J. Kingston Pierce

10 for 10

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Oct 232014
I made the mistake of checking in on Facebook today, only to discover that there’s a new meme going around. The challenge, as Brian Lindenmuth of Spinetingler Magazine presented it to me, is to name your “top 10 favorite crime books from 2004-2013. Ten only. No cheating by squeezing more titles in.” I immediately went to my annual tallies of the works I’ve read and tried to cull out one per year … which immediately turned into two or three a year … which ultimately left me with 25 titles, rather than 10. I whittled away from that point, finally coming up with this imperfect list, in alphabetical order:

The Blackhouse, by Peter May
Bye Bye, Baby, by Max Allan Collins
City of Dragons, by Kelli Stanley
House of the Hunted, by Mark Mills
Little Green, by Walter Mosley
Peeler, by Kevin McCarthy
A Quiet Flame, by Philip Kerr
Rosa, by Jonathan Rabb
The Song Is You, by Megan Abbott
Wolves Eat Dogs, by Martin Cruz Smith

I’m not going to tag anyone with the responsibility of following me in this daunting venture. But if you wish to submit your own choices, please do so under the Comments tab below.

Let Chandler Be Your Guide

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Oct 212014
Last week on this page we announced the start of a new giveaway contest. The prizes this time: four copies of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles” (Herb Lester Associates), illustrated by Paul Rogers, with text by Kim Cooper, author of The Kept Girl. Today we have our winners, chosen completely at random. They are:

Kenneth Koll of San Diego, California
David Origlio of Aurora, Colorado
Carol Gwenn of Hollywood, California
Larry W. Chavis of Mendenhall, Mississippi

Congratulations to all four of those lucky Rap Sheet readers. Copies of the Chandler map and guide should be mailed out to each of them within the next several days.

And if you didn’t win? You can still purchase a copy of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles” by clicking here. They’re beautiful.

Rush’s Hour

 Awards 2014  Comments Off
Oct 192014
I haven’t yet spotted a full list of prize recipients online, but Janet Rudolph is reporting in Mystery Fanfare that Los Angeles author Naomi Hirahara has won the 2014 T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award for Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley). The Parker is one of several commendations given out annually by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA), recognizing “excellence in books that reflect Southern California culture or lifestyle.”

Of Murder on Bamboo Lane--released this last April--Publishers Weekly wrote:
Edgar-winner Hirahara, author of Summer of the Big Bachi and four other Mas Arai mysteries, introduces Ellie Rush, a Japanese-American rookie LAPD bicycle cop, in this highly entertaining series debut. When Jenny Nguyen, a former classmate of Ellie’s at Pan Pacific West College, goes missing and later turns up dead in a Chinatown alley, Ellie’s ties to PPW and Jenny’s friends, including Ellie’s ex-boyfriend, Benjamin Choi, prove useful. Jenny’s boyfriend, controversial artist Tuan Le, is a prime suspect, and he asks Ellie for help. Her aunt, Cheryl Toma, the highest-ranking Asian in the LAPD, also wants Ellie on the case, but has a hidden agenda. Ellie finds herself navigating a personal and professional minefield when she’s assigned to work on the case with handsome Det. Cortez Williams. Readers will want to see more of Ellie, who provides a fresh perspective on L.A.’s rich ethnic mix.
Also contending for this year’s T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award were The Ascendant, by Drew Chapman (Pocket), and The Disposables, by David Putnam (Oceanview).

Hirahara was nominated for this same prize last year, for her Mas Arai mystery Strawberry Yellow, but the honor went instead to What the Heart Remembers, by Debra Ginsberg.

READ MORE:Naomi Hirahara on Her New Mystery Series ... and the new L.A.,” by David L. Ulin (Los Angeles Times).

Are You In?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Oct 192014
You have only two days left to enter The Rap Sheet’s latest giveaway contest. The prizes this time: four copies of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles,” published recently by Herb Lester Associates. Find out more about that map/guide here.

To have a chance at winning one of these high-quality maps--especially perfect for attendees of next month’s Bouchercon in Long Beach, California--simply e-mail your name and postal address to jpwrites@wordcuts.org. And be sure to type “Raymond Chandler Map Contest” in the subject line. Entries will be accepted until midnight tomorrow, October 20. The four recipients will be chosen completely at random, and their names listed on this page the following day.

Sorry, but this drawing is open only to U.S. residents.
Oct 182014
• Today brought the opening, at the Museum of London, of an exhibit called “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” As Mystery Fanfare explains, this show “celebrates the world of the greatest fictional detective of all time. The exhibit will run through April 12, 2015, with a variety of rare treasures,” including “the original manuscript of ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ (1903).”

• We’re still almost two weeks out from Halloween, but blogger Janet Rudolph has already posted a lengthy list of mystery and crime fiction associated with that celebration.

• The All Hallow’s Eve posts keep on coming. Following the success of their recent “Summer of Sleaze” series at Tor.com, bloggers Will Errickson and Grady Hendrix have launched a brand-new series called “The Bloody Books of Halloween” (which I presume will continue through October 31). Today’s entry, by Errickson, looks back at Ray Bradbury’s 1955 short-story collection, The October Country.

• A belated “happy birthday” to Sir Roger Moore! The former James Bond star celebrated his 87th birthday this last Tuesday.

• Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Tana French’s In the Woods, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale--they all feature prominently on Flavorwire’s list of “50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950.”

• While we’re on the subject of Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond thriller, let me refer your attention to The HMSS Weblog’s “reappraisal” of CBS-TV’s early, much-maligned adaptation of that 1953 novel. As I’ve mentioned previously, this small-screen version of the tale starred American actor Barry Nelson alongside Mexico-born actress Linda Christian and the familiar Peter Lorre. It was first broadcast on October 21, 1954--60 years ago next week--as part of the CBS-TV series Climax! “While Ian Fleming’s first novel was short, it still covered too much ground to be covered in a 60-minute time slot,” opines blogger Bill Koenig. “Excluding commercials and titles, only about 50 minutes was available to tell the story. … This version of Casino Royale’s main value is that of a time capsule, a reminder of when television was mostly done live. Lorre is suitably villainous. If you find him fun to watch on movies and other television shows, nothing here will change your mind.” You can watch the whole show here.

• I’m pleased to see Moonlighting and Hill Street Blues included in this piece about “The Top 20 Theme Songs of the 1980s.” But really, Highway to Heaven made it, too?

• And this latest addition to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page should inspire happy memories of 1970s television programming.

• This Sunday night, October 19, will bring to PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series the last installment of Inspector Lewis’ latest, three-episode season. It’s titled “Beyond Good and Evil,” and the plot synopsis reads: “Thirteen years after [Robbie] Lewis’ first successful arrest as a Detective Inspector, the forensics have been called into question and the case reopened for appeal. Lewis fears the worst, but nothing can prepare him for the resumption of the original murders with the original weapon. Did he arrest an innocent man? With Lewis’ reputation in jeopardy, [DI James] Hathaway and [DS Lizzie] Maddox race to catch the killer.” The episode is set to begin broadcasting at 9 p.m. on Sunday. You should find a video preview here.

Spicy Detective magazine must have drawn a great deal of (male) attention during its years of publication 1934-1942). If you’re interested in ogling more Spicy Detective fronts, you can do so here.

• Speaking of covers--though of the book sort this time--have you been keeping up with Killer Covers’ month-long tribute to renowned paperback illustrator Robert McGinnis? You can see all the daily posts here. This series will conclude on October 31.

The new, 600th post for the blog In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel suggests some nominees for the “Top Five Underappreciated Books.” I’ve read all but one of those listed, and would certainly have come up with far different choices, had I been assigned to the project. But each reader has his or her own preferences. So be it.

Reassessing Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry.

• I wasn’t aware of this until today, but Poe’s “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” a short story published in 1845, has been adapted for the big screen as Stonehearst Asylum. This movie stars the ever-divine Kate Beckinsale and is scheduled for release on October 24. Criminal Element offers the trailer.

• On top of the news that director David Lynch plans to revive Twin Peaks, the 1990-1991 cult TV series, for cable channel Showtime in early 2016, comes word that series co-creator Mark Frost is writing a book titled The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks. According to a press release, “The novel reveals what has happened to the people of the iconic fictional town since we last saw them 25 years ago, and offers a deeper glimpse into the central mystery from the original series.” It’s set for release in late 2015.

• Meanwhile, the great Twin Peaks rewatch continues.

• And novelist Megan Abbott comments, in New York magazine’s Vulture blog, on how Twin Peaks influenced her own writing.

• After an unplanned three-year hiatus, The Trap of Solid Gold--Steve Scott’s excellent blog about author John D. MacDonald and his works--has suddenly reappeared. Scott reports here that his extended quiet was attributable to family health problems. But he’s moved quickly to dust off his site and begin posting again, including on the subject of MacDonald’s 1957 novel A Man of Affairs (the paperback cover of which was illustrated by the great Victor Kalin). Let me just welcome The Trap of Solid Gold back into the blogging fold.

This comes from The New York Times: “Elmore Leonard died in 2013, but now some of his signature Hawaiian shirts will be preserved forever at the University of South Carolina, which has acquired more than 150 boxes of Mr. Leonard’s archive.”

• Who would have imagined it? “Publicity makes for strange bedfellows,” writes Jake Hinkson in Criminal Element. “So does crime. So does religion, for that matter. Add publicity, crime, and religion together, and you get the fascinating story of how the Reverend Billy Graham set out to save the soul of the most notorious gangster in the history of Los Angeles: crime lord Mickey Cohen.”

• And I must say good-bye to an old friend, Geoffrey Cowley. Many years before he took up his post as Newsweek’s health editor and was later hired as a national writer for MSNBC, Geoff attended college with me. He was also the editor of our school’s newspaper, in the year I served as its managing editor. (Most everyone on the staff called him “Gee-off,” in order to distinguish between us.) I went on to succeed him in the editor’s post. Geoff and I had not stay in close touch in recent years; there are undoubtedly many people who knew the older Geoff Cowley better than I did. But I always remember him as a fine, bright, and generous human being. We need more people like him in this world, not fewer. According to this obituary in The New York Times, Geoff died of colon cancer on October 14. Very, very sad.
Oct 172014
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Riders on the Storm, by Ed Gorman (Pegasus)

The Gist: It’s 1971, and Iowa attorney/private investigator Sam McCain (last seen in 2011’s Bad Moon Rising--which was supposed to have been his final outing, but wasn’t) “is back home after a boot camp injury prematurely ends his military career as a [Vietnam War] draftee,” explains The Gazette, Gorman’s hometown newspaper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “But the consequences of war have reached everywhere, including Black River Falls, where emotions run high on both side of the issue. One of McCain’s friends [Will Cullen] joins a group of veterans against the war [led by future Secretary of State John Kerry] and is brutally beaten by another veteran because of it. When the one who delivered the beating”--a newly minted Congressional candidate, Steve Donovan--“turns up dead, his victim is the obvious suspect. McCain doesn’t agree and begins a quest for the truth.” As Kirkus Reviews relates, “His suspicions fall on Lon Anders, Donovan’s rapacious new business partner, and on Valerie Donovan, a widow who’s one piece of work. As usual, there are plenty of other guilty secrets to discover. The final revelation, however, will take most readers by surprise, even if some of them are still scratching their heads after the curtain comes down.”

What Else You Should Know: “Ed Gorman manages to wind every messy and unruly concern that plagued America in 1971 into one taut story,” writes Terrie Farley Moran in Criminal Element. Publishers Weekly opines, “Gorman skillfully depicts Vietnam veterans’ complex, often contradictory feelings toward the war--from rabid patriotism to rage toward the government--but is less subtle in the way he presents his female characters, who are all mysterious, arousing, and wear clothes that ‘love’ their bodies (e.g., ‘A gray skirt that loved every inch of her lower body as the turquoise blouse loved the upper’).” Fellow author Bill Crider is rather more generous on the matter of Gorman’s cast descriptions: “As usual in Gorman’s books, the characters are a lot more complex than they first appear. As soon as you think you know them, you find out that you don’t. People are never simple black-or-white creations. They’re complex mixtures who will leave you thinking about them when you lay the book aside. Also as usual, the writing is clear and clean and sharp with astute observations about the times, the politics of the era, and human nature. It’s enough to make you envious if you’re a writer and prone to that sort of thing. Not that I am, of course.”
Oct 142014
I’m a few hours late in mentioning this, but my latest Mysteries and Thrillers column was posted this morning on the Kirkus Reviews Web site. My topic this time around: Otto Penzler’s energetic new miscellany, The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

As I explain in the piece, this volume features “32 early, often excellent stabs at employing larceny, treachery and murder--and the investigation of such misdeeds--as principal catalysts for dramatic literary storytelling.” Among the authors included: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Anna Katharine Green, Richard Harding Davis, Edith Wharton, and Ambrose Bierce. Click here to read my thoughts on this collection ... which might make an ideal gift for mystery-fiction lovers this Christmas. Make a note of it.
Oct 132014
We’re now just a month away from the opening of Bouchercon in Long Beach, California. So it seems like the perfect time to offer a little something extra to all of you mystery-fiction lovers who plan to attend that November 13-16 conference: a smartly designed map/guide showing “the neon-lit streets, mobbed-up joints, and seedy rooming houses” of neighboring Los Angeles made famous by author Raymond Chandler and his series private eye, Philip Marlowe.

London-based Herb Lester Associates, which produces a wide range of artful fold-out guides to cities around the world--from San Francisco and Stockholm to New York, Lisbon, Barcelona, Rome, and Melbourne--recently published “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles.” It was conceived and illustrated, in the style of the classic Dell Mapbacks, by Pasadena artist Paul Rogers, who previously created the handsome cover for The Kept Girl (Esotouric Ink), a 2014 novel by Kim Cooper that features Chandler in a sleuthing role. Cooper, a local tour guide and historian, also penned the text for the back of this new map (which is 16.5 x 23.4 inches in size). As Rogers explains, his plotting of Chandlerian haunts “doesn’t include everything, no map could.
We probably missed one or two important spots, we left off some of the joints that are only memories; drive-ins with gaudy neon and the false fronts behind them, sleazy hamburger joints that could poison a toad. Los Angeles has changed a lot since Chandler’s day, when it was just a big dry sunny place with ugly houses and no style, when people slept on porches, and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars had no takers.

But you can still make the drive down Wilshire all the way to the ocean, you can still poke around the alleys and side streets of Hollywood, and the eucalyptus trees still give off a tomcat smell in warm weather. You can’t get a drink at Victor’s any more but Musso’s is still open. Park out back, only tourists and suckers go in the front door.
Cooper’s savvy text covers 50 different sites, from the Sternwood Mansion (familiar from The Big Sleep) and Marlowe’s office at Hollywood and Cahuenga boulevards, to Roger Wade’s Beach House (The Long Goodbye), Florian’s (Farewell, My Lovely), and Orrin Quest’s Rooming House (The Little Sister) in “Bay City”--which was Chandler’s name for Santa Monica. In addition, this map features a list of the assorted residences around L.A. where Marlowe’s creator lived and a timeline of important events in his 70-year life.

Paul Rogers’ art was inspired by the old Dell Mapbacks.

Copies of “The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles” usually go for £4.00 (roughly $6.40 in U.S. dollars) apiece. But now you could win one free of charge. Herb Lister has generously provided four copies to The Rap Sheet as prizes. To enter the drawing for one, all you need do is e-mail your name and postal address to jpwrites@wordcuts.org. And be sure to type “Raymond Chandler Map Contest” in the subject line. Entries will be accepted between now and midnight next Monday, October 20. The four recipients will be chosen completely at random, and their names listed on this page the following day.

Sorry, but this drawing is open only to U.S. residents.

So, if you’re going to miss out on the Bouchercon-related, all-day Raymond Chandler tour of L.A.--scheduled to leave from and return to the convention hotel on Wednesday, November 12--you can still take your own spin around local Chandler/Marlowe landmarks with a copy of Paul Rogers’ map stretched between your paws. Just don’t waste any time in entering this contest; I expect it to be very popular.
Oct 132014
There’s a special treat being planned for all of those people who expect to be in Long Beach, California, for the opening day of next month’s Bouchercon. The quirky “bus adventures” company Esotouric has scheduled a special, all-day Raymond Chandler tour of Los Angeles on Wednesday, November 12, expressly for early bird arrivals.

Kim Cooper, who with her husband operates Esotouric (and is the author of The Kept Girl, a fascinating mystery featuring Chandler, released earlier this year) tells me that this extended excursion--“Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles: In a Lonely Place”--will depart from the convention hotel (the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 South Pine Avenue) on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Check-in is at 8:30 a.m. The cost to participate will be $90 per person. This tour will conclude at 5 p.m. back at the Hyatt Regency. “We think it’s just the thing for the visiting mystery lover,” remarks Cooper.

A press release calls this tour “a detail-drenched exploration of the 20th-century city that shaped Chandler’s fiction, and that in turn shaped his hard-boiled times. The route stretches from the Art Deco gems of downtown Los Angeles to the mean streets of Hollywood, featuring locations where Chandler worked, drank, or set memorable scenes from his books and screenplays. Locations include The Oviatt Building (The Lady in the Lake), the Hotel Van Nuys (The Little Sister), Bullock’s Wilshire (The Big Sleep), The Bryson (The Lady in the Lake), Paramount Studios (Double Indemnity), Hollywood Boulevard (“Raymond Chandler Square”), the historic Larry Edmunds Bookshop, and beyond. Drawing on published and unpublished work, private correspondence, screenplays, and film adaptations, the tour traces Chandler’s search for meaning and his anti-hero Philip Marlowe’s adventures in detection, which lead them both down the rabbit hole of isolation, depression, and drink. The tour is a revealing time-travel journey into the literary history of Los Angeles, and a rare chance to soak up that atmosphere with others who love noir fiction.”

For more information or to register, simply click here and go to the bottom of the page, or call (213) 373-1947.
Oct 072014
Have you been keeping up with my month-long tribute to renowned illustrator Robert McGinnis, in the Killer Covers blog? It’s rolling out in association with the coming release of The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (Titan), put together by McGinnis and Art Scott. Today’s entry in the series is found here. Or see all of the covers showcased here.