Monday, February 28, 2011

Jane Russell: R.I.P

Jane Russell, one of Hollywood’s most memorable sex symbols from the 1940s and 1950s who starred in films such as the The Outlaw and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, died today at her home in Santa Maria, CA., of a respiratory illness, the Associated Press has confirmed. She was 89 years old.

She was originally discovered by eccentric movie mogul and billionaire Howard Hughes when he signed her to a seven-year contract and cast her in the Billy the Kid pic Outlaw, which rocketed her to near-overnight fame and caused controversy because of the cleavage she showed in the film. Because she was so voluptuous, Russell was  a popular pin-up during World War II. Over the years, Russell amassed a body of work that saw her share the screen with a bevy of Hollywood stars, notably Frank Sinatra and Groucho Marx (1951′s Double Dynamite), Bob Hope (1948′s The Paleface), Clark Gable (1955′s The Tall Men), and Marilyn Monroe (1953′s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).

Bogart & Bacall at the Oscars

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Murder at the Academy Awards:2011

Enjoy the Academy Awards tonight. Almost forgot to post this updated list! Several mysteries take place during the Academy Awards or the time period surrounding the Oscars!

Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers and Jerilyn Farmer
Oscar Season by Mary McNamara
Murder at the Academy Awards by Joe Hyams
Best Murder on the Year by Jon P. Bloch
Best Actress by John Kane
Jack Hightower by Will Vinton & Andrew Wiese
Screenscam by Michael Bowen
Tight Shot by Kevin Allman

Am I missing any titles?

Want something CHOCOLATE to enjoy during the Awards? Go to my post on DyingforChocolate for Chocolate Covered Popcorn, Chocolate Martinis and Cocopotamus (in the Swag Bags)!

Art from Books II

From Dusty Bookstand: "Painting" made from Books

Hat Tip: Tattered Cover

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Books as Art

Chelsea Bauch over at put together a collection of 10 Visual Artists Who Use Books as Their Medium. Although I'm not in favor of destroying books, I thought people might want to see some of these. Be sure and read the commentary to get a better idea of where the books are from and what the artist intends. Here's one example. To see others, go HERE.

Robert The: The Message  Collecting discarded books from thrift store bins and even dumpsters, Robert The creates objects of art that comment upon their own meaning and irrelevance. In his artist statement, The explains that these tossed aside books “are lovingly vandalized back to life so they can assert themselves against the culture which turned them into debris.”

Thomas Allen
Combining the imagery of pulp fiction cover art and the fun of pop-up books, Thomas Allen creates three-dimensional action scenes by cutting out and combining vintage cover images then using the remaining pages and spines to act as the stage for his new creations.

See other Books as Art Here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Audie Awards Nominees

The Audio Publishers Association has announced the nominees for their 16th annual Audies awards, "devoted entirely to honoring spoken word entertainment." The winners will be announced 24 May 2010 at the Audies Gala at the TimesCenter in New York City. Following are nominees of interest to Mystery/Crime Fiction/Thriller Fans. Let me know if I've forgotten any.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, narrated by Hope Davis (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, narrated by John Lee (Penguin)
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, narrated by David Aaron Baker (Recorded Books)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Jane Austen and Steve Hockensmith, narrated by Katherine Kellgren (
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy (Blackstone Audio)
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, narrated by Emma Galvin (Hachette Audio)

Dead Aim by Thomas Perry, narrated by Michael Kramer (Tantor Audio)
Interface by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George, narrated by Oliver Wyman (
The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds, narrated by Kate Reading (Blackstone Audio)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson, narrated by Reg Keeland (Random House Audio)
Vengeance by AJ Scudiere, narrated by Kristoffer Tabori, Stephanie Zimbalist, and Don Leslie (Griffyn Ink)

Original Work:
Fashionably Undead by Meg Cabot and the Twitterverse, narrated by Sarah Drew (AudioGO/BBC Audiobooks America)
Hearts, Keys and Puppetry by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse, narrated by Katherine Kellgren (AudioGO/BBC Audiobooks America)
New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Vol 2 by Max Allan Collins, narrated by Stacy Keach and full cast (Blackstone Audio)
The Alchemist and the Executioness by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell, narrated by Jonathan Davis and Katherine Kellgren (
William's Leap for Freedom adapted by Renee Pringle with assistance by Sue Zizza, narrated by Mirron E. Willis and a full cast (SueMedia)

Judges' Award: Paranormal:
Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews, narrated by Renee Raudman (Tantor Audio)
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, narrated by Kevin T. Collins (Hachette Audio)
Skinwalker: Jane Yellowrock, Book 1 by Faith Hunter, narrated by Khristine Hvam (
So Cold the River by Michael Koryta, narrated by Robert Petkoff (Hachette Audio)
The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White, narrated by Aimee Bruneau (Listen & Live Audio)

Short Stories/Collections:
A Matter of Matter by L. Ron Hubbard, narrated by Corey Burton, R.F. Daley, Jim Meskimen, Tait Ruppert, and Josh Thompson (Galaxy Press)
A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris, narrated by Johanna Parker (Recorded Books)
And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffrey Archer, narrated by Gerard Doyle (Macmillan Audio)
Ford County: Stories by John Grisham, narrated by John Grisham (Random House Audio)
How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley, narrated by Sloane Crosley (Penguin)
Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury, narrated by Michael Prichard (Tantor Audio)
Stories by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Anne Bobby, Jonathan Davis, Peter Francis James, Katherine Kellgren, and Euan Morton (HarperCollins Publishers)

The nominees, in all 28 categories, are available HERE 9-page pdf.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do the Write Thing: Earthquake Relief & Donations


1. Margot Kinberg is putting together Do the Write Thing, a charity raffle to raise money for Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake relief.  RT the link to her post, say something on Facebook, or email your friends. If you are an author who’d like to donate a signed copy of one of your books, please send Margot an email: MargotKinberg(at)gmail(dot)com and let her know that you’d like to be a part of Do the Write Thing and which title you’d like to contribute. READ MORE ON CONFESSIONS OF A MYSTERY NOVELIST. 

2. Craig Sisterson  (Kiwicraig) has  posted ways you can help with Earthquake Relief donations on his blog CRIME WATCH. Read this entry on how you can help. Craig lives in New Zealand.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making Books the Analog way

From comes this 'vintage' video on Making Books the Analog way (1947). Enjoy!

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

LA Times

The 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes ceremony honors the best books of 2010. The 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes will be awarded April 29, 2011, in a ceremony at the Los Angeles Times building.

The 2010 Book Prizes Innovator’s Award Winner, Robert Kirsch Award Winner, and the category finalists were announced publicly today, February 22, 2011. Congrats to all!

Mystery / Thriller Category

Tom Franklin, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (William Morrow)
Tana French, Faithful Place (Viking)
Laura Lippman, I’d Know You Anywhere (William Morrow)
Stuart Neville, Collusion (SoHo Press)
Kelli Stanley, City of Dragons (Minotaur Books/A Thomas Dunne Book)

To see the complete list, go HERE.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book-O-Mat: Vintage Vending Machine

BoingBoing reminds us of the Book-O-Mat, a vending machine from 1949. Don't you love it? From LIFE magazine. 25 cents a book!

For other Vintage Vending Machines, go HERE.

Matt Beynon Rees from the Ethnic Detective: Mystery Readers Journal

The Mystery Readers Journal has had several issues on the Ethnic Detective. This essay by Matt Beynon Rees originally appeared in 2007 in MRJ: Ethnic Detective Part I (Volume 23:1/Spring 2007). To view the Table of Contents or to Order, go HERE.

Matt Beynon Rees is the author of The Collaborator of Bethlehem, the first in a series of novels about Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef. A former Mideast correspondent for Time, Newsweek and The Scotsman, Rees lives in Jerusalem. He is the winner of the Crime Writers Association John Creasey New Blood Dagger 2008, Barry First Novel, Macavity First Mystery, and Quill Best Mystery nominee. The other titles in the Omar Yussef series are: A Grave in Gaza (UK title: The Saladin Murders), The Samaritan’s Secret, and The Fourth Assassin. His next novel is a departure. Mozart's Last Aria, historical crime fiction, will be out in May 2011.

The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees

In a cabbage patch on the edge of a village south of Bethlehem, I stood with the parents and wife of a Palestinian man who had been killed on that spot the night before by an Israeli sniper. As his wife tearfully described hearing the shot and his mother raged as she told me how she had recognized her son's body in the dark by the denim jacket she had bought for him, I thought: "This is great material. Too good, in fact." I was Jerusalem bureau chief for Time Magazine, covering the violence of the Palestinian intifada, which erupted in 2000. The dramatic story of this family ended up as a colorful paragraph at the top of the kind of story you might read frequently -- followed by lots of "To be sure, the Israelis say this and the State Department says that and the Palestinians, surprise, disagree." Even as I was speaking to that family, another man was being dragged into a Bethlehem street and shot dead because gunmen accused him of guiding the Israeli snipers to their target. It was there in that cabbage patch, as the wind came cold off the Judean Desert, that I knew I had to write The Collaborator of Bethlehem. (The death in the cabbage patch, indeed, is the basis of the first death in that novel.)

In some ways I had known it since the first time I set foot in a Palestinian town. In 1996, when I came to Jerusalem to work for a British newspaper, I traveled to Nablus to visit the family of a man who had been tortured to death in one of Yasser Arafat's jails. The news article I wrote was a good one, uncovering the internal Palestinian violence that was so often forgotten because of the more spectacular conflict between them and the Israelis. What struck me more powerfully that day was the candor and dignity with which the dead youth's family spoke to me. More than that, the sheer alienness of the place thrilled me. At the entrance to the family's house in the Nablus Casbah, an old oil drum held black flags and palm fronds, symbols of Islamic mourning. Men sat around smoking under a black awning. I felt a powerful sense of adventure, as though I had uncovered an unknown culture. The same was true a week later when I first went to Gaza and lost myself in its refugee camps and slums.

I sometimes joke that I developed an early interest in the Middle East, because my great-uncle had ridden a camel here during World War I, been shot in the backside, and used to get drunk and drop his pants to show us the scar when I was a kid. But actually I had grown up in Wales with no more concern for the Middle East than any other educated person who read the newspapers. But in 1996 I fell in love, quit my job in New York where I covered Wall Street (which was an alien culture/ without the culture), and joined my fiancŽe in the Holy Land. We divorced soon enough, but it worked out for me, because I fell in love with the land and the people here, instead.

I knew that I wanted to make fiction out of the place. I've wanted to write novels since I was seven years old, when my teacher put a poem I'd written on the wall of the classroom. I only became a journalist because I wanted to use my talent for writing (as opposed to some journalists who are covert political scientists and others who like to drink on expenses). When I came to the Middle East, I discovered that journalism could take me to places I'd never have imagined going and enabled me to meet people whose perspectives seemed utterly unlike mine. I realized that at heart I was an anthropologist. Perhaps it's because I wasn't happy growing up and felt alienated from the place where I should've felt at home, but when I become accustomed to things around me it's as though I no longer see them. When something is strange to me, I look deep and probe until I can understand it. That's why every time I go to a Palestinian town, I feel so alive and stimulated.

To feel "alive" in a place so filled with death is something I wouldn't have admitted during my decade as a journalist. I was restricted in expressing myself, because there were many thousands of people poised to write letters to the Editor at Time. But that sense of being alive led me inside Palestinian society in a way in which most foreign correspondents never achieve. I listened to ordinary Palestinians, no matter how bloodthirstily they spoke to me, whereas most journalists are just looking for a quote to fit into their formulaic story. I studied Arabic and that, too, has helped me to build relationships, to understand the culture. Palestinians are deeply hospitable, and when they discovered I had learned their rather difficult language they were impressed and flattered. (By learning the language, I was able to give my characters some of the formalized greetings and blessings that are an important part of Palestinian speech. I translated them, rather than just putting the original Arabic phrase in italics, because I want readers to get the poetry of everyday speech. For example, to wish someone good morning my characters say "Morning of joy" and the response is "Morning of light." When someone gives them a cup of coffee, they tell them "May Allah bless your hands." Isn't that beautiful?)

This was the most important stage in creating an "Ethnic detective"--understanding the people well enough that I could build a character who'll seem real, a detective whose every thought and concern marks him out as belonging to his own society, not a caricature of an Arab. I came across the man who would be the basis of my sleuth, Omar Yussef, in Bethlehem. This man, whom I don't name because it might endanger him, is an independent thinker in a world of fearful groupthink, an honorable man in a dark reality. I believe readers will still like Omar even when he's at his most irascible, because they'll understand how frustrating it would be for a man of such integrity to face his dreadful, corrupt world--that's why I was drawn to the real Omar over the years.

The reality of Palestinian life, I concluded, is badly portrayed in journalism, with all its limitations and formulas. I decided that fiction would get me closer to that reality, to the expression of what I had learned about the Palestinians during a decade among them.

I turned to the mystery genre because I wanted to build characters--most importantly my detective Omar Yussef--who would really breathe. I studied literature at Oxford University, so I've plowed through plenty of so-called literary fiction over the years and ultimately found it to be full of linguistic fireworks but with very little insight into why we behave as we do. Its characters are often empty. A mystery series gives me an opportunity to build Omar's character and to put life into the minor characters around him. They're all based on real Palestinians I've met, too, and none of them are the cartoon victims or one-dimensional villains you'd expect from reading the newspapers.

The lawlessness of Palestinian life also gave me great material for my villains. If I read a mystery novel I don't like, usually it's because the villain is weak, with little motivation for his crime. Unfortunately there are many Palestinians who have strong motivations to kill each other. I've spent a lot of time over the years with some of these men, trying to learn why they take the path of violence. I think it makes for a deeper characterization of the villains in my books. Some might say that detective fiction is contrived, because the villain always gets his comeuppance in the end, but many of the gunmen I've interviewed--and many Palestinians I've met who weren't gunmen--are dead now, almost always violently. That's something Palestinians would rather their culture didn't offer me, but sadly they have villains in spades and death comes tragically as often not. Murder isn't a contrived concept among the Palestinians. It's not a literary device. Reality, for them, is full of murder. I only have to supply the mystery.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

U.S. Presidential Detective Fiction: Hail to the Chief

In honor of President's Day, I've put together an updated list of mysteries that feature the U.S. President. Hail to the Chief. This is not a definitive list by any means.

Assassination Attempts:
Pursuit by James Stewart Thayer
Watchdogs by John Weisman
American Quartet by Warren Adler
Primary Target by Marilyn Wallace
Primary Target by Max Allan Collins
The Kidnapping of the President by Charles Templeton
Campaign Train (Murder Rides the Campaign Train) by The Gordons
Glass Tiger by Joe Gores

The Kidnapping of the President by Charles Templeton
Line of Succession by Brian Garfield
Oath of Office by Steven J. Kirsch
We are Holding the President Hostage by Warren Adler
The Camel Club by David Baldacci

Presidential Disappearances:
The President Vanishes by Rex Stout
Missing! by Michael Avallone
The President's Plan is Missing by Robert J. Serling

Fixing the Election:
President Fu Manch by Sax Rohmer
The Big Fix by Roger L. Simon
The Ceiling of Hell by Warren Murphy
Atropos by William DeAndrea
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
The 13th Directorate by Barry Chubin
The Red President by Martin Gross
The Trojan Hearse by Richard S. Prather

Presidential Crisis:
Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
Vanished by Fletcher Knebel

The President as Detective:
Bully by Mark Schorr

The JFK Plot:
Too many to list, but...
Executive Action by Mark Lane, Donald Freed and Stephen Jaffe
The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry
Mongoose, RIP by William F. Buckley

Presidential Families:
Murder and the First Lady (and other novels) By Elliot Roosevelt (featuring Eleanor Roosevelt)
Murder in the White House (and other novels) by Margaret Truman (fictional White House daughter)
They've Shot the President's Daughter by Edward Stewart
Deadly Aims by Ron L. Gerard

Julie Hyzy's White House Chef series
Treason at Hanford by Scott Parker

An Anthology:
Mr President, Private Eye, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Different historical presidents in the role of sleuth

From my Election Presidential list November 2009: Political Election and Thrillers
Rubicon by Lawrence Alexander
Saving Faith by David Baldacci
Political Suicide and Touched by the Dead by Robert Barnard
Capitol Conspiracy by William Bernhardt
Bowen, Michael Richard Michaelson- Retired Foreign Service Officer-Washington DC
Three Shirt Deal by Stephen J. Cannell
Impaired Judgement by David Compton
Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
Term Limits by Vince Flynn
The Scandal Plan by Bill Folman
The Power Broker by Stephen W. Frey
Spook Country by William Gibson
Fast Track, Sleeping Dogsby Ed Gorman
The Fourth Perimeter by Tim Green
The People's Choice by Jeff Greenfield
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
The President's Daughter and The White House Connection by Jack Higgins
The Enemy Within  by Noel Hynd
First Daughter by Eric Lustbader
Executive Privilege by Philip Margolin
The Race, Protect and Defend, Balance of Power by Richard North Patterson
Politics Noir: Gary Phillips, Editor
Missing Member by Jo-Ann Power
Dark Horse by Ralph Reed
Dead Heat, The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg
Dead Watch by John Sandford
State of the Union by Brad Thor
Capital Crimes by Stuart Woods

Friday, February 18, 2011

Doctors remove knife from man's head after 4 years

First there were bullets, then there were nails, then there was the and now there's a guy with a knife in his head. All these stayed in place for years!

Note: They are all MEN with these potentially lethal elements in the their heads.

Associated Press on SF Gate reports that Surgeons in southern China successfully removed a rusty, 4-inch (10-centimeter) knife from the skull of a man who said it had been stuck in there for four years.

Li Fuyan, 30, had been suffering from severe headaches, bad breath and breathing difficulties but never knew the cause of his discomfort, said the senior official at the Yuxi City People's Hospital in Yunnan Province. Li told doctors he had been stabbed in the lower right jaw by a robber four years ago and the blade broke off inside his head without anyone realizing it, said the director of the hospital's Communist Party committee's office who would only give his surname, He.

Surgeons worked cautiously to remove the badly-corroded blade without shattering it, He said. The hospital's website also reported the successful surgery.

Read more HERE.

Hat Tip: Weird News

John Strauss, Composer of "Car 54" Theme: R.I.P.

There’s a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
That’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.
Car 54, where are you?

John Strauss, an Emmy-winning composer and music editor who wrote the theme music for “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “The Phil Silvers Show” (familiarly known as “Sergeant Bilko”), died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 90.

Mr. Strauss received an Emmy for sound editing in 1978 for his work on the TV movie “The Amazing Howard Hughes,” and a Grammy in 1984 for producing the soundtrack album of the film “Amadeus.”
But it was for “Car 54” that he remained best known. Broadcast on NBC from 1961 to 1963, the show opens with its stars, Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross, blithely cruising the city in their squad car (they can be seen playing checkers on the dashboard as they drive), oblivious of the catastrophes erupting throughout the city.

Read the NYT Obituary HERE.

Hat Tip: Bill Crider

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Agatha Award Nominees

Agatha Award Nominees

The 2010 Agatha Awards are given for materials first published in the United States by a living author during the calendar year 2010 (January 1-December 31), either in hardcover, as a paperback original, or e-published by an e-publishing firm. They will be presented at Malice Domestic.

Best Novel:
Stork Raving Mad by Donna Andrews
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

Best First Novel:
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden
Maid of Murder by Amanda Flower
Full Mortality by Sasscer Hill
Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff

Best Non-fiction:
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: 50 Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Stephen Doyle & David A. Crowder
Have Faith in Your Kitchen by Katherine Hall Page
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang

Best Short Story:
"Swing Shift" by Dana Cameron, Crimes by Moonlight
"Size Matters" by Sheila Connolly, Thin Ice
"Volunteer of the Year" by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin'
"So Much in Common" by Mary Jane Maffini, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - Sept./Oct. 2010
"The Green Cross" by Liz Zelvin, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2010

Best Children's/Young Adult:
Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus
by R. L. LaFevers
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee
Virals by Kathy Reichs
The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith

Congratulations to all the Nominees!

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child: Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime: Authors who Collaborate. I'm happy to continue this series here on Mystery Fanfare with Guest Posts by both Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Be sure and check out other guest posts by Partner in Crime writing partners: Guest Posts from Mark Zubro, Bill Crider, Charles Todd, Mary Reed & Eric Mayer, Max Allan Collins, David Corbett, Michael Stanley, Jeffery Deaver, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Charlotte Elkins, and Eric Beetner & JB Kohl and Hailey Lind.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are an incredibly productive writing duo. On February 22 they will launch the first in a new thriller series, Gideon's Sword. The book has already been optioned by Paramount. For Preston & Child's full list of collaborative novels, go HERE. For their solo novels, go HERE.

Before We Got Caught by Douglas Preston

My first job out of college was as a writer and editor for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I wrote a pokey little column in the magazine Natural History. An editor from St. Martin's Press, who had been reading my pieces, called me up and asked if I wanted to write a history of the Museum. I said yes -- and that became my first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. After the book was published, I gave the editor a tour of the Museum – late at night, because I was afraid of getting caught showing an unauthorized person behind the scenes. I showed him all the best places in the Museum to which I had access--the dinosaur bone storage room, the collection of 30,000 rats in jars of alcohol, the whale eyeball collection, the preserved mastodon stomach with its last meal inside, and a lot of other unusual things. We ended up in the Hall of Late Dinosaurs around 2:00 a.m., with only the emergency lights on, the great black skeletons looming in the darkness around us--and the editor turned to me and said: "Doug, this is the scariest damn building in the world. Let's write a thriller set in here." And that was the birth of Relic. That editor, of course, was Lincoln Child. We both discovered we shared the same kind of sick, twisted view of the world.

And so began our long and fruitful collaboration which, 14 best-sellers later, has produced GIDEON’S SWORD, the first book in a brand new series starring a rather sketchy character named Gideon Crew.

In order for our partnership to work we have to trust each other. When Linc tells me something I've written is pure crap, I have to believe him. (But not after roundly denouncing his execrable taste, hideous judgment, and deplorable illiteracy.) This trust is the only thing that can make a writing partnership like ours work. We are not prima donnas who think that every word that trips off our pen is a precious pearl to be treasured and endlessly polished. Linc slashes away at my work and I do the same to his, and in the end, despite getting serious bent out of shape with each other, we end up with something that is, I believe, better than what we could have written on our own.

The idea for GIDEON’S SWORD came about when I was researching potter’s fields. I learned that New York City maintains the largest potter’s field in the world, on an uninhabited island situated in Long Island Sound. Called Hart Island, almost a million bodies are buried there, in mass graves, dating back to the Civil War. When I read this, I was astounded; I immediately called Linc and we brainstormed. A half an hour later we had the basic plot for GIDEON’S SWORD worked out, along with the determination to use this fabulous setting to the fullest in the novel. Because Hart Island isn’t just a burial ground—it is covered with amazing ruins: of a boy’s workhouse, a tubercularium, a yellow fever quarantine, an abandoned Nike missile base, and (most wonderful of all) an overgrown baseball field with the very bleachers taken from the legendary Ebbets Field, home to the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

My wife Christine and I rented a boat and made a guerrilla landing on Hart Island, to photograph the place for the novel. Before we got caught (that’s a story for another day) Christine, who is a professional photographer, got off some good shots. Here’s one of them. Enjoy!

Writing Together by Lincoln Child

I edited Doug Preston’s first non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. This was an armchair behind-the-scenes tour of New York’s American Museum of Natural History and the various real-life Indiana Joneses who worked there over the years. In the process of writing and editing this book, Doug and I became friends.

A few months after the book’s publication, Doug sent me the opening chapters of a new book he wanted to write: a murder mystery, set in the Museum. I called him up and told him that good murder mysteries were quite hard to pull off, and that—unless your name was Agatha Christie—they didn’t always sell all that many copies. I suggested instead that he write a thriller, set in a fictitious natural history museum—and that he write it with me.

And so RELIC was born. In the beginning, I sent Doug chapter outlines and he fleshed them out into complete chapters, which I then revised and edited. (I would write occasional chapters myself, but early on Doug wrote the lion’s share.) We began the book as a lark, really, and its progress was sporadic and slow. But over the course of writing it, an odd thing happened. Watching Doug bring my outlines to life, I became aware all over again of just how the creative process works. (I’d written short stories and even novels in high school, but working as an editor had, perhaps perversely, sapped my own interest in writing.) And as Doug watched me take his first drafts and polish them, tightening here and rewriting there (this was a process I likened to taking a lump of coal and, under extreme pressure, transforming it into a diamond), he learned how to streamline his own prose even more.

Over the next several books, I began to shoulder more of the writing process, and Doug more of the revising process. And then another odd thing happened. The more joint books we wrote, the more our styles blended, until there came a point where it was difficult for an outside reader to know who had written which paragraph.

Doug and I have both written solo novels as well as joint ones, and we can attest that the processes are very different. Writing by yourself can sometimes be a lonely affair. You come to a fork in the road, and you are never quite sure—until the book is successfully finished—that you’re taking the right turn. You wonder if, half a dozen forks later, you’ll realize you zigged when you should have zagged. In a joint book, there’s always somebody else you can ask for advice, somebody you can fall back on if your imagination is flagging or if you’ve written yourself into a corner. Naturally, solo books are wonderful things—you can take a unique pride in having written them, and there’s no co-author to fight with over what’s going to happen in the next scene—but in certain specific ways, I’ve found that a writing partnership can be an even more rewarding creative experience. But then again, I would always have rather been one of the Beatles than Bob Dylan…

Monday, February 14, 2011

Syfy Developing Series About Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle

Deadline reports that Syfy had been negotiating for Among the Spirits, a drama series project about Houdini and Doyle solving mysteries in 1920s.

"I guess there is something in the air about that whole time period and that very interesting relationship between Houdini and Doyle," said Syfy's president of original programming Mark Stern. (Both Syfy brass and the producers of Among the Spirits first heard about Voices from the Dead from reading our story.) 

Among the Spirits, named after Houdini's book A Magician Among the Spirits published in 1924, is based on self-published graphic novel Among the Spirits by writers Steve Valentine and Paul Chart. Stern describes the project, which is being put in development, as "a turn-of-the-century Fringe." It will be in the vein of steampunk TV classic The Wild Wild West and Guy Ritchie's 2009 movie Sherlock Homes which put the steampunk  genre back into the zeitgeist. It will center on Houdini and Doyle who, with the help of a female cop, try to solve bizarre murders and strange occurrences that look like hauntings and other supernatural events using steampunk technology.

"We have Houdini, who was the ultimate illusionist and was all about creating illusions, and Dolyle, who was all about getting to the truth underneath - the pragmatist and the dreamer - set against that 1920s world of America where technology is just starting to grow." Entertainment One, which produces Haven for Syfy, is behind Among the Spirits, with Chart and Valentine writing as well as producing with Daniel J. Frey.

Among the Spirits is not the only period mystery series project in the works involving real historic figures. ABC gave a pilot order to Poe, a crime procedural following Edgar Allan Poe, the world's very first detective, as he uses unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston.

World's Smallest Gun

Swiss Mini Gun is a miniature double action revolver that has all the same features as a regular sized gun. The total length of the firearm does not exceed 5.5 cm. It shoots 2.34 mm calibre bullets, the smallest rim fire ammunition in the world.

This is not a toy. It's a gun! It's deadly.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweetheart Sleuths: a List

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I'm posting a list of Sweetheart Sleuths compiled by Ruth Greiner. I've added a few 'couples', and I'm sure you have more. Make a comment, and I'll update the list. In the meantime, have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

SWEETHEART SLEUTHS compiled by Ruth Greiner

Alexander, Tasha: Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves
Allen, Conrad:  Genevieve Masefield and George Dillman Porter
Allingham, Margery:  Albert Campion and Amanda Pontisbright
Arnold, Margot:  Tobias Glendower and Penelope Spring
Bell, Albert:  Michael Harrington and Corie Foster
Billheimer, John: Owen Allison and ex-wife Judith
Borthwick, J. S.:  Sarah Dean and Alex McKenzie
Bowen, Michael: Rep and Melissa Pennyworth
Burke, Jan: Irene Kelly and Frank Harriman
Carlson, P. M. Maggie and Nick Ryan
Chappell, Helen Holly and Sam Westcott
Charles, Kate Lucy Kingsley and David Middleton-Brown
Christie, Agatha Tommy and Tuppence Beresford
Cockey, Tim Hitchcock Sewell and ex-wife Julia Finney
Craig, Alisa Dittany Henbit and Osbert Monk, Madoc and Jane Rhys
Crombie, Deborah Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James
Curzon, Claire Mike Yeadings and Rosemary Zyczynski
Davis, Krista Sophie Winston, domestic diva, and Detective Wolf
Evanovich, Janet Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli—or Ranger—or Diesel—or not
Finch, Charles: Charles Lennox and Lady Jane Grey
Gordon, Alan Jester Feste and wife Viola, late of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”
Greenwood, Kerry: Corinna Chapman and Daniel Cohen
Granger, Ann Alan Markby and Meredith Mitchell
Haddam, Jane Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford (this one’s a stretch)
Ham, Lorie Alexandra Waters and Stephen Carlucci
Hammett, Dashiell Nick and Nora Charles
Handler, David Mitch Berger and state policewoman Desiree Mitry
Harrington, Jonathan C. J. and Bridge
Hart, Carolyn Max and Annie Darling
Iakovou, Takis and Judy Nick and Julia Lambro
Kellerman, Faye Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus
Kelly, Susan B. Alison Hope and Nick Trevelyan
Kelner, Toni L. P. Laurie Ann and Richard Fleming
Kenney, Susan Roz Howard and Alan Stewart
King, Laurie R. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Levinson, R. S. Neil Gulliver and Stevie Marriner
Lindquist, N. J. Paul Manziuk and Jacqueline Ryan
Lockridge, Frances and Richard Pam and Jerry North
Lupoff, Richard Hobart Lindsay and Marvia Plum
MacLeod, Charlotte Max and Sarah Kelling Bittersohn, Peter and Helen Shandy
McBride, Susan Maggie Ryan and John Phillips
McCafferty, Barbara Taylor & Herald, Beverly: Bert & Nan Tatum
McDermid, Val: Tony Hill and Carol Jordan
McGown, Jill Chief Inspector Danny Lloyd, Inspector Judy Hill
Marsh, Ngaio: Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy
Matthews, Alex Cassidy McCabe, Zack
Maxwell, A. & E. Fiora and Fiddler
Moyes, Patricia Emmie and Henry Tibbetts
Newman, Sharan Catherine Levendeur and husband Edgar
Paige, Robin Charles and Kate Sheridan
Palmer, Stuart Hildegarde Withers and Inspector Piper
Pears, Iain Flavia Di Stefano and Jonathan Argyle
Perry, Anne Thomas and Charlotte Pitt
Peters, Elizabeth Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson, Ramses and Nefret,Vicky Bliss and John Smith
Pickard, Nancy Jenny Cain and Geoffrey Bushfield
Pomidor, Bill Drs. Calista and Plato Marley
Raybourn,  Deanna: Nichloas Brisbane and Lady Julia Grey
Rozan, S. J. Bill Smith and Lydia Chin
Rubino, Jane Cat Austen and Victor Cardenas
Sale, Medora John Sanders and Harriet Jeffries
Saulnier, Beth Alex Bernier and Brian Cody
Sayers, Dorothy L. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane
Schumacher, Aileen Tory Peters and David Alvarez
Smith, Charles Merrill Reverend Con Randollph and Samantha Stack
Thompson, Victoria: Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Molloy
Whitney, Polly Ike and Abby
Wilhelm, Kate Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Leidl
Wright, L. R. Karl Alberg, RCMP, and Cassandra Mitchell

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Barry Award Nominees 2011

The Barry Award Nominations 2011. The nominees for the 2011 Barry Awards have just been announced.  Voting is done by the readers of Deadly Pleasures magazine.  The winners will be announced at Bouchercon (September, in St. Louis, MO).

Best Novel

NOWHERE TO RUN, C. J. Box (Putnam)
THE LOCK ARTIST, Steve Hamilton (Minotaur)
MOONLIGHT MILE, Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
BURY YOUR DEAD, Louise Penny (Minotaur)
SAVAGES, Don Winslow (Simon & Schuster)

Best First Novel

GUTSHOT STRAIGHT, Lou Berney (Morrow)
ROGUE ISLAND, Bruce DeSilva (Forge)
THE POACHER'S SON, Paul Doiron (Minotaur)
SHERLOCKIAN, Graham Moore (Twelve)
THE HOLY THIEF, William Ryan (Minotaur)
ONCE A SPY, Keith Thomson (Doubleday)

Best British Novel

STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG, Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)
BLOOD HARVEST, S. J. Bolton (Bantam Press)
THE WHISPERS, John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton)
THE WOODCUTTER, Reginald Hill (HarperCollins)
THREE SECONDS, Roslund & Hellstrom (Quercus)
FOURTH DAY, Zoe Sharp (Allison & Busby)

Best Paperback Original

THE HANGING TREE, Bryan Gruley (Touchstone)
THE DEAD LIE DOWN, Sophie Hannah (Penguin)
EGGSECUTIVE ORDERS, Julie Hyzy (Berkley)
FEVER AT THE BONE, Val McDermid (Harper)
THE RHETORIC OF DEATH, Judith Rock (Berkley)

Best Thriller

13 HOURS, Deon Meyer (Grove Atlantic)
AMERICAN ASSASSIN, Vince Flynn (Atria)
THE BRICKLAYER, Noah Boyd (Harper)
BOLT ACTION, Charles Charters (Hodder U.K.)
ON TARGET, Mark Greaney (Jove)
THE REMBRANDT AFFAIR, Daniel Silva (Putnam)

Best Short Story

Mitch Alderman, "Requiem for Antlers" (AHMM Jan.-Feb. 2010)
Robert Barnard, "Family Values" (EQMM Feb. 2010)
Caroline Benton, "The Body in the Dunes (EQMM Jan. 2010)
Loren D. Estleman, "The List" (EQMM May 2010)
Terence Faherty, "The Seven Sorrows" (EQMM Mar.-Apr. 2010)
Ellen Larson, "When the Apricots Bloom" (AHMM July-Aug. 2010)

Congratulations to all! Thanks to Judy Bobalik for sending!

Top 10 Literary Outlaws

Ezra Pound
Kathleen Massara has a great post on (one of my favorite websites): Typewriters & Mug Shots: The Top 10 Literary Outlaws

"Writers throughout history have been known to run afoul of the law, with charges ranging from disorderly conduct to murder. With the advent of the mug shot in the late 1800s, a latent image emerged of these various offenses, realized through this new, curious medium."

You might just be surprised by some of the crimes--Murder included. Mug Shots are fabulous! Read the entire article HERE or click on the names to see Mug Shots and Crimes!

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS  Burroughs shot and killed his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer, in 1951 after a night of heavy drinking. The author attempted to shoot a highball glass off of Joan’s head…and missed.

Valentine's Day Mysteries

Here's my updated Valentine's Day Crime Fiction list. I'm posting early, so you'll have plenty of time to get these titles. Be sure and check out my Blog: DyingforChocolate for lots of Chocolate reviews, recipes and gift ideas. Of course, you can always give a bundle of the following mysteries, add a red ribbon and some chocolate truffles, and you're good to go!

Valentine's Day Mysteries

Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert
Death of a Valentine by M. C. Beaton
The Broken Hearts Club by Ethan Black
Claws and Effect by Rita Mae Brown
How To Murder The Man Of Your Dreams by Dorothy Cannell
Red Roses for a Dead Trucker by Anna Ashwood Collins
A Catered Valentine's Day by Isis Crawford
Hard Feelings by Barbara D’Amato
Love With The Proper Killer by Rose Deshaw
The Saint Valentine's Day Murders by Ruth Dudley Edwards
Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich
Happy Valentine’s Day by Michelle Fitzpatrick
The Living Daylights by Ian Fleming
St. Valentine's Night by Andrew M. Greeley
Caveman's Valentine by George Dawes Green
Bleeding Hearts by Jane Haddam
The Valentine's Day Murder by Lee Harris
Deadly Valentine by Carolyn G. Hart
Sugar and Spite by G.A. McKevett
Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
The Valentine Victim by Dougal McLeish
Sugar and Spite by G.A. McKevett
Valentine Murder by Leslie Meier
Love You to Death by Grant Michaels
Cat Playing Cupid by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
The Body in the Attic by Katherine Hall Page
A Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell
Valentine by Tom Savage
One Rough Man by Brad Taylor
Murder of a Pink Elephant by Denise Swanson
Daughter Of The Stars by Phyllis A. Whitney

Short Stories
Crimes of Passion with stories by Nancy Means, B.J. Daniels, Jonathan Harrington and Maggie Right Price
My Heart Cries Out for You by Bill Crider
Valentine's Day Is Killing Me edited by Leslie Esdaile, Mary Janice Davidson, Susanna Carr
Crimes of the Heart edited by Carolyn G. Hart
Valentine’s Day: Women Against Men-Stories of Revenge edited by Alice Thomas Editor

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bag Swinging Granny Fights Off Jewel Thieves

An elderly woman in the UK fought off jewelry shop robbers with her handbag. Go Granny! 6 men brazenly smashing way into shop in central English city of Northampton at 9:30 am Monday morning.

Watch the footage below.

Read the story here in the NY Post

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love Is Murder: Lovey Awards

Love is Murder, a small mystery conference was held in Chicago over this past weekend.  The Lovey Awards were originally known as the Reader's Choice Award, and have been a feature of the Love Is Murder conference since 2000. Because no conference was held in 2010, books published in both 2009 and 2010 were considered for 2011 awards.

Update: Carol Thomas just posted the entire list on Thanks to Jamie Freveletti for pointing me that way!

Lovey Award Winners:
Best First Novel: Stein, Stoned  by Hal Ackerman
Best Traditional/Amateur Sleuth: Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy
Best PI/Police Procedural: Hostile Takeovers by Michael Black
Best Historical: Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander
Best Thriller: Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti
Best Romantic Suspense: Red, White, and Dead by Laura Caldwell
Best Series: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Best Short Story: “The Sugar Cure,” by Carolyn Haines (from Delta Blues, 2010)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Murder at the Super Bowl: Football Crime Fiction

I'm sure there's a lot of real crime around the Super Bowl: drugs, money, egos, etc. Lots of fodder for the crime writer. So in 'honor' of Sunday's Game,  I've put together a short list of Football Mysteries. This is in no way definitive. Just some mysteries for you to enjoy in case you're not watching the Super Bowl Game.

If you're interested in other Sports Mysteries and essays on Football Mysteries, Mystery Readers Journal has had several Sports Mysteries issues. The last Sports Mysteries Issue of MRJ was Volume 25:4 (Winter 2009-2010). Available in Hardcopy and .pdf download

Super Bowl Mysteries

Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl by John Feinstein (YA)
Murder at the Super Bowl by Fran Tarkenton and Herb Resnicow
Black Sunday by Thomas Harris
Killerbowl by Gary K. Wolf
The Last Super Bowl by Robin Moore & David Harper

Other Football Mysteries (not British Football, of which there are many titles)

Rough and Tumble by Mark Bavaro
Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben 
Coliseum by Barney Cohen 
Super-Dude by John Craig 
Day of the Ram by William Campbell Gault
Murder at Cleaver Stadium by Douglas Lee Gibboney
Double Reverse; Ruffians by Tim Green
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
Bleeding Maize and Blue by Susan Holtzer
Bump and Run by Mike Lupica
The Draft by Wil Mara
Dead Ball Foul by Kayla McGrady
A Cardinal Offense by Ralph McInerny
4th and Fixed by Reggie Rivers
Winter and Night by S. J. Rozan
Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt
Marked Man; Red Card by Mel Stein
Life's Work by Jonathan Valin

Friday, February 4, 2011

Contest: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

Winner: John (JF Norris) who blogs at Pretty Sinister Books. Congrats, John. Be sure and email your address, so I can pop A Red Herring without Mustard to you ASAP.  Thanks to everyone who entered this contest.


February 8 marks the launch of a new novel by one of my favorite authors, Alan Bradley. A Red Herring without Mustard (Delacorte Press) is the third installment of the Flavia de Luce series. Flavia, the detective, may be 11, but this is not a YA book, nor is Flavia Nancy Drew. The books are set in 1950s England, and Flavia is an 11 year old sleuth of the English gentry, albeit in fallen straights, who comes upon corpses and poisons. Her Victorian Chemistry lab is worth the price of admission, or in this case, the book!

In this installment, Flavia draws upon her 'encyclopedic knowledge of poisons and gypsy lore to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Gypsies, nobility, English village, historical (1950s), A Red Herring Without Mustard has it all. Whimsical and madcap!

Alan Bradley, a retired radio/TV engineer from Vancouver, BC, was 70 when he submitted a 15 page synopsis of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (#1 in the series) to the British Crime Writers Association for consideration for the Debut Dagger Award. The rest is history!

Alan Bradley won the Macavity Award  (and many other awards) for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

CONTEST: Win a copy of A Red Herring without Mustard. Just make a comment below of why you are endeared (or not) by Flavia de Luce. Winner will be chosen by a random numerical system on February 8. Be sure and check back to this post on February for the winner!

Video of Alan Bradley talking about Book 2: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Dragon: Kelli Stanley guest blog

With the start of Chinese New Year today, I asked Kelli Stanley, author of the award winning mystery City of Dragons, set in San Francisco's Chinatown, to guest post today. Thanks, Kelli!

Kelli Stanley's debut novel, NOX DORMIENDA (A Long Night for Sleeping) (Five Star; July, 2008), was a Writer’s Digest Notable Debut. It won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and was a Macavity Award finalist. THE CURSE-MAKER, the sequel to her debut "Roman noir" novel NOX DORMIENDA, was just released on February 1, 2011, from Thomas Dunne/Minotaur.  Kelli’s second novel, the San Francisco-set CITY OF DRAGONS was a Thomas Dunne/Minotaur released on February 2, 2010, to overwhelming critical acclaim. CITY OF SECRETS, the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, will be published in the Fall of 2011.

Kelli Stanley:

Year of the Dragon

Today does not mark the start of the Year of the Dragon—that’s next year. It’s actually the Year of the Rabbit … but I couldn’t resist headlining dragons for a couple of reasons. One, of course, is that my first Miranda Corbie novel is set during the Year of the Dragon … and then, too, I happen to be a dragon (most dragons you meet will always tell you they’re a dragon … it’s considered the luckiest sign of the zodiac, the symbol of the Emperor, etc. … as if we can take the credit for the year we’re born!)

When Janet invited me to post—for which I thank her immensely, as I love her blogs, and dream daily of chocolate confections—I thought about why I love Chinese New Year so much.

Sure, I celebrate the Gregorian calendar. But somehow, the pressure of that “2011”—and the starkness of the bare number—is intimidating. Cold, even.

One of the greatest burdens—perhaps THE greatest burden—of the animal known as homo sapiens is our pernicious consciousness of time. We recognize and anticipate our own mortality—and this makes the future of a new year—a new demarcated set of time within which anything could happen—a frightening prospect.

We off-set the fear of the future with the comforts of memory, the blessing that eases the burden. Maybe that’s one reason why people like to read historical fiction … and maybe one reason many of us like to write it. We also battle our anxiety over what changes the future holds with noise makers, celebration, parties and alcohol, an annual Masque of the Red Death kind of gaiety. So yeah, January 1st is both celebratory and problematic, full of hope for change and fear of change.
But what about Chinese New Year?

For me—and maybe partly because I didn’t grow up in the culture—there’s something comforting about marking off years in cycles that repeat, and representing them with forces of nature … oxen, rats, rabbits, snakes, horses, twelve symbols all together that cycle through every twelve years. I prefer to welcome the Year of the Rabbit than four spare numbers. And Chinese New Year celebrates the transition from winter to spring, always an optimistic time.

And then the festivities … I’m lucky to live in San Francisco, where you can see and hear and experience the roughly two weeks of symbolic festival played out: lion dances, red lanterns, special food, the dragon dance, flowers, fish, red envelopes full of money, parades, incense … it’s beautiful. Full of ancient tradition and new technologies, vibrant street markets, positive energy, and plenty of time—not just one night—to welcome in a new year and a new animal. The Dragon, incidentally, is the only mythological creature in the zodiac.

So this year, as every year, I’ll be looking forward to Chinese New Year and welcoming in the Year of the Rabbit. It instills me with more confidence that plain old 2011.

And wherever you may be, I wish you and yours “gung hay fat choy”!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chinese New Year Crime Fiction

恭賀發財 Gung Hay Fat Choy! This is the Year of the Rabbit. Chinese New Year begins February 3.

Living in San Francisco, the City that Knows How, I've put together Chinese New Year's Mystery Lists for the past few years! Not an easy task.  Just one addition this year. As always, I welcome any titles.

Year of the Dog by Henry Chang 

Year of the Dragon by Robert Daley 
Neon Dragon by John Dobbyn 
The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee by Robert Van Gulik (7th Century china) "New Year's Eve in Lan-Fang" 
Dim Sum Dead by Jerrilyn Farmer 
The Skull Cage Key by Michael Marriott
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan
City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley

And, a short story by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer: "The Lady Fish Mystery", EQMM, September/October 1996.

I seem to remember a mystery by William Marshall (Yellowthread Street mysteries) set during Chinese New Year, but I mentioned this last year, and no one came forward.

Tomorrow Kelli Stanley, author of City of Dragons, will be guest blogging about Chinese New Year.

Also tomorrow on my other blog, Dying for Chocolate, I'll have a few Chocolate Chinese New Year recipes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleo Coyle: Brewing up Murder

This Author! Author! essay by Cleo Coyle appears in the Mystery Readers Journal: Hobbies, Crafts & Special Interests (Volume 26:4). To order this issue, go HERE and scroll down. Available as hardcopy or .pdf

Cleo Coyle is the pseudonym of Alice Alfonsi, who collaborates with her husband, Marc Cerasini, to write the Coffeehouse Mysteries and The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, both of which are national bestselling series for Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime. When not haunting coffeehouses, wrangling stray cats, or hunting ghosts, Alice and Marc are also New York Times bestselling media tie-in writers.

Brewing Up Murder by Cleo Coyle
Eight years ago, my husband and I embarked on writing a series of amateur sleuth novels set in and around a landmark coffeehouse in New York's Greenwich Village. I know, I know. Amateur sleuths in traditional mysteries are supposed to knock back loose leaf tea in bone china cups. Maybe so, but here's the rub.

I'm a java geek for good reason.

Growing up in a big, Italian-American family, I found a Moka Express pot on almost every kitchen stove. To me, espresso was never some fashionable Yuppie drink. Whether the demitasse was served with a shot of sambuca on the side, lemon and sugar on the rim, or biscotti on the saucer, that bold, dark elixir was part of my cultural heritage.

My first job, at the age of 12, was serving coffee—just like my fictional coffeehouse manager Clare. I wasn't born and raised in New York. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unlike Clare, however, I didn't drop out of art school. I completed my degree at Carnegie Mellon. Thanks to some early writing awards along with a journalism program at American U. in DC, I wound up landing a cub reporter's spot at the New York Times.

I downed a lot of bean juice during that period. I also lived in a tiny apartment in Alphabet City. These days, much of that Manhattan neighborhood is packed with trendy bars and clubs. Back then, it was simply a low income wing of the East Village.

Although my Avenue B apartment was Lilliputian in size and sat across from a park that was (at the time) a haven for crack dealers, it was also located two floors above a small, no-frills bakery called Bread and Roses—a warm ray of home-baked light in a manifestly noir-ish landscape.

The women who ran that bakery served coffee in the mornings, and I took blissful pleasure from the wholesome smells wafting from their shop: cookies, muffins, pies, and freshly brewing java. Their welcoming outlook was equally reassuring as I attempted to stay afloat on Manhattan's crowded, competitive (way crazy) island.

That concept of a Cozy oasis nestled in a land of Noir stayed with me for years and became fundamental in the development of the Coffeehouse Mystery series.

Oh, sure, setting a series in "the Village" of big, bad New York seems a cheeky irony for anything calling itself a cozy mystery, which typically locates its amateur sleuths in small towns. Honestly, though, anyone who's lived in the Big Apple can tell you many aspects of the city—its unique neighborhoods, mom-and-pop businesses, and populace that loves baseball, gossip, and pets—have a lot in common with small town living. The historic, upscale West Village alone is very much like its own little burg.

So maybe my husband and I are writing a hybrid. Or maybe we should call what we write an Urban Cozy. Whatever it is, male-female collaboration is part of it.

Both of us have found the coffeehouse to be a fascinating institution—and a relatively new one in much of America. A generation ago, fern bars and chardonnay were the thing. Now teenagers are ordering lattes and college kids are perfecting their ristretto extractions at part-time jobs.

It's a sociological bonanza, too, the prefect playground for a mystery writer. You have mostly Third World farmers delivering beans to First World roasters and bohemian baristas handling them like brown gold for upscale customers. You have beat cops downing the stuff by the gallon, busy moms rushing in for take-out, wisecracking bloggers getting wired over laptops, and high school kids sucking down after-school coffee frappes.

Coffee as metaphor was also too good a fictional plaything to pass up. Not that making java one of your leitmotifs is anything new. Film director Ridley Scott used coffee as a symbol of justice in "American Gangster," and David Lynch obviously enjoyed playing with coffee in his work, especially "Twin Peaks" and "Mulholland Drive."

Look a little closer at the Coffeehouse Mysteries and you'll see coffee is more than a hot beverage—it's warmth and love; nerve and stimulation. Throughout the series, coffeehouse manager Clare serves up joe to a relentlessly sober NYPD detective who gradually falls for her while she fights her attraction to an ex-husband who survived a near-fatal addiction to cocaine. For her (and me, frankly), coffee is often a calm, head-clearing influence when the world starts spinning off its axis.

And speaking of holding fast to your center...

Many people have asked Marc and I how we write murder mysteries together without killing each other. Our answer (sans punch line)—long experience.

We were both multi-published authors before we met, and we each hit New York Times bestseller lists with solo efforts before we started writing together. Consequently, both of us were more than passing familiar with the highs, lows, twists, turns, and downright hellacious snags that come with penning novel-length fiction.

We've worked in skyscrapers and behind counters; experienced lavish corporate parties and dingy borough bars; befriended actors and artists, nannies and doctors, executives and firefighters. All of it feeds the fiction, continually influencing how we see the banquet of New York and the vibrant offerings of its population. The people around us and their stories are what inspire us to keep writing—and to be gentle with each other as we do.

Many have said that publishing is not a business, it's a casino. Certainly writing as a profession is far from a sure thing, but then Marc and I were wed at The Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. What keeps us going is a fairly simple philosophy, one we hope all writers can share.

Stay at the table. The dice will be nice to you eventually, but only if you keep throwing.
Caffeine doesn't hurt, either.