Showing posts with label Bill Crider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Crider. Show all posts

13 November 2017

Reviews: Melissa Yi, Bill Pronzini, Bill Crider

by Jan Grape

Jan Grape
When did I get so behind on reading and writing reviews of books that I said I would review?  Heaven only knows and I haven't heard from an Angel with an answer either. Think my line to beyond the clouds has somehow been broken. Or maybe I was late paying my heavenly mobile bill.

I know when I got back from my awesome trip to Nashville then to Ft Worth to visit my son and his family, Then to my sister's 50th Wedding Anniversary party. I settled in back here at home and had every intention of taking care of business. 

But I had to attend my 60th high school reunion out in Post Texas. Which was great fun and I saw some people I had not seen in 60 years and others who had been without my crazy self only 25 or 30 years. 

At any rate, there were still wonderful books to be read and written about when I got home. I just somehow got busy reading but not reviewing.

Think I must start with the one I read quite awhile ago.
Human Remains by Melissa Yi, one of our own SleuthSayers.  My first introduction to Dr. Hope Sze was in Stockholm Syndrome. both published by Windtree Press in the USA. Dr. Sze is a fully drawn character who draws you into the medical mileau as well as into the mystery. In the beginning of Human Remains, I was a bit petrubed  with the idea that Hope was in love with two men. One she had left behind in Montreal, Dr. John Tucker where she had been taken in hostage but had survived. The other man, Ryan Wun, her first love, she found again as she begins working in a stem cell lab. 

Almost immediately Hope and Ryan and Ryan's new puppy Roxy stumble over a human body with a black bag taped over the head. She knew she shouldn't touch a crime scene but she is a doctor, well, a resident doctor but still. She felt for the radial pulse at the wrist. While still deciding about removing the black bag the police arrive and by then Dr. Hope has decided to do CPR. 

There's no way you can put the book down from that opening and soon you are caught up in the who and why. Along with  the ongoing story of Dr. Hope Sze dealing with her love life.

Some writers write awesome, thrilling books and the absolute best are written by Bill Pronzini. His early summer rrlease of  new Nameless Detective book, titled, End Game, fills my heart with eager anticipation.. Nameless and Bill don't let me down.

Namless gets a new client, James Cahill whose wife Alice has disappeared. Alice has a strong agoraphobia and  never ventures outside. Soon Namless is suspecting his client, With more twist and turns to leave you up most of the night, you can understand the suspicions that Nameless has. 

Jake Runyon, the field operative in Nameless' office comes up with a strange case of his own. Philip Dennison has been found dead in a remote cabin in the Sierras. With all the windows locked and the door barred from the inside Dennison's death is ruled an accident. However, Dennison's wife believes her husband was murdered and wants Jake to find out if there was someone else in the remost cabin with her husband. Even if it means heartbreak.

This is one you have trouble stopping long enough to eat or even check Facebook. You have to read just one more chapter.

Next on my reading stack was Dead To Begin With by Bill Crider.
Beginning a new Sheriff Dan Rhodes book is like slipping into your most comfortable pair of boots, sitting down in a comfortable recliner and reading about your old friend.

Dan Rhodes is Sheriff of Clearview, Texas, small town Texas, much like the town where I grew up. And with the wonderful quirky characters who inhabit the area, including Hack Jansen, the dispatcher, who calls the Sheriff to report that Jake Marley is dead.
There is no way you'll be disappointed.

Crider sets up an almost impossible murder scenario. Marley is a town's rich beyond your dreams, recluse that no one has seen in many years except late night at WalMart or going through the Dairy Queen drive-thru. He didn't attend church nor have any friends. All his immediate family was dead. The out-lying kin had moved away to spend their black gold money in other countries like California, or Florida or the Bahamas.

But he had taken a sudden interest in the Clearview Opera House and wanted in renovated and a play presented there. Marley had been supervising the project but had fallen to his death from a ladder or the walkway high up above the lights. No one was sure. Of course, Dan Rhodes was the logical person to solve the crazy unsolvable puzzle.

As usual you are happy to spend time in Sheriff Rhodes' world and if you haven't read Crider's books before then, get busy and download or buy them. You'll be glad you did.

That's all for now, folks. The others will have to wait until next time.

10 July 2017

Just Sitting Around

by Jan Grape

The other day I was just sitting around thinking about what to write for this blog. Nothing much came to mind immediately. But as luck would have it, sitting here finally gave me an idea. I'd ask some writers where they write. Do they have an office? Do they write at the dinning room table? Do they go to an actual office they rent in order to give themselves the atmosphere and the feel of a business. They need the business work place to feel the magic happen.

Through the magic of Facebook, I was able to find out how and where some writers work.

Fran Rizer, one of our Sleuthsayer family and writer the Callie Parrish books says: While I don't have an actual office, I do have a designated small room. I don't own a desk either. My computer and printer sit on an ornately carved Chinese table with a marble top. It came with a matching chair, but I use a standard roll-around office chair with arms, The table is beautiful when you can see it, which isn't often because it's usually cluttered with print-outs for proofing.

Bill Crider, who writes book in every genre but, probably best known for his Clearview, Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes, (and for the 3 VBKs [very bad kittens] he rescued from a storm drain a little over a year ago and who have a huge following on Facebook and who were never really bad just little kittens.) Bill's upcoming Sheriff is titled, Dead To Begin With, due out in August, from Minotaur Books.
Yes, I have a office. When Judy was alive, she kept the door shut so visitors couldn't see inside. I keep it shut now because I don't want the cats to wander in and disappear. That gives you some idea of its condition. It was designed to be a small fourth bedroom, and it now holds bookshelves on three walls, some of them floor to ceiling crammed with thousands of old paperbacks. I have two computers, a printer, two scanners, an old TV set, a desk and various other items. There's not a lot of room to move around. Naturally, I love it.
Manning Wolfe, an Austin, Texas lawyer, and author of Dollar Signs, a legal mystery set in Austin says: Interesting you should ask about my office because I just re-did my space. We had Bill's mother's 1920's art deco dining room table in storage that I now use for my desk. I use both a desk top and a laptop. My picture window faces out to the patio and into the woods, I love it.

Manning desk Manning rose

I also heard from Harlan Coben,  New York Times Best-selling Author of thirty mysteries and thrillers. Most recent out is Home and upcoming is Don't Let Go, due in late September from Dutton.
He says he doesn't have a work space, that he writes where ever he happens to be sitting. Outside, at the kitchen table, on an airplane, in a hotel room.

Brendan DuBois writes: Once at Bouchceron, I heard Sue Grafton say something to the effect that she's most happiest in her office. The same is true for me. It's my time machine, my dream machine, my own place where I can write, dream, and curse. I write on trips, I write on planes and trains, but my office is my special place. It has books, mementoes, and lots of memories. Oh, and lots of clutter! In its previous life, it was a teenage girl's bedroom before me and the missus moved in. We repainted it and now it's mine, with desk, filing cabinet, and lots of books and book cases.

Brendan DuBois Brendan DuBois

Myself: I have an office, with a desk and a roll-around office chair with arms. Much like Fran described. However, I just couldn't be comfortable in there so I write sitting in my living room sofa using my laptop.

Now I'd like to hear from all of you. Tell me where and how the magic happens at your house or do you have to leave and go to an office?

04 April 2016

Care and Feeding of a Mystery Bookstore

by Jan Grape

It's almost a forgotten thing which is a shame. Independent mystery bookstores. Yes, still a few around but not so many as there were at one time.

My late husband, Elmer, and I were looking for something for him to do when he retired from commercial construction in late 1989. He had been doing handy man work, house inspections prior to their sale and he had decided he was getting to an age where crawling around attics and under floors in the TX heat was not fun anymore.

We discussed a few options and then our daughter, Karla said, "Why don't you open a mystery bookstore? Mom's writing mysteries and you both enjoy reading. Dad can sit around and read." Oddly enough neither of us had thought of it. We came up with the name Mysteries & More.

We talked to a few people who owned a mystery bookstore and got good advice. It only took a few weeks to realize you'd never have enough time to read all the books you wanted to. We also discovered it might be a little better to mainly have used books. We had a swap policy where the customers could trade in books and we kept a record of their credit.

Our store, Mysteries & More, started about twenty percent new and eighty percent used. It soon became 20 to 30 percent new. And we did offer science fiction, biographies, historical, non-fiction and a few romance if they were romantic suspense, but we didn't routinely order anything new except mysteries. However, we did order any new book a customer requested. Thus the & More in our store name.

We rented a nice space in a strip center near our home. Elmer built all the bookcases and the front counter. In the back we had a small rest room and nice little lounge and storage space. In the beginning, we had a couple of chairs so people could sit and read if they felt like it. That didn't last too long because we need more space for bookcases and books. When we first opened, our shelves ran around the sides and across the back. We had to place books on their backs to make the shelves look full. Later on he built more bookcases which lined the middle part of the store.

Elmer & Jan Grape with Bill Crider & Vivian Vaughn
Grand Opening of Mysteries & More
We opened in July, 1990. And our grand opening was on July 9th and our first author signing for that opening was this mystery writer guy who is the second most famous person from Alvin, Texas. His name is Bill Crider. (Most famous, of course, is some baseball player and owner.) We also had a Dallas lady named Vivian Vaughn who wrote historical romantic suspense.

I'm not sure if Susan Rogers Cooper remembers but we met her that day and I think her second book, Houston In The Rear View Mirror had just come out or was due to come out. We asked her to do a signing shortly after that, which I think was her first ever book signing.

We decided to specialize in local authors (Austin and all of Tx and soon included OK, Ark and NM.) I had started attending Bouchercon in the fall and at least one other mystery con in the spring. Edgars, Malice Domestic and Magna Cum Murder or Left Coast Crime. While attending these cons and meeting authors I was able to set up signings with authors who were not regularly doing book signings in Austin. As my husband always said, he ran the store and I talked about it. I did all the promotions and public relations work.
Elmer, Sue Grafton, and Jan

In Austin, at that time, the major bookstores were Book People, B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble. We began ordering author's back list. Like Sue Grafton's. Guess what? The big box stores began ordering back lists to compete with us. Our first signing with Sue Grafton was such a huge success. We ordered 400 copies, sold out and I had to go to B Dalton a couple miles away and buy fifty more books. Fortunately, I had already made friends with the manager. He sold them to me 30% off which was so nice.

Sue likes to stand up while signing because she likes to be on eye level with people. Elmer had built a large table for author signings. He built a box so Sue could stand and sign comfortably. The box sat on the large table he had built that could seat three or four authors at once and we always tried to do a group signing. That way the author didn't feel alone plus if a person only knew and read one author they might meet someone else they liked.

We also did drive-by signings. Authors who were in the area and just called to come by and sign. I'd call a few regular customers and especially if I knew the customer read that author and invite them to come and get a book signed.

Of course, I did signings in my own bookstore. One of the most fun things we did during this time was host a mystery con in Austin. We named it Southwest Mystery Con.We had bid on Bouchercon and didn't get it. We did our presentation in California and the other group bidding was in Seattle, WA. Most fans attending were from CA and they kept thinking they could drive there easier than to Tx. Turned out that was a blessing. It wasn't until we did the Southwest Mystery Con that we realized how much work was involved.

We had 476 people attend and 125 authors. We had BBQ for our banquet and stopped in the middle of dinner to let everyone who wanted to, to go outside and watch the bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge. It was Memorial Day weekend and the Mexican free-tail bats had just returned for the summer.

We had a wonderful volunteer group but Elmer had to handle all the book stores attendees and their placement and spaces in the book room. I handled the programming, the authors, editors, and agents. (I don't know how Judy Bobalik does it.)

We enjoyed the store and were in business until 1999 and we decided that we wanted to buy an RV and travel. We needed to retire and weren't able to sell the store so we liquidated. We traveled for three summers coming back home in the fall until 2002 and we moved into the RV full time. Our store was able to cover expenses but we never made any real money doing it.

It was a labor of love. Of people and of books. This is what most indie bookstore owners say. There are two or three that have made it. But we enjoyed every day of it. We honestly enjoyed the authors, the customers and being able to read new books and help promote new authors.

21 March 2016

Blood Dreams

Jan Grape here: Bill agreed to help me out today as I couldn't manage with this bad sinus headache. I don't care what he says, he's a best seller in my book and been a good friend for almost 100 years. Thanks, Dr. Crider.

Bill Crider here. Jan Grape’s a bit under the weather, and she asked me to fill in for her today. I didn’t have time to dash off any deep thoughts, but I did have something for her. It’s a piece I published on my own blog 10 years ago, and I was considering reprinting it soon. So instead of reprinting it on my blog, I’m using it here.

Now and then someone asks me (though maybe not in these exact words), "How is it that somebody who's been consistently publishing for over 30 years, who's done three or four series, and who's sustained one of them for 30 years now, remains a complete unknown?"

As Mike Hammer says, "It was easy." I just never had a hit. People who ask me to blurb their first novels sell more copies of it than I've sold total. People who started writing well after I did are now on the New York Times list. Maybe I just don't write the right kind of books, or maybe my books just aren't that good. (I'd like to disregard that second possibility, but there it is.) Reviewers like me (mostly), editors like me, readers (when they can find the books) like me. But here I am, unknown.

I've come close to being known, though, a couple of times. When my evil twin, Jack MacLane, was writing for Zebra Books, the editor there really loved his work. After the first two books, I didn't have to offer a synopsis or even a title. My contract just said, "two books by Bill Crider." At one point, I was about to get The Big Push, with Blood Dreams. Die-cut cover with embossed inner cover. A dump in the front of all the chain stores. Publicity! The works.

Didn't happen. The editor got pregnant and left the company. Another editor came in. The book was slapped back to the regular list, with a regular cover. The dump in the chains? Publicity? Forget it.

What proof do I have of this? Not much, except for a cover flat that I got when the big plans were being made. That's it in the pictures, both the outer cover and the inner cover. Pretty cool, right? I sure thought so at the time. I thought Jack MacLane was on his way. And he was, straight to oblivion, which is where he remains. My brief brush with fame was pretty short, but it was fun while it lasted.

01 February 2016

The Last Camel Collapsed a Noon

by Susan Rogers Cooper

The last camel collapsed at noon.” This is the opening line of Ken Follett's THE KEY TO REBECCA, and it says a lot. You have a fairly good idea where you are, and you know that the people in this story are in some serious trouble.

Several years ago I was asked by Rice University to speak at their summer writer's workshop on the subject of hooks – those words that entice a reader to stay beyond the first line. And, I've discovered, that first line, paragraph, or page needs to be a dozy. Before I wrote my first mystery, I was told that if I wanted to write one, I'd better get a dead body in there pretty damn quick. So, the first line of my first Milt Kovak, THE MAN IN THE GREEN CHEVY, is: “Her body was found by her daughter-in-law.” See how I did that? “Body.” That means dead, right?

While I was preparing for my Rice workshop, I sat down on the bed and went through every mystery I had in my house. The bed didn't collapse, but it was touch and go there for a moment. I read the first lines and paragraphs of every book and found the ones that grabbed. And, strangely enough, they were differences enough for me to categorize them. Why not? I like to be neat.

Slap in the Face: Bill Crider's SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT: “Sheriff Dan Rhodes knew it was going to be a bad day when Bert Ramsey brought in the arm and laid it on the desk.”

Goosebumps: William Bernardt's PRIMARY JUSTICE: “'Once again,' the man said, pulling the little girl along by the leash tied to his wrist and hers. 'Tell me your name.'”

Too Cool for School: Raymond Chandler's TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS: “Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny black shoe buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same color. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Napoleon's tomb and she was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella. She said, 'I need a man.'”

The Scenic Route: James Lee Burke's THE NEON RAIN: “The evening sky was streaked with purple, the color of torn plums, and a light rain had started to fall when I came to the end of the blacktop road that cut through twenty miles of thick, almost impenetrable scrub oak and pine and stopped at the front gate of Angola penitentiary.”

I could go on. But let's sum up. What questions should a reader be asking at the end of the hook? My favorite, as a writer and a reader, is to get the response: “What the hell is going on here?” Always a good question – if the reader is hooked enough to care. Then there's this: Is this person, this character I've already decided I like, going to make it all the way through these three-hundred-odd pages?”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is now part of the language. People who've never read Dickens use that line in everyday conversation. That's a hook.

06 October 2014

What Are You Reading?

Jan Grape
by Jan Grape

I didn't think I had done much reading this summer but looking back, I did.

 First, I was on the Shamus Committee to pick the Best Original Paperback. The Shamus is given by the Private Eye Writers of America. I always enjoy reading for awards because I quickly learn how important a great first line, first paragraph and first page actually are. I think we sometimes forget those important elements as writers. But I think you absolutely have to grab the reader immediately.

As a book seller for nine years, I quite often watched as customers picked up a book. I believe we all know the book cover and title are extremely important. My friend Bill Crider titled one of his early Sheriff Rhodes books, SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT. I can't recall his other titles but I never forgot that one. And I really enjoy Bill's work and that character. Another friend, Susan Rogers Cooper wrote two titles that I remember well, THE MAN IN THE GREEN CHEVY and HOUSTON IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. All three titles are memorable and intriguing. You better believe I'm going to pick-up a book with a title like that and read the back jacket and maybe the first page. And most likely I'll buy that book. The only other title that really intrigued me was on a non-fiction book, HOW TO SHIT IN THE WOODS. That book was in the visitor's center of the Rio Grande Gorge, near Taos, New Mexico, where I volunteered three summers. I think it still remains their best seller.

After reading a number of the thirty-five or forty book our committee chose our nominees and our winner (you'll have to wait until the PWA banquet at Bouchercon on Nov 14th to find our who won.)
I did purchase a few books that I really wanted to read. One paperback I bought was CITY OF BONES by Michael Connelly. I  always enjoy Michael's books, especially the Harry Bosch novels and I had read it before but the new TV series featuring Harry Bosch and starring Titus Williver as Harry is the main storyline. It had been quite a while since I read it and I wanted to get back in the "Bosch world" and be ready for the upcoming TV shows. The title is another memorable one and the mystery of the bones of a child found, by a dog, located up in the Hollywood Hills presented a page-turner for sure. To add even more suspense the skeleton had been buried around twenty years earlier.

A hardcover that I bought new, which I seldom do anymore since I live on a fixed income, is Alafair Burke's ALL DAY AND A NIGHT.  I'm sorry to confess that I have not read Alafair before...been intending to, but somehow just hadn't. However, I began to be interested in her as a person on FB. She is bright, witty, beautiful and very likable. I wanted to see if I might possibly like her books. I called my favorite mystery bookstore, Murder By The Book in Houston, as Alafair was going to be there and ordered a signed copy. And I must tell you, I enjoyed the heck out of it. Ellie Hatcher is a homicide detective for the NYPD and is a wonderfully strong and strong-willed female character. Exactly the kind of woman I like to read about. She and her police detective partner work with a female lawyer who believes the man in prison is NOT the serial killer. I love the back and forth between the women and between Ellie and her partner. This book kept me on the edge of my seat.

Next is a book by Les Roberts, titled WET WORK. His editor asked me to read and review if I wanted to do so.  I read it and it's very compelling. The main character, first seen in THE STRANGE DEATH OF FATHER CANDY is a anti-hero, Dominick Candiotti in that he's a paid assassin for the Brownstone Agency.  The agencies leader, a man with the code name "Og" is the boss of a shadowy CIA-type black ops group. They hire assassins to kill traitors, dictators, despots of the world, pedophiles, drug kings, the scum of the earth. Turns out that Dominick is one of the best assassins. He learned his trade in Viet Nam. But he grows weary of the killings, the violence.  Og calls again with a new hurry-up assignment and Dominick says, "no, he's quitting." His boss is NOT happy, trying to make Dominick see that you don't quit the agency ever. Suddenly, he's the mark. Brownstone assassins are after him. Dominick has to use all his skill and cunning and brains to stay one step ahead of the people sent after him. The story takes us from one U.S. city after another as Dominick tries to save himself and try to track down his nemesis  Og. This is one thriller you will not want to put down.

The final book on this short list is one whose title I will always remember, TO HELL AND GONE IN TEXAS by Russ Hall. If you like reading about Texas and good guys and bad guys, then this is a book for you. It starts off with two brothers, Al and Maury who've not been speaking for twenty years. Maury seems to think and act as if he's God's gift to women and all women want him. And it does seem that they do. Which is the major cause of the brother's feud. Maury managed to get to Al wife and that cause a riff that so far hasn't healed. But right now, Maury is quite ill and someone is trying to kill him. Al, who is a retired deputy of Travis County has his lovely Hill Country lake home,  where he can fish, feed the deer that come around and ignore the world. All good things must come to an end and the Austin Police Detective, Fergie and the nurse who has been taking care of Maury talk Al into letting Maury stay at Al's house. Maury is in such bad shape he has to be sedated.

In the meantime, someone takes pot shots via drive-by boating, hoping to kill Maury or Al, but not succeeding. Then someone takes a match to the lake house. It's saved and now Al is trying to get Maury to explain what has he been into that someone actually wants him dead. Maury isn't inclined to talk. Al finds out that ICE and a Mexican Mafia are both interested in Maury.  To add a little extra tension, Al discovers than all that time spent alone might have been wasted. He finds himself coming alive with Fergie, they've known each other since high school and who knew things might change. However, unless Al can figure out the source of Maury's problems, things are liable to get tough as Hell.

Hope everyone has had a good reading summer. Now it's time more reading and cooler weather.