Tuesday, July 30, 2013

True Crime Tuesday for July 30, 2013

Just Say No. Pass Go and Collect One Million Dollars

A federal judge has ordered the return of over 1 million dollars confiscated by police from an exotic dancer, who earned the money over a 15 year career. Tara Mishra of California was planning on using the money to buy her own night club in New Jersey. The police found the cash in the trunk of a car rented by Ms. Mishra's friends, who were driving cross country to invest it and were pulled over for speeding. The money was confiscated because police assumed it has been gotten by illegal means.  But Judge Bataillon said there was no evidence of criminal activity and ordered that Mishra receive cash or a check in the value of $1,074,000 with interest.

With the thought that Tara might be reading this blog, I'd like to make a suggestion - take a check. Carrying a million dollars around in the trunk of a car isn't the brightest idea in the world. I applaud her entrepunerial talents, but her new business won't last too long if she can't keep hold of her money.

Why anyone would have that much cash instead of putting it in a bank might not seem to make sense, unless the earnings haven't been reported to the IRS. In which case, it makes a lot of sense...unless your story hits the national news. If true, Tara's troubles may not be over yet. We wish her well, and lots of luck. She's may need it.

Oh, and if you're stopped by the police, and they ask permission to search your car, just say No.

Missing Man Found. He Was Home All Along - In The Garden

A Pelican Bay man who was missing for three years has finally been located, buried in his own front yard.  According to the Star Telegram article, Shorty Robinson’s body was dug up with the assistance of Texas rangers. His wife claimed he ran off with another woman, but he was reported missing by his employer.

Police became suspicious after noting that Shorty left behind his personal belongings, money, and his Harley Davidson motorcycle. That should have been a dead giveaway right there (pardon the pun). No self respecting hog rider would leave behind the woman he loves.

The bike, not the wife.The wife's in jail, charged with his murder.

Cattle Rustler Gets 99 Years For Stealing Herd

As I pointed out in last week's post, they don't hang cattle rustlers anymore, but down in Texas, they still treat it seriously. A man with a history of rustling was given 99 years for stealing 400 head of cattle in East Texas. This isn't his first offense. He was convicted of rustling in 2007 for stealing nearly a million dollars worth of steak on the hoof. Sounds like this guy has too much red meat in his diet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mystery Weekend Roundup for July 26, 2013

Upcoming Writer's Conferences

Gulf Coast Writer's Conference is Saturday, September 21st, and this year, it's FREE. You heard right. This year the conference is being offered at no cost. Guests include award winning authors Lynne Barrett and Michael Lister, as well as Benjamin LeRoy, publisher of Tyrus Books. Some programs, such as a manuscript critique and the Speaker Luncheon, will have a small fee. Check the Gulf Coast Conference website for details.

Bouchercon 2013 begins September 19th in Albany, New York. One of the biggest mystery conferences attracts legions of fans and writers. Big names appearing this year include best selling authors Tess Gerritsen, Sue Grafton and Anne Perry. The Anthony Award winners will be announced that weekend. Here are the nominees.

Bouchercon is named in honor of Anthony Boucher, (real name William Anthony Parker White), a mystery writer and book reviewer for the NY Times and San Francisco Chronicle. He helped found the Mystery Writers of America, which awards the most prestigious mystery award in the genre, the Edgar Award. MWA also presents the Raven Award, which is given to individuals who support the mystery genre. Anthony Boucher won one of the first Ravens in 1946 for Outstanding Mystery Criticism for his reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Weekend Flash Fiction Writing Contest

Janet Reid, literary agent and query shark, is holding a flash fiction contest over at her blog this weekend. Contest begins Saturday morning 9 AM EST and lasts for 24 hours. Winner gets a copy of Long Gone by Alafair Burke. Nice!

Sharpen your pencils, but be sure to read the rules, or risk becoming shark bait!  

47 Rejections And Then...Paydirt!

If you've gotten a rejection letter for your manuscript this week, it proves two things...1)You're sending out queries and 2) You haven't given up. Both of these facts are good.

So don't get discouraged. If you need a little inspiration, check out this article on Irish novelist Donal Ryan's journey to publication. His debut novel,The Spinning Heart, was rejected almost 50 times before he was published, and now his work is a finalist for the Man Booker Prize!

According to the LA Times article, his story is set in a rural village in southwestern Ireland, and is told from the point of view of 21 different people who struggle with the Great Recession.

How NOT To Promote Your Book

Finally, a little humor for every author who's published a book and then wondered, "How Do I Promote This Thing? Watch this guy in this video by Dennis Cass. Then DON'T do this! But DO laugh. I did.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Small Town's Secrets Simmer Beneath Jenny Milchman's Cover of Snow

Jenny Milchman's debut novel, Cover of Snow, gives you a reason to stay up late tonight.

When Nora's husband is found dead in their home after an apparent suicide, she struggles to find answers in the midst of overwhelming grief. They don't come easily. Brendan was a policeman, and his fellow officers brush her off when she asks them questions. Naturally she assumes that they are merely trying to protect her, albeit in a patronizing way that cops can sometimes adopt when dealing with wives.

The truth behind his death is much worse, but it takes her a long time to discover it.

Her mother-in-law, Eileen Hamilton, isn't any more useful in finding answers. She isn't trying to comfort Nora so much as to blame her. To say that Eileen is cold-hearted is an understatement. I'm convinced she mentored under the guiding hand of the wicked witch of the west. But Eileen had a deep seated anger towards Brendan, which goes back decades. Nora finds clues in Eileen's basement, but not enough to explain what happened when  Brendan's young brother perished beneath an ice covered pond. If Nora learns the answers, it wil shatter the entire town. So the police will do whatever they have to do to stop her.

The truth is so corrosive, it must stay buried, even if more innocent people have to die...and they do. Nora's only allies are a local reporter who is attracted to her, and a garage mechanic with limited social skills who speaks in ryhme. Both men will help her discover the truth, but not without paying a price.

This book has a great plot and setting details that put you deep into the story. When you step outside onto the icy streets, you feel the wind biting your bones and see the condensation of your breath as it hits the air. The weather isn't just a backdrop for the story. It's alive, a vital character that shapes the action, at times helping Nora in her search for answers, at other times a demon that blocks her at every turn.

The author can shape a sentence that makes a lasting impact. Her description of Nora's reaction to a sudden sound is both accurate and poetic, as she says, "I heard the dragon's breath of some distant furnace."

Who can read a sentence like that, and not be amazed?

The writing is so good, it's hard to believe this is Milchman's debut novel, but in some respects, she's a seasoned veteran. She wrote seven unpublished novels before getting this one into print, and even that was a hard road. The story was almost picked up three times before she signed a contract, and it took years to get published.

I have a feeling we'll get to see her next work a lot sooner than that. I'm already waiting for it.

It's hot this summer. Read this book. You'll be pulling a blanket over your shoulders to ward off the chill, even as the thermometer hit triple digits.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

True Crime Tuesday for July 23, 2013

From Russia With Love

Edward Snowden may have a lot of problems right now, but attention from beautiful women is not one of them. In fact Anna Chapman, the famous Russian ex-spy and model, recently proposed marriage. If you were Snowden, you might being smiling right now, despite the fact that the NSA is hunting for you, politicans are calling for your head and that international asylum problem has left you in limbo.

Perhaps Ms. Chapman could give her hubby-to-be a few survival tips. There was a time when being uncovered as a spy meant a long prison term or a short trip to the gallows. Ms. Chapman artfully used her arrest to get a plea deal, and since being returned to Russia has turned her plight into a career as a writer and model. She's been praised by Russian leader Vladimir Putin who is a former KGB colonel, and was picked to lead the youth wing of the pro-Putin United Russia Party.

No one's really sure if the proposal is genuine (Anna Chapman wouldn't comment) but it does prove one thing for sure: truth is indeed stranger than fiction and today's spy business is hotter than the latest James Bond movie.

Hint of the Week: Don't hide a marijuana pipe in a kid's meal if you work in the fast food industry.

A family got a shock when they opened a children's meal at a Burger King in Michigan and found a marijuana pipe, hidden there by a worker who has since found himself back in the ranks of the unemployed, according to an article by Business Insider. He was also arrested for drug possession.

Former police crime lab technician sentenced for stealing drug evidence

A U.S. district judge has given a slap on the wrist to former technician Deborah Madden, who was sentenced to one year home confinement for stealing cocaine from evidence in drug cases in San Francisco. According to the San Francico Chronicle, she could have received a one year prison sentence for each of 4 counts she was charged with.

This is all the more surprising considering that her actions resulted in the dismissal of more than 600 drug cases and cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her actions were partly responsible for the closing of the crime lab in 2010.

The judge also fined Ms. Madden $5,000, which she should have no problem paying out of her taxpayer provided $72,000 a year retirement pension.

Home confinement and $72,000 bucks a year? That'll teach her to violate the public trust!

Cattle Rustlers Make a Comeback

Missouri cattle farmers have to contend with a lot of problems lately. Among them soaring costs for feed, a crippling drought and now cattle rustlers. From the Kansas CIty Star comes this modern day tale of a crime as old as humanity. Cattle rustling entered the pages of American mythology in the old Wild West, but it's making a comeback, thanks to rising beef prices. And thanks to modern crime investigation, and a tissue found at the scene of the crime, police have a suspect in custody. The crook is fortunate in one respect--cattle rustling in no longer a capital offense, although a few people sort of miss that aspect of the good old days.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekend Mystery Roundup for July 20, 2013

Upcoming Mystery Conferences

The Creatures, Crime and Creativity conference is in Baltimore this year, September 13th through the 15th. Keynote speakers include Jeffery Deaver and Christopher Golden. Lots of great events are planned, and several agents will be available for author pitches. Plus, there's a Kindle contest. Check out the web link for more details.


One more month until Killer Nashville begins, August 22nd, with headliners Anne Perry and D.P. Kyle, MD. And of course, this conference is where the winner of the Claymore Award will be announced. Many past winners have gone on to successful writing careers. It's not to late to register for the conference. Submissions for this year's award are closed at this point, but you can enter next year's contest.  And wouldn't this look nice on your mantle above the fireplace?

How would you like to take in depth classes on writing crime fiction from some of the best writers in the genre, including George Pelecanos and Jonathan Santlofer? You can, at Crime Fiction Academy. Fall workshops and classes are available and will be held on E 47th Street in Manhattan. Past teachers have included stellar authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child and Meg Abbot.

Tips on How To Find A Missing Person (For Writers)

At some point in your fiction, you may want to look for a missing person. If you've ever wondered how your character goes about finding someone, check out this blog post by Shaun Kaufman and Coleen Collins (the Writing PIs) on Tracking Missing Persons. It will give your fiction a touch of credibility, and makes for fascinating reading.

Pittsburgh Professor Played A Major Role in Outing JK Rowlings

A professor from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA played a large role in discovering that the true author of The Cuckoo's Calling was none other than JK Rowlings. Patrick Juola used technology he developed to determine that Rowlings was the most likely author of the novel. The analysis was done at the request of a reporter from th Sunday Times. You can read more about this little known story in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

True Crime Tuesday for July 16th, 2013

First, Do No Harm. This Includes Murder.

A pathologist has been indicted in the murder of four people in Omaha, Nebraska after an extensive investigation which included help from the FBI.  The article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette identified Anthony J Garcia as the killer of Roger and Mary Brumback in 2013, and the killing of an 11 year old boy and a housekeeper in 2008 in the home of William Hunter. According to the article, Garcia
had been a resident at Creighton University when he was fired by Brumback and Hunter, who were also pathologists at the University.

Dr. Garcia obviously had some shortcomings as a healer, including that one about the Hippocratic Oath. More on this story from the Omaha World Herald.

Missing Woman Discovered After 28 Year Disappearance

According to the New York Times, JoAnn Nichols, who disappeared in 1985 and was presumed dead, was found behind a wall in her home after her husband, a long time suspect, passed away of
natural causes. A contractor working in the home found the body. James Nichols had been questioned several times by police, who had told them and neighbors that his wife had run away or was dead. Mr. Nichols had been having an affair at the time of the disappearance, but not enough evidence could be produced to charge him. Here's hoping the family of JoAnn can now find some closure.

Book Deal Dropped In Zimmerman Case by Juror

A juror from the George Zimmerman murder trial dropped her plans for a book after public outrage, according to the International Business Times. News of the juror's signing with a literary agent provoked a cascade of protest on social media websites and blogs. The juror's interview on CNN also left potential readers with the impression that she was uninformed and proud of it, a factor that may have played a role in her decision. However, she also stated during jury selection that she felt weapons training for people with gun permits should be more rigorous, according to the news report. The literary agent had also dropped the offer of representation. The jury decision in the murder case of Trayvon Martin has been condemned across the country.

Hint For Would Be Killers: Don't Use Craigslist to Hire a Hitman

It should go without saying that hiring a hitman by placing a classified ad in Craigslist is a no brainer. Notice I say, "It SHOULD be a no brainer". But, if, like the scarecrow, you don't have a brain, someone needs to point this out to you. Megan Schmidt will have a lot of time to consider this fact after her arrest by the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department. The Telegraph Herald has more on this story. The intended victim was Megan's father.

Frankly, I think she should have used Angie's List. Women tend to be more discreet in sensitive family matters like this.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mystery Weekend Roundup for July 12, 2013

Marcus Sakey Talks Mystery at The Loft Conference

I missed the Loft Conference in April, which is a shame, because they invited award winning novelist Marcus Sakey to talk about the mystery novel. Marcus is not just a great mystery writer but is very generous by sharing what he's learned with other mystery writers.

Thanks to this video, you can gain some great insight on what it takes to be a successful writer. I've already watched it. It's a little under an hour, and better than anything else that's on TV tonight, that's for sure.

Local Appearances
Paul Ferrante will discuss his mystery novel, Last Ghost At Gettysburg, at the Fairfield Library on July 23rd in Fairfield, Connecticut. Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle that saved the Union.
Jenny Milchman will be at Foodies in Omaha, Nebraska to discuss her suspense novel, Cover of Snow, on July 21st, then off to Steamboat Springs, Colorado (July 24th) and Boise, Idaho (July 27th). More details can be found on her tour guide.
Craig Johnson, author of A Serpents Tooth, maintains an equally busy schedule, putting in appearances in Washingston and Oregon this month, appearing at Seattle Mystery and Elliott Bay in Seattle on July 13th and The Book Bin on July 13th.

Rosemary Harris, author of several deadly fun horticultural mysteries, including Pushing Up Daises, will appear at the Kent Memorial Library in Suffield, Connecticut on July 17th at 7 PM. Bring a shovel. There may be bodies buried in the garden.

Upcoming Mystery Conferences
Some great conferences coming up in the next couple of months. In California, Book Passage has it's mystery conference starting July 25th. The faculty features a who's who of mystery, including Alex Kava, Cara Black and Susan C. Shea.
And in New Brunswick, New Jersey,  Deadly Ink starts August 2nd, with guest of honor Hank Phillippi Ryan and toastmaster Rosemary Harris. 
North of the border, mystery fans and writers are gathering on an isolated island which is the birthplace of Canada's first crime writer, Grant Allen. The one day conference, The Scene of the Crime, starts August 17th on Wolfe Island. Frankly, it's worth going there just to brag to your friends. And bring your dramamine. The ferry is the only way on or off the island, so be early. Life jackets provided. Just in case, you know.
And you thought your weekend would be boring?
Don't Throw Out Those Old Comics! You May Have a Budding Author on Your Hands
Proving what every male has known since childhood, comic books are a vital and important part of our American heritage, and may provide inspiration for the next great mystery writer. Just ask Walter Mosley, who confesses that comics had a profound influence on his story telling abilities. According to the interview at Comic Book Resources, "They taught me about writing dialect and how a monster can also be a hero." One of his favorite comic super heroes, Spiderman, was one of mine also. Nice to know we have at least that much in common.
Read more about Mosley's favorite reading material at this earlier interview via the New York Times

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Heat Too Much For You? Cool Down With "A Cold White Sun" by Vicki Delany

The latest Vicki Delany novel comes out on August 6th, just in time for the hottest part of summer. Fans of the Molly Smith series as well as newcomers will want to read this installment with gusto.

Winter is almost over in Trafalgar, but snow and ice still cover the ground, along with the corpse of
Cathy Lindsay, gunned down while taking her pooch for a stroll near her home. What seems like a random act of violence or perhaps an accident soon takes on darker tones. Witnesses at the school where Cathy taught reveal that the victim was a little too close to a math teacher, a man trained in special forces who may have rejected Cathy's advances, with fatal consequences.

Was Cathy having an affair? Was her marriage as solid as the husband claims? More suspects emerge when detective John Winters travels to Victoria, where Cathy's husband has been spending his business trip evenings not at a hotel, but in the arms of another woman.

Vicki Delany makes this series worth reading with her rich attention to the lives of her characters. Readers come to care about the personal fate of the main protagonists, Constable Molly Smith and Sargent John Winters. Molly continues to struggle with her feelings for her boyfriend, and wonders whether a move to a larger city will boost her career prospects. Winters, in turn, sees in Molly a smart young police officer who might someday make a fine detective, if she can put her rookie mistakes behind her.

A few clues are subtly buried in the novel and emerge later to strike the reader with that "Why didn't I see that coming?" feeling, and a surprise ending will please and delight you.

Don't worry about what to read on the beach in August. A Cold White Sun, a blanket and some sunscreen is all you'll need.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TRUE CRIME TUESDAY for July 9, 2013

Act Like A Lady, Will Ya?

A woman who was arrested for public drunkenness and resisting arrest has been ordered by the judge to write an essay on being a lady. According to the Virginian PilotChief District Court Judge Brenda Branch placed Toni King on probation and ordered her to write a two-page paper titled "How a Lady Should Behave in Public." She also can't drink alcohol while on probation, which may be the harshest part of the sentence. It could have been worse. She could have gotten a year in jail. And that's reason enough to celebrate. Drinks anyone?

Two Year Old Girl Killed By Her Brother. No Crime Here, Move along People.

In most states, killing a toddler with a rifle is a crime...except in Kentucky, where 2 year old Caroline Sparks was killed by her brother with a Crickett rifle, who received the gun as a gift, according to the Courier Press. The prosecutor for Cumberland County, Jesse Stockton, pointed out that the gun was legally purchased and given to Kristian Sparks, who is five years old.

Crickett rifles are marketed to children under the phrase "My First Rifle".

Happy 4th of July Chicago! (except for the 70 gunshot victims...sorry about that...really!)

More than 70 people were shot over the holiday weekend in Chicago, including a 5 year old boy, who was shot in South Side Park while watching the fireworks display, according to an article by Jennifer Lai. As of Saturday, the city has recorded 200 homicides, which is actually an improvement over last year. By this time in 2012, 275 people had been murdered. 

In contrast, during the height of gangland violence in 1928 during Prohibition, 399 people were killed. That's lower than the murder rate for most of the past ten years in Chicago. But then again, Al Capone always did say he was just "a businessman".

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Player Arrests Plague NFL

Add to the growing list of NFL players arrested in the past four months, Colts safety Joe Lefeged, who will be arraigned on multiple gun charges this week. Since the Super Bowl was held in February, 29 players have been arrested on charges ranging from possession of illegal weapons to murder. In one of the most high profile cases, ABC News has reported that the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation is exploring the possibility that the victim was silenced to prevent him from revealing information that might tie Hernandez to two more murders in Boston that occurred in 2012.

NFL officials may be privately looking past the upcoming 4th of July holiday to the end of the month, when many teams will start training camp, thus taking players off the streets and back to work.

Meanwhile, the US Conference of Mayors and the NFL have issued a joint statement in their preamble, saying in part: "Professional sports teams are businesses which promote civic pride, generate jobs, revenues and other local economic development. No word on how many of those jobs are tied to law enforcement or prisons, but maybe I missed something. You can read the entire joint statement HERE.

It's Safer To Say ILUVNY

New York City, once an example of the growing crime problem in the U.S, has seen it's murder rate decline 24 % in the past year, and this year may record less than 1 homicide per day at current rates, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription req'd). As of June 27th, there have been 154 homicides in the city.

The Journal article mentions that other large cities have also seen dramatic drops, including Chicago, Philadelphia and  Los Angeles. Several factors may have contributed to the drop, such as "advances in medical technology, demographic shifts driven by immigration and a culture that is less accepting of violence."

Chicago Man With Air Tight Alibi Convicted of Double Murder. Where Was He? Being Interrogated By The Cops. Is that what they mean by "The Chicago Way"?.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a 17 year old who was in jail being questioned by the police while two people were killed in a shooting, was convicted of the crime and has spent the last 20 years in jail. Making this revelation all the more disturbing is that it wasn't an accident. In fact, Cook County prosecutors knew that Daniel Taylor was innocent of the crimes, and proceeded with the case anyway, hiding evidence that would have freed the young man.

At the time of the murders, Taylor was in lockup for disorderly conduct. Police logs, as well as eyewitness testimony from prison officials, gathered by ADA David Styler, was handed over to county prosecutors, who hid them from Daniel Taylor's attorney.

Thomas Needham and Jeanne Bischoff tried the case against Taylor. Needless to say, they're not commenting.

Be A Super Hero! Fight Crime By Reaching For Your Smart Phone.

That thin piece of tecnology in your back pocket may turn out to be the best crime fighting tool invented so far in this century, according to an article by Business Insider.  New smart phone apps allow you to access police department social media sites, view important alerts, like the wanted list, and crime maps; leave tips; and look at photos and videos.

There's even an app, called iWitness, that will turn on audio and video recording and mark your location by GPS on a server accessible to the police, with a single screen touch. A second touch calls 911 and alerts up to 6 contacts via text, and sets off a loud alarm. Holy Smoke Signal, Batman!