If you’ve noticed a bit of radio silence on our blog these past couple weeks, that’s because MysteryPeople’s Scott Montgomery, Meike Alana, and I took a road trip to the Big Easy for the “Blood on the Bayou” Bouchercon, one of the world’s largest gathering of mystery writers, fans, bloggers, agents, editors, marketers, librarians, booksellers and publishers. The breath of those titles pales in comparison to the diversity of day jobs talked about, past and present. Poison experts mingled with ex-cops, ex-cons, ex-journalists, and expert martial artists. This year’s conference, due to its desirable locale, was busier than most, so trust me when I say that the memories I’ve brought back represent a small slice of the enormous number of great experiences had over the weekend at Bouchercon.
Bouchercon exists on many levels. First, there are the official events: the panels, the awards, the signings, the book room; in short, plenty to entertain a mystery lover. There’s also plenty of behind the scenes industry action, as publishers celebrate anniversaries, authors celebrate book releases, and meetings galore happen across the city. Then, there’s that special camaraderie that only occurs from geeking out about mystery with folks just as weird as we are. That part seems to happen mainly in the hotel bar.
Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
In The Second Girl, author David Swinson introduces us to private detective and drug addict Frank Marr. While robbing a drug den for their stash he inadvertently rescues a young girl, making him a reluctant hero. He is soon asked to look for another abducted girl. His search tests his skills and will, challenged by his addiction. We reached out to Mr. Swinson to see if he’s take some questions from us.
MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to a detective like Frank Marr?
David Swinson: As a retired police detective I am a man of rules and procedure. I’m not the guy you want to watch certain crime shows or movies with because if they don’t follow correct procedure it drives me nuts. On the other hand, as a crime writer having to be bound by all those rules can be a burden. Frank Marr freed me from all that. He still has somewhat of a police code so he doesn’t do anything so stupid it’s drive me crazy, but also he’s not bound by those rules so he breaks some of them. That’s what made it fun.
Mulholland Books is doing a great service by bringing back Dan Simmons’ books featuring ex-con PI Joe Kurtz. The first book, Hardcase, came out last fall. it’s a perfect title in so many ways, introducing you to one of the toughest tough guys to hit the page.
The story begins with Joe’s release from an eleven year stretch for murdering a rapist who killed his partner. He goes directly to Don Byron of the Farino mob. Joe uses the fact that he’s been protecting the don’s son in prison to get a job. The don hires him to find their missing accountant, presumed dead. The search puts him in the middle of a mob war and a battle within the Farino Family itself.
The book is hard boiled heaven. Joe Kurtz is an uncompromising hero in the mold of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Richard Stark’s Parker (It’s alluded to later in the series that he’s Parker’s son.) Whether blasting away at bad men or bedding badder women, Kurtz does it with an uncanny mix of cool and fervor. Simmons is able to give him real emotion without being emotional and creating a believable world around him that avoids the story and style from skirting parody. If there is even a whisper of sentimentality it is quickly hushed.
It is obvious that Simmons is a fan of the genre, creating a homage that has its own original voice.The other two Joe Kurtz books, Hard Freeze and Hard As Nails, will be out this year. Here’s hoping Simmons can conjure up some more dark alleys for Joe to go down.
Joe R. Lansdale is one of our favorite authors, in and outside of the mystery section. He is the author of dozens of books and stories, including the wonderful Hap Collins and Leonard Pine mysteries. He recently wrote a piece calledThe Workplace, Wet or Dry on his early days as a writer for the Mulholland Books website. Not only do you get a look inside his writing past, you also get a look at his approach to the craft.
One of our recent stories was a Lawernce Block tale featuring Matt Scudder, the PI hero featured in the film adaptation of A Walk Among The Tombstones.This Friday we have a short story written by the writer-director, Scott Frank, that was on Popcorn Fiction. Scott Frank is the screenwriter of the acclaimed films Little Man Tate, Dead Again and The Lookout. He has also adapted a number of titles for the screen, including Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, Minority Report and most recently, Marley & Me.
“As Ivan slowly let Rima slip from his grasp, he had no idea that her fall would become the stuff of Big Top legend everywhere. If you could have seen his face that night, you would have seen that Ivan’s mind was clearly somewhere else. Before this particular night, Ivan had caught Rima over thirty-five hundred times without incident. Theirs was a relationship based on trust; Rima knew that Ivan would always be there with strong hands and perfect timing. And Ivan knew that Rima would always be there, hanging in space, reaching for him. Sure, there were many close calls: Rima would step on his shoulder, scrape his ear with the point of her heel. Ivan would flinch from the pain, and loosen his hold on her leg, but in the end, he would always catch her. And sure, there had been hundreds of times where he almost dropped her. But he had never completely let go before. He was always there. He had always caught her. But, unfortunately, on that fateful night in Jnimski, he was thinking about something else.”
If you’ve read my review or talked to me lately, you know I’ve become a huge fan of the adaptation of Lawrence Block’sWalk Among The Tombstones. For fans of the the New York PI, Matt Scudder, here’s a short story involving Matt from when he worked for the NYPD that appeared on the Mulholland Books website. Block gives the reader a good sense of what his hero’s morals were like at the time.
“When the phone call came I was parked in front of the television set in the front room, nursing a glass of bourbon and watching the Yankees. It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t. I remember that Thurman Munson had just hit a long foul that missed being a home run by no more than a foot, but I don’t remember who they were playing, or even what kind of a season they had that year.
I remember that the bourbon was J. W. Dant, and that I was drinking it on the rocks, but of course I would remember that. I always remembered what I was drinking, though I didn’t always remember why…”
Reed Farrel Coleman is one of our favorite authors, Mulholland is one of our favorite publishers, and noir is one of our favorite subgenres. When Reed recently posted a list of noir books you should read on Mulholland’s website, we had to share the link.
These are lesser known books that definitely deserve the attention. You can check out more about them right over here.