American Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to US Crime Fiction, Film & TV
Jon L. Breen

This is not really a reference tool (no publication dates for the books discussed, variable biographical information on the authors, no attempt at comprehensiveness) but rather a browsing book for readers exploring the contemporary crime fiction scene and looking for fresh examples. It’s essentially a very good collection of well-written, critically astute, and almost always appreciative (even selling) book reviews. Author entries are alphabetical (Jeff Abbott to Anthony E. Zuiker), of varying length from a paragraph or two to multiple pages on certain major figures (e.g., James Ellroy, Thomas Harris, Patricia Cornwell). The emphasis is on 21st-century work, though still-active writers who made their most notable contributions before 2000 are included. The limitation to living writers, however, is absolute. Thus the late Ed Gorman has no entry, though much of his best work was done in this century. Forshaw, who has compiled similar guides on Nordic, Euro, and Brit Noir, admits that “several of the authors included here stretch the definition of ‘noir’ to the breaking point (and beyond).” Cozy writers, however, are unsurprisingly rare.

The 20 pages of film and TV annotations include years of original broadcast and are limited to 21st-century product. A section drawn from Forshaw’s interviews with Ellroy, Sara Paretsky, Scott Turow, Cornwell, and Kathy Reichs is followed by his choices of “The 30 Best Contemporary US Crime Novels” and “The Five Best US TV Crime Shows,” all from cable networks and all, save Breaking Bad (AMC), originally presented on HBO.

Teri Duerr
2017-11-28 20:36:15
The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir
Ben Boulden

The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, edited by Gary Phillips, features stories that are often humorous, always entertaining, and mostly non-political, and that make use of the more absurd conspiracies surrounding Barack Obama and his presidency. Kate Flora’s “Michelle in Hot Water” finds a superhero-like First Lady Michelle Obama in a tight spot when an off-the-books mission, encouraging a pharmaceutical CEO to reduce the price of a life-saving drug, goes sideways.

“Sunburnt Country” by Andrew Nette is a successful pulp-magazine-style science-fiction tale about a secret weapon, a boy, climate change, and conscience. All set in Australia’s blistering Outback. Eric Beetner’s “True Skin” is an outlandishly good alien invasion story with a hoax perpetrated by an AM talk radio host. My favorite story in the anthology is Danny Gardner’s dystopian tale “Brother’s Keeper,” as much for its encompassing view as for the story itself. Its final climax is both thought-provoking and possible.

Teri Duerr
2017-11-28 20:39:25
The Big Book of Rogues and Villains
Ben Boulden

The Big Book of Rogues and Villains, edited by Otto Penzler, is an impressive compilation of stories—I counted 73!—that feature either a rogue or villain as a main character. In his introduction, Otto Penzler defines the difference between the two. A villain “is the creature of evil and malice, if not outright pathology” and a rogue “tends not to be vicious, prefers no serious physical injury to others and defines itself as rascality soaked in humor.” He goes on to explain the lines between the two are often blurred, and with that in mind he thoughtfully identifies each story as either rogue or villain.

The tales are categorized by era: The Victorians, Nineteenth-Century Americans, The Edwardians, The Pulp Era, Post-World War II, etc. Each period is fully explored with multiple stories from authors both famous and obscure. As an example, The Victorians section features tales from L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace, Grant Allen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Arthur Morrison, and E. W. Hornung.

Richard Connell’s classic hunting tale with a villainous twist, “The Most Dangerous Game,” is as powerful and entertaining today as it must have been when it first appeared in 1924. Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar, The Saint, makes a dashing and very roguish appearance in the double-crossing “The Damsel in Distress.” Bruno Fischer’s villain-littered masterpiece of crime, greed, and revenge, “We Are All Dead,” is as dark and disturbing as anything in print. Martin Ehrengraf, Lawrence Block’s villainous lawyer who has never lost a case, is at his sinister best in “The Ehrengraf Experience” and David Morrell’s “The Partnership” cleverly asks and answers how many villains it takes to make a murder.

The Big Book of Rogues and Villains is a perfectly orchestrated reprint anthology. The stories are among the best in the genre, but also educate the reader about the development of the criminal as hero, or anti-hero, subgenre from its earliest examples to its most recent. It is a volume that will draw most readers back into its pages again and again.

Teri Duerr
2017-11-28 20:42:10
The Usual Santas
Ben Boulden

The Usual Santas is something of a primer for Soho’s impressive lineup of international crime writers, and each story has a holiday-season twist. There are 18 tales by accomplished, and lauded scribes including Helene Tursten, Mick Herron, James R. Benn, Cara Black, Peter Lovesey, and (if you are counting) 13 more. Tod Goldberg’s fine “Blue Memories Start Calling” is a melancholy small-town murder tale with a crisis of conscience at its center. A sheriff who has mindfully followed the law his entire career is faced with a new dilemma: doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

“PX Christmas” by Martin Limon is a nicely complex procedural set on the US Army base in Seoul, South Korea, during the 1970s. A hard-line Christmas-time suicide prevention policy intermingles with a black market ring, which leads CID investigators George Sueno and Ernie Bascom to become the vehicle for another’s redemption. Stuart Neville’s macabre crime story “Queen of the Hill” is both bleak and brilliant. A Belfast tale without hope or joy is a genuine Christmas treat.

Teri Duerr
2017-11-28 20:45:40
Big Little Publishers
Oline H. Cogdill
Oline Cogdill
2017-12-24 01:56:58
Joan Hess Obituary
Mystery Scene

hessjoanwithdog

JOAN HESS (1949-2017)

From St. Martins Press:

Author Joan Hess has died. A pioneer in the mystery genre and a much loved fixture at mystery conventions for decades, she was the author of forty-three books, over more than thirty years. Her works include the Claire Malloy mystery series and the Arly Hanks mystery series (set in the fictional town of Maggody, Arkansas), the later of which was made into a TV movie starring Kate Jackson. Most recently, Hess co-authored The Painted Queen (William Morrow, July 2017), completing the manuscript her friend Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters, was working on when she died. Upon publication, The Painted Queen became an instant bestseller, and featured in the Inside the List column in the New York Times Book Review. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/books/review/amelia-peabody-barbara-mertz-joan-hess.html?_r=0).

Winner of the American Mystery Award, the Agatha Award, for which she has been nominated five times, and is a member of Sisters in Crime and a former president of the American Crime Writers League, Hess contributed to multiple anthologies and book series, including Crosswinds, Deadly Allies, Malice Domestic, and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. A long-time resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas, she passed away in Austin, Texas, where her daughter and her grandchildren lived.

Admin
2017-11-30 16:10:32

JOAN HESS (1949-2017)

From St. Martins Press:

Author Joan Hess has died. A pioneer in the mystery genre and a much loved fixture at mystery conventions for decades, she was the author of forty-three books, over more than thirty yea

Val McDermid on Christie's The Murder at the Vicarage

I was enthralled by [Agatha Christie's The Murder in the Vicarage], and excited to see the page inside the book that listed the dozens of other books she’d written.

My parents believed it was important for them to have time on their own so every Friday night I stayed with my grandparents. My grandfather was a miner and they rented their two-roomed flat from the coal board. It had no hot running water and my grandparents slept in the living room where the fire was always burning. Cheap coal, and no central heating.

I slept in the other room, lulled to sleep by the steam trains puffing down the line from the mine to the railhead with their loads of coal, only yards away from my narrow bed. I always turned up with a couple of library books to keep me company but one Friday the bus had been held up because of a road accident and I’d got through my books too quickly.

My grandparents were not readers. There were two books in the house, sitting primly on the blanket chest at the bottom of my bed. One was my grandmother’s Bible. The other, for some reason nobody has ever managed to explain, was Agatha Christie’s The Murder at the Vicarage, the first Miss Marple novel.

You only need a reading age of nine to understand Christie’s vocabulary and grammatical structures. I can’t be sure how old I was, but I was a precocious reader and I managed Miss Marple’s debut pretty well. Of course, I missed most of the subtleties of the adult behaviour and I certainly didn’t get Christie’s sly sense of humour. But what I got was the allure of a mystery nestled around with subplots galore, where everything worked out in the end. I was enthralled by it, and excited to see the page inside the book that listed the dozens of other books she’d written.

I was already a voracious reader, but The Murder at the Vicarage set me on the reading journey that led me to this life. Thirty years of continuous publication, thirty-one novels and another half-dozen assorted books, all from that moment when I picked up my first Agatha Christie. I wish I’d had the chance to thank her.

Val McDermid is one of the biggest names in crime writing. Her novels have been translated into 30 languages, sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Val has created many notable characters such as journalist, Lindsay Gordon; the private investigator, Kate Brannigan; and psychologist, Tony Hill.

This “Writers on Reading” essay was originally published in “At the Scene” enews December 2017 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.

Teri Duerr
2017-12-01 18:48:16
Online Feature: Garry Disher
Garry DisherIf you haven’t heard of Australian author Garry Disher, you’re not alone. While Disher's two character-driven crime series set in Australia have dedicated readers from around the globe, the prolific writer remains sorely underappreciated in the United States.

Signal Loss, the seventh in Australian author Garry Disher’s series of character-driven procedurals featuring the taciturn and solitary Inspector Hal Challis makes its way to American shelves this December. The series has been called “excellent” by the New York Times Book Review and “moody, inventive, and extremely hard to put down,” by Booklist. The gritty cop novels set on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula have been compared favorably to other procedural series by Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, and Peter Robinson.

But if you haven’t heard of Disher, you’re not alone. While the prolific writer has written more than 50 books over the past four decades, including fiction, young adult, children’s, history, and short story anthologies, as well as created the characters for an Australian series of two-hour made-for-television movies with a “cheeky-grin cop” named Cody, he remains relatively underappreciated in the United States. However, the author has engendered a cult-like following from crime readers around the world who have discovered Disher’s Inspector Hal Challis series and the heists of the author’s most popular character, the antihero professional thief Wyatt, who thus far has appeared in eight books.

Signal Loss by Garry FisherIn his most recent novel, Signal Loss, part of the Hal Challis series, a methamphetamine epidemic is sweeping across Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, which Disher describes as “a comma of land hooking into the sea southeast of Melbourne.” It’s a mostly rural setting within the shadow of its big-city neighbor, and a place where poverty and wealth exist side-by-side. It’s also a tourist destination known for its beaches, wineries, and coastal towns; a landscape that is sparsely populated and beautiful.

Inspector Challis heads the Peninsula East’s Crime Investigation Unit headquartered in the small city of Waterloo. The drug epidemic has impacted the poorer housing projects especially hard, and the mixture of poverty and addiction have increased crime and stretched the police’s limited resources to its breaking point. The socioeconomic tension between rich and poor is a vein Disher adroitly mines throughout the Challis novels. In Kittyhawk Down and Snapshot themes of racism and immigration are personified with a for-profit detention centre that is more prison than temporary housing facility. Chain of Evidence examines, through a pedophile ring and an organized burglary gang, how the law is applied differently to those with means than it is for those without.

“The Mornington Peninsula of my novels is a real place,” said Disher, who lives on the peninsula himself. “[We have] extremes of rich and poor. The poverty can lead to crime, which can lead to problems for an under-resourced police force.” These are real world challenges that are fertile for fictional exploration. “I can’t escape writing about these things,” said Disher. Strong characters are a hallmark of Disher’s novels, and in addition to the lonely and solitary Challis, who lives in a secluded part of The Peninsula, where he refurbishes an old Dragon Rapide airplane in his off time, the series includes his professional and romantic partner Sergeant Ellen Destry, a divorcée wrestling with guilt over for her shortcomings as a mother. Pam Murphy, a young and competent constable, who has a turbulent and often unsettling personal life, Constable John Tankard, a big, insecure brute with sexist attitudes, and Scobie Sutton, a soft-hearted and vulnerable detective constable, round out Challis’ team. All of them have developed and grown from book to book in organic ways.

“It became apparent to me as the series progressed that this was not a static world, and I needed to keep the characters and situations fresh or I would tire of them,” said Disher. “Each of the characters have become more ‘real’ to me. I see greater depths to them, and hidden reasons for some of their character traits.”

While Challis is the series’ leading character, Destry has evolved to hold equal weight in the books. Indeed, Disher writes particularly vibrant female characters, with alluring strengths, and a willingness to tackle a male-dominated world, but balanced by very real human weaknesses, both personal and professional. Destry, for example, has an odd proclivity for sticky fingers when a stray dollar is at a crime scene, a quirk that is as surprising as it is embarrassing. Disher admits that he finds Ellen Destry and Pam Murphy more interesting than his male characters. He’s quick to add that he finds Hal the least interesting of all, since “there’s a little of me in Challis.”

When asked if he, like Challis, restores old airplanes, Disher responded, “I would rather restore an old car than an old plane,” and then added, “I would rather watch Justified or Breaking Bad than do either.”

Disher, who lived in the United States while attending Stanford University on a creative writing Stegner Fellowship in the 1978-1979 academic year, admits to an affinity for American crime television, both good and bad. Challis often teases the coroner in the books, Freya Berg, with the lines “What have we got?” and “Keep me posted,” which is Disher’s play on the American forensic-centered television crime shows where crime scene investigators carry guns, make arrests, and perform complicated scientific tests in seconds.

Kickback by Garry FisherDisher’s most well-known creation, however, isn’t Challis or Destry, but the Melbourne criminal Wyatt, the protagonist of Disher’s first six published crime novels, beginning with Kickback in 1991. Wyatt is stark and brutal, without humor, and very much a villain. Challis, in contrast, is a flawed, unassuming police inspector who skillfully fills the role of literary hero. Disher said, “After six Wyatts in quick succession, each one following a set pattern—Wyatt identifies a target to rob, Wyatt is betrayed, Wyatt wins in the end—it was stimulating to think and write in a different way with the police procedurals, which—although easy to read—are more complex in structure, with several strands being followed.” He continued, “I could become stale with the Challis and Destry novels, too, but have avoided that by letting the characters grow and change over the series.”

Australia’s expansive landscape—exotic to most American readers, but deeply intimate to the author—is central to Disher’s books, as this elegant example from Disher’s latest Wyatt novel, The Heat (2016), illustrates so well:

Down to the Nepean Highway where, hanging gingerly above the toxins, there was the faint briny odour of the sea. The motel was one block back from the beach, faded-looking. Ground down by years of sunlight and salt.

“I can’t write a scene—a room, the open air, anywhere—until I can see it in my mind,” said Disher. “I need to be able to see, smell, taste, touch, hear.”

Garry Disher's The Dragon ManThis relationship to landscape may come from Disher’s childhood spent on a small wheat and wool farm in the mid-north of South Australia, where the natural world would have been a constant and very visible companion. And though he has studied in the United States, as well as Melbourne, Australia, where he completed a Masters in Australian History at Monash University, and has been writer-in-residence at the University of Northumbria in the United Kingdom, the State Library of Queensland, and the Tasmanian Writers’ Union, Disher prefers to work and live in rural Australia, where he scratches out in longhand one new novel a year. “[I write with] blue pen on the backs of old manuscript drafts,” admitted Disher, because “the magic would leak away [with] black pen.” Disher writes in the mornings six days a week from about 8 am to 12:30 pm. “Some mornings I’ll write a paragraph, other mornings a few pages.” And though Disher is adept across multiple genres, he said he enjoys writing crime fiction for “the sense of teasing the reader through the use of delaying tactics, sudden reversals, a sense of buried secrets, doubtful or partial outcomes and carefully placed turning points.” He also tends to play against reader expectations and stereotypes.

It’s a skill that has garnered the author two Crime Writers Association of Australia Ned Kelly awards for best crime novel (Chain of Evidence in 2007, and Wyatt in 2010), as well as three German crime fiction awards, the Deutscher Krimi Preis, the oldest and most prestigious German prize for crime fiction (Kickback in 2000, The Dragon Man in 2002, and Bitter Wash Road in 2016).

“The Disher canon is a blend of masterful procedural, biting black comedy, keen insight into human nature, and crime that feels real and dangerous,” said Mark Doten, Disher’s editor at Soho Press, the US publisher responsible for bringing three of Disher’s Wyatt novels and all seven Challis books to American readers. “There’s a tremendous authority to his writing—you know from page one that you’re in the hands of a master.”

In the third Challis novel, Snapshot, Disher writes, “In Challis’s experience, very few criminals returned to the scene of the crime…. But police officers often did…”

And readers, just like police officers returning to the scene of the crime, will return to the Inspector Hal Challis police procedural novels again and again. It’s a rich series for which Disher said he has “ideas for another dozen.” But for now, he is writing a sequel to his well-received 2014 crime novel, Bitter Wash Road (originally published in the US as Hell to Pay). And then, assured Disher, he will write “another Wyatt, then another Challis,” making the promise of more Australian crime linger in this American’s mind.

Garry Disher is one of Australia’s best-known authors. His crime novels have been published in the USA, England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Hungary. Chain of Evidence and Wyatt won crime novel of the year awards in Australia, and Disher has won the Deutsche Krimi Preis three times, appeared on bestseller lists, and been a guest of the Munich and Cologne writers’ festivals. Disher lives on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.

Teri Duerr
2017-12-01 19:59:56
Sleep No More
Ben Boulden

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales, features a half-dozen previously uncollected and very unordinary short stories by the late P. D. James. The tales are less whodunit and more whydunit; each story is about the killer’s motive and escape from justice, rather than the identification of the culprit.

The only traditional whodunit is the masterful, multi-viewpoint novelette “The Murder of Santa Claus.” Its commonplace traditional mystery setting, a genteel country house at Christmas, creates an expectation for the reader that James happily and expertly shatters. When an awkward teenager and future detective story scribe—“I do a workmanlike job on the old conventions, for those who like their murders cosy”—is invited to his wealthy uncle’s home for Christmas, he finds himself as the last person to see his uncle alive. The story’s wry sense of organic justice and a beautifully turned climactic twist remove it from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

“The Yo Yo” is a brilliant rendering of a father’s love, and the murder demanded by that love. A crime both reader and narrator can easily rationalize. “The Victim,” which is my favorite story in the collection, is a straightforward revenge tale that details a murder; both its planning and its execution. It is James’ take on the anti-hero, and its harsh sense of morality made this reader think the wrong person was murdered. “The Girl Who Loved Graveyards” is the most original and atmospheric story in the collection. A young girl, sent to live with an uncle and aunt in East London after her father and grandmother die from influenza, has a tenuous grasp on her past. Her determination to find and visit her father’s gravesite leads both girl and reader on a macabre and surprising journey.

Sleep No More is a brilliant collection of stories that reveal James’ true artistry as a writer of traditional mystery fiction. The tales wander from, and play with, traditional genre tropes in surprising and satisfying ways. And each features James’ usual smooth prose, wry humor, and her ability to please even the most demanding reader.

Teri Duerr
2017-12-10 20:31:27
Bill Crider
Jacqueline Carmichael

A celebration of one of mysterydom’s favorite writers.

Bill Crider is a man with three cats, many books, even more friends, and few regrets.

The widely published 76-year-old author informed his blog followers recently that he had been given a few months—or even weeks—to live. Prostate cancer had spread. Facing a finite number of days, at home in hospice care and surrounded by his books and his family—daughter Angela and son Allen—Crider was too ill to get out for his weekly Sunday School class. Characteristically, the prolific writer was still thinking about books, fellow writers, and readers.

“My only regret is that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block's fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins' latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand, which is a collection of two novellas, ‘A Bullet for Satisfaction,’ an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and ‘The Last Stand,’ the last thing that Spillane completed,” he wrote in his blog.

For many years, Crider also reviewed short stories for Mystery Scene magazine. “Bill is so knowledgeable about the genre and so witty in his appraisals. We were very lucky to have him as a contributor. He has many friends at the magazine,” said Mystery Scene editor Kate Stine.

Characteristically generous with his reviews and fellowship, Crider has high praise for fellow members of organizations like the Mystery Writers of America, and the smaller Western Fictioneers.

“There are so many novelists who inspired me the list would take all day ... there are literary novels I have loved, mystery, adventure, science fiction—there’s an endless list,” he said in a December 6 interview. “I’m dazzled by all of them.”

Young Billy Crider had no inkling that he would grow up to be an author. His Mexia, Texas boyhood dream (and that of many of his peers) was to to find gold on the diamond as a major league ball player.

“I turned out to be half blind, totally uncoordinated, skinny and slow—none of which are highly sought qualities in a baseball player,” Crider recalled with a smile. Instead he got an undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin, and then a master’s at the University of North Texas, and a PhD from UT-Austin. All the degrees were in English. (“There’s a pattern there,” he admits with his trademark dry wit.)

Crider taught first at Corsicana High School while his wife Judy finished her college, then at Howard Payne University and finally, 19 years at Alvin Community College, where he was chair of the English department and chair of arts and humanities.

Doing poetry in a writers’ group at Howard Payne, the idea of fiction came up.

“A man at the group didn’t write, but he told me that he thought that he thought he and I could write a novel. He wanted us to write a Nick Carter spy novel,” he recalled. That collaboration, The Coyote Connection, was the first novel he sold. He started his first Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, with an eye to making it a short story. “It got to be over 50 pages, and I thought, ‘That’s not short!’” Crider recalled.

Editor Ruth Cavin from Walker Books came to an MWA meeting in Houston, asked to see it, and published Too Late to Die in 1986. It won an Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

A string of successes—many of them collaborations—followed. Between those written in his name, a pen name, and house names he really has no firm numbers. More than 100, probably. That kind of literary longevity simply comes from doing what works and long repetition, Crider said. His advice for would-be writers?

“The only advice I know is the same old advice: read, read, read, write, write, write,” he said.

PLOT TWIST

Still mourning his wife Judy after her death from cancer in 2014, Crider found himself writing another chapter, in the form of an unexpected find in a drainage ditch across from his house. Returning to his Alvin, Texas home after a jog in 2016, he saw a tiny kitten wrapped in a dirty old towel. He picked the gray-striped tabby up and brought her in. “What else could I do? Besides, everybody needs a cat. We were quite happy together,” he said.

And then, a plot twist.

“The next day I looked out the window and there were two more cats,” he remembered.

“I hoped they were squirrels, is what I hoped.” Chagrined but not daunted, Crider was worried about what would happen if he didn’t take them all in. So from three superfluous kittens, a new family sprang up with Bill Crider as the pater familias. He dubbed them Keanu, Gilligan, and Li’l Ginger Tom.

Frustrating as only kittens can be, the tiny trio were hard to wrangle. “They were all over everything and into everything, running around and tearing things up,” Crider remembered. Collectively, they were the Very Bad Kitties, or VBKs, for short.

The biggest surprise, however, was how the furry trio dominated Crider’s Facebook page. They soon eclipsed his other posts from Today’s Vintage Ad, PaperBack, and Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine.

“I put up pictures of things and I’d get six or seven likes, or maybe 20 likes. I put up the first picture of the VBKs, and had something like 1,500 likes the first day,” he recalled.

People adored the three photogenic, naughty-but-nice orphans. Draped over his knees. Synchronized lounging on cat platforms. Poised in boxes. Napping on window sills. (Napping everywhere.) Posters would make up captions, and guess at what the kitties were “saying” as Crider snapped their candid shots.

“You can certainly follow the growth of those cats—I should have given them their own Facebook page,” he said. Around the one year mark, the mature cats grew up and settled down. Although they didn’t fit conveniently in his lap any more, the photo ops continued. Crider said he’s had a few folks say the VBKs inspired them to adopt a cat. The more of that the better, he said.

“I’m a cat fan, and if a cat’s an orphan and he needs adopted, I say go ahead. I grew up with dogs, and I would recommend that, too. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat or dog or a wombat—pets are just wonderful companions,” he said.

“It’s definitely changed my life.”

With her father’s illness, daughter Angela Crider Neary has undertaken securing a future for the VBKs. She credits the three felines for helping her dad find new meaning after her mother died in 2014. “I think he probably never would have gotten over that. They’ve helped him and kept him company. I think it was a good thing. A lot of people say my mom sent them to him. She would have loved them, herself,” she said. “He’s very lucky to have had them, and they’re very lucky to have had him.”

A WRITING LEGACY

The apple hasn’t fallen far from the literary tree. Neary said her father’s pride in her writing was never more visible than when the attorney and author sold a story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, which numbers her father among its distinguished contributors.

There’s been an outpouring of appreciation for Crider since word of his grim prognosis spread, Neary said. “Everybody hates to lose him, especially me. It’s nice to see how much respect and admiration there is for him out there,” she said.

Among Crider’s many long-time industry friends, novelist and screenwriter Lee Goldberg said Crider is one of the most knowledgeable writers he knows.

“He informs his opinions with so much knowledge and actual experience, he’s really unique. The man has written western novels, crime novels, horror—that’s not easy. For all I know, he’s written science fiction and romance.”

The two worked together on several projects. He loved Crider’s Outrage at Blanco and Texas Vigilante, and a Lee Goldberg screen adaptation came close to full funding before an investor fell out. He’d still like to see it made into a film. When Goldberg launched Brash Books, Crider was one of his first calls for recommendations

“Eighty percent of our titles are re-releases of great novels fallen out of print. Who better to advise me than Bill Crider?

“He has schooled me in mystery fiction and Western fiction for quite some time.”

On the way to Bouchercon in New Orleans in 2016, Goldberg decided to drop in and see his old friend at his home near Houston. “It’s more of a balance between a home and a book depository,” Goldberg said. “You feel his love of books right away.”

And then there’s Crider’s universal likability.

“I would call it a ‘mission impossible’ to find anyone to say a harsh word about Bill Crider. Even somebody who disagrees with him will begin by saying they love and admire him,” Goldberg said.

The courage with which Bill Crider supported his wife through her battle with cancer—and with which he faces his own approaching death—exemplifies grace under the severest of all pressures, his long-time friend said.

“He is giving us a great lesson,” Goldberg said.

As he closes life’s book, Bill Crider’s regrets are very few, mostly literary in nature.

“It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I'll never read. But I've had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all,” he blogged.

Asked for parting wisdom, he shared life advice he seems to have lived by.

“Take it as it comes,” he said. “Take it as it comes.”

http://www.billcrider.com

Reviews of Bill Crider's Books

Jacqueline Carmichael is an American-Canadian writer based on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

https://www.facebook.com/thetraveljournalstories/

Admin
2017-12-17 18:56:26

Bill Crider is a man with three cats, many books, even more friends, and few regrets. The author told blog followers recently that he has a few months – or even weeks – to live.

ON SUE GRAFTON’S PASSING: THE ALPHABET ENDS WITH Y
Oline Cogdill

“The alphabet now ends at Y,” stated Sue Grafton’s daughter, Jamie Clark, on the author’s Facebook page regarding her mother’s passing.

Sue Grafton died Dec. 28 in Santa Barbara, Calif., following a two-year battle with cancer. She was 77.

In announcing Grafton’s passing, her daughter posted this on Sue Grafton Facebook page:

“Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue’s daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two-year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

(Her final book, Y Is for Yesterday, was published in August.)

Mystery Scene offers our sincere condolences to her family, friends, and readers.

Grafton’s best-selling “alphabet series” featuring Southern California private detective Kinsey Millhone made her one of the most popular mystery novelists of her time.

And none of us wanted 2017 to end this way.

For many of us who began reading about Kinsey in her early days, Grafton’s character was more than just a private detective, and her novels were more than just another mystery series to be enjoyed.

The Kinsey Millhone novels were true touchstones, cultural icons and, in some way, life changing.

It began with these opening lines:

“My name is Kinsey Millhone. I am a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I am thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind.”
-- the opening lines of A is for Alibi

And ended with
“Respectfully submitted, Kinsey Millhone”



I clearly remember when a friend of mine mentioned that he had heard about this new author who had these kind of cute titles—each began with a letter of the alphabet—and they were about this female private detective. I had been a lifetime mystery reader since I was about nine years old. I started with Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler. To this day I have never read a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys (though I liked the TV series.)

But at the time I had stopped reading mysteries because no new author was speaking to me. Until Sue Grafton (and, to be fair, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller).

Here was Kinsey, who could easily have been a friend I hung out with. Like me, she was independent, unmarried, no children, supporting herself. I may have had more clothes than she, and more than just that one black dress. But I had been known to, at times, trim my bangs with manicure scissors. The big differences were that I had a dog, owned my own home, had a few plants, and had a close relationship with my parents.
And I did not eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, a staple in Kinsey’s diet.

But beginning in 1982 with A Is for Alibi and through the 25th letter of the alphabet with her final adventure, Y’ Is for Yesterday, published in August 2017, Kinsey was there for me.

Like all of us, Kinsey changed through the years, though Grafton almost imperceptibly allowed her to grow. Kinsey was still the single, cranky-minded private detective as she was in the beginning. She had a close relationship to her landlord, Henry, who became her surrogate father. But she also began to open herself up, just a bit. She got involved with the relatives she didn’t know she had. Y Is for Yesterday actually found Kinsey embracing, almost, a cat and a dog. That was a huge start for her.

Not every plot worked. But around M Is for Malice, the novels took another sea change and became a bit deeper and even richer.

But I always maintained that most of us didn’t read the Grafton novels for their deep plots or look at social issues. We just wanted to see what Kinsey was up to. What scrapes she got herself into. Would she ever date again? Would she ever splurge on clothing or a good handbag?

I was as shocked as anyone when in V Is for Vengeance Kinsey is looking through the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s. But she was about to turn 38 years old and we all know that Kinsey can’t resist the lure of the good sale.

So there she was, in Nordstrom’s lingerie department, “sorting through ladies’ underpants on sale – three pair for ten bucks, a bonanza for someone of my cheap bent.” She even thought about buying silk pajamas, marked down to $49.95 from $199.95. “Most nights I sleep in a ratty oversize T-shirt. At $49.95, I could afford to indulge. Then again, I’m single and sleep alone, so what would be the point?”

Used to “low-end chain stores, where aisles are jammed with racks of identical garments, suggesting cheap manufacture in a country unfettered by child labor laws,” Kinsey is seduced by Nordstrom’s, “a palace by comparison, the interior cool and elegant.”

But as usual, Kinsey is always working, so while she stocks up on underwear, she also witnesses two shoplifters who jumpstart the plot of V Is for Vengeance.

INFLUENCED OTHER AUTHORS

I think Grafton’s novels didn’t just speak to readers but also influenced other authors. Her success, as well as that of Paretsky and Muller, opened the door for other strong female private detectives, cops and amateur sleuths. These authors also showed publishers that mystery readers would follow characters anywhere and opened the way for detectives of color as well as gay and lesbian detectives.

Grafton received many awards during her career. She and James Lee Burke shared the Grand Master award in 2009 from the Mystery Writers of America. She also won the Edgar Award in 1991 for best short story, “A Poison That Leaves No Trace” in the Berkley Anthology: Sisters in Crime 2, and in 1986 for best TV feature or miniseries for “Love on the Run” with her husband, Steve Humphrey, for NBC-TV.

She also was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic, the Anthony Award and three Shamus Awards.

WHAT ABOUT ZERO?

The Kinsey novels were generally released two years apart. In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Humphrey said his late wife had not yet started writing her last book in the series.

“She was trying to come up with an idea, but she never got one she liked,” he said. “With chemo, she didn't have much energy or interest in that anyway. There will just be a 25-letter alphabet, I'm sorry to say,” he told the newspaper.

But apparently she did know the title. “She always said that last book would be Z Is for Zero,” Humphrey told the New York Times. “She’d been saying that for 30 years.”

The Kinsey novels began in the 1980s and now with Y Is for Yesterday end just a few months into the 1990s. “Z” would have been set firmly in 1990 and Kinsey’s 40th birthday would be nearing.

Now we can only speculate on what changes might have occurred in Kinsey’s life. Would she have remarried—third time the charm? Would she have become the guardian of a relative, as she was when her Aunt Ginny took her in when she was four years old? That would bring her life full circle.

I hope the family keeps its promise and allows the alphabet to end at Y, forcing us all to use our imagination.

Rest in peace, Sue Grafton. You and Kinsey will be missed.

Respectfully submitted,

Oline Cogdill













Oline Cogdill
2017-12-29 10:09:40

“The alphabet now ends at Y,” stated Sue Grafton’s daughter, Jamie Clark, on the author’s Facebook page regarding her mother’s passing.

ON SUE GRAFTON'S PASSING: THE ALPHABET ENDS WTIH Y
Oline H. Cogdill

“The alphabet now ends at Y,” stated Sue Grafton’s daughter, Jamie Clark, on the author’s Facebook page regarding her mother’s passing.

Sue Grafton died Dec. 28 in Santa Barbara, Calif., following a two-year battle with cancer. She was 77.

In announcing Grafton’s passing, her daughter posted this on Sue Grafton Facebook page:

“Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue’s daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two-year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

(Her final book, Y Is for Yesterday, was published in August.)

Mystery Scene offers our sincere condolences to her family, friends, and readers.

Grafton’s best-selling “alphabet series” featuring Southern California private detective Kinsey Millhone made her one of the most popular mystery novelists of her time.

And none of us wanted 2017 to end this way.

For many of us who began reading about Kinsey in her early days, Grafton’s character was more than just a private detective, and her novels were more than just another mystery series to be enjoyed.

The Kinsey Millhone novels were true touchstones, cultural icons and, in some way, life changing.

It began with these opening lines:

“My name is Kinsey Millhone. I am a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I am thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind.”
-- the opening lines of A is for Alibi

And ended with
“Respectfully submitted, Kinsey Millhone”



I clearly remember when a friend of mine mentioned that he had heard about this new author who had these kind of cute titles—each began with a letter of the alphabet—and they were about this female private detective. I had been a lifetime mystery reader since I was about nine years old. I started with Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler. To this day I have never read a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys (though I liked the TV series.)

But at the time I had stopped reading mysteries because no new author was speaking to me. Until Sue Grafton (and, to be fair, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller).

Here was Kinsey, who could easily have been a friend I hung out with. Like me, she was independent, unmarried, no children, supporting herself. I may have had more clothes than she, and more than just that one black dress. But I had been known to, at times, trim my bangs with manicure scissors. The big differences were that I had a dog, owned my own home, had a few plants, and had a close relationship with my parents.
And I did not eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, a staple in Kinsey’s diet.

But beginning in 1982 with A Is for Alibi and through the 25th letter of the alphabet with her final adventure, Y’ Is for Yesterday, published in August 2017, Kinsey was there for me.

Like all of us, Kinsey changed through the years, though Grafton almost imperceptibly allowed her to grow. Kinsey was still the single, cranky-minded private detective as she was in the beginning. She had a close relationship to her landlord, Henry, who became her surrogate father. But she also began to open herself up, just a bit. She got involved with the relatives she didn’t know she had. Y Is for Yesterday actually found Kinsey embracing, almost, a cat and a dog. That was a huge start for her.

Not every plot worked. But around M Is for Malice, the novels took another sea change and became a bit deeper and even richer.

But I always maintained that most of us didn’t read the Grafton novels for their deep plots or look at social issues. We just wanted to see what Kinsey was up to. What scrapes she got herself into. Would she ever date again? Would she ever splurge on clothing or a good handbag?

I was as shocked as anyone when in V Is for Vengeance Kinsey is looking through the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s. But she was about to turn 38 years old and we all know that Kinsey can’t resist the lure of the good sale.

So there she was, in Nordstrom’s lingerie department, “sorting through ladies’ underpants on sale – three pair for ten bucks, a bonanza for someone of my cheap bent.” She even thought about buying silk pajamas, marked down to $49.95 from $199.95. “Most nights I sleep in a ratty oversize T-shirt. At $49.95, I could afford to indulge. Then again, I’m single and sleep alone, so what would be the point?”

Used to “low-end chain stores, where aisles are jammed with racks of identical garments, suggesting cheap manufacture in a country unfettered by child labor laws,” Kinsey is seduced by Nordstrom’s, “a palace by comparison, the interior cool and elegant.”

But as usual, Kinsey is always working, so while she stocks up on underwear, she also witnesses two shoplifters who jumpstart the plot of V Is for Vengeance.

INFLUENCED OTHER AUTHORS

I think Grafton’s novels didn’t just speak to readers but also influenced other authors. Her success, as well as that of Paretsky and Muller, opened the door for other strong female private detectives, cops and amateur sleuths. These authors also showed publishers that mystery readers would follow characters anywhere and opened the way for detectives of color as well as gay and lesbian detectives.

Grafton received many awards during her career. She and James Lee Burke shared the Grand Master award in 2009 from the Mystery Writers of America. She also won the Edgar Award in 1991 for best short story, “A Poison That Leaves No Trace” in the Berkley Anthology: Sisters in Crime 2, and in 1986 for best TV feature or miniseries for “Love on the Run” with her husband, Steve Humphrey, for NBC-TV.

She also was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic, the Anthony Award and three Shamus Awards.

WHAT ABOUT ZERO?

The Kinsey novels were generally released two years apart. In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Humphrey said his late wife had not yet started writing her last book in the series.

“She was trying to come up with an idea, but she never got one she liked,” he said. “With chemo, she didn't have much energy or interest in that anyway. There will just be a 25-letter alphabet, I'm sorry to say,” he told the newspaper.

But apparently she did know the title. “She always said that last book would be Z Is for Zero,” Humphrey told the New York Times. “She’d been saying that for 30 years.”

The Kinsey novels began in the 1980s and now with Y Is for Yesterday end just a few months into the 1990s. “Z” would have been set firmly in 1990 and Kinsey’s 40th birthday would be nearing.

Now we can only speculate on what changes might have occurred in Kinsey’s life. Would she have remarried—third time the charm? Would she have become the guardian of a relative, as she was when her Aunt Ginny took her in when she was four years old? That would bring her life full circle.

I hope the family keeps its promise and allows the alphabet to end at Y, forcing us all to use our imagination.

Rest in peace, Sue Grafton. You and Kinsey will be missed.

Respectfully submitted,

Oline Cogdill













Admin
2017-12-30 15:18:17
On Sue Grafton’s Passing: The Alphabet Ends With ‘Y’
Oline H. Cogdill

“The alphabet now ends at Y,” stated Sue Grafton’s daughter, Jamie Clark, on the author’s Facebook page regarding her mother’s passing.

Sue Grafton died December 28 in Santa Barbara, California, following a two-year battle with cancer. She was 77.

In announcing Grafton’s passing, her daughter posted this on the Sue Grafton Facebook page:

“Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue’s daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two-year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband, Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

(Her final book, Y Is for Yesterday, was published in August.)

Mystery Scene offers our sincere condolences to her family, friends, and readers.

Grafton’s best-selling “alphabet series,” featuring Southern California private detective Kinsey Millhone, made her one of the most popular mystery novelists of her time.

And none of us wanted 2017 to end this way.

For many of us who began reading about Kinsey in her early days, Grafton’s character was more than just a private detective, and her novels were more than just another mystery series to be enjoyed.

The Kinsey Millhone novels were true touchstones, cultural icons, and, in some way, life changing.

It began with these opening lines:

“My name is Kinsey Millhone. I am a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I am thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind.”
—the opening lines of A Is for Alibi

And ended with:

“Respectfully submitted, Kinsey Millhone”



I clearly remember when a friend of mine mentioned that he had heard about this new author who had these kind of cute titles—each began with a letter of the alphabet—and they were about this female private detective. I had been a lifetime mystery reader since I was about nine years old. I started with Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler. To this day I have never read a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys (though I liked the TV series.)

But at the time I had stopped reading mysteries because no new author was speaking to me. Until Sue Grafton (and, to be fair, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller).

Here was Kinsey, who could easily have been a friend I hung out with. Like me, she was independent, unmarried, no children, supporting herself. I may have had more clothes than she, and more than just that one black dress. But I had been known to, at times, trim my bangs with manicure scissors. The big differences were that I had a dog, owned my own home, had a few plants, and had a close relationship with my parents.

And I did not eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, a staple in Kinsey’s diet.

But beginning in 1982, with A Is for Alibi, and through the 25th letter of the alphabet with her final adventure, Y Is for Yesterday, published in August 2017, Kinsey was there for me.

Like all of us, Kinsey changed through the years, though Grafton almost imperceptibly allowed her to grow. Kinsey was still the single, cranky-minded private detective as she was in the beginning. She had a close relationship to her landlord, Henry, who became her surrogate father. But she also began to open herself up, just a bit. She got involved with the relatives she didn’t know she had. Y Is for Yesterday actually found Kinsey embracing, almost, a cat and a dog. That was a huge start for her.

Not every plot worked. But around M Is for Malice, the novels underwent a sea change and became a bit deeper and even richer.

But I always maintained that most of us didn’t read the Grafton novels for their deep plots or look at social issues. We just wanted to see what Kinsey was up to. What scrapes she got herself into. Would she ever date again? Would she ever splurge on clothing or a good handbag?

I was as shocked as anyone when in V Is for Vengeance Kinsey is looking through the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s. But she was about to turn 38 years old and we all know that Kinsey can’t resist the lure of the good sale.

So there she was, in Nordstrom’s lingerie department, “sorting through ladies’ underpants on sale—three pair for ten bucks, a bonanza for someone of my cheap bent.” She even thought about buying silk pajamas, marked down to $49.95 from $199.95. “Most nights I sleep in a ratty oversize T-shirt. At $49.95, I could afford to indulge. Then again, I’m single and sleep alone, so what would be the point?”

Used to “low-end chain stores, where aisles are jammed with racks of identical garments, suggesting cheap manufacture in a country unfettered by child labor laws,” Kinsey is seduced by Nordstrom’s, “a palace by comparison, the interior cool and elegant.”

But as usual, Kinsey is always working, so while she stocks up on underwear, she also witnesses two shoplifters who jump-start the plot of V Is for Vengeance.

INFLUENCED OTHER AUTHORS

I think Grafton’s novels didn’t just speak to readers but also influenced other authors. Her success, as well as that of Paretsky and Muller, opened the door for other strong female private detectives, cops, and amateur sleuths. These authors also showed publishers that mystery readers would follow characters anywhere and opened the way for detectives of color as well as gay and lesbian detectives.

Grafton received many awards during her career. She and James Lee Burke shared the Grand Master award in 2009 from the Mystery Writers of America. She also was nominated for the Edgar Award in 1991 for best short story, “A Poison That Leaves No Trace” in the Berkley anthology Sisters in Crime 2, and in 1986 was nominated for best TV feature or miniseries for “Love on the Run” with her husband, Steve Humphrey, for NBC-TV.

She also was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic, the Anthony Award, and three Shamus Awards.

WHAT ABOUT ZERO?

The Kinsey novels were generally released two years apart. In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Humphrey said his late wife had not yet started writing her last book in the series.

“She was trying to come up with an idea, but she never got one she liked,” he said. “With chemo, she didn't have much energy or interest in that anyway. There will just be a 25-letter alphabet, I'm sorry to say,” he told the newspaper.

But apparently she did know the title. “She always said that last book would be Z Is for Zero,” Humphrey told The New York Times. “She’d been saying that for 30 years.”

The Kinsey novels began in the 1980s and now, with Y Is for Yesterday, end just a few months into the 1990s. “Z” would have been set firmly in 1990 and Kinsey’s 40th birthday would be nearing.

Now we can only speculate on what changes might have occurred in Kinsey’s life. Would she have remarried—third time the charm? Would she have become the guardian of a relative, as she was when her Aunt Ginny took her in when she was four years old? That would bring her life full circle.

I hope the family keeps its promise and allows the alphabet to end at Y, forcing us all to use our imagination.

Rest in peace, Sue Grafton. You and Kinsey will be missed.

Respectfully submitted,

Oline Cogdill













Admin
2017-12-30 15:18:21
Don’t Go, “Major Crimes”
Oline Cogdill

When Major Crimes first aired on TNT, I was not a huge fan. I was very attached to The Closer, which starred Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson in the title role.

A Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief, Brenda was known as a closer who could solve crimes but also get confessions that stood up in court. Her interrogations lead to convictions.

I loved Brenda’s idiosyncrasies, her hidden stash of chocolate, and that ugly handbag she always carried. Her seemingly “sweet” nature and Southern accent was disarming to criminals who felt they could put one over on her. Silly criminals.

Sedgwick played Brenda as a fully realized person, with many flaws, so many flaws, making her all the more human. I also loved that Sedgwick, who is a beautiful woman, sometimes looked a little frumpy and plain, as do all women at some point during the day. (Yes, all women.)

Major Crimes debuted in 2012 immediately following The Closer’s finale. Designed to be a spin-off of The Closer with the same detective team in the same police department, Major Crimes brought us Captain Sharon Raydor, played by Mary McDonnell, as the new head of the Major Crimes Division.

Sharon faced myriad challenges, in addition to bringing criminals to justice. She had to earn the trust and respect of her officers after Brenda’s sudden departure. And she also had to earn the trust and respect of those loyal Closer viewers.

For this viewer, it didn’t take long for me to become a fan of Major Crimes.

While The Closer was about the confession, Major Crimes is about the art of the deal.

The ever-reliable McDonnell shows how a soft-spoken woman can also be a force of nature—strong, insightful, taking no nonsense from criminals, and, yes, closing those high-profile cases.

McDonnell played Sharon as a realistic person, who has her own flaws. Sharon is not Brenda; she is her own unique person. McDonnell showed how a person of deep faith—Sharon is a devout Catholic—also can use that faith in her job. Nor would that faith stop her from investigating a church if necessary.

So I am as sad as anybody that after six seasons, Major Crimes' finale airs at 9 p.m., January 9, 2017.

I think the network is making a huge error in taking Major Crimes off the air, as this wonderful show has more stories to tell.

This last season has been devastating in its twists—no spoiler here, I promise—and the series has risen to every challenge. The main reason for its success is how the squad members mesh. Each detective is a distinct person, with different views, yet united in their insight and quest for justice.

Major Crimes also allowed viewers a peek at each detective’s personal life. We saw relationships, marriages, adoptions, family members, and people reinventing themselves. Sharon’s concern for Rusty Beck, a witness to a serial killer’s crime, led her to adopt him, which let this young man make something of himself.

So thank you, Mary McDonnell, G. W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz, Phillip P. Keene, Robert Gossett, Jonathan Del Arco, Kearran Giovanni, Graham Patrick Martin, and Jon Tenney. Kathe Mazur as Deputy District Attorney Andrea Hobbs was often the smartest person in the room.

A special note to one of my favorites in Major Crimes —Jonathan Del Arco as Dr. Fernando Morales, Los Angeles County Deputy Medical Examiner. I always wanted Dr. Morales to have his own episode, or four.

I am curious what will replace Major Crimes. The Alienist, which premieres January 22 on TNT and is based on the novel by Caleb Carr, looks interesting, but incredibly dark. Period pieces are interesting but not always successful.

So, goodbye, Major Crimes. Thank you for the hours of entertainment, the involving stories, and the wonderful characters. I’ll be catching you on demand and with the series reruns that will be popping up.

Photo: Mary McDonnell, center, with Major Crimes cast. Photo courtesy TNT.

Oline Cogdill
2018-01-08 18:40:05
2018 Edgar Nominees
Oline H. Cogdill

Mystery Writers of America has its own way of celebrating the birth of Edgar Allan Poe—announcing the nominations for the Edgar Allan Poe Awards. January 19 is the 209th anniversary of Poe’s birthday and, true to form, here are the award nominees, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in 2017.

The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at the 72nd Gala Banquet, April 26, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

Congratulations to all the nominees.

BEST NOVEL
The Dime by Kathleen Kent (Hachette Book Group - Little, Brown & Co./Mulholland Books)
Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Hachette Book Group - Little, Brown & Co./Mulholland Books)
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Pegasus Books)
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (Penguin Random House – The Dial Press)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper (HarperCollins – Ecco)
Dark Chapter by Winnie M. Li (Polis Books)
Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love (Penguin Random House – Crown)
Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy (Macmillan – Flatiron Books)
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (Random House)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Ragged Lake by Ron Corbett (ECW Press)
Black Fall by Andrew Mayne (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper Paperbacks)
The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Landmark)
Penance by Kanae Minato (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown & Co./Mulholland Books)
The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong (Text Publishing)

BEST FACT CRIME
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Penguin Random House – Doubleday)
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (W.W. Norton & Company – Liveright)
The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill and Rachel McCarthy James (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)
Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca (St. Martin’s Press)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL
From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women who Created an Icon by Mattias Bostrom (Grove/Atlantic – The Mysterious Press)
Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s Press)
Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall by Curtis Evans (McFarland Publishing)
Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson (W.W. Norton & Company)
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims (Bloomsbury USA)

BEST SHORT STORY
“Spring Break” – New Haven Noir by John Crowley (Akashic Books)
“Hard to Get” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Jeffery Deaver (Dell Magazines)
“Ace in the Hole” – Montana Noir by Eric Heidle (Akashic Books)
“A Moment of Clarity at the Waffle House” – Atlanta Noir by Kenji Jasper (Akashic Books)
“Chin Yong-Yun Stays at Home” – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by S.J. Rozan (Dell Magazines)

BEST JUVENILE
Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)
Vanished! by James Ponti (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)
The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)
First Class Murder by Robin Stevens (Simon & Schuster – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
NewsPrints by Ru Xu (Scholastic – Graphix)

BEST YOUNG ADULT
The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Feiwel & Friends)
Grit by Gillian French (HarperCollins Publishers – HarperTeen)
The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (Simon & Schuster)
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Simon & Schuster – Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (HarperCollins Publishers – Balzer + Bray)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
“Episode 1” – The Loch, Teleplay by Stephen Brady (Acorn TV)
“Something Happened” – Law and Order: SVU, Teleplay by Michael Chernuchin (NBC Universal/Wolf Entertainment)
“Somebody to Love” – Fargo, Teleplay by Noah Hawley (FX Networks/MGM)
“Gently and the New Age” – George Gently, Teleplay by Robert Murphy (Acorn TV)
“The Blanket Mire” – Vera, Teleplay by Paul Matthew Thompson & Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
"The Queen of Secrets" - New Haven Noir by Lisa D. Gray (Akashic Books)

GRAND MASTER
Jane Langton
William Link
Peter Lovesey

RAVEN AWARD
Kristopher Zgorski, BOLO Books
The Raven Bookstore, Lawrence Kansas

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD
Robert Pépin


THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby (Minotaur)
You’ll Never Know Dear by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman (HarperCollins – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)
The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins – William Morrow Paperbacks)

Photo: Edgar statue courtesy of Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Oline Cogdill
2018-01-19 20:06:10
Kinsey and Her: The Sue Grafton Interview
Kevin Burton Smith
Teri Duerr
2018-01-24 20:29:26
A. J. Finn on Encyclopedia Brown

"I did not and do not like Encyclopedia Brown."

I love detective fiction; as a child simpleton (“Why isn’t he talking yet?” psychologists asked my parents on the occasion of my third birthday), I nourished myself on a diet of mystery stories: Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, the Hardy Boys. I adored the Hardy Boys. Or rather, I adored Frank, the older, studious, dark-haired Hardy boy. His younger brother Joe was sporty and blond, and even at that age, I distrusted blonds.

So it made sense that, around age seven or so, I should solicit the services of Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown—boy detective, son of Idaville’s police chief, and hero of more than a dozen collections by Donald J. Sobel, who would go on to write nearly 20 more books featuring his prepubescent gumshoe. I was in trouble from the very first page. It featured a drawing of the sign posted on a gasoline can in Encyclopedia’s garage: “24¢ PER DAY PLUS EXPENSES.” Alarm bells blared. As I’d learnt from my mother, you get what you pay for.

Now, I’m no sleuth. To this day I usually even can’t identify the victim of a crime, let alone the culprit. “I wonder who dies?” I’ll ask myself on picking up Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies. But Encyclopedia’s cases—I use the term generously—were so obvious, so utterly rudimentary, that even my idiot brain clocked whodunit within two paragraphs. Not so Encyclopedia, who puzzled over his mysteries for 10 or 12 pages minimum before smugly announcing the solution to his sidekick/bodyguard Sally Kimball (a young woman with serious anger-management issues and what I now recognize as an assault record), and resident sociopath Bugs Meany (leader of the Tigers, an Idaville “gang” only slightly less intimidating than a hamster dressed as a Girl Scout). “There is no such date as the thirty-first of June,” Encyclopedia would explain, awing his audience.

Reader, I hated him. Even I knew there was no such date (The Case of the Secret Pitch). Even I understood that tears usually flow from the inner corner of the eye (The Case of Hilbert’s Song). Even I recognized that if a wristwatch runs 15 minutes fast, and a suspect in its theft arrives at a rendezvous a quarter-hour early, he’s your perp (The Case of the Stolen Watch).

But like his evidently lobotomized clients, I wound up owing a debt to Encyclopedia Brown. It’s thanks to him that through the decades since, I’ve sought out challenging, nuanced mystery fiction—the elegant psychological thrillers of Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn; brainy police procedurals by Sara Paretsky and Tana French; Carl Hiaasen’s neon-tinted Florida romps. I’m proud to read these books and others; they’ve made me a sharper reader and a stronger writer. I’d say that’s worth 24¢ per day. Although maybe not expenses.

A. J. Finn has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement (UK). A native of New York, Finn lived in England for ten years before returning to New York City.

Teri Duerr
2018-01-27 21:15:33
The Best American Mystery Stories 2017
Ben Boulden

The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, edited by bestselling author John Sandford, features 20 high-octane mystery tales that crackle across a handful of subgenres: crime, Western, thriller, dark suspense, historical, and Sherlockian. The stories have a tendency toward the masculine with hardboiled prose, hard-bitten characters, and themes that strike close at what most men—husbands, fathers, brothers, sons—fear. Themes such as a stronger, more ruthless man taking or destroying what they, rightly or wrongly, believe is their responsibility to protect. While the stories are similar thematically, there is a broad range as to story type, story execution, and style.

Doug Allyn’s masterful “Puncher’s Chance” is a redemptive tale about broken dreams, family, and sacrifice. The Irish Maguires are a Detroit boxing family with a hard choice. To keep their third generation, family-owned gym they need a big payday, but their primetime fighter, recovering from a rotator cuff injury that is more serious than anyone knows, is set to fight an opponent best known for killing another boxer in the ring. “Power Wagon” is C.J. Box’s satisfying old-school suspense story, with a rural Wyoming setting, about an accountant, his pregnant wife, and a group of thugs that are willing to kill both for what they want.

“Dot Rat” by K. McGee, is a deceptively quiet, and very good, tale about a retired widow and her grandmotherly instinct to protect a young boy. William Kent Krueger’s “The Painted Smile” is a surprising story about Sherlock Holmes, or at least a young boy who believes himself to be the grand detective. “Night Run” by Wallace Stroby is a marvelously written road-rage tale that asks more questions than it answers. Steven Popkes’ “The Sweet Warm Earth” is a convincing mob story with supernatural flair in the form of a horse-whispering old man.

The anthology’s best story, or at least my favorite, is Brendan DuBois’ “The Man from Away.” A surprising twist, a likable—if gullible—protagonist, and a quest for vengeance in upper New England, along with a starkly quiet style, combine for a nearly perfect suspense tale. Loren D. Estleman’s Jack the Ripper story “GI Jack,” Charles John Harper’s private eye story “Lovers and Thieves,” and Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire story “Land of the Blind” are also worth noting. There are also stories by bestselling writers Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Straub, and Jeffery Deaver.

Teri Duerr
2018-01-27 22:15:57
Online Feature: Garry Disher
Garry DisherIf you haven’t heard of Australian author Garry Disher, you’re not alone. While Disher's two character-driven crime series set in Australia have dedicated readers from around the globe, the prolific writer remains sorely underappreciated in the United States.

Signal Loss, the seventh in Australian author Garry Disher’s series of character-driven procedurals featuring the taciturn and solitary Inspector Hal Challis makes its way to American shelves this December. The series has been called “excellent” by the New York Times Book Review and “moody, inventive, and extremely hard to put down,” by Booklist. The gritty cop novels set on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula have been compared favorably to other procedural series by Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, and Peter Robinson.

But if you haven’t heard of Disher, you’re not alone. While the prolific writer has written more than 50 books over the past four decades, including fiction, young adult, children’s, history, and short story anthologies, as well as created the characters for an Australian series of two-hour made-for-television movies with a “cheeky-grin cop” named Cody, he remains relatively underappreciated in the United States. However, the author has engendered a cult-like following from crime readers around the world who have discovered Disher’s Inspector Hal Challis series and the heists of the author’s most popular character, the antihero professional thief Wyatt, who thus far has appeared in eight books.

Signal Loss by Garry FisherIn his most recent novel, Signal Loss, part of the Hal Challis series, a methamphetamine epidemic is sweeping across Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, which Disher describes as “a comma of land hooking into the sea southeast of Melbourne.” It’s a mostly rural setting within the shadow of its big-city neighbor, and a place where poverty and wealth exist side-by-side. It’s also a tourist destination known for its beaches, wineries, and coastal towns; a landscape that is sparsely populated and beautiful.

Inspector Challis heads the Peninsula East’s Crime Investigation Unit headquartered in the small city of Waterloo. The drug epidemic has impacted the poorer housing projects especially hard, and the mixture of poverty and addiction have increased crime and stretched the police’s limited resources to its breaking point. The socioeconomic tension between rich and poor is a vein Disher adroitly mines throughout the Challis novels. In Kittyhawk Down and Snapshot themes of racism and immigration are personified with a for-profit detention centre that is more prison than temporary housing facility. Chain of Evidence examines, through a pedophile ring and an organized burglary gang, how the law is applied differently to those with means than it is for those without.

“The Mornington Peninsula of my novels is a real place,” said Disher, who lives on the peninsula himself. “[We have] extremes of rich and poor. The poverty can lead to crime, which can lead to problems for an under-resourced police force.” These are real world challenges that are fertile for fictional exploration. “I can’t escape writing about these things,” said Disher. Strong characters are a hallmark of Disher’s novels, and in addition to the lonely and solitary Challis, who lives in a secluded part of The Peninsula, where he refurbishes an old Dragon Rapide airplane in his off time, the series includes his professional and romantic partner Sergeant Ellen Destry, a divorcée wrestling with guilt over for her shortcomings as a mother. Pam Murphy, a young and competent constable, who has a turbulent and often unsettling personal life, Constable John Tankard, a big, insecure brute with sexist attitudes, and Scobie Sutton, a soft-hearted and vulnerable detective constable, round out Challis’ team. All of them have developed and grown from book to book in organic ways.

“It became apparent to me as the series progressed that this was not a static world, and I needed to keep the characters and situations fresh or I would tire of them,” said Disher. “Each of the characters have become more ‘real’ to me. I see greater depths to them, and hidden reasons for some of their character traits.”

While Challis is the series’ leading character, Destry has evolved to hold equal weight in the books. Indeed, Disher writes particularly vibrant female characters, with alluring strengths, and a willingness to tackle a male-dominated world, but balanced by very real human weaknesses, both personal and professional. Destry, for example, has an odd proclivity for sticky fingers when a stray dollar is at a crime scene, a quirk that is as surprising as it is embarrassing. Disher admits that he finds Ellen Destry and Pam Murphy more interesting than his male characters. He’s quick to add that he finds Hal the least interesting of all, since “there’s a little of me in Challis.”

When asked if he, like Challis, restores old airplanes, Disher responded, “I would rather restore an old car than an old plane,” and then added, “I would rather watch Justified or Breaking Bad than do either.”

Disher, who lived in the United States while attending Stanford University on a creative writing Stegner Fellowship in the 1978-1979 academic year, admits to an affinity for American crime television, both good and bad. Challis often teases the coroner in the books, Freya Berg, with the lines “What have we got?” and “Keep me posted,” which is Disher’s play on the American forensic-centered television crime shows where crime scene investigators carry guns, make arrests, and perform complicated scientific tests in seconds.

Kickback by Garry FisherDisher’s most well-known creation, however, isn’t Challis or Destry, but the Melbourne criminal Wyatt, the protagonist of Disher’s first six published crime novels, beginning with Kickback in 1991. Wyatt is stark and brutal, without humor, and very much a villain. Challis, in contrast, is a flawed, unassuming police inspector who skillfully fills the role of literary hero. Disher said, “After six Wyatts in quick succession, each one following a set pattern—Wyatt identifies a target to rob, Wyatt is betrayed, Wyatt wins in the end—it was stimulating to think and write in a different way with the police procedurals, which—although easy to read—are more complex in structure, with several strands being followed.” He continued, “I could become stale with the Challis and Destry novels, too, but have avoided that by letting the characters grow and change over the series.”

Australia’s expansive landscape—exotic to most American readers, but deeply intimate to the author—is central to Disher’s books, as this elegant example from Disher’s latest Wyatt novel, The Heat (2016), illustrates so well:

Down to the Nepean Highway where, hanging gingerly above the toxins, there was the faint briny odour of the sea. The motel was one block back from the beach, faded-looking. Ground down by years of sunlight and salt.

“I can’t write a scene—a room, the open air, anywhere—until I can see it in my mind,” said Disher. “I need to be able to see, smell, taste, touch, hear.”

Garry Disher's The Dragon ManThis relationship to landscape may come from Disher’s childhood spent on a small wheat and wool farm in the mid-north of South Australia, where the natural world would have been a constant and very visible companion. And though he has studied in the United States, as well as Melbourne, Australia, where he completed a Masters in Australian History at Monash University, and has been writer-in-residence at the University of Northumbria in the United Kingdom, the State Library of Queensland, and the Tasmanian Writers’ Union, Disher prefers to work and live in rural Australia, where he scratches out in longhand one new novel a year. “[I write with] blue pen on the backs of old manuscript drafts,” admitted Disher, because “the magic would leak away [with] black pen.” Disher writes in the mornings six days a week from about 8 am to 12:30 pm. “Some mornings I’ll write a paragraph, other mornings a few pages.” And though Disher is adept across multiple genres, he said he enjoys writing crime fiction for “the sense of teasing the reader through the use of delaying tactics, sudden reversals, a sense of buried secrets, doubtful or partial outcomes and carefully placed turning points.” He also tends to play against reader expectations and stereotypes.

It’s a skill that has garnered the author two Crime Writers Association of Australia Ned Kelly awards for best crime novel (Chain of Evidence in 2007, and Wyatt in 2010), as well as three German crime fiction awards, the Deutscher Krimi Preis, the oldest and most prestigious German prize for crime fiction (Kickback in 2000, The Dragon Man in 2002, and Bitter Wash Road in 2016).

“The Disher canon is a blend of masterful procedural, biting black comedy, keen insight into human nature, and crime that feels real and dangerous,” said Mark Doten, Disher’s editor at Soho Press, the US publisher responsible for bringing three of Disher’s Wyatt novels and all seven Challis books to American readers. “There’s a tremendous authority to his writing—you know from page one that you’re in the hands of a master.”

In the third Challis novel, Snapshot, Disher writes, “In Challis’s experience, very few criminals returned to the scene of the crime…. But police officers often did…”

And readers, just like police officers returning to the scene of the crime, will return to the Inspector Hal Challis police procedural novels again and again. It’s a rich series for which Disher said he has “ideas for another dozen.” But for now, he is writing a sequel to his well-received 2014 crime novel, Bitter Wash Road (originally published in the US as Hell to Pay). And then, assured Disher, he will write “another Wyatt, then another Challis,” making the promise of more Australian crime linger in this American’s mind.

Garry Disher is one of Australia’s best-known authors. His crime novels have been published in the USA, England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Hungary. Chain of Evidence and Wyatt won crime novel of the year awards in Australia, and Disher has won the Deutsche Krimi Preis three times, appeared on bestseller lists, and been a guest of the Munich and Cologne writers’ festivals. Disher lives on the Mornington Peninsula, southeast of Melbourne.

Teri Duerr
2018-01-27 22:30:42
Kinsey and Her: The Sue Grafton Interview

A new short storycollection offers a startling look into the heart and mind of a writer we all thought we knew by Kevin Burton Smith

Everybody knows—or thinks they know—Sue Grafton. She is, without question, one of the most popular and acclaimed mystery writers of the last 30 years. Her long-running series featuring Southern California private eye Kinsey Millhone started way back in 1982 with A is for Alibi, and was soon followed by B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, D is for Deadbeat, and so on.

By now, every Kinsey novel jumps immediately onto the bestsellers’ list upon its release, and is swiftly translated and published around the world. W is for Whatever-She-Decides- To-Call-It is tentatively scheduled for publication later this year, and Z is for Zero (we know the title of that one) lies in wait just down road, the final curtain on what will unquestionably be considered a major series in American detective fiction.

But at a time when everybody’s expecting a mad dash for the finish line, Grafton’s made a curious detour, revisiting Kinsey’s past and, more surprisingly, her own.

Kinsey and Me, now in bookstores, is like nothing Grafton has done before. It’s very much part of the Kinsey series, collecting all nine of the previously published Kinsey short stories that Grafton wrote from 1986 through 1992. That’s the “Kinsey” part of the book.

But it’s the second half, the “... and Me” section, that will be drawing most of the attention. It features 13 loosely connected vignettes focusing on the trials and tribulations of Kit Blue, a fictionalized, younger version of Grafton herself. It deals with her troubled childhood and early years, and was written by Grafton in the decade following her mother’s death, in which the author struggled with all “that rage, that pain. All the scalding tears I wept, both during her life and afterward.”

* * * * *

It’s not like Sue Grafton invented the female private eye with the publication of A is for Alibi in 1982. Even within the modern era of women gumshoes written by women, Grafton’s 30-something private eye Kinsey Millhone has been in the good company of other such pivotal gumshoes as Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone, Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, Liza Cody’s Anna Lee, Maxine O’Callaghan’s Delilah West, and P.D. James’ Cordelia Grey, among others.

What sets Grafton apart is a combination of her widespread appeal (she’s one of the most popular writers currently mining the PI vein), her longevity (30 years and counting) and the almost subversive way she’s slipped her private eye hero into our collective consciousness. Sure, there are more precedent-setting figures, more politically charged ones, louder ones, and hipper ones (Grafton has steadfastly set all the novels in the 1980s, boasting that Kinsey does her sleuthing “the old-fashioned way, without Internet or cellphone”). There may even be a better-selling one or two. But no female private eye (and few contemporary male ones) have appealed to such a wide spectrum of readers, both male and female.

And Grafton has done more than merely ship units. She’s not just successful at what she does—she’s damn good at it. She has received lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America, the British Crime Writers’ Association and the Private Eye Writers of America. She also landed, perhaps most fittingly, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award in 2004. They don’t just give those things away willy nilly.

In sharp, clear prose Grafton has presented a frank and honest portrait of a young investigator, flawed, recognizably human, who has nonetheless approached her cases with a steely professionalism that Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op himself would appreciate.

Critics and readers have praised her shrewd eye for the telling detail, well-integrated research (no info dumps here), deft characterization and solid, inventive plotting. But it’s Grafton’s tough, clear-eyed rendering of the human heart, in all its warped, broken and flawed glory, that really brings her novels alive. Not since Lew Archer, the creation of her idol Ross Macdonald, has a fictional private eye so effectively wormed into the dark, twisted wreckage of American families gone awry. The wary survivors of broken homes and shattered families, addicts, alcoholics, lonely widowers, frightened girlfriends, the dispossessed and the obsessed—through Kinsey’s eyes we see them all with a taut and refreshing emotional clarity, a rough humor and a hard-won empathy. Like Archer, with whom Kinsey shares the stomping ground of Santa Theresa (a thinly fictionalized Santa Barbara, the Southern California beach town where Grafton now lives, as did Macdonald), the turf is not so much the mean streets Raymond Chandler dreamed of, but the mean and frequently dysfunctional homes that line those streets. And the sad acknowledgement that everyone, it seems, has their reasons.

* * * * *

In the introduction to the first half of Kinsey and Me, Grafton acknowledges the challenges of writing short crime fiction, but even a quick read shows she’s no mere dabbler. There’s real meat on those small bones, the same tight plotting and emotional wallop that resonates throughout her novels, and several of them were nominated for various mystery awards. “The Parker Shotgun” among others, often pops up in anthologies, and even now, “Long Gone” is, in my mind, one of the most chilling private detective short stories I’ve ever read, an unsettling little yarn that has Kinsey searching for the runaway wife of a young father whose life has been torn apart. There’s even a real change-ofpace lagniappe for long-time fans, the tonguein- cheek product placement tale “The Lying Game,” which Grafton wrote for—of all things—the Land’s End catalog. Presumably, she got a nice coat out of it, perhaps even, as she so casually mentions, a Lands’ End Squall Parka with its Advanced Thermolite Micro Insulation...

That’s the “Kinsey” part of the book.

There follows a brief entr’acte. “An Eye for an I: Justice, Morality, the Nature of the Hard-boiled Investigator, and All That Existential Stuff” is a think-piece which first appeared in The Crown Crime Companion (1995). In it, Grafton confesses she was “raised on a steady diet of mystery and detective fiction,” and credits her father, C.W. Grafton, who wrote a handful of acclaimed mystery novels himself, for introducing her to the genre. She then proceeds to offer some thoughts on how the genre evolved from the “escapism” of the 1940s and 1950s into our modern era where “the PI has been transformed from a projection of our vices to a mirror of our virtues...and has come to represent and reinforce not our excess but our moderation.”

It’s a thoughtful and intriguing essay, and the hint of personal biography sets the scene for the “...and Me” half of Kinsey & Me. And it’s that second part of the book, the stories featuring Kit Blue, that’s gonna spin some heads.

* * * * *

Over the years Grafton has parcelled out intriguing snippets of her past, in much the way she has slowly revealed details of Kinsey’s own complicated family history. The cursory knowledge that Grafton was the daughter of a well-regarded mystery novelist, that she now lives in tony Santa Barbara, or that she maintains a “stately mansion” back home in Louisville, Kentucky, might lead some to assume she’s had it easy, or was somehow to the manor born. Not so.

Her parents were alcoholics. Not that it’s been a closely guarded secret or anything— Grafton herself has alluded previously to the “long, ugly story” that was her childhood, without necessarily making a big deal about it.

“My father was known as the ‘dean of Kentucky municipal bond law,’” she reminisces. “He went to work every day of his life with a fifth of whiskey. My mother, who never weighed more than 98 pounds, drank as well. She would wake up, have a drink and lie down on the couch, so from the age of five on, my older sister and I pretty much raised ourselves.”

She left home and married at 18, had a child, divorced her first husband, remarried, had two more children, divorced again. By then, she’d moved to California, far from her old Kentucky home. She took what jobs she could find: a hospital admissions clerk, a cashier, a medical secretary, a maid.

“Yes, I did that,” she says. “I worked as a domestic servant. Did I put that in the book? Oh, Lord. I was young, I wanted to write, but I was divorced and I had little children, and I’m telling you, you just do what you have to do, use whatever skills you have at your disposal. Mine were a bit limited for a while. But I’ll tell you, you learn a lot about other people cleaning their toilet bowls.”

In a 2005 interview, she revealed to Stuart Kaminsky that her mother had committed suicide. “She had cancer of the throat.... She just wasn’t going to put up with it. She died on my 20th birthday.”

Through it all, Grafton continued to write. And write. And write. Writing was her salvation, she has written, “the means by which I learned to support myself, to face the truth, to take responsibility for my future.”

She wrote several novels and eventually two were published, Keziah Dane in 1967 and The Lolly-Madonna War in 1969. Grafton co-wrote the screenplay for the 1973 feature film adaptation of the latter, starring Rod Steiger, Robert Ryan, and a young Jeff Bridges, and eventually settled into a career in television, writing episodes of Rhoda, Nurse (for which Grafton developed and wrote or cowrote every episode), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and others. She eventually moved on to made-for-TV films, including the adaptation— with her third (and final, she says) husband, Steven Humphries—of a couple of Agatha Christie novels, A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide (both 1983).

“I lost a decade working in Hollywood. But I think that was good for me as a writer, to come up slowly. All those things are necessary detours, part of the path you’re on.”

* * * * *

An early version of Kinsey and Me, featuring stories written in the 10 years following her mother’s suicide, appeared in 1991. But if it was an outing of her demons, it was a muted and rather private one. The volume was published by Grafton and her husband, and had a limited run of 300 copies, doled out mostly to friends and family.

But now comes this new, expanded and revised edition, aimed at a much larger audience. It’s a curious book, part collection and part memoir, fictionalized to be sure, with the Kit Blue stories offering the slightly queasy feeling of violating someone’s privacy. At times I feared Grafton would barge in and demand to know what I was doing reading her diary.

But ultimately, it’s a tale of triumph; a spit in the face of victim chic. It’s also jarring and emotionally wrenching, a cry from a wounded heart, told by a survivor. Kinsey would probably understand. Whether her millions of fans will is another question.

* * * * *

“I know those stories are difficult,” Grafton confesses, as we chat by phone on the eve of Kinsey and Me’s release. I’m perched in front of an electric heater while California’s High Desert winds howl outside my cramped little office. Grafton is in sunny Santa Barbara in her own book-lined study (I’ve seen pictures), the sun no doubt streaming through her windows.

She considers herself a Californian, but a slight dusting of her childhood lingers in her voice, along with a measure of what I’d like to think is old-fashioned Southern graciousness (ie, she laughs at my jokes, tells me several times I’m sweet, and peppers her speech with “Oh, Lords!” and “Oh, my heavens!”). She’s generous with her time, and the conversation veers all over, from our likes and dislikes in crime fiction, some surprisingly candid asides about her family background, and even some early reactions to the book.

“One woman was rather upset, accusing me of forcing her to touch on recollections and feelings she hadn’t dealt with in years, and I thought, well, apparently, Honey, you still have some work to do.

“I think we handle what we need to handle when we’re able to. It doesn’t always pop up at first in a way we can process, but eventually you have to deal with it. And it’s hard work.”

That’s the other thing you notice. Balancing out the gentility and charm is a very strong work ethic. Grafton has little truck with those who choose to wrap themselves in victimhood, and she’s been known to speak with a bluntness that sometimes rankles, in much the same way the late Robert Parker’s did.

She has little sympathy for those who don’t do the work or try to dodge personal responsibility. Just last August she raised the hackles of a whole generation of would-be writers by urging them to stop worrying about publication and “master their craft,” and then had the temerity to suggest that self-publishing was “as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.” The fallout was as amusing as it was predictable: a slew of self-publishing disciples and mostly unknown writers slammed her in often lessthan- coherent outrage.

Bracing myself, I asked her about the differences between her and Kinsey.

“Well, Kinsey and my adult self are very connected in a curious way. She, for instance, has been married and divorced twice, as I have, but I’m married for a third time and she may never marry again. And of course, I had kids and Kinsey isn’t even really fond of children. But I do notice that her parents die (conveniently) when she’s five, and I remember thinking, oh, Lord, that has a little ring of truth to it, doesn’t it? Yes, that may mean something. But, honestly, that was all unconscious. I never intended to set up this parallel—that just showed up later, and I went ‘Oh my goodness.’”

I suggested that because Kinsey was a person first, and a woman second, it might have helped ease her across the gender gap, picking up male readers where many other female private eyes have not.

She answered with the equivalent of a verbal shrug. “I just didn’t know any better. Honestly, it did not occur to me at the time that there really weren’t many woman private eyes. Although Kinsey’s often referred to as a role model, which just, well, oh, it makes me cringe.”

“The whole thing with Kinsey is that she’s flawed and inconsistent and she likes to lie and she’s a bit of a flake. But she works it out. She’s very down-to-earth in her own way.” The follow-up question, then, seems obvious. How much of Kit Blue, then, is you?”

“Almost everything. The biographical details are all correct. Very little was invented. Kit is...the part of me I think I’ve recovered from. Oh, in one story, I deleted a character or two for the sake of simplicity, and when we decided to do this as a real book, I took out two stories that just seemed too harsh, and added five.”

She’s quick to explain. “I have three adult children, you know, and I have four granddaughters, and at this remove I thought, ‘You know, Mama, let’s just be a little discreet here.’ But everything else I just reported the way it was.”

Which in itself is staggering, because Kit’s story is truly heartbreaking, The same skills that have made her mystery novels so popular are turned into a report from the front lines of a never-ending domestic battle. The stories trace the arc of a family falling apart, through their mother’s occasional stabs at sobriety, Kit’s own rebellious coming of age and struggles, her mother’s bitter battle with cancer and eventual death, as well as the fallout.

“It was painful at the time,” Grafton allows, referring to the years following her mother’s death, her father’s eventual remarriage, and the razing of the family home in Louisville, one of the most powerful scenes in those stories. “We’d all been in denial for so long, and when my mother passed, I felt this need to, well.... At that time, I thought let’s own it, let’s just acknowledge exactly what went on.

“But I never wrote those stories for... They were all for me. I had no intention of ever publishing them. I put them away.

“I would read them occasionally and think, yes, that was exactly right, that is exactly how it was. I felt there was a kind of timelessness from my perspective as the writer and as the person who suffered through all that—that carried some weight with me. If I had thought, ‘Oh, this is miserable dreck,’ I would never have published them. So it will be interesting— an invasion of privacy I did to myself. But I think there’s a certain power in just finally putting it out.

“I am curious about my sister’s reaction. She has never wanted to deal with this, and I have a feeling she just won’t do it. In fact, sometimes I think my sister and I had different parents. I remember times when I felt like, ‘Are you kidding? Don’t you remember when she did this, or that happened?’

“So I think she’ll read them but I’m not sure how she’ll react or if I’ll get feedback. She was the oldest, so she was on the front lines and she took the brunt of it and I just did my little dog-and-pony show, as I put it. I was little Mary Sunshine and that’s how I avoided center stage. She was the one who clashed with my mother. We all handle these things differently...

“For me, it was writing. I was just fortunate my father had written mystery fiction and that it was the love of my reading life. We had a drugstore spinner rack in the back of the house and we just read all the time. That was lovely. At the dinner table my parents would talk about books and literature. We were all wellread. That was how we related to each other.

“My father admired mystery fiction so much. I was saturated with it from an early age. It gets in your blood, that’s for sure.

“I don’t know if this was a conscious decision on their part or by default, but my parents were very permissive. My sister and I had a lot of freedom, probably far more than we should have—we could read whatever we wanted. Mickey Spillane, Chandler, James M. Cain.Those are the books I grew up on and they were dark. I loved Double Indemnity. That was great stuff.

“I think that crime in real life is much more absurd. Crime in fiction is more grounded in human life, in history and narrative. Read your local paper. Kids are killed for just the most ridiculous reasons...or for no reason at all. In fiction, the job of the writer is to put that into a context that makes sense.”

This is something that I’ve felt myself for a long, long time, and it’s gratifying to hear her touch on the same point.

I just have to ask: “Because real life doesn’t make sense but fiction does?”

“Exactly!” she laughs. “Especially mystery fiction.”

“Every time I finish a book with Kinsey, I think ‘That’s it. I am absolutely played out— nothing left to say and no place left to go.’ And then, inevitably, I come to the conclusion that no, maybe I have one more story in me.

“I am committed to getting to Z is for Zero, although I’m not sure how I’m going to get there. But I want to assure people that Kinsey will survive. After all, Kinsey isme, and of course she’ll live forever.

“But the past is a package deal,” she concedes, echoing what’s she’s written in Kinsey and Me. “I wish life could be edited as deftly as prose...but I’ve found out that any attempt to trim out the dark matter takes away some of the good that was also buried in the muck. You can’t tell just part of the truth.”

Kevin Burton Smith is the founder and editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site. The ABCs of Sue KINSEY MILLHONE NOVELS

“A” Is for Alibi (1982)
“B” Is for Burglar (1985)
“C” Is for Corpse (1986)
“D” Is for Deadbeat (1987)
“E” Is for Evidence (1988)
“F” Is for Fugitive (1989)
“G” Is for Gumshoe (1990)
“H” Is for Homicide (1991)
“I” Is for Innocent (1992)
“J” Is for Judgment (1993)
“K” Is for Killer (1994)
“L” Is for Lawless (1995)
“M” Is for Malice (1996)
“N” Is for Noose (1998)
“O” Is for Outlaw (1999)
“P” Is for Peril (2001)
“Q” Is for Quarry (2002)
“R” Is for Ricochet (2004)
“S” Is for Silence (2005)
“T” Is for Trespass (2007)
“U” Is for Undertow (2009)
“V” Is for Vengeance (2011)
"W" is for Wasted (2013)
"X" (2015)
"Y" is for Yesterday (2017)

COLLECTIONS
Kinsey and Me: Stories (2012)

OTHER
Kezia Dane (1967)
The Lolly-Madonna War (1969)

WEBSITE
www.suegrafton.com ...

Teri Duerr
2018-01-29 16:42:37
Kinsey & Me: An Interview With Sue Grafton

A new short storycollection offers a startling look into the heart and mind of a writer we all thought we knew.

Everybody knows—or thinks they know—Sue Grafton. She is, without question, one of the most popular and acclaimed mystery writers of the last 30 years. Her long-running series featuring Southern California private eye Kinsey Millhone started way back in 1982 with A is for Alibi, and was soon followed by B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, D is for Deadbeat, and so on.

By now, every Kinsey novel jumps immediately onto the bestsellers’ list upon its release, and is swiftly translated and published around the world. W is for Whatever-She-Decides- To-Call-It is tentatively scheduled for publication later this year, and Z is for Zero (we know the title of that one) lies in wait just down road, the final curtain on what will unquestionably be considered a major series in American detective fiction.

But at a time when everybody’s expecting a mad dash for the finish line, Grafton’s made a curious detour, revisiting Kinsey’s past and, more surprisingly, her own.

Kinsey and Me, now in bookstores, is like nothing Grafton has done before. It’s very much part of the Kinsey series, collecting all nine of the previously published Kinsey short stories that Grafton wrote from 1986 through 1992. That’s the “Kinsey” part of the book.

But it’s the second half, the “... and Me” section, that will be drawing most of the attention. It features 13 loosely connected vignettes focusing on the trials and tribulations of Kit Blue, a fictionalized, younger version of Grafton herself. It deals with her troubled childhood and early years, and was written by Grafton in the decade following her mother’s death, in which the author struggled with all “that rage, that pain. All the scalding tears I wept, both during her life and afterward.”

* * * * *

It’s not like Sue Grafton invented the female private eye with the publication of A is for Alibi in 1982. Even within the modern era of women gumshoes written by women, Grafton’s 30-something private eye Kinsey Millhone has been in the good company of other such pivotal gumshoes as Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone, Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, Liza Cody’s Anna Lee, Maxine O’Callaghan’s Delilah West, and P.D. James’ Cordelia Grey, among others.

What sets Grafton apart is a combination of her widespread appeal (she’s one of the most popular writers currently mining the PI vein), her longevity (30 years and counting) and the almost subversive way she’s slipped her private eye hero into our collective consciousness. Sure, there are more precedent-setting figures, more politically charged ones, louder ones, and hipper ones (Grafton has steadfastly set all the novels in the 1980s, boasting that Kinsey does her sleuthing “the old-fashioned way, without Internet or cellphone”). There may even be a better-selling one or two. But no female private eye (and few contemporary male ones) have appealed to such a wide spectrum of readers, both male and female.

And Grafton has done more than merely ship units. She’s not just successful at what she does—she’s damn good at it. She has received lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America, the British Crime Writers’ Association and the Private Eye Writers of America. She also landed, perhaps most fittingly, the Ross Macdonald Literary Award in 2004. They don’t just give those things away willy nilly.

In sharp, clear prose Grafton has presented a frank and honest portrait of a young investigator, flawed, recognizably human, who has nonetheless approached her cases with a steely professionalism that Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op himself would appreciate.

Critics and readers have praised her shrewd eye for the telling detail, well-integrated research (no info dumps here), deft characterization and solid, inventive plotting. But it’s Grafton’s tough, clear-eyed rendering of the human heart, in all its warped, broken and flawed glory, that really brings her novels alive. Not since Lew Archer, the creation of her idol Ross Macdonald, has a fictional private eye so effectively wormed into the dark, twisted wreckage of American families gone awry. The wary survivors of broken homes and shattered families, addicts, alcoholics, lonely widowers, frightened girlfriends, the dispossessed and the obsessed—through Kinsey’s eyes we see them all with a taut and refreshing emotional clarity, a rough humor and a hard-won empathy. Like Archer, with whom Kinsey shares the stomping ground of Santa Theresa (a thinly fictionalized Santa Barbara, the Southern California beach town where Grafton now lives, as did Macdonald), the turf is not so much the mean streets Raymond Chandler dreamed of, but the mean and frequently dysfunctional homes that line those streets. And the sad acknowledgement that everyone, it seems, has their reasons.

* * * * *

In the introduction to the first half of Kinsey and Me, Grafton acknowledges the challenges of writing short crime fiction, but even a quick read shows she’s no mere dabbler. There’s real meat on those small bones, the same tight plotting and emotional wallop that resonates throughout her novels, and several of them were nominated for various mystery awards. “The Parker Shotgun” among others, often pops up in anthologies, and even now, “Long Gone” is, in my mind, one of the most chilling private detective short stories I’ve ever read, an unsettling little yarn that has Kinsey searching for the runaway wife of a young father whose life has been torn apart. There’s even a real change-ofpace lagniappe for long-time fans, the tonguein- cheek product placement tale “The Lying Game,” which Grafton wrote for—of all things—the Land’s End catalog. Presumably, she got a nice coat out of it, perhaps even, as she so casually mentions, a Lands’ End Squall Parka with its Advanced Thermolite Micro Insulation...

That’s the “Kinsey” part of the book.

There follows a brief entr’acte. “An Eye for an I: Justice, Morality, the Nature of the Hard-boiled Investigator, and All That Existential Stuff” is a think-piece which first appeared in The Crown Crime Companion (1995). In it, Grafton confesses she was “raised on a steady diet of mystery and detective fiction,” and credits her father, C.W. Grafton, who wrote a handful of acclaimed mystery novels himself, for introducing her to the genre. She then proceeds to offer some thoughts on how the genre evolved from the “escapism” of the 1940s and 1950s into our modern era where “the PI has been transformed from a projection of our vices to a mirror of our virtues...and has come to represent and reinforce not our excess but our moderation.”

It’s a thoughtful and intriguing essay, and the hint of personal biography sets the scene for the “...and Me” half of Kinsey & Me. And it’s that second part of the book, the stories featuring Kit Blue, that’s gonna spin some heads.

* * * * *

Over the years Grafton has parcelled out intriguing snippets of her past, in much the way she has slowly revealed details of Kinsey’s own complicated family history. The cursory knowledge that Grafton was the daughter of a well-regarded mystery novelist, that she now lives in tony Santa Barbara, or that she maintains a “stately mansion” back home in Louisville, Kentucky, might lead some to assume she’s had it easy, or was somehow to the manor born. Not so.

Her parents were alcoholics. Not that it’s been a closely guarded secret or anything— Grafton herself has alluded previously to the “long, ugly story” that was her childhood, without necessarily making a big deal about it.

“My father was known as the ‘dean of Kentucky municipal bond law,’” she reminisces. “He went to work every day of his life with a fifth of whiskey. My mother, who never weighed more than 98 pounds, drank as well. She would wake up, have a drink and lie down on the couch, so from the age of five on, my older sister and I pretty much raised ourselves.”

She left home and married at 18, had a child, divorced her first husband, remarried, had two more children, divorced again. By then, she’d moved to California, far from her old Kentucky home. She took what jobs she could find: a hospital admissions clerk, a cashier, a medical secretary, a maid.

“Yes, I did that,” she says. “I worked as a domestic servant. Did I put that in the book? Oh, Lord. I was young, I wanted to write, but I was divorced and I had little children, and I’m telling you, you just do what you have to do, use whatever skills you have at your disposal. Mine were a bit limited for a while. But I’ll tell you, you learn a lot about other people cleaning their toilet bowls.”

In a 2005 interview, she revealed to Stuart Kaminsky that her mother had committed suicide. “She had cancer of the throat.... She just wasn’t going to put up with it. She died on my 20th birthday.”

Through it all, Grafton continued to write. And write. And write. Writing was her salvation, she has written, “the means by which I learned to support myself, to face the truth, to take responsibility for my future.”

She wrote several novels and eventually two were published, Keziah Dane in 1967 and The Lolly-Madonna War in 1969. Grafton co-wrote the screenplay for the 1973 feature film adaptation of the latter, starring Rod Steiger, Robert Ryan, and a young Jeff Bridges, and eventually settled into a career in television, writing episodes of Rhoda, Nurse (for which Grafton developed and wrote or cowrote every episode), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and others. She eventually moved on to made-for-TV films, including the adaptation— with her third (and final, she says) husband, Steven Humphries—of a couple of Agatha Christie novels, A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide (both 1983).

“I lost a decade working in Hollywood. But I think that was good for me as a writer, to come up slowly. All those things are necessary detours, part of the path you’re on.”

* * * * *

An early version of Kinsey and Me, featuring stories written in the 10 years following her mother’s suicide, appeared in 1991. But if it was an outing of her demons, it was a muted and rather private one. The volume was published by Grafton and her husband, and had a limited run of 300 copies, doled out mostly to friends and family.

But now comes this new, expanded and revised edition, aimed at a much larger audience. It’s a curious book, part collection and part memoir, fictionalized to be sure, with the Kit Blue stories offering the slightly queasy feeling of violating someone’s privacy. At times I feared Grafton would barge in and demand to know what I was doing reading her diary.

But ultimately, it’s a tale of triumph; a spit in the face of victim chic. It’s also jarring and emotionally wrenching, a cry from a wounded heart, told by a survivor. Kinsey would probably understand. Whether her millions of fans will is another question.

* * * * *

“I know those stories are difficult,” Grafton confesses, as we chat by phone on the eve of Kinsey and Me’s release. I’m perched in front of an electric heater while California’s High Desert winds howl outside my cramped little office. Grafton is in sunny Santa Barbara in her own book-lined study (I’ve seen pictures), the sun no doubt streaming through her windows.

She considers herself a Californian, but a slight dusting of her childhood lingers in her voice, along with a measure of what I’d like to think is old-fashioned Southern graciousness (ie, she laughs at my jokes, tells me several times I’m sweet, and peppers her speech with “Oh, Lords!” and “Oh, my heavens!”). She’s generous with her time, and the conversation veers all over, from our likes and dislikes in crime fiction, some surprisingly candid asides about her family background, and even some early reactions to the book.

“One woman was rather upset, accusing me of forcing her to touch on recollections and feelings she hadn’t dealt with in years, and I thought, well, apparently, Honey, you still have some work to do.

“I think we handle what we need to handle when we’re able to. It doesn’t always pop up at first in a way we can process, but eventually you have to deal with it. And it’s hard work.”

That’s the other thing you notice. Balancing out the gentility and charm is a very strong work ethic. Grafton has little truck with those who choose to wrap themselves in victimhood, and she’s been known to speak with a bluntness that sometimes rankles, in much the same way the late Robert Parker’s did.

She has little sympathy for those who don’t do the work or try to dodge personal responsibility. Just last August she raised the hackles of a whole generation of would-be writers by urging them to stop worrying about publication and “master their craft,” and then had the temerity to suggest that self-publishing was “as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.” The fallout was as amusing as it was predictable: a slew of self-publishing disciples and mostly unknown writers slammed her in often lessthan- coherent outrage.

Bracing myself, I asked her about the differences between her and Kinsey.

“Well, Kinsey and my adult self are very connected in a curious way. She, for instance, has been married and divorced twice, as I have, but I’m married for a third time and she may never marry again. And of course, I had kids and Kinsey isn’t even really fond of children. But I do notice that her parents die (conveniently) when she’s five, and I remember thinking, oh, Lord, that has a little ring of truth to it, doesn’t it? Yes, that may mean something. But, honestly, that was all unconscious. I never intended to set up this parallel—that just showed up later, and I went ‘Oh my goodness.’”

I suggested that because Kinsey was a person first, and a woman second, it might have helped ease her across the gender gap, picking up male readers where many other female private eyes have not.

She answered with the equivalent of a verbal shrug. “I just didn’t know any better. Honestly, it did not occur to me at the time that there really weren’t many woman private eyes. Although Kinsey’s often referred to as a role model, which just, well, oh, it makes me cringe.”

“The whole thing with Kinsey is that she’s flawed and inconsistent and she likes to lie and she’s a bit of a flake. But she works it out. She’s very down-to-earth in her own way.” The follow-up question, then, seems obvious. How much of Kit Blue, then, is you?”

“Almost everything. The biographical details are all correct. Very little was invented. Kit is...the part of me I think I’ve recovered from. Oh, in one story, I deleted a character or two for the sake of simplicity, and when we decided to do this as a real book, I took out two stories that just seemed too harsh, and added five.”

She’s quick to explain. “I have three adult children, you know, and I have four granddaughters, and at this remove I thought, ‘You know, Mama, let’s just be a little discreet here.’ But everything else I just reported the way it was.”

Which in itself is staggering, because Kit’s story is truly heartbreaking, The same skills that have made her mystery novels so popular are turned into a report from the front lines of a never-ending domestic battle. The stories trace the arc of a family falling apart, through their mother’s occasional stabs at sobriety, Kit’s own rebellious coming of age and struggles, her mother’s bitter battle with cancer and eventual death, as well as the fallout.

“It was painful at the time,” Grafton allows, referring to the years following her mother’s death, her father’s eventual remarriage, and the razing of the family home in Louisville, one of the most powerful scenes in those stories. “We’d all been in denial for so long, and when my mother passed, I felt this need to, well.... At that time, I thought let’s own it, let’s just acknowledge exactly what went on.

“But I never wrote those stories for... They were all for me. I had no intention of ever publishing them. I put them away.

“I would read them occasionally and think, yes, that was exactly right, that is exactly how it was. I felt there was a kind of timelessness from my perspective as the writer and as the person who suffered through all that—that carried some weight with me. If I had thought, ‘Oh, this is miserable dreck,’ I would never have published them. So it will be interesting— an invasion of privacy I did to myself. But I think there’s a certain power in just finally putting it out.

“I am curious about my sister’s reaction. She has never wanted to deal with this, and I have a feeling she just won’t do it. In fact, sometimes I think my sister and I had different parents. I remember times when I felt like, ‘Are you kidding? Don’t you remember when she did this, or that happened?’

“So I think she’ll read them but I’m not sure how she’ll react or if I’ll get feedback. She was the oldest, so she was on the front lines and she took the brunt of it and I just did my little dog-and-pony show, as I put it. I was little Mary Sunshine and that’s how I avoided center stage. She was the one who clashed with my mother. We all handle these things differently...

“For me, it was writing. I was just fortunate my father had written mystery fiction and that it was the love of my reading life. We had a drugstore spinner rack in the back of the house and we just read all the time. That was lovely. At the dinner table my parents would talk about books and literature. We were all wellread. That was how we related to each other.

“My father admired mystery fiction so much. I was saturated with it from an early age. It gets in your blood, that’s for sure.

“I don’t know if this was a conscious decision on their part or by default, but my parents were very permissive. My sister and I had a lot of freedom, probably far more than we should have—we could read whatever we wanted. Mickey Spillane, Chandler, James M. Cain.Those are the books I grew up on and they were dark. I loved Double Indemnity. That was great stuff.

“I think that crime in real life is much more absurd. Crime in fiction is more grounded in human life, in history and narrative. Read your local paper. Kids are killed for just the most ridiculous reasons...or for no reason at all. In fiction, the job of the writer is to put that into a context that makes sense.”

This is something that I’ve felt myself for a long, long time, and it’s gratifying to hear her touch on the same point.

I just have to ask: “Because real life doesn’t make sense but fiction does?”

“Exactly!” she laughs. “Especially mystery fiction.”

“Every time I finish a book with Kinsey, I think ‘That’s it. I am absolutely played out— nothing left to say and no place left to go.’ And then, inevitably, I come to the conclusion that no, maybe I have one more story in me.

“I am committed to getting to Z is for Zero, although I’m not sure how I’m going to get there. But I want to assure people that Kinsey will survive. After all, Kinsey isme, and of course she’ll live forever.

“But the past is a package deal,” she concedes, echoing what’s she’s written in Kinsey and Me. “I wish life could be edited as deftly as prose...but I’ve found out that any attempt to trim out the dark matter takes away some of the good that was also buried in the muck. You can’t tell just part of the truth.”

The ABCs of Sue KINSEY MILLHONE NOVELS

“A” Is for Alibi (1982)
“B” Is for Burglar (1985)
“C” Is for Corpse (1986)
“D” Is for Deadbeat (1987)
“E” Is for Evidence (1988)
“F” Is for Fugitive (1989)
“G” Is for Gumshoe (1990)
“H” Is for Homicide (1991)
“I” Is for Innocent (1992)
“J” Is for Judgment (1993)
“K” Is for Killer (1994)
“L” Is for Lawless (1995)
“M” Is for Malice (1996)
“N” Is for Noose (1998)
“O” Is for Outlaw (1999)
“P” Is for Peril (2001)
“Q” Is for Quarry (2002)
“R” Is for Ricochet (2004)
“S” Is for Silence (2005)
“T” Is for Trespass (2007)
“U” Is for Undertow (2009)
“V” Is for Vengeance (2011)
"W" is for Wasted (2013)
"X" (2015)
"Y" is for Yesterday (2017)

COLLECTIONS
Kinsey and Me: Stories (2012)

OTHER
Kezia Dane (1967)
The Lolly-Madonna War (1969)

WEBSITE
www.suegrafton.com

Kevin Burton Smith is the founder and editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site.

Teri Duerr
2018-01-29 16:50:29
2018 Agatha Nominees
Oline H. Cogdill

The award season continues with nominations for the 2018 Agatha, which will be awarded during the Malice Domestic conference, which is celebrating its 30th year.

The nominees represent those books published in 2017.

The Agatha ballots will be included in registration bags at Malice Domestic 30 (April 27-29) and the winners will announced during the Agatha Banquet on Saturday evening, April 28.

Mystery Scene congratulations the nominees.

Best Contemporary Novel
Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery by Allison Brook (Crooked Lane Books)
A Cajun Christmas Killing: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
No Way Home: A Zoe Chambers Mystery by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Take Out by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
Glass Houses: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)

Best Historical Novel
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen (Lake Union Publishing)
Murder in an English Village: A Beryl and Edwina Mystery by Jessica Ellicott (Kensington)
Called to Justice: A Quaker Midwife Mystery by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
The Paris Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam)
Dangerous to Know: A Lillian Frost and Edith Head Novel by Renee Patrick (Forge)

Best First Novel
Adrift: A Mer Cavallo Mystery by Micki Browning (Alibi-Random House)
The Plot Is Murder: Mystery Bookshop by V.M. Burns (Kensington)
Hollywood Homicide: A Detective by Day Mystery by Kellye Garrett (Midnight Ink)
Daughters of Bad Men by Laura Oles (Red Adept Publishing)
Protocol: A Maggie O'Malley Mystery by Kathleen Valenti (Henery Press)

Best Nonfiction
From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Boström (Mysterious Press)
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (Poisoned Pen Press)
American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (Liveright Publishing Corp.)
Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction by Jess Lourey (Conari Press)
Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay (St. Martin’s Press)

Best Short Story
Double Deck the Halls by Gretchen Archer (Henery Press)
Whose Wine Is it Anyway” by Barb Goffman in 50 Shades of Cabernet (Koehler Books)
“The Night They Burned Miss Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (May/June 2017)
“The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn” by Gigi Pandian (Henery Press)
“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Seat (Down & Out Books)

Best Children’s/Young Adult
City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino (Polis Books)
Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead by Cindy Callaghan (Aladdin)
The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson (HarperCollins)
Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson (Scholastic Press)
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (Scholastic Press)

Oline Cogdill
2018-01-29 22:49:03
Mister Tender’s Girl
Vanessa Orr

The plot of this book could have come right from recent headlines—similar to the real-lfe Slenderman case involving teenagers who attacked a classmate at the behest of a fictional character,. A young girl is stabbed by her classmates as a sacrifice for “Mister Tender,” a character in a graphic novel written by the victim’s father. A decade later, she’s moved to another country and established a lonely but safe life—until she realizes that hundreds of people are still following her story, including someone who wants her dead.

Though Alice Hill survived her attack, she still suffers from fear and paranoia, which is made worse when someone claiming to be Mister Tender begins to intrude on her life, sending packages and contacting her through social media. The tension rises with each page as Alice’s stalker ups the ante, contacting her on a website dedicated to her case and offering “solutions” to problems from her past that she has kept secret. Forced to confront the fact that she can’t handle Mister Tender alone, she finally shares her story with friends and family—who may or may not have her best interests at heart.

It is almost impossible to put this book down, especially when Alice returns to England—the birthplace of everything bad in her life—to try to discover the identity of Mister Tender. While Alice is looking for closure, her investigation into her past opens up even more shocking secrets, and puts her even further at risk. At times, this book is akin to a horror movie, where you’re yelling at the actor not to open the door, even as you’re dying to see what’s behind it.

Despite all that she’s been through, Alice is a strong heroine and I found myself looking forward to the final confrontation between the victim and her nemesis. While Mister Tender may be a fictional character, the battles in this book—both mental and physical—will inspire some real thrills.

Teri Duerr
2018-02-13 20:01:13
Mister Tender’s Girl
Teri Duerr
2018-02-14 15:23:28
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Teri Duerr
2018-02-14 15:24:34