Jan 012015

I'm not sure I would elevate any of these thoughts to the status of a "New Year's Resolution," but I do intend to try a few new things with this blog and podcast, to keep the blood flowing and prevent hardening of the mysterious arteries.

First, although I'm participating in the Vintage Mystery Bingo Golden Challenge again, I will try to include some additional mysteries - ones that were not necessarily written before 1960. I need 36 mysteries to fulfill my challenge commitment, but that still leaves 16 other weeks, not to mention that there's no rule that says I can't do more than one a week, at least on the blog.

While I'm at it, since the podcast is now 7 1/2 years old, I think it's time I go back and bring some of the original reviews to your attention. As I didn't really start the blog until the podcast was nearly a year old, and since I started by reviewing some of my all-time favorites, I think it might be good to call some of them to your attention. I'll do this sporadically, and they'll usually be headlined "Looking Back."

Oh, and there are a lot of other, smaller challenges out there. I may jump into some of those from time to time.

I hope you'll come along for the ride. I'm very grateful to all of you who visit here, and I hope you enjoy the reviews - and that you'll enjoy the books themselves even more.

Dec 182014

The end of the year is fast approaching - and so are the deadlines for registering for some of next year's great mystery conferences and saving yourself a bit of money, too.

Let's start with Left Coast Crime, coming up in Portland, OR, March 12-15. Register by December 31 and the price is $175. Dawdle until January 1 and it goes up to $195. Also, early registrants (prior to January 23) will be able to take part in the nominating process for four categories of awards. Click here for their registration page.

Next up is Malice Domestic, that annual celebration of the traditional mystery held each year in Bethesda, MD. In 2015, the conference will be held from May 1 through May 3. Price varies (depending on whether you want to attend the Agatha Awards banquet, which you should), but all prices increase on January 1. Those who register before December 31 get to help select the final nominees for the awards. Click here for registration information.

And in the fall, there is Bouchercon 2015, the oldest and largest of the conferences, coming up in Raleigh, NC, from October 8 through October 11. The price for this one is $175 until January 1, after which it goes up to $195. Their registration page is here.

Never been to a mystery conference? Maybe this is the year for you to try one. Each of these conferences attracts hundreds of mystery authors and more hundreds of readers who want a chance to meet and mingle with their favorite authors - and to learn about new authors and books they might enjoy. There are entertaining and informative panel discussions, rooms full of book dealers, prestigious awards, well-known guests of honor, autograph sessions, welcoming bags filled with books to take home, and the opportunity to make a great many new friends. I attended all three this past year; in 2015, I'll be missing Malice (much to my regret), but looking forward to attending all of them again in 2016. Try one. You'll enjoy it.

Dec 152014

Love her or hate her, British crime fiction author (and critic) P. D. James, who passed away last month, was one of the strongest defenders of the modern British crime novel. Over the course of a writing career that spanned 50 years, she wrote only about 20 novels, eleven of them featuring police detective Adam Dalgliesh. While she certainly had ties to the traditional mystery, she was more interested in creating realistic characters involved in crimes which generally grew out of their personalities rather than being imposed as puzzles.

Perhaps her closest approach to the traditional mystery may be found in her first Dalgliesh novel, Cover Her Face, originally published in 1962. It's the story of the murder of a young woman, a maid in one of those traditional English country houses. Cover Her Face is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.

Sally Jupp loved to keep secrets - making it very clear to everyone, however, that she was in possession of those secrets. She had an illegitimate child, for example, but wouldn't identify the father. She irritated almost every member of the household where she worked, and she even announced that the family's son had proposed to her.

Well, as one of the characters says, “She liked amusing herself with people…They can be dangerous playthings.” Apparently someone, pushed beyond endurance, kills Sally - in a locked room, no less. And so Adam Dalgliesh - a mere Detective Chief Inspector in this book, he would later be promoted to a Commander of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard - arrives at the estate to investigate the murder.

While James plays with the traditional English mystery ingredients - the country house setting, the locked room, the "upstairs downstairs" relationships between the family suspects and the servants - she is quite clearly more interested in giving us the memorable characters who populate this book. Although there are plenty of traditional clues to the identity of the killer, the solution to the mystery really comes from the interplay among the characters and the uncovering of their petty (and not so petty) secrets, often under the guidance of Dalgliesh. It was a pretty impressive debut performance for James. Over the years, her stories became longer and more complex - and, to me, less enjoyable, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Cover Her Face.


Dec 122014

The calendar says it is still 2014, but the Mystery Writers of America have named the recipients of some very special 2015 awards, which will be presented at the annual Edgar Awards banquet next April.

The 2015 Grand Masters Awards, which are really life/career achievement awards, go to two fine, long-standing authors, Lois Duncan and James Ellroy.

The group is also awarding two Raven Awards, which are presented for outstanding achievement outside the field of creative writing. The awards will go to Jon and Ruth Jordan of Crimespree Magazine and to Kathryn Kennison, the founder of the Midwestern mystery conference Magna Cum Murder - a conference I haven't yet attended, meaning I ought to get up and go. 

The MWA is presenting its 2015 Ellery Queen Award to Charles Ardai, the editor of the publishing (and republishing) house, Hard Case Crime. The award is designed to honor writing teams (such as the team that was Ellery Queen) and/or leaders in the mystery publishing industry.

You can find full details about the awards and the winners here. They will all receive their awards at the Edgar banquet in New York on April 29, 2015. Congratulations to the honorees!

Hat tip to Xavier Lechard, of the At the Villa Rose blog (via Facebook).

Dec 082014

Sorry I had to miss the Wolfe Pack's annual Black Orchid weekend in New York. The annual events, which include a gala banquet, take place each year on the first full weekend of December, in honor of author Rex Stout's birthday.

At the banquet, the annual Nero Award, presented to an author "for the best American Mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories," was given to this year's winner, David Morell, for Murder as a Fine Art. The winner and runners up:
  • Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell, Little, Brown & Company
  • Ask Not, Max Allan Collins, Tor & Forge Books
  • Three Can Keep a Secret, Archer Mayor, St. Martins Press 
  • A Study in Revenge, Kieran Shields, Crown Publishing Group
  • A Question of Honor, Charles Todd, William Morrow/Harper Collins

Working jointly with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the Wolfe Pack also presented the annual Black Orchid Novella Award to author K. G.McAbee for his novella, "Dyed to Death." The award celebrates the novella, the long short story/short novel format at which Rex Stout excelled. 

Congratulations are in order for the winners and all the runners-up. From what I hear, it was - as usual - a pretty fabulous event.

Dec 012014

Talk about Cyber Monday book sales - our friends at Open Road Integrated Media (who publish the Mysterious Press line of e-book mysteries) are having a huge sale TODAY (MONDAY) ONLY- with prices up to 80% lower than normal. Most books are $1.99. Full list of Kindle versions and more info at this link. For other formats, please visit here for Nook titles and here for Kobo titles. You can also try Apple's iTunes store, but I can't seem to get the proper link for that one. Again, the prices are only for today. There's a lot of great mystery titles - and a lot of other books available as well. As we say, check 'em out.

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 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?