Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Fizzacist

Happy New Year! Happy National Champagne Day!

NICK & NORA: New Year's Eve Libations

Happy New Year! My final post for 2017 includes drinks and Nick & Nora film clips to help you celebrate!

Several years ago I blogged about Detectives and their Drinks. I also posted about James Bond's Vesper Martini. Detective team Nick and Nora Charles always come up on top for detectives with a pension for drink. The constant drinking of this bantering couple never hampers their investigative skills - quite the opposite. "Can't you say anything about the case?" a detective asks. "Yes," Nick grumbles. "It's putting me way behind in my drinking."

Be sure and scroll down for some Nick & Nora drinks video clips!

The Bronx Cocktail (Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man)
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 oz orange juice
Shake well (to a two-step time, as Nick suggests). Strain and garnish with orange peel. (recipe from Nightcapped)

Knickerbocker from The Thin Man (1934)
50ml gin
Large dash dry vermouth
Small dash sweet vermouth
Add the gin and both vermouths to a mixing glass filled with ice. Once well mixed, strain into a frosted martini glass. 

What will you be drinking tonight?  Pick Your Poison and Toast 2018!

Saturday, December 30, 2017


If you follow this blog or if you know me in real time, you know that I'm a list maker. Yesterday I put together a New Year's Eve post of different chocolatiers who make champagne truffles, so I thought I'd update my list of mysteries in which Champagne has a prominent role. I know that Champagne figures in Dashiell Hammett's Thin Man books. I remember Nick and Nora drinking lots of champagne in the movies. Here's a short list of 'Champagne' books to toast (and read) on New Year's Eve. I do have a New Year's Crime Fiction list, and champagne is featured in some of them, although not necessarily as the main focus. Please comment with any missed titles.


Murder & Champagne by Ashok Banker
The Charlemagne Connection by R.M. Cartmel
Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
Tug of War by Barbara Cleverly
The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby
Champagne Fuhrern by Kare Hallden (in Swedish)
Champagne: The Farewell by Janet Hubbard
Secret Lies and Champagne Highs by Jeanette Hubbard
The Curse of Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones
Champagne Blues by Ivan and Nat Lyons
Dry Bones by Peter May
Design for Dying by Renee Patrick
Champagne for Buzzards by Phyllis Smallman
Murder by Champagne by Keith Spicer
Champagne and Cocaine by Richard Vetere
Champagne for One by Rex Stout

And here's a true mystery related story about Champagne, especially for history mystery folks. This was reported in The Daily Mail (UK) July 2010. Talk about a vintage that holds its own!

Divers have discovered what is thought to be the world's oldest drinkable champagne in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea.
  They have already tested out the contents of one bottle and claim it tastes 'fantastic' despite dating back to the late 18th century.
   Diving instructor Christian Ekstrom said the bottles are believed to be from the 1780s and likely were part of a cargo destined for Russia.
   'We brought up the bottle to be able to establish how old the wreck was. We didn't know it would be champagne. We thought it was wine or something,' he said.
   Ekstrom said the divers were overjoyed when they popped the cork on their boat after hauling the bubbly from a depth of 200 feet (60 meters).
   'It tasted fantastic. It was a very sweet champagne, with a tobacco taste and oak,' Ekstrom said.
   The divers discovered the shipwreck near the Aland Islands, between Sweden and Finland. About 30 bottles are believed to be aboard the sunken vessel.
Read More Here.

And, then, of course, there's always Sabering Champagne, as opposed to savoring Champagne. Sabering is opening the champagne bottle with a saber. A talent a mystery reader and writer might have or at the very least figure in a plot---sabering gone wrong!

Cartoon of the Day: New Year's Resolutions Most Easily Broken by Cats

Happy Caturday! Here's to a wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Sue Grafton: R.I.P.

This is such sad news -- a terrible way to end the year. Sue Grafton passed away last night from cancer at the age of 77. She was such a gracious and talented woman.

Sue Grafton has been published in 28 countries and 26 languages — including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. Books in her Kinsey Milhone Alphabet series, beginning with A is for Alibi in 1982 and ending this year with Y is for Yesterday, are international bestsellers with readership in the millions.

Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, Sue also received many other honors and awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Left Coast Crime, the Anthony Award given by Bouchercon, the Macavity, the Barry, and three Shamus Awards.

Her experience as a screenwriter taught her the basics of structuring a story, writing dialogue, and creating action sequences. Grafton then felt ready to return to writing fiction. While going through a "bitter divorce and custody battle that lasted six long years," Grafton imagined ways to kill or maim her ex-husband. Her fantasies were so vivid that she decided to write them down. We all remember 'The Jerk" and the stories she told about him.

She had long been fascinated by mysteries that had related titles, including those by John D. MacDonald, whose titles referenced colors, and Harry Kemelman, who used days of the week. While reading Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an alphabetical picture book of children who die by various means, she had the idea to write a series of novels based on the alphabet. She immediately sat down and made a list of all of the crime-related words that she knew.

This exercise led to her best-known works, a chronological series of mystery novels. Known as "the alphabet novels," the stories are set in and around the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California. It is based on Santa Barbara, outside of which Grafton maintained a home in the suburb of Montecito. (Grafton chose to use the name Santa Teresa as a tribute to the author Ross Macdonald, who had used it as a fictional name for Santa Barbara in his own novels.)

Sue was one of my heroes... one of those people you admire, respect, and emulate. I've read all of her books--from A is for Alibi to Y is for Yesterday. In 1986 when she published C is for Corpse, I invited her to speak at our fledgling Mystery Readers Literary Salon. Not surprisingly, she was a big hit. At the 1990 Bouchercon in London, she replaced the 'little black dress' with a black beaded jacket and pants, just as versatile. I don't remember Kinsey wearing that, but it was perfect! I emulated her fashion prowess!

I got to spend time with Sue in 2011 at Malice Domestic where we shared top billing...well, as if.. I received the Poirot Award, and she, the Lifetime Achievement Award, so we were thrown together at various functions and talks. I mention this because we both received Malice teapots which we shipped back to our respective homes. Several weeks later, I noticed my teapot read "Sue Grafton: Lifetime Achievement"... After a short time considering the ethical thing to do, I emailed Sue and let her know. Yes, our teapots had been switched by the shippers. For a brief moment I had a very special souvenir.  In 2014, I asked Sue to be the Lifetime Achievement Guest at Left Coast Crime in Monterey. There I got to spend more time with her and her husband Steve discussing travel and gardening and the Kentucky Derby. She was so gracious and the perfect guest. Sue was also very supportive of new and veteran writers. I ran into her at several conventions, and I was always amazed to see her sitting alone in panel sessions, taking notes. She was a good friend to everyone in the mystery community. She will be missed.

Sorry, I'm still reeling from this news.

Her daughter posted this today on Sue's Facebook Page:

Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue's daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. 

Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.

Sue leaves behind her legacy of wonderful books, her husband, three children, and several grandchildren. She was a remarkable woman, and the world won't be the same without her. R.I.P., Sue.

For a fun article about Sue Grafton that you may have missed, check out Garden and Gun, February/March 2014 "Sue Grafton's Kentucky Garden"

And, an excellent interview from The Armchair Detective, Volume 22, Issue 1, Winter 1989, G is for (Sue) Grafton,  reprinted on Murder and Mayhem

Cartoon of the Day: The Resignation

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year's Crime Fiction and Movies

New Year's Mysteries! Mysteries, Crime Fiction, Thrillers and Movies that take place at the New Year. 

I wish you a safe, healthy and prosperous 2018. May Mystery and Mayhem only happen in crime fiction!

Crime Fiction Set at the New Year
As always, let me know if I've missed any titles.

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

You might also want to check out my Christmas list (Christmas Mysteries, Authors A-Z). Some of the books spill over into the New Year.

And here's a list of Mystery Movies that take place at the New Year.

After the Thin Man (1936)
Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
Entrapment (1999)
The Godfather Part II (1974)
Little Caesar (1931)
Money Train (1995)
New Year's Evil (1980)
Night Train to Paris (1964) 
Ocean's 11 (1960)
Strange Days (1995)
Survivor (2015)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Boxing Day

HT: Jayna Monroe

Boxing Day Crime Fiction

December 26 is Boxing Day. I've put together a list of over 1700 mysteries that take place at Christmas, and although I'm sure there are several that continue mystery and mayhem through Boxing Day, I've only found a few mysteries that focus or start specifically on Boxing Day.

One Boxing Day Mystery is Nicholas Blake's Thou Shell of Death (1936). Nicholas Blake is the pseudonym of Cecil Day Lewis, the late British poet laureate.

Thou Shell of Death features Fergus O'Brien, WWI flying ace. Fergus receives four letters predicting that he will be murdered on Boxing Day. Despite this, or maybe because of this, he plans a party and invites all the suspects (there are several people who might want to do him in) plus private detective Nigel Strangeways. O'Brien does die, and it's up to Nigel Strangeways with the help of Inspector Blount of Scotland Yard to solve the crime. This is Blount's first appearance in the series. Thou Shell of Death is an oldie but goodie, especially if you like houseparty mysteries.

There are three other novels that focus on Boxing Day. A frozen body is found on Boxing Day in Viveca Sten's In Harm's Way. Another mystery is Gilbert Adair's The Act of Roger Murgatroyd that takes place entirely on Boxing Day. This is part of his series of novels about Evadne Mount, and is clearly a play on Agatha Christie novels. In another Boxing Day mystery, Death at Sandringham House by C.C. Benison, Her Majesty the Queen, along with her housemaid Jane Bee, investigates.

And, if you're unfamiliar with Boxing Day, it's the day after Christmas, when "servants and tradesmen traditionally would receive gifts from their superiors." Today it's a national holiday in most of the British Commonwealth and former British colonies. As far as why it's called Boxing Day, there are several different theories:

A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.

Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.

A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas day then opened the next day.

Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. If the voyage were a success the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.

Are there any other Boxing Day Mysteries I've forgotten?

And, if you're not tired of cooking and baking, today is also Candy Cane Day. Here are some great ideas of what to do with Leftover Candy Canes!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas in January: Guest Post by Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews is the author of the Meg Langslow mysteries, including Stork Raving Mad and Swan for the Money. She has won the Agatha, Anthony, and Barry awards, a Romantic Times award for best first novel, and four Lefty and two Toby Bromberg Awards for funniest mystery. When not writing fiction, Andrews is a self-confessed nerd, rarely found away from her computer, unless she's messing in the garden.

Donna Andrews:
Christmas in January

So many Christmas projects to tackle! Planning the decorations, organizing the parties, thinking of appropriate presents, figuring out who to kill and where to hide the body.

Er . . . yes, hide the body. You did realize we were talking about a Christmas mystery, right? Not my actual real-life holiday, which rarely involves homicide. Maybe a few random homicidal urges if I have to hit the mall this time of year, but that's it.

How the Finch Stole Christmas is my fourth Christmas mystery, out of twenty-three books in the series. Why so many Christmas mysteries? Well, my publisher seems to like them—presumably because readers like and buy them. And my editor's big on Christmas in real life, which makes him a good person to have around when you're writing a Christmas mystery. I always imagine him standing over my shoulder jingling a set of sleigh bells while shouting “More tinsel! More carols! More snow! More mistletoe!”

But there's also the fact that Christmas is a particularly effective setting for a mystery. The whole point of a mystery, some say, is that the crime—usually, of course, a murder—rends the fabric of our society, and that watching the protagonist solve the crime gives us the satisfaction of seeing the fabric knit together again. And if a murder rends the social fabric at any time, how much more dramatic is the rending when it happens at Christmas, when most of us are trying so hard to make the holidays perfect, festive, and meaningful for ourselves, our families, and our friends.

In fact, one good thing about a Christmas mystery is that it gives Meg Langslow, my amateur detective, a whole new reason for sleuthing. I'm not big on amateur sleuths who dabble in crime-solving because they think it's fun. And there's a limit to how many times you can get away with your protagonist deciding “the police are idiots, so I have to solve it.” For me, the most effective reason for Meg to get involved is that one of her friends or family members is in danger—suspected of the crime, for example, or thought to be the killer's next possible victim. Meg respects the abilities and integrity of Chief Burke, Caerphilly's top law enforcement officer—but she also knows he's working with the limited resources of a small town police department. So if she thinks that there's a killer loose who might be targeting someone she loves . . . or if every day that passes brings more pain to someone who's under a cloud of suspicion . . . she'll get involved.

And in a Christmas mystery, she can have another compelling motive for involvement—the longer the crime goes unsolved, the more it spoils the festive season. In fact, saving Christmas isn't just a splendid reason for Meg to sleuth—the resulting time pressure adds greatly to the suspense and pacing that's essential for any mystery.

Of course, if you're setting a murder at Christmas, you have to be careful who your victim is. I got away with killing the guy playing Santa in Six Geese a-Slaying—but only because I made it clear he was the meanest, nastiest reprobate ever to don a white beard and grudgingly mutter “Ho, ho, ho!” As a general rule, I try not to kill nice people in my mysteries—or if I must, I try to do it offstage. Obnoxious people make much more satisfactory victims—particularly at Christmas time, when we even feel a little bit sorry for Scrooge, the Grinch, and Henry F. Potter (the curmudgeon who did his best to ruin George Bailey's life in It's a Wonderful Life). I'd tell you why the victim in How the Finch Stole Christmas is the right sort of person to knock off in a holiday mystery . . . but that would be a spoiler.

But the best things about setting a humorous mystery at Christmas? It's the perfect time of year for heart-warming stories . . . and also a season rich in comedy. The crazy or thoughtful things we do while seeking the perfect present for someone . . . the comic or dramatic adventures we have getting home for the holidays . . . the way a sad story of someone in need tugs harder on our heartstrings at Christmas, and makes us happier than ever when we find a way to help . . . things humorous and heartwarming are not only both on our mind at Christmas, but they're closer together—maybe even intertwined.

So perhaps it's not surprising that I'm now working on my fifth Christmas mystery. My publisher plans to have Lark! The Herald Angels Sing out in time for Christmas 2018. Which means I'm hard at work plotting another Yuletide adventure for Meg.

It also means that I'll still be writing about Christmas in January. Probably also in February. Everyone else will have put away their trees and ornaments and moved on to Valentine's Day, and I'll still be immersed in thoughts of Christmas pageants, stockings, carols, trees, decorations, presents . . .

Well, there are worse ways to spend the long cold winter. Here's to Christmas in January!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice Crime Fiction

I love the Winter Solstice. So glad the days will begin to lengthen. I'm big on light. I put together a huge list of Christmas Mysteries (divided into 5 posts HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), and I'm sure some of those authors/titles reference the Winter Solstice, but I didn't find all that many that actually center on the Winter Solstice. Any titles/authors you can add?

Winter Solstice Mysteries

Ngaio Marsh, Off with His Head
Joan Hess, A Holly Jolly Murder
Jane Langton, The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels
Henning Mankell, Italian Shoes
Gladys Mitchell. The Dancing Druids

And, if you want to celebrate your Winter Solstice in chocolate, check out these Yule Log (Buche De Noel) posts.

Buche de Noel aka Yule Log
Where to Buy Buches de Noel in the San Francisco Bay Area

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Holiday Card


Teapots make nice gifts! This is not meant to be a post with links to where you can buy these great teapots. Just enjoy! Post photos or links to your favorites in the comments section.

 And one for Dr. Who Fans!