Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vintage Halloween Poster II


Happy Halloween! Enjoy some Bloody Cocktails and Deadly Wine tonight!


 Chateau Du Vampire Wines Bordeaux Style Cabernet Blend (Vampire Vineyards – Paso Robles, California): blend of cabernet sauvignon (60%) with cabernet franc (30%), and 10% malbec to finish it off.

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon (Vampire vineyards – Paso Robles, California): Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from several small-berry clones of this traditional Bordeaux varietal, grown in the Paso Robles region of California’s Central Coast.

Dracula Wines: Zinfandel and Syrah (originally the grapes for this wine were grown on the Transylvanian plateau, now they're made from California grapes).

Trueblood Napa Valley Syrah: This wine will "bruise your soul" with its palate crushing cherry, plum smoke and spice.

Ghost Block: 100% cabernet from Rock Cairn Vineyard in Oakville, next to Yountville's Pioneer Cemetery.

River of Skulls from Twisted Oak Winery in Calaveras County. Limited production vineyard mouvedre (red wine grape). Label has a bright red skull. English translation of calaveras is "skulls."

Ghostly White Chardonnay and Bone Dry Red Cabernet Sauvignon. Elk Creek Vineyards in Kentucky

Poizin from Armida Winery in Healdsburg is a 'wine to die for..". This Zinfandel sold in little wooden coffins

Big Red Monster  Red wine made from Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah.

Other Wines: Witches Brew, Evil (upside down and backwards label), Sinister Hand, Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad, Zeller Schwarz Katz.

Want to give the personal touch to your Halloween wines? Add ghoulish labels or rebottle in cool jars with apothecary labels from Pottery Barn (or do them yourself). For a great article, go to Spooky Halloween Bottle & Glass Labels.


And what about an awesome cocktail? Make Nick and Nora proud! They always loved a good party. Throw in some rubber spiders or eyeballs as garnish. Want to make your own Halloween Cocktail Garnish--some eyeballs and fingersClick HERE.

Blood Bath
1 Part Tequila Silver
1 Part Strawberry Liqueur

Shake with ice, and strain into a shot glass.

Blodd Test
1 Part Tequila Reposado
1 Part Grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into shot glass

Blood Shot
1 part Iceberg Vodka
1 part peach schnapps
1 part Jagermeister
1 part cranberry juice

Chill all ingredients. Combine in a shaker with ice. Strain into a shot glass. shoot!

2 oz VeeV Acai Spirit
1 oz acai juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
Top with fresh champagne
lime wedge for garnish

Combine VeeV, Acai juice and fresh lime with fresh ice in a cocktail shaker and shake.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and top with champagne.
Serve with a fresh lime wedge.

Blood and Sand
3/4 ounce Scotch
3/4 ounce cherry liqueur
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce orange juice
1 thin strip orange zest

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the liquids. Strain into a martini glass, then garnish with the strip of zest. (recipe from Bank Cafe & Bar in Napa)

Corpse Reviver
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Lillet (blanc)
1 ounce triple sec
Juice of half a lemon
5 drops of absinthe
1 thin slice orange

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the liquids. Strain into a martini glass, then garnish with the orange slice.
(Recipe from Epic Roasthouse in San Francisco)

Vampire Blood Punch
4 cups cranberry raspberry juice (or cranberry juice cocktail)
2 cups natural pineapple juice (100% juice)
2 cups raspberry-flavored seltzer water
wormy ice cubes (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients together, and pour into a large, decorative punch bowl.
Serve the punch with wormy ice cubes if desired

Corzo Bite
1-1/2 parts Corzo Silver Tequila
1/2 parts Campari
1 part fresh blood orange juice
1/4 parts blood (aka home-made grenadine) **
2 parts Jarritos Tamarindo Soda

Build all ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice. Add the “blood” at the end.
Garnish: Blood orange wheel and strawberry syrup

** Home-made grenadine: Add equal parts white sugar and POM pomegranate juice together and dissolve sugar over high on stove-top

Midori Eye-Tini (from Rob Husted of Florida)
1-1⁄4 parts Midori Melon liqueur
3⁄4 parts SKYY Infusions Citrus
1⁄2 part Finest Call Agave Syrup
2 parts of Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale
2 parts Finest Call Sweet & Sour Mix
3 Orange Wedges
2 Fresh Ripped Basil Leaves
Strawberry Sundae Syrup

In a shaker glass combine Midori Melon liqueur, SKYY infusions Citrus, Finest Call Agave Syrup, 3 Orange Wedges and 2 Fresh Ripped Basil Leaves. Muddle ingredients together. Add ice and Finest Call Sweet & Sour Mix. Shake for 10 seconds. Add Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale and roll drink back and forth between your mixing tin and shaker glass. Strain into a chilled martini glass drizzled with Strawberry Sundae Syrup to give an effect of a bloodshot eye.

Garnish: Chilled red seedless grape at bottom of glass (to look like an eyeball) and bruised basil leaf floated on top of cocktail for aroma.

Black Martini
The Black Martini replaces vermouth with either blackberry brandy or black raspberry liqueur.
3 1/2 oz gin or vodka
1/2 oz blackberry brandy or black raspberry liqueur
lemon twist or black olive for garnish or gold flakes

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.
Shake vigorously.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist or black olive or sprinkle in gold flakes.

Czechmate: The Spy Who Played Jazz: Bill Moody

Join Bill Moody, author and musician, in celebration of his latest mystery Czechmate: The Spy Who Played Jazz. Bill will be joined on stage by pianist Dick Fregulia and bassist Steve Webber for a live jazz session to accompany the reading. Czechmate is the latest installment of Moody's popular Evan Horne mystery series. Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA. Saturday, November 3, 5:30 p.m.

I asked Bill to write a few words about Czechmate: The Spy Who Played Jazz. 


In 1968, I found myself not only at the Prague Jazz Festival, playing with a Czech band, but also embroiled in a political hot spot when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Based on this experience, I decided to try my hand at a spy thriller, combining the jazz festival with the invasion.  

Czechmate: The Spy Who Played Jazz was born,  but it was difficult to find it a home. I finally connected with a small publisher in 1986, but before it was released, the facility burned to the ground. By the time the insurance investigation was completed, the Berlin Wall had come down, so cold war spy novels were a hard sell.

I never gave up and kept trying over the years, finally finding another publisher now that Czechmate could be labeled historical espionage. The book is also a  lesson in persistence. It only took 26 years.  

I'll be talking about the book and my experience on November 3 at Book Passage in Corte Madera that will include a set with my trio. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Candy Corn Truffles: National Candy Corn Day

I love candy corn. O.K. it's very sweet, but I only have it a few times a year. Today, October 30, is National Candy Corn Day!  Shouldn't be a surprise since it's an American Halloween tradition, and nothing says Halloween like candy corn!  Shaped like real pieces of corn, candy corn is as fun as it is tasty.  In addition to the original candy corn or yellow, orange and white, there are different varieties, including Indian candy corn which is brown where the original candy corn is yellow, adding a hint of chocolate (it's only a hint and a bit waxy, and it's not real chocolate, but I don't care at Halloween).

The National Confectioners Association estimates that 20 million pounds (9,000 tons) of candy corn are sold annually. The top branded retailer of candy corn, Brach's, sells enough candy corn each year to circle the earth 4.25 times if the kernels were laid end to end. Too much information?

Candy corn was created in the 1880s by the Philadelphia based Wunderlee Candy Company and, by 1900, was being produced by the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly), which has continuously produced it for more than a century. Candy corn is shaped like a kernel of corn, a design that made it popular with farmers when it first came out, but it was the fact that it had three colors - a really innovative idea at the time - that made it popular.

Originally, candy corn was made of sugar, corn syrup, fondant and marshmallow, among other things, and the hot mixture was poured into cornstarch molds, where it set up. The recipe changed slightly over time and there are probably a few variations in recipes between candy companies, but the use of a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and vanilla (as well as honey, in some brands) is the standard.

Candy makers use a process called corn starch molding. Corn starch is used to fill a tray, creating candy corn shaped indentations. Candy corns are built from the top to the bottom in three waves of color. First, the indentation is partially filled with white syrup. Next, when the white is partially set, they add the the orange syrup. The creation is then finished up by adding the yellow syrup and then cooled. The candy starts fusing together while it cools. After cooling the candies, the trays are dumped out, the corn starch is sifted away, and the candy corn is ready.

I posted a Chocolate Candy Corn Brownie recipe the other day. Jumped the gun on the Holiday! You'll want to make that scrumptious recipe if you have time, but if not, try this simple recipe below is from Sunset Magazine for Chocolate Candy Corn Truffles. I've adapted this recipe a bit, but not much. Perfect for Halloween! 


18 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 cup Scottish or dark orange marmalade
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
64 candy corns (about 3 oz.)

Line 8- by 8-inch baking pan with 12- by 17-inch sheet of waxed  or parchment paper.
In large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of hot water, use  heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir together chocolate, cream, Grand Marnier, and marmalade until chocolate is melted. Scrape chocolate mixture into prepared pan, smoothing top.
Chill until firm, at least 2 1/2 hours or (covered with plastic wrap) up to 1 week.
Put cocoa powder in shallow bowl. Remove chocolate mixture from pan. With long, sharp knife, cut chocolate mixture into 64 squares, each about 3/4 in. wide. Roll squares in cocoa powder to coat; place 1 square in each paper cup.
Gently press candy corn into top of each truffle.
Store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Skeletons in the Library

Hat Tip: Thomas Fortenberry

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Crime Fiction

With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard, I thought I'd post a list of Hurricane Mysteries. Let me know if I've forgotten any titles.

Be safe! Here's a link to 10 Hurricane Safety Tips (and a recipe for a Chocolate Hurricane Cocktail-not one of the tips)


Down in the Flood by Kenneth Abel
Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews
Tricky Business by Dave Barry
Twisted by Jay Bonansinga
Jesus Out to Sea (short stories), Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke
The Killing Storm by Kathryn Casey
Nobody Knows by Mary Jane Clark
Died Blonde by Nancy Cohen
Skeleton Crew by Beverly Connor
Skeletons of the Atchafalaya by Kent Conwell
The Sentry by Robert Crais
Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler
Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey
Murder on the Tropic by Todd Downing
First the Dead by Tim Downs
Tubby Meets Katrina by Tony Dunbar
House of Storm by Mignon Eberhart
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Second Wind by Dick Francis
Hurricane Season by Mickey Friedman
Murder at 28:10 by Newton Gayle
Baptism in Blood by Jane Haddam
Dead Man's Island by Carolyn Hart
Stormy Weather by Carl Hiassen
Dark Rain by Mat Johnson
Damaged by Alex Kava
Acts of Nature by Jonathon King
Murder on the Yacht by Rufus King
Dead and Alive by Dean Koontz
Cypress House by Michael Koryta
Getting Old is a Disaster by Rita Lakin
A Spirited Gift by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Her Name will be Faith by Max Marlow
Storm Track by Margaret Maron
Toros & Torsos by CraigMcDonald
Hurricane (aka Murder in the Wind), Cape Fear (aka The Executioners), Conominium by John D. MacDonald
Island of Bones by P.J. Parrish
Bloodman by Robert Pobi
Rebel Island by Rick Riordan
Raw Deal by Les Standiford
Proof of the Pudding by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Murder Unleashed by Elaine Viets
Shadows of a Cape Cod Wedding by Lea Wait (April 2013/Perseverance Press)
The Eye of Anna by Anne Wingate

Not mysteries but a few classics:  
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crime Scene Tape Dispenser

Crime Scene Tape Dispenser: For Life's Little Crimes.  This is Scotch tape, rather than larger Crime Scene Tape, but think of all you can do with it. :-)

Hat Tip: Judy Bobalik

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let's Play! 100 Years of Board Games

San Francisco International Airport is known for its fabulous museum exhibits. Unfortunately, you must be a ticket passenger to enjoy the display. So if you're at SFO between October 27, 2012 and May 19, 2013, you'll want to check out: Let's Play! 100 Years of Board Games, on view Terminal 2.

The first mass-produced board games in the United States were imported from England during the 1820s. During the mid-1800s, the popularity of board games increased, and by the 1870s, advances in chromolithography, a color printing process, allowed them to be printed with bold, richly colored images at affordable prices.

The games that entertained families mirrored the values, popular culture, current events, and literature of the era. Because Victorians esteemed virtue above all things, the goal of many early board games involved teaching moral lessons. Even after the arrival of radio, movie theaters, and television, board games remained a popular pastime as the 20th century progressed. During this era, board games promoting virtue disappeared, while games focusing on the accumulation of wealth proliferated.

Nancy Drew Board Game
Although graphic design styles varied over the years, the game box’s eye- catching imagery has always remained an integral means of attracting players to games. The games on display range from early morality games such as The Mansion of Happiness and The Checkered Game of Life, to the classic, Parcheesi: The Game of India, the Nancy Drew Mystery Game, and the children’s favorite, Candy Land.

The free exhibition is on view in Terminal 2 to ticketed passengers.

Hat Tip: San Mateo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nancy Drew's Guide to Haunted Bungalows: Guest Post by Penny Warner

Today I welcome back Nancy Drew's BFF Penny Warner. Her latest adult mystery is HOW TO DINE ON KILLER WINE. Her latest middle-grade mystery, THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB: THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE, comes out November 13. Don't miss the Nancy Drew Handbook. She can be reached at

Nancy Drew’s Guide to Haunted Bungalows 
by Nancy’s BFF, Penny Warner 

As a mystery writer, Halloween is obviously my favorite holiday. I wish I believed in ghosts, but after reading so many Nancy Drew mysteries where Nancy exposed fake séances and phony haunted houses, I’ve become skeptical of all things ghostly. I thought I share some tips I learned from the Girl Sleuth, after reading “The Haunted Bungalow Mystery.”


Bess has always been easily frightened, but her pal Nancy knows there are no such things as ghosts—and she often has to prove it in one of her mystery cases. If you suspect you’re the victim of a “haunting,” and feel a chill running down your spine, dispel the fraud with the following steps.

Step 1: Locate the site of the disturbance.

Investigate the bungalow, mansion, castle, or cottage thoroughly to determine where the “ghost” is residing, or where it’s doing most of its “haunting.” Check behind secret panels, under trap doors, down dark basements, and of course, in the dusty old attic.

Step 2: Determine what kind of “ghost” it is. 

To help you deduce what kind of haunting you’re investigating, the field of parapsychology recognizes three kinds of events related to “ghosts”:

 • Those that haunt places where special events have occurred. These ghosts are usually benign and not interactive, so feel free to chat them up.

• Those that are made by a poltergeist. These ghosts are characterized by moving objects and strange sounds and images, caused subconsciously by a person under a lot of stress. If you’re the cause of the poltergeist, have a glass of wine and chillax.

 • Those that are apparitions of dead people. These sighting are extremely rare, and have not be proved, although encounters seem to be interactive. If you see one, it’s probably just Bruce Willis.

Step 3: Research the site for clues. 

Check into the background of the building and the area in which it resides. You may find that the site was once an Indian burial ground, the scene of a heinous murder, an asylum for the criminally insane, or used car lot.

Step 4: Gather a team to assist you. 

Something or someone is most likely causing the disturbance, so it would be foolish to investigate the property alone. Choose a team of friends, law enforcement personnel, paranormal investigators, or your cat to accompany you on your visits to the haunted site.

Step 5: Assemble your equipment. 

You’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment if you want to prove a site is not haunted.

• Notebook and pen to record suspicious details.
• Tape recorder or video camera to obtain “proof” of the event.
• Compass to test whether or not an electromagnetic field is involved.
• Infrared thermometer to pick up sudden jumps in temperature.
• First-aid kit, in case the “ghost” attacks you.
• Food, drinks, magazines, and sleeping bags for a long stakeout.
• Your cellphone to post Instagram pictures on your Facebook page.

Step 6: Gather the data. 

Watch a bunch of paranormal TV shows, such as “Ghost Hunters,” “Haunted Hotels,” “Paranormal Activity,” and “Pet Psychics,” to educate yourself. Then set up cameras to record suspicious events. Write down everything you see and hear so no one can accuse you of having a wild imagination or being under the influence of margaritas.

Step 7: Don’t panic. 

Ghosts cannot hurt you, in spite of the movies you’ve seen that indicate otherwise. Even in cases of poltergeist activity, most objects thrown through the air can be easily dodged if you keep your head about you—and duck. There’s always a logical explanation for the disturbance, and once it’s discovered, the mystery will be solved. According to Nancy Drew, there’s always a logical explanation for the disturbance—a practical-joking friend, a landlord who wants to evict you, a rabid raccoon living under the house, or an old high school chum you dissed years ago. Stay calm and eat some leftover Halloween candy.

Bloody Cupcakes

Here's another time that my two worlds of chocolate and mystery collide. These bloody cupcakes created by Magnolia Bakery in New York City were displayed several weeks ago in Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall. They were made to celebrate the seventh season of Showtime's Dexter, but wouldn't they be great for Halloween?

The cupcakes are red velvet with vanilla icing. The shards of glass were created with sugar glass and red syrup to create splattered blood.

All I can say is OMG!!!

Image from the Magnolia Bakery Facebook Page.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Happy Halloween! Following is my updated list of Halloween Mysteries. I know I've missed a few titles, so please comment below with titles and authors. I'd like to make this list as complete as possible. Boo!!


Green Water Ghost by Glynn Marsh Alam
Witches Bane by Susan Wittig Albert 
Antiques Maul by Barbara Allan 
Far to Go by May Louise Aswell
Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun by Kathleen Bacus 
Trick or Treachery: A Murder She Wrote Mystery by Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher
The Spirit of Murder by Laura Belgrave 
The Long Good Boy by Carol Lea Benjamin
Spackled and Spooked by Jennie Bentley 
Watchdog by Laurien Berenson 
Death of a Trickster by Kate Borden
Post-Mortem Effects by Thomas Boyle
A Graveyard for Lunatics by Ray Bradbury
The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Hunt Ball by Rita Mae Brown
Death on All Hallowe'en by Leo Bruce
Halloween by Leslie Burgess
Wycliffe and the Scapegoat by W.J. Burley
Death Goes Shopping by Jessica Burton
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Ann Campbell
The Charm Stone by Lillian Stewart Carl
The Wizard of La-La Land by R. Wright Campbell
The Halloween Murders by John Newton Chance 
Death with an Ocean View by Nora Charles 
Frill Kill, Tragic Magic, Photo Finished by Laura Childs
Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie 
Lost Souls by Michael Collins
Not in My Backyard by Susan Rogers Cooper
Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman
A Catered Halloween by Isis Crawford
Silver Scream, Bantam of the Opera, The Alpine Uproar by Mary Daheim
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis
Fatal Undertaking by Mark de Castrique
Throw Darts at a Cheesecake by Denise Dietz
Trick or Treat, The Halloween Murder by Doris Miles Disney
A Map of the Dark by John Dixon
Ghostly Murders by P. C. Doherty
Died to Match by Deborah Donnelly
Cat with an Emerald Eye by Carole Nelson Douglas
Not Exactly a Brahmin by Susan Dunlap 
The Bowl of Night by Rosemary Edghill 
Door of Death by John Esteven 
The Witchfinder by Loren D. Estleman 
Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich 
Dead Ends by Anne C. Fallon 
Sympathy For The Devil by Jerrilyn Farmer
Dead in the Pumpkin Patch by Connie Feddersen 
Blackwork by Monica Ferris
Scary Stuff by Sharon Fiffer
The Lawyer Who Died Trying by Honora Finkelstein 
The Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Halloween Murder by Shelley Freydont
Trick or Treat by Leslie Glaister
Mommy and the Murder by Nancy Gladstone 
A Few Dying Words by Paula Gosling
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (YA)
Monster in Miniature by Margaret Grace  
Hell for the Holidays by Chris Gravenstein 
Nail Biter by Sarah Graves 
Deadly Harvest by Heather Graham 
Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood 
Halloween by Ben Greer
Quoth the Raven, Skeleton Key by Jane Haddam
Southern Ghost by Carolyn Hart 
Hide in the Dark by Frances Noyes Hart 
Revenge of the Cootie Girls by Sparkle Hayter
The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman 
The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes  
Murder on the Ghost Walk by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter 
Long Time No See by Susan Isaacs
Murder Among Us by Jonnie Jacobs
A Murder Made in Stitches by Pamela James 
The Violet Hour by Daniel Judson
Wed and Buried by Toni L.P. Kelner 
The Animal Hour by Andrew Klavan 
Ghastly Glass by Joyce and Jim Lavene 
Death of a Neighborhood Witch by Laura Levine 
Death Knocks Twice by James H. Lilley 
Halloween Flight 77 by Debbie Madison 
Satan's Silence by Alex Matthews 
Tricks: an 87th Precinct Mystery by Ed McBain 
Poisoned Tarts by G.A. McKevett
Death on All Hallows by Allen Campbell McLean 
Trick or Treat Murder, Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier 
Dancing Floor by Barbara Michaels
Monster in Miniature by Camille Minichino 
The Violet Hour by Richard Montanari
Dead End by Helen R. Myers
Nightmare in Shining Armor by Tamar Myers 
Hatchet Job by J.E. Neighbors
Retribution by Patrick J. O'Brien 
Halloween House by Ed Okonowicz
The Body in the Moonlight by Katherine Hall Page 
Twilight by Nancy Pickard 
Murder at Witches Bluff by Silver Ravenwolf
Poltergeist by Kat Richardson 
Death Notice by Todd Ritter 
Spook Night by David Robbins 
A Hole in Juan by Gillian Roberts
Magnolias, Moonlight, and Murder by Sara Rosett
Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan
Death of Halloween by Kim Sauke
Mighty Old Bones by Mary Saums 
Murder Ole! by Corinne Holt Sawyer
Dance of the Scarecrows by Ray Sipherd
The Sterling Inheritance by Michael Siverling
Recipe for Murder by Janet Elaine Smith
Carbs and Cadavers by J.B. Stanley
In the Blink of an Eye, Halloween Party by Wendy Corsi Staub 
Murder of a Royal Pain by Denise Swanson
Mourning Shift by Kathleen Taylor
Halloween Homicide by Lee Thayer
Inked Up by Terri Thayer
Charlie's Web by L.L. Thrasher
Strange Brew by Kathy Hogan Trochek
How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner
Murder by the Slice by Livia J. Washburn 
Five-Minute Halloween Mysteries by Ken Weber
The Scarecrow Murders by Mary Welk
Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner 
Killer Mousse by Melinda Wells
Ghoul of My Dreams by Richard F. West
All Hallow's Eve by Charles Williams
Killer See, Killer Do by Jonathan Wolfe
All Hallow's Evil by Valerie Wolzien

And here's a list of Halloween Mystery Short Story anthologies:
Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic and Mayhem, Edited by Anne Frasier 
Trick and Treats edited by Joe Gores & Bill Pronzini
Asking for the Moon (includes "Pascoe's Ghost" and "Dalziel's Ghost") by Reginald Hill
Murder for Halloween by Cynthia Manson
The Haunted Hour, edited by Cynthia Manson & Constance Scarborough
Murder for Halloween: Tales of Suspense, edited by Michele Slung & Roland Hartman.
Mystery for Halloween (an anthology), edited by Donald Westlake

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

T. Jefferson Parker Award for Mystery

The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) announced the T. Jefferson Parker Award for Mystery last week, aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The 2012 award went to Don Winslow for Kings of Cool (Simon & Schuster). This award recognizes excellence in books that reflect Southern California culture or lifestyle, with authors living within the SCIBA region. The mystery award is named after T. Jefferson Parker, a life-long resident of Southern California and Edgar Award-winning author.

Congratulations, Don!

Scrabble Costume

Although I love Scrabble, I doubt I'll be wearing this Halloween costume. To order, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Win a Trip to France! The 7th Woman

Le French Book is at it again. This new publisher of “French books you’ll love in English” is promoting its third release today: The 7th Woman by Frédérique Molay, who has been called “the French Michael Connelly.” This edge-of-your-seat police procedural has all the suspense of Seven, with CSI-like details, set in Paris. It won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award and was named Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year.

There's no rest for Paris's top criminal investigation division, La Crim'. Who is preying on women in the French capital? How can he kill again and again without leaving any clues? Chief of Police Nico Sirsky—a super cop with a modern-day real life, including an ex-wife, a teenage son and a budding love story—races against the clock to solve the murders as they get closer and closer to his inner circle. Will he resist the pressure?

Get this international bestseller in English today. Last chance to win a trip to France, some great French wines and a number of other gifts and prizes. Don’t miss this opportunity. 25% off the usual list price.

 Find out more at Limited time only.

Cartoon of the Day: Printer

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Whole She-Bang: Guest Post by Janet Costello

Today I welcome Janet Costello. For six years, Janet Costello has been the editor of Crime Scene, the Toronto Chapter Sisters in Crime newsletter. There she has also published interviews, articles and puzzles. She enjoys attending mystery conventions, especially when she can volunteer. Janet works as a commercial insurance underwriter to support her reading habit (and to ensure that habit includes a glass of red wine nearby). She is the Editor of The Whole She-Bang, her first anthology, is e-vailable for 99 cents now. The Whole She-Bang benefits the Children's Book Bank in Toronto that provides free books and literacy support to children.

Janet Costello:
What an Anthology Means to Me 

During my various volunteer activities in the mystery community, which to date include Sisters in Crime, Bloody Words, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, I’m often asked, “Are you a writer?”

My immediate response is, “No, I’m a reader.”

Being a reader opens a lot of doors. Other readers relate, and the usual exchange of favourite books ensues. Writers have all, first, been readers, so that passion is readily shared. But you can also probe them about their written work, and most deliciously delightful for me, their process.

When an expansion on why I’m not writing is required, I’ll explain, “I’m the newsletter editor for the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime. That’s how I’ve found my happy place. I sometimes write the articles on our meetings, and usually research and handle interviews with our author members. This helped me realize that I love shining the spotlight on others.”

After editing The Whole She-Bang, the first anthology for the Toronto Chapter, which celebrates their twenty years as part of Sisters in Crime, I’ve found another way to highlight the talent of our author members.

The motivation to edit for this anthology came from a number of sources. As a subscriber to EQMM for over 30 years, and reader of short stories from other sources as well, I am delighted in how much Sisters in Crime supports the short story. Several chapters have published anthologies, and some chapters regularly do so. From one of my earlier author interviews, I was charmed by Jane Burfield, who had co-edited an anthology. She made it seem possible for anyone with enough enthusiasm, and commitment to attempt the role. Later interviews with other editors made it clear that an anthology creates a wonderful opportunity for short story writers of all levels of success. My first Left Coast Crime was a very energizing experience, fueling my wish to expand my potential as a contributor to the mystery community. These, added to the wonderful feeling of belonging at every Bouchercon, for mystery writers at every stage in their career, gave me the courage to take the leap into fiction editing.

Editing is different from interviewing, of course. The editor is expected to do a bit of polishing. Yet, without being able to pose questions, the direction of the written work is set by the author, not the interviewer. Still, both efforts are about presenting the author at their best, and underscoring their unique attributes. Both efforts involve interacting with writers with varying degrees of experience. Side by side that variety is refreshing. The thrill of reading the story by an Edgar winning author was no less than the thrill of reading a story that is the first for what I expect to be a successful series character.

The Hollywood saying is, “Lights! Camera! Action!” Well the camera/viewpoint and action are readily evident in the stories. I’m happy to just handle the lights.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Call for Book Donations: NY Public Library 1919

Love these photos from 1919: Call for Book Donations, New York Public Library. Found these photos on The Retronaut, a fabulous site, for any one who loves the past. Retronaut tagline: The past is a foreign country. This is your passport. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CWA Dagger & Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2012

Thanks to Rhian Davies of It's a Crime! (Or a mystery...) for the following CWA Dagger & Specsavers Crime Thriller Award news! Go HERE for all the nominees. Congrats to all!



The CWA Gold Dagger – sponsored by Constable & Robinson
  • The Rage by Gene Kerrigan (Harvill Secker)
The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger – sponsored by Goldsboro Books
  • Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash (Bantam)
The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger – sponsored by Ian Fleming Publications
  • A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming (HarperCollins)
The Specsavers Bestseller Dagger (Public Vote)
  • Kathy Reichs
Inducted to the Hall of Fame: 
Ann Cleeves, Jo Nesbø, Stuart MacBride

Lifetime Achievement award to: 
Karin Slaughter


The Film Dagger
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (StudioCanal)
The TV Dagger
  • Sherlock: Series 2 (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
The International TV Dagger
  • The Bridge (Danmarks Radio, Sveriges Television/BBC4)
The Best Actress Dagger
  • Claire Danes for Homeland (Teakwood Lane Productions, Showtime Productions, Cherry Pie Productions, Keshet Media Group, Fox 21/Channel 4)
The Best Actor Dagger
  • Benedict Cumberbatch for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
The Best Supporting Actress Dagger
  • Kelly Macdonald for Boardwalk Empire (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
The Best Supporting Actor Dagger
  • Martin Freeman for Sherlock (Hartswood Films/BBC1)
 ‘Best Detective Duo’ by Public Vote
  • Lewis – DI Robbie Lewis & DS James Hathaway

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Underground Library

BookRiot, one of my favorite sites, showcases The Delft Technical Library that was built in 1997 to replace the former library that was lost to a fire. The library is housed underground under a massive lawn. Only one side is exposed and that's the entrance. How green is this!

And, if that's not enough. Check out the check out desk! Books were reclaimed from the fire.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Partners in Crime: Rebecca Cantrell and James Rollins

Just in time for Halloween, I welcome "Partners in Crime" thriller writers Rebecca Cantrell and James Rollins, co-authors of The  Blood Gospel. 

JAMES ROLLINS is the New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People Magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets--and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight. Find James Rollins on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and at

REBECCA CANTRELL’S Hannah Vogel mystery/thriller novels have won the Bruce Alexander and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Barry and RT Reviewers Choice awards; her critically-acclaimed cell phone novel, iDrakula, was nominated for the APPY award and listed on Booklist’s Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. She and her husband and son just left Hawaii’s sunny shores for adventures in Berlin. Find Rebecca Cantrell on Facebook, Twitter, and at



The last time I, Rebecca, blogged here for Halloween I wrote about the scariest experience I ever had while traveling. It involved a Cairo hotel, exhaustion, a bloody handprint appearing on the inside of my hotel room while I was sleeping, and a bloody trail that led down dark deserted stairs.

That was less scary than writing a book with someone else.

Writing a book is a very intimate process. It’s not all “which word goes here?” or “what’s the coolest way to kill a massive enraged black bear?” or “what if we blew up this giant landmark?”  or even “what’s the best way to end Act II?” There is plenty of that, but that’s the treat part of trick-or-treat.

For me, Rebecca, the trick was talking about sex and death and love and what would a character do if you dragged her through the worst experiences in her life, what would it mean, how would she be changed? And you can’t talk about that or write about that without revealing a lot about yourself, no matter how hard you try to pretend it’s just the character, it’s all of your experience and opinions going into making her. And, since Jim’s a writer too, he knows that.

When I write alone, I’m just about those things inside my own head, and I know the people in there really well. I trust them. At the start of the collaboration I didn’t know Jim that well. In fact, I know very, very few people that well. So, for me, writing The Blood Gospel was a giant scary trust exercise where I had to be honest and vulnerable and hope he didn’t laugh or sit in stunned silence thinking “what did I get myself into? She ought to be committed. Why did I give her my phone number?” If he did think that, he was smart enough to keep it to himself, and so by this point, Jim is practically a voice in my head too.

And speaking of that “voice,” here he is.


This whole collaboration process was an eye-opener for me, too.  I first met Rebecca when she was work-shopping a new thriller at a writing retreat where I was teaching. I respected her as a writer then, and over the intervening years, meeting at conferences around the country, as a friend. So surely this collaboration would be a simple process. We knew each other well enough. Well, it quickly became a learning curve about how “open” to be about the depth necessary to tell this story. Prior to this project, writing had always been a solitary experience, where the best and worst of yourself could be kept under wraps and dabbled with in private.

It took a while to reach that stage with each other, where we could drop our guards with one another: to be brutally honest, emotionally sincere, and willing to trust. But I think for any true collaboration to work, it’s an emotional Rubicon that must be crossed.

But we did, and I’m glad we did, because the book that came out of it wasn’t something either of us would have written on our own--and surprisingly, we had a lot of fun getting there.  And I learned a bunch of new ways to kill people.

(Rebecca again: I wonder if he thought up all those ways while we argued about the book? Not that I’m nervous. Too nervous.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Joyce Christmas: R.I.P.

Joyce Christmas passed away on October 7, 2012. Joyce Christmas was the author of more than 20 novels, including the Lady Margaret Priam and Betty Trenka mystery series.  She was also an acclaimed short story writer: "Takeout," which appeared in Malice Domestic V, and "The Chosen," which appeared in Unholy Orders (Intrigue Press), were both nominated for Macavity Awards. "Up the Garden Path," was published in Murder They Wrote II and an essay on "The Aristocratic Sleuth," was published in Deadly Women.

Joyce served as a national board member of Mystery Writers of America and was a member of the Author's Guild, Sisters in Crime, and International Association of Crime Writers. In July, 1997, she was Co-Fiction Guest of Honor (with Jeremiah Healy) at Cluefest. A native of Connecticut, Joyce attended Radcliffe College. Donations may be sent to First Book (

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hitchcock Trailer

Omnimystery News posted the Trailer for the new movie Hitchcock which will be released November 23.

Anthony Hopkins stars as filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville. Taking place during the making of Psycho, Hitchcock is described by the studio as primarily a love story.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi from an screenplay written by John J. McLaughlin and based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, Hitchcock will premiere on November 1st at the AFI Festival and will be in limited release on November 23rd, 2012.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

British Crime Film in the 21st Century: Barry Forshaw

Today I welcome back Barry Forshaw, writer/journalist, author of Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction: The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction; British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia; Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation; the first UK biography of Stieg Larsson, The Man Who Left Too Soon. His latest book is British Crime Film.


When writing British Crime Film for Palgrave Macmillan, I knew I was dealing with combustible stuff.

These films are dangerous. But despite being notorious for shocking violence and sex, Britain’s crime cinema offers a more politically informed analysis of British society from the 1920s onwards than more overtly respectable ‘heritage’ cinema – and particularly so in the 21st century, where the genre is edgier and more relevant than ever, addressing crime in every form, from drug-ridden, violent council estates to the corporate well-heeled crime of the boardroom.

The best filmmakers utilise the language of classic crime cinema (gangsters, robberies, up-against-it policemen), frequently providing a provocative critique of society. The British Board of Film Censors once advocated drastic cutting (not persuaded by the filmmakers’ stated aim of targeting an adult audience), pointing out that such films would appeal to ‘morons of a violent inclination’ – and British film censorship from the 1940s onwards has focused on the potentially destabilising effect of popular cinema with its graphic violence or carnality.

In 2012, the dividing line between TV and film is growing ever more tenuous, as a new TV frankness mirrors what is possible in the cinema today. The crime fiction movie is in the rudest of health, continuing to inspire some trenchant and accomplished work among the most ambitious filmmakers, keen to incorporate political and social comment into their audience-pleasing (and still shocking) narratives.

In many ways, the modest critical standing of much British crime cinema has afforded it a rich seam of possibilities. Genre cinema was for many years treated with critical disdain (consolidated by the fact that audiences – while enjoying it – regarded the field as nothing more than entertainment). But it didn’t take long for intelligent filmmakers to utilise the language of classic crime cinema (gangsters, robberies, establishment-baiting policemen) in new and ingenious ways, frequently offering up a critique of society by allusion. There is an interesting parallel here with the critical standing of literary crime fiction in Britain, similarly afforded little respect until such writers as PD James finessed the elements of psychology and characterisation first introduced by Golden Age novelists such as Dorothy Sayers, with the result that crime fiction on the printed page is now frequently reviewed in the broadsheets alongside more ‘literary’ genres. To some degree, there has been a parallel breakthrough for many filmmakers dealing in cinematic crime, but the level of acceptance has been more fitful. One of my principal aims in writing British Crime Film was to demonstrate the myriad ways in which British crime cinema is as worthy of serious critical attention as more self-consciously ‘respectable’ subjects.

There are certain areas that proved to be incendiary when the films were examined by the British Board of Film Censors (the name of the organisation was changed in a piece of Orwellian rewriting to the British Board of Film Classification – appropriately, in 1984); and it’s not hard to discern the reasons for the fuss. In the 1960s, the BBFC made little secret of the fact that it regarded its role as maintaining the rigid status quo of society as much as protecting the vulnerable public from sights that would cause offence or (worse still) inspire imitative behaviour. The 1961 Joseph Losey film The Damned featured scenes of gang violence in the original screenplay submitted to the Board, and inspired a nannyish response. Registering unhappiness with the brutal young thugs, the Board was not persuaded by the filmmakers stated aim of targeting an adult audience, pointing out that the offending sections would appeal to ‘morons of a violent inclination’ – revealingly talking about the sort of ‘X’-certificate film patrons the Board wanted to protect. Interestingly, this protection extended into the political dimension, perhaps influenced by director Losey’s recent pillorying by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as part of its anticommunist initiatives (which had driven Losey to this country – and thereby facilitated the making of several classic British crime films, such as The Criminal (1960) and Blind Date (1967).

We live in a (hopefully) more liberal age – but these moral panics over censorship are cyclical -- when will the next crackdown on crime movies happen?

British Crime Film is published by Palgrave Macmillan

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Anthony Awards

The Anthony Awards were presented yesterday at Bouchercon. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees. Great work all!!

BEST NOVEL A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny [Minotaur]

BEST FIRST NOVEL Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry [Crown]

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy [Berkley Prime Crime/Tekno]

BEST SHORT STORY "Disarming" by Dana Cameron, EQMM June'11

BEST CRITICAL NONFICTION WORK The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris, ed. [Ace]

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Barry Awards

The Barry Awards were given out on Thursday night. Sorry for the delay. The awards are nominated by and voted on by subscribers to Deadly Pleasures Magazine.

Barry Awards
Best novel – The Keeper of Lost Causes (aka Mercy) by Jussi Adler Olsen
Best first novel – The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
Best British Novel – Dead Man’s Grip by Peter James
Best Paperback Original – Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley
Best Thriller – The Informants by Thomas Perry
Best Short Story – The Gun Also Rises by Jeff Cohen
Don Sandstrom Fan Award was awarded to Allen J Hubin

Shamus Award Winners

The Private Eye Writers Association presented the Shamus Awards last night. With thanks to Ali Karim for the results..

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel:
A Bad Night’s Sleep, by Michael Wiley (Minotaur)

Best First P.I. Novel:
The Shortcut Man, by P.G. Sturges (Scribner)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel:
Fun & Games, by Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland)

Best P.I. Short Story:
Who I Am,” by Michael Z. Lewin (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2011)

The Hammer--a commendation celebrating a memorable private-eye character or series, and named after Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer--was presented to Nate Heller the character created by Max Allan Collins.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Macavity Award Winners!

Last night I presented the Macavity Award winners at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland during Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention.

Congratulations to all the Nominees and Winners.

And the winners are... Fanfare, please!

Best Mystery Novel:  Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by  Sara Gran

Best First Mystery Novel:  All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen

Best Mystery Related Non-Fiction:  The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, edited by Charlaine Harris

Best Mystery Short Story:  "Disarming" by  Dana Cameron

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery:  Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Partners in Crime: Joanne Dobson & Beverle Graves Myers

Today I renew the Partners in Crime feature on Mystery Fanfare with this post by Joanne Dobson who writes with Beverle Graves Myers.

Joanne Dobson is the author with Beverle Graves Myers of Face of the Enemy: A New York Wartime Mystery. Joanne is also the author of the Professor Karen Pelletier mystery novels. Check out her website at:


When Bev Myers and I first considered writing a series of WWII mystery novels set in New York City, we had to ask: on America’s homefront, did even our largest city experience enough action, conflict, suspense and terror to make for compelling wartime stories? When it comes to WWII narrative, the great European cities—Berlin, Paris, Prague—had terror in spades. Nazi evil threatened personal safety and human decency at every turn, and no one knew whom to trust. In London, during the Blitz, bombs rained indiscriminately down from Luftwaffe planes, destroying homes, churches, schools, and killing men, women, and children. Life was precarious, tense, dangerous. The days were shadowed with fear, the nights, with dread.

Over there, people were desperate—scant food, no heat, homes destroyed. Nothing was certain; either their country had already been invaded, or could be at any moment. Treachery, betrayal, and disaster lurked around every corner. What more could a mystery novelist ask for? Conflict, danger, and uncertainty built right into the shared set of historical images that makes up our common story of the past. Popular history is a powerful thing, providing us with highly colored lenses through which we know the past—and through which readers read, supplying mood and image to supplement what might not appear on the page.

But, when we think of New York City during WW II, what springs to mind? The Stage Door Canteen, Liberty bonds, scrap drives, the Coney Island dim-out, rationing of sugar, coffee, cigarettes, and gasoline. The Greatest Generation: war bringing out the best in everyone. GI Joe and Rosie the Riveter. Brave men, resourceful women, and spunky girls drawing seams up the back of their legs once nylons became impossible to find.

In the current popular imagination, New York, safe on the far side of the vast Atlantic and thousands of miles from the Pacific theater, simply does not offer the same dramatic narrative opportunities as do other settings. What endures is the inspirational story Americans needed to hear during wartime: we were strong, we were brave, we were ingenious, we were moral. We could fight this war, and we could handle deprivation on the homefront. We were all those things. But what we weren’t—at least in New York, and, I suspect, in many other places in the nation—was safe and predictable and boring. Historical memory is a tricky thing.

 In actuality, WWII New York City was bursting with the stuff of narrative drama. The city was overrun with imperiled European refugees desperate for safety—royals, intellectuals, artists, scientists. U-boats lurked just offshore, even infiltrated New York harbor, attacking merchant ships and troop carriers, landing enemy saboteurs on Long Island. Profiteers and black marketers made fortunes exploiting wartime necessities, while neighbors scrutinized each other for signs of hoarding. Scientists worked on the top-secret Manhattan Project at Columbia University uptown and in office buildings downtown. The OSS recruited the city’s young men and women for training as spies and code breakers. G-men and the New York City police battled over jurisdiction in criminal cases. Even the Mafia got involved; with the U.S. Navy decimated, mob boats agreed to patrol the city’s waterfront against sabotage or possible U-boat attack.

Perhaps provoking the most dread was the possibility of aerial bombardment. Early on, our government announced that Hitler’s engineers were developing a long-range bomber that could possibly reach America’s East Coast—and that New York City would be the primary target. We know that the city was never bombed during the war, but they didn’t know it wouldn’t happen. In short, the stuff of narrative energy—anxiety, conflict, mystery, suspense, betrayal, and dread—abounded on this side of the Atlantic, as it did in Europe and elsewhere. New York had different stories than London or Paris or Manila, but, boy, did it have stories!

Did you know that on the night of December 7, 1941 and on into the next morning, the FBI pulled out the secret dossiers they’d been keeping on prominent New York residents of Japanese origin? In company with New York City police detectives, G-men prowled from household to household snatching up influential residents and taking them to detention on Ellis Island. No? You didn’t know that? Well, read FACE OF THE ENEMY (Poisoned Pen Press, September 2012), and meet Masako Fumi Oakley, celebrated avant garde artist and extremely convenient suspect, both of espionage and murder. Was Masako guilty? Or was she a victim of racial hysteria and paranoia?

And FACE is only the first of the compelling mysteries New York City has offered for our New York in Wartime series. Next, we tackle the re-e-e-al story behind the inferno that destroyed the French luxury liner, the Normandie, as it was being converted into an American troopship in its Hudson River pier at West 48th Street. Love and loss, secrets and betrayal, from Brooklyn to the Bronx. Maybe even some cannoli. You’re gonna love it!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vicki Delany: The Modern Gothic Novel

Today I welcome back Vicki Delany,, one of Canada's most varied and prolific crime writers.

Vicki Delany's popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She also writes standalone novels of psychological suspense, as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Mountain), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush. Vicki’s newest book is More than Sorrow, a standalone novel published by Poisoned Pen Press, “a splendid Gothic thriller.” Visit Vicki at,, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (


Mention Gothic novels to ten people, and you’ll get eleven different interpretations of what that means.

About all we seem to agree on is that it doesn’t mean a cozy or a comedy.

In the mid-to-late Twentieth Century the Gothic novel was the sort written by the likes of Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart that I grew up loving. Think of penniless governesses, crumbling Scottish castles, brooding, handsome aristocrats. A dark secret in the family’s past. Always a dark secret.

Today the Gothic has been updated and the novels I love are sometimes called Modern Gothic, or British Gothic.

First, what they are NOT: No vampires. No ghost hunters. Not horror. And probably not anyone you might call ‘goth’.

I go with Kate Morton’s definition. In the afterword to her hugely successful novel The House at Riverton, Kate Morton describes the Gothic: The haunting of the present by the past; the insistence of family secrets; return of the repressed; the centrality of inheritance (material, psychological and physical); haunted houses (particularly haunting of a metaphorical nature); suspicion concerning new technology and changing methods; the entrapment of women (whether physical or social) and associated claustrophobia; character doubling; the unreliability of memory and the partial nature of history; mysteries and the unseen; confessional narrative; and embedded texts.

The Modern Gothic can be a ‘dark mystery’ but usually only in the psychological sense. Michael Koryta calls his brilliant novel So Cold The River a Gothic and it is because it involves many of Morton’s definitions, but in it the paranormal presence is malevolent. That is defiantly not always, in fact not usually, the case.

“Haunting of a metaphorical nature.” The modern Gothic may not even have a ghost story or paranormal aspect. If there is a supernatural element it serves as a device to reveal the secrets of the past to the characters and the reader, rarely is it intended to frighten the reader, as in a horror novel.

Kate Morton’s books for example, have no paranormal elements. In many books the suspected paranormal turns out to have a rational explanation after all, as in Carol Goodman’s Arcadia Falls. In Peter Robinson’s Before the Poison the protagonist is ‘haunted’ not by a ghost but by the story of a woman who lived in his new house sixty years earlier and was accused of a dreadful crime, a crime that had to do with ‘the entrapment of women’. If there is a paranormal element it is more likely to be benign or even helpful as in, for example, Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, rather than dripping evil.

Sometimes, it’s the question. In my new novel More than Sorrow the protagonist, Hannah Manning, believes there’s something moving down in the dark damp root cellar. But Hannah is recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury caused by an IED explosion in Afghanistan. So, both the reader and Hannah wonder, is there really a woman down there, or is she only the hallucinations of an injured mind?

Which would be worse?

Contrary to popular opinion, Gothic doesn’t automatically mean romantic suspense. Romance is often a minor component, if there’s any at all, (e.g. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton or Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton.) (Whereas in a Gothic romantic suspense novel, such as written by Susanna Kearsley, the romance is up front and prominent.)

The modern Gothic mystery novel can also be called a ‘psychological suspense’. What defines it as ‘gothic’ I think is the centrality of setting. There is a house, a hotel, some old building with a long past, and most of the plot centres around and takes place in this building or property, e.g. Michael Kortya again in The Cypress House. Tana French’s The Likeness is set almost exclusively in a crumbling Irish manor house and has very much to do with the “unreliability of memory” yet there is not the slightest hint of a paranormal element or romance. In More than Sorrow, the book takes place mostly in a 200 year old farmhouse in Canada.

Not a crumbling castle in sight! But secrets, lots of secrets.

Do you love the modern Gothic, or remember much loved books from the past? Why not share some names with us.