Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Need gift book ideas? Ask an author.

Penguin Publishing has hit on a novel idea (no pun intended) to help people fill out their holiday shopping lists. They've posted a page on their website showing what books their authors are giving (and hoping to get). The recommendations are excellent and they include a nice mix of classics (Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, George Orwell's 1984) and recent releases (Stephen King's Just After Sunset ).

You can see the entire list here:


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pleistocene Park? For 10 Million Dollars, Maybe

It's a shame that Michael Crichton passed away recently, because I think he would have found this latest discovery of great interest. Scientists are very close to decoding the entire genome of the Wolly Mammoth, using hair fibers. What's more, they believe it may soon be possible to recreate the extinct species, and that someday mammoths could roam the earth again.

Although Jurrasic Park may still be a long, long way off, we could in our liftime see prehistoric creatures like the mammoth, dire wolf & sabre tooth tiger roaming a Pliestocene game reserve.

Almost makes me wish I was a kid again. You can read more about it here:


and here:


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Are You a Konrath Fan? Take This Test!

As readers of this blog may have figured out for themselves, I'm a big fan of mystery/thriller writer JA Konrath. In fact, if backed into a corner, I'd probably admit that I'm his Number One Fan.

But, am I really?

Well, there's one way to find out. Read through this list. If you find yourself agreeing with every one of these signs, you may indeed be Joe's Number 1 Fan, or at least a hardcore fan, like me.

Top Ten Signs You're A Hardcore Konrath Fan

10. You tell everyone you meet that you are Joe Konrath's # 1 Fan.

9. You're wife tells you, "If I hear one more word about what a great writer Konrath is, we're getting divorced."

8. You get divorced.

7. You send Konrath so many fan letters, his lawyer sends you a restraining order. You frame it and hang it in your office, because Konrath autographed it.

6. You bribe the hotel clerk at the writer's conference to put you in the room next to Konrath, even though the room is actually the janitor's closet.

5. You get your first book published and the publisher sends you 20 free copies. You send one to your mom (of course) and 19 to Konrath.

4. At your first book signing, you take Konrath's latest novel instead of your own, because, after all, he's a better writer than you.

3. You shower with your right hand outside the shower curtain for six weeks, because Joe shook it at the last writer's conference you both attended.

2. You write a good review of Konrath's latest novel and post it on your blog, and you don't even get paid for it.

1. The only non-Konrath novel you own is Stephen King's Misery!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Edgar Allen Poe Gets his own Postage Stamp

The US Post Office has announced they will issue a stamp in honor of Edgar Allen Poe on the anniversary of his birth 200 years ago. The stamp will be issued on January 16, 2009, in Richmond, Virginia.

The portrait was done by Michael J Deas. Here's a sneak peek at the stamp. Well done, and long overdue.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sandra Ruttan Sets Canadian Crime Fiction on Fire with "What Burns Within"

Most Americans, if they think of Canada at all, think of hockey, Niagara Falls or the Maple Leaf. The idea that Canadian culture or literature is anything other than an pastel imitation of Americana (soft-boiled at that) can be laid to rest. Sandra Ruttan demonstrates with her novel What Burns Within that Canadian crime fiction deserves to be taken seriously. As gritty as the best American crime writers working today, Sandra presents fiction that deals with horrendous crimes without exploiting the victims for cheap thrills. If you prefer cozies, she's not for you, but if you're a fan of tough crime fiction with well-developed characters, climb aboard. But bring along a fire extinguisher.

The plot centers around three police officers in British Columbia who worked on a case involving a brutal crime that nearly destroyed all of their careers. Now, they are drawn together a year later by different cases that gradually appear to be linked. One is a series of arsons, another a set of child kidnappings that stir bitter memories for the investigators. On top of that, a serial rapist is stalking the area, and seems to be targeting the wives & girlfriends of fireman and even the police who are responding to the arsons. The climate of fear and suspicion created by these crimes elevates the level of suspense, since the inside knowledge suggests that someone known to the victims may be involved.

Throughout the novel, several characters who at first appear to be cookie cutter caricatures turn out to have complex motives and flaws. By showing these, Sandra enrichs the story (I'm thinking particularly of Officer Tain, who is not quite the male chauvinist he pretends to be). Not only does Sandra tackle the crimes in a traditional police procedural format, she also explores the social fabric of police work between male and female officers, giving us a glimpse of a world that few ordinary civilians get to see.

Not since I read Garry Disher's "The Dragon Man" have I read an author who spends so much time developing her characters, with both their redeeming features and personality warts. It's a technique that succeeds very well. Pick up a copy of "What Burns Within", and do it soon. Sandra has a sequel coming out next month. If it's anything like this gem, it will be worth reading as well.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books

I've been invited to write about a forgotten book in the mystery genre on the blog of Patricia Abbot, a writer and educator from Detroit Michigan, who has a fabulous site at http://pattinase.blogspot.com/. The book that I chose to write about is "The Unquiet Night" by Patricia Carlon, originally published in Great Britain in 1965. It's an excellent suspense story. You can read more about it here starting Friday, September 19, 2008:


Every Friday, Patricia introduces her readers to classic works of mystery fiction that deserve to be read but may not have gotten the attention they merit. Her blog content is well worth looking into the rest of the week as well. Check her out...and tell her I sent you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Philadelphia Wants Poe, Baltimore Says No!

It looks like the debate on which American city has the best claim to Edgar Allen Poe is still alive. The New York Times has an article in Saturday's paper that pits Philadelphia's Edward Pettit, a writer & Poe scholar, against Baltimore's Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House.

Sarah Weinman has covered this extensively on her website, but I'd like to make the case for Richmond, Virginia as the city with the best claim to Poe's legacy. The Edgar Allen Poe Museum is in Richmond (a link can be found on this blog). Besides, Poe's own words back this up. According to Professor Kevin Hayes, another Poe scholar, "Poe described himself as a Virginian and wrote that he planned to return there".

You can find the article at this link:


Saturday, August 30, 2008

A first novel by the son of John Le Carré

Nicholas Cornwell, son of the Le John Le Carré, has written his first novel under the pen name of Nicholas Harkaway. The book, "The Gone-Away World", has lots of danger & adventure, but no spies. Nick talks with Cynthia Crossen about the book, how he picked the title and what it's like to have your parents read your work, especially when one of them is a world famous author of spy thrillers.

Read the interview here:

You can also read an excerpt, here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121993471781679817.html

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Books Still Have it to Stir our Emotions

According to a new study, "Books are just as powerful as movies when it comes to their potential to prod our brains into such reactions as delight, pain or disgust...".

For those of us who are writers, this is is great news...books can still compete with movies when it comes to touching us in a deep and meaningful way.

This from a posting on a science news blog! I would have expected something like this to come from Psychology Today. You can read the story here.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Konrath's "Fuzzy Navel" is a Juicy Winner (Drink Responsibly)

Dirty Martini was my introduction to the writing of JA Konrath, and after I put down that book, I thought to myself, "Wow. That was a great story. But I don't think he'll ever top the chaos I just witnessed."

I was wrong.

Konrath's latest thriller takes fear and humor to a new level when he packs mayhem and murder into eight action-packed, laugh-out-loud hours. The opening chapter fakes right and then surprises you with a left hook. From there, it's all downhill (or uphill, depending on your point of view). The next few pages demonstrate a couple of acts of vigilante justice that will have you secretly wishing you could take the law into your own hands from time to time, and it's fun to watch. But then things turn nasty. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, the protaganist, witnesses several of her colleagues bite the dust. The action ramps up when she heads home to find her arch enemy, Alex Kork, has escaped from prison and has made herself at home, along with Jack's mom & fiancee. With a gun pointed at her loved ones, Jack is forced to entice Harry McGlade and Phin to join her. The ultimate aim is to force Jack to watch her friends and loved ones die...the ultimate revenge for a woman that Harry lovingly described as "Frankenbitch".

But that's not the only problem Jack faces. It seems a trio of paramilitary wannabes have decided that Jack's got to go, and they soon join the party, surrounding her home and cutting the occupants off from the outside world with some high tech jamming devices and a old fashioned pair of wire cutters.

And you think your job is tough?

This book is a real page-turner, so I recommend you buy it on a Friday. Once you start reading, you won't want to stop, so your Saturday and Sunday will be spoken for. Unplug the TV and the phone...on second thought, after reading this, you'll probably be clutching the cordless with both hands.

The best part of this latest Jack Daniels' tale is the shocking surprise ending, a cliffhanger which will leave you (figuratively) dying for more. There's quite a few twists and turns in this one, but I've managed to figure out what really happens in the end.

If you want to know yourself, you can buy the next Konrath novel, Cherry Bomb, which is due out in 2009. Or you can bribe me to learn the truth. Send me an email, and I'll send you my address. I'll reveal all for one million dollars...no, make that two million dollars. One million for me and one million for the out-of-court settlement when Konrath sues me.

At any rate, pick up a copy of Fuzzy Navel. And take a big swig. You'll be glad you did.

Best line?
Jack Daniels, "I think my work followed me home."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How To Get Boys To Read - Gross 'Em Out!

The problem of how to get boys to read more has never been a big secret. We've just forgotten our target audience. What boys like is adventure, thrills...and lots of gross detail in the killing, as the Wall Street Journal reminds in Friday's article. Some of the favorite topics include Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian prince who was the real life inspiration for the story of Count Dracula.

Check out the link here, but don't read while eating:


Monday, July 21, 2008

Scott William Carter's "The First Book" Should be first on your list.

One of the great pleasures of being a writer is getting to meet other writers, even if it is only over the internet. I first learned about Scott William Carter from a posting on the discussion forums of bksp.org (Backspace, a writer's forum), and also from a post by his agent, Rachel Vater.

Scott has been tireless in his promotion of new writers through a weekly interview blog he conducts. When I contacted him about interviewing me about my first novel, he was very enthusiastic. Since then, I've discovered many new writers that I never would have noticed if he hadn't brought them to my attention.

For anyone looking for a new author to read, I can't think of a better place to start than, "The First Word". Check it out. You'll be glad you did.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Mystery Writers: Spinetingler wants you for their Archives

If you've ever been published by Spinetingler Magazine, you may want to read the following. They are collecting stories for their archives, and they need the permission of their writers beore they can collect the stories. See the following message from Sandra Ruttan for more details.

The new issue of Spinetingler Magazine should be available in a few days, and the continuation of Spinetingler is due to the persistence of Brian Lindenmuth and his efforts to persuade me to at least save the Spinetingler archives by moving them to Mystery Bookspot. Ultimately, MBS adopted Spinetingler and provided me with the financial resources needed to increase payments to writers, and technical support to create and upload the issues.The new issue is, in part, a tribute to Tribe’s Flashing in the Gutters. All the stories are flash pieces or short-short stories, and some of the flash pieces originally appeared in FITG. However, we didn’t note which ones originally appeared on Tribe’s site, because we wanted to show how well the stories have stood up over time, and the caliber of the writing showcased on Tribe’s amazing site.

With Tribe’s blessing and Brian’s continued interest in making sure that important contributions to the genre are not lost to us forever, we’re now seeking permission to post an archive of Flashing in the Gutters from all writers who had work on the site. We do not wish to re-post the stories without consent, and we do expect this to be a time-consuming project, but hopefully by fall an archive of most of the stories will be available at mysterybookspot.com.

All writers can e-mail Brian Lindenmuth (blindenmuth@gmail.com) or Sandra Ruttan (sandraruttan.spinetinglermag@gmail.com) to confirm whether or not their story can be included in the archive.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Never Say Never Again: James Bond Returns!

Although Ian Fleming died over forty years ago, the Bond character lives on, most notably in movies, but now, he's returning to the printed page. Sebastian Faulks is the latest author (but not the first) selected to write a new James Bond thriller after Fleming's death.

The new novel returns to the days of the Cold war, which should make die-hard Bond fans happy. With luck, it will also bring on a new group of younger fans, despite the fact they may not know the historical relevance of Sputnik, the race to the moon or the Berlin Wall. It should arrive in time for the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birth.

You can read the article at the Wall Street Jornal online, here:


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tag! You're It!

I was catching up on my blog reading when I stumbled across an invitation from Mark Coggins to pick up a book and quote from it. Not just any quote...a quote from page 123, the 6th, 7th and 8th sentences. So, with that invitation accepted, here goes...the results are quite interesting.

The nearest book at hand was "The Children of Black Valley" by Evan Kilgore. And on page 123, here's the appropriate quote:

"If I don't know everything about who you are and what you're doing here, I'm going to press this button. Then, it will hurt. Then, we'll start over."

Hmmm, interesting! I hadn't planned on reading this book just yet, but now, my antenna is activated. Sounds like I've stumbled across a pretty nasty character. Better return to page one, and see how we got here. As far as the context of the quote, feel free to use your imagination. I found it fairly shocking.

This feels like one of those chain letters, but with an cool twist. I'd like to send out five invitations to some people who, hopefully, read my blog from time to time (or perhaps, get lost and stumble into it).

Thanks go out to Mark Coggins for this invite.

The Rules Are:

1. Pick up the nearest book at hand (left or right...hand, that is).
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the next 3 sentences.
5. Tag 5 other people (but don't contact them...let them find you).
6. Acknowledge who tagged you.

My choice to play tag!

1. Libby Fischer Hellman, author of Easy Innocence.
2. JA Konrath, author of the soon to be released Fuzzy Navel
3. Sandra Rattan, editor of Spinetingler Magazine and author of What Burns Within.
4. Julie Hyzy, author of a tasty little cozy called State of the Onion.
5. Lee Lofland, author, investigative expert and blogger at The Graveyard Shift.

There are a lot of people I could have chosen, but hopefully, there is something for everyone in this list. I can just imagine a barbeque with this group...the possibilities are endless! Maybe I should send out some invitations (I'll just make sure the fire extinguisher is fully charged...)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Easy Innocence Tackles Some Hard Choices

Libby Fischer Hellman introduces a new Private Eye series with the publication of Easy Innocence, and it's a good start. Georgia Davis, an ex-cop, get hired to find evidence that might clear Cameron Jordan, an autistic man whose been accused of murdering a high school girl named Sara Long. At first, the forensic evidence against Cameron seems insurmountable, but the deeper Georgia Davis digs into the case, the more frayed ends she finds.

As these ends begin to unravel, she uncovers a number of unpleasant facts about the well-to-do and well-to-do wannabes on Chicago's North Shore. Even more disturbing, the prosecution is rushing to wrap up the case as quickly as possible. The reason soon becomes apparent, though not surprising when you remember that the rich and powerful make special efforts to protect their own.

A high school hazing that took place at the time of the murder places the prosecuting attorney's daughter at the scene of the crime, opening up the possibility that others were involved in Sara's death. And as Georgia begins to question the dead girl's friends, someone starts following her, and one promising lead winds up on a slab in the morgue. Eventually, Georgia learns some shocking revelations about Sara and her high school buddies that reveal just how far teenagers will go to maintain their status in a high school where the content of your closet is more important than the content of your character. It may lead Georgia to the secret that got Sara killed...if she can stay alive herself.

Libby tackles several timely social issues, including peer pressure, the sexualization of young girls, and the pursuit of status, all without preaching or alienating the reader. She does it by simply telling a great story. It had me guessing about the identity of the killer until the very end, and also had me thinking about this book long after I turned the last page.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How Do Reviewers Make Their Choices?

Every year, tens of thousands of titles are published, and yet, only a few hundred ever make it into a print review (newspapers & magazines). With such a competitive arena, I've often wondered how those choices are made. Well, here's an article that provides some insight into the process of how books are chosen. It was posted on David J Montgomery's crime fiction blog. Some of the nation's top reviewers are interviewed in the March newsletter of Sisters In Crime. It includes another link if you'd like to download the newsletter in its entirety:


Mystery Fiction - Treating Women Badly?

I highly recommend the book reviews by Marilyn Stasio which appear in the Sunday NY Times book section (online & print). They are often chock full of interesting and new writers, both from the US and abroad. Today's article is no exception. But I don't think that women are treated badly by the genre.

Does our fiction really treat women with indignity? Mystery fiction, that is? To be fair to Miss Stasio, allow me to quote her word for word.

"Denise Mina’s bold, brave crime novels make up for all the indignities women suffer in genre fiction — especially the notion that a female protagonist is better off being likable than being real. Mina smashed that false article of faith with her dead-grim Garnet hill trilogy, featuring a hard-bitten heroine who fights the social conditions that lead to the abuse of women, children and the elderly in a Glasgow slum."

That may have been true in the field of mystery writing fifty, sixty years ago (Nancy Drew comes to mind as a likeable protaganist). And much of noir fiction of the 40's and 50's treated women as either brainless broads or scheming sirens.

But this certainly not true of mystery now. And it didn't start with Denise Mina.

Sara Paretsky introduced us to a tough gritty heroine in 1982 by the name of V.I. Warshawski. That's just the first name that comes to mind. How about authors Sue Grafton and Terris Grimes? And many more.

One can even find good female heroines in noir fiction from fifty years ago, albeit often in re-prints. Branded Woman by Wade Miller, re-issued by Hard Case Crime is one example.

And for those of you who haven't discovered her, I urge you to read Denise Mina. But start with the original Garnethill, which won the 1998 John Creasy Memorial Award for best first crime novel.

I hate coming into a series after it's started, don't you?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Take a Leap off Maiden Rock (But Don't Forget Your Parachute)

I went to Chicago recently for a writer's conference and took a book with me to read on the plane...Maiden Rock by Mary Logue. At first glance, it seemed like the perfect choice. I expected a warm and fuzzy cozy mystery, nothing too demanding, but good enough to keep me from being bored. Even the author's book flap picture was reassuring. She looks like your best friend's mom, ready to offer up a plate of cookies and a glass of cold milk. The perfect cozy, right?

Wrong. This book had me gasping for breath a third of the way into it. I wanted to rush to the end, but at the same time I was worried sick about the fate of one of the characters, so much so that I wanted to scream at her, lest she make a wrong move.

This book scared the hell out of me. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Was it the demented serial killer? The graphic gore and violence?

Nope. The horror of this book rests in the author's ability to take ordinary people, people like you and me, place them in mortal danger, and make us care what happens to them. She does it beautifully. And because we as readers know more than any one individual, we see danger coming long before the characters do. Therein lies the terror.

Maiden Rock is a traditional mystery featuring Claire Watkins, a deputy sheriff in a small midwestern town who investigates the apparent suicide of a teenage girl. But the death may not be a simple case of suicide. The supposedly safe, quiet town where Claire lives is being ravaged by a drug that is striking the community's youth like a plague. The author slowly unravels the town's secrets and we are forced to watch helplessly as first children, and then their parents, are destroyed by meth addiction and its consequences. Her descriptions of the drug's physical and emotional effects on individuals adds considerable realism to the story. Yet her sympathy for the characters (even the flawed ones) makes the tale haunting. It stays with you long after you've read the final page.

Buy this book and read it. Then let your kids read it. I promise, you won't regret it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mystery Genre - Does it get the respect it deserves?

I saw an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times about Joan Brady, an American author living in England, who sued a shoe factory near her home for poisoning her with toxic fumes. She was awarded $230,000 damages.

As proof that she was damaged, she presented her novel, Bleedout, a mystery thriller, and claimed it was only written because she could no longer concentrate on her 'literary' novel, which she had to abandon due to neurological damage.

So, in essence, if you write mysteries, your suffering from brain damage!

Here's the link to the article. Let me know what you think.