This past weekend, MysteryPeople celebrated our fifth anniversary, with a panel discussion featuring local authors Mark Pryor, Jesse Sublett, Meg Gardiner, and Janice Hamrick, and local critic Hopeton Hay.Molly and I moderated the discussion. Afterwards, we all enjoyed celebratory cake, beverages, and most importantly, trivia with giveaways.
After our anniversary party on Saturday wrapped up, we decided to share some of our favorite event moments throughout the history of MysteryPeople. Below, we’ve shared our favorite memories of the fantastic authors who came through and the fun times we’ve had with them during and after our events. Molly and myself picked six standout moments each. As you will learn, Craig Johnson in particular has gotten to be an important part of our store.
MysteryPeople’s Molly Odintz and Scott Montgomery were invited to be moderators at the 19th Annual Texas Festival Of Books held at the state capitol last weekend. It was Scott’s fourth time moderating at the festival and Molly’s first time ever. They both survived to tell the tale to report back.
Crime fiction had its strongest presence yet at the festival with six panels and three one-on-one interviews with the likes of Walter Mosely and James Ellroy. Even before the actual festival got underway, I got to sped some time with the authors. Timothy Hallinan, author of the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty series, shared some BBQ as we talked books and his time working with Katherine Hepburn. I also got to spend some time with friends Harry Hunsicker, Mark Pryor, and the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneaux before they went to their panels. Then I had my own.
First up was an interview with Craig Johnson, who’s latest book, Wait For Signs, is a collection of all the short stories featuring his Wyoming sheriff hero, Walt Longmire. He told the audience that Walt’s last name came from James Longmire who opened up the trail near Washington’s Mount Rainer and had the area named after him. He felt the combination of the words “long” and “mire” expressed what his character had been through. He added it also passed the test for a western hero name in that it could easily be followed by the word “Steakhouse.”
My panel discussion, Risky Business, had Jeff Abbott and debut author Patrick Hoffman looking at the art of thriller writing. The discussion got interesting when when it got into the topic of being categorized in a genre. Jeff said he wanted to get pigeon holed, “That way I know I’m selling.” He added it has never interfered with the type of book he wanted to write. We also got into an interesting talk about use of location. Patrick Hoffman talked about how he would often use his company car to drive to the location of his San Fransisco centric, The White Van, and write there on his lunch hour. Jeff and I also had fun drawing as much attention we could to our friend, author Meg Gardiner, who was in the audience and should have known better.
By the time the festival was over my body dehydrated, my voice was shot, and my blood alcohol content was questionable. Can’t wait til’ next year.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of moderating two mystery panels at the Texas Book Festival. This was my first try at moderating panels and I am so thankful to MysteryPeople and the Texas Book Festival for giving me the opportunity to channel an NPR interviewer.The first, a panel on International Crime, featured authors Kwei Quartey, on tour with his latest Darko Dawson novel, Murder at Cape Three Points, and Ed Lin, with his new novel Ghost Month. Kwei Quartey’s novels take place in Ghana and increasingly focus on the economic and social imbalances of modern day Ghanaian life. Ed Lin has previously written novels depicting the Asian-American experience, including his Detective Robert Chow trilogy, set in New York City, and Ghost Month is his first to take place outside of the country.
We talked about what it means to write international crime fiction, the place of food in the detective novel, fiction as a method of dealing with historical and current societal trauma, and how to escape from a crashing helicopter. Both authors are published by SoHo and you can find their books on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The second panel, looking at crime noir, brought together authors Rod Davis, with his latest, South, America, and Harry Hunsicker, with his new novel The Contractors. South, America follows a Dallas native living in New Orleans as he finds a dead body, gets tangled up with the dead man’s sister, and must go on the run from mobsters. The novel reaches deep into the twisted Louisiana web of racism and poverty to write a lyrical portrait of two desperate people.
Harry Hunsicker is the author of many previous novels, and his latest, The Contractors, explores the blurred lines between public and private when it comes to law enforcement. His two protagonists are private sector contractors working for the DEA and paid a percentage of the value of any recovered substances. They get more than they bargained for when they agree to escort a state’s witness from Dallas to Marfa with two cartels, a rogue DEA agent, and a corrupt ex-cop following them.
We talked about the meaning of noir, the craft of writing mysteries, the purpose of violence in fiction, and stand-alones versus series. South, America and The Contractors are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
It’s been over five years since there was a novel from Harry Hunsicker. After three books in his skillfully crafted hero series featuring Dallas PI Lee Henry Oswald, he has mainly been known for his acclaimed short stories that had a much darker tone. With his new novel, The Contractors, he melds both into a gritty tale of guns, drugs, and double crosses across Texas.
The story deals with two independent contractors working for the DEA. Disgraced ex-Dallas cop, Jon Cantrell, does the work to provide care for his father who is retired from the force and suffering from Alzheimer’s. His partner, Piper, is a no-nonsense woman with a knack for firearms and some interesting coping mechanisms. The two are hired to bust a drug warehouse, where they discover that they’re pawns in an assassination attempt on a witness, Eva Mendez. With their livelihood and lives on the line, they take the girl with them. As more secrets come to light, things get tighter and tighter, shattering the few beliefs the two have.
Hunsicker takes the hard-boiled novel to epic proportions: a scheming senator who acts like a god in a Greek myth, the sordid history of both Cantrell and his father, bad guys on both sides of the law and border, and some intense action set pieces. Then, there’s his ability to invest you in the characters, giving them room to breath, with some great dialogue that never slows the pace. By having them move and fight in the differing regions of Texas, he uses the Lone Star State as a frame for his wide canvas.
The Contractors is a tough guy (and gal) thriller that looks at betrayal in different forms: from friends, employers, country, and even of our own ideals. It deals with compromised characters trying to hold on to what’s left of their humanity. However, Hunsicker gives us some light when he shows what happens when a couple of those people decide to be heroes for one day.
Look Out for Dallas Noir edited by David Hale Smith
On Our Shelves November 5th
The Akashic City Noir series takes a dark look at The Big D. Editor David Hale Smith has put together a range of talent in Dallas Noir. Whether crime or general fiction authors, these writers capture every aspect of the city.
The collection serves as a study of the town and noir. We get it all – from the skyscrapers to the tough streets of South Dallas where hard-boiled master Harry Hunsicker’s “Stick Up Girl” resides. Going north, Matt Boundurant’s White Rock suburbs prove to be equally dangerous.
We also get range in the genre. Daniel J. Hale gives us a classic noir nightmare, while Ben Fountain’s, “The Realtor” shows a subtler shade of noir. The collection is capped off with “Swingers Anynmous,” a piece from the neo noir movement by Jonathan Woods. Just try to get that one out of your head.
This collection is a great literary mosaic that describes a complex city. It will also introduce you to more than a dozen authors you need to know. Grab it on November 5th.
Author of Still River
– Mystic River (Dennis Lehane) and The Town (The Prince Thieves by Chuck Hogan) and emotional highs and low of both stories while being true to the plot and spirit of the novels.
Author of When It All Comes Down To Dust
– The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It’s my all-time favorite novel, so I avoided the film until last year – and it turns out it might be as good as the book. Beautifully faithful to what Higgins wrote, and definitely Mitchum’s greatest performance.
DON BRUNS Author of Bahama Burnout
– Get Shorty. Elmore Leonard has had some pretty good movie adaptions, but John Travolta nailed the role of Chilly Palmer!
Author of Amarillo
– The Last Picture Show. How a New York boy like Peter Bogdanovich could perfectly recreate a small Texas town’s denizens is a tribute to both him and Larry McMurtry, who wrote the book.
Author of The Prophet
–A Simple Plan. Stunning novel, Oscar-nominated script, and Scott Smith was a rookie at both forms. That’s rare air.
REED FARREL COLEMAN
Author of Gun Church
–Winter’s Bone. A chilling novel with a veiled message of hope and determination. The movie is true to the book in spirit and in deed.
Author of The Lost Sister
– Point Blank (adapted from The Hunter)may be one of my favorite adaptations. More than anything, its about Lee Marvin’s performance. With barely a word, he makes you believe utterly in his ruthlessness and single-mindedness. And somehow, he colors the role so that, for me, Parker becomes Marvin no matter which book I’m reading; that walk, that glare, that tightly coiled menace that makes you glad you’re not the one standing between him and money.