Saturday, 16 May 2020 10:17

The partnership of Minotaur Books and Mystery Writers of America has a given readers some provocative new authors to enjoy with its First Crime Novel Competition.

The annual First Crime Novel Competition provides a previously unpublished writer an opportunity to launch his or her career with the Minotaur Books imprint. The winner will receive a one-book, $10,000 contract.

The contest became in 2008 with Stefanie Pintoff, whose In the Shadow of Gotham went on to win MWA’s Edgar Award for best first novel by an American Author.

The winner of the 2020 competition is Rebecca Roque, left, a nurse working in Phoenix, Arizona. Her winning novel, tentatively titled Till Human Voices Wake Us, will be published in 2021.

According to the press release, Roque’s novel opens when Alice, the best friend of 17-year-old Silencia “Cia” Lucero, is found dead from a supposed suicide. But Cia knows three things must be true: Alice is dead, Alice could not have killed herself, and Alice, a budding journalist, must have found something. Cia is determined to solve the mystery Alice left behind.

Roque’s winning novel certainly will have a higher readership than her first venture in publishing. She sold her first book at age five to her mother for some red Skittles. Roque’s resume includes an intensive care unit at a busy metropolitan hospital, a juvenile detention center, a comic book shop, and several craft beer bars.

The press release added that Roque “is constantly inspired by the lived stories of people from all walks of life, and believes in the power of tattoos and stories to bring down walls between people.”

In announcing the winning novel, Kelley Ragland, Vice President, Associate Publisher for Minotaur Books, stated “With a remarkable voice and a diverse cast, the book is an engaging mystery about the life of a town as well as the life of one teenage girl. And when we found out that Rebecca is also a nurse currently working on the frontlines of the COVID crisis, we were even more honored to be able to work with this amazing writer on her debut novel.”

While the first novel competition is an annual event, there have been a couple of years during which a winner has not been named, making the final choice even more coveted. And this competition has produced some terrific writers.

Previous winners include The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen (2016 ); The Drowned Land by John Keyse-Walker (2015); The Man on the Washing Machine by Susan Cox (2014); The Impersonator by Mary Miley (2012); A Simple Murder by Eleanor Kuhns (2011); One Man's Paradise by Douglas Corleone (2009); In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (2008).

Minotaur is currently accepting submissions for next year’s award. For more information, visit http://www.minotaurbooks.com/writingcompetitions.

Rebecca Roque wins MWA-Minotaur Books 2020 First Crime Novel Competition
Oline H Cogdill
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Wednesday, 13 May 2020 18:20

Each year the Crime Writers of Canada honors the country’s authors with the Arthur Ellis Awards.

The 2020 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing will go on again, but, like with other organizations, in a different format.

Because of the pandemic, the annual gala had to be canceled. That was to have been May 21.

Instead, Thursday, May 21, will be the day the winners are announced. The organizers are giving themselves an extra day on either side of May 21 in case there is a problem. So check with the Crime Writers of Canada’s web site.

Many of Canadian mysteries are well read in the U.S.

The Arthur Ellis Awards was established in 1984 and named after the nom de travail of Canada's official hangman.

Here are the nominees for published works released in 2019. Mystery Scene sends our congratulations.

Best Crime Novel sponsored by Rakuten Kobo with a $1000 prize
Michael Christie, Greenwood, MacClelland & Stewart
Ian Hamilton, Fate, House of Anansi Press
Nicole Lundrigan, Hideaway, Penguin Random House Canada
Marissa Stapley, The Last Resort, Simon & Schuster Canada
Loreth Anne White, In the Dark, Montlake Romance

The Angela Harrison Memorial Award for Best Crime First Novel sponsored by Maureen Jennings with a $500 prize
Philip Elliott, Nobody Move, Into the Void Press
Denis Coupal, Blindshot, Linda Leith Publishing
Nicole Bross, Past Presence, Literary Wanderlust

Best Crime Novella sponsored by Mystery Weekly with a $200 prize
Barbara Fradkin, Blood Ties, Orca Book Publishers
Brenda Chapman, Too Close to Home, Grass Roots Press
Melodie Campbell, The Goddaughter Does Vegas, Orca Book Publishers
Devon Shepherd, The Woman in Apartment 615, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine
Wayne Arthurson, The Red Chesterfield, University of Calgary Press

Best Crime Short Story sponsored by Mystery Weekly with a $300 prize
Y.S. Lee, In Plain Sight, Life is Short and Then You Die, Macmillan Publishers
Peter Sellers, Closing Doors, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Zandra Renwick, The Dead Man's Dog, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

Best French Crime Book
Louis Carmain, Les offrandes, VLB Éditeur
Andrée Michaud, Tempêtes, Éditions Québec Amériques
Martin Michaud, Ghetto X, Libre Expression
Guillaume Morrissette, Le tribunal de la rue Quirion, Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur
Félix Ravenelle-Arcouette, Le cercle de cendres, Héliotrope

Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book sponsored by Shaftesbury with a $500 prize
Liam O'Donnell & Mike Dean, Tank & Fizz: The Case of the Tentacle Terror, Orca Book Publishers
Jo Treggiari, The Grey Sisters, Penguin Teen
Tom Ryan, Keep This to Yourself, Albert Whitman & Company
David A. Robertson, Ghosts, HighWater Press

Best Nonfiction Crime Book
Katie Daubs, The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed with Finding Him, MacClelland & Stewart
Kevin Donovan, The Billionaire Murders, Penguin Random House
Debra Komar, The Court of Better Fiction, Dundurn Press
Vanessa Brown, The Forest City Killer: A Serial Murderer, a Cold-Case Sleuth, and a Search for Justice, ECW Press
Charlotte Gray, Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

The Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished Crime Manuscript sponsored by Dundurn Press with a $500 prize
B.L. Smith, Bert Mintenko and the Serious Business
K.P. Bartlett, Henry's Bomb
Max Folsom, One Bad Day After Another
Liz Rachel Walker, The Dieppe Letters
Pam Barnsley, The River Cage

Grand Master
The Grand Master Award is presented biennially to recognize a Canadian crime writer with a substantial body of work who has garnered national and international recognition.

This year, the Grand Master Award is presented to Peter Robinson.

In announcing the Grand Master award, the Canadian Crime Writers stated: “Since Peter Robinson’s first mystery, Gallows View, appeared in 1987, his growing readership has eagerly waited for each encounter with Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. Now with 27 of these moody and layered police procedurals, fans around the world have become attached to the complex, music-loving DCI Banks and his always-intriguing colleagues in the fictional town of Eastvale in North Yorkshire.

“They’ve followed Banks, his twisty cases, his career challenges and the ups and downs of his personal life with interest and affection. The series has also been adapted to television by ITV.

“Peter has a shelf full of Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards for both best novel and for best short story. Internationally he’s been honoured by Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policière (France), the Martin Beck Award (Sweden), the Palle Rosenkrantz (Denmark), the CWA Dagger in the Library (UK) and the American Macavity, Edgar and Barry awards. In 2010, he was presented with the Crime Writers of Canada Derrick Murdoch Award for contributions to the crime genre.,” according to a release from the Crime Writers.



2020 CWA Arthur Ellis Award Nominees
By Oline H Cogdill
arthur-ellis-honors-canadian-crime-writers
Saturday, 09 May 2020 12:52

Paul Levine is among the authors who can be credited with launching the current wave of Florida mysteries, beginning with To Speak for the Dead, which introduced linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter.

Hard to believe that To Speak for the Dead celebrates its 30th anniversary during 2020.

Seems like yesterday I reviewed that novel, captivated by how well Levine captured the nuances of Florida. And this was long before the public discovered that unique and not to bright species called Florida Man (and Woman).

Levine, the author of 22 novels, won the John D. MacDonald Fiction Award and has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, Shamus, and James Thurber prizes.

A former trial lawyer, he wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama JAG and co-created the Supreme Court drama First Monday starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Solomon VS. Lord legal capers. He divides his time between Santa Barbara and Miami.

Levine’s latest book is Cheater’s Game, which digs deep into the college admissions scandal.

In Cheater’s Game, Lassiter returns to the Miami courtroom when his nephew Kip needs his help. Kip has been working with millionaire Max Ringle in a shady scheme to help wealthy kids gain admission to elite universities. The mastermind of the fraud, Ringle cops a plea to save his own hide and shifts the blame to Kip who's charged with multiple federal crimes.

In this essay for Mystery Scene, Levine takes a look at the college scandal and its influence on his novel.


COLLEGE SCANDAL: WHO’S REALLY ON TRIAL?
By Paul Levine

“Have those parents lost their minds?”

That was my first thought when a few dozen well-educated, well-respected, well-off parents were handcuffed, perp-walked and booked for their roles in the college admissions scandal. Then this question. How many other privileged families might be bribing their kids into elite universities with fabricated resumes and rigged test scores?

When the news broke, how many cinnamon lattes were spilled by nervous parents in Beverly Hills, Napa, and Miami?

Call me naive, but I was astonished that parents could be so morally bankrupt as to willingly – and sometimes gleefully, if you listen to wiretaps—cheat, bribe, and lie their children into the University of Southern California rather than, say, Southern Methodist University.
What messages were they sending? That money and connections are the keys to success? That faking it is making it and cheaters win?

Public outrage has been fast and furious with a hefty dose of schadenfreude that rich folks are getting their comeuppance. The news media have covered the cases breathlessly, doubtless because celebrities are involved. A non-fiction book with a weighty title, Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal, by two Wall Street Journal reporters, is due out in July.

A limited series on television is in the works, though I doubt that Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, actors/defendants, will play themselves.

My just-published fictional take on the scandal, Cheater’s Game, brings aging lawyer Jake Lassiter into the fray.

But now I wonder...were any crimes committed? Could the parents’ conduct—clearly immoral and unethical—not necessarily be illegal?

Sure, many parents have already pleaded guilty to fraud. Facing a federal judge in Boston, they expressed remorse in scripted speeches that might be summarized this way: I just loved my child so much, I lost my moral compass. And yes, we all scoffed. The parents’ regretted getting caught, that’s all.

Now, with several cases poised for trial later this year, I wonder if there are shades of gray where I initially saw only black and white. Are the universities themselves at least partly to blame? Did their admissions practices invite this type of fraud?

Defense lawyers claim that both UCLA and the University of Southern California basically sell admissions slots to children of wealthy donors. One case involves Miami investor Robert Zangrillo, charged with using bribery and fraud to ease his daughter’s admission into USC. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the “defense hinges on the theory that USC routinely shunts the children of donors and prospective donors into a VIP pool of applicants.”

Meanwhile, across town, lawyers for the former UCLA soccer coach accused of taking $200,000 in bribes, have fired this broadside: “UCLA’s own internal documents reveal that, for many years, its Athletic Department has facilitated the admission of unqualified applicants through the student-athlete admissions process in exchange for huge ‘donations’ by the students’ wealthy parents.”

Why put the word “donations” in quotation marks?

Simple. The lawyers claim those aren’t donations at all. They’re the ticket prices for admitting unqualified students to UCLA.

How does any of this affect the fate of the parents who paid bribes and the coaches who accepted them? For any of the defendants to be guilty of fraud, there has to be a victim.

The universities cannot be considered victims, the defense lawyers claim, because they routinely sell admissions slots to donors. The universities actually received some of the bribe money paid by the parents.

LASSITER’S TAKE
It’s a fascinating argument. In fact, it’s the one defense lawyer Jake Lassiter makes in Cheater’s Game.

Here he is, cross-examining a university admissions director:

“This so-called fraud didn’t cost the university any money, correct?”

“Correct.”

“Isn’t it true the university actually made money? Millions of dollars funneled to the athletic department.”


“We received money, that’s true.”


“So there’s no real difference in gaining admission through bribery and the university selling admissions slots to the children of high-rolling donors, is there?”


“We don’t sell slots.”


“Then, what’s the difference between bribing the university directly or bribing a coach?”

“Objection! Irrelevant.” The prosecutor was on her feet, ready for battle. “The admissions system isn’t on trial here.”

“Sure it is,” Lassiter said. “That’s exactly what’s on trial.”


RESULT OF TRIALS
With jury trials expected in coming months, we’ll know soon enough what’s on trial.

Whether the defendants are convicted or acquitted, the universities’ reputations will surely suffer.

Perhaps it is time to erect a wall between applicants and donors, between admissions departments and the euphemistically named “development” offices. Let the applicants stand on their own and the donors contribute without a quid pro quo.

In short, let’s make higher education a meritocracy.

Photo: Paul Levine with Bojangles. Photo courtesy Paul Levine














Paul Levine Plays the Cheater's Game
Oline H Cogdill
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