MARK PRYOR SITS IN WITH THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON BOOK CLUB

The Blood Promise: A Hugo Marston Novel Cover ImageOn December 17th, the Murder In The Afternoon Book Club will be celebrating the holidays during  our discussion. We’re bringing snacks as well as our opinions this time. I’m planning on making my Golden Grahams s’mores. we will also be joined by Mark Pryor, author of Blood Promise, the book we will be discussing.

Blood Promise is the third book to feature Hugo Marston, head of security for our embassy in Paris. He is assigned to protect a U.S. senator brokering a treaty at a country chateau. After some odd occurrences, the senator disappears. Hugo finds his search tied to an antique sailor’s box and a secret that goes as far back as The French Revolution.

Come join us on BookPeople’s third floor, Monday, December 17th, at 1PM. You’ll meet some great people and a great writer. The book is 10% off for those planning to participate.

Interview With Meredith Lee

Shrouded Authors Dodge Terrorists & Rack Up Frequent Flyer Miles


The authors of Shrouded, the Austin writing team of Dixie Lee Evatt and Sue Meredith Cleveland, dodged terrorists, persisted even when itineraries almost fell apart, and racked up frequent flyer miles to research their debut mystery. Evatt and Cleveland write under the pen name Meredith Lee.

Mystery People Scott: Shrouded introduces Crispin Leads, a scrappy graduate student with a penchant for finding trouble in some of our favorite European cities. How did you manage the multiple locations necessary for the plot?

Sue: When we began mapping out the plot that became Shrouded, we knew it wouldn’t ring true unless we walked where the characters walked. We were ready to travel. What we didn’t count on was how the havoc of world events and family tragedy would influence our story. Our protagonist studies burial rituals. It became personal for me when I lost a fifth family member during the early days of writing this book. Numb, I planned a trip to France and Italy with friends. Ten days before my departure, terrorists flew into the World Trade Center. I thought long and hard about whether or not to cancel. I decided to step into the unknown and met my traveling companions at Boston’s Logan Airport. The terminal and our flight were nearly empty. Ghostly. Yet, as we toured France and then Italy, people embraced us and raised their glasses to America, as if we were a proxy for an injured nation. I’m sure that sense of tenderness and loss made its way into what I wrote about Italy and France. How could it not?

Dixie: Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, makes a cameo appearance in our plot, so I made it a point to include a visit to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid while in Spain. The plan seemed innocuous enough. However, a few days before I’d been in Pamplona as a visiting lecturer at the Universidad de Navarra, roaming Old Town one evening, looking for inspiration from the ghost of Papa Hemingway, I wandered into the middle of an ETA demonstration. The militant Basque separatist group set off explosives and police were chasing members through the narrow stone streets. A local woman, who could tell I was a clueless tourist, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to safety. I’ll confess I was both frightened and exhilarated by the episode. I didn’t realize its full impact until I stood before Guernica a few days later. I’d first seen the painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 1970s where it lived on temporary loan because Picasso wouldn’t allow his masterpiece to hang in Spain as long as Franco ruled. Now, instead of making logistical notes (Crispin comes in that door, exits there, etc.) it was as if I was seeing the massacre of Basque innocents for the first time. Influenced by what had happened on the streets of Pamplona, I wrote pages of emotional prose. Most of this stream of consciousness found its way to the “cutting room floor.” As Carol Dawson reminds us, meaning often lingers like a shadow, cast by the words that are no longer on the page.

MPS: In what other ways did your travels influence your writing?

Sue: Two come to mind. Time. Perspective. Travel, spread out over years, took more time than writing, as did the perspective I gained by ruminating on what I’d observed about myself as I navigated other cultures. Whether I travel abroad, or to a neighboring town, it is the history of the place and people that I find riveting. The stories embody the best and worst of what the human race is capable of achieving. Often those stories are found on tombstones and in crypts.

MPS: At the end of Shrouded you give us a sneak preview of the next Crispin Leads adventure, Digging up the Dead. Am I right to assume it takes place in Egypt? If so, did Meredith Lee run into Middle East trouble while scouting location?

Dixie: Of course. I was making plans to go with a tour group to see Giza, Luxor, Valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel at the same time the Bush Administration was beating the drums of war with its WMD case against Iraq. The day before I was set to fly out, every person in the tour group cancelled. I checked with a Syracuse University colleague who had worked at the State Department with Colin Powell. He assured me that as long as I didn’t linger, I would be safe. So I went, a Globus “tour group” of one. My last night in Cairo, the streets were already attracting anti-war demonstrations. Time to go home. A few days later the U.S. launched Shock and Awe.

BookPeople will host a book signing for the authors of Shrouded at 7 p.m. on November 10, 2017.  More information about Meredith Lee and Shrouded can be found at http://www.meredithlee.net.

Sisters in Crime Celebrates 30: Guest Post from Francine Paino

sisters in crime logoThis October, Sisters in Crime celebrates its 30th Anniversary. We reached out to HOTSINC (Heart of Texas Chapter, Sisters in Crime) for a few guest posts to help our readers celebrate the work of Sisters in Crime. Our first post comes from Secretary of the Heart of Texas Chapter Francine Paino. You can celebrate with Sisters in Crime at BookPeople on Sunday, October 8th, from 2-4 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. There will be cake. 

History, Mystery, and Crime for Women Writers

  • Guest Post by Francine Paino

In 1986 forces in the universe converged and an idea materialized into reality through the efforts of Sara Paretsky, Phyllis Whitney and a host of women writers. Change was in the air. It was time for women to have a place at the table as crime and mystery authors.

In an impassioned speech before a conference of women writers at Hunter College in New York City, Paretsky expressed her concerns over the trend of women being portrayed as either vampires or victims. She had, in 1982, introduced the writing world to her lady investigator V.I. Warshawski, a believable protagonist with the strength and intellectual capacity to traverse the wicked streets and take on the ugly underbelly of society: the criminal class. And now another first for Paretsky. Time for women crime and mystery writers to band together to promote and support each other.

The cause was also advanced through the now famous letter written by Phyllis Whitney to the Mystery Writers of America, pointing out that women authors weren’t being taken seriously or nominated for awards. At first, her letter was dismissed, but Mystery Writers of America soon learned that these women were to be taken seriously. They would not be ignored.

Paretsky convened the initial meeting of interested women at the Baltimore Bouchercon in October 1986. A steering committee was formed and its members started a newsletter and organized information on publishing books. The ball wasn’t rolling, it was cannon shot, flying through the air reaching all corners of the country. Sisters in Crime was born.

Nancy Pickard, an original member and the first president of the national organization said it was scary. She described the hard work with no guarantee of success. It took determination and the belief that women crime and mystery writers had arrived in their corner of the women’s movement. They never wavered reaching out to as many women writers as they could contact through the mailing lists they assembled.

A short ten years later, in 1996, Elaine Raco Chase recalled that Publishers Weekly referred to Sisters in Crime as “ubiquitous.” She had to look up the word. It wasn’t an insult. It meant that Sisters in Crime were everywhere, and indeed they were.

The dream of these forward thinking women reached across the nation and arrived in Austin in the early 90’s. The Heart of Texas chapter was formed. The 1994 president, Betsy Tyson, a published author and member of the Texas Section-ASCE, one of the largest sections of the American Society of Civil Engineers, led the organization dedicated to the goal set out by the national leadership. They were “committed to helping women who write, review, buy or sell crime fiction.”

One of its stellar members, the late Barbara Burnett Smith, president of the national organization from 1999-2000 and an activist whose many accomplishments advanced the cause of the organization, was also dedicated to growing the Heart of Texas Chapter. After her untimely death in 2005, the Barbara Burnett Smith Mentoring Authors Foundation was established in her honor to uphold one of the major goals of Sisters in Crime: to support and provide mentoring to help budding writers, because in the words of Sara Paretsky, a founding member and the woman credited with starting it all, “you have to be alone to write, but being alone is very painful. An unsolvable condundrum,” but as a member of Sisters in Crime, you are not alone.

The Heart of Texas Chapter has been a base of support and encouragement for its writing members. It is also an open and welcoming organization for others, non-writers, readers, anyone interested in crime, both fiction and non-fiction, elements of what it takes to write and the informational lectures offered to all.

It’s been thirty years, not a long time in the scheme of life, but time passes, attitudes change, people grow and the Heart of Texas Chapter also continues to grow. It has opened its arms to brother writers in crime, as evidenced by the presidencies of Chuck Tobin in 2001, and Dave Ciambrone in 2011.

Under the current president, Helen Currie Foster, Sisters in Crime has had a great year bringing in fabulously interesting speakers with expertise in subjects ranging from drones to bombs, JAG lawyers, U.S. Marshalls and Cyber Security for the edification of members and the public; there is more to come.  

As we celebrate thirty years of Sisters in Crime, we can be proud of the company we keep from the founders to the current leadership, nationally and locally, as we continue advance the organization. Happy Thirtieth Birthday, Sisters in Crime.     

 

At the Mercy of Storytellers: MysteryPeople Q&A with Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott joins us Tuesday, July 18th, at 7 PM to speak and sign his latest, Blamewhich just so happens to come out the day of the event! Come by the store to be one of the first to get a signed copy. Jeff will be appearing in conversation with fellow Austin-based thriller writer, Meg Gardiner. Before the event, our Meike Alana had a chance to interview Jeff about his latest. 

 

Meike Alana: Your protagonist is Jane, a young woman struggling with amnesia.  You’ve done a marvelous job of depicting the insecurity and angst that any post-adolescent female feels, and here that’s heightened by her inability to remember pivotal moments of her life.  What was your inspiration for the character?

Jeff Abbott: I was basically terrified of writing a 19-year-old female protagonist, but I wanted to write about someone who wasn’t quite a fully formed adult, and who had lost her own memory of those critical high school years where so many young women and men get a sense of who they are and who they want to be. I was hesitant to try this, but some of my fellow authors like Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott encouraged me. Plus, I have two teenaged children, and I think being around them and their wonderful friends gave me some insights into how they think about the world. I think it is all about writing with sensitivity to a character and finding common ground and understanding. No, I don’t know what it’s like to be an amnesiac teenager. I do know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, or alone, or as if no one understands you or likes you. We’ve all been there. But the specifics of what a person feels at a certain point in their life is of course different. I just tried to use my imagination responsibly and respectfully.

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MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE FISHER KING by Melissa Lenhardt

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

fisherkingMelissa Lenhardt’s new Jack McBride mystery, The Fisher King, comes out today, and we decided to make this gem of a Texas noir our pick of the month for November.

Last year Melissa Lenhardt blew us away with her debut, the Texas noir Stillwater.  Set in the titular small town, it introduced us to Stillwater’s new chief of police, former FBI agent Jack McBride.  With a low crime rate and a 5-man police force, the new gig should have been a piece of cake; instead, Jack is immediately confronted with the town’s first crime wave in 30 years.

Jack’s fresh start in Stillwater stems from personal reasons —a year before, his wife walked out with no warning, and when she wasn’t immediately located, Jack’s fellow police officers suspected that he may have engineered her disappearance.  Jack eventually found her (and her much younger lover) and retreated to Stillwater with his teenage son Ethan to escape her memory and the cloud of suspicion that remains.  As he finds his way in the new town, he forges an immediate bond with local businesswoman Ellie Martin and a heated affair ensues.

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MysteryPeople Review: GOOD AS GONE by Amy Gentry

  • Review by Molly Odintz

9780544920958Journalist, novelist and long-time Austinite Amy Gentry joins us here at the store this Thursday, July 28th, at 7 PM to speak and sign her debut thriller, Good As GoneHer debut takes the reader into a torn family coping with the still-unsolved disappearance of their eldest, a decade before. When a young woman with a fantastical tale comes knocking on their door, they work to accept her as their long-lost daughter, yet holes quickly appear in her story, and questions remain as to her identity and her past.

Gentry splits her narrative between the matriarch of the family, Anna, and her reclaimed child, Julie, as they tip-toe around issues of trauma, identity, acceptance and return. Anna’s perspective follows a linear path through the novel; Julie’s perspective is told backwards, with a rotating cast of character names, teasing the reader through much of the novel as to who “Julie” might be, and what role, exactly, Julie played in her own kidnapping. While Gentry’s debut passes Alison Bechdel’s simple test for feminism in fiction (Does a named female character speak to another named female character about a subject other than men?), the many names of “Julie” bring out another side to the named female character – she can be named, over and over again, by those attempting to control her, and with each new name, the core of her identity becomes further separated from any marker as changeable as a name.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Amy Gentry

 

  • Interview by Molly Odintz

 

 

Come by BookPeople Thursday, July 28th, at 7 PM, for Amy Gentry’s official launch of her debut thriller, Good as Gone. Gentry is a journalist, novelist and long-time Austinite. Her debut follows a family as they are reunited with their long-lost daughter, kidnapped at a young age. Happy to have their daughter returned, yet skeptical of her story, they try to form new bonds, heal old wounds and unearth painful truths.

Molly Odintz: Your story, to me, was reminiscent of the story of the changeling – did you set out to play with fairy-tale archetypes?

Amy Gentry: I didn’t set out thinking specifically about fairy tales, although in an early draft I did have a scene of the mom Anna, who is a professor, teaching the Keats’s poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” not fairy tale exactly, but Arthurian legend type stuff. In the poem, a mysterious woman seduces knights and then disappears, leaving them to wander around looking for her for the rest of their lives. Keats is a great source for vanished ladies; I also thought about using “The Eve of St. Agnes.” I took all those scenes out because they were terrible, but they helped me think through some things. Princesses also kept popping up, especially the Frances Hodgson Burnett story The Little Princess, which I’ve always been obsessed with. Princess stories are often lost daughter stories.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Manning Wolfe

 

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Manning Wolfe will be joining Billy Kring and Martin Limón for a panel discussion about using your professional experiences to craft great crime fiction on Tuesday, July 12th, at 7 PM. Her debut novel features Austin attorney Merit Bridges. Meike Alana was able to ask her a few questions about the book and her characters before the event.

Meike Alana: Your character, Merit Bridges, is an attorney living in Austin. You’re an attorney living in Austin. What other similarities are there between you and Merit? What are some differences?

Manning Wolfe: Merit and I share a sense of justice, which is probably what brought both of us to the practice of law. We both fight for the underdog and champion women. I am not Merit, however; she is a hybrid of several lawyers – both female and male – that I’ve known over the years. She sleeps with younger men, wears designer gowns on a regular basis, and is chased by dangerous villains. I’m not nearly that glamorous.

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