Monday, August 31, 2009

Celia Fremlin: R.I.P.

I was sad to learn today that Celia Fremlin, an Edgar Award winner for The Hours Before Dawn, died June 16, just a few days shy of her 95th birthday. I saw the notice on Sarah Weinman's blog Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind who read about it in Martin Edwards' blog. Her death went relatively unreported until now. Check out Jan Burke's Tribute.

I've used The Hours Before Dawn several times in my classes and in my bookgroup, always to overwhelming positive response. I even gave it to my psychoanalyst/mystery loving father. Found out he read it when it came out--and thought it was a fine mystery.

Fremlin had a way of capturing the reader in a very chilling way. Louise Henderson in this novel is sleep deprived after the birth of her child. She is so tired that she "sees" things that may or may not have happened. I feel that really good books have scenes that stick with you, and this book is filled with them. Positively haunting. Read it! This book is still in print from Academy Chicago.

Obit added in the Guardian in September by Margaret Kettlewell, Fremlin's niece. Go here.

Endless Summer: Summer Mysteries

The summer is just about over, but there's still some time to read the following Summer books: Mysteries that Take place during the Summer-- at the Lake, at the Beach and in the Mountains.
FYI: This is not a "Summer Blockbuster" or "New Books for Summer List."

Linger over the remaining few days of summer--and into Indian Summer (is this a PC term?) with these "Summer Books." This list is not definitive, and I'd love to hear about your favorite "summer" mysteries.

A Cat on a Beach Blanket by Lydia Adamson
A Midsummer Night's Killing by Trevor Barnes
Milwaukee Summers Can Be Deadly by Kathleen Anne Barrett
Summertime News by Dick Belsky
Jaws by Peter Benchley
The Down East Murders by J.S. Borthwick
The Cat Who Saw Stars by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Went Up the Creek by Lilian Jackson Braun
Chill of Summer by Carol Brennan
Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
The Trouble with a Hot Summer by Camilla Crespi
A Shoot on Martha’s Vineyard by Philip Craig
The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille
Plum Island by Nelson Demille
Murder Makes Waves by Anne George
Mad Mouse by Chris Grabenstein Whack A Mole and Tilt a Whirl, Slay Ridehis books say summer to me!
Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James
A Summer for Dying by Jamie Katz
Sins of a Shaker Summer by Deborah Woodworth
Dark Nantucket Noon by Jane Langton (one of my all time favorites)
Midsummer Malice by M.D. Lake
The Body in the Lighthouse by Katherine Hall Page
Beach House by James Patterson
Killer Summer by Ridley Pearson
Summer of the Dragon by Elizabeth Peters
In the Dead of the Summer by Gillian Roberts
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Gillian Roberts
Vacations Can Be Murder by Connie Shelton
Summer Will End by Dorian Yeager
An Old Faithful Murder by Valerie Wolzien
Magic Hour by Susan Isaacs
Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ned Kelly Awards

Apparently the Ned Kelly Award Winners were awarded by the Crime Writers of Australia, but it was very difficult to find out the winners as there has not been a formal announcement--yet. However, Kerrie Smith was able to supply the following information.

Best Novel (Tie):
DEEP WATER, Peter Corris
SMOKE & MIRRORS, Kel Robertson

Best First Novel:

S.D. Harvey Award (short story) to
"Fidget's Farewell" by Scott McDermott

Best True Crime
THE TALL MAN, Chloe Hooper

Lifetime Achievement: Shane Maloney

For the nominees, go here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lewis Returns to PBS Mystery!

Inspector Lewis, Series II, begins this week (Sunday, August 30) on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! for a total of 7 weeks.

Although I was saddened by the demise of Morse and even sadder by the real demise of actor John Thaw, I was able to enjoy the first Lewis series last year. Now, Lewis is back, and I thought the first two episodes were great. Very solid. Although I liked the Wallendar productions, some people were bothered by the camera action, difficulty of following the story, etc. I wasn't, but if you like a more traditional mystery, you'll like Lewis. The scenery of Oxford is, of course, beautiful, the acting superb, and the detecting solid.

Kevin Whately is Inspector Lewis and there are seven 90 minute episodes. Lucky us! Lewis teams with his cool cerebral partner DS Hathaway (called 'dishy' in this first episode of the series) played by Laurence Fox. Lewis is Morse's former sidekick and just as their relationship was an integral part of each mystery, so is that of Lewis and Hathaway. As the episodes progress, we learn more about each of them personally.

First episode: "And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea." Brush up on your Romantic Poets

This series runs through October 18. Don't want to wait or set the DVR, you can watch the full episodes online. Now that's exciting!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Davitt Awards


This year 39 crime books competed for the Davitt Awards which were set up by Sisters in Crime in 2001 to celebrate the achievements of Australian women crime writers. Justice Betty King presented the awards to a crowd of 140 at the Celtic Club. For the third year running, the awards were sponsored by the Victoria Police Museum.

Beautiful Place To Die (PanMacmillan), the debut novel by Sydney-based filmmaker turned crime writer, Malla Nunn, tonight won Sisters in Crime’s Davitt Awards for the best (adult) crime novel by an Australian woman in 2008.

Blue Mountains writer Catherine Jinks took out the Davitt (young adult) for Genius Squad (Allen & Unwin)

Melbourne’s Chloe Hooper won the Davitt (true crime) for much-awarded The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island (Penguin Books Australia).

The Davitt Reader’s Choice (as voted by the members of Sisters in Crime) went to last year’s Davitt (Adult Fiction) winner, Gold Coast writer Katherine Howell, for her second novel, The Darkest Hour.

The awards are named after Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.

For the Complete list of Nominations, go here.

I have Katherine Howell's The Darkest Hour, and I can't wait to read it. Thanks, Katherine, for sending.

Hat Tip to Kerrie of Mysteries in Paradise

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cool Canadian Crime: Anne Emery

Today David Cole continues his Cool Canadian Crime interviews. I hope you're finding them as enlightening, as I am. Great questions, wonderful answers and exposure to some top Canadian authors. Today: .

Previously, David interviewed
Louise Penny, Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, Thomas Rendell Curran, Gail Bowen. and Garry Ryan, RJ Harlick, Anthony Bidulka, Rick Mofina, Lou Allin. This 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. More to come. Thanks, David!

Anne Emery is the author of SIGN OF THE CROSS (2006), OBIT (2007), BARRINGTON STREET BLUES (2008), and CECILIAN VESPERS (2009). Anne was born in Halifax and grew up in Moncton. She is a graduate of St. F.X. University and Dalhousie Law School. She has worked as a lawyer, legal affairs reporter and researcher. Apart from reading and writing, her interests include music, philosophy, architecture, travel and Irish history. Anne lives in Halifax with her husband and daughter.

David Cole: How do you construct a novel? Plot first? Character journey first?

Anne Emery: Character comes first and foremost with me, characters and their motivations. What would make someone commit this crime, or act in this way? What will this character, with his particular mindset and problems, do next? How will they surprise me? And they do that. I remember always being fascinated when writers said their characters sometimes took on lives of their own, and did things the writer hadn’t planned. Now that happens with me. I might have had something in mind for this or that character, but he won’t follow that road; it’s out of character! And I love writing dialogue, particularly between characters known to have sharp tongues in their heads.

DC: How have readers reacted to the main characters in your books?

AE: People are undoubtedly interested in Fr. Burke. In fact, I have had very heated reactions to him. Some readers love him, and some even want to know "what church he is at", so they can meet him. Forget about it; he's not based on a real person. Others are quite disapproving when, on occasion, he misbehaves, and some people have become quite emotional when telling me exactly what they think of him. Readers are also keen on Maura, Monty's ex-wife, who is never at a loss for a pointed word. And they like Monty, and the couple's two children, Tommy Douglas and Normie.

DC: Go back to the days you spent writing what would become your first published novel. Did you think it was good? In daydreaming moments, did you cast the movie?

AE: When I first sat down to write the book I had been imagining, I was afraid it would be really dry when the words appeared on the page: “Bill parked his car and went into the government office, where he hoped to get the information he needed. But the information wasn’t there, so he came out and got into his car, and drove ...” That kind of thing. But once I got Monty and Brennan in the same room—on the same page—I knew it was going to work. I could quite easily imagine movie scenes when I was writing it. It is “visual” to a certain extent, with what I hope are interesting buildings and interiors. And I have the soundtrack: the pieces I used in the chapter headings and elsewhere in the book, all of which I compiled on my own soundtrack CD. I did not get too far in the fantasy of casting, probably because some of my main characters, e.g. Monty, are composites of people I know. I couldn’t get past picturing “locals” in the role. The exception is Brennan Burke. I could quite easily picture Gabriel Byrne in that role. Dream on! I did not make up Burke with Byrne in mind, and they do not look exactly alike in my head, but I could certainly come around to thinking so, if the stars were so aligned! (I’m not holding my breath waiting for a movie to be made, with or without major talent in the leading roles.)

DC: In what ways do you think your upbringing has influenced the kind of writer you've become? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

AE: I always wanted to be a writer—was always writing stories as a kid—but I didn't take the plunge until a few years ago. And it never occurred to me that I could make a living as a writer; even with all the fictional people and occurrences swirling around in my head, I'm not that delusional. But I was always saying "When I write my book" or "That's going in my book." Finally one day I announced to my husband and daughter that I was going to sit down and try to write that book. In the beginning all I hoped to do was write one. Fulfill my dream, get it done. But halfway through, when I skipped ahead and wrote the ending, I realized I could not give up writing. I had become addicted to it, quite literally. So, at that point, it became a series. My upbringing has a considerable influence on what I write, especially the Irish Catholic background I share with some of my characters. Growing up in that world of Catholic school, knuckle-rapping rulers, nuns, priests, candles, incense, chant, processions and all the rest of it offered a rich vein to tap for my stories. My daughter goes to a wonderful (Catholic) school, but the whole atmosphere is so warm and kind and non-threatening, I ask her what she's going to have to dine out on later in life!

DC: How does your training as a lawyer help or hinder your fiction writing?

AE: Being a lawyer, and being close to a number of other lawyers who are in the criminal courts every day, gives me a feel for the procedure, the language, the atmosphere, and the cast of characters in the courtroom, and provides lots of little anecdotes that I can use, changing the circumstances and the participants to protect the identities of the guilty or the innocent, as the case may be. I may take note of a major courtroom drama or a little incident like the client who couldn’t get home after court because he sold his bus ticket for a smoke. Being a lawyer can be a hindrance in a way, too, if I’m not careful. I have to remember that only a small proportion of my readers are lawyers, so I don’t really need—and nobody wants to read—a “cover-my-ass” legal brief to explain why, for instance, I have a judge making a certain ruling to further my plot.

DC: Music features prominently in your novels. Can you tell us about the importance of music in your work?

AE: My two main characters are musicians. My narrator, Monty Collins, is a bluesman in addition to being a lawyer. And most of the time he’d rather be blowing his harmonica than listening to the lies of his clients. Fr. Brennan Burke is a choirmaster, and he does only the great, traditional music of the church, not the dumbed-down, nursery school kind of music some churches started to do in the 1970s. I cannot imagine my own life without music, and some of my characters and story ideas are directly inspired by a piece of music. I tend to work out plot ideas, or difficulties, by going for a walk with my MP3 player on, and I usually come home with a solution. That is the one and only thing I can claim to have in common with Einstein! He turned to music when he found himself having problems working out his theories. On a much less exalted level, I do the same! The following quotation is attributed to Victor Hugo: “Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

DC: Your novels are set mainly in your home town of Halifax, Nova Scotia. How important is Halifax as a setting for you?

AE: Halifax is steeped in history, from colonial times through the First and Second World Wars, when it was the main departure point for troops leaving for Europe. It’s not an old city by European standards, but it has a respectable provenance for a city in the “new world.” It still has some great old buildings, some from the seventeen hundreds. And we have a wonderful Victorian court building downtown, with carved faces set in the stone; I use that setting in the first scene in my first book. If the city had been slapped up thirty years ago, with nondescript modern architecture, I wouldn’t have much fun describing the place. In fact, I’d probably look for another setting for the books.
DC: Why do you set your novels in the early 1990s?

AE: I wanted my characters to have come of age in more interesting times in history than the 1970s. I am fascinated with the 1940s for some reason, so I'm happy that they were born in that decade. But a more practical reason is that I wanted Fr. Burke to have been formed as a priest when the mass was still in Latin, and the music was Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. Also I wanted his father, Declan, to have some history in Ireland in the 1940s, and Declan's da to have taken part in the Easter Rising in 1916. So, in order to keep Monty and Brennan and their contemporaries where I want them in terms of age, in their forties or fifties, I set the stories in the early 1990s.
DC: Don't think about this too long. Name five of your favorite novels, and give us a sentence or two why.

AE: Dostoevski, Crime and Punishment. Read this and immerse yourself in guilt!
John LeCarré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I am fascinated by tales of espionage during the post-WWII era, and this is one of the greatest. Among its many attributes are unforgettable characters and brilliant dialogue.
Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities. Wonderful satire, portraying Wall Street greed and other aspects of American life, with acutely drawn characters. And lines like this: “Grinning grinning grinning grinning, the greaseball lounged in triumph.”
Kirk Makin, Redrum the Innocent. Not a novel, but the true story of the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin, a long, detailed book that hooked me right from page one.
James Joyce, Ulysses. I won’t presume to make any comments ...

DC: How about a tiny sneak preview of the next novel?

AE: My fifth book, scheduled to be released next year, is called Children in the Morning. The title comes from the Leonard Cohen song, “Suzanne.” The case is that of Beau Delaney, who’s a bit of a showboat, a prominent lawyer whose exploits have become the subject of a Hollywood film. He’s also the father of ten children. Now he’s charged with the murder of his wife, Peggy. Lawyer/bluesman Monty Collins is defending Delaney on the charge but, in order to do that, he has a whole lot to learn about Beau Delaney. Monty’s pal, Fr. Brennan Burke, has a hand in the investigation, too. But Burke is also lending a hand to Monty’s estranged and sharp-tongued wife, Maura. In so doing, the priest finds himself burdened with unwelcome secrets of his own. We have two narrators this time around: Monty and his little girl, Normie, a child who has the gift—or curse—of second sight. When Normie starts having visions that seem to involve Delaney, nobody knows whether they reflect something he’s done in the past, or something he might do in the future. And we ask ourselves who—the father or the daughter—will be first to uncover the truth about Beau Delaney.

Photo credit: Danny Abriel, Dalhousie University

Monday, August 24, 2009

Left Coast Crime 2011: Santa Fe

Left Coast Crime 2011 will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the fabulous La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza, March 24-27, 2011.
Pari Noskin Taichert is the Chair, and she has a lot in mind for this specific Left Coast Crime Convention, aka The Big Chile! There will be side trips, great programming and so much more.

Guests of Honor: Margaret Coel and Steven Havill.
Lifetime Achievement: Martin Cruz Smith.
Toastmaster: Steve Brewer.
Fan Guest of Honor: Marvin Lachman.
Ghosts of Honor: Dorothy B. Hughes and Frances Crane.

For more information: Contact Left Coast Crime 2011

Friday, August 21, 2009

2009 Shamus Nominees

The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) just announced the nominees for the 28th annual Shamus Awards, given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The 2009 awards cover works first published in the U.S. in 2008. The awards will be presented at the PWA banquet, to be held Friday evening Oct. 16, 2009, in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. For banquet details, contact Robert J. Randisi at

Best Hardcover
Salvation Boulevard by Larry Beinhart (Nation Books), featuring Carl Vanderveer
Empty Ever After by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House Books), featuring Moe Prager
The Blue Door by David Fulmer (Harcourt), featuring Eddie Cero
The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (Wm. Morrow), featuring Ed Loy
The Ancient Rain by Domenic Stansberry (St. Martins Minotaur) featuring Dante Mancuso

Best First PI Novel
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (Doubleday), featuring Riley Spartz
Swann’s Last Song by Charles Salzberg (Five Star), featuring Henry Swann
The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang (Simon & Schuster), featuring Mei Wang
In the Heat by Ian Vasquez (St. Martins Minotaur), featuring Miles Young
Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson (St Martins Minotaur), featuring Crispin Guest

Best Paperback Original
Snow Blind by Lori Armstrong (Medallion) featuring Julie Collins
Shot Girl by Karen Olson (Obsidian) featuring Annie Seymour
The Stolen by Jason Pinter (MIRA) featuring Henry Parker
The Black Hand by Will Thomas (Touchstone/Simon &Schuster) featuring Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn.
The Evil That Men Do by Dave White (Crown/Three Rivers Press) featuring Jackson Donne

Best Short Story
“Family Values” by Mitch Alderman (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, June 2008), featuring Bubba Simms
“Last Island South” by John C. Boland. (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Sep/Oct 2008), featuring Meggie Trevor
“The Blonde Tigress” by Max Allan Collins (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, June 2008), featuring Nate Heller
“Discovery” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Nov 2008), featuring Pita Cárdenas
“Panic on Portage Path” by Dick Stodghill (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008), featuring Jack Eddy and Bram Geary.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mystery News: R.I.P.

Mystery News has always been one of my favorite fanzines. It's with great sadness that I share this letter from Chris Aldrich:

It’s with a mixture of regret and relief that Lynn Kaczmarek and I announce that Mystery News will cease publication with the October/November 2009 issue. We are thrilled that Kate Stine and Brian Skupin, publishers of Mystery Scene, have graciously agreed to fulfill our outstanding subscriptions with issues of their well-known and highly professional publication. And you may just find us in their pages in the future. We knew from the beginning that publishing Mystery News would be a labor of love but between changes in our lives and the state of the economy, the labor has started to overpower the love. We’ve had a wonderful time over these past twelve years sharing our love of mystery and crime fiction, and becoming part of a community of readers and authors that have filled our hearts with friendship and the gift of wonderful stories. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has contributed to Mystery News over the years, to our families and most of all, to our readers. Mystery News was founded in 1982 by Patricia and Jack Schnell, and six years later was taken over by Harriet and Larry Stay, who published it for ten years before we revived it in 1997 under the banner of Black Raven Press. In 2001, Mystery News won the Anthony Award for Best Fan Publication at Bouchercon; we were also nominated for Anthony Awards in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Mystery Scene was established in 1986 by writers Ed Gorman and Robert Randisi. Since being acquired in 2002 by Kate Stine and Brian Skupin, the magazine has focused on informing readers about the best and most interesting work in the crime fiction field. Mystery Scene has won the Anthony Award from the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention (2004), the Ellery Queen Award from Mystery Writers of America (2006), and the Poirot Award from the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention (2009).

Chris Aldrich
Black Raven Press

publishers of Mystery News

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cool Canadian Crime: Lou Allin

Today David Cole continues his Cool Canadian Crime interviews. Today: Lou Allin

Previously, David interviewed
Louise Penny, Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, Thomas Rendell Curran, Gail Bowen, Garry Ryan, RJHarlick, Anthony Bidulka, and Rick Mofina. This group of authors were chosen by David to represent a variety of mystery genres, styles, and historical periods. More to come.

Lou Allin sings two anthems: born in Toronto, Canada, but raised in Ohio. Her father followed the film business to Cleveland in 1948. His profession explains her passion for classic films and debt to Ted Turner.

A Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature proved to be more of a hobby than a career with 1975 signaling the end of two decades of university hirings as demographics shifted. Discovering that she retained Canadian citizenship, Lou headed north, farther north than she had believed people live, deep into the Boreal forest of Ontario, where men are men and moose take precautions.

For the past twenty-five years, Lou has taught a variety of communications courses at Cambrian College, basic grammar to report writing to Canlit to public squeaking. She lives on her own meteor crater lake, canoes and snowmobiles, hikes and snowshoes in the Crown land preserves around her home. When the blackflies tap her out, she travels to the Four Corners area in the US and visits another Anasazi ruin.

DC: Go back to the days you spent writing what would become your first published novel. Did you think it was good? Did you think it would be published? In daydreaming moments, did you cast the movie?

LA: Even though I had published poetry and short stories (The National Enquirer paid twenty-five US bucks for four lines about toothpaste), writing a longer work didn't occur to me until I spent a few six-month winters in a cottage on a gigantic lake in Northern Ontario. With no television, reading seemed a good option. At the local library, crime fiction was plentiful, and after finishing a hundred, I said, "I can write as badly as this!"

When Northern Winters are Murder was finished in 1995, it took me five years to find a publisher. For awhile I had a well-meaning English agent (Anne Perry's), who couldn't find a British press who would accept Canadian authors. As for the cast, I was thinking Margot Kidder in her Superman days. By the I had found Toronto's RendezVous Press, I had two more books finished.

DC: How does your training as an English teacher help or hinder your fiction writing?

LA: Contrary to what people believe, English teachers make dubious crime-fiction writers. Everytime they want to break a rule, they have to bend their own fingers. Fragments, for example. Nothing wrong with them. And conversation becomes stilted with pronouns: "It's I" or "It's me" or "This is she" to answer a phone. Also we tend to fall in love with our prose, and that's a fatal flaw. Was it Orwell who said that good writing should never call attention to itself?

DC: Which do you prefer to write: stand-alones or series books?

LA: They both have attractions. With a series, characters become more familiar as the list continues. Avoiding formulas and finding fresh plots becomes the challenge. Beginning a second series is like coming home and finding a new house with a strange family at the dinner table. Everyone seems to know you, but you have no idea who they are.

I've published two standalones, each written before the series saw publication. A Little Learning is a Murderous Thing is an academic mystery. The copper-mining heritage of the Michigan Upper Peninsula reminded me of the Nickel Capital, Sudbury, where my Belle Palmer series is set. Using a university allowed me to revisit the sarcastic banter and petty broils of an English department. Some of the problems at Cambrian College, where I taught, are thinly disguised. Since the book was a hardcover, though, I knew the very colleagues I lampooned would be too cheap to buy it.

The American Southwest became the scene for Man Corn Murders. Thanks to several Four Corners trips, I used what I had learned about the Anasazi and Fremont tribes and their controversial experience with cannibalism. Playing with new characters can be liberating, but the retired aunt dominated the plot until I sprained her ankle and let her niece out to play.

Another influence is the dogs in my life, who channel me to include them in my plots. Freya, a late German shepherd, appears in the first series. Her replacement, Nikon, is in the Michigan book as a puppy. Then comes Bush Poodles are Murder with Friday, my mini. The lively Shogun, a border collie rescue, appears in And on the Surface Die. Oddly enough, the least realistic dog is Tut in Man Corn Murders. I never had a Nova Scotia duck toller, and it shows.

A series is like a partner. The standalone is a one-night date. What a perfect world to enjoy both.

DC: I've always been impressed by the sense of place in your books. Can you tell us a little about how you go about absorbing and recreating Sudbury and now Vancouver Island?

When I first drove to northern Ontario in 1977, I didn't know that I had arrived at the nadir of Sudbury's history as an ecological disaster theme park deconstructed over a century by the mining industry. Forests had been ravaged to rebuild Chicago after the great fire. The remaining wood had been burned to fuel open-pit ore smelting. With no groundcover, soil ran off the hills and acid rain scoured the rocks. Astronauts had come to its blackened moonscape to train (or so the rumour went). At that critical point, the Superstack had just been constructed, supposedly to clean 95% of the air, and a program of regreening had begun. Thousands of people of all ages from business, education, and the community in general began a program to plant over twenty million trees in the next three decades and re-green the hills with "rye on the rocks." So successful was this initiative, that the city received an award from the Earth Summit in Rio. A wasteland the size of New York City had disappeared. Last time I passed on a bus from Ottawa, I didn't recognize the place.

As for Vancouver Island, the primary product was timber and now tourists. From the air, it's apparent that the island has been logged several times, with only the most remote trees surviving from ancient days. Unsatisfied by this destruction, the timber companies want to turn their clearcuts to real estate and reap the profits. Joni Mitchell was right about the tree museum. Old-growth cutting should be banned. Some of these Douglas firs are three hundred feet tall and over a thousand years old.

DC: If you could go back to the beginning and change anything about Belle Palmer, what would you change?

LA: Long-term plans for my character didn't figure. I was trying to write a book, like having a baby, not worrying about where it was going to college and whom it might marry. Before long I realized that to be realistic, the character had to age. Even dicing with seasons, winter, summer, winter, fall, Belle was heading for her later forties. With the kind of action I enjoy plotting, I was asking a lot. That's why five books seemed enough, ending with Memories are Murder. She's in a parallel dimension along with her father and Freya. And her taxes for lakefront will never increase.

Holly Martin in And on the Surface Die is a mere thirty two, an RCMP corporal ready to roll. I'm just getting to know her, and I must accept her youth and lack of experience. Belle has fifteen years on Holly and sees the world differently.

DC: You wash up on a desert island. Which books would you wish to find awaiting you?

LA: Recently I faced a ten-thousand-dollar move across country and strait from Sudbury to Vancouver Island. A dollar a pound. What novels did I take? My first edition Thirty Nine Steps along with three other Buchan novels and all of Nevada Barr. These books I knew I would keep re-reading. I was ruthless, but I flinched at Dickens and brought Great Expectations, the best crime novel of the last millenium along with Robertson Davies' Fifth Business, the Canadian equivalent.

DC: As a writer, what have you not done yet that you'd like a chance to do?

LA: I'd love to write a historical. Victoria appeals to me, late nineteenth century through to World War One. Emily Carr would make a natural sleuth. For a change, I might use the first person. On the other hand, thrillers make big bucks. Woman in jeopardy fleeing with a child with health problems could be a sale. All I need is the location. Pacific Northwest or Ohio, where I grew up?

DC: Do you think Canadian crime writers face different odds from their US or British counterparts?

LA: I'll try not to whine. The biggest problem Canadian crime writers face (except for those with big publishers) is that north of the border we have only ten percent the number of readers down south. Also there is a very unreasonable prejudice by agents and publishers against novels set here, Louise Penny and Giles Blunt aside. They insist that readers would prefer not to read about a Canadian setting. If the voices on dorothyl, an on-line mystery group of over 3000, are to be believed along with the audience of every Canadians panel I've served on, this is an unfortunate myth. Gallic shrug. What's the solution?

DC: Biggest compliment?

LA: Vancouver Island replaces long snowy winters with long rainy winters, so often the outlook is bleak. Then a piece of mail from a reader comes along and revives me. The most touching compliment I received was from a blind lady, who "reads" the books on CD. She said that the settings were so real that she could see the scene. That made me grin from ear to ear.

DC: What advice would you give unpublished authors?

LA: Write like hell. Start early. Start late. But start.

Get an opinion from another author, not a relative or friend. The mystery community is very generous with its mentoring.

If you want to make more than chicken feed, get an agent, a reliable one listed in directories or better yet, recommended by a successful author friend.

If you just want to be published, study the markets and send to the few places which take books over the transom. Poisoned Pen Press. Five Star Gale. Smaller presses in the US and Canada.

Don 't stop writing. If the first one is published, the second better be lined up like the next train in the station.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Poisonous Plant Gardens

On I created a list of chocolate scented plants for the garden. Today, on Mystery Fanfare I thought I'd do a list for the poison garden. We all know the garden can be a place for all kinds of poisons, from weed killers to weapons to plants. One of the non-growing poisonous elements of a poison garden would be cocoa bean hulls, often used for mulch. Although the cocoa bean hulls smell terrific, they're not good for dogs. I've always used cocoa bean hulls mulch in my own garden, and I've been lucky with all my dogs so far. None seem to be interested in the mulch, probably because it smells too good and not like skunk. The theobromine in the hulls can lead to vomiting in dogs.

Amy Stewart, the author of Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities (Algonquin), has written a wonderful book that's right up my alley, literally. I've written about poisonous plants in the Mystery Readers Journal, but Stewart takes it several steps further. Be sure to add this to your garden book collection.

Anyone who reads Agatha Christie, the Poison Queen, is aware that Foxglove is poisonous, and of course, castor beans. What else grows in the garden? Hemlock, yes, lilies, yes, monkshood, yes. Besides poisonous plants there are those that cause hallucinations and cardiac arrest. Aconite, datura, and let's not forget oleander. Don't put your marshmallow on an oleander branch. Every part of the oleander is poisonous. Drying the plant doesn't help, not to mention that the crushed seeds of the oleander are used to commit suicide in India.

Look around your garden and see if you have any of these--or design your own poison garden, if you're so inclined.

Foxglove: Digitalis: Throw a few leaves in a salad, eat and die. Agatha Christie used this in one of her novels.
Yew: Taxus bacata. The berries are lethal.
Cherry Laurel: These looks like regular cherries but are quite lethal. Interesting to note that the edible cherry and the laurels all share the same family name (Prunus). FYI: The Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) has cyanide compounds in its leaf. Don't burn it!

And, a few others:
Aconitum: Monkshood, Wolfsbane, Leopard's bane
Arum: Cuckoo pint.
Colchicum- The autumn crocus - Can be fatal if eaten
Convallaria: Lily of the Valley
Christmas Rose
Cytisus: Broom - All parts can be fatal if eaten.
Daphne: Shrub grown for its beautifully scented flowers-Can be Fatal
Delphinium: All parts Highly toxic - can be fatal if eaten
Gloriosa superba: The beautiful Gloriosa Lily!
Laburnum: Beautiful golden rain flowers; Can be Fatal if eaten
Lantana: Now very popular in the summer border or planted tub!
Nerium: A beautiful conservatory plant
Phytolacca: The poke weed
Ricinus communis: Castor Oil Plant. Not to be confused with Fatsia.
Taxus: A hedge favorite.
Veratrum: The false Hellebore.
Bleeding Heart
Capsicum species: Red Pepper, Cayenne Pepper
Chrysanthemum: Daisy, Feverfew, marguerite
Deadly Nightshade: Hemlock
Jimson Weed
Lathryus (Sweet Pea)
Lily of the Valley. Be sure and wash up after touching it.
Rhubarb (leaves)
Water Hemlock
Laurels, Rhodendrons and Azaleas

Of course, many different mushrooms

And a few others: Wild clematis (old man's beard) was once used by professional beggars who rubbed is sap into scratches to make temporary weeping ulcers.
Laburnum causes convulsions, vomiting and foaming at the mouth
Strychine (Quaker's Button).. well we all know about this one.
Daphne (berries, bark and sap are potent)
Phytolacca (pokeweed)
Ricinis communis (Castor Oil Plant)
Veratrum (False Hellibores)

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak, but you knew about those.

So have a look around the garden and see how many poisonous plants you have. There's a proverb that says, "A Book is Like a Garden carried in your Pocket". If it's a mystery, it must be a poisonous garden.

Where to visit a poison garden:
Alnwick Castle in the UK has a poison garden, definitely worth visiting, but don't touch the plants.
The Muenscher Poisonous Plants Garden (Cornell) in Ithaca.
The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens has a poisonous garden exhibit.

Last week in the UK, a 66 year old gardener found Devil's Snare (Thorn-apple) in his garden. This mystery plant is used by Amazonian tribes to poison their darts. These plants turn up occasionally in waste and cultivated ground, having been brought to the U.K. in bird seed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

William Dale Hudson: R.I.P.

The Marion (SC) County Coroner identified a body discovered last night in the Great Pee Dee River as that of missing Horry County author, William Dale Hudson, whose books profiled some of the state's most infamous murders.

An autopsy on William Dale Hudson, 56, did not determine cause of death. The coroner's office is awaiting toxicology results.

Hudson's wife told investigators that her husband left home around 8 a.m. Wednesday on a business trip. She last heard from him 3 hours later, when he called to complain of a migraine. He said he planned to pull off and rest and would call her when he stopped. She never heard from him.

On Friday, investigators said they found the car Hudson was driving in a wooded area in Marion County. Two fishermen spotted Hudson's body Saturday around 8:30 p.m in the Pee Dee River two miles south of the U.S. 76 bridge.

Hudson was the author of true crime books Dance of Death, Kiss and Kill and All I Want to Do is Kill. Pretty creepy, given the circumstances. The authorities said that foul play was not suspected, but all the results are not in.

For a tribute and info, go to author/journalist Cathy Scott's Blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Inspector Banks and Aurelio Zen mysteries on TV

After the success of the Wallander mysteries, Left Bank Pictures has commissioned three Aurelio Zen Mysteries (Michael Dibden) and one Inspector Banks (Peter Robinson) drama. Yay!

The Zen mysteries are set in Italy and feature a middle-aged detective who in the early novels lives with his mother in a Rome apartment. Ratking is being adapted by Peter Berry, Vendetta by Simon Burke, and Dead Lagoon by Patrick Harbison. Robinson's 2002 novel Aftermath is being adapted by Robert Murphy. This film will feature Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, of course, who lives in the Yorkshire town of Eastvale. It is hope that the two detective mysteries will become long-running franchise. YES!

For more info, read the article in the Guardian (UK).

The big question now is who will be cast as these detectives?

Odd Mystery Locations in the Bay Area

Since so many people are taking Staycations this year (isn't that an odd word?), I thought I'd mention a few San Francisco Bay Area locations that may be of interest to local residents.

I love cemeteries, and Mountain View Cemetery is one of the very best. With lots of wonderful mausoleums and gravestones, this cemetery is 'home' to many San Francisco and California notables. But did you know that Elizabeth Short who was murdered in Los Angeles -- The Black Dahlia Murder-- is buried in Mountain View Cemetery? 5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland. Free. 8 until Sunset. While there, be sure and visit The Chapel of the Chimes, designed by famous architect Julia Morgan. She's also buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

Pardee Home Museum: Stolen Skulls. This museum is an Oakland City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. What you may not know is that it houses a collection of 70,000 objects collected by Mrs. Pardee, including human skulls, reportedly stolen from a South American cemetery. 672 -11th St.

Winchester Mystery House. 525 Winchester Blvd. San Jose. This is a 160 room mansion built by Sarah Winchester, heiress of the Winchester rifle fortune. She began construction in 1884 that continued until her death 38 years later. She supposedly had a fear of spirits of people killed by the Winchester rifle. She never slept in the same bedroom 2 nights in a row. There are many doors and windows opening onto blank walls. There's a staircase from floor to ceiling, a door opening outward has an 8 foot drop, some glass floors and a room you can go into but not out of by the same door.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ned Kelly Award Nominations

Best First Fiction
Ghostlines, Nick Gadd
Crooked, Camilla Nelson
The Build Up, Phillip Gwynee

Best Fiction
Bright Air Barry Maitland
Deep Water Peter Corris
Smoke & Mirrors Kel Robertson

Best True Crime
The Killing of Caroline Byrne, Robert Wainwrights
The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper
A Question of Power, Michelle Schwarz

The SD Harvey Short Story
Fidget's Farewell, Scott McDermott
Farewell My Lovelies, Chris Womersley
Fern's Farewell, Bronwyn Mehan
Farewell to the Shade, Cheryl Rogers

Monday, August 10, 2009

William Kent Krueger interviewed by Craig Johnson

Continuing our At Home Online interviews: Author to Author to Author, Craig Johnson interviews William Kent Krueger. Next up Craig Johnson will be interviewed by an author of his choice.

William Kent Krueger is a multi award-winning American author and crime writer, best known for his Cork O'Connor series of books, mainly set in Minnesota. Krueger's stories always include an element of life in and around native American reservations. The main character, Cork O'Connor, is part Irish, part Ojibwe.

CJ: In the newest edition of your series, you spend a sizable amount of time in Wyoming rather than your own Minnesota. What effect did that have on the process of writing your new book, Heaven’s Keep?

WKK: None. But the research was a blast. I’ve spent a good deal of time in Wyoming—the state of my birth, as a matter of fact—and it was fun to look at it from a different perspective, one that required I take particular note of the physical geography. What a beautiful place that state is. And unpopulated. Which is very enticing, especially when you consider that isolating characters in the wild is a great way to create suspense.

CJ: You put your protagonist through a great deal of torture through the potential loss of his wife, Jo. Do you enjoy writing characters on their emotional frontiers?

WKK: Emotional frontiers? You must have an advanced college degree. Every story, to be compelling, demands tension. And despite the fact that we work in a genre that general gets a lot of mileage out of putting people in jeopardy, I think it’s really the emotional dynamics that drive readers’ interest. I also think that characters reveal themselves most fully and most compellingly when their nerves are frayed and their deepest fears surface. I love Walt Longmire, for example, not because he cuts a dashing, daring image (unlike his creator), but because I know him and trust him emotionally, and I care about what happens to him and to the people he loves. I hope the same is true for those readers who enjoy Cork O’Connor.

CJ: Your usual stomping grounds are among the Ojibwa, comparatively, how was it dealing with the Plains Indian tribes of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and others?
WKK: I approached the Arapaho, who play an important part in Heaven’s Keep, in the same way I’ve always approached the Ojibwe (Anishinaabeg) in my neck of the woods. That is, as human beings first, and as a culture second. What I mean is that Indians and whites are more alike than they are different. We hope and fear and love and hate and couple and fight in pretty much the same ways. We have moral compasses that guide us. And these days, we all eat at McDonalds. But each culture—Finn, Irish, Ojibwe, Arapaho—has certain cultural trappings that are unique, and a hierarchy of values that may be in a different order from the others. I did a good deal of research on the Arapaho, and talked with a lot of folks on and off the rez when I was in Wyoming. Christ, I just hope I got it right.

CJ: Do you consider yourself a regional author, or do you believe that Cork and crew are more indicative of a universality of the human condition?

WKK: I’m a regionalist first and foremost. That said, I think the best regional writers—the best writers, period—create stories of universal appeal about the universal condition.

CJ: I must say that one of my favorite authors was and is Tony Hillerman because of his innate understanding of Native Americans including pacing, in which you are the only writer currently capable of this same feat. So when were your German ancestors kidnapped by Indians?

WKK: I appreciate your estimation of my understanding of the Ojibwe culture. But I think there are a lot of writers out there who are doing a great job with other tribal groups. Margaret Coel, with the Wind River people in Wyoming, for example. Or Dana Stabenow, with the Aleut in Alaska. James Doss, the Thurlos, Jean Hager—the list is long, and all of us owe a incredible debt to Tony Hillerman. My German ancestors were bootleggers, so probably they contributed to the downfall of America’s indigenous population.

CJ: “Cork put his arms around his son and looked toward the mountains. Up there the snow was already falling heavy, burying everything more deeply. Beneath it, the grass and flowers of the meadows would lie dormant until spring, when they would rise again. Beneath it, animals lay curled in holes and in mountain caves where they would sleep through the dark, cold months ahead, and wake in the spring. And beneath it somewhere, God alone knew where, lay Jo, who would neither wake nor rise.” (P. 127) –Its passages like this in Heaven’s Keep that make other mystery authors want to plant exploding devices in your tires and sabotage your flights. Care to comment?

WKK: You do know how to sweet talk a guy. It’s passages like this—I worked on this one for a very long time—that make the writing both a marvelous challenge and an overwhelming pleasure.

CJ: On page 141 Cork makes the comment that, “Some men behave differently when they’re away from their families”, and on page 184 another character says, “Hard telling how a man behaves away from home”. Umm… This begs the question, what are you like on the road, Kent ?

WKK: A hellion. I never met a roadhouse I didn’t like. Actually, I’m pretty staid. Although at conferences I love to hang out in the bar after the work of the day is done, I don’t hang out as late as I used to. Which reminds me, don’t you owe me a drink?

CJ: What do you consider your books to be, police procedurals, classical mysteries or literary whodunits for people that are so entranced by the story that by the time they get to the end don’t give a damn about whodunit?

WKK: I hope that by the time they close the book people don’t give a damn about whodunit, because honestly most readers are smart enough to have figured that part out long before the end. So I pray that I write a compelling narrative in all regards—with powerful language, intriguing characters, dynamic tension, great setting, etc. Some of my favorite writers in this genre are people whose books don’t quite fit a niche, but who write one hell of a great story. Like you, for example.

CJ? Some of my favorite descriptive passages in your novels usually have to do with water, so in what way has living in the land of ten thousand lakes affected your writing?
WKK: I’m a water sign, and I’ve always been drawn to water. I’m really grateful that I can set my stories in a place where water in so many forms—rivers, lakes, streams, rain—helps to define the landscape. I’d be screwed if I lived in Arizona.

CJ: Do you drink a Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark beer every once in a while just for ‘sense memory’ purposes?

WKK: Honest to god, it’s my beer of choice, particularly in winter. In summer, I go with a regular Leinies.

CJ: In the opening of Heaven’s Keep Cork is no longer a standing sheriff, how has this change in context affected the novels?

WKK: Cork’s been and out of uniform a lot. I’ve finally had him put the badge away for good—although the tension between him and Jo at the beginning of Heaven’s Keep is due to the possibility that Cork might take a job as deputy. In our genre, as you well know, you have to have a believable motivation for your protagonist’s involvement. In your case, Walt is a sheriff. His interest is understandable. In order to believably involve Cork in things, I’ve made him a PI. That said, his involvement in the intrigue at the heart of Heaven’s Keep is profoundly personal. When I look at all the books in the series, that’s what I keep coming back to. Even when Cork was sheriff, his involvement was very personal because often the safety of people he cares about was at issue. So that will probably continue to be the case. Until, I guess, everyone Cork cares about is dead.

CJ: How would you say the arc of story differs in a series as opposed to a singular novel, and after this impacting episode, where does Cork O’Conner go from here?

WKK: In any series in which the characters age, there’s story arc. That’s one of the things I love about a series, watching how time and circumstance shape people I’ve come to know as well as I know my own family and friends. Cork’s story has played out over about eight years of his life now. His children have grown and are departing for their own lives Cork has to deal with his own aging and the changes in his circumstance. It’s a broad canvas we get to paint on, and in my case, I just see it extending blank into the future, waiting for me to imagine what will fill it. As for Cork, to know where he’s headed, you’ll have to read the next book in the series, Vermilion Drift, which should be out in the fall of 2010.

Hey, buddy, I just want to say thanks. These were great, thoughtful questions. But I wasn’t kidding about that drink you owe me.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cool Canadian Crime: Rick Mofina

Today David Cole continues his Cool Canadian Crime interviews. A special thanks to David Cole for these wonderful interviews with Canadian Crime Writers. Today: Rick Mofina

Previously, David interviewed
Louise Penny, Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, Thomas Rendell Curran, Gail Bowen, Garry Ryan, RJ Harlick, and Anthony Bidulka. This group of authors were chosen by David to represent a variety of mystery genres, styles, and historical periods. More to come.

Rick Mofina is a former journalist and an award-winning author of several acclaimed thrillers. His reporting has put him face-to-face with murderers on death row in Montana and Texas. He has covered a horrific serial killing case in California, an armored car heist in Las Vegas, flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD Air Support Division and gone on patrol with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. He has reported across Canada, the USA and from the Caribbean, Africa and Kuwait’s border with Iraq. His true crime articles have appeared in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Reader’s Digest and Penthouse.

His book, Blood of Others, won the Arthur Ellis Award, and the International Thriller Writers named his book, The Dying Hour, (due for UK, Australia and New Zealand release Sept-Oct 2009) as a finalist for an inaugural Thriller Award. His short story, “Lightning Rider,” won the Arthur Ellis Award and is included in the anthology, Murder in Vegas, Edited by Michael Connelly. Six Seconds, his standalone global thriller, was released in January 2009, and by 2010 will be published in 12 countries and 7 languages. His next book, Vengeance Road, (Released Sept. 2009) has been praised as, "a thriller with no speed limit," by Michael Connelly.

DC: Canadian authors such as you, Louise Penny and Linwood Barclay are becoming a more well known internationally. Why do you think that this is the case?

RM: I think it has everything to do with being good story tellers. On a philosophical level it might be that Canadians tend to be somewhat insular in the winter and spend much of our time in deep thought during the deep freeze. I can hear Canadians laughing at that observation, but maybe there’s some truth to it. Also, a Canadian has yet to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. I’m hoping Alice Munro will be our first, although I’d say Margaret Atwood is the odds on favourite.

DC: I understand that you are due to start a third series, tell us a bit about it and why have you decided to start a new series.

RM:VENGEANCE ROAD concerns the murder of a broken-hearted woman and the chilling disappearance of her friend. Hero cop, Karl Styebeck, is beloved by his community but privately police are uneasy with the answers he gives to protect the life – and the lie – he’s lived.

The case haunts Jack Gannon a gritty, blue-collar reporter whose sister ran away from their family years ago. Gannon risks more than his job to pursue the story behind Styebeck’s dark secret, his link to the women.

DC: Tell us a bit more about yourself?

RM: I grew up in a working-class family east of Toronto, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. I started writing fiction in grade school and never stopped. I was 15 when I sold my first short story. I was 18 when I hitchhiked to California and wrote a (dreadful still unpublished) novel about the experience. In university I studied Journalism and English Literature, including a course in American Detective Fiction.

I was a cub reporter at The Toronto Star, the same paper where Hemingway worked, before I embarked on a career in journalism that spanned three decades and several newsrooms. My reporting has put me face-to-face with murderers on death row in Montana and Texas. I covered a horrific serial killing case in California, an armoured car heist in Las Vegas, and the murders of police officers in Alberta.

DC: Your novel Six Seconds is your first standalone novel. What made you decide to write a standalone novel?

RM: I was ready for it. After producing at total of 8 books for 2 series, I was ready to take a shot at a standalone with a story that had a global canvass. It seemed the perfect way to get things rolling with MIRA Books my new publisher.

The book took shape; by refining a number of unrelated scenes, dramas and events I had observed during my time as a reporter; such as the heart-wrenching anguish of interviewing a mother whose child had vanished. Then there was the time I was on assignment in Nigeria, not long after the September 11 attacks. I was in the Abuja where I saw a boy in a slum wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Osama bin Laden’s picture and message calling him #1 Hero. On that African trip I also visited Ethiopia where I watched old women, who lived in some of the harshest conditions on earth, weaving fabric on a loom in the slums of Addis Ababa. Prior to that, I was in the Gulf where I talked to British aid workers, and at Kuwait’s boarder with Iraq. I also talked to peacekeepers from Canada concerned about the toll land mines were taking on children who plucked them from the dunes.

What if I took these elements and twisted them into fictional threads that were all connected? What if ordinary people from different parts of the world became ensnared by extraordinary events that could alter history as a clock ticked down on them? Suppose it all came down to six seconds?

DC: You have written five books in your first series featuring Tom Reed and Walt Sydowski based in San Francisco, California. Where did you get the characteristics for the two main characters?

RM: Tom Reed is a compilation. I think he embodies the sins and virtues of every hard-driving new reporter I’ve ever known. He works well with Walt Sydowski. He represents every grizzled detective I’ve ever met, including one or two with the SFPD Homicide Detail and some Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators. And he stands as a foil and father-figure to Reed. I’ve used some of my father’s actual biography in shaping Sydowski, in that my dad is Polish. He was a child when the Nazis invaded Poland.

DC: You only wrote 3 books in your second series featuring Jason Wade, a rookie crime reporter, which is set in Seattle, Washington. Was he by any chance based on you?

RM: I did draw upon my time as a rookie reporter at The Toronto Star. At the Star, I learned the news business by reporting craft working in the suburban bureaus and the metro news desk at One Yonge Street. I covered a range of stories, including a murder trial, and a takedown by the SWAT team looking for an escaped killer. I also did time in the "torture chamber," the cell-like room housing banks of chattering police scanners where you kept your ears pricked for the first hint of a story that could stop the heart of the city. Or break it. But it was in writing The Dying Hour, with rookie Jason Wade, pursuing the first big story of his news career, that I looked back on mine. Through Jason, it was easy to re-live the thrill of landing a scoop and the adrenaline-fuelled days of my summer at The Toronto Star.

DC: Will you go back to either series?

RM: In September 2009, the Jason Wade Series will be launched with release of THE DYING HOUR (Selected finalist by The International Thriller Writers, for a Thriller Award) in the UK by MIRA who will give it a big push. Approximately six months later, the second book EVERY FEAR will be released in the UK and six months after that, the third, A PERFECT GRAVE.

DC: In 2003 Blood of Others, which was is the third book in the Reed and Sydowski series won the Arthur Ellis Award as Best Novel. You have also won another award for your short story Lighting Rider in 2006. Has wining these awards had an effect on your writing?

RM: No. They are terrific validations, but they don’t erase self doubt.

DC: Are you going to continue to write standalone novels are you going to go back to writing a series?

RM: Yes to both.

DC: Was it a long journey in between your work as a journalist and you starting to write crime fiction? If so why the long journey?
RM: I was always writing since I was maybe seven years old. It is an affliction. My first novel was written when I was 18. Others followed. It wasn’t until some 20 years later that I became a published novelist. For me, as a reporter by day, novelist by night, a light had been switched on. Covering human tragedies and dramas up close was overwhelming. But on another level, having a university degree in English Literature, Journalism, and having studied religious responses to death and American Detective Fiction, I felt I was equipped to try to make sense of what I was experiencing.

DC: What has been your most rewarding experience as a journalist and what was your most scary?

RM: There was a little girl who had a terminal brain condition and her dream was to meet a certain music star. When her family’s situation was made known to my news organization, we wrote about it and her dream came true. The family invited me back stage for the meeting, there was not a dry eye there.

The most scary, there were many, let’s see . . One quiet night I was working alone in the newsroom on the cop beat when a call came in for me. It was a convicted murderer who was calling from prison. From the psych ward. I didn’t know him, but I had written about him. That night he confessed to me how he tricked his way to get access to a telephone because he needed to talk to somebody outside of the institution. So, I said, talk. He then went into to every detail, every vile, disgusting detail, of how he abducted two young women then held them hostage in a suburban home. Then he told me exactly how he murdered one but decided to let the other live. He was not remorseful, or even emotional. He just wanted me to have a clear accounting. Then he hung up. My spine rattled for hours after. I had trouble sleeping that night. That’s only one strange experience from the beat.

DC: What was the biggest challenge you faced when you first moved from the world of Journalism to writing Fiction? And did you always intend to write Crime as opposed to literary fiction?

RM: I was writing fiction long before I became a journalist, so the shift was not really a challenge. I saw journalism as a passport to experiences that would strengthen my lifelong pursuit of writing the best fiction I could. When I found myself on the crime desk of the Calgary Herald, I thought, this is it, this is the palate from which I can draw.

DC: Are you passionate about the genre and what do you think of the current trends today?

RM: I think crime fiction is in its golden period. I don’t reflect much on trends. A good story is a good story.

DC: Some do not consider the genre to be "literary" enough and at times it does not get the accolade it deserves. Do you believe that this is the case, and if so have you any views on how people’s views might be changed?

RM: Of course it is true, and I don’t give it much thought. It’s wasted energy to debate it. As mentioned, a good story is a good story. The job of any author is to keep the reader engaged. If the reader is struggling to find the point of the book, or the story between the covers, then the author has failed. And authors have succeeded and failed in all genres. Just take a look at best seller lists around the world, crime fiction stands well.

DC: Which part of the fiction-writing process do you find most gratifying?

RM: Well there’ve been a lot of nice comments, like ‘you kept me up all night,’ and ‘you need to write more books faster’. But one that stands out came from a lovely handwritten letter from a woman in Indiana. Seems she was on vacation in the west and bought my first book, If Angels Fall, in a used book bin for 25 cents. After reading it, she liked it so much, she cut me a personal check for the full cover price, $7.00, which she’d attached to her letter. She told me I’d earned it. I was blown away. I thanked her. And yes, I cashed the check, but I’ve kept a photocopy that I intend to frame some day.