Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Revue of Reviewers, 8-23-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Closing the File on Hill

Steven Hill, the Seattle, Washington-born actor best remembered for playing New York County District Attorney Adam Schiff on NBC-TV’s Law & Order, and for his role as Daniel Briggs, the original team leader on CBS’ Mission: Impossible, passed away earlier today at age 94. The Los Angeles Times says, “The cause of death was not immediately available, but his wife said he suffered from several ailments.”

Born Solomon Krakowsky, Hill was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, his father being a furniture-store owner. After graduating from the University of Washington, and then working for a short time in the Chicago radio business, Hill moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. He found multiple opportunities on the Broadway theater circuit (at one point playing opposite Henry Fonda in a production of Mister Roberts), but by the late 1940s had begun taking TV roles. Over the years Hill appeared in everything from Suspense and Playhouse 90 to The Untouchables, Route 66, Naked City, The Fugitive, and Columbo. He also featured in big-screen films such as Legal Eagles (1986), Billy Bathgate (1991), and The Firm (1993).

You can learn more about Hill’s career from this obituary in The New York Times and this short remembrance in The Spy Command.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Garden Party in Harrogate, Part II

(Editor’s note: Yesterday we brought you Ali Karim’s colorful recap of the 2016 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which was held late last month in Harrogate, England. Today we’re following up with a selection of Ali’s photos from those four days of literary revelry—a dozen shots designed to give you a better sense of the sights and literary stars that made this year’s festival so memorable.

Author Felix Francis, son of the late Dick Francis, looks like a getaway driver, employing his own idea of “horse power.”

Next time, hire these guys as doormen: Rap Sheet correspondent Ali Karim with New Zealand blogger Craig Sisterson.

British author Zoë Sharp with U.S. star Jeffery Deaver.

Left to right: Sophie Portas, head of publicity for UK publisher Faber and Faber; Faber and Faber editorial director Angus Cargill; and American novelist Laura Lippman.

Val McDermid and Tess Gerritsen attend the 2016 Dead Good Reader Awards presentation.

Critic and author Barry Forshaw signs copies of his growing “Noir” series of guides to modern crime and thriller fiction.

Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, who write the Detective Kubu series under the joint pseudonym “Michael Stanley.”

Literary agent Jane Gregory with best-seller Martina Cole.

Retired Sussex police officer Graham Bartlett and police procedural writer Peter James, the co-authors of Death Comes Knocking: Policing Roy Grace’s Brighton (Pan).

Festival sponsor Simon Theakston toasts Val McDermid’s success.

Left to right: authors Alison Joseph, Martin Edwards, Leigh Russell, and Stav Sherez, plus American marketeer Erin Mitchell.

Ever-helpful Ali Karim insists on doing some of the heavy lifting for James Patterson’s BookShots initiative.

(Photographs © Ali Karim, 2016)

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Garden Party in Harrogate, Part I

“Outstanding” Scottish mystery-maker Val McDermid.

By Ali Karim
Saturday, July 23—the third day of this year’s Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. A sunny, warm day, to be sure. As I looked out across the diverse array of attendees gathered on the grounds of the Old Swan Hotel, all of them clutching books, drinking gin, smiling, and chatting, or else browsing the W.H. Smith Book Tent, I realized something I should’ve known from the first: I was home, among friends and colleagues who find comfort and insight at the darkest edges of literature—that is to say, in the crime, mystery, and thriller genre.

The words of a favorite song by the late Ricky Nelson came to mind:
I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again …
I had missed taking part in the last couple of these Harrogate gatherings due to diary clashes, as well as my commitment to help organize last year’s Bouchercon in Raleigh, North Carolina. So the 2016 event was eagerly anticipated.

That July 21-24 festival offered far too many engaging episodes (and interesting people to speak and drink with) than I can detail here. But I would like to draw special attention to ThrillerFest executive director Kimberley “K.J.” Howe, who winged her way to Harrogate after capping off her recent duties at ThrillerFest IX in New York City. I’ve known Kim since 2006, when we met at ThrillerFest I in Phoenix, and was pleased to hear that Vicki Mellor of Headline Publishing has picked up her debut thriller, The Freedom Broker, for release in early 2017. It was also great to happen across David Stuart Davies, editor of the British Crime Writers’ Association’s Red Herrings magazine (and something of a renaissance man), who made a flying visit to the conference, as did Philippa Pride, Stephen King’s UK editor.

Those days in Harrogate gave me an opportunity, as well, to spend time with literary agent Judith Murdoch, a very dear friend of longstanding, and to benefit from the assistance of Gaby Young of Michael Joseph Penguin in organizing an interview with the talented Julia Heaberlin (Black Eyed Susans), which I conducted in tandem with New Zealand blogger Craig Sisterson. I found time to catch up with Felix Francis, who has a new horse-racing mystery (Triple Crown) coming out in September—an extension of the legacy he inherited from his famous father (and mother). And it was excellent to meet up with one of my Bouchercon board colleagues, Erin Mitchell, who’d come over from America to visit Ireland and post-Brexit Great Britain.

ThrillerFest executive director K.J. Howe being greeted by Red Herrings editor David Stuart Davies.

* * *

Even before the festival officially commenced, an event took place called Creative Thursday, which was of great interest to writers wishing to turn a storytelling hobby into something professional. On hand to help were authors such as Sarah Hilary, Alex Marwood, Matthew Hall, and William Ryan. They were joined by literary agents, publishing representatives, and the literary journalist Danuta Kean.

Theakstons Harrogate works in part to promote literacy for the local community, and this year’s writer-in-residence was former UK probation officer Mari Hannah (Deadly Deceit).

Things really got started at Harrogate with a Thursday evening reception, followed in close succession by a welcome from both festival director Sharon Canavar and principal sponsor Simon Theakston, the latter of whom came supplied with plenty of his beer-brewing family’s most renowned product, Old Peculier. Then Harrogate regular, broadcaster and author Mark Lawson (The Allegations), took to the podium to begin the 2016 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year ceremony. Clare Mackintosh was excited to receive this year’s prize for her debut novel, I Let You Go. And that accolade came backed up with cash—a £3,000 check—plus a handmade engraved oak beer cask (which the author almost left behind on stage). You can see the highlights of that ceremony by clicking here.

Also shortlisted for the prize were Time of Death, by Mark Billingham (Sphere); Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (Sphere); Tell No Tales, by Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker); Disclaimer, by Renée Knight (Black Swan); and Rain Dogs, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail).

Following the tribute to Mackinstosh, veteran Scottish author Val McDermid was presented with the seventh Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. Previous winners of that same commendation have been Sara Paretsky, Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Colin Dexter, and Reginald Hill. After hearing that she would be this year’s recipient, McDermid said: “It’s an honor and a thrill to receive this award. The community of writers and readers at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is unlike any other in its warmth and generosity and so this means a huge amount to me. This year sees the publication of my 30th novel [Out of Bounds, due for a U.S. release in December from Atlantic Monthly Press] and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that.”

I should mention that Mark Billingham delivered an exceptional, often funny introduction to McDermid, which you can watch (in a rather “gonzo” video) on YouTube.

With Thursday evening’s festivities done, it was time to uncap a few bottles of gin and share anecdotes, leaving some of us to welcome in the next day’s dawning with a breakfast of aspirin and coffee, accompanied by fragmented memories of the night before.

* * *

Friday started early with an eclectic array of events, and though programming chair Peter James generously passed all the credit to the team behind Harrogate International Festivals, he was obviously one busy bloke, appearing everywhere—almost as if he had cloned himself, like a character from his techno-thriller Perfect People.

Mark Billingham chats up fellow novelist Linwood Barclay.

That day’s first highlight found Canadian wordsmith Linwood Barclay (The Twenty-Three) engaging in a well-attended onstage conversation with Billingham. It turned out to be a wickedly amusing exchange between two crime writers whose dark imaginations were balanced by their surreal sense of humor.

Then it was on to an investigation of real-life crime by Peter James’ writing partner, former Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, together with authors Sharon Bolton, Mari Hannah, and (straight from Iceland!) Ysra Sigurdardottir. Other Friday events included a panel talk called “The Killer Behind the Front Door,” featuring Julia Crouch, Helen Fitzgerald, Paula Hawkins, Clare Mackintosh, and Alex Marwood; and another one titled “The Golden Age [of Crime Writing],” with Simon Brett, Frances Brody, Ann Granger, Catriona McPherson, and Ruth Ware. There was also a forensics panel and another devoted to stage and screen adaptations of written crime and mystery works.

Because Theakstons Harrogate offers a single track of panel presentations, it is advisable to find a seat at one’s preferred events early, lest there not be room left. The alternative is to sit in some overflow room and observe the proceedings via TV screens.

I thought it was a great innovation this year to have the book sales area and author signing section relegated to a large tent on the lawns overlooking the Old Swan. This prevented the snaking queues to the signings from congesting the hotel itself. When Peter James and Martina Cole began their signings, for instance, the lines were long enough that they might’ve been spotted from the orbit of Mars.

In addition, credit should be given to W.H. Smith, the festival’s official bookseller, whose staff was extremely helpful in moving things along at a good clip. You can watch a short video focusing on the W.H. Smith Book Tent by clicking here.

Next up on that day’s program was the 2016 Dead Good Reader Awards presentations, hosted again by Mark Lawson, who was helped out this time by international stars Linwood Barclay and Tess Gerritsen. This was a smartly orchestrated affair, with a number of moving parts, including early review-copy giveaways, raffles, and a substantial display from the prolific James Patterson, promoting his BookShots initiative, which turns out crime/thriller novellas for our time-constrained era (and reduced attention spans). Whatever you think of the quality of Patterson’s yarns, it’s hard to argue with his obvious commitment to literacy and the survival of independent bookshops—efforts that will be celebrated during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas, at which he’ll be a guest of honor.

We filmed the announcements of the Dead Good Reader Award recipients, with the results embedded below. A full list of 2016 nominees and winners is available at this link.

After a quick bite to eat, I was back to my reportorial duties, attending a couple of evening events. Firstly, we had Val McDermid in conversation with Scottish comedienne Susan Calman, who’s a familiar face on UK shows such as Have I Got News for You and Would I Lie to You? Secondly, I sat through one of my favorite events of the weekend, a presentation titled “The Hard Yards,” which found authors Sophie Hannah, Simon Kernick, Laura Lippman, Martyn Waites, and Laura Wilson all speaking candidly about their journeys up the greasy pole of crime-friction renown, and how they’ve stayed on top.

In the wake of all this hubbub, I was delighted for an opportunity to visit at dinner with my dear friend, best-selling thriller writer Martina Cole, who had arrived late to Harrogate. Afterwards, she and Kim Howe, together with some people from Headline, retired to the gardens overlooking the Old Swan, while I went inside to organize some gin and tonics. I wound up chatting with thriller writers Graham Smith and Mason Cross (the latter of whom pens the Carter Blake novels, and has apparently forgiven me for the rather tough questions I fired at him during a CrimeFest Criminal Mastermind competition several years ago). Soon after that, I fell into conversation with Linwood Barclay, who—thanks to his increasing stature as a fictionist (can it really have been less than a decade since No Time for Goodbye gave him his big boost?)—drew additional notice from passersby, until we found ourselves at the center of a small crowd. As usual, Barclay was amusing and self-deprecating in equal measures, and generous with his time. It’s characteristic of the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival that its attendees, whether authors, critics, or readers, mix well, with nobody feeling like an outsider.

* * *

After a wee bit of late-night drinking (OK, maybe more than a wee bit), Saturday crept up quickly, and brought with it a series of red-letter offerings. The award-winning Jeffery Deaver was interviewed by the ubiquitous Mark Lawson (you can see the opening of their exchange here). Then there was a rare appearance by onetime journalist and the author of Harry’s Game, Gerald Seymour, who took questions from BBC Radio 2’s Joe Haddow. However, Theakstons Harrogate does not restrict itself to Big-Name Scribblers; McDermid held an audience in thrall on Saturday as she introduced four “New Blood” talents for 2016: Martin Holmen (Clinch), J.S. Law (Tenacity), Beth Lewis (The Wolf Road), and Abir Mukherjee (A Rising Man).

An uncommon sighting of thriller writer Gerald Seymour.

That afternoon boasted of an international flavor, with N.J. Cooper, Paul Mendelson, Deon Meyer, Margie Orford, and “Michael Stanley” (aka Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) all navigating South Africa’s criminal darkness. Meanwhile, Pierre Lemaitre, Bernard Minier, and S.J. Parris transported their listeners to France, as moderator Barry Forshaw kept his hand gently on the conversational rudder.

A standing-room-only crowd assembled to hear Martina Cole and Peter James in conversation—a truly fascinating session, since James pens his Brighton-based Roy Grace thrillers from a law-enforcement perspective, while Cole focuses instead on the often complicated family relationships between gangsters. (We have archived two sections of their discussion here and here.) Later that day, James talked to a crowded room about the dark side of Brighton; separately, Tess Gerritsen addressed the nuances of writing medical thrillers, a subgenre in which she has gained significant renown.

Closing out that evening was the Theakstons Crime Fiction Quiz. Frankly, I’d rather not dwell overlong on this event. I thought I’d assembled a strong team of Barry Forshaw, Craig Sisterson, literary agent Helen Heller, and Dutch publisher Steven Moat. But thanks in part to my, er, overindulgence in gin, we only earned third place in the competition. The night’s winning team was led by literary agent Jane Gregory, and featured authors Sarah Hilary, Natasha Cooper, Laura Wilson, Harry Bingham, and Mick Herron. You can watch the victors accept their just desserts here.

A very late night on the lawns outside the Old Swan, spent with friends such as Simon Kernick, Stav Sherez, Kevin Wignall and Sarah Pinborough, closed out Saturday, followed by a 2 a.m. pizza delivery … because we can always benefit from a tad more in the way of stomach contents to soak up drink.

* * *

As usual, Sunday came around too fast. With my queasy stomach and sore head, I found comfort (as well as intrigue) in a “Political Corruption” panel discussion involving Charles Cumming, Frank Gardner, the by-now-inevitable Mark Lawson, Kate Rhodes, and Gillian Slovo. Then it was on to this festival’s capper: a presentation by Peter Robinson (When the Music’s Over) and Mark Lawson, who talked about contemporary fictional themes inspired by the notorious Jimmy Saville sexual-abuse scandal. The opening of that event, including Peter James’ introduction, can be enjoyed here.

If I may be allowed a few final words (after so many previous ones), let me begin by noting that the 2016 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival was remarkable. Professional management, combined with glorious weather and a collegial atmosphere, will have attendees talking about these doings for quite some time. Should you be interested in participating in next year’s Harrogate festival (July 20-23, 2017), it might be a good idea to book early, as ticket sales are already notably brisk.

Next stop, Bouchercon next month in New Orleans.

(Part II of our belated wrap-up of the 2016 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival will appear tomorrow in The Rap Sheet.)

Photographs and text © Ali Karim, 2016

An edited version of this report will appear in the August edition of Red Herrings magazine, the official monthly publication for members of the British Crime Writers Association. Click here for details about how to join the CWA; and click here to learn how you can join the affiliated Crime Readers Association.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

“Undeniably Hip.” Yeah, That Fits Hayes

As much as I sometimes dread logging onto the Web each morning to see what’s happening around the world, and what assignments or problems I shall have to tackle by day’s close, there can also be pleasant surprises. Today, for example, I found the video embedded above on a closed-group Facebook page called Music for Television. It’s a tribute to singer-songwriter Isaac Hayes (1942-2008). Although Hayes is best remembered for composing the musical score to Richard Roundtree’s 1971 film, Shaft (based on Ernest Tidyman’s 1970 novel of the same name), he also created the main title theme for The Men (1972-1973), “a rotating series of Thursday-night action shows” for ABC-TV that American film and TV music expert Jon Burlingame declares, in this video, is Hayes’ “unsung masterpiece.”

“The network cut it into terrible, 40-second bits,” Burlingame explains, “but the full four-minute theme is melodic, dramatic, and undeniably hip.” I agree completely, and a couple of years ago I purchased a CD titled The Very Best of Isaac Hayes, just so I could have The Men’s complete theme close to hand.

In the event that you’re not familiar with The Men, it was a “wheel series” that featured Robert Conrad’s Assignment: Vienna, Laurence Luckinbill’s The Delphi Bureau, and James Wainwright’s Jigsaw. You can learn much more about all three of those short-run ABC crime dramas in this piece I wrote two years ago for The Rap Sheet.

Thanks, Rap Sheet Fans!

I remember being amazed when, back in March of 2011—as The Rap Sheet was approaching its fifth birthday—Blogger’s statistics-keeping software reported that this site had registered its one-millionth visitor. Today, three months after The Rap Sheet celebrated its 10th anniversary, we clocked in our four-millionth visitor!

Mystery Unsolved … But Rectified

You may have noticed—though perhaps not—that the video clips embedded in The Rap Sheet haven’t been behaving properly over the last couple of weeks. They would all run, sure … but their orientation was off, shifted slightly to the right, and their bottom-of-frame controls had completely disappeared for no good reason whatsoever. I never did figure out what went wrong. The coding for each video seemed to be correct, and every time I tried to reload a video, it came out looking just as goofy as the previous version.

Fortunately, those videos have now corrected themselves.

Over the years of my working with the Blogger software, I’ve encountered such unexplainable oddities on several occasions. Not long ago, for instance, all photographs that I’d designed to extend from one side of this main text column to the other were suddenly slightly narrower. In that case, I tried to fix a few recent photos by widening them … only to have Blogger mend itself soon afterward and leave my newly modified shots too wide for the column. Grrr!

The lesson is to be patient (even more than normal), and assume that whatever goes wrong will eventually be set right by the Blogger technophiles. With the latest problems now apparently put right, I can once more risk embedding videos on this page.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Revue of Reviewers, 8-17-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Going for the Silver

Just when you thought an end had finally come to announcements involving contenders for assorted annual crime, mystery, and thriller fiction prizes … here comes another one. With only a few days yet to go before the start of this year’s Killer Nashville conference (to be held August 18-21 in Nashville, Tennessee), organizers of that event have disseminated their list of contenders for the 2016 Silver Falchion Awards. There are 20 categories of finalists for these commendations—too many to list here. But below are the first two.

Best Fiction Adult Book:
Hard Latitudes, by Baron R. Birtcher (Permanent Press)
The Raping of Ava Desantis, by Mylo Carbia (Rockefeller)
The Wild Inside, by Christine Carbo (Atria)
Trust No One, by Paul Cleave (Atria)
Go Down Hard, by Craig Faustus Buck (Brash)
As Night Falls, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine)
One Tenth of the Law, by Ray Peden (Williams Printing)
The Dead Key, by D.M. Pulley (Thomas & Mercer)
The Ripper Gene, by Michael Ransom (Forge)
Done in One, by Jan Thomas and Grant Jerkins (Thomas Dunne)
Prince of the Blue Castles, by Timothy Vincent (W&B)

Best Fiction First Novel:
One Murder More, by Kris Calvin (Inkshares)
The Wild Inside, by Christine Carbo (Atria)
The Mind of God, by Bevan Frank (Elm Park)
The Ripper Gene, by Michael Ransom (Forge)

Again, you can find the complete list of prize nominees here. The winners in each category will be declared during an awards banquet this coming Saturday, August 20.

Elevating E-books

Three e-books have been identified as finalists for the inaugural Mysterious Press Award. As explained by a news release, this prize “was established as a contest for a mystery novel to be published as Best E-Book Original by MysteriousPress.com and distributed in the United States and Canada by Open Road Integrated Media and published world-wide.” Here’s the trio of contenders:
Alibi, by Lee Goodman (represented by Janet Reid)
The Downside, by Mike Cooper (represented by Janet Reid)
Bright Like Blood, by Leigh C. Rourks (represented by
Larry Kirshbaum)
Otto Penzler, who serves as the president and CEO of MysteriousPress.com, is quoted in that same release as saying: “As electronic publishing has become a significant element of the publishing world, we decided to recognize an outstanding work of mystery fiction by offering a substantial advance and a great opportunity for world-wide recognition. We had an extraordinary array of outstanding crime novels submitted for the contest and will be thrilled to publish whichever one is chosen as the winner.”

The victorious entry will score its author $25,000, an advance against future royalties. And the announcement of a winner will be made during the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair (October 19-23).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Copycat Covers: In the Hood

A new entry in our series about remarkably look-alike book fronts.

Yours Until Death, by Gunnar Staalesen (Arcadia, 2011);
and The Son, by Jo Nesbø (Knopf, 2014).

The Scandi Man Can

I’ve been curious to learn more about the work of Norwegian detective novelist Gunnar Staalesen ever since reading this piece in Crime Fiction Lover, in which noted UK critic Barry Forshaw identified his “top 10 Nordic classics”—one of which is Staalesen’s The Consorts of Death (released in an English-language translation in 2009). Only recently, I was sent a copy of Where Roses Never Die (Orenda), the 19th installment in Staalesen’s series featuring Varg Veum, a committed, compassionate private eye on the order of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer. You can read my critique of that novel today on the Kirkus Reviews Web site.

Monday, August 15, 2016

When Bad Is Good

This is far from the first time I’ve written on this page about the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which asks contestants to submit the worst (e.g., funniest and most outlandish) opening sentences from never-to-be-finished books. Yet the task never ceases to raise a smile on my face. As Neatorama explains, “The annual contest is named for Victorian novelist Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, who once began a book with the phrase ‘It was a dark and stormy night …’ and cemented those words as a writing cliché.” 2016 marks the 34th year for this bad-writing challenge, sponsored by the English Department at California’s San Jose State University.

Fifty-five-year-old Tallahassee, Florida, building contractor William “Barry” Brockett has been declared the overall winner of this year’s competition. His submission bears a distinctly hard-boiled air:
Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.
The winner in the Crime/Detective category is Charles Caldwell of Leesville, Louisiana, who sent in this entry:
She walked toward me with her high heels clacking like an out-of-balance ceiling fan set on low, smiling as though about to spit pus from a dental abscess, and I knew right away that she was going to leave me feeling like I had used a wood rasp to cure my hemorrhoids.
But I am also rather fond of Akron, Ohio, resident Andrew Caruso’s “Dishonorable Mention” recipient in that same category:
As he gazed at Ming’s lifeless body draped over the sushi bar, chopsticks protruding from his back, Det. Herc Lue Perrot came to the sobering realization that tonight, there had been a murder at the Orient Express.
And I got an especially big chuckle out of the winner in the Purple Prose category, which comes from Rachel Nirenberg of Toronto, Canada:
She was like my ex-girlfriend Ashley, who'd stolen my car, broken my heart, murdered my father, robbed a bank, and set off a pipe bomb in Central Park—tall.
Click here to enjoy all of this year’s winners and runners-up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Revue of Reviewers, 8-10-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Well, Lookee Here!

I’ve recently made three new additions to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page—all of them the main title sequences from TV crime series.

Click here to see the opening from Private Eyes, a recently debuted Canadian comedy-drama starring Jason Priestley as Matt Shade, a former hockey player, and Cindy Sampson as feisty Angie Everett, who go into business together as Toronto private investigators. Or look here for the intro from K-Ville, an under-appreciated 2007-2008 FOX-TV crime drama led by Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser as cops working the recently Hurricane Katrina-flooded streets of New Orleans. And go over here to watch the main titles from the 1974 ABC-TV series Chopper One, which featured Jim McMullan and Dirk Benedict as members of a California police helicopter team.

Multiple Millars

I’ve been experiencing Internet problems all day long, which seem to be associated with my service provider, rather than with my own computer or its connection. I have had online access only sporadically. Having now found a window onto the Web, let me toss up here a couple of things. First of all, this note from In Reference to Murder:
New imprint Syndicate Books is publishing the complete works of MWA [Mystery Writers of America] Grandmaster Margaret Millar, with a special offer for readers: you can pre-order the series and receive each book one month before its on-sale date. Order now and receive one book every two months, or order at any point later and receive all released volumes and then the rest as they publish.
This looks like a wonderful, seven-volume paperback set, featuring all 26 of Millar’s novels, plus her 1968 memoir, The Birds and the Beasts Were There. The price: an apparently discounted $99.99.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Copycat Covers: Shadow Play

A new entry in our series about remarkably look-alike book fronts.

The Final Page of Baker Street: The Exploits of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John H. Watson, and Master Raymond Chandler, by Daniel D. Victor (MX Publishing, 2014); and Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart, and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961, by Curtis Evans (McFarland, 2012).

Make Your Reservations Now

Private Eye Writers of America founder Robert J. Randisi has let me know that tickets are now on sale for this year’s PWA Shamus Awards Banquet, which is to be held on September 16, during Bouchercon in New Orleans. The banquet will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Pere Marquette Hotel in the French Quarter (817 Common Street) and last until 9 p.m. Tickets are priced at $60 per person. For more information, contact Randisi at RRandisi@aol.com.

Should you require a reminder of which books and authors are in contention for the various Shamus Awards this year, simply click here.

If memory serves, this will be my fifth Shamus Awards Banquet, following last year’s event in Raleigh, North Carolina. They’re always welcoming and often humorous affairs, and provide close contact with some of the most notable crime-fiction authors. Last year, for instance, I was seated one table away from Lawrence Block, and Steve Hamilton was right behind me. Great company, indeed.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Double-Dipping for Davids

As was the case last year, when the competition for the Deadly Ink Mystery Conference’s David Award ended in a tie (with Jeff Markowitz’s Death and White Diamonds and Steven Rigolosi’s The Outsmarting of Criminals sharing the honors), the 2016 David goes to a pair of novels: Big Shoes, by Jack Getze (Down & Out), and Forgiving Mariela Camacho, by A.J. Sidransky (Berwick Court). The winners were announced earlier this evening in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Also in the running for the 2016 David Award were Ornaments of Death, by Jane K. Cleland (Minotaur); What You See, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge); and Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter (Morrow).

The annual David Award is named after David G. Sasher Sr., a New Jersey resident who passed away back in 2006 at age 66, after working on the Deadly Ink convention.

And the Links Keep Coming

I don’t usually compile posts filled with crime-fiction-related links in such close succession, but since yesterday’s lengthy wrap-up, I have run across enough of what I think are interesting items around the Web that they justify this follow-up. So here goes …

• Mike Ripley’s August “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots includes notes about the recent Heffers of Cambridge crime-fiction summer party, classic works by Fergus Hume and Anna K. Green, Ostara Publishing’s reprints of Frank McAuliffe novels, and forthcoming books from Rod Reynolds, Ray Celestin, Steven Price, Paul Doherty, and numerous others. Oh, and Ripley brings the most welcome news, that The Callan File, by Robert Fairclough and Mike Kenwood—“the long-awaited definitive guide” to the 1967-1972 UK TV series Callan, starring Edward Woodward—will become available in September courtesy of Quoit Media.

• Having mentioned Ray Celestin, I should also note that his excellent first novel, The Axeman’s Jazz (published last year in the States as simply The Axeman), “has been optioned for television by independent film production company See-Saw Films,” according to The Bookseller. Celestin’s sequel, Dead Man’s Blues (Mantle), is scheduled for release in Great Britain on August 11. So far, though, I don’t see any U.S. publication date for that second book.

• In other TV production news, Deadline Hollywood reports that L.A. Law co-creator Steven Bochco has finally agreed to try rebooting that 1986-1994 NBC-TV series for FOX. Bochco says he “probably will have a script ready in October, in time for next pilot season.”

• Actor Richard Boone is better remembered for his lead roles in the television series Have Gun—Will Travel and Hec Ramsey. But in 1972 he starred with Michael Dunn (who had played Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West) and Barbara Bain (from Mission: Impossible) in an ABC-TV movie titled Goodnight, My Love. Set in 1946 Los Angeles, that drama found Boone and Dunn playing gumshoe partners Frank Hogan and Arthur Boyle, and Bain filling the elegant heels of a femme fatale. The Thrilling Detective Web Site describes the picture as “a well-done little private-eye flick …, not quite the Maltese Falcon spoof it claims, but still great fun,” while author (and former president of the Private Eye Writers of America) Dick Lochte includes Hogan and Boyle on his list of the top 20 TV private eyes. Chuck Rothman’s recent post in Great but Forgotten praises Goodnight, My Love’s dialogue as having “just the right amount of cynicism and the same worldview as [Raymond] Chandler,” and its cast as “perfect.” I didn’t see the teleflick when it was originally broadcast, but I did catch up with it years later. I recall it as being slow-paced at times, but still amusing and rife with period color. Watch Goodnight, My Love for yourself, beginning here. Below, I’ve posted the film’s opening segment.


• With the 2016 Summer Olympics having kicked off yesterday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it’s worth revisiting this list of Olympics-related crime novels from Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare blog.

• Meanwhile, Bouchercon 2016 is gearing up for its September 15-18 run in New Orleans. So Jon Jordan, the co-editor of Crimespree Magazine, decided to ask a bunch of authors and critics who’ve attended Bouchercons in the past why they “love” this annual gathering of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction enthusiasts.

• Since Bouchercon attendees will be asked to select the winner of this year’s Macavity Award for short fiction, it was a good idea to posts links to spots on the Web where people can read that the nominated yarns in advance of the conference’s start.

• As part of the Third Annual British Invaders Blogathon, orchestrated by Terence Towles Canote of A Shroud of Thoughts, a new-to-me blog called The Flapper Dame extols the virtues of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film, The 39 Steps.

Why reading might make you carsick

• … but can also help you live longer!

• Blogger Kate Jackson asked some of her fellow Golden Age of Crime enthusiasts to respond to the question of which classic author they most wish could have “written one more book.” The answers range from Dorothy L Sayers and Clayton Rawson to Ianthe Jerrold and Hugh Wheeler. Strangely, nobody suggested Raymond Chandler, who would have been my No. 1 choice. Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, and James M. Cain go equally unmentioned.

• Although he’s disappointed in some production values, Steve Aldous, author of The World of Shaft, is pleased to see Ernest Tidyman’s John Shaft stories being reissued by Dynamite Entertainment. The recent republication of Shaft, he observes, is “the first time the novel [which introduced Tidyman’s series] has been available in a new print [version] in the U.S. since the 1970s.”

• Back in 2000, author Tom Nolan reviewed Hugh Merrill’s The Red Hot Typewriter: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald for January Magazine, declaring that an “interesting, dimensional, and focused portrait of [MacDonald] fails to emerge” from its pages. Fortunately, Steve Scott, who writes the MacDonald-obsessed blog The Trap of Solid Gold, says that a new version of that biography, from Stark House Press, “represents a significant improvement over Merrill’s original work, with additional material added and many of the author’s original errors corrected. I know this because I was involved with the editing of the new edition and made many of the corrections myself, in addition to editing and amending the book’s bibliography. I came late to the project but, thanks to the miracle of this age of computers, was able to get my contributions included just under the wire. This will be a book that everyone interested in the life and works of John D MacDonald should own.” Hmm. That means I’ll have to pair a copy of this Stark House edition with the original one I already own. So much for efforts to clear some space on my crime-fiction shelves …

Mike Nevins writes about Georges Simenon’s early novels.

Here’s a preview of the cover of The Day I Died, Lori Rader-Day’s third novel, following Little Pretty Things. It’s due out next April.

• “You cannot help liking [Ian] Fleming,” reads a 1969 diary entry by actor Richard Burton, who was once considered for the film role of British spy James Bond. “He is so obviously enjoying the creation of his extroverted, Hemingway-esque, sadistic, sexually-maniacal boy-scout that in the end he becomes likable.”

Friday, August 05, 2016

Bullet Points: Frenzied Friday Edition

• This weekend promises to bring the annual Deadly Ink Mystery Conference to New Brunswick, New Jersey. The August 5-7 event will feature Reed Farrel Coleman as guest of honor, and Hilary Davidson as toastmaster. Blogger Les Blatt explains that “events [are scheduled] from Friday through the middle of the day Sunday. Friday night, after opening ceremonies, there’s a ‘Deadly Desserts’ party—always a highlight of the conference. Saturday and Sunday, there are entertaining and informative panels with mystery authors and fans talking about a variety of mystery-related topics. There’s a buffet lunch on Saturday; Saturday night, there’s an awards banquet, and on Sunday there’s a brunch. Mystery readers do eat well.” During that Saturday banquet he mentions, the 2016 David Award will be handed out to one of five deserving authors.

• The publication late last week of the panel/events schedule for next month’s Bouchercon in New Orleans, Louisiana (September 15-18) has provoked crime-fiction bloggers to begin announcing what they intend to do during the conference. Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders, for instance, reports that he’ll moderate an early Thursday panel discussion focusing on “Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Original Eras” (which will include Patti Abbott among its speakers), while Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books says he’ll host a Wednesday evening “wine/lemoncello event to thank all the authors and fans who [have] supported BOLO Books during its early years.” In that same post, Zgorski cites a variety of panel presentations and other events that he’s “most excited about.”

• R.I.P., Jack Davis. The Georgia-born cartoonist, who became famous for his movie-poster art (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Bank Shot, The Long Goodbye, etc.) and his easily recognizable caricatures in Mad magazine (illustrations that made my father a fan), died on July 27 at age 91. The Spy Command has information about Davis’ comical salutes to TV spy shows here.

• TV and film actor David Huddleston has passed away in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to Deadline Hollywood. Most of his obituaries mention Huddleston’s roles in The Big Lebowski, Blazing Saddles, and the 1975 film adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s Breakheart Pass, as well as his appearances on small-screen series such as Petrocelli, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, The Wonder Years, and Murder, She Wrote. But I recall him best from the 1973-1974 NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie series Tenafly, on which he played Lieutenant Sam Church opposite James McEachin’s happily married private eye, Harry Tenafly. Huddleston died on August 2, six weeks short of his 86th birthday.

Good-bye, too, to Clue/Cluedo’s Mrs. White.

• Thanks to a closed fan group on Facebook called The Busted Flush, I now know that NBC-TV was seriously planning in 1971 to produce a “World Premiere Movie” based on John D. MacDonald’s 1965 Travis McGee novel, A Deadly Shade of Gold. The site links to this piece from the Chicago Tribune, which explains how NBC imagined its film spawning a TV series, but MacDonald wasn’t so optimistic. He’s quoted in the Tribune article complaining about cheapskate Hollywood types who refuse to spend enough money to get high-quality scripts. Needless to say, the teleflick A Deadly Shade of Gold was never made. To date, only two films based on MacDonald’s McGee yarns have been produced: the 1970 Rod Taylor picture Darker Than Amber (which you can watch in its entirety on YouTube), and a 1973 small-screen movie/pilot starring Sam Elliott, titled simply Travis McGee, based on MacDonald’s The Empty Copper Sea (1978). Plans to adapt the first McGee novel, 1964’s The Deep Blue Good-by, into a big-screen picture starring Christian Bale were delayed at the very least as a result of a knee injury Bale sustained last year.

• Yes, I too was surprised to learn that His Bloody Project, an “ingenious” psychological crime thriller by Scottish writer Graeme Macrae Burnet, was among the 13 novels shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. Good luck, Mr. Burnet!

From In Reference to Murder: “The Detection Club will publish in November a new collection of short stories, Motives for Murder, to celebrate the 80th birthday of one of the Club’s most distinguished members, Peter Lovesey. The book will be published in Britain as a paperback original by Little, Brown and in the U.S. (with a limited hardback edition as well) by Crippen & Landru. Each of the nineteen stories and one sonnet was written specially for the book, with each prefaced by a few words from the author about Peter’s contribution to the genre. Contributors include Ann Cleeves, Andrew Taylor, Len Tyler, Michael Ridpath, [and] Liza Cody.” A foreword to this volume was penned by “the legendary Len Deighton.”

Happy fifth anniversary to Crime Fiction Lover!

• Steve Thompson of Booksteve’s Library reminds us that July 30 marked half a century since the release of Batman, the big-screen picture based on the 1966-1968 ABC-TV series of that same name starring Adam West and Burt Ward. I well remember seeing that campy feature in a drive-in theater as a small boy, my parents having wheeled my brother and me out for an evening of POW!, WHAM!, and ZOWIE! Click here to watch a trailer for the movie. National Public Radio’s Monkey See blog has more to say more about this anniversary.

• The Spy Command gets all nostalgic about 2015 as “The Year of the Spy,” a designation greatly bolstered by the release last August of Guy Ritchie’s underappreciated film, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

• August 3 marked singer Tony Bennett’s 90th birthday! When I was a kid, and my parents played Bennett’s music on the stereo, I thought it was so corny. But something about being an adult has made everything he sings much more charming. Hard to believe that my parents were right about his music all along …

The Hollywood Reporter brings the news that Benedict Cumberbatch of the BBC One series Sherlock “will star in and produce a film adaptation of Rogue Male, the 1939 survivalist thriller by Geoffrey Household” about “a hunter who attempts to assassinate a dictator but is caught, tortured, and left for dead.”

• Editor-author Vince Keenan offers this postmortem of Seattle, Washington’s recent Noir City film festival (July 22-28). “After a hiatus of almost two and a half years …,” he writes, “the return engagement on Capitol Hill was a success, with solid crowds every night for a week. The theme this go-round was Film Noir from A to B: double-bills that moved chronologically through the 1940s, pairing prestige pictures with shorter, grittier productions to re-create the movie-going experience of the era.”

• A couple of good recent lists from The Strand Magazine’s Web site: Author Anne Frasier selected what she claims are the “Top 10 Investigators with Dark Pasts,” while writer-editor Maxim Jakubowski picks “10 Overlooked Modern Crime Novels,” one of which is 1993’s Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright—a novel about which he commented at greater length in The Rap Sheet a few years back.

• Speaking of lists (and don’t we often do so?), Book Riot’s rundown of “100 Must-Read New York City Novels” includes Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham, and more than a few other mystery novels.

• More than 15 recognizable women mystery writers are set to participate in the third annual Ladies of Intrigue event, which will take place on Sunday, October 2, in Huntington Beach, California. Leading the list of speakers will be Agatha Award winner Carolyn Hart and Robin Burcell, the co-author—with Clive Cussler—of Pirate and the author of The Last Good Place, a 2015 work continuing the Al Krug/Casey Kellog police procedural series created by Carolyn Weston. Also set to take part are Lisa Brackmann, Kate Carlisle, Earlene Fowler, Naomi Hirahara, and others. Registration info is available here.

• Cable-TV network Cinemax has set Friday, September 9, as the debut date for Quarry, its new TV series based on Max Allan Collins’ novels about a peripatetic hit man. The eight-episode first season stars Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, and Peter Mullan.

• Meanwhile, the espionage drama Berlin Station, created by spy novelist Olen Steinhauer, is being readied for an October 16 launch. Double O Section offers a trailer for the 10-episode opening season.

• Finally, a handful of interviews worthy of your attention: Crimespree Magazine’s Elise Cooper talks with Linda Castillo about the latter’s new novel, Among the Wicked; Amy Gentry chats with Kirkus Reviews’ Rachel Sugar about Good as Gone; Polish fictionist Zygmunt Miloszewski answers questions from Crime Fiction Lover about Rage; and Scott Montgomery from the Austin, Texas, bookshop MysteryPeople, grills Megan Abbott (You Will Know Me), Bill Loehfelm (Let the Devil Out), and Alison Gaylin (What Remains of Me).

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Revue of Reviewers, 8-3-16

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Long Road to the Big Easy

Well, now I’ve gone and done it: registered to attend Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans. For months, I had been thinking I might take a pass on the convention this year. But then again, it is taking place in one of my favorite cities in the world, where I can dine on some of the best beignets, gumbo, and hushpuppies around. And there will be a number of authors attending who I’d very much like to see, including Robert Wilson, Martin Edwards, Patti Abbott, Megan Abbott, James Sallis, Steve Hamilton, Kelli Stanley, Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, Art Taylor, Lori Rader-Day, and J. Robert Janes. And I did find a screamin’ deal on a hotel in the city’s Arts/Warehouse District. And the next few Bouchercons will be held in places I find less interesting (Toronto, Dallas, St. Petersburg), so I can always skip those instead.

All of which led me to finally plunk down my $185 and sign up. I won’t be participating in any panel discussions, by my own choice (I lack anything approaching public-speaking skills), but I shall be attending as many convention events as I can … when I am not out and about in the French Quarter or elsewhere in New Orleans, soaking up the atmosphere and downing the local cuisine.

It should be fun! I hope to see a few Rap Sheet readers there.

Crider’s Care Continues Apace

To follow up on what I wrote last Thursday about author Bill Crider’s health problems, here’s an update he posted today in his blog:
I’m still here. I saw my doctor at the [University of Texas] M.D. Anderson [Cancer Center], and she’s still very optimistic. There have been some complications, but she wasn’t as concerned about them as I am. I’ve had the first in a series of shots, and I’ll be starting chemo in about a month or a month and a half. My daughter, Angela, has been here through all of this, and I couldn’t have made it without her. She’ll be going back to California soon, and I’ll have to see how I can make it on my own for a while. If things don’t go well, my son or my sister can come. I think I’ll be fine, though. I hope to ease back into blogging later in the week. We’ll see how it goes.
Sadly, when I asked him whether he’d be attending next month’s Bouchercon in New Orleans, as previously planned, Bill responded, “I’d hoped to, but it’s highly doubtful.”

Angels Rise Again?

Seriously, there’s another Charlie’s Angels reboot on the way? In Reference to Murder’s B.V. Lawson reports that “Sony has lined up Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn to pen the latest incarnation of the Charlie’s Angels franchise, to be directed by Elizabeth Banks. It might seem an odd choice to tackle a franchise that began as a TV showcase for bikini-clad detectives in the 1970s, but the move is strategic on the part of Sony and Banks, who are seeking rich, fully developed characters and not just pretty faces plugged into action, or as Hollywood Reporter put it, ‘less ass, more class.’”

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

McFetridge Sows Crime Among His Roots

If I’m correct, the first time I met Toronto, Ontario-based crime-fictionist John McFetridge was during the 2008 Bouchercon in Baltimore, when we gathered together with way too many other people in an auditorium to see editor-bookseller Otto Penzler interview writer Dennis Lehane on stage. As it happens, I had packed along for that trip a copy of McFetridge’s third novel, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but hadn’t read much of it by the time I met its author, so I hoped he wouldn’t ask my opinion of the work. (Which he did not.)

I didn’t return to his fiction until 2014, when the first of his Eddie Dougherty mysteries, Black Rock, saw print. With its unusual setting of 1970s Montreal, Quebec, and its stripped-down, dialogue-heavy style, the novel struck me as something rather special. I wrote in a spring books wrap-up for Kirkus Reviews that McFetridge was “still looking for a ‘breakout book,’” and added hopefully: “With its well-etched family drama and dynamic historical background Black Rock might finally be the one.”

Whether a breakout work or not, Black Rock got me interested in McFetridge’s storytelling in a way that his handful of previous novels had not. I was quick to snap up his second Dougherty yarn, A Little More Free, when it came out in 2015, and asked his publisher to send me a copy of this year’s third series installment, One or the Other, long in advance of its August 9 release date. My hope was to conduct an e-mail interview with McFetridge, which I managed to complete just recently.

The results of our exchange are posted today in two parts. The first segment, focused around One or the Other, fills my new Kirkus column. Part II can be found below. It covers McFetridge’s educational and reading history, his interest in filmmaking, his early Toronto-backdropped novels, parallels between his own life and the Dougherty yarns, and why he chose Montreal—the city of his birth almost 57 years ago (his next birthday is in November)—as his setting for fiction.

J. Kingston Pierce: I’ve read that you attended high schools in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario. What made you such a peripatetic teenager? Was it the result, perhaps, of one of your parents having to move around for work?

John McFetridge: Both my parents worked for the phone company. My father was an installer and my mother was a clerk, so we didn’t move for work. But when I was a teenager in the early 1970s my father had a couple of heart attacks and open-heart surgery. (I used some of those experiences in A Little More Free.) In those days that meant some long hospital stays, and I was the youngest of three kids and the only one still at home (and maybe not the best-behaved kid in the world), so I was sent to live with various relatives while all that worked itself out.

JKP: Are your parents still around?

JM: My father passed away in 1985 but my mom is living in New Brunswick. She had a pretty severe stroke a few years ago.

Author John McFetridge (photo by Jimmy McFetridge)

JKP: Have you been a big reader your whole life? And were you always interested in crime fiction, or is that a more recent interest?

JM: I was not a big reader in high school. I did read a little, but I wasn’t a good student. I was about 10 years old when my older brother [Bobby] joined the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police], so I was interested in the cop’s life, so to speak. And when I was in high school I did read Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field and The New Centurions and a book called Walking the Beat, by Gene Radano, which stuck with me so I looked it up a little while ago. One of my favorite books that I read in high school was The Super Summer of Jamie McBride [by Christopher S. Wren and Jack Shepherd]. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I started to read a lot more.

JKP: How is it that you started out at Quebec’s Concordia University wanting to study economics, but wound up—nine years later—with an English Literature degree? What changed in between? And one can’t help but ask, did it really take you nine years to get through college? Was that because you were working at the same time?

JM: Yes, I was working at the same time. Concordia University in Montreal started out, in the 1920s, as Sir George Williams College, a night school attached to the YMCA. It became Concordia in 1974, but for quite a while it still had a lot of evening classes that made it easy to do a part-time degree. After high school I had gone out west and worked, and then returned to Montreal, and I figured I needed to get some kind of career. I had met a couple of movie producers who were raising money through stock brokers (some of this will be in the next Dougherty book), so I thought I could become a broker and I enrolled in economics. I was wrong.

JKP: Early on, you wanted to be a filmmaker. How and why did you make the transition into penning novels?

JM: As I said, I wasn’t a big reader in high school, and when I was working blue-collar jobs everyone I knew saw movies but not many read novels. So, I thought to get to the audience that was like me, I needed to do it with movies. And I was intimidated by the idea of writing a novel. But when I started taking creative-writing classes and trying to write short stories, I started to realize that [novel writing] was the best way to be able to say everything you want to say. There’s really nothing like a novel to tell a story. And to understand other people. I realized a while ago, for instance, that the best insight I had into my mother and her life was through the stories of Alice Munro; they really gave us a way to talk to each other.

JKP: You went to college back in Montreal, but you now live in Toronto. When did you move to the Ontario capital? Was it before or after attending the Canadian Film Centre there in the early 2000s?

JM: It was before. When my wife and I were married in 1990, she was living in Hamilton, just outside Toronto, and I was in Montreal and we had to decide where to live. I was ready for a change of scenery, I think.

JKP: The first book you saw published was Below the Line, a 2002 short-story collection about filmmaking in Toronto, which you co-authored with Scott Albert. But did you try writing other books before that? Are there as-yet-unpublished John McFetridge novels gathering dust in a drawer somewhere?

JM: Yes, there are a few in the drawer. I haven’t looked at them in a long time, but the Eddie Dougherty series is getting into the 1980s and I wrote a private-eye novel in Montreal in the mid-80s, so I may get it out of the drawer and see if there’s anything I can scavenge.

JKP: Save for that first book, your subsequent ones have been novels published in Canada by small, Toronto-based ECW Press. Did you try selling your work to larger houses? How did you wind up with ECW, and can I assume that’s been a good relationship?

JM: It’s been a very good relationship. I’ve had three different editors at ECW and each one has been excellent and has helped me in different ways. I did have a couple of contracts with American publishers, but the timing was bad. My first two novels, Dirty Sweet and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, were bought by Harcourt, but it merged with Houghton Miflin just as they were being published, and my novels got lost in the shuffle (they did print a paperback of Dirty Sweet and a hardcover of Everybody Knows with, I think, terrific covers, but I don’t think they ever made it to stores). Then my next two books, Swap and Tumblin’ Dice, were picked up by St. Martin’s, but my editor left just before publication and those books disappeared, too. There is an American version of Swap called Let It Ride [2010] that I see sometimes, but it’s pretty rare.

And I’m very comfortable with ECW. I’m an old guy and I think of indie presses like indie record labels or indie movies. I’m glad I had the experience with Harcourt and St. Martin’s, but I’m very happy to be with ECW.

JKP: Have you given up on selling your books to the big U.S. publishers?

JM: I don’t really know a lot about the business end of things, so if a deal came along I’d certainly look at it, but it isn’t something I’m pursuing.

JKP: You wrote four novels in your so-called Toronto Series. For readers who haven’t yet discovered those books, could you please summarize what you intended to achieve with them?

JM: Toronto is a steadily growing, ever-changing place, and I was really just trying to get to know it myself. Within Canada, Toronto is the city everyone loves to hate because it’s the biggest, and the joke is it thinks of itself as the center of the universe. But within Toronto, of course, not many people really feel a part of the center. A little more than half the population of Toronto was born somewhere else, some in another part of Canada like me, but most in another country.

And I felt then that one of the best ways to see characters in many different and diverse neighborhoods was to follow cops and criminals around. I still feel that way. Criminals, especially in organized crime and drug dealers, often move between richer and poorer neighborhoods and cops go anywhere they’re called.

JKP: Yet, just four books into the Toronto Series, you gave it up. Were you personally ready for a change, or was this something suggested by an agent or publisher?

JM: I was ready for a change. After I wrote Black Rock, Jack David [the co-founder, with Robert Lecker, of] ECW asked if I could write another Eddie Dougherty novel, which was not something I was thinking about doing, but I’m very glad he asked. Then he asked if I would be able to link the series, and I thought I would. There are some characters in the Toronto Series who, like me, moved from Montreal to Toronto, and now I’m very excited about seeing some of those people earlier in their lives [in the Dougherty novels].

JKP: So Black Rock finally moved your attention back to Montreal. You’d been born across the St. Lawrence River, in what was at that time a separate city, Greenfield Park (since merged with Longueuil). Was it useful to have put some distance between you and the Montreal area by the time you started penning the Dougherty mysteries?

JM: Yes, I think it was. And also a little distance [from] my younger self. There’s not much that’s autobiographical in the Toronto Series (except I was arrested, along with everyone else on my shift, as a night-shift cleaner in a department store), but Eddie’s parents live in the house I grew up in and Eddie’s younger brother, Tommy, is exactly my age and going to the high school I went to.

JKP: What is it about Dougherty that made him seek a life in law enforcement?

JM: He didn’t start out looking at it as a life in law enforcement. It started out as not being at another desk in another classroom or at a desk in an office. Like a lot of cops of his age, Dougherty played sports and gave the referee a hard time, but understood that without the refs there wouldn’t be much of a game, and that’s how he saw the cops. As he gets more experience on the job, though, he starts to really appreciate that most of the interaction he has with people is when they are in a time of crisis—maybe minor, like a fender-bender, and maybe major, [as] when a loved one has been killed—and he starts to realize that he has a chance to make a positive difference in these moments.

JKP: You integrate a great deal of history into the Eddie Dougherty books. Has it helped that you lived through the 1970s, so you remember at least the highlights of that era? And when it gets down to re-creating Montreal street scenes, or now-defunct businesses, are you drawing on memory to some degree?

JM: Yes, I’m drawing on a lot of memories. Which is fun now, to reminisce like that, it helps to balance some of the unpleasant things that I research for the books, like the murders of young women or the [1972] nightclub fire.

JKP: Is your historical research mostly a matter of reading old newspapers and other publications?

JM: I do read a lot of old newspapers. And magazines. I try to interview people as much as I can, too. I wish my father was still alive, he spent his whole life in Montreal and a lot of it driving around in a phone company van with ladders on the top going to every neighborhood in the city. Driving with him was an adventure with a running commentary.

JKP: Even after you seemed to become comfortable as a novelist, you went back in 2010 to compose an episode of the Canadian TV crime drama The Bridge. Do you still harbor aspirations as a screenwriter?

JM: Yes, I interviewed for another TV show gig a couple of weeks ago. I still like TV and the big audience reach it has. Plus, writers’ rooms are usually catered and the food is really good.

JKP: Finally, what sort of books do you read these days? Do you read a lot of crime fiction, and if so, who are the writers you prefer?

JM: I just finished Stephen King’s Bill Hodges crime-fiction trilogy and enjoyed it a lot. I do like to read crime fiction and I wouldn’t want to give it up. I really liked Sam Wiebe’s Invisible Dead, a terrific private-eye novel set in Vancouver [British Columbia]. Also I’m reading the Women Crime Writers collection that Sarah Weinman edited and discovering some great writers I hadn’t read.

Also, I read a lot of non-fiction for research, but also for pleasure. Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, by Jefferson Cowie, is a very good book about the ’70s, and now I’ve started reading about the ’80s. Some of it I’m looking forward to, but some of it I never wanted to think about again.