07 May 2022

Funny Business


A recent "topic of the week" at the message board of the Short Mystery Fiction Society was one that I found especially interesting. It was "Humor in Crime Fiction." I didn't participate in the discussion, or at least haven't yet, but I've been enjoying reading the views of others on the subject, and the consensus seems to be that a little humor is almost always a plus, even in the more serious novels and short stories. 

I agree. Many of my favorite authors--among them Joe R. Lansdale, Nelson DeMille, the late Donald Westlake, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, Lawrence Block, Carl Hiaasen--include humor in most (in some cases, all) of their writing, to the point that I and others have come to expect it. And I believe that if Thomas Harris can manage to inject a degree of humor into ultra-violent books like Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs, most authors could do the same, if they wanted to.

Humor is serious business

I do realize, of course, that some topics don't lend themselves to lighthearted writing--I don't recall anything funny in Schindler's List or Sophie's Choice or Leaving Las Vegas. But in the kind of mystery/crime stories I'm thinking of, the humor doesn't have to be Laugh Out Loud hilarity. It can be something as small as banter between partners, witty observations, weird incidents, or just characters not taking themselves too seriously. Anything that can occasionally bring a smile to the reader's face. Moviewise, the Cohen Brothers seem to be especially good at that ("He's fleeing the interview!").

I also realize that humor can backfire if you're not careful. I saw the following quote in an article called "Why Humor Is So Essential in Fiction" (Joel Sippie, The Wrtier): "The first thing to remember is not to overdo it. Overcooked humor is just as bad as overcooked turkey. No one needs more of either in their lives." But if it is done correctly, it's a great advantage.

In my own writing world

It has occurred to me that part of the reason some of my short-story series have worked at certain markets is that humor plays a big part in those stories. My country-bumpkin sheriff who often enlists the assistance of his former schoolteacher in his Woman's World investigations is usually more irritated by her bossy manner and grammar instruction than grateful for her help, and in dozens of stories in other magazines my amateur crimefighter Fran Valentine is just as interested in trying to find a husband for her sheriff daughter Lucy as she is in solving the cases. That kind of thing seems to also work in some of my longer and more intense crime stories. But--again--I try to be careful not to overplay it. 

Here are a few more personal examples. Two fairly recent Derringer Awards came from (1) my flash story "Tourist Trap" about two people plotting a murder/robbery in ancient Italy and (2) a longer story called "On the Road with Mary Jo" about a pair of dimwitted bank robbers who steal what turns out to be an experimental self-driving car. I made sure both those plots, and the character relationships that go with them, relied entirely on humor. And just last week an old friend from IBM asked me about one of my early stories called "Saving Mrs. Hapwell," which involved a cowboy who finds himself in an awkward confrontation with the husband of an old girlfriend. What my buddy said he remembered most about the story was that it was funny, which I took as high praise. (That story has now been reprinted in nine different markets, including here, two years ago.)

In my own reading (and viewing) world

Not that it matters, but here are a few of my favorite pieces of humorous fiction:

Short Stories:

"The Kugelmaas Episode," Woody Allen

"The Green Heart," Jack Ritchie

"Voodoo," Fredric Brown

"The Catbird Seat," James Thurber

"The Absence of Emily," Jack Ritchie


No Way to Treat a First Lady, Christopher Buckley

Four to Score, Janet Evanovich

What's the Worst that Could Happen?, Donald Westlake

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Lucky You, Carl Hiaasen


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Airplane! (1980)

Raising Arizona (1987)

Note: It's not fiction, but my favorite funny memoir is Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin.

Questions and conclusions

How much humor do you put into your stories or novels? Do you find humor enjoyable to write? Hard to write? Do you ever seek out funny books or stories or movies to read or watch? What are some of the best you've found?

In closing--and despite what many literary authors and readers seem to think--I believe meaningful fiction doesn't have to be a deep and bleak journey into the misery of the human condition. And with that in mind . . .

Keep writing, and keep smiling.

06 May 2022

A Visit from Dr. Disaster

I’m ceding my time and space this week to one of my nonfiction writing collaborators. Dr. John Torres is the senior medical and science correspondent at NBC News, MSNBC, and The Today Show. He’s also an emergency room physician and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who trains NATO Special Forces on such topics as bioterrorism. During the pandemic, Dr. Torres and I kept ourselves safe and marvelously entertained by writing a book together that grew out of his observations covering natural and medical disasters all over the globe. That book, Dr. Disaster’s Guide to Surviving Everything (HarperCollins/Harvest, $16.99) is out this spring in paperback. — Joseph DAgnese

Hi everyone. I’m happy to visit SleuthSayers. I have seen my share of medical mysteries, and I much prefer the fictional kind. As a young doctor, I’d sit back and mock TV medical dramas for their lack of reality. These days, as a ruggedly-handsome-but-maybe-not-so-young doctor, I can still appreciate a good medical drama even if gets little details wrong. I enjoy spotting the errors and theorizing why the director or producers made the choices they did.

Dr. John Torres

For example, in real life, when you administer chest compressions to someone in cardiac arrest, you have to keep your elbows straight. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to deliver the life-saving pressure to restart the heart. In movies and TV, the doctors always bend their elbows. Why? Well, I think it looks better. The actor playing the doc is popping up and down. It’s dramatic. Also, if they didn’t bend their elbows, they’d seriously harm the actor playing the cardio victim.

In the world of make-believe, you always get a scene of the lone doctor performing CPR to save the life of the patient. In real life, in a hospital setting, a coding patient is swarmed with doctors, nurses, and technicians, each of whom are performing one disparate task to keep that patient alive. Hospital staffers are required to retrain for CPR on a regular basis, because we don’t do it all. We work as a team. If we didn’t retrain often, we’re liable to forget the critical flow of CPR.

A few other gaffes from fiction that docs alone are likely to notice:

If your private eye takes a bullet to the shoulder, chances are the scene is over, and so is their career. The shoulder is awfully close to important blood vessels, the lungs, and nerves. The bones leading from the clavicles to the arms are fragile. A bullet would so shatter them that it would be impossible to keep fighting the bad guy. If you want to sink a bullet into your hero, put it in the outer thigh. There’s nothing truly life threatening there, as long as you miss the bone.

Avoid having your hero save the day with a tourniquet fashioned from a leather belt they whip off their waists. The key to a good tourniquet is flexibility. You need to be able to twist it tighter as that becomes necessary. And you won’t get many twists from a nice leather belt. Better to use a scarf, tie, or the shirt off your back, with a sturdy stick or tool to act as a windlass (i.e., the “handle” part that twists).

When in doubt, give your doctor heroes more paperwork. As much paperwork as you would heap upon hapless police detectives in your fiction. In fact, give your doctors some of mine! In the old TV show, ER, George Clooney would saunter off into the sunset at the end of the day, to carry on the important work of being dashing. That drove me crazy! Staying late to do paperwork was half my job!

You can never go wrong as a writer tossing crazy relatives into a medical scene. True story: A beautiful, eighteen-year-old girl showed up in our ER looking as if she’d overdosed on…something. The narcotics tests all came back negative. We finally determined that she’d attempted to end her life by swallowing a copious quantity of iron pills. In large doses iron is so toxic that it will obliterate your liver. If she hadn’t ended up in the ER, she would have died in 24 hours!

I found her parents in the waiting room. “I hate to tell you this,” I said, “but your daughter needs a liver transplant.”

“Will it leave a scar?” Mom wanted to know.

Well, sure…

“You can’t do that!” Mom protested. “She’s a beauty pageant contestant. She’ll never be able to wear a bikini again!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I shot a look at Dad. “The question is, is she going to be alive?”
Mom started up again, but Dad shouted, “Shut up!”

I have no idea if the patient ever competed ever again, but I know she left our care alive.

Get to know your region of the world intimately. I guarantee you that there are awesome medical stories that have yet to be used by other writers. In Colorado where I live and work, every summer I’d see teens, usually young boys, arrive in the ER in a near-comatose state. If the patient was… a) blind as bat, b) mad as a hatter, c) red as a beet, and d) dry as a bone (i.e., not sweating), chances were good that they had ingested the seeds of a plant native to North America called jimson weed (datura stramonium), a known hallucinogen.

Jimson weed seed pod.
Photo by Olivia Haun on Unsplash

Kids looking to get high will brew the plant’s seeds into an intoxicating tea. The plant is found all over the U.S., but in semi-arid environments like Colorado the plant’s toxicity is a moving target. In wet years, a single seed is not that powerful, so you’re obliged to pop several into your tea to get stoned. But in years of drought, the plant produces fewer seeds with a more concentrated payload. One dry-year seed could be as strong as three or four wet-year seeds! Jimson’s active ingredients are anticholinergics; they attack the central nervous system. Within hours the victim begins frothing at the mouth. The toxicity spreads to the heart. From there it’s all downhill—seizures, coma, death.

Which reminds me: fictional doctors are always saving the day by pumping a patient’s stomach. We actually don’t pump that many stomachs because you don’t get much out. If the person has arrived in your ER, the toxin is most likely flowing in their bloodstream, not swimming in their digestive juices. Unfortunately, you must treat the overriding ailment.

In closing, let me share my foolproof, Dr. Disaster method for murdering someone. (This is offered for entertainment purposes only. Do not actually do this!) Recall that doctors often only check for poisons that they suspect, that they know about, that are common in their locality. My Colorado colleagues and I could always spot a jimson weed victim because we saw them every summer day. But if you lob a zebra at a doctor or medical examiner, you’ll stump them every time.

So here’s my crazy murder scenario. I keep waiting to see someone use it on TV or in a mystery novel. You’d get pufferfish toxin and add it to your enemy’s spray bottle of nasal decongestant during allergy season. I guarantee you that the vast majority of doctors in North America will not test for pufferfish toxin. Maybe the murderer is a disgraced doctor who’s now slumming as a sushi chef—or vice versa.

I shared this idea with my kids recently, both of whom are physicians themselves. They both shook their heads, perhaps wondering if I watched too much TV.

“But Dad, where are you going to get pufferfish toxin? It’s very difficult to extract.”

I shrugged. “Who cares? It’s fiction.”

March 2021, a snowy day in Colorado when the hardcover copies first arrived.

Connect with Dr. Torres via…

A note from Joe: If you happen to buy a copy of Dr. Torres’ book, kindly contact me via my website and I can send you a bookplate signed by Dr. Torres to paste down in your copy. We can mail to USA and Canadian residents while supplies last. Just let me know how many you need. Dr. Torres is traveling overseas this month, but I will get him to respond to any comments left below. Be sure to tick the “Notify me” box. Thank you.

I will be back in three weeks with more delightful shenanigans.


05 May 2022

Helen of Troy

My friend and fellow historian Doolin' Dalton (Brian Thornton) have at various times discussed historical questions of all kinds from all ages. And I've often pondered those Western Ur-epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, from which we get legends, myths, stereotypes, tag lines, slang, and a whole new kind of hero:  Odysseus, who wins everything by his wits, not his brawn. (QUITE a change from past heroes, from Gilgamesh to Odysseus' fellow warrior Achilles.)  

The Iliad and The Odyssey were finally written down somewhere in the 700s BC, but scholars and archaeologists have proved, from Homer's language to archaeological excavations, that it's set in Mycenean Greece (1700-1050 BC), some time between the 13th and 12th centuries BC. Long time ago, but reading it even today there's a lot that seems very… modern? normal? about a 10 years' war with lots of posturing, POWs, destruction, burnt earth, rape, death, trickery, treachery, etc. 

But what strikes me every time I read it is something that (back then) no one talked about. This was a patriarchal world with a matrilineal inheritance system. Later, as a historian, I figured out that this wasn't and isn't unusual.  From the Hebrew tribes to China to Egypt, from the Hopi to the Tuareg,  Check out Wikipedia - matrilineality has been, is, and ever shall be among certain cultures. And it makes perfect sense. While there may be some doubt in a pre-DNA world as to the father, there's almost never any doubt about who's the mother. (This is part of the reason royal houses and most aristocracy had their moms-to-be used to give birth in public. No switching babies!)

You can see it everywhere, once you look for it. Penelope, waiting for Odysseus to come home, weaving her web and unpicking it every night while hundreds of suitors are besieging her to marry her. It doesn't make sense from a modern point of view - after all, if Odysseus is dead, then there's the grown son Telemachus to take over, right? But if it's a matrilineal system, then as long as Penelope is alive, her husband, not her son, is King of Ithaca. She's quite a prize. 

It also explains why, when Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods to get a fair wind back to Greece, his wife Clytemnestra decides to murder his sorry ass, because he just killed the heir to the throne, the one who would pass on the throne of Mycenae to her husband. (No, I have no idea why Clytemnestra's other daughter, Electra, couldn't replace Iphigenia in the line of succession. Myths are sloppy things. But it does explain why Orestes has nothing.)  

This also explains a lot about Helen of Sparta, a/k/a/ Helen of Troy. She was reputedly the most beautiful woman in the world from childhood. Theseus kidnapped her when she was 7 or 10, depending on who tells the story, and while he did not take her virginity, he did satisfy himself with her other ways. She was rescued by her divine half-brothers, Castor and Pollux, who returned her to Sparta. When she was old enough to marry, as many as 36 princes and warriors showed up. This made her father, Tyndareus, King of Sparta, very, very nervous - what if they wouldn't accept his choice? What if they kept fighting forever?  

Odysseus (good old wily Odysseus) cut a deal with Tyndareus - if Odysseus figured a way to make everyone agree, then Tyndareus would back Odysseus' marriage with Penelope. Agreed! So Odysseus made everyone swear that whoever Tyndareus chose, all the suitors would defend the chosen husband against anyone who quarreled with him. Or seduce or kidnap Helen. 

Obviously Odysseus could see the writing on the wall:  her life would never be tame.  And perhaps Tyndareus knew as well, and picked the relatively uncharismatic Menelaus for her husband:* someone who, when the going got tough, would fight to keep her, and later take her back.   

* It reminds me of when, in 900s AD France, the Merovingian line finally sputtered out, and the French nobles gathered around and elected Hugh Capet King of the Franks, because he was relatively weak and landless.  He surprised them by hanging in there, and siring progeny that ruled – in one branch or another – until 1848. 

And thus, the Trojan War…


We may or may not have the choice to love,
but we have no choice in being loved.
We are or we aren't, 
and there's nothing we can do about it.
(An inconvenient truth.)

Perhaps that's why so much of art and artifice
revolves around getting someone to love us.
Once more trying to fight against immovable fact.

But it's true: we cannot make someone love us.

But if they do,
it's harder than you might think to make them stop.
They say that God hasn't wearied of us yet.

that hidden shame or public outrage,
is truth's dark face of love.
It is obsession,
whether with a place or a memory or a person or an idea.

Without that, it's merely curiosity.
Scratching an itch.

Poor Helen.
So many men's obsession.
Though some of them, like Theseus, were just scratching an itch.
So young, so young - 
Is it any wonder there's no hint that Helen ever loved back?
Not even in Troy, 
where Aphrodite has to keep luring her back 
into the not quite wedded bed of Paris.

She'd been inoculated against love.

And then came all the tribute-bearers,
fiery warriors and princes.
And of them all Menelaus was chosen for her husband.
Menelaus, not the sharpest knife in the drawer,
nor the man to set the world on fire.
Although he did when Paris took her.

But when he burnt those topless towers
was he burning for a woman or a crown?
He was only king of Sparta because he married Helen.
Without her he was just another landless prince.

Oh, yes, I can easily believe
that Helen went home with Menelaus,
that paragon of boring husbandhood,
and was perfectly happy, 
living out her days in peace and quiet.
I can imagine her relief.  

Think about it.
Her whole life was spent with men 
ravening like wolves for her fair flesh.
Except for one man who was ravening for something else.
But because he did,
he was the one man who would always want her,
take her back,
forgive her,
live quietly with her,
happy to have her,
his Queen who made him King.

© Eve Fisher, 2022

My latest story, "For Blood", a sci-fi/mystery combo, is up at Black Cat Weekly #35. Available at Black Cat and  Amazon.  


04 May 2022

The Tribe Gathers in Albuquerque

The last big event for the mystery community before Covid was Left Coast Crime 2020 in San Diego.  It was shut down on the first day.

The first big event in the after-we-hope times was, appropriately enough, also Left Coast Crime, this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was there.  It was lively and, I think, bigger than usual, because as one writer told me, it was the first gathering of the tribe in so long.

The first time I heard the mystery community referred to as a tribe was in 1993 when Donald E. Westlake was named a Grand Master by the MWA.  During his speech at the Edgars Banquet he said "You're my tribe!"  And so we are.

So let's talk about some of the highlights.  If you find yourself at an LCC in the future (like in Tucson, next spring) there are a few special events you don't want to miss.  One is the Author Speed Dating.  Twenty tables are set up and fans pick one and stay while forty authors make their way from table to table.  Each author has two minutes to explain why you should definitely buy their book and not all the other trash that's being promoted.  (Well, nobody says the last part.)  I have been on both sides and I can tell you it is much more fun being a listener at these things than a talker.  (Imagine giving the same elevator pitch 20 times in a row.)

Another treat is the New Author's breakfast where rookies  have a very brief moment to talk about their debut works.  I came away with a list of half a dozen books I wanted to check out.

The table hosts.

And then there's the Awards Banquet. I was lucky enough to host a table with the inimitable S.J. Rozan where we attempted to entertain seven guests while the food somewhat slowly appeared (more about that later).

The award winners, by the way, demonstrate one of the exciting trends we are seeing in our field: the increase in diversity of authors (and I hope readers). 

I moderated a panel on secondary characters, which gave me a chance to introduce Bonnar Spring, Greg Herren, Karen Odden, and (ahem) this year's MWA Grand Master Laurie R. King.  That was fun.

I was also on a panel on short stories.  As a major supporter of the brief mystery I was thrilled that there were three panels on that subject - and all were well-attended.

This weekend was my first opportunity to listen to Mick Herron who is flying high since Apple TV just premiered a series based on his Slow Horses spy novel series in April.  Literally true: When I heard that Gary Oldman had been cast as the main character I signed up for Apple TV, just like that.

Members of the Short Mystery
Fiction Society met for breakfast.

Herron was interviewed by editor Juliet Grames, who said that since Sir Mick Jagger had sung the theme song for Slow Horses they were obviously best buds now and needed a clever couple name.  Herron suggested The Micks, logically enough.    

The committee that ran LCC did a great job against, let's face it, an extreme degree of difficulty.  Covid kept some people away, made changes to seating arrangements, and probably accounted for some of the problems with the conference facility.  The hotel actually changed its name a week before the con, making finding it a bit exciting, and the staff seemed both undersized and undertrained.  Calling down for service felt a bit like, to steal a line from Don Marquis, dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo.  (When we went down to check out there was literally no one visible on the large ground floor. We strolled behind counters and into offices looking for people for about five minutes before someone showed up.)

But perhaps the biggest adventure came after the con when we filled our swag bags with tons of books we had picked up and walked them a few blocks to the Post Office.  We bought an official USPS carton, filled it with our treasures, sealed it with the official USPS tape and mailed it off.

It arrived a week later, and here you can see the contents.  What you cannot tell is that at least ten books had vanished from the box.  On the other hand, a bag of cheap Easter candy had been added.  I don't know whether that had belonged in some other damaged package or some postal clerk included it by way of apology.

Interestingly, some of the missing volumes were books I wrote and took to the con in hopes of selling (some did sell, I hasten to add).  Apparently nobody at the post office could guess that multiple copies of books written by Robert Lopresti probably belonged in the box that was addressed to Robert Lopresti.  

Hooray for insurance.  

But enough whining. It was great running into a lot of old friends and making new ones.  They had a lot of interesting stuff to say and next time I shall regale you with my favorite words of wisdom.  Till then, stay tribal.

03 May 2022

Everything is Fodder

Things many people find difficult to do:

  • Lose weight
  • Follow directions
  • Not give unsolicited advice on Facebook 

You can count me among "many people" when it comes to the first item. But with the other two, I know about their prevalence because I have been a victim of them.

A victim, I say!

Yes, yes, I occasionally give unsolicited advice, but it's always with hesitation. An explanation for why I'm wading in. An apology even. Other people, I've found, don't have such qualms.

An example (one of many): About two years ago, in the height of 2020 pandemic madness, I posted on Facebook that I had a lot of broccoli in my house but the dressing I'd gotten in my last grocery pickup didn't taste good. I mentioned the three other condiments I had at home (salsa, ketchup, and butter) and asked my friends if any of them would work with broccoli, as I had my doubts. (I hadn't thought of melting the butter--once that option was pointed out, it was a doh moment.) At any rate, I also made clear that I don't cook and had no other ingredients in the house, so I requested that my friends not make alternate suggestions of condiments to use or ways to cook the broccoli. I thought I was pretty clear.

Then the following happened. The conversation has been greatly condensed since I received more than 300 responses. Names have been removed to protect the guilty.

Friend A

Roast it in the oven with olive oil and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top. It’s not hard. Or steam it and top with butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. 


Don't have olive oil, cheese, or lemon. 

Friend A

Ok—just steam and add butter. Do you have Italian dressing. You could use that as an olive oil substitute.


Nope, I don't.

As you can see, I was calm at this point, merely reminding Friend A that I didn't have some of the items she suggested I use.

Friend B

A nice, sweet balsamic vinegar. I like white balsamic.


I don't have vinegar (and I don't like it either). More for you!

See how pleasant I was? This was early going.

Friend C

I roast broccoli with garlic and chopped up bacon.


I have no garlic and I don't like bacon.

Friend D

Saute in some olive oil with garlic. Squeeze on some lemon before eating if you have some. Delicious. Or roast tossed in olive oil with a little garlic salt or sea salt or Goya adobo seasoning.


I don't have any olive oil or garlic. Or lemon. Or sea salt or adobo seasoning. And sauteing and roasting means cooking. I don't cook. 

Friend E

Add it to something you like ... or, as others have said, butter is good, and I'd add some seasoned salt. I like sprinkling blends from Penzeys Spices on various foods. Their Salad Elegant would be great on broccoli.


I don't have seasoned salt. I wasn't kidding about the only possible toppings I have in the house. Butter, salsa, and ketchup.

Friend F

The extent to which people cannot comprehend the state of your pantry is deeply hilarious to me.


I am less amused.

Friend F

Would definitely think twice about hiring your fb friends for a job that requires ability to follow instructions.

She (Friend F) wasn't kidding. But I steeled myself and kept reading the responses.

Friend G

I would boil some water, add a ton of salt, and blanch the broccoli for like 2-3 minutes. Then drain and chill.



Friend G

Extremely easy. [Lists a link for how to blanch.]  

Note to the reader: Not extremely easy.

Friend H

Really tasty: sliced zucchini or yellow squash, plus a red sweet pepper, sauteed in olive oil or butter with garlic and sweet red onion or green spring onions. Add a little basil for punch, but it isn't required.


[Mouth hanging open.]

At this point, I stopped responding to almost all the comments, most of which were suggestions of other things I should cook using food I didn't have in the house. Me. The person who doesn't cook and who certainly would not be going to the market for the suggested foods. (Add one picky eater who doesn't cook and the height of the pandemic and you got hell no.) 

Occasionally, though, I became so incensed, I did respond.

Friend I

Saute in a pan, with ginger, olive oil and garlic, 1 T corn starch, and 1/4 cup of water.



Friend G

This post has turned absurd, and I love it.


That makes one of us

Friend J

Two of us! Sorry, Barb.


It's like people are trying to give me a stroke at this point.

Can you feel the stress? It's two years later, and reading all these comments is aggravating me all over again.

You may be wondering why I'm sharing all of this with you, other than for your amusement. It's because of something I often say: Everything is fodder. If you're looking for a story idea, mining current events or events in your own life is often a good place to start. I took this condiment conversation and my associated aggravation and put it to good use when the fine folks at Malice Domestic put out a call for short stories for their anthology titled Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical.

What if, I thought, a low-earning spendthrift without any morals is the only living relative of a rich elderly woman. He decides to friend her on Facebook, aiming to drive her crazy with unsolicited advice so she'll have a heart attack and die and he can inherit all her money. That sounded pretty diabolical to me. 

Five thousand words later, the idea became my newest short story, "Go Big or Go Home," which is the lead story in Mystery Most Diabolical. The book was released about ten days ago. I had a lot of fun writing the story. I hope readers will enjoy it just as much. And yes, it has Facebook conversations just like the one above.

Mystery Most Diabolical is out in trade paperback and hardcover. (Click here to buy from Amazon. Or, to buy directly from the publisher, click here (for paperback) or here (for hardback).) The ebook doesn't seem to be for sale yet, but I'm sure it's coming soon. The anthology has 32 stories, including one from fellow SleuthSayer Michael Bracken. I welcome the other authors in the book to share what their diabolical stories are about in the comments.

But before that ...

Congratulations to fellow SleuthSayer R.T. Lawton for winning the Edgar Award last week! And congratulations to Michael Bracken for winning the Derringer Award a few days ago!

And, for those of you in the Dallas, Texas, area, here's an event worth your time. Next Wednesday, May 11th, the Sisters in Crime North Dallas chapter will be hosting an in-person event for its recent inaugural anthology, Malice in Dallas: Metroplex Mysteries Volume 1! Books will be available for purchase, and authors with stories in the book will be on hand to sign copies. There also will be a scavenger hunt, drawings for prizes, and more! (What's the "more"? You have to go to find out!) The festivities will be at the J. Theodore Restaurant & Bar in Frisco, Texas, starting at 4:30 p.m. Central Time. Click here to learn more about the event and to RSVP.

Why am I telling you about Malice in Dallas? Because I had the pleasure of editing it. It has ten crime stories, including one by fellow SleuthSayer Mark Thielman. The tales will bring you to various locations throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area, including Little Mexico, Lake Ray Hubbard, the downtown Dallas pedestrian tunnels, and Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was shot. We've got historicals, police procedurals, and amateur-sleuth mysteries. Some of the stories are humorous. Others are dark. All, I hope you'll agree, are good. If you can't make it to the event, you can still buy the book by clicking here.

02 May 2022

Edgars Week in New York: April 27-28, 2022

The Edgars in New York, like the Oscars in LA, has always been a time for mystery writers to put on their party duds and have a blast with their peers and peeps. Thanks to the pandemic, the last couple of years have been lonely ones for writers. But this spring, a lot of people got on planes, a lot more came off Zoom and closed their computers, some went to Albuquerque for Left Coast Crime, some to Bethesda for Malice, and a splendid aggregation foregathered in New York. Some of us, who actually live in New York and have been known for years for going to all the parties, were jumping with joy and ready to climb however many subway stairs it took to join in the festivities.

I gave the banquet a miss—expensive, and I knew I’d see all the nominees I knew elsewhere. SleuthSayers's own R.T. Lawton won the Edgar for Best Short Story with "The Road to Hana." Way to go, R.T.! When I saw him, he was a contender, along with Michael Bracken and co-writer James A. Hearn, who goes by Andrew, and Gigi Pandian, an old friend from Guppies in the early days when it actually meant Great UnPublished. I did attend the book launch for the MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, edited by S.J. Rozan, at the legendary Mysterious Bookshop, and the pre-Edgars Dell party, which honors the EQMM Readers Choice Award winners as well as Edgar nominees for Best Short Story whose stories appeared in Ellery Queen’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines. Fellow Sleuthsayers are doing great this year: David Dean is a Readers Choice top four, and Steve Liskow has a story in the MWA anthology. I was also the first to volunteer when Michael Bracken asked who wanted to come out to lunch with him and Andrew Hearn. I didn’t know what Texans eat in 2022, so I took them to Restaurant Row on West 46th Street near Broadway, which offers everything from museum quality vegan to death by cholesterol and let them choose. Let’s put it this way: we didn’t eat vegan. Them Texans!

The rest of this will be a photo essay. I live to schmooze—when you see me taking pictures with my phone, never think I’m not also talking a mile a minute with the people I’m actually with—and I was in heaven. I took too many pix and not enough. Among folks you know whom I talked to but didn’t get a chance to snap were the ladies of Dell themselves—Janet Hutchings, Linda Landrigan, and Jackie Sherbow, whose hair is bright green these days—Art Taylor, Brendan DuBois, S.J. Rozan, Joe Goodrich, Richie Narvaez, Jacqueline Freimor, Michele Slung, Barry Zeman, and more. I wish I’d had a chance to say hello to Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner aka Leigh Perry, and Charles Todd. Overall, I certainly got my writer people fix for a while.

Liz with Andrew Hearn and Michael Bracken
David Dean, Liz caught mugging, R.T. Lawton
Michael Bracken & Andrew Hearn at Bareburger
Liz with Gigi Pandian
Liz with Steve Liskow and Crime Hits Home
Jonathan Santlofer and Jane Cleland
Kevin Egan
Kiti and R.T. Lawton
Stacy Woodson at Mysterious Bookshop
Bill McCormick (or is it Reacher?) with Liz
Connie Johnson Hambley and Liz Zelvin
Liz Zelvin and Gigi Pandian
Liz with Meredith Anthony and Larry Light
Liz with Otto Penzler and Neil Nyren
Liz and Shelly Dickson Carr

01 May 2022

Cover Models – Bookface

When the internet isn’t saturating the landscape with Orwellian narratives, you have to admire how the World Wide Web lives up to its name. This time we have a three continent degrees of separation, Africa – Europe – North America. Our long-time friend ABA in South Africa (which has recently suffered terrible storm damage) drew my attention back to a Bordeaux bookstore, Librairie Mollat, in a topic we covered five years ago. For instance:

I admire this exceptionally clever example:

This time we have an official hashtag label, #bookface, and others can take part in the Bookface Challenge. Here then is another list of bookfaces, mostly new, but a few from before. Notice how the technique has evolved and become even more precise:

I've got to love the imagination:








Check out the rest of the lot. Meanwhile below, Leigh needs practice, lots of practice: #birdface

The Terry Gilliam Do-It-Yourself Cover

ABA, always a step ahead, suggested another item, reminiscent of the above.

© 9gag.com


And finally, a message to Edgar Winner R.T. Lawton for his story “The Road to Hana’,

Congratulations, R.T!