Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So Execute Him Already....

This week's question - What classic novel has struck me as a "naked emperor"?  Funny enough, Jane Austin immediately popped to mind but I see that Robin already beat me to it. So I'll go in the opposite direction.

I am a huge fan of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Read it, loved it, read it again, saw the movie. My day job is to produce true crime shows for television so I appreciate a well told, true crime story. In Cold Blood balances the stories of the victims, their killers, the lawmen, and the town, with compassion but also with an edge.

Someone, hearing I loved Capote's book, suggested I read  Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, the story of Gary Gilmore, who was executed in Utah in 1977. It won a Pulitzer and has been a used in discussions of capital punishment. It's an important book. It's also a long book - over 1,000 pages. The length was actually a vote in its favor. I read a lot of non-fiction history and biography, and I like it when they're long.

But, truth be told, I'm not a Norman Mailer fan. The relentless, endless machismo in all his work (And his personal life - he was married six times and once head-butted Gore Vidal...) gets on my nerves sometimes. Yeah, I get it, Norman. You're all man.

But, I like true crime, so despite my feelings about Mailer I starting reading The Executioner's Song.

And I was bored. Maybe it was the subject - Gilmore struck me as juvenile and uninteresting. Like so many murderers I've met in my years in TV, Gilmore was a narcissist who lacked impulse control. If he had genuine insight into his behavior, or anything redeemable about him, then I missed it. He was a main character facing a death sentence and I was almost as anxious for it to arrive as Gilmore was.

Or maybe it was Mailer's level of detail which was, at least to me, a bit obsessive. And then there was the "I'm tougher than you" posturing in Mailer's language. Again, I get it. You're all man. All heterosexual man. Maybe it was the fact that he was small, or maybe it's because his mother named him Norman, but at a certain point I began to wonder what he was compensating for.

Or maybe it was me.  Maybe I don't have sufficient gravitas or intellectual curiosity. I do work in TV after all.

In any case, I got about 600 pages in and then just gave up.

It's hard to admit that I don't like a celebrated American writer, who has won awards and accolades I never will (nor do I deserve), but there it is. If he were alive, Mailer would probably head butt me.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Naked Emperors Book Club

This week's question: What classic novels have struck you as naked emperors? (Dead authors only, so as not to upset any living colleagues.)

My answer: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I read it expecting a thrilling old English love story. But with each page I flipped, I could never figure out why the hype.

The characters showed hints of being interesting, and there were some great lines with astute social commentary. The plot was static, but I kept reading because I thought there must be something more—something big about to happen to make all the boring parts make sense. It's a classic, after all. And SO many people love Jane Austen—love her, like modern day Twilight fans.

But I never felt the book or its characters get real. I closed the last page with a thud of disappointment. The characters stayed flat, I couldn't get emotionally invested in either protagonist's love story. The plot did nothing interesting. The book just never delivered for me.

BUT it was Austen's first novel. I've grown a lot since writing my first novel, and I was intrigued enough by the introspection in this book to think that maybe as she went along, she honed her craft and got better too. I loved the movies Pride and Prejudice and Clueless (which was based on Austen's Emma).

So while I won't recommend Sense and Sensibility, not at all, I've just talked myself into giving Jane Austen another chance.

I think I'll start with Persuasion, her last novel. The end of her writerly growth arc.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Something Awesome

By Reece Hirsch

I’m going to opt to answer last week’s question:  “If I were banned from my current corner of the mystery genre (or the mystery genre entirely), what would I be writing?”

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ray Bradbury.   He was one of the first authors that I truly and deeply loved as a kid, and my first attempts at writing fiction for the high school literary magazine were faux-Bradbury.  If I were banned from writing my current genre (thrillers), I would probably retrace my steps and see if I could write a better version of the Bradbury-influenced combination of fantasy, science fiction and horror that I started out writing in my teens.  I suppose that plot of literary ground currently belongs to writers like Neil Gaiman.

Have you ever had a book that loomed so large in your childhood imagination that you were almost afraid to reread it?  For me, that book is Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”  My parents both grew up in the dying former railroad town of Marceline, Missouri, boyhood home to Walt Disney.  We went back to visit every summer and I always associated the place with Bradbury’s Green Town, Illinois.  At the time, I hated those trips and preferred to keep my nose stuck in a book as much as possible, preferably one of Bradbury’s.  Like Green Town, Marceline was gazebo-in-the-town-square perfect, but there was also something rotting underneath.

Even after all of these years, there are images from “Something Wicked” that remain so vivid for me.  Like the opening scene when the lightning rod salesman wanders into town on a cloudy, late-October day (it’s always October in Bradbury land) and encounters the book’s two 12-year-old protagonists, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway.  And what a nicely ominous first sentence:  “The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm.”

Then there’s the scene where Jim and Will watch from a hillside as the train bearing Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls hellishly into town.  I’m confident that no young person who has read “Something Wicked” has held on to any fantasies of running away to join the circus.  Carny people were never creepier – and carny people are pretty creepy to begin with.

As I write this, I realize that I can no longer resist rereading “Something Wicked.”  I know I’ll never be able to recreate the mind-blowing magic of the reading experience I had as a teenager, but if I can recapture just a few of those sparks then the trip will be worth it.  It’s hard for any book to live up to those sorts of expectations, but I’m hopeful.  Wish me luck.

Do you have a childhood book that you hesitate to revisit?

By the way, the first episode of my new book THE ADVERSARY will be out on August 6 as a Kindle Serial, a release more anticipated than the Royal Baby (in my house, anyway).  I’m conducting a giveaway of a Kindle Paperwhite 3G ereader for those who pre-order the book by August 5.  For more details, check out this Goodreads page:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Filthy Lucre

by Gary
As I traffic in what I proudly call lowbrow entertainment if you will – hardboiled, comics, new pulp and even a little sci-fi – what the heck would I write if say I woke up one morn and there was this nodule attached to the base of my neck.  Each time I wrote, “Eyes like unpolished marbles, she removed the gun from her Gucci clutch,” and a shock went through me making me drool and wet myself, even a cat as dense as me would get the message.  Write something else, chump. 
But what?
Nonfiction, financial crimes.  A couple of years ago I wrote a graphic novel called The Rinse.  The story was about an avuncular money launderer Jeff Sinclair that I did some background research on about this profession, the third largest in the world it’s estimated.  My example to shoot for would be Matt Taibbi who has been cranking out these great stories for Rolling Stone on high end financial shenanigans for months.  From firms fixing international lending rates, banksers laundering cartel money and getting away with hand-slap fines, to chronicling the unrepentant greed of wall Streeters, he’s the man.  He’s the guy I’d emulate.
As the blog All Things Crime summed up, “In a series of stunning articles that kicked off in July 2009 with a story on Goldman Sachs (“The Great American Bubble Machine”), Taibbi has unfolded a tale of unprecedented greed and corruption at the heart of our troubled economy. He’s written about vulture capitalism (“Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital”), bid-rigging on municipal bonds (“The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia”), regulatory impotence (“How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform”), and public deception (“The Secrets of the Bailout”).”

You can’t get much more hardboiled than this sampling of tidbits of the 1 percenters running hog wild:
British businessman Robert Maxwell used the New York Daily News as a money-laundering device, funneling $238 million through the tabloid’s accounts in the nine months he owned the paper in 1991.  Maxwell drowned after either being pushed or falling off the stern of his yacht.  He was alleged to have also laundered monies from weapon sales to Iran.
In 2010, Wachovia Bank, part of Wells Fargo & Co. reached a $160 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that a failure in bank controls enabled drug traffickers to launder drug money by transferring money from Mexican currency-exchange houses to the bank.  Prosecutors said the bank processed $420 billion in transactions without using proper money-laundering detection.  The bank had already set aside money to cover the penalty from their profits in the deal.
Italian monetary authorities impounded $30 million from the Vatican bank and placed its top two officers under investigation in connection with a money laundering inquiry. Officials said the bank directors were under investigation for having failed to adequately explain the origins of funds transferred from one account held by the Vatican bank to two others it holds – amounts in American dollars of $26 and $4 million respectively.
Nauru is an obscure Pacific island, 1,200 miles off the coast of New Guinea. In the late ‘90s, the Russian mafiya laundered around $70 billion through “shell banks registered on the island. Shell banks exist only on paper, no physical presence, and Nauru allowed its banks to operate without recording the identities of its customers or the trail of deposited money in its accounts – making them extremely popular with money launderers. The island nation has since then assured authorities they have taken steps to rectify this situation.
Greed is good…for writing about it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bye, Bye, Beantown!

by Alan

If you’d like to see my answer to this week’s question (If a dictator forbade me from writing crime fiction, what would I write?), click HERE.

I shall now answer last week’s question: If you were murdered, which fictional detective would you want on the case?

I’m sure there are plenty of capable, competent detectives who could take my case and run with it, delving into my shady past looking for motives and suspects, but I’d like to think I deserve the best. So I fervently hope I get killed in
Then my case could be a collaborative effort.

(But, seriously, who would want to kill me? What have I ever done???)

First, Medical Examiner Maura Isles would handle the autopsy. She’d be able to come up with a plausible scenario derived from all the microscopic clues she’d uncover. Then she’d feed it all to Jane Rizzoli, who would direct the official police investigation.

Of course, Rizzoli couldn’t do it on her own—there are some places/tasks only a private detective can negotiate. Enter Spenser. He’d talk to his myriad Boston connections and come up with a list of suspects, then poke around until someone got nervous. And if things got really rough, he’d call in Hawk to lend a hand (or a fist).

But since you can never have enough crackerjack PIs on the case, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro also would get involved. Their additional Boston street smarts would be like icing on the investigative cake. And if Rizzoli, Isles, Spenser, Hawk, Patrick, and Angie needed more muscle (or the talents of a sociopath), they could always turn to Bubba.

It’s comforting to know my murder investigation would be in good hands.


First Time Killer 2 blog 156x250I’m happy to announce that FIRST TIME KILLER is now available as an audiobook from, Amazon, or iTunes. It’s ten hours of thrills and chills, narrated by the terrific voice professional Bob Dunsworth. Listen to a sample today!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Get out those torches and pitchforks!

By Vicki Delany

Say a capricious dictator banned your corner of the genre (or even – gasp – the mystery genre altogether). What would you be writing instead?

Curse you, capricious dictator.  You’ve left me with nothing much to write.

While I’m waiting for revolution to ferment, I’ll have to spend some time thinking about this.

You see, my corner of the crime genre would make a rather oddly shaped house. Because I live in a lot of corners.  

I write traditional police procedurals novels in the Constable Molly Smith series; humorous historicals in the Klondike Gold Rush Series, and contemporary gothic thrillers in my standalone novels.

I like playing around with different styles of writing.  I am in a completely different headset with the Klondike Books, a bit of a mad-cap romp thought the muddy streets of Dawson City, Yukon in 1898, than I am with a brain injured war correspondent in More than Sorrow or a young cop in small town British Columbia . 

And that, to me, is what makes writing fun and interesting. No book is ever the same.

So, if my many sub-genres were banned (to the barricades, citizens!) I might like to try my hand at steampunk.  I love the costumes, at any rate.

Speaking of the Constable Molly Smith books, the sixth in the series, A COLD WHITE SUN, will be released on Aug 6. Hardcover and trade paperback copies are available now for preorder from the usual online sources, as well as your favourite local bookseller.  All electronic formats should be available as of release day.  Click here to read a bit about the book, and here to go to 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dead Genres Will Rise Again!

Say a capricious dictator banned your corner of the genre (or even – gasp – the mystery genre altogether). What would you be writing instead?

by Meredith Cole

So--what would I write if someone said that no one was buying mysteries anymore? Very interesting question, since I don't happen to be writing what someone would call a mystery right now. It's actually a crime novel, which is in the same genre, but definitely not a traditional mystery. From the beginning, you know who has committed the crime. And although there is a PI trying to solve the crime, the central question is not whodunnit.

I also, like many writers, wrote other things besides mysteries. I started out as a screenwriter, and every once in awhile I write a screenplay just for fun. Without all those descriptors and internal monologues, it feels like a breezy vacation! So I don't think I would be totally sunk.

I also love to read in lots of other genres.  I could give non-fiction or literary fiction or romance a shot. I probably wouldn't be able to help injecting a little crime and mystery into the books, but that wouldn't matter (since most of the best books have a little of both).

Every once in awhile, the word will go around that certain genres or sub-genres are "dead." You'll hear that mysteries featuring private eyes or vampires or "Chick-lit" or traditional mysteries just aren't selling, for instance... Everyone will tell you to give it up and write something else. And then--low and behold! Someone will write something in one of those sub-genres that catches everyone's attention--and then the agents and editors (AKA capricious dictators) are looking for those genres again.

So to anyone who despairs that their genre (Georgian Romances? Locked Room mysteries?) is dead and they'll never sell their amazing book, I say put it in a drawer and wait. Sooner or later someone will be begging for it again when they get tired of the latest trends and think it's time for something new and original again. And you'll be ready. And your readers will be waiting.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Revenge of the Chopped Liver

by Sue Ann Jaffarian

I certainly hope when I'm murdered I'm wearing full make up, have clean hair, and wearing something nice.  Even better, I hope my body is staged by the killer into some attractive pose, perhaps with a big bouquet of flowers draped across my chest. I want to look my best for Jesse - Jesse Stone, that brooding hunk of masculinity created by Robert B. Parker and brought to life by the yummy Tom Selleck.

Odelia Grey: "Jesse Stone? Are you freaking kidding me?"

Granny Apples: "Yeah, what are we, chopped liver?"

Emma Whitecastle: "Sue Ann, I am so disappointed in you."

I turned away from the computer to find the three fictional sleuths from two of my own mystery series glaring at me. "So what's wrong with Jesse Stone? I mean, look at him!"

Granny:  "I think Sue Ann's having one of them senior moments."

Odelia: "Senior moment my fat ass.  She's throwing us over for eye candy, and not even for young eye candy. This guy's almost as old as Granny."

Granny: "Just because I'm a hundred-year-old ghost, Odelia, it doesn't mean I'm old. I was much younger than you when I died."

Emma: "Ladies, bickering among ourselves won't solve this problem."

Me: "What problem? I simply have to pick a fictional sleuth to solve my murder. That's the topic this week."

Emma: "Really, Sue Ann, it never occurred to you to pick one of us?"
Granny: "I'm tellin' ya, it's one of them senior moments."

Me, pointing at the photo at the top of the post: "But it's Tom Selleck playing Jesse Stone! Surely the three of you can see the attraction."

Granny: "I say we go on strike in protest."

Odelia: "She has my next novel due soon and a novella with both of you due right after that. A strike might be just the ticket."

Me: "Now, now, calm down. No need to do something we'll all regret."

The three of them glared at me. Odelia had a hand on one thick hip. Granny tapped one of her booted toes on the carpet. Emma had her arms crossed in front of her and wore a  deep frown.

Emma: "What's it to be, Sue Ann? Jesse or us?"

Me: "This is blackmail and I won't stand for it."

Granny: "Okey dokey, a strike it is. This is gonna be fun!"

Odelia: "I can't wait to see how much help Jesse is on that new novel of mine you're writing. How many weeks before it's due again?"

If you were murdered, which fictional detective would you want on the case?

Why my own creations, of course!  Granny Apples, Emma Whitecastle and Odelia Grey would be the perfect sleuths to catch my killer. I didn't even have to give it a second thought.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Logan MacRae, but on another topic . . . my book launch!

I'm reading Close to The Bone, Stuart MacBride's 90mph head-on multi-plot pile-up of a novel right now, since we're on a panel together at Harrogate and it's terrific stuff.  But poor (acting) DI MacRae could do with a break, so I nominate him to spend a couple of weeks in the California sunshine solving my murder.

Unless I'm knocked off in the next few months, in which case he'd only get down the road to Edinburgh.  I'm there for the summer and tonight I was in Waterstone's in George Street doing a launch event for DANDY GILVER AND A DEADLY MEASURE OF BRIMSTONE. 

And the strangest thing happened.  You know that bit in Harry Potter where they zap dormice into milkjugs but the jugs still have tails and fur?  Well, my book popped up again and again tonight.  Blue with touches of blood-red was everywhere.  In the lovely flowers from my oldest friend Catherine Lepreux:
In a hand-felted tea-cosy made by my dear friend Louise Kelly:
And of course in cake form, courtesy of my mum and dad:
Many, many thanks to Colin, the manager, who came in on his day off for the event:
And to Stuart Campbell, my beloved high-school English teacher, who took one look at my train-print dress and reminded me why he was such an inspiration all those years ago by saying "O. S. Nock" (he wrote the book that the illustrations appeared in, you know.) 
I'm feeling very lucky tonight: a wonderful family, fantastic teachers and friends I've known for decades.  Life is sweet and, on balance, I hope Logan MacRae doesn't get the chance to take that trip!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Me… On Ice.


by Clare O'Donohue

This my first Criminal Minds question, and it’s a toughie. I'm so excited to be a part of this great group and I want to contribute something to the conversation. So I gave this a lot of thought and struggled with who to pick. Obviously, every fictional detective would solve the case, since that’s what fictional detectives do. Columbo knocked holes in even the tightest alibis. Miss Marple found the answer to countless crimes without once spilling her tea. And Sherlock Holmes could see a spec of dirt and tell you not only who the killer was, but when he last got a haircut.

So if I’m dead (and this is no small issue to me despite my treating it lightly), I’m assuming that even a rookie fictional detective or amateur sleuth would track down my killer in no time. I’m not worried.

So really, who would I have the most fun ghost-watching as they followed the clues? I'd want more than a keen eye, I'd want charm, humor, and maybe even a little romance. After all, it's my last detective story.
I’ve got to go with Nick and Nora Charles on this. Though The Thin Man was their only actual outing in literature, it was a lot of fun. They dressed beautifully, went out to all the best parties, had money to burn, and solved the entire case half in the bag. There's nothing quite like the site of a man in a tuxedo mixing a martini, while being shot at. It's so elegant. Especially when he's solving a murder.
And not just any murder. My murder. Thinking about that makes me want a cocktail. Which, luckily, Nick and Nora can provide.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How I'd Avenge My Own Murder

I like my life. If I was murdered, I'd be mad. I'd want someone on the job who would not only find my killer, but avenge my death in a poetic finale to give my loved ones closure.

So I'd need a detective who's not afraid to break rules…or rib cages.

I'd want Dexter on my case. He's a serial killer whose life is about managing his addiction to murder. He wants to kill—but before he will, his rigid code of ethics forces him to ensure that he has the right bad guy. He relieves his urge for blood only once he's satisfied that by taking one life, he'll be sparing at least one more.

For a partner, I'd give him Ava Lee. She's only recently landed on American bookshelves, but she's been topping bestseller lists in Canada for the past few years. She's a skilled forensic accountant who chases bad debt for a living. With her mastery of bak mei and her demure Chinese-Canadian politeness, Ava has a talent for not only charming her way to the heart of the trouble, but securing her prize with cleverly executed brute force.

Although Ava and Dexter are wildly different—Ava uses force reluctantly where Dexter relishes it as his end goal—they are both soft-spoken, intelligent, and so far unbeatable. They would find my killer, no matter how many dark alleys they had to look down. And while Ava is highly ethical, she would have no qualms about passing the bad guy to Dexter for discreet elimination.

I do not, by the way, believe in capital punishment. But my husband would need closure, and this is the best way I can think of to keep him out of jail.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Solving My Murder

By Reece Hirsch

If I were murdered, I wouldn't just want a single great detective on the case, I'd want a whole team of them.  My blood will be avenged, etc.  I'm thinking of a Dream Team of detectives, sort of like the Avengers, in order to make use of the particular talents of each detective.  Here's my starting five:

1.  Dave Robicheaux:  My wife has family in New Iberia, so I'm hoping that would provide an added incentive for Robicheaux.  If he didn't solve my murder, he'd be getting the stink eye from my relations in perpetuity.

2.  Kurt Wallender:  If I'm going to be dead, I want someone to be depressed as hell about it, and no one gets more depressed about his cases than Wallander.

3.  Sam Spade:  In the course of the investigation, there may be minor thugs and gunsels who need to be slapped around.  No one slaps around smart-mouthed punks like Spade.

4.  Jack Reacher:  Because, at some point, there will be ass that needs to be kicked, and no one does it better.

5.  Jimmy McNulty (of The Wire):  McNulty is on the case for his dogged determination and his ability to illicitly commandeer department resources for an investigation.  He can't be the primary on my case because he's always on the outs with his bosses.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Goodbye Look

That was the look Lew Archer gave you.  He was the creation of the late Ross Macdonald (Ken Millar) and in the words of his creator, if he turned sideways, he would almost disappear.  He was the prober, the one who asked the questions but often avoided answering them if they were directed back at him.  He looked for the deeper reasons for what made people go bad, a Jungian with a PI license.  Early on though, this World War II vet and ex-Long Beach, California uniformed cop was in the tough guy mold, fast with the wisecracks and his fists – and gun if need be.  This from the Archer short story, “Gone Girl”:

“I stepped behind the cot and pulled the girl down to the floor with me. Gino came through the door, his two-colored sports shoe stepping on Donny's labored breathing. I shot the gun out of his hand. He floundered back against the wall, clutching his wrist.

“I sighted carefully for my second shot, until the black bar of his eyebrows was steady in the sights of the .38. The hole it made was invisible. Gino fell loosely forward, prone on the floor beside the man he had killed.”

Macdonald like so many of us was steeped in the influences of Chandler and Hammett.  But as critics and Macdonald himself have noted, it was with the seventh novel The Doomsters, that he makes the break from the Big Two in that Archer becomes more involved in the psychological damage the characters in a particular family do to one another in the story – a theme he would return to over and over in subsequent books, along with secrets buried deep from the past.

"My mind had been haunted for years by an imaginary boy whom I recognized as the darker side of my own remembered childhood." Macdonald said later, reflecting on the origins of the next book in the series, the Galton Case.

I came to Macdonald late in his career.  In my teens in high school, when not consumed with learning my football playbook or fantasizing about a cute cheerleader, I started reading mysteries and discovered The Underground Man.  The book is about a body unearthed after a wildfire in the hills of his made-up Santa Teresa (his stand-in for Santa Barbara and where today’s Kinsey Millhone, A is for Alibi, etc. by Sue Grafton, hangs her PI shingle), inspired by an actual fire in the Southland.

Acclaimed author Eudora Welty reviewed The Underground Man in the New York Times.  “As a detective and as a man [Lew Archer] takes the human situation with full seriousness. He cares. And good and evil both are real to him. ... He is at heart a champion, but a self-questioning, often a self-deriding champion. He is of today, one of ours. The Underground Man is written so close to the nerve of today as to expose most of the apprehensions we live with.

In our day it is for such a novel as
The Underground Man that the detective form exists. ... What gives me special satisfaction about this novel is that no one but a good writer -- this good writer -- could have possibly brought it off. The Underground Man is Mr. Macdonald’s best book yet, I think. It is not only exhilaratingly well done; it is also very moving.”

There were two more Lew Archer novels after that, Sleeping Beauty and the Blue Hammer, that I read and was already working backwards, into his past, to the other novels such as The Goodbye Look in the Archer series. Macdonald died too young in 1983 at 67 from complication due to Alzheimer’s. 

On screen, Paul Newman played the character twice, in Harper, based on the Moving Target and the Drowning Pool.  Reportedly Newman was superstitious and having had success playing characters beginning with an ‘H,” Hud and Hombre, he had the name changed for the movie.  Both were pretty good efforts.  A TV movie with Peter Graves based on The Underground Man was made and it was good too.  There was a short lived TV series with the always reliable Brian Keith, but it didn’t quite hit the right tone.  There was talk recently of a big screen reboot starting with the Galton Case adaptation via producer Joel Silver, but so far, nothing has materialized.

It’s as if the project turned sideways, and disappeared.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Idaville’s Favorite Son

by Alan
Who, in your opinion, is the greatest fictional detective of all time?
(Whatever you take greatest to mean.)

Tough question. There are so many great detectives, but the greatest? Sherlock Holmes? Nero Wolfe? Spenser? Elvis Cole? Hercule Poirot? Kinsey Milhone? Perry Mason? Sam Spade? Nancy Drew? Harry Bosch? Sure, they all belong in the International Detective Hall of Fame, but I think I’ll take the little guy. Literally.

Put my vote down for Encyclopedia Brown.Encyclopedia_Brown,_Boy_Detective_(1963)

Allow me to present the facts to make my case:
He’s a fellow of fine character and ingenuity.
He’s super smart.
He solves crimes without having to resort to gunplay.
He’s the Chief of Police’s ace-in-the-hole (and his son).
He and his sidekick, Sally Kimball, have never been stumped!
He’s neither an alcoholic nor a coke fiend.
He prevented arch-nemesis Bugs Meany from terrorizing Idaville.
Lets’ face it, Encyclopedia Brown has put together an impressive body of work:
His creator, Donald Sobol, won an Edgar Award.
Encyclopedia Brown was a book series, a syndicated comic strip, a TV series, and they’re planning to make a movie starring the boy detective.
So, should Encyclopedia Brown be in consideration for title of Greatest Detective of All-Time? If it’s on a pound-for-pound basis, then he’s a shoo-in!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And the Winner is…

by Tracy Kiely

Much has been said over the years regarding the pick for the greatest detective. The list is not surprising, but I think, at the risk of offending, I must disagree with some of my fellow bloggers picks.
Oh, who am I kidding? This list is guaranteed to anger.

Sherlock Holmes.
Okay, can I just say it? Annoying at times. Really annoying at times.  Even Sir Arthur Doyle found him annoying. He chucked him off a cliff and only brought him back to life when an irate public demanded it. His skills as a detective – especially in the early books – boarder on the supernatural. He knows and sees things that no real human can. To call him one of the greatest detectives is like calling Spiderman one of the greatest humans. When I first read A Study In Scarlet I found it maddening. I completely agree with this review by Alex Baker who said:
“By later standards of detective fiction, ‘A Study in Scarlet’ violates a cardinal rule: there is no way for intelligent readers to work out the solution for the mystery by themselves. The very first time that the reader hears of Jefferson Hope is when Holmes arrests him as the murderer. Nor is any previous hint given of Drebber and Stangerson’s Mormon background. However, at the time when it was written, this rule did not yet exist, and detective fiction in general was taking its very first steps (to which this book greatly contributed)
I would shake Mr. Baker’s hand in hearty agreement, but I don't know where he lives.
 I didn’t warm up to Sherlock until I read The Hound of the Baskervilles. But even then I tended to give him a pass. I am becoming more of a fan lately, but that’s really more due to Benedict
Cumberbatch than anything else.

Hercule Poirot. Brilliant, yes. More accessible than Sherlock, but again, he can annoy. Even Dame Agatha wanted to kill him off. He sees things but does not share
them. He obsesses over his mustache. He fusses. He peppers his
chats with French phrases that I never can translate. It leaves me
feeling like I did when I was three and watching The Electric 
Company. Not being able to read yet, I’d go nuts at the closing tease
of “Tune in Next Week When…” and a sentence would appear on
the screen. I’d scream frantically for my mom to come and read it to me.  Come to think of it, I did the same thing when I’d hit those French phrases in the Poirot books.

Miss Marple. She is my personal favorite of all of Dame Agatha’s creations. But even she could dither at the worst times – like when explaining why she’d just figured out there was An
Important Clue. And one can only believe so many solutions that begin with, “I was reminded of the butcher’s daughter who met that terrible man.”

Spenser. Great tough Boston guy. Great detective. Had a kick-ass friend named Hawk. But at times Spenser would suddenly veer off and analyze his girlfriend, Susan’s, diet coke habits rather than the case at hand. Therefore we learned that she drinks it warm and she marinates broccoli in it.
???? (Did anyone else catch that? You could always tell when Robert Parker and his wife were at odds.)

Now, for my personal choice for best detective. It’s one that you normally don’t see, and I think that’s a shame. She’s an overlooked character who deserves better. She constantly solves the crime – many times overcoming a crippling handicap and the rather pathetic assistance of her friends who were usually dealing with drug-induced munchies or fretting over their hair. Yes, my dear readers, I am speaking of Velma.

            This poor woman has solved so many crimes and yet she is constantly overlooked as a plump “meddling kid.” She is nothing of the sort. She is tough. When she’s not surviving Fred’s atrocious driving (how many times did that man either crash the van or forget to fill it with gas?), or groping blindly for her lost glasses, she’s dealing with a far-out hippie and his crazed dog. Toss in a vain bubblehead and a forefather of the metro-sexual movement, and you can see why the odds are stacked against her. Almost all of the other detectives noted had a halfway intelligent assistant to help him. Velma did not. Let’s give her her due, shall we?