Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: Warren Bull, Paul D. Marks

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: Warren Bull, Paul D. Marks: In 2013, StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month . The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members&#...

The Challenges of Being an Author Based in South Africa by Misha Gerrick (Up Around The Corner Blog)

The Challenges of Being an Author Based in South Africa by Misha Gerrick (Up Around The Corner Blog)

HISTORY’S RICH WITH MYSTERIES----"VINCE FOSTER – The Skeleton in Hillary's Closet" by Earl Staggs

Earl is back today to close out May with a case that is relatively recent……


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.

VINCE FOSTER – The Skeleton in Hillary's Closet

On July 20, 1993, Vince Foster, a White House Deputy Council and long-time friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, told his secretary he would be right back and walked out of his office in the White House.  He didn't come back.  Later that day, his body was found in a park in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C.
Three separate investigations were completed, and each one offered a conclusion that he had committed suicide.
In spite of those findings, there have been conspiracy theories surrounding his death from the very beginning.  Many people still feel he was murdered to prevent him from disclosing information he had been privy to during his time in the White House.  Vince found himself knee-deep in scandals named Whitewatergate and Travelgate, falsified tax returns, financial shennanigans from when Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas, and more.
Vince Walker Foster, Jr.,  was born on January 15, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas, where his father was successful in real estate sales and development.  Bill Clinton was a childhood neighbor and friend in his early years.  As Clinton later recalled, "I lived with my grandparents in a modest little house across from Vince Foster's nice, big, white brick house."
Vince spent more time with Hillary, however, in the days before all three of them wound up in the White House. 

In 1971, Vince joined  Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and was made a partner in 1974.  He served as head of the Arkansas Bar Association's legal aid unit, and worked with legal aid clinic worker Hillary Rodham.  He was instrumental in her being hired by Rose Law Firm and the two of them worked a number of cases together.  And, yes, there were rumors about them being together in intimate situations also.
Vince gained a reputation as one of the best trial litigators in Arkansas, and in her memoirs, Hillary called him, "one of the best lawyers I've ever known." He was one of her closest colleagues and best friends. She compared him to Gregory Peck's role as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film, To Kill a Mockingbird.
He received many awards from the Arkansas Bar Association, and in 1993,  the Association named him its Outstanding Lawyer of the Year.  The Washington Post said he was at "the pinnacle of the Arkansas legal establishment." 
After Bill Clinton's 1992 election as President, Vince joined his staff as Deputy White House Counsel.  Vince was not well-suited to top level politics.  Some of the matters he had to deal with were high profile and controversial and left him with feelings of anxiety and depression.   In addition, the Wall Street Journal made him a target of several hostile editorials. 
After only six months on the job, he had spiraled into depression.  He disliked the public spotlight and began to suffer from weight loss and insomnia.  He began drafting his letter of resignation.  His Arkansas doctor prescribed an anti-depressant medication over the phone, but the initial dosage was not enough to have much effect. The next day, he was found dead from a gunshot in Fort Marcy Park, a federal park in Virginia.  There was no mention of any other wounds on his body.
Investigators found a paper in his briefcase that had been torn into pieces.  It was initially interpreted as a "suicide note," but it was actually a draft of his resignation letter.  He also had scheduled an appointment with President Clinton for July 21, a day after his death.  It's assumed that meeting was to discuss his resignation.  The letter contained a list of complaints, including, "The WSJ editors lie without consequence" and "I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here, ruining people is considered sport."
In early May, 1993, Foster had given the commencement address at his University of Arkansas Law School alma mater, and said:         

"The reputation you develop for intellectual and ethical integrity will be your greatest asset or your worst enemy. You will be judged by your judgment. ... There is no victory, no advantage, no fee, no favor, which is worth even a blemish on your reputation for intellect and integrity. Dents to reputation are irreparable."

It's not hard to surmise that things he had to do on the White House staff violated those principles.
It's also not hard to picture a man so conflicted over the wide chasm between his job and his principles that he would take his own life to escape it.
It's just as easy to surmise that, according to conspiracy theorists, those in power felt Vince was a threat to cleanse his own guilt by exposing theirs to the public.  He knew too much, and those in power may have feared he would go public.  The order may have been to, "Take care of him and make it look like suicide"
Here are some of the points conspirators use to prove their theory that he was murdered:

            . . .a report confirmed the existence of a second wound to Vince's neck.  This would imply that he had been shot and killed by a gunshot to the neck,  then transported to Fort Marcy Park where a second shot was fired into his mouth to simulate suicide. 

            . . .the FBI faked a report in which Vince's widow identified the gun found with Vince's body. The gun she identified was silver.  The gun seen and photographed with his body was black. 

            . . .the White House is equipped with sophisticated entry control and video surveillance systems, yet no video record exists of Vince leaving under his own power and no logbook entry shows he checked out of the building.  

            . . the memory in Vince's pager had been erased.

            . . .a Secret Service agent and Hillary's chief of staff carried boxes of papers out of Vince's office before the Park Police showed up to seal it.

            . . .the position of the arms and legs of the corpse were drastically inconsistent with suicide.

            . . .had Vince put the gun in his own mouth and pulled the trigger, the gun, his hand, and the white sleeve of his shirt would have been coated with blood and organic matter. None appeared in the crime scene photos.

            . . .an FBI lab report revealed that Vince's fingerprints were not found on the gun.

So there you have both sides of a controversy which has remained alive since 1993.  The evidence that Vince Foster was murdered is strong.  There is also ample evidence that he could not deal with the stress of high level politics and took his own life.

While I find myself drawn to the scenario in which he was silenced by a bullet, I seriously doubt either of the Clintons were involved. Hillary was devastated by the news of Vince's death. He was a close friend. At that level of politics, there are people involved in major decisions who stay behind a curtain and pull strings. I'm sure we'll never know what really happened.

I'm just as sure that, as the race for the Presidency rolls on. . and on. . .and on, we might hear a lot more about the Vince Foster case and its relevance to politicians named Clinton. Unless someone can prove Hillary had something to do with Vince's death or even knew about it before it happened, I don't think it should be thrown in front of her campaign bus.

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 earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net

He also invites you to visit his blog site at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com to learn more about his novels and stories.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Crime Review Update

Starting from this issue, we shall feature 20 reviews in each edition of
Crime Review (www.crimereview.co.uk), together with a top industry
interview. This time it’s author Alison Bruce in the Countdown hot seat.
We’re on Twitter at:
Crime Review: @CrimeReviewUK
Linda Wilson: @CrimeReviewer
Sharon Wheeler: @lartonmedia

This week’s reviews are:
TRIGGER MORTIS by Anthony Horowitz, reviewed by Linda Wilson
James Bond is tasked with keeping a British racing driver safe on the
notoriously difficult Nurburgring circuit.

JOHN LE CARRE by Adam Sisman, reviewed by Arnold Taylor
This biography of David Cornwell, better known as John le Carre, attempts
to explain the link between his upbringing and his interest in secret

MAESTRA by LS Hilton, reviewed by Sharon Wheeler
Judith Rashleigh loses her job with a London auction house when she
discovers an art fraud. And then the body count starts to rise.

A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL by John Preston, reviewed by John Barnbrook
The secret life of Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party in the 1970s,
builds up to a shocking scandal and a court case which rocked the British

Flint, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Inspector Singh is posted from Singapore to London to attend a task force
on inter-racial policing. Mrs Singh insists on coming to keep him out of

A FEVER OF THE BLOOD by Oscar de Muriel, reviewed by John Cleal
Mismatched detectives ‘Nine Nails’ McGray and Ian Frey are on the track of
a patient who has escaped Edinburgh’s asylum where a nurse has been

WICKED GAME by Matt Johnson, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
Robert Finlay is in his late 40s, and returns to uniform policing in
London. But the past comes to haunt him when two of his former colleagues
are murdered.

SPY OUT THE LAND by Jeremy Duns, reviewed by John Cleal
Double agent Paul Dark hides his own past, but when his family is
kidnapped, he discovers his wife has also been living a double life.

Chris Roberts
Inspector Chopra (ret’d) is actually present when the Koh-i-Noor diamond is
stolen from its display case, and to save an old friend must help to ensure
its recovery.

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT by MP Wright, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Bristol PI JT Ellingham is hired to retrieve some papers stolen from an
orphanage, and to find the truth. That’s the part of the job that proves
the hardest.

BRYANT & MAY: LONDON’S GLORY by Christopher Fowler, reviewed by Sylvia
A collection of short stories recounting some of the cases of the two
detectives, Bryant and May, of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, based in London.

BLOOD MIST by Mark Roberts, reviewed by Madeleine Marsh
A family is massacred in their home in Liverpool, and another the night
after. DCI Eve Clay is caught in a race against time to save the lives of
the next family.

A DEATH IN THE DALES by Frances Brody, reviewed by John Cleal
Investigator Kate Shackleton is loaned a cottage in a Dales village by her
suitor – and plunged into a decade-old mystery.

THIRTEEN GUESTS by J Jefferson Farjeon, reviewed by Anthea Hawdon
There are 13 guests staying at Bragley Court for a hunting weekend, and
that doesn’t bode well.

THE BOY WHO FOLLOWED RIPLEY by Patricia Highsmith, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Ripley is captivated when a young American arrives at his house in France,
but finds the boy has serious problems.

THE RED HOUSE by Emily Winslow, reviewed by John Cleal
Imogen is obsessed with finding her young brother from whom she was
separated by adoption. Her fiance Maxwell comes to believe he could be the

STATE OF EMERGENCY by Andy McNab, reviewed by Fiona Spence
Ex-SAS man Tom Buckingham investigates dodgy goings-on in an
ex-serviceman’s charity after foiling an assassination attempt on his Home
Secretary boss.

THE SAPPHIRE CUTLASS by Sharon Gosling, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Remy Brunel and the crew of the ruby airship travel deep into the forests
and mountains of India on the trail of the mysterious Sapphire Cutlass.

THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge, reviewed by John Cleal
Faith’s scientist father is found dead under strange circumstances. In his
belongings she discovers references to a tree which feeds off lies.

MODESTY BLAISE: THE YOUNG MISTRESS by Peter O’Donnell and Enric Badia
Romero, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Modesty and Willie tangle with forgers, horse-thieves and a diabolical plot
to kill an old friend in three stories from Peter O’Donnell, drawn by
artist Enric Romero.

Best wishes


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MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson

MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson

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Monday With Kaye: "Death at the Abbey" by Christine Trent (Reviewed by Kaye George)

Today Kaye George delves into a historical mystery set in 1869. Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent is the fifth book in the A Lady Of Ashes Mystery Series which began with Lady Of Ashes.

Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent

This delightful historical mystery captured me on the first page and never let go. I know that description is used a lot, but it’s very true for this book.

Violet Harper, a series character, is a female undertaker in London in 1869. She and her husband Sam are in North Nottinghamshire and have been for four weeks while he tried to get a coal mine started. He’s having trouble finding enough workers because the 5th Duke of Portland routinely employs hundreds of locals for building projects on his property, Welbeck Abbey. When the Duke’s valet, Pearson, shows up and requests that she come to the estate on a mission that he can’t seem to state coherently, she raises a few objections, but ends up going. It turns out that she is being asked to prepare a raven for burial!

Her ministrations are interrupted, though. Things continue to get weirder and weirder, as first one worker, then another are found dead. Violet knows they’ve been murdered, but can’t convince anyone else of this. Sam gets invited to demonstrate the new technique of dynamite blasting for the underground tunnels, ballroom, chapel, unused guestrooms, and such that the Duke is having constructed, so he’s on the scene eventually. No one ever uses the ballroom, the chapel, or the many beautifully decorated guestrooms. I got a kick out of the continuously roasting chickens, too.

The Duke was presented as such an oddball, I had to look him up. A detailed Author’s Note in the back also gives information on him and other actual historical people and places that are used in the story. From the light research I did, that Duke was even stranger than portrayed here!

Seemingly disconnected deaths and other happenings keep occurring, but the author masterfully tied everything together in the end to create a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of Eine Kleine Murder, for Suspense Magazine

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Little Big Crimes: Sugar, by Michael Bracken

Little Big Crimes: Sugar, by Michael Bracken: "Sugar," by Michael Bracken, Crime Syndicate , Issue 2, 2016. I would say any writer who appears in this space twice in a year...

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "Wrong Side of the Bed" by B.V....

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "Wrong Side of the Bed" by B.V....: In 2013, StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month . The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members&#...

Review: "The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water" by Pam Penick

Native Texans know that the recent heavy rain and widespread destructive flooding is an aberration in the weather pattern. Dry weather, bordering or deep in drought is the normal state of soil conditions in Texas. The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water by Pam Penick might just help you plan for the next dry spell and beyond no matter where you live.

A major thrust of the book is the theme that a water saving garden does not have to be just cacti and succulents. First, you as the gardener have to accept the idea that your garden has to adapt to the local environment and not the other way around. As homeowners here recently were reminded both visually and economically it is very hard to maintain certain types of grass filled lawns when severe water restrictions are enacted and enforced.

Broken into five parts this colorful book opens up with “Part One: DRINK UP the beauty & ingenuity of a water-saving garden.” Through text and numerous photographs of examples in gardens in Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere that illustrate the concept of taking advantage of stopping water runoff.  Various landscaping techniques are illustrated as to what can be done to make sure that the rainfall that happens is either captured and contained or diverted so that  it does not just wastefully  flow into the streets and ultimately the city sewer system.

Capturing the water is also the theme of theme of “Part Two:  make your garden a WATER SAVER, not a water guzzler.” Starting on page 29 going beyond rain barrels and cisterns, which are discussed in various sizes, other options are covered such as a “rain garden.” This is an area of your yard that is depressed and filled with plants that don’t mind being flooded. Dirty water from your drive way, down spots, and are other surface areas that would not allow rain to penetrate is channeled into this area. The plants clean the water as it is collected. That cleaner water eventually soaks in and moves its way down to the groundwater table and underground aquifers. Other ideas such as micro basins, berms, swales, terraces, irrigation techniques, paving choices, and more are discussed here accompanied by numerous photographs to illustrate key points.

“Part Three: PLANTING the water saving garden” on page 113 starts off with obvious idea-- get rid of the lawn. The plants that would do better are discussed and showcased. This includes various native grasses that give one the illusion of a lawn with far less water or mowing. Suggestions for various additional garden features as well as native and “well-adapted” plants are found throughout the book as well as specifically in this section. Get away from the idea that plants need to be in rigid lines and embrace a sort of organized chaos where groups of plants all gather and thrive together. The point is also made that beyond the air pollution caused by leaf blowers is the fact that their use can strip topsoil and nutrients from your landscaping which is damaging in the short and long run. A nice added bonus to this section is the piece on container gardening for those in apartments or condos who have limited space.

One can also bring water features to such porches and that idea is a small piece of the ‘Part Four: oasis or mirage? creating the illusion of water in the garden.” Most of the ideas and techniques discussed here starting on page 163 apply to landscaping, but some can be modified for those of us apartment and condo dwellers.

“Part Five: 1001 Plants for water saving gardens” comes next. Because the detailed list is for the entire United States it may contain plants that are considered “invasive” in your area or region. As the author points out, you should make sure you check the list for your area and avoid plants that are considered invasive--even if sold in local stores-- so that your help protect native plants and habitats.  The list begins with trees on page 198 and goes through perennials, grasses, ground covers, and more before ending on page 222.

An acknowledgement page, a two page resource list followed by three page photography and design credit list, and a five page index brings this colorful and inspirational book to a close.

The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water by Pam Penick is an informative and visual treat for readers, gardeners, and others. The 330 page book is packed with informative tips and suggestions all geared toward making you being as successful as possible when you decide to transform your landscape. It doesn’t do the work for you, obviously, but it can certainly save you a lot in time, effort, and financial resources if you consider the suggestions found here. 

The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water
Pam Penick
Ten Speed Press (The Crown Publishing Group)
February 2016
ISBN# 978-1-60774-793-2
Paperback (also available on eBook format)
240 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mysterypeople Q&A with Larry D. Sweazy

Mysterypeople Q&A with Larry D. Sweazy

Rough Edges: Now Available: Branded - Ed Gorman

Rough Edges: Now Available: Branded - Ed Gorman: Young Andy Malloy is surrounded by tragedy and trouble. His stepmother is dead. His father, accused of her murder, is on the run from a...

Still Looking For Guests

I am really surprised how very hard it is to get guest posts. A lot of folks complain about how nobody is buying/reading their books and then ignore opportunities such as I offer here. I am still looking for guest posts.

Details here from earlier in the month.

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "Violet Eyes" by Debra H. Golds...

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "Violet Eyes" by Debra H. Golds...: In 2013, StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month . The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members&#...

Mystery Fanfare: Barbecue Mysteries

Mystery Fanfare: Barbecue Mysteries: Hope you're planning a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. Did you know that 53% of Americans will be barbecuing this weekend? Will you?...

Mystery Fanfare: Memorial Day Mysteries - Memorial Day Crime Fiction...

Mystery Fanfare: Memorial Day Mysteries - Memorial Day Crime Fictio...: Memorial Day aka Decoration Day is a day of remembrance of those men and women who who fell protecting us, of those who didn't co...

KRL This Week Update

Up this morning in KRL a review & giveaway of "The Art of Murder" by Elaine Viets http://kingsriverlife.com/05/28/the-art-of-murder-by-elaine-viets/

Also a review & giveaway of "Irish Stewed" a fun food mystery by Kylie Logan, along with an interesting interview with Kylie http://kingsriverlife.com/05/28/irish-stewed-by-kylie-logan/

And a review & giveaway of "To Catch a Treat" by Linda O. Johnston along with a fun guest post from Linda about pets in books http://kingsriverlife.com/05/28/to-catch-a-treat-by-linda-o-johnston/

Also up the latest mystery Coming Attractions from Sunny Frazier, this one with giveaways of books by Elena Hartwell & Amy M. Reade http://kingsriverlife.com/05/28/coming-attractions-june-is-busting-out-all-over-edition/

We also have a review & giveaway of "Rock-A-Bye-Bones" by Carolyn Haines http://kingsriverlife.com/05/28/rock-a-bye-bones-by-carolyn-haines/

And for those who enjoy vampires with their mystery, a review & giveaway of "Midnight Marked" by Chloe Neill http://kingsriverlife.com/05/28/midnight-marked-by-chloe-neill/

Over on KRL Lite a review & giveaway of "See Also Deception" by Larry Sweazy

Happy reading,

KRL is now selling advertising & we have special discounts for
mystery authors & bookstores! Ask me about it!
Mystery section in Kings River Life http://KingsRiverLife.com
Check out my own blog at http://mysteryratscloset.blogspot.com/

Review: "Manufacturing Consent" by Chomsky and Herbert (Liz Burton's Portable Soup)

Review: "Manufacturing Consent" by Chomsky and Herbert (Liz Burton's Portable Soup)

Reading for the O. Henry Prize Stories (Electric Lit at Meduim.com)

Reading for the O. Henry Prize Stories (Electric Lit at Meduim.com)

Thanks go to Barry Ergang who shared this elsewhere.

SleuthSayers: American English vs. British English

SleuthSayers: American English vs. British English: by John M. Floyd As I mentioned in my column about Ian Fleming a few weeks ago, I've been re-reading all the James Bond novels, in...

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts:  Reviewed by Ambrea DeClare, Oklahoma, in 1972 is a poor, windswept town where anything noteworthy rarely happens—until the mu...

Review: "Extreme Prey"by John Sandford

As Extreme Prey, the 26th novel in the series by John Sandford begins, Lucas Davenport is working on his cabin in Wisconsin. It is August and with the help of the carpenter the room should be finished weeks before winter sets in. His days are now his having left Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He is without a job and to hear others who know him tell it, he is driving everyone around him crazy. They need him back to work doing what he does best—hunting down bad folks.

Minnesota’s governor, Elmer Henderson, always liked Lucas and especially liked having somebody who was no nonsense and got tricky jobs done. These days the governor is on the campaign trail down in Iowa as he seeks the number two spot on the democratic ticket for President. Through Neil Mitford, the governor’s “chief weasel” as Lucas thinks of him, the governor has asked Lucas to come to Ames, Iowa for a meeting.

That meeting is about a couple of recent incidents during the campaign. Incidents that make Governor Henderson think someone or a group of people might be targeting an opponent to eliminate her from the race. Henderson passed on his suspicions to the other campaign. They seem to think Henderson is working some ply to get their candidate out of the race if not the state.  Contrary to what they think, Henderson needs that candidate to stay in to have a chance of being a VP nominee. Beyond the politics of it all, Henderson is afraid these folks represent a major threat and wants Lucas to check on them.

While Lucas does not work for the BCA anymore, he still has his contacts inside and outside of law enforcement. It doesn’t take him long to determine there is something going on. The thrill of the hunt is what Lucas lives for and always has. He does not play politics. If he has to tick folks off to save lives he will and soon does.

Extreme Prey follows the style of recent novels in this long running series. From the first chapter readers know who the bad guys are. The read shifts from following them to Lucas to numerous other characters as the storylines gradually work closer and closer to each other for the climatic conclusion and aftermath. A thriller style novel from start to finish the focus is on the chase and Extreme Prey delivers from start to finish

For another take on the book make sure you read Lesa Holstine’s review written last month because she got the book direct from the publisher. Some of us are not so special and have to wait for the library. Lesa continues to refuse to adopt me and my family, but I have hope of wearing her down and living in her book closet.

Extreme Prey
John Sandford
 G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Random House)
 April 2016
ISBN#  978-0-399-17605-0
Hardcover (also available in large print, eBook, and audio formats)
410 Pages

Material supplied the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lesa's Lates Contest-- Arizona Crime Novel Giveaway

This week, I'm giving away 2 books with Arizona settings, CB McKenzie's Bad Country & Becky Masterman's Fear the Darkness. Details on my blog, https://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Lesa Holstine  

Eat my favorite shorts (ThomasPluck.com)

Eat my favorite shorts (ThomasPluck.com)

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: Paul Lees-Haley, Bobbi A. Chukran

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: Paul Lees-Haley, Bobbi A. Chukr...: In 2013, StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month . The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members&#...

FFB Review: "MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE" by Lee Goldberg (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

Back in October 2007 Barry first reviewed MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE by Lee Goldberg here on the blog. It seemed that today was a good time to run the below review again. Head over to Todd Mason's blog for the rest of the suggestions for today.

“Defective” detectives are not new to mystery fiction. Decades ago, Baynard Kendrick wrote a number of novels about blind private detective Duncan Maclain, who was also featured in some “B” movies and who, allegedly, was the basis for the TV series “Longstreet.” Pulp magazines abounded with sleuths who suffered from physical and emotional ailments and impairments: amnesia, hemophilia, even literal facelessness. D.L. Champion’s legless Inspector Allhoff may have inspired TV’s paraplegic “Ironside.” More modern examples include Michael Collins’s one-armed Dan Fortune; George C. Chesbro’s dwarf detective, Dr. Robert “Mongo” Frederickson; and Jeffery Deaver’s paralyzed Lincoln Rhyme.

None has captured the public’s attention the way the USA Network’s Adrian Monk has.

The obsessive-compulsive, multi-phobic Monk combines Sherlock Holmes’ skill for observing the minute details of everyday life the rest of us miss with a childlike innocence and incomprehension of the way most of the world operates. A former San Francisco Police Department homicide detective whose tics became more extreme after his wife was murdered, he now works as a private detective and, most frequently, as a paid consultant to the SFPD, usually at the behest of his friend Captain Leland Stottlemeyer.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse is the first in a series of original paperbacks based on the TV series. Lee Goldberg was a writer for and executive producer of “Diagnosis Murder” and has written novels based on that program plus The Man With the Iron-On Badge (Five Star). He has written several episodes of “Monk,” and so is very familiar with the series’ format and recurring characters.

The novel is narrated by Monk’s assistant, Natalie Teeger, the widowed mother of a twelve-year-old daughter. Events begin when Monk’s apartment building is scheduled to be tented and fumigated for termites—that Monk himself discovered: “He spotted a pinprick-sized hole in a piece of siding and knew it was fresh. He knew because he keeps track of all the irregularities in the siding.” When Natalie asks him why, he answers, “Doesn’t everybody?”

Knowing he won’t be able to deal with staying at a hotel for the duration, Natalie invites him to move in with her and her daughter Julie, and Monk accepts. Julie is upset when she learns that Sparky, the local firehouse dog Firefighter Joe annually brings to school with him when he lectures on fire safety, has been brutally murdered by a person unknown. Monk promises Julie he’ll uncover the killer.

His investigation takes him to the scene of a house fire in which a chain-smoking woman named Esther Stoval has died, apparently the victim of her own carelessness. Monk quickly determines she was murdered, and soon after realizes that her death and Sparky’s are connected.

The “Monk” television mysteries usually fall into one of two types: the whodunit, in which there are multiple suspects and the viewer can compete with Monk to spot the clues that identify the culprit; and the inverted detective story, in which the viewer knows from the outset who the killer is and can compete with Monk to spot the clues that will lead to his or her arrest. A sub-category of both types is the case in which the murderer has a seemingly unbreakable alibi Monk must see through to effect an arrest.

Halfway through the novel, after interrogating a number of suspects who have solid reasons to want Esther Stoval dead, Monk determines which of them is the murderer. Breaking that person’s alibi proves harrowing if not impossible: the second half of the book requires him to track down the piece of damning physical evidence that will convict the murderer. He faces the daunting—and comical—task of wading through the city’s garbage dump to try to find it.

Along the way, with an unassuming brilliance and humility foreign to Sherlock Holmes, Monk solves a number of unrelated murders.

The “Monk” TV scripts, because of time constraints, often subordinate mystery to humor. In Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, Lee Goldberg neatly balances conundrums and comedy in a dishy, informal, treat-the-reader-as-confidant style. The novel is far from the greatest detective story ever written, but fans of the TV series will probably enjoy it, and those who read it without ever having seen broadcast episodes may become regular viewers.

Originally published in Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, May/June 2006

Lee Goldberg
Signet Books
January 2006
ISBN 0-451-21729-2

Barry Ergang © 2006, 2007, 2016 

Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s most recent book, THE BOY WHO ATE RAINBOWS, is available at Amazon and Smashwords, along with other stories and collections.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Under Burning Skies: Best of 21st-Century Western Movies by David Cranmer (CriminalElement.com)

Under Burning Skies: Best of 21st-Century Western Movies by  David Cranmer    (CriminalElement.com)

Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Beavers, Dust, Magicians, DNA, and Trut...

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WELCOME TO HELL ~ by Glenn Walker: DC Universe Rebirth

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Crime Time : WINNING TEXAS – Nancy Stancill

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The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "Burning Questions" by Kevin R. Tipple

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "Burning Questions" by Kevin R....: In 2013, StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month . The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members&#...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "To Live and Die in Texas" by M...

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "To Live and Die in Texas" by M...: In 2013, StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month . The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members&#...

Medical Update

Sandi's blood work was very bad regarding her kidney function and some other issues. Despite that fact, they went ahead and did the IVIG infusion because to not do it in the shape she is in right now would be more dangerous.

Going forward the chemo is being stopped in favor of radiation. They took another look at the images and compared them to her earlier records. The tumor in her lower back next to her spinal cord is of a size that it is pressing on a variety of vital functions and could do irreversible permanent damage to motor skills and bodily functions if the growth is not immediately stopped. They don't feel they have time to wait for the chemo to do something.

So, we await an appointment with the radiation doctor and the treatment schedule. This is another case where a holiday schedule is not at all helpful.

Guest Post: Terry Shames on Writing About Texas as a Lone Star Expat (Mystery People Blog)

Guest Post: Terry Shames on Writing About Texas as a Lone Star Expat (Mystery People Blog)

Guest Post: Jeanne on "Food in Mysteries"

Jeanne of the Bookblog of the Bristol Public Library is back today with another guest post. Hope you already ate…..

Food in Mysteries

My first vivid memory of food in a book wasn’t from a mystery book but from  Heidi by Johanna Spyri, in which Grandfather gave Heidi the best bread and cheese.  Being a small child at the time, my frame of reference was packaged sliced bread and Kraft American cheese, and I failed to understand Heidi’s delight. I puzzled over it for a long time.  Apparently I wasn’t alone in my fascination, because a book entitled Fictitious Dishes has photo recreations of some of literature’s most memorable meals—including Heidi’s cheese sandwich.

Other than as a method of introducing poison into someone’s system, food didn’t seem to play much of a role in the mysteries until I started reading Rex Stout.  Food (and beer!) always played a strong role. I didn’t know what shad roe was, but the descriptions of Nero Wolfe’s dining were always a delight: oyster pie, roast duckling, squabs with sauce, shirred eggs, lamb, and so forth.  Such exotic fare! Rex Stout used Wolfe’s dinner table as a place for conversation, where no business was allowed to be discussed but where Wolfe (and Stout) could put forth his views on a variety of topics.

Food also figured in Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series, which I devoured (no pun intended) while in school.  Whenever a big case wrapped up, Perry, Della, and Paul would go out for dinner.  The menu was almost invariably steak and a salad, with form of the potato the only decision to be made: baked with sour cream and butter or as fries.  I think even then I realized that Della’s inclusion in this rather masculine meal meant she was regarded as an equal.

Food can be used to say a great deal about places and even eras. In Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, the child narrator has a litany of 70s era British candies along with mentions of various TV programs to keep the reader in the right time period. Jill Paton Walsh used food rationing in A Presumption of Guilt to remind readers of war time conditions in Britain.

And while burgers, fries, pizza, etc. are now American staples, it’s the little divergences that help bring a place and its people to life.  Lea Wait uses lobster dishes as well as baked beans and chowders to fix her Mainely Needlepoint mysteries in, well, Maine.  Julia Keller’s characters indulge in red-eye gravy and biscuits in West Virginia. One of the delights of the Tori Miracle series by Valerie Malmont was Tori’s introduction to the cuisine of Lickin Creek where delectable pastries and cakes are served along with baked  pig’s stomach. Tony Hillerman’s Navajo characters indulged in fry bread, while in daughter Anne Hillerman’s books the problem of diabetes among Native Americans influences the characters’ eating habits. 

However, sometimes authors have to walk a fine line between cultural awareness and stereotyping: you have to know just how many times to invoke RC Colas and moon pies before the theme from Deliverance starts to run through the reader’s head.  It’s bad enough that the covers often resort to
clichés images.  For example, two books from Cathy Pickens very fine Avery Andrews series featured pictures of fried chicken and a cherry pie neither of which featured prominently in the books. I could only assume that it was because the series was set in South Carolina and was more cozy than thriller.

Food choices also give clues to character and socioeconomic status.  Someone who insists on making fresh salads or baking his own bread tells us something about himself; likewise, a person who subsists on fast food burgers and Twinkies is likely to have different values.  It may also mean that the author is setting the character up for some health issue later.  In one long running series, a character finds a piece of sticky, lint-covered hard candy in an old coat and still pops it in his mouth.  I was both appalled and amused.  Later it’s revealed that the character is beginning to have cognitive issues. Laura Levine’s Jaine Austen series derives some of its humor from Jaine’s food obsessions and half-hearted attempts to diet. In the old Jiggs and Maggie comic strip, the nouveau riche Jiggs longs for corned beef and cabbage much to the horror of his social climbing wife Maggie. Some characters have to go for cheap eats because of lack of funds.  In the early Sarah Kelling books by Charlotte MacLeod, Sarah struggled to come up with ways to extend food to serve her boarders.

Finally, food can set the pace of a book.  Eating can give the author an excuse to sit the characters down and discuss the case. Hunger can be used as a way to stall the plot which might otherwise lead to a too-quick resolution of the mystery.  It can also be used as a way to slow a reader down, as he or she goes to raid the fridge after one too many vivid descriptions of a meal.

After all, food for thought can turn into thoughts of food.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

FROM DUNDEE'S DESK: Noteworthy Reads: DRAWING DEAD by Andrew Vachss

FROM DUNDEE'S DESK: Noteworthy Reads: DRAWING DEAD by Andrew Vachss: This third novel-length adventure featuring Cross & crew is a complex, full-throttle suspense thriller featuring supernatural ove...

The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog: Short Story Month: "George Ann" by Nikki Dolson

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Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: The Big Showdown -- Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

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The Highwayman by Craig Johnson (Lesa's Book Critiques)

The Highwayman by Craig Johnson (Lesa's Book Critiques)

Review: "High Meadow Storm" by Wayne D. Dundee

Waking up and having no idea where you are or your own name is not a good thing. At least folks found him at the R-Bar ranch and brought him into the small cabin three days ago. He’d been found up by the high meadow after a storm. Who he is and why he was there are just two of the many questions at work in this short story.

The ranch is run by teens and their far younger siblings after the death of their parents. Fever took them last winter, as it did many others, in the area. The twins are 8 and supervised by Addie who is almost 17 and her brother Heath, 18. Heath is the one who found the unconscious stranger and brought him to the cabin. The Rudisels are holding their own despite the efforts of nature and man to boot them off the land. With no idea who he is or where he should go, it becomes natural for the stranger to stay and get involved in their struggle in High Meadow Storm by Wayne D. Dundee.

As is frequently the case in Mr. Dundee’s westerns a major mystery is at work in this story. In fact, there are several mysteries in play in this enjoyable tale. Nominated for the 2016 Peacemaker Awards of the Western Fictioneers this tale that was originally published in Protectors 2: Heroes-Stories To Benefit Protect is now available as a standalone read. High Meadow Storm is also mighty good read as one would expect from Wayne D. Dundee. 

High Meadow Storm
Wayne D. Dundee
Bil-Em-Ri Media
April 2016
43 Pages
99 Cents

Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016