Author Libby Fischer Hellmann, a transplant from Washington DC, moved to Chicago over 35 years ago, where she naturally began writing gritty crime novels. Her 14th book, WAR, SPIES, AND BOBBY SOX, a collection of stories about World War Two on the homefront, will be released March 1, 2017. She has been nominated for a lot of awards in the crime writing community and has even won a few.
Libby Fischer Hellmann Is Short the New Long?
I’ve never been one to follow trends. When I try, I always seem to catch them just when they’re on their way out. That goes for my writing too. Today’s bulky 400-500 page thrillers are popular, and I envy authors who can write long. I’m not one of them. Here’s my idea of a story:
Well, okay. It’s not that bad. I love creating stories in my head. Figuring out who does what and why. Dreaming up brave protagonists and evil-but- sympathetic villains. That’s the fun part. It’s the writing part that intimidates me. I’ve always felt insecure about the level of my craft, and writing is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So I stop when I think I’ve told the story.
The same goes for subject matter and setting. Over the years an enormous body of fiction has been written about World War Two, and I love reading it. In fact, when I recall novels like Nightingale, All The Light We Cannot See, The Book Thief, Sarah’s Key, the Bernie Gunther and Alan Furst crime novels, Unbroken, and The Winds of War, I am gob-smacked by their beauty and power. What could I possibly add?
Still, part of me yearns to write something about that time period, mostly because World War Two was the last era in which there was such clarity between good and evil…such opportunities to create complex, conflicted characters, or explore the timeless themes of heroism, cowardice, and sacrifice.
Another World War Two junkie, herself a prolific reader, encouraged me to try. The very first short story I ever wrote was set in the late ‘30s in Chicago’s Lawndale as the country geared up to fight Hitler. But she nudged me to write more, to go farther. I knew I didn’t have the wherewithal to write about battlegrounds of Europe, Nazis, or the Resistance, but she planted a seed and eventually a story came to me. What if (the two most powerful words for a storyteller, btw) a German refugee was forced to spy on the early years of the Manhattan Project in Chicago? I had been studying espionage techniques for another story, and this was the perfect opportunity to try them out on paper.
But I couldn’t commit to a novel. It was too scary. So I wrote a novella, The Incidental Spy, which begins in 1935 and ends in 1942. It turned out rather well, I thought, so I started to think about a companion novella. I had visited Bletchley Park in the UK and planned to write a novella about spies and espionage across the pond, but it didn’t go well – I just couldn’t make it compelling.
Then, as fate would have it, I was in exercise class when someone started talking about the German POW camp that lay just a mile down the road.
The what? Where?
My ears perked up, and something in my brain clicked. Suddenly I had that feeling that comes to a writer when they know what story they’re going to write next. I started doing research and found that nearly half a million German and Italian POWs were incarcerated in the US between 1943 and 1945. Half a million! That’s all I needed. The companion story to Spy, POW, basically wrote itself. Again, POW was a novella—I told the story in about thirty thousand words. Then I packaged the two novellas together, added the short story I mentioned, and the result is this:
Why novellas instead of a novel? Writing shorter takes enormous pressure off me. Given my insecurities about the era and writing in general, it’s comforting to know I don’t have to sustain a story over seventy thousand words. I can, as Elmore Leonard advised, “leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” I can strip the story down to its essential elements of plot, character, dialogue, and narrative and make sure they work. Plus, I don’t need to do as much research for a shorter story.
In fact, I’m growing fonder of the novella format every day. As a reader, what do you think? Are two novellas as satisfying as one novel?
Gary Alexander has written 17 novels. Disappeared, the first in the Buster Hightower mystery series, has been optioned to Universal Studios!
He's also written 150+ short stories and sold travel articles to 6 major dailies.
One story appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 201, another in Ice Cold, the 2014 Mystery Writers of America anthology. His latest novel is Damn Near Broke. Gary Alexander is a nonsmoking, non-drinking vegetarian. He does, however, abuse caffeine and chocolate.
Gary Alexander: FROM FROZEN TURKEYS TO POLONIUM-210
As mystery writers, it is our sacred duty to keep up with technology, and even stay a step ahead, by finding different ways to rip off or bump off a different sort of victim by a different breed of criminal.
We all know how to use a frozen turkey as a deadly weapon, then cook the evidence, savoring it with cornbread stuffing and a nice chardonnay while waiting for the police. Very old school.
Shenanigans in locked rooms and .38 Specials fired in dark alleys too.
Leave it to spies and peevish dictators to move the state-of-the-art forward. In 2000, a KGB officer sought and received political asylum in the West. Six years later, he fell ill and succumbed to polonium-210-induced radiation. One of the two guys suspected of the crime was found dead a few years after that, another story in itself.
We really shouldn’t compel our characters to keep polonium-210 around the house. There are many other high-tech ways to go.
Medium-tech too, employing Craigslist and eBay. Some fool puts a flawless 6-carat solitaire up for sale and gets taken off in his own driveway. We’ve seen that in the news, but how about turning it around, using eBay as bait? Prospective buyers are lured to a John Doe rental where they're rolled and/or killed. If the latter, they’re transported to a remote burial spot aided by GPS.
Semi-high-tech: Cell phones and tablets, the scourge of responsible drivers, can cause the users woes. A call or text sufficiently distracts the driver, where he becomes the victim of an “accident”. Or a call or text from an ex- or prospective-lover leads him to a deserted road, where he’s clipped with the aforementioned .38 Special. Delightful possibilities abound.
More high tech: A hacker may byte off more than he can chew by cleaning out a wise guy’s offshore bank account. To the mobster, “hacking” means removal of body parts. If the high-tech hacker is careless, low-tech retribution is sure to come.
Very high tech, which perhaps sticks a toe into sci-fi. Vegas is always a fun venue for mystery fiction; there’s no shortage of money and sleaze. Let’s say a nerd invents card-counting software that fits in eyeglass frames and projects onto the lenses. Or a magnetic gizmo carried in a pocket that can move a roulette wheel a fraction of a degree off its axis. The scofflaws need not move a muscle. Until they’re unable to, squirming in restraints, en route to enjoy a desert sunset.
Gold is irresistible to all. It’s not commonly known that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds more gold than Fort Knox. Would criminal access to it be easier? Tungsten, with a specific gravity of 19.3, weighs exactly as much as gold. With the right plan and technology, is it more feasible to gold-plate tungsten ingots and do a switcheroo than steal the gold per se?
We can’t close without a word on generic bank robbery. The conventional Willie Sutton Method is flat-out stupid. A bandit faces cameras, silent alarms, dye-packs, and when (not if) he’s caught, a Federal rap.
If bank loot is irresistible to your character, consider a new branch bank under construction. Have him monitor it from groundbreaking to grand opening. Somewhere in that time frame, money is going to be moved there.
Tomorrow is Presidents Day. I usually post my Presidential Crime Fiction list with "Hail to the Chief!"... can't do that this year, but I don't want to slight some of the wonderful presidents this country has had. The following list featuring the U.S. President in mysteries, thrillers, and crime fiction is so relevant right now.The list is divided into categories, but I added more titles at the end under 'other' and a separate list of Abraham Lincoln Mysteries. Of course, there are many overlaps, so scroll through them all. This is not a definitive list, and I welcome any additions. Post your favorites in the comments section.
Political Election and Thrillers
Rubicon by Lawrence Alexander
Saving Faith by David Baldacci
Political Suicide and Touched by the Dead by Robert Barnard
Capitol Conspiracy by William Bernhardt
Collateral Damage by Michael Bowen
Three Shirt Deal by Stephen J. Cannell
Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
Impaired Judgement by David Compton
Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
Term Limits by Vince Flynn
The Scandal Plan by Bill Folman
The Power Broker by Stephen W. Frey
Spook Country by William Gibson
Fast Track, Sleeping Dogs by Ed Gorman
The Fourth Perimeter by Tim Green
The People's Choice by Jeff Greenfield
Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
The Second Revolution by Gary Hansen
The President's Daughter and The White House Connection by Jack Higgins
The Enemy Within by Noel Hynd
First Daughter by Eric Lustbader
Executive Privilege by Philip Margolin Presidents' Day by Seth Margolis
The Race, Protect and Defend, Balance of Power by Richard North Patterson
Politics Noir: Gary Phillips, Editor
Missing Member by Jo-Ann Power
Dark Horse by Ralph Reed
Dead Heat, The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg
Dead Watch by John Sandford
State of the Union by Brad Thor
Capital Crimes by Stuart Woods
American Quartet by Warren AdlerSherlock Holmes in Dallas by Edmund Aubrey
Primary Target by Max Allan Collins
Campaign Train (Murder Rides the Campaign Train) by The Gordons
Glass Tiger by Joe Gores
The President's Assassin by Brian Haig
Potus by Greg Holden
Marine One by James W. Huston
Murder at Monticello by Jane Langton
The Surrogate Assassin by Christopher Leppek
Gideon's March by J.J. Marric
The Kidnapping of the President by Charles Templeton
Pursuit by James Stewart Thayer
Primary Target by Marilyn Wallace
Watchdogs by John Weisman
We are Holding the President Hostage by Warren Adler
The Camel Club, First Family by David Baldacci
Line of Succession by Brian Garfield
Madam President by Anne Holt
Oath of Office by Steven J. Kirsch
Presidential Deal by Les Standiford
The Kidnapping of the President by Charles Templeton
Missing! by Michael Avallone
Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal
The President's Plan is Missing by Robert J. Serling
The President Vanishes by Rex Stout
Fixing the Election
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
The 13th Directorate by Barry Chubin
Atropos by William DeAndrea
The Red President by Martin Gross
The Ceiling of Hell by Warren Murphy
The Trojan Hearse by Richard S. Prather
President Fu Manch by Sax Rohmer
The Big Fix by Roger L. Simon Presidential Crisis
Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
Vanished by Fletcher Knebel
A Fine and Dangerous Season by Keith Raffel
The President as Detective
Speak Softly by Lawrence Alexander
Lincoln for the Defense by Warren Bull
Mr President, Private Eye, edited by Martin Greenberg & Francis M. Nevins
Bully by Mark Schorr
The JFK Plot Too many to list, but...
Mongoose, RIP by William F. Buckley
Executive Action by Mark Lane, Donald Freed and Stephen Jaffe
The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry
Deadly Aims by Ron L. Gerard
The President's Daughter by Jack Higgins
The Devil's Bed by William Kent Krueger
The First Lady Murders, edited by Nancy Pickard
Murder and the First Lady (and other novels) By Elliot Roosevelt
Murder in the White House (and other novels) by Margaret Truman
They've Shot the President's Daughter by Edward Stewart
The President's Mind, The 20th Day of January by Ted Allbeury
The Kennedy Connection by Dick Belsky
Enslaved by Ron Burns
The Plan by Stephen J. Cannell
Killing Time by Caleb Carr
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter
Ex Officio by Timothy Culver (Donald Westlake)
The President's Vampire, Blood Bath by Christopher Farnsworth
FDR's Treasure, Lincoln's Hand by Joel Fox
The President's Henchman, The Next President by Joseph Flynn
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
Julie Hyzy's White House Chef series
Spin Doctor by M.C. Lewis
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer
The First Patient by Michael Palmer
Treason at Hanford by Scott Parker
Keeping House by Tucker and Richard Phillips
Acts of Mercy by Bill Pronzini and Barry Malzberg
The President's Daugher by Mariah Stewart
Put a Lid on It by Donald Westlake
President Lincoln's Spy by Steven Wilson
Mr President, Private Eye, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Different historical presidents in the role of sleuth
Abraham Lincoln Mysteries
Abraham Lincoln: Detective by Allen Appel
A Night of Horrors: A Historical Thriller about the 24 Hours of Lincoln's Assassination by John C. Berry
The Impeachment of Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter
Lincoln's Hand by Joel Fox
The Lincoln Letter by Gretchen Elassani and Phillip Grizzell
Lincoln's Diary by DL Fowler
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
The Assassin's Accomplice by Kate Clifford Larson
The Lincoln Letter by William Martin
The Lincoln Secret by John A. McKinsey
The First Assassin by John J. Miller
The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien
The Murder of Willie Lincoln by Burt Solomon
The Cosgrove Report: Being the Private Inquiry of a Pinkerton Detective into the Death of President Lincoln by G.J.A. O'Toole
President Lincoln's Secret, President Lincoln's Spy by Steven Wilson
Ali Karim posted the sad news that Swedish Thriller writer Borge Hellstrom passed away at the age of 59. Here's a link to the Swedish obit. You can Google the translation.
Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström collaborated as Roslund Hellstrom on several novels. Roslund is a professional journalist and
creator of Sweden's number one cultural TV program Kulterkanna. Börge
Hellström is an ex-criminal who founded a criminal rehabilitation
program in Sweden. Together they wrote The Beast, Box 21, Two Soldiers, Three Seconds, Cell 8, and The Vault. Read Ali Karim's 2010 Interview at The Rap Sheet here.
Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening Literary Salon with Deborah Crombie!
When: Thursday, February 23, 7 p.m.
Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA). This is a free event, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend.
Buy Deborah Crombie's latest mystery Garden of Lamentations before the event, if you'd like to have it signed. It's a terrific read!
RSVP required. Address of venue to be sent with acceptance.
RSVP: janet @ mysteryreaders.org Subject line: Deborah Crombie Lit Salon
Deborah Crombie is the bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series set in England. Her Kincaid and James novels have received Edgar, Agatha, and Macavity Award nominations. She travels to England several times a year and has been a featured speaker at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Crombie lives in a small North Texas town, sharing a turn-of-the-century house with her husband, three cats, and a German shepherd dog.Garden of Lamentations is the 17th in the series!
Can't make this event? Deborah Crombie is on tour, so check out your local bookstore for times and locations. Crombie will have 3 other Bay Area appearances.
Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment. PRESIDENT’S DAY (Diversion Trade Paperback Original, 2017) is a political thriller that watches the presidential race, and the various men all clawing to get to the top.
SETH MARGOLIS Where Do Plots Come From?
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
It’s the most frequent question I get asked (right up there with “Who’s your agent?”). I think people are especially curious about my inspiration because I write vastly different types of novels – mysteries, mainstream drama, psychological suspense, satire. Frankly, I have a hard time answering, because the ideas for my books tend to come into focus very gradually, over long periods of time.
My first book, False Faces, was a mystery. The plot came to me – in fact, the idea of writing a mystery came to me – because of a specific place: Fire Island, New York, a summer resort off the south shore of Long Island whose most distinguishing feature is the absence of automobiles. I thought: what an interesting location for a crime, this open, trusting community of walkways and sand dunes and stressed-out New Yorkers trying to unwind by the beach. I knew I wanted to set a mystery on Fire Island, but it was at least a year before the plot and characters were fully formed in my mind and I was ready to bring them to life on the page.
My most recent book, Presidents’ Day, is a political thriller, a genre I’ve never tackled before. It’s about a New York billionaire who, having acquired scores of companies over his storied career, sets his sights on the ultimate prize: the White House. Given recent political developments, the question of how (and when) I came up with this idea arises frequently. And I feel a stronger-than-usual sense of urgency to provide an answer to prove that I thought of the plot for Presidents’ Day long before you-know-who announced his improbably successful run for the White House.
Here’s the truth: the idea for Presidents’ Day came to me over thirty years ago. Ronald Reagan, another improbably successful candidate with roots in the entertainment business, had just been elected president. In describing the cabinet he was planning to put together, he declared that the people he’d appoint would be so successful in fields outside of politics, particularly in business, that serving in his cabinet would be a step down for them. Serving in the White House cabinet a step down? Clearly we were entering a new world in which government was seen as a lesser calling than private enterprise. Or as the protagonist of Presidents’ Day asserts, “New York is the center of power in this country. Washington is a branch office.”
I couldn’t get this idea out of my mind, that our government was answerable to the money men, not the other way around. I just didn’t know what to do with it. So I filed it away mentally, got on with my life, and wrote a bunch of novels that had nothing to do with politics. Then, several years ago, the “Washington-as-branch-office” file tumbled out of my unconscious and demanded attention. I soon knew what I would do with it: I would write a thriller that put to the test the idea that a successful businessman with unlimited resources could essentially purchase the presidency.
The contours of the plot, and the personalities and motivations of the characters, gradually began to come into focus. I decided that my billionaire wouldn’t actually run for office – why would a financial titan want to head-up a brand office? He would acquire the White House, not occupy it. And I made his motivation personal rather than political: he had an old score to settle, one that required nothing less than the resources of the Commander in Chief. I also knew that he needed an antagonist, with an old score of his own to settle. Thus was born the central conflict at the heart of Presidents’ Day: one man’s need for revenge, via the White House, and another’s need to stop him.
Now that reality appears to have “trumped” fiction, I’m often asked if current events inspired Presidents’ Day. My answer is always the same: the idea came to me over three decades ago, and I finally put pen to paper about a year before the last election cycle. Besides, I often add, I only wish I could write fast enough do dash off a novel this timely.
MARTHA REED is the author of the award-winning John and Sarah Jarad Nantucket Mystery series. Book one, The Choking Game, was a 2015 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion nominee for Best Traditional Mystery. The Nature of the Grave, book two, won an Independent Publisher (IPPY) Honorable Mention for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction. Book three, No Rest for the Wicked was released by Buccaneer/KMA Pittsburgh in February, 2017.
Martha recently completed a four-year term as the National Chapter Liaison for Sisters in Crime, Inc. You can follow her online at reedmenow.com or on Twitter@ReedMartha.
MARTHA REED: DNA DOESN’T LIE
Two pivotal things happened when I was in high school in 1974: 1) a girl from my neighborhood vanished on her way home from the community swimming pool, and 2) I read Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case by George Waller.
Both events planted themselves deeply in my fevered teenaged brain. Even then, before I knew I was a crime fiction writer, I knew that someday I’d come back and re-explore these two events.
When I finally sat down years later to start writing crime fiction, the very first thing that popped into my mind was: What would happen if you said see you later to someone, they vanished, and you never saw them again?
This question was the genesis of my Nantucket Mystery, The Nature of the Grave. In this story, Detective John Jarad reopens the twenty-year-old cold case involving his little brother, Danny, who goes missing one day while out riding his bike.
I took the vanishing idea one step further with my third Nantucket Mystery, No Rest for the Wicked by synthesizing the horror of a child abduction and the Lindbergh kidnapping into a modern day ordeal. Because authors must torture their characters, I made it even more difficult for John to solve the fictional Baby Alice kidnapping by placing the cold case ninety years in the past, so that he has to deal with natural attrition, family myth, fading human memory, deliberate misdirection, and outright lies.
The link between all of these things is DNA analysis. I’m fascinated by the continuing development of this modern forensic tool, which wasn’t even available back in 1974, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. For almost thirty years, as I’ve lived my life and traveled the country, I kept my ear open to any news about that missing girl. In April 2001, a local detective reopened the case. Using new investigative methods, including DNA technology, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Squad tracked the killer down and charged him with first-degree felony murder. Case closed.
In No Rest for the Wicked, DNA is the key to deciphering a genetic family puzzle. When state archaeologists lift the lid on a suspicious steamer trunk buried in Nantucket’s landfill, the contents reactive intense interest in the island’s most notorious cold case crime, the Baby Alice Spenser kidnapping in 1921. As John pursues the Baby Alice investigation, myriad family scandals emerge from the Spenser family’s privileged and gilded past. Events flare white-hot when a copycat criminal snatches a second child. John races against the clock to unmask the kidnapper and expose these modern day threats.
A List of Sweetheart Sleuths for Valentine's Day! This list wasoriginally compiled by Ruth Greiner in 2010, and I've added several more 'couples.' I'm sure you have more. Make a comment, and I'll update the list. In the meantime, here's some great reading for Valentine's Day!
Alexander, Tasha: Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves Allen, Conrad: Genevieve Masefield and George Dillman Porter Allingham, Margery: Albert Campion and Amanda Fitton Arnold, Margot: Tobias Glendower and Penelope Spring Bell, Albert: Michael Harrington and Corie Foster Billheimer, John: Owen Allison and ex-wife Judith Borthwick, J. S.: Sarah Dean and Alex McKenzie Bowen, Michael: Rep and Melissa Pennyworth Bowen, Rhys: Molly Murphy and Daniel Sullivan Burke, Jan: Irene Kelly and Frank Harriman Carlson, P. M.: Maggie and Nick Ryan Chappell, Helen: Holly and Sam Westcott Charles, Kate: Lucy Kingsley and David Middleton-Brown Christie, Agatha: Tommy and Tuppence Beresford Cockey, Tim: Hitchcock Sewell and ex-wife Julia Finney Craig, Alisa Dittany Henbit and Osbert Monk, Madoc and Jane Rhys Crombie, Deborah: Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Curzon, Claire: Mike Yeadings and Rosemary Zyczynski Davis, Krista: Sophie Winston, domestic diva, and Detective Wolf Evanovich, Janet: Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli—or Ranger—or Diesel—or not Finch, Charles: Charles Lennox and Lady Jane Grey George, Elizabeth: Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers Gordon, Alan: Jester Feste and wife Viola, late of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” Greenwood, Kerry: Corinna Chapman and Daniel Cohen Granger, Ann: Alan Markby and Meredith Mitchell Haddam, Jane: Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford (this one’s a stretch) Ham, Lorie: Alexandra Waters and Stephen Carlucci Hammett, Dashiell: Nick and Nora Charles Handler, David: Mitch Berger and state policewoman Desiree Mitry Harrington, Jonathan: C. J. and Bridge Hart, Carolyn: Max and Annie Darling Iakovou, Takis: and Judy Nick and Julia Lambro Kellerman, Faye: Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Kelly, Susan B.: Alison Hope and Nick Trevelyan Kelner, Toni L. P.: Laurie Ann and Richard Fleming Kenney, Susan: Roz Howard and Alan Stewart King, Laurie R.: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Levinson, R. S.: Neil Gulliver and Stevie Marriner Lindquist, N. J.: Paul Manziuk and Jacqueline Ryan Lockridge, Frances and Richard: Pam and Jerry North Lupoff, Richard: Hobart Lindsay and Marvia Plum MacLeod, Charlotte: Max and Sarah Kelling Bittersohn, Peter and Helen Shandy McBride, Susan: Maggie Ryan and John Phillips McCafferty, Barbara Taylor & Herald, Beverly: Bert & Nan Tatum McDermid, Val: Tony Hill and Carol Jordan McGown, Jill: Chief Inspector Danny Lloyd, Inspector Judy Hill Maron, Margaret: Deborah Knott and Dwight Bryant Marsh, Ngaio: Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy Matthews, Alex: Cassidy McCabe, Zack Maxwell, A. & E.: Fiora and Fiddler Moyes, Patricia: Emmie and Henry Tibbetts Newman, Sharan: Catherine Levendeur and husband Edgar Paige, Robin: Charles and Kate Sheridan Palmer, Stuart: Hildegarde Withers and Inspector Piper Pears, Iain: Flavia Di Stefano and Jonathan Argyle Perry, Anne: Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Peters, Elizabeth: Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson, Ramses and Nefret,Vicky Bliss and John Smith Pickard, Nancy: Jenny Cain and Geoffrey Bushfield Pomidor, Bill: Drs. Calista and Plato Marley Raybourn, Deanna: Nichloas Brisbane and Lady Julia Grey Robb, J.D.: Eve Dallas and Roark Rozan, S. J.: Bill Smith and Lydia Chin Rubino, Jane: Cat Austen and Victor Cardenas Sale, Medora: John Sanders and Harriet Jeffries Saulnier, Beth: Alex Bernier and Brian Cody Sayers, Dorothy L.: Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Schumacher, Aileen: Tory Peters and David Alvarez Smith, Charles Merrill: Reverend Con Randollph and Samantha Stack Spencer-Fleming, Julia: Claire Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne Thompson, Victoria: Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Molloy Whitney, Polly: Ike and Abby Wilhelm, Kate: Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Leidl Wright, L. R.: Karl Alberg, RCMP, and Cassandra Mitchell
Adrian Magson is the author of 21 crime and spy thrillers, a YA ghost novel and Write On! - a writers’ help book. His latest books are The Bid (Midnight Ink – Jan 2017), second in a new thriller series, and Dark Asset (Severn House – February 2017), the fourth in the Marc Portman spy series. A reviewer for Shots Magazine, he writes the ‘Beginners’ and ‘New Author’ pages for Writing Magazine (UK)
Adrian Magson: Give me land, lots of land
One of the problems facing a novelist can, in certain situations, be one of space. I don’t mean the outer kind, where the first thing you might bump into is an asteroid or a random piece of space junk from an abandoned satellite – or even, I guess, a functioning satellite. I mean the earth-bound space required to suit the topic of a storyline.
Let me explain. I write crime and spy thrillers. Not much of a problem there, as spies, criminals and cops are everywhere, so the space they inhabit is generally, but not always confined (excuse the pun), to cities, towns or villages, and other centres of population.
I set many of my stories in the UK, but have ventured to the US, Russia, Ukraine, mainland Europe and, with the Inspector Lucas Rocco series, northern France. In most cases, space was not a problem, although there were large open tracts of land featured in some of the spy novels (specifically Ukraine and Russia). But the storylines there were different, so space itself wasn’t an issue.
For my latest novel, however, a mystery called The Bid, I had a requirement that took me away from my characters’ usual theatre of operations. It was strictly physical: I needed a sense of open territory, even isolation, because the story involves a man being kept prisoner in a small room, and scenes where UAVs (small drones or quadcopters) are being used in the planning and rehearsal for a terrorist strike on a military base in what I imagined would be the area known as the Midwest. The term itself – Midwest – brought to my mind the idea of SPACE. Lots of it. Enormous amounts, in fact, especially in the mind of a British writer where the next house or farm is usually within line of sight, roads cover the land like a spider’s web and the next village or town is fairly close by. Flying drones in such an area brings a few problems not encountered, say, in vastly open countryside such as… well, you’ve got it, the Midwest. Here in the UK, people will spot what you’re doing, and if you’re practising dropping things from a drone, or spraying stuff, you will get noticed.
So, the Midwest. Compared to the Forest of Dean, the area where I live, it gave me this instant feeling, this sense, of the great wide openness, where, although the buffalo might not roam so much as they used to, you’re not likely to bump into anyone every five minutes. And if you’re of a criminal or terrorist turn of mind, such isolation is something you’d value highly, so you can carry out your activities without being overlooked.
Now, I have a feeling this is going to cause an argument, but I settled on Oklahoma as the main area where the story fetches up. I have never been to Oklahoma, but taking an outsider’s view via Google Earth and my bound Illustrated Atlas of the World, I figured it has space a-plenty.
But is it actually in the Midwest? Not that it matters, because the term ‘Midwest’ doesn’t actually appear in my book. It was just an idea in the mind of a British writer building a storyline. In any case, I still have no idea, even after consulting various Americans who, on one hand claim it is ‘southern’, and on the other, claim it to be firmly and irrevocably ‘Midwestern’.
I have to say, though, Oklahoma fitted perfectly. The more I researched it, the better and more interesting it became – but only compared to anywhere in the UK. I know I could have settled on Nebraska, Kansas, either of the Dakotas, Texas, Iowa or many other states for sheer openness, and they would each have been suitable in their own way. But I had to make a decision, and in the end, Oklahoma got it; first because while researching the book I happened on lots of abandoned airfields there (and the history behind some of these is fascinating; you should take a look at Paul Freeman’s website ‘Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields’ - http://www.airfields-freeman.com/ for some examples). They suited the story for practising the attack, as did Altus Air Force base as the location for the explosive denouement.
This sense of not being hemmed in was also refreshing, because for a lot of the book I didn’t have to consider descriptions of city streets or freeways, office buildings, shopping malls, crowded sidewalks, traffic or any of the usual settings I have to write about. It was just land. Lots of it stretching away into the distance.
In fact it was a little like going on a vacation. Courtesy of Google Earth and my atlas. And my imagination, of course.
I think my next book might take me to Paris. Sorry, but I don’t want to get samey. It’s nice to ring the changes.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, now in its 141st year, starts this weekend with Masters Agility Championship and AKC Meet the Breeds. Then on Monday and Tuesday comes the 'real' show which will also be streaming (some on TV, too). In honor of the Dog Show and Valentine's Day, and keeping in mind how important dogs can be to mysteries and in our lives, I am posting a recipe for Valentine's Day Dog Treats that you can make for your 'special' friend.
Just an FYI, I watch the Westminster Dog show on TV, and so does Topper. It's so funny! He doesn't care much for other TV shows, but this one always has him mesmerized. Perhaps memories of his early days as a show dog before I adopted him? Rosie, however, having been a street dog is not amused.
Finally a Valentine's Day Dog Treat Recipe for your four footed faithful friend.
Cupid’s Canine Cookies From the Home Alone Website, recipe by Ariel Waters (my comments are in italics) Warning: Don't overfeed
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 to 35 minutes
Yield: 2 pounds of heart-shaped dog treats
5 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup beef broth (choose one with no or low salt or make your own)
1/2 cup corn oil
+ heart-shaped cookie cutter (of course I've got plenty of these)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet using 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Combine remaining ingredients and mix well.
With clean hands, roll dough out to 1/4 to 1/2-inch thickness and use heart-shaped cookie cutter in honor of the holiday. If you have a larger dog (or a piggy dog like Topper) use a larger heart-shaped cookie cutter, Perforate the cookies with a fork down the middle to break apart easily after baking. Instead of a cookie cutter, you can always roll the dough into 1/2 to 2-inch balls and place them one inch apart on the greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 25 - 35 minutes until they turn golden brown. Baking times will vary based on size of treats, altitude, and your oven.
Cool cookies on wire racks, as far away from your dog as possible.
After treating your dog, store the rest in the refrigerator or freeze until the next visit from Cupid.
CHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a founding member.
Charles Salzberg: Why I Write What I Write
For me, a novel rarely begins with plot or a character, or even a particular crime. Instead, it begins with a simple question. What if? Hopefully, that question, if compelling enough, propels me into a story that examines an important idea or theme.
The novels I’m interested in writing have to be about something and in the act of writing that novel I hope to able to learn something about myself, about the world I live in, and about the people who live in it with me. The novel has to examine something either I didn’t know, something I’m confused about, or something I want to know more about, usually human behavior. Hopefully, by the end of the novel I’ve answered at least some of those questions while at the same time entertaining my reader.
Here’s what I mean.
Devil in the Hole, was published a few years ago, but the seed for that novel was planted more than thirty years ago when I came across a front page story in the New York Times about a man who killed his entire family, wife, three kids, mother, and the family dog, then disappeared. Sad to say, these kinds of stories aren’t all that rare, but there was something about this one that was special, something that fascinated me, something that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
This did not seem to be a crime of passion, nor did it appear to be a crime committed in a moment of madness. It was so meticulously planned out that the perpetrator managed to give himself almost a month’s head start on the authorities by making sure no one in the upscale community where the murders took place would miss his victims. He stopped the mail. He called the school and told them his kids would be visiting relatives for a month. He left all the lights on in the house so people would think the family was still home. He might have suffered from some kind of mental illness or delusion, but he wasn’t insane in the way we think of madmen who typically (if there is such a thing) commit mass murder. If he wasn’t just stark raving mad, he had a reason to commit these murders but I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what that reason could possibly have been.
I knew instinctively, I guess, that whatever it that “reason” was it might well say something important about the human condition. And so for years, this crime stuck with me. Every so often my mind would drift back to it, even as the years passed and the murderer still remained on the loose. wanted to write about it, but until I could wrap my mind around how someone could plan such a heinous crime, I couldn’t begin to write. I had to, in my own mind, come up with some kind of rationale for the murders because mere madness was not of any interest to me.
It took years, but finally a possible rationale for murders occurred to me and only then could I begin to write the novel. And so, Devil in the Hole did not become a book about a mass murder but rather a book about failure and shame and the inability to attain the elusive American Dream, something probably every one of us has grappled with over the course of our life.
A writer rarely knows if he or she is successful in doing what they set out to do but in this case I got a hint at the answer quite accidentally. I was speaking to a college class out in Long Island that had been assigned the book. A young woman raised her hand and said, rather sheepishly, “I’m ashamed to say this, but I have to admit that by the time I finished reading the book I kind of started feeling sorry for the killer.”
That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. It’s not that the killer was a hero, not by a long shot. And it’s not that he didn’t commit a heinous crime and deserved to be punished. But rather what this young woman was saying to me was that after reading the novel she could understand how the average person might, under certain circumstances commit such a violent horrible act. And how we all can share the same feelings, even though, thank goodness, most of us don’t act on them the way this man did. The book was about something, and it wasn’t about bringing a murderer to justice.
I’ve just finished another novel called, Second Story Man. Briefly, it’s about a lifetime master burglar named Francis Hoyt (based on two real-life master criminals). Hoyt, smart, arrogant, athletic, considers himself the best at what he does: breaking into people’s houses and stealing their valuables. Not only the best working now, but the best ever. He’s never been caught in the act. And although he’s earned more than enough money over a lifetime of crime to quit, he can’t. Why? Because he has an almost pathological need to succeed, to be the best. And when he’s challenged by two men, one a Miami police detective, the other a retired Connecticut State Investigator, he’s invigorated and spurred on not only to taunt the two hunters, but continually prove he’s smarter than they are.
Thus begins a cat and mouse tale of three men all trying to prove they’re the best at what they do. I hope I’ve written an entertaining crime novel that will keep readers guessing as to what will happen, who will come up the winner in this contest of egos, but what’s really more important to me is that I was able to examine for myself this what I think of as a uniquely American trait of having to be the best, making everything into a contest where there must be a clear winner and a clear loser. And the phenomena of never being satisfied with what we have. don’t have to look far to see signs of this today. It’s not good enough that Donald Trump won the presidency, he has to prove to himself and us that he won in a landslide, that he not only won the Electoral College but also the popular vote. Why do the enormously wealthy never have enough? What is it about us that creates this dynamic and more important, what is the downside of this compulsion?
That’s what I had to find out and at least for me, that’s what I did by writing this novel. Obviously, I can’t answer all the questions I have, but for me writing a novel is a start.
The Audio Publishers Association announced the finalists for its 2017 Audie Awards, “recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment.” There are 26 categories of nominees, but here re the Mystery and Thriller/Suspense Categories.
Mystery: • Crimson Shore, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, narrated by Rene Auberjonois (Hachette Audio) • The Crossing, by Michael Connelly, narrated by Titus Welliver (Hachette Audio) • A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny, narrated by Robert Bathurst (Macmillan Audio) • The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens, narrated by R.C. Bray, David Colacci and Amy McFadden (Tantor Media) • IQ, by Joe Ide, narrated by Sullivan Jones (Hachette Audio)
Thriller/Suspense: • Cross Justice, by James Patterson, narrated by Ruben Santiago Hudson and Jefferson Mays (Hachette Audio) • The Fall of Moscow Station, by Mark Henshaw, narrated by Eric G. Dove (Dreamscape Media) • Hidden Bodies, by Caroline Kepnes, narrated by Santino Fontana (Simon & Schuster Audio) • Home, by Harlan Coben, narrated by Steven Weber (Brilliance) • The Short Drop, by Matthew FitzSimmons, narrated by James Patrick Cronin (Brilliance)
Two other crime/mystery works of import in the general fiction category:
Darktown, by Thomas Mullen, narrated by Andre Holland (Simon & Schuster Audio)
End of Watch, by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton (Simon & Schuster Audio).
This year’s Audie winners will be announced on June 1. Hat Tip: TheRapSheet
The CWA revised the 2017 Dagger in the Library format so that,
uniquely among crime writing awards, only library staff were able to
nominate authors. Nominations were received from 175 libraries across
the UK and Ireland – with 110 authors suggested as worthy winners. The Dagger in the Library is intended to promote crime fiction in
general and, in particular, the longlisted authors.
Here's my updated Valentine's Day Crime Fiction list. Be sure and check out my other blog, DyingforChocolate, for Valentine's Day ChocolateReviews, Recipes, and Vintage Chocolate Ads.
February 14, Valentine's Day, is alsoInternational Book Giving Day, so books are the perfect Valentine's Day gift. Bundle some of the following mysteries with a box of chocolate truffles, tie it all up in a red ribbon, and you're good to go!
Valentine's Day Mysteries
As Gouda as Deadby Avery Aames Regulated for Murder by Suzanne Adair Murder in the Paperback Parlor by Ellery Adams Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert Valentine's Day is Murder by Carolyn Arnold Death of a Valentine by M. C. Beaton Marked Down for Murder by Josie Belle The Broken Hearts Club by Ethan Black Claws and Effect by Rita Mae Brown Butter Off Dead by Leslie Budewitz How To Murder The Man Of Your Dreams by Dorothy Cannell The Chocolate Cupid Killings by JoAnna Carl The Mortsafe by Lillian Stewart Carl This Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle Sucker Punch by Sammi Carter Lethal Treasure by Jane Cleland A Holiday Sampler by Christine E. Collier Red Roses for a Dead Trucker by Anna Ashwood Collins St Valentine's Day Cookie Massacre by Elisabeth Crabtree A Catered Valentine's Day by Isis Crawford Cupid's Curse by Kathi Daley Hard Feelings by Barbara D’Amato Love With The Proper Killer by Rose Deshaw The Saint Valentine's Day Murders by Ruth Dudley Edwards Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich My Funny Valentine by Caroline Fardig (novella) Happy Valentine’s Day by Michelle Fitzpatrick The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming Peach Cobbler Murder by Joanne Fluke St. Valentine's Night by Andrew M. Greeley Caveman's Valentine by George Dawes Green My Bloody Valentine by Alastair Gunn Bleeding Hearts by Jane Haddam The Valentine's Day Murder by Lee Harris Deadly Valentine by Carolyn G. Hart Deadly Valentine by Jenna Harte Death of a Chocoholic by Lee Hollis Cupid's Revenge, The Sham by Melanie Jackson Sugar and Spite byG.A. McKevett Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz Killing Cupid by Laura Levine Valentine's Victim by Harper Lin A Fatal Slip by Meg London February Fever by Jess Lourey The Scent of Murder by Jeffrey Marks Sugar and Spite by G.A. McKevett Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay The Valentine Victim by Dougal McLeish Valentine Murder, Chocolate Covered Murder by Leslie Meier Love You to Death by Grant Michaels Cat Playing Cupid by Shirley Rousseau Murphy The Body in the Attic, The Body in the Snowdrift by Katherine Hall Page A Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell My Deadly Valentine by David W. Robinson Valentined by Patricia Rockwell Valentine by Tom Savage The Treble Wore Trouble by Mark Schweizer Sweet Hearts by Connie Shelton Gilt by Association by Karen Rose Smith Murder of a Pink Elephant by Denise Swanson One Rough Man by Brad Taylor The Coniston Case by Rebecca Tope Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff Thou Art with Me by Debbie Viguie The Lucy Valentine mystery series by Heather Webber Daughter Of The Stars by Phyllis A. Whitney
Short Stories Crimes of Passion with stories by Nancy Means, B.J. Daniels, Jonathan Harrington and Maggie Right Price "My Heart Cries Out for You" by Bill Crider Valentine's Day Is Killing Me edited by Leslie Esdaile, Mary Janice Davidson, Susanna Carr "Sweetheart in High Heels" by Gemma Halliday Crimes of the Heart edited by Carolyn G. Hart Love and Death, edited by Carolyn G. Hart Valentine’s Day: Women Against Men-Stories of Revenge edited by Alice Thomas Homicidal Holidays: Fourteen Tales of Murder and Merriment, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman & Marcia Talley
Children's Literature Valentine's Day Disaster by Geronimo Stilton Scooby-Doo! A Very Scary Valentine's Day
The California Crime Writers Conference is presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. This is a great convention for both aspiring writers and established authors to mingle with agents and editors, to get inside information on the publishing industry, to hone skills, and revitalize your creativity.
June 10-11, 2017
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles—Westside 6161 West Centinela Ave Culver City, CA 90230
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: HALLIE EPHRON
New York Times best selling author Hallie Ephron grew up in a family of writers and a household filled with books. Her parents were Henry and Phoebe Ephron who wrote screenplays for classic movies like Carousel and Daddy Long Legs.
Hallie was the last of their four daughters (Nora, Delia, Hallie, Amy) to start writing or, as she calls it, succumb to her genes. Now Hallie writes suspense novels she hopes keep readers up nights. An Edgar Award finalist and a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Hallie grew up in Beverly Hills where her new suspense novel, Night Night, Sleep Tight, is set. The story is inspired by Hallie’s experiences growing up there in a Hollywood family, and by an infamous Hollywood murder. Hallie's website
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: WILLIAM KENT KRUEGER
Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota.
He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves. Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe.
His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last five novels were all New York Times bestsellers. Ordinary Grace, his stand-alone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. Windigo Island, number fourteen in his Cork O’Connor series, was released in August 2014 and was chosen by Amazon.com as one the best books of the year. Kent's website
NEW FACULTY MEMBERS
LAPD Detective Paul Bishop
Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop
is also a nationally recognized interrogator and behaviorist. He spent
35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department where his high profile
Special Assault Units regularly produced the highest number of detective
initiated arrests and highest crime clearance rates in the city. Twice
selected as LAPD’s Detective of the Year, he continues to work privately
as a deception expert and as a specialist in the investigation of sex
His fifteen novels include five featuring LAPD homicide
detective Fey Croaker and his latest novel, Lie Catchers, which is the
first in a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and
Calamity Jane Randall. The sequel Admit Nothing is due in 2017.
AGENT JILL MARR
Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Agency, graduated from San Diego State University
with a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor
in history. She has nearly 15 years of publishing experience. She wrote
features and ads for Pages, the literary magazine for people who love
books, and continues to write book ads for publishing houses, magazine
pieces, and promotional features for television. After writing ad copy
and features for published books for years, she knows how to find the
"hook" and sell it.
Jill is interested in commercial fiction,
with an emphasis on mysteries, thrillers, romantic suspense and horror,
women's commercial fiction and historical fiction. She is looking for
non-fiction projects in the areas of history, narrative non-fiction,
sports, politics, current events, health & nutrition, pop culture,
humor, music, and very select memoir.
AGENT DANIELLE EGAN-MILLER
Danielle Egan-Miller is president of Browne &
Miller Literary Associates. Over the past 15 years as an agent, she has
sold hundreds of books with a heavy emphasis on commercial adult
fiction. Her roster includes several New York Times bestselling authors
and numerous prize- and award-winning writers including 2014 Edgar Award
winner for Best Novel, William Kent Krueger. She is a member of the
Association of Authors' Representatives, Mystery Writers of America,
Romance Writers of America, and The Authors Guild.
Conference Hotel Reservations There
are a limited number of rooms at the conference hotel at the rate of
$169.00 per night. Confirm your stay by calling the hotel at
866-819-5320. Mention that you are attending the CCWC conference, June
Variety and Deadline report that NBC has ordered a pilot of Charlaine Harris's "Redliners"!
NBC has ordered drama pilot “Redliners”
from writers and executive producers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Shaun
Cassidy, based on a series of short stories by “True Blood” author
“Redliners” is described as a high-octane series that mixes humor,
romance and espionage centering on a pair of former operatives who get
reactivated and drawn into a larger conspiracy while attempting to
maintain their undercover lives.
In the tone of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Redliners mixes humor,
romance and espionage. It follows a pair of former operatives who get
reactivated and drawn into a larger conspiracy while attempting to
maintain their undercover lives.
The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton
(G.P. Putnam's Sons) The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (G.P. Putnam's Sons) The White Devil, by Domenic Stansberry (Molotov Editions) Revolver, by Duane Swierczynki (Mulholland Books) The Big Nothing, by Bob Truluck (Murmur House Press)
The organization will name the HAMMETT PRIZE winner, during the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s (NAIBA) Fall Conference, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, October 6-8. The winner will receive a bronze trophy, designed by sculptor Peter Boiger.