Friday, May 31, 2013

Mystery Weekend Roundup May 31, 2013


The Tony Hillerman Prize is still accepting entries until tomorrow for the best first mystery novel set in a Southwest setting. All entries must be received or postmarked no later than June 1, so get that manuscript in the mail. The contest is sponsored by St. Martin's Press and awards the winner a book contract and $10,000. C'mon, make your mother proud! Send in that manuscript. Click the link in the first sentence for details, and download the form HERE.

Mystery and Writers Conferences

A couple of upcoming events of note: The California Crime Writers Conference runs June 22nd and 23rd. Guest Speakers Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George are featured. And the annual conference of the American Library Association starts June 27th until July 2nd in Chicago. For writers and readers alike, this is one of the best annual events in the book world.

 Local Appearances

In Massachusetts, up and coming writer Edith Maxwell is speaking at the Amesbury Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends. Edith is an organic farmer, has a PhD in linguistics and had a murder mystery published in May by Kensington, A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die. Visitors are welcome, but reservations are requested. Click here for more info.

Nancy Pickard and Jenny Milchman come to Kansas City! Nancy is a local, and a local favorite, but this may be Jenny's first visit to the Paris of the Plains. Both women will be at Mysteryscape Bookstore on June 1st to discuss Thirty Years in Publishing. Ms. Pickard is a best selling crime writer and the only one to win a Macavity (5), Anthony (4), Agatha and Shamus award. Jenny's debut novel, Cover of Snow has garnered a lot of attention, deservedly so, for its dark, suspenseful story and beautiful writing.

The discussion at Mysteryscape is free and open to the public, staring at 11:00 AM.


And, sadly, Jack Vance has passed away at the age of 96. A tireless science fiction and fantasy writer, he also wrote threee Ellery Queen novels, and won 3 Hugo awards, a Nebula and and Edgar. The LA Times has a nice tribute to him in their latest edition of Jacket Copy. He continued to write for the last thirty years of his life despite being legally blind.

And the Reverend Andrew Greeley passed away in Chicago following a long illness. He wrote over 100 books including 50 novels, many of them international best selling mysteries. He was an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church's handling of the child abuse scandals. Read more about this priest turned author, who wrote both about spiritual love and carnal desires, in this piece from the Vancouver Sun.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ken Tucker Talks To Stephen King (and lives to tell about it)

If you're like me, the first thing you  dig out of the Sunday paper is Parade Magazine (well, actually, it's the funnies, but I digress). This past weekend, if you missed it, Ken Tucker interviewed Stephen King, the master of horror and suspense. The King of Creepy discussed his writing habits, the shows he watches when he's not behind the keyboard, and his new book, Joyland. Check out the link below for highlights, and dig the full interview out of the Sunday Parade before the garbagemen take it away forever. You may want to even keep in in your office as a momento...if you're a packrat like me.

Here's the link: Parade Magazine: Stephen King Interview
And the video!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It Won't Be Summer Without A Little DOMESTIC SUSPENSE

It hasn't been published yet (coming in August 2013) , but the short story anthology, Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, is already attracting a lot of attention for it's list of female contributors. Some of the greatest mystery and suspense writers of the 20th century are in this collection, including a few of my favorites, like Patricia Highsmith and Shirley Jackson. The editor is Sarah Weinman, no slouch when it comes to recognizing and reviewing great mystery and suspense fiction.

While you're waiting for the date to arrive, check out the book's cool website: Domestic Suspense. You'll find biographies of the writers, comments and links from other mystery authors and blogs, plus some great noir style cover art from the 40s and 50s. I was surprised by the amount of detail in here that I discovered...who knew that Dorothy Hughes was from Kansas City?

It may be another scorching summer, but I have a feeling the heat from this anthology will keep temperatures high until well after Labor Day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

True Crime Tuesday: If You're A Burglar, Don't Dial 911

From the Crime blog over at Slate comes this story of two hapless burglars who were caught after breaking into a car because one of them sat on his cell phone, which dialed 911. The dispatcher wisely listened in for 35 minutes and directed police to their location. After committing the crime, they were surprised to discover a police car tailing them, and they were arrested shortly afterwards, where the cops explained how wonderful technology can be.

The blog also explains how to avoid butt dialing 911, which could be useful for us non-criminals as well.  Get all the details here: Help, I've dialed 911 and now I need a lawyer!

You can also get advice on how to tell if your favorite bar is swaping out the good liquor for some no-name brand (Operation Swill) and news on a study that links marijuana to criminal activity (hope they didn't spend too much money on that one, but what the's only your tax dollars).

Actually, according to slate's blog, the link is pretty weak...except of course, for the nearly 60,000 people murdered in Mexico's drug war over the past six years. Guess we don't count foreigners. After all, the study was done with American tax dollars.

Update: Apparently, some government workers didn't get the last memo from the White House about professional behavior. The last uproar occurred in 2012 when some secret service agents were sent home from South America after becoming entangled in a prostitution scandal. Now comes word that two of the men shot outside a Venezuela strip club on Tuesday were American Embassy employees. Both of the victims are expected to live, but they'll face a lot of unwarranted attention in the fallout from this latest fiasco. Seems like working for the government has its perks. The pay may be low, but the fringe benefits are pretty spicy. Where can I apply for one of these jobs?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Salute: To Our Military Medic

On this Memorial Day, I'd like to pay a special tribute to those troops who serve as Combat Medics, Corpsmen and Doctors. These men and women do something extraordinary. They run towards danger to provide help to our fallen wounded when saner folk would run the other way. Many of them serve as conscientious objectors. Desmond Doss was one of them.

He served in the Pacific during World War II. Refusing to carry a weapon because of his religious beliefs, an officer once tried to have him discharged based on mental unfitness, and fellow soldiers harrassed him in training. During a battle on Okinawa, dozens of soldiers were wounded, and Desmond risked enemy fire to retrieve all of them and carry them to safety unaided. A few weeks later he was wounded and treated his own injuries rather than call for assistance and risk another man's life. During his rescue by fellow medics five hours later, they came across another badly wounded soldier. Desmond moved off his litter and ordered the medics to attend to the other man first. He was wounded again by a Japanese sniper bullet which shattered his arm. He fashioned a splint from a rifle stock and crawled 300 yards to an aid station and safety.

Two things struck me after reading about this man. He was a genuine hero, and he was as tough as nails. A lot of his fellow troops thought so too. Desmond Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first medic so honored, and one of three who have won the award.

You can read more about Desmond Doss and other courageous men and women in a book by Mark Littleton and Charles Wright entitled Doc: Heroic Stories of Medics,Corpsmen,and Surgeons in Combat

Their courage and self-sacrifice is an inspiration to all of us. We wouldn't be a free nation without them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Get Ready For Season 2 of Longmire

Season 2 of Longmire, Wyoming's greatest fictional sheriff, based on the novels by Craig Johnson, has arrived. Get the popcorn ready, or better yet, fire up the grill. If you can't watch it in person, use the DVR. Season 2 starts Monday, May 27 at 10 PM Eastern / 9 Central on A & E. Until then, check out the trailer. You can even catch up with full episodes of Season 1 on A & E's website:

Then read the books, starting with The Cold Dish. I met Craig Johnson at a writer's conference early in his career when this first book had just been released. He struck me even then as a promising writer with a good future. Nine books later, he's more than proven his talent to his fans.

Friday, May 24, 2013


As we get ready to roll into the holday weekend, here's a few news items of interest, including a video on How To Keep The FBI From Reading Your Email...Cause They Don't Need A Warrant:

Poe's Deadly Daughters Celebrate May Mystery Month
Thanks to Julia Buckley, I now know that lots of great writers have birthdays in May. Check out her entertaining post by clicking on May Mystery Month.

Mystery Novels Set In Africa
Three new mysteries are coming our way from the dark continent, compliments of the Seattle Times, Out Of Africa.

The June 1st deadline is fast approaching for the Claymore Award submissions. Unpublished crime manuscripts by new authors could get you a book advance and publication, maybe an agent as well. Click here for details: Claymore Award

The Guardian has a collection of reviews this weekend featuring women's mystery fiction including Paula Daly's debut novel about a lost child in Just What Kind of Mother Are You?

And finally, a teen discusses the mysterious power that mirrors hold over her in Quiet Obsessions.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Could Dolphins Play Hide and Seek With A Nuclear Bomb?

I read a story in the paper this past weekend about a dolphin finding a very old piece of military hardware off the coast of California. Seems the sleek mammal, trained by the U. S. Navy to find underwater mines, uncovered a torpedo from the 19th century! A dolphin named Ten found a Howell torpedo, which was produced sometime between 1870 and 1889. The weapon was presumably lost during testing more than 120 years ago. According to the Navy, dolphins possess the most highly attuned sonar senses on the planet, even exceeding the best designs of our billion dollar ships. Which is why we're still using them to hunt for underwater mines, protect our navy bases and look for enemy frogmen who might try to scuba dive into one of our ports for a terrorist mission. The animals were even deployed during the Iraq war in 2003.

All this got me to thinking. If dolphins could find a 528 pound torpedo buried at the bottom of the sea after 120 + years, could they be used to find a 7,600 pound thermonuclear bomb buried in a few dozen feet of water? Heck, I'd think they could. If we had any missing atomic bombs lying around.

Well, turns out, we do.

Several, in fact.

Nuclear bombs, that is. Lying off the Atlantic coast...with enriched uranium cores.

But hey, don't worry! The government says they're intact and pose no threat to our way of life, or the millions of people living on the Eastern Seaboard. They were lost during training missions in 1957 (Delaware) and 1958 (Georgia).

I'm sure the residents of Tybee Island, Georgia and Cape May, New Jersey will be glad to hear that. After all, when was the last time our government lied to us?

The Navy has been thinking about retiring their dolphins over the next several years. Maybe we should be thinking about using them for a new mission. Have they considered using these natural sonar wonders to search for missing bombs? Might be a waste of time, but I wonder if anyone has even done a study to see if recovering these weapons is possible using trained dolphins with the best sonar senses on the planet? Might be worth a few dollars. After all, a few hundred pounds of highly enriched uranium would be awfully valuable to our enemies, if they could find these weapons. Shouldn't we find them first?

And even if this turns out to be a dead-end, as far as the Navy goes, wouldn't this be a great idea for a thriller novel? I'm too busy for something like this, but maybe there's a writer out there who could make a story out of it.

Hey, Karen Dionne! Clive Cussler! Whatcha working on?

MK 15 Nuclear Bomb

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET Is One Heck of A Good Read

I was a little hesitant to pick up this book, because I don't ski, and I thought it wouldn't keep my interest. I should have know better because Beth Groundwater, an Agatha Award finalist, is an excellent mystery writer, and she proves it again in this novel. 

The second in the Claire Hanover series finds her on the ski slopes with her family. Whats starts as a nice domestic vacation turns dark when a family friend is killed while skiing in an apparent accident. But Claire has some serious doubts, and even after a witness is killed right after talking to Claire, the police seem reluctant to tie the deaths together. By the time they finally begin to connect the dots, Claire's entire family is in danger, particularly her daughter, whose boyfriend may be linked to an international criminal gang. Can Claire solve the secret behind these killings, or will she join the growing list of victims?

This story will keep you on the edge of your ski lift until the end. The skiing scenes are done well, (even I could follow them), the characters are well developed and you can even get a lesson in basket design if you need a fresh gift idea.

Beth Groundwater also writes the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series, where she puts her knowledge of the great outdoors to good use. You can read more about her at her BLOG.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Can Ending a Popular Fiction Series Unhinge Your Fans?

The Wall Street Journal has a video about the decision by Charlaine Harris to end the Sookie Stackhouse series. Aparently, a fan has leaked the latest novel in this series and some are upset that this could be the end of the popular fictional character. One deranged reader has reportedly even threatened suicide over the outcome. Is this for real?

As an author, I admit that my characters sometimes seem more life-like to me than a non-writer would understand, but when people makes threats against an author, they need to back off and check into rehab to deal with their withdrawl symptoms.

I've read a few fiction series that ended and I wished they could continue (Tolkien fans would understand this, among others). But life goes on. The Sookie Stackhouse series lasted for 13 novels, which is a lot longer than most do. We can celebrate that we have 13 to enjoy.

Unfortunately Ms. Harris isn't the first to discover that fans can be demanding. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle discovered this when he killed off Sherlock Holmes and then brought him back after fans howled their disappointment.

Check out the video here: Goodbye To Sookie Stackhouse?

Fictional Moms With Murder on Their Minds

Before Mother's Day fades into memory (until next year, that is) you might want to check out this list of fictional murderous moms, compliments of the Library Journal.

Among the new offerings, Kneading To Die by Liz Mugavero. Like Harry Truman said, if you can't stand the killers, stay out of the kitchen.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Let's Not Forget The Missing

As we celebrate the freedom of three young women in Cleveland, released from captivity after more than ten years of living hell, let's keep in mind a simple truth.

Ashley Summers is still missing. She disappeared in the same neighborhood where the other girls were kidnapped. When will she be found?

To lose a child to murder is a terrible tragedy, but to lose a child and not know their fate may be even more painful.

Around the country, there are tens of thousands of missing persons, and 40,000 unidentified, unnamed dead buried without identification, without a family to claim them, or be notified of their loss.

This silent story was first brought to my attention by Sarah Weinman, news editor of Publisher's Marketplace, through a posting on her website entitled The Plight of the Unidentified. In it, she discusses efforts by a group called the Doe Network to identify the missing. Teaming up with NamUS, a database of missing persons, the Doe Network is making it easier to search for missing persons, in the hopes that their families may learn their fate.

Visit their website. Look at the pictures of the missing in your area. See a familiar face? Tell someone. And let's bring Ashley Summers home.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Settle Back and Listen to Some Crime Jazz

Looking for something different to listen to? Tired of the same old repeats on the radio? Need some inspiration as you type away on the keyboard while composing the great American Crime Novel?

Try some Crime Jazz. A cool, crazy, sometimes bizarre selection of detective TV theme songs, movie soundtracks and jazz cuts that were popular in the 50's, 60's and 70's.  All designed to accompany crime shows. Some examples include music from long departed shows like The Saint, Peter Gunn and Hawaii Five-0.

Here in Kansas City, Darrell Brogdon has been featuring crime jazz as a regular feature on his Saturday Night show, The Retro Cocktail Hour, a celebration of long departed lounge music, space age pop, and of course, crime jazz.

Start with the April 6th, 2013 playlist, 50 Years of James Bond.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Explaining the Fall in Crime During the 90s with...Unleaded Gas?

When I first read this story, I thought to myself, This is why you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet. But I checked the source and did some research. I think they may be onto something here.

Alex Knapp, a science writer for Forbes magazine has written an article showing a strong parallel between the rising exposure to lead in America to the crime boom of the 60s and 70s.  On the face of it, this makes sense. Lead is well known as a factor in brain damage and impairment. Most of us think of paint chips as a major source of lead. I still remember those Ad Council commercials from the 70s where some government official warns parents against letting kids eat paint chips (maybe he should have suggested Cheetos?).

Lead was removed from paint by the early 70s, but the highest exposure to the public actually came from leaded gas. As unleaded gas grew in use and leaded gas was fazed out, crime began to drop.

Credit for the seemingly unexplained drop in crime over the past two decades was quickly grabbed by politicians who embraced get tough policies on criminals. But maybe it was just a matter of getting the lead out...of gas!

Check Alex's article at this link: How Lead Caused America's Violent Crime Epidemic

Click here for another great article on the criminal mind by Adrian Raine, discussing factors that influence criminal behavior, including the decline in leaded gas, from the Wall Street Journal: The Criminal Mind

Saturday, May 4, 2013

For A Suspenseful Story In An Exotic Locale, Look Behind A BITTER VEIL

Libby Fischer Hellmann has done something remarkable with her latest mystery novel; written a gripping tale of betrayal and murder and placed it in an international setting with an ancient culture that most Americans know little about. And she's done it without relying on stereotypes.

A Bitter Veil tells the story of Anna, an American who falls in love with Nouri, an Iranian foreign exchange student. The story is set in the late 70's before the Islamic Revolution, when Iran send thousands of students to the United States to be educated as part of a modernization effort.

With his charm, good looks and a healthy dose of Persian love poetry, Nouri wins Anna's heart. They return to Iran where Anna struggles, and eventually succeeds in fitting into a strange and vibrant culture. But after the Shah is overthrown, changes begin to sweep through the country, affecting not just Anna, but all the people of Iran. The Islamic Revolution, like the French and Russian revolutions before it, begins with high hopes and aspirations but eventually descends into paranoia and tyranny. Hassan, Nouri's oldest and closest friend, joins the Revolutionary Guards. Even Nouri is caught up in the chaos, and starts treating Anna with suspicion, demanding she dress more conservatively and obey his orders without question. He often disappears without explanation. Anna, like many Iranians around her, decides to flee the country. But before she can put her plan into motion, she is arrested for murder.

As an American in a foreign country, she has almost no allies, no one to believe her. Ironically, Hassan, who has become swept up in religious fervor and the revolution, is convinced that Anna is innocent, and struggles to find a way to help her.

This story has all the elements of a first rate mystery. Despite the foreign setting, Libby paints her characters with a full palette, both the good and the bad, showing the warmth and beauty of Persian culture, along with the tears and blood caused by the Revolution. Anna and Nouri are far from the only victims.

This tale will stay with you long after the final page is turned.