Monday, February 29, 2016

Business Musings: Buggy Whips, Pollsters, Collisions, and Us (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

Business Musings: Buggy Whips, Pollsters, Collisions, and Us (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

FREE Book Alert-- "Eight Mystery Writers You Should be Reading Now"

Bill Crider mentioned this a week ago when it came up free for one day only. I missed out that day. It is free again today for one day only. I got mine. Hope you get your copy. By the way, in the post I linked to yesterday, Robert Lopresti mentioned one of the stories as his best read of the week.  Amazon synopsis:

"It’s easy to find a book; it’s hard to find the book, that new author who sets your life on fire.

That’s why we put this collection together. This book gives you an easy way to sample a group of eight up-and-coming mystery writers who you may not have heard of, but who critics and award committees have noticed. We’ve assembled eight very different styles to let you sample a wide array of stories and find new voices you might have trouble finding on your own.

We have hard-boiled detectives, and we have crime-solving animals. We have deeply flawed characters, and we have cute youngsters. We have damaged women, kick-ass women, noble women and mean women, sometimes in the same character. We have tough guys in spades, and we have funny in spades.

Each writer contributed a story, a sample chapter from a book, and an interview. Because of our variety, there’s sure to be something here you’ll love, and maybe love for life.

So come on in for a taste. Here’s our menu:

Lisa Alber – Mystery with a smattering of psychological suspense and tons of atmosphere. Beautifully written, complex stories set in the Irish countryside. Reminiscent of Erin Hart, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Susan Hill. Rosebud Award and Pushcart Prize Nominee.

Kathleen Cosgrove –Florida weird with a middle-aged woman returning home. Kick-ass funny.

Michael Guillebeau –Broken war hero has to navigate the oddballs and save the girl to get back to the bar he’s been hiding in. Reminiscent of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. Silver Falchion Finalist, and Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month.

Chris Knopf –Hardboiled in the Hamptons. Ex-boxer Sam Acquillo is a noir descendent of Travis McGee and Spencer, and one of my favorite characters. Nero award winner.

Jessie Bishop Powell— Cozy noir mysteries that embrace the genre’s extremes. In The Marriage at the Rue Morgue, police suspect an orangutan of murder. Primatologists Noel Rue and Lance Lakeland have to save the ape and still find time to get married. Sounds light, but Powell’s stuff is as intense as it is funny.

Larissa Reinhart—If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, you need to read Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker. A damaged artist with twice the depth, twice the funny of Plum and set in small-town Georgia. I dare you to put this down. Daphne du Maurier Finalist

Jaden Terrell—Hardboiled PI with a Soft Heart. Nashville PI Jared McKean has enough emotional issues to carry a book by himself, and then Terrell throws him into big issues like human trafficking. Shamus Award Finalist.

Lisa Wysocky—Multiple awards for Lisa’s books about a horse trainer with a smart horse who helps her solve crimes. One of the most realistic and loving use of animals in mystery. Winner of American Horse Publication Awards, and the National Indie Excellence Awards.

We invite you to see what looks good, and take a bite for yourself. If you find something you like, our chefs will be happy to give you a full meal.

And we all deliver."

Monday With Kaye: "The Body in the Boudoir" by Katherine Hall Page (Reviewed by Kaye George)

In case you wondered, the series began with The Body in the Belfry back in 1990….

The Body in the Boudoir by Katherine Hall Page

Page's latest Faith Fairchild cozy is a departure for her. Most of her other books in the series have been squarely on the murder mystery shelf. In this, the twentieth book, Faith Fairchild, caterer and minister's wife, is in an airplane, flying to Europe to celebrate what I think is their twentieth wedding anniversary with her beloved Tom. She slips into a reverie, recalling her marriage and the events leading up to it, and that is what comprises the story. There's not much mystery. That is, there is no murder until page 120, although another mystery--more of a puzzling event--is brought in around page 104.

But it's fun seeing the early days of Faith and Tom. Faith's sister, Hope, is in a disastrous relationship which is affecting her business. Faith is rather busy with wedding plans, though, and doesn't pay much attention, so there's a good big of tension there. Faith also employs an emigrant named Francesca who seems to be hiding something from the other employees at Have Faith. One more stressor is Tom's sister, who takes an instant dislike to Faith.

Faith's main conflict is leaving New York and all the dining and shopping opportunities there to move to Alesford in Massachusetts. Like many New Yorkers, she doesn't know that people elsewhere actually dress and eat and have lives, too, but she does find this out and becomes content with her lot.

There are some minor incidents which could or could not be construed as attacks, but no one is alarmed by them, until the body shows up late in the book.

This is a nice trip down memory lane for fans of Faith. Lots of references to clothing designers and food, and yummy recipes in the back.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Choke, for Suspense Magazine

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Little Big Crimes: The Best is Yet to Come, by Chris Knopf

Little Big Crimes: The Best is Yet to Come, by Chris Knopf: "The Best is Yet to Come,"  by Chris Knopf, in Eight Mystery Writers You Should Be Reading Now, edited by Michael Guillebeau and...

Today in MYSTERY HISTORY: 2/28/1945. MWA files its birth certificate

Today in MYSTERY HISTORY: 2/28/1945. MWA files its birth certificate: February 28, 1945.  On this date, the Mystery Writers of America filed its articles of incorporation in Albany, New York, beginning a lon...

February 27 Issue of RTE

The February 27 2016  issue of RTE is out and includes fifteen new reviews as well as a new interview:

Mary Anna Evans in the 'Sixty seconds with . . .' interview hot seat:
Reviews this week:

THE WIDOW    Fiona Barton                Reviewed by Yvonne Klein
THE PASSENGER    Lisa Lutz             Reviewed by Phyllis Onstad
I'M TRAVELING ALONE    Samuel Bjørk        Reviewed by Cathy Downs
THE SILENCE OF THE SEA Yrsa Sigurdardóttir     Reviewed by Barbara Fister
THE KILLING FOREST    Sara Blaedel        Reviewed by Sharon Mensing
I AM YOUR JUDGE    Nele Neuhaus            Reviewed by Sharon Mensing
YOU ARE DEAD    Peter James            Reviewed by Jim Napier
THE NIGHT CHARTER     Sam Hawken        Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
FUNERAL HOTDISH    Jana Bommersbach        Reviewed by Sharon Katz
VAGABOND    Gerald Seymour            Reviews by Christine Zibas
THE FALL OF MOSCOW STATION  Mark Henshaw    Reviewed by Christine Zibas
DARK TIDES    Chris Ewan                Reviewed by Yvonne Klein   
SCALP DANCE    Lu Clifton             Reviewed by Lourdes Venard
DYING TO TELL    TJ O'Connor            Reviewed by Diana Borse

We post more than 900 new reviews a year -- all of them are archived on the site -- as well as a new interview with a top author every issue.

Yvonne Klein

FREE Book Alert-- "The Lawyer: Six Guns at Sundown" by Eric Beetner

As linked to here yesterday,  The Lawyer: Six Guns at Sundown by  Eric Beetner is the latest one in this awesome Western series. For today only it is also available for free. Amazon synopsis:

"Seething hatred spurs The Lawyer forward, with a burning vengeance for his family slaughtered by seven hardened gunslingers. He’s tracking them down, one by one, until every killer is in the ground. His next target, Big Jim Kimbrough, left tracks to the small town of Sundown, Arkansas, where The Lawyer learns his prey has already moved on.

But he can’t leave after he witnesses a black man named Josiah being dragged behind a horse, the man’s only crime is allegedly taking food from a white man’s table, and is about to be lynched. The Lawyer takes up arms to save Josiah, realizing Kimbrough is slipping from his grasp with every minute he spends in Sundown. None of that will matter, though, if The Lawyer doesn’t survive the next twelve hours in the wake of a racially charged mob, fueled by the town’s tyrant and cheap liquor.

Eric Beetner (The Year I Died Seven Times) is no stranger to writing terse, action-packed storylines. He shifts his gifted prose from modern crime tales to the gritty world of the Old West without missing a beat. SIX GUNS AT SUNDOWN is a riveting Western that continually tightens its grip to the last provocative page."

While you are at it, pick up the western novellas The Lawyer: Stay of Execution and  The Lawyer: The Retributioners.

Mystery Fanfare: Lefty Awards Left Coast Crime

Mystery Fanfare: Lefty Awards Left Coast Crime: 2016 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Awards Left Coast Crime 2016, “The Great Cactus Caper,” awarded four Lefty awards tonight at the 26th annu...

Guest Post: "How to Succeed as an Indie Author" by Debbi Mack

Please welcome author Debbi Mack to the blog..

How to Succeed as an Indie Author

Thanks, Kevin, for giving me the opportunity to post on your blog!

The indie author life was something I stumbled into an accidentally. At the time that I self-published my first novel IDENTITY CRISIS in 2009, I’d already seen that novel released in 2005 by a small press and go out of print in early 2006. During the intervening time, I wrote a sequel and two standalone novels, all the while seeking an agent or another (hopefully more stable) small publisher.

When I decided to re-release the novel on my own, I had no grand expectations of making money off it. Frankly, I viewed the move as something of a gamble. But I chose to do it as a means of establishing credentials as a fiction author other than those I’d obtained by having my first short story published in the CHESAPEAKE CRIMES anthology (which, ironically, had also been published through the same defunct small press that had issued my novel).

So following the lead of the anthology’s editor, I re-released my first novel in print through Lulu. At around that time, I became aware of Kindle publishing. Based on what I’d read, it sounded like a no-lose proposition. I decided to put my work up on Kindle, figuring I’d probably pick up a few extra bucks.
To make a long story short, I discovered that if I set my price low enough, I could make more money through volume sales than I could if I charged a higher price. Based on this strategy, I was actually able to make some decent money but not enough to live on. However, my book was getting good reader and other reviews. That along with consistent marketing caused my ebook sales to rise high enough so that my first novel hit the New York Times ebook bestseller list in March 2011.

By that time, I’d released a sequel and both books managed to become Kindle Top 100 bestsellers in the U.S. and the U.K. (which, at that time, was just entering the ebook market). Between the two books and my short story anthology, I was making enough money to live on. I wasn’t a millionaire by a long shot, but my earnings were more than I’d ever imagined I could make off self-published fiction.

These were the early boom days of ebook publishing and marketing. Things have changed significantly since then. The blessings that digital publishing offer us as authors have a decidedly dark side in terms of the sheer competition for readers’ eyeballs.

What this has done is force authors to choose the smartest and most cost-effective ways to market themselves and their work. This is not just a matter of asking people repeatedly to buy your book. It’s a matter of creating the work itself as best you can, while working to establish a brand.

In other words, if you really want to succeed as a fiction author (whether self-published or not), you need to think in terms of the long haul. Focusing on writing the best thing you can is the most important part. But you can’t expect your book to sell itself. There are any number of steps you should take to effectively market your book. Simply writing a book and putting it out there will not make you an overnight success. Most “overnight success” stories are the result of years of work.

The point is that being an indie author (or any fiction author, for that matter) isn’t the way to “easy street”. So, if you’re thinking about making a living by self-publishing fiction, get ready to write and keep writing. Make a schedule and stick to it. And be prepared to budget your time and money, because you’ll need both in order to effectively market your work.

As with all pursuits in life, the best things happen to those who persist and keep going. Just be sure that you choose the right path to keep going on or you may end up in the wrong place with little to show for your efforts. Take it from me.

Debbi Mack ©2016

Debbi Mack is the New York Times ebook bestselling author of the Sam McRae mystery series. The first book in the series Identity Crisis was re-released this year by WildBlue Press. Her young adult novel, Invisible Me, was chosen as the solo "Medalist Winner" in the Young Adult category of the New Apple Book Awards. Debbi’s short story anthology Five Uneasy Pieces includes her Derringer Award–nominated story “The Right to Remain Silent.” Her short stories have appeared in various other anthologies and publications. Her most recently published short stories are “Deadly Detour”, published as an ebook short, and “Jasmine”, which appears in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays.

Debbi is also a screenwriter and aspiring indie filmmaker who’s publishing a series of film review compilations. Her first entry in the series is I Found it at the Movies: Film Noir Edition. A former attorney, Debbi has also worked as a journalist, librarian, and freelance writer/researcher. She enjoys walking, cats, travel, movies, music, and espresso.

You can find Debbi online here:

Twitter: @debbimack
Facebook (The Crime Cafe)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Education of a Pulp Writer: Six Guns, Noir Fistfights, and Burnout: Eric Beetn...

The Education of a Pulp Writer: Six Guns, Noir Fistfights, and Burnout: Eric Beetn...: I enjoyed the hell out of working with Eric Beetner on The Year I Died Seven Times that was one of BEAT to a PULP's critical and comm...

Saying Goodbye to Samhain (Hunter Shea)

Saying Goodbye to Samhain (Hunter Shea)

Guest Post: "How Not To Write A Mystery" by Stephen Morrill

For those of us who can’t travel to a conference or book signing hearing an author in person discuss his or her work can be very difficult. Today, please welcome talented author Stephen Morrill with a guest post that comes from his presentations at events.

How Not To Write A Mystery

I published my first mystery last year through my patented system of doing nothing right. Here’s a recap. Perhaps, if you strive as I did to do things wrong, you, too, can publish.

It’s not as though I didn’t know my way around the written word. I’d been a fulltime nonfiction freelance writer since 1982, publishing thousands of articles and news stories and several books. But I had never tried fiction and selling fiction is an entirely different thing.
Stephen Morrill

For fiction, and unless your name is Stephen King, you have to write the book first. My impetus was twofold. First, my literary hero, Robert B. Parker had just died. Parker wrote the popular Spenser private eye series as well as the Jesse Stone/Paradise, Massachusetts police procedural series. When he died, I was bereft. I especially liked Jesse Stone and now what was I supposed to do for entertainment?

“Steve,” I said to myself because I’m my favorite conversationalist, “You could write such a book. Create your own Jesse Stone and your own small town.” This was an arrogant assumption given that I knew zero about the fiction writing/marketing business.

Second, I needed something to challenge me anyway for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month event held every November: write 50,000 words in 30 days.

So I set out to do just that. I created Mangrove Bay and my police chief, Troy Adam. I peopled the town with weird characters. I made up a map. I also created a huge outline, on a spreadsheet. All great writers, I’d been told, just sit down and … I don’t know … scribble. Their characters tell them what to write. Well, mine don’t. I tell them what to do. They work for me.

With outline on one computer monitor and manuscript on another, I set to work. And work. And work. God, it was fun! Thirty years of getting a second confirmation of every fact, of being the invisible recorder of news events, fell away as quickly as sobriety vanishes when the drunk sees a bottle of Scotch. I could make stuff up! I typed and slept. I woke up, looked at my outline, and typed. I hit the NaNoWriMo deadline of 50,000 words in 17 days.

But there was a problem. A 50,000 word rough draft is too short and too disgusting to read anyway.

Turns out writing a mystery isn’t the hard part. The hard part is making it good. Through rewrites. A lot of rewrites. I probably rewrote that first book a dozen times. Each time I rewrote it, it got better. And longer.

Now I needed an agent. I made a list, using various books and the AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) web site. I started at the top and ran down the list alphabetically.

I hit the “Z’s” and had not interested anyone. That took a while and I wrote a second book while I was banging on agent doors.

What do you do when every agent that represents mysteries has turned you down? I decided to run down the list a second time. That’s right, I sent the same queries to the same agents who had told me no. I figured that half of them had never read the thing they rejected and the other half wouldn’t remember me anyway.

And I got a hit. An agent who had rejected the first book just six weeks earlier wrote to me (twice in one night) desperate to represent my book. So now I had an agent.

Meantime, thinking it would be good to have a website, I tried to get MangroveBay .com. No dice. Already taken. But MangroveBayou .com was available. So I added two vowels to my town name and used global-search-and-replace on the two manuscripts already written.

Meantime, the agent was banging on every publishing house door. Nothing. There seemed no point to our continued association so I cancelled our contract. I went back to my list of agents and started emailing again, from the top.

Which was when Untreed Reads popped up, apologizing for not getting back sooner, and desperate to publish my book. In fact they were desperate to publish both manuscripts the agent had. So we went forward with that plan and Mangrove Bayou came out last May. The second book, Death Among the Mangroves, is due out this May.

And a big shout-out to Kevin Tipple, who gave me a very nice review for Mangrove Bayou. Hope he likes the second book too but we’ll see …

Lessons learned:

1. The point of all this is that it is possible to turn a horrible draft into a published book. If you have some talent and if you just persist. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. You don’t sharpen a blade with one pass of the stone, you don’t write a novel with one rewrite.

2. I’m a great believer in outlining. That’s my preference. I also write fiction by creating a rough draft, almost a skeleton, then layering on detail through many rewrites.

3. And one rule that’s always been there: if you want to see your work published, you have to send it to a publisher or find an agent to do that for you.

4. You will get rejected. A lot. So what? Persistence pays off. To get published you have to send your work to a publisher.

5. Oh. And get the website first.

Stephen Morrill ©2016

Check out his website at for information on his various series and more as well as his publisher for this series at Untreed Reads.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Market Closing--Samhain Publishing

Market Closing--Samhain Publishing

Friday's "Forgotten" Books; the links to the reviews: 26 February 2016

Friday's "Forgotten" Books; the links to the reviews: 26 February 2016

FFB Review: "Top Suspense: Favorite Kills" by the Top Suspense Group

The anthology Top Suspense: Favorite Kills features 12 very strong suspense tales. Assembled and published in 2011 by Top Suspense Group the short stories are ones that were previously published in various places. Due to their length as short stories one can’t go into too much detail without giving away spoilers, but much is at work in each one of them. They all are good ones and a couple are downright creepy bordering on the horrific.

The award winning story, “Archie’s Been Framed” by Dave Zeltsman gets things going. Julius has plenty of money in the bank and can enjoy the finer things in life for a while. He has no reason to work until Archie is framed for the murder of  27 year old Denise Penny. If the nature of Archie’s existence were revealed that is not an option.  Julius does not have a choice – he has to investigate and clear Archie.

Bordering on the horrific in this reader’s opinion is the next story by Harry Shannon titled “Night Nurse” by Harry Shannon. Bud is in the hospital and suffering big time. The only one who seems to have any compassion is his ongoing medical drama is his night nurse.

Several of the Solomon and Lord series by Paul Levine are on my e-book tbr pile. In this anthology, Solomon and Lord appear in “Solomon and Lord Drop Anchor.” Steve Solomon plans to go out to sea on a boat with Manuel Cruz ostensibly to go fishing. The same Miguel Cruz they are about to sue after he embezzled three million from a local car dealership nearly making the elderly owner bankrupt. Victoria Lord knows her law partner isn’t telling her everything and she intends to attend the deep sea business meeting as well to protect her partner and their interests.

The Korean women that perform the massages at the spa in Korea Town seem to be uniform in appearance and anonymity. Ann’s masseuse goes by the name “Number 19” and is supposed to get a $20 tip. But, will she actually get that money and more is questioned in “Number 19” by Naomi Hirahara.

The two elderly women live in Davis, Florida when they can garden a bit, feed some cats, and once a month go to the beach for a swim. They also smoke pot a bit and fantasize about trip to Hawaii.  Then, a homeless guy by the name of Henry becomes part of their lives in “Sweet Dreams” by Vicki Hendricks and things evolve from the normal routine.

Larry and Marge Falls took the trip to Vegas in “House Rules” because Marge desperately wanted to do something new and different. But the trip is not going well and the side trip to Red Rock Canyon hasn’t helped. It’s time for change.

Doing the crime is one thing. Making sure the cover up stays intact is another. That is the premise behind “Angie” by Ed. Gorman. One seriously creepy story with lots at stake for all involved.

For Travis Runnels every single day is a knife fight. Being in jail is just an occupational hazard for him. It is a public defender like Alex Stone who Travis is going to have to rely on to get him out of a death penalty murder case. The fact that she is a Jew and lesbian doesn't impress him any more than the fact he is an African-American impresses her in “Knife Fight: An Alex Stone Short Story” by Joel Goldman.

If you remember or ever saw “Dragnet” starting Jack Webb you will get a kick out of this one titled “Jack Webb’s Star” by Lee Goldberg.  If you haven’t, go check out at least a couple of episodes first before you read this dark and funny twisted tale. You need the frame of reference.

Holly has had a rough night. At least the kids are okay. But, she really needs to get out of the emergency room in “Restraint” by Stephen Gallagher. She also needs to get her car from the bottom of the embankment before the cops start poking around it too much. This is another dark tale, but nothing funny is at work here.

Texas author Bill Crider is up next with his tale “Top Of The World.” Thanks to Sam Cobb he met Vicky. It might have been better for everyone if they had never crossed paths. She is dangerous and just might get him killed. Or kill him herself.

The final tale is “A Matter Of Principal: a Quarry Story” by Max Allan Collins. Quarry knows he recognizes the guy in the convenience store in the middle of the night. It has been ten years since they last ran into each other and though the guy does not recognize him, Quarry knows him and knows something is up. The only option is to tail him and get some answers and maybe just a little payback.

12 short stories bios of the author involved bring the read to a close.

Published in 2011 by Top Suspense Group, the 12 tales here are all good ones. These are not tales that feature happy people doing happy things. No, the suspense tales here at times push the edge into horror as the characters live difficult lives often on the edges of society. One does what one has to do to survive and that desperation is always at work in Top Suspense: Favorite Kills.

Top Suspense: Favorite Kills
Top Suspense Group
E-Book only
232 Pages

According to Amazon I picked this up on March 8, 2014. I have no idea now if I bought it by way of funds in my Amazon Associate account, because it was a free read on that date, or because it was given to me. I had forgotten I even had it until Barry Ergang, who was reading it awhile back, mentioned it to me and I hunted for it.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

New Issue Of Crime Review

In our new edition of Crime Review ( this week we
have 16 reviews, together with Maureen Carter in the Countdown interview
hot seat.
We’re on Twitter at:
Crime Review: @CrimeReviewUK
Linda Wilson: @CrimeReviewer
Sharon Wheeler: @lartonmedia

This week’s reviews are:
NO MORTAL THING by Gerald Seymour, reviewed by Arnold Taylor
A young Englishman, holding a prominent position in an investment bank in
Berlin, decides to intervene when he sees a young girl being attacked in
the street – an action that has huge consequences.

THE WOMAN IN BLUE by Elly Griffiths, reviewed by Sharon Wheeler
It’s almost Easter and pilgrims are due in the small Norfolk town of
Walsingham. Except, two women have been murdered and female priests are the
targets of poison-pen letters.

Maria King receives a chilling proposal of marriage from a stalker. DI
Jonathan Dark failed to save the killer’s first victim, but he’s determined
to keep Maria alive.

NIGHTBLIND by Ragnar Jónasson, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
In a quiet fishing village in the northern tip of Iceland a police
inspector is shot at close range. Ari Thór searches for the clues in the
darkness of a long cold winter and in people’s memories.

STASI CHILD by David Young, reviewed by Chris Roberts
The death of a young girl close to the Berlin Wall presents some unusual
features, and Stasi involvement is likely to mean trouble, especially for
the police officer in charge, Oberleutnant Karin Muller.

ORKNEY TWILIGHT by Clare Carson, reviewed by John Cleal
Jim is a great storyteller, whose stories get wilder with each glass of
whisky. Teenage daughter Sam tries to find out the truth about her
undercover cop dad.

THE HOLLOW MEN by Rob McCarthy, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Police surgeon Harry Kent is determined to find out why a troubled teenager
ended up getting shot and what it was he’d wanted to make public.

ASYLUM CITY by Liad Shoham, reviewed by Chris Roberts
When a young volunteer at a Tel Aviv immigrant centre is murdered, the
confession by an Eritrean is almost universally seen as satisfactory. But
Anat Nachmias of the Special Investigations Unit thinks there is more to
the story.

THE SPIDER IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM by Nikki Owen, reviewed by Madeleine
Dr Maria Martinez is in prison for the murder of a priest. She believes she
has been framed, but can she get anyone else to believe it?

PATERNOSTER by Kim Fleet, reviewed by John Cleal
When a client mysteriously dies, private investigator Eden Grey is plunged
into a web of evil while her own past threatens to come back to haunt her.

Chris Roberts
On his final day at work, Inspector Chopra receives a report of a
suspicious death. He also inherits a baby elephant.

SOFT SUMMER BLOOD by Peter Helton, reviewed by Sharon Wheeler
Maverick Bristol DIs Liam McLusky and Kat Fairfield find the body count
mounting after a wealthy man is found dead and the daughter of an Italian
politician goes missing.

SHADOW OF THE HANGMAN by Edward Marston, reviewed by John Cleal
Thief-taker twins Peter and Paul Skillen battle escaped American prisoners
seeking revenge and French spies intent on assassination.

RUST by Margaret Callow, reviewed by John Cleal
>From childhood, Alfred Hastings Rust has an obsession with owning Ridley
Hall, a Victorian mansion. Driven by this and greed, he cheats, lies and
betrays his way towards his goal.

KNIGHTLEY & SON by Rohan Gavin, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Private detective team, Knightley & Son are on the track of a sinister
criminal organisation known as the Combination.

MEAN SPIRITS by Meg Cabot (audiobook), reviewed by Linda Wilson
Teenager Suze Simon can see and hear ghosts. The downside to that is that
they can – and sometimes do – try to kill her.

Best wishes


Today in MYSTERY HISTORY: 2/25/2016 Left Coast Crime starts today

Today in MYSTERY HISTORY: 2/25/2016 Left Coast Crime starts today: February 25, 2016.  At this very moment a lot of suspicious types are skulking into Phoenix, Arizona, for Left Coast Crime, Guests of hono...

Guest Post: "From Researchphobe to Researchphile: A Writer's Conversion" by Elizabeth Zelvin

I have long been a fan of Elizabeth Zelvin’s work as readers here well know. I am very pleased to welcome Elizabeth to the blog with her first guest post…..

From Researchphobe to Researchphile: A Writer's Conversion
Elizabeth Zelvin

When I first announced I wanted to be a writer, at age seven, I had already had my nose in a book for longer than I can remember. In college, I majored in English because it gave me a free pass to spend four years reading novels. When I realized that a graduate degree would require me to study novels, ie analyze them and read scholars' opinions of them, I decided to skip it and joined the Peace Corps. The first stage of this escape was from literature to genre fiction. My conversion book was Dorothy L. Sayers's Murder Must Advertise, which I read while working at the ad agency it fictionalized, J. Walter Thompson (in New York, not in London), for a few months before leaving for Africa.
Elizabeth Zelvin

Many years passed, and a lot of living intervened. A midlife career as a psychotherapist and alcoholism treatment professional led to the writing of my first mystery, Death Will Get You Sober—though not until I left my last day job and was almost old enough for Medicare. I set it in New York, so I was treading familiar ground in terms of setting as well as characters. I hadn't witnessed or committed any murders, but I'd read a helluva lot of mysteries by then. So I was still dodging research when I became a mystery writer.  

I happen to be married to a history buff. We can converse happily for hours about the Tudors or the ancient Greeks, the Civil War or the American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. The difference is that he gets his information from history books, while I've always gotten mine from novels. It bugged me that he thought that made his knowledge better than mine. It bugged him that I wouldn't even try research, when he knew that if I did, I'd see how much fun it was.

I almost didn't write "The Green Cross," my first mystery story about Diego Mendoza, the young Jewish sailor with Columbus in 1492, because I knew I'd have to look things up. But this character was so insistent on being heard and the information so easily available on the Internet that I had to do it.

Research Lesson #1: You can start with Wikipedia, but don't stop there. It's not reliable. There were no horses on Columbus's first voyage. I fixed it in the e-book.

That story led to two historical novels, Voyage of Strangers and Journey of Strangers, with hefty bibliographies. In the process, I've become a devout researcher. And my husband has a free lifetime pass to say, "I told you so."

Here's an example of how research is like a treasure hunt, as my husband kept trying to tell me all these years. The Jews were kicked out of Spain in 1492. Diego and his sister Rachel spent 1493-1495 in Spain and then Hispaniola, but I had to put their family somewhere, so I mentioned they'd gone to Italy. Further research revealed that in 1494, King Charles VIII of France invaded Italy. The Jews in Italy fled, many of them to the Ottoman Empire, where Sultan Bayezid II offered them refuge.

So now I look for books on the Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman Empire. I find one written by a professor at my own alma mater and email him. He writes back, saying, My work is not in your period, but you should contact my colleague in Israel. She's the expert in the 16th century.

I take his advice, and tucked away in a single paragraph in this woman's book, I find hidden treasure: the women of the Sultan's harem--not just his concubines, but his mother, his sisters, his daughters, and all their attendants--had one link with the outside world: Jewish women known as kiras who acted as purveyors of goods and services, carrying out commissions, bringing messages back and forth, and acting as the secluded women's eyes on the world. What a perfect job for Rachel! It became a major plot thread in Journey of Strangers.

And now that I do research, do I research mysteries too? Yes, when I need to. While working on a new story in my Bruce Kohler mystery series this week, I've contacted a friend in NYPD to ask which detective squad would catch a homicide in Central Park; emailed the Central Park Conservancy to ask what flowers will bloom at Strawberry Fields in the spring (I can see for myself in a month or two, but I'd like to finish the story before then); and gone online to calculate the radius (of the Imagine sign) from the circumference, read the roster of famous people who've lived in the Dakota, and check what a dead person's face would look like after being strangled with a ligature. My husband was right. Research is fun.

Elizabeth Zelvin ©2016

Elizabeth Zelvin is the author of the Bruce Kohler mystery series and the historical novels Journey of Strangers and Voyage of Strangers, as well as the cross-genre novella Shifting Is for the Goyim and Breaches & Betrayals: Collected Stories. Her short stories have been nominated three times for the Agatha and for the Derringer Award and appeared in EQMM and AHMM.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Clea Simon, Guest Author (Lesa's Book Critiques)

Clea Simon, Guest Author (Lesa's Book Critiques)

Zodiacal light glowing pyramid after dark |

Zodiacal light glowing pyramid after dark | Moonless February and March evenings are the best time to see zodiacal light, that glowing pyramid of light in the west after dusk.

IT’S STAN LEE’S UNIVERSE---So why, at 93, is his legacy in question? by Abraham Riesman (

IT’S STAN LEE’S UNIVERSE---So why, at 93, is his legacy in question? by Abraham Riesman (

History's Rich With Mysteries with Earl Staggs: "WHO KILLED SUPERMAN?"

After considering the mystery of Agatha Christie’s disappearance last month, author Earl Staggs is back this month with the mysterious death of actor George Reeves.


When I look at the past, I find stories about people which fascinate me, particularly those in which there is a curious mixture of fact, legend, and mysterious uncertainty. In this series of articles, I want to explore some of those stories. I think of them as mysteries swaddled in legend. While truth is always desired in most things, truth easily becomes staid and boring. Legend, on the other hand, forever holds a hint of romanticism and an aura of excitement borne of adventure, imagination and, of course, mystery.


By Earl Staggs

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!" That's how we were introduced to the greatest superhero of them all -- Superman, the Man of Steel, who "fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!"

Actor George Reeves became famous for portraying Superman in a 1950's television show. Unfortunately, the part about outrunning a bullet was not true for him. On June 16, 1959, the forty-five-year-old actor died from a gunshot to the head.  The official ruling was suicide, but there were many who believed it was a homicide.

Born George Keefer Brewer in 1914 in Woolstock, Iowa, young George grew up in Ashland, Kentucky, and Pasadena, California. In California, he took up boxing and compiled a record of 31-0 by the age of 20.  His headstrong mother, however, insisted he preserve his good looks and try acting. George did and soon began landing movie roles.

His first movie role was in the great classic Gone With the Wind. He was one of two brothers wooing Scarlett O'Hara in the opening scene. By then, his name had been changed to George Reeves. Other small parts followed, but his burgeoning career was detoured when he was drafted into the Army in 1943.

At the end of the war, George returned to Hollywood but found his acting career had faded, and he had trouble getting parts. In desperation, he signed on to make a low-budget movie called Superman and the Mole People, which was to be a pilot for a TV series. The series became a huge hit, and he became famous as the caped superhero from Krypton.

Offscreen, he became involved in an affair with Toni Mannix, wife of MGM executive Eddie Mannix, allegedly a former crime boss who worked for the studio.  In 1958, George broke off that relationship and began dating Lenore Lemmon, a former New York showgirl with a reputation as a hotheaded troublemaker. After dating for a year, George and Lenore announced their plans to get married.

On June 15, 1959, three days before they were to be married and leave for a honeymoon in Spain, the engaged couple went to dinner with friends, then returned home to party some more. George grew tired and went upstairs to bed early. Hours later, the revelers heard a gunshot and ran upstairs to check. They found George lying across the bed naked with his feet on the floor, a bullet hole in his temple, and .30 Luger on the floor between his feet.

The official ruling was suicide, but some people felt they had good reasons to believe someone murdered him:

. . .There were no fingerprints found on the gun, leaving some to wonder if it had been wiped clean. If George had shot himself, he certainly could not have wiped the gun.

. . .The spent shell casing was found under his body. While it is conceivable the ejected casing landed on the mattress before the body fell on it, it is not likely.

. . .Fresh bruises were found on his body but were never explained.

. . .The bullet passed through his body and lodged in a wall, but the bullet's path did not line up with the entry and exits wounds on his body.

His fiancee, Lenore Lemmon, said George felt “typecast” as Superman and committed suicide because he could not get any other kind of roles. She denied suggestions that she and George had a fierce argument, possibly because he had decided not to marry her, and she shot him.

Reeves' mother never accepted the conclusion that her son killed himself. She hired a private investigator who concluded the gunshot was not self-inflicted. In spite of this, the official ruling remained suicide.

Noel Neill, an actress who played Lois Lane in the TV show, said. "All I know is that George always seemed happy to me, and I saw him two days before he died and he was still happy then.”

Jack Larson, who played Superman's sidekick Jimmy Olsen on the show, originally doubted the suicide ruling but later accepted it.

In 1999, Los Angeles publicist Edward Lozzi claimed Toni Mannix confessed to a Catholic priest in his presence that she was responsible for having Reeves killed because he broke off their affair. She allegedly used her husband's conection to find a hit man to do the job. Others believe her husband Eddie Mannix, the former mobster, had George killed because of the affair.

So we're left with strong arguments on on all sides, leaving us the option to decide for ourselves. Did the Man of Steel take his own life, or did someone else do it?

If I had to make a guess, it would be that Toni Mannix hired a professionl hit man to kill George. She had given him money, cars, and even bought the house he lived in for him. When he dumped her for another woman, she couldn't take it. It would have been tricky for a killer to enter the house, go upstairs, shoot George, then get away without being seen by the others in the house at the time, but professionals are clever at that sort of thing.

That's only a guess, of course. We'll never know for sure and must file it away as another unsolved mystery in the pages of history.

Earl Staggs ©2016

Earl Staggs earned all Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. 

He invites any comments via email at

He also invites you to visit his blog site at to learn more about his novels and stories.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lawrence Block embraces readers' love for Keller: 'So he kills people. What's so bad about that?' (

Lawrence Block embraces readers' love for Keller: 'So he kills people. What's so bad about that?' (

Mystery Fanfare: Acidic Jews, Or, Translating a "Jewish Noir" Story...

Mystery Fanfare: Acidic Jews, Or, Translating a "Jewish Noir" Story...: Today I welcome back Ken Wishnia , Editor of Jewish Noir. Kenneth Wishnia’s novels include 23 Shades of Black , which was nominated for t...

FREE Book Alert: "QUICK (A Hunter Kincaid Series Book 1)" by Billy Kring

Last summer I reviewed the short story The Devil’s Footprints: A HunterKincaid Short Story by Billy Kring. I also picked up this first novel of the Hunter Kincaid series and have it in my e-book tbr pile. 

Currently QUICK  is free at Amazon. The synopsis:

“A sadistic killer roams the shadow world of undocumented aliens, and the first glimpse law enforcement has of him is when tough, dedicated female Border Patrol Agent Hunter Kincaid watches through binoculars as the killer shoots his own partner for being too slow, then crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico.

Two thousand miles away, South Florida Homicide Detectives John Quick and Randall Ishtee investigate the machete murder of an undocumented female, and a slender thread of evidence stretches all the way to West Texas.

John and Randall join forces with Hunter to track down the monster. What they don't know is that the killer is aware, and his focus is now on them, like a Great White as it speeds toward three unsuspecting swimmers.”

Reine Harrington Carter and "Honoring Kendall, My First Service Dog" (Paws With A Cause)

Reine Harrington Carter writes eloquently about her canine companion and service dog Kendall at  "Honoring Kendall, My First Service Dog" (Paws With A Cause). Her mission is to help raise funds for a service dog for another person who needs the help.

Please go take a look and make a donation/contribution if you can.