Thursday, April 15, 2021


The 2021 longlists for the CWA Dagger awards, which honor the very best in the crime writing genre, have been announced.

The  Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers are the oldest awards in the genre, and have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over half a century.

The CWA Dagger shortlist will be announced in May with the awards ceremony taking place at the start of July. 

The 2021 Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement, the highest honour in British crime writing, has already been announced, awarded to Martina Cole.



Amer Anwar: Stone Cold Trouble (Dialogue Books, Little, Brown Book Group)

S A Cosby: Blacktop Wasteland (Headline, Headline Publishing Group)

M W Craven: The Curator (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Fiction, Welbeck Publishing Group)

Garry Disher: Peace (Viper, Profile Books)

Mick Finlay: Arrowood and the Thames Corpses (HQ, HarperCollins)

Nicci French: House of Correction (Simon & Schuster)

Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Elly Griffiths: The Postscript Murders (Quercus)

Antonia Hodgson: The Silver Collar (Hodder & Stoughton)

S G Maclean: The House of Lamentations (Quercus Fiction, Quercus)

C D Major: The Other Girl (Thomas & Mercer)

Thomas Mullen: Midnight Atlanta (Little, Brown, Little, Brown Book Group)

S J Parris: Execution (Harper Fiction, HarperCollins)

Tade Thompson: Making Wolf (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

Nicola Upson: The Dead of Winter (Faber)

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier)

Rebecca Whitney: The Hidden Girls (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)



Charles Cumming: Box 88 (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Robert Galbraith: Troubled Blood (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Ryan Gattis: The System (Picador, Pan Macmillan)

Ian Rankin: Song for the Dark Times (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)

Rod Reynolds: Blood Red City (Orenda Books)

Craig Robertson: Watch Him Die (Simon & Schuster)

Michael Robotham: When She Was Good (Sphere, Little, Brown Book Group)

Catherine Ryan Howard: The Nothing Man (Atlantic Books)

Stuart Turton: The Devil and the Dark Water (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Ruth Ware: One by One (Harvill Secker, Vintage)

Holly Watt: The Dead Line (Raven Books, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Chris Whitaker: We Begin at the End (Zaffre, Bonnier)



Eva Björg Ægisdóttir: The Creak on the Stairs (Orenda)

Susan Allott: The Silence (Borough, HarperCollins)

Emma Christie: The Silent Daughter (Welbeck Publishing)

Catherine Cooper: The Chalet (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Ben Creed: City of Ghosts (Welbeck Publishing)

Judi Daykin: Under Violent Skies (Joffe Books)

Egan Hughes: The One That Got Away (Little Brown, Sphere)

S W Kane: The Bone Jar (Thomas & Mercer)

Rob McInroy: Cuddies Strip (Ringwood Press)

Stephanie Scott: What’s Left of Me Is Yours (Orion, Weidenfeld)

Stephen Spotswood: Fortune Favours the Dead (Headline, Wildfire)

John Vercher: Three-Fifths (Pushkin Press)

S R White: Hermit (Headline)



J M Alvey: Justice for Athena (Canelo Digital Publishing Limited)

John Banville: Snow (Faber)

Vaseem Khan: Midnight at Malabar House (Hodder & Stoughton)

Laurie R. King: Riviera Gold (Allison & Busby)

Chris Lloyd: The Unwanted Dead (Orion Fiction, The Orion Publishing Group)

S J Parris: Execution (HarperFiction, HarperCollins)

Ben Pastor: The Night of Shooting Stars (Bitter Lemon Press)

Michael Russell: The City Under Siege (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)

David S. Stafford: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons (Allison & Busby)

A D Swanston: Chaos (Bantam Press, Transworld)

Nicola Upson: The Dead of Winter (Faber)

Ovidia Yu: The Mimosa Tree Mystery (Constable, Little, Brown Book Group)



Fredrik Backman: Anxious People, translated by Neil Smith (Michael Joseph, Penguin)

Roxanne Bouchard: The Coral Bride, translated by David Warriner (Orenda Books)

Marc Elsberg: Greed, translated by Simon Pare (Black Swan, Penguin)

Yun Ko-eun: The Disaster Tourist, translated by Lizzie Buehler (Serpent’s Tail)

Volker Kutscher: The March Fallen, translated by Niall Sellar (Sandstone Press)

D A Mishani: Three, translated by Jessica Cohen (Riverrun, Hachette Book Group)

Jo Nesbo: The Kingdom, translated by Robert Ferguson (Harvill Secker, Penguin)

Håkan Nesser: The Secret Life of Mr. Roos, translated by Sarah Death (Mantle, Pan Macmillan)

Mikael Niemi: To Cook a Bear, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner (MacLehose Press, Quercus)

Agnes Ravatn:  The Seven Doors, translated by Rosie Hedger (Orenda Books)

Maike Wetzel: Elly, translated by Lyn Marven (Scribe UK)



Robert Scragg: ‘A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Elle Croft: ‘Deathbed’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Dominic Nolan: ‘Daddy Dearest’ in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Adam Southward:  ‘Especially at Christmas’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Christopher Fowler: ‘Head Count’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Victoria Selman: ‘Hunted’ in Afraid of the Christmas Lights, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Clare Mackintosh: ‘Monsters’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Stuart Turton: ‘Murder Most Vial’ in First Edition: Celebrating 21 Years of Goldsboro Books (The Dome Press)

Livia Llewelyn: ‘One of These Nights’ in Cutting Edge: Noir Stories by Women, edited by Joyce Carol Oates (Pushkin Press, Pushkin Vertigo)

James Delargy: ‘Planting Nan in Afraid of the Light, edited by Robert Scragg (Robert Scragg)

Simpson Grears: ‘The Foot of the Walk Murders’ in The Foot of the Walk Murders, edited by Simpson Grears (Rymour Books)



Sue Black: Written in Bone (Doubleday, Penguin)

Amanda Brown: The Prison Doctor; Women Inside (HQ, HarperCollins)

Becky Cooper: We Keep the Dead Close (William Heinemann, Penguin)

Martin Edwards: Howdunit (Collins Crime Club, HarperCollins)

Andrew Harding: These Are Not Gentle People (MacLehose, Quercus)

Debora Harding: Dancing with the Octopus (Profile Books Limited)

Nick Hayes: The Book of Trespass (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Ben MacIntyre: Agent Sonya (Viking, Penguin)

Jax Miller: Hell in the Heartland (HarperCollins)

Daniel Smith: The Peer and the Gangster (The History Press)

Ravi Somaiya: Operation Morthor (Viking, Penguin)

Kate Summerscale: The Haunting of Alma Fielding (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)

Mark Townsend: No Return (Guardian, Faber & Faber)



Lin Anderson

Nicci French

Lisa Jewell

Erin Kelly

Peter May

Denise Mina

Margaret Murphy

James Oswald

L J Ross

C L Taylor



Bitter Lemon Press

Faber & Faber

Harper Fiction

Head of Zeus

Michael Joseph

No Exit Press

Orenda Books

Pushkin Vertigo





Wednesday, April 14, 2021

National Gardening Day: Gardening Mysteries

Today is National Gardening Day

If you follow me on Facebook you'll see that every day I post a photo of a specific flower or tree, or a meandering path "Behind My Garden Gate." I am a gardener. Although I'm known for my roses, I also have a small poison garden. There are so many ways to kill in the garden what with poisonous plants, pesticides, and tools! Agatha Christie certainly knew that. If you’re looking for ways to murder with plants (for writing purposes only!), I suggest Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants. It’s a wonderfully illustrated reference book that also launched some great poisonous garden displays all over the US. Amy Stewart is also a mystery writer, and I recommend her historical series about the Kopp sisters. I also grow orchids, perhaps not as extensively as Nero Wolfe, but I have a nice collection. Since I live in California, there’s something growing and blooming at all times. This makes it so magical! 

Like my interest in mysteries, I came to gardening early on. My aunt Annie used to take us into the woods to identify plants, both poisonous and not. She also had a lovely garden in her city back yard. I learned so much from her. She and my mother began taking me yearly to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Such a treat. When I was nine, I picked up a flyer for mail-order miniature roses. I sent my money, and in return small miniature rose bushes appeared. My mother was flabbergasted. One, that I knew how to order and send off cash in the mail, and, two, that live plants arrived. I had neglected to mention my purchases to her. I had sent cash (not having a checkbook). Those mini-roses flourished, and I became hooked! 

In terms of mystery, gardens are such a great place to plot a murder! There are so many weapons at hand from plants (digitalis, foxglove, rhubarb, etc) to herbicides to tools. And, gardens are great places to dispose of a body. It’s not surprising, then, that so many writers use gardens and gardening in their mysteries. Who doesn’t remember Sgt. Cuff’s roses in The Moonstone or Nero Wolfe’s fantastic orchids? If you like gardens and gardening, you’ll love these two issues of Mystery Readers Journal with its rich diversity of articles, author essays and reviews.

Here's a link to the two available Gardening themed Mysteries issues of Mystery Readers Journal

Gardening Mysteries (2018)

Volume 34, No. 1, Spring 2018

Gardening Mysteries

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


  • Where the Wild Things Are by Meredith Phillips
  • Weeds in the Borders by Carol Harper


  • Painting the Garden by Kerry J. Charles
  • Gardening and Writing: A Natural Enterprise by Susan Wittig Albert
  • Fourth-Generation Gardener by Amanda Flower
  • Mischief and Mayhem in the Garden by Rosemary Harris
  • I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut by Ann Granger
  • Crisis and Opportunity by Julie Wray Herman
  • Words of Green Wisdom from Mas Arai by Naomi Hirahara
  • Signs of Spring by Hart Johnson
  • Collecting the Seeds of Stories by Gin Jones
  • Mysteries Inspired by Dirty Hands by Meera Lester
  • Two-Faced Plants: Gardening, Poisons & Medicines by Linda Lovely
  • It’s Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia… by Donna Huston Murray
  • The Exploding Compost Heap by Cynthia Riggs
  • Gardening and Me by Joyce Olcese
  • A Rose Is a Rose — Unless It’s a Poison Apple by Susan C. Shea
  • How Does Your Mystery Garden Grow? by Teresa Trent
  • The Wrong Thumbs (But At Least They Can Google) by Art Taylor
  • Ode to Her Garden by Wendy Tyson
  • Volunteers of America by Nathan Walpow
  • Trees, Flowers — Murder! by Marty Wingate


  • Murder in Retrospect: Reviews by L. J. Roberts and Dru Ann Love
  • The Children’s Hour: Garden Mysteries by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • In Short: Does Your Garden Grow Mysteries? by Marvin Lachman
  • Crime Seen: In the Garden Plot by Kate Derie
  • Real Gardening Crimes by Cathy Pickens
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph


Gardening Mysteries (2004)

Volume 20, No. 3, Fall 2004

Gardening Mysteries
Buy this back issue! Available as a downloadable PDF.


  • “Evil Began in a Garden”: The Gardening Mysteries of Sheila Pim by Tom & Enid Schantz
  • Miss Marple & Mr. Wolfe: Classic Gardeners by C.A. Accardi
  • Weeds in the Borders by Carol Harper
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Meredith Phillips
  • Drug Decalogue by Jim Doherty


  • Ruth’s Secret Garden by Nancy Means Wright
  • All the Dirt on Heather Webber
  • The Joe Portugal Guide to The Joe Portugal Guides by Nathan Walpow
  • Rosemary and Thyme by Rebecca Tope
  • The Secret Garden by M.J. Rose
  • The Exploding Compost Heap by Cynthia Riggs
  • Dirt Under Fingernails by Gillian Linscott
  • Snake in the Garden by Kathleen Gregory Klein
  • Cotton Mather’s Garden by M.E. Kemp
  • Slugs, Roses and Murder by Norma Tadlock Johnson
  • Monet, Murder and Mystery by Jane Jakeman
  • Confessions of a Gardener’s Murderous Daughter by Naomi Hirahara
  • Weeding and Writing by Julie Wray Herman
  • Everything’s Coming Up Roses by Karen Harper
  • I Wouldn’t Leave My Little Wooden Hut by Ann Granger
  • Imaginary Gardens by Carol Goodman
  • Gardening Can Be Murder by R. Barri Flowers
  • Face Down in the Garden by Kathy Lynn Emerson
  • The Long Journey to a Blue Rose by Anthony Eglin
  • Death of an Azalea by Carola Dunn
  • Stalked by Flora (and Occasionally Fauna) by Claire Daniels (Jaqueline Girdner)
  • Saga of a Frustrated Garden Writer by Laura Crum
  • An Allotment of Murder by Mat Coward
  • Pushing Up Daisies by Kate Collins
  • It’s Wild Outside the Garden by Meredith Blevins
  • Angel in the Winds by Mignon F. Ballard
  • Gardening in Cyberspace by Donna Andrews
  • Lifescapes by Susan Wittig Albert
  • Murder in a Pot by Peter Abresch


  • Murder in Retrospect: Reviews by Carol Harper, Aubrey Hamilton, Kathryn Lively, Sandy Faust, Mary Helen Becker
  • Gardens and Gardening in British Crime Fiction by Philip Scowcroft
  • In Short: Gardens of Evil by Marvin Lachman
  • The Children’s Hour: Gardens by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • MRI MAYHEM by Janet A. Rudolph
  • Letters to the Editor
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph


Bony Blithe/Bloody Words Light Mystery Award Shortlist

Vicki Delany, There’s a Murder Afoot (Crooked Lane Books)

Candas Jane Dorsey, The Adventures of Isabel (ECW Press)

Liz Ireland, Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings (Kensington Books)

Thomas King, Obsidian (Harper Collins Canada)

Iona Wishaw, A Match Made for Murder (Touchwood Editions)


As announced in March, the 2021 Bloody Words Mini-con/Bony Blithe Award Dinner, originally scheduled for Friday, May 28. However, they will be announcing the 2021 Bony Blithe winner online on May 28 , so watch for an email or check Facebook or the Bony Blithe Website



Monday, April 12, 2021

Hugh Laurie to adapt Agatha Christie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

According to Deadline, Hugh Laurie will adapt Agatha Christie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans? for BritBox. This is not the first adaptation of this novel.

From Deadline:

Hugh Laurie has signed up to write, direct, and executive produce an adaptation of Agatha Christie novel Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? for BritBox in North America.

The three-part series represents the BBC Studios and ITV-owned streamer’s biggest U.S. commission to date, and the project will be housed at Mammoth Screen, the Christie specialist behind recent adaptations of And Then There Were None and The ABC Murders, starring John Malkovich.

Laurie has been enamored with Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? since he was a child and the book, first published in 1934, tells the story Bobby Jones and his socialite friend Lady Frances Derwent, who discover a dying man while hunting for a golf ball.

Jones and Derwent turn amateur sleuths as they seek to unravel the mystery of the man, who has the picture of a beautiful young woman in his pocket, and, with his last breath, utters the cryptic question that forms the series’ title. The amiable duo approach their investigation with a levity that belies the danger they encounter.

No word yet on whether Laurie will take a starring role in the show, though Deadline understands that it is hoped he can feature in some form. For now though, the Avenue 5 and Roadkill actor is focused on adapting the novel, in what represents his first major TV drama series in the writer and director’s chair.
Emily Powers, head of BritBox North America, said: “Hugh Laurie’s writing pays homage to the brilliance of the original Agatha Christie mystery while adding fresh wit, humor, and creativity that will appeal to all audiences.”

Can't wait! Possible airdate: 2022

Read more here


Sunday, April 11, 2021



Lefty Awards

The 2021 Lefty Awards were presented virtually on April 10, 2021Congratulations to all!

Lefty Best Humorous Mystery Novel

  • Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard (Crooked Lane Books)
Lefty Nominees for Best Historical Mystery Novel for books set before 1970
  • Catriona McPherson, The Turning Tide (Quercus)
Lefty Nominees for Best Debut Mystery Novel
  • David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Winter Counts (Ecco)
Lefty Nominees for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories)
  • Louise Penny, All the Devils Are Here (Minotaur Books)
Lucinda Surber & Stan Ulrich, Lefty Awards Co-Chairs

ABQ in ’22: Our Next In-Person Convention!
Left Coast Crime 2022: Albuquerque, New Mexico

When: April 7–10, 2022
Where: Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
Guest of Honor: Mick Herron
Guest of Honor: Catriona McPherson
Fan Guest of Honor: Kristopher Zgorski
Toastmaster: Kellye Garrett
Ghost of Honor: Tony Hillerman
Visit the LCC 2022 website for more details and to register.

Not sure if you are registered for Albuquerque? Check the Attendee page for your name.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021


Crimefest Awards Shortlists

Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award
- Eva Björg Aegisdóttir for The Creak on the Stairs (Orenda Books)
- Marion Brunet for Summer of Reckoning (Bitter Lemon Press)
- Robin Morgan-Bentley for The Wreckage (Trapeze)
- Richard Osman for The Thursday Murder Club (Viking)
- Mara Timon for City of Spies (Zaffre)
- Trevor Wood for The Man on the Street (Quercus)

Audible Sounds of Crime Award
- Lee & Andrew Child for The Sentinel, reader Jeff Harding (Transworld)
- Lucy Foley for The Guest List, readers Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Chloe Massey, Sarah Ovens, Rich Keeble & Jot Davies (HarperFiction)
- Robert Galbraith for Troubled Blood, reader Robert Glenister (Little, Brown Book Group)
- Anthony Horowitz for Moonflower Murders, readers Lesley Manville & Allan Corduner (Penguin Random House Audio)
- Peter James for Find Them Dead, reader Daniel Weyman (Pan Macmillan)
- Lisa Jewell for Invisible Girl, reader Donna Banya, Rebekah Staton & Connor Swindells (Penguin Random House Audio)

- Lynda La Plante for Buried, readers Alex Hassell & Annie Aldington (Zaffre)
- T. M. Logan for The Catch, reader Philip Stevens (Zaffre)
- Richard Osman for The Thursday Murder Club, reader Lesley Manville (Viking)
- Ian Rankin for A Song for the Dark Times, reader James Macpherson (Orion)

eDunnit Award
- Gabriel Bergmoser for The Hunted (Faber)
- Sharon Bolton for The Split (Trapeze) 
- J. P. Carter for Little Boy Lost (Avon)
- Steve Cavanagh for Fifty-Fifty (Orion Fiction)
- Michael Connelly for Fair Warning (Orion Fiction)
- James Lee Burke for A Private Cathedral (Orion Fiction)
- Ian Rankin for A Song for the Dark Times (Orion Fiction)
- Holly Watt for The Dead Line (Raven Books)

H. R. F. Keating Award
- Mark Aldridge for Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (HarperCollins)
- Martin Edwards (editor) for Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club (Collins Crime Club)
- Colin Larkin for Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books: 1950-1965 (Telos Publishing)
- Andrew Lycett for Conan Doyle’s Wide World (Tauris Parke)
- Heather Martin for The Reacher Guy (Constable)
- Sheila Mitchell for H. R. F. Keating: A Life of Crime (Level Best Books)
- Craig Sisterson for Southern Cross Crime: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film & TV of Australia and New Zealand (Oldcastle Books)
- Peter Temple for The Red Hand: Stories, reflections and the last appearance of Jack Irish (riverrun)
Last Laugh Award
- Ben Aaronovitch for False Value (Gollancz)
- Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May - Oranges and Lemons (Doubleday)
 - Elly Griffiths for The Postscript Murders (Quercus)
- Carl Hiaasen for Squeeze Me (Sphere)
- Richard Osman for The Thursday Murder Club (Viking)
- Malcolm Pryce for The Corpse in the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Khurrum Rahman for Ride or Die (HQ)
- Olga Wojtas for Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace (Contraband)

Best Crime Novel for Children (Ages 8-12)
- Sophie Deen for Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes (Walker Books)
- Elly Griffiths for A Girl Called Justice - The Smugglers' Secret (Quercus Children's Group)
- Anthony Horowitz for Nightshade (Walker Books)
- Jack Noel for My Headteacher is an Evil Genius (Walker Books)
- Serena Patel for Anisha, Accidental Detective (Usborne Publishing)
- Serena Patel for School's Cancelled (Usborne Publishing)
- Onjali Q. Rauf for The Night Bus Hero (Orion Children's Group)
- Dave Shelton for The Pencil Case (David Fickling Books)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (Ages 12-16)
- William Hussey for Hideous Beauty (Usborne Publishing)
- Lauren James for The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker (Walker Books)
- Matt Killeen for Devil Darling Spy (Usborne Publishing)
- Patrice Lawrence for Eight Pieces of Silva (Hodder Children's Group)
- Simon Lelic for Deadfall (Hodder Children's Group)
- Robert Muchamore for Hacking, Heists & Flaming Arrows (Hot Key Books)
- Patrick Ness for Burn (Walker Books)
- Nancy Springer for The Case of the Missing Marquess (Hot Key Books)

Congratulations to all the nominees!

The awards will be announced in the first week of June.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Travels with the Nick Hoffman Series: Guest Post by Lev Raphael



I was fascinated by mysteries in junior high school, reading everything I could find in my upper Manhattan library by Agatha Christie, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, and John Creasey. 

But even though I dreamed of being an author, I never imagined writing my own mysteries. Short stories were my passion and I read classic authors in high school and college like Chekhov, Poe, de Maupassant, Maugham, Woolf, James, Wharton, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. My first book with St. Martin's Press was a collection of short stories that had been published over the course of a decade. When it won a prize, that seemed to confirm my career path. ​

But there was a story in the collection that continued to nag me. The narrator, Nick, was a college professor furious because his partner had helped an ex-lover get hired at their university. It was a comedy, but what if the ex- got murdered? Wasn't there a book in that?​ And maybe even a series? 

I returned to Christie, studying her fiendish plots and subtle dialogue. I also read Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, Michael Connelly, Dashiell Hammett, Janet Evanovich, Ken Follett, Georges Simenon and many more crime writers. It was the kind of immersion that I've always enjoyed, whether studying a foreign language like Swedish or taking voice lessons.​ ​ 

My editor at St. Martin's Press suggested academia for my setting because I knew it so intimately. I agreed because the world of the university was a perfect milieu for murder and mayhem. As I once heard a sociologist explain it, "Academics don't have good means of conflict resolution." ​

I located the series in my adopted home of Michigan, creating a fictional state capital of Michiganapolis where my hero taught at the equally fictional State University of Michigan (SUM). Starting out, I wanted the books to be both mysteries and academic satires. ​I had other goals, too. It was crucial that my main character Nick Hoffman had to be seen developing over the course of the books. ​He also had to directly experience the impact of dealing with so much death. 

The second book in the series, The Edith Wharton Murders, scored a rave review in The New York Times and that had special resonance for me. My immigrant mother always did the complex Sunday crossword puzzle to perfect her English. And the Times was practically a fetish object in New York City; we actually learned in elementary school how to fold it to be readable on a crowded bus or subway. 

Thanks to my growing notoriety after that review, I appeared as moderator or panelist at mystery conferences across the country and even abroad. I met fans, booksellers, and dozens of crime writers. These authors are fun to be around because they don't tend to take themselves too seriously despite devotion to their craft. 

I've enjoyed long, deep conversations over meals or drinks with writers like Val McDermid, Walter Mosley, Martha Lawrence, and Anne Perry, talking about everything from career to translations to our personal lives. I owe Val a special debt of gratitude because she spirited me off from a crowded, stuffy lecture room at Oxford when it looked like I was going to pass out from the heat and disrupt the panel. 

While I first became known as a writer of stories about children of Holocaust survivors, my series has let me employ humor that reviewers and fans have enjoyed. It's been a hoot doing readings from these books at colleges and universities where faculty will share gossip with me that can make for great material—suitably disguised, of course. Reading at a college town bookstore on one tour, I was asked if it was believable that someone died in each mystery and Nick's campus was so crime-ridden. Before I could answer, someone shouted, "Kill a whole department!" 

My mysteries earned me a job reviewing crime fiction for the Detroit Free Press where I discovered more writers than I could have found on my own, like the amazing Paula Woods of Inner City Blues and Terrill Lankford of Shooters. Thanks to being a reviewer, I was invited to a star-studded conference at a Caribbean Club Med. When I told the club's CEO that I wanted to set a mystery there, he generously invited me back the following year. I still marvel at the unique experiences that led to writing Tropic of Murder

Other reviewing gigs followed both for newspapers and public radio stations. I even ended up producing my own radio show where I interviewed distinguished authors. I also got to be a DJ in that gig, playing music of my choice at the halftime break. 

All the touring for the series further developed my skills as a performer of my own books. An extrovert with teaching and acting experience, I was comfortable with an audience, but none of that ever prepared me to read my own fiction on tour. I learned on the road, sometimes with my spouse giving me director's notes on what played well and what didn't. Those appearances helped me later design conference workshops where I've advised writers how to dynamically present their work. 

Writing the Nick Hoffman mysteries has always felt like going on vacation. I've relished the structure, the return to a familiar place, a familiar set of characters, and the challenge of coming up with a new kind of murder with a new set of clues while introducing new victims. The series has brought me a different audience which was a pleasant surprise. 

The Nick Hoffman books also gave me the confidence to make one of the later books a novel of suspense dealing with the militarization of our police forces. Assault With a Deadly Lie was truly one of those "ripped from the headlines" books because it dealt with the abuse of SWAT teams. That book scored me my first Midwest Book Award nomination and pushed Nick Hoffman to the edge, making the next and final books in the series not just possible but inevitable. 

From the very beginning of my career, I've been fortunate to have truly fine editors, from publishing stories and articles to appearing in anthologies and then publishing books across a dozen different genres. All three of the Nick Hoffman editors have been insightful and inspiring: Keith Kahla, Michael Seidman, and Meredith Phillips. The series has benefited from their expertise at every turn, and they've taught me to be a better editor myself in my roles as a creative writing teacher and mentor, which I now do online. 

Nick Hoffman started out as an anxious un-tenured assistant professor who was only hired because SUM wanted his partner as the writer-in-residence for their English Department. That's a black mark for Nick. He's also not respected for his work as a bibliographer, since bibliographies are helpful and accessible rather than abstruse monographs read by hardly anyone. 

Even worse, he actually enjoys teaching which doesn't rate high enough when it comes to promotion. And the murders he gets embroiled in invariably create bad PR for his department and the university. I've had fun pitting him against other faculty, administrators, and even campus police as he's grown more confident in himself while becoming more conflicted about the hothouse academic world he inhabits. 

When a professor friend asked me what was happening with Nick in my latest, Department of Death, I told her he was now the department chair and it would be the last mystery in the series. She laughed and said, "Lots of academic careers have ended that way."


Lev Raphael is the author of twenty-seven books in nearly a dozen different genres. Raphael is best known as a pioneer in writing fiction and creative non-fiction about the children of Holocaust survivors, which he's been publishing since 1978, before almost any other American author. His work has appeared in dozens of anthologies in the U.S. and England. He's a guest assistant professor of English at Michigan State University. Raphael's academic mystery series has earned raves from the NYTBR and many other newspapers and magazines. Raphael has written hundreds of reviews for The Detroit Free Press, Jerusalem Report, Forward, The Washington Post, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Boston Review and Lambda Book Report. A former radio talk show host, he also reviewed for several radio shows before giving up on print journalism as well as radio. Follow him on Twitter @LevRaphael. Raphael's web site is