Three Picks for November

Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh9781501130571

Ravi Chandra Singh is a new a rookie operative for Golden Sentinels Investigation Firm’s London office. We follow him on several cases as he falls in love, works off part of the debt from his sister’s wedding, sees gods, and learns more about the people he works with and for.

Her Nightly Embrace comes out today! You can find copies on our shelves or via


Kiss The Devil Good Night by Jonathan Woods

After being imprisoned for a gun show robbery gone wrong, Bill Derringer hunts down his double crossing accomplices – his wife, Edie, and the woman known as Aunt Ida, who previously ran off together. His road to revenge is a weird, violent ride involving wild women, Mexican drug cartels, and William Burroughs’s briefcase.

You can meet Jonathan Woods, along with Ben Rehder and Lance Hawvermale, on Sunday, November 20th, at 5PM. Jonathan Woods’ latest comes out Tuesday, November 15th.

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan

One of the most entertaining burglars, Junior Bender, returns for a Christmas story. This time he has to find crooks ripping off a mob-tied mall in the San Fernando Valley. Expect a lot of laughs and some gunfire.

You can find copies of Fields Where They Lay on our shelves and via

MysteryPeople Q&A with Timothy Hallinan


  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Timothy Hallinan’s latest featuring Junior Bender, King Maybe, has the L.A. burglar going from one break-in to another in a cheerfully convoluted plot circling round a depraved studio exec. Tim was kind enough to take some questions from us last month about the book and writing in general.

MysteryPeople Scott: King Maybe started with the title in mind. Do most of your books start with something small like that and grow out of it?

Timothy Hallinan: I wish I could say how they start. If I could, maybe I could learn how to write one on purpose. Only once before have I begun with a title, and that was the first book I ever completed. It was about a private eye working in Hollywood (surprise!), and it was dreadful, except for s splendid title: The Wrong End of the Rainbow. For the last 4-5 months I’ve been getting glimmerings of a story to go with it.

All the books start differently. Sometimes it’s a character or an image, sometimes a general situation that seems to have the potential for interesting complication. The one I’m writing now, a Poke Rafferty called Fools’ River, began to develop a year or so ago in Bangkok when a friend took me to a ladyboy bar and I spent the evening talking to an 18-year old wisp who had been born male in Vientiane and, despite looking as frail as a dying plant, had transformed herself from a boy in Laos to a girl in Bangkok, a leap in every sense of the word. She barely spoke above a whisper, but she had a steel of spine, ten times the strength of character I possess. So I’m writing about her now.

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Our Favorite MysteryPeople Moments

mysterypeople panel
From the left, Scott Montgomery, Jesse Sublett, Hopeton Hay, Meg Gardiner, Mark Pryor, Janice Hamrick, and Molly Odintz.
  • Introduction by Scott Montgomery

This past weekend, MysteryPeople celebrated our fifth anniversary, with a panel discussion featuring local authors Mark Pryor, Jesse Sublett, Meg Gardiner, and Janice Hamrick, and local critic Hopeton Hay. Molly and I moderated the discussion. Afterwards, we all enjoyed celebratory cake, beverages, and most importantly, trivia with giveaways.

After our anniversary party on Saturday wrapped up, we decided to share some of our favorite event moments throughout the history of MysteryPeople. Below, we’ve shared our favorite memories of the fantastic authors who came through and the fun times we’ve had with them during and after our events. Molly and myself picked six standout moments each. As you will learn, Craig Johnson in particular has gotten to be an important part of our store.

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Texas Book Festival Wrap-up!

~post by Molly and Scott

MysteryPeople’s Molly Odintz and Scott Montgomery were invited to be moderators at the 19th Annual Texas Festival Of Books held at the state capitol last weekend. It was Scott’s fourth time moderating at the festival and Molly’s first time ever. They both survived to tell the tale to report back.


Crime fiction had its strongest presence yet at the festival with six panels and three one-on-one interviews with the likes of Walter Mosely and James Ellroy. Even before the actual festival got underway, I got to sped some time with the authors. Timothy Hallinan, author of the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty series, shared some BBQ as we talked books and his time working with Katherine Hepburn. I also got to spend some time with friends Harry Hunsicker, Mark Pryor, and the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneaux before they went to their panels. Then I had my own.

First up was an interview with Craig Johnson, who’s latest book, Wait For Signs, is a collection of all the short stories featuring his Wyoming sheriff hero, Walt Longmire. He told the audience that Walt’s last name came from James Longmire who opened up the trail near Washington’s Mount Rainer and had the area named after him. He felt the combination of the words “long” and “mire” expressed what his character had been through. He added it also passed the test for a western hero name in that it could easily be followed by the word “Steakhouse.”

My panel discussion, Risky Business, had Jeff Abbott and debut author Patrick Hoffman looking at the art of thriller writing. The discussion got interesting when when it got into the topic of being categorized in a genre. Jeff said he wanted to get pigeon holed, “That way I know I’m selling.” He added it has never interfered with the type of book he wanted to write. We also got into an interesting talk about use of location. Patrick Hoffman talked about how he would often use his company car to drive to the location of his San Fransisco centric, The White Van, and write there on his lunch hour. Jeff and I also had fun drawing as much attention we could to our friend, author Meg Gardiner, who was in the audience and should have known better.

By the time the festival was over my body dehydrated, my voice was shot, and my blood alcohol content was questionable. Can’t wait til’ next year.


This past weekend, I had the pleasure of moderating two mystery panels at the Texas Book Festival. This was my first try at moderating panels and I am so thankful to MysteryPeople and the Texas Book Festival for giving me the opportunity to channel an NPR interviewer.The first, a panel on International Crime, featured authors Kwei Quartey, on tour with his latest Darko Dawson novel, Murder at Cape Three Points, and Ed Lin, with his new novel Ghost Month. Kwei Quartey’s novels take place in Ghana and increasingly focus on the economic and social imbalances of modern day Ghanaian life. Ed Lin has previously written novels depicting the Asian-American experience, including his Detective Robert Chow trilogy, set in New York City, and Ghost Month is his first to take place outside of the country.

We talked about what it means to write international crime fiction, the place of food in the detective novel, fiction as a method of dealing with historical and current societal trauma, and how to escape from a crashing helicopter. Both authors are published by SoHo and you can find their books on our shelves and via

The second panel, looking at crime noir, brought together authors Rod Davis, with his latest, South, America, and Harry Hunsicker, with his new novel The Contractors. South, America follows a Dallas native living in New Orleans as he finds a dead body, gets tangled up with the dead man’s sister, and must go on the run from mobsters. The novel reaches deep into the twisted Louisiana web of racism and poverty to write a lyrical portrait of two desperate people.

Harry Hunsicker is the author of many previous novels, and his latest, The Contractors, explores the blurred lines between public and private when it comes to law enforcement. His two protagonists are private sector contractors working for the DEA and paid a percentage of the value of any recovered substances. They get more than they bargained for when they agree to escort a state’s witness from Dallas to Marfa with two cartels, a rogue DEA agent, and a corrupt ex-cop following them.

We talked about the meaning of noir, the craft of writing mysteries, the purpose of violence in fiction, and stand-alones versus series. South, America and The Contractors  are available on our shelves and via

3 Picks for July

MysteryPeople’s 3 Picks
for July

The three picks for July are all the fourth book in a series which you should know about. Each author has written their books in a way that anyone can dive in without reading the previous titles. With that said, chances are you’ll be going back for the other three.

Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan
(on our shelves 7/15!)

Burglar and ad-hoc private eye for criminals, Junior Bender is back. This time the case involves a missing list of criminals used to set up hits. When his mentor in crime, Herbie Mott, ends up dead, he’s out for vengeance, learning the secrets his old friend kept. Hallinan’s Junior Bender series is a perfect balance of hard boiled crime fiction
and laugh out loud humor.

Vengeance Is Mine by Reavis Wortham

The Lawmen of Central Springs, Texas get more than they bargained for when a hitman on the run from the Vegas mob settles in their town. This book weaves character, humor, and coming of age tale into an engrossing thriller with some kick ass shoot outs. Meet Reavis wortham at  August 6th with Tim Bryant and Ben Rehder for our Texas Mystery Night.

The Competition by Marcia Clark
(on our shelves 7/8!)

Special Prosecutor Rachel Knight looks into a tragic school shooting in the San Fernando Valley. As she looks closer, she learns the assumed perpetrators could in fact be the victims. Clark gives us a complex hero in Rachel Knight in a series that engages like no other.

L. A. Comes to Austin Noir at the Bar

los angeles

If noir had a capitol it would be Los Angeles. It’a town that draws people to it with dreams that glitter on the surface, supported by a history of corruption in it’s underside. It’s glamour and grit, romance and rotten humanity. This Saturday, July 20th at 7pm at Opal Divine’s (3601 S. Congress), we will be doing an L.A. themed Noir at the Bar with Marcia Clark (Killer Ambition), Timothy Hallinan (The Fame Thief), and Josh Stallings (All The Wild Children). To keep some local flavor, we’ll have author and musician Jesse Sublett (Grave Digger Blues) there to read and play some tunes. All of our L. A. authors show the range of dark deeds in their town and the stories those deeds inspire. It made us ask our crime author friends what their favorite L.A. crime books are.

It’s no surprise that Raymond Chandler, who put L.A. on the noir map, was the most popular.

“In 1987 I left my Austin music career Behind and moved to Los Angeles because of Raymond Chandler, aspiring to become something like the rock n’ roll Raymond Chandler,” Jesse Sublett told us. “I would love to list a dozen or so super cool obscure titles about LA here, but instead will go with the one that set my brain on fire, captured that city like lightning in a bottle and, like almost every sentence he wrote about it, still feels eerily true every time I’m there in that poisoned paradise: The Big Sleep.”

Chandler’s The Long Goodbye got the most mentions. Reed Farrel Coleman (Onion Street) describes the book as “Drunken writers, deadly blonds, friendship, betrayal, and murder set against the lights of the city of angels.”

“This book breaks the mold of previous Phillip Marlowe stories and carries the reader into the realm of mystical noir.” Explains Jon Steel (Angel City). “More than that, the book is literature disguised as ‘detective fiction.’ ”

Dare Me author Megan Abbott‘s choice the second Marlowe book, Farewell My Lovely. “Yes, the choice may seem too easy, too obvious, but that’s become the perennial LA of my imagination. Tracking Marlowe from downtown to the Santa Monica pier to every far corner, it’s LA at its most glamorous, its most haunted, its darkest.”

Bill Crider (Compound Murder) chose what I thought was his funniest. “The Little Sister has one of the all-time great rants about LA. Check it out.”

Chandler’s influence can be seen in a lot of favorite authors who came after him, as well:

Keith Rawson (editor of Crime Factory Midnight Shift): “L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy. Because there’s no crime writer who better describes the bad old glamorous days of Los Angeles better than Ellroy.”

James Grady (Mad Dogs): “Not one novel, but James Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet” — The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, Big Nowhere, White Jazz. I’d say Chandler and Ross McDonald, too, but Ellroy’s savagery captures the monsters in the sunshine of L.A. as wonderfully as anyone else, including Nathaniel West.”

Reed Farrel Coleman:Die A Little by Megan Abbott. Fixers, fakers, femme fatales, drugs … A fresh kind of noir/hard-boiled with Megan’s unique voice.”

Tim Bryant (Southern Select): “After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson. I love Thompson’s writing because he gets into the mind of the protagonist better than most. Therefore, he gets into the mind of the reader.”

Bill Crider: “Ross Macdonald’s The Chill: Lew Archer, Oedipal madness, the past smacking the present in the face, and a great climax.”

Tom Pitts (Piggyback) “Just to upset the apple cart, I’ll throw in Get Shorty. Can’t have LA without picking on Hollywood. And as a side note, I’m reading Point Doom by Dan Fante right now. It’s a good LA crime story. HeJohn Fante’s son. Ask the Dust’s John Fante, speaking of great books about Los Angeles.”

Thomas Pluck (editor of Protectors): “I’m a big fan of Robert Crais, and I like Elvis & Joe Pike too much to choose just one, so I’ll go with a standalone – The Two Minute Rule, which really stuck with me.”

Court Merrigan (Moondog Over The Mekong): “For me it’s The Grifters. My first & still favorite Thompson.”

Barry Graham (When It All Comes Down To Dust): “Larry Fondation has written about how few great contemporary novels depict LA. I would say the perfect exception to that is Bangers by Gary Phillips.”

Lynn Kostoff (Late Rain): “While not a novel, Richard Lange’s story collection Dead Boys does a fine job of capturing a lot of contemporary LA.”

And then there are our Noir At The Bar Performers:

Tim Hallinan: “There are so many great ones. For now, I’m going with Edward Wright’s Clea’s Moon. Set in 1949 or thereabouts, it follows a skip tracer who was once the star of a grade-z western serial before he was thrown in jail. I think Wright writes L.A, in the 40s/50s better than anyone else who didn’t actually write then.”

Jesse Sublett: “Another one about old LA that’s a little off the beaten track that captures the mist at night and the twisted glories is A Fast One by Paul Cain. I swear when I’m sitting in my friend’s back yard near Whitley Heights where the book starts, you can still feel it.”

Josh Stallings:Devil in a Blue Dress. Walter Mosley nails the hard side of LA, and the transient feeling that we all came from some place else and this was the last stop before hitting the sea. Yes Chandler, yes Elroy but also yes Mosley.

Marcia Clark:The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler, L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy, and Blonde Faith, by Walter Mosley. I know they get mentioned by everyone, but there’s a reason for that. That said, I love Jim Thompson (especially The Grifters and After Dark My Sweet), but he never felt LA-specific.”
Come out this Saturday to Opal Divines and experience LA in Austin.

(A note to those attending. We will have the latest title of each writer on sale at the event, but a limited amount of room for their backlist. We have most of the titles on the shelves at BookPeople, so stop by there if you want a favorite signed.)

MysteryPeople Q&A with Timothy Hallinan: THE FAME THIEF

Timothy Hallinan’s new character, Junior Bender, is a thief who finds himself acting as a private eye for other criminals. In the latest, The Fame Thief, an influential mobster has him look into a sixty year old scheme that brought down a starlet he loved. It’s a funny, hard boiled, yet, in the end, poignant look at Hollywood both past and present. We talked to Timothy about the The Fame Thief, show biz,  the series, and writing in general.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: I remember you talking about The Fame Thief and how excited you were working on it. That sense of fun really came across on the page. What did you find so fun about it?

TIMOTHY HALLINAN: Something happened to me in this book; I realized I could take it anywhere without losing control of it.  The 1940s? No problem.  A cast of really elderly suspects?  No problem.  A ghost?  No problem.  Something about the material in this book opened itself up to me and said, essentially, “Do with me what you will.” In my experience the material usually wants to make more rules than that.  (In the fourth Junior, Herbie’s Game, which I’ve just finished, it certainly did.)

Second, I was more comfortable than ever with Junior’s tone.  His tone basically dictates the kinds of stories he tells and how he tells them.  I can essentially sit back and let him take me wherever he wants, and I’m usually laughing.  I know it’s probably difficult to understand for some people who don’t write, but I never see a joke coming until it’s on the page, and then, usually, I laugh at it, and hope the reader will, too.  The Fame Thief was simply the most fun I’ve ever had writing.

MP: We seem to share the same fascination with the intersection of organized crime and show business. What do you think the allure is?

TH: Everybody loves show business (even if they say they don’t), and one of the more comic aspects of fandom is that crooks are fans, too.  Especially in the 1940s and ’50s, the mob and Hollywood were inextricably tied, and, of course, the mob moved heavily into the music business, too.  They went after show business partly because it was a money magnet, but it was also where the stars were, especially the female stars.  And the attraction worked both ways.  Poor Dolores La Marr is far from bring the only female star who was enamored of mob guys.  Like show business, organized crime traded in a kind of glamor, and Hollywood gave some of the most flamboyant mob guys an opportunity to strut their stuff in a way that wouldn’t have been tolerated back in Chicago; Bugsy Seigel, Mickey Cohen, and some of the other Hollywood gangsters were almost movie characters in their own right.  And I was fascinated by the idea that one mob guy, Sidney Korshak, the real-life model for Irwin Dressler, represented both the studios and the unions.  When there was a labor dispute, Louis B. Mayer said, “Sidney sits alone in a room for half an hour and talks to himself.” I just love that.

One more thing that’s worth remembering is that the early studio heads and the top guys in the Chicago mob had a lot in common.  They were refugees from an area Eastern Europe where, on occasion, Jews were killed for sport.  They came here and built themselves a ladder to climb out of poverty and powerlessness, and then they protected it.  These guys understood each other.

MP: What was one the most fascinating things you discovered in your research of 1950s Hollywood?

TH: The studio system, now long gone, is endlessly fascinating to me.  What staggers my imagination is that in about ten years at the beginning of the 20th century a bunch of artists and businessmen—very different people—in the dry hills of Southern California created both an art form and a business model, and they created them simultaneously.  There they were, these immigrants from persecution and starvation, and suddenly they were in control of something entirely new: dream palaces.  The question was, how to keep the pump flowing, and the studio system, with all its glories and inequities, was the answer.  And then, in the ‘6os, talent took over, which actually meant that agents did, and the whole business got dryer, greedier, more expensive, and, therefore, safer.

MP: Thematically, this book has echoes of your first Junior book, Crashed, in the way the film business treats women. What did you want to explore about it in this book?

TH: I think it’s summed up in the scene between Junior and Doug Trent.  Trent is no angel; he’s married six actresses, and when Junior asks what that was like, he says it was like being married to one of them.  He remembers Dolores as well as he does primarily because of the spectacular way her career was destroyed soon after their film was released, but he doesn’t remember who her friends were, or much of anything personal about her other than that she wasn’t a nightmare to work with, like her costar Olivia DuPont.  In the end, he says she was just “one more girl.” Junior asks was that really all she was, and Trent says, “Honey, there are thousands of them.  They’re the fuel Hollywood burns.”

Dolores herself has no illusions about the glamor of being in the movies.  She makes a point of distinguishing herself and other working actresses from the women who (like her) slept with executives but (unlike her) never got through the studio gates.  “We were a meritocracy of sorts,” she says, “even if it was a whorish meritocracy.”

And while I don’t think times have changed, I’d argue that youthful beauty is really the fuel Hollywood burns, female or male. It briefly turns it into money and then, with very few exceptions, tosses it away.  On the other hand, they do that with writers, too.

MP: I really enjoy Junior’s relationship with his daughter Rina. What does she provide for Junior?

TH: I’m ashamed to admit that she began as a calculated addition to the cast—someone to make Junior, who is, after all, a professional thief—a little more human and sympathetic.  I did the same thing in the Poke Rafferty books; he’s a Western man, living in Bangkok, which automatically raises some eyebrows, but the first time we ever see him, he’s holding his daughter’s hand, following his wife on a shopping trip.

It was important to me to make sure the reader understood from the beginning that these characters, Poke and Junior, were in healthy, loving relationships.  That said, Miaow, Poke’s daughter, and Rina function quite differently in the two series—at least, so far.  Miaow is a former street child, rescued from the sidewalk while Rina is a middle-class (perhaps upper-middle-class) American kid who’s never endured want, if you don’t count her unhappiness about her mother and father’s divorce.  Rina is also dead center in Junior’s guilty conscience.  His wife, Kathy, said, essentially, straighten up or move out, and he moved out.  So he’s continually aware that he chose to follow a life of crime in preference to keeping his family intact.

So he not only loves her to distraction, but she’s also a little scar on his soul.  And he comes face to face with this in the next book, Herbie’s Game.

MP: In both the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty series you have your heroes in a circle of friends composed of people society either ignores or shuns. What should a writer know about those who are outsiders?

TH: Outsiders are the most dependable assets of fiction.  There’s not much interesting writing—although there’s some great writing—about absolutely, resolutely normal life: people who get up in the morning and do their best and try to go to bed at night with a clear conscience so they can get up and do it again.  When these characters are written, it’s often for the express purpose of bringing them up against an outsider, by which I mean someone who lives outside the rules: could be a crook or a psychopath or a fantasist or a serial adulterer or someone who accumulates power, as some business executives seem to, in order to see how much that power can be abused.

Film provides a great example of the tendency to focus on “normal” people primarily as characters in stories where they come into contact with outsiders, who are often threatening.  Over the first 50-60 years of the medium, Americans filmed practically every kind of story, but it wasn’t until we saw some foreign movies in the 50s and early 60s—I’m thinking specifically of Ozu—that we realized it was possible to tell riveting stories about everyday people, doing their best, to whom not much happens—no Events with a capital E.  In Ozu’s “Tokyo Story,” an older couple comes to Tokyo from the country to spend a few days with their children, who are bored by them and who don’t really have time for them.  The older couple goes back home, and a little later the wife dies.  The end.  Great art.  Tragedy, comedy, and endurance of the commonplace.  I’d give my eye teeth (and my wisdom teeth, too, all of which I’ve still got) to be able to write that.

But to return to your question, I think any writer can conjure up virtually any kind of outsider by remembering a time when he or she didn’t fit in or was rejected, and then imagining some of the ways that situation could be dealt with by different kinds of people.  Some people turn to crime, some to murder, some to self-reinvention or self-deception and the deception of others.  Some turn to writing books.  We’ve all got embryonic versions inside us of virtually every kind of outsider.  Imagination does the rest.


Timothy Hallinan will join Marcia Clark, Josh Stallings, and Jesse Sublett for our L.A. themed Noir At The Bar this Saturday, July 20th at 7pm at Opal Divine’s (6031 South Congress).

The Next Voice You Hear: Guest Post by Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series if one of the freshest to come around in some time. In this guest post, he tells us how he came up with the thief and detective for criminals.


Like most writers I know, I’m a functioning schizophrenic, or (if there is such a thing) a multiphrenic. I’m inhabited at all times by a cloud of fictional personalities, muttering in the wings like a crowd of not-very-good actors, impatient to be summoned into the brightly lighted space of the stage.

This condition is especially bothersome for those of us who write series. I currently write two, so I have an acute case of multiphrenia. It’s not only the primary and secondary characters in my series who are whispering in my ear all the time. It’s absolutely everybody. Every character who passes through a story, who waves from the crowd, who has a good scene, who provides a bit of exposition—in short, every character who doesn’t actually die—wants to get back on the page. Their attitude toward page space and dialogue is (probably unconsciously) taken from Oliver Twist: “Please, sir, can I have more?”

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I recognize these voices when I hear them because I’ve written them before. After all, on some level I don’t begin to understand, I created them. You’d think they’d be more polite, but the moment they see a potential slot coming up in a work-in-progress, they agitate to fill it. The pushier ones suggest entirely new book ideas in which, just coincidentally, they would get most of the good lines. I’ve learned to treat most of this as background noise, keeping one ear out for a useful idea, the same way I can hear my name spoken in a crowd of people at a party.

That’s the main reason the Junior Bender books are different. They started with a voice I’d never heard before.

I was writing the third Poke Rafferty thriller, Breathing Water, when the voice started to talk. And talk. And talk. It wasn’t a voice I could identify, it was no one I had written; near as I could figure, it was someone breaking through from the undoubtedly frustrating limbo where unwritten characters hang out. He had a story to tell me, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I was doing well with Breathing Water, and I’ve learned the hard way not to walk away from anything I’m doing well with, so I ignored the voice. But it wouldn’t leave me alone, so I set aside a Sunday and just let it talk.

And what did that get me? The voice told me a deeply stupid short story about a crook and a hamster. I wrote it all down, mainly to make the voice go away. The guy who was telling me the story turned out to be a Los Angeles getaway driver with no sense of direction named Louie the Lost. He buys a hamster from a fence (don’t ask) and falls head over heels in love with it. When it’s stolen, he calls up a friend, a burglar, to find out who took it. The burglar turned out to be Junior Bender.

I showed the story to my agent, who said, “Uhhh.” But I knew that Junior—a burglar who moonlights as a private eye for crooks—was someone I wanted to spend more time with. The moment I finished Breathing Water, I let Junior tell me the story that turned into Crashed. The first draft took six weeks, a lifetime record for me (most of them take six to eight months), and I laughed all the way through it.

As of this writing, I’ve told four stories from Junior’s life: Crashed, Little Elvises, The Fame Thief, and the one I just finished, Herbie’s Game. Louie the Lost is an important character in all of them. But still, at times when he’s sure Junior is out of earshot, he tries to tell me getaway driver stories.

He even suggests titles. They’ve all got his name in them.


Meet Timothy at our LA themed Noir At The Bar, along with Josh Stallings and Marcia Clark, on Saturday, July 20th, 7PM at Opal Divines, 3601 South Congress.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan has been making a name for himself with his Bangkok set, Poke Rafferty series.  A Nail Through the Heart, The Fourth Watcher, Breathing Water, and The Queen of Patpong. They’ve been translated into several languages and made several “best of” lists. The Queen of Patpong was nominated for the 2011 Edgar and Macavity as Best Novel. His personal favorite, Breathing Water, was named by the Japan Times as one of the ten best Asia books of the year (2009). His latest, The Fear Artist has received starred reviews from PW, Booklist, and Library Journal.

We’re happy to host Mr. Hallinan with fellow SOHO writer Martin Limon on Sunday July 15th at 4pm. To give you an idea of what to expect, Mr. Hallinan was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

MysteryPeople: How would you describe your books?

Timothy Hallinan: The Poke Rafferty books are thrillers, which I hope are character-driven. While the thriller plot begins and ends in each book, the story of the little family that’s at the center of the series (and that’s the element I care most about) continues from book to book. The father figure is Poke (short for Philip) Rafferty, an American travel writer who came to Thailand to write a book and stayed to start a new life; his wife, nicknamed Rose, whom he met when she was dancing in one of the red-light bars on Patpong Road, once Asia’s most lurid street; and their adopted daughter, Miaow, now 12 or 13 (no one knows) whom they adopted off of the sidewalk. They’ve all been damaged and they all need to make a home, so they’re trying with all they’ve got to create one across gulfs of religion and culture and expectations and personal experience. They’ve been together five years now, and if anything the bonds are getting stronger, although Miaow is now entering a very difficult age.

MP: What first took you to Bangkok?

TH: In 1981 I was working on a PBS series about the first tour of Japan by an American symphony orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and I was supposed to take a few weeks off in Japan when filming ended. But it was the coldest February in decades, so I called my travel agent (there were still travel agents then) and asked her to send me someplace that was both Asian and warm. She suggested the Philippines, but I’d spent a couple of months there working on a dreadful movie, and it wasn’t a happy experience, so I went for choice number two, Thailand. I landed in Bangkok wearing a down jacket and a woolen cap on a day when the temperature was just below 100. The immigration guys were falling off their chairs laughing at me as I crossed the terminal, and that was the first time in my life I ever saw immigration people laugh. I was in love with Bangkok by the end of the first couple of days. I’ve had an apartment there ever since.

MP: What makes Bangkok a good setting for thrillers?

TH: It’s got everything, and at both extremes. It’s rich, it’s poor. It’s notoriously libertine and deeply religious. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the world as people stream in from the countryside to find new lives and find instead poverty and exploitation. It’s the most cheerful big city in the world but it’s also tragic. You can stand on any busy corner and see material for ten books in five minutes. And it’s rich in having a very peculiar expat population; it is, as Somerset Maugham said about Monte Carlo, a sunny place for shady people.

MP: There are people who look down automatically at books written about Bangkok by western men.

TH: Yes, and in some cases there’s good reason. There’s no shortage of what I think of as “me love you long time” books, rhapsodies of wish fulfillment in which gorgeous young brown women fall bewilderingly in love with uninteresting, middle-age white men. Those are rather emphatically not what I’m trying to write. The love stories in these books are among individual human beings (I hope), not two-dimensional racial slide projections. And it’s overwhelmingly monogamous. Rose and Poke have never fooled around, and Poke’s Thai best friend, Arthit, loses his wife in book number three and is inconsolable until he makes a somewhat problematical choice in the new one,The Fear Artist. If there were none of the bar life in the books, though, they wouldn’t be true, so there’s an aging group of discontented sexpats who hang out at a bar in Patpong and serve as a sort of chorus. They’re also a handy expository device.

MP: What’s The Fear Artist about?

TH: It’s about the War on Terror and what happens to someone who is, completely innocently, caught up in its periphery. There’s an ongoing Muslim insurrection in the south of Thailand, with five or six thousand people killed in the past four or five years, and the Americans are very much involved, largely behind the scenes, although they’ve tripled the U.S. Military presence in the country. One component of the War on Terror that most people aren’t aware of is The Phoenix Program, a campaign of assassination that the CIA managed for a couple of years in Vietnam—1800 people a month, on average, mostly civilians who were being suspected of being Vietcong cadres. It was the first time America engaged in wholesale assassination of possible noncombatants, and when the Pentagon was charged with coming up with a plan for the War on Terror after 9/11, they looked at the situation: the enemy largely unidentifiable, living invisibly in the general population in isolated villages, in a country where everyone hates us anyway, and they turned to The Phoenix Program. (When some suspected terrorist leader gets dusted by a drone in Afghanistan, that’s a late, high-tech echo of The Phoenix Program. The villain whom Poke faces in the book, Haskell Murphy, is a veteran of both Vietnam and Phoenix.

MysteryPeople welcomes Timothy Hallinan to BookPeople to speak about his work this Sunday, July 15 at 4p. He will be joined by Martin Limon. This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.