Thursday, September 30, 2021

Bill Gottfried Funeral and Shiva information

Outdoor memorial service for William Gerald Gottfried
(Masks required, dress for warm weather)
Congregation B’nai Shalom
74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Friday, October 1, 11am PDT
Meeting ID: 882 9835 4925 Passcode: 154146
 
Graveside service to follow
Oakmont Memorial Park and Mortuary
2099 Reliez Valley Rd., Lafayette
Garden of Compassion III, 1pm PDT
 
Reception to follow
Leece and Harry Gottfried’s front yard
905 Janet Lane, Lafayette
 
Sitting Shiva Virtually
There will be opportunities for informal sharing during shiva
Monday October 4, 5pm PDT
Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 878 4376 0879
Passcode: 017484
Please share this post with anyone who might have a connection with Bill or the family.
 

 

Cartoon of the Day: Writer's Retreat


Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bill Gottfried: R.I.P.

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of one of the mystery community’s most loved and stalwart supporters, Bill Gottfried. Beloved by authors, fans, and readers all over the world, Bill made significant contributions to the mystery world.

I first met Bill at the San Francisco Bouchercon in 1985. He and Toby were what I called ‘the cute couple’.. always together, holding hands, enjoying a loving and harmonious marriage of shared interests. It was rare to see one without the other. 

Bill and Toby joined our weekly mystery book group just after that Bouchercon, and he was a member ever since, even participating in last night’s zoom meeting. 25 + years ago he formed his own summer mystery book group, focusing on history mysteries, his favorite. That group gave him much joy. Over the years, we worked on numerous mystery conventions together. We often spent time together at conventions, too, in other cities, visiting art museums and historic sites in the many different places in which the conventions took place. 

Bill was a terrific resource for all things mystery and medical. That was a great combination for me, personally, as it was always good to have a ‘doctor in the house.’ And, in case you didn't know, Bill personally saved the lives of several of our mystery friends. Bill was a world traveler, a collector of masks and ethnic artifacts, a gardener, a bird watcher, a scholar. Religion played an important part in his life, and recently during the pandemic, he continued to expand his personal education in a number of fields. He always wanted to learn more, taking classes online and before that in person during his retirement. He also shared information about these courses to make sure others got the opportunity to attend. Bill loved to share his knowledge and his love of many different subjects. 

Bill will be remembered for his Talmudic questioning, both at conventions, in emails, and on Facebook. He embraced technology early on as a way to expand his knowledge, his experiences, and to grow new and old friendships. 

For Bill, family was always first. Family was near and dear to him. His devotion and love for Toby was unparalleled. His time with and love for his children and grandchildren was paramount. He was proud of his family and spoke of them often. 

Summing up a life well lived is difficult. Bill was a reader, a fan, a doctor, a friend. But most of all, he was family. We both grew up in Philadelphia, we both went to the University of Pennsylvania…albeit not at the same time. We both moved to California. We had so many things we shared: collecting, mystery, history, maps, religion, art, reference books. If you knew Bill you knew he bought books, often several copies of the same one, much to Toby’s chagrin. But instead of returning the extra copy or two, he gave them to others who would appreciate them. 

Even though we were not related by blood, I thought of him as family. I appreciate that he included me in his family celebrations, family group emails, and decisions. And, as family we sometimes squabbled, but that, too, is what family is about -- how we attain knowledge and show our love. I considered Bill my friend, doctor, and often my surrogate father. 

He was brilliant and loving, warm, and unique. But most of all, he will be remembered for his acts of Chesed (Look it up, Bill would say!). 

May his memory be a blessing. I know I am blessed for having had him in my life all these years. He will be missed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

MYSTERY READERS ARE THE SMARTEST: Guest Post by Larry Maness

Larry Maness: Case Solved: Mystery Readers are the Smartest

No one, writers and readers alike, enjoys discovering an error in a book. However small, be it a misplaced comma, incorrect spelling, or in the case of one Barry Thomas Reed who pointed out in a precisely crafted letter to my publisher what he called a ‘factual conflict in the early pages’ of my novel, Nantucket Revenge. Mr. Reed writes that on page 26, lines 9-10, on page 30, lines 2-3, and on page 32, line 19, there appears to be some confusion on whether the passenger ferry Eagle sailing out of Nantucket ran aground before or after the Coast Guard boarded her. 

I wrote Mr. Reed a warm Thank You note pointing out a different line on page 26 stating that the Coast Guard successfully boarded the ferry and had her towed back to the dock after she’d grounded. Conflict resolved. 

Over the years I have had occasion to correspond to readers with questions ranging from who a certain character is modeled after—if any-to where best to begin a hike given the locations mentioned in A Once Perfect Place set near New Hampshire’s Pitcher Mountain. 

All reader’s questions and comments reinforce something that I’ve believed since I began writing mysteries: Mystery readers are some of the most intelligent and actively engaged readers in the reading world. 

Years ago, I was one of several book reviewers for “Boston Review” and “The Boston Phoenix.” In the days before electronic submissions, publishers sent advanced copies or galleys to Arts Editors who made reviewer assignments, if we did not find on our own something that we wanted to read. Finding that soon-to-be-reviewed tome involved a trip to one office or the other and rummaging through stacks of books until selecting a book. 

Other reviewers did the same and would often make comments on a book someone had selected. The jab went something like, “Why review that (substitute any genre here) when you could write about something more serious?” The slight was obvious: mystery, thriller, Sci-Fi (add any genre fiction) is less than so-called serious fiction. To take that thought further, genre readers are somehow inferior to readers of serious fiction. They want page-turning escape. They want to ignore the struggles of life, which is the purview of the serious novel. 

P.D. James and John D. MacDonald, both excellent stylists to name but two, would likely challenge the notion that their best fiction was anything other than serious work, and that their readers were somehow inferior. In my view, readers who enjoy puzzling out the guilty in the pages of a well-written mystery are actively engaged in characters, plots, and places like no other readers. 

One reason for this is that the nature of a mystery novel invites the reader to participate in solving a puzzle. A crime or murder is committed. What was the motive? How was it done? Who did it? These and other questions create a unique bond between writer and reader. As the characters develop and the plot hurries along, the mystery reader transforms him or herself into an additional detective trying to solve the case along with the fictional characters. This is especially true when the author writes in first person since the reader and the fictional detective learn about the crime and possible solutions simultaneously. 

This participation in the novel occurs because readers of mysteries are basically curious. To solve the mystery requires careful, thoughtful reading mixed with a bit of logic that helps spot the red herrings. These readers really do want to know who did it. But they don’t want the answer to come too easily. Readers feel cheated when after 100 pages they have figured it all out. No, they want a challenge and good mysteries provide that. 

There is another, perhaps more important, reason that mystery readers are actively engaged like no other readers and that relates to their book selection process. Publishers’ marketing research has been done in how the background color of the dust jacket and shelf placement effects sales. Books with black covers placed on the bottom of the retail book shelf sell fewer copies than novels with lighter covers placed near the top. But more than the cover and shelf placement, readers of mysteries relate to the underlying theme of all mystery novels: The never ending battle between good and evil played out in a familiar arena. 

In the real world, crime often does pay and amoral, vicious men and women can and do get away without penalty. In most mystery novels, the good and virtuous win. The victory may not be tidy, some rough edges may remain, but the bad guys pay their debt. The victory over evil is sweeter when the protagonist overcomes his or her many flaws to gain the upper hand. Again, in the real world, our flaws are often not overcome. We don’t win all the entered races and the girl of our dreams may have run off with the crook who lives next door. 

In a mystery novel, the crook gets busted, the girl comes to her senses, and we are all breaking the tape when we cross the finish line first. So for all the Barry Thomas Reeds out there who take the time to spot a factual conflict in any of my work, I thank you in advance for taking my and all other mystery writers novels seriously enough to offer your thoughts. We are, after all, moving through the pages together. 

 ***

Larry Maness is the author of Nantucket Revenge, A Once Perfect Place, and Strangler—all featuring Jake Eaton, Private Investigator. The Jake Eaton mysteries and his novel The Voice of God were reprinted last year by Speaking Volumes Publishing who published his newest novel, The Last Perdoux, in the Spring. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

MIDSOMER MURDERS: Series 22: Part 2

When the first two episodes of Midsomer Murders Series 22 aired back in the Spring, we were told the other four episodes were coming this autumn. Good news!!! The second set of episodes begins tomorrow, September 27th, with three more coming in October. On AcornTV.

Series 22 Episode 3 premieres September 27. Homicide, blackmail, greed, and betrayal: just a taste of what goes on behind the well-trimmed hedges of Midsomer County in this deliciously sinister series. But the culprits are no match for DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles, Bergerac); his successor upon retirement, DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, Life of Riley); and their assistants.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Large Groups


 

GRANTCHESTER: Season 6: Masterpiece PBS

Grantchester Season 6 will air Sundays, October 3 – November 21, 9:00 p.m. ET on MASTERPIECE on PBS

In an all-new season, it’s 1958 and trouble is brewing in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester. Reverend Will Davenport (Tom Brittney) relishes his role as a firebrand vicar, but the very role he loves puts him at odds with his own ideals when Leonard (Al Weaver) is caught up in a scandal. Meanwhile, Geordie (Robson Green) finds his principles shaken, Mrs. Chapman (Tessa Peake-Jones) is distraught, and Geordie’s wife Cathy (Kacey Ainsworth) is defiant. With new crimes around every corner, and morality and legality at odds, it’s going to take all of Will’s skill and empathy to navigate these choppy waters and help the ones he loves.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Golden Retriever Support Group


 

MAGPIE MURDERS: MASTERPIECE PBS

Eleventh Hour Films, MASTERPIECE and BritBox UK have unveiled a selection of initial images from the upcoming adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s acclaimed and best-selling novel Magpie Murders, which wrapped production in London, Suffolk and Ireland last month. 

The plot to Magpie Murders revolves around the character Susan Ryeland, played by Lesley Manville (The Crown, Phantom Thread), an editor who is given an unfinished manuscript by best-selling mystery writer Alan Conway (Conleth Hill, Game of Thrones) featuring Conway’s detective Atticus Pünd (Timothy McMullan, Patrick Melrose), and has little idea it will change her life. 


Further cast members include Daniel Mays (Line of Duty, Des), Alexandros Logothetis (42°C, The Island), Claire Rushbrook (Whitechapel, My Mad Fat Diary), Matthew Beard (Dracula, And When Did You Last See Your Father?), Pippa Haywood (Bodyguard, Green Wing, Bridgerton) and Michael Maloney (The Crown, The Trial Of Christine Keeler). Produced by Eleventh Hour Films, Magpie Murders is helmed by director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty, Military Wives, The A Word) and distributed internationally by Sony Pictures Television. 

Magpie Murders will premiere on MASTERPIECE PBS in 2022. MASTERPIECE is presented on PBS by GBH Boston. 


 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

CALL FOR ARTICLES AND REVIEWS: COLD CASE CRIME -- DEADLINE EXTENDED

DEADLINE EXTENDED: October 10, 2021



CALL FOR ARTICLES: Cold Case Mysteries:
 
Mystery Readers Journal (Volume 37: 4)


The next issue of Mystery Readers Journal will focus on Cold Case Mysteries. We're still 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 "Cold Case Mysteries." Think of it as chatting with friends and other writers in the bar or cafe or on Zoom about your work and your 'Cold Case Mystery' connection. Add a title and 2-3 sentence bio/tagline.

Deadline: October 10, 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.



Saturday, September 18, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: The Rescue Cat Gets Rehomed

 Happy Caturday!



BLOODY SCOTLAND PRIZES

Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival announced the 2021 awards. Congratulations to all!

McIlvanney Prize for Crime Novel of the Year: Hyde, by Craig Russell (Constable)

Also nominated: The Silent Daughter, by Emma Christie (Wellbeck); The Coffinmaker’s Garden, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins); Edge of the Grave, by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan); and The April Dead, by Alan Parks (Canongate)

Scottish Crime Debut of the Year: Edge of the Grave, by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan)

Also nominated: The Silent Daughter, by Emma Christie (Wellbeck); Waking the Tiger, by Mark Wightman (Hobeck); and No Harm Done, by Alistair Liddle (Self-published)


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

NGIAO MARSH AWARD FINALISTS 2021: New Zealand


Beyond whodunnit: 2021 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists offer thrills and varied perspectives on violence and justice From journalists hunting justice to communities upturned by sudden violence, the authors of the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists explore the motives and impacts of some of the starkest criminal justice issues facing Aotearoa

Now in their twelfth season, the Ngaio Marsh Awards celebrate excellence in mystery, thriller, crime, and suspense writing from New Zealand storytellers.

This year, a special award honoring outstanding YA and children’s books has also been introduced. The finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best YA/Kids Book are: 

• KATIPO JOE by Brian Falkner (Scholastic) 

• RED EDGE by Des Hunt (Scholastic) 

• A TRIO OF SOPHIES by Eileen Merriman (Penguin) 

• DEADHEAD by Glenn Wood (One Tree House)

The finalists for this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Non-Fiction, a biennial prize previously won by Michael Bennett in 2017 for IN DARK PLACES, a book about the wrongful conviction of Teina Pora, and by Kelly Dennett in 2019 for THE SHORT LIFE AND MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF JANE FURLONG, are: 

• WEED: A NEW ZEALAND STORY by James Borrowdale (Penguin) 

• ROCK COLLEGE: AN UNOFFICIAL HISTORY OF MOUNT EDEN PRISON by Mark Derby (Massey University Press) 

• FROM DOG COLLAR TO DOG COLLAR by Bruce Howat (Rangitawa Publishing) 

• GANGLAND: NEW ZEALAND’S UNDERWORLD OF ORGANISED CRIME by Jared Savage (HarperCollins) 

• BLACK HANDS: INSIDE THE BAIN FAMILY MURDERS by Martin van Beynen (Penguin)

The finalists for the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel, an annual award for crime and thriller tales from debut authors that was first won by Raymond Berard in 2016 for INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE, recently adapted into the screen drama Vegas, are: 

• THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Rose Carlyle (Allen & Unwin) 

• THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD by Kim Hunt (Bloodhound Books) 

• WHERE THE TRUTH LIES by Karina Kilmore (Simon & Schuster) 

• FOR REASONS OF THEIR OWN by Chris Stuart (Original Sin Press) 

• WHILE THE FANTAIL LIVES by Alan Titchall (Devon Media)

 Two past Best First Novel finalists who have done just that, Nikki Crutchley and JP Pomare (who won in 2019), are among this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel finalists:  

• THE MURDER CLUB by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press) 

• SPRIGS by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson) 

• THE TALLY STICK by Carl Nixon (Penguin) 

• THE SECRETS OF STRANGERS by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin) 

• TELL ME LIES by JP Pomare (Hachette)

The winners of the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Awards will be announced at a special streaming event on Saturday 30 October, held in association with WORD Christchurch. For more information on any or all of this year’s finalists or the Ngaio Marsh Awards in general, please contact founder and judging convenor Craig Sisterson, craigsisterson@hotmail.com Congratulations to all. 

A special thanks to Craig Sisterson for all he does for the mystery world. Thanks for including me as a judge in these prestigious awards. Great reads!

CRIME FICTION SET DURING THE DAYS OF AWE (Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur)

The Days of Awe are the days between the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashana) and Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. That a murder would take place on Yom Kippur (or during the Days of Awe) runs counter to Jewish belief. Let's hope murders only take place in fiction!

Here's an updated short list of Mysteries that take place on Rosh Hashana, the Days of Awe, and/or Yom Kippur. As always, I welcome any additions to this list. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year!

Mysteries set during the Days of Awe

Three Weeks in October by Yael Dayan
The Day of Atonement by Breck England
Days of Atonement by Michael Gregorio
The Yom Kippur Murder by Lee Harris
A Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn
Day of Atonement by Faye Kellerman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
The Day of Atonement by David Liss
A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani
Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanen

Yom Killer by Rabbi Ilene Schneider
Devil Among Us by Jack Winnick

Short Stories:  

Murder is no Mitzvah: Short Mysteries about Jewish Occasions
Mystery Midrash: An Anthology of Jewish Mystery & Detective Fiction, edited by Lawrence W. Raphael
Jewish Noir, edited by Kenneth Wishia
"The Lord is my Shamus" by Barb Goffman

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year!


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

THE CAFE BETWEEN PUMPKIN AND PIE: Guest Post by the Anthology Authors

Best-selling authors Marina Adair (When in Rome, Destiny Bay and Heroes of St. Helena); Kate Angell (Richmond Rogues Baseball and Barefoot William Beach) and Stacy Finz (Nugget Romance, Garner Brothers, Dry Creek Ranch) are popularly known for their individual series. They came together to write a contemporary Halloween anthology - The Cafe Between Pumpkin and Pie - set in small town Moonbright, Maine. Centered around the romantic legend that promises a Moonbright woman will marry the man she sees reflected in a mirror on Halloween, the three single ladies embrace costumed revelers, delicious whoopie pies, and spooky stories as they wait to see if the legend rings true for them. And they find their happily-ever-after husband. 

Here are fun and delicious recipes from each of the authors: 

Stacy Finz - Classic Chocolate Whoopie 

(This recipe is from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell, who I had the pleasure of interviewing when I worked as a food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle about how whoopie pies, once an East Coast treat, were sweeping the nation.) 

Prep Time: 20 minutes 

Cook time: 20 minutes 

Yield: Makes 24 Whoopie Pies 

For the Cakes 

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 

 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening 

1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar 

1 large egg 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 cup milk 

For the Marshmallow Filling 

1 1/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff (or other prepared marshmallow cream, which will do in a pinch) 

1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening 

1 cup confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

DIRECTIONS 

For the Cakes 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. 

Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and 1/2 cup milk and beat until completely combined. 

Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the pies spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. 

For the Classic Marshmallow Filling 

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the confectioners' sugar and the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more. 

For the Assembling of the Whoopie Pies 

Spread the filling on to the flat side of one of the cakes, using a knife or spoon. 

Top it with another cake flat side down. Repeat with the remaining cakes and filling. 

Alternately you can use a pastry bag with a rounded tip to pipe the filling onto the cakes, which will give you a smaller, neater presentation. 

Marina Adair - Grannie Stowell’s Pumpkin Custard Pie 

Granny Stowell spent most of her childhood picking what needed picking from farm to farm all over the South. She never missed Wheel of Fortune and prided herself on having the best pie at every potluck. In the 50’s Granny opened Hot Biscuit, a locals-only diner that served homemade blue-plate specials, gravy covered scratch biscuits and three-layer-crust pies, so deep they had to be baked in a lasagna pan. But her signature dessert was her Pumpkin Custard Pie, a family-only treat, which graced our table every holiday season. Even thought Grannie Stowell is no longer with us, I make sure her Pumpkin Custard Pie is the centerpiece of our holidays. 

Ingredients 

16 oz. room-temperature cream cheese 

½ cup granulated sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

2 large eggs 

1 (9-inch) graham cracker crust (store-bought or homemade) 

½ cup pumpkin puree 

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 

¼ teaspoon ground ginger 

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

Directions 

Preheat oven to 325° F (175° C). 

Combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract and beat until creamed. Add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. 

Spread 1 cup of the cheesecake batter into the bottom of the graham cracker crust. Set aside. 

In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Add the remaining cheesecake batter and whisk gently until well combined. Pour the pumpkin batter over the cheesecake layer and smooth evenly over top with a spatula. 

Bake 35 to 40 minutes until center is almost set. Allow to cool for an hour, then refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. 

Kate Angell - Blueberry Butter Cake 

Recipe yields 12 servings 

Ingredients: 

 ½ cup butter or margarine 

3/4 cup white sugar plus 1 tablespoon 

¼ teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

2 large egg yolks 

2 large egg whites 

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

⅓ cup milk 

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries 

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. 

Cream butter or margarine and 1/2 cup of the sugar until fluffy. Add salt and vanilla. Separate eggs and reserve the whites. Add egg yolks to the sugar mixture; beat until creamy. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour and baking powder; add alternately with milk to egg yolk mixture. 

Coat berries with 1 tablespoon flour and add to batter. 

In a separate bowl, beat whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. 

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with final 1 tablespoon sugar. 

Bake for 50 minutes, or until cake tests done.

Monday, September 13, 2021

LATINX MYSTERY WRITERS: SF Public Library 9/15


San Francisco Public Library
in partnership with the NorCal Chapter of Mystery Writers of America: September 15: 7-8 p.m. (PDT)

Michael Nava curates a panel of Latinx authors discussing their books, writing and their inspirations. Featuring Alex Segura, Raquel V. Reyes, Richie Narvaez and Lucha Corpi.

Watch on YouTube.

Michael Nava is the author of an acclaimed series of eight novels featuring gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios who The New Yorker, called “a detective unlike any previous protagonist in American noir.” He is the recipient of seven Lambda Literary Awards in the gay mystery category and the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in LGBT Literature. His most recent Rios novel, Lies With Man, was published in April by Amble Press, an LGBTQ press of which he is also managing editor. The Washington Post review of the novel called Nava “a master of the genre.”

Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. Her short stories appear in various anthologies including Mystery Most Theatrical and Midnight Hour. Mango, Mambo, and Murder is the first in the Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series.

Richie Narvaez writes frequently about Latinidad, Puerto Rico, urban culture, and social issues. He is the author of the gentrification thriller Hipster Death Rattle. His most recent novel is the historical YA mystery Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco. His latest work is the anthology Noiryorican. Narvaez teaches writing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

Alex Segura is an acclaimed, award-winning writer of novels, comic books, short stories and podcasts. He is the author of Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall, the Pete Fernandez Mystery series (including the Anthony Award-nominated crime novels Dangerous Ends, Blackout, Miami Midnight and the upcoming Secret Identity (Flatiron Books). His short story Red Zone won the 2020 Anthony Award for Best Short Story, and his border noir short story, 90 Miles will be included in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE STORIES of 2020. His comic books include the superhero noir The Black Ghost, the YA music series The Archies and the Archie Meets collection. He is also the co-creator/co-writer of the Lethal Lit crime/YA podcast,  which was named one of the best podcasts of 2018 by The New York Times. 

Lucha Corpi was born in México, and came to Berkeley as a student wife in 1964. She is the author of two collections of poetry: Palabras de mediodía/Noon Words and Variaciones sobre una tempestad/Variations on a Storm, two bilingual children’s books: Where Fireflies Dance/Ahí, donde bailan las luciérnagas and The Triple Banana Split Boy/El niño goloso and six novels, Crimson Moon, Eulogy for a Brown Angel, Cactus Blood and more. Corpi’s numerous honors and awards include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and an Oakland Cultural Arts fiction fellowship. She is a recipient of a PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles Award and an International Latino Book Award. For many years, Corpi taught in the Oakland Public Schools Neighborhood Centers before retiring to devote herself full-time to writing.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

GOING TO HONG KONG: Guest Post by Tori Eldridge

TORI ELDRIDGE:  GOING TO HONG KONG

Readers know Lily Wong as a badass ninja who uses her martial arts skills for good, but in The Ninja Betrayed, Lily show’s her softer side with more food, more family, and—OMG—so much more of Daniel Kwok. With all the swoon-worthy dates, Michelin-star restaurants, ritzy bay-view homes, and the local-eye view of exotic Hong Kong, Lily would be on a dream vacation, if only she weren’t up to her eyeballs in riots, intrigue, and triads. 

Yeah, yeah… danger-smanger… tell us more about love, food, and Hong Kong! 

Ever since I began this series, I knew I would eventually take Lily back to Ma’s hometown and the city where Lily’s meddlesome grandparents still live. After visiting in person with my Hongkonger daughter-in-law and family, I knew that time was now. 

Even readers who have not yet read The Ninja Daughter or The Ninja’s Blade will fall right into Lily’s family, her dreamy new boyfriend, and the exciting prospect of dating him in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Writing The Ninja Betrayed also gave me a chance to share my first-hand impressions and relive my own experiences.

I visited Hong Kong at the end of 2018 to celebrate our eldest son’s engagement to his Hongkonger bride. Coincidence or fate? He started dating her after I had begun writing my debut novel and establishing that Lily’s connection to Hong Kong! 

They met in Shanghai during my son’s business trip then fell in love in Portland, Oregon after she moved there to work at Nike headquarters. When he took a position in Shanghai, she followed nine months later and took a position in Beijing. After another year of long-distance romance and bi-monthly getaways in China, they married in Hawaii and got stuck in Tokyo months later at the start of the pandemic. It turned out to be a blessing because Nike allowed them to work virtually, together, from Tokyo. Now, they’re married and living in Shanghai with their darling eight-month-old daughter (my first grandchild). How’s that for a romance? 

When my husband, my youngest son, and I visited Hong Kong, we were able to hang with my daughter-in-law’s family and “meet” the city through a local perspective. The experiences we had and the places we visited infused my writing with added color, texture, and (what I hope to be) keen cultural and political understanding regarding the pro-democracy struggle. 

We even bonded over dumpling making—apropos since Lily’s nickname is Dumpling! 

We hung out with family at the public barbecue and played mahjong in their tiny fortieth-floor home in one of the ubiquitous apartment-block clusters. 

“This is Hong Kong, don’t forget, the most vertical city in the world.” (The Ninja Betrayed) 

We wandered through Mong Kok, the busiest, most crowded section of Hong Kong with a mixture of old and new tenements, first-floor retail shops, and tented kiosks that sprout up at dawn and vanish later in the night. 

Once out of the grungy tenement, I headed for the Mong Kok MTR station, down busy one-way streets. People flowed through Crowded Corner with skilled precision, disrupted only by the abrupt actions of tourists who didn’t understand the rules. 

Don’t stop. Don’t block. Don’t crowd.

Locals didn’t squeeze into tiny shops without purpose, nor did they add to the noise pollution with boisterous conversation. They waited outside and kept their voices low so there would be room for others to shop and think. In a city this congested, no matter how independently-minded its citizens, Hongkongers acted in the best interest of their community. (The Ninja Betrayed)

We perused the street markets, shopping for produce and the deliciously sweet and greasy lap cheong sausage (hanging along the top) that Lily loves to eat in the sticky-rice dumplings known as zóngzi. 

Ducks hung beside slabs of meat over fish on ice or live seafood in tanks. Chickens clucked at one stall while shoppers scrutinized bok choy and pomelo at another. The scent of fragrant produce mingled with the musk of ceremonial incense, stacked high in red-wrapped tubes, boxes, and packages. Dried strings of sweet lap cheong sausage hung above bins of dried abalone, fungus, and beans. (The Ninja Betrayed)


We took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island in the day and watched the boats chug by at night, just as Lily does on her own and with Daniel Kwok. 

I folded my arms on the railing as the ferry pulled away from the dock. Daniel rested his chin on my shoulder. Together we watched the skyline appear, steel and glass ablaze in reflected gold and red. The breeze off the water nipped at my face and made me glad to have worn my light leather jacket. I leaned into his chest. Daniel’s assurances had lightened my mood. Would I feel the same if I shared more secrets with him? (The Ninja Betrayed) 

We took a double-decker bus to the top of The Peak, where we hiked around the scenic walkway and down jungle paths not nearly as steep as the ones Lily encounters on her treacherous run. 

“I sprinted to the Watford trailhead and stared at the steps. I hadn’t counted them on the way down, but dreaded every one of them for the charge back up. Train to live. Live to train. Sensei’s slogan reminded me that every challenge presented an opportunity to grow and improve. My adventures in Hong Kong had already shown me the importance of staying in shape. This three-quarter-mile sprint up a mountain would do me good.” (The Ninja Betrayed) 

Although we didn’t eat quite so well as Lily at the Ritz and Ta Vie, we did eat home-cooked papaya soup, jook (rice porridge), and crispy-broiled pork belly at my in-laws’ home. We also filled our bellies with delicious food from street vendors, cha chaan teng tea restaurants, and a Cantonese-style dim sum banquet with our daughter-in-law’s grandmother, aunts, uncles, parents, and brother’s family who gather together every Sunday. 

The banquet lasted for four hours with seemingly endless steamers and plates of Hong Kong delicacies, including my favorite sticky rice, bean curd rolls, and black bean chicken feet. I struggled with the fast-paced Cantonese, made everyone laugh by mixing it up with Mandarin, and ended up relying on Ma for translations. (The Ninja Betrayed) 

My trip to Hong Kong was magical for so many reasons. What a joy it was to relive and draw from my many visceral experiences as I explored Lily’s softer side with her challenging romance and complicated family. But never fear, the new book is loaded with trademark ninja action, intrigue, and mouth-watering food.

To get in the mood for The Ninja Betrayed, try this recipe for the classic yuen yeung Hong Kong coffee milk tea, named for the opposites-attract pairing of Mandarin ducks, a symbol of conjugal love in Chinese culture. Yuen yeung has a complex ratio of three parts coffee and seven parts Hong Kong style milk tea. This recipe makes it a little simpler to make at home. 

• Simmer 2 cups water with 3 tsp black tea for 3 minutes. 

• Add 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk and simmer for 3 more minutes 

• Brew 1 cup of black coffee. 

• Strain milk tea and mix with coffee. 

Note: You can also use evaporated milk sweetened with sugar to taste. Or try my low-carb, no-sugar version below. 

Right now, I’m drinking a blend of Assam and Darjeeling black teas brewed in a cup of hot unsweetened almond milk with a splash of half-n-half mixed with a long shot of decaf espresso. 

What inventive coffee or tea combinations do you like to drink? 

***

Tori Eldridge is the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards-nominated author of the Lily Wong mystery thrillers—The Ninja Daughter, The Ninja’s Blade, The Ninja Betrayed—and the upcoming dark Brazilian fantasy, Dance Among the Flames (out May 2022). Follow Tori on Instagram, and learn more about her at ToriEldridge.com.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Cartoon of the Day: Editing


FLYING SOLO: Guest Post by Stanley Trollip

Stanley Trollip: Flying Solo

If my flying logbook were with me in Minneapolis, and not in my flat in South Africa, I would know the exact date that I first flew solo. That I don’t remember it is not surprising because it is irrelevant. It was probably in December 1968 or January 1969. 

On the other hand, there are many things about that flight that are forever etched in my memory. 

The airport was Rand Airport in Johannesburg. The plane was a brown and white Cessna 150 with call sign ZS-EDH. The flight was scheduled in the morning in order to avoid the normal summer-afternoon turbulence. 

After completing all the necessary preflight checks, my instructor and I took off, and I completed several take-offs and landings. When he was satisfied that I wasn't going to kill myself, we taxied to the apron, he climbed out, and I was on my own. I don't remember exactly how many hours I had under my belt at the time, but my hazy recollection is that it was around ten. Only ten!! 

Even though I had previously done everything required to complete a take-off, a circuit, and a landing, including all the necessary radio communications with the tower, my adrenaline was flowing because I couldn't just throw up my hands and yell 'you've got it!'. For the first time there wouldn't be anyone to rescue me. 

'Rand Ground. Cessna ZS-EDH request taxi, remaining in the pattern.' I suspect my voice was at least one octave higher than normal. 

It was a good thing that we'd already completed a few circuits that day, because I didn't have to decipher the ground controller's instructions to get to the end of the active runway. 

When I reached the end of the taxiway and had checked the various instrument readings, the magnetos, and so on, I switched to tower frequency and requested clearance for a take-off and landing. 

In my head, I was running through rotation speed, climb speed, circuit altitude, radio procedures on each leg of the pattern, and, scarily, what to do if the engine quit. 

 'ZS-EDH cleared for take-off.' There was a pause, then 'Good luck.' It was my instructor who had gone to the tower so he could calm me down if I panicked or remind me of procedures if I suffered a brainfart. 

I taxied onto the runway, advanced the throttle, applying some rudder pressure to counter the torque, and headed down the runway, trying to keep right on the centreline. Ahead of me were several of the ubiquitous mine dumps containing the tailings of the crushed ore from the gold mines. 

I lifted the nose and adjusted the pitch angle to settle on climb speed. At one thousand feet above the ground, I made a left ninety-degree turn onto crosswind leg. When an appropriate distance away from the runway, another left ninety-degree turn onto downwind leg. I remember extending the downwind leg farther than recommended so that I wouldn't be rushed. Another left ninety-degree turn onto base leg, then another one onto final. 

Reduce power, I thought. Now for the tricky part - maintain landing speed while keeping the runway in front, which is sometime easier said than done when there is a crosswind. Then establish a glide path that ends on the runway and not a hundred metres short. It is truly a three-dimensional problem with the added issue of not getting too slow or too fast. If too slow, the plane may fall out of the sky; if too fast, a hoped-for smooth landing may result in multiple bounces on the runway. 

Speed, heading, glide-path. 

Speed, heading, glide-path. 

'Looking good, Stan. Cleared to land.' It was my instructor in the tower. 

Just above the runway, I pulled the power off and let the plane settle. No bounces! I had made it. Every sense in my body was in acute mode. I was elated. MY FIRST SOLO! 

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced my second solo, with many of the same emotions, exhilaration, and nervousness. 

Why? 

Because White Sun Books published my first solo book, titled Wolfman.

Most writers know all too well what it's like to publish a book written only by themselves. That’s how most writers write – alone, by themselves. It is a new experience for me. I had written four non-fiction books with friends before I turned to fiction. Then I wrote seven mysteries in the Detective Kubu series with Michael Sears under the pen name Michael Stanley. We used that pen name also to write a rhino-poaching thriller - Shoot the Bastards in North America, (Dead of Night elsewhere). 

Having written all those books before with someone else is very much like flying a few touch-and-goes with an instructor before the big solo moment. I knew the process well, but suddenly everything rested on my shoulders. Every decision was my decision, just like the first take-off by myself. And the first solo landing. Every word was my word. Aaargh! And I had no one to blame but myself. 

And now I am experiencing all the uncertainties of that first solo. Will the book make a smooth landing, or will it land short or go bouncing down the runway? Only time will tell. We have had publishers for the Michael Stanley books, which is helpful for publicity. But now, how will readers get to know about the book? It turns out many reviewers don’t touch ‘self-published’ books, even when written by an established writer. And I am not skilled at marketing and publicity. 

How will anyone find out about Wolfman

Of course, I’m trying social media – Facebook and Twitter primarily. My Facebook ‘friends’ were very kind, with over 150 liking my post about the launch, with many leaving kind comments. But how many will end up buying it? And does anyone read tweets? I’ve no idea. It’s a bit like final descent to land. I sort of know what to do, but the outcome is still uncertain. 

I asked some writer friends to give me feedback before publication. That was a painful experience – they were harsh in some areas, which is what the book needed. However they all liked the book too and gave me some great blurbs. That’s a bit like the instructor in the pre-solo warm up. Critical and supportive. Trying to get me ready. 

The biggest uncertainty, of course, is when readers eventually find the book, will they enjoy it? Will they leave reviews online? Any review is actually a helpful review. But bad ones cut to the quick. 

The next month is crucial. 

So what is Wolfman about? And who is it’s protagonist? 

There’s a story about that… 

When Michael and I were starting to write a stand-alone thriller about rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling, we decided to stretch ourselves by having a protagonist very different from the one in our Detective Kubu series. Kubu is a Black man in the Botswana CID. So, we decided on a female protagonist and, to stretch us further, she’s a Vietnamese immigrant into Minnesota. Her name is Crystal Nguyễn. 

We started writing and hit a wall at about 20,000 words. So we put the pages aside and wrote another Kubu mystery. When that was done, we returned to the rhino thriller and tried again. The same thing happened. We tried all sorts of tweaks, but nothing gelled. Eventually I suggested to Michael that the problem was that we didn’t really know much about Crystal, or Crys as she is called. I undertook to write a few chapters about her life as an investigative reporter on a Duluth, Minnesota, TV station. 

Those few chapters became a novel of 60,000 words. And the effort paid off. We returned to the rhino book and sailed right through to the end. It is called Shoot the Bastards in the USA and Dead of Night elsewhere. 

 A year after Shoot the Bastards was released, it occurred to me that I had a solo book that I could publish. I revised it totally, and White Sun Books (www.whitesunbooks.com) released it in August this year. 

Crys has just been hired part-time as an investigative reporter in Duluth, Minnesota, specializing in environmental issues. However, her boss doesn’t tap her expertise and gives her trivial assignments. 

This is not what she was looking for as a reporter, so she decides to create her own news by sabotaging the snowmobiles and other possessions of people poaching gray wolves, then reporting on the incidents. After several of these sorties, she speculates when she’s on air that someone whom she nicknames Wolfman may be responsible. The idea goes viral, and the station’s ratings skyrocket. 

Needless to say, someone latches onto the idea – a copycat, if you like – and starts attacking the poachers themselves. Crys now has to reverse course and try to persuade whoever the live Wolfman is to back down. Of course, he doesn't. 

***

Stanley Trollip was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has lived in Minneapolis for the past 38 years. He and Michael Sears write the Detective Kubu series set in Botswana under the pen name Michael Stanley. They also wrote a thriller (Shoot the Bastards) about rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling, set in South Africa and Vietnam. Wolfman is his first solo novel.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Humor and Murder: Guest Post by Priscilla Royal

Priscilla Royal:

Humor and Murder 

Humor and death may seem odd companions, but they have always been best friends. 

Think Hamlet and the gravedigger scene. Call to mind jokes told by those who have suffered pogroms, slavey, the horrors of WWII, or other individual but horrible tragedies. 

Jokes are a survival technique, a way of gaining some distance from a terrifying situation. After the Hinckley assassination attempt, President Reagan quipped: “Honey, I forgot to duck.” Poignancy may also hold hands with humor. The story of the young Jewish man who saves his life for a little bit longer by promising to teach the Tsar’s horse to fly is an example. When his companion says this is impossible and he will be murdered just the same, the man replies: “Or the horse may fly.” Humor in the face of death demonstrates a unique defiance and pride. 

Laughter in a book is a way of breaking tension, a literary form of taking a coffee break from an arduous task. In Geoffrey Household’s The Watcher in the Shadows, a 1960 stalker tale, the protagonist, in danger of being murdered by an unknown person from his past, stays with a vicar who owns a horse. The horse lives in the house and is first met staring affectionately over the shoulder of a woman shelling peas in the kitchen. The entire cast in this bucolic scene is funny and delightful. Yes, the killer is still in the shadows, but the reader gets a breather as does the protagonist. 

Humor shows something about character. Inappropriate jests may suggest he or she is an insensitive boor, but they may also suggest trauma. People do laugh instead of weeping in response to unthinkable news. It is a surprise reaction that can also be a red herring. 

Another example of how humor works in literature is best exemplified by Shakespeare’s fool. Monarchs often let their fools tell them the truth, albeit as a jest, but occasionally they listened while they laughed. A fool’s joke is often seen as madness, just as unpalatable truth is in a world where the meaning of decency has been perverted or destroyed. No one dares to tell corporate or political leaders they are wrong, even if following their orders might be catastrophic. In fiction, however, the fool is allowed to provide insight and warnings, perhaps as the joking sidekick, the semi-sleazy informant, or event the sleuth. Nick and Nora Charles come to mind. 

So murder is a grim topic, and I have no wish to ignore that, but I prefer to mix a little humor with it when I write. As for heroes who conquer all odds in books, that for me will always be the guy who said: “Or the horse may fly”. …

***

Priscilla Royal is the author of seventeen mysteries set in thirteenth century England. The sleuths, Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas, belong to the famous Order of Fontevraud, a unique religious Order including both men and women but ruled by women. Along with adding humor to her books, Priscilla enjoys finding surprising and accurate details about the medieval era that upend many popular misconceptions. Her website is www.priscillaroyal.com. Her most recent book is Prayers of the Dead and will be published in September 2021.