Tuesday, 08 February 2022

Yes! Finally! It’s about time!

Fans of Lee Child’s venerable series about Jack Reacher, the former military officer turned roaming loner, will find much to like in the eight-part TV series Reacher now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

And that starts with Alan Ritchson making a formidable presence as Jack Reacher, the decorated major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps and now self-proclaimed “hobo.”

Yes, Ritchson is tall, very tall, clocking in at six-foot, two-inches, only slightly shorter than how Child’s novels describe Reacher as six-foot, five-inches. But what’s a few inches among friends?

Ritchson is certainly taller than the five-foot, seven-inch Tom Cruise, who attempted to portray the character in the films Jack Reacher (2012) and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016).

Much is made of Ritchson’s size in Reacher—almost every character makes a comment about his height.

And Ritchson also is big, very big with massive arms and chest—much is made of this also with, again, almost every character mentioning his size, including a taxi driver.

Reacher capitalizes on Ritchson’s size with lots of shirtless scenes, including one in the shower. There are no complaints.

But looks aside, Ritchson also embodies the character of Reacher—those long stares, the times when Reacher “said nothing,” as the novels say, and his swagger are on point.

We believe Ritchson is Reacher, and that’s all we ask.

Fans of Child’s novels also will find their sweet spot in the script of Reacher. The entire eight-episode first season is based on Killing Floor, Child's 1997 debut novel. Child’s source material is treated with respect with minor changes, all of which keep the spirit and tone of the novel. Credit showrunner  Nick Santora (Scorpion), who also is the writer and executive producer.

Other executive producers are Don Granger, Scott Sullivan, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Marcy Ross, Christopher McQuarrie, and Lee Child. Director is M. J. Bassett.

We’ll see the same team again as Reacher already has been renewed for a second season.

Child’s novels have always had a hint of the western as Reacher is the modern Shane, wandering the country, occasionally taking odd jobs (though money is never a problem for him), and getting involved in righting wrongs and cleaning up any criminal activity he finds.

He’s saved most of his miliary salary and pension so he can draw what he needs from any bank. He doesn’t have a spare change of clothes—he just buys a fresh T-shirt and pants, often at thrift stores, when those he’s wearing get dirty, or bloodied.

Aside from his wallet, Reacher only carries a toothbrush though I don’t how Ritchson could fit a toothbrush in those pants.

Using Child’s debut Killing Floor for the entire first season works well, allowing the writers, actors and the audience to be fully immersed in this kind of origin story.

In Reacher, he arrives on a bus in the small town of Margrave, Georgia. He remembers his brother had mentioned that blues musician Blind Blake died there. At a diner, he’s just ordered a peach pie—touted as the best in the state—and is about to take his first bite when the local police barge in, arresting him for murder.  

He’s held in a local prison with banker Paul Hubble, who confessed to the murder for which Reacher was arrested. After an attempt on their lives, Hubble tells Reacher he and his family have been threatened by a criminal enterprise that has a long reach.

Like it or not, Reacher is involved. Reacher finds two allies—Oscar Finlay, the chief detective of the Margrave Police Department and Roscoe Conklin, a police officer.

Oscar (played by Malcolm Goodwin) and Roscoe (played by Willa Fitzgerald) are, in their own way, outsiders as is Reacher.

Oscar is Harvard-educated, prefers tweed suits and recently relocated to Margrave. As a black man, he stands out in the mostly white town.

Roscoe’s family was one of the founders of Margrave, but her strong investigative skills are often discounted because she is a woman.

Goodwin and Fitzgerald deliver solid performances. Goodwin portrayed Det. Clive Babineaux on the CW series iZombie.

Fitzgerald portrayed cheerleading coach Colette French in the USA series Dare Me, based on Megan Abbott’s novel.

Rounding out the cast are Bruce McGill (Rizzoli and Isles, Animal House) as Grover Teale, Margrave’s mayor, and Maria Sten as Frances Neagley, a former army investigator who worked with Reacher and is now a private detective.

Ritchson has had a string of roles in movies and television shows. According to several sources, Ritchson was first noticed when he appeared on the third season of American Idol in 2004 as one of the top 87 contestants. Many sources mention his striptease in one episode. Judge Paula Adbul apparently was quite interested.

Reacher is action-packed—of course he can take on 10 men and win—and a bit graphic in its violence, sometimes over-the-top.

But Reacher never falters in its entertainment values, and is beautifully photographed with attention to details.

Fans will also spot a familiar face in a cameo role in the last episode of Reacher.

And amid all the fights, car chases, fires and more, most of us also worry if Reacher ever gets to taste that peach pie.

PHOTOS: Top, Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher; second photo, Malcolm Goodwin (Oscar Finlay), Alan Ritchson (Jack Reacher), Willa Fitzgerald (Roscoe Conklin); third photo Alan Ritchson (Jack Reacher), Willa Fitzgerald (Roscoe Conklin) Photos courtesy Shane Mahood/Amazon Studios

A Reacher We Can Appreciate
Oline H. Cogdill
Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Mystery readers know that January 19 is a celebration for two reasons—it is birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (happy 213th birthday, Edgar!) and it also is the day that Mystery Writers of America announces the nominations for the annual Edgar Awards.

The 2022 Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2021. The 76th Annual Edgar® Awards will be celebrated on April 28, 2022 at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square.

As what often happens, the nomination list gets a lot of attention. The nominees are, as they should be, thrilled, as are their publishers, the bookstore owners, and readers.

People seem to love to snipe at the nominees, complaining that the books were not what they would have picked.

So I ask readers, critics, bloggers, etc., to just stop that. Stop the complaining and enjoy the list.

Are these the books I would have picked? Not going to say.

Are any of these books ones I think should not be on the list? Not going to say.

The complaining is disrespectful to the judges, who devote the full year to making these decisions; the authors themselves; and the readers.

I do my own top 20 each year. Left Coast Crime just came out with the nominees for its Lefties. In a few weeks, Malice Domestic will announce its Agatha nominees. The nominees for the Los Angeles Book Prize mystery/thriller category will be posted in a few weeks. Later this year, Bouchercon will announced nominees for the Anthonys.

And while there will be some overlap on all these lists, some books will only make one list.

The Edgars, and the other award lists, are a reason to celebrate books. To enjoy the vast genre that we all love. To recognize that we all have different tastes but that we all come together under the umbrella of the mystery genre.

And celebrate—and hope—that the Edgars will be in-person this year. At this point, the awards are being planned for an in-person event. And that alone is cause for celebration. We know that anything could happen, but still, the planning is a celebration in itself.

So, look at the lists. Buy books you want to read. Skip the others. But, most importantly, happy reading.

But do say, as Mystery Scene magazine does, congratulations to all the nominees.

Nominations for the 2022 Edgar Allan Poe Awards

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen (Amazon Publishing – Lake Union)
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby (Macmillan Publishers – Flatiron Books)
Five Decembers by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime)
How Lucky by Will Leitch (HarperCollins - Harper)
No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield (HarperCollins – William Morrow)

Deer Season by Erin Flanagan (University of Nebraska Press)
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian (Harlequin Trade Publishing – Park Row)
Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins (Penguin Random House – Riverhead Books)
The Damage by Caitlin Wahrer (Penguin Random House – Viking Books/Pamela Dorman Books)

Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell (Penguin Random House - Berkley)
The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke (Penguin Random House - Berkley)
The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory (Tom Doherty Associates - Tordotcom)
Starr Sign by C.S. O’Cinneide (Dundurn Press)
Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks (Europa Editions – World Noir)
The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)

The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History by Margalit Fox (Random House Publishing Group – Random House)
Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green (Celadon Books)
Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away by Ann Hagedorn (Simon & Schuster)
Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice by Ellen McGarrahan (Penguin Random House – Random House)
The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade by Benjamin T. Smith (W.W. Norton & Company)
When Evil Lived in Laurel:  The "White Knights" and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer by Curtis Wilkie (W.W. Norton & Company
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World by Mark Aldridge (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper360)
The Unquiet Englishman: A Life of Graham Greene by Richard Greene (W.W. Norton & Company)
Tony Hillerman: A Life by James McGrath Morris (University of Oklahoma Press)
The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science by John Tresch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense by Edward White (W.W. Norton & Company)
"Blindsided," Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Michael Bracken & James A. Hearn (Dell Magazines)
"The Vermeer Conspiracy," Midnight Hour by V.M. Burns (Crooked Lane Books)
"Lucky Thirteen," Midnight Hour by Tracy Clark (Crooked Lane Books)
“The Road to Hana,” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by R.T. Lawton (Dell Magazines)
“The Locked Room Library,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Gigi Pandian (Dell Magazines)
“The Dark Oblivion,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Cornell Woolrich (Dell Magazines)
Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Workman Publishing - Algonquin Young Readers)
Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)
Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Dead Man in the Garden by Marthe Jocelyn (Penguin Random House Canada - Tundra Books)
Kidnap on the California Comet: Adventures on Trains #2 by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman (Macmillan Children's Publishing - Feiwel & Friends)
Rescue by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic - Scholastic Press)
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Macmillan Children’s Publishing – Feiwel & Friends)
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Macmillan Children’s Publishing – Henry Holt and Company BFYR)
When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris (HarperCollins – Quill Tree Books)
The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (Macmillan Children’s Books – Feiwel & Friends)
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Penguin Young Readers – G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR)

“Dog Day Morning” - The Brokenwood Mysteries, Written by Tim Balme (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – The Beast Must Die, Written by Gaby Chiappe (AMC+)
“We Men Are Wretched Things” – The North Water Written by Andrew Haigh (AMC+)
“Happy Families” – Midsomer Murders, Written by Nicholas Hicks-Beach (Acorn TV)
“Boots on the Ground” – Narcos: Mexico, Written by Iturri Sosa (Netflix)
"Analogue,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Rob Osler (Dell Magazines)

(previously announced; see our story here)
Laurie R. King

Lesa Holstine – Lesa’s Book Critiques; Library Journal Reviewer

Juliet Grames – Soho Crime

The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet by Katherine Cowley (Tule Publishing - Tule Mystery)
Ruby Red Herring by Tracy Gardner (Crooked Lane Books)
Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
The Sign of Death by Callie Hutton (Crooked Lane Books)
Chapter and Curse by Elizabeth Penney (St. Martin’s Paperbacks)
Double Take by Elizabeth Breck (Crooked Lane Books)
Runner by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)
Shadow Hill by Thomas Kies (Sourcebooks – Poisoned Pen Press)
Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
Family Business by S.J. Rozan (Pegasus Books – Pegasus Crime)

2022 Edgar Nominations
Oline Cogdill
Wednesday, 12 January 2022

The Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen are the highest honors offered by Mystery Writers of America (MWA), aside from the Edgar Allan Poe awards for authors.
What makes these three awards so special—and highly respected—is they honor contributions to the genre—authors, behind the scenes people, publishers whose devotion to mysteries continue to elevate mystery fiction.

And without fail, the MWA board chooses the most deserving people.

So, time to stop burying the lead!

Author Laurie R. King has been named the 2022 Grand Master.

Librarian, blogger, and book reviewer Lesa Holstine will receive the Raven Award.

Juliet Grames, senior vice president and Associate Publisher at Soho Press, will take home the Ellery Queen Award.
Most deserving honorees, every one.

The awards will be presented during the 76th Annual Edgar Awards Ceremony, which will be held April 28, 2022, at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in New York City.

MWA’s Grand Master Award represents “the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality,” a press release stated.

Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 30 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories, beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which was named “One of the 20th Century’s Best Crime Novels” by the IMBA.

King has received the Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, Lambda, Wolfe, Macavity, Creasey dagger, and Romantic Times Career Achievement awards, among other honors. She holds an honorary doctorate in theology, and is a Baker Street Irregular.  Her recent books include Castle Shade and How to Write a Mystery (co-edited with Lee Child.) She has been a member of Mystery Writers of America since 1993 and served on the NorCal and National boards.
King shows her droll wit when she was notified of the honor: “I am sure I’m not the only person who greeted the announcement that they had been given this extreme honor of the mystery world first with silence, then with, ‘Really?  Me??’  I mean, any list that begins with Agatha Christie and touches on such gods as Ross MacDonald and Daphne du Maurier, Ngaio Marsh and John Le Carré, Tony Hillerman and—well, you get the idea. ‘I am honored’ is an inadequate response (You are sure you counted the votes, right?) when what I mean is, ‘I am stunned, dumbfounded, gobsmacked.’ And honored too, of course—intensely, humbly, and gratefully,” according to MWA’s press release.
Previous Grand Masters include Charlaine Harris, Jeffery Deaver, Barbara Neely, Martin Cruz Smith, William Link, Peter Lovesey, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Ken Follett, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie, to name a few.

I have a special affinity for the Raven Award—I received it in 2012 and that remains a career high. So. I am especially thrilled to share the legacy of the Raven with librarian, blogger, and book reviewer Lesa Holstine.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

Holstine has worked in public libraries since she was 16. For almost 50 years, she’s shared her love of books, especially mysteries, with library patrons, and is presently the Collections Manager at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library in Evansville, Indiana. She is in the 18th year of writing her award-winning blog, Lesa’s Book Critiques, has been the blogger for Poisoned Pen Bookstore for over four years, and reviews mysteries for Mystery Readers’ Journal and Library Journal, where she was named Reviewer of the Year in 2018. She has received the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award and the David S. Thompson Special Service Memorial Award. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and serves on the Left Coast Crime Standing Committee.

Holstine also is an incredibly nice person and have loved speaking with her at mystery writers conferences through the years.

According to MWA press release, she also was equally stunned. “You’re kidding!” Holstine is quoted as saying, “I’m grateful to the MWA Board, and to mystery writers everywhere who have provided so much enjoyment over the years.”
Previous Raven Award recipients include Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, Marilyn Stasio, The Raven Bookstore, Sisters in Crime, and Oline Cogdill.
The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”

This year’s honoree is Juliet Grames. As senior vice president and associate publisher at Soho Press, she has curated the award-winning Soho Crime imprint since 2011. Her debut novel, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, was published by Ecco/HarperCollins and has been translated into 10 languages.
On learning she would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Grames said in the press release, "I am astonished and moved by this great honor. There is no community I could be prouder to work in: the creators in our genre are not only artists but activists and thoroughly good people. It is a great privilege to nurture and amplify their voices, and I humbly thank every author who has ever trusted me with that privilege. It is also a great privilege to work for a publisher, Bronwen Hruska, whose values—both literary and philosophical—align so perfectly with mine. This recognition belongs to them, although I am honored to be their representative."  
Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Reagan Arthur, Kelley Ragland, Linda Landrigan, Neil Nyren, Charles Ardai, and Janet Hutchings.

Mystery Scene congratulations each honoree.

Photos: Laurie R. King, top, photo by Josh Edelson; Lesa Holstine, middle, photo courtesy Holstine; Juliet Grames, bottom,  photo by Ninsa Subin


Laurie R. King 2022 Grand Master
Oline H Cogdill