Monday, September 18, 2017

Miss Fisher Con

The 2nd Annual Miss Fisher Con will be held June 28-30, 2018 in Portland, Oregon!

The Embassy Suites Portland Downtown. The committee is working out the specifics, including special room rates for con attendees. More information coming soon, including how to register! ​

Want to stay in the know about the 2018 Miss Fisher Con? Sign up for News from the Wireless and receive related news and upcoming event details!​

Cartoon of the Day: Framed


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Doc Martin: Series 8 on Acorn TV

Acorn TV announced the return of one of the most popular series in Britain and Acorn’s best-selling series with Doc Martin, Series 8 beginning its Exclusive U.S. Premiere on Thursday, September 21, 2017, the day after its British premiere on ITV.

Martin Clunes returns in his lead performance as a tactless, self-centered, and uptight doctor in a quirky seaside town in Cornwall. After having therapy to save their marriage in the last season, Doc Martin and Louisa (Caroline Catz) face the challenge of living happily together with their baby, James Henry. The new eight-episode season premieres every Thursday through November 9, 2017 when the complete season will be available for binge-watching.

Mark Stevens, President of Acorn Brands at RLJ Entertainment, noted, “Acorn TV is ecstatic to exclusively offer our subscribers new episodes of one of their favorite series, Doc Martin. After waiting two years for more episodes, we’re delighted to shorten the wait for North American fans, and will be offering each new episode the day after its UK debut.

Richard Halliwell, DRG CEO, added, “We are thrilled that Acorn TV continues to support Doc Martin, by offering the brilliant new series to its subscribers in North America. With its human stories, fish-out-of-water lead and universal themes, Doc Martin continues to resonate with audiences around the world. And of course, the gorgeous Cornish scenery and quintessentially British eccentric characters all add to its appeal. We are proud to have this wonderful title in our catalogue and with Series Nine already in development, we can’t wait to see what’s next for Martin and the world of Portwenn.”

Acorn TV features the previous seven series available to watch anytime and recently created and added the behind-the-scenes documentary, Doc Martin: It's Always Sunny in Portwenn, with the cast and crew reflecting on eight seasons on the series and a sneak peek at Series 8.

Set in the fictional town of Portwenn, Series 8 features returning favorites Dame Eileen Atkins as the Doc’s formidable Aunt Ruth, Ian McNeice as Bert Large, Joe Absolom as his son Al. Additionally, Series 8 guest stars include Art Malik and another guest turn by Caroline Quentin. Doc Martin is created by Dominic Minghella, produced by Buffalo Pictures, and distributed by DRG.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Harlan Coben's The Five on Netflix

Harlan Coben's "The Five," a crime drama filmed in Liverpool that debuted last year on Sky 1 in the U.K., is available today (9/15) on Netflix (U.S. & Canada).

It marked bestselling author Coben’s move into TV, and follows a group of friends as they discover that the brother of one them, who vanished years earlier, may still be alive after his DNA turns up at a murder scene.

From Variety:

The New Jersey-based author says his work is well suited to a streaming service, where people can watch multiple episodes. “In same way as you might say ‘I’m going to read one more chapter before I go to sleep,’ I think ‘The Five’ and ‘Safe’ are binge-worthy shows that you will start and finish in a day or two,” Coben told Variety.

Coben said he was pleased his new series has also landed at Netflix internationally. “In a sense, I don’t care where it airs, just like I don’t care if you read my book on paper or on digital, but I think it’s a more exciting platform for us, to get all of the episodes out at one time. I almost never watch a show that isn’t completed in case I do want to binge. I don’t watch anything live anymore.”

Cartoon of the Day: Agatha Christie's Childhood


Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie

Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!

Over the years, I've read just about every novel and story, play, and reference book on the Grande Dame of Crime Fiction. I've taught classes on Agatha Christie at UCB, Santa Cruz, St. Mary's College, as well as focused on Agatha Christie in my mystery book group. 

Agatha Christie visited the UC Botanical Garden and was particularly taken by the Peruvian Lily. Poisonous? Yes. In honor of that long-ago visit, I organized a poison tour of the UC Botanical Garden with a very knowledgeable guide for my book group.

For Agatha Christie's Centennial, I attended the CWA (Crime Writers UK) conference in Torquay which included an Agatha Christie Centennial Celebration Banquet. Everyone was there, and by that, I mean all my favorite British crime writers and several of the actors who portrayed Christie's characters over the years. David Suchet sat at the next table. I saw Joan Hickson in the Ladies Room. During that same trip, I went with CWA to visit Greenway. This was long before it opened to the public. The family was in residence at the time, and either they forgot that a group of mystery writers was stopping by or they didn’t care, as the house was in a bit of disarray after what must have been Sunday lunch. It was a very lovely (and intimate) tour of the house.

When I returned to the States that year, I was on the organizing committee of the U.S. Agatha Christie Centennial. There were reading challenges, library talks, courses, and lectures, and I even wrote an 'Agatha-Christie inspired' interactive mystery event. It was great fun!

And here's a real treat: A Video of a 1955 interview with Agatha Christie from the BBC Archives in which Agatha Christie talks about her lack of formal education and how boredom during childhood led her to write The Mysterious Affair at Styles. She outlines her working methods, Miss Marple, Herculte Poirot, and discusses why it is much easier to write plays than novels. 

Raise a glass today to the Queen of Crime!
 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Check-Out


Merlin at War: Influences: Guest Post by Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea, Wales and a former barrister and entrepreneur. He is the creator of Frank Merlin, a Scotland Yard detective fighting crime in World War II London. The third and latest of the series, Merlin At War is being published in the U.S. on October 12th. Mark is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the International Thriller Writers and divides his time between London and Oxford.

Mark Ellis:
Merlin at War: Influences

I am a late starter as an author. I only began to write properly after a thirty year career in business. In the latter part of that career I co-founded a computer services business with a good friend. We built the company up and were fortunate enough to sell it after ten years to the American corporation NCR. At that point I seized the opportunity to pursue my lifelong ambition of becoming a writer. In July of this year, the third book in my series about a World War II London detective, Frank Merlin, was published. It is my plan to follow Merlin in his adventures all the way through the war. Princes Gate, my first Merlin book, is set in January 1940, the time of what is now known as ‘the phoney war.’ Stalin’s Gold, the second, is set in September 1940, when the London Blitz was launched and the Battle of Britain raged. The latest book, Merlin At War, is principally set in June 1941, just after the Battle of Crete and just before Hitler invaded Russia. At this pace of historical progression, I obviously have a good deal more writing to do to get Merlin to peace in 1945!

Why did I choose to write about the WWII period? There were a number of influences. My parents lived through the war and my father fought in it. My father died when I was very young but my mother told me many fascinating stories about the period and life on the Home Front. Apart from hair-raising stories of the mass bombing and burning of my home town Swansea by the Luftwaffe, she had many interesting tales of how ordinary life carried on despite the existential threats all around. Using her railway worker’s free pass she would travel up to London from Wales with her friends at weekends to see the sights of the capital and to dance the nights away with dashing officers, even as the German bombs and doodlebugs rained down. Through this and other of her stories, I realised that as the nation battled valiantly for survival, ordinary people tried to carry on living ordinary lives. People dated, married, had babies, laughed, cried, fought, ate, drank, smoked and died natural deaths. They also stole, robbed, raped and murdered and did so at a greater rate than before in peacetime. Reported crime in England rose by almost sixty per cent between 1939 and 1945. Turning all this over in my mind as I contemplated what to write, it seemed to me that this period would a perfect one in which to set detective stories. And so this fascinating world became the world of Frank Merlin.

As to literary influences, there are too many to list here but here are a few who have been particularly important.

1. Georges Simenon – one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century and my favourite detective fiction author. His great creation, Jules Maigret, is one of the giants of the genre. One of his favourite pieces of advice, which I try to always bear in mind, is to avoid being ‘too literary’. By this he meant that writers should avoid unnecessary adjectives, adverbs or other words which are included just to make an effect. He strove for a simplicity and directness in his writing which I think enhances the power of his stories.

2. John Buchan – the author of the first adult thriller I read, The Thirty Nine Steps. I remember devouring it in a day when I was about eleven. He was a master of gripping plots. Greenmantle, the sequel to The Thirty Nine Steps, features in an unusual way in my new book.

3. Evelyn Waugh – not a thriller writer of course but he wrote a trilogy of books, known as The Sword of Honour series, set in World War II, in which there is a wonderful portrayal of life in the period. His main character, Guy Crouchback, like Waugh himself, took part in the Battle of Crete, which features in the opening scene of Merlin At War. A writer with a classically elegant and assured style much to be admired.

4. Alan Furst – the only living author in this list, Furst has written a string of masterful spy novels set in or just before WWII. He beautifully recreates the seedy, dark world of espionage in wartime Europe. He is often compared to Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, two other authors who have greatly influenced me.

5. Patricia Highsmith – creator of the great anti-hero Tom Ripley. Highsmith makes the reader stick up for Ripley, a sociopath and murderer, no matter how awful his crimes. I think of her when I'm devising my villains.

In addition to the authors above, I owe a major debt to the many excellent non-fiction writers on whose books about WWII events and personalities I have drawn and continue to draw. And then there are the many superb thriller and mystery authors writing today whose work I read avidly for pleasure and education. It seems to me that we are living in another golden age of the genre and hooray for that!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Library


San Francisco: Scene of the Perfect Crime

San Francisco: The Scene of the Perfect Crime. So many crime movies set in my City! What an amazing place!!!

Ali Karim reminded me of this excellent video that was written for and played at the Opening Ceremonies of Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, in San Francisco in 2010. This was a great tribute to the City by the Bay. Produced by Serena Bramble.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Crime Fiction // Hurricane Mysteries

What a terrible Hurricane Season. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have been two of the most disastrous hurricanes on record. Sending love and positive thoughts to all in their paths. Lots of organizations need donations in order to serve the victims of these powerful storms. Goods, as well as funds are in demand. Donate now.

Not surprisingly, hurricanes have been the focus of many crime novels. Here's a list of Hurricane mysteries for those of us who prefer our hurricanes in books and not 'real life."

HURRICANE MYSTERIES

Down in the Flood by Kenneth Abel
Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews
Wyatt's Hurricane by Desmond Bagley
Tricky Business by Dave Barry
City of Sins by Daniel Blake
Twisted by Jay Bonansinga
Too Much Stuff by Don Bruns
Jesus Out to Sea (short stories), The 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
Typhoon by Joseph Conrad
Skeletons of the Atchafalaya by Kent Conwell
The Sentry by Robert Crais
Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler
Category Five by Philip Donlay
Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey
Hurricane by Ken Douglas
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
A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova
Baptism in Blood by Jane Haddam
All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
Dead Man's Island by Carolyn Hart
Hurricane Ron by CJ Hatch
Murder in the Rue Chartres by Greg Herren
Stormy Weather by Carl Hiassen
In Hazard by Richard Hughes
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
Apparition Island by Jenifer LeClair
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), Condominium by John D. MacDonald
On Hurricane Island by Ellen Meeropol
Stone Cove Island by Suzanne Myers
Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker
Island of Bones by P.J. Parrish
Final Warning by James Patterson
Bloodman by Robert Pobi
Water Mark by J.M. Redmann
Storm Surge by J.D. Rhodes
Hurricane by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Rebel Island by Rick Riordan
Raw Deal by Les Standiford
New Orleans Noir, edited by Julie Smith  (short stories)
The Hurricane's Tail by Robert Banks Stewart
Without a Grave by Marcia Talley
Proof of the Pudding by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Storm Damage by Linda Underwood
Murder Unleashed by Elaine Viets
Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi
Shadows of a Cape Cod Wedding by Lea Wait (April 2013/Perseverance Press)
The Eye of Anna by Anne Wingate

Children's Mysteries/YA: 
Hurricane Joe (Hardy Boys) by Franklin W. Dixon
The Hurricane Hoax and Other Cases by Seymour Simon & Kevin O'Malley

The Hurricane Mystery (The Boxcar Children Mysteries) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

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


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Willo Award

Brian Thornton, Seattle-area teacher and mystery author, and president of the Northwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, was presented with the Willo Award, “the Pacific Northwest’s own special recognition prize given to those individuals whose writing and contributions to the Northwest mystery community are exemplary.” The Willo is named in memory of Willo Davis Roberts, a Granite Falls, Washington, resident and Edgar Award-winning author who passed away in 2004.

“[F]ew can claim to have done more to advance the cause of mystery writers in the Northwest than Brian,” reads a notice from the MWA—Northwest Chapter. “As a longtime Board Member and President of this organization, Brian has seen us through better than a decade of ups and downs in the industry, scores of meetings and seminars, events both happy and sad, and a great growth in our numbers and our achievements. He has personally fostered the career growth of quite a few of his fellow mystery writers, and has led us with skill, enthusiasm, and an infectious smile.”

Brian Thornton is the author of nine books, including THE BOOK OF BASTARDS and THE BOOK OF ANCIENT BASTARDS, in addition to serving as collection editor for the crime fiction anthology WEST COAST CRIME WAVE. His short fiction has appeared in such venues as ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE and the Akashic Books anthology SEATTLE NOIR. A native Washingtonian, he is currently serving his second term as Northwest Chapter president for the Mystery Writers of America.

HT: The Rap Sheet

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Cat Toys

Happy Caturday.


McIlvanney Prize

Glasgow author Denise Mina has won the 2017 McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year for The Long Drop (Random House UK). The announcement was made last night during opening festivities at Bloody Scotland in Stirling.

The McIlvanney Prize was formerly known as the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award, but was renamed last year in honor of the late author William McIlvanney.

HT: The Rap Sheet

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Grammar Hell


Amy Stewart Literary Salon September 13

Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening Literary Salon with multi-talented author Amy Stewart.

Where: Berkeley, CA. Please leave a comment or send email to janet @ mysteryreaders.org
Space is extremely limited. You must RSVP.
When: Wednesday, September 13, 7 p.m.
Potluck sweets or savories

Amy Stewart is the New York Times best-selling author of nine books, including the acclaimed Kopp Sisters novels, which are based on the true story of one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs and her two rambunctious sisters. Her popular nonfiction titles include The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential.

Many people vaguely remember hearing Amy on NPR’s Morning Edition or Fresh Air, or maybe they read about her in a wide range of publications, from the New York Times to Earthworm Digest. Her checkered television career includes CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, the PBS documentary The Botany of Desire, and–believe it or not– TLC’s Cake Boss. (The cake was delicious.)

Amy’s books have been translated into sixteen languages, one of which she can actually read. Her 2009 book Wicked Plants has been adapted into a national traveling exhibit that terrifies children at science museums nationwide.

She was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. In 2012, she was invited to be the first Tin House Writer-in-Residence, a partnership with Portland State University, where she corrupted young minds in the MFA program.

Her latest entry into the Kopp Sisters books is Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions. Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges of waywardness, incorrigibility, and moral depravity. But such were the laws—and morals—of 1916. Constance uses her authority as deputy sheriff, and occasionally exceeds it, to investigate and defend these women when no one else will. But it’s her sister Fleurette who puts Constance’s beliefs to the test and forces her to reckon with her own ideas of how a young woman should and shouldn’t behave.

Cartoon of the Day: The Submission


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ronald Tierney: R.I.P.

I just learned of the death of Ron Tierney on September 2. Ron wrote 18 mysteries: the Deets Shanahan Mysteries, the Carly Paladino and Noah Lang mysteries, the Peter Strand Mystery Novellas, and Stand-alone Crime Fiction. Ron was also a fan of crime fiction. He blogged, and he read and contributed to blogs  and fanzines.

Ronald Tierney's The Stone Veil introduced semi-retired, Indianapolis-based private investigator "Deets" Shanahan and the love of his life, Maureen. The book was a finalist in St. Martin Press's "Best First Private Eye Novel" competition, and nominated for the Private Eye Writers of America's Shamus Award for "Best First Novel." Killing Frost is the eleventh in the highly regarded series Booklist said was "packed with new angles and delights.” San Francisco is the setting for hislighter series the Library Journal calls a "winner.” The four Paladino/Lang books feature an eclectic collection of investigators in the equally eclectic neighborhoods of one of the world's most exciting cities. Good to the Last Kiss is a dark mystery that captures the insane world a serial killer creates.

Ron Tierney was founding editor of NUVO Newsweekly, an Indianapolis alternative newspaper, and the editor of a San Francisco monthly. After living 25 years in the “City by the Bay,” he moved to Palm Springs, where he was working on several writing projects. He will be missed by his many friends and readers.

How To Do Bad Things The Wrong Way: Guest Post by Finn Bell

Finn Bell is a finalist for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award in two categories. How cool is that? Pancake Money is is up for Best Crime novel while Dead Lemons is up for Best First Novel. Finn Bell lives in the far south of New Zealand where he writes full time. The Ngaio Marsh Awards are literary awards presented annually in New Zealand to recognize excellence in crime fiction, mystery, and thriller writing. The Award was established by journalist and crime fiction reviewer Craig Sisterson in 2010, and is named after Dame Ngaio Marsh. Today's post is part of the Ngaio Marsh Award Blog Tour (scroll down for dates and locations of future posts). Thanks, Finn, for this post. I think your books are amazing and unique!

Finn Bell:
How To Do Bad Things The Wrong Way . . .

I’m Finn Bell and I write books. (And if you’re reading this to decide whether to try my books I wouldn’t recommend it. Don’t get me wrong – please buy my books so I can eat, seriously tell your friends. I just don’t think talking about something is the same as actually doing it. But we’ll get back to that later).

Instead I’ll abuse this space. Which was kindly given me to talk about myself, my writing, and my next books, to rather talk about something that I’m so much better at: Failure.

This is a true story and mine (although I suspect there’s a universal aspect to human stupidity and possibly I’m not as lonely as I feel). To start our tale, we’re going to need to go back about two decades. Witness now my former self:

There stands young Finn (poor bugger) currently being told by his favourite university lecturer (who dislikes Finn for all the right reasons) something he is (as yet) too inexperienced in the painful ways of stupidity to learn. The pearl of wisdom is this:

People who think they’re so fucking smart aren’t always as fucking smart as they think.

The reason I was being told this was because I had (almost but not quite) gotten caught. Before we talk about what I was being accused of let me first mention that I’m bad at most things (can’t sing, can’t dance, not good at any kind of sport, not easy on the eyes either, and my friends and family routinely have their overly kind patience tested by my many, many character flaws). I am and always have been however, good at learning things (I wouldn’t call myself intelligent, because intelligent people wouldn’t have done all the dumb things I have) but I’d say it’s a knack for reading fast and remembering things and for writing it all down again. Which can (trust me) be a very good substitute for actual wisdom and knowledge, if you’re making your way through university.

And I (mostly) was making my way through university. I was dirt poor, holding down two jobs at night to cover the parts of the tuition fees the academic scholarships didn’t and sleeping through most of my classes in the day time (which was fine because of my aforementioned knack). All I still had to overcome was the annoying habit of needed to eat most days. And food costs money. Which is where the wrong thing I almost got caught doing comes in.

You see universities are (luckily for my younger self) often populated by kids from rich families who have just too much money and parties in their schedule to bother with pedantic things like doing their own assignments, or preparing their own study notes for exams. It was meant to be really. So, by my 3rd year I was attending classes I wasn’t even signed up for. Churning out assignments and study notes (available at really very reasonable prices of course) on everything from law and philosophy to art history (hell I was at the point where I was taking bookings). It was wrong and I knew it but hey I was eating and it wasn’t just me doing it (the 2nd most money I ever made was selling an ethics assignment, go figure). Eventually the lecturers put just enough of it together and dragged me in to the office to thoroughly threaten me (they didn’t have enough to prove it though, I wasn’t quite that dumb) and hence I was left with that piece of advice about not being as smart as you might think (which I ignored). Thus far doing things the wrong way was working out just fine thank you.

Now fast forward several years of everything going to plan.

We find Finn walking into his upscale city-centre apartment (part of the boringly predictable trappings of success). At 30 he was the youngest national manager in his company (feel free to add any cliché of the stereotypical soul-less, career driven young man and it would probably stick).

Except today is different.

This is the very first time I come home after another long, successful day of doing bad things (now without even a hint of a possibility of getting caught) and feel absolutely fine. Not a doubt, not even an inkling of conscience. Through the sweat of my dishonest brow I had worked hard and sacrificed and gotten everything I wanted (without getting anything I needed). I had finally reached the point where all the bad things I had done didn’t even bother me one little bit. And I thought to myself that there should be a word for this, this point right at the crest of the momentum of your own wrongness.

Where you can still look over your shoulder and see right from wrong receding behind you, but really not care anymore. For that place where you realise you had become an enthusiastic part of everything you used to think was wrong with the world and know that you’re only about one effortless step away from not being able to turn around at all. That’s when I realised my old professor was right.

I wasn’t really as smart as I’d thought. You see up to that point, for me, the end justified the means. I did (as long as I could get away with it) the things that got me what I wanted. Right or wrong didn’t come into it. Survival was my excuse. In an unfair world, I had become exactly the kind of wrong person it required to succeed. Except that wasn’t really my intention when I started out. I just wanted to be happy. I wanted a good life. Not this. But somewhere along the way surviving (in increasing levels of comfort) became more important that actually living. Which even most kids will be able to tell you is plain stupid. Because the end doesn’t ever justify the means no matter what you tell yourself. So, I decided to tell myself something else. The money, the safety, the status, none of it mattered, not really. Surviving didn’t even matter, not if it meant I couldn’t live with myself. I was done doing the wrong things because they got me what I wanted. For a change (and against all my instincts) I was going to do the right thing without even caring about what it got me.

For me that’s writing books (and I’m not saying there’s anything better about writing than any other job just that for me this is that thing - where I get to be a good person doing good things, even if it means I starve). And that’s what I’d wish for all the other stupid people out there (speaking as a former member): Not that you buy my books but rather that you mess things up enough to realise that you need to risk everything to do the right thing for its own sake not yours. And that you then go and find that right thing.

(And also, maybe buy my books, but only if you really want to).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Mystery Writer

Hat Tip: Jayna Monroe

Benjamin Franklin Solves a Murder: Guest post by John Harmon McElroy

John Harmon McElroy, author of Benjamin Franklin and the Quaker Murders (Penmore Press, 2017) is a professor emeritus of the University of Arizona, where he created and taught a course called Literature of the Early Republic that included Franklin's Autobiography. In addition to Benjamin Franklin and the Quaker Murders, the first novel in a series featuring Benjamin Franklin as a detective, McElroy has authored four books on American cultural history and has been a Fulbright Professor of American Studies at universities in Spain and Brazil. (More at www.benfranklindetective.com

John Harmon McElroy:
Benjamin Franklin Solves A Murder 

Sometimes a work of fiction can be a more effective way of conveying truth than a history book. Biographers are committed to representing the reality of history. Writers of historical fiction have the somewhat different goal of creating the illusion of a past experience. Through my mystery novel I give readers not only “a tale that becomes more intriguing as it progresses,” but also an experience of Benjamin Franklin, the most versatile genius in that remarkable group known as America's Founders.

But, you might ask, why did I choose the form of a murder mystery as a way of portraying Franklin? Aside from being a lifelong fan of mysteries myself, it seemed to me that a mystery would be the best way to provide a close-up view of Franklin – his modus operandi, his genius, his charm, his altruism. Also, I’m convinced that more and more readers will come to admire and appreciate Franklin when they meet him “in person,” readers who might not be inclined to pick up a history book but who do enjoy a mystery that “pull[s] you forward, page by page.”

In his life Franklin did many different things. There was nothing that caught his interest that he didn’t engage with in depth. Have a kite you’re flying on the banks of a mile-wide pond? – Why not see if your kite can pull you across? (It did – and as a boy Benjamin Franklin became the first windsurfer!) Curious about the powerful ocean current known as the Gulf Stream? – Why not take temperatures to locate its eastward-moving power to speed the passage of ships to Europe? (In his eight Atlantic crossings Franklin made the first systematic study of the Gulf Stream.) Think you and your fellow tradesmen could benefit from access to more books than you can individually afford? – Why not convince the members of your club to pool their money to buy books? (Thus inventing the lending library.) And always, in pursuing his interests, he had some practical result in mind.

Franklin was also an internationally famous diplomat. His ability to charm the French into supporting the American Revolution during his nine years at the court of Louis the Sixteenth made possible the military aid – supplies, and French troops and warships – that was vital to securing U.S. independence from Britain. Then, at the war's end, he negotiated the peace settlement (the Treaty of Paris), which defined the boundaries of the United States of America.

But it was Franklin’s achievements as a world-class scientist that made me see him as a detective. After all, a detective’s procedures in gathering clues and drawing conclusions are similar to those a scientist employs in making observations and formulating a testable hypothesis about a phenomenon of nature.

In Benjamin Franklin and the Quaker Murders, all these characteristics, and more, come into play, including Franklin’s spectacular lapse of judgment in the story’s climactic showdown. (He wasn’t perfect.)

The mystery unfolds in the City of Brotherly Love when it was the largest English-speaking city in the world after London. Franklin has just come back from France only to find that Jacob Maul, the Quaker stonecutter who laid the foundations for his mansion, Franklin Court, has been jailed on suspicion of having strangled his housekeeper. A lot of circumstantial evidence points to Maul's guilt. After all, this is the second female corpse with bruise marks to the throat that has turned up on his property. But Franklin's knowledge of Maul’s character, and his noticing a coincidence that everyone else has overlooked, convince him of the Quaker's innocence.

However, in 1785 Franklin is 79 and must recruit a younger man to do the legwork for the investigation. Franklin requires a man of honor to be his assistant to keep his role secret, lest Franklin acquire an unwanted reputation for fixing his neighbors’ problems. We see Franklin’s diplomatic skills unfurl as he attempts to persuade Capt. James Jamison, a wounded veteran of the just-concluded American Revolution, to collaborate with him. Franklin’s humor, his positive outlook on life, and his bonhomie emerge and are on display throughout.

During the ins and outs of the investigation, Franklin also demonstrates the skill in making deductions from physical evidence that allowed him to solve some of the basic mysteries concerning the nature of electricity. This accomplishment prompted Scotland’s St. Andrews University to confer an honorary doctor’s degree on him. After that honor in 1759, this youngest son of a Boston candle maker, who only had two years of formal schooling, was always addressed as “Dr. Franklin.”

The secondary characters in this historical mystery, and the mystery itself, are fictional. But the details about Franklin’s life, interests, and achievements are true. Many readers say I’ve succeeded in providing an experience of Franklin and his times through a story that makes the reader “anxious to find out what happened.” One reader wrote, “I [saw] the total picture in my head of Franklin and the time period […], and I lived it as I would if watching a PBS Masterpiece Mystery. May I have another?”

You may! Benjamin Franklin and the Innocent Duelist, the next narrative in the “Benjamin Franklin, Detective” series, is written and should be out in time for Xmas.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Ned Kelly Awards


The Australian Crime Writers Association announced the winners of the 2017 Ned Kelly Awards, in three categories.

Best Fiction:
• Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian
McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)

Best First Fiction:
• The Dry, by Jane Harper (Pan)

True Crime:
• Getting Away with Murder, by Duncan McNab (Vintage)

HT: The Rap Sheet

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Summer Read


Labor Union Crime Fiction

Another holiday, another list! Labor Day!

I'm only aware of a few mysteries set during the Labor Day Holiday: Lee Harris's Labor Day Murder, Sharyn McCrumb's Highland Laddie Gone,  Sandra Balzo's Running on Empty, and Mary Jane Maffini's The Devil's in the Details (Labour Day Weekend-Canada). There's also the short story "Labor Day" by R.T. Lawton in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Labor Unions, on the other hand, are rife with settings and situations for crime fiction. This is an UPDATED Crime Fiction list involving Labor Unions. Please let me know any books that are missing from this list.

LABOR UNION CRIME FICTION

The Knife Behind You by James Benet (Department Store Union Organizer)
For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen (Garment Workers Union)
White Hot by Sandra Brown (Labor Dispute)
Big Boned by Meg Cabot (Graduate Student Union)
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain (Insurance)
All Men Fear Me by Donis Casey (IWW)
Cactus Blood by Lucha Corpi (Farm Workers' Union)
Airframe by Michael Crichton (Union Trouble)
Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (Waterfront Strike)- coming out this Fall
The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle (Union Group called the Scowrers)
Third Strike by Philip Craig and William Tapply (Steamship Authority Strike)
October Heat by Gordon DeMarco (1934 San Francisco General Strike-Longshoremen)
Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle (The Scowrers)
The Bramble Bush (aka Worse than Murder) by David Duncan (San Francisco General Strike)
American Tabloid by James Ellroy (Teamsters)
LA Quartet by James Ellroy (Movie Unions)
A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett (Coal Mines)
The Peripheral Son by Dorien Gray
Dead Reckoning by Patricia Hall (Union Strike)
The Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (IWW organizer & Strike Breaking)
A More Perfect Union by J.A. Jance (Iron Workers' Union)
As Dead As it Gets by Cady Kalian (Creative Artists' Union) 
The Longer the Thread by Emma Lathen (Garment Workers)

Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane (Hotel Workers' Union)
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (Police Union)
Through a Glass Darkly by Donna Leon (Unsafe environmental pollution in Venetian glass factories effecting workers)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (Long Shoremen's Union)
Deadly Dues by Lulu Malone (Actors' Union)
Stiff by Shane Maloney (Meat Packing)
Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti  (Union rep in Cathode-ray Tube industry)
Champawat by Lia Matera A Novella in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Labor Unions & the Clash between Anarchists & Democrats)
Organize or Die by Laura McClure (Union organizing)
Conferences are Murder by Val McDermid (Journalists' Union)
Death at Pullman by Frances McNamara (American Railway Union)
The Viewless Winds by Murray Morgan (Murder of a Labor Leader's wife)
A Red Death by Walter Mosley (Aircraft Manufacturer and Labor Union organizer)
Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely (Domestic Workers)
Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
Mr Campion's Fault by Mike Ripley (Mineworkers)
Death and Blintzes by Dorothy and Sidney Rosen (Garment Workers Union)
A Bitter Feast by S. J. Rozan (Restaurant Workers' Union)
Some Cuts Never Heal by Timothy Sheard (Shop Steward)
Judas Incorporated by "Kurt Steel" (Rudolf Kagey) (Pro-Union)
The Big Both Ways by John Straley (Lumber)
The Labor Union Murder aka Fourth of July Picnic by Rex Stout (novella)
Absolute Rage by Robert K. Tanenbaum (Coal Miners' Union)
Fallout by Paul Thomas
The Porkchoppers, Yellow Dog Contract by Ross Thomas (Politics & Unions)
Killy by Donald Westlake (Manufacturing Union)

Have a great Labor Day Holiday!