Sunday, June 28, 2009

Left Coast Crime 2010: Booked in LA

Left Coast Crime 2010 will take place in Los Angeles, CA, March 11-14, 2010. Sign up now! Registration Fee goes up June 30!

Guests of Honor: Jan Burke and Lee Child
Fan Guest of Honor: Janet Rudolph
Toastmaster: Bill Fitzhugh

Where: Omni Hotel, 251 South Olive Street, Los Angeles

This will be the 20th Left Coast Crime Mystery Convention. This is always one of my favorite conventions. This year there will also be a Forensic Science Day. It's at a slight additional cost (but well worth it) and open to the first 100 who register. You must be registered for LCC in order to register for FSD. Programming has started, and there are some wonderful panels, talks and special events planned. You won't want to miss this LCC.

To see who's registered for LCC already, go here.

Author's Corner

To register for LCC, go Here.

Hope to see you there!! Sign up now!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

More Cool Canadian Crime: Thomas Rendell Curran

Today mystery author David Cole returns with another interview in his Cool Canadian Crime series. Previously, David has interviewed Louise Penny, Barbara Fradkin, and Mary Jane Maffini. These interviews were organized with the assistance of Cheryl Freedman, executive director of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC), and David Cole, a US author and CWC member. The group of 13 authors were chosen by David to represent a variety of mystery genres, styles, and historical periods. Some of the authors have won or been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis award for best mystery novel.

Thomas Rendell Curran was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1939, and it is no coincidence that his mystery novels are set in the post-war, pre-Confederation Newfoundland of the late 1940’s. His protagonist is Inspector Eric Stride of the Newfoundland Constabulary. After receiving a Ph.D, he worked in various capacities for the Canadian Department of Agriculture, and for one memorable year as a lecturer at Carleton University. Thomas Rendell Curran lives in Ottawa, but his roots remain in Newfoundland. His first novel, Undertow, was shortlisted by the Crime Writers of Canada for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.

DC: You write historical mysteries, and they're set in Newfoundland. But, first, there’s your name. Any relation to Ruth Rendell?

TRC: Probably not. Ruth Rendell's birth name is 'Grasemann', and I think her family is originally from Scandinavia. My middle name, Rendell, comes from my mother’s family, who originally came to Newfoundland from the Devon-Somerset area of England, back in the 1700s.

My surname, at birth, was Curren, but I changed it ten years ago to Curran, to recapture the original spelling. The name is Irish, and the spelling was changed by my paternal grandmother, back in the 1930s, because she was Methodist, and a religious bigot, and didn't want to be thought of as Roman Catholic. ( I am not making this up!) I will add that the religious strife in Newfoundland is not all that dissimilar from that in Northern Ireland.

I settled on 1947 as the date for my book because Newfoundland was not yet a province of Canada. That happened in 1949, a day that for many Newfoundlanders of my generation will always live in infamy. The three books that I have written (two published, and the third looking for a home) are set in the period two years after the end of WWII, and two years prior to Confederation with Canada. At the time, there was a strong American presence in Newfoundland, as a consequence of WWII, as well as a strong British tradition.

DC: As far as I know, Newfoundland has little or no history of crime fiction. You lived there in your early years, and I assume that’s why you decided to set your books there. Does the fact that Newfoundland is a “place apart” inform your writing to any extent?

TRC: Newfoundland doesn’t have any history of crime fiction that I know of. When my first book, came out, a local reviewer thought a murder mystery set in 1947 St. John's wouldn’t work, because it was a small town and in real life everyone would know at once 'whodunit'. He admitted he was wrong about that, and once he got started on the book, he read it through in one sitting.

I lived in St. John's until I was twenty-two, when I left for Toronto and 
graduate studies. Newfoundland’s being "a place apart" does inform my writing. What I tried to capture in my books is the uniqueness of Newfoundland, the place, and the people. Mind you, I am what anyone from outside St. John's – the capital - would call a "townie". The inference being that the "St. John's crowd" has traditionally made its living from the blood, sweat and tears of the people who live and work outside the city, and that all that is good about the island takes place in the hundreds of small towns and villages strung along the coastline - the "outports". There is truth in that. History records that a small number of extremely wealthy St. John's merchants controlled the island's economy and its politics.

Before WWII, most Newfoundlanders did not live in a cash 
economy, and I use this in my first two books. My protagonist, Eric Stride, is very well-to-do, even though he was born in an outport on the south coast, a place called Bay d’Espoir. In French that means "Bay of Hope", but it’s pronounced "Bay Despair". I love the contradiction. Stride was a rum-runner in his youth and made a lot of money during Prohibition, running booze from the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off Newfoundland's south coast, into the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. He lives in a large Victorian-era house in an area in St. John's known as "Millionaires' Row". So he straddles two worlds.

DC: When I read your first book, Undertow, and having no idea of the size 
of the city St. John's, I somehow got stuck with the idea that it was a 
"village" mystery. But you captured the city so well that I felt at home 
in whatever size "village" it was.

TRC: St. John's would have had a population of around 40,000 in 1947. You're right, it was a lot more than a village, although like a lot of cities, it was a collection of villages. I centred my first book on my old neighbourhood, and made much use of the location, the houses and characters that I was familiar with. In a real sense, the book is a memoir of growing up in St. John’s in the 1940s.

DC: Why the late 1940s? And why a historical period, rather than something contemporary?

TRC: I chose 1947 because the strongest memories I have of 
Newfoundland are from that period, the sights and sounds, even the smells of the place. It was such an interesting period. The echoes of the war were still there, the city was still full of American and other troops. In fact, there was a stronger bond between Newfoundland and the United States than there was between Newfoundland and Canada, however strong the mutual British connection. New England, for Newfoundlanders, was "the Boston States", and I still have relatives, Rendells, living in the Boston area.

I was able to draw on the wartime connection, WWII that is. I am a WWII buff, and setting my books in that period, 1947, allowed me to use that part of history to good effect.

The third book is also set in 1947, but much of the narrative goes back to WWI, which was a cataclysmic event for Newfoundland and for Newfoundlanders. That war cost Newfoundland so much in terms of manpower, and treasure, that it crippled the island's economy, and led to the loss of independent government in the early 1930s, when the Great Depression hit, and the island was bankrupt. I’ll add that in Canada, July 1 is Canada Day; but in Newfoundland, the date signifies a national tragedy, the First Day of the 1916 Somme offensive in France. Twenty thousand soldiers of the British Army were killed in a few hours. The Newfoundland Regiment was there, and it took a 90% casualty rate. Including my mother’s brother, who was twenty at the time he died.

Another reason for the time frame is that Stride has to rely on the personal approach, people rather than technology, to solve the crimes. As much as I enjoy modern forensic technology - who isn't captivated by all the CSI stuff, after all? - it's the characters that drive my books, not the widgets.

DC: Where did your protagonist, Eric Stride, come from? Is he based on a 
real character, or entirely a product of your imagination? Do you identify with Stride?

TRC: I do identify with Stride. He isn't based on anyone I have ever known, other than myself. A figment, if you will, of my imagination.

I sometimes think Stride might be part-aboriginal. There was, in fact, a "John Stride" who lived in the Bay d'Espoir area a century or more ago, who was part Micmac Indian. (The term used now is Mi'kmaq.) I even thought at one point that Stride's father would be part Beothuk, the native tribe that inhabited Newfoundland when the Europeans first arrived. The Beothuk became extinct, through a combination of warfare, murder, and - most importantly - through loss of territory, which resulted in starvation and disease. The last known Beothuk died in 1829.

DC: Have you thought of moving away from the Stride series, to a stand- 
alone novel? I know you've visited Cuba with a story 
in mind.

TRC: I did start a novel dealing with Stride's early rum-running days. That narrative is set partly in Cuba. A few years ago, I read I.F. Stone's 1946 book, "Underground To Palestine". One of the 
characters he wrote about was a German Jew named Rudy who had survived the death camps and who was running the British blockade against Jewish immigration into Palestine. Rudy’s early history, though, saw him in Cuba after WWI, where among other activities, he was a rum-runner. So you see the possible connection with Stride.

In my draft, Rudy becomes a character named Kurt Mosel, a veteran of the German Navy from WWI. I was in Havana in 2006, and toured the city, taking hundreds of photos. The thing about Havana is that the city is that with the American embargo, the old city hasn't changed a lot. Those photos are all there on my laptop, carefully labelled, ready for reference.

As to a stand-alone book, one that doesn't involve Stride, I haven't gone in 
that direction, not yet.

DC: A typical reader's question: Who do you write for? Yourself, or do 
you imagine a readership for your books, and then attempt to satisfy 
that readership?

TRC: When I started, I was writing entirely for myself. I never really thought about publication, but eventually I did get published, and Undertow was short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. After that, I started, more consciously, to write for readers, or what I imagined readers would want to read. And frankly that has become a bit of a problem. I think a writer - this writer, anyway - loses something when he/she does that. It can be a hindrance.

DC: Some writers plot out their novels before starting to write, while 
other writers just, well, "write" and "see what happens", allowing the 
characters and the locations to define the narrative. Which group do you 
belong to, and why?

TRC: With my two published books, I simply wrote, and waited to see what would happen. In "Undertow" I started with a woman beaten and drowned in her bath on a rainy Saturday night, and took it from there. With "Rossiter" it was much the same. I started with three teenagers, late one night, rolling a discarded tire down a steep hill in St. John's, where it narrowly misses a policeman walking his beat, and collides with a parked car. Two of the three escape down a laneway, and when the cop follows in pursuit, he finds an old man dead on the steps of the laneway, battered and bloody. I didn't know who the old man was at the beginning, or why he was there, but 350 pages later I did.

With my third book, I more actively plotted the narrative, and ran into problems. But, with the help of a very good editor named Verna Relkoff, who works with my agent, Morty Mint, I got the story on track, largely because I went back to character and location.

DC: Do you have any plans to age your protagonist; in 1947, Stride is 38 
years old. Can you see him aging, say to his fifties or even his sixties? Even to your present age, which is 69?

TRC: I think aging someone to my present age – 69 would be a cruel thing to do. I don't much like being 69. I’d rather be forty. But, with a nod to Bernard Shaw, I will say that being 69 beats hell out of the alternative.

 Seriously, I have thought of moving the Stride narrative along to later 
years, to post-Confederation Newfoundland. The Government that took power in 1949, and stayed in power until 1971, was almost comically corrupt and inept. Joe Smallwood, the Premier, was the perfect man to lead Newfoundland into Confederation, but probably the worst of a mostly bad lot to lead a government. By turns, he became a despot, a bumbling dictator, eventually an embarrassment. Along the way he squandered countless millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars on hare-brained industrial schemes, at the same time neglecting the principal resource that Newfoundland had, the cod fishery, because he thought that Newfoundlanders really didn't want to fish for a living. Never mind that fishing was their life and their heritage. The "best small boatmen in the world", as Churchill called them.

So, the potential is there for a mystery novel or 
two based on the Smallwood years. Perhaps someday…..

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nero Wolfe at Bouchercon 2009

Bouchercon, the World Mystery convention, will convene October 15-18 in Indianapolis, IN, this year. I'll be there, and I'll be presenting the Macavity Awards. Don't have a date or time for that yet, but stay tuned.

Bouchercon Guest of Honor: Michael Connelly. Toastmaster: S.J. Rozan. Honored Youth Author: Wendelin Van Draanen. Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient: Allen J. Hubin. Fan Guest of Honor: Kathryn Kennison.

Jim Huang, Chair of Bouchercon, sent a note about a very special program at this year's B'con. Bouchercon 2009 will be honoring Hoosier native Rex Stout by designating one of his Nero Wolfe novels as the "One Conference, One Book" selection.

This is an anniversary year for the Nero Wolfe series. Fer de Lance launched the series 75 years ago. Next month the B'con committee will be mailing to everyone registered for Bouchercon a copy of the selection, and the committee will be building a variety of programs around the book throughout the convention. In addition, there will be a Rex Stout banquet on Friday evening during Bouchercon, an over-the-top elaborate meal based on Too Many Cooks.

In July, the committee will conduct sign-ups for some special program sessions that will have limited capacity -- ticketed, free events. Register now in order to have first shot at these
opportunities. The committee has already begun to accept reservations for a complimentary tea for librarians, hosted by Sisters in Crime.

If you're an author who's not yet registered, sign up right away in order to have your picture and bio in the program book. Send your .jpeg and bio to: dun46032@aol.com now.

B O U C H E R C O N 2 0 0 9: Elementary, My Dear Indy!


Bodies in the Library: Litquake Mystery Fundraiser


Litquake's First Mystery Fundraiser

Date: Thursday, July 16, 2009 TIME: 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Location: Mechanic's Institute, 4th Floor, 57 Post Street, San Francisco

Enjoy an intimate evening with Bay Area mystery writers Rhys Bowen, Lisa Lutz, Julianne Balmain /Nadia Gordon, Cara Black, Juliet Blackwell (aka Hailey Lind), Michelle Gagnon, Vinnie Hansen, Seth Harwood, Janet LaPierre, Kelli Stanley, Louise Ure, and Simon Wood. Mingle as the writers engage you with panel discussions, conversations, and insights into the mysterious workings of their minds! Take a chance on raffle prizes: tickets to Litquake 2009 events, signed copy of mystery writers' books, becoming a character in a mystery writer's new book, and more.

Location: The historic Mechanics' Institute Library and Chess Room, where the legacy of supporting the literary arts is alive today. The Mechanics' Institute is a proud supporter and a host site for Litquake 2009.

Funds raised will go to Litquake: San Francisco's Literary Festival, an annual overview of the lively and thriving literary scene in San Francisco, October 9-17, 2009

Get one free raffle ticket with each ticket purchased in advance. Additional raffle tickets at the event are 3 for $5.

Go to Brown Bag Tickets for your $12 tickets.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival

The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival. I just checked out the June 23, 2009 edition of the Agatha Christie Monthly Carnival, and there are many reviews of books and short stories, plus audio, TV and movies.
This is a very interesting 'composite' blog. Other bloggers send their Agatha Christie postings and then there's a monthly showcase of all the reviews that appears around the 23rd of the month.

I found this very interesting because I'm involved in a similar but one time only type of 'carnival' on my DyingforChocolate Blog. There we're "going on a Picnic," and I'm bringing Chocolate Cherry Pie. Each blogger chooses a letter to bring to the virtual picnic and provides the recipe or food based on the letter they've chosen on their blog. Then the Virtual Picnic is posted on Months of Edible Celebrations (this is National Picnic Month). The entire picnic is up on the site today.

The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival is a carnival, though, and continuous, and I love the concept. Agatha Christie is one of my favorite writers. I was thrilled to be part of the Agatha Christie Centenary in Torquay some years ago, and I've taught several courses on Agatha Christie, as well as led book groups and one day seminars. I've been enjoying the new series of Poirot and Miss Marples on PBS. I often reread Agatha Christies, particularly when I travel. They take me back to another time and place that seemed simple and comfortable, but was full of evil.

So, if you'd like to be part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, it is not too late to start. Check out the other postings on the blog and the main Agatha Christie Reading Challenge postings which will lead you to the lists of titles etc. You can join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. Just click on the link and sign up.

Read at your own pace, write a review on your blog, go to the Carnival collecting space and put in the URL, your details, and a comment about the post.

What fun!

This reading carnival is organized by the wonderful Australian Blogger Kerrie Smith who has several other blogs including one of my favorites Mysteries In Paradise.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Mysteries

Father's Day: another holiday, another list. Although not as many mysteries as for Mother's Day, there are a few. Not a lot of originality in the titles, but quite a variety in types of books.

Father’s Day by John Calvin Batchelor
Father’s Day by Rudolph Engelman
Father’s Day: A Mystery by Keith Gilman
Dear Old Dead by Jane Haddam
The Father’s Day Murder by Lee Harris
Dead Water by Victoria Houston
Father’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
Father’s Day by Alan Trustman

I posted this list the other day, but as I was working on my DyingforChocolate Blog, I started to reminisce about my father. I think similar comments belong here. My father, Joseph Rudolph, passed away 7 years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. He encouraged and supported me throughout my varying careers and educational pursuits, and he always told me I could accomplish anything and succeed in whatever I tried.

One thing we shared in common was our love of mysteries. Over the years my taste in mysteries has changed. I read more hardboiled, dark mysteries now like he always did. You can't imagine how many times I finish a book, and I say to myself, "I have to send this to Dad. He'll love it." My father engendered a love of mysteries in me through his collection of mystery novels and Ellery Queen Magazines.

Here's to you, Dad, on Father's Day!

As his gravestone reads,

Beloved husband, father, grandfather
Beloved physician, teacher, friend
A man who practiced chesed*
And loved his fellow men

*kindness, pure giving

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Barry Awards Announced

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine and Mystery News announced the nominations for the 2009 Barry Awards. Congratulations to all of the nominees. The winners will be announced at this year's Bouchercon in Indianapolis.

BARRY AWARD NOMINATIONS

BEST NOVEL
TRIGGER CITY by Sean Chercover
THE DRAINING LAKE by Arnaldur Indridason
ENVY THE NIGHT by Michael Koryta
RED KNIFE by William Kent Krueger
THE CRUELEST MONTH by Louise Penny
DAWN PATROL by Don Winslow

BEST FIRST MYSTERY
THE KIND ONE by Tom Epperson
STALKING SUSAN by Julie Kramer
CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien
CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith
A CARRION DEATH by Michael Stanley
SWEEPING UP GLASS by Carolyn D. Wall

BEST BRITISH MYSTERY
A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE by R.J. Ellory
RITUAL by Mo Hayder
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson
SHATTER by Michael Robotham
BLEEDING HEART SQUARE by Andrew Taylor
BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE by Martin Walker

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
THE FIRST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins
MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust
STATE OF THE ONION by Julie Hyzy
THE BLACK PATH by Asa Larsson
SEVERANCE PACKAGE by Duane Swierczynski
ECHOES FROM THE DEAD by Johan Theorin

BEST THRILLER
COLLISION by Jeff Abbott
THE DECEIVED by Brett Battles
THE SURVIVOR (NO SURVIVORS in U.S.) by Tom Cain
FINDER by Colin Harrison
NIGHT OF THUNDER by Stephen Hunter
GOOD PEOPLE by Marcus Sakey

BEST SHORT STORY
"The Drought" by James O. Born (The Blue Religion)
"The Fallen" by Jan Burke (August EQMM) "A Trace of a Trace" by Brendan DuBois (At the Scene of the Crime)
"A Killing in Midtown" by G. Miki Hayden (January/February AHMM)
"Proof of Love" by Mick Herron (September/October EQMM)
"The Problem of the Secret Patient" by Edward D. Hoch (May EQMM)
June 18, 2009

Poirot Returns to PBS

Agatha Christie is back! Six by Agatha on Masterpiece Mystery! starts on Sunday, June 21 on PBS. There will be two episodes of Poirot and four episodes of Miss Marple.

David Suchet revives his role as Poirot, and he's at the top of his form. He's such a fine actor. Suchet is Poirot in this his signature role as the Belgian private eye who uses his 'little gray cells' to crack the case. This is Suchet's 20th year as Poirot, and he says," The time has flown by. It's wonderful that people see a character who is cocky, proud, and boastful, and yet they want to spend time with him. There is enormous affection for the little man." Read an interview with David Suchet here.

I've seen the first Poirot, Cat Among the Pigeons, and it's a wonderful production. Everything I expect from a Christie is here--costuming, setting, plotting. I particularly like the unusual camera angles in this new series, and that carries over to the Miss Marples, as well. Very successful. Watch a clip of Cat Among the Pigeons, here.

Julia McKenzie is the new Miss Marple, and she does an excellent job. Past Miss Marples have included Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Joan Hickson (my favorite) and Geraldine McEwan. Julia McKenzie does a smashing job, and I'll blog about that later when closer to the the first in that series, A Pocket Full of Rye, scheduled for July 12.

Support PBS. "Remember, PBS and your local stations rely on contributions from people like you."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Louise Penny: Cool Canadian Crime

Here on Mystery Fanfare, I've been adding a series of interviews with Canadian Crime Writers. This series was organized by David Cole, a US author and CWC member and began with interviews he did with the three Canadian Guests of Honor at the last Bloody Words Conference. The overall group of authors were chosen by David to represent a variety of mystery genres, styles, and historical periods. Some of the authors have won or been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis award for best mystery novel. These interviews will be posted periodically. The first interview was with Mary Jane Maffini, and the second with Barbara Fradkin. Today David gives us an interview with the Guest of Honor at Bloody Words, Louise Penny.

David Cole (DC): You and I both came to writing in later years, after different careers. What did you do before you began Still Life?

Louise Penny (LP): Before I started writing mysteries I was a journalist with the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation, hosting live current affairs radio programs. We covered what's called 'hard' news. Politics, economics, social debates. But we also heard human stories, often tragic. Stories of grinding poverty, of despair, of terrible isolation and loneliness. And out of that came my absolute certainty that I was fortunate. And the certainty, too, that it wasn't enough to be fortunate. I had to know it. And I do.

DC: I recently read a Scandinavian mystery that, like Still Life, involved a bow and arrow, yet that book was laden with anxiety, constant tension, and sad, sorry lives. Still Life involves a death, but the lovely, almost elegiac tone is so different. I think of this difference in tone when hearing your passionate comments about the emergence of a Canadian voice in mysteries. Tell me more about this "voice."

LP: In terms of a Canadian voice, I frankly have no idea. Canada, as you know, is huge. A person born and raised in Newfoundland might not, on the surface, have a great deal in common with someone from the Northwest Territories, or the Prairies. And yet, I sometimes wonder. I happen to believe, and maybe this is wishful thinking, that as Canadians we really are the product of a belief system that includes social justice, a social safety net. Medicine and education for everyone. A belief that a meritocracy isn't good enough. We need to help each other. It's our obligation, as citizens. In the Second World War Canadians, who were in at the beginning, were known as fierce fighters. In peacetime we gained a reputation as committed and passionate peace keepers. We go about what needs to be done, without fanfare.

I don't really know how this translates into a 'voice'. But I think, or want to think, there is a compassion there. Not just in words, but in quiet deeds.

When I was first in broadcasting, hundreds of years ago, there was a received wisdom that Canadians don't do fiction very well. Our strength was the documentary. Straight-forward, factual, no-nonsense, not much whimsy or creativity. A little plodding.

The last thing you wanted to see in the 1960s was a Canadian film. Or read a Canadian book. They tended to the dreary, with some spectacular exceptions, like Robertson Davies.

And then, guess what, a bunch of writers gave that piece of 'wisdom' the finger. And Mordecai Richler burst onto the scene. Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Nino Ricci, Yann Martel, Carol Shields, Elizabeth Hay, Joseph Boyden and far too many to name. And now crime fiction is in its Golden Age here, with stories that reflect Canada and Canadian sensibilities. With round vowels and 'ehs' and talk of toques. And maybe, a bit of compassion.

DC: Canada doesn't have a long history of crime fiction. What do you think 
has changed in the past fifteen years or so?

LP: Plenty! It's great to be a Canadian crime writer these days. This is an excellent time to be a reader too. Business is booming. More than sixty Canadian crime books landed on the Arthur Ellis submission list for best novel this year, to say nothing of the other categories. But it hasn't always been this way. For many years, it seemed that the doors of every publishing house were closed to all but a handful of beloved crime and mystery writers. Until recently, our cultural agencies put their muscle into literary fiction and quality non-fiction and there was a tendency to look down one's pointed nose at what was known as 'commercial fiction' -- one cut above shower scum.The genre was considered not only at a lower level, but also seen to be in competition for scarce readership. Snap open a crime novel and a reader would be forever ruined for Atwood and Ondaatje, although they've been known to read mysteries.

A large percentage of intelligent readers adore mysteries. Just ask any librarian! But people can only read books they can find on the shelves of libraries and bookstores or what they spot in reviews. As long as publishers were not bringing out new Canadian mysteries, people continued to get their mystery fix by inhaling books from the USA and the UK. All the while, in Canada, we had our own stories to tell. Gradually, over the last few years, something changed: new presses and regional publishers began to serve up wonderful works of crime fiction. Larger publishers took on new names. Readers began to take notice.

Crime Writers of Canada beat the bushes, connecting with librarians, bookstores and readers to spread the word about our 'home grown homicide'. Cheryl Freedman, our executive director for many years, worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the CWC members. The Canada Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage funded awareness programs that allowed CWC to have a presence at key conferences and to produce publications about Canadian mysteries. In Ottawa, Capital Crime Writers helped many writers to learn the craft and launch their series. Along the way, reviewers began to pay attention. The Globe and Mail now provides coverage of mysteries from Canadian presses large and small. Even though review space is shrinking, papers such as the Ottawa Citizen, the London Free Press, the Hamilton Spectator and the Sherbrooke Record pay close attention to new Canadian mysteries in their review sections.

Meanwhile, libraries across the country sponsor readings and special events with Canadian crime writers and readers are flocking to them. And a key factor for Canadian mysteries has been this warm and welcoming Bloody Words conference, which has done so much to build excitement and to draw people from across Canada and from other countries. Individual Canadian crime writers have also worked hard to promote themselves, their books and those of their colleagues. As a result of these interactions, Canadian writers and books are now routinely mentioned in online discussion groups, which, luckily, know no borders.

Canadians have truly been discovered elsewhere. Louise Penny's international success has been something to celebrate. Peter Robinson and Linwood Barclay also routinely make the bestselling lists in other countries. Our biggest names are shooting stars in other countries. Back home, readers are catching on. I have found that since my own American books have been published, readers in the USA are discovering my two Canadian series as well. Contrary to the belief of the New York publishing houses, American readers love Canadian settings and books. Perhaps that's the next obstacle we'll all overcome.

As a lover of Canadian mysteries and crime fiction, I have been glad to visit our country coast to coast through the works of other talented writers like Thomas R. Curran, R. J. Harlick, Barbara Fradkin, Vicki Delany, Stanley Evans, and Lou Allin to name just a few. We have found our Canadian voice in mystery. Finally, it's spring and our crime fiction is in full bloom.

Coincidentally, Louise Penny is interviewed on Jungle Red today by Rhys Bowen.

***
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Raymond Chandler/James Ellroy/Dashiell Hammett Tours

Coming to California this summer? Live here and want to retrace the mean streets and haunts of your favorite hardboiled writers? There are two Raymond Chandler Tours in Los Angeles and the Dashiell Hammett Tour in San Francisco. And, there's an occasional James Ellroy's L.A. Haunts tour.

Richard Schave, owner and tour guide, is the brains behind the Raymond Chandler tours that his company, Esotouric, offers. As he writes on his website, "when you climb aboard for an Esotouric bus adventure, you're guaranteed an intelligent, unpredictable ride into the secret heart of the city we love. These tours are recommended for natives, tourists and anyone who likes to dig a little deeper and discover the world beyond the everyday." So I guess that would be just about anyone reading Mystery Fanfare.

Esotouric offers two Raymond Chandler tours that divide at La Cienega Blvd. into East and West Los Angeles. In A Lonely Place, focuses on downtown and Hollywood, settings and scenes from Chandler's life and novels to his work in motion pictures that sent him in a tail spin from which he would never recover. The Bay City tour takes a look at his middle novels (Farewell My Lovely, Lady In the Lake) and short stories including "Bay City Blues" and how the Westside shaped both his fiction and life. Schave says that "these tours are complementary. Each exists independently, and do not presuppose a knowledge of the other, but taken as a whole they provide a deep and rich portrait of a giant in American Letters and early contributor to the myth which we have all come to know as Los Angeles."

And, as if that isn't enough. Esotouric also has an occasional tour with Crime novelist and memoirist James Ellroy. The James Ellroy Digs L.A. tour is a very personal journey into the 'psycho-geography' of the region that made him, and that informs such best selling books as "L.A. Confidential," "The Black Dahlia" and "My Dark Places." These tours are very popular and sell out upon listing. If you want to be on the next one, subscribe to the Esotouric mailing list.

San Francisco, home to Dashiell Hammett, is the site of Don Herron's famous Dashiell Hammett Walking tours. Be sure and wear sturdy, comfortable shoes as Don Herron, noted Dashiell Hammett specialist, leads you along the mean streets of San Francisco. You'll travel over fog-shrouded hills stalked by Sam Spade, the Continental Op and other hardboiled characters created by Dashiell Hammett who lived and wrote in San Francisco. You'll shadow Sam Spade in his quest for the fabulous figurine of a mysterious black bird, prowl the back alleys where the Continental Op, Hammett's longest-running detective, faced down the opposition over the barrel of his blazing .38. You'll also see the spot where Spade's partner, Miles Archer, with a smile on his mug and his pistol buttoned away under his overcoat, met swift death in the night-fog.

2009 SCHEDULE: SUNDAYS in the month of September. Extra Walks, Book Signings, Hammett-related activities may be found under Special Dates. No reservations taken. Just show up. Hammett tours may be given by appointment as well, e-mail for arrangements.

No Hammett tours when you're in San Francisco? Grab a copy of The Dashiell Hammett Tour Book for a self-guided tour.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2009 Nero Award Finalists

2009 NERO AWARD FINALISTS

The "Nero" is an annual award presented to an author for literary excellence in the mystery genre. The award is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, which is traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City.

This year, the finalists are:

THE DARK TIDE Andrew Gross, Harper Collins
THE TENTH CASE Joseph Teller, MIRA
THE FAULT TREE Louise Ure, Minotaur Books

Rex Stout (1886-1975) was the author of over seventy novels and stories featuring the brilliant, irascible, and corpulent private detective Nero Wolfe, a lover of food, beer, and orchids. Stout was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1959 and his Nero Wolfe stories continue to be popular throughout the world.

Founded in 1978, The Wolfe Pack celebrates all things Nero Wolfe. For example, the society publishes a semi-annual Gazette and sponsors a variety of activities with Wolfean themes including a regular book discussion group and tours of locations mentioned in the corpus. The group has been holding its annual Black Orchid Banquet for more than thirty years.

To learn more, visit www.nerowolfe.org or send mail to NeroAwardChair@nerowolfe.org

Friday, June 12, 2009

Randal Brandt: Creator of Golden Gate Mysteries

At Home Online with Randal Brandt, creator of Golden Gate Mysteries, an online bibliography of mystery and crime fiction in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I host author At Homes (Literary Salons) in Berkeley, CA. For those who can't make those, I have At Home Online on the Mystery Readers International site. Usually these are author to author interviews, but occasionally I interview authors or other mystery related people.

Mystery Readers Journal recently had two issues focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area. These were great issues, and we were lucky enough to have Randal Brandt contribute two articles, one in each issue. In Volume 24, No. 3 (Fall 2008), he wrote an article on Golden Gate Mysteries, and in Volume 24, No. 4 (Winter 2008-2009), he wrote an article on The Birthplace of Modern Crime Fiction: A survey of San Francisco Mysteries Before The Maltese Falcon. So, I thought it was time I found out more about Randal Brandt and why he does what he does. Hence this At Home Online. Feel free to ask follow-up questions in comments.

JR: What made you decide to start Golden Gate Mysteries: A Bibliography of Crime Fiction Set in the San Francisco Bay Area?

RB: I’ve been a fan of genre fiction, and especially mystery fiction, for a long time. I’ve also had a long-standing interest in geographic locations in mystery fiction. When my wife and I travel, we like to take books along on the trips that are set in the places we are planning to visit. Sometimes, finding appropriate—and interesting—books is easier than others. So, I started looking at various reference books that included settings indexes. I noticed that San Francisco always had a lot of entries, including many books and authors I had never heard of. Then I started working at The Bancroft Library, which collects San Francisco fiction, and decided to see how many Bay Area mystery titles I could come up with. That first list, created in 2002, had just over 900 titles, dating back as early as 1853—which is amazing when you consider that the city of San Francisco was still in its infancy then.

JR: Why do you think so many mysteries are set in the Bay Area?

RB: The sheer number of mystery, crime, and detective novels set in and around San Francisco never ceases to amaze me. I haven’t done the math, but San Francisco certainly rivals much bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. From its beginnings as a Wild West gold rush town, with the Barbary Coast, the Committee of Vigilance, Chinatown, and political corruption, crime has always been a big part of San Francisco’s history. Then, of course, the modern private detective novel was born here in 1928, when Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon in his apartment on Post Street. And, its popularity as a setting continues today, with literally dozens of mystery novels published each year with Bay Area settings.

JR: How did you do your initial research?

RB: I describe my research methods it pretty much detail on the website (see the Methodology page), but one of the most important strategies is missing from that page: serendipity. I can’t tell you how many times a book has caught my eye—often just the spine—and I’ve picked it up, only to discover that it is a crime novel set in the Bay Area. The most recent occurrence of this was just last week, when I found a copy of The Lost One by Dana Lyon. It is a 1958 suspense novel about the kidnapping of an infant from an East Bay hospital. I do have a couple of other titles by Lyon in my list, so it was actually her name that caught my eye. But, I had never heard of this one before.

JR: Have things changed in terms of research since you began your online bibliography?

RB: Things have not really changed that much, at least not since the early 2000s. I guess the biggest change is that there is a new interface to the WorldCat database that is accessible to the general public. When I was using that database to compile the bibliography—and in ongoing research—you had to be affiliated with a library that paid for access. So, I guess I’ve lost my “librarian advantage”; anyone can do this now! Actually, that’s a really great thing. Another change is that additions to Hubin’s Crime Fiction bibliography are being made online, so it is easier for me to keep up with new entries.

JR: Have you read all the books in your bibliography?

RB: Ha! That’s a good one! There are, at present, over 1,600 titles in the bibliography. Even if I were a fast reader (which I’m not), it would take many years to read them all. But, I would love to have plot summaries for every book. So, I’m always looking for contributors willing to provide short (200-300 words) summaries. There’s no money in it, but I give credit where credit is due.

JR: What are the latest additions to your Bibliography?

RB: The latest additions are a mixture of the new and the old. On the new side: The Incredible Double (2009) by Owen Hill; Jump (2009) by Tim Maleeny; The Big Wake-Up (2009) by Mark Coggins. And the old: Death for Safety by Eve Dennis, a 1949 British novel featuring an amateur sleuth in San Francisco; and a trio of juvenile novels (1980-1992) by Patricia Elmore featuring a grade-school detective named Susannah Higgins who investigates some pretty serious mysteries, including a suspicious death, poisoned Halloween candy, and arson.

JR: Do people send you titles?

RB: Occasionally. The Eve Dennis title I mentioned earlier came from a fan of the website. I had never heard of it before he sent me the citation. He was very proud to have located a title that I didn’t know about. And I was extremely grateful to receive it.

JR: Would you like people to send you more titles?

Absolutely! I would especially love to hear from authors who have new books coming out.

JR: Who are your favorite 3 authors on your bibliography and why?

That’s a really tough question. The Bay Area has been the literary home of some of the greatest icons of crime fiction, Edgar Award winners (and Grand Masters), and best-sellers. But, if I had to name my favorites, I’ll have to go with some of the forgotten writers of the past. Alice MacGowan and Perry Newberry collaborated on a series of pre-Hammett novels about a San Francisco police officer-turned-private detective that provide an interesting take on detective fiction before Sam Spade showed up on the scene. Nancy Barr Mavity wrote six novels in the late 20s-early 30s about an intrepid investigative newspaperman named James Alyosius “Peter” Piper, who solves several murders in and around the East Bay and has a different colorful catchphrase in each book. Whitman Chambers was a prolific author of the 30s and 40s, who set several standalone suspense novels in the Bay Area. My favorite is 13 Steps (1935) about an Oakland man condemned to hang in San Quentin, who recalls the events leading to his execution as he climbs the gallows stairs. And, of course, there is David Dodge, who is probably the most to blame for this whole bibliography. You can find out more about Dodge than you ever wanted to know at my other website, A David Dodge Companion. Okay, that’s four. Sorry.
JR: What do you do for a “living”? (or tell us about yourself)

RB: I have been a librarian at the University of California, Berkeley since 1991, working in a variety of libraries. Currently, I am Principal Cataloger at The Bancroft Library (where my website is hosted). The Bancroft Library is the special collections library of Cal and collects everything from ancient Egyptian papyrus to modern literature (including Bay Area mystery novels!). I specialize in cataloging rare books and many of the coolest books the library owns cross my desk at one time or another.

JR: If you could change something about the bibliography and website, what would it be?

RB: I would love to change the website from static HTML pages to an interactive database, with different search features so that users could do more research based on the site. I once got an email from someone who was trying to locate a book. He couldn’t remember the author or the title, but it concerned a present-day mystery that could be traced back to the Haight-Ashbury music scene in the ‘60s. The way my website is now, unless there is a summary, there is no way to track something like that down. (I did eventually locate the book, Concert of Ghosts (1992) by Campbell Armstrong, but only through sheer dumb luck, not research.) Anyway, I am recording much of this type of information; I just don’t have the skills—or time—to put it into the website…yet.

JR: What do you read when you’re not reading Bay Area mysteries?

Contrary to popular belief, I do occasionally read other things. My tastes tend to run towards the hard-boiled and thriller schools. I really like Val McDermid, especially the Tony Hill novels. I just started reading Ian Rankin (I know, finally!) and I tend to take two or three Hard Case Crime paperbacks with me whenever I fly somewhere. But, my favorite author has to be Greg Rucka, who writes two series that I just love. He’s also a prolific comics writer and graphic novelist, and I highly recommend his books.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barbara Fradkin: Cool Canadian crime

David Cole, author of the Laura Winslow Series, continues his short interviews with Cool Canadian Crime Writers. Today: Barbara Fradkin. Barbara was the Local Guest of Honor at Bloody Words, the Canadian Mystery Conference last weekend.

Barbara Fradkin is a child psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad. She recently scaled back her full-time practice as a child psychologist in order to devote more time to her first passion, writing. She has always had an affinity for the dark side, and her two dozen short stories haunt various magazines and anthologies such as the Ladies Killing Circle series. She is a two-time prizewinner in Storyteller Magazine's annual Great Canadian Short Story Contest, as well as a four-time nominee for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story, including "Voices from the Deep" in 2007.

David Cole: You're a clinical child psychologist who practiced full time until recently. How does that experience and outlook affect your writing, especially in that mystery novels always implicitly raise the question of where does evil come from?

Barbara Fradkin: Mysteries are about the dark side of human nature. About what people do when they’re desperate. But they are also about how the struggle to go on and the heroism that arises in the midst of tragedy, sometimes from unexpected corners. They are about relationships, about longing, fear, hope and rage - all emotions a psychologist grapples to understand every day. Writing about them helps me stay sane. Evil is a loaded word, implying something apart from us, a monster in our midst. Evil is knowing that murder is wrong but not caring, maybe even deriving pleasure from it the way a serial killer does. This kind of evil is rare, and of less interest to me than the person who knows murder is wrong, cares about people, but kills anyway. I write about ordinary people who are pushed beyond their limits, who make desperate choices and struggle with the consequences. That’s a far more intricate and troubling psyche than the serial killer. At the end of my books, I want the reader to understand the villain I’ve created, to walk in his shoes and maybe even think ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

DC: Your central character, Inspector Michael Green, has seen a his share of evil and he must have some conclusions by now as to how evil, or the darkness gets in. How do you develop this in each book?

BF: Green is much more of a psychologist than most real-life police officers probably are. I made his wife a psychiatric nurse so I could sneak psychology in the back door. Green is very attuned to the victim’s story that has led to the murder, because that’s my fascination. What has led up to this murder, and why? Green knows forensic anaylsis and street canvases form the backbone of a murder inquiry, but he personally is after the story. His sleuthing leads him back into the victim’s and suspect’s pasts, their relationships, and to surrounding events, to unpeel the story of why the murder occurred. Usually in the end he, like me, sees evil not so much as something dark coiled inside a person, but as a tragic choice. Like a door one opens at the end of a frantic journey.

DC: You have a strong sense of place in your books. Can you tell us a little about why you chose Ottawa, and how important the city's identity is to your work?

BF: Ottawa is much more than the purveyor of doom-and-gloom on the eleven o’clock news; it’s the perfect microcosm of Canadian society. It’s small, tight-knit rural villages with secrets as old as time. It’s brand new refugees from the Third World and proud new Canadians creating communities and hopes. It’s the two founding cultures mingling more here than anywhere else in the country. It has biker gangs and Rockcliffe mansions, orderly suburbs and chaotic markets, festivals and family parks. It also has spectacular beauty – three large rivers, a canal and a lake to drown victims in, clifftops and bridges to push them off, and wonderful vistas for chases. There is a place for every kind of murder. Yet it is still a community, small enough to feel as one, as intimate as a family when murder strikes.

DC: What would you like to see more of, and less of, in crime writing these days?

BF: I love subtlety and intelligence in stories. I don’t want manufactured suspense and action, I want to sink into the complexity of people’s lives and follow an intelligent, sensitive sleuth as he or she unravels the story of the murder. Serial killers are obviously popular, maybe because they put the threat outside ourselves, but they don’t interest me nearly as much as looking in the mirror.

DC: I know you've just finished another book. How about a sneak preview?

BF: Ironically, my new book is called “This Thing of Darkness”, a phrase referring to the darkness inside ourselves. Not evil, but darkness. A retired psychiatrist is mugged in the Byward Market and the suspects include not only some local gang punks but former patients who may have reason to feel betrayed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cool Canadian Crime: Mary Jane Maffini

Today marks the first of several interviews that David Cole has organized with Canadian authors. These interviews were organized with the assistance of Cheryl Freedman, executive director of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC), and David Cole, a US author and CWC member. The group of 13 authors were chosen by David to represent a variety of mystery genres, styles, and historical periods. Some of the authors have won or been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis award for best mystery novel.

Mystery Readers Journal, a thematic review magazine, had an issue on Cool Canadian Crime a few years ago to which many CWC authors contributed.

Mary Jane Maffini, Master of Ceremonies for Bloody Words Mystery Conference, Ottawa, 2009. Mary Jane Maffini is the author of two Fiona Silk mysteries, the Camilla MacPhee books, the Charlotte Adams mysteries and nearly two dozen short stories. A six-time nominee for the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Awards, she scored two awards for best short story as well as nominations for best first novel with Speak Ill of the Dead and best novel Lament for a Lounge Lizard, the first Fiona Silk book.

DC: Canada doesn't have a long history of crime fiction. What do you think 
has changed in the past fifteen years or so?

MJM: Plenty! It's great to be a Canadian crime writer these days. This is an excellent time to be a reader too. Business is booming. More than sixty Canadian crime books landed on the Arthur Ellis submission list for best novel this year, to say nothing of the other categories. But it hasn't always been this way. For many years, it seemed that the doors of every publishing house were closed to all but a handful of beloved crime and mystery writers. Until recently, our cultural agencies put their muscle into literary fiction and quality non-fiction and there was a tendency to look down one's pointed nose at what was known as 'commercial fiction' -- one cut above shower scum.The genre was considered not only at a lower level, but also seen to be in competition for scarce readership. Snap open a crime novel and a reader would be forever ruined for Atwood and Ondaatje, although they've been known to read mysteries.

A large percentage of intelligent readers adore mysteries. Just ask any librarian! But people can only read books they can find on the shelves of libraries and bookstores or what they spot in reviews. As long as publishers were not bringing out new Canadian mysteries, people continued to get their mystery fix by inhaling books from the USA and the UK. All the while, in Canada, we had our own stories to tell. Gradually, over the last few years, something changed: new presses and regional publishers began to serve up wonderful works of crime fiction. Larger publishers took on new names. Readers began to take notice.

Crime Writers of Canada beat the bushes, connecting with librarians, bookstores and readers to spread the word about our 'home grown homicide'. Cheryl Freedman, our executive director for many years, worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the CWC members. The Canada Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage funded awareness programs that allowed CWC to have a presence at key conferences and to produce publications about Canadian mysteries. In Ottawa, Capital Crime Writers helped many writers to learn the craft and launch their series. Along the way, reviewers began to pay attention. The Globe and Mail now provides coverage of mysteries from Canadian presses large and small. Even though review space is shrinking, papers such as the Ottawa Citizen, the London Free Press, the Hamilton Spectator and the Sherbrooke Record pay close attention to new Canadian mysteries in their review sections.

Meanwhile, libraries across the country sponsor readings and special events with Canadian crime writers and readers are flocking to them. And a key factor for Canadian mysteries has been this warm and welcoming Bloody Words conference, which has done so much to build excitement and to draw people from across Canada and from other countries. Individual Canadian crime writers have also worked hard to promote themselves, their books and those of their colleagues. As a result of these interactions, Canadian writers and books are now routinely mentioned in online discussion groups, which, luckily, know no borders.

Canadians have truly been discovered elsewhere. Louise Penny's international success has been something to celebrate. Peter Robinson and Linwood Barclay also routinely make the bestselling lists in other countries. Our biggest names are shooting stars in other countries. Back home, readers are catching on. I have found that since my own American books have been published, readers in the USA are discovering my two Canadian series as well. Contrary to the belief of the New York publishing houses, American readers love Canadian settings and books. Perhaps that's the next obstacle we'll all overcome.

As a lover of Canadian mysteries and crime fiction, I have been glad to visit our country coast to coast through the works of other talented writers like Thomas R. Curran, R. J. Harlick, Barbara Fradkin, Vicki Delany, Stanley Evans, and Lou Allin to name just a few. We have found our Canadian voice in mystery. Finally, it's spring and our crime fiction is in full bloom.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Arthur Ellis Award Winners

CRIME WRITERS OF CANADA (CWC) announced the winners of the 2009 Arthur Ellis Awards on June 4 at Bloody Words.

Best Novel: Linwood Barclay, Too Close to Home (Bantam)

Best First Novel: Howard Shrier, Buffalo Jump (Vintage Canada)

Best Short Story: Pasha Malla, “Filmsong” in Toronto Noir (Akashic Books)

Best Non-Fiction: Michael Calce & Craig Silverman, Mafiaboy: How I Cracked the Internet and Why It’s Still Broken (Penguin Canada)

Best Juvenile: Sharon E. McKay, War Brothers (Penguin Canada)

Best Crime Writing in French: Jacques Côté, Le Chemin des brumes (Alire)

Best Unpublished First Crime Novel (the Unhanged Arthur): Douglas A. Moles, Louder

For all the nominees, go here.

Mystery Fanfare will begin a series of interviews between mystery author David Cole and some of the top Canadian Authors later this week.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

CWA Dagger Shortlists Announced


Crime Writers Association (UK) announced its Dagger Awards shortlists in several categories. CWA is doing this in two stages. The winners will be announced at a drinks reception held at the Tiger Tiger (Burning Bright?) nightspot in London on July 15. At that event, the shortlists will also announced for the Gold, John Creasey (New Blood) and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers. Winners in the second group will be announced in the Fall.

All shortlisted books had their first UK publication in the year from 1st June, 2008 to 31st May, 2009.

The CWA International Dagger

For crime, thriller, suspense or spy fiction novels which have been translated into English from their original language, for UK publication. £1000 prize money for the author and £500 for the translator:

Karin Alvtegen, Shadow, translated by McKinley Burnett, (Canongate)
Arnaldur Indriðason, The Arctic Chill, translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker)
Stieg Larsson, The Girl who played with Fire, translated by Reg Keeland (MacLehose Quercus)
Jo Nesbø, The Redeemer, translated by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
Johan Theorin, Echoes from the Dead, translated by Marlaine Delargy (Doubleday)
Fred Vargas, The Chalk Circle Man, translated by Siân Reynolds (Harvill Secker)

More information on the International Dagger.

The CWA Short Story Dagger

Any crime short story first published in the UK in English in return for payment. Prize money £1500:

Lawrence Block: Speaking of Lust from Crime Express series (Five Leaves Publications)
Sean Chercover: One Serving of Bad Luck from Killer Year (Mira)
Laura Lippman: Cougar from Two of the Deadliest (Hodder & Stoughton)
Peter Robinson: The Price of Love from The Blue Religion (Quercus)
Zoë Sharp: Served Cold from The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime (Constable & Robinson)
Chris Simms: Mother’s Milk from The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime (Constable & Robinson)

More information on the Short Story Dagger.

The CWA Dagger in the Library

Unlike most other literary prizes, the Dagger in the Library is awarded not for an individual book but for the author’s body of work. Authors are nominated by UK libraries and Readers’ Groups and judged by a panel of librarians. Previous winners have included Stuart McBride, Craig Russell and Alexander McCall Smith. The £1500 prize is sponsored by the publishers Random House. In addition, the participating libraries’ readers groups that nominated the winning author will be entered into a draw for £300 to be spent on books for their group.

The 2009 shortlist is:

Simon Beckett
Colin Cotterill
R J Ellory

Ariana Franklin
Peter James
Michael Robotham

More information on the Dagger in the Library.

The CWA Debut Dagger

The Debut Dagger is open to anyone who has not yet had a novel published commercially. The first prize, sponsored by Orion, is £500 plus two free tickets to the prestigious CWA Dagger Awards and night’s stay for two in a top London hotel. The shortlist is:

Frank Burkett: A View from the Clock Tower (Australia)
Aoife Clifford: My First Big Book of Murder (Australia)
CJ Harper: Backdrop (USA)
Madeleine Harris-Callway: The Land of Sun and Fun (Canada)
Renata Hill: Sex, Death and Chocolate (Canada)
Mick Laing: The Sirius Patrol (UK)
Susan Lindgren: Forgotten Treasures (USA)
Catherine O’Keefe: The Pathologist (Canada)
Danielle Ramsay: Paterfamilias (UK)
Germaine Stafford: A Vine Time for Trouble (Italy)
Martin Ungless: Idiot Wind (UK)
Alan Wright: Murder at the Séance (UK)

More information on the Debut Dagger.

And, in case you didn't know, Andrew Taylor, was presented with the 2009 Cartier Diamond Dagger in April. The Diamond Dagger, awarded for sustained excellence in crime writing, was presented by Arnaud Bamberger, the Managing Director of Cartier UK.

Lesley Horton, then chair of the CWA, explained: “The Cartier award acknowledges the work of an author who has made an outstanding contribution to the genre, and Andrew Taylor has consistently shown his ability to do just that. He is a worthy recipient. The recipient of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award is chosen by the members and committee of the CWA and is very much an honour awarded by the author’s peers and thus makes it special.”

In accepting the award, Andrew Taylor said: “I am hugely honored to receive this award. It’s the sort of award that validates an entire career. What makes it particularly special is that I have been chosen by my fellow crime writers."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Two New Agatha Christie Stories Found

The Guardian reported today that two previously unpublished Hercule Poirot short stories have emerged from family papers at Agatha Christie's favorite home at Greenway in Devon.

Agatha Christie often wrote short stories and later worked out details to make them into full-length novels. The first story, The Mystery of the Dog's Ball, eventually became the 1937 novel Dumb Witness. The title of the other story is The Capture of Cerberus.

These stories will appear in Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making to be published by HarperCollins in September, by John Curran. Curran, 'one of her biggest fans, ' taught himself how to decipher her handwriting and notes. The book includes notes for the novels, a draft play and deleted scenes and alternative endings. It also reproduces many pages from the notebooks and sketches of room plans and villages, including Miss Marple's St. Mary Mead.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

I was saddened to learn of the death of Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. She touched so many lives during her career, as a mystery writer, a religious, an educator, a humanitarian. She will be missed by so many people.

Sister Carol Anne O'Marie wrote 11 mystery novels featuring sleuth Sister Mary Helen, a gray-haired, crime-solving nun. O'Marie said her San Francisco-based character was based on the principal of a grammar school where she had taught, and she used people and situations she experienced during her life in her novels, even going to the Calistoga mud baths for 'research"-a bit out of the 'order.'

Sr Carol Anne was very supportive of everyone in the mystery community and spoke at many conventions and literary events. It was during one of these events in San Francisco that the inspiration to open a women's shelter came to her, and in 1990, her dream became a reality in downtown Oakland. "For her, nothing was impossible," said her sister, Kathleen O'Marie.

With Sister Maureen Lyons, Sr. Carol Anne opened A Friendly Place for women recovering from alcohol and drug abuse in an old storefront on West Grand Avenue. The need quickly outpaced the building, and in 1994 she and Sr. Maureen bought a dilapidated hotel in Oakland and turned it into a 26-room refuge.Both nuns were honored in 2008 with a Jefferson Award for their community service. "She was a dreamer," Lyons said of O'Marie. She had faith in God and in herself, Lyons also said.

O'Marie joined the St. Joseph of Carondelet order in 1951. Her decision to become a nun shocked her family, but she spent the next decades fulfilling the founding spirit of her order by serving the ordinary needs of people around her. In addition to teaching, O'Marie edited the Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, and was the development director at Carondelet High School in Concord for many years.

To give you a sense of O'Marie's energy, spirit and sense of fun and whimsy, she won 2nd place in the 1979 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest in San Francisco. She was the first woman, and surely the first nun to do so.

Lyons called O'Marie a warm, generous and strong-willed woman with a magnificent sense of humor. But, Lyons added, "She was serious about helping people, and she had a great devotion to God."

I had many conversations with Sister Carol Anne over the years, and her boundless energy and dedication to all people impressed and influenced me. I will miss her.

Read a NYT article from 1987 about Sister Carol Anne O'Marie.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

True Crime Blog Watch

Beckey Bright of The Wall Street Journal listed three True Crime Blogs today on her Blog Watch column today. I've checked them out, and I think they will be of great interest to both mystery readers and writers.

Women in Crime Ink

True Crime Report

Clews: Your Home for Historic True Crime

Read Becky's analysis of these sites, here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Alexander McCall Smith Takes Questions


If you don't know who Alexander McCall Smith is, you probably shouldn't be reading this blog. He's certainly been having a great year with the launch of his latest novel, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, as well as the HBO mini-series based on the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. In addition, McCall is also the author of the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series.

And, as the Globe and Mail points out, he is also professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on national and international bodies concerned with bioethics.

Read more from The Globe and Mail.

McCall Smith will be taking readers' questions until 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 10. Send your questions via email: webbooks@globeandmail.com. Responses with be in the newspaper and online Saturday, June 13. I'll post the questions and answers or a link at that time.

California Crime Writers Conference

California Crime Writers Conference
presented by Sisters in Crime/LA and Mystery Writers of America/SoCal

When: June 13-14, 2009
Where: The Hilton Pasadena

Keynote Speakers: Robert Crais and Laurie King

Two-day event includes agents reception, forensics track, craft workshops, query and synopsis seminars, manuscript consultations, and classes for established authors on book contracts, e-publishing, presentation tips, online marketing information, and film/television opportunities.

Confirmed agents include Jill Marsal of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, Irene Webb of Irene Webb Literary, and Timothy Wager of Davis Wager Agency.

Faculty members include Gayle Lynds, Jerrilyn Farmer, Jan Burke and Christopher Rice, and other authors, plus LAPD detectives, intellectual property attorney Jonathan Kirsch, and publicist Kim-from-L.A. Goodie Bags, Giveaways and Raffles, Agents Cocktail Party, Bookseller and vendor Room.

For more information, see Sisters in Crime LA or e-mail sistersincrimela@yahoo.com Also: MWASoCal or e-mail bachi@naomihirahara.com.

Register online via PayPal. $300. Onsite registration $325. Manuscript critique: $50

Theakston Crime Novel Award Nominees

Theakston Crime Novel Award Nominees. The winner will be announced on July 23 at the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. The winner gets a check and a small oak beer cask, hand carved by one of the coopers working for the award sponsors. The first winner of the Crime Novel of the year in 2005 was Mark Billingham for Lazybones. The 2006 winner was Val McDermind and in 2007, Allan Guthrie. In 2008 the winner was debut crime novelist Stef Penney for The Tenderness of Wolves. The Public gets to vote on these awards.

What a great list!

The shortlist

Death Message by Mark Billingham

The Accident Man by Tom Cain

Bad Luck And Trouble by Lee Child

Gone To Ground by John Harvey

Ritual by Mo Hayder

The Garden of Evil by David Hewson

A Cure For All Diseases by Reginald Hill

The Colour Of Blood by Declan Hughes

Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James

Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride

Beneath The Bleeding by Val McDermid

Exit Music by Ian Rankin

Friend Of The Devil by Peter Robinson

Savage Moon by Chris Simms