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Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 18:59:35 +0000


You Want Awards? You’ve Got ’Em!

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 18:44:00 +0000

I was away from my office all day yesterday (babysitting my niece’s infant son, which I have been doing now for the last year), and wouldn’t you know it? All kinds of crime-fiction awards news came streaming in during my absence.First of all, we have the winner of the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller: It’s the already acclaimed Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown). That announcement was made on the eve of this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books kicking off at L.A.’s University of Southern California campus.Also nominated in the Best Mystery/Thriller category were: His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae, by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse); The Girls, by Emma Cline (Random House); The North Water, by Ian McGuire (Henry Holt); and Darktown, by Thomas Mullen (37 Ink/Atria Books). * * * Meanwhile, the Crime Writers of Canada has broadcast its shortlist of contenders for the 2017 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. They are as follows:Best Novel:• City of the Lost, by Kelley Armstrong (Penguin Random House of Canada)• After James, by Michael Helm (McClelland & Stewart)• Dead Ground in Between, by Maureen Jennings (McClelland & Stewart)• Wishful Seeing, by Janet Kellough (Dundurn Press)• The Fortunate Brother, by Donna Morrissey (Viking Canada)Best First Novel:• Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (Five Star)• Cold Girl, by R.M.Greenaway (Dundurn Press)• Where the Bodies Lie, by Mark Lisac (NeWest Press)• Still Mine, by Amy Stuart (Simon & Schuster Canada)• Strange Things Done, by Elle Wild (Dundurn Press)Best Novella -- The Lou Allin Memorial Award:• Rundown, by Rick Blechta (Orca)• No Trace, by Brenda Chapman (Grass Roots Press)• “The Devil You Know,” by Jas. R. Petrin (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, March 2016)• When Blood Lies, by Linda L. Richards (Orca)• “The Village That Lost Its Head,” by Peter Robinson (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], September/October 2016)Best Short Story:• “Steve’s Story,” by Cathy Ace (from The Whole She-Bang 3, edited by Janet Costello; Toronto Sisters in Crime)• “A Death at the Parsonage,” by Susan Daly (from The Whole She-Bang 3)• “Where There’s a Will,” by Elizabeth Hosang (from The Whole She-Bang 3)• “The Ascent,” by Scott Mackay (EQMM, August 2016)• “The Granite Kitchen,” by David Morrell (EQMM, July 2016)Best Book in French:• Red Light: Adieu, Mignonne, by Marie-Eve Bourassa (VLB éditeur)• Vrai ou faux, by Chrystine Brouillet (Éditions Druide)• Terreur domestique, by Guillaume Morrissette (Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur)• Rinzen et l’homme perdu, by Johanne Seymour (Libre Expression)• Le Blues des sacrifiés, by Richard Ste-Marie (Éditions Alire)Best Juvenile/Young Adult Book:• Masterminds: Criminal Destiny, by Gordon Korman (Harper Collins)• Trial by Fire, by Nora McClintock (Orca)• The Girl in a Coma, by John Moss (The Poisoned Pencil/Poisoned Pen Press)• Shooter, by Caroline Pignat (Tundra)• Another Me, by Eva Wiseman (Tundra)Best Non-fiction Book:• Life Sentence: Stories from Four Decades of Court Reporting — or, How I Fell Out of Love with the Canadian Justice System, by Christie Blatchford (Doubleday Canada)• The Ballad of Danny Wolfe: Life of a Modern Outlaw, by Joe Friesen (Signal/McClelland & Stewart)• A Daughter’s Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story, by Jeremy Grimaldi (Dundurn Press)• Black River Road: An Unthinkable Crime, an Unlikely Suspect, and the Question of Character, by Debra Komar (Goose Lane)• Shadow of Doubt: The Trial of Dennis Oland, by Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon (Goose Lane)Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel:• An Absence of Empathy, by Mary Fernando• The Golkonda Project, by S.J. Jennings• Concrete Becomes Her, by Charlotte Morganti• Celtic Knot, by Ann Shortell• The Last Dragon, by Mark ThomasThe winners of all these commendations will be declared during a ceremony to be held on May 25 in Toronto, Ontario.In addition, the 20[...]

The Book You Have to Read: “Durango Street,” by Frank Bonham

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:08:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: This is the 147th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)By Steven NesterWedged between the obsolete fairy tale of Little Black Sambo and the “say-it-loud” of Superfly, is Frank Bonham’s young-adult novel of the ghetto, Durango Street (1965). Originally published as Watts burned and Alabama freedom marchers were bludgeoned, these days Durango Street reads more like a well-meaning period piece rather than a sharp stick in the eye. But for many young white readers back in the day, it was their first glimpse of a gritty and poverty-stricken America they didn’t know existed. Still, half a century since its publication, Durango Street retains some sting.Black teen Rufus Henry is home from the Pine Valley Honor Camp—a place old-school parents used to call reform school. Rufus is no angel, but he has plenty going for him. Intelligent, charismatic, a born leader with plenty of athletic ability, Rufus knows that if he doesn’t heed the admonishments of a cigar-chomping, cardboard cutout of a Coast City Police officer to “straighten up and fly right,” he’s bound for trouble.The reality of living near the Durango Street Projects makes it necessary that Henry join a “fighting gang.” Without that protection, he is prey; but with it, he faces the huge chance of returning to crime and going to prison. Henry has few choices for positive behavior beyond working in the grime of a tire retread shop and his planned return to high school in the fall. His frustration at his no-win situation is expressed through irony, as he evinces a growing and more sophisticated method of processing his predicament: “What am I supposed to do?” he asks of his parole officer. “Join the Sea Scouts?”Stalled at the crossroads of lawless adult and responsible adult, Rufus is aware he needs to make a decision. So he mans-up and thinks beyond the safety-in-numbers mentality of gang life, and the adults who mean well, and determines that he’s “been around long enough to know that the only person who could do anything about Rufus’ problem was Rufus.” But also, he’s aware that, for the time being, he’s trapped by his environment, and gang life is inescapable.Rufus’ tentative return to the projects immediately heads south when his younger sister unwittingly gets him into trouble with a gang by talking to the police. The members of that gang—the Gassers—believe Rufus ratted them out. Now a wanted man, he has no choice but to seek protection from their rivals, the Moors. The beef eventually leads to war, and this reveals the depth of Henry’s ability to survive and rise. He usurps the Moors’ leader, Bantu, and guides members along the tricky route of avoiding the police, nosey social worker Alex Robbins, and various adversaries, while maintaining his pride, street code integrity—and the gang’s turf.Gang life is self-destructive, and Rufus knows that “A gang has to be kept busy. Busy meant fighting.” He carries on his nimble negotiation of the mean streets, and while the violence between the Moors and the Gassers escalates, he succeeds in skirting the police because he believes he’s meant for greater things. Rufus carries with him a secret that has sustained his spirit in the darkest of times, and prevented him from entering thug life at full throttle. This hope for a better future is the Hail Mary dream of becoming a professional football player. He believes he has an entry into the sport beyond his natural athletic ability, and it started with a little white lie.Years ago, in order to placate her over-curious young son, Rufus’ mother told him his that father was football star Ernie Brown, whom she had married when she was a young girl and then divorced. Raising the Cinderella story to a higher level of expectation and anticipation, is that Brown now plays for Coast City’s home team, the Marauders. Rufus’ expectation of a deus ex machina is tantalizing, but pulp writer Bonham is too seasoned to kill this book with an[...]

The Story Behind the Story: “In the Pines,” by Chris Orlet

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 23:20:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: This is the 71st installment in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s contribution comes from Chris Orlet, an Illinois native now living in St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife, son, and baby daughter. An online bio note explains that “He has worked a multitude of dead-end jobs, including bartender, sportswriter, gun seller, Peace Corps volunteer, tech writer, salesman for a trailer parts company, and other occupations too unsavory to mention.” Fortunately, Orlet seems to have found a potentially more interesting career path as a writer. He has contributed stories to Exquisite Corpse, Salon, Utne Reader, McSweeneys, and Hardboiled Wonderland. His first novel—the background of which he relates below—is a mystery yarn, In the Pines.)Ever since I was a kid I have enjoyed unsolved mysteries. I may not have been much of a reader in my youth, but I was fascinated by cheap paperbacks with titles such as Chariots of the Gods?, The Devil’s Triangle, and Limbo of the Lost, which hinted at strange and mystifying worlds beyond my mundane existence in Belleville, Illinois. When I wasn’t busily perusing cheesy paranormal bunkum, I would peddle my bike to the Saturday matinee at the Lincoln Theater to watch low-budget documentaries about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and ancient astronauts. My favorite television show was—you guessed it— In Search of... hosted by Leonard Nimoy.Four decades later, I get the same rush from unsolved mysteries. I can’t help it. When it comes to whodunits, I prefer not knowing to knowing.Now, I enjoy a cozy or a true-crime tale as much as the next guy, but after the mystery is resolved, after the wretched scofflaw is captured and dealt his comeuppance, what more is there to dwell upon? Conversely, an unsolved mystery—as evidenced by the first season of the wildly popular podcast Serial—continues to resonate, continues to haunt months and years later.Australians, for example, are still haunted by the true-life disappearance of the Beaumont children, a case which dates back a half century.As am I.Not familiar with their story? The Beaumont children were three siblings—Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4—who vanished from a beach near Adelaide, South Australia, during an outing on January 26, 1966. Apart from a brief sighting by a postman early that afternoon, there have been no other sightings of the children since. The disappearance of the Beaumont children has never been explained and remains the country’s most infamous cold case.Film-wise, one of the most haunting movies I’ve seen is Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Weir’s film, based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay, tells the story of a group of Australian boarding-school girls and their teacher, who, while picnicking northwest of Melbourne in 1900, inexplicably vanish into the thin Australian air.The film drew praise from critics for its hallucinatory depiction of “the chasm between settlers from Europe and the mysteries of their ancient new home,” but groans from some moviegoers who found the picture evasive and insisted on knowing what happened to the girls. They wanted more police procedural and less uncertainty.Of course, I wanted to know what happened at Hanging Rock, too. Who wouldn’t? Weir certainly did. He even asked the author, Lady Lindsay, about it, even though he was explicitly told not to. Did the school girls fall into a crevice? Were they abducted by aliens, as the author of the book The Murders at Hanging Rock theorizes?“All of the above,” Joan Lindsay replied.Lady Lindsay’s point, I think, was that solving the mystery would have been anti-climatic. And indeed, she did provide an explanation in early drafts of the novel. The girls fall into a time warp. Fortunately, her publisher made her excise that final chapter from the published novel.Such was my mindset when I set out to write In the Pines: A Small Town Noir (New Pulp Press). This novel is based loosely on a true s[...]

Bullet Points: On the Mend Edition

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 01:02:00 +0000

After spending most of the last two weeks under the weather, it appears I am finally on the rocky road to recovery. My recent decimation of the world’s Kleenex supply has diminished significantly, and I am no longer coughing my way through whatever program happens to be playing on television any given night. I would say these are favorable signs. Maybe I can get back to a more regular schedule of blog writing soon. For the time being, though, here are a few odds and ends drawn from my file of recent crime-fiction news bits.• Blogger Gerald So, a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, has posted brief, formatted interviews with all 19 of the finalists for this year’s Derringer Awards. The winners of those commendations, in four categories, will be chosen through an online vote of eligible SMFS members (polls to remain open through April 29), with the names of this year’s prize recipients to be declared on May 1.• Organizers of Bouchercon 2017 have announced the roster of authors whose work will appear in the Passport to Murder Anthology, scheduled to be available for advance ordering this coming summer and on hand for purchase during the Toronto convention in October. Among the 22 honored fictionists are Craig Fautus Buck, Hilary Davidson, Gary Phillips, and Chris Grabenstein.• Speaking of Bouchercon, anyone who is eligible to nominate this year’s Anthony Awards contenders but has not yet filled out the survey (which should have been sent via e-mail) should remember that the deadline is April 30!• Here’s a gift opportunity to keep in mind when shopping for Agent 007 fans: The Complete James Bond: Goldfinger—The Classic Comic Strip Collection, 1960-66, released this month by Titan Books. The blog Spy Vibe points out that this is the third in Titan’s series of volumes collecting Bond comic strips that were originally syndicated in British newspapers from 1958 to 1983. Those strips covered 52 story arcs, the earliest ones being based on Ian Fleming’s stories. “The new hardcover edition,” says Spy Vibe, “includes strips from 1960-1966: Goldfinger, Risico, From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Man with the Golden Gun, and The Living Daylights.” The two previous volumes, issued last year, were James Bond: Spectre: The Complete Comic Strip Collection and The Complete James Bond: Dr No—The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1958-60. Amazon shows a fourth book, The Complete James Bond: The Hildebrand Rarity—The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-69, as due for release this coming November.• By the way, From Russia with Love—Fleming’s fifth Bond escapade—celebrated its 60th anniversary earlier this month. As The Book Bond notes, the book was first published on April 8, 1957.• Happy birthday also to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre! That famous Hollywood Boulevard landmark, now known as the TCL Chinese Theatre, opened on May 18, 1927—meaning it commemorates its 90th anniversary of operation today.• supplies some context to America’s early 20th-century “movie palace” boom.• Having greatly enjoyed 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I am pleased to read that a sequel might finally be in the works. In its post about this, though, The Spy Command cautions that the plan is still in its infancy, and “studios and production offices are littered with scripts that were never made into films.” I’ll keep my eye on this.• Huh. I hadn’t heard this before. According to Sergio Angelini at Tipping My Fedora, screenwriter Howard Rodman’s “unlikely inspiration” for the 1974 TV film Smile Jenny, You’re Dead—the second of two feature-length pilots for Harry O, the often-underrated 1974-1976 ABC private-eye series—“was Harry Greener, the aged ex-vaudevillian in Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust reduced to peddling ‘Miracle Solvent’ silver polish door-to-door until he finally keels over and dies. That book’s feeling for California’s alienated and disenfranch[...]

James Made Loathsomeness Watchable

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 16:11:00 +0000

Clifton James was an actor I hadn’t thought about in some while, but when he passed away this last Saturday, April 15, at age 96, the memories suddenly came flooding back.The Hollywood Reporter notes that, although he hailed originally from Spokane, Washington, and lived during most of his career in New York, James “often played a convincing Southerner … One of his first significant roles playing a Southerner was as a cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 classic Cool Hand Luke.” Still more memorably, perhaps, the portly James appeared as “a redneck sheriff in two 007 films …,” recalls The Spy Command. “James embodied a 1970s shift in James Bond films to a lighter, more comedic tone. He played Sheriff J.W. Pepper, a Louisiana lawman who was comic relief in 1973’s Live and Let Die and 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun.” Wikipedia adds that James was seen as “a very similar character in both Silver Streak (1976) and Superman II (1980), and had a more serious role in The Reivers (1969). In that last movie, opposite Steve McQueen, James played a mean,corrupt, bungling country sheriff.”All of this reminds of the first time I really noticed James on screen, in the short-lived 1976 NBC-TV drama City of Angels. That show featured ex-M*A*S*H co-star Wayne Rogers as not-too-tough and poorly recompensed 1930s Los Angeles private eye Jake Axminster. James held a recurring role as Murray Quint, a thoroughly repellent, again cigar-chomping, police lieutenant who thrived on graft and greed, and found particular delight in making Axminster’s life hell, whenever their paths crossed. Clifton James’ résumé is long and quite impressive, with parts played in TV shows from Naked City and Mannix to Gunsmoke, Hart to Hart, Quincy, M.E., The Fall Guy, and The A-Team. But it’s as Quint that he’s likely to stick in my memory. Below is a scene from “The November Plan,” the three-part introductory episode of City of Angels, in which Quint sends some of his cops out to roust Axminster from bed for a late-night grilling. [...]

Your Summer Just Got More Mysterious

Sun, 16 Apr 2017 23:48:00 +0000

Fans of PBS-TV’s Sunday-night Masterpiece umbrella series should be glad to hear that season premiere dates have finally been nailed down for several popular crime dramas. According to this PBS Web page, the seven-episode third season of Grantchester, starring James Norton as a mystery-solving Anglican vicar, will debut on Sunday, June 18. Meanwhile, Endeavour—inspired by Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, and featuring both Shaun Evans and Roger Allam—is set to return on Sunday, August 20, with the first of four new episodes.

Oh, and Prime Suspect: Tennison, a prequel to the 1991-2006 Helen Mirren police procedural series—with Stefanie Martini (Doctor Thorne) holding the leading role—will make a splash with three 90-minute installments, beginning on Sunday, June 25.

Finally, in case you somehow forgot to write this into your calendar, note that the single-night presentation of Dark Angel, starring Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt as—gasp!—a Victorian serial killer, is being readied for broadcast on Sunday, May 21. You can watch a short preview of that production here.

Provisionally Peculier

Sun, 16 Apr 2017 17:31:00 +0000

Peter May, Antonia Hodgson, Mark Billingham, and Susie Steiner are among the 18 authors whose works are vying for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, according to an announcement. Here’s the full list:

Die of Shame, by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
Night School, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)
Lie With Me, by Sabine Durrant (Mulholland)
Tastes Like Fear, by Sarah Hilary (Headline)
The Darkest Secret, by Alex Marwood (Sphere)
Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
Birdwatcher, by William Shaw (Riverrun)
The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker)
Black Widow, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
After You Die, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder & Stoughton)
Coffin Road, by Peter May (Riverrun)
Those We Left Behind, by Stuart Neville (Harvill Secker)
Murderabilia, by Craig Robertson (Simon & Schuster)
Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner (Borough Press)
Stasi Wolf, by David Young (Zaffre)

From these choices, judges will develop a shortlist of half a dozen titles, to be publicized on May 20. The overall winner will be selected by those judges, as well as through a public online vote, and is scheduled to be declared on July 20 during the 15th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

Revue of Reviewers, 4-14-17

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 16:24:00 +0000

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

Bony-ing Up

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 01:07:00 +0000

Per Mystery Fanfare comes word of the five finalists contending for the 2017 Bloody Words Light Mystery Award (aka the Bony Blithe Award). This will be the sixth annual presentation of that Canadian commendation, which “celebrates traditional, feel-good mysteries” capable of making the judges smile. The nominees are:

The Corpse with the Garnet Face, by Cathy Ace (Touchwood)
Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (Five Star)
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, by Alan Bradley
(Doubleday Canada)
Murder on the Hour, by Elizabeth J. Duncan (St. Martin’s Press)
A Long Ways from Home, by Mike Martin (Friesen Press)

The winner will be announced, and the prize presented, on Friday, May 26, during the Bony Blithe Mini-con and Award Gala to be held at Toronto, Ontario’s High Park Club (100 Indian Road). For more information or to purchase a ticket for the daylong convention, go the Web site here, or send e-mail to

Last year’s Bony Blithe recipient was The Marsh Madness, by Victoria Abbott (a pseudonym shared by the mother-daughter writing team of Mary Jane Maffini and Victoria Maffini).

More “Girl” Talk

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 23:01:00 +0000

A couple of months back, The Bookseller brought word that Swedish writer David Lagercrantz’s second Lisbeth Salander/Mikael Blomkvist thriller—and the fifth entry in the Millennium series created by Stieg Larsson—was being readied for publication. Shotsmag Confidential has now announced that this new work will be titled The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, and that it should reach bookstores this coming September. If the cover shown in Shotsmag’s post looks familiar, it’s because it looks quite similar to the front of The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2015), Lagercrantz’s first Larsson continuation novel.

Tyrus Toppled

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:06:00 +0000

Sorry that this page has been rather quiet for the last few days, but I’ve come down with a hell of a cold, and my head at present suffers from a certain pernicious fuzziness. Nevertheless, I am endeavoring to stay abreast of news developments in the crime-fiction world. That includes the sad item below, from Publishers Weekly:
Simon & Schuster shut down its Tyrus Books imprint last week, according to its publisher, Ben LeRoy, who announced the news Friday afternoon on social media. LeRoy tweeted to his followers, “Hey! For all the folks who know me as Tyrus Books, Tyrus is closing down and now you can just know me as some dude on Twitter.” …

S&S acquired Tyrus Books in November 2016, when it bought Adams Media from F+W. Tyrus Books was one of Adams Media’s three fiction imprints. There are more than 100 Tyrus books in print; the press released about 10 titles each year.

LeRoy founded Tyrus Books in Madison, Wisc., in 2009, after selling his previous company, Bleak House, to Big Earth Publishing. Tyrus then focused on hard-boiled crime fiction. F&W acquired Tyrus in 2013 and its focus expanded; it began publishing literary fiction, including novels with ecological themes.

Disclosing that he will likely return to publishing at a later date, LeRoy said he now intends to focus on political and social justice activism. “After I help stop the world from burning, then I can go back to worrying about books.”
PW adds that “forthcoming summer and fall releases”—such as Loren D. Estleman’s latest short-story collection, Nearly Nero: The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe—“will be published by S&S under its Gallery Books imprint.”

(Hat tip to Kevin’s Corner.)

The Story Behind the Story: “Dangerous to Know,” by Renee Patrick

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 17:56:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: For this 70th entry in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series, we welcome Seattle, Washington, blogger and screenwriter Vince Keenan—who recently wrote on this page about Ellery Queen’s The Origin of Evil—along with his wife, Rosemarie Keenan, a research administrator and poet. Under the joint pseudonym Renee Patrick, they’ve now penned two well-received mystery novels, both set in Golden Age Hollywood and featuring the snooping duo of Lillian Frost, a former aspiring actress, and real-life fashion designer Edith Head. The second of those, Dangerous to Know, is due out next week from Forge. Below, the Keenans recall the roots of their interest in vintage Tinseltown and in setting crime fiction there.)In the beginning, for both of us, there were the movies. We grew up in outer-borough New York City, several subway stations and worlds apart, hooked on Hollywood.Rosemarie: For me it was 42nd Street (1933). I found it on TV one afternoon and was so entranced that when my friend knocked on the door and asked me to come out and play, I said no. My mother warned me that if I made a habit of it, they might stop knocking. But I had to go back to that world. I loved the camaraderie among the women, the romantic view of the effort it took to put on a show. Above all, I loved Ruby Keeler. Still do. I responded to her lack of sophistication and her desire to be sophisticated. She came across as a nice person willing to work herself to the bone to get what she wanted. I responded to that, instantly.Vince: Blame The Mask of Dimitrios (1944), from an Eric Ambler novel. Which doesn’t even rank in the top three Sydney Greenstreet/Peter Lorre movies. I was 7 years old when I saw it. What I remember most is my parents commenting on how odd it was, a kid that young held rapt by an old movie. But those faces mesmerized me. And the atmosphere. Dark, sensuous, mysterious. It seemed … adult, in a way new movies were not. I stepped into those shadows decades ago and never came out.We met in Florida, got married—more than 25 years ago now—and headed west. Not all the way to Tinseltown, but at least we were in the same time zone. Turner Classic Movies was our constant soundtrack, unless the Mets were playing.Whenever a classic film was revived, we’d be at the theater. 2007 found us in cinephile heaven. That’s when Eddie Muller brought his Noir City Film Festival to Seattle. Double-bills of vintage crime films, every night for a week. We introduced ourselves to Eddie. Within a few years we were manning the Film Noir Foundation table in the theater lobby. Once we even filled in for Eddie, introducing a full day’s slate of movies. Vince was contributing articles to the Film Noir Foundation’s magazine, on his way to becoming managing editor.Then Rosemarie had an idea. As Jimmy Durante said, “Everybody wants to get into the act.”Rosemarie: I decided to write an article about costume design in film noir. I started with Edith Head, because of all the classics she’d worked on: Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, the Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake films. I began reading about her and couldn’t stop.(Left) Rosemarie and Vince Keenan (photo by David Hiller, 2015)Head’s career remains one of the most amazing in film history. Spanning seven decades, from the silent era of the 1920s to the dawn of corporate Hollywood. For her final film, 1982’s Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, she dressed Steve Martin so he could interact seamlessly with clips from movies she’d designed in the 1940s, even reworking a Barbara Stanwyck costume for him. She would be nominated for 35 Academy Awards, winning eight, the most of any woman.Unlike her contemporaries and mentors, Head didn’t have a background in fashion. Born Edith Pos[...]

“Fair” Treatment

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 15:40:00 +0000

When Michael Callahan remarks, in Vanity Fair, that “Much of the public doesn’t know Robert McGinnis,” he is certainly not talking about yours truly. In my book-design blog, Killer Covers, I’ve frequently highlighted the work of that now 91-year-old Connecticut artist, including in a series of posts last year timed to McGinnis’ 90th birthday. In addition, I wrote about his more than half-century-long career for the Kirkus Reviews Web site, and followed that piece up with an even longer one in The Rap Sheet. It’s actually Callahan who seems a bit late in showcasing McGinnis and his talents. Nonetheless, his new Vanity Fair feature is welcome, recapping the painter’s years spent building his reputation, noting the artist’s “pathological modesty,” and winning some rare face time with the man who gave us “the McGinnis Woman.” Give the piece a read.

A Conflict Lives on in Fiction

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 01:24:00 +0000

National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program noted this afternoon that “The U.S. entered [World War I] a century ago, on April 6, 1917, nearly three years after [fighting] erupted in Europe during the summer of 1914. The Americans made quite a splash, turning a stalemate in favor of their British and French allies.” This provides an excellent occasion to remind readers of a piece I put together for Kirkus Reviews three years ago, looking back at the so-called Great War’s continuing impact on crime and mystery fiction.

Also worth listening to on All Things Considered today was this story about the 1918 lynching of a German immigrant in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. It struck a personal chord. My maternal grandfather, who was born in Canada but fought with the British Army during World War I, before moving to the United States, used to tell me how even after the war’s end, he kept secret the fact that his mother was German. She’d married his father, a tailor in Great Britain, before heading across the Atlantic in the very late 19th century.

Thrilling Results to Come

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 22:31:00 +0000

Thanks to Mystery Fanfare blogger Janet Rudolph, we now have the list of 2017 Thriller Award nominees, in six categories. They are:Best Hardcover Novel:• You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)• Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)• Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (Grand Central)• Arrowood, by Laura McHugh (Spiegel & Grau)• Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters (Mulholland)Best First Novel:• Deadly Kiss, by Bob Bickford (Black Opal)• Type and Cross, by J.L. Delozier (WiDo)• Recall, by David McCaleb (Lyrical Underground)• The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam)• Palindrome, by E.Z. Rinsky (Witness Impulse)Best Paperback Original Novel:• In the Clearing, by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer)• The Body Reader, by Anne Frasier (Thomas & Mercer)• The Minoan Cipher, by Paul Kemprecos (Suspense)• Kill Switch, by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)• Salvage, by Stephen Maher (Dundurn)Best Short Story:• “The Business of Death,” by Eric Beetner (from Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns, edited by Eric Beetner; Down & Out)• “The Peter Rabbit Killers,” by Laura Benedict (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], July 2016)• “The Man from Away,” by Brendan DuBois (EQMM, July 2016)• “Big Momma,” by Joyce Carol Oates (EQMM, March/April 2016)• “Parallel Play,” by Art Taylor (from Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Wildside Press)Best Young Adult Novel:• Morning Star, by Pierce Brown (Del Rey)• Holding Smoke, by Elle Cosimano (Disney-Hyperion)• Steeplejack, by A.J. Hartley (Tor Teen)• Thieving Weasels, by Billy Taylor (Dial)• The Darkest Corners, by Kara Thomas (Delacorte Press)Best E-Book Original Novel:• Romeo’s Way, by James Scott Bell (Compendium Press)• The Edge of Alone, by Sean Black (Sean Black)• Untouchable, by Sibel Hodge (Wonder Women)• Destroyer of Worlds, by J.F. Penn (J.F. Penn)• Breaker, by Richard Thomas (Alibi)The winners will be declared in New York City on July 15, during the 2017 ThrillerFest. Congratulations to all of the contenders!FOLLOW-UP: The Gumshoe Site’s Jiro Kimura notes that two other ITV prize winners were previously announced: Lee Child, 2017 ThrillerMaster recipient; and Lisa Gardner, 2017 Silver Bullet recipient. [...]

Bloch Party

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 21:28:00 +0000

Today marks 100 years since the birth, on April 5, 1917, of Robert Bloch, the American novelist and inveterate punster remembered for penning The Scarf (1947), The Will to Kill (1954), Psycho (1959), Star Stalker (1968), and further works of crime, suspense, and science fiction. To commemorate this occasion, bloggers across the Web have been paying tribute all week to his more than half-century-long career. Todd Mason offers his own and other fine retrospectives on Bloch’s literary efforts, with additional salutes coming from Jerry House, James Reasoner, Patti Abbott, and Bill Crider (here and here). You have your work cut out for you, if you hope to read this wide range of articles, so you’d better get started right away.

Revue of Reviewers, 4-3-17

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 20:32:00 +0000

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

Marlowe’s Coming Cinematic Comeback

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 16:51:00 +0000

While it’s hard for me to envisage Irish actor Liam Neeson starring in this production, I’m pleased to learn that the book will be adapted for the big screen. From In Reference to Murder:
Liam Neeson has signed on to play the lead role in Marlowe, which is based on the iconic Raymond Chandler character Philip Marlowe. The film is being adapted from The Black-Eyed Blonde follow-on novel by Benjamin Black, which centers on the private eye during the early 1950s where Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. That is, until a beautiful blonde client comes in and asks Marlowe to find her ex-lover, which soon has Marlowe wrapped up with one of the more powerful families in Bay Cities [sic] who are willing to go to any lengths to protect their fortune.
READ MORE:No Question About It, That’s a Punchy Name,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

Shorts to Triumph in the Long Run

Sun, 02 Apr 2017 01:46:00 +0000

The Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS) today announced its nominees for the 2017 Derringer Awards in four categories:Best Flash Story (up to 1,000 words):• “Aftermath,” by Craig Faustus Buck (Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring 2016)• “The Phone Call,” by Herschel Cozine (Flash Bang Mysteries, Summer 2016)• “A Just Reward,” by O’Neil de Noux (Flash Bang Mysteries, Winter 2016)• “The Orphan,” by Billy Kring (Shotgun Honey, March 18, 2016)• “An Ill Wind,” by R.T. Lawton (Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring 2016)Best Short Story (1,001-4,000 words):• “Beks and the Second Note,” by Bruce Arthurs (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine [AHMM], December 2016)• “The Way They Do It in Boston,” by Linda Barnes (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], September/October 2016)• “YOLO,” by Libby Cudmore (Beat to a Pulp, May 2016)• “The Woman in the Briefcase,” by Joseph D’Agnese (EQMM, March/April 2016)• “The Lighthouse,” by Hilde Vandermeeren (EQMM, March/April 2016)Best Long Story (4,001-8,000 words):• “Swan Song,” by Hilary Davidson (from Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns, edited by Eric Beetner; Down & Out)• “Effect on Men,” by O’Neil De Noux, (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2016)• “The Cumberland Package,” by Robert Mangeot (AHMM, May 2016)• “Murder Under the Baobab,” by Meg Opperman (EQMM, November 2016)• “Breadcrumbs,” by Victoria Weisfeld (Betty Fedora, Issue Three, September 2016)Best Novelette (8,000-20,000 words):• “Coup de Grace,” by Doug Allyn (EQMM, September/October 2016)• “The Chemistry of Heroes,” by Catherine Dilts (AHMM, May 2016)• “Inquiry and Assistance,” by Terrie Farley Moran (AHMM, January/February 2016)• “The Educator,” by Travis Richardson (44 Caliber Funk: Tales of Crime, Soul, and Payback, edited by Gary Phillips and Robert J. Randisi; Moonstone)• “The Last Blue Glass,” by B.K. Stevens (AHMM, April 2016)Winners will be chosen through an online vote among eligible SMFS members (polls to remain open through April 29), with the names of this year’s four award recipients to be declared on May 1. Congratulations to all of the contenders! [...]

Fool’s Paradise

Sat, 01 Apr 2017 18:08:00 +0000

Pulling once more from her extensive lineup of holiday mysteries, editor-blogger Janet Rudolph has posted a collection of April Fool’s Day crime fiction. And no, that’s not a prank.

The Story Behind the Story: “The Hunt,” by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 17:32:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: This is the 69th entry in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. It’s also our second submission from Columbus, Ohio, resident Andrew Welsh-Huggins, a legal affairs reporter with the Associated Press and the creator of private eye Andy Hayes. [He wrote previously about his 2016 novel, Capitol Punishment.] Welsh-Huggins’ fourth Hayes yarn, The Hunt, is due out in mid-April from Swallow Press. Below, he recalls some of the difficulties he faced in enlarging on Hayes’ personal history in this new book.)One of the most important tasks when creating a mystery series from scratch is developing your protagonist’s back story. It’s safe to say you should have the basics down first: a straight, male ex-military police officer running a one-person investigative agency; a married gay cop overseeing a cold-case squad; a divorced female private eye with a background in insurance fraud and a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, etc. But where do you go from there? How much should you know about your character’s personal life when starting out? Maybe part of what makes her tick is that she’s widowed and averse to long-term relationships. But is that the whole story? And if there’s more, how do you provide the information without dragging down the narrative?When I started writing about Andy Hayes, my fictional private eye in Columbus, Ohio, I knew three things for certain: he was an ex-Ohio State quarterback with a sullied reputation from his playing days; he was twice divorced with a son from each marriage; and he lived in German Village, a trendy neighborhood south of downtown, with his Labrador, Hopalong (named for the 1955 Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner, Howard Albert “Hopalong” Cassady).Beyond these bare-bone details, there was a lot I didn’t know about Hayes. The fun has been in discovering new things as I went along, many of them unknown to me until the day they popped up on the screen as I wrote. For instance, at the end of the first Hayes book, Fourth Down and Out (2014), we learn exactly what led to my protagonist’s downfall as a player. In Slow Burn (2015), I explored the years Hayes spent battling his demons after his football burnout through the back story of an ex-fiancée whose help he must enlist to solve a triple-arson homicide. In both Slow Burn and Capitol Punishment (2016) I reveal more about Hayes’ life growing up in Homer, Ohio (a real town), including an episode with his pig-farming uncle who takes Hayes in after he hits rock bottom and clears his head by forcing him to work with the hogs over one long, hot summer.By the time I started work on The Hunt (Swallow Press), I knew I was ready to parse out Hayes’ fractured relationship with his father. The early attempts didn’t go well, as I tried to chronicle their troubled relationship in flashback form with several overly long passages. Details about childhood, parents, and traumatic events of yore can paint a richer portrait of your character, but I knew that the line between explication and overload is razor thin. Less is almost always more. Here are examples of the right way to do it, from some of the best in the business:• “Dropping my ashes in my empty teacup, I noticed the arrangement of the leaves. My grandmother would have said it meant money and a dark stranger.” That’s Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, talking about his relative in The Way Some People Die (1951), one of many subtle references to a formative person in Archer’s life—his uncle being another—t[...]

Spotlighting Scandi Crime

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 17:24:00 +0000

Six “outstanding crime novels from Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden” have found places on the shortlist of nominees for the 2017 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. According to the Euro Crime blog, those contenders—half of which were published by Orenda Books—are:
The Exiled, by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated by David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)
The Dying Detective, by Leif G.W. Persson, translated by Neil Smith (Doubleday; Sweden)
The Bird Tribunal, by Agnes Ravatn, translated byRosie Hedger (Orenda Books; Norway)
Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurđardóttir, translated by Victoria Cribb (Hodder & Stoughton; Iceland)
Where Roses Never Die, by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett (Orenda Books; Norway)
The Wednesday Club, by Kjell Westö, translated by Neil Smith (MacLehose Press; Finland)
The name of this year’s winning work will be announced in Bristol, England, during a “gala dinner” on May 20, to be held as part of 2017’s CrimeFest (May 18-21).

Mystery Fanfare notes that the Petrona Award was “established to celebrate the work of the late Maxine Clarke, one of the first online crime-fiction reviewers and bloggers, [and] is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia and published in the UK in the previous calendar year.”

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Steps Down

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 18:27:00 +0000

As reported by various sources now, well-respected Norway-based independent publisher 280 Steps is shutting its doors this week. Although the company has not yet explained this sudden development on its Web site, 280 Steps authors have been broadcasting word of their unexpected availability to other publishing enterprises.

“I am sad to see [280 Steps] close up and for my books to be homeless for a while,” remarks hard-boiled stylist Eric Beetner, who’s released four novels through that house, including Rumrunners(2015) and a pair of entries in his Lars and Shaine hit man series (The Devil Doesn't Want Me and When the Devil Comes to Call). “This also means the final Lars and Shaine novel, The Devil At Your Door, won’t be out April 25th. My apologies to anyone who pre-ordered it.” Meanwhile, Australian Andrew Nette, whose Gunshine State reached the market last fall thanks to 280 Steps, writes on Facebook: “I’m pretty gutted about this, and my thoughts also go out to my fellow 280 Steps authors, many of whom had a number of books out through the outfit. 280 Steps [was] a good publisher, did some great books, with wonderful cover art, and I didn’t see their closure coming. I’m very proud of Gunshine State. The book had been well received, appeared to have a lot of life left in it and I’ve been contemplating a sequel. Frankly, I am not sure where to go with it now. Obviously, I have no intention of giving up fiction writing, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this latest news has stopped me in my tracks a bit.”

Despite the brevity of its existence (the company was founded in 2014), 280 Steps had collected a great deal of praise for its range of authors—from Jake Hinkson and A.I. Bezzerides to Patrick Shawn Bagley and Preston Lang—as well as the “striking artwork” to be found on its book covers. In 2016, Josh K. Stevens’s Scratch the Surface won The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Novel Cover of the Year contest. We’re sorry to see this publisher’s presence disappear from book racks.

Dahl’s Pursuit of Justice—in Fact and Fiction

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:01:00 +0000

(Above) Author Julia Dahl (photo by Chasi Annexy)Julia Dahl has been chasing stories ever since she was in high school back in the mid-1990s. And more often than not, she’s caught them—first as a student journalist, later as an intern for a national magazine, then as a tabloid “stringer” and a criminal justice reporter for’s Crimesider blog, and now as a prize-amassing crime novelist. Along the way this Fresno, California, native has learned a thing or two about herself, including: she’s more comfortable than many people would be with researching the seamier side of life (“As a crime reporter, I bear witness to a lot of evil”); she doesn’t need to outline her novels before beginning their composition (“Since I’ve been writing mysteries, I start each book knowing who dies, who did it, and having a loose idea of why.”); and life can occasionally provide all the inspiration one needs for fiction.Dahl emphasized that last point during a lengthy conversation she had with a Chicago magazine contributor several years ago, around the time her first novel, Invisible City (2014)—about a young tabloid reporter’s struggle to solve a murder committed within New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community—first reached U.S. bookstores. After explaining that she’d relocated to America’s East Coast in order to attend college in Connecticut (at Yale University, if you must know), and then settled in Gotham in 1999, Dahl recalled: My family on my mom’s side is Jewish, but I had no idea that the ultra-Orthodox even existed in the U.S. Then I moved out east. … If you’re in New York City, you see men with black hats and women in wigs on the subway all the time, but it wasn’t until I moved to Brooklyn that I started seeing them a lot, and a couple of things happened that piqued my interest and made me focus on the community. It was something that I wanted to explore in fiction. One was just that I saw these people and thought they’re so like me and yet so unlike me. So there was just this sense of wanting to know more about them. In the fall of 2007, I had just started working at the New York Post, and my then-boyfriend—he’s now my husband—and I were looking for an apartment in Brooklyn. We went to visit an apartment that looked great on paper. It had a great price, it was right by the park in a neighborhood we like. On the way there, the broker told us that he felt like he needed to tell us that the previous occupant of the apartment had committed suicide there. So, we went and we saw the apartment. It was a great apartment, and there certainly were no signs that anyone had committed suicide there. We decided to take it, and after we moved in, I went to sign the lease. It turned out that the building was owned by an old Orthodox man in Borough Park. When I met him he said he was really glad we took the apartment, that the man who lived there was “really sick” and so on. He didn’t really tell me any more, and then I started talking to the neighbors and I found out that the man who lived there had been an ultra-Orthodox Jew who had a wife and children, but he was gay. He was shunned by the community, and he ended up alone in this apartment where he died. I started having this kind of imaginary relationship with this guy who used to live in the apartment. I would get his mail because, as you know, you often get mail from the previous tenant. These people did[...]

Revue of Reviewers, 3-25-17

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 02:09:00 +0000

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