(Extremely) Unauthorized Relationship Advice Inspired by Crime Fiction: Part 2

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

We hope you enjoyed the first installment of our parody advice column from crime fiction characters – on to the more contemporary (and just as unauthorized) columns! Below, let Gillian Flynn’s Amazing Amy help you keep your boyfriend around, allow Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell to assure your niece of a successful marriage, and consider a cure for an annoying ex proposed by Ruth Ware’s Lo Blacklock. 

gone girlDear Amazing Amy,

I feel like my boyfriend only spends time with me when he’s expecting to get some action. How do I get him to understand that to show me love, he needs to spend more time just cuddling?

  • Lonely in Laramie

Dear Lonely in Laramie,

If your partner doesn’t please you, there are plenty of ways to manipulate him into doing so. In my own marriage, I was forced to resort to drastic measures to put my cheating husband back in line, and get the man I wanted, in bed or out of it. My advice? Fake it. Fake the love, fake the pleasure, fake happiness, and fake your future together till it becomes real – to him and everyone around you. Meanwhile, lie to your friends and family about his behavior, and plant evidence to challenge his credibility. Then tell him what you really want – between the version of him you’ve created for your neighbors, and the iron core he only just now is beginning to notice in his choice of mate, he’ll crack and do whatever you want him to. Even cuddle. And if he doesn’t, fake your death and blame it on him. It worked for me!

  • Amazing Amy

You can find Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

beekeepers apprenticeDear Mary Russell,

My niece intends to marry a man substantially her elder, yet in possession of fine faculties and what I believe to be an even finer estate. She has little family, and I fear he has too much sway over her for her to make this decision. In addition, I had come to expect a substantial portion of her inheritance, and I now worry about (to put it indelicately) sharing with her issue. How shall I tell her, gently, to keep an eye out for a more suitable match, while securing my own future in the meantime?

  • Concerned in Cardiff

Dear Concerned in Cardiff,

My own marriage, despite the significant gap between my husband’s age and mine, has been entirely successful, so far. However, my generation’s hardship was the loss of our young men, and in my day, it was more important to marry someone of one’s class than of one’s generation. As long as your niece and her husband do not decide to have children (they can be such a burden), and as long as her husband is as smart and handsome as Sherlock was when I met him, then both your niece and your fortune should remain intact. Also, if either your niece or her intended dies unexpectedly, do give us a call. If your niece passes suspiciously and you don’t give us a call, we may look into matters ourselves.

  • Mary Russell

You can find Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell Series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9781501132933Dear Lo Blacklock,

I’ve just had a terrible fight with my boyfriend, and now I’m stuck with an ex-lover on a cruise for the next week! How do I fight the temptation to fall back into the arms of my former mate, or fight the temptation to throw him overboard for cheating on me?

  • Stuck at Sea

Dear Stuck at Sea,

As a recent survivor of just that dilemma, I have to say I sympathize, and hope for your relationship’s sake that you spend the entire cruise attempting to find a woman who lent you some mascara rather than moping around about a fight with a partner. It certainly wouldn’t help the strength of your relationship were you to hook up with your ex-lover – however, if you do choose to push him overboard, that might actually improve the level of trust between you and your current partner. People do, after all, go missing from cruise ships more frequently than many suspect.

  • Lo Blacklock

You can find Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

The Inconsistencies of the Human Heart: MysteryPeople Q&A with Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If you follow MysteryPeople to any degree, you know that I’m a die hard fan of Reed Farrel Coleman. Just check my Top Ten List of 2016. His latest, What You Break, the follow up to the Edgar nominated Where It Hurts, continues with wounded ex-Suffolk cop Gus Murphy as he tries to help his co-worker and friend Slava take care of some men out to kill him. Murphy also takes a job for a shady energy czar, Micah Spears, to look into the murder of his adopted granddaughter. Both cases deal with how people deal with the darkest parts of their lives. It’s a book I can’t wait to discuss with Reed when he comes to BookPeople on February 10th with Robert Knott. Consider these six questions below a warm up.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did you want to challenge Gus in What You Break?

Reed Farrel Coleman: Without giving too much away, I have always been fascinated by the inconsistencies of the human heart. For instance, early in my career I did book signings with a retired NYPD detective who was later convicted of being a mob hit man. He and his partner killed at least seven people, one of them the wrong man, but I knew him as a nice, gregarious guy. Even after I found out that he was a coldblooded murderer, I could not force that other view of him out of my head. In What You Break, Gus is confronted with two men who have done some heinous things. His challenge is what should he do with the knowledge he gains and how should he feel about these men.

MPS: Much of the plot deals with Slava. What appealed to you about bringing more focus to the character?

RFC: I’ve written several series and I can tell you from experience that having one protagonist “on screen” and at the center of every scene is wearing. I find that readers really enjoy it when an author forces a secondary character up front and shines a light on him or her. Plus, Slava is such a great character. Readers love him. I love him. And there’s the fact that Gus Murphy is a reactive protagonist not necessarily a proactive one. So I give him something and someone powerful to react to. In the first book, Where It Hurts, that was TJ Delcamino. In this book, it’s Slava and Spears.

MPS: You told me after Where It Hurts came out, there was great fan reaction to Slava. What do you think his appeal is?

RFC: He is so wounded that he appeals to the part of us that wants to heal others. He is on the other hand, amazingly competent and even brutal. He is a walking contradiction and that appeals to readers. It appeals to me. That and the fact that he has a deep secret. I also think people love his broken English. I enjoy writing his dialogue very much.

MPS: The relationship Gus has with Magdelena is engaging, becoming more fragile as it grows deeper. At this point, what do you think she provides for Gus?

RFC: Their relationship is a vehicle by which the reader can measure Gus’s evolution and reinvention. As Gus says, there are three of him: Gus before his son died, Gus after his son died, and who Gus is becoming. One way to observe this is to see how he relates to others, particularly the women he loves. And frankly, I’m a little bit in love with Magdalena myself.

MPS: I noticed you adopted the short chapters for this book that you do for the Jesse Stone series. What prompted the change?

RFC: I hadn’t noticed when I was actually writing the book. And the chapters are still not as short as they are in the Jesse Stone books. But short chapters create momentum and help with pacing. I’ve always said that I am still learning and adapting as a writer. I guess I owe Robert B. Parker a debt of gratitude for teaching me a lesson through writing his books.

MPS: What do you think Gus and Jesse Share as series heroes?

RFC: They are both reactive men. They are far more alike than either would be with Moe Prager. But I think that the only one of the three I would describe as heroic is Jesse. In fact, I think Gus is evolving in the opposite direction. But I guess we’ll just see about that.

You can find copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.comReed Farrel Coleman comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest, What You Break, on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott, here with his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch and Cole series, Revelation

Times Are Changing All Around: MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Knott

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Since Robert Knott took over Robert B. Parker’s Old West town tamers Hitch and Cole, he has added an authenticity to the series as well as a subtle examination of both men dealing with a world that is making them less relevant. This time the two are going after Driggs, a slick psychopath who broke out of prison with the warden’s wife as a hostage, and who has a history with Hitch. I look forward to introducing you all to Bob Friday, February 10th at 7 PM, when he will be at BookPeople with Reed Farrel Coleman. As you will see, even on a Q&A via e-mail, he can be entertaining.

MysteryPeople Scott: Driggs is one of the best bad men Hitch and Cole have come up against. How did he come about?

Robert Knott: I was walking down the Street in Brooklyn NY and came to Driggs Street. I stopped and said: that is him. That is my guy. The name alone rang a bell for me and I loved the idea of a powerful man to go with the name. Driggs is stoic, cunning, charismatic, effortless, a leader with little to no need for followers. Then of course he had to have a background. So I put all the darkest elements of his past and family and mixed them with the most capable of men, and that was him, that’s Driggs. I basically planted him and watched him grow.

MPS: It feels like you are subtley bringing Hitch more into focus. Is there a particular reason for this?

RK: Times are changing all around for Hitch and Cole in the western expansion. I love the idea of these men learning and adapting in front of us. They can still be what we expect but the unexpected is also refreshing. Hitch is more independent than he used to be and Cole is okay with not being so Cole. I think we all get tired of ourselves and Hitch and Cole are no exception. Fun characteristics to work with.

MPS: What was the biggest thing you had to research for this novel?

RK: Prisons of the time period, pigeon post, mining, business expansion, syndicated news. But these changes to the west I deal with in each novel and will continue to do so. The evolution of our history and the effect the changes had on the people, including H & C truly interest me.

MPS: You have a great shoot out in a bath house. Do you look for interesting locations like this in your research?

RK: That hot springs bath house near Las Vegas New Mexico really existed back then. It was the largest resort / hotel destination west of the Mississippi. And according to history, three presidents actually visited the hot springs bath houses. But yes, finding texture that is is far from the normal saloon or street scene I enjoy.

MPS: One thing I like about the series is that you understand Hitch and Cole’s relationship without any “I love you, man.” moments. How do you go about depicting a friendship between two laconic characters?

RK: Trust. These guys know each other like the back of their hand. Their movement together is second nature. Like sports greats. They do shit and it goes by unsaid. Like a great pass in basketball. The guys barely acknowledge each other and that is what makes them cool beyond cool. It’s second nature and like what Hitch and Cole slyly say from time to time, “It’s what we do.”

MPS: You’re one of those guys who has a lot of creative irons in the fire. What should we be on the lookout for that you’re involved in?

RK: I’m trying like hell to bring a western to TV and I’m close on a number of fronts. I think the best thing to say (so we don’t jinx anything) is let me get back to you once I have a green light:)

You can find copies of Revelation on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Actor, writer and producer Robert Knott comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch and Cole series, Revelation on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by legendary crime writer Reed Farrel Coleman, here with his second Gus Murphy novel, What You Break.

MysteryPeople Review: WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780399173042With Gus Murphy, Reed Farrel Coleman has created one the the most complex and dangerous series heroes of the 21st century. Gus, the divorced ex-Suffolk cop, seeking anonymity as courtesy van driver, bouncer, and house dick for a second rate hotel after the early death of his son, first appeared in the Edgar-nominated Where It Hurts. He chooses to walk on the least solid of ground. We fear for him. He believes that to find his new self, he must destroy his former or current self. This puts his friendships, love life, psyche, and life in jeopardy. In the second book to feature the character, What You Break, we dive further into Gus’ mindset.

Gus finds himself with two cases. He is introduced by his friend, ex-priest Bill Kilkenny, to energy czar, Micah Spears. Spears is willing to to set up a youth sports center in Gus’ sons name, if he can find out why a gang member killed his adopted daughter. The why also plays into the second mystery when a trained killer goes after Gus’s Eastern European friend and co-,worker Slava. Both investigations take Gus to ghosts of past wars and acts of evil no amount of redemption can erase.

Both of these cases are perfect for Gus to explore. While driven by friendship and a need to mark a place for his son in this world, Gus takes on these tasks. What keeps him involved is a need to test himself, challenge his will, and press his luck, thinking he has to die before he is reborn. What he learns about both Slava and Spears give him a glimpse of possible roads he could go down.

The romantic subplot with his girlfriend Magdela, an actress struggling to turn her sex appeal into a career, becomes even more integral in this second outing. It begins as a passionate, heated affair that can consume him and who he was. Magdalena seems chosen for his reinvention. As they begin to feel something deeper, Gus realizes he has something to lose again.

What You Break looks at the aftermath of chaos and dark deeds. Its mysteries delve into question of how do we go on when we can’t completely be put back together. Coleman looks at people who struggle to go on after they can no longer be fully human, making an argument that that is where their humanity lies.

What You Break comes out today! You can find copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.comReed Farrel Coleman comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest, What You Break on Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott, here with his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch and Cole series, Revelation

International Crime Fiction Pick: Leonardo Padura’s Havana Noir Quartet

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Once upon a time, on the sixth floor of UT Austin’s Perry-Castaneda Library, where all the best international detective fiction on the UT campus resides, I first discovered Leonardo Padura’s Havana Quartet, featuring handsome, scruffy and jaded detective Mario Conde. I hadn’t realized that the dusty volumes I devoured between reading assignments were considered modern classics of Cuban fiction, nor did I figure out that, at the time, the books had just received their first publication in US markets – filled with details of Cuban suffering, they also signaled glimmerings of a future detente between Cuba and the US. Now that the Cuban miniseries adapted from the Havana Quartet has reached Netflix under the US title “Four Seasons in Havana,” U.S. audiences are primed to enjoy both the books and their skillful adaptation to the screen (US networks are rumored to have an English-language version in development). The actors bring to life characters I’ve known for years in books, and I can’t recommend the two in combination enough.

Each volume of the series contains a wry and complex portrait of a struggling Cuba in the 90s – after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent near-collapse of the Cuban economy, a bleak series of detective novels seems best to capture the nation at a time of increasing introspection and isolation. The series’ English-language titles each feature a color – Havana Red, Havana Gold, Havana BlackHavana Blue – and each is set in a different season.

Havana Red  explores the dangers and oppression faced by GLBTQ folks in Cuba, while Havana Gold takes Conde on a bleak investigation into the murder of a schoolteacher; Havana Black immerses the reader in the politics of exile after the murder of a returned expat, and Havana Blue takes Conde on a journey into the life of his murdered college friend, a man who got too much of what he wanted. A fifth in the series, Havana Fever, explores the rare book industry while taking a closer look at Conde’s past writing ambitions. Oddly, the series was released in the US in a different order than in Cuba, which hopefully indicates that one can enjoy the series in any order.

Leonardo Padura writes soulful, gritty dramas, set on the streets of Havana, as sympathetic and unrelenting to his characters as David Goodis or Simenon in his wartime novels. Along with literary crime writers Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Roberto Bolaño, and the crime-writer-turned-revolutionary Paco Ignacio Taibo II (the two writers share in common a fascination with the murder of Trotsky, covered by Padura in The Man Who Loved Dogs and Taibo in Four Hands)  Padura is one of the most prominent detective novelists in Latin America, beloved in several languages. Click here for more recommendations of Latin American crime writers. 

His protagonist, Mario Conde, is sick of the fading revolution (as are many of his friends) but he’s still ready to fight for his own moral code – which may or may not line up with that of his superiors. This reflects Leonardo Padura’s own careful existence in Cuba. As John Lee Anderson pointed out in a 2013 New Yorker article on the famous Cuban writer, “Padura is an unusual figure in contemporary Cuba: a novelist, a journalist, and a social critic who has skirted punishment by the ruling Communist Party…Padura isn’t a dissident, in the way of Solzhenitsyn, but neither is he just an entertainer. For Cuba’s intellectuals, and for its professional class, a new Padura book is as much a document as a novel, a way of understanding Cuban reality.”

Anderson says it there better than I could, but I’ll add that reading Padura’s characters are like looking at an Annie Liebowitz photograph of a wrinkled subject. Each imperfection – because it is loved, respected, skillfully captured, and intimately understood – becomes beautiful.

You can find copies of Padura’s Havana Noir series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

(Extremely) Unauthorized Relationship Advice Inspired by Crime Fiction: Part 1

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

A few months ago, I realized that while I had read plenty of domestic suspense involving terrible relationships, and enjoyed quite a few stories of detective couples solving crimes, the genre may not be the best source for relationship advice. I immediately began to imagine what relationship advice these characters might give to those experiencing similar dilemmas, thus inspiring the following blog series.

In honor of the month of love, MysteryPeople presents unauthorized (and frequently ill-advised) relationship advice from fictional characters. Our first installment features Hammett’s Nick & Nora on drinking with your partner, James M. Cain’s Phyllis on how to get out of a relationship quick, and Daphne du Maurier’s Mrs. de Winter on adjusting to life as a second wife. Readers should not take the following relationship advice – but y’all just might enjoy reading it!

Dear Nick and Nora,9780679722632

My husband and I have long enjoyed a drink or two, and we like to consider ourselves the life of the party. With that said, one can’t survive by gin and tonics alone, and I worry that we’re moving from casual drinking territory to becoming full-on drunkards. How do I introduce a little more variety, and health, into our daily life?

  • Alcoholic in Austin

Dear Alcoholic in Austin,

My husband and I do enjoy a good drink, and we like to be productive while drinking. Maybe you and your husband could take up a little night work to get more done in between (or during!) drinks. My husband and I also have a dog, so we have built-in exercise in our daily lives. Really, though, dear – you shouldn’t be worrying! Drink as much as you like! That’s what Nick and I always say!

  • Nora Charles

You can find Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

double indemnityDear Phyllis,

I am trapped in a loveless marriage by a man who has failed in his business as much as he has failed in our relationship. Times are hard, I know, but I deserve a richer, more glamorous life than my current one. As I am still unencumbered by children, I’d like to ask your advice for how to (profitably) extricate myself from my marriage.

  • Burdoned in Bermuda

Dear Burdened in Bermuda,

Do you have insurance? If your husband’s business were to experience a sudden fire, I’m sure that any damages you receive could go toward repairing your marriage, and freeing you to move to a new place. And if your husband were to experience a sudden accident…Well, just think on that one for a minute, and I’m sure you’ll come to the logical conclusion.

  • Phyllis

You can find James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

rebeccaDear Mrs. de Winter,

I recently found myself engaged to a sad-eyed widower, and I worry I can never fill the hole left in his heart and household by his first wife. Even after her death, her things and gaze dominate the estate she left behind. Should I leave my fiance to grieve, or should I continue to usurp the former mistress of the house in her own abode?

  • Engaged in Idaho

Dear Engaged in Idaho,

As you’ve chosen to ask my advice, I presume you are familiar with my own tale. My husband’s seeming grief over his first wife turned out to be relief at her passing and the end of her cuckoldry, yet our housekeeper’s love for her former mistress lived on, culminating in her destruction of our home. I would thus recommend a slow introduction to your fiance’s household, with enough time for any dependents or servants to properly let go of past attachments. Otherwise, you could be facing the destruction of your property, if not your relationship.

  • Mrs. de Winter

You can find Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Crime Fiction Friday: “The Hanging Judge” by Billy Kring

This week’s Crime Fiction Friday is an original from MysteryPeople favorite Billy Kring. We hope you’ll enjoy the sly humor and fast-paced action of “The Hanging Judge,” all set here in this fair city. You can find copies of Kring’s crime novels on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


The Hanging Judge

By Billy Kring

The bats under Austin’s South Congress Street Bridge swirled upward in a brown-furred,  leather-winged cyclone because of the body hanging in their nesting area.

Below the bridge six kayakers floated on Town Lake. They displayed signs saying, No Hanging Around This Area, and Pretty Fly For A White Guy, and John Holmes Wishes He Was This Hung, upholding the unofficial city motto: Keep Austin Weird. One kayak with an albino couple dressed in black turtlenecks and white Andy Warhol hair shouted an angry mantra of, “Bats have rights, too!”

Homicide Detective Joe Hardin stooped under the yellow tape, went to the edge of the bridge, and leaned over the rail into the vortex of winged mammals as he studied the rope from the knot on the bridge rail to the suited body dangling below. He snapped photos with his iPhone as bats shot toward his head like small brown jets.  

Walkers and cyclists on the bridge approached the scene until a look from Hardin nudged them on down the road. A shirtless jogger with a P90X body and major attitude bent low to come under the crime scene tape. Joe opened his jacket to show the shield on his belt, “This is a crime scene, Ace.”  He glanced beyond the man and saw his Homicide partner, Detective David Ornelas walking to the scene.

P90X thought about pushing it, then looked in Joe’s eyes.  He shot Joe the finger as he trotted away saying, “This is America, not Nazi Germany!”

David ducked under the tape and said as he passed the angry man, “Don’t get your lederhosen in a bunch.”

Joe said, “Glad you could make it.”  

“Got any gum this morning?” Joe gave him the flat pack of Eclipse gum he habitually carried. “Who do we have?”

“Judge Matthew Rodgers.”  

“Maximum Matt?”


David thumb-pushed three pieces of gum out of their pockets and returned the pack to Joe. One piece of gum remained.  

“Why didn’t you just take all of them?”

David waved his hand in front of his mouth as if moving away dragon breath, “Lethal halitosis this morning. I’m saving your life here.” David looked over the edge. “Who called it in?”

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