Saturday, June 30, 2018

Rediscovering Our Selves Through Historical Fiction: Guest Post by Eliot Pattison

Eliot Pattison:
Rediscovering Our Selves Through Historical Fiction 

Historical novels are carving out a special literary niche as readers begin to more fully grasp their unique value in understanding whom we are and where we came from. All novels should present the possibility for the reader to learn and grow in some dimension, but by tapping the fertile landscape of our past this expanding genre offers endless layers of opportunities for learning about ourselves.

I often ask a simple question of readers who express an interest in exploring historical fiction: where was your DNA two hundred fifty years ago? We are all made up of particles of history. That isn’t just a metaphor, it is a scientific fact. The genes that define you were walking around in the 18th century, when my Bone Rattler novels are set, and long before then. Considering where they were—and they may have been on different continents at the same time—becomes a wonderful key for opening the treasure chest of your past, and historical fiction can be a potent guide to understanding what you find there.

We are all players in the great orchestra of humanity, and while the instruments get passed on to new members from time to time, the music doesn’t change nearly as much as we might think. Those who ignore that reality, who decline to turn and face earlier links in our human chain, diminish their lives and their ability to fully grasp who they are and the society they live in. In the words of novelist Michael Crichton, “if you don’t know history, you’re just a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”

I was fortunate enough to discover that I was part of such a tree at an early age, and I have derived nourishment from those roots ever since. It helped that my ancestors choose paths which easily aroused a youth’s curiosity—Highland Scots who migrated to Virginia highlands and other Scots who fled an English army to take up farming in Maryland, as well as multiple ancestors who fought in the American Revolution and Welsh forebears who survived the bloody attacks on Jamestown in the 1620’s. But whether your DNA resided in a German cobbler, a Scythian warrioress, a Venetian weaver, or an African chieftain, it survived an amazing journey. Understanding that journey, and realizing you are engaged in its current leg, enriches our appreciation of our families, and provides important insights into whom we are, not just physically but.also intellectually and spiritually.

Great novels are about characters, and history is derived from characters. The first important step in embracing historical fiction is the recognition that we are all derived from historical characters. Historical novels breathe life into figures who otherwise have become little more than flat paper cut outs in our textbooks. The skilled novelist enlivens these players from the past by using historically accurate venues, vernacular, fashion, and technology. Such aspects bring important color to characters but as valuable as these external attributes may be, the vital elements in reviving people from the other side of time are the internal ones, the hearts and souls of a novel’s cast. By thrusting us into those hearts and souls, such novels translate distant humans into terms we can relate to, allowing those humans to become part of us.

I didn’t get hooked on Wolf Hall because I yearned to know about Tudor court politics, I was hooked because I could identify with the very human, very conflicted character of Thomas Cromwell. Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael novels were successful not because of the late Middle Age history lessons implicit in their pages but because of their poignant, internally resonating portraits of two complex figures who had traded in Crusader armor for monks’ robes. Such historical mysteries can be especially effective at this translation process, for they inexorably draw the reader into conundrums that can’t be solved without getting inside the heads of these long ago characters. The reward, and the challenge, of getting through my own Bone Rattler series is that none of its mysteries can be resolved unless the reader has assimilated elements of 18th century Highland and Native American culture.

Historical fiction ultimately lets us walk beside these participants in our past, allowing us to discover that in reasoning, aspiration, curiosity and passion they differ very little from ourselves. They may speak and dress differently but such differences are only minor variations of hue on the great human palette. Glimpsing how human our forebears were doesn’t simply add to a novel’s entertainment value, it helps us grasp the depth of our own humanity. I write two series set in very different times and places but at their core each is about that shared humanity, about values and elements of natural justice that transcend specific times and cultures and therefore become links across the centuries.

Discovering such bonds with the past has immeasurably enriched my life. Knowing that we share traits and experiences with others who came before us adds new texture to our lives and new strength to our spirit. After better understanding the experiences of both my ancestors and my characters I look at certain places and institutions in profoundly different ways. Our forebears are, inevitably, companions in our life’s journey, who shadow us as we confront the trials and celebrate the joys of our lives, just as we will become silent companions in our descendants’ lives.

Too often in today’s instantly connected culture our feelings, and any opportunity for contemplative decisionmaking, are obscured by the constant noise of social media. A well-crafted historical novel isn’t just an oasis where such distracting influences are banished, it can become a refreshing trek of self discovery. Connecting with those whose blood flows in our veins isn’t simply a pleasant distraction, it is empowering. This is our time to rise up out of the great sea of humanity, but knowing its depths and currents allows us to be more effective navigators in our own journey. Discovering that the past isn’t really past, it just has new faces, is the great reward of historical novels. By investing time in a well-crafted historical novel you might learn to find yourself, from before.

An international lawyer by training, Joseph Eliot Pattison has spent his career advising and representing U.S. and foreign companies on international investment and trade issues. Described as "a writer of faraway mysteries," Eliot Pattison's travel and interests span a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica. He received “the Art of Freedom” award along with Ira Glass, Patti Smith and Richard Gere for bringing his social and cultural concerns to his fiction, published on three continents. He is the author of fourteen mystery novels, including the internationally acclaimed Edgar award-winning Inspector Shan Series, set in China and Tibet and the Bone Rattler Series, set in Colonial America. Savage Liberty: A Mystery of Revolutionary America is the fifth in this series. A former resident of Boston and Washington, Pattison resides on an 18th century farm in Pennsylvania with his wife, three children, and an ever-expanding menagerie of animals.

Be sure and check out Eliot Pattison's former posts on Mystery Fanfare. Thanks, Eliot, for contributing!

The Mystery of Human Rights (3/22/17)
Mandarin Gate 12/19/12

Friday, June 29, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Beach Reads

New Vicar for Grantchester!

MASTERPIECE PBS and ITV have announced that Tom Brittney is joining the cast as Reverend Will Davenport – man of the people and crime-solving partner to Robson Green’s Geordie Keating.

James Norton, who plays Vicar Sidney Chambers in the series, will make his final appearance during the fourth season.

“A message to MASTERPIECE fans: “As much as I know you’ll miss James Norton, I PROMISE that you’ll love Tom Brittney,” says MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton at WGBH Boston. “Just watch him go toe-to-toe with Robson Green’s character, the very skeptical Geordie ... and watch him win him over.”

Tom Brittney said: "I am beyond excited. From the moment I heard about the role of Will Davenport, it was something I wanted more than anything. It’s a real honor to be joining such a wonderful series, with such a loyal fan base."

James Norton said: "As excited as I am to be filming a new series of Grantchester, it’s also heartbreaking to be saying goodbye to Sidney Chambers. I’ve loved this experience, and particularly working with such an extraordinary cast and crew. All the best to the fantastic Tom Brittney in his role as the new vicar. He is a wonderful addition to the Grantchester family."

A man of the people—confident, caring and self-assured—Grantchester’s young new parish priest channels his boundless energy into a quest for social justice. He is a man of God, but with the devil inside of him. As Geordie draws him into righting the wrongs of criminal Cambridge, Will’s own troubled past is unearthed.

In an interview with the award-winning MASTERPIECE Studio podcast, Grantchester creator/writer Daisy Coulam previews the upcoming fourth season of the show. You can hear the conversation here:

Sadly, this season will not air until 2019.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Harlan Ellison: R.I.P.

End of an era. Harlan Ellison, an amazingly prolific and talented writer of science fiction, mystery, articles, TV series and movies, passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 84. Ellison contributed to The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Babylon 5, among others. If you knew Harlan, you knew he was impetuous, provocative, passionate, often angry, litigious, and cantankerous, but what an incredible talent!

Ellison also wrote scripts for Route 66, Burke's Law, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from Uncle, The Twilight Zone, and The Flying Nun, as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In terms of movies, he wrote The Oscar and A Boy and His Dog (1975), based on his 1969 short story.

His 1965 short story Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman which celebrates civil disobedience against a repressive establishment is his most reprinted story. So timely, especially now.

Harlan received multiple Hugos, Nebulas, and Edgars, as well as WG Awards for his TV Work and the Silver Pen for Journalism.

When I heard of his passing this morning, I burst into tears, surprising myself. It's a long time since I've seen Harlan, but I will never forget him. Such a large personality in such a small body. Rest in Peace, Harlan. Maybe there's a typewriter in a store window in heaven....or in hell...or wherever you landed. Peace.

Read the LA Times Obit here.

Cartoon of the Day: The Sentence

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Sad news. Sally Wright, Edgar award-nominated author, passed away in mid-June. Sally Wright has studied rare books, falconry, early explorers, painting restoration, WWII Tech-Teams, the Venona Code, and much more, to write her university-archivist-ex-WWII-Ranger books about Ben Reese, who’s based on a real person.

Breeding Ground, Wright’s most recent novel, is the first in her Jo Grant mystery series, which has to do with the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky.

I was lucky to meet Sally several times, and she came to Berkeley for a Literary Salon. So much fun and so informative. We corresponded over the years, and she contributed to the Mystery Readers Journal, as well as Mystery Fanfare.

She will be missed.

The Art of Looking Back (Mystery Fanfare; July 27, 2016)

Sally Wright Tries to Learn What Ben Reese Would Know about Art (Mystery Readers Journal, Art Mysteries: Winter 2005)

Bloodshed Behind the Lines: (Mystery Readers Journal: Murder in Wartime, Summer 2017)

SUMMER SLEUTHING: Lazy, Hazy, Murderous 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 accompanying crime of Summertime. I've omitted most Fourth of July and Labor Day Mysteries 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
Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
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; Braking for Bodies 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, Bikinis in Paradise; Beach Blanket Barbie; Camp Carter 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
Dead & Buried by Leighann Dobbs
Kilt at the Highland Games by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein
Blackberry Burial, Dying for Strawberries; Killed on Blueberry Hill 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: Murder at Lambswool Farm by Sally Goldenbaum
Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake; Knockdown by Sarah Graves
Dead Days of Summer by Carolyn Hart
A Stitch in Crime by Betty Hechtman
The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
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
Murder in the Past Tense by E.E. Kennedy
Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
A Timely Vision; A Watery Death 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
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
Berried to the Hilt, Death Runs Adrift; Claws for Alarm; Murder on the Rocks 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
Left Hanging by Patricia McLinn
Tippy Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
Murder Most Finicky by Liz Mugavero
Murder at Kildare Mensa by Clare O'Beara
Foal Play; Murder on the Hoof 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
Mrs. Bundle's Dog Days of Summer: A Case of Artful Arson by Allison Cesario Paton
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
Field of Prey by John Sandford 
Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom
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
A Sense of Entitlement by Anna Loan Wilsey
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 add?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Get a Clue

Buried in Books & The Three Musketeers: Guest Post by Kate Carlisle

Kate Carlisle is the NYT bestselling author of two ongoing series: the Bibliophile Mysteries featuring San Francisco bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, whose rare book restoration skills uncover old secrets, treachery and murder; and the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring Shannon Hammer, a home contractor who discovers not only skeletons in her neighbors' closets, but murder victims, too. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is bringing the Fixer-Upper Mysteries to TV in a series of movies starring Jewel and Colin Ferguson. A native Californian, Kate worked in television production for many years before turning to writing.

Kate Carlisle: 
Buried in Books and The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas said in The Three Musketeers, “The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.”

In other words, the more challenging something is, the more worthwhile. And it's true that one of my favorite things about writing the Bibliophile Mysteries is also the hardest: echoing the themes of the rare book at the center of the mystery. While plotting the modern-day mysteries, I look for ways, both subtle and overt, to give a literary nod to the rare book in question—and to give my most astute readers the added pleasure of a sort of scavenger hunt within the mystery.

(That said, I assure you—if you haven't read The Three Musketeers, don't worry. Buried in Books is a contemporary mystery novel that stands on its own.)

In Buried in Books, Bibliophile Mystery 12, a national library convention comes to San Francisco the week of bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright's wedding to her partner in crime-solving, British security expert Derek Stone. Along with the convention come two of her best friends from library school. They called themselves the Three Musketeers. All for one, and one for all. . . until Sara stole Heather's boyfriend, and their friendship blew up.

Heather and Sara both come to Brooklyn's surprise bridal shower with gifts in tow. A rare copy of The Three Musketeers from one, and of The Blue Fairy Book from the other. At first it seems that all is forgiven, until Brooklyn discovers that one of the books may be a forgery. Dumas said, "Never trust the enemy that gives you presents"—but now Brooklyn doesn't even know if she can trust her friends.

It's always delightful to find ways to incorporate the themes of the rare books into the contemporary murder mystery, but especially so with Buried in Books because The Three Musketeers is such a zip-bang story, filled with thrilling action and laugh-out-loud humor. During the plotting process, I often found myself walking around in a daze, my mind a swirl of ideas.

Without giving away too much about Buried in Books, here's a glimpse into how I reflected the characters from the historic novel in this Bibliophile Mystery.

Brooklyn is Athos, the most level-headed of the Musketeers. She's the peacemaker, the intellectual of the group.

Heather is Aramis, the quietest of the three, still morose years after being torn away from the love of her life.

Sara is Porthos, full of her own importance and unsympathetic toward Heather's feelings. Like Porthos, Sara is a fashion plate. In fact, fashion plays a bit of a role in the murder. I won't say more than that, but you'll understand when you read the book.

Sadly, one of these friends will die, and Brooklyn will have to determine whether the other friend committed the deed. While entertaining librarians from around the country and getting ready to marry the love of her life.

Dumas claimed that difficult tasks have more merit. Do you agree or disagree? Why? 


Matrimony and murder collide as San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright walks down the aisle. . . Brooklyn has it all covered. She's triple-checked her wedding to-do list, and everything is on track for the upcoming ceremony with the love of her life, security expert Derek Stone. 

Not everyone has been as lucky in love as Brooklyn. Her old library college roommates Heather and Sara lost touch twelve years ago when Sara stole Heather's boyfriend. Brooklyn was caught in the middle and hasn't seen her former besties since their falling-out. When they both arrive in town for the annual librarians' convention and then show up at her surprise bridal shower, Brooklyn is sure drama will ensue. But she's touched when the women seem willing to sort out their differences and gift her rare copies of The Three Musketeers and The Blue Fairy Book. 

Brooklyn's prewedding calm is shattered when one of her formerly feuding friends is found murdered and Brooklyn determines that one of the rare books is a forgery. She can't help but wonder if the victim played a part in this fraud, or if she was targeted because she discovered the scam. With a killer and con artist on the loose, Brooklyn and Derek—with the unsolicited help of their meddling mothers—must catch the culprit before their big day turns into a big mess. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Book Covers

HT: Andrea Lankow Sward


Louise Jensen:
Mindfulness & the Healing Power of Words 

It’s over ten years ago now since I had the accident which changed my life. My mobility lost, the future I thought I’d have cruelly snatched away. Chronic pain whispered in my ear that it would never go. That I would never truly feel happy again. Unable to work I lost my business, my house. My mental health plummeted. I couldn’t see a way forward.

Eventually, after throwing myself the longest pity party in history, I knew I had to make a change, if not for me, then for my three children. It was then I discovered Mindfulness. At first it seemed impossible to stay in the present moment. The past dragging me back with its cold fingers to the time when I was healthy, mocking – look at what you lost. The future beckoning me – no longer sparkling and enticing, but dark and terrifying. But slowly I learned to use my senses as an anchor. Each time I became aware I had drifted into negative thoughts asking myself what can I see right now? What can I smell? Taste? Touch? Hear?

These skills led me to the safe haven of the here and now where I am okay. I am safe. I am loved.

Later, it was these skills, the way I learned to really connect with my environment, that led me to writing scenes that have recently been described in a newspaper as: Jensen’s beautifully descriptive prose has a magnetic, mesmerizing power, drawing the reader in, inspiring intrigue, curiosity and sporadic, unexpected adrenaline rushes.

Our senses are warrior powerful. Not only connecting us to the present moment but also able to transport us back to the past at lightning speed. Each time I smell cinnamon I spiral back to balancing on a stool in my Nana’s kitchen, stirring the Christmas cake, making a wish.

The Sister begins with Grace digging up a memory box that she and her best friend, Charlie, had buried as teenagers. When she sees the magazine cuttings of pop stars she’d loved covering the box she is sixteen once more. Smelling the Chanel No. 5 Charlie stole from her mum. Tasting the sweet, fizzing cider they’d drink in secret in a bid to feel grown up. Evoking sense really brings prose to life. Writing this book gave me a purpose. Words have the power to heal, to lift. They illuminated my world which for a time had become very bleak.

Today, mindfulness doesn’t only help me with writing. It helps me realize when I need a break. I am kinder to my body. To myself. It also gives me the tools to switch off at the end of the day. As an author my head is often full of plot twists and red herrings but when I spend time with my family I want to be with them mentally as well as physically with a head full of them, and only them.

Through mindfulness I’ve recovered from clinical depression, learned how to write, and also how to switch off. Using my senses I’ve become present. Aware. Grateful the world is such a beautiful place. I just lost sight of that for a while. I may not have freedom in my body but I have freedom in my mind and that’s the greatest freedom of all.


Louise Jensen is the Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift, The Surrogate & The Date. Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

MALICE DOMESTIC: Mystery Most Edible Anthology- Submissions Open

Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible 
Submissions are Open!

Theme:  Mystery Most Edible: "Mystery Most Edible" means that the story must have a significant gastronomic or culinary aspect.

Story Length: up to 5,000 words • We are seeking original, previously unpublishied stories • Manuscript file must be entirely anonymous • No author identification on the cover page or on any other page • No author identification in the document summary • Please include page number and story title in the footer • Type “The End” or ### at the end of the story • Microsoft Word and PDF files are acceptable
Submissions will be accepted between May 1st and August 31, 2018

To submit your story, go here.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

COLLABORATING IN (FICTIONAL) MURDER IS FUN! Guest post by collaborating debut writing team Ashley Dyer

I love our Partners in Crime feature here on Mystery Fanfare. Today I welcome Ashley Dyer. Ashley Dyer is the penname of Dagger-winning crime novelist, Margaret Murphy, working in consultation with forensics expert, Helen Pepper. Their debut novel, Splinter in the Blood, sold in multiple competitive bids across Europe and the US. It’s out now in the US, published by William Morrow.

Ashley Dyer:
Collaborating in (fictional) murder is fun! 

The writer’s perspective 

How we met 

Helen and I had known each other for many years on the crime conference circuit. She’d been advising Ann Cleeves on the Vera and Shetland series from the outset, and Ann and I are friends and fellow Squaddies (members of Murder Squad, a group of crime writers based in northern England). Ann loved working with Helen, so when I started looking for a forensic adviser, I naturally approached her.

How it works 

I will come up with a story idea and usually write a short, two-to-three-page synopsis. After that, we bat ideas back and forth, talking about story, forensic procedures that might come into play, police approaches to particularly categories of crime, and so on. I mull for a bit, then start on the full outline, which may be up to 40,000 words long.

The forensic adviser’s perspective 

Helen: Usually I start talking to the TV scriptwriters at the ideas and storylines stage, checking that they are actually feasible. Once the script writing is properly underway I’ll receive queries that normally start with “what would happen if . . .” or “how can I make this happen?”. Later, I check draft scripts to for procedural inaccuracies. 

Working on the Ashley Dyer novels happens in much the same way – only more intensively. Margaret (Ashley) has an idea for a book and we’ll talk through the themes of the story and discuss the forensic elements we might exploit. She will write a detailed outline, which she sends to me for comment. Then she disappears into her office to write. We stay in touch by e-mail and phone about the work in progress, and she’ll send me batches of completed chapters for comment. This can be quite agonising, as I may have to wait several weeks for the next installment! 

Favourite forensic-type TV series? 

I can’t watch any of them. One of my main bugbears is the clothes TV CSIs wear: Pencil skirts and stilettos are really not going to work well on a building site or in woodland. 

Does it matter that you get procedural elements right? 

We think it does – but then we would, wouldn’t we? However, Splinter In The Blood had some rave reviews in the run-up to the release, receiving a coveted ‘starred’ review from Publishers Weekly, and PW, Booklist and Kirkus reviews, as well as from bloggers and authors. Pretty much all of them commented on the procedural authenticity and power of the forensic elements.

Inspiration for the story: 

Margaret: My earliest jottings on Splinter In The Blood date back to April 2014. It began with an image: a woman with a gun standing over a shooting victim. I wrote, ‘She looks down at him and feels anger and contempt, but also regret.’ I was mystified. She must know the man – you don’t feel such a conflicting mix of emotions unless you know a person – but I had no clue how. I was even more baffled when she began systematically to destroy and then recreate evidence at the scene. It turns out that this is Detective Sergeant Ruth Lake, and the shooting victim is her boss, Chief Inspector Greg Carver.

We learn that a serial killer dubbed the ‘Thorn Killer’ has abducted and murdered five victims using an ancient and excruciatingly painful method of ‘thorn-tapping’. I’ve traced that macabre little detail back to an exhibition at The Wellcome Trust in London in 2010. I was in the city for a meeting, and had a few hours to spare before catching my train home, so I popped in. ‘Skin’ told the story of ritual skin-marking (including tattoos) in pictures, etchings, and even samples of human skin. I was both repulsed and compelled; it haunted me, and I suppose it was inevitable that tattoos would eventually find their way into a story.

Helen: Given a couple of hours to spare in London, I might think, “Oh, good – time for shopping”, or “Mm . . . coffee and cake!”. It’s telling that Margaret’s first thought is to go and look at an exhibition of flayed skin… 

After the shooting, Carver wakes from a coma with a form of synaesthesia. Commonly, a person with the condition might associate a particular word with a colour. Say “envelope”, and they might see yellow, for instance. But numbers, days of the week, sounds and even tastes can trigger colours for a synaesthete. David Hockney, Vladimir Nabukov and Billy Joel, are (or were) synaesthetic. Researching the phenomenon, I found that a few brain trauma survivors do see auras, so I felt okay about having Carver read body language and mood as colour and light. The notion was partly inspired by my own experience: in my early-to-mid thirties, I’d suffered several TIAs – mini-strokes – as a result of a flare of Lupus, after which I experienced, among other things, phantom aromas and distortions of visual perception, one of which is termed the ‘Alice in Wonderland effect’, after Alice’s strange growing and shrinking bouts.

Pros and cons of collaboration 

Pros: I have privileged access to up-to-the-minute advances in forensics and policing, plus a reduced risk of making a complete fool of myself! Helen has attending many thousands of crime scenes, so she knows how they are dealt with, and how people behave, too – so her knowledge also informs character and situation, as well as procedural details. Helen will always go the extra mile to find ingenious solutions to procedural problems, and a big bonus is we’ve had lots of laughs working on the Carver & Lake series. Touring is a lot more fun when you have someone to chat and relax with after all the buzz of a gig.

Cons – None for me as the writer, but I’m not the one who has to deal with a temperamental author…


Website: For all you need to know about Team Dyer 
Facebook: @AshleyDyerNovels Visit us here for microblogs and videos on the novels, forensics and writing 
Twitter: @AshleyDyer2017 – for quick updates, banter, and events 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Editor


2018 McIlvanney Prize Shortlist: Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The winner will be announced on September 21 at the opening gala at the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling at Bloody Scotland.

Forty-one years ago, William McIlvanney rocked the British literary world with Laidlaw, a gritty and socially conscious crime novel that brought Glasgow to life more vividly than anything before. This year’s longlistees for the McIlvanney Prize demonstrate how modern Scottish crime writing has flourished from those seeds. From debutants to authors with more than 20 books, spy thrillers to long-running detective series, nineteenth-century mysteries to futuristic space station noir, there’s an amazing range of talent on show. – Craig Sisterson, chair of the 2018 judges  

2018 McIlvanney Prize Shortlist

Lin Anderson, Follow the Dead (Macmillan)
Chris Brookmyre, Places in the Darkness (Little, Brown)
Mason Cross, Presumed Dead (Orion)
Charles Cumming, The Man Between (Harper Collins)
Oscar De Muriel, The Loch of the Dead (Michael Joseph)
Helen Fields, Perfect Death (Harper Collins)
Alison James, Now She’s Gone (Bookouture)
Liam McIlvanney, The Quaker (Harper Collins)
James Oswald, No Time to Cry (Headline)
Caro Ramsay, The Suffering of Strangers (Severn House)
Andrew Reid, The Hunter (Headline)
Craig Robertson, The Photographer (Simon & Schuster)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SHAKEN NOT STIRRED: James Bond's Vesper Martini

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

Cartoon of the Day: Siamese

Monday, June 18, 2018

LEVINE GRILLS LASSITER by Paul Levine & Jake Lassiter

By Paul Levine and Jake Lassiter 

Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, first appeared in Paul Levine’s To Speak for the Dead in 1990. Nearly three decades later, Lassiter is still banging heads in the courtroom in the just released Bum Deal. Why does he switch teams and decide to prosecute a murder case, and why is this the last book of the series? Does Lassiter have C.T.E., the fatal brain disease afflicting former football players? Author and Hero trade punches about what it all means.

Paul: Sit down, Jake, and take a load off.

Jake: You busting my chops about my weight, noodle neck? 

Paul: What are you these days, two-fifty, two-fifty-five?

Jake: You’re the one who writes the descriptions, scribbler. I remember in Mortal Sin, you said I looked like a young Harrison Ford. 

Paul: These days, it’s more like an old Ford pickup. I shouldn’t have fed you so many burgers, poured you so many beers.

Jake: I’m as health conscious as the next guy, as long as the next guy is sitting on a bar stool. 

Paul: Maybe if you’d evolved into a modern man, you’d have a longer run.

Jake: Sorry that you can’t find my mug on Instagram. And that I don’t have a life coach, an aroma therapist, or a manicurist. And I sure as hell don’t do Pilates. 

Paul: Forget all that. Let’s talk about Bum Deal.

Jake: I’ve seen the promos. “Jake Lassiter: The Final Chapter?” What’s with that malarkey? 

Paul: You’re outdated and obsolete. And the word “malarkey” went out with spats and knickers.

Jake: Yeah, well you’re a nincompoop. What about the book? 

Paul: Bum Deal is the last of the series. That’s all.

Jake: That’s all! I got no life outside those pages. 

Paul: Time to hang up the briefcase, just like you hung up your cleats.

Jake: I didn’t retire. The Dolphins cut me, and I went to night law school. 

Paul: Same deal here. You’ve lost a step in the courtroom. Face it, you’re getting along in years.

Jake: Look who’s talking! When are you moving into the Old Writers’ Home? 

Paul: Deal with it, Jake. You’ve got brain damage from all those concussions playing football. You lose your train of thought. You’re more ornery than usual.

Jake: Look who’s talking, or did I already say that? 

Paul: In Bum Deal, you switch sides and prosecute.

Jake: The hell you say! I’d never do that. 

Paul: See, the ink is barely dry, and you’ve already forgotten. You’re appointed to prosecute a surgeon accused of killing his wife. Only one problem, or maybe three. No witness, no evidence, and no body.

Jake: That is a bum deal! You’re setting me up to lose. 

Paul: Aren’t you the guy who says, “If your cause is just, no case is impossible.”

Jake: That’s your wordsmithery. I just say the lines you feed me. 

Paul: Oh, one more thing. Your pals Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord defend the case.

Jake: Who? 

Paul: See what I mean about your thought processes.

Jake: I’m just messing with you, word boy. But, please not Solomon and Lord. I taught those two kids all my tricks. 

Paul: Sorry, Jake. You’ll just have to dig deep and try something new. How about sticking to the rules, standing by the facts, and living with the outcome?

Jake: Why do writers always say things in series of three? 

Paul: Probably because it’s pleasing to the ear, easy on the brain, and part of our hard-wiring.

Jake: Hilarious, pencil pusher. Say, why would I want to prosecute, anyway? My heart is with the little guy, not the behemoth of the state. 

Paul: You’re burned out. Too many guilty clients over too many years.

Jake: There’s truth in that. I lose a lot. Or plead my guy guilty. It’s a dirty little secret, but that’s the deal with most criminal defense lawyers. If anyone knew our real winning percentage, they’d jump bail and flee to Argentina. 

Paul: You’ve said that before, Jake. In Bum Luck. Remember?

Jake: Not my fault you’ve got so little imagination that I repeat myself, carbon copy boy. Bum Luck. Bum Rap. Bum Deal. What’s the next one, Bum Book? 

Paul: You forget already? No next book. This is it. The end. The final chapter. Finis. No más.

Jake: Jeez, you’re depressing me. 

Paul: Maybe this will cheer you up. Dr. Melissa Gold, an esteemed neuropathologist, takes an interest in you, during and after office hours. The two of you really connect.

Jake: So just as I’m losing my marbles, you’re giving me a lady that lasts? Is that fair? 

Paul: That’s life, pal.

Jake: I hope you get carpal tunnel in both arms, smart guy. You got any other happy news? 

Paul: Bum Deal is available in ebook, trade paperback, and audio. What else do you need to know?

Jake: Just tell me, this, you grim storytelling reaper. Is the last scene in the book my funeral? 

Paul: Would I do that to you, Jake? Really. Would I?


The author of 21 novels, Paul Levine won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and was nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, Shamus and James Thurber prizes. A former trial lawyer, he also wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama "JAG" and co-created the Supreme Court drama "First Monday" starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. The international bestseller To Speak for the Dead was his first novel. His most recent books are Bum Rap (a Number One Amazon Kindle bestseller), Bum Luck, described by Bookreporter as "a one-sit, must-read novel full of memorable characters and unforgettable vignettes," and the newly released Bum Deal, praised in a "starred review" by Publishers Weekly for its "fascinating, fully developed characters and smart, well-paced dialogue." Visit Paul's website at

Sunday, June 17, 2018


The Wolfe Pack announced the Nero Award Finalists for 2018.
The "Nero" is an annual award presented to an author for literary excellence in the mystery genre. The award is presented at the Black Orchid Banquet, which is traditionally held on the first Saturday in December in New York City.


The Dime by Kathleen Kent, (Mulholland Books / Little, Brown)
The Lioness is the Hunter by Loren D. Estelman (Forge)
Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Forge)
August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho)
Blood for Wine by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press)

Cartoon of the Day: Punctuation Party

Friday, June 15, 2018


The Macavity Award Nominees 2018

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 St Petersburg, FL, in September. 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 July 1, so get reading. To check if you're eligible to vote, leave a comment below with your email.

Best Mystery Novel
The Marsh King's Daughter, by Karen Dionne (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (Harper)
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)
Glass Houses, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Old Man, by Thomas Perry (Mysterious)
The Force, by Don Winslow (Wm. Morrow)

Best First Mystery Novel
Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
The Dry, by Jane Harper (Flatiron)
She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper (Ecco)
The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal (Wm. Morrow)
The Last Place You Look, by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur)
Lost Luggage, by Wendall Thomas (Poisoned Pen)

Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction
From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon, by Mattias Bostrom (Mysterious Press)
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, by Martin Edwards (Poisoned Pen/British Library)
Chester B. Himes: A Biography, by Lawrence P. Jackson (W.W. Norton)
The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James (Scribner)
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury)
Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History, by Tori Telfer (Harper Perennial)

Best Mystery Short Story
“As Ye Sow,” by Craig Faustus Buck, in Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017 (Down and Out Books)
“The #2 Pencil,” by Matt Coyle, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books)
“Infinite Uticas,” by Terence Faherty (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017)
“Whose Wine is it Anyway?” Barb Goffman, in 50 Shades of Cabernet (Koehler Books)
“Windward,” by Paul D. Marks, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books)
“A Necessary Ingredient,” by Art Taylor, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (Down & Out Books)

Sue Feder Memorial Award: Best Historical Mystery
Dangerous to Know, by Renee Patrick (Forge)
The Devouring, by James R. Benn (Soho Crime)
In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen (Lake Union Publishing)
Cast the First Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)
Racing the Devil, by Charles Todd (Wm. Morrow)
A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Left Coast Crime 2020: Murder's a Beach!

Left Coast Crime 2020 Murder’s a Beach

Registration is now open for LCC 2020 in San Diego, California, March 12-15, 2020. Registration includes a Welcome Reception, two special Breakfasts, the Awards Banquet, and admission to all panels and interviews with Guests of Honor and Special Guests. Early registration fee of $195 extends through March 31, 2019, the close of LCC 2019 Vancouver: Whale of a Crime.
Online Registration

San Diego Marriott Mission Valley 
All convention events will take place at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley. Just minutes away from the San Diego International Airport and within easy reach of all that San Diego has to offer, Mission Valley and Old Town are a great place to call home base. Conveniently located in the center of San Diego county, the area is within a 15 minute drive of the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, and Downtown Gaslamp District, and offers a wealth of affordable accommodations, family friendly dining options, and great shopping at both the Fashion Valley and Mission Valley malls. Our conference rate of $169 is also available three days before and after the convention if registrants choose to extend their stay and explore San Diego. Registrants will receive the hotel code when reservations open in April 2019.

More information about LCC 2020.

LCC 2020 Special Guests 

Guest of Honor: Rachel Howzell Hall

Guest of Honor: T. Jefferson Parker

Toastmaster: Matt Coyle

Fan Guest of Honor: Mysterious Galaxy Books

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

FATHER'S DAY CRIME FICTION: Fathers & Sons; Fathers & Daughters

Father's Day. My father passed away 15 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 miles away.

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!

The following are updated lists! As always let me know any titles that you think should be included.

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 Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne 
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
Lars and Little Olduvai by Keith Spencer Felton
Unsub by Meg Gardner   
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 Senior Sleuths: Dead in Bed by Marcia Rosen
The Father by Anton Swenson

Monday, June 11, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO NOIR: Guest Post by Paul D. Marks

Paul D. Marks:
San Francisco Noirs

When I talk to people about film noir they generally tend to bring up L.A. and New York as the best known locations for noir movies. San Francisco seems to slip under the radar. So I wanted to talk about film noirs set in and around the City by the Bay. Some of my favorite noir films are set there: Born to Kill, D.O.A., Lady from Shanghai, Out of the Past. And neo noirs like Pacific Heights. This is not an analysis of San Francisco noirs, just a few personal comments. Nor is it a complete list.


Born to Kill – One of my favorite noirs, but you’ll want to shower after you hang with this crew. Lawrence Tierney’s Sam Wild is an amoral psychopath, equaled only by Claire Trevor’s Helen. Elisha Cook, Jr. is terrific as always. This movie has one of my favorite lines of any movie: Delivery Boy: “My, that coffee smells good. Ain't it funny how coffee never tastes as good as it smells.” Arnett (Walter Slezak) responds: “As you grow older, you'll discover that life is very much like coffee: the aroma is always better than the actuality. May that be your thought for the day.” Locations include the Sutro Mansion and the Ferry Building.

Dark Passage – I had seen this movie 2-3 times and really liked it. I knew it was based on a novel but I wasn’t sure about the writer: David Goodis. Eventually, I went and looked him up. And started buying his books, starting with this one. This was before the internet, so I had to get the books the old-fashioned way. I had to hunt them down and buy them used as they were out of print. I started reading and fell in love with Goodis, called the “poet of the losers” by Geoffrey O’Brien. My fave book is Down There (aka Shoot the Piano Player after the movie by Francois Truffaut. Personally, I like the book much better). Dark Passage uses several terrific San Francisco locations. The most recognizable is Lauren Bacall’s apartment: The Malloch Apartment Building at 1360 Montgomery Street. Still there and still looking terrific. I love this place – I want to live there! Also the Filbert Steps, Filbert Street, The Tamalpais Building, Golden Gate Bridge, San Quentin (San Francisco adjacent).

D.O.A. – The ultimate “high concept” movie. A man finds out he’s been “murdered” (poisoned) and before the poison kills him tries to find who the killer is. I’ll watch this any time it comes on TV and if it doesn’t I’ll stick in a DVD. I like to have a fix at least once a year. Locations include, Justin Herman Plaza, the current site of The Fisherman bar/club, where Edmond O’Brien gets poisoned. The St. Francis Hotel, now the Westin St. Francis. The Mark Hopkins. Powell and California streets, the Southern Pacific Memorial Hospital, the Embarcadero. Various background shots. And as a bonus the amazing Bradbury Building in Los Angeles (semi San Francisco adjacent). 

Lady from Shanghai – A good noir by (and with) Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth that travels the world with a terrific climax in a funhouse hall of mirrors at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco. Other locations include the Mandarin Theatre, Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, the Steinhart Aquarium, Sausalito. I liked the climax scene of this so much I adapted it for my early website logo. 

The Lineup – Two stone-cold killers smuggle dope into the country via unsuspecting travelers. A good movie. I like it, but it’s not one of my faves. That said, it has a laundry list of terrific San Francisco locations. The two most interesting to me are the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House, maybe because they’re the least familiar to me. Sutro burned down, but the Cliff House is still there. Other locations include the Embarcadero, Steinhart Aquarium, Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge, the Legion of Honor Museum, the Mark Hopkins Hotel and more. So if you want a tour of 1958 San Francisco, this is your ticket.

The Maltese Falcon – A classic. What can you say. But the problem with many older movies is that they’re mostly studio bound. “Set” in SF with some background location shots at the Golden Gate Bridge, Bush Street, and the Ferry Building.

Out of the Past – One of my top 3 film noirs (with Double Indemnity and Postman Always Rings Twice, the Garfield-Turner version). Set in northern California, a rural town, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. Again, mostly studio bound for the San Francisco city scenes. Mostly background shots for the locations. They did, however, shoot on location for some of the more rustic shots.

This Gun for Hire? – Based on a novel by Graham Greene. The first of 7 teamings with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and one of the best, though my fave would be the Blue Dahlia (scripted by Raymond Chandler). Though partially set in San Francisco, the film itself is very studio bound and it doesn’t appear any actual scenes were shot on location.

Vertigo – Tied for my fave Hitchcock movie (with the Lady Vanishes, though Vertigo is the much better film). Set in San Francisco and along the coast. This flick is a surrealistic daydream, or should I say nightmare. The movie is a guided tour of 1958 Baghdad by the Bay. From Fort Point at the Presidio, where Madeleine jumps into the bay, to Scottie’s apartment at 900 Lombard Street. The Essex Club on Montgomery, which doubled as Ernie’s Restaurant in the movie. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, where Madeleine visits the portrait of Carlotta Valdes. Muir Woods, Mission Dolores, Mission San Juan Bautista and more, all visually stunning in the movie.


Basic Instinct – Controversial Neo-Noir that makes use of plenty of San Francisco and adjacent locations. Another ramble through the streets of San Francisco that takes us from Catherine Tramell’s Pacific Heights mansion to Telegraph Hill. From Chinatown to Stinson Beach, Big Sur, the Hall of Justice, Steinhart Aquarium, the Embarcadero and North Beach, among many other sites.

Bullitt – Steve McQueen’s out to get his man in this one. You don’t need me to tell you what it’s about. Famous for its celebrated chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. Bullitt roars through Russian Hill, the no longer existent Embarcadero Freeway, the Marina District and more. Other locations include Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church, the Thunderbird Hotel, now the Clarion. Bullitt’s apartment on Taylor Street. North Beach, San Francisco International Airport, SF General Hospital, SF PD HQ on Bryant. And the usual more.

The Conversation – Francis Ford Coppola’s excursion into paranoia, makes use of many San Francisco locations, including Portrero Hill, where Harry Caul’s (Gene Hackman’s) workshop is. Alamo Square, the Financial District. Neiman Marcus in Union Square and Union Square. Cathedral Hill. And the usual mas.

Dirty Harry – Love ’im or hate ’im, DH will make your day. Harry blazes his way through a ton of San Francisco locations. I’m surprised there’s anything left of the city in his wake. He tears through Kezar Stadium, Golden Gate Park. Marina Green in the Marina District. The Holiday Inn downtown. California Hall. City Hall. The Hall of Justice on Bryant Street. Mission Dolores makes another appearance, where Harry gets off the street car to use a phone booth. SF General Hospital. Noriega Street, where Scorpio commandeers the school bus. The Roaring 20’s Nightclub on Broadway, where Harry surveils Scorpio. Chinatown. Washington Square, North Beach. The Dante Building where Scorpio is looking for a victim and spotted by a helicopter. 

Final Analysis – This flick doesn’t get great ratings, but I like it a lot. Richard Gere, Kim Bassinger and Uma Thurman in a twisty story that reminds me of Hitchcock and might have been something he would have done if he was still around. Some interesting scenes, reminiscent of Hitchcock at Pigeon Point Light Station in Pescadero, California, which I’d call SF adjacent. Bix Restaurant at 56 Gold Street, SF. The Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The SF Courthouse. Golden Gate Bridge. City Hall.

Pacific Heights – This is one of my guilty pleasure movies. Not really – I really like this. It’s totally creepy. Because it’s not all that far-fetched. I don’t think the Zombie Apocalypse is going to come and get me. But a creep like Michael Keaton’s character, who takes over your life, that can happen. While supposedly located in Pacific Heights the Pacific Heights house is actually on Portrero Hill. Also Chinatown, the financial district. And SF in general.

So there you have it. A mini noir tour of the streets of San Francisco.


Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn.” Broken Windows, the sequel, is being released on 9/10/18. His story Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. Bunker Hill Blues came in #6 in the 2017 Readers Poll. Howling at the Moon (EQMM 11/14) was short-listed for both the 2015 Anthony and Macavity Awards. Midwest Review calls his novella Vortex “… a nonstop staccato action noir.” The anthology Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, co-edited by Marks, is nominated for an Anthony Award. And his story from it, Windward, has been selected for the 2018 Best American Mystery Stories (fall 2018), edited by Louise Penny & Otto Penzler, and is also nominated for a Shamus Award.