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The Rap Sheet

Last Build Date: Sat, 21 Jan 2017 16:29:37 +0000


Thank You So Much, Mr. President!

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 15:00:00 +0000

READ MORE: “The Most Successful Democrat Since FDR,” by David Leonhardt (The New York Times); “The ‘Most Successful’ Dem President Since FDR Ends on a High Note,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye to Obama. ‘Godspeed, Brother. You Did Us Proud,’” by Leonard Pitts Jr. (Miami Herald); “Thanks for Everything, President Obama. We’re Going to Miss You,” by Kevin Drum (Mother Jones); “Missing Barack Obama Already,” by Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times); “A Presidential Giant Exits the Stage,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “To Obama with Love, and Hate, and Desperation,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas (The New York Times Magazine); “Lessons Taught: Obama’s Legacy as a Historian,” by Jennifer Schuessler (The New York Times); “Pete Souza’s Intimate Portraits of the Barack Obama Years,” by William Boot (The Daily Beast); “Goodbye to All That: What We’ve Learned from Obama’s Presidency,” by Julie Azari (Vox); “The Challenge Posed by Obama’s Calm, Dignified Competency,” by Nancy LeTourneau (Washington Monthly); “The Literary Dividing Line Between Trump and Obama,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “Every Book Barack Obama Has Recommended During His Presidency,” by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly); “Obama to the Press: ‘America Needs You,’” by James Warren (Poynter); “Obama Granted Clemency Unlike Any Other President in History,” by Charlie Smart (FiveThirtyEight); “Obama Has Now Granted 212 Pardons, and More Commutations Than Any President in U.S. History,” by Jen Kirby (New York); “Saying Goodbye: President Obama, Michelle Obama Thank America in Farewell Posts,” by Matthew Rozsa (Salon). [...]

Rosemary’s Baby Is Gone

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 01:19:00 +0000

This is sad news, indeed. From Variety:
Miguel Ferrer, the character and voice actor who appeared in shows including “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Crossing Jordan,” and films such as “RoboCop” and “Iron Man 3,” died on Thursday of throat cancer. He was 61.

Ferrer was the son of top 1950s singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer, and first cousin to George Clooney. He appeared on “NCIS: Los Angeles” for seven seasons. …

Born in Santa Monica, Calif., he started out as a studio musician, touring with his mother and Bing Crosby, and recording with Keith Moon of The Who, before moving into television and film.
Among Ferrer’s other performance credits, Variety lists appearances in the TV shows Bionic Woman, Desperate Housewives, Twin Peaks, and the long-forgotten Shannon’s Deal. It might also have mentioned that he appeared on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Third Rock from the Sun, ER, Miami Vice, T.J. Hooker, and Magnum, P.I.

READ MORE:R.I.P., Miguel Ferrer,” by Ken Levine.

The Choice Is Up to You

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:06:00 +0000

In case you haven’t been paying close attention, note that The Rap Sheet has posted its 15 finalists for the title of “Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2016.” Over the last week, two of the nominees—Carl Hiaasen’s Razor Girl and Todd Moss’ Ghosts of Havana—have established early leads, though the British fronts of Thomas Mullen’s Darktown and E.S. Thomson’s Beloved Poison are in hot pursuit. You have until midnight next Wednesday, January 25, to make your own preferences known. What are you waiting for?

Angling for the Edgars

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 19:26:00 +0000

A new year, a new season of awards-giving. On this day, the 208th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the Mystery Writers of America has announced the nominees for its 2017 Edgar Awards. These prizes honor what the MWA says are “the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2016.” Winners will be announced and the awards presented during a banquet in New York City on April 27. Here are all of this year’s contenders:Best Novel:• The Ex, by Alafair Burke (Harper)• Where It Hurts, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)• Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam)• What Remains of Me, by Alison Gaylin (Morrow)• Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (Grand Central)Best First Novel by an American Author:• Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry (Penguin)• Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (Crown)• IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)• The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (Putnam)• Dancing with the Tiger, by Lili Wright (Marian Wood Book/Putnam)• The Lost Girls, by Heather Young (Morrow)Best Paperback Original:• Shot in Detroit, by Patricia Abbott (Polis)• Come Twilight, by Tyler Dilts (Thomas & Mercer)• The 7th Canon, by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer)• Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)• A Brilliant Death, by Robin Yocum (Seventh Street)• Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)Best Fact Crime:• Morgue: A Life in Death, by Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell (St. Martin’s Press)• The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan, by Laurence Leamer (Morrow)• Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder that Shocked Victorian England, by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus)• While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness, by Eli Sanders (Viking)• The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Press)Best Critical/Biographical:• Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life, by Peter Ackroyd (Nan A. Talese)• Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden Since 1967, by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland & Company)• Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin (Liveright)• Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula, by David J. Skal (Liveright)Best Short Story:• “Oxford Girl,” by Megan Abbott (from Mississippi Noir, edited by Tom Franklin; Akashic)• “A Paler Shade of Death,” by Laura Benedict (from St. Louis Noir, edited by Scott Phillips; Akashic)• “Autumn at the Automat,” by Lawrence Block (from In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block; Pegasus)• “The Music Room” by Stephen King (from In Sunlight or in Shadow)• “The Crawl Space,” by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September-October 2016)Best Juvenile:• Summerlost, by Ally Condie (Dutton Books for Young Readers)• OCDaniel, by Wesley King (Paula Wiseman)• The Bad Kid, by Sarah Lariviere (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)• Some Kind of Happiness, by Claire Legrand (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)• Framed! by James Ponti (Aladdin)• Things Too Huge to Fix, by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught (Paula Wiseman)Best Young Adult:• Three Truths and a Lie, by Brent Hartinger (Simon Pulse)• The Girl I Used to Be, by April Henry (Henry Holt)• Girl in the Blue Coat, by Monica Hesse (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)• My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Teen)• Thieving Weasels, by Billy Taylor (Dial)Best Television Episode Teleplay:• Episode 1: “From the Ashes of Tragedy,” The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, teleplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (FX Network)• “The Abominable Bride,” Sherlock, teleplay by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)• Episode 1: “Dark Road,” Vera, teleplay by Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)• [...]

Revue of Reviewers, 1-17-17

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 15:04:00 +0000

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

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Plaudits in Paradise

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 20:21:00 +0000

Organizers of this year’s Left Coast Crime convention (“Honolulu Havoc”) have announced the competing books and authors in four categories of Lefty Awards. LCC 2017 will take place in Honolulu, Hawaii, from March 16 to 19, with the Leftys scheduled to be presented on Saturday, March 18. Here are all of the nominees:

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel:
Die Like an Eagle, by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
Body on the Bayou, by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Fields Where They Lay, by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime)
The CEO Came DOA, by Heather Haven (Wives of Bath Press)
Floodgate, by Johnny Shaw (Thomas & Mercer)
A Disguise to Die For, by Diane Vallere (Berkley Prime Crime)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial), for books covering events before 1960:
Crowned and Dangerous, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime)
A Death Along the River Fleet, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur)
The Murder of Mary Russell, by Laurie R. King (Bantam)
The Reek of Red Herrings, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur)
What Gold Buys, by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel:
Cleaning Up Finn, by Sarah M. Chen (All Due Respect)
Terror in Taffeta, by Marla Cooper (Minotaur)
Murder in G Major, by Alexia Gordon (Henery Press)
Decanting a Murder, by Nadine Nettmann (Midnight Ink)
Design for Dying, by Renee Patrick (Forge)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories):
Dark Fissures, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)
Michelangelo’s Ghost, by Gigi Pandian (Henery Press)
A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake, by Terry Shames
(Seventh Street)
Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)

Also during March’s Hawaii conference, husband-and-wife authors Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman will be honored with Left Coast Crime Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Get Riel

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:56:00 +0000

The information is received a bit (or more than a bit) tardily, but thanks to Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare, we now know that Danish author Ane Riel won the 2016 Glass Key Award for her second novel, Harpiks. The Glass Key has been given out annually since 1992 by the Scandinavian Crime Society and is named in honor of Dashiell Hammett’s 1931 novel of that same name. Last year’s winner was Thomas Rydahl for The Hermit.

A Web site called Danish Arts reports that the Glass Key jury described Harpiks as “not your typical crime novel … Just look at the first sentence, ’It was dark in the white room, where my father killed grandmother.’” The site goes on to offer this plot synopsis: “Jens Haarder lives an isolated life on a little island. He runs a small carpentry business, and lives with his family in a fragrant pine forest. Haarder’s life doesn’t unfold as planned, though, as loss upon loss gradually breaks him. His mania for collecting becomes increasingly obsessive and grotesque, and his daughter Liv must fervently struggle to free herself from her father’s view of the world. It is a tale of illness and betrayal, as well as loyalty and caring. It is also a small introduction to the pleasures of lying in a coffin.”

Unfortunately, Riel’s book is not yet available in English.

Black Dahlia: Long Legend of a Short Life

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 21:34:00 +0000

Elizabeth Short shown at age 19 in a police photo, taken in 1943 after she was arrested in Santa Barbara, California, for underage drinking—her first time living in Southern California.She is more recognizable than any of Jack the Ripper’s victims, mostly because she was murdered at a time—after the Second World War, rather than in the late 1880s—when photography was far more advanced, but also because there are shots of what she looked like (smiling, no less) before her days were so cruelly ended. Although there was early gossip about her being in the escort business, it was wrong. Instead, she tried to make ends meet as a waitress, and like so many young women of her era, was said to dream of an acting career. She spent most of her life in Massachusetts (where she was born) or in Florida, and had been making her home in Los Angeles, California, for only about six months prior to her infamous slaying.She was 22 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, with dark hair, blue eyes, and bad teeth. Her name was Elizabeth Short, but she’s best remembered as “The Black Dahlia.”It was in the mid-morning of January 15, 1947—70 years ago today—that Betty Bersinger, a resident of the Leimert Park neighborhood, in south L.A., took a stroll outside with her 3-year-old daughter, only to happen across what she at first assumed must be a discarded mannequin tossed into a nearby vacant lot. Instead, it was Short’s corpse, naked and severed in twain at the waist, and drained of blood. The murderer had not only removed her intestines, but had slashed her mouth from ear to ear in a “Glasgow smile.”The horrific, misogynistic nature of this crime, coupled with the victim’s attractiveness, drew widespread attention. While newspapers spared no ink on their shocking headlines (“Young L.A. Girl Slain; Body Slashed in Two”), police sought to identify the deceased and determine where she had most recently been seen, and by whom. Her fingerprints were matched to a set taken from Short back in 1943, when—during an earlier stay in Southern California—she was arrested for underage drinking. And police learned that she’d been missing since January 9, after last being seen in the lobby of downtown L.A.’s grand Biltmore Hotel. It wasn’t long before newspapers began fielding phone calls from people claiming to have information about Short or her killer, or to have murdered her themselves. As a true-crime Web site called The Lineup recalls, Witnesses who had supposedly seen Short during her missing week were, one by one, questioned and dismissed by investigators, who determined they were either outright lying or had mistaken Short for another woman. Some 60 people came forward and confessed to the crime. Of these, 25 were seriously considered by the LAPD. Many of the suspects were household names, including Fred Sexton, the artist who created the Maltese Falcon prop in the iconic movie of the same name; Norman Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times; [and] Jewish mobster Bugsy Siegel …Time magazine explained in a 2015 retrospective that “One promising admission came a few weeks after the murder, from an Army corporal who said he had been drinking with Short in San Francisco a few days before her body was discovered—then blacked out, with no memory of his activity until he came to again in a cab outside New York’s Penn Station. … Asked if he thought he had committed the murder, the corporal said yes, and became a prime suspect until evidence emerged that he had actually been on his military base the day of Short’s death.” That tippling serviceman, Joseph A. Dumais, was among dozens of people, men and women both, who’ve confessed over the decades to doing in Betty Short, though the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office deemed fewer than half that number to be viable suspects. One of the latter was George H. Hodel, a[...]

Your Vote Counts: Best Crime Covers, 2016

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:17:00 +0000

One of the first things I do at the start of every year now is create a fresh computer folder into which I begin depositing scans of especially creative and interesting covers taken from new works of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. Twelve months later, I extract from that folder what I believe (and what other folks in the publishing business have suggested) were the genre’s most engaging book fronts, released both in the United States and Britain. Occasionally, as in 2015, the candidates are especially numerous. In other years, the picks are fewer—not necessarily as a result of less artistic talent being demonstrated in this field, but as in 2016, because there were so many novels styled quite similarly to one another, employing what have become all-too-familiar components: shadowy figures, running figures, and men or women photographed from behind.From a preliminary lineup of almost three dozen choices, I culled out 15 finalists for The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2016 competition. Some of these contenders are built principally around photos, while others deserve attention for their typographical innovation or the appeal of their illustrations. Several are deliberately ominous, while others are considerably more playful in their conception. Every one of them, however, catches the eye, whether being displayed on a bookstore shelf or a Web page.This is the ninth year The Rap Sheet has asked its discriminating readership to judge crime novel façades. Below, you will find all of the 2016 nominees—arranged alphabetically—followed by a simple electronic ballot on which you can vote for the cover you think deserves top honors. As a consequence of suspected ballot-stuffing shenanigans last year, I am limiting each poll participant this time to one chance at choosing his or her favorites; however, you can 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 week and a half, until midnight on Wednesday, January 25, after which the results will be announced.Click on any of the jackets below to open an enlargement. Which Are Your Favorite Crime Novel Covers of 2016? ONE THING MORE: If you think we have neglected to mention some other crime-fiction cover from 2016 that is also deserving of widespread acclaim, 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. [...]

Sherlock Giving Way to the Queen

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 23:47:00 +0000

Following “The Lying Detective,” last week’s frenetic and rather weird Season 4 episode of BBC One’s Sherlock—broadcast in the States under the umbrella of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery series—this coming Sunday’s installment promises still more upheaval in the lives of London crime-solvers Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. “[L]ong-buried secrets finally catch up with the Baker Street duo,” teases the Masterpiece Web site. “Someone has been playing a very long game indeed and Sherlock and John Watson face their greatest ever challenge. Is the game finally over?”

That January 15 show—the third and concluding Sherlock of the new season—is titled “The Final Problem.” If, like me, you’re confused by this fact, recalling that a previous episode, Season 2’s “The Reichenbach Fall,” was already inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story of that same name … well, I guess we’ll all just have to tune in to find out how the show’s writers have dissected Conan Doyle’s 1893 yarn for multiple purposes.

By the way, this weekend’s Sherlock is scheduled to start earlier than normal—at 7 p.m. ET/PT—after which will premiere Victoria, a seven-episode drama recalling the life and monarchy of Britain’s Queen Victoria. It stars the magnetic Jenna Coleman, previously familiar from Doctor Who and Death Comes to Pemberley, and Rufus Sewell of Zen and The Man in the High Castle fame.

READ MORE:BBC Sherlock Canonical References—‘The Lying Detective’” (Buddy2Blogger).

Exchange Value

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 21:12:00 +0000

Nancie Clare has done a terrific job over the last few years of amassing author interviews for Speaking of Mysteries, the podcast series she created with Leslie S. Klinger. The latest victims … er, focuses of her questioning are Rennie Airth, South Africa-born writer of the John Madden historical mysteries (The Death of Kings), and Ingrid Thoft, the author of books featuring private investigator Fina Ludlow (Duplicity). Give these and Clare’s dozens of previous conversations a listen when you have the chance.

Settle in for a Long, Cold Winter’s Reading

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 17:41:00 +0000

Seeing as how I’m in the midst of a major library reorganization—relocating hundreds of non-fiction volumes from my home office into a remodeled sitting room, and packing more crime fiction onto my office shelves—the prospect of additional, new books winging through the door is rather daunting. However, my luck might be worse: I could be deprived of fresh novels to enjoy in the near future.There seems little chance of that, after paging through publisher catalogues and researching forthcoming releases online. I already recommended, in a recent Kirkus Reviews column, seven crime, mystery, and thriller yarns—all due out in the United States over the next three months—that I think deserve special attention. But those represent the merest fraction of what is scheduled to become available, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, during that period. Below, I have compiled more than 300 entries in this genre that are soon to debut in bookstores. Some of them (such as Jane Harper’s The Dry, Dan Chaon’s Ill Will, Reed Farrel Coleman’s What You Break, Edward Marston’s Date with the Executioner, E.S. Thomson’s Dark Asylum, and Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Among the Ruins) stir my personal curiosity, while others should satisfy different tastes. This list is not intended to be comprehensive; there will be many more crime and thriller works going on sale between now and April Fool’s Day (consult The Bloodstained Bookshelf and Euro Crime for supplementary options). Enough, I hope, to please all Rap Sheet readers.Non-fiction titles are identified below with asterisks (*). The rest are fiction.JANUARY (U.S.):• The Absence of Guilt, by Mark Gimenez (Sphere)• Afternoons in Paris, by Janice Law (Mysterious Press/Open Road)• Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury USA)*• The Beautiful Dead, by Belinda Bauer (Atlantic Monthly Press)• Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough (Flatiron)• The Believer, by Joakim Zander (Harper)• The Bid, by Adrian Magson (Midnight Ink)• Big Law, by Ron Liebman (Blue Rider Press)• Blind Man’s Bluff, by Sadie and Sophie Cuffe (Five Star)• Blood and Bone, by V.M. Giambanco (Quercus)• Clownfish Blues, by Tim Dorsey (Morrow)• Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, edited by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks (Down & Out)*• Coco Butternut, by Joe R. Lansdale (Subterranean)• Cold Heart, by Karen Pullen (Five Star)• Collected Millar: The Tom Aragon Novels: Ask for Me Tomorrow; The Murder of Miranda; Mermaid, by Margaret Millar (Soho Syndicate)• The Couturier of Milan, by Ian Hamilton (House of Anansi)• Crimson Snow, edited by Martin Edwards (Poisoned Pen Press)• The Dangerous Ladies Affair, by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini (Forge)• Dead Secret, by Ava McCarthy (Harper)• Death Notes, by Sarah Rayne (Severn House)• The Death of Kings, by Rennie Airth (Viking)• Devil’s Breath, by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)• Different Class, by Joanne Harris (Touchstone)• The Dry, by Jane Harper (Flatiron)• Duplicity, by Ingrid Thoft (Putnam)• Everything You Want Me to Be, by Mindy Mejia (Atria/Emily Bestler)• Falling into the Mob, by Steve Zousmer (Permanent Press)• False Friend, by Andrew Grant (Ballantine)• Fatal, by John Lescroart (Atria)• Fever in the Dark, by Ellen Hart (Minotaur)• Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin (Riverhead)• The Fifth Petal, by Brunonia Barry (Crown)• The Final Day, by William R. Forstchen (Forge)• For Time and All Eternities, by Mette Ivie Harrison (Soho Crime)• The Futures, by Anna Pitoniak (Lee Boudreaux)• The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney (Ballantine)• The Girl in Green, by Derek B. Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)• The Heretic’s Creed, by Fiona Buckley (Crème[...]

So the Edwards Era Begins

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:58:00 +0000

Congratulations to author Martin Edwards, who this year assumes the role of chair at Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association. “Of course, I am proud to have been picked to lead the CWA,” he writes in his blog. “And I’m startled to find that I’m the only person to have been both chair of the CWA and president of the Detection Club at the same time. Inevitably I’ll make a few mistakes as I try to move things forward, but I plan to do my best to make sure both organizations look after their members, and continue to play a significant part in the crime-writing world, here in the UK and further afield.”

Revue of Reviewers, 1-8-17

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 19:19:00 +0000

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

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Rhapsodizing About Rebus

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 18:41:00 +0000

To celebrate the passage of 30 years since the release of Ian Rankin’s first John Rebus detective novel, Knots and Crosses, the Scottish author and his UK publisher, Orion Books, will stage RebusFest in Edinburgh, Rankin’s hometown. From Crime Fiction Lover:
The event will take place 30 June to 2 July, and is being curated by Ian Rankin himself. Interactive events, tours of the city, live music and talks on Edinburgh’s history and its influence on the author are all being planned. The full schedule will be confirmed on 17 March, there will be a press launch in Edinburgh, and you’ll be able to find out more at

The announcement of the festival comes shortly after news that Ian Rankin is to be made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, for his contribution to contemporary fiction. He is already an OBE, has won four [Crime Writers’ Association] Dagger Awards, and has an Edgar to his name as well. Rebus has become one of the best-known police detectives not just in UK crime fiction, but around the world. He was played on television by John Hannah and Ken Stott, and has appeared in over 20 novels and an array of short stories.
Shotsmag Confidential adds that “Over the course of the year Ian Rankin will be embarking on an international tour taking in countries across Europe, North America, the Antipodes, and South East Asia.”

And the “Bests” Keep Coming

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 17:56:00 +0000

Although they’re a bit late in being delivered, Euro Crime’s “favorite reads of 2016” posts are most welcome. Three critics so far have compiled their lists of British/European/translated crime, mystery, and thriller novels—Amanda Gillies, Geoff Jones, and Norman Price—with more still to come. Watch for additions here.

The Book You Have to Read: “Desert Town,” by Ramona Stewart

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 15:13:00 +0000

(Editor’s note: This is the 144th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)By Steven NesterPaula Haller is a headstrong 17-year-old whose widowed mother owns a bordello and gambling saloon in the desert town of Chuckawalla, California. It’s the 1940s, the Second World War is over, and Paula is itching to grow up. She doesn’t really come off as that much of a bad girl, but her desire to give up on school and learn the family business raises the hackles on domineering mother Fritzi’s marabou pumps, and she’ll hear nothing of it. Nor is Fritzi enamored of Paula hanging around bronco busters, even if they are the local sheriffs as well as Fritzi’s business partners. Fritzi wants Paula to grow up a lady, but nothin’ doin’—Ramona Stewart’s Desert Town (1946) is a “cactus graveyard” where the movie theater “smells like an old cowboy.” There’s not much a mother can do when her little girl decides to pick her own route through life; except, perhaps, let nature take its course and allow her to learn the hard way.Fritzi Haller is one tough cookie. With eyes that are “old with years of violent living and painful knowledge,” she commands the respect earned with bruises, fat lips, and heartache. She left a successful speakeasy business in New Jersey to make a new life for herself in the sunny warmth of California’s Imperial Valley, and picked up where she left off, showing the local judge and constabulary how much money can be made from human weakness.Everyone in town “always gave Fritzi Haller one’s complete attention,” except for Paula. She refuses to heed the guidance of her life-tempered mother, and she wants to get out and play a role in the big wide world. Her chance arrives when “big-city racketeer” Eddie Benedict comes to Chuckawalla, hoping to lay low for a while. He draws Paula to him, and she gladly swaps algebra lessons for the chance to run with this new alpha dog—until she begins to understand his complicated relationship with sidekick Johnny Ryan, and their fatal relationship with Benedict’s dead wife, Angela.Desert Town (adapted in 1947 as the film Desert Fury) is about power: who has it, who wants it, and how real power—the kind that has influence in the world—is patient, ruthless, and implacable. But the immature Paula only understands power in its simplest form: “In Paula’s picture of the world-jungle, the wise man casts his lot with the strong. And in that jungle, Eddie Benedict was a stronger force than Fritzi Haller.” The primordial urge that Benedict arouses in Paula can be felt by her but is not easily understood, which at the beginning of their relationship causes confusion in the teenager. However, page by page, with textbook coherence and clarity, Paula learns the nuances of power and the many forms it can take. In prose that’s controlled but not miserly, a somewhat prim Stewart hints at what lays at the core of the animal attraction that tugs at Paula’s bodice without tearing it off in view—even while Paula at times seems confused about who’s doing the tugging: Benedict, or the gentlemanly and sympathetic Deputy Sheriff Luke Sheldon, who shows Paula another type of power.While she feels Benedict’s “tide of animal warmth which flowed into her palm [and] startled her,” Sheldon has also made a strong impression on Paula. He attempts to alert her to the depths of Benedict’s intentions, demonstrating the same brand of benevolence he also shows a neglected Chuckawalla wife—the town drunk, whose desirous suggestions he has managed to resist. Sheldon is a good cop and[...]

“Why Are You Lying?”

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 14:32:00 +0000

Sigh … Maybe it’s finally time for me to subscribe to the Acorn TV streaming service, which specializes in programs imported to the States from Great Britain, as well as Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. As Mystery Fanfare reports:
Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution premieres in the U.S. on Monday, Jan. 30th, on Acorn TV.

This is the new BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s acclaimed story. Brits watched the first episode recently on BBC1, and Acorn TV picked it up for the U.S. market.
Witness the Witness trailer for yourself right here.

In All Their Felonious Finery

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 02:15:00 +0000

Today wrapped up Killer Covers’ “The 12 Dames of Christmas" series, that blog’s celebration of dangerous damsels and brassy bombshells. If, for some reason beyond human understanding, you haven’t been keeping up with the day-by-day roll-out of these handsome, vintage covers, you can catch up with them all by clicking here.

Let’s Get Acquainted

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 00:41:00 +0000

There were a number of Rap Sheet projects I’d hoped to complete before the end of 2016 … and, sadly, several of those remain on my to-do list. Among them is an exercise I have undertaken at each year's end, going back as far as 2008: compiling the names of authors whose work I read for the first time during the preceding 12 months. This task was suggested to me originally by Brian Lindenmuth, now an editor at Spinetingler Magazine. I enjoyed the initial effort so much, that I’ve kept doing it ever since.2016 brought a couple of significant changes that affected my exploration of unfamiliar wordsmiths. After serving for three consecutive years as a judge of New Zealand’s annual Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, I had to bow out of the process for a while due to other obligations. That meant I was no longer being introduced to stacks of debut Kiwi authors, or older ones whose prose I had not yet discovered. This was also the year I backed away from the book group to which I had long belonged, after realizing I was less interested than normal in the works being selected by other members. Hoping to compensate for these alterations, I tried to step up my game as far as choosing new-to-me authors to write about in my crime-fiction column for Kirkus Reviews. Nonetheless, my reckoning of novelists freshly sampled in 2016 is down about 25 percent from the quantity I read last year; and I became acquainted with just over half as many non-fiction authors as I did in 2015.It’s hard to tell yet what 2017 has in store. Now that I’m not writing for Kirkus anymore, I should have greater opportunities to read beyond the crime, mystery, and thriller shelves. And the timing is providential, since this last Christmas brought me a variety of volumes outside the genre (including Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning novel, The Underground Railroad, and Reuters reporter David K. Randall’s The King and Queen of Malibu: The True Story of the Battle for Paradise). However, since I will also no longer have the professional obligation to attract a wide audience to my Kirkus contributions, I may feel inclined to pick up authors who are better known (but whom I’ve ignored for a while), rather than search out less-familiar crime-fictionists. It should be interesting, at the end of this year, to look back on how my reading habits were altered.In the meantime, though, I’ve catalogued—below—the novelists whose works I read for the first time in 2016. Strangely (since I usually read much more broadly than this), they all turned out to be crime writers. Debut novels are boldfaced.• Tim Baker (Fever City)• Lou Berney (The Long and Faraway Gone)• Stuart Brock (Just Around the Coroner)• Elliott Chaze (Black Wings Has My Angel)• John A. Connell (Spoils of Victory)• Susan Crawford (The Other Widow)• Julia Dahl (Invisible City)• Richard Deming (Anything But Saintly)• Oscar de Muriel (The Strings of Murder)• Andrew Gross (The One Man)• Michael Harvey (Brighton)• Joe Ide (IQ)• Ariel Lawhon (Flight of Dreams)• David McCallum (Once a Crooked Man)• Sara Moliner (The Whispering City)• Thomas Mullen (Darktown)• Andrew Nette (Gunshine State)• Steven Price (By Gaslight)• Dolores Redondo (The Invisible Guardian)• Iain Reid (I’m Thinking of Ending Things)• Thomas Rydahl (The Hermit)• J. Aaron Sanders (Speakers of the Dead)• J. Todd Scott (The Far Empty)• Gunnar Staalesen (Where Roses Never Die)• Phoef Sutton (Heart Attack and Vine)• E.S. Thomson (Beloved Poison)• David F[...]

You Thought We Were Done with These?

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 23:12:00 +0000

Since it’s only early January, there’s nothing wrong in continuing The Rap Sheet’s cataloguing of “best crime fiction of 2016” posts.

Criminal Element’s 11 picks include John Hart’s Redemption Road, Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning, and James Church’s The Gentleman from Japan. MysteryPeople brings us three different lists of favorites: Scott Montgomery’s “top 10 of 2016” (Steve Hamilton’s The Second Life of Nick Mason, Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me, Peter Spiegelman’s Dr. Knox, etc.); Montgomery’s “top five debuts of 2016” rundown (yes, David Swinson’s The Second Girl earns a thumbs-up); and Molly Odintz’s “top 10 international crime novels of 2016” (among them Tana French’s The Trespasser and Raphael Montes’ Perfect Days). Not surprisingly, Vintage Pop Fictions’ “favorite reads in 2016” are all older works, including Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Baited Hook (one I don’t think I’ve enjoyed yet) and Alistair MacLean’s Ice Station Zebra (which I most certainly have read). Rob Kitchin at The View from the Blue House anoints 13 books—fiction and non-fiction—as his “best reads of 2016.” Jen Forbus offers her own unique combination of crime-fiction and non-fiction picks here. Finally, I think I neglected to mention British critic Mike Ripley’s choices of top releases from last year, named in his December Shots column: Philip Kerr’s The Other Side of Silence, Alexandra Benedict’s Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts, Andrew Taylor’s The Ashes of London, and Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven.

READ MORE:Favorite 2016 Books” (Pop Culture Nerd).

Blood Will Tell?

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 22:08:00 +0000

Here’s an odd coincidence, reported by The Guardian:
Researchers have discovered that Benedict Cumberbatch is distantly related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author who created Sherlock Holmes, a role the actor has recently made his own [in BBC One’s Sherlock].

According to the website, Cumberbatch, 40, and Conan Doyle, who died in 1930, were 16th cousins, twice removed. Their common ancestor was John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, fourth son of King Edward III and father of Henry IV.

John of Gaunt, who died in 1399, was Doyle’s 15th-great-grandfather and Cumberbatch’s 17th-great-grandfather, the website said.
(Hat tip to In Reference to Murder.)

Good-bye, “Kirkus” … Hello, Rennie Airth

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 00:10:00 +0000

Fellow authors Laura Wilson and Rennie Airth attend CrimeFest 2010 in Bristol, England. (Photo © Ali Karim)“All good things must come to an end,” said 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and that turns out to be true of my nearly six-year career as the crime-fiction blogger for Kirkus Reviews. Today’s column—found here—is the last of more than 170 posts I’ve put together for Kirkus since I began my stint with that publication in March 2011. This separation wasn’t my idea. In late November, my editor called to tell me there were changes in the works for the Kirkus Web site, and one of the columns being cycled out was mine. I couldn’t help but be disappointed, as I’ve mostly enjoyed my association with Kirkus over the years, and I was already in the midst of planning author interviews and special-events coverage for the next three months. Some of what won’t now appear in Kirkus can be rolled into The Rap Sheet, and maybe I can convince editors of other print periodicals and Webzines to accept my humble contributions as well. We shall see.In any case, I wanted my Kirkus experience to end on a high note. So I arranged to interview Rennie Airth, the now 81-year-old South Africa-born author of the John Madden historical mystery series. The fifth and latest novel in that line, The Death of Kings (Viking), has its official U.S. release this week, so I was grateful that Airth—who currently lives in Italy, and whose work I’ve admired ever since the publication of his first Madden yarn, the post-World War I-set River of Darkness (1999)—took the time to answer a lengthy collection of questions I e-mailed his way. Inevitably, though, I wanted to know more about his background (including his time as a foreign correspondent) and his fiction-writing efforts than could find a home in Kirkus. As a result, I wound up splitting the results of our exchange in two. Part I—which you should definitely read first, since it lays out the general plot of The Death of Kings and explains that book’s relationship to its predecessors—can be enjoyed in my final Kirkus column. Part II is embedded below.J. Kingston Pierce: Who were your parents, and what did they do? What sort of people were they? Do you have siblings?Rennie Airth: My father, Eric Airth, was born and grew up in England. He was a mining engineer who came to South Africa in pursuit of his profession and met and married my mother, Emily Dwyer, whose father was Irish. Harry Dwyer was his name and he had emigrated to South Africa, where he met and married my grandmother, who came of English stock. I have a sister.JKP: Where in South Africa were you born, and what was life in South Africa like back in those days?RA: I was born in Johannesburg, but we moved quite a lot as my father was transferred regularly from one mine to another. With the election of the Nationalist Government soon after [World War II], the policy of apartheid was introduced and I grew up in a racially divided country which remained that way until I left for London at the age of 20, and did not change until the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.JKP: Did you come from a family that valued books?RA: No, none of my family apart from me were great readers. I started at an early age and the book that first caught my fancy was [Rudyard] Kipling’s Jungle Book. I read it again recently and found it had lost none of its magic.JKP: Did you grow up wanting to be a writer?RA: I did think about being a writ[...]

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Sun, 01 Jan 2017 15:36:00 +0000


Holiday Homicide, by Rufus King (Dell, 1940).
Illustration by Gerald Gregg.

Let’s hope 2017 brings better luck to all of us than American and international observers have been predicting. Fingers crossed!

Enlighten Us All, Sherlock

Sun, 01 Jan 2017 14:21:00 +0000

As Mystery Fanfare reminds us, Season 4 of the British TV drama Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, begins its U.S. run this evening as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece series. Expect to see three 90-minute episodes this time around, beginning with tonight’s “The Six Thatchers,” starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

And rest assured, Season 5 of Sherlock is already in the works.

READ MORE:BBC Sherlock Canonical References and Nods—‘The Six Thatchers,’ S4EI” (Buddy2Blogger); “Sherlock,” by Miriam E. Burstein (The Little Professor).