Showing posts with label Terence Faherty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terence Faherty. Show all posts

29 October 2013

Magna Cum Murder


I spent last weekend among old friends.  I attended Magna Cum Murder, a mystery conference that's been held in Indiana for the past nineteen years.  For at least its first decade, Magna was based at the Roberts Hotel in Muncie.  The Roberts was a great old pile from the 1920s, with a potted-palm lobby out of an Edward Hopper painting.  One of the conference legends has Mary Higgins Clark and friends singing around a lobby piano being played by Les Roberts (the PI writer, not the guy who owned the hotel).  The Roberts also had the perfect bar for a small conference: big enough to hold a bunch of mystery writers and small enough to make them rub elbows.  I fondly remember sitting at that bar with Ralph McInerny, watching a World Series game.  Can't remember who was playing.
View of the Roberts Lobby, Showing the Mary Higgins Clark Piano
When the Roberts Hotel closed, Magna soldiered on using Muncie's convention center and a collection of satellite motels.  But as the Bouchercon occasionally proves, it's hard to do a convention without a central hotel.  This year, Magna moved to Indianapolis, to a private club older than the Roberts, the Columbia Club.  Though the club is private, it was open to Magna attendees, and the result was something very like Magnas of old.

The Columbia Club, New Home to Magna Cum Murder

The driving force behind Magna is Kathryn Kennison, a great friend to mystery writers and book lovers in general.  Kathryn set Magna's classy and welcoming tone back in 1994, and has maintained it ever since.  And every year she works the miracle of drawing a big-name guest of honor to a small Midwestern conference.  This year's honoree was Steve Hamilton.  Our banquet speaker was Hank Phillippi Ryan.  They still come to Indiana for Kathryn.


Guest of Honor Interview:  Hank Phillippi Ryan and Steve Hamilton


A big advantage of a small conference for the writer is the opportunity to speak with a good percentage of the attendees.  That's assuming you "work the room," making yourself available to fans and doing such daring things as sitting down at a table full of strangers.  It's not the easiest leap for some writers to make, including this writer.  Small conferences are good for the fans and for aspiring writers (as yet unpublished writers, someone called them this weekend) because of this same intimacy.


Magna's First Panel: John Desjarlais, Albert Bell, Molly Weston, William Kent Krueger, and Unidentified Moderator 


One of the reasons I sometimes fail to work the room at Magna is that I'm too busy catching up with writers I only see there. (I'm not naming names for fear of leaving someone out.) As important as book promoting is, it's also important for me to keep in touch with writers I admire, to be encouraged by success stories and to condole over the frustrations of the writing life. This year, I even got to watch another World Series game in another Magna bar.  (And yes, I do remember who was playing.)

Two Award-winning Writers, Sandra Balzo and Ted Hertel, Jr.,and Two Distinguished
 Critics, Gary Warren Niebuhr (holding his favorite book) and Ted Fitzgerald

Next time you're on Facebook, check out the Magna Cum Murder page.  You'll see some very professional photos of the attendees and of the Columbia Club (unlike the grainy group shots reproduced here, which were made with my very small camera.)  And if you're looking for a weekend away with new old friends next fall, consider Magna's twentieth anniversary celebration in October.  Next year's details should be available soon on Magna's web site, along with an online registration form.  I'll remind you later.   

15 October 2013

The Big Moving Sleep Target


by Terence Faherty

This time last year I was serving as the program chair for a great mystery conference we have here in Indiana, Magna Cum Murder.  (This year's conference is being held in Indianapolis on October 25, 26, and 27, and there's still time to register.)  At Magna, they often pick a classic mystery as the conference book.  All attendees are encouraged to read it, at least one panel is devoted to it, and the movie version is shown, if one exists.  I chose The Moving Target, the first Lew Archer novel by Ross Macdonald.  (Yes, it does say "John Macdonald" on the first edition cover.  Macdonald, whose real name was Kenneth Millar, didn't settle on Ross for his pen name until the fifth or six book.)  I selected that early book, rather than one of Macdonald's later classics, because there is a movie version, 1966's Harper, starring Paul Newman.
 
After making my decision, I reread The Moving Target for the first time in perhaps thirty years.  The first few chapters made me glad I'd picked it, the last few less so.  But what struck me most about the novel was its close relationship with another first number in a famous series, The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler's first Philip Marlowe novel.  It's so close, in fact, that I'm convinced Macdonald reread The Big Sleep before laying out The Moving Target, if he didn't have a copy open on his lap as he wrote.

I'm not going to summarize the two plots here.  I'll save that arduous task for when I expand this post into my doctoral dissertation (later to be an Edgar-nominated critical work and, later still, a direct-to-DVD cartoon).  I'll confine myself to citing ten examples to support my contention that, in many ways, The Moving Target (TMT) is a play on and an inversion of The Big Sleep (TBS).

- 1 -

In both books, the PI is called in to straighten out a problem for a wealthy family whose senior representative is an invalid:  General Sternwood in TBS and Elaine Sampson in TMT. Both these characters are heartsick over the loss of a pseudo son, the general's runaway drinking buddy and Elaine's killed-in-action stepson.

- 2 -

The characters of the fathers of these two families and their respective daughters is an example of Macdonald's inversion of Chandler's plot.  In TBS, General Sternwood is wise and his daughter is wild.  In TMT, Ralph Sampson (Elaine's missing husband) is wild and his daughter is wise beyond her years.

- 3 -

Both plots feature rackets complicated by and eventually undone by other crimes.  In TBS, a smut book racket is undone by a blackmail play.  In TMT, a smuggling racket is undone by a kidnapping.

- 4 -

In both books, the initial crime seems vague and phony:  the too polite blackmail of the Sternwoods and the kidnapping of Ralph Sampson that might not be one. 

- 5 -

In both cases, a shadowy underworld figure appears to be pulling the strings.  Each has a last name that's a vague classical allusion, Eddie Mars in TBS and Dwight Troy in TMT.  Both own or have owned a gambling joint, and both are gray-haired.

- 6 - 

Both books feature dens of iniquity:  the house where the wild Sternwood daughter does drugs in TBS becomes the red, zodiac-themed bedroom of the wild father in TMT.

- 7 -

Both the Sternwoods and the Sampsons employ a lovesick young man whose infatuation with a drug user will get him killed (and, again, the names are similar):  Owen Taylor, a chauffeur, in TBS and Alan Taggert, a pilot, in TMT.   Here, Macdonald's inversion of the Chandler model is again apparent.  Taylor chases a Sternwood daughter while Taggert is chased by Sampson's.

- 8 -

The supporting casts have other parallel characters, including two hard luck little men with criminal pasts whose devotion to the wrong women will end them:  Harry Jones in TBS and Eddie Lassiter in TMT.

- 9 -

And in both novels, the PI has a friend with either a current or past connection to the local district attorney's office, and, yet again, the names are similar:  Bernie Ohls (TBS) and Albert "Bertie" Graves (TMT). 

- 10 -

The final link is another name clue, in some respects the most obvious one Macdonald planted.  The wild daughter from TBS is named Carmen.  The not-so-wild daughter from TMT is named Miranda.  Get it? 



Carmen Miranda!

A coincidence?  I think not.  In fact, I rest my case.

01 October 2013

Eastward in Eden


by Terence Faherty

In a recent post I mentioned that the first new novel in my Owen Keane series to appear in fourteen years, Eastward in Eden, will be out this fall.  A last-minute delay at the printing plant kept the book from making it to the Albany Bouchercon (where I served on a panel with some eminent Sherlockians and met SleuthSayers guest columnist Herschel Cozine), but barring a reversal of Earth's magnetic field, the book should arrive this week.

Owen Keane was the protagonist of my first novel, Deadstick, which was published in 1991.  But he and I have been together even longer than that.  I created Keane for a short story I wrote for a night-school writing class in 1979.  He falls into the category of amateur sleuth, but he's an odd bird even in that very diverse group.  Keane is a seminary dropout who compulsively investigates little human mysteries hoping to find clues to the larger spiritual mysteries that haunt him.

In Eastward in Eden, those little human mysteries are less little than usual.  Keane is in Kenya in 1997, trying to solve the murder of a man who claimed to be the reincarnation of a famous warrior chief.  If that weren't enough, the remote valley where the murder occurred is under attack from a group of paramilitary land raiders.  Quite the spot for a non-violent ex-seminarian (who never once fired a gun in the series' previous seven titles) to find himself.

If you're wondering why I decided to return to the character of Keane after a break of fourteen years, you may not be a regular reader of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  He's appeared in the magazine seven times since the last Keane novel, Orion Rising, came out in 1999.  (Some of those stories were collected in 2005's The Confessions of Owen Keane.)

I can't even claim that Eden is a return to the Keane character in long form.  It's the novel I was working on in 2001 when St. Martin's Press decided to drop the series.  I stubbornly continued to write the book after I'd gotten the bad news, in part because 9/11 happened and having something to work on was a break from that.  Inevitably, the terrorist attack reshaped the book.  Two of its major themes became tribalism and the related tactic of dividing people into warring groups in order to manipulate them.

So Eden isn't an attempt to revive the series.  It's the book I intended as the next title back when the series was a going proposition.  When I finished the manuscript, I put it away and wrote other things (including two Keane novellas for Worldwide).  Then Jim Huang of the Mystery Company, a good friend to all mystery writers and especially this one, began to bring out e-book and print-on-demand editions of the earlier Keane novels, a process I touched on briefly in a post last May.  Jim read the Eden manuscript and decided to publish it. 

I have no idea whether Eastward in Eden will be the last Owen Keane novel or whether removing that plug from the pipeline will result in a gush of new book ideas, though the smart money has to be on the first horse.  Either way, I'm very grateful to Jim Huang for guiding it into print at long last.   
    

17 September 2013

SleuthSayers' Second Anniversary! Part 2


Happy Second Anniversary to all SleuthSayers contributors, past and present!  And to regular readers who have stuck with the blog throughout its run, thank you! 

This week, I'm continuing the "Best of SleuthSayers" list that Dale Andrews began last week.  As Dale said, this list is very subjective and constrained by space limitations.  I wasn't able to hold to our original conception of five articles a month, but I usually limited myself to eight. I think the list reflects both a breadth of subject matter and the depth of the SleuthSayers bench.  I hope Dale's list and mine will encourage readers new to the blog to browse our "back issues."

If I jumbled anyone's title or misspelled a name, I apologize.  Those of you who use a middle initial may find that it comes and goes (as they seem to do on the blog).   I'd also like to thank Dale for his leadership on this project.  He's a good man to follow on a desperate enterprise.  He doesn't daunt easily.


SleuthSayers -- The Second Year


September 2012 - Part Two

Notes from the Penitentiary – September 2012 -- Eve Fisher's offbeat and insightful notes.

Five Red Herrings III -- Robert Lopresti on truth stranger than fiction.

A Bouchercon Mystery -- Dale C. Andrews draws us in.
 

Adventures in South Africa -- Leigh Lundin reports from South Africa.

Playing Detective -- Deborah Elliott-Upton offers a paean to hardboiled men and women.


 October

A Non-iconic Writer -- Louis Willis remembers Shell Scott and Richard S. Prather fondly.

The Gifted Child -- John M. Floyd writes a great fan letter.

Things That Go Bump in the Night -- Dale Andrews stories for ghost story season. 

The Shrink is in . . . Cyberspace -- Elizabeth Zelvin's fascinating day job.

The Dadaist Enigma of Claire DeWitt -- Dixon Hill offers a unique take on an author's "mistakes." 

Mariel -- David Dean introduces one fascinating muse.

Developing the Series -- R.T. Lawton's great advice on keeping your friends close and your editors closer.

You Say Sensation, I Say Mystery -- Eve Fisher discusses the prehistory of the genre.  

Great Sentences -- Jan Grape's good writing on good writing.
                                             

 November

Ghost and the Machine -- Dixon Hill contrasts ghost stories and mysteries.

"The Unicorn in the Garden," or God Bless You, Mr. Thurber -- Eve Fisher remembers two comic geniuses:  Thurber and Benchley.

Sometimes It's Magic -- Robert Lopresti reveals the true thing that keeps a writer going.

Distractions -- Deborah Elliott-Upton battles our common enemy.

Alan Furst:  The World at Night -- David Edgerley Gates makes the case for Alan Furst.

The Great and Billowing Sea -- David Dean on great sea stories and a jaw bone.

Known Only to God -- Fran Rizer offers thoughts on Veterans Day for every day.

Not Being Preachy -- Elizabeth Zelvin on characters who carry the burden of an author's themes.


 December

Literary Mystery -- Leigh Lundin examines a Hemmingway mystery.

We're No Angles -- Eve Fisher on a minor Christmas classic.

Maze of Bones -- Dixon Hill spreads contagious enthusiasm about a series for young readers.

I Never Saw a Strange Red Cow -- Robert Lopresti's fascinating fragments of lost stories.

Cold War Berlin:  A Whiter Shade of Pale -- David Edgerley Gates evokes lost times and places.

The Dark Valley of Unpublished Stories -- David Dean describes a trip to a place where all writers have strayed.

Old Dogs and New Tricks -- John M. Floyd on old pros changing things up.

Tradecraft:  Surveillance 101 -- R.T. Lawton provides information every crime writer should know.


January 2013

The Art of Detection -- Dale C. Andrews' review of a new book on Ellery Queen sparks thoughts on a writer's immortality.

Chekhov Wrote Crime Stories? -- Louis Willis offers a new way of looking at a master of the short story.  

Rosemary &Thyme -- David Edgerley Gates celebrates a guilty pleasure.

Location, Location, Location -- David Dean's thoughts on location and the trap of writing from experience.

Doubt -- Janice Law explores the value of doubt in the mystery.

The Last Five Minutes -- Eve Fisher's last words on last words.

Professional Tips - John Lutz -- Leigh Lundin meets a favorite writer and discusses his writing tips.

The Silence of the Animals -- Dixon Hill tells a great story.

A New Project for the New Year -- Fran Rizer announces a very early Christmas present.


February

Bruce Lockhart:  Memoirs of British Agent -- David Edgerley Gates delivers another great history lecture.

Ripped from the Headlines -- Jan Grape shares more stranger-than-fiction truth.

I Was Just Wondering -- Louis A. Willis on the toughest job a "fictioneer" faces.

An Anniversary -- Elizabeth Zelvin provides great pictures, word pictures and real ones, on her parents' wedding anniversary.

I Owe It All to Rilke -- Brian Thornton devotes his SleuthSayers debut to the networking challenge.

Readers Choice -- David Dean places his literary future in the hands of his readers.

And the Beat Goes On -- John M. Floyd on Robert B. Parker's second coming.

Gone South (with Travis McGee) -- Dale C. Andrews on John D. MacDonald's return to print.

And Where is THAT? -- Fran Rizer discusses some fabulous real estate.


March

Stalker -- Dale C. Andrews on extreme fandom.

SleuthSayers, SleuthSayers -- Robert Lopresti shows off his poetry chops.

Setting as Character -- Brian Thornton discusses the importance of setting in the mystery.

Doyle When He Nodded -- Terence Faherty's debut explores Sir Arthur's fascinating lapses.

Framed -- John M. Floyd on a favorite story structure.

The IDES Are Coming -- R.T. Lawton lets the ides have it.

The Dean of SleuthSayers -- Leigh Lundin on David Dean and his new book.

No Goodbyes -- David Dean's last regularly scheduled post, for now.


April

I Found My Thrill -- Fran Rizer explores the thriller.

Creating Deception -- John Floyd gives tips on building a solid short story collection.

The After Story -- R.T. Lawton on continuing a story beyond the climax.

Gratuitous Violence -- Dale C. Andrews thoughts on violence that interrupts the story.

Reading to Learn -- Jan Grape shares writing lessons she learned by reading.

A True Story of Crooks and Spies -- Dixon Hill reviews a true tale of wartime intrigue.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Want Something -- Robert Lopresti reveals the secret to creating great characters.

The Current Crop of Clich├ęs -- Elizabeth Zelvin considers the continuing devolution of the language.


May

Memorial Day 2013 -- Jan Grape on Memorial Days present and past.

He Wasn’t The Best But He Was Good Enough -- Louis A. Willis on an almost-master, Carroll John Daly.

The Bank Robbery  -- R.T. Lawton describes a bank robbery that never was.

Random Observations -- Eve Fisher's thoughts on travelling away from oneself.

The Double Dippers -- Terence Faherty revels in big screen minutiae.

Losing the Edge -- John M. Floyd examines the burnout phenomenon.

The Beachcomber -- David Edgerley Gates recreates a memorable interview.

Some Thoughts on "Cosplay" Fiction -- Brian Thornton coins a term for anachronistic characters in historical fiction.


June

Dumbing Down: Self-fulfilling Prophecies about the Loss of Culture -- Elizabeth Zelvin's title describes it and her essay nails it.

Some Thoughts on the Importance of Plot, Character and Conflict in Fiction -- Brian Thornton minces no words in his discussion of the interaction of plot and character.

Stay Creative  - Jan Grape passes on some good advice from Holiday Inn.

Adolescent Sexist Swill? --  Fran Rizer pulls a Tom Sawyer on her friends with the help of Richard S. Prather.

Jesse James and Meramec Caverns: Another Route 66 Story -- Dale C. Andrews considers the line between history and legend.

The Haunted Wood -- David Edgerley Gates sets another record straight.

The Death of Laura Foster -- John Edward Fletcher tracks a North Carolina legend.

Beginners -- Janice Law on the art of learning a craft.


July

Show Don't Tell -- Dale Andrews on the difference between paper and flesh and blood.

Voice? -- Fran Rizer talks about good writing's most elusive quality:  voice. 


The Detroit PI -- Louis Willis on Loren Estleman's Amos Walker.

Who's on First -- Terence Faherty addresses the challenges of the PI point of view:  first person.

Hiaasen on the Cake -- John Floyd's tribute to Carl Hiaasen.

Two Writers, One Set-up -- Robert Lopresti on Jack Ritchie and the starting gun.

The Crazy Crawl -- Dixon Hill on yet another technological innovation that makes life less intelligible.

Pam, Prism, and Poindexter -- Leigh Lundin hits a nerve with the subject of domestic spying.


August

Marketing 101 -- John M. Floyd reveals his marketing secrets in this very popular post.

You Can't Make It Up -- Eve Fisher opens her file of newspaper clippings.

The Hardy Boys Mystery -- Dale C. Andrews rediscovers a lost first love.

Going to Great (or Short) Lengths -- Janice Law on the lengths to which authors will go.

Lessons Learned -- Jan Grape discusses putting your writing on automatic pilot.

Fatherlands -- David Edgerley Gates on alternate histories.

Wherefore Art -- Toe Hallock on the fascination of words.

Some General Thoughts on Character -- Brian Thornton tracks down an elusive (definition of) character.

Anybody Down Range? -- R.T. Lawton helps mystery writers handle firearms.


September

Regrets, I've Had a Few.... -- Brian Thornton on the secret character ingredient:  regret.

Suddenly, I Got a Buzz --
Robert Lopresti on words that need watching.

 Criminal Book Covers --
Leigh Lundin on book covers that should be covered.

10 September 2013

SleuthSayers' Second Anniversary! Part 1


                                    When I was one 
                                     I had just begun. 
                                     When I was two 
                                     I was nearly new . . . 

                                          Now We Are Six 
                                          A. A. Milne 

       Next week, on Tuesday September 17, SleuthSayers celebrates its second anniversary. Since that date falls on a Tuesday Terence Faherty and I (who share that day on a bi-weekly basis) were asked to kick off the festivities. We pondered how best to do this, and ultimately decided to let SleuthSayers speak for itself. (Err, ourselves!)  So this week and next week you are getting our nominees for memorable articles of years one (today) and two (next week). 

       When Terry and I decided on this approach it was our goal, going in, to identify three to five articles for each month of each year, articles that when viewed in the context of each twelve month period would show what SleuthSayers is all about. Terry is still working on the next installment, but I have to say at the beginning of mine that, as is evident below, I failed. There are too many great articles out there to whittle a year into 60 or fewer entries. In fact, there is a good argument that each of us should have just thrown up our hands and said “hey, gang, go back and read, or re-read, them all.” 

       The list set forth below is therefore both too long and too short. I've had recurring worries as to the articles not included, and all I can say is that my list (and, I suspect, Terry’s next week) is highly subjective. Ultimately I tried to identify articles that were timeless -- that will always bring out a smile or a nod of agreement from the reader.  If I missed a favorite, well tell me -- that's what the Comments feature is for.

       So, herewith, SleuthSayers, the First Year: September 17, 2011 through September 16, 2012. And, as a result of the wonders of our blogger program, together with a good dose of tedious rote work on my part, all of the titles set forth below have click-able links that will get you back to the underlying article.  So discover, re-discover, and have fun.

SleuthSayers -- The First Year


SEPTEMBER 2011 

Plots and Plans -- John Floyd starts the ball rolling with the first posting on Sleuthsayers.  

Should classic novels be re-written for modern tastes? What happens when we start down that slippery slope. Dale Andrews looked at this in Rewrites

Desperately Seeking Detectives --Writing characters with real-life flaws? Janice Law took a look at this, with particular emphasis on Alice LaPlante’s excellent Turn of Mind, a story narrated by a character descending into Alzheimer.  

OCTOBER 

The Crime of Capital Punishment -- Leigh Lundin spins the history of gallows, “old sparky,” and capital punishment generally over the years. 

Different Strokes -- John Floyd (who has more published stories than many of us have read) gives pointers for writing and submitting mystery stories. 

Speaking of Lists and Series -- Fran Rizer expounds on the best mystery stories of all times, and some other matters! 

Do Writers Write to Trends? Should they? -- Elizabeth Zelvin offers advice concerning whether trends should be followed or ignored by budding authors. 

The Death of the Detective -- Janice Law discusses authors’ decisions to kill off their detective. And what do you do when later you change your mind? 

My Uncle the Bootlegger -- Louis Willis’ colorful recollections of growing up in the hills and hollows of the east Tennessee back-country.  

NOVEMBER 

Ideas Are Us -- At a loss concerning how to start a project? Jan Grape tells how she finds ideas for books and stories. 

Digitally Yours -- Neil Schofield take a tongue-in-cheek look at how computers worm their way into each of our lives.  

When the Grammar Cops Comma Calling -- John Floyd takes a look at the trouble we can get into when we drop a comma in the wrong place. As the title suggests, be ready for some humor in this one. 

Twin Peaks -- Leigh Lundin turns back the way-back machine for one more look at one of the strangest mystery shows ever to grace network television. 

My Name is Fran and . . .  -- Fran Rizer offers up a primer on one of the things she does best -- writing cozies. 

Wellerness -- What is a wellerism? Generally it’s a cliche applied with humorous effect. Want some funny examples and a discussion of the origin of the word? Check out Leigh Lundin’s column. 

Flying Without a Parachute -- R.T. Lawton takes us inside one of his police investigations. And tells a neat story while he is at it. 

Metaphor Hunting -- Louis Willis celebrates Thanksgiving and at the same time offers some of his favorite literary metaphors -- some from fellow SleuthSayers. 

When We Were Very Young -- Why do we write? When and how did we take that first step that sent us down this road? David Dean ruminates on all of the above.  

Digging Up Old Crimes -- Attending the fourteenth annual Biblical Archaeology Fest in San Francisco Rob Lopresti discusses mysteries covered in presentations on archaeology and early Judaism. 

DECEMBER 

How Can a Martian Wax VentuVenusian? -- Dixon Hill offers up an insightful and at times humorous look at the differences between male and female audiences. 

Editorial Crimes -- Liz Zelvin gives us a fine discussion on finding the right voice for fictional characters.  

Mr. Swann Toasts Mr. Wolfe -- Guest columnist (and sort of the grandfather of SleuthSayers) James Lincoln Warren gives us the written remarks he delivered when his novella Inner Fire was awarded the 2011 Black Orchid Novella Award. 

Do You See What I See? -- Jan Grape uses the holiday season as a catalyst for a discussion on getting dialog right. 

At the End of Your Trope -- Rob Lopresti presents a great discussion of tropes. What are tropes? As Rob points out they are “a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.” 

to e or not to e -- R.T. Lawton discusses taking the leap into e-publishing. 

What’s in a Word? -- Fran Rizer takes the first of several SleuthSayer looks at how the English language grows.  

Crime Family -- David Dean shows us that sometimes our criminal antagonists are fashioned on someone, well, . . . close to home.  

Hugo and Shakespeare -- Leigh Lundin recounts the struggles we all face at times trying to make a story work.  

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol -- Dale Andrews' holiday essay on one of the favorite yuletide novels of all time. 

My Thoughts on the Big Lie -- Santa Claus -- Louis Willis’ title says it all. 

JANUARY 2012

Janus -- New Year reflections by Jan Grape. 

Nothing But the Best -- Rob Lopresti offers his annual list of the previous year’s best mystery stories. 

The Brazilian Connection -- The only SleuthSayers guest article by the great (and sadly, now late) Leighton Gage. A must read. 

Profiled -- Deborah Elliott-Upton discusses profiling -- real life and fiction. 

No, No, I Really Am . . .  -- Undercover stories from R.T. Lawton, who has been there and done that.  

Tricky Diction -- John Floyd’s hilarious piece on “saying it right.” 

Red Rum -- Fran Rizer gives us a two-for. First, her reflections on real-life South Carolina murderers, and second Evelyn Baker’s chilling account of “The Good Twins.” 

Character Flaws -- Jan Grape talks about how to make fictional character real. 

FEBRUARY 

RSI -- A SleuthSayers classic by Rob Lopresti. No spoiler here -- just go and read it! 

Computers? They're not my Type -- Guest columnist Herschel Corzine grouses humorously about being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future. Err, present! 

Mind Control -- David Dean looks at mind control and, in the process, re-examines Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation army. 

Waging Love in Ink -- Dixon Hill’s salute to Valentine’s Day.  

Before Stalking had a Name -- Liz Zelvin's personal (and chilling) account of stalking.  

Beginnings -- Janice Law talks about how to get the first paragraph right.  

No Name Blog -- Jan Rizer on the curse of all mystery writers -- rejection.  

Daturas -- An article discussing a beautiful flower that is also a dangerous narcotic and poison. The mystery to the author, Dale Andrews, is how this article, which garnered only a few comments, became the most widely read in the history of SleuthSayers 

MARCH 

Lawyers and Writers, Oh My! -- Deborah Elliott-Upton’s send-up of lawyers generally and lawyer authors particularly. 

The Sixth Sense -- R. T. Lawton discusses where those premonitions may be coming from. 

A Familiar Face -- John Floyd provides a road-map for spotting all those cameos by Alfred Hitchcock. 

APRIL 

Florida’s Right to Kill Law -- A serious piece by Leigh Lundin, and one of a series, exploring real life crime in Florida. This provides early insight into the Travon Martin case and Florida’s “Stand your Ground” statute. 

Young at Heart (and Death) -- Fran Rizer looks at fairy tales over the years.  

Evil Under the Sun (Part One and Two) -- David Dean’s riveting account of a murder and subsequent investigation in the Bahamas. In two parts.  

Easter Eggs -- the Sequel -- Dale Andrews explores the recurring, obscure and perplexing references to Easter that occur throughout the works of Ellery Queen. 

Close, but no Springroll -- Neil Schofield's personal account of how things sometimes get lost in translation when mysteries cross the Pacific. 

Outrageous Older Woman: Getting the Music Out There -- Liz Zelvin shows that she sports more than just a literary hat. 

Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite -- Jan Grape warns us to do exactly what the title orders.  

Paraprosdokia -- Dale Andrews' humorous collection of those sayings that, like many mysteries, sport a surprise ending.  

The Court Reporter’s Tale -- Forget about television depictions. Eve Fisher shows us the criminal justice system from the inside. 

No, Thank You -- R.T. Lawton discusses drug use among police officers and why it is a rare occurrence.  

Deja Vu All Over Again -- John Floyd’s discussion of commonplace redundancies in the English language.  

My Two Cents Worth -- Louis Wills discusses the ever-present debate concerning the literary worth of genre versus literary fiction. 

MAY 

Tough Broads -- Deborah Elliott-Upton’s advice on writing strong female characters.  

Cowboy Days -- R.T. Lawton re-visits the rodeo experiences of his childhood.  

Dream On -- John Floyd addresses the glory and the tedium of book signing events.  

Crime and PUNishment -- Leigh Lundin continues a spate of literary humor that infected us all that spring.  

Worst of the First -- The groans continue with Fran Rizer’s collection of the worst introductory passages ever written. 

A Word about Crime -- Turning the tables, Rob Lopresti offers a collection of some of his favorite quotes from crime fiction. 

Silence is Golden -- Dixon Hill addresses various audible intrusions that are just going to happen. So don’t pretend that they won’t in your stories. 

Hell’s Bellows -- Dale Andrews proves that lawyers have long memories when he finally serves up a response to Deborah’s March column on lawyer authors.  

It’s Alive! -- David Dean recounts the travails, obstacles and joys encountered in writing his first novel, The Thirteenth Child.  

Notes from the Penitentiary -- Eve Fisher gives us a look at what it is like, everyday, inside. 

Trifling through “Trifles” -- Deborah Elliott-Upton addresses the early lack of meaningful women characters in detective stories, and the fight to overcome the "trifles" characterization.  

JUNE 

How do you Write a Crime Novel?  -- Jan Grape collects the best advice from some who have done it. 

The Asparagus Bed -- Nearly a full year of essays and -- finally -- a real story!  A gem by Eve Fisher. 

It’s a Long Story -- John Floyd discusses the novella -- one of the most difficult types of story to market. 

Professional Tips -- Ray Bradbury -- Leigh Lundin offers a collection of story telling tips from the master. 

Do Books Change over Time or Is it Me? -- Liz Zelvin explores a recurring theme on SleuthSayers -- returning to the books of our youth. 

ABC -- Idle thoughts on Auden, Bradbury and Christie by Neil Schofield. 

Summertime and the Heat is Killing Me -- That’s what heat will do to you, as Deborah Elliott-Upton explains. 

Guys Read -- Among kids it’s easier to find girl readers. Dixon Hill discusses motivating boys to become lifelong readers and a project aimed at accomplishing that.  

The Unmaking of Books -- As always, an entertaining glimpse inside the thought process of Rob Lopresti.  

Selling Short -- Looking for a market for your short story? An invaluable guide by John Lloyd, who has sold hundreds. 

AKA -- Fran Rizer discusses early women writers who decided to publish under male pseudonyms. 

JULY 

The Writing Life -- Janice Law gives us a two-bladed essay on Latin words that stick to the English language like glue and trying to fathom why some stories work for the writer but not for the reader. Or at least not for the reader writing those rejection letters! 

E-Volution -- Dale Andrews’ essay on Michael S. Hart, the founder of Project Guttenberg. 

Forty Whacks -- Yep, David Dean tells us all about Lizzie Borden.  

Summer Love -- Rob Lopresti begins writing a novel and falls in love.  

Brain Exercises -- Jan Grape explains how writers can hone their craft by paying attention to what works of other writers. 

AUGUST 

Two Golden Threads -- Rob Lopresti’s loving memorial to John Mortimer. 

Sovereign Citizens -- Strange characters? Sometimes they are all around us. Ask Eve Fischer. 

Me and the Mini Mystery -- R.T. Lawton offers tips on how to tackle the mini market..  

John Buchan: The Power House -- David Edgerton Gates’ first SleuthSayers article tells us all about the author of The Thirty Nine Steps and one of his best books -- The Power House

A Woman’s World Survivors’ Guide -- John Floyd’s hornbook on what Woman’s World looks for in a mini-mystery.  

She Said What? -- Fran Rizer’s tribute to Helen Gurley Brown.  

The Name is Familiar -- Rob Lopresti looks at eponyms -- people whose names became words.  

What Do You Do? -- Jan Grape talks about tackling writers’ block.  

Ellery Queen’s Backstory -- Well, it’s complicated, as Dale Andrews explains. 

My Favorite Characters -- Eve Fisher discusses how she finds inspiration for characters all around her. 

Copyedited by Tekno Books -- R.T. Lawton explains how it wasn't all fun after his short story was accepted for inclusion in the latest MWA anthology. 

SEPTEMBER 

The Fires of London -- Janice Law discusses her newest novel on the day before publication. 

A “Feyn” Idea -- Dixon Hill’s intriguing article on famed physicist Richard Feynman. 

Locke and Leather -- Leigh Lundin explores some of the darker sides of self-publishing. 

The Washed and the Unwashed -- John Floyd takes another look at differences between literature and genre fiction. 

       And that is it for year one!  Next week Terry will post his take on the highlights of SleuthSayers -- Year Two!


03 September 2013

Sing Me a Siren Song


Dale Andrews' very enjoyable piece on the Hardy Boys from last Tuesday evoked a lot of memories for me.  My first completed story, written in the sixth grade, was an thinly disguised Hardy Boys mystery complete with illustrations.   I still have the one and only copy, and it's conclusive proof that my taste for run-on sentences is a congenital condition.

Motif the First
Motif the Second
Even more evocative than the book excerpts Dale included were the book covers he reproduced.  The Hardy Boys editions published in the 1950s and early 1960s had wonderful covers, siren songs done with a brush.  Those covers were always snapshots of some suspenseful moment, often night scenes.  Two recurring motifs were "Hardy Boys Observing Something From a Place of Concealment " and "Hardy Boys Engaged in Foolhardy Enterprise While Someone Sneaks Up Behind Them."   Examples of both types are reproduced here.

A favorite subject of discussion among mystery book authors is book covers.  I could just as easily have typed "subject of complaint."  Bestsellers can complain about the way their books are translated onto film.  The rest of us have to be content with complaining about how our characters are depicted on book jackets.  That's not to say that every author dislikes his or her covers, but it's a lucky writer who's never been let down once by a cover designer.

When my Owen Keane series started, St. Martin's commissioned covers that were dark, moody, and, I thought at the time, rather artsy.  Keane is a failed seminarian whose investigations often involve metaphysics, so I couldn't exactly blame them.  I liked the covers, but I still felt a nameless void.  I didn't diagnose it until Worldwide began bringing the books out as paperbacks.  Then I realized what I'd been longing for:  Hardy Boys book covers.  With the Worldwide editions, I got them.
 

Compare the two covers for Live To Regret.  They're very similar in subject and composition, but the cover on the right is recognizably from the Hardy Boys school.  The second figure, the follower, is represented only by a shadow.   The implication is that the first figure (a very small one at the top of the boardwalk) has someone sneaking up behind him, as in Hardy Boys Motif #2 described above. 




The sinister shadow would appear often on my subsequent Worldwide covers.  It's an authentic variation on Hardy Boys Motif #2, as the cover on the right demonstrates. 





Hardy Boys Motif #1 (see example on the left) was also represented in my Worldwide editions, by the cover for The Ordained.  That's Keane concealed behind the tree.  It could easily be the cover for The Twisted Claw or The Hooded Hawk.
 


I had one more brush (no pun intended) with a Hardy Boys cover, and that was when Hayakawa brought out a Japanese edition of The Lost Keats.  Its cover shows Keane leaning against his faithful Karmann-Ghia, which looks showroom new despite being described in the book as being equal parts rusted steel and body putty.  Keane doesn't look like his description, either, but when I saw him, I smiled.  He looks like a close relation of Joe Hardy after Joe had gotten his late '60s makeover.  Come to think of it, Keane is a relation.  Maybe a first cousin, once removed.  

Owen Keane returns to a book jacket this fall.  It will be wrapped round his first book-length adventure to be published in fourteen years.  I'll have more to say about that adventure, Eastward In Eden (and its cover), in a later post.  For now, thanks again, Dale, for the Memory Lane trip.  And, Frank and Joe, look out behind you!