Sunday, December 28, 2008


Christmas is a memory.

I distributed fifteen copies of The Minnesota Crime Wave's audio anthology RESORT TO MURDER AUDIO to friends and family who didn’t yet have it. Unalloyed joy reigned. (yeah, right). I never get books as presents, either Christmas or birthday. People say, “we never know what to buy you.” When I give books, they always come with the proviso that either before or after reading, they should give the book to some deserving soul, or maybe to a retirement home or…”

I often give ARCs to retirement or hospice or hospital reading programs.

Whole wheat bread is rising in the proofing oven at the moment. Bread making when irked or frustrated about something is great therapy. Kneading bread is always a wonderful experience.

One wonders when—if ever—the Senate race in Minnesota will end. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that whatever the canvassing and other boards decide and certify, there will be a court challenge. It is unsettling to discover that a lot of people who go to vote, don’t take the process seriously. We saw votes for Mickey Mouse, God and several other lesser lights. Voting is not the place for misplaced letters to the skypilot. Disallow all ballots that insert frivolity, say I.

I spent this morning (Sunday) watching and talking with (sort of) Peter May, a fine writer of thrilling mysteries. He was home in France, I was at home in the US. Such is the wonder of the electronic age in which we live. He does an occasional Internet program through the services of something called Mogulus. You can find his live blog here.

He was introducing a world wide audience to his latest Enzo MacLeod story, Blacklight Blue. It’s an excellent third book in his second series. It’s published in the US by Poisoned Pen.

I’ve just been elected to the board of the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I think I better pay my dues to Sisters In Crime this week.

There are interesting things happening with the whole e-book universe after years in neutral. Kindle and the new Sony reader seem to be the motivators. I think today any publisher and author ignores e-publishing at their peril.

My new sailing book with Mary Whitney and Michael Tanner, titled DEVILS ISLAND from Echelon is on track for Spring, 2009. Mary has to wrestle with depredations from her ex-husband.

I’ve read some fascinating new mysteries in the past few weeks. Here’s a review of another. It’s called Barbados Heat, by Don Bruns

ISBN 0312304927

St. Martin’s Minotaur, $24.95,

November, 2003

Tock Tock, Tick tock. Like the sound of steel wheels over the gandy dancer’s rail joints, this novel rocks along. A Congressman is dead. He wanted to attack the Hip Hop and Rap music industry. He wanted to join his brother-in-law, the Reverend Joseph Evans in an attempt to rein in bad lyrics, violent lyrics, sexual lyrics. Now the congressman’s son, Nick, is charged with Congressman Shappley’s brutal murder. It’s said he’s in it up to his elbows along with Rap star, Chilli D, who may have been the triggerman. Chilli D’s producer, T-Beau wants to protect his investment so he calls on a music industry star, friend Mick Sever. Mick is already in Washington on the case.

Tick Tock. Time is running on and readers may have the feeling they’re on a fast train going downhill. The whistle screams and the scenery goes by in a blur, leaving out whole pieces. There are complications. Sever, whom we last saw in the author’s debut novel, Jamaica Blue, calls in his divorced wife, Ginny to do research. Tension. Sever once had a childhood friendship with the accused Nick, the Congressman’s son. More tension. There are other family presences, not just in D.C. Tick Tock. Sever’s off to Florida to talk to Nick’s sister, Amber, and then to Barbados, where old wounds still fester.

Page by page Barbados Heat gathers speed. Tock tock. And just when you think you’ve got the characters and their relationships sorted out, even with the missing bits of action, the train roars around a sharp curve and carries you off in a new direction. Author Bruns is evolving a fresh and breathless style of pell mell writing that may be a little short on detail but long on action and thrills. Tick Tock.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


So, another year is almost over. We celebrate holidays based on a strange but workable blend of pagan, ancient and Christian, and other religious traditions and customs. It all seems to go together, at least in Western societies. I’ve lived in a world in which people fought each other over territory, power, economic gain and, for some, even humanitarian reasons. WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Israel and Palestine, Turkey and Greece, Afghanistan and now Iraq. And one in which we celebrate peace and love in hundreds of unique and different ways.

Now our economy is in deep trouble and the Free Marketers in charge don’t seem to know what to do and they appear to have forgotten the ordinary, regular public, those of us who get up and, when we have a job, go work, pay our taxes and keep the country running.

I had the great good fortune to hear a local vocal group called Rose Ensemble recently. They have a marvelous full blend of voices, rare in so small a group. I recommend their CD. Highly.

Had the rare opportunity to interview Julie Kramer on my TV show. She’s the local writer, former television producer, of the popular STALKING SUSAN. Another recommendation. It’s a fine thriller/mystery.

We sent out a lot of Holiday cards this year. And I’m planning to crank up my mailing list. I still haven’t made the complete switch to email, but if you’d like to get information on my new book from Echelon Press, due out in the Spring of ’09, let me know.

Love Is Murder is upcoming in February, if I can find my way to Chicago through the drifts. Yes, it’s snowing heavily as I type this. Nevertheless, LIM is a fine mystery conference worth attending if you are in the area.

Here’s another review of a book I like and recommend.

By Peter May
ISBN; 0-312-34294-2
St. Martins Minotaur from Thomas Dunne
First US edition, September, 2005
Hard Cover, $24.95
353 pages

Dandy, just dandy. And oh so current. Peter May is a fine writer and he pays close attention to what he’s doing in this novel.

Interesting characters. Take Margaret Campbell, an ugly American who learns. She jumps on a chance to go, even unprepared, to China to lecture on criminal forensics. She’s a pathologist fleeing personal troubles back in Chicago. Take Li Yan, an up-and-coming Chinese police lieutenant who so far in his career has lightly walked the fine line of political realities and criminal investigations. They meet when Campbell’s car knocks the police lieutenant off his bicycle on a busy street in Beijing.

He’s a recently promoted detective who suddenly needs her expertise to help him solve the case of a man who apparently has immolated himself in a popular Beijing park. The two are almost immediately at odds, especially since the scientist starts out in a self-centered almost arrogant fugue state. But between them, as they begin to piece together the background of the man who died in the fire, and make their tortuous way through the difficult layers of forensic science and the Chinese political landscape to an diabolical conspiracy, their bond grows. They discover and develop much synchronicity between themselves.

They also discover much danger. This thriller of a novel, while teaching us a great deal about China and cultural relationships, careens pell mell through the story with frightening and exciting twists and turns. An outstanding and unusual novel that deserves a wide audience.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The weather's turning colder up here at the top of the map and nearly all the leaves from all the trees on my block are down now--and most of 'em are in my yard.

Spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the lounge at the Hat Trick, a St. Paul drinking establishment, Friday evening. An Ex-Rocker from the hot 60’s scene, Mandrake Memorial, one of Philadelphia’s top local bands, has surfaced in a new persona. Michael Kac is revisiting the folk music scene solo with his tasteful blend of ballads and up tempo modern songs. He’s an accomplished keyboardist, banjoist and guitar player with a sweet low tenor voice as an added plus. He has a CD with Linda Cohen and also plays with a new group in the Twin Cities called Mill Street band. Catch his act when you can.

Michael has joined forces with three other musicians to form a folk group called Milltown Band. They're new and still finding their way, but their influences are clear, their talent is pure and the road ahead reveals few rocks.

St. Paul’s Neighborhood Network, (SPNN) is now cablecasting our TV series, MINNESOTA CRIME WAVE PRESENTS, on Thursdays at 7:30 PM, and Fridays at 2:00 AM (!) and 12:30 PM. It’s a series about books, publishing and various aspects of the world of books, with some emphasis on crime fiction, of course. But, our view is larger and there’s always something on the fast-paced program for writers, as well as readers. You can see a list of guest authors at our website,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

by John T. Lescroart
ISBN 0-440-22104-8
pb Island (Dell) 527 pg.

San Francisco, the most tolerant city in the universe, right? Well, don’t forget it killed Harvey Milk. And now it’s after Kevin Shea, an innocent ordinary white male who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, if Shea had walked away from the incident that starts riots, lootings and burnings in the city by the bay, he’d have been home free. Instead, he tries to be a good Samaritan. Everything after that is down a very steep hill for Kevin Shea.

In A CERTAIN JUSTICE, Lescroart brings together a divorced, honest cop with serious child care problems, an ambitious black city prosecutor and her mother, police administrators of several races, and other demagogues from the right and the left, so he has to keep track of multiple threads. And he does, in a masterful clean way which allows the reader to move with him cleanly through the story. Besides these sometimes murky relationships, the central very suspenseful story of the attempts to find Kevin Shea before something bad happens.

Anyone who reads A CERTAIN JUSTICE will find he or she must reexamine many previously held and automatic presumptions. But always, this novel deserves the cliché, a real page-turner.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thursday 10/2/08

For thirty years a woman in my neighborhood has been producing a series of chamber music concert in a local church. The place has the right space and outstanding acoustics. The series is called Music in the Park and Julie Himmelstrup, the director has received numerous awards for the variety and quality of the program. The season is typically six Sunday afternoon concerts.

I mention all this because I attended one of the concerts recently. It was outstanding. Chee-Yun, violin was accompanied on the piano by another South Korean artist, Jeewon Park. They offered a concert with ppeces by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. If you are into chamber music, these are two fine artists to remember. If you want more information about the series, go to their web site.

Our television series (MN Crime Wave Presents) is moving right along. In October we’ll expand beyond our parent city to both Saint Paul and Minneapolis cable systems. We’re also expanding our reach by interviewing a couple of hot Chicago area authors in the coming weeks. Assuming we can find the right sponsor, we’ll expand further. Meanwhile, segments are available by going to our web site.

Bouchercon in Baltimore is on the immediate horizon. I’m looking forward to that. Another book review is attached.

By S. K. Rizzolo
Poisoned Pen Press, May 2003
289 pgs., $24.95
ISBN: 1590580540

Historical detective mystery. Seventeenth Century England. Regency Second in series. Male and female informal team. Birth of the modern federal police detective.

I am not, generally, a big fan of historical mystery fiction. On the other hand, a well-written novel that really captures the time and the sense of the place can be vastly interesting. When an author does that, we readers can learn a bit more about the real life of the time and place than is typically found in our school text books. That’s fortunate.

Here is an author who immerses us in the life and times of two people in early Seventeenth Century London. Author S. K. Rizzolo has captured and set down on paper what feels like the real London in a real era. London with its crowded streets, its hurly burly and its smoke and ash, and its obsessive sense of class and rules. It is fully accurate? I don’t know of course, but it feels right, and that’s important. This is Regency London with all its finery and its pimples.

Bow Street Runner John Chase is back, (see The Rose in The Wheel) trying to solve the murder of a mysterious footman called Dick Ransome. The footman was employed in the household of Lord Ashe, a man to be both reckoned with for his class and his wealth, and scorned for his personality and nasty proclivities. Another interesting character from Rizzolo’s first novel (see above) is Penelope West. Her errant husband is off doing his art somewhere in Ireland, and Penelope, with her child, Sarah, has become a Companion to Lady Ashe, daughter of wealthy and powerful Sir Roger Wallace-Crag, a position not fit for an inquisitive woman of her disposition, but Penelope’s circumstances require it.

When the footman is found stabbed in Wallace-Crag’s garden, John Chase begins an investigation. At about the same time, Penelope, increasingly aware of strange undercurrents and rising vicious gossip below-stairs and above, learns about troubling events from both the recent and distant past. These parallel investigations by two carefully flawed characters allow us to visit important and fascinating elements of London society of the time in a way that would have been impossible without their presence in the story. It is a clever and effective construct. From outside the family, Chase learns troubling facts while stalking the streets and institutions of the city, as does Penelope from inside the chambers of a family that has many secrets.

The writing is intelligent and to the point. The pages of the novel are peopled with interesting and compelling fictitious and real people such as Lord Byron, and the charismatic religious, Rebecca Barnwell. The mystery is tightly controlled, fits the characters and the time, and provides a number of surprises along the way. Author Rizzolo has an exciting era to mine for many more regency mysteries. I look forward to them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In the early nineties, John Cage and Merce Cunningham designed a modern dance work they called Oceans. It's a huge concept--14 dancers, more than a hundred musicians. It's meant to be staged in the round in a single ninety minute presentation. It takes a special venue and there aren't many around. Fortunately, some bright people here in Minnesota thought they could handle it. And I got to attend one of three performances.

Oceans was held in a Martin Marietta Materials quarry near St. Cloud, in the middle of Minnesota. A moody, spectacular quarry, on moody rainy evening. We were a couple of hundred feet down into the earth. A September night, in bleachers surrounded by local musicians, including the St. Cloud Symphony. Walker Art Center, Benedicta Arts Center and Northrop Dance were the visionary organizations that came together to produce a once-in-a-lifetime experience, under spitting clouds and fitful breezes. I can't tell you how impressive and outstanding the evening was.

Bouchercon, the International Fan Mystery Convention, is almost upon us and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends and again visiting a fine city.

My latest books, “Bloody Halls” and “The Case of the Deceiving Don” as well as the re-issue of Sean Sean’s first adventure, “The Case of the Greedy Lawyers,” are all selling well, if not spectacularly

Here’s a review of another important novel.

Blackheart Highway
Author: Richard Barre
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
ISBN: 0-425-16903-0

An early warning. Start this when you have plenty of time to read. You’ll find it nearly impossible to lay it aside. The story grabs you from page one and hardly lets go until the very end. Anyone who has read Barre’s other novels knows he has developed into a major talent. And he just keeps getting better. I believe that this novel, will one day be regarded as a classic.

The writing is economic, spare, and careful. There simply are no wasted words. Every character is sharply etched, distinct and consistent throughout. The terse prose is evocative of the situations and at times beautifully descriptive.

Barre’s protagonist, Viet Nam vet Wil Hardesty, is a California P.I. with plenty of personal baggage. He goes to Bakersfield with his current inamorata, a woman toward whom he’s developing some serious intentions. The presence of Kari Thayer in this book gives the author several opportunities to vary the pace and substitute one kind of tension for another. Barre uses this device judiciously and very effectively.

The trip to Bakersfield is intended to be merely a short vacation, but due to an altercation in a bookstore, Bakersfield becomes aware of Hardesty and his capabilities. Inevitably, that leads to Hardesty being drawn into a set of circumstances with roots in the not too distant past. It’s a case that involves big music, big oil, greed, big money, multiple murders, and other criminal behavior.

The genius of the author is displayed in the careful way in which circumstance logically leads to other circumstances, entwines with rising tension and increasing pace, all calculated to carry the reader to the final, logical, conclusions. The communities, the surrounding desert and man’s intrusive presence are brought forth in ways that allow us to viscerally experience the truck stop and taste the dust. Multiple layers and threads weave through the book with care. This is a complex novel with something to say about relationships, but we are never confused, never lost. BLACKHEART HIGHWAY is a stunning accomplishment.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer's End

There seems to be a rising tide of tension among the mystery community.
Shorter tempers, less tolerance for jokes and careless asides. There’s also a noticeable effort by various newsgroup mavens to clamp down on the amount of “unnecessary” cyber space taken up with repetitious messages and tails. I wonder why that is? Unless of course there is a charge being levied for the amount of space being taken by the Internet messages. And, if that’s the case, wouldn’t a better ploy be to help hunt down and root out the massive spammers who take up far more space than do a few unfortunates like me who forget sometimes to edit the messages we’re responding to?

Maybe it’s my age but I find the restrictions on the quoting of messages to be often so restrictive that unless I am able to follow threads from the beginning—and I am not, having another rich and time-filled life—the truncated messages become impenetrable.

There are a lot of complaints about local and national campaign negativity. More attacks and fewer thoughtful explorations of “issues.” I spent an interesting hour with Science Friday, an NPR program, I commend to your attention, in which a discussion of the psychology of persuasion was deeply dissected. Turns out we humans react much more strongly to negativism. We remember it more and negative criticism of opponents has a much more lasting effect. Must be why attack ads and stories particularly in political campaigns are so persistent.

But I have to say, today’s campaigns are a faint and soft shadow of past and bygone eras. If you want some laughs and a chance to admire some really creative insults, read Shakespeare and then look at some of the treatises from political campaigns of the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

August 30,
Labor day arrives, signaling the end of another summer. After we rebuilt our deck, I installed a couple of outdoor speakers so now on nice days like this one, I can sit in the sun or breezes and work while listening to some good jazz on the radio. It’s a relief from the incessant drum beating of poorly conceived political advertising.

And while I think of it, WARNING rant follows.
I worked in television for many years. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it after the crappy and abysmal coverage of the Democratic convention in Colorado. You just watch, there will be more of the same when the Republican Convention comes to Saint Paul. I asked a radio news producer about that. “We can’t turn our air waves over to the politicians,” he said indignantly.

Well, first, it isn’t his air waves. Broadcasting air space belongs to the people. That was firmly established in the last century. And second, why should the politicians not have a chance to speak to the body politic without filters? Especially since those talking heads have so little of substance to say! Who, you may ask. Here’s a list, in case I miss somebody, omissions are not deliberate. I did watch and listen. I’m a political junky, among other things. In no particular order: NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, MPR, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, who’d I miss?

Coverage, in a word, was appalling. What we got from Charlie, Jim, Rita, Ben, Wolf, George, Cindy, Gwen and the others was mostly blather. Childish squabbles, phony attempts to hype non-events or issues. Interruption after interruption. Long explanations of insignificant issues, endless speculation about wisps in the wind. A good deal of the coverage was Blitzerized, that is, offered in wide-eyed breathless cadence.

Meanwhile, a political leader of some group was speaking to the convention. But nobody outside the hall knows what they said. I was appalled and embarrassed. The arrogance was frightening. Apparently the suits in charge of the media in this nation think we can’t interpret things for ourselves after hearing political presentations. Apparently they think the American Public is ignorant and functioning at a pre-school level. Sorry, didn’t mean to insult pre-school children.

So, just remember when you settle down to watch the Republican convention next week and some fool interrupts the chair, or the president or the mayor of Minneapolis to tell you something you’d already figured out or didn’t need to know anyway, I told you so.

Some years ago, there was a first class sports announcer working in the Upper Midwest. Ray Scott was his name. Why, when he called play-by-play for college or professional football on television, he’d let a whole play go by saying nary a word. I guess he figured viewers could make out what was happening on the field. We got names and commentary between plays. Made it sorta almost like being there.

It’s a really fine novel by Don Winslow. An interesting sidelight is that a thousand years ago there used to be a radio drama called Don Winslow of the Navy. One of the episodes was titled “The Dawn Patrol.”

That has nothing to do with the novel. This is a surfer novel. That is to say its about a small clique of surfers, all with serious jobs, careers even, except for the main character, ex-cop Boone Daniels. He works just enough to maintain his surfing-oriented lifestyle in Pacific Beach, California. Then this hard-ass female lawyer turns up and hires Boone to find a missing witness in an insurance case. This assignment eventually involves Boone with almost every skel or righteous character in the county in some way, And what is so intriguing about this well-written novel is not just the way Boone’s friends become enmeshed, but the effects on the Dawn Patrol.

I’ll have a longer review of The Dawn Patrol at The Mystery Morgue before long. I strongly recommend this novel.

Speaking of things mysterious, did you know The Minnesota Crime Wave has just released an audio version of its anthology, RESORT TO MURDER. It was done in cooperation with a classy outfit called Holton House Audio.

I note that Yuri Nosenko just died. He was a Soviet agent who spied for the US and eventually defected. Our response was to take all he could give us and clap him into solitary confinement, lights on 24, almost no human contact, etc. Sound familiar? There was a man high in the CIA who was sure Nosenko was really spying for the Soviets.
Eventually, after three years of abuse we released him to resettlement somewhere in the southern part of the US, belatedly given money and a new life. Nosenko had access to important Soviet records and is principally responsible for providing evidence that convinced most people that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a Soviet agent. Just before his death he was recognized by this nation for his contributions to our counter-intelligence operations. Nosenko was 81.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Reviews

Some of these books were published several years ago, but they should not be forgotten


By Jane Finnis

ISBN 1590581938

Pub 2005 by Poisoned Pen Press

338 pages, Hard Cover $24.95

This is Jane Finnis second historical adventure set in the Britannia of Roman times. It is another winner. We are in the first century of modern dating. The location is set near Eboracum, a Roman town that evolved over the years into the city of York. The story concerns the family, workers and slaves, of a local innkeeper named Aurelia Marcella, her younger sister Albia, and her much-traveled and somewhat undisciplined older brother, Lucius.

The time of the year is December and the Roman citizens are preparing for their winter celebration, called Saturnalia. As anyone who has planned large celebrations knows, one hopes for appropriate weather, decent guests and a minimum of unplanned uproar. As soon as Lucius arrives from the garrison town one frigid night, Aurelia’s flee like geese in the thrall of an autumn day. Lucius arrives at about midnight. In those times wandering about the countryside after dark was often dangerous and was looked on with great suspicion. Lucius bring unsettling news. He is fleeing an irate husband. He was discovered dallying with the wife of an important official stationed in Londinium. Now there are suspicions that the family Marcella is plotting with others to overthrow Caesar.

That there are plotters scattered across Britain is undeniable and Lucius has been sent by his superiors to go deep undercover to discover who the plotters against Caesar may be. Is there a connection between Lucius affair and the slander against his family and his new assignment? There is more to be discovered and while Aurelia worries about her brother, combats the scandal mongers, and prepares for Saturnalia, a quarrelsome group of guests arrive to stay at the inn.

It’s almost all too much for the bright and intrepid Aurelia. But this is after all, a novel and we know Aurelia will solve the mystery. She has too, because the author’s growing audience wants to read more adventures of this charming, intelligent and witty innkeeper.

Jane Finnis has suggested that those who consider history as a dead topic are in error, and here is ample evidence of the charm, the wit and the fascination any reader can find in these novels of ancient Roman times.



BY Mary Anna Evans

ISBN: 1590580567

Poisoned Pen Press

May, 2003


A thriller with an angst-ridden interesting female protagonist.

The protagonist in this interesting novel, Faye Longchamp, is a mixed-race single female who can usually pass in either camp, yet is clearly uncomfortable in either. Moreover, neither camp is welcoming. Consequently, Faye Longchamp, bright, ambitious, wary of entanglements, generally goes her own way.

She’s technically a squatter, living in the ruins of her ancestral home on a small island on the western coast of Florida, an area known as the panhandle. Title to the land is in question and her situation constantly grows more desperate as she tries to find the money to pay taxes and living expenses. She’s a pothunter as well as an experienced and well-trained archeologist. These conflicting elements of her life, as well as her personality and background, even more than her racial composure, raise conflicts and a considerable amount of angst on an almost daily basis. Then she unearths a body and two young interns on the professional dig where she is working are murdered.

The deaths close down the site and leave Faye without a job and without income. Clever plotting takes the reader inside Faye’s life, inside her family history and through a compelling history lesson. Archeology is far more than the simple antiseptic study of old bones and former generational trash. Author Evans infuses vibrant life to the history of the region and the nation through the circumstances of one family. Her illumination of the region and its special characteristics is excellent. The story lines move with vitality and good pace.

Although there are a few to many coincidences in the plot for some readers, the lively characters, unique and fascinating locale and the competent writing carries us through.


Baltimore Blues

by Laura Lippman

Publisher: Avon Books, Inc.

ISBN: 0-380-78875-6

pub. date: February, 1997

290 pages, paper

This author has become an important voice in the mystery genre. ( I wrote that line ten years ago) Lippman’s observant eye, her skill with the language, and her sense of pace and timing are all on exhibit here. If Tess Monaghan, ex-newspaper reporter, is not the most unusual lead character readers may have encountered, many of the other characters are unusual enough to satisfy our needs. Moreover, as a character that shines and sometimes dominates in these pages, the city of Baltimore is a star.

This excellent first mystery presents us with Tess’ buddy and fellow rower, Darryl Paxton, accused of the murder of a prominent Baltimore attorney. Out of work anyway, Tess agrees to help Paxton’s attorney build a defense. In her sometimes emotional and mistake-ridden efforts to help Paxton, Tess encounters several off-beat characters ranging through the many levels of Baltimore’s social structure. Some of them are ordinary, and some are fascinating, and some threatening.

Lippman writes with economy and verve, and if Monaghan spends a little too much time in internal communication, it’s a small price to pay to be present at the beginning of what will become a strong mystery series.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

RED KNIFE: a review

Red Knife
By William Kent Krueger
Atria, September, 2008,
Hard Cover, 310 pages $24.00
ISBN: 978-1-4165-5674-9

Review by Carl Brookins

So readers know, Mr. Krueger and I are very well-acquainted. This is his eighth entry in a powerful award-winning series about Corcoran O’Conner, family man, ex-sheriff, sometime private investigator, and an upright and very moral man. O’Connor’s life is complicated by his staunch roots in both Native American and Caucasian ethnicity. His life is also complicated by his two daughters, a son, and his feisty, bright and somewhat uptight wife, Jo. Their communication at times seems as obtuse as between strangers from different worlds. There are times in this story when this reader would like to reach out and kick O’Connor in his well-shaped backside.

Krueger has carefully shaped each episode in this long family saga to explore significant and troubling aspects of our modern society. Red Knife is no different. It begins with a significant and violent episode in the life of a young Ojibwa boy. The story then commences to explore in some detail the influences of violence in our society. The genius of this storyteller, aside from his consummate storytelling skills is that he is careful to avoid sweeping polemical statements. The novel examines some of the causes of violence in intimate and personal ways. Then it goes beyond the acts themselves, almost always leaving to reader to sort out her or his own reactions to the violence. Red Knife commences to also explore how violence can affect individuals not directly engaged in the violence itself; family members, friends and even enemies, members of the law enforcement community, and those on the periphery. And always there is that layer of intimate struggle for understanding and connection between Jo and Cork O’Connor.

I don’t wish to suggest this is a heavily violent novel. It is not. It is, rather, a smoothly written, carefully plotted and laid out examination of an intimate group of individuals, some of whom are family members, some not, and their responses to the violence they experience and observe. Krueger has produced a thoughtful, richly textured human novel, one that most readers, I suspect, will remember and think about long after they close the book.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bloody Halls (Jack Marston Mystery) Bloody Halls by Carl Brookins

My review

Jack Marston is the director of student services at City College in Minneapolis. The college is unique in several aspects. It's an evening program aimed at adult students returning to college for a degree and career development. City College is a small liberal arts institution that offers a single degree--a Bachelor of Arts.

The college has no formal campus, leasing and renting space in the city, thus being fully integrated into urban life. This has several advantages for students and faculty alike. But there are also some disadvantages--such as the throat-slashed student found early one morning in the lobby of a down town theater where an amateur company is rehearsing Ibsen's "Enemy of the People."

Saturday, July 05, 2008


And what a great day it was. family and close friends joined us for a backyard picnic/barbecue (classic cliche, right?) on an absolutely perfect afternoon. After years of hard work, Jean's efforts have really paid off and her garden is spectacular. I'll try to get some pictures to prove the point a little later.

David Housewright, a fine writer of mystery fiction and a past Edgar winner will be the Crime Wave's guest next week on our television series and I'm really looking forward to that. July 24 at 6 pm our tv program goes area wide on Channel 6 here in the Twin Cities. Anybody with even basic cable can watch the show. We hope you do and tell us what you think.

I'm pleased to note that one of my favorite characters, heiress and sailing wizard, adventuress Mary Whitney will be back in a new adventure. It's called Devils Island and it will be published next year by Echelon Press.

by Don Bruns

Tock Tock, Tick tock. Like the sound of steel wheels over the gandy dancer’s rail joints, this novel rocks along. A Congressman is dead. He wanted to attack the Hip Hop and Rap music industry. He wanted to join his brother-in-law, the Reverend Joseph Evans in an attempt to rein in bad lyrics, violent lyrics, sexual lyrics. Now the congressman’s son, Nick, is charged with Congressman Shappley’s brutal murder. It’s said he’s in it up to his elbows along with Rap star, Chilli D, who may have been the triggerman. Chilli D’s producer, T-Beau wants to protect his investment so he calls on a music industry star, friend Mick Sever. Mick is already in Washington on the case.

Tick Tock. Time is running on and readers may have the feeling they’re on a fast train going downhill. The whistle screams and the scenery goes by in a blur, leaving out whole pieces. There are complications. Sever, whom we last saw in the author’s debut novel, Jamaica Blue, calls in his divorced wife, Ginny to do research. Tension. Sever once had a childhood friendship with the accused Nick, the Congressman’s son. More tension. There are other family presences, not just in D.C. Tick Tock. Sever’s off to Florida to talk to Nick’s sister, Amber, and then to Barbados, where old wounds still fester.

Page by page Barbados Heat gathers speed. Tock tock. And just when you think you’ve got the characters and their relationships sorted out, even with the missing bits of action, the train roars around a sharp curve and carries you off in a new direction. Author Bruns is evolving a fresh and breathless style of pell mell writing that may be a little short on detail but long on action and thrills. Tick Tock. When’s the next one due?

Monday, June 30, 2008


A Farewell to Legs

By Jeffrey Cohen

Bancroft Press


ISBN: 1890862-29-0

This author needs to dial it down a little. I mean, do we need a joke, a funny line, a pun or a toe-stubber on every page, nay, in every paragraph? Somewhere there is someone involved in our popular culture who is smiling because Cohen’s avatar, one Aaron Tucker, missed cracking wise about him or her, or his project.

Having said that, let me address the substance of the book, that is, the mystery. While attending their twenty-fifth high school reunion, Mr. Tucker and Mr. Mahoney, life-long buddies, discover that their youthful lust object appears to have aged even better than they. In the midst of horny if innocent festivities, the object of their desires, one Stephanie, learns via cell phone (naturally) that her husband is dead. Murdered.

Well, of course, Tucker, a free-lance writer, gets involved. Turns out he’s acquainted with the dead guy and what’s more the dead guy’s widow wants Tucker to investigate, in order, presumably, to cover her assets and avoid incarceration. Then there’s the matter of Mr. Gibson’s politics. Now you, dear reader, may be a conservative, a Democrat, a Progressive an Independent or a liberal. It doesn’t really matter, because your political ox gets gored at some point during this narrative.

Also, Mr. Tucker, being a stay-at-home with a dandy wife who earns more than he does, is involved with their children, the children’s school, and even with some of his wife’s clients, Abby being a defense attorney. Mr. Tucker does some free-lance investigating for the school’s principal, dodges rocks lobbed at him, and deals with many of the usual family matters that occupy a lot of us from time to time.

Therein lies the immense appeal of this book, part of a series. Aaron Tucker embodies elements we all recognize in our neighbors, if not ourselves. But Tucker manages to carry it all off without losing his cool. I like Aaron Tucker a lot. I like the writing, the pace and the dialogue, and I’m pleased to note that this book has been carefully copyedited which reduced grammatical missteps to a bare minimum. Actually I only noticed a single error. Cohen isn’t trying to write great literature. He’s having fun with the genre and doing it so readers can have an enjoyable time with their reading. What’s more, the major mystery is a clever one, well-told. Find Aaron Tucker’s stories. You’ll be glad you did.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the lounge at the Hat Trick, a St. Paul drinking establishment, Friday evening. An Ex-Rocker from the hot 60’s scene, Mandrake Memorial, one of Philadelphia’s top local bands, has surfaced in a new persona. Michael Kac is revisiting the folk music scene solo with his tasteful blend of ballads and up tempo modern songs. He’s an accomplished keyboardist, banjoist and guitar player with a sweet low tenor voice as an added plus. He has a CD with Linda Cohen and also plays with a new group in the Twin Cities called Mill City Band. Catch his act when you can.

Everywhere you look newspapers are cutting back on space for reporting and reviewing the literary scene. Faced with declining ad revenues, newspapers are trying to reinvent themselves, thus pay more attention to reader interests which means less space for book stuff.

I’m gettin’ antsy about the release of my new PI novel in August. “The Case of the Deceiving Don.”

Even before the conventions make their now pro forma selection of presidential candidates the silly season of ads is beginning to sink my interest in television. EXCEPT, of course, for our own cable show.
If the newspapers won’t talk about books, we will. Minnesota Crime Wave Presents seems to be attracting a growing audience. Helps to have two dynamite co-hosts and great guests.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Classical music never fails to amaze me. Recently my wife and I attended a Minnesota Orchestra concert which featured percussionist Colin Currie. That's right, a percussionist, as in drums, gongs, and so on. The piece, by Jennifer Higdon, a young American composer, is called Percussion Concerto. It is dedicated to Currie. During the 24 minute piece the orchestra used crotales, Chinese suspended cymbal, a thin suspended cymbal, bass and snare drums, low bongo, guiro,marimba, rute, large tam-tam, temple blocks.

Currie, with his instrumdents arrayed across the front of the stage, used bongos, bowl, castanet, clave, cowbell, crotales, the Chinese suspended gong, brake drum and snares, Peking Opera gong, marimba, temple blocks, timbales, tom-toms, vibraphone and woodblocks.

Far out! It was an amazing piece. Take it in if it comes to your neck of the woods.

Harper Collins has apparently gone silent for the time on its venture into reshaping the business model of publishing. You remember--no big advances, shared royalties, greater emphasis on Internet sales, few automatic returns from bookstores. Good for H/C. Instead of publically documenting every step and possible misstep, get it started and then announce the gains.

The Minnesota Crime Wave has started a cable television program. With three hosts, Ellen Hart, Kent Krueger, and Carl Brookins, the half-hour programs feature lively discussion of all sorts of topics around publishing and mystery fiction. Each program also incudes a guest, often an author, but not always. Gary Schulze, co-owner of Once Upon A Crime independent mystery bookstore in Minneapolis, author/comedian Lorna Landvik, and National Book Award winner Pete Hautman, have appeared. The program is cablecast weekly to residents in ten northern suburbs of the Tin Cities and segments are available at the MCW website.

Krueger will have a new book, latest entry in his Cork O'Connor series, RED KNIFE, out later this year, and Brookins' second PI novel, THE CASE OF THE DECEIVING DON, is scheduled for release in August.

More, deponeth sayeth not

Monday, June 09, 2008


Call for Short Stories

The Minnesota Crime Wave, which has produced the acclaimed anthologies Silence of the Loons and Resort to Murder, is accepting short stories for a new crime anthology to be titled Murder on a Stick. The focus of the collection will be the Great Minnesota Get-Together: the annual State Fair.

Authors must reside in Minnesota.
Authors must have previously published a work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or drama.
Stories must incorporate the Minnesota State Fair in a significant way.
Stories must involve the commission of a murder.
Stories must be no more than 7,500 words in length.

Stories must include at least 5 of the following 10 clues or elements:
A pile of manure
A ticket stub with writing on it
A headless stuffed animal
A blue ribbon
A church dining hall
A blood-stained plastic sword
A polka band
A prize-winning pie
The sound of a barker

General Guidelines:

1. Three copies of the manuscript must be submitted in paper form, double spaced, using a standard 12 point font, such as Times New Roman or Courier, and should printed on one side of page only.
2. Each manuscript page should be numbered at the top and include the story title.
3. Manuscript must include a cover page containing author’s real name, address, phone number, email address, and approximate word count. Also include the story title, and a pen name, if using one.
4. At the middle of the first page of the story, type the title in all CAPS; double space twice, and begin the story.
5. Centered on a line at the end of the story, type END.

Deadline for submission is October 1, 2008.
Story copies must be submitted to:

The Minnesota Crime Wave
3090 Mildred Drive
Roseville MN 55113

Authors will be notified of acceptance by December 1, 2008.

Payment for stories will be $100, paid on acceptance.

The anthology is scheduled for release in August 2009.

Questions may be directed to The Minnesota Crime Wave at:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thoughts whilst waiting for the dough to rise

Drove home from Mayhem via Des Moines. Lots of warnings and some bad weather around but avoided my 35 Route north. Des Moines is a livable city.

They are also fortunate to have a couple of good independent bookstores, along with the usual roster of mega chains. One where I stopped to chat with a few people and sign some stock is Beaverdale Books, on Beaver Street (naturally). Nice store, nice people good selection of crime fiction. Drop in if you are traveling through.

Mayhem in the Midlands: I haven't been to all of them, just most. This annual affair in Omaha, Nebraska is small, tightly and well organized, and takes place annually in a good hotel in a premier location. This year was smaller than previous, due I suppose, primarily to the escalating price of gas and the general malaise of the economy. Nevertheless, I reacquainted with old friends (not referring to age here) met some new and had numerous excellent conversations.

J.A. Konrath and I had an intense conversation over drinks in some bar, the other evening. Konrath
is intense, loud and sometime manic. He is also bright and insightful. Besides that he is a damn good writer. His Chicago-based police fiction is excellent.

Carol Bly who died recently a frank, straight-forward personality and top-notch writer of poetry and prose died a few months ago. She was a teacher, an ethicist who published widely read collections of essays and poetry over a long productive career. Now HolyCow Press has released her very first novel! It's entitled "Shelter Half," and although the reviewer for the local newspaper doesn't call it a mystery, it certainly has mysterious elements and can properly be see as crime fiction. I can't wait to read it.

There's the buzzer. Back to the bread dough.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hale and Landvik on TV

Landvik and Hale both did outstanding interviews with the Crime Wave recently. Their television interviews are available by going to our website
Then you click on the TV button on the main page. Of course, I hope you look at the other segments as well.

Meanwhile, greetings from Omaha where Mayhem in the Midlands is about to get going with a packed schedule of panes, events and lots of useful connections.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I'm jazzed. Tonight (Monday April 28) we're in the studio again recording two more programs in our new TV series, MINNESOTA CRIME WAVE PRESENTS:

Remember "Patty Jane's House of Curl?" Well, I get to talk to the author, Lorna Landvik. What a kick. And then we're going to do an interview with Jocelyn Hale, new director of one of the best lierary centers in the nation, The Loft. The Loft is right here in Minneapolis and has so many programs for writers and readers, I'm not going to even attempt to list them. But if you want to know more about the organization, go to their web site: http:\\

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Greetings from Janesville

I thought I'd be able to blog frequently during our rod trip to Wisconsin, but it's been too many hours too filled with activities and driving, but here's a brief report.

Yesterday in Appleton WI we were honored to be on the program of the First Annual Fox Valley Book Festival.
The leaders hav e put together an outstanding program. Events are well-attended and I'm sure the festival will become a premiere event in years to come.

The weather has been great, cool and sunny or lightly overcast. Last night we were in Fort Atkinson and today it's off to Morton Grove.

Our events are uniformly well attended with enthusiastic crowds who are buyin g our books.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


MCW You’ve set your mysteries in a small, west-central Minnesota town called Battle Lake. There’s a real west-central Minnesota town called Battle Lake. Same town? What real elements of the town have you kept and what have you changed? And how have the folks there reacted to the series?

JL The fictional Battle Lake and the real Battle Lake have much in common, not the least of which is their location on the Minnesota map, their quirky residents, and their overall obsession with fish, fiberglass statues, and fish. The only qualitative difference is that fictional Battle Lake has a library, and all the characters there are made up.

I have had a couple Battle Lake-ians ask me how I could get away writing about the former mayor like that, or the police chief, or the guy who lives in the blue house on Elm Street. Because I know nothing about the mayor, or the police chief, or the guy who lives in the blue house on Elm Street, I think what they’re responding to is the archetypal small town qualities of the characters, and I take that as a compliment.

On the whole, the people from Battle Lake who contact me have been incredibly kind, funny, and supportive. The rest are busy cleaning their guns, I guess.

MCW Mira James is a woman in search of many things, not the least of which is a normal relationship with a man. Her quest for romance has often gone awry and provided readers with some hilarious moments. Any truth in any of Mira’s escapades? Where do you find inspiration for the mishaps?

JL I see through your flimsy ruse to get me to reveal the pitiful details of my dating experiences. J Mira’s escapades are 34% the product of my wicked imagination, 33% inspiration provided by the relationships of friends and family and other outside influences, and 33% ripped from the headlines of my own life. For example, I force myself to try online dating every spring, and every time I do it, I somehow end up with the guy who thinks it’s okay to pee on the 17th hole of the (mini)golf course, or the man who reveals on our second date that he was actually born a woman, and can he share some hairstyling tips with me? That’s enough to put me in dating hibernation until the next spring, when I try it again.

But straight reality rarely flies in fiction. It’s too unbelievable. So authors tone it down and add creative twists to make it work. That’s why in May Day, the first book in the series, readers see Mira’s “friend” sign her up for an online dating service. Mira winds up on a date with a mild-mannered professor who turns out to be in the midst of a sex change. Because readers have identified with Mira, I hope, and see her as the type of character who has these ridiculous encounters in her life, a toned-down version of what really happened to me works for her.

Of course, anything truly shocking you read in the series is entirely fictional and never happened to anyone I know and especially not to me.

MCW How much of Mira is a reflection of the author?

JL I was at a signing in Duluth last week, and I was sharing the time slot with a charming author named Jen. At one point in the signing, an acquaintance of Jen’s came up to buy a second copy of her book and to tell her how obvious it was that the protagonist and Jen were one and the same.

“Everyone says that, but it’s not true. She’s not me,” Jen said, shaking her head.

That’s the answer we all give, right? And it’s true, as far as that goes. Our protagonist is never us, because we would never be that honest, or brave, or passionate, or horrible. The other side of the coin, however, is that our protagonist is more us than we could ever be because s/he is entirely our own creation, with all our fears and hopes amplified for the world to see.

When you write a book, even if it’s a humorous mystery like I write, you lay yourself bare, and it feels necessary sometimes to hide behind the fact that we are not our protagonists, even though that’s not the whole truth. That’s why I like how you phrased this question—I am not my protagonist, but she is a reflection of me. Actually, all the characters in my books are a reflection of me because, if nothing else, I thought they were worth including.

MCW The connection of the titles—all with a relationship to a particular month—is a clever idea. How’d you happen on it?

Thank you. I’m a fan of Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries and was the world’s biggest fan of Janet Evanovich’s number series before she started phoning them in. Those two inspired me to come up with my own schtick, so I took a survey of what was out there—the numbers and the letters were taken, somebody else had the astrological signs, there was a herbal series and a color series, what’s left for me? Months. I had the titles May Day and June Bug chosen before I wrote the first word of either book.

Though I initially chose it because I liked the gimmick, it’s turned out to be a good way to create a plot arc because you’re following the characters through a real-time year, with each book focusing on some mystery they need to solve that month.

MCW Of all the kinds of stories you might write, you’ve chosen mysteries. Why?

JL Actually, Kent, it was your writing that showed me the potential of mysteries. I’m continually awed by your deep character development and setting descriptions that pull the reader out of their chair and into the North Country. You also have important themes woven throughout your books, stuff that I was taught you could only find in “literary” fiction—deft explorations into the strength of the human spirit, the forces that divide and strengthen families, and the human flaws that make us who we are. Reading your novels helped me to overcome my personal prejudices about the literary value of mysteries and opened up a whole new world of writing for me.

MCW Tell us a little about your journey to publication.

JL My journey to publication is painful, so I’ll keep it short. May Day was rejected over 400 times before it found an agent, and then another dozen times before it found a publisher. I didn’t give up, and now I’m being interviewed by one of my favorite authors. Life is funny, isn’t it?
MCW You’ve taught writing at the collegiate level. How would you grade yourself on your own writing? And does your sensibility as a teacher spill over into your work as an author?

JL I do make my living teaching English and sociology at a two-year college, and I’m a hard grader. I’d give my early writing a C+ and my mysteries a B+. I’d always like to develop and improve as a writer.

I don’t find my teaching spilling over into my writing as much as I find my writing spilling over into my teaching. My writing makes me more reflective, more able to see the big picture, and more patient with human mistakes. The exception is that I do use my writing as therapy to “fix” bad students. Those who are whiny and entitled often find themselves as awful characters in future novels, but all mystery writers work through their stress that way, right?

MCW Minnesota is a hotbed of fine crime writers. Any idea what it is about this state that generates so much mayhem between the pages?

JL Initially, I think it was long winters with poor TV reception. You either learned to ice fish, took up quilting, picked up a pen, or started collecting human skulls in the pig barn. Now, I think it’s just peer pressure.You have another book in the series coming out next year called August Moon, then what’s on your agenda writing wise? Do you intend to stay with the Murder by the Month series?

I intend to write twelve books in the Murder by Month series. In fact, I have September Mourn all planned out. Battle Lake has provided more Princess Kays of the Milky Way than any other town in Minnesota. Why not kill one of them off—a really evil one, a Milk Dud, really—at the State Fair, while she’s getting her head carved in butter? It’ll be a “locked butter-head-carving-room mystery.” Classic.

Before I write that book, though, I have to clean out another story that’s been knocking around my head for a year. This one will be mainstream fiction, and so a departure from my mysteries. I’m tentatively calling it Rosebud, and it’s the story of a Lakota girl forced into a boarding school in 1920s South Dakota. I’m fascinated and horrified by the history of the time, and the way education was used as a blunt weapon. The people who promoted and participated in mandatory off-reservation boarding schools either thought they were helping Native Americans to acclimate to the “civilization” of the country or thought that they were just following orders, and that banality of evil is a theme I’d like to explore more deeply.

I find myself spending many hours a week researching the history of Indian boarding schools, particularly reading firsthand accounts by students who were there. It’s important to me that I get the story right.

MCW Is there anything you’d like share with readers that’s not general knowledge? Anything you’d like finally to come clean about?

I want a tattoo but don’t have any because I haven’t found anything I’d like as much when I’m 87 with flappy skin as I do when I’m 37 with mostly not-flappy skin. Send any tattoo suggestions and Murder by Month title ideas to me at Thanks for the interview. J

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


by Philip Margolin
Hard Cover Doubleday 7/95
pb Bantam 6/96 354pg.

Author Phillip Margolin is a criminal defense lawyer in Portland, Oregon, where this novel is set. The book reflects its knowledgeable creator. Descriptions set a well-thought-out series of locations, so the reader has a real sense of place and relationship of one to the others. The characters stand up and become real, well-modulated individuals. The novel takes on current trends to bring back and expand the death penalty. But while it is clear where the author stands on the issue, this is not a shrill polemic which refuses to see or even acknowledge the nuances of the issue. Regardless, AFTER DARK is a crackling good story, with enough action, mystery and plot twists to satisfy anyone.

Matthew Reynolds is a nationally known criminal defense attorney, driven by his own obsessive demons. A brilliant tactician, he hires newly minted attorney, Tracy Cavanaugh, as the first woman ever in his practice. When an Oregon Supreme Court Justice is murdered by a car-bomb, she is drawn abruptly into a case with more layers than a German chocolate tort. More murder, illegal deals, betrayal and hidden passion among the players who intersect in many ways, is ultimately revealed.

These revelations, shifting over uncertain moral and ethical grounds, cast a dark shadow over the entire novel. AFTER DARK is a fascinating exploration of the shades of gray in which all our lives are played out, of the moral dilemmas, large and small, we all face every day. Few will guess the final resolution and most will remember this novel well after they finish the last page.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


That fine Scots author, Peter May was at Once Upon A Crime in Minneapolis last night, after flying in from Left Coast Crime in Denver. He has many engaging stories to tell, so when he comes to a bookstore near you, be sure to go meet him.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Kent Krueger won the Dillys award for his 2007 book, THUNDER BAY. The Dillys award is presented by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association of America, for the book they had the most fun selling in 2007. Thus, it is a very important award for authors. The award is presented every year at Left Coast Crime which this year, was help in Denver. I was pleased and honored to accept the Dilly from Tom Schantz, representing the IMBA.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



Clue: EHhwtMBA.
Answer: Ellen Hart has won three Minnesota Book Awards.

Answer: Marilyn Victor is the co-author of Death Roll.

Clue: PwwbDH.
Answer: Pennance was written by David Housewright.

Clue: ILwWKKfm.
Answer: Iron Lake was William Kent Krueger’s first mystery.

Clue: DWwaomotMCW.
Answer: Deborah Woodworth was an original member of the Minnesota Crime Wave.

Since none of the entrants correctly identified all the clues, no prize will be awarded.
Three entrants, Lori, MS, and David (you know who you are) came the closest.
Andi S gets the nod for most creative non-answer, but she only gave us one.

The second Brainteaser is now up at our website,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Every so often, as is currently the case, the primary award for mystery writers, the Edgar, comes in for sharp, and sometimes dull, criticism. Unfortunately, a great many of the criticisms when the nominees are announced, are not full informed which obscures some useful comments and ideas. For example, every year, for all kinds of reasons, books are not even submitted. Those books are not judged and consequently never appear on lists of nominees. In a relatively famous case a year or so ago, the then president of MWA, home of the Edgars, disqualified his then-current novel from consideration for an award. Something about ethical considerations. Imagine that.

What I’m told is that the MWA board frequently wrestles with and argues about how to define different sub-genres of what we commonly call mystery fiction. I prefer crime fiction, personally, those terms being more inclusive. I’m told that the sticking point is defining the different categories. Yet we readers, booksellers and authors, define them every day. How hard can it be? Traditional mysteries, International thrillers, Domestic thrillers, PI books and Police Procedurals, hard cover, trade, Mass Market, PBO, to name a few.

There are even awards in specified categories by different conventions. They seem to have little difficulty discerning between categories.
There’s a new book out that has to be one of the most useful compilations for mystery fiction to come along in several years. It’s called “The Essential Mystery Lists:” and it was collected and researched by Roger Sobin. Poisoned Pen Press is the publisher. It contains every nominee and winner in every known mystery fiction contest since the beginning of time. At least in the English Language. It’s a marvelous resource easy to penetrate, fun to dip into.


As I look out the French Doors to our deck, I see it’s snowing again. The temperature has moderated but I’m thankful I don’t have to go out today. My dough is ready to rest and rise.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Stuff

Just back from the tenth annual Love Is Murder con in Rosemont. Great little event with a nice mix of fans, new and old (sic) writers. New resolution (personal) to reactivate this blog and communicate with anybody out there. There are pictures and as soon as I can get through them I'll post them on my web site.

Other news: my latest book, Bloody Halls is now out, both in trade paper and as an ebook. You can find more info at YouTube and of course, on my website.

Oh yeah, the Crime Wave has a new contest running. The january Brainteaser is closed, but there'll be a new one in a day or two.

Finally, if you're in Madison, so will I be at Booked For Murder, that fiune independent store on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Drop by that evening and say howdy