MysteryPeople Review: CLOWNFISH BLUES by Tim Dorsey

  • Review by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Tim Dorsey, known for his mischievous characters and their bizarre adventures, comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest novel of Floridian high-jinks, Clownfish Blues, on Sunday, March 5th, at 5 PM

9780062429223Florida author Tim Dorsey has gained a zealous following for his hilarious series featuring Serge A. Storms and his perpetually baked sidekick Coleman. In Clownfish Blues, the pair’s 20th outing, the duo hit the road in a vintage silver Corvette to shoot their own episodes of Serge’s favorite classic TV series “Route 66”. (Route 66 doesn’t pass through Florida, you say? Doesn’t matter, as it seems that about a dozen episodes near the end of the series were actually filmed in Florida—a fact that only Florida history buff Serge would be sure to know.)

In usual fashion, Serge and Coleman encounter one gut-busting adventure after another while crisscrossing the state. From worm-grunting (yep, it’s a thing) to dabbling in high tech to hostage negotiation, the twosome try their hands at a number of avocations they know nothing about yet fake admirably. Their trip threatens to go off the rails when they inadvertently get tied up in a lottery corruption scheme that puts them crossways with everyone from people laundering money for drug cartels to shady convenience store owners and crooked investors. But Serge always comes up with a plan, and things fall in place when Coleman manages to save the day (albeit usually accidentally and despite his liberal use of mind-altering substances.) Some characters from Dorsey’s previous works—Serge’s former flame Brook Campanella and journalist Reevis Tome—also join the hilarity.

Tim Dorsey was a reporter and editor for the Tampa Tribune from 1987 to 1999, and has been gifting his readers with a zany and highly original Serge A. Storms novel annually since 2006. He is a master at writing about the insanity and weirdness that can only be found in Florida. Comparisons to fellow Florida author Carl Hiaassen are inevitable, but Tim Dorsey is in a class of his own and his latest is not to be missed.

You can find copies of Clownfish Blues on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Tim Dorsey comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Sunday, March 5th, at 5 PM. 

Q&A with Kathleen Kent

While she’s a respected historical fiction author, Kathleen Kent is new to
crime fiction. In The Dime, she introduces us to Betty Rhyzyk, a tall, red-headed, lesbian cop from Brooklyn whose first big case after transferring to Dallas gets her neck deep in drugs, cartels, and murder. We caught up with Kathleen to ask few questions before she joins Joe Lansdale for a signing and discussion at BookPeople on February 23rd.

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MysteryPeople Scott: Betty Rhyzyk first appeared in a short story as a part of the anthology Dallas Noir.  Did you know you wanted to do more with her after writing that?

Kathleen Kent: I’ve always loved contemporary crime fiction, but never tried my hand at it until the editor of Dallas Noir asked me to submit a short story for the collection.  A cousin of mine is an undercover cop in Dallas and I asked him for some true-life incidents—things taken from his own experiences.  After some prodding, and promises to change the names, dates and places, he provided me with some hair-raising stories.  Out of those stories Det. Betty Rhyzyk was born.  I truly thought that the short story would be a one-and-done project, but the character stayed with me.  And, at the urging of my agent, I started developing an outline for a novel-length work, which grew into The Dime.  It took me about a year to complete the book once I found the voice and narrative style.

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Q&A with Joe Lansdale

If you’re a fan of Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard, get ready to be happy for a long time. A new novel Rusty Puppy is out (which Joe will be signing and discussing February 23rd along with author Kathleen Kent), followed by a limited edition novella, Coco Butternut, and a
mosaic novel dealing with their early years, Blood And Lemonade, coming in March about the time when the second season of Hap & Leonard on The Sundance Channel. We caught up to Joe to talk about some of the projects, his characters, race, and political correctness.

9780316311564MysteryPeople Scott: Rusty Puppy is one of your best plotted novels. There are times when even Hap and Leonard find themselves surprised that they are thinking like private eyes. Did you have it mind to write a more traditional detective novel?

Joe Lansdale: Thank you. I don’t always think so much of plot lines as I think of story lines, and to some extent, they are different but can overlap. A story can grow naturally out of situations, not clockwork mechanisms, so I try to write plots that seem to be solutions to the events, not manipulations of the events. Sometimes it’s a bit more of one than the other. I do like a clockwork plot from time to time, but Hap and Leonard are usually a lot more free willing. I think this one seems more plotted, and I’m glad it works for you. I like to mix up my approach on the Hap and Leonard novels. Series are hard, because for them to be successful you have to ring certain bells already rung, and yet you have to try and make it feel fresh. Not always possible, or as satisfactory as you would like. You want the characters to remain the characters, but I’ve written Hap and Leonard as adventure novels, mystery novels, character pieces, road novels and even creepers, and sometimes all at the same time. Frequently, in fact.

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Judgement, Absolution, and Crickets: MysteryPeople Q&A with Alexandra Burt

  • Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

If you’re out and about tomorrow night, have we got a great event planned here at the store! Alexandra Burt joins us to speak and sign her latest psychological thriller, The Good Daughter (also our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month for February) on Tuesday, February 21st at 7 PMThe Good Daughter follows a daughter’s search for her own, and her mother’s, true identities. The novel takes place in a small Texas town, and weaves together modern-day murders with historic injustices for a well-crafted and suspenseful tale. 

Molly Odintz: You’ve spoken a bit about the experiences that inspired you to write The Good Daughter – could you tell us a bit about the real story behind the characters in the novel? 

Alexandra Burt: The Good Daughter was inspired by the demise of a marriage I witnessed. A middle-aged woman disappears and her husband finds their house void of her belongings. There are questions but no answers and he makes it his mission to get to the reason as to why she left him. Through detective work her life story unfolds and with every passing day more secrets come to light. It becomes apparent that he knows next to nothing about her; thirteen years of marriage yet she has remained a stranger. This is not just the whim of a middle-aged woman looking to end a marriage, but bombshell after bombshell explodes and a story unfolds of victims she has left in her wake.

When I found out her entire family suffered from mental illness, I struggled to assign blame, I bounced back and forth between judging her and absolving her from guilt. She was in no way responsible for any genetic predisposition regarding her mental health—but I questioned the choices she had made that impacted people around her, especially her children. In The Good Daughter Dahlia says about her mother: “Before she committed a crime against me, there were crimes committed against her. And though I know one cannot understand someone else’s pain, I want to say that hers was much heavier, reached much further beneath her skin.”

I wrote The Good Daughter because I felt the need for her story to end, to conclude itself into some sort of lesson learned, something fathomable; after writing the book, my preoccupation with her story became less powerful. Her life still haunts me and I have a feeling it will for a long time.

MO: I loved the creepy cricket imagery – so perfect for a Texas setting!  Can you tell us a bit about Texas as a sort of character in The Good Daughter

AB: There was an organic relationship between the setting of Aurora, Texas, and the crickets. In Texas, crickets are a plague of biblical proportions. You can’t escape them; they cover sidewalks and buildings, especially after periods of prolonged dry weather. Crickets are a symbol of the ugly parts of someone’s past that can’t be denied and the secrets we keep. A little known fact about crickets is that they display cannibalistic behavior and killing a few makes things worse. I chose a fictional town because the character Memphis has created this fictional story about her life, this condensed version that Dahlia, her daughter, can no longer accept. Big cities conjure up sentiments of loneliness and abandonment with literally millions of people around but small towns are places where secrets just won’t die. In The Good Daughter the past only comes alive because the characters find themselves in the same place where the past has been stuck in a dilapidated farmhouse, almost lying in wait. Small towns are unforgiving that way. It was a perfect setting for the story.

MO: The characters in The Good Daughter take the families they can get, assured in the knowledge that they probably can’t do better, yet frequently surprised by the secrets their loved ones hide. What did you want to explore about mother-daughter relationships, and family in general, in the novel? 

AB: I revisit mother-daughter relationships because it allows me the opportunity to live vicariously through my characters. My mother passed away when I was in college and her passing left such a vast black hole—I felt grief beyond loss, beyond darkness and despair. Her death was the end of nurturing, the end of safety, and the end of who I was. I was no longer a daughter. Eventually I became the mother of a daughter, and I was able to speak for both sides. I love to explore the mother-part as much as the daughter-part, I step inside that relationship and I poke around, see what they are made of, what it takes to pull them apart and bring them back together. We become parents and raise children and we have to define what our childhood was all about and what it means to be a good parent. It’s a very profound experience, much more than I expected it to be.

MO: You’ve described the novel’s setting of Aurora, TX, as like any small town in Texas. We cover the topic of small town secrets quite a bit on this blog – what drew you to a small town setting? 

AB: Setting is literally my first thought when I start a project: which city/town/area lends itself to telling the story, how is the setting a mirror of the theme? I live in a small town in Texas and I have come across old farmhouses and buildings that have remained abandoned for decades. In cities, buildings are usually demolished and new ones take their place but in rural areas buildings sit undisturbed and are left to their own devices for decades. Most people don’t give them a second thought—but there are stories left behind within those walls, remnants of peoples’ lives. An abandoned farmhouse on the outskirts of a small Texas town is a metaphor for time passing yet being stuck in the past at the same time, and that creates the friction. Abandoned houses are not just bricks and wood and stucco but they are a state of being.

MO: What inspired the rather brutal folk magic in the book? What did you want to say about responsibility and ritual? What is the purpose of the witch in the novel? What is her message?

AB: There’s an elephant in the room/novel and it is the fact that the story has a witch in it. It was a peculiar yet crucial part of the story. A long time ago, wise women lived on the edge of their communities and made a living with herbalism, prophecy and divination as well as healing and midwifery. In The Good Daughter the character Aella lives on the outskirts of the town of Aurora, practicing folk magic. The ritual she suggests, as brutal and horrific as it is, is historically authentic and was relayed to me during my research. Aella’s presence in the story is foresight of justice to come; there’s a price to be paid for everything, nothing will be given to you without the universe demanding something in return. So be careful what you wish for. The truth Dahlia is after contains not only facts and explanations but also pain. It’s like tearing open curtains allowing sunlight to flood in—suddenly everything is exposed; cracks in ceilings, chipped china, and dented furniture. We have to take the good with the bad and we instinctively know that but often it comes as a surprise. Aella’s presence in the story is my paying homage to the wise woman in all of us.

MO: With your first crime novel, Remember Mia, you immediately became not just a Texas writer but an internationally best-selling author. How has it felt to reach bestseller status so quickly? 

AB: It doesn’t cross my mind often, I’m just too busy. More than anything I’m incredibly humbled by the fact that people believed in me. A bestseller is the combined effort of countless people and I’m reminded of that when I get an email from my editor on a Saturday at midnight, the extent to which people go to help me succeed. All the copy editors and line editors, the booksellers, the librarians, and of course the readers. When I think of a bestseller, I think of all those people whose names do not appear on the cover of a book. I am so full of appreciation and so many people gave so much to make this possible. Eternal gratitude is what I feel and the hope that I have many more good books and some bestsellers in me.

MO: Who are some of your writing inspirations, both in the genre, and outside of it? 

AB: I have a passion for crime fiction and a love for literary fiction so if an author can combine the two, I’m in hog heaven. One of my favorite books of 2016 was Descent by Tim Johnston, it combined crime and literary fiction. I adore classic crime writers like Patricia Highsmith and my favorite contemporary crime writers are all across the board. I have come across many novels that aren’t from known authors but were amazing, just blew me away. The name of an author is not important; if you captivate me, you will inspire me, regardless of the genre, literary or not. I’m always looking for a dark horse, an underdog, someone fresh and daring with a bold, weird tale that catches my attention and draws me in.

MO: As someone who has lived in multiple countries, would you be tempted to use Germany as a setting in some of your future work, or do you plan to continue writing Texas tales? 

AB: Yes, I am tempted, very much so. I can’t say that I have a concrete story in mind but I have been thinking about the possibility for years. So the answer is yes, I am tempted but I’m not sure when. My next book is also set in Texas but I see myself mixing it up a bit in the future. Whatever the story demands is where I’ll take it.

MO: What are you working on next? 

I am working on a book that is loosely based on and inspired by a true crime in which money allowed the guilty to evade criminal justice. I diligently follow unsolved crimes and there is one high profile crime that went unsolved and I have been fascinated with it for decades. The story is very much set in stone but it is structurally still wobbly. I’m still toying with it, trying to figure out what it demands.

You can find copies of The Good Daughter on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Alexandra Burt joins us tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21st, at 7 PM to speak and sign her latest. 

The Destructiveness of Love: MysteryPeople Q&A with Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her new genre-bending tale of psychological suspense, Behind Her Eyesa novel already internationally renowned for its insane twist ending. Pinborough was kind enough to answer a few questions before the event. 

  • Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

“I think the main theme is the destructiveness of love. I wanted to write about how it’s not always the positive force we hope for and it can do as much harm as good if the wrong people fall in love.”

Molly Odintz:  You’ve worked in multiple genres, and without giving anything away, Behind Her Eyes is a genre-bender as well as a mind-bender of a read. What’s your most-preferred genre to work in, and what advice would you give writers interested in telling stories across genres?

Sarah Pinborough: I don’t really think of story in terms of genre, but I like writing stories that are puzzles, and most of my books have been mysteries of on sort or another. I like making the reader have to put a jigsaw together, whether that crime with sci-fi or horror or fantasy or straight thriller. As for advising writers who like to cross-genres, I’d probably say that the important thing – for me, at least – is to have a dominant genre. So, it might be crime with a hint of sci-fi, but it adheres to the rules of crime. Or horror with romance – then it would be primarily horror, but with gothic romance elements. I think where it is most likely to fail – not always, but most likely – is if it’s a 50/50 split between genres. I prefer just adding hints of other genres rather than over-loading. But that’s just me!

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MysteryPeople Review: BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough

  • Review by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Sarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her new genre-bending psychological thriller of suspense, Behind Her Eyesreviewed below. 

9781250111173When given an opportunity to read master-of-all-genre-fiction Sarah Pinborough’s shocking new thriller, Behind Her EyesI had no idea what to expect – aside from the cover’s promise of a twist at the end. After finishing the book, staring at nothing for a good half hour thinking “wtf just happened?!?!!!,” and rereading various parts of the book to reinterpret the meaning of significant passages in the light of new information, I felt grateful that I came into the book with no expectations. The reader who thinks they know what to expect should just toss that idea out the window right now. You cannot possibly predict that wonderful horrorshow of an ending.

Pinborough’s latest appears, at first, to tell the story of a love triangle. As the tale continues, sinister agendas arise and reshape our perceptions of characters, plotlines, and reality itself. In the elaborate, many layered nature of its twist, Behind Her Eyes conjures the specter of the films The Sixth SenseThe Spanish Prisoner, or any other tale that can be finished and reconsidered in an entirely new light based on the end.

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Ragged Creatures: MysteryPeople Q&A with Ian Rankin

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Ian Rankin is on tour celebrating his thirty years with Rebus, chronicling the rough and ready Edinburgh copper. Even retired you can’t keep him off a case –  when he notes the connections between the cold case murder of a rock star’s girlfriend and the modern-day roughing up of a new tough guy around town, he can’t keep away from the investigation, especially with the knowledge that his old nemesis is the main suspect.  With Rebus working with former partner Clark and former Complaints detective Fox, we get one involving procedural in Rather Be The Devil.

Ian Rankin joins us to speak and sign Rather Be the Devil this Thursday February 16th, at 7PM. We caught up to him ask a few questions about the book and these well loved characters on both sides of the law.

MysteryPeople Scott: I know some of your books are loosely based on real crimes or cases. Is that the case here?

Ian Rankin: As usual, there’s a grain of actuality to one of the plots. It concerns financial shenanigans (not wanting to give too much away!), and was something I saw reported on the TV news in Scotland a couple of years back.

MPS: How much of a challenge has it been to keep Rebus investigating since he’s been retired?

IR: I’m finding there are pluses and minuses regarding Rebus’s retirement. He no longer has to follow procedure and protocol. On the other hand, he is distanced from the tools that would normally aid him in an investigation. I do have some fun with that – getting him in and out of police stations and CID offices. But I always have to be aware of his fresh limitations and try to use these to refresh the way I approach each new story.

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