Headlines that shouldn’t be true but are

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Oct 312014

'Religious zealot' nearly beheads teen 'witch' after watching Christian
videos: police

Hidden camera reveals Florida nursing home aides abusing Alzheimer’s

The 25 scariest people who are making this Halloween the most frightful

Stephen Colbert beams up George Takei to save democracy

Washington court: Accused rapists should not bear burden of proving

Busted: Carpetbagger Scott Brown botches local New Hampshire question

Bill O’Reilly accuses Republicans of being ‘intimidated’ by Black people

Road-raging retired NYC cop opens fire on father-son duo, killing
younger man: police

TX judicial candidate: Let’s convince Black voters to spend ‘food stamp
money’ on election day

Jon Stewart: Texas is deep red, but Louie Gohmert is trying to turn it

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Texas teen lured to skate park for gay-bashing, then insulted by cops:

Alex Jones’ website: Global elites producing an army of ‘killer clowns’
through unemployment

'Bad ass kid' bursts into tears after pranking parents inform him he
has Ebola

Neuroscientists: Shroom-induced brain rewiring could hold the key to
fighting mental illness

Georgia cops humiliate trans man with ‘genital search’ threats after
traffic stop

Bodies of 3 young US citizens -- who were tied up and shot in the head
-- identified in Mexico

Texas GOP’s Greg Abbott met border militia leader busted days later
with explosives

Junk food for Jesus: Public school lets pastors, including sex
predator, meet kids at lunch

Professor sues former student after sexual assault claims ignite
multi-campus scandal

Motorbike stuntman who taunted California cops in viral video arrested

Nigerian child bride faces the death penalty for allegedly murdering
her husband

Oct 312014
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

The Final Silence, by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

The Gist: As I wrote in Kirkus Reviews a couple of months back, Northern Irish author Neville’s fifth novel takes as its lead “damaged Belfast police inspector Jack Lennon, who here gets involved--disastrously--with a woman he once dated, but hasn’t seen for half a decade. Rea Carlisle, unemployed, impatient, and not quite grown into her 34 years, inherits the soulless abode of an uncle she barely knew. Things thus seem to be looking up for her … until she breaks into her late relative’s locked room and unearths a scrapbook filled with evidence suggesting the uncle had been murdering men and women for years. While her selfish father insists on covering up such dismal doings, lest they damage his political prospects, Rea turns to Lennon, who’s already burdened with worries, not limited to injuries he sustained during his last case (in Stolen Souls) and his increasing drug dependence. Lennon wants no part of Rea’s predicament. But after she meets a gruesome end, and the scrapbook disappears, he becomes the principal suspect in those misdeeds. Lennon must unravel the mystery of the dead man’s journal before he loses both his daughter and his livelihood.” Making it even more difficult for Lennon, writes Lynn Harvey in Euro Crime, is his new superior, Detective Inspector Serena Flanagan, “who seems determined to push him deeper onto the ropes.”

What Else You Should Know: Harvey adds that in The Final Silence, “human stories intertwine with ambition, deceit, and the darker regions of the psyche. Jack Lennon is already more physically battered and scarred than Ian Rankin’s [Inspector John] Rebus, but he too continues to slide down the greasy pole of his police career, notching up enemies with each lurching descent. Bad history and bad company contribute to his beleaguered state. Yet something within Lennon still urges him to play the ‘knight chivalrous’ down streets filled with the bitter legacy of Northern Ireland’s political struggles and factions.” The Irish entertainment site RTÉ Ten is especially complimentary of this yarn’s chief female players: “Serena Flanagan, the detective chief inspector who truly has the weight of the world on her shoulders, deserves her own series, while Ida Carlisle, Rea’s mother who is trapped in a loveless marriage to a politician, shows that Neville could take a break from the thriller genre with no difficulty.” Other readers, however, are more restrained in their praise. At the same time as he statesthat “The writing is crisp and good in the book. It practically begs you to keep turning the pages …,” a Good Reads reviewer complains that Neville’s story “felt a little uneven to me. The first part of the book was weighty in comparison to the rest … There was quite a bit of setup going on, and it was great, but when the actual meat of the novel comes it takes a slightly different turn than I was expecting, and quite a bit of the setup felt like it was for nothing.”
Oct 312014
Have you been keeping up with the month-long celebration of artist-illustrator Robert McGinnis’ work in my book-design blog, Killer Covers? Of course you have. Which is why you’re now familiar with his contribution to the Marvel Comics universe, the sometimes odd double uses of his imagery, McGinnis’ visual support for novels by John D. MacDonald and Ed McBain and Robert Terrall, and what might be called his OneShoe Off gimmick. It’s also why you recognize the source of the artwork fronting The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (Titan), a handsome forthcoming book by McGinnis and Art Scott (the latter of whom I recently interviewed for The Rap Sheet).

But that Killer Covers tribute finally ends today. I’ve been holding onto two Halloween-appropriate paperback façades especially for this occasion, both of them from Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series: The Case of the Glamorous Ghost (1962) and The Case of the Haunted Husband (1962). You’ll find those here. And if you wish to revisit all of Killer Covers’ McGinnis posts, this is the place to look.

By the way, both of the aforementioned Gardner tales were adapted as episodes of the classic Perry Mason TV show. Since it’s Halloween, and we could all use some spooky-good entertainment, I’m embedding those episodes (found on YouTube) below.

Oct 312014
Sax Rohmer never ceases to amaze me. For a writer who arguably created fiction's most infamous master criminal and indulged in some of the most macabre aspects of sensation and pulp fiction (some have never surpassed him in my opinion) he also managed to use the thriller as his sounding board for his political views. Am I reading too much into this in light of the recent headline making news of the events in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan? I don't think so. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) seems exceptionally pertinent now in light of recent world affairs. It gets my vote for one of the earliest thrillers dealing with religious fundamentalism as a platform for terrorist activity.

A British archeological expedition in Iran comes to a halt with the discovery of the murdered body of Dr. Van Berg. The only entrance to his hotel bedroom was the open window thirty feet above ground and yet no ladder could have been used to gain entry without any seen or heard it being done. Adding to the mystery of how the assailant entered the room so swiftly and silently is the aroma of mimosa that pervades the room. A strange nearly intoxicating scent that lingers in the air adding an exotic mystery to the murder scene so typical of Rohmer's books.

Local authorities get word that the expedition is honing in on the site of ancient artifacts belonging to the revered Muslim El Mokanna, known also as "The Veiled Prophet" though someone is quick to point out that this is a misnomer for El Mokanna actually wore a mask. It is the mask, sword and tablets purportedly carrying the text of the New Koran that are thought to be the reason for Van Berg's death.  His murder is viewed as a fatal warning to the crew to stop their digging and searching. Sir Lionel Barton, "the greatest living Orientalist in the Western world", will have none of it. He continues with his work and succeeds in finding those treasures. And then the trouble really begins.

Mask of Fu Manchu is narrated by Shan Greville, Barton's right hand man on the expedition. He is looking forward to ending this project so he and his fiancé can return to London and get married. Anyone who knows anything about books like this immediately knows this love affair will be targeted by the nefarious Fu Manchu and his minions. No sooner does Rima appear but she is threatened and eventually kidnapped. By her own husband to be! Greville himself is abducted when he is tricked into following a figure wearing what appears to be El Mokanna's mask. Turns out it's Fu Manchu's deadly and beautiful daughter Fah Lo Sueee. Greville meets up with Fu Manchu, is restrained by some dangerous African servants, and drugged with one of Rohmer's ubiquitous mind controlling opiates. A drug distilled from the seeds of the mimosa pudica has been used to anesthetize Greville which he quickly associates with the botanical aroma back at the murder scene. We also learn that Fu Manchu has been preparing an elixir of life derived from a rare Burmese orchid. An essential oil created from the flower is the secret ingredient in the formula that has prolonged his life and bestowed an ageless appearance.

You can only marvel at the sheer excess of this story. Fu Manchu is once again aided by a veritable army of Asians, Africans and Muslims all with athletic agility and superhuman strength. In addition to an array of exotic poisons and mind controlling drugs there is a super strong cord created from spider silk that is used as a weapon, a restraint and as means of travelling between the balconies and rooftops of high-storied buildings. Did Stan Lee read these books, too? You can't help but think of Peter Parker's inventions when you get to this part.

Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie, of course, make an appearance and are on hand to save the day as they do battle with their perennial nemesis. The story travels from Iran to Cairo to the interior of the Great Pyramid of Giza where another impossible event occurs. From Egypt our intrepid band travel via ocean liner back to London where the climax reveals Fu Manchu's real plans for world domination using his duped zealous followers of El Mokanna.

I haven't read a more breathtaking, high speed chase, action thriller like this in a long time. It's no wonder the wizards of Hollywood were continually drawn to these books as a source for the good ol' fashioned cliffhanger serials of the past. Oddly, the movie version of The Mask of Fu Manchu is even more over-the-top than the book. Gone is all of the religion and quasi-politics. The emphasis is not on zealotry and the dangers of blind faith and how easily it is manipulated for ill purposes. Instead the mask and tomb belong to Ghengis Khan and we get an abundance of pulp thriller trappings as indomitable Boris Karloff and ethereally gorgeous Myrna Loy, portraying the evil father and daughter, play havoc with out heroes lives and threaten world peace. Rohmer's love of botanical poisons and drugs are not surprisingly replaced with an arsenal of venomous creatures. Too strange is the torture sequence in which we watch handsome and rugged Charles Starrett as Greville (renamed Terence Granville in the movie) stripped naked and strapped to a table while Karloff looking like an insane surgeon in his mask, gown, and gloves subjects his victim to injections taken from giant spiders and snakes. And Greville isn't the only victim. The entire band of archeologists is captured and restrained in a variety of old movie torture devices from spiked moving walls to a pit of alligators.

As of March 2014 Titan Books has now reprinted eleven of the thirteen Fu Manchu books. Luckily, The Mask of Fu Manchu is one they chose to include. It's available in paperback from most retailers in the UK and US. For those who prefer the older editions, you can find multiple copies of the many US and UK vintage paperbacks available through the used book market, usually for sale at $7 or less per copy.

This book review serves as my contribution to the "1932 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge" sponsored by Rich Westwood. Visit his blog Past Offences to read more posts on books others found of interest from this exceptional vintage year.
 Posted by at 4:10 pm
Oct 312014

by Erin Mitchell

As we gear up for Bouchercon in a couple of weeks, I’ve read a bunch of great “advice” posts. Alex Segura’s guide for cons at Do Some Damage is terrific. Kristopher at BOLO Books has a series of Countdown to Bouchercon posts that is invaluable. The Bouchercon 2014 blog is running posts from people on all different aspects of the event.

Except one, which I’m going to address today. Forgive me if I sound a little like the “you’ll shoot your eye out” mom in A Christmas Story—it’s not my intention to suggest you dampen your fun!

So here goes:

The Bar

If you’ve read anything or talked to anyone about Bouchercon, you’ve probably heard reference to The Bar. And for good reason: people hang out in The Bar, and it’s a great spot to relax and socialize. The Bar refers to the main saloon in the main hotel, so this year it will be in the Hyatt. The Bar will have some Bcon folks in it during every opening minute, but obviously it’s much busier at night, and there are always some who wear Closing Down the Bouchercon Bar as a badge of honor.

Every year, there are incidents of people behaving badly in The Bcon Bar. These stories take on a life of their own; I heard another just this week from way back in 2008. Believe me, you don’t want to be part of one of these tales. If there’s such a thing as bad publicity, this is it.

So…if you’re not a good drunk, consider limiting your intake in the bar. Don’t know whether you’re a good or bad drunk? If you have to ask, you’re a bad one. If you’re inclined to become an attention hog after five beers, have three in the bar and save the last two for your room. If you develop the need to badmouth anyone (see below) after that third martini, stop at two.

And don’t even get me started on hitting on people. You’ll probably meet lots of new people at the Bcon bar, but save your slimy seduction lines for elsewhere.


The Smoking Section

Perhaps because smokers share a common vice that so much of the world holds in utter disdain, the atmosphere in the smoking section is decidedly different from everywhere else at Bcon (this applies to every other convention or meeting I’ve ever attended, too). It’s more relaxed. It feels entirely non-judgmental. People laugh a lot. Discussions ranging from the serious to the absurd take place.

So if you can handle being around people smoking (and really, don’t even think about lecturing us), spend some time out here. You won’t regret it.



Is good a vice? I dunno…I guess it can be. The only thing I want to emphasize about it is this: food can be hard to come by at Bouchercon, and it can also be expensive. If eating on a schedule is important to you, plan ahead. Scope out the locale of the hospitality suite early-on.

Also, the hospitality suite is an excellent spot to meet and chat with readers, particularly ones who might not be inclined to spend time in The Bar. Many authors miss this terrific opportunity!



It’s absolutely true that authors generally—and crime fiction authors specifically—are wonderful, humble people. It’s also true that events like Bcon can make you seem arrogant, even if you’re not. To avoid this…

Don't assume everyone will recognize you. I was 10 minutes into a lovely conversation with a guy at the above-mentioned smoking section before I realized I was talking with Lee Child (yes, he looks just like his author photo, but he was backlit by bright sun and I didn’t have my sunglasses).

Don't look past the person you're talking with to see if there's someone more important over there. This happens to me all the time, and I remember every single person who’s done it.

Don’t ever assume that someone isn’t worth your time. Us readers can be a weirdly bizarre group, and some of us are annoying as all hell. But every single one of us has spent good money to be a Bcon, and so chances are good that everyone you talk with has some level of influence when it comes to books. There is no such thing as “just” a reader.

Don’t think you have to be the Center of Attention all the time. If people aren’t talking to or about you, don’t feel you need to break into song or something. Try listening instead. If you tend to be a bit tone-deaf (be honest…if you are, you know it), pick someone who’s doing it right and follow her or his lead.


Classes and Cliques

Yes, there are both classes and cliques at Bouchercon. That’s just a fact. And yes, it’s much like high school. And yes, it’s stupid and frustrating, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

So knowing your tribe will be helpful. I’m not saying you shouldn’t interact with that table of hardcore noir folks if you write cozies, just that trying to pretend these lines don’t exist is pointless. Not all authors are created equal in the eyes of readers. There’s a reason Michael Connelly has a spotlight interview while the vast majority of authors are on panels of 4-5 people.

The thing is, if you ask, someone within your clique will probably introduce you to people in other cliques. I recommend this because it’s how I’ve met some of the most interesting people I know. Going to panels and signings is also an excellent way to cross class and clique lines. Ask someone about a comment. Buy a book and get it signed.


In the end, Bouchercon—and any con—is about doing unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Have fun. Just not at anyone else’s expense.

I’ll close the same way Alex did in his post, which is the best possible advice in so many scenarios: Don’t be a dick.


Oct 312014
Since today is Halloween, it seems appropriate to write something about the longest-running and many would say the best comic book series about a vampire ever published. I'm referring, of course, to Marvel's THE TOMB OF DRACULA, which ran for 70 issues from 1972 to 1979. Recently I've been reading THE ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA, VOLUME 1, which reprints in black-and-white the first 25 issues of
Oct 312014
Was are at the end of Traveling The Globe. It was quite a ride throughout the various places in the world. But what would be a more fitting end than a nice scary place to go along with the ghoulish escapades of Halloween. We travel to Transylvania and the land of Dracula.

Trouble in Transylvania
by Barbara Wilson

Cassandra Reilly heads off to Budapest to visit her friend Jack while en route to China. In a complicated turn of events, the two soon find themselves in a spa town in the Transylvanian Mountains, attempting  to solve the mystery of the death of Dr. Pustulescu, inventor of an anti-aging formula. In a wide-ranging plot that encompasses everything from Romanian orphans and their American parents to Cassandra’s own spa treatments in search of how Dr. Pustulescu met his end in the electric bath, Cassandra and her friend bring new life to Dracula country.
 Posted by at 7:30 am
Oct 312014
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Candy, monsters, candy, ghosts, candy, bats (of all kinds) and no uncomfortable family dinners. It also happens to be my wedding anniversary - this year marks fourteen years of marriage to my own Batgirl, Brandi. I'm a very lucky guy. With her in my life, it's tricks and treats all year 'round!

Here's wishing you and yours a truly spooktacular celebration!