Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Off the page

Oprah Winfrey, the megastar who once espouse buying books as a terrific idea and who increased her brand (i.e., profit) by promoting them, has called Kindle her "favorite new gadget."

The "gadget" comes from Amazon, the behemoth that has helped squash independent bookstores by selling books, often times, below the price that independent bookstores can purchase them.

Kindle, selling at the price of about 80 paperback books, is a soul-less plastic gadget that further erodes the case for good books. Oprah's plastic playmate would eliminate books -- designing, printing, binding -- and bookstores. It also would eliminate the jobs connected to each.

Just so Oprah knows. I've found a favorite new gadget too: the "off" button for my TV.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The blessing way

Tony Hillerman, creator of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo police, has died at the age of 83.

Hillerman first introduced Lt. Joe Leaphorn in 1970's The Blessing Way. Leaphorn was an experienced cop who didn't share in the Navajo traditional beliefs, although he had reverence for them. Jim Chee came along in 1978's People of Darkness; he was a Navajo shaman, or "hathaali." The two joined up in Skinwalkers in 1987, the first of many Hillerman bestsellers.

Hillerman will be sorely missed but leaves us with a legacy of more than 30 books.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Holmes is where the heart is

With May 22, 2009 designated as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 150th anniversary, Sherlockiana will be the rage for the foreseeable future. Here's a quick look at what's in store (or will be in stores) in coming months.

In stores now: Execution of Sherlock Holmes: And Other New Adventures of the Great Detective by Donald Thomas, is the latest collection of pastiches. The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls is a retelling of the rise of Moriarty, and Holmes' tumbl
e from the famous falls, all told from three different perspectives.
Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles by Pierre Bayard reexamines Holmes' most famous case and finds the master's conclusions wanting. This will come as no surprise to those who have read his Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?: The Mystery Behind the Agatha Christie Mystery, in which the French psychoanalyst and literary scholar comes up with a new solution to that crime also.
Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes, an assemblage of 11 weird tales by the likes of Kim Newman and Barbara Hambly, sees Holmes on illogical ground in this collection of fantasy fiction. Moriarty by John Gardner brings the professor to American shores and on the rise as a vintage villain.

On the way:
Andrew Lycett's The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is reissued in paperback in November.

Sherlock Holmes' Guide to Life by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hits stores in time for the holidays with a collection of quotes from the great detective and illustration from books, stage and screen.
Sherlock Holmes in America, an anthology of new stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg, arrives in March.
Mike Ashley's The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures comes back into print in May. The 1997 Carrol & Graf comes back courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing and the anthology features stories by Peter Tremayne, Edward D. Hoch, Michael Moorcock, Basil Copper and H.R.F. Keating, among others.

Of course, various versions of Doyle's own work will be on display, as well as movie tie-ins and new graphic novels.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New this week

This week has a lot to offer mystery readers. Whether it's Deep South gentry, historical fiction or modern-day espionage, there's plenty of great reading in store.


The Dra
ining Lake by Arnuldur Indridason (Minatour, $24.95) When the water level of an Icelandic lake suddenly falls following an earthquake to reveal a skeleton half-buried in its sandy bed, Inspector Erlendur, Elinborg, and Sigurdur Oli look into the long-unsolved disappearance of a young, left-wing student during the Cold War.

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert (Berkley, $23.95) Beatrix Potter looks into the death of Mr. Wickstead who had recently discovered a treasure.

A Spoon
ful of Poison: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton (Minatour, $24.95) When poisoned jam shows up at a church festival booth, Agatha Raisin finds herself looking into murder.

The Catch b
y Archer Mayor (Minatour, $24.95) When a state trooper is killed during a routine traffic stop, Joe Gunther follows the trail of clues to a drug smuggling ring out of Canada.

Hell Bent by William Tapply (Minatour, $24.95) Attorney Brady Coyne takes on the case of a war vet after a woman from his past asks for help.

Coyote's Wife by Aimee and David Thurlo (Tor, $24.95) Ella Clah investigates an attack on a powerful Navajo politician's son.

Too Clo
se To Home by Linwood Barclay (Bantam Dell, $22.00) Derek Cutter suddenly becomes the prime suspect in a small-town murder case.

Hounded to Death by Rita Mae Brown (Ballantine, $25.00) Sister Jane Arnold, Master of Foxhounds, finds herself caught up in a mystery involving the theft of a valuable hound and the disappearance of a wealthy pet food manufacturer.

The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss (Random, $26.00) A former spy for Washington during the Revolution follows a murder trail that leads to Alexander Hamilton and to rebellious whiskey-makers opposed to a tax on their products.

Oct. 1
Given Day
by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, $27.95) A 1919 Boston Police strike sets the stage for an epic tale of a family whose lives mirror the political unrest of an America.

Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, $23.95) Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan returns in this compendium of the short stories.

Friday, September 26, 2008

O, you beautiful doll

Declan Burke's The Big O (Harcourt, $24.00) is a noir hybrid of murder and merriment.

Burke handles a wide cast of characters including: a doctor's receptionist who picks up extra money through blackmail and the occasional convenience store robbery; a house painter whose main source of income is kidnapper for hire; a disgraced plastic surgeon with an ill-conceived scheme to make some quick money; and a bubbleheaded ex-con with violence on his mind. Oh, and did I mention the one-eyed dog?

The book hits the ground running as if Quentin Tarantino and Buster Keaton had a love child who could write. Burke (who's previous Eight-Ball Boogie is available only in an imported edition) has a fine ear for dialogue and a great sense for plotting. Peopled by second-rate criminals plotting third-rate schemes, it's inevitable that the worst-laid plans of these men fall apart with everyone converging for a bloodspattered finale ... and even that's amusing.

There have been few novelists who could plot tightly, create well-developed characters and write laugh-out-loud dialogue -- Burke is a welcome new addition.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lightning strikes

This has been a good year for narrative histories. In April we got Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective (a case that inspired the birth of detective fiction) and in May came Paula Uruburu's American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "It" Girl, and the Crime of the Century (which undertook to look at Nesbit's life, loves and the murder of architect Sanford White).

For those with a penchant of reading crime and history (a la Devil in the White City) comes a new entrant: American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, Movie-making, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Forum, $24.95). Yes, C
rime of the Century appears in this title also; since the Sanford White case was in 1906, it was the first Crime of the Century, but the century was very, very young.

In American
Lightning, Pulitzer Prize-winner Blum brings together numerous threads to weave a tapestry of America in the first decade of the 20th Century. In October of 1910, an explosion ripped through the offices of the Los Angeles Times, killing 23 workers. It was the culmination in a series of attacks that gripped the nation. This was a time of bomb-throwing anarchist, and war between labor and management. Detective William J. Burns, dubbed the "American Sherlock Holmes" by the Times of London, is brought in from Chicago to investigate. Was it union assassins or management goons who blew the building up? Before CSI, how did a detective work such a huge case? Burns' doggedness uncovers a nest of villains, but his success seems short lived as land swindlers, a mayoral election and the American labor movement muddy the waters.

Into this melting pot of players come filmmaker D.W. Griffith and attorney Clarence Darrow. Blum interlaces their lives through the investigation and trial, chronicling Griffith's rise, Darrow's fall and the birth of public relations.

American Lightning is a fascinating exploration of the birth of 20th century America, and it will be a welcome addition to any non-fiction lover's bookshelf.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This novel sounds super

An unexpected meeting with his long-lost father thrusts Cal Harper into a high-stakes pursuit of an enigmatic weapon linked to a pair of murders--the killing of Cain in the Bible, and the murder that inspired the creation of the comic-book hero Superman. Say what?!

That, at any rate, is a quick summary of The Book of Lies, Brad Meltzer's lastest piece of suspense fiction. It's Meltzer's seventh piece of suspense fiction, in addition to writing for comic books Justice League of America and Green Arrow. Meltzer's earlier book, The Book of Fate, explored a modern-day conspiracy and a secret code devised by Thomas Jefferson. So if anyone is going to combine an historic artifact with the Man of Steel, Meltzer's the man. Think pitch meeting: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay meets The Da Vinci Code. Now you've got the idea.

A story that appeared recently in USA Today gives some historical background to both the book and the creation of Superman (see link below). For those of us who grew up with Supe and also embraced the book Men of Tomorrow, The Book of Lies looks like a great read.

For more information, go to:


For background, go to:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the shelves

Another Tuesday, another day of top-notch releases:

Silks by Dick Francis and Felix Francis (Putnam, $25.95)
Barrister Geoffrey Mason finds himself caught in the middle of a sinister web of intimidation and danger when he reluctantly becomes involved in the case of jockey accused of killing a fellow steeplechase rider.

Fade Away by Harlan Coben (Dell, $22.00)
After the star player for the New Jersey Dragons disappears without a trace, sports agent Myron Bolitar takes the undercover assignment of his dreams--a position on the team.

The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters (William Morrow & Co., $25.95)
Irrepressible art historian Vicky Bliss finds her setting off on a wild chase to clear the name of her boyfriend, in this final appearance in the series.

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs (Scribner, $25.95)
When a plumber discovers the remains of a murdered girl and various dark religious objects in the cellar of a client's house, Temperance Brennan is called in to investigate the case and finds her efforts challenged by vigilante upheavals against Wiccans and occultists.

Also, today in paperback:
Stone Cold by David Baldacci (Vision, 9.99)
Oliver Stone and his colleagues at the Camel Club find their efforts to protect a con artist from vengeful casino king Jerry Bagger challenged by a ruthless killer who targets Stone by threatening to reveal his mysterious past.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ripley's game. Are you?

Thomas Phelps Ripley's amoral life began in 1955 when Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley first hit bookselves. Orphaned and raised by an abusive aunt, Tom developed a set of skills -- forgery, lying, impersonation -- that would set him off onto a successful life of crime, including identity theft, art forgery and murder. Such a sweet boy.

Highsmith followed her bad boy for 36 years, chronicling his dastardly doings and double dealings through a series of four additional books: Ripley Underground, Ripley's Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water.

In October, W.W. Norton will reissue the quintet in a hardcover boxed set selling for $100. With the paperbacks selling at $13.95 (and just try finding a copy of The Boy Who Followed Ripley at your local big box bookstore), this set will be a welcome additon to lovers of Highsmith's little monster.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A couple of Hitches

Donald Spoto, the author of Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and The Dark Side of Genius (among other biographies), mines the Hitchcock golden girls in Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies. This is Spoto's third crack at the legendary director, with the latest volume looking at Hitchcock's life and work through his relationships with the actresses in his films (Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, et al). It's yet another dissection of his films, his fame, his legacy, his unconventional marriage and his obsessions. If they ever decide to put Spoto's Hitchcock trilogy in a box set, I hope the box is coffin shaped. Hitch would have liked that. Spellbound by Beauty (Harmony Books, $25.95) goes on sale Nov. 11.

Interestingly, Hitchcock: The First Three Minutes by Rembert Huser takes a look at Hitchcock's films through their opening title sequences. Huser discusses how a variety of visual and acoustic experimental techniques set the tone for Hitchcock's Hollywood classic films.What! No obsession with blonde hair or fear of policemen!? What's film study coming too? Published by European Humanities Research Centre at an import prices of $69, it arrives in select stores Nov. 30.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Before Sherlock

One of the books I've never been able to suss out is Leaves from the Note-Book of a New York Detective. Published in 1865 by Dick & Fitzgerald, it's a collection of stories told to John Babbinton Williams by a retired New York detective named James Brampton.

We all know that Sherlock Holmes was the original analytical detective whose observations of small details proved him to be the master detective, but works like 1864's Experiences of a French Detective and The Autobiography of a London Detective certainly filled the gap between Poe and Conan Doyle, between sensational and analytical.

Now comes word that Leaves from the Note-Book of a New York Detective will be republished this October by Westholme Publishing in a paperback edition at $14.95. Told in the first person and transcribed from Brampton's diary by John B. Williams (a doctor, we must note), it lays out 29 cases in which Brampton's powers of observation proved indispensable. Some of his methods and observations are echoed in the Holmes canon.

But unlike Holmes,Brampton's cases are mere fiction, but it should be interesting to read them in the strong historical light that shines from Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Judy, Judy, Judy

Back in 1930, Nancy Drew hit the scene and the girl detective was born. While she aged only two years in the course of a decade, and lived with her father and a servant, she had plenty of time in her post-high school days to volunteer, or engage in the arts while sniffing out criminals in River Heights. She was a girl's girl, living well and living positively in Depression Era America.

She was followed in 1932 by Judy Bolton, a more realistic young woman who matured over the life of the series. The first book, The Vanishing Shadow, was based on the author's experiences during the Austin (PA) flood of 1911. Judy's life is full with a brother, two parents and two serious suitors, and she eventually marries in book 10, The Riddle of the Double Ring. And unlike Nancy, Judy was written from start to finish by her creator, Margaret Sutton.

Now Applewood Books, which resurrected the old Nancy Drews, has begun to republish the Judy Bolton series, complete with original cover art and illustrations by Pelagie Doane.

While the first 20 are now available in paperback at $14.95, you also may find some stores carrying the Judy Bolton Set (five hardcovers at $60). If you've done the math, the set of five hardcovers saves you $15 over the price of the first five paperbacks.

It doesn't take an amateur detective to figure that one out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comic valentine

I don't read graphic novels.

Well, that's a bit of a stretch. I don't read many graphic novels. Once I get past Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, very little of it interests me, although I'm open to discovery.

While graphic novels are just that -- novel length and graphic (in all senses), I grew up on short-form comic book stories (and wish I had kept some of those old ones, like Fantastic Four No.1 and Hulk No.1 (he wasn't even green back then!) and Green Lantern No.1. I could retire on the comic books that got thrown away).

But I especially liked the detective comics: Secret Agent X-9, The Spirit and others collected by an older cousin who kept his black-and-white treasures stashed away in a tall cardboard barrel inside the kneehole of an old desk. We'd pull the barrel out, pop open the top and and spend hours poring over them, marveling at a heroic close call or checking out the gams on some sweet dame (preposterously pretentious at a very young age) and enjoying the mayhem that ensued.

So I was very happy to see The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (Running Press, $17.95), a collection of noir comics that spans the genre from the early 1930s to the present time. Here is a Dashiell Hammett-written Secret Agent X-9 adventure and Will Eisner's Spirit, along side Ms.Tree, Mike Hammer and drawn by a stable of artists from Jack Kirby to Paul Grist.

This is a great collection brimming with dames, deception and dark alley doings. And as in life, even noir heroes can encounter a grisly end.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good week for mystery and suspense

We may be in the dog days of August but the mix of today's new releases is far from being a dog's breakfast. It's more of a potpourri of intrigue.
Here (in no particular order) are the titles:

Rough Justice by Jack Higgins

Agent Blake Johnson joins forces with British operative Harry Miller to stop a Russian officer in the act of torching a mosque

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
ATF agent Jack McClure attempts to rescue the kidnapped daughter of the newly elected president.

The Hanged Man, a Tarot Card Mystery by David Skibbins
A paraplegic hacker and a tarot card reader go undercover to help a dominatrix wrongly accused of murder.

Paint the Town Dead by Nancy Bell
A real estate mogul is killed and sends a Texas county judge on a quest for the killer.

Deception's Daughter by Cordelia Frances Biddle

The disappearance of the heiress sends Martha Beale on a search for answersin 19th-century Philadelphia society. By the author of The Conjurer.

The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs by Richard Yancey

Teddy Ruzak discovers the body of a man whom he had befriended the day before and launches a personal investigation when the police dismiss his suspicions of foul play.

Deadly Beautiful by Sam Baker
Reporter Annie Anderson is back in the world of investigative journalism when she sets out to uncover the link between a missing supermodel and a vicious serial killer.

A Mortal Curiosity by Ann Granger
Lizzie Martin goes on the hunt for a missing child with the help of Scotland Yard detective Benjamin Ross.

Yellow Moon by Jewell Parker
RhodesVoodoo, vampires and more haunt this second installment of a trilogy that began with Voodoo Season

Friday, July 25, 2008

ARC de triomphe

Just finished some Advanced Readers' Copies of upcoming books and there is plenty for readers to look forward to this fall. These three will give you your money's worth.

Fans of William Tapply's Brady Coyne will find that Hell Bent is a welcome addition to this always engaging series. With a look at the effects of the Iraq War on both the troops and their families, Boston lawyer Coyne investigates the murder of the brother of an old flame (she is also a welcome return). There's a side story about a moving company ripoff that gives Hell Bent a bit of a lighter side, but all the ingredients are there in this 24th Coyne of the realm. Due Sept. 30 from Minatour.

Speaking of all the ingredients, John Le Carre, a man of many twists and turns, navigates the war on terror in A Most Wanted Man. The scene is Europe and suspicions are high when an Islamic prisoner escapes Chechnya for the West and some ill-gotten riches. As a gaggle of secret agencies jockey for advantage, a couple of common citizens come to the rescue. Of course, nothing is as it seems and these are, after all, Smiley's people at work. Due Oct. 7 from Scribner's.

And talking of twists and turns, Darryl Wimberley's Kaleidoscope follows down-on-his-luck gambler Jack Romaine as he searches for some bonds stolen from a high-profile Cincinnati gangster. The trail leads to Kaleidoscope, a Florida winter layover for sideshow freaks and geeks, and Wimberley skillfully evokes the era of 1929 and the humanity of the characters society has made outcasts. Due Sept. 1 from Toby Press.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The times, they are a-changin'

Bantam Dell Publishing Group retails Rex Stout's The League of Frightened Men for $19 in trade paperback. It also sells The League of Frightened Men with Fer-de-Lance for $15, also in trade paperback. What is the point? Perhaps to force you into buying two books for less than the price of one?

Who knows?

Stout recently graduated from mass market to trade paperback, doubling the price of each title and foiling any completists who had hoped to gather the entire series in a uniform collection. By upping the size of the book by 25 percent, publishers also upped the price by 100% and then wondered aloud why the backlist has fallen on hard times.

This is a trend among publishers which will no doubt continue until mass market paperbacks are mere memory. Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May mysteries, currently retailing in mass market at $6.99 will be bumped up in both size and price ($13) once White Corridor is issued in trade paper in September. Our particular stores sells Fowler's mass market titles very well; the trade paperback will be a push. Still, we can hope that the raised price will encourage publishers to keep backlist in print longer then they currently do.

Meanwhile, this should prove a boon to libraries and used bookstores as patronage will no doubt increase, further cutting into publishers' profits and forcing more price increases not so far down the timeline.

That leaves the small bookseller in the proverbial lurch. They are already fighting online booksellers and big box stores for customers who wonder why small bookstore prices aren't as good (meaning "as low") as Amazon or Borders. It has become difficult for the small bookstore to compete when the big guys are selling books at a discounted price that many smaller stores are paying at the wholesaler (and then they pay for shipping).

So visit your small book retailer soon. In a few years you'll be able to tell your grandchildren that there used to be stores that sold books and some of the people who worked in those stores actually had some knowledge of what they were selling.

Your grandchildren will laugh at you and ask if you used to get there by trolley car ... and, by the way grandpa, what is a book exactly?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The game's afoot

According to a Reuters report out today, Guy Ritchie, who hasn't done anything really interesting since 1999's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (other than becoming "Mr. Madonna"), is in negotitations with Robert Downey Jr. for a new Sherlock Holmes project, based on a new comic book interpretation. Could be good news. Maybe. Ritchie can direct ... really... and there's no doubt about Downey Jr.'s abilities. But there are clouds on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Sacha Baron Cohen will soon star in Sherlock Holmes and be assisted by a Dr. Watson played by ... wait for it...Will Farrell.

I will repeat that.

Dr. Watson will be played by Will Farrell, again according to Reuters.

I will say it again for those of you whose brains may have imploded and already forgotten it in a desperate attempt at self-preservation of your sanity.

Dr. Watson will be played by Will Farrell, the same man who gave us Old School and A Night at the Roxbury.

Here's a frightening thought: Chris Kattan as Prof. Moriarty.

Another frightening thought: Dr. Watson running along Baker Street without his trousers.

I don't know if the canon can survive that kind of abuse.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Death of an Amsterdam Cop

This post is to mark the passing of Janwillem van de Wetering on July 4. For those of us who like our police procedurals Continental, it is a great loss. He created the Grijpstra and de Gier novels, which began in 1975 with Outsider in Amsterdam.
Having been a member of the a member of the Amsterdam Special Constabulary, his writing had a high degree of verisimilitude. He also gave us Inspector Saito and the short story "Judge Dee Plays His Lute" (along with a biography of Judge Dee creator Robert van Gulik).
He was a world traveler and his writing demonstrates insights in to a variety of cultures. His life ended while he was living in the state of Maine.

For more information, go to:


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July titles roll in

Here we are, a week into July, and the good titles keep coming. So far this month we've had three solid hits from Soho Press -- The Salisbury Manuscript by Philip Gooden, Dolores Gordon-Smith's Mad About the Boy? and Siren of the Waters by Micheal Genelin.
Also last week we saw the arrival of Chasing Darkness: An Elvis Cole Novel by Robert Crais, Hit and Run by Lawrence Block, Morrow, Losing Ground: A Mystery by Catherine Aird, rodigal Son by Thomas B. Cavanagh, The Sour Cherry Surprise: A Berger and Mitry Mystery by David Handler and Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie. Below, what's in store for the remainder of the month.

One of Those Malibu Nights
by Elizabeth Adler. St. Martin's Press. $24.95. Intervening on behalf of a distraught woman who is holding a gun in the doorway of a luxurious Malibu beach house, private investigator Mac Reilly finds himself in possession of the gun and searching for the woman when she subsequently goes missing. By the author of Meet Me in Venice.
Palace Council by Stephen Carter. Knopf (Random House). $26.95. Young writer Eddie Wesley and his lover, Aurelia Treene, investigate the murder of a wealthy, highly respected man whose body turns up on the grounds of a Harlem mansion. By the author of New England White.
Silent Thunder by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen. St. Martin's Pr. $24.95. Assigned the task of creating a schematic of a recently purchased Russian nuclear submarine that is slated for museum exhibition, architect Hannah Bryson enlists the help of her brother, Connor, who discovers a mysterious message behind a panel before he is brutally murdered.
Swan Peak: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster. $25.95. Dave Robicheaux's new case takes him from the bayous of Louisiana's New Iberia Parish to the wild mountains of Montana. By the author of The Tin Roof Blowdown.
Volk's Shadow by Brent Ghelfi. Henry Holt. $25.00. A sequel to Volk's Game finds Russian undercover military agent Alexei Volkovoy doubting himself in the wake of political intrigue.

July 10
Queen of the Flowers: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood. Poisoned Pen Press. $24.95. Chosen Queen of the Flowers for St. Kilda's first Flower Parade festival, Phryne Fisher finds the glamour of her crown wearing off when one of her attendants vanishes.
July 15
Last Kiss by Luanne Rice. Bantam Bks (Random House). $25.00. Devastated by the senseless murder of her only son, eighteen-year-old Charlie, singer-songwriter Sheridan Rosslare has been unable to cope with her grief, until Charlie's heartbroken girlfriend, Nell Kilvert, enlists the assistance of Sheridan's long-ago soul mate, Gavin Dawson, to uncover the truth.
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by John McFetridge. Harcourt. $25.00. Sharon MacDonald finds her life complicated by house arrest, an Iranian who falls to his death from her apartment building, police surveillance that keeps her from visiting her marijuana crop, and a suave stranger named Ray.
Findings: A Faye Longchamp Mystery by Mary Anna Evans. Poisoned Pen Press. $24.95. The discovery of a mysterious, fabulous emerald leads to murder when intruders break into the home of a dear friend of archaeologist Faye Longchamp.
Killer View by Ridley Pearson. Putnam (Penguin Group). $24.95. Tackling treacherous elements to rescue a missing skier on Sun Valley's Galena Summit, Sheriff Walt Fleming and his crack team are shocked by a sniper attack that leaves one of their number dead.
Real World by Natsuo Kirino. Translated by Philip Gabriel. Knopf (Random House). $22.95. In a crowded suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo, four teenage girls become suspicious of a neighbor's teenage son when his father is found brutally murdered and the young man disappears.
Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner. Bantam Books (Random House). $25.00. Pages 384. Pregnant 18-year-old Delilah Rose enlists the assistance of FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy to investigate the mysterious disappearances of a number of young women whom no one else will notice are gone, including runaways, high-risk teens, and prostitutes.
Still Waters: A Mystery by Nigel McCrery. Pantheon Books (Random House). $23.95. Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie and Sergeant Emma Bradbury are confronted by a complex case involving a potential serial killer.

July 17
Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst. Riverhead Bks (Penguin Group). $24.95. Navigating adult responsibilities in a California city where the dead outnumber the living, by-the-book rookie cop Michael Mercer struggles through new relationships and becomes increasingly obsessed with the mysterious fate of his predecessor, an officer who believed he policed the dead.
The Likeness by Tana French. Viking (Penguin Group). $24.95. A follow-up to In the Woods finds a traumatized detective Cassie Maddox struggling in her career and relationship with Sam O'Neill while investigating the unsettling murder of a young woman whose name matches an alias Cassie once had used as an undercover officer.

July 22
Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva. Putnam (Penguin Group). $26.95. Gabriel Allon investigates the suspicious death of a journalist in Moscow.

July 29
The Garden of Evil by David Hewson. Delacorte Pr (Random House). $24.00. The discovery of two corpses next to an unknown Caravaggio masterpiece in an art studio in Rome sends Detective Nic Costa on a quest to uncover the truth.
The Map Thief by Heather Terrell. Ballantine. $25.00. Manhattan attorney Mara Coyne journeys into the dark and dangerous world of stolen artifacts as she becomes caught up in the search for a legendary, fifteenth-century map that supposedly documents a Chinese expedition to the far reaches of the globe and that has been a closely guarded secret for centuries. By the author of The Chrysalis.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Flood watch

Floods in middle America have devastated lives and libraries. We bookish types should offer our help. Below is a list of three libraries and links to their devastation. These libraries don't need books, but some monetary infusion sure will help bring them back.

Every dollar helps.

Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation500 First Street SoutheastCedar Rapids, IA. 52401http://crlibrary.info/photos/20080621-FloodDamage/index.html

Friends of New Hartford Public LibraryP O Box 292New Hartford, IA. 50660http://www.newhartford.lib.ia.us/

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library30 Sixteenth Avenue SouthwestCedar Rapids, IA. 52401-5904http://www.ncsml.org/

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Macavity noms announced

Mystery Readers Journal has announced its nominees for the 2008 Macavity Award. (For those of you who don't know what a Macavity is, I can only be jealous of you as you have never had to experience the musical Cats. Lucky, lucky reader.)

The nominees are (drumroll):

Best Mystery Novel
Reed Farrel Coleman: Soul Patch (Bleak House)
John Connolly: The Unquiet (Hodder & Stoughton*/Atria)
David Corbett: Blood of Paradise (Ballantine Mortalis)
Deborah Crombie: Water Like a Stone (Morrow)
Laura Lippman: What the Dead Know (Morrow)

Best First Mystery
Tana French: In the Woods (Hodder & Stoughton*/Viking)
Joe Hill: Heart-Shaped Box (William Morrow)
Lisa Lutz: The Spellman Files (Simon & Schuster)
Tim Maleeny: Stealing the Dragon (Midnight Ink)
Matt Beynon Rees: The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Soho)

Best Mystery Short Story
Donna Andrews: "A Rat's Tale" (EQMM, Sep-Oct 2007)
Rhys Bowen: "Please Watch Your Step" (The Strand Magazine, Spring 2007)
Jon L. Breen: "The Missing Elevator Puzzle" (EQMM, Feb 2007)
Beverle Graves Myers: "Brimstone P.I." (AHMM, May 2007)
Gillian Roberts: "The Old Wife's Tale" (EQMM, Mar-Apr 2007)

Best Mystery Non-Fiction
Barry Forshaw: Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (Penguin Rough Guides)
Jean Gould O'Connell: Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy (McFarland & Company)
Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley, editors: Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (HarperPress*/Penguin)
Lee Lofland: Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers (Howdunit Series, Writers Digest Books)
Roger Sobin, editor/compiler: The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians (Poisoned Pen Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery
Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness (Penguin)
Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death (Putnam)
Jason Goodwin: The Snake Stone (Faber & Faber*/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Clare Langley-Hawthorne: Consequences of Sin (Viking*/Penguin)
Joyce Carol Oates: The Gravedigger's Daughter (HarperCollins Ecco)
*UK publisher (first edition)

For more information on the awards and on the Journal, go to:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Screening room

The American Film Institute has announced its Top 10 mystery movies. They are:
1. Vertigo
2. Chinatown
3. Rear Window
4. Laura
5. The Third Man
6. Maltese Falcon
7. North by Northwest
8. Blue Velvet
9. Dial M for Murder
10. Usual Suspects

Has anyone noticed that the oldest film among this bunch goes all the way back to 1941 and that three of them are in black and white? How many of these have your grandkids seen? Not many, I'd imagine. (No Donnie Darko here. No Se7en.)

And since we are talking American film, I guess Rashomon, Les Diaboliques, Oldboy, Testament of Dr. Mabuse and Z were pretty much out of the running going into the fray. Luckily for Hitchcock, if a film was based on a French novel (like Vertigo based on "...d'Entre les Morts"), that was okay. (And here I always thought that The Third Man was a British film by directed and produced by Carol Reed with Alexander Korda; must of had some U.S. money in that one.)

Now there are those who will take issue with the list: Where's The Thin Man? Or, alternatively, where's Hot Fuzz?

And if I was to add to the list, I might ask : Where are L.A. Confidential, The Manchurian Candidate, Memento and Citizen Kane (all about figuring out what Rosebud means)?
But it's just a list...a stupid, stupid list that some people might argue over. (Where's The 39 Steps?). But it's just a list, really (Where's The Big Sleep?), so who cares? (Where's The Lady Vanishes? Where's Charade? Where's In the Heat of the Night? Where's Touch of Evil?)

Stupid list. I don't care. Doesn't matter.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Book buying on the party line

The Reading and Book Buying Habits of Americans, a new Zogby International poll commissioned by Random House, has some interesting information. It was an online poll of 8218 people.

The fact that more people would curl up with a book than light up a Kindle is no surprise: Most readers are older -- pre-computer generation -- and as a boomer I know my habits are fixed. Besides, those crazy kids like to tool around the Internet with their YouTubes and IMs and play computer games. Us golden oldens are more inclined to opt for paper reading.

However, there's some interesting political information in the report.

According to Zogby, Democrats and independents were more likely to buy books at independent stores while Republicans liked chain stores. What could this mean? Well, we could determine that Democrats and independents support the little guy while Republicans prefer big business. We could infer that tax-and-spend Democrats like to spend and be taxed more for books while Republicans like the discounts at Sam's Club. Or we could assume that the majority of Republicans responding to the poll questions live in areas where malls and chains dominate and that Democrats and independents responding have little access to chain stores.

Democrats, again according to Zogby, like to visit bookstores and linger while independents and Republicans don't like to hang out. Democrats are more likely to be influenced in buying a book after reading a review while Republicans are more likely than Democrats to be influenced by talk radio. More than half of all respondents judge a book by its cover and 89 percent say that if they like a book they will seek out other books by the same author (Both bits of information are of no surprise).

Finally, Democrats are more likely than independents or Republicans to buy a book they see on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And overall, more respondents were likely to buy a book they saw on Stewart's show than on Oprah's? Does this mean that Stewart sells more books or does it mean that the respondents were more likely to watch Stewart than to watch Oprah?

Next time Zogby throws a book poll, I'd like more background numbers, please.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Random thoughts 3

The book buying business is getting tougher for consumers who like their British imports: The recent Rebecca Tope is a fine example. A paperback copy of Death in the Cotswolds costs 6.99 British pounds as did her earlier A Cotswold Killing. A Cotswold Killing sold here in the US for $9.95 while Death in the Cotswolds has come in with a US price of $15.95.

And don't bother to run out and hope to find A Cotswold Killing at 9.95 anymore. That price too has risen to $15.95.

Thanks to the current English exchange rate, we are getting royally pounded.

Note: Random Thoughts is not a subsidiary of Random House or its affiliates. They are just...well, random thoughts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New voices

New voices are always a happy discovery. And I find myself reading new authors or authors I've never encountered before. Some is dreck, but some is simply splendid.

So, if you are looking for a good mystery from a voice you've never heard before to brighten up you summer vacation, check out these great titles.

Blood Alley by Tom Coffey is a neo noir in a class by itself. Great background, snappy patter with hints of Raymond Chandler and a nod to the movie Chinatown.

Blood of the Wicked is Leighton Gage's initial outing for Brazilian detective Mario Silva as he investigates the assassination of a bishop and political corruption. It's a solid send-off for this Soho Press series which will continue in January with Buried Strangers.

For those who like their thrillers mean and lean, you can't do much better than Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, as Leo Demidov hunts a serial killer in Stalinist Russia.

Scott Heim, whose Mysterious Skin found fame in Hollywood, returned to fiction with We Disappear, examining the death of his own mother against a fictional background. Heartfelt, heartbreaking and redemptive, the book takes us on a meth-fuel investigation into fate of the missing.

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler sent me back to the first in his series, Full Dark House. Fowler's progatonists John May and Arthur Bryant are a couple of grumpy old men and head of London's Peculiar Crime Unit. If you haven't encountered this pair of aging agents, you're in for some delightful reading.

Finally, Jennifer McMahon's Island of Lost Girls bowled me over. Another writer I had yet to read (I had somehow missed Promise Not to Tell), Island of Lost Girls captures the fragility of innocence and the darkness of the world. This book is disturbing without beginning graphic, making it even more effective.

For more information, go to:






Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Notes from the Underground

Note One:

The book business is a strange one.

Recent correspondence with an author is a case-in-point: According to the author, two stores in his/her region charge all authors to sign books in their store. I have never heard of a bookstore charging an author for signing books in a store. When he/she mentioned that his/her book had been published by a Print on Demand publisher (in earlier days known as a vanity press), I explained that it was probably due to the fact that the stores had been burnt by vanity ...er, PODs at some time: Discounts are usually lower than with traditional presses, shipping and handling higher and, sometimes, returns are not accepted. He/she assured me that ALL authors were made to pay to appear in the stores.

I checked out the list of upcoming authors at these particular stores; they included Lee Child, David Sedaris and Jeffrey Deaver. If publishers are paying to have these authors in a store, then the publishers are dumb as mud. Especially when the town has a Barnes and Nobles and a Borders within blocks of the author-charging independents.

Hosting a book signing by a self-published author is not a money-making proposition. Most authors don't know what it costs a store to set up a signing. Most signings bring in few customers, some of whom buy books to be signed while others bring books in to be signed that they've bought at other bookstores. Stores pay for shipping, for the cost of books, flyers, advertising and newsletters to entice customers to meet a new author. Lee Child and Jeffrey Deaver will draw in droves; a new author is a difficult draw.

A recent author at our store drew no one, nobody, nada...even though we did press releases, flyers, an e-mail newsletter and radio advertising. But those costs are part of being in the book business. We do it because we love books and authors. We'd like to make money too, but sometimes just being able to pay your bills is success enough. Besides, I loved this author's book and have sold several copies since the appearance.

Second note:

An author sent me two books recently with a request to feature them in the store. The books were published by Booksurge (a POD) and arrived in an Amazon.com box.

At first I thought it was a mistake. I would never order from Amazon.com. (Booksurge is owned by Amazon.com.)

Sending the books was a marketing technique by this author, but what makes him/her think that'd I'd order from the very company that wishes to put independent bookstores out of business? Don't independent bookstores have enough problems struggling against chainstores? Why would we order our supplies from the behemoth?

I get requests every week from authors to carry their books. I go to their website and inevitably they prominently display a link to Amazon.com. Authors who want independents to support them should think about adding a link to (in the case of mystery bookstores) the IMBA or for a general bookstore to IndieBound to encourage readers to buy from an independent.

After all, authors are independents too.

For more information, go to:



Friday, June 6, 2008

Write on

For those of us in Vermont all writers conferences are great conferences: Someone knows we're here.

So when I received a flyer for the League of Vermont Writers' "Writers Meet Agents Conference" I thought I'd better get out the word.

If you live in Vermont and can travel to Burlington on Saturday, July 19, there will be a day-long event at Champlain College from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There will be roundtables, workshops and a chance for one-on-one sessions. Among the agencies represented from New York will be Curtis Brown Agency, Drystel and Goderich Literary Agency, Fischer-Harbage Agency, The Nancy Love Literary Agency, Spectrum Literary Agency; from Massachusetts, Fairbank Literary Representation.

There will also be a workshop on query letters and information on marketing online. Overnight accommodations are available on campus.

Go to:


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Random Thoughts

Who will win the Quantity in Publishing Award this year. Certainly not Clive Cussler with only 2 hardcovers scheduled this year or W.E.B. Griffin, who this year will have paltry 3 new hardcovers out. Nope, not even close. James Patterson plans to have 7 new titles in print by year's end. He can write them faster than I can read them. He's less a brand name and more a major industry ... like Velveeta or Cheezwhiz or some other dairy product. (I think this weekend's Strolling of the Heifers is beginning to take its toll.)

Bill O'Reilly's memior will be released Sept. 23. It's called A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. At the end, do we find out it's a cookbook? (Shades of The Twilight Zone.)

Random House will be publishing P.D. James' new Dalgleish mystery The Private Patient on Nov. 18. Meanwhile, those in Great Britain will have access to it in September. Bummer. But it's been three years since The Lighthouse, so we should be able to tough it out a couple of extra months, although I don't know why we should have to.

  • Writer Duane Swierczynski, author of the comically violent Severance Package, has a new hardcover out from Quirk. It's titled Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor and the author and the publisher have a history together with The Crimes of Dr. Watson. Like the latter, Batman is "interactive" and contains a party invitation, newspaper, map of Wayne Manor and more. Illustrations are by David Lapham (Stray Bullets) and it'd be a great Father's Day gift for the kid in your dad. (Hint. Hint.)

    Earlier this week the Crime Writers Association announced its 2008 Dagger Award nominees. Since the list is comprehensive and you really should visit this organization's site occasionally, you'll have to click on the link below to find out who the nominees are. Winners will be announce July 10 at the Four Season Hotel in Park Lane, London. Oh to be there. (Spoiler: Sue Grafton will be presented the Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence.)
    Go to:

    Note: Random Thoughts is not a subsidiary of Random House or its affiliates. They are just...well, random thoughts.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Today would be Ian Fleming's 100th birthday, so it's a good day to celebrate the creation of spy James Bond.

    I discovered Bond, first, at the movies. It was called Dr. No and one of the photos inside the theater lobby featured Ursula Andress rising from the sea in a teeny bikini. I was in high school; I had to see that film. And I was not disappointed, either by Ms. Andress or the adventure plot.

    With my hormones up and running, Ian Fleming/James Bond became an obsession. I began reading the books. I was not alone; we all read them. (And then along came I Spy, The Man From Uncle and Danger Man to satisfy our burgeoning habit, and Get Smart to laugh at it. And let's not forget to mention infusions of Our Man Flint and Matt Helm. By the late '60s, spies were everywhere.)

    There was much to please a high school boy in the Bond oeuvre of girls, guns and a disdain for authority. Bond even trumped the American government, and poor Felix Leiter, Fleming's cardboard cutout stand-in for American authority, became shark bait while the brash Brit bagged the bird.

    While I loved the names of the women Bond bedded from Honey Rider to Pussy Galore, I had (barely) matured in unenlightened times (this was 1962, well before the Summer of Love) unaware of the sexual undertones throughout. Galore, it turns out, was more interested in women than in men, yet she succumbed to Bond's masculine prowess.

    And Fleming threw us some real curves: Honey Rider (Andress' character in Dr. No) had "a beautiful back... and the behind was almost as firm and rounded as a boy's." Meanwhile Tatianna Romanov's backside (in From Russia With Love) is described as so "hardened with exercise that it had lost the smooth doward feminine sweep, and now, round at the back and flat and hard and the sides, it jutted like a man's." Say what?
    (For more information on Fleming's proclivities, see "That License to Kill Is Unexpired," an article published in Sunday's New York Times [there are also sundry other articles about 007 here] at: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/ian_fleming/index.html?inline=nyt-per )

    And Bond had a tendency to force sex, even on a willing woman. He had a bit of the brute about him, but then you can't blame Bond because he had other issues: Bond villains had a preoccupation with genital torture, so maybe Bond had to work up a head of steam just to get his engine revved. Still, even as a teenager, some of this seemed...well, unhealthy.

    But Bond was raw and unexpected, providing a jolt out of our black-and-white post-war complacency. He smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish and still managed to make it to live another day. (Fleming made it to age 56; so much for real life.)

    Then Hollywood smoothed out 007's rough edges and gave us an icon instead of a man. Connery turned him into a god, Lazenby wasn't given a chance; Moore was insipid, Brosnan was Remington Steele; Dalton was too dark and dangerous as escapist movie material. The jury is still out on Daniel Craig.

    So we have two Bonds: the first in print and the second, ever evolving, on film. The latest incarnation in print (and there have been many) is Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care. It is set in the Cold War and the reviews, so far, are good.

    So Bond is back, but I wonder if he will be able to pass his greatest test -- fulfilling the puerile fantasies of high school boys.

    Also see Ursula Andress in the Dr. No bikini at:

    Ursula Andress Dr. No bikini scene at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnsYVmh9Gtg

    Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    Waiting for Wexford

    Those of us waiting for June 10 may be getting antsy. It's the day that Not in the Flesh, the latest Inspector Wexford novel hits bookstore shelves this side of the Pond (It's been available overseas since last year). Still, waiting a few extra months for a new book by Baroness Rendell of Babergh CBE aka Ruth Rendell is what we are willing to do.

    Rendell, along with P.D. James, has been credited with changing the course of the mystery novel. Where earlier purveyors of English detective fiction gave us the whodunnit, Rendell is among those who elevated it to the whydunnit, immersing us in the psychology of a killer -- development, environment and sexual obsessions.

    With a trunkload of Edgars, Silver Daggers, Gold Daggers, Diamond Dagger and Gumshoe Awards, she's given us a book a year since 1964, writing under Rendell or Barbara Vine. All this while sitting as a member of the House of Lords. Meanwhile, her latest work Portobello comes out in England in November. So we can anticipate yet another next year.

    And with her graceful prose and sharp insights into character, we know that Not in the Flesh will have been worth the wait. And the wait is nearly over.

    Monday, June 2, 2008


    Bouchercon 2008: Charmed to Death happens Oct. 9-12 in Baltimore. Of course, the convention has its own awards: The Anthony Awards. Here are this year's nominees.

    The 2008 Anthony Award Nominees

    Best Novel
    James Lee Burke-Tin Roof Blowdown- Simon and Schuster
    Lee Child – Bad Luck and Trouble Delacorte Press
    Robert Crais- The Watchman Simon and Schuster
    William Kent Krueger-Thunder Bay Atria
    Laura Lippman – What the Dead Know William Morrow

    Best First Novel
    Sean Chercover- Big City, Bad Blood William Morrow
    Tana French- In the Woods Viking Adult
    Lisa Lutz-The Spellman Files Simon and Schuster
    Craig MacDonald- Head Games Bleak House Books
    Marcus Sakey- The Blade Itself St. Martin Minotaur

    Best Paperback Original
    Megan Abbott- Queenpin Simon and Schuster
    Ken Bruen and Jason Starr – Slide Hard Case Crime
    David Corbett- Blood of Paradise Ballantine Books
    Robert Fate- Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues Capital Crime Press
    P.J. Parrish- A Thousand Bones Pocket

    Short Story
    Rhys Bowen- “Please Watch Your Step” (The Strand Magazine-Spring 07)
    Steve Hockensmith-”Dear Dr. Watson” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
    Toni L. P. Kelner - “How Stella Got her Grave Back” - (Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner) for Ace Hardcover
    Laura Lippman- “Hardly Knew Her” - (Dead Man’s Hand edited by Otto Penzler) for Harcourt
    Daniel Woodrell -”Uncle” – (A Hell of A Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir edited by Megan Abbott) for Busted Flush Press

    Critical Work
    Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley Penguin
    The Essential Mystery Lists Compiled by Roger Sobin Poisoned Pen Press
    The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction – Patrick Anderson Random House
    Deviance in Contemporary Crime Fiction- Christiana Gregoriou Palgrave MacMillan

    Special Services
    Jon and Ruth Jordan- Crime Spree Magazine
    Ali Karim- Shotz Magazine
    Maddy Van Hertbruggen- 4MA
    Sarah Weinman- Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
    Judy Bobalik- for being one of the best friends and supporters of mystery writers anywhere

    Web Site
    Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind- Sarah Weinman
    Rap sheet/January Magazine –J Kingston Pierce
    Murderati – A Writer’s Blog
    Stop You’re Killing Me- Stan Ulrich & Lucinda Surber
    Crime Fiction Dossier- David Montgomery

    For more information, go to: http://charmedtodeath.com/

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    In print

    Anyone interested in mysteries or publishing in the U.S. should check out the Sisters in Crime website (see below).

    Sisters in Crime is an organization of "authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by our affection for the mystery genre and our support of women who write mysteries.

    Four Sisters in Crime members trekked to Manhattan to speak with representatives of several publishing houses. If you want to know how the genre is doing and what the genre is doing, this is a great four-part series of articles.

    For information, go to:

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    Having a cow

    Some mysteries are difficult to explain; others are easy.

    When I first heard of Brattleboro, Vermont's annual Strolling of the Heifers, I was perplexed. Was this some sort of Quaalude-inspired version of the Running of the Bulls? Turns out it isn't. It's a celebration of all things agricultural, happens every first weekend in June and kicks off National Dairy Month.

    According to a passage in the forthcoming Vermont Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Curiosities by Robert F. Wilson with photographs by Victoria Blewer (in bookstores in September from Globe Pequot Press), the parade features “100 flower-laden Holstein and Jersey cows – and occasionally a Guernsey or two – making their way down Main Street to a cheering crowd, followed by draft horses, tractors, jugglers, clowns, fire eaters... But it wouldn’t be a dairy festival without a milking contest, music by the Heifer Brass Quartet (and at least a dozen other jazz and classical groups), a Dairy Princess Pageant, and a Royal Farmers Feast and Farm Tour.”

    It all starts here in Brattleboro on Friday, June 6 with a Gallery Walk at 5:15 p.m. that celebrates Women in Agriculture and is accompanied by the closing of Main Street between Elliot and High streets for a little dancing as fresco. The parade kicks off Saturday, June 7 at 10 a.m., goes down Main Street and is followed by a host of events at the Brattleboro Retreat and other locations around town.

    If you haven't been to Brattleboro, this is a great weekend to get the flavor of this agricultural state: milk, cheese, ice cream. Yum.

    And stop in at Mystery on Main Street to say hello. We don't have any books about cows, but you can pick up a copy of Three Bags Full, the tale of a flock of sheep who set out to solve the murder of their shepherd. It, too, is a wild and wooly time.

    For more information, go to: http://www.strollingoftheheifers.org

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    High crimes

    Crime books are an interesting breed. They come in all varieties: fiction, nonfiction, faction and speculative. The latest in the latter comes from an unlikely source: Vincent Bugliosi.

    L.A. County District Attorney prosecutor Bugliosi came to fame with his prosecution of the Charles Manson case and followed it with its retelling in Helter Skelter, one of the bestselling true-crime titles of all time.

    Today is the official release date of Bugliosi's The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, whose title alone can't go unnoticed. In it, Bugliosi puts forth the case that Bush should go on trial for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers who lost their lives fighting in Iraq. Bugliosi's evidence: that the war was sold to America under false pretenses and that it has needlessly cost the lives of 100,000 Iraqis, caused the U.S. to be seen as the villain in a world, and cost the American people trillions of dollars to wage it ... with no end in sight.

    The book sounds fascinating; and while the publishers say Bugliosi presents a non-partisan argument, you can't help thinking that the book's title is totally inflammatory. Coming on the heels of former National Coordinator for Security and Counter Terrorism Richard A. Clarke's Your Government Failed You and ex-Press Secretary's Scott McClellen's What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, this can't be a good week, tome-wise, for Dubya et al. (Not surprisingly, current Press Secretary Dana Perino said of McClellen's book, “We are puzzled.”)

    If all this gets lost in spin this weekend as Fox News focuses on an incredulous Karl Rove and as right-wing talking heads bemoan the fact that New York State will recognize gay marriages made outside its borders, don't be surprised. News media has no attention span and, as has been seen for the past few years, can be played like a violin by Pennsylvania Avenue virtuosi.

    According to the Bugliosi's publisher's website, the book “outlines a legally credible pathway to holding our highest government officials accountable for their actions.”

    I won't hold my breath.

    For more information, go to: http://www.prosecutionofbush.com/

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Coming to a bookstore near you

    Summer is upon us and publishers are revving up beach reading with some sure-fire sellers. Here's a look at what's coming in June.

    June 1
    The Walking Dead by Gerald Seymour
    An armed protection officer in London and a would-be suicide bomber begin to question their identities.

    June 2
    Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook
    In 1954 Mississippi, high school teacher Jack Branch befriends one of his students, the son of a notorious murderer, which leads to deadly consequences.

    June 3
    Nothing to Lose: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
    Reacher finds himself taking on a Colorado town as he searches for the truth behind its connection to a brutal war.
    The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
    In 1937 Warsaw, on the eve of World War II, intelligence operatives wage their own espionage battle in a world of betrayal, intrigue and abduction.
    Vineyard Chill: A Martha's Vineyard Mystery by Philip R. Craig
    J.W.'s happy domesticity with Zee and the kids disrupted by a surprising call from a reckless old friend who needs help hiding from would-be assailants, a situation with ties to a beautiful woman's disappearance. A final installment of the popular series by the late author.
    Murder on Bank Street: A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson
    Once again Sarah Brandt teams up with Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy, this time to investigate the murder of her late husband, in a mystery set in turn-of-the-20th-century New York.
    Death and Honor: An Honor Bound Novel by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
    In 1943 Argentina, Marine pilot Cletus Frade monitors two German operations, including a concentration-camp smuggling ring and a Nazi protection group.
    Dyer Consequences: A Knitting Mystery by Maggie Sefton
    Kelly Flynn's plans to renovate her recently purchased alpaca ranch are threatened by acts of sabotage targeting her new home and her local yarn shop, in a mystery complemented by a new knitting pattern and recipe.

    June 10
    The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver
    Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs team up only to find themselves a killer's next targets.
    Not in the Flesh: A Wexford Novel by Ruth Rendell
    Chief Inspector Wexford must piece together long-ago events to uncover the identity of a murder victim.

    June 17
    The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
    Boone Daniels investigates an insurance scam that has ties to an unsolved murder case.
    Fearless Fourteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
    Stephanie Plum, Grandma Mazur, vice captain Joe Morelli, Bob the Dog, funeral home and a pot roast take center stage in this popular comic series.

    June 24
    TailSpin: An FBI Thriller by Catherine Coulter
    FBI agents Savich and Sherlock head for Kentucky to discover the fates of a missing agent and the doctor he was protecting.

    Monday, May 26, 2008

    Nordic but nice

    Nordic mysteries have found a new life and I'm wondering whether Joe Queenan had anything to do with it. His Sunday article in the Los Angeles Times hit the mark (see link below).

    Henning Mankell was certainly the writer who kicked open the door, and he isn't alone anymore. How many of these authors have you read? Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbo, K.O. Dahl, Maj Sjowall, Mari Jungstedt, Asa Larsson, Ake Edwardson, Helene Tursten, Fred Vargas, Matti Joensuu? And, of course, there's Iceland's Arnaldur Indridason (Jar City anyone?). And there will be more names to discover this fall.

    So the next time you're looking for a mystery that will take you out of yourself, check out some of these international, Nordic names.

    Long time, no blog

    It's been a busy couple of months and my blogging, I admit, has suffered. Running a bookshop, it turns out, can be difficult at best ... but, finally, I'm back in the blogosphere.

    Recently had author Tom Coffey in the store to sign books and answer questions of readers. For those of you who don't know Coffey, he's a sports editor at The New York Times and author of Blood Alley (Toby Press), a new novel in the noir tradition.

    The book is stiletto sharp with rich dialogue and striking images. Set in post-WWII New York, it evokes a time of big city corruption, unbridled wealth and daily newspaper wars. (Not much, it seems, has changed in 60 years.) It's not a pretty book, portraying racism in the Big Apple when it was rotten to the core. There are no heroes in Blood Alley, simply people trying to do what's best for themselves. The few who do good quickly discover that no good deed goes unpunished.

    The period detail is spot-on and Coffey immerses you in a time gone by. It's a great read for those who love Chandler, Chinatown and all those gritty '50s films that you knew would end badly for the protagonist.

    Since Blood Alley received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, booksellers and readers around the country may soon discover Coffey's talent.

    Sunday, April 27, 2008

    The Spirit of Christmas

    Just when you thought life couldn't get any better, Frank Miller comes along to lift your spirits ... literally.

    Seems Miller and company will release My City Screams, based on Will Eisner's icon character The Spirit, come December.

    For those of you who don't know The Spirit, he's a vigilante crime fighter, a young cop named Denny Colt who was placed in suspended animation and mistakenly buried. When he reawakened and made his way out of his Wildwood Cemetery grave plot, he went to work ridding Central City of crime. His costume of choice? Blue business suit, fedora, gloves and a domino mask (similar to those worn by the Lone Ranger and Robin of Batman fame).

    Thankfully, the character of Ebony White (a woefully stereotyped African-American) has been eliminated from the mix of characters. But ... oh, those femmes fatale. It appears that P'Gell (the sexy black widow who was a recurring villain) is not in the film (although one never really knows). But there are compensations: Scarlett Johanssen as Silken Floss, Eva Mendez as Sand Serif, Paz Vega as Plaster of Paris and Stana Katic as Morgenstern.

    And, since Samuel L. Jackson will play The Spirit's archenemy The Octopus, things couldn't look brighter (or is it darker?) for My City Screams. And it hits the big screen Christmas Day. Now that's the spirit.

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Family affair

    The Clarks, mother Mary Higgins Clark and daughter Carol Higgins Clark, each have new books hitting the shelves Tuesday: Where Are You Now by MHC and Zapped by CHC. This got us thinking about other mystery writers whose relatives also made their mark in mysteries.

    Dick Francis' latest mystery, Dead Heat, was co-authored with son Felix Francis. Christopher Rice, son of Ann Rice, has several of his own books out, the latest of which is Blind Fall.

    E.W. Hornung, who gave us Raffles and the Crime Doctor, was brother-in-law to Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And while Joe Hill, author of The Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts, is a popular writer, his dad Stephen King is no slouch in the thriller department.

    Fans of Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ian Rutledge may not know that that venernable British detective is the creation of Charles and Caroline Todd, an American mother-son team.

    And Jesse Kellerman, son of authors Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, has a new book out this week also; it's called The Genius.

    Some things just run in the family

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    The awards season continues

    The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced its finalist for the 2008 Derriger Awards. They are:

    Best Story (0 to 1,000 words)
    "Saved" by Keri Clark (Fall 2007,Mysterical-E)
    "Dreaming of a Spite Christmas" by B.V. Lawson (Winter 2007, Mouth Full of Bullets, )
    "A Woman Scorned" by Jillian Berg (Autumn 2007, Mouth Full of Bullets)
    "Your New Fan" by Keri Clark (Winter 2007, Mouth Full of Bullets)
    "My Hero" by Patricia Abbott (2007, D.Z. Allen’s Muzzle Flash)

    Best Story (1,001-4,000 words)
    "Brimstone P.I." by Beverle Graves Myers (May 2007, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
    "We All Come from Splattertown" by Hugh Lessig (July 2007, ThugLit)
    "Joyride" by Rick Noetzel (December 2007, Shred of Evidence)
    "Handful of Stars" by Jack Hardway (Autumn 2007, Mouth Full of Bullets)
    "In the Shadows of Wrigley Field" by John Weagly (November 2007, The Back Alley, )
    "The Promise" by Camille LaGuire (March-April 2007, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine)

    Best Story (4,001-8,000 words)
    "A Trader’s Lot" by Twist Phalen (from Wall Street Noir)
    "Devil’s Lake" by John Schroeder (January/February 2007, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine)
    "A Private Hanging" by Herschel Cozine (Summer 2007, Mysterical-E)
    "Mr. McGregor’s Garden" by Kate Flora (Still Waters)
    "Growing Up Is for Losers" by Rosemary Harris (Still Waters)
    "The Gospel According to Gordon Black" by Richard Helms (Fall 2007, The Thrilling Detective Web Site)

    Best Story (8,001-17,500 words)
    "The Bookworm’s Demise" by Beverle Graves Myers (December 2007, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
    "Paper Walls/Glass Houses" by Eric Shane (June 2007, The Back Alley)
    "The Enlightenment of Magnus McKay" by John Burdett (Wall Street Noir)
    "Wasting Assets" by Mike Wiecek (September 2007, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
    "Forget Me Not" by Clifford Royal Johns (Fall 2007, Mysterical-E)

    For more information, go to: http://www.shortmystery.net/

    Thursday, April 3, 2008

    Books (and readers) full of surprises

    As the owner of a retail store, I'm continually surprised at what books people buy ... at least in my shop.

    I had expected to sell mountains of James Patterson's books, just the way the supermarket here in town sells cases of Pepsi. But I find that Patterson is anathema to my customers who much prefer works by Kate Atkinson, Donna Leon and Ross Thomas.

    Meanwhile, books that I considered a hard sell have been proven to be easy.

    Case-in-point: We Disappear by Scott Heim.

    I knew Heim had written Mysterious Skin, but didn't discover the book until after I'd seen the movie on DVD release. When I met Heim at NEIBA last fall, I got a copy of his book and devoured it. It moved me so much that, while it isn't the traditional sleuth-hunts-down-killer scenario of detective fiction, I invited him to a signing at the store. (It will happen Saturday, April 5 at 1 p.m. for those of you in the Brattleboro, Vt. area).

    I brought in some copies, put up a display and expected not to sell many until the event.

    I was wrong. When I tallied up my sales last week, it was number 5 among my bestsellers. Even more surprising, We Disappear was my No. 1 seller for the month of March.

    Sure, you say, but March is always a slow month. True, I say, but still...

    Readers are taking to We Disappear. And while Ian Rankin and Cara Black continue to sell swimmingly, there appears to be interest out there for more eclectic titles written by authors willing to take a chance.

    I'm sure Heim didn't write We Disappear with the genre of mystery in mind. He set out to write a good novel and, luckily, those of us who like a good mystery have benefited.

    Note: I've just finished and fallen in love with Jennifer McMahon's Island of Lost Girls. This coming-of-age novel has all the earmarks of becoming a classic. That it's also a fine murder mystery is an unexpected bonus.