Monday, April 30, 2012

Rosamund Upton: Guest Post & Book Giveaway

Today I welcome back Rosamund Lupton. She is the author of the bestseller Sister. Her second novel, Afterwards, was released in the U.S. last week.  

Rosamund Lupton started writing when she could first hold a pencil. She studied English literature at Cambridge University. Following her BA degree, she was a freelance copywriter and reviewer, including writing reviews for the Literary Review. She won a TV play competition and became a full time screenwriter, working for the BBC and independent film companies. When her youngest child started school, she decided to write a novel – Sister which went straight into the UK best seller list. When it was published in the USA, it made the New York Times best seller list and received great reviews. I loved it. A unique voice.  Afterwards is different and equally gripping. 

**Book Giveaway: Make a comment below to win a copy of Afterwards. Be sure and add your email address (ex: joe at Let me know why you'd like to read Afterwards. U.S residents only. Winner will picked at random. **

Rosamund Lupton: 
The Way I approach Writing a Novel

When I was a child, my father would play chess with me, encouraging me to think one then two moves ahead, progressing to about five or six moves when my brain would start to short-circuit. Fortunately he was a kind as well as brilliant chess player and didn’t take advantage of my brain explosion to checkmate me. Plotting the detective story part of my novels feels very similar. (If character A does this, then that action has a consequence on character B which in turn affects character C which a hundred pages later will have some meaning for character A.) And in this plotting game the other player is the reader. Am I leading the reader carefully away from the real perpetrator of the crime or would he or she guess – checkmate me – by chapter 7, if not before? And in this game, are the twists and turns engaging enough for the reader to keep reading/playing? Finally, when I reveal in the last chapters the real perpetrator, will the reader think ‘oh yes of course, why didn’t I see that?’ or feel cheated in some way. Because a detective story, like chess, can never involve cheating. It is this part of novel-writing that I find utterly draining and I’m sure I burn through more calories than if I’ve been on a treadmill all day. (I lost weight during the plotting part of each novel, even though I consumed huge quantities of chocolate biscuits and barely moved from my desk).

Playing a long difficult chess match wasn’t my idea of fun when I was twelve and I wouldn’t write novels if they were simply detective stories. The plotting - that hard brain-aching part, is simply the first stage. It’s a cerebral, intellectual thing that results solely in a map. Then comes the real writing of the book, driven and inspired by the characters. In ‘Afterwards’ a mother and daughter are terribly injured in a school fire. Their search for the truth of that arson attack is the plot part of the book, but the heart of the novel is their loves, fears, thoughts and beliefs and their relationship with one another. Characters are organic things, changing and developing throughout the novel. While plotting is hard work, characters are inspiring and create their own energy. They have voices demanding to be heard and recorded, they challenge me to understand them and to explore their imaginations and beliefs and make me challenge my own.

 I’m always glad to have that plot map pinned up in front of me while I’m writing. Grateful, to know where I’m going. But a map cannot describe the journey. So perhaps more importantly than my childhood chess matches, in terms of writing novels, is that almost every night my father would read – or invent – a story.

Blue Tardis Police Boxes for Sale

22  Genuine Police boxes up for Auction in Edinburgh

These blue police boxes have been a feature of the city for 80 years but have now been designated “surplus to operational requirements” by Lothian and Borders Police Board and put up for sale.

Before devoted Dr. Who fans start getting their wallets out, there are a few things they should probably know about the "Tardises".

The Edinburgh police boxes have sloped roofs, rather than the flat-topped design that inspired the Doctor's time machine - and buyers would be required to paint them a different colour to the classic Tardis blue.

No price has been given but offers must be submitted in sealed official envelopes and successful buyers are subject to a sales fee of £100 in addition to their final bids.

Each box is a 2 ton cast-iron structure.
1 of the Actual 22 Police Boxes for Sale

Read more HERE.

Hat Tip L.J. Roberts

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Agatha Award Winners

The Agatha Award Winners were announced at the 24th Annual Agatha Awards Banquet at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD, last night Saturday, April 28th, 2012.

Best Novel:
Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)

Best First Novel:
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)

Best Non-fiction:
Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linden)

Best Short Story:
"Disarming" (PDF) by Dana Cameron,  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - June 2011

Best Children's/Young Adult:
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Best Historical Novel:
Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mysteries set in France: Mystery Readers Journal, Volume 28:1

If you're a U.S. subscriber to Mystery Readers Journal for '12, you will receive the French Mysteries issue in the next few days. If you're an out of country subscriber or a contributor to this issue, I am still waiting for the hardcopy issues to arrive. I will mail your issue out as soon as I receive them. If you subscribe via PDF download, you should have received an email with the instructions for downloading. Let me know if you didn't.

Subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal for '12 and receive the next four issues.

Mysteries Set in France, Volume 28, No. 1, Spring 2012
Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.


A Brief Panorama of Early French Crime Fiction by Jean-Marc Lofficier
Sex and the Country: Some Thoughts on Pierre Magnan by Peter Rozovsky
An Interview with Sîan Reynolds by Peter Rozovsky
My Affair With the Birthplace of Crime Fiction by Bernadette Bean
Tale of Two Dominiques by Cary Watson
The Father of the Detective Story: Emile Gaboriau by Nina Cooper

Passion, Bloodshed, Desire, and Death by Susanne Alleyn
How I Got Into My Life of Crime French Style by Cara Black
Honest! I Was in Paris Working Very Hard! by Rick Blechta
Having a Nice Time? by Rhys Bowen
Inspector Aliette Nouvelle by John Brooke
The French Adventure of a Full-time Lawyer and Part-time Fool by Alan Gordon
Escape From Paris by Carolyn Hart
Maggie MacGowen Goes to France by Wendy Hornsby
France on Berlin Time by J. Robert Janes
Experiencing Provence by M.L. Longworth
Writing a French Police Series by Adrian Magson
France, the Write Country by Peter May
Travel + Fiction: You Want to Go There by Lise McClendon
Hemingway's Paris Remains 'A Moveable Feast' by Craig McDonald
Inspired by the "Where" by Tom Mitcheltree
It's All About Me? by Sharan Newman
Drinking Tea From a Bowl: Getting France Right by D-L Nelson
Mysteries Set in France: Vive la Différence! by Katherine Hall Page
Provence—To Die For by Renée Paley-Bain
Mick Jagger, Kirs Royales, and Paris by P.J. Parrish
Paris Shadows by M.J. Rose
Diplomatic Mystery by William S. Shepard
Alpine Beach: My French Connection by Susan Steggall
She Lost Her Head in La Belle France by Nancy Means Wright

Crossword: The French Connection by Verna Suit
Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Lesa Holstine, L.J. Roberts, Alana White, Marlyn Beebe
Children's Hour: Where's Madeleine? by Gay Toltl Kinman
In Short: Glimpses of France by Marvin Lachman
The Art of French Crime by Cathy Pickens
Crime Seen: Le Crime Vu by Kate Derie
Mysteries Set in France by British Authors by Philip Scowcroft
From the Editor's Desk by Janet A. Rudolph

Friday, April 27, 2012

CrimeFest Awards Shortlist

CrimeFest announced the shortlist for the 2012 CrimeFest Awards. CrimeFest takes place this year in Bristol, UK, May 24-27.  Winners will be announced at the gala dinner on May 26.

Nominees for Best Abridged Crime Audiobook
Lee Child / The Affair read by Kerry Shale [Random House Audiobooks]
James Henry / First Frost read by David Jason [Random House Audiobooks]
Simon Kernick / The Payback read by Daniel Weyman [Random House Audiobooks]
Donna Leon / Drawing Conclusions read by Andrew Sachs [Random House Audiobooks]
Alexander McCall Smith / The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party [Hachette Digital read by Adjoa Andoh]

Nominees for Best Unabridged Crime Audiobook: 
Ben Aaronovitch / Rivers of London read by Kobna [Orion Audio / Holdbrook-Smith]
Michael Connelly / The Fifth Witness read by Peter Giles [Orion Audio]
David Hewson / The Fallen Angel read by Saul Reichlin [Whole Story Audio Books]
Anthony Horowitz / The House of Silk read by Derek Jacobi [Orion Audio]
S. J. Watson / Before I Go To Sleep read by Susannah Harker [Random House Audio with AudioGO]

The Goldsboro Last Laugh Award for best humorous crime novel:
Declan Burke / Absolute Zero Cool [Liberties Press]
Colin Cotterill / Killed at the Whim of a Hat [Quercus Publishing]
Chris Ewan / The Good Thief's Guide to Venice [Simon & Schuster]
Christopher Fowler / Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood [Doubleday]
Carl Hiaasen / Star Island [Sphere]
Doug Johnstone / Smokeheads [Faber and Faber]
Elmore Leonard / Djibouti [Weidenfeld & Nicolson]
L.C. Tyler / Herring on the Nile [Macmillan]

The eDunnit Award for best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format
Linwood Barclay / The Accident [Orion] Thomas Enger / Burned [Faber and Faber]
Dennis Lehane / Moonlight Mile [Little, Brown Book Group]
Adrian Magson / Death on the Rive Nord [Allison & Busby]
Denise Mina / The End of the Wasp Season [Orion]
Steve Mosby / Black Flowers [Orion]
George Pelecanos / The Cut [Orion]

Congratulations to all!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe Awards 2012

Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award Winners for 2012 were just announced in New York. Congratulations to all!

Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)

Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton) 

The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Hachette Book Group – Orbit Books)

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (Random House - Doubleday)

On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)

“The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press) 

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Random House Children’s Books – Knopf BFYR)

The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig (Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH)


“Pilot” – Homeland, Teleplay by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff (Showtime)

"A Good Man of Business" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by David Ingram (Dell Magazines)

Martha Grimes

M is for Mystery Bookstore, San Mateo, CA 
Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries

Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 25, 2012)
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown Publishing Group) 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lizzie Borden House for Sale

Hat Tip to Bill Crider that the house in Fall River, MA, where Lizzie Borden lived out her life after being acquitted of charges that she used an ax to kill her father and stepmother is on the market.

The 14-room Queen Anne Victorian home in Fall River is for sale for $650,000. It is assessed at $313,200, which doesn't take into account its historical significance.

Owner Robert Dube has owned the home known as Maplecroft since 1980 when he paid $60,000. He has put it on the market several times before, most recently three years ago when he asked $725,000.

Borden lived at Maplecroft from 1894 until her death in 1927.

But the biggest disclaimer for possible ghoulish buyers is that it's not the same house where Andrew and Abby Borden were killed in August 1892.

However, if you do want to stay at the house where the ax murders took place, the original house is now the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast.

There are two two bedroom suites, Lizzie & Emma's Bedrooms, and Abby & Andrew's Bedrooms; the John Morse Guest Room, Bridget's Attic Room and two additional spacious attic bedrooms (the Jennings & Knowlton Rooms), each of which offer a double bed in a room with Victorian appointments.

Guests are treated to a breakfast similar to the one the Bordens ate on the morning of the murders, which includes bananas, jonny-cakes, sugar cookies and coffee in the addition to a meal of breakfast staples.

The interior and exterior of the home has been restored, with careful attention to making it as close to the Borden home of August, 1892 as is possible.

The owners of the home invite all to view their collection of both Fall River and Borden memorabilia at 92 Second Street.

William F. Granger: R.I.P.

William F. “Bill” Granger, a longtime Chicago newspaper reporter and columnist turned novelist, passed away April 22 in Manteno, Illinois. He was 70 years old.

Bill Granger wrote a series of sequels (13 in all) starring the main character, Devereaux, a shadowy spy for the United States. He also wrote a series of police procedural novels, including Public Murders, for which he won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best original paperback mystery novel of 1981.

 A list of Granger’s novels can be found here.

Hat Tip: The Gumshoe Site via The Rap Sheet

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SyFy plans Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly series show

The Syfy Channel has picked up the rights to Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly Mysteries for a new series in development titled Grave Sight.

Harris’s 4 book series, launched in 2005.  In the Syfy adaptation, Harper Connelly teams up with her protective stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, to help find a missing teenage girl, only to uncover a network of lies and murders throughout a small town in the Ozarks.

Kam Miller (Law and Order: SVU) is writing the pilot, which is being developed as a prospective drama series with Universal Cable Productions. Previously, CBS was developing a TV show based on the novels. Word that Syfy might have picked up the books leaked onto some True Blood and Harris fan forums earlier this month.

Hat Tip:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Donna Leon's Venetian Curiousities

I'm a big fan of Donna Leon's novels. I recently received a charming new book by Donna Leon: Venetian Curiosities.

Venetian Curiosities is beautifully illustrated and comes with a CD of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, with tracks for each section of the book, played by Il Complesso Barocco.Il Compresso Barocco, an international ensemble, founded by Alan Curtis. The music is played on original instruments.

With the fabulous music, the beautiful images, and the perceptive, amusing words of Donna Leon, Venetian Curiosities is a harmonious exploration of one of the world’s most beloved cities.

In a city as ancient as Venice, myths and legends passed down from generation to generation record more than just love or murder. They are the storehouse of a city’s mores, emblems of its identity. In Venetian Curiosities,  novelist Donna Leon recounts some of Venice’s most intriguing tales: an elephant brought in for Carnival wreaks havoc upon the city before seeking refuge in a church, the city employs prostitutes in an attempt to prevent homosexuality, innocent men are mistakenly condemned to death, a gambler bets the family palazzo. In an introduction and seven essays, Leon offers enchanting details and astute insights into Venetian customs of the past and present--accompanied by Vivaldi.

Donna Leon's latest Commissario Brunetti novel is Beastly Things.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

LA Times Book Prizes

Stephen King was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for "11/22/63" (Scribner) in the Mystery/Thriller Category at the Festival of Books Friday night. 11/22/63 is about a time traveler who attempts to prevent John F. Kennedy's assassination. Crime fiction writer Gar Anthony Hayward presented the award.

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown)
Plugged by Eoin Colfer (Overlook Press) 
Snowdrops by A. D. Miller (Doubleday)
The End of Wasp Season by Denise Mina (Little, Brown)

Prizes were awarded in 10 categories: biography, current interest, fiction, poetry, first fiction, graphic novel, science and technology, mystery/thriller, and young adult literature, with special awards being given to Rudulfo Anaya and the collaborative teen-writing project Figmen. Read More here

More than 400 authors will participate in readings, signings, panel discussions, musical performances and other events at the LA Times Festival of Books. The festival, which moved to USC in 2011 after 15 years at UCLA, runs through today (Sunday). Over 150,000 visitors are expected to attend.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Arthur Ellis Awards Nominees

Crime Writers of Canada Nominees for the 29th annual Arthur Ellis Awards. Winners will be announced in Toronto on May 31.

Best Novel:
Alan Bradley, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Doubleday Canada)
William Deverell, I’ll See You in My Dreams (McClelland & Stewart)
Louise Penny, A Trick of the Light (St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast)
Peter Robinson, Before the Poison (M&S)
Robert Rotenberg, The Guilty Plea (Simon & Schuster)

Best Non-Fiction 
Jay Bahader, The Pirates of Somalia (HarperCollins Canada)
Robert Fowler, A Season in Hell (HarperCollins Canada)
Adrian Humphreys, The Weasel: A Double Life in the Mob (John Wiley & Sons Canada)
Joshua Knelman, Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Douglas & McIntyre)
Steven Laffoley, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Pottersfield Press)

Best Juvenile/Young Adult
Becky Citra, Missing (Orca Book Publishers)
Rob Mills, Charlie’s Key (Orca)
Edeet Ravel, Held (Annick Press)
Arthur Slade, Empire of Ruins (HarperCollins Canada)
Tim Wynne-Jones, Blink & Caution (Candlewick Press/Random House)

Best First Novel
Norm Foster, Watching Jeopardy (Xlibris)
Ian Hamilton, The Water Rat of Wanchai (Spiderline/House of Anansi)
Fraser Nixon, The Man Who Killed (D&M)
Sean Slater, The Survivor (S&S)
Roger White, Tight Corner (BPS Books)

Best Short Story
Catherine Astolfo, “What Kelly Did” (Northword Magazine)
Melodie Campbell, “The Perfect Mark” (Flash Fiction Magazine)
Scott Mackay, “The Girl with the Golden Hair” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Shane Nelson, “Beer Money” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine)
Jas. R. Petrin, “A New Pair of Pants” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)

Unhanged Arthur (Best Unpublished First Crime Novel)
William Bonnell, Snake in the Snow
Valerie A. Drego, The Rhymester
Madeleine Harris-Callway, Gunning for Bear
Shane Sawyer, Too Far to Fall
 Sam Wiebe, Last of the Independents

Best Crime Writing in French
 Guillaume Lapierre-Desnoyers, Pour Ne pas mourir ce soir (Lévesque Éditeur)
Martin Michaud, La chorale du diable (Les Éditions Guélette)
 Diane Vincent, Pwazon (Triptyque)

Earth Day: Environmental Mysteries

Earth Day: April 22, 2012.
This is an updated Earth Day/Environmental Mysteries List that is by no means complete. There are many more authors, and certainly more books by many of the authors on the list. Last year I added a short list of Reservoir Noir at the end. As always, I welcome additions. I took a few liberties on the list, too, but I think they all fall under the umbrella of environmental mysteries.

Be kind to the Earth. It's the only one we have.


Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang
Liz Adair's Snakewater Affair
Grace Alexander's Hegemon
Suzanne Arruda's Stalking Ivory
Lindsay Arthur's The Litigators
Sandi Ault's Wild Inferno
Michael Barbour's The Kenai Catastrophe and Blue Water, Blue Island
Nevada Barr's Track of the Cat, Ill Wind and others
Lee Barwood's A Dream of Drowned Hollow?
William Bernhardt's Silent Justice
Donald J Bingle's GreensWord
Michael Black's A Killing Frost
C J Box's Winterkill, Open Season, Below Zero, Savage Run, Out of Range, Trophy Hunt, Free Fire, In Plain Sight
Robin Cook's Fever
Donna Cousins' Landscape
Rex Burns' Endangered Species
Michael Crichton's State of Fear
James Crumley's Dancing Bear
Janet Dawson's Don't Turn Your Back on the Ocean
Barbara Delinsky's Looking for Peyton Place
William Deverell's April Fool
David Michael Donovan's Evil Down in the Alley
Rubin Douglas' The Wise Pelican: From the Cradle to the Grave
Kerstin Ekman's Blackwater
Aaron J Elkins' The Dark Place
Howard Engle's Dead and Buried
Eric Evans' Endangered
G M Ford's Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?
Clare Francis's The Killing Winds (Requiem)
Matthew Glass' Ultimatum
Ken Goddard's Double Blind, Prey, Wildfire
Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon's Greenwar
Robert O. Greer's The Devil's Hatband
John Grisham's The Pelican Brief, The Appeal
Jean Hager's Ravenmocker
William Hagard's The Vendettists
James W. Hall's Bones of Coral
Patricia Hall's The Poison Pool
Joseph Hall's Nightwork
Karen Hall's Unreasonable Risk, Through Dark Spaces
Sue Henry's Termination Dust
Joseph Heywood's Blue Wolf in Green Fire, Ice Hunter, Chasing a Blond Moon
Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip, Stormy Weather, Sick Puppy, Strip Tease
John Hockenberry's A River out of Eden
Peter Hoeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow
John Holt's Hunted
Mary Ellen Hughes' A Taste of Death
Dana Andrew Jennings' Lonesome Standard Time
Linda Kistler's Cause for Concern
Lisa Kleinholz's Dancing with Mr. D.
Dean Koontz's Icebound
Janice Law's Infected be the Air
Donna Leon's Death in a Strange Country, About Face
David Liss' The Ethical Assassin
Sam Llewellyn's Deadeye
John D MacDonald's Barrier Island (and other titles)
Ross Macdonald's Sleeping Beauty
Jassy Mackenzie's The Fallen
Larry Maness' Once a Perfect Place
Elizabeth Manz's Wasted Space
Margaret Maron's High Country Fall, Shooting at Loons, Up Jumps the Devil, Hard Row
John Martel's Partners
Steve Martini's Critical Mass
Deon Meyer's Blood Safari, Thirteen Hours
Skye Kathleen Moody's Blue Poppy
Marcia Muller's Cape Perdido
Dan O'Brien's Brendan Prairie
Michael Palmer's Fatal
Sara Paretsky's Blood Shot
T. Jefferson's Parker's Pacific Beat
Cathy Pickens' Southern Fried
Carl Posey's Bushmaster Fall
David Poyer's As the Wolf Loves Winter, Winter in the Heart
Bob Reiss's Purgatory Road
Ruth Rendell's Road Rage
Rebecca Rothenberg's The Shy Tulip Murders
Patricia Rushford's Red Sky in the Mourning
Kirk Russell's Shell Games
Frank Schätzing's The Swarm
Barry Siegel's Actual Innocence
Sheila Simonson's An Old Chaos 
Jessica Speart's Bird Brained
Dana Stabenow's A Cold Day for Murder, A Deeper Sleep, A Fine and Bitter Snow, Midnight Come Again, A Taint in the Blood, and many others
John Stanley's The Woman Who Married a Bear, The Curious Eat Themselves, 
Neal Stephenson's Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller
Mark Stevens' Buried by the Roan 
David Sundstrand's Shadow of the Raven
William Tapply's Cutter's Run
Peter Temple's The Broken Shore
Craig Thomas's A Wild Justice
David Rains Wallace's The Turquoise Dragon
Lee Wallingford's Clear-Cut Murder
Joseph Wambaugh's Finnegan's Week
Sterling Watson's Deadly Sweet
Randy Wayne White's White Captiva
Robert Wilson's Blood is Dirt
K.J.A. Wishnia's The Glass Factory

Reservoir Noir
Thanks to Books that deal with intentional flooding of towns and villages because of building dams and reservoirs for water supply, irrigation, power and other reasons--a sad addition to the environmental crime fiction list.

Alan Dipper's Drowning Day
Eileen Dunlop's Valley of the Deer (YA)
Lee Harris's Christening Day Murder
Reginald Hill's On Beulah Height
Donald James' Walking the Shadows
James D. Landis' The Talking (Artist of the Beautiful)
Jane Langton's Emily Dickenson is Dead
Julia Wallis Martin's A Likeness in Stone
Sharyn McCrumb's Zombies of the Gene Pool
Michael Miano's The Dead of Summer
Ron Rash's One Foot in Eden
Rick Riordan's The Devil Went Down to Austin
Peter Robinson's In a Dry Season
Lisa See's Dragon Bones
Paul Somers' Broken Jigsaw
Julia Spencer-Fleming's Out of the Deep I Cry
Donald Westlake's Drowned Hopes
John Morgan Wilson's Rhapsody in Blood
Stuart Woods' Under the Lake
Let me know any titles you think should be included.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Margaret Maron Guest Post for Earth Day

With Earth Day approaching, I asked Mystery Author Margaret Maron for a guest post. Her Judge Deborah Knott series addresses many Environmental Issues.

Margaret Maron is the author of twenty-six novels and two collections of short stories. Winner of several major American awards for mysteries (Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity), her works are on the reading lists of various courses in contemporary Southern literature and have been translated into 16 languages. She has served as president of Sisters in Crime, the American Crime Writers League, and Mystery Writers of America.


Most of the books in my Judge Deborah Knott series have environmental issues at their heart. Whether it’s overdevelopment in the mountains (High Country Fall) or too many special interests pulling at our coastal waters (Shooting at Loons), these issues reflect her deep ties to the land. Up Jumps the Devil and Hard Row deal specifically with land use as her corner of North Carolina becomes more densely populated and urbanized.

In Up Jumps the Devil, Deborah talks about the lanes that crisscross the family’s farms: “They started out as real shortcuts, but these days my brothers shuttle equipment back and forth even when it might be quicker to use the road. They get a little tired of honking cars and getting the finger from impatient commuters. Urban people move to the country and it’s like, ‘Gee, you mean farmers live here? And they’re going to clutter up my road with hay balers and gang disks? Who the hell do these rednecks think they are?’ Pooling equipment’s the main reason Daddy and the boys are still able to make farming turn a decent living.”

Later, her father tells them that he’s struck a deal with the developer who’s building on the other side of their creek: “In exchange for access to the creek, he’s agreed to a buffer zone, so we don’t have to see and hear everything over there. . . If we agree to lay back a few hundred feet on this side and he lays back the same distance—”
“A greenbelt?” I asked.
“Huh?” said Robert.
“Like a park or a wilderness area,” I said. Instead of building right up to the creek, we’ll leave a wide strip of trees and bushes where people can walk or ride bicycles or have picnics.”
 It was just like down at the coast. I might not like to see our homeplace changing, but Daddy was right. Best we could hope for was to have a say in how it changed.

In Hard Row, the brothers call a family meeting to discuss new crops for the farm now that tobacco is being phased out. They discuss cotton, pick-your-own fruits, and shiitake mushrooms. Industrial hemp would be a great replacement crop had it first been called the paper weed. With a name like hemp though, our legislators are scared to death to permit it.

The grandchildren suggest raising ostriches since the meat has become trendy. Deborah’s sisters-in-law are appalled: “What kind of outlandish foolery is that?”
Emma wrinkled her pretty little nose. “One good thing about them—they don’t stink like hogs.”
“Yeah, but hogs is more natural,” said Isabel. “I’d be plumb embarrassed to tell folks we was raising ostriches.”

One of Deborah’s nephews said, “Don’t y’all think it’d be good if we switched over to something that doesn’t require tons of pesticides on every acre?”
“Everything’s got pests that you gotta poison,” said his father.
“Not if we went organic.”
“You young’uns act like we’re some sort of criminals ’cause we didn’t sit around and let the crops get eat up with worms and bugs and wilts and nematodes,” Haywood huffed. “Every time we find something that works, the government comes and takes it away.”
“Because it doesn’t really work,” said Bobby. “All we’re doing is breeding more resistant pests and endangering our own health.”

In the end, Deborah, Seth and their daddy decide to give the kids 25 acres so that they can start cleansing the land and go all natural. To Kezzie’s amusement, they are delighted to learn that he’s held on to an old manure spreader.

When Deborah asks him what he thinks of their plan to raise florist-quality tuberoses, the wily old ex-bootlegger just smiles. “Tell you what, shug. Flowers or mushrooms or even ostriches—it don’t matter one little bit. Anything that keeps ’em here on the farm another generation’s gonna be just fine with me.”
With responsible stewardship, the land will be fine, too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark: R.I.P.

Dick Clark, an American Icon, died this morning. Dick Clark was a regular part of my adolescent years. He hosted American Bandstand. Bandstand originated in my home town--Philadelphia. The first host left in a cloud of scandal.  Dick Clark took over and Bandstand went from Philadelphia Bandstand to American Bandstand.

When I was in junior high, some of the other girls and I decided we wanted to go on American Bandstand. We loved to dance, and certainly fame and fortune would come to us when we were 'discovered'. We didn't go to South Philly Catholic for Girls like most of the 'stars' on the show at that time. Shoot.  We didn't even live in the city limits. We lived in a nice suburb and weren't even in high school. Our parents watched the show every day for a week (Bandstand was live TV --5 afternoons a week) before they allowed us to go on the show. We wrote for tickets and waited patiently. Then one of the mothers drove us to the studio, and she waited. We were told by our parents not to chew gum (oh yes, there were lots of cud chewing cows on the small screen), or to dance too close to any boy. They said, be sure he introduces himself politely before you accept a dance. They shouldn't have bothered. Not only wasn't this dancing class with white gloves, but the only boy who asked me for one dance was more interested in getting his face on camera than anything else. It wasn't the best experience, but it was an experience. And, I was only 13, so it was really cool. And, I did get to meet Dick Clark!

So I am sad today to learn that Dick Clark, who hardly changed over the years, passed away at the age of 82 of a massive heart attack. Dick Clark was known as "the world's oldest teenager." Responsible for introducing Rock 'n' Roll to much of the nation, he started as a DJ on radio. He hosted American Bandstand from the 50s through the 80s. Almost every major Rock and Roll Star appeared on the show. Artists Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, James Brown, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers had their national television debuts on "Bandstand." He introduced them all (although not Ricky Nelson or Beatles, something he was disappointed about). Dick Clark through Bandstand taught American teenagers around the country dances and music, 5 days a week.

Even if you weren't around for American Bandstand, you probably remember Dick Clark from the New Year's Eve Countdown--or maybe from the various game shows he hosted?

I'll always remember Dick Clark. "I give him an 82 (wish it had been more). I like the beat. I can dance to it!"

Rest in peace, Dick Clark!

RT Reviewers Choice Awards: Crime Fiction

RT Reviewers Choice Awards were announced last weekend April 11 – 15 in Chicago. Here are the awards in the "mystery' categories. 50 Reviewers vote for these awards.

Contemporary Mystery
Winner: V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, Putnam

Stagestruck by Peter Lovesey, Soho
Ringer by Brian M. Wiprud, Minotaur
Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill, Minotaur
The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill, Harper
In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault, Morrow

Historical Mystery
Winner: A Lonely Death by Charles Todd, Morrow

The Beloved Dead by Tony Hays, Tor
The Illusion of Murder by Carol McCleary, Forge
Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins, Forge
City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley, Minotaur
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson, Minotaur

First Mystery
Winner: Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder, Minotaur

The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small, West Hills
Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell, Prime Crime
Thou Shalt Kill by Daniel Blake, Gallery
Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick, Minotaur

Amateur Sleuth
Winner: The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder by Mary Jane Maffini, Prime Crime

To Have and to Kill by Mary Jane Clark, Morrow
Killing Kate by Julie Kramer, Atria
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend, Prime Crime
Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen, Prime Crime

Winner: Love You More by Lisa Gardner, Bantam

In Desperation by Rick Mofina, Mira
Among the Missing by Morag Joss, Delacorte
The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea Kane, Mira
Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton, Minotaur
You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz, St. Martin’s
Death in High Places by Jo Bannister, Minotaur
New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb, Putnam
Ghost Hero by S.J. Rozan, Minotaur

To see all the award nominees in all categories, go HERE.

Hat Tip: Lynn Farris, Mystery Books Examiner

Beautiful Public Libraries

Bristol Public Library
Going to Bristol for CrimeFest? Well, you'll want to pop into the Bristol Public Library (photo on right), included in Flavorwire's top 25 most beautiful public libraries.

To me all libraries are beautiful because they contain books. You'll want to see--and visit--them all.  To see the complete list, go Here.

Also be sure and check out these links to Outstanding Hotel Libraries and Private/Personal Libraries.

New York Public Library

Royal Danish Library
Central Library, Seattle

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Film Noir Foundation News!

The Film Noir Foundation is hard at work!  

1. Southern Gothic Noir: On April 28, they will be co-presenting Fritz Lang's House by the River at the San Francisco International Film Festival at the historic Castro Theatre. Greed, homicide, fame and family are all fodder for novelist Stephen Byrne (Louis Hayward) as he first covers up, then capitalizes on the drunken murder of his maid, whose body he dumps in the river beside his house. Lang's gothic noir is thick with an atmosphere of decay and features a chillingly depraved antihero. Go here for tickets and showtimes. The San Francisco International Film Festival, presented by The San Francisco Film Society, runs from April 19 through May 3.

2. The 12th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival returns to the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, California from May 10 through 13, 2012. FNF's Alan K. Rode returns as the festival's director/programmer and host for the fifth consecutive year. This year's highlights include an extremely rare screening of the fast-paced Technicolor thriller, Hell's Island (1955) starring noir icon John Payne in his final team-up with director Phil Karlson. Another special treat for noir fans will be Karlson's Key Witness (1960) with a guest appearance scheduled by star Patricia Crowley. Also scheduled is the screening of a new 35mm print of The Great Gatsby (1949), starring Alan Ladd as the eponymous hero, followed by an on-stage discussion with Alan Ladd's son, actor/producer David Ladd. For more on the festival,visit the official festival website.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Titanic Links

I had intended to post a list of Titanic Crime Fiction on Mystery Fanfare to commemorate the 100th Anniversary, but instead I direct to you to J. Kingston Pierce's wonderful round-up, Praise the Titanic, this past Saturday, on Limbo, the Web Site that's Neither Here Nor There.  There are links to Titanic history Books, interviews, novels, preservation and so much more. This is a terrific round-up.

The only thing I'd add is Chocolate! See my post on Dying for Chocolate on the Last Dinner of the Titanic. Chocolate Eclairs were served in first course as one of the selections for the tenth course. Recipe included. Notes on commemoration flatware and tableware, too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Theatre Converted to Bookstore

El Ateneo is an amazing bookstore in Buenos Aires. The structure used to be known as Teatro Gran Splendid and was completed in May 1919. Every available inch of it is filled with books, except the box seats, which are used as reading rooms. Fabulous!


Hat Tip: Doc Quartermass

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pattie Tierney: Dying for Chocolate Bracelet

Dying for Chocolate Bracelet
Today I welcome Pattie Tierney. Pattie Tierney has done guest posts on, but I think this is her first time here on Mystery Fanfare. Pattie of St. Louis, MO, has a passion for travel, dining, photography, and mysteries, and writes about them all. She has published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Personal Journaling Magazine, The Diarist's Journal, and Ink & Ruminations. Her art has appeared in The Rubber Stamper, Signatures: The Art Journal Collection, ATCs: An Anthology of Artist Trading Cards, Somerset Studio and Stamper's Sampler magazines.

Her Agatha Christie Mystery Charm Bracelet was featured in the holiday gift guide of BUST magazine's December 2006 issue as one of the "must have" gifts for the year. In 2007 her "Methods of Murder" charm bracelet and Agatha Christie Typewriter Pin were both included in the Mystery Gift Guide of Mystery Scene Magazine. Pregnancy Magazine featured her Jane Austen bracelet in their 2008 Valentine issue. Her Clue Game Piece Bracelet was featured on the online site in November 2009 as one of 7 Cool Products Made from Board Games. Tierney has designed jewelry for various organizations including USA Today, Sisters in Crime, Short Mystery Fiction Society, Forensic U and the St. Charles Public Library system.

The former editor of The Baker Street Chronicle, a Sherlock Holmes journal, her current project, Recipes To Die For, is a mystery cookbook full of recipes from actors, authors, and readers who perform in, write, or read mystery stories.

Pattie Tierney:

I once read an article on Marilyn Monroe that quoted her as saying that she wore no jewelry because she didn't want to wear anything that might detract from her beauty. Of course, Marilyn Monroe was 36 when she died. Had she lived, she'd been two months away from celebrating her 86th birthday. My guess is that, unless she chose to nip, tuck, Botox, and lipo, she'd have bagged, sagged, and dragged with the rest of us. And, like the rest of us, she'd have adorned her body with some pretty dynamic baubles to divert attention from the, um, baggage, saggage, and draggage.

Unlike Marilyn, I've always been a jewelry wearer, but as I got older I wanted jewelry that represented the "me" that I know I am rather than a reflection of someone else. Herein lay the problem: I am a mystery fan. And, as I found out after many hours of tireless search, no one makes mystery jewelry.

Armed with no more than an idea, desire, and a bit of chutzpah, I bought a book on jewelry making, a package of assorted jewelry-making tools, a collection of beads and findings, charm bracelet chain, and a handful of charms, some culled from broken bits of jewelry that had been taking up space in my jewelry box. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but had an image in my mind as to what I'd hoped would be the end result.

The task was slightly more daunting than I'd imagined, but I love a challenge and in little less than a month I had created my first piece of mystery jewelry, a "Murder and Mayhem" bracelet devoted to Agatha Christie. It sold the day it listed. It was a good feeling to know that I was not alone. That, out there, somewhere, was at least one other formerly frustrated mystery fan looking for jewelry. The benefit of a mystery focus is that inspiration can be found everywhere. From Dame Agatha to Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden, Nero Wolfe to Charlie Chan, I was making bracelets as fast as you can say, "It was a dark and stormy night." Then, I thought, why not make a "Dark and Stormy" bracelet? How about a city bracelet like "Sherlock's London?" Characters, authors, even "Methods of Murder" have all found their way to becoming bracelets.

My latest creation, inspired by none other than Janet Rudolph and recently released is called (what else?), "Dying for Chocolate" and features murder weapons, poison labels, antique chocolate labels and beads in colors of milk and dark chocolate. Dastardly and delicious!

Order the Dying for Chocolate bracelet

See more jewelry designs at Pattie's Etsy Shop
Visit her paper goods and mystery gifts shop

Follow Pattie Tierney on Twitter @pattietierney
Pattie's blog:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Scrabble Gifts for National Scrabble Day

Today is National Scrabble Day. In celebration, over at I've posted several Scrabble Cakes and Cupcakes that were created for Birthdays, Weddings and special events. I knew I had to commemorate the day here on Mystery Fanfare, too. Flavorwire, one of my favorite sites for everything odd, has a whole list of gifts for National Scrabble Day. I often see the tiles at the Flea Market, and it's time to make my own.  To celebrate tonight, you'll want to play at least one game. I play every day on my iPad, but since it's Friday--and Friday the 13th, you might want to play with a real time partner.

Here's a bit of Scrabble History from Time Magazine:
Scrabble was conceived in 1938 during the Great Depression by an unemployed New York architect named Alfred Mosher Butts, who figured Americans could use a bit of distraction during the bleak economic times. After determining what he believed were the most enduring games in history — board games, numbers games like dice or cards and letter games like crossword puzzles — he combined all three. He then chose the frequency and the distribution of the tiles by counting letters on the pages of the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune and The Saturday Evening Post. For more than a decade he tweaked and tinkered with the rules while trying — and continually failing — to attract a corporate sponsor. The Patent Office rejected his application not once, but twice, and on top of that, he couldn't settle on a name. At first he simply called his creation "it" before switching to "Lexiko," then "Criss-Cross Words."

In 1948 when a New Yorker named James Brunot contacted Butts about mass-producing the game, he readily handed the operation over. Brunot's contributions were significant: he came up with the iconic color scheme (pastel pink, baby-blue, indigo and bright red), devised the 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles to make a word, and conceived the name "Scrabble." The first Scrabble factory was an abandoned schoolhouse in rural Connecticut, where Brunot and several gracious friends manufactured 12 games an hour. When the chairman of Macy's discovered the game on vacation and decided to stock his shelves with it, the game exploded. By 1952, Brunot's homegrown assembly line was churning out more than 2,000 sets a week. Nearly 4 million Scrabble sets were sold in 1954 alone.

Read more Here


Scrabble Cakes and Cupcakes:

Yarn Pillows.  I would order a J, of course, and that's worth 8 points!

I love these Scrabble Tile Macbook Decals, don't you?

Need a pencil or wouldn't this make an adorable clutch?
So maybe you want a real handbag rather than a clutch? Here's one from Sassy Lady Gifts.

 Scrabble Jewelry

Want to make your own Scrabble BRACELET?
Go HERE for easy instructions.

Addicted to Scrabble? You'll want this Mug.
Or these MUGS:

 Still wearing ties? Why not a Scrabble Tie?

 And, who wouldn't want this custom keyboard. I would!

Or, you can watch the 2004 documentary, Word Wars about Scrabble junkies.

And the final Scrabble Resting Place:

CWA Dagger in the Library

Crime Writers Association  announced the nomination longlist for the Dagger in the Library.

Unlike most other literary prizes, the Dagger in the Library is awarded not for an individual book but for the author’s body of work … The nominated authors must be alive, preferably working in Britain and cannot have won the award before. As the award is for a body of work, authors should have published at least three books. Entries from reading groups or individuals are submitted through libraries. Nomination forms may be downloaded by clicking the links at the top of the right-hand column. Groups who nominated the winning author will be entered into a draw for £300 to be spent on books. The CWA Dagger in the Library is sponsored by The Random House Group. Authors are nominated by UK libraries and Readers’ Groups and judged by a panel of librarians, all of whom work with the public.

Belinda Bauer
Simon Beckett
S.J. Bolton
Frances Brody
Gordon Ferris
Elena Forbes
Nicci French
Elly Griffiths
John Harvey
Susan Hill
Shona MacLean
Peter May
Steve Mosby
Imogen Robertson
M. J. Trow

Hat Tip: It's a Crime

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Femme Fatale Perfumes: Wanton Ways

Today I welcome Denise Hamilton, author of the Eve Diamond series and The Last Embrace, set in 1949 Hollywood and inspired by the real-life disappearance of starlet Jean Spangler. Hamilton is also the editor of the Edgar award-winning short story anthologies Los Angeles Noir and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics. Prior to writing novels, Denise was a Los Angeles Times reporter and Fulbright Scholar. She writes a monthly perfume column for the Los Angeles Times Magazine. This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Time Image Magazine, April 2012. Reprinted with permission of the author.


In Double Indemnity, we know Fred MacMurray is a goner the moment he gazes up that wrought-iron staircase and sees Barbara Stanwyck clad only in a suggestively draped towel. In the film adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic noir novel, Stanwyck is a seductress with a femme-fatale scent to match. When MacMurray offers to return the next night to sell her husband life insurance, he asks, “You’ll be here too?...Same chair, same perfume?”

We never learn the perfume’s name, but I imagine it might very well have been Caron’s Narcisse Noir, a narcotic blend of dark florals limned with civet, a dirty animalic note that evokes tangled sheets and illi-cit love—the perfect signature scent for a 1940s bombshell.

Raymond Chandler, a more fastidious writer, once said of Cain that “everything he touches smells like a billy goat.” By that, he meant Cain’s work oozed sex, but truth be told, many classic scents have more than a passing acquaintance with the billy goat: a dollop of darkness from civet, ambergris, musk and castoreum. While aromachemicals mostly replaced ingredients extracted from animals, the seduction continues apace.

So, what perfumes will best liberate your own inner femme fatale? Start with the classics: Ernest Daltroff’s 1919 creation for Caron, Tabac Blond. Its dark florals, incense, tobacco and leather reflected a post–World War I exuberance as the frails finally got to drive, smoke and carouse as heartily as the guys.

Perfume has always played up the bad-girl angle. In 1924, Madame Zed (a good noir name) created Lanvin’s abstract aldehydic floral My Sin. Eight years later came Jean Carles’ convention-breaking Tabu, a strong Oriental with heady spices, amber and civet, said to be worn by Spanish prostitutes to mask the smells of their trade. (Apply today’s drugstore version sparingly or face widespread wrath.)

In 1937, Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli gave us a dark, spiced narcissus with honey and civet named Shocking and, in 1942, the long-extinct Spanking, which I would give a leather bustier to sniff. Dashiell Hammett never says so, but I’ll bet Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon wore Shocking, because she’s that kind of dame.

Temptress perfumes often contain the biting green of galbanum,the smoky birch tar of leather, boozy notes, sweet or astringent tobacco, the peaty darkness of oakmoss and big tropical flowers, especially carnivorous lilies, jasmine and tuberose, with their rubbery, meaty, almost fecal notes. Or they can embrace the sweet and spicy Oriental motif of Guerlain’s 1925 Shalimar, with vanilla, bergamot, spices and civet, which retains its boudoir allure almost a century later.

For a modern twist, try Boudoir by Miss Naughty Knickers—punk couturier Vivienne Westwood. It’s a skanky, amber, vanillic rose that will have men inhaling your arm—or wherever you apply it. Seek out the original reddish juice rather than the current pink version.

Germaine Cellier, a pioneering 1940s female perfumer with noir proclivities, created some of the edgiest, most dissonant perfumes. You’ll have to haunt eBay auctions to find her vintage Vent Vert, with its icy green galbanum blast, because today’s version is a hollow shell. These days, the violet-leather-cumin dominatrix notes of Jolie Madame lounge on electronic street corners for under $30.

Cellier, rumored to be a lesbian, posed for painter André Derain and counted Jean Cocteau among her friends. One infamous Cellier creation is the gorgeously butch Bandit, a smoky, boozy, decidedly unsweet concoction I imagine was a favorite of Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares, tempestuous lover of poet Elizabeth Bishop. Bandit’s femme counterpart, Fracas (both, by couturier Robert Piguet, remain widely available), is a giant, sinister tuberose that pairs well with red lipstick, crimson nails and chain mail.

Nothing screams femme fatale like tuberose. Serge Lutens’ noir Tubéreuse Criminelle pairs the white flower with a genius menthol top note. Madonna’s new Truth or Dare is an altar to tuberose, while Frédéric Malle’s Carnal Flower, as well, oozes creamy naughtiness. Others conjure the tropics and Our Man In Havana betrayals: Manoumalia by Les Nez, Penhaligon Amaranthine, Guerlain Mahora and Givenchy Amarige.

Indolic jasmines like Jean Patou’s Joy also get the blood pumping. Thierry Mugler’s Alien, with its giant mutant jasmine and Seussian woods, is a 21st-century essay on femme noir and what I imagine beautiful replicant Pris would have worn in Blade Runner, the ultimate sci-fi noir movie. (By contrast, Deco beauty Rachael of the Tyrell Corporation would favor the retro glamour of En Avion, Caron’s leather, neroli, anise and amber masterpiece.)

Raymond Chandler found the perfume world so enticing he set scenes in the fictional L.A. perfume company “Gillerlain”—clearly a hat tip to Guerlain—in The Lady in the Lake. But the inspiration went both ways, and perfumers have long mined noir’s archetypes for inspiration. Before going to Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater to attend the 14th Annual Festival of Film Noir this month, dab a little Espionage (peat, musk, vanilla, leather) or Film Noir (chocolate, patchouli, myrrhe) on your pulse points from all-natural perfumer Ayala Moriel.

Online niche perfumer Ava Luxe makes a different Film Noir (leather, black amber, rose, bergamot, tonka) as well as Madame X (coriander, acaciosa, sandalwood, leather, incense).

Perfumes continued to riff on our dark proclivities as the 20th century waned. Yves Saint Laurent had a monster hit with 1977’s Opium, and Dior hit the jackpot with tuberose-grape Poison, the olfactory 50-foot woman of the Reagan years. Haters will rejoice that both have been tamed by reformulation, though Dior evoked dysfunction anew with 2002’s compulsively sniffable Addict.

In 2006, Tom Ford had a giant hit with the neon fruit, tropical florals, chocolate and musk perfume Black Orchid, which evoked the tabloid moniker of a brutally murdered starlet. More recently, niche perfumer By Kilian debuted the L’Oeuvre Noire line, including Liaisons Dangereuses and, my fave, the boozy, peaty Back to Black. Wear it while listening to the Amy Winehouse song and mourning her untimely demise.

Maybe the ultimate femme-fatale scent isn’t a perfume after all. If you want to slay a man while winning his heart, try frying up a $3 package of bacon. Do it often enough, and you might just stop him dead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Animals in and Out of Books by Deborah Crombie: National Pet Day

April 11 is National Pet Day.  Topper, my golden retriever, will have a special treat in honor of the day. The cats--well, they think every day is Pet Day. They're cats.

Mystery Readers Journal has had several issues devoted to Animal Mysteries. The last issue devoted to Animal Mysteries (Volume 27:3 2011) is still available as hardcopy or PDF. Go here for the Table of Contents and ordering info.

The following is an Author! Author! essay that appeared in that issue.  Deborah Crombie writes the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James crime novels set in the United Kingdom. Latest in the series is No Mark Upon Her (Wm. Morrow). Crombie lives in North Texas with her husband, German shepherds, and cats, and divides her time between Texas and Britain.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Animals In and Out of Books

The German shepherds were my husband's fault.

When he was very small, his parents kept a German shepherd for friends who had to go overseas for a summer. My dear hubby adored the dog, which was very gentle with him, as shepherds usually are with small children. He would put his hand in the dog's mouth and pretend he was a lion tamer. (I can imagine the little blond imp shrieking with glee at his daring, and it has just occurred to me that my fictional little blond imp, Toby, might bear some relation to my real-life husband as a child.)

The German shepherd went back to his owners, and my husband grew up with other dogs; a bloodhound, a boxer. But none replaced the German shepherd in his imagination or affections.

I, on the other hand, did not grow up in a pet-friendly household. My mother did not care for cats. She was afraid of big dogs—she'd been bitten as a small child—and above all she didn't want anything in the house that shed!

When I was nine, my parents gave in to what I'm sure was my incessant and annoying whining, and took in an adult toy poodle (no shedding) from some elderly relatives who could no longer care for her. Oh, dear, oh dear. The disappointment on all sides. The poor dog, Jolie, had been raised as a faux-human, and never adjusted to the deterioration in her circumstances, although she bore with us bravely for a good many years.

But this dog, who didn't care for children and had never been taught to play, was not Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, and my heart was broken. I consoled myself by reading books about imaginary dogs, and spending hours poring over dog encyclopedias trying to decide on the perfect pup.

By my late teens, I'd rebelled (well, I was still living at home so perhaps not all that rebellious) and had finally talked my mother into letting me adopt a kitten, a six-week-old tiny orange ball of fluff. That sweet little thing grew up into the cat from hell, which terrorized everyone and everything in the household, including my second acquisition, an enormous and completely goofy Great Dane.

Eventually I went away to college, the Great Dane went to a family with small children and a big yard, and the hellcat stayed with me until I moved to England a number of years later.

And I've continued ever since to make up for my pet-free childhood. There have been a great number of cats—one, a purebred Himalayan, brought back from England. I was living in Chester at the time with my then-husband, and we'd found the kitten in a newspaper advert. Her breeders lived in a farmhouse near the Cheshire market town of Nantwich. Here reality bleeds into fiction again—that farmhouse, and that town, made such an impression on me that a decade later they became the models for Duncan Kincaid's parents' home.

Then came the dogs. My first dog as an adult was a buff cocker spaniel, bought as a surprise for our seven-year-old daughter. His name was Taffy. He had every bad trait that plagues cocker spaniels. I adored him, and he me. We lost him to cancer when he was nine, and we found we couldn't bear being dogless, even for a week.

I'd had visions of an English cocker, perhaps a bi-color or a blue roan, but my husband had his heart set on a German shepherd, and so Hallie came into our lives. She's thirteen now, and frail. Our younger shepherd, Neela, is five, and they have been everything that that long-ago little girl imagined as the ideal dog—brave, loving, loyal, smart, playful, and funny. Oh, and we live in a sea of dog hair.

Gemma, of course, got the blue roan cocker spaniel, Geordie, and he is the dog of her heart. Kit's Tess, on the other hand, the little foundling who might be a Norfolk terrier, sprang out of nowhere, just as dogs sometimes do in real life. A frightened boy seeking shelter and solace found a frightened little dog behind a supermarket, and a match was made.

Before the fictional dogs, however, Duncan acquired a cat, Sid, a big black fellow who had belonged to his late friend and neighbor in Hampstead.
Having resisted the temptation to give my primary fictional characters German shepherds, I've given the GSDs walk-on roles in a number of novels. Dogs and cats weave in and out of all the books in the series. I notice I've had a particular fondness for black Labrador retrievers, which pop up in a number of books. Duncan's parents have a lovely border collie. One of my favorite fictional dogs has been Mo, the English mastiff in Where Memories Lie (Wm. Morrow, 2008). Mo was modeled on a real English mastiff named Big Mo. Big Mo's owners bid at a Humane Society auction for the opportunity to have him appear in a book, and I hope I did him justice. I certainly enjoyed spending a book with him, drool and all. I particularly love the scene where he eats the tub of ice cream.

But if the working dogs have had minor roles in the previous books, they get their due in No Mark Upon Her. Finn, a black Lab, and Tosh, a female German shepherd who just happens to look exactly like our Neela, are search and rescue dogs with a volunteer organization I've called Thames Valley SAR in the book. TVSAR is based on a real volunteer group called Berkshire SAR, whose members were extremely helpful when I was researching the book. They allowed me to handle a search dog in training exercises, and to hide and pretend to be a victim. (In the dark, in the mud, I might add. All the more fun.)

I have tremendous respect for both dogs and handlers, and if the dogs in my book are heroes, their real-life counterparts are more so.

Will there be dogs and cats in future books? Undoubtedly. I can't imagine my own life without their companionship, and my characters deserve to be equally blessed.

There is one caveat, however—the dogs and cats are not allowed to talk.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jassy Mackenzie: The Fallen--Giveaway

I'm a big fan of Jassy Mackenzie's South African P.I. Jade de Jong. In Mackenzie's latest thriller, The Fallen (Soho), Jade invites Superintendent David Patel on a scuba diving holiday in St. Lucia (South Africa). Crime spoils the holiday. This thriller is filled with twists and turns and super-human abilities, but it's a real page turner. It fits perfectly (and sadly) on the Environmental Mystery list I'll be posting for Earth Day.

**Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Fallen. (U.S. entries only. Please leave your email address, so I can contact you via email). Just say why you'd like to read The Fallen. Random number winner.**

The Following is an Author! Author! Essay that Jassy Mackenzie wrote a few years ago for the African Mystery issue of Mystery Readers Journal. This issue is still available as hardcopy or pdf.

Jassy Mackenzie: Random Violence

I was carjacked at gunpoint in my driveway on a winter morning in July.
It was a beautiful day. Crisp, cold and sunny, as it always is in Johannesburg at that time of year. I'd stopped to pick up the local newspaper lying by the gate and I was sitting in the car, the heater humming and the sun blazing down on the roof, scanning the front page article.

Jo'burg is a dangerous city. Living there comes with a price, and the price is constant vigilance. For a few crucial moments I forgot this fact, and I paid for my mistake. I sensed a movement by the window and had only enough time to think—What are two guys doing beside my car?

Then I saw the leading man's hand was clenched around a steel grey gun. He lifted it and aimed it straight at me. I reacted by doing entirely the wrong thing. I stamped down on the accelerator. All I could think of was the illogical imperative to get away—even though, in the confines of my driveway, "away" was a nonexistent concept, and I had nowhere to go.

In any case, I wasn't fast enough. They stayed with me. The leader yanked open the driver's door, the car stalled with a jolt, and then time telescoped into a cacophony of shouting voices and clutching hands. I was desperate to get out of the driver's door, away from the men with their tight fingers and their unsteady guns. But the hijackers had rehearsed a different maneuver. The other man pulled open the passenger door and wrapped his hands around my throat. I heard myself start gagging, and thought, for one dreadful moment, that he was going to strangle me.

He didn't. He dragged me backwards, fast, across the seats and out of the car. I sprawled butt-first down onto the sandy ground and then, finally, he released me. Leaning forward, he grabbed the gold chain I wore, and ripped it off.

"Where's your rings?" he asked me. "I want your rings."

Breathing hard, I stared up at him. "Do I look like I'm married?" I said incredulously.

The answer seemed to satisfy him. Turning away, he climbed into the car and slammed the passenger door. The engine started up and I heard gears grinding as the driver battled to engage reverse. I wasn't going to wait for him to get it right. I turned my back on the hijackers and walked down the driveway towards my house.

It's a horrible feeling walking away from somebody with a gun. I could feel a burning spot in the centre of my back. I prayed they wouldn't shoot before they drove away.

They didn't.

Memory is a funny thing. By the time I reached my house, I had forgotten most of what had happened. All I could remember, all I could tell people when they asked why my neck was so red, was that my gold chain had been snatched.

The memory came back a few weeks later, unexpectedly, in a terrifying rush. Suddenly I remembered his hands around my throat. God, he'd actually done that to me. I didn't know what was more frightening, the strangulation, or the fact that my mind had blanked it out. What else had I forgotten? Would I find more unwanted memories flooding back?

Nothing came, but in the months following the carjacking, I grew fearful. I lay sleepless at night, listening to the noises outside. A thump on the roof, a rustle in the bushes. Sitting bolt upright in the darkness, my heart pounding, I strained my ears, expecting to hear the splintering of the front door being forced open with a crowbar.

I floored the accelerator if somebody approached my car while I was waiting at an intersection. The risk of an accident seemed small compared to the terror of being on the wrong side of a gun once again.

I started following news stories obsessively, desperate to hear about justice being done. There were plenty of carjackings out there. Plenty of random crimes being committed, but precious few arrests to go along with them. I read with horror about one man who hadn't been as lucky as me. His captors had forced him into the trunk of the car and taken him with them. Police found the car later, burned out, with his charred body still inside.

And then, opening the newspaper one morning, I discovered that the police had cracked the case. They'd arrested a suspect—the murdered man's wife. It turned out that she had organized it all.

That shocking revelation planted the seed of an idea in my mind. How often is violence in South Africa truly random? With our high crime rate and our overworked police force, are criminals able to get away with targeted murders more easily? The police had arrested one killer, but I started to wonder how many more were out there.

Soon after that, I wrote the opening scene of Random Violence. A single woman arrives home at night. She's struggling with a heavy gate when a sleek, dark car pulls up behind her own. The driver climbs out and aims a gun at his victim. He's not a scared novice like my hijackers were. He's calm, cold, experienced. As she begs him for her life, he shoots her twice, a skilled and accurate double-tap. The woman collapses and dies on the stony ground outside her farm gate without knowing who murdered her, or why... Or did she know?

I decided I needed to create a competent female lead to solve this mystery. There were heroines aplenty in the crime fiction I'd read over the years, but when I thought about it more carefully, I realized every leading lady that I could remember was gainfully employed. They might be police detectives, pathologists or lawyers, but they all had good steady jobs and were reasonably normal people.

I wanted to write about somebody different. I wanted a heroine who was a renegade. I wanted a lead who could handle a gun as naturally as breathing, and who had a mysterious past. More than that, I wanted her to have a dark side. As I started to create the character of Jade de Jong, I realized with a chill that I hadn't just created a renegade. I had created a killer.

Jade has some characteristics in common with me. She loves chili, she has a quirky sense of humor, and she displays a regrettable ignorance of local fauna and flora. Although she can tell a Beretta from a Glock at twenty yards in semi-darkness, she wouldn't know an ostrich from a turkey unless it ended up on her dinner plate. And she has other attributes that I don't share, and wouldn't want to.

I often think back to the morning of that carjacking, and I know exactly what Jade would have done if she'd been there. She would have played along until the man was leaning forward to snatch the chain from her neck. That was a tactical error on his part, and she would have taken advantage.

The man would never have touched her necklace. She would have grabbed his arm, yanked him off-balance, pulled him towards her so that he slipped and stumbled in the dirt. A knee in the groin, a jab in the eye, and then she would have had control of his gun.

Would she have killed the two of them? That's a question I often wonder about. They weren't actively trying to murder her, so she might have shown compassion. A bullet through each of their right hands, perhaps. Fired from close-range, punching through flesh and shattering bone. She would have made sure that neither man would ever be able to use a weapon again.

That's life in Jade's Jo'burg. It's a good place to be.