Archive for April, 2012


New Fiction: “When Duty Calls” in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder

April 30, 2012

My story “When Duty Calls” closes  the new anthology Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder, just published by Wildside Press in conjunction with the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Here’s the first paragraph of the story — about a young woman helping to keep house for an aging and very distinguished military man:

Keri is just setting out the silverware when the Colonel calls across from the living room with a new question. He’s watching the Military Channel and finishing up the cocktail she made for him—a thimble of Virginia Gentleman, a generous portion of soda, another light splash of whiskey on top to make it smell like a stronger drink. The Colonel’s house has an open floor plan from the kitchen through the dining room to where he sits, and as she’s finished up dinner, she’s listened to him arguing lightly with the program’s depiction of Heartbreak Ridge, reminiscing about his own stint in Korea, rambling in his own way. “Last rally of the Shermans,” he mused aloud, and something about “optics” and “maneuverability” and then—a different tone than Keri’s heard in the four months she’s known him—“Is the perimeter secure, Sergeant?”

Needless to say, that perimeter is not secure, and Keri’s job caring for the Colonel quickly takes on stark new responsibilities.

Edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley (with Andrews and Goffman contributing stories of their own), the collection also features short fiction by Shari Randall, C. Ellett Logan, Karen Cantwell, E.B. Davis, Jill Breslau, David Autry, Harriette Sackler, Ellen Herbert, Smita Harish Jain, Leone Ciporin, and Cathy Wiley. This year’s editorial panel included Ellen Crosby, Sandra Parshall, and Daniel Stashower; the anthology features a foreword by Elaine Viets; and that terrific cover is by photographer Robin Templeton.

A launch party (which I unfortunately can’t make) is planned for Sunday, May 20, at Arlington’s One More Page Books, but a second Maryland-based launch may also be in the works, and I hope to be able to attend. In the meantime, however, you can also pick up the collection through Wildside Press here. And for some of the stories behind the stories, please also visit the website Writers Who Kill, which includes brief remarks from various contributors.

“Writing Your Personal History”

Also on the calendar…. Later this week, I’ll be joining Sandra Beasley, Clifford Garstang, and Dianne Hennessy King as the workshop leaders at the 12th annual “Writing Your Personal History” Symposium on Thursday, May 3, at the Vienna Community Center in Vienna, Virginia. This year’s theme is “The Many Roots to Memoir,” and promises to be great fun. For information and registration, check out the webpage here. — Art Taylor


2011 Agatha Award Winners

April 29, 2012

Made it to both the Edgars and Malice this past week — and here are this year’s Agatha Award winners (marked with an asterisk among the lists of nominees below). Congratulations to all! — Art Taylor

Best Novel:
The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews  (Minotaur)
The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis (Berkley)
Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet   (Minotaur)
* Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny   (Minotaur)

Best First Novel:
Dire Threads by Janet Bolin  (Berkley)
Choke by Kaye George (Mainly Murder Press)
* Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown)
Who Do, Voodoo? by Rochelle Staab (Berkley)
Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend  (Berkley)

Best Non-fiction:
* Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure by Leslie Budewitz (Linden)
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks by John Curran (Harper)
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)
Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel by A. B. Emrys (McFarland)
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris (Ace)

Best Short Story:
* “Disarming” (PDF) by Dana Cameron,  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – June 2011
“Dead Eye Gravy” by Krista Davis,  Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
“Palace by the Lake” by Daryl Wood Gerber, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press)
“Truth and Consequences” by Barb Goffman,  Mystery Times Ten (Buddhapuss Ink)
“The Itinerary” by Roberta Isleib, MWA Presents the Rich and the Dead (Grand Central Publishing)

Best Children’s/Young Adult:
Shelter by Harlan Coben (Putnam)
* The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (EgmontUSA)
The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner  (EgmontUSA)

Best Historical Novel:
* Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy (Signet)
Mercury’s Rise by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (Minotaur)
A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper)


2012 Edgar Award Winners

April 27, 2012

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees!

BEST NOVEL Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA – Dutton)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Hachette Book Group – Orbit Books)

BEST FACT CRIME Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
by Candice Millard (Random House – Doubleday)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)

BEST SHORT STORY “The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)

BEST JUVENILE Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Random House Children’s Books – Knopf BFYR)

BEST PLAY The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig (Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY “Pilot” – Homeland, Teleplay by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff (Showtime)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD “A Good Man of Business” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by David Ingram (Dell Magazines)

Martha Grimes

M is for Mystery Bookstore, San Mateo, CA Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries

Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 25, 2012) Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown Publishing Group)


Upcoming Events: Edgar Awards and Malice Domestic

April 26, 2012

Very much looking forward to tonight’s Edgar Awards in New York — and hoping I’ll still be awake after a long day of conversations, connections, and (yes) cocktails. Check out the list of nominees here — and check back later for the list of winners too, of course!

Then this weekend is the annual Malice Domestic gathering back in Bethesda, Maryland, and I’m fortunate to be moderating the panel “The Seven Deadly Sins: Mysteries and Modern Morality Plays.” The panel was suggested by Carolyn Hart, drawing on a comparison that Agatha Christie herself made many years back, and the draft of my introduction to the panel draws heavily on Hart’s own comments in this direction:

Agatha Christie compared her own detective novels to medieval morality plays, “demonstrating that there was wickedness in the world.” In those plays — parables really, mixing education and entertainment — the seven deadly sins are personified, and the good man, despite temptation, chooses the right path and triumphs over evil. In the modern detective novel, of course, the triumph belongs to the detective; wickedness is found out and punished; sin is “expiated” — that’s Christie’s word too. As Carolyn Hart put it in her proposal for this panel: “Murder is always wrong and the object of the story is to solve the crime — i.e., reveal the murderer — and uphold society’s law and the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. In discovering why a crime was committed, the detective discovers what happened to fracture the relationship among those involved in the story, thereby affording moral parallels to the reader: If this, dear reader, is how you act, then this can happen. Reflect before you succumb to envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.” Carolyn continued, “We live in a world beset by evil. The mystery clearly recognizes evil. The mystery does not excuse evil. Readers read mysteries because we live in an unjust world. They know that in the mystery they will find the goodness and decency and justice they strive for in the world at large.”

My panelists — Hart, Margaret Maron, Nancy J. Cohen, R.J. Harlick, and Tracy Kiely — will be talking more about this on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Check out the full schedule of the weekend’s events here. — Art Taylor


Short Fiction Recommendations: “Madonna and Corpse” by Jefferson Bass and “The Prediction” by Kama Falzoi Post

April 24, 2012

Just a quick shout-out to two intriguing pieces of short fiction I’ve read recently.

First, as a prequel to the just-released novel The Inquisitor’s Key, Jefferson Bass — the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Bill Bass — has released a stand-alone e-book short story, “Madonna and Corpse,” which follows French inspector René Descartes on the trail of an art conservator-turned-forger who pulls a switcheroo or two on a small museum in Avignon. The criminal here is as compelling as the inspector himself, and the fast-paced story offers fascinating insights into the world of art conservation and forgery. Here’s a quick excerpt from part two of the story:

Jacques Dubois dips a clean cloth in turpentine and drapes it across the painting, stretching and smoothing the fabric to remove all wrinkles. The white cloth—cut from an expensive linen bed sheet—is virtually transparent. Through the fine weave of fabric, as if behind a veil, a homely Virgin Mary cradles an even homelier Jesus. The baby’s head is far too small for his body, his face more like a middle-aged man’s than an infant’s, his body bizarrely muscled like a miniature weightlifter’s. Dubois smiles at the pair and murmurs, “Soon you will be so much prettier. You’ll thank me.”

In his early years, Dubois felt guilty about taking solvents or a heat gun to ancient paintings simply so that he could recycle an old canvas or wooden panel for his own works. By now, though, he knows he’s performing a service: ridding the world of mediocrities and replacing them with masterpieces. It’s as if he’s buying up dreadful shacks on spectacular lots, then knocking them down and erecting architectural gems in their stead.

“Madonna and Corpse” is available on Amazon for 99-cents (and I’m looking forward to the novel itself too).

Also intriguing is “The Prediction,” a new one-sentence story by Kama Falzoi Post at Smokelong Weekly — a tremendously rich story, finely crafted, and with a stunning little twist ending. No excerpt needed, of course; you can find the full story here. — Art Taylor


“Booksellers and Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day”

April 20, 2012

Here’s a quick press release from Sisters in Crime — good things going on on Saturday, April 21, across the nation!

Sisters in Crime (SinC), an international organization founded to support the professional development of women writing crime fiction, is holding a “Booksellers and Librarians Solve Mysteries Every Day” event on Saturday, April 21, to thank librarians and booksellers for 25 years of support of the mystery genre.

“In honor of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Sisters in Crime, we are very pleased to be able to thank some of the people who work the hardest on the front lines of publishing by rolling up our sleeves and working beside them,” said Frankie Y. Bailey, President of Sisters in Crime.

The April 21 celebration launches a pilot program that will bring a select group of Sisters in Crime member authors into bookstores and libraries in hometowns from Livermore Falls, Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they will work as volunteers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (local time) on that day. The authors will work in the stacks, on the sales floor, and behind the scenes to do whatever a manager asks of staff members—shelving, bagging, sweeping, assisting patrons, pulling holds, making recommendations, taking out the trash, checking in returned books, and more.

“We know that, in their efforts to help readers find the right books at the right time, booksellers and librarians solve countless mysteries every day,” SinC board member Jim Huang, the coordinator of the event and a former independent bookstore owner, said. “This is our opportunity to thank them in a tangible way—and to find out what the publishing world is like from their perspective.”

The participating authors, bookstores, and libraries include:

  • Frankie Y. Bailey, at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, NY
  • Gail M. Baugniet, at the Maikiki Community Library in Honolulu, HI
  • Charlotte Cohen, at the Santa Ana Public Library in Santa Ana, CA
  • Kathy Lynn Emerson, at the Treat Memorial Library in Livermore Falls, ME
  • Barbara Fister, at Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis, MN
  • Susan Froetschel, at the Takoma Park Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC
  • W.S. Gager at the Jackson District Library in Jackson, MI
  • Kathleen Heady at the Haverford Township Free Library in Havertown, PA
  • Lee Kelly at Barnes & Noble in Marietta, GA
  • Molly MacRae at the Jane Addams Book Shop in Champaign, IL
  • Robin Murphy at the Sharpsburg Library in Sharpsburg, MD
  • Chelle Martin, at the Sadie Pope Dowdell Public Library in South Amboy, NJ
  • Denise Osborne, at the Mid-Continent Public Library, Raytown branch, in Raytown, MO
  • Bernadette Pajer, at the Uppercase Bookshop in Snohomish, WA
  • Karen Pullen, at McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro, NC
  • C. L. (Cheryl) Shore, at Bookmamas in Indianapolis, IN
  • Mary Stanton/Claudia Bishop, at Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, FL
  • Lane Stone, at the Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria, VA
  • Susan Van Kirk, at the Warren County Public Library in Monmouth, IL
  • Kathryn R. Wall, at the Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head branch, in Hilton Head Island, SC
  • Tina Whittle, at The Golden Bough in Macon, GA

In addition to the in-store and in-library volunteer project, SinC’s more than 3,000 members are gearing up to support the “Solving Mysteries Day” event by going into libraries and bookstores on April 21 to personally thank the booksellers and librarians they find working behind the counters and in the stacks.

“The plan is to show booksellers and librarians how much we really care about the work they do. We couldn’t do our work without them,” Bailey said.

Sisters in Crime is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary year. The organization was established with an organizational meeting held in New York City in the spring of 1987. Today, SinC is made up of more than 3,000 members and 48 chapters worldwide—authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, and others who love mysteries. Sisters in Crime is online at


A Quick Look Back Down Tobacco Road

April 11, 2012

It’s been a quarter-century today since Erskine Caldwell shuffled off this dusty mortal coil. One of the most famous novelists of the Depression Era South (and beyond), Caldwell was also one of the most infamous; his two best-known novels, Tobacco Road (1932) and God’s Little Acre (1933), were intended as books of social protest and earned wide critical acclaim but their sometimes lurid storylines also garnered a different kind of attention, including accusations of pornography, got the books not just banned but also burned, and even led to  the author’s arrest on what were essentially vice charges! (A landmark court case ultimately ruled in his favor.)

Thanks to the good folks at Open Road Integrated Media (which has recently published each of these novels and a few of Caldwell’s other books in e-book format), here’s a quick excerpt from the opening of Tobacco Road to honor today’s anniversary:

Lov’s wife was Jeeter Lester’s youngest daughter, Pearl. She was only twelve years old the summer before when he had married her….

Pearl had never talked, for that matter. Not because she could not, but simply because she did not want to. When she was at home, before Lov had married her, she had stayed apart from the other Lesters and rarely opened her mouth from the beginning of one day to the next. Only her mother, Ada, had been able to converse with her, and even then Pearl had never used more than the barest of negatives and affirmatives in reply. But Ada was herself like that. She had begun to talk voluntarily only during the past ten years. Before then, Jeeter had had the same trouble with her that Lov was now having with Pearl. Lov asked Pearl questions, he kicked her, he poured water over her, he threw rocks and sticks at her, and he did everything else he could think of that he thought might make her talk to him. She cried a lot, especially when she was seriously hurt, but Lov did not consider that as conversation. He wanted her to ask him if his back were sore, and when was he going to get his hair cut, and when was it going to rain again. But Pearl would not say anything.

He had spoken to Jeeter several times before about his troubles with Pearl, but Jeeter did not know what was the matter with her. Ever since she was a baby she had been like that, he said; and Ada had remained untalkative until the last few years. What Jeeter had not been able to break down in Ada for forty years, hunger had. Hunger loosened her tongue, and she had been complaining ever since. Jeeter did not attempt to recommend the starving of Pearl, because he knew she would go somewhere to beg food, and would get it.

“Sometimes I think it’s just the old devil in her,” Lov had said several times. “To my way of thinking, she ain’t got a scratch of religion in her. She’s going to hell-fire when she dies, sure as day comes.”

“Now, maybe she ain’t pleased with her married life,” Jeeter had suggested. “Maybe she ain’t satisfied with what you provide her with.”

“I done everything I can think of to make her satisfied and contented. Every week I go to Fuller on pay-day and buy her a pretty. I get her snuff, but she won’t take none; I get her a little piece of calico, but she won’t sew it. Looks like she wants something I ain’t got and can’t get her. I wish I knowed what it was. She’s such a pretty little girl—all them long yellow curls hanging down her back sort of gets me all crazy sometimes. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I’ve got the need of Pearl for a wife as bad as any man ever had.”

“I expect she’s too young yet to appreciate things,” Jeeter had said. “She ain’t grown up yet like Ellie May and Lizzie Belle and Clara and the other gals. Pearl ain’t nothing but a little gal yet. She don’t even look like a woman, so far.”

“If I had knowed she was going to be like she is, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to marry her so bad. I could have married me a woman what wants to be married to me. But I don’t want Pearl to go now, though. I sort of got used to her around, and I’d sure miss seeing them long yellow curls hanging down her back. They make a man feel kind of lonesome some way. She sure is a pretty little girl, no matter if she does act like she does all the time.”

(Sounds like something from the American Noir class I’m teaching at George Mason right now…. Or maybe I’m just seeing the world through the noir lens these days…. Either way, a potential addition to future syllabi, of course.)

For a fuller excerpt and some additional links to info on Caldwell, check out Open Road’s own blog post today. — Art Taylor

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