EAT THIS BOOK: Forgotten Mystery Writers #1 – John Dunning

My friend and fellow crime writer, Rosemary McCracken’s recent read is Death Cleaning, a new take on decluttering.

Argh!  The bleak title stems from my mother’s  birth country of Sweden, creator of IKEA, the cashless society and self-serve everything.  With cold-hearted pragmatism the book tells you to throw out your shit before your kids do.

Sigh.  I’m a keeper, especially of books. Each one of them retains an emotional memory.  But my office is filling up and I’m unlikely to reread most of them.  So I’m diving in and sharing my relics with you, readers.

And I’ll decide whether to GIVE AWAY, SELL or KEEP.

 What better place to start than with Booked to Die by John Dunning. Dunning had written a few mysteries already but in Booked to Die he wrote about his passion: books themselves. It was hit!

 His hero, Cliff Janeway, is a former homicide detective obsessed with tracking down the killer of a rare book hunter. Leaving the police force, he sets up his own bookstore to buy and sell valuable first editions and after much murder and mayhem, catches the killer.

Booked to Die is full of neat details about the rare book trade. I learned about book scouts, typically impecunious types who scour used books stores, church fairs and garage sales for valuable editions, buying them cheap then hawking them to antiquarian book dealers. I also learned about bookstore owners helping each other out, sharing leads and so on.

Of course, what really got my friends and me juiced was the hope that somewhere in our well-thumbed collections lurked a priceless edition. Dunning hooked me on the first page with his Rare Book Quiz : What book found in a used bookstore bin for $15 sold at auction for $250,000? And that’s at 1992 prices!

Of course, I’m still looking for that priceless edition. How does one even find out what one’s precious hard covers or paperbacks are worth? There are two sources: eBay and Abe Books.

I find that book prices in Abe Books vary greatly. For a more realistic take, I look at Canadian bookstores where these are listed. And prepare to be disappointed.

So how much is Booked to Die worth? For my well-read copy, anywhere from $1 to $10. Sigh.

John Dunning went on to write four more books in the Bookman series, the last one, The Bookwoman’s Last Fling, published in 2006He describes himself as a poster-child for ADD, quitting school in Grade 10 to hold a series of interesting jobs: glass shop worker, racing horse trainer and investigative reporter. He always relied on a typewriter to write.

In 1984, he and his wife opened The Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver, Colorado. Ten years later, it became a virtual bookstore which still operates today. He is also an expert on old radio shows and hosted his own show about them on Denver radio for more than 25 years.

In 2006, Dunning was diagnosed with a brain tumour that led to a long recovery period and sadly, to no further books.

DECISION? KEEP 

Happy New Year!

Greetings Readers!

I’m back! Just attended the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas from Jan 7th to 10th.  Look for my pics and take on the future of robots, self-driving cars, Big Brother ad machine in your home and TV screens you can fold away or spread on a wall.

If you detect a trace of cynicism…well, you’d be right. I’ve seen 3D television and virtual reality rise and fade. Perhaps these, too, shall pass.

I’ll be blogging more regularly in 2019. Lots of Wanderings and Surreal Adventures to share.

R2D2…not

 

MORE FAB NEWS!

Blatant self promotion, Readers!

I’m delighted to announce that I have a new story in Coffin Hop Press’ noir anthology, The Dame was Trouble. The collection features stories by leading Canadian women crime writers – and every story features A Dame.

My story, “The Seeker”, stars Terry Snow, a tough 62 year old who handles fast cars, guns and gangsters to find her missing son.


The Dame was Trouble was released this August and is available in print and e-book on Amazon.ca.

And 13 Claws struck gold at the Arthur Ellis Awards with a win by friend and fellow Madame of Mayhem, Catherine Astolfo for her story, “The Outlier”.

This is a tale so noir, Jack Batten, the Toronto Star critic said: Catherine Astolfo’s story involving a pig, for example, offers an intriguing way of giving Paul Bernardo himself a case of the chills. 

Not to forget that we received THREE further nominations for “There be Dragons” by Jane Burfield and “The Ranchero’s Daughter” by Sylvia Warsh and my own novella, “Snake Oil”, about which Jack said: M. H. Callway’s tale mixes snakes and the real estate business in a way that will make readers run a mile from both.

And as it this wasn’t enough, I’m delighted to share that both Cathy and Sylvia’s stories were long-listed in Otto Penzler’s  Best American Mystery Stories for 2018!!

GREAT NEWS FOR 13 CLAWS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL 18TH, the Arthur Ellis short list event was a triumph for the Mesdames of Mayhem – and a personal boost as well!

My fingers were crossed for one, maybe just one, nomination from our third anthology. I could not believe my ears when not just one but FOUR of us are finalists.  And that includes my noir novella, Snake Oil!

Three fellow authors and dear friends have their stories nominated:

  • Cathy Astolfo for “The Outlier”
  • Jane Petersen Burfield for “There Be Dragons”
  • Sylvia Warsh for “The Ranchero’s Daughter”

None of this would have happened without editor, Donna Carrick and Carrick Publishing.

Here we are with dear friends and authors, Lynne Murphy and Sylvia Warsh, at Chapters / Indigo still incredulous!

Sylvia Warsh, Lynne Murphy, Mad and Ed Callway

 

NEWS! New Story in Mystery Weekly Magazine

Blatant Self Promotion, Readers!

My story, “The Cry”, is published in the April issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine!

In 2012, Ed and I visited Hiroshima, Japan to tour the Mazda factory, an enormous place with its own deep sea harbour and engineering university. Later we felt a duty to view the Peace Park, the site of the first atomic bomb explosion. Sobering, to say the least.

The park stretches nearly a mile in length and contains numerous memorials, virtually all of them in bleak Brutalist style, i.e. grey concrete.

I felt compelled to use this setting some day. In “The Cry”, an elderly assassin, suffering from early dementia, hears a murder being committed. Or does he?

Mystery Weekly Magazine is available in print from Amazon here.

It’s also available on digital newsstands and Kindle Newsstands subscriptions: https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Weekly-Magazine/dp/B01N4NJL91

Or directly from The Mystery Weekly Magazine  website: http://www.mysteryweekly.com/subscribe.asp

Readers may also access Mystery Weekly FREE at over 30,000+ libraries and schools worldwide through their online system called Flipster.

 

EAT THIS BOOK: Disappearances by Howard Frank Mosher

In February, Ed and I made our annual ski trip to Stowe, Vermont. Though old Stowe is rapidly disappearing due to the monolith monster condo development at the ski hill (now owned by Vail Resorts with concomitant sticker-shock pricing), vestiges of its old charm remain.

That includes our favorite hotel, The Green Mountain Inn, with its Shaker décor, warm fireplaces and afternoon tea and cookies. Locals  grab coffee and nosh down bacon and eggs at  The Café on Main next door in the Depot Building. Other must-eat noms: the over-sized chocolate chip cookies and superb fresh muffins.

While sipping Green Mountain’s dark roast eye-opener, we tried to resist the pleading eyes of a charming pug – and failed. He’s the resident pet in the best bookstore in Vermont: Bear Bond Books.

 

 

 

I’m trying to downsize my library but a visit to Bear Pond guarantees failure: I never leave without buying a book. Bear Pond promotes local authors, including crime writers: here’s where I discovered Archer Mayor and the Joe Gunther series.  This February, I struck more gold.

Disappearances by Howard Frank Mosher intrigued me. The back cover outlined an adventure in bootlegging Canadian liquor across the US border during the Prohibition: an honourable part of our national history. And the novel drew on the intermingling of French Canadian and Vermont culture at the time. The hero’s name is Quebec Bill Bonhomme.

I’d anticipated that the border was once porous. Who knew how much? I was about to find out.

After the first page, I realized that I’d stumbled upon a gifted writer with a wildly exuberant imagination. Disappearances isn’t a mere adventure: it’s magic realism that reinvents and invigorates the tall tale.  It begins with our heroes’ visit to an asylum run by a mad, alcoholic doctor and an encounter with hermaphroditic twins and veers off into a series of Picaresque disasters. Crazy violence on par with noir author Johnny Shaw,  innumerable car crashes, an albino villain named Carcajou or “Wolverine” who won’t stay dead. Oh and did I mention that this is a comedy? I loved it! 

Disappearances  earned rave reviews from the Washington Post and Harper’s Magazine before winning the New England Book Award for fiction. In 2006, it was made into a film starring Kris Kristofferson and Genevieve Bujold. I’d never heard of it despite the cast.  It has a score of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes – in other words, mixed reviews. According to IMDB, it failed spectacularly at the box office, costing $1.5 million to make and bringing in only $300,000.

Perhaps the wild, over-the-top fantasies work best on the page: a fever dream shared intimately between reader and author. We’re glutted by fabulous CGI and overblown violence on screen every day. Who remembers Tim Burton’s film, Big Fish even though it was a critical and financial success?

Howard Frank Mosher wrote 11 novels, many of which were turned into films by Jay Craven, an indie film-maker and native of Vermont.  And in case you doubt the influence of Quebec, what does “Vermont” mean? Vert mont or green mountain, right? Green Mountain range, Green Mountain Inn. Sometimes it takes 30+ years for the penny to drop.

In the meantime, EAT THIS BOOK!

 

 

 

 

CYBER CAFE: Judy Penz Sheluk

Greetings and Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Readers!

I’m delighted to welcome back fellow crime fiction author, Judy Penz Sheluk. Judy’s latest book, A Hole in One, has just been released by Barking Rain Press.

 

An Amazon international bestselling author, Judy is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (The Hanged Man’s Noose and A Hole In One) and The Marketville Mysteries (Skeletons In The Attic). Her short crime fiction has appeared in several collections, including Live Free or Tri. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

Judy blogs regularly about her writing life as well as interviewing and showcasing the works of other authors. Check out Judy’s website and blog here.  

Welcome, Judy! Do give us a sneak preview of  A Hole in One.

Readers of The Hanged Man’s Noose will know that Arabella’s relationship with her ex-husband, Levon Larroquette, is complicated. It gets even more complicated in A Hole In One, especially once Levon is suspected of murder. Levon and Arabella meet in the Silent Auction room just before the charity golf tournament is set to begin…and before Arabella stumbles onto a corpse in the woods on the third hole.

A Hole in One is the second book in your series. What was easy to write? And what wasn’t?

You would think that the easiest part is that the world and main characters of my series are already  created. In some ways, it is, but the tricky part is not giving away anything that happened in Book One, especially when those details have influenced the actions or lives of my characters. It’s a balancing act. Not to be too repetitive so earlier readers get bored, but repetitive enough so that the new book can be read out of order.

This is your fourth book. Does writing get easier or harder for you with each book?

It’s getting harder, and that, I think, is because I’m becoming a better writer, but with that, my inner editor has become quite harsh. That said, it took me 18 months to write and revise HANGMAN’S NOOSE, a year to write and revise SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC, and about nine months to write and revise A HOLE IN ONE once I got into it.  So, I’m writing faster. Or maybe smarter.

I have another book coming out this fall, the sequel to Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville series. Now I’m working on three books! Book Three in the Glass Dolphin series, Book Three in the Marketville series, and a standalone.  The standalone is really calling to me right now. Maybe I just need a brief break from my series!

And you also blog regularly! You have been supporting fellow authors through New Release Mondays. 

New Release Mondays has been well received by authors and my blog followers. My initial intent was to support other authors without me doing a lot of work (ha!ha!). It’s opened a lot of doors for me. Authors I’ve never met have been showcased on my blog, and many are willing to return the favor when I have a new release.

But what if someone does not reciprocate?

It’s disappointing when someone doesn’t share the post or respond to comments, but when that happens the author goes on my “naughty” list, meaning I won’t host them again. We absolutely have to support each other if we want to succeed.

You generously share your writing experiences through My Publishing Journey. What have proved to be the most popular topics?

The more raw and honest my posts are, the more people respond to them. My earliest posts on looking for an agent or publisher, and the rejection I faced, gained a lot of traction even though at the time I had very few followers.

Another series that did well was the one on Scrivener, a writing software program beloved by many authors. So beloved, in fact, that if you don’t like Scrivener, you start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. For the record, I tried Scrivener and hated it. But that’s just me. I’ve been using Word since I started freelancing for magazines and newspapers in 2003, and it’s what I’m used to, and what works for me.

Most recently, I wrote a series of three posts on producing audiobooks. That’s been super popular with authors. I try for a mix of posts; some are geared to authors,  some to readers

What’s next for you – in your spare time (ha!ha!)?

I’ve been on the Board of Directors at Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) since June 2017, and have just volunteered for another year, though as a general board member versus as Regional Rep for Toronto/Southern Ontario. It’s a lot of work, but I’m learning so much and I’m able to help other Canadian authors at the same time.

I’m also on the Committee for a new mystery conference, which will be held in Toronto in late May or early June 2020. Right now we’re in the initial planning stages, but we’ll have our venue and date firmed up by June 2018. The idea for a conference came up at a CWC board meeting and I thought, “I have to get in on the ground floor of this.” The hope is that the conference will promote Canadian authors, and that it will become an annual event. That, of course, will depend on how successful we are year one.

And finally, readers, here’s an extract from A Hole in One – just before Arabella finds the body!

Levon smiled, the full-on one he tended to keep in reserve, and Arabella felt something tug inside of her. She had heard quite enough about Gilly Germaine and how amazing she was. It wasn’t as if she was jealous, exactly, more like she felt Levon slipping away from her little by little. They might not be married any longer, but she never stopping thinking of him as a friend, someone who knew her and loved her, blemishes and all. Since Gilly had arrived on the scene, Levon had become more and more distant. This past month he’d been all but absent. Today was the first time they’d spoken in two weeks.

It didn’t help that she’d recently split up with Aaron Beecham. For a small town cop, he seemed to be on duty more than off.

“I should get going,” Levon said, interrupting her thoughts. “Gilly is relying on me.”

I’m sure she is. “I better get going as well. We’re starting on number two.”

“Just remember not to hit the ball until the shotgun sounds.”

“Gilly’s using an actual shotgun? I thought everyone used sirens or horns these days.”

Levon laughed. “Gilly’s as much of a stickler for research as you are. She thought it would be more authentic if she used a shotgun, too. You of all people should appreciate that, Arabella. After all, isn’t that your motto? Authenticity matters?”

It was, but Arabella didn’t like it that Gilly had adopted the same motto.

She didn’t like it one bit.

Find A Hole in One in trade paperback and eBook on Amazon and at Barking Rain Press here.

 

 

.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, READERS!

Very excited to start 2018 with a new adventure. My friend, Donna Carrick of Carrick Publishing has launched a new podcast, Dead to Writes. I’m honoured to be one of the first authors featured on the podcast. I’ve been on radio once before on Sirius XM as a guest of Allison Dore.: a breathtakingly stressful adventure. We went overtime on our talk, which means all went well and Allison and her radio crew earned my undying admiration. Huge amount of work and prep goes into every minute of a radio interview.

Tonight, January 8th, my interview with Donna goes live followed by the audio version of my story, “Snake Oil”, from the Mesdames of Mayhem’s latest anthology, 13 Claws. Stand by for a thought-provoking discussion on crime fiction and writer’s craft.

Tune in via iTunes or Google Play. See you tonight!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, READERS!

 

Greetings Readers!

I’ve been away in Iceland, a fascinating spot. Photos and fab street art soon in my next Wanderings.

2017 was a year of peaks and troughs, but two best-ever events really stand out. On a personal level, my husband and I are going to become grandparents. Holy Cycle of Life, Batman. Some days I feel like I’m in a time machine except I age along with the scenery.  As my kid says: This Time Machine Sucks!

And 13 Claws, the Mesdames’ new anthology launched to great success. (Read all about the event here.)

Even better, the book received great reviews from Maureen Jennings, creator of the acclaimed Murdoch detective series and Jack Batten, mystery reviewer for the Toronto Star.

Warning: Blatant Self-Promotion! My story, “Snake Oil”, received a shout-out!

Here’s what Jack Batten wrote:

The gimmick in the third annual collection of crime stories from this group of Canadian woman writers is that an animal plays a role in each tale…But just because the contributors to the collection write out of an affection for animals doesn’t mean readers need similar feelings to appreciate the stories. There’s enough suspense and intellectual fascination built into the plots of the majority of stories to satisfy even the most ferociously cynophobic reader… And M. H. Callway’s tale mixes snakes and the real estate business in a way that will make readers run a mile from both.

And Maureen wrote:

A great mix of shuddery dark and tongue-in-cheek funny. What devious minds all these nice women have.

More blatant promotion: 13 Claws makes a great stocking stuffer. It’s available on Amazon and at my favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street.

 

 

LAUNCH OF 13 CLAWS!

Excited about the launch of the Mesdames of Mayhem’s third anthology, 13 Clawswhich I believe is our best collection yet.

Many years ago, my friend and fellow author, Jane Burfield had the idea for an anthology that centred on animals: animals as heroes – or villains. In 2016, our publisher, Carrick Publishing, gave us the go-ahead and here we are, better late than never.

Jane is a champion of  encouraging new writers.  The Mesdames held a contest and three authors new to the crime fiction genre, Mary Patterson, Roz Place and Marilyn Kay, have stories in the book.

If you’re in the Toronto area, do join us at the launch. There will food, drink and readings. Come out and support our favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street.