MysteryPeople goes to Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival returns to the capitol in Austin, Texas, October 27th and 28th. MysteryPeople will be representing in three different panel discussions and a section of the Lit Crawl. For those interested, here’s our schedule, and you can visit this page for a complete schedule of events at the Texas Book Festival. 



Saturday:

10-10:45AM at Capitol Extension Room E2.010: Crimes of the Centuries with Steven Saylor & Lou Berney

Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery will talk with two authors who have created crime fiction plots linked to two of history’s biggest assassinations. With his latest Gordianus book, The Throne Of Caesar, Steven Saylor has his ancient Roman detective, Gordianus, trying to uncover a conspiracy against the emperor during the Ides Of  March. Lou Berney gives us a mobster on the run when he realizes he was an unknowing part of the Kennedy assassination and finds refuge on the road with a runaway housewife and her two daughters in November Road. They will be discussing how their fictional characters interact with real events and how the crime novel allows them to explore history.

8PM Lit Crawl Noir at the Bar (Chilled to the Marrow) at Stay Gold 

Noir at the Bar returns with some of =festival guests, Meg Gardiner, Jeff Abbott, and Scott Von Doviak, joining our regular Noir at the Bar miscreants Max Booth, Mike McCrarry, and ringleader and emcee Scott Montgomery reading their darkest, nastiest, and funniest crime fiction. This will be a part of many Noir at the Bars going on for the weekend across the country and in London for author Duane Swiercynski, whose daughter is going through a bone marrow transplant in her fight with leukemia. We will be raffling off two special bundles of books to help with the medical bills and you can also give here

Sunday

12-12:45PM at Capitol Extension Room E2.010: Crime and Place with Reavis Wortham & Scott Von Doviak

Scott’s back again talking with two of his author friends who use specific, real locations for their crime novels. Scott Von Doviak’s Charlesgate Confidential uses Boston’s historical building for a crime that leads to several others in three separate decades. Reavis Wortham uses Big Bend National Park for an intricate showdown with his Texas Ranger Sonny Hawk up against a passel of revenge hungry villains in Hawke’s War. Both show all you can do with one space.

2PM – 2:45PM at the Texas Tent: Texas Crime Writers with Meg Gardiner, Jeff Abbott, & Julia Heaberlin

Three of the lone star state’s bestselling crime novelists gather around for a discussion with MysteryPeople contributor Meike Alana. She will lead them through the art of crafting a good thriller, the diversity of Texas settings, and cracking wise. All three are great story tellers in person as they are on the page.

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INTERVIEW WITH LOU BERNEY

Lou Berney has created a stand out mix of genres in his latest, November Road. The story deals with two people who meet on the road after the Kennedy assassination. Charlotte Roy, a housewife leaving her alcoholic husband, and Frank Guidry, a New Orleans  mobster who realizes he played a part in the murder and knows the mob will want to cut loose ends. The two develop an intense relationship as they head west while Barone, one of the mafia’s most efficient hitmen closes in. We got to talk to Lou about the book and mixing genres.

November Road: A Novel Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: November Road is a unique book. It is a mix of genres set to a particular week in history that one of the protagonist was unknowingly a part of. What was the first part of it that entered your mind and how did you build on it?

Lou Berney: The book started with the idea of two very different lives colliding – a big-city mafia lieutenant and a small-town mother. I was interested by the notion that we all play different roles, and that by changing roles we might actually change who we are.

MPS: Was there a particular reason you made Guidry cajun and not Italian?

LB: I wanted Guidry to be a little bit of an outsider – a little bit removed and more independent than your typical mob guy. And I also wanted him to have the kind of easy charm that very distinctive to New Orleans and Louisiana.

MPS: Charlotte is a different kind of character for you. What did you enjoy about her as a writer?

LB: I loved how Charlotte developed into a forceful, fearless kind of character. It was always in her, but to see it come out as the pages flew by made me happy. And I really liked her sense of humor, which developed over the various drafts. I didn’t imagine that she would have a lively sense of humor when I conceived her, but she quickly informed me otherwise.

MPS: What did you want to get across to the reader about that week after the assassination?

LB: The assassination was such a detonation, a seismic event in American life. Everyone was affected in one way or another, and often profoundly so.

MPS: Barone is an interesting take on the hitman character. How did you go about constructing him?

LB: A lot of trial and error. I didn’t want Barone to be a cliche. I wanted him to be a fully realized and complex character, but also one who is a scary, relentless killer. Giving him his own point of view and a character arc of his own, a key relationship with another character, made him come alive for me.

MPS: What was the most interesting thing you found in your research?

LB: The morning of the assassination, in his hotel room in Fort Worth, JFK casually mentioned to Jackie that it wouldn’t be hard at all for someone to kill the president. A killer would just need a high-powered rifle and a a spot high in a building,

INTERVIEW WITH HELEN CURRIE FOSTER

Helen Currie Foster’s latest mystery to feature Texas lawyer Alice MacDonald Greer, Ghost Next Door, starts with her small ranch being invaded by drones and escalates when a food writer is murdered during the first barbecue cook-off her town of Coffee Creek is putting on and the killer has her sights on her. With her gal pal, Red, she is out to unravel this very fun, Texas-flavored mystery. Helen was kind enough to take a few questions from us about the book.

Ghost Next Door Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: With this mystery, you delve the town of Coffee Creek. What did you want to explore with that?

Helen Currie Foster: The Hill Country is beginning to change, but local flavor remains strong. The landscape itself demands character in the people: they’re either dealing with drought or flood, are either baking or freezing. As Molly Ivins put it, “Texas! –land of wretched excess!”

Bland suburbanization continues its inexorable march west, but people still love places like Coffee Creek: the feed store, the post office where everyone picks up the mail, Friday night lights with the bats darting after the bugs and the PTA frying burgers and selling hot dogs…… AND big sky, live oaks, limestone, and secret springs.

MPS: What I really enjoyed about the book was the relationship between Alice and Red. Where you wanting to say something about female friendship?

HCF: Alice knows she’d never have moved to Coffee Creek, much less begun to belong there, without Red. Red’s a long-time friend who lured Alice (at the lowest point of Alice’s existence) out to Coffee Creek to start over again. Alice loves Red because Red speaks truth, declines to put up with any of Alice’s introverted angst, and honors her own deep Texas roots. Red has Alice’s back; Alice has Red’s. Red’s game for adventure, even (or especially) for danger. She also says yes to frivolity. Alice knows she needs Red. Alice’s friendships with Red (and Miranda) are crucial to her survival.

MPS: Cooking, especially barbecue plays a big part in the story. Did you do any kind of research for this?

HCF: Oh, yeah. A lifetime of research. I’m deeply competitive when it comes to brisket. So competitive that, unlike in Ghost Dagger, where I did share a character’s recipe for Scottish pastries, I didn’t share the character M.A.’s recipes in Ghost Next Door for the dry rub or the mop she uses on her prize-winning brisket, or for the secret technique that keeps it juicy and not burned on the bottom. Like many others, I’ve spent decades pursuing the perfect brisket, whether mine or someone else’s. An all-time best was the brisket taco with the “green sauce” from a food truck on the courthouse square in Fort Davis…EPIC. I will share the recipe for that green sauce on the website.

As to the Coffee Creek Cook-Off, the town adapted the actual Lone Star Barbecue Society Rules.

MPS: One of things that makes your books work is how even characters that are just on a few pages pop. Do you have an approach in writing every person Alice encounters?

HCF: Yes. Even when characters get bit parts, they play an important role in the plot. Alice pays attention to them, watches them, listens to them. She picks up key clues from them. So they must be as alive, as vivid, as any main character—but they have less time to make that impression!

Characters reflect people I’ve met, worked with, been scared of, been enchanted by. Real people. Like the south, the southwest revels in its characters. The guy at the garage, the old man who loads hay at the feed store, the plumber planning to start a commercial venture with marijuana, the clerk at the post office—they revel in their independence, they expand into their own stories, they’re comfortable in their own skins. They don’t try to look like everyone, or talk like everyone.

MPS: As a writer, what has made Alice a character worth coming back to?

HCF: Great question. Alice isn’t perfect. She’s insecure, introverted, critical. And she’s driven. As a lawyer she feels absolutely compelled to finish what she signed on for, what her clients need done. She’s sometimes short-tempered and hasty, because she’s infuriated by people who try to intimidate her or her clients. I admire her strong sense of justice. And you know, Alice loves mystery novels…I have to admire a fellow mystery-lover.

 

REVIEW- NOVEMBER ROAD BY LOU BERNEY

November Road: A Novel Cover ImageLou Berney’s third book, The Long And Far Away Gone, proved him to be a major talent. He took two poignant mystery stories, tied them through theme, and deftly examined his characters through use of the detective story. With his latest, November Road, Berney uses the gangster thriller, tying two souls together through an American tragedy.

The story unravels the week after the JFK assassination. Frank Guidry, a Cajun fixer for New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello, realizes the murder is tied to the car he was asked to drop off at Dealy Plaza. Knowing he is a loose end Marcello has to cut, he hits the road to Vegas where Carlos’ rivals may help him.

Along the way, he meets Charlotte Roy, whose car has broken down. Charlotte took her two daughter and the dog and left her alcoholic husband. She yearns to make a life where she is more than a housewife. Guidry offers to drive all of them to California, since they will provide great cover. The situations both are escaping and the time on the road leads to an intense relationship, while a mob hitter, Barone, closes in.

Berney plays the plot, period, and each character like  jazz instruments in a melancholy ballad. We spend several chapters with both Guidry and Charlotte so we understand who they are and where they are coming from. Both want the exact opposite of what the other wants, yet embody that desire of the other. The relationship is both believable and bittersweet. The fact that it takes place during a national tragedy lends to the emotions. it also reinforces the story’s theme of fate. Berney looks at how each character faces fate and asks if it can be shaped. He then has Barone turns up in chapters like a steady beat of death growing faster faster. Berney even creates him with care, presenting something more than just a cold professional killer.

November Road is a thriller that taps into honest emotions that enhance the crime thriller it presents. By tying his characters into the JFK assassination, Berney examines loss, evolution, and human connection. In a way it becomes a reverse Casablanca, saying the lives of two people do at least mean a hill of beans. However, there is still an understanding of needed sacrifice.

THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON BOOK CLUB TAKES A FICTIONAL LOOK AT A TRUE CRIME

The Long Drop: A Novel Cover ImageFor October, The Murder In The Afternoon book club will look at one of Scotland’s most notorious crimes through the pen of one it’s finest authors. Denise Mina’s The Long Drop looks at The Beast Of Birkenshaw who murdered eight people around the Glasgow area in the late fifties. Mina takes the facts and blends a fiction that creates something more personal and even darker.

Two of the killer’s victims were the wife and daughter of William Watt who was originally under suspicion. The book begins with a meeting Watt’s lawyer has arranged with Watt and Peter Manuel, a petty criminal who says he has knowledge of where the murder weapon is. He agrees to show Watt the evidence and tell him more, if they ditch the counselor. The two have a nightmare pub crawl that Mina weaves through Manuel’s trial for the murders.

Mina uses both stories to examine moral and social aberrations, delving into media, class, and both sins of commission and omission. Everyone who has read this book has loved it and come away with their own interesting take.  Share yours with us Monday, October 15th, at 1PM, on BookPeople’s third floor. The book is 10% off for those planning to attend.

 

IN HER BONES by Kate Moretti

In Her Bones: A Novel Cover ImageI’ve been really excited about the resurgence of the psychological thriller—while I read all over the crime fiction genre, I especially enjoy reading about authentic women trapped in desperate situations (of their own making or not)—but they can occasionally be formulaic. The reader brings certain expectations, and for me those were blown out of the water with Kate Moretti’s latest, In Her Bones.

The story revolves around 30-year old Edie Beckett—a state employee with just a tenuous hold on sobriety and an unhealthy relationship with her brother.  The latter is the only one who knows that their shared history includes a mother who lives on death row, the convicted killer of 6 women. As Edie tries to exist outside the spotlight of her mother’s infamy, she fights a growing obsession—an unhealthy fascination with the families of her mother’s victims. One night she crosses a line and a man ends up dead—and suddenly Edie has become the prime suspect for his murder, with the detective who arrested her mother (and who has taken a keen interest in Edie) hot on her trail. She decides to go underground to find the real killer and clear her name but as she runs into dead ends, she starts to question whether perhaps she has more in common with her mother than she thought, and wonders if she too might be capable of murder.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that you could change your hair color, throw on glasses and different clothes and go underground. I’m also fascinated by the amount of information you can dig up on the internet –it’s truly disturbing how little privacy we have. Moretti takes these concepts and weaves a twisted tale of a young woman trying desperately to escape a childhood of trauma. This was one of those page-turners that kept me up way past my bedtime (but only for the one night it took to finish!)

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of 6 previous novels, most recently the critically acclaimed The Blackbird Season. Her style has been compared to that of Ruth Ware and Megan Miranda, so anyone who likes the darker side of the domestic thriller won’t want to miss this one.

 

SUPPORTING THE BLUE: REAVIS WORTHAM TALKS ABOUT WRITING, THE ADVANTAGES OF AGE, THE LAW, & HIS LATEST NOVEL

Reavis Worham’s latest in his Red River mystery series, Gold Dust, has the folks who keep the law in nineteen sixties Central Springs, Texas, and their families off in different directions with plots involving a CIA experiment, modern cattle rustles, and a fake gold rush. On October 9th Reavis will be at BookPeople with Melissa Lenhardt (Heresy) to discuss their books, but we grabbed him ahead of time for a few questions.

Image result for reavis worthamMysteryPeople Scott: What aspects of the sixties did you want to explore in Gold Dust?

Reavis Wortham: The initial idea came from the true story of a CIA experiment in 1950 called Operation Sea-Spray, in which a supposedly benign bacteria was sprayed over the city of San Francisco in a simulated biological warfare attack. A number of citizens fell ill with pneumonia-like illnesses, and at least one person died as a result.

So as usual, I wondered, “What if?” What if something similar happened to the tiny northeast community of Center Springs at the end of the 1960s, that complicated decade full of war, civil unrest, and space travel? As in all my novels, I thrust normal people in abnormal situations and watch how the characters respond to an unexpected world of challenges. What happens if someone starts a gold rush in Northeast Texas while at the same time cattle rustlers murder a local farmer in a completely separate incident? How does law enforcement separate these crimes that might be connected?

I’ve heard stories of gold buried and lost in Lamar County, and after the novel came out, I learned of a real gold mine near Chicota, Texas.

So after wandering around a bit with this answer, the truth is I wanted to explore the ultimate question of what Constable Ned Parker would do if his family faces this personal danger from a government he trusts, while at the same time an entire world of mystery swirls around the community. I honestly didn’t know he’d load up with an old friend and head for Washington D.C. to find out who was responsible for nearly killing Top, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Gold Dust (Red River Mysteries #7) Cover ImageMPS: You’re near the end of the decade. How has it affected Center Springs?

RW: Small towns are like small pools or stock tanks, with little exposed on the surface, but if you could peer underwater you’d find an entire hidden world full of beauty and danger. I think of that tiny community as a vortex, the swirling center of situations that involve the characters that have grown through the seven Red River novels. We’re all impacted by our decisions, and oftentimes, the decisions of others.

As I said earlier, the 1960s were packed with significant events that come in from the outside world and involve people who only want to live their lives with as little trauma and drama as possible. When outside influences impact those farmers who live off the land, they respond with force. Center Springs wants to be left alone, but when the world intrudes, it changes the community a little at a time, drawing them into life beyond Lamar County.

The community is scarred from those intrusions, but holds on to the past in many ways, because these were people who survived the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, and are enduring Vietnam. They still raise their own crops, slaughter cattle and hogs for food, and often wear the same style of clothes year after year. They’re hardened even more by the end of the decade, but still hold dear those same senses of family and community they’ve always possessed.

MPS: You brought retired Texas Ranger Tom Bell back. What does he bring to the ensemble?

RW: I left Tom Bell wounded and dying in Mexico at the end of The Right Side of Wrong. Since then, I haven’t been to a signing or speaking event that someone didn’t ask if he was ever coming back. Tom proved to be a favorite character who has his own following and I realized he needed to return from the dead.

He has many of the same moral values as Ned Parker, but he’s darker, more experienced in the outside world, and will step over that gray line between right and wrong when necessary. He’s tough, smart as a whip, experienced in more ways than we have yet to realize, and full of surprises. Tom is that guy who watches, waits, and when necessary, responds in a way that most true Texans appreciate, dispensing justice without remorse, because it’s the right thing to do.

MPS: Ned and Tom, the oldest characters, handle themselves the best. What does age give them over the younger folks?

RW: They handle situations due to their experience as lawmen. The younger characters are on a learning curve, and sometimes hesitate to make dramatic decisions, whereas Ned and Tom will do what’s necessary to protect family and freedom. They’ve already made the mistakes younger people are yet to experience, and operate with that knowledge in the back of their minds.

MPS: You have at least four plots running that the reader follows without any problem. How did you approach those spinning plates?

RW: There are four? Dang. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Honestly, I write these novels without an outline, and simply follow the characters as they stumble through life. When a plot line diverges, I’ll follow it to see what happens. Each chapter is a surprise for us all. I guess if I had to examine what I do, I’ll simply say that by the time I finish a chapter that follows one character or plot line, I want to see what the rest are doing, so I’ll just “change the channel.” It’s satisfying to know that readers can progress without getting lost. That means I’ve done my job.

MPS: Many of your characters are in law enforcement. What do you want to get across about that profession to the reader?

RW: I have a simple philosophy. If you don’t break the law, you won’t find yourself in opposition with those who wear a badge.

Growing up, my grandfather, Joe Armstrong, was the constable in Lamar County Precinct 3. I heard from my parents and grandparents from day one that law enforcement officers were my best friends. I know friends and family members who have been police officers, sheriff’s deputies, U.S. Marshals, and judges. They are all that stands between us and anarchy.

Just look around and see how quickly things can go bad. I support the blue, and though there are always bad apples, or terrible mistakes, these men and women who wear badges have my utmost respect.