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.
- Interviewed by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
We’re happy to be hosting Reavis Z. Wortham this Friday, October 21st, at 7 PM, as part of a panel discussion with Rob Hart and Tim Bryant. His latest in his Red River series, Unraveled, has the lawmen of Central Springs, Texas, as well as teen cousins Top and Pepper, contend with the fallout from a car crash. The accident injures two people of the opposite sex and race, who belong to opposite sides of a feuding family. We caught up with him to discuss the book, music, and the book’s 1968 setting.
MysteryPeople Scott: I know Unraveled was inspired by a song. What was it about the tune that sparked the idea for a novel?
Reavis Z. Wortham: I’m a huge country music fan, and by that I mean traditional country and not the bubble-gum rock and roll hick rap crap that’s out there right now. Sorry if I’ve alienated any readers, but good country tells a story, sometimes about the good things in life, but mostly death, cheating, troubles, heartache, misery, and Life that’s wrested from the ground by blood, sweat, and hard work. You know, the fun stuff to sing about…or listen to. It’s played with three chords in 3/4 or 4/4 time, and touches the heart.
A couple of years ago I was on a road trip, listening to an old song about two people who shouldn’t have been in a car together. I’d heard it a hundred times since it first came on in the Old Man’s pickup back in the ‘60s and it continued to resonate through the decades. I must have been in just the right mood when it came on that day and the subject matter inspired me to tinker around with a short story that quickly evolved into an entire novel, Unraveled, because it’s about people’s lives unraveling in more than one way.
Attention, true crime aficionados, long-time Austinites, and cold case questioners everywhere: Beverly Lowry comes to BookPeople to speak and sign her new history of Austin’s infamous 1991 Yogurt Shop Murders, WHO KILLED THESE GIRLS, tonight, at 7 PM.
2016 is not only the year that true crime enters the mainstream with several documentary series and podcasts devoted to the subject, it is also an anniversary year for more than one of Austin’s own community-shattering hometown murders. August 1st represented the 50th anniversary of the Charles Whitman UT sniper spree, and on August 28th we hosted Monte Akers, Nathan Akers, and Roger Friedman, authors of The Tower Sniper: The Terror of America’s First Active Shooter on Campus.
December 6th represents the 25th anniversary of the Yogurt Shop murders and on Tuesday, October 18th, we will welcome Beverly Lowry to talk about her new book Who Killed These Girls? Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders.
Examining this unsolved murder, Lowry goes into detail about what we know versus what we thought we knew. The book’s title and cover design reflect the famous billboards featuring black and white school…
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- Review by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
If you pick up a copy of Lisa Lutz’s latest, The Passenger, make sure you clear your calendar first—you won’t be able to move off the couch until you finish this thrill ride of a book.
“In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it.” And so we meet Tanya Dubois—who upon discovering her husband’s body (the victim of an apparent tumble down the stairs) packs a suitcase, cleans out his gambling stash, and hits the road.
She soon trades in her car, dyes her hair, takes on a new name, and heads south until she lands in Austin. There she meets bartender Blue, who recognizes a kindred desperation in Tanya’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. But things get a little crazy and it seems whatever Tanya’s running from might be catching up with her. Blue proposes a solution—she and Tanya trade identities, and soon Tanya is on the run again as Debra Maze–new day, new name, new car, new hair color. As she zigs and zags from town to town, desperately trying to outrun her past, she dons and discards identities at a dizzying pace.