Thursday, May 05, 2016

Talton Takes the Owl

The Portland, Oregon-based fan group Friends of Mystery has announced that author and Seattle Times economics columnist Jon Talton has won its 2016 Spotted Owl Award for his novel High Country Nocturne (Poisoned Pen Press). The Spotted Owl is given out annually to a mystery novelist whose primary residence is in the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho; or in the Canadian province of British Columbia. A list of previous recipients is available here.

Also nominated for this year’s prize were: Her Final Breath, by Robert Dugoni, (Thomas & Mercer); Never Look Down, by Warren Easley (Poisoned Pen Press); A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George (Viking); Viking Bay, by M.A. (Mike) Lawson (Blue Rider Press); House Rivals, by Mike Lawson (Atlantic Monthly Press); Threshold, by G.M. Ford (Thomas & Mercer); Brutality, by Ingrid Thoft (Putnam); Vanishing Games, by Roger Hobbs (Knopf); and The Ville Rat, by Martin Limón (Soho Crime).

Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Pierce’s Picks

A periodic alert for followers of crime and thriller fiction.




The Strings of Murder, by Oscar de Muriel (Pegasus). This historical whodunit first caught my eye when the jacket of its British edition was featured among the 20 contenders in The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2015 contest; it wound up taking fifth place. Mexico City-born author De Muriel’s vivid, sometimes macabre, and often humorous tale has now (finally) made it to the States, and if you’re a fan of character-rich locked-room mysteries, you’ll want to pay it some attention. The story opens in November 1888, when foppish Inspector Ian Frey is dismissed from Scotland Yard amid a change of leadership, not only disappointing his well-to-do family (which always thought a policeman’s life was quite beneath him, anyway), but losing his fiancée in the process. Frey’s crime-solving skills have not gone unnoticed, however. In the aftermath of his losing that job, Prime Minister Lord Salisbury personally, but secretly, assigns him another: travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, to look into the vicious slaying of a violinist in his own home, a murder that’s frighteningly reminiscent of Jack the Ripper’s malevolent spree of just a few months back. Oh, and Frey will have to work in the Scottish capital with a dubious new police subdivision devoted to investigating apparitions and commanded by an eccentric, loud, bigger-than-life detective named Adolphus McGray, better known as “Nine-Nails” in recognition of his missing a finger. Frey has a longstanding antipathy toward the Scots, and he and McGray could hardly be more different from one another. Yet—despite their frequent exchanges of insults—the pair learn to work in concert, as they try to figure out who eviscerated virtuoso-teacher Guilleum Fontaine in his music studio, while leaving that room locked from the inside. Could this atrocity be linked to a purportedly famous, and perhaps also cursed, violin in Fontaine’s collection? Of what significance are the black magic symbols left on the floor? And why does Fontaine’s maid say she heard three musicians playing in that studio before the homicide took place? Although De Muriel’s insistence on making McGray speak in dialect slows his story a bit, there’s plenty here in the way of historical atmospherics, allusions to paranormal phenomena, and further killings to keep things charging ahead. Furthermore, the odd-couple partnership between the snobbish Frey and the uncouth McGray is entertaining enough to have spawned a sequel, A Fever of the Blood, which was released the UK earlier this year, and with any luck will make it to the States by 2017.

After so enjoying Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone (2014) and Hush Hush (2015), I’m more than willing to be led into the dicey psychological depths of Wilde Lake (Morrow), her latest standalone thriller. Luisa “Lu” Brant is the ambitious central figure in these pages. She’s recently been elected as the first woman to serve as state’s attorney for Howard County, Maryland—a position once held by her eminent father—and is looking for a case that will justify voters’ faith in her abilities. She thinks she’s found it in the prosecution of a rather unbalanced transient charged with fatally assaulting a woman in her own residence. However, the trial preparations fetch up distressing recollections of another tragedy, from 1980. That was when Lu’s brother, A.J., apparently saved the life of his best friend at the cost of another man’s future. A.J. was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. But as Lu pursues the present-day investigation and its dependence on memories, she wonders whether she knows the truth about her brother’s actions—and whether America’s legal system can even provide the answers she needs. As the blog BOLO Books notes, there are echoes here of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but Lippman strives for much more in Wilde Lake than mere imitation. The Washington Post’s Patrick Anderson calls it “one of her best novels and ... one of her most personal.”

Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Bullet Points: Pre-Mother’s Day Edition

• UK critic Mike Ripley is out with the May edition of his Shots column, “Getting Away with Murder.” His wide coverage this time ranges from his experiences at a “select dinner given in honour of Lindsey Davis” and a brief tribute to the late William McIlvanney, to notes about Émile Gaboriau (“widely regarded as France’s greatest writer of detective stories with the creation of his archetypal detective Monsieur Lecoq”), the London-based collective of female crime writers Killer Women, and new books from Andrew Taylor, Pierre Lemaitre, Joyce Carol Oates, Tony Parson, and others.

• Yesterday, April 2, marked the 14th birthday of Bookslut, the book review/author interview site founded in 2002 by Austin, Texas, resident Jessa Crispin. Unfortunately, there won’t be a 15th anniversary celebration. The publication just debuted its May 2016 issue and made clear that this will be the final installment of Bookslut. I only hope the site remains online as an archive, because there’s been a lot of excellent stuff in there over the years, well worth revisiting. Oh, and if you happen to be in New York City, note that a good-bye cocktail-and-conversation event will be held this coming Friday, May 6, at the Melville House Bookstore (46 John St., Brooklyn) for readers who’d like to give Bookslut editors a fond send-off.

• Adios, too, to ThugLit, the short-fiction publication—created and edited by Todd Robinson—that was launched as a free Webzine back in 2007, disappeared in 2010, and in 2012 was re-launched in e-book form. Contributor Jedidiah Ayres serves up a fond remembrance of his association with ThugLit in his blog, Hardboiled Wonderland.

• Back on the subject of birthdays … Today would have been Mary Astor’s 100th, had she not already died back in 1987, at age 81. Born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke in Illinois, she debuted in a 1921 film called Sentimental Tommy, but apparently her small part was ultimately trimmed from the picture. As Astor, she had much better success starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941). It’s that movie in which she is now best remembered (and from which the clip below comes), though she was also featured in Red Dust (1932), The Hurricane and The Prisoner of Zenda (both from 1937), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), A Kiss Before Dying (1956, based on Ira Levin’s novel of the same name), and Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), which apparently marked her final screen appearance.

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A brief look back at Bogart’s film career.

• This seems unlikely, but according to In Reference to Murder, it’s true: “Office alum[nus] John Krasinski has been cast as the next Jack Ryan in the TV series project based on Tom Clancy’s popular CIA hero, coming to Amazon via Paramount TV. While there is no official green light yet, the move is seen as a way to help secure a series order.”

• Check out Killer Covers’ quite beautiful, and certainly diverse, gallery of vintage paperback fronts featuring brass beds.

• An Agatha Christie graphic novel? That’s right, next week brings the release of Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie. It’s written by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau, illustrated by Alexandre Franc, and published by British imprint SelfMadeHero. As the blog Past Offences explains, “the 128-page book uses ... Christie’s infamous [1926] disappearance as a way into her life story.”

• You can tell that summer’s on its way, because both Cross-Examining Crime and Ah, My Sweet Mystery Blog (a new discovery for me) have stories up about novels to take along on your next warm-weather vacation.

• Lovely Swedish actress Alicia Vikander was such a delight in last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. film, that I was dearly hoping for a sequel. That’s unlikely to happen, according to The Spy Command, but at least Vikander won’t be without work. Moviefone reports that the 27-year-old “has just landed the plum role of Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot,” replacing Angelina Jolie.

• David Hofstede pays tribute to Get Smart’s ludicrous Cone of Silence in his blog, Comfort TV. “Introduced in the first episode of Get Smart, the Cone of Silence would inspire some of the biggest laughs on what many would argue is still the funniest television series ever created,” he observes.

• If you’re a regular Rap Sheet reader, you know I’m a confirmed fan of the 1972-1974 NBC whodunit Banacek. You can also assume that I gave a small but discernible gasp at learning (only this afternoon!) that a new book about that stylish George Peppard series has been published by BearManor Media. Titled “There’s An Old Polish Proverb That Says, ‘BANACEK’”: A Behind-the-Scenes History and Episode Guide to the 1972-1974 NBC Mystery Movie Series, it was composed by TV historian Jonathan Etter, who also wrote the book Quinn Martin, Producer. Frankly, I can’t order this book fast enough!

• Another work to anticipate: People (like yours truly) who enjoyed Walter Satterthwait’s Miss Lizzie, a 1989 novel that found alleg
ed Massachusetts murderess Lizzie Borden helping pubescent Amanda Burton to solve a 1921 ax slaying, will be interested to know that Satterthwait has penned a sequel. Titled New York Nocturne: The Return of Miss Lizzie and set in 1925 Manhattan, it reunites the now 16-year-old Amanda with Borden in a case involving the hatchet murder of Amanda’s uncle. Publishers Weekly opines that “The novel’s assured and witty voice holds its disparate elements together, and Satterthwait deftly captures the verve of the Prohibition era as well as its unsavory edges.” New York Nocture is due out from Mysterious Press/Open Road in early June.

• How did readers come by their image of Florida “salvage consultant”/investigator Travis McGee? Steve Scott answers that question in The Trap of Solid Gold:
Once John D. MacDonald made the decision to create the series character Travis McGee, he wrote three versions of the first novel before coming up with a person he could “live with.” He sent the book off to his editor at Fawcett Gold Medal, Knox Burger, with the request to hold off publishing it until he could come up with some additional adventures, and once he had three done the go-ahead was given to begin publishing. Then began the editorial preparations for publication, including cover art.

In what seems like an unusual move, Burger chose to have the early covers illustrated by two different artists: one for the main cover and one for an inset of a portrait of McGee himself. Why this was done is anybody’s guess at this point, although I’m sure there is evidence among the MacDonald papers at the University of Florida. Perhaps a clue can be found in the particular artists Burger chose to do these covers, Ron Lesser and, for the likeness of McGee, John McDermott.

Both had done work for Gold Medal up to that point in late 1963, but McDermott was responsible for doing the covers of another crime series, Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm. Beginning with the sixth entry in the series,
The Ambushers, published in 1963, McDermott took over the cover duties and began adding an inset depiction of Helm. When Fawcett began reprinting earlier titles they had McDermott create new illustrations along with his version of Helm. This was right around the time that MacDonald was submitting his manuscripts of the McGee novels, and I guess Burger thought it a good idea to have McDermott do the same for McGee. Why he chose Lesser to do the covers proper—always a beautiful girl in some unusual pose—and not McDermott is not known. Perhaps he didn’t want the two series to become confused in the minds of his customers.
• Meanwhile, Dennis Lehane delivers this tribute to John D. MacDonald, which is part of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s evolving “John D. and Me” series being published in anticipation of the July 24 centennial of MacDonald’s birth.

In Paste Monthly, Kenneth Lowe looks at Hollywood’s fascination with Dashiell Hammett’s crime and detective fiction.

• If you missed President Barack Obama’s uproarious performance at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, you can still catch it in Slate. Remarks Daniel Politi: “The best part … came at the end. ‘I would like to close on these two words: Obama out,’ the president said before literally dropping the mic.”

This trailer for Penny Dreadful, the Showtime TV horror drama starring Eva Green and Timothy Dalton, is so compelling that I might actually have to give that show (the third season of which debuted on May 1) another chance. I watched the first few episodes of Penny Dreadful, but it seemed too dark even for me.

More here about the original “penny dreadfuls.”

• I may have heard this story before, or maybe not, but evidently South African-born British actor Basil Rathbone resented his over-identification with Sherlock Holmes, the character he played in 14 feature films during the 1930s and ’40s. “‘I was … deeply concerned with the problem of being “typed,” more completely “typed” than any other classic actor has ever been or ever will be again,’ he wrote in his autobiography,” according to Bright Lights Film Journal.

• And that might well be the most awkward way possible of introducing this piece from Tipping My Fedora, in which Sergio Angelini recalls that “For many [1944’s The Scarlet Claw] is the best of the Holmes and Watson films made by Universal.”

• Listen up, all you Star Trek fans: Keith DeCandido is currently in the midst of a Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch over at Tor.com. He’s just finished commenting on Season 2—which included three of my favorite episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “A Piece of the Action,” and the back-door pilot, “Assignment: Earth”—and is now moving on to Season 3. Catch up with all of his posts here.

• Last but not least, The Raymond Chandler Website is back! Its founder-editor, Robert F. Moss, who wrote Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference (as well as an essay for The Rap Sheet about Chandler’s fondness for gimlets), noted in his blog how the site had “disappeared from the Internet for a while when we lost the server on which it was being hosted. Now we’ve finally gotten the site back up and live … [though] we are still in the process of shaking out the broken links and doing a general bit of dusting and polishing …”

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Day at the Races



Perhaps not surprisingly, I survived yesterday’s Independent Bookstore Day “Champion Challenge,” though there were a few moments, especially late in the afternoon, when I could hardly imagine the thought of unbending myself from the car and venturing into yet another Seattle bookshop. The photograph above, taken about halfway through the expedition, shows me (second from the left) at Island Books on Mercer Island with store employees, other Challenge participants, and my two teammates, James Crossley (third from the left, with the old prophet-style beard) and Matthew Fleagle (third from the right, in the glasses). As I noted previously, the goal here was to visit at least 17 of the 21 participating indie stores. If we could accomplish that task by the close of business on Saturday, we’d win a one-year, 25 percent discount at all of those retail outlets.

To give you a sense of this adventure, here are a few stats.

Time we started out: 7 a.m., when the three of us met for a hearty breakfast at Pete’s Egg Nest in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. We traveled in a rented orange, very compact Fiat 500.

First bookstore reached, by ferry across Puget Sound: Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island at about 9 a.m.

Total number of ferry trips necessary: 2, one from Seattle west to Bainbridge Island, and the second from Kingston east to Edmonds (which is north of Seattle).

Number of books purchased along the way: 2, including a 1977 paperback copy of Ross Macdonald’s The Far Side of the Dollar, boasting cover artwork by Mitchell Hooks and bought at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Number of books I really wanted to purchase: probably in excess of 30, including 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, by Eric H. Cline, and Richard Russo’s brand-new Everybody’s Fool (his sequel to 1993’s Nobody’s Fool).

Number of bookstores visited yesterday that I had never popped in on before: 3 (Island Books, Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, and Ada’s Technical Books and Café—all of which I’ll return to later).

(Left) Celebrating the end of our day-long journey, at Elliott Bay: Nothing says success like tequila in a paper cup.

Number of times we had to stop for gas: 1

Number of complimentary cookies ingested during the excursion: plus or minus 20

Number of complimentary chili dogs ingested: 1, at Book Larder, a cookbook store in the Fremont neighborhood, where author Kathleen Flinn was promoting her latest work, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir with Recipes from an American Family.

1 lesson learned, in case I ever do this again: take water along! Hours into the trip, I realized that I was severely dehydrated and had to rush into a quickie mart for bottled refreshment.

Number of wrong turns: maybe half a dozen, most of which involved our trying to locate Liberty Books in Poulsbo. At one point, James’ smartphone seemed so confused by our twisting peregrinations, that it finally begged us to make a U-turn. Now!

Number of bands encountered: 1, at Mockingbird Books, a children’s store in the Green Lake area.

Number of tequila shots drunk: 1, at Elliott Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill, where we concluded our circuit of shops at 8:30 p.m.

Number of bookstore visits required to earn our 25-percent discount: 17

Number of bookstores actually visited: an overachieving 19

Number of hours spent on the Champion Challenge: 11.5

Number of times I asked myself, “Why in the hell did you join this crazy escapade?”: 0. It was actually a delight from start to finish. I recommend it to any book nerds who can spend an entire day discovering, or rediscovering, some of the dozens of independent bookstores Seattle offers.

I understand that at some point in the next two weeks, all of us who completed this competition will be asked to gather together to celebrate our accomplishment and receive our discount certificates. I expect to learn then how many people were actually running the course. In 2015—the first year this Challenge was mounted in Seattle—42 participants finished. It’s hard to know exactly how many people did the same thing this year, as many of the Seattleites visiting stores yesterday had set themselves a more modest goal: three bookstore stops only, which entered them in a drawing for mystery prizes. Judging from my own experience of the day, I’d guess that the number of people calling on at least 17 stores doubled this year.

Malice Has Its Rewards

Last evening, during a presentation at the annual Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, it was announced which authors and books have won the 2016 Agatha Awards. They are as follows ...

Best Contemporary Novel: Long Upon the Land, by Margaret Maron (Grand Central)

Also nominaed: Burned Bridges, by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press); The Child Garden, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink); Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny (Minotaur); and What You See, by Hank Phillipi Ryan (Forge)

Best Historical Novel: Dreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King (Bantam)

Also nominated: Malice at the Palace, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley); The Masque of a Murderer, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur); Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante, by Susan Elia Macneal (Bantam); and Murder on Amsterdam Avenue, by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel: On the Road with Del & Louise, by Art Taylor
(Henery Press)

Also nominated: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, by Tessa Arlen (Minotaur); Macdeath, by Cindy Brown (Henery Press); Plantation Shudders, by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane); and Just Killing Time, by Julianne Holmes (Berkley)

Best Non-fiction: The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story, by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)

Also nominated: The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes, by Zack Dundas (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie, by Kathryn Harkup (Bloomsbury USA); Unsolved Murders and Disappearances in Northeast Ohio, by Jane Ann Turzillo (Arcadia); and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For, edited by Kate White (Quirk)

Best Short Story: “A Year Without Santa Claus?” by Barb Goffman (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine [AHMM], January/February 2015)

Also nominated: “A Questionable Death,” by Edith Maxwell (from History and Mystery, Oh My!, edited by Sarah E. Glenn; Mystery & Horror, LLC); “A Killing at the Beausoleil,” by Terri Farley Moran (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November 2015); “Suffer the Poor,” by Harriette Sackler (from History and Mystery, Oh My!); and “A Joy Forever,” by B.K. Stevens (AHMM, March, 2015)

Best Children’s/Young Adult: Andi Unstoppable, by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)

Also nominated: Pieces and Players, by Blue Balliett (Scholastic Press); Need, by Joelle Charbonneau (HMH Books for Young Readers); Woof, by Spencer Quinn (Scholastic Press); and Fighting Chance, by B.K. Stevens (Poisoned Pen Press)

As Les Blatt notes in his Classic Mysteries blog, “The Agatha Awards are presented to honor books written in the ‘traditional mystery’ style exemplified by the works of Agatha Christie and others. They have no explicit sex, gratuitous gore, or extreme violence. Attendees at Malice Domestic voted by secret ballot to select the winners.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees!

READ MORE:Malice, Agatha & More,” by Art Taylor.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Outing to the Indies



Today is Independent Bookstore Day, an unofficial but very important occasion. As the San Francisco Chronicle reminds us, this celebration was “conceived as California Bookstore Day in 2014 … [but] went nationwide last year, expanding to 350 stores.” This is your opportunity to invest in the future of reading and especially the survival of neighborhood bookshops. Should you have such a business within walking or driving distance, make a point of visiting there today and dropping some dollars for your next great reading experience. Let’s face it: If we want independent bookstores to still be around 10, 20, 30, or more years from now (as I most certainly do), then one way to help make that happen is to shop there ourselves. Often!

Even as you read this, I am happily driving around the Seattle area with a pair of compatriots, taking part in the so-called Champion Challenge. As this city’s cheekiest weekly tabloid, The Stranger, explains, the goal here is to visit all 17 participating indie stores. If we can reach the whole lot before closing time this evening, we’ll each earn a 25 percent discount—at every one of those retailers—that will be good until next April. “If you think it’s impossible,” the paper adds, “think again—last year 42 nerds earned their wings, and saved a bunch of money on book purchases.” OK, so now I’m a certified book nerd—not that I couldn’t have been pegged as one before.

Wish me luck!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sensational Treats

Because I am adamantly opposed to its neoconservative politics, I very rarely have reason to look at The Weekly Standard (a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication), much less recommend its contents. However, I enjoyed its recent piece about 19th-century English novelist Wilkie Collins. In it, Sara Lodge observes that
Collins wrote over 20 novels, but today is chiefly remembered for two: The Moonstone (1868), arguably the first English detective novel, and The Woman in White (1859), a breathless mystery involving spousal abuse and attempted homicide, doubles, incarceration, madness, and a ground-breaking narrative method in which we hear from several different narrators in turn, as if they were witnesses in court, and piece the "truth" together from their fractured accounts.

These novels electrified 19th-century Britain and America. Indeed, the genre of which Collins was the presiding master became known as the "sensation novel." Thomas Hardy complained that such fiction contained "murder, blackmail, illegitimacy, impersonation, eavesdropping, multiple secrets, a suggestion of bigamy, amateur and professional detectives." The sales figures attest that being shocked was a guilty pleasure that thousands of Victorians relished.

Where the Gothic novels of the previous century had depicted horrors that occurred in the monasteries and castles of Roman Catholic Italy and France, Collins pioneered a domestic Gothic that played out in ordinary, contemporary British streets and houses: what he dubbed "the secret theatre of home." His novels suggest the possibility that we are all impersonating someone and we are all hiding something. Freudian psychoanalysis would develop these insights, arguing that what is
unheimlich (uncanny) is precisely that which is heimlich (domestic). We are the monsters of whom we are afraid.
You will find Lodge’s whole article here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

And the Edgars Go To …

Thanks to the hundreds of people attending tonight’s Edgar Awards ceremony in New York City—many of whom claim Twitter accounts or Facebook pages, and damn fast typing fingers—we have been able to compile the list of who and what won those various prizes.

Best Novel: Let Me Die in His Footsteps, by Lori Roy (Dutton)

Also nominated: The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter (Putnam); The Lady from Zagreb, by Philip Kerr (Putnam); Life or Death, by Michael Robotham (Mulholland); Canary, by Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland); and Night Life, by David C. Taylor (Forge)

Best First Novel by an American Author: The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press)

Also nominated: Past Crimes, by Glen Erik Hamilton (Morrow); Where All Light Tends to Go, by David Joy (Putnam); Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll (Simon & Schuster); and Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm (Viking)

Best Paperback Original: The Long and Faraway Gone,
by Lou Berney (Morrow)

Also nominated: The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, by Malcolm Mackay (Mulholland); What She Knew, by Gilly Macmillan (Morrow); Woman with a Blue Pencil, by Gordon McAlpine (Seventh Street); Gun Street Girl, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street); and The Daughter, by Jane Shemilt (Morrow)

Best Fact Crime: Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully, by Allen Kurzweil (Harper)

Also nominated: Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide, by Eric Bogosian (Little, Brown); Where the Bodies Were Buried: Whitey Bulger and the World that Made Him, by T.J. English (Morrow); Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime, by Val McDermid (Grove Press); and American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic, by John Temple (Lyons Press)

Best Critical/Biographical: The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story, by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)

Also nominated: The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, by Frederick Forsyth (Putnam); Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (Arcade); Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica, by Matthew Parker (Pegasus); and The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett, by Nathan Ward (Bloomsbury USA)

Best Short Story: “Obits,” by Stephen King (in Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King; Scribner)

Also nominated: “The Little Men,” by Megan Abbott (Mysterious Bookshop); “On Borrowed Time,” by Mat Coward (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], May 2015); “The Saturday Night Before Easter Sunday,” by Peter Farrelly (in Providence Noir, edited by Ann Hood; Akashic); “Family Treasures,” by Shirley Jackson (in Let Me Tell You, edited by Laurence Jackson Hyman and Sarah Hyman DeWitt; Random House); and “Every Seven Years,” by Denise Mina (Mysterious Bookshop)

Best Juvenile: Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, by Susan Vaught (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman)

Also nominated: Catch You Later, Traitor, by Avi (Workman); If You Find This, by Matthew Baker (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers); Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester (HarperCollins Children’s Books); and Blackthorn Key, by Kevin Sands (Aladdin)

Best Young Adult:
A Madness So Discreet, by Mindy McGinnis (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen)

Also nominated: Endangered, by Lamar Giles (HarperTeen); The Sin Eater’s Daughter, by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic Press); The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma (Workman); and Ask the Dark, by Henry Turner (Clarion)

Best Television Episode Teleplay: “Gently with the Women,”
George Gently, teleplay by Peter Flannery (Acorn TV)

Also nominated: “Episode 7,” Broadchurch, teleplay by Chris Chibnall (BBC America); “Elise,” Foyle’s War, teleplay by Anthony Horowitz (Acorn TV); “Terra Incognita,” Person of Interest, teleplay by Erik Mountain and Melissa Scrivner Love (CBS/Warner Brothers); and “The Beating of Her Wings,” Ripper Street, teleplay by Richard Warlow (BBC America)

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award:
“Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick,” by Russell W. Johnson
(EQMM, January 2015)

Grand Master:
Walter Mosley

Raven Awards:
Margaret Kinsman and Sisters in Crime

Ellery Queen Award:
Janet Rudolph, founder of Mystery Readers International

The Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark Award: Little Pretty Things, by Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street)

Also nominated: A Woman Unknown, by Frances Brody (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne); The Masque of a Murderer, by Suzanna Calkins (Minotaur); Night Night, Sleep Tight, by Hallie Ephron (Morrow); and The Child Garden, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)

Congratulations to all of the writers taking home awards tonight!

READ MORE:Viet Thanh Nguyen Adds Edgar Award to Pulitzer Triumph,” by Alison Flood (The Guardian).

Bullet Points: Discoveries and Losses Edition

• The next few days will bring plenty of welcome excitement to the American crime-fiction community. Tonight we can expect to hear which books and fortunate authors have won the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America (the list of nominees is here). And then, as Les Blatt reminds me, tomorrow begins this year’s Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, during which the latest batch of Agatha Awards is to be handed ’round (click here to be reminded of the contenders). I’ll post the winners in both contests as soon as I receive the results.

• In Reference to Murder reports that “Harper Lee’s biographer, Charles J Shields, believes he’s found a new, previously unknown Harper Lee text, a feature article written for the March 1960 issue of the Grapevine, a magazine for FBI professionals. The article focused on the gruesome [1959] murders of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, at their farmhouse in Kansas, the subject of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Lee accompanied Capote, her childhood friend, on his assignment for The New Yorker, reporting on how the community was reacting to the brutal murders.”

• This Sunday, May 1, will bring the sixth and last episode of Grantchester, Season 2, a PBS-TV Masterpiece offering based on James Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries. (A third season has already been ordered. You will find recaps of the second-season eps here.) Beginning on Sunday, May 8, Masterpiece will begin hosting the final, three-episode run of Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander. Omnimystery News has a brief synopsis of the show; a preview clip is below.

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• Here’s something I haven’t seen in, oh, four decades, and might not have spotted even now had it not been for a tip from author-publisher Lee Goldberg. As you may know or perhaps remember, from the fall of 1975 through most of 1978, Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert starred in a CBS-TV detective drama titled Switch. They portrayed Los Angeles private-eye partners, Wagner’s Peterson T. Ryan being an erstwhile con man, while Albert played retired bunco cop Frank McBride. A few years ago, I managed to purchase a bootleg copy of the Season 1 episodes of Switch (the show’s best year, from what I recall), but the guy who sold it to me didn’t also have available the series’ 90-minute pilot film, Las Vegas Roundabout (originally shown on March 21, 1975). Ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for that pilot—and thanks to Goldberg, I finally found it! Click here to watch the movie for yourself. It co-stars Sharon Gless, Charlie Callas, Charles Durning, Jaclyn Smith, and Ken Swofford.

• In addition to carrying early reviews of Shaft: Imitation of Life, Part 3, the latest graphic-novel collaboration between by David F. Walker and artist Dietrich Smith, Steve Aldous—author of The World of Shaft—has posted in his blog Dynamite Entertainment’s Robert Hack-painted cover for the paperback reprint of Ernest Tidyman’s original, 1970 novel, Shaft, due out in August.

• Vince Keenan has a splendid piece in his blog about screenwriter and novelist Roy Huggins (1914-2002), who’s best known for creating TV series such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Rockford Files, but who also scripted the 1949 noir film Too Late for Tears.

• Critic-anthologist Sarah Weinman notes, in the latest edition of her newsletter, The Crime Lady, that
Masako Togawa, icon of Japanese cabaret and of crime fiction, died earlier this week in her mid-80s (I’ve seen reports of her being 83 and 85). Her work was woefully under-translated into English; just four of dozens of novels, and a single short story that [Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine] published in the late 1970s. My own favorites are The Master Key and Lady Killer, dark, psycho-sexual examinations of femaleness and oppression that were weird and prescient, and both fit well within American and UK domestic suspense and also blasted right past. I also wish I could have seen the TV show she starred in and produced, Playgirl, which essentially predicted Charlie’s Angels but without the overseeing male specter; it was all badass women. It’s sad to think Togawa’s death might spur some enterprising publisher to translate and issue her work in a proper manner, but if that’s what it takes, then somebody do that. (Also see Jiro Kimura’s short obit and reminiscence.)
My favorite cover of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

• Congratulations to Linda Boa and her crime fiction-oriented blog Crimeworm, which today turns two years old.

• Let’s also hear a hearty round of applause for Patricia Abbott’s weekly “forgotten books” series, which celebrated its eighth anniversary a few days ago. The Rap Sheet’s many contributions to that series can be enjoyed here.

• I noted earlier this month that Ian Fleming’s onetime literary agent, Peter Janson-Smith, had passed away at age 93. But now author Raymond Benson, who revived Fleming’s James Bond series long after the creator’s death, offers up a short tribute in CinemaRetro.

• Since I recently interviewed Con Lehane, author of the April series opener Murder at the 42nd Street Library, I was very interested to read his summation of that particular New York City library’s abundant “wonders,” posted in Criminal Element.

• Yeah, yeah, it’s only the end of April. But Bill Ott, who reviews crime, mystery, and thriller fiction for the American Library Association’s Booklist, has already selected what he says are the best crime novels of 2016 (as reviewed in Booklist from May 1, 2015, through April 15, 2016). Included among his picks: Don Winslow’s The Cartel, Bill Beverly’s Dodgers, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele, and Lori Rader-Day’s Pretty Little Things. In addition, Ott chooses—at the same link—a number of standout crime-fiction debuts, among them Nicholas Seeley’s Cambodia Noir, L. S. Hilton’s Maestra, and Scott Frank’s Shaker. This is certainly a thoughtful rundown of recent genre releases, but I think I’ll wait until December to assemble my own subjective tally of the years “bests.” (Hat tip to Randal S. Brandt)

• Registration is now open for NoirCon 2016, which is set to take place in Philadelphia, October 26-30. If you wish to attend but haven’t yet registered, you can do so either online or via snail-mail.

• R.I.P., James Bond film director Guy Hamilton.

• Republican former House Speaker John Boehner’s recent remarks about underdog GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz being “Lucifer in the flesh … I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” inevitably reminded me of a post I composed last November for my Killer Covers blog.

• Alex Segura, author of the recent Miami-set novel, Down the Darkest Street, has put together a list, for Mental Floss, of his eight favorite Florida crime-fiction characters.

Here’s a perfect gift for fans of historical true crime.

• While we’re on the subject of weird history, consider this tale from The Lineup about a husband who had so much trouble being parted from his deceased wife, that he eventually moved right into her mausoleum at Brooklyn, New York’s Evergreen Cemetery.

• Wow, the roster of guest performers scheduled to appear in the coming Twin Peaks revival (set to air on Showtime at some as-yet-undecided date in 2017) has grown immensely.

• Meanwhile, the first trailer is available for the film adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train (which was one of my favorite crime novels of 2015). The action has apparently been moved from London to New York City, but the trailer suggests that most of Hawkins’ original intent has been maintained on screen. This film, which is due for release in early October, stars Emily Blunt as Rachel Watson, “a heavy-drinker who develops an obsession with a couple she regularly sees while on her commute to work,” explains The Guardian. “After the woman disappears, Rachel becomes entangled in the investigation.” Watch the trailer for yourself here.

From Mystery Fanfare:Dean Street Press announces the first 10 Patricia Wentworth novel reissues will be out on May 2. This is part of a major project to republish all 33 of her non-Miss Silver mysteries, some of which haven’t been in print or available for many decades. The remaining 23 will be published in a further two batches in June and July. The first 10 include the four Benbow Smith mysteries, featuring the eminence grise Benbow Smith, and his loquacious parrot Ananias. The first batch also includes Silence in Court from 1945, which is an exceptional courtroom mystery.”

• Although he wasn’t technically invited to contribute to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s “John D. and Me” series of posts, all celebrating the coming July 24 centennial of John D. MacDonald’s birth, educator-turned-novelist Bill Crider decided to post his own remembrance of MacDonald’s influence on his reading and writing life.

• The next time I read a new work described as a “fiction novel,” I’m going to haul my sorry ass out to some secluded spot and scream at the top of my lungs. Pay attention, people! Think before you write!

• Tipping My Fedora blogger Sergio Angelini decided to poll his readers on the subject of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films from each decade of the director’s career. He wound up with 11 selections, including Blackmail (1929), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Birds (1963), Psycho (1960), and Rear Window (1954). You’ll have to click here to see which production won the most votes.

• Jordan Foster, formerly an editor at The Life Sentence, chooses 10 of her favorite police-procedural writers for Library Journal. I’m pleased to see both John Ball (author of the Virgil Tibbs novels) and Elizabeth Linington (aka Dell Shannon, creator of the Lieutenant Luis Mendoza series) make the cut.

•  A few interviews worth checking out: Laura Lippman talks with Baltimore magazine about her brand-new standalone thriller, Wilde Lake; Dan Fesperman gives Speaking of Mystery’s Nancie Clare the lowdown on his new historical mystery, The Letter Writer; Allison Brennan talks with Crimespree’s Elise Cooper about her psychologically intense new tale, Poisonous; and Chet Williamson addresses questions from Crime Fiction Lover about Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium, his follow-up to Bloch’s 1959 novel.

• And it’s quite pleasing to see another reader fall for the multiple delights of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series (The Other Side of Silence). “I think there are three elements that make the books so fascinating,” David Edgerley Gates writes in SleuthSayers. “The first is historical irony. In more than one novel, actually, the story’s framed with a look back, from the later 1940s or the early 1950s. Secondly, there’s a constant sense of threat, the Nazi regime [being] a bunch of backstabbers ... One dangerous patron is Reinhard Heydrich, a chilly bastard who meets an appropriate end. And thirdly, Bernie is really trying to be a moral person, against all odds. You go along to get along, to simply survive, in a nest of vipers, and hope it doesn’t rub off on you. After seeing the Special Action Groups at work in Russia, and himself participating, Bernie is sickened by the whole enterprise. He suspects, too, that the handwriting’s on the wall.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seeking CrimeFest Rewards

The organizers of this year’s CrimeFest—which is set to take place in Bristol, England, from May 19 through 22—have announced the nominees for five different awards to be given out during a special ceremony on Saturday, May 21. They are as follows …

Audible Sounds of Crime Award (for best unabridged
crime audiobook):

Sleep Tight, by Rachel Abbott; read by Melody Grove and
Andrew Wincott (Whole Story Audiobooks)
Make Me, by Lee Child; read by Jeff Harding
(Random House Audiobooks)
The Stranger, by Harlan Coben; read by Eric Meyers (Orion)
Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith; read by Robert Glenister (Hachette Audio)
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins; read by Clare Corbett, India Fisher, and Louise Brealey (Random House Audiobooks)
Finders Keepers, by Stephen King; read by Will Patton
(Hodder & Stoughton)
The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz;
read by Saul Reichlin (Quercus)
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh; read by David Thorpe and
Julia Barrie (Hachette Audio)
Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin; read by
James Macpherson (Orion)

Kobo eDunnit Award (for the best crime fiction e-book):
Broken Promise, by Linwood Barclay (Orion)
The Crossing, by Michael Connelly (Orion)
A Bed of Scorpions, by Judith Flanders (Allison & Busby)
A Southwold Mystery, by Suzette A. Hill (Allison & Busby)
Dreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King (Allison & Busby)
Freedom’s Child, by Jax Miller (HarperCollins)
Blood, Salt, Water, by Denise Mina (Orion)
The Silent Boy, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)

The Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel):
The Truth and Other Lies, by Sascha Arango (Simon & Schuster)
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley (Orion)
Mrs. Pargeter’s Principle, by Simon Brett (Severn House)
Bryant & May and the Burning Man, by Christopher Fowler (Transworld)
Smoke and Mirrors, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
The Case of the ‘Hail Mary’ Celeste, by Malcolm Pryce (Bloomsbury)
Mr. Campion’s Fox, by Mike Ripley (Severn House)
Savage Lane, by Jason Starr (No Exit Press)

The H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or
critical book related to crime fiction):

The Sherlock Holmes Book, by David Stuart Davies and
Barry Forshaw (Dorling Kindersley)
The Golden Age of Murder, by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)
The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters, by Fergus Fleming (Bloomsbury)
Crime Uncovered: Detective, by Barry Forshaw (Intellect)
Curtains Up: Agatha Christie—A Life in Theatre, by Julius Green (HarperCollins)
Criminal Femmes Fatales in American Hard-boiled Crime Fiction,
by Maysam Hasam Jaber (Palgrave Macmillan)
Crime Uncovered: Anti-hero, by Fiona Peters and
Rebecca Stewart (Intellect)
John le Carré: The Biography, by Adam Sisman (Bloomsbury)

In addition, there are six contenders for the 2016 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. Those books and authors were announced earlier this month.

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pierce’s Picks

A periodic alert for followers of crime and thriller fiction.



Steps to the Gallows (Allison & Busby) is Edward Marston’s second boisterous adventure for Peter and Paul Skillen. Those identical twins are more-than-capable “thief-takers,” but when it comes to bodyguarding, they’re less than perfect. As this tale commences, it’s 1816, in London, and Leonidas Paige—an ex-soldier who has turned to the enemy-making enterprise of satirizing lawmakers and other pompous personages in newspapers and cartoons—has become worried for his safety. So he employs the Skillens and their associates to watch his back. Despite such protections, Paige is soon garroted and his lodgings set ablaze. The brothers, upset that they could not safeguard their client, commit themselves to identifying and bringing down his murderer. To do that, though, will require their watching over the stubborn and capable woman who’d peddled the deceased’s work; finding the artist who’d helped Paige lampoon his targets; investigating an assortment of prosperous men upset by their treatment at Paige’s hands; figuring out how to assist a prisoner under threat escape from his cell; and fending off their arrogant rivals in crime-solving, the Bow Street Runners. To bring this case to its conclusion, the siblings will also rush away to Paris, where Paul fears his actress inamorata may be in danger from a lecherous villain. Marston (aka Keith Miles), author of the Nicholas Bracewell mysteries and the Railway Detective series, in addition to last year’s debut for Peter and Paul Skillen, in Shadow of the Hangman, offers a sharp wit, prodigious plotting skills, and a manifest appreciation for historical atmospherics in his novels. Such delightful storytelling!

Skip back one year, to 1815, and you have the time period in which the events in Lloyd Shepherd’s The Detective and the Devil (Simon & Schuster UK) take place. Constable Charles Horton from London’s Thames River Police Office is summoned to the city’s East End to probe the gruesome slaying of a family, headed by a man who clerked for Britain’s East India Company. Horton’s persistent inquiries raise the hackles of that company, which is powerful enough and far-reaching enough in its political influence to shut down any threats to its reputation. They also bring the policeman into contact with the early 19th-century world of pseudo-science and the supernatural. Might the present homicides be connected to the looting of an alchemist’s library, as well as to the peculiar deaths of East India Company employees handling business with the tropical island of Saint Helena? The search for answers will send Horton and his wife, Abigail, off to the South Pacific in pursuit of a potentially demonic killer. Shepherd, who first made his name with the historical thriller The English Monster: or, The Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass (2012)—in which Charles Horton was introduced—delivers in this new novel (his fourth) a captivating blend of superstition and commercial subterfuge, enriched further by references to French former emperor Napoléon Bonaparte and the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway murders.

Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.

On Interbellum Black Crime Yarns

Too-infrequent Rap Sheet contributor Gary Phillips has a terrific new article in the Los Angeles Review of Books about black crime fiction of the 1920s and ’30s. He mentions not only several novels penned during that period (such as Dr. Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem), but also more recent works of detective fiction set between World Wars I and II (including Robert Skinner’s Wesley Farrell mysteries). Phillips’ piece is definitely worth an examination. Be warned, though: it may well inspire you to add some of the books referenced to your reading pile.

Execute Plan B!

I will let you in on a little secret about my latest Kirkus Reviews column, which was posted earlier this morning.

I’d originally planned to devote that piece’s full length to critiquing a single new novel. However, I wound up not really enjoying the book I had chosen. This happens every now and then when you’re penning a regular books column; you have absolutely no guarantee, when launching into a novel, that it will be satisfying enough or even sufficiently interesting to write about—yet you’re still scheduled to write something. In this case, I decided that the work in question was worth commenting on ... but I couldn’t address it alone. I needed to package it along with my thoughts on a couple of other recent releases I’d found more rewarding.

So click right here to read about three fresh additions to the crime/mystery/thriller genre: Murder Never Knocks, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; The Other Widow, by Susan Crawford; and The Sign of Fear, by Robert Ryan. I bet you’ll be able to guess which one of that trio I had initially thought to appraise on its own.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Book You Have to Read:
“The Fear Makers,” by Darwin L. Teilhet

(Editor’s note: This is the 136th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
An overwhelming sense of dislocation and uncertainty permeates Darwin Teilhet’s World War II thriller, The Fear Makers. Published originally in 1945 as the war wound to an end, The Fear Makers is a slim yet farsighted masterpiece describing the incipient misuses of public opinion manipulation long before Vance Packard identified them in The Hidden Persuaders. With “the big lie” of Nazi propaganda in the background, Teilhet’s chilling scenario brings the pernicious tools of mass intimidation and persuasion to the American home front, where plans for jockeying a political candidate into office using returning GIs as a power base against labor unions and Jews is well underway. Celebrated American war hero Captain Allan Eaton, suffering from traumatic head injuries, is one of those GIs.

This book kicks off with a touch of Hitchcockian duplicity, mistaken identity, and treachery as Eaton attempts to rebuild a life he’s not even sure happened. Eaton is on his way from a Boston veteran’s hospital to Washington, D.C., to sell his interest in his respected polling firm. A fellow passenger on the train, a stranger named Brown, remarks to Eaton that his business partner, Clark Baker, has been killed under dark and unsettling circumstances. Demonstrating friendship and empathy in a city where the housing supply is known to be tight, Brown gives Eaton an address where he has friends who’ll put him up. For a while, Eaton’s life is no longer under his control.

Eaton thinks he still owns half of his polling company, but is soon informed by the new owner, a wheedling and ham-handed former office manager named Megassum, that he’d actually sold his interest to Baker before leaving for the war. Eaton doesn’t remember signing a contract, but he’s hired on by the firm as a figurehead of probity. Megassum also wants the trusted Eaton to be “in on” the latest project, promoting an anti-labor candidate who “deserves the soldier vote.” When Eaton is quick to see that Megassum employs specious polling techniques, it should come as no surprise that Megassum wants to keep tabs on him. Barney Bond, the gifted statistician who served in Eaton’s job during his absence, takes a keen interest in Eaton as well.

An intelligent, unscrupulous, and self-described “spastic” who seems to fawn over Eaton’s skill and reputation, Barney’s attempts to forge a bond of empathy with Eaton, including using their disabilities as common ground, are shameless. Bond is a repugnant and diabolical opportunist, and on the surface comes off as a Strangelovian mastermind whose hobby is devising a “semantic calculating machine.” It doesn’t take long for his sad, simple motivation to gurgle forth in the confidence and trust he believes he shares with Eaton.
“We get money,” said Barney. “Lots of money. A million dollars.” His eyes lighted. “Girls.” He wiped his lips.
Bond is skeptical of the “facts” surrounding Baker’s death by auto, and tells Eaton he needs to investigate the rumors that Megassum might have been involved. Eventually, the conniving Bond suggests that Eaton might learn the truth from Megassum if he uses a gun.

Not inculpable himself, Eaton is an infamous but repentant pioneer of whisper campaigns—rumor-spreading techniques used in the firm’s early days. Horrified to learn that his Master’s thesis on the subject (which he’d rather forget) is being used as a textbook, Eaton realizes in short order that Clark Baker Associates has changed beyond his worst fears. Now an intimidation and falsification factory, its tentacles seem to stretch everywhere: Phony letter-writing campaigns and polls employing tendentious questions are used to produce predetermined answers; recruits are trained to infiltrate civic groups and manipulate media to sway public opinion; and smear tactics slander African Americans, Jews, and “slackers” who didn’t serve in the war, influencing GIs overseas as well as their waiting families. “It was like starting a fire ten years ago and thinking it had been put out for good and coming back finding it burning ten times greater,” thinks Eaton, who feels the tug of Megassum’s reach and must act with caution.

(Left) Author Darwin Teilhet (photographed by Earl C. Berger)

Any complaints by Megassum to the Veterans Administration concerning Eaton’s mental state can result in Eaton being committed, and Eaton knows it. For a time, at least, that’s how Megassum keeps Eaton from becoming too curious. He’ s caught between freedom and remaining Megassum’s stooge—or exposing Megassum’s vile agenda and being readmitted to a hospital, which Eaton dreads.

When he arrives at the home of Brown’s friends, Eaton finds he is not expected. The house turns out to be occupied by European Jews who’ve fled Europe, and none have heard of the mysterious Mr. Brown. One of them, Elizabeth, becomes a love interest for Eaton, and it’s in that residence where he finds a temporary haven that’s homey, comforting … and short-lived. The house next door is occupied by a thuggish family of anti-Semites who vandalize the home of their gentle neighbors. As a member of this small, thrown-together family, Eaton experiences the persecution that his hosts and legions of people before them, all over the world, have endured.

A confrontation with the hate-mongers leads to a conversation, and Eaton discovers he’d in fact come to the wrong house; it was not the immigrants to whom he’d been recommended, but to the angry household of Hal Borland and his common-law wife, Vivien, next door. Vivien is a talented artist and forger with a laugh like “pulsating ice water.” Eaton discovers a briefcase full of letters addressed to GIs overseas and Megassum’s plans thereby become clearer. Together with Elizabeth’s biochemist brother, Eaton attempts to correct the falsified data in those missives, and when Eaton makes off with Megassum’s tainted polling information, guns are pulled and the chase is on.

Coincidence and misadventure abound to propel The Fear Makers’ plot and give the book a deeper level of meaning, as when Eaton and Elizabeth—on the run and afoot—are provided sanctuary by the black jazz musician George Goodspeed, to whom Eaton had given a lift at this story’s beginning. Eaton’s persistent use of military time subtly makes the reader see that Eaton has yet to leave the past and move beyond his circumstances. The occasional awkward sentences in Eaton’s narration give a sense of his unbalance, prompting the reader to reason that Eaton has not made a full recovery, which adds tension and ambiguity to the events occurring here.

“The post-war era will be ripe for a properly developed plan of psychological attack in all fields of enterprise, based on the polling operations as a cover for action,” says Barney Bond. If only this strategy were used to sell just Corn Flakes. The world is complicated, and sifting through the mass media and their profusion of viewpoints is tricky. There is nothing to really fear but the fear makers themselves; a clear and discerning mind is all that’s needed to differentiate between good and evil, no matter how they’re packaged.

Hailing Canadian Offenses

The Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) has announced the nominees for its 2016 Arthur Ellis Awards in eight categories, as follows.

Best Novel:
Hungry Ghosts, by Peggy Blair (Simon & Schuster)
The Storm Murders, by John Farrow (Minotaur)
A Killing in Zion, by Andrew Hunt (Minotaur)
Open Season, by Peter Kirby (Linda Leith)
The Night Bell, by Inger Ash Wolfe (McClelland & Stewart)

Best First Novel:
Hard Drive, by J. Mark Collins (iUniverse)
What Kills Good Men, by David Hood (Vagrant Press)
The Unquiet Dead, by Ausma Zehanat Khan (Minotaur)
Encore, by Alexis Koetting (Five Star)
Old Bones, by Brian R. Lindsay (Volumes)

Best Novella:
Black Canyon, by Jeremy Bates (Dark Hearts)
Deadly Season, by Alison Bruce (Imajin)
Glow Glass, by M.H. Callway (Carrick)
The Night Thief, by Barbara Fradkin (Orca)
Beethoven’s Tenth, by Brian Harvey (Orca)

Best Short Story:
“With One Shoe,” by Karen Abrahamson (from The Playground of Lost Toys, edited by Colleen Anderson and Ursula Pflug; Exile Press)
“The Siege,” by Hilary Davidson (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], December 2015)
“The Water Was Rising,” by Sharon Hunt (EQMM, August 2015)
“The Avocado Kid,” by Scott Mackay (EQMM, June 2015)
“Movable Type,” by S.G. Wong (from AB Negative: An Alberta Crime Anthology, edited by Axel Howerton; Coffin Hop Press)

Best Book in French:
L’Affaire Myosotis, by Luc Chartrand (Québec Amérique)
L’affaire Céline, by Jean-Louis Fleury (Éditions Alire)
La bataille de Pavie, by André Jacques (Druide)
Le mauvais côté des choses, by Jean Lemieux (Québec Amérique)
L’affaire Mélodie Cormier, by Guillaume Morrissette
(Guy Saint-Jean éditeur)

Best Juvenile/YA Book:
Diego’s Crossing, by Robert Hough (Annick Press)
Set You Free, by Jeff Ross (Orca)
The Blackthorn Key, by Kevin Sands (Aladdin)
The Dogs, by Allan Stratton (Scholastic)
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromley (Kathy Dawson)

Best Non-fiction Book:
Human on the Inside: Unlocking the Truth about Canada’s Prisons, by Gary Garrison (University of Regina Press)
Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation, by Dean Jobb (HarperCollins)
The Bastard of Fort Stikine: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Murder of John McLoughlin Jr., by Debra Komar (Goose Lane)
Cold War, by Jerry Langton (Harper Collins)
Mr. Big: The Investigation into the Deaths of Karen and Krista Hart, by Colleen Lewis and Jennifer Hicks (Flanker Press)

The Dundurn Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished
First Crime Novel:

When the Flood Falls, by Jayne Barnard
Knight Blind, by Alice Bienia
Brave Girls, by Pam Isfeld
Better the Devil You Know, by J.T. Siemens
Give Out Creek, by J.G. Toews

This year’s winners are scheduled to be announced on May 26.

In addition, the CWC has named Eric Wright as its 2016 Grand Master. “If there ever was a crime writer whom the Canadian crime-writing community needs to thank it is Eric Wright,” reads a press release. “He wrote 18 crime novels, in four different series, as well as novels, a novella, and a memoir. Eric’s first novel, The Night the Gods Smiled (1983), won the first Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel, the John Creasey Award from the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), and the City of Toronto Book Award. The Kidnapping of Rosie Dawn (2000) won an Arthur and was nominated for an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). His writing career spanned over 40 years and his contribution to Canadian crime writing was, without question, immense. This was recognized in 1998 when Eric received the Derrick Murdoch Award for lifetime contribution to Canadian crime writing. Eric Wright passed away in October, 2015, shortly after being notified that he had been selected for the Grand Master Award.”

(Hat tip to Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Scandi Stars Shine

Half a dozen books and authors are in the running for the 2016 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year, according to this announcement in Shotsmag Confidential. They are:

The Drowned Boy, by Karin Fossum, translated by Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway)
The Defenceless, by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated by David Hackston (Orenda; Finland)
The Caveman, by Jorn Lier Horst, translated by Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)
The Girl in the Spider's Web, by David Lagercrantz,
translated by George Goulding (MacLehose Press; Sweden)
Satellite People, by Hans Olav Lahlum,
translated by Kari Dickson (Mantle; Norway)
Dark As My Heart, by Antti Tuomainen,
translated by Lola Rogers (Harvill Secker; Finland)

The Petrona Award takes its name from a long-running blog written by Maxine Clarke, a British “champion of Scandinavian crime fiction,” who died in December 2012. This year’s winner will be declared during a dinner held on May 21 during CrimeFest in Bristol, England.

READ MORE:The Petrona Award Shortlist 2016,” by Norman Price (Crime Scraps Review).

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Highly Peculier Assortment

Notable new crime-fiction authors join a clutch of old hands in the competition for this year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. The longlist of rivals, posted today in Shotsmag Confidential, looks like this:

Time of Death, by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)
Black-Eyed Susans, by Julia Heaberlin (Michael Joseph)
Disclaimer, by Renée Knight (Black Swan)
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
The Moth Catcher, by Ann Cleeves (Pan)
Tell No Tales, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker)
The Ghost Fields, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
The Missing and the Dead, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins)
Every Night I Dream of Hell, by Malcolm Mackay (Mantle)
Splinter the Silence, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)
The Nightmare Place, by Steve Mosby (Orion)
The Final Silence, by Stuart Neville (Harvill Secker)
In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker)
Death Is a Welcome Guest, by Louise Welsh (John Murray)
Stasi Child, by David Young (Twenty7)

As Shotsmag explains, these 18 titles were “selected by an academy of crime-writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd. and [bookseller] W.H. Smith.” A shortlist of just half a dozen titles will be announced on May 31. A public online vote, conducted between July 1 and 15, will help determine this contest’s ultimate winner. The name of that book and author will be declared on July 21 during opening-night festivities at this year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (July 21-24 in Harrogate, England).