Thursday, July 28, 2016

Going Back to the Dark Side: Guest Post by Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets has written 29 books three series: the dark Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries, the traditional, humorous Dead-End Job mysteries, and the cozy Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mysteries. She returns to the dark side with Brain Storm, the first mystery in her Angela Richman, death investigator series, and her 30th novel. Pre-order the Brain Storm e-book for $1.99 through August 1.

Elaine Viets:
Going Back to the Dark Side

I'm going home – and my home is dark, violent and bloody. After twenty-four cozy and traditional mysteries, I'm writing dark mysteries again: the Angela Richman, Death Investigator series.

My first series, the Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries, was hardboiled. When Random House bought Bantam Dell and wiped out that division, I switched to the funny, traditional Dead-End Job mysteries, featuring Helen Hawthorne. The Art of Murder, the 15th Dead-End Job novel, is just out in hardcover. I also wrote ten cozy Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mysteries.

I love both series, but I never abandoned the dark side. I wrote dark short stories for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and anthologies edited by Charlaine Harris and Lawrence Block. I wanted to spend more time on the dark side, but I didn’t want to do another police procedural or a private eye with a dead wife or a drinking problem. Other writers had done those and done them well.

Angela Richman, my new protagonist, is a death investigator in mythical Chouteau Country, Missouri, stronghold of the over-privileged and the people who serve them. Brain Storm, the first mystery in the new death investigator series, debuts August 2.

My death investigator mysteries aren't too gory – not like Patricia Cornwell's "I boiled my dead boyfriend's head." This series is closer to Kathy Reichs's Tempe Brennan series.

Many readers aren't familiar with death investigators, but the profession practices nationwide. At a murder the death investigator is in charge of the body, and the police handle the rest of the crime scene. The DI photographs the body, documents its wounds, and records the body core temperature, clothing and more. Death investigators work for the medical examiner. They are trained professionals, but do not have medical degrees. I wanted the training – and the contacts – to make the new series accurate. Last January, I passed the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course for forensic professionals at St. Louis University, a two-credit college course.

Now that I'm writing dark again, my writing has changed. Here's what happens when I jumped from cozies to hard-boiled:

My characters can cuss. Angela Richman's best friend and colleague is Katie, Chouteau County assistant medical examiner Dr. Katherine Kelly Stern. Pathologists tend to be eccentric, and Katie is based on a real pathologist who’d perfected the art of swearing. Her profanity was a mood indicator. I could tell how angry she was by whether she used "fricking," "freaking," or the ultimate F-bomb and how often she employed these and other cuss words. Oddly enough, when she swore, the words didn't sound offensive.

Katie cusses with style and grace in Brain Storm.

Body counts. In cozy and traditional mysteries, the murders take place offstage. In the new death investigator series, readers aren't forced to take a blood bath, but they will see crime scenes and forensic procedures. They'll get a firsthand look at the sights, sounds, even the smells of death.

Real weapons. In cozy mysteries, when Josie Marcus battles killers, she resorts to “domestic violence," using kitchen tools, gardening equipment, and whatever she can grab for weapons.

Helen Hawthorne in the Dead-End Job mysteries is a little bolder. She's armed with pepper spray to take down killers, though in Checked Out she did get sprayed with her own weapon.

In Brain Storm, when Angela confronted the killer, she was in an office, surrounded by the standard supplies: waste baskets, chairs, coffee mugs, letter openers. I was prepared to have Angela grab one, when it dawned on me: Wait! This isn't a cozy.

You can use firepower.

So Angela shot the killer in the head. It felt so good.

CWA Dagger Awards Shortlist

The CWA (Crime Writers Association) 2016 Dagger Award Shortlist.

Dodgers, Bill Beverly, No Exit Press
Black Widow, Christopher Brookmyre, Little Brown
Real Tigers, Mick Herron, John Murray
Blood Salt Water, Denise Mina, Orion

The Cartel, Don Winslow, William Heinemann
Rain Dogs, Adrian McKinty, Serpent’s Tail
Real Tigers, Mick Herron, John Murray
Make Me, Lee Child, Bantam Press

Title,  Author,  Translated by,  Publisher

The Truth and Other Lies, Sascha Arango, Imogen Taylor, Simon & Schuster
The Great Swindle, Pierre LemaƮtre, Frank WynnE, Quercus/Maclehose
Icarus, Deon Meyer, K L Seegers, Hodder & Stoughton
The Murderer in Ruins, Cay Rademacher, Peter Millar, Arcadia

As Alice Did, Montalbano’s First Cases, Andrea Camilleri , Pan Macmillan
On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier, John Connolly, Hodder and Stoughton
Nocturnes 2: Night Music, John Connolly, Hodder and Stoughton
Bryant & May and the Nameless Woman, Christopher Fowler, London’s Glory, Bantam

The Golden Age of Murder, Martin Edwards, HarperCollins
Sexy Beasts: The Hatton Garden Mob, Wensley Clarkson, Quercus
You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life (You Are Raoul Moat), Andrew Hankinson, Scribe
A Very Expensive Poison, Luke Harding, Faber

For 15 years the CWA has been encouraging new writing with its Debut Dagger competition for unpublished writers.

A Reconstructed Man, Graham Brack
A State of Grace, Rita Catching
Dark Valley, John Kennedy
Wimmera, Mark Brandi
The Devil's Dice, Roz Watkins

Fever City, Tim Baker, Faber&Faber
Dodgers, Bill Beverly, No Exit Press
Freedom’s Child, Jax Miller, HarperCollins
The Good Liar, Nicholas Searle, Viking

The House at Baker Street, Michelle Birkby, Pan Books
The Other Side of Silence, Philip Kerr, Quercus
A Book of Scars, William Shaw, Quercus
The Jazz Files, Fiona Veitch Smith, Lion Fiction
Striking Murder, A. J. Wright, Allison & Busby
Stasi Child, David Young, Twenty7Books

The Dagger in the Library is awarded for an author’s entire body of work.

Tony Black 
Alison Bruce
Elly Griffiths 
Quintin Jardine 

HT: Erin Mitchell