RizzlesCon 2012 for all Rizzoli & Isles fans. July 20-22, 2012. Clarion Hotel, Anaheim.
The convention will offer attendees the opportunity to immerse themselves behind the scenes. Interactive panel discussions with R&I cast and crew, unique photo and autograph opportunities, a series of fan-focused workshops, specially invited table vendors and the RizzlesCon party.
The characters Rizzoli & Isles were created by crime ficstion author Tess Gerritsen.
Tonight (11/29) TNT's Mystery Movie Night begins with the film adaptation of Scott Turow's Innocent. Tomorrow (11/30), TNT will air Sandra Brown's Ricochet. Other movies in the series: Hornet's Nest, adapted from Patricia Cornwell's novel (no date yet); Hide by Lisa Gardner (12/6); Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson (12/7); Good Morning, Killer by April Smith (12/13); and Deck the Halls by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark (12/20). Three other movies will be produced in 2012.
V is for Viets: Elaine Viets. Today the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme continues. I welcome this guest post from Elaine Viets. Be sure and scroll back for other author entries. Elaine Viets writes two national bestselling mystery series. Her Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Elaine and her character, Helen Hawthorne, work a different low-paying job each book, from telemarketer to hotel maid. Elaine’s second series features St. Louis mystery shopper Josie Marcus. Elaine Viets has won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.
**BOOK CONTEST** Comment below to win a copy of one of Elaine's two new books! ELAINE VIETS: Living in Two Worlds
Each year, I spend half my writing life in St. Louis, Missouri, and the other half in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. These two cities are in two different states. They could be on other planets.
Josie Marcus, heroine of my Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries, lives in Maplewood, an old inner ring suburb of St. Louis. Josie is 31, a single mother with an 11-year-old daughter, Amelia.
Josie’s society is deeply connected: Everyone knows everyone, and if they don’t, they know someone who does. Josie’s nosy neighbor, Mrs. Mueller, runs her own private Neighborhood Watch Program. She ratted out a teen-age Josie for smoking, and Josie left a burning bag of dog doo on Mrs. M.’s front porch.
Josie lives in a two-family flat owned by her mother. She is Josie’s backup babysitter. Jane also drives Amelia to school when Josie is working – or solving a mystery. Josie survives on a mystery-shopper’s meager pay thanks to this help from her mother. But Jane has problems of her own. Like many of her readers, Josie belongs to the sandwich generation. She’s caught between caring for her mother and her child.
Helen Hawthorne, my other protagonist, lives nearly twelve hundred miles away in Fort Lauderdale. She’s the star of my Dead-End Job mysteries. Helen is ten years older than Josie and doesn’t have children. Helen has created her own family at the Coronado Tropic Apartments. Margery, her cigarette-smoking landlady, is her surrogate mother. Peggy is a sisterly friend. Helen divorced badly and for a while she dated every druggie, drunk and deadbeat in Florida. Recently, she married Phil Sagemont, a private detective.
Readers have different expectations for these series. They want Josie to be a good mother and a good daughter with old-school values.
Helen’s South Florida is a lot whackier than Josie’s hometown. I can get away with more off-the-wall characters in Fort Lauderdale than I can in St. Louis. Peggy, Helen’s friend, never goes anywhere without her parrot Pete on her shoulder. The poor bird would freeze to death in the St. Louis winters.
I enjoy moving between these two worlds. Right now, I’m promoting my new Josie Marcus mystery shopper novel, “Death on a Platter.” Each book, Josie mystery shops something new. This time, she shopped St. Louis food for a national tour group. This gave me the chance to write about – and eat – local specialties: Gooey butter cake is an artery-clogging concoction oozing butter and sugar. St. Louis’ Kakao Chocolate has sea-salt chocolate caramels and chocolate bark sprinkled with locally ground coffee. I even ate pig ear and snoot sandwiches. Did you know snoot sandwiches have been singled out as the city’s contribution to barbecue? I read that in The Economist magazine. They’re pig noses on a bed of potato salad and white bread, slathered with sweet red barbecue sauce. C&K Barbecue makes tasty snoots in St. Louis.
Both these very different worlds have their own pleasures. Writing a Josie book is like going home. I get to visit my favorite places and old friends.
Helen Hawthorne lives in Fort Lauderdale, my current home. I love the rustle of palm trees and the soft feel of salt-tinged air. I like this fluid society: No one knows what your father did for a living or if your family lineage is important. It’s a good place to start over.
For nine Helen Hawthorne books, it was easy for me to work those dead-end jobs, from hotel maid to telemarketer.
But “Pumped for Murder,” my newest Dead-End Job mystery, grew out of a career crisis.
What was next for Helen Hawthorne?
She was no longer on the run from her awful ex-husband, but she could not go back to her corporate life in St. Louis. She was a Floridian now, living at the Coronado and joining her friends after work for sunset salutes by the pool.
She’d married Phil, the love of her life, in “Half-Price Homicide.”
After a romantic honeymoon in Key Largo, Helen and Phil were back home. I faced a terrible temptation:
Should I kill Phil? His murder would give me at least three books: Helen would have to solve her husband’s murder. Then she’d learn to cope as a widow. Maybe she’d meet another man in the third novel.
But I couldn’t do it. One woman threatened to kill me if anything happened to Phil. I wasn’t sure how serious she was, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
I could also kill off one of Helen’s friends. But I couldn’t. To me, Helen’s friends are real. Losing one would be painful.
The answer was right next door.
Don and I used to live in a condo on Hollywood beach. Our next-door neighbor was a Canadian pilot.
One winter, our Canadian snowbird didn’t arrive. He’d been arrested for flying drugs into the US.
We were stunned. But now I understood why Florida has more private eyes than any state except California. We’re a rootless place. We never know if our neighbors are drug dealers or sun-loving snowbirds.
Also, the warm winters attract retired police officers who open their own Florida detective agencies. They live on their pensions until their new business succeeds.
Thanks to my neighbor who flew snow into Florida, my Dead-End Job series went in a new direction.
Phil and Helen started Coronado Investigations in “Pumped for Murder.” Helen still works those dead-end jobs, but now she’s undercover as a private investigator.
Readers keep asking me: Will Helen and Josie ever meet? Will the two series intersect? After all, Helen does come home to St. Louis to see her sister.
Some writers have characters from one series visit their other series. I can’t do it.
In my mind – where Josie and Helen live – they can’t meet.
Since I posted Crime Scene Band-aids, I thought I should post a matching accessory. The Crime Scene Scarf. The Perfect holiday gift for the mystery author, reader or professional. Available on Amazon.com
"It might be the longest-standing spoiler alert in theater history: “The Mousetrap,” the London stage production of the Agatha Christie mystery that still asks its audience not to reveal the killer’s identity, began its 60th year on Friday and announced a tour of Britain among other special events to mark the murderous milestone.
In 1974 the play transferred to St. Martin’s Theater two days after its final performance at the Ambassadors, and has played 24,587 performances in what is treated as a continuous run.
The 60th-anniversary tour of the play would begin a 60-week run in September at the Marlowe Theater in Canterbury. A “Mousetrap” theater charity program will also introduce a mystery-writing series at 60 British schools and 60 productions of the play have been licensed for performances in other countries."
Judi Dench will reunite with Kenneth Branagh for an adaptation of Henning Mankell's novel, Italian Shoes, which Branagh as director, hopes will include Anthony Hopkins in the lead role.
He hopes to cast Anthony Hopkins as Fredrik Welin, a retired orthopaedic surgeon who retreats to an isolated island, only to be forced back into human contact when an old girlfriend (Dench) comes to visit.
Pen Names, Pseudonyms, AKA: Decisions to be made. They're all part of the writing process. Today I welcome Lise McClendon aka Rory Tate.
As Rory Tate, Lise McClendon recently published Jump Cut, a thriller set in Seattle and the tiny republic of Moldova. She is also the author of seven mystery and suspense novels. Read about them at her website, or at Rory Tate’s website (where there is a trailer for Jump Cut.) Rory Tate also has a story in the Thalia Press Authors Co-op collection of short stories: DEAD OF WINTER. Lise McClendon has served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and the International Association of Crime Writers, as well as the faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference. She lives in Montana.
What’s in a Name? by Lise McClendon
Pseudonyms in crime fiction have a long, colorful history, from the collective who wrote Nancy Drew to the group of writers behind Ellery Queen. Sometimes an author is trying to hide his professional life from the tawdry thrillers he pens. But most of the time a pseudonym is a marketing angle, a way to ‘sell’ a novel. Maybe your real name has too many consonants. Or you are so prolific your publisher gets worked up about your burgeoning oeuvre. Or the computerized stats of booksellers are working against you.
My reason for changing names is a classic one: to reach more readers. My series novels are whodunits in the traditional vein. My first mysteries, the Alix Thorssen novels, are written in first person and feature an amateur sleuth in a small resort town, stumbling over the bodies of acquaintances. My historical mysteries with Dorie Lennox, set just as World War 2 breaks out, are in the hardboiled camp, reflecting that time period of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I even went so far as to write a homage to Chandler in Sweet and Lowdown.
I wanted to try something more modern when I wrote Jump Cut. To write a contemporary thriller about ordinary people. No spies, no techno wizards, no heroes without names. Just a regular reporter, struggling to make a life for herself. And an ordinary cop who gets in trouble with the department through no crime of his own.
It’s called a thriller but it’s probably not exactly that either. (I have a hard time slotting myself. Who wants to fall into a predestined cog?) There’s action and danger, for sure, but also the search for redemption, honor, and connection which I think every good novel should have, whether you’re writing about the end of the world or the end of the widow lady next door. Oh, and sacrifice. Every novel needs a good sacrifice.
I probably should have used my new penname, Rory Tate, on my 2009 stand-alone, Blackbird Fly. It’s not a series book either. A suspense novel, it probably falls in the line of women’s fiction too and has gained a wider audience than my mystery novels. (Strangely, some people don’t read mystery fiction. Shocking to discover!) But I didn’t use the penname until now.
As Rory Tate I can be anybody: male, female, British, American, Canadian -- Australian even! (Fancy a little rugby?) I thought about keeping my true identity a secret, making a game of it. Who is Rory Tate? What mystery aficionado doesn’t like a good secret identity? I remember the fun stories about the discovery of who Paul Garrison really was. (Read Justin Scott’s journey for a real pro at pseudonyms.) But in the end I decided that the people who knew my writing as Lise McClendon might possibly want to read another novel by said author. And how would they find me?
So murder and secret identities will out. I hope to find new readers with my snappy, new, androgynous name, people who don’t necessarily read about Rocky Mountain backwaters or the gritty streets of Kansas City during the war. People who like to read about people like themselves: city dwellers, young professionals, struggling careerists. Reporters and policemen, daughters and sons.
And people who, as Rory might say, like a cracking good yarn. As always.
Arne Dahl has won the award for Best Swedish Crime Novel 2011 with Viskelen [Chinese Whispers]. Viskelen is the first part in a new quartet of books about international crime and the controversial Europol unit formed to combat it. Translated by Tiina Nunnally.
Mystery Writers of America announces the following Awards: Grand Master: Martha Grimes. MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality.
Ellery Queen Award: Joe Meyers. The Ellery Queen award is given to editors or publishers who have distinguished themselves by their generous and wide-ranging support of the genre.
2012 Raven Awards:M is for Mystery in San Mateo, CA and Molly Weston of Meritorious Mysteries. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.
The Awards will be presented at The Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City on Thursday, April 26, 2012.
Now in its sixth year, the Irish reading public cast their votes for the favorite titles and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney presented the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2011. The Ireland AM Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year: Bloodland by Alan Glynn (Faber) For the complete list of Awards, go HERE.
Japan's Maltese Falcon Award:
The Gumshoe Site announced that Japan’s Maltese Falcon Society has given one of Winslow’s earlier works, The Winter of Frankie Machine (2006), its 2011 Maltese Falcon Award. That commendation is presented to “the best hard-boiled/private eye novel published in the previous year in Japan.”
Thanksgiving. I have a lot to give thanks for: my family, my friends, my health, and the wonderful mystery community. Last year I wrote that Thanksgiving was going to be at my home. As predicted, my family is as dysfunctional as most in the U.S., but we didn't stoop to murder! That can't be said for the families in the following updated list of Thanksgiving Mysteries. As the saying goes, "Families are like Fudge, sweet with a few Nuts thrown in."
And, if you're cooking the turkey or baking the pies, be sure to check out Mystery Lovers' Kitchen for Thanksgiving recipes and cooking techniques from Mystery Writing Cooks Avery Aames, Julie Hyzy, Jenn McKinlay, Riley Adams, Cleo Coyle, & Krista Davis.
S.H. Baker The Colonel's Tale
Bob Berger The Risk of Fortune
William Bernhardt Natural Suspect
Kate Borden Death of a Turkey
Lilian Jackson Braun The Cat Who Talked Turkey
Carole Bugge Who Killed Mona Lisa?
Sammi Carter Goody Goody Gunshots
Christine E. Collier A Holiday Sampler
Sheila Connolly A Killer Crop
Isis Crawford A Catered Thanksgiving
Bill Crider w/Willard Scott Murder under Blue Skies
Amanda Cross Trap for Fools
Barbara D'Amato Hard Tack
Mary Daheim AlpineFury, Fowl Prey
Jeanne Dams Sins Out of School
Claire Daniels Final Intuition
Evelyn David Murder Takes the Cake
Krista Davis The Diva Runs Out of Thyme
Michael Dibdin Thanksgiving
Joanne Dobson Raven and the Nightingale
Christine Duncan Safe House
Janet Evanovich Thanksgiving (technically a romance)*
Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain A Fatal Feast (Murder She Wrote)
Katherine V. Forrest The Beverly Malibu
Noreen Gilpatrick The Piano Man
Martin H. Greenberg (editor) Cat Crimes for the Holidays
Jane Haddam Feast of Murder
Lee Harris The Thanksgiving Day Murder
J. Alan Hartman, editor, The Killer Wore Cranberry
Robin Hathaway The Doctor Makes a Dollhouse Call
Richard Hawke Speak of the Devil
Victoria Houston Dead Hot Shot
Ellen Elizabeth Hunter Murder on the ICW
Melanie Jackson Death in a Turkey Town
J. A. Jance Shoot Don't Shoot
Faye Kellerman Serpent's Tooth
Harry Kemelman That Day the Rabbi Left Town
Clyde Linsley Death of a Mill Girl
Georgette Livingston Telltale Turkey Caper
Nial Magill Thanksgiving Murder in the Mountains
G.M. Malliet Wicked Autumn
Margaret Maron Up Jumps the Devil
Evan Marshall Stabbing Stefanie
Ralph McInerny Celt and Pepper
Leslie Meier Turkey Day Murder
Deborah Morgan The Marriage Casket
Louise Penny Still Life
Cathy Pickens Southern Fried
Ann Ripley Harvest of Murder
Willard Scott w/Bill Crider Murder under Blue Skies
Sarah R. Shaber Snipe Hunt
Denise Swanson Murder of a Barbie and Ken, Murder of a Botoxed Blonde
Marcia Talley Occasion of Revenge
Jennifer Vanderbes Strangers at the Feast
Debbie Viguie I Shall Not Want Livia J. Washburn The Pumpkin Muffin Murder
Leslie Wheeler Murder at Plimoth Plantation
Angela Zeman The Witch and the Borscht Pearl
Experts include: Dr. Janet Sorrentino, lecturer and "authority on science and Harry Potter" Sandra Parshall, author of the Rachel Goddard mysteries Mary Ellen O'Toole, former FBI agent, expert on psychopathy and author of Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us.
Moderator: Kathy Harig, owner of the bookstore Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, Maryland,
Where: 1200 New York Ave. NW (use 12th St entrance between NY Ave & H St)
6:3-9:00$5. Register online. To reserve space, send an email with your name & number of people to: firstname.lastname@example.org
City of Saints, by Andrew Hunt, has been named the winner of the 2011 Tony Hillerman Prize for best first mystery novel. Hunt is a Utah native and a professor of history at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The announcement was made during last weekend’s Tony Hillerman Writers Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Tony Hillerman Prize, named after the late New Mexico author and creator of the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries, is given out annually is given out annually to “the best debut mystery set in the [American] Southwest.” Hunt received a contract for publication with St. Martin's Press and a $10,000 advance.
Today I welcome John Curran, author of the award winning Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks.
John Curran's lifelong interest in crime fiction came to fruition when he departed from his career as a civil servant to write Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks. The long-time literary advisor to the Christie estate and an expert on her life and work, he has acted as a consultant in the restoration of Greenway House, Agatha Christie's home, and is currently writing a Ph.D. thesis on "Agatha Christie and The Golden Age of Detective Fiction" at Trinity College Dublin. Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making is now out in the U.S. from HarperCollins.
JOHN CURRAN: Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making
When I was half-way through writing Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, I knew that I had a problem. The original decision – and contract! - was to produce a 500-page book but as I transcribed more and more of the Notebooks I realised that a mere 500 pages would not be enough to discuss properly the genesis of Christie’s classic novels. The solution? Write a second book. And so Murder in the Making was conceived.
In the Secret Notebooks book I had devised the idea of arranging the books thematically in order to bring together titles from various eras of Christie’s writing life and to avoid discussing all the weaker and less-well known books – mainly from the early and late years – in the same chapter. But when I came to Murder in the Making and examined the titles for inclusion – over twenty of them - I knew that the thematic approach would not work; the remaining novels would not fall conveniently into themes. Having considered various options – alphabetical, by detective, by category – I finally settled on a chronological approach as being the most logical. This also gave me the opportunity to consider the development of Christie as a detective novelist. And so, from the very first she book wrote, The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920, to the very last, Postern of Fate in 1973 I trace the arc of Christie’s phenomenal career both as novelist and dramatist. I look at how her fiction challenged the ‘rules’ of the genre and I provide some more personal glimpses of the woman behind the world’s best-selling fiction; and for readers who think that they have read everything that she wrote I include a few surprises...
The most welcome surprise for her devoted fans will undoubtedly be the ‘missing’ chapter from The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie’s literary career begins with this first book, which, although published in 1920, took five years to reach the bookshelves. I consider the genesis of the book, placing in context the hitherto unseen and unpublished courtroom scene from the first draft which had been removed and replaced. In near-illegible pencilled handwriting in Notebook 37 this chapter (mentioned briefly by Dame Agatha in her Autobiography) is a fascinating, but very different, forerunner of the type of scene which features as the denouement of so many cases – the gathering of the suspects and the revelation of the murderer. Instead of the usual drawing-room setting this early version has Poirot present his explanation from the witness box during the trial of John Cavendish. Not surprisingly John Lane, the publisher of Styles, asked for its removal – such a procedure would not be permissible - and in so doing he unwittingly influenced the ‘revelation scene’ of the following half-century of Christie’s fiction. In complete contrast to this I also discuss the notes for her last, and, sadly, unwritten novel. A few pages of fascinating and surprising notes show that right to the very end of her life her creativity remained. These notes indicate a novel unlike anything she had previously written. An idea for a very dark crime novel - not a detective novel – complete with a glorious twist bubbled away in her mind in late1973. Alas, it was not be...
Miss Marple is represented in a variant draft of the 1942 short story ‘The Case of the Caretaker’. I found this longer and more convincing version buried among Christie’s papers and although the reason behind its lifelong burial remains obscure I feel that this short story (which later inspired one of her greatest novels, Endless Night) deserves resurrection! And the more personal Christie is portrayed with a consideration of her lifelong interest in Shakespeare as shown by her Letter to The Times in 1973 as well as a discussion of her reading interests as shown by some of the lists of books that are scattered throughout the Notebooks. Her wide-ranging tastes are reflected in these records of book titles embracing fiction – both general and crime – and history, biography, art, science and music.
The supernatural was a feature – although not a dominant one – throughout Christie’s writing life. Undertones and overtones of the paranormal coloured some of her detective novels – Dumb Witness, The Sittaford Mystery, The Pale Horse – and the 1934 short story collection The Hound of Death explored this concept more thoroughly. So when I came across a very short short story among her papers I realised that it was the forerunner of one of the best of this type to come from her typewriter. ‘The Man Who Knew’ is an early, though complete, version of the 1924 short ‘The Red Signal’. Both versions differ only in length with ‘The Red Signal’ adding only extra characters and deeper characterisation. The deception carried out on the reader is the same in both but the later version shows more experience in the use of the ambiguous phrase to misdirect the reader.
The other ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse is the article that Christie wrote in 1937 to herald the newspaper serialisation of Appointment with Death (where it was to be called A Death with Death). ‘How I created Hercule Poirot’ first appeared in January 1938 and in it, Christie discusses in general the origins of her most famous creation and, more specifically, the factors that made Appointment with Death one of his more fascinating cases. But for students of Christie the most interesting aspect of the article is the fact that it appears in Notebook 21 with a minimum of deletions and crossings-out. I leave these deletions in place and readers will be able to see how these 1400 words were produced so easily and fluently. Perhaps the fact that ‘cut and paste’ and ‘copy and paste’ did not exist focussed the mind!
There is one further aspect of Murder in the Making that I would like to address. Because in this volume I cover more of the later novels than I did in Secret Notebooks, my appraisals of these had to be more negative than many earlier titles. Nobody could argue, for instance, that Postern of Fate in 1973 is in the same league as, for instance, Death on the Nile from almost forty years earlier; or that Passenger to Frankfurt in 1970 stands comparison with And Then There Were None from 1939. I hope that I persuade the reader that although the later novels were not as clever as the earlier ones, it was not the ideas behind the books but the development of these ideas that faltered. Even her weakest titles – and I consider Postern of Fate and Passenger to Frankfurt to be her two weakest titles – have at their heart clever ideas. But the development of these ideas into puzzling and entertaining plots is not as inventive as the Christie of yesteryear; there are fewer variations produced on a plot idea, there is less mystification and misdirection, and the ability to produce a stunning last-minute surprise is missing. But after a lifetime of entertainment with the output of the Queen of Crime I assure you that I am assessing and not complaining!
Today the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme continues with the Letter "T". T is for Tafoya: Dennis Tafoya.
Dennis Tafoya lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and is the author of two novels, Dope Thief and The Wolves of Fairmount Park, as well as numerous short stories appearing in collections such as Philadelphia Noir from Akashic Books. His work has been nominated for two Spinetingler awards and his novels have been optioned for film.
Writing is a process of immersion that is a little like falling in love. To produce good work, I have to spend many hours researching, reading and thinking. I admire people who can tie themselves to a chair and have at it, but I spend a lot of time (for lack of a better word) daydreaming, psychically chasing my characters and fleshing out their lives and relationships, before I can start writing anything that feels meaningful. I know many excellent writers who don’t seem to need this step, but I haven’t learned how to jump into the work without building a sort of foundation in my head for the story I want to tell. I have to attach myself to my characters in a process that feels like emotional commitment.
My jumping-off place is frequently some real incident, a piece of criminal history that gets in my brain and won’t let go. I’ll admit I spend what is probably an unhealthy amount of time reading accounts of some pretty awful crimes, but I have to marry that material to some emotional entanglement or I don’t find the story interesting enough to keep working. Plot by itself isn’t compelling to me - I need high emotional stakes for the action to hold my attention. I think sometimes that plot is really just an excuse that allows me to create scenes in which my characters’ emotional lives, their histories and connections to other characters can play out, and I think (I hope) that this is the stuff that pulls readers in.
I wrote a short story last year that came out of a real incident in which a woman in her early twenties met a hardened con in his forties during their arraignment in an Atlantic City courtroom. They had an instant connection, formed a relationship, and went on a crime spree that ended just a few days later after they’d killed somebody during a robbery. It was a terrible story, but it was also fascinating, and I kept trying to imagine what could have been in the mind of the young woman. What goes wrong in your life that hooking up with a violent, burnt-out criminal seems attractive?
The process of writing that story, then, was coming up with an emotional history for the character that created a basis for her actions that seemed real. One of the things I’ve learned about criminals is that they’re frequently assigned a kind of role in their families: They’re the ones for whom things always go wrong. Parole officers will tell you that sometimes the ex-cons who make it are the ones who actually limit contact with their families and the expectation of failure that can become a family mythology. People reentering society need to redefine themselves, and family can either support the process or undermine it.
There was also a lot of research. I wanted to know more about the workings of the court system, so I did internet searches for information about criminal arraignment, called a public defender friend who could tell me what goes on when someone is in court for parole violation, and spent (as I always do) a lot of time working in Google Maps, as well as trying to find a source for the physical layout of the Philadelphia Criminal Courts. I do this research because I want to get as many details right as I can, but also because I find a lot of fascinating stuff in the process of research that can actually generate story. Those small, interesting details are also part of the reporting function that’s built into the most compelling fiction.
In the end the intersection of research and what I hope is believable and affecting emotional content is where I spend most of my time when I write. I have Google open on my laptop, I’m checking facts and looking up jargon, place names and technical details, but it’s the emotional substance that makes me care enough to keep writing, and hopefully keeps you reading. If I don’t care deeply what happens to my characters, why should you?
Big and chunky porcelain candle holder. "TNT" in red on one side and "BOMB" in red on the reverse. A great item for the home and a must for anyone who remembers those classic Looney Tunes cartoons of yesteryear. These candle holders are the Bomb!
From Adrian Muller, co-chair CrimeFest, comes the news that PD JAMES will be joining CrimeFest this year as Guest Author:
The legendary writer, a CWA Diamond Dagger recipient and MWA Grandmaster, will be talking about her famous creations Adam Dalgliesh and Cordelia Gray, but she will also be discussing her new novel Death Comes to Pemberley. Set six years after Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy find themselves caught up trying to solve a murder. And having now announced the Baroness' participation, we still don't quite believe it.
Julia Spencer-Fleming is an award winning author. Her series features Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, both Veterans. Her latest novel One Was A Soldier “explores the inescapable legacies of soldiers come home, including a crushing burden of imagined, and unimaginable, guilt.” —Kirkus Reviews. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Have You Forgotten?
Crazy weather we’ve been having, right? What with the blizzard in October and the heat wave in November--and speaking of disasters, have you been reading about Kim Kardashian? And did you know there’s a war on?
625,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran patients have flooded into VA. That’s 10,000 new patients per month, or a new patient every five minutes. 313,000, or more than half, are diagnosed with at least one mental health condition. The average lifetime cost in healthcare and benefits per patient is $1,000,000. -Jan. 25, 2011
Think about that for a second. In the time it takes you to read this blog entry, another soldier, sailor, airman or marine will have come to the VA looking for treatment. Treatment for depression. Addiction. PTSD. Traumatic brain injury. Disability due to puncture wounds, shearing wounds, shrapnel wounds. If you break for a cup of coffee, it’ll be two veterans. Check your Facebook status? Three.
Chances are, though, you don’t know any of these men or women. Military enlistment as a percentage of the American population has been trending downward ever since Congress ended the draft in 1973. Right now, only about one-half of one per cent of the American population is under arms. That .05% comes from economically disadvantaged families, from small rural towns, and from the south. They come from places and homes where the tradition of military service maintains a precarious toe hold.
It used to be different. Between the end of WWII and the start of Vietnam, hundreds of thousand of men (it was almost all men in those days) were drafted or enlisted. Everybody had a dad, a brother, an uncle in one of the services. Everybody had a picture of some shaved-bald young man in a starched uniform hanging on the wall or propped up on the sideboard. If you heard of a serviceman who died or who was injured, you’d think, Thank God it wasn’t Eddie. Or Ralph. Or Dennis. In my mother’s generation, every one of her brothers-in-law served. Her brother was career navy. She married an Air Force lieutenant--my father--whose B47 bomber crashed during a training mission in the Adirondacks. When she married again--my adoptive dad--he was an Air Force vet. My sister and I both married veterans, and two of our stepbrothers served.
But we’re a rarity. Most of my friends have to go back to WWII before they can name a family member in the military. Over the past eight years, all my children have been in classrooms where everyone sends a card to “Any Soldier”--but no one in those classrooms writes to an uncle or big sister overseas.
So what happens in a country where everyone is proud of Our Armed Forces but almost no one knows a soldier? We throw wonderful parades and allow mentally-ill vets to spiral into homelessness. We slap magnets on the back our SUVs and shake our heads at news stories about the number of post-deployment suicides. We vote for politicians who wave eagles and flags and we vote for spending cuts that freeze medical benefits for veterans.
Does this bother you? It bothers me. This is what I did about it: I wrote a book about five vets from one small town in New York struggling to come to terms with life after war. I’m pretty good at writing characters, and my hope is that some of the people who read my novel leave it feeling as if they know and care about a soldier or a marine. Personally. Intimately.
Today is Veteran's Day. Originally known as Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day) November 11 commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" 1918.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day as November 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. The 11th of November is"a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." It was later changed to Veteran's Day.
I love to read mysteries that reflect regions and holidays, so I'm reposting last year's blog about Veteran's Day with a few additions. Julia Spencer-Fleming's latest novel One Was a Soldier, Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd's mystery series are at the top of my list of Veteran's Day Mysteries. BV Lawson's 2007 post of Veteran's Day Mysteries is great. No need for me to duplicate her efforts. Be sure and read her blog, as well as all the comments. Another fine list is In Remembrance Fiction in Times of War (not all mysteries) from the St. Charles Public Library. I also did a Memorial Day blog here on Mystery Fanfare that covers some of the same territory. Mysteries in Paradise about Remembrance Day is also a great resource.
Wikipedia has an entry about Veteran's Day Mysteries. Several hardboiled heroes have been war veterans . H. C. McNeile (Sapper)'s Bulldog Drummond from World War I, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and many others from World War II, and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee from the Korean War. The frequent exposure to death and hardship often leads to a cynical and callous attitude as well as a character trait known today as post-traumatic stress characterizes many hardboiled protagonists.
Mystery Readers Journalwill be having a Military Mysteries theme in 2012. I'm sure I'll have many more additions for next year's post. Authors who write military mysteries are invited to write an author! author! essay.
Read a Veteran's Day mystery today and remember the men and women who fought (and are fighting) for world peace.
I've been Tweeting about this, but realized I didn't post it here on Mystery Fanfare. This is truly a unique way to raise money, and, of course, I love that it involves crime writers.
THE MILLION FOR A MORGUE CAMPAIGN IS SET UP BY THE UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE TO HELP RAISE FUNDS TO BUILD THE MORGUE WITHIN THE NEW THIEL CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE.
The idea to involve crime writers was born out of the friendship between Professor Sue Black, the Director of the CAHID at the University of Dundee, and crime fiction writer Val McDermid. Professor Black has often assisted Val with the forensic details required for her crime stories. Black & McDermid have appeared at book festival events together discussing the thought process behind crime fiction.
Everyone who donates to the Million For A Morgue campaign gets to vote for their favorite author to determine who will have their name on the Thiel Centre of Excellence at the University of Dundee.
Now here's something I can really get behind. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is offering over 15,000 downloadable free ebooks! They are partnering with the Broward Country Library to provide books to patrons, and there’s no catch.
No library card is required to borrow the books. All you just need is a QR Code in order to install the app on your tablet or smartphone. Codes are available at twelve different book stations set up around the baggage claim area.
And here's the best part: None of the books expire!
Gotta love this series of Minitature Books. Tank Books has produced these mini-books in iconic form: Flip Top Cigarette Packs.
This series of books is designed to mimic cigarette packs – the same size, packaged in flip-top cartons with silver foil wrapping and sealed in cellophane. Each book is complete and unabridged with a type size that’s easy to read.
Complete set comes in a tin which means I'm ordering them. Wish they were mysteries, though. Couldn't you just see a series with books by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the lot?
Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness
Ernest Hemingway The Undefeated and The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony
Rudyard Kipling The Man who would be King, The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Black Jack
Robert Louis Stevenson Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
I blog about a lot of odd crime related items here on Mystery Fanfare: Gun Lamps, Gun Purses, Gun Notebooks, etc. I don't think, though, that I've ever posted about Gun Jewelry. One of my own favorite pieces of jewelry is a small gold gun with movable barrel that also opens for loading. O.K. no bullets. It's too small. I used to wear it on a chain around my neck. Reason: I once went with a gun dealer who gave it to me as momento. He also gave me a pearl handled derringer. I still have the gold charm, but the gun disappeared long ago, along with the gun dealer.
But I digress. All this to post a few examples of some gun jewelry. I wear handcuff earrings now and again, often mistaken for the 'other type' of handcuffs. I think the same goes for gun jewelry. It can go either way. Gun Moll? Common street criminal? Mystery Reader? Crime Fiction author? Take your pick. I'm not doing any links to this jewelry. None of these are my gold gun charm. You can do a search and buy what you want. You'll find the solid gold charms can be quite quite pricey.
This conference is sold out, but thought you might like to see what's being discussed and who will be there. Barry Forshaw will be discussing The Scandinavian Crime Fiction Phenomenon, and I'll be sure and report on Barry's comments about the conference.
British Library: November 18, 2011 Crime Across the Continent
This study day, organised by the European Studies department of the British Library, explores contemporary crime fiction from across Continental Europe.
The speakers will include academics, publishers, writers and translators. Among the topics covered will be crime fiction as a vehicle for social and political analysis, both contemporary and historical, and the part crime fiction has to play in the transmission of European cultures. The day is principally as a seminar for researchers but the contributions will appeal to an audience of specialists and non-specialists.
Program 10:00-11:15 Beyond the whodunnit
Chair: Christopher MacLehose, MacLehose Press
Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (University College, London), Crime and Happiness: Scandinavian Crime Fiction and End of the Welfare State.
Aka Morchiladze, Crime fiction as device.
Angela Kimyongür (University of Hull), Dominique Manotti and the roman noir.
11:30-13:15 Looking back at history
Chair: Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen
Giuliana Pieri (Royal Holloway, London), Camilleri’s “historical” crime novels: Sicily, Italy and the Risorgimento.
Olga Sobolev (London School of Economics), Boris Akunin and the Rise of Russian Detective Genre.
Claire Gorrara (Cardiff University), Past crimes, present memories: French crime fiction and the Second World War.
Danusia Stok, The force of setting in the fiction of Marek Krajewski.
14:15-15:00 The Scandinavian Crime Fiction Phenomenon
Barry Forshaw, Through a Glass Darkly: Mankell, Larsson and Nesbø.
15:30-17:15 Translating cultures/languages
Chair: Ros Schwarz
Gary Pulsifer (Arcadia Books), EuroCrime in the wake of the Nordic Invasion.
Amanda Hopkinson (City University), Catalan cops and Spanish seductions: making crime pay.
Gunnar Staalesen and Don Bartlett (courtesy of the Royal Norwegian Embassy), From Norway to Norfolk; author and translator in conversation.
Today's entry in the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme is S is for Shaber: Sarah Shaber.
Sarah Shaber is the author of Louise's War (Severn House, August 2011), Louise's Gamble (forthcoming), the Professor Simon Shaw murder mysteries, and editor of Tar Heel Dead. **Win a copy of Louise's War. Make a comment at the end of this Post. Winner will be chosen by random number generation. ** SARAH SHABER: Research by Shopping ‘til you Drop!
Researching a historical novel doesn’t have to mean hours in dusty library stacks, straining your eyes hunched over digital collections on the internet, or fiddling with microfilm on those dated readers in some closet in the local library. Oh, you’re destined to do some of that, but I found a fun, and ultimately more useful, way to research my book, Louise’s War, the first in my new historical mystery series. It’s set during Washington, DC, during World War II, and features Louise Pearlie, a young widow who finds herself working at the Office of Strategic Services. The book takes place during July 1942, so I confined much of my research to that month.
One day, after spending the morning using a magnifying glass trying to read terrible printouts of Washington Post stories, I typed “July 1942” into Ebay. Well, talk about an excess of riches! My search turned up magazines, photographs, books, maps, and pamphlets galore, all for very little money. I went on a shopping spree. I wound up with a stack of what would turn out to be wonderful information. Two issues of Home Companion, a woman’s magazine full of advice columns, short stories, and lots of ads.
Time, Newsweek, and Life for the two week period when my book took place, which told me what stories journalists thought were important at the time they were happening, rather than what later commentators thought. I found a pamphlet with maps and articles about the war’s progress frozen in the exact time my book happens, and Betty Crocker’s cookbook with recipes for rationing. I also discovered a novel titled Catherine Hicks, which I’ve never found anywhere else, published just after the war, about the life of a government girl. I bought several popular novels published then too. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Yellow Room was a terrific mystery filled with popular expressions, descriptions of clothing and household items, and the worries and duties of a single woman during World War II.
My most precious acquisition was an Esso Visitors Guide and map to Washington DC issued in 1942. When I received it I took it straight to Kinko’s and had them enlarge it.
It hangs on the wall next to my desk. It’s not just a street map, it shows all the tourist attractions, hotels, embassies, department stores, churches, and dozens of other buildings in the city. I know exactly where Louise is going at any time and how to get her there.
Countless postcards, photographs, menus, advertisements and other printed single-page ebay offerings don’t need to be purchased. You can simply click on them and save them to your computer. I print them out and paper my office wall with them.
Of course you can find these materials elsewhere, in various library collections. But not in one place so quickly. There’s an advantage to owning them, again I emphasize for not much money. You can consult them throughout the writing of your book instead of for a few hours during the research phase of your work. And if you’re writing a series, they’re available for the rest of your books, too.
There’s no substitute for reading the daily newspapers during the time an historical novel takes place. But I’ve find that owning a stack of materials I can keep in my office while writing my book helps me immerse myself in my time period in a way nothing else can.
It goes without saying that story is the most important element in any mystery. Louise’s War is about Louise and the mystery she solves, not about what street she crosses to get to Woodward and Lothrop or the Mayflower Hotel. But setting in a historical mystery is a crucial element. The reader needs to feel like he or she is right there with Louise, and I’ve found that the memorabilia I’ve found on Ebay helps me create that atmosphere.