Thursday, May 23, 2019

Father’s Day

The topic for this week is what crime fiction would you recommend for a Father’s Day gift?

From Jim

I grew up in a large family. I remember the fun times of playing sports in our yard with my brothers and the neighborhood kids. We played football in torrential downpours, especially enjoying sliding through the mud. The wetter the better. I suspect my mother enjoyed it less than we did, at least when we presented our muddy clothes for washing. And our games tore up the lawn. Dad urged us to stop doing that.

We also had a basketball hoop against our garage. In our teens, when we were nearly fully grown, we discovered a cool workaround that made us feel like NBA all stars.

If we drove straight at the basket—dribbling at full speed—planted a foot against the wall and pushed off skyward with all our might, we could dunk the ball on a regulation ten-foot basket. Very satisfying for five kids who would never otherwise be able to play above the rim. The footprints on the white paint were a extra bonus. Our dad loved those.

Another time, when organizing a baseball game, we realized our last ball had been left outside and was completely waterlogged—ruined and unusable. So we did the unthinkable. We took the souvenir foul ball we’d caught at a Cardinals-Cubs game in 1969 (Ferguson Jenkins pitching, Joe Torre batting), removed it from the plastic globe we’d bought to enshrine and protect it, then took it outside for a sandlot game.


The ball never stood a chance. Left outside, completely waterlogged, ruined and unusable within three days. Dad was incredulous.

Growing up in a large family—six boys and two girls—was a veritable Darwinian struggle for survival. If your older brothers weren’t beating you up, they were hogging the best seat on the couch in front of the television. With no remote control back then, we engaged in epic battles of wills on a daily basis. To leave the couch to change the channel meant losing one’s plum spot. How many episodes of Family Affair did we suffer through in our tests of endurance, all for selfishness on the part of the haves and stubborn spite from the have-nots? This in-fighting was a constant drone in our father’s ear. Maybe that’s why he worked so hard. Precious respite from eight rambunctious little heathens, for, make no mistake, we were godless howler monkeys on a permanent sugar high.

So, for all the late-night wars of Scrabble or Risk, usually ending with our dad closing down the game so he could get some sleep and go to work in the morning; for the times we did flips off the roof of the house into a snowbank, ending up damaging the shingles and tracking slush into the house; for the times the police dragged one of us home as a courtesy to our dad, instead of locking us up for drinking beer in the fields; and for the unauthorized parties we threw when our parents were out of town, especially the one that left a miniature replica of the Spinario (boy with thorn) statue decapitated;

and for so many other idiotic, annoying, and dangerous stunts we pulled— too numerous to catalogue here—for all those, our dad deserves thanks and a nice gift for Father’s Day. It doesn’t have to be a book or crime fiction or even the last popsicle in the freezer (though that was a prize none of us ever passed up, whether we wanted it or not, because we knew it wouldn’t be there later if we didn’t grab it), no. None of those things. Just give something nice to Dad on Father’s Day. He gave everything for you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A baker’s dozen

by Dietrich

Although not all crime fiction and not all current, here are my top picks from the books that I’ve recently enjoyed, and ones that I would recommend for anyone looking for the perfect pick for their dad.

First up, I revisited Deliverance by James Dickey. It was poet Dickey’s first novel, and it sure hasn’t lost any of its spark after its original pub date of nearly fifty years ago. It’s prose is as sharp as it gets — a whitewater page-turner of survival in the Georgia wilderness. 

“I was standing in the most absolute aloneness that I had ever been given.” James Dickey

Another classic that stands the test of time is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, originally published in 1962. Its the tale of Alex, a youth in revolt who gets captured and subjected to some scientific mind altering designed to cure criminals of their violent urges. The perfect choice if your dad leans to dystopian satire with touches of dark comedy and brilliant writing. 

The Wanted by Robert Crais was published in 2017. I always look forward to the next Robert Crais installment. In this one, PI Elvis Cole is back, along with his sidekick Joe Pike, in some bad-to-worse kickass action. After a couple of teenagers pull off some burglaries and rob the wrong man, they end up being pursued by a couple of killers. There’s something about Crais’ pacing and voice that make his novels hard to put down.

House of Earth by Woody Guthrie, a previously unpublished gem from 1947 was finally printed in 2013. It’s Guthrie’s only novel, and tells about life in Dust Bowl America. Guthrie was an amazing talent and possessed a true and powerful voice.

Just Kids by Patti Smith is a great memoir from a legendary rock star who proves she’s an equally talented writer. It takes an insightful look at her life along with friend Robert Mapplethorpe, living in New York, among the aspiring artists during the late 60s and early 70s. A time your dad might remember.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith from 2008, a great introduction to the five book series that brought us the ultimate bad-boy, sociopath Tom Ripley.

The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burke from 2016. It’s one of his best and completes the trilogy he began with Wayfaring Stranger in 2014 and House of the Rising Sun in 2015. When a quarrel erupts between Valerie and her country-club boyfriend Grady, Aaron Holland steps in. And he ticks off the wrong person. Things soon escalate, and he finds himself surrounded by criminals and corrupt cops. It’s just a great book.

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty, published in 2015 has detective inspector Sean Duffy back at it in the fifth installment in this well-told series, set in Northern Ireland in the 80s. It’s truly a first-rate crime thriller.

Men Walking on Water by the talented Emily Schultz, published in 2017, is a mix of crime and historical fiction set during prohibition and takes a look at rum-running from Canadian shores to Detroit.

The Good German by Joseph Canon, from 2001, is a moving and complex mystery and love story set in a battered post-war Berlin in the grips of geopolitical control. The story follows American journalist, Jake Geismer, as he sets out to find answers among the secrets and criminals hiding among the rubble in this great historical tale.

The Border by Don Winslow is the epic conclusion to the Cartel trilogy, The Cartel and The Power of the Dog. Released at the end of February, I'd been waiting to get into this one, and it didn't disappoint — a crime thriller as good as it gets.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, published in 1964, is a short novel about a gay English professor living in California in the midst of unresolved grief after losing his lover in a car crash. The novel takes place over the course of a single day and explores the human animal and shows some masterful writing.

I also revisited The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood ahead of her upcoming sequel The Testaments coming this September. Another dystopian tale told by one of Canada’s best authors.

There you have it, a little of this and a little of that, some new and some old, some crime fiction, some classics, but something for any dad who loves to read. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Happy Father's Day

Terry Shames here! Father’s Day is coming up and this week we are handing out our recommendations for different types of crime novels that might appeal to the fathers in your life.

I normally would recommend some books by both men and women, as I love reading crime fiction by both. But In honor of the man who yesterday told me he does not normally read mystery books written by women, I am going to recommend only books women. Sorry guys, next time.

Patricia Smiley has a wonderful traditional police procedural series out, starting with Pacific Homicide, featuring Los Angeles Homicide Detective Davie Richards.  

Smiley has done her homework, and the books have an authentic feel.

While we’re in LA, Rachel Howzell Hall has become one of my favorite authors.  I recommend that you start with the first in the series, Land Of Shadows. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, and said “Dead-on dialogue and atmospheric details help propel a tale full of tormenting moral issues.”

If humor is what your guy looks for, try the “Scot” series by Catriona McPherson. Beginning with Scot Free, and continuing with Scot and Soda,  McPherson introduces a cast of hapless characters and pokes fun at American foibles.

Author Cathy Ace hit it out of the park this year with publication of The Wrong Boy, a mesmerizing  story that one reviewer said was  “…almost mythical.” 

If the dude in your life likes social justice in his reading, you should definitely consider getting him acquainted with the books of Attica Locke. One of my favorite books, Black Water Rising, her debut crime novel, was just listed in the Sunday Times’ One Hundred Best Mystery Books since 1945. Her 2018 Bluebird, Bluebird won the Edgar for Best Novel.

If dark and brooding is what draws him in, give him Lori Rader-Day’s Under a Dark Sky. Nominated for numerous awards, including this year’s Anthony Award, I think this is her best book. A compulsive read.

Does he like those grim Scandinavian books? You can’t do any better than Camilla Lackberg. She is an international best seller, the latest of which is The Girl in the Woods. She writes a tight thriller, dark and bleak as so many Scandinavian authors tend to be. Try to get him to ignore the "girl" in the title.

Also in the foreign realm is Ann Cleves. Is there anyone writing better mysteries? There are two series to choose from, both equally wonderful. There’s the Shetland series, the latest of which is Wild Fire, and the Vera Stanhope series, the first of which is Silent Voices.

What is it with these writing Scots? Choose any Val McDermid book and your reader will be surely be enthralled. I especially loved Broken Ground. McDermid’s plots are some of the best I’ve read. I’d love to know how her mind works!

Author Stephanie Gayle gets better and better with her Thomas Lynch series, set in Idyll, Connecticut. You should probably get the first one, Idyll Threats, which introduces Lynch and his angst-ridden world as a closeted gay police officer.

If you want to put a little romance into his life, try What Doesn’t Kill You, by Aimee Hix. Nominated for an Agatha and a Lefty Award, the book is tightly written. Kirkus Reviews says: “…tough girl noir with the heart of a cozy.”

That’s a good start on a list.

The man I mentioned at the beginning? He said he doesn’t read books by women, but because the book club had read my first book, A Killing at Cotton Hill, he had read it and intended to read the whole series! I recommend the latest, A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary, which the father in my household says is the best.

So get your men started on reading books by women, even if he thinks the doesn’t like them.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Gift of Crime Fiction by Brenda Chapman

Father’s Day is June 16th – so there’s time for you to recommend some crime-themed reading that could be a useful gift idea for dads of different ages, and with different interests…and allow those reading the blog to order it, and get it in time to wrap it!
I am going to be very interested in the recommendations of my fellow bloggers over the next two weeks because I'm always open to finding new authors to read. I'd also like to recommend the books of all the authors on this blog as a place to begin your shopping!

I'll limit my choices to five and hope I hit on a few authors who've not crossed your reading list yet but whose work can be found at all the major bookseller sites.

For dads who like humour, grit and tumultuous historical times, I highly recommend Adrian McKinty and his Detective Sean Duffy series, starting with The Cold Cold Ground. The setting is Ireland during the troubles and Duffy is 'irreverent, charming and mordantly laugh-out-loud funny' to quote Kirkus Reviews. I was hooked immediately by Sean Duffy's voice and find each book in the series to be a solid, entertaining read.

If your dad/husband likes atmosphere, Giles Blunt's Cardinal series is another gritty set of books set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay which is based on the Canadian town North Bay. Officers John Cardinal and Lise Delorme take on some difficult cases and deal with troubled family lives with each book building on the book before. The first few books are now a television series but I recommend the books since the writing is so strong. Start with Forty Words for Sorrow.

For the environmentalist dad, Dave Butler writes about the British Columbia wilderness and interestingly, his main character is a female national park warden named Jenny Wilson. The two books in the series are Full Curl and No Place for Wolverines. Dave is a forester and biologist and brings a wealth of knowledge to these mysteries, set against the stunning backdrop of the Canadian Rockies.

Going again to the Canadian well, for dads who like history in with their mystery and perhaps are of the more literary bent, pick up a copy of Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Based on a true story, Grace Marks is convicted of being involved in the the murders of her employer and his mistress. The mystery revolves around whether Grace is innocent or evil and conniving. After you read the book, look for the short television series, which is brilliantly acted.

As a final recommendation for dads liking grit with their mystery, I recently read Stuart MacBride's  The Blood Road, set in Aberdeen Scotland and featuring DI Logan McRae. The book didn't shy away from horrific crimes but was also filled to the brim with humour, and makes me think I'd like to go back and start with the first in the series called Cold Granite.

I'm also excited this week to let you know that Turning Secrets book 6 in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series has just been released with the last in the series due out next May.

Happy Fathers Day and happy reading to all the dads out there!

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Friday, May 17, 2019

The Swag Man Cometh

Swag: what do you do about this knotty question? Have you wasted money in the past? What works best for you, and why? Do you have an annual budget?

by Paul D. Marks

I’m not a big swaggart. About the only thing I’ve done to this point swag-wise is bookmarks. I did have business cards printed, but almost never give them out, instead handing out the bookmarks. So the biz cards sit forlornly in my office gathering dust, but I do like the picture on them. And they helped keep someone employed, so I’m doing my bit for humanity.

I also had mugs made for White Heat, but just a handful. Then we changed the cover of White Heat and we made more mugs, another handful. Then we changed the cover again and… When Broken Windows came out, we tried to make combo mugs of White Heat and Broken Windows. And that’s a story in itself. We couldn’t get it right, so had to make them again. And then again. So now we have a lot of White Heat-Broken Windows mugs that are half good, but taking up precious space in our house. I just can’t seem to part with them, even though they’re flawed.

But even if the mugs came out perfectly – and we might still try again – they aren’t what I’d really call swag. They’re mostly just to give to family and friends. Not as a general give-out item at conventions and the like. They’re too expensive for that, though we might have given a couple of the earlier ones away here and there in gift baskets and for auctions and such – The Great Mug Affair of 2018.

And I’m not really sure how much good swag does, especially the bookmarks when they’re one of multitudes that people leave on tables and hand out at various events. Like grains of sand on the beach. Does any particular one stand out?

Now, maybe if I could give out the swag they do at the Academy Awards, I’d get some attention. You know, things like trips to the Galapagos Islands, Iceland or stays at the Golden Door spa. Like Frasier and the Golden Door…and then the Platinum Door – well, you had to be there – and now you are:

And most recently at the Oscars jewelry or cannabis-infused face cream and bath salts. Because as Distinctive Assets (who provide the stuff) founder Lash Fary says, “After a stressful Oscar week, you need to relax.” Of course, life’s a bitch when you’re a pampered millionaire actor telling all the rest of us how to live. So the toilet plunger shaped like a poop emoji should really help you de-stress after that tough, grueling Oscar week – nothing like what our soldiers deal with in Afghanistan, Iraq and other stress-free places they get to go for fun and excitement. And what particular stress that poop emoji toilet plunger helps with I’m not sure, but I’m sure it does. But if it doesn’t, the phobia expert (another swag item) is sure to help.

And that Oscar swag is so good Christopher (Michael Imperioli) on The Sopranos robbed Lauren Bacall of hers:

So, if I could give out swag that was worth getting mugged for I guess I’d do more of it. But it seems to me that the expense of key chains, pens, magnets, etc., vs. the return on investment isn’t really worth it. But if you’d like a box of unused if a little dusty, biz cards, let me know. You could paper your walls with them.

So, while I like collecting free pens, I don’t give them out. Mostly I just do bookmarks. Bookmarks will remind people where they left off reading in Michael Connelly’s book. They’re inexpensive. Readers seem to enjoy them. And they don’t take up a lot of space in the garage. On the other hand, if I could bribe people with a Porsche in their choice of color, hmm, well if it would get them to buy a book it might be worth it.

What about you. Do you swag or not?

And now for the usual BSP:

White Heat -- Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller -- is a BOOKBUB Featured Deal on Sunday, May 19th. You can get the E-book for only $0.99.


New May issue of Mystery Weekly is out. And I'm honored to have my new story The Box featured on the cover. Hope you'll check it out. -- This link is to the Kindle version, but there's also a paper version available.


Please join me on Facebook: and check out my website

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Don't Give Me A Glue Gun.

Swag: what do you do about this knotty question? Have you wasted money in the past? What works best for you, and why? Do you have an annual budget? 
By Catriona

Have I wasted money in the past? Have I? Not just money: effort, time, dignity . . . I suck at swag. 
When I was starting out, I read somewhere that postcards were the thing, and far better than bookmarks or business cards. So I got thousands of postcards made and then was too scared of looking pushy to "use them for all casual correspondence" as instructed. I threw boxes of them out when I emigrated. 
Then I got more made over here after I immigrated. I've still got some. Look:

Can you see how thick the two piles on either end are? (Those two books are from 2012 and 2013). Notice too how the DEADLY MEASURE OF BRIMSTONE postcards have got the information laid out in such a way that they're unusable as actual postcards. Contrast that with the BOTHERSOME NUMBER OF CORPSES postcard, with . . . no information at all! Then contrast it with the middle card, promoting an anthology where I published my first ever short story. Can you tell that this is the work of a competent and successful indie publishing enterprise? Oh and by the way, see how the BRIMSTONE postcard is upside down when you're looking at the front and right way up looking at the back? Yeah. 
I finally gave up on postcards about four years ago and moved to bookmarks. I like bookmarks. I've got a collection of them in the boomark burro on my kitchen table:

I'm not sure I've ever used one a spur to buy a book, mind you. 
It took me a while to get my own bookmarks right: website address, clear jacket images, pithy quotes, a headshot. And it took me a good while to stop succumbing to the pricing strategy that makes 2000 so tantalisingly not very much dearer than 1000, which are irresistibly similarly priced to 500. When you write three books a year, you've got mere months to shift these babies and throwing them away hurts. 
Last time, last March when SCOT FREE came out, I vowed that I'd order the right number and stick with them till they were done. Plus I had (what passes for) a brainwave. A bookmark of two halves:

This is the same thing, front and back. And this - thirteen bookmarks - is all I've got left after over a year of grim determination (and a bit of chucking them out when they get grotty in my handbag). I'm at the Central Coast Writers meeting next week and, unless I offend everyone, I feel confident that I'm going to finish the stack there. (Note to self: order some new bookmarks for June.)
So much for casual swag. when I'm hosting a table at a banquet, I do a bit better. This spring in Vancouver, I handed out whisky, jimmy wigs, and Irn Bru as well as  books. And in the past, I've made my own ribbons, with pinking shears, to tie shut gift bags with book-themed ties:

It was the Malice auction that broke me. I was toastmaster at Malice 30 and I wanted my live auction item to be decent. So, as well as a cuddly haggis, a tin of culinary haggis, a skean dhu, a spirtle (Scotland isn't like other places at all), and a book or three to go with a character name, I also packed - in my suitcase, for my flight - yellow net, red ribbon, green paper, cellophane, a presentation board, tissue, streamers and a stapler, just in case. I sweated it out for an hour trying to make one of those lovely auction baskets you see at fundraisers. When I finally presented the clag of crap that looked as if a cat had coughed it up, Shawn Reilly Simmons happened to mention that the donors only have to hand the swag over and Malice does the baskets. I could have cried. 

But it did make for one of the funniest photos I've ever had taken:

Aimee Hix and I, looking like something from The West Wing, if not ER, as we rush the auction basket through the Marriott at the eleventh hour. And look at the damn thing! Did you ever see a bigger mess? 

I should stick to writing.