Barbara Burnett Smith did voiceover work in radio and television commercials for two decades and also owned a company that provided communication and leadership classes. But as the daughter-in-law of mystery writer, Thomas B. Dewey, Barbara was bitten by the writing bug herself and joined a writers group that included feedback from authors Susan Rogers Cooper and Jeff Abbott. The result was Writers of the Purple Sage, nominated in 1994 for an Agatha Award for best first mystery novel.
That first novel introduced a series featuring Jolie Wyatt, a radio station reporter and aspiring writer who went on to be the protagonist in four more books, including Mistletoe from Purple Sage in 1997. Mistletoe opens with Jolie celebrating the publication of her first book as she and her husband travel to Austin for the Christmas holidays. She's also promised to attend an anniversary party for her former employer, Rose Sterling Advertising Agency, which she's dreading because her ex-lover also happens to be the owner's son-in-law. But when an employee turns up dead in the women's bathroom during the party, Jolie finds that instead of unwrapping presents, she becomes wrapped up in the case.
Barbara also wrote a standalone with radio disc-jockey Cassie Ferries and began another cozy mystery series in 2005 featuring beader Kitzi Camden. But the second book in that series had to be completed by Barbara's friend Karen MacInerney when tragedy struck Barbara down at the far-too-young age of 57 while on an act of mercy. She and her husband were driving to San Antonio to rescue an Airedale, and on the way home, they stopped at the Remember the Alibi mystery bookstore. When the dog jumped out of the car and ran into traffic on that dark and rainy night, Barbara was fatally injured when struck by a car.
Publishers Weekly said of Barbara's first novel that the characters were well rounded and "Purple Sage promising as a rich setting for future tales from this talented newcomer." The character of Jolie Wyatt has also been described as fiercely independent, highly sympathetic narrator who handles herself with characteristic wit and aplomb, a character assessment that makes an appropriate homage for Burnett Smith, too.
In celebration of Thanksgiving, Janet Rudolph posted holiday-themed mysteries from A to Z (author-wise) on her Mystery Fanfare blog. How can you go wrong with such titles as The Diva Runs Out of Thyme and One Foot in the Gravy.
As usual, the authors over at Mystery Lovers Kitchen can be counted on for some great food suggestions to go along with their terrific books, from Sheila Connolly's Thanksgiving Cranberry Pound Cake to Krista Davis' Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (you can tell I have a sweet tooth). If you want something more "potent" that might please the more hardboiled tastes, try one of these "Boozy Thanksgiving Recipes."
Want more dessert recipes? I participated in the book Bake, Love Write: 105 Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing, edited by Lois Winson. Lots of yummy Thanksgiving meal-toppers in there.
Mashable offers up a Spotify Thanksgiving playlist, based on your turkey's cook time, and also 28 songs for your holiday travel home. (If you want some extra suggestions, check out the playlist for Scott Drayco from Played to Death.)
Open Road Media has a quiz for you: "Which Thanksgiving Dish Are You?" (Turns out, I'm a sweet potato casserole: A little sweet, a little savory.)
Kings River Life magazine featured a Thanksgiving-themed short story, "Busted!" by Gail Farrelly.
Just in time for your holiday shopping, iindependent bookstores across the U.S. will celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 29, hosting author and illustrator appearances and other fun events. For a participating store near you, check out the IndieBound website.
In more serious news, a number of film and TV stars are getting behind St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's annual “Thanks and Giving” campaign in an effort to encourage holiday shoppers to donate to St. Jude's treatment and research programs in the fight against pediatric cancer and other catastrophic children's diseases. You can help via your contribution to St. Jude's or by purchasing something from their gift shop.
In the Q&A roundup this week, Keith Nixon takes Paul D. Brazill's "Short, Sharp Interview" test about his new book Russian Roulette; The Sons of Spade blog welcomes Tom Hilpert to discuss his novel Superior Justice featuring hard-boiled pastor, Jonah Borde; and author Russ Hall stopped by Omnimystery News to talk about his suspense thriller To Hell and Gone in Texas.
Here's a wrap-up of the latest news about crime dramas and podcasts:
Jason Reitman and Nick Hornby are developing the bank heist film I Would Only Rob Banks for My Family for Fox Searchlight, which is based on a true-life story (and Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth) about a seemingly ordinary Texas family who pulled off two bold heists before they were caught attempting a third.
Proving that heist films are big right now, director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) is taking on a big-screen adaptation of the 1983 British TV series Widows, originally penned by Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect). The plot deals with female empowerment in the form of widows of armed bank robbers killed during a heist who use a cache of books detailing the men’s past robberies to pull off their own raid.
Alexander Ludwig (Hunger Games) is joining Anthony Hopkins, Julia Stiles, and Ray Liotta in the Pacific Northwest thriller Go With Me, directed by Daniel Alfredson (The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest). The story follows a young woman, newly returned to her hometown, who becomes the subject of harassment by a local crimelord and turns to an ex-logger (Hopkins) and his laconic young sidekick (Ludwig) for help.
Ahna O’Reilly (The Help) and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) are set to star in the psychological thriller Sleepwalker, which is about a grad student who goes to a campus sleep clinic to treat her insomnia and nightmares, but instead starts experiencing unsettling changes in her waking reality every time she wakes up. With the help of a doctor, she attempts to unravel the tangled knot of her dreams, reality, and shockingly tragic past.
Austin Stowell is joining Steven Spielberg's untitled Cold War thriller based on the true story of an American lawyer (played by Tom Hanks) who agrees to help the CIA rescue Francis Gary Powers, a pilot being detained in the Soviet Union (Stowell).
Universal has picked up the rights to "The Hunt for El Chapo," a New Yorker article about the capture of notorious drug cartel leader Joaquin Guzman, to be directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor and The Kingdom).
Haley Bennett has joined Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel in the untitled psychological thriller that adapts the Patricia Highsmith novel The Blunderer. Set in early 1960s New York, the story follows Walter Stackhouse (Wilson), a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara (Biel) who seemingly perfect life uuntil Walter's fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective while at the same time lusting after another woman.
Tony-nominated actress Sanaa Lathan has signed on to play FBI agent Natalie Austin in the magician caper sequel Now You See Me 2, joining the film’s original cast members Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, as well as newcomers Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou and Daniel Radcliffe.
A new trailer was released for the psychological thriller The Captive (formerly Queen Of The Night) from Oscar-nominated Atom Egoyan. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos as a couple plagued by the unsolved disappearance of their young daughter Cassandra until years later, mementos of Cassandra’s start mysteriously appearing and two detectives (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman) discover recent images of the girl online.
A trailer was released for American Heist, (did I mention heist films were big?) starring Adrien Brody and Hayden Christensen as brothers from the wrong side of the tracks - Brody playing the brother who can't stay out of trouble, and Christensen playing the one trying to go clean who gets sucked in for one last ride.
Director Paul Anderson released a trailer he cut himself for the upcoming Inherent Vice, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel.
It's official: Netflix will broadcast Longmire's fourth season for a total of ten episodes.
FX is developing From Hell, a drama series based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, later adapted into the 2001 20th Century Fox movie starring Johnny Depp and Robbie Coltrane. The story follows Jack the Ripper, detailing the events leading up to the Whitechapel killings and the cover-up that followed.
The popular and acclaimed BBC crime drama Luther is getting a U.S. remake from Fox, to be written/executive produced by the original series’ creator Neil Cross, with the British series’ star, Idris Elba, on board as executive producer.
Meanwhile, the BBC announced it's going to broadcast a two-hour Luther miniseries that brings Idris Elba's character back temporarily to the other side of the Pond.
In other BBC programming news, the network is commissioning several new shows, including a five-part 1940s thriller SS-GB from Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade based on the novel by Len Deighton; the police drama Cuffs, an eight-part series that portrays the everyday rollercoaster of being a police officer in the UK; The Secret Agent, a three-part adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel set in 1886 London where a shopkeeper works as a secret agent for the Russian government; and Undercover, a six-part series written by Peter Moffat about a woman who's set to become the first black Director of Public Prosecutions, just as she discovers that her husband and the father of her children has been lying to her for years.
AMC is scheduling a two-part Better Call Saul premiere on consecutive nights, Sunday, February 8th and 9th. The Breaking Bad prequel will then continue to air on Mondays for the remaining eight episodes in its first season.
FX has ordered a new drama series, Taboo, from producer Ridley Scott. The project stars Tom Hardy as an adventurer who returns from Africa with 14 "ill-gotten diamonds" and seeks revenge for his father's death by refusing to sell his family's business to the East India Company and instead building his own trading empire.
The second season of True Detective keeps adding to its cast, including recent hire Riley Smith (True Blood) who will play a Sheriff's deputy.
Hardboiled author James Ellroy was featured on the Guardian Books podcast, talking about profanity, political correctness and the horrors of real-life crime.
Celestine Sibley (1914–1999) worked as a journalist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for more than 50 years, covering the James Earl Ray trial, among her many assignments. She penned more than 10,000 columns, as well as many popular essays on southern culture.
She had a bit of a detour in the early 1950s, working as a Hollywood correspondent and interviewing celebrities like Clark Gable, Walt Disney, and Jane Russell. It was at this point she turned her hand to writing pulp stories, moonlighting as a True Confession and True Detective reporter and selling stories with faux-shocking headlines like "I Wanted to Die" and "I Was a Junkie."
Perhaps motivated by her pulp-experiences, she decided to switch to writing books. Those efforts resulted in the publication of The Malignant Heart (1958), the first book in her mystery series featuring newly-widowed Atlanta newspaper reporter-columnist Kate Mulcay. However, she didn't write her second Kate Mulcay novel, Ah Sweet Mystery, until 1991, some 33 years later, then followed up with four more before her death.
Bill Kovach, a former editor of The Journal-Constitution, referred to her newspaper writing as "a country-girl-come-to-the-city kind of column" and that Sibley "was the last voice of the white-glove, tea-and-apple-blossom set that had not a sharp edge on it.'' I think that aptly sums up the style of writing in Ah Sweet Mystery.
The novel begins with Mulcay living by herself in a rural log cabin with some reminiscing on life with her husband Benjy, a member of the Atlanta police force who died from cancer. One of the friends Mulcay has made in the area is the elderly Miss Willie, devoted stepmother to the adult Garney Wilcox. Wilcox is a land developer hated by just about everyone who is pushing his stepmother into a nursing home, egged on by his equally-unpleasant wife Voncile.
When Garney is found poisoned, electrocuted and bludgeoned, Miss Willie confesses to the murder, but Mulcay doesn't buy it for a minute. With the help of Atlanta PD Sergeant Mellie Alvarez and some Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald songs, the feisty Mulcay sets out to exonerate Miss Willie and finds that the traditional southern culture in Fulton County hides dark secrets of incest, rape and drug-running.
If you're looking for more sleuthing and procedural elements, this novel isn't for you. It's more of a social commentary with detailed painting of the place and the characters who populate it. The mystery takes a back seat, the story ends somewhat abruptly, and the dialect gets laid on perhaps a bit thick at times. However, if you can get past all of that, you will enjoy Sibley's leisurely, folksy style.
Based in Vermont, author Tim Weed teaches at GrubStreet in Boston and in the MFA Creative & Professional Writing program at Western Connecticut State University. He is the winner of a Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award and a Solas Best Travel Writing Award and also has published many short stories and essays. In addition to his writing work he has more than two decades’ experience developing and directing educational travel programs around the world and is currently a featured expert for National Geographic Expeditions on traveling programs to Cuba, Spain, and Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego.
Tim Weed’s first novel, Will Poole’s Island is set in New England, 1643. A meeting in the forest between a rebellious young Englishman and a visionary Wampanoag leads to a dangerous collision of societies, an epic sea journey, and the making of an unforgettable friendship. Will Poole's Island is a tale of adventure, wonder, and mystery in which a young man discovers that he is destined for more than his narrow upbringing led him to expect.
Tim Weed stops by In Reference to Murder today to talk about how his interest in family history led him to research that inspired the events of this novel:
Several years ago I got interested in family history. Tracing the Weeds back through the decades and the centuries, I found that the first Weed, Jonas, had come to America in 1630, on the ship Arbella, with Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Another ancestor was a young widower named Thomas Trowbridge, who crossed the Atlantic with three young sons and a household servant in 1637 to become one of the founders of New Haven, Connecticut. In 1645, Thomas Trowbridge sailed back to England to help Oliver Cromwell fight against king Charles in the English Civil War. He was killed in battle, leaving the three young Trowbridge orphans in the trust of their father’s servant, Henry Gibbons. Gibbons turned out to be corrupt, and basically swindled the boys out of their fortune.
Left on their own to survive in the wilds of America, the boys became merchant sea captains. One, William Trowbridge, was captured by the French and later became the subject of a sermon by the famous Puritan cleric Cotton Mather. Anyway, all of this was fascinating to me, and those who have read the book may recognize echoes of these ancestral histories in the story of my protagonist, Will Poole, his brother Zeke, and their legal guardian, the servant James Overlock.
I also have Native American ancestors – my great grandmother was half Cherokee – and I was fascinated by that heritage. So I wanted to find out more about the New England Indians too. I started reading a lot of primary resources, mostly accounts written by early English travelers and colonists. These books were very interesting, but they were of course written purely from the English perspective. Most of the observations of Indians by these early English described them as tall, handsome, healthy, with exceptionally good teeth. And then there was the fact that English captives, especially young ones, were often reluctant to return to the settlements after they’d been ransomed or rescued – because the freedom and ease they found in Indian society compared favorably to the strictness and repression of Puritan society. I found this most provocative, and it gave me an important insight into the character of my protagonist, Will Poole.
In 1614, six years before Plymouth Rock, an English sea captain named Thomas Hunt kidnapped twenty-seven Algonkian-speaking Indians from different spots along the New England coast and sold them as slaves to the Spanish. Among this group was a Patuxet Wampanoag who called himself Tisquantum, a name that was later shortened to “Squanto.” Tisquantum managed to escape slavery in Spain and made his way to England, where he was taken up by a group of investors interested in colonizing the New World. Tisquantum spent five years in England and found his way home in 1619, only to discover that his entire band had perished in a devastating plague. There is a character in my book, Squamiset, who has a very similar story.
Anyway, in the course of all this research I was beginning to develop a mental picture of New England in the 17th century. The thing was, the picture wasn’t complete. It wasn’t vivid or alive in my mind. And so in a sense the novel came to me because I passionately wanted to know more about the time and place, and I was only getting a dry and limited vision from my research.
And when it came time to transition from the research phase to the novel-writing phase, I began to get a feeling of accumulating energy, as if the story were telling itself. It was as if my early American characters had an important message they wanted to communicate - a new way of thinking, perhaps, or a reminder of a very old way of thinking. Novels are obviously limited in what they can achieve, of course, and in the end this is just a story. It’s a story about the friendship between a young man and an old man, their adventures and struggles and the landscapes they travel through, and the people and beings they interact with. I hope you enjoy it!
Bouchercon 2014 wrapped up this past weekend, which also means we now know this year's winners for the Anthony Awards, the Barry Awards, the Macavity Awards, and the Shamus Awards. William Kent Krueger scored close to a sweep by winning the Best Novel Anthony, Best Novel Barry, and Macavity Best Novel nods for Ordinary Grace, while the Shamus for Best Hardcover PI Novel went to Brad Parks for The Good Cop. (For all the winners, check out the Shots Ezine blog.) For all the finalists, check out these websites for the Anthonys, the Barrys, the Macavitys, and the Shamus Awards (via Crimespree).
RT Book Reviews also announced the finalists for their annual awards in various categories, including a general Mystery, Suspense, Thriller category and Romantic Suspense.
Kirkus Reviews named their "Best of 2014" fiction selections, including several mysteries and thrillers.
Martin Edwards notes on his blog that the British Library's Crime Classics series are publishing two anthologies of Golden Age fiction edited and introduced by Edwards that he hopes will "introduce a new generation of readers to some of the marvellous short stories published between the wars." The two books are Resorting to Murder, which focuses on holiday mysteries, and Capital Crimes, a collection of stories set in and around London, with each volume including include one or two rare stories. Edwards has also been named Series Consultant for the Crime Classics initiative, which has several more interesting titles in the publishing pipeline.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal is devoted to bibliomysteries, mystery stories set in the world of books (publishing, bookselling, libraries, academia, etc.).
India's first Crime Fiction Festival debuts January 17-18, 2015, featuring crime and thriller writers from across the world, as well as noted scriptwriters and directors, who will "dissect the genre in visual medium and performing arts."
Law enforcement officer and author B.J. Bourg's blog Righting Crime Fiction aims to help authors get the details in their fiction just right. His latest offering is about spent casings and crime scenes.
Author Val McDermid takes a look at the brillliant unconventional crime novels of Josephine Tey, the "enigmatic writer whose dark, unsettling stories dragged the crime novel into the modern age."
An essay in The New York Times claims that modern technology has led to "The Death of the Private Eye," although the P.I. team Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman have a different take on the subject.
Paul Dickson selects his top 10 favorite "authorisms" – neologisms coined by authors which have entered the wider language, from Shakespeare to Joseph Heller.
The Guardian profiled the tiny books in the famous Queen Mary's Doll House collection, including the 503-word Sherlock Holmes story "How Watson Learned The Trick" that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created for the Doll house. The newspaper is giving away five tiny replicas of the book to lucky winners who enter by November 24 November.
This week's crime poem at the 5-2 is "Escape From Dallas" by William G. Rector.
The Q&A roundup this week includes an interview over at The Mystery People blog with Paul Oliver, founder of Syndicate Books, a new independent publisher dedicated to bringing back the works of great and influential crime authors back in print; Mark S. Bacon stops by Omnimystery News to talk about his new mystery Death in Nostalgia City; and Preston Lang takes Paul D. Brazill's "Short, Sharp Interview" challenge.
Today's guest post is from British author JM Shorney, author of Progeny of a Killer.
Undercover agent and assassin, Aidan McRaney, is sent to infiltrate the lair of fellow Irishman, Daniel Corrigan, by his boss, wheelchair-bound Sir George Treveleyan. Only Corrigan and Treveleyan know of McRaney’s secret past. Aidan has no idea of his mother’s affair with wanted I.R.A man, Connor McMartland, who was also Corrigan’s father. This shocking news triggers a chain of unprecedented events that sends Aidan into the world of white slave trafficking and puts Aidan's own son in harm's way.
Shorney stops by In Reference to Murder today to share her inspiration for her books and some insights into her research:
As three of my novels Stalking Aidan, The Devil in Soho and Staying Out are related to gangsters, what better way of recounting my experiences in the area of research, than to actually revisit the early years when I once dated a man actively involved in gangland. This was before marriage and children, but it was an experience I have drawn upon for my novels.
As I was about to become engaged to him, he had gone from being penniless and unemployed, to throwing his money around. It turned out that he, and other members of his hoodlum fraternity, had held up and robbed a post office in Chesterfield. It was this incident that perhaps led me to immerse myself in the gangster/crime genre. Watching countless movies and reading non-fiction crime books has also acquainted me with this twilight world of nightclubs, drugs and prostitution.
Of course, visiting the places has added more feeling and sensation to my writing. Nothing is more powerful and atmospheric than to visit the places you write about. I have to admit I've worn out much shoe leather walking the streets of London, particularly the East End and South London, where my stories are set.
For Progeny of a Killer I had researched Irish history extensively for many years, and gone through many Kleenex tissues due to being upset by this bloody history. I have been able to construct this story of revenge and desperate sorrow, experienced by one man, Danny Corrigan, for what he sees as acts of insurgency against the Irish nation.
In Dublin, prior to writing the novel, I visited Kilmainham gaol. I saw that small, lonely black cross over the mound of earth and knew I had to write about it. Particularly the death of James Connolly, the last of the rebel leaders of the1916 Easter Uprising. Connolly was propped up by a chair and shot, which is referred to by Danny Corrigan in Progeny. Corrigan's hatred of the British is such, that he has a plan is to bring them down, not with bombings or assassinations, but paedophilia and white slave trafficking. In the murder and torture of children lies the machinations of this man. Visiting Kilmainham and seeing the small barred cells, gave me the first hand experience no Wikipedia entry or Google search could ever offer.
To get to real grips with your story, write what you know, what you feel and what you see.
For more information about Storney and Progeny, check out her AuthorAmp website.