MysteryPeople Q&A with Traci Lambrecht of PJ Tracy

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

Nothing Stays Buried, written by the mother-daughter duo P.J. Tracy, puts the Monkeewrench gang of crime-solving programmers in rural Minnesota for a missing persons case that leads to more than a few bodies. It is also the last one co-written by P.J. Lambrecht, who passed away right before Christmas of last year. Her daughter Tracy, who will be joining Mark Pryor and James Ziskin, for our Scene Of The Crime discussion at BookPeople on August 26th at 6PM, talked to us about the book and how it was tied to her mother. 

MysteryPeople Scott: Nothing Stays Buried is an odd book in the sense it has at least three kinds of stories that the plot snaps together by the third act. What was the seed of the idea for the latest in the series?

Traci Lambrecht: Initially, it started out with a news story about a lion that had escaped a wild cat rescue and rehabilitation center near PJ’s farm, but ultimately the book became cheap therapy. We sketched it out several years ago during a time of some deep personal losses for both PJ and I, one of which was her diagnosis with severe heart failure, so we explored the theme of loss in different ways against the requisite backdrop of murder. We wanted to incorporate some hope and a little magic into the book as well, which is how the multiple storylines came about. Things were just a little too raw for us emotionally at the time, so we shelved it and wrote Shoot to Thrill instead. When we revisited the partial manuscript a couple years ago, we found the passage of time had given us the objectivity we needed to finish it.

MPS: This is one of the books where the Monkeewrench gang goes to the country. What does the more rural setting allow you to do as a writer?

TC: There is a whole world outside any urban environment and more than anything, exploring it provides grounding in an entirely different life perspective. We’ve always found that writing about rural settings and people is a way to reconnect with basic values and work ethic. Lots of revelations can come from the simplicity of lives that still have deep connections to the land.

MPS: Did Grace being pregnant effect writing for her in any way?

TC: It really did. Grace is such a tough cookie, so it was both fun and challenging to envision a gentler side while trying to stay true to her core character. And the pregnancy was unexpected – for both the characters and for us! But it seemed right – we wanted some positive forward movement in Grace’s and Magozzi’s relationship and this opened up so many possibilities. I jokingly blamed PJ for this impulsive decision, and she jokingly blamed me, but we were very happy with the opportunity to expand the development of those characters.

MPS: In writing for an ensemble do you and your mother have any technique to make sure each character pops?

TC: We just focus on fully immersing ourselves in the lives and minds of each character, which makes it easier to speak with their voices. And in a long-running series, that becomes more effortless with each book as the players become frighteningly real to you. It’s kind of like flirting with multiple personality disorder.

MPS: Due to the passing of your mother last year, fans have been wondering what the fate of the series is. What can you tell them?

TC: Monkeewrench is alive and well – the ninth Monkeewrench novel is completed and in edits, and I’m working on the tenth one now, along with a stand-alone novel. I’m also considering a spin-off of the Monkeewrench series featuring Iris Rikker, the rural sheriff from Snow Blind who endeared herself to a lot of fans. PJ is still a part of every word I write, a constant presence and inspiration, because PJ Tracy was an entity and voice we created together, not the sum of separate parts. We had our own language and we were both fluent in it.

MPS: There is a Christmas book coming out that both of you did. What can you tell us about it?

TC: Return of the Magi is a quirky, uplifting story of redemption about two elderly, mentally ill sisters who fervently believe they are two of the three wise men. With the reluctant help of a career thief who is doing community service at their care facility outside Las Vegas, the three of them escape and cross the desert to search for the baby Jesus in the city of sin. This is probably the most meaningful bit of writing PJ and I ever did together and was a beloved side-project for many years. On the morning she died, I got the good news that it would finally be published and was able to pass this news along to her before she began her journey to someplace new. Knowing her, I suspect that journey was in-step with the characters as they crossed the desert, and she kept them laughing all the way.

You can find copies of Nothing Stays Buried on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Traci Lambrecht joins us Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM to speak and sign the latest PJ Tracy novel, Nothing Stays Buried. 

Short and Sharp Words: MysteryPeople Q&A with Jordan Harper

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Jordan Harper’s She Rides Shotgun is one of the most exciting full-length novel debuts to come down the road in some time. It concerns an ex-con on a crime spree road trip with his eleven-year-old-daughter. Over the course of their journey, both are targeted by a White Supremacist gang. It is a tough, uncompromising book, with a heart that is hard-won.

Jordan joins us at the store for our New Voices of Noir panel this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by Bill Loehfelm and Rob Hart. We got ahold of him by himself for this pre-interrogation.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for She Rides Shotgun come about?

Jordan Harper: I recently prowled through my DropBox and found an early draft of She Rides Shotgun that was dated 2014. It’s been in the works for a long time now, and just how I got the initial idea is a little murky to me. But I know the initial idea came from me noticing that there was a very small subgenre of crime story, that of the criminal and child on the road together. It’s a subgenre I’ve always loved, even if I’d never noticed it was a genre at all. I was inspired to add to the canon that includes Lone Wolf and Cub, Paper Moon and The Professional.

Read More »

You Do a Job: MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins joins us to speak and sign his latest, The Fallen on Friday, July 21st at 7 PM. The Fallen comes out today! Before his visit to the store, we caught up with Ace to ask him about his latest addition to his Quinn Colson series. 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

 

MysteryPeople Scott: While you do dig into social themes and some dark things happen, The Fallen has a lighter and funnier tone than The Innocents. Was there a conscious decision to have a few more laughs after doing one so heavy?

Ace Atkins: Not really. I just think the world has become much more of an insane place. I mean we do have a game show host as president. If you can’t step back and just laugh at it, you’ll go crazy.

As far as The Fallen, many of the bad folks we have down South are so naked about their greed and intolerance. I could write a hundred essays about the evil and ignorance or just make fun of them. Making fun of them seems to be much more effective. Anger gives them a purpose.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE FALLEN by Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest Quinn Colson novel, The Fallen, on Friday, July 21st, at 7 PM. 

9780399576713Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

A few months ago, I reviewed Ace Atkins’ latest Spenser novel, Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies, full of commentary on the world of alternative facts. With his latest Quinn Colson, The Fallen, he creates a story even more rooted in its time, but with playful roots stretching back to the seventies.

The fallout from the previous book in the series, The Innocent, allows for Atkins to dive into modern politics – crime novel style. After becoming town pariahs for uncovering the crimes of Tibbehah County’s “up standing citizens,” Quinn and his under sheriff Lillie Virgil grow more ambivalent about those they’ve sworn to protect and serve. In a homage to both The Wild Bunch and Point Break, three bandits run into The First National bank with one yelling a modern political variation on Pike Bishop’s opening line. When Quinn and Lillie discuss the crime, Lillie comes to a conclusion:

“They’re not from around here.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because they’re smart.”

“Do I detect some contempt for Tibbehah County.”

“Tell me you don’t shower after a long day?”

 

Read More »

Go Down to the Basement: MysteryPeople Q&A with Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner comes to BookPeople to launch her latest on Monday, June 26, at 7 PM. She’ll be in conversation with Jeff Abbott. You can find copies of UNSUB on our shelves starting Monday, June 26th – one day before the official release date!

Molly Odintz: You have a Hemingway-esque talent for communicating far more about your characters than would seem possible from the word count—how do you balance creating fully formed characters with the need to always move a thriller’s plot forward?

Meg Gardiner: Plot is what the characters do. Characters spring to life when I put them into action, in conflict, under pressure. What do they want? What do they fear? What will the heroine do when the antagonist threatens the people she loves? In UNSUB, young cop Caitlin Hendrix is hunting a legendary killer. The choices she makes when she’s put to the test—and the choices everyone in the novel make—reveal their character. Revelation is always most powerful when it unfolds through action.

And I’m honored by the comparison to Hemingway. I can only strive to approach the vivid economy of his writing.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Q&A with Cara Black

Cara Black joins us here at BookPeople to speak and sign her latest Leduc Investigation, Murder in Saint-Germain, this Monday, June 12th at 7 PM. You can find copies of her latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.comCara Black was kind enough to answer a few questions about her latest before her upcoming event.

*Warning: those who have not yet finished Murder on the Champs de Mars will find a spoiler in the following interview, although there are no spoilers as to the contents of Black’s latest. 

She’s a Parisian. Politics and discussion are in the air all the time. She doesn’t trust the government, the police or sometimes her concierge but she’d do her civic duty because she’d like liberté, égalité and fraternité to be real!

Molly Odintz: Your previous novel in the series, Murder on the Quai, was a prequel, and the book before that in the series, Murder on the Champs de Mars, left readers with a bit of a cliffhanger after a shocking denouement! Was it tricky to figure out how to continue the series and keep up the momentum with Murder in Saint-Germain?

Cara Black: Good question! After the denouement in Murder on the Champs de Mars, I didn’t know what would happen to the characters. This was a game changer. But I had no clue where to go. My editor Juliet said that’s a perfect time to write a prequel and explore Aimée’s origins, how she became a detective, got her dog Miles Davis and meeting her future business partner René. Take her back to 1989 and her year in pre-med and when her father was alive so we finally get to meet him after hearing about him in so many books.

For Murder in Saint-Germain, the challenge was to forge ahead in Aimée’s ‘present’ life in 1999, her real time, and see how she was dealing with being a single mama, having an eight month old and balancing work and the man in her life. And still be a fashionista. But once I started, I just picked up with her life and put her in a hot rainy July on the Left Bank working at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and with her baby sitter going on vacation; then the story took off.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Review: MURDER IN SAINT-GERMAIN by Cara Black

9781616957704

Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

I’ve adored Cara Black’s ever-so-stylish Aimée Leduc Investigations ever since I first picked up my sister’s well-worn copy of Murder in the Marais over ten years ago. My Francophile sister and I read everything we could about France, so of course we would fall in love with a series that started in Paris’ historic Jewish quarter, wherein we have wandered, thought about the past and eaten falafel, while appreciating the neighborhood’s mélange of old and new, gay and cis, Jewish and Muslim, and global and local. The reasons I initially fell in love with the series are personal and simple, but the series itself portrays a complex and richly detailed world, full of evolving relationships, tie-ins to French politics, and some seriously chic style.

Read More »