Monday, March 31, 2008

A fine romance: part deux

Back on March 28 I wrote that the Romance Writers of America had nominated some mystery authors and lamented: "Author Hank Phillippi Ryan received two nominations: ... one for Romantic Suspense and one for Best First Book. Sadly, both of Ryan's books, Face Time and Prime Time, currently are listed as Permanently Out of Stock at the publisher. Both books were published less than a year ago. Go figure."

Well, since then Ryan's publisher has discovered that Ryan is a find and will be reissuing both Prime Time and Face Time next fall in anticipation of Air Time, Ryan's third Charlotte McNally mystery, hitting bookshelves in September '09 . Not only that, they will be reissued under Harlequin's MIRA imprint (originally they were available as Next editions).

The news is good for Ryan as the Next titles are fairly disposable (they are even dated with the month and year of issue like a magazine) while MIRA has shelf life attached to it.

According to Ryan, September '10 will bring us Drive Time, so her fans can expect some more romantic mystery for a couple of years.

See, people ... those awards nominations sometimes pay off.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

From Russia, with murder

Those waiting for the next Rostnikov mystery from Stuart M. Kaminsky have until Aug. 8 for People Who Walk in Darkness to be released. But if you still need a Mother Russia fix, keep your eyes open for Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 due out April 29. It is one of those books that are reviewed as "unputdownable," or some such expression and frankly, it was.

Set in Stalinist Russia it follows the political unraveling of Soviet state security officer Leo Demidov who discovers evidence of a serial killer at work, a creature who goes against the promise of true Communist. When he is demoted for voicing his beliefs and deported to a less attractive posting, Demidov discovers that the evidence continues to mount. With state-sponsored threats against his family and a marriage crumbling beneath him, he finds an unexpected allies willing to risk their own lives to help Demidov find the killer.

This is Smith's first thriller and, if this is any indication of what he will be producing in the future, the genre (with all its formulaic film fantasies) has found a new voice, someone who can create characters as fullblown, vulnerable, human beings.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Belles' epoch

Girls behaving badly is nothing new. The first will probably never be known, but certainly the first recorded example appeared in a 1941 edition of Lilliput magazine. It marked the beginning of a decade-long series of St. Trinian's cartoons by Ronald Searle.

His cartoons suggested that, contrary to popular belief, English school girls were not as proper as they were touted to be. Searle's girls were cigarette-smoking, gin-guzzling hellraisers who could wield a field hockey stick with the deadly force of a police trunchant. Being a teacher at St. Trinian's was a far more dangerous career move than being appointed the new Master of the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.

Searle's appallingly appealing belles are now collected in St. Trinian's: The Entire Appalling Business (Overlook Press $29.95). The darkly comic collection chronicles the vices of boarding school young women in the only way Searle knew how: a whirlwind of lines evoking merry mischief.

Searle's horrid little girls captured all "isms" the English feared were being taught to young ladies behind boarding school gates: feminism, lesbianism and anarchism; some cartoons portrayed the students as downright demonic. But the mayhem so delighted the general public that the first St. Trinian's collection appeared in 1947. That collection resulted in St. Trinian's novels and later St. Trinian's movies (Note: St. Trinian's, a film starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth was released in the UK in 2007).

But Searle's found that St. Trinian's was overshadowing everything else he did, and the Establishment began blaming his cartoons for inspiring real mayhem in schools.

Searle ended the series by having the school evaporated by an A-bomb. To accompany the end of an era, C. Day Lewis wrote "A Short Dirge for St Trinian's" in which he said: "Though St Trinian's lies in ruins, the St Trinian's spirit will arise from her ashes, like a vulture from the feast."

More than half a century later, the belles of St. Trinian's continue their glorious, criminous behavior.

Now let us all sing:
Whack it up, girls! Bung the ball
Thro' Life's goalposts at the call.
Who can stay the Island Blood?
Rub their bustles in the mud!
Gallant hearts and bulldog pans,
Floreat St Trinian's!
(from The Terror of St. Trinian's by Timothy Shy)

Friday, March 28, 2008

A fine romance

Romance Writers of America has announced its nominees for its annual RITA Awards. The golden statuette named after RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, is awarded in a number of categories. What we are concerned with here are the Romantic Suspense Finalists. They are:

2008 RITA for Romantic Suspense Finalists
Die for Me by Karen Rose
Grand Central Publishing, Vision - (0446616915)
Karen Kosztolnyik, editor
Ice Blue by Anne Stuart
Harlequin Enterprises, MIRA - (0778324788)
Margaret O'Neil Marbury, editor
Ice Storm by Anne Stuart
Harlequin Enterprises, MIRA - (0778325008)
Margaret O'Neil Marbury, editor
Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin NEXT - (9780373881352)
Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor
Speak No Evil by Allison Brennan
Ballantine - (9780345495020)
Charlotte Herscher, editor
Traceless by Debra Webb
St. Martin's Press, - (0312942222)
Jennifer Weis, editor
White Heat by Cherry Adair
Ballantine/Ivy, - (978-0-345-47644-9)
Charlotte Herscher, editor

What I find so fascinating about this list is that not only are the publishers and ISBNs listed but the editor of each book is named. The editor? To hear some big-name writers tell it, their books come out full blown masterpieces -- editors have nothing to do with it. That the RWA acknowledges the writer's need for a good editor is worth an award in itself for the RWA.

Special note: Author Hank Phillippi Ryan received two nominations: the one for Romantic Suspense and one for Best First Book. Sadly, both of Ryan's books, Face Time and Prime Time, currently are listed as Permanently Out of Stock at the publisher. Both books were published less than a year ago. Go figure.

For all the nominations, go to:

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Those of us who love Peter Lorre and his deranged pedophile from Fritz Lang's M where probably horrified to discover that it was being turned into a graphic novel. What were they thinking?
Turns out that Abrams publishers was thinking smart, as even a cursory look at M by John J. Muth shows.
Muth has illustrated a host of children's books, including The Three Questions, Stone Soup, Zen Shorts and Come On, Rain!, the last winning a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators. And if you familiar with Caroline Kennedy's A Family of Poems, you've seen Muth's work.
And M is not new. Muth originally created it in 1990 in a series of four comic books for Eclipse (since out of business). Here the four books are collected in a hardcover edition from remastered negatives of Muth's original work.
Muth first photographed his scenes using family and friends to play the parts, shooting it in his hometown of Cincinnati. The photos were then treated with different techniques -- drawing in silverpoint and graphite and adding color to enhance certain objects or scenes.
For those who don't know the original film, it was Fritz Lang's first sound film, and it dealt with a pedophile hunted by the police and brought to trial by the forces of the Berlin underworld.
Muth's artwork, while shot in period costume, imbues M with a contemporary feel. He brings his pictures upclose and personal. You feel implicated in the crimes.
M is a beautifully disturbing work.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shelf awareness

It's a big day for mystery lovers of all stripes as a host of new titles are now on sale. In no particular order:
Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman features the return of Alex Delaware who teams up with LAPD detective Milo Sturges on a hunt for a killer who has a penchant for black automobiles. We meet hookers, commodities brokers and a missing school girl. It's number 22 in the dependable series.
Speaking of dependable series, Thomas Pitt is on the case in Anne Perry's Buckingham Palace Gardens. When the body of a mutilated prostitute is found in a cupboard in Buckingham Palace, Pitt is called in to stave off scandal; seems that the prince of Wales was hosting a stag party, and none of this looks good for his succession to the throne. This is the 25th in the series with more to come.
Hollywood Nate Weiss and Bix Ramstead go out for a little fun and come up with a heap of trouble in Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Crows. There's a femme fatale, a seedy nightclub owner and plenty of gallows humor; pretty much what you'd expect from Wambaugh in this followup to Hollywood Station.
Carolyn Hart offers more Death On Demand in Death Walked In, in which Annie Darling comforts a dying shooting victim and Max joins her to find the killer(s).
For those who like their settings Southern, their atmosphere light and their protagonist cantankerous, Anne B. Ross offers a hearty helping of each in Miss Julia Paints the Town. Here you'll get missing husbands, mysterious visions and a host of eccentrics in this eighth outing of Julia Springer Murdoch and friends.
Those seeking a bit of romantic suspense and some otherworldly doings can check out Heather Graham's Death Dealer, her sequel to the bestseller, The Dead Room. There's nothing like a crazed serial killer inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's stories and a high body count to keep you reading into the wee hours.
Available in paperback: Bad Luck and Trouble, the 11th Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child, is out and anyone who read it will tell you that not only is Jack back but he's got some great banter, a host of villains and a knockout ending.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The future is looking bright

Anglophiles among mystery readers got some good news recently.

The March 17 edition of Publishers' Weekly announced that Anne Perry had just penned an agreement with Random House to deliver four more mysteries. There will be two new Thomas and Charoltte Pitt books (that will bring the total to 27) and two new William Monk titles (bringing that series up to 18 titles). But they won't show up until after Perry's The Sheen on the Silk, a stand-alone due out in 2010.

Meanwhile, I was trolling the U.K. bookwebs and found something that really excited me. After nearly a decade away, John Harvey's latest novel Cold In Hand brings back D.I. Charlie Resnick. What could be better? Now that the early Resnick's have found a champion in Bloody Brits (four Resnicks already reissued with the rest to come), Cold In Hand will be published here in the States in September, the same month we get a reissue of Easy Meat (let's hope we see Last Rites soon) and a week before Gone to Ground hits paperback.

Life is good.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Nominees for the Strand Magazine Critics Award have been announced. They are:

Best Novel
Down River by John Hart (St Martin’s Minotaur)
The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston (Ballantine Books)
The Strangler by William Landay (Delacorte Press)
The Watchman by Robert Crais (Simon and Schuster)
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman (William Morrow)

Best First Novel
The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey (St. Martin's Minotaur)
In the Woods by Tana French (Viking)
The Mark by Jason Pinter (Mira Books)
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (William Morrow)
When One Man Dies by Dave White (Crown Publishing)

Awards will be presented July 9. For more information, go to:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Size doesn't matter

Size doesn't matter, at least where good writing is concerned. That's why short stories are so popular among mystery fans.

This year's Agatha Awards has nominated four stories and each can be found online for your perusal. Simply click on the links and enjoy.

Donna Andrews, "A Rat's Tale"

Rhys Bowen, "Please Watch Your Step"

Nan Higginson, "Casino Gamble"

Elizabeth Zelvin, "Death Will Clean Your Closet"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The thrill of it all

International Thrillers Writers has announced nominees for this year's Thrillerfest.

Here are the nominees:

No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay (Bantam)
The Watchman by Robert Crais (Simon & Schuster)
The Ghost by Robert Harris (Simon & Schuster)
The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz (Viking)
Trouble by Jesse Kellerman (Putnam)

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (Dutton)
Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover (William Morrow)
From the Depths by Gerry Doyle (McBook Press)
Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi (Henry Holt and Co.)
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (William Morrow)

The Last Nightingale by Anthony Flacco (Ballantine)
A Thousand Bones by P.J. Parrish (Pocket)
The Midnight Road by Tom Piccirilli (Bantam)
The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon (Pocket)
Shattered by Jay Bonansinga (Pinnacle)

Interestingly, Harris' The Ghost seemed to fly under the radar of the reading public. Maybe this nod will cause some to give it a closer look.

For more information, go to:

Lambda Literary mystery finalists

The 20th annual Lambda Literary Awards finalists have been announced and, happily, they have a mystery category.

This year's finalists are:

Wall of Silence, 2nd Ed., Gabrielle Goldsby (Bold Strokes Books)
Mortal Groove, Ellen Hart (St. Martin's Press)
In the Name of the Father, Gerri Hill (Bella Books)
Selective Memory, Jennifer L. Jordan (Spinsters Ink)
Laura's War, Ursula Steck (Bella Books)

Double Abduction, Chris Beakey (J. Boylston/ ibooks, Inc.)
Stain of the Berry, Anthony Bidulka (Insomniac Press)
Pierce, Roberto Ferrari (Haworth)
Murder in the Rue Chartres, Greg Herren (Alyson Books)
Mahu Surfer, Neil Plakcy (Alyson Books)
Drag Queen in the Court of Death, Caro Soles (Haworth)

Good luck to all.

For more information, go to:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's cooking

Berkley Prime Crime has just published the first of a new bookstore series, Lorna Barrett's Murder is Binding. And while I'm not immediately drawn to books illustrated with a cat on the cover and a blurb that states "Includes Recipes," I always give them a cursory look just to get the flavor of book.

Imbedded in the copyright page is the following:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

I can only wonder whether a recipe book should have that warning. Or if murder mysteries should state: The murder techniques and alibis used in the perpetration of the crimes in this book are fictional. Criminals should consult their lawyer prior to the commission of a crime. The publisher is not repsonsible for the reader getting caught attempting a similar crime.

I guess we do live in a litigious society.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What are publishers thinking (...if at all)?

When I first began putting together my list of the authors I wanted to carry in my store, the list was clear. Along with Chandler, Hammett, Christie and Sayers, I had written in names like Nicholas Blake, Ellery Queen and Cyril Hare.

Little did I know that many of them had gone completely out of print or were, in poultry terms, as scarce as hen's teeth.

Here is a short list of some titles currently out of print:
The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake: Written under a pseudonym by poet Cecil Day-Lewis (yep, Daniel's daddy), it is among the series of Nigel Strangeways novels that boast great plots and wit. Beast ... and Smiler with a Knife are two classics languishing somewhere in publisher's limbo.

The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr: Does anyone remember Gideon Fell? It would appear that few responsible with keeping good mysteries in print, do. Well, that's finally about to change. Kudos to Rue Morgue Press for bringing back The Crooked Hinge back into print later this month and Carter Dickson's (aka John Dickson Carr's) The Judas Window along with it. Now, if we could just have The Hollow Man again.

Ellery Queen: Most of Ellery Queen is gone. Okay, we do have Thunder Mouth's The Hollywood Murders which contain three Queen cases -- The Devil to Pay, The Four of Hearts, and The Origin of Evil. But where is The Greek Coffin Mystery, and for that matter, where are The Spanish Cape Mystery, The French Powder Mystery, The Chinese Orange Mystery?

No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase: He wrote this tale of abduction, ransom and rape in 1938 and it was a hit. It was a stage play. It was a movie. Try to find it in print.

Of course, I guess you can't expect publishers to keep old books in print. But it doesn't explain why, at least here in the states, these are out of print: King Solomon's Carpet by Barbara Vine (1990), Popcorn by Ben Elton (1996), The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale (2001) and Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark (1999). The first two won the Crime Writers Association's Golden Dagger, the latter two won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award.

Pitiful. Just pitiful.