Tuesday, June 15, 2021


Bloody Scotland
announced the Longlist for the McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2021. The McIlvanney Prize recognizes excellence in Scottish crime writing, and includes a prize of £1,000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

 The Cut, Chris Brookmyre
The Silent Daughter, Emma Christie
Before the Storm, Alex Gray
Dead Man’s Grave, Neil Lancaster
The Coffinmaker’s Garden, Stuart MacBride
Still Life, Val McDermid
Bad Debt, William McIntyre
The Less Dead, Denise Mina
How To Survive Everything, Ewan Morrison
Edge of the Grave, Robbie Morrison
The April Dead, Alan Parks
Hyde, Craig Russell
Waking the Tiger, Mark Wightman


Monday, June 14, 2021

What Not to Do: Guest Post by Donis Casey

Donis Casey:

What Not to Do 

Besides writing mystery novels, for a few years I've had a side gig as a free-lance mystery reviewer for Publishers' Weekly Magazine. I don't choose the books I review. The editor at PW sends me three or four advance reading copies (ARCs) a month to review. Usually these books will not be available for purchase for several months, and an ARC is not the final version, so I don't pay undue attention to typos or other minor flaws that will more than likely be corrected before the book hits the shelf. 

I try never to be mean with my reviews, because as a writer myself I know how that feels. Besides, just because I don't enjoy a particular type of character/plot/setting/time period, that doesn't mean it's not well executed, and other readers may love just that kind of thing. But I know an epic fail when I see one, and when I do, I'm honor bound to tell the truth. I've been doing these reviews for about three years, and I've seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst, and both have taught me many things I've tried to apply to my own writing. In fact, I'm currently in the midst of getting a lesson on what not to do. I'm reading the second or third installment of a series in which some loose ends are left from earlier books, and the author keeps interrupting the action to catch us up on what went before. Now, it has to be done, but said author does it with such lengthy digressions that when he returns to the action, I've forgotten the details of the story. 

As I read, I'm furiously taking "what not to do" notes, especially considering I'm in the midst of writing the second installment of a mystery that contains loose ends from the first. How do you catch the reader up on what has gone before without bogging down your momentum? Do it in short intervals, I think, and try to work it into the action naturally. That's what to shoot for, anyway. 

Here are some other comments I've sent to the PW editor about fails in books I have reviewed which all writers would do well to watch out for. None of these comments actually showed up in the review I wrote for publication, and the names, situations, and details have been changed to protect the guilty. 

"The plot had so many holes that I have a headache from slapping my forehead so many times while I was reading." 

"She had an idea for a plot and bent all her characters out of shape to fit it." 

"This is a historical, but I couldn't tell what the year actually was and the author never actually said. From things the author wrote in the beginning I thought it must be in the 1850s or so, but I kept revising my estimate forward as more and more modern items kept showing up. I think maybe the 1870s." 

"The sleuth's method of detection consisted of basically going from suspect to suspect and loudly accusing him or her of murder in hopes someone would crack. The motive was stupid and the killer was stupid for falling for (X's) lame trap." 

"No proper English lady would go on 'vacation' with a single male acquaintance in 18--." 

"Great characters and deft handling of the mores of the time. But I wish (X) hadn't cleared (Y) of the murder by having the coroner pinpoint the murdered woman's time of death within half an hour! In the 19th century!" 

 "I like the unusual setting and the characters are fun. She handled tension well, but I would have liked it better if the big showdown between the sleuth and the murderer hadn't ended with a slapstick food fight." 

"She certainly studied the manual on how to write a cozy, so cozy lovers will find much to like. But that ending! The protagonist and her sidekick lay a trap, then hide in the bushes to eavesdrop on the conversation between the killer and the person who agreed to be bait. I always get annoyed when the killer confesses all in excruciating detail, and at the drop of a hat!"* 

But really good characters cover a multitude of sins: "Her editor would have done well to have her condense the beginning quite a bit, but it eventually picked up nicely and the main character was well drawn and realistic. She was actually emotional about the deaths! It wasn't hard to figure out whodunnit, but there's enough atmosphere and crafting and eccentric characters (and a hunky detective and a kitty) that cozy lovers won't care."

*This is a pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?


Donis Casey is the author of Valentino Will Die, the second episode (following The Wrong Girl, 2019) in 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. Donis is a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur. She lives in Tempe, AZ

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Acknowledging excellence in the field of tie-in writing, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers announced the nominees for the 2021 Scribe Awards. Congratulations to all! 

There are six prize categories, but the one of foremost interest to mystery readers—“General Original Novel and Adapted Novel”—features the following nominees:

 Masquerade for Murder, by Mickey Spillane and 
Max Allan Collins (Titan)
 Mindgame, by David J. Howe (Telos)
 Day Zero: Watchdogs Legion, by James Swallow and 
Josh Reynolds (Aconyte)
 The Rise of Skywalker, by Rae Carson (Del Rey)

Scribe winners will be announced on Friday, July 2.

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Why I've Never Gone to a Writers Retreat: Guest Post by Lev Raphael


Why I've Never Gone to a Writers Retreat 

Fans often ask me if I go to writers’ retreats. I’ve never really wanted to because I live in one. 

The cozy mid-century house I bought over 30 years ago in a heavily-treed subdivision is extra quiet because it’s dead center, even though there are some major roads on three sides. That means you can’t hear any road noise whatsoever whether you're inside the house or sitting out on the patio or the deck. There’s also very little traffic through the subdivision itself, sometimes none at all. 

What you can hear is bird song of all kinds: chickadees, robins, goldfinches, mourning doves--and of course we see our share of hummingbirds because they like our Rose of Sharon trees. Oh, and I also hear people biking by, neighbors with strollers chatting on their phones, minor stuff like that that forms a pleasant soundscape. 

Yes, there are lawnmowers in the Spring, leaf blowers in the Fall and snow blowers in the Winter. But as someone who grew up in New York, that seems close to silence. For a few years when I lived in Queens, I was directly under a flight path to LaGuardia Airport, and sandwiched between the roar of the Long Island Railroad and the craziness of Queens Boulevard. 

My street is lined with maples that form a canopy when they leaf out, and a sculpture garden after the leaves fall. From my study window, whatever the season, I have a view of a tall, graceful Gingko tree. If you don’t know this tree, they have succulent green fan-shaped leaves that turn a Napoleonic yellow in the Fall and can drop all in one day like gentle snow. It has special resonance for me because there was Gingko near my elementary school in Manhattan. But there's also a large maple and an equally tall oak. 

I can see the trees down at the base of the driveway while I write at my PC and while I make corrections on printed-off manuscripts sitting in my reading chair. It’s just one of the majestic trees around the house and it symbolizes home for me. As does the enormous oak at the very back of our yard which a former neighbor told us was standing here in the 1920s when a 400-acre farm was subdivided into lots for houses. Sometimes, if the weather is just right, I like to do handwritten notes on a printed-off text outside on our deck looking at that tree for inspiration. 

Growing up in New York, I had very little sense of the change of seasons, but here I can watch it change by the day--and sometimes change back, because as people in many states say, "If you don't like the weather here, wait an hour." 

The trees remind me that Michigan is where I became an author, not New York. I experienced a five-year drought after publishing my first short story in a national magazine and it was only after moving to Michigan that the drought ended and my work started being accepted again. I apparently needed a major change of scene to blossom. 

In Michigan I was fully free to become the writer I turned into, someone multiply anthologized, publishing across genres, taking the lessons my college writing mentor gave me into the classroom at Michigan State University and then beyond. I now work with writers online at writewithoutborders.com, mentoring, offering individualized workshops, editing manuscripts of all kinds, and enjoying an even greater level of freedom than I had before. 

I know that one of the appeals of a retreat is escape from where you are, but I don't need that. And people also go to commune with other writers, but I had that intense experience for two and a half years in my MFA program and I've hung out with writers at numerous conferences across the country. I once interviewed Julian Barnes and asked who his writer friends were and he said, "They're next door, in my library. They're my oldest friends." 

The books in the shelves around me in my study--biography, history, fiction-- inspire me as much as the quiet of home. This is where I’ve taken root.


Lev Raphael is the author of 27 books in a dozen genres ranging from memoir to mystery. His most recent book is Department of Death, which Publishers Weekly called "immensely enjoyable" in a starred review. (current photos from his front and back yards)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Coping Mechanism


CANDICE RENOIR: Series 2 coming to Acorn June 28

I've been watching and enjoying Candice Renoir, a French TV police series, on AcornTV  Series 1 is  available now and Series 2 will drop on June 28. There are 8 seasons. Hope we get them all.

Candice Renoir had put her career on standby for 10 years. When she returns from Singapore to resume service in a port town in the south of France, she feels a bit “rusty”. Despite the obvious defiance of her unit and a cynical superior who doesn’t make her job any easier, she is determined to turn her so-called weaknesses into strengths, solving the most complex cases with her common sense, her acute observation and her practical nature seasoned by a busy daily routine. Only Candice can catch a killer because she knows the chemical composition of a window-cleaning product or determine the hour of a murder from the cooking-time of kebabs… Candice is only naive on the outside, and nobody can resist her!

Monday, June 7, 2021


Clarence Williams III  passed away Friday at the age of 81. Clarence Williams III starred in The Mod Squad, I Spy, Purple Rain, and Sugar Hill, as well as other stage, movie, and TV productions. 

From the NYT:

Clarence Williams III, the reflectively intense actor who starred as Linc Hayes, a young, hip undercover police officer on ABC’s “The Mod Squad,” died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 81.

The Mod Squad,” which ran from 1968 to 1973, was one of the first of its kind — a prime-time network series that focused on members of the hippie generation at the same time that it exploited them.

The show had two ad taglines. “First they got busted; then they got badges” summarized the show’s back story: three hippies in trouble with the law who then joined the police force as plainclothes cops with built-in disguises — their youth and their counterculture personas.

Read more here.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

PRIDE AWARD WINNER: Sisters in Crime

Pride Award Winner

Sisters in Crime announced the winner and runners up of the Pride Award for Emerging LGBTQIA+ Writers

Congratulations to C.J. Prince of West Orange, NJ. The winning novel-in-progress was selected by judges (and SinC members) Cheryl Head, John Copenhaver, and Kristen Lepionka. C.J. will receive a $2,000 grant, which is intended for a crime writer beginning their career and will support activities related to career development including workshops, seminars, conferences, retreats, online courses, and research activities required for completion of their work. She'll also receive a manuscript critique from Crooked Lane Books editor Terri Bischoff. 

Five runners-up will also be paired with an established Sisters in Crime member author to receive manuscript critique. They are: Sandy Bailey of Boston, MA (paired with Brenda Buchannan), Alix Freeman of Wellfleet, MA (Leslie Karst), A.L. Major of Oakland, CA (Jeffrey Marks), Mary Lewis Pierce of Maynard, MA (Anne Laughlin), and Jamie Valentino of New York, NY (Catherine Maiorisi). 

Congratulations, All!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021


What a great week for awards! The Private Eye Writers of America announced the Shamus Award Nominees for 2021. Congratulations to all.

or works published in 2020. (The lists below are in alphabetical order by author.)

Best Original Private Eye Paperback

Farewell Las Vegas by Grant Bywaters / Wild Rose Press

All Kinds of Ugly by Ralph Dennis / Brash Books

Brittle Karma by Richard Helms / Black Arch Books

Remember My Face by John Lantigua / Arte Publico

Damaged Goods by Debbi Mack / Renegade Press

Best Private Eye Short Story 

“A Dreamboat Gambol” by O’Neil De Noux in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

“Mustang Sally” by John M. Floyd in Black Cat Mystery Magazine

“Setting the Pick” by April Kelly in Mystery Weekly Magazine

“Show and Zeller” by Gordon Linnzer in Black Cat Mystery Magazine

“Nashua River Floater” by Tom MacDonald in Coast to Coast Noir

 Best Private Eye Novel

What You Don’t See by Tracy Clark / Kensington

Do No Harm by Max Allan Collins / Tor Forge

Blind Vigil by Matt Coyle / Oceanview

House on Fire by Joseph Finder / Dutton

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall / Tor Forge

Best First Private Eye Novel

Squatter’s Rights by Kevin R. Doyle / Camel Press

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa / Epicenter Press

I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff / Down & Out Books

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey / Soho

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden / Ecco


Tuesday, June 1, 2021


The Macavity Award Nominees 2021
(for works published in 2020)

The Macavity Awards are nominated by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal, and friends of MRI. The winners will be announced at opening ceremonies at the Bouchercon in New Orleans. Congratulations to all.

If you're a member of MRI, a subscriber to MRJ, or a friend of MRI, you will receive a ballot by June 20, so get reading. 

Best Novel 

Before She Was Helen, by Caroline B. Cooney (Poisoned Pen Press) 

Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Books) 

Blind Vigil, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing) 

All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny (Minotaur) 

These Women, by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco) 

When She Was Good, by Michael Robotham (Scribner) 

Best First 

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, by Deepa Anappara (Random House) 

Murder in Old Bombay, by Nev March (Minotaur) 

The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman (Pamela Dorman Books) 

Winter Counts, by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Ecco Press) 

Darling Rose Gold, by Stephanie Wrobel (Berkley) 

Best Critical/Biographical 

Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy, by Leslie Brody (Seal Press) 

Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club, edited by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins) 

Ian Rankin: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Erin E. MacDonald (McFarland)

H R.F. Keating: A Life of Crime, by Sheila Mitchell (Level Best Books) 

Southern Cross Crime: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film & TV of Australia and New Zealand by Craig Sisterson (Oldcastle Books) 

Best Short Story 

“Dear Emily Etiquette" by Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Sept/Oct 2020) 

“The Boy Detective & The Summer of ‘74” by Art Taylor (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb 2020) 

"Elysian Fields" by Gabriel Valjan (California Schemin’: The 2020 Bouchercon Anthology, edited by Art Taylor; Wildside Press) 

 “Dog Eat Dog” by Elaine Viets (The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell, edited by Josh Pachter; Untreed Reads Publishing) 

“The Twenty-Five Year Engagement,” by James W. Ziskin (In League with Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon, edited by Laurie R. King; Pegasus Crime) 

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery 

The Last Mrs. Summers by Rhys Bowen (Berkeley) 

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart (Minotaur) 

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson (Quercus) 

Mortal Music by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press) 

The Mimosa Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu (Constable) 

Turn to Stone by James Ziskin (Seventh Street Books)