Friday, 17 January 2020 22:12

I love libraries. I think most readers and authors also love libraries.

I love the stacks of books, organized so well. Libraries are full of possibilities, of worlds not explored, of words waiting to be read.

As a child, I spent many wonderful hours in my hometown library, the Mississippi County Library in Charleston, Missouri.

When I went there it was a small, two-room building. But now, thanks to a generous donor, the renamed Clara Drinkwater Newnam Library is a large beautiful building.

It was in that tiny library that I expanded my love of mysteries, finding new, well, new to me, authors.

That hometown library is where I also first learned about the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street at Bryant Park.

A library that big—unfathomable to me.

And the two lions out front—nicknamed “Patience” and “Fortitude”—were beyond comprehension to me. A couple of years ago, I was invited to attend Sue Grafton’s memorial service held at the library in a beautiful room not always open to the public. Sue Grafton would approve.

Thank to Con Lehane’s excellent series, I can continue to discover new aspects of the New York Public Library.

Lehane’s latest Murder Off the Page (Minotaur) continues the story of librarian sleuth Raymond Ambler.

In Murder Off the Page, Raymond begins an investigation after getting a note from his friend, bartender Brian McNulty. The stakes increase when a second murder also is linked to Brian in this third installment of his library series.

Lehane’s series takes us into the corners of the library and also spots in New York City many don’t know about.

His library series grew out of another series Lehane wrote about bartender Brian McNulty. When that series ended, his editor suggested he write a new series set at the 42nd Street Library.

“[His editor] liked how I wrote about New York City and thought setting a mystery at one of the city’s iconic institutions would allow me to write about the city—and about books and librarians,” Lehane said in an email.

The library setting seems tailor made for Lehane, who has worked as a college professor, a union organizer, a labor journalist, and has tended bar at two dozen or so drinking establishments.

“I’ve loved libraries and frequented them (not quite as much as I’ve frequented bars) all my life,” he continued in the email. “I remember vividly the first time I visited a library as a first-grader.”

But despite his love of libraries, he said he didn’t feel comfortable trying to create a librarian character because “I don’t know librarianship, so I created a curator—a subject-area specialist.”

So like a good librarian would, Lehane dug into research to create his new series hero.

“First, Raymond Ambler was a historian; then, I changed his occupation to crime fiction specialist. I’d been interested in the idea of doing research in special collections for a while.”

His interest in special collections led to a pilgrimage or so.

“A decade or more ago, after reading Tom Nolan’s biography of Ross Macdonald and meeting and talking with Tom, I made a couple of visits to the Ross Macdonald/Kenneth Millar—actually the Margaret Millar—collection at the University of California Irvine and browsed through Ross Macdonald’s notebooks, so this might have been in the back of my mind also.”

By the way, here’s a bit of trivia about those lions guarding the New York Library.

The lions’ original names were Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, which was in honor of the library's founders. Then they were called Lord Astor and Lady Lenox. That doesn’t really work since both lions are supposed to be male.

The names Patience and Fortitude came during the in the 1930s from by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The legend is he chose the chose the names because he felt New Yorkers needed those qualities to endure the Great Depression.

At the Library with Con Lehane
Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 11 January 2020 03:05

Mystery readers really are a community.

We love to delve into new novels, discover new authors and support our favorite established ones.

Next to reading mysteries, we love to talk about mysteries. And we are guessing that you do too since you are following our blog.

So come join us, as often as you can, at the Mystery Scene Forum.

It’s free to join and enjoyable to follow.

And we are pleased to announce that Mystery Scene Forum is now being moderated by well-known author Becke Davis.

Becke is there to inspire new topics, to add to existing discussions and engage our readers.

It’s all part of us mystery readers being a community.

Some readers may remember Becke as a former moderator of the Mystery Forum and Club page at where she cultivated a dedicated and lively following of mystery fans and authors for many years. I

In addition to her mystery work, Becke has been a garden writer for over 20 years and has numerous magazine articles and five books to her name. Becke has lived in Chicago, Cincinnati, Succasunna, New Jersey, London, England and is a recent transplant to Eugene, Oregon.

“Before social media, I was a lonely bookaholic,” says Becke.

I understand Becke’s comment about being a lonely bookaholic.

So many of us read in a vacuum—and that goes for reviewers. We don’t always know what other readers are thinking.

And so many books, so little time. No one can possibly read the volume of mysteries that are published each year. Try as we might.

“I was so excited to see the new forum at Mystery Scene, I danced a little jig,” added Becke.

What I like about Mystery Scene Forum is the variety of discussions. Few, if any, discussions are off limits. It’s a good source to discover new authors and find out what other readers think.

“Moderating the forum is dangerous in a good way — I’ve already added books and authors to my Wish List," she said. "I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends of the bookish sort, and making new friends there. I’m serving virtual tea and scones in the book-lined library that houses the Mystery Scene Forum (at least in my head). I’m excited to talk books with you!"

And we are excited to have Becke.

“As a wide variety of mystery fans know, Becke Davis is a delight and a consummate fan of the crime and mystery world. We’re immensely pleased to have Becke join our Mystery Scene Forum as moderator, said Kate Stine, Mystery Scene Editor-in-Chief and co-Publisher.

"She’ll be an invaluable resource to our visitors and most importantly, she’ll be fun!"

And it will be fun when more readers join us.

Photo: Kate Stine, left, Becke Davis and Brian Skupin at Malice Domestic.

Talking Mysteries at the MS Forum
Oline H Cogdill
Sunday, 29 December 2019 03:51

Some of the best television series are on cable networks—many of these programs outshine movies.

Case is point is Dare Me, a 10-episode series now airing Sundays on USA network and based on Megan Abbott’s 2012 novel about the friendships, rivalry, competitiveness and betrayal of teenage cheerleaders.

Abbott’s novels often focus on the intense obsessions can rule a teenage girl’s maturation. Cheerleading is an insular world and any imbalance allows jealousies and secrets to emerge.

Dare Me revolves around cheerleaders Addy Hanlon (Herizen Guardiola) and Beth Cassidy (Marlo Kelly), best friends since childhood. Beth is manipulative, sometimes cruel, clearly the leader while Addy is more her sidekick.

The two rule the cheerleading team at Sutton Grove, a “rustbelt backwater” midwestern town.

The teens become unbalanced when Colette French (Willa Fitzgerald) is hired as the new cheerleading coach.

Suddenly, Addy and Beth are no longer the top girls, nor the captains as Collette gets rid of those positions. Beth instantly hates the new coach who she sees as threat to her power-- “She’s 28! She’s ancient,” she says. But Addy is in awe of the coach, which fuels Beth’s jealousy.

Dare Me illustrates the demands that cheerleading imposes on the girls who are pushed to physical and psychological extremes. Bruises and injuries are business as usual. At Sutton Grove, the cheerleaders have always outshined the football players and Colette has been hired to make the team into champs at any cost. Colette’s ambition is just as ruthless as are Beth’s and Addy’s.

“There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls,” Addy says at the beginning of the first episode. These girls are never bored—they don’t have time—but they can be dangerous.

The dynamics of Colette and her squad play out in a variety of ways. None of the girls have strong, solid families, though Addy’s mother, a cop, comes close. At home, the girls have little power. On the field, they have it all.

Beautifully photographed, the camera lingers on the faces of the girls as they go through their routines, deal with each other and maneuver their way in a world they think they understand but really have no idea what is going on. Each of the young actresses is a standout

While Abbott’s novel was a standalone, the TV version is supposed to be an ongoing series. This could easily work, especially with Abbott’s influence. Abbott adapted the scripts from her novel and is listed as a producer. Dare Me’s screen version keeps the spirit of the novel, complete with its noir atmosphere.

I hope we get to spend several seasons with these cheerleaders.

Dare Me airs 10 p.m. EST Sundays on USA network. Check local listings for encores.

Photo: Top, Taveeta Szymanowicz, Marlo Kelly and Erika Prevost in Dare Me. Photo/USA Network

Oline H Cogdill