Monday, April 23, 2018

NoirCon Is Down, But Not Out

According to religious zealot and ”practiced doomsday diviner” David Meade, today—April 23—is supposed to mark the beginning of the end for the planet we call Earth. While that’s unlikely to happen, The Gumshoe Site brings us other bad news, this from the realm of reality: “Lou Boxer, a co-organizer of NoirCon, has announced that NoirCon 2018 is canceled, partly due to the recent passing of its co-founder and co-director Deen Kogan. Those who have already registered will be fully refunded.” You can read Boxer’s full statement here.

NoirCon 2018 had previously been scheduled to take place from November 1 to 4 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although the conference itself is off, one can only assume that this year’s associated award winners will still receive their prizes:

The David L. Goodis Award: Walter Mosley (author)

The Jay and Deen Kogan Award for Excellence: Max Rudin
(publisher, The Library of America)

The Anne Friedberg Award for Contributions to Noir and Its Preservation: Dana Polan (author and professor)

“Please note that NoirCon as an organization is not over,” Boxer writes. “Deen would not have wanted what she helped build to fall. Once we reorganize, we will return.”

Our fingers are crossed in hopes of this “biennial literary conference devoted to the dark, elusive, and seductive areas of art and life that we have come to call ‘noir’” being revived for 2020.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

PaperBack: “The Demon Stirs”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

The Demon Stirs, by Owen Cameron (Dell, 1958), originally published by Simon & Schuster in 1957 as The Fire Trap. Cover illustration by Richard M. Powers.

Distinctive Works, Singular Groupings

The British crime-fiction Web site Dead Good is looking for help in selecting candidates to complete for its 2018 Dead Good Reader Awards. “Simply nominate your favorite books and authors from the past year …,” Dead Good managers explain, “and the most popular will form the shortlists and go to a public vote.”

There are half a dozen classifications of contenders for 2018, all completely different from last year’s:

• The Holmes and Watson Award for Best Detective Duo
• The Whodunnit Award for the Book That Keeps You Guessing
• The Cabot Cove Award for Best Small Town Mystery
• The Wringer Award for the Character Who’s Been Put Through It All
• The House of Horrors Award for Most Dysfunctional Family
• The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book

Simply click here to enter your suggestions in any or all of these categories. The Dead Good nominating process is scheduled to close on Friday, May 21. People proposing contenders will reportedly have a chance to score “£200 worth of crime books and DVDs!”

Winners are to be announced during the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England, July 19-22.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

“Martyr” Turns Winner

Joyce Carol Oates has captured the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, in the Mystery/Thriller category, with her novel A Book of American Martyrs (Ecco). According to The Gumshoe Site, she was one of 11 book-category award recipients announced last evening in advance of the opening of this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which is taking place over the next two days on the University of Southern California campus in L.A. You’ll find a list of all the 2017 prize winners by clicking here.

To secure this victory, Oates’ convictions-driven novel had to triumph over four other well-reviewed Mystery/Thriller nominees: The Late Show, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown); The Night Ocean, by Paul LaFarge (Penguin Press); Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland), and Wonder Valley, by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco).

Thursday, April 19, 2018

There’ll Be a Battle in Bristol

Having already reported on two sets of Canadian prize nominees, let me now turn your attention to Britain. Organizers of this year’s CrimeFest—to be held in Bristol, England, from May 17 to 20—have announced the shortlists of candidates for their 10th annual CrimeFest Awards in half a dozen categories.

Best Unabridged Crime Audiobook:
The Child, by Fiona Barton; read by Clare Corbett, Adjoa Andoh, Finty Williams, Fenella Woolgar, and Steven Pacey (Audible Studios)
The Midnight Line, by Lee Child; read by Jeff Harding (Transworld)
The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney; read by Emilia Fox, Finty Williams, and Lise Aagaard Knudsen (Quercus)
Silent Child, by Sarah A. Denzil; read by Joanne Froggatt
(Audible Studios)
Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney; read by Stephanie Racine (HQ)
The Girlfriend, by Michelle Frances; read by Antonia Beamish
(Pan Macmillan Audio)
The Word Is Murder, by Anthony Horowitz; read by Rory Kinnear (Penguin Random House Audio)
The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz;
read by Saul Reichlin (Quercus)

eDunnit Award (for the best crime fiction e-book):
Want You Gone, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
The Ghosts of Galway, by Ken Bruen (Head of Zeus)
The Late Show, by Michael Connelly (Orion)
IQ, by Joe Ide (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane (Little, Brown)
You Can Run, by Steve Mosby (Orion)
Wolves in the Dark, by Gunnar Staalesen (Orenda)
Exquisite, by Sarah Stovell (Orenda)

The Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel):
Blotto, Twinks and the Stars of the Silver Screen,
by Simon Brett (Little, Brown)
Bryant & May: Wild Chamber, by Christopher Fowler (Doubleday)
Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star,
by Vaseem Khan (Mullholland)
East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ)
Sweetpea, by C.J. Skuse, (HQ)
The Man Who Died, by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda)
Herring in the Smoke, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)

The H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction):
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, by Martin Edwards
(British Library)
America Noir, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)
Sherlock Holmes in Context, by Sam Naidu (Palgrave Macmillan)
Sherlock Holmes from Screen to Stage, by Benjamin Poore
(Palgrave Macmillan)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, by Mike Ripley (HarperCollins)
The Man Who Would Be Sherlock, by Christopher Sandford
(The History Press)
Arthur & Sherlock, by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury)
Getting Carter, by Nick Triplow (No Exit Press)

Best Crime Novel for Children (8-12):
Chase, by Linwood Barclay (Orion Children’s Books)
The Misfits Club, by Kieran Crowley (Macmillan Children’s Books)
A Place Called Perfect, by Helena Duggan (Usborne)
The Royal Rabbits of London: Escape from the Tower, by Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore (Simon & Schuster)
Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape, by Dermot O'Leary (Hodder Children’s Books)
Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure, by Alex T. Smith
(Hodder Children’s Books)
Violet and the Mummy Mystery, by Harriet Whitehorn
(Simon & Schuster)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (12-16):
Girlhood, by Cat Clarke (Quercus Children’s Books)
The Ones That Disappeared, by Zana Fraillon (Orion Children’s Books)
After the Fire, by Will Hill (Usborne)
Indigo Donut, by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children’s Books)
Genuine Fraud, by E. Lockhart (Hot Key)
SweetFreak, by Sophie McKenzie (Simon & Schuster)
Dark Matter: Contagion, by Teri Terry (Orchard)
Beware That Girl, by Teresa Toten (Hot Key)

These commendations are set to be presented to the winners during a ceremony on Saturday, May 19.

Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Race for the Prizes Up North

This is a rather busy morning for crime-fiction awards news, so let’s get right to it. First, we have the newly announced shortlist of nominees for the 2018 Arthur Ellis Awards. Presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, these commendations recognize “excellence in Canadian crime writing.” This year’s contestants are as follows.

Best Crime Novel:
The Winners’ Circle, by Gail Bowen (McClelland & Stewart)
The Party, by Robyn Harding (Gallery/Scout Press)
The White Angel, by John MacLachlan Gray (Douglas and McIntyre)
Sleeping in the Ground, by Peter Robinson (McClelland & Stewart)
The Forgotten Girl, by Rio Youers (St. Martin’s Press)

Best First Crime Novel:
Puzzle of Pieces, by Sally Hill Brouard (FriesenPress)
Full Curl, by Dave Butler (Dundurn Press)
Ragged Lake, by Ron Corbett (ECW Press)
Flush, by Sky Curtis (Inanna)
Our Little Secret, by Roz Nay (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Best Crime Novella (The Lou Allin Memorial Award):
• “Snake Oil,” by M.H. Callway (from 13 Claws: The Mesdames of Mayhem; Carrick)
• “How Lon Pruitt Was Found Murdered in an Open Field with No Footprints Around,” by Mike Culpepper (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, September/October 2017)
Blood and Belonging, by Vicki Delany (Orca)
• “Dead Clown Blues,” by R. Daniel Lester (Shotgun Honey)
• “Money Maker,” by Jas R. Petrin (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017)

Best Crime Short Story:
• “The Outlier,” by Catherine Astolfo (from 13 Claws)
• “There be Dragons,” by Jane Petersen Burfield (from 13 Claws)
• “Jerusalem Syndrome,” by Hilary Davidson (from Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017, edited by John McFetridge; Down & Out)
• “The Ranchero’s Daughter,” by Sylvia Maultash Warsh
(from 13 Claws)
• “The Sin Eaters,” by Melissa Yi (from Montreal Noir, edited by
John McFetridge and Jacques Fillippi; Akashic)

Best Non-Fiction Crime Book:
Murder in Plain English, by Michael Arntfield and Marcel Danesi (Prometheus)
The Whisky King, by Trevor Cole (HarperCollins)
Blood, Sweat and Fear, by Eve Lazarus (Arsenal Pulp Press)
The Dog Lover Unit, by Rachel Rose (St. Martin’s Press)
Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence,
by Alex Roslin (Sugar Hill)

Best Juvenile/Young Adult Crime Book:
Missing, by Kelley Armstrong (Doubleday Canada)
Chase, by Linwood Barclay (Puffin Canada)
The Disappearance, by Gillian Chan (Annick Press)
Thistlewood, by Donna Chubaty (Grasmere)
The Lives of Desperate Girls, by MacKenzie Common
(Penguin Teen Canada)

Best Crime Book In French:
Amqui, by Éric Forbes (Héliotrope Noir)
La vie rêvée de Frank Bélair, by Maxime Houde (Éditions Alire)
Les clefs du silence, by Jean Lemieux (Québec Amérique)
La mort en bleu pastel, by Maryse Rouy (Éditions Druide)
Les Tricoteuses, by Marie Saur (Héliotrope Noir)

Best Unpublished Manuscript:
The Alibi Network, by Raimey Gallant
Finn Slew, by Ken MacQueen
• Destruction in Paradise, by Dianne Scott
Dig, Dug, Dead, by Sylvia Teaves
Condemned, by Kevin Thornton

The winners of these prizes will be declared on May 24 during the annual Arthur Ellis Awards Gala in Toronto, Ontario.

* * *

The second set of contenders to broadcast are those vying for the 2018 Bloody Words Light Mystery Award (aka the Bony Blithe). This honor will be bestowed during the Bony Blithe Mini-con, which is to be held on May 25 (from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.) at the High Park Club in Toronto. The winner will receive $1,000 “plus a colourful plaque.”

Here are the five candidates:

The Case of the Unsuitable Suitor, by Cathy Ace (Severn House)
Dying on Second, by E.C. Bell (Tyche)
Digging up Trouble, by Rickie Blair (Barkley)
Hark the Herald Angels Slay, by Vicki Delany (Berkley)
Much Ado About Murder, by Elizabeth J. Duncan (Crooked Lane)

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

PaperBack: “Die by Night”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

Die by Night, by “M.S. Marble,” aka Margaret Strauss (Graphic, 1955). This book features the one and only appearance of gumshoe Joe Gaylord. Cover illustration by Walter Popp.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

But There’s Always More

Pressed as I was for time yesterday, I didn’t mention all of the crime-fiction news links I have collected lately. Here are a few more.

• How are the multiple scandals and bizarre news reports coming out of Donald Trump’s chaotic administration affecting today’s crime-fictionists? In an article for CrimeReads, Brad Parks explains:
Because of the long gestation period of a novel, we’re only just now seeing the first trickle of books that were developed, written, and edited during the ascendancy of President Trump and the head-spinning early days of his reign. With this in mind, I undertook a highly unscientific poll of agents, editors, and my fellow authors of crime fiction to ask them how this extraordinary time in history was impacting our genre—both in what’s being written, how it’s being written, and what is capturing readers’ attention.

What I found was, unlike so many things related to Trump, subtle and nuanced. There’s no great tsunami of forthcoming books in which an erratic narcissist in the White House casts juvenile taunts at foreign leaders while casually threatening nuclear war—and thank goodness, because we get enough of that already. It’s more a gentle lapping of smaller waves, created by authors who are no longer looking at this mad new world in quite the same way.
• CrimeReads has also posted—in relation to National Poetry Month—a list of mystery and thriller writers who’ve penned verse.

• In a piece for New York magazine’s fashion blog, The Cut, crime-fiction critic and editor Sarah Weinman writes about her bout with breast cancer and its potential connection to alcohol.

• What do publishers see as the trends made evident by much-anticipated novels being readied for release this spring and summer? Library Journal contributor Lisa Levy says we can look forward to more “suspense novels involving missing women,” abundant historical mysteries set during the 1920s and in the Victorian era, and works of “psychological suspense bordering on horror.”

From The Guardian: “While literary novels are sidelined, crime fiction is fast developing as the most versatile narrative of our times.”

• In The Trap of Solid Gold, Steve Scott looks back at John D. MacDonald’s hesitation about collecting his pulp-fiction tales.

• As longtime Rap Sheet readers know, one of my favorite private-eye films is Paul Newman’s Harper, which was adapted from Ross Macdonald’s 1949 novel, The Moving Target. So I was intrigued to see not just one, but two blogs recently address the many strengths of that 1966 film. Here is a review from Vintage45’s Blog; and clickety-clack here to read Raquel Stecher’s comments, in Out of the Past, on both Harper and its lesser, 1975 sequel, The Drowning Pool.

• Not long ago, my mailman brought me an advance reading copy of The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington, by Charles Rosenberg (Hanover Square Press), which I hope to read in advance of its late-June publication date. By odd coincidence, this arrived shortly before I received an e-mail note from a Web site that features all 1,399 installments of the 1974-1982 radio drama, CBS Radio Mystery Theater, suggesting that I enjoy a 1982 episode titled “The Washington Kidnap,” inspired by the same historical curiosity—a Revolutionary War plot, by British military forces, to apprehend then Continental Army commander George Washington.

• It was 112 years ago today that an earthquake and fire devastated San Francisco. Click here to read about those frightening events.

And let’s hear it for Batman—road-safety instructor.

A Send-off Full of Gratitude

It was only two days ago that I finished my voracious reading of Greeks Bearing Gifts, the penultimate novel by Philip Kerr, who passed away last month at age 62, just prior to the novel’s publication. British author Kerr had long been a favorite author of mine, someone whose writing combined Raymond Chandler’s poetic sarcasm about life and its disappointments with a historian’s grasp of world-changing events and their often-underappreciated impact on individuals.

Therefore, I was pleased to see this new post in Shotsmag Confidential, penned by my good friend and colleague Ali Karim, relating events from Kerr’s funeral, which was held this week at St. Mary’s Church in the London district of Wimbledon. Ali paid his last respects to Kerr in company with critic-author Mike Ripley. He writes:
It was a very sunny day in London, and the attendants mainly friends and family members, though we met up with Jane Wood, his [UK] editor, Carodoc King [Kerr’s literary agent], and saw [author] Sebastian Faulks as well as [actor] John Sessions.

There were readings from his children, Charlie, William and Naomi, and the priest recounted how Phil Kerr found faith later in life.

We were invited by the family back to their house, where they had catering and drinks for the guests. I got talking to the team from Quercus Publishing, including … Jane Wood. She confirmed that the final Bernie Gunther novel,
Metropolis, has been delivered [it’s due out in April 2019], and she confirmed Carodoc King’s assertion that “Metropolis is the finest and most complex and thrilling Bernie Gunther novel.”

So it was soon time to leave, [but] before heading off, Mike Ripley and I thanked Quercus Publishing and Phil’s family for a memorable celebration—though sad—for we came to represent the very best wishes from
Shots magazine, The Rap Sheet, January Magazine, and Deadly Pleasures Magazine (as we contribute to [all of] them).

One part of Carodoc King’s comments echoes in my mind, and is one that I deeply believe to be true: “despite all the published work of Philip Kerr, it will be Bernie Gunther that he will be remembered for.”
It’s heartbreaking to me that an author who has brought so much pleasure to my reading experiences over the years should have left us so early, and I am sorry that I could not attend his funeral myself. But I’m glad to know he was shown off with such manifest love.

Revue of Reviewers, 4-18-18

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Just a Few Things to Mention

• Good for Megan Abbott! Variety reports that cable television’s USA Network has ordered a pilot film based on her 2012 novel, Dare Me. The entertainment trade mag explains that the series will dive into “the cutthroat world of competitive high school cheerleading in a small Midwestern town through the eyes of two best friends after a new coach arrives to bring their team to prominence.” Abbott, who’s been working on scripts and as a story editor for the HBO-TV period drama The Deuce, is slated also to write USA’s Dare Me.

• Meanwhile, In Reference to Murder brings word that “HBO Documentary Films has acquired the rights to journalist Michelle McNamara’s bestselling true-crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, to develop as a docuseries. The project is a meticulous exploration of the case of an elusive, violent predator who terrorized California in the late 1970s and early ’80s. McNamara, the late wife of [comedian] Patton Oswalt, was in the midst of writing the book when she unexpectedly died in her sleep in 2016, leaving the book to be completed by McNamara’s lead researcher, Paul Haynes, and a close colleague, Billy Jenkin.”

• Like Martin Edwards, I’d not heard that prolific British mystery novelist Roderic Jeffries, “who also wrote as Jeffrey Ashford and Peter Alding, died last year at the age of 90.” Edwards goes on to write in his blog that Jeffries had been “living in Mallorca for over forty years, which perhaps explains not only why I’ve never come across him in person but also why his books have tended, in recent years, to be rather overlooked.”

• A huge loss to America’s airwaves: “Every weekday for more than three decades, his baritone steadied our mornings [on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition]. Even in moments of chaos and crisis, Carl Kasell brought unflappable authority to the news. But behind that hid a lively sense of humor, revealed to listeners late in his career, when he became the beloved judge and official scorekeeper for Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! NPR’s news quiz show. Kasell died Tuesday from complications from Alzheimer’s disease in Potomac, Md. He was 84.” Remembrances of Kasell’s career and kindnesses can be found here, here, and here.

• Not to be dwell overmuch on death … but I should also mention the passing of Tim O’Connor, the Chicago-born actor whose face was for so long a U.S. television fixture. He was 90 years old when he passed away in California on April 5. In his O’Connor obituary, blogger Terence Towles Canote observes that in the 1970s alone, O’Connor “guest starred on such shows as Mannix, Longstreet, Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, The F.B.I., The Manhunter, Get Christie Love!, The Rockford Files, All in the Family, The Six Million Dollar Man, Police Story, Cannon, Maude, Columbo, The Streets of San Francisco, Lou Grant, Police Woman, Wonder Woman, Barnaby Jones, and M*A*S*H. He starred in the first season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He appeared in the films Wild in the Sky (1972), The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972), Across 110th Street (1972), Sssssss (1973), and [the theatrical release] Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979).”

In the latest edition of Fiction/Non/Fiction, Literary Hub’s popular podcast, V.V. Ganeshananthan and Whitney Terrell, together with author Mat Johnson (Pym, Loving Day), “examine the omnipresent American comfort narrative of mystery and crime fiction,” and conclude that “all fiction is crime fiction.”

• Having enjoyed the previous comedic work of both Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends with Benefits) and Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon, I cannot help but hope that this summer’s The Spy Who Dumped Me is as quirky and fun as its trailer suggests. However, I’m not taking bets on that. According to Double O Section’s Matthew Bradford, the movie—due to premiere in August—focuses on “best friends who become embroiled in espionage when one of them (Kunis) discovers her ex was a secret agent.”

• New York journalist-author Julia Dahl picks her “top 10 books about miscarriages of justice” for The Guardian. Among her selections: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places.

Good news from novelist Sophie Hannah: “It has happened at last! Finally, the literary world is a meritocracy! Crime fiction—which I first became aware of as the Best Genre Ever when I read my first Enid Blyton mystery at six years old—is now officially the UK’s bestselling genre. Nielsen Bookscan data at the London book fair has revealed that crime novels in 2017, for the first time since Nielsen’s records began, sold more than the category rather vaguely labelled ‘general and literary fiction.’ Crime sales of have increased by 19% since 2015 to 18.7m, compared to the 18.1m fiction books sold in 2017.”

• Now this is my kind of public library!

• Looking for a Canadian suspense novel to take on vacation? Toronto’s Globe and Mail provides some worthy suggestions.

• Wow, Americans can find a way to get upset about nearly anything. Case in point: the hubbub over Taylor Swift’s cover version of “September,” a 1978 song recorded originally by Earth, Wind & Fire. To tell you the truth, I developed a serious dislike of the original, back when it was still so popular. It was standard fare at disco-music events when I was in college. There was a fairly attractive younger woman I knew there, who didn’t pay much attention to me—except during dances, when she seemed drawn to my side like an electromagnet, because I was a pretty good dancer, and I had great stamina. (Another partner and I actually won “Most Energetic Couple” honors after completing a dance marathon during my senior year.) Anyway, one of this woman’s favorite songs was “September,” so I danced to it frequently—enough times, that I swore I would promptly turn it off whenever I heard it on the radio in the future. That Ms. Swift has now adopted “September” for her own doesn’t make it any better or worse. I still cringe at hearing those lyrics.

• Some author interviews worth checking out: In both Crime Fiction Lover and BookRiot, Alison Gaylin and Megan Abbott talk about their new graphic novel, Normandy Gold; Crimespree Magazine’s Elise Cooper quizzes Kimberley “K.J.” Howe about her second thriller, Skyjack; Welsh writer Amy Lloyd (The Innocent Wife) is the latest subject of Crime Watch’s 9mm Q&A series; Speaking of Mysteries podcast host Nancie Clare chats with Mariah Fredericks (A Death of No Importance); Jeff Rutherford speaks with Matthew Pearl (The Last Bookaneer, The Dante Chamber) in Episode 224 of his own podcast, Reading and Writing; and the great Peter Lovesey takes the opportunity to fire questions at Anthea Fraser in advance of her 50th novel, Sins of the Fathers, to be released later this month.

• And it was nice to see The Rap Sheet chosen, by author Julia Spencer-Fleming, as one of her favorite mystery blogs.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Short of Length, Long on Talent

For a Sunday, this has been a fairly busy time for mystery-fiction news. First, we received word about which works have been longlisted for the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. And now comes the list of finalists for this year’s Derringer Awards, to be handed out by the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Best Flash Fiction (up to 1,000 words):
• “Cold Turkey,” by Patricia Dusenbury (Flash Bang Mysteries,
edited by Brandon Bourg, Summer 2017)
• “Happy Birthday,” by Alan Orloff (Shotgun Honey, June 15, 2017)
• “Final Testimony,” by Travis Richardson (Flash Fiction Offensive,
July 10, 2017)
• “Fishing for an Alibi,” by Earl Staggs (Flash Bang Mysteries,
Fall 2017)
• “Flash Point,” by Elizabeth Zelvin (A Twist of Noir, March 20, 2017)

For Best Short Story (1,001-4,000 words):
• “The Kids Keep Coming,” by David H. Hendrickson (from Fiction River: Tavern Tales, edited by Kerrie L. Hughes; WMG)
• “The Cop Who Liked Gilbert and Sullivan,” by Robert Lopresti (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, October 2017)
• “The New Score,” by Alison McMahan (from Fish Out of Water: A Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
• “The Bank Job,” by Stephen D. Rogers (Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures, March 16, 2017)
• “Every Picture Tells a Story,” by Cathi Stoler (from Where Crime Never Sleeps: Murder New York Style 4, edited by Elizabeth
Zelvin; Level Best)

For Best Long Story (4,001-8,000 words):
• “El Asesino,” by Rusty Barnes (Bull, May 22, 2017)
• “The #2 Pencil,” by Matt Coyle (from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, edited by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks; Down & Out)
• “Death in the Serengeti,” by David H. Hendrickson (from Fiction River: Pulse Pounders: Adrenaline, edited by Kevin J. Anderson; WMG)
• “Matricide and Ice Cream,” by William Burton McCormick (from The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour, edited by Martin Edwards; Orenda)
• “The Drive-By,” by Alison McMahan (from Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, edited by Verena Rose, Harriette Sackler, and Shawn Reilly Simmons; Level Best)

For Best Novelette (8,001-20,000 words):
• “Flowing Waters,” by Brendan DuBois (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January/February 2017)
• “Windward,” by Paul D. Marks (from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, edited by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks; Down & Out)
• “King's Quarter,” by Andrew McAleer (from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea)
• “Kill My Wife, Please,” by Robert J. Randisi (from Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea)
• “Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming,” by Tina Whittle (from Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas, edited by James M. Jackson and Jan Rubens; Wolf’s Echo Press)

According to the Short Mystery Fiction Society, “a vote of eligible SMFS members will determine the winners, to be announced in May 2018.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees!

PaperBack: “Death and Taxes”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

Death and Taxes, by Thomas B. Dewey (Berkley, 1968). Posting the paperback front of this novel—Dewey’s 13th starring the Chicago private eye known as “Mac”—seemed appropriate in the run-up to this week’s U.S. income tax filing deadline, April 17.

READ MORE:Death and Taxes: Tax Day Mysteries,” by Janet
Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Who’s Peculier Now?

Organizers of this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (to be held in the spa town of Harrogate, England, July 19-22) have announced their longlist of nominees for the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. The 18 contenders include both heavy hitters and lesser-knowns.

Want You Gone, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
The Midnight Line, by Lee Child (Bantam Press)
The Seagull, by Ann Cleeves (Macmillan)
Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (Picador)
The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
The Dry, by Jane Harper (Macmillan)
Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Death at Fountains Abbey, by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder & Stoughton)
He Said, She Said, by Erin Kelly (Hodder & Stoughton)
Sirens, by Joseph Knox (Doubleday)
The Accident on A35, by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband)
You Don’t Know Me, by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph)
Insidious Intent, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Harvill Secker)
A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Rather Be the Devil, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
The Intrusions, by Stav Sherez (Faber and Faber)
Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner (The Borough Press)

Festival officials tells us, “The shortlist of six titles will be announced on 27 May, followed by a six-week promotion in libraries and in W.H. Smith stores [across Britain]. The overall winner will be decided by the panel of judges, alongside a public vote. The public vote opens on 1 July and closes 14 July at”

Friday, April 13, 2018

McManus Leaves Behind Lots of Laughs

From The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington:
Patrick F. McManus, the New York Times best-selling author of books such as “Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink!” and “The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw,” died on Wednesday in Spokane. He was 84.

Patrick Francis McManus was born on Aug. 25, 1933, and grew up along the banks of Sand Creek outside Sandpoint [Idaho]. His father died when he was 6, leaving his mother, a school teacher, to raise him and his older sister. In interviews over the years, he spoke glowingly of his childhood as one where he would spend hours outdoors. His family may not have had a lot of money, but there was time and freedom to explore the world.

“I had a wonderful time as a child growing up,” he told Sandpoint Magazine in 1995. “I was down by the creek all the time and had all this freedom, running around all these mountains. (His friend) Vern and I took off one time and wandered around those mountains for a week. That’s not a bad way to grow up.”

As a humor columnist [for Outdoor Life magazine], he mined his own life for his stories, creating a beloved cast of characters based on people he knew from his childhood, guys like Rancid Crabtree and Crazy Eddie Muldoon, a dog named Strange, and even his sister, Patricia the Troll. McManus published two dozen books, and sold roughly 6 million copies, in his lengthy career. Several of those books were collections of his magazine humor columns, but he also wrote novels.
Among those novels the newspaper casually references were six “charmingly wry” (to quote Kirkus Reviews) mysteries starring Bo Tully, the middle-aged sheriff of fictional Blight County, Idaho. The first of the Tully books was 2006’s The Blight Way, while McManus’ final installment in the series was 2014’s Cicles in the Snow.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Changes Coming to “Granchester”

Good news! Grantchester, the 1950s-set British TV mystery based on James Runcie’s books about an Anglican vicar, Sidney Chambers, who solves crimes in his spare time, is being given a fourth season. Production of fresh episodes is scheduled to commence this coming June, with the new season expected to air in the United States as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series sometime in 2019.

Questions had arisen, after the broadcast of Season 3’s final episode last summer, as to whether we had seen the last of James Norton playing Chambers. (There’s been talk that he wants to tackle different projects, and he’s even been mentioned as a contender to portray secret agent James Bond, after Daniel Craig exists that prominent film role.) It’s a relief to put such fears to rest.

Now, though, for the less-good news. As Mystery Fanfare notes, “These will be the final episodes for Norton’s character Sidney Chambers, the charismatic, jazz-loving vicar who has captured the hearts of millions of viewers. Casting of a new vicar will be announced at a later date.” There’s no word yet on whether the program’s supporting cast—which includes Robson Green as Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, Tessa Peake-Jones as grumpy housekeeper Sylvia Maguire, and Al Weaver as junior Anglican curate Leonard Finch—will carry over into any revised version of Grantchester. And press releases about Season 4 and the series’ future haven’t mentioned whether Morven Christie, who played Chambers’ sometimes sweetheart on the series, Amanda Kendall Hopkins, has left the show.

Knowing Grantchester watchers might be uneasy about casting alterations, Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece, has been quoted as saying: “It’s a bittersweet time for Grantchester fans, who will be cheering the return of the series but crushed to say good-bye to James. We want to assure them that the series they love will continue with brilliant new episodes and a captivating new vicar.”

Let’s all hope for the best.

Dipping a Toe in the Water

Following the sudden disappearance last month of Spinetingler Magazine, there came word that co-founder and longtime editor Sandra Ruttan was starting a new crime-fiction publication called Toe Six Press. Today brought that periodical’s online debut, which features an “author snapshot” of Earl Javorsky (Down to No Good), a couple of book reviews, and a good-size interview with UK novelist Stuart MacBride. Also being offered are links to crime fiction-related stories found elsewhere on the Web and to posts in Palomino Mugging, a pop-culture blog written by Ruttan’s husband, Brian Lindenmuth.

What might the future bring for Toe Six Press? Ruttan says that “While there may be times that posts are made throughout the week, the current plan is to produce at least two online issues per month. At this time, the focus will be on author interviews and author features, as well as reviews.” Best of luck with this new venture!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

PaperBack: “To Keep or Kill”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

To Keep or Kill, by Wilson Tucker (Lion Library, 1956). As the fantasy lit blog Black Gate observes: “Wilson Tucker is a fascinating author. Although he wrote several acclaimed SF novels, including the Hugo and Nebula nominee The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970), and was even inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2003, he’s remembered today chiefly for his tireless contributions to fandom. Well, that and his habit of putting his friends into his novels—so much so that the literary term for this practice now bears his name: tuckerization.”
Cover illustration by Robert Maguire.

Swierczynski’s Countdown

Publishers Hard Case Crime and Titan Comics have appear to have gone all in when it comes to the joint production of graphic novels for regular readers of crime, mystery, and suspense fiction. They’ve already given us such series as Quarry’s War from Max Allan Collins, Triggerman by director Walter Hill, Peepland by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, and Normandy Gold by crime authors Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin; and this summer they’ll bring out a four-issue comic-book series, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of Spillane’s birth.

Now we can also look forward to Breakneck, a graphic-novel series penned by Duane Swierczynski (Canary, Revolver, Fun and Games, etc.). As Shotsmag Confidential explains, this will be a “gritty countdown crime thriller set in modern-day Philadelphia,” focusing on “a white-collar Everyman [who] is reluctantly forced into a race against the clock as he attempts to thwart an impending terrorist plot. Following an angry confrontation at a seedy no-tell motel, Joe Hayward is thrown headfirst into the middle of a frightening terrorist plot to bring Philadelphia to its knees. With less than two hours to thwart the attack, Joe is going to need all the help he can get … including that of the government agent his wife may be sleeping with!”

The Shots blog adds that “Breakneck is illustrated by Simone Guglielmini (Near Death), Raffaele Semeraro, and Lovern Kindzierski,” with Issue No. 1—due out in August—featuring a cover illustration by London-based freelance artist Fay Dalton.

Give Libraries Some Love

It’s only thanks to Mystery Fanfare that I know today is National Bookmobile Day. Having been someone who, as a boy, benefited greatly from the operation of these traveling libraries, I salute every effort made these days by cities and counties to keep such resources operating. Constantly making books available to children is by far the best way to turn them into curious, persistent learners.

Incidentally, we’re right in the midst of the 60th annual National Library Week (April 8-14), a celebration organized by the American Library Association. Yesterday, April 10, was apparently National Library Workers Day, an occasion for folks to “recognize the valuable contributions” made by library employees. And tomorrow, April 12, has been designated as Take Action for Libraries Day, “a national library advocacy effort observed for the first time in 2017 in response to proposed cuts to federal funds for libraries.”

I’ve written before on this page about my attachment to the public library of my youth, and its essential role in making me both a reader and a writer. It’s hard for me to even conceive of budget-slashing politicians or bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., denying future generations of children the same sorts of opportunities I had to explore our world and the universe through books, simply because they would prefer to hand more mammoth tax breaks to already wealthy Americans or sink trillions of additional dollars into war materiel. It is time for the United States to reassess some of its priorities.

FOLLOW-UP: In Reference to Murder blogger B.V. Lawson offers worthwhile recommendations to follow this week: “Look around your community and see if there are ways you can support your public and school libraries through volunteering, civic action, or participating in local programs. Here are some ideas to get you started.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Revue of Reviewers, 4-10-18

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

Monday, April 09, 2018

Thriller Seekers

The International Thriller Writers (ITW) organization today released its list of contenders for the 2018 Thriller Awards in six categories.

Best Hardcover Novel:
Ill Will, by Dan Chaon (Ballantine)
The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Little, Brown)
The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris (St. Martin’s Press)
Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips (Viking)
Final Girls, by Riley Sager (Dutton)

Best First Novel:
Deep Down Dead, by Steph Broadribb (Orenda)
Ragdoll, by Daniel Cole (Ecco)
The Red Line, by Walt Gragg (Berkley)
The Freedom Broker, by K.J. Howe (Quercus)
The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal (Morrow)

Best Paperback Original Novel:
Grievance, by Christine Bell (Lake Union)
Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine (Thomas & Mercer)
The Resurrector, by Layton Green (Layton Green)
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian Mckinty (Seventh Street)
The Day I Died, by Lori Rader-Day (Morrow)

Best Short Story:
• “Too Much Time,” by Lee Child (from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories; Delacorte)
• “What Could Possibly Go Boing?” by Mat Coward (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017)
• “Charcoal and Cherry,” by Zoë Z. Dean (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017)
• “The Kill Switch,” by Willy Vlautin (from The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers, and Dark Roads, edited by Patrick Millikin; Hachette)
• “Test Drive,” by Ben H. Winters (from The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers, and Dark Roads)

Best Young Adult Novel:
The Rains, by Gregg Hurwitz (Tor Teen)
The Boy She Left Behind, by Gregg Olsen (Polis)
To Catch a Killer, by Sheryl Scarborough (Tor Teen)
The Delphi Effect, by Rysa Walker (Skyscape)
Proof of Lies, by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (Entangled)

Best E-Book Original Novel:
Second Chance, by Sean Black (Sean Black)
Resurrection America, by Jeff Gunhus (Seven Guns Press)
Trojan, by Alan McDermott (Thomas & Mercer)
Witness, by Caroline Mitchell (Thomas & Mercer)
A Fragile Thing, by Kevin Wignall (Thomas & Mercer)

ITW will broadcast the winners of these prizes on July 14, during ThrillerFest XIII at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

Mentioned in Passing

• The folks behind the Spybrary podcast (“for fans of spy books and spy movies”) are looking for help in creating a Spybrary Shelf of Fame. Fans of the genre are invited to choose from dozens of pre-Cold War, Cold War-era, and post-Cold War tales, written variously by John le Carré, John Buchan, Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, W. Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Ian Fleming, Peter O’Donnell, Charles McCarry, Ted Allbeury, Graham Green, Jason Matthews, Alan Furst, and others. Polling is scheduled to remain open through Friday, April 20. Click here to make your preferences known.

• Note, too, that Spybrary host Shane Whaley has produced a “field report” from the inaugural Spy Con in Atlanta, Georgia.

• The Audio Publishers Association has announced the finalists for its 2018 Audie Awards. There are 26 categories of prizes, including two of likely interest to Rap Sheet fans. Among the Mystery and Thriller/Suspense contenders are David Lagercrantz’s The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, Ann Cleeves’ Telling Tales, John le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies, and B.A. Paris’ The Breakdown. Click here to see all of the rivals in those divisions. Winners will be declared on May 31.

Here’s a curious tidbit of history, plucked from the Web site Books Tell You Why: “Centuries before Ian Fleming would write James Bond into existence, another man signed letters with ‘007.’ That man, John Dee, was a mathematician, astronomer, and (some say) magician. He was also a trusted member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court. Some historians say that Dee was a spy for Elizabeth, thus making him an even more fitting inspiration for Ian Fleming’s hero.”

• William Henley Knoles (1926-1972) “was the greatest unknown writer of our time,” books historian Lynn Monroe asserts here. Under the pseudonym Clyde Allison, California writer Knoles produced an abundance of “spy-fi smut” novels during the 1960s and ’70s, many of them starring Trevor Anderson, Agent 0008. “The idea here, of course, is a sleaze riff on James Bond, or possibly even a riff on the many imitators of Bond,” explains Pulp International. “The dominant literary motif is satire, but as a wise man once said, just because it’s satirical doesn’t mean it’s smart or good.” Pulp International recently showcased the 20 installments from Knoles’ Agent 0008 series, the titles of which (Nautipuss, For Your Sighs Only, The Sex-Ray, etc.) do more than hint at their suggestive contents.

• More info on Knoles can be found in Killer Covers.

• BookRiot calls pulpish paperbacksthe clickbait of the ’50s,” explaining: “The standard cover used a realistic illustration and combined a shocking title, a scantily clad woman, and an intriguing front-cover blurb. These covers were the main selling point for a title. … One of the defining features of clickbait is also present in pulp novels: you don’t always get what you were promised.”

• CrimeReads looks back at how, during the mid-20th century, fresh editions of crime/detective novels that actually predated the era’s taste in salacious book fronts were given “ridiculously sexified covers … that were far racier than the actual book.”

• And Crime Fiction Lover picks “10 of the best pulp crime books.”

• In case you were wondering, Electric Lit’s Janet Frishberg reassures us, “it’s okay to give up on mediocre books.” Once “a compulsive book finisher,” she writes that two realizations helped her get over that behavior. “One, I realized literally NO ONE cares if I give up on a book except me. … Two, I realized that I’m going to die.”

New York magazine’s pop-culture Web site, Vulture, looks behind the scenes at “how 50 famous female characters were described in their screenplays.” Contributors Kyle Buchanan and Jordan Crucchiola explain that “Not every screenwriter takes the time to pen such a vivid character introduction—some include few details other than an estimated age or a few quick adjectives, preferring instead to let their dialogue do the talking—but many of our most famous screen women were originally created in those carefully composed sentences that few besides the actress, her writer, and their crew were lucky enough to read.” Below, for instance, is how Nora Charles was imagined for the 1934 film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man:
NORA CHARLES, Nick’s wife, is coming through. She is a woman of about twenty-six … a tremendously vital person, interested in everybody and everything, in contrast to Nick’s apparent indifference to anything except when he is going to get his next drink. There is a warm understanding relationship between them. They are really crazy about each other, but undemonstrative and humorous in their companionship. They are tolerant, easy-going, taking drink for drink, and battling their way together with a dry humor.
• Elizabeth Foxwell draws attention to this interview with Laura Thompson, author of the biography Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life, conducted by From the Bookshelf’s Gary Shapiro. Foxwell mentions that “Thompson calls Christie’s six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westamacott ‘gold,’ singling out Absent in the Spring (1944); calls Christie’s Five Little Pigs (1943) her best novel; and addresses Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926.” Listen here.

• While were on the subject of author interrogations, here are four more you really ought to check out: Speaking of Mysteries’ Nancie Clare talks with Sebastian Rotella about the third novel in his Valentine Pescadore series, Rip Crew; Dirty Books blogger Tom Leins quizzes Andrew Nette about his recently re-released novel, Gunshine State, which Nette calls “a very Australian take on the classic ‘heist gone wrong’ story”; for Unlawful Acts, David Nemeth goes one on one with L.A. Sykes about the latter’s “strong and savage book,” The Hard Cold Shoulder; and BookPage’s Cat Acree fires a few questions at Max Allan Collins, who edited The Last Stand, a pairing of two previously unpublished (and very different) works by Mickey Spillane.

• I read the first three novels in R.N. Morris’ Detective Inspector Silas Quinn series, set in Britain in the lead-up to World War I, so I was intrigued to hear that he has a new Quinn novel out in Britain, The Red Hand of Fury. That book is due out in the States in June.

• Finally, Sarah Weinman has a nice piece in CrimeReads recalling Howard Haycraft as mystery fiction’s “first great historian.”

Sunday, April 08, 2018

PaperBack: “The Murderer Who Wanted More”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

The Murderer Who Wanted More, by Baynard Kendrick (Dell, 1951). This outing for blind New York sleuth Duncan Maclain was originally published as a short story in the January 1944 issue of The American Magazine, but was later released as one of Dell’s 10-cent editions. The Maclain series is often cited as the inspiration for the 1971-1972 ABC-TV series Longstreet, starring James Franciscus. Cover illustration by Rafael de Soto.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Signing Off on Stanley

The Groom Lay Dead, by George Harmon Coxe (Dell, 1951).
Cover illustration by Robert Stanley.

Amid a veritable landslide of book scans, the blog Killer Covers this morning brought to a conclusion its 10-day salute to American paperback artist Robert Stanley (1918-1996).

The site explains this venture was conceived a full year ago, but was ultimately brought to fruition in a mad rush at the end of March. It commenced with the roll-out of “[Randal S.] Brandt’s excellent summation of the artist’s career; slid from there into a series of posts showcasing the range of Stanley’s attractive and frequently innovative book-façade illustrations; and led to a selection of the painter’s Western-fiction fronts and a remembrance of his work for men’s adventure magazines.” Today’s final display of Stanley’s efforts should cement in readers’ minds the fact that Stanley created some of the most recognizable paperback fronts of the mid-20th century.

If you weren’t keeping up with Killer Covers’ series, you can go back now and discover what the fuss was all about. Simply click here.

Critical Thinking

The Strand Magazine today announced its contenders for the 2018 Strand Critics Awards in two categories. They are:

Best Novel:
A Legacy of Spies, by John le Carré (Viking)
The Late Show, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (Harper)
My Darling Detective, by Howard Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)
Wonder Valley, by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco)

Best First Novel:
My Sister’s Bones, by Nuala Ellwood (Morrow)
Quicksand, by Malin Persson Giolito (Other Press)
August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho Press)
The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal (Morrow)
Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love (Crown)
See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Winners will be declared on July 11 during “an invitation-only cocktail party in New York City, hosted by The Strand Magazine.”

Meanwhile, the magazine has broadcast the names of the crime novelists to whom it will present Lifetime Achievement Awards this year: Jonathan Gash (aka John Grant), British creator of the antiques-focused Lovejoy mysteries; and Seattleite J.A. Jance, best recognized for her J.P. Beaumont series and her Joanna Brady series. Both of those authors will receive their commendations during that same July 11 fête. Also at that event, Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor/Forge books, will be given The Strand’s Publisher of the Year Award.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and honorees.