Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mystery Bytes: January 31

Mystery Bytes: Short News & Info for the Mystery Reader

One of the biggest stories yesterday reported is that online book retailer removed the buy buttons from all active Macmillan titles on its site in a dispute over the pricing of e-books for the Kindle. Macmillan titles can only be purchased on the site through used book or third-party resellers. Many Indie booksellers have established special Macmillan displays or pages on their websites.

The big news this week for eReaders, and you have to be Outer Mongolia not to have heard about this, is Apple's new iPad. It will be interesting to see how the iPad decides on pricing of eBooks. In the meantime, here's a very funny Mad TV skit on the iPad.

This should not come as a surprise to readers, but the Daily News had a story today "American's [sic] indulge in simplest pleasures, like [sic] buying books, during tough economic times. Clearly the headline writer needs a refresher course in grammar.
"Three-quarters of adults questioned in an online poll said they would sacrifice holidays, dining out, going to the movies and even shopping sprees but they could not resist buying books." Good news, indeed. To find out what else people spent money on, you can read the rest of the article HERE., one of my favorite sources for out of print books, has a great article by Beth Carswell on The Skinny on Fat in Fiction. This is a wonderful discourse on 'fat' in fiction starting with Nero Wolfe, one of the heaviest detectives in the whole of the crime fiction world. The article raises some good questions. Read this article HERE.

Here's an article straight out of Carl Hiassen. MSNBC reported Friday: Body of Missing Lottery Winner Found: Winning $30 million in the Florida Lottery should have been the best thing that ever happened to Abraham Shakespeare. But with his newfound wealth came a string of bad choices and hangers-on who constantly hit him up for money. Nine months ago, he vanished. Friends and family hoped he was on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean.

On Friday, detectives confirmed that a body buried under a concrete slab in a rural backyard was his.

The difference between Memoir and Fiction is a fine line, even in mystery fiction. Read Taylor Antrim's article on BLOGS & STORIES HERE.

Free entry to 2010 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime writing Festival: Harrogate
, U.K. July 22-25. Alibi has teamed up with HarperCollins and Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, to find the hottest new crime-writing talent. xx will submit a crime fiction short story (2000-5000 words). Stuart MacBride has provided the first line of the story," In my experience, those who beg for mercy seldom deserve it." Read the particulars HERE.

Kelli Stanley, author of Nox Domienda: A Long Night for Sleeping and City of Dragons is interviewed by Heather Moore about moving from Small Press to Major Publisher. Read the interview HERE. Kelli will launch City of Dragons Tuesday night at M is for Mystery in San Mateo (CA). Chinese Food & Scotch.

And,on my Chocolate Blog: today mystery author Mary Kennedy, author of Dead Air, guest blogs her Killer Kahlua Brownie recipe. Lots of mystery/chocolate crossovers.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Partners in Crime: David Corbett

Today, David Corbett Guest Blogs as part of the continuing series here on Mystery Fanfare: Partners in Crime, Authors who Collaborate. Previous Partners in Crime Guest Bloggers have include: Jeffery Deaver, Charles Todd (Charles & Caroline Todd), Charlotte Elkins, Mark Zubro, Bill Crider, and Reed Farrel Coleman.

David Corbett, in addition to being a contributor to the two serial novels The Chopin Manuscript and The Copper Bracelet—first released separately in audio form through, then packaged together in hardcover by Vanguard Press— is the author of four critically acclaimed novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime, Blood of Paradise and Do They Know I’m Running?( appearing in March 2010).

David’s essays and short fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and his story “Pretty Little Parasite” (Las Vegas Noir) was selected for inclusion in Best American Mystery Stories 2009. In another collaboration project, he teamed with Luis Alberto Urrea for a story titled "Who Stole My Monkey?" that will appear in the upcoming (October 2010) Lone Star Noir. He has taught at UCLA Extension, Book Passage, Wordstock, and the East of Eden Writers Conference.

David Corbett:

I was intrigued when Jim Fusilli asked if I wanted to be part of an as yet unnamed serial novel project through International Thriller Writers (ITW). First, it was clear there was going to be a lot of talent involved, with Jeff Deaver and Lee Child, David Hewson and SJ Rozan and a host of others already on board. This would mean everyone would have to bring his A game, and Jim—the best cat herder I know—would make sure the story never tripped off into navel-gazing territory or VanityLand.

We got to pick our places, more or less, and I knew that getting an early chapter meant I'd have less to explain or justify, fewer threads to tie together. Luckily, I was fifth in order—or, at least, I was when I wrote my chapter. Funny how things change in a project like this.

By the time my turn arrived, we'd already been to Poland, Rome, Africa and the Washington, D.C. area, all in a mere four chapters. I figured some follow-up was called for, and decided not to do what some might think I'd do: send everyone to Central America! No, I was a good lad. Besides, Erica Spindler, bless her heart, had already nailed me to the wall with a doozy of a plot twist.

In Erica's chapter, she had our hero's daughter receiving a call from her father's cell phone. Only the caller was not her father, Harry Middleton, our hero, but an imposter. It was a great little shocker, a wonderful twist. Just one problem: The last time we'd seen good old Harry, his cell phone had been firmly in his possession. And as yet we had no inkling of how he might have mislaid the thing.

In short, I couldn't have sailed off for Central America if I'd wanted to. I had to justify that damn phone call.

As it turned out, of course, that worked out just doggone swell. Problems are simply challenges, as they say in the service, so I came up with a justification for not only why Harry no longer had his cell phone, but why he didn't realize it until later. (We were putting him through an ordeal or two, poor guy, and anyone in his spot might well forget his boxers in the john.)

But I also saw an opportunity to introduce an element that until then had been undeveloped. Harry was a music aficionado, and in Jeff Deaver's first chapter he was ruminating over some Chopin manuscripts that had previously been undiscovered. I'd once heard a rumor that, if it isn't true, ought to be, to the effect that Nazi spies had used twelve-tone music performances, which have no discernible tonal center and thus never seem to possess a "wrong note," to pass secret messages to American fifth columnists among the cultural elite here in the States during World War II. I decided to have Harry, after hearing a performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire on the radio of the car he's hijacked to get to his daughter, realize that it's not the manuscript the villains are after, it's the coded message within the manuscript—and that will tell him what they're really after.

I felt quite proud of myself for that little turn, but credit eluded me. John Ramsay Miller had the next chapter, but when Jim Fusilli got it, he decided it worked better coming before mine rather than after. However, since John actually wrote it after reading mine, he let it slip that Harry was thinking along the coded manuscript lines, and my surprise got preempted. (Pause for prolonged sigh.)

However, I did get some revenge. I was getting the hang of this leave-the-next-author-in-the-lurch thing, and I ended my chapter with the sudden appearance of an unidentified beauty with a gun. Jim Fusilli was intrigued. He took a stab at guessing who she was. I replied, "I have no clue who she is, that's for somebody else to figure out."

Oh, the fun of the serial thriller.

Apparently I didn't embarrass myself (or antagonize anyone) too badly, for I was invited to join the next barrel of monkeys conscripted into writing the sequel, The Copper Bracelet.

Jeff again kicked things off, and I gathered from the story line he was flirting with—he very cagily and generously hung back a little, so the rest of us could have a free hand—that we were going to end up in Kashmir and water was going to be the big issue. I summoned my trusty researcher, Binky McGoogle, and she very quickly tipped me off to a huge water dispute in Kashmir that had almost brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war: a dam project in the Indian-controlled areas that Pakistan claimed deprived it of much needed irrigation water. (I met Jeff at the Wordstock conference in Portland later that year, and he slyly admitted that, yes, this had been on his mind the whole time.)

Well, no one else picked up on this before the time came for me to write my chapter, so I decided to run with it. Not that I had much choice. Again, I was fairly boxed in by what had come before, this time because my fellow authors had either taken us to lands we never expected to visit (Joe Finder decided to send our hero to Russia, because . . . well, why not?), or had thrown in a plot twist so out of left field it had us all shaking our heads (Lisa Scottoline, take a bow), that I was asked to settle things down a little, return to our gentle hero, and write the chapter commonly referred to as: Where the hell are we, and why?

Joe had left poor Harry in Russia on the verge of catastrophe, so there I stayed, and what better way to explain a complicated chain of events than an interrogation scene? I know, cheap trick, contrived mano-a-mano drama—so sue me. I went back to all the chapters, outlined them, tracked the various loose ends, abandoned plot threads and red herrings, and figured out a way to make everything cohere, then laid it out in a tense, back-and-forth chess match between our intrepid American hero and his pitiless Slavic inquisitor . . .

Or something like that. I'm told it worked. I've received no hate mail.

The funny thing? I have no clue how either book developed after my chapter. I've been so busy with other projects I've not been able to listen to the audio versions—despite being an almost shameless Alfred Molina fan—nor have I read the print versions in Watchlist. I did my bit and moved on. Is that the sign of a pro or what?

Curiously, another collaboration opportunity fell in my lap this past fall. It all began a year earlier, when Luis Alberto Urrea was in San Francisco being featured, feted and fawned over because The Hummingbird's Daughter had been chosen for the One City-One Book extravaganza. We met through a mutual friend, discovered we had another mutual friend in John Connolly—whom Luis considers a madman—and just basically hit it off.

Then Luis, whose tastes are nothing if not eclectic, talked about maybe collaborating on something in the genre realm, using his exhaustive knowledge of the border and Mexican arcana and my genre instincts for straight-ahead train-wreck plotting. It sounded like fun, but our other obligations kept us from doing anything but talking about it until Bobby Byrd needed a story for the forthcoming Lone Star Noir, and Luis decided to throw me a bone. He had the main character, Chester Richard, a zydeco legend with an eye for the jeunes filles, already in mind, the musical background, the Port Arthur locale, a few other impressionistic details. I added a few of my own, we tossed a few other ideas back and forth, then agreed on a general story idea. I took first whack, Luis batted second, I did some minor cleanup and we sent it in. Bobby liked it so much he decided to bookend the anthology with it, with the other bookend being a story by the late great James Crumley.

We're thinking about a follow-up, a novel this time, based on a gunslinging tour guide in the Guatemalan wilderness, because Luis can't take a vacation without thinking up some way to turn it into a story.

Which, of course, is a good thing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jedediah Berry wins Crawford Award

Jedediah Berry has been named the winner of this year’s William L. Crawford Award for his first novel The Manual of Detection. The award, presented annually at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, is designated for a new fantasy writer whose first book appeared the previous year. This year’s conference will be March 17-21 in Orlando, FL.

The Manual of Detective has also been considered for awards in the Mystery Community and has been reviewed as a whodunit. I think it's both.

Laurie R. King will be appearing with Jedediah Berry on February 13 (SciFi in San Francisco), The Variety Preview Room, 582 Market St. @ Montgomery, 1st floor of The Hobart Bldg. Doors open at 6:00PM,Cash Bar - Proceeds to Variety. Readings begin at 7:00PM Followed by Q & A moderated by Terry Bisson. Signing and schmoozing in the lounge afterwards

The nominators for The Crawford award also shortlisted Deborah Biancotti’s story collection A Book of Endings, Kari Sperring’s novel Living with Ghosts, and Ali Shaw’s novel The Girl With Glass Feet, and wanted to commend two other authors whose works were ineligible this year but were highly regarded: Robert V.S. Redick, whose The Red Wolf Conspiracy appeared in 2008 and whose The Ruling Sea appears in 2010, and Michal Ajvaz, whose The Other City originally appeared in Czech in 1993 but was first translated into English, by Gerald Turner, in 2009.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mystery Bytes: January 26

So many things going on in the Mystery Community. Mystery Bytes is a sporatic round-up of Mystery News.

The Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine invite submissions for the 4th annual Black Orchid Novella Award. The contest seeks a novella that demonstrates literary excellence in the tradition of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories. Each entry must be an original work of fiction, not published elsewhere. Stories are to be 13,000 to 20,000 words in length and are to conform to the tradition of the Nero Wolfe stories: no overt sex or violence, and the emphasis must be on the deductive skills of the sleuth. The stories are not to include characters from the Nero Wolfe series. The winner will receive $1,000; the winning novella will be published in AHMM. Deadline is May 31, 2010. For details, go to:
Jim Huang posted on his blog yesterday that The Mystery Company, his mystery bookstore in Carmel, IN, is closing his doors. There will be a final party on Saturday, January 39, 1-3 p.m. and then he'll wrap up operations in early February. At this time, there are no plans for selling the business, but interested buyers should contact Jim. Jim will be moving to a new job out of state at Kenyon College where he'll be the general manager of the college bookstore. To read more, go HERE.
Classes: Info from Les Klinger, Sherlockian Scholar.
February 6: UCLA. Sherlock Holmes. Explore the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, as the fog swirls through Victorian London and it is always 1895! The course includes a critical reading of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic stories; an examination of Holmes's progenitors and rivals; analysis of the classic problems of "Sherlockian" scholarship; and study of the lives of Holmes, Watson, and other familiar persona of the tales. Examples of Holmes and Watson on screen and radio also are presented. No prior knowledge of the subject required. Recommended advance reading: A Study in Scarlet, "A Scandal in Bohemia" (from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Required text: The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: Complete Short Stories and The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels or similar complete edition.
Westwood: 202 Extension Lindbrook Center, 9am-4pm
The Crime Factory (originally a print magazine from Australia, ed by David Honeybone) is now Crimefactory, an Internet based .pdf format with short stories, features and reviews on crime/mystery fiction. Issue #1 includes an excerpt from Killer by Ken Bruen, Scott Phillips' tribute to Charles Willeford and more. Click here to read the first issue.
Hat Tip to The Rap Sheet.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Literary Salon with Jeri Westerson in Berkeley: January 28

Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening with Award Nominated Mystery Author Jeri Westerson on Thursday, January 28, at 7 p.m. in Berkeley (CA). Send me a note if you'd like to attend.

Jeri Westerson's detective, Crispin Guest, is a disgraced knight turned PI, solving crimes on the mean streets of fourteenth century London. Her first Medieval Noir in the series is VEIL OF LIES. It received nominations for the Mystery Readers International Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. SERPENT IN THE THORNS, the second in the series, was just nominated for a Bruce Alexander Mystery Award.

Visit Jeri’s blog for articles on history and mystery as well as author interviews. Or see what Crispin has to say on his very own blog at

RSVP for this literary evening in Berkeley!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Left Coast Crime Award Nominees

Left Coast Crime announced the nominees for awards that will be given out at Left Coast Crime 2010: Booked in L.A. Left Coast Crime 20 will be held March 11-14 at the Omni Hotel.

The Lefty Award for Humorous Mystery:

Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews
Living With Your Kids Is Murder by Mike Befeler
Strangle a Loaf of Italian Bread by Denise Dietz
Getting Old Is a Disaster by Rita Lakin
High Crimes on the Magical Plane by Kris Neri

The Bruce Alexander Award for Historical Mystery:

Tears of Pearl
by Tasha Alexander
In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen
Freedom’s Fight by Gary Phillips
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
Serpent in the Thorns by Jeri Westerson

The Panik Award for LA Noir (in honor of the late Paul Anik, Chair of LCC20, to be given this year only):

Cemetery Road Gar Anthony Haywood
Trust No One by Gregg Hurwitz
Death Was in the Picture by Linda Richards
Boulevard by Stephen J. Schwartz

Congratulations to all!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dilys Award Nominees

There was so much news in the mystery community yesterday that I forgot to post the Dilys Awards. The Dilys Award is given annually by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association to the mystery title of the year which the
member booksellers have most enjoyed selling. The Dilys Award is named
in honor of Dilys Winn, the founder of the first specialty bookseller of
mystery books in the United States, and is presented at the Left Coast
Crime mystery convention.

2010 Dilys Nominees (for books published in 2009)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan

Congratulations to all!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nevermore? Mystery Visitor Misses Poe's Birthday

The New York Times reported "Nevermore? Mystery Visitor Misses Poe's Birthday."

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Is this tradition ''nevermore''?

A mysterious visitor who left roses and cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe each year on the writer's birthday failed to show early Tuesday, breaking with a ritual that began more than 60 years ago.

''I'm confused, befuddled,'' said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum. ''I don't know what's going on.''

The tradition dates back to at least 1949, according to newspaper accounts from the era, Jerome said. Since then, an unidentified person has come every Jan. 19 to leave three roses and a half-bottle of cognac at Poe's grave in a church cemetery in downtown Baltimore.

Read the Full Story HERE.

Robert B. Parker: R.I.P.

Ali Karim sends the sad news that Robert B. Parker has died suddenly at the age of 77, "just sitting at his desk" at home, according to his U.K. Publisher Quercus. "No illness."

I first met Robert B. Parker at the 1982 Bouchercon in 1982 in San Francisco. He did a great job as Guest of Honor. It was a small convention, and there was plenty of time to chat. He talked about his writing, his personal life, and his love of mysteries. Over the years, he continued to become even more more prolific, writing as many as three novels a year.

Robert B Parker, the author of Boston P.O. Spenser is often acknowledged as the Dean of American Crime Fiction. He began writing the popular Spenser novels in 1971. Spenser is a witty, literate, Scotch-drinking, ex-boxer, Korean War Vet, cooking detective who appeared in over 36 novels. For the complete list of the Spenser Series, go HERE. He also wrote the Sunny Randall Series and the Jesse Stone Series, as well as over a dozen stand-alone novels. The latest Spenser novel is The Professional (Putnam) Parker also wrote several non-fiction books and a Y.A. novel.

Read an Interview with Robert B. Parker, HERE.

Parker’s fictional Spenser inspired the ABC-TV series Spenser: For Hire. In February 2005, CBS-TV broadcast the Jesse Stone novel Stone Cold. The second CBS movie, Night Passage, and the third, Death in Paradise, aired on April 30, 2006.

Parker was named Grand Master of the 2002 Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America and the Gumshoe Award for Lifetime Achievement.

This news is very hard to process.

Sarah Weinman is updating her post on Robert B. Parker with tributes from blogs and websites. You can read this here.

Read Sarah Weinman's tribute in the LA Times HERE.

Mark Pratt, an AP Writer posted at noon on 1/19/10:

BOSTON (AP) — Robert B. Parker, the blunt and beloved crime novelist who helped revive and modernize the hard-boiled genre and branded a tough guy of his own through his "Spenser" series, has died. He was 77.
An ambulance was sent to Parker’s home in Cambridge on Monday morning for reports of a sudden death, said Alexa Manocchio, spokeswoman for the Cambridge police department.
Parker’s longtime agent, Helen Brant, said that the author’s widow, Joan, called her Monday right after finding him dead at his desk.
"They had had breakfast together Monday and he was perfectly fine," Brant said. "She went out to do her running and when she came back about an hour later, he was dead. We were in a complete state of shock and still cannot quite believe it."
Prolific to the end, Parker wrote more than 50 novels, including 37 featuring Boston private eye Spenser. The character’s first name was a mystery and his last name emphatically spelled with an "s" in the middle, not a "c." He was the basis for the 1980s TV series "Spenser: For Hire," starring Robert Urich.
Parker openly worshipped Raymond Chandler and other classic crime writers and helped bring back their cool, clipped style in the first "Spenser" novel, "The Godwulf Manuscript" from 1973. Within a few years, in "Looking for Rachel Wallace" and "Early Autumn," he was acclaimed as a master in his own right.
"Hard-boiled detective fiction was essentially dead in the early ‘70s. It was considered almost a museum thing," said Ace Atkins, author of "Devil’s Garden," "Wicked City" and several other novels. "When Parker brought out Spenser, it reinvigorated the genre. ... I wouldn’t have a job now without Robert Parker."
Robert Crais, known for his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels, said Parker "opened the doors for everyone who came after."

Brant, Parker’s agent, said a private ceremony will take place this week to remember the author, and a public memorial, a "celebration of his life and work," is planned for mid-February in Boston.

MWA 2010 Edgar Award Nominees

Mystery Writers of America announces the Nominees for the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2009. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to thewinners at our 64th Gala Banquet, April 29, 2010 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

The Missing by Tim Gautreaux (Random House-Alfred A. Knopf)
The Odds by Kathleen George (Minotaur Books)
The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books)
Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (Random House - Ballantine Books)
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett (HarperCollins)
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (Grand Central Publishing)
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (MIRA Books)
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (HarperCollins)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)

Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Havana Lunar by Robert Arellano (Akashic Books)
The Lord God Bird by Russell Hill (Pleasure Boat Studio – Caravel Books)
Body Blows by Marc Strange (Dundurn Press – Castle Street Mysteries)
The Herring-Seller’s Apprentice by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)

Columbine by Dave Cullen (Hachette Book Group - Twelve)
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)
The Fence: A Police Cover-Up Along Boston’s Racial Divide by Dick Lehr (HarperCollins)
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (The Penguin Press)
Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)

Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)
The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest
Detectives edited by Otto Penzler (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King by Lisa Rogak (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)
The Stephen King Illustrated Companion by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)

"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" – Crossroad Blues by Ace Atkins (Busted Flush Press)
"Femme Sole" – Boston Noir by Dana Cameron (Akashic Books)
"Digby, Attorney at Law" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Jim Fusilli (Dell Magazines)
"Animal Rescue" – Boston Noir by Dennis Lehane (Akashic Books
"Amapola" – Phoenix Noir by Luis Alberto Urrea (Akashic Books)

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books)
Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Penguin Young Readers Group – Philomel Books)

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperTeen)
If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)
The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking Children’s Books)
Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books)
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)

“Place of Execution,” Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (PBS/WGBH Boston)
“Strike Three” – The Closer, Teleplay by Steven Kane (Warner Bros TV for TNT)
“Look What He Dug Up This Time” – Damages, Teleplay by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler &
Daniel Zelman (FX Networks)
“Grilled” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by George Mastras (AMC/Sony)
“Living the Dream” – Dexter, Teleplay by Clyde Phillips (Showtime)

"A Dreadful Day" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Dan Warthman (Dell Magazines)

Dorothy Gilman

Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Zev Buffman, International Mystery Writers’ Festival

Poisoned Pen Press (Barbara Peters & Robert Rosenwald)

Awakening by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof by Blaize Clement (Minotaur Books)
Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Lethal Vintage by Nadia Gordon (Chronicle Books)
Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel (HarperCollins)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Alafair Burke: Interview w/MWA Board Members about Edgars

Check out Alafair Burke's Blog today for a fun Video in which she interviews incoming, outgoing, and recurring members of the Mystery Writers to America Board to recognize the works they would most like to see nominated for an Edgar Award this year. The nominations will be out tomorrow, but in the meantime watch the video and see what Lee Goldberg, Chris Grabenstein, Reed Farrel Coleman and several other mystery authors have to say!

You can answer, too.
What novels, debuts, paperback originals, short stories, true crime books, plays, TV shows, or movies would you like to see recognized this year?

I'll post the nominees tomorrow when they're released.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Scandinavian Crime: Red Blood and White Snow

This isn't news to anyone who's been reading Crime Fiction for the past few years, but Scandinavian Crime is Hot. No that's not an oxymoron. Anyone who reads, knows about Stieg Larrson, and readers of crime fiction know more and have read more Scandinavian mysteries by such authors as Henning Mankell, Helene Tursten, the Sjowalls, Arnaldur Indriason, and many others. Today and yesterday there were two feature articles in two different papers about Scandinavian Crime Fiction.

Laura Miller writes in today's Wall Street Journal about "The Strange Case of the Nordic Detectives: The growing appeal of Scandinavian crime fiction; existential malaise and bad coffee."

I love her first paragraph: "It's a truth universally acknowledged—in literary circles, at least—that gloomy novels don't sell. Inform a reader that the book in his or her hands tells a grim story about depressed characters in a bleak setting, and you'll see it dropped instantly in favor of some breathless thriller about secret messages implanted in famous paintings or a sentimental yarn about love that transcends time. There's one big exception, though: Take that wintery landscape and add a dead body, then take that mopey main character and make him a sleuth trying to figure out who's responsible for the corpse. Double check to make sure we're not far from the Arctic Circle, and suddenly you have the recipe for an international best seller."

Read the rest of the article

And Julia Keller wrote in yesterday's L.A. Times, "Scandinavian mystery novels are hot with readers." She poses the question why the rising fever for Nordic noir and answers it.

Read the the article HERE.

Want to learn more about Scandinavian Crime? Mystery Readers Journal had an issue on Scandinavian Mysteries. Many of the contributors to the Author! Author! section have not yet been translated into English, except perhaps for these essays. Since I'm the editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, I can honestly say we were on the cutting edge. This issue came out in 2007. Check the Table of Contents here.

There are several Blogs devoted to Scandinavian sleuths and crime fiction, one of which is Scandinavian Crime Fiction This blog is part of a project to document and celebrate the amazing amount of high-quality crime fiction coming from the Scandinavian countries and being translated into English. Start up funding for the project was provided by a Research, Scholarship and Creativity grant from Gustavus Adolphus College, a Swedish-heritage liberal arts college in Minnesota. Its companion website The Gustavus Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library has an impressive list of Scandinavian Crime Fiction in English with links to author websites and reviews.

And a few other Blogs and websites on Scandinavian Crime: The Nordic Bookblog This blog on Scandinavian literature presents reviews of books, information about authors, and literary news from Scandinavia. The blog focuses on current literature, primarily fiction, and mostly crime fiction, thrillers, and mystery books. This is an extension of ScandinavianBooks.

And, a few other Blogs and Sites that always or often are about Scandinavian Crime Fiction

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Partners in Crime: Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver Guest Blogs today as part of the Partners in Crime (writers who collaborate with other writers) series here on Mystery Fanfare.

Jeffery Deaver, the author of twenty-five novels and two collections of short stories, has been awarded the Steel Dagger and Short Story Dagger from the CWA, is a three-time recipient of the Ellery Queen Reader's Award for Best Short Story of the Year and is a winner of the British Thumping Good Read Award. The Bodies Left Behind won the "Best Thriller Of The Year" award from the International Thriller Writers Organization in 2009. His thriller The Cold Moon won a Grand Prix from the Japanese Adventure Fiction Association and was named Book of the Year by the Mystery Writers Association of Japan. He's been nominated for six Edgar Awards from MWA, an Anthony Award and a Gumshoe Award. He was shortlisted for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Best International Author. Jeff won a "Lovey Readers Award" for best series of 2008, for the Lincoln Rhyme series, at the Love Is Murder writers' conference. His book A Maiden's Grave was made into an HBO movie starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, and his novel The Bone Collector was a feature release from Universal Pictures, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. His most recent books are The Bodies Left Behind, The Broken Window, The Sleeping Doll and More Twisted: Collected Stories, Volume II. And, yes, the rumors are true, he did appear as a corrupt reporter on his favorite soap opera, As The World Turns.

Playing with Others
By Jeffery Deaver

I was a little surprised to find how much I enjoyed the process of contributing to the two novels that are included in Vanguard's recent release, Watchlist.

I'm one of those people who would be described by the school psychologist as somebody "who doesn't play well with others." Not that I don't like people, in fact I'm quite--sometimes too--social. (I mean, who wouldn't rather go out for a beer with friends than proofread your damn manuscript one more time?) But when it comes to my novels and short stories, I have such a strong idea about where I want the plot to go and who my characters are that I have little patience for other people's input in the early stages of writing. Of course, I have editors; in fact, before my manuscript even goes to my publisher, I will have sent it to at least two copyeditors, hired at my expense, to pull apart the book and find errors and inconsistencies. But that's only after the novel's more or less done and I've rewritten it thirty or so times.

I've collaborated once in the past, though not for a published project, but for a TV show. In the interest of protecting identities (and my future career as a star on 24 . . . ha!) I won't mention the network by name, but it was one of the big broadcast outfits. I was a creative consultant and writer, and the producer got it into his head that it would be a great effect for a character to have to find and remove an important piece of evidence from a fish. (Oh, by the way, one that happened to be swimming in the ocean at the time.) I asked the producer some basic questions that I thought were important. Such as, how does the character know the clue is in the fish? And even more basically, how did the evidence get into the damn thing in the first place? His reply forever characterized collaborative writing for me: "You're the writer. It's your job to figure that out."

So you'll understand that it was with some reservation, shall I say, that I heard from the International Thriller Writers organization, asking if I would participate in a serial novel. But when I learned what they had in mind and I decided to give it a go, in large part because it was to be a fundraiser, in effect, for ITW. I would have the freedom to create the first chapter of a thriller and then hand it off to another author, who would write the second, and send it on its way, and so on. There would be about 15 of us involved in the project altogether. There would not be any true collaboration; we would each be writing our own chapter, with the only limitation being that, of course, subsequent writers had to take into account the plot and the characters of the prior chapters. It was agreed, too, that I would write the final chapter. This was because I particularly love to conclude my books with two or three surprise endings, and I hoped to do this with the serial novel.

Part of the attraction too was the stellar cast of proposed writers, which included Lee Child, John Gilstrap, Joe Finder, SJ Rozan, James Grady and David Hewson.

I had recently been on a book tour in Poland and decided that I would open our thriller there. I came up with the idea of a previously undiscovered music manuscript by Chopin, which may or may not have secret messages in it. My hero was a former military intelligence officer, named Harry Middleton, and he and a group of associates were now involved in tracking down war criminals. I then handed off my chapter to the second author and the project continued from there--under, I must add, the superb editorship of fellow writer Jim Fusilli. Finally the manuscript came back to me. I read the fantastic story that my fellow authors have created from my rough idea, and came up with some twists and turns in the final chapter.

This became The Chopin Manuscript, an original download from The novel became extremely successful, and in fact won the Audie award for best audio book of the year. (We even beat Harry Potter!)

Well, what happens when you have little success? They come knocking at your door. I was approached by ITW again, about doing a sequel. Since I had so much fun with the first project, I of course agreed. The second book features Middleton and his colleagues as they pursue a terrorist involved in Pakistan, India and Kashmir. This novel, The Copper Bracelet, was Audible's number one bestseller when it was first released.

Now, both books are appearing in print form, from Vanguard, combined in a single volume, titled Watchlist.

I have some thoughts about my experience in working on these serial novels.

First, I was very impressed that all my fellow authors kept in mind that this was a joint project and took the trouble to carefully read the previous chapters and to make sure that their contributions provided a springboard that would make it easy for subsequent authors to pick up the story. I was sure that somebody would write a chapter in which aliens from the planet Zantar would fly to earth and kidnap our heroes--or at least introduce a plot twist that was over the top. But no such thing happened. There were a few instances in which we had to return to prior chapters and make a few minor edits, in the interests of making sure we had real zingers of an ending. In every case, the authors were more than generous and accommodating in making those changes.

Second, because each of the contributors was a seasoned thriller writer, every chapter was filled with an arc all its own. There are a lot of novels out there in which simply nothing happens for long stretches of page. That wasn't the case in either of these stories.
Finally I found something quite interesting that had less to do with the nature of collaborating than with the form of the book itself. And that had to do with the process of writing originally for the voice.

Since Watchlist began as an audio book, I knew from the beginning that everything I wrote, not only dialogue, would be read by a professional actor. With this in mind, when I wrote the passages I would often say them aloud and then go back and revise them. Prose that seems elegant and articulate on the page can be very stiff when spoken. In fact, sometimes it can sound downright silly. I also found I was writing more dialogue than prose, and paying particular attention to exactly how my characters sounded. I've always felt that authors should pay particular attention to writing accurate dialogue. I myself have never turned to my girlfriend and said, "My darling, shall we now dine?" And yet you'd be surprised at how often passages like that appear in the novels of otherwise talented storytellers, ruining the credibility of the book. (I must mention too that we were very fortunate to have as our narrator one of the best actors working in America today, Alfred Molina.)

When I went back and read the novels in Vanguard's printed form, I think our attention to the spoken nature of the project made for particularly hard hitting and fast-moving thrillers.
I don't know whether we'll do another sequel, but I can say that despite the high body count you'd expect from thriller writers like us, there is ample opportunity for the story of Harry Middleton and his colleagues to continue in the future.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kate Atkinson: Started Early, Took My Dog

The Book Case reports that Kate Atkinson's fourth Jackson Brodie novel, Started Early, Took My Dog, will be out on August 19. It's unclear if this is a U.K. or U.S. publication--or both. lists a paperback version coming from U.K. publisher Transworld.

Doesn't matter to me. I look forward to this novel. Love her books.

Previous reviews on Mystery Fanfare: When Will There Be Good News?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Carolyn Haines 2010 Harper Lee Award Recipient

Carolyn Haines of Semmes, AL has been named the 2010 recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year. Haines will receive the award at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville on April 30 at the annual luncheon. The conference will meet April 29-May 1.

The Alabama Writers’ Forum, a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, coordinates the process to select the Harper Lee Award recipient annually from nominations from the field. The honor is presented annually by Alabama Southern Community College at the Symposium.

“We are delighted with the selection of Carolyn Haines for the 2010 Harper Lee Award,” said James A. Buford Jr., president of the Alabama Writers’ Forum Board of Directors. “On April 30, she will join twelve other distinguished writers whose contributions to the literary arts follow in the tradition of Harper Lee.”

“I’m deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2010 Harper Lee Award,” said Haines. “To Kill a Mockingbird had a tremendous impact on me as a young reader and helped shape my destiny to become a writer. Fine writing is part of the Alabama heritage, and I am proud to be included among the winners of this award, which bears the name of an author I so greatly admire.”

Haines is the author of ten books in the popular Sarah Booth Delaney Bones mystery series. Her latest, Bone Appétit, will be released in July by Minotaur Books.

She has received critical acclaim for her mystery series as well as for her stand-alone titles. Fever Moon, an historical thriller released in 2007, was a Book Sense notable book, and Penumbra, set in 1952 Mississippi, was named one of the top five mysteries of 2006 by Library Journal, a distinction given to Hallowed Bones in 2004.

Her first anthology of short fiction, Delta Blues, will be released by Tyrus Books on May 1. The book includes a foreword by Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman and short stories by authors including John Grisham, James Lee Burke, and Charlaine Harris. The stories focus on the Mississippi Delta blues, a unique musical form that originated in that region, and a crime or noir element.

Her first non-fiction book, My Mother’s Witness: The Peggy Morgan Story, tells the story of a woman who testified against Byron Dela Beckwith, a white supremacist who murdered civil rights worker Medgar Evers.

Along with Rebecca Barrett, Haines edited a collection of memories about Mobile author Eugene Walter, titled Moments with Eugene. Touched and Summer of the Redeemers, two general fiction novels, have been reissued in trade paperback.

Haines received a 2009 Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence and a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts in 1999.

She received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1974 and an M.A. in English from the University of South Alabama in 1985.

Haines, a native of Lucedale, Mississippi, makes her home in Semmes, Alabama. She teaches the graduate and undergraduate fiction writing classes at the University of South Alabama, where she is an assistant professor and Fiction Coordinator. An animal activist, she works to help educate the public about the need to spay and neuter pets.

The Harper Lee Award is made to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant, lifelong contribution to Alabama letters. It includes a cash prize and a bronze sculpture by Frank Fleming of the Monroe County Courthouse clock tower. The courthouse is a setting for Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Congratulations! Well done!

Flashlight Worthy Books

Flashlight Worthy Books
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime.

Flashlight Worthy Books has its Best of Crime Fiction 2009 list out. Peter Steinberg, one of the two principals who maintain the Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, asked 13 mystery bloggers to choose one crime fiction book as the Best of the Year. I was pleased to be asked to be among the list makers, but it was a daunting task. I had a Best of 2009 list on Mystery Fanfare in late December, and I included several other Best of Lists in that and in a later post. Some of the other contributors to Flashlight Worthy Books Best of Crime Fiction 2009 whom I count among my friends are: Donna Moore, Sarah Weinman , J. Kingston Pierce, and Rhian Davies ( a Twitter buddy). You're going to have to read this list in its entirety, though, because there are lots of insightful comments, as well as titles. Some really good books here! And, even one I missed. Best Crime Fiction of 2009 list

If you haven't seen the Flashlight Worthy Books site, you'll want to check it out, especially the lists of Mystery Books. There are lots of other categories.

I asked Peter Steinberg to tell me a bit about himself and why he started the website.

Peter Steinberg: Me? I'm just a book lover who thought there had to be a better way to find great books than wading through the confusing Amazon pages full of lengthy reviews.

Janet Rudolph: What do you do?

PS: I do a variety of things but most important, I'm trying to turn Flashlight Worthy into a fulltime business. I rely on the support of fans -- they make their Amazon purchases through the site. And not just books. Anything they purchase helps out.

JR: Why do you do it?

PS: Because being able to build something that people love so much is incredibly rewarding. And I love all the correspondence with authors and book lovers. Speaking of which, if there's anyone out there who wants to write a book list, my lists of Mystery Books could use some fresh blood (pun intended.) If you're interested in contributing, drop me a line AT flashlightworthy DOT com."

So, I guess that's a call for contributions!

Noir City Film Festival: San Francisco

San Francisco’s NOIR CITY Festival returns to the Castro Theatre for ten days, January 22–31, 2010. The theme for this eighth incarnation of the world’s most popular noir film series is part and parcel of classic noir: “Lust and Larceny.”

Within that theme, NOIR CITY 8 will include double features showcasing the work of screenwriter Bill Bowers, directors Robert Siodmak and Robert Parrish, actors John Garfield, Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and skating star Belita.

For those who love to watch films about the City by the Bay, there will be two new entries: Fed Light (1949) and Walk a Crooked Mile (1948) plus Escape in the Fog.

Watch the Video Promo starring Alycia Tumlin and The Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller.

For the Full Schedule, go HERE.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Val McDermid wins CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger

Val McDermid was 'gobsmacked' to win the CWA Cartier Diamond today, but her fans and friends weren't surprised. We knew it was only a matter of time. Val won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1995 for best crime novel of the year for The Mermaids Singing. Fever of the Bone is the sixth novel in this series and inspired Wire in the Blood. Last year saw Val was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the ITV3 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards. Val has won the Anthony, Macavity, Barry, Dilys and a host of other awards.

The prestigious CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award honors outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing. The announcement was made by the Crime Writers’ Association in recognition of Val’s work over more than 20 years.

Margaret Murphy, chair of the CWA, said: “The CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger award acknowledges the work of an author who has made an outstanding contribution to the genre. Val McDermid is a worthy winner whose work has entertained and thrilled millions of readers as well as many more who have enjoyed the TV adaptations her books have inspired.”

“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.”

The prize will be presented at a ceremony yet to be confirmed. Read more HERE.

I feel especially pleased for Val whom I count among my friends. I first met her in 1989 at the IACW Crime Writers Conference in Semana Negra in Gijon, Spain. It was so much fun to hang out with her there. Val was Awarded the Macavity, Mystery Readers International's award, in 2001 (for 2000 novel). Here's what she wrote about winning the Macavity Award:

'Bouchercon kicked off formally with an opening ceremony and awards celebration, at which I was awarded the Macavity for Best Crime Novel of 2000 for A Place of Execution. The accolade is voted on by the members of Mystery Readers International, and it was a particular thrill for me to win it because the very first event I ever did with US readers was at an MRI event at the home of Janet Rudolph, who runs MRI and edits its prestigious Mystery Readers Journal. It was Janet and her fellow enthusiasts who persuaded me to attend my first Bouchercon in 1994, and that was the convention that marked the real start of my building a US readership. I came away from that Bouchercon with a contract for paperback publication of the Kate Brannigan novels and a deal with Spinsters Ink for the Lindsay Gordons. So it felt almost like coming full circle to win the Macavity.'

Read my interview with Val McDermid about the production of Place of Execution

Way to go, Val!!! Bring on the Champagne.. or the Lager!

The Naked Truth about Literature and Life: Adieu

The Naked Truth about Literature and Life, one of my favorite author mystery blogs, has reached its end. Jacqueline Winspear, one of the contributors, wrote "This will be the last post of The Naked Truth about Literature and Life. The bad news is we are too busy writing books to continue blogging. The good news is we are too busy writing books to continue blogging. And since we started this project together, we have chosen to end it together."

The author bloggers wrote short posts in this final blog: Ridley Pearson, Jacqueline Winspear, Paul Levine, Patricia Smiley, James O. Born, James O'Neal (Science Fiction), Cornelia Read, James Grippando. You can follow the publications of new books and other info on their respective websites.

Adieu, The Naked Truth about Literature and Life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Medieval Mania in Our Reading

The Telegraph had a great article by Philip Hensher about why we are so obsessed with medieval England in our reading. I think this applies to the middle ages in all countries and for the purpose of this blog Crime Fiction.

So why are we in the Grip of Medieval Mania? Could it be Swine Flu compared to the Black Death? Climate Change? new exhibit at the V&A?

L.P Hartley said that “the past is a foreign country”; and, like most foreign countries, it gets easier and easier to travel there, to compare our daily experience with theirs.

Read this Fascinating Article HERE. (he mentioned Tey's The Daughter of Time).

I love medieval mysteries, and I've always read them. Perhaps it's because I did graduate work on both Medieval art and religion.

What is your favorite Medieval Mystery and Why?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Partners in Crime: Michael Stanley

Continuing the Partners in Crime series here on Mystery Fanfare, I asked Stan Trollip, one half of the writing team known as Michael Stanley to Guest Blog about writing collaboration.

Michael Stanley
is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both are retired professors who have worked in academia and business. Sears is a mathematician, specializing in geological remote sensing. Trollip is an educational psychologist, specializing in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and a pilot. They were both born in South Africa.

A Writing Collaboration

by Stanley Trollip (half of Michael Stanley)

“I couldn’t do it!”

“I don’t know how you do it!”

“Who writes, and who edits?”

These are exclamations Michael and I often hear from other authors as we travel on book tours.

“How do you do it?” is a question asked of us by everyone.

When we first started meeting people - readers and authors - after our first novel, A Carrion Death, came out in 2008, we were surprised by these questions. It seemed so natural to us to work together. Both of us were educators by profession, both professors. Michael is a mathematician, very interested in mathematics education. I was a professor of educational psychology, interested in using computers to improve teaching and learning. At its core, education is all about collaboration – between teachers; between learners; and between teachers and learners.

Furthermore both of us are fans of brainstorming as a problem-solving strategy, and have used it extensively in our professional lives. So it never occurred to us NOT to collaborate. It was only later we heard that conventional wisdom dictates that writing collaborations work for non-fiction, but not for fiction.

So both of us believe that collaborating improves our end product; that our books would not be as good if either one of us had written them alone. But quality is not the most important benefit of collaboration for us. Working together is so much fun. We spend hours talking, arguing, cajoling, usually over Skype since we live so far apart, and usually with a glass of wine at hand. We cannot imagine the loneliness of writing novels alone with nobody to bounce ideas off, nobody to critique what you have just written. Neither of us think we could do that.

So how does it work?

The book that went the most smoothly was The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu (A Deadly Trade outside North America). So let me describe it first.

In early 2007, after we had finished A Carrion Death, we spent a couple of weeks at Michael’s house in Johannesburg and a week at mine in Knysna, on South Africa’s south coast. We have found that being physically in the same location works best for us when creating the plot of our next novel. We brainstorm, throw around ideas, conjure up characters and locations, decide who is to be killed, and by whom, plan red herrings. All of the normal plotting strategies.

What is wonderful about having someone else involved is that everything is immediately subjected to external scrutiny. If I have a cute idea or want a character that reminds me of someone I know, Michael instantly questions whether it fits the plot or whether it is just satisfying a personal whim. And vice versa. We draw pictures and mind maps, discuss how the reader is going to view each aspect of the plot, and build up our characters’ personalities and motives.

After about a month of work, we wrote a short outline of the book – only a few pages long – with a brief description of what would happen in each chapter. And we prepared a timeline that told us what happened when.

When we finished the manuscript 18 months later, we compared it with the original outline and found the two to be very close.

The planning and writing of A Carrion Death was very different. Neither of us had written fiction before, and we hadn’t written together. So we had a great deal to learn. We started writing with only the idea of the opening scene – a body is left for hyenas to devour; some people stumble on the body before the hyena has finished demolishing it; the perfect way to get rid of a body has failed. After that, we sort of made up the plot as we proceeded. This, needless to say, resulted in many dead ends, errors of plot, unnecessary red herrings, and so on. Eventually we finished the manuscript after 3 years. Then it took another 2 months after our editor had looked at it.

We are close to finishing our third manuscript – tentatively titled Death of the Mantis. We have had more difficulties with this than with the second book, partly because we found we needed to make a significant plot change after starting writing, partly because the plot is more difficult to pull off. It will end up taking nearly two years to finish.

So far I have discussed the high-level aspects of collaboration – the plotting, etc. How does it work from day to day?

At any point in the process, Michael and I discuss, usually over Skype, what comes next in the story. This can range from a scene to several chapters. One of us decides to write it – sometimes because of our knowledge of the content, sometimes because we have the time. Once the draft is finished, the other gets to read and edit it. A few hours to a few days later, the writer gets the edited copy (everything is done electronically, including the mark-up). The draft will now contain a myriad of comments and suggestions, ranging from suggested wording changes to major issues about the content to new ideas to be considered. It is at this point that one’s ego gets challenged. Michael may dislike ideas I thought were terrific or make significant suggested changes to writing I thought was wonderful. Ouch!

But this is the power of collaboration. A solitary writer does not have the same access to a reader who is honestly critical – most friends say they like everything we write – which is not helpful, because what we write is often bad. Moreover, the feedback comes quickly – we sometimes can have three or four iterations of a piece in a day.

After each iteration, there is less to discuss, less to fix, until we are both satisfied. Only occasionally are we unable to reach agreement. Our strategy then is that whoever wrote the first draft gets to keep what they wrote. “The editor will take care of it if it’s bad,” we say to each other, knowing that it’s not really true. But the approach works and the book is better for it.

You may ask whether there are any downsides to collaboration. In terms of the writing partner, if you are willing to leave your ego behind, there is no downside that we have found. The only negative thing that may result from collaborating is that a manuscript takes longer to complete – both of us have to agree before it moves forward.

So, I am a great fan of collaboration – it works well for Michael and me, but I acknowledge that it may not work for everyone.

From my side, the greatest benefit that has accrued from collaborating with Michael is that we are closer friends after writing three manuscripts together – and we were good friends when we started.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tana French: Faithful Place

If you read my blog or know me personally, you know that I really think Tana French is a terrific writer. In the Woods and The Likeness were both on my Best of Lists for their respective years. I wrote about them both... and blogged about them.

Now there's news that Faithful Place, the third in the series, will be out in July 2010. Here's the Amazon synopsis:

The course of Frank Mackey’s life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned. Frank never heard from her again. Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He’s cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie’s suitcase has been found. Frank embarks on a journey into his past that demands he reevaluate everything he believes to be true.

Hardcover to be published July 12, 2010. Paperback: July 7, 2010 on Amazon. That can't be right, but I found it on the Amazon Website? Also found July 13, 2010 at Borders and other places.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Top 10 Reasons We Don't Get to Certain Books

Beth Carswell has a great article "Remaining Unread: The Top Ten Reasons We Don’t Get to Certain Books" on I don't get to a lot of books, but I usually think it's a time thing as in Too Many Book, Too Little Time, but I think Beth has a big point here. There are several books.. and mysteries... that I just don't get to. I'll save my list for now, but I'd love to hear from you on which books you haven't gotten to and why!

Read Beth Carswell article HERE!

Hat Tip to Bill Crider.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Partners in Crime: Reed Farrel Coleman

Today Reed Farrel Coleman is Guest Blogger on the Partners in Crime series (Authors who Write together). Reed and Ken Bruen are the authors of Tower, one of my personal 10 bests for 2009. Mystery Readers NorCal chapter has been lucky to have both Reed and Ken as guests at our Literary Salons (aka At Homes) at my home in Berkeley, CA, but at different times. Check out the At Home Online interviews with Reed (interviewed by Megan Abbott) and Ken (interviewed by Reed) on the Mystery Readers website.

Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman have both been twice nominated for the Edgar Award and between them have won almost every other American mystery writing award including the Shamus, Barry, Anthony, and Macavity. In addition to TOWER's movie option being sold, Ken has had an amazing year. His THE GUARDS, LONDON BOULEVARD, and BLITZ have all been adapted for the screen. Reed's 6th Moe Prager novel, INNOCENT MONSTER, will be published by Tyrus Books in October 2010. New paperback editions of SOUL PATCH with a foreword by Craig Johnson and of EMPTY EVER AFTER with a foreword by SJ Rozan will be published by Busted Flush Press in 2010.

All Kinds of Partners and Partnerships
by Reed Farrel Coleman

Almost from the day Ken Bruen and I met seven years ago at Partners and Crime Books—talk about auspicious beginnings—in Greenwich Village, we had kicked around the idea of writing together. We were big fans of each other’s work and often joked that Jack Taylor was sort of Moe Prager inside out. Ken had granted me permission to use Jack Taylor in two short stories—“Requiem for Jack” Crimespree Magazine and “Requiem for Moe” Damn Near Dead. So when Ken approached me with a serious offer to write a book together, I assumed it would be a Jack and Moe book of some sort. Wrong! Of course I said yes before Ken told me what he had in mind. Besides, even after Ken described what he had in mind—two childhood friends from Brooklyn, Nick and Todd, whose fates are inextricably linked, fall into a life of low level crime—I didn’t blink. What, I wondered, could be so hard about that? Stupid me.

Six months after I said yes, I got a one line email from Ken—a rare thing from a man whose emails in those days tended to be the length of a football field. The email read, “Have at it, brother.” Attached to this terse note was Nick’s narrative. That’s it, nothing else: no suggestions on how to proceed, no advice, no nothing. It was like getting a model airplane kit with only half the parts and without the instruction booklet. Suddenly, saying yes without thinking about it didn’t seem like such a brilliant idea. I’ve joked many times that at that moment I understood how my wife must have felt six months after we were married. Nonetheless, I was committed and had a book to finish.

At first, I confess, I was daunted. We’ve all heard the Buddhist line about the sound of one hand clapping. My task was to figure out how to be the other hand and to change the sound so as not to simply double the volume. There had to be a reason Ken needed a co-author, so I understood he didn’t want whatever I was going to write to be an imitation of his voice. After all, he could do his own voice better than I could. And as his section of the book was one character’s narrative, I figured out that the form of the book would be a dual narrative: Nick’s then Todd’s. Beyond that, I had nothing, but instead of seeing it as Ken torturing me, I chose to see it as Ken challenging me to push myself past my limits, to push myself harder. I just had no idea how hard hard was going to be.

First thing I did was absorb Nick’s narrative as if I were preparing to take over that character’s life. In so doing, I realized that what the book needed was more than a simple dual narrative. What it needed was a parallel narrative; Nick and Todd giving their POVs on the same period in time, about the same events, involving the same characters. Think the movie Casino. I would give Todd a life that alternated between diverging from and converging with Nick’s. Easier said than done. Think about writing a novel with a timeline, characters, events, settings that are not of your own creation. Believe me, I wasn’t optimistic that I could manage it.

Several months later, I had Todd’s narrative. That narrative appears in Tower essentially unchanged. What I noticed as I wrote was that Ken had written Nick’s narrative with spaces between the lines. His narrative was sparse and lean and left me room to develop both protagonists, not just Todd. What at first appeared to me as Ken abandoning me on an island with no escape was, in the end, something very different. What Ken had done was to let me do the showy stuff, to crash the cymbals as the book crescendos. He had done a lot of the heavy-lifting, but done it quietly. If he had written Nick’s narrative densely, I would have had nowhere to take it and the book wouldn’t have worked. I liken it to the movie Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman had the part on which everyone’s attention is focused, but it was Tom Cruise (and I am no fan of Tom Cruise) who did the heavy-lifting.

Yet, when the two narratives were in place, Ken and I agreed the book wasn’t finished. It was of a piece, but not a whole book. It needed context. We struggled nearly as long to come up with a solution as it took us to write our narratives. First we agreed to try a prologue, a page out of my style book. We both contributed to it and we got it to work, but the book still lacked the necessary context and balance. Well, if you have a prologue, you might as well have an epilogue, right? Great in theory, a nightmare in practice, because no matter what we tried, nothing worked. We had balance, but still no context. Finally, when we were both ready to just give up, we hit upon introducing a third narrative voice, a voice of a character who had appeared earlier in the book. Ta-da!

Tower was the hardest thing I’ve ever taken on in terms of writing. I think Ken would agree that neither of us anticipated the difficulties we would run into along the way. I don’t think either of us would suggest doing a collaboration this way. It certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. Working on this project created the only real strain on our friendship (long ago resolved) we have ever experienced. Yet it is difficult to argue with the results. It is not for Ken or I to judge Tower’s merits, but it is a unique book. I don’t think that’s debatable. The movie option was sold even before Tower was published. The project suggested the form of the collaboration and the form of the collaboration directly affected the end results. What I can say is that none of the tension between Ken and I during the creation of Tower had anything to do with ego. We never disagreed over who had final say. There were no pissing contests. But as I joked during the tour, it was probably a good thing there were three thousand miles of ocean between us when we were working on Tower and that neither one of us owned a handgun.