Recently I had the opportunity to attend Bouchercon, the world’s largest convention of mystery readers and writers. Between Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery and Director of Suspense Molly Odintz, I was the most seasoned (OK, I was the oldest) member of the BookPeople team in attendance, so I think I was the only one vertical at breakfast time. Thus I was lucky enough to attend the New Author Breakfast and learned about some exciting new talents to watch for. Here are just a few names and titles:
Matthew Betley – Over Watch: Former Marine officer Betley introduces unyielding Marine Logan West in this action-packed, globe-trotting, edge-of-your-seat debut thriller.
Susan Alice Bickford – A Short Time to Die: Two women from opposite sides of the country find their lives inextricably bound by a murderous quest for revenge. A Short Time to Die comes out this upcoming January!
Grant Bywaters –The Red Storm: Winner of the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel Competition introducing a black ex-boxer PI working in 1930’s New Orleans.
Ross Carley – Dead Drive: Set in Indianapolis, this well-crafted mystery showcases protagonist Wolf Ruger, a single Iraqi vet, investigating foul play in the high- technology industry.
Dana Chamblee Carpenter – Bohemian Gospel: Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, this riveting debut follows an unusual girl’s quest to discover her past and define her destiny.
Bruce Robert Coffin –Among the Shadows: With the last name “Coffin,” Bruce was destined to draw on his many years of law enforcement experience to write this first installment in the John Byron mystery series.
– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.
Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”
Interview and Review by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki
The Trouble with Goats and Sheepeases slowly into its mystery. In a neighborhood where something is clearly amiss, two girls explore their community, asking questions. Grace, who is 10, serves as the narrator for the girls’ explorations.
As the book kicks off, the wife of Mr. Creasy, an important member of the community, has disappeared. As the townspeople navigate a British town during a heat wave in the summer of 1976, the girls and the reader wonder why the residents aren’t as concerned about this disappearance as you would suspect. It becomes clear the community is not a fan of Mr. Creasy, or his wife, for reasons not immediately made clear.
The mystery of Mrs. Creasy’s disappearance sparks the girls’ interest in understanding their community. They convince those on the block to let them come in their homes and visit and ask questions. Some of their questions are about finding God; others try to ascertain, essentially, What Happened.
Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Last year’sThe Killing Kind put Chris Holm on the map, telling everyone else what a small-yet-loyal band of us knew about his talent. The Killing Kind just took home a much-deserved Anthony Award, and we’re proud to bring you an interview with Chris about the next in the series.
His second book with Michael Hendricks, a hit man who kills other hitmen,Red Right Hand, has Hendricks on the run due to events in The Killing Kind. Despite his precarious freedom, Michael Hendricks must protect a man who’s put away many of the top men in the criminal organization Hendricks is fighting. All of this happens in San Francisco after a terrorist attack has rocked the city. We caught up with Chris to talk about the book and his hero.
MysteryPeople Scott: Michael has gone from hit man to avenger, as well as being a survivor all the time. Has it changed him in a fundamental way as you write him?
Chris Holm: Oh, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Hendricks hitting hitmen. That said, I think he’s changed significantly since the beginning of The Killing Kind, and he’ll continue to do so over the course of the series. Plenty of writers are capable of sustaining a series in which their protagonist remains essentially unchanged. Robert B. Parker and Lee Child come to mind. While I love reading stories like that, I’m lousy at writing them. I need an arc to sink my teeth into. A destination in mind. In Hendricks’ case, it’s either going to be redemption or a tragic end.
Beth Lewis stunned us all with her forceful debut, The Wolf Road, a psychological thriller that follows a Elka, a half-wild girl, as she flees from her evil guardian across a post-apocalyptic landscape. As she flees through a Black Forest fairytale version of British Columbia, she works to come to terms with her own part in her guardian’s crimes. New friendships with a protective wolf and a sassy female traveler help Elka clarify the horrors of her past, reclaim her identity, escape the long arms of her psychotic guardian, and build the future she wants. We caught up with Beth Lewis about the perfect crossover read that is The Wolf Road.
Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
Molly Odintz: Some reviews of The Wolf Road have focused on the relationship between Elka and her dangerous woodsman savior, rather than the equally important dynamic between Elka and her female companion on the last leg of her journey. I spend a lot of time thinking about representations of female community, and I loved that Elka got a chance to form a healthy friendship with another woman as a counter to her previous replacement family unit. What did you want explore in the novel’s depiction of female community?
Beth Lewis: I love depictions of strong female friendship. Too often in my opinion female characters seem to be shown fighting over a man or competing in some way, otherwise the friendships are written as quite superficial. There aren’t enough deep and abiding friendships, ones with life and death stakes, and I wanted to write one that felt real and almost unconditional. Elka and Penelope save each other, physically and emotionally, multiple times and as such, their bond becomes iron. This is going to sound a bit precious but I’ve always felt that, when I’m writing, the characters appear. I don’t decide on their gender or appearance or voice, they just are, as if I’m meeting a real person for the first time. I didn’t consciously set out to write about these two women but I knew that I wanted them both to have ultimate trust in each other, which is something neither of them had before. It’s something special to trust someone so completely, it’s powerful and rare to know without a doubt that if you put your life and your safety into this person’s hands, they wouldn’t let you down.
Hard Word Book Club to discuss: The Legend of Caleb Yorkby Max Allan Collins, based on the screenplay of the same name, by Mickey Spillane
Our Hard Word Book Club always makes a point to discuss a western once or twice a year. This time, we are reading one from an author mainly known for writing about danger in the big city. In the mid fifties, Mickey Spillane was at the height of his his career, due to his tough guy private eye Mike Hammer. During this period, he was asked by none other than John Wayne to write a western screenplay. Unearthed after his death, it was adapted into the bookThe Legend Of Caleb York by Spillane’s friend and collaborator Max Allan Collins.
The story is a play on the classic stranger comes to town idea. A crooked sheriff works to push a crusty rancher and his pretty daughter off of their land. The rancher sends word for a gunman who made a name for himself by killing the famed gunslinger Caleb York. Not long after, a man rides into town, dressed as a dude. He quickly dispatches some of the local ruffians. When he signs the hotel ledger, he gives the name of Caleb York. The mystery of this man slowly reveals itself as both factions make their play.
The Legend Of Caleb York is a fun read that should inspire a great discussion about genre, Spillane, and script versus book. We will also be watching the hour long documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, directed by Max Allan Collins and featuring many crime fiction greats talking about the hard boiled author. We will be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, Wednesday, September 28th, at 7PM. The book is 10% off to those who attend.
The Hard Book Club meets to discuss The Legend of Caleb York by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins on Wednesday, September 28th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. You can find copies of The Legend of Caleb York on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Book Club selections are 10% off in-store.
Thanks to everyone who came out to Noir at the Bar on Tuesday night and helped make the night something truly special. The following piece, read by Jesse Sublett as the last reading of the night, is a good example of the astounding creativity that has an opportunity to make its way into the world through our MysteryPeople programming. Thanks to Jesse for sharing this original short piece, “The Black Bird Heist,” with us for this week’s Crime Fiction Friday. It stars Austin’s favorite bird – the grackle.
You can find signed copies of Jesse’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Our next Noir at the Bar won’t be till Texas Book Fest weekend – keep an eye on our blog for more details!
What do Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 (Soviet Union), Philip Kerr’s The Pale Criminal (Nazi Germany), and F. H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles (Philippines) have in common? They are all superb examples of serial killer narratives where political agendas worm their way into an investigation, and they all feature serial killers allowed by state authorities to run amok. This, to me is an essential quality in any plausible crime novel about serial killers, but I wanted to provide some real world examples.
Child 44 features a based-on-real-life serial killer allowed to get away with innumerable murders because the Soviet authorities believed there could be no such thing as a serial killer in such a revolutionary utopia. The Pale Criminal showcases how scapegoating can lead an investigation off-track, as a detective seeks a serial killer while the Nazis use a series of murders for propaganda purposes.
In Smaller and Smaller Circles,set in the late 90s, two Jesuit priests, stunned by the failure of local police to solve a series of brutal murders of young boys in their community, decide to track down the killers themselves. Unlike Child 44 or The Pale Criminal, however, Smaller and Smaller Circles has been hailed as the first Filipino crime novel, and by extension the first to use the genre for a social critique of inequality in Manila.
Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Rick Ollerman will be joining us for our Noir At The Bar tonight at Threadgill’s South. Rick has a voice that has one foot in the modern and one in paperback classic. His latest, Mad Dog Barked, introduces us to PI Scott Porter who becomes the caretaker of a first edition of Murder In The Rue Morgue that draws all kind of disaster. We caught up with Rick to talk about the book and his writing.
MysteryPeople Scott: Mad Dog Barked is such a distinctive title. Did it come before or after finishing the book?
Rick Ollerman: It’s actually part of a line from a Jack Kerouac poem. I’d just started writing Mad Dog Barked and I knew the sort of character Scott Porter was going to be. When I read that poem, that particular line stood out, not just for being such an interesting phrase but for all the sort of meanings and complexities that reflected what I wanted to do with Porter. Was Porter a “mad dog” making noise? Was he driven to behave in a certain way? The title actually helped me shape the character and in the past, my titles have always been determined after the books had been written. This was more fun.
John Lawton is internationally known for his masterful historical spy novels, and joins us this evening, September 20th, at 7 PM for our Noir at the Bar at Threadgill’s, an evening of readings from our favorite authors while drinking some favorite brews. John Lawton will be joined by fellow Brit Zoe Sharp and Americans Rick Ollerman, Mike McCrary and Jesse Sublett.
Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
Spy fiction, while excellent in the hands of those who’ve lived the secretive professions they explore in their tales of espionage, can benefit from the same hindsight (and declassified documents) that bring clarity to the history books. I appreciate the authenticity brought to spy fiction by those with personal espionage experience, yet I feel just as impressed with those who bring this shadow world to life through research and creating powerful characters.
Such is the case with John Lawton, whose gritty espionage thrillers perfectly evoke Cold War politics and carry on the legacy of the early spy fiction masters. First known for his Frederick Troy novels, a historical series set during WWII, Lawton has written several acclaimed stand-alones. He is now two books in to his new Joe Wilderness series, which unlike his previous series, features a working class character comfortable on both sides of the law (and both sides of the Berlin Wall).