Friday, September 30, 2011

Spy Video Devices: Sunglasses

If you're like me, you always wanted a Dick Tracy communicator watch. O.K. now you have one. But what about the tiny little cameras that the spy used to take photos of secret documents. Check. They're available, too, to the general public at a minimal cost. But what about video cameras? Most smart phones and cameras shoot video, but what if you want to be clandestine? Now the common person has lots of choices. Here are a few different models of Spy Sunglasses. They take amazing video!

Try out these Cool Spy Bluetooth Camera Video Recorder DVR Sunglasses. For a better price, search the Internet.  I saw them for half the price at As always, be careful where you buy things on the Internet.

LOREXvue Video Recorder Sunglasses 
Want a little more pizzazz?  Mirror Sunglasses that say you're cool? Try these:

CECT VR2031 Spy Sunglasses with Undetectable Video Lens

Want to make your own?  Check out this video.

The future is now!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crime Fiction during the Days of Awe: Jewish New Year/Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, starts tonight. Rosh Hashana also begins the 8 days of awe culminating on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. That a murder would take place during this time or on Yom Kippur itself runs opposite to Jewish beliefs.  However, that's an ideal, and this is a mystery blog.

Here's a short list of mysteries that take place during the Days of Awe and Yom Kippur.  As always, I welcome any additions to this list. This year I've added a few new titles including a novel from Bitter Lemon Press that I can't wait to read. Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanan is set in Helsinki, and Ariel Kafka of the Violent Crime Unit of the Helsinki police, is one of two Jewish Policemen in Finland. This book won't be out until February 2012 (UK) and April 2012 (US), so not in time for this New Year. 

Three Weeks in October by Yael Dayan
Days of Atonement by Michael Gregorio
Yom Kippur Murder by Lee Harris
Day of Atonement by Faye Kellerman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanen

Interested in Jewish Mystery Fiction? Read Jewish Identity as Portrayed in Jewish Detective Fiction by Rabbi Lawrence W. Raphael.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bullets Across the Bay

From Randal S. Brandt:

Bullets Across the Bay: The San Francisco Bay Area in Crime Fiction, an exhibit in the Bernice Layne Brown Gallery at the University Library, University of California, Berkeley, opened on September 8, 2011. Drawing from the collections of numerous campus libraries, the exhibit surveys the rich history and tradition of mystery, detective, and crime novels set in San Francisco and the East Bay. It explores a variety of themes, including the influence of Dashiell Hammett and The Maltese Falcon, the legacy of Anthony Boucher and the founding of the Mystery Writers of America, the history and cultural diversity of the region as reflected in crime fiction, juvenile mysteries, crime films set in San Francisco, and more.

The exhibit is on display through February 2012 and is free and open to the public whenever the Library is open.

In conjunction with the exhibit, on Friday, October 14, 2011 from 4:00-6:00pm, the Library will present a special mystery edition of the Story Hour in the Library series featuring a panel discussion with authors Kelli Stanley, Eddie Muller, and Lucha Corpi, moderated by Janet Rudolph. This event is also free and all are welcome to attend. It will be preceded by a Q&A session with the exhibit curators at 3:00pm.

See you in the Library!

Randal S. Brandt is a librarian at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. He is the creator of Golden Gate Mysteries, an annotated bibliography of crime fiction set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one of the co-curators of Bullets Across the Bay.

Monday, September 26, 2011

O is for Orloff: Alan Orloff

Today I continue the crime fiction writer alphabet meme with O if for Orloff: Alan Orloff,  guest for the letter "O"!

Alan Orloff is the author of DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, an Agatha Award Finalist, and the Last Laff Mystery series (KILLER ROUTINE and the upcoming DEADLY CAMPAIGN), all from Midnight Ink. When he’s not writing, he’s obsessing about his writing. For more info, visit his website:


A few days ago, I handed in my tenth completed manuscript to my agent (or was it my eleventh? I’ve lost track). You’d think it would get easier and easier to write a novel.

Judging from my experience, you’d be wrong.

Of course, some things are easier. The actual writing of the prose has gotten easier, I think. Over the years—thanks to lots of diligent practice and some sterling feedback from my critique groups—I’ve developed my writing muscles (for the record, I have not used any performance enhancing drugs and I’m willing to take a test to prove it!).

I believe the “structuring” part of the process has gotten easier, too. Not that I use a blueprint or template or anything, but I don’t seem to incorporate as many useless scenes or go off on as many tangents as I once did (but there was this guy I knew in Syracuse back in the Eighties who…never mind).

Unfortunately, many things haven’t gotten any easier. Creating compelling characters? Still hard. Devising a killer plot, with the requisite twists and turns? Still hard. Making sure the timeline and the subplots and the clues and the climax all work out seamlessly? Yeah, still pretty hard.

But the most difficult thing of all?

Riding the emotional roller-coaster. Here are the stages I go through:

Idea Stage: Excitement – You’ve settled on an idea, and the more you think about it, the more you’re convinced it’s a winner. You can’t wait to outline it so you can get to writing it so you can begin to accumulate those awesome reviews and start shopping for vacation villas.

Outlining Stage: Confusion – Questions pop up like toadstools after a storm. Who is really the main protagonist? How many love interests are needed? Did people actually say “the cat’s pajamas” in the Forties? And what’s the deal with those space aliens trying to take over the world in the climactic scene anyway?

Beginning of the First Draft: Temporary insanity – You wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into as you stare at the blinking cursor on the blank page. Writing a book? Impractical. Impossible. Insane. Who do you think you are, Snooki?

Underway: Uneasy confidence – You’ve gotten some words down on the page. They’re not great, but hey, that’s what revision is all about, right? And thank goodness for spellcheck!

Middle of the First Draft: Hopelessness – Nothing is going well. Nothing makes sense. Your characters have staged a mutiny and you’re convinced your writing stinks. No, really, it stinks. Absolutely. You’re not just saying it because you’re frustrated, it really stinks. Truly. It’s about the most putrid thing you’ve ever seen on paper. You call yourself a writer? You STINK!

Still Mired in the Middle: Continued hopelessness – You check out looking for a less stressful job. What, there’s no such position as Corporate Novelist?

Completion of the First Draft: Cautious Optimism – After some spirited mud wrestling bouts, you were able to tame those nagging doubts and slog through to the finish. Once you type, “THE END,” though, you decide to let it marinate for a few days, so at least you’ll have a little while to enjoy your vacation on the planet Delusionia.

The Reality Sets In Stage: Resignation - You take a deep breath and realize—finally—that you’ve done this before. Successfully. So you roll your sleeves up and grit your teeth, knowing the hard work is just beginning. And you’re ready for it.

Knowing if what I’ve written is good or…well, less than good. During the first draft, I’ll usually know where I stand. The manuscript bites. And with each pass of the revision wand, I know my work is improving. At least for the first three or four times. Then things begin to get murky.

One day, I’ll look at a particular scene and think I’ve nailed it. The next day, I’ll reread the same scene and think what a steaming pile it is. Same scene! And if my opinions are so wildly variable, what good are they? Will I ever be able to tell if my writing is any good?

The short answer: nope.

So what’s a writer to do (aside from developing better judgment)?

Get help. That’s why critique groups and beta readers were invented (and to pump up the red pen industry). After they read my manuscript, I know where the soft spots are.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mystery Sign

I've always considered this sign on the Freeway near Berkeley a bit of a mystery.
How can one go East and West at the same time? 
Only in Berkeley!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weird World Department: Body Parts Bakery

A Thai baker has taken shock art to the next level with edible baked goods that resemble human body parts.


Dozens of gruesome heads, feet and hands were showcased like works of art behind glass cases in a scene closer to a Hollywood horror film than a bakery.

To their surprise, locals found 28-year-old baker, Kittiwat Unarrom sculpting the grotesque limbs from flour dough in the back kitchen.

The sculpture, painting and graphic arts graduate says he is creating the fake body parts to illustrate the old Buddhist saying "Don't always believe what you see, because what you see might not be true".

Growing up around his mother's bakery, Kittiwat says he was curious to use ordinary cooking materials like dough, cashew nuts, raisins and chocolate to create genuine works of

He says he was inspired by the idea that we are what we eat.

Despite initially causing quite a stir in the neighbourhood, Kittiwat says people have
become increasingly interested in his works.

"I didn't expect such a big response and the huge number of orders from customers."

Would you eat any of these creations?

Here's the video from the bakery:

Hat Tip: Foodista

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lost Alfred Hitchcock Movie to be shown

A lost Alfred Hitchcock movie discovered in New Zealand shed is scheduled to be screened in Los Angeles today for the first time in 80 years.

The only copy of the 1923 film The White Shadow was discovered in a garden shed in New Zealand alongside hundreds of other films from that period that had been hoarded by former cinema projectionist Jack Murtagh, who died in 1989.

New Zealand Film Archive chief Frank Stark described Murtagh to the AAP as a "magpie", who was supposed to throw the footage away but could not bear to do so. He explained that in the early days of movie-making, prints would be sent to isolated New Zealand once "they were deemed to be at the end of their distribution life".

The film will be shown at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles today.


The Film Archive described the film as a “wild, atmospheric” melodrama starring Betty Compson in a dual role as twin sisters, one angelic and one soulless.

David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and author of “The Films of Alfred Hitchcock,” called the discovery “one of the most significant developments in memory for scholars, critics, and admirers of Hitchcock’s extraordinary body of work” in a statement.

“At just 24 years old, Alfred Hitchcock wrote the film’s scenario, designed the sets, edited the footage and served as assistant director to Graham Cutts, whose professional jealousy toward the gifted upstart made the job all the more challenging,” Mr. Sterritt added.

Hat Tip: BV Lawson

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hammett Prize Winner: The Nearest Exit

The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers announced that The Nearest Exit, by Olen Steinhauer (St. Martin's/Minotaur), has been named the winner of the organization's annual HAMMETT PRIZE for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing.

Mr. Steinhauer was awarded a bronze trophy, designed by West Coast sculptor, Peter Boiger. The award ceremony took place in Atlantic City, on September 20, during the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's (NAIBA) Fall Conference.

Cartoon of the Day: Book Apps

Today's Comic is from Free Range by Bill Whitehead.

Hat Tip: Janet Appel

Mob-Inspired Nail Polish

Cosa Nostra Nail Polish!

Matesse Elite Nail Polish's new Mob Collection includes Mafia-inspired gritty colors:

Goomah Comare
The Boss

Hat Tip: PopSugar

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lost Novel by James M. Cain Discovered

The Guardian reports that The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain is set for publication next year.

Charles Ardai, founder of American publisher Hard Case Crime, was alerted to its existence by the author Max Allan Collins, and has spent the last nine years tracking down the original manuscript and securing rights in the novel. He called his discovery "like finding a lost manuscript by Hemingway or a lost score by Gershwin – that's how big a deal this is".

Cain is the author of classic noir crime novels including Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.  Cain, together with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, "is universally considered one of the three greatest writers of noir crime fiction who ever lived," said Ardai. The Cocktail Waitress is "the Holy Grail" for crime fans, he added.

Narrated by the widow Joan Medford, who meets two new men in the cocktail bar where she is working – a "handsome young schemer", and a wealthy older man she marries. "Why am I taping this?" Joan says. "It's in the hope of getting it printed to clear my name of the charges made against me … of being a femme fatale who knew ways of killing a husband so slick they couldn't be proved. Unfortunately, they cannot be disproved either … All I know to do is to tell it and tell it all, including some things no woman would willingly tell … "

Cain himself said in a 1976 interview that "in my stories there's usually stuff that you wouldn't think any human being would tell at all". "I've just finished a book called The Cocktail Waitress, where the girl tells her story, and there's some pretty intimate stuff," the author said. "This girl, like most women, is very reticent about some things – you know, the sex scenes, where she spent the night with a guy. I had her tell enough so that what happened was clear and, at the same time, not go into details. Once she lingered with a sex scene, as if she wanted to tell it."

Cain also mentioned The Cocktail Waitress in an interview with John McAleer, collected in the recently published Packed and Loaded: Conversations with James M Cain, in which he called it "a pretty good lively story" but said he was working through the plot again. "I made a mistake on the story, thinking that my lovers were this woman and her little boy – little three-year-old boy – that figured as her motivation for her job in the cocktail bar that she had to pay for his board, with a sister-in-law that she had, after her husband – this woman's brother – got killed, and it turned out I made a mistake. They were not the real lovers. The real lovers in the story were this man that came in – the very first day a man came in and she fell for him somewhat. And he for her, but … I had her using him as a means to an end. Using him as a means of having a home for this child that she had. Where he was the big emotional fact in her life, and so the story has to be done over. It is half done over already."

Hard Case Crime said that handwritten notes and edits appear in the margins of numerous pages of the manuscript, and that Cain was working on revisions until close to the end of his life. Ardai told the New York Times that he is currently trying to reconcile different versions of the ending left by Cain, and to decipher some of the notes. "He wasn't a doctor, but he wrote like one," said the publisher. "With a magnifying glass, I can figure it out.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bloody Scotland Festival: September 2012

The Scotsman reports that the game's afoot for a Scottish International Crime Writing Festival: BLOODY SCOTLAND FESTIVAL,  September 14-16, 2012, in Stirling. International Guests will join Scottish crime Writers Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Val McDermid, Stuart McBride and Louise Welch.

The festival will also include "meet the author" dinners, creative-writing masterclasses, workshops and a publishers and agents forum. Sponsorship for the festival as a whole and for annual Scottish crime writing awards is actively being sought.

More to come I'm sure....

HT: BV Lawson

Anthony Awards 2011

Bouchercon 2011, an incredible 4 days of mystery and mayhem, wrapped it up with the presentation of the Anthony Awards. Congratulations to all!

Best Novel: Bury Your Dead (Minotaur) by Louise Penny.  This novel also won the Macavity Award for Best Novel, the Agatha Award for Best Novel, the Dilys Award and the Arthur Ellis Best Crime Novel Award.

Best Paperback Original: Expiration Date (Minotaur) by Duane Swierczynski. This book also won the Crimespree Favorite Book of the Year Award.

Best Short Story: Dana Cameron's "Swing Shift" in Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side (Berkley).  "Swing Shift" also won the Macavity Award for Best Short Story.

Best Critical/Non-Fiction: Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran (HarperCollins) This book also received the Macavity and Agatha Awards.

Best First Novel Anthony:  The Damage Done (Forge Books) by Hilary Davidson. This book also won the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel.

Best Graphic Novel: Jason Star’s The Chill (Vertigo Crime)

Best Website/Blog: Stop, You're Killing Me, created and maintained by Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shamus Awards

Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) 2011 Shamus Awards, “given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction.”

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel: No Mercy, by Lori Armstrong (Touchstone)

Best First P.I. Novel: In Search of Mercy, by Michael Ayoob (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel: Asia Hand, by Christopher G. Moore (Grove/Atlantic)

Best P.I. Short Story: “The Lamb Was Sure to Go,” by Gar Anthony Haywood (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, November 2010)
The Hammer Award (Best P.I. Series Character): Sara Paretsky for V.I. Warshawski

The EYE (Lifetime Achievement Award):
Ed Gorman

Friday, September 16, 2011

Macavity Award Winners

The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers InternationalMystery Readers Journal is MRI's publication. I announced the winners last night during opening ceremonies at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. This award is named for the "mystery cat" of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats).

Macavity Awards:

Best Mystery Novel
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery Novel
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Forge-Tom Doherty Associates)

Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction
Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making by John Curran (HarperCollins)

Best Mystery Short Story
“Swing Shift” by Dana Cameron in Crimes by Moonlight: Mysteries from the Dark Side (Berkley)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery
City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley (Minotaur)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bouchercon: The Spirit of St. Louis

Attending Bouchercon? Be sure and attend the panel I'll be moderating. Today, Thursday, September 15, 1-2:00 p.m.

New World in My View: Landmark 5, 6, 7: Characters Dealing with contemporary issues. Panelists: Reed Farrel Coleman, Alison Gaylin, Sophie Littlefield, John Lutz and Jason Pinter. Do I need to tell you there will be controversy?

Come with Questions, Come with Comments!

I'll also be giving out the Macavity Awards on Thursday night during the Opening Ceremonies. Be sure and be there!

Otherwise, catch you in the bar later this evening!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brass Knuckles Inspired Kitchen Items

I've  posted the Crime Belt Buckle and Brass Knuckles Handbag, but here are two more brass knuckle inspired items--this time for the kitchen.

Knuckle Duster Corkscrew

The Knuckle Duster Corkscrew is a tribute to the idea that great things sometimes can only be accomplished with a struggle. "The Knuckle Duster Corkscrew looks great in your bar or office - no one should be brave enough to argue with you when they see it. And if they do become violent, just crack open a bottle of wine, and you will be instant friends. Knuckle Duster Corkscrew - peace through libation"


Knuckle Pounder Meat Tenderizer! Shaped like a set of brass knuckles, except that these are aluminum, and made for pounding beef and not violence. Turn round steaks, skirt steaks and round-eye cuts into juicy and fork tender steaks worthy of your fork. Made from an aluminum alloy with a comfortable grip, take out your frustrations from the day.

Thanks to

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing Duo Charles Todd Speaking at National World War I Museum

New York Times bestselling writing duo, Charles Todd, will speak at the National World War I Museum (Kansas City, MO) on Tuesday, September 20th at 7 PM CDT. The event will be broadcast online live from the museum at the following link:

Charles Todd will discuss how investing in research has made possible two outstanding series with two individually unique characters. Both Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard Inspector who has returned from fighting and suffers from shellshock, and Bess Crawford, a young nurse serving in The Great War, offer readers a chance to revisit a pivotal event of the Twentieth Century. Sometimes it is fiction that makes a period more accessible to the casual reader and yet offers a student of the era a new perspective.

Their latest novel, A Bitter Truth, is wonderful. Love the characters, history, and plotting. Terrific send of time and place!

Read an interview with Charles Todd: Partners in Crime HERE.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Easy Rawlins TV Series

Walter Mosley
Deadline Hollywood reports that John Wells Prodctions (Southland, Mildred Pierce) has sold the Easy Rawlins series to NBC.

NBC’s Easy Rawlins is based on Walter Mosley’s best-selling novels about Black P.I. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, who finds himself solving crimes and dealing with the changing world around him in 1960s Los Angeles. (The books are set from 1940s to 1960s.) Easy is a reluctant, self-taught P.I. with a conscience and a soul – and he easily slips between white Los Angeles and the black underground.

Mosley will write the series adaptation with Southland co-executive producer Cheo Coker. A drama adaptation of Mosley’s Easy Rollins book series, which spanned 11 novels, was previously developed by USA Network 7 years ago. Additionally, Mosley served as an executive producer on the 2003 CBS drama pilot The Law & Mr. Lee, about an Oakland-based private eye played by Danny Glover. Easy Rawlins is the second project based on a well-known mystery series books with a minority protagonist to be set up at the broadcast networks this season. CBS recently bought a drama based on Leslie Glass’ Alice Woo novels from CBS TV Studios and Apostle.

N is for Newman: Sharan Newman

Continuing the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme, today I welcome Sharan Newman: N is for Newman.

Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and author. She took her Master's degree in Medieval Literature at Michigan State University and then did her doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara in Medieval Studies, specializing in twelfth-century France. She is a member of the Medieval Academy and the Medieval Association of the Pacific. Newman has done research at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique France Meridionale et Espagne at the University of Toulouse and the Institute for Jewish History at the University of Trier, as well as many departmental archives.

Sharan Newman:

It’s all about me?

First of all, my thanks to Janet for thinking of me in her mystery alphabet. Being told that I have two pages to write about anything I like is daunting. So, perhaps I should start by introducing myself.

My name is Sharan Newman. “Sharan” is not a new age affectation; my dad filled out my birth certificate and he didn’t know how the name should be spelled. He was a bright man but tended to be creative in orthography. I seem to have inherited this talent.

After that excitement, nothing much happened to me. The world, however, seemed to get more and more scary as I grew up. I am part of the first generation that knew without a doubt that istwas possible to destroy the entire planet without divine intervention. The older I get, the more ways we invent to accomplish this.

Since the modern world confused me so much, I became an historian, a medievalist to be precise. I thought that would be far enough from the present for psychological equanimity. Well, I was mistaken. I discovered that everything people think they know about the Middle Ages is wrong and that humanity hasn’t changed a bit; we just have better medicine and plumbing.

OK, I know that sounds like a real downer. But what I also found was, that while we are not so different from our ancestors, that’s not such a bad thing. Instead of using the Middle Ages as a dumping ground for everything we dislike about ourselves: brutality, selfishness, prejudice, we can look at that time (or any in history) and see what they got right that we might adapt to solving the problems around us.

It probably won’t surprise anyone that my most recent book was a non-fiction look at the end of the world.

Actually, I found it very reassuring that so many people have predicted the Apocalypse and been wrong. Talk about not learning from history, the most recent wide-spread prophecy is for next month. I wouldn’t worry; it’s based on calculating the ages of the men in the Bible from Adam on down, throwing in the age of the world, assuming we’re at the end of the seventh Age, stirring briskly and putting it in an oven until it’s half baked. It’s been done many times before and we’re still here.

I did a lot of research out of my period for this and discovered that every culture has at least one sub-group that believes we are in the end times. One my favorites was the group in Berkeley in the 1890’s who believed a major tidal wave was coming. They were going to ride their bicycles up and down the hills to warn the unbelieving populace. Oddly, no one has ever written about them. I got all my information from the Oakland papers.

OK, back to the Middle Ages. My main work is a mystery series set in Paris and anywhere else I want to go, in the mid-twelfth century. I have a family of characters. Catherine Levendeur is the central one. She started out to be a nun, mostly because she wanted to study without being interrupted, but she was sidetracked by an Anglo-Scot student named Edgar, whom she married. The third main character is a young Jewish merchant named Solomon. I think I’m in love with him and, from the letters I get, I’m not alone. There are now ten books in the series and you can find out more about them at my website:

For those who would like a taste of the series or have read the books and want more, I have just finished a collection of short stories with background introductions. It will only be on e-books at first, but there will be a hard copy soon and I’ll announce it on the website and on my Facebook fan page.

Here is the cover:

This was my first attempt at Photoshop, which is harder than it looks. The picture is one I took at Carcassonne in the south of France. But it took forever to get the lettering right. Sometimes I think that a nice scriptorium would be easier, then I remember the monks’ margin notes; “It’s freezing in here.” “The ink has dried up again” “My eyes burn from the candle smoke”. Then the 21st century starts to look better.

Well, once I get started, I found a lot to say when it was all about me. Gluttons for punishment can find even more on my website.

Gratias vobis ago!!! Or, in other words: Thanks, everyone!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Out of Africa: Deon Meyer in Berkeley September 21

Mystery Readers International, Nor Cal Chapter, invites you to a Literary Salon for award winning South African crime writer Deon Meyer September 21, Berkeley, California. RSVP for Directions.

Deon Meyer's Latest thriller is Trackers, just out in the U.S. Read more about this fabulous read!

Deon Meyer was born in the South African town of Paarl in the winelands of the Western Cape in 1958, and grew up in Klerksdorp, in the gold mining region of Northwest Province.After military duty and studying at the Potchefstroom University, he joined Die Volksblad, a daily newspaper in Bloemfontein as a reporter. Since then, he has worked as press liaison, advertising copywriter, creative director, web manager, Internet strategist, and brand consultant.

Deon wrote his first book when he was 14 years old, and bribed and blackmailed his two brothers into reading it. They were not impressed (hey, everybody is a critic ...) Heeding their wisdom, he did not write fiction again until he was in his early thirties, when he started publishing short stories in South African magazines. In 1994 he published his first Afrikaans novel, which has not been translated, "simply because it was not good enough to compete on the international market. However, it was a wonderful learning experience".

All later novels have been translated into 25 languages, including English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Finnish, Czech, Romanian, Slovakian and Bulgarian.

He's an incredible crime writer, one of my favorites. Take my word for it, but if you need any other validation, here's a list of his AWARDS.

Read an Interview with Deon Meyer HERE.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hard Case Crime Hits the Runway

I'm a big fan of Wearable Book Fashions, and Hard Case Crime must be, too! Fashion designer Hally McGehean premieres her first wearable art collection during New York Fashion Week.

Among featured designs at the show, McGehean will debut her Hard Case Crime Dress. The Hard Case Crime dress is made out of nearly 1000 miniature reproductions of covers from the award-winning Hard Case Crime line of retro-styled paperback crime novels. This would have been a great Project Runway Challenge.

The skirt features every cover ever published in the series, including works by writers like Stephen King and Mickey Spillane, while the daring backless top is composed of interleaved copies of the cover of Baby Moll by John Farris, whose cover was painted for Hard Case Crime by the legendary illustrator Robert McGinnis (whose other work includes the movie posters for “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” and the original Sean Connery James Bond movies in the 1960s). The outfit’s oversized belt features another McGinnis original, his rare horizontal cover painting for Losers Live Longer by Russell Atwood.

 Hat Tip:  Patti Abbott  at

Photo: Chip Miller

Thursday, September 8, 2011

QuebecCrime Festival

The complete program of the QuebeCrime Festival will be available sometime next week, but here are several of the events, in French and English. For information:

Friday Night/ Vendredi soir (7 :00 PM), Oct. 28: Reading and Booksigning with / Lecture et scéance de signature avec:

John Brady, Anne Emery, Denise Mina, Louise Penny and Ian Rankin.

Saturday Afternoon/ Samedi après-midi, (1 :30PM) Oct. 29: Panel and Booksigning with/ Table ronde et scéance de signature avec: :

Lawrence Block, John Brady, Hilary Davidson, Craig McDonald, Andrew Pyper and Daniel Woodrell.

Saturday Night/ Samedi soir, Oct. 29 (7:00PM): Reading and Booksigning with / Lecture et scéance de signature avec:

Lawrence Block, Hilary Davidson, Craig McDonald, Andrew Pyper and Daniel Woodrell.

Sunday Afternoon/ Dimanche après-midi, Oct. 30 (1:30PM): Panel and Booksigning with/ Table ronde et scéance de signature avec: :

Ian Hamilton, Simon Toyne.

Sunday Night/ Dimanche soir (7 :00PM), Oct. 30: Reading and Booksigning with / Lecture et scéance de signature avec:

Ian Hamilton, Kathy Reichs, Simon Toyne.

It will all happen at the Morrin Centre. Tous ces évènements auront lieu au Morrin Centre.

Hat Tip: Hilary Davidson

Little Black Notebooks for the Crime Writer or Fan

Going to Bouchercon next week? If you're like me, you're always searching for that Perfect Notebook to jot down pithy author comments or snarky remarks to tweet later. I may have an iPhone, an Ipad, and a Laptop, but it's the perfect notebook that I yearn for. I think I found it!

Here are Black Notebooks with 3D weapon covers--even a place to attach your keys. 6 1/2 by 9 1/2 x 5" All from Megawing for $20 each. Which is your favorite?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

PeaceKeeper Handbag

From James Piatt comes the PeaceKeeper Handbag ($85):

Description from the company: In an age when it is difficult to avoid terror take charge of the streets and look fashionable with a PeaceKeeper™ handbag. This handbag is now manufactured with a soft polyurethane handle.

Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ned Kelly Awards 2011

The Crime Writers’ Association of Australia has announced the winners of the 2011 Ned Kelly Awards.

Best First Fiction
Alan Carter Prime Cut (Fremantle Press)

S.D. Harvey Short Story Award
A.S. Patric Hemisphere Travel Guides: Las Vegas For Vegans

True Crime
Geesche Jacobson Abandoned- The Sad Death of Dianne Brimble (Allen & Unwin)

Best Fiction
Geoffrey McGeachin The Diggers Rest Hotel (Penguin)

Congratulations to all!

Hat Tip:

M is for McFarland: Nora McFarland

Continuing the Mystery Author Alphabet Meme, today I welcome Nora McFarland: M is for McFarland

Nora McFarland writes the Lilly Hawkins mysteries about a sharp-tongued and very stubborn television news photographer in Bakersfield, Calif. The latest, Hot, Shot, and Bothered, was released on August 2nd. The first in the series is A Bad Day's Work.

Win a copy of Hot, Shot, and Bothered. Leave a comment about a favorite 'newspaper' personality from TV, Movies or Books. Be sure and leave your email address which can be written cryptically as in Joan at gmail dot com. All comments must be posted by 9/10/11.


A Reporter on the Case

One of the reasons I write mysteries about journalists is because I used to be one. (A journalist, not a mystery. I’m actually a very straightforward sort of person, I promise.)

But another factor is my lifelong love affair with the subgenre. Sadly, it’s been a very one-sided passion. Books, movies, and television shows can’t love us back, and when I actually entered the profession, my romantic notions were soon crushed like a murder victim pushed into a printing press—or pushed in front of a live truck, if you prefer television news.

This realistic view of journalism—it’s a boring and grungy life—is something I’ve worked hard to overcome as an author. The imaginative view—it’s never boring, and grungy in a way that appears glamorous—makes for much better reading. No one would buy a dull book about overworked people who aren’t saving enough for retirement. I write what I like to read: fun books about sharp-tongued newshounds who get the story, solve the mystery, and are changed by the journey.

Seeing the film His Girl Friday at the tender age of five probably did the most to prime my impressionable young mind for this kind of story. Rosalind Russell’s portrayal of female reporter Hildy Johnson set the archetype for me. I was completely taken by her quick wit, lust for a story, and almost manic energy. In real life this kind of journalism leads to phone-hacking scandals and other moral lapses, but in fiction, obsessed reporters who’d choose to save the morning edition over their own mothers are wonderful.

These kinds of characters thrived in screwball-comedy films from the 1930’s, but it’s a book from the fifties that puts a delicious twist on them. The hero of Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown is the editor of a small weekly paper. He desperately wants something exciting to happen in his little town so he’ll finally have a good story to cover. He longs to be the kind of journalist celebrated in His Girl Friday, just as I did, but instead he’s trapped covering church rummage sales and local divorces.

Maybe it’s my identification with his plight that makes me love this book so much. It’s a joy to read as over the course of one night the main character becomes personally involved in the hunt for an escaped lunatic, murderous mobsters fleeing the law, a bank robbery, a payroll robbery, and multiple deaths.

I also love the narrator’s voice. Despite his age and a certain amount of disappointment at how his life has unfolded, there’s a sweet innocence about the character. At one point he’s shocked to discover that a man who hates him would take advantage of circumstances to try and kill him. He’s only known that kind of hate as an abstract concept. It existed somewhere in the world, but not in his daily life.

That kind of hate is not an abstract concept to another of my favorite fictional journalists. Irwin M. Fletcher, as created by Gregory Mcdonald, doesn’t have any illusions about what human beings are capable of. Unlike the cynical early and mid twentieth-century newshounds, who knew the deck was stacked against them but still charged headlong at corruption and hypocrisy, Fletch is compelled by a loathing of the establishment that extends even to those in charge of his own newspaper.

In short, Fletch is a baby boomer.

Instead of Hildy Johnson’s manic energy, Fletch has laid-back cool. His witty one-liners aren’t fired in machine gun blasts directly at the recipient’s face. Fletch uses humor so slyly that his victims frequently don’t know they’re the butt of a joke. But the reader knows and delights as Fletch drops one of his verbal bombs and quietly walks away.

Despite all that fun, there’s something unsettling about Fletch’s character in the books. This is obviously not the case for Chevy Chase’s hysterical, but far less interesting, portrayal in the films. Mcdonald guards Fletch’s interior life from the reader just as Fletch guards it from the other characters. Humor is used to avoid direct confrontation, as well as ugly memories—and as a former marine with two ex-wives, Fletch has a lot of ugly memories.

Even more than this, though, Fletch hates. The things he hates are mostly deserving of it—corruption, hypocrisy, incompetence, the powerful who abuse their positions—but the level of feeling that emerges on the rare occasions Fletch abandons humor to directly confront someone is striking. He is very much a product of the seventies, when the baby boomers’ anger toward, and distrust of, their parents’ generation flourished.

Ironically, the incident that did the most to cement that distrust in our cultural psyche is also a truly-inspiring story about the power of journalism. All the President’s Men is what shifted my view of being a reporter from something that looked like fun, to something that could change the world.

The film, based on the equally fantastic non-fiction book, is probably the best movie ever made about journalism. Somehow director Alan J. Pakula manages to show the dogged repetition required to break a story, while still being outrageously entertaining. Perhaps it’s because the stakes are so high. If Woodward and Bernstein were covering skullduggery at a carwash we might not sit on the edge of our seats while two white guys in dress shirts talk to each other and make phone calls.

Similar in look and tone, but made for television, is another favorite of mine. Lou Grant was an hour-long drama that aired for five seasons starting in the late seventies. It continued the character made famous in The Mary Tyler Moore Show as he moved to Los Angeles and transitioned back into newspaper work from TV news. Along with this career change came a striking switch in tone from situation-comedy humor to serious, issue based drama.

I think the reason Lou Grant had more of an effect on me than The Mary Tyler Moore Show, both of which I watched in syndication, is that MTMS wasn’t really about journalists. It was a work-place comedy whose characters formed a kind of family. On the other hand, Lou Grant and the reporters who worked for him at the Los Angeles Tribune faced ethical dilemmas, corruption, mystery, and all manner of personal problems. The drama is rooted in their professions and in a nuanced, but hopeful view of the human condition.

A modern mystery series that reminds me of this kind of character-based storytelling is Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake books. The main character has returned to his small Michigan town to work at the bi-weekly local paper. He left home a failure many years earlier and has returned a failure after losing his big-city-reporting job in disgrace. That’s a heavy weight to carry, and when you add that he’s emotionally withdrawn and has a tendency to avoid harsh truths, you could have yourself an unpleasant read. But Gruley is such a skilled novelist, and imbues his protagonist with so much inherent decency, that you’re riveted as the character is awakened to the ugly underbelly of his hometown.

But this has come quite a long way from His Girl Friday and the enthusiasm of my youth. Perhaps that’s because I’ve grown up. If only there was something that could blend my childlike enthusiasm with my now more-adult sensibilities.

But wait, there is! Hank Phillippi Ryan’s mystery series is about a Boston television reporter named Charlotte McNally. Charlotte is a version of Hildy Johnson that’s a little bit wiser, more grounded, and a lot more patient. She may have come by those admirable traits through the natural process of aging, because Charlotte is also fifteen years older than Hildy. That’s not a problem if you’re a print reporter, but TV news has an unfortunate tendency to prize youth and good looks over reporting skill. Charlotte handles that challenge with grace and intelligence, not to mention a sharp wit.

Despite thirty-three years, a whole lot of real life, and the weight of being an adult, when I read Charlotte’s dialogue, I hear Rosalind Russell’s voice and am five again. It really doesn’t get better than that.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Paul Lindsay: R.I.P.

Paul Lindsay, the former Detroit-based FBI agent and author of seven novels under both his own name and the pseudonym Noah Boyd (The Bricklayer, Agent X), “died peacefully Thursday night at a Boston hospital of pneumonia with his family by his side. He was 68.”  This was reported by the federal law-enforcement blog Tickle the Wire.
Tickle the Wire editor Allan Lengel explained that Lindsay “had been diagnosed in 2005 with a blood cancer that compromised his white blood cell count, the possible result of his exposure to chemical defoliates when he served in the Marines in Vietnam ...”

Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

In his memory contributions should be directed to: The Wounded Warrior Program

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Penguincubator: 1937 Vending Machine for Books

I love 'odd' article sites, and  (Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix) is one of my favorites. Erin Faye alerted me to this post.

Sir Allen Lane, the creator of Penguin Books, credited with poularizing high-quality mass-market paperbacks, also invented the "Penguincubator," a vending machine for paperbacks. 1937.

Don't you just love it? Not surprising that the booksellers resented the Penguincubator. Reminds me of Food Trucks in front of restaurants, and I won't even go into the Amazon vs Indie Bookstores conflict or ebook vs hardcopy.

From Publishing Perspectives:
Lane's Penguincubator was first installed outside Henderson’s (the “Bomb Shop”) at 66 Charing Cross Road, which signaled his intention to take the book beyond the library and the traditional bookstore, into railway stations, chain stores and onto the streets. It is worth noting, given publishers’ frequent timidity in this area, that this really annoyed booksellers. (Lane’s lack of trepidation is an important part of this story; worth noting, too, that he was the first English publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, at the Bodley Head, despite the widespread contemporary fear of prosecution for obscenity.)

And from the Penguin Company History Page:
After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.

Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores.

Read more of the story here:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day Mysteries: Labor Unions Crime Fiction

There aren't a lot of mysteries set during the Labor Day Holiday: Lee Harris' Labor Day Murder& Sharyn McCrumb's Highland Laddie Gone. There's also the short story "Labor Day" by R.T. Lawton in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

So this year I decided to turn the theme into something different: Crime Fiction involving Labor UnionsMurder, Mystery & Mayhem put together a great list of Labor Day Mysteries involving unions, tradesman and works. I've added a few more titles and annotations. Some great reads here!


For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen (Garment Workers)
White Hot by Sandra Brown (Labor Dispute)
Big Boned by Meg Cabot (Graduate Student Union)
Airframe by Michael Crichton (Union Trouble)
Cactus Blood by Lucha Corpi (Farm Workers' Union)
The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle (Union Group called the Scowrers)
Third Strike by Philip Craig and William Tapply (Steamship Authority Strike)
October Heat by Gordon DeMarco (1934 San Francisco General Strike)
The Bramble Bush (aka Worse than Murder) by David Duncan (San Francisco General Strike)
American Tabloid by James Ellroy (Teamsters)
LA Quartet by James Ellroy (Movie Unions)
Dead Reckoning by Patricia Hall (Union Strike)
The Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (IWW organizer & Strike Breaking)
A More Perfect Union by J.A. Jance (Iron Workers' Union)
As Dead As it Gets by Cady Kalian (Creative Artists' Union)
Deadly Dues by Lulu Malone (Actors' Union)
Death at the Old Hotel by Con Lehane (Hotel Workers' Union)
Any Given Day by Dennis Lehane (Police Union)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (Labor Union)
Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti  (Union rep in Cathode-ray Tube industry)
Conferences are Murder by Val McDermid (Journalists' Union)
Death at Pullman by Frances McNamara (American Railway Union)
The Viewless Winds by Murray Morgan (Murder of a Labor Leader's wife)
A Bitter Feast by S. J. Rozan (Restaurant Workers' Union)
Some Cuts Never Heal by Timothy Sheard (Shop Steward)
Absolute Rage by Robert K. Tanenbaum (Coal Miners' Union)
The Porkchoppers by Ross Thomas (Politics & Unions)
Killy by Donald Westlake (Manufacturing Union)

Have a great Labor Day Holiday!