Hey Folks! Overwhelmed by the number of amazing panels at this year’s Texas Book Festival? Can’t see the forest through the trees? Never fear, MysteryPeople is here with a guide to mystery, thriller and true crime happenings at the fest. Here’s a link to the full schedule, but in the following schedule, you can see we’ve picked out some of the highlights for crime fiction fans.
I should preface this review by admitting that Mr. Mercedes is the first Stephen King novel I have ever read, although I have seen Maximum Overdrive several times, as well as many of the other numerous film adaptations of King’s works. Aside from the author’s enormous popularity, I didn’t know much to begin with, but I quickly found myself immersed in the narrative, drawn in by King’s clean sentences and menacing atmosphere.
Vehicles play a prominent role in many of King’s stories, from the killer car in Christine, to the family’s refuge in Cujo, back to the self-aware, homicidal 18-wheelers of Maximum Overdrive. Perhaps in Stephen King’s world, guns don’t kill people – cars do. Aside from that flippant remark, cars hold a special place in the American mythical landscape, including the German-engineered machine in Mr. Mercedes. Cars represent the freedom of the open road, the rage of the traffic jam, the power of two tons of steel, and the vulnerability of what those two tons of steel can do to human flesh. Every symbol of American power – from the frontier, to the nuclear bomb, to the assault rifle and the SUV – is also a symbol of vulnerability for all those in its path.
- Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
Allen Eskens’ latest, The Heavens May Fall, features the return of Minnesota cop Max Rupert. His friendship with Boady Sanden comes to a head when the attorney takes on a client Rupert believes to be guilty. MysteryPeople’s Meike Alana talked to Mr. Eskens about his characters and their shared universe.
Meike Alana: Your novels are stand-alone works that are completely unique from each other, but a handful of significant characters make appearances throughout the books. Can you tell us how you devised that concept?
Allen Eskens: You have asked a very big question, so excuse the long answer.
I write about a community of characters who have connections to one another, some greater some lesser, with different characters taking the lead in different novels. I came to this idea as I was writing my debut novel, The Life We Bury. I like writing stories where the protagonist goes on a personal journey that changes them by the end of the novel. I didn’t think I could do that consistently if I wrote a series that revolved around a single protagonist. Also, my protagonist in The Life We Bury is a college student and I didn’t want to have him tripping over dead bodies in an attempt to create a series.
- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
In Todd Robinson’s Rough Trade, his bouncer heroes Boo and Junior investigate a murder involving the Irish mob, relationships, and sexual hang-ups. Last month asked Todd a few questions about the novel.
MysteryPeople Scott: Rough Trade deals with homosexuality and homophobia in a unique way. What did you want to explore about the subject?
Todd Robinson: It wasn’t a particular exploration about sexuality for me so much as taking a look at the characters, and who they are, and some of their warts. Homophobia worked thematically for the exploration of that sensibility and sensitivity. It also gave me a fresh way to look at identity and fears and for me, a fun new way to craft a mystery around people’s ignorances, prejudices, and preconceived notions.
Interview and Review by Scott Butki
Readers may find it hard to accept that Nothing Short of Dying is Erik Storey’s first novel – it has the kind of action and adrenaline that will make you feel like you just went on a caffeine bender. Plus, it is that rare action novel that has both an excellent plot AND well developed characters – rare for any thriller, let alone a debut novel.
“He’s a rugged wandering adventurer. He’s spent almost two decades roaming the third world, making his living with a rifle, trying to help the little guys. He considers himself outside of any law other than Nature’s, so he is able to do things you and I can’t.”
Nothing Short of Dying, set in Colorado, is the start of a series, and I will definitely be looking forward to what happens next to its protagonist, Clyde Barr. As the series begins, Barr has just been released from a Mexican prison. He hopes to stay out for a while, but a call from his sister, who has been kidnapped, pulls him back into his old pattern of breaking laws and fighting bad guys. Clyde is aided in the quest to find Jen by Allie, another well-rounded character who has gotten out of a jam or two, who he meets while hunting for his sister. Allie’s character and their interactions help keep the story sizzling.
Horror and mystery – they’re just two sides of the same tarnished, dented coin. Ever since Edgar Allen Poe first brought together Gothic horror and tales of criminality, thus creating the modern detective story, horror and crime fiction have gone together like low-grade peanut butter with seedy jelly sold by a grinning vendor with far too many teeth. To celebrate the complimentary nature of these two genres, here are a few spooky suggestions to help us survive the long Halloween night. Stay inside reading these, and you just might make it till morning…
Scott’s Top Supernatural Thrillers
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
Harry Angel, a postwar New York private eye, works the case of a missing crooner Johnny Favorite. The trail leads to voodoo, devil worship, and Satan himself. Told in a hard-boiled style, this is one of the first examples of blending both genres, with one of the best reveals in either.
Interviewed by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Rob Hart’s Ash McKenna series gets better and better with each book. This time, in Hart’s latest, South Village, we find our tarnished unlicensed investigator trying to find peace on a commune, working as a cook. Of course murder interferes. Rob will be joining Reavis Wortham and Tim Bryant for a discussion on Friday, October 21st, at 7 PM. We got to grill him about his setting, writing, and food.
MysteryPeople Scott: How did a hippie colony become the latest setting for Ash’s latest novel?
Rob Hart: Something like 10 years ago, I visited a place called The Hostel in the Forest down in Georgia. A friend of mine was a manager at the time. It was a lot of fun, and I came away wanting to write a book set in a place like that.
It struck me as a good fit for a couple of reasons: First, It’s a logical step for Ash to take following the events of the second book. Second, I wanted to focus on how he related to other people, and the world around him, and a commune is a good place to do that. Finally, I get to tell people it’s noir on a hippie commune, which is a fun hook.