Friday, May 31, 2019

Ten Fun Things I Learned about Prohibition Cocktails: Guest Post by Susanna Calkins

Susanna Calkins:
Ten fun things I learned about Prohibition cocktails when writing my new series

When I first started writing my new series, The Speakeasy Murders, set in 1920s Chicago, I knew I was going to have to start doing some cocktail research. I didn’t know much about cocktails other that they pre-dated Prohibition, but became popular in the 1920s. I also knew that juices, sugar, honey, fruits, spices, herbs, and eggs were all added to different liquors to mask the terrible taste of the swill they were imbibing.

So as any good writer would do, I thought I should do authentic research on cocktails. And how better to do this than vowing to try one hundred Prohibition-era cocktails by the time my book came out. Gin Rickeys, Bees’ Knees, Aviations, Gin Blossoms...I was ready! But, I got through about 35 concoctions and hit the absinthe-based ones and I basically gave up on that ridiculous quest. So instead I turned to 1920s-era newspapers, where I learned ten intriguing things about Prohibition-era cocktails:

1. Cocktails make women too masculine! Early on in the Prohibition, women were warned to “shun liquor or have beards.” By 1923, there was a sense among some scientists that “the number of women having slight growths of hair on their lips and chins has increased 10 per cent....The opinion of the majority is that the increasing masculinism [sic] of modern women is making them like men.” Right! Blame the cocktail for social change.

2. Fresh air and a new hat are the only cocktails women need! Contemporary syndicated columnist Antoinette Donnelly wrote regular features on health and beauty, with headlines like: “Imbibe plenty of fresh air cocktails,” “Cosmetics act as mental cocktail to lots of people,” and my favorite, “A new hat is often just the cocktail a weary girl needs.” Why have real cocktails (which will only make you masculine), when you can be rejuvenated by your own beauty or a walk in the park?

3. Children will be damaged if they witness parent’s “Whoopie” (cocktail drinking)! Paraphrasing an expert on parents and children, the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote in 1929: “The child, no matter how young, knows it when the parents have gone to cocktail parties and such.” Way to blame the parents!

4. Cocktails can test true love! Throughout the decade, important questions about cocktails regularly appeared in the advice columns. After Doris Blake posed to her readers, “Is it so clever for girls living in an apartment to keep a gin cupboard stocked for “callers?” Two young women explained, rather wisely, that “If you want to find out what stuff friends are made of, put them on a dry evening. The good ones will stick, but watch the rest flee.” Greater wisdom just cannot be found.

5. Cocktail shakers banned from the movies! In 1927, Will H. Hayes, president of the Motion Picture Producers and Exhibitors’ Association of America, proclaimed that “no picture will thereby be allowed to enter any shot of drinking scenes, manufacture or sale of liquor, or undue effects of liquor, which are not necessary parts of the story.” Clearly just the sight of a cocktail shaker could drive a person to drink. And distribute. And sell.

6. Cocktails cause death! For the first seven years of Prohibition, it was common for people to illegally re-distill woodgrain alcohol (methanol intended for industrial purposes), making it reasonably palatable. Though drug stores carried signs warning people not to drink woodgrain alcohol, they also posted signs above emetics in case someone did anyway. So there were occasional deaths from “bad hooch,” which people seemed to take in stride. This attitude changed in 1927, however, when the U.S. government created a new formula for industrial alcohol, seeking to deliberately denature the alcohol with a new chemical formula that basically doubled the poison in the substance. Massive fatalities resulted from the poisoned hooch over the next few years, with 33 people dying in 3 days in New York in 1928, but the formula wasn’t changed. The U.S. government was essentially condoning and supporting murder.

7. Cocktails bring about “war on chemists!” In 1927, soon after the U.S. government made the change to the woodgrain alcohol mentioned above, Prohibition agents (“Drys”) began to target chemists who were aiding and abetting bootleggers. As the Acting Prohibition Commissioner explained, “We have found that some of the chemists derive much of their income from the practice of testing liquor for the bootleg trade.” Essentially, they would rather people die than be allowed to test the alcohol for poison.

8. Cocktails cause another Great War! For years, the European elite spoke disdainfully of cocktails, most likely alarmed by the pernicious spread of the “cocktail disease from America” through the continent. As one famed French columnist noted, “These drinks have aromas like that of old vegetables, cheese boxes, etc. that are displayed in the refuse cans on a Paris morning.” But in 1928 a number of newspapers across Italy wrote simultaneous condemnations of cocktails, which may have been more of a comment on Mussolini’s hold on the press, than actual refutation of the drink.

9. Cocktail-related items made great gifts! In 1928, newsmen across New York noted how the new dry laws had caused stores to fill their windows with “Prohibition by-products,” just in time for the Christmas holiday. The “thirsty-minded” were enticed to buy such things as automatic cocktail shakers, collapsible spoons, funnels, corkscrews, liquor testing devices, “leather encased hip flasks to survive a taxi crash,” and travelling bags fitted up like a miniature bar. Shoppers could also buy supplies to make their own hooch, including hops, grapes, and barrels. They could even buy tailored clothes with hidden pockets for their flasks. Who doesn’t need a collapsible spoon?

10. Oh, and the cocktail napkin was invented in the 1920s. No one seems to know when or why, but I’m assuming they needed something to spit their drinks into when the rotgut overran the juices and sugars. 

Susanna Calkins, author of The Speakeasy Murders and award-winning Lucy Campion historical series, holds a PhD in history and teaches at the college level. Her historical mysteries have been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark and Agatha awards, among many others, and The Masque of a Murderer received a Macavity. Originally from Philadelphia, Calkins now lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons. Learn more at

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Martin Edwards reports on his blog that crime writer Anthony Price passed away earlier today at the age of 91. Anthony Price was the author of espionage thrillers. Born in Hertfordshire, England,  he attended The King's School, Canterbury, and served in the British Army from 1947 to 1949, reaching the rank of Captain. He read History at Merton College, Oxford from 1949 to 1952, and was awarded an MA in 1956. Price was a journalist with the Westminster Press from 1952 to 1988, as well as an editor with the Oxford Times from 1972 to 1988. He was the author of nineteen novels in the Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series. He won both the CWA Gold and Silver Daggers.

Read Martin Edward's post on Do You Write Under Your Own Name? here.

Read The Book You Have to Read: "The Labryinth Makers," by Anthony Price on The Rap Sheet

Read an Interview with Anthony Price on Existential Ennui.

Cartoon of the Day: Cats

DEAD STILL: A new Irish period mystery

From Deadline:

Acorn TV has partnered with Irish broadcaster RTÉ on its latest drama co-production – period mystery Dead Still. The show will launch the six-part series in 2020.

Set in 1880s Ireland in the Victorian era heyday of postmortem photography, the period drama follows a renowned memorial photographer as he investigates the murders of his recently deceased subjects.

Written by John Morton (People Like Us) and directed by Imogen Murphy (Red Rock) and Craig David Wallace (Slasher), Acorn TV has rights in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom; co-premiere rights in Canada; and secondary rights in Ireland. ZDF Enterprises will distribute the series in the rest of the world. It was developed with the support of Screen Ireland and Creative Europe.

The show stars Luther’s Michael Smiley, Game of Thrones’ Kerr Logan, Brooklyn’s Eileen O’Higgins, Jackie’s Aidan O’Hare, Clean Break’s Jimmy Smallhorne, Mark Rendall (Versailles), Peter Campion (Derry Girls) and Martin Donovan (Big Little Lies).
Dead Still is executive produced by Paul Donovan, Ailish McElmeel, Christina Jennings, and Scott Garvie, and produced by Suzanne McAuley.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Detectives and their Drinks

I was reading the Wall Street Journal a few years ago and came across a cocktail that seemed destined for this blog:

The Cheap Detective (from Michel Dozois of Ray's and Stark Bar, LACMA, L.A.)
2 ounces T. Germain
1 ounce Cynar
3/4 ounce Campari
Grapefruit wedge
Stir with ice and strain into a coupe.
Garnish with a grapefruit wedge

O.K. the drink instructions had me going to the dictionary. I've never tasted cynar or Germain.. and a coupe? well that's the wide mouth champagne glass you see in so many old movies.

So this got me thinking. I've posted many martini and champagne cocktail recipes, mostly at the New Year and on special James Bond posts, but what other 'detective' drinks were out there? Here's a sampling. Be sure and scroll down to the Nick and Nora video!

Black Dahlia Martini at the Gallery Bar
The Black Dahlia is named after Elizabeth Short, the notorious victim who walked out of the Millennium Biltmore and was later found mutilated in Leimert Park. She later became known as the “Black Dahlia,” a derivative of Raymond Chandler’s popular novel, The Blue Dahlia, and the crime became one of the most publicized in the history of the city.

Fill a mixing glass with ice
3 1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/4 oz Black Raspberry Liqueur
1/4 oz Coffee Liqueur
Strain into chilled glass
Garnish with orange

Chandler Cocktail
A Chandler cocktail is a very strong, fruity cocktail that has a mildly sweet taste, followed by a heavily alcoholic finish.

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with crushed ice.
Add lime vodka, mango vodka, orange gin, vanilla schnapps, heavy cream and sweetened lime juice to the cocktail shaker.
Cover the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Don't worry about bruising the gin.
Strain the contents of the shaker into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish the finished cocktail with a freshly sliced lemon wheel and serve while ice cold.

The Gimlet (from Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide) 
The Gimlet was first popularized in America when Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe introduced the cocktail in The Long Goodbye. To quote Chandler: “A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”

2 oz. gin
1 oz. Rose’s Lime Juice
Garnish: Lime wedge
Glass: Cocktail or Rocks
Pour gin and lime juice into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge. The Gimlet can also be served on the rocks in an Old-Fashioned glass.
See also: The Rap Sheet: A Gimlet for Mr. Chandler (4/15/09)

Perhaps Nick Charles is the most famous sleuth imbiber of cocktails. The constant drinking of this bantering couple never hampered their investigative skills - quite the opposite, in fact. "Can't you say anything about the case?" a detective asks. "Yes," Nick grumbles. "It's putting me way behind in my drinking." Here are two:

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

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

Of course, most detectives just keep a bottle of whiskey in their desk drawer. Not as much fuss. Always available.

Sunday, May 26, 2019


I'm not sure I mentioned that Unforgotten Series 3 was on PBS. Hope you caught it when it was on in April. If not, you can watch the entire series on PBS Passport. Subscribe to your local station (at a certain dollar amount), and you will have extended access to over 1500 episodes of your favorite shows.

But back to Unforgotten Series 3. This has to be the best yet. Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) and Sanjeev Bhaskar (The Indian Doctor) star as police officers investigating cold case murders. In series 3 they investigate the murder of a young girl found buried near a busy highway. Unforgotten is unique in its detective and team interactions. With each series, the storyline unfolds over 6 episodes, each more impactful than the last, introducing new characters and situations, and finally wrapping it all up. I don't want to give away too much, but if this show has been off your radar, it's time to bring it forward. You can still watch the first two seasons on PBS Passport (and probably elsewhere). Unforgotten is brilliant! Great acting, terrific writing, and a very satisfying mystery!

And, in case you're wondering, there will be a Series 4.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

ARTHUR ELLIS AWARDS for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing

2019 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing

The annual Arthur Ellis Awards by Crime Writers of Canada recognizes the best in mystery, crime, and suspense fiction and crime nonfiction by Canadian authors. Winners were announced last night at the Arthur Ellis Awards Gala in Toronto. 

Anne Emery,
Though the Heavens Fall, ECW Press

BEST FIRST CRIME NOVEL (Sponsored by Rakuten Kobo)
A.J. Devlin,
Cobra Clutch, NeWest Press

BEST CRIME NOVELLA The Lou Allin Memorial Award
John Lawrence Reynolds,
Murder Among the Pines, Orca Book Publishers

BEST CRIME SHORT STORY (Sponsored by Mystery Weekly Magazine)
Linda L. Richards, Terminal City, Vancouver Noir, Akashic Books

Hervé Gagnon, Adolphus - Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, Libre Expression

Linwood Barclay,
Escape, Puffin Canada

Sarah Weinman,
The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World, Alfred A. Knopf Canada

BEST UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT aka The Unhanged Arthur (Sponsored by Dundurn Press)  
Liv McFarlane, The Scarlet Cross

About Crime Writers of Canada
Crime Writers of Canada was founded in 1982 as a professional organization designed to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers. Members include authors, publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and literary agents as well as many developing authors. Past winners of the “Arthurs” have included such major names in Canadian crime writing as Mario Bolduc, Gail Bowen, Stevie Cameron, Howard Engel, Barbara Fradkin, Louise Penny, Peter Robinson and Eric Wright.

For more information about the awards, please contact:
Ludvica Boota, Arthur Ellis Awards Manager,


Did you know that 53% of Americans will be barbecuing this Memorial Day weekend? Will you?

I posted my updated Memorial Day Crime Fiction list yesterday, so I thought I'd update my Barbecue Mysteries list, too. There are so many ways one can murder someone at a barbecue, from the sauce to the skewers to the grill, not to mention the tiny wires on the barbecue brush (true crime!). Here's an updated short list of Barbecue Mysteries. Let me know if I've forgotten any titles!

Barbecue Mysteries

Delicious and Suspicious, Hickory Smoked Homicide, Finger Lickin' Dead, Rubbed Out by Riley Adams  (Elizabeth Craig Spann) - The Memphis BBQ Mystery Series
Bad Move by Linwood Barclay
Murder, Basted and Barbecued by Constance Turner
Murder Well-Done by Claudia Bishop
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron
Topped Chef by Lucy Burdette
Several of the recent Dan Rhodes books by Bill Crider
Murder at the Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival by Gene Davis
The Grilling Season by Diane Mott Davidson
Memphis Ribs by Gerald Duff
Murder Can Singe Your Old Flame by Selma Eichler
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
The Politics of Barbecue by Blake Fontenay
Grilling the Subject by Daryl Wood Gerber
City of Saviors by Rachel Howzell Hall
Barbecue, Bourbon and Bullets by M.E. Harmon
Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes
The Big Barbecue by Dorothy B. Hughes
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
The Sheriff and..  (series) by D. R. Meredith
Hush My Mouth by Cathy Pickens
Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham
The King is Dead by Sarah Shankman
Stiffs and Swine by J.B. Stanley
Revenge of the Barbecue Queens by Lou Jane Temple
Murder at the Barbecue by Liz Turner
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Barbecue by A. E.H. Veenman
Death on a Platter by Elaine Viets
A Bad Day for Barbecue by Jonathan Woods
Books, Barbecue and Murder by Lori Woods

Short Stories: "Gored" by Bill Crider in Murder Most Delicious
Young Readers: The Barbecue Thief by Starike

Want a little chocolate on the barbie this weekend? 
Check out recipes on my other blog:

S'mores on the Grill  
Savory Chocolate Barbecue Sauces
Chocolate Ancho Chile Rub
Cocoa Spiced Salmon Rub 
Scharffen Berger Cacao Nib Rub for Tri Tip
Red White & Blue Brownie Stars 
Strawberries & Cream Ice Cream Pie

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Memorial Day aka Decoration Day is a day of remembrance of those men and women who who fell protecting us, of those who didn't come home. Many people go to cemeteries and memorials on the last Monday in May, and there's a tradition to fly the flag at half mast. Memorial Day in the U.S. is part of a three day holiday weekend. Many think of this weekend as the beginning of Summer, a time for Barbecues, the Beach, the Cabin, and S'mores.

But in memory of all who served their country and didn't come back, here's an updated list of Mysteries set during Memorial Day Weekend. Let me know if I've forgotten any titles. You may also want to check out my Veterans Day Mystery List.

Memorial Day Mysteries

Death is Like a Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons
Last Man Standing by David Baldacci
The Twenty Three by Linwood Barclay
Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz
The Decoration Memorial Day War by David H. Brown
Memorial Day by Sandra Thompson Brown and Duane Brown
Flowers for Bill O'Reilly: Memorial Day by Max Allan Collins
Absolute Certainty by Rose Connors
One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer Fleming (not technically Memorial day, but it fits the theme)
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn
Memorial Day by Harry Shannon
Beside Still Waters by Debbie Viguie
Who Killed the Neanderthal by Cheryl Zelenka

Children's Mysteries:

Trixie Belden: The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire by Kahryn Kenny
Sam's Top Secret Journal: Memorial Day by Sean Adelman, Siri Bardarson, Dianna Border & Andrea Hurst

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Cartoon of the Day: Dog vs Cat Commandments


Let me start with the reality that my husband and I are a little on the… uh, crazy side. Basically, we make the things most sane people buy. I make our soap, bake our bread, make some of our clothes. Michael roasts our coffee beans, smokes our bacon and makes wine. Really good wine.

May I point out that we are perfectly happy to be living in the 21st Century, are as wired up as most folks, and that the only time we live like we’re in the 19th Century is when the power goes out at the house.

Angelica is basically a version of sherry from the variety known as the mission grape. The padres made it in Los Angeles before the Americans came in and took over. The Americans continued making it for quite a while until disease, the railroads, and skyrocketing property values put the brakes on the Los Angeles wine industry in the 1880s. Yes, L.A. had a wine industry. In fact, there were wineries and European varieties being grown all over the place long before Napa Valley happened.

There were a lot of little things that got Michael making angelica and me putting it in my books. We’d gotten a chance to taste some angelica made from 100-year-old vines when Deborah Hall, of Gypsy Canyon Winery, brought some to a wine blogging conference. A friend of ours, Stuart Byles, wrote a wonderful book on the history of wine in L.A. Michael did his lecture on the zanja (or ditch) system that irrigated most of the farms in the area before William Mullholland did the work that inspired the movie Chinatown.

Michael’s lecture started me working on the story that would become Death of the Zanjero. And somewhere in all of that, Michael not only realized that there were two grape vines growing in the oldest existing structure in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe, but there were grapes growing on them. Not one to leave things alone, Michael wrote the nice people at the University of California, Davis, to find out what kind of grapes they might be. The nice people at Davis got so excited, they did the DNA on the leaves for free (it normally costs $300), and the vines were mission grapes and genetically identical to another really old vine at the Mission San Gabriel, about 9 miles away. We’re not sure how exactly how old these vines are – they could be as old as 200 years, because that’s when the adobe was built. But it could be they’re only 150 years old. Let’s just say they’re among the oldest vines in the state.

Now, Michael is the archivist for the City of Los Angeles, and being knee deep in L.A. history and all, he’s friends with the main supervisor who oversees the Avila Adobe. So, Michael asked if he could try making wines from the vines and was given permission to harvest the grapes and maintain the vines. Knowing that he was dealing with mission grapes, he got Deborah Hall’s recipe (she is the most gracious woman) and got help from another winemaking friend of ours, Wes Hagen, who is not only the winemaker for J. Wilkes, he’s the only winemaker I know who has groupies. He makes amazing wine and is the most knowledgeable and interesting winemaker I’ve ever had pour for me. How is angelica made? Well, the grapes are crushed and fermented until almost dry, then Michael adds a neutral brandy to it and lets it age for a year or so. When it’s done, it’s not as sick sweet or overly oxidized as most sherries are. Michael’s angelica has a touch of tartness to it that I really like.

During all of this, my novel was coming together. I’d decided to make my main character a widow because that is one of the few ways a woman had autonomy in the 19th Century and a sleuth, amateur and otherwise, needs some autonomy. I didn’t feel comfortable enough with Mexican culture to set the story during that period, and didn’t want to deal with the Civil War, so I set my story in 1870, when Los Angeles was still a backwater and very small, but on the cusp of becoming the major metropolis it is. And since more than one of my writing friends had suggested that I write a mystery involving winemaking, I decided that Maddie Wilcox would own a vineyard and make wine. Which, as it turned out, meant making angelica. And (if I recall correctly) I was writing my first draft of Death of the Zanjero when Michael was finishing with his first angelica. It’s been a few years. I took some time to finish my first draft, then aged it, if you will. Death of the Zanjero was released a year ago and this year, the sequel, Death of the City Marshal. Michael is working on the wine from his fourth harvest from the Avila Adobe vines. We split the finished wine with the Adobe’s fundraising foundation. They give bottles to the big donors. We just drink ours, in between all the other wines Michael makes. Or donate it to worthy causes, for which Michael has made the most amazing label, based on labels from the 19th Century, and naming the wine after Maddie’s vineyard, Rancho de las Flores.

We do not and will not sell any wine. There’s just too much competition out there, not to mention all the regulatory issues. As I noted above, we’re only a little crazy.


Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. She is the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons, with Serita Stevens, as well as author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, and the Operation Quickline series and Tyger, Tyger. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters. Visit her website at

Monday, May 20, 2019

Peter James' Roy Grace headed to TV

From The Argus:

BESTSELLING crime author Peter James has announced that his popular fictional Brighton detective Roy Grace will be on TV screens next year.

He was speaking at the official launch of his latest Roy Grace book Dead At First Sight, the 15th in the series, at the Palm Court restaurant on Brighton Palace Pier. Guests at the event included fellow crime writer Martina Cole, Brighton and Hove Mayor Dee Simson and Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

Mr James told the hundreds of guests he is “very excited” about the development. He said: “I can’t say too much about it but it’s being written by one of the best crime writers in the TV industry and it’s being produced by an old mate of mine.” Mr James said he was unable even to reveal the name of the TV company.

Peter James has 13 Sunday Times number ones under his belt, has achieved global book sales of more than 19 million copies to date and has been translated into 37 languages.

Cartoon of the Day: The Evidence

HT: Kate Derie

The Icepick Shortlist: 2019 Iceland Noir Award for Best Crime Novel in Icelandic Translation

O.K., this is a bit esoteric and the books on the list are not new in English, but it's a great list and definitely worthy of posting here. These five books have been shortlisted for the 2018 Iceland Noir Award for the Best Crime Novel in Icelandic translation. Winner to be announced in November.

 Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain;
translated by Þórdís Bachmann
 The Devotion of Suspect X, by Keigo Higashino;
translated by Ásta S. Guðbjartsdóttir
 A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena;
translated by Ingunn Snædal
 Three Days and a Life, by Pierre Lemaitre;
translated by Friðrik Rafnsson
 After the Fire, by Henning Mankell;
translated by Hilmar Hilmarsson

The winner is expected to be announced in November.

HT: The Rap Sheet

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Shortlist

2019 marks the 15th year of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. The prize was created to celebrate the very best in crime fiction and is open to UK and Irish crime authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2018 to 30 April 2019. The award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and The Mail on Sunday.

The winner will be announced at an award ceremony hosted by broadcaster Mark Lawson on July 18 on the opening night of the 17th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at the Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate.

The winner will be determined by a panel of judges, as well as by an online public vote. Balloting  begins on Monday, July 1, and closes on Sunday, July 14. During those two weeks, the Theakston Brewing Company will post a link for voting.  


Snap by Belinda Bauer – Transworld
Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh – Hachette
London Rules by Mick Herron – John Murray Press
Broken Ground by Val McDermid – Little, Brown Book Group
The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney --HarperCollins
East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman – HarperCollins

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Cartoon of the Day: Cats

Happy Caturday!

CRIME MUSEUMS: International Museum Day

I'm all about holidays, and since today is International Museum Day, I thought I'd post a list of Crime-related Museums. This is not a definitive list by any means. Feel free to add your favorites or comment on Museums you've visited.

Crime Museum: Washington D.C.
This museum includes a crime lab, the filming studios for America's Most Wanted, a simulated shooting range, a high-speed police-chase, and hundreds of interactive exhibits and artifacts pertaining to America's favorite subject.

The Mob Museum, Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement — aka The Mob Museum — is an interactive museum dedicated to the history of organized crime and law enforcement. Focuses on organized crime's impact on Las Vegas history and its unique imprint on America and the world.

The Black Museum, London, England: The Black Museum of Scotland Yard is a collection of criminal memorabilia kept at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London, England. Started in 1874, although unofficially, by 1875, it had become an official museum of the force, with a police inspector and a police constable assigned to duty there.

Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, Rothenberg, Germany. A leading museum of medieval crime. Torture instruments, shame punishments and more, it also houses a vast collection of seals and law books.

American Police Hall of Fame & Museum: Titusville, FL. The American Police Hall of Fame and Museum was founded in 1960. It is the nation's first national police museum and memorial dedicated to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

New York City Police Museum

National Law Enforcement Museum. Washington, D.C.

Other Police Museums:
Cleveland Police Museum
Phoenix Police Museum
Houston Police Museum
Portland Police Museum
New Jersey State Police Museum & Learning Center
Security Forces Museum (San Antonio, TX)
Los Angeles Police Historical Society Museum & Community Education Center
Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum
International Police Museum of Southern California
Norfolk Police & Fire Rescue Museum
Police Heritage Museum, York, PA
Silver State National Peace Officers Museum, NV
National Police Museum. Delhi, India.
National Police Museum, Finland
New Zealand Police Museum
Justice and Police Museum, Sydney, Australia


International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C. The only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on a profession that has shaped history and continues to have a significant impact on world events. The Museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display.

Bletchley Park: Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, England. Home of the Codebreakers, Enigma Machines, history and more. Surely you've seen Bletchley Circle? Visited the Churchill War Rooms? Check out the website, too, and there's also a virtual tour on the Internet.

Spy Museum. Vakoilumuseo. Tampere, Finland.

James Bond Museum: Momence, IL

The James Bond Exhibit at the Dezer Collection. Miami, FL

Any favorite crime museum I've forgotten? Make a comment? Any Museum Mysteries you'll be reading today?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stop the Presses: The Journalist in Mystery Fiction. Guest post by R.G. Belsky

by R.G. Belsky 

I’m a mystery author who follows the old adage: write what you know. Me, I know about journalists. Not surprisingly then, the protagonist in all 12 of my mystery novels has been a journalist too. The most recent book BELOW THE FOLD comes out this month. It features TV newswoman Clare Carlson who investigates the death of a homeless woman in New York and uncovers long buried dark secrets involving rich and powerful figures.

Now a journalist isn’t that common in the mystery world crowded with PIs, cops, lawyers, amateur sleuths, etc.

One of the reasons for that is writing about a journalist is a lot more challenging than a traditional mystery protagonist. A cop or a PI can use a gun to catch the criminals. A lawyer can haul people into court. But a journalist has to use words to solve cases. And, although it might be true that the pen really is mightier than the sword, well…the sword is a lot easier to make exciting in a book than a damn pen!

But there are other authors out there besides me, most of them also current or former journalists, who have been very successful using journalists as their protagonists. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorites that come to mind:

MICHAEL CONNELLY - This one may be a surprise to some because he’s most well-known for Harry Bosch, his LA homicide detective. But one of his finest books is The Poet, which has a newspaper reporter named Jack McEvoy chasing after a serial killer. Connelly has brought McEvoy back since then, most notably in The Scarecrow. Connelly himself used to be a journalist too, as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. “I sometimes still think of myself as a journalist who writes books,” Connelly has said.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN - Ryan is another author who really writes about what she knows. She’s a popular TV reporter on Boston television who has won prestigious awards as an investigative journalist, and she’s the author of many terrific best-selling mystery novels set in the fictional world of TV news. Her two series feature Jane Ryland and Charlotte McNally. No question you’re getting the real scoop from behind the cameras when you read a Hank Phillippi Ryan book.

JAMES ZISKIN - I got to know Ziskin when we were on a panel together at a mystery conference talking about this very topic of journalistic protagonists. I was intrigued to find out that he wrote about a female newspaper reporter and did it in the first person, just like I’ve done in several of my novels. He writes a wonderful series about Ellie Stone, a woman far ahead of her time as a tough-talking, hard-drinking reporter for a small upstate New York newspaper in the early 1960s - long before women were taken seriously in the media.

JULIA DAHL - Dahl and I share the distinction of being alumnae of the New York Post, although from far different eras. I was the city editor there for more than a decade during the tabloid heydays of the ‘80s. Dahl worked as a street reporter much more recently, and then used that experience to create a fascinating journalistic character in Rebekah Roberts. Rebekah’s a young reporter at a New York City tabloid paper who investigates crimes in the Hasidic community where her mother came from.

BRAD PARKS – Parks is a former investigative reporter for a New Jersey newspaper who began writing mystery novels about, wait for it….an investigative reporter for a New Jersey newspaper. Parks say his fictional reporter Carter Ross came out of a quadruple murder story he once covered in Newark. I’ve had the pleasure of being on several panels at mystery conferences with Parks where we’ve talked about everything from serious investigative journalism to the origin of the famous New York Post tabloid headline HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. He’s an interesting guy, and so are his books.

RICH ZAHRADNIK - Zahradnik is a longtime journalist at CNN and other places who writes about a New York City newspaper reporter in the ‘70s. Coleridge Taylor somehow manages to scoop the armies of reporters from all the other big city media on story after story from that turbulent era - which included such legendary events as the Son of Sam crime spree. I have a special affinity for Zahradnik’s books about 1970s New York newspapers - because I lived it as a journalist myself!

There’s a couple of other pretty notable authors out there who are ex-journalists that I want to mention here too - even if their characters aren’t usually working as actual reporters in their books.

Laura Lippman was a reporter at the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers, who created the memorable character of Tess Monaghan, a reporter who loses her job and becomes a private investigator.

And Gillian Flynn wrote for Entertainment Weekly before she got laid off and started turning out mystery thrillers - including the blockbuster Gone Girl. The two main characters, Nick and Amy Dunne, were ex-writers too who had lost their jobs, similar to her own real-life experience. And her book before that, Sharp Objects, did feature a woman newspaper reporter. “I could not have written a novel if I hadn’t been a journalist first,” she has said.

A lot of us feel that way.


R.G. Belsky is a longtime journalist and a crime fiction author in New York City. Belsky has worked as a top editor at the New York Post, the New York Daily News, Star magazine and NBC News – and covered most of the big crime stories from Son of Sam to O.J. to Jon Benet to Casey Anthony. He has also published 12 mystery novels, including his current Clare Carlson series – about a woman TV journalist. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, announced the Anthony Awards nominations. Winners will be selected at Bouchercon in Dallas, TX, October 3-November 3. Congratulations to all the nominees. See you in Dallas!


Best Novel 
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown and Company)
November Road by Lou Berney (William Morrow)
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books)
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)
Blackout by Alex Segura (Polis Books)

Best First Novel
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday)
Broken Places by Tracy Clark (Kensington)
Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver (Pegasus Books)
What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (Ecco)

Best Paperback Original Novel 
Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (William Morrow Paperbacks)
A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)

Best Short Story 
“The Grass Beneath My Feet” by S.A. Cosby, in Tough (blogazine, August 20, 2018)
“Bug Appétit” by Barb Goffman, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (November/December 2018)
“Cold Beer No Flies” by Greg Herren, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2018)
“The Best Laid Plans” by Holly West, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work 
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Mastering Plot Twists: How To Use Suspense, Targeted Storytelling Strategies, and Structure To Captivate Your Readers by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
Pulp According to David Goodis by Jay A. Gertzman (Down & Out Books)
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins)
The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman (Ecco)

The Anthony® Award is named for the late Anthony Boucher (rhymes with “voucher”), a well-known California writer and critic who wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times Book Review, and also helped found Mystery Writers of America. First presented in 1986, the Anthony Awards are among the most prestigious and coveted literary awards. Bouchercon®, the World Mystery Convention founded in 1970, is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization celebrating the mystery genre. It is the largest annual meeting in the world for readers, writers, fans, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers, and other lovers of crime fiction. 

For more information, please visit

Cartoon of the Day: Reading

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


The Strand Magazine announced the 2019 Strand Critics Awards. Winners will be announced this summer at a cocktail party in New York City.

Best Mystery Novel:
 Lullaby Road, by James Anderson (Crown)
 Transcription, by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown)
 November Road, by Lou Berney (Morrow)
 Dark Sacred Night, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
 The Witch Elm, by Tana French (Viking)
 Sunburn, by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins)

Best Debut Mystery Novel:
 Dodging and Burning, by John Copenhaver (Pegasus)
 Star of the North, by D.B. John (Crown)
 The Other Side of Everything, by Lauren Doyle Owens (Touchstone)
 The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton 
(Sourcebooks Landmark)
 Beautiful Bad, by Annie Ward (Park Row)

The Strand also announced the recipients of its latest Lifetime Achievement Awards: Heather Graham and Donna Leon. Also named was Dominique Raccah, the publisher/CEO of Sourcebooks, as its Publisher of the Year Award.

HT: The Rap Sheet