Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Editor


2018 McIlvanney Prize Longlist: Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The winner will be announced on September 21 at the opening gala at the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling at Bloody Scotland.

Forty-one years ago, William McIlvanney rocked the British literary world with Laidlaw, a gritty and socially conscious crime novel that brought Glasgow to life more vividly than anything before. This year’s longlistees for the McIlvanney Prize demonstrate how modern Scottish crime writing has flourished from those seeds. From debutants to authors with more than 20 books, spy thrillers to long-running detective series, nineteenth-century mysteries to futuristic space station noir, there’s an amazing range of talent on show. – Craig Sisterson, chair of the 2018 judges  

2018 McIlvanney Prize Longlist

Lin Anderson, Follow the Dead (Macmillan)
Chris Brookmyre, Places in the Darkness (Little, Brown)
Mason Cross, Presumed Dead (Orion)
Charles Cumming, The Man Between (Harper Collins)
Oscar De Muriel, The Loch of the Dead (Michael Joseph)
Helen Fields, Perfect Death (Harper Collins)
Alison James, Now She’s Gone (Bookouture)
Liam McIlvanney, The Quaker (Harper Collins)
James Oswald, No Time to Cry (Headline)
Caro Ramsay, The Suffering of Strangers (Severn House)
Andrew Reid, The Hunter (Headline)
Craig Robertson, The Photographer (Simon & Schuster)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SHAKEN NOT STIRRED: James Bond's Vesper Martini

Today is National Martini Day, and perhaps the most iconic Martini is that of James Bond aka 007! The Vodka Martini is as synonymous with 007 as the Walther PPK and the Aston Martin DB5. James Bond first ordered his trademark drink  in Ian Fleming's debut novel Casino Royale (1953):

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, monsieur.'
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.
Bond laughed. 'When I'm . . . er . . . concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

Having invented his own signature drink for Bond, Fleming left the reader hanging for the name for the drink until Vesper Lynd entered the novel. Bond thought her name was perfect for his preferred drink:

'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd.'... She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it.'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?'
He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said.
'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'

The 'Vesper' Martini created by Bond in Casino Royale and liked by Fleming:

Add 3 measures Gordon's Gin
Add 1 measure Vodka
Add 1 measure blond Lillet vermouth
Shake very well until it's ice cold
Garnish with a slice of lemon peel

The medium-dry Vodka Martini preferred by James Bond in the films:

4 measures Vodka (use a tbsp or an oz as a measure to fill one cocktail glass)
Add 1 measure dry Vermouth
Shake with ice. Do not stir. (Shaking gives the misty effect and extra chill preferred by Bond)
Add 1 green olive ( James Bond prefers olives)
Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel
Serve in a cocktail glass

Thanks to for the citations

Cartoon of the Day: Siamese

Monday, June 18, 2018

LEVINE GRILLS LASSITER by Paul Levine & Jake Lassiter

By Paul Levine and Jake Lassiter 

Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, first appeared in Paul Levine’s To Speak for the Dead in 1990. Nearly three decades later, Lassiter is still banging heads in the courtroom in the just released Bum Deal. Why does he switch teams and decide to prosecute a murder case, and why is this the last book of the series? Does Lassiter have C.T.E., the fatal brain disease afflicting former football players? Author and Hero trade punches about what it all means.

Paul: Sit down, Jake, and take a load off.

Jake: You busting my chops about my weight, noodle neck? 

Paul: What are you these days, two-fifty, two-fifty-five?

Jake: You’re the one who writes the descriptions, scribbler. I remember in Mortal Sin, you said I looked like a young Harrison Ford. 

Paul: These days, it’s more like an old Ford pickup. I shouldn’t have fed you so many burgers, poured you so many beers.

Jake: I’m as health conscious as the next guy, as long as the next guy is sitting on a bar stool. 

Paul: Maybe if you’d evolved into a modern man, you’d have a longer run.

Jake: Sorry that you can’t find my mug on Instagram. And that I don’t have a life coach, an aroma therapist, or a manicurist. And I sure as hell don’t do Pilates. 

Paul: Forget all that. Let’s talk about Bum Deal.

Jake: I’ve seen the promos. “Jake Lassiter: The Final Chapter?” What’s with that malarkey? 

Paul: You’re outdated and obsolete. And the word “malarkey” went out with spats and knickers.

Jake: Yeah, well you’re a nincompoop. What about the book? 

Paul: Bum Deal is the last of the series. That’s all.

Jake: That’s all! I got no life outside those pages. 

Paul: Time to hang up the briefcase, just like you hung up your cleats.

Jake: I didn’t retire. The Dolphins cut me, and I went to night law school. 

Paul: Same deal here. You’ve lost a step in the courtroom. Face it, you’re getting along in years.

Jake: Look who’s talking! When are you moving into the Old Writers’ Home? 

Paul: Deal with it, Jake. You’ve got brain damage from all those concussions playing football. You lose your train of thought. You’re more ornery than usual.

Jake: Look who’s talking, or did I already say that? 

Paul: In Bum Deal, you switch sides and prosecute.

Jake: The hell you say! I’d never do that. 

Paul: See, the ink is barely dry, and you’ve already forgotten. You’re appointed to prosecute a surgeon accused of killing his wife. Only one problem, or maybe three. No witness, no evidence, and no body.

Jake: That is a bum deal! You’re setting me up to lose. 

Paul: Aren’t you the guy who says, “If your cause is just, no case is impossible.”

Jake: That’s your wordsmithery. I just say the lines you feed me. 

Paul: Oh, one more thing. Your pals Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord defend the case.

Jake: Who? 

Paul: See what I mean about your thought processes.

Jake: I’m just messing with you, word boy. But, please not Solomon and Lord. I taught those two kids all my tricks. 

Paul: Sorry, Jake. You’ll just have to dig deep and try something new. How about sticking to the rules, standing by the facts, and living with the outcome?

Jake: Why do writers always say things in series of three? 

Paul: Probably because it’s pleasing to the ear, easy on the brain, and part of our hard-wiring.

Jake: Hilarious, pencil pusher. Say, why would I want to prosecute, anyway? My heart is with the little guy, not the behemoth of the state. 

Paul: You’re burned out. Too many guilty clients over too many years.

Jake: There’s truth in that. I lose a lot. Or plead my guy guilty. It’s a dirty little secret, but that’s the deal with most criminal defense lawyers. If anyone knew our real winning percentage, they’d jump bail and flee to Argentina. 

Paul: You’ve said that before, Jake. In Bum Luck. Remember?

Jake: Not my fault you’ve got so little imagination that I repeat myself, carbon copy boy. Bum Luck. Bum Rap. Bum Deal. What’s the next one, Bum Book? 

Paul: You forget already? No next book. This is it. The end. The final chapter. Finis. No más.

Jake: Jeez, you’re depressing me. 

Paul: Maybe this will cheer you up. Dr. Melissa Gold, an esteemed neuropathologist, takes an interest in you, during and after office hours. The two of you really connect.

Jake: So just as I’m losing my marbles, you’re giving me a lady that lasts? Is that fair? 

Paul: That’s life, pal.

Jake: I hope you get carpal tunnel in both arms, smart guy. You got any other happy news? 

Paul: Bum Deal is available in ebook, trade paperback, and audio. What else do you need to know?

Jake: Just tell me, this, you grim storytelling reaper. Is the last scene in the book my funeral? 

Paul: Would I do that to you, Jake? Really. Would I?


The author of 21 novels, Paul Levine won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and was nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, Shamus and James Thurber prizes. A former trial lawyer, he also wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama "JAG" and co-created the Supreme Court drama "First Monday" starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. The international bestseller To Speak for the Dead was his first novel. His most recent books are Bum Rap (a Number One Amazon Kindle bestseller), Bum Luck, described by Bookreporter as "a one-sit, must-read novel full of memorable characters and unforgettable vignettes," and the newly released Bum Deal, praised in a "starred review" by Publishers Weekly for its "fascinating, fully developed characters and smart, well-paced dialogue." Visit Paul's website at

Sunday, June 17, 2018


The Wolfe Pack announced the Nero Award Finalists for 2018.
The "Nero" is an annual award presented to an author for literary excellence in the mystery genre. The award is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, which is traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City.


The Dime by Kathleen Kent, (Mulholland Books / Little, Brown)
The Lioness is the Hunter by Loren D. Estelman (Forge)
Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Forge)
August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho)
Blood for Wine by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press)

Cartoon of the Day: Punctuation Party

Friday, June 15, 2018


The Macavity Award Nominees 2018

The Macavity Awards are nominated by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal and friends of MRI. The winners will be announced at opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in St Petersburg, FL, in September. Congratulations to all.

If you're a member of MRI or a subscriber to MRJ or a friend of MRI, you will receive a ballot on July 1, so get reading. To check if you're eligible to vote, leave a comment below with your email.

Best Mystery Novel
The Marsh King's Daughter, by Karen Dionne (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (Harper)
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)
Glass Houses, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Old Man, by Thomas Perry (Mysterious)
The Force, by Don Winslow (Wm. Morrow)

Best First Mystery Novel
Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
The Dry, by Jane Harper (Flatiron)
She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper (Ecco)
The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal (Wm. Morrow)
The Last Place You Look, by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur)
Lost Luggage, by Wendall Thomas (Poisoned Pen)

Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction
From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon, by Mattias Bostrom (Mysterious Press)
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, by Martin Edwards (Poisoned Pen/British Library)
Chester B. Himes: A Biography, by Lawrence P. Jackson (W.W. Norton)
The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James (Scribner)
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury)
Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History, by Tori Telfer (Harper Perennial)

Best Mystery Short Story
“As Ye Sow,” by Craig Faustus Buck, in Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017 (Down and Out Books)
“The #2 Pencil,” by Matt Coyle, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books)
“Infinite Uticas,” by Terence Faherty (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017)
“Whose Wine is it Anyway?” Barb Goffman, in 50 Shades of Cabernet (Koehler Books)
“Windward,” by Paul D. Marks, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books)
“A Necessary Ingredient,” by Art Taylor, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books)

Sue Feder Memorial Award: Best Historical Mystery
Dangerous to Know, by Renee Patrick (Forge)
The Devouring, by James R. Benn (Soho Crime)
In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen (Lake Union Publishing)
Cast the First Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)
Racing the Devil, by Charles Todd (Wm. Morrow)
A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Left Coast Crime 2020: Murder's a Beach!

Left Coast Crime 2020 Murder’s a Beach

Registration is now open for LCC 2020 in San Diego, California, March 12-15, 2020. Registration includes a Welcome Reception, two special Breakfasts, the Awards Banquet, and admission to all panels and interviews with Guests of Honor and Special Guests. Early registration fee of $195 extends through March 31, 2019, the close of LCC 2019 Vancouver: Whale of a Crime.
Online Registration

San Diego Marriott Mission Valley 
All convention events will take place at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley. Just minutes away from the San Diego International Airport and within easy reach of all that San Diego has to offer, Mission Valley and Old Town are a great place to call home base. Conveniently located in the center of San Diego county, the area is within a 15 minute drive of the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, and Downtown Gaslamp District, and offers a wealth of affordable accommodations, family friendly dining options, and great shopping at both the Fashion Valley and Mission Valley malls. Our conference rate of $169 is also available three days before and after the convention if registrants choose to extend their stay and explore San Diego. Registrants will receive the hotel code when reservations open in April 2019.

More information about LCC 2020.

LCC 2020 Special Guests 

Guest of Honor: Rachel Howzell Hall

Guest of Honor: T. Jefferson Parker

Toastmaster: Matt Coyle

Fan Guest of Honor: Mysterious Galaxy Books

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

FATHER'S DAY CRIME FICTION: Fathers & Sons; Fathers & Daughters

Father's Day. My father passed away 15 years ago, but I still think about him every day. He encouraged and supported me throughout my many careers and educational pursuits, and he always told me I could accomplish anything and succeed in whatever I did.

My father was the ultimate reader. His idea of a good vacation was sitting in a chair, reading a good mystery. It never mattered where he was, the book took him miles away.

So many times when I finish a book, I say to myself, "I have to send this to Dad. He'll love it." My father engendered my love of mysteries through his collection of mystery novels and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. I like to think he's up there somewhere in a chair surrounded by books and reading a good mystery.

Here's to you, Dad, on Father's Day!

The following are updated lists! As always let me know any titles that you think should be included.

My Father and Me, many years ago

Father’s Day by John Calvin Batchelor
Father’s Day by Rudolph Engelman
Father's Day: A Detective Joe Guerry Story by Tippie Rosemarie Fulton
Father’s Day Keith Gilman 
Dear Old Dead by Jane Haddam
The Father’s Day Murder by Lee Harris
Day of Reckoning by Kathy Herman
Dead Water by Victoria Houston
Father’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
On Father's Day by Megan Norris
Father’s Day by Alan Trustman

Murder for Father, edited by Martin Greenberg (short stories)
"Father's Day" by Patti Abbott --short story at Spinetingler
Collateral Damage: A Do Some Damage Collection  e-book of Father's Day themed short stories.

Let me know if I missed any titles.  

And a very short list of Crime Fiction that focuses on Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Daughters. Have a favorite Father / Son Father/Daughter Mystery? Post below in comments.


His Father's Son by Tony Black
Secret Father by James Carroll
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
Hot Plastic by Peter Craig
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne 
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
Lars and Little Olduvai by Keith Spencer Felton
Unsub by Meg Gardner   
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
King of Lies by John Hart
The Good Father by Noah Hawley
A Perfect Spy by John LeCarre 
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Son by Jo Nesbo
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Roman Hat Mystery; other novels by Ellery Queen (Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay)
Paperback Original by Will Rhode
The Senior Sleuths: Dead in Bed by Marcia Rosen
The Father by Anton Swenson

Monday, June 11, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO NOIR: Guest Post by Paul D. Marks

Paul D. Marks:
San Francisco Noirs

When I talk to people about film noir they generally tend to bring up L.A. and New York as the best known locations for noir movies. San Francisco seems to slip under the radar. So I wanted to talk about film noirs set in and around the City by the Bay. Some of my favorite noir films are set there: Born to Kill, D.O.A., Lady from Shanghai, Out of the Past. And neo noirs like Pacific Heights. This is not an analysis of San Francisco noirs, just a few personal comments. Nor is it a complete list.


Born to Kill – One of my favorite noirs, but you’ll want to shower after you hang with this crew. Lawrence Tierney’s Sam Wild is an amoral psychopath, equaled only by Claire Trevor’s Helen. Elisha Cook, Jr. is terrific as always. This movie has one of my favorite lines of any movie: Delivery Boy: “My, that coffee smells good. Ain't it funny how coffee never tastes as good as it smells.” Arnett (Walter Slezak) responds: “As you grow older, you'll discover that life is very much like coffee: the aroma is always better than the actuality. May that be your thought for the day.” Locations include the Sutro Mansion and the Ferry Building.

Dark Passage – I had seen this movie 2-3 times and really liked it. I knew it was based on a novel but I wasn’t sure about the writer: David Goodis. Eventually, I went and looked him up. And started buying his books, starting with this one. This was before the internet, so I had to get the books the old-fashioned way. I had to hunt them down and buy them used as they were out of print. I started reading and fell in love with Goodis, called the “poet of the losers” by Geoffrey O’Brien. My fave book is Down There (aka Shoot the Piano Player after the movie by Francois Truffaut. Personally, I like the book much better). Dark Passage uses several terrific San Francisco locations. The most recognizable is Lauren Bacall’s apartment: The Malloch Apartment Building at 1360 Montgomery Street. Still there and still looking terrific. I love this place – I want to live there! Also the Filbert Steps, Filbert Street, The Tamalpais Building, Golden Gate Bridge, San Quentin (San Francisco adjacent).

D.O.A. – The ultimate “high concept” movie. A man finds out he’s been “murdered” (poisoned) and before the poison kills him tries to find who the killer is. I’ll watch this any time it comes on TV and if it doesn’t I’ll stick in a DVD. I like to have a fix at least once a year. Locations include, Justin Herman Plaza, the current site of The Fisherman bar/club, where Edmond O’Brien gets poisoned. The St. Francis Hotel, now the Westin St. Francis. The Mark Hopkins. Powell and California streets, the Southern Pacific Memorial Hospital, the Embarcadero. Various background shots. And as a bonus the amazing Bradbury Building in Los Angeles (semi San Francisco adjacent). 

Lady from Shanghai – A good noir by (and with) Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth that travels the world with a terrific climax in a funhouse hall of mirrors at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco. Other locations include the Mandarin Theatre, Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, the Steinhart Aquarium, Sausalito. I liked the climax scene of this so much I adapted it for my early website logo. 

The Lineup – Two stone-cold killers smuggle dope into the country via unsuspecting travelers. A good movie. I like it, but it’s not one of my faves. That said, it has a laundry list of terrific San Francisco locations. The two most interesting to me are the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House, maybe because they’re the least familiar to me. Sutro burned down, but the Cliff House is still there. Other locations include the Embarcadero, Steinhart Aquarium, Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge, the Legion of Honor Museum, the Mark Hopkins Hotel and more. So if you want a tour of 1958 San Francisco, this is your ticket.

The Maltese Falcon – A classic. What can you say. But the problem with many older movies is that they’re mostly studio bound. “Set” in SF with some background location shots at the Golden Gate Bridge, Bush Street, and the Ferry Building.

Out of the Past – One of my top 3 film noirs (with Double Indemnity and Postman Always Rings Twice, the Garfield-Turner version). Set in northern California, a rural town, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. Again, mostly studio bound for the San Francisco city scenes. Mostly background shots for the locations. They did, however, shoot on location for some of the more rustic shots.

This Gun for Hire? – Based on a novel by Graham Greene. The first of 7 teamings with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and one of the best, though my fave would be the Blue Dahlia (scripted by Raymond Chandler). Though partially set in San Francisco, the film itself is very studio bound and it doesn’t appear any actual scenes were shot on location.

Vertigo – Tied for my fave Hitchcock movie (with the Lady Vanishes, though Vertigo is the much better film). Set in San Francisco and along the coast. This flick is a surrealistic daydream, or should I say nightmare. The movie is a guided tour of 1958 Baghdad by the Bay. From Fort Point at the Presidio, where Madeleine jumps into the bay, to Scottie’s apartment at 900 Lombard Street. The Essex Club on Montgomery, which doubled as Ernie’s Restaurant in the movie. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, where Madeleine visits the portrait of Carlotta Valdes. Muir Woods, Mission Dolores, Mission San Juan Bautista and more, all visually stunning in the movie.


Basic Instinct – Controversial Neo-Noir that makes use of plenty of San Francisco and adjacent locations. Another ramble through the streets of San Francisco that takes us from Catherine Tramell’s Pacific Heights mansion to Telegraph Hill. From Chinatown to Stinson Beach, Big Sur, the Hall of Justice, Steinhart Aquarium, the Embarcadero and North Beach, among many other sites.

Bullitt – Steve McQueen’s out to get his man in this one. You don’t need me to tell you what it’s about. Famous for its celebrated chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. Bullitt roars through Russian Hill, the no longer existent Embarcadero Freeway, the Marina District and more. Other locations include Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church, the Thunderbird Hotel, now the Clarion. Bullitt’s apartment on Taylor Street. North Beach, San Francisco International Airport, SF General Hospital, SF PD HQ on Bryant. And the usual more.

The Conversation – Francis Ford Coppola’s excursion into paranoia, makes use of many San Francisco locations, including Portrero Hill, where Harry Caul’s (Gene Hackman’s) workshop is. Alamo Square, the Financial District. Neiman Marcus in Union Square and Union Square. Cathedral Hill. And the usual mas.

Dirty Harry – Love ’im or hate ’im, DH will make your day. Harry blazes his way through a ton of San Francisco locations. I’m surprised there’s anything left of the city in his wake. He tears through Kezar Stadium, Golden Gate Park. Marina Green in the Marina District. The Holiday Inn downtown. California Hall. City Hall. The Hall of Justice on Bryant Street. Mission Dolores makes another appearance, where Harry gets off the street car to use a phone booth. SF General Hospital. Noriega Street, where Scorpio commandeers the school bus. The Roaring 20’s Nightclub on Broadway, where Harry surveils Scorpio. Chinatown. Washington Square, North Beach. The Dante Building where Scorpio is looking for a victim and spotted by a helicopter. 

Final Analysis – This flick doesn’t get great ratings, but I like it a lot. Richard Gere, Kim Bassinger and Uma Thurman in a twisty story that reminds me of Hitchcock and might have been something he would have done if he was still around. Some interesting scenes, reminiscent of Hitchcock at Pigeon Point Light Station in Pescadero, California, which I’d call SF adjacent. Bix Restaurant at 56 Gold Street, SF. The Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The SF Courthouse. Golden Gate Bridge. City Hall.

Pacific Heights – This is one of my guilty pleasure movies. Not really – I really like this. It’s totally creepy. Because it’s not all that far-fetched. I don’t think the Zombie Apocalypse is going to come and get me. But a creep like Michael Keaton’s character, who takes over your life, that can happen. While supposedly located in Pacific Heights the Pacific Heights house is actually on Portrero Hill. Also Chinatown, the financial district. And SF in general.

So there you have it. A mini noir tour of the streets of San Francisco.


Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn.” Broken Windows, the sequel, is being released on 9/10/18. His story Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. Bunker Hill Blues came in #6 in the 2017 Readers Poll. Howling at the Moon (EQMM 11/14) was short-listed for both the 2015 Anthony and Macavity Awards. Midwest Review calls his novella Vortex “… a nonstop staccato action noir.” The anthology Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, co-edited by Marks, is nominated for an Anthony Award. And his story from it, Windward, has been selected for the 2018 Best American Mystery Stories (fall 2018), edited by Louise Penny & Otto Penzler, and is also nominated for a Shamus Award. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Spain's Asturias Prize for Literature: Fred Vargas

French crime writer Fred Vargas, the pen name of Frederique Audoin-Rouzeau, has won Spain's prestigious Asturias Prize for Literature.

According to the jury, more than 30 candidates from 21 countries opted for recognition, among which the French author's work stood out since 'it embodies the revitalization of a genre such as intrigue novel.'

The president of the Royal Spanish Academy, Dario Villanueva, read the jury's verdict in which he praises the quality of Vargas' writing and the originality of her narrative work. 'He has an ability to combine intrigue, action and reflection with a rhythm that recalls the musicality characteristic of good prose in French,' Villanueva said.

The verdict also highlighted the mysterious and complex ecosystem implicit in its plots, the irony to describe her characters, the deep cultural knowledge and the overflowing imagination that opens unpublished literary horizons to the reader. 'Vargas added brilliantly original pieces, atmospheres and spaces to black novel, which leaves us a work of universal projection', highlighted the specialists in the official declaration of the award, fifth of the eight international awards convened annually by the foundation.

Frederique Audoin-Rouzeau, 60, is a French author of crime novels that gave great importance in her prose to legends, historical events, humor and poetry. Also known for her archaeological work in the rescue of medieval pieces, Audoin-Rouzeau chose the pseudonym Fred Vargas like her twin sister Jo, in homage to Maria Vargas, Ava Gardner's main character in The Barefoot Contessa.

Her work includes The Games of Love and Death, 1986, and Those who are about to die greet you, 1994; and the most remembered character is Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, a police superintendent without a real research method.

The award foundation said that Vargas, who is also a distinguished archaeologist, perceives society as "a mysterious and complex ecosystem" and her detective stories possess original plots and irony in their description of characters, as well as abundant imagination.

Vargas has won three International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers Association.


Fred Vargas was born in Paris in 1957. As well as being a best-selling author in France, she is an historian and archaeologist. She worked at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which she joined in 1988. She later joined the Institut Pasteur, as a eukaryotic archaeologist. She mostly writes police thrillers (policiers) that take place in Paris and feature the adventures of Chief Inspector Adamsberg and his team. Her interest in the Middle Ages is manifest in many of her novels, especially through the person of Marc Vandoosler, a young specialist in the period.

HT: BV Lawson, In Reference to Murder

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: At the Oxymoron Museum


Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening Literary Salon in Berkeley (CA) with award-winning mystery authors James W. Ziskin & Terry Shames.

When: Wednesday, June 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Berkeley. RSVP for address by making comment below with your email
James Ziskin is the author of the Anthony and Macavity Award-winning Ellie Stone Mysteries. His books have also been finalists for the Edgar, Barry, and Lefty awards. A linguist by training, he studied Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his graduate degree, he worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as Director of NYU’s Casa Italiana. He spent fifteen years in the Hollywood post production industry, running large international operations in the subtitling/localization and visual effects fields. His international experience includes two years working and studying in France, extensive time in Italy, and more than three years in India. He speaks Italian and French.

Terry Shames writes the Samuel Craddock mysteries set in Jarrett Creek, Texas, a fictional version of her grandparents' Texas town that sparked her early imagination. Her first book, A Killing at Cotton Hill, won the Macavity Award and was a finalist for Left Coast Crime's Best Mystery and Strand Magazine's Critic's Award for Best First Mystery. The Last Death of Jack Harbin was named one of the top ten mysteries of 2014 by Library Journal and top five of 2014 by MysteryPeople. There are seven books in the series, all of which have been nominated for awards. Her latest mystery is A Reckoning in the Back Country. She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband and two rowdy terriers.


Upcoming Literary Salons (more to come)

July 11: Cara Black and Susan Shea (An Evening in France!)
September 26: Lisa Brackmann 
September/October: Lou Berney
September/October: Alex Dahl

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Alex Dahl:
Neurodiversity and Creativity

I do not believe in labels, though I’m sure it has been tempting to give me several over the years. As a child growing up in Scandinavia, I was attention-deficit. Hyperactive. Hypersensitive. Extremely imaginative. Very narrow-focused. I just wanted to read, write, repeat. But I was lucky- those traits, which could have been diagnosed and medicated, were actually specifically encouraged, and then directed in a constructive way. My teacher let me read books up in a tree, and my mother encouraged me to release energy through endless cycling and skiing.

I am not suggesting that medication is never the answer, but I am suggesting that as these traits can also be an important and positive aspect of an individual, perhaps the world needs to adjust to fit the individuals, rather than the other way around. Too much creative gold is being lost in the rigid, conformist system our kids are forced through. Can’t sit still? Maybe that kid wasn’t designed to sit still all day in a classroom. Constantly daydreaming? Maybe those dreams are precisely what will take that child somewhere amazing.

I am a novelist because of many of these traits, not in spite of them. My attention deficit was never a problem when I was allowed to direct most of my focus towards the areas that interested me, and these days, it is a huge advantage to have so many interests- as a writer it makes research a breeze! Hyperactive became hyper-energetic, and there is no doubt in my mind that my energy levels serve me well in my career as a writer- I quite often do between 5000 and 8000 words a day. I was, and am, extremely sensitive, and while this sometimes can be difficult on a personal level because it can be exhausting to feel so much all the time, it is an enormous advantage as a novelist. I feel my characters so profoundly that their experiences become part of my own. I spent my childhood dreaming up plots and developing characters in my head. I spend adulthood much the same, and it has led me to the career of my dreams. Being narrow-focused (and a natural risk-taker) has also been a big advantage- I only ever wanted to be a writer, so I pursued it relentlessly, with no plan B, and determination is essential in an industry where rejection and set-backs are unavoidable.

It is important to discuss the potential gifts associated with some of the neurodiverse ways of being a human. We are not all the same, and we are not supposed to be. If you pursue something you love and channel your hyper focus, you are going to have a competitive advantage that other people can’t borrow, buy or steal. If you try to conform to tasks which seem easy for others but difficult to you, you will never be very good at it. Being dreamy, imaginative, narrow-focused and hypersensitive may earn you a diagnosis in the standard classroom, but it may earn you a book deal in the real world.


Half-American, half-Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. She is a serious Francophile. The Boy at the Door is her first novel and she wrote it while living in Sandefjord.


I loved The Boy at the Door Read Sue Trowbridge's review of Alex Dahl's The Boy at the Door at The Saturday Reader. The Boy at the Door is available for pre-order.

Cartoon of the Day: Some Lesser-Known Literary Prizes

Hat Tip: Ali Karim

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I DIDN'T MEAN TO WRITE WHAT I WROTE!: Guest Post by Betty Webb

I Didn’t Mean to Write What I Wrote!

When I delivered the manuscript of The Otter of Death to my editor, I told her it would be my last Gunn Zoo mystery.

“Oh, no, it’s not,” she said. “These things are too much fun.”

And when your editor is the brilliant Barbara Peters, of Poisoned Pen Press, you respond, “Yes, ma’am. Whatever you say, ma’am.” The Gunn Zoo mysteries -- in order, The Anteater of Death, The Koala of Death, The Llama of Death, The Puffin of Death,” and now The Otter of Death) -- were almost never written. I’d put my heart, my soul, and my professional background as a journalist in the Lena Jones series. In those nine books, the mystery always centered around human rights issues, such as the abuse of eminent domain (Desert Noir), polygamy (Desert Wives and Desert Lost), and female genital mutilation (Desert Cut). I enjoyed alerting readers to existing social problems while entertaining them within the structure of the classical mystery form.

But I’ll admit, writing those dark, heavy books took a lot out of me; the research was frequently horrific. Couple that with the fact that the books mirrored much of the work I was doing as a full-time journalist, my life wasn’t always easy.

Then I retired from journalism and to lighten my life, began volunteering at the Phoenix Zoo. One day, I was enjoying my lunch break with another volunteer while watching the giant anteater play “Chase” with her pup. The sight was so adorable, I said, “Someone should write a book about those two.”

My friend looked at me and said, “You’re a writer, aren’t you?”

That was one of those happy surprises writers always hope for but don’t always get. I had just turned in the manuscript for Desert Cut, and I was feeling what I choose to call postpartum depression (yeah, writing a book is a lot like giving birth). I needed something to fill the hollow place now that Cut was as the publisher’s.

Deciding to take a chance on something totally new, I began writing The Anteater of Death. And to my surprise, it was funny.

Lucy, as I dubbed my fictional anteater, wasn’t really a killer. She just had the misfortune of being present when the murder victim fell into her enclosure. Because of the scratch marks on the man’s body, poor Lucy is at first blamed for his death, but my intrepid zookeeper Theodora Bentley sprang to her defense, eventually solving the crime. Since I’d just come back from spending my vacation in a tiny harbor town on Monterey Bay, I set the mystery there. And I gave Teddy a houseboat named the Merilee. This gave me a lot of room for colorful harbor life and even more colorful characters. I also gave Teddy an ex-beauty queen mother who’d been married five times, and a felonious father who’d embezzled millions and was now on the run in South America. Poor Teddy!

Three more books followed, each as madcap as the first.

But as humorous as they were, The Otter of Death is probably the funniest of them all, because it stars a cell phone-stealing otter named Maureen who inadvertently snaps a picture of a murder-in-progress. And oddly enough, in a way, it’s the most serious, too. During the writing, I experienced another happy coincidence. The local newspaper ran a story about young female college students who needed help meeting the rising costs of college tuition. Their solution? To hook up with a rich male “sponsor” and let him pay the bills. The students were called “sugar babies” and their sponsors, “sugar daddies.” (If you don’t believe me, check out

I started writing The Otter of Death two years ago. To balance out the sex-for-diploma business, I decided to include a subplot about something I was very familiar with: sexual harassment. Because I hadn’t reported the harassment when it happened to me, I wanted to show what usually did happen when a young woman was foolish enough to report it: she wasn’t believed. This subplot also gave me the chance to murder her harasser, thus allowing me to take a fictional revenge on my own long-ago harasser.

Then, just as The Otter of Death was rolling off Poisoned Pen’s presses, the Harvey Weinstein scandal hit. My book had inadvertently walked straight into an ongoing national disgrace.

So in a way, The Otter of Death – regardless of its humor – has wound up being every bit as socially conscious as my Lena Jones books. The tone is as light as it has been in the preceding books, and the animals in the Gunn Zoo are as adorably quirky as they’ve always been. But underneath all that adorableness is a serious social message.

Stephen King once said, “If a writer can’t surprise himself, how can he surprise the reader?” When I started The Otter of Death, I had not planned on delivering a “Me, Too” moment. And when I did, it caught me by surprise.

But writing is like that, isn’t it?

Whether I’m writing a serious Lena Jones book or a giddy Gunn Zoo mystery, I can never be certain of where I’m going. All I know is where I’ve been, and I almost never foresaw any of those events, either.

So today, as I begin the sixth book in the Gunn Zoo series, I’m keeping an open mind. Outlining is all well and good, but surprises are even better.

Just ask Maureen, the cell phone-stealing star of The Otter of Death.


Betty Webb is the author of 9 Lena Jones mysteries and 5 Gunn Zoo mysteries. Before writing full time, Betty worked as a journalist, interviewing everyone from U.S. presidents, astronauts who walked on the moon, and polygamy runaways. A nationally-syndicated literary critic for more than 30 years, she currently reviews for Mystery Scene Magazine. She is a member of the National Federation of Press Women, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. She is also well-known as a creative writing instructor and has taught creative writing at Phoenix College and held masters’ classes in Creative Writing at ASU.

Monday, June 4, 2018


Lambda Literary, the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature, announced the winners of the 30th Annual Lambda Literary Awards – or the “Lammys.”
The winners were announced at a gala ceremony tonight in New York City.

Below are the winners in the Lesbian and Gay Mystery categories. Congratulations to All!

Lesbian Mystery
  • Huntress E. Radley, Heartsome Publishing
Gay Mystery
  • Night Drop, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books
To see all the nominees in these two categories, go HERE.

Cartoon of the Day: Autoreply

Audie Awards 2018

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced the winners of the 2018 Audie Awards.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye has won top honors in the Mystery category, and The Fourth Monkey has won for the best Thriller/Suspense audiobook.

The 23rd Annual Audies Gala was held on May 31st at the New-York Historical Society in New York City. Often referred to as the “Oscars of spoken word entertainment,” the evening marks a gathering of authors, narrators and publishers excited to hear who will win the most prestigious awards in the United States honoring audiobooks.

Award-winning narrator, Simon Vance hosted the event, delighting the audience with his wit and spontaneity. Linda Lee, President of the APA, had this to say about this prestigious event, “The Audies Awards Gala gives us a time to recognize all the hard work that so many talented people put into thousands of productions each year. Each of the nominees and winners are to be commended for the tremendous contributions they have made to our flourishing industry and this special event is the perfect venue for us to show appreciation to each and every one of them.”

Mystery and Thriller/Suspense audiobook winners: 

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye
By David Lagercrantz
Read by Simon Vance
Random House Audio

The Fourth Monkey
By J.D. Barker
Read by Edoardo Ballerini and Graham Winton
Recorded Books

To hear audio clips, go here

A COIN FOR THE HANGMAN: Guest Post by Ralph Spurrier


Many of your older readers may well remember me as a bookseller (Post Mortem Books) from the UK who would turn up at Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime with a whole slew of British books signed by the likes of Dick Francis, Ruth Rendell, and P.D.James as well as carrying stock by British authors that were making an appearance on panels. My first Bouchercon was Minneapolis in 1987 and my last was Nottingham in 1995. By that time I was running out of steam and lugging vast tonnes of books across the globe was beginning to ruin the back muscles. I guess it was then that I had decided that I should make an attempt at writing my own novel.

As an indication that procrastination was deeply embedded in my psyche I enrolled as a mature student to read English at the University of Sussex. By 1998 I had a Bachelor of Arts degree under my belt but not a single word of a novel down on paper. Then along came the Harry Potter phenomenon. I suddenly found that customers from all over the world were keen to ensure that they received first edition, first printing copies and to do that they had to have a bookseller who knew exactly what a “first edition, first printing” meant. I garnered hundreds of pre-orders both for the regular trade and also for the deluxe editions and by the time Harry Potter had come to an end - by the seventh book as was thought then - my house mortgage was paid off and the pressure of monthly bills was off. Now what could I do?

I know, let’s go back to university and do a Masters degree! You getting the procrastination thing here, right? I enrolled for a Creative Writing and Authorship course back at my alma mater, Sussex. A one year course in which students had to hurdle various obstacles - please don’t ever mention Bakhtinian Discourse to me again - before serving up a 20,000 word dissertation which would consist of a 15,000 word chunk of a novel and 5000 words critique of your own work. Hey presto! From out of the depths came that novel which had been bubbling away for all those years.

It was pure chance that I had seen - for the umpteenth time - the classic film, “Kind Hearts and Coronets” just as I settled down to write those 15,000 words. Those familiar with the film will know that the “hero” of the film is incarcerated in prison awaiting execution the next morning. He begins to write a diary describing the events that led him to the scaffold and we follow the story, involving multiple murders, in flashback. By chance he is reprieved and walks free from prison. It is only then that he realises that he has left his diary, a confession to murders, in the cell. Curtain.

For my story I had my “hero” write a diary while awaiting execution (1953 Britain when capital punishment was still in force) but in it he points the finger at an unnamed man. The diary is replete with quotes and allusions to other writers - some of them crime - and the reader is left in no doubt that Henry - my character - is innocent. Or that’s, maybe, what they want to believe. I became aware that I, a writer, was writing another man’s diary and I really didn’t know if he was telling the truth or not. That was the moment that the concept of the unreliable narrator kicked in big time and I decided to include myself in the story. Hey, if this was going to be my only published novel, I wanted to get as much of the limelight as possible!

So the story begins with a secondhand bookseller (me) discovering a diary - THE diary - in an estate sale of a man, who he discovers, was one of the last hangmen in England. From my researches I uncover all the names of those involved in a murder that occurred in the small Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon in 1952 and even manage to track down two of those still alive in the year 2000. At this point I step back out of the action and the story unravels of its own accord, chronicling the life of the main characters from 1939 to 1953. The period is of especial interest to me and the research involved such diverse things as checking railway timetables (shades of Golden Age crime novels) and the eyewitness reports of the relief of Belsen-Bergen by British soldiers in April 1945 (two of the characters are involved).

Only at the very end do I step back in and show how the reader could be fooled by unreliable narrators - and there are more than one in the story, including the author himself - and while the text is the same it is the singular imagination of each reader bringing their own experiences and emotions that change the meaning of that text for each one of us. There is no simple denouement in which a Poirot type figure explains the plot and points the finger at the culprit. Readers have already come up with three different “solutions” to the question of whodunnit. Each of them is correct because the “solution” lies not in the author’s pen but in the imagination of the reader. I just unravel the text for the reader to plunder and extrapolate. The only caveat I would give: beware of just who may be telling lies. It could be the author.

There is to be a sequel provisionally entitled The Butcher Began to Kill the Ox and for those of you who recall Cornelius Grafton’s first two books there is a very good reason for choosing that title. And if you think you have worked out who the murderer was in A COIN FOR THE HANGMAN you may be surprised to find….

Saturday, June 2, 2018

ENDEAVOR SEASON 5: PBS Masterpiece starts June 24

Endeavour returns to PBS Masterpiece Mystery! for Season 5 on June 24! For the first time in the history of the series, there will be six full-length episodes.

The new season begins with Morse having finally passed his Sergeant’s exams just as Oxford City Police merges into Thames Valley Constabulary creating uncertainty for everyone at Cowley CID.

“Many of the global tensions of that most turbulent year, 1968, have found their way into our six new Endeavour mysteries,” said series creator and writer Russell Lewis. “1967’s Summer of Love seems already a distant memory. Dark clouds are gathering at home and abroad as, after almost 100 years, the long history of Oxford City Police comes to an end. A terrible storm is set to blow through the professional and personal lives of newly promoted Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse and Oxford’s finest, leaving devastation in its wake.”

I've seen the first two episodes and really enjoyed them. They're definitely full of puzzles that the mystery viewer will appreciate. Great period sets, costumes, and themes.

Friday, June 1, 2018

June Moffatt: R.I.P.

Sad news. Just heard that longtime fan June Moffatt died peacefully in her sleep yesterday at the age of 92. June was one of the founders of Bouchercon and chaired three of them. She and her husband Len were Fan Guests of honor at the 1985 Bouchercon. They were also founding editors of the JDM Bibliophile, as well as contributors of Dapa'Em. June was a member of Curious Collectors of Baker Street. June and Len were also very active in the Science Fiction community--conventions, fanzines, and more. They contributed so much for the mystery and science fiction communities.

I will update this when I collect my thoughts.

Above is a photo (not mine) of Bill Crider, June Moffatt, and Len Moffat.

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace: Why Crime Writers Love a Good Hotel: Guest post by Vaseem Khan

Vaseem Khan:
Murder at the Grand Raj Palace: Why Crime Writers Love a Good Hotel 

Agatha Christie, the unrivalled Queen of Crime, loved hotels. Many of her novels were written in, inspired by, or featured hotels. The Old Cataract Hotel in Death on the Nile; The Burgh Island Hotel of Evil Under the Sun; The Imperial Hotel in Sleeping Murder. The grand dame herself once vanished only to turn up eleven days later at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, now the site of one of the world’s largest crime festivals.

For the fourth novel in my Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series – featuring Inspector Ashwin Chopra, formerly of the Mumbai police, and his one-year-old baby elephant sidekick – I chose to follow in Christie’s footsteps and set the novel in a hotel, one with a long and storied history on the subcontinent.

In Murder at the Grand Raj Palace, American billionaire Hollis Burbank dies under mysterious circumstances in his suite inside Mumbai’s finest hotel, the Grand Raj Palace. The senior investigating officer is being pressured to label the death a suicide, for the sake of political expediency. He invites old friend Chopra in to do some discreet digging. As Chopra works his way around the grand old hotel he discovers numerous suspects who may have wished the American ill. He also stumbles across a particularly dark chapter from India’s past that may have had a bearing on the case. To complicate matters, the evening before he was killed, Hollis Burbank purchased India’s most expensive painting at an art auction held in the hotel…

As with the other books in my series, I weave the crime narrative with a dissection of the realities of life in modern India. Indeed, my aim with these books is to take readers on a journey to the heart of the subcontinent, to place you on the streets of Mumbai, amidst the choking traffic, the heat and dust, the chaos of street vendors, beggars, lepers, eunuchs, stray dogs, cows, goats … and elephants. India is poised on the cusp of becoming a global superpower. Globalisation, wealth, and westernisation have transformed the country. Yet historical problems remain. Nowhere is this more apparent than Mumbai – once Bombay – India’s ‘city of dreams’, a place where glamour and wealth sit side by side with vast slums, caste prejudice, and inequality on a scale unseen in the west. In the best traditions of Christie, I use my books as a vehicle to comment on this changing society. Chopra himself is a serious man, one who cares deeply about the social ills that he sees around him. The fact that he has inherited a baby elephant and finds himself cast in the role of its impromptu guardian serves only to highlight his dogged commitment to ‘old-fashioned’ values of decency, morality, and a desire to enact justice in an often unjust world.

In writing this fourth book (the first, for those new to the series, was The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, a Times bestseller in the UK and an Amazon Best Debut; the series has since won a Shamus Award in the States) I called upon the ten years that I lived in India where I worked as a management consultant to the hotel industry.

At the tip of Mumbai is the Taj Palace Hotel – the hotel that the Grand Raj Palace is based on. It was whilst wandering around this incredible building that the idea for this story first came to me. The Taj is India’s most iconic hotel. It was built a century ago by Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata when he was refused entry to the nearby Watson’s hotel because of its ‘whites only’ policy. Tata vowed there and then to build a hotel more opulent than anything the British had ever seen. And that’s exactly what he did. For more than a hundred years now the Taj is where anyone who is anyone stays when they visit Mumbai. From screen sirens of the Twenties, to the Beatles, to the Obamas. The hotel is steeped in tradition and history and so I thought it would make the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie style murder mystery – with an elephant!

Titles in the series:
The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra
The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown
The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star
Murder at the Grand Raj Palace

Author contact details: