Tuesday, June 29, 2021

LEARNING ABOUT SEA TURTLES: Guest Post by Amber M. Royer

Amber M. Royer:

Learning About Sea Turtles 

When it comes to researching something for a book, eventually the easily accessible resources will leave you at a dead end, and the scholarly ones can be above your pay grade. You need to talk to an actual expert. The beauty of talking to a real actual person is that as a writer, you don’t always realize what parts of a topic you don’t fully understand – and so you might not even know the right questions to ask. 

In 70% Dark Intentions, the second book in my Bean to Bar Mysteries, part of the plot revolves around endangered sea turtles that nest on Galveston Island. I wanted to be careful with what I had to say on the subject, in part because I wanted to get turtle biology and behaviors right – but also because I didn’t want to say anything that would inadvertently encourage someone to interfere with these amazing animals. 

I’ve always liked sea turtles, even more so when I got to visit a turtle sanctuary in Acapulco and see some of the tiny little ones awaiting release into the ocean. (I don’t remember what species those turtles were, but I did take this picture.) It’s one reason I gave Logan (one of my protagonist Felicity’s two potential love interests) the name Ridley Puddle Jumpers for his flight business. After all, the Kemp’s ridley nests on Galveston beaches. It was a reference that showed how this transplanted guy from Minnesota had started to form connections to the island, and I meant to leave it at that. But in the first Bean to Bar Mystery, I had made references to the tree sculptures (trees that were drowned during hurricane Hugo but left in place, with the wood carved into chainsaw sculptures) as a symbol of renewal. I knew that for Logan, sea turtles symbolized hope and second chances. So when we visited Galveston last, and I saw the Turtles Around Town sculptures dotting the street where Felicity has her fictional shop, I knew the turtles – and the sculptures -- needed to show up in the book. 

I did my due diligence and researched basic information about the turtles. But what I needed to know was how turtle nests were handled when found on the coast, so I decided to approach an expert. I have found that most people are passionate about their work, especially if you have enough knowledge about their area of expertise to discuss it intelligently. (You don’t have to be a fellow expert, or even able to discuss the topic on a professional level – just reasonably well informed.) Things also tend to go better if you have a list of questions to ask, and possibly even a few excerpts of what you are planning to write to present with the idea that you want to make sure you have the terminology right – not enough to overwhelm the expert, just enough to get across the feel of the project. I think the excerpts I presented to my turtle expert reassured her that I was taking the topic seriously, and that I had attempted to do my research. 

But – there were a few things I had gotten wrong. And far better to have an expert correct me in the drafting stage (even if I felt a bit silly) than to have readers point it out to me later. 

One of the biggest was when I said that Kemp’s ridleys had always been in the area. This was especially embarrassing, because I’m from the Texas Gulf Coast. And I don’t remember people talking about sea turtles in Galveston when I was a kid, except for the fact that there was a restaurant called Tortuga, right near the Seawall. I personally have never seen a sea turtle nest. But I assumed that lack of experience was just because the turtles were so endangered. Kid’s don’t catch everything, right? In this case . . . wrong. Kemp’s ridleys were first documented nesting on Galveston beaches in 2002. Consulting with an expert kept me from making a major factual error. 

Realizing that I hadn’t even known what questions to ask, the turtle expert I had contacted gave me several scientific papers to read, where I learned about the fascinating efforts to create a thriving breeding colony of these turtles on Padre Island – many of which the turtle expert had been involved with. The main takeaway: with only one active breeding beach in Mexico used by most of the Kemp’s ridleys, there needed to be a backup location in case of natural disaster, which resulted in a multi-national conservation project. (This is of course, a vast oversimplification.) I learned about turtle imprinting (the theory that nesting turtles return to the beaches where they were born), which was further researched with the tracking program used to measure Kemp’s ridley populations, and how “head starting” turtles that were born on one beach and released on a different one likely led to turtles from Mexico nesting in Galveston. (At least that’s how I understand it – some of those papers were above my pay grade.) 

The biggest challenge once I had all that information: not putting it all in the book. Logan is fascinated by the sea turtles, so in my mind, he knows the information, but it doesn’t make sense for him to share everything he knows in dialogue. (He’s not a viewpoint character, so it’s never a problem.) 

When we finally got back around to the original question of how nests are handled, I found that what happens in reality (immediate relocation of the eggs to the breeding colony) was different than how turtle nests are handled in many other places – and different from what I wanted to do in my book. And in the end, I decided that that is actually for the best, considering my original concern about writing anything that might negatively impact the turtles. I added an author’s note saying that this book included a fictional what if the nest were left in place – and a note about who to call and what to do in the event the reader should actually locate a turtle nest to help keep the little ones safe. 

I know a lot of writers are hesitant to approach experts, but try to go into the situation with a positive mindset. I’ve asked a ton of odd research questions over the years (ask me sometime about that one time I wound up on a tour for incoming astrophysics grad students) and only once have I had someone flat out tell me no. I would say that as long as you are earnest in wanting to get the aspects of the book that they know about as accurate as possible, you are professional in the way you approach your request, you don’t take up too much of the expert’s time, and you do as much research as you can ahead of time, more often than not, people are happy to share knowledge they are passionate about. 


Amber Royer is the author of The Chocoverse Science Fiction Series and The Bean to Bar Mysteries. She likes to tell stories that involve complex characters caught up in sticky situations larger than themselves, with no easy answers in sight.

NOTE: Here is the link and re-use information for the stock photo included in the images folder: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kemp%27s_Ridley_sea_turtle_nesting.JPG

Monday, June 28, 2021

Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year 2021: Shortlist

Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year 2021: Shortlist

The Silent Daughter, Emma Christie 

No Harm Done, AJ Liddle 

Edge of the Grave, Robbie Morrison 

Waking the Tiger, Mark Wightman 

The winners of the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year and the 2021 McIlvanney Prize will be revealed on Friday 17 September in the historic town of Stirling.

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, June 26, 2021



Writing Historical Fiction

Reading historical fiction should be like stepping into a time machine. So writing it usually requires some research. The more the better, seems to be my mantra. I tend to get a little carried away. I love going back in time.

First stop, TimesMachine, the New York Times digital archive of its newspaper covering over one hundred fifty years. Next, Chronicling America, a searchable collection of historic digitized American newspapers organized by the Library of Congress. Then, interminable online searches for railroad route maps, women’s fashion, WWI binoculars, children’s toys, etc. For the story that would become ‘Moonset,’ I go one step further. I drive from Florida to Atlantic City so I can read the local newspapers from July, 1921, archived at the Atlantic City Free Public Library. My sister lives less than an hour away, so I’m not as crazy as I sound.

While waiting for my turn on the microfiche reader, I discover Atlantic City, The World’s Play-Ground, by James Bewkes, “dedicated to the millions who visit Atlantic City at all times of the year to find rest, recreation, and enjoyment.” The 1922 travel book, illustrated with beautiful colored sketches, is both a font of information—“More than 100,000 bathers disport in the ocean daily during the summer season. There are 1,000 hotels.”—and a delight.

Scrolling through the newspaper archive, advertisements for the imposing Chalfonte-Haddon Hall hotels, which I remember from the second page of Bewkes’ book, catch my eye. The “two most delightful of Atlantic City’s famous hotels,” offer “sunny rooms, single or en suite. Hot and cold salt sea water in every room; salt sea air at every window.” My main character, Loretta Bremer, a widow with two children, is definitely going to stay at Haddon Hall, ready to take dictation at a law conference being held there, until death intervenes.

I drive straight from the public library to the Boardwalk. Haddon Hall is now Resorts Casino. The Chalfonte is a parking lot.

The Boardwalk is populated this gray afternoon by a few lackluster panhandlers. I give them each a couple dollars and they soon fade away. The beach is deserted. I close my eyes and try to conjure up the noise of a crowd. I hear only the relentless roar of the surf and some strident laughing gulls.

I huddle inside my jacket as I walk on the beach. The bathhouses are long gone, as are the first aid tents, and the pony rides. Dune grasses wave in their place, planted this century to protect the beach from erosion. I collect some shells and quartz pebbles on my way back to the car. It will be dark soon. Before leaving, I snap some photos of the casino’s grand edifice. Details of the old Haddon Hall, hiding behind blue and white paint, call out to me. Is that a face I see pressed against the glass there? No, I tell myself, it’s only a reflection of the moon, and quickly turn away. My sister is waiting.


Jeanne DuBois lives in Florida with two retired greyhounds and writes short mystery fiction. ‘Moonset,’ set in 1921 Atlantic City, is her second published historical mystery and appears in Moonlight & Misadventure: 20 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. Her first, ‘Murder at the Alcazar,’ set in 1906 St. Augustine, is available at Mysterical-e. Find her at jeanne-dubois.com


About Moonlight & Misadventure: Whether it’s vintage Hollywood, the Florida everglades, the Atlantic City boardwalk, or a farmhouse in Western Canada, the twenty authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “moonlight and misadventure” in their own inimitable style where only one thing is assured: Waxing, waning, gibbous, or full, the moon is always there, illuminating things better left in the dark. Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk, available everywhere.



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: The Butler Did It


The Gods of War: Guest Post by Graham Hurley

Graham Hurley: The Gods of War

If you’re ever lucky enough to be in Galicia in autumn, find your way to a tiny fishing village called O Porto de Bares, because there you’ll find the modest plaque set into a harbor wall that changed my life. This story happened seven years ago. My wife Lin and I were in our ancient camper van, exploring the more remote corners of N/W Spain. The holiday crowds had largely gone, and the roads were comfortably empty but there was still heat in the sun and the days and weeks yawned ahead. 

As a novelist, I’d spent my last sixteen years writing crime fiction, a bone tossed to me by a big London publishing house unconvinced by my commercial prospects in any other corner of the fiction market. When the invitation was originally extended, I had profound doubts about saying yes, largely because I never read crime fiction, didn’t really understand the genre, and had no appetite for getting stuck in. 

The fridge, however, was dangerously empty, and so I made it my business to get alongside working detectives in the city where we lived. That was Portsmouth, which turned out to be the crime writer’s best friend, and over the following twelve years I put together a series of books — fronted by D/I Joe Faraday and D’C Paul Winter — that sold surprisingly well, both in the UK and in translation across Europe. The French liked Joe Faraday so much that they gave him a new Christian name — Richard — and made a series of feature length adaptations for France2 that ended up in the national top five. 

After Faraday came four more cri-fis, this time featuring a younger D/S from Faraday’s team who — like us — had moved to the south west of England. East Devon, where we live, has none of the inspirational darkness of Portsmouth (known locally as “Pompey”), and as a result it was much harder to generate page-turning drama. By the time we bumped down the narrow road into O Porto de Bares, I was consciously looking for a way out of crime fiction. 

I remember it was a sunny afternoon. Lin and I settled on a bench with a perfect view of the harbor. There were very few people around and after a while I became aware of the nearby plaque in the harbor wall. O Porto de Bares is the most northerly settlement on the entire Iberian peninsula. It overlooks the main shipping lane across the Bay of Biscay, and during the middle years of the war, a storm drove a passing U-boat with engine trouble onto an offshore reef. Local fishermen saved most of the crew, but the plaque memorises the handful who perished as their submarine broke up. 

I studied that plaque for a while, and then we walked along the harbor in search of a beer. The bar where we stopped, as it happened, had a model of that same U-boat, tastefully draped in tar-blackened netting. Eternally superstitious, I took that as a sign. If I was looking for a tunnel out of crime fiction, then here it was. 

We moved west along the coast, and each new leg of the journey, and each new campsite, gave me an opportunity to develop something substantial from that first image seeded by the plaque in the harbor wall. Men, already half-drowned, struggling to survive in the boiling surf. Their rescuers battled huge waves to pluck them to safety. Where was the U-boat headed? Where did it come from? What were the stories behind the men on board? 

By the time we returned to the UK in later October, I had the bones of the plot down on paper. Half the book belongs to the Captain of my invented U-boat, Stefan Portisch. The rest settles around an ex-FBI cop, Joe Gomez, assigned to security duties at the top-secret development base at Los Alamos, where American scientists are building the first atomic bomb. The two storylines flirt with each other, and finally come together in a surprise climax. I called the novel Finisterre, which is the name for the region surrounding O Porto de Bares. Translated from the Latin, it also means “the end of the earth,” which suited the Los Alamos theme rather nicely. 

Back home, I invested heavily in research and then wrote the book, which my agent pitched to a publisher he knew liked my work. Moving from one genre to another, especially if you’ve enjoyed a bit of success, isn’t easy but Nic Cheetham, at Head of Zeus, was a fellow World War Two buff, and had enjoyed my first draft of Finisterre. Most books these days are sold in series, to maximize sales, and most publishers insist on the presence of a central character to carry the narrative. I’d done exactly that with Joe Faraday, and while I’d enjoyed his company very much over a decade, I now wanted to do something different. 

Slightly reluctant at first, Nic promised to take the book on as long as I could come up with a credible series alternative, and so I conjured a plan that called for a handful of characters who would appear and reappear over the series, claiming more or less of the fictional spotlight depending on the demands of the plot. I gave this concept a name — “soft linkage” — and Nic, brave to the last, said yes. 

Finisterre, to our mutual delight, made the short-list for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Award, and since then Head of Zeus has published four more titles. Last Flight to Stalingrad appears in the US in July, and has already done well in the UK. Book 6, Kyiv, will be appearing in hardback very shortly, and book 7, Katastrophe, is scheduled for next year. Book 8, meanwhile, haunts the pile of research reading on the table in my study. 

I look at those books from time to time, and I always remember the taste of the wind off the Bay of Biscay that afternoon we sat by the harbor in O Porto de Bares. The Spoils of War happens to be the title series, but I like to believe that the gods of war — notoriously fickle — were with us that afternoon on the very edge of Europe.


GRAHAM HURLEY is the author of the acclaimed Faraday and Winter crime novels and an award-winning TV documentary maker. Two of the critically lauded series have been shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel. The first Spoils of War novel, Finisterre, was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. For more information, visit grahamhurley.co.uk.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Library


2021 Strand Critics Awards Nominees

The Strand Magazine announced the 2021 Strand Critics Awards, recognizing “excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing.”

Best Mystery Novel:
Snow, by John Banville (Hanover Square Press)
You Again, by Debra Jo Immergut (Ecco)
Trouble Is What I Do, by Walter Mosley (Mulholland)
The Missing American, by Kwei Quartey (Soho Crime)
A Song for the Dark Times, by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown)
Survivor Song, by Paul Tremblay (Morrow)
Confessions on the 7:45, by Lisa Unger (Park Row)

Best Debut Novel:
Amnesty, by Aravind Adiga (Scribner)
Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
When No One Is Watching, by Alyssa Cole (Morrow)
Empire of Wild, by Cherie Dimaline (Morrow)
A Burning, by Megha Majumdar (Knopf)
A Certain Hunger, by Chelsea G. Summers (Unnamed Press)
Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House)

This year's  Lifetime Achievement Awards go to Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alexander McCall Smith. Josh Stanton of Blackstone Publishing has been chosen to receive the 2021 Publisher of the Year Award. 

HT: The Rap Sheet

Monday, June 21, 2021

SUMMERTIME MYSTERIES: Lazy, Hazy, Criminal Days of Summer

Summertime, and the living is easy. Or is it? So many mysteries taking place during Summer are filled with murder and mayhem -- on the Beach, at the Lake, and in the City! What follows is a list of Summer Crime Fiction that exudes the heat and accompanying crime of Summertime. I've omitted most Fourth of July and Labor Day Mysteries from this list, and I'll be updating those specific lists later this Summer. As always I invite you to add any titles I've missed. Post a note in the comments. This is far from a definitive list, but it's updated since last year.

Summertime Mysteries 

Foxglove Summer by Ban Aaronovitch
The Corpse with the Garnet Face by Cathy Ace
A Cat on a Beach Blanket by Lydia Adamson
A Deadly Cliche; Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
Moon Water Madness by Glynn Marsh Alam
A Tangled June by Neil Albert
Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
Gone Gull by Donna Andrews
Sunset Beach; High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews
Tiger's Eve by Barbara Annino
Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea by Nancy Atherton
Sweet Tea and Secrets by Joy Avon
Live and Let Chai by Bree Baker
Gold Medal Threat by Michael Balkind (Kids: 7-15)
A Midsummer Night's Killing by Trevor Barnes
Milwaukee Summers Can Be Deadly by Kathleen Anne Barrett
Hot Murder by Lorraine Bartlett
Love, Lies and Liquor by M.C. Beaton
Summertime News by Dick Belsky
Pups, Pilots and Peril by Cindy Bell

The Hiding Place by David Bell
The Summer School Mystery by Josephine Bell
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Murder by Fireworks by Susan Bernhardt
A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black
Another Man's Ground by Claire Booth
The Down East Murders by J.S. Borthwick
Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen

Lowcountry Boil by Susan M. Boyer
Deadly Readings by Laura Bradford
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Pot Boiler by Ali Brandon
The Cat Who Saw Stars, The Cat Who Went Up the Creek by Lilian Jackson Braun
Chill of Summer by Carol Brennan
Death by the Sea by Kathleen Bridge
Devils Island by Carl Brookins
Killer in Crinolines; Braking for Bodies by Duffy Brown
Tall Tail by Rita Mae Brown
Scrappy Summer by Mollie Cox Bryan
Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates
Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien
Twanged; Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark
Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark
Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark
Thin Air by Ann Cleeves
Dead and Berried by Peg Cochran
All You Need is Fudge, To Fudge or not to Fudge by Nancy Coco
BlackBuried Pie by Lyndsey Cole
Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
Death on a Summer Night by Matthew Costello
Murder Most Frothy by Cleo Coyle
A Shoot on Martha's Vineyard by Philip Craig
The Trouble with a Hot Summer by Camilla Crespi
Never Say Pie by Carol Culver
Barkley's Treasure, Bikinis in Paradise; Beach Blanket Barbie; Camp Carter; Maui Madness; Bikinis in Paradise by Kathi Daley
The Alpine Recluse; The Alpine Zen; Clam Wake; Dune to Death by Mary Daheim
The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss by Krista Davis

Deadly Summer Nights by Vicki Delany
A Summer in the Twenties by Peter Dickinson
The Gold Coast, Plum Island by Nelson DeMille
Dead & Buried by Leighann Dobbs

Dead in the Water; Fall of a Philanderer by Carola Dunn
Kilt at the Highland Games by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein
Four Dog's Sake by Lia Farrell
Blackberry Burial, Dying for Strawberries; Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow
One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee
Murder Sends a Postcard; Murder Buys a T-shirt by Christy Fifield
The Angel of Knowlton Park by Kate Flora
Lord James Harrington and the Summer Mystery by Lynn Florkiewicz
Apple Turnover Murder, Blackberry Pie Murder, Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Beneath the Skin by Nicci French

Independence Slay by Shelley Freydont
A Dish Best Served Cold by Rosie Genova
Murder Makes Waves by Anne George
The Caleb Cove Mystery Series  (3 in the series) by Mahrie Reid Glab
Summertime, All the Cats are Bored by Philippe Georget
The Cats that Watched the Woods by Karen Anne Golden
A Fatal Fleece, Angora Alibi: Murder at Lambswool Farm by Sally Goldenbaum
Sunflower Street by Pamela Grandstaff
Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake; Knockdown by Sarah Graves
Sound Proof by Barbara Gregorich

Mystery on Mackinac Island by Anna W. Hale
Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton
Dead Days of Summer; Dead Man's Island by Carolyn Hart
Town in a Lobster Stew; Town in a Strawberry Swirl by B.B. Haywood
A Stitch in Crime by Betty Hechtman
Tilling the Truth by Julia Henry
The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara
Death of a Cookbook Author; Death of a Lobster Lover by Lee Hollis
Cracked to Death by Cheryl Holton
Beach Bags and Burglaries by Dorothy Howell
Murder at Wrightsville Beach by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter 

Last Summer by Evan Hunter
Magic Hour by Susan Isaacs
Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James
One Feta in the Grave by Tina Kashian
A Summer for Dying by Jamie Katz

Murder Under a Full Moon by Abigail Keam
The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly (YA)
Rainy Day Women by Kay Kendell
Murder in the Past Tense by E.E. Kennedy
Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd
Banana Split by Josi S. Kilpack
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
Midsummer Malice by M.D. Lake
Dark Nantucket Noon by Jane Langton
The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale

A Timely Vision; A Watery Death by Joyce and Jim Lavene
You Only Witch Once by Amanda M. Lee
Death of a Bacherlorette by Laura Levine
A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan
Murder on the Ile Sordou by M.L. Longworth
August Moon, June Bug by Jess Lourey
Nun But the Brave by Alice Loweecey
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
The Body in the Wetlands by Judi Lynn
Berried to the Hilt, Death Runs Adrift; Claws for Alarm; Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerny
A Demon Summer by G.M. Malliet
Grave Heritage by Blanche Day Manos
Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield (YA)
Death in a Mood Indigo by Francine Mathews
Murder at Beechwood; Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell
Till Death Do Us Bark by Judi McCoy
Killer Honeymoon by G.A. McKevitt
Left Hanging by Patricia McLinn
Tippy Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
Murder Most Finicky by Liz Mugavero
Bats and Bones; Peete and Repeat, The Lady of the Lake, To Cache a Killer by Karen Nortman
Murder at Kildare Mensa by Clare O'Beara
Foal Play; Murder on the Hoof by Kathryn O'Sullivan
The Body in the Lighthouse; The Body in the Birches; The Body in the Wake by Katherine Hall Page
Murder at the Seaside Hotel by Sonia Paris
Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker  

Paws in the Action; A Timely Murder by Max Parrott
The Heat of the Moon by Sandra Parshall
Mrs. Bundle's Dog Days of Summer: A Case of Artful Arson by Allison Cesario Paton
The Summer House by James Patterson
Summer of the Dragon by Elizabeth Peters
5 Dan Marlowe/Hampton Beach, NH mysteries by Jed Power
Murder at Honeysuckle Hotel by Rose Pressey
Cat of Many Tails by Ellery Queen
Still Life in Brunswick Stew by Larissa Reinhart 

Summer Garden Murder by Ann Ripley
In the Dead of the Summer; How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Gillian Roberts
Calamity@the Carwash by Sharon Rose
Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder; Milkshakes, Mermaids and Murder by Sara Rosett
Boiled Over, Clammed Up by Barbara Ross
Murder in the Dining Room by Betty Rowlands
Field of Prey by John Sandford 
Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom
Hang My Head & Cry by Elena Santangelo
Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait
Purl Up and Die by Maggie Sefton

Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea
Vacations Can Be Murder by Connie Shelton
Bushel Full of Murder, If Onions Could Spring Leeks by Paige Shelton
Summer in the Woods by Steven K. Smith
Pick Your Poison; The Cat, The Vagabond and The Victim by Leann Sweeney
Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd
Deception in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
Trouble in the Tarot by Kari Lee Townsend
Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson
Board Stiff by Elaine Viets
Shadows of a Down East Summer; Thread and Gone by Lea Wait
The Great Chili Kill-Off; Killer Crab Cakes by Livia J. Washburn
A Sense of Entitlement by Anna Loan Wilsey
Trail of Secrets by Laura Wolfe (YA)
An Old Faithful Murder, Remodelled to Death; Death in a Beach Chair by Valerie Wolzien
Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods
Sins of a Shaker Summer by Deborah Woodworth
Summer Will End by Dorian Yeager
Heart of Stone by James Ziskin

Any titles you'd like to add?

Saturday, June 19, 2021

SHAKEN NOT STIRRED: The Vesper Martini

Today is National Martini Day, and perhaps the most iconic Martini is that of James Bond aka 007! The Vodka Martini is as synonymous with 007 as the Walther PPK and the Aston Martin DB5. James Bond first ordered his trademark drink  in Ian Fleming's debut novel Casino Royale (1953):

'A dry martini,' he said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.'
'Oui, monsieur.'
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
'Gosh, that's certainly a drink,' said Leiter.
Bond laughed. 'When I'm . . . er . . . concentrating,' he explained, 'I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name.'

Having invented his own signature drink for Bond, Fleming left the reader hanging for the name for the drink until Vesper Lynd entered the novel. Bond thought her name was perfect for his preferred drink:

'Vesper,' she said. 'Vesper Lynd.'... She smiled. 'Some people like it, others don't. I'm just used to it.'
'I think it's a fine name,' said Bond. An idea struck him. 'Can I borrow it?'
He explained about the special martini he had invented and his search for a name for it. 'The Vesper,' he said.
'It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world. Can I have it?'
'So long as I can try one first,' she promised. 'It sounds a drink to be proud of.'

The 'Vesper' Martini created by Bond in Casino Royale and liked by Fleming:

Add 3 measures Gordon's Gin
Add 1/2 measure Vodka
Add 1 measure blond Lillet vermouth
Shake very well until it's ice cold
Garnish with a slice of lemon peel

The medium-dry Vodka Martini preferred by James Bond in the films:

4 measures Vodka (use a tbsp or an oz as a measure to fill one cocktail glass)
Add 1 measure dry Vermouth
Shake with ice. Do not stir. (Shaking gives the misty effect and extra chill preferred by Bond)
Add 1 green olive ( James Bond prefers olives)
Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel
Serve in a cocktail glass

Thanks to MI6-HQ.com for the citations

FATHER'S DAY: Father's Day Mysteries: Fathers & Daughters; Fathers & Sons

Father's Day: A day to celebrate Dad. My own father was the ultimate reader. His idea of a great vacation was sitting in a chair reading a good mystery. It didn't mattered where he was, the book took him miles away.

Even now after he's been gone for many years, I find myself finishing a book and saying to myself, "I have to send this to Dad. He'll love it." It always makes me sad to remember I can't. My father engendered my love of mysteries through his collection of mystery novels and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines. I like to think he's up there somewhere in a chair surrounded by books and reading a good mystery.

Here's to you, Dad, on Father's Day!

The following are updated lists! As always let me know any titles that you think should be included.


Father’s Day by John Calvin Batchelor
Father’s Day by Rudolph Engelman
Father's Day: A Detective Joe Guerry Story by Tippie Rosemarie Fulton
Father’s Day Keith Gilman 
Dear Old Dead by Jane Haddam
The Father’s Day Murder by Lee Harris
Day of Reckoning by Kathy Herman
Dead Water by Victoria Houston
Father’s Day Murder by Leslie Meier
On Father's Day by Megan Norris
Father’s Day by Alan Trustman

Murder for Father, edited by Martin Greenberg (short stories)
"Father's Day" by Patti Abbott --short story at Spinetingler
Collateral Damage: A Do Some Damage Collection  e-book of Father's Day themed short stories.
"Where's Your Daddy?" by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Let me know if I missed any titles.

And a very short list of Crime Fiction that focuses on Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Daughters. Have a favorite Father / Son Father/Daughter Mystery? Post below in comments.


Carriage Trade by Stephen Birmingham
His Father's Son by Tony Black
Her Father's Secret by Sara Blaedel
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
Secret Father by James Carroll
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
The President's Daughter by Bill Clinton & James Patterson
Hot Plastic by Peter Craig
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne 
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron
Lars and Little Olduvai by Keith Spencer Felton
Unsub by Meg Gardner   
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
King of Lies by John Hart
Damage by Josephine Hart
The Good Father by Noah Hawley
1922 by Stephen King
A Perfect Spy by John LeCarre 
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Blood Grove by Walter Mosley 
The Son by Jo Nesbo
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Roman Hat Mystery; other novels by Ellery Queen (Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay)
Paperback Original by Will Rhode
The Senior Sleuths: Dead in Bed by Marcia Rosen
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
The Father by Anton Swenson
Revival Season by Bharti Kirchner  

Friday, June 18, 2021

Call for Articles: Mysteries set in Texas: Mystery Readers Journal (37:3)

CALL FOR ARTICLES: Texas Mysteries:
Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 37: 1 & 2)

The next issue of Mystery Readers Journal will focus on Texas Mysteries. We're looking for Reviews, Articles, and Author! Author! essays.

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

Author Author! Essays are first person, about yourself, your books, and your unique take on "Texas Mysteries." Think of it as chatting with friends and other writers in the bar or cafe (or on Zoom) about your work and your 'Historical Mystery' connection. Add a title and 2-3 sentence bio/tagline.

Deadline: July 20, 2021

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

Send to: Janet Rudolph, Editor. janet @ mysteryreaders.org

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

Subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal. Themes in 2021 (Volume 37): History Mysteries 1; History Mysteries 2; Texas, and Cold Cases.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Summer Reading


Maybe She Didn't Jump: Guest Post by Robert Weibezahl

Robert Weibezahl:

Maybe She Didn’t Jump 

Peg Entwistle, “the girl who jumped from the Hollywood sign,” has an indelible place in the history and lore of the movie business in Los Angeles. On September 18, 1932, the body of the 24-year-old actress was found at the base of the giant letters that at the time spelled out the longer HOLLYWOODLAND in the hills above the city. A note found in her handbag read, “I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.” 

Police ruled that she had died two days before, a suicide. Entwistle immediately became a legend, a perennial symbol of the callousness of Hollywood and the way it chews up young aspirants. In popular culture, the unfortunate Peg (or some allusion to her circumstances) has surfaced in pop songs by such disparate performers as Dory Previn, Protest the Hero, Jakko Jakszyk, Camille Saillant, and Lana Del Rey. Entwistle has been the subject of short films and documentary segments, and just last year the hyperbolic Netflix miniseries Hollywood revolved around a fictional production of a movie based on her grim cautionary tale. 

Legends, by definition, are driven by elusive details and unauthenticated facts that feed speculation. A few years ago, while reading a biography of a screen icon from Hollywood’s Golden Age, I read in the star’s own words about how, as a young aspiring actress herself, she had seen Peg Entwistle perform on the stage and dreamed of one day being exactly like her. 

Their eerie connection went further: The two women were born the same year, exactly two months apart. Both had played the same breakthrough role on stage. Certainly, one might presume that the two actresses’ paths crossed in Los Angeles, then a very small company town. My devious writer’s mind was triggered. How can we know, really, that Peg’s death was a suicide? Maybe she didn’t jump. What circumstances might have led to something more sinister, more violent? Could one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the screen have taken a dark truth to her grave? 

My short story, ‘Just Like Peg Entwistle,’ which appears in the new anthology Moonlight and Misadventure, poses an alternative scenario about the mythic death of “The Hollywood Sign Girl.” While it is speculation, and avowedly fiction, the historical details are drawn from the facts as they are known, with only certain names changed to protect the perhaps-not-innocent. If Peg hadn’t died, the story’s narrator reflects, “Maybe we could have played the sisters on screen that I always felt we were meant to be in real life.” Maybe, in the ensuing years, Peg Entwistle might have won an Oscar or two just like her admiring friend. Maybe now she’d be a Hollywood icon of equal stature, but for reasons beyond her storied death. Maybe she’d be forgotten. Maybe …. 


Robert Weibezahl’s stories have appeared in CrimeSpree, Beat to a Pulp, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Mouth Full of Bullets, Kings River Life, and the anthology, Deadly by the Dozen. He has been a Derringer Award finalist for his short fiction and a two-time finalist for both the Agatha and Macavity Awards in the nonfiction category. His two Hollywood-set crime novels, The Wicked and the Dead and The Dead Don’t Forget, feature screenwriter-sleuth Billy Winnetka. Find him at www.RobertWeibezahl.wordpress.com

About Moonlight & Misadventure: Whether it’s vintage Hollywood, the Florida everglades, the Atlantic City boardwalk, or a farmhouse in Western Canada, the twenty authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “moonlight and misadventure” in their own inimitable style where only one thing is assured: Waxing, waning, gibbous, or full, the moon is always there, illuminating things better left in the dark. Release date: June 18, 2021 in all e-book formats and trade paperback at all the usual suspects.

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