Hubert "Hugh" Holton grew up in Woodlawn, outside of Chicago, the only son of a police officer. In high school, he started reading detective novels from the school library—Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming, Arthur Conan Doyle. He later said, "One of the things that I always noticed about the books was that police types were always portrayed as very stupid individuals. My father is now, as he was then, one of the smartest people I ever met. I was saying, 'How in the world are they doing this? Why are they making these officers look so stupid?'"
In July 1964, Holton himself joined the police department's cadet program, then spent a three-year tour of duty (including a seven-month stint in Vietnam) until returning to Chicago to sign up with the police academy in 1969. He was one of the first black officers to work in Wrigleyville, but after a district commander told him, "I don't need any colored tactical officers in my district," he transferred to Wentworth. Six months later, he'd moved up to plainclothes, and eventually was promoted up to commander of the Grand Crossing District.
But those early crime fiction novels continued to haunt him, and he enrolled in writing programs at Columbia College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 1986, he attended a conference at Northwestern sponsored by the midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and two years later took a course taught by mystery author Barbara D'Amato. Thanks to her encouragement, he subsequently published his first novel, Violent Crimes, featuring Larry Cole, a young black police officer at the start of his career, aided by an older and wiser Italian-American partner named Blackie Silvestri. Holton went on to write ten successful novels in the Cole series, but sadly, Holton died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 54.
The second installment in the thriller series featuring Chicago Police Commander Larry Cole is Windy City. While investigating the death of a fellow officer, Cole stumbles across a pattern of killings that leads him to discover that the alleged fun-loving, super rich couple Neil and Margo DeWitt have a gruesome hobby: they murder women and children using methods from Chicago-area mystery novels. Cole enlists a group of mystery writers to help him figure out where the homicidal couple will strike next. But as the body count rises, the threat hits closer to home: not only are the DeWitts responsible for killing Cole's best buddy, Margo DeWitt is setting her sights on Cole's young son as her ultimate target.
Kirkus Reviews noted, "It's the rare reader who'll put this one down as it hurtles—one chilling event after the next—to its over-the-top finale...a bravura performance."
The Mystery Critics Award (Prix Mystère de la critique), one of France’s most prestigious crime fiction honors, hands out two awards each year, one for best French Fiction, the other going to an international author. This year's winners are Nicolas Mathieu for Aux animaux la guerre and Shannon Burke, for 911.
A collection of letters addressed to crime novelist Agatha Christie have been published for the first time. Dating back to the 1950s and '60s, they not only praise Christie for her writing, they also thank her for helping them through hard times. They include a letter from author PG Wodehouse, as well as a note from a Polish woman in London, who told how one of Christie's novels helped her survive a war-time labor camp in Germany. This is part of the celebrations marking the 125th anniversary of the author's birth, which will also include new BBC novel adaptations later this year.
British historian Walter Elliot may have unearthed the first unseen Sherlock Holmes story in more than 80 years, which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to help save a town bridge. The 1,300-word story is titled "Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar" and is in a collection of short stories written for a local bazaar. There is some controversy over whether the story was actually penned by Doyle, according to The Mirror.
Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, HarperCollins has signed two Sherlock Holmes continuation novels by Hollywood screenwriter Bonnie MacBird. Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure will be published in September, and the sequel to follow is titled Unquiet Spirits. These are separate from the two Sherlock Holmes novels by Anthony Horowitz, both of which had the backing of the Conan Doyle estate.
Book Expo America unveiled the roster for its 2015 Adult Author Breakfast on Thursday, May 28, including bestseller Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher thriller series.
The new double issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine welcomes back Doug Allyn’s Detective Dylan LaCrosse working a cold case; S.J. Rozan’s private detectives Lydia Chin and Bill Smith solve a problem with the help of Lydia’s mother; Julius Katz and Archie are back with a job that proves terrifying and life-changing; plus there are first-rate stories from Mason Cross, Loren D. Estleman, Lucy Ribchester, Meg Opperman, Marilyn Todd, Paul Halter, David H. Hendrickson, and Williams Burton McCormick.
Meanwhile, the new Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine edition features Martin Limón's new series character, Il Yong, an American soldier turned freelance security specialist who operates in the highly contested cultural zone where North Korea and China operate; two Cold War-era stories by Terrie Farley Moran and John C. Boland; and the return of some favorite characters including Madame Selina and her young assistant Nip in Janice Law’s “The Ghostly Fireman,” Eureka Kilburn as a teen in Jay Carey’s “We Are All Accomplices,” and big-hearted fixers Akin and Jones in Dan Warthman’s “Mr. Smartphone.”
The latest issue of the online 'zine Yellow Mama is out, with new crime fiction stories and poetry.
The new crime poem at the 5-2 is "Snow over Kabul: The Bagram Airbase Bombing" by Aja Beech.
Sixty percent of folks in Britain poll said their dream job would be "author." According to the poll-sponsor, YouGov, "Instead of actors and musicians, it seems that an aura of prestige still surrounds the quiet, intellectual life enjoyed by authors, librarians and academics." Somehow, though, I imagine they had more of the career and lifestyle of a JK Rowling or James Patterson in mind, since most authors barely eke out a living or are only able to write part time.
The Q&A roundup includes Torquil MacLeod talking about his Scandinavian-based Malmö Mysteries series with Paul D. Brazill at Out of the Gutter; Crime Fiction Lover welcomed James Craig, author of the popular London-based crime thrillers featuring Inspector John Carlyle; Laura Lippman stopped by the Do Some Damage blog to discuss her latest work, Hush Hush; and Craig Sisterson's Crime Watch blog featured a "9mm: interview" with Jeffery Siger, talking about his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series set in Greece.
Last year, the Association of American Publishers and Penguin Random House partnered to sponsor the second industry-wide #TwitterFiction Festival. What exactly is a Twitter Fiction Festival, you may ask? Pretty much like it sounds, as it turns out. Over the course of five days for twenty-four hours a day, authors like Megan Abbott, Alexander McCall Smith, Brad Meltzer, and Ben H. Winters all created experimental fiction as Tweets (140-character snippets).
The event was so successful, it's back again this year from May 11-15, where authors will share their text, photos, and/or videos during a scheduled daily time slot to live-stream their work. Invited participants this year include Margaret Atwood, Matthew Dunn, Lemony Snicket, and Chuck Wendig. But anyone can join in, either by entering the competition for aspiring writers (an open call for submissions begins March 2), or joining in at any time and telling your own stories using the #TwitterFiction hashtag.
If you'd like to see the kinds of offerings that might be in store for you this year, check out some of last year's creative works in the mystery category archived via this link. Maybe I'll Tweet you there.
The 87th Academy Awards were handed out last night. Although most of the winners were as expected (at least, according to the odds-setters), there were also a few surprises to be had. For the complete list of winners and nominees in all the categories, head on over to the official Oscars page.
Fox Searchlight Pictures has acquired U.S. rights to Luca Guadagnino’s thriller A Bigger Splash, starring Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts. The story focuses on the lives of a high profile couple (Schoenaerts and Swinton) vacationing on the remote Italian island of Pantelleria, and the jealousy, passion and danger that develop with the arrival an old friend and his daughter (Fiennes and Johnson).
Another reboot is on the way, as the Warner Bros. subsidiary New Line Cinemas has picked up the rights to the Shaft franchise. Although there is no creative team attached to the project yet, producer John Davis (I, Robot, Norbit, and Predators) is on board during the early phases.
Paramount Pictures won a bidding war for the rights to Sascha Penn’s spec feature film Bounty, with Will Smith as the star. The story is set in Boston and centers on a wrongly-convicted murderer (Smith) who busts out of prison to prove his innocence even after the widow of the man he supposedly killed puts a $10 million bounty on him, dead or alive.
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have put together the team of screenwriter Kristin Gore, director Jay Roach, and actress Scarlett Johansson for an adaptation of the Jon Ronson's psychological thriller, The Psychopath Test. The project centers on how the medical community tries to diagnose and classify the elusive group known as remorseless, deadly psychopaths.
Author Dennis Tafoya announced an agreement with Wolfgang Petersen and Radiant Productions to develop his novel Poor Boy’s Game as a feature film.
Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's Inferno has cast Omar Sy (X-Men: Days Of Future Past) as the leader of the European Center For Disease Control's paramilitary SRS unit. The heart of the story centers on a madman trying to release an old school plague upon Italy.
Apparently, Mission Impossible 5 is having some major difficulties, reportedly due to a less-than-acceptable ending that has to be rewritten. As it stands now, the release date of July 31, 2015, is still on the books.
Rowan Atkinson (Bean; Johnny English) will star as iconic French detective Jules Maigret in two stand-alone feature-length dramas for ITV, Maigret Sets A Trap and Maigret’s Dead Man, according to Deadline. Stewart Harcourt (Love & Marriage, Treasure Island, Marple) is writing the scripts for the projects.
Fox has given a formal pilot order for Lucifer, based on the DC Comics character, and from the team of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, Aggressive Mediocrity and Warner Bros. The story focuses on Lucifer, the Lord of Hell, as he resigns his throne and abandons his kingdom for the “shimmering insanity” of L.A., where he helps the LAPD punish criminals.
Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss is set to star in Madoff, a multi-episode ABC drama centered around the rise and fall of the now-jailed financier Bernie Madoff.
Jaimie Alexander (Thor) will play the female lead in the NBC pilot Blindspot. The story centers on a woman found in the middle of Times Square with amnesia and mysterious tattoos, drawing in the FBI who follow the road map on her body to reveal a larger conspiracy.
Elizabeth Mitchell (Revolution, Lost) and Goran Visnjic (ER) are set to star in the third season of the Europe-set crime drama Crossing Lines, joining Donald Sutherland as series leads. The series revolves around a squad of European law enforcement officers who battle the explosion of international crime that accompanied the opening of borders by the European Union. In the U.S., Season 1 of Crossing Lines aired on NBC; Season 2 was carried by Netflix.
Orange is the New Black is writing out the character of Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs. He joins other cast members who have left the storylines and hence the show, including Pablo “Pornstache” Schreiber and Lorraine Toussaint. However, fans will be able to enjoy the talents of new cast additions Blair Brown and Mary Steenburgen.
The Season 3 premiere of BBC America’s flagship series Orphan Black will air simultaneously on all AMC networks – AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV and WE tv – on Saturday, April 18.
Hulu has acquired the exclusive subscription video on demand rights to all previous seasons of CBS’s crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. All episodes will be available for streaming on Hulu with a Plus subscription beginning early April.
Terry Shames, author of the Samuel Craddock series stopped by the Authors on the Air program to discuss her books.
Novelist William Boyd investigates the case of Helen MacInnes, author of mid-20th-century espionage fiction, for a BBC radio documentary you can listen to online for the next three weeks. (Hat tip to the Rap Sheet.)
Benedict Cumberbatch is scheduled to take on the role of Hamlet this summer at London’s Barbican Centre, but it's already sold out. So, a deal was struck with National Theatre Live to telecast the show to venues around the world beginning on October 15 (dates will vary and encore screenings will follow; details will be posted at www.ntlive.com). Tickets will go on sale on March 16.
The Off-Broadway return of Patrick Barlow's Tony Award-nominated comedy 39 Steps will reunite the musical's entire original creative team. The show is a comedic spoof of the classic 1935 film, with four actors portraying more than 150 characters while racing to solve the mystery of The 39 Steps. Performances April 1, prior to an official opening April 13, at the Union Square Theatre.
House of Cards star Nathan Darrow is taking the lead role in NYC's Fourth Street Theatre noirish production of Kill Me Like You Mean It. Darrow plays a private investigator who discovers that his cases are appearing on the pages of a popular pulp serial, but the crimes are being penned before they happen in real life. The mystery grows darker still when Farrell reads his own death in the prophetic pages.
Gladys Maude Winifred Mitchell (1901–1983) taught English, Spanish, history and games in various schools in and around London and was a lifelong student herself, interested in poetry, archaeology, medieval architecture, Freud, and witchcraft (thanks to the influence of her friend, author Helen Simpson), and she was also a member of the British Olympic Association. She penned sixty-six detective novels under her own name, published between 1929 and a posthumous book in 1984, all featuring Mrs. Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley. She also wrote another series of detective stories under the pseudonym Malcolm Torrie (with architect Timothy Herring), as well as historical and children's books.
One of the earliest members of the British Detection Club, along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, Mitchell is often compared to the other two Grande Dames and included on lists of the brightest lights of the Golden Age of detective fiction. But with 76 books to her credit, critics like to point out that quantity didn't always mean quality in her novels, something the author addressed in an interview published in the Armchair Detective in 1976: "I know I have written some bad books, but I thought they were all right when I wrote them. I can't bear to look at some of them now...The books I dislike most are Printer's Error and Brazen Tongue—a horrible book." That may be, but her beloved protagonist Mrs. Bradley still stands as one the most unusual and memorable in detective fiction.
The thrice-married Mrs. Bradley is a medical practitioner, psychiatrist, criminologist and consultant to the Home Office. She herself is an author, including A Small Handbook of Psychoanalysis and articles in psychological journals, specializing in the psychology of crime. In the nonfiction book Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, Michele Slung wrote that Mrs. Bradley's "detecting methods combine hoco-pocus and Freud, seasoned with sarcasm and the patience of a predator toying with its intended victim." Mrs. Bradley is variously described by other characters in the books as being "dry without being shrivelled, and bird-like without being pretty," "a hag-like pterodactyl," and "Mrs. Crocodile." She is an accomplished player at bridge, pool, snooker, darts and throwing knives, and a dead shot with an airgun.
Although Mitchell always denied she included much blood and violence in her stories, there's plenty of poisoning to be found (such as deadly nightshade grafted onto to a tomato plant) with horrific side effects, lots of throat-cutting, and one victim was even minced into sausages and hung from hooks. The main premise of 1945's Rising of the Moon, one of Mitchell's personal favorite books, involves a a Ripper-like killer wreaking havoc on the streets of the small village Brentford by mutilating young women and slitting their throats when the moon is full.
Reminiscent of the precocious narrator of Alan Bradley's Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie over sixty years before that book's publication, Rising of the Moon is told through the eyes of 13-year-old Simon Innes, who teams up with his 11-year-old brother Keith, becoming junior Hardy Boys trying to solve the bloody crimes. Their task becomes even more urgent when they spy the potential murder weapon at a local junk shop run by their friend—an eccentric old lady who has a "rag and bone man" as a lodger—then realize the knife may belong to their older brother/guardian and worry he'll be accused of murder.
In that same Armchair Detective interview referenced above, Mitchell remarked Rising of the Moon recalled much of her own Brentford childhood, she being Simon in that story and her "adorable brother Reginald" the model for Keith. That may be one reason Mitchell doesn't patronize her young protagonists, painting them as curious, clever and witty in their matter-of-fact observations, such as "All detective work is sneaking. That's why only gentlemen and cads can do it," or Simon's solemn thought after one almost-disastrous attempt at sleuthing:
In this innocent belief, our progress back to the high street was robbed of much of its terror. The moon was now flooding the sky. Her image reflected in the water was no longer a thing of murky terror, for we were vain-glorious; we were heroes. We had been under fire. We had been suspected of being murderers. We had filled some female heart with excessive terror. We felt we had been blooded, and were men.
In Mrs. Bradley they find a sympathetic ear and are immediately put at ease by her confidence in them, as she becomes their greatest ally and supporter. She in turn offers up little insights into life as part of their education, as in "These bestial realities must sometimes be faced...Life is inclined to be sordid. Our friends are not always what they seem." Mrs. Bradley's role in Rising of the Moon is important, although she actually only appears half-way through the book, with the heart of the story carried by the winsome Simon.
The book is at turns darkly tongue-in-cheek, eccentric, warm and ultimately charming. Though the plotting is a bit muddled and disjointed at times, if you're willing to put that aside, the endearing narration and almost dreamy setting pull you in and make you feel a little like you've become immersed in a surrealistic painting. That may be why Christopher Fowler said in the Independent that Mitchell's works are "more interesting than Christie's, if more problematic."
Radio adaptations for the BBC were made of two of her books with Mary Wimbush starring as Mrs Bradley, and five of Mitchell's novels were loosely adapted for the 1990s television series The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries featuring Diana Rigg (Rising of the Moon was one, although the plot barely resembles the novel). One critic groused that the latter turned Mrs. Bradley into a glamorous Miss Marple, but it may have helped rekindle some interest in the author.
Anna Quindlen once said "Those of us who read because we love it more than anything, feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers." I've loved hanging out in bookstores since I was old enough to read, and now that I'm on the creative end of the pipeline, I see bookstores from dual perspectives as a reader and author. Bookstores are as important as ever to both.
Bookstore staff are also among the most supportive of crime fiction, which is why I was thrilled to see that Mystery Loves Company, in the town of Oxford on Maryland's Eastern Shore, included my novel Played to Death in their "New Hardbacks" catalog. I'm in some good company, with titles from Alan Bradley, Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini, Paula Hawkins, George Pelecanos, and many more.
If you happen to find yourself in Oxford, please stop by and check out all the great books at Mystery Loves Company, and buy a few for reading during these cold February nights. And if you'd like to buy or order a copy of Played to Death, I'm sure owner Kathy Harig would be happy to oblige.
The nine finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel were just announced, and you can check out the longlist via this Facebook link or courtesy or this one, courtesy of the Rap Sheet. The award is named after the author of the Roderick Alleyn mystery series and celebrates excellence in crime, mystery and thriller writing by New Zealand authors.
The Audio Publishers Association released its list of finalists for the 2015 Audie Awards, including the categories of Mystery and Thriller/Suspense.
The International Thriller Writers has limited space available for their upcoming online Thriller School. Paid participants can take part in the seven-week program, which begins March 2nd, learning the craft with seven bestselling thriller writers. Each instructor will teach an aspect of craft though a podcast, written materials that include further reading and study suggestions, and an entire week of on-line Q&A with the registered students. For more information, check out the ITW website.
Shots Magazine is sponsoring an online contest to win a signed copy of the Amazon Prime promotion brochure for Bosch signed by both Michael Connelly and Titus Welliver. But hurry, because closing date for entries is February 20.
Criminal Element's Jake Hinson has a series on author Margaret Millar in honor of the centennial of her birth. Millar published 27 books in her career, won the Edgar for best novel twice, served as president of the Mystery Writers of America, and won the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. As Hinson notes, "All of which makes it remarkable that Millar isn’t as well known today as she should be."
Ed Gorman is editing an anthology of stories for PS Publishing culled from the pulp-style girlie magazines of the sixties and seventies and is seeking any authors who have such stories from their past to contribute. He has more details on his blog.
Reviewer Sarah Ward picked her "Top 10 Scandinavian Crime Novels in Translation."
Test your noir knowledge with Declan Burke's "devious" crime fiction quiz, created for The Irish Times.
If you're not already a fan of the regular Omnimystery News Mystery Godoku puzzles, hop on over to to this week's version, whose feature clue comes via Lori Rader-Day's 2014 thriller set in a Chicago college.
The new crime poem at the 5-2 this week is "Still Waters" by Phyllis Wax, and the latest story-of-the-month at Beat to a Pulp is "The Hard Side of Heartbreak: A Joe Hannibal Story" by Wayne D. Dundee.
The Q&A roundup includes JD Robb (a/k/a Nora Roberts) chatting with the New York Times; mystery author Lauren Carr stops by Omnimystery News; Lou Berney and Bill Loehfelm visit The Mystery People; and Lawrence Block talked about The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, the latest in his well-known "Burglar" books series.
It's Media Murder for Monday time again, with the latest news on crime dramas on stage and screen, including the Writers Guild of America Awards.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) handed out their top honors this past weekend. You can get all the winners here, but The Imitation Game, written by Graham Moore (based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges) won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and True Detective, written by Nic Pizzolatto, won for Best TV Drama Series and Best New Series.
Diane Kruger will star opposite Bryan Cranston in the thriller The Infiltrator, to be directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer). The project is based on the Robert Mazur autobiography and revolves around a customs and excise agent (Cranston) and his undercover alias.
ARC Entertainment snapped up North American rights to the thriller The Squeeze from writer-director Terry Jastrow. Christopher McDonald stars as a notorious gambler who discovers a modest young man with uncommon golf skills (Jeremy Sumpter) and convinces him to start playing in high-stakes matches that grow higher and higher until the game becomes life or death.
The Orchard acquired North American theatrical and digital rights to Matthew Heineman’s drug-themed documentary Cartel Land.
The first trailer and publicity photos for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. were released, featuring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as the spy duo.
A trailer was also released for the thriller Regression, about a detective investigating the case of a young woman who accuses her father of an unspeakable crime that leads to a horrifying nationwide mystery.
Daniel Craig had to take a brief period off from filming the next Bond film Spectre, thanks to a knee injury, although it didn't delay production. Meanwhile, the studio released a new photo with 007 in action, along with early behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot in Austria.
AMC bought a spec political thriller script by Darby Kealey that centers on an award-winning actress who is kidnapped by the dictator of a foreign country and becomes the centerpiece of a covert power struggle.
James Franco is set to star in the adaptation of Stephen King's novel 11/22/63 from J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions. The plot revolves around an unassuming divorced English teacher who stumbles upon a time portal and goes on a quest to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Revolution co-star David Lyons has come aboard the drama pilot Game Of Silence from CSI's Carol Mendelsohn. Lyons will play a rising attorney on the brink of success who could lose his perfectly crafted life when childhood friends threaten to expose a dark secret from their violent past.
Zach Gilford has been cast in ABC’s untitled drama pilot from Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal alumna Jenna Ban. The story centers on the return of a politician’s young son who was presumed dead after disappearing over a decade earlier, leading to new mysteries.
ABC also hired directors for two more pilots, including British veteran Tom Shankland (Ripper Street) for L.A. Crime, a character-driven, “true-crime” procedural that explores sex, politics and popular culture across various noteworthy eras in Los Angeles history, and fellow Brit Coky Giedroyc (The Hour) for the 1978-set female-cop procedural Broad Squad.
Eric McCormack (Perception) has signed on to play the male lead in Fox’s family dramedy pilot Studio City, written by Krista Vernoff and directed by Sanaa Hamri. The series is inspired by Vernoff’s real-life experience growing up as the daughter of a drug dealer to the stars
Banshee got the go-ahead from Cinemax for a fourth season. Antony Starr will return as Lucas Hood, ex-con and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, Pa., and continues his criminal pursuits while enforcing his own code of justice.
TNT renewed its fantasy crime fighting series The Librarians for a second season. The show stars Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth, John Kim, John Larroquette, and Noah Wyle.
The CW also renewed fantasy-romance-procedural Beauty and the Beast.
Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is heading to the UK's Ipswich Regent Theatre October 5-10. Last year, the company also produced Christie's The Mousetrap.