Across the nation, the newspaper industry struggles with more papers laying off staff. But in mysteries, the newspaper industry thrives.
Or at least makes for some darn good plots.
The past couple of years have seen an uptick in mysteries set at a newspaper. These are timely novels that show the struggles of newspapers and how the fear of being laid off hangs over many newspaper staffs. A few set in the recent past make us yearn for the good old days.
Anyone who has worked at a newspaper knows there is nothing like a newsroom culture -- the constant banter, the exchanging of ideas, the feeling that you are making a difference in people's lives. Not to mention the lifelong friendships and, of course, marriages that come out of newsroom.
But we have our memories....and our mystery novels. Recently, some journalists from the first newspaper I worked and myself had some fun reminising about those old days, and trying to remember what ever became of our coworkers.
Brad Parks' novel Faces of the Gone about Newark investigative reporter Carter Ross made my list of best debuts for 2009. Apparently I wasn't the only one who liked this novel as Faces of the Gone has been nominated for a Shamus Award in the best first category and for a Nero Award. Parks will learn if he or the other Shamus nominees take the prize on Oct. 15 during Bouchercon week; Nero award winners will be announced in December.
Canadian author Rick Mofina has written three series about newspaper reporters, each of them set in the United States. His latest series hero Jack Gannon debuted in Vengeance Road, which is up for a Shamus for best paperback original. In his latest novel, Gannon teams up with a mother desparately looking for her child in The Panic Zone. He also has five novels in his award-winning series featuring San Francisco Star crime reporter Tom Reed and Homicide Inspector Walt Sydowski, also set in San Francisco. Blood of Others received the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada.
An obit writer for a small-town newspaper finds himself at the center of attention in Death Notice, the debut by journalist Todd Ritter. While this is more of a police procedural, Ritter shows how small-town newspapers cover an area. (My review will be in the next issue of Mystery Scene.)
Community journalism plays is a major factor of Bryan Gruley's excellent Starvation Lake was one of the best debuts for 2009. Gus Carpenter left his hometown of Starvation Lake to become a big-city reporter in Detroit. But scandal forced him out of his job and now he is back home working as an editor on the town’s small daily. Gruley's newly released second novel The Hanging Tree has Carpenter trying to find out why a young woman who left town 18 years ago apparently commits suicide shortly after returning home.
(More newspaper mysteries in a couple of weeks.)