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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Crime Fiction at the Fest: A Celebration of Diverse Literary Voices in Texas

Scott & Molly join other community voices for the panel discussion “Social Justice in Crime Fiction” at KAZI Book Review’s December 3rd event “A Celebration of Diverse Literary Voices in Texas”

kbr_logo_mediumMolly and I are excited to be a part of this year’s Celebration Of Diverse Literary Voices, presented by KAZI Book Review with Hopeton Hay, to be held at Huston-Tilletson University this upcoming Saturday, December 3rd, from 10 AM to 4 PM. We’ll be joining author Minerva Koenig, Peggy Terry of Folk Tales Black Women’s Literary Society, and author and moderator Marrick Armstrong, for a panel discussion on how crime fiction can be used as a tool for social justice. The festival also includes panel discussions featuring prominant local figures on cultural diversity in fiction, Black intellectual thought in education, and emerging Mexican American fiction, as well as an awards ceremony.

MysteryPeople regularly appears on KAZI Book Review during the last Sunday of every month to present our crime fiction recommendations to the world, and we’re honored to play a small part in this weekend’s upcoming literary festival.  Our panel will be running from 1:30-2:30 on Saturday at Huston-Tillotson University.

Find out more about the festival here!

MysteryPeople’s Guide to the Texas Book Festival

Hey Folks! Overwhelmed by the number of amazing panels at this year’s Texas Book Festival? Can’t see the forest through the trees? Never fear, MysteryPeople is here with a guide to mystery, thriller and true crime happenings at the fest. Here’s a link to the full schedule, but in the following schedule, you can see we’ve picked out some of the highlights for crime fiction fans.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Trudy Nan Boyce

  • Interview conducted via email by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

We are happy to be hosting Trudy Nan Boyce along with Minerva Koenig for our New Hard-boiled Voices panel this Friday, February 26th, at 7 PM. Miss Boyce’s debut novel, Out Of The Blues, follows newly minted Atlanta homicide detective Sarah Alt (nicknamed Salt) as she stumbles into a cold case that unlocks secrets involving race and city politics. We asked Miss Boyce a few questions about the book and how her dual professions of police officer and psychologist shaped it.


MysteryPeople Scott: Atlanta plays like a fascinating character itself. What did you want to explore about the city?

Trudy Nan Boyce: Atlanta is my home. I’ve lived here for more than fifty years. I went to undergrad and grad school at the downtown university. I policed the city for more than thirty years. And I’ve lived in my downtown neighborhood for at least thirty years. And I continue to be delighted by Atlanta, its sweet and tragic mysteries seem endless. It is a city without geographic gifts; no bays or oceans, no mountains, no river flows through it. It is a city built at a crossroads, built around the intersections of railroads which were built primarily by black people, slaves and those conscripted though the “justice system.” The more I learn about Atlanta the more I realize that as a white person much of the history and culture of the city has remained segregated. Atlanta is soulful and exemplifies much about the racial divide in the United States. Most white people have no idea about the importance of the blues to our culture. Atlanta was and is a crossroads for the blues and our nation.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Minerva Koenig

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Minerva Koenig will be speaking and signing her second Julia Kalas book, South of Nowhere, on Friday, February 26th, at 7 PM. She is joined by Trudy Nan Boyce, speaking and signing her debut, Out of the Blues. You can find copies of Koenig’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.  

With her second Julia Kalas book, South Of Nowhere, the short, round, and tough heroine finds herself with a body in a barn she’s converting, her boyfriend stuck in Cuba, and a wild adventure south of the border. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about the book.

MysteryPeople Scott: How do you think Julia has changed in your mind since Nine Days?

Minerva Koenig: If you mean how has she changed from my first book to the 2nd, I would say that she’s become more cautious. My intent was always to have my sleuth start out very ballsy and brash, and develop into someone softer as she matures throughout the series ~ she gets some hard edges knocked off in South of Nowhere, and I intend to continue that trend. Which is not to say that she’s going to turn into Miss Marple. I want to create a character who is tough in an unusual way ~ she can do the hard thing when necessary, but it costs her, and it makes her a wiser and more compassionate human being in the process.

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2016 Preview: Back to Back Events!

  • Post by Molly Odintz

As we wait patiently for the wild mood swings of a Texas winter to die down, we’ve got plenty of events coming up to strike a mystery lover’s fancy – no matter the weather outside. Jeff Abbott ushered in our 2016 events this past Tuesday, speaking and signing his latest thriller, The First Order.

Coming up at the end of the month, Reed Farrel Coleman, a long-time favorite, comes to visit with two new books: Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins,  a Jesse Stone novel, and Where It Hurtsthe first in a new series and our Pick of the Month for January. He’ll be here to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, January 30th, at 5 PM.

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Guest Post: Minerva Koenig Weighs In on Texas Mystery Writers Month

May is Texas Mystery Writers Month, and we’re celebrating with guest posts from Texas authors all month long. Up next, we bring you some thoughts from Minerva Koenig, whose debut novel, Nine Dayswowed us last year. As strong as her characters, Koenig writes plucky heroines well able to take care of themselves – in fact, if you called them plucky, they might throw a drink in your face. Look out for her second novel, coming out in the next year. 


Guest Post by Minerva Koenig

You’re sitting somewhere vast, alone. It’s so quiet you can hear the blood rushing in your ears. You don’t know what to do with your brain. It keeps trying to have a conversation — because you’re human, and that’s what human brains do — but there’s nothing there to answer, not even your own consciousness. It’s busy trying to grok the emptiness around you.

There’s a quiet twitch of awareness that you could die out here with no one the wiser, food for the buzzards. You start to feel the bottoms of your feet, the insides of your thumbs.

“Get a grip,” you tell yourself, and nearly jump out of your skin when you realize you’re talking out loud. A sudden, disturbing affinity for the weirdos you used to see shuffling down Newton Street in mid-soliloquy gets you on your feet.

There’s a roadhouse in the hot distance, a wreck of faded boards and grimy windows that you skipped on your way out, ruling it too sketchy to enter. Now it looks like the Taj Mahal.

“You ever read Dostoyevsky?” the bartender, a fresh-faced tomboy with a tiny diamond in one freckled nostril, asks you as she sets down your cold Lone Star.

You give her a look, and she says, “I never been to Russia, but it almost feels like it, after that dude’s stuff. You know?”

You do know. You felt that way about Texas, reading Goodbye to a River back home in Massachusetts.

God, you love that word: Massachusetts. It makes you remember the ancestors, their warm feet on the cool soil, the sound of that old silence, the way the air must have smelled then. Your sentences used to be like the landscape there; closed and hilly, winding around and turning in on themselves, enchanted and spooky like those girls they burned at the stake.

The conversation your head is trying to have with itself down here sounds different. It’s wider, more relaxed. The words spread out and need more syllables, and the spaces in between keep filling up with these minuscule, unspeakable epiphanies about things that have baffled you in the past. You try to corral them on paper, circle them with words and compress them down into edible parts, but they’re like wild hogs, slipping the noose at the last moment. You start to yearn for the relative simplicity of the things you used to think about before you came down here.

F**king Texas. Between the rattlesnakes, the weather, the long stretches of barren highway, and the freaks who like all of that stuff, the state itself feels lethal. You think about all the ways you could die again, and need half the beer to keep yourself from starting some unholy Socratic dialog with the bartender.

You drop a couple of bucks on the scarred wood serving top and step back out into the blinding heat, grimly optimistic. Somehow, you’ll get it all down on paper. It’s that or lose your mind under this endlessly arching, neon-bright sky.


You can find Minerva Koenig’s debut novel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.  Look out for more great guest posts for Texas Mystery Writers Month, including a post from Austin-based prosecutor and novelist Mark Pryor. 

Top Five Texas Authors of 2014

One thing about us Texans, we have a lot of state pride. Luckily we got the talent to back it up. Here’s a list of favorite crime novels this year written by our fellow Lone Stars.


reavis wortham vengeance is mine1. Vengeance Is Mine by Reavis Wortham

Wortham’s Central Springs lawmen and their families deal with violent actions and their consequences when a mob hitman moves into their town. Works as an engaging shoot up as well as a meditation on retribution.

 


nine days2. Nine Days by Minerva Koenig

This highly entertaining debut introduces us to Julia Kalas, whose marriage to her murdered gun-dealing husband has lead her to a small Texas town under Witness Protection. When the new man she’s seeing becomes the main suspect in a murder, she cuts across the state, using her criminal contacts to clear him in this fresh, hard-boiled gem.


a song to die for3. A Song To Die For by Michael Blakely

The Seventies Austin music scene serves as a fun back drop for a guitar pickin’ country legend looking for a comeback (as well as a way to beat the IRS). When a Mafia princess turns up dead, a Texas Ranger goes looking for her murderer and crosses paths with Blakely’s musician protagonist. Blakely, a musician himself, gives us a great look at building a band.


tim bryant spirit trap4.Spirit Trap by Tim Bryant

Fifties Fort Worth PI Alvin “Dutch” Curridge investigates the pilfering of a dance hall and the disappearance of a musician accused of the murder of his family. An involving who-dunnit that gives us a great flavor of the Texas music scene back then.


ransom island5. Ransom Island by Miles Arceneux

A Gulf Coast honky-tonk gets caught between the and the Klan when they get Duke Ellington to play for New Year’s Eve. A fun trip to a lost era and place.

 


All of the books listed above are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Look out for more top lists later in December!

 

MysteryPeople Review: NINE DAYS, by Minerva Koenig

nine daysMinerva Koenig has just published her debut novel, Nine Days, and will be speaking and signing her book on Friday, September 12, at 7pm, on BookPeople’s second floor. Minerva Koenig, when not writing mysteries, works as a licensed architect in Austin, and spends her days engaging in numerous activities, including wrangling cats and fighting the patriarchy.


 

Nine Days announces a great new voice in Minerva Koenig. The story sweeps in like a southwest breeze, dry in wit and hot in attitude. It is a book that embraces its characters, warts and all. It even goes so far as to practically celebrate their warts.

The lead heroine, Julia Kalas, is particularly unique. Short, round, and pushing forty, Julia used her California building renovation business as a cover for her husband’s gunrunning trade for decades. After the Aryan Brotherhood assassinates her husband, she finds herself in Witness Protection in a small Texas town, in a nice twist on the typical California-to-Texas move, stuck with a tough female marshal she refers to as “The Amazon” looking over her shoulder.

Julia finds work at a local bar owned by Hector, a man with his own dark past, and sparks between them soon fly. When a body turns up on top of the bar, Hector becomes the main suspect. To clear his name, Julia gets involved, using her own criminal contacts. She crisscrosses the state and the Southwest, getting in deeper and deeper, eluding The Amazon and a few bullets along the way.

It is Koenig’s love and respect for her characters that make this book pop. Many are unconventional and few are pretty. They and Koenig don’t ask you to like them and that’s why you love them. Julia herself makes no apologies for who she is and proves she can get a man as easy, sometimes easier, than some teen centerfold. Koenig understands that the way to her characters’ humanity is through their unconventionality.

Nine Days introduces us to a fresh hard-boiled voice. Koenig embraces the genre, yet doesn’t completely play by its rules. I can’t wait to see what other conventions she’ll break.


Minerva Koenig will be speaking and signing her latest novel, Nine Days, Friday, September 12, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s second floor. You can find copies of his new book on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.