The BookPeople Podcast Presents: ‘Tough Guys and Dangerous Dames’

9781944520687 On August 31st we had a fun panel on BookPeople’s third floor, “Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames: A Discussion Of Hard Boiled Fiction” to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Stark House Press and the recent release of their collection The Best Of Manhunt.

Participants were the anthology’s editor, John Vorzimmer, author and crime fiction historian Rick Ollerman, author and owner of the Boss Light bookstore, Tim Bryant, and authors Josh Stallings and Joe R. Lansdale. We may have confused as much as enlightened, but some knowledge was dropped and it was very entertaining. You can replay this fantastic discussion here now!

You can still grab a signed copy of The Best of Manhunt at BookPeople in-store and online now.

Review of Attica Locke’s ‘Heaven, My Home’

9780316363402_c3effHeaven, My Home is the second book to feature Attica Locke’s black Texas Ranger, Darren Matthews. She has created a character who takes us in a very personal way through black Texas culture and examine the American tange and tension of modern race relations. In this second book, Locke shows how those issues are tied together over centuries.

The story takes place during the holidays after the 2016  election. Matthews is riding the desk and the eye of a D.A. due to the events from the first novel, Bluebird, Bluebird. To hopefully get out of this jam, he takes the case of a missing nine-year old son of an Aryan Brotherhood member in prison for murder, The search takes him to a town whose main business is giving tourists a taste of of the antebellum south. As Matthews digs deeper, he discovers ties to the boy’s family that had to do with the dark side of that history as well as getting a black man accused of killing the boy into further danger.

Fans of James Lee Burke should take to these books. Matthews’ Texas past hold on to him as hard as Robicheaux’s Louisiana history. However, with an African American hero, the canvas is bigger and allows for more depth. A relationship with a friend or order from a superior contains different shades and meanings. Locke examines these complexities in the eyes of a complex hero who often has to question if he’s on the right side, even if he is on the side of the law.

Locke and Ranger Matthews deliver on the promise of Bluebird, Bluebird and then some. It looks at race relations through Texas culture both past and present. After you finish reading , you may wonder if our country is less racist or that if racism learned to be more nuanced.


Both Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home are available at BookPeople in-store and online.

New Interview with Craig Johnson

9780525522508_943ddOur MysteryPeople Pick of The Month for September is Craig Johnson’s The Land Of Wolves. It places Johnson’s series hero, Wyoming Sheriff Longmire, in a place of personal vulnerability, launching the character into a new cycle of his life.
On the acclaimed site, Crime Reads, Mystery People’s Crime Fiction Coordinator, Scott Montgomery, interviewed him about the character and the continued awareness of Walt after the popular TV series, Longmire. Read it here.

Scott M.’s Review of Jamie Mason’s ‘The Hidden Things.

9781501177316_1daddJamie Mason’s The Hidden Things is an of-the-moment take on one of the world’s greatest unsolved art heists. Fourteen-year old Carly Liddell is walking home from school when she notices a young man following her. She isn’t fast enough to evade him, and he pushes his way inside her home. But Carly’s a badass, and she fights back hard—hard enough that she leaves him out cold on the entryway floor. Carly knows that her stepfather John has installed a series of security cameras outside the front of their home, but she and her mother are surprised to learn that there is also a hidden camera inside the house. While this is a boon for Carly—the attack is caught on a video loop that quickly goes viral and leads to the apprehension of Carly’s assailant—it’s not great news for John. The interior camera has picked up a partial shot of the painting that hangs inside the entry, and it’s a painting that John would prefer remain hidden. When the video goes viral some shady characters from John’s past come looking for him and the painting, threatening to expose a past that he would prefer remain hidden.

Mason’s story was inspired by the largest unsolved art theft in history. Thirteen works of art valued at close to a half billion dollars was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and this novel explores what may have happened to one of those pieces—a lesser known work by Govaert Flinck called “Landscape With Obelisk.”

Mason takes this thoroughly unique concept and puts her masterful word-smithing to work, crafting a wholly original thriller that explores the hidden secrets in one man’s past. Mason herself has aphantasia, which means she doesn’t see images in her mind. It’s been said that people who lack one sense make up for it with enhanced abilities in other senses, and perhaps we have Mason’s aphantasia to thank for her amazing way with words–she can string words together in a uniquely evocative way. The discerning reader is in for a treat with this one–the prose is as thrilling as the plot.

Jamie Mason will be presenting The Hidden Things alongside John Vercher and his novel, Three-Fifths, on September 22nd at 2PM. They will be in conversation with Scott M., our resident Crime Fiction Coordinator

Look Around: An Interview with John Vercher, Author of ‘Three-Fifths’

9781947993679_3c3edBookPeople will be hosting John Vercher and Jamie Mason on September 22nd at 2PM. Vercher’s debut novel Three-Fifths examines race and identity through the plight of Bobby Saraceno, a bi-racial young man, who witnesses a hate crime committed by his white supremacist freind. Vercher deals with these issues head on through some well fleshed out characters. Mr. Vercher was kind enough to take a few questions about the people who populate his novel.



  1. Which came first, the character of Bobby or the premise he is thrown in?

Bobby came first. His story has been bouncing around in my head since I was an undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh. I was a freshman when I took a course in Black Film History and had been introduced to the “tragic mulatto” and passing narratives with the film Imitation of Life, which as young mixed-race man had a significant impact on me. From there, I discovered books like Nella Larsen’s Passing, as well as more contemporary novels like Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, and wanted to create my own version of that kind of story.

  1. It seems that many books have difficulty depicting a character with extremely racist beliefs without falling into stereotype. How did you avoid doing that with Aaron?

No villain thinks they’re the villain—they’re the hero of their own story. Making Aaron a caricature would have made him far less interesting or terrifying. The most intimidating “bad guys,” to me, whether in books or in film, are the ones where, to our discomfort, we see some of ourselves in. I find it far more compelling to read antagonists who are not inhumanly evil, but humanly flawed—a  person, that despite their terrible actions, have real feelings and connections with other people. Aaron doesn’t think he’s evil—he believes he’s justified in everything he’s done because of what’s been done to him, and he’s not afraid to hold up a mirror to those who choose to judge him—whether that be Bobby or the reader.

  1. What made you decide this was a story that needed to be told from multiple points of view?

It was mostly a decision based on rhythm. I love novels that switch from multiple POV’s because each section almost acts as a cliffhanger. When it’s done effectively, it takes readers up to the brink, and just when they think things are really going to kick into high gear, the author pumps the brakes. It’s almost a necessary breather, to slow things down, whether it be character development or plot, and it makes for a page-turner. I hope I was able to effectively do that in Three-Fifths.

  1. What made you decide to set the story during the O.J. trial?

The trial came just a few years after the L.A. Riots, and the wounds were still open. The O.J. trial so fiercely divided people along both racial and class lines, and contributed to the tension and mistrust of police officers by people of color. I was in Pittsburgh as a student at that time, so placing the story in that context helped me to place myself in the environment to sort of “look around” to tell the story and capture what I observed at that time.

  1. Each character in this book comes off as a complete, complex, breathing human being. How do you approach your characters when constructing them?

As a reader, I’m, drawn to literary fiction—as long as something happens. What draws me to it, though, are the fully fleshed-out characters. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick—not just what they’re thinking, but what they say, how they say it, and what motivates what and how they say these things. The best writing advice I’d ever heard was write the books you want to read, so I try to create characters that feel like I know them in real life (as pretentious as that might sound). I love Vonnegut’s notion of putting characters up a tree and then throwing rocks at them. Characters in trouble will immediately be more complex and interesting to me.

  1. You also demonstrate your knowledge of comic books in the book. Any super hero you’d like to write for?
Oh, man—all of them? Recently, my oldest son, while watching one of the MCU movies, asked me why there weren’t any Falcon movies. He said Iron Man and Captain America have their own movies—why not Falcon? So I’d LOVE to write a Falcon graphic novel. In addition to writing for existing characters, I recently wrote a short story that I’m going to turn into a longer work, but I haven’t decided yet if that will be another novel or a graphic novel. If there are any comic book editors out there reading—hit me up!

Don’t forget to stop by BookPeople on September 22nd at 2PM and catch John Vercher and Jamie Mason in conversation with BookPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery.


Review of John Vercher’s ‘Three-Fifths’

9781947993679_3c3edJohn Vercher wrote an attention-getting debut with Three-Fifths in the best way. He takes on the incendiary topic of race and the violence that comes out of it yet does it in a meditative way, knowing it can’t help but be provocative. He examines these issues in a very intimate way, by creating characters who are fully fledged people dealing with those issues.

At the center of the tale is Bobby Serrenco, a young bi-racial man passing himself off as white his whole life. He lives with his mother Isabell, an alcoholic trying to do her best who work with him in the same restaurant. The only thing he seems to live for is comic books.

Bobby picks up his friend Aaron who has just been released from prison. partly due to a beating and sexual assault by black inmates and joining the Aryan Brotherhood to survive, Aaron has become a white supremacist. We feel for Bobby as Aaron sprays racist rhetoric out of his mouth, not knowing what we know. Soon, he will have to deal with not just Aaron’s actions, but his words.

They stop at a popular Philly eatery for Aaron’s first meal back out. A young black man notices Aarons’ prison tats and verbally berates him. It leads to a scuffle in the parking lot, where Aaron shatters the man’s face and puts him in a coma, making Bobby both a witness and accessory.

The physician treating the victim of this hate crime is Dr. Robert Winton, Bobby’s father. A chance meeting with Isabell at a bar triggers the other thread of the story, intertwining with the one of the crime, and setting off a series of circumstances that forces everyone of these characters to face who they are and the secrets they’ve kept.

Vercher mines the issue of race deeply and with a mindful precision. He is not interested in condemnation. He assumes the reader believes racism is evil. Through well constructed characters that breathe and move through their messy lives, he examines race and class in how each person deals with it philosophically, emotionally, and through interactions with one another.

Bobby’s dilemma, takes the difficulty many of us had to deal with with a bigoted loved


 one, and amplifies it to eleven. He agonizes as he justifies who Booby has become, defending him, while he wants to tear down that thinking. He reflects back to when they were both bonded by being comic book nerds in school, making them the other together. The crime not only tests his morality, but his identity, something that is even pushed further when he meets his father.

Dr. Winton is also trapped in his secrets and past. He has been trapped in a cultural double standard as a black man. He must excel to shed low expectations of who he is thought to be, but has to “stay black’ to many in his family. He carries the same weight in baggage as his son.

Aaron could simply be the lost, racist friend, but we get his unending loyalty to Bobby.

The book does two smart things with setting. Working  class Philadelphia serves as the
backdrop. Most of the characters have little That loyalty is a double edged sword, since he expects Bobby to go to the same extremes for him. He has learned that hate is a better way to survive than to live in fear. His racism is more shield than outlook, yet he has to believe it with full conviction to protect him.

respite or escape from their situation. Identity is both currency and trap. In this respect, I couldn’t help but think of many of George Pelecanos’s works. He places it during the O.J. trial, where, for those who remember, it seemed most people seemed to publicly voice their opinions on race, in restaurants and the workplace, no matter how misguided or wrong headed.

Three-Fifths is the first book to come from Agora, an imprint from the impressive independent publisher Polis. Its mission is to bring more diverse voices to print. Three-Fifths proves that this endeavor not only does good deeds, it provides great fiction.

John Vercher will be at BookPeople on September 22 at 2PM presenting his debut novel, Three-Fifths, alongside Jamie Mason and her latest, The Hidden Things.

What Meike Read Over the Summer

The outside temps have made it clear that summer is seemingly going to stay FOREVER, and what’s the best way to chill in the summer heat? You know it: flop down under the nearest ceiling fan and grab a book—one so riveting that you simply cannot leave that lovely breeze. Below are a few I’ve enjoyed recently—you have plenty of time to check them out before sweater weather!

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz:  I’ve been a huge fan of Lutz’s work since The Spellman Files series so I was thrilled that she had a new book out and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. It’s set in a second-tier boarding school and begins when new teacher9781984818232_b9eeb Alex Witt arrives and starts to uncover secrets that have the potential to destroy the school. But Alex has secrets of her own, and an unknown enemy who may know a little too much about them. I can’t say much more without revealing spoilers—suffice to say that this completely original thriller is almost impossible to summarize and not to be missed. It’s definitely going to be in my top 10 for 2019!

The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker: Austin author Chandler Baker’s adult debut (she’s published 5 YA novels) was chosen as the July pick for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club. It’s a thriller about a group of female coworkers who sue a male executive in their Dallas firm for sexual harassment.  When he falls to his death from the 18th floor it’s not clear whether he’s committed suicide—or perhaps been helped on his way.  A timely examination of the myriad facets of workplace inequality explored in the context of a thriller.

9780062390011_29ce7Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman: After last year’s Sunburn, I felt like my summer wouldn’t be complete without a Lippman thriller—and this one didn’t disappoint. In 1966 Baltimore, pampered Jewish housewife “Maddie” Schwartz walks out on her husband, determined to carve out a life with meaning. She helps the police solve a murder, which leads to a job at the afternoon newspaper. When the body of a young black woman is found floating in a park, Maddie sees an opportunity to make a name for herself by reporting on the investigation. What I loved most about this one was the unique structure—the story is told from the shifting viewpoints of a number of characters but the narrative is seamlessly woven

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin:  Any true crime podcast addicts out there? This is one you’ll love! True crime podcaster Quentin Garrison examines a killing spree that took place more than 40 years ago—one to which he has a personal connection. The teenage killers were believed to have died in a fire, but Quentin has reason to believe that April Cooper may be alive. Shortly after he contacts the woman he believes may be April, she is almost killed in a brutal home invasion. While she lies in a coma, her daughter is forced to confront how little she really knows about her mother’s past—a realization that makes her question who her mother really is. Could she have been that teenage girl who was at least partially responsible for the murders of a dozen victims?

Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: Ware is a master of suspense, and this is her modern9781501188770_a23de take on Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. London nanny Rowan Caine is looking for something completely different online when she stumbles across the job of her dreams—private nanny to a family living in a luxurious Scottish Highlands manse. But the dream quickly becomes a nightmare when one of the children dies and Rowan is arrested for murder. The story is told in the form of letters Rowan writes to an attorney as she explains the events leading up to the tragedy. The suspense builds slowly and then ends with some gut-wrenching twists.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena: This book starts with a bang when a brutal murder takes place in the first chapter. The story then shifts pace when we learn about the idyllic suburb in upstate New York where the victim lived.  All is not quite as it seems and the tension builds slowly as Lapena gradually uncovers hidden secrets—it appears any number of people may have had a reason to kill the victim. The slow burn builds to a satisfyingly explosive conclusion.

9780451491725_8d9cbMy Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing: The lovely Millicent and her husband seem to have it all—a beautiful home in a prestigious gated community; successful careers (he’s the country club tennis pro and she’s a realtor); 2 great kids; a marriage of over 15 years. But things have gotten a little stale in the bedroom. Normal people take a vacation or buy sex toys—this couple finds that getting away with murder is the best aphrodisiac. Any book that combines sex and murder is not to be missed!

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager: This was one of the most anticipated books of the summer and it certainly lives up to the hype! New Yorker Jules Larsen is desperate for money and a place to live, and she thinks she’s found the perfect solution—an apartment-sitting gig at the exclusive Bartholomew. All she has to do is live in a vacant apartment for 3 months and pick up a $12,000 paycheck. Sound too good to be true? I think you know it is. The plot is super twisty and you won’t see the end coming in a million years.’

Meike is a part-time bookseller and event staffer at BookPeople with a penchant for thrilling reads. Her picks and many more like them can be found at BookPeople in-store and online now!

Interview with Reed Farrel Coleman, Author of ‘Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill’

9780399574979With The Bitterest Pill, Reed Farrel Coleman’s latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s character, Paradise Massachusetts Police Chief Jesse Stone, he delves into the town growing and taking on more big city crimes when a drug ring’s merchandise takes the lives of some of the teens. We talked to Reed about the evolution of the character and his surroundings.





  1. What drew you to looking into the opioid crisis as a backdrop?

Truthfully, I hate theme-driven books. So while the crime in this novel is centered around the opioid epidemic, it’s not a book about the epidemic itself, but rather how the epidemic resonates throughout an entire community. I was inspired by reading novels by two of my writing heroes, Don Winslow and Michael Connelly, in which each takes a different slant at the epidemic. I thought I might have a third take on how it rears its ugly head in small town Massachusetts.

  1. There is an interesting parallel with Jesse dealing with people addicted to drugs while he is doing his best to contend with his alcohol addiction. Where do you see him with his battle?

That is exactly what appealed to me as a writer. How does a man battling and struggling with his own addiction deal with other people struggling with an addiction to a controlled substance. Jess is many things, but he isn’t a hypocrite. So he doesn’t take a holier than thou stance. He understands the insidious nature of addition, so he’s not trying to get the users into trouble. He’s trying to find them help while at the same time trying to stem the flow into Paradise. Readers will see several junctures in the novel when Jesse is reminded of his own addiction and how it colors his decisions.

  1. How do you see the relationship with his new ound son effecting his life?

Well, there are several surprises there for readers. It’s always important for Jesse to have more than one issue to deal with. In the past it’s usually been the crime he’s trying to solve and his drinking and/or his relationship with women. Now that Jesse’s been to rehab and is going to AA meetings, he’s got to deal with a fully grown son who has shown up in town and who is living with him. It’s a fascinating dance between father and son, but I’ll leave it there.

  1. Jesse has to interview and work with a lot of teenagers in his investigation. What do you have to keep in mind when writing for teens?

Since Jesse is a new father—although his son is an adult—he is new to the minefield. He has in several earlier books dealt with teenagers, but now he has skin in the game. His perspective is very different from those earlier novels. Jesse realizes this and seeks Molly’s advice. It’s her voice Jesse hears in his head when dealing with the teenagers.

  1. Due to events in the series, Jesse deals with Vinnie Morris more. What has made him a fun character for you?

Well, having grown up in Brooklyn, mob guys are always a fun subject. And Vinnie is by his very nature an interesting man. A sharp dresser and a dangerous man, he’s also prescient and smart. He often gives Jesse, with possibly the exception of Molly, the best advice. It is Vinnie, after all, who had warned Jesse that as Boston encroached on Paradise, its sins would encroach as well. And, of course, there is an explosive secret between them dating back to Diana’s murder and Mr. Peepers. They are bound together, for better or worse.

  1. The book also deals with the town of Paradise itself growing. Are you doing this to give yourself more venues to explore or did it just come organically to the story?

One of the things I realized as I took over the series and re-reading the canon was that I could only keep things local for so long. I didn’t want to risk boring the readers or myself. First, I expanded Parker’s Paradise to include different areas—The Bluffs, The Swap, Pilgrim Cove—and then thought the town had to evolve. I don’t enjoy static series. That’s why I aged Moe in my Moe Prager series. In each of the nine novels in that series, Moe was a different age, his marital status was different, his job status was different. It kept me interested. I can’t really do that with Jesse, so I changed the town instead.

You can purchase Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill at BookPeople in-store and online now.

Laura Oles Joins Murder in the Afternoon Discussion of ‘Daughters of Bad Men’

Our September Murder In The Afternoon book club will be discussing the book with it’s author in person. Laura Oles has already won accolades and awards, even though she is relatively new to the fiction scene. Her debut novel that we will be reading, Daughters Of Bad Men, is a MysteryPeople favorite.

The book introduces us to Jamie Rush, a skip tracer operating out of Port Arlene, Texas (a fictionalized Port Aransas) with her hulking business partner Cookie Hinojosa and Deuce, the bull dog she won in a poker game. Most of her skills come from the con artist family she distances herself from, but her brother comes to her for a favor. Jamie’s niece has gone missing. Her love for another innocent trying to break from the clan makes her take on the job. The search leads to a dangerous game and the kind of trouble she tried to escape.

Daughters Of Bad Men is a first rate take on the private eye novel. The characters are fun and engaging and the plot is sharp. Laura is sharp and entertaining as her novel, so everything is in place for a good discussion. Join us on BookPeople’s third floor, Monday, September 16th, at 1PM. The book is 10% off to those planning to attend.

Next month we will be discussing The Man Who Came Uptown with author George Pelecanos calling in.