Monday, September 15, 2014

Bouchercon Coming Together

It was pretty obvious, when several of the critics I knew would be attending Bouchercon 2014 started posting about their individual panel discussion assignments, that a preliminary lineup of such presentations was soon to come. And sure enough, yesterday brought this PDF chart of who would be speaking when at the November 13-16 event in Long Beach, California. I haven’t looked closely through it yet, but I did notice that my friends Kevin Burton Smith, Ali Karim, and Peter Rozovsky will be leading talks at one time or another.

As interesting as this schedule is, I’m no less excited to see how the list of attendees for November’s Bouchercon is shaping up.

If you haven’t yet registered for Bouchercon 2014, you can still do so by clicking here and filling out the requisite paperwork.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Get Ready to “Rockford”



It was 40 years ago tonight that The Rockford Files, starring James Garner, debuted on NBC-TV with an episode titled “The Kirkoff Case.” I was still just a kid back then, but I have a strong memory of sitting down in front of my family’s too-small black-and-white TV set to watch that new weekly private-eye series for the first time. The show had a bankable star in Garner, who’d initially made his name on the 1957-1960 Western Maverick, but had gone on to feature in such big-screen hits as The Americanization of Emily, Grand Prix, Marlowe, Support Your Local Sheriff!, and Skin Game. Rockford was also re-teaming Garner with writer and producer Roy Huggins, who had created Maverick (before developing 77 Sunset Strip, The Fugitive, and many other programs). Small-screen critics in 1974 sounded notably optimistic about The Rockford Files’ future.

I recall one column in particular, written during the summer of 1974 by Francis Murphy, the longtime TV reviewer for my hometown newspaper, the Portland Oregonian. It began: “James Garner believes that his new series, The Rockford Files, will contain overtones of the dry sense of humor that made Maverick such a hit. Garner calls it the ‘Holy cow, I’m going to get killed’ attitude.” During an interview conducted in Beverly Hills, California, the actor had described for Murphy the essence of his character, Jim Rockford:
I’m a [Los Angeles] private detective. I’ve spent five years in [San Quentin] prison on a bum rap. I like people and have empathy for those in trouble. I put on a business-like exterior but I’m a soft touch.

I deal with closed files, or rather inactive cases which no longer interest the police. I help people who have been unjustly accused or whose reputation has been smeared. I have a gun, but with my record I can’t get a permit to use it, so I keep it in a coffee can.
TV Guide subsequently devoted a full page to The Rockford Files in its September 7, 1974, Fall Preview edition (see the image on the left, which you can right-click to enlarge). Its typically cheeky write-up added a few more details to the series’ concept:
Rockford is especially interested in cases the police have not been able to solve. This does not make him terribly popular at police headquarters, but he trudges onward, smiling that amiable Garner smile, tailing suspects, being tailed by other suspects, trying to talk people out of beating him up, and hoping that this week, for a change, the seductive woman who has invited him to her apartment won’t pull a gun on him.
The 90-minute Rockford pilot film, which guest-starred lovely Lindsay Wagner (and can be watched right here), was first broadcast on Wednesday, March 27, 1974. It drew high ratings and established the framework of the series to follow. James Scott Rockford was a Korean War veteran (just like Garner), who lived in a trailer on the beach at Santa Monica (initially at 2354 Pacific Coast Highway, but later at 29 Cove Road). The trailer was also his business office, which--as he explained in the pilot--could be moved whenever he took cases out of town (though I don’t believe it was ever carted around for those purposes). Rockford charged $200 a day for his services, plus expenses, though he was frequently either cheated out of his pay or waved it to help clients in need. He drove a gold-colored Pontiac Firebird Esprit, which he often piloted at excessive speeds while chasing or outrunning crooks. His father, Joseph “Rocky” Rockford (portrayed in the pilot by Robert Donley, but in the later series by Noah Beery Jr.) was a retired truck driver, who spent more than a little time and wasted breath trying to talk “Jimmy” into ditching P.I. work in favor of wheeling big rigs about the country. Rocky often (if sometimes reluctantly) came to the aid of his only son on difficult cases, but so did other of Rockford’s friends, especially beleaguered Sergeant Dennis Becker (Joe Santos) of the LAPD; Elizabeth “Beth” Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), Rockford’s well-off lawyer and on-and-off girlfriend; and Evelyn “Angel” Martin (Stuart Margolin), an ex-con/con man buddy of Rockford, who couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble--or stop from mixing Rockford up in that same trouble.

NBC’s original notion had been to schedule the hour-long Rockford series on Sunday nights at 10 p.m., following The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie and in bare-knuckle contention against CBS-TV’s Mannix, which featured Mike Connors as yet another L.A. gumshoe. Prior to its debut, however, The Rockford Files was shuffled over to the 9-10 p.m. slot on Friday nights, after the sitcoms Sanford and Son and Chico and the Man, and preceding Angie Dickinson’s new crime drama, Police Woman. Nobody knew then how smart a move that would be, or that The Rockford Files would last six seasons, win a shelf-load of Emmy Awards, and become one of the most successful and beloved private-eye series ever shown on American television. Garner, who had previously played Raymond Chandler’s P.I., Philip Marlowe, in Marlowe, created in Jim Rockford a character who would become a model for other TV (and book) private eyes to come.

No, none of that could have been predicted on Friday, September 13, 1974, when The Rockford Files initially flickered onto TV screens across the United States, with a stylish opening sequence including theme music composed by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. Viewers who had followed the show’s pre-debut publicity knew only that James Garner (whose 1971-1972 NBC series, Nichols, had failed to catch on) was returning to television in a Bret Maverick-style role that seemed perfect for him. At 9 p.m. that night, we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. We weren’t disappointed.

WATCH MORE: If you’d like to watch “The Kirkoff Case,” that first regular Rockford Files episode, click here.

“Let His Books Speak for Him Again”

Three weeks ago, Los Angeles Times contributor Scott Timberg e-mailed me in hopes of arranging an interview. He was putting together a piece about James Ellroy’s new novel, Perfidia, the opening installment of that author’s “Second L.A. Quartet” of nourish tales, and wanted my thoughts on Ellroy’s reputation and his evolution as a crime writer. I was pleased to respond, and a couple of my quotes wound up in Timberg’s finished feature.

Subsequently, though, Timberg wrote to ask permission to post our entire e-mail Q&A in his blog, CultureCrash. I agree, and so you can now find more of my opinions on Ellroy’s work (which the Times man calls “so damned insightful”) here. Included is this exchange:
I wonder if there’s any sense that he’s lost some of his momentum recently: He has a TV show that went nowhere, his memoir (much of which was quite good, I thought) did not set the world on fire the way My Dark Places did, movies of his work have not matched the success of L.A. Confidential, and he had a very public affair here in L.A. [with] a fellow writer that didn’t end well. Does he seem to be at a funny, maybe vulnerable point now?

I do think many readers look at Ellroy differently now than they did when he first achieved widespread popularity in the mid-1980s. Part of that is a consequence of the higher profile he’s gained since then. We know more details about his life than we did 30 years ago--more about his boyhood delinquency and his teenage years as a self-described “perv,” his obsession with his mother’s slaying and his troubled relationships with women, his alcoholism and his nervous breakdown--and not all of that has cast him in the most favorable light. When he first began writing, his novels were judged on their own strengths and weaknesses; now we perceive each new book partly through our understanding of his personal life, past and present.

That’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way it is. He seems to revel in the ego-stroking that comes from being recognized, being acclaimed by critics, and being courted by the media and by filmmakers alike. But Ellroy may have exposed himself too much. Perhaps he should turn his back on the limelight for awhile, adopt a lower profile, and let his books speak for him again. They’re probably the best ambassadors he could send out into the world.
Again, if you’re interested, you can find the full interview here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Reflections on a Dark “Room”

One of the most rewarding results of reading crime and thriller fiction is to happen across a narrative that makes your consciousness spark at the same time as it entertains you. A bonus is to discover that this same story is also layered with insightful social commentary, and that it poses uncomfortable questions and makes you reassess your worldview. I’ve found that the work of Danuta Reah (who writes as well under the pen name Carla Banks) accomplishes all of that. Her novels are consistently rewarding; I selected Bleak Water as one of my favorite new novels of 2002, and ranked The Forest of Souls among January Magazine’s Best Books of 2005.

Her latest book, The Last Room--released this summer in the UK by Caffeine Nights Publishing--is especially meritorious.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with Reah’s fiction should know that her interests lie in exploring the darker dimensions of human nature and motivations; she’s always looking for fresh and striking insights. Her protagonists frequently investigate dangers facing dispossessed or disadvantaged people. In addition to plumbing the rich recesses of her imagination, she’s an avid supporter of literacy programs and has worked as an educational consultant and creative-writing instructor. A resident of Sheffield, England, Reah has long been active in the British Crime Writers’ Association, and she has served as one of the chairs of judges for the CWA Dagger Awards.

I was delighted to receive, not that long ago, a copy of The Last Room and was captivated by its tale, which traverses geopolitics and war, and reveals how the seeds of conflict often lie hidden in manipulations executed during our history. Here’s my story line synopsis from a review I wrote for the Webzine Shots:
With the contemporary world (as ever) in geopolitical turmoil, we find The Last Room reflecting this, in a very disturbing tale of the reality that is often masked under (what former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara described as) ‘the fog of war’. The back story is the Balkan War(s), though the lineage for that conflict, and this disturbing novel [also has roots] further in time, back to WW2 (and African civil wars).

The opening is a terse, grueling snatch of a vicious attack on a pregnant woman [named Nadifa] on Africa’s war-torn Ivory Coast in 2005. This sets the scene for a complex novel which questions if there can ever be any absolute truth …

Moving to 2007 Europe, we follow the aftermath of the suicide of Dr. Ania Milosz, an expert witness involved in the conviction of a child killer, Derek Haynes, who is appealing against his conviction for the murder of six-year old Sagal Akindes (daughter of [the] aforementioned, brutalized asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast).

Neither Ania’s father, retired policeman Will Gillen, nor her fiancé, Dariusz Erland, believes that the linguistics expert jumped to her death, and so starts a trail that snakes its way to the deeds of the past, deeds that some wish to remain hidden in the fog that is war.
After my immersion in this dense, disturbing yarn, I contacted Reah. I had a few questions to ask about her book’s components and construction. She kindly agreed to respond to my queries, but she also offered more information about herself as a novelist. Our exchange, posted below, covered everything from her writing style and her pseudonym to the source of her curiosity about Eastern Europe, her time as the chair of the CWA, and her thoughts on today’s rapidly evolving publishing industry.

Ali Karim: I considered The Last Room to be a solidly crafted, sculptured, narrative that held together a complex plot, with its various unconnected strands weaving themselves through the tale but leaving no visible seams. So am I right in thinking it was plotted extensively before any writing commenced?

Danuta Reah: I’m not a writer who can plot [everything out ahead of time]. I need to be in the story with the characters before I know what will happen. I plot as I go. It’s rather a tense way of writing--what if I never find out what happens? But I can’t seem to write any other way. I’ve found there’s quite a divide among writers between those who plot beforehand and those who plot as they go. I don’t think one way is better than the other--it’s just the way different people write. It’s part of finding your voice as a writer, understanding how you work.

AK: Although it’s far from gratuitously violent, the opening of your novel is somewhat painful to read. Were you concerned about beginning the story with such shocking imagery?

DR: I was, but I wanted to tell this story. I have always been very wary of writing rape scenes, and I was careful to include no physical details of the actual rape. As soon as you do that, you are running the risk of making it titillating.

(Left) Author Danuta Read. (Image courtesy of Zace Photography.)

I worked with asylum seekers from Cote d’Ivoire a few years ago, and I noticed that some of the women came here with stories that didn’t really hold together. I wondered why this was. At that time the country was in such chaos, they should have a legitimate claim for asylum, so why were they telling stories that clearly weren’t true, or weren’t fully true? I realized later, when I learned more about it, that there were some stories they couldn’t tell, especially not to a strange man at the UK border. Women in Cote d’Ivoire who have been raped carry a terrible stigma. Their families, their husbands, their communities can (and do) reject them. Nadifa, in a way, is a Cote d’Ivoirian Everywoman from that time. Rape has been used for centuries as a weapon of war. If anybody doubts how dreadful this is, they should read the Human Rights Watch account of sexual violence against women in Cote d’Ivoire, “My Heart Is Cut.” The first chapter of The Last Room pales into nothing by comparison. I couldn’t write what really happened--I could just hint at it as I stayed in Nadifa’s mind as she saves her children from the soldiers who are attacking her.

AK: The novel boasts a propulsive pace, due in part to your use of short, concise chapters. Did you set out to structure the story this way, or did the narrative simply lead you to offer such short chapters?

DR: I found short chapters very useful. It wasn’t a conscious decision--it’s how it worked out in the writing. There were parts of the book where something happened that lent itself to a chapter, but was quite brief. It was a new thing for me, but I enjoyed writing this way.

AK: Did you consider releasing The Last Room under your Carla Banks pseudonym? It reminded me, both in stylistic and thematic terms, of your 2005 thriller, Forest of Souls, which you did publish as Banks.

DR: The Carla Banks identity was imposed on me by my then publisher. I always wanted to get my name back. I know what you mean--The Last Room, like Forest of Souls and Strangers [2007], is an international thriller, and it is dark and complex. I think this represents a development in my writing--I think this is the way I write now, and I’m happy to have my own name attached to it. But who knows where publishers will take me?

AK: The sections of your new book set in Poland were vividly, and sometimes chillingly, realized. So tell us a little about your geographical and historical research.

DR: My father was Polish, but I didn’t go to Poland myself until I was an adult. I visited the place he was born and lived as a child, Baranovichi, which is now in Belarus. Something we forget about Central and Eastern Europe is that the 1939-45 war did not end well for them. They went from the Nazi occupation--which was far, far worse than anything that was seen in Western Europe--to Soviet occupation under Stalin. The memories of that war are still vivid--not for any vainglorious reasons, but simply because it was so terrible. We know the story of the Jews, but sometimes the horror of that drowns out the horror of what happened to the ethnic Poles. That, too, was close to genocide. The Polish-American poet John Guzlowski has written some powerful poetry about his parents’ memories and experiences in his collections, The Language of Mules and Lightning and Ashes.

I went to Łódź first of all, to a summer conference on forensic linguistics, something that interests me as an academic. I loved the city. Łódź is a bit like my own city of Sheffield--it’s an industrial city that has suffered through depressions, but it’s also a city that has its beautiful places. Like Sheffield, it’s full of trees and green spaces, but Łódź is truly a city in a forest. The Łagiewniki Forest comes right into the city--when I was there first, I stayed in a hotel in the forest.

Łódź also has its war memorials. The extermination center of Chełmno was not so far away, and the Litzmannstadt (German name for Łódź) Ghetto was one of the major centers where Jews from across Europe were sent. You can still walk the lines of the Ghetto boundaries, and in the Jewish graveyard, as I describe in the book, there are the grave pits the last Ghetto survivors were forced to dig. Like so many Eastern European cities--like Warsaw, like Minsk--Łódź is haunted by a terrible past. But Łódź also has lovely memories of its Jewish community before the Holocaust. The graves show how long the families had lived there, the buildings and the statues on the streets remember the Jews of Łódź--there is one of Arthur Rubinstein playing the piano; his parents are buried in the Jewish graveyard. There are so many stories to tell from that time. I think I will revisit it.

AK: You write very strong male characters, especially from the perspective of protagonists Will Gillen and Dariusz Erland. Can you tell us how you see the differences between writing from the female or male points of view?

DR: I’m glad you found the male characters convincing--I hoped they were, but it takes a man to spot it. I suppose I have lived with men all my life. I was very close to my father, I have a son, I have a brother, I have a brief and very bad marriage in my past, and an enduring and very happy one in my present. And over the years I have had many, many male friends. I try to drop behind the male eye, and see the world from that perspective. I think men express their emotions differently from women. Both Will and Dariusz are grieving, but neither of them deals with grief in quite the way a woman would. I think they are both quite isolated--they come from backgrounds where men are expected not to show their emotions, Will as a senior police officer, Dariusz with his background in the social unrest around the Solidarity movement. In both cases, their environment expects them to be less emotional, and I found I could work with that.

AK: There were moments in this story, especially in the later sections set in Poland, that were upsetting, guaranteed to draw out emotions in the reader. As an author, how difficult do you find it traversing the tightrope that has pathos on one side and melodrama on the other?

DR: The Last Room is a book about grief--real grief, not the faux version we see too often across our television screens. Grief is a very raw emotion. I was able to draw on my own experiences of this, but it was painful to do so. I think the important thing is to be honest about the way the bereaved and the lost feel. Will has had so much grief in his life that he can let it in and get on with what he needs to do. Dariusz tries to shut it out, but he can’t. It leads him to take crazy risks--he can’t stand his own feelings so he does some not very sensible things because he can’t bear to sit still and remember.

The book deals with some traumatic events, and I think, if I’ve done my job and engaged readers sufficiently with the characters and the narrative, then they will find some of the working out of the story traumatic too.

AK: As a reviewer, one has to be able to distinguish cliché from convention. So I must ask: Did you have concern that one of the pivots this plot rests upon is the investigation of a suicide that may be murder? In the real world, we know that many suicides, especially those related to geopolitics, hide secrets from the public.

DR: I wasn’t sure, when Ania first died, if this was suicide or murder. My thoughts became clearer as I followed Will’s investigation, and the police investigation. I realized more and more that Ania’s death was a lot more complicated than it seemed, whether it was murder, suicide, or accident. You have to follow where the plot goes, and hope you can manage to avoid any possible cliché. I hope I have managed this--but readers will let me know!

AK: There is very interesting social commentary interwoven into your fast-moving plot. Do you ever fear that the underlying theme or message in a work of fiction, especially one casting an eye on contemporary issues, risks stepping over the line that is “entertainment”?

DR: I’ve been told that my books are very dark. I sometimes wonder if they are too dark. It’s hard to know how to lighten them--maybe I should crack a joke of two on the way. Or maybe not, come to think of it. I like to ask readers to look at other people’s lives from different perspectives. I don’t want to move away from the story, but I want to tell the stories. Several people told me that one of the things they liked about The Forest of Souls was that it told them things they didn’t know. If you, as a writer, can work these things into the narrative--and they seem to weave themselves in naturally--then I think it all works as a book, as a story. My main aim is to write something people will read and enjoy.

AK: The Last Room tackles a number of currently topical issues, among them war crimes, asylum seekers, and moral panic over Operation Yewtree, the British police investigation of sexual abuse by the late media personality, Jimmy Saville, and others. Do these concerns in the book reflect your own concerns, or were they spawned by the tale you had constructed in your imagination?

DR: They were all an integral part of the story, but I suppose that arose originally from my own concerns. When I was starting to find the threads of the story--my starting point was a woman who had destroyed her own career and professional reputation by falsifying evidence in a court case--I had to ask why someone would do this, and what was happening. I first saw Will as a solitary man living on the east coast of Scotland and I wondered why he was isolating himself like this. I think the answers to these questions were drawn from my own experience and concerns, and in the past few years, some of these issues have been very central to my life.

AK: You are a former chair of the UK Crime Writers’ Association, having served back in the days when e-books were still an experiment, rather than a cultural trend. Can you tell us what you think about the changing modern publishing environment?

DR: It’s a very challenging time to be a writer as I’m sure lots of writers have told you. It’s also exciting--there are so many routes into publishing now. At the moment it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Self-publishing is now financially accessible and several professional writers have taken this up. Some debut writers have used this as a route into publishing. The problem with this is the quality control has gone and the reader is left with a bewildering array of books and no guidance. The market will probably sort it out.


Historical mystery novelist Michael Jecks poses on the left, with Reah. (Photograph by Ali Karim.)

People dream about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, when an independently published book makes a fortune. But this is rarer than hen’s teeth (if you’ll allow me one cliché). I would never discourage anyone from self-publishing if the established publishing industry won’t give them a way in, but I would ask them to look coldly and critically at their book, and to get some unbiased feedback. Too many badly written and poorly edited books are out there now. It isn’t just independently published books, sadly. The professional editor is slowly disappearing from the trade. I was very lucky to be edited by one of the best in the business for my first six books and I learned a tremendous amount. It was hard, but worth it.

AK: And your thoughts on the recent Amazon vs. Hachette war?

DB: Amazon has changed the world of bookselling. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I regret the demise of the Net Book Agreement. This squeezed so-called mid-list writers out of the market, which reduced variety. Small booksellers--who are the people who keep the market lively and buoyant--are a vanishing breed. At the moment, Amazon has too much power, but it’s power we, the readers, have given it.

On the other hand, it is Amazon that has allowed small publishers to flourish. The big booksellers also abuse their power. Very few readers realize that those tempting piles of books on displays are not bookshop recommendations based on the shop’s opinion of their quality--they are paid-for promotions. And this makes it hard for small publishers who can’t pay this kind of money and sometimes can’t get their books into the shops at all. At one time, an author who couldn’t get his or her books into [W.H.] Smith or Waterstones was dead. Amazon has changed that. Of course, small publishers still have to fight to get their books into the bookstores. The result? Every branch of Waterstones or Smith’s is identical to every other branch. If I want variety, I go into the wonderful London Review Bookshop when I’m in London, and some of the surviving independents when I am in the north.

So Amazon isn’t Satan, as it is sometimes portrayed. But Amazon shouldn’t be trying to force the price of books down any further. Writers, oddly enough, need to live. The next big thing will be along one day, and will do to Amazon what Amazon has done to the big booksellers--they will need reader and writer loyalty.

AK: A well-known crime-fiction author remarked recently (and without a particular agenda) that it seemed to him many writers from other genres, as well as general fiction authors, have recently been dipping their toes more and more into the once-sniffed-at crime/thriller field. Do you have any thoughts on this development?

DB: Yes, I suppose it could be seen as an easy way to get a bestseller. I’m sure I would do the same if I were in that position. I have read one or two of these books, and found them to be at the very least readable, which is what you would expect given the quality of some of these writers. Good writers write good books. What I don’t like is the subtext (it doesn’t come from writers, it comes from a certain section of the world of critics and commentators) that “quality” writers are showing crime writers how to do it.

Genre fiction of all types has a range--from the formulaic, fast-written thriller (and don’t knock that--it’s not an easy thing to do) to books that have the depth and complexity of many so-called literary writers. The late and much lamented Reginald Hill wrote some books that were multi-layered and subtle (ignore the TV versions--the books are where the quality lies). John Harvey writes books that are about a lot more than the crime that may be central to the narrative. I could go on.

I have twice been faced with the “genre” smear (in the sense that the literary establishment thinks that genre fiction writers are a sub-species). Once I went for an interview for a writer-in-residence post, and one of the panel, a nationally known poet, sat through the interview with a “bad smell” expression on his face and asked me how I would cope with criticism from students that I wrote crime. The other--again in academia--was when someone asked me (very nicely) if I’d ever thought about writing a proper book. I said I wasn’t clever enough to do that.

AK: We all know that the crime, mystery, and thriller sector is a vibrant one in today’s book-publishing market. As I have with many other writers in this genre, let me ask you what you think it is about this genre that appeals most to readers.

DB: That’s so hard to answer. I’m a reader, and I know I’m looking for a good story. This can range from a light, engaging read (for a plane journey, maybe, or for reading after a grueling work period) to a book that will engage me deeply and perhaps disturb me. I think crime offers that range far more than any genre. I think we all like to read about rules being broken--and there’s nothing like a good fright from time to time.

AK: How hard is it nowadays to make one’s career as a writer--a profession that admittedly has never seemed particularly “secure”?

DB: It’s harder than ever now. To make my living as a writer I have to write articles, reviews, run workshops--and somehow find time to write as well. I think it is going to get worse. I’m currently looking at new outlets for stories, because I’ll always want to tell them, but I also need to make a living.

AK: What books are you currently composing?

DB: I’m working on a book that looks back to the last war in Eastern Europe, but which also looks forward to problems in the present day. The question that I’m asking is, if something looks like a good outcome, a happy ending, are you sure that’s the case? Is this what it appears to be? I have a young journalist who is on the track of a story--maybe she needs to be careful--and a man in search of the people who helped his family in wartime Poland--and maybe he needs to be careful too.

AK: Finally, what have you enjoyed reading lately?

DB: I’ve been re-reading some Agatha Christie--when she’s good, she’s very good. I recommend Five Little Pigs. I’ve also just read Invisible City, by Julia Dahl--we’ll hear more of this writer. It’s an excellent debut. I enjoyed M.J. Carter’s The Strangler Vine. It’s slow moving, but very absorbing. I thoroughly enjoyed John Harvey’s last [Charlie] Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness.

Looking Backwards Going Forward

As it has during previous Septembers, the blog Crime Fiction Lover is devoting much space this month to classic tales of mystery and detection. Works considered so far include Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Judge and His Hangman, Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, and Evan Hunter/Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct yarns. The blog’s editors also chose to highlight Sophie Hannah’s The Monogram Murders, though that novel--which revives the career of Agatha Christie’s brilliant Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot--is brand new. Click here to keep track of this series.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Welcome to the Clubber

It seems my small reminder late last week about author Craig McDonald’s book giveaway finally got the responses flowing in. I can now announce the names of that contest’s winners.

As I explained before, at the end of a recent “Story Behind the Story” post about his new Hector Lassiter novel, Forever’s Just Pretend (Betimes), McDonald wrote:
Now, here’s a challenge to all you Lassiter series readers: the first three people who can correctly identify the inspiration for the “Key West Clubber” killings in Forever’s Just Pretend will be rewarded with signed and numbered copies of the now über-rare, limited-edition hardcover version of Toros & Torsos, complete with the ‘booking sheet’ for yours truly and a personalized fingerprint.
So who did inspire the notorious “Key West Clubber”? It was an Ohio serial murderer known as the “Toledo Slugger” (or “Toledo Clubber”), who “terrorized Toledo’s population during 1925 and ’26, assaulting women, beating some of them to death and leaving others gravely wounded in the wake of his attacks.”

The first three correct answers came from these people, all of whom should soon be hearing from McDonald through the public mails:

Drew Lebby of Washington, D.C.
Michael S. Chong of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Greg Daniel of Palmetto, Florida

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this drawing.

Pierce’s Picks: “Perfidia”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Perfidia, by James Ellroy (Knopf)

The Gist: Twenty-two years after White Jazz, the final entry in his original “L.A. Quartet” of historical crime novels was published, James Ellroy storms back into bookstores with Perfidia, the first volume in a “Second L.A. Quartet” that he has described as an epic “grand romance of Los Angeles during World War II.” This prequel set of gritty, often brutal yarns will feature a blend of real-life characters with fictional ones, some of whom have been drawn from Ellroy’s previous works and will appear in these new books as their younger selves. As part of a review for The Seattle Times, novelist and prosecutor Mark Lindquist offers this synopsis of Perfidia’s story line:
On the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, [Hawaii,] a Japanese-American family is found dead. Either they committed a ritualistic suicide, or they were murdered. Los Angeles Police Department Police Chief William H. Parker from “LA Confidential,” who was the actual police chief of the LAPD from 1950 until 1966, appears as Captain William H. Parker and oversees the investigation. Hideo Ashida, a police chemist, and the only Japanese-American employee of LAPD, is assigned to work the case.

Kay Lake, from “The Black Dahlia,” appears as a 21-year-old adventuress learning her way around L.A. “I wanted to run away to Los Angeles and become someone else there … I was equal parts innocence and lunatic grit.” Kay’s chapters, written in first-person diary form, were among the most engaging for me, illuminating the motives and desires of the men who are intertwined by the investigation.

Beginning on Dec. 6, 1941, and unfolding in 23 days of real-time narration, “Perfidia” is a murder mystery, a subversive historical novel, and a dark meditation on power, politics, race and justice.
What Else You Should Know: In a piece for the Los Angeles Times (in which I happen to be quoted), Scott Timberg describes Perfidia as “700 pages of ultra-violent, often frenetic police procedural, macho swagger, anti-Semitic broadcasts and racist rampage. It is told in real time, much of it between midnight and dawn, shaped by what Ellroy found in the historical record: a city raging at all hours, high on unchecked hedonism and bone-deep fear. … Ellroy’s novels are rarely sedate, but ‘Perfidia’--the title, which means ‘betrayal’ in Spanish, comes from the 1939 song--is more jittery and hopped-up than most. Reading Ellroy can be overwhelming in any setting, but the new novel might be incomprehensible without some sense of his earlier books. As bullets and fragments of teeth fly, numerous historical figures--Bette Davis, Joseph Kennedy--show up. Ellroy is more concerned with fitting his characters into the world he's created over his last seven novels than historical accuracy.” Writing in The New York Times, fellow crime novelist Dennis Lehane explains that in Perfidia, “Ellroy depicts a Los Angeles Police Department of order, if little law.
It polices the city with thuggery, racism and misogyny, its foot soldiers drunk either on power, alcohol, opium or speed. And while the endless and uncomfortable racial epithets feel true to the times and the men who utter them, the ceaseless “outing” of rumored homosexuals grows monotonous and, worse, predictable. Before I even saw the “Roosevelt” that followed “Eleanor,” I knew reference would be made to her rumored homosexual tendencies, and it was. Same went for Barbara Stanwyck and Cary Grant. The effect isn’t revelatory; it’s puerile.

The police are not knights, they’re occupiers, and in “Perfidia,” Ellroy comes closer than ever to making the case that he writes alt-histories not of the Los Angeles police but of the Los Angeles police state. Very early in the investigation, it’s deemed necessary for the war effort and the city’s mental well-being that a Japanese culprit be caught, tried, convicted and executed. And so the morally compromised Parker and the amoral [police detective Dudley] Smith fight for bragging rights to immorally “solve” a crime in the best interests of the city’s morale. As Parker and Smith circle the Watanabe murders and their connection to war and postwar profiteering, Ellroy depicts with frightening authenticity how those innocent of crimes are knowingly framed in the interest of the almighty “greater good.”
Ellroy is no angel as a person, and he can be downright cranky when asked to remark on the current state of American culture. The staccato style of prose-writing he has adopted over the years can come off as affected, and it wears uneasily on many readers (including yours truly). However, as Megan Abbott (The Fever) remarked several years ago in a piece for The Rap Sheet, Ellroy produces “sprawling, meaty, kaleidoscopic novels that take us on unforgettable, labyrinthine journeys into a simmering, epic Los Angeles (and Las Vegas and Miami and New York and Havana and Chicago ... but especially Los Angeles)--a city swelling at the seams with uncontrollable violence, deceit, self-deceit, predation, grief, self-hatred, dangerous bravado, and a deep, lingering sorrow over itself.” If you were taken with the hard-knuckled, persistently cynical literary wonders Ellory spun out in his first L.A. Quartet, it may be hard not to sign up for at least the opening novel in this second act.

READ MORE:James Ellroy,” by Ben Isaacs (ShortList); “Review: James Ellroy’s Perfidia a Perfect Start in New L.A. Quartet,” by Colette Bancroft (Tampa Bay Times); “How I Wrote It: James Ellroy, on WWII and His Second L.A. Quartet,” by Neal Thompson (Omnivoracious).

Sunday, September 07, 2014

My BFFs (Book Friends Forever)

I was starting to think that nobody would invite me to take part in the latest Facebook meme. Finally, though, my friend (and January Magazine editor) Linda L. Richards tagged me. The challenge is to name 10 books that have “stayed with you” in some way. You shouldn’t think too hard on the matter, and the books you choose don’t need to be great works of literature, just those that you hold a little piece of in your heart. Well, here goes my list:

Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (1985)
Lincoln, by Gore Vidal (1984)
The Underground Man, by Ross Macdonald (1971)
The Little Book, by Selden Edwards (2008)
Homer & Langley, by E.L. Doctorow (2009)
Riven Rock, by T.C. Boyle (1998)
Mohawk, by Richard Russo (1986)
Never Cross a Vampire, by Stuart M. Kaminsky (1980)
The Steam Pig, by James McClure (1971)
Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, by David McCullough (1981)

As I said, I put these picks together quickly, without over-thinking the exercise. That my list features only three crime novels shouldn’t be terribly surprising; they represent my early experiences with the genre, back when I was still trying to decide whether it offered the storytelling scope and writing quality that would keep me interested in the long run. (Obviously, it did!) I am more surprised to see that only two of the books I mention were published within the last 15 years.

Even extending this tally to 22 titles (I couldn’t bear to trim any more out of it) adds only two 21st-century works:

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos (1989)
Ringworld, by Larry Niven (1970)
The Theory of Everything, by Lisa Grunwald (1991)
The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, by Herbert Asbury (1933)
The Eighth Circle, by Stanley Ellin (1958; more here)
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
The Blind Man of Seville, by Robert Wilson (2003)
The Big Sky, by A.B. Guthrie Jr. (1947)
Looking for Rachel Wallace, by Robert B. Parker (1980)
Leavenworth Train: A Fugitive’s Search for Justice in the Vanishing West, by Joe Jackson (2001--more here)
Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, by Steven Millhauser (1996)
Angel in Black, by Max Allan Collins (1981--more here)

Have I become increasingly critical of books over time? Was I more open to new works during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s--is that why those decades are best represented here? Perhaps my standards for excellence have risen over the many years I’ve been reviewing books, and it’s harder now for a new yarn to win my adoration. That seems as good an excuse as any others.

On Facebook, participants in this meme were asked to tag others, who would then feel pressured to submit their own book choices. I am declining to do that here. But if you’d like to share your top-10 lists in the Comments section below, that would be cool.

McKinty Leads the Pack

During events last evening at Australia’s Brisbane Writers Festival, the winners of the 2014 Ned Kelly Awards were announced as follows:

Best Crime Novel:
In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)

Also nominated: Bitter Wash Road, By Garry Disher (Text); Fatal Impact, by Kathryn Fox (Pan Macmillan); Beams Falling, by P.M. Newton (Penguin); One Boy Missing, by Stephen Orr (Text); and The Dying Beach, by Angela Savage (Text)

Best First Crime Novel:
Hades, by Candice Fox (Random House)

Also nominated: Dead Cat Bounce, by Peter Cotton (Scribe); Blood Witness, by Alex Hammond (Penguin); and Every Breath, by Ellie Marney (Tundra)

Best True Crime:
Murder in Mississippi, by John Safran (Blackfriars)

Also nominated: Disgraced? by Paul Dale (Five Mile Press); Forever Nine, by John Kidman and Denise Hofman (Five Mile Press); No Mercy, by Eleanor Learmonth and Jenny Tabakoff (Text); JFK: The Smoking Gun, by Colin McLaren (Hachette); and Outlaw Bikers in Australia, by Duncan McNab (Pan Macmillan)

Sandra Harvey Short Story Award:
“Web Design,” by Emma Viskic

Also nominated: “Housewarming,” by Louise Bassett; “The Scars of Noir,” by Darcy-Lee Tindale; “Voices of Soi 22,” by Roger Vickery; and “Splinter,” by Emma Viskic

(Hat tip to Fair Dinkum Crime.)

Friday, September 05, 2014

Warming Up to Read Away the Colder Months



You should see my office. It used to be such a well-ordered, easily navigable space, but over the summer, miniature mountain ranges climbed from the carpeted floor and declared their dominance over my desk. Those peaks are of course made up of crime, mystery, and thriller novels due for publication on both sides of the broad Atlantic between now and the closing days of 2014--dozens of books, in hardcover and paperback both. So if, during the coming four chillier months, you get the impression that there are more new works in this genre crowding store shelves than is normal … well, don’t assume it is your imagination. It might well be true! I recently pulled together a rough list of forthcoming crime-fiction releases--not every one, but those I believe will be of the greatest interest and inventiveness--and came up with 270-plus titles. That’s at least 50 more than I highlighted in a post similar to this one last fall, and far in excess of the number I’ll be able to enjoy between now and December 31.

Earlier this week, in my regular column for Kirkus Reviews, I mentioned a handful of soon-to-materialize volumes that I believe fans of this genre would be smart to grab when they become available. Below is a far more extensive selection, featuring something for most tastes, I hope. It includes fresh yarns from Thomas H. Cook, James Ellroy, Ruth Rendell, Stuart Neville, Dennis Lehane, Sophie Hannah, J. Robert Janes, Lynn Shepherd, C.J. Sansom, Robert Crais, Linda L. Richards, Gérard de Villiers, Jussi Adler-Olsen, and the late Ariana Franklin, as well as a sampling of the reprints being offered by new publisher Brash Books, and Ted Lewis’ three Jack Carter novels, which will be reissued by Syndicate Soho.

What I didn’t add are several original non-fiction releases likely also to spark the curiosity of folks familiar with crime fiction in all its forms: The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock, by Lucy Worsley (Pegasus); The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters, by Andrew McConnell Stott (Pegasus); The Art of Robert E. McGinnis, by Robert E. McGinnis and Art Scott (Titan); and James Garner’s Motoring Life: Grand Prix the Movie, Baja, The Rockford Files, and More, by Matt Stone (Car Tech).

As usual, I can’t guarantee that books cited here will appear on schedule; some publishers (and yes, I’m talking in particular about you, Severn House!) have the annoying tendency to bring out their novels in advance of their official publication dates. However, I feel comfortable in saying that all of the works listed will make premiere showings sometime during the imminent fall or winter months.

So go fetch yourself a cup of coffee or something a wee bit stronger, grab a pen or iPad, and begin culling from this inventory your own list of near-future must-reads. Oh, and if you think of any promising crime, mystery, or thriller titles that I have failed to suggest, please make note of them under the Comments tab at the end of this post. Because there can never really be too many choices of fine books to read next, no matter how high your to-be-read pile has grown.

SEPTEMBER (U.S.):
Angel Killer, by Andrew Mayne (Bourbon Street)
Bitter Remedy, by Conor Fitzgerald (Bloomsbury USA)
The Blood of an Englishman, by M.C. Beaton (Minotaur)
Blood on the Water, by Anne Perry (Ballantine)
Bones Never Lie, by Kathy Reichs (Bantam)
Broadchurch, by Erin Kelly (Minotaur)
Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland)
The Button Man, by Mark Pryor (Seventh Street)
The Cinderella Killer, by Simon Brett (Creme de la Crime)
Consumed, by David Cronenberg (Scribner)
The Cottoncrest Curse, by Michael H. Rubin (Louisiana State University Press)
Crossing the Line, by Frédérique Molay
(Le French)
Cry Father, by Benjamin Whitmer (Gallery)
A Dancer in the Dust, by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
The Darkest Hour, by Tony Schumacher (Morrow)
Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey (Pegasus)
The Day of Atonement, by David Liss (Random House)
Day of Vengeance, by Jeanne M. Dams (Severn House)
The Dead Never Forget, by Jack Lynch (Brash)
Death in Elysium, by Judith Cutler (Severn House)
Death in the Dolomites, by David Wagner (Poisoned Pen Press)
Death Is Forever, by Maxine O’Callaghan (Brash)
Deep Shelter, by Oliver Harris (Bourbon Street)
The Distance, by Helen Giltrow (Doubleday)
Dog Beach, by John Fusco (Touchstone)
The Drop, by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe (New Harvest)
The Family Hightower, by Brian Francis Slattery (Seven Stories)
Fighting Chance, by Jane Haddam (Minotaur)
Frenzy, by John Lutz (Pinnacle)
The Front Seat Passenger, by Pascal Garnier (Gallic)
Gangsterland, by Tod Goldberg (Counterpoint)
Get Carter, by Ted Lewis (Soho Syndicate)
The Golden Hour, by Todd Moss (Putnam)
The Golem of Hollywood, by Jonathan Kellerman and
Jesse Kellerman (Putnam)
Hard Carbon, by David M. Salkin (Post Hill Press)
The Heavenly Casino, by Carl Filbrich (Five Star)
Hello Mr. Bones & Goodbye Mr. Rat, by Patrick McCabe (Quercus)
Hit and Run, by Sandra Balzo (Severn House)
Hold the Dark, by William Giraldi (Liveright)
If It Bleeds, by Linda L. Richards (Raven)
The Lewis Man, by Peter May (Quercus)
Low End of Nowhere, by Michael Stone (Brash)
Made for You, by Melissa Marr (Harper)
Man Eater, by Gar Anthony Haywood (Brash)
The Marco Effect, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton)
Mean Business on North Ganson Street, by S. Craig Zahler
(Thomas Dunne)
The Monogram Murders, by Sophie Hannah (Morrow)
Mountains of the Misbegotten, by Joseph Heywood (Globe Pequot)
A Murder Country, by Brandon Daily (Knox Robinson)
Murder in Time, by Veronica Heley (Severn House)
Murder 101, by Faye Kellerman (Morrow)
Murder on the Ȋle Sordou, by M.L. Longworth (Penguin)
Night of the Jaguar, by Joe Gannon (Minotaur)
Night of the White Buffalo, by Margaret Coel (Berkley)
Only the Dead, by Vidar Sundstøl (University of Minnesota Press)
Outrage at Blanco, by Bill Crider (Brash)
The Owl, by Bob Forward (Brash)
Perfidia, by James Ellroy (Knopf)
Personal, by Lee Child (Delacorte Press)
Phantom Limb, by Dennis Palumbo (Poisoned Pen Press)
Proof Positive, by Archer Mayor (Minotaur)
The Rest Is Silence, by James R. Benn (Soho Crime)
Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)
Rose Gold, by Walter Mosley (Doubleday)
Sabotage, by Matt Cook (Forge)
The Secret Place, by Tana French (Viking)
Silent Murders, by Mary Miley (Minotaur)
Sleeping Dog, by Dick Lochte (Brash)
Slow Bleed, by Trey R. Baker (Five Star)
The Stone Wife, by Peter Lovesey (Soho Crime)
Strong Darkness, by Jon Land (Forge)
A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein (Simon & Schuster)
The Sun Is God, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)
Those Who Feel Nothing, by Peter Guttridge (Severn House)
To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie (Morrow)
Tokyo Kill, by Barry Lancet (Simon & Schuster)
Treasure Coast, by Tom Kakonis (Brash)
Virtue Falls, by Christina Dodd (St. Martin’s Press)
The White Sea, by Paul Johnston (Severn House)
The White Van, by Patrick Hoffman (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, by D.E. Ireland (Minotaur)

SEPTEMBER (UK):
The Angel Court Affair, by Anne Perry (Headline)
Betrayal, by Will Jordan (Arrow)
The Book of Fires, by Paul Doherty (Creme de la Crime)
Crooked Herring, by L.C. Tyler (Allison & Busby)
Crossing the Line, by Kerry Wilkinson (Pan)
The Dead Pass, by Colin Bateman (Headline)
Death Is a Word, by Hazel Holt (Allison & Busby)
The Gentle Assassin, by Ryan David Jahn (Pan)
The Ghost of Christmas Past, by Jean G. Goodhind (Accent Press)
Head of State, by Andrew Marr (Fourth Estate)
Hostage, by Kristina Ohlsson (Simon & Schuster)
The Meating Room, by Frank Muir (Constable)
Plague Land, by S.D. Sykes (Hodder & Stoughton)
Poisoned Ground, by Barbara Nadel (Quercus)
Printer’s Devil Court, by Susan Hill (Profile)
Race to Death, by Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)
Reykjavik Nights, by Arnaldur Indridason (Harvill Secker)
The Royalist, by S.J. Deas (Headline)
Thin Air, by Ann Cleeves (Macmillan)
A Trick of the Mind, by Penny Hancock (Simon & Schuster)
Trust in Me, by Sophie McKenzie
(Simon & Schuster)
Truth or Dare, by Tania Carver (Sphere)
Twist, by Tom Grass (Orion)

OCTOBER (U.S.):
The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century, edited by Otto Penzler (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Best American Mystery Stories 2014, edited by Laura
Lippman (Mariner)
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Blue Warrior, by Mike Maden (Putnam)
Chaos in Kabul, by Gérard de Villiers (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
Cobra, by Deon Meyer (Atlantic Monthly Press)
The Counterfeit Heiress, by Tasha Alexander (Minotaur)
Crooked River, by Valerie Geary (Morrow)
Dark Spies, by Matthew Dunn (Morrow)
Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, by Terry Shames (Seventh Street)
Deadline, by John Sandford (Putnam)
Dead for a Spell, by Raymond Buckland (Berkley)
The Delta, by Tony Park (St. Martin’s Press)
A Demon Summer, by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur)
Desert Rage, by Betty Webb (Poisoned Pen Press)
Dial M for Matrimony, by Carroll McKnight (Pulpwood Press)
Dick Francis’s Damage, by Felix Francis (Putnam)
The Empire of Night, by Robert Olen Butler (Mysterious Press)
The Final Silence, by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)
Five Minutes Alone, by Paul Cleave (Atria)
The Girl Next Door, by Ruth Rendell (Scribner)
Gray Mountain, by John Grisham (Doubleday)
The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café, by Alexander McCall
Smith (Pantheon)
Jack Carter’s Law, by Ted Lewis (Soho Syndicate)
Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron
(Soho Crime)
Last Winter We Parted, by Fuminori Nakamura (Soho Press)
The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street)
Louise’s Blunder, by Sarah R. Shaber (Severn House)
The Madness of July, by James Naughtie (Overlook)
Malice, by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur)
The Murder Man, by Tony Parsons (Minotaur)
Nyctophobia, by Christopher Fowler (Solaris)
The Nightingale Before Christmas, by Donna Andrews (Minotaur)
The Old Deep and Dark, by Ellen Hart (Minotaur)
Older than Goodbye, by Richard Helms (Five Star)
Paris Match, by Stuart Woods (Putnam)
The Peripheral, by William Gibson (Putnam)
The Pierced Heart, by Lynn Shepherd (Delacorte Press)
Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice (Knopf)
Riders on the Storm, by Ed Gorman (Pegasus)
Run, by Andrew Grant (Ballantine)
The Scent of Death, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)
The Silent Sister, by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin’s Press)
Sleep in Peace Tonight, by James MacManus (Thomas Dunne)
Sometimes the Wolf, by Urban Waite (Morrow)
Sons of Sparta, by Jeffrey Siger (Poisoned Pen Press)
Spark, by John Twelve Hawks (Doubleday)
Spectrum, by Alan Jacobson (Open Road)
Swann’s Lake of Despair, by Charles Salzberg (Five Star)
Tehran Noir, edited by Salar Abdoh (Akashic)
Tel Aviv Noir, edited by Etgar Keret (Akashic)
Truth Be Told, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)
The Tudor Vendetta, by C.W. Gortner (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Tunnel Vision, by Aric Davis (Thomas & Mercer)
A Vision of Fire, by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin
(Simon & Schuster)
The Wolf in Winter, by John Connolly (Atria/Emily Bestler)

OCTOBER (UK):
At Death’s Window, by Jim Kelly (Creme de la Crime)
Autumn, All the Cats Return, by Philippe Georget (Europa Editions)
The Balmoral Incident, by Alanna Knight (Allison & Busby)
Black Noise, by Pekka Hiltunen (Hesperus Press)
The Blood Dimmed Tide, by Anthony Quinn (No Exit Press)
Bluff City Pawn, by Stephen Schottenfeld (Bloomsbury USA)
Borderline, by Liza Marklund (Corgi)
Cut Out, by Fergus McNeill (Hodder & Stoughton)
Darkest Fear, by Ethan Cross (Arrow)
Dark Tides, by Chris Ewan (Faber & Faber)
Death of an Avid Reader, by Frances Brody (Piatkus)
Deeds of Darkness, by Edward Marston (Allison & Busby)
Falling Freely, As If in a Dream, by Leif G.W. Persson (Doubleday)
Friends to Die For, by Hilary Bonner (Pan)
Good Girls Don’t Die, by Isabelle Grey (Quercus)
The Good Life, by Martina Cole (Headline)
Harm’s Reach, by Alex Barclay (Harper)
January Window, by Philip Kerr
(Head of Zeus)
Lamentation, by C.J. Sansom (Mantle)
Mathew’s Tale, by Quintin Jardine (Headline)
Moriarty, by Anthony Horowitz (Orion)
Murder at the Brightwell, by Ashley Weaver (Allison & Busby)
Murder Out of Tune, by Lesley Cookman (Accent Press)
Riven, by A.J. McCreanor (Constable)
Ruthless, by Cath Staincliffe (Corgi)
The Soul of Discretion, by Susan Hill (Chatto & Windus)
Trophy, by Steffen Jacobsen (Quercus)
Winter Siege, by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman
(Bantam Press)

NOVEMBER (U.S.):
And Grant You Peace, by Kate Flora (Five Star)
Bad Country, by C.B. McKenzie (Minotaur)
Betrayal, by J. Robert Janes (Mysterious Press/Open Road)
Betrayed, by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press)
A Billion Ways to Die, by Chris Knopf (Permanent Press)
Black Karma, by Thatcher Robinson (Seventh Street)
The Black Stiletto: Endings & Beginnings, by Raymond Benson (Oceanview)
The Cinderella Murder, by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Simon & Schuster)
Dark Road, Dead End, by Philip Cioffari (Livingston Press)
Deadly Ruse, by E. Michael Helms (Seventh Street)
Die I Will Not, by S.K. Rizzolo (Poisoned Pen Press)
Easy Death, by Daniel Boyd (Hard Case Crime)
The Escape, by David Baldacci (Grand Central)
The Forgers, by Bradford Morrow (Mysterious Press)
For the Dead, by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime)
The Girl in the Woods, by Gregg Olsen (Pinnacle)
Hardcastle’s Quartet, by Graham Ison (Severn House)
Helsinki Noir, edited by James Thompson (Akashic)
In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus)
Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon, by Ted Lewis (Soho Syndicate)
The Job, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Bantam)
Justice Postponed, by Anthea Fraser (Severn House)
The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Laws of Murder, by Charles Finch (Minotaur)
A Map of Betrayal, by Ha Jin (Pantheon)
Murder in the Holy City, by Simon Beaufort (Severn House)
The Murder of Harriet Krohn, by Karin Fossum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
My Sister’s Grave, by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer)
A New York Christmas, by Anne Perry (Ballantine)
The Night Hunter, by Caro Ramsay (Severn House)
The Paris Winter, by Imogen Robertson (St. Martin’s Press)
The Promise, by Robert Crais (Putnam)
Revival, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Risky Undertaking, by Mark de Castrique (Poisoned Pen Press)
Safari, by Parnell Hall (Pegasus)
The Siege, by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Random House)
Soul of the Fire, by Eliot Pattison (Minotaur)
Sweet Sunday, by John Lawton (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Want You Dead, by Peter James (Minotaur)

NOVEMBER (UK):
The Arc of the Swallow, by Sissel-Jo Gazan (Quercus)
Closer Than You Think, by Karen Rose (Headline)
A Cruel Necessity, by L.C. Tyler (Constable)
Dead Souls, by Elsebeth Egholm (Headline)
Dying for Christmas, by Tammy Cohen (Black Swan)
Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz)
The Informant, by Susan Wilkins (Pan)
The Lion’s Mouth, by Anne Holt (Corvus)
Pyramid, by David Gibbins (Headline)
The Shiro Project, by David Khara (Le French)
Sins of the Father, by Graham Hurley (Orion)
The Suicide Club, by Andrew Williams (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Tomb in Turkey, by Simon Brett (Creme de la Crime)
A Twist of the Knife, by Peter James (Macmillan)
Written in the Blood, by Stephen Lloyd Jones (Headline)
The Zig Zag Girl, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)

DECEMBER (U.S.):
Asylum City, by Liad Shoham (Harper)
The Big Finish, by James W. Hall (Minotaur)
The Bishop’s Wife, by Mette Ivie Harrison (Soho Crime)
Blood Rubies, by Jane K. Cleland (Minotaur)
Blue Avenue, by Michael Wiley (Severn House)
City of Brick and Shadow, by Tim Wirkus (Tyrus)
The Convert’s Song, by Sebastian Rotella (Mulholland)
Crimson Angel, by Barbara Hambly (Severn House)
The Devil in Montmartre, by Gary Inbinder (Pegasus)
Disclosures, by Bill James (Creme de la Crime)
Duke City Hit, by Max Austin (aka Steve Brewer; Alibi e-book)
Enter Pale Death, by Barbara Cleverly (Soho Crime)
Five, by Ursula Archer (Minotaur)
Genocide of One, by Kazuaki Takano (Mulholland)
The German Agent, by J. Sydney Jones (Severn House)
Gods of Gold, by Chris Nickson (Severn House)
The Iris Fan, by Laura Joh Rowland (Minotaur)
One to Go, by Mike Pace (Oceanview)
Perfect Sins, by Jo Bannister (Minotaur)
Rain on the Dead, by Jack Higgins (Putnam)
The Skeleton Road, by Val McDermid (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Suspicion at Seven, by Ann Purser (Berkley)
Thief, by Mark Sullivan (Minotaur)
Woman With a Gun, by Phillip Margolin (Harper)
You Know Who Killed Me, by Loren D. Estleman (Forge)

DECEMBER (UK):
Cry Wolf, by Michael Gregorio (Severn House)
Putting the Boot In, by Dan Kavanagh (Orion)
The Watched, by Casey Hill (Simon & Schuster)