Monday, November 11, 2019

CHOCOLATE LORE: Guest post by JoAnna Carl

JoAnna Carl:
Chocolate Lore

When I came up with the idea for a mystery series about a chocolate business in a Great Lakes resort town, one of the problems it posed was recipes.

The series’ background threw it into the mystery category of “culinary.” Usually, that meant it contained recipes.

But for the Chocoholic series, I couldn’t see that working. TenHuis Chocolade, the main setting of the books, has the motto “Fine European-Style Chocolates.” Most readers can’t make that sort of chocolate. Neither can I. I can’t even imagine myself making that sort of chocolate. I’m just not that kind of a cook. And I certainly couldn’t describe making that kind of bonbons and truffles book after book.

All I could think of was turning to a true chocolate expert and asking that person to contribute recipes. But the book was my book. I didn’t really want a contributor.

I didn’t know what to do.

That’s when I received a practical demonstration of why good books have good editors. My editor suggested that instead of using recipes for “Fine European-style chocolates” I use “Chocolate Lore.” This she defined as interesting facts about chocolate.

Facts! Hallelujah! I began my writing life as a reporter and spent more than 25 years in the newspaper world. I can handle facts. I started researching immediately. And the facts about chocolate are fascinating. Such as:
  • The Aztecs and the Mayas used chocolate beans for money. In fact, this custom was probably universal through the area where cacao trees were originally grown. Sometimes crooks even made counterfeit chocolate beans. 
  • Chocolate was introduced to France by Cardinal Richelieu. Yes, the same guy who gave the Three Musketeers and Anne of Austria all that trouble in the Dumas novel I adored as a teenager. Richelieu discovered chocolate through his brother and used it as medicine.
  • Cary Grant is given credit for the custom, observed by fancy hotels, of putting chocolates on guests’ pillows each night.
  • What do England’s Quaker chocolatiers of the 18th and 19th Centuries have in common with Milton Hershey, the American inventor of the chocolate kiss? Both Quakers and Hershey established model communities for their workers. Both also produced chocolate using the very latest technology of their times.
Those bits of Lore are all from the category History. Chocolate Lore comes in all categories – science and business are also rife with interesting facts about the cacao tree and its produce. The people who made their marks on chocolate are totally fascinating.

And then there’s cooking. Of all the Lore items I’ve researched and written, the one that inspired the most mail was my grandmother’s fudge recipe. And TenHuis Chocolate does not make or sell fudge!

My grandmother found the recipe during the 1950s, and I never knew it was unusual. It simply became the family standard for fudge. The fudge produced doesn’t require extensive beating, as earlier fudge had. A little Internet research (and my family’s Lore) revealed the fudge depends on a product named “Marshmallow Fluff” invented in the early 20th Century. Kraft was, and is, one of the main producers of this magic goo, and it had a “no-fail” recipe for fudge on the label. I’m sure that’s where Gran found the recipe. Of course, she just happened to be a superb cook to begin with – unafraid to try new products.

My own favorite books for chocolate lore include the following:
  • The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe. The Coes spent many years researching the history of chocolate, and the information in this book is mind-bogglingly complete. It’s the source for nearly all of my information on the history of chocolate.
  • The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Joel Glenn Brenner. A fascinating book that looks at the lives and business success of both Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars – the greatest entrepreneurs of chocolate in the United States. Two interesting guys – but how different they are! 
  • Chocolate Without Guilt, by Terry Graedon and Kit Gruelle. Yes, that’s “Graedon,” as in Joe and Terry Graedon, who write a syndicated column on drugs and prescriptions. (I never miss it.) This book looks at chocolate as a health food – among other things. It also offers dozens of recipes.
  • Chocolate Moulds: A History and Encyclopedia, by Jedene Divone. This catalogs the history of moulds used to form chocolate throughout history. I used it a lot when I wrote The Chocolate Bear Burglary. (The most popular mould is – surprise! – the Teddy Bear. Easter bunnies and Santas are close behind.) And in the chocolate world, “mould” refers to something the cook uses to make a food in a particular shape. To them “mold” is what you scrub off the bathroom tile. 
All in all, I’ve probably enjoyed the Lore of the Chocoholic books more than most of the readers have. Though my favorite bit of Lore in The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans has nothing to do with chocolate. This time I described the urban legend that claims there are sharks in Lake Michigan.

I found it hilarious.

JoAnna Carl is the pseudonym of Eve K. Sandstrom. She spent 25 years as a reporter, feature writer, editor and columnist. JoAnna lives in Oklahoma but summers in Michigan where the Chocoholic Mystery series is set. She has one daughter who is a CPA and another who works for a chocolate company and provides much delicious insider information on the chocolate business. The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans is the 17th Chocoholic book, all of them focusing on TenHuis Chocolade and two amateur detectives, Lee and Joe Woodyard. The book was just published by Berkley Prime Crime.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

BALTHAZAR: French Crime Drama on Acorn TV

BALTHAZAR introduces America to the suave, smart and somewhat strange, forensic pathologist (Raphaël Balthazar) who has the knack of making the dead speak like no one else to solve Paris’ most disturbing crimes. There’s one case that continues to haunt him - the murder of his wife over a decade ago. Popular actor/director/comic Tomer Sisley (Messiah, We’re the Millers, Largo Winch) has been called “flawless” and “brilliant” by French media for his performance in the star role of this alluring series. Sisley is evenly matched with Hélène de Fougerolles (Le Secret d’Elise), who plays the no-nonsense police commander collaborating with him during these investigations.

Acorn TV will stream BALTHAZAR Series 1 on Monday, November 25,  and they’ve already picked up Series 2 scheduled to premiere in spring 2020.

Friday, November 8, 2019


Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day), is November 11. Veterans Day commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, that took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" 1918.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day November 11, 1919. The U.S.  Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. The 11th of November is"a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." It was later changed to Veteran's Day.

I love to read mysteries that reflect regions and holidays, so I'm reposting about Veterans Day with a few additions. Julia Spencer-Fleming's Once Was a Soldier,  Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd's mystery series are at the top of my list of Veterans Day Mysteries. There's also the Joe Sandilands series by Barbara Cleverly. And Bulldog Drummond is a WWI veteran in the Sapper/H.C. McNeile books. Add to that Walter Mosley's WWII Vet Easy Rawlins. Don't miss Marcia Talley's All Things Undying in which Hannah Ives helps to locate the grave of a WWII serviceman. James Lee Burke is another great mystery author whose Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux is a Vietnam Veteran. And, of course, the Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers where the mystery turns on the poppy in the lapel.

BV Lawson's 2007 post of Veteran's Day Mysteries is great. No need to duplicate her efforts. Be sure and read her blog, as well as all the comments. Another fine list is In Remembrance Fiction in Times of War (not all mysteries) from the St. Charles Public Library. I also did a Memorial Day post here on Mystery Fanfare that covers some of the same territory Mysteries in Paradise about Remembrance Day is also a great resource.

You'll want to read J. Kingston's Pierce's recent article 9 Mysteries Set in the Immediate Aftermath of WWI on CrimeReads.

Wikipedia has an entry about Veterans Day Mysteries. Several hardboiled heroes have been war veterans. Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and many others from World War II, and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee from the Korean War. "The frequent exposure to death and hardship often leads to a cynical and callous attitude as well as a character trait known today as post-traumatic stress characterizes many hardboiled protagonists."

And, for the young set, one of the first Veteran-related mysteries: Cherry Ames: Veterans' Nurse by Helen Wells.

Read a Veterans Day mystery today and remember the men and women who have served our country. Thank you.

In Memory of Major Joseph Rudolph, M.D., WWII

Cartoon of the Day: Surprise Witness

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Cartoon of the Day: Dogs


More awards!

Last weekend at Bouchercon, the Local Organizing Committee announced the winners of the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction.

First Place: Joseph S. Walker, “The Last Man in Lafarge”
Second Place: Jaap Boekestein, “Long Overdue”
Third Place: Douglas Dorow, “Trust Me”
Fourth Place: Dixon Hill, “Mi Corazón, Sin Cartero, Sin Timbre de la Puerta (My Heart, Sans Postman, Sans Doorbell)”


Mystery Readers Journal: Private Eyes I (Volume 35:3: Fall 2019) is available now as a PDF and hardcopy. Subscriber copies have been mailed. This is the first installment of this theme. Private Eyes II will be out Winter 2019-2020. We are still looking for articles and author essays for the next issue. Thanks to everyone who contributed to these issues. 

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

PRIVATE EYES I (Volume 35:3)

  • Big Sleep vs. Big Lebowski: Chandleresque Masculinity, 80 Years Later by Austin Wright
  • Three PIs in Their Sodoms: Hollywood, Hoboken, Galway by Jay Gertzman
  • Old-Time Radio’s Best, and Last, Private Eye by Jim Doherty
  • All My Best Eyes Are Private by Lawrence Block
  • Detecting: It’s All in the Details by Cara Black
  • Dude, You’re Not Wearing Any Pants! by Tracy Clark
  • Of Thugs and Heroes by Sean Carswell
  • There’s No Such Thing as Private Eyes by Mark Coggins
  • Nate Heller and Mike Hammer by Max Allan Collins
  • Finding My Path Along The Trail Blazed by Others by Matt Coyle
  • Captivating PIs and the Creation Process by Rich DiSilvio
  • My Introduction to Private Eyes by Parnell Hall
  • Laughing Into the Darkness by Jack Fredrickson
  • Easy Work by Russell Hill
  • My First PI by Aimee Hix
  • My PI Is a Real Person… More or Less by Nancy Lynn Jarvis
  • The Many Guises of the Private Eye by Vaseem Khan
  • Think of Me as the Antidote to Dennis Lehane by David Housewright
  • Stand Down by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • You Want Your PIs Hard, Soft, or Medium-Boiled? (With a Side of Procedural) by B.V. Lawson
  • The Mysterious Heart of the PI by Chris Knopf
  • Fifty Years On by Michael Lewin
  • A 19th Century Private Eye Takes on the Wild West by Ann Parker
  • What Is It About the Private Eye, Anyway? by S.J. Rozan
  • Barker and Llewelyn: Private Enquiry Agents by Will Thomas
  • The Journalist as Private Eye by Charles Salzberg
  • The Psychic PI by Nancy Cole Silverman
  • My Medieval Detective Is Closing Up Shop by Jeri Westerson
  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Sandie Herron, D.J. Lutz, L.J. Roberts
  • Just the Facts: Ray Schindler, Shamus by Jim Doherty
  • The Children’s Hour: Private Eyes by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • In Short: The Private Eye by Marvin Lachman
  • Crime Seen: PIs — Not Just Tough Guys by Kate Derie
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph

Monday, November 4, 2019

Cartoon of the Day: Dogs

SHAMUS AWARDS: Private Eye Writer of America

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA SHAMUS AWARD WINNERS 2019 for works published in 2018. I am missing info on Best First Private Eye Novel. I asked just about everyone at the convention who was at the Shamus Awards, but no one seemed to remember. I will update this post when I find out.

Best Private Eye Novel 
What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur Books)

Best Original Private Eye Paperback                                                 
The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone (Redhook Books)

Best Private Eye Short Story 
"Chin Yong-Yun Helps a Fool," by S.J. Rozan, EQMM

Best First Private Eye Novel
The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco (MCD Farrar, Straus, Giroux)

Saturday, November 2, 2019


The Anthony Award Winners were announced tonight at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. Congratulations to all!


Best Novel 
November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)

Best First Novel
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday)

Best Paperback Original Novel 
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)

Best Short Story 
“The Grass Beneath My Feet” by S.A. Cosby, in Tough (blogazine, August 20, 2018)

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work 
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)

The Anthony® Award is named for the late Anthony Boucher (rhymes with “voucher”), a well-known California writer and critic who wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times Book Review, and also helped found Mystery Writers of America. First presented in 1986, the Anthony Awards are among the most prestigious and coveted literary awards. Bouchercon®, the World Mystery Convention founded in 1970, is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization celebrating the mystery genre. It is the largest annual meeting in the world for readers, writers, fans, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, and other lovers of crime fiction. 

For more information, please visit



Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announced the Barry Award Winners of the Barry Awards at the Dallas Bouchercon Opening Ceremonies. Congratulations to all! 

The 2019 Barry Award Winners

Best Novel
Lou Berney, NOVEMBER ROAD (Morrow)  

Best First Novel

C. J. Tudor, THE CHALK MAN (Crown)

Best Paperback Original 

Dervla McTiernan, THE RUIN (Penguin) 

Best Thriller

Dan Fesperman, SAFE HOUSES (Knopf)

Friday, November 1, 2019


What holiday could be more fitting to Mysteries than El Dia de los Muertos: Day of the Dead? You'll love this list. Be sure and check my updated Halloween Crime Fiction list for other mysteries that start on Halloween and include Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Crime Fiction

Day of the Dead by Kristi Belcamino
Scrapbook of the Dead by Mollie Cox Bryan
The Day of the Dead by John Creed
Trick or Treason by Kathi Daley
Day of the Dead by Brenda Donelan
A Cemetery, a Cannibal, and the Day of the Dead by CC Dragon
The Day of the Dead by Nicci French
The Day of the Dead: the Autumn of Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni
Days of the Dead by Barbara Hambly
Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton
Dios De Los Muertos by Kent Harrington
The Wrong Goodbye by Chris Holm
Death Arts by Melanie Jackson
Day of the Dead by J.A. Jance
Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson
Devil's Kitchen by Clark Lohr
Weave Her Thread with Bones by Claudia Long
Day of the Dead by Manuel Luis Martinez
Bread of the Dead by Ann Myers
Oink by Judith Newton
Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts
The Day of the Dead by Bart Spicer
The Day of the Dead Mystery (The Boxcar Children Mysteries) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Any titles missing?