The Mystery Writers Of America’s Edgar Awards have been announced! Here’s a link to the nominees and winners.

A special congratulations goes to Jenny Milchman who won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for her novel Cover Of Snow. She’ll be here next month, Monday, June 16 at 7PM, speaking and signing her latest, Ruin Falls.

Congrats to all of the authors who were recognized.

History of Mystery Looks at Elmore Leonard & OUT OF SIGHT

The next meeting of our free History Of Mystery Class focuses on the most influential crime fiction author of the last fifty years: Elmore Leonard. His influence reached beyond the genre, touching screenwriters as well as authors. After Leonard made a name for himself, characters and dialogue were never the same.

Out Of Si is, arguably, the quintessential Elmore Leonard novel. This story of a US Marshall chasing down a fugitive she’s falling for takes place in the two cities he was associated with: Miami and Detroit. It demonstrates his ability to deliver absurdest humor that can turn to sudden violence. Believable characters and fun dialogue populate the novel.

We will be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor (603 N. Lamar Blvd.) onSunday, December 1st at 6PM to discuss Leonard. Join us beforehand at 4pm when we’ll screen Steven Soderbergh’s film version of Out Of Sight starring George Clooney. We’ll be joined in the discussion by author Ace Atkins, who will call in. You can see Leonard’s influence in Ace’s work, particularly his novel Infamous.

Copies of Out Of Sight are 10% off to those who attend. Join us!

History of Mystery Discussing WHEN THE SACRED GIN MILL CLOSES

Our free History Of Mystery Class looks at authors who put their mark on American crime fiction. This month, we look at one of the prolific and influential Lawrence Block. Block has been writing since the ’50s and is still going strong. He has written in many sub genres, innovating practically all of them, particularly with his unlicensed New York PI, Matthew Scudder.

Scudder is an ex-cop with a serious drinking problem who left under a dark cloud. His cases take him to some dark and seedy places in New York and in the human soul as he stumbles around a redemption he doesn’t even know he’s looking for. The books also serve as a look at Scudder and Block’s city for the last forty years.

When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes is considered one of the best in the series by both fans and fellow writers. It has three entwined mysteries and provides a definitive change in the series as Scudder confronts who he is. Its last line has stuck with many a reader.

We’re looking forward to having author Chris F. Holm, who’s own Collector series shows a Scudder influence, calling into our discussion. The class starts at 6PM on Sunday September 1st on BookPeople’s third floor. Copies of When The Sacred Ginmill Closes are 10% off to those planning to attend.

History of Mystery is Back with Robert B. Parker & Ace Atkins

We’re starting up our History Of Mystery series again on Sunday, August 4th. In this monthly meeting, we look at an author who had a major impact on crime fiction. Our next author had a major influence on anybody who wrote a private eye novel after him: Robert B. Parker. His book Early Autumn is a favorite among his fans, especially other authors like Ace Atkins, who will be calling in for the discussion.

Called “The Dean Of American Crime Fiction”, Robert B. Parker earned a PhD in English from Boston University. His dissertation was on Hammett, Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. In 1971 he introduced us to his detective Spenser in The Godwulf Manuscript, reshaping the tough guy hero for the modern era. He perfected the homicidal sidekick in Hawk. In Early Autumn, he looks at what it means to be a man as Spenser helps a teenage boy find his place in the world.

Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series owes a huge debt to the Spenser books. His talent and his regard for Parker lead Parker’s widow, Joan, to ask Atkins to continue the Spenser series after her husband passed away.

The group meets at 6PM on Sunday, August 4th. You’ll find us up on BookPeople’s third floor. The discussion is free and open to the public. Copies of Early Autumn are 10% off to those who attend.


Our next History Of Mystery Class takes another look at James Crumley with his first private eye novel, The Wrong Case. It features his ne’er do well Montana detective, Milo Milodragovitch, who takes on the case of a missing grad student, mainly because he’s enamored with the red headed sister who hires him. Crumley subtlety parodies the genre as he embraces it fully.

The Wrong Case is a full-on seventies crime novel. It has the feel of Sam Pekinpah directing a Chandler tale, with a Hunter S.Thompson view of America. Crumley’s modern west is filled with barflies, sons of the pioneers, and hold out hippies. It is the last chance of American freedom a time is fading fast.

The discussion starts at 6PM, Sunday June 2nd on our 3rd floor. Copies of The Wrong Case are 10% off to those who attend. We’ll be taking a break in July, but will be back in August.

History of Mystery Class: DADDY COOL by Donald Goines

This Sunday, May 6th, at 6PM, our free History Of Mystery class will look at one of the most under appreciated authors of the Seventies, Donald Goines. For a long time Goines was banished to the bookracks of urban newsstands, until other crime writers discovered him. His tough tales reflected his harsh Detroit life. The book we will be discussing, Daddy Cool, is the epitome of this.

Goines wrote over a dozen books in four years. He practically invented the ghetto noir genre with crime books set in the bleak world of poor and working class blacks. His tight, street prose style influenced as many rap artists as it did authors. Life as a criminal and junkie informed his work. He churned out books to pay for his heroin habit. In 1974, he was shot dead at his typewriter. He was 37.

Daddy Cool is the epitome of a Goines novel. The title character is a cool as ice hitman who starts to deteriorate when his daughter becomes involved with a young pimp. It has the gutter Shakespearean family tragedy that is in many of his novels, as well as his taught style and hard looks at the ghetto streets.

The class is at 6PM on our third floor. Copies of Daddy Cool are 10% off to those who attend. On June 2nd, we’ll be discussing James Crumley’s The Wrong Case.


Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman

We are starting up our History of Mystery Class again for 2013. Each class we look at American authors who made an impact on crime fiction. This year we’ll mainly be focusing on the Seventies, one of the most revolutionary decades in the genre. March 3rd, we’ll be looking at one of it’s most underrated authors in terms of influence, Tony Hillerman and his novel Dance Hall Of The Dead.

Hillerman used his extensive knowledge of the Navajo tribe to create a series featuring tribal officer Joe Leaphorn. In doing so, not only did he create a subgenre of American Indian mysteries, he helped introduce the idea of using the mystery novel to look at a specific culture. In Dance Hall Of The Dead, he focuses on the conflict the Navajo have with the Zuni tribe.

The class and discussion will start at 6PM, Sunday March 3rd, on the third floor of BookPeople. Margaret Coel, author of the Wind River mystery series, and friend of Tony Hillerman, will call in to join our discussion. The class is free and copies of Dance Hall Of The Dead are 10% off to those who attend.

Film & Book Discussion: THE HOT ROCK

Our last History Of Mystery Class looked at Donald E. Westlake’s tight and tough books featuring Parker, the robber who is not opposed to violence, which Westlake wrote under the name Richard Stark. Sunday June 3rd at 6pm, we take a look at Westlake’s lighter take on crime with The Hot Rock.

The Hot Rock was originally concieved as a Parker novel, but Westlake found the premise of a diamond the crooks had to steal over and over again too humorous. He transformed Parker into a hapless thief, named him John Dortmunder, and kicked off a new series of books that practically invented the comic crime novel.

A discussion of The Hot Rock should prove interesting and entertaining. We’ll look at similarities between Parker and Dortmunder, comparing the comic heist novel to a hardboiled one, and hopefully have a few laughs. Before our discussion at 6pm, we’ll be viewing the film version directed by Peter Yates (Bullit; The Friends Of Eddie Coyle) and starring Robert Redford and George Seagal. The film starts at 4pm. Find us up on BookPeople’s third floor.

Here’s a clip of Robert Redford in the film version of The Hot Rock:

Watch the Film, Discuss the Book with History of Mystery

Last summer I got into a discussion with the brilliant author and fellow 80s-survivor Megan Abbott on how that decade defined noir for the mainstream through various filmmakers and publishers who reprinted forgotten masters of crime fiction. Megan brought up that because most of those publishers were male fans choosing the authors they encountered in the fifties and sixties, many female authors were overlooked. She told me the forties and fifties held many great female hard boiled and noir writers. One lady who is often overlooked is Dorothy B. Hughes, who we will discuss at our History Of Mystery class on February 5th.

A book critic as well as a writer, Dorothy B. Hughes worked in many of crime fiction’s subgenres. Much like her readers of the time, she moved noir to the suburbs. The nice neighbor across the street was just as tortured or as ruthless as the low-life downtown. When it comes to mood and character she was a master. Her best known book is the haunting In A Lonely Place. It follows war veteran and struggling writer Dix Steele, who becomes involved in a serial killer case his police detective friend is investigating. The book uses atmosphere in a unique way and gives a vivid snapshot of postwar Los Angeles in place and attitude.

The book inspired the classic film of the same title directed by Nicholas Ray. Bogart stretched his acting chops as Dix and while the film took several liberties with the book, it keeps it’s tragic tone. One main difference is that Steele is now a working screenwriter, which gives Ray many opportunities to skewer Hollywood. We’ll be viewing the film at 3:30PM before our discussion.

Here’s a trailer of the film:

Also, to bring it full circle, Megan Abbott will be calling in to join our talk about the book and film, being a fan of both. Those who are not familiar with her work should pick up Queenpin or  The Song Is You right now, as well as her first book, Die A Little, which shares a few things with In A Lonely Place. Her latest, The End Of Everything, earned a spot on many Best Of 2011 lists, including mine. You can learn plenty about crime fiction by just saying hello to her.

Once again, the class is on February 5th. The film starts at 3:30, discussion at 6pm, both on BookPeople’s third floor. The class is free and copies of In A Lonely Place are 10% off to those who attend.