Mar 28, 2011


"All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of an escape"
A.C Benson
Brought to you by chapter 16 of Duane Swierczynski's FUN & GAMES

For ten years now, Ive been escaping with this writer. Stealing moments and sharing adventure. I cannot even remember who suggested the writer Duane Swiercynski to me first. It could have been anyone of a dozen people. Was it Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jason Starr? It might have been Vicki Hendricks, Sean Doolittle, Victor Gischler or Neal Anthony Smith. Was it Laura Lippman? It may have been an e-mail from Houston's Murder by the Book. Perhaps it was Sandra Ruttan....Hell, it could have been his publisher. Or..

What's remarkable about Duane and his first book, SECRET DEAD MEN is that I'm quite sure I heard about it from all the people on the above list before the second round of arcs (Advanced reading copies) were out and this was in the days before Crimespree. It was before twitter and facebook. People were so happy with this book they were suggesting it to everyone they knew who they thought would enjoy it. This is a book people wanted to share.

And we haven't looked back.

Images float through my mind; a drink in an airport bar, a deserted toy store, a bowl of potato salad, a downsized reporter drinking beer on a stoop, a bunch of geezers. It's all great and some of it is glorious. Swierczynski's latest published book EXPIRATION DATE is up for the 2010 Edgar.

EXPIRATION DATE a wonderful book that looks at relationships, crimes, the pharmaceutical industry, and our ability to make choices. It's a locked room mystery with a bottle of tylenol in charge of the plot. There's time travel (sci-fi) and the scary man who lived down the hall (horror). It is an un-put-downable book that demands more & more credibility with each new and often bizarre twist.

Duane Swierczynski is one of the great new writers who believes there aren't just three motives and a limited number of plots. He allows you into his books with a touch of noir and a dash of whimsy, grabs you and doesn't let you go.

When Mr. Swierczynski started writing books (the first a non-fiction entitled THE BIG BOOK OF BEER) he was a reporter working the daily deadline beat. A steady gig with Marvel Comics allowed him to begin working from home. A couple of conversations, an ability to absorb and distill pop culture, and a discipline for the written word have brought us to a new publishing house and a new era....

Duane Swierczynski & Charlie Hardie
presented by Mulholland Books
featuring Hollywood
introducing "The Accident People"
I was all in with the idea of a Swierczynski trilogy from the moment the first news leaked into my ears. After reading it? I have all the chips.

Ex policeman/ house sitter Charlie Hardie takes a gig in L.A. looking after a screenwriter's house. He doesn't do plants or animals. He secures the house.

Starlet Lane Madden takes a late night drive.

All Hell is about to break out.

Someone's written an equation for Murder and Charlie is that unknown variable.

What's in the duffle bag?

Impaling, martial arts, poison, fire, secret rooms.... Hollywood.

This book has it all.

Duane creates a world we can see. FUN & GAMES is a conspiracy book to rival my favorite conspiracy movie, The Parallax View. I declare this book fastest read of the year. I want part two, HELL & GONE now.

Why am I teasing you with a book you won't see drop until June? It's simple. I'm so happy with this book I'm suggesting it to everyone I think will enjoy it now. That's the entire blogoshere people. Thanks for the escape Duane.

Visit Duane at Secret Dead Blog & take a look at Mulholland Books a remarkable new brand in Crime Fiction

(exclamation points controlled in honor of my favorite Hachette editor)

Mar 23, 2011

“Dear Reader, you now have all the clues you need ….”

What first made me a mystery lover?

I’ve been thinking about that question a great deal this spring, as the publication of my fifth mystery novel looms.  What exactly about mystery caught me in its grip?  The intrigue?  The window into the darker side of human nature?  Or simply the fun of the chase?  And after some deep thought, I have decided that it must have been the audacity, the arrogance, the pure hubris of Ellery Queen’s “Challenge to the Reader.”

Where I first learned of it, I don’t know.  I may have noticed it while browsing paperbacks at my local bookstore.  I might have picked it up in the school library.  But I remember reacting strongly to the challenge.  I remember thinking, “well, if he can think it up, I can figure it out.”  Of course I couldn’t.  In fact, I’m not sure that I ever conquered the Queen challenge.  But I never gave up trying.  And I read them all, every single one.

Though I read some Agatha Christie, I was never taken with Christie’s novels as I was Queen’s.  But, as I grew, my reading habits changed a little.  Ellery Queen novels mixed with the historical novels of Kenneth Roberts, Esther Forbes and Irene Hunt.  Then enter the novels of Fletcher Knebel – The Zinzin Road, Night of Camp David, Dark Horse.  I was addicted to political thrillers.  Fletcher Knebel became Frederick Forsyth became Robert Ludlum became David Ignatius.  But I also discovered George MacDonald Fraser and the Flashman series and John Maddox Roberts’ SPQR mysteries.  And with that I was hooked on historical mysteries.

But I never quite lost my love of Ellery Queen and his version of Dupin’s ratiocination, and when my love of reading mysteries turned to a passion for writing them, I couldn’t help but be influenced by Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee’s creation.  In my first two mysteries, I tried out both William Shakespeare as Sherlock Holmes and Ernest Hemingway as Dr. John Watson, so to speak.  And though I was not dissatisfied with the results, I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.

Then, while on my way to Kuwait where I was then teaching, I happened on a book at Gatwick about the historical King Arthur.  At that juncture, no one had yet set a mystery series in Arthur’s world, and I realized that that was a perfect milieu for an investigator for whom logic and observation were their only tools.   I got back to Kuwait and wrote ten pages of such a novel.  Then set it aside.  Eight years later, I picked it back up.

So was born my Arthurian mystery series.  The Beloved Dead is the third entry in the series, and while I can’t claim to be an Ellery Queen, the books have gone three for three with starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and the Romantic Times Book Review names The Beloved Dead a “Top Pick!” in its April 1st issue.

I will be known now as a mystery author, no matter what else I may write.  But I consider that a proud and honorable distinction, and, for me, a natural evolution from mystery fan.
 After all, everybody loves a mystery.  Right?

Mar 21, 2011

He's Absolutely Fabulous

Win Lockwood to Myron Bolitar: "How to explain this?" He stopped, thought, nodded. "We have a tendency to believe the good things will last forever. It is in our nature. The Beatles, for example. Oh, they'll be around forever. The Sopranos-that show will always be on the air. Philip Roth's Zuckerman series. Springsteen concerts. Good things are rare. They are to be cherished because they always leave us too soon."

Win rose, started for the door. before he left the room, he looked back.

"Doing this stuff with you," Win said, "is one of those good things."

from LIVE WIRE by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben, the real deal.
This book? One of the good things.

Very rarely do I wax poetic about new releases on the blog. It's even less seldom that I use this space to tout a book that will do more than well without me. It's been six week's since I read Harlan Coben's LIVE WIRE (March 22nd, Dutton). I have suggested the book to over fifty people. I have declared in my Crimespree Review that I have no doubt this book will still be in my top ten on December 31st. I have gushed at the writer on twitter. Now I'm here. If you read this blog or our magazine and find it's content informative or enjoyable, get your hands on LIVE WIRE sooner rather than later.

Harlan Coben is a publishing template for success story. He went from PBO (Paperback originals) to a hard cover deal. With sales figures that continue to grow I don't see this changing anytime soon. He continues to sell Hard Cover, Mass Market and yes, downloads. Coben's work has a mass appeal that unfortunately not every Crime Fiction writer will achieve. He's even huge in France.

He's earned every minute of it.

First and foremost is the product. Harlan doesn't write pretty, run on sentences. He writes really quick, plot driven books. He'll fool you though. When you finish reading one of his books you care about the characters. You'll understand the nuances of themes presented without having known they were there. You'll be able to walk every dark alley and suburb that made an appearance (well, as long as it's real).

Like every "mystery fan" I've run into Harlan from time to time over the years. Interacting with this person who loves what he does and does it so well is always a joy. The fact that he also gives back to everyone whenever he can is astounding. He's been involved with MWA for his entire career. He's served in almost every capacity of that organization. He's almost always at Bouchercon. He attends a number of smaller, regional conventions as he can. He's also part of that larger book world. Attending workshops and trade shows and book festivals to promote his work and that of others. He is one of our finest Ambassadors.

His excitement is real. His generosity is real. His writing is real. Whether you're a fan of the Bolitar books or a fan of the man's stand-alone thrillers, I'm confident when I tell you LIVE WIRE is a special kind of book. I cannot imagine it not being your favorite Coben book when you've finished reading it.

Were you planning to go to Borders to pick the book up? There are multiple independent bookstores you can order the book from. He'll be appearing here if you'd like a signed copy. If you're close to any of these stores go see him, say thank you. Not convinced? Visit the LIVE WIRE page on his web site.

Harlan Coben. LIVE WIRE. Absolutely fabulous.

Mar 17, 2011

That Anthony Award Time of Year

It’s here! That most frustrating of mail. That glorious letter comes complete with return envelope. The Anthony ballot has arrived in my mail box. I will now spend the next three weeks circling around the damn thing. Pad of paper close at hand to jot down my nominees and second guess myself.  Have I read enough critical works to come up with five nominees?  Have I written down this title because it’s been on all the short lists? Am I writing down that name because the book didn’t get enough attention? Will my nominees even make a difference?

The Bouchercon community is broad. People who love very different aspects of the community become one. The range of nominees can be vast. This is the award with the broadest sense of excellence amongst all the awards. When the final nominees are declared the people on that list know that they are loved by readers, well read readers. Think about this. Do people who don’t read give up their time and their money to attend a book convention?

It’s an honor, this preparation I go through to submit my final fives. I’m thrilled to have a chance to participate in the awarding of one of mystery’s most important awards. Some years the end result is very different than my list and some years quite alike. I am always thrilled for the authors.  The Anthony Award short list is first and foremost, Mystery 101. Any reader who wants to dabble within crime fiction and hasn’t can always go to this list, read these books and get a true sense of the best of the best from that year. It will formulate their opinion of our beloved genre; dictate whether or not they choose to return. It’s an awesome responsibility.

I am asking everyone who receives a ballot to participate this year.  100% response has been a goal of the committee for a long, long time. I’m looking forward to seeing whose names will appear. Are you? Make it happen for your favorite books. Fill in the ballot.

Repeating and expounding… in a brand new world… Please continue reading this blog…

The Anthony Award ballots have been mailed out to all the people eligible to nominate the final contenders. Who nominates the nominees? Everyone who attended either Bouchercon San Francisco or is already registered for Bouchercon St. Louis. If you fall into either one of those categories, you are a voice. What if you fall into both categories? You have one voice.

A ballot is available through the internet. Did you forget to update Bouchercon when you moved? It’s there for you convenience. Do you prefer to do paperwork at a key board? We’ve hooked you up. However, if you have an active home address you will receive a ballot in the mail. Yeah, that stuff that used to come in envelopes. Most folks have received theirs. If you don’t have it within 10 days let us know.

So there are two voting options. That doesn’t suggest that you should vote twice. We are not Chicago. 

Okay, that’s housekeeping sorted.  Well mostly.

A glorious thing has happened in the last five years. The internet Mystery/Crime Fiction community has become vast. We are all hooked into one another and chances are if you don’t know someone you are a friend of a friend on facebook, you follow someone who follows someone else and retweets on Twitter.  We are now all able to remind one another of: favorite reads, our books, our clients books and our house’s books. This is great. What would be even better? Make sure your suggestions are eligible. Make sure that folks realize that only Bouchercon members can vote. Make sure that people don’t waste their opportunity to take part in Mystery’s biggest populist award by using their ballot for just that one nominee in just that one category.  Because that, that breaks our heart a little.

Ruth Jordan

Mar 15, 2011

Guest Blogger - Russel McLean

Do not adjust your internet.
Your eyes do not deceive you. Today, The Crimespree blog has been hijacked by a beardy Scotsman.
The reason for this blatant invasion (with the permission of the usual Crime Spree crew, of course!) is to mark what is – for me – a very special occasion. Today, the 15th March 2011 is the publication date of my second novel in the US. THE LOST SISTER has been out in the UK for a while now but I’m delighted to see a hardback (and ebook, of course!) publication in the USofA.

So why choose Crimespree as the first stopping off point for this tour?
It seemed appropriate somehow, as these guys have been supportive since the beginning. Back in 2005, with a few short stories under my belt, I was also running a webzine called Crime Scene Scotland. We were a rag tag publication who were making it up as we went along. But somewhere along the line, Crime Spree started to give us their support. I seem to remember it was Jen Jordan – erstwhile features and fiction editor – who contacted us first. I can’t remember why, but I do know that soon enough I was meeting the whole Crime Spree family. And a more passionate and brilliant bunch of folks, I couldn’t name you.
Of course, I can already hear Jon yelling at me to quit sucking up** to the hosts and get on with the show.

I figured it would be good to start by talking about PI novels. Because THE LOST SISTER is a PI novel. Its influenced by the American tradition, written as it is by a lad who was brought kicking and screaming into crime fandom on the back of the books of Chandler, Block and McDonald.
Of course, the first eye novels I ever truly devoured were Anthony Horrowitz’s Diamond Brothers spoofs – THE FALCON’S MALTESER and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, which introduced me to the tropes of the genre long before I even knew what a “trope” was. In fact I don’t think I’d have cared at the time. All I cared about were the great jokes and the feeling of adventure that permeated the novels. And can I just say that, having recently re-read NORTH BY NORTHWEST, these books really do still stand up very well indeed.
But when I grew up, my dad started feeding me the adult crime fiction novels. I remember him telling me about Lawrence Block in particular. Saying how, “they’re not just about solving a crime. They’re about New York. And they’re about the struggle with drink as much as anything else.”
Reading those books I realised he was right. That you could have a crime – and solve it – while really talking about so many other things. The PI model was ripe for looking primarily at people. The best eye novels are not about clever puzzles so much as they are about unravelling people and motivations and places. Because the eye is not an authority figure, he seems licensed to unravel more than just the crime. He can go places and see things that the cops cannot. And that appealed to me in a big way.
So the Block novels opened a world to me I’d never known before. His Scudder series, for me, is one of the most perfect of the last wave of eyes. With a character who actually evolves and changes between books, who is affected by cases as much as anyone else, it seemed to be the start of the grown up eye for me. Too many series characters – and eyes fall prey to this especially – become unchanging, unaffected heroes whose dimensions are actually quite transparent when held up to the light. No so Scudder. And the fact that Block has a new book coming out that continues to add to this character is a testament to him as a creation.
From Block, I guess I worked my way backwards into the history of the eye. I knew of Raymond Chandler, of course. My dad would rave about how good he was, and certainly my interest was raised when I was taken to see THE BIG SLEEP on The Big Screen (although it would take me a few years to read the book) but I didn’t jump right back. Instead I went a little further back than Block to discover Lew Archer.
The Archer novels fascinated me. Their obsession with family was clearly to become a later influence at least in the titling of my novels, and the emphasis on psychological motivation was something to be dissected and considered. These books, despite what people said, were dealing with deep themes and ideas while still remaining gripping, tightly plotted and thoroughly entertaining. In fact, it was the Archer novels that made me wonder if there was more thought and philosophy to be found in crime fiction than anywhere else.
I would later discover that the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein had once made a similar suggestion in a letter to one of the old pulp magazines.
Jumping back again to the beginning cemented my love of the genre. In Hammett I discovered a steely toughness that’s sometimes absent from later works. And in Chandler, a love of language and its ability to conjure unusual images simply leaps from the page. My dad, of course, said it best (although I’m likely paraphrasing): “Read Hammett for the plot. Read Chandler for the language. But they’re both brilliant.”
I suppose it came as no surprise that when I turned to crime (writing) I would create a private detective; my own humble addition to this genre that fascinated me. But I couldn’t set my books in LA or New York. I knew that wouldn’t convince. And besides, I hadn’t ever read a PI novel set in Scotland and had to wonder what would happen if were to move the genre over here. The result became a series of short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine which laid the seeds for the character of J McNee who would feature in my debut novel, THE GOOD SON. And now, today, McNee is back for another investigation that will lead him to the back alleys of Scotland’s fourth city as he hunts a missing girl in THE LOST SISTER….
**But I mean it. Every word

Mar 12, 2011

A week in wisconsin

So, the state of Wisconsin is reading like a Ferrigno novel. That's my tie-in to mystery. Those of us who read in this genre are looking upon what's happening in WI with a certain sense of awe. How do two branches of government ignore the Constitution and get away with it?As a life long Democrat, I am not letting my elected officials off of the hook on this one.

The time has come in American politics where we need to re-evaluate what we expect when we cast our ballots on election day. My expectations have never changed. I want the person I voted for to REPRESENT ME for the next two or four years. Government has become farcical. Because it's money with a capital M that gets you there. Do you realize that for a Republican to win the White-house in 2112 it will take a three BILLION dollar buy-in? Those are the projections.

I believe that is a part of the current GOP strategy. I believe WI is a victim. Also Indiana, Ohio, Michigan.....
Little state, no one on either coast really knows where it is.... let's shut down their funding.... see if we can get away with it. On the other side the Dems, like Cinderella's sisters are running around, "how do we make the shoe fit?"

On a global scale what's happening in Wisconsin is irrelevant. Except it really isn't. Wisconsin has been a proud member of these United States. Electing populists, socialists and Unitarians to its electorate. One of the founders of the contemporary Republican party, the links to the Democratic party have been beyond strong since the Kohler strike in the 1930s. Last fall Kohler cast out the union to preserve jobs and a way of life. Proving, one more time, the old adage, "those who forget history.."

And we are forgetting history. Representatives leaving under the cloak of night (where no one but the news affiliates can find them), and others, of another "party" staying behind and adapting a policy with no discourse save their leader's.
I didn't elect the people I elected to pull this crap, nor do I believe that anyone looking into the future wanted the "Walker" policies to occur as they did. There has to be a bad taste in the mouth that this bill was nee of and came to life from the fact that American politics are now dictated by the almighty dollar of re-election.
What has happened in Wisconsin will prove to be either a footnote in history or the time when individuals gave up their right to be represented by government. What has happened here in the last week is unconstitutional, abhorrent and all about the money....

It's the year of a Presidential election. No Republican has the funding to rock Obama. But.... if the unions are fighting lawsuits in multiple states and unable to fund a campaign for the presidency ... all the better.
Me? I simply want what my forefathers affirmed. A country where the people who you elected to office were represented in a discourse amongst great minds. I see no great minds in Wisconsin right now. Run for the border or tell people what's best for them. Both are bad. Destroying the only voice the middle class truly has left is worse. One Big Union! Except I now shun the money. As did a great Wisconsin politician, Russ Feingold. Look where it got him?

So if we can all pull up our bootstraps, shut this down. HERE. Make it messy and hold people accountable. I believe in debate. I believe in Unions. I believe a unity amongst men where we realize that the equality of wages and benefits has more to do with the individual and their work history than with their sex, age, experience, or school. The right PERSON for the right job. Are Unions still there? Yet another question for this debate.
Still I feel we've given up as a people. Even those picketing, theorizing, and vocalizing. We've seen American ingenuity become American gross product. We've seen schools give up liberal arts programs for the football team. We've seen people pull away from ideals with threat of foreclosures. The American dream has come close to strangling us. But no matter what the outside or interior threats may be, we owe it to ourselves as a people to demand that the people representing us in Government (local,state.federal,judicial) know what we believe and what we want them to do for us, the voter.

Mar 6, 2011

The Kindle Edition

Last May I had a bit of fun with CrimespreeJon and announced to the world on twitter he had just purchased his first cell phone. Replies came in that went rather like this, "Next thing you know he'll set up the indoor plumbing"

So, with head hung low I announce today that I have joined the world of Kindle. Those who know me know that for me, reading is a very tactile experience. To paraphrase a man with whom I share a birthday, "The book's the thing." And so it has always been.

It isn't that I haven't always been curious about e-readers. I remember being allowed to touch Sally Fellow's in Baltimore and liking the simplicity of the gadget. I also liked the first Nook and the first Sony readers I saw.

Two years ago my brother bought his wife a Kindle for Christmas because they have no more room in their house for books. So there's a practicality to the e-reader I understand.

None other than the great Barbara Peters perhaps defined for me what an e-reader could and would be for me. A great way to bring a lot of books on a trip but don't forget to bring a couple of "real books" in case you get stuck on the runway.

Finally, I decided I wanted one. Sure we have a desk top, a lap top, a net book, an Ipod and a smart phone with the kindle app but hey, I love gadgets. It's why we have twenty different whisks in our house.

Still, I hovered, wavered and procrastinated. Because, well, I love books. I love the paper and the binding and the text. I love that at anytime, anywhere and without a power source I can have four hours of an entirely different world at my finger tips.

The kindle arrived two weeks ago. A thoughtful gift from a thoughtful husband. I also suspect he financially justified it as I brought home my fourth pair of reading glasses in two months. You can change the text size! You can read in the dark!! I made sure I knew how to charge it, download materials and turn it on and off. I really liked turning it on and off because different pictures come up when you do.

Yesterday I read on my kindle for the first time. Up first was SERIAL by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch, because how could I not read something from Joe Konrath first. He's become synonymous with e-readers. Great story, warped guys. I cannot believe I've slept while they were awake in the next room.

Next I read THE HUNTERS from Jason Pinter. A novella interlude set between THE FURY and THE DARKNESS. This series featuring reporter Henry Parker is making a lot of noise and THE HUNTERS introduces you to Pinter's characters and series... Gives you just a taste. This might be the best use for the Kindle. Or it might be the availability of back lists for the completists amongst us.

But I suspect my third read really tells the story. I'm reading THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN next. The man himself might hate the idea of the kindle but a kindle weighs a whole lot less than that book.

In short, I love my kindle.

As for the tactile? I will shop very carefully for my kindle cover. I was downright giddy to find four pages of choices on Google. This may take me awhile.

Next up in the Jordan house? we might get that new gadget everyone's talking about, the radio.