A (Partial) Atlas of Texas Crime Fiction

  • 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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Murder in the Afternoon Book Club Celebrates Texas Writers Month with Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale Calling In for The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club’s Discussion of Sunset and Sawdust

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  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Murder In The Afternoon Book Club celebrates Texas Mystery Writers Month by reading one of the state’s best authors. Sunset And Sawdust is one of Joe Lansdale’s most underrated books. We’re happy to shed light on it as well as have Joe be a part of our discussion.

The book takes place in the Depression era sawmill town of Rapture, Texas, where Sunset Jones has just murdered her abusive husband, Pete, while he was trying to assault her. She turns to the only person who can help, her mother-in-law who owns half of Rapture. Knowing her son was no good, she helps Sunset get the job of town constable; newly available since the last person to occupy the position was the now-dead Pete. With the help of a charming Woody Guthrie type hobo and a hulking deputy who is sweet on her, Sunset enforces the law and wades into a mystery involving her late husband, oil, and a baby in a jar.

With this novel dealing with issues of gender, race, and class, creating a vivid portrayal of the depression, and containing characters both entertaining and complex, Lansdale gives us much to talk about. Luckily, Joe will be joining us via conference call for part of the discussion. Join us for the discussion on BookPeople’s third floor, May 15th, at 1PM. The book is 10% off for those planning to attend.

You can find copies of Sunset & Sawdust  on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets to discuss it on Monday, May 15th, at 1 PM. The club meets the third Monday of each month. 

Feb Fatales: a Full Crime Fiction Schedule this February

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Glancing at our list of upcoming events, our newsletter, or BookPeople’s February events schedule, you may have noticed we’ve booked quite a few visitors to please the crime fiction crowd. Here’s the low-down on what’s happening when, all in one place.

On Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM, we welcome two MysteryPeople favorites! Fresh from his Edgar nomination for Where it Hurts, Reed Farrel Coleman joins us with his second Gus Murphy book, What It Breaksanother lyrical tale of Long Island misery, while Robert Knott, two volumes in to his transition from actor to Rennaissance Man, joins us with his fourth continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch & Cole seriesRevelation

Wednesday, February 15th brings a 7 PM visit from K. J. Howe, director of Thrillerfest, and here to speak and sign her debut, The Freedom Brokera tale of kidnapping, privilege and intrigue. On Thursday, February 16th, at 7 PM (the very next evening) come by the store for a return visit from Scottish superstar Ian Rankin, here with his new Inspector Remus novelRather Be The DevilThen that same week, on Saturday, Feburary 18th, at 3 PM come by the store for Sarah Pinborough, presenting her latest work, Behind Her Eyes. We can’t tell you much about this one – we don’t want to ruin the insanely mind-blowing ending.

Then Tuesday, February 21st, at 7 PM, MysteryPeople welcomes a visit from Alexandra Burt, here with her latest crime novel and our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month, The Good Daughterset in Aurora, Texas. Burt’s previous crime novel, Remember Miahas been a national bestseller and we’re happy to say that The Good Daughter is just as compelling a tale! Two days later, on Thursday, February 23rd, at 7 PM, we welcome legendary Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale in conversation with rising Texas star Kathleen Kent. Lansdale joins us to speak and sign his new Hap & Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, while Kent joins us with her latest work, The Dimefollowing a tough city cop’s trials and tribulations after she moves down to Dallas from the Big Apple.

The fun doesn’t end in February – on March 5th, come by the store to meet the King of Florida Capers, Tim Dorsey, here to speak and sign his latest, Clownfish Blues.  In April, we’re joined by MysteryPeople favorite Phillip Kerr, here to speak and sign his latest Bernie Gunther novel, Prussian BlueWe’ll announce plenty more March and April events coming up, so keep an eye on BookPeople’s events calendar, MysteryPeople’s upcoming events page, or sign up for our MysteryPeople newsletter to be the first to know!

Three Picks for February

February brings with it a host of crime fiction events, and plenty of great new releases!

9780399173042What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman follows his up his Edgar nominated What You Break with the next chapter in the life of broken ex-Suffolk cop Gus Murphy. Hired to look into the daughter of a rich and powerful man as well well as trying to help his friend and co-worker Slava, Gus dives into a realm where evil touches everyone. Coleman strikes the perfect balance of exploring his hero’s interior struggles while pulling off a strong hard boiled tale. Reed Farrel Coleman joins us to speak and sign his latest on Friday, February 10, 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 & Cole series. What You Break comes out February 7th – pre-order signed copies! 

9781616957186August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones

Known for his poetry, Stephen Mack Jones has entered the mystery world already possessing the craft to write a complete detective novel, and one which we hope will lead to many more. Set in Detroit, August Snow follows the titular character, an ex-cop and the scion of an African-American father and a Mexican-American mother, as he returns home after a year spent traveling. He’s got millions in his pocket from a successful suit against the town’s corrupt police department and politicians, and he’s ready to use that money for good. Echoes from the past interfere with his future as a full-time do-gooder. When August catches a case that brings up all his old demons, he finally has a chance to lay those demons to rest, and make sense of a string of murders along the way. August Snow comes out February 14th – pre-order now!

9780316311564Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap and Leonard return in this entertaining private eye yarn with the boys hired to look into the death of a young black man at the hands of the police in their small, yet violent, East Texas town. Lansdale gives us a great buddy novel, looking at small town corruption, with some great fight scenes and plenty of laugh out loud moments, while taking a serious look at an issue that still plagues us today. Joe joins us Thursday, February 23rd, at 7 PM, along with Dallas writer Kathleen Kent. Rusty Puppy comes out February 21st – pre-order signed copies! 

Top Five Texas Mysteries of 2016

  • Selected by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The stories below are as diverse and wide-ranging as the state itself, making full use of their setting and the quirky folks residing therein.

97803163294081. Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap & Leonard are back as private eyes in a case that involves a used car/escort/blackmail ring, a transgender pimp, and inbred cannibal assassins. Not for the feint of heart, politically correct, easily offended, or those who have anything against shoot-outs, great dialogue, and fun. You can find copies of Honky Tonk Samurai on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.  

97803991763402. The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott

An intimate epic in South Texas between a deputy, crooked sheriff, and the sheriff’s son who believes his dad killed his mother. Scott shows talent for strong characters and hanging the threat of violence over them live one huge black storm cloud ready to rain down. You can find copies of The Far Empty on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

97816338808493. A Thousand Falling Crows by Larry Sweazy

A Texas Ranger who lost an arm chasing down Bonnie and Clyde tracks down a man’s daughter who fell in with a bunch of Dillinger wanna-bes and finds himself up against a serial killer. A moody, character driven crime novel that puts you on a Depression era dirt road in a speeding coupe with the bullets flying. You can find copies of A Thousand Falling Crows on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

97815227491034. Cold Rains by George Weir

A bounty hunter gets tangled up with a Texas cutie in all the wrong ways. A tight entertaining throwback to the Gold Medal paperbacks with a lot of Lone Star flavor. You can find copies of Cold Rains on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

5. Dollar Signs by Manning Wolfe9781944225001

An Austin lawyer goes up against the Texas boot king in a case that starts out over bill boards, but ends up in murder. A fun legal thriller with colorful characters and great use of the Austin setting. You can find copies of Dollar Signs on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW edited by Lawrence Block

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9781681772455In the upcoming short story anthology In Sunlight Or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, editor Lawrence Block presents a daunting challenge to his authors: pick a painting by Edward Hopper and write a story about it. Hopper was known as a non-narrative painter. When he used human subjects they come off more of a collection of shapes with few distinctive features than flesh and blood, with their two biggest activities being smoking and reading. What his work does supply is mood, which each of these writers tap into and bend to their own will.

Many use the subject and scene of the paintings as the focal point of the the narrative, telling us there is more than meets the eyes. This is true of the editor’s take on Automat. Stephen King uses A Room In New York‘s sedate appearance as a counterpoint of tension for the goings on behind the door behind the couple. Megan Abbott further explores her themes of female sexuality with the woman in “Girlie Show.” It comes as no surprise that she delves into the noir mood with which many Hopper painting are associated. It also has an opening line Megan wasn’t willing to say in public.

“Each story defies what we see on the the surface of the painting. Many go inside the painting, like a skilled jazz master with a standard, turning it inside out.”

Some add their series characters into the world of a painting, or incorporate multiple paintings into their tale. Michael Conelly uses the famous Nighthawks for a tale that takes us back to his character Harry Bosch’s private detective days, Jeffery Deaver uses Hotel By The Railroad and several other paintings for his cold war thriller.

Some stories have the painting as part of the protagonist’s world. Joe Lansdale makes the usherette in New York Theater the object of desire for his title character, “The Projectionist.” The story’s last line conjures up the loneliness and alienation inherent in much of Hopper’s work. Craig Ferguson’s “Taking Care Of Business” uses South Truro Church as the workplace for his dying lead. it is a funny, human look at friendship, life, faith, and death with another wonderful opening line, “The Reverend Jefferson T. Adams, beloved and respected minister for over fifty years, pulled deeply on the long fragile Jamaican style reefer and held the smoke deep in his lungs.”

In Sunlight Or In Shadow not only shows the in influence of Hopper on the writers, but how their imagination pushed that influence. Each story defies what we see on the the surface of the painting. Many go inside the painting, like a skilled jazz master with a standard, turning it inside out. It is fitting that an anthology concerning Hopper reminds us there is no boundary with art and artists.

In Sunlight or In Shadow comes out December 6th! Pre-order now! 

Bouchercon Recap: Part 1

– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

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New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.

Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”

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