Monday, March 30, 2020

BIRTHDAY MYSTERIES: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my Birthday. Since I'm Sheltered-in-Place, I won't be celebrating with very many people, but you're welcome to celebrate virtually with me by reading one of these Birthday Themed Mysteries. Every year I get older, and the list gets longer. Raise a glass of champagne, eat a chocolate truffle, and grab a book, as you  join me Behind my Garden Gate! This is an updated list. Any titles missing? Make a comment below, and I'll add to the list!

Birthday Crime Fiction

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

Birthdays Can be Deadly by Cindy Bell
The Birthday Murderer by Jay Bennett
Birthday Can Be Murder by Joyce Cato
Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
A Catered Birthday Party by Isis Crawford
The Birthday Gift by Ursula Reilly Curtiss
The Birthday Party: Family Reunions Can Be Murder by Chari Davenport
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
The Birthday Girl by Melissa De La Cruz
There's Something about Mary by Wendy Delaney
A Birthday Secret by Nickolas Drake
Murder Can Botch Up Your Birthday by Selma Eichler
The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin
Birthday Cake and Bodies by Agatha Frost
Birthday Sprinkle Murder by Susan Gillard
Aunti Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
The Nanny by Dan Greenburg
The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris
They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
Birthday Cake Waffle by Carolyn Q. Hunter
Birthday Girl by Matthew Iden
Happy Birthday, Marge by Shari Hearn
The Birthday Treasure Mystery by Kaylee Huyser
Birthday Party by Marne Davis Kellogg
Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
Birthday Party by C.H.B Kitchin and Adrian Wright
Spiced by Gina LaManna 
The Birthday Girl by Stephen Leather
The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis
Creme Brulee Murder by Harper Lin
The Birthday Killer by W. Kay Lynn
Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride
False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
The Birthday Mystery by Faith Martin
Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier 
Many Deadly Returns by Patricia Moyes
The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page 
Birthday, Deathday by Hugh Pentecost
The Birthday Club by Jack Peterson
The Birthday Party by W. Price
Birthday Dance by Peter Robinson
The Birthday Bash by Elizabeth Sorrells
Don't Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub
Sharpe Turn by Lisa B. Thomas
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine
The Birthday Surprise by Clara Vulliamy (Children's)
The Birthday by Elizabeth Wells
The Mortician's Birthday Party by Peter Whalley
The Fortieth Birthday Body by Valerie Wolzien
The Birthday by Carol Wyer
The Birthday by Margaret Yorke

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cartoon of the Day: Cats

CALL FOR ARTICLES: ITALIAN MYSTERIES: Mystery Readers Journal (36:2)

Hope this finds you and yours safe and well and Sheltered-in-Place.

Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 36:2)

The next issue of Mystery Readers Journal will focus on mysteries set in Italy. We're looking for Reviews, Articles, and Author! Author! essays.

Reviews: 50-250 words; Articles: 250-1000 words; Author! Author! essays: 500-1500 words.

Author essays are first person, about yourself, your books, and your unique take on mysteries set in Italy connection. Think of it as chatting with friends and other writers in the bar or cafe (or on Zoom) about your work and your Italian Mysteries connection. Add a title and 2-3 sentence bio/tagline.

Deadline: April 20, 2020

Here's a link to Mystery Readers Journal. Past themed issues.

Send to: Janet Rudolph, Editor. janet @

Please forward this request to anyone you think should be included.

Subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal. Themes in 2020: Environmental Mysteries: Italian Mysteries: Senior Sleuths: Ireland

Friday, March 27, 2020


Donis Casey:
What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do 

In 2017, I wrote a novel called Return of the Raven Mocker, which was set during the influenza pandemic of 1918. No one knows for sure how many died in the flu pandemic, but modern estimates put the number at somewhere between thirty and fifty million people worldwide. Unlike today’s health emergency, the Spanish flu mainly killed young people, and was so virulent that a person would be fine in the morning and dead by nightfall. But like now, once the disease began to spread, whole communities tried to quarantine themselves. People would mark their doors with a red “X” to let their neighbors know the family was infected. There were few doctors available because of the war, so like today, nurses were the absolute heroes, keeping people fed and looked after, and often falling ill themselves.

One of the primary research materials for my novels is always the newspapers of the time, and it was fascinating to see what people knew in 1918 and when they knew it. From the perspective of 100 years on, we know how things turned out. But, like now, they had no cure and no idea what was going to happen. In the early days of the pandemic, the government actually encouraged the press to downplay the seriousness of the situation, because the war was still going on and nothing was to be allowed to interfere with war production! (Substitute “economy” for “war production. Sound familiar?) Eventually, factories all over the United States were no longer able to stay open because most of their workers were ill, and the stories in the papers began to change radically, printing all kinds of weird and generally useless advice about how to avoid becoming sick.

More than a few people died from being dosed with turpentine, coal oil, mercury, ox bile, chicken blood, and other unmentionable home remedies they were given by their well-meaning caretakers. There are modern scientists who believe that some of the deaths in the epidemic were caused by aspirin poisoning rather than the disease. Aspirin was relatively new on the market, and folks may have figured that if a little aspirin was good for fever and aches, then eating whole handfuls every hour was even better if you were really sick.

However, when you have no cure, there are old remedies that can actually be useful.

Garlic really does have antibiotic properties, and was used a lot as a treatment during the 1918 flu outbreak. I found a recipe for garlic soup in an early Twentieth Century cookbook that was guaranteed to cure the flu. (Disclaimer - it probably didn’t cure the flu, and probably won’t cure COVID-19) It called for 24 cloves of garlic to be simmered for an hour in a quart of water. That sounds like it would kill any germ that dares to try and infect you.

Ginger tea is practically a cure for nausea. Boil a slice of fresh ginger in a cup of water until the water turns golden and sip it hot. I like to sweeten mine with honey.

Dry burned toast (just charred on top) is excellent for an upset stomach and diarrhea. Well-cooked, soft rice is easy to digest, and if you simmer one part raw rice in seven parts liquid for forty minutes to an hour, the rice ends up creamy and soft and practically pre-digested. Onion is antibiotic as well. My great-grandmother swore that placing a bowl of raw onions in a sick room would absorb the ill-humors. Here is a story that was told to me by the person to whom it happened: when he was a young boy, he developed such a severe case of pneumonia that the doctor told his mother that he was not going to survive. In an act of desperation, his mother sliced up a raw onion and bound it to the bottoms of his feet with strips of sheet, then put cotton socks on him. In the morning, his fever had broken, his lungs had cleared, and the onion poultice had turned black. Is that what saved him? I don’t know. But that didn’t keep me from using the idea in my book.

In fact, I found a number of remedies that called for binding something to the feet. An 1879 cookbook recommended taking a large horseradish leaf, placing it on a hot shovel to soften if, then folding it and fastening it in the hollow of the foot with a cloth bandage. I also found foot-poultice recipes that used burdock leaves, cabbage, and mullein. All the above are guaranteed to “alleviate pain and promote perspiration”.

Chicken soup really, really does help. Your mother says so, and so does science.

My grandmother’s favorite remedy for fever, cold, or flu, was a hot toddy. She swore that this never failed to break a fever and rouse a sweat. A hot toddy is made thus:

1 teacup hot water
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 jigger Scotch whiskey

My grandmother was so enamored of this curative that she made it often, just as a preventative.

As for 2020 and this novel coronavirus, do as the doctors say. Wash your hands, Dear Readers, keep your distance, and stay safe.

Donis Casey is the author of The Wrong Girl, the first episode of a fresh new series starring Bianca LaBelle, star of the silent screen action serial, The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse. Donis is also the author of ten Alafair Tucker Mysteries, an award-winning series featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, set in Oklahoma during the booming 1910s.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


From Hallie Ephron comes the sad news of the passing of Kate Mattes, proprietor of Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and a big supporter of mysteries. I was privileged to meet her several times at Malice Domestic and Bouchercon. And, as I remember, she wanted to put in a Boston bid for Bcon, but couldn't find the right venue. That was all a long time ago. I will add to this post and link to tributes as they come in.

From Hallie Ephron on Facebook:

Sad news: Kate Mattes died yesterday. The news comes from her sister Emily McAdoo via Thomas Lyons: "Kate passed away yesterday in Vermont. It was a sudden cardiac event, and she had been in poor health and getting weaker all along." A memorial/reflection will be planned.)

Here's a bit from a blog I wrote when the bookstore closed: "Kate’s Mystery Books closed its doors after more than 20 years as New England’s premier mystery bookstore. Scores of authors and readers showed up to help Kate pack up, as in true Kate’s style she threw a packing party. It was as hard to get to an empty packing box as it was to get to the wine at one of her famous Xmas parties. I scored a cat at the yard sale.

"Every New England mystery author I know launches his or her books at Kate’s, and looking at the table of signed books (which we were specifically told NOT to pack), it was clear how Kate’s has been a stopping point for the crème de la crème of crime fiction writers. Just a few of the megastars I’ve met at Kate’s: Sue Grafton, Sarah Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Katherine Hall Page, Jane Langton...."

Cartoon of the Day: Zoom Meeting

How A Rescue Dog Spawned a Character: Guest Post by Melinda Leigh

Melinda Leigh: 
How A Rescue Dog Spawned a Character

Readers who are familiar with my work know I usually include a dog in my books. Cross Her Heart introduces Ladybug, a chubby pointer mix my heroine is manipulated into adopting in order to help her overcome her fear of dogs. This entire character storyline grew from my adoption of the actual Ladybug.

We had lost our bulldog mix to a heart attack while I was finishing up the Morgan Dane series. Roxy had been treated for heartworm when she first came to live with us. Despite treatment, she likely had suffered permanent heart damage. We were all devastated, but our other dog, a spaniel/dachshund mix we adopted ten years earlier, was devastated at the loss of his companion. This proved to be a challenge. Bandit is um… feisty. Ironically, he does not get along well with other dogs, especially males. But he clearly needed another strong female in his life. So, the search began.

There were several candidates who didn’t make the cut. Bandit hated all of them. That’s hate with a capital H.

Then we found Ladybug at a local rescue. She had just finished her own heartworm treatment, which made me hesitate in setting up a meet. We’d just lost a dog to these terrible parasites. I didn’t know if I wanted to take that risk again. But most of the strays in the South seem to be afflicted, and ultimately, my husband and I decided we would give a home to dogs that needed one, and if she had health problems, we would deal with them.

We are so very glad we made that decision. The first time Ladybug and Bandit were introduced, he growled and snapped at her. She had zero reaction. Zero. She didn’t even seem to register that he’d been a jerk. She was pleasant and happy and completely unbothered by his bad attitude. She was also cool with screaming kids, skateboards, and bouncing basketballs. She wanted to make friends with every dog and person in the park. Her tail was docked, but she wagged her whole butt. Her disposition was so lovely, I knew we’d gotten very lucky. She was perfect!

We had several more meetings, just to make sure Bandit would accept her. Once we got her into our house, he bonded with her almost immediately. We all did. I am happy to report, more than a year later, that the dogs are the best of friends. They do everything together. Bandit has even grown calmer. Some of Ladybug’s chill has clearly rubbed off on the little maniac.

Having Ladybug in my life made me think about how unintimidating she is, despite being a rather large dog. She has a goofy expression and almost never barks. Because writers are weird, it was then that the opposite situation occurred to me, and the idea of a main character with a deep-seated fear of dogs was born. How much would a fear of dogs interfere with a police detective’s job? She would be forced to work with large, aggressive K-9s in a police department. She would run across dogs in both her personal and professional life.

I already had the basis of my character. Bree Taggert was the survivor of the murder-suicide of her parents. But Bree needed a more concrete challenge to overcome, something more than a terrible past, something that would carry over into her present and make her life difficult on a daily basis. So, I gave her a childhood mauling, a terrible mental and physical scar to go along with her fear. To complicate matters further, I gave her a former K-9 cop as a counterpart.

And I gave her Ladybug. You’ll have to read Cross Her Heart to see how this all works out.

Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. After joining Romance Writers of America, she decided writing was more fun than analyzing financial statements. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s also garnered Golden Leaf and Silver Falchion Awards, along with two nominations for a RITA and three Daphne du Maurier Awards. Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, She Can Kill, Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, Midnight Obsession, Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, Seconds to Live, Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die, and Save Your Breath. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self-defense, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. For more information, visit

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WHY CAPE COD? Guest post by Maddie Day aka Edith Maxwell

MADDIE DAY aka Edith Maxwell:
Why Cape Cod?

Janet, thank you for inviting me – and my alter-ego Maddie Day – to your blog!

My latest book, Murder at the Taffy Shop is the second Cozy Capers Book Group mystery. The series is set in a fictional town on Cape Cod. I live in Massachusetts but way north at the opposite border, half a mile from New Hampshire, a drive of almost three hours. So what do I know about Cape Cod, anyway?

Five or six years ago I learned about a Quaker retreat cottage nestled behind the West Falmouth Friends meetinghouse. West Falmouth is a quiet former fishing village on enormous Buzzard’s Bay, with a west-facing coastline. I’m a Quaker of many years, and I rented the cottage for a week during the off season for a solo writing retreat. I was able to write SO much that I started going twice a year. No wi-fi in the cottage helps, too (but the public library is across the street in case of wi-fi emergency).

Artists flock to the Cape for a reason. I don’t know why, but the light is different there, colors are more intense, skies are more dramatic. And everyone has heard of iconic Cape Cod, whether they have visited in person or not. When my Kensington editor and I were tossing around ideas for this series and he suggested the Cape, I jumped on it.

I decided to create a fictional town for all the reasons authors do: I can make up streets, stores, and restaurants. I can invent a lighthouse and a beach and not worry that readers will call me out on something I got wrong. The town of Falmouth, to the south of West Falmouth (don’t ask, I have no idea, since there’s also a north Falmouth which is to the east of West Falmouth...), is a bustling coastal town. And while Cape Cod has an Eastham, it doesn’t have a Westham. Bingo – I had my cozy village.

These days my trips to West Falmouth are for research as well as super-productive writing sprees. I love checking out what’s blooming in May and the colors in October and January. I soak up the smell of the tidal pools, the sight of ospreys soaring overhead, the hues of beach rosehips ripening and poison ivy reddening.

But the cottage is rented to a family all summer, and Murder at the Taffy Shop is set in early August, peak tourist season. I love the beach, but the Cape in August? Fugeddabout it. Still, I’ve been there in early September, and I know what beachy towns are like.

This part of the Cape features the lovely Shining Sea Trail, a walking and biking path on the former railbed. Bicyclists love the Cape, because it’s pretty and mostly flat. My protagonist, Mac Almeida, owns a bike rental, repair, and retail shop, so avid cyclists and the trail feature prominently in the books. I also knew about the Falmouth Road Race, an internationally famed seven-miler held in early August. Mac’s boyfriend Tim is a runner, so that went in, too.

And then we have the somewhat meta premise of a cozy mystery about a book group that only reads cozy mysteries. Again, my editor suggested the book group idea. I was the one who took it the extra step. In my experience – and Murder at the Taffy Shop is my 20th novel – cozy fans read a lot. I mean, a lot. The group Mac is in is named the Cozy Capers – because Cape Cod. They read and discuss a book a week, which isn’t a stretch.

Westham is a cozy town with a core group of shop owners and town officials who are part of the book group. Mac is devoted to her family, who all live in town. But that doesn’t exempt her and her fellow Cozy Capers from dealing with real social and interpersonal issues. And bodies!

I love writing this series, and readers seem to be loving reading it, too.

When bike shop owner Mac Almeida heads out for a walk with her friend, she finds a horrified Gin staring at an imperious summer person, dead on the sidewalk in front of Gin’s candy shop, Salty Taffy’s. When the police find the murder weapon in Gin’s garage, the Cozy Capers book group members put their heads together to clear Gin’s name and figure out who killed the woman whom almost everyone disliked. After the killer later invades Mac’s tiny house to finish her off, Belle, Mac’s African Gray parrot, comes to the rescue. Murder at the Taffy Shop is out March 31 in a one-year paperback exclusive from Barnes & Noble.  

Readers: What are your book group experiences, or would you rather read solo? Do you prefer seaside, mountaintop, or big city downtown?


Maddie Day – aka Edith Maxwell – is a talented amateur chef and holds a PhD in Linguistics from Indiana University. An Agatha-nominated and bestselling author, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and pens the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries and the Country Store Mysteries. As Edith she writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and award-winning short crime fiction. Maddie/Edith lives with her beau north of Boston, where she’s currently working on her next mystery when she isn’t cooking up something delectable in the kitchen. She hopes you'll visit her on her web sitesign up for her monthly newsletter, and visit her as @MaddieDayAuthor on social media. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

2020 LEFTY AWARDS: Left Coast Crime

Virtual Presentation of the 2020 Lefty Awards

March 23, 2020

Welcome to the Virtual Presentation of the 2020 Lefty Awards!

The voting for the Left Coast 2020 Lefty Awards has just concluded. Thanks to everyone who voted despite the change in our usual procedure.
Please join us as we acknowledge the nominees and congratulate the winners.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Ellen Byron, Fatal Cajun Festival (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Leslie Karst, Murder from Scratch (Crooked Lane Books)
  • Cynthia Kuhn, The Subject of Malice (Henery Press)
  • Catriona McPherson, Scot & Soda (Midnight Ink)
  • Wendall Thomas, Drowned Under (Poisoned Pen Press)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel goes to

                       Catriona McPherson for Scot & Soda


Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Susanna Calkins, Murder Knocks Twice (Minotaur Books)
  • L.A. Chandlar, The Pearl Dagger (Kensington Books)
  • Dianne Freeman, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (Kensington Books)
  • Jennifer Kincheloe, The Body in Griffith Park (Seventh Street Books)
  • Sujata Massey, The Satapur Moonstone (Soho Crime)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel goes to

                       Sujata Massey for The Satapur Moonstone



Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Tori Eldridge, The Ninja Daughter (Agora Books)
  • Angie Kim, Miracle Creek (Sarah Crichton Books)
  • Tara Laskowski, One Night Gone (Graydon House)
  • John Vercher, Three-Fifths (Agora Books)
  • Carl Vonderau, Murderabilia (Midnight Ink)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel goes to

                       Carl Vonderau for Murderabilia


Lefty for Best Mystery Novel

The nominees are
  • Steph Cha, Your House Will Pay (Ecco)
  • Tracy Clark, Borrowed Time (Kensington Books)
  • Matt Coyle, Lost Tomorrows (Oceanview Publishing)
  • Rachel Howzell Hall, They All Fall Down (Forge Books)
  • Attica Locke, Heaven, My Home (Mulholland Books)
(DRUMROLL…) The Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel goes to

                       Matt Coyle for Lost Tomorrows


ACADEMIA: A Nest of Vipers: Guest Post by LEV RAPHAEL

Lev Raphael: 
Academia: A Nest of Vipers

Over the years and on many book tours for my mysteries, people have asked me "Is academia as vicious as all that?"

The answer is Absolutely. How do I know? Because I not only escaped that world with lots of notes, but I have many friends who are still there, reporting one fiction-worthy incident after another to me.

I'll start with a minor example that shows you how petty and small-minded academia can be. Back in 2011, I was invited to teach at Michigan State University's English department, where I had earned my PhD years before. The current chair had realized via a news story that I had published more books than the entire creative writing faculty put together. He was impressed, and I was flattered.

When I started teaching, the office manager wouldn't order a plastic name plate for my office door, the kind that all the faculty members had. We’re talking about something that costs just a few bucks and is recyclable, for a department with a budget well in the millions. That was as silly as it was insulting.

My current mystery State University of Murder focuses on a charming but dictatorial chairman of an English Department, Napoléon Padovani, who manages to alienate almost all his colleagues in an oppression blitzkrieg. He's a composite of department chairs I've heard about from across the country.

One chair had a bizarre approach to resolving a conflict between two professors: he suggested that the two of them get drunk together at the annual Christmas party and all their problems would be resolved—they would be friends forever! That's on the ludicrous side, to be charitable.

Another held academic cage matches. Adjuncts competing for the possible tenure-track positions that might, just might be opening up each year had to present their work-in-progress every week (!) and put it in the best possible light and hope they might win the prize. The pressure was intense, the competition ugly and brutal. There's a department chair I heard of who revealed personal psychological information about a professor during a department meeting while supposedly "worrying" about her mental state, totally violating that professor's privacy.

There's another who knew a faculty member was going to complain about his disregard for university regulations and not only tried to stop her from a formal complaint at a university committee, but sat behind her at the meeting along with one of his henchmen and muttered derisively when she read her statement.

A religious studies chairman I know of argued with a rabbi teaching in his department as an adjunct that Judaism was absolutely not a culture but could only be spoken about and taught as a religion. Their disagreement was a major reason the rabbi wasn't rehired.

When my office mate at Michigan State University reported that a graduate student in the department who was a former boyfriend had burst into her apartment, knocking the door off her hinges, and roughed up her current boyfriend and threatened her, the chair did absolutely nothing.

And reports from a department I know of are that the current atmosphere is "Stalinist." While there's significant disapproval of actions the chair is taking to limit academic freedom and free speech, those faculty members who disagree are afraid to speak up for fear of harassment and punishment. And the faculty listserv is now off limits to discussion of anything remotely "controversial."

My Nick Hoffman series is satirical, taking real situations and people, extrapolating from them, making them more ridiculous, more threatening--but the emotional core is ultimately true. And the emotional toll this kind of rampant and widespread abuse of various kinds can take is also true.

There's no evidence that George Bernard Shaw actually said “If you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh," but whoever is the source, that quote has guided me through my series and will continue to do so.

Lev Raphael is the author of 26 books in genres from memoir to mystery, most recently State University of Murder. He teaches à la carte writing workshops at

Saturday, March 21, 2020


The awards keep coming! If you're Sheltering in Place, now's a good time to read these Crime & Thriller Book of the Year Nominees. And, if you've already read them, please comment with your opinion.

The British Book Awards: The Nibbies

The Bookseller announced the nominees in 24 categories. All are of interest, of course, but for the purpose of this blog, here are the nominees in Crime & Thriller Book of the Year.

My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)
The Hunting Party, by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins)
How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (Orion)
Impostor, by L.J. Ross
(Dark Skies)
Blue Moon, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)

To see the Shortlists in all categories, go Here.

Friday, March 20, 2020

ENVIRONMENTAL MYSTERIES: Mystery Readers Journal (36:1)

Mystery Readers Journal: Environmental Mysteries (Volume 36:1, Spring 2020) is available as a PDF and hardcopy. Subscriber and contributor copies will be sent later this week. PDF Contributor Copies went out today. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this issue. Sadly, so timely. Be safe! Be well!

Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.


  • Can Snakes Be Heroes? by Glynn Marsh Alam
  • We Are the Wild by Sandi Ault
  • Toss in a Bear or a Snake by Pamela Beeson
  • Environmental Mysteries and Public Debate: Can One Enhance the Other? by Dave Butler
  • Wild and Commanding Settings: Striking the Right Balance for Readers by Christine Carbo
  • Calypso Saves the Climate by D. Z. Church
  • From Addiction to Fiction—in the African Bush by Jenny Carless
  • Why the Road Is Dark by Philip Cioffari
  • A Background in the Birding World by Ann Cleeves
  • The Man in the Doorway and Other Writing Mysteries by Donna Cousins
  • Mysteries With A Climate Change Message by Charlene D’Avanzo
  • The Old-Fashioned Way by William Deverell
  • Write What You Know: Wilderness Thrillers by Karen Dionne
  • Natural Crimes by Janet Dawson
  • It’s All About the Birds… and Murder by Jan Dunlap
  • The Mystery of the Missing Mountain by Toni Dwiggins
  • Natural Inspiration by Gerald Elias
  • The Common Threat by Kate Fellowes
  • The Heart of the Matter by Christine Goff
  • Murder and Mayhem For Our National Parks by Scott Graham
  • Fruit of the Devil by Vinnie Hansen
  • Boots in Dirt: Protecting Wildlife and Natural Resources by Joseph Heywood
  • Wildfire and Murder in the Woods by Dave Hugelschaffer
  • Shark Allure by Sara Johnson
  • A Captivating Story by Diane Kelly
  • The Mystery as Environmental Soapbox by William Kent Krueger
  • Does the Message Overshadow the Murder? by Stephen Legault
  • Saving the Planet, One Novel at a Time by Robert Lopresti
  • Wolf Man by Michael Allan Mallory
  • Burying the Evidence by Larry Maness
  • Novels from the Garden of Good and Evil by Keith McCafferty
  • The Bright Side of Environmental Devastation by Jon McGoran
  • A Caution on Environmental Research by Skye Moody
  • I Never Intended to Write Environmental Mysteries, But… by Michael Norman
  • “Stork Trek”—The Story Behind the Story by Josh Pachter
  • A Thrilling Environment by Katherine Prairie
  • Murder in a Damaged Environment by Kwei Quartey
  • Resolving to Write Novel by Ben Rehder
  • Off Road by Kirk Russell
  • Is Any Refuge Certain? by Carolyn J. Rose
  • On the Trail of a New Environment by Mark Stevens
  • Finding My Voice in Wildlife by Jessica Speart
  • Writing from the African Bush: What a Pleasure! by Stanley Trollip
  • Writing About the Environment in the West by Judith Van Gieson
  • When Cozies Can’t Be All That Cozy by Betty Webb
  • The House of the Monk’s Spring by Robert Wilson
  • Partners in Crime: My Link to the EPA by Kenneth Wishnia
  • Interesting Times for Mystery Writers by John Yunker
  • Nature and Mystery by Gregory Zeigler
  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by L.J. Roberts
  • Real Environmental and Wildlife Crimes by Cathy Pickens
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cartoon of the Day: Why We Write

From the Amazing Grant Snider


Thomas P. Hopp:
Mystery in the Time of Coronavirus

I write medical mysteries and natural disaster thrillers, so the current COVID-19 crisis looks strangely familiar to me. As we all hunker down with a good book or twelve until this latest nemesis runs its course, I’d like to offer you some insights into what may be the scariest of all subgenres of mystery fiction, The Biological Thriller.

Before I delve into the details, a little about me. Although I have been publishing novels and short stories for two decades now, I started out as a biotechnology researcher. I’ve worked in multiple Nobel Prize winning laboratories, two of which received their medallions after I worked there—that’s a hint at the importance of my contributions. And more germane to this discussion, my work involved molecular immunology, the field most central to the world of viruses, vaccines, and humanity’s ability to resist epidemics. So there you have it.

The current epidemic underscores the sad fact that society has yet to truly gain control over such murderous microbes as coronavirus, influenza, Ebola, HIV, measles, and a long list of less lethal or prevalent viruses. Because this is an article about fiction, I’m not going to dwell on advice regarding hand washing, avoiding crowds, and all the other measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. You get quite a sufficient dose of that from the news media, and that’s as it should be. Play it safe until this pestilence passes, which it will, like all the others that came before it, including bubonic plague. And of course, my sympathies to anyone laid low, or God forbid, dealing with a life-threatening case, yours or someone else’s. Whew.

This is a tough subject to write about, and to some extent a tough subject to read about in a work of fiction or watch in a film dramatization. The average fiction fan might prefer a good locked room mystery, or a cozy after-the-fact mystery, precisely because the murderer is ultimately contained, constrained, detected, and put out of circulation. Not so much, with viruses. In today’s parlance they—well—go viral, don’t they?

Past epidemics have inspired many a story, more than I can cover here. From Poe’s short story, The Masque of Red Death, to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, to King’s The Stand, the list goes on and on. And Hollywood is never far off this trail, having made film adaptations of the above-mentioned stories and a host of others like Hot Zone, Outbreak, and surely more to come. I myself am no slouch, having published The Smallpox Incident, about a bioterror attack with an engineered virus, The Neah Virus, about an Ebola-like natural outbreak in the Seattle area, and a cozier little piece about murders with red tide toxin in my short story, Blood Tide, published in the anthology Seattle Noir.

So what is it that makes a good Biological Thriller? Where do these stories draw their power from? You’re probably guessing the answers already, right?

First off, they all depend on the innate panic that rises in the chest of anyone who has ever been laid low by fever, constrained to bed by fits of coughing, covered by a scary rash, starved by an inability to keep solid food down, or any of a dozen other maladies. That would be everyone, right? Very few people have opened a door and found a body lying there with a knife in the back. But spend a night in sweat-soaked sheets racked by I’m-fixing-to-die feelings? Everyone.

This notion probably gives an unfair advantage to biological thrillers, because the acceleration of heart rate, increased adrenaline, and sheer uneasiness evoked by such tales are probably clinically measurable quantities. But I have a sense that stories about virally spreading villains also have their limitations based on the very thing that gives them strength—it’s that going-viral thing. It can get out of hand in a story, just as it can get out of hand in the real world.

A problem writers of such stories inevitably face is the difficulty of bringing their tale to a satisfying conclusion. That is to say, what kind of a story arc have you written if the viral plague kills everyone? Wipes out humanity completely? That’s not going to be a very satisfying reader experience, wouldn’t you say? So the author has been blessed with a scary start, but how does that lead to a—what?—happy ending?

Well, of course, there are ways. Some are more satisfying than others. In The Stand and similar tales, Society was destroyed and the apocalypse was more or less complete. I’m not a big fan of such endings. Neither are a lot of other people. Or then there’s The Andromeda Strain. Credit Michael Crichton with making outer space a scary place, but he gets a big demerit from me for saving humanity by simply having the virus quit and go away. Sorry if that was a spoiler, but hoo boy, that’s really a pretty lousy ending. Imagine a murder mystery in which the private investigator learns the murderer has just decided never to kill again, THE END. Uh-uh. Doesn’t work for me.

Now, I remind you I’m a bona fide medical researcher. So, from my learned position, almost all medical thrillers have their weaknesses at the end, because they just don’t make biological sense. But that’s not a concern of the average reader who doesn’t have the in-depth training to understand—or care about—the scientific flaws in a story. Most readers just want justice to be done, the world to be set right, and perpetrators to be punished in the end. That’s tough to achieve when the agent of death is a remorseless, unconscious, ever-spreading microbe.

Still, it can be done. I’ve tried my best to write satisfying endings in my own tales of viral mayhem. I’d like to tell you exactly how, but that would spoil the scary fun of reading and finding out for yourself. Perhaps now is a good time, while a simple trip to the supermarket is a terrifying prospect and staying at home with a good book looks like the best option. Take heart that an old medical researcher like me can see these things through to a happy ending.

Thomas P. Hopp is a former medical researcher and thriller writer who lives in Seattle. Learn more about his stories as well as his contributions to coronavirus research here.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Cartoon of the Day: St Patrick Regrets


No St. Patrick's Day parades this year,. Ireland may be shut down and in quarantine, but you can still celebrate St Patrick's Day by reading one of the following books!

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

Mystery Readers Journal had an issue that focused on Irish Mysteries. It's available as PDF or hardcopy.  And, we will have another issue on Irish Mysteries later this year. Stay tuned.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Who are your favorite Irish authors?

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

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

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

Guinness Chocolate Cherry Bread & Guinness Brown Breads

Saturday, March 14, 2020

DEAD GIRL BLUES-How My New Novel Came About and Why I'm Publishing It Myself: Guest Post by Lawrence Block

DEAD GIRL BLUES—How My New Novel Came About and Why I’m Publishing It Myself

Sometime in the late fall of 2018 I started writing a short story. It began with a man picking up a woman in a lowdown roadhouse. A lot of stories, true and fictional, begin that way. Few of them end well.

This one didn’t end well for the woman. I’d have to finish writing it to find out how it would end for the man.

I was writing it in the first person, which meant I had to live within the psyche of a homicidal sociopath. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about that is how easily it comes to me. But I figured I’d wrap it up in four or five thousand words, and then I could write about something else.

Or nothing at all, if I wanted. I began selling short stories shortly after I turned nineteen, and within a year I’d written a publishable novel. And I kept writing more of them. The estimable Terry Zobeck has just completed a bibliography of my work, and the section of individual books runs to over two hundred volumes. Now some of those are anthologies I’ve edited, while others are nonfiction. But that still leaves ample evidence that writing publishable fiction, and seeing it published, has been something of a habit over the past sixty-plus years.

Which is to say I shouldn’t have to keep doing this to justify my existence. “We’re at that stage in our careers,” my friend Hal Dresner observed, “where the higher moral act is not to write the book but to spare the tree.”

And it was at least twenty years ago that he made this point.

I don’t know how many trees have been slain on my account since then, but I do know my arboricidal impulses have declined in recent years. I had the sense several years ago that I was probably done writing novels. A novel demands energy and focus and concentration to a degree that is less readily summoned up after a certain age. Imagination, a fiction writer’s most precious and least appreciated gift, begins to wane. And the will to put one’s shoulder to the wheel for the long haul of a novel—well, you know, why knock yourself out? Why not sit down and see what’s on TV?

Then again, who cares what’s on TV? Work has become a habit, and I’m much happier and way easier to live with if I’m busy. Besides, the two horses that pull my chariot are as powerful as they ever were. Their names are Ego and Avarice.

So I’ve never ceased being busy. I compile and edit anthologies. I team up with translators and bring out my backlist in German, Italian, and Spanish editions. I reissue under my own name all the books that had quite sensibly born pseudonyms in the past, I take random walks down Memory Lane and turn them into essays, and now and again an idea comes along and engages me enough that I turn it into a short story. Sometimes, if the stars are in alignment, it might run a little long. A novelette, say, or a novella.

This story I was writing, the one about the homicidal sociopath, looked as though it might want to be a novelette. Ten or twelve thousand words, say. Maybe even fifteen thousand.

But when it approached the 12K mark, I saw that it wanted to be a novella, and not one I had any real interest in writing. In fact it was becoming distinctly unpleasant to write, and probably wouldn’t be much fun to read, either.

So the hell with it.

I closed the file, as I always did at the end of a day’s writing, but the difference was that I didn’t open it up the next day. Or the day after that. Or at all, until several months had passed.

Until spring had sprung, in fact. I’m not sure when it was, but sometime in April or May, possibly even early June, I found myself wishing I had something to write. And I remembered the story and decided I probably ought to force myself to look at it and see if there was anything there worth keeping.

And the next day or the day after I did just that. I read it what I’d written, and in spite of myself I really liked what I read. I thought about it, and first thing the following morning I sat at my desk, set a kitchen timer, and wrote for thirty minutes. I wasn’t sure where my protagonist was going, or what he might do when he got there, but I used the tried and true Lost Horse method.

That’s from the story about the moron who found the lost horse when no one else could. How, they wondered, had he managed it? “Well,” he said, “I just asked myself, if I was the horse, where would I go? And I went there, and there he was.”

So that’s what I did. And, well, one thing led to another.

It helped, I suspect, that I wasn’t in a hurry. I wrote every day, except when I didn’t. And I set the kitchen timer, for a half hour or forty-five minutes or sometimes as much as an hour, and when it went off I stopped—except when I didn’t.

I got more and more interested in the characters, not only the man who was telling the story, who became increasingly real for me, but the supporting players as well. They hadn’t existed in those first ten or twelve thousand words, but along the way they appeared in his life, and I liked them, even as I had come to like him.

I still didn’t know where it all would ultimately lead. But what I did always know was what would happen in the next paragraph and on the next page, and that I’d find the horse at the end of it all.

Meanwhile, it kept getting longer. The short story that had turned into a novelette went on to reach novella length. And I kept sitting down at the keyboard, setting my kitchen timer, tapping keys that had done nothing to deserve such treatment, and rising from my desk each day knowing there was more to be written.

Until there wasn’t, at which point the story had grown to 52,000 words.

I can’t claim to have been surprised by that number, as one of the miracles of the computer era is that there’s never a moment when you don’t know how much you’ve written. The software I use is MS-Word, and I don’t even have to choose Word Count from the Tools menu; at the bottom of the page there’s a space where it says Words:—followed by the number thereof contained in the document. In this case, 52,000 of the little darlings.

Look at that, will you? I wrote a novel.

Not, to be sure, a long novel. For comparison, consider that the most recent novels in the Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr, and Keller series ranger from 82,000 to 85,000 words. The latest non-series novel, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, was shorter at 61,000, but still almost a fifth as long again as what I’d now written.

On the other hand, 52,000 words was itself more words than you’d find in a good number of my earlier novels. All three of the first Scudder titles, originally published as Dell paperback originals, ran to 47,000 words. My first hardcover book, Deadly Honeymoon, came in even shorter, at 44,000 words. Early ventures in Midcentury Erotica include Carla (47,800), Campus Tramp (46,900) and College for Sinners (45,500). People might fault any or all of these books for one reason or another, but nobody ever said they weren’t long enough to be novels.

So I had a novel. What was I to do with it?

The first thing I did was get my First Readers to give it a first reading. My wife and my three daughters all enthused—which, to be sure, is part of any First Reader’s job description, but their enthusiasm felt authentic enough. (One of my daughters did allow that she might have been more comfortable with the book if she hadn’t kept hearing the narrator’s words in her father’s voice.)

Encouraged, I showed what I’d written to a couple of trusted friends, people who’d been reading my work for years. They all told me they thought it was right up there with my very best work. They also said what I already knew: that I might have problems with it.

I sent the book to my agent, Danny Baror. He could see the book’s strength and its potential, but he could also see the same problems I saw. It was a few degrees darker than the B-side of the moon, it had elements guaranteed to put off any number of readers, and it lacked the pulse-pounding excitement you might expect from a book of its type.

Somebody could surely be found to publish it, but it needed to be published well, by someone willing and able to put a lot of muscle into it. That meant going with a major firm, and drawing down a substantial advance. So he went wide with it, and had the clout to make sure it was read by the key decision makers at top publishing houses.

He ran it, you might say, up a whole lot of flagpoles.

And nobody saluted.

Nor did they thumb their noses. Everyone professed to like the book, but I think we can take that with a flake of kelp. When a good agent sends you a manuscript and makes it clear he has high hopes for it, you don’t tell him it’s crap. You say it’s not quite for us. You insist you think very highly of the writing and the writer, but cite the book’s problems of theme and content. You give it high marks for artistry while faulting it for being insufficiently commercial. And you might even say what publishers in your position have been saying for upwards of thirty years: Gosh, five years ago we would have jumped at this, but the way the business has changed—


Getting rejected was, I have to say, a very interesting experience. I’d undergone it often enough in the early years, but the early years were a long time ago, and I’d largely forgotten how it felt. One of the affirmations I’d developed for my Write For Your Life seminar was “Every rejection brings me closer to success,” and it’s a powerful affirmation indeed, but in the late summer of 2019, when one publisher after another passed, every rejection was bringing me closer to despair.

Now when I initially showed the book to Danny, I knew it might be a problem to market. But by the time he had begun sending it around, my mind had given itself over entirely to a best-case scenario. The book, I realized, was better than I’d thought, better indeed than I’d dared to hope. Surely every heavy hitter from Sonny Mehta on down would line up, checkbook in hand, and whoever shelled out a hefty six-figure advance would then follow through with an appropriate promotional campaign.

And so on.

Well, when nothing of the sort happened, I decided they were all being stupid. All right, I’d tell myself. So-and-so’s an idiot, but What’s-her-name has the brains and vision to see what we’ve got here. She’ll come through for sure.


And then it began to dawn on me that they weren’t crazy, that my book was not the stuff of which bestsellers are made. For heaven’s sake, the book begins with the hero committing a rape and a murder, and—ahem—not in that order. Believe it or not, some readers might find that unsettling.

Nor is it the book’s only unsettling element.

It was, I had to conclude, a very unlikely candidate for bestsellerdom. And, while I’ve had books on various bestseller lists some years ago, it’s been quite a while since I wrote anything that wound up on the charts. My recent sales history alone would keep stores from ordering carload lots of any book of mine, irrespective of the book’s commercial merits or the publisher’s promotional efforts.

And with this particular book, well, forget it.

So they weren’t all crazy. They weren’t stupid, or even misguided.

They were right, dammit.

I should mention that I did have a couple of offers. The publishers who extended them were eminently respectable, and their enthusiasm was gratifying. But their proposed advances were low, and their promotional efforts would be unremarkable, and I had no reason to believe that they could furnish the book with the escape velocity it would need to overcome its own undeniable commercial liabilities.

One of them wanted, oh, a couple of minor changes. Couldn’t I have my guy rape the girl first, and then kill her? And couldn’t the killing be, you know, sort of accidental? A heat-of-the-moment thing? In fact, did he really have to rape her at all, before or after?

Another publisher said he loved the book, and if I absolutely insisted he’d publish it exactly as I’d written it. But he did have a few suggestions, and maybe I’d like to at least think about them.

No, I don’t think so.

And of course they’d expect to get ebook and paperback rights, and to retain control of them forever.

Well, the hell with that. In this age of ebooks and POD paperbacks, a publisher’s hold on a title is essentially absolute and permanent. Technically, nothing ever quite manages to go out of print. It costs the publisher nothing to keep a book forever available, and it’s virtually impossible for an author to get the rights back to anything.

I decided a few years ago that I was no longer giving away eRights. A massive advance on the new book would have induced me to change my mind, but that wasn’t on offer. Barring that, I’d sooner publish the book myself.

Once I decided to do just that, I felt a whole lot better.

Forty or fifty years ago, I’d sit around with good friends like Brian Garfield and Donald Westlake, and we’d fantasize about publishing our own books. We could stop dealing with shortsighted and wrongheaded editors and publishers. We could, by God and all the angels, actually Do It Right.

Now these conversations were often accompanied by adult beverages in quantity, and that does make their content suspect. I’m by no means certain we’d have done anything right, and it was moot to begin with, because there was no practical way we could publish anything ourselves.

Then, of course, the world changed.

My first venture in self-publishing was in the very different world of 1985. I wanted to make my Write For Your Life seminar available in book form, couldn’t imagine that a commercial publisher would want to do it, and more to the point wanted copies as soon as possible to sell them at seminars. I found someone to shepherd the book through the printing process, had five thousand books printed, and sold them all. A successful venture, but one that grew out of special circumstances—and not something I could see myself repeating.

Then the internet came along, and electronic books, and desktop publishing, and everything that followed. Almost before I knew it, my out-of-print backlist was available first as ebooks, then as paperbacks. I self-published new titles—a collection of Matthew Scudder stories, a collection of essays about crime fiction, and a new novel, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons.

By the time I could see that my new novel didn’t have a viable future with commercial publishing, I knew I’d be happiest bringing out Dead Girl Blues myself.

(Except for the headline, I haven’t mentioned the title before, have I? That’s because it started out with another title, which nobody really liked, and then I found a second title for it, which was acceptable but way too generic for a book that was itself, for better or for worse, definitely sui generis.)

By publishing Dead Girl Blues myself, I’m spared all the hurry-up-and-wait time that’s so much a part of the publishing process. If the first prospective publisher who saw the manuscript had bought it on the spot back in late August, when do you suppose it would come out? Well, if they really rushed it they could publish in the fall of 2020, but that wouldn’t give them time to do it right, and it wasn’t a Christmas book, and you get lost in January, and—

Spring 2021 would be my guess.

It was early this year before I made the firm decision to self-publish. And now it’s March 11 as I write these lines, and the book became available for preorders two days ago. The official release date is June 24, the very day when I celebrate my birthday.

My 82nd birthday, and I’ll tell you something. No man who’s too old to buy green bananas wants to sit on his hands waiting for his book to come out. I’ve always been impatient in this regard, and whenever I typed THE END at the bottom of a manuscript I wanted to be able to have a quick drink, put on a sport jacket, walk around the corner, and see the book I’d just finished on a bookstore shelf.

And I’m doing very nearly that with Dead Girl Blues. It’s typeset, it’s got a dandy cover, it’s uploaded to all online ebook platforms, here and abroad—and you can order it right now, if you’ve a mind to.

But you may not want to. One thing I’ve taken pains to do, when preparing the book description for the online booksellers, is to warn off the readers who won’t welcome Dead Girl Blues into their homes. Because I really don’t want to sell a book to someone who’s not going to enjoy it.

A few years ago William Morrow brought out Small Town, a big New York novel with a powerful erotic element. A lot of people loved the book and called it a favorite, but at the same time I got a whole lot of outraged emails from longtime readers who were hoping for a book about an endearing burglar and his stub-tailed cat. And more recently I got a one-star review for Getting Off, by some sensitive soul outraged over the sex and violence contained therein. (I wasn’t going to apologize for that one. The prominent subtitle read “A Novel of Sex and Violence.” I mean, what did they expect?)

Oh well. David Morrell and Joe Lansdale love Dead Girl Blues, and gave me powerful quotes to that effect. Quite a few folks have said they started the book and couldn’t stop reading it, although they had other things they were supposed to be doing.

You know what? When I last re-read DGB, I realized it was exactly the book I want it to be. And how often does that happen? And what more could an old man possibly ask for?

Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century.  He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories. Dead Girl Blues is available for pre-order.