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Last Build Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2018 03:42:15 +0000


Edgars Have Their Day

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:38:00 +0000

Today, on the 209th anniversary of author Edgar Allan Poe’s birth in Boston, Massachusetts, the Mystery Writers of America has announced its nominees for the 2018 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, “honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television published or produced in 2017.” The full list of winners will be declared during a banquet in New York City on April 26. Congratulations to all of the nominees.Best Novel:• The Dime, by Kathleen Kent (Mulholland)• Prussian Blue, by Philip Kerr (Putnam)• Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)• A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)• The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, by Hannah Tinti (Dial Press)Best First Novel by an American Author:• She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper (Ecco)• Dark Chapter, by Winnie M. Li (Polis)• Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love (Crown)• Tornado Weather, by Deborah E. Kennedy (Flatiron)• Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich (Random House)Best Paperback Original:• In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen (Thomas & Mercer)• Ragged Lake, by Ron Corbett (ECW Press)• Black Fall, by Andrew Mayne (Harper)• The Unseeing, by Anna Mazzola (Sourcebooks Landmark)• Penance, by Kanae Minato (Mulholland)• The Rules of Backyard Cricket, by Jock Serong (Text)Best Fact Crime:• Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann (Doubleday)• The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)• American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, by Monica Hesse (Liveright)• The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James (Scribner)• Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation, by Brad Ricca (St. Martin’s Press)Best Critical/Biographical:• From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon, by Mattias Bostrom (Mysterious Press)• Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier, by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s Press)• Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall, by Curtis Evans (McFarland)• Chester B. Himes: A Biography, by Lawrence P. Jackson (Norton)• Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury USA)Best Short Story:• “Spring Break,” by John Crowley (from New Haven Noir, edited by Amy Bloom; Akashic)• “Hard to Get,” by Jeffery Deaver (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017)• “Ace in the Hole,” by Eric Heidle (from Montana Noir, edited by James Grady and Keir Graff; Akashic)• “A Moment of Clarity at the Waffle House,” by Kenji Jasper (from Atlanta Noir, edited by Tayari Jones; Akashic)• “Chin Yong-Yun Stays at Home,” by S.J. Rozan (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, January/February 2017)Best Juvenile:• Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson (Scholastic Press)• Vanished! by James Ponti (Aladdin)• The Assassin’s Curse, by Kevin Sands (Aladdin)• First Class Murder, by Robin Stevens (Simon & Schuster)• NewsPrints, by Ru Xu (Graphix)Best Young Adult:• The Cruelty, by Scott Bergstrom (Feiwel & Friends)• Grit, by Gillian French (HarperTeen)• The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak (Simon & Schuster)• Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum)• The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)Best Television Episode Teleplay:• “Episode 1,” Loch Ness, teleplay by Stephen Brady (Acorn TV) • “Something Happened,” Law & Order: SVU, teleplay by Michael Chernuchin (NBC Universal/Wolf Entertainment)• “Somebody to Love,” Fargo, teleplay by Noah Hawley (FX Networks/MGM)• “Gently and the New Age,” George Gently, teleplay by Robert Murphy (Acorn TV)• “The Blanket Mire,” Vera, teleplay by Paul Matthew Thompson and Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)The Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark Award:• The Vineyard Victims, by Ellen Crosby (Minotaur)• You’ll Never Know, Dear, by Ha[...]

Revue of Reviewers, 1-17-18

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 02:17:00 +0000

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

A Monk in the City of Angels

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 01:41:00 +0000

Here’s an interesting item from In Reference to Murder:
Former Hawaii Five-0 star Daniel Dae Kim's production company 3AD is creating First Rule of Ten, a show based on a mystery novel series by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay. The story follows a young monk [Tenzing Norbu], who after years spent struggling with the teachings of his Tibetan monastery, leaves to find his identity in the unlikeliest of places—Los Angeles. There, he’s forced to reconcile the differences between the Buddhist teachings he’s grown up with and the new fast-paced lifestyle filled with temptations. His path to self-discovery becomes further complicated when he witnesses a brutal crime and becomes inextricably entwined in its investigation.
Learn more about Tenzing (“Ten”) Norbu by clicking here.

A Reading Year: Changing the Criteria

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 22:38:00 +0000

During the final two years of my tenure with Kirkus Reviews, I composed—in addition to “favorite crime novels of the year” lists—posts that looked back on my annual reading as measured by somewhat different criteria. (Look for said pieces here and here.) I found those exercises so satisfying, that I have decided to continue them in The Rap Sheet. Yes, I know, it’s the middle of January, but like so many other people, I am not yet done thinking about the books I enjoyed in 2017.Last year was an unusual reading period for me in several ways. First off, I didn’t have to consume as many crime novels as had been elemental to my diet while writing a fortnightly column for the Kirkus Web site; I filled in part of that extra time by re-reading a number of books—something I haven’t done nearly enough of over the last decade. Secondly, I rediscovered an appetite for science fiction that I hadn’t felt in many years, which led me to pull down from my shelves such books as James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958) and Larry Niven’s Ringworld series. Finally, I decided I was overdue for an introduction to a dozen or so once-notable mainstream wordsmiths whose fiction I had, either through foolishness or negligence, never deigned to try before. This last desire resulted in my reading a pair of prizes from John O’Hara’s oeuvre—Appointment in Samarra (1934) and BUtterfield 8 (1935)—and procuring rather creased old paperback editions of early novels by Irwin Shaw, an author I’d only ever known before from short stories published (and republished) in Esquire magazine.Some of the categories I have chosen for the broader assessment, below, of my 2017 reading experiences are new or modified from those I have employed in the past. However, my intent remains the same as always: to evaluate my last 12 months of crime-fiction reading through criteria I think can be as worthwhile and revealing as picking my “favorite” books (which I did here and here).Some of 2017’s Most Promising Debut Novels: Let’s begin with Leo W. Banks’ Double Wide (Brash), which imagined an ex-star baseball pitcher, brought down by a cocaine arrest, who’s now managing a middle-of-nowhere Arizona trailer park and winds up playing sleuth after the apparently violent death of his former catcher. When I was asked to blurb Banks’ yarn, this is what I wrote: It’s tough not to appreciate a madcap crime novel that incorporates drug smuggling, homicide, baseball, Shakespeare, and wayward body parts into its tumbling plot. Especially when the story also boasts keen and comical observations on life, a roadrunner pace, and a hardy but humane protagonist. Double Wide is single-minded entertainment of a subversively literary sort. More, please! – J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap SheetAlso particularly impressive: Jane Harper’s Australian farm-country whodunit, The Dry (Flatiron), which I named as one of my favorite novels of last year; Guy Bolton’s 1939-set The Pictures (Oneworld), about Detective Jonathan Craine, the Los Angeles Police Department’s chief “fixer” for the billion-dollar Hollywood film business, who’s tasked—just five months after helping to cover up the suicide of his actress wife—to oversee the investigation of a prominent movie producer alleged to have “hanged himself in his study and left no note”; Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man (Pegasus), a lushly atmospheric work focusing on a Scotland Yard detective, newly settled in Calcutta, India, in 1919, who’s assigned to solve the case of a white government official left dead in a sewer with a message in his mouth that warns the subcontinent’s British rulers to vamoose, or else; She Rides Shotgun (Ecco), Jordan Harper’s tightly wound, largely character-driven thriller about a freshly liberated felon determined to protect his 11-year-old daughter from homicidal Aryan gangsters, even if it means turning her into a pint-size Bonnie Parker; H.B. Lyle’s The Irregular (Quercus), a[...]

Keeping Up with Crider

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 19:12:00 +0000

As regular readers of this page know all too well, 76-year-old Texas author-blogger Bill Crider is currently undergoing hospice care for what he’s called a “very aggressive form” of the cancer carcinoma. His family and friends have kindly been providing health updates on Bill’s Facebook page, including this one from his younger brother, Cox Robert “Bob” Crider, which is dated January 7, 2017:
Bill is still with us. He is still taking liquid nutrition by mouth. We have trained in-home health aides who are here 7 hours a day, and family members all the time, so he is getting good care. He still enjoys conversations but does not read, watch TV, or do Facebook anymore—but we try to keep him tuned in on what's going on.

When he was placed in Hospice Care, the doctor told him he had about 4 to 8 weeks left. That was 6 weeks ago. … I think he is gonna beat that 8 weeks for sure. But he is ready to go now because he “does not want to be any trouble to anyone.” Yep, that's my bro!
And this message, also from his brother, dated January 13:
Bill continues to weaken some each day, but is still with us and systems still working.
One message I found particularly interesting had to do with Crider’s fiction writing. I’d feared that 2017’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Dead, to Begin With (Minotaur), would be the last novel we’d see from this fine writer. But I am glad to learn I was mistaken. This update, again from Bob Crider, was posted on January 12:
Bill is fretting that his last book will not be on the market before he passes from this world. He sent it to his agent back in October. He has me checking Amazon every day to see if it is available yet.

I think it will arrive on the market the same day he departs. The title of the book is
That Scoundrel Death. There is some irony in that …
Finally, if you would like to send Bill Crider a message of thanks or hope, his Facebook page now provides the appropriate postal address: Bill Crider, 1606 S. Hill St., Alvin, TX 77511.

Put Your Bets Down on Reno Prizes

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 01:56:00 +0000

With a couple of months still to go before the opening of Left Coast Crime 2018 in Reno, Nevada (March 22-25), organizers of that convention have announced the nominees for this year’s four Lefty Awards. These prizes will be handed out during a banquet on Saturday, March 24, at the Nugget Casino Resort in Reno/Sparks, Nevada.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel:
Gone Gull, by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
A Cajun Christmas Killing, by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane)
Dying on the Vine, by Marla Cooper (Minotaur)
The Art of Vanishing, by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press)
Dying for a Diamond, by Cindy Sample (Cindy Sample)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial), for books covering events before 1960:
In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen (Lake Union)
The Woman in the Camphor Trunk, by Jennifer Kincheloe
(Seventh Street)
Dangerous to Know, by Renee Patrick (Forge)
The Proud Sinner, by Priscilla Royal (Poisoned Pen Press)
Season of Blood, by Jeri Westerson (Severn House)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel:
A Short Time to Die, by Susan Alice Bickford (Kensington)
Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
Lost Luggage, by Wendall Thomas (Poisoned Pen Press)
A Head in Cambodia, by Nancy Tingley (Swallow Press)
Protocol, by Kathleen Valenti (Henery Press)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories):
Blood Truth, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)
Sulphur Springs, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)
Glass Houses, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, by Terry Shames
(Seventh Street)
Cast the First Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)

The Guests of Honor at Left Coast Crime 2018 will be authors Naomi Hirahara and William Kent Krueger. Todd Borg, author of the Tahoe Mysteries, will serve as Toastmaster, with Mark Twain (aka actor McAvoy Layne) expected to hold forth as “Ghost of Honor.”

Starter Set

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 14:31:00 +0000

Having somehow survived 2017, with all of its governmental incompetence, infantile Twitter rants, discomfiting threats of nuclear warfare, and erosion of both social norms and international alliances, we’re now charging full steam ahead into 2018. There are no assurances that the world will be any less rocky and frightening this year than it was last, but at least we will have lots of excellent reading material to keep us entertained—no matter what happens.Just the next three months, for instance, will bring us what’s billed as “the final completed novel” by Mickey Spillane (The Last Stand); a new Hebrides-set thriller from Peter May (I’ll Keep You Safe); Rory Clements’ latest World War II-era spy yarn (Nucleus); Jane Harper’s Force of Nature, her sequel to the award-winning The Dry; what may be the opening installment in a new Walter Mosley detective series (Down the River Unto the Sea); the long-awaited fourth novel from Night Dogs author Kent Anderson (Green Sun); a work of psychological suspense from Laura Lippman (Sunburn); a 1920s-set novel of the Windy City underworld by playwright David Mamet (Chicago); the return of early 20th-century Viennese psychiatrist Max Liebermann (in Frank Tallis’ Mephisto Waltz); a high-tension yarn pairing two of Loren D. Estleman’s series protagonists, private eye Amos Walker and hit man Peter Macklin (Black and White Ball); the return of 1940s San Francisco gumshoe Miranda Corbie (in Kelli Stanley’s City of Sharks); the 50th anniversary edition of Colonel Sun, “the first James Bond novel published after the death of Ian Fleming in 1964”; Stella Duffy’s completion of an Inspector Roderick Alleyn mystery (Money in the Morgue), begun in the 1940s by Ngaio Marsh; and J. Todd Scott’s High White Sun, the sequel to 2016’s The Far Empty. On top of those, we can also look forward to fresh fiction from, among many others, Ragnar Jónasson, Jacqueline Winspear, Robert Goddard, Alison Gaylin, Joe R. Lansdale, Camilla Lackberg, Brad Parks, Charles Todd, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Bill Pronzini, Eva Dolan, Gerald Seymour, Mari Hannah, Robert Harris, and Ann Cleeves.I know, I know: This abundance of literary riches is almost too much to take in at a single sitting. Below you will find almost 400 crime, mystery, and thriller works due out on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean between now and the end of March. (Believe it or not, this is not a complete rundown of what will soon become available, but instead a critic’s choice selection.) The list is based on recommendations from genre authorities such as Sarah Weinman and Shots’ Ayo Onatade, and Web sites ranging from Crime Fiction Lover and Bookbub Blog to Euro Crime and The Bloodstained Bookshelf. I think there’s something here for everyone, whether you favor hard-boiled crime tales, less brash whodunits, or double-cross-filled espionage thrillers. There are even a few crime fiction/science fiction crossovers, and some non-fiction releases—identified here with asterisks (*)—that should appeal to The Rap Sheet’s astute and curious readership.JANUARY (U.S.):• An Aegean April, by Jeffrey Siger (Poisoned Pen Press)• Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughan (Atria/Emily Bestler)• Babylon Berlin, by Volker Kutscher (Picador)• Bad Samaritan, by Dana King (Down & Out)• Beneath the Darkest Sky, by Jason Overstreet (Dafina)• Beneath the Mountain, by Luca D’Andrea (Harper)• Best Friends Forever, by Margot Hunt (Mira)• The Black Painting, by Neil Olson (Hanover Square)• Blood Sisters, by Jane Corry (Pamela Dorman)• The Bloody Spur, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Kensington)• The Bomb Maker, by Thomas Perry (Mysterious Press)• The Burial Society, by Nina Sadowsky (Ballantine)• The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Crown)• Collected Millar: First Things, Last Things: Banshee; Spider Webs; It’s All in the Family; Collected Short Fic[...]

Copycat Covers: Stranger Wings

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 19:02:00 +0000

A new entry in our series about remarkably look-alike book fronts.

(image) (image)

In the Shadow of Gotham, by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur, 2009); and Unholy City, by Carrie Smith (Crooked Lane, 2017). Both book jackets employ, as their principal focus, the eight-foot bronze statue of an angel found atop the Bethesda Fountain in Manhattan’s Central Park. That sculpture—designed by Emma Stebbins, who is remembered as “the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City”—was unveiled in 1873.

Stebbins’ Angel of the Waters is shown above. “The base of the fountain,” explains Wikipedia, “was designed by the architect of all the original built features of Central Park, Calvert Vaux, with sculptural details, as usual, by Jacob Wrey Mould.”

Vote for Your Favorite Fronts

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:13:00 +0000

Just a reminder that today begins the final week of The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2017 contest. We have 15 finalists, all of which have slowly been accumulating support from readers. At this point, the top five contenders are: G-Man, by Stephen Hunter; Blackbird, by Michael Fiegel; Follow Me Down, by Sherri Smith; Day In, Day Out, by Héctor Aguilar Camín; and The Fall of Lisa Bellow, by Susan Perabo. But that lineup could well change.

This poll will remain open until midnight on Friday, January 12. Everyone who wishes to participate is given one chance to vote, though at that time you may cast your ballot for as many candidates as you prefer. The results of our survey will, of course, be reported after all of the votes are registered.

If you haven’t already chosen your favorites, please do so now!

What Sort of Gift Do You Give to a Victorian Sleuth Who Already Has Immortality?

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 19:36:00 +0000

Today is Sherlock Holmes’ birthday, as the distinctive blog Inner Toob reminded us earlier this morning. According to scholars of the Holmes canon, the Great Detective was born on January 6, 1854, which would now make him 164 years old. I’m not going to compose a new post about this occasion, but shall instead refer you to a piece I wrote in 2007, which traces some of the thinking behind identifying this day as special to Holmes. I just went to the trouble of updating the links in that post, so the Web references should all be easily reached.

By the way, what may or many not be the birthday of Holmes’ faithful chronicler, Dr. John H. Watson, is almost two months away.

Revue of Reviewers, 1-4-18

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 22:19:00 +0000

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

Hit the Links

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:01:00 +0000

• The January 2018 edition of Mike Ripley’s “Getting Away with Murder” column is now available for your attention in Shots.• Also look for this year’s first edition of Sarah Weinman’s newsletter, “The Crime Lady,” which includes her recommendations of forthcoming crime-fiction releases.• Mystery Fanfare notes the passing, on Wednesday, of Fred Bass, “who transformed his father’s small used-book store, the Strand, into a mammoth Manhattan emporium with the slogan ‘18 Miles of Books…’ He was 89. The cause was congestive heart failure.” National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary also shares her memories of Bass.• Jake Hinkson picks his “Top 6 Maigret Mystery Novels.”• MysteryPeople chooses its “Top 6 Debut Novels of 2017.”• While we await this coming fall’s Season 2 debut of The Deuce, the David Simon/George Pelecanos-created HBO-TV drama about New York City’s porn industry of the 1970s and ’80s, Literary Hub’s Dwyer Murphy serves up a list of 10 crime novels—by Lawrence Block, Chester Himes, Judith Rossner, and others—that showcased the grittier side of that metropolis during the same era.• The Killing Times provides a long round-up of crime dramas expected to debut in Great Britain this year—most of which, I hope, will eventually show up on U.S. screens.• Kate Beckinsale’s The Widow may not air until 2019.• The Strand Magazine has put together a brief biography of Sherlock Holmes’ older and less active sibling, Mycroft.• In addition to the disappearance on December 31 of Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room, a second group blog, The Lady Killers, has also decided to call it quits.• And Andrew Grant (False Witness) is the latest guest on Nancie Clare’s Speaking of Murder podcast. Listen in here. [...]

A Bumper Crop of Bennetts

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 15:48:00 +0000

Killer Covers’ month-long tribute to Connecticut artist-illustrator Harry Bennett concluded yesterday. Although the series ran for 31 days—from December 4 through January 3—the blog managed to present 70 of Bennett’s book fronts in total. If you weren’t keeping up with the posts as they appeared, you can click here to find them all.

What Say You?: Best Crime Covers, 2017

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 18:11:00 +0000

Because we skipped 2012, this is The Rap Sheet’s 10th Best Crime Fiction Cover of the Year contest. As usual, I’ve been collecting prospective nominees for the last 12 months now, browsing bookstores and book-oriented Web sites in search of qualified contenders, and watching design-attentive blogs such as The Casual Optimist and Spine Magazine to see what they showcase.This is always a very enjoyable process for me. I grew up with an orientation toward design, my father having been an architect with a serious side interest in typography. And one of my first post-college jobs was with the art/production department at an “alternative newsweekly” in Portland, Oregon, called Willamette Week. Through the succeeding years, as I moved from newspapers into magazines, I maintained close ties with the art directors and production staffs responsible for making sure that what I wrote and edited looked as handsome as possible on the page. I learned everything I could from those folks, and believe their influences have helped make The Rap Sheet a sharper-looking product than it might have become in someone else’s hands. (Not to flatter myself or anything …)The 2017 crop of Best Crime Fiction Cover contestants runs to 15 works, all of them eye-catching and memorable. This shortlist is drawn from a preliminary hoard of 32 covers, a few of which were tough to remove from the competition; but they had to go in order to make this survey more manageable. Several of the fronts featured below were suggested by readers, who answered my invitation of early last month. It’s hard to know which of these will ultimately come out on top, but they all deserve such acclaim—from the pulpy, powerful jacket of Stephen Hunter’s G-Man to Sherri Smith’s psychological thriller, Follow Me Down, showing luxuriant swirls of red hair that suggest an irresistible whirlpool; from the cover of Ragnar Jónasson’s Rupture (with its ominous, seemingly abstract image that, if turned on its left side, is revealed as the photo of a red-roofed building and a solitary figure on a likely frigid coastline) to the comic-book-like art decorating Colin Cotterill’s The Rat Catchers’ Olympics and the significantly more detailed illustration on Marcus Sedgwick’s Mister Memory, with elements inspired by its historical mystery plot.Below are all of the 2017 nominees, arranged alphabetically and followed by an easy-to-use electronic ballot on which you can make your preferences known. As I did last year (in response to suspected ballot-stuffing in 2015), I am again limiting each poll participant to one chance at choosing his or her favorites; however, you should feel free to register your support for more than one cover on that single occasion. So make this opportunity count! We’ll keep the voting open here for the next 10 days, until midnight on Friday, January 12, after which the results will be announced.Click on any of the jackets below to open an enlargement. This poll has closed. Results to be reported soon. ONE THING MORE: If you think we have neglected to mention some other crime-fiction cover from 2017 that is also deserving of recognition, please post a comment about it at the end of this piece. Just be sure to include a link to where on the Web other Rap Sheet readers can see that additional cover for themselves. [...]

“A Cancer Growing on the Presidency”*

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 17:38:00 +0000

I enjoyed reading Mallon’s 2012 novel, Watergate, so I’m looking forward to this TV adaptation. From In Reference to Murder:
Watergate is suddenly a hot topic again, and CBS Television Studios is getting in on the action by developing a series based on Thomas Mallon’s novel Watergate after optioning the rights and hiring Band of Brothers screenwriter John Orloff to adapt and write the project. Mallon’s Watergate follows seven characters from the private cabins of Camp David to the klieg lights of the Senate Caucus Room, the District of Columbia jail and the Dupont Circle mansion of Theodore Roosevelt’s sharp-tongued 90-year-old daughter. It aims to solve some of the scandal’s greatest mysteries such as who erased those 18 1/2 minutes of tape.
* From a video archived by The Washington Post: “Three months after privately warning President Nixon that the Watergate cover-up was a ‘cancer on the presidency,’ former White House counsel John Dean tells the story to the Senate Watergate Committee, June 25, 1973.”

A Second Chance at First Choices

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 22:12:00 +0000

When I asked Rap Sheet contributors to submit their “favorite crime fiction of 2017” lists, I limited them to five choices. I’ve done the same thing every year since 2014, when I moved this selection process from January Magazine to The Rap Sheet. However, I’d also been in the habit, during my long stretch as a blogger for Kirkus Reviews (which ended last January), of annually naming a rather more generous 10 favorites from the genre. Barry Forshaw allowed me that same higher count when he invited me to participate in Crime Time’s critics’ choice feature of 2017 releases. But when it came to cutting the roster in half for The Rap Sheet … well, it caused me considerable angst and regret. I think this was an outstanding year for crime, mystery, and thriller fiction, and I was sorry not to be drawing attention to more excellent offerings.Then something unexpected, and quite fortunate, happened. Months after they’d issued their “Top 12 Mystery Novels of 2017” rundown, editors of The Strand Magazine—seemingly having their own second thoughts on the culling process—posted a longer list of 25 nominations. Suddenly, there was a precedent for expanding on my original preferences. So below, you will find my new, 25-strong register of favorite crime novels published since the beginning of this year. The first five titles are those I already mentioned in The Rap Sheet. The remaining 20, logged alphabetically, also left me a delighted reader. (I have provided Amazon links in order that you can find out more about any books here with which you are not yet familiar.)• The Dry, by Jane Harper (Flatiron)• The Force, by Don Winslow (Morrow)• If We Were Villains, by M.L. Rio (Flatiron)• Lightning Men, by Thomas Mullen (Atria/37 INK)• Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (Harper)• The Ashes of London, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)• Arrowood, by Mick Finlay (Mira)• August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho Crime)• The Birdwatcher, by William Shaw (Mulholland)• Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)• Dark Asylum, by E.S. Thomson (Pegasus)• Dead Man’s Blues, by Ray Celestin (Pegasus)• Double Wide, by Leo W. Banks (Brash)• The Irregular, by H.B. Lyle (Quercus)• A Legacy of Spies, by John le Carré (Viking)• The Man in the Crooked Hat, by Harry Dolan (Putnam)• Murder in the Manuscript Room, by Con Lehane (Minotaur)• A Negro and an Ofay, by Danny Gardner (Down & Out)• The Pictures, by Guy Bolton (Oneworld)• Prussian Blue, by Philip Kerr (Marian Wood Books/Putnam)• A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus)• The Shadow District, by Arnaldur Indridason (Minotaur)• She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper (Ecco)• Sleep Baby Sleep, by David Hewson (Macmillan)• Wonder Valley, by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco) * * * As the curtain goes down on 2017, there are also a number of other blogs and Web publications reviewing their recent book consumption. The “social cataloguing” site Goodreads has posted the results of its readers’ choice awards for mystery and thriller fiction, with Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water—the follow-up to her mega-seller, The Girl on the Train—taking top honors. Meanwhile, Euro Crime’s Karen Meek identifies her “favorite British/European/translated reads of 2017”; Crime Fiction Lover co-founder Garrick Webster names his own top-five books of 2017, including Andrew Martin’s Soot and Jonathan Lyon’s Carnivore; Shots’ Ayo Onatade recommends a dozen yarns; Jen Forbus mentions five crime novels in her account of special 2017 works; Spanish blogger José Ignacio Escribano serves up a baker’s dozen of tasty narratives, some of them older; a[...]

Finding Success, One Hurdle at a Time

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 21:17:00 +0000

Sue Grafton was so well known for her Kinsey Millhone private-eye series, that I’d quite forgotten she composed any books prior to A Is for Alibi. The Gumshoe Site’s Jiro Kimura reminded me of the truth in his succinct obituary of the author:
Sue Grafton died of [cancer of the appendix] on December 28 at a hospital in Santa Barbara, California. The younger daughter of mystery writer-lawyer C.W. Grafton was miserable with her second husband and wrote novels at night after her day job (at a hospital in L.A.) and housework (at home in Santa Barbara). Two of her written novels were published (Keziah Dane, Macmillan U.S., 1967; and The Lolly-Madonna War, Owen UK, 1969) before A Is for Alibi (Holt, 1982). The Lolly-Madonna War was turned into the movie Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973) with her co-written script, resulting in her working in Hollywood. She co-wrote for TV programs such as Rhoda and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and [scripted] two TV movies based on Agatha Christie's novels (A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide, both in 1983). To her, A Is for Alibi, the first in the Kinsey Millhone series, “was a ticket out of Hollywood.” She received three Lifetime Achievement Awards: one from the Private Eye Writers of America [PWA] in 2003 (The Eye); second from the Crime Writers Association of Britain in 2008 (The Diamond Dagger): and third from the Mystery Writers of America in 2009 (The Grand Master). She won three PWA Shamus awards—for B Is for Burglar (1985), G Is for Gumshoe (1990), and K Is for Killer (1994), as well as the 1991 Falcon Award from the Maltese Falcon Society Japan for F Is for Fugitive. Her last novel was Y Is for Yesterday (Putnam, 2017), and her alphabet series has ended at Y because she would not allow any movies or TV shows or continuation sequels. She was 77.
That last note, about how she forbade the publication of any “continuation sequels,” surprises me. I’d assumed, after hearing of Grafton’s demise just one novel short of her filling out the alphabet, that some writer friend of hers or other author would push to concoct a 26th Millhone investigation. But it sounds like that won’t happen.

SEE MORE:Remembering Sue Grafton: Sparkling Cyanide (1983),” by Elizabeth Foxwell (The Bunburyist).

“Letter Writer” Grafton Signs Off

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 20:39:00 +0000

From Kentucky’s Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper: The death of internationally acclaimed author Sue Grafton means at least one mystery will remain unsolved. Grafton, a Louisville native, was known globally for her alphabet detective series featuring investigator Kinsey Millhone. She died Thursday night [at age 77] following a battle with cancer. Grafton’s series began with “A Is for Alibi” in 1982 and continued through “Y Is for Yesterday,” released in August 2017. Her last book, “Z Is for Zero,” was scheduled for release in fall 2019, according to the author’s website. But her husband, Steve Humphrey, said Grafton had yet to start writing the novel. “She was trying to come up with an idea, but she never got one she liked,” Humphrey said. “With chemo, she didn’t have much energy or interest in that anyway. There will just be a 25-letter alphabet, I’m sorry to say.”Our condolences go out to Grafton’s family on their loss. READ MORE: “Sue Grafton, Whose Detective Novels Spanned the Alphabet, Dies at 77,” by Neil Genzlinger (The New York Times); “Sue Grafton, Best-Selling Author of Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mysteries, Dies at 77,” by Laura Wamsley (National Public Radio); “Sue Grafton: R.I.P.,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare); “R.I.P., Sue Grafton,” by Ken Levine; “Sue Grafton Remembered,” by Ruth Jordan (Crimespree Magazine); “Sue Grafton, Whose ‘Alphabet Mysteries’ Became Best Sellers, Dies at 77,” by Matt Schudel (The Washington Post); “Mourning Sue Grafton” (Literary Hub); “Sue Grafton: A Remembrance (of Sorts),” by Art Taylor; “S Is for Sad,” by Lee Goldberg; “Thinking About Sue Grafton,” by Bill Selnes (Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan); “In Memoriam,” by Ayo Onatade (Shots). [...]

Pleased to Meet You

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 23:27:00 +0000

My friends and family are clearly growing bolder. In a typical year only two or three of the people with whom I exchange gifts at Christmastime ever give me books. The rest, not familiar enough with my personal library to know what’s already there—and not wishing to ask me for suggestions of new works I’d like to receive—customarily play it safe and give me music CDs or clothing or edible things.But 2017 has been different. Several people this holiday season took a chance on presenting me with works of fiction and non-fiction, most of which were by authors not already represented on my shelves. These included Noah Isenberg (We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie), Bill James (The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery), Pete Souza (Obama: An Intimate Portrait), Walter Isaacson (Leonardo da Vinci), and Richard Matheson (The Best of Richard Matheson). This continues a pattern I realized was taking shape about halfway through 2017, which is that I’ve been tackling an inordinate number of books by wordsmiths I have never sampled before.Ever since 2008, I have been keeping an inventory of such author “discoveries.” Thus far, 2015 proved to be my most successful year for testing out scribblers I either hadn’t heard of before, or whose books I had at least not previously enjoyed: it added 47 authors to my lifetime reading record. This makes my final count for 2009, when I “test-drove” a mere 30 unfamiliar authors, look rather feeble. The tally for 2107 is 46 new writers—just one shy of my record. No wonder this has felt like an exceptional 12-month period.So who did I “discover” over the course of 2017? Let me begin, below, by naming all the novelists. Debut works are boldfaced. Asterisks denote crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.• Leo W. Banks (Double Wide)*• Guy Bolton (The Pictures)*• Chris Brookmyre (Places in the Darkness)*• Héctor Aguilar Camín (Day In, Day Out)*• Polina Dashkova (Madness Treads Lightly)*• Harry Dolan (The Man in the Crooked Hat)*• Ramón Díaz Eterovic (Dark Echoes of the Past)*• Mick Finlay (Arrowood)*• Danny Gardner (A Negro and an Ofay)*• Steve Goble (The Bloody Black Flag)*• Jane Harper (The Dry)*• Jordan Harper (She Rides Shotgun)*• Peter Heller (Celine)*• Martin Holmén (Clinch)*• Andrew Hughes (The Convictions of John Delahunt)*• Ragnar Jónasson (Snow Blind)*• Stephen Mack Jones (August Snow)*• Harry Kemelman (Friday the Rabbi Slept Late)*• Gerald Koplan (Etta)• M.J. Lee (Death in Shanghai)*• Attica Locke (Bluebird, Bluebird)*• H.B. Lyle (The Irregular)*• Greer Macallister (Girl in Disguise)*• Ian McGuire (The North Water)*• Abir Mukherjee (A Rising Man)*• Jim Napier (Legacy)*• John O’Connell (Baskerville)*• John O’Hara (Appointment in Samarra)• T.R. Pearson (A Short History of a Small Place)• Ivy Pochoda (Wonder Valley)*• John Rector (The Ridge)*• M.L. Rio (If We Were Villains)*• Sarah Schmidt (See What I Have Done)*• Tony Schumacher (An Army of One)*• William Shaw (The Birdwatcher)*• Burt Solomon (The Murder of Willie Lincoln)*• Amor Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow)• Andy Weir (Artemis)*• Kaite Welsh (The Wages of Sin)*• Theodore Wheeler (Kings of Broken Things)• Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad)For reasons I cannot explain, I consumed fewer than normal works of non-fiction, in general, this year. That also reduced my count of fact-based volumes by writers with whom I had no prior acquaintance:• M[...]

A Hasty News Break

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 22:30:00 +0000

The last couple of weeks have been so busy here at The Rap Sheet, I haven’t had a chance to put together any of my signature “Bullet Points” news briefings. I am still pretty jammed up with work, but I want to mention at least a few things of interest.• Not everyone remembers this, but the first big-screen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon, was made in 1931—10 years before the better-known version starring Humphrey Bogart as San Francisco private investigator Sam Spade. “This first adaptation,” writes Mystery*File’s Steve Lewis, “as I’ve just discovered, follows the story line of the book just about as closely as the Bogart one. In my opinion, though, while very good, if not excellent, it isn’t nearly as good as the later one, in spite of the semi-risque bits it gets away with, having been made before the Movie Code [went] into effect. (I suspect that I’m not saying anything new here.)• Speaking of Falcon, the blog Down These Mean Streets has posted an abbreviated, but nonetheless dramatic, 1946 radio adaptation of that tale, starring Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet.• The latest update of Kevin Burton Smith’s The Thrilling Detective Web Site is now available for your perusal. Among the subjects of its new or updated files: TV Guide’s private eye covers; Mitch Roberts, “one of the best P.I. series you never heard of”; Ray Bradbury’s Elmo Crumley novels; Brian Vaughan’s Patrick “P.I.” Immelmann comic books; and a catalogue of “Private Eyes Who Won’t Stay Dead.”• Apparently, Larry Harnisch, the historian and retired Los Angeles Times copy editor who has been quite critical of Piu Eatwell’s latest work, Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder, has been laboring since 1997 on his own book about the 1947 slaying of Elizabeth Short, the waitress and would-be starlet best remembered as “The Black Dahlia.” He writes this week in his blog, The Daily Mirror: To those who might ask “Is there really anything left to research after 21 years?” the answer is “absolutely.” Since 1996, the doors have swung open on many resources that were restricted or unknown when I began. Not long ago, I received material that would have required a court order to obtain in the 1990s, or so I was told at the time. Some questions can only be answered with painstaking research and analysis at the molecular level. A few months ago, I spent the better part of a week building a spreadsheet from the FBI’s uniform crime reports from 1940 to 1949 to determine Los Angeles’ ranking among the deadliest American cities. All for one or two sentences—an amazing amount of work that will invisible to readers.I, for one, look forward to reading Harnisch’s completed text—whenever it’s finally published.• Phoef Sutton (Colorado Boulevard) is Nancie Clare’s latest guest on her Speaking of Mysteries podcast. Listen to that show here.• As we near the close of 2017, there are still more “best books of the year” posts popping up around the Web. Sons of Spade blogger Jochem Vandersteen has chosen his favorite P.I. novels of the last 12 months. Benoit Lelievre names his “top 10 favorite reads of the year” in Dead End Follies. Scottsdale, Arizona’s renowned Poisoned Pen Bookstore recently asked a number of well-known crime- and mystery-fiction authors to identify the best crime novels they’ve tackled since January 2017; the results of that survey can be found here. Crime Ficti[...]

Merry Christmas from The Rap Sheet

Mon, 25 Dec 2017 17:07:00 +0000

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From A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), music by Vince Guaraldi.

Still More to Read This Year

Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:13:00 +0000

Well, that’s rather interesting. After first posting its selections of the “Top 12 Mystery Novels of 2017” at the end of October, The Strand Magazine is now back with an expanded, “Top 25 Books of 2017” ranking. The original titles are all there, but they have been joined by such works as Allen Eskens’ The Deep Dark Descending, Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird, Bill Loehfelm’s The Devil’s Muse, and Susan Furlong’s Splintered Silence.

In the meantime, Criminal Element has its own choices of the dozen best crime novels published over the last 12 months. They include Allison Brennan’s Shattered, Riley Sager’s Final Girls, Matthew Sullivan’s Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, and M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains, the last of which appears among my own favorites.

Also worth checking out is Critics at Large contributor Bob Douglas’ new piece, “A Year of Reading: My Favourite Books of 2017,” which includes several works of crime fiction.

* * *

Those others rosters look unambitious, though, when matched up against Marcel Berlins’ fresh collection for The Times of London of the 50 best crime and thriller novels of the last 50 years. As expected, his nominations have spurred non-professionals to complain about the works he failed to mention (there’s simply no pleasing everyone). But Berlins’ picks are good ones, indeed, running from James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential (1990) and Sara Paretsky’s Blacklist (2003) to Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River (2001), Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue (1997), P.D. James’ Devices and Desires (1989), Arnaldur Indridason’s Jar City (2000), and Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers (1988).

Favorite Crime Fiction of 2017, Part VII: J. Kingston Pierce

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 03:46:00 +0000

J. Kingston Pierce is the overworked editor of both The Rap Sheet and Killer Covers, the senior editor of January Magazine, and now a columnist with Down & Out: The Magazine.• The Dry, by Jane Harper (Flatiron):There’s no mystery as to why Jane Harper’s debut novel, The Dry, won not only this year’s Gold Dagger award from the British Crime Writers’ Association, but also Australia’s 2017 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction and the 2017 Davitt Award for Best Adult Novel. It’s one hell of a tale, its character development finely tuned, raw human emotions roiling across its pages, and a whodunit plot at its center, the dimensions of which are revealed with the utmost patience. Set in the fictional, drought-ravaged Australian farming community of Kiewarra, northwest of Melbourne, this harrowing yarn builds around what looks like a murder-suicide case. Evidence suggests that Luke Hadler turned his shotgun on himself after first ending the lives of his wife and 6-year-old son; only his baby daughter—too young to serve as a witness—survived the carnage. However, Aaron Falk isn’t convinced by that straightforward solution to the Hadler family’s end. A federal police officer specializing in white-collar crime, Falk grew up in Kiewarra, but 20 years ago, when he was 16, he and his father were booted out following the suspicious demise of Aaron’s girlfriend. Luke Hadler was Aaron’s best friend back then, and it’s Luke’s funeral that has finally brought him back to town. Despite the hostile reception he receives in Kiewarra, Falk agrees to remain there after Luke’s mother requests his help in unraveling the truth behind her son’s alleged crimes. But by sticking around, Falk also runs the risk that a long-buried secret from his childhood will be uncovered. The British-born Harper, currently a journalist with Melbourne’s Herald Sun, has created in The Dry a claustrophobic mystery filled with ominous flashbacks and innumerable engaging misapprehensions of the truth. If I have any criticism of the book, it’s that the solution to the present-day crime isn’t as twisted as I expected. A sequel, Force of Nature, is slated for release on both sides of the Atlantic in February.• The Force, by Don Winslow (Morrow):“Cops fall into two categories—grass eaters and meat eaters,” Don Winslow says in his 18th novel. “The grass eaters are the small-timers—they take a cut from the car-towing companies, they get a free coffee, a sandwich. They take what comes, they’re not aggressive. The meat eaters are the predators, they go after what they want—the drug rips, the mob payoffs, the cash.” Sergeant Denny Malone is definitely of the latter herd. A repeatedly decorated 18-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, he’s risen to lead an elite but insufficiently overseen task force charged with working the front lines of gun, gang, and drug hostilities. Trouble is, Malone has learned not only how to follow the rules, but more importantly from his perspective, how to deftly break them. Any reluctance he once had about delivering (and accepting) payoffs, “testilying” to help the District Attorney’s Office win convictions, and dispensing vigilante justice long ago went by the wayside. Malone still believes in the Job—his crucial function in keeping Manhattan’s busy streets from turning barbarous—but he’s also interested in securing a comfortable future for himself and his small fami[...]

Favorite Crime Fiction of 2017, Part VI: Ali Karim

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 20:30:00 +0000

Ali Karim is The Rap Sheet’s longtime British correspondent, a contributing editor of January Magazine, and the assistant editor of Shots. In addition, he writes for Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, Crimespree, and Mystery Readers International.• Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (Harper):Anthony Horowitz’s love for the British Golden Age mystery is evident in this intricate homage to Dame Agatha Christie. Reviewers are often on the hunt for something new, something fresh, and Magpie Murders is just that—a most unusual, and almost flawless, take on the classic mystery yarn. Horowitz offers here a “novel within a novel” that, in addition to its plotting strengths, reflects on the state of modern crime-fiction publishing and blends the names of real people (such as his own publicity manager, Angela McMahon) with purely fictional ones. When, in an introduction, literary editor Susan Ryeland acquaints readers with Magpie Murders, the 1950s-set work at the center of this book, around which Horowitz wraps a second mystery, she makes clear that the novel changed her life. The rest of this tale shows us why. Magpie Murders, we soon learn, is best-selling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel starring half-Greek, half-German detective Atticus Pünd, a very Hercule Poirot-like figure. It kicks off with the funeral of one Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye of Somerset. She apparently tripped over a vacuum cleaner cable and tumbled down a staircase to her death. Or did she? That’s the puzzle facing Pünd, who’s summoned from his London abode to investigate, and for whom this case might be his last—it seems he’s facing a terminal condition of his own, which he has yet to reveal publicly. From editor Ryeland’s perspective, the yarn is rolling smartly along, with mysteries being solved or on their way to resolution, when suddenly author Conway’s manuscript just … ends. The final chapters are missing. Turning sleuth herself, Ryeland sets off to find out what happened to the omitted pages, a challenge made more tricky by the fact that Conway has committed suicide. To figure out who was behind the killings in Magpie Murders, and perhaps also determine why Conway died by his own hand, Ryeland must parse the connections between the author’s life and his final knotty, fictional plot. This book boasts more red herrings than a coastal fishing vessel, a testament to Horowitz’s devious mind. Yet working your way through them is decidedly satisfying. In two words, Magpie Murders is “bloody good.”• The Saboteur, by Andrew Gross (Minotaur):After penning a succession of modern “suburban thrillers,” about everyday people suddenly caught up in frightening situations, Andrew Gross shifted gears last year with The One Man, about a near-impossible mission to help a scientist escape from the World War II-era Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, Poland. He followed that up last summer with The Saboteur, another fictionalized recounting of events from the same war, only this time the plot focuses on efforts by clandestine Norwegian subversives to stop Nazi Germany from acquiring heavy water created at a hydro plant in Vemork, Norway—heavy water (deuterium oxide) being a product Adolf Hitler’s cruel regime could have used in its nuclear weapons development. After the Allies fail disastrously in their initial campaign to destroy the remote and heavily fortified Norsk Hydro Amm[...]

“Crime Literature, a Genre Well-Suited to the Messy Brutality of Modern Times”

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 16:23:00 +0000

The Web site Literary Hub is out today with one of the better “Best Crime Books of 2017” lists I’ve seen. It’s a long list, to be sure, covering both British and U.S. releases, and adding a section of true-crime titles. Among the many works earning praise are Denise Mina’s The Long Drop, Arnaldur Indridason’s The Shadow District, Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Among the Ruins, Philip Kerr’s Prussian Blue, Don Winslow’s The Force, Susan Perabo’s The Fall of Lisa Bellow, Stephen Mack Jones’ August Snow, Joe Ide’s Righteous, and The Obama Inheritance, a short-story collection edited by Gary Phillips.

Click here to see all of the choices.