MysteryPeople Q&A with Robin Yocum

A Welcome Murder, by Robin Yocum, is our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month for April. The novel follows the quirky denizens of an industrial town as they plot against each other, their actions resulting in unpredictable and unintended consequences. Our reviewer Meike Alana caught up with Robin Yocum to ask him a few questions about his latest. 

  • Interview by Essential MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Meike Alana: This book is both hilariously funny yet at times dark and depraved. Did you set out to hit both of those marks (which you did brilliantly, by the way!)? Or did the book start out one way, and then you added elements of the other?

Robin Yocum: When I start writing, I don’t necessarily have a direction in mind. Once I have a premise for a story, I create the characters and let them interact. When the interaction is good, it’s like taking dictation. There are lots of conversations going on in my head, and sometimes the conversations are funny. I am admittedly my own best friend, and I’ll be sitting at the computer laughing along with my characters. The humor seems to appear naturally in their conversations. But, there also is situational humor, too. For example, Johnny Earl gets a new cell mate in prison and it’s this hulking white supremacist. How can there not be humor in the ensuing interactions? Smoochie Xenakis, the town door mat, suddenly thinks he is Vito Corleone. The situation calls for humor. There certainly are dark aspects of the book, such as Dena Marie trying to set her husband up for murder, but the ridiculousness of the premise is funny. She hasn’t thought it out or planned it. Rather, she’s trying to take advantage of the situation. I don’t want to write a book that is so dark and serious that I can’t inject humor. To me, the mixture of the two makes for a much better read, especially if you can surprise the reader.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: A WELCOME MURDER by Robin Yocum

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

9781633882638Johnny Earl was once a great high school athlete—perhaps the greatest in the storied history of Steubenville High School, home of the Big Red.  But in 8 short years his star has risen and spectacularly fallen—after a brief stint as a Pittsburgh Pirate (the highlight of which was a triple hit off Nolan Ryan and which ended when he blew out his knee), his second career as a cocaine dealer ended with a spell in the federal penitentiary.

As A Welcome Murder begins, Johnny has been released from prison and has returned to his hometown of Steubenville.  He plans to stay just long enough to retrieve the drug money he hid before his incarceration, then head out for parts unknown– but just moments before he’s ready to hit the road he’s picked up for questioning in the murder of Rayce Daubner, the FBI informant who set him up on drug charges in the first place.  While he’s spending the night in jail, his former cellmate shows up—the white supremacist who wants Johnny’s drug money to help fund the Aryan nation he’s founded somewhere in the wilds of Idaho or Nevada (he’s not quite sure of the location).  He already has a pair of wives waiting for Johnny so he can do his part to further the cause.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD by David Joy

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780399173110David Joy got our attention in 2015 with his debut Where All The Light Tends To Go. The searing rural noir proved there was still a lot to mine from the subgenre. Now Mr. Joy picks up his tools and goes down down even deeper into that dark hole with The Weight Of This World.

Like Where All The Light Tends To Go, this book deals with the double edge sword of friends and family, upping the stakes in complexity of those relationships. A triangle between three people serve as the base for this tale. Thad Broom returns from Afghanistan, finding combat easier to deal with than returning to life in his Appalachian town, even though he struggles to come to terms with his wartime experience. To survive he takes copper from derelict homes and pulls a few petty crimes with his life long buddy Aiden. Soon enough, one of those crimes gets them in the middle of a shoot-out that drops a bunch of drugs in their lap. When Broom’s mother April, who is also Aiden’s lover, hears about this, she tells them to go back to the trailer where it happened, since there should be money. All three see the narcotics and cash as a way to escape their circumstances, but it just puts them all way over their heads.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Alexandra Burt

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

9780451488114Central Texas author Alexandra Burt thrilled us in 2015 with her debut, Remember Mia.  Her latest, The Good Daughter, is every bit as suspenseful and atmospheric and is not to be missed.

Dahlia Waller’s childhood memories are murky at best.  As a young girl she led a vagabond existence with her eccentric mother Memphis, living in seedy motel rooms which they often fled in the middle of the night.  As an adult, she wants nothing more than to distance herself from those memories, but she finds she can’t move forward until she gets some answers about her early years.  

Dahlia moves back to the small town of Aurora, Texas to push Memphis for information, but her life is turned upside down when she discovers the comatose body of a young woman while jogging through the woods.  She feels a strange connection with the unidentified young woman and begins having visions while being overcome by unusual scents and sensations.  At the same time her mother begins to unravel, acting more and more strangely until the night she disappears from home.  Upon her return, she causes a fire that displaces the two women.  With nowhere to go, Memphis reveals that she is the owner of a farm that was deeded to her years ago by a woman named Quinn Creel and the two women move into the crumbling farmhouse.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITIES by Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison, with her Linda Walheim series, has made it into our top lists and our hearts. Each installment of the series so far has been an MysteryPeople Pick of the Month, and Harrison’s third, For Time and All Eternitiesis no exception. Mette Ivie Harrison joins us Monday, January 23rd, at 7 PM, to speak and sign her latest. 

  • Post by MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana

9781616956660At the start of For Time and All EternitiesMette Ivie Harrison’s third installment of her Linda Walheim series, the Mormon bishop’s wife is stunned when her son Kenneth announces his engagement to Naomi, a girl he met only a few months ago.  The surprise gives way to dismay when she learns that Naomi’s family practices polygamy—a practice the Mormon Church has officially disavowed, but which Linda is aware still thrives among certain fringe groups of fundamentalists.  Despite their reluctance, she and her husband Kurt accept an invitation to visit their future in-laws at their remote family compound.  

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW edited by Lawrence Block

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9781681772455In the upcoming short story anthology In Sunlight Or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, editor Lawrence Block presents a daunting challenge to his authors: pick a painting by Edward Hopper and write a story about it. Hopper was known as a non-narrative painter. When he used human subjects they come off more of a collection of shapes with few distinctive features than flesh and blood, with their two biggest activities being smoking and reading. What his work does supply is mood, which each of these writers tap into and bend to their own will.

Many use the subject and scene of the paintings as the focal point of the the narrative, telling us there is more than meets the eyes. This is true of the editor’s take on Automat. Stephen King uses A Room In New York‘s sedate appearance as a counterpoint of tension for the goings on behind the door behind the couple. Megan Abbott further explores her themes of female sexuality with the woman in “Girlie Show.” It comes as no surprise that she delves into the noir mood with which many Hopper painting are associated. It also has an opening line Megan wasn’t willing to say in public.

“Each story defies what we see on the the surface of the painting. Many go inside the painting, like a skilled jazz master with a standard, turning it inside out.”

Some add their series characters into the world of a painting, or incorporate multiple paintings into their tale. Michael Conelly uses the famous Nighthawks for a tale that takes us back to his character Harry Bosch’s private detective days, Jeffery Deaver uses Hotel By The Railroad and several other paintings for his cold war thriller.

Some stories have the painting as part of the protagonist’s world. Joe Lansdale makes the usherette in New York Theater the object of desire for his title character, “The Projectionist.” The story’s last line conjures up the loneliness and alienation inherent in much of Hopper’s work. Craig Ferguson’s “Taking Care Of Business” uses South Truro Church as the workplace for his dying lead. it is a funny, human look at friendship, life, faith, and death with another wonderful opening line, “The Reverend Jefferson T. Adams, beloved and respected minister for over fifty years, pulled deeply on the long fragile Jamaican style reefer and held the smoke deep in his lungs.”

In Sunlight Or In Shadow not only shows the in influence of Hopper on the writers, but how their imagination pushed that influence. Each story defies what we see on the the surface of the painting. Many go inside the painting, like a skilled jazz master with a standard, turning it inside out. It is fitting that an anthology concerning Hopper reminds us there is no boundary with art and artists.

In Sunlight or In Shadow comes out December 6th! Pre-order now! 

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.

Read More »