Apr 26, 2008

Four Years

This coming week we are shipping issue number 24 of Crimespree Magazine. We have four years under our belts and are now entering year five. When we started this we had no idea what to expect and sitting around that pool in Las Vegas I would never have dreamed that we would be where we are.

We would like to thank everyone that has helped us stay at this for four years. That includes authors, book sellers, librarians, and most importantly, our readers. You keep us plugging away at this and you keep us motivated to keep getting better.

So, what's in issue 24?

Our cover story is an interview with Michael A Black and Tom Schreck, two authors who actually put on gloves in real life and as a result know what they are writing about. Both are great guys and great authors.

Our official print announcement of the Crimespree Award winners which includes a contest in which you could win books by all our winners

And speaking of contests, there are a bunch more through out the magazine, including a contest within Julia Spencer-Fleming's article.

Fiction by Rodolphe Cuzon and Suzanne Tyrpak.

An on the road report on Left Coast Crime from Simon Wood

An interview with the always entertaining Warren Murphy
Also interviews with Steve Alton and Daniel Edward Craig.

Plus feature articles by Jonathan Santlofer, Dana Cameron, Joe Stien, Caroline Todd, Jeri Weston, Joanna Slan and more.

Plus the regular articles by Reed Cloeman, Ayo Onatade, Jeremy Lynch and Amy Alessio. Also loads of Book reviews, DVD reviews.

It's full of lots of interesting reading and loads of Crimespree goodness

Apr 20, 2008

Two new movies on DVD

Tonight we sat down and watched No Country For Old Men and The Mist.

Both based on work by authors we love.

The Mist is probably one of my three favorite Stephen King shorts. So naturally I was excited and also a bit concerned. No need as it turns out. The movie was great. Tom Janes is the star, who we also happened to love in The Punisher. Every one in the movie was wonderful in fact. The ending is different, and I won't say how. I thought it worked, Ruth was not as happy with the change.
The effects are great and the movie is damn spooky, on a number of levels, not just the creatures.

No Country For Old men.
This movie was amazing. violent as hell, but the Coen brothers really did something amazing here. Again, great acting. Josh Brolin is really good, and in this role he's perfect. Tommy Lee Jones, well, he's always great. And Javier Bardem is just damn spooky.
Get this movie.

Apr 17, 2008

Tagging continues....

My sister Jennifer was Tagged by
Nathan, who was tagged by Mark, and so on and so on. So now I, Jon, having been tagged must reveal 7or 8 random facts about myself.
I'm not sure what the compelling reason for following through with this is, but what the hell.

1) I don't like seafood. No shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, octopus, shark, perch, walleye. None of it. I can eat a McFish sandwich with loads of tarter sauce. Thats it. And I prefer the tater sauce on my french fries.

2) Until about five years ago I could not sleep unless I was on my stomach. No explanations.

3) I really like '80s music. Flock of Seagulls, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Human League, Orchestral Movements in the Dark, New Order, Gang of Four.... The list goes on and on.

4) i can not watch The Sound of Music without singing along. I just can't.

5) Boxers not briefs.

6) Last night I had two hours sleep and didn't even feel adversely worn out or harmed in any way.

7) I still enjoy traveling, but as i get older I prefer to be at home more.

8) I still like Miami Vice.

And now, I tag my boy

Apr 14, 2008

Guest Blog - Elizabeth Zelvin - When A Traditional is Not a Cozy

Hey Kids!!!

It's time for another guest Blooger!

Elizabeth Zelvin has her debut novel coming out on Tax Day - April 15th

I loved this book and suggest you pick it up!


When I first started sending out my debut mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, to agents, I had read thousands of mysteries. I pruned my collection of 1150 books a couple of years ago without creating any visible space on my shelves. I had even had an agent in the 1970s, though those three mystery manuscripts failed to sell. But I was a particularly naïve virgin with respect to the categorization of mysteries today.

For the first year or two of submissions, I was still getting used to being part of the mystery community: supportive, friendly, and so generous with good advice about how to adapt to the market that it took me a while to assimilate it. So in the first couple of dozen agent queries, I described my mystery as a cozy. I know some crime fiction writers use the words “cozy” and “traditional” as synonyms. I don’t agree. Does my mystery have an amateur sleuth? Indeed it does, along with two lively sidekicks. Is the story arc a murder, its investigation, and finally, a denouement and solution? It is. Do the characters all know each other? Yes, in the sense that all the suspects are known to the victim. The protagonist knows some of them and meets the others in the course of finding out whodunit. But who’s going to believe this book is a cozy when it begins: “I woke up in detox with the taste of stale puke in my mouth”?

I hasten to assure any potential reader who’s put off by that gritty opening that once Bruce gets out of detox, he cleans up his act considerably. But whether they’re homeless on the Bowery like most of Bruce’s detox roommates or living off a trust fund like his buddy who gets murdered, alcoholics come with a certain amount of grit. Not that hard drinking is the theme of Death Will Get You Sober. The serious topic that I’ve tried to imbue with heart and humor and inspiration is recovery.

Some folks recommend that an aspiring author help agents, editors, and the marketing department at publishing houses understand “what shelf to put it on” by identifying his or her manuscript as “like” somebody else’s. Everybody also wants an original twist and a fresh voice, but that’s another story. One of my writer friends, lawyer Ken Isaacson, got a fantastic break when his debut legal thriller, Silent Counsel, got paired with John Grisham’s latest book on Amazon. I’ve read Silent Counsel, and it is more than likely that if you love Grisham, you’ll enjoy Ken’s book. My book and I have flunked this matching test. The closest I ever came was, “If you crossed Matt Scudder with Stephanie Plum, you might get my protagonist Bruce.” After a couple of times, I decided that was a bit too smartass for a query letter. And fans of Lawrence Block or Janet Evanovich may or may not like Death Will Get You Sober, though I certainly hope some of them will pick it up either because it’s about recovery or because it’s funny. The more the better, considering how many fans these giants have.

If you ask me my favorites among mysteries and their authors, that I can answer. My tastes include amateur sleuths, starting with Lord Peter Wimsey and taking in such exemplars as Nancy Pickard’s Jenny Cain the fundraiser, Judy Clemens’s Stella Crown the dairy farmer, and and Margaret Frazer’s Dame Frevisse the 15th century nun.

But what I read the most of is series about cops, private investigators, and other detectives in one branch or another of law enforcement. Again, if you like Marcia Muller (private eye), Margaret Maron (judge), Reginald Hill (police), Nevada Barr (park ranger, enforcement), Laurie King (private investigator in the Mary Russell series, police with Kate Martinelli), Laura Lippman (private eye), Julie Smith (police with Skip Langdon, my favorite among Smith’s protagonists), Deborah Crombie (police), Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (police), Janet Neel (police) and others of their ilk, you may or may not fall in love with Bruce and his friends. But they share what, at heart, I read mysteries for: believable and endearing characters, a fully realized world and what, in my “other hat” as a shrink, I might call family and social systems rich in interpersonal dynamics and protagonists with an inner life, ie authentic feelings and dilemmas.

But some of those are not traditionals, you may object. They’re police procedurals and PI novels. Au contraire. Police procedurals and PI novels are subgenres, or maybe subsubgenres. Do they not have a structure of crime, investigation, and denouement and solution? Do they not feature protagonists, witnesses, and suspects who by and large know each other? They are indeed traditionals. They are simply not cozies. And if we agree that these authors write novels so rich and deep as to call forth the highly irritating comment that they “transcend the genre,” why not conclude that they are damn good traditionals, if not damn good cozies?

I made Bruce an amateur sleuth largely because when I thought him up, I didn’t know anything about police procedure or private investigation. I didn’t know I was about to meet hundreds of people who knew all about both and could give me the guidance I needed to do research. But I like the term “traditional mystery” for Death Will Get You Sober. And if anybody asks me if my book is hard boiled or soft, I tell them it’s over easy and slightly crispy around the edges.

Elizabeth Zelvin’s debut mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, is in bookstores now. Her story, “Death Will Clean Your Closet,” has been nominated for an Agatha award for Best Short Story. Liz is a New York City psychotherapist who has run an alcohol treatment program on the Bowery and currently works with clients online. Her author website is www.elizabethzelvin.com .

Apr 6, 2008

Sringtime in the Air

Ah, finally. I'm seeing the signs that Spring is finally coming to my fair state. And while this particular season is the most coquette of the four in Wisconsin, it also inspires our inhabitants like none other.

Friday, as I grabbed my winter jacket for yet another commute to the place of employment, there was a hint of moderate tempature in the air. The heart soared as I passed Miller Park the home of our own Milwaukee Brewers. It was opening day at the park and the fans were out at seven thirty in the morning, complete with painted faces, colorful wigs, baseballs and mitts. A happy beginning to the end of the work week.

Even better was Friday evening. Another true sign of Spring has always been the beginning of the Author Event season and ours began on Friday. Steven Sidor came to Mystery One for his new book THE MIRROR'S EDGE. As a big fan of THE BONE FACTORY, I cannot wait to dig into my signed copy but I've been warned, it's one to read during the daylight hours. Any book that scares our friend Richard is going to be a great read.

Yesterday I awoke and Spring was reenforced two fold. A sweater was enough of an outer layer, the mercury crept to sixty and we were off to a double signing. Libby Fischer Hellman (EASY INNOCENCE) and Cara Black (MURDER IN THE RUE de PARADIS) were on the last day of their dual tour . Both books are outstanding and their authors? "Comple`tement de la grace et du talent" as Aimee might say.

So while friends from far and wide gathered a thousand miles to the east for Noir Con, here in Wisconsin there was a touch of light last experienced in September. Spring really is a time to go and visit your favorite authors on tour. Check out your local bookstores and libraries to see who's coming. An off the top of my head list of folks on the road right now or in the near future includes Nevada Barr, Laura Lippman, Jim Butcher, Ace Atkins, Peter Robinson, Dan Fesperman, Anne Perry, Harlan Coben, and debut author Hannah Dennison. Steven is just beginning his tour and Libby and Cara both have several events left on their schedule individually.

Nothing makes the road trip worth it like a good turn out at an event

Apr 2, 2008


Sometimes the words come and sometimes they don’t. sometimes the narrative passages are there and sometimes they aren’t. Just tonight I heard the comment “Michael Chabon was nominated for an Edgar Award because the M.W.A. wants credibility. They want their award to be a literary award”.

Pfui, as a certain cerebral detective used to comment. Much has been made of what is and isn’t on this year’s Edgar Award list. The fact that I did at least 30 “happy dances” while reading the award nominations says a lot. The fact that when people began pointing out who didn’t make the list, I began to question, means perhaps even more. This isn’t about the judges. This year’s Edgar Awards embrace everything I covet within my own little realm of mystery. I know the judges this year are all readers. You can tell from the lists of nominees. But the comment, off hand and uttered amongst true fans, bothers me a little and worries me a lot.

For, and I’m saying this with a straight face, we are snobs!! Reverse snobs and so, therefore worse. Can someone just send me back to a John Hughes movie please. What am I talking about? I’ll give you two instances of recent “Jordan” conversation along with a recent posting thread on 4MA and ask you think about this. Talk about it, blog about it and if you post a response to this blog, this is one time when I will respond (usually I just cut and run)

Time and time again you hear the genre versus literature argument. Time and time again, I myself have said it’s a good two hours but no …. (plug in fav “literary” or “mystery” author here). Frankly I’m bored and a little disappointed in both sides. This is a world where the person who reads 300 books a year is reading the same percentage of published books as the person who reads two, and by that I mean 1% of all published novels. It’s about time we get off our high horses here. Because, for a book to be noted as literary it has to continue to be read. This applies to all novels, no matter how they are originally branded by the marketing departments that release them. Did anyone really imagine we’d still be reading about Holden Caulfield who read the first print run of CATCHER IN THE RYE? That the ophthalmologist billboard in THE GREAT GATSBY would resonate to this day?

And then there are the dry as rice cake classics. To say I was a little disillusioned when finally allowed to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an understatement. Flowers woven , indeed. If you are a reader, you have to read. Not say.. I only read…. Qualifying oneself as a reader takes away from the act of reading. There are voices within words, authors who speak to a volume of readers who may decipher the prose a little differently but no less intelligently. If the words resonate with the readers the work becomes literature. And readers, once you get beyond Lit 101, the world is yours.

And yet we all have reading preferences. The path of origin towards “literary” acknowledgement depends more than ever on critical and financial success. So, if you’re still with me, I now present conversation fragments.
For those of you who don’t already know, I’m disappointed in myself as a reader because I cannot get into THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN. The book, by Michael Chabon, was both a critical and financial success and I cannot get past page 80(and I’m a fan). But a few weeks ago a friend who is also an author (and a Chabon fan) defined my problem. “Ruth, we’re mystery readers, so when reading a mystery we want all of the extraneous detail edited like a “genre” novel. “ At the time I felt better. It’s my weakness. I can embrace it. My friend went on to say if he had turned in the same manuscript and it had been edited by a “genre” editor the novel would have been at least 100 pages shorter. In YIDDISH, mystery wasn’t the plot, it forwarded the plot.

This conversation took place a week before a thread on 4MA (the mystery board) began. Val McDermid’s THE GRAVE TATTOO is one of my top reads ever. I know it will remain so, neither time nor distance is going to alter my opinion. And yet when another reader presented her argument, “I was interested in the Fletcher plot and everything else kind of got in the way” I UNDERSTOOD. But I was disappointed. I remember feeling when I first read Tattoo that the book which embraced several timelines and multiple plotlines was ambitious and well executed. Something not found everyday within the mystery genre. Because in “Mystery” unless an author truly resonates with their reader, all is extraneous. The poster prefaced their entire statement with the caveat, “I would never tell McDermid how to write, she is a great writer.”

These two instances now two weeks in the past, I’ll reflect upon another conversation I was part of. A friend who reads above the 1% a year percentile and remembers everything, said to me, “If we’re going to move beyond this, we cannot do it either. We cannot continue to say the “literary” world needs to recognize Lehane and Pelecanos as “real” writers, and not let people know about the writers within mystery who might not be quite as lofty but who sell the books day in and day out. We have to level the playing field.”

Sound words. My friend was referring to an interview held with yet another (they shall remain nameless) writer. In the course of an interview this writer professed to be “happy” within their niche but “glad” that friends like “Lehane, Pelecanos, (fill in more names at no extra cost)”had moved beyond the genre, creating words that would inspire future generations.”

I agree with the sentiment, but why do we continue to wait for affirmation? The author I paraphrased in the last paragraph is a best seller in their own right, has written some of the most poignant prose of the last 10 years and doesn’t need to be quantifying or qualifying books. Yet we all see a glass ceiling .Hell, we create it.

A ceiling that if we forbid it to exist, would cease to be. In the end it all seems clear. If enough people read it the academics and critics will have to respond, and if nobody reads it? Well, it’s rather like that tree in the woods….