Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Trend?

I wrote to someone recently that if they were unfamiliar with Rebecca Pawel's work then they might get an idea of it if they knew what all Olen Steinhauer has done.

Here was my thinking at the time: both authors are young writers who write about war-torn Europe of the 1930's, 40s. They both have intriguing and not necessarily attractive (at first) main protagonists. Both write fine, delicate prose, strength to be found in the sharp descriptions of time, place and persons.

What I want to know is whether two authors makes a trend. Are there others currently handling the same period?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Another Edgars List, another...

Once again the people who run the Edgars have put together a list of nominees, and once again, I haven't read a single one of the major works listed. This time I haven't read any of the minor works (ie, short stories) either. Of course, I've read books by some of the writers, and I will read works by others. For instance, having read one Hard Case Crime novel recently (scroll a bit) I'll definitely go looking for Allan Guthrie's book and I just bought a copy of The James Deans, (bravo Reed Coleman ).

A bit dismayed that the five stories chosen came from only two anthologies. Seems a bit wrong.

In any event, congratulations to all the nominees and good luck.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ed McBain - Early and Late

A couple of nights ago, I picked up The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain, republished by Hard Case Crime . The book was first published under a different title (and psuedonym) in 1958. You might think that with fifty years on it, the book would sound dated or somehow silly, but instead it is a marvel to me. I'm halfway through (remember,I'm an awfully slow reader) and the tone of the book is perfect.

The book is told in the first person by a drunken former private eye. The man tries to be unlikable, but I can't help myself. He may carry trouble on him, but I'd want him on my team. Every couple of pages has a succinct description of a place or person that makes me want to read it again (thereby slowing me even further). The prose is tight and crackles with life, a life that is imparted to the central character.

I wonder, however, if such a book would find a big name publisher today. It's quite short at about 200 well-spaced pages, and in the first hundred pages there are no dramatic scenes of violence. Just a guy with attitude reluctantly looking into a case for an old friend. Love the character, but would it be picked up today? Certainly with McBain's name on it there's no problem.

Anyway, though my novels have been compared to McBain's work (even favorably) I've never read one of his novels before. (I read Evan Hunter's Blackboard Jungle as a teenager, does that count?) I'll have to do more to rectify that situation. I think I'd want to stay in the 1950s for my next McBain.

In the mean time, I'll look out for other Hard Case Crime books.

PS: Just finished the book. It's great all the way throughout. If this is his early stuff (and for a writer that prolific, the first few dozen books are the early ones) then it's no wonder he was a MWA Grandmaster. Only one question: Where's Frannie at the end? I mean, the guy's lonely, she's lonely, there's that gaunlet on the floor...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Demo Me!

Bryon Quertermous let me know that he's taken one of my stories for Demolition Magazine , his spanking brand new ezine. This is not the kind of magazines where doilies and omniscient cats play prominent roles. Instead, violence rules -- the strong survive and the weak had better be awfully clever.

The story is a Viktor Petrenko story which pleases me no end. "Viktor Petrenko, Bring Them to Their Knees" if I recall the title correctly. (I really should look this up properly, but I'm rather lazy and scared of my own computer so I'd rather not close this window if I can avoid it.)

Anyway, having read the first issue, I'm really very happy to be including in an upcoming one. Take a look. (Assuming I got the web addres correct)it's easy!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

We have a title...

Kinda. MISSING IN PRECINCT PUERTO RICO. How does that grab you? No difference, that's the title of book four in the series. It was the one that was proposed to me by the powers that be at St Martins. I gave other suggestions, but they kept this one. Ah well, could be worse. Some of the other suggestions were quite bad. John Rickards proposed a title I can't bring myself to write here. I didn't suggest it to SMP. Perhaps that was bad of me.

Anyway, no official word on whether there will be a subtitle. That is, will they continue the trend and subtitle the book "BOOK FOUR"? Divided over this issue myself. I didn't want them to subtitle the first book "BOOK ONE". Or the second book. Saying BOOK ONE makes it sound like I'm writing one long continuous story - you'll be lost in book two if you haven't first read book one. NOT TRUE! You'll be lost in book two regardless. No wait... Of course, this would be no real problem if all the books were simply kept in print indefinitely.

Readers are sometimes shocked to hear that I don't get to chose my own titles. Of course, I could. I could stand firm and threaten to take my books elsewhere. That would require the development of a different spine and possibly other body parts.

In any event, I'm trying to get used to the title. Can't wait for the artwork - David Baldeosingh Rotstein has done top-notch work on every cover so far (as he has for other authors) and I'm hoping for something good this time out too.

I'll have to discuss some of the difficulties this book is presenting for me as I try to think of ways to market/advertise it. Again, John R. gave me some good ideas at the last B'con, but I'm afraid I won't be taking his advice. Certainly not the posable dolls one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

DH Reddall's Red Shift

Thought I should mention DH Reddall's story in the current Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. It seemed to me that the PI was a little flat as a character, but that may be because there are, apparently, many stories in the series. The victim seemed like a fuller, more vital character. That's not a bad thing. Not every story needs to focus on the inner workings of the detective though that is convenient for the writer sometimes. The victim should come to life and so he does here.

What I thought was even more interesting however were the two attempts on the victim's life. He was a local artist/crumudgeon. The first attempt was with a cream pie. In fact, once it's fully explained, I thought this attempt actually sounded more deadly than the actual mode of murder. I had never thought of a cream pie as a murder weapon, so my hat's off to DH Reddall for introducing what I thin is a rather novel method for causing mischief.

A well plotted story with what I thought was a neat twist.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Meg Chittenden's "The Frog that Croaked in the Night"

The latest EQMM contains a story by Meg Chittenden called "The Frog that Croaked in the Night." It's about a man and a frog, a ceramic frog with a motion detector that croaks whever anyone passes in front of it. Or when the wind blows. I suppose it would be like one of those talking, mounted fish that sings "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Anyway. The man Orville Lubbock, hates the frog and the frog's owner, Kristina von Winter (whom he also seems to lust for - an entanglement of Eros and Thanatos that would have made Freud giddy). Oh, and he hates her boyfriend who seems to have everything that Orville lacks (including Kristina). Anyway, as the tension rises towards the end of the story, the question becomes, "Who will kill who?" Somebody does die. Is it the frog? Is it the boyfriend? Pick up a copy and figure it out.

Orville, the POV character, is a real human by the end. A good story, well told and with a nice twist on the last page.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

G. Miki Hayden's "A Murder on 123rd Street"

Just read my first G. Miki Hayden story in the current Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. A Murder on 123rd Street is great for its fully developed central character and the insight into a culture that was always opaque to me even though I grew up in NYC and certainly had many Africans in my classes (both as a student and as an instructor). Notice it is Africans not African-Americans. Miriam, the amateur sleuth who gets to the bottom of things here, is originally from Ghana as is her husband and the younger, second wife, her husband has recently imported. Hayden, who I have met and is probably not from Ghana, presents the world of Harlem from Miriam's eyes. There is no lapse in this worldview. I know nothing about how people from Ghana really view Harlem, but I completely beieve I've been given a glimpse of that in this story.

But then, the mystery - Miriam's super (that is, the superintendat of her apartment building) has been murdered, there was only one eyewitness, and this person not only said nothing to the police, this person wasn't even asked. Miriam does her detecting though she has a household to tend to and the second wife has become pregnant -- strange in itself since the husband hasn't had conjugal relations with her.

Anyway, a worthy read. I really do hope to see more of Miriam. It was a lot like Alexander McCall Smith's main character (whose name I'm blanking on) but this story had a lot more pep to it. In fact, I tell a lie. Miriam was a lot more interesting than Mma. Whatever her name is.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Demolition Magazine

Just now got a note from Bryon Quertermous saying that his new e-zine, Demolition has gone live. Check it out. An impressive array of short stories.

Some day, when I'm good enough, I too will be including among the contributors. Some day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Pot Sweetens...

Jon Jordan over at CrimeSpree Magazine has proposed raising the ante on the contest I'm running at my site . Instead of just the two issues that I'm offering, Jon's willing to toss in a third issue, the latest one. Not only will you have a glimpse of some of their past glory (and glory it is, by the by) but you will also be up to the minute.

This is a great magazine with interviews, articles, and great fiction. If you don't know CrimeSpree, there is no better way to be introduced than this deal right here. Go to the website and enter. Easy as that.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Wait, can it be BSP if it's on my own blog?

In any event, just wanted to say that there's a whole lot of news at my website including an interview with Russel McLean, editor of Crime Scene Scotland and a damn fine writer in his own right. Link here .


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Michele Martinez

I just came back from a reading at the Book Vault in Wallingford CT. Michele Martinez spoke about and read from her new book "The Finishing School." Of course, I picked up a copy and had it signed. During the talk, I noticed how polished Michele is as a speaker and thought to myself "she must have had a coach or learned this public speaking thing somewhere." I was reminded that she was a trial lawyer for some years. Maybe that's where the poise came from.

BTW, met her family. Lovely.

In any event, having only read a few pages, I think the story is going to be one hell of a ride. It's about fourth on my list of books to read, but I'm looking forward to it. I'll report when I have something to say, but I'm slow as hell as a reader so please do go about your business in the mean time.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hockensmith update

I've started reading Steve Hockensmith stories in preparation for the interview we're going to spring on the world in a few days. I've read four so far and I have to say they're very different from what I expected. This is a structural difference that I'll go into in greater detail when I've read a couple more. Suffice to say that the whole mystery writer's rule about "dropping the body in the first page or two" seems to be of no concern to the man. The stories are wonderful (so far; there's no telling if there's a turn for the worse coming for another day or two yet) but I guess "unconventional" is a good general way to describe them. Let me get a bit more specific.

"Tricks" is a Det. Larry Erie (ret.) story - quite light in some places - a missing monkey is the crux here. "Erie's Last Day" has the same protagonist but is quite dark, somber. "Wolves in Winter" is a Western mystery starring the Amlingmeyer brothers. They also star in the novel "Holmes on the Range" coming out from Minotaur which I just got today. (I read the first five or so pages - there's a guy who's been ground into... ground beef by... beef. This will be good I think.) I've also read "The Macguffin Theft Case" which was published alongside my own story "UFO" last year in AHMM . This story is an outlandish comedy - a man walks into a pizzeria with a poison dart in his wooden leg, having fought off a bunch of murderous ninjas (is there another kind?) and he's NOT the center of the story.

Each of the stories is excellent in its way. Part of the interview will therefore focus on who it is Hockensmith pays to produce these tales since clearly no one man could bring all of these forth without help... Unless he had two brains.

More later.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rebecca Pawel

Rebecca is on board for an interview. She really was thousands of miles away in Puerto Rico no less. Her next book, the fourth in the series, will be out in February. Steve Hockensmith's book will also be out then. Russel Mclean is already hard at work answering questions. If you want to get inside the mind of mystery writers, my site (link on the right) will be the place to be. First up will be Russel. I say that because he's the only one with questions so far.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Dinnae Like Mclean...

I've just read three of Russel Mclean's short stories in three issues of AHMM that I happened to have lying around. (Actually on a bookshelf.) I didn't like them, I LOVED them.

The stories "Coughing John," "Regrets," and "Dudman's Word," center around the work of P.I. Sam Bryson of Dundee. Here's the thing: even though these are short stories - Sam Bryson is fully fleshed out in each of the stories. You get to know him very quickly - you know he takes the "private" part of his title very seriously - like it's his personal task to see that justice is done. You also get to know that his girlfriend Ros is everything to him.

More than that, Mclean is gifted with a talent for making all his characters come alive in just a few short lines. The criminals, the victims, the police officers who sometimes make use of Bryson's talents, and the people who work in Bryson's office. They all quickly become real in Mclean's hands.

And then there is the realism factor - bad things happen in this world. Even though it is AHMM (recently criticized as too cozy in other places which I can't link to only because I can't recall who said it) a head gets blown open in "Dudman's Word," a story that also features an abused wife, and a homeless man is callously murdered in "Coughing John." Also, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it but, "Arse" and some variations on that word get sprinkled in liberally. The three stories are quite Noiry if you ask me with "Coughing John" being most Noir in my opinion.

Anyway, a full interview with the man will be posted on my website in a week or two. I'll keep you informed.

More Interviews

Russel Mclean and Steve Hockensmith have both said yes to being interviewed for my website. I think Russel might be up first a little later this month. In any event,this is a major coup for me because it means I'm developing a theme - short story writers are a focus. Or at least, this is how I know these writers best. I'll be reading "Holmes on the Range" to talk to Hockensmith.

I'll be contacting Beth Tindall, web guru, to update the site today and hopefully, the changes start happening in a week or so.

The lineup, therefore, for the interviews is currently quite impressive - Mclean, Hockensmith, IJ Parker, Con Lehane, Bill Crider, Jim Doherty, and Rebecca Pawel if I can just get her to return my emails. What's up with that??

Oh, and does anyone know where to get hold of Martin Limon? Should I go through SOHO Books?

Scroll up a bit to see why I begged Russel Mclean to talk to me.