Monday, August 13, 2018

You CAN Go Back in Time: Guest Post by David Handler

You CAN Go Back in Time

Trust me, this wasn’t part of my plan.

When I retired my Edgar Award-winning Stewart Hoag mystery series back in 1997 it never, ever occurred to me that after a brief hiatus of twenty years I would actually return to writing once again about my witty, dapper celebrity ghostwriter and his faithful, neurotic basset hound Lulu.

After all, I’d moved on. The world certainly moved on. The advent of our modern Internet age, complete with smart phones, twenty-four-hour-a-day tweets, viral videos -- not to mention the blood sport competition among competing cable news channels -- had convinced me that the era of celebrity secrets was over and out. And so was Hoagy. There are no celebrity secrets anymore, certainly not the big, fat juicy ones that would make readers keenly interested in a star’s memoir and in the failed novelist whose second career was penning those memoirs.

And yet here we are again.

Hoagy and Lulu returned last year in The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes and on August 14 will be back in another new mystery, The Man Who Couldn’t Miss. Meanwhile, as I sit here, I’m busy working away on their next adventure.

How did this happen? It was, in the immortal words of Ozzie Nelson, one of those funny little surprises that make life so interesting. Dan Mallory, the executive editor of William Morrow, was having lunch one day with my literary agent, Dominick Abel, and happened to mention that the Hoagy series had long been one of his family’s favorites. In fact, Dan’s mom had introduced Dan to his first Hoagy novel, The Boy Who Never Grew Up, when he was 14, he later told me. Which did not make me feel old. No, not in the least. Dan asked Dominick if I’d ever considered reviving the series. Dominick gave him my standard response, which was that Hoagy and Lulu belonged to a bygone era. There was no place for them in today’s digital world.

End of story, right? Not so fast. Dan, who I discovered is not to be denied, threw a wicked curve ball at me: Reboot the Hoagy series as period novels that take place back when I was originally writing them. Back in, say, 1992, when I used to tap away on a Mac LC that was connected to a printer but not to my phone line. Why would it be? I had no dial-up connection to anything or anyone. America Online was still in its infancy. E-mail was not yet a part of anyone’s life. Neither were cell phones. The Internet, Google, Facebook, Twitter? All were way off in the future.

I was instantly hooked by the idea. Couldn’t resist the opportunity. And I can’t begin to tell you how much fun I’ve had writing Hoagy and Lulu again. Especially Lulu. I really, really missed her.

I’m continually asked if it was hard to find Hoagy’s signature, wisecracking voice again after so many years away from him. Actually, it was no problem at all. I just sat down and started writing him. That’s because Hoagy’s voice is my voice. He is me. There was no groping around in the dark to find him. He was right there. Same Hoagy. Same me.

Actually, I should rephrase that. Same Hoagy. Not the same me. My very first Hoagy novel, The Man Who Died Laughing, was published exactly 30 years ago way back in 1988. Which does not make me feel old. No, not in the least. I distantly recall deciding that I would make Hoagy approximately my age. I also decided that as the series moved ahead I would obliquely reflect the passage of real time. Over the span of the original eight books Hoagy goes from being someone who is starting to notice that 30 is receding in his rear view mirror to someone who sees 40 getting closer and closer in his headlights. In The Man Who Couldn’t Miss he’s still staring at 40. Still wondering whether he’ll ever rediscover the elusive writing talent that prompted The New York Sunday Times Book Review to label him “the first major new literary voice of the 1980s.” Yet as I worked away on this book I became aware of a reality that should have been incredibly obvious to me from the get-go but wasn’t.

Hoagy’s the same age but I’m not. I’m 20 years older. That’s 20 years of wisdom and bewilderment, heavy on the bewilderment. Twenty years of success and failure. Twenty years of joy and agony. Twenty years of friends and loved ones lost. I’ve published 15 books during those 20 years, including 11 in my Berger-Mitry series. It never occurred to me that any of this would make Hoagy’s voice sound different.

And yet it has. When Dan finished reading The Man Who Couldn’t Miss, he wrote me at great length to tell me how much the relationship between Hoagy and his beloved ex-wife, movie star Merilee Nash, has grown. Dan even tossed around words like “poignancy” and “maturity.”

Seriously, he really used the word “maturity.” In connection with me. Could it be possible that these Hoagy 2.0 novels have more going for them than the originals did? More depth? More emotional weight? Based on the responses I’ve gotten from loyal longtime fans I believe the answer is that they do, which I must confess comes as a complete surprise to me. Another one of those funny little surprises that make life so interesting. The new books are still funny. Or at least I think they’re still funny. Hoagy is still Hoagy. Lulu is still Lulu. And I’m still the same smart aleck who was always getting sent to the principal’s office for being “a disruptive influence” and constantly “sassing” the teacher. I haven’t changed a bit. Really, I haven’t.

I’m just a teeny, tiny bit older, that’s all.

A recovering journalist, David Handler was born and raised in Los Angeles and wrote two critically acclaimed novels about growing there, Kiddo and Boss, before resorting to a life of crime fiction. David is an Edgar and American Mystery Award winner and an Anthony, Dilys and Derringer Award finalist, and has written extensively for television and films. He currently lives in a 230-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Birth: Guest Post by Jennifer Lane, Ngaio Marsh Award Finalist for Best First Novel

Jennifer Lane is a finalist for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel for her book ALL OUR SECRETS, which was also longlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel. 

Jennifer is an award-winning short story writer, novelist, and copywriter in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. She was born in Australia, and her short stories have been published in journals and magazines in both countries. The Ngaio Marsh Awards are literary awards presented annually in New Zealand to recognize excellence in crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing (the Ned Kelly Awards are the Australian equivalents). 

Today’s post is part of the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards blog tour celebrating this year’s finalists. Thanks Jennifer for this post about the story behind your acclaimed debut! 


All Our Secrets was conceived when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, Tess. She’s now almost the same height as me, has braces on her teeth, and has just chosen subjects for her first year at college, so to say it’s been a long journey is a major understatement.

The novel began as a short story about, unsurprisingly given my circumstances, a birth. As a backdrop, I created the Australian town of Coongahoola and a small population to inhabit it. A few of the original characters made it through the next few years of revisions, but the event itself only survived as a backstory for the protagonist, Gracie:

Standing at the 10 Items or Less counter, Martha never let me slip past without winking and nodding towards the Pasta, Rice and Sauce aisle, the aisle in which I was nearly born (Mum’d been buying the ingredients for spaghetti bolognaise when I decided to make my entry into the world). 

Fearing a fate similar to the one I’d inflicted on Gracie’s mum, I’d arranged to start my maternity leave four weeks before my due date. I’d imagined my waters breaking during a work meeting in a dramatic fiction-style fashion, and the baby introducing itself (Tess was still an ‘it’ back then, having stubbornly crossed her legs throughout the 20-week scan) to my workmates seconds before an ambulance came to my rescue.

As it turned out, life didn’t imitate fiction; my baby wasn’t a drama queen. Nor was she in any kind of a hurry. Instead, I finished work with my dignity (and my waters) intact and devoted each morning to writing for three or four luxurious hours, my growing stomach pushing me further away from my desk each day.

The story grew too – into two, three, four chapters. I didn’t have a plot in mind; I’ve never been much of a planner. There was Gracie:

I wasn’t beautiful, far from it. I was so bony that my ribs poked out of my chest and, unlike some of the other girls in my class, I didn’t even have a hint of a chest. My blonde hair was frizzy and boring; Mum usually cut it level with the bottom of my neck, so it wasn’t long, but it wasn’t short either. Even worse, that summer it’d turned green from all the chlorine in the Coongahoola pool. My face was okay − if you squinted so you couldn’t see any freckles – but you’d have to be blind to call it beautiful. 

And there was her family: her angry mum, womanizing dad, prayerful Grandma Bett, and her siblings − twins Lucky and Grub, and Elijah. Elijah was one of the ‘River Children’, a group of kids born nine months after the town’s infamous River Picnic:

‘It was when all the adults had an orchy,’ Matty Thorpe said. ‘At the River Picnic when we were babies. The River Children were born to different dads from their real ones.’ 

Then, carloads of religious fanatics invaded Coongahoola, set up camp by the river, and sent the story spinning in an entirely new direction:

‘Bloody hell!’ I said, catching my breath. There was a line, stretching as far as I could see, of cars, caravans and utes, all honking at the ancient ‘Welcome to Coongahoola’ sign as they crawled passed it. I pressed my hands to my ears as I watched, amazed. Inside the cars were people who might as well have come from another planet. I’m sure my mouth hung open; I’d never seen anything like it. All of the women wore what looked like tea towels on their heads. I soon realised they were veils just like the Virgin Mary’s. Even the kids wore them. A girl in the back of a Hillman like Grandma Bett’s stared at us as her car crept by. She could’ve been the same age as me, but it was hard to tell with a blue veil covering half of her spotty face. She seemed to find us as fascinating as we found her, but when Elijah and Michael waved, she quickly looked away. 

By the time Tess arrived, one week after her due date, I’d created a quirky town, a chaotic family and a crazy cult – and the first of the River Children had gone missing:

From every telegraph pole on Main Road, Nigel’s face looked down at us. His brown hair was bleached by the November sun and the sticky-taped ‘Missing’ posters were crinkled and curling. Sometimes, when I was on my own, I’d whisper hello to him. I’d stare into the little grey dots that made up his eyes, as if the harder I looked, the better I’d understand what was behind them. I thought it was sad that he was much more popular now that he was missing, but I knew why. Up there on the telegraph pole, Nigel was elevated to a new status. He was no longer part of our ordinary world.

I’d only completed a few chapters, but I had the foundations of a novel. That was lucky because over the next few months, I considered something as simple as having a shower to be a significant achievement; writing didn’t even make it onto my daily try-to-do list.

I was still working on All Our Secrets two years later when Tess’s sister Matilda was born – and when Matilda toddled off to crèche at 18 months old. Probably still when Tess started school at five. Those years are a blur of nappy-changing, crying, teething, napping/not-napping, crawling, falling, playdates, playdough, and lots and lots of glitter.

I can’t say how long it took me to finish the first draft. I can say that the rest of the process – getting a mentor, finding an agent, looking for a publisher – took equally as long, if not longer. But that’s another story – one that I probably won’t get around to writing until my daughters leave home.


You can read more about Jennifer Lane and her writing at her website 

The winners of this year’s Ngaio Marsh Awards will be announced on 1 September at the WORD Christchurch Festival. You can follow the awards on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: The Book Club

David Goodis Didn’t Choose Pulp; It Chose Him: Guest post by Jay A. Gertzman

David Goodis Didn’t Choose Pulp; It Chose Him

David Goodis was enraptured by pulp fiction. It said, “Come here, kid, I’ve got what you know you want.” He could write about the dispossessed and the outlaws of post-war America, what caused their degradation, and their white-knuckled perseverance. Hard choices appeared like snarling opponents; they required disguise and degradation but might result in an eye-opening strength. Styling himself a “mere entertainer,” Goodis could include violence and sexual dysfunction in his newsstand throwaways to an extent a mainstream publisher would reject as “coarse.” Best of all, he could work alone, telling a universal story and maintaining a large audience. His friend Paul Wendkos, director of the film version of his The Burglar, asserted that “he could write like no one else. Thus, the title of my book: Pulp, According to David Goodis.

Here is what happens to three of Goodis’ protagonists. Eddie, formerly Edward Webster Lynn, concert pianist, lost his temper just for a second, and lost his wife. Nevertheless, he attracts another soul mate. Striving to protect her, he finds that Fate can strike twice (Shoot the Piano Player). Whitey, formerly Eugene Lindell, star crooner, loves Celia even more than his singing. She is the girlfriend of Sharkey, a mobster, who takes her with him and also, with a knife to the throat, destroys Lindell’s vocal cords. Lindell becomes Whitey, skid row alcoholic (Street of No Return). Nat Harbin, formerly an anonymous street kid, is given a name by the man who takes him in and makes him part of his family. He loved that benefactor like a father. Therefore, Nat chooses not to reciprocate the love of the daughter of his rescuer, because he was so avid about being part of the family that he convinced himself the desire was incestuous (The Burglar).

Lost identity is one of David Goodis’ obsessions in his mass-market pulp crime novels. It loomed behind the Big Fear that energized post-war life. Anyone could become a loser at a time when urban neighborhoods became poorer due to suburbanization. Fear of The Bomb, the Red Menace, juvenile crime, decline in the effectiveness of labor unions, and race riots were everyone’s problems. Sales of the crime thriller had a lot to do with the skill with which writers and readers think about identity: “I’m glad I’m not [the protagonist],” and at the same time, “I wish I was him or her.” That formula was inevitable. It forced readers to involve themselves--on a very personal level--in the story, and to think about who they were and how they got that way. It’s a chief reason why the American pulp crime novel became an important, and much imitated, American art form.

In important ways, the Goodis protagonist gains in sense of self as a result of losing reputation or community status. Eddie, Whitey, and Nat are successful at bringing relief to those around them. But their very decency and embrace of obligations cripples as well as ennobles them. Their hard-won self-definition is only partially accurate. Some continue to be enslaved by compulsions to repeat what had hurt them. Others maintain a stoic dignity. Eddie, Whitey, and Nat are noble losers. Their awareness of who they are is so painfully lucid as to be a spiritual commitment. It is essentially Kafkaesque. Ironically, there is no God in Goodis, so the spirituality is coldly existential. They chose to be outcasts without a single spark of belief in anything beatific. That makes their perseverance heroic and futile at the same time. This is why, in France, Goodis’ novels were immediately popular and have never been out of print.

Goodis is the master of Philadelphia gothic. Its streets of no return—but also of self-discovery following loss of loved ones and bodily disfigurement—“glitter and glisten” like a “snake.” A “yellow green” moon looks down on poverty and abandonment in the gutters of Skid Row, Southwark, or South Philly. “No matter where the weaker ones were hiding, they could not get away from the Vernon Street moon.” The Delaware River, where “Big ships rocked gently like monstrous hens,” impassively sweeps by the chaos of the Dock Street Market or the planned “blight” of Port Richmond and Kensington, whose remaining citizens share a camaraderie the creature comforts of suburbia lack. Over these locations racketeers, prostitutes, thugs, factory workers, alcoholics, and noble losers can see the distant bulk of City Hall, from which help never comes, only regulations made in bad faith.

Goodis has a preoccupation with themes of brother-sister incest. They appear as a major plot stimulus in four works. They give him a chance to reveal the desperation of people who do not dare to examine their psychosexual desires and the nuclear family dynamics that nurtured them.

Goodis’ final novel is set on edge of South Jersey’s Delaware Bay. The isolated setting of water, cloud, and marsh is ideal, as is the writer’s Philly gothic settings, for testing resolve and perseverance to the point of death. The protagonist fears dying at 50, as did his father. The father’s cause of death was being “fed up with himself.” His son is a man of unshakeable, obsessive belief and is cursed with what seems to be surely a terminal futility. Like most of this writer’s heroes, he persists. That persistence is a mystery that heroes of great American novelists confront, with mysteriously spiritual, although in some ways self-destructive results.

Jay Gertzman’s Pulp According to David Goodis will be published by Down and Out Books in late October 2018. His interest in pulp crime is based on the reasons for the genre’s being considered subversive of established values by 1950s congressional committees investigating juvenile delinquency. Also key are the class snobbishness involved in the concept of “offensiveness,” and the absolute contrast between “literature” and popular entertainment (“masscult”). All this censoriousness gave talented writers the gift of freedom from conventions. Pulp, noir, and neo-noir fiction together comprise a prime American art form. Gertzman has published articles on Goodis in Paperback Parade, Crimespree magazine,, Alan Guthrie’s Noir Originals, and the programs of the Noircon conferences. His previous books include Samuel Roth, Infamous Modernist and Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica 1920-1940.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Books

National Book Lovers Day: What are you Reading?

Today is National Book Lovers Day!

What are you reading?  Make a comment below!


NOIR CITY celebrates its 10th anniversary at the Music Box Theatre with a week-long extravaganza of nine double features, August 17-23, kicking off with an opening night tribute to writer-director Carl Franklin. FNF president Eddie Muller will join the director for an in-person discussion between screenings of Franklin's neo-noirs Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) and One False Move (1992). The festival's following six days will present a total of 16 classic noirs as they were experienced on their original release, pairing a top-tier studio "A" with a shorter, low-budget second feature or "B" film. The FNF's latest restoration, The Man Who Cheated Himself, an independently made noir thriller from 1950 shot on location in San Francisco, will screen along with Paramount's new digital restoration of Byron Haskin's I Walk Alone (1948) starring a trio of powerhouse noir players: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Lizabeth Scott. 
The FNF's Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode will be your guides through the dark alleyways of NOIR CITY. Opening weekend shows (Friday – Sunday) will be presented by Muller and weeknight shows by Rode. The full schedule, showtimes, and advance tickets are now available on the Music Box's website.

Monday, August 6, 2018


August 12: Marketing and Promotion in a Digital Age, with Jane Friedman. 

This is your final chance to sign up for this MWA members-only workshop in San Francisco, with the writers’ guru, Jane Friedman.

If you’re a Mystery Writers of America member, this is your opportunity to up your game and, as her web site says, “make smarter business decisions"–whether you’re indie or traditionally published.

And if you (or a writer friend) are not a member of MWA, well, a year’s membership is less than this workshop would normally cost. (MWA's membership application is here.)

Free parking with refreshments and snacks.

Sign up for the Friedman workshop here.

Tell all your friends!

C.B. Strike on Cinemax: Based on the books by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

Somehow the BBC show C.B. Strike based on the books by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) didn't appear on my radar. I'm making up for it now. The series started showing in the US on Cinemax, a station that I get, in June.

The first season of the CB Strike TV show on Cinemax originally aired in UK on BBC One, as a mini-series called Strike. Cinemax is now airing all three of the Strike shows.

A British detective drama, season one of CB Strike stars Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger, Kerr Logan, Ben Crompton, Natasha O’Keeffe, Killian Scott, and Sargon Yelda. The Cinemax series is based on JK Rowling’s Comoran Strike detective novel series, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The crime drama centers on war veteran Comoran “C.B.” Strike (Burke). Once again a civilian, working out of a London office, Strike uses his military experience in his private investigation practice. With the help of his new assistant and protégé, Robin Ellacott (Grainger), Strike solves crimes which stymy traditional law enforcement.

The Cuckoo's Calling, which makes up the first three episodes of C.B. Strike's seven-week run, was Galbraith's "debut" novel in 2013. But before it reached readers' hands, the press had already leaked the secret. Rowling's name was now irrevocably attached. HBO and the BBC already worked together in bringing Rowling's other attempt at normality, The Casual Vacancy, to the small screen. So HBO hopped in and secured the rights to the BBC's mini-series made up of all three Strike novels.

One problem: HBO decided to air C.B. Strike on Cinemax, where it is clearly struggling to find the the reception it deserves from a mystery audience.

I'm enjoying the series. It was a smash on the BBC. Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger, who plays his secretary/partner-in-murder-mystery-solving Robin Ellacott, have great chemistry.

The series on Cinemax includes Career of Evil and The Silkworm. I haven't watched those yet, but I will.

Let me know if you've seen this show and what you think.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Summer Reading

Which one are you?

HT: Sarah Shaber


Book Passage announced it is accepting registration for its 2018 Mystery Writers Conference, set for September 27-30 in Corte Madera, CA. Now in its 25th year, the conference is a popular venue for wide audiences—aspiring writers looking for industry info, an agent, or a publisher; readers who enjoy hearing favorite authors on panels; and published writers looking to find new readers and network with other writers. The Mystery Writers Conference is co-chaired by bestselling mystery authors Cara Black and David Corbett.

The four-day conference offers new and hopeful mystery writers the opportunity to work closely with mystery writers, agents, editors, and publishers as well as investigators and crime-fighting professionals. Established mystery authors offer classes on setting, dialogue, suspense, point of view, and openings. Sessions will include how to write about private eyes, amateur sleuths, and police protagonists, and how to create thrillers and historical mysteries. The conference also features panels of detectives, forensic experts, police officers, and other crime-fighting professionals—including former special agent to the FBI, George Fong, and Marin County Coroner Ken Holmes.

For mystery fans, there will be special evening events open to the public for free, including the Saturday, September 29, presentation “Dead Men Tell No Tales…or Do They? Forensics in Fiction” from 6 to 7 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by Alta Journal of California and will feature Mr. Holmes as well as husband and wife pathologists Judy Melenick and T.J. Mitchell.

Book Passage’s Mystery Writers Conference has a strong tradition of great authors and teachers—many whom have published hundreds to thousands of books,” says Elaine Petrocelli, owner and president of Book Passage. “Chances are, if you have a favorite American mystery writer, he or she has most likely taught at our conference.”

Petrocelli added that some of the mystery writers on the conference faculty began their career as students at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference and have returned as published authors and teachers—like Cara Black, the bestselling author of the Aimee Leduc mysteries set in Paris. “The conference bolstered my skills and helped me get published,” Black shares. “You can’t beat the caliber or the inspiration."

In addition to conference co-chairs Cara Black and David Corbett, this year’s conference faculty will include Isabel Allende, Kelli Stanley, Tim Maleeny, Danny Gardner, Rachel Howzell Hall, Lisa Unger and Jacqueline Winspear. (For a complete list of current faculty, please visit


Are you a member of MWANorCal? 

Book Passage now offers MWA NorCal members a $75 discount on their excellent Mystery Writing Conference!  That nearly pays for a year’s MWA membership!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Writer's Block

HT: Jayna Monroe

Queens of Mystery: Acorn Original Detective Series

From Deadline:

Acorn TV is continuing its move into original drama with female detective series Queens of Mystery.

Acorn has ordered the six-part series from British production company Sly Fox Productions in association with Ferncroft Media and it comes hot on the heels of the order of Hugo Speer and Sharon Small-fronted London Kills and the second season of Ashley Jensen’s Agatha Raisin.

Queens of Mystery was created by New Tricks and Doc Martin writer Julian Unthank and will air in the U.S. and in English-speaking territories via Acorn TV as three feature-length episodes as well as six 45 minute episodes. It will launch in 2019 and will be distributed internationally by ZDF Enterprises.

Queens of Mystery follows a perennially single female detective and her three aunts, who are well-known crime writers that help her solve whodunit style murders as well as set her up on blind dates. The Amelie-esque style contemporary murder mystery series will feature quirky characters, fast-paced dialogue and darkly comic murders. The Rook writer Matthew Thomas will write along with Unthank and Ian Emes will direct the first two episodes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award

The award benefits an emerging writer of color in the crime fiction genre 

Sisters in Crime (SinC) announced today that the 2018 winner of the annual Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award is Mia Manansala, who also serves as the secretary for the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. In a joint statement, judges Cynthia Kuhn, Tonya Spratt-Williams, and committee chair Maria Kelson said, “This was our unanimous choice. Manansala exhibits sophisticated genre awareness and playfulness with genre conventions and we believe the manuscript—which features a very funny, millennial, Filipina-American protagonist—makes a new, worthy, and worthwhile contribution to crime fiction.” 

The award, which honors the memory of pioneering African-American crime fiction author Eleanor Taylor Bland with a $1500 grant to an emerging writer of color, was created in 2014 to support SinC’s vision statement that the organization should serve as the voice for excellence and diversity in crime writing. The grant is intended to support the recipient in such developmental and research activities as workshops, seminars, conferences and retreats, online courses, and other opportunities required for completion of their debut crime fiction work. Past recipients include Maria Kelson (2014), Vera H-C Chan (2015), Stephane Dunn (2016), and Jessica Ellis Laine (2017).

“I am so incredibly thrilled and honored to receive the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Award from Sisters in Crime,” said Manansala, who is represented by Janet Reid of New Leaf Literary. “I want to thank the award committee for recognizing the marginalized writers in our field. I am excited to see what the future holds, both for me and for the crime fiction genre. My deepest gratitude to you all. Salamat po!”

Eleanor Taylor Bland (1944-2010) paved the way for fresh voices in crime fiction by showcasing complex characters that had previously been peripheral to or simply missing from the genre. Dead Time (1992), the first in her series of novels, introduced African-American police detective Marti MacAlister, an enduring and beloved heroine who overturned stereotypes that had been perpetuated in much of American popular culture. Bland also published several works of short crime fiction and edited the 2004 collection, Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors. 


Sisters in Crime (SinC) was founded in 1986 to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. Today, the organization boasts 3,600 members and 50 chapters worldwide and its initiatives also include other scholarships, grants for academic research into the roles of women and underserved voices in crime fiction; cash awards to libraries and bookstores; and surveys and monitoring projects which determine visibility and representation of women and diverse voices in the genre and across the marketplace.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: The Hold-Up


Epic Reads: Secrets to Crafting Historical Fiction 
Author Lunch
Mechanics Institute Library
Friday, August 17, 2018, 12:00 Noon
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 Floor 4
(Free to Public, refreshments available)

The Women’s National Book Association San Francisco Chapter is thrilled to present member writers who have authored highly successful historical (and prehistorical!) novels that readers and reviewers rave about. Learn what role research plays and how to make your scenes, settings, and characters realistic and compulsively readable. Epic Reads will be moderated by WNBA-SF President Brenda Knight. There will be Q&A followed by book signings; bring your notebooks and plenty of questions!

Mary Mackey, New York Times Bestselling author of The Village of Bones, will discuss how she brings the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Prehistoric Europe to life by drawing on extensive archaeological research, the surviving art of the epoch, and her own imagination. Mackey’s novels take us on an epic journey to the past that has vital importance for the present.

Novelist Mary Volmer will discuss research strategies that will help you unearth, organize, and effectively utilize historical information in any creative project. Learn the difference between static and living details, how to avoid superfluous detail, and how to use objects as windows into a character’s heart and mind.

WNBA is a broad-based non-profit organization with some 800 members across the country, three distinguished national awards, and a history of lively events in chapter cities and elsewhere. The Women’s National Book Association was established in 1917, and have been advocating for women writers for 101 years, before women could vote, the WNBA was helping "women in the world of books.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Patrick Williams: R.I.P.

From FilmMusicReporter and Variety:

Patrick Williams (1939-2018)

Patrick Williams, who was best-known for his Emmy-winning television music but who was also a renowned and Grammy-winning big-band jazz leader and arranger, died Wednesday morning of complications from cancer at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 79.

The composer scored numerous features, TV shows, and television movies over a five decade-spanning career. Among his feature film credits are John Water’s 1990 comedy Cry-Baby, the 1992 drama The Cutting Edge, Robert Zemeckis’ Used Cars, Richard Donner’s 1982 film The Toy,  and Richard Lester’s Cuba. He received an Academy Award nomination for his music adaptation for Peter Yates’ 1979 movie Breaking Away. His TV scoring credits include The Streets of San Francisco, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and ColumboWilliams received 4 Emmy Awards (for Lou GrantThe Princess and the Cabbie, 1992’s Jewels and a song for 2000’s Yesterday’s Children) and 22 Emmy nominations. He also was honored with two Grammy Awards (and 19 Grammy nomination) and BMI’s Richard Kirk Award.

HT: J. Kingston Pierce

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

CWA Dagger Shortlists

The CWA (Crime Writers Association) Dagger Shortlists were announced tonight. Congratulations to all! Lots of great reading!

CWA Gold Dagger:
• The Liar, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
• London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
• Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane (Little, Brown)
• Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)
• A Necessary Evil, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
• Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
• London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
• If I Die Before I Wake, by Emily Koch (Harvill Secker)
• Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)
• An Act of Silence, by Colette McBeth (Wildfire)
• The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Michael Joseph)
• The Force, by Don Winslow (HarperFiction)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger: 
• Gravesend, by William Boyle (No Exit Press)
• IQ, by Joe Ide (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
• Girl in Snow, by Danya Kukafka (Picador)
• Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love (Point Blank)
• East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ)
• Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)

 CWA International Dagger: 
• Zen and the Art of Murder, by Oliver Bottini, translated by Jamie Bulloch (MacLehose Press)
• Three Days and a Life, by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
• After the Fire, by Henning Mankell, translated by Marlaine Delargy (Harvill Secker)
• The Frozen Woman, by Jon Michelet, translated by Don Bartlett (No Exit Press)
• Offering to the Storm, by Dolores Redondo, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garzía (HarperCollins)
• The Accordionist, by Fred Vargas, translated by Sian Reynolds (Harvill Secker)

CWA Historical Dagger: 
• A Necessary Evil, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
• Fire, by L.C. Tyler (Constable)
• Lightning Men, by Thomas Mullen (Little, Brown)
• Money in the Morgue, by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy (HarperCollins)
• Nine Lessons, by Nicola Upson (Faber and Faber)
• Nucleus, by Rory Clements (Zaffre)

CWA Short Story Dagger:
• “The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle,” by Chris Brookmyre (from Bloody Scotland; Historic Environment Scotland)
• “Second Son,” by Lee Child (from No Middle Name)
• “Smoking Kills,” by Erin Kelly (from Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #2)
• “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit,” by Denise Mina (from Bloody Scotland)
• “Accounting for Murder,” by Christine Poulson (from Mystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories, edited by Martin Edwards; Orenda)

CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction:
Black Dahlia Rose by Piu Eatwell (Coronet)
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Simon & Schuster)
Blood on the Page by Thomas Harding (Heinemann)
The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Mariano-Lesnevich (Macmillan)
A False Report by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (Hutchinson)
Rex V Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson (Head of Zeus)

CWA Dagger in the Library: (Selected by nominations from libraries)
• Martin Edwards
• Nicci French
Simon Kernick
• Edward Marston
• Peter May
• Rebecca Tope

Winners will be announced during the CWA Dagger Awards dinner in London on Thursday, October 25.
HT: Ali Karim

Cartoon of the Day: Tea Cozy

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

C. E. Tobisman’s legal thriller, Proof, was named the winner of the 2018 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Book 2 in the Caroline Auden series, Proof was published in summer 2017 by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery, thriller, and true crime imprint of Amazon Publishing.

Founded eight years ago by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, and to honor former law student and author Harper Lee, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction is given to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.

Tobisman is the eighth winner of the prize, and will be honored with a signed special edition of To Kill a Mockingbird at the 2018 prize ceremony at the Library of Congress, in conjunction with the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

“I am honored, humbled, and frankly, totally stunned,” Tobisman said. “The spirit of To Kill a Mockingbird is the spirit of one person’s ability to make the world a little more fair. That the selection committee saw that spirit in my book is something that I will treasure forever.”

Proof follows hacker-turned-lawyer Caroline Auden, and is the second book in the Caroline Auden series. The first book in the series, Doubt, was published in 2016 by Thomas & Mercer. C. E. Tobisman is an appellate attorney, handling cases in the California courts of appeal and Supreme Court. After graduating from UC Berkeley and attending law school there, she moved to Los Angeles, where she now lives with her wife and their three children.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Specialized Obituaries

LEARNING TO LOVE MY SOUTHERN VOICE: Guest post by Dorothy St. James

Learning to Love My Southern Voice 

When I talk I might not sound Southern, but trust me, I have pluff mud in my veins. That’s how closely I associate with the area where I was raised. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am.

My parents, bless them, are from north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Daddy’s work brought the family to Charleston, South Carolina decades ago. I don’t remember the move. I was less than a year old at the time. My flat accent comes from living in their house during my formative years. But the voice I hear in my head is as Southern as peach pie and as colorful as a rainbow after a hurricane. It simply doesn’t come out my mouth that way.

When I first sat down to write novels way back in 2001, I struggled to find my voice. My family’s voice and history pulled me in one direction and the land that had fed my spirit pulled me in another. As a result, it took years (and I mean years) for the words that spilled onto the page to sound natural. My first success came when I started writing Regency romances. You may think the genres of Southern fiction and Regency romance are worlds apart. In a way, they are. But my dear Charleston had its heyday during what was considered Regency times in England. It was the Georgian time period over here in the colonies. My research into that time-period reintroduced me to my modern-day Charleston area. I toured local historic homes and talked with local historians. And for the first time in my life, I embraced my Southerness.

I may not have been born to it, but the stories and the history of the people who built the area are the stories that come to life for me. Once I recognized that, my writing blossomed. My writing voice felt strong and confident. From that newfound confidence, the White House Gardener Mystery series featuring a spunky Charleston gardener sprang to life.

After my daughter was born, I took a break from writing. But when I was ready to come back, the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, which is set on a fictional beach town that is very much like the beach town where I lived for twenty-years, spilled onto the page like a pot of melted chocolate. It felt good. And tasted good.

Others seemed to agree that I was moving in the right direction with my writing. Much to my surprise, only a week after my agent offered to represent the series the proposal went to auction. That’s never happened for me before. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series is a series that seems to resonate with almost everyone who reads it. After years of writing, I’ve finally found my voice. Who knew that it was waiting for me all this time in my own backyard?

Experts have long said, “Write what you know.” And I’d long scoffed at that because I didn’t think I knew anything. I grew up in the suburbs with a normal family. Only people with insomnia would want to read about anything I knew.

Despite my background in urban planning, which is all about telling the stories of the places where we live, I was too dense to realize that I knew quite a bit about the magic of Southern living. And anytime I need a refresher course on Southern life, all I need to do is go outside and listen. My Southern roots feed my writing in a way that constantly inspires and surprises me. My voice was waiting for me in the song of the cicadas, the whoosh of the wind, the crash of the waves, and in the sweet scent of sweetgrass on the air. I’m so glad I finally started to hear it.


Former beach bum and Southern author, Dorothy St. James loves thinking about, writing about, and especially eating chocolate. She’s the author of a dozen books, many award winning. The third book in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, IN COLD CHOCOLATE (Sept 2018) combines sea turtles, chocolate turtles, and murder. Night Owl Reviews has already called it a top pick. For more information, visit Dorothy’s website:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Bookstore Sign of the Day: Wanted

2018 Dead Good Awards

The 2018 Dead Good Reader Awards were announced during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this weekend. These awards are sponsored annually by the British crime-fiction book site Dead Good. Congratulations to all!

The Holmes and Watson Award for Best Detective Duo:
Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson, created by Elly Griffiths

The Whodunnit Award for the Book That Keeps You Guessing:
Let Me Lie, by Clare Mackintosh

The Cabot Cove Award for Best Small-Town Mystery:
The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor

The Wringer Award for the Character Who’s Been Put Through It All: Jack Reacher, created by Lee Child

The House of Horrors Award for Most Dysfunctional Family:
Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book:
The Dark Angel, by Elly Griffiths


Hat Tip: J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year was awarded to The Intrusions by Stav Sherez.

The winner was announced tonight at an award ceremony during opening ceremonies of the 16th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Sherez will receive a £3,000 cash prize, as well as a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier. The awards night will also feature the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

John Grisham was declared the winner of the Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction.

HT: Erin Mitchell

Bookstore Sign of the Day

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hollywood Ending Location Scout: Guest Post by Kellye Garrett

Kellye Garrett:
Hollywood Ending Location Scout

I always love when I start a new book and see a disclaimer from the author explaining that although their book takes place in a real place, they took liberties with exactly where things are located. As someone who writes a series set in a Los Angeles, I completely get it.

My series is about the entertainment industry so it was essential I set it in Los Angeles and I wanted to make it feel like my main character, Dayna, actually lived there. When I started the first book, Hollywood Homicide, I actually lived in L.A. It was easy for me to name-drop real life streets like La Brea and Vermont. Much like Dayna, these were the streets I drove—or rather sat in traffic in—every day.

I’ve since moved to the East Coast, which made it trickier to nail the geography when I was writing the second book, Hollywood Ending. It’s not as easy to remember how to get from Beverly Hills to downtown if you want to avoid the 10 freeway at all costs.

And since I’m a reader who loves when I recognize a place I’ve actually been in a book, I knew that I couldn’t just cop out and make up a bunch of places Day and her cohorts needed to keep taking actual streets to actual places.

As much as I would have loved to make weekend jaunts to L.A. for research, I couldn’t. (Blame my job and my bank account!) Instead, I relied on two things: my friends and Google Maps! So if you’re reading Hollywood Ending and think, “Day shouldn’t have used that exit off the 405,” don’t write me, write Google! Or write my friends Stephanie and Linda. I’ll be happy to give you their contact info.

I was able to pack a few of my favorite places and things in Hollywood Ending. Here’s a few of them:

Runyon Canyon 

Runyon Canyon can probably best be described from this excerpt from Hollywood Ending: Aubrey wanted to meet at Runyon Canyon, which was technically a park situated in the Santa Monica Mountains. Key word: technically. It was Hollywood’s outdoor workout of choice. On a good day, you could find more celebs than on NBC’s primetime lineup. Even on a bad day, you might catch a news anchor. If you entered from the southern end at the bottom of the hill on Fuller Ave., it wasn’t uncommon to pass outdoor yoga classes before making your way up a hiking trail that ended way up on Mulholland Drive. At least that’s what I’d heard. I’ve never made it that far. Haven’t even tried.

Fun Fact: I once was a complete smart aleck to Jake Gyllenhaal while hiking there. You can read about it over at my Chicks on the Case multi-author blog:

Shrine Auditorium 

The granddaddy of all the fancy venues is an LA landmark across the street from the University of Southern California campus. The Shrine has been around since the 1920s and has had more movie icons in its seats than you’d find on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At one time or another, the Shrine has hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, American Music Awards, BET Awards, MTV Movie Awards, NAACP Image Awards, the People's Choice Awards, the Soul Train Music Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the Miss Universe Pageant. That’s a lot of acceptance speeches and people being played off by the orchestra.

Fun Fact: I actually was a seat-filler for the Emmy Awards in 2005 at the Shrine! It was also where we had my graduation from film school at USC.

Food Trucks 

I know food trucks are everywhere now but I’d like to think Los Angeles was where it first became a “thing.” The portable food trend boom began about ten years ago, when a truck with an on-board kitchen pulled up outside of a nightclub and started hawking Korean tacos during the let out. Though Kogi may have been the first gourmet food truck, it certainly wasn't the last. In the ensuing decade, hundreds have popped up, each more creative than the one before it.

Like everything in Hollywood, they’d gone from hot to passé, but they hadn’t gone away. Every day, trucks hit different locations in the city, using Twitter and the like to let LA’s hungry know exactly where'd they’d be during the lunch and dinner rush. It wasn't uncommon for five or six trucks to line up back to back on the same busy street.

Fun Fact: I used to be a hard-core Kogi addict when I was in L.A. And every time I went, I got the short rib tacos. I still dreams about them and I’ve been gone for 7 years!


Kellye Garrett writes the Detective by Day mysteries about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective. The first, Hollywood Homicide, won the Agatha, Lefty, and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel and is nominated for Anthony, Macavity, and Barry awards. The second, Hollywood Ending, will be released on August 8, 2018 from Midnight Ink. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. She now works for a leading media company and serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime as the organization’s Publicity Liaison. You can learn more at and

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Head Wounds: Guest Post by Dennis Palumbo


Nietzsche once wrote, “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

Perhaps. Then again, Nietzsche never met Sebastian Maddox, the villain in my latest suspense thriller, Head Wounds. It’s the fifth in my series about Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh police.

What makes the brilliant, tech-savvy Maddox so relentlessly dangerous is that he’s in the grip of a rare delusion called erotomania, also known as De Clerambault’s Syndrome.

Simply put, erotomania is a disorder in which a person—in this case, Maddox—falsely believes that another person is in love with him, deeply, unconditionally, and usually secretly. The latter because this imaginary relationship must be hidden due to some social, personal, or professional circumstances. Perhaps the object of this romantic obsession is married, or a superior at work. Often it’s a famous athlete or media celebrity.

Not that these seeming roadblocks diminish the delusion. They can even provide a titillating excitement. Often, a person with erotomania believes his or her secret admirer is sending covert signals of their mutual love: wearing certain colors whenever a situation puts them together in public, or doing certain gestures whose meaning is only known to the two of them. Some even believe they’re receiving telepathic messages from their imagined beloved.

What makes the delusion even more insidious is that the object of this romantic obsession, once he or she learns of it, is helpless to do anything about it. They can strenuously and repeatedly rebuff the delusional lover, denying that there’s anything going on between them, but nothing dissuades the other’s ardent devotion.

I know of one case wherein the recipient of these unwanted declarations of love was finally forced to call the police and obtain a restraining order. Even then, her obsessed lover said he understood that this action was a test of his love. A challenge from her to prove the constancy and sincerity of his feelings.

As psychoanalyst George Atwood once said of any delusion, “it’s a belief whose validity is not open to discussion.”

This is especially true of erotomania. People exhibiting its implacable symptoms can rarely be shaken from their beliefs.

Like Parsifal in his quest for the Holy Grail, nothing dissuades them from their mission.

In Head Wounds, Sebastian Maddox’s crusade—when thwarted in his desires— turns quite deadly, and requires all of Rinaldi’s resourcefulness to save someone he cares about. In real life, the treatment options for the condition are limited to a combination of therapy and medication, usually antipsychotics like pimozide. If the symptoms appear to stem from an underlying cause, such as bipolar disorder, the therapeutic approach would also involve medication, typically lithium.

What makes erotomania so intriguing as a psychological condition, and so compelling in an antagonist in a thriller, is the delusional person’s ironclad conviction—the unshakeable certainty of his or her belief.

Nonetheless, as philosopher Charles Renouvier reminds us, “Plainly speaking, there is no such thing as certainty. There are only people who are certain.”

This post originally appeared on the Mystery Scene blog and is reprinted with permission of Mystery Scene.

Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in creative issues. Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year, Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand, and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His series of crime novels (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and Head Wounds) feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. All are from Poisoned Pen Press. For more info, visit