Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We’re Looking for Your Ideas!



It’s that time of year again, when we start pulling together our longlist of nominees for The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Covers competition. 2013 saw a particularly tight race for that honor, with David Middleton’s fine design for the front of Death Was in the Blood, by Linda L. Richards, finally coming out on top. We’ve spent the last few months collecting possible contenders for the 2014 honor, but would like to solicit reader suggestions as well.

You’re all well read and observant, right? So which crime, mystery, and thriller book fronts--first released in 2014, in either hardcover of paperback--do you think really stood out from the crowd? Which have demonstrated remarkable use of typography, photography, and/or original illustrations? If you’d like to see the jackets that have drawn our attention in the past, click here. Then drop us an e-mail note with your best-cover picks for the present year. Be sure to include the name and author of any novel you suggest, plus--if at all possible--a link to where we might view the cover artwork online. Working from your choices as well as our own finds, we’ll collect 12 to 15 covers we think are deserving of recognition, and post them in early December, inviting everyone to vote for their favorites.

Let us know soon which covers you think merit special recognition.

Chart Toppers

I’ve taken a first crack at putting together a list of my favorite crime novels of 2014; you’ll find it in my Kirkus Reviews column today. Among my 10 choices are works by Laura Lippmann, Peter May, Joseph Koenig, and Antonia Hodgson.

With the help of some other Rap Sheet contributors, I am also working on a larger feature about the year’s best crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. That should appear on this page within the next couple of weeks, and be much broader in scope. Please stay tuned.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bullet Points: Run-up to Thanksgiving Edition

Having finally come down from all the excitement at Bouchercon in Long Beach, and after putting the last touches on a couple of unexpectedly challenging editorial assignments, I am ready for a wrap-up of recent crime-fiction news. How about you?

Publishers Weekly has posted a list of its critics’ 12 favorite mystery and thriller novels from 2014. They are:

-- The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black (Holt)
-- Memory of Flames, by Armand Cabasson (Gallic)
-- Sting of the Drone, by Richard A. Clarke (St. Martin’s/Dunne)
-- The Sweetness of Life, by Paulus Hochgatterer (MacLehose Press)
-- The Devil in the Marshalsea, by Antonia Hodgson (Mariner)
-- The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica (Mira)
-- The Iron Sickle, by Martin Limón (Soho Crime)
-- The Forgers, by Bradford Morrow (Mysterious Press)
-- Desperate, by Daniel Palmer (Kensington)
-- Soul of the Fire, by Eliot Pattison (Minotaur)
-- The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central)
-- The Martian, by Andy Weir (Crown)

• Crime Fiction Lover chooses its “Top 10 Crime Debuts of 2014,” including Someone Else’s Skin, by Sarah Hilary; Spring Tide, by Cilla and Rolf Börjlind; and The Lying Down Room, by Anna Jaquiery.

• With the American version of Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, check out this list in Mystery Fanfare of crime fiction related to the occasion. Who knows, you might like to pick up a copy of Kate Borden’s Death of a Turkey or Rex Stout’s Too Many Cooks to while away the time as you wait for your holiday feast to be done.

• Former Norwegian police investigator-turned-author Jǿrn Lier Horst has won the 2014 Martin Beck Award for The Hunting Dogs (Sandstone Press), his third English-translated police procedural starring William Wisting. The Martin Beck Award is presented annually by the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy (Svenska Deckarakademin) for the best crime novel in translation. Last year, The Hunting Dogs won the Glass Key Award
from the Crime Writers of Scandinavia. Maybe it’s time I actually found a copy of that novel and sat down to read it.

• Several additions have been made in recent days to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page, including the video embedded above: the opening title sequence from Tropical Heat, a 1991-1993 Canadian action-adventure series starring Rob Stewart as an ex-DEA agent turned Florida gumshoe. Other new clips include the introductions from Cool Million, Shell Game, and Jigsaw John.

• Can you dig it? Author and sometime Rap Sheet writer Gary Phillips dropped me a note over the weekend, saying that he and David Walker--the latter of whom is writing the new Shaft comic-book series for Dynamite Entertainment--“are putting together the first-ever anthology of [John] Shaft short stories … set in the ’70s of course.” As somebody who, over the years, has developed an unexpected fondness for Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft series, I look forward to seeing that black private eye’s return in any form possible.

• A recent interview with David Walker can be heard here.

• Jake Hinkson, author of The Big Ugly and a regular contributor to Criminal Element, has kicked off a new succession of posts for that blog about “standalone novels by mystery writers who are better known for their big-time franchise characters.” Hinkson begins his series with a look back at I’d Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman’s noirish thriller, published in 2010.

• Are you in the mood for an “oddball detective book”? Jeff Somers showcases five such works--by Thomas Pynchon, Isaac Asimov, and others--in this piece for the B&N Book Blog.

• This qualifies as good news: Despite doubts voiced by many people, the TV series Longmire--inspired by Craig Johnson’s acclaimed series of novels and starring Robert Taylor as Wyoming county sheriff Walt Longmire--will return for a fourth season. This, after A&E cancelled the show in August. ComingSoon.net reports that Netflix has ordered “ten new episodes of the series [to] premiere exclusively in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand in 2015.” It adds: “Season four of Longmire picks up moments after season three’s exciting finale. Longmire, having found out who was behind the murder of his wife, succumbs to his darker impulses and takes off in pursuit of the killer with murder on his mind. Meanwhile, Branch Connally ([played by Bailey] Chase), the deputy who Walt fired for erratic, violent behavior, believes he has already figured out who the real culprit is. But during his confrontation with this suspected killer, a gun goes off. Now the audience will finally learn what happened, and whether Walt can be stopped before he makes a fatal choice.”

• Did you know that independent bookstores across the United States will celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 29 by hosting author and illustrator appearances--just in time for holiday gift-buying? A state-by-state listing of participating shops can be found here. I’m pleased to see that my local bookseller, Phinney Books, is among those taking part. (Hat tip to Life, Death and Fog.)

Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spin-off series starring Bob Odenkirk, will be given a two-night debut on February 8 and 9 of next year, after which it will settle into its Monday time slot on AMC-TV.

What’s your favorite John Dickson Carr mystery?

• A couple of interviews worth reading: Clinton Greaves talks with Roger Smith, South African author of Man Down, while Omnimystery News chats with Les Roberts about his new novel, Wet Work.

• If the short-lived, 1972-1973 TV series Madigan, starring Richard Widmark (an early element of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie “wheel series”), is available in a DVD set from Amazon France, why is it still not for sale in the States?

• Winners of the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards are to be declared this coming Wednesday, November 26. Among the nominees are six works competing for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Declan Burke reacquaints us with those contenders here, and then suggests eight other “tremendous novels published that didn’t, for various reasons, feature on the shortlist”--among them Adrian McKinty’s The Sun Is God and Conor Fitzgerald’s Bitter Remedy.

• This last weekend’s Iceland Noir conference in Reykjavik received some important coverage from the blog Crime Fiction Lover. An overview can be found here, but look also for CFL’s post about new authors who took part in the event and this item about “a tour guided by Iceland’s own queen of crime, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, to the west of the island and out onto the Snaefellsnes peninsula.” You’ll find links to all of CFL’s Iceland Noir articles here.

Are you ready for Cozy Crime Week, December 8-13?

• And “after about ten years of work, and a year-and-a-half online serialization,” the Webcomic Gravedigger is done--“at least for now,” says its writer, Christopher Mills. “‘Digger’ McCrae will probably be back, though. He’s a tough sonuvabitch. I’m already talking to publishers about print editions and digital download versions of both ‘The Predators’ and ‘The Scavengers,’ and I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing said versions sometime soon.” In the meantime, if you missed any of the 49 chapters of “The Predators,” put together by Mills and illustrator Rick Burchett, you can still find them online, beginning here. “The Scavengers” is still available, too, beginning here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mixing the Familiar with the Unusual

Kirkus Reviews this week unveiled lengthy and often overlapping lists of what its critics believe are the Best Books of 2014. Within that inventory, you will find 12 categories of fiction--everything from Best Literary Fiction to Best Fiction with a Touch of Magic. Under the heading Best Mysteries and Thrillers are these 16 titles:

Bird Box, by Josh Malerman (Ecco/HarperCollins)
The Bones Beneath, by Mark Billingham (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Broadchurch, by Erin Kelly (Minotaur)
Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland)
Children of the Revolution, by Peter Robinson (Morrow)
The Killer Next Door, by Alex Marwood (Penguin)
The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Night Heron, by Adam Brookes (Redhook/Orbit)
One Kick, by Chelsea Cain (Simon & Schuster)
Reckless Disregard, by Robert Rotstein (Seventh Street)
The Red Road, by Denise Mina (Little, Brown)
The Secret Place, by Tana French (Viking)
The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland)
The Son, by Jo Nesbø (Knopf)
Those Who Wish Me Dead. by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, by David Shafer (Mulholland)

In addition, Megan Abbott’s The Fever and C.J. Sansom’s Dominion appear within the Best Popular Fiction category.

Most of the selections here are not very surprising, but I was interested to see both Bird Box and Night Heron make the cut, as neither of those debut novels had been on my radar during the last dozen months. (Which just goes to show that none of us is perfect.) What do the rest of you think of Kirkus’ picks?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bouchercon 2014:
The Long (Beach) Goodbye, Part II

Now let me turn the spotlight over to Ali Karim, who spent much of this last Bouchercon photographing authors, critics, and readers alike. Many of those shots wound up on Facebook, where his family in England could follow his escapades without having to suffer any jet lag. I’ve pulled together some of Ali’s images and posted them below, for everybody else who couldn’t make it to Long Beach.

The day before Bouchercon began, Ali Karim and his cohorts visited the studio where the police procedural Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s series of novels, was being filmed. Left to right: Deadly Pleasures critic Larry Gandle; author Roger Ellory; Connelly; Bosch star Titus Welliver; our man Karim; and Shots editor Mike Stotter.

Edward Marston embraces his wife, Judith Cutler.

Ali with author Reed Farrel Coleman.

Fan Guest of Honor Al Abramson.

A study in contrasts: Ali beside Charles Todd, who with his mother, Caroline, composes the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.

Left to right: The ubiquitous Ali Karim with author Bob Truluck and Rap Sheet blogger J. Kingston Pierce.

Anthony Award finalist Sara J. Henry nursing her basketball injury with Bouchercon board member-at-large John Purcell.

Author Jeffery Deaver with You-Know-Who.

Left to right: Mike Stotter, Linda L. Richards, and J. Kingston Pierce with legendary editor-bookseller Otto Penzler.

Mystery writer Brendan DuBois and critic Oline Cogdill.

The Hat Squad: Ali with author David Morrell.

Left to right: The bass-voiced Gary Phillips, an unusually dressed-down Ali, and Stephen Jay Schwartz.

Bouchercon 2014 chair Ingrid Willis with Indiana bookseller Mike Bursaw, aka “Mystery Mike.”

Thrilling Detective Web Site editor Kevin Burton Smith with his wife, Diana Killian, and that strange dude in the white hat again.

J. Robert Janes signing some of his World War II thrillers.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em: Ali Karim, Lee Child. ’Nuff said.

Ali with “Medieval Noir” novelist Jeri Westerson, president of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, at a Librarian Tea/panel discussion about audiobooks.

J. Kingston Pierce (yes, the one in that slick Rockford Files T-shirt) together with fellow bloggers Jacques Filippi and Ali Karim.

Mike Stotter, Max Allan Collins, and J. Kingston Pierce mug for the camera before the Shamus Awards dinner commences.

Author Cara Black and Ali rest between panel talks.

Michael Connelly being interviewed before an audience by another journalist-turned-author, Sebastian Rotella.

The Guests of Honor Panel closed out Bouchercon 2014. Left to right: moderator Tammy Kaehler; American Guest of Honor J.A. Jance; Toastmaster Simon Wood; Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Jeffery Deaver; Young Adult Guest of Honor Eoin Colfer; International Guest of Honor Edward Marston; and again, Fan Guest of Honor Al Abramson. A good time was indeed had by all.

With the festivities over, Mike Stotter, Roger Ellory, Peter Rozovsky, and J. Kingston Pierce take a leisurely afternoon stroll down to The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. And look, there in the distance--could it be the Queen Mary?

Before all of the Bouchercon stragglers depart, one last dinner. Front row, left to right: Diana Killian, Jodi Pierce, Linda L. Richards, Heather Graham Pozzessere, and Connie Perry. Middle row: Rob Brunet, Kevin Burton Smith, J. Kingston Pierce, Peter Rozovsky, Scott Montgomery, Roger Ellory, and Tanis Mallow. Back row: Mike Stotter and yes, one final time, Ali Karim.

(Click here to find Part I of our post-Bouchercon coverage.)

Bouchercon 2014:
The Long (Beach) Goodbye, Part I

Yours truly with Ali Karim, outside the Hyatt Regency.

My first visit to Long Beach, California, came during the early 1970s. My father had been stationed in Great Britain during World War II, and had worked there as some sort of wheeling-and-dealing army supply officer (picture James Garner’s “Scrounger” from The Great Escape). But after the fighting ended, he returned to the States aboard the RMS Queen Mary, which had been painted gray for service as a troop transport vessel. When that ocean liner was finally retired from service in 1967 and subsequently repurposed in Long Beach as a tourist attraction, my father decided he wanted to see her once more. So he packed up our family, and we drove from Portland, Oregon, all the way down to the so-called Aquatic Capital of America to see what had become of the old girl. I was pretty young at the time and don’t recall much of that trip, but I do remember standing on the dock below the Queen Mary and staring up in awe at how mammoth the ship appeared (she was, after all, some 200 feet longer than the ill-fated RMS Titanic).

Last week marked my only other journey to Long Beach, and while I could see the Queen Mary from my hotel window high above Ocean Boulevard, I never did reach her moorage across Rainbow Harbor. Instead, I spent almost all of my time partaking of this year’s Bouchercon (“Murder at the Beach,” November 13-16), held at the Hyatt Regency hotel and adjacent Long Beach Convention Center. It was my fifth Bouchercon, after the 2011 convention in St. Louis, so I knew pretty much what to expect. Yet every one of these World Mystery Conventions offers a little something new, even if it’s only a novel panel-discussion topic (not easy to come by), a happenstance encounter with an author previously unknown to you, or learning about a book that had eluded your radar.

For me, the best part of this whole shindig was reconnecting with good friends I don’t see nearly often enough, especially The Rap Sheet’s ever-energetic UK correspondent, Ali Karim. He and I got to know each other during the early days of the 21st century, when he volunteered to write reviews for January Magazine (for which I still serve as crime fiction editor), and we have traveled back and forth across the Atlantic to drink together and swap reading recommendations ever since. Ali likes to say we could have been brothers in another lifetime, or perhaps in an alternative universe, and I won’t disagree with that. I value his friendship tremendously. And I’m pleased that he usually makes these Bouchercon forays in the company of two other pals of his, Shots editor Mike Stotter and author R.J. “Roger” Ellory. Between them, their fine humor and equally fine stories leave me laughing for weeks after the conventions conclude.

Other highlights of Bouchercon 2014, though, included: dining out with Canadian-American author David Morrell (whose novel Murder as a Fine Art won the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award); sitting through Art Scott’s slide presentation of artist Robert McGinnis’ gorgeous paperback covers and paintings (during which I learned that McGinnis had imagined both James Coburn and Goldie Hawn as models for his players on the front of the 1971 paperback, As Old As Cain); two panel talks moderated by Peter Rozovsky--“Belfast Noir,” which included Stuart Neville and Gerard Brennan as speakers, and “Beyond Hammett, Chandler and Spillane,” during which Gary Phillips, Max Allan Collins, Sarah Weinman and others swapped stories about “forgotten” crime writers of the mid-20th-century pulp era (Joseph Nazel, Dolores Hitchens, and Ennis Willie among them); attending the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Awards banquet with The Thrilling Detective Web Site’s Kevin Burton Smith and his wife, author Diana Killian, as well as writers such as Brad Parks, Sue Grafton, and Richard Helms; Poisoned Pen Press publisher Barbara Peters’ interview with International Guest of Honor Edward Marston, who proved to be a wellspring of entertaining stories (and was later kind enough to remember me, when I went seeking his autograph on a book); J. Robert Janes’ generosity in gifting me with an out-of-print hardcover copy of his 1991 thriller, The Alice Factor; Sebastian Rotella’s onstage interview with Michael Connelly; and a reminiscence-filled post-Bouchercon dinner featuring Ali Karim, Mike Stotter, January editor and author Linda L. Richards, and several others who had booked Monday flights home. In addition, my wife and I sat down for dinner one evening with my cousin Scott and his wife, Lori, at a Long Beach restaurant (and classy converted former bank) called The Federal Bar. I don’t have nearly as many chances as I would like to get together with members of my mother’s sister’s family. Since Scott and Lori live in the Los Angeles area, I wasn’t about to miss seeing them on this trip.

In addition to all of that, I spent some time with writer friends such as Lee Goldberg (who shares my passion for old TV detective series), Keith Raffel, Kelli Stanley, Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph, and the aforementioned Gary Phillips and Max Allan Collins (the latter of whom, with his wife, fellow fictionist Barbara Collins, hosted the Shamus Awards party). I was only sorry that I didn’t have more contact on this occasion with Mark Billingham, Sarah Weinman, and Otto Penzler, and never so much as clapped eyes on a few people I had hoped to meet--Lyndsay Faye, Owen Laukkanen, and Bruce DeSilva among them--but maybe I shall bump into them during a near-future Bouchercon. I’ll call it compensation that I returned to Seattle with a few goodies, prominent among those being two additions to my modest collection of Robert McGinnis-illustrated paperbacks: 24 Hours to Kill (1961) and Murder Me for Nickels (1960). I would surely have purchased more, except that the Book Room at this event was conspicuously short of sales tables offering classic paperbacks (and, sadly, didn’t feature a British bookseller at all).

As it happens, my friend Ali is responsible for the programming at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina, so there’s every chance I’ll swing by those festivities next October. I shall use the intervening months to rest my liver and catch up on sleep in preparation.

(Click here to find Part II of our post-Bouchercon coverage.)

READ MORE: Detectives Beyond Borders blogger Peter Rozovsky began posting about Bouchercon 2014 long before the conference even opened, and he continues to do so here; author Jeri Westerson posted a three-part series about Bouchercon 2014 in her blog, Getting Medieval; and Dana King has posted two parts of a Bouchercon wrap-up in One Bite at a Time--see here and here; “Bouchercon 2014 Recap--Tuesday Through Friday (Part One),” by Kristopher Zgorski (BOLO Books); “21 Years Later--A Third Shamus,” by Max Allan Collins; “Bouchercon 2014: There Are Faces I’ll Remember,” by Kevin Burton Smith (The Thrilling Detective Blog); “Bouchercon 2014 Recap--Tuesday Through Friday (Part Two),” by Kristopher Zgorski (BOLO Books); “Bloody Murder at Bouchercon,” by Erin Mitchell (Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room); “Bouchercon 2014: Seven Mystery Superstars Give Us the Inside Scoop” (Book Reporter).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Anthonys on Parade

My wife and I spent this evening enjoying a wonderful dinner elsewhere in Long Beach with my cousin and his wife. But Rap Sheet correspondent Ali Karim was on hand at the 2014 Anthony Awards presentation to record the winners. A vote by conference attendees determined who should receive these commendations.

Best Novel: Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)

Also nominated: Suspect, by Robert Crais (Putnam); A Cold and Lonely Place, by Sara J. Henry (Crown); The Wrong Girl, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge); and Through the Evil Days, by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Minotaur)

Best First Novel: Yesterday’s Echo, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)

Also nominated: Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs (Knopf); Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur); Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight (HarperCollins); and The Hard Bounce, by Todd Robinson (Tyrus)

Best Paperback Original Novel: As She Left It, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)

Also nominated: The Big Reap, by Chris F. Holm (Angry Robot); Purgatory Key, by Darrell James (Midnight Ink); Joyland, by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime); and The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood (Penguin)

Best Short Story: “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository,” by John Connolly (The Mysterious Press)

Also nominated: “Dead End,” by Craig Faustus Buck (Untreed Reads); “Annie and the Grateful Dead,” by Denise Dietz (from The Sound and the Furry, edited by Denise Dietz and Lillian Stewart Carl; Amazon Digital); “Incident on the 405,” by Travis Richardson (from The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; St. Martin’s Press); and “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants,” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, by Maria Konnikova (Viking); The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines, by Cate Lineberry (Little, Brown); All the Wild Children, by Josh Stallings (Snubnose Press); and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman (Penguin)

Best Children’s or Young Adult Novel: The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau (Houghton Mifflin)

Also nominated: Escape Theory, by Margaux Froley (Soho Teen); Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein (Random House); Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy, by Elizabeth Kiem (Soho Teen); and The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure, by Penny Warner (Edgmont USA)

Best Television Episode Teleplay (First Aired in 2013): The Blacklist, “Pilot,” teleplay by Jon Bokenkamp (Davis Entertainment, NBC)

Also nominated: The Fall, “Dark Descent,” teleplay by Allan Cubitt (Netflix Original); Breaking Bad, “Felina,” teleplay by Vince Gilligan (AMC); The Following, “Pilot,” teleplay by Kevin Williamson (Fox/Warner Bros. Television); and Justified, “Hole in the Wall,” teleplay by Graham Yost (Fox/Warner Bros. Television)

Best Audiobook: The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister (Hachette)

Also nominated: Crescendo, by Deborah J, Ledford, read by Christina Cox (Audible); Man in the Empty Suit, by Sean Ferrell, read by Mauro Hantman (AudioGO); Death and the Lit Chick, by G.M. Malliet, read by Davina Porter (Dreamscape); and Hour of the Rat, by Lisa Brackmann, read by Tracy Sallows (Audible)

In addition, this year’s David S. Thompson Special Service Award was presented to Judy Bobalik.

Congratulations to all of the winners as well as the other nominees.

End Credits for Larson

In a weird coincidence, I happen to be in Long Beach, California, attending Bouchercon 2014, as I learn that legendary TV executive Glen A. Larson--who was born in this very town back in 1937--has passed away. From the Associated Press:
Glen A. Larson, the writer and producer behind a series of hit television shows in the 1970s and ’80s, including the original “Battlestar Galactica,” “Knight Rider,” “Magnum, P.I.” and “Quincy, M.E.,” died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 77.

The cause was complications of esophageal cancer, his son James said.

Mr. Larson, who was also a singer and a composer, helped write the theme songs for some of his hits, including the frequently sampled tune from “Knight Rider” and the orchestral music behind “Battlestar Galactica,” his son said.

He was nominated three times for an Emmy and once for a Grammy, for the original score of “Battlestar Galactica.” He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.
In addition to the TV series mentioned above, Larson worked over the years on The Fugitive, Alias Smith and Jones, McCloud, The Six Million Dollar Man, Switch, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and The Fall Guy. He also served as executive producer of the 1968-70 Robert Wagner spy series It Takes a Thief. A full rundown of Larson’s TV credits can be found here.

“Although Larson was notorious,” says blogger Christopher Mills, “for ripping off popular movies with his shows (he was even sued by 20th Century Fox and George Lucas over Galactica’s similarities to Star Wars), his programs were undeniably entertaining, filled with action, humor and glamour, aimed solidly at family audiences.”

READ MORE:Glen A. Larson, Creator of TV’s Quincy, M.E., Magnum, P.I. and Battlestar Galactica, Dies at 77,” by Mike Barnes (The Hollywood Reporter).

Eyes Front and Center

Last night, during a banquet ceremony held in Long Beach, California, Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins played masters of ceremonies for the presentation of this year’s Shamus Awards, given out by the Private Eye Writers of America. The winners were:

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel:
The Good Cop, by Brad Parks (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Little Elvises, by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime); The Mojito Coast, by Richard Helms (Five Star); W Is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton (Marian Wood/Putnam); and Nemesis, by Bill Pronzini (Forge)

Best First P.I. Novel:
Bear Is Broken, by Lachlan Smith
(Mysterious Press)

Also nominated: A Good Death, by Christopher R. Cox (Minotaur); Montana, by Gwen Florio (Permanent Press); Blood Orange, by Karen Keskinen (Minotaur); and Loyalty, by Ingrid Thoft (Putnam)

Best Original Paperback P.I. Novel:
Heart of Ice, by P.J. Parrish (Pocket)

Also nominated: Seduction of the Innocent, by Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime); Into the Dark, by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins); Purgatory Key, by Darrell James (Midnight Ink); and The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie, by Robert J. Randisi (Perfect Crime)

Best P.I. Short Story:
“So Long, Chief,” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013)

Also nominated: “The Ace I,” by Jack Fredrickson (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], June 2013); “What We Do,” by Mick Herron (EQMM, September-October 2013); “Extra Fries,” by Michael Z. Lewin (EQMM, May 2013): and “The Lethal Leeteg,” by Hayford Peirce (EQMM, August 2013)

Best Indie P.I. Novel:
Don’t Dare a Dame, by M. Ruth Myers (Tuesday House)

Also nominated: Murder Take Three, by April Kelly and Marsha Lyons (Flight Risk); A Small Sacrifice, by Dana King (Amazon Digital); No Pat Hands, by J.J. Lamb (Two Black Sheep); and State vs. Lassiter, by Paul Levine (CreateSpace)

In addition, fictional private eye Kinsey Millhone (the star of Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries) was given the Hammer Award, and Grant Bywater won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press First Novel Award for The Red Storm.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Plethora of Prizes in Long Beach

Having overcome a pretty serious technical issue that prevented my posting from the site of Bouchercon 2014, in Long Beach, California (I forgot my password in to Blogger--yeah, I know, I should have written it down somewhere), I can finally deliver to all you loyal Rap Sheet readers the results of last night’s awards presentations.

MACAVITY AWARDS
(Presented by Mystery Readers International)

Best Mystery Novel: Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)

Also nominated: Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press); Dead Lions, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime); The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood (Penguin); How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny (Minotaur); and Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur)

Best First Mystery: A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames
(Seventh Street)

Also nominated: Yesterday’s Echo, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview); Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur); Cover of Snow, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine); and Norwegian by Night, by Derek Miller (Faber and Faber)

Best Mystery Short Story: “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants,” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

Also nominated: “The Terminal,” by Reed Farrel Coleman (from Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer); “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository,” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales About Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan); “The Dragon’s Tail,” by Martin Limon (from Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories; Soho Books); “The Hindi Houdini,” by Gigi Pandian (from Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press); and “Incident on the 405,” by Travis Richardson (from The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)

Best Non-fiction: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur)

Also nominated: The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece, by Roseanne Montillo (Morrow); and Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard, by Charles J. Rzepka (Johns Hopkins University Press)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award: Murder as a Fine Art, by David Morrell (Little, Brown)

Also nominated: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur); Saving Lincoln, by Robert Kresge (ABQ Press); Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur); and Ratlines, by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

BARRY AWARDS
(Presented by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine)

Best Novel: Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)

Also nominated: A Conspiracy of Faith, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton); A Tap on the Window, by Linwood Barclay (New American Library); Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press); Suspect, by Robert Crais (Putnam); and Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur)

Best First Novel: Japantown, by Barry Lancet (Simon & Schuster)

Also nominated: Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Little, Brown); The Bookman’s Tale, by Charlie Lovett (Viking); Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur); Cover of Snow, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine; and Norwegian by Night, by Derek B. Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Best Paperback Original: I Hear the Sirens in the Street, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)

Also nominated: Joe Victim, by Paul Cleave (Atria); Disciple of Las Vegas, by Ian Hamilton (Picador); The Rage, by Gene Kerrigan (Europa Editions); Fear in the Sunlight, by Nicola Upson (Harper); and Fixing to Die, by Elaine Viets (Signet)

Best Thriller: The Doll, by Taylor Stevens (Crown)

Also nominated: Dead Lions, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime); Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs (Knopf); Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews (Scribner); The Shanghai Factor, by Charles McCarry (Mysterious Press); and Ratlines, by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

The Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in mystery fandom went to Ted Hertel.

In addition, The Short Mystery Fiction Society celebrated the winners of its 2014 Derringer Awards, previously announced here. The SMFS also gave its Edward D. Hoch Lifetime Achievement Award to Ed Gorman, who was unfortunately not on hand to accept that prize.

Tonight will bring news about the winners of this year’s Shamus Awards for private-eye fiction. If I can remember my damn password long enough, I shall let you know as soon as I can who won.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bullet Points: Eve of Bouchercon Edition

• We’ll be seeing rundowns of what various people think are the Best Books of 2014 from now until December 31, so we might as well get used to it. Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog asked a bunch of celebrities “to tell us about three books they loved in 2014.” The respondents included three crime/thriller novelists; you’ll find their choices under these links: Laura Lippman, James Patterson, and Alan Furst. Curiously, I have read precisely one book from each of their lists.

• I was sorry to hear about the death of Seymour Shubin. The 93-year-old Philadelphia-born author of such novels as Anyone’s My Name (1953), The Captain (a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, published in 1982), and Witness to Myself (released in 2006 by Hard Case Crime), died on November 2 “of complications from an earlier fall.” Writer Gerard Brennan did an interview with Shubin in 2008, which you can still enjoy here.

• Today is the official release date for The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (Titan), and retailer Amazon at least claims to have some copies in stock, though I’d heard that shipping problems might delay the book’s delivery to the United States. In any case, Brian Greene has a few nice things to say about this volume in Criminal Element, though he frets “that my write-up on this book reads more like a press release than a review.” He could probably have benefited from looking through my two-part interview (see here and here) with Art Scott, who worked with McGinnis on the handsome volume. So far, there’s no sign of The Art of Robert E. McGinnis in my mailbox (though I have seen a PDF of the book). But I look forward to receiving a finished copy soon.

• Bill Crider has more to say about this McGinnis tribute.

• I don’t own a smartphone. I spend all day long in front of a computer--why would I want one in my hip pocket, too? But since most readers of this blog are probably smartphone users, and many of you are planning to attend Bouchercon 2014--which begins on Thursday in Long Beach, California--I should point out that there’s a free “app” to help you negotiate your way through that convention. “You’ll have access to every event, panel, and speaker detail, as well as local area information, including interactive maps, hotels, and restaurants,” reports Janet Rudolph of Mystery Fanfare. “You can easily browse interactive panel schedules, check out author bios, plan your own personalized event schedule, and create to-do lists with alarms, and never miss another panel or author signing!”

• Bouchercon hasn’t begun, but already organizers of next year’s Left Coast Crime convention--to be held in Portland, Oregon, from March 12 to 15--are encouraging people to register for that event.

• Speaking of Bouchercon, those fortunate folks who have signed up for the Friday night Shamus Awards banquet might like to know that there’s been a last-minute change: Max Allan Collins and his wife, Barbara, will be hosting the festivities, rather than regulars Robert J. Randisi and his own partner, Christine Matthews.

• With another new entry in Collins’ series about hired killer Quarry due out in January (this one will be titled Quarry’s Choice), you might want to peruse this pretty good backgrounder on the protagonist, posted by fantasy novelist Howard Andrew Jones.

Do we really need a remake of The Six Million Dollar Man?

• Since we’re fast approaching Thanksgiving in the United States, it’s appropriate to highlight “the only cover among the thousands published by Life magazine, across five decades, that did not feature the famous red-and-white Life logo in the upper left-hand corner.”

• Among the blogs I follow is Classic Film and TV Café, written by the pseudonymous Ricky29. It offers a great combination of nostalgia, humor, and trivia. If you like the latter (as I do), check out these two articles: “Alias Smith and Jones: A Look at the Show’s Origin and Untimely Fate” and “Seven Things to Know About Ross Martin.”

• Yesterday I posted a clip here from the 1975 Philip Marlowe film, Farewell, My Lovely, starring Robert Mitchum and Charlotte Rampling. Today, Evan Lewis offers up for viewing “Nevada Gas,” the fourth episode of the 1980s HBO-TV series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

• Although it’s plainly been in business for some while now, it wasn’t until a few days ago that I discovered the author interview Web site/podcast Speaking of Mysteries, managed by Sherlock Holmes authority Leslie S. Klinger and Nancie Clare, the ex-editor in chief of LA, The Los Angeles Times Magazine and co-founder of Noir Magazine, a too-short-lived (meaning one issue) iPad publication. So I find myself with lots to catch up on. This week, Clare interviews my old friend Tom Nolan, who currently writes about mystery and thriller novels for The Wall Street Journal, but is also a biographer of Ross Macdonald. Previous interviewees include Bradford Morrow (The Forgers), Margaux Froley (Hero Complex), and Robert Olen Butler (The Empire of Night). I’ve added Speaking of Mysteries to The Rap Sheet’s blogroll.

• Another interview you might like is this one with Garry Disher. As blogger Ben Boulden explains in his introduction, Disher “is an Australian writer well known for his crime fiction worldwide. He also has a successful track record writing literary, children’s and young adult fiction. Mr. Disher cut his teeth, in the crime genre, with a heist novel featuring his now cult character Wyatt [1991’s Kickback] ... Wyatt has appeared in a total of seven novels. The most recent, simply titled Wyatt, appeared in 2010 ... to rave reviews.”

• And I don’t think I have previously heard this 1979 audio conversation with suspense fictionist Patricia Highsmith, done for the BBC’s Desert Island Discs radio program. In it, explains the blog Boing Boing, “she talks about writing for comic books, her childhood, her interest in snails, her favorite music, and more.”

• Crime Fiction Lover is in the midst of its “New Talent November” celebration. Stories already posted look at A.J. McCreanor’s Riven, author Phil Lecomber (Mask of the Verdoy), Antonia Hodgson’s The Devil in the Marshalsea, and publisher Blasted Heath Books. You should be able to follow this series’ progress here.

• Finally, did you know that Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son and later a U.S. Secretary of War, is “the only person known to have been present or nearby at the assassinations of three American presidents”? Learn more here.

Sock It to Me!

It wasn’t anything I had planned, but for some reason I seem to have been reading a number of crime novels lately with stories taking place during the 1960s or early ’70s. Particularly interesting among those is Sweet Sunday, by British author John Lawton. Set in 1969, but with multiple flashbacks to prior events (including the early ’60s protests of segregated busing in the American South and the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago), Sweet Sunday rolls out the compicated story of Turner Raines, a Texas-born New York City private investigator who sets out to solve the ice-pick murder of his best friend, Village Voice reporter Mel Kissing.

As I remark in my Kirkus Reviews column posted today,
Yes, Sweet Sunday is a crime novel, a detective novel, even a whodunit. If you chart its structure, it follows the familiar pattern: misdeed committed, clues sought, culprit eventually revealed. However, within that formula author Lawton does a great deal more than solve a slaying; he also strives to get a handle on the hopes, fears, antagonisms, and disappointments of 1960s America, when opinions on the war in Southeast Asia divided families, and generations split over societal ideals.
You can read all of my new piece here.

Also check out Nancie Clare’s recent audio interview with author Lawton on the subject of Sweet Sunday. It can be found in the Speaking of Mysteries blog.

Monday, November 10, 2014

“She Was Giving Me the Kind of Look
I Could Feel in My Hip Pocket”

video

I’d forgotten until today that Jim Thompson--yes, that Jim Thompson, the author of such hard-boiled classics as The Killer Inside Me (1952), The Criminal (1953), and The Grifters (1963)--made a cameo appearance in the 1975 film Farewell, My Lovely, adapted from Raymond Chandler’s 1940 novel of the same name and starring Robert Mitchum as private investigator Philip Marlowe. According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), this was Thompson’s only acting job, though he’d penned episodes of the TV series Cain’s Hundred and Dr. Kildare, and several of his novels were made into movies.

In the video clip embedded above, Thompson, then in his late 60s (he died in 1977 at age 70), plays Judge Baxter Wilson Grayle, said to be “the most powerful political figure in Los Angeles.” Perhaps the reason I forgot he was even in the picture (saying very little, it should be added) is because this scene is more than slightly dominated by Charlotte Rampling, as Helen Grayle, his seductive and much younger wife (she was then only 29 years old), who makes a pretty obvious but potent play for Marlowe’s affections. How the old gumshoe resisted her charms is beyond me.

READ MORE:Marlowe Goes to the Movies,” by J. Kingston Pierce
(The Rap Sheet).

Fortunato’s Good Fortune

Mystery Fanfare brings the news that John Fortunato’s Dark Reservations has won the 2014 Tony Hillerman Prize for best debut crime novel set in the American Southwest. That announcement was made this last weekend during the 10th annual Tony Hillerman Writers Conference, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fortunato’s prize “comes with a publishing contract with St. Martin’s Press and $10,000.”

Here’s an online description of Dark Reservations’ plot:
Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Agent Joe Evers faces a forced early retirement thanks to a botched investigation a year earlier. But when the bullet-riddled sedan belonging to missing Congressman Arlen Edgerton is found deep in the Navajo Nation, Evers may finally get to escape his tainted past. Teaming up with tribal officer Randall Bluehorse, Evers investigates the Edgerton cold case, now twenty years removed from the headlines, and soon uncovers a conspiracy that leads him from the Office of the President of Navajo Nation to the halls of power in Washington D.C. But he’s having difficulty getting to the truth because the other agents on his squad no longer trust him. And he also must confront his new life as a widower and a single father to a college-aged daughter. When people around him start dying, he suspects Arthur Othmann, a crazed collector of Native American artifacts. The only person willing to help Evers is a disgraced archaeologist whose dig site was looted of the only artifacts that would have proven his controversial theory linking the fall of the Aztec Empire to the rise of the Anasazi in the Southwest.
Philadelphia native Fortunato, explains Mystery Fanfare, “was a captain in the U.S. Army, Military Intelligence, who served at the Pentagon during the early part of the Global War on Terrorism. He is now a Special Agent with the FBI and has earned an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.” Fortunato is described as a resident of Michigan, though his Facebook page says he moved to Gallup, New Mexico, earlier this year, and this FBI page lists him as “Special Agent, Gallup Resident Agency.”

The deadline for submitting manuscripts to next year’s Hillerman Prize competition will be June 1, 2015. For more information, click here.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Are They “Bests” or Just Bestsellers?

There are two things you can easily predict are going to happen in early November: Christmas-related commercials will begin appearing on television, and the holiday theme will quickly be picked up by stores (I actually found all of the employees of my local Office Depot wearing Santa hats the other day); and “best books of the year” lists will start popping up in periodicals and on Web sites everywhere.

I understand Kirkus Reviews will commence to declare its favorite books of the year during the week of November 16-22. But Amazon is already flogging its own picks. You will find the lists for all categories here. Below, though, are that online retailer’s 20 choices in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense field:

The Cairo Affair, by Olen Steinhauer (Minotaur)
Chance, by Kem Nunn (Scribner)
Cop Town, by Karin Slaughter (Delacorte Press)
The Farm, by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central)
The Fever, by Megan Abbott (Little Brown)
The Heist, by Daniel Silva (Harper)
I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes (Atria/Emily Bestler)
The Kept, by James Scott (Harper)
The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles (Morrow)
An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris (Knopf)
Personal, by Lee Child (Delacorte Press)
Revival, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Secrecy, by Rupert Thomson (Other Press)
The Secret Place, by Tana French (Viking)
The Son, by Jo Nesbø (Knopf)
Those Who Wish Me Dead, by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown)
Windigo Island, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)
Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

There are few surprises here, though I suspect you won’t see Kem Nunn’s latest or Rupert Thomson’s new novel appear as frequently on 2014 favorites lists as you will see the remaining 18.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Child in the Line of Fire

Lee Child speaks at Waterstones Deansgate.

This last September witnessed the publication of Lee Child’s 19th Jack Reacher novel, Personal (Delacorte Press). His UK promotional tour kicked off at the Waterstones Deansgate bookstore in Manchester--where I first met Child many years past. It was two decades ago that Child (then better known by his real name, Jim Grant) wandered into a nearby Manchester stationary store, bought a pack of pencils and an A4 pad, and started work on Killing Floor, the 1997 novel that would introduce ex-military policeman Jack Reacher to readers of thriller fiction worldwide. The rest, as they say, is history--and a lot of damn hard work.

I’ve written about Child a number of times over the years, and have become a fan of his muscular prose and bone-crunching action sequences. So I was please to dive into Personal at my first opportunity. Of the novel, Bob Cartwright has this to say in Shots:
The book commences, like other Reachers, with Jack hitching and busing across the States generally minding his own business. However, in one bus station he happens across a copy of Army Times and finds a message for him in the personal ads. He makes the necessary contact and pretty soon is being flown from the West Coast to an army base in the east.

The U.S., primarily the U.S. army, has a problem and Reacher is the only person who can resolve it. A few days before, a sniper had taken a potshot at the French president in Paris. The assassination attempt failed due to a protective screen which stopped the bullet in its tracks. So why should that concern the U.S. and Reacher? Apparently, the welfare of the French president was the object of American concern.

The real issue was that, the shot was fired from a distance of around 1,400 yards. There were only three snipers around who were proficient at that kind of distance--an Englishman, a Russian and an American. The U.S. military was patently unhappy at the prospect of one of their own potentially being involved, especially as they figure it might just be a scouting mission before the real thing--the assassination of one or more world leaders at the forthcoming G8 conference in London.
Following the “standing room only” event at Waterstones Deansgate (which can be viewed in a series of videos starting here), I met for dinner at Manchester’s renowned Argentinean restaurant, the Gaucho Grill, with Child, his author brother, Andrew Grant, Patsy Irwin (of Transworld/Random House UK), thriller-fiction nut Martyn James Lewis (shown here), and Child’s security escort, the man of mystery known only as “Brad.” While we were waiting on our steaks, I did a little grilling of my own, asking Child about Personal, his fondness for Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal (1971), some of the secondary characters in Reacher’s life, news of another film adaptation of Child’s work, and of course the recent hullabaloo over Amazon vs. traditional publishing. The results of our interview are posted below.

Ali Karim: What’s it like being back at Waterstones in Manchester?

Lee Child: I must have a book out if I’m back here. [Laughing] Seriously, it is a very significant bookstore for me. Before I was a writer, I was a customer here and the very first signed books of mine were sold at this store. Whenever I’ve done an event in the North West [of the UK], it’s nearly always been here. It feels good to be back at Waterstones Deansgate. It’s full of memories and great books.

AK: I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that the plot of this 19th Reacher novel revolves around an assassination attempt of the French president. For I remember that Frederick Forsyth presented you with the Crime Writers’ Association’s 2013 Diamond Dagger award. Is Personal your homage to The Day of the Jackal?

LC: I think that Without Fail [2002] would actually be my homage to Day of the Jackal, because it explicitly references Forsyth’s book. The emphasis there is placed upon the assassins planning for escape, as opposed to the [1993] Clint Eastwood/Wolfgang Peterson film, In the Line of Fire, in which the assassin knows he won’t be able to escape. As I said at the CWA Diamond Daggers ceremony, The Day of the Jackal … was Year Zero for the current generation of thriller writers; it was different, and re-set the clock, and we’ve all had to deal with it ever since. So, I didn’t mean it as a direct homage but acknowledged--for all of us, readers and writers--that Fredrick Forsyth is a giant figure, and his debut novel casts a giant shadow over the genre.

AK: So are you a fan of assassination thrillers--The Manchurian Candidate, Three Days of the Condor, Winter Kills, The Parallax View, etc.?

LC: Yes, I am, as you have the giant faceless machine of “the establishment” with the powerful security apparatus, multi-layered like a tentacled octopus; then on the other hand you have the lone figure, who in definition is working entirely alone. This is the ultimate thriller plot--the imbalance of power, the one against the many. So yes, I am a fan of this subgenre/theme, as it encapsulates the whole conflict paradigm that a thriller has to be.

AK: I was delighted to see that you employed the first-person narrative technique in Personal. Was this simply due to the novel’s structure, with the first-person better suited to it than third-person? Or was there another reason for your decision?

LC: Yes, though I’d put it the other way around as there was nothing in the story that demanded it be told with alternative points of view. I would always steer towards a first-person narrative, unless there is a good reason why I shouldn’t. It’s instinctual.

AK: Did you find any special delight in placing Reacher on a European panorama, and particularly back in the UK?

LC: Definitely. That was one of the key points of the novel. People had been asking, especially in the wake of the last book, how do you keep it fresh? One way is by altering the surroundings and the circumstances, because Reacher is Reacher and he will always be involved in some kind of dangerous plot, but every other detail can be different, including the location. I also thought, after doing a series of novels set against “back-roads America,” that Reacher needed some glamor in this one--although the London sections are not the glamorous parts of London, I hasten to add. I didn’t want to do a tourist-guide travelogue; hence we see Romford and Chigwell, the sort of outer London you don’t normally see.

AK: [Laughing] The East End and Essex side--and home to Shots editor Mike Stotter, though the readers of his Western tales might think he lives someplace more exotic.

LC: Not that there’s anything wrong with East London and Essex … Reacher is a fish out of water, so I like giving him some contrast in the foreign countries …

AK: As is usually the case, you pepper this latest novel with some interesting secondary players. Can you tell us a little about Casey Nice, who’s a terrific character and an excellent foil for Jack Reacher?

LC: Yes, Casey Nice is a great sidekick for Reacher. She evolved as a character during the writing process, partly inspired by the name, as it comes from a real person. You and I were just talking about my early days, and for my very first book tour--which wasn’t for Killing Floor, but for my second book [Die Trying]--a little 9-year-old girl showed up at the bookstore in Houston, Texas, with her parents; and then she’d show up every year, when she was 10, then 11, then 12, etc. And I saw her last year and she was in her middle 20s. She came up to me and we talked, and she told me she’d worked her way through college and was now working for a consultancy. She said, with a wink in her eye, “You do realize I’ve been coming since I was 9?” And I told her, yes, of course I know. So she said, “Then you should put me in a book,” and when I asked her name, she told me it was Casey Nice. I thought that’s a great name, like a throwback to an Ian Fleming type of name. Though as I’d known her since she was a child, I considered a mentor-type of relationship between Reacher and her would work--so the relationship would not be one-on-one, as equals; she’d be junior, and vulnerable and a little unsure of herself. So basically the character evolved around her.

AK: Still on the topic of secondary characters, I noticed that one of my colleagues in the crime-fiction community, book collector Tom O’Day, is name-checked in Personal. Was this purely a coincidence?

LC: Well spotted! That is indeed the Tom O’Day we all know, and that name [like that of Frances Neagely] was won in a charity auction, and I think I got a pretty good physical description of him. [Laughing]

AK: I noticed that you dedicated Personal to fellow novelists Andrew Grant and Tasha Alexander, and they are family too.

LC: Yes, they are both great writers and family. Andrew is married to Tasha Alexander, and as you know, he’s my brother. Andrew has written three espionage thrillers featuring his series character, David Trevellyan, though he has a new standalone out called Run, and I’m actually with him this fall at the launch. As it’s very tough in publishing currently, and as he’s not as handsome as I am, I thought I’d do an event with him. [Laughing]

AK: Tell us about your new Jack Reacher e-book, Not a Drill.

LC: That’s the recent e-book we’ve released--though I’m not that thrilled doing them, as I don’t consider myself a good short-story writer; I prefer the space of a novel to let a story evolve. But we’re testing that market, and last year’s High Heat I really enjoyed writing, and readers like it--whereas Not a Drill, though a solid tale, didn’t, for me, add that much more to the canon. When a writer approaches a short story, as opposed to a novel, you can experiment a little; it doesn’t have to follow the same path as the novels. For the reader, however, they often want to follow the same path as the novel[s], which is not possible when working a short story. So I like Not a Drill, but will be curious to see how readers react to it.

AK: Yours has been a rather prominent voice in the ongoing agency pricing dispute between American online retailer Amazon and book publisher Hachette. You’re on record opposing what you say is Amazon’s wish to undermine other modern publishers, to become “the only publisher.” And you were among more than 900 writers who signed a full-page New York Times ad, bought by the advocacy group Authors United, charging that Amazon is taking “selective retaliation” against writers. In August you appeared briefly on BBC2’s Newsnight program to declare that “Amazon is using ‘authors as collateral damage and using customers as pawns.’” I caught that show, and thought host Kirsty Walk was somewhat annoying in her interpretations of what you said, and in preventing you from getting your points across. How do you think your appearance went?

videoChild spoke about the Amazon vs. Hatchette dispute on the August 12, 2014, edition of BBC2’s Newsnight.

LC: I know, and the program format is not one that lends itself toward extended discussion. I wish we had television that did allow more time, but we don’t these days. In the context of [Newsnight], I didn’t resent her interruptions, because that is her job, what she’s got to do; but it is a big important issue, and so I did wish we had a forum that we could discuss serious issues like this in more detail and depth, not just sound bites. The general media are looking for sound bites. Then there are the online forums, where you’d expect to have an intelligent discussion, [but they] are completely psychotic on this subject. [Laughing]

AK: It’s like people have axes that need grinding …

LC: Exactly. You can’t hear anything above the scream of the axes being ground.

AK: Let’s move on to the subject of the next Reacher movie. It’s already been green-lighted, but is Tom Cruise (who starred in 2012’s Jack Reacher) still attached?

LC: Yes, in fact it’s had a green light for some time. The script is done and shooting is scheduled to start in April 2015, for an early 2016 release. [Cruise will reprise his role as Jack Reacher.]

AK: And on which of your novels is this forthcoming picture based?

LC: Never Go Back [2013], and they are planning a three-handed perspective: Jack Reacher; the Susan Turner character as the co-equal female lead; and then the young teenage girl who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter. They see the young girl as an attractive angle, given the current demographics of the cinema audience.

AK: Finally what’s in store for your 20th Reacher book? And are you still planning to write Die Lonely, marking your protagonist’s end?

LC: No, Die Lonely wouldn’t be Reacher #20, that would be Reacher #21. Possibly. [Laughing] As for Reacher #20 [which will reportedly be titled Make Me], I’ve just started, as it’s a ritual for me start a new book in September, and this September is a little sentimental for me as it has been 20 years since I started writing Killing Floor--on September 4, 1994, to be precise. I have no idea where it will go, but no doubt we’ll be sitting across a table talking about it [later], and it will all make sense.

The Rap Sheet thanks Lee Child and Patsy Irwin, of Random House UK’s Transworld imprint, for making this interview possible.