Nathan Ward’s The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett is a great look at the early and productive life of the father of hard boiled fiction. We got a hold of Nathan to talk about the book and his subject.
MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to Hammett’s early years?
Nathan Ward: I came to write this book because it did not yet exist and I wanted to read something about what kind of detective had Hammett been before he wrote some of the iconic detective books of the 20th century; the best reason to write something is, as Thomas Berger answered when asked why he wrote novels, “Because it isn’t there.”
Hammett has what in comic books is called an origins story: once a real-life detective, he nearly died from Tuberculosis, then while flat on his back with the disease he began sending out crime stories. The rest is supposedly history. I wanted to test this myth and find out more about his incredible transition, especially to learn what kind of real detective he had been, if possible.
“My theory was that if I focused primarily on the formative years, did a sort of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pinkerton, I would have room enough to explore his unique transition.”
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– Reviewed by MysteryPeople Scott
T here is a saying that goes “There are victims of the Holocaust who are yet to be born.” A social sin that large creates an evil that doesn’t go away with a simple surrender. John Connolly explores this idea with his latest Charlie Parker thriller, A Song Of Shadows.
Charlie is staying in the small Maine town of Boreas, healing his body from wounds sustained in the previous Wolf In Winter. A body of a Florida man washes up on the beach and the murder appears to threaten his neighbor Ruth Winter and her young daughter, even though Ruth at first denies any connection. Charlie knows malevolent intent when he feels it, so he steps in with allies Angel and Louis and even his nemesis, The Collector. It is all connected to Nazi war criminals, their sympathizers and hunters, and a special concentration camp.
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On September 30th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor, we will be hosting Mark Pryor, author of the popular Hugo Marston series and, more recently, the standalone novel Hollow Man, our September Pick Of The Month. Hollow Man differs greatly from his Paris-set Hugo Marston series, following an Austin prosecutor and musician who is also a sociopath. Here is a quick discussion we had with Mark about writing such a different book than we’re used to from him.
MysteryPeople Scott: Hollow Man is completely different from the Hugo books. Were you deliberately wanting to write something different and darker or simply following an idea that popped into your head?
Mark Pryor: I would say the latter, except that it didn’t so much “pop” as germinate and gestate. Elements of the story had been rolling around in my head for a couple of years but it wasn’t until I was told about a real-life Ambrosio Silva-type character that the whole novel began to take shape. In fact, originally, the girl in the green dress was to be the protagonist, not Dominic. I suppose in some ways she remained the driving force but unlike most of my books, this one was very much a slow cook.
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This September’s Pick Of The Month is Hollow Man by Mark Pryor. The book uses his background as a prosecutor to draw a portrait of a sociopath defense attorney. He drew inspiration for his novel from his short story “A Change of Clothes,” posted on A Twist Of Noir back in 2009. You can find copies of Hollow Man on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Pryor joins us at BookPeople on Wednesday, September 30, to speak and sign his latest.
“She was the first one in days, maybe weeks, who didn’t stink. Who didn’t shuffle or cower, or prowl through the metal door like an angry dog.
She was the first one in days, weeks, who made me stand up straight and pay attention to the paperwork.
One by one, the deputy brought them out, made them stand on the black line in front of the judge, and two feet to my right. The deputy would give me a nod if they were compliant, raise an eyebrow if he expected a fight. Very few of them fight.
One by one, the judge lets them plead guilty, asking me, the state’s prosecutor, to detail the plea agreement. This one gets probation, this one gets jail. And this one, the stinking fat man who likes little kids, he gets ten years in prison and then ten years of probation. Yeah, I’m looking at you, fat man, what the fuck are you gonna do about it?
But when the deputy brought her out, he just looked at me, our secret code abandoned. Hardly surprising, it’s not like we had a signal for hot chicks. Never needed one…”
Read the rest of the story.
Reavis Wortham’s latest Red River Mystery, Dark Places, has half of the Central Springs law enforcement solving a murder at home while the other half searches on Route 66 for their runaway relative Pepper. It brings Wortham’s look at the Sixties into full bloom. We talked to the author about the book and the period.
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- Interview by MysteryPeople Scott
We’re happy to have Ben Rehder joining us for our Lone Star Mystery authors panel September 28th. In Bum Steer, Rehder’s latest novel to feature John Marlin of Blanco County, Marlin solves the mystery behind two dead bodies: a man and a steer. We caught up with him to talk about the book and the real and fictional Blanco County.
MysteryPeople Scott: You often use news items or current events for your Blanco County books. Did a real life event inspire Bum Steer?
Ben Rehder: Not any single event, but cattle rustling in general had been in my head for a while. I think some people are surprised to learn that rustling still takes place, but it does, and there are special rangers who investigate those thefts, along with theft of farm and ranch equipment. Imagine trying to steal a thousand-pound animal that doesn’t want to cooperate. That was the germ of the idea that grew into Bum Steer.
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- Interviewed by MysteryPeople Scott
Bill Crider is the epitome of the Texas journeyman writer. He has written in almost every genre and subgenre, his mysteries about Clearview sheriff Dan Rhodes being his best known. In his latest, Between The Living And The Dead, Dan Rhodes confronts murder, meth, and a possible ghost. Bill took a few questions from us about the Dan Rhodes novels and his career.
Bill Crider joins us Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM here at BookPeople for a Lone Star Crime panel. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest novel alongside Reavis Z. Wortham and Ben Rehder. You can find copies of Between The Living And The Dead on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
MysteryPeople Scott: What prompted you to use ghost hunters as a major part of the mystery?
Bill Crider: I’ve always wanted to write a haunted-house story, but I never came up with the right start for it. Then one day in the Walmart parking lot here in Alvin, Texas, I saw a ghost-hunters’ van, and I knew I had my hook. I had a character who’d be a perfect ghost hunter, so I gave him the job, threw in a murder, and had my haunted-house book.
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With his new book, The Truth and Other Lies, Sascha Arango has set and surpassed a high bar. His plot and style remind me of the great Patricia Highsmith.
The protagonist, as the book starts, has a problem: His wife has been secretly writing the popular novels that he claims to pen. And his mistress is getting in the way. When he tries to kill one but perhaps kills the other, things go crazy and your blood gets pumping. If you like good plot-driven mysteries, give this book a chance. You can find copies of The Truth and Other Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
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We are happy to have Texas genre writer extraordinaire Bill Crider joining us for an evening of Lone Star Crime with Reavis Wortham and Ben Rehder. They’ll be here at the store on Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM. Bill will be reading from his latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Between The Living & The Dead. If you are not familiar with his Clearwater, Texas lawman here’s a taste from the Anthony Award winning short story he wrote with his wife. It even has a chicken fried steak recipe. Can you get more Texas?
“Chocolate Moose” by Bill and Judy Crider
“Sheriff Dan Rhodes didn’t go to the Round-Up Restaurant often, but not because the food wasn’t good. He didn’t go because the food was too good.
The portable sign out front told the story with black letters on a white background: ABSOLUTELY NO CHICKEN FISH OR VEGETARIAN DISHES CAN BE FOUND ON OUR MENU!
What could be found were huge chicken-fried steaks and mashed potatoes smothered in cream gravy; big, soft rolls served with real butter; cooked-to-order T-bones marbled with fat on a plate beside a gigantic baked potato slathered with real butter, sour cream, and bacon bits; hamburger steaks with grilled onions piled high, along with a mound of french-fries or, if you preferred, hand-cut and battered onion rings. And, for dessert, there was a choice of peach or cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream on top. If you didn’t like cobbler, there was chocolate pie, with the best, the richest, the sweetest filling that Rhodes had ever tasted under its inch-thick meringue.
In other words, the Round-Up served good, solid food that stuck to your ribs, put a smile on your face, and, according to many leading physicians, filled your coronary arteries with substances whose effect on your health it was better not to think about. Which was why Rhodes rarely ate there. His wife, Ivy, had him on a low-fat regimen that was taking inches off his waistline and, she claimed, adding years to his life. As Rhodes pulled the county car into the Round-Up’s black-topped parking lot, he wished, in spite of the risk to his longevity, that he were going there to have a big slice of chocolate pie, or, failing that, maybe one of those baked potatoes. But he wasn’t. He was going to see about a man who’d been killed by a moose.
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Spinetingler Online Magazine has become a favorite site for all that is crime fiction. It has great reviews and interviews, as well as short fiction from up-and-coming talent. Recently, Spinetingler posted this piece by Sean McCluskey. McCluskey shows great skill in dropping just the right amount of information at the right time with his story of these two well-matched adversaries facing off.
“He’s not a cop, even though he wants me to think he is. I know that as soon as I open my front door and see him standing there in his sport coat and khakis, holding up his badge.
He’s standing right in front of the door. Real cops don’t do that. They stand off to one side, so you can’t shoot them through the mail slot or the peephole or whatever. His badge gleams, inside a buttery-smooth leather wallet that definitely hasn’t been hauled out of pockets over and over for years. The picture on his ID card is recent. Like, I think he’s wearing the same necktie recent. Like, I think he has the same shaving cut on his chin recent. And the lettering on the card is blurry. Cheap printers do that when the heads get dirty…”
Read the rest of the story.