Thursday, April 30, 2015

May Day Crime Fiction and Morris Dancing Mysteries

"What potent blood hath modest May."- Ralph W. Emerson

For the past few years, I've posted a list of May Day Mysteries. I love May Day with its Morris Dancing and the Maypole, all dating back to pagan Celtic times. And, although May may seem idyllic with its flowers and showers, it can actually be murderous! Later this month, I will have an updated list of Mother's Day Mysteries and Memorial Day Mysteries. Both take place in May.

I've expanded my May Day list to include a few other May mysteries. Let me know if I've forgotten any titles. Be sure and check out the Morris Dancing Mysteries at the end of the list.

May Day Mysteries

Five Days in May by Paul Eiseman
30 Days in May by Wayne Hancock
Five Days in May by Christopher Hartpence
Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel 
The Moonlit Door by Deryn Lake  
May Day by Jess Lourey
May Might Mean Murder by Bill McGrath 
A Hearse on May-Day by Gladys Mitchell  
May Day in Magadan by Anthony Olcott 
The Merry Month of May by Elvi Rhodes
A Hot Day in May by Julian Jay Savarin
The May Day Murders by Scott Wittenburg

Morris dancing is one of the Great English Mysteries, like cricket and warm beer. 
--Rosemary Edghill, mystery writer, in Book of Moons, 1995 

For over 35 years at dawn on May Day, Berkeley Morris Dancing takes place at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park. The Berkeley Morris Dancers also perform at the University of California Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 3, 12:30-1pm. Free with Garden Admission. Check for Morris Dancing in your area.

Morris Dancing Mysteries

As the Pig Turns by M.C. Beaton
Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate by M.C. Beaton
Blind to the Bones by Stephen Booth
Thieves by Hannah Dennison
The Moonlit Door by Deryn Lake
Death of a Fool (Off with his Head) by Ngaio Marsh
Dead Men's Morris by Gladys Mitchell 
The Death-Cap Dancers by Gladys Mitchell
The Lazareth Pit by Elizabeth Patterson

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Mystery Writers of America Winners - 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2014. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at the 69th Gala Banquet tonight in New York City.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)

Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)

The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin Randomhouse – Penguin Books)

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)


Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)

"What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn (Penguin Randomhouse Publishing – Ballantine Books)

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)

“Episode 1” – Happy Valley, Teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)

"Getaway Girl" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine By Zoë Z. Dean (Dell Magazines)

Lois Duncan
James Ellroy

RAVEN AWARDSRuth & Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison,
Magna Cum Murder


Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

* * * * * *


(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Tuesday, April 28, 2015)
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)

Cartoon of the Day: Writer's Block

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Don Mankiewicz, novelist and Oscar-nominated screenwriter "who grew up in a fabled Hollywood family and went on to create TV's Ironside and Marcus Welby, M.D.," died April 25. He was 93. His 1954 novel Trial was made into a film starring Glenn Ford and Dorothy McGuire.

Don's father was Herman J. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter behind "Citizen Kane." His uncle was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director of "All About Eve" and other classic films.

Read the LA Times Obit HERE.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spotted Owl Awards

Chelsea Cain and Johnny Shaw are the recipients of the twentieth annual Friends of Mystery Spotted Award. Cain is receiving her award for her book, One Kick, published in August 2014 by Simon & Schuster.. Johnny Shaw is receiving his award for his book, Plaster City, published by Thomas & Mercer in April 2014.

The Spotted Owl Award was established in 1995 and is given to the best mystery novel of the year by an author who lives in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Idaho, Oregon or Washington.

HT: Bill Cameron

The Golden Age of Murder: Guest Post by Martin Edwards

Today I welcome crime writer and expert on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, Martin Edwards. In addition to his latest work The Golden Age of Murder, Martin Edwards is the author of eighteen crime novels, most recently the Lake District Mysteries, and of sixty short stories, including “The Bookbinder’s Apprentice” which won a CWA Dagger and “Acknowledgments” which won the first CWA Margery Allingham Prize.

Martin Edwards:
The Golden Age of Murder

The Golden Age of Murder is a tale of the unexpected. Although I write contemporary crime fiction, I’ve always been fascinated by the detective stories of the Twenties and Thirties. That period is often described as a “Golden Age” of the genre, and the phrase has become associated with cosiness and nostalgia. Well, there’s plenty of that to be found in some of the books. But the best detective fiction written between the wars also offered much more.

Crime writers are, quite naturally, interested in real life crime. We have taken material from actual cases and fashioned them into fiction since the days of Poe and Wilkie Collins. But I suspect that nobody did so more eagerly – and, perhaps, effectively – than the novelists of the Golden Age.

The controversial hanging of Edith Thompson in 1923, for instance, made a conspicuous impact on the genre. Her young lover was the person who actually killed her husband and Edith was, as Anthony Berkeley put it, “executed for adultery”. Her case inspired one of his most interesting and least-known novels, As for the Woman, published under the name Francis Iles. The title came from the dismissive words that the judge used about Edith before sentencing her to death.

Dorothy L. Sayers, who knew what it was like to be a wronged woman, was rather less sympathetic when she created a fictional version of Edith in The Documents in the Case – her only novel without Lord Peter Wimsey, and a rather daring departure in content, style, and theme, that has never quite received the attention that I feel it deserves.

Agatha Christie was also intrigued by Edith’s fate, which was the subject of a play called People Like Us, by the actor and playwright Frank Vosper. There was a real life mystery concerning Vosper’s death – he fell out of a liner into the Atlantic – and during my researches, I found some connections between Christie and Vosper that I found tantalising.

Berkeley founded the Detection Club in 1930, and Sayers and Christie were leading lights. The Club produced several books, collaborations between its members, and these included The Anatomy of a Murder, which contains Sayers’ superb essay on the murder of Julia Wallace. It’s an early example of an attempt to put together a psychological profile of a suspect, to help determine whether he was a killer.

The Detection Club thrives to this day, and I’m proud to be its first archivist, although it came as a disappointment to find that there really were very few items in the archives! So, as well as wanting to research for my book, I had another motive to explore the lives and work of the Club’s early members.

Many of them, although now dimly remembered, were once major figures in the genre. I found that authors such as Milward Kennedy and R.C. Woodthorpe made a greater contribution to the development of crime fiction than has been acknowledged until now. Others, such as Henry Wade, are better known, but still under-valued. Wade’s Lonely Magdalen is, in my opinion, the best police novel of the Golden Age. And Hugh Walpole’s The Killer and the Slain is a brilliant forerunner of the psychological crime stories we devour today.

Not everything written in the Golden Age was equally distinguished, naturally. But I do believe that it is unfortunate that so many fine books and wonderful writers of that era are now overlooked. My hope is that The Golden Age of Murder will help to put that right.

Cartoon of the Day: Keyboard Adaptations

From Rhymes with Orange. Cat in photo is my Barclay.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stan Burns: R.I.P.

Stan Burns, Mystery and Science Fiction Reviewer/Critic, Collector, Fan, and amazing Photographer--and friend, passed away Thursday. His sister in law posted that he died at home which is what he wanted--and in no pain.

I'm glad I was able to catch up with him in real time at Bouchercon. He was an amazing photographer, a great critic, and an interesting friend. I met him first, I think in DapaEm, but perhaps at a convention earlier. We had so many wonderful interchanges over the years, mostly recently about his shaving his beard for the first time in years!

Rest peacefully.

Shotgun Shell Cufflinks

For the man or woman who has everything. Shotgun Shell Cufflinks. O.K, you're saying you don't have shirts that require cufflinks? You can always repurpose into rinks or necklaces. Just a thought.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pinckley Prizes

Nevada Barr is the winner of the 2015 Pinckley Prize for a Distinguished Body of Work for her Anna Pigeon series. Adrianne Harun won the 2015 Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel for A Man Came Out of A Door in the Mountain.

Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlist 2015

Crime Writers of Canada announced the 2015 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. 

Best Novel 
Brenda Chapman, Cold Mourning, Dundurn Press
Barbara Fradkin, None so Blind, Dundurn Press
C.C. Humphreys, Plague, Doubleday Canada
Maureen Jennings, No Known Grave, McClelland & Stewart
Alen Mattich, Killing Pilgrim, House of Anansi

Best First Novel 
Janet Brons, A Quiet Kill, Touchwood Editions
Steve Burrows, Siege of Bitterns, Dundurn Press
M.H. Callway, Windigo Fire, Seraphim Editions
Eve McBride, No Worst, There Is None, Dundurn Press
Sam Wiebe, Last of the Independents, Dundurn Press

Best Novella 
Rick Blechta, The Boom Room, Orca Book Publishers
Vicki Delany, Juba Good, Orca Book Publishers
Ian Hamilton, The Dragon Head of Hong Kong, House of Anansi
Jas. R. Petrin, A Knock on the Door, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

Best Short Story 
Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress, McClelland & Stewart
Melodie Campbell, Hook, Line and Sinker, YYM/Northword Literary Journal
Peter Clement, Therapy, Belgrave House
Madona Skaff, First Impressions, The Whole She-Bang 2, Sisters in Crime
Kevin P. Thornton, Writers Block, World Enough and Crime, Carrick Publishing  

Best Book in French 
Hervé Gagnon, Jack: Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, Expression noir / Groupe librex
Andrée Michaud, Bondrée, Editions Québec Amérique
Maryse Rouy, Meurtre à l’hôtel Despréaux, Édition Druide
Richard Ste Marie, Repentirs, Alire

Best Juvenile/YA Book 
Michael Betcherman, Face-Off, Penguin Canada
Sigmund Brouwer, Dead Man's Switch, Harvest House
S.J. Laidlaw, The Voice Inside My Head, Tundra Books
Norah McClintock, About That Night, Orca Book Publishers
Jeyn Roberts, The Bodies We Wear, Knopf Books for Young Readers

Best Nonfiction Book 
Bob Deasy (with Mark Ebner), Being Uncle Charlie, Penguin Random House
Charlotte Gray, The Massey Murder, HarperCollins
Joan McEwen, Innocence on Trial: The Framing of Ivan Henry, Heritage House
Bill Reynolds, Life Real Loud: John Lefebvre, Neteller and the Revolution in Online Gambling, ECW Press
Paula Todd, Extreme Mean, McClelland & Stewart

Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel 
Rum Luck by Ryan Aldred
Full Curl by Dave Butler Crisis Point by Dwayne Clayden
Afghan Redemption by Bill Prentice
Strange Things Done by Elle Wild

CWC announced the 2015 Derrick Murdoch Award Winner, Sylvia McConnell In 1998, Sylvia McConnell began RendezVous Crime, a publishing house with the mandate to publish crime novels written by Canadians set in Canada. Over the next thirteen years she published 80 works of crime fiction, many of which were nominated for or won prestigious awards. For her belief in the value of Canadians telling Canadian stories, for her encouragement of new Canadian authors, and for her recognition of talent with staying power, she was given the Derrick Murdoch Award.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nancy Barr Mavity: Guest post by Randal S. Brandt

Today I welcome guest blogger Randal S. Brandt. Randal is a librarian at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. The idea for this article came out of research he did in preparation for a panel on "Female Authors of the Past" at Left Coast Crime 2015 in Portland, in which he looked at several women who came to prominence during the 1930s and 40s in the thriving mystery scene of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Randal S. Brandt:
Nancy Barr Mavity 

Fifty-six years ago today, on April 23, 1959, Nancy Barr Mavity died unexpectedly of a heart attack at her home in Piedmont, California at the age of 68. She had been at her desk at the Oakland Tribune the day before— the same as every day of the previous 34 years. A feminist ahead of her time, Mavity refused to be confined to a single role. Instead, she—to borrow a phrase popular in today’s parlance—“leaned in” and led three distinctive lives as a wife and mother, a successful crime and mystery novelist, and a well-respected newspaper journalist, so well respected that the Tribune carried the story of her death on Page One on the very day she died.

But who was Nancy Barr Mavity?

Biographical details of her life paint a compelling portrait of a remarkable woman with an independent spirit. Nann Clark Barr was born in Illinois on October 22, 1890 to Dr. Granville Walter Barr and his wife Annabelle Applegate Barr. While she was still a young girl, the family moved to Keokuk, Iowa where her father, who had traded a career in medicine for journalism, became City Editor of the local newspaper, The Gate City. She earned an A.B. degree from Western College in Oxford, Ohio, attended graduate school at Wellesley College and earned both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Cornell University, where she was awarded one of the prestigious Susan Linn Sage Graduate Scholarships in Philosophy. After leaving Cornell, she taught philosophy at Connecticut College for Women before moving to New York City to join a publishing firm. On Christmas Day 1917 Nancy married Arthur Benton Mavity, who also worked in publishing, and in March 1919, shortly after she gave birth to their first child, they moved to California. The move, which was precipitated when Arthur’s firm re-assigned him to the San Francisco office, was not a welcome one as Nancy also had a promising career in progress in New York.

They settled in Oakland and in 1920 Nancy went to work for the San Francisco Chronicle writing book reviews and literary essays. In the early 1920s, Sunset Magazine published a number of articles that she had written while traveling for six months on her own in Japan, China, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. This was a truly remarkable undertaking, as her husband and two young children remained at home. Remarkable for the time, yes, but simply a matter of course in the Mavity family. In 1926, Nancy wrote a highly personal article on “The Wife, the Home, and the Job” for Harper’s Magazine in which she extolled the virtues of the working wife and mother and fiercely advocated for a woman’s right to choose her work and share parenting and housekeeping responsibilities with her husband, citing her trip as an example. (She revisited this theme in a 1951 issue of Harper’s with a follow-up article, “The Two-Income Family,” reflecting on her quarter-century of working outside the home.)

In the meantime, she began writing books—all types of books. Nancy’s initial effort, Responsible Citizenship, a textbook on American politics co-written with her husband, was published in 1923. This was followed shortly by a volume of poetry dedicated to her daughter called A Dinner of Herbs (she had been publishing her poems in various magazines since childhood), and her first novel, Hazard, which was largely autobiographical. She also wrote a history of newspaper journalism, The Modern Newspaper, in 1930 and an even-handed biography of Aimee Semple MacPherson, Sister Aimee, in 1931.

But it was when she went to work for the Oakland Tribune in 1925 that she found her life’s calling. In a retrospective that appeared at the time of her death, she is quoted as saying: “I went into newspaper work to enlarge my experience of people as an aid to fiction writing, then I stayed in it for its own sake.”

Did she ever.

For the next 33 years, the byline “By Nancy Barr Mavity” made regular appearances in the pages of the Tribune. She wrote colorfully and authoritatively on a myriad range of topics—from crime reporting to social reform, from literary criticism to local interest stories. She covered labor strikes and the Bay Area literary scene, reported on the 1945 United Nations Conference in San Francisco, and interviewed University of California physicist Ernest O. Lawrence. She was also the first woman to spend a night in Folsom Prison, where she had gone to cover the pardon hearing of Warren K. Billings, who had been convicted—along with Thomas J. Mooney—of the 1916 Preparedness Day bombing in San Francisco. She later called the resulting story one of her proudest professional achievements.

In the 1930s, Nancy Barr Mavity’s literary efforts turned to crime and detective fiction. Her first mystery novel, The Tule Marsh Murders, published in 1929, introduced ace crime reporter James Alyosius “Peter” Piper. Peter succeeds at his job by being relentless in his pursuit of a story, and he frequently conducts his own investigations without bothering to let the police in on the action. The character appeared in five additional novels: The Body on the Floor (1929), The Other Bullet (1930), The Case of the Missing Sandals (1930), The Man Who Didn't Mind Hanging (1932), and The Fate of Jane McKenzie (1933). Mavity’s last mystery, The State Versus Elna Jepson (1937), was a stand-alone courtroom drama about an obstinately independent young woman accused of murdering the wife of the man she loves.

Mavity’s mysteries are notable for their portrayal of the role of science in the detection of crime. Psychology and forensics frequently provide key clues to the solutions of the mysteries. However, it is usually Peter Piper, not the police detectives, who advocates for modern criminological methods. Over the course of the novels, Peter promotes the uses of lie detection, ballistics, fingerprint analysis, and blood spatter trajectories in uncovering murderers. Advertisements and book reviews frequently claimed that Mavity’s fictions were based on actual criminal cases and true circumstances, and the fact that the murder victim in The Case of the Missing Sandals bears a striking resemblance to Aimee Semple MacPherson did not go unnoticed in the press.

The novels were also praised by Mavity’s fellow journalists for being particularly accurate in their portrayal of newshounds and newsrooms. Although many of Peter’s news-gathering antics would never be tolerated by today’s law enforcers, some of the anecdotes from Nancy’s own career are distinctly similar to those of her fictional hero. As a crime reporter, she covered many of the most notorious criminal cases, including the trials of William Edward Hickman, a child murderer, and David Lamson, a Stanford University executive accused and eventually acquitted of murdering his wife. In one case, Mavity used a ladder to climb through the window of a vacated jury deliberation room in order to gather up the contents of the wastebasket, writing a story for the next morning’s edition on exactly how many ballots the jury had taken and what the votes were. In another, she risked facial burns by keeping her head next to a furnace pipe in order to eavesdrop on a jury, and for three days fed the newspaper direct quotes from the deliberations.

Nancy was widowed when her first husband Arthur Benton Mavity passed away in 1931, leaving her as a working single mother with two young children. In addition to keeping her job at the Tribune, she also produced her last three novels before her marriage in 1938 to photographer Edward Almon “Doc” Rogers, who had taken a ferry across the bay in order to photograph the aftermath of the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. It is unknown why she gave up fiction-writing, but she certainly did not give up her association with the Bay Area’s literary community—especially it’s flourishing cadre of mystery writers.

In 1945, Mystery Writers of America (MWA) was formed in order to promote the genre and the help ensure sufficient pay for mystery authors. Berkeley author and critic Anthony Boucher, who was also involved in progressive politics, was quick to join the cause, becoming one of the fledgling organization’s founding members. But MWA was headquartered in New York. So, in 1947, the first regional branch was established in Northern California. Their inaugural meeting was held in San Francisco, with Boucher elected chair, Lenore Glen Offord designated secretary, and Alfred Meyers as treasurer. Other Bay Area mystery writers in attendance were Robert Finnegan, Cary Lucas, Mary Collins, Miriam Allen de Ford, Darwin and Hildegarde Teilhet, Dana Lyon, Eugene Goldsmith, Dora Richards (aka “Richard”) Shattuck, Florence Ostern Faulkner, Eunice May Boyd, and Virginia Rath.

We know all of this because Nancy Barr Mavity was there, too. On March 2, 1947 the Oakland Tribune ran a lengthy article with the familiar by-line “By Nancy Barr Mavity,” accompanied by E.A. Rogers’ photographs, that described the festivities in Nancy’s characteristic light-hearted prose:
  •  “Crime Incorporated, with murder and mayhem, slow or sudden death and assorted dirty work at the crossroads, has invaded the Bay Area. Its practitioners have banded together to ‘hold up’ the public, demanding, in two words, more kudos and more kale. Two dozen lively promoters of death met conspiratorially, at the gunpoint of Anthony Boucher..., to form a Western ‘cell’ of Mystery Writers of America, Inc., with the flourishing slogan, ‘Crime does not pay—enough.’ Over dinner and drinks (with or without cyanide) at a San Francisco restaurant, with the butt end of a .44 for gavel, officers were elected and arrangements made for monthly meetings, alternately in San Francisco and the Eastbay.” 
Many of those subsequent meetings were also documented in the pages of the Tribune by Nancy Barr Mavity. In this way, in her role as literary editor for the Oakland Tribune, she championed the sometimes maligned mystery genre, while simultaneously pursuing her widespread journalistic interests. Although death took her far too soon, Nancy Barr Mavity lived fully and totally on her own terms, refusing to let the norms of her time dictate her life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reservoir Noir: Drowned Towns

Today is Earth Day! It's a day to reflect on what we're doing to this planet Earth! I've posted lists of Reservoir Noir before, but this year is sadly particularly apt, as I live in an area experiencing extreme drought. Our water resources are depleted. And, yet, many of my friends in other areas are experiencing rain storms and floods. Global warming, yes, but what to do about it?

I'm sitting here on another beautiful day in Northern California thinking about drowned towns. We're in another year of drought, and we were promised a late rain. It didn't materialize, unfortunately. And, even if it did rain for the entire week or month, it wouldn't make up for the deficit of so many dry years. A few years ago a reservoir nearby was so low that a small airplane was seen above the waterline. It turned out to be a small aircraft containing the pilot that had disappeared many years ago. Mystery solved. Most of the Drowned Towns I've read about in mysteries were from intentional flooding or damming.

I’m fascinated by the number of mysteries that concern Drowned Towns. I read Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season and Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height because they came out about the same time. Being a list maker I was thrilled to find the site Library BookLists.

Reservoir Noir
Books that deal with intentional flooding of towns and villages because of building dams and reservoirs for water supply, irrigation, power and other reasons--a sad addition to the environmental crime fiction list.

Arnaldur Indridason's The Draining Lake
Robert Byrne's The Dam
Alan Dipper's Drowning Day
Paul Doiron's The Poacher's Son
Eileen Dunlop's Valley of the Deer (YA)
Lee Harris's Christening Day Murder
Reginald Hill's On Beulah Height
Donald James' Walking the Shadows
Beth Kanell's The Darkness Under the Water (YA)
James D. Landis' The Talking (Artist of the Beautiful)
Jane Langton's Emily Dickenson is Dead
Julia Wallis Martin's A Likeness in Stone
Sharyn McCrumb's Zombies of the Gene Pool
Michael Miano's The Dead of Summer
Maryanne O'Hara's Cascade
Michael Radburn's The Crossing
Ron Rash's One Foot in Eden
Rick Riordan's The Devil Went Down to Austin
Peter Robinson's In a Dry Season
Lisa See's Dragon Bones
Paul Somers' Broken Jigsaw
Julia Spencer-Fleming's Out of the Deep I Cry
Donald Westlake's Drowned Hopes
John Morgan Wilson's Rhapsody in Blood
Stuart Woods' Under the Lake

Let me know any titles you think should be included.

Read more about Drowned Towns (fictional and real) at Library Booklists HERE

And, we can't forget the 1974 movie Chinatown which deals with water rights. Not a drowned town, but certainly draining water resources. However, the horror film "In Dreams" is about a flooded town that made way for a new reservoir.

Be kind to the Earth. It's the only one we have.

Charlene Weir: R.I.P.

I was very sorry to hear about the passing of Charlene Weir. I was thinking about her recently as I was preparing notes for an upcoming discussion of the early days of the Bay Area mystery scene. We used to ride together to MWA meetings and other mystery events. She was always fun, interesting, and supportive of everyone in the mystery community. Check out Pat Balester's Picks by Pat blog for information.

Charlene Weir passed away on April 4th in El Cerrito, CA. She was the author of the Susan Wren series that includes The Winter Widow (St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Contest-1992) and Consider the Crows (Anthony Award nominee 1994), as well as five other books in her series.

From the obituary written by her daughter, Leslie Weir.

Charlene said of her strong female protagonist, “Susan is intelligent and competent, any doubts or uncertainties are hidden beneath a cloak of cool confidence. She solves her own problems effectively. She doesn’t get rescued. She gets herself out of the burning building.”

In many ways, this was the perfect description of Charlene herself. Charlene’s final novel, Unknown Footprints, has been posthumously published. When she wasn’t writing, Charlene enjoyed playing the piano, looking after her two beloved cats, and visiting with her grandchildren. She was known for her sharp wit and quick sense of humor. She is survived by her two children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. A memorial will be held at 11:00 am on May 16 at St Alban’s Church, 1501 Washington Ave. Albany CA 9470. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Milo Foundation.

Environmental Crime Fiction: Earth Day

Thought I'd mention an issue of Mystery Readers Journal that is particularly relevant for Earth Day. Mystery Readers Journal (2013,Volume 29:1) focuses on Environmental Mysteries. This issue is available in PDF or hardcopy.


  • Environmental Mysteries: On the Cutting Edge of Sustainable by Christine Goff
  • Moonscape to Paradise? by Lou Allin
  • One Mysterious Mama by Sandi Ault
  • Accidental Environmentalist by Shannon Baker
  • The Blind Traveler's World by Robert P. Bennett
  • Looking for Snow Leopards by Lisa Brackmann
  • The Surest Poison Is Time by Chester Campbell
  • Beetlemania by Sheila Connolly
  • Banking on a Novel by Dawn Corrigan
  • One Chance Encounter by Lindsay Crane
  • I Think That I Shall Never See... by Mary Daheim
  • I Am Not a Scientist. So Why Do I Write Science Thrillers? by Karen Dionne
  • The Mystery of the Sound in the Canyon by Toni Dwiggins
  • High Stakes in a Great Lake by Kathleen Ernst
  • My World and Welcome to It by Kate Fellowes
  • Call It What You Will by Bill Fitzhugh
  • The Death of the Gecko by Mary Flodin
  • When Fiction Meets Fact by Jamie Freveletti
  • From Sitting in a Banyan Tree to Bumping Off a Tree Sitter by Sara Hoskinson Frommer
  • Adjusting to the Natural World by Christine Goff
  • Making Waves by Beth Groundwater
  • Environmental Mysteries: Science Can Be Fun! by Karen E. Hall
  • "A Big Hell in the Ground" by Paul Johnston
  • Going Mysteriously Green in North Queensland by Sylvia Kelso
  • Environmental Mysteries: Plot Before Polemic by Stephen Legault
  • GMOs and Thrillers: An (Un)Natural Combination by Jon McGoran
  • My Blogging, Tweeting Birds by Rosemary Mild
  • What Could Be More Than Dead? by Penny Mickelbury
  • Don't Let Message Overpower Mystery by Carolyn J. Rose
  • The Environmental Disaster as Portal by Leonard Rosen
  • Eco-Terrorism and Eugene by L.J. Sellers
  • Mysteries of a Ghost Town by Orest Stelmach
  • You Don't Need to Preach by Mark Stevens
  • Desert Sky Mysteries by David Sundstrand
  • The Vanishing Desert by Betty Webb
  • 23 Shades of Eco-Crime by Kenneth Wishnia
  • For Love of the Lake by Sue Owens Wright
  • Myth, Murder, and the Moon by E.J. Wagner
  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Alma T.C. Boykin, Lesa Holstine, L.J. Roberts
  • In Short: Blame It on Travis McGee by Marv Lachman
  • Children's Hour: Growing Up Green by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • Stranger Than Fiction: The Real World of Environmental Mysteries by Cathy Pickens
  • From the Editor's Desk by Janet Rudolph

CrimeFest Awards Shortlists


The winners will be announced at the CRIMEFEST Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday, 16 May.

The Audible Sounds of Crime Award for the best unabridged crime audiobook first published in the UK in 2014 in both printed and audio formats, and available for download from, Britain’s largest provider of downloadable audiobooks. Courtesy of sponsor Audible UK, the winning author and audiobook reader share the £1,000 prize equally and each receives a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

- Ben Aaronovitch for Foxglove Summer, read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Orion Publishing Group)
- Lee Child for Personal, read by Jeff Harding (Penguin Random House Audio)
- Robert Galbraith for The Silkworm, read by Robert Glenister (Little, Brown Book Group)
- Anthony Horowitz for Moriarty, read by Derek Jacobi & Julian Rhind-Tutt (Orion Publishing Group)
- Peter James for Want You Dead, read by Daniel Weyman (Macmillan Digital Audio)
- Stephen King for Mr Mercedes, read by Will Patton (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Jo Nesbø for The Son, read by Sean Barrett (Penguin Random House Audio)
- James Oswald for The Hangman’s Song, read by Ian Hanmore (Penguin Random House Audio)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers for the longlist, and Audible UK listeners established the shortlist and the winning title.

The eDunnit Award for the best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the British Isles in 2014. The winning author receives £500 and a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

- Linwood Barclay for No Safe House (Orion Publishing Group)
- Lawrence Block for The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Orion Publishing Group)
- Charles Cumming for A Colder War (HarperCollins)
- Chris Ewan for Dark Tides (Faber & Faber)
- Greg Illes for Natchez Burning (HarperCollins)
- Thomas Mogford for Hollow Mountain (Bloomsbury)
- Thomas Sweterlitsch for Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Headline)
- Andrew Taylor for The Silent Boy (HarperCollins)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers for the longlist, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title.                                                                                                                     

The Goldsboro Last Laugh Award for the best humorous crime novel first published in the British Isles in 2014. The £500 prize is sponsored by Goldsboro Books, the book collector's bookseller. The winner also receives a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

- Lawrence Block for The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Orion Publishing Group)
- Declan Burke for Crime Always Pays (Severn House Publishers)
- Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May - The Bleeding Heart (Bantam/Transworld)
- Shane Kuhn for Kill Your Boss (Little, Brown Book Group)
- Chris Pavone for The Accident (Faber & Faber)
- L. C. Tyler for Crooked Herring (Allison & Busby)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers for the longlist, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title.

The H.R.F. Keating Award for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction first published in the British Isles between 2013 - 2014. The award is named after H.R.F. ‘Harry’ Keating, one of Britain’s most esteemed crime novelists, crime reviewers and writer of books about crime fiction. The winning author receives a commemorative Bristol Blue Glass award.

- Pamela Bedore for Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction (Palgrave 2013)
- Clare Clarke for Late Victorian Crime Fiction in the Shadows of Sherlock (Palgrave, 2014)
- Barry Forshaw for Nordic Noir (Pocket Essentials, 2013)
- Barry Forshaw for Euro Noir (No Exit Press, 2014)
- John Martin for Crime Scene: Britain & Ireland (Five Leaves, 2014)
- Lucy Worsley for A Very British Murder (BBC Books, 2013)

Eligible titles were collated by author and crime fiction expert Martin Edwards. A team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bony Blithe Award for best Canadian Light Mystery 2015

The Bony Blithe Award for best Canadian Light Mystery 2015. The Bony Blithe Award was created by the Bloody Words Board to shine a spotlight on light mysteries, an area of the genre that is often overlooked. 

Cathy Ace, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair (Touchwood Editions)
Judith Alguire, Many Unpleasant Returns (Signature Editions)
E.C. Bell, Seeing the Light (Tyche Books)
Janet Bolin, Night of the Living Thread (Berkley Prime Crime)
Allan Stratton, The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish (Dundurn Press)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ian McKellan -- Mr. Holmes Trailer

Can't wait! 

From Entertainment Weekly:

In Mr. Holmes, Ian McKellen stars as an older version of the famous detective, who is finally penning his own story about his life to correct the misconceptions that have already been written about him. So Sherlock, at the age of 93 (requiring McKellen to play almost two decades above his own age), sets about recalling a case in his life from 35 years earlier.
The new international trailer for the film shows off more of the film’s plot as a new take on the classic character, a stark contrast from other modern on-screen interpretations, approaches its summer release date. Mr. Holmes is set to release on July 17.

Cartoon of the Day: Bookkeeper

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

The Los Angeles Time Book Prizes were announced last night during the Los Angeles Festival of Books.

Winner in the Mystery/Thriller category:  
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (Norton)

Other Category Winners:
Biography: Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (Viking)
Current interest: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs (Scribner)
Fiction: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (Simon & Schuster)
First fiction: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press)
Graphic novel: The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
History: The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze (Viking)
Poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)
Science and technology: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (Holt)
Young adult literature: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random House Children's)
Lifetime achievement: T.C. Boyle
Innovator's award: LeVar Burton 

For winners in all categories, go here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Every Secret Thing Trailer

Here's the trailer for Every Secret Thing, based on the novel by Laura Lippman and directed by Amy J. Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis), reported.

The cast includes Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, Danielle Macdonald, Nate Parker and Common.

Adapted by Nicole Holofcener (Friends With Money, Enough Said), Every Secret Thing will be released May 15.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Savage Professor: Guest post by Robert Roper

Today I welcome Robert Roper. Robert Roper writes novels, biographies, history books, magazine articles, and children’s books.  Fatal Mountaineer, about Everest pioneer Willi Unsoeld, won the Boardman Tasker Prize, the principal world prize in outdoor literature. His fiction includes Royo County, The Trespassers, and Cuervo Tales.  His latest books are The Savage Professor and Nabokov in America (a biography).  He lives in California and tries to stay out of trouble.


My latest novel is my first out-and-out crime novel, although, come to think of it, violence is all over my books. That started way back in 1973 with my first novel, Royo County, which the wonderful book critic William Hogan called “shattering…authentic to the core,” a thriller “as haunting as Hemingway’s The Killers,” pointing to the passages of suspense and graphic violence. And here I thought I had written a quiet literary novel. The book was nominated for Best First Western Book or Best New Cowboy Author or something like that – another surprise to me, since I hadn’t thought of myself in the same pigeonhole with Luke Short and Zane Grey. I was aiming more for Faulkner and Melville. Oh well.

I have a friend who’s a retired epidemiologist who used to teach at UCSF med school. I’ve always been curious about what epidemiologists actually do. There’s all that math and double-blind studies, but out in the field they are investigators seeking to solve mysteries, usually with a whole lot of gruesome death involved – like detectives. My friend had run studies all over Africa and Asia, and when I went walking with him on the streets of San Francisco I was amazed by how much he noticed – he was the first person to point out to me the funny little vials we kept crunching under our feet (crack bottles, late 1980s), the first to try to read the tattoos on the necks of the young hookers we ran into on Polk Street.

I started writing a profile of him, just because he’s a fascinating guy, and suddenly it took off, with a big whoosh, into a dark California crime story. It was about a series of murders that the book’s lead character, Anthony Landau, comes to be accused of. Using his math-filled brain he goes looking for the killer. I set the story in Berkeley because I know Berkeley well and because I missed the screwy old sun-struck academic town, being at that time tied down with a job in chilly Baltimore. 

Landau, the flawed hero, is a man with an off-color romantic past. He was only married for a few years and mostly he’s lived alone while conducting a number of “interesting” affairs. He’s had some complaints about his behavior from some female colleagues, but on balance he doesn’t feel he’s done anything particularly wrong. Then this series of savage crimes against women starts happening, and his past comes to be looked at in a new light. He’s subjected to a virulent public shaming.

The book is called The Savage Professor, and some reviewers have written that it’s a “very black and bloody comedy” and a “noir thriller” with a California "satire" thrown in. I certainly wasn’t aware of writing a satire. I’m not sure I know what satire is. It could be that the way I see things is a bit tweaked, with irony and black comedy already built into the equation. For me the absurd touches to life are simple realism. Landau sees things a bit this way, in ironic terms. Most of us – unfortunately I have to include myself in this sad indictment – though we laugh in public tend to see ourselves as quietly heroic strugglers in an unfair matchup with life, persevering despite everything, bestowing acts of kindness along the way, fighting the impossible but honorable fight and gamely pushing on. Landau sees himself that way, too, in his self-pitying moments, but he can also see the absurdity of everything he’s gotten mixed up in, and he’s often mocking and undercutting himself in his own mind. Meanwhile, other people around him see him as this powerful figure, formidable, intimidating, very adept at getting his own way. He’s this big hulking mathematician-scientist with a British accent who isn’t easily done under, and he just may have tortured and sliced to death a number of young women.

I hope very much you enjoy the book.

Watch the Trailer for The Savage Professor HERE:


Cartoon of the Day: Spelling

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Death and Taxes: Tax Day Crime Fiction

The Tax Man Cometh! I've done several posts over the years about Tax Day Mysteries. Surprisingly there are many that deal with Finance, and high finance at that, but not all that many that deal with about the average Joe filing his taxes on April 15. Surely it's enough to commit murder. So here are a few mysteries that deal specifically with Tax Day.. and at the end of this post, an updated list of several accounting/accountant mysteries. And a reminder--if you haven't filed your taxes yet, be sure and send in for an extension!

The most well known Tax Day Mystery is David Dodge's Death and Taxes--an oldie but goodie (1941). It's been reissued.  Read Librarian and Editor Randal Brandt's posts on David Dodge HERE and HERE.

San Francisco tax accountant James “Whit” Whitney is summoned home from a vacation in Santa Cruz to help his partner, George MacLeod, recover a hefty tax refund for a beautiful blonde client named Marian Wolff. When he returns to his office, Whit finds MacLeod dead in the firm’s vault, “with a small hole in the bridge of his nose.” In order to complete the tax return and uncover the murderer, Whit becomes a reluctant detective and nearly gets himself killed in the process. To prevent Whit’s murder, if possible, the SFPD assigns him a bodyguard named Swede Larson. Whit and Swede tangle with ex-bootleggers and Telegraph Hill gangsters in their efforts to unravel the mystery, which climaxes with a shootout in the Mission District and a dramatic car chase across the Bay Bridge. Along the way, Whit resists the advances of Marian Wolff and begins a romance with Kitty MacLeod, George’s widow.

Before becoming a novelist, David Dodge worked as a Certified Public Accountant. No wonder his first fictional hero was also a tax man. A notable aspect of the Whitney novels is the volume of information about taxes and finances that Dodge effortlessly weaves into his plots. To read more about David Dodge, go HERE.

Sue Dunlap's 7th Jill Smith mystery is also entitled Death and Taxes

Until someone put a poisoned needle in his bicycle seat, Phil Drem was the meanest, most nit-picking IRS agent in Berkeley, California.

But when Detective Jill Smith began searching Berkeley's backwaters for the tax man's killer, she found a different picture of Drem: a caring Drem, whose once-beautiful wife was "allergic to the world" and whose friends and enemies, old hippies and would-be entrepreneurs, enjoyed a ghoulish pastime called The Death Game. Did the Death Game KO Drem? Was someone's schedule a motive for murder? And what about a CPA who drove a red Lotus ruthlessly and guaranteed his clients they'd never be audited?

Only one thing is for sure, —somewhere in Berkeley's backwaters, a killer is still on the loose. And for a detective who loves her city, doubts her lover, and has a knack for solving the toughest of crimes, finding the truth is about as inevitable as...Death And Taxes.

A continued search revealed one other title: A Little Rebellion: April 15 Surprise by Rodney Sexton published by Writers Club Press (2000) an iUniverse book. Not having read it, I thought I'd post the Editorial Review:

After a client’s suicide and an unprecedented IRS attack on his tax practice, Certified Public Accountant Karl Mendel plans what he hopes will be the final solution to an income tax system out of control.

Assisted by close friends and professional associates, Mendel uses a personal tragedy and his belief in American freedom to fuel his war on what he refers to as the American KGB. With flying skills honed as a Marine pilot in the Vietnam War Mendel takes to the air in his planned assault on the U.S. income tax system. Help from Beatrice Gimble, a former IRS programmer and current CPA partner of his best friend, Terry Garcia, leads Karl inside the main computer facility run by the IRS. Unaware that he is being watched by powers beyond the IRS, his “forced” dealings with a Russian “mole” leads Karl and his partners into dangers they had not considered and threatens the woman he loves more than life itself.

About the Author: Rod Sexton is a practicing Certified Public Accountant living near Houston, Texas with his wife. While in Vietnam, Sexton was attached to the First Marine Air Wing. After active duty, he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Taxation degrees. A Little Rebellion is his first work of fiction.

Sure sounds like this fits the bill! Anyone read it? Any comments?

A further search for other mysteries uncovered a few other titles maybe a bit further afield but with an accounting theme, so in honor of Tax Day, I thought I'd post a few Accounting-Accountant crime fiction titles.


Paul Anthony: Old Accountants Never Die
Paul Bennett: Due Diligence, Collateral Damage, False Profits, The Money Race
Ann Bridge: The Numbered Account 
David Dodge --in addition to Death and Taxes, he wrote three more novels about San Francisco tax accountant James "Whit" Whitney: Shear the Black Sheep, Bullets for the Bridegroom and It Ain't Hay.
Marjorie Eccles: Account Rendered and other Stories
Gail Farrelly: Beaned in Boston
Dick Francis: Risk
Kate Gallison: Unbalanced Accounts
John Grisham: Skipping Christmas
Ian Hamilton: The Water Rat of Wanchai
Carolyn Hart: A Settling of Accounts 
James Montgomery Jackson: Bad Policy
Marshall Jevons: Murder at the Margin, The Fatal Equilibrium, A Deadly Indifference
Emma Lathen: Accounting for Murder
Linda Lovely: Final Accounting
Sharon Potts: In Their Blood
Peter Robinson: Final Account
Karen Hanson Stuyck: Held Accountable
William C. Whitbeck: To Account for Murder
M.K. Wren: Nothing's Certain but Death 
Short Story: "The Ides of Mike Magoon" in Ellery Queen's The Calendar of Crime (written when tax day was March 15, not April 15)

Anyone have a favorite mystery with a Tax Day theme? Any titles I've missed?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Poisoned Pen Press to Publish British Library Crime Classics and Spy Classics Series in US

Here's something to celebrate. I spoke to Rob Rosenwald, President and Publisher at Poisoned Pen Press, at Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime about the PPP new venture--Publishing British Library Classics and Spy Classics in the U.S. I've now read several of these long unavailable novels, and I can tell you first hand that they're wonderful. Great books and beautifully done editions.

Here's the Press Release from Poisoned Pen Press.

Poisoned Pen Press announces the upcoming release of titles from the British Library Crime Classics series and the British Library Spy Classics series. Poisoned Pen Press will serve as the US publisher for the Crime Classics and Spy Classics series. 

The celebrated British Library Crime Classics and Spy series features historical mysteries rediscovered by the British Library. Focused on the Golden Age of British crime writing, the series includes works by both recognized and lesser-known writers. Poisoned Pen Press will release the first two titles in the Crime Classics series—Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston and The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude—in May 2015. Twelve additional titles, including two British Library Spy Classics, Trouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges and The Traitor by Sidney Horler, will follow later in 2015. Beginning in 2016, Poisoned Pen Press will be in sync with the British Library’s publishing schedule, with one title slated for release each month. 

Robert Rosenwald, President and Publisher at Poisoned Pen Press, said he was intrigued when initially approached about publishing the series in the US. According to Rosenwald, “The British Library Crime Classic and Spy Classic series are outstanding collections of books written at a time when there was no such thing as genre fiction. As a mystery book publisher with over 700 mysteries in print, we felt Poisoned Pen Press was uniquely positioned to fill the role of US publisher for these extraordinary series. We are thrilled to be able to bring these titles, many of which have been unavailable to the public for years, to the US.” 

Rosenwald added that Poisoned Pen Press is honored to publish works that laid the groundwork for popular crime fiction: “The British Library Crime and Spy Classics series provides important historical context for mystery enthusiasts. These titles are written by authors who were pioneers in crime fiction—the original masters of crime fiction writing. One of the May releases on our list, The Sussex Downs Murder is written by John Bude, which is the pen name for Ernest Elmore, co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association. These are important books for readers, for writers, and for libraries.” 

Poisoned Pen Press will publish each title in the British Library Crime and Spy Classics series in both trade and eBook formats. Each title will feature cover art chosen by the British Library— smart, old-fashioned designs befitting these golden age crime tales—as well as introductions by well-known experts. 

Founded in 1997, Poisoned Pen Press is an independent publisher specializing in the highest quality mystery books. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Poisoned Pen Press is one of the largest publishers of hardcover mysteries in the world. Visit the new Poisoned Pen Press author blog and Discover Mystery™ at:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Noir City: Austin -- A Tribute to Cornell Woolrich

The second annual NOIR CITY: AUSTIN film festival will run May 8–10 at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. With the exception of the opening night feature—the newly restored Woman on the Run—the 11-film series pays tribute to noir writer Cornell Woolrich, with ten films adapted from his novels and short stories. Due to the theatre's limited seating capacity, full series passes will be available online via the Ritz only until April 21, after which only tickets to individual shows will be available for advance online purchase.

Street of Chance (1942), Phantom Lady (1944), Black Angel (1946), Deadline at Dawn (1946), Night Has 1000 Eyes (1948), The Guilty (1948), The Window (1949), No Man of Her Own (1950), and two newly preserved and subtitled Argentine Woolrich adaptations, Never Open That Door (No abras nunca esa puerta, 1952) and If I Die Before I Wake (Si muero antes de despertar, 1952). Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller will be on hand to introduce all the films in the intimate and convivial environment for which the Alamo Drafthouse is famous.

"The sun-drenched expanse of Texas may seem a far cry from the shadowy recesses and expressionistic cityscapes of classic noir," said Drafthouse programmer Tommy Swenson, "but all that open space just means more places to bury the bodies. The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is thrilled to welcome the Film Noir Foundation back for our second annual NOIR CITY, and to pay tribute to Cornell Woolrich. The most atmospheric of all the great crime writers, Woolrich's world is one with no moral compass, a place where love and death are always inextricably linked."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

CrimeFest Awards Longlists


Check out the CRIMEFEST awards on the AWARDS page.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award for best crime audiobook
Goldsboro Last Laugh Award for best humorous crime novel
eDunnit award for best electronic crime novel
H.R.F. Keating Award for best non-fiction book related to crime fiction

The shortlists will be announced later this month, with the winners being revealed at the CRIMEFEST Gala Awards Dinner on 17 May (tickets still available).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bruce DeSilva: Politics and the Sports Betting Industry-A Scourge of Vipers

Today I welcome back Bruce DeSilva. Bruce DeSilva’s crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press's award-winning noir anthologies. He has reviewed books for The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Publishers Weekly, and The Associated Press. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for the AP, editing stories that won every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer. His fourth novel, A Scourge of Vipers, has just been published in hardcover and e-book editions.

Bruce DeSilva:
Politics and the Sports Betting Industry--A Scourge of Vipers

Ever place a bet on a sporting event? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is yes. About eighty-five percent of us gamble on sports at least occasionally, even though doing so is illegal nearly everywhere in the United States.

And boy, does it add up. The total we bet on sports annually, much of it on the Super Bowl and the Mach Madness basketball tournament, is estimated to be three hundred and eighty billion dollars. It’s a big number that looks even bigger when you count up all the zeros:


To put it in perspective, that’s six times greater than the budget of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In other words, the stakes are high.

No wonder, then, that all hell breaks loose in A Scourge of Vipers when Rhode Island’s fictional governor, a former religious sister known as Attila the Nun, proposes legalizing sports gambling to ease the state’s budget crisis.

I got the idea for this novel a couple of years ago when Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, where I now live, proposed legalizing sports betting so he could tax it. But Christie, like my fictional governor, faces enormous obstacles.

For one thing, a governor would need to persuade the U.S. Congress to repeal the federal law that makes sports gambling illegal everywhere but in Nevada and three other states that were grandfathered in. Either that or successfully challenge the law in court.

For another thing, legalization has powerful enemies. The NCAA is dead set against it. The four major professional sports leagues oppose it too (although the NBA recent softened its stance), claiming it would damage the integrity of their games. The Las Vegas casinos are eager to hold onto their near-monopoly on legal sports gambling. And organized crime organizations are aghast at the prospect of seeing their bookmaking business wiped out.

But legalization also has powerful friends. Some public-employee unions see it as a way to save their endangered pension plans. Some casino owners outside of Nevada are salivating at the chance to get into dive into the lucrative sports-betting business. And then there are those hard-pressed governors desperate for a way to balance their budgets without raising taxes.

Most of the pro- and anti-legalization forces have very deep pockets. As soon as Christie floated his idea, I was saw the makings of a great hard-boiled crime novel.

In A Scourge of Vipers, the NCAA, the major sports leagues, casino operators, public employee unions, organized crime figures, and others with a lot to lose—or gain—if Attila the Nun should get her way, flood the state with millions of dollars in cash to buy the votes of state legislators. Some of them do it legally, with big campaign donations. Others aren’t above slipping envelopes into politicians’ pockets.

All that money pouring into an economically-depressed state where the average campaign for the state legislature costs just ten thousand dollars.

Before long, things take an uglier turn. A powerful state legislator turns up dead. A mobbed-up bagman gets shot down. And his cash-stuffed briefcase goes missing.

Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper (and the protagonist of my three earlier novels) wants to dig into the story, but the bottom-feeding conglomerate that recently bought the once proud daily has no interest in serious reporting. So Mulligan, who’s never been inclined to follow orders, goes rogue, investigating on his own.

Soon, he finds himself the target of shadowy forces that seek to derail him by threatening his reputation, his career, and even his life.

The writers I most enjoy reading are the ones who use the popular form of the crime novel to explore important social issues. George Pelecanos, Lippman, Richard Price, and James Lee Burke are among those who spring immediately to mind. It’s not surprising, then, that while each of my novels works as a suspenseful murder mystery, each also has a serious underlying theme. For example, the Edgar Award-winning Rogue Island explores the high price the American democracy is paying for the decline of newspapers. And Cliff Walk examines what the era of ubiquitous pornography is doing to American attitudes about sexual morality and religion.

A Scourge of Vipers gave me the opportunity to write about the hypocrisy surrounding legal and illegal sports betting. For example, not only the federal government but most states have laws against it, yet they see nothing wrong with raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from state lotteries. And the sports leagues that oppose legalization know full-well that they profit handsomely from sports gambling. After all, it’s the reason a lot of people follow sports. Furthermore, keeping sports gambling illegal helps keep a lot of organized crime organizations in business.

The story also allowed me to explore one of the major issues of our time--the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the corrupting influence of big money on politics.

While the new novel has a serious purpose, the tone is lighter than my other Mulligan novels. The first three were strewn with innocent victims. But in A Scourge of Vipers, most of the people who get hurt had it coming.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Passover Crime Fiction//Passover Mysteries

The Jewish holiday of Passover started last night and will last for eight days. Plenty of time to read some of these great crime fiction novels. As always, let me know any titles I'm missing.

Passover Crime Fiction

Conspirators by Michael Andre Bernstein 
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks 
The Passover Murder by Lee Harris 
All Other Nights by Dara Horn
Never Nosh a Matzo Ball by Sharon Kahn
Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home by Harry Kemelman 
The Fixer by Bernard Malamed
The Samaritans' Secret by Matt Beynon Rees
Mrs Kaplan and the Matzo Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger
Unleavened Dead by Ilene Schneider
The Passover Plot by Hugh J. Schonfield 
The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra
The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie (on my Easter list, too!)
The Big Nap by Ayelet Waldman 
The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia

Passover Short Stories in the following collections:
Criminal Kabbalah, edited by Laurie R. King
Murder is No Mitzvah, edited by Abigail Browning
Mystery Midrash, edited by Rabbi Lawrence Raphael

There are several children's and YA Passover Mysteries including:
Jodie's Passover Adventure by Anna Levine

Celebrating the holiday? Check out for Chocolate Passover Recipes. Be sure to scroll back.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Crime Fiction/Easter Mysteries

Even if you don't live in Norway where Paskekrim (Easter Crime Fiction) is a crime fiction Easter Holiday tradition, you can enjoy reading some great mysteries that take place at Easter.  

To find out more about Paskekrim, a Norwegian tradition that takes place over 5 days from Holy Thursday through Easter Monday, when the country is caught up in watching and reading murder mysteries and detective series and publishers bring out their latest crime fiction, click here.

My Easter Crime Fiction list has been expanded from last year, and, as always, I welcome any additions. I've also added some Good Friday mysteries, rounding out the weekend.


Antiques Bizarre by Barbara Allan
Ship of Danger by Mabel Esther Allan
Aunt Dimity: Detective by Nancy Atherton
Death and the Easter Bunny by Linda Berry
In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen
Easter Weekend by David Bottoms
The Last Enemy by Grace Brophy
Wycliffe and the Last Rites by W.J. Burley
Papa la-Bas by John Dickson Carr
Do You Promise Not To Tell? by Mary Jane Clark
Little Easter by Reed Farrel Coleman
A Holiday Sampler by Christine E. Collier
Last Easter by Caroline Conklin
Murder on Good Friday by Sara Conway
Holy Terrors by Mary R. Daheim
Big Bunny Bump Off by Kathi Daley
Death of a Harlequin by Mary-Jane Deeb
The House of Death by Paul Doherty
Cue the Easter Bunny by Liz Evans
Deadly Sin by P.J. Grady
Precious Blood by Jane Haddam
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Good Friday Murder by Lee Harris 
Server Down by J.M. Hayes
Semana Santa by David Hewson
Eggsecutive Orders by Julie Hyzy
Easter Murders by Bryant Jackson & Edward Meadows
Death of a Dumb Bunny by Melanie Jackson
Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose (short stories) by Peter Lovesey
Pagan Spring by G. M. Malliet
Some Like It Lethal by Nancy Martin
Easter Bunny Murder by Leslie Meier
Devil's Door by Sharan Newman
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
The Wolf and the Lamb by Frederick Ramsey
The Baritone Wore Chiffon; The Soprano Wore Falsettos by Mark Schweizer
Easter's Lily by Judy Serrano
Prey on Patmos by Jeffrey Siger
Tourist Trap by Julie Smith
Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming
And Four To Go includes "The Easter Parade" aka The Easter Parade Murder" by Rex Stout
Nickeled-and-Dimed to Death by Denise Swanson
The Quarry by Johan Theorin
Midnight at the Camposanto by Mari Ulmer
The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie
The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson

Short Story: "The Man on the Cross" by Bill Crider from the collection Thou Shalt Not Kill, edited by Anne Perry."The Rabbit Died" by Sue Ann Jaffarian.

Looking for Easter Chocolate to eat while reading? Stop by my other Blog, for some great Chocolate Easter Recipes and History and Culture of PEEPS.

Look Magazine, April 16, 1957