Friday, June 30, 2017

Macavity Award Nominations 2017

The Macavity Award Nominees 2017

The Macavity Awards are nominated by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal and friends of MRI. The winners will be announced at opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in Toronto, Thursday, October 12. Congratulations to all.

If you're a member of MRI or a subscriber to MRJ or a friend of MRI, you will receive a ballot on August 1, so get reading. To check if you're eligible to vote, leave a comment below with your email.

Best Novel 
• You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)
• Dark Fissures, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)
• Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (UK, Hodder & Stoughton; US, Grand Central Publishing)
• Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (UK, John Murray; US, Soho)
• Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Wm. Morrow)
• A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel 
• The Widow, by Fiona Barton (UK, Bantam; US, NAL)
• Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry (Penguin)
• Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (No Exit Press)
• IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books)
• Design for Dying, by Renee Patrick (Forge)

Best Short Story 
• “Autumn at the Automat,” by Lawrence Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow, Pegasus Books)
• “Blank Shot,” by Craig Faustus Buck (Black Coffee, Darkhouse Books)
• “Survivor’s Guilt,” by Greg Herren (Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016, Down & Out Books)
• “Ghosts of Bunker Hill,” by Paul D. Marks (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Dec. 2016)
• “The Crawl Space,” by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Sep.–Oct. 2016)
• “Parallel Play,” by Art Taylor (Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, Wildside Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel 
• A Death Along the River Fleet, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur)
• Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye (UK: Headline Review; US, G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
• Delivering The Truth, by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
• The Reek of Red Herrings, by Catriona McPherson (US: Minotaur; UK: Houghton Stodder)
• What Gold Buys, by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
• Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

Best Nonfiction 
• Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats, by Jane K. Cleland (Writer's Digest Books)
• Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin (Liveright Publishing)
• Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction, Margaret Kinsman (McFarland)
• Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula, by David J. Skal (Liveright Publishing)
• The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, by Kate Summerscale (Penguin)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: How I spend Money

The Importance of Getting Up and Walking Around: Guest Post by William Shaw

William Shaw is an award-winning pop culture journalist, who has written regularly for the UK's Observer and Independent, as well as the New York Times. He is the author of the Breen and Tozer series and THE BIRDWATCHER. Shaw lives in Sussex, England.

William Shaw:
The Importance of Getting Up and Walking Around

You can’t overestimate the importance of getting up and walking around a little.

If you think writing is all about sitting at a computer and banging out words, you’re wrong. My kids, when they see me wandering around the house, or strumming an instrument with a vacant expression on my face, snigger and say, ‘Yeah. Writing again, is he?’

But most of the ideas don’t happen when you’re sitting down at a desk.

And it’s doubly true of crime writing, because crime writing is as much about creating an atmosphere as it is about problem solving. How do you get your protagonist from A to B without C knowing? Surely C would know that B murdered A because he was in the next room. When I wrote The Birdwatcher I let people know right away in the first two paragraphs that William South, the hero and good guy, was a also murderer. This was a fantastic opening, but it left me with a host of structural problems to fix about how long I could delay the reader knowing who he had killed. As a result, I had two plots, one in the 1970s and one in the present day and for a while they were tangling together without really working.

The Birdwatcher took a lot of getting up and walking around, but it worked.

I finished the book at a writing shack I have down in the English county of Devon. It’s off-grid and there are a lot of low-level tasks that need doing, like stoking the fire, or putting rainwater into the filter. I write for a while, putter around, write some more. There is a limit to the amount of writing I can physically do there because my laptop works off a single solar panel. I was doing the washing up which requires getting rainwater and heating it on the stove first when realised I had figured out a way in which the two plots came together like I had meant it all along.

The thing is, I can’t even remember thinking the thought. It was just there.

Psychologists call it the creative unconscious. They’ve even proved how well it works. Back in 2006 two Dutch scientists, Ap Dijksterhuis and Teun Meurs, did an experiment in which they gave participants three minutes to think of as many uses as they could for a simple object like a brick or a paperclip.

Half the group were given the chance to complete the job uninterrupted. The other half were given a second task – such as counting backwards in threes. Both groups produced a similar number of ideas, but the ones who were distracted produced ideas that were more divergent – or, to put it another way, more creative. In other words, not thinking directly about something can produce more interesting results.

We haven’t a clue how this works; we just know it does. It’s reassuring to realise that the brain is much weirder than you might imagine it is. Fans of Artificial Intelligence who imagine we’re approaching the singularity take note.

That day I ran out of the shack whooping with glee. What a great ending, I thought. The funny thing is, it’s not even like I can give myself credit for thinking of the solution. It just happened.

From Book Reporter:
The Birdwatcher by William Shaw
A methodical, diligent and exceptionally bright detective, William South is an avid birdwatcher and trusted figure in his small town on the rugged Kentish coast. He also lives with the deeply buried secret that, as a child in Northern Ireland, he may have killed a man. When a fellow birdwatcher is found murdered in his remote home, South's world flips. The culprit seems to be a drifter from South's childhood; the victim was the only person connecting South to his early crime; and a troubled, vivacious new female sergeant has been relocated from London and assigned to work with South. As the hero investigates, he must work ever-harder to keep his own connections to the victim, and his past, a secret

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Michael Nyqvist: R.I.P.

Sad news: Michael Nyqvist, the actor best known for his role in the Swedish movie adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, has died at the age of 56 from lung cancer.

Nyqvist also starred in John Wick and Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol. He also starred in Colonia and Hunter Killer.

After starring during the 1980s and early 1990s in mostly Swedish theater and movie productions, including in the role as police officer Banck in the first series of Beck films made in 1997.

He is survived by his wife Catharina and their children.

Acorn TV: Midsomer Murders, Series 19, Part 2

If you're like me, you felt short-changed by Midsomer Murders, Series 19, Part 1 that aired on AcornTV recently. There were only 4 episodes. But now, starting July 17, there will be 2 more episodes. AcornTV is calling it Midsomer Murders, Series 19, Part 2. Not sure why there was a delay or why there are only 2 episodes this time around, but I've seen them both, and they're great. O.K. this series can never go wrong in my opinion. It's so entertaining, and I enjoy the 'guest' stars. The two new feature-length episodes include Death by Persuasion and The Curse of the Ninth. They both star Neil Dudgeon as Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby.

Summer Mysteries: Lazy, Hazy, Criminal Days of Summer!

Summertime, and the living is easy. Or is it? So many mysteries taking place during Summer are filled with murder and mayhem -- on the Beach, at the Lake, and in the City! What follows is a list of Summer Crime Fiction that exudes the heat and the accompanying crime of Summertime. I've omitted Fourth of July and Labor Day from this list, but I'll be updating those lists later this Summer. As always I invite you to add any titles I've missed. This is far from a definitive list, but it's been updated since last year.

Summer Mysteries 

Foxglove Summer by Ban Aaronovitch
The Corpse with the Garnet Face by Cathy Ace
A Cat on a Beach Blanket by Lydia Adamson
Moon Water Madness by Glynn Marsh Alam
A Tangled June by Neil Albert
Gone Gull by Donna Andrews
Gold Medal Threat by Michael Balkind (Kids: 7-15)
A Midsummer Night's Killing by Trevor Barnes
Milwaukee Summers Can Be Deadly by Kathleen Anne Barrett
Summertime News by Dick Belsky
The Summer School Mystery by Josephine Bell
Jaws by Peter Benchley (maybe not quite a mystery, but a good read, especially at the Beach)
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Murder by Fireworks by Susan Bernhardt
A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black
Another Man's Ground by Claire Booth
The Down East Murders by J.S. Borthwick
Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen
Deadly Readings by Laura Bradford
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Cat Who Saw Stars, The Cat Who Went Up the Creek by Lilian Jackson Braun
Chill of Summer by Carol Brennan
Devils Island by Carl Brookins
Killer in Crinolines by Duffy Brown
Scrappy Summer by Mollie Cox Bryan
Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates
Twanged, Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark
Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
Thin Air by Ann Cleeves
Dead and Berried by Peg Cochran
All You Need is Fudge, To Fudge or not to Fudge by Nancy Coco
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
Death on a Summer Night by Matthew Costello
Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle
A Shoot on Martha's Vineyard by Philip Craig
The Trouble with a Hot Summer by Camilla Crespi
Never Say Pie by Carol Culver
Barkley's Treasure, Bikines in Paradise by Kathi Daley
The Alpine Recluse by Mary Dalheim
The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis
A Summer in the Twenties by Peter Dickinson
The Gold Coast, Plum Island by Nelson DeMille
Kilt at the Highland Games by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein
Blackberry Burial, Dying for Strawberries by Sharon Farrow
Murder Sends a Postcard by Christy Fifield
The Angel of Knowlton Park by Kate Flora
Lord James Harrington and the Summer Mystery by Lynn Florkiewicz
Apple Turnover Murder, Blackberry Pie Murder, Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Beneath the Skin by Nicci French
A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova
Murder Makes Waves by Anne George
The Caleb Cove Mystery Series  (3 in the series) by Mahrie Reid Glab
A Fatal Fleece, Angora Alibi by Sally Goldenbaum
Dead Days of Summer by Carolyn Hart
A Stitch in Crime by Betty Hechtman
The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill
Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara
Cracked to Death by Cheryl Holton
Murder at Wrightsville Beach by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter
Magic Hour by Susan Isaacs
Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James
A Summer for Dying by Jamie Katz
The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly (YA)
Rainy Day Women by Kay Kendell
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
A Timely Vision by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Midsummer Malice by M.D. Lake
Dark Nantucket Noon by Jane Langton
The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale
A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan
Murder on the Ile Sordou by M.L. Longworth
August Moon, June Bug by Jess Lourey
Nun But the Brave by Alice Loweecey
Berried to the Hilt, Death runs Adrift by Karen MacInerny
A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet
Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield (YA)
Death in a Mood Indigo by Francine Mathews
Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell
Till Death Do Us Bark by Judi McCoy
Tippy Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
Murder Most Finicky by Liz Mugavero
Foal Play by Kathryn O'Sullivan
The Body in the Lighthouse by Katherine Hall Page
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker
The Heat of the Moon by Sandra Parshall
Beach House by James Patterson
Summer of the Dragon by Elizabeth Peters
5 Dan Marlowe/Hampton Beach, NH mysteries by Jed Power
Murder at Honeysuckle Hotel by Rose Pressey
In the Dead of the Summer; How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Gillian Roberts
Calamity @the Carwash by Sharon Rose
Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder by Sara Rosett
Boiled Over, Clammed Up by Barbara Ross
Hang My Head & Cry by Elena Santangelo
Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait
Vacations Can Be Murder by Connie Shelton
Bushel Full of Murder, If Onions Could Spring Leeks by Paige Shelton
Pick Your Poison; The Cat, The Vagabond and The Victim by Leann Sweeney
Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd
Deception in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
Board Stiff by Elaine Viets
Shadows of a Down East Summer, Thread and Gone by Lea Wait
Trail of Secrets by Laura Wolfe (YA)
An Old Faithful Murder, Remodelled to Death by Valerie Wolzien
Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods
Sins of a Shaker Summer by Deborah Woodworth
Summer Will End by Dorian Yeager
Heart of Stone by James Ziskin

Any titles you'd like to recommend?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Writing Setting, Writing Tokyo: Guest Post by Michael Pronko

Michael Pronko’s Tokyo-based mystery, The Last Train, was released May 31, 2017. Michael is the author of three collections of award-winning writings on Tokyo Life, Beauty and Chaos, Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens, and Motions and Moments, the latter won twelve indie press awards. He is a professor of American Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University, in Tokyo, where he has lived for the last twenty years. He also writes about jazz on his site Jazz in Japan. He is currently working on the next mystery in the series, Japan Hand, due out in early 2018. @pronkomichael 

Michael Pronko:
Writing Setting, Writing Tokyo

Setting is one of the trickiest parts of writing a novel. It can enrich a scene or dampen it, act as a springboard or a wall. When I set my mystery, The Last Train, in Tokyo, I wondered how much readers would have seen of Tokyo, if anything. “Lost in Translation” maybe? I knew the setting was integral to the story, but how to get that across to readers with only a few telling, or rather showing, images?

I had it easy when I wrote columns about Tokyo life from a foreigner’s point of view for Newsweek Japan. The readers of the Japanese-language column were mainly Tokyoites, so I could skip a lot of description. If I wrote, “ramen shop counter,” everyone in Tokyo knows just what that looks like and what happens there. If I wrote, “large sake bottle,” people know what the size and shape and color is, how one pours from the big bottle into a teensy cup. So, how to choose the right details for readers who have never been to a sake bar or to Tokyo at all? That was the challenge.

Action helps immensely. When I write a Tokyo setting, certain actions make sense: taking trains, looking up at the buildings, weaving through the crowds. So, I included those actions as part of the overall setting, and integrated them into the story. Typical, everyday action adds to the static descriptions of setting to make it come alive. Tokyo without the ceaseless trains, blinking neon and fast-moving crowds would not be Tokyo. The dynamism of each setting keeps it from becoming static description and helps the reader feel that this action—and this story—could only take place in this setting.

When writing about Tokyo for people who may have never been there, it is hard to know which details work best, and in what proportion. Too much detail and the setting sinks like a dead weight. Too little detail and the story could take place anywhere. I’ve lived in Tokyo for twenty years, so when I started working on the settings, I spent a lot of time thinking back to my first impressions of the city. I also watched tourists (there’s been a tourist boom recently) to see what they were looking at, and imagining what grabbed them. When I write the first draft, I always slather on way too many details. I jam in every color, object, smell, size and sound I can. But then on successive drafts, I ask myself, what is quintessentially Tokyo? With that in mind, I peel off and discard what’s unneeded. It’s more chiseling and whittling than writing.

Another way I think of setting is cinematically. When visualizing a scene, I try to think like a cinematographer. (Check out the documentary “Visions of Light” on cinematography.) Lighting, framing, angles, distance should all be part of the description of a setting. Most importantly, a setting should create the feeling of motion. I think in two ways, long shot and close-up. I try to look around a scene to find both a sweeping detail for the big picture (“Lighted signs listing the clubs zipped up the sides of buildings from sidewalk to rooftop.”) And then small, pointed details bring it up close, like the name of a club, “Black Moon, Kingdom Come.” That doesn’t have to be like a helicopter over the city kind of shot, or a long, lingering shot on the face of the heroine, which is a bit outdated, but just a sentence or two that moves the reader’s mind’s eye over the space and then onto a central focus.

To get setting right, I close my eyes a lot when I write, and often go back to places I want to describe. Tokyo is big so that takes a lot of time. I go there and let my emotional response direct me towards details and words. And sometimes I google things. What does a metal lathe look like? I kind of know, but since it’s a key object in one setting, the main character hides money below the lathe, pulling up a few images of lathes and looking them over helps decide how to present that part of the setting. All of this is aimed at making the reader not just see the lathe, but smell the machine oil and dust of the factory floor, to not just see the glass holding cold sake on a humid night, but to taste it. When I wrote: “The sake flowed gently over the top of the lip of the glass into the box, arousing the aroma of cedar and fresh rice,” then the first sip of sake is anticipated. Or, at least, it is for me.

In working with the setting of Tokyo, I am lucky, I feel. The city is photogenic in all kinds of ways, and endlessly diverse. It’s also a huge place, so I’ll never run out of settings. I’ve lived here writing and teaching for long enough to know the city well, but that’s not enough. I always re-view and re-imagine Tokyo from the reader’s point of view. In The Last Train, I wanted to be sure readers could not just see Tokyo, but feel they were in Tokyo, or want to be.

Cartoon of the Day: Mystery Writer

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What's in a Name? Guest Post by Sofie Kelly

Sofie Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author and mixed-media artist who writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats Mysteries and, as Sofie Ryan, writes the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mysteries.

Sofie Kelly:
What’s in a Name?

I swipe people’s names. No, I’m not some kind of identity thief who will take out five credit cards in your name and order every single product advertised on late-night TV. But if I like your name, it may end up in one of my books.

As a teenager, I wanted to be named Jennifer. That’s because in my mind, girls named Jennifer had long, flowing hair, kind of like Susan Dey of The Partridge Family. (Yes, I know Susan Dey was not named Jennifer. My teenage logic was not necessarily logical.) I did not have long, flowing hair, although I did briefly have an ill-advised Afro after a home perm that went very wrong. But that’s a story for another day.

For me, names often have identities attached to them. Sometimes when I name a character I also give him or her some of the qualities of the real person with that name. For instance, Idris, a name I used for a dead character in the Magical Cats mysteries, came from a tombstone. The real Idris outlived two wives and buried them side-by-side in a double plot. I began to imagine what he might have been like. Practical, obviously. He didn’t buy a new plot or a new headstone when his second wife died. He used what he had. Not overly sentimental, either, I decided, because otherwise I don’t think he would have left his two wives to rest side-by-side for eternity. When I created the fictional Idris, I gave him the qualities I had imagined for the real man.

Hercules always makes me think of actor Kevin Sorbo, from the campy Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. So when I gave that name to one of the Magical Cats, I also said that’s who he was named for. The fact that Sorbo was born and raised in Minnesota, the state where the Magical Cats mysteries are set, just felt like a sign that Hercules the cat had exactly the right name.

On the other hand, the only thing the fictional Marcus from my books and the real Marcus share is their name. The real Marcus is a talented artist and teacher with a funky style and a great sense of humor. The fictional Marcus is a lot more serious and stiff.

Because names can carry their own baggage with them, sometimes I don’t use a name I like. In one manuscript, I named a con artist Peter and realized my mistake almost immediately. I have a friend named Peter; he is kind and gentle and far more likely to give you the shirt off his back than try to scam you out of yours.

It’s not just associations that make me like a name, though. Sometimes it’s just the way the name sounds. Case in point: Benjarvus Green-Ellis (former running back for the Patriots and the Bengals.) I just like the sound of his name when I say it. I like his nickname too: The Law Firm. Both are probably a bit too distinctive to use in a book, though. Then there’s Siobhan. It’s Irish. I love that the name looks one way and sounds another. And not only do I like Ogden Nash’s name, I like his poetry too. They’re both a little quirky.

Are there any names that have a particular association for you? Or maybe your name is one I’d like to add to my “collection.” Please share.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Write What You Know

Global Warming, Modern Day Espionage, and Writing Thrillers: An Interview with Bernard Besson

Global Warming, Modern-day Espionage, and Writing Thrillers:  
An interview with Bernard Besson

Bernard Besson is an award-winning French writer and former top-level French intelligence officer who writes smart, modern spy novels. In his Larivière espionage thrillers, a team of freelance operatives navigates today’s complex world of espionage and global economic warfare while trying to lead normal lives in Paris. Whether they are unravelling the geopolitical consequences of global warming or discovering the intricacy of high-frequency online trading, they struggle to maintain their independence in a world where the loyalties of official agencies are not so clear and corruption and political machinations are everywhere. Here Bernard shares some of his insights about global warming, writing thrillers, and his novels. Anne Trager of Le French Book interviews Bernard Besson.

One of your thrillers is about global warming, which is quite topical these days. What did you learn from writing it? 

The Greenland Breach changed my views on global warming, which I used to consider to be a kind of end of the world. I realized there had been several ends of the world—from both cooling and warming. Humanity is capable of adapting to climate change. It has done so on several occasions in the past and it will do so again in the future. I am more afraid of errors made by governments than I am of changes in the weather. What we have to fear is that nations will not manage to live together peacefully. One of the key battlegrounds is business, and both countries and multinational corporations are fighting for key strategic knowledge they hope to be the first to use. Those with the best information will win the battle.

Why write thrillers? 

I got inspired to write my first thriller when I was at the DST, which is French counter-espionage, or the equivalent of the FBI. I was very lucky to be working during the fall of communism and the Soviet Union. We were able to understand how networks of Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech and Romanian spies worked with their allies in France. There were some good stories to tell. Fiction makes it possible to tell more truth than an academic work filled with numbers and statistics—and it’s much more enjoyable to read.

Two of your titles have been translated into English. What inspired them? 

In our world of rapid climate change, The Greenland Breach gives you an entirely different perspective on how we are all being impacted. The blood splattered on the ice sheets of Greenland belongs to shadow fighters, mercenaries fighting battles we don’t learn about on the evening news.

Similarly, we are living in an age of technological disruption. In The Rare Earth Exchange, you get a heart-pounding story that could have been ripped from the headlines. What happens when a grain of sand throws off the well-oiled international finance machine?

Limited-time Giveaway of The Rare Earth Exchange. Sign up by June 25.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Tony Hillerman Prize

At the Western Writers of America Conference in Kansas City, MO, Minotaur Books announced that Carol Potenza’s Hearts of the Missing has won the 2017 Tony Hillerman Prize for a best first mystery novel. Minotaur Books is planning to publish Potenza’s debut in the fall of 2018.

Potenza has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California San Diego and is now a College Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at New Mexico State University. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and she and her husband now live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. They have two children.

The Hillerman Prize is awarded annually to the best debut crime fiction set in the Southwest. In 2004, Anne Hillerman, Tony Hillerman' daughter, launched the first Tony Hillerman Writers Conference. The awarding of the Hillerman Prize became a feature of the conference, before it becoming a part of the annual Western Writers of America conference in 2017.

Cartoon of the Day: Stray Bar

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: A Writer's Journey

A Conversation on Anatomy of Innocence and the Innocence Project: June 28

A Conversation on Anatomy of Innocence and the Innocence Project 
Sponsored by Mystery Writers of America/NorCal and Book Passage 
San Francisco Public Library, Koret auditorium 
June 28, 2017, 6:00-8:00 

Wrongful conviction is a nightmare, for the individual and for society. Long thought to be rare anomalies in an otherwise sound justice system, in fact, convictions of innocent men and women happen with frightening regularity. In Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted, fifteen high-profile crime writers tell the heartbreaking, harrowing, yet ultimately hope-filled stories of fifteen innocent people, each of whom was found guilty of a serious crime, cast into the maw of a vast and deeply flawed American criminal justice system, then eventually— miraculously—believed and exonerated.

Anatomy of Innocence editors Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger are joined by Linda Starr, co-founder and legal director of the Northern California Innocence Project, and contributor Laurie R. King to talk about the ways people are falsely convicted, how the Innocence Project works to exonerate them, and what happens to the people they help set free.

Laura Caldwell, bestselling author of 14 novels, practiced as civil trial attorney and is now a professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She founded Life After Innocence to help exonerees re-enter society and reclaim their rights as citizens.

Leslie S. Klinger is a New York Times-bestselling, award-winning editor of many crime collections who practices business law in Los Angeles. Born and raised in Chicago, Klinger is a longtime supporter of Loyola University Chicago’s Life After Innocence project and has volunteered his assistance on tax matters.

Linda Starr, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, is the co-founder and legal director of the Northern California Innocence Project.

Laurie R. King is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer and president of Mystery Writers of America, NorCal, sponsors of this conversation along with Book Passage, the bookseller at the venue.

Free, but seating is limited—tickets here:
More information on the MWA NorCal events page ( or write us at

Expanding the Meaning of "Deep Ecology": Guest Post by Judith Newton

Judith Newton is professor emerita at U.C. Davis in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. Judy is at work on the second in the Emily Addams Food for Thought Series. Oink. A Food for Thought Mystery was published in April 2017 with She Writes Press.  Judy is the author of five books of non fiction. Her memoir, Tasting Home: Coming of Age in the Kitchen, came out in 2013 with She Writes Press and won twelve independent press awards. Read her post on Mystery Fanfare: What's Corn Got to Do with It? How Food Can Define a Mystery's Worldview. 

Judith Newton:
Expanding the Meaning of "Deep Ecology"

My novel, Oink. A Food for Thought Mystery, is a sly send up of universities in general for their ever increasing devotion to profit, individual advance, the big and the strong. It is also an affirmation that communities organized around a thirst for social justice have the power to revitalize a different set of values, values that emphasize community and the common good and that give importance to the smallest life forms. In Oink the latter set of values is embodied in characters who participate in a political alliance among faculty in women’s and ethnic studies and who resist having their programs defunded by a newly corporatized administration. (The story is based on real life experience.)

Since Oink is set at a land-grant university known for its agricultural past and its biotechnological future, I couldn’t help but relate this clash of values to the ecological issues in which so many scientists on campus were involved. Many scientists, for example, in life and in the book, support a view of the natural world which gives value to community, the common good, and the importance of the smallest forms of life. This support is often referred to as “respect for biodiversity,” “biodiversity” being most simply defined as the variety of natural life. Biodiversity is often studied within particular “ecosystems,” communities of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system. To show “respect for biodiversity” means attaching value to the smallest kinds of life in such environments and it means understanding that harm to one form of life poses a threat to all the others to which it is connected.

Some scientists and many non-scientists as well extend “respect for biodiversity” to incorporate “deep ecology” which posits a more intimate connection between humans and the natural world. According to Chris Johnstone, deep ecology “involves moving beyond the individualism of Western culture towards seeing ourselves as part of the earth. . . . It means experiencing ourselves as part of the living earth and finding our role in protecting the planet. “

In Oink, the Native Elder Frank Walker expresses respect for biodiversity and deep ecology both when he speaks about “ecology as a way of thinking about life that brought together the sacred source of creation with plants, animals, human beings, and the light of the sun. . . . We do nothing by ourselves. We are part of a continuum extending outward from our consciousness, living in harmony with living things. Even rocks are living energy . . . we cannot hurt any part of the earth without hurting ourselves . . . always remember your grandmother is underneath your feet."

The novel’s protagonist, Emily Addams, experiences something similar to this when she enters her garden after a particularly hard day: “I opened the dining room sliders and entered the quiet of the yard. Off to the side lay a vegetable garden where full red tomatoes and pale green tomatillos lingered. Black figs hung heavily, like wrinkled pouches, upon the large tree. I could smell their winey ripeness. Song swallows made warbling sounds. A hummingbird whirred in the air feeding on purple salvia, and a bronze monarch silently winged its way past. I listened to the quiet. The garden surged with life, and I was a part of it, receiving and tending to it. But all the while it went on without me.”

That many animals and plants just appear in Oink as the human characters are carrying on their daily business is meant to enforce this deep sense of interconnection between human and natural worlds as is the fact that many characters are described as looking like plants or animals. The Vice Provost with her long nose reminds Emily of a hummingbird. The scientist Tess Ryan makes Emily think of a “young and vigorous stalk of corn,” and the villain, Peter Elliott, is compared to a pig by another character though the actual pigs in the novel are far more charming than he.

Ironically, as Emily observes during a meeting over the latest budget crisis in the university, it is possible to have respect for biodiversity in the natural world without extending that respect to biodiversity in human communities as well. Many scientists at the meeting, for example, anxious to preserve money for their own research projects, propose to offset the budget crisis by raising student tuition and cutting staff, thereby further burdening the staff who remain. Emily regards these sentiments as expressions of disrespect for biodiversity in the university community, a disrespect that is potentially harmful to the university as a whole since its research and administration are supported by and, indeed, dependent on overworked and underpaid staff.

Another example of disrespect for human biodiversity is suggested by the fact that the programs in women’s and ethnic studies are being threatened with extinction, despite their significant contributions to the university, because they are small and staffed by those who have been historically regarded as marginal. Were the women’s and ethnic studies programs to be defunded, Emily points out, the university would be robbed of experts who devote their research to exploring the ways in which gender, race, class, and sexuality structure human societies and culture. The university would also lose those most devoted to mentoring marginalized students and to providing a sense of community to faculty who might feel isolated because of race or gender in their own departments. All of this would undermine the university’s formal espousal of “diversity” as one of its central goals.

Oink, therefore, tries to expand the meaning of respect for biodiversity and deep ecology to include human communities as well, and, in so doing, it implicitly modifies Chris Johnstone’s line about “deep ecology”: Deep ecology, involves moving beyond the individualism of Western culture towards seeing ourselves as part of the earth and part of a human community as well and finding our role in protecting the planet and the people living on it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Narrative Tension

Prime Suspect: Tennison starts Sunday, June 25 on PBS Masterpiece

Don't miss Prime Suspect: Tennison on PBS Masterpiece. This 3 part starts Sunday night June 25 for three episodes. This series is the backstory to the highly acclaimed series Prime Suspect that starred Helen Mirren. In this new 3- part story Masterpiece dials back the clock to spotlight the influences that turned 22 year old rookie policewoman Jane Tennison in to the savvy, single-minded crime fighter that we loved for seven seasons. This new series stars Stefanie Martini as the rookie WPC Jane Tennison -- the iconic role immortalized by Helen Mirren.

A prequel to one of the most innovative crime series in TV history, the program also stars Sam Reid as Jane's mentor, DCE Len Bradfield; Blake Harrison as Bradfield's volatile sergeant DS Spencer Gibbs. Jessica Gunnis is Janet' female colleague and friend, WPC Kath Morgan, and Alun Armstrong is crime family kingpin Clifford Bentley.

I loved this new series. Prime Suspect: Tennison really captures 1973 in every detail. Hats off to the producers, director, writers, and actors. Each episode is an hour and a half, so I binged. Time well spent.

Prime Suspect: Tennison is based on Lynda La Plante's novel Tennison. La Plante won the Edgar for Prime Suspect.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: How Your Cat Sees Your Keyboard

Lambda Literary Award Winners

The 29th Annual Lambda Literary Awards–or the “Lammys,” as they are affectionately known announced the winners last week at a special ceremonyheld at the New York University Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. There are many categories, but of most interest to this blog:

Best Lesbian Mystery:
• Pathogen, by Jessica L. Webb (Bold Strokes)

Best Gay Mystery: 
• Speakers of the Dead, by J. Aaron Sanders (Plume)

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Vesper Martini: 007

Today is National Martini Day, and perhaps the most iconic Martini is that of James Bond aka 007! The Vodka Martini is as synonymous with 007 as the Walther PPK and the Aston Martin DB5. James Bond first ordered his trademark drink  in Ian Fleming's debut novel Casino Royale (1953):

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, monsieur.'
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.
Bond laughed. 'When I'm . . . er . . . concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

Having invented his own signature drink for Bond, Fleming left the reader hanging for the name for the drink until Vesper Lynd entered the novel. Bond thought her name was perfect for his preferred drink:

'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd.'... She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it.'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?'
He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said.
'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'

The 'Vesper' Martini created by Bond in Casino Royale and liked by Fleming:

Add 3 measures Gordon's Gin
Add 1 measure Vodka
Add 1 measure blond Lillet vermouth
Shake very well until it's ice cold
Garnish with a slice of lemon peel

The medium-dry Vodka Martini preferred by James Bond in the films:

4 measures Vodka (use a tbsp or an oz as a measure to fill one cocktail glass)
Add 1 measure dry Vermouth
Shake with ice. Do not stir. (Shaking gives the misty effect and extra chill preferred by Bond)
Add 1 green olive ( James Bond prefers olives)
Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel
Serve in a cocktail glass

Thanks to for the citations

CWA Dagger in the Library

The CWA Dagger in the Library is a prize for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire.

The winner of the 2017 Dagger, this year held in partnership with The Reading Agency, has been announced.

The 2017 winner is:

Mari Hannah

The Dagger in the Library is one of the most prestigious crime writing awards in the UK and previous winners include Elly Griffiths, Christopher Fowler, Sharon Bolton, Belinda Bauer, Mo Hayder, Colin Cotterill, Craig Russell, Stuart MacBride, Jake Arnott, Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen Booth, Peter Robinson and Lindsey Davis.

This year's Longlist included: Kate Ellis, Tana French, James Oswald, C.J. Sansom, And Andrew Taylor.

HT: Bill Gottfried

Hallie Ephron: How the idea for You'll Never Know, Dear crept up on her

HALLIE EPHRON is the New York Times best-selling author of suspense novels including You’ll Never Know, Dear. She is a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and her Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel was nominated for Edgar and Anthony awards. She lives near Boston and was the Boston Globe crime fiction book reviewer for over a decade.

How the Idea for You’ll Never Know, Dear crept up on her

Usually my book ideas grow out of my own experience. Giving birth to my first child and going to yard sales inspired Never Tell a Lie. Watching my neighbor get carried out of her house in the dead of winter, and firefighters going in and finding a hoarder’s den inspired There Was an Old Woman. Growing up around the corner from an infamous Hollywood murder (Lana Turner, Johnny Stompanato…) inspired Night Night, Sleep Tight. I’ve always set my books in places I know well: New England, New York City, Beverly Hills.

My new novel, You’ll Never Know, Dear, is my first book inspired by someone else’s experience and set in a place I’ve barely visited.

The idea came from my friend Mary Alice who told me about helping her mother, Blanche, move out of their family home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Blanche had always been a talented crafts person. An artist, really. She made porcelain dolls, so her house had been full of supplies for doll making—modeling clay, molds, glazes and paints, a kiln, and of course a battalion of finished dolls with their little shoes and embroidered dresses and panties.

My friend told me that her kids refused to sleep in the bedroom where Blanche kept dolls. They said, “You’d wake up and they’d all be looking at you.” Blanche proclaimed those grandchildren of hers “little sissies.”

No sissy herself, Blanche slept with a pistol tucked into an eyeglass case (the kind you squeeze the top to open) under her pillow. Detail upon detail, I could feel Blanche turning into a character into my head.

As my friend was helping Blanche empty her house, under every bed she found boxes and boxes of doll parts. Arms. Legs. Bodies. Heads. Eyeballs.

 “Creepy,” I said when she told me that.

 “Put it in your next book,” she shot back.

And I did. Blanche is the inspiration for my Miss Sorrel, a 70-something doll maker who suffers no fools in You’ll Never Know, Dear. And those doll parts? They’re a key element in the plot.

The book opens with Miss Sorrel and her grown daughter, Lis, having sweet tea and egg salad sandwiches on the porch of their home. We meet Miss Sorrel for the first time.

Miss Sorrel rocked gently in the glider and sipped sweet tea from a glass dripping condensation. With her powdered face, spots of rouge on each cheek, and lipstick carefully painted on, Miss Sorrel was starting to look like one of the porcelain dolls she so prized. That, despite the un-doll-like creases that ran from the corners of her lips down either side of her chin, the crinkles that radiated from the corners of her eyes, and the skin that had started to lose its grip on her fine-boned skull. 

Forty years ago, Miss Sorrel’s younger daughter, 4-year-old Janey, was taken from their front yard. The special porcelain doll Miss Sorrel had made for her disappeared with her. I knew Miss Sorrel and Lis, the older sister who was supposed to be watching Janey, would carry a burden of grief and guilt over the loss.

In the book’s opening scene, Janey’s doll comes back. A woman who delivers it refuses to tell Miss Sorrel where she got it, interested only in the reward Miss Sorrel is offering. The doll is old and battered, creepy the way old dolls can be. Miss Sorrel is sure it’s the doll that was Janey’s. Lis isn’t convinced.

I wanted to set the book in Beaufort, South Carolina. I’d visited there twice, briefly, but a fresh visit convinced me that I’d have to fictionalize it. My prose could never match native son Pat Conroy’s. Plus, one of my characters had to be the sheriff, and Beaufort had a larger-than-life sheriff who served for decades, called himself a white witch doctor, and was so beloved that they named a bridge after him. Anyone who lives within a hundred miles of Beaufort would balk at my fictional sheriff.

So I invented “Bonsecours.” I hope, a ringer for Beaufort. Gracious homes, live oaks, camellias and wisteria; Spanish moss hanging indiscriminately from tree branches, phone wires, and fences. It’s got a charming downtown with a riverfront park, and shrimp boats (Forrest Gump was filmed there). The riverbanks are thick with sticky mud and the river has treacherous, nine-foot tides.

Writing Southern characters was another challenge. I had to slow down and kept telling myself: We’re not in Boston anymore. The narrative needed to be a bit more leisurely and my characters, bless their hearts, had to have southern accents and have mastered the art of the gracious insult.

After I wrote the opening scenes, I had no idea what happened to Janey. But I knew that doll parts would be the key to unlocking the mystery, and that the river would play a part as well. Somehow. It wasn’t until I finished writing the book that I figured out how

PHOTO: Hallie with one of Blanche’s porcelain dolls

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ngaio Marsh Award Longlist

The Longlist for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel: The Ngaio Marsh Award represents the very best in Kiwi Crime. 

• Dead Lemons, by Finn Bell (e-book)
• Pancake Money, by Finn Bell (e-book)
• Spare Me the Truth, by C.J. Carver (Bonnie Zaffre)
• Red Herring, by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• The Revelations of Carey Ravine, by Debra Daley (Quercus)
• The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton, by Katherine Hayton (Katherine Hayton)
• Presumed Guilty, by Mark McGinn (Merlot)
• Marshall’s Law, by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
• A Straits Settlement, by Brian Stoddart (Crime Wave Press)
• The Last Time We Spoke, by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

Craig Sisterson, organizer of the Ngaio Marsh Award, is a lapsed Lawyer, and major Crime Fiction Fan and Writer who writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries. He also blogs at Crime Watch.

Here's what Craig has to say about this year's long list:

A self-inflicted, self-described cripple dangling off the edge of a cliff above the raging sea near the bottom of New Zealand, clinging precariously to life after getting too noisy with his dangerous neighbours, probably wasn’t the kind of hero Raymond Chandler ever had in mind. 

 “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,” wrote the cranky king of crime fiction in “The Simple Art of Murder”, an oft-quoted essay for the Atlantic Monthly published a few short weeks after the end of the Second World War. 

Seventy-plus years on, the hero of Otago author Finn Bell’s exciting crime debut Dead Lemons is both tarnished, and afraid. And he’s not the only ‘hero’ among this year’s crop of Ngaio Marsh Award longlistees who breaks the classic crime mould. New Zealand authors are unafraid to put their own spin on crime, blending it with other genres, and taking their tales into varied locales and times. 

A record number of entries gave the judging panel plenty to ponder, with plenty of new blood joining the local #yeahnoir ranks (credit to Steph Soper of the Book Council for the cool hashtag). 

Candidly, it was a tough ask for our judges to narrow down the longlist, with plenty of good local reads that judges liked missing out. While that’s a great situation for the overall health of New Zealand crime writing, it made for some tough calls, differing opinions, and debate. 

With such variety on offer (and the fact I’m only personally batting about .500 in terms of correctly picking the winner over the years), I’m not even going to try to play bookie with the contenders. 

If you’re a fan of crime fiction, or just good writing, I’m sure there’s something here that could tickle your fancy.

The international judging panel of Ayo Onatade (UK), Greg Fleming (New Zealand), Janet Rudolph (United States), Karen Chisholm (Australia), Paddy Richardson (New Zealand), Stephanie Jones (New Zealand), and Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland), are currently considering the long list.

The finalists will be announced in August, along with the finalists for the Best First Novel and Best Non Fiction categories. The finalists will be celebrated and the winners announced at a WORD Christchurch event in October.

Father's Day, Fathers & Sons , Fathers & Daughters in Crime Fiction

Father's Day. My father passed away 14 years ago, but I still think about him every day. He encouraged and supported me throughout my many careers and educational pursuits, and he always told me I could accomplish anything and succeed in whatever I did.

My father was the ultimate reader. His idea of a good vacation was sitting in a chair, reading a good mystery. It never mattered where he was, the book took him to other places.

My father and I shared a love of mysteries. Over the years my taste in mysteries changed. I now read more darker crime fiction. So many times when I finish a book, I say to myself, "I have to send this to Dad. He'll love it." My father engendered my love of mysteries through his collection of mystery novels and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. I like to think he's up there somewhere in a chair surrounded by books and reading a good mystery.

Here's to you, Dad, on Father's Day!

My Father and Me, many years ago

Father’s Day by John Calvin Batchelor
Father’s Day by Rudolph Engelman
Father's Day: A Detective Joe Guerry Story by Tippie Rosemarie Fulton
Father’s Day Keith Gilman 
Dear Old Dead by Jane Haddam
The Father’s Day Murder by Lee Harris
Day of Reckoning by Kathy Herman
Dead Water by Victoria Houston
Father’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
On Father's Day by Megan Norris
Father’s Day by Alan Trustman

Murder for Father, edited by Martin Greenberg (short stories)
"Father's Day" by Patti Abbott --short story at Spinetingler
Collateral Damage: A Do Some Damage Collection  e-book of Father's Day themed short stories.

Let me know if I missed any titles.  

And a very short list of Crime Fiction that focuses on Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Daughters. Have a favorite Father / Son Father/Daughter Mystery? Post below in comments.


His Father's Son by Tony Black
Secret Father by James Carroll
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
Hot Plastic by Peter Craig 
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
Lars and Little Olduvai by Keith Spencer Felton  
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
King of Lies by John Hart
The Good Father by Noah Hawley
A Perfect Spy by John LeCarre 
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Son by Jo Nesbo
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Roman Hat Mystery; other novels by Ellery Queen (Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay)
Paperback Original by Will Rhode
The Father by Anton Swenson

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Story Coaster

From the incredible Grant Snider

Where Ideas Come From: Guest post by Carl-Johan Vallgren

Carl-Johan Vallgren is one of Sweden's most loved writers. He has been awarded the Swedish August Prize for Best Novel of the Year, and has been translated into 25 languages. He's also a talented musician with Warner Music. 

Carl-Johan Vallgren:

Some five or six years ago I had an experience that changed the direction of my writing. It was a Friday in May, and I’d been working hard the whole week, trying to get a grip on the novel I was writing. This day was no exception. I lost track of time and place, and when I looked at my watch I got a shock. It was 5 p.m.

The kids! I’d been supposed to pick them up from daycare two hours earlier! Twenty minutes later I arrived. My six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son were the only kids left—and exhausted after a long day. I apologized to the daycare attendants, looked at my cell phone, and saw that it was full of texts from my wife: ”Where are you?…Have you picked up the kids?…It´s Shabbas tonight and we need some groceries for the meal.”

I slipped my son into his stroller, grabbed my daughter by the hand, and walked hurriedly down to the Kristineberg metro station. It was late afternoon and the station was full of commuters on their way home for the weekend. I showed my ticket and entered the gate for strollers, stress running through my veins.

At Kristineberg station, the tracks are elevated, and the best way to reach the platform is by using an elevator—at least with two small, tired kids and a stroller. But my daughter had different ideas; she wanted to take the stairs! A quarrel started. I tried to tell her that it was impossible with all the people and her little brother in the buggy, but she insisted, got angry, and started to scream at me. In that very moment, a woman turned up from nowhere. Apparently she had overheard our conversation.

”You can walk the stairs with me if you want,” she said to my daughter with a smile. ”And then we can wait for your father and your little brother upstairs until they come in the elevator.”

She was in her sixties, well dressed, and her voice was soft and friendly. Used to grandchildren, I remember thinking.

And for a moment I was on the verge of letting my daughter go with that friendly middle-aged woman, following the law of minimum possible resistance—until my ”father instinct” kicked in a second later. After all, the person in front of me was a complete stranger.

”Thank you for your sweet offer, but my daughter comes with me!” I said.

I grabbed my little girl by the hand and dragged her into the elevator with her brother, and I pushed the button for the platform level.

The elevator ride took about ten seconds. And in that time the writer inside me ran completely amok: What’s is the situation here? What is the worst case scenario?…What could have happened?…A stressed father leaves his child to walk the stairs with a friendly older woman at rush hour in the subway. And by the time he reaches the platform in the lift, the child has vanished!

I knew it immediately: It was the first chapter of a book—and not just any book. It had to be a crime novel.

I had the whole first chapter in my head before we got home that afternoon. And about a year later, after finishing my other book (a ”normal” novel), I sat down and started to write the first book in the Danny Katz series: The Boy in the Shadows—which starts with the abduction of a child in the Stockholm subway.

Now I’m incredibly proud to present the second book in the series, The Tunnel. Danny Katz is still the main character. And Katz, too, was born that Friday in May. It was Shabbas, and I remember thinking in the elevator: The man to solve the mystery has to be a Jewish guy. I owe that to my children and their mother, because they seem to constantly provide me with literary ideas.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Dogs

Barry Lancet Literary Salon: June 21

Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening with Award winning Suspense Author Barry Lancet

When: Wednesday, June 21, 7 p.m.
Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA)
This is a free event, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend.
Bring books by Barry Lancet if you'd like him to sign.
RSVP required. Address of venue sent with acceptance.
RSVP: janet @

Barry Lancet is a Barry Award­–winning author and finalist for the Shamus Award. He has lived in Japan for more than twenty-five years. His former position as an editor at one of the nation’s largest publishers gave him access to the inner circles in traditional and business fields most outsiders are never granted, and an insider’s view that informs his writing. He is the author of the Jim Brodie series: The Spy Across the Table; Pacific Burn; Tokyo Kill; and Japantown, which received four citations for Best First Novel and has been optioned by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions, in association with Warner Brothers.

The latest entry in the James Brodie series is The Spy Across the Table (Simon & Schuster) sends Brodie careening from Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to Japan, South Korea, the DMZ, and the Chinese-North Korean border, in a story that predates recent headlines. Lancet is based in Japan but makes frequent trips to the States.  on Twitter @BarryLancet. Check out the Video of Barry Lancet below.

Upcoming Literary Salons in Berkeley:

July 13: Ellen Kirschman, 7 p.m.

July 20: Cara Black & Susan Shea, 7 p.m.

July 26: James Ziskin, 7 p.m.

September 13: Amy Stewart, 7 p.m.

Cartoon of the Day: Grammar

From Pearls Before Swine:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

50 Unique Bookstores: One in Each State

I may not agree with all the choices below, but I guess I'll have to go on a road trip to be sure.

From The Culture Trip:

Across the US, independent bookstores are having a comeback. Often combining bookselling with a cafe or bar, these stores will usually stock rare presses and obscure publishers, alongside classics and bestsellers. The below are no exception, but also have that little something extra which makes them stand out from the rest. 
CA: The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA. Multi-level space offering books, records, and local art. 

View the list here.

How many have you visited? Any you'd like to add?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Cats

Hat Tip: Jayna Monroe

Red Sky: Is Diplomacy Enough? Guest post by Chris Goff

Chris Goff writes International thrillers and the birdwatcher's mystery series. Her debut thriller, DARK WATERS, is set in Israel, smack dab in the middle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Dubbed “a sure bet for fans of international thrillers" by Booklist, it was nominated for the 2016 Colorado Book Award and Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook. RED SKY, which opens in Ukraine with Diplomatic Security Service Agent Raisa Jordan investigating the downing of a commercial airliner with a fellow DSS agent onboard. Traveling through Eastern Europe and Asia, Jordan tests the boundaries of diplomacy as she races to prevent the start of a new Cold War. Catherine Coulter had this to say, "Breathtaking suspense, do not miss Red Sky." The book will be released on June 13, 2017. 

Chris Goff: 
RED SKY: Is Diplomacy Enough? 

At the end of my first thriller, DARK WATERS, it's clear that Diplomatic Security Service Agent Raisa Jordan is headed to Ukraine on personal business. So when People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes in northeastern Ukraine with a U.S. diplomatic agent on board, it stands to reason Jordan is sent to investigate. The agent who died on board the flight was escorting a prisoner home from Guangzhou, China, along with sensitive documents, and it quickly becomes apparent that the plane was intentionally downed. Was it to silence the two Americans on board?

The idea for RED SKY came to me shortly after the July, 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The plane was shot down over Ukraine while on a routine flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The aftermath raised a lot of questions about who was responsible and what should be done. It happened at the time of Russia's incursion into Crimea, and several international investigations determined that the plane was mistakenly blown out of the sky by pro-Russian insurgents in possession of a Buk missile launcher. The Russians and insurgents denied responsibility, countering that the plane was being followed by a Ukrainian military jet and placing the blame squarely on Ukraine if for no other reason than the plane crashed there. In the end, Malaysia proposed that the UN Security Council set up an international tribunal and prosecute those deemed responsible—an idea that gained a majority vote, but was ultimately vetoed by none other than Russia. Yes, Russia. Does anyone else think it ironic that Malaysia's only recourse was to turn for justice to a UN Security Council that was controlled in part by the very country perpetrating the injustice?

But I digress.

I've always been fascinated by geopolitics. Conflict driven by human and physical geography is a theme that crops up in all of my books—most notably in my thrillers. In DARK WATERS, Jordan finds herself smack-dab in the middle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In RED SKY, she finds herself in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis. Both places wrought with emotion, exacerbated by any number of key issues, and offering a breadth of opportunity for developing complex and motivated characters that must face incredible adversity. One could hardly ask for more conflict—the basis for great story.

I was lucky enough to spend time in both Israel and Ukraine. I lived in Tel Aviv for two months, during a time when the suicide bombings were gearing up. My family and I experienced firsthand the fear of going about daily tasks: taking a bus, going to the grocery store, drinking coffee in a street-side café. Every venture out was filled with risk, yet we were infused with a sense of defiance as well as the buzz of anxiety and excitement. In Israel the divisions were clear. Not so in Kyiv. While we were in no danger there, the people were somber. Many seemed torn by conflict. While strongly nationalistic, many Kyivans had also grown up under communism. Many of their monuments pay tribute to Russia, and most eastern Ukrainians have Russian family and friends. And, much like during our own Civil War, in Kyiv there were families divided, with brothers fighting brothers, and fathers against sons.

Unfortunately, sometimes, diplomacy is not an option, as it soon becomes clear in RED SKY. This book is an international thriller "packed with pulse-pounding thrills and a white-knuckle joyride for fans of Gayle Lynds." Strap yourself in. RED SKY hits the stands June 13th.

Enjoy it!