Archive for April, 2012

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“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 www.sistersincrime.org.

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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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New Fiction: “With Marshmallows, Of Course” at The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and Patti Abbott’s “Eyes Open” at Beat to a Pulp

April 9, 2012

I’m grateful to have another new story — a piece of very very short fiction — just published at Matter Press’s Journal for Compressed Creative Arts. Check out the one-paragraph “With Marshmallows, Of Course” here. And thanks so much to editor Randall Brown — a master of compressed fiction himself! — for giving this one a home.

I’m also thrilled to point folks toward another terrific short story writer, Patricia Abbott, and to thank her for paying me a fine compliment. Patti mentioned a while back that one of my stories (“Locked Out” in last fall’s Plots With Guns) had sparked an idea for a short story of her own — and that subsequent story, “Eyes Open,” clearly ups the ante on both the stakes and the tension in provocative and unsettling ways. “Eyes Open” recently appeared in the online journal Beat to a Pulp — and after you’re done reading that one, do also check out Abbott’s own contribution to that earlier issue of Plots With Guns, “The Proper Training,” equally fine.

And speaking of all that, thanks to anyone checking in here for your patience with my seeming self-centeredness in recent months. The last thing I’d intended was for this blog to become solely a place to tout my own publications; always wanted to celebrate others with equal enthusiasm. But with recent personal developments (a new baby!), I’d fallen down here on keeping up with wider posts and possibilities. Hope to continue remedying that, beginning today with that shout-out to Patti’s stories! — Art Taylor

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News: Derringer Award Winners

April 2, 2012

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the 2012 Derringer Award winners, and I’m thrilled that my story “A Drowning at Snow’s Cut” was named one of the winners in the Long Story category — my second Derringer win in a row! The full list of winners is:

  • Best Flash Story: “Lessons Learned” by Allan Leverone
  • Best Short Story: “Touch of Death” by B.V. Lawson
  • Best Long Story: Tie “A Drowning at Snow’s Cut” by Art Taylor and “Brea’s Tale” by Karen Pullen
  • Best Novelette: “Where Billy Died” by Earl Staggs

Thanks so much for Gwen Mayo, this year’s Derringer coordinator; to the judges; and to all the members of the Short Fiction Mystery Society. — Art Taylor

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