Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport will be the world's first permanent airport library. Travelers can spend time reading, watching films or listening to music while waiting for their flights.
Scheduled to open in July, has it opened? Anyone been yet? It's July 31, and I haven't found any one who knows, so if you've been through the airport lately, let me know. Thanks.
This project was set-up by the ProBiblio Dutch public library organization with money from the ministry of education, culture and science. According to project leader Dick van Tol, the collection is very diverse. “It will be a multimedia venture and will include different aspects of Dutch culture. There won't just be books, but also films and music.”
Alas, visitors will not be allowed to take books, DVDs or other items away, but there is a separate ‘download room’. A new device allows visitors to not only watch films, but also to download them to mobile phones. “So you can watch them again on the plane or when you're at home,” explains Mr Van Tol. The Airport Library is supposedly located beyond passport control and only accessible to people with a ticket for a flight. Most of the collection will be in English, but there will be Dutch material.
Here are the first 10 pages of All My Friends are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John (Chronicle Books), a fabulous Children's Book for Adults. I've posted the first 10 pages. It's sad and funny at the same time. I found the link on .tumbler.com, but if you'd like to see the rest of the 86 pages buy it: Go HERE.
The idea for the paperback came from British publishing exec Allen Lane, who was looking for a solution to the Depression-era revenue slump. Here's how Penguin's corporate history describes Lane's epiphany: "After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.
"Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores."
Paranormal Mysteries: Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 26:2) has some great articles, so I thought I'd post one of them here. To see the Table of Contents or to Order this Issue, go HERE. It's available in hardcopy and as a .pdf download.
This article is by Chris Grabenstein, Anthony and Agatha award winning author of the Haunted Mystery series of middle grades ghost stories for Random House Children’s Books: The Crossroads, The Hanging Hill, and The Smoky Corridor.
I HOPE GHOSTS ARE REAL by Chris Grabenstein
I hope ghosts are real.
I think that’s why I have written so many ghost stories. If ghosts are real then that means life goes on after death and we all get to hang around town a little longer and maybe catch a movie now and then, maybe grab a slice of pizza, because the thought of hanging out in the bright white light listening to angelic choirs doing Gregorian chants seems like it might be interesting for a couple hours, maybe even a week, but an eternity?
But I digress.
I’m not sure digression is allowed in the after life. Too many Gregorian chant rehearsals to attend.
I write ghost stories because I don’t want this glorious story of life to end, in particular, my own life. Hey, it’s been a fun ride. Met some interesting people. You get to fall in love, eat food, drink wine. Ambrosia for eternity? Shredded coconut, walnuts, pineapple chunks, a can of fruit cocktail, marshmallows, and maraschino cherries all mixed up with nutmeg and cinnamon is not my idea of haute cuisine. I’d rather have the Mahi Mahi special.
That said, I have never seen a ghost, except the older Boy Scouts who used to paint their faces with green glow-in-the-dark paint and come spook us in our tents after we’d all been sitting around the campfire listening to the story of Von Doon, this creepy guy who ended up drowning in a vat of radioactive waste while he was cooking up some sort of mad science project and now roams these very woods we’re camping in as a glow-stick type ghost, the kind that only exist in Boy Scout campfire tales.
I think I once saw the ghost of Willow, our cat who used to like to hang out in a sunny spot in our living room, perched on the top edge of the sofa. One day, months after she “crossed over Jordan,” or whatever river cats cross over (probably the Nile, given that whole Egyptian-cat connection), I swear I saw Willow in her old familiar pose. Until I looked back and she was gone.
For the record, Willow did not glow in the dark.
Many of the kids I talk to in Middle Schools, when I do author visits for my “Haunted Mystery” series, swear they have seen ghosts. They have very specific anecdotes to relate. The one in the room at their grandmother’s house. The other one who hangs out in the boys bathroom at school. Hearing their tales, I am reminded that once, I kid you not, I saw a six-foot-long ant crawling along the wall inside our garage in Buffalo, New York, where I lived at the time. Maybe it was a renegade mutant from the nearby toxic Love Canal. Maybe my mom was putting something extra in the Kool Ade. Whatever. I never told anyone about the ant, or the scary devil I saw rise up out of an oil splotch on the floor of that very same garage some weeks later. That one I blame on the fact that, at the time, I was attending Catholic Catechism School.
Do children see more ghosts than adults because they are closer to that side of life, having only recently departed that other world to come into this one?
Or do they just like spooky stories. Interestingly, a few adults have asked me if I think THE CROSSROADS, THE HANGING HILL, and THE SMOKY CORRIDOR are too scary for children. No child has ever said they were. They love staying up late at night with a flashlight under the covers and gobbling up my thrills and chills.
My wife and I are hoping to take some sort of ghost hunting vacation this year, to help me as I write the fourth book in the series. By the way, I hate those ghost hunter shows on TV. Lots of grainy video and people bustling about in the dark with shaky flashlights and meters and microphones saying, “Did you hear that?”
Yeah. I heard it. It was someone banging their head on an overhead pipe because they forgot to turn on the lights down in the dungeon.
I always enjoy hearing the historical ghost stories at the top of these shows, like the legend about the woman who was bricked up alive behind a castle wall during the middle gages and now haunts the catacombs. That would be a good reason to hang around and haunt the folks who “Cask Of Amontillado” -ed you.
On the other hand, I hate the crew of intrepid Ghost Hunters with their ghost probing paraphernalia. Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray’s had cooler equipment and did a better job of exorcising the evil spirits than those dudes in the vans on basic cable.
I want ghosts to exist, as I said, so I know death is not the end.
However, having watched the last episode of Lost, I’m a little afraid of who might show up for “the concert” in the Unitarian chapel when it’s my turn to wait for the light. Who decides what was “the most important part of my life” and gets to cast my gang of fellow travelers? What if they decide it was that summer I sold hot dogs at a greasy spoon in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee? Or when I was a struggling actor and had a day job at Citibank helping rewrite The Country Risk Assessment Manual? I mean the people who survived the island on Lost may have gone on to do great things. Maybe they didn’t want to hang around waiting for Jack and Hurley when they passed over. Maybe they’d rather be remembering an Oceanic Airlines celebrity pro-am golf tournament they won or something.
When I was researching the first book I ever wrote (it was called THE PRAYER CIRCLE and has never been published), I read a lot about near death experiences and what awaits us on the other side of the bright white light. Typically, your ancestors greet you first. I’m not so sure about this being a good thing. The one grandfather I actually knew was kind of a creepy old Greek guy who sat slumped in his chair when we visited him in Florida every summer. He mumbled in Greek, never put in his teeth, and kind of smelled like mothballs. Then again, he was ninety, I was six, and accustomed to seeing giant ants crawling around in the garage with Satan.
My Greek grandmother, who was about twenty years younger than her husband (I think it was one of those Old World arranged marriages that awaited you once you made it past Ellis Island) was fun. At the end of those summer trips to Florida, she would always give us a bag full of pencils she had collected all year long plus an envelope stuffed with five bucks if we promised we’d keep getting good grades when we went back to school in the fall.
She was a seamstress who survived the Great Depression (the old one, not the new one), even though the “Republican Banker” came and took away her sewing machine when she missed a loan payment, thereby also taking away her only means of ever repaying her debt. I remember, right before my high school graduation, my Yiya (that’s Greek for grandmother) said to me, “If you ever vote Republican, I wring your neck.”
Her I wouldn’t mind seeing in the tunnel. And, yes, all these years later, I have still never, ever voted for a Republican. I do not have to fear neck wringing in the afterlife.
Actually, I wish my Yiya were a ghost and would come by and give me more long-lasting words of advice like that again. It has made Election Day very easy for close to forty years.
If I were a ghost, the first thing I would do is go to my own funeral. See who was there. See what people thought about my will and what I left them.
But then, if I stuck around, I’d probably realize that life went on with or without me. And there I’d be, rattling chains, moaning and groaning, giving people goosebumps, having absolutely no effect on anything, except to make a few people scream or wet their pants.
Not a very productive existence.
I guess this is why Willow the cat never came back to our couch after that one visit, why ghosts, if they do exist, eventually move on.
And that’s truly why I hope ghosts are real.
It means we all have some new experience to move on to after we’ve put in our time “doomed for a certain term to walk the night,” to quote the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
Yes, Shakespeare believed in ghosts. I wonder if his own ghost stuck around long enough to see any really awful productions of his work. Probably just one. And then he moved on.
I wonder if Shakespeare still gets to write and make up stories where he is.
I wonder they need more writers in that place we eventually move on to? If so, I hope, when I meet my Greek grandmother in the bright white light, she brings me some more pencils.
Thanks to Ali Karim for tweeting all the news about all the Dagger Winners going on right now at the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival.
CWA Gold Non-Fiction Dagger: Ruth Dudley Edwards for Aftermath OMAGH Bombing & the Families' Pursuit of Justice (Harvill Secker)
Special Commendation: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi
CWA International Dagger: Johan Thorin for The Darkest Room
CWA Dagger in the Library: Ariana Franklin
Special Commendation: Simon Beckett
CWA Short Story Dagger: Robert Ferrigno for Can You Help Me Out There (Mira/Thriller2)
Special Commendation: Jeffrey Deaver for The Weapon
CWA Debut Dagger: Patrick Eden for A Place of Dying
Special Commendation: Case No. 1 by Sandra Graham (Australia)
July 23rd 2010: The shortlist for the CWA Gold Dagger was announced at a lunchtime ceremony at the The Crown Hotel, Harrogate during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. This award, which carries a prize of £2,500, is made for the best crime novel, originally written in English, published in the UK in the year to 31 May. These Daggers will be awarded at a televised ceremony in the Autumn, as part of the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards.
GOLD DAGGER Shortlist:
Conman, Richard Asplin (No Exit Press)
Blacklands, Belinda Bauer (Corgi)
Blood Harvest, S J Bolton (Bantam Press)
Rain Gods, James Lee Burke (Orion)
Shadowplay, Karen Campbell (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge, Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
Still Midnight, Denise Mina (Orion)
The Way Home, George Pelecanos (Orion)
JOHN CREASEY (New Blood) DAGGER shortlist:
Acts of Violence, Ryan David Jahn (Pan)
Cut Short, Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)
Martyr, Rory Clements (John Murray)
Random, Craig Robertson (Simon & Schuster)
Stop Me, Richard Jay Parker (Allison & Busby)
Rupture, Simon Lelic (Picador) (Title U.S.: A Thousand Cuts)
The Holy Thief, William Ryan (Mantle)
IAN FLEMING STEEL DAGGER shortlist:
61 Hours, Lee Child (Bantam Press)
A Loyal Spy, Simon Conway (Hodder & Stoughton)
Gone, Mo Hayder (Bantam Press)
Slow Horses, Mick Herron (Robinson)
The Dying Light, Henry Porter (Orion)
Innocent, Scott Turow (Macmillan)
The Gentlemen's Hour, Don Winslow (Heinemann)
The Pull of the Moon, Diane Janes (Robinson)
A second Hammett Award: AEIP awarded the Hammett prize during Semana Negra in Gijon, Spain this past weekend. I'm a member of IACW (AEIP-IACW), and I was lucky enough to attend Semana Negra one year. It's like a big carnival with rides and amusements and food--but it is also a huge bookfair with speakers, lectures, and talks with international crime writers.
According to Reuters, the top award of the festival for Best Crime novel written in Spanish, the Hammett Prize - named after U.S. author Dashiel Hammett - went to Argentine novelist Guillermo Orsi, for his book "La Ciudad Santa" (The Holy City). Orsi's book tells of a cruise ship which runs aground in the wide but shallow River Plate, forcing the wealthy passengers to disembark in Buenos Aires, who then become bait for kidnappers. "A city which, like many another megalopolis, but above all in South America, is riddled with corruption and violence, makes the perfect setting for a crime writer," Orsi said of the Argentine capital, where he lives.
Javier Sinay who the Rodolfo Walsh prize for non-fiction for Sangre Joven (Young Blood), although that book is not available outside his native Argentina. Sinay's book is a compilation of six true stories of violent deaths in Argentina between 2002 and 2008 where the victims and perpetrators were just coming of age in the chaos of Buenos Aires, a city of 15 million people.
The Silverio Canada prize for best first novel written in Spanish went to Spaniard Gregorio Casamayor for "La Sopa de Dios" (God Soup), while Cuba's Alejandro Hernandez won the Espartaco (Spartacus) Prize for best historical novel with "Oro Ciego" (Blind Gold).
Spain's Juan Miguel Aguilera received the Celsius 232 Prize for best science fiction novel in Spanish for his book "La Red de Indra" (The Indra Network).
Semana Negra is now in its 23rd year and over its 10 days attracts about a million visitors. Semana Negra is organized by Paco Ignacio Taibo II.
About AIEP-IACW The Asociación Internacional de Escritores Policiacos (or International Association of Crime Writers) was founded in 1986 by Paco Ignacio Taibo II of Mexico and the late Julian Semionov of the then U.S.S.R.
The goals of the organization are enumerated in our world-wide constitution, which has been amended several times over the decades. Originally, the primary goal of our members was to fight censorship (indeed, even imprisonment and torture) of writers in the right-wing dictatorships of Latin America and the left-wing ones of Eastern Europe.
As more countries in both regions democratized, however, the primary goal of AIEP has become to encourage crime writing as a genre and especially, through the efforts of the North American branch, to facilitate translations of works from other languages into English toward possible publication in the United States.
The world-wide organization, with nearly 1,000 members in 22 branch countries, is usually known by its Spanish acronym of AIEP.
Mexican author Juan Hernandez Luna, who twice won the Hammett Prize, died of kidney failure at the age of 47. Luna won the Hammett prize in 1997 and 2007 for the detective novels Tabaco para el Puma (Tobacco for the Puma) and Cadaver de Ciudad (City Corpse). He won other awards for his short stories, for Science Fiction and for non-fiction. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Gijon and in Cuba. He was a great supporter of writers and readers.
Join Mystery Readers NorCal for a Literary Salon on Thursday, July 22 at 7 p.m. in Berkeley, CA with: Don Winslow & David Corbett: two former private investigators and award winning mystery novelists. Don Winslow, a former private investigator and consultant, is the author of twelve novels, including The Dawn Patrol, The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Power of the Dog, California Fire and Life, and The Death and Life of Bobby Z. He lives in Southern California. His latest novel is Savages. His first novel, A Cool Breeze On The Underground, was nominated for an Edgar, and California Fire and Life, received the Shamus Award.
David Corbett, a recovering Catholic, one-time bar band gypsy, and former private investigator with the San Francisco firm of Palladino & Sutherland, has had his work hailed as "the best in contemporary crime fiction. He is the author of The Devil's Redhead (nominated for the Anthony and Barry awards for Best First Novel of 2002), Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book and a Macavity Award nominee for Best Novel of 2003), Blood of Paradise (An Edgar nominee, named one of the top ten mysteries & thrillers of 2007 by the Washington Post, and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book). His latest novel isDo They Know I'm Running? To read an interview with David, goHERE.
Jassy Mackenzie is the author of Random Violence, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize—Best First Book (Africa region). She has written the second book in the Jade de Jong series, Stolen Lives, as well as a stand-alone thriller, My Brother's Keeper. Jassy lives in Kyalami, Johannesburg, with her partner Dion, two horses and two cats.
Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie (Kyalami, South Africa)
I was carjacked at gunpoint in my driveway on a winter morning in July.
It was a beautiful day. Crisp, cold and sunny, as it always is in Johannesburg at that time of year. I'd stopped to pick up the local newspaper lying by the gate and I was sitting in the car, the heater humming and the sun blazing down on the roof, scanning the front page article.
Jo'burg is a dangerous city. Living there comes with a price, and the price is constant vigilance. For a few crucial moments I forgot this fact, and I paid for my mistake. I sensed a movement by the window and had only enough time to think—What are two guys doing beside my car?
Then I saw the leading man's hand was clenched around a steel grey gun. He lifted it and aimed it straight at me. I reacted by doing entirely the wrong thing. I stamped down on the accelerator. All I could think of was the illogical imperative to get away—even though, in the confines of my driveway, "away" was a nonexistent concept, and I had nowhere to go.
In any case, I wasn't fast enough. They stayed with me. The leader yanked open the driver's door, the car stalled with a jolt, and then time telescoped into a cacophony of shouting voices and clutching hands. I was desperate to get out of the driver's door, away from the men with their tight fingers and their unsteady guns. But the hijackers had rehearsed a different maneuver. The other man pulled open the passenger door and wrapped his hands around my throat. I heard myself start gagging, and thought, for one dreadful moment, that he was going to strangle me.
He didn't. He dragged me backwards, fast, across the seats and out of the car. I sprawled butt-first down onto the sandy ground and then, finally, he released me. Leaning forward, he grabbed the gold chain I wore, and ripped it off.
"Where's your rings?" he asked me. "I want your rings."
Breathing hard, I stared up at him. "Do I look like I'm married?" I said incredulously.
The answer seemed to satisfy him. Turning away, he climbed into the car and slammed the passenger door. The engine started up and I heard gears grinding as the driver battled to engage reverse. I wasn't going to wait for him to get it right. I turned my back on the hijackers and walked down the driveway towards my house.
It's a horrible feeling walking away from somebody with a gun. I could feel a burning spot in the centre of my back. I prayed they wouldn't shoot before they drove away.
Memory is a funny thing. By the time I reached my house, I had forgotten most of what had happened. All I could remember, all I could tell people when they asked why my neck was so red, was that my gold chain had been snatched.
The memory came back a few weeks later, unexpectedly, in a terrifying rush. Suddenly I remembered his hands around my throat. God, he'd actually done that to me. I didn't know what was more frightening, the strangulation, or the fact that my mind had blanked it out. What else had I forgotten? Would I find more unwanted memories flooding back?
Nothing came, but in the months following the carjacking, I grew fearful. I lay sleepless at night, listening to the noises outside. A thump on the roof, a rustle in the bushes. Sitting bolt upright in the darkness, my heart pounding, I strained my ears, expecting to hear the splintering of the front door being forced open with a crowbar.
I floored the accelerator if somebody approached my car while I was waiting at an intersection. The risk of an accident seemed small compared to the terror of being on the wrong side of a gun once again.
I started following news stories obsessively, desperate to hear about justice being done. There were plenty of carjackings out there. Plenty of random crimes being committed, but precious few arrests to go along with them. I read with horror about one man who hadn't been as lucky as me. His captors had forced him into the trunk of the car and taken him with them. Police found the car later, burned out, with his charred body still inside.
And then, opening the newspaper one morning, I discovered that the police had cracked the case. They'd arrested a suspect—the murdered man's wife. It turned out that she had organized it all.
That shocking revelation planted the seed of an idea in my mind. How often is violence in South Africa truly random? With our high crime rate and our overworked police force, are criminals able to get away with targeted murders more easily? The police had arrested one killer, but I started to wonder how many more were out there.
Soon after that, I wrote the opening scene of Random Violence. A single woman arrives home at night. She's struggling with a heavy gate when a sleek, dark car pulls up behind her own. The driver climbs out and aims a gun at his victim. He's not a scared novice like my hijackers were. He's calm, cold, experienced. As she begs him for her life, he shoots her twice, a skilled and accurate double-tap. The woman collapses and dies on the stony ground outside her farm gate without knowing who murdered her, or why... Or did she know?
I decided I needed to create a competent female lead to solve this mystery. There were heroines aplenty in the crime fiction I'd read over the years, but when I thought about it more carefully, I realized every leading lady that I could remember was gainfully employed. They might be police detectives, pathologists or lawyers, but they all had good steady jobs and were reasonably normal people.
I wanted to write about somebody different. I wanted a heroine who was a renegade. I wanted a lead who could handle a gun as naturally as breathing, and who had a mysterious past. More than that, I wanted her to have a dark side. As I started to create the character of Jade de Jong, I realized with a chill that I hadn't just created a renegade. I had created a killer.
Jade has some characteristics in common with me. She loves chili, she has a quirky sense of humor, and she displays a regrettable ignorance of local fauna and flora. Although she can tell a Beretta from a Glock at twenty yards in semi-darkness, she wouldn't know an ostrich from a turkey unless it ended up on her dinner plate. And she has other attributes that I don't share, and wouldn't want to.
I often think back to the morning of that carjacking, and I know exactly what Jade would have done if she'd been there. She would have played along until the man was leaning forward to snatch the chain from her neck. That was a tactical error on his part, and she would have taken advantage.
The man would never have touched her necklace. She would have grabbed his arm, yanked him off-balance, pulled him towards her so that he slipped and stumbled in the dirt. A knee in the groin, a jab in the eye, and then she would have had control of his gun.
Would she have killed the two of them? That's a question I often wonder about. They weren't actively trying to murder her, so she might have shown compassion. A bullet through each of their right hands, perhaps. Fired from close-range, punching through flesh and shattering bone. She would have made sure that neither man would ever be able to use a weapon again.
That's life in Jade's Jo'burg. It's a good place to be.
Order the Mystery Readers Journal: African Mysteries issue, HERE.
I just finished Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. I'm putting it on my Top Ten for this year. I read it in just under Six Hours (I'm a slow reader), not the full "Thirteen", but I couldn't put this book down. Meyer is a master of pacing, and he kept me going wanting to know what happened to everyone in terms of their lives and characters. A+++ for Thirteen Hours.
Yvonne Walus Interviews Deon Meyer. Yvonne Eve Walus is a Polish South African New Zealander, which at least gives her something to talk about at parties. She’s a fan of Harlan Coben’s writing style and Agatha Christie’s logical puzzles. Her murder mystery books, set in the old South Africa of the apartheid era, contain elements of both.
This year, South Africa has a lot more to offer than the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Enter Deon Meyer’s latest thriller, “13 hours”, tells the story of a young American backpacker running for her life in Cape Town.
If you haven't read Deon Meyer yet, you're missing out. His books are what I call "fast-paced thrillers with a lot of heart". In other words, they give you both the breathtaking action and the total emotional immersion into his characters' plight. His police detectives are non-stereotypical, both extremely realistic and larger than life, and if that's a contradiction in terms, Deon Meyer uses it to his advantage by creating unforgettable protagonists.
More people must feel the way I do, because Deon's books reap awards and are being made into films. “13 hours” is optioned to a London filmmaker, with the legendary Roger Spottiswoode as director and script consultant.
I feel privileged when Deon agrees to the interview. We're conducting it on email, so I can't tell you what his house looks like or the type of watch he's wearing today (that information you can find on his website http://www.deonmeyer.com/). For a crime fiction reader, however, it's not exactly the most pressing question.
YV: Deon, thank you for giving us your time. Your signing schedule alone is enough to make us appreciate how busy you are: France and Spain in April, South Africa and Canada in May... Do you find that all the promotion work is keeping you away from writing?
DM: It does to a certain extent, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now that I have the privilege of writing full-time, I tend to work seven days a week, for months on end. Book tours have become welcome breaks during which I can rethink what I’m writing, and get stimulation from new people and places. Also, I’ve learnt to use a few hours on a train or plane, or in a hotel room, to get a couple of pages done. YW: Your books are firmly set in South Africa yet they have been translated into some 20 languages. What do you think makes them transferable across continents and cultures?
DM: I think stories are an international language. Characters too. And hopefully, readers on other continents find the Cape Town setting as interesting as I find books about Los Angeles, London, New York or Stockholm.
YW: Couldn’t agree more. Speaking of characters, you spend a lot of time finding the right names for yours. The protagonist of... hang on while I check the English title... "Dead at Daybreak" is an Afrikaans cop christened Zatopek. Other than the obvious benefit of getting Czech publishers hungry for the translation rights, why did that name feel right?
DM: Now I know why the Czech bought the book ... The history of Zatopek as a character name is a long one. I heard the name of Emile Zatopek, the Czech long-distance runner, on the radio as a child, and was fascinated by the wonderful sound of it. Twenty years later, as a young newspaper reporter, I invented a character called Zatopek van Heerden, a Private Eye, to try and make my letters to friends a little more interesting. And when I started telling my children bed-time stories, Zatopek became a little boy who had weird and wonderful adventures in a tiny fishing village on the West Coast.
It was also the name of lesser characters in my first two novels, and finally, in Dead at Daybreak, I decided the time had come to put him centre stage.
YW: The children must have been excited to see “their” Zatopek in a novel! One of the many things readers value about your writing is the lack of gratuitous violence. Still, sometimes bad things need to happen. As a father, do you find it difficult to write the scenes in which children or young people get hurt?
DM: Absolutely. Writing is a very visual process for me, so I experience scenes pretty intensely.
YW: I'm curious about that one book you never finished. 50 pages before you realised it wouldn't work. What was the insurmountable flaw?
DM: There were two problems with the attempted novel. The first was that the story was too one-dimensional – just a woman looking for her lost brother. The second was that I attempted a female protagonist for the first time, and just could not get a real grasp on her voice. But nothing goes to waste. I resurrected part of the story for what finally became ‘Blood Safari’ almost a decade later, when all the pieces came together.
YW: They did, indeed, though I had to look up the original title to pinpoint the book. Which brings me to my next question: in your interview with CrimeTime, you mention it's difficult to write in Afrikaans as "it's so isolated and incestuous". While it may have been easier to get published in Afrikaans to begin with, have you considered switching to English now that you're internationally acclaimed?
DM: The Crime Time interview dates back more than seven years, and I am happy to say that a lot of things have changed since then. Back in 2003, I was just about the only South African writing crime, still very much struggling to establish myself in the local market, a virtual unknown abroad, and there were very few new voices in South African literature.
In the last few years crime and thriller fiction has exploded over here – other genres too. So I definitely don’t feel isolated any more, and the incestuous-ness is a thing of the past. And, no, I have never seriously considered switching to English. Afrikaans is my mother tongue, and I find writing difficult enough: getting it right in a second language would be even more difficult.
YW: (At this point, I’m ready to pronounce Deon one of the most down to earth celebrities I know.) Your books have that unputdownable Harlan Coben feel to them. You list him as one of the authors you enjoy reading. Is he also a conscious influence in your writing? While you were still honing your craft, did you ever think: "One day I'd like to write like Coben"?
DM: I was first introduced to Harlan’s work when we did a marketing evening together in London in 1994, if I remember correctly. And although I think he’s a great guy, and really love his work, it was perhaps too late in my career to be influenced.
YW: The three crime fiction writers you most admire?
There are so many that I admire, but the top three will have to be Ed McBain, John D. MacDonald and Michael Connelly.
YW: How would you describe the genre today and where do you see crime fiction going in the future?
DM: The genre today is so much more rich in its diversity than a decade ago. Translations from Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, Cuba, Africa, South America, really interesting new sub-genres, risks being taken with traditional story structure, more depth and social issues, crimes of the state and big business becoming more prevalent, the influence of CSI, and, of course, the massive rise in the genre’s popularity ...
It’s impossible to predict where it will go, but I would venture to say that it would continue to surprise and entertain.
YW: Continue to surprise and entertain? You bet! As long as Deon Meyer continues to produce a thriller a year, that is. His new one is coming out in October, and I’m ever so glad I don’t need to wait for the translation.
The African issue of Mystery Readers Journal contains many more articles, interviews and Author! Author! essays. It is available as hardcopy or .pdf download HERE.
I love lists, and I love to travel. One of my favorite sites is GotSaga. The site is made up of a worldwide community of people with a passion for traveling and cultural diversity. Lots of pages such as Best Parks, Best Rivers, etc.
They also do a lot of "Most..." lists. Thought you might be interested in Mausoleums and Catacombs around the World. I've been to four of the 10 or so mentioned, starting with the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It's truly one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. (another list). Love the Paris Catacombs, of course.
Frequent Mystery Readers Journal contributor Jim Doherty informs me that he's one of several mystery and comics professionals involved in the new PLAINCLOTHES website, devoted to Dick Tracy, one of the most famous detectives in fiction, and to his creator, Chester Gould. The site launched on June 21, and is currently up and running.
It includes feature articles on the history of the strip, on Tracy media adaptations through the years, and more.
There's also, "Fireworks," a never-before-published comic book story written by Max Allan Collins and illustrated by Joe Staton. Originally slated for publication in the Disney Adventures magazine back when Beatty's Tracy movie was still hot, it was shelved for some unknown reason, but has been resurrected for this site. Al Collins, of course, wrote the Tracy strip from 1977, when Gould retired, 'til 1993. Legendary comics artist Staton has drawn just about every famous comic book hero ever created, from Batman to the Incredible Hulk, from Spider-Man to the Green Lantern, from Wonder Woman to Scooby-Doo.
The centerpiece of the site is "Major Crimes Squad," a comics story in "daily newspaper strip" format also illustrated by Staton and written by Mike Curtis, owner and publisher of the independent comic book company, Shanda Fantasy Arts. "Major Crimes Squad' brings back two famous members of Tracy's Rogues Gallery long thought to have died years earlier, Willie "The Fifth" Millyun and shady underworld lawyer Flyface.
Prose fiction featuring the square-jawed cop is also included.
"The Treasure of Captain Cannonsmoke," by animator Tracy Kazaleh, is set in the world of the animated Tracy cartoons of the early '60's produced for TV syndication by UPA ( the Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing studio). It's marked by a somewhat more humorous take on Tracy's Rogues Gallery, all together on a cruise ship in search of pirate gold.
Jim Doherty's own contribution to the site, in addition to a couple of feature articles, is his novelette "Murder Is My Hobby," which puts Tracy on the trail of a crafty criminal who's travelling the world replicating the crimes of famous serial killers from history.
MORGAN ST. JAMES co-authors the award-winning comical crime caper series Silver Sisters Mysteries with her sister Phyllice Bradner, as well as writing novels and short stories solo and with other partners. She keeps busy a busy schedule including her column for Examiner.com, giving workshops and being a panel member and staying active in six writer’s organizations. In August her new “Twist of Fate” series, written as Arliss Adams, will debut with “Devil’s Dance.”
MORGAN ST. JAMES:
WRITING WITH EACH PARTNER IS DIFFERENT
I co-author the Silver Sisters Mysteries, comical crime capers featuring identical twins Goldie and Godiva and their eighty year old mother and uncle, with my real life sister Phyllice Bradner, so I’m often asked how I write with a partner.
What people generally aren’t aware of is that Phyllice isn’t the only partner I write with. I jokingly say my epitaph will say, “She wrote well with others,” which for most people isn’t that simple.
The answer is, it depends upon who I’m writing with and what we are writing. Most frequently people assume that I write one chapter of the Silver Sisters capers and Phyllice writes another. Reviewers have commented that the writing and characters are seamless. That’s because when we began to write together in the late 1990’s, both of us were published writers in other genres with our own credits and strengths. However, neither of us had tried our hand at fiction before.
I cut my teeth on magazine articles, having written many “how to” articles as well as some in-depth studies, such as “It’s Just Old Age…or is it?” and a few true short stories that won awards. Phyllice received several Alaska Press Club awards and other accolades as a journalist and graphic designer, was the print specialist for the Alaska Department of Tourism and created award-winning political print pieces. She also co-authored a cookbook and a touring guide of Juneau, AK. Add to that my being a pure “A-Type” with the energy of an Energizer bunny and Phyllice being a self-described “C-,” and it equals an interesting writing team.
I write very quickly and often click into “automatic writing,” while Phyllice massages every word and sentence to get it exactly right. My sense of humor is quite good, but hers is over-the-top. So there you have it. The emerging writing team of St. James and Bradner, sisters who didn’t know each other very well with strengths in different areas. Very early on, we agreed that we wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. If one felt something was emphatically right and the other was on the fence or didn’t care one way or the other, the one with the strong feelings prevailed. If we both have equally strong but different opinions, we work it out for the good of the manuscript.
When we first plot our story, we try to have a writers’ retreat for five days to a week. Since we live in different states, after that retreat almost everything is done by phone or e-mail. Our mission when we are together is to plot the initial storyline, create a time-line and develop new characters to add to the ones that appear in every book. Our recurring main characters are Goldie Silver, an over-the-hill flower child who lives in Juneau and owns an antique shop and her twin Godiva Olivia DuBois, a selfish, manipulative wealthy Beverly Hills widow who writes the advice column “Ask G.O.D.”(her initials). Add the eldersleuths, their eighty year old mother and uncle who were vaudeville magicians and still perform at the Hollywood Home for Has Beens and love to don disguises to go undercover. Flossie and Sterling Silver have fans of their own who love these quirky octogenarians. Put it all together and you have the makings of quirky, comical crime capers. We have just finished the manuscript for the third book, “Vanishing Act in Vegas,” and due to fans requests, Flossie plays a very active part in this one. She always manages to drag her brother-in-law Sterling into the danger zone with her.
Schemes backfire, the twins love sarcastic banter with each other, Flossie is into tarot cards, séances and astrology and Sterling is the voice of reason. We loosely based Goldie and Godiva on ourselves, and other characters are composites of friends and our zany family.
Once we have the framework of the story, I write the chapters and e-mail them to Phyllice. She is a trained editor, compelled to edit the minute she receives basically raw material. For that reason, I generally don’t do a lot of editing myself, because I know she is going to trim everything, add her special brand of humor and send it back to me. This is the process until the first draft is finished. Sometimes the chapters go back and forth a few times. As each one is approved by both of us, it is pasted into the master. Our last steps are to do two “out-loud” read-throughs. We try to do that during another retreat, and sometimes we actually succeed in setting one up either in Oregon, L.A. or Las Vegas. Before she moved to Oregon, she lived in Alaska, so Juneau was also the site of many edit sessions.
If we can’t manage to get together in person, we have marathon phone sessions. Headphones in place or speakerphone activated, these conversations can last up to as long as five hours.
When we are finally satisfied that we have polished the manuscript and its ready to go, we send it to our publisher. Our paperbacks, Kindle and e-books are published by L& L Dreamspell; our audio book CDs and MP3 by Books in Motion, Inc.
We have realized a wonderful bonus from writing together. Phyllice moved to Alaska when she was twenty and lived there for many years. We’re five-and-a-half years apart with me being the big sister. Just when we would have become friends as adults, Phyllice was thousands of miles away. Our mother was the conduit, telling each of us what the other was doing. We would talk on the phone sporadically, but weren’t really good friends. Outside of Mom’s reports, we knew very little about each other.
When our mother had mini-strokes in the mid 1990’s and Phyllice travelled to L.A. to help arrange for her care, we finally spent a great deal of time together and discovered we really liked each other. We also found that while we are different in many ways, just like Goldie and Godiva, we also have many similarities. Today, through our writing, we have become best friends.
Under the pseudonym, Arliss Adams, I am also writing a book with Meredith Holland entitled “Anything But Paradise.” This year our short story leading up to it, “Welcome to Paradise,” will be part of the anthology “Dreamspell Revenge.” This is a delicious tale best described as 9 to 5 meets The First Wives Club in a government embezzlement scheme. Meredith has not written before, but is a marvelous idea and research person. The bones of the story were created from an experience both of us lived, and as we looked back we realized it had an interesting storyline for fiction. We’ve been working on it for a few years.
The process of timeline, basic storyline and evolving plot were similar, but Meredith feeds me lots of possible situations and research, some from memories of actual incidents we experienced together and some from her fertile imagination, and it’s my job to put it into a polished manuscript. She is so prolific, it’s almost like being at a sumptuous buffet and trying to choose which dishes will fit on the plate. I’d easily have enough material for two or three books, and we have discussed doing a series.
This was a totally different experience than writing with a sibling who happens to be an author/editor. We have been having lots of fun with it, particularly when we reminisce about some of the experiences and how they might fit into the storyline. Of course, this has all been fictionalized, so we have license to create scenes that never would have happened…or would they? As I read of so many scandals in the papers these days, I wonder sometimes if this is art imitating life.
I’m hoping to have the manuscript finished before the year is out.
Then there is my project with Mike Dennis, an author of noir mysteries whose writing I greatly respect. We’ve recently finished a proposal for “You Don’t Say,” a humorous word book that will be suitable for a reference book, casual reading, gift book and much more. We both put equal effort into working out our format, content, organization of the material, and much more. Mike and I write a monthly column of the same name for the Sisters in Crime/Southern Nevada newsletter, “On the Prowl”. After working on the column for several months, we knew we had the makings of a book and a wonderful topic for talks in many venues.
Mike is the wordsmith between us, and I love to come up with ways to present the information. So, again, we both have our separate strengths. To sweeten the mix, my son-in-law is a brilliant illustrator, having done work for high profile publishers of books, magazines and newspapers. He created a killer rough cover for us, so we are ready to pitch it to publishers or agents and are hopeful to see this book in print.
We haven’t touched on the projects that I write on my own…books, stories and my column in Examiner.com, but I could go on forever. Suffice to say that I have two new books coming out under the Arliss Adams pseudonym, “Devil’s Dance” in August and “The Devil’s Due” in September. These are the first two books in my new “Twist of Fate” series and will be in all formats including audio. I have a novel, and anthology and a “how to” book in various stages of completion.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my underachieving nature with you.
Join the Twitter Discussion on Sunday, July 11, when Hercule Poirot played by David Suchet returns with Murder on the Orient Express. This is one of Agatha Christie's most famous mysteries, and this new production is very different from anything you've seen before.
2010 marks Agatha Christie's 120th birthday. Masterpiece mystery! is celebrating Christie and her suave Belgian detective with a live Twitter event on Sunday, July 11, 2010, during the premiere of Murder on the Orient Express.
Because this is a Twitter discussion, you can tweet and follow from wherever you are and whenever you're watching, but during 9-10:30 pm EDT & 9-10:30 PDT, PBS and Masterpiece insiders will be joined by me @JanetRudolph from Mystery Readers Journal, Kate Stein from Mystery Scene@KateStein and Andrew Gulli from The Strand Magazine@strandmag Others joining at that time are: @pbs; @masterpiecepbs -- and YOU!
Tag your posts with the hashtag #mystery_pbs and then visit on TweetGrid, or use your own favorite aggregator. I use Tweetdeck!
WHAT: PBS and Masterpiece are hosting a live Twitter discussion (#mystery_pbs)
WHEN: Sunday, July 11th, 2010, 9-10:30 pm EDT & PDT
WHERE: Join us using the custom TweetGrid (Use hashtag #mystery_pbs).
TOPICS: Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie, mysteries, Masterpiece mystery!
RSVP: Please follow and be followed (on Twitter, of course!) by other #mystery_pbs tweeters
In case you can't make the Party on Sunday night, you can watch Murder on the Orient Express on the PBS website during the following two weeks! You'll also be able to check the #mystery_pbs discussion. Also...don't miss Wednesday night's (July 7) PBS travelogue of David Suchet on the Orient Express. Tweet you Sunday night! Watch the Trailer: HERE
If this is all Greek to you, just watch Murder on the Orient Express next Sunday night! Check local listings for time!
Paul Levine, author of the Jake Lassiter series of legal thrillers, has just released Speak for the Dead, the first of the Jake Lassiter series, as an e-book. I can't believe it's the 20th anniversary of the hardcover publication. The e-book is available on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords for $2.99. What's even more special about this is that ALL PROCEEDS will be donated to the Four Diamonds Fund that supports cancer treatment for children at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Even if you don't have a Kindle or eReader, you can download the book to your laptop or main computer. A Good Read. A Good Cause.
Paul is truly a special person.
Read what Paul Levine says about his series and the Four Diamonds Fund, helping children with cancer HERE and HERE.
2010 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award Shortlist
Readers are invited to vote online for their favorites. Voting is open from July 1-21.
The winner will be decided by combining the result of this public vote with the votes of a panel of expert judges: Jenni Murray, BBC Radio 4 broadcaster and author; John Dugdale, Guardian Associate Media Editor; Natalie Haynes, comedian and journalist; and Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston Ltd.
• In the Dark, by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
• The Surrogate, by Tania Carver (Little, Brown)
• A Simple Act of Violence, by R.J. Ellory (Orion)
• The Crossing Places, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
• Dead Tomorrow, by Peter James (Pan Books)
• Gallows Lane, by Brian McGilloway (Pan Macmillan)
• Doors Open, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
• Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster)
Winner will be announced on Thursday, July 22, the opening night of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England. Its author will receive £3,000 in cash, plus a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.
Another holiday, another list! The Fourth of July (Independence Day) is one of my favorite holidays. I was born in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the nation. In all of the mysteries below, the Fourth of July plays a major part. Even if you're not celebrating Independence Day, you can celebrate this great group of mysteries! Something for everybody's taste!
The Fourth of July Wake by Harold Adams Hair of the Dog by Laurien Berenson Dead on the 4th of July by Meg Chittenden Someone to Watch Over Me by Jill Churchill
Red, White, and Blue Murder by Bill Crider Dead on the Fourth of July by R. E. Derouin Tool & Die by Sara Graves Act Of Darkness by Jane Haddam Yankee Doodle Dead by Carolyn Hart Past Imperfect by Kathleen Hills Exit Wounds by J. A. Jance The Fourth of July by J.D. Kincaid A Timely Vision by Joyce and Jim Lavene Die Like a Hero by Clyde Linsley Knee High by the Fourth of July by Jess Lourey Star Spangled Murder by Leslie Meier 4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro Iron Ties by Ann Parker King Suckerman by George P. Pelecanos Can't Never Tell by Cathy Pickens Death by Deep Dish Pie by Sharon Short Independence Day Plague by Carla Lee Suson Some Welcome Home by Sharon Wildwind Star Spangled Murder by Valerie Wolzien
Rex Stout's "Fourth of July Picnic" in Century of Great Suspense Stories Edited by Jeff Deaver
Children’s Mysteries Fireworks at the FBI (Capital Mysteries Series #6) by Ron Roy, Timothy Bush (Illustrator) Murder On The Fourth of July: Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Super Mysteries 28
As always, I welcome additions and comments. Have a great holiday!!