MysteryPeople Q&A with Deborah Coonts

Deborah Coonts is not only a fun writer (her latest about Vegas Casino entertainment director Lucky O’Toole, Lucky Bastard, is a great reminder of this), but a fun person. I’m looking forward to introducing you all to her at the Wine, Women, and Mystery event we’ll be doing with Kay Kendall on Wednesday, August 14th at 7pm. To give you some idea of her personality, here’s an interview we recently did with Deborah.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: Lucky Bastard deals with the world of poker in Las Vegas. What was the most interesting thing you learned while researching that world?

DEBORAH COONTS: Poker…what an interesting world. The players and their superstitions, quirks, compulsions.  The hangers-on:  women in skimpy dresses, the curious, the odd, the stalker looking for some reflected celebrity.  It’s all there in the world of pro poker.  I think what intrigued me the most was that the amateurs and the pros played at the same tables, with the amateurs often winning.  What other game is like that?  I guess golf to some degree, but since there is a good bit of luck involved in poker and less skill (I’m not saying there is not skill involved, just less) that evens the play field, whittling away at the pros’ advantage.  Sorta cool that the underdog has a good chance of taking home the bacon.

MP: 2. How has Lucky changed from the first book?

DC: Lucky has grown personally, gaining wisdom and insight, I hope.  She has discovered more about herself, her wants her needs… her limitations.  And, she’s becoming …more.  As I hope we all do in real life.  As we gain experience, our perspective changes even though fundamentally we may still be the same person.  So, too, with Lucky.  Of course, she still struggles with the men in her life and with keeping a balance–her job is pretty intense.  And her mother remains a burr under her saddle…..  And her wit is now well-honed….

MP: You get to draw from a group of great supporting characters when it comes to Lucky’s coworkers, friends, and family. Is there any character who is particularly fun to write?

DC: I love Miss P, Lucky’s cougar of an assistant with her dry, sardonic takes on Lucky and her foibles.  I love the repartee between the two of them.  Miss P keeps Lucky in check (some of the time.)  And Lucky keeps Miss P from being dowdy.  A friendship worth striving for in real life….  And I love Lucky’s mother, Mona.  She is a pistol always doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and expecting Lucky to run to her rescue.  And Lucky is getting more clever in how she deals with her mother…..

MP: What it is the most enjoyable thing about writing for Lucky?

DC: The fun, for sure.  Finding the silly things in Vegas to incorporate in the story–yes, my research is a hoot.  In fact, I have a waiting list of folks who want to accompany me to, say, a male strip club or Drink and Drag.  And, I also love dreaming up Lucky’s one-liners.  Oh, and the men….  Hey, I’m not very good at finding interesting men in my own life, so I have a great time making them up.  And, I can make them how I’d like them to be.  And, when they get tiresome, as men are wont to do, I can kill them off without risk of jail time.  So, it’s a win-win all the way around.

MP: What is the most important thing for you to give a reader?

DC: A laugh!


Copies of Lucky Bastard are available on our shelves and via Deborah Coonts appears here at BookPeople with author Kay Kendall this Wednesday, August 14 at 7pm.

New Releases in MysteryPeople: August 13th 2013

Bad Blood by Arne Dahl

In Arne Dahl’s riveting follow-up to Misterioso, the Intercrime team is assigned the task of tracking down an American serial killer on the loose in Sweden—quietly, and as quickly as possible. When a Swedish literary critic is found tortured to death in a janitor’s closet at Newark International Airport, the police realize that the murderer made off with the victim’s ticket and boarded a flight to Stockholm. Swedish authorities are placed on high alert, but the killer manages to slip through the customs dragnet and vanishes into the night.

With no clear motive in sight, Detectives Paul Hjelm and Kerstin Holm of Intercrime’s A-Unit take over the investigation. They learn that the method of torture used was not only a highly specialized means of extracting information secretly developed during the Vietnam War—allowing the victim to whisper, but not to scream—but also that it was the modus operandi of an allegedly deceased homicidal maniac known only as the Kentucky Killer. As additional victims are discovered on the outskirts of Stockholm and the terror grows, the team finds itself coming up empty-handed. Hjelm and Holm fly to New York, hoping to discover both the killer’s identity and the source of his interest in Sweden. What they quickly learn, searching through the past, is that bad blood always comes back around.

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cook

Bestselling author Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written a brilliant novel of suspense that delves into the recesses of the human mind and soul—perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Lisa Unger. The Boy Who Could See Demons follows a child psychologist who comes up against a career-defining case—one that threatens to unravel her own painful past and jeopardizes the life of a boy who can see the impossible.

Dr. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist, is called in to work at MacNeice House, an adolescent mental health treatment center. There she is told to observe and assess Alex Connolly, a keenly intelligent, sensitive ten-year-old coping with his mother’s latest suicide attempt. Alex is in need of serious counseling: He has been harming himself and others, often during blackouts. At the root of his destructive behavior, Alex claims, is his imaginary “friend” Ruen, a cunning demon who urges Alex to bend to his often violent will.

But Anya has seen this kind of behavior before—with her own daughter, Poppy, who suffered from early-onset schizophrenia. Determined to help Alex out of his darkness, Anya begins to treat the child. But soon strange and alarming coincidences compel Anya to wonder: Is Alex’s condition a cruel trick of the mind? Or is Ruen not so make-believe after all? The reality, it turns out, is more terrifying than anything she has ever encountered.

A rich and deeply moving page-turner, The Boy Who Could See Demons sets out to challenge the imagination and capture the way life takes unexpected turns. In the best storytelling tradition, it leaves the reader changed.

Recent Releases We Know You’ll Love:

Mapuche by Caryl Ferey

Twenty-eight-year-old Jana is a Mapuche, one of those “people of the earth” who roamed the most fertile tracts of the south American pampas for over two thousand years before being dispossessed in 1910 by the Argentinean constitution and transformed overnight into outlaws. Long black hair, big almond-shaped eyes, ravishing features, tall…but with small breasts, breasts that stopped growing after a violent attack by the Argentinean police when she was a girl. Jana is sculptor of a rare and undiscovered talent who prostitutes herself down at the docks to make ends meet. She is connected, as if by a blood bond, to her best friend, Miguel, a.k.a. Paula, a transvestite who also works the docks. When the body of a transvestite is found emasculated at the Port de la Boca, Jana turns for help and protection to private investigator Ruben Calderon. Calderon is a grizzled investigator who served time following the coup d’état of March 24, 1976. Since then he has been working tirelessly for the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, searching for any trace of los desaparecidos and their odious tormentors. Together, Jana and Ruben will plunge into the corrupt beating heart of the Argentinean political system on a hunt for a vicious murderer.

The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm

The Collector Book Three

Who Collects the Collectors?

Sam Thornton has had many run-ins with his celestial masters, but he’s always been sure of his own actions. However, when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of former Collectors who have cast off their ties to Hell – is he still working on the side of right?

Remembering Leighton Gage


Not long after I moved to Austin, the boss from my old bookstore, Bobby McCue, called to tell me to pick up Blood Of The Wicked, a book by a new author Leighton Gage. When I told him I’d look into getting it for the store, Bobby said, “No, I mean you need to get it to read as soon as you can.”

As usual, Bobby was right. Blood Of the Wicked was an impressive debut of Gage and his series character Mario DeSilva, one of the few honest cops in San Paolo, Brazil. DeSilva comes from a privileged background, but has a past haunted by violence. In many ways he’s a Brazilian counterpart to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosche. In Blood Of The Wicked, he looks into the murder of a bishop that’s tied to the government, big business, and the Catholic Church. It’s a kick off to a great series rich in character, style, and social awareness.

Unfortunately, the series has come to an end. Leighton passed away on July 26. Bobby introduced me to him a few years back at the Indianapolis Bouchercon and he couldn’t have been more of a gentleman. He’d make sure to see me at every event we attended after that, happy to know that our customers were enjoying his books.

Our condolences go out to Leighton Gage’s family and his family at SOHO Press. It’s a shame his voice ended so early, but in their years, he and Inspector DeSilva said a lot.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Terry Shames

Terry Shames’s debut, A Killing At Cotton Hill, is an ingenious take on the village mystery and our MysteryPeople Pick Of The Month for August. Set in a small central Texas town, it features retired police chief Samuel Craddock looking into the murder of his peer and the theft of one of his paintings. Terry will be here Friday, August 16th to discuss the book. As a warm up, here’s a recent conversation we had with her.


MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the character of Samuel Craddock come about?

TERRY SHAMES: I had written several novels that attracted good agents, but no one had been able to snag me a publishing contract. At a conference I attended, one of the authors, who had written eight books before she was finally published, made an impassioned speech. She said that in order to write your best book you had to write from your core of being. It made me determined to do that, hoping that it would produce a breakout book. I had written a number of stories over the years about a fictional town, Jarrett Creek, based on the town where my grandparents lived, and it felt very real to me. So I decided to make that my setting.

When I thought about the protagonist, someone who would investigate crimes, my thoughts immediately went to my grandfather. Although he only had a third grade education, he was sharp, and physically strong and fit into his 80’s. I decided that making him an ex-chief of police would work best for me.

MP: While elderly sleuths are a part of the mystery tradition, they rarely tackle issues of aging like yours does. What would you like younger readers to understand about someone Samuel’s age?

TS: This question really took me by surprise. I don’t think of Samuel as “elderly.” He could be any age. The love of his life has died and his knee is bunged up, both of which make him feel discouraged and at loose ends. Talk to any runner of any age who is faced with a sudden injury and you’ll find that, much like Samuel, they feel worthless and depressed. During the course of the novel Samuel reawakens to his abilities and his place in the community. Which is maybe the answer to your question. The message I have is not only for young readers—it’s for everyone. Integrity, decency, responsibility, compassion are all things that matter more in the long run than well-oiled joints.

MP: You also capture small town America really well. What do you think authors who are less experienced about those areas and their residents miss?

TS: I think it’s possible to know just about everything about the human condition from what happens in a small town. Writers who write carelessly about small towns probably depend too much on stereotypes. My aim in this series is to throw a light on the real people behind the stereotypes. One example is Ida Ruth, a religious old woman whom any writer or reader could easily dismiss as a busybody. Samuel points out that the preacher thinks he runs the church, but “he just thinks that because Ida Ruth lets him.” She plays a minor part in the book, but I show that she has other, less apparent qualities—“she’s a quality person,” as Samuel says—that has to do with keeping secrets.

People always think that residents of a small town know everything about everybody, but everyone has secrets that they keep from each other—and even from themselves. I hope readers of A Killing at Cotton HIll come away with renewed respect for those people who can keep secrets entrusted to them in a place like Jarrett Creek where lives can be transparent.

MP: Art plays an important part in both the plot and Samuel’s life. How much research did you have to do or did you use your own background?

TS: It was a combination of the two. Although my mother liked to have Impressionist prints on the wall, I wasn’t really introduced to original art until after I got out of college. I fell in love with the Impressionists, of course. But then I discovered abstract art and I was completely enthralled. I have a number of favorite painters, and they get mentioned in passing in the book. I have become very familiar with the California School artists, so it seemed a natural for Samuel to like them, too. I had to research a current painter whom I thought Samuel might be drawn to, and discovered the delightful art of Melinda Buie. I just knew Samuel would love her pictures of cows, and sure enough he bought one of her paintings. The young painter in the book, Greg, is based on a sad story that I won’t go into, but it’s a story that stuck with me and I wanted to give it room to become something better.

MP: This being your first book, did you draw from any influences?

TS: I wish this were my first book. It’s my sixth or seventh book. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote others that never found a publisher. The first one went to editorial committee—twice! The bottom line was that they felt it was “a little too Nancy Drew.” So I guess I’m like a slew of other writers who were influenced by Nancy. And I’ve always been an avid mystery reader, so I’m sure a lot of them have had their subtle influence.

But I have to say I have a different writer in mind as an influence: Eudora Welty. Her stories and books are full of mystery and subtle violence and secrets. I’ve read them all—many more than once, and if anyone wants to compliment me, tell me I have a trace of Eudora Welty in my writing.

MP: What do you hope people take away from A Killing at Cotton Hill?

TS: I’m very interested in what pushes people to take desperate measures to change their lives. Most of us don’t resort to murder to fix what’s wrong. Writing murder mysteries gives me a chance to show the terrible desperation of people out of bounds. I think in Samuel I’ve found a character most people will want to know: a decent person with deep integrity and a sense of responsibility. Samuel knows that people can do terrible things and still be worthy of compassion, even while he knows they have to be brought to justice. If I can speak to the need for more compassion for the worst of us, I will have done something worthwhile.


Copies of A Killing at Cotton Hill are available on our shelves and via Shames appears here at BookPeople Friday, August 16 at 7pm.

The Sixties—Mystery and Fashion Redux: Guest Post by Kay Kendall



I’ve been thinking about sixties fashion a lot lately. My debut mystery, Desolation Row, set in the sixties, was just published this spring by Stairway Press of Seattle. It features a young Texas bride who gets swept along by the tides of history during that turbulent time.

Choosing the cover for Desolation Row was tricky. It needed to evoke the Vietnam War era without turning off potential readers. Real photos from back in the day are too grungy. But, lucky for me, the tides of fashion helped me out.

I adore fashion. I can’t help it. It’s genetic. Both of my grandmothers and my mother enjoyed clothes, jewelry, and dressing up. At the age of ten I had a weekly hair appointment at a salon. Shopping trips to big cities from my hometown of 12,000 were real highlights. When my Texas grandmother took me to the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas, I almost swooned.

Flash forward to the eighties. Shoulder pads made the scene. Love at first sight! They helped balance my proportions, counteracting my hips. My mother, however, disdained shoulder pads. “Styles I wore in the forties don’t excite me.” I didn’t understand. How could she be so stuffy?

Flash forward to this new millennium. Boho chic arrived. But it’s all sixties fashion to me. Retro hippie would be an even better name.

The first time I saw bellbottom trousers in an issue of Vogue several years back, I groaned. Oh, that will never catch on again, I mused, throwing the magazine aside in disgust. Then out popped the beads, the peasant blouses and all the other hippie accouterments. The only thing I’ve not seen in redux-land is a version of my old macramé purse.

Now celebrities in the under-thirty age group have staked out hippie chic as their own. Try an online search of images for Nicole Richie, Sienna Miller, and Jessica Simpson. Their looks are heavily influenced by the sixties. Nicole even wears macramé occasionally.

At first, like my mother 25 years ago, I spurned the return of styles I’d worn before. But boho chic has only gained strength and crept into more and more clothes. So, when it came time to choose the cover of Desolation Row, a winsome young woman dressed in sixties style was easy to find. And she has won raves.

And now I follow her lead. To get in the right mood to discuss my book at signings, I always wear blouses just like I wore back then and throw on some beads and ethnic-y earrings to complete the effect. These days there’s no dearth of such clothes and jewelry to choose from!


Put on your own pair of bellbottoms and join us when Kay Kendall appears with Deborah Coonts here at BookPeople Wednesday, August 14th at 7pm. Sip some wine and hear them talk about their books. It’ll be groovy.

New Releases in MysteryPeople: August 6th 2013

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

Seven days

One girl

No second chances

Madeline Hart is a rising star in Britain’s governing party: beautiful, intelligent, driven by an impoverished childhood to succeed. But she is also a woman with a dark secret: she is the lover of Prime Minister Jonathan Lancaster. Somehow, her kidnappers have learned of the affair, and they intend to make the British leader pay dearly for his sins. Fearful of a scandal that will destroy his career, Lancaster decides to handle the matter privately rather than involve the British police. It is a risky gambit, not only for the prime minister but also for the operative who will conduct the search.

You have seven days, or the girl dies.

Enter Gabriel Allon–master assassin, art restorer and spy–who is no stranger to dangerous assignments or political intrigue. With the clock ticking, Gabriel embarks on a desperate attempt to bring Madeline home safely. His mission takes him from the criminal underworld of Marseilles to an isolated valley in the mountains of Provence to the stately if faded corridors of power in London–and, finally, to a pulse-pounding climax in Moscow, a city of violence and spies where there is a long list of men who wish Gabriel dead.

From the novel’s opening pages until the shocking ending when the true motives behind Madeline’s disappearance are revealed, The English Girl will hold readers spellbound. It is a timely reminder that, in today’s world, money often matters more than ideology. And it proves once again why Daniel Silva has been called his generation’s finest writer of suspense and foreign intrigue.

Death’s Door by James R. Benn

Lieutenant Billy Boyle could have used a rest after his last case, but when his girlfriend, Diana Seaton, a British spy, goes missing in the Vatican, where she was working undercover, he insists on being assigned to a murder investigation there so he can try to help her.

An American monsignor is found murdered at the foot of Death’s Door, one of the five entrances to Saint Peter’s Basilica. Wild Bill Donovan, head of the OSS, wants the killing investigated. The fact that the Vatican is neutral territory in German-occupied Rome is only one of the obstacles Billy must overcome. First is a harrowing journey, smuggled into Rome while avoiding the Gestapo and Allied bombs. Then he must navigate Vatican politics and personalities—some are pro-Allied, others pro-Nazi, and the rest steadfastly neutral—to learn the truth about the murdered monsignor. But that’s not his only concern; just a short walk from the Vatican border is the infamous Regina Coeli prison, where Diana is being held. Can he dare a rescue, or will a failed attempt alert the Germans to his mission and risk an open violation of Vatican neutrality?

Mistress by James Patterson and David Ellis

James Patterson’s scariest, sexiest stand-alone thriller since The Quickie.
Ben isn’t like most people. Unable to control his racing thoughts, he’s a man consumed by his obsessions: movies, motorcycles, presidential trivia-and Diana Hotchkiss, a beautiful woman Ben knows he can never have.

When Diana is found dead outside her apartment, Ben’s infatuation drives him on a hunt to find out what happened to the love of his life.

Ben soon discovers that the woman he pined for was hiding a shocking double life. And now someone is out to stop Ben from uncovering the truth about Diana’s illicit affairs.

In his most heart-pumping thriller yet, James Patterson plunges us into the depths of a mind tortured by paranoia and obsession, on an action-packed chase through a world of danger and deceit.

Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

A gripping novel full of suspense and pathos that Dennis Lehane calls an “electrifying, tomahawk missile of a thriller.”

Patrick Cusimano’s life can’t get much worse. His father is in jail, he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store, and his brother’s girlfriend, Caro, has pushed their friendship to an uncomfortable new level.  On top of all that, he can’t shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn’t understand, and doesn’t fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing Patrick to his breaking point.

Meanwhile, Layla’s little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school.  She’s become a prime target for her cruel classmates, and not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents. Layla’s bad-girl rep casts a shadow too heavy for Verna to bear alone, so she falls in with her sister’s tribe of outcasts. But their world is far darker than she ever imagined…

Unless Patrick, Layla, Caro, and Verna can forge their own twisted paths to peace—with themselves, with each other—then they’re stuck on a dangerous collision course where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Kelly Braffet has written a novel of unnerving powerdarkly compelling, compulsively addictive, and shockingly honest