Crime Fiction Friday: “The Larcenists” by Kieran Shea




  • Introduced by Scott M.

In this May’s Beat To A Pulp short story “The Larcenists” Kieran Shea shows how you can use just dialogue to propel a story. He also may make you think twice about who is at your local Starbucks.

“The Larcenists” by Kieran Shea

“Man, marketing promotions. A dollar for any tall coffee? I’ll bite. What? No java for you, Jack?

It’s a little late in the day for me, Eddie.

Trouble sleeping, huh? I guess that happens to guys our age. Hell, coffee is one of the few drugs I still get to enjoy.

Have a seat, man.

I need to be serious here, Eddie. I’ve got a client meeting at three so I’d like to say my peace and then head on out for that, all right?

Sure, sure … totally. So, um, what’s on your mind?

Well, it’s been almost a year, Eddie.

Read the rest of the story.

Guest Post: Terry Shames on Writing About Texas as a Lone Star Expat

As we continue on with essays by Texas crime fiction writers in celebration of Texas Mystery Writers Month, we turn to Terry Shames, who will be teaching at our free workshop coming up this Saturday, May 21st, from 9:30 AM – 4 PM. Here Terry discusses writing about her home state as a Lone Star expat.

  • Guest post from Terry Shames

James Joyce said of writing about Dublin, “if you wanted to succeed, you had to leave—especially if success meant writing about that place in a way it had not been written about before.” He writes about Dublin as a setting where he felt constrained by the essence of the place that was so much itself. I wouldn’t think of comparing myself as a writer to James Joyce, but I understand what he meant and I feel in a visceral way the truth of what he said in my writing about Texas.

“The Two dog is about as low a dive as you’ll find. Fifteen feet outside the city limits, it looks like it was built of rotten lumber that someone discarded after tearing down the oldest house in town…The interior is strung with blue lights hind the bar. It has a dance floor big enough for two couples and an old- fashioned jukebox.” A Killing at Cotton Hill

When I first spread my wings as a writer, I was already out of Texas. I wrote short stories, most of them in an imaginary town I called Jarrett Creek, Texas. The characters lived and breathed the air of Jarrett Creek. Based on the town where my grandparents lived when I was a child, Jarrett Creek seemed a natural setting when I began a mystery series. It was familiar, it was in my blood, and it offered a place I had observed my whole life, and now had some separation from.

Jarrett Creek is not singular. I get emails from people all over the country saying, “This book could be set in my town.” Does that mean the smell of the railroad tie plant that still permeates the town of Jarrett Creek is the same in a town in Indiana? Does it mean that the paralyzing heat and humidity occur in small-town Pennsylvania? Do other towns have water that tastes like iron, and have red soil that stains your hands? Do they have the snakes, the fire ants, useless soil, the drought and flooding rains?

“The backyard is as scrubby as the front, with exhausted patches of grass barely holding their own in the red dust. There’s a big hulk of a barn…The heat shimmers off the roof, the glare piercing…” The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake

I think what my readers mean is that someplace has entered their subconscious, and resides there and my books call up that place for them. As a writer, deep memory is what drives my understanding of “place” in Texas. If as a writer I am able to impart the romance, the reality, and the spirit of a place through prose, it translates for the reader into their own known landscapes. .

It’s possible that had I not left Texas I would have been able to describe it well enough, but I think there is a certain romance that creeps in when you haven’t lived in a place you loved for a long time. Nostalgia creates yearning, and that drives my poetic feel for the smell, sight, sound, and feel for Jarrett Creek. But I also know well the hard reality of Texas. In this passage you get the push and pull between beauty and the disagreeable that I constantly balance.

“The west is full of threatening clouds and heat lightning, and in the late afternoon sun, with shadows from the trees beyond the pond, the air is almost lavender. The mosquitoes are in full force when we get near the scummy water. I slap at my arms and legs.” The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake

Come by BookPeople this upcoming Saturday, May 21st, for a free writing workshop taught by Terry Shames, George Wier, and two out of three members of Miles Arceneaux! The workshop starts at 9:15 AM and goes till 4 PM. No reservations required!

MysteryPeople Q&A with Jon McGoran

Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

With his new novel, Dust Up, Jon McGoran has written a book full of adrenaline, and plot twists, and  the controversial and contemporary topic of GMO foods. His choice of topic makes sense since McGoran has written about food and sustainability for 20 years and spent some of that time advocating for labeling genetically engineered foods.

For an idea of how such a book reads, think the kind of adrenaline rush delivered by Jeff Abbott or Lee Child, but with information reminding readers of the potential problems of GMO foods.

Dust Up was my first exposure to McGoran, but I liked it enough that I now plan to read McGoran’s two earlier books in this series, as well as any new ones to come. Each of McGoran’s books features Detective Dolye Carrick.

I interviewed Mr. McGoran via email:

“He starts to pull at those and some other strange threads to reveal a massive plot involving genetically altered heroin, biopharming, designer pathogens, and what I maintain to this day is the most outrageously sinister utilization of butterflies anywhere.”

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?

Jon McGoran: A lot of the underlying ideas in the series as a whole are things I’ve been following for a long time, but the main ideas specific to Dust Up came to me from several places.

Character wise, I wanted to take a look at where Doyle Carrick, my protagonist, was after the events of Drift and Deadout: his increasing disillusionment with the police, his burnout, his growing awareness of the issues he’s been confronting. Where Doyle is in his life is an important aspect of the book that I started to think about as I was outlining Deadout, the previous book in the series. The political aspects of the plot originally came from an interview with John Ostapkovich, a reporter at Philly’s KYW-AM. We started talking about how the US aggressively pushes America’s biotech products around the world, especially among countries with more stringent regulations, applying all sorts of leverage through food aid and trade deals to get them to drop those regulations. There are some scientific ideas in Dust Up that emerged out of the research that I did for Drift and for Deadout. I’m really excited about the science at the heart of Dust Up. The idea at the heart of the book — which I don’t want to give away — came to me in a moment of cackling glee.

SB: Why did you decide to set part of the story in Haiti?

JM: I knew Dust Up was going to take place on an international scale, but I chose Haiti for a number of reasons. It has a history of rejecting genetically engineered products, sometimes in very dramatic fashion. It is a frequent aid recipient, often confronted by drought, and plagued with political instability, and it has a long history of unwanted foreign interventions.

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MysteryPeople Review: SEE ALSO DECEPTION by Larry D. Sweazy

  • Review by Event Staffer and Mystery Enthusiast Meike Alana

9781633881266Larry D. Sweazy’s latest Marjorie Trumaine mystery, See Also Deception, is an atmospheric tale of small-town secrets with a retro feel that is a solid entry in the series.

Marjorie Trumaine is a North Dakota farmwife who took up indexing as a way to make ends meet during the tougher crop seasons—a job that has taken on much more significance since her husband Hank was blinded and paralyzed in a hunting accident some time ago. She often calls on the local librarian, Calla Eltmore, for informational assistance in the completion of her indexing duties. When Calla is found dead at work, due to an apparent suicide, Marjorie has trouble believing that Calla would have killed herself. Her suspicions are further aroused when she notices something odd at Calla’s wake, but the police don’t seem to take her concern seriously. Marjorie sets out to learn more, all while taking care of the ailing Hank. The web of secrets she begins to unravel turn ever more threatening when it becomes apparent that someone may be willing to kill to keep those secrets hidden.

Marjorie is a fascinating character who I’ve come to admire deeply in my two literary outings with her. We see in flashbacks that she and Hank had a charmed romance—he is the only man she has ever loved, and loved deeply, ever since she first set eyes on him in grade school. Yet she isn’t bitter or self-pitying about their changed circumstances—she accepts full responsibility for his considerable care, and his well-being is always at the forefront of her mind. Life on a North Dakota farm in the 1960’s can be deeply isolating—Marjorie feels like “the only person in the world, stranded and alone on a planet of my own making”–but the loneliness suits Marjorie and her private nature. The descriptions of the vast plains and the unrelenting wind are where Sweazy’s prose truly excels.

Larry D. Sweazy is the author of See Also Murder (the first Marjorie Trumaine novel); last year’s A Thousand Falling Crows (a stand-alone thriller set in dust-bowl era Texas); and nine other novels. He has published over sixty non-fiction articles and short stories, many of which have won or been nominated for awards. His is a unique voice in the genre.

You can find copies of See Also Deception on our shelves and via

George Wier Joins Us in Person At Hard Word Book Club

One of our favorite Austin authors is George Wier. He always puts a good dose of pulp fun and Texas flavor to his books. To help celebrate Texas Mystery Writers Month, he’ll be joining us for our Hard Word Book Club discussion of Cold Rains.

Cold Rains is a throwback to those Gold Medal paperbacks of the Fifties and Sixties, featuring Texas bounty hunter John Rains. His latest skip is Melissa Sossville, a pretty lady who proves more of a match for him than her ninety-five pound frame would suggest. Filled with sexual tension, reversals, and a few dead bodies, it makes for an entertaining read.

George is just as fun as his books. Meet him at our discussion at 7 PM, Wednesday, May 25th on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. The book is 10% off in-store to those who attend.

Coming Up on May 21st: Our Annual Free Crime Fiction Workshop!


Presented by Sisters in Crime and MysteryPeople

Our annual free workshop to celebrate Texas Mystery Writers Month with Sisters In Crime will start at 9:15, Saturday May 21st. Throughout the morning and afternoon Texas writers will share their knowledge. It is great for aspiring authors in any genre and for readers curious about the author’s process. This year we have a broad range of criminal wordsmiths. Our schedule is below:

9:15 AM


Meet the authors and get a brief overview of the creative day to come!

9:30 – 10:30 AM

George Wier On Action Writing

George Wier, author of the successful Bill Travis series, puts you through the paces of a fine tuned action sequence and shows you how to ratchet up the tension.

11:00 AM- Noon

Terry Shames On Character And Setting Interaction

Terry Shames’ Samuel Craddock novels have been praised for their depictions of small town life. The award winning author shows how to make setting another character with whom your protagonist has a relationship.

Noon – 1:30 PM

Lunch Break

Don’t just use this time to eat. Ask a fellow attendee you don’t know to join you and start networking.

1:30 – 2:30 PM

Brent Douglass & James Dennis On Collaboration

Brent and James make up 2/3rds of the pen name of Mile Arceneux with their friend John Davis. They will show you how to write about murder without killing your partner.

3:00-4:00 PM

Panel Discussion With Authors

Is there something the authors didn’t cover or was there a subject we didn’t hit upon? Here’s your chance. After a quick Q&A with the authors by MysteryPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator, Scott Montgomery, the authors take questions from you.

Attend which topics you’d like or stay all day. It is completely free. Books by the authors will be on sale. Bring, paper, pen, and your criminal mind.

Guest Post: Jesse Sublett on Texas Legends and Landmarks

Continuing our series of Texas crime fiction writers on their home state, we next have a piece from Noir At The Bar cohort Jesse Sublett. In his piece Jesse looks at how Texas legend, history and violence shapes our state’s art and culture.

Jesse will be at tonight’s Noir at the Bar – this Thursday, May 12th, at our new home at Threadgills downtown. Jesse is joined by Con Lehane, Jordan Harper, and Les Edgerton. Each author’s latest title will be available for sale at the event. Readings begin at 7 PM. Booze, books, and bars – what’s not to love?

Guest Post by Jesse Sublett

When I was researching 1960s Austin Gangsters, I visited many Texas landmarks that had been devastated by greed and avarice over the past several centuries. Gun-toting thugs, pimps, petty thieves, and wisecracking roughnecks were not the ones who devastated these places. The culprits were corporations, land barons, bankers, and other would-be empire builders.

Take the upper Panhandle town of Mobeetie, for example. Texian settlers came through in the early 1800s and began killing off the nomadic Plains tribes. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it proved more efficient to kill off the buffalo herds on which the Plains Indians were so dependent for their lifestyle and culture. During that time, also known as the Buffalo Wars, the town of Mobeetie became a thriving city, an economic crossroads. After the bison herds had been slaughtered, the land barons moved into the Panhandle and West Texas and ran cattle for a couple of decades. After beef industry took a steep dive in the late 1800s, the landowners subdivided and town-promoted. After Spindletop, there were oil boom towns. They erupted across the state like festering blisters, places as crazy, cash-drenched, and vice-ridden as any Wild West movie you can imagine. Most of those boom towns are gone now.

“After Spindletop, there were oil boom towns. They erupted across the state like festering blisters, places as crazy, cash-drenched, and vice-ridden as any Wild West movie you can imagine.”

Today Mobeetie (which is more or less the same as New Mobeetie, just around the bend… long story…) is a stark, lonely little outpost of 200 or so people. Not much to look at and far less to do there. The population is unchanged since the Overton Gang came through in the spring of 1966 on a bank-burglary spree. Around one a.m. on the night of March 17, gunfire interrupted (the deputy shot out the tires of their getaway Cadillac parked on the road to the dump) the work of quintet of characters at the First State Bank and they scattered across the snow-dusted plains in all four directions. The ensuing fugitive manhunt for them encompassed thousands of square of miles of the shockingly empty landscape. Hundreds pitched in: deputies, rangers, G-men, and volunteers. They spread out on foot, in cars, on horseback, in airplanes, in helicopters, trailing bloodhounds. By the end of the week, all five were in jail.

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