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The Rap Sheet

Last Build Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2017 02:54:34 +0000


It’s Bouchercon Memories That Remain

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:30:00 +0000

(Above) The Jacques Cartier Bridge, spanning the Saint Lawrence River—offering unexpected nighttime delights in Montreal. (All photographs in this post, © 2017 Jacques Filippi.)(Editor’s note: In early September, after I decided against attending this year’s Bouchercon—set to take place in Toronto, Ontario, from October 12 to 15—I turned for back-up to Quebec writer, photographer, and translator Jacques Filippi. Rap Sheet readers will recognize Jacques, a Montreal-area resident, as a periodic contributor to this page and as the creator of a fine blog called The House of Crime and Mystery. In addition, he and John McFetridge co-edited a new short-story collection, Montreal Noir (Akashic). I knew Jacques was planning to be in Toronto for Bouchercon, so I asked him whether he would be willing to take notes on the proceedings and shoot pictures of convention participants, and submit a wrap-up of the event to The Rap Sheet. He accepted the assignment, and I looked forward to receiving his report. Unfortunately, not long after Bouchercon ended, Jacques was faced with a family crisis that delayed his finishing the project. It wasn’t until a few days ago that he sent me his text and images. I’m glad to be able to finally present them below.)Road Trip: Of Wrong Turns and Right WordsWith Canada having celebrated its 150th birthday not long before Bouchercon kicked off last month in the Ontario capital, Toronto, some attendees decided to visit the country early, or to remain here a few extra days to see more of the place. During the pre-Bouchercon weekend, I welcomed to Montreal author Karin Salvalaggio (Silent Rain), who came all the way from England, as well as editor-blogger Peter Rozovsky (the brains behind Noir at the Bar), from Philadelphia. Over the course of Bouchercon week, more than a few American visitors asked about living in Canada, and some even tried to find rooms where they might stay after the gathering closed. As you can see in the image on the right, Karin was one of the first to experiment with trying to actually pass as a Canadian (she’s been living in London for many years, but was born in West Virginia and still retains her U.S. citizenship).(Right) Karin Salvalaggio wearing a Canadian toque (in French: tuque) and holding a false Canadian passport, issued by the Unemployed Philosophers Guild.The three of us spent a lot of time the weekend before the convention walking through my city’s Old Town (2017 also marks the 375th anniversary of Montreal’s founding), just taking pictures, chatting with locals, and of course, eating and drinking. The neighborhoods of Little Burgundy and Little Italy were also favorite destinations, with their plenitude of cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. In the latter quarter’s Jean-Talon Market, Karin was amazed that pumpkins were so easy to come by—and at such ridiculously low prices, too. One evening, I took Karin and Peter to a “secret” spot I very much enjoy, a parking lot at the foot of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, where we almost ruined our shoes treading through mud and gaping puddles of dirty water.There’s nothing like taking a road trip to help people get better acquainted, especially when—as in the case of Highway 401, between Montreal and Toronto—the scenery along the way is far from entertaining (to say the least). That drive usually takes five or six hours, depending on how many stops you make; but Karin, Peter, and I completed it in an astounding eight-and-a-half hours, due to three sites of major road construction. (One of them left us at a standstill for 50 minutes!) Peter used the time to take an abundance of photographs—mostly of empty fields, stationary automobiles, and clouds that he likely tweaked later on, with the help of technology, to become busy plains, fast-running cars, and rainstorms. I invite you to look over his brief account of our trip, and the rest of his Bouchercon coverage, in the blog Detectives Beyond Borders.Peter Rozovsky playing it cool in front of a sign advertising the Canadian dish poutine, at Jean-Talo[...]

Chandler Resurrected—and Pissed Off

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 15:13:00 +0000

Think you’ve read all of Raymond Chandler’s fiction? Think again. As Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports,
A lost story by Raymond Chandler, written almost at the end of his life, sees the author taking on a different sort of villain to the hardboiled criminals of his beloved Philip Marlowe stories: the US healthcare system.

Found in Chandler’s archives at the Bodleian Library in Oxford by Andrew Gulli, managing editor of
The Strand Magazine, the story, “It’s All Right—He Only Died,” opens as a “filthy figure on a stretcher” arrives at a hospital. The man, who smells of whisky, has been hit by a truck, and staff at the hospital are loth to treat him because they assume he will be unable to pay for his care. “The hospital rule was adamant: A fifty dollar deposit or no admission,” writes Chandler.

Gulli said the story was one of the last things Chandler ever wrote—it is believed to have been written between July 1956 and spring 1958. Chandler died in 1959. “He’d been in and out of hospital, he’d tried committing suicide once, and he’d had a fall down the stairs,” said Gulli. “The story mirrors some of his experiences of that time. It’s about what he calls a ‘transient,’ a homeless man who gets hit by a truck and who finds himself in a hospital that is reluctant to treat someone who can’t pay the bill. And of course there’s a twist at the end.”

The Strand is publishing the story this weekend, complete with an author’s note from Chandler in which he reveals his fury at the US healthcare system. The doctor who turned away the patient, Chandler writes, had “disgrace[d] himself as a person, as a healer, as a saviour of life, as a man required by his profession never to turn aside from anyone his long-acquired skill might help or save.”
You can purchase a copy of The Strand, Issue 53—containing “It’s All Right—He Only Died”—by clicking here.

(Hat tip to In Reference to Murder.)

Serial-Killer Fiction? Not Even Clothes!

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 23:18:00 +0000

I am often amused by the grammatical errors to be found in press releases. You would think that with the amount of money publicists are paid, they could at least invest in good dictionaries.

But one release that came my way today, sent by a book publisher’s representative, really caught me off guard. It began:
As the holiday (and gift guide selection!) season approaches, I wanted to reach out to put a few books on your radar that would make for the perfect stalking stuffers. Both books are small enough to easily add to any stalking!
Of course, neither of the books mentioned thereafter had a darn thing to do with anybody following, pestering, or otherwise threatening another person; clearly, the publicist intended to use “stocking” rather than “stalking.” This is one of many cases where spell-checking software can’t save an incautious writer.

And the Post Toasts …

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 18:13:00 +0000

On Monday, Kirkus Reviews announced its selection of 2017’s best works of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. Today it’s The Washington Post’s turn. That newspaper’s 10 choices—almost entirely different from Kirkus’—are listed below.

Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)
Glass Houses, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
A Legacy of Spies, by John le Carré (Viking)
Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (Hachette)
The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Little, Brown)
Not a Sound, by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row)
Prussian Blue, by Philip Kerr (Marian Wood/Putnam)
Six Four, by Hideo Yokoyama (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Sleep No More, by P.D. James (Knopf)
The Switch, by Joseph Finder (Dutton)

The Post’s complete assortment of book picks for this year, in 11 categories, can be found by clicking here.

Revue of Reviewers, 11-14-17

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:11:00 +0000

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more. [...]

Matters of Opinion

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 20:34:00 +0000

If there’s one thing I learned during my almost six years of writing for Kirkus Reviews, it was that when it came to choosing the “best crime fiction” produced in any given twelvemonth, my opinions often diverged from the publication’s consensus of opinion. This year is no exception. Earlier today, Kirkus released its Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2017 rundown, touting the following works:

Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (Harper)
The Smack, by Richard Lange (Mulholland)
Say Nothing, by Brad Parks (Dutton)
Exposed, by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press)
The Fifth Element, by Jørgen Brekke (Minotaur)
Keep Her Safe, by Sophie Hannah (Morrow)
The Late Show, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
A Cast of Vultures, by Judith Flanders (Minotaur)
Murder in Saint-Germain, by Cara Black (Soho Crime)
Defectors, by Joseph Kanon (Astria)
House of Spies, by Daniel Silva (Harper)
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)
Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips (Viking)
Lies She Told, by Cate Holahan (Crooked Lane)

Although I’m still narrowing down my top-five and top-10 crime-fiction choices for the year, I can tell you right now that of the 14 novels Kirkus mentions here, only two have scored spots among my preliminary picks. That has to do in part with the fact that I have not read as many books as all of Kirkus’ reviewers combined; but it’s also true that every individual book critic has his or her own distinctive tastes. It’s just as likely that my selections for 2017 will stand in contrast with those of other Rap Sheet contributors. You will find out for sure come early December, when we all post our “best books of the year” nominations on this page.

Space—the Fatal Frontier

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 01:04:00 +0000

The field of science fiction/crime fiction crossover novels is both rich and diverse, and probably deserves more attention on this page in the future. For the moment, however, let me just mention that November brings two fresh entries to this category of works: Places in the Darkness, by Chris Brookmyre (Orbit), and Artemis, by Andy Weir (Crown). I already picked up a copy of the former book, and I am very much looking forward to buying the latter soon—especially since it seems to be generating a great deal of media attention.

Earlier today, Weir—who first gained literary renown with his 2011 novel, The Martiantalked with Scott Simon on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday program about his heist-and-conspiracy-on-Earth’s-moon yarn, Artemis. He’d previously answered questions about it from Wired magazine, and had explained to Business Insider why it made more sense to set his “wildly entertaining and far-fetched” second novel on the moon, rather than farther-off Mars.

Get Your Foot in the Door

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 23:39:00 +0000

Entries are now being accepted for the 2018 St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. The victor, to be “chosen by Minotaur Books editors on the basis of the originality, creativity and writing skill of the submission,” will receive a publishing contract and “an advance against future royalties of $10,000.” According to the published guidelines, this contest is open to “any writer, regardless of nationality, aged 18 or older, who has never been the author of any Published Novel (in any genre) … and is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a novel.” The deadline for submissions is January 12, 2018.

Previous winners of this challenge include John Keyse-Walker (Sun, Sand, Murder), Mary Miley (The Impersonator), Douglas Corleone (One Man’s Paradise), and Stefanie Pintoff (In the Shadow of Gotham).

(Hat tip to My Little Corner.)

A Quick Excursion Around the Web

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 13:24:00 +0000

• Damn! I hate being the bearer of this news: John Hillerman, the actor who made a career out of playing snooty types, including Tom Selleck’s fastidious estate caretaker Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on Magnum, P.I., died Thursday. He was 84. Hillerman, who received four Emmy nominations in consecutive years for portraying Higgins and won in 1987, died at his home in Houston, family spokeswoman Lori De Waal told the Associated Press. She said the cause of death had not been determined. His Higgins character was a natural extension of a part he played on the [1975-1976] TV detective show Ellery Queen: Simon Brimmer, a radio personality and affected gent who fancied himself a savvy sleuth. Ironically, Hillerman, who often played condescending characters with more than a touch of the Tory Brit—the Mayfair accent—was a Texan from a tiny railroad town, the son of a gas station owner.Hillerman’s face became familiar during an acting career that found him appearing frequently on television, not only on the aforementioned pair of programs, but also in The F.B.I., Mannix, The Betty White Show, Hawaii Five-O, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Lou Grant, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Valerie, and Murder, She Wrote. My earliest recollection of seeing him was in the 1975 picture Lucky Lady, but he also had roles in such films as The Last Picture Show, Blazing Saddles, Paper Moon, and Chinatown.• Another notable passing: The Hollywood Reporter brings word that German actress Karin Dor, “who played the red-haired villainess Helga Brandt in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice,” died this last Monday, November 6, at a nursing home in Munich. She was 79. The Spy Command observes that Dor’s shapely turn as Brandt, “a SPECTRE assassin who is executed by [Ernst Stavro] Blofeld when she fails to kill Sean Connery’s James Bond,” was not her only “brush with the spy genre.” Her most famous role in an espionage flick, it says, “was probably [in] 1969’s Topaz, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She plays Juanita de Cordoba, who is involved in spying in early 1960s Cuba.” Viewers might recall spotting Dor, as well, in episodes of the American TV series It Takes a Thief, Ironside, and The F.B.I.• By contrast, here’s an excellent bit of news, via EuroCrime: “Quercus has signed three novels by Philip Kerr, continuing his historical noir series featuring Detective Bernie Gunther.” Meanwhile, Kerr’s 13th and latest Gunther novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts, is due out in the States from Putnam come April of next year.• The Hollywood Reporter brings word that The Little Drummer Girl (1983) will be the next John le Carré spy novel to be adapted for television. The Reporter elaborates: After taking home the Emmy for The Night Manager, AMC has green-lighted its next John le Carré miniseries: The Little Drummer Girl. Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) will star in the six-parter based on le Carré‘s best-seller. Park Chan-wook (Old Boy) will make his small-screen debut and direct the series, which is a co-production between the Ink Factory, BBC One, and AMC. Production will begin in January, with Endeavor Content/IMG selling global rights to the series. Set in the late 1970s, Drummer Girl is an espionage and international intrigue drama of love and betrayal. Set against the background of rising tensions in the Middle East, the mini revolves around Charlie (Pugh), a young actress who prepares for her ultimate role in the “theater of the real.”Shane Whaley’s Spybrary blog has a bit more on this film deal. And if there’s something tickling at the back of your brain, suggesting that this isn’t the first time Drummer Girl has been filmed … well, give yourself a gold star. George Roy Hill directed a 1984 big-screen version of le Carré’s Europe-trotting thriller, starring Diane Keaton. That earlier picture [...]

Touting Irish Talents

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 15:52:00 +0000

I must have missed spotting the announcement recently of which works and authors were shortlisted for the 2017 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. Fortunately, In Reference to Murder’s B.V. Lawson claims sharper eyes, and yesterday she posted the list of finalists for the Irish Independent Crime Fiction Book of the Year as follows:

Can You Keep A Secret? by Karen Perry (Michael Joseph)
Here and Gone, by Haylen Beck (Harvill Secker)
Let the Dead Speak, by Jane Casey (HarperCollins
One Bad Turn, by Sinéad Crowley (Quercus)
There Was a Crooked Man, by Cat Hogan (Poolbeg Press)
The Therapy House, by Julie Parsons (New Island)

You can see all of this year’s Irish Book Award nominees, in 13 categories, by clicking here. Winners are to be announced during a black-tie dinner at Dublin’s Clayton Hotel on November 28.

Revue of Reviewers, 11-6-17

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 00:55:00 +0000

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more. [...]

Bullet Points: Day of the Dead Edition

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 03:10:00 +0000

• As Connecticut’s Harford Courant tells it, “The Mark Twain American Voice in Literature award will be given to author Bill Beverly for his novel Dodgers later this month. The Mark Twain House & Museum announced the award, which comes with $25,000, on Wednesday evening. It is presented to an author whose book, published in the previous year, best embodies an ‘American voice’ such as Twain’s in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the museum said in a statement.” Beverly’s writing of Dodgers previously brought him the 2016 Gold Dagger award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association.• How would you like to do your writing on Mickey Spillane’s old typewriter? Mystery Fanfare reports that the circa-1930 Royal Manual machine on which Mike Hammer’s creator may have labored “during his early days as a comic-book writer” will be among the items Heritage Auctions puts up for bids in New York City on March 7, 2018.• The new German TV series Babylon Berlin, based on a pair (soon to be a trio) of 1920s-set crime novels by Volker Kutscher and featuring a Berlin police inspector named Gereon Rath, has been winning plenty of favorable press since it debuted in Germany on October 13. Kate Connolly of The Guardian writes: “A lavish 16-part TV series set between the two world wars is being tipped as the first big-budget German production that could become a global TV blockbuster. Babylon Berlin, a period drama set in the Weimar Republic replete with crime, corruption, sex and decadence, cost €38m (£33m) to make and is the most expensive TV series filmed in Germany. Critics are predicting it will compete with the likes of Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Downton Abbey.” The Killing Times shorthands the show’s plot thusly: “Set against the social and political upheaval of Germany in 1929—with a failing economy and a rise of right-wing extremists, some may even find timely parallels to events today—nothing is what it seems as the case spirals and Gereon’s life is changed forever.” An English-subtitled version of Babylon Berlin is scheduled to premiere in the UK on November 5 (courtesy of Sky Atlantic), and Netflix has purchased U.S. broadcast rights (though it hasn’t also announced when Americans might be able to watch it). Sky’s trailer for the program is embedded below; a German trailer can be enjoyed here. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='420' height='346' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />For more information, check out the Babylon Berlin Web site.• “SundanceTV has partnered with Emmy-winning producer and director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost),” states Criminal Element, “to bring you Cold Blooded, a two-part documentary detailing the murder case that [Truman] Capote made famous [in his 1966 book, In Cold Blood]. The documentary will ‘recount the Clutter murders in detail, using previously unpublished documents, in addition to first-hand accounts from the Clutters’ living relatives’ to provide new insight into this groundbreaking case. Part One premieres on SundanceTV on Saturday, November 18, at 9 p.m. ET.”• Congratulations to author Duane Swierczynski (Canary, Revolver), whose series pilot adaptation of Dan Simmons’ 2000 novel, Darwin’s Blade—co-written with Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious)—has been sold to NBC-TV. The plot, says Deadline Hollywood, “centers on Darwin ‘Dar’ Minor, a brilliant yet arrogant accident-reconstruction specialist who consults police on the bizarre cases no one else can solve.” Swierczynski is set to co-executive produce the show, as we[...]

All Hail All Hallows’ Eve

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 16:12:00 +0000

With plenty of candy in hand (perhaps too much—again), and a carved pumpkin waiting to greet tonight’s crepuscular treat-seekers, I’m feeling quite prepared for Halloween. Which leaves me free to explore some of the associated coverage rolling out online.

Smithsonian magazine’s Web site, for instance, carries a story about how much more mischievous and unsettling Halloween was during the 19th century. The History Channel offers a video backgrounder on trick-or-treating. Then there’s this rundown of “12 Things You May Not Know About Halloween,” and this collection, in The Lineup, of “14 Creepy and Utterly Bizarre Vintage Halloween Costumes.” Meanwhile, the blog Today I Found Out has put together two worth-invesigating posts—one inquiring into whether “anyone [has] ever actually poisoned or put razor blades or needles in Halloween candy,” and the other exploring the source of werewolf legends.

In Sweet Freedom, Todd Mason looks back at horror anthologies that haunted his childhood, while Janet Rudolph suggests wines and cocktails appropriate to your October 31 festivities. And Terence Towles Canote gathers together another assortment of classic Halloween pin-up images for his blog, A Shroud of Thoughts.

(Hat tip to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.)

Celebrating in Christchurch

Sat, 28 Oct 2017 19:33:00 +0000

Last night brought an announcement, during a special WORD Christchurch event in New Zealand, of which books and authors have won the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards. The recipients include the first woman ever to capture the coveted prize for Best Crime Novel.“Each of our winners this year is a remarkable storyteller who uses crime writing as a prism through which to explore broader human and societal issues,” says Craig Sisterson, the founder and judging convenor of this annual contest. “When we launched in 2010 we wanted to highlight excellence in local crime writing, beyond traditional ideas of puzzling whodunits or airport thrillers. Our 2017 winners emphasize that broader scope to the genre, and showcase the inventiveness and world-class quality of our local storytellers.”Below are the winners and other finalists in three categories.Best Crime Novel: The Last Time We Spoke, by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)Also nominated: Pancake Money, by Finn Bell (e-book); Spare Me the Truth, by C.J. Carver (Zaffre); Red Herring, by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins); and Marshall’s Law, by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)Best First Novel: Dead Lemons, by Finn Bell (e-book)Also nominated: Red Herring, by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins); The Ice Shroud, by Gordon Ell (Bush Press); The Student Body, by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan); and Days Are Like Grass, by Sue Younger (Eunoia)Best Non-Fiction: In Dark Places, by Michael Bennett (Paul Little)Also nominated: The Scene of the Crime, by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins); Double-Edged Sword, by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan); The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie, by David Hastings (AUP); and Blockbuster!, by Lucy Sussex (Text)To obtain more information about the Ngaio Marsh Awards, this year’s victors or finalists, or comments from the judges, send an e-mail message to Craig Sisterson at MORE: “Wonka’s Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight: a 9mm interview with Fiona Sussman,” by Craig Sisterson (Crime Watch.) [...]

Differences of Opinion

Sat, 28 Oct 2017 18:20:00 +0000

It’s not even Halloween yet, but already we’re seeing inventories of the “Best Crime Fiction of 2017” popping up around the Web. For instance, The Strand Magazine has posted its top choices as follows:

1. The Fifth Petal, by Brunonia Barry (Crown)
2. Two Days Gone, by Randall Silvis (Sourcebooks Landmark)
3. Follow Me Down, by Sherri Smith (Forge)
4. Where Dead Men Meet, by Mark Mills (Blackstone)
5. Fast Falls the Night, by Julia Keller (Minotaur)
6. Burial Hour, by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central)
7. Friends and Traitors, by John Lawton (Atlantic Monthly Press)
8. Death on Nantucket, by Francine Mathews (Soho Crime)
9. Arrowood, by Mick Finlay (Mira)
10. The Walls, by Hollie Overton (Redhook)
11. Burials, by Mary Anna Evans (Poisoned Pen Press)
12. The Name of the Game Is a Kidnapping, by Keigo Higashino (Vertical)

Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly has come out with its own completely different list of a dozen favorites:

Besieged, by A.J. Tata (Kensington)
The Cuban Affair, by Nelson DeMille (Simon & Schuster)
Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips (Viking)
Flashmob, by Christopher Farnsworth (Morrow)
The Force, by Don Winslow (Morrow)
Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (Hachette)
Long Black Veil, by Jennifer Finney Boylan (Crown)
Nine Lessons, by Nicola Upson (Crooked Lane)
The Nine-Tailed Fox, by Martin Limón (Soho Crime)
A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)
Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box (Putnam)
Wolf’s Revenge, by Lachlan Smith (Mysterious Press)

Two other novels that could easily have qualified for that PW roster—Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done (Atlantic Monthly Press) and Dan Chaon’s Ill Will (Ballantine)—appear instead among the publication’s General Fiction picks.

The Rap Sheet probably won’t be out with its own critics’ choice compilations until early December. Until then, we will try to keep track of other such rolls appearing elsewhere.

The Story Behind the Story: “Ten Dead Comedians,” by Fred Van Lente

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 18:31:00 +0000

Author Fred Van Lente(Editor’s note: This is the 74th installment in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s essay comes from Fred Van Lente, a Brooklyn, New York, writer best known for his work on graphic novels such as Cowboys & Aliens [the basis of the feature film], Odd Is on Our Side with Dean R. Koontz, and several entries in the “gorily funny” Marvel Zombies series. His debut prose novel, Ten Dead Comedians, was released this last summer by Quirk Books. He has a follow-up novel, The Con Artist—set in the comic-book industry—due out in 2018. Van Lente writes below about how his love of stand-up comedy led him to explore that world further in Ten Dead Comedians.)The town I grew up in was called Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Yes, that was the actual name. Supposedly, it’s a mispronunciation of the original Native American name of the river running through the town, but personally I’ve suspected the original settlers could have benefited from the invention of Xanax.Chagrin Falls is a small town and, as is often the case in small towns, small differences get magnified, particularly when you’re a kid with a bowl haircut who wears the wrong sneakers and jacket. You can get picked on a lot. And because this wasn’t just a very small town, it was also a very rich town, and the other boys didn’t want to risk mussing up their Izod shirts by actually beating me up, this bullying was verbal, rather than physical in nature.And this is how I learned to love stand-up comedy.By the time I reached the fifth and sixth grades, I found that I was better at insults than my tormentors; and if I could make fun of my attacker’s haircut in a clever way, not only did I diffuse his attacks on me, but the other kids would start laughing with me, and not at me. Eventually, the attacks stopped, because they knew I could give back as good as I got. I can’t begin to tell you how empowering that was to a little kid. Words have power!At about this same time, I discovered the golden age of 1980s comedy on my parents’ HBO-TV screen. I loved Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Bobcat Goldthwait, Sam Kinison, Rosanne Barr, and many others. But my absolute favorite comedian was George Carlin. I loved the way he raised and lowered his voice to make an effect. The way he talked high and fast or low and slow, depending on the point he was making. I listened to cassettes of his albums, such as Place for My Stuff and Class Clown and Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television, until the tape literally broke, hanging on the way he spoke truth to power in such a hilarious way. He wasn’t defending himself against bullies before the homeroom bell, he was going after hypocrisy, politics, racism, and more. That didn’t mean I didn’t incorporate some of his methods into my schoolyard self-defense “act,” of course. Even when I was a ’tween I was like, “I want to do that kind of thing!” Words have power.Now, in addition to looking like a bookworm, I am, in fact, an actual bookworm. My parents lined our house with books. My mother’s favorites were mysteries—Ten Dead Comedians is dedicated to her. She loved the classic, Golden Age stuff, like Agatha Christie, whose And Then There Were None is Ten Dead’s most direct inspiration. I was more of a Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, noir type. But like all great genres, the mystery can be more than the sum of its parts. The mystery can be “literary” as well as entertainment because, at heart, it’s about an investigation, it’s about peeling back the layers of a society to see what’s there. It also speaks truth to power.So that’s why combining the Golden[...]

“The Worthiest of Winners”

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 16:38:00 +0000

The video footage below, shot by Rap Sheet contributor Ali Karim, comes from last night’s presentation, in London, of the 2017 Dagger Awards. It shows Martin Edwards, chair of the UK’s Crime Writers’ Association, bestowing this year’s Diamond Dagger on British novelist Ann Cleeves, author of the Shetland Island mysteries and the Vera Stanhope novels. The Diamond Dagger has been described as “the highest honor in British crime writing … recogniz[ing] authors whose crime-writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.”

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READ MORE:Interview: Ann Cleeves,” by DeathBecomesHer
(Crime Fiction Lover).

Extolling the Genius of Criminal Plotting

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 01:15:00 +0000

Thanks to Rap Sheet correspondent Ali Karim, who was in London, England, for this evening’s presentations of the 2017 Dagger Awards, we now have a full rundown of the winners. These commendations are sponsored by the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA).CWA Gold Dagger:The Dry, by Jane Harper (Little, Brown)Also nominated: The Beautiful Dead, by Belinda Bauer (Bantam Press); Dead Man’s Blues, by Ray Celestin (Mantle); Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray); The Girl in Green, by Derek B. Miller (Faber and Faber); and A Rising Man, by Abir Muckerjee (Harvil Secker)CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray)Also nominated: You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Picador); The Killing Game, by J.S. Carol (Bookouture); We Go Around in the Night Consumed by Fire, by Jules Grant (Myriad Editions); Redemption Road, by John Hart (Hodder & Stoughton); and The Constant Soldier, by William Ryan (Mantle)CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger: Tall Oaks, by Chris Whitaker (Twenty 7)Also nominated: The Pictures, by Guy Bolton (Point Blank); Ragdoll, by Daniel Cole (Trapeze); Distress Signals, by Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus); Sirens, by Joseph Knox (Doubleday); and Good Me, Bad Me, by Ali Land (Michael Joseph)CWA Non-fiction Dagger:Close But No Cigar: A True Story of Prison Life in Castro’s Cuba, by Stephen Purvis (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)Also nominated: A Dangerous Place, by Simon Farquhar (History Press); The Scholl Case: The Deadly End of a Marriage, by Anja Reich-Osang (Text); The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury); A Passing Fury: Searching for Justice at the End of World War II, by A.T. Williams (Jonathan Cape); and Another Day in the Death of America, by Gary Younge (Guardian Faber)CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger:A Rising Man, by Abir Muckerjee (Harvil Secker)Also nominated: The Devil’s Feast, by M.J. Carter (Fig Tree); The Ashes of Berlin, by Luke McCallin (No Exit Press); The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Harvil Secker); By Gaslight, by Steven Price (Point Blank); and The City in Darkness, by Michael Russell (Constable)CWA International Dagger:The Dying Detective, by Leif G.W. Persson; translated by Neil Smith (Doubleday)Also nominated: A Cold Death, by Antonio Manzini, translated by Anthony Shugaar (4th Estate); A Fine Line, by Gianrico Carofiglio, translated by Howard Curtis (Bitter Lemon Press); Blood Wedding, by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press); Climate of Fear, by Fred Vargas, translated by Sian Reynolds (Harvill Secker); The Legacy of the Bones, by Dolores Redondo, translated by Nick Caister and Lorenza Garcia (Harper)CWA Short Story Dagger:“The Trials of Margaret,” by L.C. Tyler (from Motives for Murder, edited by Martin Edwards; Sphere)Also nominated: “The Assassination,” by Leye Adenle (from Sunshine Noir, edited by Anna Maria Alfieri and Michael Stanley; White Sun); “Murder and Its Motives,” by Martin Edwards (from Motives for Murder); “The Super Recogniser of Vik,” by Michael Ridpath (from Motives for Murder); “What You Were Fighting For,” by James Sallis (from The Highway Kind, edited by Patrick Millikin; Mulholland); and “Snakeskin,” by Ovidia Yu (from Sunshine Noir)CWA Debut Dagger (for unpublished writers):Strange Fire, by Sherry LarkinAlso nominated: The Reincarnation of Himmat Gupte, by Neeraj Shah; Lost Boys, by Spike Dawkins; Red Haven, by Mette McLeodl; and Broken, by Victoria SlotoverIn addition, Mari Hannah—whose capturing of this year’s Dagger in the Library honor was previously announced—picked u[...]

Revue of Reviewers, 10-25-17

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 02:57:00 +0000

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more. [...]

Catch the Chills

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 02:21:00 +0000

Lovers of Nordic crime fiction on television should be interested in two recent posts found in The Killing Times. The first brings news that Season 2 of the Icelandic series Trapped—which producers promise will feature “an even more complex and challenging murder case” than the initial 10 episodes—“has started filming in northern Iceland.” Meanwhile, this post offers some plot details for the fourth and concluding season of the Swedish drama The Bridge, plus a trailer; a second, briefer trailer is here. The Bridge is scheduled to return to Nordic TV screens in January 2018.

Bullet Points: Revivals and Retreads Edition

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 23:18:00 +0000

• It has now been just over 12 years since crime-fictionist Dennis Lynds died. I was reminded of this by a note in Mystery*File from his widow, thriller writer Gayle Lynds, who explains that her husband’s best-remembered protagonist, one-armed New York City gumshoe Dan Fortune, has recently been resurrected in print. She writes: “The entire 17-book series of private eye novels”—which Lynds published under his pseudonym Michael Collins—“are available again, for the first time in Kindle and trade paperback. We hope a new generation of readers will discover Dan, and that longtime fans will enjoy re-reading the classic tales.” Click here to find Amazon’s list of these reprinted works, from Act of Fear (1967) to Cassandra in Red (1993).• Coincidentally, TracyK recently reviewed The Nightrunners—a Fortune yarn originally released in 1978—in her blog Bitter Tea and Mystery. She applauded the fact that it contains “twists and turns I did not anticipate” and that “there is less action and gun play, and more emphasis on brains and persistence” than she’d expected. • A little behind schedule, but welcome nonetheless. The last I heard, Spinetingler Magazine was planning to release “its first [print] issue in years” sometime this month. Today, however, a news release reached my e-mailbox, saying that Down & Out Books expects to publish the Fall 2017 edition of Spinetingler in November. Its contents will include “original stories by Tracy Falenwolfe, Karen Montin, Jennifer Soosar, B.V. Lawson, Nick Kolakowski, David Rachels, and more. There are author snapshots of Con Lehane, Rusty Barnes, Mindy Tarquini, and others. Book features and reviews fill out the magazine’s pages.” There’s no word yet on ordering this new issue.• In June, I drew your attention to the first trailer for The Alienist, TNT-TV’s historical mini-series based on Caleb Carr’s 1994 psychological thriller of that same name. ScreenRant has now posted a second trailer (which is also embedded below), and finally shares a date for the debut of that program: Monday, January 22, 2018. It also makes clear that there will be eight episodes, rather than the previously suggested 10, all written by True Detective director Cary Fukunaga and starring Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning as “19th-century investigators on the trail of a serial killer.” Hmm. With three months to go until this mini-series airs, I might actually find free time enough to re-read Carr’s book. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='420' height='346' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />• A British blog called The Killing Times brings word that Bron Studios, a Canadian production company, plans to build a new TV series around Louise Rick, the Copenhagen detective inspector who features in more than half a dozen novels from Danish writer Sara Blædel. “Deadline reports that the first Louise Rick story, The Forgotten Girls, will serve [as] the basis for Season One,” but Bron “has optioned the whole series,” according to The Killing Times.• Variety carries the unexpected news that actor John Turturro (The Night Of) has been signed to play 14th-century Franciscan friar-cum-sleuth William of Baskerville in a “high-end TV adaptation” of Umberto Eco’s 1980 mystery novel, The Name of the Rose. The eight-epi[...]

The Daggers Are Due

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 20:11:00 +0000

I, for one, have not fully digested the news about which books and authors captured the Anthony, Barry, and Macavity awards at Bouchercon Toronto two weeks ago. Yet this coming Thursday will bring word of still more awards—this time, the 2017 Dagger winners, in eight categories. Ali Karim will be on hand at the London ceremony to report the results to The Rap Sheet, but if you’d like to look over the shortlisted nominees before then, clickety-clack here.

The Book You Have to Read: “The Big Fix,” by Roger L. Simon

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 14:26:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: This is the 153rd installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)By Steven NesterFrom the get-go, Roger L. Simon’s The Big Fix (1973) is not your father’s private-eye novel; nor is Moses Wine—a 30-year-old, down-at-the-heels Los Angeles gumshoe—anyone’s idea of a leading man. It’s the early 1970s. Wine, divorced with two young boys, his ex-wife shacked-up with a California love guru, drives a 1947 Buick in which he lugs around the corpses of 1960s idealism and his youth. A generation or two removed from the masters—Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald—The Big Fix is a book worth noting. No mash-up of tropes, in The Big Fix Simon had the chutzpah to ditch the fedora fetish many neo-noir writers employed, but which only kept the genre embalmed, and instead updated the field with subtlety and wit, making it relevant to a time when the P.I. is a character who’s in flux as much as the era in which he lives. As one character remarks to Wine: “You don’t look like my idea of a private detective,” he said. “But then nobody looks like anybody’s idea of anything anymore …”Wine is smoking dope and playing Clue by himself late one night when there’s a knock on his door. Nothing good ever comes of these kinds of entrances, but he answers the summons anyway. Impatiently waiting on his threshold is Lila Shea, “a barefoot Grace Kelly” who’d “moved through the sixties like a wine taster, sampling each vintage and moving on.” The last time Wine saw Lila was in 1967, when they were in flagrante delicto in the back of his hearse during a protest turned violent at Berkley. Now, though, she’s campaigning for Democratic presidential contender Miles Hawthorne, and she needs more than Wine’s vote.It seems that Howard Eppis is causing trouble. The leader of the Free Amerika Party and author of Rip It Off, Eppis is a thinly disguised version of ’60s radical Abbie Hoffman. To everyone’s consternation, he’s planted the kiss of death on Senator Hawthorne’s political aspirations by endorsing him. Sam Sebastian, Hawthorne’s L.A. County campaign manager, wants Eppis found and silenced. But Eppis has gone to ground and no one can locate him, except maybe the “People’s Detective,” Wine. Our hero starts out well enough; however, before he can earn his fee of $300 a week plus expenses, pretty blonde Lila Shea and her car sail over a cliff near Wine’s home. Suddenly the task of tracking Eppis seems to be the least of this P.I.’s problems, as he goes all in to find Lila’s killer—if only to save his own skin.Simon’s plot components exhibit all the weirdness Southern California has to offer, and are as entwined as pythons around their prey, beginning with the dysfunctional family of Oscar Procari Sr. After the wealthy Procari pulls the plug on a devil-worship church fronting his gambling joints, his son is found dead and Eppis really goes missing; yet their presences are still felt, keeping the reader confounded as to whether they are MIA, DOA—or perhaps living under assumed identities. Procari stays in the gambling business, and bets heavily when he changes the game to politics.The loose acquaintanceships that introduce new characters in this tale bedevil any linear path to crime solving, keep readers on their toes, and put Wine’s patience and sleuthing to the test. Wine does uncover plenty in the course of his investigation—except the wher[...]

Treat Yourself

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:43:00 +0000

I didn’t realize that choosing a book to read specifically for All Hallows’ Eve was a popular thing. Apparently, I was out of the loop—again. As Rap Sheet contributor Ali Karim explained in a Facebook post yesterday, “Each Halloween, I plan to watch a scary film or read a scary book.” His scheduled novel this year? Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, a first U.S. edition of which he owns, signed by the author during “his last visit to the UK.” Ali says he intends to follow that up with a rewatch of Mary Lambert’s 1989 big-screen adaptation of King’s yarn, just to keep the fright alive.

Coincidentally, I had already dived into a novel selected for its association with Halloween: H.G. Wells’ 1898 alien-invasion thriller, The War of the Worlds. You may not be aware of this, but October 31, 2017, will mark 79 years since the 1938 broadcast of Orson Welles’ radio drama based on that book scared many American listeners (though it may not have led to widespread public panic, as some sources claim). I think the last time I read The War of the Worlds was in high school, so I was overdue to be reacquainted with Wells’ sixth novel. And though there are parts of the first-person narrative that require more patience than today’s readers have been trained to expect, I am enjoying this Victorian yarn immensely. At my current pace, I should be done with it well in advance of October 31.

If you’d like to embark on a Halloween reading experience of your own, but are stymied for ideas, consider consulting Janet Rudolph’s list of crime and mystery novels appropriate to this spirited occasion. She offers the titles of more than 240 works, everything from Stacey Alabaster’s The Pumpkin Killer and E.J. Copperman’s Night of the Living Deed to Kathi Daley’s Trick or Treason, David Robbins’ Spook Night, and Agatha Christie’s 1969 Hercule Poirot whodunit, Hallowe'en Party. Mentioned, too, are more than a dozen anthologies of haunting short stories to sample when you’re not handing out candy or trying to keep your pumpkin lit amid crepuscular breezes.

The Story Behind the Story: “Ravenhill,” by John Steele

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 21:39:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: This is the 73rd installment in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s contribution comes from Belfast-born author John Steele. In 1995, at age 22, he traveled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a 13-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver, and a teacher of English. Steele now lives in England with his wife and daughter. He began his writing career producing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. This year’s Ravenhill—the subject of his essay below—is his first novel, and a second Jackie Shaw yarn, Seven Skins, has already been signed for publication by London-based Silvertail Books. Steele is currently composing a third, set in northern Japan.)I have a scar on the back of my head, a fat white maggot squat below my crown which appears each time I visit my barber, then disappears in a week or so as my hair grows. Various people in various bars—or classrooms throughout my years as a teacher—have asked about that scar. The truth is pretty mundane, but I noticed the heady light of anticipation in the eyes of some of the inquisitors: Was it the result of a knife fight? A war wound? The legacy of some dark episode in my life?We’ve all got one, whether big or small, and a scar is almost always the result of violence in some shape or form, whether a pratfall, a pot-burn acquired while cooking breakfast, or the legacy of a 9x19mm Parabellum round.I was born in 1972 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. That was the bloodiest year of what has come to be known as the “Troubles” and I grew up in a city which today has more than its fair share of scars, both physical and those more insidious and unseen. I wasn’t exactly a war-child dressed in rags, walking to school on streets strewn with broken bottles and rubble, but everyone who lived through those dark years was informed to some degree by the relentless, often senseless, tit-for-tat violence that was a daily occurrence across the city and beyond. You probably know the history. A dizzying smorgasbord of terrorist acronyms, sectarianism, nationalistic hubris, and vicious, murderous gangsterism. Both republican and loyalist groupings preyed, to a large extent, on their own communities as well as taking potshots at each other and the security forces. Atrocities proliferated. Hotels—and the guests within—blown to pieces; the bombing of a war memorial, a bus station, a fishmonger’s shop. Bookies and bars were sprayed with bullets, even the congregation of a Pentecostal church.So much for the history lesson.In the 1990s, I left my homeland and spent time in the United States and Hungary before finding work, and my soulmate, in Japan. Then, 10 years ago, I went home.To quote the author Kiran Desai, “The present changes the past,” and to paraphrase Lionel Shriver when discussing Belfast, where she lived for a number of years, all the wrong people did well (out of the peace agreements) in the city. Of course, a lot of very bad people did very well for themselves during the years of assassination and terror, too, and are still unwilling to let go of the godfather status such activities brought. So now we have terrorists and paramilitaries stripped bare, the causes for which they claimed to fight left to inept and corrupt politicians, s[...]