Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mystery Bytes: News for the Mystery Reader

Mystery Bytes: Random News & Ideas for the Mystery Reader

On my Chocolate Blog, Dying for Chocolate, I have an occasional post called the Chocolate Sampler: News & Events for Chocoholics. Although I post random info on Mystery Fanfare, I thought I might try to save some of it and post info, blogs and events under the Mystery Bytes column. Feel free to send me any news to include.

Blogs of Interest to people who love Language:

Omniglot Blog is great for word derivations and so much more. Subtitled: Language-related musings-one language is never enough.

Separated by a Common Language. Observations on British and American English by an American linguist in the UK. Perfect companion when reading British mysteries (and American for the Brits). As George Bernard Shaw said, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language."

The Virtual Linguist. Origins and history of words, overview of new additions to the OED, Dictionaries, Grammar, Pronunciation, Words and Phrases and a lot more.

Mr. Verb: Language Changes. Deal With It. Revel in It. Everything about Linguistics. Lots of great links.

Wordia: Bring the Dictionary to Life! Odd blog in which individuals tell on video what words mean to them. Check it out.

Thanks to the Blog: Matador Abroad and Sarah Menkedrick's Article on 10 Blogs for Language Lovers for introducing me to some new blogs. If you like to travel, you should subscribe to Matador Abroad.

Here's a fun post on Lauren Leto's Blog: Stereotyping People by Their Favorite Author

The Huffington Post had a great article on 12 Things that Became Obsolete this Decade.

And if you live in Rome, Georgia, here's something to keep you sober on New Year's Eve (unless you can't pass up a bargain) Between now and noon on Thursday, drivers can visit McGuire, Jennings and Miller Funeral Home on North Broad Street and sign a contract stating they plan to drink or use drugs and drive on New Year’s Eve. If they are then killed in a wreck while operating a vehicle on Thursday, the funeral home will bury them for free. Services include a casket, grave space, limousine and preparation of remains.

Drive Safely! Lots of great mysteries in 2010 you'll want to read!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Books You Can Live Without: Is that Possible?

Although I know this article in Sunday's New York Times does not apply to most people I know, I found it of interest. If you're like me (and most of my friends), you have stacks and stacks of books sitting around all the rooms in your house or apartment. How to part with them and which ones to part with are always the questions.

I have over 15,000 books, and this year I finally parted with about 2000 mystery novels both hardback and paper. Which to choose to vacate my house was a difficult decision. The first batch were mysteries I know I'll never read either because of the author or topic. The second batch were mysteries I've read and don't plan to reread and are not by my favorite authors. I donated the books to the library, sent books to our troops overseas, and distributed to several hospitals. I also put out a good number of mysteries for my bookgroup to enjoy. Still, I haven't made a dent, as the accompanying photo of a portion of my office will attest. Although it looks a jumble, I know where every book resides.

The Editors at the NYT asked several bookie types these very questions. If you haven't read the following article, I know you'll enjoy it and identify with it. Of course, after reading the article, I realized there were a lot more books I 'need' to buy.

How do we decide what to cull and what to keep? We asked some authors and the owner of the Strand book store for advice.

Read the Article Here.

So what books are you parting with this year? How did you make the decision? I welcome comments.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Partners in Crime: Charles Todd

Partners in Crime: Authors who Write in partnership. Today I welcome Charles Todd, the mother/son writing team made up of Charles and Caroline Todd. They are the best selling authors of the post-WWI historical Inspector Ian Rutledge series (the latest is The Red Door) and A Duty to the Dead, a new series featuring Bess Crawford, set in 1916. Watch the Video for this novel. Charles and Caroline Todd are on tour for their latest mystery, The Red Door. They will be at my home in Berkeley for a Literary Salon on January 14, 2-4 p.m. Please email me if you'd like to attend.



I don’t know if I could collaborate with someone other than Charles. For one thing, I’m spoiled, and for another, I’m comfortable.

This wasn’t what I’d expected when we began to write together. It was, in the beginning, just an interesting challenge. Could we or couldn’t we write something worth reading? Charles was on the road and missed his family, I was bored with painting, and it was summer, hot and humid outside. Our first effort was A TEST OF WILLS, and it worked because we had no preconceived notions about how to collaborate, we just created a system that suited us. Of course it helped that Charles and I knew each other well—and the other half of the success lay in genetics. One side of the family was numbers/math oriented. My daughter for instance, learned German by working out her own mathematical formula for sentence structures. My husband could remember chemical formulae and football scores for years running. Charles was the only other wordsmith/history buff, and it was natural that he liked what I liked in terms of films and books and going to visit historical sites.

We use consensus. Well, we didn’t know any better when we started. It sounded like a lot more fun not to divide everything up. So we’ve worked out each scene with the players and the plot in mind, until we have a good grasp of where it fits, where it is leading, and who should appear in it After that, working out the characterizations and the dialog generally goes smoothly. If it doesn’t, we’re back to talking it through. Since we don’t outline this is essentially living with the book and the characters every step of the way. If we don’t know who the murderer is, we don’t force a character to take on that role. We compete with Rutledge in solving the crime.
That’s the comfort part. The spoiled part is that the system seems to work for the new series featuring Bess Crawford, just as well as it does with the long-standing Ian Rutledge mysteries. That’s an “If it ain’t broke” philosophy, but I don’t believe in breaking up a good system just for the fun of it. That would be the equivalent of changing jobs just to see if you can.

However, there’s a lurking snake in this Eden. What would it be like to work with, say, Ken Bruen on a very different kind of story? Where would the parameters be different? And how would the two authors challenge each other in outlook and background, if they came together for a single book but had no other connection?

Don’t read more into this than intended. Rutledge and Bess Crawford are exhilarating to write and we have enough places and ideas to fill dozens of books. That’s the plus of having someone to talk to as we work. But here’s the odd thing about sharing. We can’t write in the same room. Even if we happen to be in the same house, we work on different floors. We each need that space. And the time it allows. We connect by e-mail or instant messenger or a phone call, then mull over suggestions and drafts and ideas.

Charles and I write short stories in the same way we write novels. When you are used to novel length, 3,000 to 7,000 words can be quite a challenge. It tests your ability as a story-teller, and we like that.

Would I recommend collaborating to others? A qualified yes. A good many authors have tried it and have been tremendously successful. The qualified has to do with choosing a partner. There has to be explicit trust, a small ego, more or less equal abilities, and the same skill at using language. Otherwise the team falls apart or the reader can begin to pick out who wrote what. Seamlessness is the goal for great collaborations.

I ought to add that you must come to some arrangement about money and rights before you begin. Then if success knocks, there’s already a protocol in place to deal smoothly with what’s starting to happen. So far no one appears to have murdered his/her collaborator, and that’s probably why.


I don’t know if I would want to collaborate with someone else. As Caroline says, it’s comfortable knowing your fellow writer and not having to tip toe around personality differences or quirks. I’d already lived with her quirks for years before we began Charles Todd! No, just kidding. We’re both fairly easy-going. But it is very nice to approach a scene and know that as we discuss it, both of us are committed to Rutledge (or Bess) and want what is going to work best in a given situation. Yes, we argue, we’ve even been known to yell. But that’s the creative process and no hard feelings afterward. The fascinating thing is, we each bring a very different approach and outlook to the table—not just the male/female aspect, but life experiences and hang-ups and dreams. Rutledge is the beneficiary of two fully realized lives. And Bess Crawford is fitting into that picture very well indeed.

A word about research. We do that together as well. But we also branch out and bring back new concepts that might not have been considered before. Even walking a village, we split up, then confer later. We may see the same church or lane or field in very different ways. Then we both go back for a second look. Finding places to leave a body can be interesting. (You don’t want to alarm the local constabulary while trying.)

If I didn’t want to collaborate with someone else, would I consider writing on my own? I sometimes think about it, but we’re busy and happy at the moment. I would like to try to see how all I’ve learned as a collaborator comes to the surface if I were doing it all alone. I expect it is normal to wonder. In airports and hotel rooms, I have played around with an idea or two, trying to see where they might go. It’s actually invigorating, and I tend to come back to Bess or Rutledge with a fresh approach.

Caroline talked about working in totally different spaces. There’s also the time factor. We don’t write on the same schedule. She may be working at midnight, and I may find myself working early in the morning. So far that seems to have no impact of what we do together. Like the Senate and the House working through a bill for the final version, when we come to the point of comparing thoughts and notes, we’re both ready to talk.

What would I say to someone considering collaboration? Patience is a great virtue whether you are working on a book with someone or just changing wall paper. It pays to listen to the other person even when you think your own ideas are right. Since collaborating isn’t common, I expect the problem is finding the right person, one you trust and respect. I’ve learned a lot about the woman who is my mother—and she’s learned a lot about the man who happens to be her son—and the more we both learn, the more the books seem to grow and prosper. That’s our partnership in crime.

Thanks, Charles and Caroline. I look forward to hosting you at the Literary Salon in Berkeley, CA, on January 14.

Past Partners in Crime posts: Bill Crider, Charlotte Elkins, Mark Zubro

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Mysteries

2010 is almost upon us, and I wish you a safe, prosperous and happy New Year. May mystery and mayhem only happen in mysteries.

Here's an extended list of mysteries set at the New Year (arranged alphabetically by author)

Marian Babson: Line up for Murder
T. L. Barnett: Murder for the New Year
George Baxt: The Marlene Dietrich Murder Case
Nero Blanc: A Crossworder's Gift
Jon L. Breen: Touch of the Past
Rita Mae Brown: Full Cry
Alison Cairns: New Year Resolution
Anne Cleeves: Raven Black
Anna Ashwood Collins: Deadly Resolutions
Patricia Cornwell: Cause of Death
Mark Costello: Bag Men
Alisa Craig: Murder Goes Mumming
Jeffrey Deaver: The Devil's Teardrop
Colin Dexter: The Secret of Annexe 3
Carter Dickson: Death and the Gilded Man
Carole Nelson Douglas: Cat on a Hyacinth Hunt
Loren D. Estleman: Stress
J. Jefferson Fargeon: Death in Fancy Dress (aka The Fancy Dress Ball)
Quinn Fawcett: Siren Song
Jerrilyn Farmer: Dim Sum Dead
Frederick Forsyth: The Fourth Protocol
Janet Gleeson: The Grenadillo Box
J.M. Gregson: The Lancashire Leopard
Jane Haddam: Fountain of Death
Karen Harper: The Queene's Christmas
Lee Harris: The New Year's Eve Murder
Ellen Hart: Hallowed Murder, Merchant of Venus
Roy Hart: Seascape with Dead Figures
Lauren Henderson: Pretty Boy
Reginald Hill: Killing The Lawyers
J.A. Jance: Name Withheld
Rufus King: Holiday Homicide
Frances and Richard Lockridge: The Dishonest Murderer
Heather Dune Macadam: The Weeping Buddha
Ed McBain: Lullaby
Philip McLauren: Scream Black Murder
Elisabeth McNeill: Hot News
Leslie Meier: New Year's Eve Murder
James Melville: Body Wore Brocade
David William Meredith: The Christmas Card Murders
Miriam Ann Moore: Stayin' Alive
Tamar Myers: A Penny Urned
Leonardo Padura: Havana Blue (starts with a New Year's Eve hangover)
Elizabeth Peters: The Golden One
Edward O. Phillips: Sunday's Child
Ellery Queen: Calamity Town
Gillian Roberts: The Mummer’s Curse
Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (begins on New Year's Eve)
Joan Smith: Don't Leave Me This Way, Why Aren't They Screaming
Meg Taggart: Murder at the Savoy
Kathleen Taylor: Cold Front
Charles Todd: A Long Shadow
Patricia Wentworth: Clock Strikes Twelve
Valerie Wolzein: 'Tis the Season to be Murdered (aka And a Lethal New Year)
Mark Richard Zubro: The Truth Can Get You Killed

Check out my Chocolate Blog: Dying for Chocolate later this week for Champagne Truffles to make or buy! Great way to celebrate the New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes News

With the release of the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr, my favorite actor, there's been a resurgence of public interest in Sherlock Holmes. This is always good for the mystery community.

TMC (Turner Movie Classics) has a 24 hour Holmes Marathon: Holmes for Christmas starting tonight at 8 p.m. First film in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1939) with Basil Rathebone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. 9:30 "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) also with Bruce and Rathbone. This will be followed by "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970) with Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely. For more info on the rest of the Sherlock Holmes line-up, go to the NYT or TMC.

Smithsonian Magazine this month has a great article on Sherlock Holmes' London. Read it HERE.

Of course you should read the entire works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before you see the new movie. I would opt for The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Leslie S. Klinger with an Introduction by John Le Carre.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Loren Singer, R.I.P.

Loren Singer, author of The Parallax View, died Saturday at the age of 86. Loren Singer, whose 1970 conspiracy thriller, “The Parallax View,” later made into a movie starring Warren Beatty, was one of the first novels to offer a politically paranoid vision of the United States as a country controlled by ruthless technocrats, died on Saturday in Valhalla, N.Y.

Mr. Singer, who picked up a few pointers on covert operations while training with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, seized on the political assassinations of the 1960s as a starting point for “The Parallax View.” The main character, a newspaper reporter played by Mr. Beatty in the film, witnesses a presidential assassination and soon discovers that nearly all other witnesses to the event have been hunted down and killed.

Read the rest of the NY Times Obit HERE.

Hat Tip to Bill Crider

Overdue Book Calendar

I always enjoy reading Design*Sponge, a daily website dedicated to home and product design. It's run by Brooklyn-based writer, Grace Bonney. Launched in August of 2004, Design*Sponge features store and product reviews, DIY projects, before & after furniture and home makeovers, home tours, recipes, videos and podcasts, trend forecasting and gift reviews. The site is updated constantly throughout the day (with an average of 6-10 posts a day), and attracts a core group of devoted readers. I'm glad to be one of them.

So today I saw a post that is and fun and useful for mystery readers (or readers of any kind). For those of you who use the library, you've probably found that check-out procedures are much different from when you were a child. At my public library, for example, the librarian no longer stamps my book with the due date. I scan the book, and there's a stamp available for me to use to mark the due date. If you're a frequent visitor to the library, you'll probably have lots of books with different due dates. Lauren Hunt has created a very fun "Overdue Book Calendar." Definitely not a Black Berry reminder, but great for "paper people" who read real books and keep track on real paper. You can pick up Lauren’s design HERE on Etsy, as a re-printable pdf for $4.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best of 2009: Mystery Lists Part 2

Of course as soon as I posted the Best Mysteries 2009 Lists yesterday, I realized I forgot some, and I also received another one from the Mystery Bookstore LA. Rather than extend yesterday's post, I decided to do Part II today. So be sure and check out the Best Mysteries 2009 Lists including my own list and the lists from Jon Jordan, Les Holstine, Sarah Weinman and many other mystery reviewers, newspaper reviewers and a few mystery bookstores.

As I mentioned before, these lists are very subjective. Add to that the fact that you can't read every book. I haven't read Michael Connelly's The Scarecrow yet, and it might have made my top for 2009, as it made many other lists. I saved it to read over the holidays.

Best of 2009: Mystery Lists Part 2

The Mystery Bookstore LA

Shadow of Betrayal by Brett Battles
I-5 by Summer Brenner
Tower by Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman
Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
The Gates by John Connolly
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Hardball by Sara Paretsky

For the complete list of Top 10 of each person at the Mystery bookstore LA, go Here.

Both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal had mysteries within their general fiction lists.

Publishers Weekly's list came out November 4, 2009.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Bryant and May on the Loose by Christopher Fowler
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
The Silent Hour Michael Koryta
Londongrad Reggie Nadelson
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø
The Lord of Death by Eliot Pattison
The Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland

Library Journal's list came out on November 19. They divided the lists into Mystery & Thriller

The Odds by Kathleen George
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Server Down: A Mad Dog & Englishman Mystery by J.M. Hayes
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan
Desert Lost by Betty Webb

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch
The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner
House Secrets by Mike Lawson
The Doomsday Key by James Rollins

Add these to the Best of the Best for 2009. Lots of reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Best of 2009 Mystery Lists

As 2009 draws to a close, it's time to reflect on the Best Mysteries of 2009. Best lists are subjective, but you will certainly find some good reads in the lists below.

I'll start off with my Best of 2009. I read a lot, but the books are not necessarily new, so my list is limited to the new books I read in 2009, and also limited to my memory of those books.

Janet Rudolph

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
The Lord God Bird by Russell Hill
Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman
The City and The City by China Mielville
Ravens by George Dawes Green
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey
Neccesary as Blood by Deborah Crombie
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan

Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind)

Ravens by George Dawes Green
A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell

Oline Codgill. Oline actually has a numbered order of favorites for the year.

1. (tie) The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly.
1. Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
2. A Darker Domain Val McDermid.
3. Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
4. The Last Child by John Hart
5. The Hidden Man by David Ellis
6. Ravens by George Dawes Green
7. The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
8. Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
9. Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins
10. A Duty to the Dead and The Red Door by Charles Todd
11. The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
12. The Way Home by George Pelecanos
13. Heaven's Keep by William Kent Krueger
14. The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan
15. The Long Fall by Walter Mosley
16. Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott

Lesa Holstine Lesa's Book Critiques
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks
13 1/2 by Nevada Barr
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

Lisa also sent her second tier of mysteries that consists of new discoveries -- authors she just discovered.
Alan Bradley: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Vicki Delany: Winter of Secrets
Linda Castillo: Sworn to Silence
Kathryn Casey: Blood Lines
Sophie Littlefield: A Bad Day for Sorry

Jon Jordan of CrimeSpree Magazine

The Gates by John Connolly
Filthy Rich by Brian Azzarello
Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland
Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel
The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry
Skin by Mo Hayder
Trust No One by Gregg Hurwitz
Walking Dead by Greg Rucka

Maureen Corrigan, NPR

G.I. Bones by Martin Limon.
U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
Hardball by Sara Paretsky
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Dial H for Hitchcock

Dick Adler:

Stardust by Joseph Kanon
Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott

Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault
Roadside Crosses by Jeffrey Deaver
The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
Arctic Chill by Aranldur Indridason
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
The Long Fall by Walter Mosely
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Melville
Hardball by Sara Paretsky
Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell)

Adam Woog of the Seattle Times

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
9 Dragons by Michael Connelly
Pix by Bill James
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Life Sentences y Laura Lippman
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
Skeleton Hill by Peter Lovesey
Stone's Fall by Iain Pears
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan
The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

Publishers Weekly
Bryant and May on the Loose by Christopher Fowler
The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
The Silent Hour by Michael Koryta
Londongrad by Reggie Nadelson
The Lord of Death by Eliot Pattison
The Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Ravens by George Dawes Green
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø
Drood by Dan Simmons

Murder by the Book (Houston) Different people at the store chose a favorite.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (McKenna)
Shatter by Michael Robotham (David)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (Brenda)
The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (Anne)
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan (Dean)
The Gates by John Connolly (Kinley)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Michelle)

Bill at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
The Cleaner by Brett Battles
The Calling by Inger Wolfe
G. I. Bones by Martin Limon
Get Real by Donald E. Westlake
The Black Ice Score by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark
New Tricks by David Rosenfelt
The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Boca Nights by Steven M. Forman
Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

What great lists. There are several books I haven't read yet, and I'll add them to my TBR pile which is really about 10 piles at this point, and constantly growing.

If you're a reviewer, critic or mystery bookstore and you have a Best of 2009 Mysteries List and would like to add to this summary, post a comment or email me.

For more Best of Mysteries 2009 lists, go here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Partners in Crime: Charlotte Elkins

Partners in Crime is a regular guest blogging feature on Mystery Fanfare. Be sure to scroll back or check the heading Partners in Crime for other authors who have contributed.

Today's Guest Blogger is Charlotte Elkins who writes the Lee Ofsted mystery series with her husband Edgar award winner Aaron Elkins. Read more about Lee Ofsted here.

Ever since Aaron finished his first book, FELLOWSHIP OF FEAR, in 1981, I wanted to write a mystery, too. I had a wonderful job at the time, working as the American Art Librarian in the old MH de Young Museum in San Francisco. I decided that it would make a great setting for a mystery, so I started THE GREY LIMNER. I’d finished about three chapters when we both attended the Cabrillo Suspense Writers’ Conference in Aptos, CA. Aaron was looking for advice on how to submit his manuscript, and I didn’t quite know what I was looking for, because my three chapters were a big disappointment to me. I remember standing on the porch of one of the cottages talking to Colin Wilcox, an established San Francisco mystery writer, lamenting that my natural style was Harlequinesque. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Colin said, “that’s great. Do you know how much money they make?”

To make a long story short, I proceeded to write five sweet romances for Mills & Boon/Harlequin under the name of Emily Spenser. They weren’t entirely my work. I was great at plotting, developing characters, and telling a story, but my style left a lot to be desired. Aaron didn’t mind helping me by rewriting them, in the slightest, especially because we’d quit our jobs, moved north, and were writing full time. Emily Spenser was helping support us, while he was getting his Gideon Oliver mystery series established.

When Aaron won the Edgar Award for Best Novel with OLD BONES, I felt free to drop romance writing and try a mystery again. To my chagrin, my writing style hadn’t improved much, but it finally occurred to me that that part of writing fiction was a talent, an art, not a skill to be learned. (Otherwise all of those PhD English professors, who’d kill to write a publishable novel, would be whipping them out every year.) Clearly, I was always going to need a co-author. However, I was bringing something important to the table, as well—a very fertile imagination. Aaron, as he freely admits, is lucky to get one good idea a year, while my mind overflows with them.

The biggest difficulty I had, was creating a character we would both find engaging, because Aaron was going to have to do more than just rewrite my material. The inspiration for a character came by chance. The year before, Aaron had returned to teach another year in the University of Maryland’s overseas program for the American military, and we’d lived near an American Air Force base in Germany where we had an opportunity to take golfing lessons on the base. I'd always loved the golf-themed stories of P.G. Wodehouse, and once I started playing, I suddenly realized a novice pro golfer would make an interesting protagonist in an amateur detective novel. Aaron agreed and Lee Ofsted was born. A WICKED SLICE was published in 1989. Publishers Weekly thrilled me by calling it an "engagingly humorous thriller." Over the years we wrote four more Lee Ofsteds: ROTTEN LIES, NASTY BREAKS, WHERE HAVE ALL THE BIRDIES GONE? and ON THE FRINGE. In between, we wrote short stories, one of which, "Nice Gorilla," won the Agatha Award for the best short story of the year in 1992.

So how have we continued to write novels and still stay married? Easy. We’ve developed a simple system for co-writing and have refined it over the years. I first do most of the early imaginative work—picking settings, thinking up characters, and coming up with the bare bones of a plot idea—and then I start by writing the first scene. Aaron takes my material and rewrites it, adding depth to the scene, especially with descriptions. He gives it back to me and I make changes and suggestions. If we have a disagreement, he wins if it’s anything to do with style, and I (usually) win if it has anything to do with pacing, plot, and female character dialogue. Then I write the next scene and so on. It works well with few arguments, because we truly bring different talents to the process.

I also bring one more very essential personally trait to the process—one that anyone looking for a co-author would be wise to try and find. I’m not ego-involved with words. If he doesn’t like it? If he wants to re-write it again? If he wants to do some more work on it? I’m absolutely thrilled. It gives me time to go off to hiking, or geocaching, or playing golf or basically goofing off. As far as I’m concerned there’s only room for one workaholic in a co-authoring relationship. And that’s not going to be me!

Cartoon of the Day

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Around the World in Mysteries: Winter Bookgroup 2010

Our mystery book group meets every Tuesday. We read a series of 10 books each session. In the past we've done themes such as Art Mysteries, Academic Mysteries, Award Winners, and Just Good Books. Last winter we read a series of books with the title: Around the World with Janet and Friends. This winter we're going Around the World again, touching on some countries we missed last year. Different places, different writers, different times. I think you'll find there will be a lot of discussion and, hopefully, an introduction to a few new authors.

The Group is very well read, and after 35 years of meeting every Tuesday, you can imagine that we may have read way more than the titles here. This cumulative knowledge is brought into each session. Besides discussing books, our book group has been responsible for putting on several mystery conventions including Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon. Some of the members include people known in the mystery community such as Bill & Toby Gottfried, Vallery Feldman, Noemi Levine and Sue Trowbridge, and there are even more.

We meet every Tuesday night at my home in Berkeley, CA, and we welcome new members. Email me if you'd like to join us. If you can't join us physically, how about sending a weekly review of each book to share.

Around the World with Janet and Friends II: Winter 2010

January 5 A Beautiful Place to Die by By Malla Nunn (South Africa)

January 12 A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley (Botswana)

January 19 The Witch Doctor's Wife by Tamar Myers (The Congo)

January 26 The Man of My Life by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (Spain)

February 2 The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer (Turkey)

February 9 Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selcuk Altun (Turkey)

February 16 The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva (Israel/Italy)

February 23 The Collaborator of Bethlehem Matt Beynon Rees (Israel)

March 2 The Menorah Men by Lionel Davidson (Israel)

March 9 No session (??Left Coast Crime??)

March 16 Beekeeper by J. Robert Janes (France)

March 23 Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo (France)

March 30 or April 6 A Cara Black -- Everyone will read a mystery set in a different Arrondisement in Paris

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota

Anyone searching for clues about the enduring popularity of Sherlock Holmes need not look only to his headquarters on London's Baker Street. Deep in an underground cavern at the University of Minnesota lies the world's largest collection of Holmes memorabilia. To many, it's a mystery how this trove of tens of thousands of books, toys, games, posters and recordings - from copies of the Holmes stories owned by the last empress of Russia to an original manuscript page of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" - ended up at a Midwestern university, half a world away from the foggy London streets of Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The answer is elementary, according to Tim Johnson, curator of special collections and rare books at the University of Minnesota Libraries: A "happy series of accidents" involving a retired university librarian, a Nobel Prize laureate and a Holmes fan who took a "vacuum cleaner" approach to collecting.

"People think the Holmes collection ought to be in London. So it's 'why Minnesota?' And it's really just this series of happy events that occurred over time," Johnson said.

The Holmes collection in Minnesota has between 15,000 and 16,000 volumes, and other pieces bring the archive to 60,000 or more, Johnson said. They are kept in a cavern, fitted out for storage, about 85 feet below ground at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, where temperatures and humidity are controlled.

On metal shelves sit memorabilia including magnifying glasses, an ice cream carton with a cartoon cow wearing Holmes' iconic deerstalker cap and a pillow with an image of Sherlock Hemlock, a Muppet character from "Sesame Street."

Los Angeles attorney Les Klinger, who wrote The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (3 volumes) has donated his papers to the university's collection. Other major Holmes or Doyle archives are at Harvard University, the Toronto Public Library and Portsmouth, England.

But Klinger calls Minnesota's collection the "first stop for anybody doing research, because if you're looking for something, it's probably in the collection."

Read the entire story HERE.

Hat Tip: Jeff Meyerson

Cartoon of the Day

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Mysteries: S-Z

The end of the list and none too soon. Only 13 days 'til Christmas. Here are the final authors who set their mysteries during Christmas. S-Z.

Here are the links that will complete this list:
Christmas Authors A-D, Authors E-H, Authors I-N, Authors O-R.
As always, let me know if I've forgotten an author and title.

Sanders, Lawrence. The Fourth Deadly Sin
Saums, Mary. When the Last Magnolia Weeps
Sawyer, Corinne Holt. Ho Ho Homicide
Scherf, Margaret. The Gun in Daniel Webster’s Bust
Schumacher, Aileen. Framework for Death
Schweizer, Mark. The Alto Wore Tweeds
Sedaris, David. Holidays on Ice
Sefton, Maggie. Fleece Navidad
Sellars, M.R. Perfect Trust
Serafin, David. Christmas Rising
Shannon, Dell. No Holiday For Crime
Sibley, Celestine. Spider in the Sink
Simenon, Georges. Maigret's Christmas
Slater, Susan [et al] Crooks, Crimes and Christmas
Smith, Barbara Burnett. Mistletoe From Purple Sage, 'Tis the Season for Murder (with Fred Hunter)
Smith, Frank. Fatal Flaw
Smith, George Harmon. The Christmas Angel
Smith, Joan. Don't Leave Me This Way
Smith, Terrence. The Devil and Webster Daniels
Smoak, Amanda. Generals' Row
Sprinkle, Patricia H. A Mystery Bred in Buckhead
Strohmeyer, Sarah. Bubbles All the Way
Symons, Julian. The Detling Secret
Talley, Marcia. Occasion of Revenge
Taylor, Elizabeth Atwood. The Cable Car Murder
Taylor, Sarah Stewart. O' Artful Death
Temple, Lou Jane. Death is Semisweet
Thompson, Carlene. The Way You Look Tonight
Tooke, John. On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
Tourney, Leonard D. Knaves Templar
Tremayne, Peter. The Haunted Abbot
Trocheck, Kathy. A Midnight Clear
Underwood, Michael. A Party to Murder
Unsworth, Barry. Morality Play
VanLeeuwen, Jean. The Great Christmas Kidnaping Caper
Victor, Cynthia. What Matters Most
Viets, Elaine. Murder With All the Trimmings
Wainwright, John. The Life and Times of Christmas Calvert...Assassin
Walker, Persia. Darkness and the Devil behind Me
Walsh, Thomas. The Resurrection Man
Ward, Donald. Our Little Secret
Washburn Livia. The Christmas Cookie Killer
Weir, Charlene. A Cold Christmas
Welk, Mary. Deadly Little Christmas, A Merry Little Murder
Wildwind, Sharon. First Murder in Advent
Williams, David. Murder in Advent
Windsor, Patricia. The Christmas Killer
Wingfield, R.D. Frost at Christmas
Wolzien, Valerie. Deck the Halls With Murder
Wright, Eric. The Man Who Changed His Name

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chanukah (Hanukkah) Mysteries

As I mentioned last year when I did my Chanukah round-up, there aren't a lot of Chanukah mysteries, probably because it's really a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. However I have a short list with a few more books than last year.

Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle (mostly about Christmas but Hanukah is mentioned)
Festival of Deaths by Jane Haddam
Chanukah Guilt by Ilene Schneider

Children's Hanukah Mysteries:
Rabbi Rocketpower and the Mystery of the Missing Menorahs - A
Hanukkah Humdinger! by Rabbi Susan Abramson and Aaron Dvorkin and Ariel DiOrio

Mystery Short Stories:
"Mom Lights a Candle" by James Yaffe, appeared in Mystery: The Best of 2002, ed. by Jon L. Breen.
For more info on Jewish short story mysteries, check out Steven Steinbock who blogs on Criminal Brief, the Mystery Short Story Web Log Project.

Mystery Games:
Here's a children's software mystery game: Who Stole Hanukkah? offered in five languages: English, Hebrew, Russian, French and Spanish
Other Games for Children: The Case of the Stolen Menorah: An Enlightening Hanukkah Mystery

So not a lot in the Chanukah Mystery category, but if you like chocolate, check out my blog DyingforChocolate on Chocolate + Chanukah: From Gelt to Recipes. Have a great holiday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Mysteries: O-R

Here's the list of Christmas Mysteries Authors O-R. Thomas Nolan had a wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal this week entitled The Holidays are Part of the Puzzle in which he reviews several Christmas mysteries, as well as some great mystery site specific books such as Brunetti's Venice: Walks with the city's Best-Loved Detective. They're not Holiday specific, but you'll want to add them to your Christmas wish-list.

Christmas Mysteries Authors A-D; Authors E-H; Authors I-N.

O'Connell, Carol. Judas Child
O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne. Advent of Dying, Murder in Ordinary Time, A Novena for Murder
Stewart O’Nan. Last Night at the Lobster
Page, Katherine Hall. The Body in the Big Apple, The Body in the Bouillon, The Body in the Sleigh
Palmer, William. The Dons and Mr. Dickens
Papazoglou, Orania. Rich, Radiant Slaughter, Charisma
Parker, Gary E. Death Stalks a Holiday
Parker, Robert. The Widening Gyre
Paul, Barbara. A Chorus of Detectives
Pearson, Carol Lynn. A Stranger For Christmas
Pence, Joanne. Two Cooks A-Killing
Penny, Louise. A Fatal Grace
Perry, Anne. A Christmas Beginning, A Christmas Grace, A Christmas Guest, A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Secret, A Christmas Visitor, Silence in Hanover Close, A Christmas Promise
Peters, Elizabeth. He Shall Thunder in the Sky, Trojan Gold
Peters, Ellis. A Rare Benedictine, The Raven in the Foregate
Philips, Scott. The Ice Harvest
Plunkett, Susan. Silent Night [anthology]
Pomidor, Bill. Mind Over Murder
Pronzini, Bill. Snowbound
Pryce, Malcolm. Don't Cry For Me Aberystwyth
Pulver, Monica. Original Sin
Purser, Ann. Murder on Monday
Queen, Ellery. The Finishing Stroke, Cat of Many Tails, Calamity Town, The Egyptian Cat Mystery, Murder at Christmas
Quentin, Patrick. Follower
Raphael, Lev. Burning Down the House
Rawls, Randy. Jingle’s Christmas
Ray, Robert J. Merry Christmas Murdock
Reinsmith Richard. Body for Christmas
Richards, Emilie. Let There be Suspects
Rickman, Phil. Midwinter of the Spirit
Riggs, John R. Haunt of the Nightingale
Ripley, Ann. The Christmas Garden Affair
Rizzolo, S.K. The Rose in the Wheel
Robb, J.D. Holiday in Death
Roberts, Gillian. The Mummer’s Curse, Philly Stakes
Roberts, Sheila. On Strike for Christmas
Robinson, Peter. Past Reason Hated, The Price of Love and Other Stories (anthology)
Roosevelt, Eliot. The White House Pantry Murder
Rowe, Jennifer. Death in Store, Love Lies Bleeding
Rubino, Jane. Fruit Cake
Ruell, Patrick. Red Christmas
Ryan, Jenna. Mistletoe and Murder

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2010 Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Awards

Mystery Writers of America announced the 2010 Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Recipients yesterday.

Dorothy Gilman, author of the Mrs. Pollifax series of spy novels, has been chosen as this year’s Grand Master. MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as significant output of consistently high-quality material. Gilman has written and contributed to over 30 books that feature uncommon and unique characters. Her writing has continually kept readers coming back for 60 years.

Two extraordinary members of the mystery community with a collective respect for the genre will also be honored by MWA with the Raven Award at this year's Edgar Banquet. Zev Buffman, distinguished Broadway Producer, and the Mystery Lovers Bookshop, one of the largest specialty mystery bookstores in the U.S., will each be presented with Raven Awards. Established in 1953, the award is bestowed by MWA's Board of Directors for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

Mr. Buffman's experiences incorporate a vast variety of entertainment ranging from Hollywood acting experiences, to producing more than 40 Broadway shows and 100 National Tours. He has served as President and CEO for many "first class" performing arts centers, including the Jackie Gleason Center in Miami Beach, the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, and the historic Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop (MLB) of Oakmont, PA, is receiving the Raven Award in recognition of the constant support and dedication they have shown to the mystery community. MLB in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, opened its doors on Halloween 1990. In the 19 years following it has grown to be one of the largest and most recognized mystery bookstores in the country. The store was founded by Mary Alice Gorman, formerly director of a victim services agency, and her husband Richard Goldman, a former software executive.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop is perhaps best known for its annual Festival of Mystery, an event held each spring which regularly attracts over 400 mystery readers to a one-evening extravaganza involving fifty or more authors. Monday, May 3, 2010 will be the date for the fifteenth Festival.

The 2010 Ellery Queen award is being awarded to Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press (PPP). The Ellery Queen award is given to editors or publishers who have distinguished themselves by their generous and wide-ranging support of the genre. Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald founded Poisoned Pen Press in 1996. Its original mission was to publish reference and out of print books but it quickly shifted gears to original work and today averages 36 new novels a year with a backlist fully in print. The press' authors have earned numerous award nominations and wins and a basket of starred reviews.

For more information on Mystery Writers of America, go here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Mysteries: Authors I-N

Here's the Third installment of Christmas Mysteries, Authors I-N. What a long list. Makes for more reading which is always fine with me! Happy Holiday Reading. Be sure and go back on Mystery Fanfare for Holiday Authors A-D and Authors E-H. Let me know if I've forgotten any.

Iams, Jack. Do Not Murder Before Christmas
Indridason, Arnaldur. Voices
Innes, Michael. A Comedy of Terrors, Christmas at Candleshoe
Irving, Karen. Jupiter’s Daughter
Jaffe. Jody. Chestnut Mare, Beware
Jahn, Michael. Murder on Fifth Avenue
Jeffers, H. Paul. Murder on Mike
John, Cathie. Add One Dead Critic
Jordan, Cathleen. A Carol in the Dark
Jordan, Jennifer. Murder Under the Mistletoe.
Kane, Henry. A Corpse for Christmas (Homicide at Yuletide)
Kaplan, Arthur. A Killing for Charity
Kaye, M. M. Death in the Andamans
Kellerman, Faye. Sacred and Profane
Kelley, Lee Charles. 'Twas the Bite Before Christmas
Kelly, Mary. The Christmas Egg
Kelner, Toni L.P. Mad as the Dickens
Kendrick, Stephen. Night Watch: A Long-Lost Adventure in Which Sherlock Holmes Meets Father Brown
King, Laurie R. A Monstrous Regiment of Women
Kingsbury, Kate. No Clue at the Inn, Ringing in Murder, Shrouds of Holly, Slay Bells
Kisor, Henry. Season’s Revenge
Kitchen, C.H.B. Crime at Christmas
Kleinholz, Lisa. Exiles on Main Street
Knight, Alanna. The Dagger in the Crown
Knight, Stephen. Corpse at the Opera House, Murder at Home, More Crimes for a Summer Christmas
Koch, Edward I. Murder on 34th Street
Koontz, Dean R. Mister Murder, Santa’s Twin, Robot Santa
Lake, M.D. A Gift for Murder, Grave Choices
Landreth, Marsha. The Holiday Murders
Lane, Vicki. In a Dark Season
Langley, Bob. Death Stalk
Langton, Jane. The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels, The Memorial Hall Murder
Lathen, Emma. Banking on Death
Lawrence, David. Cold Kill
Lawrence, Hilda. Blood Upon the Snow
Leach, Christopher. A Killing Frost
Levine, Joan. The Santa Claus Mystery
Levine, Laura. Candy Cane Murders (with Joanne Fluke & Leslie Meier)
Lewin, Michael Z. The Enemies Within
Little, Constance. The Black-Headed Pins
Livingston, Nancy. Quiet Murder
Locke, William J. A Christmas Mystery
Lockridge, Richard. Dead Run
London, Cait. (and others) Sugarplums and Scandal
Luber, Philip. Deadly Convictions
MacLeod, Charlotte. Rest You Merry; ed.Christmas Stalkings: Tales of Yuletide Murder, The Convivial Codfish; Mistletoe Mysteries (ed)
MacDonald, John D. Pale Gray for Guilt
MacLeod, Charlotte. The Convivial Codfish, Murder Goes Mumming, Rest You Merry
MacPherson, Rett. A Comedy of Heirs, The Blood Ballad
MacPherson, Suzanne (and others) Sugarplums and Scandal
Malliet, G. M. Death of a Cozy Writer
Malmont, Valerie. Death, Snow, and Mistletoe
Marantz, Bill. Christmas Eve Can Kill You
Markowitz, Jeff. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder
Marks, Jeffrey. Canine Christmas
Maron, Margaret. Corpus Christmas
Marsh, Ngaio. Tied Up in Tinsel
Matesky, Amanda. Murder is a Girl’s Best Friend
McBain, Ed. And All Through the House, Downtown, Ghosts, Sadie When She Died
McCloy, Helen. Mr. Splitfoot
McClure, James. The Gooseberry Fool
McGinley, Patrick. Goosefoot
McGown, Jill. Murder at the Old Vicarage
McKevett, G.A. Cooked Goose, Poisoned Tarts
McLintick, Malcolm. Death of an Old Flame
McMullen, Mary. Death by Bequest
Meier, Leslie. The Christmas Cookie Murder, Mistletoe Murder, Mail Order Murder, Candy Cane Murders (w/Joanne Fluke & Laura Levine)
Meredith, David W. The Christmas Card Murders
Meredith, D. R. Murder by Sacrilege
Michaels, Kasey. High Heels and Holidays, Bowled Over
Miles, Terry. Dog Gone Christmas
Milne, A.A. A Table Near the Band, Christmas Party
Miner, Valerie. Murder in the English Department
Minichino, Camile. The Helium Murder, The Oxygen Murder
Moore, Christopher. The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
Morrell, David. The Spy Who Came for Christmas
Mortimer, John. A Rumpole Christmas
Moyes, Patricia. Season of Snows and Sins
Muller, Marcia. There's Nothing to be Afraid Of
Murphy, Shirley Rousseau. Cat Deck the Halls
Nabb, Magdalen. Death of an Englishman
Nash, Anne. Said with Flowers
Neel, Janet. Death's Bright Angel
Nelson, Hugh. The Season for Murder
Nordan, Robert. Death Beneath the Christmas Tree

Holiday Authors A-D and Holiday Authors E-H. If I forgot you on any of these lists, let me know.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jacques Chessex: R.I.P.

The Swiss writer Jacques Chessex, 75, died October 9 from an apparent heart attack. He was the first non-French citizen to win France's most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. The precise, sometimes austere beauty of his prose often contrasted with the way he used it to delve into stories of hidden cruelty, crime or passion.

While he was respected within Switzerland as a poet, painter and essayist, as well as a novelist, his penchant for revealing the darkly uncomfortable truths beneath the pristine surface of Swiss society found him more than once at odds with the communities in which he lived. His neighbours in the Swiss village of Ropraz were offended by his 2007 novel Le Vampire de Ropraz, published in Britain as The Vampire of Ropraz by Bitter Lemon Press in 2008 (US April 2009), which examined a 1903 miscarriage of justice when a local stable boy caught violating animals was convicted of a series of brutal murders. Chessex wove elements of genre fiction into his portrayal of a backward and repressed society trying to cope with modern criminal horror. But he made the crimes themselves seem an almost inevitable outgrowth of Swiss rural isolation, Calvinist repression, and intense social jealousy.

His most recent novel, Un Juif Pour L'Exemple, investigated the 1942 killing of a Jewish cattle trader by Swiss Nazis in Chessex's home town of Payerne, and became a national cause celebre in a country still uncomfortable with the true character of its neutrality during the second world war. Bitter Lemon plan to publish it, entitled A Jew Must Die, in February next year (US May 2010).

Chessex won the Goncourt in 1973 for his novel L'Ogre, published in English translation as A Father's Love in 1975. Detailing a brutal father-son relationship, it drew heavily on his own experience. Chessex was born in Payerne, where his father was a secondary school principal and strict disciplinarian. He was also an etymologist, from which may have sprung Chessex's love of precision in his poetry and prose. Chessex attended elementary school with the son of the Nazi at the centre of Un Juif pour L'Exemple, then studied at the Jesuit College St Michel in Fribourg, where, aged 17, he founded a poetry magazine, Pays du Lac (Lake Country). His first book of poetry, Le Jour Proche (The Next Day), was published in Geneva in 1954. At Lausanne University he wrote his dissertation on Francis Ponge, the poet and essayist.

The pivotal moment of Chessex's life was the trauma he felt after his father killed himself in 1956. After three more collections of poetry, his first novel, La Tête Ouverte (The Open Head, 1962) won the Schiller prize; the recognition helped him co-found the literary magazine Ecriture in 1964. Still, he followed in his father's footsteps, and taught French literature at Lausanne's Gymnasium. A

After the success of L'Ogre, which opens with the death of its protagonist, a teacher's father, he settled in Ropraz, and produced more than 80 books, including 31 novels or other fictions, 28 volumes of poetry, including Les Aveugles du Seul Regard, which won the Prix Mallarmé in 1994, and a number of children's books, one of which, Marie et le Chat Sauvage, was published in English as Mary and the Wild Cat in 1980. In his 60s he began painting, receiving a number of major exhibitions in Switzerland. He occupied a central position within the French-speaking Swiss cultural world, active as a critic and essayist, and was awarded the Prix Jean Giorno for his life's work in 2007.

Chessex collapsed during a lecture at the Municipal Library in Yverdon les Bains, discussing a play adapted from his 1967 novel La Confession du Pasteur Burg (The Confession of Pastor Burg), an intense work dealing with the conflict between desire and repressive institutions and laws. He had just been asked to comment on the arrest of the film director Roman Polanski.

Married three times, he is survived by his companion Sandrine Fontaine, and two sons, François and Jean. A new novel, Le Dernier Crâne De M De Sade (The Last Skull of M De Sade), is due to be published early next year.

Jacques Chessex, writer, born 21 March 1934; died 9 October 2009

From the Guardian via Bitter Lemon Press.