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.
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.
Mystery Scene says
(From the introduction)
(Ed here: Here's one of the most haunting)
|Cartoon ©2014 by Nina Paley|
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|
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.
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.
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!
The 1944 trial of a 14-year-old black boy for killing two young girls and the rush to the electric chair that followed constituted a great injustice, a South Carolina state judge ruled on Dec. 17, 2014.