Tuesday, April 23, 2019



How did you get into mysteries? What led you to the genre, and what led you to love it?

For some, it might have been Sherlock Holmes. For others a classic movie, like Laura, or The Third Man, or Vertigo, or a TV show, like Columbo, or Peter Gunn, or Murder She Wrote. For an awful lot of people, it might have been reading about Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys as kids.

My gateway drug to the mystery genre was a comic strip to which I was introduced before I could even read. Every Sunday, my dad would read me the Sunday comics, and one of my favorites, perhaps my very favorite, was Dick Tracy.

From Tracy, I graduated to Holmes, to Perry Mason, to Sam Spade and the Continental Op, to Gideon of the Yard, the 87th Precinct, James Bond, Phil Marlowe, and Mike Hammer. But Tracy was my introduction to the genre, the reason I became a mystery fan, and, eventually a mystery writer.

In fact, it’s likely that Tracy had some influence on my non-writing career, too. Of course, having a lot of cops in my family had its effect, but, in my heart of hearts, when I first pinned on a badge, it was Dick Tracy I was trying to emulate.

So when, some years after moving to Chicago (Dick Tracy’s City, though this is never explicitly stated), I was offered the chance to be part of the team that put the strip out, of course I jumped at the chance.

When, upon the retirement of Dick Locher, the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist who had illustrated the strip since 1983, and written it since 2005, Mike Curtis was hired to write the strip, and Joe Staton to illustrate it, Mike brought me in as the strip’s police technical advisor, which meant that, among other things, I would write the copy for the weekly “Crimestoppers Textbook” panel.

 I’ve since left the strip, but was recently invited back as a guest writer.

Mike Curtis likes to try new things, and he had the idea of interspersing the long, complex storylines that play out over several months, with occasional short sequences in which guest writers and artists would have a chance to take a crack at the iconic character in the medium in which he was first introduced to the world.

Mike calls them “Minit Mysteries,” storylines that play out in only a week or two, “fair-play whodunits” (in contrast to the longer storylines, which are typically pursuits, with the villain known to the audience) in which readers are invited to compete with Tracy in figuring out the correct solution.

He based the notion on the “Minute Mysteries” that used to appear as back-up features in the last few pages of the old Dick Tracy Monthly comic book. The regular stories in DTM were reprints of the newspaper strip, reconfigured to fit a comic book page. But the “Minute Mysteries,” sometimes featuring Tracy, sometimes another sleuth such as “The Count” or clues-spotting legal secretary Myra Wilson, were original stories, created specifically for the comic book. Here’s an example from a 1949 issue of Dick Tracy Monthly.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to write a story about the character who introduced me to the genre we all love, one that would appear in newspapers all across the world. Potentially, it might give me a wider readership than any other story I’d ever written.

Aside from that, it would put me in heady company. Last year I had a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Adventure of the Manhunting Marshal,” published in Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective, Vol. 11 (Airship 27, 2018). Writing about the two most famous detectives in fiction would put me on a very short list. In fact, the only other writer I know of who has done this is the late and legendary Edward D. Hoch.

My “Minit Mystery” is called “The Occam’s Razor Case,” and in it, Tracy is being interviewed by a pair of writers who are collaborating on a biography of the square-jawed cop, Patrick Culhane (who looks an awful lot like Max Allan Collins, another one-time Tracy writer) and Austin Black (a fictional counterpart for A. Brad Shwartz, who collaborated with Al on a biography of Eliot Ness). In the course of the interview, Tracy reminisces about his tenure, early in his law enforcement career, as the reform police chief of a gangster-ridden suburb called “Homeville” (a fictional analog for Cicero, IL). He recounts to the two writers the story of how he had to solve a puzzling cop-killing. The issue wasn’t who killed Officer Adrienne Hart. She was murdered by a contract killer named Rev O. Lucian, a professional assassin who specializes in cops (a target most hit men avoid like the plague).

The mystery is trying to figure out who hired Lucian.

The sequence begins Sunday, 28 April 2019, and runs through Sunday, 12 May 2019. 

If your paper doesn’t happen to carry Tracy, you can follow the story on the Internet here:


The one mystery Tracy can’t solve? How can a “Minute Mystery” (or “Minit” to use Mike’s preferred spelling) last two weeks?


By the way, while I’ve got your attention, my first novel, An Obscure Grave (Pro Se Press, 2018) is still getting five-star reviews over at Amazon. If you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

Cartoon of the Day: World Book Day

Happy World Book Day!

Monday, April 22, 2019

EARTH DAY 2019: Environmental & Ecological Mysteries

Earth Day 2019

Earth Day! Today the world considers climate change, environmental issues, and how we can save our planet. At least I hope we do. Living in Berkeley, this is a daily concern, and it should be with everyone everywhere. A few years ago I started posting a list of environmental/ecological mysteries. The list has grown. Crime fiction is an excellent way to make readers aware of issues.  So for Earth Day 2019, I have an updated Earth Day/Environmental Mysteries list.  There are many more authors, and certainly more books by many of the authors on the list. As always, I welcome additions. I took a few liberties on the list, too, but I think they all fall under the umbrella of environmental mysteries. Scroll down for a second list that deals exclusively with Drowned Towns aka Reservoir Noir.

Mystery Readers Journal had an issue on Environmental Mysteries. It's available as a PDF. This is a great source for more titles.

Be kind to the Earth. It's the only one we have.


Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang' Hayduke Lives!
P.D. Abbey's H2Glo
Liz Adair's Snakewater Affair
Glyyn Marsh Alam's Cold Water Corpse; Bilge Water Bones
Grace Alexander's Hegemon 
Lou Allin's Northern Winters Are Murder; Blackflies Are Murder: Memories Are Murder
Suzanne Arruda's Stalking Ivory
Sarah Andrews' Em Hansen Mystery series
Lindsay Arthur's The Litigators
Anna Ashwood-Collins' Deadly Resolution; Red Roses for a Dead Trucker
Sandi Ault's Wild Inferno; Wild Indigo; Wild Penance; Wild Sorrow
Shannon Baker's Tainted Mountain; Broken Trust; Tattered Legacy; Skies of Fire
J. G. Ballard's Rushing to Paradise
Michael Barbour's The Kenai Catastrophe; Blue Water, Blue Island
Nevada Barr's Track of the Cat; Ill Wind; Borderline; and others
Lee Barwood's A Dream of Drowned Hollow?
Pamela Beason's Sam Westin wildlife biologist series
Robert P. Bennett's Blind Traveler's Blues
William Bernhardt's Silent Justice
Donald J Bingle's GreensWord
Michael Black's A Killing Frost 
Jennifer Blake's Shameless
C J Box's Winterkill; Open Season; Below Zero; Savage Run; Out of Range; Trophy Hunt; Free Fire; In Plain Sight
Lisa Brackmann's Hour of the Rat
Alex Brett's Dead Water Creek
Tobias S. Buckell's Artic Rising
James Lee Burke's Creole Belle
Rex Burns' Endangered Species
Chester Campbell's The Surest Poison
Robin Cook's Fever
Donna Cousins' Landscape
Ann Cleeves' Another Man's Poison
Eileen Charbonneau Waltzing in Ragtime
Anna Ashwood Collins's Metamorphis for Murder; Deadly Resolutions
Dawn Corrigan's Mitigating Circumstances
Peter Corris's Deep Water
Donna Cousin's Landscape
Michael Crichton's State of Fear
James Crumley's Dancing Bear
Janet Dawson's Don't Turn Your Back on the Ocean
Barbara Delinsky's Looking for Peyton Place
Lionel Derrick's Death Ray Terror
William Deverell's April Fool
Karen Dionne's Boiling Point; Freezing Point
Paul Doiron's The Poacher's Son; Trespasser; Bad Little Falls; The Bone Orchard and others
David Michael Donovan's Evil Down in the Alley
Mark Douglas-Home's The Sea Detective
Rubin Douglas' The Wise Pelican: From the Cradle to the Grave
Jack Du Brul's Vulcan's Forge; River of Ruin; and others
Robert Dugoni & Joseph Hilldorfer's Cyanide Canary
Toni Dwiggins' Badwater
Kerstin Ekman's Blackwater
Aaron J Elkins' The Dark Place; Unnatural Selection
Howard Engel's Dead and Buried
Kathleen Ernst's High Stakes in a Great Lake
Eric C. Evans' Endangered
Nancy Fairbanks's Acid Bath; Hunting Game; and others 
Cher Fischer's Falling into Green
Bill Fitzhugh's Pest Control; The Exterminators
Mary Flodin's The Death of the Gecko
G M Ford's Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?
Clare Francis's The Killing Winds (Requiem)
Jamie Freveletti's Dead Asleep 
Sara Hoskinson Frommer's Death Climbs a Tree
Jean Craighead George's The Missing 'Gator of Gumbo Limbo; Who Really Killed Cock Robin?; The Case of the Missing Cutthroats (young readers)
Matthew Glass's Ultimatum
Kenneth Goddard's Double Blind; Prey; Wildfire
Chris Goff's A Rant of Ravens; Death of a Songbird; A Nest in the Ashes
Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon's Greenwar
Alexander M. Grace's Hegemon
Scott Graham's Mountain Rampage, Yellowstone Standoff
Robert O. Greer's The Devil's Hatband
John Grisham's The Pelican Brief; The Appeal; The Litigators
Beth Groundwater's Deadly Currents; Wicked Eddies
Elizabeth Gunn's Eleven Little Piggies
Jean Hager's Ravenmocker
William Hagard's The Vendettists
James W. Hall's Bones of Coral
Patricia Hall's The Poison Pool
Joseph Hall's Nightwork
Karen Hall's Unreasonable Risk, Through Dark Spaces
Matt Hammond's Milkshake
Sue Henry's Termination Dust
Robert Herring's McCampbell's War
Joseph Heywood's Blue Wolf in Green Fire, Ice Hunter, Chasing a Blond Moon
Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip; Stormy Weather; Sick Puppy; Strip Tease; Scat; Star Island
Tony Hillerman's The Blessing Way
Tami Hoag's Lucky's Lady
John Hockenberry's A River out of Eden
Peter Hoeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow
John Holt's Hunted
Dave Hugelschaffer's Day into Night, One Careless Moment
Judy Hughes' The Snowmobile Kidnapping
Mary Ellen Hughes' A Taste of Death
Dana Andrew Jennings' Lonesome Standard Time
Sylvia Kelso's The Solitaire Ghost; The Time Seam
Emily Kimelman's Unleashed
M.T. Kingsley's With Malicious Intent
Linda Kistler's Cause for Concern
Lisa Kleinholz's Dancing with Mr. D. 
Bill Knox's The Scavengers, Devilweed, and others in the Webb Carrick series
Dean Koontz's Icebound
William Kent Krueger's "Cork O'Connor" series
Janice Law's Infected Be the Air
Leena Lehtolainen's Fatat Headwind
Stephen Legault's The Darkening Archipelago
Donna Leon's Death in a Strange Country; About Face; Earthly Remains
David Liss' The Ethical Assassin
Sam Llewellyn's Deadeye
Charles & Lidia LoPinto's Countdown in Alaska; Nukes
Robert Lopresti's Greenfellas
Jim Lynch's The Highest Tide
John D MacDonald's Barrier Island (and other titles)
Ross Macdonald's Sleeping Beauty
Jassy Mackenzie's The Fallen
Larry Maness' Once a Perfect Place
Elizabeth Manz's Wasted Space
John Marsden's A Killing Frost
Margaret Maron's High Country Fall, Shooting at Loons, Up Jumps the Devil, Hard Row
John Martel's Partners
Steve Martini's Critical Mass
John McGoran's Drift, Deadout, Dust Up
Karin McQuillan's Deadly Safari, Cheetah Chase, Elephant's Graveyard
Anne Metikosh's Undercurrent 
Deon Meyer's Blood Safari, Thirteen Hours
Shanon Michaud's Still Water
Penny Mickelbury's What Could Be More Than Dead?
Kirk Mitchell's High Desert Malice, Deep Valley Malice
Laura J. Mixon & Steven Gould's Greenwar
Skye Kathleen Moody's Blue Poppy, and other Venus Diamond mysteries
C. George Muller's Echoes in the Blue
Marcia Muller's Cape Perdido
Judith Newton's Oink
Michael Norman's Skeleton Picnic
Dan O'Brien's Brendan Prairie
Michael Palmer's Fatal
Sara Paretsky's Blood Shot
Brad Parks' The Player
T. Jefferson's Parker's Pacific Beat
Cathy Pickens' Southern Fried
Carl Posey's Bushmaster Fall
David Poyer's As the Wolf Loves Winter, Winter in the Heart
Katherine Prairie's Thirst
Kwei Quartey's Murder at Cape Three Points
Peter Ralph's Dirty Fracking Business
Bob Reiss's Purgatory Road
Ruth Rendell's Road Rage 
Geoffrey Robert's The Alo Release
Carolyn Rose's An Uncertain Refuge
Leonard Rosen's The Tenth Witness
Rebecca Rothenberg's The Shy Tulip Murders; The Bulrush Murder
Patricia Rushford's Red Sky in the Mourning
Alan Russell's The Forest Prime Evil 
Kirk Russell's Shell Games
Nick Russell's Big Lake Blizzard
Brenda Seabrook's The Dragon That Slurped the Green Slime Swamp (Children's)
Frank Sch├Ątzing's The Swarm
L.J. Seller's Crimes of Memory
Barry Siegel's Actual Innocence
Sheila Simonson's An Old Chaos 
Jessica Speart's Bird Brained, Blue Twilight, Gator Aide, Tortoise Soup
Dana Stabenow's A Cold Day for Murder, A Deeper Sleep, A Fine and Bitter Snow, Midnight Come Again, A Taint in the Blood, and many others
John Stanley's The Woman Who Married a Bear, The Curious Eat Themselves, 
Neal Stephenson's Zodiac
Mark Stevens' Buried by the Roan 
David Sundstrand's Shadow of the Raven
William Tapply's Cutter's Run
Peter Temple's The Broken Shore
Craig Thomas's A Wild Justice
Antti Tuomainen's The Healer
Judith Van Gleson's "Neil Hamel" series
David Rains Wallace's The Turquoise Dragon
Lee Wallingford's Clear-Cut Murder
Joseph Wambaugh's Finnegan's Week
Sterling Watson's Deadly Sweet
Betty Webb's Desert Wind 
Randy Wayne White's White Captiva
Robert Wilson's Blood is Dirt
K.J.A. Wishnia's The Glass Factory; 23 Shades of Black
John Yunker's The Tourist Trail

Reservoir Noir
Crime Fiction that deals with intentional flooding of towns and villages because of building dams and reservoirs for water supply, irrigation, power and other reasons--a sad addition to the environmental crime fiction list.

Alan Dipper's Drowning Day
Eileen Dunlop's Valley of the Deer (YA)
Lee Harris's Christening Day Murder
Reginald Hill's On Beulah Height
Donald James' Walking the Shadows
James D. Landis' The Talking (Artist of the Beautiful)
Jane Langton's Emily Dickenson is Dead
Julia Wallis Martin's A Likeness in Stone
Sharyn McCrumb's Zombies of the Gene Pool
Michael Miano's The Dead of Summer
Ron Rash's One Foot in Eden
Rick Riordan's The Devil Went Down to Austin
Peter Robinson's In a Dry Season
Lisa See's Dragon Bones
Paul Somers' Broken Jigsaw
Julia Spencer-Fleming's Out of the Deep I Cry
Donald Westlake's Drowned Hopes
John Morgan Wilson's Rhapsody in Blood
Robert Wilson's Blood is Dirt
Stuart Woods's Under the Lake

Let me know any other titles you think should be included.