Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras Crime Fiction

Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras or Carnivale, whatever you call it, is a great setting for Murder! Busy streets, crowds, costumes, drinking.. mix it all together, and you have a recipe for the perfect crime novel.

Here's my list of Mardi Gras Mysteries. As always, I welcome additional titles, additions and omissions.

MARDI GRAS MYSTERIES

Mardi Gras Murder, edited by Selina Alaniz
The Mardi Gras Mystery by Henry Bedford-Jones
Death Visits Mardi Gras by J.J. Boortz
Cake on a Hot Tin Roof, A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady
Fat Tuesday, Sunny Chandler's Return by Sandra Brown
Purple Cane Road, Dixie City Jam, The Tin Roof Blowdown, Creole Belle by James Lee Burke 
Gumbo Justice, Jambalaya Justice by Holli Castillo 
Murder Comes to Mardi Gras, Death Swatch, Keepsake Crimes, Death by Design by Laura Childs
Fat Tuesday Fricassee by J.J. Cook (Children)
Havana Storm by Clive Cussler
Mardi Gras Murders by Nicole Daines and Robert Daines
The Mardi Gras Murders by Ricardo S. Dubois
No Mardi Gras for the Dead by D.J. Donaldson
Shelter from the Storm by Tony Dunbar
The Big Uneasy-Terror Strikes Mardi Gras by Murray C. Fincher
The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan
Carnaval Capers by Jody Ford
Carnival by Charlotte Foryan
Venetian Mask by Mickey Friedman
Jass, Rampart Street by David Fulmer
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
Mardi Grad Madness: Stories of Murder and Mayhem in New Orleans, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg
A Free Man of Color, Fever Season, Sold Down the River by Barbara Hambly
Mardi Gras Mambo by Greg Herren
A Thin Dark Line by Tami Hoag
Mind Games by Polly Iyer
The Mardi Gras Mystery; The Mardi Gras Masquerade by Carolyn Keene
Storm Damage by Ed Kovacs
The Mardi Gras Murders by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manning
Mardi Gras Madness by Ken Mask
Mardi Gras Eyes by Phyllis Morris
Masques by Bill Pronzini
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts
Mardi Gras Murders by Phillip Scott
New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith
New Orleans Noir, edited by Julie Smith (Akashic Books)
A Diamond Before You Die by Chris Wiltz

Carnivale in Brazil:
The Lost Manuscript by Rubem Fonseca

To celebrate Fat Tuesday, you might want to have some Chocolate Chip Pancakes or Chocolate  Pecan Pie or Chocolate "Cupped" Cakes with Coffee & Chicory. If you're celebrating Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, or along the Gulf Coast, have a Moon Pie. Read more here. They're a favorite 'throw' in Mobile.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Season 19 Midsomer Murders on AcornTV

I've just watched Season 19 of Midsomer Murders, one of my favorite long-running series. Loved all four episodes. Only wish there were more.

Midsomer Murders returns to AcornTV on March 6 with four new feature-length episodes set in England’s most murderous county.  Let's face it, you don't want to live there! People are always dying, and in unique ways.

The capable Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and new assistant DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) investigate the cozy villages of Midsomer’s most sinister secrets, including a murder in a ghost village and a body found covered in rabbits at a local pet show.

DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) returns in a guest appearance in Episode 3 as Barnaby and Winter investigate the death of a star cricketer. Also guest starring Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly), Susan Hampshire (The First Churchills, Monarch of the Glen), Natasha Little (The Night Manager), and more.

Series 1-18 of Midsomer Murders now streaming on Acorn TV. Catch up before Series 19, Part 1 premieres.

Cartoon of the Day: Bookstore


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Murder at the Oscars! Mysteries set at the Academy Awards

Just in time for the Academy Awards, here's my Murder at the Oscars list! These mysteries take place during the Academy Awards or the time period surrounding the Oscars!

No updates, so let me know if I'm missing any titles.

MURDER AT THE OSCARS

Tight Shot by Kevin Allman
Best Murder on the Year by Jon P. Bloch
Screenscam by Michael Bowen
Murder at the Academy Awards by Joe Hyams
Best Actress by John Kane
Oscar Season by Mary McNamara
Murder at the Academy Awards by Joan Rivers and Jerrilyn Farmer
Jack Hightower by Will Vinton & Andrew Wiese

Want something CHOCOLATE to enjoy during the Awards? Make some Chocolate Covered Popcorn!

Bill Paxton: R.I.P.

From Variety:

Bill Paxton the versatile actor who appeared in films incuding “Aliens” and “Titanic” and played a bigamist on HBO’s “Big Love,” has died from complications following a surgical procedure. He was 61.

With a Texas twang and grizzled visage, Paxton often found himself playing military men and cowboys. He was closely associated with James Cameron, playing a punk leader in “The Terminator, as well as an ill-fated technician in “Aliens,” a venal car deal in “True Lives” and a treasure hunter in “Titanic.”

Paxton anchored a few films, portraying a tornado-chasing scientist in the box office smash “Twister” (1996), and a wildlife refuge director in the flop, “Mighty Joe Young” (1998).  In most movies, Paxton cut a morally upright figure, the character actor equivalent of a Kevin Costner or Gary Cooper. But he earned the best reviews of his career for roles that upended his persona. He was gripping as a family man trying to hide stolen money in Sam Raimi’s “A Simple Plan” (1998), and similarly effective playing against type as an ethically compromised lawman in Carl Franklin’s “One False Move” (1992).

Read More Here.

Academy Award Winning and Nominated Crime Movies

Just in time for the Oscars: Academy Award Crime Movies: Winners and Nominees. Many of the following films are based on books which makes them all that much better in my opinion.  This is not a very organized post. Some movies are more annotated than others with all wins and nominations. Feel free to fill in the blanks or add more titles. If you haven't seen these movies, add them to your list.

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock). 1940. Best Picture. Based on the book by Daphne du Maurier

On the Waterfront. 1954 Best Picture

In the Heat of the Night. 1967 Racial tensions in the South as an African-American detective is sent into Mississippi to solve a murder. Based on the novel by John Ball. The movie earned seven Oscar nominations.
Academy Award wins
Academy Award for Best Picture
Academy Award for Best Actor: Rod Steiger
Academy Award for Film Editing:  Hal Ashby
Academy Award for Best Sound: Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant 
Academy Award nominations
Academy Award for Directing - Norman Jewison
Academy Award for Sound Editing - James Richard

Bonnie and Clyde.1967.
Academy Award wins:
Best Supporting Actress: Estelle Parsons
Best Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Nominations:
Best Picture
Best Director: Arthur Penn
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen: David Newman and Robert Benton
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Warren Beatty
Best Actress in a Leading Role - Faye Dunaway
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Michael J. Pollard
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Gene Hackman
Best Costume Design - Theadora Van Runkle

The French Connection. 1971.  Based on the book by Robin Moore. This was the first R-rated movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Academy Award wins
Best Actor: Gene Hackman
Best Director
Best Film Editing
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ernest Tidyman
Nominations:
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Roy Scheider
Best Cinematography and Best Sound

The Godfather.  1972. Based on the novel by Mario Puzo.
Academy Awards:
Best Picture
Best Writing (adapted screenplay) for Francis Coppola and Mario Puzo
Best Actor in a Leading Role for Marlon Brando

Serpico. 1973. Directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Al Pacino. Movie based on the true story of Serpico written by Peter Maas.
Academy Awards nominations:
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Al Pacino
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

The Godfather, Part II. 1974.

All the President’s Men. 1976. Based on the novel by Woodward and Bernstein.
Academy Awards
Best Picture
Best Art Direction: George Jenkins & George Gaines
Best Adapted Screenplay: William Goldman
Best Sound: Arthur Piantadosi, James E. Webb, Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander
Nominated:
Best Director, Alan J. Pakula
Best Editing: Robert L. Wolfe,
Best Picture: Walter Coblenz
Best Supporting Actor: Jason Robards
Best Supporting Actress: Jane Alexander

The Sting. 1973. Robert Redford and Paul Newman-- caper movie. Two men play con artists who are inspired by the real-life con-game portrayed in the novel The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Men by David Maurer.
Academy Awards:
Best Picture
Directing: George Roy Hill
Writing Original Screenplay: David S. Ward
Best Art Direction: Henry Bumstead and James W. Payne
Best Costume Design: Edith Head
Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and/or Adaptation: Marvin HamlischNominations
Best Actor: Robert Redford
Best Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Sound: Ronald Pierce & Robert R. Bertrand

Chinatown. 1974. Roman Polanski directs. Jack Nicholson stars as a Los Angeles private detective who investigates a man accused of adultery. What he uncovers is based on the real-life water disputes in L.A. during the 1920s. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards.
Wins
Best Original Screenplay – Robert Towne
Nominations
Best Picture – Robert Evans
Best Director – Roman Polanski
Best Actor – Jack Nicholson
Best Actress – Faye Dunaway
Best Film Editing – Sam O'Steen
Best Art Direction – Richard Sylbert, W. Stewart Campbell, Ruby Levitt
Best Costume Design – Anthea Sylbert
Best Cinematography – John A. Alonzo
Best Sound Mixing – Bud Grenzbach, Larry Jost
Best Music Score – Jerry Goldsmith

Silence of the Lambs. Based on the book by Thomas Harris. 
1991 Best Picture

Fargo. 1996
The film earned seven Academy Award nominations
Academy Award for Best Actress – Frances McDormand
Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay – Joel and Ethan Coen

The Departed. 2006

And more..

Notable Best Picture-nominated crime films include The Racket (1928), Dead End (1937),  Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Midnight Express (1978), Atlantic City (1981), Prizzi's Honor (1985), The Godfather: Part III (1990), GoodFellas (1990), Bugsy (1991), The Crying Game (1992), and Pulp Fiction (1994).


More Mysteries and film noirs nominated for Best Picture: The Thin Man (1934), Citizen Kane (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Z (1969), Chinatown (1974), JFK (1991), The Fugitive (1993), L.A. Confidential (1997), Traffic (2000), Gosford Park (2001), Mystic River (2003)


And a few other favorites:  Suspicion (1941), Gaslight (1944), Spellbound (1945). Mysteries and film noir often tend to do exceedingly well in the artistic performance categories (acting, writing, and directing) despite not earning Best Picture nominations. Examples:  Laura (1944), Rear Window (1954), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Which are your favorites? I'm sure I missed a few.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

TCM to Launch New Noir-Themed Programming Franchise Noir Alley

Set your DVRs. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) will launch Noir-Themed Programming: Noir Alley. This new franchise will be hosted by Film Noir Foundation Founder & President Eddie Muller. Every Sunday at 10 a.m.

Eddie Muller, known to classic film fans as “The Czar of Noir,” will explore the genre from every angle as he introduces a different noir classic each week. Noir Alley will air Sundays at 10 a.m. (ET) starting March 5 with a screening of the movie widely credited as the first film noir, The Maltese Falcon (1941).

Film noir, with its gritty and dark style, was a favorite among 1940s and 1950s moviegoers and continues to be one of the most popular genres of classic film today. Noir Alley will showcase film noir's heavy hitters each week including the below March lineup:

March 5: The Maltese Falcon (1941), the unforgettable classic about "the stuff that dreams are made of," directed by first-time director John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet

March 12: Detour (1945), a remarkable and highly influential film directed on a shoestring budget by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage

March 19: Act of Violence (1948), a revenge tale about WWII veterans directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Van Heflin and Robert Ryan

March 26: Tension (1949), an engrossing thriller about a would-be wife killer directed by John Berry and starring Richard Basehart and Audrey Totter Noir Alley is designed to be an immersive, multiplatform experience for both seasoned noir fans and newcomers to the genre.


Barry Award Nominees

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announced the nominees for the 2017 Barry Awards. Congratulations to all!

Best Novel:
• Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)
• The Wrong Side of Goodbye, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
• The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton (Putnam)
• Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
• A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
• The Second Girl, by David Swinson (Mulholland)

Best First Novel:
• Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown)
• I’m Traveling Alone, by Samuel Bjork (Viking)
• IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)
• The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam)
• I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout Press)
• Presumed Missing, by Susie Steiner (Random House)

Best Paperback Original:
• Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry (Penguin)
• The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street)
• The Queen’s Accomplice, by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam)
• The Darkest Secret, by Alex Marwood (Penguin)
• Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)
• The Girl in the Window, by Jake Needham (Half Penny)

Best Thriller:
• Overwatch, by Matthew Betley (Atria)
• First Strike, by Ben Coes (Minotaur)
• Guilty Minds, by Joseph Finder (Dutton)
• Back Blast, by Mark Greaney (Berkley)
• The One Man, by Andrew Gross (Minotaur)
• Collecting the Dead, by Spencer Kope (Minotaur)

Winners will be announced Thursday, October 12, during Bouchercon, in Toronto.

Hat Tip: The Gumshoe Site

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Conspiracy Theory


Small Town Cops II: Mystery Readers Journal

Mystery Readers Journal: Small Town Cops II (Volume 32:4) is now available. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this great issue! If you're a PDF subscriber to Mystery Readers Journal for '16, you should have received download instructions. If you're a U.S. hardcopy subscriber, you will receive this issue by early next week. Foreign subscriber copies will be out in a week or two. Contributor PDF copies have been sent.Thanks to all the contributors to Small Town Cops--both I & II! We had so many great articles and reviews, we split this theme into two issues.

Small Town Cops I. Order here.

Small Town Cops II. Order here.


To subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal for '17, go HERE.

Below is the Table of Contents, as well as some sample articles of the new issue.

SMALL TOWN COPS II

Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • Small Town Lies by Ana Manwaring
  • Craig Johnson’s A Serpent’s Tooth and King Lear by Mimosa Stephenson
AUTHOR! AUTHOR!
  • Small-Town Cops—the Stereotype and the Reality by Judy Alter
  • How Hector Bellevance Came To Be by Don Bredes
  • Sheriff Jeff McQuede’s High Country of Wyoming by Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton
  • A Little Louisiana Loosey-Goosey by Ellen Byron
  • Paradise Found: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Me by Reed Farrel Coleman
  • Small Town Cop—Big Time Adventures by Mark de Castrique
  • Amazing Adventures in Research by Donis Casey
  • The Beauty of the Small Town Mystery by Evelyn David
  • The Joy of Writing the Small Town Cop by Vicki Delany
  • Small Town Cops, Big Time Issues by Lesley A. Diehl
  • Pago Pago Police by John Enright
  • So You Want to Write a Cop by Michael Genelin
  • Kids, Cops and Small-Town Policing by Neal Griffin
  • Meet Sergeant Gray—My Sexy Small Town Scottish Cop by S.J.I. Holliday
  • The Emerging Goddess Spoke with a Drawl by James Hime
  • Dave Everett, My Favorite Small Town Cop by Nancy Lynn Jarvis
  • A Steadfast Protector by Katherine Bolger Hyde
  • You Each Get One by S.W. Lauden
  • The Evolution of a Character by J. R. Lindermuth
  • Small Town Crimes; Small Town Cops by D.P. Lyle
  • The Top Cop of Quiet Anchorage, Virginia by Ed Lynskey
  • The Small Town Illusion by Susan McBride
  • Crime Comes To Crowby by Iain McDowall
  • Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series by F.M. Meredith
  • Boredom with an Adrenaline Jolt by Mar Preston
  • Small Town Cops by David Putnam
  • Patrolling Nantucket, Thirty Miles at Sea by Martha Reed
  • A One-Stoplight Town by Larry D. Sweazy
  • DI Marjory Fleming by Aline Templeton
COLUMNS
  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Lesa Holstine, Dru Ann Love, L.J. Roberts
  • Just the Facts: Frank Hamer—The Law in Navasota by Jim Doherty
  • The Children’s Hour: Small Town Cops by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • In Short: Small Town Law Officers by Marv Lachman
  • Real Small-Town Cops by Cathy Pickens
  • Crime Seen: Small World, Small Towns by Kate Derie
  • Top Ten Continued by Jim Doherty
  • From the Editor by Janet Rudolph

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Doorknob Principle


Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Mystery/Thriller Finalists

The finalists were announced yesterday for the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. There are 11 categories, but the one of most import to the readers of this blog is Best Mystery/Thriller.

Best Mystery/Thriller

Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown)
His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse)
The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House)
The North Water by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt)
Darktown by Thomas Mullen (37 Ink/Atria Books)

The awards will be presented at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium on Friday, April 21. That event is the kick-off to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the USC campus April 22 to 23.

The other categories and nominees

HT: J. Kingston Pierce at TheRapSheet

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Jail Card


Is Short the New Long? guest post by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Author Libby Fischer Hellmann, a transplant from Washington DC, moved to Chicago over 35 years ago, where she naturally began writing gritty crime novels. Her 14th book, WAR, SPIES, AND BOBBY SOX, a collection of stories about World War Two on the homefront, will be released March 1, 2017. She has been nominated for a lot of awards in the crime writing community and has even won a few.

Libby Fischer Hellmann
Is Short the New Long?

I’ve never been one to follow trends. When I try, I always seem to catch them just when they’re on their way out. That goes for my writing too. Today’s bulky 400-500 page thrillers are popular, and I envy authors who can write long. I’m not one of them. Here’s my idea of a story:


Well, okay. It’s not that bad. I love creating stories in my head. Figuring out who does what and why. Dreaming up brave protagonists and evil-but- sympathetic villains. That’s the fun part. It’s the writing part that intimidates me. I’ve always felt insecure about the level of my craft, and writing is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So I stop when I think I’ve told the story.

The same goes for subject matter and setting. Over the years an enormous body of fiction has been written about World War Two, and I love reading it. In fact, when I recall novels like Nightingale, All The Light We Cannot See, The Book Thief, Sarah’s Key, the Bernie Gunther and Alan Furst crime novels, Unbroken, and The Winds of War, I am gob-smacked by their beauty and power. What could I possibly add?

Still, part of me yearns to write something about that time period, mostly because World War Two was the last era in which there was such clarity between good and evil…such opportunities to create complex, conflicted characters, or explore the timeless themes of heroism, cowardice, and sacrifice.

Another World War Two junkie, herself a prolific reader, encouraged me to try. The very first short story I ever wrote was set in the late ‘30s in Chicago’s Lawndale as the country geared up to fight Hitler. But she nudged me to write more, to go farther. I knew I didn’t have the wherewithal to write about battlegrounds of Europe, Nazis, or the Resistance, but she planted a seed and eventually a story came to me. What if (the two most powerful words for a storyteller, btw) a German refugee was forced to spy on the early years of the Manhattan Project in Chicago? I had been studying espionage techniques for another story, and this was the perfect opportunity to try them out on paper.

But I couldn’t commit to a novel. It was too scary. So I wrote a novella, The Incidental Spy, which begins in 1935 and ends in 1942. It turned out rather well, I thought, so I started to think about a companion novella. I had visited Bletchley Park in the UK and planned to write a novella about spies and espionage across the pond, but it didn’t go well – I just couldn’t make it compelling.

Then, as fate would have it, I was in exercise class when someone started talking about the German POW camp that lay just a mile down the road.

The what? Where?

My ears perked up, and something in my brain clicked. Suddenly I had that feeling that comes to a writer when they know what story they’re going to write next. I started doing research and found that nearly half a million German and Italian POWs were incarcerated in the US between 1943 and 1945. Half a million! That’s all I needed. The companion story to Spy, POW, basically wrote itself. Again, POW was a novella—I told the story in about thirty thousand words. Then I packaged the two novellas together, added the short story I mentioned, and the result is this:

Why novellas instead of a novel? Writing shorter takes enormous pressure off me. Given my insecurities about the era and writing in general, it’s comforting to know I don’t have to sustain a story over seventy thousand words. I can, as Elmore Leonard advised, “leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” I can strip the story down to its essential elements of plot, character, dialogue, and narrative and make sure they work. Plus, I don’t need to do as much research for a shorter story.

In fact, I’m growing fonder of the novella format every day. As a reader, what do you think? Are two novellas as satisfying as one novel?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Punctuation


From Frozen Turkeys to Polonium-210: Ways to Kill - Guest Post by Gary Alexander

Gary Alexander has written 17 novels. Disappeared, the first in the Buster Hightower mystery series, has been optioned to Universal Studios! He's also written 150+ short stories and sold travel articles to 6 major dailies. One story appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 201, another in Ice Cold, the 2014 Mystery Writers of America anthology. His latest novel is Damn Near Broke. Gary Alexander is a nonsmoking, non-drinking vegetarian. He does, however, abuse caffeine and chocolate.

Gary Alexander:
FROM FROZEN TURKEYS TO POLONIUM-210

As mystery writers, it is our sacred duty to keep up with technology, and even stay a step ahead, by finding different ways to rip off or bump off a different sort of victim by a different breed of criminal.

We all know how to use a frozen turkey as a deadly weapon, then cook the evidence, savoring it with cornbread stuffing and a nice chardonnay while waiting for the police. Very old school.

Shenanigans in locked rooms and .38 Specials fired in dark alleys too.

Leave it to spies and peevish dictators to move the state-of-the-art forward. In 2000, a KGB officer sought and received political asylum in the West. Six years later, he fell ill and succumbed to polonium-210-induced radiation. One of the two guys suspected of the crime was found dead a few years after that, another story in itself.

We really shouldn’t compel our characters to keep polonium-210 around the house. There are many other high-tech ways to go.

Medium-tech too, employing Craigslist and eBay. Some fool puts a flawless 6-carat solitaire up for sale and gets taken off in his own driveway. We’ve seen that in the news, but how about turning it around, using eBay as bait? Prospective buyers are lured to a John Doe rental where they're rolled and/or killed. If the latter, they’re transported to a remote burial spot aided by GPS.

Semi-high-tech: Cell phones and tablets, the scourge of responsible drivers, can cause the users woes. A call or text sufficiently distracts the driver, where he becomes the victim of an “accident”. Or a call or text from an ex- or prospective-lover leads him to a deserted road, where he’s clipped with the aforementioned .38 Special. Delightful possibilities abound.

More high tech: A hacker may byte off more than he can chew by cleaning out a wise guy’s offshore bank account. To the mobster, “hacking” means removal of body parts. If the high-tech hacker is careless, low-tech retribution is sure to come.

Very high tech, which perhaps sticks a toe into sci-fi. Vegas is always a fun venue for mystery fiction; there’s no shortage of money and sleaze. Let’s say a nerd invents card-counting software that fits in eyeglass frames and projects onto the lenses. Or a magnetic gizmo carried in a pocket that can move a roulette wheel a fraction of a degree off its axis. The scofflaws need not move a muscle. Until they’re unable to, squirming in restraints, en route to enjoy a desert sunset.

Gold is irresistible to all. It’s not commonly known that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds more gold than Fort Knox. Would criminal access to it be easier? Tungsten, with a specific gravity of 19.3, weighs exactly as much as gold. With the right plan and technology, is it more feasible to gold-plate tungsten ingots and do a switcheroo than steal the gold per se?

We can’t close without a word on generic bank robbery. The conventional Willie Sutton Method is flat-out stupid. A bandit faces cameras, silent alarms, dye-packs, and when (not if) he’s caught, a Federal rap.

If bank loot is irresistible to your character, consider a new branch bank under construction. Have him monitor it from groundbreaking to grand opening. Somewhere in that time frame, money is going to be moved there.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Book Signing


Presidential Mysteries: Presidents Day

Tomorrow is Presidents Day. I usually post my Presidential Crime Fiction list with "Hail to the Chief!"... can't do that this year, but I don't want to slight some of the wonderful presidents this country has had. The following list featuring the U.S. President in mysteries, thrillers, and crime fiction is so relevant right now. The list is divided into categories, but I added more titles at the end under 'other' and a separate list of Abraham Lincoln Mysteries. Of course, there are many overlaps, so scroll through them all. This is not a definitive list, and I welcome any additions. Post your favorites in the comments section.

Political Election and Thrillers
Rubicon by Lawrence Alexander
Saving Faith by David Baldacci
Political Suicide and Touched by the Dead by Robert Barnard
Capitol Conspiracy by William Bernhardt
Collateral Damage by Michael Bowen
Three Shirt Deal by Stephen J. Cannell
Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
Impaired Judgement by David Compton
Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
Term Limits by Vince Flynn
The Scandal Plan by Bill Folman
The Power Broker by Stephen W. Frey
Spook Country by William Gibson
Fast Track, Sleeping Dogs by Ed Gorman
The Fourth Perimeter by Tim Green
The People's Choice by Jeff Greenfield
Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
The Second Revolution by Gary Hansen
The President's Daughter and The White House Connection by Jack Higgins
The Enemy Within  by Noel Hynd
First Daughter by Eric Lustbader
Executive Privilege by Philip Margolin
Presidents' Day by Seth Margolis
The Race, Protect and Defend, Balance of Power by Richard North Patterson
Politics Noir: Gary Phillips, Editor
Missing Member by Jo-Ann Power
Dark Horse by Ralph Reed
Dead Heat, The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg
Dead Watch by John Sandford
State of the Union by Brad Thor
Capital Crimes by Stuart Woods

Assassination Attempts
American Quartet by Warren AdlerSherlock Holmes in Dallas by Edmund Aubrey
Primary Target by Max Allan Collins
Campaign Train (Murder Rides the Campaign Train) by The Gordons
Glass Tiger by Joe Gores
The President's Assassin by Brian Haig
Potus by Greg Holden
Marine One by James W. Huston
Murder at Monticello by Jane Langton
The Surrogate Assassin by Christopher Leppek
Gideon's March by J.J. Marric
The Kidnapping of the President by Charles Templeton
Pursuit by James Stewart Thayer
Primary Target by Marilyn Wallace
Watchdogs by John Weisman

Kidnappings
We are Holding the President Hostage by Warren Adler
The Camel Club, First Family by David Baldacci
Line of Succession by Brian Garfield
Madam President by Anne Holt
Oath of Office by Steven J. Kirsch
Presidential Deal by Les Standiford
The Kidnapping of the President by Charles Templeton

Presidential Disappearances
Missing! by Michael Avallone
Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal
The President's Plan is Missing by Robert J. Serling
The President Vanishes by Rex Stout

Fixing the Election
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
The 13th Directorate by Barry Chubin
Atropos by William DeAndrea
The Red President by Martin Gross
The Ceiling of Hell by Warren Murphy
The Trojan Hearse by Richard S. Prather
 President Fu Manch by Sax Rohmer
The Big Fix by Roger L. Simon

Presidential Crisis
Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
Vanished by Fletcher Knebel
A Fine and Dangerous Season by Keith Raffel

The President as Detective
Speak Softly by Lawrence Alexander
Lincoln for the Defense by Warren Bull
Mr President, Private Eye, edited by Martin Greenberg & Francis M. Nevins
Bully by Mark Schorr 

The JFK Plot
Too many to list, but...
Mongoose, RIP by William F. Buckley
Executive Action by Mark Lane, Donald Freed and Stephen Jaffe
The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry

Presidential Families
Deadly Aims by Ron L. Gerard
The President's Daughter by Jack Higgins
The Devil's Bed by William Kent Krueger
The First Lady Murders, edited by Nancy Pickard
Murder and the First Lady (and other novels) By Elliot Roosevelt
Murder in the White House (and other novels) by Margaret Truman
They've Shot the President's Daughter by Edward Stewart

Other
The President's Mind, The 20th Day of January by Ted Allbeury
The Kennedy Connection by Dick Belsky
Enslaved by Ron Burns
The Plan by Stephen J. Cannell
Killing Time by Caleb Carr
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter
Ex Officio by Timothy Culver (Donald Westlake)
The President's Vampire, Blood Bath by Christopher Farnsworth
FDR's Treasure, Lincoln's Hand by Joel Fox
The President's Henchman, The Next President by Joseph Flynn
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
Julie Hyzy's White House Chef series
Spin Doctor by M.C. Lewis
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer
The First Patient by Michael Palmer
Treason at Hanford by Scott Parker
Keeping House by Tucker and Richard Phillips
Acts of Mercy by Bill Pronzini and Barry Malzberg
The President's Daugher by Mariah Stewart
Put a Lid on It by Donald Westlake
President Lincoln's Spy by Steven Wilson

An Anthology
Mr President, Private Eye, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Different historical presidents in the role of sleuth

Abraham Lincoln Mysteries
Abraham Lincoln: Detective by Allen Appel
A Night of Horrors: A Historical Thriller about the 24 Hours of Lincoln's Assassination by John C. Berry
The Impeachment of Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter
Lincoln's Hand by Joel Fox
The Lincoln Letter by Gretchen Elassani and Phillip Grizzell
Lincoln's Diary by DL Fowler
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
The Assassin's Accomplice by Kate Clifford Larson
The Lincoln Letter by William Martin
The Lincoln Secret by John A. McKinsey
The First Assassin by John J. Miller
The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien
The Murder of Willie Lincoln by Burt Solomon
The Cosgrove Report: Being the Private Inquiry of a Pinkerton Detective into the Death of President Lincoln by G.J.A. O'Toole
President Lincoln's Secret, President Lincoln's Spy by Steven Wilson

Börge Hellström: R.I.P.

Ali Karim posted the sad news that Swedish Thriller writer Borge Hellstrom passed away at the age of 59. Here's a link to the Swedish obit. You can Google the translation.

Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström collaborated as Roslund Hellstrom on several novels. Roslund is a professional journalist and creator of Sweden's number one cultural TV program Kulterkanna. Börge Hellström is an ex-criminal who founded a criminal rehabilitation program in Sweden. Together they wrote The Beast, Box 21, Two Soldiers, Three Seconds, Cell 8, and The Vault.

Read Ali Karim's 2010 Interview at The Rap Sheet here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

International Cat Day: Cat Workday

Today is International Cat Day! The Cat Workday



Deborah Crombie Literary Salon: February 23

Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening Literary Salon with Deborah Crombie!

When: Thursday, February 23, 7 p.m.
Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA).
This is a free event, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend. 
Buy Deborah Crombie's latest mystery Garden of Lamentations before the event, if you'd like to have it signed. It's a terrific read!

RSVP required. Address of venue to be sent with acceptance.
RSVP: janet @ mysteryreaders.org
Subject line: Deborah Crombie Lit Salon

Deborah Crombie is the bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series set in England. Her Kincaid and James novels have received Edgar, Agatha, and Macavity Award nominations. She travels to England several times a year and has been a featured speaker at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. Crombie lives in a small North Texas town, sharing a turn-of-the-century house with her husband, three cats, and a German shepherd dog.Garden of Lamentations is the 17th in the series!

Can't make this event?
Deborah Crombie is on tour, so check out your local bookstore for times and locations. Crombie will have 3 other Bay Area appearances.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Cat Line-Up


Where Do Plots Come From? Guest Post by Seth Margolis

Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment. PRESIDENT’S DAY (Diversion Trade Paperback Original, 2017) is a political thriller that watches the presidential race, and the various men all clawing to get to the top.

SETH MARGOLIS
Where Do Plots Come From?

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

It’s the most frequent question I get asked (right up there with “Who’s your agent?”). I think people are especially curious about my inspiration because I write vastly different types of novels – mysteries, mainstream drama, psychological suspense, satire. Frankly, I have a hard time answering, because the ideas for my books tend to come into focus very gradually, over long periods of time.

My first book, False Faces, was a mystery. The plot came to me – in fact, the idea of writing a mystery came to me – because of a specific place: Fire Island, New York, a summer resort off the south shore of Long Island whose most distinguishing feature is the absence of automobiles. I thought: what an interesting location for a crime, this open, trusting community of walkways and sand dunes and stressed-out New Yorkers trying to unwind by the beach. I knew I wanted to set a mystery on Fire Island, but it was at least a year before the plot and characters were fully formed in my mind and I was ready to bring them to life on the page.

My most recent book, Presidents’ Day, is a political thriller, a genre I’ve never tackled before. It’s about a New York billionaire who, having acquired scores of companies over his storied career, sets his sights on the ultimate prize: the White House. Given recent political developments, the question of how (and when) I came up with this idea arises frequently. And I feel a stronger-than-usual sense of urgency to provide an answer to prove that I thought of the plot for Presidents’ Day long before you-know-who announced his improbably successful run for the White House. 

Here’s the truth: the idea for Presidents’ Day came to me over thirty years ago. Ronald Reagan, another improbably successful candidate with roots in the entertainment business, had just been elected president. In describing the cabinet he was planning to put together, he declared that the people he’d appoint would be so successful in fields outside of politics, particularly in business, that serving in his cabinet would be a step down for them. Serving in the White House cabinet a step down? Clearly we were entering a new world in which government was seen as a lesser calling than private enterprise. Or as the protagonist of Presidents’ Day asserts, “New York is the center of power in this country. Washington is a branch office.”

I couldn’t get this idea out of my mind, that our government was answerable to the money men, not the other way around. I just didn’t know what to do with it. So I filed it away mentally, got on with my life, and wrote a bunch of novels that had nothing to do with politics. Then, several years ago, the “Washington-as-branch-office” file tumbled out of my unconscious and demanded attention. I soon knew what I would do with it: I would write a thriller that put to the test the idea that a successful businessman with unlimited resources could essentially purchase the presidency.

The contours of the plot, and the personalities and motivations of the characters, gradually began to come into focus. I decided that my billionaire wouldn’t actually run for office – why would a financial titan want to head-up a brand office? He would acquire the White House, not occupy it. And I made his motivation personal rather than political: he had an old score to settle, one that required nothing less than the resources of the Commander in Chief. I also knew that he needed an antagonist, with an old score of his own to settle. Thus was born the central conflict at the heart of Presidents’ Day: one man’s need for revenge, via the White House, and another’s need to stop him.

Now that reality appears to have “trumped” fiction, I’m often asked if current events inspired Presidents’ Day. My answer is always the same: the idea came to me over three decades ago, and I finally put pen to paper about a year before the last election cycle. Besides, I often add, I only wish I could write fast enough do dash off a novel this timely.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Book Group


DNA Doesn't Lie: Guest post by Martha Reed

MARTHA REED is the author of the award-winning John and Sarah Jarad Nantucket Mystery series. Book one, The Choking Game, was a 2015 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion nominee for Best Traditional Mystery. The Nature of the Grave, book two, won an Independent Publisher (IPPY) Honorable Mention for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction. Book three, No Rest for the Wicked was released by Buccaneer/KMA Pittsburgh in February, 2017. Martha recently completed a four-year term as the National Chapter Liaison for Sisters in Crime, Inc. You can follow her online at reedmenow.com or on Twitter@ReedMartha. 

MARTHA REED: 
DNA DOESN’T LIE 

Two pivotal things happened when I was in high school in 1974: 1) a girl from my neighborhood vanished on her way home from the community swimming pool, and 2) I read Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case by George Waller.

Both events planted themselves deeply in my fevered teenaged brain. Even then, before I knew I was a crime fiction writer, I knew that someday I’d come back and re-explore these two events.

When I finally sat down years later to start writing crime fiction, the very first thing that popped into my mind was: What would happen if you said see you later to someone, they vanished, and you never saw them again?

This question was the genesis of my Nantucket Mystery, The Nature of the Grave. In this story, Detective John Jarad reopens the twenty-year-old cold case involving his little brother, Danny, who goes missing one day while out riding his bike.

I took the vanishing idea one step further with my third Nantucket Mystery, No Rest for the Wicked by synthesizing the horror of a child abduction and the Lindbergh kidnapping into a modern day ordeal. Because authors must torture their characters, I made it even more difficult for John to solve the fictional Baby Alice kidnapping by placing the cold case ninety years in the past, so that he has to deal with natural attrition, family myth, fading human memory, deliberate misdirection, and outright lies.

The link between all of these things is DNA analysis. I’m fascinated by the continuing development of this modern forensic tool, which wasn’t even available back in 1974, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. For almost thirty years, as I’ve lived my life and traveled the country, I kept my ear open to any news about that missing girl. In April 2001, a local detective reopened the case. Using new investigative methods, including DNA technology, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Squad tracked the killer down and charged him with first-degree felony murder. Case closed.

In No Rest for the Wicked, DNA is the key to deciphering a genetic family puzzle. When state archaeologists lift the lid on a suspicious steamer trunk buried in Nantucket’s landfill, the contents reactive intense interest in the island’s most notorious cold case crime, the Baby Alice Spenser kidnapping in 1921. As John pursues the Baby Alice investigation, myriad family scandals emerge from the Spenser family’s privileged and gilded past. Events flare white-hot when a copycat criminal snatches a second child. John races against the clock to unmask the kidnapper and expose these modern day threats.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Guard Dog


The Poisoned Chocolates Case: Happy Valentine's Day!

Chocolates are perfect for Valentine's Day. I have several recipes for Chocolate Truffles on DyingforChocolate.com including Chocolate Cherry Truffles.

Celebrate Valentine's Day with one of my favorite chocolate mysteries: The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley. Don't put poison in your bon bons!





 


Monday, February 13, 2017

Sweetheart Sleuths for Valentine's Day!

A List of Sweetheart Sleuths for Valentine's Day! This list was originally compiled by Ruth Greiner in 2010, and I've added several more 'couples.' I'm sure you have more. Make a comment, and I'll update the list. In the meantime, here's some great reading for Valentine's Day!

SWEETHEART SLEUTHS 

Alexander, Tasha: Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves
Allen, Conrad: Genevieve Masefield and George Dillman Porter
Allingham, Margery: Albert Campion and Amanda Fitton
Arnold, Margot: Tobias Glendower and Penelope Spring
Bell, Albert: Michael Harrington and Corie Foster
Billheimer, John: Owen Allison and ex-wife Judith
Borthwick, J. S.: Sarah Dean and Alex McKenzie
Bowen, Michael: Rep and Melissa Pennyworth
Bowen, Rhys: Molly Murphy and Daniel Sullivan
Burke, Jan: Irene Kelly and Frank Harriman
Carlson, P. M.: Maggie and Nick Ryan
Chappell, Helen: Holly and Sam Westcott
Charles, Kate: Lucy Kingsley and David Middleton-Brown
Christie, Agatha: Tommy and Tuppence Beresford
Cockey, Tim: Hitchcock Sewell and ex-wife Julia Finney
Craig, Alisa Dittany Henbit and Osbert Monk, Madoc and Jane Rhys
Crombie, Deborah: Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James
Curzon, Claire: Mike Yeadings and Rosemary Zyczynski
Davis, Krista: Sophie Winston, domestic diva, and Detective Wolf
Evanovich, Janet: Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli—or Ranger—or Diesel—or not
Finch, Charles: Charles Lennox and Lady Jane Grey
George, Elizabeth: Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers
Gordon, Alan: Jester Feste and wife Viola, late of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”
Greenwood, Kerry: Corinna Chapman and Daniel Cohen
Granger, Ann: Alan Markby and Meredith Mitchell
Haddam, Jane: Gregor Demarkian and Bennis Hannaford (this one’s a stretch)
Ham, Lorie: Alexandra Waters and Stephen Carlucci
Hammett, Dashiell: Nick and Nora Charles
Handler, David: Mitch Berger and state policewoman Desiree Mitry
Harrington, Jonathan: C. J. and Bridge
Hart, Carolyn: Max and Annie Darling
Iakovou, Takis: and Judy Nick and Julia Lambro
Kellerman, Faye: Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus
Kelly, Susan B.: Alison Hope and Nick Trevelyan
Kelner, Toni L. P.: Laurie Ann and Richard Fleming
Kenney, Susan: Roz Howard and Alan Stewart
King, Laurie R.: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Levinson, R. S.: Neil Gulliver and Stevie Marriner
Lindquist, N. J.: Paul Manziuk and Jacqueline Ryan
Lockridge, Frances and Richard: Pam and Jerry North
Lupoff, Richard: Hobart Lindsay and Marvia Plum
MacLeod, Charlotte: Max and Sarah Kelling Bittersohn, Peter and Helen Shandy
McBride, Susan: Maggie Ryan and John Phillips
McCafferty, Barbara Taylor & Herald, Beverly: Bert & Nan Tatum
McDermid, Val: Tony Hill and Carol Jordan
McGown, Jill: Chief Inspector Danny Lloyd, Inspector Judy Hill
Maron, Margaret: Deborah Knott and Dwight Bryant
Marsh, Ngaio: Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy
Matthews, Alex: Cassidy McCabe, Zack
Maxwell, A. & E.: Fiora and Fiddler
Moyes, Patricia: Emmie and Henry Tibbetts
Newman, Sharan: Catherine Levendeur and husband Edgar
Paige, Robin: Charles and Kate Sheridan
Palmer, Stuart: Hildegarde Withers and Inspector Piper
Pears, Iain: Flavia Di Stefano and Jonathan Argyle
Perry, Anne: Thomas and Charlotte Pitt
Peters, Elizabeth: Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson, Ramses and Nefret,Vicky Bliss and John Smith
Pickard, Nancy: Jenny Cain and Geoffrey Bushfield
Pomidor, Bill: Drs. Calista and Plato Marley
Raybourn,  Deanna: Nichloas Brisbane and Lady Julia Grey
Robb, J.D.: Eve Dallas and Roark
Rozan, S. J.: Bill Smith and Lydia Chin
Rubino, Jane: Cat Austen and Victor Cardenas
Sale, Medora: John Sanders and Harriet Jeffries
Saulnier, Beth: Alex Bernier and Brian Cody
Sayers, Dorothy L.: Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane
Schumacher, Aileen: Tory Peters and David Alvarez
Smith, Charles Merrill: Reverend Con Randollph and Samantha Stack
Spencer-Fleming, Julia: Claire Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne
Thompson, Victoria: Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Molloy
Whitney, Polly: Ike and Abby
Wilhelm, Kate: Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Leidl
Wright, L. R.: Karl Alberg, RCMP, and Cassandra Mitchell

Cartoon of the Day: Young Love in Transylvania

Happy Valentine's Day!


Give me land, lots of land... Guest Post by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 21 crime and spy thrillers, a YA ghost novel and Write On! - a writers’ help book. His latest books are The Bid (Midnight Ink – Jan 2017), second in a new thriller series, and Dark Asset (Severn House – February 2017), the fourth in the Marc Portman spy series. A reviewer for Shots Magazine, he writes the ‘Beginners’ and ‘New Author’ pages for Writing Magazine (UK)


Adrian Magson:
Give me land, lots of land

One of the problems facing a novelist can, in certain situations, be one of space. I don’t mean the outer kind, where the first thing you might bump into is an asteroid or a random piece of space junk from an abandoned satellite – or even, I guess, a functioning satellite. I mean the earth-bound space required to suit the topic of a storyline. Let me explain. I write crime and spy thrillers. Not much of a problem there, as spies, criminals and cops are everywhere, so the space they inhabit is generally, but not always confined (excuse the pun), to cities, towns or villages, and other centres of population.

I set many of my stories in the UK, but have ventured to the US, Russia, Ukraine, mainland Europe and, with the Inspector Lucas Rocco series, northern France. In most cases, space was not a problem, although there were large open tracts of land featured in some of the spy novels (specifically Ukraine and Russia). But the storylines there were different, so space itself wasn’t an issue.

For my latest novel, however, a mystery called The Bid, I had a requirement that took me away from my characters’ usual theatre of operations. It was strictly physical: I needed a sense of open territory, even isolation, because the story involves a man being kept prisoner in a small room, and scenes where UAVs (small drones or quadcopters) are being used in the planning and rehearsal for a terrorist strike on a military base in what I imagined would be the area known as the Midwest. The term itself – Midwest – brought to my mind the idea of SPACE. Lots of it. Enormous amounts, in fact, especially in the mind of a British writer where the next house or farm is usually within line of sight, roads cover the land like a spider’s web and the next village or town is fairly close by. Flying drones in such an area brings a few problems not encountered, say, in vastly open countryside such as… well, you’ve got it, the Midwest. Here in the UK, people will spot what you’re doing, and if you’re practising dropping things from a drone, or spraying stuff, you will get noticed.

So, the Midwest. Compared to the Forest of Dean, the area where I live, it gave me this instant feeling, this sense, of the great wide openness, where, although the buffalo might not roam so much as they used to, you’re not likely to bump into anyone every five minutes. And if you’re of a criminal or terrorist turn of mind, such isolation is something you’d value highly, so you can carry out your activities without being overlooked.

Now, I have a feeling this is going to cause an argument, but I settled on Oklahoma as the main area where the story fetches up. I have never been to Oklahoma, but taking an outsider’s view via Google Earth and my bound Illustrated Atlas of the World, I figured it has space a-plenty.

But is it actually in the Midwest? Not that it matters, because the term ‘Midwest’ doesn’t actually appear in my book. It was just an idea in the mind of a British writer building a storyline. In any case, I still have no idea, even after consulting various Americans who, on one hand claim it is ‘southern’, and on the other, claim it to be firmly and irrevocably ‘Midwestern’.

I have to say, though, Oklahoma fitted perfectly. The more I researched it, the better and more interesting it became – but only compared to anywhere in the UK. I know I could have settled on Nebraska, Kansas, either of the Dakotas, Texas, Iowa or many other states for sheer openness, and they would each have been suitable in their own way. But I had to make a decision, and in the end, Oklahoma got it; first because while researching the book I happened on lots of abandoned airfields there (and the history behind some of these is fascinating; you should take a look at Paul Freeman’s website ‘Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields’ - http://www.airfields-freeman.com/ for some examples). They suited the story for practising the attack, as did Altus Air Force base as the location for the explosive denouement.

This sense of not being hemmed in was also refreshing, because for a lot of the book I didn’t have to consider descriptions of city streets or freeways, office buildings, shopping malls, crowded sidewalks, traffic or any of the usual settings I have to write about. It was just land. Lots of it stretching away into the distance.

In fact it was a little like going on a vacation. Courtesy of Google Earth and my atlas. And my imagination, of course.

I think my next book might take me to Paris. Sorry, but I don’t want to get samey. It’s nice to ring the changes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Westminster Dog Show, Valentine's Day, & Cupid's Canine Cookies

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, now in its 141st year, starts this weekend with Masters Agility Championship and AKC Meet the Breeds. Then on Monday and Tuesday comes the 'real' show which will also be streaming (some on TV, too). In honor of the Dog Show and Valentine's Day, and keeping in mind how important dogs can be to mysteries and in our lives, I am posting a recipe for Valentine's Day Dog Treats that you can make for your 'special' friend.

Just an FYI, I watch the Westminster Dog show on TV, and so does Topper. It's so funny! He doesn't care much for other TV shows, but this one always has him mesmerized. Perhaps memories of his early days as a show dog before I adopted him? Rosie, however, having been a street dog is not amused.

The illustration above is from Tyler Hmphreys at TylersWorkshop (posted with permission). Here's a link to the etsy site where you can buy this card or order lots of other cards, pictures and sculptures. I love this Valentine's Day Card because it reminds me of Topper and Belle au Bois Dormant.

And, to keep this post to a mystery theme, here's a link to the Mystery Readers Journal Animals in Mysteries issue. Available as a PDF or hardcopy. Here's a link to an article by Spencer Quinn, author of the Chet the Dog series.

Valentine's Day is all about chocolate. If you want Chocolate People treats, here's a link to Walker's Shortbread Scottie Dogs with Muddy Boots. This is a HUMANS ONLY RECIPE. Be sure and keep the chocolate away from Fido. I posted an article at Halloween about Dogs, Chocolate and Halloween Treats: A Dangerous Combination, and the same warnings are in effect for Valentine's Day.

Finally a Valentine's Day Dog Treat Recipe for your four footed faithful friend. 

Cupid’s Canine Cookies 
From the Home Alone Website, recipe by Ariel Waters (my comments are in italics)
Warning: Don't overfeed

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 to 35 minutes
Yield: 2 pounds of heart-shaped dog treats

Ingredients
5 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup beef broth  (choose one with no or low salt or make your own)
1/2 cup corn oil
2 eggs
+ heart-shaped cookie cutter  (of course I've got plenty of these)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet using 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Combine remaining ingredients and mix well.
With clean hands, roll dough out to 1/4 to 1/2-inch thickness and use heart-shaped cookie cutter in honor of the holiday. If you have a larger dog (or a piggy dog like Topper) use a larger heart-shaped cookie cutter, Perforate the cookies with a fork down the middle to break apart easily after baking. Instead of a cookie cutter, you can always roll the dough into 1/2 to 2-inch balls and place them one inch apart on the greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 25 - 35 minutes until they turn golden brown. Baking times will vary based on size of treats,  altitude, and your oven.
Cool cookies on wire racks, as far away from your dog as possible.

After treating your dog, store the rest in the refrigerator or freeze until the next visit from Cupid.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Rosie and Topper
Stephen Huneck, Dog Mountain

Cartoon of the Day: Valentine's Day Dog Trial