- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Eric Beetner’s new novel The Rumrunners is packed with fun action, perfect for those of us who grew up watching the Duke Boys and The Bandit outrun the law. The story concerns Tucker McGraw, a man from a long line of men who transport illegal goods – usually liquor or drugs – who has decided to go straight.
Soon enough, he gets pulled back into the business, when his father disappears with a mysterious shipment. The redneck ring of criminals employing the McGraw family force Tucker and the McGraw family patriarch, Calvin, to pay off the debt as drivers. Full of car chases and colorful characters, it is a fast paced, run ride. I caught up with Eric to talk about the book, its inspiration, and how he wrote a book that moves as fast as Burt Reynolds in a Trans Am.
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Ever since Gone Girl flew off the shelves quickly enough to convince publishers that a bestseller can include an unlikable female protagonist, we’ve seen a flurry of excellent reads exploring the darker side of female psychology popping up in the mystery section. As part of my New Year’s resolution to embrace the subgenre of domestic suspense, I’ve been catching up on some of the many psychological thrillers to star complex and sometimes less-than-likable female protagonists.
The women in each of the novels discussed below may be smiling as much as the rest of us, but their interior worlds are dark, brutal, and confused; marred by competition, and healed by solidarity. Each of the following novels uses mystery conventions to tell stories about the pleasures and complexities of womanhood, and about the ungendered struggles of life. Each is entertaining, and each is quite different.
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- Introduction by Scott Montgomery
I recently participated in a Noir At The Bar event in Dallas hosted by Eryk Pruitt. Eryk also performed a reading that night that had everyone on the floor. when I told him I wanted to feature one of his stories on Crime Fiction Friday, he suggested this piece about cracker barrel conversation and crime that originally appeared in Plan B magazine.
“There’s a filling station just south of Durham, North Carolina, that raised a ruckus a while back because the owner refused to take down a Confederate flag he’d hoisted above the building. Imagine how folks from miles around flocked to see what would happen when the National Guard came out to tell him to take it down. How for years and years after, old timers would bend your ear with the details of the Klan, the protests. The cheers and jeers.”
Read the rest of the story.
- Reviewed by Meike Alana
In The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, Alexander McCall Smith’s latest installment of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series (his 16th!), the esteemed Mma. Precious Ramotswe has to deal with perhaps her most significant challenge to date—a vacation.
It’s the middle of a hot summer and business is slow at the agency, so Mma. Makutsi has persuaded Mma. Ramotswe that it is time for her to take a well-deserved holiday. Precious has misgivings—it’s difficult for any business owner to step away and leave someone else in charge. And it does seem as if Mma. Makutsi is a little too eager for Mma. Ramotswe to take a break—is this a grab for power? Mma. Makutsi has had a tendency to speak rashly and be rather too blunt in the past—will she be capable of exercising the necessary tact to handle any new cases that come in? Despite her initial reluctance, Mma. Ramotswe becomes convinced that it’s time to give her employees the opportunity to manage the agency and she agrees to take a week off.
Her week of peaceful rest and relaxation doesn’t last long, however. On her first day off she meets a young hooligan named Samuel (and the beloved little white van is the worse off as a result). As she learns more about Samuel’s situation, Mma. Ramotswe feels compelled to help him find a way out of his difficult situation. Consumption of red bush tea and fruit cake ensue.
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- Interview by MysteryPeople’s Scott Montgomery
Wallace Stroby’s The Devil’s Share is one of my favorite books of 2015, with a reappearance of one of my favorite characters, heistwoman Crissa Stone. In this book, Crissa is hired for an inside job to steal Iraqi art meant for repatriation. Stone is hired by the art’s new, illicit owner, who does not wish to part ways with the artifacts. Hicks, the art collector’s security man, works with Crissa as both ally and spy, creating a new relationship that could be fruitful or deadly. We got in touch with Wallace to talk about the book and his heroine.
MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to Iraqi art as the MacGuffin?
Wallace Stroby: I liked the idea of a big cultural crime – stealing ancient artifacts from their place of origin – being facilitated by a smaller, intimate crime, like hijacking a truck on a desert highway. And certainly there was theft on an enormous scale of priceless artifacts immediately following the invasion of Iraq. In the novel, a corrupt art dealer argues that the stolen artifacts are better off with him in the U.S., then at the mercy of whatever regime is in power in their homeland. And oddly, ISIS has since proved him right, by aggressively destroying artifacts and bulldozing archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria, because it considers them anti-Muslim idolatry. A lot of these items go back to the beginnings of civilization, around 3,000 B.C., and ISIS has released videos of their soldiers cheerfully destroying them with sledgehammers and power tools. All this happened long after the book was written though.
MPS: This was the novel where it appeared Crissa had changed a bit without completely putting my finger on it. At what place do you see Crissa in her life?
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At our September 15th Murder In The Afternoon Book Club, we won’t only be discussing Craig Johnson’s second book, Death Without Company, we’ll be talking to Craig himself. This book proves that his debut, The Cold Dish, wasn’t beginner’s luck. It’s a mystery that deals with a Wyoming subculture and someone very close to the series’ hero, Walt Longmire.
The story takes place soon after the events in The Cold Dish, with things looking up for our sheriff as he waits for his daughter Cady to return home for the holidays. However, trouble swells when a woman at The Durant Home For Assisted Living is found poisoned. Of Basque descent, she immigrated from a section of Spain that became prominent in Wyoming’s sheep industry. She also has a sordid history with Lucian Connally, Absoroka, the sheriff before Walt who was also his mentor.
We’re excited to have Craig call in! He’s very funny and insightful. We’ll be meeting at 2PM on the third floor Tuesday, September 15th. The book is 10% off for those who plan to attend.
1. Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street by Heda Margolius-Kovaly
lost her family to the Holocaust, her first husband to Soviet purges, and the right to visit her native land to her defection to the United States. She also translated Raymond Chandler’s work into Czech, and his style, combined with her experiences, are the inspiration for Innocence
, a bleak and hard-boiled noir about a woman who engages in increasingly desperate acts to secure her husband’s release from political imprisonment. You can find copies of Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The Meursault Investigation
may not be shelved in the mystery section, but if The Stranger
is considered “Mediterranean noir,” then I dub this post-modern redo of The Stranger,
told from the perspective of the Arab victim’s family, “De-Colonial Noir.” The Meursault Investigation reads like Said’s Orientalism
as a mystery novel, which to me is the best thing in the universe. Spoiler alert: Meursault did it. You can find copies of The Meursault Investigation on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
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