MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS

MysteryPeople April Pick of the Month: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

I’ve said before that Hilary Davidson is somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde author. Her short fiction has a hard noir style, usually showing the worst of humanity. Her series featuring travel writer Lily Moore consists of edgy thrillers with a damaged-but-decent heroine confronting her problems. With Blood Always Tells, a stand alone thriller, Davidson fuses both sides of her writing personalities.

The book begins with Dominique Monaghan, a second tier model having an affair with an ex-boxer who married another woman for money. After Dominique discovers he’s cheating on her, as well, she slips a muscle relaxant into his drink, hoping to get him talking about the wife and affairs all while recording the conversation for blackmail purposes. The plan goes awry when some guys with guns burst in and kidnap both of them.

This isn’t your average kidnapping. In one entertaining passage, Dominique is schooled by one of the accomplices on the many reasons for kidnapping. This section has the darker motives and even darker humor of Davidson’s short fiction work.

After a little over a hundred pages, the book goes into hard-boiled sleuth mode as we follow Dominique’s brother Desmond as he tries to find her. The search puts him up against Gary’s diamond-for-a-heart wife and more than a few unhinged criminals.

Davidson has a gift for taking you seamlessly through these different point-of-views and sub-genres. By crafting many well placed reveals and twists that become a part of the pace, she makes the reader accustomed to the speed at which she likes to change it up. There’s also a theme of the importance of family weaved throughout the book that binds it together. All three of the characters come from broken homes and the double edge sword of bother-sister relationships.

Blood Always Tells is a fresh and engaging read. It plays with genre and narrative in a unique way, not flinching when it comes to the characters and their past. I look forward to Hilary’s next walk on the wild side.

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Blood Always Tells is available for pre-order on our website. Hilary Davidson will be in the store on Thursday, April 24 at 7PM speaking & signing copies of the book. Click here for more information & to pre-order your signed copy.

3 Picks for March

In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McGinty

McGinty wraps up his Troubles Trilogy with Catholic, Belfast cop, Sean Duffy, tracking down a professional bomber. The book caps off a great look at Thatcher-era Ireland. Both Duffy’s sense of humor and justice make him a hero worth rooting for. When Ian Rankin was here last month, he gave high praise to these books.

Evil In All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson

My favorite books of 2013 is now out in paperback. This third book in the Lily Moore series wraps up an elegant emotional arc for the travel writer heroine. Davidson also delivers first rate suspense with a colleague’s disappearance in Acapulco, a creepy hotel, and a connection to her old boyfriend.

You also have the chance to see Hilary Davidson at BookPeople on Thursday, April 24th at 6:30PM when she’s here with her latest, Blood Always Tells.

They Don’t Dance Much by James Ross

One of the first examples of rural noir. This tale of a road-house owner, a crooked sheriff, and a  femme fatale who is married to the richest man in town was recommended to me by both Daniel Woodrell and Joe R. Lansdale. If that’s not enough, Chandler was a fan, too. When the lead character’s name is Smut, you know your in hard-boiled high cotton.

The Look Out: BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS

Hilary Davidson has two personalities as a writer. Best known for her edgy psychological thrillers featuring travel writer Lily Moore, she has also penned several noir short stories with a pitch black sense of humor (many collected in the eBook, The Black Widow Club). She fuses both styles brilliantly in her first stand alone, Blood Always Tells.

The book is told from three points of view. We start with a mistress trying to get back at her three-timing boyfriend. Her plan of attack involves blackmail, but then she gets caught up in his kidnapping. Then, the story later shifts to her brother, Desmond, who is trying to rescue her from everything she’s gotten herself entangled with. Lastly, near the end we hear from the point-of-view of a character who has been a fly on a wall through the whole thing.

Each character changes the story into a different sub-genre- from black comic crime to hard-boiled detective, all fitting together perfectly to make one novel.

No matter which perspective you are reading, Blood Always Tells is one engaging read. Its many twists, dark humor, darker psychology, and complex good, bad and somewhere-in-the-middle characters make it one of the best books in what is looking like a banner year for crime fiction. It’s hard to tell you more without giving away the great surprises. You can find out for yourself when the book comes out on April 15th. Make sure to join us on Thursday, April 24 at 6:30PM when Hilary will be here at at BookPeople to sign and discuss the novel.

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Hilary Davidson will be at BookPeople on Thursday, Apr 24 at 6:30PM speaking & signing copies of Blood Always Tells. For more information & to pre-order signed copies, visit bookpeople.com. 

Hilary Davidson Tackles Mystery’s Misogyny Controversy

ljx131201wwebmysDavidsonb-201x300At the 2013 Bouchercon, the subject of misogyny and violence came up often. Hilary Davidson’s comments on one panel got the the attention of the Library Journal who asked her for this blog post that has been making the rounds in the Mystery community.

“Sadistic violence on the page has been on the rise for some time. I don’t think it’s fair to pin it on one book, but in my mind, there’s a divide between crime novels published before 1988 and those that came after. That was the year Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs came out. That title was brutal, but its violence was essential to the psychological underpinning of the book and to the development of its characters. Its massive success inspired imitators, but many of those seemed less concerned with psychology than splatter.”

Read the rest of the post by clicking here.

Top 6 Books To Look Forward to In 2014

2014 is looking like a great year for crime fiction fans. It’s so good that while I was making a top 5 list of books I’m looking forward to, I realized I had to make it 6.

 

1. Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

This will be a bittersweet read, since it will be the last book featuring my favorite contemporary private eye, Moe Prager. Moe is one of the most fully realized characters out there and this series contains some of the most poignant books I’ve ever read. I may be wiping tears as I turn pages. On Sale 5/18/14. Pre-order here.

 

2. Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson

As much as I love Hilary’s Lily Moore series, this novel of blackmail, kidnapping, and bad relationships sounds like the kind of book I’ve been waiting for her to write. Leaning her towards darker short fiction, this could be the Gone Girl of 2014. On Sale 4/15/14. Pre-order here.

 

james ellroy3. Perfidia by James Ellroy

Ellroy goes back to The City Of Angels to revisit some of the characters from his LA Quartet in their earlier days. This could be a return to the sprawling, stylish, down and dirty Ellroy we all got hooked on. On Sale 9/9/14. Pre-order here. 

 

 

4. The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya

I’ve been waiting years for Dennis Tafoya to come out with a new book – read Dope Thief to know why. This tale of an ex-US Marshall protecting her sister and step mother from her father on the streets of Philadelphia should have all the gritty heart I’ve come to expect from him and be well worth the wait. On Sale 4/29/14. Pre-order here.

 

5. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McGinty

The final installment of The Troubles Trilogy featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in Thatcher-era Belfast. My only hope is that McGinty will find a way to continue with this complex character and his biting sense of humor. On Sale 3/4/14. Pre-order here. 

 

6. The Fever by Megan Abbott

A new book by Megan Abbott. That’s all that needs to be said. On Sale 6/17/14. Pre-order here.

Painting it Black: Bouchercon 2013

On the town with Detectives Without Borders blog founder Pete Rovovsky and author RJ Ellory.
On the town with Detectives Without Borders blog founder Pete Rovovsky and author RJ Ellory.

Albany is a quaint city, with rolling hills (I swear I was always walking uphill, even on the way back), historic buildings and friendly people who say, “Absolutely,” when you ask them for a favor. Into this bucolic atmosphere descended thousands of crime fiction writers, publishers, booksellers, and fans like a plague of dark, drunken, philosophical rats from September 19th – 22nd. I can say this because I was one of the them attending this year’s Bouchercon, the world’s largest mystery conference.

Debate went into high gear during the New Noir panel. Moderator Reed Farrel Coleman introduced the idea that there are now two different kinds of noir fiction. One is traditional that relies more on mood and psychology. The newer form relies on violence and shock value. It was probably the most engaging discussion at the conference, with Duane Swierczynski defending the new form along with Jason Starr admitting that his works tend to fall into this category. The discussion wrapped up with a few jokes about Reed’s age and a quip from Hilary Davidson that would make any femme fatale proud.

Les Edgerton’s Pulp Fiction, Baby! panel also discussed playing on the dark and moody side of the street. As happened last year, Les had the best line of the year: “Paint your character black and the light will shine through.”

Josh Stalling talked about how he enjoyed hiding real ideas and social commentary in pulp fiction. He also cited James Crumley’s Dancing Bear and the original Winnie The Pooh as the books most influential in his process. When asked which Pooh character he relates the most with, he answered, “I’m always Eeyore.”

The Shameless Dead Cats & Bad Girls panel hosted by Laura Lippman dealt with taboos in crime fiction. Megan Abbott cited Gone Girl as proof that the mainstream has embraced the type of dark fiction that was more marginalized in the past.

0921131611Discussion of what is taboo in noir fiction was the theme amongst most panels at Bouchercon. Taking advantage of that, David Corbett turned his I Go To Extremes panel into a drinking game with the words, “noir,” “taboo,” “transgressive,” and “Tarantino.” Unfortunately for David, he forgot Todd Robinson, Glenn Gray, and I were in attendance. We’re three guys known for being loud and opinionated even when we’re sober.

The panels definitely covered a lot outside the question of what has become taboo.

I learned more about Austin author Mark Pryor at The Liar’s panel, where they played a game with the audience to guess when Mark was telling a lie, the truth, or a half-truth.

At the WW2 and Sons panel, Martin Limon spoke about how the culture clash he witnessed as a GI stationed in Korea between the locals and the US military lead to writing the Sueno & Bascome series.

In a discussion about writing unreliable narrators, Megan Abbott talked about how she believes noir protagonists will always be unreliable, since they are always attempting to justify their actions. Laura Lippman agreed, adding that the

y are also trying to convince the reader that they would have done the same.

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With party hosts, Reed Farrel Coleman, Tom Schreck, and Jon and Ruth Jordan.

You couldn’t let this group of dark, philosophical rats go without a night of revelry. On the first night of the con, authors Reed Farrell Coleman, Tom Schreck and Crimespree magazine’s Jon and Ruth Jordan threw a spectacular party. The Franklin Towers Bar was all shook up with classic rock n’ roll covers flowing from the stage, with Johnny Rebel And The Jail House Rockers at the helm. It was overwhelming to see such a who’s who in crime fiction. The place was so packed, even the sidewalk outside was crowded.

I would love to share more details, but it might be a little too risqué for the blogosphere.

I hung on until the bitter end, so I was able to see every dark nook and cranny of this year’s Buchercon. I went to the annual Dead Dog Dinner with those left over on Sunday night. Then, the next morning, it was breakfast and sightseeing with author RJ Ellory and bloggers Ali Karim and Peter Rozovsky before we had to catch our trains.

I don’t know if we attendees ever answered the question about whether or not we’ve gone too far in noir fiction. Maybe we have.

Will we push it further? Absolutely.

We Have No Idea Where Scott Is….

But over the weekend he sent us these photos from Bouchercon 2013. If anyone sees him, please let him know we’re looking for him. We saw some photos on facebook and are concerned he might have had way too good a time and is never coming back. There are books to sell here, Scott. Let’s go.

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Martin Limon signed my book!

 

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Always wonderful to see Hilary Davidson

 

Murder Most Intimate: Guest Post by Hilary Davidson

When I was being interviewed on a radio show a couple of months ago, the host asked me about patterns in my work. At the time, the only one that came to mind was revenge, which plays a starring role in each of my novels. I wasn’t aware of other patterns until I started putting together my short story collection, The Black Widow Club. It has made me see my work in a new light. The truth is, I like to poison people.

In crime fiction, poison is often considered a “cozy” way to dispatch a person, given that the murderer doesn’t need to confront his or her victim with a knife, gun, or other weapon. That used to be how I looked at poisonings. Growing up, I was fascinated by Agatha Christie’s novels, in which poison often plays a prominent role. Alfred Hitchcock used it to wonderful effect in his films — think of Ingrid Bergman being poisoned by her Nazi husband in Notorious, or even of Joan Fontaine wondering if her husband had it in for her in Suspicion. Other films, like Arsenic and Old Lace, represented poisoners as dotty yet sweet characters. Poison seemed like such a democratic way to dispatch someone. After all, you don’t need to be strong or have any particular skill with weaponry. The killer could be young or old, healthy or infirm. It seemed almost easy.

My point of view changed after I heard a forensic toxicologist speak at a Sisters in Crime event a few years ago. If there was one lesson I learned that evening, it was this: Poisoners need no physical strength, but they must have nerves of steel. Shooting or stabbing someone takes a mere moment, whereas poison requires dedication. Many poisons require a certain amount of time to work — often it’s days, but it could be a week or more — and the poisoner must administer several doses of poison. Given that the poisoner normally needs to be in close proximity to his or her victim, this means that the killer has to be able to look into the eyes of their victim, engage them in conversation, perhaps even be affectionate with them — all the while knowing that they’re killing this person.

There was something particularly horrific about that idea to me. How could you live with someone and slowly murder them? Wouldn’t the killer change his or her mind at some point? It’s never been hard for me to understand a crime a passion. I can see how a person — carried away by rage or jealousy or some other dark impulse — might make a terrible decision in a heartbeat… and, a moment later, be filled with terrible, unceasing grief. But imagining what would drive someone to the ruthless, heartless act of poisoning has been a tougher task.

That question led directly to the title story in my new collection. “The Black Widow Club” begins with a gunshot, but it ends with deeper, more horrific crimes. I used to think of poisons as exotic, strange concoctions that could be recognized by distinct marks, like the red rash that was symptomatic of belladonna. But the reality is that some of the hardest-to-detect poisons are already in our homes and garden sheds. And the killer is already inside the house.

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The Black Widow Club is available as an eBook via bookpeople.com.

MP Guest Blog: Hilary Davidson

Ava Gardner and Lily Moore

By Hilary Davidson

“Hard-partying, foul-mouthed, wisecracking and iconically beautiful, Ava Gardner was one of the biggest stars of the ’50s and ’60s, though most of her films are now forgotten.”

I read that line a few weeks ago, and it left me stunned. That wasn’t so much because of my own admiration for Ava Gardner (though I think she was a great actress, and that anyone who thinks that films like Mogambo, Show Boat, and The Killers have been forgotten is quite the dullard). It was because of Lily Moore, the main character in my three novels, and how she would react to such scorn directed at her idol. Forgotten films? Hardly.

If you’ve read my novels, you know that Lily adores Ava Gardner. Ironically, that wasn’t true when I started writing The Damage Done, the first book in the series. I knew that Lily loved vintage clothing and classic movies, but at that point Ava was interchangeable with Barbara Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman as part of the pantheon of great actresses who starred in noirish films. But when I pictured Lily, she looked a lot like Ava Gardner in my mind’s eye, and I put a photograph of Ava on my desk to keep her image in my mind as I wrote.

That small connection made me read a little bit about Ava Gardner’s life, and I remember the shock I felt when I found out Ava’s father had died when she was 13. Lily’s father had died when she was 13, and that was a detail that had been part of her story from the very beginning, when I’d written the first draft of the first chapter. There was something eerie about that coincidence, and it made me feel like the connection between Lily and Ava went deeper than pure fandom.

Part of the appeal, I think, is that Ava and Lily are both survivors. More than that, they manage to thrive in spite of adversity. Ava Gardner was a person who loved life (and bullfighters, and drinking, and, well, lots of things), and she was wildly successful as not caring what other people thought of her. Lily isn’t quite there yet, but she’s working on it. In my latest book, Evil in All Its Disguises, she starts to see the difference between the studio version of her heroine, and the real-life one:

I turned on the bedside lamp and stared at an image of Ava Gardner on the wall. It was a studio portrait, one of those perfectly posed and lighted visions that looked beautiful, yet held her personality and vibrancy so tightly in check that it almost seemed shot from inside a cage. In a way, it was: Ava hated the endless photo sessions that were demanded by her studio bosses at MGM. The candid shots of the real-life Ava Gardner from the same era were striking by comparison. So often her hair was mussed or her dress was creased, and often she wasn’t wearing shoes. But her vitality, her voracious appetite for life, and her carefree spirit were in plain view and they were overwhelming.

In the first two books, there was a line of Ava’s that Lily had play through her mind now and then: “Deep down, I’m pretty superficial.” That was something her sister used to chide her with, and it stung. In the third, Lily starts to see her idol’s self-mocking words and determination to enjoy life as something more akin to a virtue. She’s been through hell, so if she wants to let her hair down and kick her shoes off and enjoy herself, she will. She’s earned it.

Hilary Davidson will be reading and signing copies of her new novel Evil In All Its Disguises tonight (March 26th) at 7pm on BookPeople’s third floor. Stop by and tell her how great she is!

 

MysteryPeople Interview: HILARY DAVIDSON

Hilary Davidson has become one of those great voices in the new generation of crime fiction. Accessible with an edge, her books, The Damage Done and The Next One To Fall, featuring travel writer Lily Moore have won a large cross section of fans. We can’t wait to see her on March 26th for the signing and discussion of her latest, Evil In All Its Disguises. Until then, here is an interview to tide you over.

MysteryPeople: How did you come to choose Acapulco for the setting?

Hilary Davidson: It was a long, strange process to find the right setting for Evil in All Its Disguises. That’s partly because the premise — a journalist going missing while on a press trip — was based on a real events. I worked for Frommer’s Travel Guides for a decade, and in May 2000, one of the editors, a woman named Claudia Kirschhoch, went missing on a press trip to Jamaica. It’s a heartbreaking story: legally, she’s been declared dead, but her body has never been found.

I didn’t want to set the book in Jamaica, because Evil is in no way a telling of Claudia Kirschhoch’s story. The book reflects certain things that happened in real life — such as the resort’s attempt to pretend there was nothing wrong, and then trying to defame the missing journalist by claiming she was using drugs and being sexually provocative — but it’s a work of fiction. I decided to move it to another Caribbean island, and chose Barbados because it’s such an amazing place, caught between the wild waters of the Atlantic and the serenity of the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, that location didn’t work at all. I love Barbados, and my affection for the place got in the way of the writing. It was turning the book into more of a travelogue, which was the opposite of the isolated, Gothic feel I wanted.

Partway through the first draft, I stopped writing and decided to find another setting. I chose Acapulco for two main reasons: it has a very glamorous Hollywood-connected history, which appeals to Lily; and it’s a place where crime is out of control at the moment. The news stories that are in the book, like the headless bodies that turn up on the beach, and the one about a drug cartel trying to extort money from the teachers’ union, are all true. They created such an atmosphere of dread about the place. Lily is claustrophobic, and I wanted to have a sense of the walls closing in around her in this book.

MP: I was glad to see you use the travel writer culture I’ve heard you talk about. What was important for you to get across about those characters?

HD: Travel writing is a particularly strange business, because it puts you in close quarters with virtual strangers and you can’t escape each other. You learn a lot about the other journalists over the course of a few days because you’re on the road together, having all of your meals together, and basically living out of each other’s pockets. Sometimes that’s a wonderful thing — some of my closest friends are travel writers I met on the road. And sometimes you encounter characters that belong in a book. The sexual harassment of female journalists and PR people is an ongoing issue in the business, and it’s an open secret in the travel-writing community who the lecherous photographer is based on. I actually stole some of his best lines for the book.

Travel writing also makes you aware of how kind people can be. There are a couple of older journalists on Lily’s trip who drive her nuts, but who rally around her while she’s down. For better or worse, a press trip is a bit like a particularly neurotic family. The people on it tend to take care of each other if someone gets sick or needs help.

MP: The hotel that Lily finds herself in almost has the persona of a classy evil henchman. How do you approach locations as a writer?

HD: I’m so glad you saw the Hotel Cerón that way! For me, a major location like that is a lot like a character, but one without any spoken lines, so it communicates differently. It has its flashy front, with its elegant lobby and dramatic public rooms. When you get deeper inside — say, into a guestroom — you start to see that it’s worn and less polished than it seemed at first. By the time Lily gets into its hidden places, you know there’s going to be something bad waiting in the darkness. It’s also why you catch glimpses of things that aren’t supposed to be there, like the snake in the first chapter, or the nasty guard who’s watching the grounds. The hotel’s staff make both disappear quickly. The hotel wants you to see its fine furniture and flowers and framed celebrity photographs, not its seamy side. In my mind, it’s a lot like a gangster in an expensive suit who’s trying to mix with nice company and hoping you won’t notice his gun.

MP: While you put Lily through hell as usual, you also have her come closer than she ever has in coming to terms with some emotional wounds. Was that an imperative for you on the third book or did it just simply work out that way because of the plot?

HD: When I was writing the first book in the series, The Damage Done, I knew what the emotional arc of the character would be over the next two books, even though I didn’t know anything about the plots of those books. For me, it’s always been about character first and foremost, and that means going deeper into Lily’s mind and heart with each book. She isn’t a naturally introspective person. Before The Damage Done, she was quite happy to run away from her problems, rather than confront them. But Lily’s life changed dramatically in the course of that book, and that forced her to change as well. In the second book in the series, The Next One to Fall, she was struggling to pick up the pieces of her life. In Evil in All Its Disguises, she’s starting to recover from some of those wounds, but she has a lot of baggage from the past that she’s never unpacked, and she’s just starting to confront it. This is why Lily needs a break for a little while. She’s been through a lot in the past year!

MP: I noticed on a list of your favorite crime novels, you had the highly underrated The Way Some People Die by Ross MacDonald. Is there anything from that book or the Lew Archer series that you try to apply to your own work?

 HD: The Way Some People Die is a masterpiece, and I wish more people would read it. One of the ways that MacDonald’s work influences mine is the understanding that the main character is carrying around wounds from the past that could split open at any time. Don’t get me wrong: Lew Archer is a cipher compared to Lily Moore, and you have to read several books in MacDonald’s series to get a strong sense of him. But once you do, you realize that Lew Archer has been damaged, and there are hints at physical abuse in his past and a dark cloud of depression that follows him. It’s something that evolves over the course of many books, and MacDonald handles it beautifully. Archer, for all of his world-weariness, cares deeply about people. There’s a lot of pain in him, and a surprising amount of empathy. If Lew Archer met up with Detective Bruxton, I think they’d have a lot of common ground.

There’s also an intensity to MacDonald’s best work that I love. Many of his novels are set over the course of two days. That was something I did with Evil: most of the book is compressed into a 36-hour period.

MP: I know you’re working on a standalone for your next book. Can you tell us anything about it?

HD: I handed it in the week before Evil came out, so it’s very much on my mind. I can tell you that it begins with the kidnapping of a wealthy, adulterous couple, and that things go wrong very quickly… so wrong that one of the kidnappers, in the aftermath of that awful weekend, tries to piece together what really happened. I’m worried that if I say more, I’ll give away spoilers! But I’ll tell you one thing I haven’t told anyone else: the working title is Blood Always Tells.