Sunday, May 31, 2009

Writers' Rooms

There is a wonderful series of the spaces where authors create in the Guardian online. Great links to photos and articles about the authors published over the years. A few mystery authors are sprinkled among the group. Also included are comments from the writers about their rooms. You'll love them all.

Photo above is of Ian Rankin's writing room (from May 2007/have things changed?) For pure clutter, go to Russell Hoban's room. Great writing comes out of great chaos. My kind of room.

For the Complete Series, go here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Glass Key Award

Johan Theorin won the Scandinavian prize for Nattfak (Night Blizzard). Theorin is on the far left with the cap. Theorin was nominated by the Svenska Deckarakademin (Swedish Crime Novel Academy). The Glass Key was presented at Nordic House in Reykjavik. The Glass Key has been awarded by the SKS/CWS since 1992.

For the nominees, go here.

Johan Theorin was born in 1963 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and has spent every summer of his life on northern Oland. He is a journalist and scriptwriter. His second novel, Night Blizzard, will be published by Delacorte in September. It will be called The Darkest Room.

Hat Tip to Scandinavian Fiction for the news!

Kate Atkinson, reluctant author

Kate Atkinson tells Hay Festival she'd rather not be a published author.

Her reclusive streak was revealed on stage this morning at the Guardian Hay festival, where she confessed her ideal situation would be "to have enough money … [to] write and not be published". She doesn't, she told Guardian Review editor Lisa Allardice, like reviews or critics. "It's a very uncomfortable thing for a writer, we're very tender," she said.
Read entire article in the Guardian.

When Will There be Good News? Well, Kate Atkinson is in the middle of a fourth novel with former Police Inspector Jackson Brodie. Good news to me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lambda Awards

The 21st Annual Lambda Awards were given out last night in New York. The Lambda Literary Foundation is the country's leading organization for LGBT writers and readers.. Winners in the Mystery/Crime Fiction category are:

Whacked by Josie Gordon (Bella Books)

Blind Faith
, Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, Bold Strokes Books
Sweet Poison, Ellen Hart, St. Martin's Press
Losers Weepers, Jessica Thomas, Bella Books
Calling the Dead
, Ali Vali, Bold Strokes Books)

First You Fall by Scott Sherman, Alyson Books

The Fisher Boy
, Stephen Anable, Poisoned Pen Press
Sundowner Ubuntu
, Anthony Bidulka, Insomniac Press
Mahu Fire, Neil Plakcy, Alyson Books
Spider Season
, John Morgan Wilson, St. Martin's Press

Hat tip to @ErinHere on Twitter for the timely reporting. Erin McHugh is the author of The Little Road Trip Handbook.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ian Fleming: 101

I must confess that I enjoy spy thrillers. My first introduction to them must have been Ian Fleming's James Bond series. Over the years, my taste changed--or should I say continued to grow- and branched out to John LeCarre and many of the contemporary thriller authors. I was very pleased when Penguin reprinted all the James Bond books in lovely paper editions, and I was finally able to replace my tattered much read books. (Collectors need not worry. They were in terrible shape).

Today would have been Ian Fleming's 101st birthday. Sadly Fleming died of a heart attack at the early age of 56 in 1964. How many more terrific books might he have written?

Some odd facts:
Fleming wrote not only the 14 James Bond books, but did you know that he also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? and two non-fiction books. The James Bond novels weren't popular in the U.S. until John F. Kennedy included From Russia with Love on his list of favorite books. What is President Obama reading?

So today is Ian Fleming's 101st birthday. Raise a glass--" a vodka martini, shaken not stirred."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett, father of the American Hardboiled Detective novel, was born on May 27, 1894. Happy Birthday, Dash.

Perhaps the most enduring characters of Dashiell Hammett were Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles. Everyone who is a Hammett Fan has read The Maltese Falcon, and if you haven't, you should. Of course, you've seen one of the three movies based on the novel, but the book is great and one of my favorites. The novel introduces Sam Spade and many other characters-Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the Fat Man Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo and Wilmer Cook--all searching for a black statue-the Maltese Falcon. The two Continental Op novels, The Red Harvest and The Dain Curse should also be read. Actually you should read everything.

Hammett holds a place near and dear to me, as he spent much of his time in San Francisco. You can still walk those mean streets with Don Herron, author of The Dashiell Hammett Tour. No trip to San Francisco is complete without it. Herron is an expert on Hammett.

Some interesting links about Dashiell Hammett: American Masters (PBS) page. The Thrilling Detective has a complete list of Dashiell Hammett trivia-fiction, non-fiction, movies, stories, plays and more. J. Kingston Pierce wrote a great article in January Magazine: "Let's Talk about the Black Bird."

And, here's a Trailer from The Maltese Falcon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mystery Events in the San Francisco Bay Area

Mystery Happenings in the San Francisco Bay Area
Just a few things coming up. This is not a complete list by any means. Let me know if you'd like an event to be added to this list.

June 4: Glen David Gold, author of Sunnyside, M is for Mystery. 7 p.m.

June 6: 2 p.m. Sisters in Crime Soiree at Books Inc. in Opera Plaza, San Francisco

Members of Sisters in Crime read from their recently published works! Nadia Gordon, Camille Minichino, Cara Black, Vinnie Hansen, Terri Micene, Janet LaPierre, Rita Lakin, and Louise Ure will all read excerpts from their latest releases. Snacks and wine will be served.

June 10: Jeffery Deaver, author of Roadside Crosses. 3:00 P.m.

June 11: Gillian Flynn, Author of Dark Places & Christie Phillips, Author of The Devlin Diary.

June 19-20: Author Boot Camp: Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler
In today's publishing world, debut authors not only have to write well, they also have to help sell their own work. Many agents and editors are looking for writers who bring an existing audience to the table. In this workshop, we teach you the tools and techniques that two authors used to build large networks of followers, fans, and eager readers. The methods include utilizing social networking, new media, and serializing novels as free audiobooks.

Bring your laptop and start on the process they used to make cheap, highly effective advertising in the form of free, podcast novels that landed them book contracts with major publishing houses! The concept is simple: do you want a small number of busy, harried agents and editors to decide your fate, or do you want build an audience that proves your work will sell? When you bring the audience, that changes the whole game.
Website for the class (with more info) is:

June 23: Stefanie Pintoff, author of In the Shadow of Gotham. At Home, Mystery Readers International, NorCal, Berkeley, RSVP. Space limited.

July 16: Mystery Fundraiser
for LitQuake. 6-8 p.m. Mechanics Library, San Francisco. Talks, readings, signings with San Francisco Mystery Authors. Rhys Bowen, Lisa Lutz, Simon Wood, and many others. $12 More info to come.

July 16-19, 2009
Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference. Book Passage in Corte Madera. 4 Day Conference covers everything mystery writers need—from developing ideas and writing skills to finding a publisher. Students work closely with mystery writers, agents, editors, and publishers as well as investigators and crime-fighting professionals. In this conference, mystery writers learn the clues to a successful writing career. Faculty includes Katherine Neville, Gillian Roberts, Martin Cruz Smith & more!
Editors, agents, and publishers tell students what they need to know to get published. Authors offer classes on setting, dialogue, suspense, point of view, and openings. They tell how to write about private eyes, amateur sleuths, and police protagonists, and how to create thrillers and historical mysteries. Panels of detectives, forensic experts, police, and other crime-fighting professionals provide information that allows crime fiction writers to put realism in their work.
(800) 999-7909x233. email:
Conference Coordinator: Kathryn Petrocelli

July 30: Lono Waiwaiole, author of Wiley's Lament. Dark Carnival, Berkeley, 5:30 p.m..

Mystery Fanfare Update: Ken Bruen, Movies, Memorial Day

I love just about everything Ken Bruen writes, and when I read Once Were Cops I couldn't help but see it unfold as a movie. Every scene was ripe for Hollywood. So I wasn't surprised to see that Hollywood has optioned it and is actually working on bringing it to the big screen. Hat Tip to The Rap Sheet and Garbhan Downey. See Garbhan's review here.

I hope they do a good job with it and are able to capture the sneers, the violence, and the great characterizations. Not sure whom I would cast.

Not every--or should I say most- authors are happy with film adaptations, especially when they're cut out of the screen writing process. Here's a Great List of 13 Authors and their comments, including crime writers Clive Cussler, Brian Garfield and James Ellroy. Be sure and read them all. Hope Ken will be pleased.

As an update to my Memorial Day list of Mysteries, The Rap Sheet points to B.V. Lawson's Reference to Murder column from a few years ago that had a lengthy list of mysteries with military veterans or books written by military veterans to read on Memorial Day. It's never to late to read these mysteries.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Mysteries

Memorial Day is Monday, and there are a few mysteries that are set during Memorial Day. This holiday has become part of a three day holiday weekend. Many think of this weekend as the beginning of Summer, a time for barbecues, the beach, the cabin in the mountains, but the true meaning of Memorial Day aka Decoration Day is a day of remembrance of those who fell to protect us, those who didn't come home. Many people go to cemeteries and memorials on the last Monday in May. There is a tradition to fly the flag at half mast and wear poppies (although since that's a WWI observance, not sure if it still happens). Oh, and the Indianapolis 500 has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911.

I have a short list of Memorial Day Mysteries. I welcome comments and additions. Of course, you might want to read a mystery set at the Indianapolis 500.

Memorial Day by Vince Flynn
The Decoration Memorial Day War by David H. Brown
Memorial Day by Harry Shannon

I also found a collection of short stories on the Internet. I'm not familiar with the writers, but I read a few of the stories, and some were quite good.
The Memorial Day Mystery short stories on he web

One more for the young set:
The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire by Kathryn Kenny, a Trixie Belden mystery.

Have a good holiday. Be safe and Remember.

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It's 150 years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born, and his legacy lives on. Who isn't familiar with his creation Sherlock Holmes, the archetype of the sleuth.

Read Melanie McDonagh's article, We still believe in Sherlock Holmes, even in the age of DNA from the Telegraph (UK) and David Rosenthal's article in the Baltimore Sun.

Be sure and read a Sherlock Holmes Short Story today!

Check the Internet for celebrations around the World.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Anthony Award Nominations

2009 Anthony Award Nominations

Best Novel

Trigger City by Sean Chercover [William Morrow]
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly [Little, Brown and Company]
Red Knife by William Kent Krueger [Atria]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson [Knopf]
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny [Minotaur]

Best First Novel
Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris [Minotaur]
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer [Doubleday]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson [Knopf]
Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliet [Midnight Ink]
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith [Grand Central]

Best Paperback Original
The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins [Hard Case Crime]
Money Shot by Christa Faust [Hard Case Crime]
State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy [Berkley]
In a Dark Season by Vicki Lane [Dell]
South of Hell by P. J. Parrish [Pocket Star]

Best Short Story
“The Night Things Changed” by Dana Cameron from Wolfsbane and Mistletoe [Ace]
“A Sleep Not Unlike Death” by Sean Chercover from Hardcore Hardboiled [Kensington]
“Killing Time” by Jane K. Cleland from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (November)
“Skull and Cross Examination” by Toni L. P. Kelner from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (February)
“Scratch a Woman” by Laura Lippman from Hardly Knew Her [William Morrow]
“The Secret Lives of Cats” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (July)

Best Critical Nonfiction Work
African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey [McFarland]
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson [Perseverance Press]
Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography by Jeffrey Marks [McFarland]
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale [Walker & Company]

Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel
The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein [Random House]
Paper Towns by John Green [Dutton Juvenile]
Kiss Me, Kill Me by Lauren Henderson [Delacorte]
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart [Little, Brown]
Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash by Wendelin Van Draanen [Knopf]

Best Cover Art
Death Was the Other Woman designed by David Rotstein and written by Linda L. Richards [Minotaur]
Death Will Get You Sober designed by David Rotstein and written by Elizabeth Zelvin [Minotaur]
The Fault Tree designed by David Rotstein and written by Louise Ure [Minotaur]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo designed by Peter Mendelsund and written by Stieg Larsson [Knopf]
Money Shot designed by Steve Cooley and written by Christa Faust [Hard Case Crime]

Special Service Award
Jon and Ruth Jordan
Ali Karim
David Montgomery
Gary Warren Niebuhr
Sarah Weinman

The Voting Process:
Voting will take place on site at the Indianapolis Bouchercon. (Only registered attendees in attendance may vote.) The winners will be announced during a gala awards ceremony on Saturday, October 17, 2009.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Crime Scene Band-aids

Crime-Scene Adhesive bandages.

O.K. You know you want these. Should always have these around for gunshot wounds, knifings and other 'minor' injuries.

These also come in bacon, pickle, toast, eyeball, kisses and other odd patterns and shapes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Last Laugh Awards-Crimefest

CrimeFest Awards

2009 Last Laugh Award (best humorous crime novel published in the British Isles in 2008): Christopher Fowler for The Victoria Vanishes (Transworld/Doubleday).

Best Abridged Crime Audiobook (Tie): Stieg Larsson for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (reader: Martin Wenner; Quercus) and Ian Rankin for Doors Open (reader: James McPherson; Orion).

Best Unabridged Crime Audiobook: Kate Atkinson for When Will There Be Good News? (reader: Steven Crossley; BBC Audiobooks).

Hat Tip to The Rap Sheet with Hat off to EuroCrime. Everyone is Hatless!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Janet LaPierre Interview

Janet LaPierre, longtime Mystery Readers International member and Mystery Author, was our guest at an At Home (Literary Salon) in Berkeley a few weeks ago, but for the extended community out there--people who couldn't attend--I thought you might want to read the answers to a few questions I asked her.

Betty Webb wrote a great review of Janet LaPierre's latest novel, Run a Crooked Mile, for Mystery Fanfare. Read here.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The moment I discovered that the stories my mother was reading to me were made up by real people.

What are the attractions of writing series novels? The problems?
In writing a series, a writer has a chance to expand and better define her protagonist, and watch him/her grow. And readers like the familiarity of a series. The main problem for the writer here is the threat of boredom. I manage that in my Port Silva books by adding new characters to the town of Port Silva, mingling them with older ones, perhaps permitting a formerly minor character to become more important.

In your new book, Run a Crooked Mile, you’ve left Port Silva Behind behind, or have you?
Probably not. I have a new story in mind for each of those settings. Which will prove to be most workable—which one I’ll actually finish—is not yet clear. Perhaps both?

Do you ever plan on merging the two series?
I can imagine a bit of overlap, but not a full merger.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
A. Finally getting a character, or a scene, or a chapter, just right.
B. Spending long stretches of time in another world with people I’ve created.

The town of Port Silva is the central character in your mystery series. Did you set out to make the town the main character?
Port Silva is a very specific kind of place, based on an actual area: the Mendocino Coast; and I’d say the town has character, rather than being a character. It’s the kind of place that draws or holds on to the kinds of people I’m interested in writing about.

You often develop minor characters in your books. How important do you think they are to sustaining your books and the series?
I believe carefully-developed minor characters are important to any novel; and as I said above, sometimes it works out to let a minor character in one novel grow into a major one in the other; in fact, occasionally a character simply thrusts himself forward and refuses to stay minor.

Why did you choose a fictitious town for your series and a real town for this latest book?
I live in and love coastal northern California, and have done a lot of camping and vacationing north of my Berkeley home, particularly around Mendocino and Fort Bragg. But as a beginning writer, I decided I’d have more freedom and be less likely to give offense to locals if I turned, say, Fort Bragg, into a fictional place: thus, Port Silva.
For the new book, Run A Crooked Mile, I intended to do the same. But Trinity County and its main town, Weaverville, proved to be so distinctly themselves that I found I couldn’t come up with a fictional overlay. So I took a chance and went with reality only slightly modified.

Has writing for you become easier or more difficult as the years progress?
More difficult in the sense that I have become a more demanding judge of the craft, my own and that of others. Easier in that I now can begin a book with at least a modest expectation of finishing it, and enjoying the process.

What do you think has changed in your own work over the years?
The main characters are older; and I’d like to think the writing is smoother.

Do you have any wild and crazy hobbies or interests that would surprise your readers?
If I had, I wouldn’t talk about them.

Your house is on fire and you can save only two books: one by yourself, one by another author? Which would you choose? And why?
Right off the top of my head: My first book, Unquiet Grave, because I still like the story and the characters. And Anne Tyler’s Searching for Caleb because I remember how much I loved it. Its paper cover is all tattered.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Glauser Award: Hans Werner Kettenbach

Hans Werner Kettenbach won the Glauser Award (Germany's most prestigious crime writing prize) for lifetime literary achievement. Bitter Lemon Press published Black Ice, his first novel to be made available in English and is also bringing out his second, David's Revenge, this May in
the UK and in October in the US.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poison Secrets in the Kitchen

I have two blogs--Mystery Fanfare and DyingforChocolate, and I find that they sometimes overlap. While checking twitter for chocolate news, recipes and info, I came across the Blog Sweets Foods. Yesterday there was a list of natural foods that contain substances potentially harmful to the body. Now, this was a warning, of course, to all the people in cyberspace, but I thought mystery writers and readers could certainly use the knowledge. To what end? Well, that's up to them.

Beans: Favism or fabism or favismo or fabismo is a genetic disease for having a different gen that codify and react against the fava beans producing blood problems and other important ones. Favism (an incurable disease) is found mainly in the contour of the Mediterranean sea with some focus in Africa.

Cassava or yuca (Spanish) or mandioca (Portuguese) and many other names in the world. A staple food tuber that originated in South America and an important source of carbohydrates globally. It has a little quantity of cyanide. Avoid eating raw; cyanide doesn’t need more explanation!

Almonds, the so-called sweet almonds aren’t toxic but a bitter variety has some cyanide. They both can become poisonous in very damp environments…cyanide has the smell of almonds (but you knew that!)

Apricot kernels and other fruit seeds like peaches, pears, cherries, plums, apples contain natural cyanide but the problem begins with exaggerated quantities that have a toxic effect.

Fugu, a Japanese famous fish, contains lethal toxins in several parts of its body. Not available in most pantries.

Green potatoes are poisonous. Avoid using green potatoes or take away the green part of a normal potato. Store potatoes in dark, fresh and dry places because when they're exposed to light, they generate natural toxins.

Nutmeg a classic in cooking, has a narcotic and toxic side in your heath if it's taken in large amounts.

The Jamaican fruit, ackee, can emit a toxic gas if it is forced open before it's ripe!

Care to add to the list?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Janet LaPierre's Run a Crooked Mile

Review of Janet LaPierre's Run a Crooked Mile
by Betty Webb (originally appeared in Mystery Scene Magazine #109)

The sun’s out, the snow’s melted away, and we can venture outside again without our parkas. But don’t spend too much time dancing in the spring breezes, because with the sunny season there comes a new batch of mysteries eager to tempt us back to our favorite reading chairs.

Among the best is Janet LaPierre’s Run a Crooked Mile (Perseverance Press, $14.95). The old show biz warning about never following a child or an animal on stage could have come true in this tale centered around the fate of Tank, a Labrador retriever found in the forest near the body of a local woman nicknamed “Mike” who appears to be the victim of a hunting accident. Fortunately, author LaPierre, the author of nine novels in the Port Silva series, is well-aware of the dangers adorable mutts can present and thus takes care to craft Rosemary Mendes, a just-as-fascinating human character who adopts the homeless pooch.

A widow hiding out from her lunatic former in-laws, Rosemary is leading an isolated life in California’s Trinity Alps, but aided by the selfless Tank, she begins to form an almost psychic bond with the dead woman. This bond almost gets Rosemary killed when she decides that the woman was murdered, not shot by accident. But by whom and why? Solving the puzzle is more difficult than in the usual mystery novel because no one even knows “Mike’s” real name or where she came from. The characters in Mile are a fascinating lot, and the northern California setting is so meticulously detailed we can almost smell the trees and dirt. And Rosemary, bless her loner heart, makes an independent protagonist we’ll want to see more of.

Betty Webb: Author of Desert Cut, Desert Run, Desert Shadows, Desert Wives: Polygamy Can Be Murder, and Desert Noir. Coming Dec. 2009, Desert Lost, another polygamy-based mystery. Also, the humorous zoo mystery, The Anteater of Death. All by Poisoned Pen Press.

This review originally appeared in Betty Webb's "Small Press Reviews" column in Mystery Scene Magazine, Spring #109. Reproduced by permission.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day Murders!

Ah, Mother's Day. I think for me the most famous mystery-related mother is the 'Mother' in Psycho. I put together a Mother's Day list. I'm sure I left off a few, and I tried to focus on books that were about the holiday. If I listed all the mysteries and crime fiction with famous and infamous mothers, the list would be enormous.

How to Murder Your Mother-in-Law by Dorothy Cannell
Murder Can Upset Your Mother by Selma Eichler
Murder for Mother: Short Story collection, edited by Martin Greenberg
Murder Superior by Jane Haddam
The Mother’s Day Murder by Lee Harris
Mother’s Day by Patricia Macdonald
Mother’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
Mom, Apple Pie & Murder: A collection of New Mysteries for Mother’s Day, edited by Nancy Pickard
Mother’s Day: A Novel of Suspense by Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

And a new book by the mystery author of the Mommy-Track mysteries, Ayelet Waldman, although not a mystery itself, is Bad Mother: Chronicle of Maternal Crime.

Want to do something nice for your Mother on Mother's Day? Give her some great mysteries or... my other passion, chocolate. Check out DyingforChocolate for great recipes, thoughts, reviews and chocolate - related info.

Laurie R. King Blogs on Mystery Fanfare

From Laurie R. King, Guest Blogger

Laurie R. King is the Edgar award winning, New York Times bestselling author of the Mary Russell series of historical mysteries, the modern police series of Kate Martinelli, and a number of standalones. Her web site ( is celebrating the publication of her ninth Mary Russell novel, The Language of Bees, now in stores everywhere.

My background is theology, namely, the Old Testament (the story-teller’s source-book.) After I had my MA, I looked at the employment possibilities for a person with my qualifications (sic…) and turned from a life of God to a life of crime.

Let me begin by saying that it is truly extraordinary how often one’s characters share one’s interests. Mary Russell is forever finding herself in a situation where her knowledge of the Bible, both Hebrew (A Monstrous Regiment of Women) and Greek (A Letter of Mary) comes in very handy. The second Kate Martinelli (To Play the Fool) finds that San Francisco cop face to face with a Holy Fool, as in the next one (Night Work) she meets modern-day Kali worshippers. Since my own background includes first a BA thesis on the Holy Fool, then an MA thesis on “Feminine Aspects of God in the Old Testament,” well, it’s nothing short of amazing how often I find myself working snippets of research past into the stories.

Take the current book, The Language of Bees. This is the ninth outing for Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, and in the course of a complex case involving Bohemian artists, Shanghai natives, and what appears to be Druidic human sacrifice, they meet a man who wrote his own Bible, calling it Testimony.

The problem is, religion is a touchy subject in the publishing industry. Not, I have found, that readers themselves are offended, but publishers are convinced they will be, just as publishers are convinced that green book covers or plots set in Australia condemn a book to obscurity.

So, what in the first draft of The Language of Bees was two full chapters of excerpts from Testimony, became whittled down in subsequent drafts. Two shorter chapters were still too much, so I chopped the material into forty segments and placed them at the beginnings of each chapter, then trimmed them into shorter segments, until finally, Testimony was reduced to forty brief lines decorating the chapter heads. I fought each step of the way, because the material was essential for, if nothing else, the clues it contained.

The problem was, that kind of religious document is often more than a little tedious. And since I do nothing halfway, I got into the spirit of the thing and made Testimony both pompous and long-winded, the very essence of religious tedium. Battle as I might for its inclusion, my argument based on the idea that the reader would skim over it lightly, thus miss the clues, which would permit me to claim that I had played fair with them, I lost. Somehow my editor couldn’t get past the “readers skimming over it lightly” part. She, unfortunately, had also heard Elmore Leonard’s famous dictum to cut all the parts that readers skim over.

So, bit by bit, Testimony‘s twenty or so pages were reduced to forty brief (but, one hopes, evocative) lines, and readers would have had to trust the narrator, Mary Russell , when she declares how tedious the material is.

Except for the Internet. Thanks to a web site that will soon require an entire server to host it, Testimony is now available online for an adoring public. My brother-in-law even played with it on Photoshop to make it look like an old facsimile, which makes it even more fun. I have already signed half a dozen of the things on my current book tour.

And you know? My editor was right. True, she’s always right, but in this case she was righter than usual. The book reads better with Testimony flitting at the corner of the reader’s vision. For every reader who would have loved to have the material included, there will be twenty who are, all unknowing, breathing a sigh of relief.

And twenty years from now when The Language of Bees is required reading in all high schools? I can do an anniversary edition and restore Testimony to its rightful place in the text, and successfully bore a future generation’s readers into ignoring its clues.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alex Barclay wins Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year

Alex Barclay won the the inaugural Ireland AM Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year prize for Blood Runs Cold. The Irish Times described this inaugural award as "an extremely competitive category." This, Barclay's third novel, won over Tana French (The Likeness), Brian McGilloway (Gallows Lane) and Arlene Hunt (Undertow).

Hat Tip to The Rap Sheet

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spinetingler Magazine Awards

So many awards, so much to read. And, the latest.... ta da...

Spinetingler Magazine just announced their Award winners. For the complete list with nominees, go here.

New Voice: Toby Barlow - SHARP TEETH
Rising Star: Christa Faust - MONEY SHOT
Legend: Lawrence Block - HIT AND RUN
Graphic Novel:Femme Noir by Christopher Mills and Joe Staton
Best Editor: Charles Ardai - Hard Case Crime
Best Reviewer: Lesa Holstine
Best Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Special Services to the Industry: J. Kingston Pierce: The Rap Sheet/Peter Rozovsky: Detectives Beyond Borders (tie)
Best cover: SHARP TEETH by Toby Barlow - Cover design by Christine Van Bree illustrated by Natasha Michaels
Best short story on the web: Hard Bite by by Anonymous-9 (Originally published at Beat to a Pulp)

Congratulations to all!

Wallander on Masterpiece Mystery!/Henning Mankell news

Wallander starts this Sunday night on Masterpiece Mystery!. Episodes in the U.S. will air on PBS May 10, May 17 and May 31 at 9 p.m. EDT. This is a stunning production with Kenneth Branagh as the brooding Inspector Wallander. Branagh, a co-producing partner, is a longtime fan of the Henning Mankell novels. The production team also includes director Philip Martin (Prime Suspect: The Final Act) and executive producer Andy Harries (The Queen, Prime Suspect).

I haven't seen the Swedish production of the Henning Mankell books, so I can't compare (comments welcome), but I did find the episodes, adapted from the books very compelling. Shot in southern Sweden, the landscape is as bleak as Wallander's life. It took me a little bit of time to get into the first production, but once there I was hooked. These shows really capture the detective, the collapsing Swedish society, and the conflicted Wallander in the Henning Mankell mysteries. Alan Cumming, the Masterpiece Mystery! host probably says it best when he says Wallander makes Inspector Morse look like Mary Poppins. He's got that right!

I had a bit of a problem at first with all the characters speaking English not Swedish. However, I soon got caught up in the pace, the camera angles, and the Swedish setting. So even though the characters don't speak English, the traffic signs and even words on a computer are in Swedish. O.K, this was probably what threw me at the beginning of the first episode. Branagh is brilliant as the self-loathing but compassionate Wallander. He and the setting and the crimes are bleak.

The Episodes are "Sidetracked" in which Wallander is on a case when someone starts killing people with an ax and scalping them. "Firewall" has Wallandar trying to link the deaths of a taxi drive and systems analyst with a series of blackouts. In "One Step Behind," the assassinations of a group of teens sets off a chain of events that leads back to Wallander.

To watch a preview of the PBS series, go here.
I highly recommend you watch or record these episodes.
For more info on the Kurt Wallander shows, go to this fan site
This series will be released on DVD on June 2.

More on Henning Mankell

On May 4 Henning Mankell revealed that Den orolige mannen will be the Swedish title of the final novel in the Wallander series . A literal translation of the title into English would be "The Worried/Nervous/Anxious/Restless Man"

The novel is completed and will be published in Sweden in August of 2009. The publication schedule for other languages is unknown at this point.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mysteries for Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo. Not a huge list of Cinco de Mayo mysteries, but there are a few. I've supplemented the list with Mexican mystery writers and books set in Mexico. Add to your reading pleasure today with a Chocolate Celebration. Check out my other Blog, Dying for Chocolate, for recipes and suggestions of great chocolate for Cinco de Mayo. Two days of blogging about entrees, drinks and desserts.

The Cinco de Mayo Murder by Lee Harris
The Bane of Cinco de Mayo by Nathan S. Mitchell
The Cinco de Mayo Reckoning by Terry Money

Not meaning to be complete in any way, I put together a few titles by Mexican authors or set in Mexico or related to the Mexican experience in some way (but not to Cinco de Mayo).

Mexican Crime Writers:
Paco Ignacio Taibo II The Uncomfortable Dead (and numerous other novels) Read an interview with Paco.
Eduardo Monteverde
Juan Hernandez Luna

Hardboiled fiction on the Mexican-American frontier:
Gabriel Trujillo Munoz-known for his science fiction and literary criticism, also writes detective fiction.
Mesquite Road
Tijuana City Blues

Carlos Fuentes: Cabeza de la Hidra (The Hydra Head)
Joaquin Guerrero-Casaola, The Law of the Garrotte

Want to find out more about Mysteries in Mexico. Read G.J. Demko's Landscapes of Crime.

Lucha Corpi is a Chicana mystery writer. She was a Guest on La Bloga on Chicana Crime Fiction: Where to?
Mignon G. Eberhart. Wings of Fear takes place in Mexico City.

Read an essay by Jennifer Insley "Border criminals, border crime: hard-boiled fiction on the American Frontier in Confluencia: Revista Hispanica de Cultura y Literatura

Monday, May 4, 2009

Macavity Award Nominations

MACAVITY NOMINATIONS. Mystery Readers International awards the Macavity for works published in 2008. The awards will be presented in October at Bouchercon in Indianapolis.

Best Mystery Novel
Trigger City by Sean Chercover (Wm. Morrow)
Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie (Wm. Morrow)
The Dying Breed (UK)/ The Price of Blood (US) by Declan Hughes (John Murray/ Wm. Morrow)
The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason (Minotaur)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery
Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster)
An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt (Onyx)
A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Harper; Headline)
The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell (Minotaur)

Best Nonfiction/Critical
African American Mystery Writers: A Historical & Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by Leonard Cassuto (Columbia Univ.)
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by David Geherin (McFarland)
Edgar Allan Poe : An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Harry Lee Poe (Metro)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (Walker)

Best Mystery Short Story
"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron (Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, ed. by Harris & Kelner, Penguin)
"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" by Sean Chercover (Hardcore Hardboiled, ed. by Todd Robinson, Kensington)
"Keeping Watch Over His Flock" by Toni L. P. Kelner (Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, ed. by Harris & Kelner, Penguin)
"Scratch a Woman" by Laura Lippman (Hardly Knew Her, Wm. Morrow)
"Between the Dark and the Daylight" by Tom Piccirilli (EQMM, Sep/Oct 2008)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Stealing Trinity by Ward Larsen (Oceanview)
The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss (Thorndike/ Random House UK)
Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Michael Joseph/ Delacorte)
Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley (Five Star)

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Agatha Award Winners

The Agatha Award winners were announced at the Banquet tonight at Malice Domestic in Arlington, VA. The Awards are given to mystery and crime writers who write 'traditional' mysteries.

Best Novel: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Best First Novel: Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Best Children's/Young Adult: The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Children's Books)
Best Non-Fiction: How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Best Short Story: "The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe (Penguin Group)

Kentucky Derby Mysteries

Kentucky Derby Day. If you read my DyingforChocolate Blog, you know I've been suggesting different chocolate for the Derby: Chocolate Bourbon Derby Pie (by various names since can't use Derby Pie) and Chocolate Bourbon balls. My horse of choice this year is Chocolate Candy, of course.

But Mystery Fanfare is my Mystery blog, so it's appropriate to list some mysteries to read today!

Derby Rotten Scoundrels: A Silver Dagger Anthology, edited by Jeffrey Marks is a great anthology that surrounds one of the United States' greatest sporting event--the Kentucky Derby. Danger, bourbon, horses, gambling, special events and deceit abound. Author bios.

Kit Ehrman, who has written some great horse mysteries featuring Steven Cline, wrote Triple Cross that takes place during the Derby. Here's a link to Kit's blog where she tells how and why she wrote a Derby novel. Great photos of the Kentucky Derby and the surrounding buildings and special events , too.

It might be fun to have a marathon read of Dick Francis mysteries today, but only "The Gift" is set at the Kentucky Derby. It is in the collection Field of Thirteen. "The Gift" first appeared as "A Day of Wine and Roses" in Sports Illustrated, 1973.

And there once was a thorough-bred named Mystery Novel. He did not win the Kentucky Derby.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Derringer 2009 Award Winners

The Short Mystery Fiction Society is a worldwide group of writers, editors, publishers, and readers. Through informative discussions, publicity efforts, and annual awards, we promote the creation, publication, and appreciation of short crime and mystery fiction.

As voted by members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society:

BEST FLASH STORY (Up to 1,000 Words): TBD.

BEST SHORT STORY (1,001 to 4,000 Words): "The Cost of Doing Business" by Michael Penncavage
Published in: THUGLIT

BEST LONG STORY (4,001 to 8,000 Words): "The Quick Brown Fox" by Robert S. Levinson Published in: ALFRED HITCHCOCK MYSTERY MAGAZINE

BEST NOVELETTE (8,001 to 17,500 Words): "Too Wise" by O'Neil De Noux Published in: ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE

"No Place Like Home" by Dee Stuart
Published in: MYSTERICAL-E

"No Flowers for Stacey" by Ruth McCarty


updated on 5/5/09 to include Best Flash Story

Year's Best Crime Novels By Bill Ott

It's really hard to pick the 'best' novels. So many different variables. If I were to choose myself it would be my opinion and taste only, and I have too many friends whom I might hurt or offend by not choosing. So I list the Edgar nominees and award winners, the Agathas, the Anthonys, the Macavitys and all the others, as well as individual critics and writers who offer up their 'top' booklists. Occasionally, I'll single out books for review, but I try not to put together a 'best' list. That's just me. I applaud the people who can. I like so many books, it's just hard for me. However, I think by reading award nominees, reviews and lists, one can get a good cross-section of 'the best' out there. Something for everyone. Cozy with Agatha lists. HardBoiled P.I. with the Shamus and so on.

So here's author Bill Ott's list for the Year's Best Crime Novels 2009, published in Booklist. Not just a list, but well thought out reasons for his choices. Read the entire article. I'm only listing the titles here. His year seems to be from about March 2008 through mid-April 2009.

TOP 10
Cole in Hand by John Harvey
The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
Liars Anonymous by Louise Ure
Mine All Mine by Adam Davies (this ones really intriguing to me since I haven't read it)
A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith
Spade & Archer: The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon by Joe Gores.
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Best Crime Novel Debuts

Amberville by Tim Davys
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin
Final Theory by Mark Alpert
Nuclear Winter Wonderland by Joshua Corin
Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg
Rules of the Game by Leonard Downie
Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton
Singularity by Kathryn Casey
Takeover by Lisa Black

Hat tip to Randal Brandt for sending me this article.

Edgar Winners April 30, 2009

The Edgar Awards were presented this evening Mystery Writers of America. With Twitter it was easy to follow the announcements as they happened. Special thanks to Murder by the Book (Houston) and Sarah Weinman.

Here are the Edgar Winners for Works written/produced in 2008

BEST NOVEL: Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR: The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL: China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
BEST FACT CRIME: American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL: Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Metro Books)
BEST SHORT STORY: "Skinhead Central" - The Blue Religion by T. Jefferson Parker (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
BEST JUVENILE: The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
BEST YOUNG ADULT: Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children’s Books)
BEST PLAY: The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)
BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY: “Prayer of the Bone” – Wire in the Blood, Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (BBC America)
BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY: In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD: "Buckner's Error" - Queens Noir by Joseph Guglielmelli (Akashic Books)
GRAND MASTERS: James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton
RAVEN AWARDS: Edgar Allan Poe Society, Baltimore, Maryland
Poe House, Baltimore, Maryland
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD: The Killer’s Wife by Bill Floyd (St. Martin’s Minotaur)

Congratulations to the Winners and all the Nominees. It was a great year for mysteries!!

Read Sarah Weinman's first hand report of the Award ceremonies.