Saturday, 31 July 2021

Readers are grabbed by a novel’s first lines, those sentences that set the tone of the story, and often the characters.

Here are a few first lines that recently intrigued us, and made us want to read these novels.

Hairpin Bridge, by Taylor Adams (Williamm Morrow): “It starts with a bridge. A precarious steel monster with a fierce turn on its south ramp. Spanning six hundred feet across an obscure valley on the fringes of a bankrupt silver-mining town, all rendered perfectly obsolete by the interstate.” (This isn’t the first line but is on page 9.)

Mercy Creek, by M.E. Browning (Crooked Lane): “Everyone had a story from that night. Some saw a man, others saw a girl, still others saw nothing at all but didn’t want to squander the opportunity to be a part of something larger than themselves. To varying degrees, they were all wrong. Only two people knew the full truth.”

The Stranger in the Mirror, by Liv Constantine (Harper): “I’d like to think I’m a good person, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I don’t remember my real name, where I’m from, or if I have any family. I must have friends somewhere, but the only ones I recognize are the ones I’ve made in the two years since the new me was born—every memory before that has been wiped away.”

Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron): “Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might nothing came to mind.”

Her Last Breath, by Hilary Davidson (Thomas & Mercer): “I didn’t know what to wear to the funeral. Any other day, I would’ve called my sister for advice, because Caro always knew the right way to do things. But she was dead, and I’d never hear her soft, husky voice again."

Unthinkable, by Brad Parks (Thomas & Mercer): “When I came to, breaching that little-understood divide between the murky depths of insentience and the bright conscious world, the first thing I became aware of was my tongue.”


First Lines
Oline H Cogdill
Monday, 19 July 2021

We all know what a tough year 2020 was—no need to go into detail.

But we may be bounding back with in-person conferences, starting with Killer Nashville International Writers' Conference, scheduled Aug. 19 through Aug. 22 in Franklin, Tennessee. And, yes, safety measures will be in place.

This is a game changer in terms of mystery writers’ conferences, which, I think, readers and authors want and need.

It was necessary that in-person events such as Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards went virtually for 2020 and 2021.

Malice Domestic’s 2020 conference was virtual and the conference just wrapped up its expanded More Than Malice 2021 conference with an exciting array of authors who don’t usually attend this event.

Left Coast Crime’s 2020 conference was shut down after one day when it opened that March; it was a stunning moment when, after a day of great panels, the city of San Diego was forced to stop the conference from going forward. I know, I was there. Left Coast Crime rebounded in 2021 with a terrific virtual conference and is on point for a live event in Albuquerque in 2022.

Bouchercon had to cancel its 2020 conference, which was scheduled for Sacramento, but plans are going forward for an in-person 2021 event with the gathering to be in New Orleans at the end of August.

But before the in-person Bouchercon, we will have Killer Nashville International Writers' Conference, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

And Killer Nashville is coming in with a bang with featured keynote speakers Walter Mosley, left, J.T. Ellison, and Lisa Black.

Mosley is the author of the Easy Rawlins novel; his latest is Blood Grove. A Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, he has won numerous awards, including an Edgar Award for best novel, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, a Grammy, a PEN USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and several NAACP Image awards.

Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 critically acclaimed novels, including Tear Me Apart and All the Pretty Girls. In 2012, Ellison teamed up with New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter to co-write a new FBI series, the first of which was The Final Cut.

Black introduced characters Maggie Gardiner and Jack Renner in her acclaimed suspense novel That Darkness and continued their story in Unpunished, Perish, and Suffer the Children. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, she analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she is a latent print examiner and CSI for the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.

In addition, Killer Nashville will include more than 60 panels and workshops on the craft of writing, business, trends and forensics and law enforcement presentations.
The conference also will include agent roundtable sessions and manuscript critiques, a mock crime scene, and a “ready, set, pitch” workshop. A bookstore also will be at the location.

Registration is $419 for the four-day conference; scholarships are available.

Killer Nashville also hosts several award contests with the winners and finalists recognized during the awards dinner.

These include:

The Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award: To honor the best books published in North America

The Claymore Award: Looks for new authors to assist being publishes.

 The John Seigenthaler Legends Award: Given to an individual who has championed First Amendment Rights. The 2021 award will be presented to Walter Mosley.

Killer Nashville was founded by author, playwright and actor Clay Stafford, who is the CEO and president of the conference. He also is Writer in Residence and Creative Writing Instructor at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn.

Photo Walter Mosley; photo by Marcia Wilson

Killer Nashville on Schedule
Oline H Cogdill
Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is honoring the memory of its 2020 Grand Master, the late Barbara Neely, with a scholarship to new Black writers.

What a terrific idea to encourage new writers that also honors Neely, a trailblazing Black crime novelist, short story writer, and activist.

MWA will annually present two scholarships of $2,000 each. One scholarship will be for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery.

According to MWA, these two scholarships are intended to assist the winner with writing craft or progress in their crime writing career. At the discretion of the winner, the scholarship can be used for such tools as writing classes or professional conferences, computer equipment or appropriate software, writing retreats or working weekends away from the cares and distractions of home. MWA requires only that the scholarship apply to writing in the crime and mystery genre, which includes both fiction and nonfiction.

The award also includes a one-year membership in Mystery Writers of America, including membership in the winner’s local chapter and all member benefits listed at:

Applications are being accepted now through Sept. 30, 2021. The applications will be reviewed by the Barbara Neely Scholarship committee, including Black crime writers, and the winner will be announced in the late fall.

Neely created the distinctive amateur sleuth Blanche White. The series includes Blanche on the Lam (1992), which won the Agatha Award, Anthony Award, and the Macavity Award for best first novel, as well as the Go on Girl! Award from Black Women's Reading Club; Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994); Blanche Cleans Up (1998); and Blanche Passes Go (2000).

Her novels have been reissued by Brash Books.

Neely’s series was a personal favorite. Blanche made her living as a domestic, a job she was proud of. Her work allowed her to use her invisibility to find the truth. The novels delved into violence against women, racism, class boundaries and sexism
“She was named a Grand Master not only for the high quality of the work she produced during her career, but also for being an inspiration to an entire generation of crime writers of color,” according to MWA.
Neely passed away at age 78 in March 2020, before the Edgar Awards and Grand Master honors were presented, although she did know she was named a Grand Master before she died.

Her sense of humor never failed her. According to MWA, Neely's reaction on learning of the award: "MWA Grand Master! I hope this doesn't mean I have to relinquish my position as Empress Regnant of the Multiverse."

Here’s tribute to Neely written by Katherine Hall Page.
And here is my previous tribute to Neely.

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, and 300-500-word statement on their interest in the mystery genre and in general terms (class, conference, equipment, etc.) how they would use the scholarship funds. Prior membership in MWA is not required.
The Barbara Neely Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of writing ability, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds and MWA membership. The committee’s decision is final.
The application is available here

Questions can be addressed to MWA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barbara Neely photo by Zamani Flowers

MWA Scholarship in Honor of Barbara Neely
Oline Cogdill