Friday, March 30, 2018

Birthday Themed Crime Fiction: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my Birthday. Sorry you can't be with me to celebrate, but you can read one of these Birthday Themed Mysteries. Every year I get older, and the list gets longer. Raise a glass of champagne, eat a chocolate truffle, and grab a book, as you virtually join me Behind my Garden Gate! This is an updated list. Any titles missing? Make a comment below, and I'll add to the list!

Birthday Crime Fiction

Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni and Anselm Hollo
A Birthday to Die For by Frank Atchley
Cranberry Crimes by Jessica Beck

Birthdays Can be Deadly by Cindy Bell
The Birthday Murderer by Jay Bennett
Birthday Can Be Murder by Joyce Cato
A Catered Birthday Party by Isis Crawford
The Birthday Gift by Ursula Reilly Curtiss
The Birthday Party: Family Reunions Can Be Murder by Chari Davenport
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
There's Something about Mary by Wendy Delaney
A Birthday Secret by Nickolas Drake
Murder Can Botch Up Your Birthday by Selma Eichler
The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin
Birthday Cake and Bodies by Agatha Frost
Birthday Sprinkle Murder by Susan Gillard
Aunti Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
The Nanny by Dan Greenburg
The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris
They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
Birthday Cake Waffle by Carolyn Q. Hunter
The Birthday Treasure Mystery by Kaylee Huyser
Birthday Party by Marne Davis Kellogg
Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
Birthday Party by C.H.B Kitchin and Adrian Wright
Spiced by Gina LaManna 
The Birthday Girl by Stephen Leather
The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis
Creme Brulee Murder by Harper Lin
The Birthday Killer by W. Kay Lynn
Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride
False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier 
Many Deadly Returns by Patricia Moyes
The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page

Birthday, Deathday by Hugh Pentecost
The Birthday Club by Jack Peterson
The Birthday Party by W. Price
Birthday Dance by Peter Robinson
The Birthday Bash by Elizabeth Sorrells
Don't Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub
Sharpe Turn by Lisa B. Thomas
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine
The Birthday Surprise by Clara Vulliamy (Children's)
The Birthday by Elizabeth Wells
The Mortician's Birthday Party by Peter Whalley
The Fortieth Birthday Body by Valerie Wolzien
The Birthday by Margaret Yorke

"The Birthday Dinner" by Donna Andrews in Death Dines In, edited by Claudia Bishop & Dean James

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Easter Eggs

Deen Kogan: R.I.P.

Deen Kogan, mystery fan and conference organizer, theatre maven, and dog lover, passed away at the age of 87.

I knew Deen for over 40 years--starting way back from when I lived in Philadelphia. She and her husband Jay Kogan founded Society Hill Playhouse, a staple of Philadelphia theatre for over 60 years. The theatre's mission was to serve the community, and over the years it did just that with the first integrated cast in Philadelphia in the 60s, a summer theatre 'camp' for kids, and free tickets to Philadelphia high school classes. She was a theatre legend.

In terms of mystery, Deen Kogan put on several mystery conventions, including Bouchercon in Philadelphia in 1998 and in Las Vegas in 2003 and stepped in to co-chair the Chicago Bcon in 2005 when Hal Rice passed away. I was just talking about that one at LCC last week. She also put on a Mid-Atlantic Mystery convention in Philadelphia for several years. More recently she was active in the organizing of NoirCon, also held in Philadelphia. She served for many years as a reader for the International Association of Crime Writers Hammett Awards.

Deen loved Dobermans, and we talked about dogs, mysteries, theatre, and Philadelphia. She was a force in our community!

There are no ceremonies or memorial planned, but donations can be made to The Philadelphia Foundation, Dean & Jay Kogan Fund.

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
The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha by JoAnna Carl
Papa la-Bas by John Dickson Carr
Do You Promise Not To Tell? by Mary Jane Clark
Easter Buried Eggs by Lyndsey Cole
Little Easter by Reed Farrel Coleman
A Holiday Sampler by Christine E. Collier
Last Easter by Caroline Conklin
Absolute Certainty by Rose Connors
Murder on Good Friday by Sara Conway
Holy Terrors by Mary R. Daheim
Big Bunny Bump Off, Easter Escapade, Hippity Hoppity Homicide 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
Death at the Wheel by Kate Flora
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
Murder on the Eightfold Path by Diana Killian
Bunny Drop by Linda Kozar
Chef Maurice and the Bunny-Boiler Bake Off by J.A. Lang
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
The Easter Egg Murder by Patricia Smith Wood

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 the History and Culture of the Chocolate Easter Bunny.

Look Magazine, April 16, 1957

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Crime Scene Drawing 101

Passover Crime Fiction // Passover Mysteries

The Jewish holiday of Passover starts Friday night and will last for eight days. Plenty of time to read some of these great mysteries. As always, let me know any missing titles.

Passover Crime Fiction

Passover by Aphrodite Anagnost
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.

Monday, March 26, 2018


From Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine:

2017 EQMM Readers Award! Congrats to all!

Brendan DuBois has taken first place with his story “Flowing Waters,” a timely and poignant tale of a veteran and her dog from our January/February 2017 issue. The New Hampshire native got his start in EQMM’s Department of First Stories in 1986. Since then he has produced 165 published short stories and nearly two dozen novels, as well as collaborated on books by New York Times best-selling author James Patterson. He’s a Shamus Award winner and an Edgar, Macavity, and International Thriller Award nominee.

Doug Allyn rings in second place with his story “Tombstone” (November/December 2017), which combines the lore of the Old West with modern filmmaking intrigue. The author, who hails from Michigan, has won more Readers Awards than any other writer. He’s also a multiple Edgar Award winner in the short-story category, and the author of a number of well-received novels, several of which had their genesis in his stories for EQMM.

In third place is Dave Zeltserman with a new entry in his Shamus and Derringer Award winning Julius Katz and Archie series (a Nero Wolfe homage): “Cramer in Trouble,” from the March/April issue. Before beginning this series—stories from which have twice before won EQMM Readers Awards—Dave Zeltserman was known primarily for noir fiction. He is the author of Small Crimes (now a Netflix Original movie) and the Morris Brick series (written under the pseudonym Jacob Stone).

You can read more about these authors and their work, and see the runners up, in the May/June 2018 issue of EQMM.

Cartoon of the Day: Write What You Know

Sunday, March 25, 2018


2018 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards

Left Coast Crime 2018, “Crime on the Comstock,”  awarded four Lefty awards at the 28th annual LCC convention at the Nugget Casino Resort in Reno/Sparks, Nevada. 
The Lefty are for books published in 2017:

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel.
 Ellen Byron, A Cajun Christmas 

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial) for books covering events before 1960.
Rhys Bowen, In Farleigh Field 
Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel.
• Kellye Garrett, Hollywood Homicide 
Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories).
  • William Kent Krueger, Sulfur Springs 
The Left Coast Crime Convention is an annual event sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors. Usually held in the western half of North America, LCC’s intent is to host an event where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interests. Lefty Awards have been given since 1996.

The 28th annual Left Coast Crime Convention took place in Reno, Nevada, March 22–25, 2018.

Left Coast Crime is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation holding annual mystery conventions in the West. Each LCC convention raises money to support a local literary organization and is staffed entirely by volunteers.

For more information on Left Coast Crime 2018, please visit

Friday, March 23, 2018

Philip Kerr: R.I.P.

What incredibly sad news. Philip Kerr, author of the Bernie Gunther novels, died at the age of 62. I just started his latest book. What an amazing writer. What a loss. Philip Kerr wrote historical fiction, children's books and non-fiction. I loved the Bernie Gunter novels and his stand-clones. He will be missed.

From The Guardian:

His death on Friday was confirmed by his publisher. Tributes poured in on social media for the award-winning author who penned a series of historical thrillers set in Germany during the second world war and cold war.
Ian Rankin tweeted: “Numbed by the news that Philip Kerr has died. His Bernie Gunther novels are extraordinary, a mix of great storytelling and brilliant research, with a believable (a)moral hero.”
Kerr, who wrote more than 30 books, including 12 Bernie Gunther novels as well as standalone thrillers and non-fiction, was married to fellow novelist Jane Thynne, with whom he had three children.
His wife wrote on Twitter: “RIP beloved Philip Kerr. Creator of the wonderful #BernieGunther. Genius writer and adored father and husband. 1956-2018.”
Kerr’s publisher Quercus Books said: “We are very sad to have lost Philip Kerr today, a wonderful man and a great author. We are thinking of @janethynne and all his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Edinburgh-born Kerr studied law at university before working as a copywriter at a number of advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi. He is said to have spent much of his time in the job researching an idea for a book about a Berlin-based policeman. 
Following several trips to Germany his first novel, March Violets, was published in 1989 and Bernie Gunther was born. . 
Kerr went on to trace the career of the tough-talking detective from 1930s Berlin through the horrors of the Third Reich, into the post-war era and to the cold war.
He also wrote the Scott Mason novels and a number children’s books under the name P B Kerr including the Children of the Lamp series.

Cartoon of the Day: Flight Risk

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Earl Derr Biggers: Guest Post by Barbara Gregorich

Let There Be Light 

During the 1910s Earl Derr Biggers, a 29-year-old Midwesterner, achieved immediate success and fame with Bobbs-Merrill’s publication of his first novel, Seven Keys to Baldpate, a romantic escapade. George M. Cohan bought stage rights to the book, and then movie rights. Biggers went on to write novellas and stage plays: his musical adaptation of his Love Insurance novella was highly praised for decades.

With the advent of the Golden Age of Mystery, Biggers turned his pen toward writing detective fiction, and it was this decision (and the detective he created) that catapulted him from national fame to world fame. The six Charlie Chan novels were translated into 23 languages, and when Biggers traveled abroad he was hailed as “Charlie Chan’s Poppa.”

And then . . . Earl Derr Biggers fell into a kind of obscurity. A dimness. A blurred distinctness. Three factors led to the world forgetting who Earl Derr Biggers was. First was the author’s early death (1933 at the age of 49), which brought a sudden halt to the series of Chan novels. Second was the subsequent domination of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction over the more genial school exemplified by Biggers. Third was Hollywood’s churning out dozens of Charlie Chan films one after the other, allowing the sheer number of the film versions to eclipse the six Chan novels.

When I first read the Chan novels, I was sixteen years old, and I had never heard of Earl Derr Biggers. The fact that I picked up the hard-bound, well-worn novels at all was due to the fact I grew up not far from Warren, Ohio, Biggers’ home town, and I happened to find his novels on a shelf titled Local Authors. By the time I was sixteen, I had been reading detective fiction (my mother’s books) for three or four years. I read Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Philip MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, Ellery Queen, and Rex Stout — and I thought the Biggers’ novels fit right in with this company. They were well-plotted, with interesting characters and intriguing settings.

However, because there were only six Chan novels, and because they weren’t available to me except on the shelves of the Warren Public Library, I mostly forgot about them. Until the 1970s, when my husband and I won a trip to Hawaii and there, waiting for me as I stepped off the plane, was a rack of paperback novels — prominent among them the Bantam paperback editions of Biggers’ Chan novels. I bought the first one there, in Hawaii, and read it there. And then I bought the other five when we returned home, and read them, too.

My second reading of these novels stirred something inside me — a thought process of sorts, which got me to wondering why Biggers’ novels weren’t as well-known as the novels of other Golden Age authors. My initial reaction was that Biggers’ was less known because he ended up writing only six novels, whereas authors such as Christie, Marsh, and Gardner each wrote significantly more novels.

Fast forward into the 1990s, when I was searching for Ohio history topics to write about for Timeline, the magazine of the Ohio Historical Society. Biggers came to mind immediately. But there was so little known about him, I wasn’t sure I could write an entire article on him. A little sleuthing, though, and I learned that the Lilly Library at Indiana University was the repository of all the Bobbs-Merrill files after that publisher went out of business in 1959. Bobbs-Merrill was Biggers’ publisher. A few phone calls later and I had an appointment to do research at the Lilly Library. I spent two or three days there going through the Biggers files, reading every piece of correspondence and examining every postcard, poster, and piece of publicity material. Not a scrap of paper escaped me.

My article, “Charlie Chan’s Poppa: The Life of Earl Derr Biggers,” was published in the January-February 1999 version of Timeline — and as the internet grew, that article became ubiquitous. I was quite happy with this contribution to public knowledge of one of the main American authors of the Golden Age. And I had no thought of doing anything further.

But then, just as three factors led to Biggers falling into obscurity, so three different factors led to light shining on him, removing the dimness and sharpening his distinctness.

First, in 2008 Academy Chicago reissued the six Chan novels in beautiful trade paperback editions. After a long absence, the novels were readily available.

Second, Yunte Huang published Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History (W.W. Norton, 2010). In 2011 the book won the Edgar for Best Critical/Biographical work.

Third, J.K. Van Dover published Making the Detective Story American: Biggers, Van Dine and Hammett and the Turning Point of the Genre, 1925-1930 (McFarland, 2010).

By 2010, a mystery fan could see that knowledge of Earl Derr Biggers was not dead. Writers and editors were discussing Biggers, writing about him, evaluating him. (Jon Breen had been doing this since the 1970s.) And so I decided I really should write a book about Earl Derr Biggers — partly because he and I were from the same patch of ground, partly because my love of the Chan novels goes back such a long way — and partly because I still had all the research notes I had taken at the Lilly Library.

Thus was born Charlie Chan’s Poppa: Earl Derr Biggers (CreateSpace, 2018), a small book which I hope contributes to letting more light shine on the creator of the endearing fictional sleuth, Charlie Chan.

Barbara Gregorich writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her mystery novels Dirty Proof and Sound Proof feature private eye Frank Dragovic, and her Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel: Lots of Examples, Plus Dead Bodies teaches through examples. She has been a fan of Earl Derr Biggers and Charlie Chan since she was in high school. 

Cartoon of the Day: Lesser Known Editing & Proofreading Marks

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Dog Dating Sites

Dyslexia: Guest Post by J.D. Allen

J.D. Allen:

I get asked about my dyslexia often as I travel to book signings and conferences and do guest blogs. As a student, I struggled in grade school, and I even dropped out of North Texas State University after an English professor denigrated my work in front of the entire class.

Five years later, more mature and more determined, I returned to college, and at Ohio State University, I learned from a teaching assistant that I was not a slow learner who had abysmal spelling, but that I was dyslexic. He had a sibling who was profoundly affected by Dyslexia and spotted it in a shot from my answers on an archaeology test.

That diagnosis and the tools the resource center taught me changed my life. In hindsight, I feel my learning disability turned out to be a beautiful gift, requiring me to work harder to achieve and gain a focus others may have lacked.

I believe that the drive to work hard through adversity may be one of the reasons we see learning disabilities in many high achieving people, including Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Although those with learning disabilities typically have trouble with written communication, many authors are also members of the high achieving, learning disabled club:

Agatha Christie
Stephen J. Cannell
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Adams
J.F. Lawton
Dav Pilkey
George Bernard Shaw
Jules Verne
Sherrilyn Kenyan
Jeanne Betancourt

I hid my struggles as a youngster, compensating in ways that have become talents or assets to me as an adult. I would memorize instead of reading from the page. I volunteered oral reports versus written ones. I enrolled in lots of debate classes and competed in theatre. Today, I enjoy public speaking and even like helping others get better at the skill. My love of story came from television, movies, and plays. I learned to think in big concepts and lateral positions.

I was in my 30s before I cultivated a love for reading and realized that being an author was possible for me. Technology has made that muse easier. Writing software, a unique font called Dyslexie that helps me read more smoothly, and programs such as Grammarly assist me with the minutia of getting words on paper in the grammatically correct order.

I have a couple of very good proofers who aid me in getting my publisher the cleanest draft I can. A few extra eyes on the page get rid of the challenges dyslexia gives me and lets me worry about the tale.

Because, in the end, books are story and character. Narrative is about expressing complicated emotions and actions and reactions. The intangible. Not the grammatic.

I think we all may have a little something that others might see as a dis-. Disability. Disfunction. Disadvantage. Disease. But the trick is to make that dis into a pro. Productivity. Profit. Profession. Progress.

Stephen J. Cannell, award-winning TV writer and novelist was also dyslexic. He penned more than a dozen TV shows including The Rockford Files and the A-Team. He also wrote more than a dozen novels. He died from complications of melanoma in 2010. Stephen was a spokesperson and advocate for children and adults with learning differences. His family maintains his website and it’s full of information and tools for the dyslexic: He was a fantastic storyteller and an even better person. I recommend the videos.


J.D. Allen is a Mystery Writers of America Freddie Award-winner. Her Sin City Investigations series launched with 19 SOULS earlier this year. She has a short story, in the ANTHONY AWARD WINNING anthology, Murder under the Oaks, as well as Carolina Crimes. She’s the chair of the Bouchercon National Board, a member of MWA, PI Writers of America, and president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She’s an Ohio State Univ. Alum with a degree in forensic anthropology and a creative writing minor.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Books

BAY AREA BOOK FESTIVAL: Mystery Programming

The Bay Area Book Festival has moved its date but kept its exceptional programming. Over the weekend of April 28th and 29th, 2018, the fourth annual Bay Area Book Festival will fill downtown Berkeley (CA) with a literary extravaganza that offers pleasure to anyone who has ever loved a book.
Whether you’re a fan of science fiction, mystery, or history, of fiction or memoir, of poetry or food writing, of children’s literature or science, come experience one of the best book festivals on the planet! Tickets for the Festival and/or individual panels and talks are now available. Get tickets here.
In addition to panels and talks, there will be booths. Mystery Writers of America, NorCal chapter will have a booth with author signings. Be sure and check the booth when you arrive for times and signings.

Here are some panels of interest to mystery readers. Several of the panels are sponsored by Mystery Writers of America, Northern California Chapter.

Murder She Writes: 
Catherine Coulter Talks with Laurie R. King
Catherine Coulter interviewed by Laurie R. King
Saturday, April 28
10:00 AM - 11:15 AM

Catherine Coulter, No.1 New York Times best-selling suspense writer and author of 82 novels (almost all of them New York Times bestsellers!), is interviewed by Mystery Writers of America NorCal president Laurie R. King, herself a bestselling author of 25 novels. These two remarkable writers will talk about Coulter’s journey from Regency romances to FBI thrillers, the research she does for her widely varied stories, and her craft, art, and life of writing.
Hotel Shattuck Plaza - Crystal Ballroom

Insider, Outsider: Do PIs or Cops Do It Better?
Cara Black,Candice Fox, Matt Goldman, Rachel Howzell Hall, moderated by Bill Petrocelli
Saturday, April 28
11:45 AM - 1:00 PM

At the center of every good crime novel is a hero sniffing out the truth, whether a veteran police officer hardened and informed by years on the force, or a plucky private eye who takes on the case with little to no resources. Four accomplished crime writers battle it out to determine once and for all who does it better, cops or PIs? Vouching for private investigators, Cara Black (Aimée Leduc, PI) and Matt Goldman (Private detective Nils Shapiro) will go head to head with Candice Fox (Detective Harriet Blue) and Rachel Howzell Hall (Detective Elouise Norton). Mystery author Bill Petrocelli moderates.
Hotel Shattuck Plaza - Crystal Ballroom

Viet Thanh Nguyen on Art and Politics
Viet Thanh Nguyen interviewed by Karen Tei Yamashita
Saturday, April 28
1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for his novel “The Sympathizer,” Viet Thanh Nguyen—fiction writer, essayist, activist, and UC Berkeley doctoral alum—has become an outspoken voice for refugee rights and justice for immigrants. In 2017 he received a MacArthur Genius Grant, and while he was commended for “challenging popular depictions of the Vietnam War and exploring the myriad ways that war lives on for those it has displaced,” his latest efforts move outward to the plight of refugees across the world. His lauded story collection “The Refugees” explores immigration, identity, love, and family. His latest project, “The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives,” brings together a host of prominent writers. He joins us to today to talk with Karen Tei Yamashita, novelist and essayist on the immigrant experience, about the role of the writer in society, the importance of art to politics, and the power of the written word.
Freight & Salvage

Women Plot the Crime
Sara Blaedel, Anne Holt, and Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, moderated by Cara Black
Saturday, April 28
1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

The plot for the perfect crime may very well reside in the minds of these three cunning women. This panel of authors will discuss what it takes—and what it takes out of you—to write a complex, compelling, and believable (but un-guessable) crime story. Come plumb the minds of Sara Blaedel (Denmark’s “queen of crime”), Anne Holt (Norway’s best-selling female crime writer), and Icelandic best-selling author Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, as they talk with fellow crime writer Cara Black.
Hotel Shattuck Plaza - Crystal Ballroom

Utter Fascination: The Art of the Exceptionally Complex Character
Åsa Avdic, Therese Bohman, Carl Frode Tiller, Laleh Khadivi
Saturday, April 28
1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

How do writers create complex characters? These three authors discuss how they dream up, and then capture on the page, entirely new people who are exceptionally complicated. What narrative strategies do they use to create them? How did the characters develop in the authors’ minds? Don’t miss the complex characters on this panel: Asa Avdic, a journalist and breakout novelist whose debut, “The Dying Game,” is a chilling version of an Agatha Christie ensemble (characters trapped and slowly disappearing) in a futuristic Sweden; Therese Bohman, whose scintillating novel “Eventide” about a middle-aged woman’s life “explores complex inner worlds with great sensitivity and insight” (Kirkus); and Carl Frode Tiller with the “Encircling” trilogy, which endeavors to reconstruct a man’s mind piece by piece after he loses his memory.
The Brower Center - Tamalpais Room

Noir at the Bar: A Flight of Mystery! Sampling Bay Area Writers of Murder and Mayhem, with Drinks
Lillian Bell, Cara Black, Ellison Cooper, Reece Hirsh, Beth McMullen, Eileen Rendahl, Kelli Stanley, Domenic Stansberry, emceed by Sheldon Siegel
Saturday, April 28
5:00 PM - 6:15 PM

A Festival favorite returns! There’s no better way to celebrate the Bay Area’s love of noir than to toast mystery writers who have mastered the form. Feel like a bonafide gumshoe listening in on riveting short readings by these modern masters of noir. And while you’re at it, order your cocktail (or whiskey) of choice.
The Marsh - Cabaret

Know Thyself: The Ultimate Mystery
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Mark Sarvas, Carl Frove Tiller
Saturday, April 28
5:00 PM - 6:15 PM

It’s high literary tide mark on Saturday afternoon. Three of the smartest novelists working today discuss how fiction explodes the question of how we know ourselves. In “Call Me Zebra,” partly set in Spain, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi depicts a heroine on a Quixotic quest; the Wall Street Journal said, “Hearken ye fellow misfits, migrants, outcasts, squint-eyed bibliophiles, library-haunters and book stall-stalkers: Here is a novel for you.” Mark Sarvas’ “Memento Park,” partly set in Hungary, was praised by Salman Rushdie as “a gripping mystery novel about art that is also a powerful meditation on fathers and sons.” Norwegian writer Carl Frove Tiller has written a trilogy whodunit about a man who’s lost his memory and reconstitutes himself via letters from friends telling him who he is; you can imagine how that turns out. Said Kirkus, “A wholly satisfying story about how unreliable narrators tell tales not just about events, but about our core emotions.” Who are you? Come explore how we know ourselves.
The Marsh - Theater

Nordic Noir: The Enduring Genre of Cold Climate Thrillers
Sara Blaedel, Anne Holt, Karo Hämäläinen, Steffen Jacobsen, Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, moderated by Randal Brandt
Sunday, April 29
2:00 PM - 3:15 PM

One of the most popular sessions at the Festival returns for its fourth year. Traveling all the way from Scandinavia and Iceland to join us today, these authors will illuminate why their books—which situate grisly stories of murder and chaos in frigid regions—have the enduring power to captivate audiences worldwide. From Denmark, Sara Blaedel will discuss her internationally best-selling and female-led Louise Rick and Ilka Jensen series. Norway’s best-selling female crime writer Anne Holt will consider how her years working for police departments and as a lawyer have influenced her work. Finnish crime savant Karo Hämäläinen will let us in on how he became “a wicked and controlled writer who rarely allows his readers a moment of peace” (Toronto Sun). Hear from Icelandic best-selling author Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, who The Times UK said “is ensconced at or near the summit of Nordic crime writing.” And learn how Danish physician and thrill-master Steffen Jacobsen uses his talent for the macabre to create gripping reads.
Magnes Museum

Friday, March 16, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: St Patrick's Day Mixer in Limerick, Ireland

2018 British Book Awards: The Nibbies

Shortlists for the 2018 British Book Awards aka The Nibbies have just been released in several categories. Of interest to readers of this blo here is the shortlist in Crime & Thriller Book of the Year:

Crime & Thriller Book of the Year:

The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney (Quercus)
The Midnight Line, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)
The Dry, by Jane Harper (Abacus)
Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough (HarperFiction)
Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
He Said/She Said, by Erin Kelly (Mulholland)

Winners will be announced on Monday, May 14 at a ceremony at London's Grosvenor Hotel. The British Book Awards are organized by the UK magazine The Bookseller.

See all the shortlists HERE.

HT: J. Kingston Pierce's The Rap Sheet

The Second Most Common Question: Guest post by Lexie Elliott

Lexie Elliott is the author of The French Girl (February 2018, Berkley) and lives in London. The French Girl is her debut novel and explores the shifting relationships, and memories, of London-based recruiter Kate as she becomes entangled in a murder investigation ten years after a seemingly idyllic French holiday. 

The Second Most Common Question 

As a writer, the most common question I get asked is, What’s your book about? (For the answer, see above!) The second most common question is, Where do you get your ideas from?

The idea for The French Girl first hit me when I was on holiday at a farmhouse in France during my university years. There was a group of seven or eight of us, all students, and the farmhouse belonged to the parents of the brother-sister pair in our midst, otherwise I couldn’t possibly have afforded to stay there — at that stage I was rather broke after something like five years as a student. As it was, it felt supremely decadent to be drinking rosé at lunchtime and lounging by a turquoise-blue pool set amongst the sun-drenched vineyards of the Dordogne. Supremely decadent, and a little like being in the opening scenes of a movie: bright young things enjoying themselves, little knowing the darkness that lies ahead of them… I remember baking on a sun-lounger, whilst in my brain the plot unfolded, bit by bit, until I knew what that darkness might be, and how it might insidiously stalk my characters until they could never again be those carefree bright young things.

The idea was one thing. Writing it was quite another. Writing requires mental space, and life eats that up. Life (and student debt) required me to get a job after I’d completed my doctorate, and just figuring out how to become competent enough at that job to keep it took all my energy at first. Then I bumped — quite literally — into a man in a swimming pool who became my husband, and life gave me two children who are enormously wonderful but who are also sleep thieves, and time thieves, and attention thieves. I did write sporadically, in any time I could snatch for myself, but not The French Girl. That was too daunting a project to even start. So instead I wrote short stories, fragments of novellas, even a complete novel in a lighter tone. And once I was writing regularly I found I didn’t want for ideas. I could be on my way to work and I’d notice something odd, a little out of kilter, and my mind would start to lazily spin out a web of a story… It was like developing a muscle that had always been there, but had been allowed to waste away: nothing but exercise can reverse the atrophy. Through it all, The French Girl hovered in the recesses of my mind but I wasn’t yet ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

And then, somehow, I was. Perhaps I’d emerged from the fug of general exhaustion that very small children create, or perhaps I’d gained enough confidence to make a start on a more demanding project. Whatever the reason, I started writing The French Girl. And eventually, somewhat inconceivably, I actually finished writing The French Girl. In between I must have had hundreds of ideas for new projects. I keep a note of the more promising ones, and there’s one in particular which I’m a little scared to write. I’m not quite ready for it yet. But now I wonder if that’s the mark of a really good idea: something that’s a challenge, that worries me, something I’m not quite sure I can pull off. I’m guessing there will come a time when I’m ready to roll up my sleeves on that one too. At least I hope so.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Unforgotten: PBS Masterpiece Mystery!

PBS Masterpiece Mystery! has a new series coming up that starts Sundays April 8 and runs through May 13 (9 pm, but check local listings). Unforgotten is a really thoughtful, well acted, and plotted detective show and there are two seasons that will be aired. I binged the first season and found it mesmerizing. I highly recommend it.

Info: Two detectives confront a pair of baffling cold cases in back-to-back seasons of the British crime series Unforgotten. Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) and Sanjeev Bhaskar (Indian Summers) star as DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan, masters at solving long-past homicides—including a skeleton under a cellar and a corpse in a suitcase. Notable guest stars include Tom Courtenay, Gemma Jones, Trevor Eve, Bernard Hill, and others.

Cartoon of the Day: St Patrick's Day

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Robert S. Levinson: R.I.P.

More sad news for the mystery community. LA Times bestselling author Robert S. Levinson had passed away March 13 after a battle with pneumonia. He will be missed.

I met Bob several times at Bcons and Left Coast Crimes, and we emailed about awards and books. Over the years he contributed several articles to Mystery Readers Journal on music and art and mysteries. I will miss him and his wit and humor.

From his website:

Robert S. Levinson was the bestselling author of the stand-alone novels “The Evil Deeds We Do,” "Finders, Keepers, Losers, Weepers," "Phony Tinsel," "A Rhumba in Waltz Time," "The Traitor in Us All," "In the Key of Death," "Where the Lies Begin" and "Ask a Dead Man," as well as the Neil Gulliver and Stevie Marriner series of mystery-thrillers, which to date comprises "The Elvis and Marilyn Affair," "The James Dean Affair, "The John Lennon Affair," "The Andy Warhol Affair (Hot Paint)," and now “The Stardom Affair.” 

He won the Short Mystery Fiction Society's Best Short Story Derringer Award for "The Quick Brown Fox," a short that originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. The short is also featured in the anthology, "Between the Dark and the Daylight and 28 More of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. An original short, "Down in Capistrano," appears in "Orange County Noir," and another, "The Night of the Murder," in the anthology "Crime Square." Another original, "The Dead Detective," appears in "The Sound and the Furry: Stories to benefit the International Fund for Animal Welfare," as well as the “Coast to Coast” short story collection. 

Levinson, a Shamus award nominee, was an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award winner three consecutive years. To date, his short stories have been selected for inclusion in "year's best" anthologies eight consecutive years, including the cover title piece (from Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine) in "A Prisoner of Memory and 24 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories." 

Another original short, "And the Winner is…" is included in "Hollywood and Crime: Original Crime Stories Set During the History of Hollywood." Earlier Levinson short stories appear in "The Deadly Bride and 21 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories; "The Adventure of the Missing Detective and 19 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories;" the 5th annual "World's Finest Crime & Mystery" anthology; and "Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin."

Plays by Levinson were featured at the inaugural and second annual International Mystery Writers Festival of RiverPark Center in Owensboro, KY. The first, "Transcript," was presented out-of-competition and subsequently developed by RiverPark in radio show format for international distribution. "Murder Times Two" was nominated for "Angie" award honors and published in the On Stage Press/Samuel French anthology, "Scripts." 

Levinson served four years on the Mystery Writers of America national board of directors, as well as two years as president of MWA's Southern California chapter. He wrote and produced two Annual Edgar Awards galas of the MWA and the inaugural and 2nd Annual Thriller Awards shows of the International Thriller Writers organization. In addition to MWA, ITW, Sisters-in-Crime, Private Eye Writers of America and the International Association of Crime Writers, Levinson is a member of the Writers Guild of America-West (past board of directors member) and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He is past chairperson f the editorial board of the WGAw's monthly magazine, Written By, and served six terms as president of the Hollywood Press Club, which years later voted "The Elvis and Marilyn Affair" Best Novel About Hollywood in its annual HPC Awards of Distinction.

St Patrick's Day Mysteries - St. Patrick's Day Crime Fiction

Erin - Go - bragh! St. Patrick's Day figures in several mysteries, so here's my updated St. Patrick's Day Crime Fiction list. Irish aka Emerald Noir is very popular right now, so you can always add titles to your TBR pile from the many Irish crime writers available, although they may not take place specifically during St. Patrick's Day. Declan Burke has a great post on his blog CrimeAlwaysPays Overview: The St. Patrick's Day Rewind

Mystery Readers Journal had an issue that focused on Irish Mysteries. It's available as PDF or hardcopy.

As always, I welcome comments and additions to this list. 


Susan Wittig Albert: Love Lies Bleeding
Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, & Marcia Talley (editors): Homicidal Holidays: Fourteen Tales of Murder and Merriment
Mary Kay Andrews (aka Kathy Hogan Trocheck): Irish Eyes
S. Furlong-Bollinger: Paddy Whacked
Harry Brandt (Richard Price): The Whites
Isis Crawford: A Catered St. Patrick's Day
Nelson DeMille: Cathedral
Janet Evanovich: Plum Lucky
Sharon Fiffer: Lucky Stuff 
S. Furlong-Bollinger: Paddy Whacked
Andrew Greeley: Irish Gold
Jane Haddam: A Great Day for the Deadly
Lyn Hamilton: The Celtic Riddle
Jonathan Harrington: A Great Day for Dying
Lee Harris: The St. Patrick's Day Murder
Dorothy Howell: Duffel Bags and Drownings 
Melanie Jackson: The Sham
Madison Johns: Lucky Strike
Diane Kelly: Love, Luck, and the Little Green Men 
Amanda Lee: The Long Stitch Good Night
Wendi Lee: The Good Daughter
Dan Mahoney: Once in, Never Out
Marion Markham: The St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Mystery (children's)
Leslie Meier: St. Patrick's Day Murder
Sister Carol Anne O’Marie: Death Takes Up A Collection
Ralph M. McInerny: Lack of the Irish
Janet Elaine Smith: In St. Patrick's Custody
JJ Toner: St. Patrick's Day Special
Kathy Hogan Trochek (aka Mary Kay Andrews): Irish Eyes
Debbie Viguié: Lie Down in Green Pastures
Noreen Wald: Death Never Takes a Holiday

Check out Dublin Noir, a collection of short stories edited by Ken Bruen, published by Akashic Books in the US and Brandon in Ireland and the UK.

Read Val McDermid's take on the Popularity of Irish Crime Fiction.

Read Lisa Alber's guest post on Travels to Ireland, or, Bah, I Scoff at "Write What You Know"

Some Irish crime writers you might want to read: Tana French, Erin Hart, Benjamin Black, Declan Hughes, Jane Casey, Brian McGilloway, Alan Glynn, John Brady, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, John Banville (Benjamin Black), Ken Bruen, Jesse Louisa Rickard, Eoin Colfer.

Who are your favorite Irish authors?

May the road rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back!


And, if you want something CHOCOLATE to go along with your stout, have a look at my DyingforChocolate blog for some Killer St. Patrick's Day Recipes including:

Guinness Chocolate Silk Pie
Chocolate Guinness Cake
Guinness Chocolate Stout Brownies
Chocolate Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Ice Cream
Bailey's Chocolate Trifle
You Make Me Want to Stout Cupcakes (Scharffen Berger)
Bailey's Irish Cream Fudge

Guinness Chocolate Cherry Bread & Guinness Brown Breads

Cartoon of the Day: K 9 GB

From the very funny RhymeswithOrange:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Re-Releasing a Backlist: Guest post by Elaine Viets

Today I welcome one of my favorite people and writers Elaine Viets who shares with us her experience of re-releasing a Backlist. This is a great article for writers with a backlist and for readers eager to read her series. The Dead-End Job novels are being re-issued by JABberwocky Literary Agency. Get the whole set or treat yourself to the books you missed. Prices start at $2.99 and go up. Check them out here.  

*** To win an ebook from Elaine Viets' Dead-End Job series, make a comment below. The winner will be notified by April 1 ***

Elaine Viets:
Re-Releasing a Backlist

I didn't realize it until I met with my new agent, Joshua Bilmes, but I am "backlist rich." That's how Joshua, president of JABberwocky Literary in New York, described me. He wanted to re-release my backlist. JABberwocky represents award-winning authors including Charlaine Harris, Brandon Sanderson, Toni Kelner and Tanya Huff. Joshua has made books available from two dozen of his clients within the agency's e-book program.

Done right, re-releases are expensive: re-releasing my 23 books (13 Dead-End Job and 10 Josie Marcus mystery shopper mysteries) can cost a solid five figures, and JABberwocky fronted the money.

It takes a lot of work.

First, Joshua got the rights back from the publishers – he sent them revision of rights letters, and the publishers granted most of those requests.

He decided to go with the Dead-End Job mysteries first. Helen Hawthorne is a St. Louis woman who once made six figures a year, had a beautiful home— and a good-for-nothing husband she caught in the act with their neighbor. When she divorced the bum, the judge saddled Helen with alimony. Helen refused to pay her ex, tossed her wedding ring in the Mississippi River, and went on the run. She wound up in Fort Lauderdale, working dead-end jobs for cash under the table. Helen – and I – had worked at everything from hotel maid to telemarketer. The pink collar jobs that Helen and I worked for that series make it even more relevant today than when the series first started in 2003.

The Dead-End Job novels get new covers and fresh cover copy. It was exciting to work with artist Jenn Reese at Tiger Bright Studios for new DEJ covers. She designed 13 clean, bright covers with a different symbol and color for each novel. They captured the series' lighthearted tone and Florida setting.

Meanwhile, I had to read all 13 Dead-End Job mysteries, and correct the small errors that happen when the files are converted to book formats, plus the occasional typo. I was blessed with good copyeditors for this series, but one was crazy for semicolons. I have a deep, abiding hatred for semicolons in novels. They should be banished to term papers. I rewrote to get rid of the pests.

Each book had new cover copy, and this slogan: "The thrilling mystery series about one woman trying to make a living . . . while other people are making a killing."

It had been awhile since I'd read my novels. Readers ask me about a scene or a character, and I can't remember what happened.

"Well, you wrote it," they'll say.

Yes, I did. But once I finish one book, I'm on to the next.

I can't read my novels when they're hot off the presses. That's when I see all the parts that sag and the phrases I wish were more graceful.

I wrote Shop till You Drop 15 years ago, so it was almost as if someone else had written those books. Some lines made me laugh. In Clubbed to Death, Helen's co-worker describes their hated boss this way: "Her heart is as hard as her fake boobs."

In Just Murdered, Helen talks about how when she caught her cheating husband with their next-door neighbor Sandy, "She hit Rob where it hurt the most—right in the radiator." Helen knew the way to really hurt a man was to destroy his car.

Some of Helen's quotes reflected her philosophy – and mine. In Murder with Reservations, she tells her husband Phil,

"I hate to cook but I love good food. Most nights I settle for scrambled eggs or tuna out of the can.”

"Life is too short for bad food," Phil said. "I could teach you to cook."

"I'm hopeless," Helen said.

"How come women who can't cook are proud of it?" Phil said.

"Because we've escaped a drudgery men never have to face. Some men think cooking is creative. Women like me think it's a trap. We're afraid we'll have to waste our time making meals instead of doing what we really want."

And some were wistful. In Clubbed to Death, when her awful ex disappears, Helen says, "How come when you finally got what you wanted, it wasn't what you needed?"

Elaine Viets returns to her hardboiled roots with Brain Storm, the debut novel in her Angela Richman, Death Investigator series. Charlaine Harris calls Brain Storm “a complex novel of crime, punishment, and medical malfeasance.” Elaine has 30 bestselling mysteries in four series: hardboiled Francesca Vierling, traditional Dead-End Job, cozy Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper, and Angela Richman, Death Investigator. Elaine passed the Medicolegal Death Investigator Training Course for forensic professionals. She’s won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.