Friday, March 31, 2023

LOOKING BACK: Guest Post by Mike Lawson


My sixteenth Joe DeMarco thriller, Alligator Alley, was released in February this year, and I couldn’t help but think how lucky I’ve been to have a publisherMorgan Entrekin, president of Grove Atlanticwho’s allowed me the opportunity to write such a long-running series. So I felt grateful, and the publication of the sixteenth book was an occasion to celebratewhich I didbut it was also an event that caused me to think back on the origin of the series and the decisions I made. 

When I decided to try my hand at writing, the first decision was easy. I decided to write a crime fiction series because those were the type of books I liked to read, such as those written by John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee) and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe) and Robert B. Parker (Spenser). The second decision was to have the books “gravitate” around Washington D.C. One reason I did this was because I worked there for a while. But the main reason was because Washington D.C. is a target rich environment for a writer, meaning that with all the shenanigans that take place there—and now more so than ever—I figured I’d always be able to find an idea for the next book. And that’s turned out to be the case. Then came the third decision, which was the hardest. Who did I want the protagonist in the series to be? I realized that there were already too many great crime fiction protagonists that were cops or private detectives or lawyers or CIA agents and so forth. I needed a protagonist who would be unique in some way.  And that’s when I settled on DeMarco, a fixer for a semi-corrupt Speaker of the House named John Mahoney. A third recurring character in the books is an enigmatic, former spy named Emma. Unlike DeMarco and Mahoney, there are moral lines Emma won’t cross and she keeps DeMarco somewhat honest. 

You’ll notice that I used the words “gravitate around Washington D.C.” as opposed to “set in Washington D.C.” The reason for this is that almost all my books start with DeMarco getting an assignment from his boss, Mahoney, to poke into something that usually ends up being lethal. So the jump-off-point for the books—as opposed to the setting—is usually Washington. And the plots often come out of things that I would call D.C.-centric. The first DeMarco book, The Inside Ring, had to do with Secret Service agents possibly conspiring to assassinate the president. Other books have involved jaded senators, conniving lobbyists, the NSA, and the CIA. But my novels are often set in locations far from Washington and that’s usually because some real-life event was the inspiration for the books. For example, one book was set in North Dakota because of an article I read about how little state legislators there are paid and how they were easy targets for corruption. Another book evolved from a front-page photo of a little, old woman protesting in the rain because an unscrupulous real estate developer—no, not him—had caused her to be evicted from her apartment. I set that book in Boston because that’s where Mahoney’s constituents live. A true story about Chinese spies stealing classified information from the Los Alamos National Laboratory sparked another book, but I set that one at the naval base where I used to work in Washington state. An article in Vanity Fair about drug testing in third world countries led to DeMarco and Emma ending up Peru. The setting of my latest book, Alligator Alley, however, was mostly personal. I chose the setting because when my son graduated from the navy’s diver training program in Panama City, my wife and I toured the state, and as we drove down Highway 75—AKA Alligator Alley—I realized it would be the perfect place to dispose of a corpse.

So overall, I’ve been pleased by the choices I’ve made when it comes to the DeMarco series. I don’t have a problem coming up with plots for the books. (The book I’m currently working on has to do with presidential documents sent to the National Archives by mistake. I’m sure you can guess where that idea came from.) I like that I can vary the plots from issues dealing with big government institutions to personal issues connected to the recurring characters in the books. I enjoy moving the stories around to different parts of the country and it’s been fun watching the characters in the series change as the real world changes. I’ve only seen two problems. One is a good problem to have; the other not so good.

The good problem is that when writing a series, you want each book to stand alone so readers don’t have to begin with the first book to know what’s going on. This means that in every book, I have to basically repeat the background on the recurring characters and it’s a challenge to find a different way to say the same thing I’ve said sixteen times before. But that’s not a bad problem to have. 

The other problem is not so nice to have, and it’s connected to the divided, politically supercharged era we live in. My books are classified as political thrillers—but they’re not political. By that I mean I’m not trying to push a political agenda or ideology in my novels. My only objective is to entertain. But as the books often involve politicians and current things happening in the world of politics, I have to choose my words carefully these days because you can’t believe the nasty emails I get when I offend some reader’s strongly held and often irrational beliefs. This rarely happened with the books published prior to 2016, but since 2016 the I’ll-never-buy-your-books-again emails come more often. I imagine I’m not the only writer that has this problem and it would probably be fun to compare hateful, politically inspired emails.  


MIKE LAWSON is a former senior civilian executive for the U.S. Navy. He is the author of fifteen novels starring Joe DeMarco, three novels with his protagonist Kay Hamilton, and one standalone novel Redemption.


Thursday, March 30, 2023

BIRTHDAY CRIME FICTION: Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my Birthday! Celebrate virtually with me by reading one of these Birthday Themed Mysteries. Or, keep the list for your Birthday! Every year I get older, and every year this list gets longer. Any titles missing? Make a comment below, and I'll add it to the list! Have a favorite? Let me know!

Birthday Crime Fiction

Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni and Anselm Hollo
A Birthday to Die For by Frank Atchley
Cranberry Crimes by Jessica Beck

Birthdays Can be Deadly by Cindy Bell
The Birthday Murderer by Jay Bennett
Birthday Can Be Murder by Joyce Cato
Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
Berries and Birthdays by Leena Clover

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
A Catered Birthday Party by Isis Crawford
The Birthday Gift by Ursula Reilly Curtiss
The Birthday Party: Family Reunions Can Be Murder by Chari Davenport
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson

The Party by Elizabeth Day
The Birthday Girl by Melissa De La Cruz
There's Something about Mary by Wendy Delaney
A Birthday Secret by Nickolas Drake
Murder Can Botch Up Your Birthday by Selma Eichler

The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin
Birthday Cake and Bodies by Agatha Frost
Birthday Sprinkle Murder by Susan Gillard
Aunti Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
The Nanny by Dan Greenburg
The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris
They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
Birthday Cake Waffle by Carolyn Q. Hunter
Birthday Girl by Matthew Iden

Death in the Garden
by Elizabeth Ironside
Happy Birthday, Marge by Shari Hearn
The Birthday Treasure Mystery by Kaylee Huyser
Birthday Party by Marne Davis Kellogg
Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
Birthday Party by C.H.B Kitchin and Adrian Wright
Spiced by Gina LaManna 

The Birthday Girl by Stephen Leather
The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis
Creme Brulee Murder by Harper Lin

The Old Die Young by Richard Lockridge
The Birthday Killer by W. Kay Lynn
Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart McBride

False Scent by Ngaio Marsh
The Birthday Mystery by Faith Martin
The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier
Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier 

Deadly Birthday by CT Mitchell
Many Deadly Returns by Patricia Moyes
The Body in the Casket by Katherine Hall Page 

21st Birthday by James Patterson
Birthday, Deathday; The Cannibal Who Overate by Hugh Pentecost
The Birthday Club by Jack Peterson

Murder and Meringue Cake by Rosie A. Point
The Birthday Party by W. Price
Birthday Dance by Peter Robinson
Birthdays are Murder by Cindy Sample

The Birthday Bash by Elizabeth Sorrells
Don't Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub
Birthday Cake and a Murder by Kathleen Suzette

Sharpe Turn by Lisa B. Thomas
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine
Cakes for Your Birthday by C.E. Vulliamy
The Birthday Surprise by Clara Vulliamy (Children's) 
A Birthday Lunch by Martin Walker
The Birthday Girl by Sarah Ward

The Birthday by Elizabeth Wells
The Mortician's Birthday Party by Peter Whalley
Birthday Girl by Niko Wolf

The Fortieth Birthday Body by Valerie Wolzien
The Birthday by Carol Wyer
The Birthday by Margaret Yorke

Short Story:

"The Birthday Dinner" by Donna Andrews in Death Dines In, edited by Claudia Bishop & Dean James


    Cam Jansen and the Birthday Mystery by David A. Adler, Illustrated by Susanna Natti

Wednesday, March 29, 2023


Sister Boniface, a spin-off of the Father Brown series, is set for Season 2 to premiere on April 4th on Britbox in the U.S. There will be 10 episodes in Season 2.

Sister Boniface is played by Lorna Watson. This light-hearted series is set in the 1960s and stars Sister Boniface, a genius with a PhD in forensic science. She is an official Police Scientific Advisor working with DI Sam Gillespie and DS Felix Livingstone, advising them on all things forensic. Sister Boniface rides a moped, makes wine, and is a part time forensic scientist with the police. All this while living the 'contemplative' life, sort of. She does, though, really champion the victims and wants to see justice served. 

The official synopsis for Season 2: 

Sister Boniface is back in the habit, returning as the Great Slaughter Constabulary’s crime-solving secret weapon. Countryside criminals should start saying their Hail Marys, as Boniface’s faith in forensics is only rivaled by her passion for investigation.

“This series, the sister will force a murderer into checkmate at a chess tournament, take a spin through a pirate radio station, and defend her reputation as the conviction of her greatest adversary, The Pear Tree Poisoner, comes into question.”

FYI: Still no news on Season 11 of Father Brown. It does not look like we'll see any new episodes in 2023. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Great Detective: Ten Ways Holmes Influenced the Mystery Genre: Guest Post by Amber M. Royer

Amber M. Royer:  The Great Detective: Ten Ways Holmes Influenced the Mystery Genre

In A Study in Chocolate, the fifth book in my Bean to Bar Mysteries, my protagonist receives a copy of A Study in Scarlet, as a way of being called out by a Sherlock Holmes fan who is the book’s antagonist.  This killer is trying to take on the role of Moriarty (though this person is nowhere near up to the task) and is trying to cast Felicity as Holmes.  

I had a great deal of fun writing this fan dynamic – as Holmes is considered by many to be THE iconic detective. The Guinness Book of World Records lists him as, “the most portrayed human literary character in film and television history.” It’s not the first time I’ve referenced him. In the third book in my series, part of the plot surrounds a Holmes-themed LARP (live action roleplaying game) taking place on board a mystery-themed cruise. (I tend to reference all of my favorite detectives at some point – which isn’t that different from Doyle himself, who had Sherlock and Watson discuss Poe’s Detective Dupin, who was obviously something of the model for Holmes.  In a somewhat meta move, Holmes declares himself the superior detective, right in the first novel, A Study in Scarlet.)

Poe may have set the stage, but it was Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes that captured the public imagination and basically invented a new literary genre.  Here’s my top ten favorite things about the legacy Holmes left us mystery writers.  And mystery fans.
1. The “Consulting” Detective – Dupin and Holmes are two early examples of characters who are solving crimes, despite not being part of organized law enforcement. Dupin’s motivations for solving cases shifts in each of the three stories he is a part of.  But Sherlock Holmes is different.  He has intentionally educated himself in all the sciences related to criminology – leaving huge gaps in other areas of basic knowledge. Many fictional detectives that followed have had similar interests in criminology, keen skills of observation, and a need to either solve puzzles or find justice. Characters such as Shawn Spenser and Richard Castle wind up accompanying the authorities, in a true “consulting detective” capacity, but more loosely, this is the model for every amateur sleuth to ever sneak away from a cake shop or library to solve an inexplicably long series of murders.

2. The Sidekick/Sounding Board Friend – As an audience, we respond to Dr. Watson as the narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories. This serves two purposes: to blunt Holmes’ abrasive personality, and also to give us someone whose shoes to step into to watch the detective’s brilliant mind. Watson-type characters still exist, obviously.  (My favorite current example is Chet, from Chet and Bernie, who happens to be a dog who is thrilled to watch his seedy-detective master solve crimes.) This idea gets flipped in series where the detective is the first person narrator (as in my series, and many other cozy mysteries). That friend character is still there – but more to give the protagonist someone to bounce ideas off of, and the opportunity to say out loud things the protag would only be thinking.

3. Fascination With Trace Evidence – Holmes was obsessed with forensic science, sometimes conducting experiments on himself, and maintaining a full chemistry lab at 221 Baker Street. The Royal Society of Chemistry even gave Holmes honorary membership. Their website says, “Holmes began, albeit it fictionally, a tradition that is now part of everyday policing around the world in which science and rational thinking are allied to combat evil.” So Holmes also gives us the pattern for CSI and Bones, and every other fictional detective that is focused in on science.

4. Created the Iconic “Detective” Look – The deerstalker hat that we associate with Holmes was never mentioned in the pages of the actual stories or novels. (Though there is a reference to "his ear-flapped travelling cap.")  We first get the illustrations of Holmes in a deerstalker from Sidney Paget, who illustrated the stories Doyle wrote for The Strand Magazine. While the actual hat would have only been worn for traveling, Paget continued illustrating Holmes wearing the hat in London – and the image stuck.  Now, just the illustration of a deerstalker hat by itself gives up a symbol for not only Holmes, but for detectives in general. As writers, our takeaway is: if you want an iconic detective, give that person an iconic look. Poirot twirling his fastidiously waxed mustache. Columbo with his rumpled raincoat.  Dick Tracy and his yellow fedora.  Adrian Monk with his wipes. This is part of what makes all these characters larger than life.

5. Highlighting Deductive Reasoning – Doyle gives evidence of his influence from Poe’s Detective Dupin’s focus on deductive reasoning. Several times in the stories, Sherlock compares himself to Dupin, noting the similarities. There are a lot of characters who in turn give nods back to Sherlock for their interest in deductive reasoning and crime solving. If you look at the opening credits of Diagnosis Murder, the collection of Holmes memorabilia is right there. In Castle, Beckett gives Castle a deerstalker when he goes out on his own as a private investigator.  Even when the nods aren’t there, characters like Shawn Spencer and Adrian Monk are showing off their hyper-awareness of detail that allows them to solve murders others can’t.

6. Emphasized the Need for a Different Perspective – one of the hardest things about writing any sort of consulting or amateur detective is giving a reason why this person is the one solving the crime in question – instead of the authorities. With Holmes, it was his sheer deductive brilliance, honed at great cost to other areas of his education and ability to function in society. His obsession with following the clues gave him a different perspective. That’s still something we’re trying to do with characters today. I’ve focused on making Felicity’s shop a hub in the community, giving access to people who the police might not have thought to question. I’ve also given her empathy and a need to find meaning in loss (as she is a relatively recent widow) as the driving force.

7. Set the Pattern for the “Big Reveal” – I love the way in most mysteries, the clues come together, the detective figures it out, and then the audience gets a scene where the baddie is captured and all our suspicions are confirmed. (Or we find out our guesses were off base, and we’re genuinely surprised at the reveal of the killer’s identity. Which – if we can follow a logical thread of clues back to the introduction of the actual culprit, can be equally satisfying.) In the Holmes stories, we sometimes see Watson standing in our place, ready to receive the big reveal.  One of my favorite examples of this is in, “The Dying Detective,” where misdirection has kept Watson unaware of Holmes’s subterfuge, though the clues are clearly there.

8. Created the Modern Concept of Fandom – Sherlock Holmes captured the popular imagination of his author’s times in a way that hadn’t really happened before.  When Doyle wrote the story where he killed off Holmes, 20,000 people unsubscribed from The Strand Magazine out of outrage.  Some sources say people wore black and openly mourned. Not able to handle losing this favorite character, people started writing Holmes fan fiction as far back as 1897. (Holmes fans were the ones who coined the word canon, when it all started getting confusing.)  There are still Sherlock Holmes fan societies, keeping their favorite character alive today.

9. Adaptations – There have been numerous film adaptations of Holmes stories, as well as different takes on Holmes in both print and film. There have even been cartoons.  (The Great Mouse Detective, anyone?  That one was a favorite of mine, growing up.) The different takes on the character, even in media coming out near the same time, are fascinating – for example, the different ways the source material was adapted for Elementary vs. Sherlock – and the much stronger action-adventure interpretation of the Robert Downey, Jr. films. There’s a fun take in the new Enola Holmes films, which pictures Sherlock as the protagonist’s older brother, giving a different side to Sherlock’s personality.
10. Pop Culture And Meta References – There are a number of other literary characters who are huge fans of Sherlock Holmes. There are two episodes in Star Trek Next Generation where Data dons a deerstalker and the holodeck conjures up Moriarty for him to prove that he can dynamically solve a crime as well as a human (and later, Moriarty tries to escape the computer.)  Probably my favorite homage, though, is Detective Conan (also titled Case Closed), an anime where teenage detective Kudo Shinichi is forced to take an experimental drug that turns him into a child. On the run, he takes on the alias Edogawa Conan – based on his two favorite authors – Arthur Conan Doyle and Edogawa Ranpo, the pen name of the guy who played a formative role in the development of Japanese mystery and thriller fiction. The Holmes connection, runs through the story in subtle ways (they live in Beika City – Baker City – after all).  In the sixth feature-length film, Conan and his friends become trapped in virtual reality game that sets them down in Holmes’s London, and it is Conan’s knowledge of the Holmes characters that allows them all to survive. (The Case Closed series is still ongoing and extremely popular in Japan, with over 900 episodes and – at present – 25 feature films.) 

I’m sure I’ve missed a few of the things people love about Holmes.  What’s your favorite thing about this iconic literary detective?

Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse space opera series, and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, and has co-authored a chocolate-related cookbook with her husband. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.


Monday, March 27, 2023

Cartoon of the Day: Cats


THE NIGHT AGENT: Netflix TV series

I'm really liking The Night Agent, the 10-part series on Netflix. I enjoy a good action-packed conspiracy thriller, and this one fits the bill for me. The Night Agent is based on Matthew Quirk's thriller by the same name. Will there be a Season 2? Too early to tell, but things are leaning that way. FYI: The story does wrap up at the end of 'Season 1," but there's room for more. In the meantime, read the book and watch the TV series. 

Here's what Matthew Quirk says about The Night Agent on Netflix:

I wanted to let everyone know that I have a TV show coming out on Netflix today! It's called The Night Agent and is an adaptation of my book by the same name. The writers, cast, and crew did a fantastic job on it, and it will be full of surprises even if you've read the novel. The showrunner--Shawn Ryan, who did The Shield and SWAT and a bunch of other great shows--combined the plot of the book with a story he'd been working on about the Secret Service and high political intrigue. Pretty fascinating for me to see how it all came together. It's such a thrill to see scenes I imagined seven years ago come to life, and it was even wilder to go to the set and see all of that in person and to hang out with Peter and Rose!
The series is available on Netflix worldwide. 

Here's the Trailer:

And, here's some upcoming info from Matthew Quirk's about his next thriller:

I'm still working away on the books, too. The next one is called Inside Threat. It comes out on June 13 and has already received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. An attack on the White House sends the president and his top aides to take shelter in a top secret government facility buried deep underground—but they soon discover the threat is locked inside with them. 

It's a fast-paced Die Hard-style story with a bit of a locked-room mystery element and has some characters I really love. The book also offers a look inside a very cool real-life government facility called Raven Rock, which is the secret "undisclosed location" America's leader go to for protection. It's available for pre-order.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

K.C. Constantine: R.I.P.

K. C. Constantine was the pen name of mystery writer Carl Constantine Kosak. Kosak passed away on March 23.  Kosak was born in 1934 in McKees Rocks, PA. 

K. C. Constantine, was the American author of the long-running mystery series featuring Mario Balzic, police chief of the fictional town of Rocksburg, PA. He was a reclusive author, but he made his first public appearance at the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA in 2011. My favorite of his novels was The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes, but really I enjoyed them all. If you haven't read his mysteries, I would encourage you to now. Start with The Rocksburg Railroad Murders

From Tribute Archive:

Carl Constantine Kosak died on March 23. Carl, using the pseudonym K.C. Constantine was one of the most distinguished writers of crime fiction of the past half-century. His first book, The Rocksburg Railroad Murders, was published in 1972 by the noted literary house David R. Godine, and he continued to write until his unexpected death in mid-March. He recently completed work on Another Day’s Pain, scheduled to be published early next year by The Mysterious Press, which had published ten of his books including Joey’s Case, the nominee for an Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America as the best book of the year (1988). The character-driven Constantine novels provide a powerful and poignant view of a dying central Pennsylvania town in a starkly realistic light. Carl is survived by his son Chris Kosak, his daughter-in-law Joy Kosak, and his three treasured grandsons, Cole, Alexander and August Kosak all of Moraga, California. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023


It is with a heavy heart that I report that mystery author Rita Lakin, 93, passed away on March 23. Rita was a true hero for modern women. She pushed boundaries early on in TV writing. Rita was an amazing, strong, inspiring, passionate, supportive, funny, talented, and generous woman.

I urge you to read her Hollywood memoir, The Only Woman in the Room. Rita was one of the first women scriptwriters, with credits on such TV shows as The Doctors, Dr. Kildare, Peyton Place, Mod Squad, and The Rookies. She is credited for 474 produced television scripts spanning 30 productions. She was nominated for an Edgar Award for her screenwriting, as well as receiving several other award nominations. After leaving Los Angeles and moving to Marin County, she turned to writing books, including nine Gladdy Gold mysteries (the popular Getting Old Is ... series). Her latest novel is a romantic comedy titled Prince Charming, Go Home.

A memorial service will be held on May 19. I'll post location when it's available.

Friday, March 24, 2023

And They Say Crime Doesn’t Pay? Guest Post by Stefán Máni

Stefán Máni: And they say crime doesn’t pay?
I have always been interested crime and criminals. Not merely interested but fascinated. Reading about crime pleased me. And yes, it was a guilty pleasure. Crimes and the criminals that committed them were like a magnet, like a black hole that sucked me towards the darkness that was hidden within. In the darkness were secrets, questions and sometimes answers. How did they do it? Why did they do it? Who are they? What drives them? How did they become what they are? Etc, etc …

I began to collect newspaper clippings from the age of six. Missing persons, accidents, terrorism … murder. I grew up in the 70s. There was a lot of terrorism going on then; IRA, Baader-Meinhof, and others. Iceland was quite peaceful at the time, and still is, especially compared to the continents on both sides of the Atlantic. But there were strange missing persons cases, drug smuggling and occasional bank robbery and murder. Even today, a murder is a big thing in Iceland. But it happens every year, usually more than once and more than twice. Living in a peaceful country makes you sensitive to violence and murder. A single act of violence can have a huge inpact on the whole community. When something bad happens, it’s non-stop on the news and in the papers. And that means a lot of newspaper clippings! 

I started writing at the age of 23, after losing my job in the fishing industry. The first ten years of my career as a writer I published five novels. The first four were mostly stories about loners and workers. I was a huge fan of Charles Bukowski (and still am) but I was not as funny as him – and not as wild, I guess. My fifth novel was to become my first best seller. When it was published, it was almost an overnight sensation. It was a crime novel based on my stack of newspaper clippings about two unsolved bank robberies. What I did was to absorb everything I could get my hands on about these robberies (I even interviewed criminals, inside and out of prison), and I didn’t stop until I had figured out how these crimes were planned and executed. In the book, committed these crimes through made up persons, and got away with them – just like the unknown perpetrators had done. The book was called Black’s Game. In 2012 a movie came out, based on the book. Black’s Game, the movie, was a box office hit from day one. Last fall, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the film, it returned  to the theaters and ran for three months straight. Now the plan is to make two more movies, a sequel and a prequel. 

The  success of Black’s Game opened my eyes. I had always been fascinated with crime. I was a crime buff. It was nothing to be ashamed off. My vocation was to write about crime! Since then, I have written many best sellers, all about crime, cops and criminals. I have also created the most popular character in Icelandic literature – detective Hordur Grímsson. The Grímsson Series is the number one crime series in Iceland, and has been from the start. Recently I published my first Grímsson Series titles in the USA. That was a big step for me and my career.

And they say crime doesn’t pay? 

Stefán Máni is the Dark prince of Nordic noir. He grew up in a small village on the cold and harsh Snaefellsnes-peninsula in West-Iceland. He was an avid book reader from an early age, but he didn’t think or believe he would or could become a writer myself one day. He dropped out of school at the age of 17, worked in the fishing industry, and travelled abroad whenever he had saved enough money. Driving around The States and going to concerts was his favorite thing to do. In 1991 he drank beer with Layne Staley and saw Nirvana live before they became the biggest thing on the planet. 


Thursday, March 23, 2023


The final season (season 9) of Endeavour will premiere on Sunday, June 18, 2023 on Masterpiece at 
9/8c on PBS and across streaming platforms. There will be 3 episodes (alas!)
The spinoff series inspired by Inspector Morse comes to a brilliant end as Shaun Evans as the young Morse and Roger Allam as his superior officer face baffling new crimes and an unsolved case from the past. With characters from former seasons popping up in a grand finale, Morse must resolve his professional and romantic future. The London Times praised the final episodes as “classy, poignant.” 

Plus: Endeavour documentary—one week prior to Endeavour’s premiere, fans will be treated to an hour-long documentary, Morse and The Last Endeavour, which looks back at the nine seasons of the prequel and the history of the Inspector Morse character. The documentary will air at 9/8c on June 11 and features interviews with Shaun Evans, Abigail Thaw, Kevin Whately, and many more. 

Morse and The Last Endeavour will remind audiences of what made EndeavourInspector Morse, and Inspector Lewis so special in the world of television mysteries.

LIVING IN A BOOKSTORE: Guest Post by Cathy Pickens

Cathy Pickens: 
Living in a Bookstore

What reader wouldn’t say yes! to living in a bookstore? 
On my one visit to Paris, I naturally made the obligatory visit to Shakespeare and Company, the legendary English-language bookshop in the shadow of Notre Dame, the place that Hemingway “liberated” after Paris was reclaimed by the Allies in World War II. The place where thousands of authors have camped on beds tucked between books or set up after hours on top of book tables, a place to live a while and to write.
But much closer to home, in the Southern hill country near where I grew up, is Shakespeare’s American cousin. In 1999, Katherine Willoughby opened Shakespeare & Co. Books in Highlands, North Carolina. This was no random knock-off of the name. In her younger days, Katherine lived with owner George Whitman in the Paris store. And he gave permission for her to use to name to create its echo tucked on a plateau at 4117 feet above sea level in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Over the years, I stopped in every time I visited Highlands—a beautifully historic town with an interesting mix of wealthy incomers and those whose families farmed the area since the 1800s. In my experience, used bookshop owners and used bookshop habitués tend to be introverted folks, focused on books and respecting the space of others equally devoted. I exchanged greetings with Katherine as I checked out, but little more. I remember the books I bought there—favorites being Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation, discovered while I was locked away in Highlands working on my book CREATE!, and The Blue Guides England, with a spidery inscription: Margaret M. (her book) why?
In 2019, I decided to spend more time in the mountains. Summers in Charlotte feel increasingly hot and oppressive to me. Why not go home to the mountains more often, while I’m still able to race my Mustang up the winding roads?
On a visit, Stuart Ferguson greeted me from the desk at the front door. He introduced himself as Katherine’s viceroy. Over frequent visits, he encouraged me to renew my acquaintance with the charms of Golden Age mysteries. We talked about our personal histories around Highlands. And, when Katherine couldn’t return from Florida last summer, he invited my husband and me to live upstairs for the winter, to keep the place heated. 
Yes. Again, who wouldn’t say yes? 
About that time, my true crime book on the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains was published. And I was working on a Southern true crime book for Books-A-Million covering cases Texas to the Virginias. What a wonderful place to hide out and work.
At the store, we don’t have to sleep on the book tables. Katherine kept a spacious apartment upstairs. But one door opens directly into the children’s and history sections upstairs. And we’re allowed to roam around downstairs even at night if we run out of anything to read. 
When we finish reading a book that we don’t want to keep, we tuck it on the shelf in the store for another reader to find. As the wind blew or the sun lit up the sitting room or the day the snow fell (but, sadly, didn’t stick), we sat in front of the bow window, we read or wrote and enjoyed how magical it all was.
A mystery book club held its inaugural gathering in February, to talk about why we’re fascinated with mysteries and crime. In March, for a “read-around” of Agatha Christie, everyone chose one of her mysteries or a biography or her memoirs and we explored the Queen of Crime. Next, we’ll move across the pond to look at the origins of the hard-boiled detective.
As a writer, living in the bookstore has shown me up close the life of a bookseller. The people who exclaim, “I just downloaded that book to my Kindle!” Or who say, “Oh, that’s too expensive. I’ll check online.” Stuart stocks a small selection of well-reviewed new books—but what if no one wants to buy the new Putin biography? Or what of the people who’ve written a book and don’t understand that book signings typically end up costing the store money? Or the well-meaning folks who would be hurt if you didn’t take their donated truckload of old textbooks that you’ll have to haul off?
Even among readers, not many realize the difficult finances of the book business. The margins are small. In an expensive resort town, the taxes and insurance are high. The salaries are abysmal. But the chance to stop by on a cloudy day and talk about what you’ve read lately? Or to have Stuart find for you a lovely copy of the fantasy novel that started you on your life’s reading journey when you were a kid? Or to pick up a local history or a Georgette Heyer you’d forgotten? There’s magic in that, the kind of magic a bookstore—especially a used bookstore—offers.

True, not everyone gets to live in a bookstore. But everyone can visit. And everyone can help make sure those magical places are there for a while more.
Keep in mind the struggles—albeit as labors of love—of your favorite booksellers. Online and e-books certainly have their place. But the places that sell books—the places where you first found your life-long favorites or started your reading journey—those places need you to come visit. Maybe chat about books. Buy a book. Or a stack of books. You want that place to be there the next time you come to visit.

A former president of Sisters in Crime, Cathy Pickens’s Malice Award-winning series has been re-issued by Joffe Books in the U.K. She also writes a series for History Press on historical Carolinas true crime cases and is fact crime columnist for Mystery Readers Journal.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Cartoon of the Day: Pick Up Order



From Radio Times:

Kenny Doughty announced he is leaving ITV drama Vera after eight years.

The actor, who plays DS Aiden Healy in the show, announced Monday (3/20) that he is leaving the show.  

He wrote: 

After 8 years & 35 Vera films I’ve made the difficult decision of handing over DS Healy’s badge. I can confirm I am leaving Vera.

He continued: 

I want to thank everyone who’s made this amazing time so joyous, ITV, Silverprint, all the brilliant cast and crew BUT of course my buddy & inspiration Brenda Blethyn. The perfect leading star who I owe so much to. 
I feel lucky to have you as a friend, you make me howl with laughter & have been a rock for me over the years. I can’t thank you enough. Precious times.

He'll be missed. Hope this still bodes well for another season of Vera.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

MYSTERIES SET IN AFRICA: Mystery Readers Journal (39:1)

Mystery Readers Journal: Mysteries Set in Africa
(Volume 39:1// Winter 2023) is now available as PDF and Hardcopy
. In addition, an earlier issue of African Mysteries  (26:1, Spring 2010) is available as a PDF. Order all three. 

Mysteries Set in AfricaIf you're a PDF subscriber, you will receive download instructions shortly. Hard copy subscription copies should arrive by early next week. International subscribers will receive their issues within two weeks. PDF Contributor copies will go out in the next few days. Thanks to everyone who contributed to both of these great issues.

Mysteries Set in Africa
Volume 39, No. 1, Spring 2023
Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.


  • Eugene P.A. Schleh: The Mysteries of Africa by Aubrey Nye Hamilton
  • Agatha in Africa by Kate Derie
  • Cape Town Crime Fiction by Eric Beetner
  • John V. C. Wyllie and Dr. Samuel Quarshie by Aubrey Nye Hamilton


  • Taking My Imagination on Safari by Annamaria Alfieri
  • From Scandi Crime to Sandy Crime by Parker Bilal
  • I Was Already a Spy, I Might as Well Write About It by Bryan Christy
  • Rift — A Novel About a Journey That Is Still on My Mind by Liza Cody
  • Green Snake in Green Grass by Kathy Curnow
  • Nkisi by Russell Hill
  • A Brutal Love Letter by Akbar Hussain
  • Memories of my Father’s Bookshelf by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
  • Corruption in Kenya—The Mystery Is in the Details by Gerald Everett Jones
  • Writing on the Continent of Light by Deon Meyer
  • A Trip to Egypt by Erica Ruth Neubauer
  • My Mystery Writing Life by Stella Oni
  • Le Petit Senegal by Paul R. Paradise
  • Adventure and Romance in North Africa by Neil S. Plakcy
  • From Your Armchair to the Gulf of Guinea: The Case for the African Mystery by Kwei Quartey
  • Murder in Africa by Bryony Rheam
  • Death by Natural Causes: Creating an African Cozy Short Story by Merrilee Robson
  • Vacation, Vacation, Vacation by Wendall Thomas
  • Serious Research in Africa by Michael Stanley (Stanley Trollip)
  • Africa: The Most Interesting Place I’ve Never Been by N. S. Wikarski


  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Eric Beetner, Aubrey Nye Hamilton, Sandie Herron, Kathy Boone Reel, L.J. Roberts, Craig Sisterson, and Lucinda Surber
  • Children’s Hour: African Mysteries by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • In Short: Africa by Marv Lachman
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph

The Popular Culture Association: George N. Dove Award

Congratulations, Martin Edwards, for receiving the Popular Culture Association (U.S.) George N. Dove Award. The stated mission of the PCA is 'to promote the study of popular culture throughout the world through the establishment and promotion of conferences, publications, and discussion. The PCA actively tries to identify and recruit new areas of scholarly exploration and to be open to new and innovative ideas. PCA is both inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary. Finally, the PCA believes all scholars should be treated with dignity and respect.'

The George N. Dove Award is bestowed for 'outstanding contributions to the serious study of mystery, detective, and crime fiction.' The award is named for George N. Dovepast president of the Popular Culture Association, and author of outstanding books on detective fiction.

Previous winners include Professor Doug Greene, P.D. James, H.R.F. Keating, Julian Symons, and me. I know!  I received the George N. Dove Award in 2016. Such an honor!

Sunday, March 19, 2023



Lefty Award Winners: Left Coast Crime 2023

The Lefty Awards were announced last night at the Left Coast Crime Convention in Tucson, Arizona. Congratulations to all!

Lefty Nominees for Best Humorous Mystery Novel
  • Ellen Byron, Bayou Book Thief (Berkley Prime Crime)

Lefty Nominees for Best Historical Mystery Novel

(The Bill Gottfried Memorial) for books set before 1970
  • Wanda M. Morris, Anywhere You Run (William Morrow)

    Lefty Nominees for Best Debut Mystery Novel
    • Ramona Emerson, Shutter (Soho Crime)

    Lefty Nominees for Best Mystery Novel

    (not in other categories)
    • Kellye Garrett, Like a Sister (Mulholland Books)

    Saturday, March 18, 2023

    Thriller Award Nominees 2023: International Thriller Writers

    International Thriller Writers
    announced t
    he nominees for the 2023 Thriller Awards.

    Best Hardcover Novel:
     The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson (Del Rey)
     Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur)
     The Fervor, by Alma Katsu (Putnam)
     The Children on the Hill, by Jennifer McMahon (Simon & Schuster)
     Two Nights in Lisbon, by Chris Pavone (MCD)
     Sundial, by Catriona Ward (Macmillan)

    Best Audiobook:
     Young Rich Widows, by Kimberly Belle, Fargo Layne, Cate Holahan, and Vanessa Lillie; narrated by Dina Pearlman, Karissa Vacker, Helen Laser, and Ariel Blake (Audible)

     The Lies I Tell, by Julie Clark; narrated by Anna Caputo and Amanda Dolan (Audible)
     The Photo Thief, by J.L. Delozier; narrated by Rachel L. Jacobs and Jeffrey Kafer (CamCat)
     Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier; narrated by Carla Vega (Macmillan Audio)
     The Silent Woman, by Minka Kent; narrated by Christine Lakin and Kate Rudd (Blackstone)

    Best First Novel:
     The Resemblance, by Lauren Nossett (Flatiron)
     Blood Sugar, by Sascha Rothchild (Putnam)
     Dirt Creek (aka Dirt Town), by Hayley Scrivenor (Flatiron)
     A Flicker in the Dark, by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur)
     The Fields, by Erin Young (Flatiron)

    Best Paperback Original Novel:
     The Lies I Told, by Mary Burton (Montlake)
     No Place to Run, by Mark Edwards (Thomas & Mercer)
     Unmissing, by Minka Kent (Thomas & Mercer)
     The Housemaid, by Freida McFadden (Grand Central)
     Anywhere You Run, by Wanda Morris (Morrow)
     The Couple Upstairs, by Holly Wainwright (Pan Macmillan)
     The Patient’s Secret, by Loreth Anne White (Montlake)

    Best Short Story:
     “Russian for Beginners,” by Dominique Bibeau (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], March/April 2022)
     “The Gift,” by Barb Goffman (from Land of 10,000 Thrills, edited by Greg Herren; Down & Out)
     “Publish or Perish,” by Smita Harish Jain (EQMM, September/October 2022)
     “33 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister,” by Joyce Carol Oates (EQMM, March/April 2022)
     “Schrödinger, Cat,” by Anna Scotti (EQMM, March/April 2022)
     “Stockholm,” by Catherine Steadman (Amazon Original Stories)

    Best Young Adult Novel:
     Our Crooked Hearts, by Melissa Albert (Flatiron)
     Sugaring Off, by Gillian French (Algonquin Young Readers)
     Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin (Wednesday)
     What’s Coming to Me, by Francesca Padilla (Soho Teen)
     I’m the Girl, by Courtney Summers (Wednesday)

    Best E-Book Original Novel:
     Evasive Species, by Bill Byrnes (Self-published)
     The Couple at Causeway Cottage, by Diane Jeffrey (HarperCollins)
     The Seven Truths of Hannah Baxter, by Grant McKenzie 
     The Hollow Place, by Rick Mofina (Self-published)
     Fatal Rounds, by Carrie Rubin (Self-published)

    Charlaine Harris and Walter Mosley will receive 2023 ThrillerMaster Lifetime Achievement Awards. Minotaur Books was named the winner of the 2023 Thriller Legend Award.

    Winners will be announced on Saturday, June 3, during ThrillerFest XVIII, in New York City.