Thursday, March 31, 2011


How I Came to Write (and Publish) this Book, Grant Jerkins

A Very Simple Crime started out as a vignette—just two or three pages of narrative.

That tiny seed actually sprouted several plants. One branched out into an eighty thousand-word novel. Another shed its leaves and became a feature-length screenplay (a version by me alone as well as a version written by two other people.) What ended up being published was a short, fifty thousand-word novel—my favorite draft, and the one most often condemned by publishers as being too dark and having no likable characters.

That vignette (now the first half of chapter one) was simply a retelling of an incident from my childhood. Getting lost in the dark. My bedroom was in the basement of our house, and one night I got up to go to the bathroom. I didn’t bother to turn on the lights because I knew the way upstairs. I’d made the trip a thousand times before. That night though, I grew conscious of the pitch darkness of the basement and became disoriented. I got lost. I had a little panic attack and just stood there and screamed my head off until someone heard me and turned on a light. It was just one of those weird experiences we all have as kids.

Sometime after writing that down, my mind returned to it and latched onto the idea of a man who was never able to escape the darkness, that it infected every aspect of his life. And Adam Lee was born.

To that memory of being lost, I added a punch line (the second half of chapter one.) What if on the other end of that black night the boy grew into a man, and that man was on trial for murder? And in switching from remembrance to fiction, I found that I wanted to know what happened to that man in the intervening years, what had brought him to this accusation of murder. Was he guilty or innocent? (I didn’t know.) But mostly, I wanted to know what the boy who became the man would find at the end of that dark path. Would he, at long last, emerge into the light? Would Adam Lee have a happy ending? Did he deserve one?

I ended up with a short novel that I thought was fairly good—that I believed captured something that others might find compelling. The New York publishing community disagreed with me. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum. Over and over I heard the words, “It’s too dark.” At one point I turned the book into a screenplay, certain that this would be the key to my success. Hollywood, however, was likewise unimpressed. Ad nauseum. So I added thirty thousand words to the original manuscript (let in a little light, so to speak) and set my sights back on New York. Still no go.

Ultimately, it took over a decade to find a publisher. I was delighted when I heard that Penguin’s Berkley Prime Crime imprint wanted to publish the book. The final punch line to this odyssey was a good one. The last twist, the surprise ending, was that my too dark, too mean-spirited, and too twisted crime novel was put out by a publishing house known primarily for their line of cozies.

Lillian Jackson Braun and I have the same editor. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Are You Going To Bouchercon?

Well are you?

Despite my dread/fear of conferences, I am thinking of going again. I have my hotel reservations made.

You can find out more about the 2011 Bouchercon here.

It's certain to be a treat because the amazing Jordans/Judy Bobalik are planning it. The flight prices are good right now. Hotel reasonable. St. Louis-well when Phil went there and visited the courthouse they recruited him to play the baliff in an re-enactment of the Dred Scott decision. With that and the arch, what do you have to lose?

Come on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Talk about an opening scene that perfectly sets up what's at stake.

I have always been interested in films about the dissolution of a marriage. In fact, we just watched the mediocre 5x2 last week (although it had a great soundtrack). I guess no one will top Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, but this one comes close. From IMDB, it looks like it never earned back its cost so I am going to assume it is largely forgotten.

SHOOT THE MOON, written by Bo Goldman and directed by Alan Parker, examines the extremely painful ending of a marriage. Diane Keaton, in what may be her finest role, plays the wife; Albert Finney, the husband. They have four children that are caught in the middle of this maelstrom. Keaton must care for the kids (it's 1982 after all) and Finney concentrates on his career and mistress (Karen Allen). Eventually Keaton finds solace too.

SHOOT THE MOON captures the anger, hurt, and betrayal of the end of a marriage very well.
It won't cheer you up but you'll be impressed by it, I think. On a particularly sad note, Dana Hill, who played the most memorable of their daughters, died at age 32 of diabetes. I just learned that on researching the film. I remember her well.


Monday, March 28, 2011

The Perfect Book

After seeing JANE EYRE this weekend, we had several discussions. Eight of us went to see it. One of the women was a nineteenth century scholar and was able to shed light on many issues.
The movie was generally enjoyed by those of us who could see past its romantic trappings. (Ahem, Phil).

I remember hating the book when I read it in my first year of college, but loving it twenty years later. Another woman claimed the opposite. That now, she sees it as a romance masquerading as a novel with social relevance. But it did tell you much about the fate of those without money or family. It did raise issues about divorce, orphanages, the treatment of the insane, the place of religion. Okay but basically it was a romance. Nothing wrong with that and it certainly is superior to the latest Jennifer Anniston movie or romance novel.

Phil said it would have been better had Rochester died in the fire. To me this was crazy. You can't watch a movie (or read a book) where someone suffers for its entire length and not have any catharsis. He pointed out Tess of the D'Urbervilles. But Hardy was clearly a sadist. All his characters went down. Remember Jude.

I would classify it as one of the best books I've read. Maybe it is not perfect though.
What do you think of JANE EYRE and what is the most perfect book you've read.


How I came to write this story?

PROXY 529 (Plots With Guns - Fall, 2008 -

PROXY 529 came about from a couple of things. At least one week every year I surf various spots in northern California with a good friend I met in Baja back in the 90s. I’ve always wanted to add a “surfing” element to a crime story, but it was essential for me not have the act itself be overwhelming to the plot. Why? First off, surf-driven stories are excruciatingly dull (like reading some artless goon describe their first orgasm…ugh…you want that just pick up Surfing Magazine or The Surfer’s Journal) and second, surf-driven fiction always seems to smack of gimmicky fraud. In my opinion there are only two writers who have succinctly captured the experience—Daniel Duane (Caught Inside) and Kem Nunn (The Dogs of Winter, Tapping the Source, etc.). What's that? Okay, maybe Winslow, but if you notice Winslow focuses on the story not the physical activity itself which tells me he’s cool and certainly doesn’t kook-up the lineup like some inland, day-tripping dork. I like the end of The Death and Life of Bobby Z especially. Oh, and John Shannon's killer ending to Palos Verdes Blue. God damn, no one has ever surfed a landslide before.

Then at the time there was the excessive hand wringing over Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
It was making me angry. Yeah…father and son…the big, bad apocalypse…I get it, but give me a break. Enough already. After all McCarthy novels that came before this is the one that grabs Oprah by the short and curlies? What a pile of utter horseshit. Sorry, I’ve more faith in humankind than that. So the story's father and son angle came out of that anger.
Then I got to thinking, how does a criminal father initiate his son into the family business while still having hopes and plans for his son’s future? Hence, PROXY 529.

Born in New Jersey,
KIERAN SHEA’s short fiction has appeared in many a dark venue including Thuglit, Dogmatika, Plots with Guns, Word Riot, the Needle and Crimefactory. His first print-based crime story, "The Lifeguard Method" appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and his "Faith-Based Initiative" appeared in Thuglit's BLOOD, GUTS and WHISKEY anthology (Kensington, 2010) as did his short "Off Rock" in David Cranmer's powerhouse collection BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I finished this in time for the HBO series tonight. I found it a most surprising book. Certainly surprising in that is comes from the author of DOUBLE INDEMNITY and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Certainly surprising to be written by a man.

If you've never read it, there's no crime in the story. It's the story of a woman who loved her daughter too much. So much that she allowed this love to deprive her of every other relationship and the success she had earned.

That still was not the most surprising aspect to me. What fascinated me was the detail Cain provided for what was necessary to begin a restaurant business in the thirties, what was necessary to furnish a house, how mortgages worked, what people wore, How loans were arranged. what was necessary to begin a career as a waitress, a pianist, a singer. The detail drove the plot.

And perhaps the story interested me less than those details. I didn't particularly like Mildred. Was I meant to? None of the characters were likable really. Despite the lack of a crime, it still seemed like noir to me. If noir looks at people near the bottom that manage to fall still further, this is noir. There are few joyous moments in MILDRED PIERCE and yet unlike JANE EYRE (also on my mind lately), I seldom felt sorry for Mildred. And she has several really bad moments that made her hard to forgive.

It was different from any book I've ever read. Have you read it? What did you think?

And here is Megan's much more scholarly and lush take on it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My name is Patti Abbott and I am a Blabbermouth.

My husband, Phil, didn't understand why I detailed our disastrous trip to NY a few days ago. He would never discuss stuff like this publicly. Probably would not even tell close friends about it.

I, on the other hand, have little sense of privacy, might even show you my bruised sternum should you ask.

I guess people like me blog and people like Phil don't.

I have a few questions here for you bloggers, And for non-bloggers too.

Did you expect to share intimate details with strangers when you began to blog? Do you now? Do you and your spouse have different levels of openness in general? Does she/he share things better left unsaid at dinner parties? Do you? Do you ever get into trouble for sharing something better left private. (YES to all of these)

If you do blog, do you limit it to non-family issues. Share. I'm listening.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How a Cover Came to Be

I think anyone interested in cover art will find this article enthralling. (Or maybe it's just her mother that does).

From the editor and artist.

A review of a movie I bet no one out there has seen.

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, March 25, 2011

You can find today's Friday's Forgotten Books at Todd Mason's blog.

Next week, Forgotten Coffee Table books. This includes any book that sits out for quick referral regardless of its size. It does not have to be large, fancy or suitable for holding coffee. I will include other books as well for those with no coffee tables.

Check out the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival at Kerrie Smith's blog right here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


How I Came To Write The Book

“So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There’s vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack.”

Angel – Sara Mclachlan

Such a sad song. But so inspiring, so uplifting. I have strange affinity for this song. According to sources, Sara McLachlan wrote it in response to the heroin overdose of Jonathan Melvoin, from Smashing Pumpkins. He was only thirty-four, another life cut short by addiction. It’s a fitting eulogy for a friend. Oddly, Smashing Pumpkins song Disarm inspired my very first attempt at a novel, so I find the symmetry agreeable, to say the least.

As I was beginning to write SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, I heard Angel. I must have hit repeat fifty times. I knew, immediately, that this was how my main character, Taylor Jackson, was feeling.

In a word, she’s miserable. And misery isn’t a normal state of being for Taylor.

The story was conceived after I heard the song, and those particular lyrics. The words just spoke to me, the tone of the song overwhelmed my senses, and I knew exactly how to begin. The book is set on the idea of a tone. A rather amorphous beginning, but it came together rather quickly.

Taylor starts the book in a very bad place. Over the course of the previous five books, I have put this woman through hell. She’s been forced to kill, forced to defend her reputation. She’s in a relationship with the first man she’s ever truly loved, and it scares her. Her city has in turns held her up and turned against her. Her father figure and second in command is missing, and she’s just killed again, this time a murder suspect who is still a child.

And the man who’s been haunting her every waking moment, haunting her dreams, playing a devious game of cat and mouse with her for over a year, is making his last move on the chess board.

She knows people are going to die. People always do around Taylor. Mostly bad people, but some innocents as well. And she’s just so tired of it. It’s not fair. And when the Pretender decides to start hurting the people she loves, watch out. She won’t stand for it.

But taking life isn’t why she became a cop. She wants to protect life. She’s vowed to save people. Yet she’s killed this kid, and her Pete Fitzgerald has gone missing, her fiancĂ© has been keeping a major secret from her, and she’s feeling completely alone in the world. I knew she’d be in this incredibly somber, reflective place.

So I planned the book around that somber tone. It’s a serious book. It deals with serious issues, issues Taylor never thought she’d have to deal with. But this is her world now. It’s gotten messy, and she must get it cleaned up. And this time, she will stop at nothing—nothing—to make that happen.

Revenge is a tricky subject, especially for someone who has vowed to protect lives, not take them. It can’t be undertaken lightly. You must be willing to sacrifice everything, yourself most of all. It changes a person.

My morally upright white hat has suddenly become a vengeful angel.

So with the release of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, I invite you into Taylor’s world. And I leave you with this thought.

What would you do if everything you held dear was suddenly in jeopardy?

J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series,
with novels published in 21 countries. A former White House staffer, she moved to
Nashville and began research on a passion: forensics and crime. She has worked
extensively with the Metro Nashville Police, the FBI and various other law enforcement
organizations to research her novels. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and a
poorly trained cat. Visit for more insight into her wicked
imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Phil and Patti's Truly Horrible Adventure

My friend, Erica, tells me I am engaging in magical thinking when I say our trip to New York was cursed from the beginning. But I do believe in such things: that three wonderful trips over twelve months was too much to ask for.

The place to the left bears a striking resemblance to our rented place in NY. Except our landlord threw a wall up between the stove and the bed.

It began last fall with an invitation from some friends in Brooklyn. A neighbor of theirs was going to be gone this spring and we could stay in his apartment. Fabulous, so of course we began to plan for it. We always have fun in New York. Or almost always. Or sometimes. Actually most of our trips have turned sour at some point. (weather, illnesses, parents needed us back in Michigan, and actually another sprained ankle, etc.)

The generous man got ill, and then he was on a deadline and had to withdraw the offer. We hadn't put any money into the trip yet, but were disappointed.

The Brooklyn friends gallantly offered us their place a bit later in the same month. They were taking a trip to....Libya. I don't have to tell you what happened with their trip. Theirs was a greater disappointment than our trivial one.

But by now the tickets were purchased so we decided to rent a place for the two weeks. We talked to the landlord on the phone, saw pictures, liked the location. We took a chance. It had worked out in California and Paris after all. Something bothered me, the bedroom just had a picture of a bed. In fact, all the pictures seemed tightly cropped...I wondered why.

Two weeks before our departure, I banged my sternum on the treadmill and developed a bruise and then a bunch of other problems (biblical things that I didn't know still existed).

One week before the departure date, I sprained my ankle at a kid's birthday party at a gym. I also began dental work. The dentist gave me prescriptions for various aids and sighed. She sighed many times. Claimed she had never seen a person with more dental issues in her life and thanked me for her house on the lake, her childrens' education, her Lexus.

But everything seemed to be on the mend so off we went.

The apartment was...less... then we expected. It wasn't dirty-the usual complaint. Instead it was the size of a pea pod. It had exactly six pieces of furniture. A bed, a futon sofa, a table and two chairs, a tv that didn't work.

No toaster, coffeemaker, lamps, bureaus, ice cube trays, a towel rack, hangers, iron. Four plates, four bowls, four glasses. Two pans Nothing else. No place to work at all. Frantic calls to the landlord but he didn't answer phone calls or emails from Friday sundown until Sunday (or so he later claimed). There was no place to put our suitcases down, let alone a place to store any clothes. All windows looked out on an dark alley, a shaft really, and were covered with dingy sheets. There was not even a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. No broom or mop or sponge. This place, our place for two weeks, was probably stationed at the third or fourth level of hell.

Our friends suggested we stay in a spare bedroom on the fourth floor of their kids' house in Brooklyn. We were reluctant to put a family we didn't even know through this, but desperate to vacate this place, agreed.

No cab would take us to Brooklyn. They laughed when we told them where we wanted to go, in fact. They wouldn't even stop the car, on the off-chance we might try to throw out suitcases or ourselves in. My threats to report them drew more laughs.

So carting our four pieces of luggage we walked (limped in my case) eight blocks to the subway and made our way to Brooklyn, changing lines once. It took hours because there was only one track in operation. The car was so crowded, my suitcase sat on my foot. I reinjured my ankle and by the time we arrived, I couldn't put my foot down. My heel was also sore now from the ace bandage tearing at it.

I crawled up the four floors to our room and basically remained there for two days. Those four flights seemed like ten and they had a cat--I am very allergic to cats. The people were incredibly nice in their attempt to rescue us and salvage our trip, but no amount of niceness could help by then. I took antihistamines, red wine and slept ten hours at night.

On the third day, we looked at each other and decided it was time to call it quits. We paid the $300 the airline demanded for rescheduling a trip, paid a car to take us to the airport, and left. Apparently going from Brooklyn to LaGuardia is not a problem.

It had now cost us $2800 for three days in New York, most of which I spent in an attic room.

We may never get a cent of the apartment rental money back.

I missed meeting Charlie Stella, seeing Cullen Gallagher, going to a play with the Meyersons, going to a play with our Brooklyn friends, using our free ticket to the opera, hearing Megan's talk at the NYPL. I am bummed to the maximum.

Tell me you've had a trip like this one.PLEASE.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Needle Magazine #1 gets reviewed

Needle Magazine (and me among others) gets a few kind words and I will take any kindness I can get this week.

Stay tuned for my story tomorrow.


I was watching an old movie, late forties, and in it an Englishman accused two Americans on being too hard on cops after they made a derogatory remark about one. He said in England, they looked to cops to straighten things out whereas we accuse them of making things worse. (Now this was long before the sixties--when cops picked up the word pigs to describe their behavior in demonstrations).

I wondered if this was true in crime fiction too. Do American novels generally treat cops in a different way than British (or European) novels do? What about movies and TV? Or is it only in real life that we give cops a hard time.

Monday, March 21, 2011





Stephen D. Rogers

There are two parts to this tale, one more interesting than the other. I'll let you decide which is which.

As the newsletter editor for the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America, I received an email from a publisher asking me to pass along a call for submissions. A small independent publisher, Mainly Murder Press sought mystery novels with a New England setting.

After adding the call to the next newsletter, I emailed the publisher to inquire whether MMP would be interested in a collection of mystery short stories with New England settings. They asked for a proposal. And then the entire book. And then that two copies of the attached contract be signed and returned.

Throughout this entire process, I had to decide what stories to propose for inclusion. (I then surprised myself by making two swap requests after the collection was accepted.)

I've contributed to over seventy-five anthologies, most themed within a certain genre. With anthologies, no matter how rigid the requirements, the contents are usually differentiated by the individual voices of the various contributors.

With single-author collections, I've noticed two editorial decisions. In some collections, the editor chooses stories of all one type, and thus risks monotony. In other collections, the editor chooses different types of stories, and thus risks a marketing challenge.

I went for breadth within the mystery genre, wanting everybody who happened across the book to find at least one story to their liking, and this decision has in fact made marketing a particular challenge. On the other hand, I've enjoyed seeing which stories different reviewers highlighted due to their predilections for traditional, literary, or noir.

Would I make the same decision next time I pitch a collection? Probably. While I'll probably sell fewer copies, I value a richer reading experience over riches.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


How I came to write this book.

I thought answering that would be a no-brainer. I mean, a copy of Late Rain, is setting right in front of me. I can reach over, pick it up, and open it to any page I want.

However, I’m not sure I can exactly untangle how it got here.

Five drafts. 1650 pages. Depending on how much life gets in the way, one draft a year or year and a half. Only the last two drafts resembling each other. That’s the way it usually works for me on a novel, and that’s how it played out for Late Rain.

Getting to that final draft is a messy process.

I don’t show the first three drafts of a novel to anyone. Inevitably, they are the equivalent of lab accidents. Characters’ names change frequently. Their back-stories bloat and shrink. Plot-lines appear and disappear and recombine. Style mutates. Good guys discover they’re not so good. Bad guys bang their heads against genre conventions until they draw blood. Lines of dialogue appear, and I have no idea who uttered them or why. Random images pile up. The style mutates again.

The pages and notes pile up (Late Rain eventually filled three and a half large boxes), and I begin to inhabit extended bouts of doubt and panic. I go on long walks and try to sort through the characters and plot elements and image patterns and find a structure and style to accommodate them. I spend a lot of time staring off into space. I obsess. I drive my wife nuts.

When I finally accept I’m lost, that’s when I know I’m ready to start drafting the novel I’ve wanted to write all along.

So, by the fourth draft, I get out of my own way and set the characters chasing after what they want and wait for the collisions to start.

I know who the characters are by then and what they’re capable of and not capable of, and because of that, they can still surprise me.

Hopefully, by the final draft, the same will hold true for readers.

Lynn Kostoff is a professor of English at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. His first book, A CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES was published by New Pulp Press.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Story Arcs

I ran across the pilot episode of The X Files on BBC America the other day, and of course, recorded it. It was a TV show we watched fervently and yet I always had some ambivalence about it. It rested so heavily on its arc of alien invasion, which made it appear ridiculous from time to time. Duchovny's acting always seemed a bit lacking as well.

This led to a discussion of stories with arcs and what was the first one. We came up with THE FUGITIVE, which always had the FBI chase as the connecting tissue but also had individual story lines unrelated to this.

What other early TV shows had an arc. Also did THE X FILES work for you. We were amazed at how they plunged right into the alien invasion theme in the first episode. And also how smoothly that episode rolled out.

Were You a Conformist at Fifteen

(Portrait of Sylvia Plath)

In 1963, I flattened my hair into a pageboy, took to wearing only black, burgundy, gray, brown and navy straight skirts with white blouses and cardigans. No patterns. I wore oxford shores with dark stockings.

In Philadelphia it was called dressing conservative (although it had nothing to do with politics) and I think it came out of the parochial schools. The boys cut their hair like the Beatles and dressed similarly. Why, I have no idea. Did you adopt a style of dress to fit in with a group of teenagers at that age? Or were you secure enough to be yourself? Have you ever conformed to a style that was not particularly yours? How far did you go to fit in?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Night Music: Paolo Conte: Sparring Partner

Forgotten Movies

When I was a kid I loved this movie and saw it every time it came on THE EARLY SHOW, a weekday treat in Philly that made a movie junkie out of me. THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE starred Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire.

(From IMDB) A homely maid and a scarred ex-GI meet at the cottage where she works and where he was to spend his honeymoon prior to his accident. The two develop a bond and agree to marry, more out of loneliness than love. The romantic spirit of the cottage, however, overtakes them. They soon begin to look beautiful to each other, but no one else.

I was transfixed at how they came to look beautiful to each other over time--that is until a third party entered their cottage. Then all their physical characteristics reverted to reality.

I doubt such a movie would be made now. She was just plain and his disfigurement was not so awful. This was Hollywood after all--they weren't about to ruin their future careers. But we don't get romances that aren't comedies any more. I miss that. And if Hollywood made it today, they would probably make it a horror story rather than a romance.

However they made it, it wouldn't have the charm of the original.

For more forgotten movies, go to Todd Mason's blog right here.

Monday, March 14, 2011


INTO THIN AIR: How I Came To Write This Story.

Nigel Bird

About fifteen years ago as I was preparing to open the door to my class of five year-olds, into the room bounced a familiar face.

Uffe was unusual as he had been a male au pair for one of the children in my previous class. I’d last seen him and shaken his hand, offering the famous words ‘If ever you need a place to stay...’ or some such. And there he was a year later needing a place to stay. There was a slight catch in that he also had three other young, strapping Danes with him who also needed a roof for a couple of weeks. What could I say? They were student teachers who’d organised a placement, so I owed them out of professional duty as well as out of friendship for their leader.

I managed to squeeze them into my one-bedroom flat and we had a ball.

As a thank you, they bought me a ticket to Copenhagen and I was to be there for New Year.

My birthday’s on New Year’s Eve and I’d never been away from my family to celebrate it before.

The weather in Denmark was bitterly cold, minus 20 or so, colder than I’d ever seen on a thermometer before and strangely pleasant.

The hospitality of my new friends was amazing and I loved being there. On my birthday I went to dinner, we watched the Queen’s speech and let off fireworks in a drunken mess. I loved it.

I also got to spend a lot of time alone. It wasn’t just the aloneness of it all that got to me then. I was used to being by myself. What affected me was something more difficult than solitude, that something being loneliness. It was cold, bare and sad inside of me and there was nothing I could do about it.

Before our dinner party I had an idea. If we could cut chunks from the ice in the pond we could take along ice-cubes that contained fish. When the ice melted, everyone would have a fish in their drink. It seemed like a wonderful idea at the time.

We took out an electric drill, hammers and other tools and set to work.

The ice was unworkably solid like heavy stone and we gave up, so the fish thing never happened and I guess I wondered what might have been if we’d had more time.

Part two, the part that blends with the Denmark thoughts came at a time when I was heading for a fall. Everything was happening at a million miles an hour and a crash was inevitable.

One night I found an island of tranquility in a bar. I sat round a table full of friends and was lucky enough to get my seat next to a beautiful young lady upon whom I had a small crush.

Her eye-lids sparkled in the light and it was all I could do to concentrate on what we talked about.

At some point I mentioned that I needed some black nail-varnish. So did she, as it happened (nail varnish, but not black). We arranged to meet the next day to shop.

Her hangover was big and so was mine. We strolled about in the warm sunshine and eventually got the nail-paint we wanted.

Sitting at a table for coffee, she took out an apple from her bag and ate it. I was so nervous that when I realised there was no core left of the apple I had to ask. She’d eaten the whole thing, pips and all and I was reminded of my mum’s warning to me that you should never eat pips or the seeds would start to grow inside.

Later we went for cheesecake.

When we parted I felt that Danish loneliness return. The only difference was the weather.

I threw the ingredients all together and wrote Into Thin Air.

I described it as an existential romance when I pitched it to Untreed Reads, because that’s what I believe it is.

‘Into Thin Air’ is due for release in the first week of March this year.

And the lady with the apple?

She’s downstairs from me now keeping an eye on our three lovely children, the apples of my eye you might say.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What book have you had the longest?

This is the best picture I can manage. This book was given to me in 1950 by my grandparents--it has their signatures on it--and I think you can guess why. Written and illustrated by Laura Bannon, it is the story of Patty, her art class at a museum and how she learns to paint her favorite thing, her cat. The story is much too detailed for a two-year old, but once I could follow a longer narrative I loved it. The illustrations are excellent and so is the story.

What book, still in your possession, have you had the longest?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nick Cave and Grinderman


How I Came To Write This Book

I was in a private cabana, poolside, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills when I pushed aside my breakfast of Lobster Frittata, set down my glass of Dom PĂ©rignon, patted my rock hard abs, turned onto my side and said to last night’s love partner, George Clooney I think it was – not really sure – and said, “I’ve got a great idea for a crime novel – fetch my laptop, Sugar Buns!”

Kidding of course. I think it was actually Christian Bale.

Death by Sarcasm started with a character, totally unlike me, who tended to hide her true feelings behind humor. Mary Cooper rarely lets anyone in, and when she does, she usually greets them with a welcome not typically employed by the Emily Post School of Etiquette.

The other thing about Mary Cooper is although she would never admit it, family is very important to her. That’s another big difference between my character and its author. I take the same approach to my family that a microbiologist takes to Ebola. Namely, store them in a place from which they can’t escape, and take them out maybe once a year or so to study them, always wearing gloves and protective clothing.

I’m not being serious, of course. My family isn’t an infectious disease. They’re more like the insidious bacteria that cause the infectious disease.

In Death by Sarcasm, Mary learns that her uncle was murdered behind a comedy club in Santa Monica. She investigates and soon, skeletons, some old, some new, begin emerging from dark places only Los Angeles and Hollywood can produce.

It’s the book I’ve always wanted to write. A strong, tough, independent woman, who understands the unique challenges someone like her faces, but doesn’t necessarily place a huge priority on meeting anyone’s expectations but her own.

I also wanted to write a crime novel that moves. I love fast-paced fiction, and I felt the story should be as relentless as Mary’s biting wit. I hope I accomplished my objective.

So, despite the panicked phone call I just received from John Grisham, who begged me not to start my publishing career that is sure to be his ruin, I’m excited to see what others think of Mary Cooper.

She might not give a rat’s behind.

But I do.

I’d love to know what you think. (And that was sincere – an action so rare for me that I may have pulled a muscle.)

Dani Amore is crime novelist living and writing in Los Angeles, California. Death by Sarcasm is her first book. You can typically find her over at her website,

Death By Sarcasm, just $2.99 on

Friday, March 11, 2011

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, March 11, 2011

Kawasaki's Rose is reviewed at Crimespree. If you liked The Lives of Others, see it.

THE SUMMING UP, Friday, March 11, 2011

Patti Abbott, The Fifth Woman, Henning Mankell
Yvette Banek, Biggie and the Poisoned Politician, Nancy Bell
Joe Barone, Dangerous Undertaking, Mark de Castrique
Paul Bishop, Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household
Bill Crider, Down There, David Goodis
Scott Cupp, The Sword of Zagan, Clark Ashton
Martin Edwards, Thou Shell of Death, Nicholas Blake
Barry Ergang, Killers are My Meat, Stephen Marlowe
Ed Gorman, Dark Passages, David Goodis
Glenn Harper, Hard Man, Al Guthrie
Jerry House, An Eye for an Eye, Leigh Brackett
Randy Johnson, The Nymph and the Satyr, Larry Maddock (Jack Owen Jardine)
George Kelley, Hellcats and Honey Girls, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake
B.V. Lawson, The Bait, Dorothy Uhnak
Evan Lewis, Death Reign of the Vampire King, Various
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, A Perfectly Proper Mutder, Harold Addams
Julia Madeleine, Shella, Andrew Vachs
Todd Mason, F&SF: 30TH ANNIVERSARY edited by Edward Ferman (1979); BOUCHER'S CHOICEST, edited by Jeanne F. Bernkopf from Anthony Boucher's selections (1969)

Jim Napier, The Labyrinth Makers, Anthony Price
John Norris, Miss Hargreaves, Frank Baker
Juri Nummelin, A Game for the Living, Patricia Highsmith
Richard Pangborn, Kill Your Darlings, Terence Blacker
David Rachels, Now You are One of Us, Asa Noname
James Reasoner, Sin is a Redhead, Steve Harragan (William Maconachie)
Richard Robinson, Blueberry 1-Chihuahua Pearl, Charlier and Moebius
Ron Scheer, The Big Lonely, Sam Brown
Gerard Saylor, Monkey's Raincoat, Robert Crais
Kerrie Smith, Monsieu Pamplenousse Takes the Cure, Michael Bond

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 11, 2011

George Kelley will be posting the links on the 18th and Todd Mason on the 25th. I think the first week in April was going to be our homage to forgotten or neglected coffee table type books. In other words, books that are difficult to fit into your bookcase so you stick them on the table. This is merely a suggestion-all characters are welcome.

Ed Gorman is the author of TICKET TO RIDE, STRANGLEHOLD and edits (with Dave Zeltserman) ON DANGEROUS GROUND. You can find him here.

Dark Passage by David Goodis

If David Goodis hadn't written this book it would have fallen to Cornell Woolrich to do the job. The set-up (and several parts of the book) are pure Woolrich.

Vincent Parry escapes San Quentin where he's serving life for a murder he didn't commit. He goes back to his old haunts in San Francisco intent on finding the real killer. But he's talked into a plastic surgery that certainly borders on science fiction. Zip zap, wait a few days and you're walking around with a completely new face. I supplement my income with The Ed Gorman Medical Drive-Through; you get a burger and fries with every procedure. But not even MY docs could do what this doc did.

Anyway despite my doubts about the medicine practiced here the book is gripping from page one to the finale. And Goodis is as good at menace and paranoia as Woolrich. His San Francisco bears a real resemblance to the London of The Ripper. There's an extended scene in the fog with a cop that starts to choke you. Will the cop figure out who he is? There are chase scenes in the fog that take on the aspect of horror fiction. And there is the ever-shifting game of whodunit.

There's the beautiful blonde stranger (Lauren Bacall in the film version) who helps him for mysterious reasons of her own; the old friend we begin to have doubts about; and the shrew (Agnes Moorehead in the movie) who is almost as much of a bitch as his dead wife--though nobody could have out-bitched her.

A very dark (in all respects) and very rich novel (parts of it read more like a mainstream book than a genre one) with an ending I'm sure Hollywood changed (I haven't seen it for some time). A page-turner and a masterful story of menace.

Patti Abbott
THE FIFTH WOMAN, Henning Mankell.

This was the sixth of the Kurt Wallender books by Henning Mankell. My book group elected to read it to my surprise because they don't usually op
t for crime fiction.

Wallender, who loses his father midway through this book and should be on a grief leave, is faced with the murder of severa; men. All die in prolonged exaggerated ways. Clearly the murderer is speaking some language that Wallender is at first unable to parse. There has to be a link.

It comes to light that these men were abusers of women, a common theme in Swedish literature. But on the way to solving the case, we get a taste of mercenaries at work in war times and in vigilantes in Sweden who have a definite Nazi cast. The Swedish police get treated as harshly as their American counterparts.

Wallender has his usual air of deep despair. My book group felt Mankell was especially apt at showing how police officers bounce ideas off each other and how teamwork solves the crime.

They felt that either Mankell or the translators wrote poorly. I didn't notice this myself.

After reading the book, I watched the BBC production, which was fairly accurate. They changed the ending to make it more dramatic and eliminated a lot of the fairly under-developed subplots. I am getting used to Branagh as Wallender by now. He is starting to seem Swedish. I wish they hadn't changed the ending though.
Yvette Banek
Joe Barone
Paul Bishop
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Glen Harper
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner
Julia Madeleine
Todd Mason
Jim Napier
John Norris
Juri Nummelin
Richard Pangborn
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Ron Scheer
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang
David Rachels
Gerard Saylor

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Heath's R. L. Burnside


The Bastard Hand: Secret Origin!

The details are hazy because illegal booze was involved, but I remember that we were sitting in a juke-joint just north of Holly Springs, Mississippi, and R.L. Burnside was sitting on a metal fold-out chair a few feet from me, strumming an evil monotone thrum on his guitar and his son was playing a hypnotic bass line, and R.L.’s voice radiated something seductively evil throughout the whole place. This heavy black woman was doing a bump-and-grind inches in front of me, the stretched-to-the-limit fabric of her dress brushing against my face and I was trying to stay cool because I didn’t want to look as if it bothered me.

My friends and I were the only white faces in the place, but no one cared. It wasn’t that kind of vibe. The music—solid North Mississippi blues—was loud enough to qualify as necromancy and people were moving and everything smelled like beer, fried fish and corn likker.

We were having a great time. I glanced around and saw, at the next table, a tall handsome man, white, wearing a preacher’s collar. He was swigging from a bottle of shine, just like the one my friends and I were sharing, purchased from an old fella out in the parking lot. A plump black woman with a stunningly gorgeous face perched on his lap. He had his long lean hand on her upper thigh. Once in a while, he’d give her the Mason jar and she’d take a dainty sip and hand it back to him. He swallowed the stuff down with obvious relish.

Naturally, I was struck by the preacher’s collar. A Man a’Gawd, swilling moonshine, cattin’ around with a woman who clearly radiated carnality, lost in the sinister throbbing blues. What the hell was he doing here?

He noticed me looking at him, nodded and winked and yelled over the noise—“How you doin’, old son?” he said. “Ya’ll havin’ a good time?”

“Goddamn,” I said.

“Don’t blaspheme, son,” he grinned. “It ain’t right.”

But wait, I’m remembering it wrong. That’s not how it happened at all.

I wasn’t in a juke-joint just north of Holly Springs. I was in a Laundromat in Memphis, near Union Avenue and Madison.

Sitting there, waiting for my clothes to come out of the dryer, bored. I looked around for something to read and found a Bible sitting on the chair next to me. It was white bonded leather, scuffed and rough. I picked it up and was surprised to see that it had a hole right through the center—right through the “O” in “Holy”--- as clean and clear as a bullet hole.

Intrigued, I opened it up, was about to start perusing, when a voice in front of me said, “Howdy, son. You a Christian, then?”

I looked up and laid eyes on a tall, handsome man in a preacher’s collar and I knew, I just KNEW, he’d left that Bible there for me to pick up. It was a test and I’d failed. Or passed, depending on your point of view.

No, no. That’s not right, either. That ain’t how it happened.

Now that I think of it, the first time I saw the preacher might have been at a sermon in a small town in North Mississippi, where the major and everyone else in town was present, and the preacher, oozing charisma, managed to turn everyone against each other with just a word and a smile.

Or it might have been at a whorehouse in downtown Memphis, under the shadow of the freeway, where he drank whiskey all night and bedded three women at once.

Or maybe it was in the woods at night, in a moonshiner’s cabin, where his eyes were on fire from booze and he preached fire and brimstone to the moonshiner’s with fearful wrath.

You know, I can’t really remember now. That preacher, man, he was everywhere. And no matter who you were or where you came from, he had something for you. Something you needed. Something you just couldn’t do without, once you knew it existed.

And that’s how The Bastard Hand, my first novel, came to be.

It’s coming out on March 20, from New Pulp Press. You should buy it, check it out. Maybe the preacher will be familiar to you, as well. Maybe you’ve seen him around.