– Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
In his latest, Slow Burn, Ace Atkins continues the investigations of Robert B Parker’s Spenser. This time the Boston PI is up against a group of arsonists with an odd agenda. We cought up with Ace to talk about writing Spenser and this particular crime.
MysteryPeople Scott: You based this Spenser mystery on an an actual arson case. Can you talk about adapting the real situation for fiction?
Ace Atkins: I knew I wanted to take Spenser into the world of the Boston Fire Department but it took me a few months to find a worthy case for him to investigate. I had originally intended for the story to be about insurance fraud but I found out that these days property is too damn valuable to burn in the Boston area. (Years ago, the great George V. Higgins wrote a great book about that era called Rat on Fire.)
Once I learned about the arson ring working in the 1980s — and it was supposedly for the good of BFD — I knew I had a worthy case. I could have written an entire nonfiction book about the crew of crazies who came together to burn Boston back then. As they say, stranger than fiction. That’s why I often mine the truth for my novels.
MPS: What was the biggest challenge in dealing with arson as the crime?
AA: By far the hardest part was to make the investigation accurate without bogging down the story in technical details. I learned a lot of about forensics, etc but didn’t put much in the book. No one wants to read a technical Spenser book. I tried to make the investigation more about the people involved, not the evidence.
I had originally intended for the story to be about insurance fraud but I found out that these days property is too damn valuable to burn in the Boston area…Once I learned about the arson ring working in the 1980s — and it was supposedly for the good of BFD — I knew I had a worthy case. I could have written an entire nonfiction book about the crew of crazies who came together to burn Boston back then.
Read More »
- Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Steve Hamilton’s attention to craft and character has earned him respect from both his readers and peers. Whether it be the standalones like The Lock Artist or his series featuring Alex McKnight, he knows how a story unfolds. This is especially true in his latest, The Second Life Of Nick Mason.
Nick Mason is a con doing a twenty-five year stretch when Darius Cole, a crime lord who runs his empire from prison, takes Nick under his wing. Cole gives Nick a proposition: Nick can get out twenty years early if he works for Cole.
Nick takes the offer. He’s given a high life with a plush apartment, fine suits, a few cars, and plenty of money. He is also given a cell phone he has to answer at all times and do whatever he is told to do. Most of the requests are crimes that escalate in severity. Nick struggles with this deal he has made with the Devil as the cop who put him away closes in and the woman he loves and his daughter are put in jeopardy.
Hamilton’s craft touches art in this book. He presents us with a great premise that he builds on and never betrays. Every plot point, character, and theme has fallen perfectly in place by the last page. He never gets in the way of his story. Instead of bogging down the novel with alliteration, he chooses a crisp Dashiell Hammett style with just the right minimal amount of words to evoke the world Nick has to navigate.
The Second Life Of Nick Mason is the epitome of everything strong in the genre as it taps into those feelings we have about being trapped in our lives. It has well constructed reveals and vivid cops and criminals that could move on both sides of the law. You can not call yourself a crime fiction fan and not read this.
Hamilton’s latest, The Second Life of Nick Mason, comes out Tuesday, May 17th. Pre-order now!
- Introduced by Molly Odintz
This week’s Crime Fiction Friday, “Elevator Pitch,” is a wicked gem from Matthew Hockey, just published as part of Out of the Gutter Magazine’s Flash Fiction Offensive series. Hockey twists the traditional elevator pitch to take on the concerns of the underworld. This story’s business proposition is rather more compelling than your average offer…
“My pitch? Sure. Why not? I’ve got a few minutes. Imagine the scene. Guy walks into a specialist pet store on third. He browses for a few minutes, just kinda walking around out of the rain. Owner said he could tell he wasn’t gonna buy anything but it’s good for business having somebody inside, brings other customers in. Suddenly this guy stops, drops his target shopping bag and stands stiff. He reaches into a cage. Scoops up a bird. Careful to keep its wings tucked against its body so it doesn’t hurt itself. Owner tells him ‘Hey, put that back. Bird is very sensitive.’ The guy’s not even listening. He’s all hunched over, cooing in the bird’s ear. Real low. Whispering. Nobody knows what he’s saying. Whatever it was it was between him and the bird. Then… chomp! Bites its head off. Cleaner than a carnival geek. Reaches into another cage. Chomp. Another head—”
Read the rest of the story.
Libby Fischer Hellmann’s latest novel is Jump Cut. She left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Thirteen novels and twenty short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery writing community and has even won a few. More at http://libbyhellmann.com.
- Guest Post from author Libby Fischer Hellmann
Get Smart About Smart Phones
Smartphones are the go-to communication tool for pretty much everyone in the Western world these days. They’re powering the developing world too, letting more and more people access the web, make calls and send texts. All this communication creates a massive and complex information and data network. And opportunities for hackers – except, possibly, for iPhones, as Apple claims. In Jump Cut, the first Ellie Foreman thriller in ten years, Ellie finds herself under surveillance and needs to protect her communications, especially those on her smartphone. So I did some research on smartphones and how vulnerable they really are.
“In Jump Cut, the first Ellie Foreman thriller in ten years, Ellie finds herself under surveillance and needs to protect her communications, especially those on her smartphone. So I did some research on smartphones and how vulnerable they really are.”
Not Quite Smart Enough
Smart phones were originally developed without privacy or security, and they’re no good at protecting our personal communications. All the activity on smart phones can be watched and documented by governments and commercial interests, which we have little control over. They can even expose us to new surveillance risks like location tracking.
Read More »
- Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
A good series shows more and more focus with each book. The nuances of the lead characters show patterns and changes as a subtle arc becomes apparent and the themes more vibrant as the light of each facet bounces off the other. Following a strong series character is like watching a skilled artist work on a mosaic, each story is a step toward a bigger picture. Timothy Hallinan’s King Maybe reminded me of this, showing what I often think as a collection of light-hearted caper novels has a lot more going on.
For those unfamiliar with Junior, he is a Los Angeles burglar who at times is forced to be an ad-hoc private eye for other criminals. As often in the books, King Maybe opens up with Junior in the middle of a job. This one involves lifting a rare stamp out of the home of a mobster, something that becomes more complicated when the man and his henchmen come back early. The outcome of the situation leads from one burglary job to another as well as a murder. It all swirls around a movie mogul known as “King Maybe” for the way he dangles the hope of a green light without ever committing to a project. To mention anymore would give away the entertaining twists and turns Junior is put through.
Read More »
Melissa Ginsburg comes to BookPeople this upcoming Saturday, April 30th, at 3 PM, to speak and sign her Houston-set debut, Sunset City, our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month for April. We asked Melissa a few questions via email before her visit to the store.
“I do think Houston can be alienating…the way the city is organized, people move from one air-conditioned space to another, traveling by car, without the happy accidents that can occur when you’re a pedestrian in a city. So if you opt out of that—get out in the heat, on foot, be in the in-between spaces—you can really get away with a lot. No one is going to notice you. It’s perfect for crimes!”
- Interview by bookseller and blogger Molly Odintz
Molly Odintz: Houston is as much a character in your book as a setting. The atmosphere of alienation inspired by the endless driving and urban sprawl mirrors the city of Los Angeles as a noir setting. What inspiration did you take from your Houston setting?
Melissa Ginsburg: I do think Houston can be alienating—I certainly felt alienated when I was growing up there. The way the city is organized, people move from one air-conditioned space to another, traveling by car, without the happy accidents that can occur when you’re a pedestrian in a city. So if you opt out of that—get out in the heat, on foot, be in the in-between spaces—you can really get away with a lot. No one is going to notice you. It’s perfect for crimes!
Houston still has space in between everything, you can still go unnoticed there, you can get lost, you can hide. That anonymity works on a larger level, too, with the city as a whole. I think of Houston as a very anonymous place. People don’t think about it much if they haven’t lived there or spent time there. It’s not a part of the American imagination like New York or LA or Chicago, even though it is nearly as big as Chicago.
All of this might be changing now, though. It’s a cooler, more interesting city than it was even 10 years ago. In many ways the Houston of Sunset City is the Houston of my childhood in the 80s and 90s. It’s fictionalized.
Read More »
Event Staffer Meike Alana reviews Robin Yocum’s new novel, A Brilliant Death.
Robin Yocum’s new novel, A Brilliant Death, explores the fallout from family secrets too long kept in a small town. For almost two decades, the tale of Amanda Baron’s death in a night-time boating accident has been town legend in Brilliant, Ohio. Presumably, the boat on which she and her mysterious lover were trysting was struck by a coal barge; the boat was destroyed and the bodies of Amanda and her lover were never recovered.
Her son Travis was an infant when his mother died. Now in high school, Travis yearns to know more about the mother he doesn’t remember. His father, town bully “Big Frank” Baron, removed all traces of his late wife from their home and refuses to speak her name. So Travis enlists the help of his best friend Mitch Malone (our narrator) and launches “Project Amanda” to learn the details about his mother’s life and death.
Read More »