Jan 212015
 

 

Josh Getzler

Last night, Amanda and I took the whole family—eyes a-rolling and smartphones in hand, to see Selma in commemoration of MLK Day. And for two hours we were all gripped. There are all kinds of discussions and online complaints about what was added or emphasized or neglected in the story of the conflict, marches, and violence in that period of the Civil Rights Movement. But honestly, they were beside the point, and I think one of the real strengths of Selma the Movie was that the decisions Ava DuVernay made ultimately cast great relief on the biggest of the issues. It’s a big, broad, statement movie, and it works.

One of the most powerful scenes was when President Johnson appeared before both houses of Congress to urge them to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The kids understood extremely intensely what had gone into getting the President into that room to make that speech.

As we were leaving the theater, one of the kids mentioned that this evening was going to be the State of the Union Address. They know that Amanda and I watch it every year, talking to the television, keeping score of the points the president makes (ANY president) and when he falls flat. How often the Speaker or the VP falls asleep, how often one side or the other stands and claps. But this time, we’re watching a little differently, thinking about how inconceivable it would have been to both the majority of the marchers in Selma in 1965, and the people within and without politics trying to stop them, that a president who looks like Barack Obama could be giving a State of the Union Address.

Now it’s time for us to go watch. We’ll get back to publishing next week.

 

Jan 122015
 

Jeff Cohen

1. I will not follow your cat.

2. I will not follow you just because you follow me. I have to know who you are. I'm funny that way.

3. I will feel free to post about my books and urge you to buy/nominate/vote for them.

4. I assume you will feel free to ignore me if you don't want to read stuff like that.

5. I will use Twitter to say stuff I think is funny. If you don't, that's entirely your right.

6. I will occasionally say political stuff. Again, your option is to block, ignore or argue with me.

7. I will block you if you get personal in your arguing with me. I won't get personal arguing with you.

8. I still won't follow your cat.

9. I will follow famous people--if I respect their work--and try to get them to notice me. Isn't that what Twitter is for?

10. I won't follow people I know to be dead. 

11. I WILL follow some people I know to be fictional, if they're entertaining about it.

12. My baseball-to-posting ratio will be higher on Twitter than elsewhere. I'm an impulsive fan.

13. I do not expect you to follow me unless you want to. 

14. I will post about television, movies, sports (well, baseball), current events and things other than books. 

15. I will not post to anyone in my family, because none of them has a Twitter account.

16. I will check my Twitter account multiple times per day.

17. E.J. Copperman's account will be checked every once in a while.

18. Maxie Malone has a Twitter account. That almost never gets checked.

19. I will follow other authors, especially if they're actually friends.

20. I will not pay much attention to the number of followers I have. Perhaps I should.

21. I will follow the President of the United States. The fact that he follows ME confuses me a little.

22. I will block you if you try to impose your religion, political beliefs or sports affiliations on me. If you just want to state what they are, that's your business. Don't tell me what to do.

23. I will not always use "cozy" language on Twitter. I don't really have a problem with any word in the English language, depending on how it's used.

24. If you use one of those un-cozy words to insult or provoke me, I'll block you. I don't use them that way.

25. No. I'm not following your cat.

Jan 122015
 

Jeff Cohen

The Golden Globe awards (ha!) were given out last night , and Oscar nominations will be announced Thursday, so the usual group of self-important fun-free flicks will gather up all the honors on the way to a glittering night of unremitting bordom relieved occasionally by a funny comedian (but Robin Williams is dead, so that's a problem) or the anticipation of a jaw-dropping faux pas. I love the Oscars, but this is not an especially interesting year. I'm writing this before the nominations are announced, but I'm already bored. Imagine.

But that led to another train of thought, which is the real reason I asked you all here today. 

Believe it or not, Hollywood is not the only place where awards nominations are being pondered by anxious people placing far too much importance on their chances. Yes, it's nomination season in the mystery book world, too, and if you think people like me (that is, any author who actually managed to get a book--or two--published in 2014) aren't thinking about such things, well, you are adorable. 

There has been much made in various social media outlets (that's what we communicate on these days, kids--outlets) about the proper etiquette for authors to "remind" readers (and voters, we love voters!) that their brainchildren (books) are eligible for various honors. And it's a sensitive issue, seriously.

On the one hand, we don't want to appear to be relentlessly blowing our own horns, to be campaigning outwardly (is there a way to campaign inwardly?) for a crass pat on the back and an ingraved something or other. We don't want to alienate readers, who are kind enough to read our work and hopefully to like it, by becoming annoying one-note singers constantly blathering on about how you should vote for our stuff.

But on the other hand, we really want those nominations.

Writers work in a vacuum. (I'll leave a space here for the inevitable Hoover joke.) We work by ourselves, basically for ourselves, laboring away at a story that didn't exist until we decided to make it real (ish). It can take months. Or years. And all that time, we have precious little, if any, feedback. We honestly don't know if what we're devoting our time and creative energy to might actually be any good. Or not.

So yes, we crave a little ego stroke now and again. And again. We even get one, occasionally. The complimentary review. The thoughtful email from a reader. The Amazon sales number we check with some regularity (is every 6 minutes "some regularity"?). 

The awards? Well, you have to be nominated, and that at least allows the writer imagine, for a few weeks, what it might be like to win the contest. Some actors remove their names from eligibility because they say artists shouldn't compete. I say, bravo to them. But my name--both my names--are staying right out there because I want to get that affirmation. There, I said it.

So here's how I have decided to deal with the campaign-but-don't-campaign conundrum: I will mention in this forum--because I'm guessing you decided to read this blog of your own free will--that both Question of Missing HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, by Jeff Cohen and E.J. Copperman, and Final coverINSPECTOR SPECTER, by Copperman alone, if such a thing is possible, are indeed eligible for the Agatha Awards given at the Malice Domestic conference, and my personal favorite (because it recognizes humor), the Lefty Award from Left Coast Crime, this year held in Portland, OR. If you are a nominating voter for either of those presitigious awards and have read and enjoyed either or both books, I would greatly appreciate your consideration.

But because I really do want to be fair about it and because I really don't want to seem incredibly avaricious and self-centered, now I'll invite other writers whose books might be eligible for an award this season to comment here and tell us all about it/them. Please do so. I'm sure everyone who reads this blog would be interested in knowing. We'll look below for your comments.

I encourage all those who can to fill in those spaces on the nominating forms. Whether or not one of the books pictured (subtly) above is included in your choices. Because this is about what the readers really like.

Of course, I would like to know if I have a chance at an award to put on my mantle. Because I don't have a mantle, and would have to price one in the coming weeks. That would be okay, believe me. I've always wanted a mantle.

So let's get the game started. Who's going first?

Jan 052015
 

Jeff Cohen

New-year-2015

(That's me on the right!)

Personally, I have little to complain about with the year just ended. Yes, there are tweaks I'd have made here and there, not everything was perfect, but professionally and personally, I'd have to rank it among the better years, particularly of late.

But 2014 was a disastrous year for comedy.

In the course of those short 12 months, we lost (among others) Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Jan Hooks, Mike Nichols, David Brenner, Rik Mayall and possibly the most painful of all, Robin Williams.

Living comedians weren't exactly having the best of times, either. Ask Bill Cosby (who in all likelihood has not deserved to have great times for some decades now). 

The Colbert Report ended its nine-year run. Craig Ferguson left The Late Late Show with no immediate announcement that he will be continuing his incredibly subversive take on a talk show anytime soon. 

And late in the year, a relatively stupid stoner comedy from the guys who brought you Pineapple Express actually started a real international incident, to the point that the President of the United States had to answer questions about a Seth Rogen movie at his year-end press conference. There were threats of violence, although to date none has been perpetrated, thank goodness.

There were no comedy films (particularly non-animated ones) in the Top 10 of the year's box office grosses, according to a web site devoted to such tallies. There were all of three in the Top 20. Then you have to drop down to #34 to find another, and get to Dumb and Dumber To, which is a comedy technically in the sense that it isn't a drama.

Things were somewhat better on television, as has been the case for a number of years now. Discounting popular (if somewhat predictable) tired standbys like Two and a Half Men (who's the half-man now?), TV comedy has settled into a sort-of uncomfortable but sporadically interesting groove with such cool-but-funny shows as Veep and Transparent

But as with most things, once the TV business settles on what is the new exciting thing, it replicates that thing mercilessly until you're sick of it even when it's done well. Veep  begets Alpha House which is a variation on House of Cards which in turn leads to... who cares by then? I believe it was the radio comedian Fred Allen who once said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of television."

So with the end of 2014 comes a sincere plea: Let's hope there are more laughs this year. With everything else that's going on, we could certainly use them.

Happy new year, everybody!

Pitchers and catchers report in 46 days.

Dec 292014
 

Jeff Cohen

It is that strange time, that limbo between Christmas and mid-January, when the only thing that's going to happen is that nothing is going to happen. One can debate the merits of a system that creates a de facto period of inaction in virtually every industry, but what I know is that the brilliant pop duo Everything but the Girl wasn't just talking about one day when they said about Christmas, "it's cold and there's nothing to do."

This is a natural time to reflect, to look back on the past 51+ weeks and try to determine what it all meant. Since so little progress is being made in most areas, this is when people compile Top 10 lists, write retrospectives on those who have died since last January 1, and overwhelm us with instant analysis of the past year even before it has completely passed.

I say, the hell with that. Let's look forward.

Life offers no guarantees. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow despite my having plans to watch the Marx Brothers on New Year's Eve. So with that in mind, the following is not a list of things that will definitely happen beginning on Thursday. It suggests that things don't change as much as we'd like to believe, so the best security we can anticipate is to know that things that have happened before are likely to keep doing so until something drastic forces them to alter their behavior.

Things That Will Happen in 2015

  • There will an unexpected, overwhelming phenomenon in publishing, and I won't read it. I haven't read Gone Girl. I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey. Hell, I still haven't cracked the cover on The DaVinci Code. This stems from what some people (okay, my wife) refer to as a "pathological need not to jump on the bandwagon." And I suppose that's true, although I remain to this day a fan of the most popular band on the planet, and have been since I was six years old. But I do not own a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller.
  • Film will continue to not be much fun. I like to go to the "serious" movies at the end of the year in order to root for someone or something at the Oscars in February. This year, It's going to be a tough slog. Birdman is a pretentious, indulgent headache (not helped by the almost-all-percussion soundtrack) despite my admiration for Michael Keaton and the terrific cast. The Imitation Game is  a standard biopic with a nice performance. Into the Woods... well, I don't like Sondheim anyway but those around me who do say it's a disappointment and goes on too damn long.
  • Jon Stewart will remain brilliant. Of the Oscar-bait movies I've seen, my favorite is definitely Rosewater, Stewart's screenwriting-and-directing debut. Which for fans of his astonishing work on The Daily Show leaves us with a conundrum: Do we hope he makes more movies?
  • Late night TV will remain a white boys' club. Yes, change is relative and that applies to some people in my family. But David Letterman will give way to Stephen Colbert next May, and Craig Ferguson (whose subversive, hilarious talk show will be badly missed) is stepping out of the way for the Baker from Into the Woods. People of color? Well, Larry Wilmore will take over Colbert's slot. Does that count? Women? Not so much, yet.
  • Crime fiction will continue to be good. Yeah, some things--hopefully not mine--are going to be overly safe and familiar, but even those might require a brain for the author and the reader, and that's not a bad thing. Respect? No, we don't get it, but should we care? Readers tell the story in a way. What they read is what should be held in esteem.
  • Television will continue to do better work than film. The best drama and comedy now being produced is not in your theater. Television, given its much broader possibilities now, is offering great examples of each, even if a lot of it still shows its lower budgets and shorter schedules. Film? We just went through a period when a Seth Rogen movie was a political cause. That should say something right there.
  • I'll write two books. That's the pattern now. They'll come out in October and December. Too close together? People who know more about publishing schedules than I do say it's not a problem, and I trust them.
  • The baseball team I follow will not have a great year. This has been the case for two years. It is not likely to change very soon. It will still be a joy to see the guys out on the field every night. Baseball season is just better than other seasons, and that's all there is to say.
  • I will continue to be grateful that anyone at all reads the stories I write.

Was any of that coherent? I'm on about seven different kinds of cold medication in what will undoubtedly be a futile attempt to get me into some kind of shape before the ball drops on Wednesday--or Thursday, depending on how one measures such things.

Thanks to all who read DEAD GUY and have a lovely 2015!

Dec 072014
 

This week we welcome our newest DEAD GUY! Every other Sunday you'll be hearing from Cynthia Chow, branch manager for the Hawaii State library system, who'll be offering perspectives on pretty much everything from her viewpoint. And you're going to love it. Trust us.

By Cynthia Chow

Comic books have been around for decades, but it has been a long journey for them to be accepted as legitimate forms of literature.  The eighties had their WatchmenPersepolis,and Maus, but even those groundbreakers were still considered to be part of a niche market.  That is finally changing.  Comic book superheroes have become a part of pop culture, with millions of “average” people - whose previous experiences with comics may have extended only so far as to the perusal of the Sunday newspapers (what are those?) -  being able to list off characters from the AvengersGuardians of the Galaxy, and X-men.  Now that Hollywood has realized just how much money we are willing to spend to see our icons brought to life, there is a virtual smorgasbord of superhero movies scheduled all the way through 2028. Turn on the television virtually any night of the week and you will see some version of a comic book; the broodily overacted-without-Batman-Gotham, the very fun Flash, the how-could-they-not Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the cigarette-smoking-but-probably-going-to-be-cancelled-anyway Constantine, and my favorite, Arrow (more shirtless training montages, please).  These shows take their comic inspirations seriously and are as far from campy as you can get, unlike various incarnations from the past, when Adam West apparently couldn’t be bothered to do a sit-up.  These superheroes do not wear tights.

My love of comics began decades ago, when I was stealing into my brother's room to rifle through his Batman and Spider-Man collections. It seems only fitting that my first summer job was working in a failing bookstore/comic book store, and I managed to become one of those people who collected comics sealed in plastic bags. I still have the black armband included in the Death of Superman promotion (spoiler, he's not dead). 

Comics – loosely defined as graphic novels when published together as a continuous story arc- are also what led me to my actual career.   I was a new Young Adult Librarian who actually saw value in putting them in my library, and when a teen loves one comic he/she will only want to read more. 

And graphic novels have gotten GOOD. Just like any genre, some writing is better than others, but now established and "respectable" writers have entered the playing field. I thoroughly recommend that you give these a try:

  • BatwomanQueen and Countryand Whiteout by Greg Rucka. Although he has always had roots in comics, the author of the Atticus Kodiak and Jad Bell thrillers is incredible at crafting kick-ass female heroines.  He has created a wonderful Batwoman – don't mistake her for Batgirl – series.  Rucka’s Queen and Country series features an awesome female spy agent and led to a series of novels expanding on the same storylines.  His graphic novel Whiteout is essentially a locked-room mystery that has a U.S. Marshall trapped in the Antarctica with a murderer. 
  • DC’s Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer.  The bestselling mystery and thriller writer depicts how a criminal act enacted on a superhero’s wife, and the Justice League’s response, completely divides the team.  It’s absolutely brutal - in a good way.
  • Wonder Woman: Love & Murder by Jodi Picoult made waves - and received mixed reviews - when the fiction writer took over an entire Wonder Woman storyline. 
  • Castle: Richard Castle’s Derek Storm.  Yes, he’s a fictional author on ABC’s Castle writing fictional mystery novels, but ABC produced thrillers that are actually enjoyable and the graphic novelizations of the Derek Storm books are very fun.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8.  Joss Whedon continued his awesome television series in comic form, freeing him from studio production and budgets.  It gets wonderfully weird.
  • These are just the graphic novels written by authors specifically to be comics.  Janet EvanovichPatricia BriggsRichard Stark/Donald Westlake, and Laurell K. Hamilton have all had their series turned into pretty impressive graphic novels that take their novels into illustrated realizations.

    It's never been a secret to teachers and librarians that comics are the gateway drug to getting reluctant readers to read.   My suggestions here are just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope that these graphic novels written by skilled mystery and fiction writers will tempt adult mystery lovers into delving into the world of comics.  Never let it be forgotten that Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, was the secret identity for a truly heroic occupation. In her “real life,” Batgirl was… a librarian. 

 Oh, and if you doubt my love of comic heroes…That’s me as a very green Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy. Gamora

 

 

                       

Oct 272014
 

Jeff Cohen

I'm going to get into so much trouble for saying this.

The fact of the matter is, I did not grow up as a fan of mystery books. I didn't dislike them or anything, but they weren't my driving force, my obsession. I did not devour Christie and Hammett and Chandler without stopping for lunch. I didn't envision myself as the next great mystery author when I grew up (which turned out to be an ironic term).

Most mystery and crime fiction authors, when you ask them about their childhoods, will regale you with fond memories of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. The more ambitious will mention Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple or Poirot. They'll explain their love of the form, the neverending search for the responsible party, the thirst for justice, the desire to see the guilty punished and the righteous rewarded.

Not me.

I was--and remain--a comedy geek. My mind was blown the first time I heard a Bill Cosby album. I saw Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein more often than I met my own Cub Scout leader. Some kids looked up to Dr. J., I had Bugs Bunny. 

When we reached adolescence together, many of my friends went off on quests for spiritual elightenment because they'd heard Ravi Shankar or other kinds of enlightenment because they heard Pink Floyd. I sought the secret of life from another source after the first time I discovered the Marx Brothers in Horse Feathers.

Some people's lives were changed when they first encountered a book by J.D. Salinger or a thriller by Ken Follett. My existence has never been the same since the time I found a copy of The 2000 Year-Old Man by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks at Vogel's Records in Elizabeth, NJ for $2.67. I still have it (although I have digitized the album, like all my vinyl records, in case of catastrophe).

My wife finds it... limiting that I rarely want to see a movie with no sense of humor at all. I figure I have a limited amount of time to spend in this existence and can easily get depressed on my own with no help from filmmakers, writers, actors, playwrights, musicians and especially politicians. Give me a laugh or give me a nap, I say.

No doubt none of what I've said will come as a shock to anyone who's read my work. I get a good number of emails from people pointing out that there are occasional gaps in the plot logic of some of the Aaron Tucker books. Once in a while a timeline error might make it past the virtual army of editors who work on my writing, and it is always my fault. I do sometimes have to scramble for a character's motivation, although the effort is always there and we do try to tie up all the loose ends.

But for me, if you smile or laugh when you're reading my work, I've succeeded. My favorite communications from readers are those where a particular line of dialogue or side comment that made the person laugh is cited. I love hearing that; it makes me feel like the effort I put in was worthwhile.

In THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD (you knew I'd bring it up, right?), the challenge was more complex than ever. Samuel Hoenig, the main character and narrator of the book, has Asperger's Syndrome and sees things in what might be considered an unusual way. He is not trying to make the reader laugh.

But I didn't want to be exclusively serious, so finding the humor was a little bit more work than usual, and not as obivous (one hopes). But the challenge was--from a writer's standpoint--exhilarating, and doing it again for next year's Asperger's mystery was better. I'm never as happy as a writer as when I'm painting myself into a corner.

So please, if something I wrote makes you laugh, don't hold back. Let me know. As my mother used to say (and probably still does), "It just encourages him."

Oct 252014
 

Marilyn Thiele

I want to thank Dani, my intrepid assistant, for filling in for me here last week and for keeping the shop running efficiently in my absence. As to the blog post, when one says to an employee “Will you?” one is never sure that it’s not being heard as “You will,” but either way I think she enjoyed the opportunity to write about her convention after listening to all of the mystery fans here go on about Bouchercon. I’m sure she also enjoyed being free of me for nine days.

The holiday was our annual trip to London to visit our son, who lives and works there. Dedicated Anglophile that I am, I am happy to have this excuse to get to the UK regularly. Kevin and his partner, Claire, always manage to plan a “little” side trip that turns into an exciting excursion. They could have careers as travel planners if the energy industry begins to bore them. Last year it was Scotland, and the opportunity to meet our own Lynne Patrick on the way. This year it was Provence, as Claire wanted to show us her country. Having just arrived back two days ago, I am still full of the sunshine and warmth of southern France, and could go on about the scenery, the ancient hill towns, the beaches, and finding in Claire’s mother a fellow book and mystery lover. I knew there was some reason those two found each other. I got clued in to several French mystery authors, so you may find a switch from the Scandinavians in my future posts.

One pleasant surprise was arriving in London on October 15 and learning that October 17 was the opening of an exhibit at the Museum of London: “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” There was time to see this exhibit after our return from France, so instead of boring you with the glamor of the Cote d’Azur, I will linger a bit in Victorian London. Sherlock Museum Poster

The best term to describe the exhibit is “atmospheric.” In addition to some of Conan Doyle’s original manuscripts and the original lithographs of Sidney Paget’s illustrations, there were photos and paintings from the period, depicting the “dense yellow fog settled on London.” One began to feel the shadowy world in which Sherlock’s villains operated.

Entering a door numbered “221B,” one is treated to examples of the forensic tools available to Mr. Holmes, with appropriate references to the stories: an early typewriter, for the unique imprint of each letter; newspapers, open to the crime stories and personal ads through which sinister plots were uncovered by the genius detective; hats, shoes, and clothing of the times which the master of disguises used to go undercover; and chemical apparatus for determining the origin of clues such as mud or ashes. A display of codes was particularly fascinating; included were examples of Pitman shorthand, with the English Book of Common Prayer “translated.” Commentary about the army of young women who found employment through typing and shorthand skills was food for thought. There were also the requisite violin and drug paraphernalia, along with other evidence of a Bohemian existence.

One section was dedicated to the stage, film and television versions of the Great Detective, ending, of course, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s incarnation of Sherlock. Throughout the entire exhibit, there were screens with clips from early films alternating with clips from the current BBC interpretation. Seeing Basil Rathbone in the role again, I was reminded of the late nights I spent while young watching the Sherlock movies. It occurred to me that at the time there were only three stations to choose from, but always something good to watch. Why is it that now, with hundreds of choices, I can never find anything that I want to see?

Sherlock Holmes could not have gotten around London without the hansom cab. At one point, there are three maps of London with moving arrows showing his route in a particular chase or investigation. Next to each is a screen showing the same route from a car-mounted camera in today’s city. The city is brighter and cleaner, but no less crowded.

In a section on Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, there is much made of his admiration for Edgar Allan Poe, and of the fact that Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock because he felt it was distracting from his “serious” writing. My thoughts went to recent posts here about Wilkie Collins and Anna Katharine Green. I had to admit to myself that Collins and Green may have been the pioneers of the detective novel, but it was the short story writers who really got the genre going. And that, even then, the “fun” writing was belittled by many, including its creators. But it sold! Doyle ultimately had to resurrect Sherlock.

The subtitle of the exhibit is “The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” As I left the museum, I realized that I felt for the first time as if Sherlock Holmes was, and is, a living person. It’s time to reacquaint myself after many years. Basil? Benedict? The stories? Where to begin?

Note: The exhibit is on until April 12, so if anyone of our readers is in London during that time, I would highly recommend a visit. Even if you get to London after this show, the museum is well worth a visit. The history of the city from its primitive beginnings to today is displayed over several floors. On my first foray, I got only to the Great Fire. This time it was Sherlock Holmes. I want to go back to again … and again.  

 

Oct 202014
 

Methinks there's dirty work afoot...

"On the Saturday morning at twelve o'clock he left England, on the wildest chase that any man had ever undertaken. And behind him, did he but know it, stalked the shadow of death."

Cue the organ music. Get the monsters and misfits ready offstage. Could that melodramatic bit of writing have originated with anyone other than the master of the early English thriller, Edgar Wallace? Of course not. It is, in fact, a key development in the rather confusing but thoroughly entertaining plot of The Door With Seven Locks, first published in 1926, and a fine example of the kind of book which made Edgar Wallace one of the most popular novelists of his day. The Door with Seven Locks is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to that full review by clicking here.

The plot is difficult to sum up in a few well-chosen words. It begins with a Scotland Yard detective who is about to retire from the force. He becomes involved with a small-time crook, an expert at picking locks, who tells him about a recent lock-picking job that has made him quite nervous. Before he can pass along details, the lock-picker is murdered. Next, our retiring detective gets involved in a couple of seemingly unrelated incidents – the theft of an obscure book from a lending library (whose librarian, a young woman, will be the heroine of the story), and an assignment to go chasing around the world after a very rich and very elusive young heir who is rarely seen. That assignment leads to the departure I quoted at the beginning of this post.

In the midst of all this chasing about, we discover that there is a desperate search under way for seven individual keys which, when all used together, can open a mysterious door in a family's tomb. We meet a doctor – clearly an unsympathetic and sinister character – who is suspected of carrying out unethical medical experiments, to say the least. And we get glimpses of some powerful and dangerous creatures who may or may not be linked to the doctor. Add in our heroine’s unfortunate habit of getting herself into dangerous situations and you have a very fast-moving, easy-to-read and easy-to-enjoy – if not very easy to summarize - thriller. The Door with Seven Locks is certainly Wallace in fine form.

Wallace's popularity has endured, by the way: more than 160 movies have been made from his work, more than have been made from any other author's books. In fact, this book was made into a movie which was given a new but entirely appropriate name: Chamber of Horrors. They don't write 'em like that any more, do they?

The Challenge

As part of my continuing commitment to the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge under way at the My Reader's Block blog, I am submitting this to cover the Bingo square calling for one book that has been made into a movie. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.