Norman Colin Dexter has received multiple honors and awards, including the CWA Gold Dagger and Silver Dagger awards, the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for outstanding services to crime literature (1997) and the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to literature.
All of his 13 novels and most of his short stories feature his famous fictional creation, Inspector Morse, who shares a love of classical music and crosswords with the author. The TV series based on Morse, starring actor John Thaw, ran for 33 episides from 1987-2000, followed by several more episodes of Inspector Lewis, featuring Morse's sidekick.
Dexter's short-story output isn't large, with some seven individual stories appearing in various magazines and anthologies, and only one collection, Morse's Greatest Mystery, from 1993 (in the UK; 1995 in the U.S). The 11 stories in this volume include six Morse/Lewis stories; one of Dexter's few American-set stories, about a group of con men; and his only Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Some of the highlights:
"The Inside Story": In the longest of the stories in the group, Morse and Lewis investigate after a young woman is stabbed to death in Oxford. The victim was writing a short story for a crime fiction contest (to be judged by no less than Julian Symons and H.R.F. Keating), and it becomes apparent to Morse there are autobiographical details included in her story that are not only clues, but motive for murder. (As an aside, this story was later bundled into a special edition paperback original, complete with crossword puzzle, and commissioned by American Express.)
"Evans Tries an O-Level": This is a humorous and complex prison breakout yarn featuring the title character of James Roderick Evans, a convict already involved in two failed breakouts from an Oxford prison, which has earned him the nickname "Evans the Break." When Evans announces he wants to take an O-Level exam in German, this quite rightfully makes the prison Governor suspicious. (The story received a Macavity Award in 1996.)
"Neighbourhood Watch": A German professor's car is stolen and returned with an apology and tickets to the opera. Morse smugly believes it's a ploy to set up a cunning robbery while the professor attends the opera, only the tables end up being turned on Morse instead.
"A Case of Mis-Identity": In this Holmes pastiche, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes are rivals in trying to figure out the real story behind a disappearing bridegroom mystery, yet it's the loyal Watson who saves the day and has one of his few moments in the sun.
The stories included in the collection are a bit uneven, but the Morse offerings preserve the essence of the character, his intellect, quirkiness and wit. All in all, the longer novel format is probably a better vehicle to provide context for Morse and allow for the more intricate and careful plotting that Morse fans have come to expect.
This past weekend, we lost Ron Scheer, writer, blogger, and long-time contributor to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books. His Buddies in the Saddle blog focused on Westerns, crime fiction, videos, and anything else that struck his fancy. He also documented his fight with brain cancer over the past couple of years, a battle he ultimately couldn't win.
On his one-year anniversary of brain surgery in February of this year, he posted the following poignant note:
Ron supported the Behrhorst Clinic in Guatemala, where he spent a college summer volunteering. The family has asked that if you want to make a donation, you can do so via the foundation's website.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is this weekend and will include five different crime fiction panels, starting with the two on Saturday: "Crime Fiction: Right Place, Wrong Time," featuring Steph Cha, Naomi Hirahara, Attica Locke, Daniel Pyne, and moderator Paula L. Woods; and another on "Crime Fiction: Haunted by the Past," featuring Tom Bouman, Peter Heller, Peter Swanson with moderator Tom Nolan. Sunday will see panels that include authors Gar Anthony Haywood, Eric Jerome Dickey, Hallie Ephron, Kimberly McCreight, Naomi Hirahara, T. Jefferson Parker, Ivy Pochoda, Joseph Kanon, Thomas Perry, Lisa Scottoline, and Stuart Woods. Dennis Lehane will also be interviewed by Tod Goldberg in a special Sunday session.
The International Thriller Writers announced the finalists for the 2015 Thriller Awards. In the running for Best Hardcover Novel are Megan Abbott for The Fever; Lauren Beukes for Broken Monsters; Joseph Finder for Suspicion; Greg Iles for Natchez Burning; and Chevy Stevens for That Night. Check out all of the categories nominees on the awards website.
Crimefest announced its longlist for their 2015 awards (and it's definitely a long list - too long to reprint here). Check out the Crimefest website for all the nominees for Audible Sounds of Crime Award for best crime audiobook; Goldsboro Last Laugh Award for best humorous crime novel; eDunnit award for best electronic crime novel, and the H.R.F. Keating Award for best non-fiction book related to crime fiction. The finalists will be annnounced soon, with the winners handed out at the Crimefest Gala Awards Dinner on May 17.
There's an new crime fiction website debuting this month. The Life Sentence bills itself as "the destination sophisticated crime fiction/noir fans go to for reviews and stimulating criticism. Our content engages, excites, and inspires people to share and to participate. We cover crime, mysteries, and noir in all genres, including true crime, thrillers, novels, nonfiction, movies, and television." Future content will include coverage of comics (and actual comics), slideshows, contests, giveaways, a podcast, conversations, recipes, and more. The Editorial Board reads like a "who's who" of heavyweights in crime fiction today.
Author Jeanne Matthews takes note of a mystery author who may soon receive canonization by The Catholic Church. The process is underway of deciding whether to bestow sainthood on G.K. Chesterton, who, among other ecclesiastical works, created the Father Brown mystery series. It doesn't hurt that Pope Francis is apparently a long-time fan of the author's novels.
Penguin Random is introducing free eBook excerpts from select titles for Amtrak riders on the Acela Express. Train riders between Boston and Washington, D.C. will have access to more than twenty free excerpts from a variety of books across all Penguin Random House’s adult imprints.
A handwritten notebook by Alan Turing, the British mathematician credited with breaking German codes during World War II (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game), sold for more than $1 million at auction Monday in New York. It's the first time a manuscript by Turing has come to public market.
In honor of National Library Week in the U.S., check out the new book from Alex Johnson titled Improbable Libraries. The book takes a look at unusual libraries around the globe "from library boats for Laotian children on the river to a Mobile Art Library which drives around Mexico City and a Mongolian Children’s Mobile Library that brings books to nomadic herding communities via camel."
Is there anything Legos can't do? Police in Scotland are using the popular toy to help stop crime. It's all part of Operation RAC, an ongoing campaign to reduce the number of house break-ins in Edinburgh using Lego scenes that focus on simple ways people can help prevent a break-in.
In the Q&A roundup, The Mystery People snagged Ryan Gattis to talk about his novel All Involved, based on rioting in L.A. after the exoneration of the policemen who beat Rodney King; debut mystery author Suzanne Spiegoski stopped by Omnimystery News; and James O. Born chatted with the Miami Herald about his new novel that focuses on deputy Tim Hallett and his K-9 unit.
Adam Mitzner graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. and M.A. in politics and went on from there to study law at the University of Virginia. He's currently the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LLP, which received some fame because it's the law firm where Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor practiced before she was appointed to the bench. Mitzner is the author of A Case of Redemption, a finalist for the ABA's Silver Gavel Award, and A Conflict of Interest, one of Suspense Magazine's Best Books of 2011.
Losing Faith is his latest novel, which centers on Aaron Littmann, the chairman of one of the country's most prestigious law firms. But Aaron's orderly world is turned upside down when he's offered an opportunity he can't refuse: to represent a Russian businessman accused of terrorism or else the Russian will go public with evidence the attorney had a torrid affair with Faith Nichols, a high-profile judge. Now Aaron and Faith must navigate a psychological game of power, ethics, lies, and justice if they are to salvage their reputations and their careers.
Adam Mitzner stopped by In Reference to Murder as part of his blog tour to take some "Author R&R" about how he approaches reference and research for his novels:
Author Reference and Research
by Adam Mitzner,
Author of Losing Faith
The research I do for my books falls into two categories: (1) legal issues; (2) everything else.
The legal issues are actually the easiest to research. As a practicing lawyer, I research the legal issues in my books the same way I would if I was representing a client with those issues. First, I hit the books, which these days means computerized research on the Westlaw database, looking for precedent to support the position that my fictional lawyers are going to cite to the fictional judge. If I'm uncertain about a particular area of the law, I reach out to lawyers with greater expertise – again, just as I do for my clients.
The legal issues that arise in my books usually come from putting myself in the role of defense lawyer and prosecutor and thinking through the strategies that I'd pursue if it were a real case. Sometimes the issues that come up are ones that I've actually litigated. For example, in A Case of Redemption, I dealt with a witness asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. This happened in a case I was handling years ago, and I remember being surprised that the witness' invocation is made outside the presence of the jury. The result at first seems unfair: a defendant who believes that someone else committed the crime for which he stands accused wants to question that person ala Perry Mason, and get him to admit his guilt. However, if the witness asserts his Fifth Amendment privilege because he fears that his testimony will likely incriminate him, the jury never knows about it! But then when you study the reasoning behind the rule, you see the injustice that results if the invocation of the Fifth Amendment is made in front of the jury.
Then there's the research about everything else. That's where I rely on friends and family for their particular expertise. My wife helps me with everything, but I particularly rely on her knowledge of scotch, which for some reason I like my characters to drink, but with I don't personally have any familiarity. My children fill me in on what the slang is among high schoolers, and my doctor friends correct my medical jargon. I reached out to my own doctor during my annual physical regarding an issue and he referred me to a friend of his who is a coroner in the Midwest. The question was whether the coroner's report concerning a woman killed by blunt force trauma to the head would note if the victim had pubic hair. To my surprise, I was told that it varies from medical examiner to medical examiner.
My books are set in New York City, and I try to be as accurate as possible regarding the places depicted. That usually means visiting the restaurants to get the décor right, and even studying menus to make sure that the prices are correct. It has the side benefit of allowing me to have some very nice meals in the name of research.
Finally, I rely extensively on Google. It's a running joke I have with my wife that she has to be extra careful not to become a victim of a violent crime because our computer is filled with searches about ways to kill your spouse or dispose of bodies.
© 2015 Adam Mitzner, author of Losing Faith
Willem Dafoe is joining Gerard Butler, Billy Bob Thornton and rapper/actor Common in the cast of the submarine thriller Hunter Killer. The story centers on a renegade Russian military leader whose actions lead to the brink of war with the U.S., leaving an elite U.S. Navy unit to prevent World War III. Dafoe will play Russian submarine Captain Andropoyov.
Danielle Nicolet has been signed as the female lead opposite Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in the Warner Bros-New Line buddy comedy Central Intelligence. The film follows a mild-mannered accountant (Hart) whose former classmate (Johnson) now works for the CIA and talks the accountant into helping thwart a plot to sell military secrets. Nicolet will play Maggie, the wife of Hart’s character and his high school sweetheart.
Disney has pushed the release date for Chris Pine’s Coast Guard thriller The Finest Hours to January 29, 2016. The film also stars Casey Affleck and is directed by Craig Gillespie.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced the nominations for their television awards, recognizing the best from programs in 2014. Several crime thrillers were honored, including Murdered By My Boyfriend, Happy Valley, Line of Duty, The Missing, and True Detective. Benedict Cumberbatch also received a nod for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
Production has begun on the 1970s-set Cinemax noir drama Quarry, based on Max Allan Collins' book series. The show stars Logan Marshall-Green as Mac "Quarry" Conway, a Marine who returns home from Vietnam and makes his way back into civilian life as a hit man deployed by a mysterious character known as The Broker (played by Peter Mullan).
Amazon Studios has started production on Natchez Burning, a short-run series based on Greg Iles' thriller of the same name that centers on a Southern lawyer and former prosecutor, Penn Cage.
ITV renewed its detective series Lewis for a 9th season. Kevin Whatley and Laurence Fox will return as Detectives Robbie Lewis and James Hathaway, alongside Angela Griffin as Detective Sergeant Lizzie Maddox.
HBO unveiled the first True Detective season two teaser trailer, starring Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn. The new season premieres Sunday, June 21.
Chris Cooper and Cherry Jones have joined the cast of Hulu's 11/22/63, based on the Stephen King novel. The project stars James Franco as a high school English teacher who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Robert Sean Leonard (formerly of House), will guest star on a May episode of the NBC drama Law & Order: SVU. He's been added to the episode that will also see the temporary return of former cast members Andre Braugher and Dann Florek. Leonard will play ADA Kenneth O’Dwyer, who once sent a man to jail for raping his daughter, but when the daughter chooses to recant her testimony, the case is reopened. The episode will also welcome back former series regulars Andre Braugher and Dann Florek.
Eliza Dushku is joining the crime drama Banshee on Cinemax, playing Agent Veronica Dawson, "a tough, sexy and shockingly reckless FBI profiler with no shortage of personal demons who joins forces with Hood to hunt down a killer." Banshee centers on an ex-con and master thief (played by Antony Starr), who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, PA, enforcing his own code of justice.
ABC announced its summer lineup, which includes the fifth season of Rookie Blue, and a new series, the suspense-thriller The Whispers, which follows a group of kids in Washington, D.C., who are being manipulated to do dangerous things by a mysterious force.
The USA Network unveiled its summer and fall broadcast slates. The summer schedule includes the thrillers Complications (from the creator of Burn Notice) and Mr. Robot. The fall programs include AWOL, which deals with the gritty world of an ex-military operative, and Cooley & The Tank, which goes behind the scenes of the fictional 1981 detective drama of the same name to explore the complicated lives of its two feuding stars.
Netflix released a trailer for the third season of Orange is the New Black, featuring scenes with Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, Kate Mulgrew as Galina “Red” Reznikov, and Uzo Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren
On the latest Crime and Science Radio podcast, hosts Jan Burke and D.P. Lyle welcomed Lisa Mayhew, child death investigator.
Meanwhile, the most recent Suspense Radio Beyond the Cover podcast featured special guest Harlan Coben, while SR's Inside Edition hosted authors Jon Land, Edward Freeland, and John Trudel.
The BBC has created an immersive story online told through text, images and video, which follows a trail ot missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls all killed in Winnipeg.
Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular Serial webcast in 2014, will return as the main figure in a spin-off second series. Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed, will dig deeper into the 16-year-old murder case that has Syed serving a life sentence for the alleged murder of 17-year-old Hai Min Lee.
Hartford Stage Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak is taking on the world premiere of Rear Window as part of its 2015-2016 season. The play is an adaptation of the Cornell Woolrich short story that inspired the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film.
An adaptation of Peter James' thriller novel Dead Simple will premiere at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal from April 13-18. This is the second James novel to be adapted in conjunction with producer Joshua Andrews (The Perfect Murder). The story was the first feature James' now famous character of Detective Roy Grace, who has to solve the disappearance of a man who's been buried alive.
IDW Publishing announced it's adapting Nicholas Meyer’s bestselling mystery novel The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution into a five-part comic book series from writers Scott Tipton and David Tipton and artist Ron Joseph. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution centers on a “rediscovered” Sherlock Holmes adventure that's a collaboration between Holmes and Sigmund Freud in which secrets about Moriarty, Mycroft Holmes and Sherlock's true whereabouts during the Great Hiatus are revealed.
On the surface, Valentine's Day may appear to be all about love and relationships, chocolate and flowers, but I suspect there are equal amounts of angst, heartbreak and even violence underneath the crepe paper hearts and pink-ribboned candy boxes. Likewise, there's a lot of faux comaraderie and back-stabbing involved with another type of manufactured social event that's really all about shallow displays and profit-motives—namely, beauty pageants. Put the two together and you have Is Skin Deep, Is Fatal, by H.R.F. Keating.
In Keating's standalone police procedural from 1965, night club queen Fay Curtis seemingly commits suicide shortly after passing along a note to beauty pageant impresario Teddy Pariss, who's in the middle of rehearsing the Miss Valentine contest at the Star Bowl ballroom. When Pariss also winds up dead, with a golden-handled paper knife in the shape of a naked female sticking in his back, it's clear his death was anything but suicide.
Soho Police Constable Peter Lassington and CID Detective-Constable Jack Spratt are in on both cases from the outset. But when Scotland Yard Superintendent Ironside's right-hand man is knocked out of commission, Ironside corrals Lassington and Spratt into assisting his own investigation. The Miss Valentine contest provides a gaggle of beauty contestants and various other associates of the murdered Pariss as suspects, and also affords Keating literary bon mots like the following:
The overwhelming impression at the door was of a mass of bits of the feminine, at their most blatant. Mouths, lipstick-shaped in screaming red, unlikely pink, heavy magenta, darted here, there and everywhere, pouting, smiling, sulking. Legs in shimmering nylon and tight-stretched ski pants waved and flaunted. Blouses and hugging jerseys, A cup, B cup, C cup, advanced and flirted. Fingernails in every shade and circumstance of red flickered, pointed, lured and beckoned. Guaranteed personal freshness from spray, bottle and tube clashed and mingled all around. From the chaos, Ironside brought order like a sedulous botanist in a wild garden.
Lassington may be the POV character, but Superintendent Ironside is the star of the show, stage-managing the suspects, clues and histrionics with his unflappable, disarming presence. He would have been an interesting choice for his own series, a la Keating's other popular protagonist, Inspector Ghote of the Bombay CID, except for the fact this is Ironside's last case before retiring to the countryside to tend his domestic rabbits, far from the seamy Soho nightlife.
It's rather easy to guess the culprit due to a giant in-your-face clue toward the start of the book, but perhaps that was Keating's way of preventing the reader from feeling cheated or sucker-punched by the ultimate resolution. It might not be one of Keating's best, but contains his characteristic humor and, as he once said, the manner in which he tries "to convey character through dialogue and forward the story through descriptions of place and situation, but it can only be a snapshot of the particular moment I have reached in the story."
On Monday, April 27th, the Mystery Writers of America will launch the MWA Cookbook, edited by Kate White. The launch party will be held at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, with many of the contributors and 2015 Edgar Award nominees scheduled to appear. Visit the bookstore's website for more information.
London's Goldsboro Books will host the fourth Crime in the Court evening on the 25th June 2015 to coincide with Independent Booksellers Week in the UK. This annual event celebrates crime fiction in an informal setting for crime fans to meet the best crime writers today (with over forty authors scheduled to attend).
The 2015 Adventure Writer's Competition, sponsored by the Clive Cussler Collectors Society is open for submissions through July 2015. The contest welcomes all new novels of the adventure genre, which can be unpublished, self-published, or traditionally published (with limited release). The winner will recieve a $1,000 cash prize, exposure to industry insiders, and a trophy handed out at the Clive Cussler Collector's Society Convention held at the Tuscany Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 9 - 11.
If you have at least ten grand to spend, you can bid through April 11 on the chance to name a character in the upcoming Michael Connelly novel, The Crossing. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the charity Trinity Cafe, a restaurant for the homeless, hungry and food insecure in Tampa, Florida.
The Radio Spirits blog celebrated the various radio dramas based on the Nero Wolfe novels of Rex Stout in honor the anniversary of the very first radio adaptation, The Adventures of Nero Wolfe, which premiered over a small regional network (The New England Network) on April 7, 1943, and featured J.B. Williams as Wolfe.
Just call him Dr. Walter Mosley. The award-winning author of over forty novels will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tulane University in May.
UKTV created an almost life-sized statue of Sherlock portrayer Benedict Cumberbatch made entirely of chocolate. Meanwhile, a hidden camera allegedly caught passers-by at the statue's display at the Westfield Stratford shopping center who couldn't help themselves from taking a lick or two.
The tribute to National Poetry month continues at the 5-2 with a celebration of crime poetry. Check out the entire month's schedule here.
In the Q&A roundup, Declan Burke chats with RTE about his new spy thriller The Lost and the Blind; Renee Wright talks with The Telegraph about her highly-anticipated debut novel Girl on a Train, which some are calling "the next Gone Girl"; James O. Born discusses his new novel, which focuses on the work of police K-9 units, with Gerald So; and Chris Bond put Joe Nesbo in the hot seat in an interview ahead of his appearance at the Harrogate conference.
Jon Land is the bestselling author of over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor. Jon often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the US Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing.
Land teamed up with Fabrizio Boccardi for the thriller The Seven Sins, featuring Michael Tiranno (a/k/a "The Tyrant"), who saved the city of Las Vegas from a terrorist attack. The sequel, Black Scorpion, is set five years later, where a new enemy has surfaced in Eastern Europe in the form of an all-powerful organization called Black Scorpion. Once a victim of human trafficking himself, the shadowy group’s crazed leader, Vladimir Dracu, has become the mastermind behind the scourge’s infestation on a global scale. And now he’s set his sights on Michael Tiranno for reasons birthed in a painful secret past that have scarred both men.
Land is hitting the blogosphere for a virtual tour this week in association with the publication of Black Scorpion, and had some interesting things to say about his research and writing process:
Did you have to do any special research to write this book?
Yes, a ton. It’s always that way with thrillers that involve as much cutting edge technology as this one does. But so much of it is speculative, based not on what exists now but will eventually, that I’m essentially forced to go back to school on subjects I had very little knowledge of to start out. And not just pertaining to the villain’s world-threatening plot either. I had to figure out how to construct Black Scorpion’s lair inside a mountain, needed to concoct a away for a commando team to access from beneath a manmade lake in the climax. It’s all very James Bond-like and, as with Bond, with every challenge comes up a wonderful opportunity to do something no one’s ever done before.
How do you approach writing a book like Black Scorpion?
It all starts with the hero, Michael Tiranno. I started Black Scorpion with the premise that in the five years since the events depicted in The Seven Sins, Michael hasn’t changed very much. He’s still pretty much the same man we left at the end of the first book, a tyrant consumed by his desire to expand his empire and holdings. The whole essence of Black Scorpion is watching him evolve into something entirely different - still a tyrant, yes, but a tyrant for good. A superhero without a mask or cape. We watch his view of his entire place in the world change, forced upon him by the shattering truths and tragedy he encounters along the way. And in that respect his quest changes from the pursuit of riches and power to selffulfillment and self-actualization.
So now, above everything else, Michael Tiranno’s character is defined by his obsession for standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Bullies aren’t confined to the schoolyard and he won’t tolerate them under any circumstances. He’s spent his life trying to find the security he lost that day his parents were murdered and once there he uses the power that comes with it to defend those who need him the most. My point is your hero defines the very nature of a book with the sprawl and ambition of Black Scorpion. The book will rise or fall based on how the audience responds to him and you have to approach a book like this with that in mind.
You have written a number of series; is this one of your favorite to write?
Frankly, no, that would be my Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series. I’m not saying the books in that series are better than Black Scorpion because I think in many ways Black Scorpion is the most ambitious and best realized book in terms of vision I’ve ever written. I’m talking about the process. Black Scorpion is work for hire and I have an obligation to serve the needs of the Tyrant character’s creator, Fabrizio Boccardi. That robs this series, and me, of the spontaneity that defines me as a writer, since I don’t outline.
Writing with someone looking over your shoulder isn’t nearly as fun or gratifying. But, that said, the end result of both this book and its prequel, The Seven Sins, proves I’m capable of adapting. Fabrizio isn’t a writer or a storyteller and he doesn’t grasp all the intricacies of structure. But he has wonderful instincts that are right more often than not and form the perfect complement to my experience and talents. Look, Michael Tiranno is his baby. He turned him over to me to build but he could never be expected to let him go altogether. Ultimately, I think we work so well together because our passion is balanced by our willingness to compromise toward telling the best story we possibly can. It may drive me crazy at times, but the ends justify the means.
Check out Land and his books via his website or via Facebook or Twitter. And look for the feature film in active development based on the franchised character of The Tyrant, a blended adaptation of Black Scorpion and its predecessor, The Seven Sins, both of which have also been licensed to DC Comics for graphic novels publications worldwide.