioned)
Beautiful Lie the Dead by Barbara Fradkin
Festival of Deaths by Jane Haddam
Out of the Frying Pan into the Choir by Sharon Kahn
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
Murder at the Minyan by Shlumat E. Kustanowitz
The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page (mostly about Christmas but Hanukah is mentioned)
Chanukah Guilt by Ilene Schneider
The Tattooed Rabbi by Marvin J. Wolf

Children's Hanukah Mysteries
Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorahs - A
Hanukkah Humdinger! by Rabbi Susan Abramson and Aaron Dvorkin and Ariel DiOrio

Mystery Short Stories
"Mom Lights a Candle" by James Yaffe, appeared in Mystery: The Best of 2002, ed. by Jon L. Breen.
"Hanukah" by Morris Hershman in Cat Crimes for the Holidays, ed. by Martin Greenberg, Edward Gorman and Larry Segriff
"The Worse Noel" by Barb Goffman in The Gift of Murder.
"Death on the List" by B.K. Stevens (AHMM, January 1999)
For more info on Jewish short story mysteries, check out Steven Steinbock who blogs on Criminal Brief, the Mystery Short Story Web Log Project.
"Navidad" by Elizabeth Zelvin, EQMM, January 2011
"No Candles for Antiochus" by Barry Ergang

Mystery Games
Children's software mystery game: Who Stole Hanukkah? offered in five languages: English, Hebrew, Russian, French and Spanish
Other Games for Children: The Case of the Stolen Menorah: An Enlightening Hanukkah Mystery

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday: "We're in the Money"

Not sure why, but Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1933 always strikes my fancy, espcially today--Black Friday, the biggest shopping day (shopping week!) of the year. Maybe they're in thee money, maybe they're not... but they're spending it.

Gold Diggers of 1933 is a pre-code film stars Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers Ned Sparks,  and Dick Powell. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy with songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.. but I always think of Busby Berkeley, stager and choreographer, as the main force behind the film ..

Here's a clip to enjoy on Black Friday, even if you're not "in the Money"....

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Crime Fiction / Thanksgiving Mysteries

Thanksgiving. I have a lot to give thanks for -- my family, my friends, and the wonderful mystery community. Once again we'll be going to my sister's home for a multi-generational Thanksgiving --ages 2 weeks to 93! My family is as dysfunctional as most, but we don't stoop to murder! That can't be said for the families in the following updated list of Thanksgiving Mysteries. As the saying goes, "Families are like Fudge, sweet with a few Nuts thrown in." As always, please let me know about any titles I've missed.

And speaking of Chocolate, I've posted recipes on for delicious Thanksgiving dishes including Spicy Chocolate Turkey Rub, White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Double Layer Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Pie, and Chocolate Pumpkin Pie! Be sure to check out

Thanksgiving Mysteries

Laura Alden, Foul Play at the PTA
Deb Baker Murder Talks Turkey
S.H. Baker The Colonel's Tale
Mignon Ballard, Miss Dimple Disappears
Bob Berger The Risk of Fortune
William Bernhardt, Editor, Natural Suspect
Kate Borden Death of a Turkey
Lilian Jackson Braun The Cat Who Talked Turkey, The Cat Who Went into the Closet
Lizbie Brown Turkey Tracks
Carole Bugge Who Killed Mona Lisa?
Sammi Carter Goody Goody Gunshots
Joelle Charbonneau Skating Under the Wire
Jennifer Chiaverini A Quilter's Holiday
Christine E. Collier A Holiday Sampler
Sheila Connolly A Killer Crop
Isis Crawford A Catered Thanksgiving
Bill Crider w/Willard Scott Murder under Blue Skies
Jessie Crocket Drizzled with Death
Amanda Cross A Trap for Fools
Barbara D'Amato Hard Tack, Hard Christmas
Mary Daheim Alpine Fury, Fowl Prey
Jeanne Dams Sins Out of School
Claire Daniels Final Intuition
Evelyn David Murder Takes the Cake
MaryJanice Davidson Undead and Unfinished
Krista Davis The Diva Runs Out of Thyme
Michael Dibdin Thanksgiving
Joanne Dobson Raven and the Nightingale
Christine Duncan Safe House
Janet Evanovich Thanksgiving (technically a romance)*
Nancy Fairbanks Turkey Flambe
Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain A Fatal Feast
Katherine V. Forrest The Beverly Malibu
Noreen Gilpatrick The Piano Man
Martin H. Greenberg (editor) Cat Crimes for the Holidays
Jane Haddam Feast of Murder
Janice Hamrick Death Rides Again
Lee Harris The Thanksgiving Day Murder
J. Alan Hartman, editor, The Killer Wore Cranberry, The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping; The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room for Thirds
Robin Hathaway The Doctor Makes a Dollhouse Call
Richard Hawke Speak of the Devil
Victoria Houston Dead Hot Shot
Ellen Elizabeth Hunter Murder on the ICW
Melanie Jackson Death in a Turkey Town, Cornucopia
J. A. Jance Shoot Don't Shoot
Alex Kava Black Friday
Faye Kellerman Serpent's Tooth
Harry Kemelman That Day the Rabbi Left Town
Clyde Linsley Death of a Mill Girl
Georgette Livingston Telltale Turkey Caper
Nial Magill Thanksgiving Murder in the Mountains
G.M. Malliet Wicked Autumn
Margaret Maron Up Jumps the Devil
Evan Marshall Stabbing Stefanie
Ralph McInerny Celt and Pepper
Leslie Meier Turkey Day Murder
Deborah Morgan The Marriage Casket
Louise Penny Still Life
Cathy Pickens Southern Fried
Michael Poore Up Jumps the Devil
Ann Ripley Harvest of Murder
J.D. Robb Thankless in Death
Delia Rosen One Foot in the Gravy
Willard Scott and Bill Crider Murder under Blue Skies
Sarah R. Shaber Snipe Hunt
Sharon Gwyn Short, Hung Out to Die
Paullina Simons, Red Leaves
Alex Sokoloff The Harrowing
Rex Stout Too Many Cooks
Denise Swanson Murder of a Barbie and Ken, Murder of a Botoxed Blonde
Marcia Talley Occasion of Revenge
Jennifer Vanderbes Strangers at the Feast
Debbie Viguie I Shall Not Want
Livia J. Washburn The Pumpkin Muffin Murder
Leslie Wheeler Murder at Plimoth Plantation
Angela Zeman The Witch and the Borscht Pearl

Let me know if I've forgotten any titles!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top 101 Crime Novels of All Time

The Top 101 Crime Novels of All Time, chosen by Mystery Writers of America (on List Challenges).

How may have you read? What novels would you add? And which on the list is not a novel?

Click the Link and comment with your number below!


Ireland AM Crime Fiction at the Irish Book Awards: Irish Crime Novel of the Year

And the winner is... The Doll's House by Louise Phillips (Hachette Ireland)

Here's a link to the Shortlist

Cartoon of the Day

HT: Reading is Fundamental via Erin Mitchell

Norwegian by Night coming to the Big Screen

U.K. producers Tracey Scoffield and Frank Doelger are partnering with Germany's Beta to produce a big screen version of Derek B. Miller’s  Norwegian By Night.

Scoffield cites Miller as a writer who offers "the same level of international appeal as Nordic writers such as Stieg Larsson, Soren Sviestrup and Henning Mankell."

Scoffield said about Norwegian by Night: "This is a brilliant story: an action packed thriller with brains behind it - the sort of book a world class director would love to get their hands on."

Read "Are Genres a Help or Hindrance?"  by Norwegian by Night author Derek B. Miller HERE.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Swedish Crime Fiction Awards

The Swedish Crime Academy (Svenska Deckarakademin) announced:

Best Swedish Crime Novel Award: Christoffer Carlsson for Den osynlige mannen fran Salem (The Invisible Man from Salem)

Martin Beck Award for Best Translated Crime Novel: Israeli D.A. Mishani for The Missing File (published in Sweden as Utsuddade spar (translated by Nils Larsson)

HT: Crime Scraps Review

Sherlock Holmes Season 3: Giveaway, News, and Trailer

*** BOOK GIVEAWAY. Make a comment below about SHERLOCK to be entered in a drawing for 5 copies of The Sherlock FILES. ***

A companion book, The Sherlock Files, has been published to accompany the BBC One and PBS broadcast of SHERLOCK. Author Guy Adams covers the first two seasons in vivid detail through fictional excerpts from Dr. Watson's blog, Inspector Lestrade's police reports, and Sherlock's notes. Interviews with stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and with writers/co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are also included.

MASTERPIECE on PBS will air the third season of SHERLOCK beginning on Sunday, January 19, 2014 for three consecutive Sunday Nights.
Nearly 11 million viewers tuned into the second season of Sherlock, which ended with one of the most shocking cliffhangers in television history. Fans flocked to the internet to speculate about Sherlock’s “demise,” and express their eagerness to find out what happens next.

"We are hugely excited about this next series of Sherlock, and have worked closely with our partners, MASTERPIECE and PBS, to bring these episodes to U.S. audiences in January," says Sue Vertue, executive producer for Sherlock and Hartswood Films, which coproduces Sherlock with MASTERPIECE and BBC Wales for BBC One. "We promise our fans that Season 3 is worth waiting for."

Emmy® and Golden Globe®-nominated and winner of a Peabody Award, Sherlock has been a television sensation since the first season aired in 2010, with critics calling it "triumphant" (Hollywood Reporter), "crackling with imagination" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "seduction through deduction" (Los Angeles Times).

Sherlock helped make megastars of Cumberbatch and Freeman, whose portrayals of the famous crime fighting duo USA Today described as “two of the best performances you’ll see anywhere.”

As in previous seasons, titles for the three episodes are pegged to a classic Sherlock Holmes title by Arthur Conan Doyle—delightfully, wittily, and briskly updated, of course.

“The Empty Hearse” – Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 10pm on MASTERPIECE

“The Sign of Three” – Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 10pm on MASTERPIECE

“His Last Vow” – Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 10pm on MASTERPIECE

Related news:

PBS airs a new 2-hour special, How Sherlock Changed the World, at 9pm on Thursday, December 17, 2013. The program looks at real-life crimes solved by the equipment, forensic techniques, and methods of detection used by the fictional detective.
Seasons 1 and 2 of SHERLOCK will be streamed before season 3's premiere; streaming dates TBA. Visit MASTERPIECE website or MASTERPIECE Facebook for all SHERLOCK news.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cartoon of the Day: Writers' Festivals

HT: Judy Bobalik

Writer Reality TV: Italy's "Masterpiece"

Well, this may be a new high.. or low.. for reality TV, but it does remind me a lot of the panels I've facilitated or watched at various writers' conventions. "Masterpiece" is an Italian TV Reality show that's out to  discover the Next Big Writer in Italy. The show premiered last weekend.

The first part of the show, according to Claude Nougat (see link below) who watched it last weekend, started with the auditions. How fun could that be? Don't most writers work at home by themselves?

The second and third parts were the parts that mirrored what we do at conventions. Several contestants (panelists at our conventions) were thrown into unexpected situations and told they had a 1/2 hour to write about it in the third part of the show. What made this different from our conventions is that it wasn't a virtual situation thrown out from a member of the audience. The participants in the TV show got to experience the situation. Two were sent to a refugee home run by a Rambo-style priest and the other two were sent to a disco for seniors. I should mention that according to the review there were judges, rants, raves and more... Reality Show Plus.. You must read Claude Nougat's review HERE.

Read the New York Times article about the contestants and the TV show.

Do you think this would work here?

Watch the Trailer:

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The Guardian reports the death of Mavis Batey, one of the top codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Mavis Batey, who has died aged 92, was often described as one of the top female codebreakers at Bletchley Park but, while she was always too modest to make the point herself, this diminished her role. She was one of the leading codebreakers of either sex, breaking the Enigma ciphers that led to the Royal Navy's victory over Italy at Matapan in 1941 and, crucially, to the success of the D-day landings in 1944.

She was 19 years old when she was sent to Bletchley, the codebreaking centre in Buckinghamshire, in early 1940 and put to work in No 3 Cottage, in the research section, which broke into new cipher systems that had never been broken before. It was run by the veteran codebreaker and Greek scholar Dilly Knox, who had not only broken the Zimmermann Telegram, which brought the US into the first world war, but had also pieced together the mimes of the Greek playwright Herodas from papyri fragments found in an Egyptian cave.

In March 1941, Mavis broke a series of messages enciphered on the Italian navy's Enigma machine that revealed the full details of plans to ambush a Royal Navy supply convoy ferrying supplies from Egypt to Greece. The plans gave Admiral Andrew Cunningham, commander-in-chief of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, the opportunity to turn the tables on the Italians, who were taken completely by surprise. Cunningham's ships sank three heavy cruisers and two estroyers with the loss of 3,000 Italian sailors. The Italian fleet never confronted the Royal Navy again.

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

John Banville: Lifetime Achievement Award

John Banville will be honored at this year’s Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for 2013. The award will be presented at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards ceremony on Tuesday November 26, 2013.

Born in Wexford in 1945, John Banville published his first book, the short-story collection Long Lankin, at the age of twenty-five and has since published a novel almost every three years; thirteen under his own name and, more recently, five under the pen name Benjamin Black.

Following the early novels, he wrote two acclaimed trilogies: the first, consisting of Doctor Copernicus (1976), Kepler (1981), and The Newton Letter (1982), focused on men of science; the second, with The Book of Evidence(1989), Ghosts (1993), and Athena (1995), took the world of art as its touchstone. Doctor Copernicus won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Kepler the Guardian Fiction Prize, and The Book of Evidence the Guinness Peat Aviation Award. The Book of Evidence was also short-listed for the Booker Prize, an award that Banville won in 2005 for his novel of childhood and memory, The Sea.

Writing as Benjamin Black, Banville has published several crime novels featuring Irish detective Quirke.  Watch John Banville aka Benjamin Black interview here!

Are Genres a Help or a Hindrance? Guest Post by Derek B. Miller

Today I welcome Derek B. Miller, author of one of my top 10 novels in 2013, Norwegian by Night. Norwegian by Night won the CWA "New Blood" Dagger Award. Derek B. Miller is the director of The Policy Lab and a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He has a PhD in International Relations from the University of Geneva, and an MA in National Security Studies from Georgetown University, in cooperation with St Catherine’s College, Oxford. He lives in Oslo with his wife and children.

Are Genres a Help or a Hinderance?

Jeremy Bentham once quipped that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who put people into two categories and those who don't. Aside from being witty, Bentham was also suggesting that to classify is as natural as it is necessary. This was not an unreasonable position for a utilitarian.

From this perspective of he was of course correct. It is natural and necessary to differentiate among things that are different in order to gain some measure of control over them. To observe, to distinguish, to define, to classify, to arrange into formal sets of relationships, to measure … this is the stuff of logic, of language, of science, and it is vital to intellectual progress.

So no argument here on the value of classification.

But then there's art, in particular, its creation and its encounter. Here, logic is not the driver of artistic creation, and too often classifications confuse, obstruct, and puzzle rather than assist the reader.

Take music: An amusing article by MTVIggy ( was called “Beyond Donk: Top 10 Most Ridiculous Sub-Genre Names in Electronic Music.” While trying to argue that rock n’roll and disco were “clearly real things with actual stylistic differences,” the writers eventually threw up their hands in frustration with sub-genres (all mysteries to me) called Full-on Darkspy, Splittercore, Cybergrind, and my personal favorite: Illibient.

Like music, fiction books are “art,” (even if sometimes bad art) insofar as they are not created to serve a use other than to seduce, amuse, disrupt, or otherwise stimulate the mind, heart or body of the reader. If we also accept that the reader encounters this work to experience these things, then the relationship between writer and reader is an artistic rather than utilitarian one. Classifications could potentially (and often do) undermine rather than facilitate the quality and frequency of encounter. To be clear, I’m not arguing against art appreciation and the value that can be brought to the reader or listener by a tutored encounter with the material. Rather, I’m arguing against being told exactly what to expect and experience from that encounter.

And yet, that problem of “encounter” is a real one. After all, you don’t get to read stuff at all if you don’t know about it. Systems that facilitate our encounters — without mediating how the material will be experienced — would seem to be what we need. Alas, that’s tricky. Hard to talk about something without saying anything about it. Most of these sorts of people go into politics not publishing …

The need to classify books into genres may in fact be useless to the writer in the creation of art; and detrimental to the reader when encountering and being stimulated by that art; but it is also essential for bringing those two people into contact with one another. What this suggests is that genres and sub-genres (however absurd) will continue to exist and even proliferate so long as they have strategic value in the writer-reader encounter.

But this does not mean that we — as writers and readers — must be passive and compliant. We need strategies of our own because our needs as not the same as those who are trying to bring us together.

First, some advice to writers: Write something good and don't worry about how you might be classified. This is not to be ignorant or defiant. Rather, it’s to say the classification task comes later rather than earlier. What helps in accepting this stance is knowing that you will not be classified the same everywhere. Likewise (and this is key) there is no automatic sorting machine. Different people, different cultures, different languages — hence different markets — will see your work differently which is why your agents and editors and marketing professionals can be partners in placing work. The master move for the author is to become part of that strategic process, not a victim to it.

My own experience is a case in point. My debut novel, Norwegian by Night was published as a crime novel by Faber and Faber in Britain where it won the Crime Writers' Association's John Creasey "New Blood" Dagger. However, on setting out, I had no intention to write a crime novel, per se, nor did I think that was what I was doing. I had written a book that I liked and hadn’t much considered where it might fit into the market.

At first this was a big problem. Many, many publishers rejected my manuscript and some told me flat out that the problem wasn’t the writing but the challenge in selling it. Their existing categories did not accommodate my book. Here, categories were obstructionist in that they prevented the encounter between book and reader.

But later this was overcome by risk-taking editors, and the careful strategic marketing of the book in different markets. The classification of “crime” was not a universal solution. In America and Germany, for instance, it was published as literary fiction. In America the book has received good reviews but sales have been modest in hard cover. Yet, in Germany, it was a best seller for months. So even here, classification was not the main issue.

Not incidentally, one of the most common comments I’ve received from happy readers is how much they’ve enjoyed being surprised by the story and how much it did not fit into any simple genre. Here, the writer-reader dynamic is at its most pure and unmediated. My lesson from this is that writers need to write the story they want to write, and then work with the publisher and booksellers to build a strategy for engagement with readers, not submit to the domination of genres.

And here's some advice for readers (I'm a reader too): Remember that we are all free in mind, heart, and body to experience the richness of the world and to be moved by it. Do not passively accept the classifications given to books. Exercise your freedom of thought to read books the way the authors wrote them and even beyond that. The bookseller-reader relationship is not an adversarial one, but it is a highly imperfect one. Genres are tools and there is no such thing as an all purpose tool. Allow them to serve you, but don’t expect them to. In a phrase, do not go gently into that good bookstore. Rage, rage against the classification of art. Because only then will the art itself survive.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Donato Carrisi: The Lost Girls of Rome

The following is adapted from Donato Carrisi's Author note in The Lost Girls of Rome. It describes a surreal experience that inspired him to write the book. The Lost Girls of Rome (translated by Howard Curtis) releases today. Reprinted with permission of Mulholland Books / Little, Brown and Company. Copyright © 2013 by Donato Carrisi. 

Donato Carrisi studied law and criminology before he began working as a writer for television. The Whisperer, Carrisi's first novel, won five international literary prizes, has been sold in nearly twenty countries, and has been translated into languages as varied as French, Danish, Hebrew and Vietnamese. Carrisi lives in Rome.


My new novel The Lost Girls of Rome has its origin in two unforgettable encounters. The first of these was with an unusual priest, and took place in Rome late one afternoon in May.

Father Jonathan had arranged to meet me in the Piazza delle Cinque Lune at dusk. Obviously, he was the one who fixed the time and place, and when I asked him to be a bit more specific about ‘dusk’, he calmly replied, ‘Before sunset.’ Not knowing how to respond, I decided to arrive well in advance.

He was already there.

Over the following two hours, Father Jonathan told me about the Paenitentiaria, the archive of sins and the role of the penitenzieri. As he spoke, it struck me as incredible that nobody had ever told this story before. Our walk through the back streets of Rome led us eventually to San Luigi dei Francesi, and to Caravaggio’s Martyrdom of St Matthew, which is the first stage in the training of these priest-profilers.

In many cases, the priests collaborate with the police. In Italy, since 1999, there has been an anti-sect squad in which they work with the police to gain a better understanding of so-called Satanic crimes. Not because they are trying to reveal the existence of the devil, but because of the demonic significance that some criminals, especially murderers, attribute to their acts. Explaining this significance requires them to clarify the criminals’ motives and to prepare a profile that may help the investigating team.

In the two months following our first meeting, Father Jonathan taught me many things about his unusual ministry and introduced me to a number of magical places in Rome, some of which took my breath away, and which are described in the novel. His range of knowledge was extensive, not only in the field of crime, but also in art, architecture, history, even the origin of phosphorescent paint.

As for questions of faith and religion, he good-naturedly tolerated my hesitations and dealt openly with my criticisms. At the end of it all, I realised that I had unwittingly been on a spiritual journey that helped me gain a better idea of the story I wanted to tell.

In modern society, spirituality is often seen as a bit of a joke, considered as something fed to the ignorant masses, or that has given rise to all kinds of ‘new age’ practices. Individuals have lost the elementary distinction between good and evil. The result has been to hand God over to the fundamentalists and extremists on the one hand, or the humorists on the other (because fanatical atheists are not so different from religious fanatics).

All this has produced an inability to look inside ourselves, beyond the categories of ethics and morality – not to mention the totally arbitrary category of the ‘politically correct’ – to find the essential dichotomy that allows us to judge human actions. Good and evil, yin and yang.

One day, Jonathan told me that I was ready to tell my story, he hoped I would ‘always be in the light’, and then said goodbye, promising that we would meet again. That was the last I saw of him. I have looked for him in vain, and I hope that this novel will lead to us meeting again soon. Even though part of me suspects that will not happen, because everything we had to say to each other has already been said.

Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year

To celebrate Malcolm Mackay’s How a Gunman Says Goodbye as the winner of the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2013, Deanston Single Malt Scotch Whisky is offering a bottle of 12 year old whisky signed by all the nominated authors! 

For more info, go here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Context, Outlines and Character Mutiny: Bernard Besson

Today I welcome French Thriller writer Bernard Besson. Bernard Besson is the author of the recently published The Greenland Breach, a cli-fi spy novel that has environmental catastrophe, geopolitical stakes, freelance spies and Bond-like action. He is a former top-level official in French intelligence and a prizewinning thriller writer. The English translation was published on October 30 by Le French Book, a digital-first publisher specializing in best-selling mysteries and thrillers from France.


Writing a novel is full of surprises. Before I start writing, I explore current geopolitical situations, which offer a wealth of potential topics. I choose what I call the “context” for the story, which in the case of The Greenland Breach is global climate change. From there, I invent credible characters that could act in the context either as politicians, company leaders, members of the military, religious leaders, scientists, doctors or engineers, for example. I imagine how people living in a same country or in different places around the planet will enter into conflict with each other, or help each other on the sly, which in terms of plotting is the same.

The main idea at this stage is to invent men and women anchored in the real world. The story will rise from the relationships—good or bad—that the characters have among themselves. I sometimes use chance as it occurs in real life so that unexpected bonds can develop that will surprise the reader. I like surprises. I need there to be conflict and love. This has been the basis of stories since Homer recounted the Iliad and the Odyssey.

My next step is to invent an ending and a trigger. When I have these two tips of the chain, I build a very detailed outline that mostly serves to reassure me. In the past, I’ve experienced failures and had publishers reject manuscripts, so I don’t start any writing work lightly. The outline can be at least 100 pages long for a novel that will end up being 350 pages.

 I start writing with the trigger, which could be a crime or a disaster, some event that is out of the ordinary. I have learned to show rather than tell, so readers don’t get bored. I tell my story, based on my outline.

But rather quickly, one of my characters will refuse to play along with my plan. It’s annoying and a little stressful. However, I know that eight times out of ten the character is right. I change the outline. Later, a secondary character will become more important than I expected. I try to understand why and often follow what that character is suggesting, but it can mean that I have to change the outline again. I start sweating and go for a walk or a swim. Then, further on in the story, I realize that some characters aren’t advancing the plot anymore. I get my revenge by eliminating them, which adds action.

So basically, writing can be described as having my characters destroy my outline. There is a conflict between them and my pretentions to be a demiurge. Take The Greenland Breach. At first, it was supposed to last a year and a half. My characters helped me to understand that I’m not in the process of writing a boring lecture on North Pole geopolitics. They reduced the story to a few days. They also reined in my ambitions and got rid of a bunch of useless things that I wanted to explain to the reader. In the end, all the research I did served mostly to keep me from making mistakes in the science.

The Greenland Breach, by Bernard Besson and Julie Rose (translator) The Arctic ice caps are breaking up. Europe and the East Coast of the United States brace for a tidal wave. Meanwhile, former French intelligence officer John Spencer Larivière, his karate-trained, steamy Eurasian partner, Victoire, and their bisexual computer-genius sidekick, Luc, pick up an ordinary freelance assignment that quickly leads them into the glacial silence of the great north, where a merciless war is being waged for control of discoveries that will change the future of humanity. 

The Greenland Breach is available for $4.99 as an ebook for the entire holiday season from LeFrenchBook.  You can also pre-order a print copy.

Michael Connelly/Martin Cruz Smith: December 4 NY Public Library

New Yorkers mark your calendar!!

Michael Connelly | Martin Cruz Smith

Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 7 p.m.

Masters of the mystery genre, bestselling-authors Michael Connelly and Martin Cruz Smith will reveal how they've kept readers at the edge of their seats for decades.

$25 General Admission, $15 FRIENDS, Seniors and Students with valid ID


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pinkerton's Great Detective: Guest Post by Beau Riffenburgh

Today I welcome Beau Riffenburgh, author of the just released Pinkerton's Great Detective.

Beau Riffenburgh has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the academic staff for fifteen years. He has written numerous books on exploration, including Shackleton’s Forgotten Expedition. He lives in Llanarthne, Wales, UK. In Pinkerton's Great Detective, Riffenburgh explores the Agency archives and other sources to compile the first biography of James McParland, the legendary Pinkerton detective who took down the Molly Maguires and the Wild Bunch. Pinkerton's Great Detective brings readers along on McParland’s most challenging cases: from young McParland’s infiltration of the Molly Maguires to his hunt for the notorious Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch to his controversial investigation of the Western Federation of Mines in the assassination of Idaho’s former governor—a case that he took on at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt. So thrilling were McParland’s cases that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invented a meeting between him and Sherlock Holmes; he was referred to by those seeking his services, by newspapers around the country reporting his cases, and even by criminals as “The Great Detective”. Filled with outlaws and criminals, detectives and lawmen, Pinkerton's Great Detective shines a light upon the celebrated secretive agency and its premier sleuth.


Many serious readers of historical mysteries will be familiar with The Valley of Fear, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s final novel about Sherlock Holmes. In it, Holmes meets the mysterious American detective and undercover operator Birdy Edwards. Today’s readers might not realize it, but in 1915, when The Valley of Fear was published, virtually everyone in the United States understood that the book was a paean to the man considered America’s greatest living detective – the true-life Birdy EdwardsJames McParland of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency.

Born in Ireland, McParland moved to the U.S. in 1867 while in his early twenties. He eventually made his way to Chicago, where, in 1872, he joined Pinkerton’s. The next year he was assigned to go undercover in the anthracite coalfields of Pennsylvania, where a group called the Molly Maguires was accused of murder, sabotage, and other violence against the mining companies and their managers. After more than two years, McParland helped bring down the Molly Maguires by testifying in no fewer than 19 trials, his evidence and the subsequent hanging of 20 men helping make him a nationally known figure.

In the following years, McParland worked many more high-profile cases for Pinkerton’s, and in 1888 he was appointed head of the agency’s Denver office. He later became the manager of all Pinkerton’s operations west of the Mississippi, and his triumphs in many highly visible cases kept his name in front of the American public for decades. The constant praise he received from the press included being nicknamed “the Great Detective.” So common was this appellation that one could use it anywhere around the country, and the average listener would know that it referred to McParland.

However, due to being a key player in the western mine-owners’ struggles to suppress the growing unions – and particularly due to his noted role in developing the evidence that led to the arrest and trials of the leaders of the Western Federation of Miners for the assassination of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg – McParland eventually became a hated figure by the supporters of unions, the labor movement, and socialism. These historically differing views of McParland – being lionized by one part of society and demonized by another – have led to a situation where an online-search for him today is likely to bring up accounts that are both mistake-prone and extremely biased either in favor of or against him.

I first “ran into” James McParland after the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid inspired me to read about those characters, and I discovered that McParland was the man ultimately in charge of the Pinkerton’s hunt for them. Not long after that, the movie The Molly Maguires prompted me to find out the basics of his role in the investigation of that group, and later still I read about his key role in the investigation of Steunenberg’s assassination.

Later, as a professional historian, the changing historic treatment of McParland fascinated me, and I wondered where on the continuum of good and evil he truly fell, because there seemed to be no intermediate ground in people’s opinions about him. So I decided to try to find out who this mysterious and complex individual truly was. I started my own investigation into him, with no preconceptions, no agenda other than to tell his story based on the evidence, and a goal of putting forward an unbiased account of his life. It was vital to place this tale in its proper historic context and milieu – because much of what had previously been written about him failed to take into account or acknowledge the differences in the legal and social systems of his time and today. I think it is of great value to anyone interested in the historic or social setting or the changes of interpretation about McParland through time to take particular notice of the Notes, Appendices, and other materials that can be found online at: or These will give the reader a deeper understanding and appreciation of McParland and the cases that he worked on.

Most of the research for Pinkerton’s Great Detective was done in archives, libraries, courthouses, and other repositories around the United States. In fact, I collected original manuscripts and other primary research materials from twenty-two different states and four other countries. These included original reports, business and personal correspondence, trial transcripts, medical records, legal rulings, governmental documents, billing statements, confessions, and wanted posters. I also made examinations of accounts in approximately 150 different newspapers. The most important research source was the Library of Congress, which holds some sixty-three thousand items that were formerly part of the Pinkerton’s archives. This meant that there was lots of material to go through, but it gave me a wealth of information to work with to try to uncover the truth about the mysterious James McParland. And although I think that I was as successful as one might be, and that I understand McParland now in many ways, in others he has continued to be – just as he would have wanted – a riddle, a conundrum, and forever a man of mystery.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gun Chocolate Molds

Many of you know I have another blog,, with chocolate recipes, chocolate news, and guest posts. Recently at an antique show I came across gun chocolate molds--all kinds and sizes. I thought I should post a photo here.  Unfortunately I didn't buy these. Wish I had. They were awesome.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


At the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wordharvest Writers Workshops and Thomas Dunne Books/ Minotaur Books announced that CB McKenzie's BAD COUNTRY has won the Tony Hillerman Prize.

A native Texan, CB McKenzie has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, modeled for Giorgio Armani, worked on an organic farm, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, and currently teaches Rhetoric at the City University of New York. BAD COUNTRY is set in Tucson, Arizona.

The Tony Hillerman Prize is awarded annually to the best debut crime fiction set in the Southwest.

The deadline for submissions to next year's competition will be June 1, 20124. For complete guidelines, please visit

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

5 Apps to Track Personal Libraries

From GalleyCat comes this great list of 5 Apps to Help You track Your Personal Libraries:

With some of these, you can scan barcodes with your phone to be added to the list. GalleyCat has put together a list of five of tools along with a link to the app and the app’s description. Of course, if you're like me, you can let the cat track your library!

1. Delicious Library

2. Readerware

3. Shelves

4. Libib

5. GoodReads  

Read the Article wth descriptions, HERE


Today I welcome Tom Williams, author of A Mysterious Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler (Chicago Review Press, September 2013).

Drawing on new interviews, previously unpublished letters, and archives on both sides of the Atlantic, Chandler biographer Tom Williams casts a new light on this most mysterious of writers. Troubled by loneliness and desertion from an early age, Chandler’s childhood was overshadowed by the collapse of his parents’ marriage, his father’s alcohol-fueled violence, and his abrupt move to class-bound England and back. Returning to dirty, crime-ridden Los Angeles in his twenties, eager to forge a new life, he met his one great love, Cissy Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior. It was not until middle age that Chandler seriously turned to crime fiction, lifting it into the poetic and dark genre we know today. And his legacy—the lonely, ambiguous world of detective Philip Marlowe—endures, compelling generations of crime writers to follow him.


There aren’t that many deliveries I get excited about but the arrival a couple of weeks ago of Grand Theft Auto V was an exception. To be perfectly frank, I was as excited as a kid at Christmas about this game’s arrival. I’ve grown up with the series and watched the Rockstar games evolve into something quite magnificent. There aren’t that many gaming experience that can bring a lump to my throat but both Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire managed this with their blend of story telling and action. GTA IV kept me entertained for weeks and GTA V has, so far, not disappointed one bit.

What has this, then, to do with Raymond Chandler? It is a question you might well ask but I would argue that Rockstar and Chandler have more in common that you might first think. Above all they share one great inspiration: the city of Los Angeles. In GTA V, LA is reformed as Los Santos and Rockstar’s vision embraces swathes of Southern California. Chandler’s vision is narrower, slightly, but both at once attack the city and celebrate it simultaneously. It's a fine balancing act.

Chandler’s experience of the city of Angels is rooted in his life there. He arrived in LA in 1913, a year that was transformational for the city, not because the man who would later chronicle it arrived, but because water did. Up till this point, LA had only enough resources for around 100,000 people but with the opening of the Owens River aqueduct, it was made fit to be an international city and given copious access to resources that let it grow. People arrived in their droves, travelling from across the United States, drawn to LA with its Mediterranean climate and relaxed culture. Raymond Chandler was one of these people. He was a good man. The trouble was, some of the others who arrived were not and a few sharp operators, recognizing an opportunity to get rich quick, started to con their way around the city.

The scams that were run in LA from in the late teens and twenties were the stuff of legend. Oil was often involved though not always. It was where the money was after all. But there were other scams too, involving religion, medicine and the like. They often boiled down to the same thing though and that was the strong taking advantage of the weak. Chandler watched this unfold from the heart of LA, working in his offices at the Dabney Oil Syndicate in the Downtown district. He was even taken advantage of himself. Like so many other, rich and poor, he sank money into the Julian Petroleum Company. This company, which started off with some legitimacy, turned out to be a scam that affected hundreds of thousands of people. Shares were over sold and any profits paid out were only funded through further share sales. It was a big a con that, when it was eventually exposed, seemed to have impacted everyone in the city.

To Chandler scams like Julian Pete summed up the city. It was a place that was ruled by the rich and run by the crooks. The politicians were corrupt, the city officials were corrupt, and the police were corrupt. The system fed of the innocence of the naïve citizenry but with such endemic corruption they had no one to protect them. In the end, in his fiction, Philip Marlowe would fill this role and become the protector of the little man against the tidal wave of corruption.

It was this world though that help inspire Raymond Chandler to write. He was one of the first writers to recognize that LA was a city fit for art and when he came to write his novels he set about recreating it in some detail. On the one hand he was motivated by anger, wanting to attack a city that could itself be so corrupting. But, on the other hand, he recognized the life force operated in LA. He was inspired by the people that lived there and was energized by the spirit of the place. The city wasn’t always pretty but it was endlessly fascinating to Chandler and the source of continued inspiration.

In GTA V the writers of the story share Chandler’s fascination. They don’t like the qualities of LA that they attack in their bitter satire – the shallowness, the addiction to money and status --- but for all of LA’s flaws they recognize too that it has something magical and strange about it. Something that inspires art. In this they follow in footsteps of Raymond Chandler though I am not sure they will ever understand the city as intimately as he did. Why? In part because the pace of change is less dramatic now than it was for Chandler. But, also, because the writers of GTA V don’t share Chandler’s deep connection with the city. This is not a bad thing but it alters their view of it. Chandler spent so much of his life in LA and saw it grow from a small town to cosmopolitan, international city. He knew it in a way few could, intimately, and he describes it through out his work. LA is the other constant character (along with Marlowe) and without it Raymond Chandler may have grown into the exceptional novelist he did.


From Ann Cleeves Website:

Pan MacMillan's Bello imprint has released two previous series of detective novels by bestselling crime author Ann Cleeves. The 'Inspector Ramsay' books feature a police officer who is like Ann's (and TV's) Vera Stanhope in being based in England's northernmost county, Northumberland - though unlike her in many other ways. Looking even further back, to the work of a very young writer, you can also now read the George & Molly books, the adventures of amateur sleuth George Palmer-Jones, an elderly birdwatcher - and his wife, Molly. (Or you might want to read what Ann would like to say to that younger self).

To celebrate the George and Molly series now being available, Bello is offering the opportunity to be published in a short story ebook collection alongside Ann Cleeves in a competition judged by her and TV wildlife presenter Iolo Williams.

You can also visit the real life setting of the story, with an additional - optional - prize of a three-night stay on Skokholm - a remote Pembrokeshire island that is famous for its natural beauty as well as being a bird-birdwatchers' paradise. See more information about the island of Skokholm here.

Ann explains: "I've been pulling together a collection of short stories set on UK islands, and a holiday in Skokholm, an island off the Pembrokeshire coast, persuaded me that George and his wife Molly might make a return. While I was in Skokholm I started writing the story, but the weather was so lovely and the island so appealing, that I didn't get beyond the first paragraph.

From Ann Cleeves: "So this is where you come in. Can you complete the story for me? You can set it in the present or in the 1980s of the original novel, but I'd like you to be true to the original characters and to capture the sense of a very special place. The winner will have their story in my island ebook anthology and will be given the opportunity to visit Skokholm for themselves. I can't wait to read what happens next."

And here's that first paragraph:
They came to Skokholm in late summer before the Manx shearwaters and storm petrels left the island, crossing the water from the Pembrokeshire mainland in the early morning. It was a still, sultry day. Light bounced from the water, turning the island into a black silhouette. George was silent and Molly wondered suddenly if their relationship would survive constant companionship, the routine of domestic life. The boat rounded a headland and she saw a rough jetty, bloated seals hauled onto the rocks. They'd arrived. The first adventure of their retirement. The boatman helped them off with their bags then disappeared. They'd expected to be met at the pier by the wardens, but there was no sign of the promised tractor. The place was entirely silent.

For more information, full rules and how to enter - plus a taster of A Bird in the Hand - visit the Bello website.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day Mysteries/Veterans Day Crime Fiction

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day), is November 11. Veterans Day commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, that took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" 1918.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day November 11, 1919. The U.S.  Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. The 11th of November is"a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." It was later changed to Veteran's Day.

I love to read mysteries that reflect regions and holidays, so I'm reposting about Veterans Day with a few additions. Julia Spencer-Fleming's One Was a Soldier,  Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd's mystery series are at the top of my list of Veterans Day Mysteries.  BV Lawson's 2007 post of Veteran's Day Mysteries is great. No need to duplicate her efforts. Be sure and read her blog, as well as all the comments. Another fine list is In Remembrance Fiction in Times of War (not all mysteries) from the St. Charles Public Library. I also did a Memorial Day post here Mystery Fanfare that covers some of the same territory Mysteries in Paradise about Remembrance Day is also a great resource.

Wikipedia has an entry about Veterans Day Mysteries. Several hardboiled heroes have been war veterans. H. C. McNeile (Sapper)'s Bulldog Drummond from World War I, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and many others from World War II, and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee from the Korean War.  "The frequent exposure to death and hardship often leads to a cynical and callous attitude as well as a character trait known today as post-traumatic stress characterizes many hardboiled protagonists."

Read a Veterans Day mystery today and remember the men and women who fought (and are fighting) for world peace. 

In Memory of Joseph Rudolph, M.D., WWII

Saturday, November 9, 2013

P.D. James' Top 10 Tips for Writing a Novel

This interview with Alison Feeney-Hart appeared in the BBC Entertainment News:

Although she didn't publish her first novel until she was 42, P.D. James  had been writing since childhood.

1. You must be born to write
You can't teach someone to know how to use words effectively and beautifully. You can help people who can write to write more effectively and you can probably teach people a lot of little tips for writing a novel, but I don't think somebody who cannot write and does not care for words can ever be made into a writer. It just is not possible.

Nobody could make me into a musician. Somebody might be able to teach me how to play the piano reasonably well after a lot of effort, but they can't make a musician out of me and you cannot make a writer, I do feel that very profoundly.

2. Write about what you know
You absolutely should write about what you know. There are all sorts of small things that you should store up and use, nothing is lost to a writer. You have to learn to stand outside of yourself. All experience, whether it is painful or whether it is happy is somehow stored up and sooner or later it's used.

I love situations where people are thrown together in unwelcome proximity. where all kinds of reprehensible emotions can bubble up. I think you must write what you feel you want to write because then the book is genuine and that comes through.
I believe that someone who can write, who has a feeling for words and knows how to use them will find a publisher. Because after all, publishers do still need to find new writers. We all get old and we die and that's that and there have to be successors.

3. Find your own routine
I think all we writers are different. It's interesting, isn't it, how different we are?

Some people have to have the room, the pen and others do everything on a computer. I write by hand and I can write more or less anywhere as long as I've got a comfortable chair, a table, an unlimited amount of biros to write with and lined paper to write on. And then the next day when my PA comes, which she does at 10 o'clock, then I've got quite a lot to dictate to her and she puts it on to the computer, prints it out and I do the first revision.

In a sense, therefore, I revise as I go. It's important to get up early - before London really wakes and the telephone calls begin and the emails pile up. This is the best time for me, the time of quiet in the morning,

4. Be aware that the business is changing
Goodness gracious, how the world of publishing has changed! It is much easier now to produce a manuscript with all the modern technology. It is probably a greater advantage now, more than ever before, to have an agent between you and the publisher.
Everything has changed and it's really quite astonishing, because people can self-publish now. I would once have thought that that was rather a self-defeating way of doing it but actually publishers do look at what is self-published and there are examples of people picking up very lucrative deals.
5. Read, write and don't daydream! 
To write well, I advise people to read widely. See how people who are successful and good get their results, but don't copy them. And then you've got to write! We learn to write by writing, not by just facing an empty page and dreaming of the wonderful success we are going to have. I don't think it matters much what you use as practice, it might be a short story, it might be the beginning of a novel, or it might just be something for the local magazine, but you must write and try and improve your writing all the time. Don't think about it or talk about it, get the words down.

6. Enjoy your own company
It is undoubtedly a lonely career, but I suspect that people who find it terribly lonely are not writers. I think if you are a writer you realise how valuable the time is when you are absolutely alone with your characters in complete peace. I think it is a necessary loneliness for most writers - they wouldn't want to be always in the middle of everything having a wonderful life. I've never felt lonely as a writer, not really, but I know people do.

7. Choose a good setting
Something always sparks off a novel, of course. With me, it's always the setting. I think I have a strong response to what I think of as the 'spirit of a place'. I remember I was looking for an idea in East Anglia and standing on a very lonely stretch of beach. I shut my eyes and listened to the sound of the waves breaking over the pebble shore. Then I opened them and turned from looking at the dangerous and cold North Sea to look up and there, overshadowing this lonely stretch of beach was the great, empty, huge white outline of Sizewell nuclear power station. In that moment I knew I had a novel. It was called Devices and Desires.

8. Never go anywhere without a notebook
Never go anywhere without a notebook because you can see a face that will be exactly the right face for one of your characters, you can see place and think of the perfect words to describe it. I do that when I'm writing, I think it's a sensible thing for writers to do.
I've written little bits of my next novel, things that have occurred to me. I've got the setting already. I've got the title, I've got most of the plot and I shall start some serious writing of it next month, I think.

9. Never talk about a book before it is finished
I never talk about a book before it is finished and I never show it to anybody until it is finished and I don't show it to anybody even then, except for my publisher and my agent. Then there is this awful time until they phone.

I'm usually pretty confident by the time I've sent it in but I have those moments when I think, 'well I sent it to them on Friday, by Saturday night they should be ringing up to say how wonderful it is!'
I'm always aware that people might have preferences and think that one book is better than another.

10. Know when to stop
I am lucky to have written as many books as I have, really, and it has been a joy. With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write.

What I am working on now will be another detective story, it does seem important to write one more. I think it is very important to know when to stop.

Some writers, particularly of detective fiction, have published books that they should not have published. I don't think my publisher would let me do that and I don't think my children would like me to. I hope I would know myself whether a book was worth publishing. I think while I am alive, I shall write. There will be a time to stop writing but that will probably be when I come to a stop, too.

"New" Hercule Poirot Novella

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly is available as an ebook with the print version being released next year.

Official blurb: In 1954, Agatha Christie wrote this novella with the intention of donating the proceeds to a fund set up to buy stained glass windows for her local church at Churston Ferrers, and she filled the story with references to local places, including her own home of Greenway. But having completed it, she decided instead to expand the story into a full-length novel, Dead Man's Folly, which was published two years later, and donated a Miss Marple story (Greenshaw's Folly) to the church fund instead.

Unseen for sixty years, Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly is finally published in this eBook exclusive edition, with a new cover by Agatha Christie's most famous cover artist, Tom Adams.

HT: Karen Meek, Eurocrime

Friday, November 8, 2013


Craig Sisterson, New Zealand journalist and crime-fiction blogger, announced the shortlist for the 2013 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. This award is named for New Zealand author Dame Ngaio Marsh and “recognizes excellence in New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller writing.”

All of the nominees were originally published in New Zealand in 2012.

Death on Demand by Paul Thomas (Hachette NZ)
The Laughterhouse by Paul Cleave (Penguin)
Faceless by Vanda Symon (Penguin)
Little Sister by Julian Novitz (Random House)

 “We are thrilled with the quality and diversity of the shortlisted books this year,” says Sisterson, the organizer of this competition. “Modern crime fiction is now a broad church, where talented authors raise questions and cast light on a variety of societal and other issues through the prism of an exciting, page-turning story. 

The winner of this year’s prize will be declared on December 2.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bookseller Elected Mayor of Harrisburg, PA

Don't you just love this?

Eric Papenfuse, owner of the Midtown Scholar bookstore, was elected mayor of Harrisburg, PA. He becomes one of that rare breed of bookseller-mayors, whose ranks have included Neal Coonerty of Bookshop Santa Cruz, CA,  and Richard Howorth of Square Books in Oxford, MS.

At a celebration at the store, Papenfuse said, "No one individual can do this job. It's going to require tremendous amounts of support. It's going to require support from those who voted for my opponents. It's going to require assembling a whole new staff of individuals to work for the City of Harrisburg. We have openings galore and we're going to need to work very hard to fill them with the best and the brightest."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Whodunit? CWA Best Ever Winners!

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced the following at an event at Foyles bookshop in central London marking the 60th anniversary of the Association. They polled their 600 members:

CWA Best Ever Novel: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
CWA Best Ever Crime Author: Agatha Christie
CWA Best Ever Crime Series: Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Shortlists:

CWA Best Ever Novel
The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler
Gorky Park (1981) by Martin Cruz Smith
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Long Goodbye (1953) by Raymond Chandler
The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins
Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) by Agatha Christie – WINNER
The Nine Tailors (1934) by Dorothy L Sayers
On Beulah Height (1998) by Reginald Hill
The Silence of the Lambs (1988) by Thomas Harris

CWA Best Ever Crime Author
Raymond Chandler
Agatha Christie – WINNER
Arthur Conan Doyle
Dashiell Hammett
Reginald Hill
PD James
Elmore Leonard
Ruth Rendell
Dorothy L Sayers
Georges Simenon

CWA Best Ever Crime Series
Albert Campion – Margery Allingham
Adam Dalgliesh – PD James
Dalziel & Pascoe – Reginald Hill
Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle – WINNER
Philip Marlowe – Raymond Chandler
Inspector Morse – Colin Dexter
Hercule Poirot – Agatha Christie
John Rebus – Ian Rankin
Lord Peter Wimsey – Dorothy L Sayers

HT: CrimeFictionLover

J.F.K. Slept Here? Guest post by Keith Raffel

Today I welcome thriller writer Keith Raffel on the launch day of his amazing new novel A Fine and Dangerous Season.

Keith Raffel:
J.F.K. Slept Here?

I grew up in Palo Alto, California, home of Stanford University, and have lived here for 40 years. Nevertheless, I was gobsmacked when I learned that Jack Kennedy -- yes, JFK, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, America’s 43rd president, Jackie’s first husband – spent the fall quarter of 1940 at Stanford. It’s almost as if that fact has been classified top secret. Robert Dallek’s biography of JFK runs 711 pages and sneaks a mention of that time into one paragraph.

Because JFK only audited classes but never enrolled, Stanford cannot claim him as an alumnus. What was he doing here anyway? He’d graduated from Harvard the previous spring. The college roommate of his older brother was at law school here and convinced to him to come by expounding on the virtues of a university which, unlike Harvard, boasted both great weather and co-eds.

I knew there was a thriller in these facts. “What if?” is the key question for any thriller writer. “What if Jack made a good friend while at Stanford, and he told the story of their relationship?” I asked myself. And thus was born Nate Michaels, in many respects the mirror image of Jack: San Franciscan versus Bostonian, eldest son of a left-wing father versus scion of a plutocrat, Jew versus Catholic. And what if they have a huge rupture in their relationship? Well, I was spelling all this out to my old college pal Rick Wolff as the germ of an idea for my next thriller when he asked his own “what if:” What if JFK then needs Nate’s help during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962?
624 Mayfield today/Keith Raffel

Poof! A writer’s magic moment. Athena sprang full-grown from Zeus’s brow. And an outline of A Fine and Dangerous Season was fully formed in my mind seconds after the words left Rick’s lips. The action would switch back and forth between the same days of October, twenty-two years apart. (The original title of the book was Two Octobers but then I found a quote from the theologian Thomas Merton who wrote, “October is a fine and dangerous season in America.”) The rupture of 1940 would be there and so would the race to keep the world from blowing up in 1962.

Still, there was work to do. My first two books were set amidst the hurly-burly of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, a world where I’d spent over 20 years slaving away. Almost no research required. My next book was set amidst the intrigues of Capitol Hill and the CIA. I’d lived and worked there, too. The research for Drop By Drop consisted of trying to remember the gestalt of D.C. Researching A Fine and Dangerous Season was going to be different.

Looking through archives in the Palo Alto Library, I discovered JFK paid $60 a month to live in a cottage in back of Miss Gertrude Gardiner’s house at 624 Mayfield on the Stanford campus.  The address still exists but neither the house nor the cottage does. On eBay I picked up a 1941 Stanford yearbook. (A varsity letter “S” fell out when I opened it.) I combed through the files of the Stanford Daily, the still extant student newspaper. I learned JFK hung out at L’Omelette, a French restaurant and bar (see photo) that seemed the epitome of sophistication when my parents took me there when I was a boy. Actor Robert Stack’s memoir recalls stalking Hollywood starlets with JFK on weekends. I went back to the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston to look through file after file. I came across letters from JFK’s old girlfriends and more. I’d seen the glint of gold when I learned JFK was at Stanford. A little research give me the pickaxe I needed to open up a rich vein.

Everything is connected. One of my favorite professors as an undergraduate was Ernest May. It turns out he had co-edited transcripts of the deliberations held during the Cuban Missile Crisis. So in A Fine and Dangerous Season I use the actual words JFK, his brother Bobby, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and others did as the world teetered over the chasm of nuclear war.

My favorite quote on writing comes from E.L. Doctorow who said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” What else can you call it, as I sat in a neighborhood café, sipping green tea, and found myself transported to the Palo Alto of October, 1940 or the Washington of October 1962? People from that time and place spoke and I wrote down what they said. My gut clutched and heart raced as I realized how close we were to nuclear war. Supposedly rational men sat in the White House and told the president he should go to war with the Soviet Union rather than disappoint NATO allies by removing obsolete missiles from Turkey. The Air Force Chief of Staff seized on the events of October 1962 as the perfect opportunity to fight the battle with the USSR he believed was inevitable.

What more could one want? The fate of the world was at stake. And I tried my best to make it a story of people, too. One was JFK. And the other was his old Stanford friend Nathan Michaels.

Doctorow’s diagnosis was spot on. I do get confused as to what year it is. When I pass the corner where L’Omelette stood in old Palo Alto, I see JFK and Nate shaking hands amidst the noisy hubbub of frat boys and coeds. When driving along Swann Street N.W. in Washington, D.C on a recent trip, I watched Nate sprint across the rooftops as gunmen pursue.

 I only hope readers will enjoy the voyage back to those fine and dangerous seasons as much as I did.