Jul 302014
• The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and the Deanston Distillery have jointly announced their shortlist of nominees for the third annual Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year:

-- Flesh Wounds, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
-- Falling Fast, by Neil Broadfoot (Saraband)
-- The Amber Fury, by Natalie Haynes (Corvus)
-- Entry Island, by Peter May (Quercus)
-- A Lovely Way to Burn, by Louise Welsh (John Murray)
-- In the Rosary Garden, by Nicola White (Cargo)

The winner is scheduled to be declared on September 20 during a special Bloody Scotland event. (Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

• And recipients of the 2014 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense competition were announced last week during the Romance Writers of America national conference in San Antonio, Texas. Click hereto see the winners in half a dozen categories.

• I respect Will Ferrell as an actor, but I think this idea is dumb: It seems he is among a group of film folk determined to revive the 1983 TV series Manimal as a big-screen picture. For those of you who don’t remember the NBC’s Manimal, Wikipedia describes it succinctly as centering on “the character Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale), a shape-shifting man who possessed the ability to turn himself into any animal he chose. He used this ability to help the police solve crimes.” Flavorwire is not wrong when it includes Manimal--along with Cop Rock and My Mother the Car--in its new list of “The Most Ridiculous TV Show Concepts in Pop Culture.”

• British author Martin Edwards, who writes quite often about classic crime fiction, has posted a rundown of his 10 favorite Golden Age mysteries. It includes Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise, John Dickson Carr’s The Crooked Hinge, and several books I have not yet read. I guess I have my reading work cut out for me--as usual.

• Meanwhile, Jeffrey Marks names his five favorite Agatha Christie novels. No shock: He also mentions And Then There Were None.

This is the first trailer I’ve seen for Pierce Brosnan’s new film, The November Man, based on the late Bill Granger’s 1987 novel, There Are No Spies. I really enjoyed Brosnan’s James Bond films, and The November Man returns him to that dimly illuminated world of espionage. It also features the lovely Olga Kurylenko, who starred in the 22nd Bond flick, Quantum of Solace.

• Here’s a headline I thought I would never witness in the 21st century: “Typewriter Manufacturers See Boom in Sales.” It seems the U.S. National Security Service (NSA) is to blame.

• I used to love TV movies-of-the-week, which showcased familiar small-screen actors and actresses in unfamiliar roles and often served as pilots for prospective new series. Nowadays, it seems the Big Three American networks have given up on such expensive projects, leaving them to cable-TV networks. Just as in the old days, some of these teleflicks deserve accolades, while others--including these “35 Campiest TV Movies Ever Made”--are best forgotten.

• Max Allan Collins has wrapped up a week’s worth of posts from Comic-Con International in San Diego--an event during which he won a 2014 Scribe Award for Best Short Story. You’ll find Collins’ Comic-Con coverage in five parts: here, here, here, here, and here.

• Happy 12th birthday to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine. As Crider explains, “[the blog has] been a good distraction for me over the years, so I’ll keep it going for a while longer. So far there have been 41,725 posts prior to this one. That’s kind of scary. Maybe I should just get a life.” The Rap Sheet celebrated its eighth anniversary in May. If I can keep it going as long as Crider has been writing his blog, I might impress even myself.

• In case you didn’t notice, I spent the last two weeks posting summer-related (and occasionally lascivious) paperback fronts in my other blog, Killer Covers. Enjoy the whole set here.

This is one hell of a Raymond Chandler book collection!.

• Can you ever have too many books? Yes, insists Rachel Kramer Bussel in an essay for The Toast that begins: “Nothing brought this home for me like watching paid professionals cart away hundreds of books--read and unread, purchased lovingly or attained at book parties or conferences--when I hired a trash removal service last year upon moving from my two-bedroom apartment after 13 years. The most heartbreaking part was seeing anthologies I’d edited, with my name right there on the cover, being swept away into giant garbage cans. This was reinforced when I moved again this year, and was told by the movers, multiple times, that my boxes of books, rather than furniture like a bed and a couch, was what was weighing down their truck.”

• B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder provides this tidbit: “Angus Macfadyen (Turn) will star in The Pinkertons, a 22-episode series based on the real-life cases of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which premieres in first-run syndication in the U.S. this fall.”

• Mary Kubica, author of the suspenseful new novel The Good Girl (Mira), talks with BOLO Books’ Kristopher Zgorski, who says she “seem[s] poised to be a bit of an overnight success.”

Casablanca--“Hollywood’s greatest film”?

• And I’m sorry to hear that American actor James Shigeta has passed away at age 85. As the blog A Shroud of Thoughts recalls, “In the Seventies Mr. Shigeta appeared on such TV shows as Emergency!, Kung Fu, Matt Helm, Ellery Queen, S.W.A.T., The Streets of San Francisco, Little House on the Prairie, Police Woman, The Rockford Files, and Fantasy Island.” Shrouds’ Terence Towles Canote adds that “With the looks of a matinee idol and considerable talent as both an actor and a singer, James Shigeta might well have been a major star had he been born in a later era. Unfortunately, in the Sixties and Seventies roles for Japanese Americans were even rarer than they are now. Regardless, Mr. Shigeta had a very impressive career.”
Jul 302014

Lynne Patrick

They call it the silly season. In newspapers, it’s traditionally a time when small human-interest stories get a look in while politics and major crime take a rest.

Between Gaza, Ukraine and Iraq, it doesn’t seem to be working in the wider world this year, but for me it’s been another of those weeks when nothing worth posting about has happened.

Fortunately a book I’ve just finished set some thought-wheels spinning. About names.

In one of my several lives, I used to run writers’ workshops on the craft of fiction, and a question which often came up was, how do you choose names for your characters?

Where do names come from?

I didn’t have a definitive answer. For myself, I always found – find – that characters choose their own names. Or more specifically, they arrive in the story with names already in place. Clearly that isn’t the case for everyone who embarks on the perilous adventure of writing fiction, or the question would never be posed. So when it was, a lively discussion usually ensued.

Here are a few of the points which emerged, not necessarily all in one discussion, but over the years. If you don’t mind, we’ll leave aside the more fanciful inventions who seem to populate the mysterious world of the romance writer; let’s stick to the more mundane.

Names resonate with their time. There are fashions and trends which last a few years then fade away, which lets a writer suggest a character’s approximate age through a name which was in vogue at the time s/he was born. My schoolmates back in the dark ages were called Christine, Pamela, Elaine and Valerie, or Martin, Graham, Alan and Christopher. My daughter’s were Lisa, Emma, Rachel, Jason, Jonathan and Ben. Any guesstimates as to the decade in each case?

Sometimes little girls are named for the current pop princess or TV heroine, little boys for a football star. It became a running joke here in the UK that in about 1990 you could stand at the school gate at home time and call Kylie! or Ryan! and a dozen kids would look round.

But what goes around comes around, and sometimes names come around again. Back in the 1950s there were numerous old ladies called Sarah and Emily. Twenty years later they were favourite names for new babies. And Lily, Ruby and Maisie have recently made a reappearance.

All this is helpful if your character is pregnant; less so if she’s a high-powered 40-something lawyer. In that case she might be Claire or Lisa. Ain’t Google wonderful?

A friend once told me she’d given her children names which would stand the test of time. She called them Elizabeth, Richard and Stephen. Did her strategy work? From this distance – the kids are now in their 30s – I’m not sure it worked. Timelessness is a useful quality in a fictional name, but does it exist any more? I used to think Catherine, Laura and Anna were pretty timeless for girls, as were Andrew, Michael and James for boys, but now I’m less certain.

This all applies primarily to my own homeland. I’ve found that across the water people can be called all kinds of unlikely things; I’ve encountered Skip and Brick, Lane as male and female, and that’s just the less unlikely ones. But mostly I suppose more conventional names are in use. I have good friends called Jenni and Ted. And Josh, Jeff, Jessy, Erin, Marilyn, Ben. And now Terri.

All the above can be made use of if characters resolutely refuse to name themselves and expect the author to do the job for them. But then there’s crime fiction, which throws up a whole new set of criteria. What do you call a murderer? Is there such a thing as a victim’s name? And does a cop or sleuth need a name that will stay in the reader’s mind, in case the debut turns into a long-running series? In fact, does the genre affect the choice of names in any way (other than romance, which seems to make its own rules on this)? Feel free to offer answers, my friends!

OK, enough of this airy persiflage. Maybe next week something will happen.

Jul 302014
In the days following the Civil War, Clint Gordon returns to his home in a devastated Texas to find himself facing another war, this time against rustlers, renegades, and hired guns. Clint isn't going to give up, though, even if his fight leads him to a deadly showdown on a mountain of bones!  A SKINNING WAR is a brand-new 5000 word Western short story from acclaimed Texas author David Hardy.

Sad State of Affairs

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Jul 302014

Clive and I are working furiously on the next Fargo novel, the as yet untitled tome that is the continuation of the series I co-authored the last installment of, which releases Sept. 2, titled The Eye Of Heaven.

So if you haven’t seen much of me, that’s why.

Either that, or I’ve been incarcerated by the Mexican authorities again for deviant behavior. Kidding. Here, I think they throw you a parade and make you mayor, they don’t jail you.

Which brings up an interesting point that was raised the other day by a buddy who was bemoaning how hard it is to use cash in the U.S. any more.

I’m not surprised. Even though I’ve been living abroad for over a decade, I saw it coming way before 9-11. Back then, of course, it wasn’t a war on terror that was the reasoning for criminalizing the use of cash, it was the war on drugs. But even if the playbook has changed, the net result has remained the same: the government wants to be able to track every dime you spend, and it can’t do that with cash, only electronic purchases. It also can’t control you as easily if you can put your net worth into a briefcase and walk across a border, but it’s got all the options if it only needs to shut off your access to bank accounts with the flick of a switch.

I’m reminded of that movie, Enemy of the State. George Orwell saw this developing many years ago. Now, if you read 1984, it reads like a sober description of the current state of affairs in the U.S. and many first world countries in Europe, whose privately-owned central banks are dictating terms to those governments. The message is simple: You must be able to control your population with the implicit threat of imprisonment for any and all reasons, including de facto imprisonment within your borders via currency controls and locking up your citizenry’s assets.

I write conspiracy theory-based novels. But what makes them provocative, at least for me, is how closely they track reality.

Most don’t know that the IRS was created in the same bill that created the Federal Reserve (you know, the privately owned central bank that had to be called something that sounded governmental so the average Joe would think it was part of the government), back in 1913. The reasoning was simple. The banks intended to siphon off most of the nation’s net worth over generations by printing money and taking a cut, but there was a problem – they needed a mechanism to pull all that money back out of circulation so they didn’t create runaway inflation, merely controllable inflation, which is another way of saying debasing the value of the currency (its buying power) at a controlled rate every year, the loss effectively being their profit via their banking Ponzi scheme.

So suddenly a tax on personal income was introduced, and bam, there was the mechanism to suck the money that had been created back. It had zero to do with paying one’s fair share, and everything to do with a rinse and repeat mechanism. Most also don’t know that 100% of the government’s obligations were met each year from corporate and import/export tax, so there was no requirement for a new tax base. It was purely to create that print money, suck it out cycle, which is why the same bill, written by a relative of one of the bankers behind the bill and passed in a special session of Congress over the Christmas break when only his cronies would be in town to vote on it, created the IRS. You learn something new every day. Go read about it. Check out The Creature From Jekyll Island – a non-fiction tome that details the entire nefarious scheme (and which was denied for generations by the Fed and the government – until the internet made it impossible to hide the ownership anymore).

The problem becomes that all systems that abuse their populations encourage the smarter ones to bail out of it at some point. To take their marbles and go elsewhere. That has to be stopped, especially as the state requires the productive to support the unproductive at an ever increasing level.

This is all about control. About a federal apparatus that doesn’t work for you, but rather for the enrichment of its backers and the power of its politicians, who require ever increasing say over every aspect of your life. If it can track every purchase you make, if the implicit threat of being able to cut you off at the knees and seize everything is always waiting in the wings, then it owns your ass, and it can do whatever it wants in spite of your feeble protests.

Bluntly, when your government becomes a master to be feared rather than a servant to be distrusted, you’ve lost.

That’s the sad state of affairs. And no, this isn’t anti-American. The same situation is in place in the Euro zone for the exact same reasons. It’s the same banks, after all. Bank of England’s been privately owned for centuries – back in the 1800′s, it essentially seized all the government’s assets when the UK government couldn’t pay its debts to the privately owned bank, and has been using it as its bitch ever since. Ditto for every other European economy – even the central bank of the central banks, The Bank For International Settlement, is privately owned.

The classic generational land grab by the banks is usually war. They finance both sides, reap the profits as countries are destroyed, and repeat again after everything’s rebuilt using money borrowed from them. Nowadays, though, except for limited wars without end like Afghanistan, that’s not feasible, so the new technique is to encourage reckless spending by government using debt, and then grabbing all their assets when they need yet more money – it’s what they’ve been doing to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and so on. Works every time. Before, they had to get them to go to war. Now, just hand them a credit card for a few years. Same net effect.

The antidote to free exchange of information is to scare the crap out of the citizenry so it doesn’t dare protest, and flinches like a whipped pup whenever it’s threatened.

Welcome to the 21st century.


The Kiss Of Death (1947)

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Jul 302014
Story revolves around a former robber played by Victor Mature and the ruthless, 
violent Tommy Udo, played by Richard Widmark

  Narrated by Nettie. On Christmas Eve, down-on-his-luck Nick Bianco, an ex-convict, and his three cohorts rob a jewelry store located on an upper floor of a New York skyscraper. Before they can exit the building, however, the proprietor sets off his alarm. While attempting to escape, Nick assaults a policeman, but is wounded in the leg and arrested. The Assistant DA tries to persuade Nick to name his accomplices in exchange for a light sentence. Confident that his lawyer and cohorts will look after his wife and two young daughters while he is incarcerated, Nick refuses and is given a twenty-year sentence. Three years later, at Sing Sing Prison, He learns that his wife has committed suicide, and his daughters have been sent to an orphanage. He later finds her obituary in the newspaper and learns his wife had been worried over financial issues prior to her death Nick is visited in prison by Nettie , a young woman who used to babysit his girls. Nettie reluctantly tells Nick that his wife had an affair with Pete Rizzo, one of his accomplices. Nick then decides to tell all to the Assistant DA. Because so much time has elapsed,  he cannot use Nick's information to reduce his sentence, but instead makes a deal that if Nick helps the police on another case, he will be paroled.

Victor Mature as Nick Bianco
Brian Donlevy as Assistant District Attorney Louis D'Angelo
Coleen Gray as Nettie
Mildred Dunnock as Mrs. Rizzo
Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo
Taylor Holmes as Earl Howser, Attorney
Howard Smith as Warden
Karl Malden as Sergeant William Cullen
Anthony Ross as Big Eddie Williams
Millard Mitchell as Detective Shelby
J. Scott Smart as Skeets
Directed by
 Henry Hathaway

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Jul 302014
“"The stakes are not merely life or death, but the difference between a blundering through one’s life and fully possessing it."”

- Laura Miller in Salon perfectly describes why Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer is a thriller unlike any other. I can’t wait for you all to read it when it goes on sale next Tuesday.
Jul 302014
I'm aware of Edith and Ejler Jacobson mostly as editors (they edited several different science fiction digests at one time or another), but they also wrote stories for the pulps, including "Corpses on Parade", which appeared in the April 1938 issue of DIME MYSTERY. When I started reading this one, I thought it was going to be a more sane and sedate tale than Arthur Leo Zagat's "
Jul 302014
With every book in this series Ace Atkins makes me a bit less sad he isn't writing the Nick Travers series anymore...
Ex-Ranger and sheriff Quinn Colson polices Tibbehah County and sets out to track down a child-traficking woman through her daughter. There's also a gun smuggling ring to round up and he's aided by FBI Agent Dinah Brand for that one. An attractive young woman (she really came to live for me through the great writing), Quinn ends up sleeping with her, to the dismay of his deputy Lillie (one of the strongest female characters I've read the last couple of years). Involved in the gunrunning is Quinn's old pal, ex-Army man Donnie Varner which shows you the road Quinn might have taken if the Army didn't push him in the right direction.
There's also some flashbacks to some of the darker moments of Quinn's youth, some personal trouble with his sister and his family as well.
All in all, there's a lot going on in this book. Enough for the actual investigating to take a backseat to the goings-on of the characters involved in the story which gives it a little literary band. Don't think it ever gets pretentious though, compare it more to James Lee Burke's stuff. There's enough action and hardboiled stuff for every crime reader.
I loved the whole Southern atmosphere of the book, really feeling I was transported over there. And hey, you got to love Quinn who says he needs nothing besides coffee, whiskey and books. I can relate to that!
Jul 302014
Stanley Bentworth calls himself a softboiled detective and he kind of has the name to go along with it. He always intends to stop smoking, drinking or sleeping with a woman who uses him for rebound sex. I was expecting a character along the likes of Stanley Hastings (by Parnell Hall) or even Lenny Parker (my own PI who appears in The Shamus Sampler II), but in all honesty I thought Bentworth was pretty hardboiled. He's not a bumbling amateur but an ex-cop fired because of excessive violence. In this book he smacks someone around with a shotgun and he can act pretty tough. Still, he can use the help of Sanford, a hitman who is a cool sidekick.
Anyway, in this book he is hired to find out who is blackmailing a guy who's in the Witness Protection Program and has to take care of a stalker who's also with Military Intelligence. Along for the ride is a hacker kid who wants to become a PI as well. I'm afraid I don't like hacker characters that much in PI stories, they remind me too much of the sci-fi kind of hackers in TV shows like Criminal Minds or Arrow, being used as deus ex-machina a bit too much. I do have to admit he's a funny character, though.
I really loved the witty voice of Bentworth and the pacing was good, the book not too long and the mystery satisfying. So, although it's not what I expected it to be, I liked it and hope to read more in this series.
Jul 302014
Jules Landau is a college man with a family that has been doing things on the shady side who now makes a living as a PI. In his first story his father hires him to find out who killed the family's best friend.
Among the characters he meets during his investigation are crooked cops and a kinky tattoo artist.
I really liked the laidback and relatable vibe of Jules' voice, like a less witty Elvis Cole. The mystery has a nice amount of twists and turns and the story is very decidedly set in modern day Chicago.
I think this books was originally selfpublished before it was picked up by Random House's Alibi imprint. Although I really liked the book I'm a bit surprised by that fact because it really isn't that much more than a standard PI book and I didn't think the bigger publishers still liked that. Well, if they do, I guess that is pretty good news.