- Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
A hard land with a difficult history, Texas has always lent itself well to crime fiction. From the crime fiction greats who helped define the genre to those writers shaping the landscape of crime fiction today, Texas has a long tradition of social critiques and sendoffs of hypocrisy (the hallmarks of Texas crime fiction, in my opinion) delivered via murder mystery. Tales of Texas history may gaslight their audiences into believing in the state as a land of triumph, but we crime fiction readers know the dark, murderous truth about the land we call home….
Below, you’ll find an incomplete (of necessity) guide to Texas crime fiction, brought to y’all in honor of Texas Mystery Writers Month (that is, May). Emphasis is placed on well-known classic writers and the wide array of new crime fiction released in the past few years. We know we’re leaving out quite a few of the Texas mystery writer greats, and many of the good one-off novels. Some have gone out of print; others have simply dropped off our radar as we find new voices to champion.
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- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Ben Rehder’s latest Blanco County novel, Point Taken, has his hero John Marlin playing straight man in a murder involving arrowheads, one scary meat salesman, and the redneck Abbott and Costello, Red and Billy Don, now flush with cash.
Ben will be joining Jonathan Woods and Lance Hawvermale for what is bound to be a fun discussion on Sunday, November 20th, at 5 PM. We got to him a little earlier to ask him these questions.
MysteryPeople Scott: While still very funny, this book came off a little darker than some of the other Blanco books I’ve read. Was that intended?
Ben Rehder: No, I didn’t intend that, and you’re actually the first person to make that comment. But I can see it. In hindsight, I have no problem with it being darker, and for a deeper explanation why, see the next answer…
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- Picks from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
If I Had A Nickel by Ben Rehder
Legal videographers and sometime investigators Roy Ballard and Mia Madison are back, hunting down a valuable stash of hobo nickels belonging to a millionaire who died in an interesting way. Rehder blends humor, detective fiction, Austin color, and the lives of his heroes into one entertaining cocktail. You can find copies of If I Had A Nickel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Shaker by Scott Frank
A hitman gets mistaken for a hero when he guns down some muggers during LAs biggest earthquake. This debut from acclaimed writer/director Scott Frank drops some truly hard boiled personalities into this satire of LA life. You can meet Scott Frank with authors Terry Shames and Josh Stallings at 7 PM, February 1st. You can find copies of Shaker on our shelves starting January 26th, or pre-order now via bookpeople.com.
Cut Me In by Ed McBain
Hard Case Crime plucks another one from obscurity. This early, by-gone novel from one of crime fiction’s grand masters has a publishing agent out to find his partner’s killer, in possession of a valuable stolen contract. It’s Mad Men meets Mickey Spillane. You can find copies of Cut Me In on our shelves starting January 12th, or anytime via bookpeople.com.
Reavis Wortham’s latest Red River Mystery, Dark Places, has half of the Central Springs law enforcement solving a murder at home while the other half searches on Route 66 for their runaway relative Pepper. It brings Wortham’s look at the Sixties into full bloom. We talked to the author about the book and the period.
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- Interview by MysteryPeople Scott
We’re happy to have Ben Rehder joining us for our Lone Star Mystery authors panel September 28th. In Bum Steer, Rehder’s latest novel to feature John Marlin of Blanco County, Marlin solves the mystery behind two dead bodies: a man and a steer. We caught up with him to talk about the book and the real and fictional Blanco County.
MysteryPeople Scott: You often use news items or current events for your Blanco County books. Did a real life event inspire Bum Steer?
Ben Rehder: Not any single event, but cattle rustling in general had been in my head for a while. I think some people are surprised to learn that rustling still takes place, but it does, and there are special rangers who investigate those thefts, along with theft of farm and ranch equipment. Imagine trying to steal a thousand-pound animal that doesn’t want to cooperate. That was the germ of the idea that grew into Bum Steer.
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- Interviewed by MysteryPeople Scott
Bill Crider is the epitome of the Texas journeyman writer. He has written in almost every genre and subgenre, his mysteries about Clearview sheriff Dan Rhodes being his best known. In his latest, Between The Living And The Dead, Dan Rhodes confronts murder, meth, and a possible ghost. Bill took a few questions from us about the Dan Rhodes novels and his career.
Bill Crider joins us Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM here at BookPeople for a Lone Star Crime panel. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest novel alongside Reavis Z. Wortham and Ben Rehder. You can find copies of Between The Living And The Dead on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
MysteryPeople Scott: What prompted you to use ghost hunters as a major part of the mystery?
Bill Crider: I’ve always wanted to write a haunted-house story, but I never came up with the right start for it. Then one day in the Walmart parking lot here in Alvin, Texas, I saw a ghost-hunters’ van, and I knew I had my hook. I had a character who’d be a perfect ghost hunter, so I gave him the job, threw in a murder, and had my haunted-house book.
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We are happy to have Texas genre writer extraordinaire Bill Crider joining us for an evening of Lone Star Crime with Reavis Wortham and Ben Rehder. They’ll be here at the store on Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM. Bill will be reading from his latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Between The Living & The Dead. If you are not familiar with his Clearwater, Texas lawman here’s a taste from the Anthony Award winning short story he wrote with his wife. It even has a chicken fried steak recipe. Can you get more Texas?
“Chocolate Moose” by Bill and Judy Crider
“Sheriff Dan Rhodes didn’t go to the Round-Up Restaurant often, but not because the food wasn’t good. He didn’t go because the food was too good.
The portable sign out front told the story with black letters on a white background: ABSOLUTELY NO CHICKEN FISH OR VEGETARIAN DISHES CAN BE FOUND ON OUR MENU!
What could be found were huge chicken-fried steaks and mashed potatoes smothered in cream gravy; big, soft rolls served with real butter; cooked-to-order T-bones marbled with fat on a plate beside a gigantic baked potato slathered with real butter, sour cream, and bacon bits; hamburger steaks with grilled onions piled high, along with a mound of french-fries or, if you preferred, hand-cut and battered onion rings. And, for dessert, there was a choice of peach or cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream on top. If you didn’t like cobbler, there was chocolate pie, with the best, the richest, the sweetest filling that Rhodes had ever tasted under its inch-thick meringue.
In other words, the Round-Up served good, solid food that stuck to your ribs, put a smile on your face, and, according to many leading physicians, filled your coronary arteries with substances whose effect on your health it was better not to think about. Which was why Rhodes rarely ate there. His wife, Ivy, had him on a low-fat regimen that was taking inches off his waistline and, she claimed, adding years to his life. As Rhodes pulled the county car into the Round-Up’s black-topped parking lot, he wished, in spite of the risk to his longevity, that he were going there to have a big slice of chocolate pie, or, failing that, maybe one of those baked potatoes. But he wasn’t. He was going to see about a man who’d been killed by a moose.
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