History of Mystery Discusses Sara Paretsky & INDEMNITY ONLY

Sunday, October 7th at 6PM our History Of Mystery class continues to look at the authors who made a mark on American crime fiction. This month, we discuss an author who helped level the playing field for women in detective fiction, Sara Paretsky.

Before Paretsky, the private eye scene was a boy’s club. Most of the writers were men and so were their characters. With her tough Chicago detectiv, VI Warshawski, Paretsky changed that forever. She proved you could interest women readers in the genre without alienating male fans. It’s been over thirty years since her debut, Indemnity Only, and both writer and character are still going strong.

We will be meeting at 6PM on the third floor. Copies of Indemnity Only are 10% off for those who attend the discussion. On November 3rd, we’ll be discussing Thomas Harris and Red Dragon.

ZULU Movie Trailer Released

Caryl Ferey’s Zulu has been a favorite of both the customers and booksellers at MysteryPeople since it arrived on our shelves in 2010. The dark police and political thriller will be on screens in France in December.

Forrest Whitaker plays Ali Neuman, the captain of a mostly white police squad in Capetown South Africa, who is of Zulu descent. Orlando Bloom plays a homicide detective alongside him. When the bodies of two white women show up with Zulu markings, he and his team are plunged into a violent nightmare involving different Western interests that exploit his country.

For those who wondered if the book would capture the book’s brutality, this Red Ban trailer leaves little doubt. Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart. Seriously, don’t watch this around kids.


MysteryPeople Q&A with J. I. Baker

j i baker

J.I. Baker’s The Empty Glass has become a favorite of mine since I read the paperback version this year. Dealing with a deputy coroner, Ben Fitzgerald, and his involvement in the Marylin Monroe death, the novel is a nightmare of conspiracy, reckless ambitions, and a decaying old Hollywood. Baker was kind enough to take some questions from us about character voice, setting, and the dream world he created.

the empty glass

MYSTERYPEOPLE: The Empty Glass is carried by a strong point of view. How did you build that voice of Ben Fitzgerald?

J. I . BAKER: That voice comes from my very pervasive fears of losing everything, of being totally lost. I’ve been relatively successful, but I always feel that I’m one tiny misstep away from being some crazy alcoholic in a skid-row hotel. Well, that’s a noir trope, isn’t it? Which may be why I’m so attracted to the genre. But I feel it pretty deeply, so it doesn’t take much for me to write from the perspective of some lost soul sitting on a bald mattress in a bad hotel and wondering what the hell happened to his life.

MP: Part of the story deals with parts of Marylin Monroe’s journal. How did you capture a voice that the reader may think he or she knows?

JIB: Well, it’s a risk, for sure, but again, that voice is mine, on some level—the irrational, obsessive, addictive side of my personality. That said, the events in the diary in the novel are based on a lot of research. We know very little for sure about what happened to Marilyn at the end, but I based what I wrote on reliable reports.

MP: You have quite a bombshell reveal at the end. Did you have it in mind before you started writing or did the story lead you into it?

JIB: Actually, the editing led me to it. My initial version was completely different—and, without giving too much away, much more optimistic. And the ending of the screenplay version I just wrote for David Winkler at Winkler Films is a big change from the book. So I guess you could say I had three different endings.

MP: When we talked before, you mentioned that you had an affection for LA crime fiction. What draws you to that city for a backdrop?

JIB: Where do I begin? For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with Los Angeles. I had a map of the city on my bedroom wall when I was a kid and used to recite its street names to get to sleep—maybe because I didn’t like where, or who, I was. Like New York, L.A. is a place where you can reinvent yourself and create a whole new life. That’s an optimistic, very American idea, but in so much L.A. fiction (and fact) you see what happens when the hopes are dashed or—sometimes worse—fulfilled.

5. What is the biggest thing to keep in mind when writing in a particular period?

JIB: Research! But never forget that if you’re constantly showing off the work you’ve done, it will take readers out of the story. Your fictional world is revealed through your characters, and your characters aren’t going to be hyper-aware of the cool period details you’ve dug up. They don’t think about the fact that they’re driving a 1963 Imperial LeBaron that’s cheaper than the pre-1960 Crowns but really prone to rust. They just need to get somewhere. So you have to find a way to introduce period detail and authenticity unobtrusively, as your characters—not you or I—would see it.

MP: What do you want the reader to take away about Marylin Monroe’s death?

JIB: All I want to do is to tell a good story, but it seems pretty clear to me that—however Marilyn died—funny business was involved. I’m not saying she was definitely murdered, but it seems undeniable that, at minimum, powerful people helped suppress information about her relationships. Many readers think that I made up a lot of stuff about her death, but all of it (the time changes, the water glass, the missing tissue samples) is based on fact.


Copies of The Empty Glass are available on the shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Carlos Cisneros

If you like legal thrillers, then this is the month for you.  Practicing attorney and author Carlos Cisneros presents his third novel, The Land Grant, the follow up to his debut novel The Case Runner.  He’s been called the Latino Grisham, an honor and comparison that Cisneros doesn’t take lightly.  Cisneros will appear here at Book People in conversation with Mark Pryor this Friday, September 27th at 7:00 p.m. to discuss their latest novels.  We caught up with Carlos and asked him a few questions.

MYSTERYPEOPLE:  The Land Grant is your third legal thriller, and it also takes place along the Texas-Mexico border.  Why are you so interested in the border area?

CARLOS CISNEROS:  Shows like Breaking Bad and The Bridge have brought to the forefront what folks like me – folks that grew up on both sides of the US-Mexico border – already know.  The border is a unique place, with its unique set of problems and its fair share of interesting characters and stories.  And there also happens to be two thousand miles of it!  There’s a little bit of everything: corruption, drug and alien trafficking, money laundering, narco violence, the clash of cultures, the language, music, the food and everything in between.  It’s really magical and scary, all at once.

MP:  Why legal thrillers?

CC: I love the thriller genre.  Guys like Patterson, Baldacci, Gimenez and Grisham are some of my favorite authors.  And you have to write about what you know.  So, I like to write about the things I’ve witnessed down at the courthouse and in legal circles.  If the public only knew!

MP:  It looks like Alex del Fuerte, the main character in The Case Runner and The Land Grant, might end up having his own series.  Is that something you did on purpose?

CC:  Even though Alex is a baby lawyer that has much to learn, I felt he could have his own series because the readership really liked him and wanted to learn more about him, plus he’s got room to grow.  So, the idea was to write different thrillers with different characters and story lines, but also continue the Alejandro “Alex” del Fuerte series.  The departure novels have been The Name Partner and The C.I., which should come out next Spring.

MP:  Is the legal thriller genre something you plan to stick with?

CC:  Yes, for the most part, but I’ve also started work on a fusion novel.  It blends romance, suspense and elements of the legal thriller.

MP:  Your novels have won 1st place at the International Latino Book Awards in New York and 1st place at the Books into Movies Awards, a competition sponsored by Hollywood Actor Edwards James Olmos.  What is the significance of the Books into Movies Awards?

CC:  Mr. Olmos, and others in the movie business, feel that Latinos are not being fairly represented in Hollywood and on TV.  The idea is to promote the winning novels and showcase them to the decision makers in Hollywood in order to get them to the big screen.

MP:  What is The C.I. about?

CC:  The Confidential Informant is about a female attorney that gets appointed in federal court to defend a member of a drug cartel and learns of a plot to assassinate the chief justice of the US Supreme Court.


Copies of The Land Grant are available in-store and via bookpeople.com. Come down to BookPeople to meet Carlos Cisneros and hear him talk about his book on Friday, September 27 at 7pm.


We Have No Idea Where Scott Is….

But over the weekend he sent us these photos from Bouchercon 2013. If anyone sees him, please let him know we’re looking for him. We saw some photos on facebook and are concerned he might have had way too good a time and is never coming back. There are books to sell here, Scott. Let’s go.

Martin Limon signed my book!


Always wonderful to see Hilary Davidson


Get to Know Tony Black


Most crime fiction connoisseurs who prowl for new authors like a junkie for a good fix have a foreign author we hear about, wishing they would get reprinted here for easier access and for a cheaper price than an imported book. For many of us, that author has been Scottsman Tony Black. Just look at the guy – doesn’t he look like he can write hard boiled crime fiction?

We’ve heard many of the greats like Ken Bruen and Irvine Welsh rave about him. We’ve been able to get small a taste of his talent through short work that has appeared online. Finally, our good friends at NewPulp Press are serving up a couple of full meals with Black’s first two Gus Dury books, Paying For It and Gutted.

When I asked Tony what it meant to him to have his books in The States, he said “A great deal, more so because I’m delighted with the publisher and the fabulous job they’ve done on the books. Most of my influences are American – Thompson, Goodis, Cain and outside the crime genre people like Hemingway and Steinbeck. So, to get a toehold there is really a big deal to me. I have a few of people who follow what I do in America and it’s great for them to be able to pick up the books now.”

“I was contacted by his agent, Allan Guthrie.” said NewPulp publisher and author, Jon Basoff. “While Tony’s books have done very well in the UK, they were looking for a good match to put his books in print here in the US, and the truth is, there aren’t that many American publishers willing to put out really dark crime fiction. I’ve always been a huge fan of Tony’s so I jumped at the opportunity.”

The match between publisher and author is perfect.

“Jon’s a publisher I’ve admired for some time, he’s done a great job on some great books like Les Edgerton’s The Rapist and Gil Brewer’s The Red Scarf to name just two that I’ve been blown away by on his lists. He knows what he likes and he puts his money where his mouth is, which isn’t the case with a lot of publishers these days who go chasing trends. I think the most important aspect in any writer/publisher relationship is that the publisher loves the books and I’ve no doubt about that with Jon. He’s a gentleman and very professional which is another bonus and makes the whole process easy.”

“Most of our books tend to be character driven and Gus Drury is a fascinating character–dark and nasty,” says Basoff. “Tony’s books have a nihilistic edge to them and that’s what we’re all about. The truth is, we have a pretty niche audience–mainly very disturbed people–and I think they’ll dig these books.”

Black’s Gus Dury could be considered a Scottish cousin to Bruen’s Jack Taylor. An alcholic, down and out, former journalist hack, raised by an abusive father who was also a professional footballer, he uses his old skills as a half-assed private eye. The character carries a lot of rage at the world and love and loyalty for his friends.

“Complicated,” is how Black describes him. “He’s a man who’s fallen on hard times, he’s lost his job and his wife and to some degree his sense of self-respect but what he’s lost more than anything is a reason to get out of bed in the morning. He’s a former investigative journalist and although the backside has fallen out of newspapers he still has a lot of respect for the skills of the trade. Every now and again he finds himself being asked to utilise the old skills and help someone out and for a little while he manages to raise his head above the parapet. He carries a lot of anger and he doesn’t tolerate fools gladly so more often than not he finds himself getting into trouble with the kinds of people most of us would run a mile from.”

In Paying For It, Gus looks into the murder of and old freind and favorite pub owner’s son, getting involved in human trafficking, an opportunity to settle old scores, and a heart breaking resolution. If for some reason you don’t think it is hard boiled and harrowing enough, Black gives us Gutted where Gus goes up against those in the dog fight game. Both books are an entertaining meeting of character and tone with a great cast of supporting characters, particularly Gus’s psychotic comrade, Mack. Like Lawerence Block’s Matt Scudder, Dury is a flawed hero whose redemption we root for as he guides you through a dark place we find fascinating, but dare not go by ourselves.

“Tony is a great craftsman with truly compelling plots,” Basoff says. “Additionally, in these Gus Drury novels, Tony has done a remarkable job of evoking the gloom and despair of Edinburgh.”

If you like hard boiled fiction and a good anti-hero, Tony Black is for you. The books are tight, yet breath with character and place. He incorporates the dialect of working class Edinburgh into his own voice as a writer, creating a unique style of bleak toughness and hard won heart.

His new publisher says it best: “Tony’s writing will drive you to grab a bottle of booze, and I mean that in the best possible way”.

Right on the money Jon. Thanks for bringing him over.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES: Making Momma Proud


Kenny Rogers and Michael Blakelys new novel What Are The Chances is reminiscent of the country and western movies of the seventies and eighties, flicks like W.W. & The Dixie Dance Kings, Urban Cowboy, or Songwriters. This ode to the outlaw country movement is full of bar brawls, hustles, and hard drinking. It takes you back to the Texas of 1975 as if it was kicker Heaven.

In What are the Chances, the main character, Ronnie Breed, is a country-influenced rock star in the Graham Parsons mold (or Rogers when he was with The First Edition). Swindled out of most of his money by his old manager, he decides to reinvent himself as a country singer. To promote the new band, he and his cousin, Dan, concoct a plan involving a TV show that will feature Ronnie playing both music and cards in the first televised Texas Hold Em’ tournament. The scheme also involves Ronnie’s pretty new manager, his spunky girlfriend, a shady oil man who cheated their uncle, a promoter who is a cross between John Hammond and Ernest Hemingway, and, of course, Momma.

Told from Ronnie’s point of view, the book has a rollicking charm. Wry humor is woven throughout and the authors do a good job of keeping the story together. As Texas musicians, Rogers and Blakely being offer fun insight into the business and this freewheeling period in history. There’s even a bar fight at the Gilley’s honky-tonk and Freddy Fender shows up to play “Wasted Days & Wasted Nights’.

What Are The Chances is a two-fisted, whiskey guzzling, drawl and twang novel that never loses its sense of fun. It’s good ol’ boys with hearts of gold teaching the city slickers a lesson or two. It encapsulates the spirit of seventies’ country. It would make Momma proud.


Meet the Gambler here at BookPeople this Saturday, September 21st at 1PM! Tickets are required to attend the Meet & Greet and are only available in-store and via bookpeople.com. Tickets include a copy of What are the Chances. Rogers will be available to meet fans and pose for photos. Visit bookpeople.com for more info.

23 Letters In, Grafton Still Makes Creative Choices


Sue Grafton has consistently churned out clever, engaging books. That is no easy feat when you’re more than 20 books into a series. Her latest book, W Is For Wasted, is no exception. I read it this past weekend and loved it.

With many popular authors, their first few books are great and fascinating, but then once they’re established, they fall into a formula and their editors take a nap. Fortunately, there are authors like Grafton out there who demonstrate how to be a bestselling author while still making creative choices.

Grafton, for those unlucky enough to have not heard of her, is famous for her alphabet novels. The series started in 1982 with A is for Alibi, followed by B is for Burglar, and so on. Now that she has made it all the way to W, some fans, including me, speculate about what will happen after she hits Z. Will she start the alphabet again? Or maybe do it backwards?

The books always feature private detective Kinsey Millhone and there are some other recurring characters including her adorable neighbor, Henry. But for the most part, each book is a completely separate adventure. Some are slower paced with no huge surprises, but there are others with lots of twists. W is for Wasted has some definite twists and turns. There are a few predictable ones, but others will catch you off guard.

It is not immediately clear what the “wasted” of the title is alluding to. If I explained it, I’d ruin the story. So, I’ll just let you know it’s fun getting there. The cast of characters in this book includes the eccentric and, of course, those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. In this book there are two main plot lines, and even I wasn’t able to predict how all the individual stories would connect until right before it became clear in the book.

You can get a sample of the book at this link. The link takes you to the prologue of the book where Grafton starts Kinsey down the road of the two major plot lines. Two people have died. One was an eccentric, scheming private eye she didn’t admire, Pete Wolinsky; The second is a homeless man whose full name isn’t learned until about halfway through the book. A piece of paper is found on this man with Kinsey’s name and phone number. You eventually learn what led to Pete and the homeless man’s death. Feel free to make your guesses but odds are you will be wrong.

Grafton makes some interesting choices in this book. She takes on topical issues. For example, what happens to a man accused and convicted of a horrible crime when he is exonerated years later? How will his kids (now adults) receive him? But the most interesting parts to me (without revealing spoilers) are Kinsey’s interactions with three friends of the dead homeless man. She takes on the issue of how the homeless are treated in our society today. Don’t worry, there’s no preaching or political propaganda here. Rather, Grafton lets the characters make the arguments. It is no easy task to write a mystery that avoids getting bogged down when it also decides to take on serious, societal topics. But, Grafton pulls it off with apparent ease.

Maureen Corrigan, of NPR’s program Fresh Air, says of the series, “Makes me wish there were more than twenty six letters at her disposal.”

Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post wrote, “Grafton’s [alphabet] novels are among the five or six best series any American has ever written.”

I couldn’t agree more. If you’re a fan of Grafton’s alphabet books, then you can’t go wrong with W is for Wasted.


Signed copies of W is for Wasted is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com (while supplies last).

MysteryPeople Q&A with Laurie R. King

We’re looking forward to hosting Laurie R King here at BookPeople this week. Her latest book, Bones Of Paris, is a sequel to her novel, Touchstone. As you can tell in this interview, she’s a fun, witty, and charming conversationalist. This will be a great event Wednesday night.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did this book come about?

LAURIE R. KING: I’ve been working in the Twenties for a long time now, since writing The Beekeeper’s Apprentice in the late ‘80s.  However, the Russell & Holmes series is not only light-hearted, most of the episodes don’t move very far chronologically.  Which meant not only would it take me another twenty books to get to the 1926 General Strike, I’m not sure what the Duo would do once they were there.  So I decided to give the Twenties another series, beginning with Touchstone in 2008.

MP: Why did you decide to write a novel set in the 1920’s in Paris? Why right before the Great Depression?

LRK: Ease and contentment spell death to a crime novel.  A story about Montparnasse at the height of the expatriate boom of the early Twenties would be battling against the happiness of those years. Moving to the end of the decade finds that world falling to pieces: artists gone to the south of France, American writers packing their bags for home, and (reader prescience: a key tool of the historical novelist!) Black Tuesday lurking around the corner, a disaster that would send those smug Yanks creeping for home.

MP: Is this the start of a series or a standalone?

LRK: Touchstone was written as a standalone, until I realized 1) that I really didn’t need to kill off everyone in the story, and then 2) that I was interested in the characters, and wanted to return to them.  The Bones of Paris turns Touchstone into a series.

MP: A lot of artists and celebrities make cameos in your book, including Man Ray, Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker. How did you decide which artists to include?

LRK: First of all, they had to be in Paris during the time, or at least plausibly able to make a side-trip to the city in September, 1929. After that, I chose a few colorful types and then spread out among their immediate friends and associates.  Of course, certain people were ubiquitous in Montparnasse: it must’ve been hard to go into a bar without coming across Kiki!

MP: What kind of research did you do for this book?

LRK: “Twenties Paris” is a theme with more available material than any writer can possibly use, from memoirs to film to art to autobiographical novels and memoirs-that-should-be-called-novels.  I have, in fact, been to the city, but this book could have been written even if I’d never been outside California.

MP: Where would you suggest a reader new to you start? With this book? With the Mary Russell series or the Kate Martinelli series?

LRK: There are a couple of my novels that rest heavily on a previous story, but this is not one of those.  Yes, I hope people will love the characters enough to go back to Touchstone and find out what happened earlier, but it is by no means necessary.  If you love Paris, or PI novels, or spooky thrillers, or books that are “complex, more than a little kinky, and absolutely fascinating”  (Booklist’s review) then that’s background enough.  If you prefer your crime with no sex and discreet violence, by all means pick up a Russell.  If you prefer contemporary cop stories, then Kate’s your girl.  I should mention that there are descriptions and excerpts for all the books on http://www.laurierking.com/books

MP: I first came to know you through The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which was the start of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. What do you enjoy about writing that series?  Did any Sherlock Holmes purists get grumpy about the series?

LRK: I love Russell’s voice—have ever since she introduced herself by taking my hand to write, “I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes…” in 1987.  The stories are classic romances—not in the sense of love stories, but in the sense of exotic and heroic adventures. She dresses in costumes, she beats up bad guys—she wears a knife in her boot, for heaven’s sake: what’s not to love?

As for grumpy Sherlockians, yes, there were dubious grumbles at first, but either I wore the grumpy ones down or they decided that I wasn’t as outrageous as they’d thought, because since then they’ve welcomed me, to the extent that I am now an official Irregular.

MP: What are the advantages of writing a series versus a standalone book? What are the disadvantages?

LRK: A series is like spending time with old friends, picking up where you left off. You all know the same jokes and references, you don’t have to explain much, and you have a chance to really know the people, in depth and over a period of time.

But it’s tough to keep a series fresh.  One way I do this is by sending Russell and Holmes all around the world, which forces a new perspective into each story.  And in general, I try to alternate that series with either another series or a standalone. Recently, for various reasons, I found myself writing four Russells in a row, and I kept myself interested by making them all different: the first two were linked and introduced some startling characters into the mix, and the next (Pirate King) was an out-and-out farce.  After that palate-cleanser, Garment of Shadows let me go back to a classic Russell & Holmes adventure: costumes, exotic lands, outlandish situations.

MP: I understand you do a virtual bookclub for all of your books? How does that work and what does it entail?

LRK: The Virtual Book Club used to be a self-contained site, but it was a high-maintenance setup, so last year we moved it onto Goodreads.  The moderators and I decide on books, keep the discussions rolling, and do things like welcome newcomers and organize conference meet-ups.  This month they’re reading Touchstone, but we do a lot besides LRKing!

MP: What are you working on next?

LRK: A Russell & Holmes, the first half in Japan and the second a year later when they come home from Morocco. No definitive title yet.

MP: My final question is what I call my bonus question namely what question do you wish you would get asked, or asked more often? You then get to answer that question.

LRK: Sorry, the contract I signed was only for ten questions.


Copies of The Bones of Paris are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. King will speak about and sign copies of her new book here at BookPeople on Wednesday, September 18 at 7pm. If you can’t make it to the event you can order a signed copy of the book.