Nov 192014

Regular visitors to this blog know that stories about crimes committed inside locked-and-bolted rooms, or other impossible locations such as murders where the killer left no footprints in the snow, are among my favorites.

One of the panel discussions at the recently-concluded Bouchercon in Long Beach this year was "Murder in a Locked Room: Solving the 'Perfect' Crime." Moderated by Bill Gottfried, the panel of authors included Janet Dawson, Jeffery Deaver, Laurie R. King, Marvin Lachman and Gigi Pandian. Those of us who attended the discussion were given a list of recommended locked room books for our own reading pleasure. It is NOT all-inclusive - it is intended as a starter-guide and contains some of the panel's favorites. Bill Gottfried kindly allowed me to put it here for my readers.

Here are their suggested books with links, where available, to Amazon; if you have a local bookstore, PLEASE let them get it for you or find you a second-hand copy:

Again, that's far from an inclusive list. Personally, I would add Hake Talbot's brilliant and frightening Rim of the Pit and another "Carter Dickson," The Plague Court Murders. Also The Burning Court isn't one of my favorites, and there are a couple on there I don't know - yet. And for those who would like to start (or finish) with some short stories about impossible crimes, I would have to add the newly-published The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original), edited and with an introduction by Otto Penzler, which includes 937 pages-worth of classic locked room mysteries. According to the front cover, it is "the most complete collection of impossible-crime stories ever assembled." I'm looking forward to cold winter nights and a lot of locked doors.

Nov 162014

The Anthony Awards for 2014 were presented tonight at Bouchercon 45, in Long Beach California. Attendees at the conference voted to present the awards. (Winners are in bold print below):

Best Audio Book:

  • Deborah J. Ledford, Crescendo, read by Christina Cox
  • Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo's Calling, read by Robert Glenister
  • G. M. Malliet, Death and the Lit Chick, read by Davina Porter
  • Lisa Brackmann, Hour of the Rat, read by Tracy Sallows
  • Sean Ferrell, Man in the Empty Suit, read by Mauro Hantman

Best Television Episode Teleplay First Aired in 2013:

  • "Pilot" - The Blacklist, Jon Bokenkamp
  • "Felina" - Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan
  • "Dark Descent" - The Fall, Allan Cubitt
  • "Pilot" - The Following, Kevin Williamson
  • "Hole in the Wall" - Justified, Graham Yost

Best Children's or Young Adult Novel:

  • Joelle Charbonneau, The Testing
  • Margaux Froley, Escape Theory
  • Chris Grabenstein, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
  • Elizabeth Kiem, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
  • Penny Warner, The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work:

  • Maria Konnikova, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
  • Cate Lineberry, The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines
  • Josh Stallings, All the Wild Children
  • Daniel Stashower, The Hour of Peril: the Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
  • Sarah Weinman (ed.), Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

Best Short Story:

  •  Craig Faustus Buck, "Dead Ends"
  • John Connolly, "The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository"
  • Denise Dietz, "Annie and the Grateful Dead"
  • Travis Richardson, "Incident on the 405"
  • Art Taylor, "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants"

Best Paperback Original Novel:

  • Chris F. Holm, The Big Reap
  • Darrell James, Purgatory Key
  • Stephen King, Joyland
  • Alex Marwood, The Wicked Girls
  • Catriona McPherson, As She Left It

Best First Novel:

  • Matt Coyle, Yesterday's Echo
  • Roger Hobbs, Ghostman
  • Becky Masterman, Rage Against the Dying
  • Kimberly McCreight, Reconstructing Amelia
  • Todd Robinson, The Hard Bounce

Best Novel:

  • Robert Crais, Suspect
  • Sara J. Henry, A Cold and Lonely Place
  • William Kent Kreuger, Ordinary Grace
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan, The Wrong Girl
  • Julia Spencer-Fleming, Through the Evil Days

In addition to the literary awards, the David S. Thompson Special Service Award was presented to Judy Bobalik.

As always, congratulations to the winners and to all the nominees. Bouchercon will wrap up with its final sessions Sunday morning.

Nov 122014

So as I mentioned in my last post, I have spent the morning loading bookbags to be given to Bouchercon visitors.


For those who are new to Bouchercon, each bag has a number of mysteries, plus a couple of mystery magazines. They get handed out to registrants. Come on down...

Nov 122014

We have arrived in Long Beach for Bouchercon 2014. We'll spend today helping with part of the setup - stuffing bookbags - and then get ready for four days of talking and breathing fine mysteries. We've already seen some of our old friends from prior conferences. I think we're supposed to have about 1500 or so this year. I'll try to post updates as things really get rolling. I'm moderating a panel Thursday afternoon (4:30 PM) about mystery authors who are/were journalists and write about journalists as protagonists, and I'll be part of another panel Friday morning called Collecting 101 (at 8:30 AM), to help readers build a collection of books they want to own. Add in a Wolfe Pack banquet Friday evening and, of course, the Anthony Awards (and others) on Saturday, plus a great many old and new friends, and it should be a great week. Will you be there? If so, please stop by and say hello!

Nov 102014

A candle most certainly can be an invaluable tool for providing light in dark places. Sometimes, too, it can shed light on an otherwise mystifying crime. That's certainly what happens in The Case of the Crooked Candle, an Erle Stanley Gardner mystery from 1944 featuring one of fiction's most famous lawyers, Perry Mason. The Case of the Crooked Candle is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.

The story begins with what seems like a routine, minor accident: a collision between a truck and a passenger car. Nobody is seriously hurt, but the truck driver refuses to let the driver of the other car write down any information about the truck. So the driver goes to Perry Mason. Then a curious thing happens: a lawyer representing the truck driver (or his company) calls Mason offering to settle the case quickly, out of court - and agrees to pay an enormous, unjustified, amount of money to settle things.

This, of course, intrigues Mason, and he launches his own investigation. Before you know it, there is a murder, on board a millionaire's yacht, and Mason winds up representing the man accused of the murder. The solution will only appear when Mason discovers the significance of that crooked candle, and the enormous impact it has in explaining the solution of a seemingly impossible crime. It all concludes with one of those brilliant courtroom scenes for Perry Mason, scenes which Gardner excelled at writing.

The Case of the Crooked Candle has all the elements that made Perry Mason such a popular character – and, according to Wikipedia, made Erle Stanley Gardner the best-selling author in the U. S. at the time of his death in 1970. It has a very complex plot, and the usual assortment of familiar characters from the series is augmented by the interesting and well-developed characters caught up in the mystery. This one can be highly recommended. It is out of print, but available as an e-book; there seem to be a number of used copies for sale as well.

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 with a lawyer, courtroom, judge, etc.. For details about the challenge, and what I'm doing for it, please click here.

Nov 012014

The start of another month brings a new "Getting Away with Murder" column from Mike Ripley, for the Shots Crime & Thriller eZine. As usual, it's an entertaining update on the U.K. crime fiction scene, with occasional - all right, frequent - side trips. Ripley covers a great many sub-genres, although remarkably few among my own "classic" favorites, and it remains a good way to keep up with what's going on out there in the criminal literary world. Or is the literary criminal world?

Oct 192014

Exciting news about one of my favorite authors, Arthur. W. Upfield, the creator of Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte of the Queensland, Australia, police. Upfield has long been nearly impossible to find in print - in the U. S., I believe only The Bone Is Pointed and The Bachelors of Broken Hill have remained in print out of the 29 novels featuring Bony.

Apparently, Upfield's estate has released e-book versions of all 29 of the Bony novels, in a variety of popular formats. According to Wikipedia, this website (with links to the available books) is maintained by Upfield's grandson, William Upfield, and it promises that all 26 of the Boney television series which was made from the novels will be made available as downloads.

If you're not familiar with Upfield and/or with Bonaparte, you should be. Bony (note that the TV series did add an extra "e" to the name "Boney" to make it clear how the name should be pronounced) was a half-White, half-Aboriginal detective. Writing at a time when such characters were rare, Upfield made Bony a wonderful, warm character, a man who never failed to solve the most difficult case because of his abilities inherited from his White father and Aborigine mother. He has been out of favor among the politically correct in Australia and elsewhere, which merely reinforces my low opinion of political correctness. 

I've reviewed five of the Bony books on my podcast over the years, and you can find those reviews on my backlist page (just scroll down to "Upfield"). I haven't done more because they have been so hard to find - I didn't think it would be fair to my readers. Now that they have all been released as e-books, I intend to go back and review several more of my favorites. If you like traditional mysteries, made more exotic by the Australian outback setting of so many, with a wonderfully warm and charismatic central character, you will love Arthur Upfield's books about Bony.

This is exactly what I have believed e-book publishing should be about: making great books available to a new generation of readers (and, I hope, generating some additional income for the authors' estates as well). Bravo, Mr. Upfield, bravo!

Oct 162014

Okay, I've been talking about the panels that will be happening at this year's Bouchercon in Long Beach, CA, now just four weeks away. As a person who specializes (at least for blogging purposes) in traditional mysteries in general and "classic," often older, mysteries in particular, will I have trouble finding panels of particular interest?

Why, no, no I won't, as a matter of fact. A couple of examples which jump out at me from the list of panels (and I wish they'd stop doing that, it's very unnerving):

  • "Murder in a Locked Room: Solving the 'Perfect' Crime" will be happening on Thursday, 11/13, at 1 PM. Moderator is Bill Gottfried; panel members include Janet Dawson, Jeffery Deaver, Laurie R. King, Marvin Lachman and Gigi Pandian;
  • "Sherlock Through the Ages" happens on Saturday, 11/15, at 11:30 AM. Leslie S. Klinger moderates, with Lindsey Faye, Laurie R. King, Michael Kurland and Michael Robertson on the panel;
  • "You Say Traditional, I Say Cozy: Exploring the Boundaries of the Classic Mystery Novel," with Sarah Chen moderating, happens on Saturday at 4:30 PM, with John Billheimer, Pal Bishop, Linda Joffe Hull, Eric James Miller and Ilene Schneider on the panel.

Mind you, those are just a few of the panels I've already marked off to attend, but these are directed specifically at my own favorite part of the mystery genre. If these aren't the areas that appeal to you, check out the panels list - you'll have no trouble finding better choices to match your own interests.

Again, I'm hoping that at least some of the visitors to this blog will also be attending in Long Beach next month - and please do stop by to say hello. I hear that there are about 1500 people signed up to attend at this point, and I hope you're among them. And it's not too late to sign up yet...

Oct 132014

Today is October 13, which means that Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach will begin officially in Long Beach, CA, one month from today. As I've noted elsewhere, I'll be at Bouchercon (along with my wife) and look forward to meeting, speaking with, learning from and laughing with well over a thousand (maybe closer to two thousand) mystery readers and mystery authors.

While there, I'm scheduled to moderate a panel on Thursday, Nov. 13th, called "Just the Facts: Journalists Solving Crimes," with authors R. G. Belsky, Ellen Crosby, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Susan Union and LynDee Walker. The next morning, Friday, November 14th, I'll be on the panel discussing "Collecting 101: Tips and Tricks from the Experts on Building Your Collection," which will be moderated by Otto Penzler with other panelists including Al Abramson, Bill Gottfried, Tom O'Day and Donus Roberts. In the off chance that you're not coming to Bouchercon primarily to hear me speak - an unlikely thing, I know - rest assured that you will be choosing from well over 100 different panels over the four days of the conference. There are authors you'll know, authors you don't know yet but will want to meet, and a lot of readers who may share your tastes or be willing to debate the advantages of their tastes.

That's not even counting all the extra events, off-site dinners and brunches, charity auctions and, of course, the Anthony Awards. I certainly hope you'll be there. And if so, even if you don't attend my panels, be sure to stop me in the halls and say hello.

Oct 092014

When it comes to books by Ellery Queen, there's a lot of disagreement among traditional mystery readers about which of those books are their own personal favorites.  

Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee, the two cousins who wrote as "Ellery Queen" went through at least three more-or-less distinct periods in their writing. Personally, I prefer their early novels, the first nine books about Ellery Queen - for newcomers to EQ, the detective character has the same name as the pseudonym used by the authors. Those early books all have titles that include a nationality, a noun and the word "mystery." The Egyptian Cross Mystery, the book we are discussing here this week, is one of those books. My own favorites among them would be The Siamese Twin Mystery and The Greek Coffin Mystery, but they're all pretty good. 

Some readers prefer books from Queen's later periods, especially those set in and around the fictional town of Wrightsville - books, they argue, that are more mature than earlier Queen novels and have less of the puzzle element, while the books' characters are better developed and the overall tone is darker. Personally, I prefer the earlier ones, where there's more of a direct challenge to the reader to uncover the clues and solve the mystery before everything is revealed at the end of the book. But it's purely a personal choice. Among the later books, I'm very fond of Cat of Many Tails, their venture into the world of a serial killer.

If you enjoy the Ellery Queen books, I think you might enjoy two non-fiction books in particular that will give you more insight into Dannay and Lee and ow they worked and wrote. They divided the labor very strictly: Dannay came up with the plots and provided detailed outlines; Lee took the outlines and turned them into finished novels. They fought often, and bitterly, over their work - but they wound up writing some incredible books, and their influence on the American traditional detective story cannot be overstated. Francis M. Nevins' Ellery Queen: The Art of Detection is a first-rate critical biography by someone who knew the cousins very well. And Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950, edited by Joseph Goodrich, is a fascinating book of letters exchanged between Dannay and Lee when they were working on three books between 1947 and 1950 - not the "nations" books, but among their best.