Barbara D'Amato is the author of two Chicago-based series, one with freelance reporter Cat Marsala and the other being what she calls her "Chicago police series." The second title in the latter group was 1998's Good Cop, Bad Cop, based on the real-life notorious 1969 Chicago police raid on the Black Panthers, which killed Fred Hampton. D'Amato uses that as a jumping off point to tell a modern-day Cain and Abel story, featuring two sons of a bullying cop father: Nick Bertolucci, who was part of the Black Panther raid and years later is now Chicago's superintendent of police, and his brother Aldo, the "bad cop" who hates his brother enough to try and sabotage his career after finding evidence that links Nick to one of the deaths in the assault. D'Amato throws in an interesting cast of supporting characters, including Suze Figueroa, the detective who's brought back from D'Amato's first Chicago Police Series novel, Killer.App (1996).
D'Amato prides herself on her research, spending time with cops and walking her mysteries through Chicago's neighborhoods to figure out the timing of crimes. Although she says her favorite author is Agatha Christie ("no wasted words, and plots like steel traps"), she uses a punchy, staccato style better suited to the gritty day-to-day details from cops on the beat, and ratchets up the page-turning quotient with short sentences, paragraphs and chapters. She even adds some dark humor into the mix—not surprising she's worked as carpenter for stage magic illusions, assistant tiger handler, and written musical comedies—as with this scene after a body is found on the rail tracks:
Fiddleman got up the el stairs faster than Reilly, who was a fat, pink-colored white man of forty-five.
Fiddleman approached the stock-still el train, on which a few dazed night workers sat. He guessed there were maybe six people on the train, at what was now 1:17.
Three of the passengers, as well as the train's engineer, had got out. A middle-aged man in a camel hair jacket was throwing up at the far end of the station, which was only fifteen feet away, not nearly far enough.
An elderly woman, easily seventy-five, wearing carpet slippers with slits cut for her corns despite the cold weather, was looking down at the tracks. Fiddleman was about to take her gently by the shoulders and move her away from the horrible scene when she said, "Christ, and I just had liver for dinner."
Fiddleman hoped she was speaking from some sort of civilian shock. Then he thought in an instant's flash of remorse, who do I know what sort of life she's had, she's here on the el at this hour, this weather? At her age.
Then he looked down at the track and understood what she meant.
When asked once what Chicago has to offer mystery writers, she replied, "Chicago has absolutely everything. It's a beautiful city. It has architecture you'll never see anywhere else. And it has a lot of places to hide. There are a lot of old tunnels in Chicago—there are old freight tunnels, abandoned subway tunnels. You can hide here. You can also blend in. Chicago has every ethnic neighborhood known to man. There are so many neighborhoods where you can blend in, depending on how you dress."
Good Cop Bad Cop won the 1998 Carl Sandburg Award for Excellence in Fiction and the Readers Choice Lovey Award at the 1999 Love is Murder Conference. D'Amato is also a past president of the Mystery Writers of America and of Sisters in Crime International.
Walter Mosley has been chosen as the 2016 Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America (MWA), an honor that represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing. The MWA also announced the Raven Award for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing, with two honorees this year, editor and scholar Margaret Kinsman, and Sisters in Crime. Also announced was the the Ellery Queen Award, established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry," which will be handed out to Janet Rudolph, editor of the Mystery Readers Journal.
Wordharvest Writing Contests announced that the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Novel was awarded to The Homeplace by by Kevin Wolf, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in September 2016. The Tony Hillerman Mystery Short Story winner was Robert E. Evans for "A Simple Thing, Rather Elegant."
The Santa Barbara Independent profiled "Ross Macdonald at 100: The Rediscovery of Santa Barbara’s Greatest Writer."
This year is the 50th anniversary of Truman Capote's celebrated In Cold Blood, and the Sydney Morning Herald's Andrew Stephens delved into the topic of true crime dramas in both book and media forms, asking, "why do we sit spellbound as humans do their worst?"
The BBC took a look at a new book that explores the life and career of secretive Inverness mystery writer Elizabeth Mackintosh, who died in 1952. Mackintosh was one of the UK's most successful novelists and playwrights but is better known by her pen-names including Josephine Tey and Gordon Daviot.
The Washington Review of Books profiled the new scholarly work, The Legendary Detective: The Private Eye in Fact and Fiction, by John Walton, a professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis. As the author states, "This is a study of American society and culture that reveals how the detective business arose, fashioning its own fictions, in tandem with a culture industry that was constrained by commercial fact, each a piece of the larger political economy and both subject to an essential interplay."
Another new book on private detectives was discussed in the Wall Street Journal with a look at The Legendary Detective by John Walton and its take on the private eye in fact and fiction.
Author-educator Andy Martin shadowed crime fiction author Lee Child to observe the creative process all the way from the first word (“Moving”) to the last (“needle”), and the result is an interactive Q&A for the New York Times and the new book Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.
A look at the latest journal reviews of crime fiction includes Declan Hughes writing for the The Irish times and offering up new books by Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Robert Galbraith, and Sarah Weinman.
This week's featured crime poem at the 5-2 is "Again one hand" by Simon Perchik.
In the Q&A roundup, father-son duo of Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman talk about collaborating for the first time on the novel The Golem of Hollywood; Karla M. Hull stopped by Omnimystery News to discuss her new first in series mystery, A Sip of Death; Sons of Spade welcomed S.W. Lauden, a prolific short-story author whose debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, has just been published; The CBC chatted with crime writer Ian Rankin about his new novel Even Dogs in the Wild; and The Mystery People snagged Eric Beetner in a Q&A about his new novel The Rumrunners.
Kenneth Branagh has come on board the new film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express as both director and star, taking on the role of Hercule Poirot. Branagh is also a co-producer along with Ridley Scott (The Martian), Simon Kinberg (The Martian, X-Men: Days of Future Past), and Mark Gordon (Steve Jobs) with Michael Green (Blade Runner 2) writing the screenplay,
DreamWorks has acquired The Travelers, the latest thriller by New York Times best-selling author Chris Pavone. The book is descripted as a "Hitchcockian thriller with shades of Mr. And Mrs. Smith and North By Northwest."
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie is rumored to be considering a return to the Mission Impossible franchise for the sixth installment. Paramount and Skydance plan to potentially begin shooting as early as next August, with Tom Cruise once again on board to headline the picture.
Actor/comedian T.J. Miller is developing a project for Dreamworks titled Ex Criminals, with Miller starring in the project about a dysfunctional couple whose streak of bank robbing comes to a halt when they break up the night before their biggest heist ever.
Bruce Willis, Kellan Lutz and Dan Bilzerian star in the new trailer for the CIA spy thriller Extraction about a deadly father-son team.
A trailer was released for the dramedy Central Intelligence, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as an undercover CIA badass who drags Kevin Hart’s unwilling office worker into a mission of world shattering importance.
Noah Hawley is adapting the Kurt Vonnegut novel Cat's Cradle as a limited series for FX. The 1963 novel satirizes the Cold War arms race and plays on societal anxiety over military annihilation and increased militarization in the world.
Gotham and Blindspot were among the leading contenders in the nominations for the American Society of Cinematographers’ television awards, announced last week. Gotham received two of the five nominations in the Episode of a Regular Series category, one each for cinematographers Christopher Norr and one for Crescenzo Notarile.
ABC has announced its midseason premiere dates including The Catch, which stars The Killing's Mireille Enos as a fraud investigator who finds herself the victim of a con perpetrated by her own fiancé (Parenthood's Peter Krause), plus American Crime, Quantico, and more.
The latest Crime and Science Radio featured Todd Matthews of NamUs on "Identifying The Dead, Finding The Missing."
Joining Debbi Mack on Crime Cafe, author Donna Fletcher Crow chatted about her Monastery Murders series and other novels.
Robert Crais was the featured guest on Speaking of Mysteries, discussing his latest book, The Promise, the latest outing for detective Elvis Cole and supporting cast of Joe Pike, Jon Stone, Scott James and Maggie, the LAPD K-9.
This month's Crime Vault Live featured author Mark Billingham and journalist-author Michael Carlson grilling Ian Rankin about Rebus, retirement ages and his new book Even Dogs in the Wild; and there are reviews of new releases by Stephen King, Jo Nesbo and Tess Gerritsen, and much more.
On Crime Fiction FM, award-winning author Joseph Badal stopped by to discuss his new book, Death Ship,the fifth in his Danforth Saga thriller series.
Did you know there have been piano pieces composed for the left hand only? One of the earliest dates back to 1895, but the most famous is probably Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D. That work was composed for Paul Wittgenstein, whose right hand was amputated during the First World War. The pianist-detective in my Scott Drayco series had an injury that would lend itself to such left-hand compositions (although you'll have to read the books to find out why he finds this distasteful).
Here's Leon Fleischer playing the lovely cadenza from Ravel's Concerto:
Most people know him as creator of the now-classic Yorkshire detective duo Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe and for his Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. But author Reginald Hill is also known as Patrick Ruell, publishing eight novels under that pen name beginning with The Castle of the Demon in 1971. Whereas most of his books, including the Dalziel and Pascoe series, are police procedurals or P.I. novels, the Patrick Ruell stories are what Mike Ripley of Shots Ezine calls "slightly surreal and very funny thrillers."
In 1972's Red Christmas, a group of strangers are on a Christmas Eve trip for a Dickensian weekend at Dingley Dell. They have seemingly nothing in common: Jules and Suzie Leclerc, a French couple; Arabella Allen, a 23-year-old English lass; and Stephen Swinburne, a "young many of great beauty." They're ensconced in the Dingley Dell manor along with other guests, including a German couple dubbed "Herr Bear" and "Frau Cow" and an American party-crasher, Robert E. Lee Sawyer, all under the watchful eye of the hosts, Wardle and Boswell.
But the festivities soon take a less cheery turn when one of the servants has an accident near a quarry on the property and is taken to the hospital. Arabella soon learns that behind the facade of good-will-toward-men hides conspiracy and intrigue when she learns she's being spied upon. Things take an even nastier turn when she stumbles upon the dead body of the servant who was supposedly recuperating in the hospital. Then the grinning face of yet another corpse is seen buried beneath the ice in a skating pond just as a blizzard is blowing in — and their only means of communication with the outside world, a radio, is sabotaged. As Arabella delves deeper, aided by her growing reliance upon Boswell, who is at the center of the mystery, she finds herself in the thick of an international spy ring, with double-cross and murder all part of the game.
I rather like Robert Barnard's foreword to the Black Dagger reissue from 1995, where he says "The action is fast and furious, the characterisation light but deft, the climax thrilling and satisfying. It is, no doubt about it, a heady brew, such as might have been served at the original Dingley Dell, and just as the Christmas season. Take emergency rations and a bottle of your favorite tipple, retreat to your study and lock out the family, then settle down to a rollicking good read. With a bit of luck it will last you the whole of Christmas Day."
The omniscient head-hopping is a bit dizzying at times, but it serves its purpose of keeping you unsteady and wondering just who is telling the truth and who is not. It's an anti-Christmas romp, so to speak, although there's plenty of spiked punch and red and green in the form of blood and forests and even a Christmas tree used as a diversion. If you get your fill of overly-sweet desserts and watch It's a Wonderful Life too many times, then Red Christmas might just be the antidote.
Kirkus Reviews named its list of the "Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2015."
Amazon editors also chose their Best Books lists for 2015, including Best Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense. For all the titles on the list, check out this link.
A bit of sad news from the mystery conference world: the Love is Murder Conference, held annually since 1998 in Chicago and handing out the Lovey Awards, is cancelling its 2016 event. Organizers said that diminishing attendance and financial considerations caused not only the cancellation of this upcoming LIMCon but all future conferences, as well.
American Southern noir writer Joe R. Lansdale will be a featured guest at Italy’s Noir in Festival, held in the Alpine resort of Courmayeur, receiving the conference's Raymond Chandler Award. He'll also be showcasing his new book Honky Tonk Samurai, the latest in a series which is the basis for upcoming six-episode SundanceTV series Hap and Leonard.
The Boston Globe profiled Tess Gerritsen, who takes a break from her Rizzoli & Isles series with the standalone thriller, Playing with Fire, for which the author wrote the chilling musical composition at this new book’s core.
Lit Hub profiled Raymond Chandler - how his dual life in the UK and U.S. affected his writing and how plots were merely pegs on which to hang characters and language. Or, as the author himself said, "Very likely Agatha Christie and Rex Stout write better mysteries. But their words don’t get up and walk. Mine do."
Crime Syndicate Magazine has announced that the guest editor for their first issue is Eric Beetner, who is seeking submissions through December 5 for crime stories of 1500 to 4500 words. As to what types of stories they're looking for, "We love stories about violence, greed, lust, debauchery, and any combination of those things." (Hat tip to Sandra Seamans.)
Brenda Starr, the glamorous, feisty redheaded reporter created by Dale Messick, captivated newspaper readers from 1940 through the comic's demise in 2011. But Brenda Starr is staging a comeback to headline a mystery novel series created by USA Today bestselling author J.J. Salem, with the first title, Black Orchid Murders, set for publication in Spring 2016. The 21st century version finds the character in her early 40s working as a TV pundit and visiting college professor. But she returns to hard news at a digital start-up when a series of murders targeting Chicago's elite hits too close to home, "all while navigating the complexities of modern life with a younger lover, a tycoon ex-husband and a head-strong, college-aged daughter showing signs of becoming Brenda Starr 2.0."
Eighty-five years after its first publication, Agatha Christie’s short story series, "The Mysterious Mr. Quin," is getting new life as an app. The story follows a group of socialites who gather for a party in a ritzy British country home and obsess over Derek Capel, a friend of the group who committed suicide 10 years earlier under suspicious circumstances. Over the course of the night Mr. Quin, a mysterious interloper, helps the guests piece together the true cause of Capel’s death. The app updates the action to the present day and allows viewers to click through the characters’ social media walls, feeds and albums to learn the plot.
The new crime poem at the 5-2 Weekly is "Another Death" by Jennifer Lagier.
In the Q&A roundup this week, the MysteryPeople grilled Alen Mattich, author of the Marko della Torre novels; Matt Hilton takes Paul D. Brazill's "Short, Sharp Interview" challenge about his eries featuring PI Tess Grey, and her sidekick, Nicolas “Po” Villere, who is an ex-con; and David Baldacci was featured in a Q&A via The Telegraph.
Christopher Nolan’s 2000 breakout thriller, Memento, is getting a remake courtesy of AMBI Pictures. The original version starred Guy Pearce as a man who is tracking down his wife’s killer but suffers from a unique from of memory loss. AMBI head Monika Bacardi added that "We intend to stay true to Christopher Nolan’s vision and deliver a memorable movie that is every bit as edgy, iconic and award-worthy as the original.”
Starz subsidiary Anchor Bay Entertainment has acquired U.S. Rights to What Lola Wants, a new crime drama from The Sheinberg’s The Bubble Factory. The project focuses on Lola, the 16-year old daughter of Hollywood royalty who fakes her own kidnapping to cover her running away from home, only to get kidnapped for random money.
Morgan Freeman has signed on for Cold Warriors from Millennium Entertainment, with Raja Gosnell set to direct the spy action/comedy. Morgan will play a retired CIA agent and current stepfather who enlists the help of his video gram programmer stepson to finish a Cold War era mission.
Scott Eastwood has been cast as the brother of the character Ben Affleck will play in the upcoming prohibition-era crime drama Live By Night, based on Dennis Lehane's novel. Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent police captain, who enters a world of organized crime that takes him from Boston to Florida and Havana, Cuba. Also in the cast are Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Max Casella and Chris Cooper.
Danish actor Pilou Asbæk has landed the male lead in Rupert Sanders' adaptation of the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell, teaming up with female lead, Scarlett Johansson. The story follows the exploits of a member of a covert ops unit of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission, which specializes in fighting technology-related crime.
To celebrate Sarah Weinman's new anthology, Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 1950s, New York City’s Film Forum will host a series of films in December based on the works of pioneering mid-century women crime writers. Included in the series are Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes and Don’t Bother to Knock, adapted from Charlotte Armstrong’s Mischief.
Fox has put in development Crooked, described as a family soap with a procedural spine that explores the bonds – and corruption – of police brotherhood in New Orleans. The show, said to be inspired by true events, centers on a longtime corrupt detective who is busted, his cases overturned and a thousand of the city’s worst criminals are released back onto the streets, one case at a time.
Jada Pinkett Smith will star and executive produce the ABC thriller pilot Murder Town. She'll play Wilmington, Delaware’s, first African American District Attorney, who finds herself confronted by old loyalties and loves, a shocking revelation about her murdered husband, and a polarizing, racially charged case that threatens to burn her and her city to the ground.
Canada's CTV announced it has picked up a TV series based on the 2000 John Cardinal mystery book by author Giles Blunt, Forty Words for Sorrow. The project, which tells the story of the gruesome murder of a 13-year-old girl found in an abandoned mine shaft, snagged Orphan Black and Saving Hope's Aubrey Nealon as writer and showrunner and will air in late 2016 or early 2017.
Close on the heels of NBC announcing it was adding an extra episode to the first-season order for the crime drama Blindspot, comes word that the network is renewing the freshman series for a second season. The show centers on a beautiful woman (Jaimie Alexander) with no memories of her past who is found naked in Times Square with her body fully covered in intricate tattoos who must partner with the FBI to discover the truth about her identity and get to the bottom of a conspiracy.
NBC announced it is renewing both Chicago Fire and Chicago PD for the 2016-2017 season.
ABC’s Wicked City wasn't so lucky, however, becoming the first new series this fall to be yanked off the schedule. The show centered around a killing spree set against the backdrop of the sex, politics and popular culture of 1980s Los Angeles
AMC announced a return date for Better Call Saul, returning for Season 2 on Monday, Feb. 15.
Meanwhile, ABC announced its midseason schedule return dates.
Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) is joining the cast of ABC’s Quantico, beginning with the show’s 10th episode. She'll play Hannah Wyland, a Quantico graduate whose ambition, combined with her looks and her confidence, has rocketed her past her competition.
Fox is revamping its mid-season beginning in January to accommodate American Idol, which returns for its final season, relocating Sleepy Hollow to Fridays, while Bones is being put on the bench, with a return date and slot TBD. The new drama Lucifer will be paired with The X-Files revival on Mondays.
TNT has renewed Murder In The First for a third season to air in 2016. The crime drama, created by Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal, averaged an OK 2 million viewers in its second season, which wrapped its run on August 25. Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson star.
Netflix announced an original true-crime, 10-part docuseries, Making a Murderer, which is being billed as "the most compelling American crime story you've never heard of." Set to premiere in December, the show tells the story of Steven Avery, wrongly convicted of assault and subsequently awarded millions of dollars based on the way his case was handled. But at the same time his assault case was prompting reforms to the criminal justice system, he became the prime suspect in a horrific second crime.
HarperCollins and the team at Killer Reads have shared a couple of videos featuring crime authors Tim Rob Smith and Mark Billingham being interviewed on their work by fellow crime writer Simon Toyne.
Debbi Mack's Crime Cafe podcast featured a Q&A with guest blogger Austin Camacho, or rather, his literary creation Hannibal Jones, a DC detective.
Crime Fiction FM welcomed debut author Sue Coletta to discuss her new book, the chilling psychological thriller, Marred.
The 39 Steps, a "mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a dash of Monty Python," is being staged by the San Jose Stage Company from November 25 to December 20.
TELL and Agatha Christie Productions (ACP) have launched a new storytelling app based on Christie's short story collection The Mysterious Mr Quin, starring Game of Thrones actor Gethin Anthony in the lead role. The app allows viewers not only to experience the drama but to share and comment on their favorite content. On reaching the mystery's conclusion, the audience is then able to revisit content, to uncover further details of the plot and continue piecing the puzzle together.
J.J. Abrams' production company Bad Robot has partnered with Infinity Blade developer Chair Entertainment for a video game set in the shadowy world of espionage. Spyjinx is described as "a mix of action-strategy, dynamic world-building and RPG character development," and it's coming to PC and mobile devices in 2016.