Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: The Confession

Home Fires: The Final Season

Home Fires, The Final Season On MASTERPIECE (PBS)
Sundays, April 2nd – May 7th, 2017 at 9pm ET

Home Fires returns on April 2. It follows the story of a group of inspirational women in an English village during World War II. As the conflict takes hold and the separation from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers becomes more painful and acute, the women rely on one another and the friendships forged through village life. Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey) and Francesca Annis (Reckless) head the extraordinary cast.

Orange Chocolate Chip Scones for Afternoon Tea

Summer Afternoon (Tea in the Garden):
Theo van Rysselberghe, 1901
There are few hours in life more agreeable
Than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
--Henry James

As a tea drinker, I can definitely confirm that. I love a cuppa and a scone around 4 p.m. Grab a book and a cat, and I'm good to go. Many of you know that I have another blog,, where I post a chocolate recipe or review every day. This post originally appeared there.

So what do you know about afternoon tea? Well, Anna Bedford, was the Creator of Afternoon Tea. Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford and lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, inadvertently invented Afternoon Tea in 1840. At that time, the main meal of the day shifted from midday (luncheon) to evening. English high society didn’t dine until 8 p.m. Anna needed something to tide her over, so she ordered tea with brown bread to be brought to her room around 4 p.m. Initially this meal was brought surreptitiously, but after awhile she began to invite her friends, and “afternoon tea” expanded, both in what was served and the number of friends who partook. When Anna Bedford returned to London, she continued her afternoon teas, and soon Afternoon Tea became the rage of the elite. In addition to brown bread and small sandwiches, there were sweets and special “tea cakes.” The custom spread and tea rooms and tea gardens opened to serve tea to all classes. 

Afternoon Tea is not the same as high tea. Afternoon Tea is a lighter meal, and scones are almost always served. I love clotted cream with my scones, and luckily, fresh clotted cream is readily available at my market. I enjoy 'plain' scones, but these Chocolate Chip Orange Scones are yummy! Make some for your afternoon tea today!

Chocolate Chip Orange Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
Victorian postcard: Afternoon Tea
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sweet butter, chilled and grated (keep cold until ready)
1 -1/3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup miniature dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons orange juice (1 large orange and zest from 2 oranges)

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or smear with butter.
In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
With pastry blender or large fork, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can also do this with your hands.
Put in freezer for 5 minutes.
Take out of freezer and add cream, chocolate chips, orange juice, and orange zest.
Mix together.
Turn out dough on floured surface. Pat or roll into 9 inch circle about 3/4 inch thick.
With 2 1/2 inch fluted biscuit cutter, cut out about 12 scones, pushing dough scraps together for last few, if necessary.
Transfer scones to baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven until golden-brown, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Serve with clotted cream and jam--and a good mystery!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Books for Sale: Marv Lachman

Mystery Readers Journal columnist Marv Lachman is selling many of the books (about 5,000) from his 60 years of mystery collecting. This includes Hardcovers, Paperbacks (many of which are paperback originals), Sherlockiana, Short Story Anthologies, Reference works, and Biographies. If interested, please get in touch with Marv at the following e-mail address (copy and omit spaces)

mysterybooks315   @

Cartoon of the Day: Writing

Cartoon of the Day: Motion Denied

Friday, March 24, 2017

10 Qualities of a Great Mystery/Thriller (and 10 Novels That Get it Right

I came across this article by award winning thriller writer Brian Freeman on Bookish, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  Brian checked with Bookish, and they agreed to allow a reprint of his brilliant article. Thanks, Bookish and Brian. Love to hear your comments.

10 Qualities of a Great Mystery/Thriller (and 10 Novels That Get it Right) 
By Brian Freeman 
Author of MARATHON

1. A Sense of Place: 
LOS ALAMOS by Joseph Kanon 

The best mysteries have a “you are there” quality, where every chapter feels as if you’ve been dropped down in the middle of the action, and you can hear, see, taste, touch, and smell everything happening around you. That’s true in a lot of series novels (Laura Lippmann in Baltimore, James Lee Burke in New Orleans, etc.), but there are wonderful stand-alones with a great sense of place, too.

LOS ALAMOS captures not only “where” but “when” in its setting. Kanon’s novel is a murder mystery set in 1945 at the atomic bomb facility in New Mexico. He is equally vivid in bringing the arid but beautiful Santa Fe desert landscape to life and in capturing the culture, uncertainty, and fear of people living in the midst of war and secrecy. It’s like going back in time.

2. A Gripping First Chapter: 
THE UNLIKELY SPY by Daniel Silva 

When I’m buying a book, the first thing I do is read the first page. Does it grab me by the throat? Does it immediately conjure an atmosphere of suspense and drama? Yes, there are great novels that unfold slowly — but most of my favorite mysteries hook me in the opening pages.

Before there was Daniel Silva’s series hero Gabriel Allon, he wrote a brilliant debut THE UNLIKELY SPY. Here’s the first line: “Beatrice Pymm died because she missed the last bus to Ipswich.” Ten pages later, after back-and-forth sequences between the perspectives of Beatrice and her killer, I dare you to stop reading.

3. A Human Hero: 

I don’t like to write about super-heroes. The moral grayness of the mystery novel — we’re writing about murder, after all — demands a hero who is human and flawed, with a determination to find justice in an often unjust world, sometimes at the cost of his or her personal happiness.

That’s why readers relate to a hero like Harry Hole (I love the name) in Jo Nesbo’s Norwegian crime novels. Harry is weighed down by personal loss, including the devastating murder of a colleague in THE REDBREAST that Nesbo handles with great emotional depth. And yet Harry ultimately rises above his own struggles to solve a wrenching mystery with roots from the distant past. This is a novel that shows how solving crimes takes a little bit of the hero’s soul with every case.

4. A Page-Turning Pace: 

I once had a reader tell me she’d been reduced to taking “illicit bathroom breaks” at work to get in another chapter. Great mysteries and thrillers give us a story so “unputdownable” that you have to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

I bought THE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT as a teenager in the 1970s, and even now, you can see why Ludlum revolutionized the thriller genre. I started reading it as I walked out of the store, and I don’t think I stopped reading — or even took a breath! — until I finished it hours later. The story, about a novelist writing a political conspiracy thriller that may be too close to the truth, never lets up for a single page.

5. A Sense of Humor: 
THE CHARM SCHOOL by Nelson DeMille 

Most mysteries and thrillers deal with dark themes. People die. Things blow up. Serial killers lurk in every abandoned building. It makes you wonder how writers get up in the morning — so I love it when a writer tells dark, hard stories with a wink and an irresistible sense of humor.

DeMille may be the best novelist around in that regard. Most of his thrillers have a narrator with an ironic wit that makes them irresistible. You can’t really go wrong with any DeMille novel, but THE CHARM SCHOOL is my own pick. It’s a Cold War novel about the Russians training moles to work their way into American society. Dark, right? But he manages to lighten this gripping thriller with a sly, charming hero.

6. A Lot of Clues: 
SUSPECT by Michael Robotham 

Mystery readers are detectives themselves. They want to solve the crime before the hero does, and that’s part of the fun. So readers expect the author to play fair — by dropping in clues throughout the story that give you a shot at figuring out the ending. (Mind you, don’t expect us to make it easy!)

Australian crime writer Michael Robotham wrote an amazing debut with SUSPECT, in which psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin starts as a consultant — but soon becomes a suspect — in the murder of a former patient. The denouement has the perfect mystery quality: The clues stare you in the face throughout the book, but then you slap your head at the end and wonder how you missed them.

7. A Spectacular Twist: 
I KILL by Giorgio Faletti 

OMG! Isn’t that the reaction we want in every mystery? We want to turn the page and have our breath taken away by a surprise we never saw coming.

The late Giorgio Faletti was one of Italy’s great crime writers. His bestselling novel I KILL tells the story of a serial killer who calls into a radio show to taunt a popular host. It’s a long and winding road to get to the heart of the mystery, but the “whodunit” in this whodunit is simply brilliant. You’ll never guess the killer’s true identity.

8. An Elegantly Simple Solution: 
BLOOD WORK by Michael Connelly 

I love mysteries that are so multi-layered that they inspire what I call a “delicious confusion” in the reader. However, when you get to the end, the best mysteries take your breath away because the solution is so, well, simple. It should make such perfect sense that you wonder why you didn’t expect it.

BLOOD WORK isn’t a Harry Bosch book, so it’s not as well known as some of Connelly’s other novels (despite a Clint Eastwood movie adaptation). However, it’s my favorite Connelly book, because the resolution of the mystery is so elegant. Along the way, the motive of the killer seems horrifyingly random — but then you discover the gruesome logic underlying the entire book.

9. A Sense of Closure: 
11/22/63 by Stephen King 

Yes, we expect to solve the mystery at the end of the book — but a great mystery or thriller gives us more than that. We should also feel like the ending gives us the last piece in the psychological puzzle and a sense of closure for the characters.

Stephen King won the Thriller Award for 11/22/63 (the year before I won for SPILLED BLOOD). By writing a time-travel thriller about a man trying to stop the Kennedy assassination, he sets a high bar for closure, because we know he can’t really “stop” the assassination. (Or can he?) King manages to have his cake and eat it, too, by bringing pitch-perfect emotional resolution not just for his hero, but for the rest of us who live in a post-1963 world, too.

10. A Story You Want to Read Again: 
IN A DRY SEASON by Peter Robinson 

The best mysteries and thrillers aren’t books that you can simply put aside when you’re done. They should linger in your heart. The story should be so compelling — and the characters so richly drawn — that you want to go back and experience it all over again. When you do, you pick up wonderful nuances and subtleties that you missed the first time.

Peter Robinson’s IN A DRY SEASON revolves around crimes in the present and distant past. It has all of the other nine qualities on this list, which is what makes it one of my favorite mysteries of all time. And what a great premise — a World War II murder that is only discovered when a dry lake exposes the ruins of a small town that was flooded years earlier. I won’t tell you any more than that. Just read it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Keyboard Adaptations

From Rhymes with Orange. Cat in photo is my Barclay.

Noir City Hollywood

NOIR CITY: HOLLYWOOD returns to the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre this Friday, March 24 to take audiences on a 10-night trip back in time as the program replicates the movie-going experience of the classic noir era––ten double bills, each featuring a major studio "A" paired with a shorter "B" movie.

Opening night kicks off with the first cinematic pairing of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, This Gun for Hire (1942). The "B" feature will be Quiet Please, Murder (1942) starring George Sanders and Gail Patrick. The FNF's Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode will be your hosts. There will also be a cocktail hour between the screenings, with live music, for all ticket buyers.

Some of the "A" films in the series include The Dark Corner (1946), The Accused (1948), Chicago Deadline (1949) Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) and The Big Heat (1953). Among the B rarities unearthed for this festival: Address Unknown (1944), Behind Green Lights (1946), Backlash (1947), I Was a Shoplifter (1949) and the always crowd-pleasing Wicked Woman (1953), which will bring down the curtain on April 2.

The FNF's Eddie Muller will be on hand for the Friday-Sunday shows, with Alan K. Rode presenting the Monday-Thursday programs. The full schedule and program notes can be found on the American Cinematheque's website.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Mystery of Human Rights: Guest post by Eliot Pattison

Described as "a writer of faraway mysteries," Eliot Pattison's travel and interests span a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica. An international lawyer by training, he received “the Art of Freedom” award along with Ira Glass, Patti Smith and Richard Gere for bringing his social and cultural concerns to his fiction, published on three continents. He is the author of thirteen mystery novels, including the internationally acclaimed Edgar award-winning Inspector Shan Series, set in China and Tibet and the Bone Rattler Series, set in Colonial America. His books have been translated into over twenty languages. A former resident of Boston and Washington, Pattison resides on an 18th century farm in Pennsylvania with his wife, three children, and an ever-expanding menagerie of animals. Eliot Pattison’s new novel Skeleton God, ninth in his award-winning Inspector Shan series, has just been released. He was recently awarded the Art of Freedom prize by Tibet House to honor his support for the cause of Tibetan human rights. 

Eliot Pattison:
The Mystery of Human Rights 

Readers and critics sometimes have a difficult time categorizing my Inspector Shan novels. Some call them police procedurals, others Asian noir or literary thrillers, even political tragedies. A British editor once announced that with this series I had invented a new genre, that of ”campaign thriller.” I leave it to others to conjure up labels, but I do believe that what causes many to stumble in characterizing my novels is their unique undercurrent of human rights advocacy.

After extensive travels around the planet, and experiencing first hand the effects of political tyranny, I began to realize that many activists in the West have sucked the humanity out of the fight for human rights. For them it often seems a matter of ego rather than virtue. Instead of embracing human rights in their hearts they’d rather just wear the cause on their sleeve, and as their voices get louder their causes seem to get smaller. They focus too much on partisan politics and classes of people rather than people themselves. In doing so they avoid the hard and inconvenient questions arising out of modern geopolitics and ignore the truth of the most poignant human rights credo ever articulated: “When a good man is hurt,” the ancient Greek Euripedes observed, “all who would be good must suffer with him.” That credo doesn’t distinguish between suffering just down the road and suffering on the other side of the planet.

It was partly in reaction to this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that I launched the Inspector Shan series. With these novels I always seek to provide not only an engaging read but also a more personal, visceral look at some of our planet’s most abject human rights abuses. It’s a fine line for a novelist to take. My readers don’t pick up my books to be lectured to, and I work hard not to get up on a soapbox. Some grim lessons about the human cost of modern geopolitics are offered in all my books but the only way to be successful at such messaging is not to force them on readers. I want them to keep turning the pages because of my storylines and characters, and just absorb those lessons along the way..

I admit, however, that I do make it difficult for my readers to engage with my plots without experiencing the painful realities of daily life under tyranny. When, for example, a murder is staged as just another self-immolation protest in the prior Shan book Soul of the Fire, disturbing moral questions are implicit in the incident. What misery are these simple, deeply spiritual people enduring that makes self-immolation a common event? As Shan proceeds with his unofficial, unauthorized investigation and effects his usual makeshift justice, the experience of the Tibetan people takes on much more texture. The unrelenting persecution of Tibetans in their own land is a backdrop to all my novels in the Shan series. An investigation inside a prison or internment camp gives the reader a chance to experience their physical and spiritual brutality through Shan’s eyes. When Shan visits an idyllic nomadic camp or a remote, timeless village, I try to make the reader invested enough in the serenity and natural pleasures of such places to share the gut-wrenching pain when government agents arrive to extinguish that way of life.

The stages I set in my books always have that shadow around their edges, that uncertainty about larger scale injustices lurking below the more focused thefts and murders at the center of my plots. Those stages may get dark at times but all of my books end not just with a triumph of the human spirit, but also with a small but meaningful victory over a system that has institutionalized human rights abuses, a system to which the West has long turned a blind eye. If I am successful I will have prompted my readers to confront questions they had forgotten to ask and ponder that much greater puzzle, the mystery of our modern morality.

Cartoon of the Day: Robber GPS

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Colin Dexter: R.I.P.

Sad News. Colin Dexter: R.I.P. I met Colin Dexter in Oxford several years ago. Such a charming man. Loved his books.

From The Independent:

Author of the Inspector Morse books, Colin Dexter, has died at the age of 86.

"With immense sadness, MacMillan announces the death of Colin Dexter who died peacefully at his home in Oxford this morning." his publishing house said in a statement on Tuesday.

Dexter, who was awarded an OBE in 2000, wrote 14 Morse novels, between 1975 and 1999, which were subsequently adapted for the long-running ITV series starring John Thaw and spawned spin-off shows Lewis and Endeavour.

Dexter made cameo appearances in almost every episode of Inspector Morse.

The novels in his Morse series were as follows:
Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
Last Seen Wearing (1976)
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
Service of All the Dead (1979)
The Dead of Jericho (1981)
The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
The Wench is Dead (1989)
The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
The Way Through the Woods (1992)
The Daughters of Cain (1994)
Death is Now My Neighbour (1996)
The Remorseful Day (1999)

Cartoon of the Day: Editor

Monday, March 20, 2017

To Team or not to Team, That is the Question: guest post by Steve Hockensmith

Steve Hockensmith is the (solo) author of more than a dozen books, including the Edgar finalist Holmes on the Range. In addition to the two mystery series he's worked on with collaborators, he also created the "Secret Smithsonian Adventures" graphic novels with co-writer Chris Kientz. So maybe he's not as much of a collaboration-hating prima donna as he sometimes pretends. Maybe. 

Steve Hockensmith (and no one else):
To Team or Not to Team, That Is the Question

Until a few years ago, there were only three writing partners I had any interest in working with: Me, Myself and I. And I had my doubts about I, to be honest. Seemed a bit needy and lazy. But Me and Myself…those two I knew and trusted. Sure, they had their faults and quirks, but together we'd always gotten the job done.

At the time, I couldn't even understand how a writing team would work. Bringing in a partner for writing made as much sense as bringing in a partner for making toast. I'm a grownup. I know how to do this. And I don't need someone looking over my shoulder and saying, "Does it smell like it's burning?"

Then I had a revelation. I wish I could say it was about the importance of open-mindedness and the creative vitality that comes from embracing fresh ideas and new perspectives. Nope. It was "I really want to cash this check. Guess I'll have to give that open-mindedness malarkey a try."

The check was from Quirk Books and it was for a series of middle grade mysteries with do-it-yourself science projects woven into the plot. My problem: When it comes to science projects, I am not a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I'm a try-to-do-it-yourself-until-you-break-everything-then-give-up-cursing kind of guy. So if I wanted the new series to happen, I'd have to learn to work with someone other than Me and Myself and that jerk I.

Fortunately, I found a collaborator who was so good with science it was practically his middle name. In fact, it was practically his first name. "Science Bob" Pflugfelder was an educator and do-it-yourself enthusiast who shared my enthusiasm both for middle-grade fiction and cashing checks. So we teamed up to write Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab. Science Bob came up with the projects and science facts. Mystery Steve figured out how to build plots around them. And since we didn't kill each other in the process, we kept doing it, creating six "Nick and Tesla" mysteries in all.

With apologies to Science Bob, I will admit that, although homicide was never a serious possibility, there were times when I did consider a little light assault and battery. Take the time Science Bob suggested that we include a solar-powered hot dog cooker in a book. Would anyone have asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to throw some sun-baked weenies into The Hound of the Baskervilles? Could Raymond Chandler have worked out a way to make a delicious, sun-warmed frankfurter an integral plot point in The Big Sleep? I think not. (By the way, the sixth book in the series is Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown…and there's a solar hot dog cooker in it. It is not, however, integral to the plot. What am I — better than Chandler?)

With the success of the Nick and Tesla books (which I call a success because we got an Edgar nomination for one of them and I never did kill Science Bob), I felt empowered to branch out beyond Me, Myself and I again. So when a friend told me about a fantastic idea she had — a book about a tarot reader who uses her abilities to help her clients — I said, "That sounds like a mystery. Wanna do it together?"

This April, the third book in the Tarot Mystery series, Give the Devil His Due, was released by Midnight Ink. Both I and my co-author, Lisa Falco, remain very much alive. (For the record, Me and Myself are still alive, too.) So maybe I've gotten the hang of this collaboration thing after all.

Just don't tell me how to make toast.

Cartoon of the Day: Bad Cop

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lefty Award Winners

Lefty Award Winners

The Lefty awards were announced tonight at the Left Coast Crime banquet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. Congratulations to all!

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel:
  • Ellen Byron, Body on the Bayou (Crooked Lane Books)
Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial) for books covering events before 1960. 
  • Catriona McPherson, The Reek of Red Herrings (Minotaur Books)
Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel
  • Alexia Gordon, Murder in G Major (Henery Press)
Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories). 
  • Louise Penny, A Great Reckoning (Minotaur Books)
The Left Coast Crime Convention is an annual event sponsored by mystery fans, both readers and authors. Usually held in the western half of North America, LCC’s intent is to host an event where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and other fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interests. Lefty Awards have been given since 1996.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Cold War Reenactors

Lambda Literary Award Nominees

The 29th Annual Lambda Literary Awards–or the “Lammys,” as they are affectionately known–kick off another record-breaking year with today’s announcement of the finalists. The winners in all categories will be announced at a special ceremony to be held at the New York University Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan.

Best Lesbian Mystery: 
• Blood Money Murder, by Jessie Chandler (Bella)
• Bury Me When I’m Dead, by Cheryl A. Head (Bywater)
• Collide-O-Scope, by Andrea Bramhall (Ylva)
• Final Cut, by Lynn Ames (Phoenix Rising Press)
• Pathogen, by Jessica L. Webb (Bold Strokes)
• Requiem for Immortals, by Lee Winter (Ylva)
• Under Contract, by Jennifer L. Jordan (Clover Valley Press)
• Walk-in, by T.L. Hart (Bella)

Best Gay Mystery: 
• Bitter Legacy, by Dal Maclean (Blind Eye)
• Homo Superiors, by L. A. Fields (Lethe Press)
• Lay Your Sleeping Head, by Michael Nava (Korima Press)
• Nights in Berlin, by Janice Law (MysteriousPress/Open Road)
• Speakers of the Dead, by J. Aaron Sanders (Plume)

Hat Tip: The Rap Sheet

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

St Patrick's Day Crime Fiction

Erin - Go - bragh! St. Patrick's Day figures in several mysteries, so here's my updated St. Patrick's Day Crime Fiction list. Irish aka Emerald Noir is very popular right now, so you can always add titles to your TBR pile from the many Irish crime writers available, although they may not take place specifically during St. Patrick's Day. Declan Burke has a great post on his blog CrimeAlwaysPays Overview: The St. Patrick's Day Rewind. Be sure and spend some time on his blog!  

Mystery Readers Journal had an issue that focused on Irish Mysteries. It's available as PDF or hardcopy.

As always, I welcome comments and additions to this list. 


Susan Wittig Albert: Love Lies Bleeding
Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, & Marcia Talley (editors): Homicidal Holidays: Fourteen Tales of Murder and Merriment
Mary Kay Andrews (aka Kathy Hogan Trocheck): Irish Eyes
S. Furlong-Bollinger: Paddy Whacked
Harry Brandt (Richard Price): The Whites
Isis Crawford: A Catered St. Patrick's Day
Nelson DeMille: Cathedral
Janet Evanovich: Plum Lucky
Sharon Fiffer: Lucky Stuff 
S. Furlong-Bollinger: Paddy Whacked
Andrew Greeley: Irish Gold
Jane Haddam: A Great Day for the Deadly
Lyn Hamilton: The Celtic Riddle
Jonathan Harrington: A Great Day for Dying
Lee Harris: The St. Patrick's Day Murder
Dorothy Howell: Duffel Bags and Drownings 
Melanie Jackson: The Sham
Diane Kelly: Love, Luck, and the Little Green Men 
Amanda Lee: The Long Stitch Good Night
Wendi Lee: The Good Daughter
Dan Mahoney: Once in, Never Out
Leslie Meier: St. Patrick's Day Murder
Sister Carol Anne O’Marie: Death Takes Up A Collection
Ralph M. McInerny: Lack of the Irish
Janet Elaine Smith: In St. Patrick's Custody
JJ Toner: St. Patrick's Day Special
Kathy Hogan Trochek (aka Mary Kay Andrews): Irish Eyes
Debbie Viguié: Lie Down in Green Pastures
Noreen Wald: Death Never Takes a Holiday

Check out Dublin Noir, a collection of short stories edited by Ken Bruen, published by Akashic Books in the US and Brandon in Ireland and the UK.

Read Val McDermid's take on the Popularity of Irish Crime Fiction.

Read Lisa Alber's guest post on Travels to Ireland, or, Bah, I Scoff at "Write What You Know"

Some Irish crime writers you might want to read: Tana French, Erin Hart, Benjamin Black, Declan Hughes, Jane Casey, Brian McGilloway, Alan Glynn, John Brady, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, John Banville (Benjamin Black), Ken Bruen, Jesse Louisa Rickard, Eoin Colfer.

Who are your favorite Irish authors?

And, if you want something CHOCOLATE to go along with your stout, have a look at my DyingforChocolate blog for some Killer St. Patrick's Day Recipes including:

Guinness Chocolate Silk Pie
Chocolate Guinness Cake
Guinness Chocolate Stout Brownies
Chocolate Irish Soda Bread with Guinness Ice Cream
Bailey's Chocolate Trifle
You Make Me Want to Stout Cupcakes (Scharffen Berger)
Bailey's Irish Cream Fudge

Guinness Chocolate Cherry Bread & Guinness Brown Breads

Monday, March 13, 2017

Cartoon of the Day-The Robbery

The Novella Renaissance: Guest Post by Nathan Walpow

Nathan Walpow’s The Logan Triad, out this month from Down & Out Books, includes three novellas about urban vigilante Logan and his crew of young apprentices. His recent collection Push Comes to Shove takes its name from a story selected for the Best American Mystery Stories series, and includes the novella-length expansion “Push.” His website is at 

Nathan Walpow:
The Novella Renaissance

Libby Fischer Hellman’s post about novellas last month resonated with me, because I too have been exploring this long-neglected intermediate story length. I’ve written four of them over the last few years, and I find 25,000-ish words a very sweet spot to write in. And it’s not just me.

In 2013 a couple of dozen mystery writers signed up to write for Stark Raving Press, a new imprint that promised to put crime novellas on the map. We would write them, they would format them, upload them to all the e-book outlets, sell them for $2.99 each, and promote the hell out of them. Mine was one of the first published, a tale about Logan, a vigilante of sorts who chases down people who do bad things to women and children.

There was lots of excitement, there was a big meeting of a whole bunch of authors … and the whole thing fell apart just as it was getting started. But at that meeting I ran into Paul Bishop, who was running another e-novella press. Mostly boxing stories, but starting to branch out into other martial arts. I had a pro wrestling story called “Push Comes to Shove” which I was rather fond of, and I offered to expand it to novella length. Which I did. The result was called Push, and I had a grand old time learning more about my unnamed wrestler’s life and travails. (You can read a bit about the process here.)

I found I enjoyed working at this in-between length. Once I got cooking, I could kick out the first draft of a novella in two weeks or less. Rather than facing many tens of thousands of words to be written, I had a goal that I could keep in sight even as I began. I decided to write another Logan, self-publish it, see what happened.

Which wasn’t much. You have to price an e-book at $2.99 or more to get a decent return. But everyone and his sister has been putting out full-length novels at that price (many of them utter bilge, but that’s another post), and no one wanted to pay that price for 25,000 words.

Then I found out that my friend Gary Phillips (another veteran of Stark Raving) had a collection of three novellas coming out from Down & Out Books. And Charles Salzberg (also an SRG vet) had a novella in another D&O volume, along with similar-length stories from two other authors.

So I sent a query, and shortly thereafter I had a contract for a book of three Logan novellas. I wrote the third, and The Logan Triad comes out this month in trade paper and e-book formats. My return to traditional publishing after several years of e-book purgatory. And I am so much more comfortable there. (That, too, is a story for another post.)

Next year Down & Out will publish the long-awaited (by me, at least) fifth Joe Portugal novel. The year after, a Logan novel. But with these two long-form works on the horizon, I want to be careful not to forget my newfound fondness for the novella. Libby’s book, as well as the ones Down & Out is publishing, show that there’s a place for mid-length work in today’s market. I’ll be watching for opportunities to help fill that place, and I know several other authors who’ll be doing the same.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Murder Weapon

Alfred Hitchcock Day

Today is National Hitchcock Day. No apparent reason for this date as he wasn't born on this day, nor did he die on this way. Not sure who sanctions these "Holiday" dates, but here goes. Lots of Hitchcock stuff to do today.

1. See a Hitchcock Movie on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu --or buy the DVD Collection: Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (15).
2. Watch the TV series: Alfred Hitchcock Presents
3. Go see Sir Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock.
4. Take a Train Trip. Be careful whom you talk to.
5. Try to Spot Alfred Hitchcock Cameos
6. Read a Book about Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,
Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

Alfred Hitchcock on how to Master Suspense:

Alfred Hitchcock on The Birds:

 The Trailer for Notorious


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Cats at the Art Museum

Happy Caturday!

Breaking the Law to Die with Dignity: Guest Post by Sara Blaedel

International bestselling author Sara Blaedel, Denmark's Queen of Crime, is known for her gritty crime thrillers set in Denmark, but her latest twist-filled novel, THE LOST WOMAN (Grand Central Publishing), is her most personal yet. As Marilyn Stasio put it in the New York Times Book Review: "Although 70 percent of Danes support euthanasia, it's illegal in their country, which drives the narrative into that gray territory where compassion can become a crime and kindness can lead to coldblooded murder."

Sara Blaedel:
Breaking the Law to Die with Dignity

Before even sitting down to do my usual obsessive planning for The Lost Woman, the type of intensive outlining and storyboarding that is an essential part of my process for all of my books, I knew I wanted to include and explore assisted suicide as a central theme. The concept became personal for me a few years earlier, after my parents were ill.

My mother, on top of being gravely sick, was suffering a loss of her identity. She tried to convey how profoundly she no longer felt like herself (“I’m not me anymore”), and how certain she was that she didn’t want to keep living with all that she was up against. She described wanting to secure a way out; a door being left open that would lead to freedom. I, of course, as her adoring daughter, was stunned and stricken by the very idea. I couldn’t imagine losing her; couldn’t even think about it. I cried and urged, and tried to reason, but my feelings were completely about my own experience. I couldn’t let go. What’s more, I couldn’t make sense of taking part in the passing of a loved one. For me at that time, it was new territory, and positively unthinkable. I’ve traveled miles since then.

My mother’s journey was the catalyst for my deep-rooted research into assisted suicide. Research is an integral part of my work as an author. Regardless of what I am writing about, it is imperative to me that I bring authenticity to my storytelling, be it about police procedurals, where the tales are set, or the elements that play a role in the lives of my characters (like crime, journalism, foster care, or religion, to name a few). I highly value research, and absolutely love the pursuit of information and an in-depth understanding of any given subject. I’ve developed a close and wonderful relationship with some heroic law enforcement figures, whose work I have studied, and who have been most generous with me over the years, advising, instructing, and making accessible the facts and figures I seek in order to organically capture the work they do. I travel to the locations in which I set storylines, even if it means flying to other countries (like England) or continents (the USA, for example). I go to the very spot where action will play out in my books, and take a measure of the atmosphere. It is super important for me to know how things look, feel, and sound, as I imagine my characters moving through a scene. Getting it picture perfect and pristine is not only a necessity, but a part of the process that I find especially rewarding and exciting.

I was hungry to learn as much as I could about assisted suicide; how it works, what is at stake, the territorial legalities, and the significance of it as an option for those who are suffering severely, with no hope of recovery or chance for an end to their torturous pain. Assisted suicide is an extremely divisive matter, and as such, fierce debates play out across the world. In the USA, it is legal in some states, but not most. Stories of people who have taken their own lives with professional help have graced the covers of magazines and sparked emotional and political arguments. A high-profile pathologist (Dr. Jack Kevorkian) went to prison, willingly, so committed was he to providing relief, self-determination, and dignity to those who felt helpless and defeated. In my home country of Denmark, assisted suicide is against the law despite the fact that 70% of Danish citizens are in favor of the act being legal and available. 

What I have tried to do in The Lost Woman is to introduce this urgent and timely issue with balance and honesty. My purpose was not to preach or influence, but rather to promote awareness and show both sides of this important debate. I hope I’ve moved readers to think, discuss, and dig in for their own research, while telling a story they’ll find compelling.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Literary Allusions

The Evolution of a Millennial Mystery: Guest post by R.J. Noonan

R. J. Noonan is a New York Times bestselling author and a graduate of Wagner College. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes in the shade of some towering two-hundred-year-old Douglas fir trees. Where the Lost Girls Go is her first mystery for Crooked Lane Books. 

R. J. Noonan: 
The Evolution of a Millennial Mystery 

Story ideas come from surprising places. The idea for the Laura Mori Mysteries, which debuted last month, with Where the Lost Girls Go, went through a few incarnations before it was driven by Laura, a smart, agile rookie cop.

To be honest, it all began as an idea for a cozy mystery series. The protagonist was going to be a Jessica Fletcher-type retired schoolteacher who transitioned to coffee shop owner in her retirement. I figured the coffee shop would be a fabulous venue to reveal the quirky locals and their ancillary mysteries.

But Crooked Lane’s inventory of cozy mystery series was full, and as I was writing the proposal I stumbled a bit at making a woman from the baby boomer generation, a woman like me, seem old. Sixty may not be the new thirty, but I was having trouble making my main character dynamic while old enough to be a grandmother.

Going back to the drawing board, I landed on a much younger main character: a rookie from a traditional Japanese family, a smart young woman who was a bit more driven than most millennials who raise eyebrows when mentioned in pop culture pieces. Oh, those enigmatic millennials! They may be criticized for being lazy, entitled job-hoppers, or praised for breaking with tradition and valuing lifestyle over material wealth, but they are sending interesting ripples through the conventions of their predecessors.

For the past twenty years I have been surrounded by millennials, some of whom I love, well, like a mother. Just as I hear their chatter and music rising up from the basement, I sometimes hear their voices in my head when I’m working on a scene with Laura or one of her contemporaries.

Of course, Laura isn’t a classic millennial. She is smart, enthusiastic and diligent about finding answers and evidence to explain a crime. But her talents are largely unappreciated at home, where here parents have always been determined that she pursue a more scholarly, respectable career. As a writer, I dig into the conflicts that are organic to a story when writing about a “fish out of water,” a woman in what was once a man’s profession. Laura shares the values of varied and conflicting worlds, respecting the eastern traditions of her Japanese roots while understanding the daily patter of social media and indispensable cell phones.

You might say I’ve been on a millennial spree lately, as Pretty, Nasty, Lovely, my next novel for Kensington Books (Sept. 2017), is driven by Emma, a college student in her early twenties. When I submitted the proposal for a book that explored peer pressure, campus suicide, “frenemies” and a secret baby, my editor zeroed in on Emma, insisting that she be the protagonist of the story.

For me, the crisper, fresher view of the world through the younger eyes of Laura has given me a new perspective. When a character can bring a writer more “into the moment,” there’s a certain magic that sparks. The magic of make-believe.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

On Writing an Encyclopedia (The Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction): Guest Post by Mitzi M. Brunsdale

Mitzi M. Brunsdale:
On Writing an Encyclopedia 

Like many of what Mark Twain called “the damned human race” facing an important and hitherto unexperienced life experience— Wagnerian opera, a root canal, marriage—I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. For many years, I had lived among decent, hard-working, honest-as-the-day-is-long descendants of Norwegian settlers in eastern North Dakota, learned to bake their sandbakkelse and Berliner kranser, knitted those gorgeous Nordic sweaters, edited an exhaustive academic study for a redoubtable Swedish professor of comparative literature and field trained Labrador retrievers who boasted heroically stubborn Nordic lineage. I had read and taught and published on Ibsen’s unflinching plays and Sigrid Undset’s implacable realistic fiction. I had reviewed mystery fiction for Publishers Weekly for many years. How hard could writing a little book treating contemporary Nordic mysteries be? But as with Wagnerian opera, a root canal, and marriage, I discovered there was considerably more to writing my Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction than I in my innocent ignorance had suspected.

While teaching full time at a small North Dakota college and carrying on full-time farm wife duties (like producing dinners from five p.m. to eleven p.m.; doing machine-breakdown errands RIGHT NOW or better yet, yesterday; conveying men and machinery over forty miles at a moment’s notice), I read and wondered at Henning Mankell splendid Wallander novels. A little later, I began to sense with the 2008-9 appearance in English of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that the crime fiction emerging from those northern nations once collectively called “Scandinavia” had something absolutely crucial to tell the world.

In the first place, common denominators existed. Many, though not all, of the Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish, and Danish crime novels I encountered from then on reading used the police procedural format. Many of their protagonists were world-weary, aging , and brutally flawed physically and/or psychically, even alcoholic, alienated, suicidal, battling evil in their societies. In spite of their debilitation, those central figures defy their fates with the kind of courage the old sagas celebrated: a captured Viking chieftain laughing at his enemies while they tore open his lungs for the crabs to devour. Frequently their monstrous opponents are creatures born out of governmental corruption, those welfare states originally intended and developed to be the shining perfect-world examples of societal evolution socialism promises but cannot deliver, because as George Orwell put it, animals may all want to be equal, but some animals will always manage to be more equal than others.

So by 2014 or so, while moving from the farm where we’d lived for decades to Fargo, North Dakota, where both my husband and I grew up, I began to see an ominous pattern to many of those northern crime novels: contradicting the sunlit illusion of Scandinavian national socialistic bliss, the failures of the northern welfare states apparently cause lethal stresses among their citizenry, and since the 1970s their governments’ importation of thousands of third-world immigrants who frequently refuse to assimilate is shaking their nations’ very foundations, draining financial resources and inspiring increasing numbers of their aging native populations to turn toward neo-Nazi political parties. While many of the Nordic authors sympathize with the problems faced by individual refugees, those authors generally present the overall situations with clarity and evenhandedness. I tried to showcase as many of them and their work as possible in short essay-entries, so that this reference work could lead non-Nordic readers to delve into their fiction for themselves. I chose the 1967 publication of Rosanna, the first Martin Beck novel by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, as the opening date for the fiction covered in the Encycliopedia.

Important differences in treatment among the mystery fiction of the five Nordic nations also exist. Here their translators, usually successfully, must try to overcome the enormous challenge of conveying those singularities to Anglophone readers, most of whom, at least in America, cannot read the original texts. Danish noir humor, Finnish laconic understatement, Norwegian taciturnity (especially regarding emotions), Icelandic saga-enriched insights, Swedish cosmopolitanism—all these make the experience of their crime literature unique to their cultures. Because I was writing primarily for American readers, I felt I had to supply each section of the Encyclopedia with an introductory essay covering the development of that country’s mystery fiction in the context of their individual history and culture. Within each individual author’s entry, too, I tried to incorporate his or her own reflections on his or her writing process, showing how and why each responded to their nation’s contemporary social and political issues.

With more than a few sighs of relief, I sent the Encyclopedia manuscript off to McFarland & Co. in 2015, prior to the current gigantic influx of Mideast refugees into Europe. Now, as I watch news from the North unveil today’s pressures there from the harrowing conflicts in the Mideast, I am even more struck by the scope, depth, and experimentation in the Nordic crime fiction that continues to appear. These stark unsettling books represent far more than entertainment for a long winter’s night. I think they scaldingly reflect the suffocating coils of that world-serpent the old pagan northerners believed was destroying their universe, so that all that mattered in human life was how well one faced one’s fate. My Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction provides only a snapshot of one phase in that struggle as illuminated between 1967 and 2014 by the crime authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, whose message, voiced in so many powerful modalities, is one I believe we in the United States ignore to our distinct peril.

Mitzi Brunsdale's Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction is nominated for an Edgar Award. While Mitzi Brunsdale taught English in a small North Dakota college close enough to her farm to be accessible during the long and sometimes bone-rattling winters, she first published academic papers and presentations for conferences. She then settled into book-length projects intended for general readers: Sigrid Undset: Chronicler of Norway; Dorothy L. Sayers: Solving the Mystery of Wickedness; James Joyce (a study of Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ); James Herriot; and George Orwell. Bigger studies followed, addressing one of her private reading passions, crime and mystery fiction: Gumshoes: A Dictionary of Fictional Detectives; Icons of Crime and Detection (two volumes); and now The Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction—all of which were produced while she was farm-wifing, raising three daughters with one of the best farmer-businessmen in the business, field-training a succession of fantastic Labrador retrievers, teaching full time and reviewing fiction and non-fiction initially for The Houston Post and briefly for The Chicago Tribune, and then mystery fiction for The Armchair Detective, The Strand Magazine, and for quite a few years now, Publishers Weekly. Since she retired to Fargo, she's being trained by an apricot Standard Poodle with whom she does therapy work at assisted-living facilities, and she's contemplating a new Big Obsession (as her husband has learned to call her periodic fits of composition). She says, "Celebrating good books is such a splendid thing!"

Cartoon of the Day: Cat Naps

From RhymeswithOrange:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

AcornTV 7-day Tour of England! Enter to Win!

Here's a British TV lover's dream vacation: Enter for your chance to win two seats on Acorn TV's 7-day tour of England!  

Visit the beautiful and historical production locations for their most popular series—Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders, Agatha Raisin and more!

Doc Martin, Series 8 will be filming in lovely Port Isaac, Cornwall during your visit. Along the way, you'll be staying at some sumptuous hotels, exploring lavish homes and gardens and enjoying fine dining.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years or older. Ends 3/31/17. To enter and for Official Rules, including odds and prize descriptions, visit

Void where prohibited.

Happy Birthday, Topper!

Here's an updated post about Topper, my golden retriever. I originally posted this when he was 5. Today he's 10! Happy Birthday, Topper

I have three blogs: one for Mystery one for Chocolate and one for TeamBuilding. However, I don't have a general blog where I can post whatever comes to mind. Of course, I do that occasionally on one or the other of my blogs. I like to post photos and news about my animals, so today I'm posting on Mystery Fanfare for all you dog lovers out there. There is a mystery tie-in, sort of. Mystery Readers Journal had an issue focusing on Animal Mysteries (Volume 27:3) So, if you want to find out more about authors who write 'animal' mysteries, be sure and check out the Table of Contents or order a copy (available in hardcopy or as a PDF download).

Today is Topper's 10th Birthday. Happy Birthday, Boy! We adopted Topper when he was 8 months, and he's such a happy boy! He loves just about everything, including loud noises. So glad he's in my life. Here's the perfect Birthday Cake for his birthday. Our friends Elaine and Patrick make this cake for their dogs every year. I have not tasted it. It's for dogs. Recipe is from The Honest Kitchen website (dehydrated, human-grade natural dog food and natural cat foods)

Be sure to scroll down for more photos of Topper. As you'll see, Topper and I share many of the same interests: Gardening, Books and the Beach. One passion we don't share is Chocolate. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs.

Pupalicious Birthday Cake

4 cups Force
2 table spoons Ice Pups
1 cup chicken stock
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup plain yogurt

 ½ cups smashed up Smooches, Nuzzles or Pecks

For The Icing:
1 cup Plain Yogurt
2 strips Bacon

What To Do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pre-grease a 10 inch cake pan (you can use butter or vegi oil). You can also line the pan with a strip of wax paper to encourage easy release. Combine in a bowl, the Force and the Ice pups and sift together. In a separate bowl combine the eggs and the yogurt. Whisk at high speed for 3 minutes. Gradually add in honey. Reduce the speed to low and add in the dry mixture cup by cup.
Then add in any extras you’d like and mix in.
Bake in oven for 25-35 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Cook up 2 pieces of bacon and chop them into small pieces. Carefully invert cake onto a serving dish. Ice with plain yogurt and sprinkle with bacon bits.
Serve up!!!

Cartoon of the Day: Book List