Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Scorpion's Tail: Dialogue between authors Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child: A Dialogue

Lincoln: Let’s get started. The Scorpion’s Tail is the second novel in the Nora Kelly series

Doug: The Nora Kelly and Corrie Swanson series, you mean. 

L: Look, Doug, I realize you have a soft spot for Corrie, but this series is officially called the— 

D: Are you saying Corrie isn’t as important to the book as Nora? 

L: No, but the point is— 

D: Corrie is the one who first investigates that corpse with a face of agony found buried in New Mexico. Nora only comes in later. And where did this “officially” come from? It ain’t “official” to me… 

L: Okay, okay. Slow your roll. 

 D: And it was my idea to add the, ah, bizarre nature of the poor victim’s death. 

L: Here, you can have all your Legos back. If we go on like this, we’ll give away all the surprises. Well…maybe not all the surprises, because this novel has more than its share. 

D: All right, but don’t shortchange Corrie. She’s got a temper. 

L: Not as wicked as Constance’s. 

D: Hopefully those two will never meet. Anyway, what I find interesting is that both Corrie and Nora played vital roles in many of Pendergast’s cases, but they never met each other—until now. 

L: They first met in Old Bones. That was our first novel in the series, about the archaeological excavation of one of the infamous Donner Party camps, where Nora discovers something even worse than the cannibalism history tells us of. The Scorpion’s Tail is the second novel in the series. 

D: That Donner Party story was pretty crazy. A truly sick and twisted idea, in fact. 

L: It was your idea, pardner. 

D: Thank you. 

L: People ask how Nora and Corrie managed to get together for this series. Nora Kelly is an archaeologist who first appeared in Thunderhead, and then she went on to play a crucial role in The Cabinet of Curiosities and a number of other Pendergast cases. She now works at the Santa Fe Institute of Archaeology and directs excavations of ancient sites in the area. Corrie Swanson helped Pendergast when she was a teenager in the Still Life With Crows case. Under his mentorship, she’s now a rookie FBI agent, fresh out of the Academy and a little uncertain of herself. Corrie’s expertise is in forensic anthropology—that is, looking at bones and figuring out who they were, how old they were, what they looked like, and how they died. Basically, Nora digs the bodies up and Corrie figures out what happened to them. Together, the two women become a kind of investigative brain trust. 

D: One wields an archaeologist’s brush—the other a gun. L. It’s such a perfect matchup I’m surprised I didn’t suggest it before. 

D: You suggested it? 

L: Don’t I suggest all the good ideas around here? But let us not dwell on such trivialities and talk about the book itself—avoiding spoilers, of course. 

D: Okay. Well, the story opens in a remote ghost town called High Lonesome at the northern edge of the Jornada del Muerto Desert of New Mexico. This is one of the harshest deserts in the country, a place so remote it was chosen as the test site for the first atomic bomb detonation in 1945. The local sheriff of Socorro County, Homer Watts, surprises a looter up at High Lonesome, who’s found a mummified body in a ruined cellar. There’s a shootout and the looter gets a bullet in the knee, while poor Homer gets his ear shot off. Because the desiccated body is found on Federal land, the FBI gets involved and Corrie is assigned to the case to determine if it was a homicide or accident. She brings in Nora to dig the body up. What they find is…grotesque, unspeakable, and at the same time oddly wonderful. 

L: I think you better stop there before we get into spoiler territory. 

D: I’ll shut up, except to say that everything they assume about the body turns out to be wrong. I’ll close by mentioning this is a case where Nora unearths, instead of an ancient curse or forgotten disaster, something connected in a horrific way to the modern world, something so shocking that…well, the story’s like one of those French cakes with dozens of layers. 

L: Gâteau Mille Crêpes? 

D: Exactly. Every time I try to cut out a slice to share with our readers, I find myself about to reveal two, three, or even more hidden layers. 

L: We can talk about the setting, at least, without fear of spoilers. And you’re the perfect person to do so, since you know that country. 

D: Thanks, my good man. One of the things I love about this series is its grounding in the New Mexico. We have Nora, working at the Santa Fe Institute of Archaeology, and Corrie working out of the FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office. New Mexico has a lot of history, legends, and mysteries to work with. 

L: Such as? 

D: I’m thinking in particular of stories of buried treasure. 

L: You’ve been obsessed with that subject ever since you first read Robert Louis Stevenson. Speaking of your youth, didn’t you once travel all over New Mexico on horseback? 

D: Yes. In fact, in 1995 I crossed the Jornada del Muerto on horseback with my pal Walter Nelson, 120 miles of some of the toughest country you can imagine. The very name says it all, Jornada del Muerto means “Journey of the Dead.” It was called that because the old Spanish trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe crossed this desert, and the route was literally lined with the bones of horses and livestock and hundreds of crude graves. The high desert, with its slot canyons and arroyos and mesas, is in some ways a labyrinth. When you’re far from civilization for weeks at a time, traveling on horseback and not following trails or roads, you have a good chance of stumbling on things that are strange and often unique. For example, on that ride we encountered a secret military installation. It was used for—well, I’d better not say what for—but it plays a role in the book’s climax. 

L: Hold on. I thought you made that up for the book. 

D: I know you did. Don’t worry, I changed the location and details, and besides that was twenty-five years ago… 

L: Please, I’d rather not know any more. The main point here is that you’re uniquely familiar with the remote areas in which The Scorpion’s Tail takes place. Isn’t it true that among other things you’ve stumbled upon untouched ancient Pueblo ruins, perfectly preserved, that nobody else has seen in hundreds of years? 

D: It is true. And I won’t say where they are, either, because they should be respected—in other words, left alone. 

L: And didn’t you say that, while researching non-fiction articles for Smithsonian and The New Yorker, you stumbled upon a cornucopia of legends and stories of the old West…and the new West…that have a surprising amount of truth to them? 

D: Yes. The Scorpion’s Tail makes good use of some of those legends and stories, such as the absolutely true story of the treasure of— 

L: Whoa there, Doug. 

D: Oops, spoilers again. 

L: We’ve said about as much as we can say, so if you’re interested, Doug would love you to buy the book so he can keep up the payments on his Rolls-Royce. 

D: Yeah, right. And Linc wants you to buy the book so he can continue to bet on the horses, drink martinis, and buy Bitcoins to hide under his mattress. 


Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have published over thirty books together, most of which have been New York Times bestsellers, some reaching the #1 position. Their most recent novel, The Scorpion’s Tail, was published on January 12, 2021.

Monday, January 25, 2021

EDGAR AWARD NOMINEES 2021: Mystery Writers of America

Mystery Writers of America
announced the nominees for the 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2020. The 75th Annual Edgar® Awards will be celebrated on April 29, 2021. Congratulations to all.
Best Novel


Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (Penguin Random House – Random House)
Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney (Poisoned Pen Press)
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Penguin Random House - Pamela Dorman Books)
These Women by Ivy Pochoda (HarperCollins Publishers - Ecco)
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
The Distant Dead by Heather Young (HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow)

Best First Novel


Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March (Minotaur Books)
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (Simon & Schuster – Gallery Books)
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (HarperCollins Publishers - Ecco)
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (Penguin Random House - Berkley)

Best Paperback Original


When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow)
The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman (Blackstone Publishing)
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
The Keeper by Jessica Moor (Penguin Random House - Penguin Books)
East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper 360)

Best Fact Crime


Blood Runs Coal: The Yablonski Murders and the Battle for the United Mine Workers of America
by Mark A. Bradley (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia
by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hachette Book Group – Hachette Books)
Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic
by Eric Eyre (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country
by Sierra Crane Murdoch (Penguin Random House – Random House)
Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man, and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife
by Ariel Sabar (Penguin Random House - Doubleday)

Best Critical/Biographical


Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club
by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper360/Collins Crime Club)
Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock

by Christina Lane (Chicago Review Press)
Ian Rankin: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Erin E. MacDonald (McFarland)
Guilt Rules All:  Irish Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction
by Elizabeth Mannion & Brian Cliff (Syracuse University Press)

This Time Next Year We'll be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear (Soho Press)
Best Short Story



"The Summer Uncle Cat Came to Stay," Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Leslie Elman (Dell Magazines)
"Dust, Ash, Flight," Addis Ababa Noir by Maaza Mengiste (Akashic Books)
"Etta at the End of the World," Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Joseph S. Walker  (Dell Magazines)
“The Twenty-Five Year Engagement,” In League with Sherlock Holmes by James W. Ziskin (Pegasus Books – Pegasus Crime)

Best Juvenile



Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Workman Publishing - Algonquin Young Readers)
Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (Penguin Random House Canada - Puffin Canada)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (HarperCollins Children's Books - Katherine Tegen Books)
Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor (Penguin Young Readers – Viking BFYR)
Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage (Random House Children's Books - Crown BFYR)

Coop Knows the Scoop by Taryn Souders (Sourcebooks Young Readers)
Young Adult


The Companion by Katie Alender (Penguin Young Readers – G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR)
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)
They Went Left by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)
Silence of Bones by June Hur (Macmillan Children’s Books – Feiwel & Friends)
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus (Penguin Random House – Delacorte Press)

TV Episode Teleplay

“Episode 1, The Stranger” – Harlan Coben’s The Stranger, Written by Danny Brocklehurst (Netflix)
“Episode 1, Open Water” – The Sounds, Written by Sarah-Kate Lynch (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1, Photochemistry” – Dead Still, Written by John Morton (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – Des, Written by Luke Neal (Sundance Now)
“What I Know” – The Boys, Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine,
based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Amazon)

Robert L. Fish Memorial

"The Bite,” Tampa Bay Noir by Colette Bancroft (Akashic Books)

The Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award


Death of an American Beauty by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart (Minotaur Books)
The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books)
Cold Wind by Paige Shelton (Minotaur Book)
The G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award

The Burn by Kathleen Kent (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland Books)
Riviera Gold by Laurie R. King (Penguin Random House – Ballantine Books)
Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (Tin House Books)
Dead Land by Sara Paretsky (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Sleeping Nymph by Ilaria Tuti (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
Turn to Stone by James W. Ziskin (Start Publishing – Seventh Street Books)


Grand Master
Jeffrey Deaver

Charlaine Harris

Raven Award

Malice Domestic

Ellery Queen Award

Reagan Arthur, Publisher – Alfred A. Knopf