Showing posts sorted by relevance for query dixon hill. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query dixon hill. Sort by date Show all posts

23 September 2011

It's Friday. Thank God it's … Dixon Hill???


by Dixon Hill

First: For the Star Trek fans among us…

Yes, my name is Dixon Hill. That's not a joke; it's my name.

No, I'm not a fictional character. I am a real person.

No. I did not have my name legally changed from Bruno Jablonski to Dixon Hill after attending my first Star Trek convention--that's a vicious rumor! Dixon Hill is the name my parents wrote on my birth certificate when I was born in Phoenix, in 1963, long before TNG ever made it to the airwaves.

No. I am not related to the actor Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Yes. I know that in the show, Captain Picard's character sometimes enters the holodeck and pretends to be a fictional detective from the 1940's named Dixon Hill.
This is not me.  I swear!

Yes. It so happens that I do often wear a fedora. I've owned one for many years. It's brown, and has a medium-width brown crepe ribbon around the base of the crown. And, it used to hold a feather.

Naturally the hat's a bit worse for wear these days, after having been crushed and stuffed into a duffel bag for trips to Central and South America and West Africa when I was in the army. Not to mention having been used as a Frisbee by my older son when he was a teenager, and my younger son when he was playing Raiders of the Lost Ark last week. (Thankfully, my teenage daughter has spared the hat, choosing to age me instead, by exercising her new driver's permit privileges while I cling to dangling strips of the headliner on the passenger side of our Jeep Cherokee. My wife shredded the headliner with her long nails during an earlier ride with my daughter, and frankly I'm grateful for the resulting handholds.)

However, the fact that I wear a fedora doesn't make me Captain Picard. Not anymore than the fact that I sometimes wear a leather jacket, while wearing my fedora, could magically turn me into Indiana Jones.

It doesn't; I'm not--nuff said.

Ah, good! You got it now, buddy: I'm a guy named Dixon Hill, who wears a fedora and writes mysteries.

What's that? Well… I don't know. Perhaps you're right, angry Trekkie: I may be a jerk. Sometimes, at least. After all, my wife once told me I had all the social graces of an Orangutan on steroids. But, my not being related to Patrick Stewart (or not having been named for a fictional character, or not being that fictional character for that matter) is not what makes me a jerk sometimes.

What occasionally makes me act like a jerk, is that I spent ten years in the U.S. Army--first working as a Military Intelligence Analyst, and later as a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant--and even now, over a decade later, I sometimes react to events as if I were still an army sergeant.

Surprisingly (to me, at least) this is not always a good thing in the civilian world, and is also what lies at the root of my wife's "Orangutan on steroids" crack. But, in my defense, it's an automatic reaction, and I work fast to correct it as soon as I realize old habits have kicked in where they don't belong.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog: "It ain't easy bein' green."

Training that builds such ingrained habits is not easy to overcome. Those habits maintain a strong grip on a person's life, long after their usefulness has faded away. And, I suppose, this is where my writing comes in. Because it's the fourth thing that has such a grip on my life. (My family is the second thing. You'll have to figure out what takes first place--after all, this is a blog for sleuths. Right?)
"But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water."
Not me either. This is Rudyard Kipling
In case you don't know, the quote above comes from the epic poem Gunga Din written by Rudyard Kipling. I first discovered Kipling about six months after completing Basic Training. His words struck me like a cold slap, because they seemed to capture the army life so well.

Since then, I've learned to understand why some revile him. There are those who can only see the racial imperialism that mars his poetry. And, I can understand where they're coming from; I'm not happy with those aspects either. However, I can't help but love them for the truth of the soldier, which runs like a golden vein through so much of his works. Kipling understood the hard, hot back-breaking work that makes up a soldier's existence. He knew it was a life filled with long tracts of boredom, punctuated by brief furious violence and terror.

Still not me.
This is Walter Mosley.
After being honorably discharged from the army, I earned my BA in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School. But, working for a newspaper quickly soured on me. It's tough to fit the whole truth into eight column inches. And, anything less than the truth... Well, you can decide for yourself. As for me, I didn't want anymore to do with it.

Instead, I decided (and I'm paraphrasing the great Walter Mosley, here) "to write fiction, because I wanted to write the truth." I'm not always sure how to go about doing this, but mysteries often deal in violence. I know the truth of violence, first-hand. And, I also know that portraying violence in a way that makes light of it, or of what it does to a person--the wounds, the psychological aftermath--runs against my grain. I don't believe in adding gratuitous violence to a story, but where violence belongs I think it has to be real. As honestly real as it can be written. Even though this disturbs people at times. (Comments or disagreement concerning that statement are certainly very welcome by the author. And, I should probably warn you that the next few paragraphs deal with my first combat experience, so some readers may wish to skip down to the paragraph beside the next picture, instead.)

Violence damages both victim and perpetrator; if I do my job right, this truth should come out. And violent death is neither clean nor efficient. (It's tempting to write that oft-read cliche that violent death is messy, but I don't really think I can. It's not messy. At least not just messy in a physical sense.) I learned that during my first deployment on an A-Team, which culminated in our participating in Operation Just Cause: the removal of Manuel Noriega from power in Panama. It was also my first time in combat.

It's difficult to put enough words on paper to evoke what it meant to run across a bridge that our side had been holding one end of all night. Running past the crumpled, stiff, bullet and shrapnel-torn bodies of men, whom my buddies and I had worked very hard to kill. And we had succeeded. Their blood lay thick like black rancid jelly, pooled beside and beneath the soldiers' corpses. One dead man's arm stretched stiff against the sky, hand open but fingers deeply curled, as if pleading. I hadn't even known a man could die like that.

But this was my first time, so I made myself look. Made myself see them, instead of turning my head the other way. It wasn't easy to do this while keeping one eye on the far-side bridge abutment, and the jungle beyond, searching for potential danger signs, but I figured they deserved it; turning away felt too much like turning my back on them. Facing them, looking at them: this was the only way I had, to honor their lives. And, let's be honest: these were men who had once been little boys. Maybe they'd played with toy cars, the way I had as a boy--that was the thought that ran through my mind at the time, because I was single (though these days, thinking of them makes me think of my own sons). So I made myself look at them as I ran past.
Yep!  This is me.
I'm not scowling, just squinting
in the bright Arizona sunlight.

And I figure that's what I've got to do whenever violence occurs in a story; I've got to write it in such a way that a reader sees the violence, comes to grips with it and is gripped by it. And gains a better understanding of the way it hurts--everyone involved. I know I don't succeed as well as I wish. But I keep trying.

And, I promise not to bring anymore dead bodies (unless they're fictional bodies) into the Friday blog post, since I'm sure most folks would find it an unsettling way to start the weekend. But--though I'm still trying to figure out what I've got to say, that you'll find worth reading--I also promise to do my best to write what I honestly feel.

Having been so kindly permitted to join such an august group of authors in this blog, I feel a lot like Leigh wrote that he did, when he first joined CriminalBrief: "I'm not sure my colleagues understood they'd invited an occasionally irrelevant, often irreverent rookie…"

I've written a lot of non-fiction, but when it comes to fiction--though I've sold several short stories--I'm definitely still a rookie. And, when it comes to blogging I'm a babe in the woods. I figure the only way I can honor a circle of such great writers, is to write the truth. So, I'll do my best to do that every-other Friday. Preferably, without turning your stomachs.

I'll see you in two weeks. Next Friday, R.T. Lawton will be here. He's my partner and counter-part for this da, and, though we've only recently become aquainted, it's pretty clear that he's a great guy and a fascinating writer--one who will undoubtedly bring you many great posts in the future.

So, until the Friday after next: Keep the faith, Buddy!

Dix

14 July 2018

Arizona Hills


by Leigh Lundin

Seven years ago, a coterie of writers banded together to launch SleuthSayers. In his first column, Dixon Hill introduced his fedora. I think I met that fedora recently.

Dixon Hill
Dixon Hill
To be sure, I also met the storied Dixon Hill and his equally legendary wife, Madeleine. You may remember reading about her, the very charming lady who drove fuel tankers in Iraq.

Dixon has written about his own military training, parachute jumping, explosives, and special ops. Yet in his writing and in real life, he displays quiet confidence and an utter lack of braggadocio. What you read, what you see, is what you get.

But fair warning: Around him, women get a gleam in their eye, that “Yum, Teddy Bear” look, which the rest of us males envy.

I’ve wanted to meet the man behind the writing. A few months ago, it looked like that might happen, but life intervened. Finally I set foot in Arizona only to meet an elk in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then a death in the family followed. Finally, though, I was free. Dixon squeezed me in.

Despite lack of sleep, he proved the most consummate host. Being raised by a professor shows. A natural teacher, he’s written about the history and geography of Greater Phoenix. I found myself racking up mental notes everywhere we visited.

First, at my request came a brief introduction to automatic sidearms, this from a guy who’s living (in multiple senses of the word) depended in part upon knowledge and skill of weaponry. Who better to learn from?

Hole-in-the-Rock
Hole-in-the-Rock, Papago Park
Dixon followed with a tour of Phoenix. He drove through Papago Park to point out the Hole-in-the-Rock, an elevated cavern open at either end. He named the surrounding mountain ranges. He noted bridges that ran high over dry river beds, waiting like a boxer for that blow that never comes… until it does.

Questions had been gathering in my mind about desert plants, mesquite, ironwood, and especially cactus. With Dixon’s wide-ranging interests, I was almost unsurprised to discover he’s a member of the Desert Botanical Garden. There, they combine education with beauty.

Dixon shared a story about his father and the infamous ‘jumping’ cactus, AKA Teddy Bear cactus. His dad experimented, risking his own flesh. He hypothesized cactus pods store up kinetic energy, until the slightest touch sends them exploding off their host plant. Me, I think that’s a damn clever theory.

Dixon had another surprise up his sleeve, a visit to the Poisoned Pen Bookstore adjacent to Poisoned Pen Press. Loaded with signed mysteries and science fiction, it’s a drool-worthy shop in Scottsdale that seems both packed and airy at once. Independent bookshops could take lessons from them.

I introduced myself to the owner… not too crudely I hoped. Dixon and I made quite the prickly pair.

Setting aside his own fatigue, Dixon showed me his writing cabin set in a corner of the garden. There he retreats to write, coaxing the computer from his arm chair. The fedora there… was it the same Staff Sergeant Hill traveled with around the world? I suspect so.

The visit turned out entertaining and educational, everything and more I expected from a man I learned about through his writing. One day, Dixon, let’s do it again.

The Flight of the Phoenix

So…

At Phoenix airport, I gathered my kit around me, my wits and my tickets. Hot as it was, I found myself strangely reluctant to depart. Turned out United had the same notion.

“Whoa,” said the ticket agent. “You’re too late to board.”

“What? No, I can’t be.” How many times had she heard that story? “Really, I received a confirmation email telling me to check in, like now, I’m on time.”

Anxious to put in her propeller, a United supervisor strolled over. Her snoot lifted into the air like my soon-to-depart plane.

“We closed boarding and no, you could not have received such an email.”

“I did, I did,” I said plaintively, thinking I must have read it wrong. Wait… Although I’d had poor luck finding phone signals in Arizona, five million people populated Phoenix. Surely AT&T had a presence here, didn’t they?

I pulled out my dusty iPhone and… Yes! A signal! Moreover, an email! The right one. I held out the phone like a child showing homework to the teacher.

“Ma’am, here’s the email. It spells out the details and I’m here on time.”

She read it once. Not quite believing it, she peered closer. I could almost hear the chips in her brain going, “Oh crap, he’s right.” Then she glanced at the clock ticking away on her computer terminal and lit up. “NOW,” she said with immense satisfaction, “now you’re too late.”

The counter agent gave me the most carefully neutral look. She managed to convey a measure of sympathy.

“I’ve booked you tomorrow. If you don’t mind a hint, lose a couple of pounds in your suitcase.” Again she gave her patented neutral look. “Thank you for choosing United.”

No hurry. Good company, good food, good night’s sleep. Orlando could wait another day.

Phoenix Rising


The personality of all cities depend upon geography and geology. More than most, the Copper State’s very existence depends upon Mother Nature’s good nature.

It’s bedrock is literally laid bare. River beds lace hither and yon, empty and dry… most of the time. Water, when it comes, can rage rapidly, as colleague Susan Slater has expressed in her novel, Flash Flood.

Unlike Eastern states, water rights are bought and sold. So are mineral rights. A few strip mines in the Copper State have left behind unnatural terraced hills, white not from rime but extraction chemicals. Arizona has been fortunate in other metals that begin with the letter A in the periodic table: Au, Ag, Al… gold, silver, and aluminum.

NASA used selected places in Arizona for lunar mission training. It’s not difficult for an outsider to think of Arizona as a beautiful planet in itself, one where pioneering humans have dug in, stubbornly nesting amongst its fabulous rock structures, a landscape hospitable to the hardiest among us.

Just avoid uninsured elk.

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 Clichés -- 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!


04 January 2015

Line-up


Line-Up © Ioannis Christoforou
clip © Ioannis ‘John’ Christoforou
by Leigh Lundin

Happy New Year! We’re happy to see you survived the Chanukah and Christmas holidays and the New Year’s parties.

Our resolution for the year is to continue providing you a window into the creative (which sounds so much better than ‘twisted’) minds of crime fiction authors. Here’s what to expect:

Mon   Jan Grape, Fran Rizer
Mondays represent the cosy realm featuring Fran Rizer and Jan Grape. Besides the Callie Parrish series, Fran has brought out a new thriller, Kudzu River. Jan has a number of series characters such as Zoe Barrow, Jenny Gordon & C.J. Gunn, and Robbie & Sheriff Damon Dunlap.
Tue   Jim Winter, David Dean, Paul D. Marks
Jim anchors Tuesdays, appearing every other week. Among other tales, Jim is noted for this Nick Kepler series. This month also marks the final article for a while from our New Zealand author, Stephen Ross, who takes a sabbatical to work on his book. David Dean similarly took a sabbatical to sweat out his books as well and continues with us on monthly Tuesdays. Velma has invited prize-winning author and LA historian Paul Marks to join us once a month on Tuesdays starting in February. Paul is noted for his Shamus-award White Heat.
Wed   Rob Lopresti, David Edgerley Gates
Rob has anchored arresting Wednesdays for many years. He specializes in short stories, especially his Longshanks series. Santa Fe writer David Edgerley Gates rounds out Wednesdays. He’s the noted author of cold war novels and the Placido Geist bounty hunter series.
Thu   Eve Fisher, Brian Thornton
Thursdays, think history. Historian and social activist Eve Fisher has published an astonishing array of short stories, mostly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Also a historian and teacher, Brian Thornton fills out our Thursday schedule. He’s the author of books on Lincoln and bastards… and more bastards. Really!
Fri   Dixon Hill, R.T. Lawton
If it’s Friday, it must be tough guys, our heroes Dixon Hill and R.T. Lawton. Dixon can write just about anything, but he specializes in– what else?– mysteries. R.T. writes historical shorts such as his Asian half-brothers series and his Parisian crime historicals from the Mother Margot’s School for Pickpockets.
Sat   Melodie Campbell, John Floyd
Two consummate professionals share Saturdays. First we have Melodie Campbell, award-winning author of the Goddaughter series. You don’t want to mess with her. Anchoring Saturdays, prolific Mississippi author John Floyd always brings us entertainment, whether about his abundance of short stories, movies, or his popular (in)famous list of lists.
Sun Leigh Lundin, Dale Andrews
As you noted last week, Louis Willis retired at the end of the year. Starting this month, Dale Andrews returns on the 25th to replace Louis on the last Sunday of each month. You may remember Dale from his prize-winning stories and Ellery Queen research.

We’re glad to have you join us for another year!