Sisters In Crime: Guest Post from VP Noreen Cedeno

We continue celebrating the 30th Anniversary Of Sisters In Crime by posting a guest blog from The Heart Of Texas Members (a.k.a. HotSinc) with it’s current vice president Noreen Cedeno, who gives a candid look at the group events open to the public that occur on our BookPeople third floor every second Sunday of the month.

Sisters in Crime, NOT a Group of Female Ex-convicts

Sisters in Crime is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Who are Sisters in Crime and what do we do?

Once a visitor inquired at our meeting: Is this a meeting for female ex-convicts?

Uhhmm, no. We are writers and readers of crime fiction. All writers and readers of crime fiction are welcome to join. Our meetings are open to the public. And yes, male members are welcome to join and be our siblings in crime.

Another visitor wrote to me after a meeting: “I was a bit surprised to find not a women’s political meeting but a mixed gathering for a talk on hypnotism!!”

Well, yes, our meetings are not women-only political rallies. We are here to support female crime writers in a variety of practical ways, but we don’t discriminate, so everyone is welcome at our meetings.

One way we help our writers improve their craft is by widening their knowledge base. Writers can’t research a topic that they don’t know exists, have never heard of, or can’t imagine. Conversely, some topics are so involved, attempting research leads to outdated or overwhelming amounts of information. Therefore, at some of our meetings, we strive to help crime writers improve their craft by succinctly presenting topics that may be useful in a story.

So yes, you might walk into a meeting on hypnosis presented by a psychologist. We’ve had presentations on poisons, drones, and what different caliber bullets do to the human body. We’ve had a JAG lawyer introduce us to the military justice system. We’ve had guest speakers from just about every law enforcement group we can find.

Accuracy and authenticity are vital in writing! Nothing annoys a reader faster than an author getting details wrong. The Austin Police Department Bomb Squad was particularly nice, bringing not only their dog, Dax, but also “det cord” and C-4 for us to pass around during their presentation. It’s easier to write accurately about something you’ve touched with your own hands or seen with your own eyes. Hearing about law enforcement directly from the officers and agents who work in the field exposes us to the language and look, and the concerns and personalities of the men and women who serve as first responders. Those details are invaluable to any crime writer trying to create authentic characters and accurate depictions of how law enforcement agents handle crime.

As I mentioned before, we welcome crime fiction readers too! Sisters in Crime is open to both male and female readers of crime fiction. Therefore, we try to present subjects our non-writing members will enjoy hearing about. Luckily, most crime fiction readers also enjoy hearing presentations by law enforcement officers.

We occasionally have authors as guest speakers too. These authors may be locally known, nationally known, or internationally known. Last year, through an arrangement with the national Sisters in Crime organization, we had Rhys Bowen come and speak about her writing. We will have local authors who are members read selections of their work at our October 8th celebration of Sisters in Crime’s Anniversary.

Other things we offer writers:

Sometimes we have presentations specifically geared toward our writers. Those topics have included everything from marketing strategies to producing audiobooks.

We provide a place for authors to meet each other and discuss problems or share news. Authors have found critique partners and fellowship at our meetings. Our local newsletter includes industry news, writing tips, and information about opportunities to submit work for publication.

Sisters in Crime helps writers succeed by providing them opportunities to present their work. We showcase our local members work at festivals and conferences. Here in Austin, that means we will have a table at the Texas Book Festival in November. I’m only discussing the local chapter benefits. Opportunities abound at the national level as well. I’ve sent books to large conferences that I otherwise would not have had any access to or ability to attend because Sisters in Crime solicited members’ work for the conferences. Sisters in Crime works to ensure their members have opportunities that they might not otherwise have. In fact, the benefits available at the national level would be a whole other blog post.

So, if you like to write or read crime fiction, mysteries, police procedurals, cozies, thrillers, suspense, hardboilednoir, amateur sleuths, or private detectives, you are welcome to come to a Sisters in Crime meeting, usually held on the second Sunday of the month at Book People at 2:15 in the afternoon on the third floor.  You don’t even need to be a female ex-convict to come!


Q&A with C.M. Wendelboe

C.M. Wendelboe’s three novels featuring Lakota FBI agent Manny Tanno has made him a fresh voice in crime fiction. With Hunting The Five Point Killer, he introduces us to Arn Anderson, a former Denver police detective, whose job as consultant for a local television station takes him to his childhood home in Cheyenne, dealing with his past as well as the murders of several lawmen. I caught up with Mr. Wendelboe to talk about character, place, and his books.

MysteryPeople Scott Montgomery: Like Manny in Death Along The Spirit Road, you have Arn return to his boyhood home. What draws you as a writer for this situation?

C.M. Wendelboe: As Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go back home to your family, your childhood…back home to the escapes of time and memory.” Manny couldn’t force himself to go back home, and neither could Arn, though they both did, both returning to their boyhood homes by circumstances they fought to control. But in the end, circumstances neither resisted as much as they could have. As if each man secretly wished to return to their past. We all would like to go back home again, even if we publicly deny it. We’d all like that second chance, that opportunity to right wrongs, to take that fork in the road we should have taken back in the day. But which is too late for us now.

So Arn, like Manny, does the best he can in the present to do those things that he ought to have done back in the day. I like the idea of my characters confronting their own shortcomings, reflecting on how things might have turned out differently if only they had taken the other fork in the road. But they go on with their lives, knowing they can do little about those decisions that have ultimately forged them into who they are as people. Maybe I’m just suspicious of seemingly-perfect people.

MPS: What did using Cheyenne Wyoming as a location provide for you?

CMW: I wanted to set my contemporary series in a town brimming with western heritage, and Cheyenne definitely fills that requirement. Folks here represent what people think of the West:  still opening doors for others, men still tipping their hat to ladies, drivers pulling over to help a motorist stranded along the road. Cheyenne’s western history dates back to regional Army forts housing soldiers garrisoned to fight Indians, and the Union Pacific making Cheyenne “Hell on Wheels”, and road agents preying on hapless victims. And, as often as not, doing the dangle of death from a stout piece of hemp courtesy of a vigilance committee. But it’s also a place where many men and women go armed, and are prepared to use their weapon when they perceive a threat. Arn has to go about his investigations knowing at any time he may encounter someone armed who takes offence to sticking his nose into their business. So Cheyenne won out over many other town in the Rocky Mountain region.

MPS: While a decent guy, Arn is pretty damaged. What does a wounded
character allow you to do?

CMW: Hollywood is populated with beautiful people: they live in lovely mansions and drive exotic cars and verily shine with charm when out in public. People are drawn to that. But not as drawn to them as when we learn their perfect lives aren’t as wonderful as we thought. When we discover their flaws and their weaknesses, suddenly they are more like us. Human. Arn is a wounded character, which naturally makes him more interesting. We learn that his perfect life as a Denver Homicide Detective is marred by the premature death of his wife. And when Arn moves back to Cheyenne to take a consulting job with the local television station, we discover that the ghosts of his abusive father’s past and an apathetic mother long dead still haunts him. He’s just more interesting with these memories. More interesting with flaws and a painful past.

MPS: Several moments you write from the killer’s perspective. How did you approach those scenes?

CMW: I was a lawman for nearly forty years, and worked the street my entire career. This allowed me to come into direct contact with all manner of criminal. Occasionally, I would interview post-crime suspects that were genuinely sorry for what they had done. Most, though—including most murderers—felt no remorse, and deflected blame for what they had done upon their victim/s. Those interviews helped shape what direction I intended taking my story.

Rarely have I read tales spoken from a killer’s viewpoint, and had no guidance on how to go about it. So, used my knowledge of murderers to get into that role. When I needed to write those passages from the murderers’ point of view, it would take me some preparation to become the suspect’s voice. I would think back to this interview I had conducted, or that suspect telling me things about his crimes, and that’s when the words would begin to flow. These passages from the killer’s POV are short—two pages at the most and many shorter—because it was difficult for me to continue thinking like a sociopath or a psychotic. Perhaps I’ll get the courage one day to write an entire novel from such a point of view.

MPS: I’ve noticed all the Wyoming crime writers populate their books with characters that have some form of a sense of humor. Why do you think that’s an inherent trait in the people who live there?

CMW: When I was a just a young policeman working an off-reservation town in South Dakota, I was assigned with other local officers to respond to Custer, South Dakota, where the town had been taken over by Indian militants. As I sat huddled with other officers from around the state nervously waiting to advance on the rioters, an older deputy sheriff beside me began cracking jokes. I thought he was nuts to be joking at such a serious time. But soon I and those within earshot of the man began to relax, began feeling as if we would be able to perform our job there. The taut tension we’d experienced subsided.

As I write about lawmen—both active duty and retired—I know that an integral part of their world is humor. Much has been written about a policeman’s graveside humor and how disrespectful it is. Not so. Law officers frequently find things amusing at the worst possible times because that’s how they cope with the day-to-day nastiness they have to work around. Call it a defense mechanism for the mind. No one wants to be high on the roller coaster all day. Everyone wants to come down for a breather before the next hill is climbed.

MPS: You have two period books coming out soon, Backed To The Wall and Marshall and the Moonshiner. What can you tell us about those?

CMW: Backed to the Wall was fun to write. I’ve been an avid reader of period westerns since I was a kid, and wrote and published my first short stories in that genre. Writing book-length tales allows me to develop my character in ways that the shorts didn’t. One of those was man tracking. We’re led to believe that all western men were competent trackers. But that wasn’t the case. Like today, those folks who were track-savvy back in the “Old West” were much sought after. There are countless times where tracks were lost, false trails followed, bad men and renegade Indians alike allowed to make their getaway because those following had no track awareness. Not so my man Tucker Ashley. His claim to fame is that he’s an astute tracker, working for the Army when he’s not battling lice in a local lockup.

The story opens with Tucker fighting a hangover in such a jail when he learns a Lakota raiding party has abducted his love interest from her mercantile while Tucker was locked up. He makes his escape, and is hot after the Indians when an old enemy—Deputy Marshal Aurand Forrester—gets on his trail. Between Aurand’s fast gun and his gnarly posse and the Indians trying to kill him to get Tucker off their track, it is doubtful if he’ll survive either one in his pursuit of his woman.

Marshal and the Moonshiner is set during the Great Depression. It begins when U. S. Marshal Nelson Lane is called to the Wind River Indian Reservation in western Wyoming to assist local tribal police with a homicide. When Nelson arrives, he learns two neighboring ranchers had got into an altercation. One shot the other to death before fleeing to relatives in Oklahoma.

This was a time when the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner to the FBI) was in its infancy, and could spare no one to investigate crimes out west. Nelson must travel to Oklahoma, far out of his element in a large town. The local sheriff assigns Nelson his junior deputy, a Cheyenne Indian woman names Maris Red Hat, as Nelson’s liaison and partner in search of the fugitive. Soon, they’re caught up in local corruption in their pursuit of the murderer from Wyoming. If Nelson can keep himself and Maris from being killed, he might just find the murderer and bring him back to Wyoming for justice.

Q&A with Thomas Mullen

Thomas Mullen’s Darktown found critical acclaim when it came out last year, winning fans in crime fiction and “the literary set” alike. His second novel of the first black officers serving in a Jim Crow, Atlanta, proves their is much to mine in the subject. Our Matthew Turbeville caught up with Mr. Mullen to talk about, research, race, and writing.

Matthew Turbeville: I’ve been reading your novels for a while, but was especially intrigued by your Darktown series.  Can you tell me a little about what inspired these novels?

Thomas Mullen: A few years ago I was reading a book on Atlanta history called Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn by Gary Pomerantz. It’s a big book that traces 150 years of ATL via two prominent families, one black and one white. In the middle is a four-page passage that covers the circumstances around the 1948 hiring of Atlanta’s first eight African-American police officers, and, most interesting to me, the insulting Jim Crow restrictions they operated under: they could only patrol “colored neighborhoods,” they only worked the night shift, they could not drive squad cars, and they could not set foot in the police headquarters and instead had to operate their own makeshift precinct in the basement of a YMCA in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood (where Martin Luther King Jr. grew up). Last but not least, they could not arrest white people. If, God forbid, they ever saw a white person committing a crime, they were supposed to call in white officers to help. But the idea was that since this was a time of such strict segregation, and they were patrolling black neighborhoods, they shouldn’t even see any white folks, let alone white lawbreakers.

Image result for thomas mullenThe fiction writer in me immediately asked, well, what if? Life tends not to confine itself to such strictly drawn lines, and I found myself imagining the plot of Darktown¸ in which two of the black rookies do in fact come upon a white criminal, and begin to suspect a white cop helped him murder a young black woman.

Because this was 1948, I felt pretty early on that this had series potential. Darktown is set in this historically overlooked period after the end of World War II but before the Cold War and before the first key victories of the Civil Rights movement. So I found myself thinking of the different stories I could tell if I followed some of these characters over the next 15-20 years and traced how they, the city, the South, and the country changed as a result of the Civil Rights movement—and the white backlash to the movement.

Other inspiration came from the many great books in which writers take the ingredients of the classic hard-boiled murder mystery and do something unexpected and odd with it. Three of my favorite recent novels are Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless BrooklynColson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union; I love how they’re able to do something fun and novel with a classic form this way. And when I learned about the offensive, insane Jim Crow restrictions that Atlanta’s first black officers had to work under, I felt I had the ingredients for my own twist on classic noir.

Finally, I’m a big fan of what I’ve dubbed “totalitarian noir,” or murder mysteries that up the moral ante by placing their hero inside a corrupt, totalitarian regime. Like Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko novels in Russia, Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series in Nazi Germany, Olen Steinhauer’s series in an unnamed Warsaw Pact country. It occurred to me that I could write my own totalitarian noir right in my own town, because the South was every bit a totalitarian nation if you were black.

MT: I imagine it’s really difficult to write about an issue you can’t directly place yourself in.  How did you prepare to write about Black police officers—from the mid-twentieth century? What research did you have to do to fit yourself into their shoes?

TM: It’s definitely challenging, and it helps that I’d written other historical novels and so had a sense of where and how to start. I’m not the kind of writer who writes autobiographical fiction, where the protagonists are lightly fictionalized versions of myself. Because my books have been set in different times and different places, I’ve always had to work hard to create characters who had very different daily experiences than me, different hopes and dreams and obstacles, different worldviews, different concepts of what was and wasn’t possible in their world.

Research is always a big part of that, to determine what people were dealing with back then, what were the issues of the day, the debate and divisions, the jobs and roles people had, the dreams they could reasonably aspire to.

To learn more about Atlanta’s first black cops and their white counterparts, I found newspaper articles from ’48 and ’50 that offered some great context, but not too much in terms of what life was really like for the black officers, probably because they were hesitant to speak too candidly to the press back then. But in the ‘80s and ‘90s journalists ran some retrospective stories and talked to some of the initial eight African-American officers, most of whom were still living and some of whom were still cops. In those pieces, they didn’t hold back about their mistreatment from white cops and judges. Much of my books’ details about how they did their jobs came from those pieces, and from some recorded interviews two of them gave in the late ‘70s for an oral history project.

Finally, I read lots and lots of books. I’m more of a secondary-source guy, so rather than spending too much time in the archives (which I do some of), I would rather let the real historians do that, then I go and read the big books they write. I have bookshelves full of histories of Atlanta, midcentury America, African-American history, the Civil Rights Era, policing, biographies and memoirs, fiction from that time period, etc. I also read a lot of books about more contemporary issues with race and policing, because I want to make sure I don’t write anything that’s informed by misconceptions about the more recent past, like the war on drugs and our current over-incarceration of African-Americans.

MT: You tend to write largely from historical points-of-view.  What about history—and not the present day—is alluring to you? Do you think mysteries set in different times and places speak more to an audience, or at least differently?

TM: I never set out to be a “historical novelist” — my third book was contemporary, and I do have other contemporary ideas — but yeah, here I am with 5 books now, and 4 were set in the past. It’s a good question I don’t fully know the answer to. Maybe it’s because there’s so much amazing material, so many incredible stories, in our country’s past. Maybe it’s because it gives me an unusual lens through which I, and the reader, can view issues that remain important today, that we’ve also dealt with in the past under different circumstances, and therefore we can make unexpected, nuanced observations about then and now. Maybe it’s to avoid being another writer who just writes autobiographical fiction about myself and life in 2017. I honestly don’t know the answer.

MT: What is your process like when preparing to write a book? How were you able to release two books in the Darktown series so close together?

TM: As noted, I do a ton of research. But what I most love is writing, and I really can’t take doing a huge chunk of research at once, so I parcel it out. With a new idea, I’m likely to do some research first, just enough so I have an understanding of the time period, then I start writing. I do this because I need to know whether I can really write in that time, with these characters, or not; the last thing I’d want to do is spend 6 months on research only to sit down later and find I just can’t find the voice to write it. So once I’ve done some research, and then some writing, and I’m feeling good about the project, I might stop writing and do some more research, to really dive into the era. Then I’ll write again in earnest, occasionally stopping to do some supplemental research if I find there’s a specific topic I realize I need to know more about.

As for the new book coming out only a year later, that was a happy accident. I started writing Lightning Men about a month after finishing the first polished draft of Darktown, before my agent had even read Darktown. She’s normally a speedy reader but she had a full plate at that time, so by the time she read Darktown and had some edits for me, I’d already written a good 100 pages of the new one. Which meant that, by the time we finalized Darktown and had offers from publishers, I already had a great head start on the second book.

I continue to do lots of research, as there’s really no end to the important works I could be reading about this time period and these topics. Even if I ever felt that I’d caught up, each year brings the publication of several new, important works on the Civil Rights era, race and policing, etc. (For example, two of the nonfiction books that were just nominated for the National Book Award were about Emmet Till and about race and housing, so I’ve read them.) I’m pretty much always in the middle of a book I’m reading for research, and I’m finding that the writing goes a bit faster now that I have a solid knowledge of the era, as well as a pre-established setting and characters.

MT: Darktown seems especially necessary in today’s world—a world filled with hatred, racism, and bigotry.  What would you say Darktown and Lightning Men’s essential messages are? What do you hope readers gather from these books?

TM: It is extremely unfortunate, and enraging, and disappointing, and heart-breaking, and maddening, that we are still having some of the same debates. As I type this, on Monday 9/25/17, the main story is about whether African-American athletes have the right to protest, something that was a hot topic in the 1968 Olympics when some athletes held raised fists during the anthem (one of those athletes was Tommie Smith, a name I sort of borrowed in my books). It shows that these issues run deep, and in my opinion issues of race and power cut to the core of America, what it is today and what it’s always been, which is why I wanted to write the books in the first place, when I started the project in 2012. As for the messages, I’ll let the readers make those judgments themselves. If nothing else, I hope readers come away with a more nuanced understanding of our recent past as well as our present, and a more empathetic mindset about people different from themselves.

MT: In relation to the time period, what was the most difficult aspect of writing Darktown and Lightning Men?

TM: Hey, it’s all hard. And it’s all fun. Writing a novel is never easy, and I take what I do extremely seriously. I know that I’m handling material that can be sensitive, and that I have a responsibility to get it right. I feel extremely fortunate that I get to imagine stories for a living, and I want to make the most of that opportunity. I hope that the books not only entertain people but also illuminate areas of the world that they might not have thought about, illuminate elements of human nature that bind us together.

MT: One of the quotes that opens Lightning Men is concerning The Birth of a Nation, a film which grossly fictionalizes history and inspires the KKK to this day.  What do you think a book like Lightning Men will do for society? Do you think you are playing a role in correcting history?

TM: It feels a tad grandiose to wonder about my books’ impact. I’m just glad that they exist and that people are reading them, and I hope more readers come to the series as I continue it.

And I don’t know that fiction can “correct history,” but I can work hard to present things accurately and honestly. That means avoiding nostalgia, that means refusing to whitewash the past. I recently observed that writing historical fiction is equal parts keepin’ it real and makin’ shit up. The making up is the fiction part, the fact that I’m taking invented characters through an invented plot. But it only works if the surrounding world is real: if it’s historically accurate, if it’s realistic as opposed to nostalgic and sentimental, and if the characters act and think in ways that feel human and alive. I’m not trying to correct history, only to respect it in its fullness, all its glory and ugliness, tragedies and triumphs. With the series, I want to pay homage to overlooked heroes (the Southern African Americans who were willing to serve as policemen despite all that they had to overcome in their Jim Crow cities) and their undeniable triumphs, while never losing sight of all the defeats and tragedies along the way.

Introducing Our Latest Blogger, Matthew Turbeville!

MysteryPeople is proud to introduce our latest contributor to the site, Matthew Turbeville. He’ll be contributing reviews and interviews to the blog, in between working on his numerous writing projects. Stay tuned for his upcoming review of Riley Sagar’s The Final Girls. 

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Matthew Turbeville

My name is Matthew Turbeville, and I hail from Lake City, S.C.  I have always been interested in the crime genre, perhaps because the most prolific serial killer in the history of the country lived just a few miles away from me, or perhaps because I simply love a good mystery.  I have graduated with a degree in English Literature from Clemson University in 2014, and have gone on to study writing at universities like Boston University and Florida State University.  In addition to soon completing my library and information masters program, I have been published in a few magazines and have run blogs of my own.

Through my studies, I have come across and in contact with several great crime writers—I tend to read works by women like Megan Abbott (who introduced me to the genre years ago), Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, Lisa Lutz, Lori Roy, Tana French, Amy Gentry, and Christa Faust, among many other powerful women writers who are striving to reinvigorate and drastically revolutionize the genre.  I also love the writings of Daniel Woodrell, Lou Berney, Don Winslow, Jeff Abbott, and William Kent Kreuger, among others.  Ask me any time for a suggestion and I’m ready to provide a list of titles you might enjoy.  My all-time favorite mysteries include Laura Lippman’s After I’m Gone, Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, and anything by Lisa Lutz.  Anything.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Liv Hadden

Liv Hadden’s book The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame has the style and propulsion of a single issue comic book. Juice Box is a crazy kid whose only friend, the brooding mysterious Shane, has a past that runs them afoul of the Baltimore mob with only Juice Box’s gangster cousin, a female posing as a male, to ask for help. To say any more might ruin some wild surprises.

Liv will be at BookPeople tomorrow, August 8th, at 7 PM, along with Juice Box and Shames’ illustrator (and local tattoo artist) Mo Malone. Hadden was kind enough to answer some questions from us ahead of her event.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for Juice Box and Shame come about?

Liv Hadden: I was reading a Deadpool comic before bed one night. When I woke up the next morning, I had this vision of Juice Box and Shame (characters from my first novel, In the Mind of Revenge) on the cover of a comic book called The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame. The title is actually a sarcastic thought Shame has in the first book. I was so excited about the idea, I knew I had to make it real.

MPS: Was there any approach to Juice Box’s voice?

LH: I wanted him to contrast Shame in a lot of ways: optimistic, naive, wants to fit in versus cynical, broody, rebels against societal norms. Juice Box also lives a very sheltered life, so he has a level of immaturity I needed to capture. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Thurman Merman from Bad Santa – kind of cute, definitely blind to the main character’s dark side, a bit annoying, but has a heart of gold. Given his interest in becoming a rap musician, I tried to use some of the vernacular we hear in music today. To be completely transparent, I pulled a lot from how I remember my fraternity friends speaking in college. You know, suburban kids throwing around YOLO like a personal mantra – that kind of thing.

MPS: How did Mo Malone get involved as an illustrator?

LH: Mo also happens to be a fantastic tattoo artist. I met her four years ago when I wanted to do a cover up of a piece on my ribs. I loved her and her work so much, I had her cover my entire back. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time together, so she learned about my writing and I about her art. She mentioned a couple times how she would love to start illustrating books. When I got this idea, I immediately called her. Lucky for me, she said yes!

MPS: While the story is prose it seems to draw from music, movies, and comic books. Where there any specific influences you had while working on it?

LH: I’m influenced by so many different kinds of creativity, it was easy for me to channel some of the things I enjoy into Juice Box’s character. Since a Deadpool comic is what inspired the idea, both the movie and comics played a huge part in the style of the artwork and the informal narrative voice. I’m also a huge J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar fan; even though Juice Box is a poser himself, he would idolize musicians worth their weight; so in my mind, if he were living today, those would be two of his favorites as well. I also referenced Jeff Chang and his dynamic with his father from the movie 21 & Over. When I picture Juice Box, he looks just like Justin Chon, the actor who plays Jeff Chang.

MPS: What appealed to you about using crime fiction to move the story?

LH: Some of my all-time favorite childhood memories were binge watching episodes of Law & Order with my mom. There were so many moments I can remember feeling so absorbed in the storylines, I was experiencing real emotions about all these fake people. To me, that’s what storytelling is all about. I’ve found that crime, mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories always appeal to me. I love wondering what’s going to happen next, and I especially love a compelling villain. Even better, a story where I’m not so sure who the villain actually is – something that questions the validity of the good versus evil concept. Crime fiction provides so many opportunities to show it’s really all about perspective.

Liv Hadden comes to BookPeople to speak and sign her second novel to feature the character Juicebox, The Adventures of Juicebox and Shame, on Tuesday, August 8th, at 7 PM. You can find copies on our shelves or via


MysteryPeople Double Feature: RAGE IN HARLEM by Chester Himes

MysteryPeople Partners with Authors & Auteurs for Return to Normal: A 50s Film Noir Film Series

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

rtn series

For the past few years, MysteryPeople has highlighted some of our favorite noir cinema based on crime fiction, with discussions following each screening to discuss the book and film. This year, MysteryPeople’s Double Feature film series is partnering with the Author & Auteurs Book Club for a summer of films highlighting the injustices and rot beneath the glamorous veneer of 1950s America. We’re kicking it off with a screening of A Rage In Harlem, Chester Himes’ seminal 1957 crime novel adapted into director Bill Duke’s 1991 movie, this Sunday, June 4, at 2 PM. In some ways the relationship between book and film contradicts the usual film adaptation.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with David Swinson

David Swinson has captured our cold, twisted hearts with his Frank Marr trilogy. Marr is a drug-addled former cop who first appeared in all his complicated degenerate glory in The Second Girlwherein he becomes an accidental hero after a trip to buy drugs becomes a rescue mission for a kidnapped woman. In Swinson’s second tale to feature the character, Crime SongMarr takes on a more personal case. We sent him a few questions about his latest. 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: This time Marr is pulled into a more personal case involving family. What made you want to explore that part of him, particularly for his second mystery?

David Swinson: I’ve always seen the Marr series as a trilogy. For the second book I wanted to get into his past a bit more, and his history with not only his aunt, but music. He needed something more personal to disrupt him.

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