Saturday, December 31, 2011

Nick & Nora Charles: Drinking their way through the Movies

Happy New Year! My final post for 2011 includes drinks and film clips to help you celebrate!

Last May I blogged about Detectives and their Drinks. In June I posted about James Bond's Vesper Martini. Detective team Nick and Nora Charles always come up on top for detectives with a pension for drink. The constant drinking of this bantering couple never hampers their investigative skills - quite the opposite. "Can't you say anything about the case?" a detective asks. "Yes," Nick grumbles. "It's putting me way behind in my drinking."

The Bronx Cocktail (Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man)
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 oz orange juice
Shake well (to a two-step time, as Nick suggests). Strain and garnish with orange peel. (recipe from Nightcapped)

Knickerbocker from The Thin Man (1934)
50ml gin
Large dash dry vermouth
Small dash sweet vermouth
Add the gin and both vermouths to a mixing glass filled with ice. Once well mixed, strain into a frosted martini glass. 

What will you be drinking tonight?  Pick Your Poison and Toast 2012! Enjoy!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Champagne in Crime Fiction

If you follow this blog--or if you know me--you know that I'm a list maker. So I was putting together a list of different chocolatiers who make champagne truffles for a New Year's Eve post on, and I thought there must be several mysteries in which Champagne has a prominent role. I've come up with four titles. Surely there must be more. I know that Champagne figures in Dashiell Hammett's Thin Man books. I remember Nick and Nora drinking lots of champagne in the movies. So here's a short list of 'Champagne' books to toast on New Year's Eve. Please comment with any missed titles.

Champagne for One by Nero Wolfe
Champagne Fuhrern by Kare Hallden (in Swedish)
Champagne for Buzzards by Phyllis Smallman
Dry Bones by Peter May
Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
Champagne Blues by Ivan and Nat Lyons
Tug of War by Barbara Cleverly

And here's a mystery related story about Champagne, especially for history mystery folks. This was reported in The Daily Mail (UK) July 2010. Talk about a vintage that holds its own!

Divers have discovered what is thought to be the world's oldest drinkable champagne in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea.
  They have already tested out the contents of one bottle and claim it tastes 'fantastic' despite dating back to the late 18th century.
   Diving instructor Christian Ekstrom said the bottles are believed to be from the 1780s and likely were part of a cargo destined for Russia.
   'We brought up the bottle to be able to establish how old the wreck was. We didn't know it would be champagne. We thought it was wine or something,' he said.
   Ekstrom said the divers were overjoyed when they popped the cork on their boat after hauling the bubbly from a depth of 200 feet (60 meters).
   'It tasted fantastic. It was a very sweet champagne, with a tobacco taste and oak,' Ekstrom said.
   The divers discovered the shipwreck near the Aland Islands, between Sweden and Finland. About 30 bottles are believed to be aboard the sunken vessel.
Read More Here.

And, then, of course, there's always Sabering Champagne, as opposed to savoring Champagne. Sabering is opening the champagne bottle with a saber. A talent a mystery reader might have!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Z is for Zeltserman: Dave Zelsterman

So we've reached the end of the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme today with Z is for Zeltserman. Yes, a few letters are missing, but hopefully some authors in 2012 will feel the necessity to come forward and fill in those letters.  So to end 2012 on a high note, here's Z is for Zeltserman: Dave Zeltserman.

Dave Zeltserman is a lifelong Red Sox fan, 2010 Shamus Award winner for 'Julius Katz', and the author of 14 novels and numerous short stories. He lives in the Boston-area with his wife, Judy, holds a black belt in Kung Fu, and spends his days writing everything from charming mysteries to pitch-black noir crime fiction, and even some horror now and then. With some luck his books Outsourced and A Killer's Essence will be made into movies in the not-so-distant future.

Dave Zeltserman: A Killer's Essence

Janet told me I could write about anything, so I’m going to write about the Red Sox, particularly the Sox beating the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS playoffs. If you ask any Red Sox fan who’s been following the team since at least ’78 what their most joyous professional sport moment is, it’s going to be the Sox coming back from the dead to beat the Yankees in ’04. The Sox still had to beat St. Louis to win their first World Series since 1918, but that was all anticlimactic after beating the Yankees.

As Sox fans we suffered through Bucky “effing” Dent in ’78, a last second World Series collapse in ’86 (I never blamed Buckner—a lot of stuff went wrong well before the ball went through his legs), and Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in the 7th game way too long in the ALCS against the Yankees. So in 2004 we have the Sox down 0-3 against the Yankees. No major league baseball team had ever come back from an 0-3 deficit before, and it’s looking like the Sox are dead, especially with Curt Schilling injured. Game 4 they’re trailing the Yankees 4-3 in the 9nth and the best reliever in the history of the game, Mariano Rivera, is trying to close out the series. A walk, a stolen base, a hit, and the game’s tied, and the Sox go on to beat the evil empire in the 12th in dramatic fashion with a homerun by David Ortiz. The Sox are still trailing the series 3 games to 1 and barely have a pulse but then they take game 5 in equally dramatic fashion winning it in the 14th inning, again a game winning hit by Ortiz. Game 6 is the bloody sock game where they win thanks to Curt Schilling’s heroics. Game 7 is a blowout, and the impossible has happened. The Sox have not only come back from the dead to beat the Yankees, but they’ve beaten the curse of the Bambino at the same time. They end up sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series, and something that Red Sox fans were told would never happen has happened. After 86 years the Sox have won another World Series.

So what does all this have to do with crime fiction? Well, nothing really except the Red Sox winning that series was such a cathartic moment for me, as it was for millions of Sox fans, that I decided to place my novel, A Killer’s Essence, mostly during the 2004 ALCS playoff series. Since New York was a better fit for location for my story than Boston, I had my first flash of inspiration where I’d show the Yankees collapse from the point of view of a diehard Yankees fan. A Killer’s Essence is a mix of different genres: a police procedural, a crime novel, a supernaturally tinged horror thriller, but it’s also very much about the chaos and confusion that blinds us in our lives. My main character, Stan Green, is a decent man and a good cop whose personal life is spinning out of control, and having yet one more absolute truth in his life taken away—that the Yankees will always find a way to beat the Red Sox (or as us Sox fan always thought of it, Sox always finding a way to lose)— the eventual demise of his beloved Yankees becomes more nail in his psychological coffin. There are other ways in which I integrate the playoff series into the novel, including giving Stan one more way to disappoint his son. In the end A Killer’s Essence is not only a mélange of all the genres I already mentioned, but redemption for Red Sox fans as well as to a small degree a book about the love of baseball.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Mysteries: New Year Crime Fiction

Time again for another holiday list: New Year Mysteries! This is an updated list for 2012! I wish you a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year. May mystery and mayhem only happen in crime fiction!

Crime Fiction Set at the New Year
As always, let me know if I've missed any titles.

Marian Babson: Line up for Murder
T. L. Barnett: Murder for the New Year
George Baxt: The Marlene Dietrich Murder Case
Nero Blanc: A Crossworder's Gift
Jon L. Breen: Touch of the Past
Rita Mae Brown: Full Cry
Alison Cairns: New Year Resolution
Lillian Stewart Carl: The Blue Hackle
Lee Child, ed: Killer Year: Stories to Die for
Anne Cleeves: Raven Black
Anna Ashwood Collins: Deadly Resolutions
Patricia Cornwell: Cause of Death
Mark Costello: Bag Men
Alisa Craig: Murder Goes Mumming
Jeffrey Deaver: The Devil's Teardrop
Colin Dexter: The Secret of Annexe 3
Carter Dickson: Death and the Gilded Man
Carole Nelson Douglas: Cat on a Hyacinth Hunt
Loren D. Estleman: Stress
Janet Evanovich: Plum New Year
J. Jefferson Fargeon: Death in Fancy Dress (aka The Fancy Dress Ball)
Quinn Fawcett: Siren Song
Jerrilyn Farmer: Dim Sum Dead
Frederick Forsyth: The Fourth Protocol
Janet Gleeson: The Grenadillo Box
J.M. Gregson: The Lancashire Leopard
Jane Haddam: Fountain of Death
Karen Harper: The Queene's Christmas
Lee Harris: The New Year's Eve Murder
Ellen Hart: Hallowed Murder, Merchant of Venus
Roy Hart: Seascape with Dead Figures
Lauren Henderson: Pretty Boy
Reginald Hill: Killing The Lawyers
J.A. Jance: Name Withheld
Rufus King: Holiday Homicide
Frances and Richard Lockridge: The Dishonest Murderer
Heather Dune Macadam: The Weeping Buddha
Ed McBain: Lullaby
Johnston McCulley: New Year's Pardon; New Year's Duty
Philip McLauren: Scream Black Murder
Elisabeth McNeill: Hot News
Leslie Meier: New Year's Eve Murder
James Melville: Body Wore Brocade
David William Meredith: The Christmas Card Murders
Miriam Ann Moore: Stayin' Alive
Tamar Myers: A Penny Urned
Leonardo Padura: Havana Blue (starts with a New Year's Eve hangover)
Elizabeth Peters: The Golden One
Edward O. Phillips: Sunday's Child
Ellery Queen: Calamity Town
Gillian Roberts: The Mummer’s Curse
Cindy Sample: Dying for a Date
Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (begins on New Year's Eve)
Joan Smith: Don't Leave Me This Way, Why Aren't They Screaming
Meg Taggart: Murder at the Savoy
Kathleen Taylor: Cold Front
Charles Todd: A Long Shadow
Patricia Wentworth: Clock Strikes Twelve
Valerie Wolzein: 'Tis the Season to be Murdered (aka And a Lethal New Year)
Mark Richard Zubro: The Truth Can Get You Killed

Want some Chocolate with your Mystery? Check out my Chocolate Blog: Dying for Chocolate for Champagne Truffles to make. Rather buy some? Here's a link to a Variety of Champagne Truffles. Later this week I'll post a recipe for New Year's Eve Chocolate Rockets!

Cheetah: R.I.P.

Cheetah, the chimpanzee who starred alongside Tarzan in the franchise films of the early 1930s, died Saturday. He had experienced kidney failure earlier that week, and was thought to be 80 years old.

Cheetah, also known as Cheetah-Mike, acted as Tarzan's comic sidekick "Cheeta" and was one of several chimpanzees who appeared in the films of 1932 to 1934, with Johnny Weissmuller in the starring role.

Around 1960, after living on Weissmuller's estate, Cheetah retired to Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Read the Rest of the Obit, here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

W is for Westerson: Jeri Westerson

Today the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme continues with W is for Westerson: Jeri Westerson.

Jeri Westerson writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Series. It’s her take on a hardboiled detective series in a medieval setting. Jeri’s books have been shortlisted for a slew of mystery awards including the Macavity, the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award, the Shamus, and RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. She has excerpts of the books at

**BOOK CONTEST** Comment below to win a copy Jeri’s latest book, TROUBLED BONES! Winner: Kelly Robinson!

JERI WESTERSON: Chaucer and Me

When I was a kid, I had a more or less ordinary upbringing but for one thing; in our house, medieval English history was king. We had conversations about the British monarchy at the dinner table. We had books of English literature, history, and historical fiction on our bookshelves.

And we had Geoffrey Chaucer.

I owned the most wonderful children’s version of the often bawdy book The Canterbury Tales, written sometime around 1387. It is unique in that it was truly the first great piece of literature penned in English. In Chaucer’s day, it was Middle English, a more German/Latinized version of the English we know (ever wonder about all those silent letters in our words? Well, they weren’t silent then). Prior to that, romances and histories were written either in Latin or French. This was now the dawn of Englishness. At this point, even the nobility spoke English, where before, after William the Conqueror came to England and replaced the Anglo-Saxon nobility with his own, the nobility spoke French. Now the lingua franca was English, a change not only in language but of mindset.

And it wasn’t just important for that. This showed us a slice of life of everyday folk thinking and speaking like everyday folk. The great romances and histories of the day were about ladies and princes, not the local Miller. In The Canterbury Tales, we get a sense of the real people of the period.
The book that I had growing up was the Deluxe Golden Book “Special Edition for Young Readers” illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. Oh, these were wonderful illustrations. As strange and as foreign as Middle English itself. I was drawn in by the whole package of weird and wonderful pictures and then these stories. All of these different medieval people were meeting in London to journey to Canterbury and they would each tell stories to pass the time. Stories of people like them, or great timeless stories from Ancient Greece or old Britain. The person who told the best story would win a dinner back at the Tabard, a tavern where their journey began, a tavern that really existed back in fourteenth century London.

And I knew these stories well. The Aesop-like Nun’s Priest tale of Chanticleer, the Wife of Bath’s tale of the Loathly Lady, the Canon’s Yeoman’s tale of the false Alchemist. I enjoyed them all. I was bitterly disappointed when I got to the end to discover that Chaucer never finished his tales. He died before he could. Who would have won? And what were the other stories to be told because they had to make the journey back to London? To this ten year old, it was a complete bummer.

But that wasn’t the extent of my partnership with Chaucer. My mother had a record of an actor reciting some of the stories in Middle English. How I listened to that! What was it? It was sort of English but not really. And it had a lyrical cadence to it like a romance language. I knew before I was old enough to ask that what I was hearing was something odd and special.

And then there was that one degree of separation from Chaucer himself.

We made frequent trips to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. This was a museum of books and manuscripts, with a gallery of a collection of Gainsborough paintings, including Blue Boy and Pinkie, and extensive gardens and grounds. When I was a kid it was free. Our parents went to lots of places that were free since we were a family of five with little to no money to throw around. In the Huntington Library, they have quartos of Shakespeare plays, a Gutenberg Bible, and the Ellsmere Manuscript. The last is the beautifully detailed handwritten and illustrated manuscript of The Canterbury Tales, commissioned not too long after Chaucer died in the early fifteenth century. It is on parchment and done in careful calligraphy, complete with drawings of all the pilgrims, including Chaucer himself. I was intrigued again, now because of the floral designs and calligraphy that was to inspire a later career as a graphic designer.

I couldn’t escape the fellow and he followed me into adulthood where I could read all the stories, including the ribald ones, with a deeper appreciation for what the whole thing truly was. Not just classical stories retold, but of moral lessons through the persons of the pilgrims themselves.

Much later, when I created my medieval mystery series with a sleuth who was a hardboiled detective, I made him a disgraced knight who used to move in the more noble circles, including the household of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster. Why did I pick the time period of Richard II’s reign? Chaucer’s fault again. Because I knew I wanted to include him at some point in the series. And of course he will have known Crispin and been his friend, since he, too, lived in Lancaster’s household. So what better way to introduce him in the series than by reliving The Canterbury Tales and forcing Crispin to journey to Canterbury and meet some very familiar pilgrims in the fourth installment, TROUBLED BONES. Only this time it involves murder. And then, of course, Crispin has to get his friend Chaucer out of trouble. How much trouble? I suppose you’ll have to go on the journey to Canterbury along with them to find out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! And, since we know longer have a Christie for Christmas from the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, I thought I'd share these covers for Hercule Poirot's Christmas!

Be sure and check out last year's Christie for Christmas Post: Agatha Christie's The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, complete with a recipe for Christmas Pudding, sans poison!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Mysteries, Authors S-Z

The end of the list and none too soon. Only 3 more days 'til Christmas.  Woo... Here are the final authors who set their mysteries during Christmas. S-Z. Happy Holidays!

Here are the links that will complete this list:
Be sure and check out Christmas Crime Authors A-D,  Authors E-H Authors I-N and Authors O-R. As always, let me know if I've forgotten an author and title. Have a great holiday!

Sanders, Lawrence. The Fourth Deadly Sin
Santangelo, Elena. Poison to Purge Melancholy, Double Cross
Saums, Mary. When the Last Magnolia Weeps
Sawyer, Corinne Holt. Ho Ho Homicide
Scherf, Margaret. The Gun in Daniel Webster’s Bust
Schumacher, Aileen. Framework for Death
Schweizer, Mark. The Alto Wore Tweeds
Sedaris, David. Holidays on Ice
Sefton, Maggie. Fleece Navidad
Sellars, M.R. Perfect Trust
Serafin, David. Christmas Rising
Shaber, Sarah. Burying Ground
Shannon, Dell. No Holiday For Crime
Sibley, Celestine. Spider in the Sink
Simenon, Georges. Maigret's Christmas
Slater, Susan [et al] Crooks, Crimes and Christmas
Smith, Barbara Burnett. Mistletoe From Purple Sage, 'Tis the Season for Murder (with Fred Hunter)
Smith, Frank. Fatal Flaw
Smith, George Harmon. The Christmas Angel
Smith, Joan. Don't Leave Me This Way
Smith, Terrence. The Devil and Webster Daniels
Smoak, Amanda. Generals' Row
Sprinkle, Patricia. A Mystery Bred in Buckhead
Stagge, Jonathan. The Yellow Taxi
Strohmeyer, Sarah. Bubbles All the Way
Swanson, Denise. Murder of a Barbie and Ken
Symons, Julian. The Detling Secret
Talley, Marcia. Occasion of Revenge
Taylor, Elizabeth Atwood. The Cable Car Murder
Taylor, Sarah Stewart. O' Artful Death
Temple, Lou Jane. Death is Semisweet
Thompson, Carlene. The Way You Look Tonight
Tooke, John. On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
Tourney, Leonard D. Knaves Templar
Tremayne, Peter. The Haunted Abbot
Trocheck, Kathy. A Midnight Clear
Underwood, Michael. A Party to Murder
Unsworth, Barry. Morality Play
VanLeeuwen, Jean. The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper
Victor, Cynthia. What Matters Most
Viets, Elaine. Murder With All the Trimmings
Wainwright, John. The Life and Times of Christmas Calvert...Assassin
Walker, Persia. Darkness and the Devil behind Me
Walsh, Thomas. The Resurrection Man
Ward, Donald. Our Little Secret
Washburn Livia. The Christmas Cookie Killer
Weir, Charlene. A Cold Christmas
Welk, Mary. Deadly Little Christmas, A Merry Little Murder
Wildwind, Sharon. First Murder in Advent
Williams, David. Murder in Advent
Windsor, Patricia. The Christmas Killer
Wingfield, R.D. Frost at Christmas
Wolzien, Valerie. Deck the Halls With Murder
Wright, Eric. The Man Who Changed His Name
Yaffe, James. Mom Meets her Maker 
Zelvin, Elizabeth, Death Will Get You Sober

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Mysteries, Authors O-R

Here's the list of Christmas Mysteries, Authors O-R.  Hope you're having fun with the titles and authors. Let me know if I've forgotten any! Be sure and check out Christmas Crime Authors A-D Authors E-H and Authors I-N.

O'Connell, Carol. Judas Child
O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne. Advent of Dying, Murder in Ordinary Time, A Novena for Murder
Stewart O’Nan. Last Night at the Lobster
Page, Katherine Hall. The Body in the Big Apple, The Body in the Bouillon, The Body in the Sleigh
Palmer, William. The Dons and Mr. Dickens
Papazoglou, Orania. Rich, Radiant Slaughter, Charisma
Parker, Gary E. Death Stalks a Holiday
Parker, Robert. The Widening Gyre
Paul, Barbara. A Chorus of Detectives
Pearson, Carol Lynn. A Stranger For Christmas
Pence, Joanne. Two Cooks A-Killing
Penny, Louise. A Fatal Grace
Perry, Anne. A Christmas Beginning, A Christmas Grace, A Christmas Guest, A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Secret, A Christmas Visitor, Silence in Hanover Close, A Christmas Promise
Peters, Elizabeth. He Shall Thunder in the Sky, Trojan Gold
Peters, Ellis. A Rare Benedictine, The Raven in the Foregate
Philips, Scott. The Ice Harvest
Plunkett, Susan. Silent Night (anthology)
Pomidor, Bill. Mind Over Murder
Pronzini, Bill. Snowbound
Pryce, Malcolm. Don't Cry For Me Aberystwyth
Pulver, Monica. Original Sin
Purser, Ann. Murder on Monday
Quashie, Colin. Spirits in a Material World
Queen, Ellery. The Finishing Stroke, Cat of Many Tails, Calamity Town, The Egyptian Cat Mystery, Murder at Christmas
Quentin, Patrick. Follower
Raphael, Lev. Burning Down the House
Rawls, Randy. Jingle’s Christmas
Ray, Robert J. Merry Christmas Murdock
Reinsmith, Richard. Body for Christmas
Richards, Emilie. Let There be Suspects
Rickman, Phil. Midwinter of the Spirit
Riggs, John R. Haunt of the Nightingale
Ripley, Ann. The Christmas Garden Affair
Rizzolo, S.K. The Rose in the Wheel
Robb, J.D. Holiday in Death
Roberts, Gillian. The Mummer’s Curse, Philly Stakes
Roberts, Sheila. On Strike for Christmas, The Nine Lives of Christmas
Robinson, Peter. Past Reason Hated, The Price of Love and Other Stories (anthology)
Roosevelt, Eliot. The White House Pantry Murder

Rowe, Jennifer. Death in Store, Love Lies Bleeding
Rubino, Jane. Fruit Cake
Ruell, Patrick. Red Christmas
Ryan, Jenna. Mistletoe and Murder

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah Crime Fiction

Chanukah (Hanukah) begins tonight, December 20 and is celebrated for eight days--through December 28. Yes, Eight Days of Chanukah! Jewish Holidays are aligned with the lunar calendar, so they vary every year. That will give you enough time to read all of these titles! Let me know if I've missed any.

Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle (mostly about Christmas but Hanukah is mentioned)
Festival of Deaths by Jane Haddam
Out of the Frying Pan into the Choir by Sharon Kahn
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
Murder at the Minyan by Shlumat E. Kustanowitz
The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page (mostly about Christmas but Hanukah is mentioned)
Chanukah Guilt by Ilene Schneider

Children's Hanukah Mysteries:
Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorahs - A
Hanukkah Humdinger! by Rabbi Susan Abramson and Aaron Dvorkin and Ariel DiOrio

Mystery Short Stories:
"Mom Lights a Candle" by James Yaffe, appeared in Mystery: The Best of 2002, ed. by Jon L. Breen.
"Hanukah" by Morris Hershman in Cat Crimes for the Holidays, ed. by Martin Greenberg, Edward Gorman and Larry Segriff
"The Worse Noel" by Barb Goffman in The Gift of Murder.
For more info on Jewish short story mysteries, check out Steven Steinbock who blogs on Criminal Brief, the Mystery Short Story Web Log Project.
"Navidad" by Elizabeth Zelvin, EQMM, January 2011.

Mystery Games:
Children's software mystery game: Who Stole Hanukkah? offered in five languages: English, Hebrew, Russian, French and Spanish
Other Games for Children: The Case of the Stolen Menorah: An Enlightening Hanukkah Mystery

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Long Escape: Randal S. Brandt on David Dodge

Guest blogger Randal S. Brandt is a librarian at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, and the creator of two critically-acclaimed websites: Golden Gate Mysteries, an annotated bibliography of crime fiction set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and A David Dodge Companion, chronicling the life and works of mystery/thriller writer David Dodge (1910-1974). He has recently written the introductions to new editions of Dodge’s Death and Taxes (July, 2010), To Catch a Thief (October, 2010), and The Long Escape (December, 2011). Randal Brandt will be a guest at a Mystery Readers NorCal Literary Salon in the New Year.

RANDAL BRANDT: This is how it all began

David Dodge’s fifth mystery, THE LONG ESCAPE, originally published in 1948, has been reissued by Bruin Books and is now available in a handsome new edition. After four novels starring San Francisco tax expert James “Whit” Whitney, written while Dodge was working as a C.P.A. in San Francisco, this book marks the first adventure of Dodge’s second series character, expatriate private detective Al Colby.

By the time THE LONG ESCAPE was written, Dodge had relocated to Guatemala City, so it is only natural that Colby walks the mean streets of Latin America, operating out of Mexico City. The story begins when Colby is hired by a Los Angeles attorney to find one Robert R. Parker, who deserted his wife and $250,000 worth of property in Pasadena five years before. The wife doesn’t want him back; she just wants clear title to the property. Colby’s job is to find him and either prove him dead or persuade him to contact the attorney in order to sign the necessary documents transferring the property. The attorney had been able to trace Parker to Mexico City. Colby picks up the trail and follows it through Central America to Santiago, Chile.

This book holds a very special place for me. Not only was it the first Dodge novel I ever read, but the story of the circumstances surrounding my discovery of it is one that I’m sure Dodge would have appreciated. In 1994, my wife and I went on a vacation to Mexico City. One travel habit we share is to take along novels to read that are set in the locales we are visiting. For this trip my wife had taken along a tattered paperback she had picked up years before in a thrift store. The book, a 1950s Dell mystery “mapback,” featured a colorful map of Mexico and South America on the back cover, promised “A man hunt (girls included) from California to Chile,” and featured Al Colby, a Mexico City private eye. Perfect.

One morning I awoke feeling under the weather, as it were. Although we had been very careful, it turns out that even the most vigilant of norteamericanos can succumb to la turista. And it was raining. We decided to forego our sightseeing plans and spend the day resting and relaxing in our hotel room. To pass the time, my wife, whose digestion was untouched, got out her paperback, The Long Escape, by David Dodge. She kindly offered to read it aloud, giving me what I thought would be an excellent opportunity to sleep it off.

Several hours later I still had not slept a minute, but not because of la turista. She had read that book aloud, cover to cover in one sitting. When we finally closed the book I was feeling much improved, and my wife and I had a new author to pursue and, apparently, a new cure for the Aztec Two-Step.

People often ask me why I like David Dodge. My answer is pretty much the same as it is for any author. It all starts with the writing. Dodge’s books are consistently well-written. They are tightly-plotted with crisp, believable dialogue. About halfway through the first chapter of The Long Escape, Colby interviews a woman who is the current owner of the Buick that Parker drove to Mexico City:

Señora Molly Jean Mendoza lived in a pretty good apartment house out toward Lomas de Chapultepec. A frowsy maid let me in without asking my name or business, then went to call the señora while I parked my hat on a pile of American movie magazines.

Molly Jean turned out to be a rubia, a brassy blonde of the type a lot of Mexicans go nuts about. She was any age you want to guess, with a sulky mouth. She greeted strange gentlemen visitors in a form-fitting housecoat with a zipper running from neck to hem in front that practically said Pull me, kid. The handle of the zipper was a little bell that tinkled when she walked.

I don’t know about you, but Mr. Dodge had me at “Pull me, kid.”

Randal S. Brandt is the creator of A David Dodge Companion and Golden Gate Mysteries.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Mysteries, Authors I-N

Here's the Third installment of Crime for the Holidays: Christmas Crime Fiction Authors I-N. What a long list. Makes for more reading which is always fine with me!

Be sure and go back on Mystery Fanfare for Christmas Crime Authors A-D and Authors E-H. Let me know if I've forgotten any.

Iams, Jack. Do Not Murder Before Christmas
Indridason, Arnaldur. Voices
Innes, Michael. A Comedy of Terrors, Christmas at Candleshoe
Irving, Karen. Jupiter’s Daughter
Jaffe. Jody. Chestnut Mare, Beware
Jahn, Cathie. Add One Dead Critic
Jahn, Michael. Murder on Fifth Avenue
Jeffers, H. Paul. Murder on Mike
John, Cathie. Add One Dead Critic
Jordan, Cathleen. A Carol in the Dark
Jordan, Jennifer. Murder Under the Mistletoe.
Kane, Henry. A Corpse for Christmas (Homicide at Yuletide)
Kaplan, Arthur. A Killing for Charity
Katz, Fred. Not a Creature Was Stirring
Kavanaugh, Brian. A Canterbury Crime
Kaye, M. M. Death in the Andamans
Kellerman, Faye. Sacred and Profane
Kelley, Lee Charles. 'Twas the Bite Before Christmas
Kelly, Mary. The Christmas Egg
Kelner, Toni L.P. Mad as the Dickens
Kendrick, Stephen. Night Watch
King, Laurie R. A Monstrous Regiment of Women
Kingsbury, Kate. No Clue at the Inn, Ringing in Murder, Shrouds of Holly, Slay Bells, Decked with Folly, Mistletoe and Mayhem, Herald of Death
Kisor, Henry. Season’s Revenge
Kitchen, C.H.B. Crime at Christmas
Kleinholz, Lisa. Exiles on Main Street
Knight, Alanna. The Dagger in the Crown
Knight, Bernard. Crowner's Quest
Knight, Kathleen Moore. They're Going to Kill Me
Knight, Stephen. Corpse at the Opera House, Murder at Home, More Crimes for a Summer Christmas
Koch, Edward I. Murder on 34th Street
Koontz, Dean R. Mister Murder, Santa’s Twin, Robot Santa
Lake, M.D. A Gift for Murder, Grave Choices
Landreth, Marsha. The Holiday Murders
Lane, Vicki. In a Dark Season
Langley, Bob. Death Stalk
Langton, Jane. The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels, The Memorial Hall Murder
Lathen, Emma. Banking on Death
Lawrence, David. Cold Kill
Lawrence, Hilda. Blood Upon the Snow
Lawrence, Treat. Q As in Quicksand
Leach, Christopher. A Killing Frost
Leon, Donna. Blood from a Stone
Levine, Joan. The Santa Claus Mystery
Levine, Laura. Candy Cane Murders (with Joanne Fluke & Leslie Meier)
Lewin, Michael Z. The Enemies Within
Little, Constance. The Black-Headed Pins
Livingston, Nancy. Quiet Murder
Locke, William J. A Christmas Mystery
Lockridge, Richard. Dead Run
London, Cait. (and others) Sugarplums and Scandal
Long, Manning. Vicious Circle
Luber, Philip. Deadly Convictions
Macbride, Stuart. Cold Granite
MacLeod, Charlotte. Rest You Merry; ed.Christmas Stalkings: Tales of Yuletide Murder, The Convivial Codfish; Mistletoe Mysteries (ed)
MacDonald, John D. Pale Gray for Guilt
MacLeod, Charlotte. The Convivial Codfish, Murder Goes Mumming, Rest You Merry
MacPherson, Rett. A Comedy of Heirs, The Blood Ballad
MacPherson, Suzanne (and others) Sugarplums and Scandal
Malliet, G. M. Death of a Cozy Writer
Malmont, Valerie. Death, Snow, and Mistletoe
Marantz, Bill. Christmas Eve Can Kill You
Markowitz, Jeff. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder
Marks, Jeffrey. Canine Christmas
Maron, Margaret. Corpus Christmas
Marsh, Carole. Haunted Christmas Tree Mystery
Marsh, Ngaio. Tied Up in Tinsel
Matesky, Amanda. Murder is a Girl’s Best Friend
McBain, Ed. And All Through the House, Downtown, Ghosts, Sadie When She Died
McCloy, Helen. Mr. Splitfoot
McClure, James. The Gooseberry Fool
McGinley, Patrick. Goosefoot
McGown, Jill. Murder at the Old Vicarage
McKevett, G.A. Cooked Goose, Poisoned Tarts
McLintick, Malcolm. Death of an Old Flame
McMullen, Mary. Death by Bequest
Meier, Leslie. The Christmas Cookie Murder, Mistletoe Murder, Mail Order Murder, Candy Cane Murders (w/Joanne Fluke & Laura Levine)
Meredith, David W. The Christmas Card Murders
Meredith, D. R. Murder by Sacrilege
Michaels, Kasey. High Heels and Holidays, Bowled Over
Miles, Terry. Dog Gone Christmas
Milne, A.A. A Table Near the Band, Christmas Party
Miner, Valerie. Murder in the English Department
Minichino, Camile. The Helium Murder, The Oxygen Murder
Misto, Joh. The Devil's Companions
Moore, Christopher. The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
Morrell, David. The Spy Who Came for Christmas
Mortimer, John. A Rumpole Christmas
Moyes, Patricia. Season of Snows and Sins
Muller, Marcia. There's Nothing to be Afraid Of
Murphy, Shirley Rousseau. Cat Deck the Halls, Cat Coming Home
Nabb, Magdalen. Death of an Englishman
Nash, Anne. Said with Flowers
Neel, Janet. Death's Bright Angel
Nelson, Hugh. The Season for Murder
Nesbo, Jo. The Redeemer
Nesser, Hakan. Woman with Birthmark
Nixon, Joan. The Christmas Eve Murder
Norden, Robert. Death Beneath the Christmas Tree

Christmas Crime Fiction Authors A-D and Christmas Mystery Authors E-H. If I forgot you on any of these lists, let me know.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crime Writer Arrested In Botched Murder-For-Hire Plot

Another Ripped from the Headlines. Truth is Stranger than Fiction. Nancy Gelber, Crime Writer, Arrested for Botched Murder for Hire Plot. I don't think she was doing research!  According to the author blurb on her novel Temporary Amnesia by Nance J. Mancuso (Rosedog Press), "Writing had been laid aside since high school when an English teacher saw promise in a rather outlandish, for those times, short story. In her 30's, Nancy rekindled her passion for writing when she created an X-Files screenplay. Stories seemed to flow onto the computer screen after that. Her other interests include aquatics, ocean fishing, playing cards, and any place that has a roulette wheel." They forgot to mention hiring someone to kill her husband.

From the article by David Lohr in the Huffington Post.

Police in Texas have arrested a published crime writer who allegedly tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband.

Nancy Mancuso Gelber, 53, has been charged with solicitation to commit capital murder. Gelber is being held at the Brazos County Jail on $75,000 bond.

"It's crazy. It's crazy to hear. I'm kind of speechless," Gelber's close friend, Brandi Pointer-Castillo, told The Huffington Post.

According to the Brazos County Sheriff's Office, investigators received a tip last week indicating that Gelber was trying to find a hit man to harm her estranged husband, 54-year-old Joseph Richard Gelber, Jr.
. . .
Prior to her split with her husband, Gelber had her sights set on becoming a career writer. Her first novel, Temporary Amnesia, was published in August 2010. The 362-page book –- dubbed a "crime thriller" -- is a fictional story about a man who breaks out of prison and uses a team of prostitutes to pull off several brazen bank robberies.

"Along with suspense and terror, this crime-thriller has a touch of levity and romance," reads the book description on "Temporary Amnesia will blow your mind! At times, you may even find yourself siding with the bad guys!"

Read the rest of the article by David Lohr HERE.

Want to read the novel? I don't, but if you do, I found it on GoogleBooks.

Bookish Holiday Gifts: BookBook iPhone & iPad Case

I love these! Great "Bookish" Gifts from Twelve South:

BookBook for iPhone

Now you can combine your wallet and IPhone in one BookBook made exclusively for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. This little book has a convenient ID window and slots for your debit/credit cards, reward cards and cash.

Protect your iPhone between two hard-back covers. Fold the covers back-to-back to talk. BookBook allows edge-to-edge iPhone access. You can access all iPhone controls and ports with BookBook. Charge, sync and use the headphone jack while your iPhone is safe and sound in its phone book.

Yes, it’s also a Quick Book.

BookBook Case for iPad 2

The BookBook Case for iPad 2 is a handmade one-of-a-kind, hardback leather case that doubles as a fully adjustable stand. Along with its vintage looks, this case makes iPad feel as if you’re holding a 'real' book, and in many ways you are holding a book. BookBook for iPad. Hand distressed covers mean no two look alike.

BookBook for iPad is available in two styles: dark brown cover with black beneath 'BookBook' on the spine (Classic Black) and a more vibrant brown cover with red behind 'BookBook' on the spine (Vibrant Red).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Russell Hoban: R.I.P.

Sad News indeed. Russell Hoban, died last night at age 86.

From the Guardian with some personal comments from me:

Legendary cult author Russell Hoban, whose apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker was described by Anthony Burgess as "what literature is meant to be", died last night aged 86, his publisher has announced.

Hoban, born in Philadelphia, moved to London in 1969. He  first made a name for himself with his children's books; his series about Frances the badger and his novel The Mouse and His Child are acclaimed as modern classics.

Riddley Walker, set in Kent 2,000 years after a nuclear holocaust and told in a distinctive version of English, was begun in 1974 and published in 1980 to huge praise. It has since been included in Harold Bloom's survey of literature, The Western Canon.

Hoban joined the US army aged 18, and was posted to Italy during the second world war, where he served as a messenger, later awarded a Bronze Star for bravery in action. My father was serving on the front lines there as a doctor, and that's where they met for the first time. With extended family in common, a friendship ensued.  Hoban was the brother of world renown photographer and children's book author, Tana Hoban.

Russell Hoban worked as a freelance illustrator on his return to America, publishing his first book, the illustrated children's title What Does it Do and How Does it Work, in 1959.

As well as writing (and sometimes illustrating) more than 20 books for adults and children, Hoban's novel Turtle Diary was filmed with a Harold Pinter screenplay, and he also wrote the libretto to Harrison Birtwistle's opera The Second Mrs Kong.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2002, Hoban described himself as "simply an addict" to writing. "If I am kept away from writing I become physically unwell. It is art and the creation of art that sustains me. Things like Conrad's Nostromo or Schubert's Winterreise or Haydn's Creation or paintings by Daumier make me feel it is a good thing to be part of the human race," he said. "It gives me energy, and now I've got into this rhythm where Angelica's Grotto was followed by Amaryllis and then The Bat Tattoo. I don't want to miss a year. And besides, when the tank is getting empty I think you drive a little faster."

"It's very, very sad indeed," said Bill Swainson, Hoban's publisher at Bloomsbury. He described Hoban as a "shocking, funny and really imaginative" writer.

"Like most people I came across Russell through Riddley Walker, which woke me up to what he was doing," he said. "His wonderful imagination is a common thread in all his books. In his last, Angelica Lost and Found, a hippogriff escapes from a painting and lands in San Francisco outside the window of a Jewish gallery owner who has just dumped her lover. Russell always wrote with with such a light touch - he always had fun, and made you think that there's not a sentence wasted."

Death, Hoban predicted in 2002, would "be a good career move". "People will say, 'yes, Hoban, he seems an interesting writer, let's look at him again'," he said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book perfume

Last Spring I posted news of a new Perfume from  Designer Karl Lagerfeld: Paper Passion. What I liked about it was the packaging. It is sold in a hollowed out hardcover book (hopefully damaged or ones made specifically for this).

And, there are other Book-Inspired Fragrances:
Library Paperback by Demeter Fragrance
Library Collection: Opus II by Amouage

I mentioned Christopher Brosius' I Hate Perfume Line. His  In the Library perfume supposedly evokes books smelling of Moroccan leather bindings, cloth, rare novels and many others. This is perfect for every book lover.. Spray your iPad?

As long as they don't contain the killer mold of old books, I'm good with this!

Here's an interview interview with Christopher Brosius in BookRiot.

BR: Your scent profile for In the Library is practically a short story in itself. Could you explain in layman’s terms how you made this perfume?

CB: Much of it was being incredibly familiar with books and how they smell. The smells vary by the country where the books come from: the paper produced there, the leathers used, the glue, the inks. I couldn’t describe exactly how the leathers smell different, but they do. Moroccan and Russian and Spanish, they’re all different.

So what do you find in a library that emits a smell? What are the key elements that would make that olfactory experience really pop? I take a lot of notes. [In the Library] is really about the books themselves, less so the environment, like the shelves or the dust.

Then I sit down with a whole bunch of chemicals and blend them together. It’s a very mundane process. I know these chemicals will combine to create certain smells – for instance, the scents of different kinds of papers.

Read the Rest of the Interview Here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Mysteries, Authors E-H

Today, I continue the Christmas Mystery list. It's amazing how many mysteries are set during the holidays, but it's such a stressful time, I shouldn't be all that surprised.

Today Christmas Crime Authors E-H. Be sure and check the previous Christmas Mysteries list, Authors A-D. I've updated it. Please let me know if I've forgotten an author or book.

Eberhart, Mignon G. Postmark Murder
Eddenden, A. E. A Good Year for Murder
Egan, Lesley. Crime for Christmas
Eickhoff, Randy Lee. Then Came Christmas
Ekwensi, Cyprian. Restless City, Christmas Gold 
Englehart, Steve. Christmas Countdown
Erskine, Margaret. A Graveyard Plot
Estleman, Loren D. The Glass Highway
Evanovich, Janet. Visions of Sugar Plums
Fairstein, Linda A. The Deadhouse, The Crime and the Crystal, A Small World of Murder
Farjeon, J.J. Mystery in White
Fennelly, Tony. Home Dead for Christmas.
Ferrars, E.X. Smoke Without Fire, The Small World of Murder, The Crime and the Crystal
Ferris, Monica. Crewel Yule
Finch, Charles. The Fleet Street Murders
Finnis, Jane. A Bitter Chill
Fletcher, Jessica and Donald Bain. A Little Yuletide Murder
Floyd, John (ed). The Gift of Murder
Fluke, Joanne. Candy Cane Murders, Sugar Cookie Murder, Plum Pudding Murder
Flynn, Brian. The Murders near Mapleton
Ford, Leslie. The Simple Way of Poison
Foley, Rae. Hundreth Door
Ford, Leslie. The Simple Way of Poison 
Fowler, Earlene. The Saddlemaker’s Wife
Fraser, Anthea. The Nine Bright Shiners
Frazer, Margaret. The Servant's Tale, The Widow's Tale
Freydont, Shelley. A Merry Little Murder
Frommer, Sara Hoskinson. Witness in Bishop Hill
Furst, Clyde Bowman. The Observations of Professor Maturin
Gaarder, Jostein. The Christmas Mystery
Gagnon, Michelle. Kidnap and Ransom
Gano, John. Inspector Proby's Christmas
Garner, James Finn. Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season
Garnet, A. H. The Santa Claus Killer
George, Anne. Murder on a Bad Hair Day
Giroux, E. X. Death for a Dietician
Godfrey, Thomas (ed) Murder for Christmas: 26 Tales of Seasonal Malice
Goldenbaum, Sally. A Holiday Yarn
Goodman, Jonathan. Murder on the Aisle
Gordon, Alan. Thirteen Night, The Moneylender of Toulouse
Gorman, Ed. Murder on the Aisle
Gouze, Roger. A Quiet Game of Bambu
Grabenstein, Chris. Hell for the Holidays, Slay Ride
Grace, Margaret. Mayhem in Miniature
Grafton, Sue. “E” is for Evidence
Graham, Heather. The Last Noel
Granger, Ann. A Season for Murder
Graves, Sarah. Wreck the Halls
Greeley, Andrew. The Bishop and the Three Kings
Green, Christine. Deadly Partners
Greenberg, Martin H. (ed) Cat Crimes for the Holidays, Holmes for the Holidays, Santa Clues, More Holmes for the Holidays. Twelve Crimes of Christmas.
Greenwood, Kerry. Murder in the Dark, Forbidden Fruit
Gregory, Susanna. A Conspiracy of Violence
Grimes, Martha. Jerusalem Inn, Old Fox Deceived, The Man with a Load of Mischief
Guest, Judith. Killing Time in St. Cloud
Gunning, Sally. Ice Water
Haddam, Jane. Not a Creature Was Stirring, A Stillness in Bethlehem
Hager, Jean. The Last Noel
Haines, Carolyn. Buried Bones
Hall, Parnell. A Puzzle in a Pear Tree
Hall, Robert Lee. Benjamin Franklin and a Case of Christmas Murder
Hammett, Dashiell. The Thin Man
Hardwick, Richard. The Season to be Deadly
Hare, Cyril. An English Murder
Harmon, Ken. The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir
Harper, Karen. The Queene’s Christmas
Harris, Charlaine. Shakespeare’s Christmas & (Ed) Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
Harris, Joanne. Chocolat
Harris, Lee. The Christmas Night Murder
Harrison, Janis. Murder Sets Seed
Hart, Carolyn G. Sugarplum Dead & Merry, Merry Ghost
Hart, Ellen. Vital Lies, Murder in the Air
Harvey, John. Cold Light
Harvey, Roy. Seascape with Dead Figures
Hay, Doriel. The Santa Klaus Murder
Heald, Tim. (ed) A Classic Christmas Crime
Heath, Sandra. Mistletoe Mischief
Hechtman, Betty. You Better Knot Die
Hellmann, Libby. Set the Night on Fire
Hemlin, Tim. A Catered Christmas
Hess, Joan. A Holly, Jolly Murder, O Little Town of Maggody
Heyer, Georgette. Envious Casca
Hiassen, Carl. Tourist Season
Hill, Reginald. Death's Jest Book, A Clubbable Woman
Hilton, John Buxton. Death in Midwinter
Hinkemeyer, Michael. A Time to Reap
Hochgatterer, Paulus. The Sweetness of Life
Hodgkin, Marion Rous. Dead Indeed
Holland, Isabelle. A Fatal Advent
Holmes, Dee. Silent Night (anthology)
Holms, Joyce. Thin Ice
Howie, Edith. Murder for Christmas
Howlett, John. The Christmas Spy
Hughes, Mary Ellen. Wreath of Deception
Hunter, Alan. Landed Gently
Hunter, Ellen Elizabeth. Murder on the Candlelight Tour, Christmas Wedding.
Hunter, Evan. Come Winter
Hunter, Fred. Ransom for a Holiday, 'Tis the Season for Murder

Coming soon: the rest of the alphabet :-) For Authors A-D, go HERE.

Christie News: 5 more Hercule Poirot films

Hat Tip to GM Maillet for this news. ITV has commissioned Five new Poirot films for production in 2012!

David Suchet will return to his role as Hercule Poirot, the fastidious and brilliant Belgian detective.

The films, based on the Agatha Christie Poirot novels and short stories yet to be filmed, have been commissioned from ITV Studios and Agatha Christie Ltd.

The Poirot films which will go into production during 2012 are:
Labours of Hercules; Dead Man's Folly; The Big Four; Elephants Can Remember; Curtain.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Christmas Trees

So Creative! This first photo of a Bookish Christmas Tree was at an Anthropologie Store in Rochester, NY. Photo by Patti at Pandora's Box.  Here's a round-up of some of my favorites. Are you doing a Book Tree this year? Send a link.

Check out Last Year's Library Christmas Tree!

And, a Picture Book Christmas Tree:

World's First Mug Shots

Flavorwire is one of my favorite sites. So much great wacky and different information. As a mystery reader, I was fascinated by the December 1 article and photos "What Did the World’s First Mug Shots Look Like?" Crime readers and writers will both like this.

"The mug shot has, by now, become so universal that it’s hard to imagine a criminal justice system without it. But in the mid-19th century, when photography was still a new medium, there was no standardized record-keeping system in place to help police departments identify repeat criminals. Random daguerreotypes and loose photographs laying around unfiled weren’t cutting it — which is why in the early 1880s, French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon introduced the Paris police force to a standardized method that documented mug shots, body measurements, and in some cases, early finger prints."

Read the rest of the Article HERE.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cartoon of the Day: James Patterson

Hat Tip to Bill Crider for this Cartoon of the Day:

Famous Writers as Handmade Dolls

These may not be action fictions, but they sure are fun. Librarian Patti O'Brien found this link to FlavorWire that links to Uneek Doll Designs. Check out these great handmade dolls by UneekDollDesigns of your Favorite Authors.  There's a link to Literary Characters and more! For sale on Etsy. Don't miss Agatha Christie Doll.

Joyce Carol Oates

Isaac Asimov

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crime Scene Tape Ensemble

In one of my "other" lives, I use a lot of crime scene tape. It's readily available, and you don't have to be a crime scene investigator. Here's a great ensemble for the holidays!

My new favorite is this Ducti Police Line Do Not Cross Utility Messenger Bag

And to complete the outfit, a scarf and some low top shoes from