Dec 182014

Supposedly publishing takes a holiday break from Christmas to the New Year. I will, in fact, be out of the office from the 24th to the 2nd, but that doesn’t mean work has ceased. Currently I am still reading the manuscripts from the Fall 2015 list, writing/editing back cover copy for the Fall 2015 book, reading submissions to fill the Winter 2016 catalog, and doing the other things that fill up an acquiring editor’s day. Those random things include approving cover routings, talking to sales and marketing about advertising, opening and sharing Christmas presents from my authors, reading my tarot cards, and searching for dinner recipes/ideas.

What makes it so hard to get actual work done over the holidays? Perhaps it’s all the chocolate and sugar coursing through my system. It could also be the excitement seeping in – parties, presents, and good food. Last week we had our Yule party at Llewellyn/Midnight Ink/Flux, which was a lot of fun. There is also holiday planning - what will be on the menu, planning travel days, and sending instructions to Santa so he knows to deliver our presents to Wisconsin. I think the holidays bring out the kid in all of us.

Whatever your holiday is – be is Christmas, Chanukah, or none – I hope you enjoy a few days off surrounded by those you love. And I am going to steal an idea from another blog. On that blog the authors are telling about their best and worst book related events. I am going to do my best and worst Xmas presents.

This is a challenge, for sure. For worst, I think it’s that my sister kept giving me soap for Xmas. Finally, after several years, I said to her, no more soap this year. She seemed kind of surprised and said, “well, I didn’t know what to get you and I asked mom and she said soap.” I laughed and now state very specifically what I want! And soap is never on the list.

I don’t know that I can pick a best. I live about four and a half hours from my family, so for me, every Christmas is magical. My boys and I spend a week at home and it’s always perfect in its imperfection. I know that I am getting a red Wisconsin Badgers zip up hoodie and the Patricia Highsmith books that I don’t have in my collection currently. And I have received a bunch of goodies from my authors. Basically, I have shifted from ooohing and aaahing over things – instead I appreciate that my friends and family took the time out of their day and thought about me. It takes time and care. That is what I love most. Here is a pic of some of the cool stuff I have gotten:


Xmas gifts

Pretty awesome, huh? All stuff that is perfectly me.

What about you? Best and worst holiday gifts - go!! And happy holidays all!

Dec 182014
Every year I tell you all what my favorite PI reads of the year were...
Well, here are my favorites again...

BEST PI NOVEL: Wolverine Bros Freight & Storage (Conway Sax) by Steve Ulfelder
BEST DEBUT: Silent City (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura
BEST NEW PI: Gypsy Moran (in Wink of an Eye) by Lynn Chandler Willis
BEST ACTION SCENES: Jianghu (Randall Lee) by Charles Colyott

I also want to thank Keith Dixon and Sean Dexter for helping me bring out my own stuff again.
Dec 182014
Coming up shortly, we’ll roll out the sixth and final installment in The Rap Sheet’s “best crime fiction of 2014” mini-series. If you have failed to keep up, here are links to all of those write-ups:

Part I: Jim Napier
Part II: Kevin Burton Smith
Part III: Steve Nester
Part IV: Anthony Rainone
Part V: Ali Karim
Part VI: J. Kingston Pierce

It’s been fun presenting these rundowns of our critics’ favorite crime, mystery, and thriller works, but we do need to move on to other editorial endeavors (including tallying the results of our “best crime novel covers” poll). We encourage you now, though, to express some of your own opinions of which books in this genre, published during the last 12 months, most impressed or surprised you. Please use the Comments button at the end of this post to tell us what new works we should have read, but maybe missed, during 2014.

We thank you in advance for your thoughts on this matter.
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.

New Review The Cemetery Man by Bill Pronzini

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Dec 182014

book cover of   The Cemetery Man

Mystery Scene says

"Most people  might think of MWA Grandmaster Bill Pronzini as a novelist, but he's also had a long and distinguished career as a writer of short fiction. The Cemetery Man and Other Darkside Tales brings together 19 stories from five decades. Many of them are quite dark, but the title story offers a glimpse of humanity where it's not expected. . . . An excellent introduction by Ed Gorman."    Bill Crider

(From the introduction)
Unlike any other body of work in the genre, Nameless is a history of San Francisco over a period of five decades; a history of American culture from the time of the hippies through the new century when peace and love, brother, are not only forgotten but downright anathema to a country becoming more and more right-wing; and a fictional autobiography, if you will, of a detective who is very much like his creator. In fact, when Bill finally gave him a name, no one was surprised when it turned out to be “Bill.”
I began this introduction by alluding to the Nameless novels because they are not only the dominant part of Bill’s worldwide reputation, they also have a lot in common with the most neglected part of his work—his brilliant, urgent stand-alones. And the stand-alones have even more in common with Bill’s short stories.
“This land is populated by ‘sons of Cain,’ men doomed to walk alone. One of the
 major themes that comes from this is loneliness, or fear of apartness.”
(about John Steinbeck)

Certainly there are times in the Nameless books when the mood of the detective fits the description above, but it is in such stand-alones as Blue Lonesome, A Wasteland of Strangers and The Crimes of Jordan Wise that Bill’s work begins to resonate with the same sense of doom as John Steinbeck, one of Bill’s favorite writers.
Three of the stories here have historical settings—“McIntosh’s Chute,” “The Hanging Man” and “Hooch” and show a particular kinship with Steinbeck’s work.
Bill’s early years were not unlike Steinbeck’s,  young working-class man taking whatever jobs he could find while he wrote on the side:
“I haven’t held any other jobs since 1969. Before that: plumbing supply salesman, warehouseman, office typist, car-park attendant, part-time civilian guard for a U.S. marshal transporting federal prisoners from one lockup to another by car (sounds a lot more exciting than it was; mostly just boring road trips. But I did get one short story out of the experience).”
And so we come to the stories in this collection.

 (Ed here: Here's one of the most haunting)

“Out of the Depths”
One of the most fascinating women I’ve ever encountered in crime fiction. And some of the finest dialogue Bill has ever written.
In what could have been a predictable take on traditional noir themes Bill, through the character of Shea, creates a classic story of isolation and terror.
The same can be said for Tanner, the epitome of the macho adventurer, who invites himself into her house in a Caribbean setting similar to The Crimes of Jordan Wise. He is real and yet at times not real. “He came tumbling out of the sea, dark and misshapen like a being that was not human. A creature from the depths . . .” These images open the story.
Shea must see him not only as a threat to her life but a sexual threat as well, for the subtext to this story is that of a frightened and betrayed woman who ultimately is as afraid of herself as much as she is of others.
Bill is a fine horror writer and a good deal of his crime work is tinged with horrorific effects. As I said, the dialogue here is among the finest Bill has ever created. As ominous and omnipresent as Tanner is, the story is Shea’s, whose words, collectively, are a bitter confession of her entangled and failed life.
Will she be raped? Will she be murdered?
Does she even care?
A true masterpiece.

And Other Darkside Tales

238 PAGES  $14.95
ISBN: 9781935797708

Available in Trade Paperback and Kindle editions.
Dec 182014
The Penetrator #22: High Disaster, by Lionel Derrick September, 1977  Pinnacle Books Holy boredom, Batman! This volume of The Penetrator is a total snoozefest, and author Chet Cunningham has a lot to answer for in the men’s adventure tribunal that exists in my imagination – he’s guilty of a lack of sex, action, violence, and thrills, serving up a listless plot which sees hero Mark Hardin
Dec 182014
Cartoon ©2014 by Nina Paley
Alexander Pope wrote "A little learning is a dang'rous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring" Oh, I like a very deep drink from that mythical fount of knowledge. Spare the sipping straw and hand me a ladle. Better yet give me one of those yard long glasses -- the Coachman's Quaff! I'll be there for hours gulping away until my thirst for little known facts is quenched. I can't help it but I am one of those people whose curiosity never dies and who can't keep his fingers away from the Google search box. Throw an arcane nugget my way. Go on! I will not sleep until I find out exactly what it means or refers to. For your reading delectation here's another potpourri of esoterica gleaned from my reading of obscure murder mysteries and adventure novels.

1. Almoner is an odd word I’ve never seen nor heard in all my fifty plus years. In the some hospital scenes in the suspense thriller Give Me Back Myself (review coming soon) I understood an almoner to be a person who arranges for welfare benefits for indigent patients. It was never really explained outright. The word was dropped into conversation and I had to glean meaning from the context. Further internet searching taught me that the word dates back to the medieval era when almoners were more prominent as distributors of alms. Usually an almoner was a monk, priest or other member of the clergy. It’s a distinctly British word (explains why I’ve never heard it even in all my decades working in hospitals) but I suspect that its use is probably passé these days. Anyone serving in a hospital as an almoner is almost certainly called a social worker or perhaps even may be a chaplain with extended duties.

2. Chances are if you’re a drinker you’ll know what a Manhattan is. But have you ever heard of a Bronx cocktail? Never came across it in books or bar menus. Never heard it ordered by my worldly college drinking pals who were known for their predilection for unusual potent potables. A Bronx turned up in a list of cocktails Waldo Lydecker ordered in Laura. I was hoping for something strange but a Bronx is a nothing more than a standard martini (gin mixed with both sweet and dry vermouth) plus orange juice. No olive, of course. Sounds dreadful, frankly. Who wants to ruin good gin with fruit juice of any kind?

3. Reading The City of Whispering Stone was like getting a crash course in 1970s Iranian politics and culture. It enlightened me about that country’s oppressive past and how the Shah, despite his charismatic persona as portrayed in US media of the 1970s, was a pretty nasty fellow especially regarding his suppression of political dissenters in consort with SAVAK, the Iranian secret police.

4. I have for some years now been reading and writing about witchcraft and devil worship as a motif in the detective novel. I thought by now I knew everything there is to know about the history of witchcraft in Europe and America. Wrong! Though I was hip to Matthew Hopkins, the infamous Witchfinder General, and his nightmarish campaign against witches in 17th century England I did not know of his book The Discovery of Witches. In Witchwater G. M. Wilson also tells us that within this notorious memoir, more a handbook for torture than a historical document, Hopkins lists the names of the most popular witch’s familiars. Paddock and Graymalkin who are beckoned by Macbeth’s Three Weird Sisters are there as well as Pyewacket (Kim Novak's pet in Bell, Book and Candle). Another cat familiar named Elemauzer is mentioned too, though it is spelled Ilemauzar in the illustration below taken from a copy of Hopkin's original text. And it is a stray black cat named Elemauzer that ultimately provides the detective in Witchwater with his most important piece of evidence.

5. Cultural enlightenment in art, music, and theater came to me at the most unexpected times. I learned all about the Mexican silversmith trade in Kathleen Moore Knight’s excellent South of the Border mystery The Blue Horse of Taxco. Charles Willeford fooled me into thinking that numerous artists and painters he invented in The Burnt Orange Heresy were real so compelling were their portraits. Imagine how frustrated I was when no one turned up in my Google searches. I actually started to laugh as my own gullibility. A Sad Song Singing by Thomas B. Dewey gave a documentary feel to the early 1960s folk music and coffeehouse and hootenanny scene in New York City’s lower east side.

6. Had I been as curious as I usually am a when I encountered the names of François Arago, Boisgiraud, and Sir Humphrey Davy, pioneers in the field of electromagnetic physics, I would’ve had one of the most ingenious mysteries I read this year ruined. And of course I’m not telling you the book’s title or even who wrote it. If you’ve already had the pleasure of reading this particular book you’re sure to know the title and author.

Tjitjingalla corroboree, circa 1901
7. One of my favorite reads of 2014 was The Glass Spear, Australian writer Sidney Courtier’s first novel and a corker of a mystery. Within its pages I uncovered a treasure trove of Aussie lore and Aboriginal rites and celebrations including the corroboree, a ceremonial ritual involving tribal costumes and masks, dance and acting as well as kurdaitcha, a kind of aboriginal magic usually tinged with evil intent.

8. Joanna Cannan’s near parody of a detective novel The Body in the Beck was rife with literary allusions to -- of all things -– mountaineering poetry! I learned more than I have ever wanted to know about those minor poets from the dusty halls of truly forgotten literature.

9. Even new books have a lot to teach me. I had a full-on immersion in the Inuit culture while reading The Bone Seeker by M. J. McGrath. Though I didn't get a chance to review this book during my hectic summer it was a highly unusual mystery that I recommend to readers who like an anthropological challenge. You may come away with a whole new appreciation for Nunavut cuisine which includes pickled walrus flippers and aalu, a dipping sauce made from caribou meat, fat and blood.

10. I got a pages of info dump when reading Syndrome E, another contemporary thriller, ranging from the neuromarketing trend in advertising to the fundamentals of splicing and editing 16mm celluloid. But the most gruesome bit of arcana came when I read of a shameful part of Quebec's history in the tragedy of the Duplessis orphans.  There's an example of a horror story in real life that one hopes is never repeated.
 Posted by at 6:02 am
Dec 172014
A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by George Kelley & Marcia Muller

DESMOND BAGLEY – Flyaway. Doubleday, hardcover, 1979. First published in the UK: Collins, hardcover, 1978. Detective Book Club, hardcover 3-in-1 edition [no date]. Fawcett, paperback, 1980. Also: HarperCollins, paperback, 2009, paired with Windfall, also by Bagley.

   Picking the best Desmond Bagley high-adventure novel is difficult because they are of uniformly high quality; most critics agree that in the past ten years, Bagley has surpassed the old masters such as Hammond Innes and Alistair MacLean with such expert novels as The Vivero Letter (1968), set in the remote Mexican jungle; The Snow Tiger (1974), a tale of an avalanche in the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island; and The Enemy (1978), which deals with computer technology. Bagley’s novels mix carefully researched background detail with a great deal of action and momentum, involving his reader thoroughly in his adventurous plots.

   Flyaway may be Bagley’s finest work, a slight cut above the others. When Paul Billson disappears into the Sahara Desert,aircraft-industry security chief Max Stafford departs London for Africa to track Billson down. Max learns that Billson, whose father was a legendary there some decades ago, intends to clear the Billson name; the public still believes Billson’s father deliberately vanished over the Sahara so his wife could collect a fortune in insurance benefits. Max catches up with Billson — after much difficulty — but then both men find themselves hunted by forces intent on protecting the secret of Billson Sr.’s disappearance.

   This novel is superior high adventure; Bagley’s attention to technical detail and his evocation of the desert milieu are impeccable. Bagley drew upon personal experience in the aircraft industry for this novel, which gives it added substance and credibility.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

 Posted by at 10:10 pm

‘Tis the season…

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Dec 172014

Here’s a newsletter that went out Monday to subscribers:

‘Tis the season…
…to sit around doing next to nothing, at least in our house. I should have spent the past several weeks peppering you with newsletters, reminding you of all the perfect gifts reposing on the virtual shelves of LB’s eBay Bookstore, and instead I’ve done sweet Fanny Adams, and it’s hard to say why. My Frequent Companion and I spent Thanksgiving in Scotland, as the guests of an Unemployed Former Talk Show Host of Scottish Origin, and I suspect we came back slightly jet-lagged. Alas, we seem to have embraced the ensuing inertia as a Way of Life.

Ah well. I’ve bestirred myself as best I can, and will supply some seasonal suggestions to gladden the hearts of those bold-faced names on your gift list without kicking holes in your budget. But first a couple of announcements:

~ If you missed A Walk Among the Tombstones during its too-brief theatrical run, the DVD goes on sale January 13. I think it ought to work almost as well on the small screen.

~ Defender of the Innocent, the complete 12-story Ehrengraf collection, is still available as a Subterranean Press hardcover, and in ebook and audio form as well. The Mysterious Bookshop and VJ Books have a limited number of autographed copies.

~Don Sobczak, whose audio rendition of Defender has been winning ears and minds everywhere, has taken on the tricky task of bringing John Warren Wells to life. First up is one of JWW’s best-selling titles, Wide Open: New Modes of Marriage, and I think audio fans will like what he’s done with it.

And now let’s see what we’ve got in the bookstore:

1. A Walk Among the Tombstones. No hardcover copies and no DVDs, but we’ve got signed books in English, French, Polish and Spanish, signed movie posters w/ free lobby cards, and the signed audiobook. Limited quantities on all of these!

2. 8 Matthew Scudder signed paperbacks. Make eight people happy or one person positively ecstatic. We call these books “reading copies,” but they’re new books, individually signed, and the price is $49.99. We have four sets left, and once they’re sold, they’re gone.

3. 8 Bernie Rhodenbarr paperbacks. Same deal, different character. We’ve got five sets of these.

4. Any writers on your list? Jerrold Mundis explains how to Break Writer’s Block Now, and you can get ten friends scribbling furiously for a total price of $29.99 postpaid. Or give them signed trade paperbacks of Write For Your Life or Telling Lies for Fun & Profit. Or a rare hardcover first edition of Telling Lies. Or how about a thirty-year-old copy of Fiction Writers Market? The market information is laughably out-of-date, but the essays and articles are timeless, and the price is right.

5. Bernie Rhodenbarr’s latest adventure came out a year ago this month. Believe it or not, there are people around who don’t yet own a copy. (I know, I know. Go figure.) That’s opportunity knocking—for a good friend, pick up a signed trade paperback of The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons; for someone you genuinely adore, take a deep breath and spring for the Limited Leather-Bound Collector’s Edition. (It comes with a free signed copy of the paperback. So you could buy someone a handsome gift while picking up a choice reading copy for yourself. Or the other way around. I’m, like, just saying…)

6. Bargains galore! Of the 136 titles on offer, 77 listings are prices at $9.99 or less, most of them with free shipping.

7. But not everything’s that inexpensive. Here, for convenience, are some high-ticket items.

Oh dear. I  believe I sense jet lag coming on again, and what’s the point of fighting it? Before I go back to bed, let me urge you to make your selections sooner rather than later—so that we can deliver in timely fashion, and while we’ve still got all your items in stock. (Many are one of a kind.)

That’s it. Merry Everything and Happy Everything Else!


PS: As always, please feel free to forward this to anyone you think might find it of interest. And, if you’ve received the newsletter in that fashion from a friend and would like your own subscription, that’s easily arranged; a blank email to with Newsletter in the subject line will get the job done.LB’s Bookstore on eBay
LB’s Blog and Website
LB’s Facebook Fan Page
Twitter:  @LawrenceBlock
 Posted by at 9:52 pm