Thursday, November 27, 2014

Even If You Don't Celebrate It---






Happy Thanksgiving!


 

Burying the Past by Judith Cutler


First Line: Holding Fran's hand, Mark presses back towards their new house.

In the midst of preparations for her wedding, the last thing Detective Chief Superintendent Fran Harman needs is a skeleton in her garden, but that's exactly what is unearthed. Not only could the discovery disrupt her wedding, it's slowing down the renovations on the house she and her husband-to-be plan to move into as quickly as possible. Even an epidemic of metal theft is slowing down those renovations.

And when it rains, it pours. Fran is also dealing with the suicide of a fellow officer, a young woman who claims she stabbed the man who raped her, and the incomprehensible behavior of her fiance's two grown children. She's also got to be able to lend a helping hand to the newly promoted police officer who's digging up the skeleton in her garden and trying to undo the renovations on her house. Will it ever end?

I have been a fan of Judith Cutler's Fran Harman series since the very first book. Fran is such a wonderful blend of intelligence, determination, empathy, and risk taking that I just can't read enough books about her. In all the fiction that I have read, this character is my favorite boss, and there's been a time or two when I wished that she were real so we could be best friends. As you can see, Fran has had quite an effect on me after four books!

There are crimes to solve in Burying the Past, and speaking of that title, there are plenty of characters-- including the house itself-- who have either buried their pasts or are trying to. There are even characters here who have appeared in other novels by Cutler-- like Caffy Tyler from Scar Tissue and Lina Townend who has her own series. You can read this book perfectly well without even knowing that these characters have lives of their own in other mysteries. They carry out their tasks here in fine style and add a bit of zest for Cutler's fans.

In the midst of people trying to take over the plans for Fran's wedding and Fran trying to keep all the various investigations straight, the reader soon realizes that this book has less to do with crime solving and more to do with tying up many of the loose ends of Fran's and Mark's lives so they can make a happy start to their new one together. This may irritate some, but as invested as I am in these characters, I really didn't mind a bit-- especially since so many of the investigations actually do tie in with these two retirement-age people who love each other so deeply.

Burying the Past definitely puts an enjoyable Paid In Full to some questions that have lingered for a book or two. What I like in particular is that Cutler does it in such a way that someone who's never read a Fran Harman mystery before can pick this one up and begin reading without feeling lost. When I'd savored the last page and closed the book, I was left with two things: a big smile, and a feeling of excitement. I have to find out what Fran's life has in store for her next!
 

Burying the Past by Judith Cutler
eISBN: 9781780103204
Severn House © 2012
eBook, 224 pages

Police Procedural, #4 Fran Harman mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon


 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Curious Indian Cadaver by Shamini Flint


First Lines: 31 October 1984. In India, word of disaster spreads like head lice.

Unfortunately our Inspector Singh of the snowy white sneakers is on compulsory sick leave from the Singapore police, so he can't plead work and escape accompanying Mrs. Singh to India for a family wedding. When the couple arrives in Mumbai, they learn that the bride-to-be has disappeared, and since the last thing the family wants is publicity and police involvement, Singh is asked to conduct a discreet search. 

Convinced that the young woman ran away to avoid an arranged marriage, Singh begins interviewing those who knew her best. His investigation takes on a much more serious turn when a corpse is found. Now he's conducting a murder investigation-- with absolute instructions from his wife (she of the "Stalinist tendencies") to cast no blame upon her family. The one thing Inspector Singh knows as he begins to descend through layer after layer of deceit is that it's going to be far from easy to obey his wife.

Shamini Flint has created a series that I love to read. The character of Inspector Singh is the perfect blend of humor and intelligence, and there's the added bonus of following him from case to case throughout Southeast Asia. In many ways this series is comparable to Tarquin Hall's which is set in India and features private investigator Vish Puri. Both give Westerners insight into incredibly rich cultures so very different from their own.

A Curious Indian Cadaver begins with an emotional blockbuster of a scene set in 1984 immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. When the news spread that she was killed by her Sikh bodyguards, it led to massive reprisals against anyone of that religious faith. This scene casts a long shadow of foreboding over the entire book. Any reader will know that what happens will never be forgotten. There will be consequences. 

This fifth book in the series lets us see much more of the dreaded Mrs. Singh, a woman of the strongest opinions who is the main reason why the inspector loves to be constantly on the job. (She's a marvelous cook, so he does like to be home at meal time however.) Readers get to see how this odd couple fits in with their relatives in Mumbai-- those family connections which are so all-important in India-- and it gives Mrs. Singh a chance to see her husband in action... even to put herself in his shoes for a second or two. After being in her company for such an extended period, the inspector begins to see his wife in a different light as well. Will they get along better in future? Only time will tell.

The powerful opening scene that I mentioned earlier in many ways weakened the mystery for me. I knew that "payment" was due for 1984, and that made certain aspects of the plot rather predictable. But as I've stated in other reviews, the best crime fiction isn't merely about crime. It's also about characters, setting, and motivations. A Curious Indian Cadaver brought India to life for me and gave me a greater appreciation of its culture. I thought about how some people never seem to realize that two wrongs don't make a right, as tired as that phrase may be. It also allowed me to spend time with one of my favorite characters. Inspector Singh never ever disappoints!
 

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Curious Indian Cadaver by Shamini Flint
ISBN: 9780749953423
Piatkus Books © 2012
Paperback, 308 pages

Police Procedural, #5 Inspector Singh mystery
Rating: B+
Source: the author 


December 2014 New Mystery Releases!


Here's hoping for one of two things for all you fellow bookaholics this holiday season: One, that you'll receive lots of books, marvelous books; and/or Two, you'll receive plenty of gift cards so you can go out and choose lots of books, marvelous books, for yourself. I don't know about you, but nothing burns holes in my wallet faster than gift cards to my favorite bookstores!

The following are my picks for new crime fiction being released during the month of December. I've grouped them by release date, and I've included all the information you need to find them at all your favorite "book procurement locations."  Book synopses are courtest of Amazon.



Happy Holidays-- and Happy Reading to you all! 



=== December 1 ===



Title: Gods of Gold
Author: Chris Nickson
Series: #1 in the Detective Inspector Tom Harper historical series set in 1890s Leeds, England
ISBN: 9780727884282  
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

Synopsis: "June 1890. Leeds is close to breaking point. The gas workers are on strike. Supplies are dangerously low. Factories and businesses are closing; the lamps are going unlit at night.

Detective Inspector Tom Harper has more urgent matters on his mind. The beat constable claims eight-year-old Martha Parkinson has disappeared. Her father insists she’s visiting an aunt in Halifax – but Harper doesn’t believe him. When Col Parkinson is found dead the following morning, the case takes on an increasing desperation.

But then Harper’s search for Martha is interrupted by the murder of a replacement gas worker, stabbed to death outside the Town Hall while surrounded by a hostile mob. Pushed to find a quick solution, Harper discovers that there’s more to this killing than meets the eye – and that there may be a connection to Martha’s disappearance
."  



Title: Blue Avenue
Author: Michael Wiley
Series: #1 in the Daniel Turner police procedural series set in Jacksonville, Florida
ISBN: 9780727884299
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

Synopsis: "Summoned by his old friend, homicide detective Daniel Turner, to identify the trussed-up, naked body of a woman, found wrapped in cellophane amongst a pile of garbage on Blue Avenue, a down-at-heel area of Jacksonville, Florida, businessman William Byrd or ‘BB’ is in for a shock. He recognises the dead woman as Belinda Mabry, the girl with whom he spent an intense and passionate summer twenty-five years before. What’s more, as Daniel informs him, she’s the third victim to have met such a hideously gruesome end. Determined to find out what happened to Belinda Mabry and where she’d been for the past twenty-five years, BB must revisit his own troubled past – and discover more than he ever really wanted to know about the woman he once loved. But his investigations are causing serious ripples amongst prominent members of the local community. Has BB found himself on a road of no return?




=== December 2 ===


Title: Blood Jungle Ballet
Author: John Enright
Series: #4 in the Jungle Beat police procedural series set in American Samoa
ISBN: 9781612185033
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
Paperback, 282 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "A disquieting string of murders terrorizes the remote, lush island of Samoa. Detective Sergeant Apelu Soifua has seen a lot in his time with the police force, but even he is unsettled by the bodies that have started piling up. At first, the murders don’t seem connected—a local transvestite found castrated and brutalized, a visiting politician who drops dead on the dance floor, a prison guard and an inmate who kill each other—but as Apelu works with the hospital’s new medical examiner to find out who is behind the killings, a disturbing pattern emerges. And the closer they get to the killer, the more destructive he becomes. Can they put the pieces together before Apelu becomes the next victim?


Title: Geared for the Grave 
Author: Duffy Brown
Series: #1 in the Cycle Path cozy series set on Mackinac Island, Michigan
ISBN: 9780425268940
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Hoping to shift her chances of a promotion in her favor, Evie Bloomfield heads to Mackinac Island to assist her boss’s father. Rudy Randolph has broken his leg and operating his bike shop, Rudy’s Rides, is too much to handle by himself. But Evie’s good turn only leads to more trouble…

After Evie’s arrival, wealthy resident Bunny Harrington dies in what looks like a freak bike accident. Upon closer inspection, Bunny’s brakes were tampered with, and now the prime suspect in her murder is also Bunny’s number one enemy: Rudy. So if Evie hopes to stay on her boss’s good side, she’ll need to steer Rudy clear of jail. Now she must quickly solve this mystery so she can put the brakes on the real killer’s plan
…" 



Title: If You've Got It, Haunt It
Author: Rose Pressey
Series: #1 in the Haunted Vintage cozy series set in Georgia
ISBN: 9781617732492
Publisher: Kensington
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "Cookie Chanel has opened her own vintage clothing boutique, It’s Vintage, Y’All, in the charming town of Sugar Creek, Georgia. Always on the lookout for stylish second-hand steals, she attends the estate sale of deceased socialite Charlotte Meadows. But she gets a lot more than she bargained for when Charlotte’s ghost appears before her—offering fashion advice and begging Cookie to find out who murdered her.

As the persistent poltergeist tags along and a possibly psychic pussycat moves into the shop, Cookie sorts through racks of suspects to see who may be hiding some skeletons in the closet. Do a clothing store owner and a disembodied socialite have a ghost of a chance of collaring a killer—or will Cookie’s life be the next one hanging by a thread?


Title: Keeper of the Castle
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Series: #5 in the Haunted Home Renovation cozy series set in the San Francisco Bay area
ISBN: 9780451465801
Publisher: Signet
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Lately, Mel has been worried about finding enough historic renovation work to pay the bills. But while Turner Construction is in need of a project, Mel’s boyfriend, Graham, has his hands full managing the reconstruction of an ancient building shipped over from Scotland.

With the job plagued by rumors that the stones are cursed, Graham brings in Mel to look for paranormal activity. And while the ghost of a charming Scottish clansman does seem to be hanging around the site, the real shock comes when they stumble upon a body.

When the original construction crew starts running scared, Mel brings in her team to finish the job. Now all she has to do is nail down the killer, and put the spirits to rest, before anyone else winds up heading for the highlands…



Title: Aground on St. Thomas
Author: Rebecca M. Hale
Series: #3 in the Mystery in the Islands series set on St. Thomas
ISBN: 9780425252512
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Synopsis: "The tropical paradise of St. Thomas is shut down as the FBI seizes control of the island to apprehend government officials on bribery charges. Tourists and locals are stranded until FBI agent Gabe “Friday” Stein can find the missing governor and two senators who have eluded capture.

Innocent of any crime, Senator Julia Sanchez can only escape wrongful arrest with the help of eccentric Senator Bobo. As they try to blend in with increasingly hostile locals and make their trek across the island to safety, Senator Sanchez is only just beginning to realize the extent of the corruption behind the island’s idyllic façade
…" 



Title: The Skeleton Road
Author: Val McDermid
Series: #2 in the Detective Inspector Karen Pirie series set in Scotland
ISBN: 9780802123091
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Hardcover, 384 pages

Synopsis: "In the center of historic Edinburgh, builders are preparing to demolish a disused Victorian Gothic building. They are understandably surprised to find skeletal remains hidden in a high pinnacle that hasn’t been touched by maintenance for years. Who do the bones belong to, and how did they get there? Could the eccentric British pastime of free climbing the outside of buildings play a role? Enter cold case detective Karen Pirie, who gets to work trying to establish the corpse’s identity. And when it turns out the bones may be from as far away as former Yugoslavia, Karen will need to dig deeper than she ever imagined into the tragic history of the Balkans: to war crimes and their consequences, and ultimately to the notion of what justice is and who serves it.


Title: Scorched Eggs
Author: Laura Childs
Series: #6 in the Cackleberry Club cozy series set in small town Minnesota
ISBN: 9780425255599
Publisher: Berkley
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "As Suzanne is getting her hair colored at Root 66, she’s stunned to witness the County Services office next door suddenly go up in flames. Concerned neighbors throng the streets, and the fire department does their best. Unfortunately, their best isn’t enough to save longtime civil service worker—and friend to the Cackleberry Club—Hannah Venable.

Soon enough, it’s discovered that an accelerant was used to fan the flames. Someone set the fire on purpose—was Hannah the intended victim? Suzanne, Petra, and Toni vow to smoke out the culprit.

Unfortunately, the list of suspects is as varied as the Cackleberry Club’s menu. When Suzanne finds a possible connection between the fire and the nearby Prairie Star Casino, she comes to realize that the arsonist wanted something very big and bad kept secret. And if the ladies aren’t careful, they may be the ones gambling with their lives…




=== December 9 ===



Title: Five
Author: Ursula Archer
Standalone police procedural set in Austria
ISBN: 9781250037411
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 336 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "A woman’s corpse is discovered in a meadow. A strange combination of letters and numbers has been tattooed on the soles of her feet. Detective inspector Beatrice Kaspary from the local murder squad quickly identifies the digits as map coordinates. These lead to a series of gruesome discoveries as she and her colleague Florin Wenninger embark on a bloody trail – a modern-day scavenger hunt using GPS navigation devices to locate hidden caches. The "owner" of these unofficial, unpublished geocaches is a highly calculating and elusive fiend who leaves his victims’ body-parts sealed in plastic bags, complete with riddles that culminate in a five-stage plot. Kaspary herself becomes an unwilling pawn in the perpetrator’s game of cat and mouse as she risks all to uncover the motives behind the murderer’s actions. Five is definitely not a book for the faint-hearted, but it delivers great suspense, unexpected plot twists, and multi-dimensional characters."  


Title: Irène
Series: #1 in the Camille Verhoeven police procedural trilogy set in Paris, France 
ISBN: 9781623658007
Publisher: MacLehose Press
Hardcover, 416 pages

Synopsis: "Camille Verhoeven, whose diminutive stature belies his fierce intensity, has reached an unusually content (for him) place in life. he is respected by his colleagues and he and his lovely wife, Irene, are expecting their first child.

But when a new murder case hits his desk--a double torture-homicide that's so extreme that even the most seasoned officers are horrified-Verhoeven is overcome with a sense of foreboding.

As links emerge between the bloody set-piece and at least one past unsolved murder, it becomes clear that a calculating serial killer is at work. The press has a field day, taking particular pleasure in putting Verhoeven under the media spotlight (and revealing uncomfortable details of his personal life).

Then Verhoeven makes a breakthrough discovery: the murders are modeled after the exploits of serial killers from classic works of crime fiction. The double murder was an exquisitely detailed replication of a scene from Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, and one of the linked cold cases was a faithful homage to James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.

The media circus reaches a fever pitch when the modus operandi of the killer, dubbed "The Novelist," is revealed. Worse, the Novelist has taken to writing taunting letters to the police, emphasizing that he will stop leaving any clues behind unless Verhoeven remains on the case.

For reasons known only to the killer, the case has become personal. With more literature--inspired murders surfacing, Verhoeven enlists the help of an eccentric bookseller and a professor specializing in crime fiction to try to anticipate his adversary's next move. Then Irene is kidnapped.

With time running out, Verhoeven realizes that all along he's been the unwitting dupe in The Novelist's plans to create an original work of his own. Now, the only person in the world the commandant truly cares for is in danger, and a happy ending seems less and less likely as it becomes clear that the winner of this deadly game may be the man with the least to lose.



=== December 30 ===



Title: The Bishop's Wife
Standalone set in Utah
ISBN: 9781616954765
Publisher: Soho Crime
Hardcover, 352 pages
 
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books
 
Synopsis: "Linda Wallheim is a devout Mormon, the mother of five boys and the wife of a bishop. But Linda is increasingly troubled by her church’s structure and secrecy, especially as a disturbing situation takes shape in her ward. One cold winter night, a young wife and mother named Carrie Helm disappears, leaving behind everything she owns. Carrie’s husband, Jared, claims his wife has always been unstable and that she has abandoned the family, but Linda doesn’t trust him. As Linda snoops in the Helm family’s circumstances, she becomes convinced that Jared has murdered his wife and painted himself as a wronged husband.

Linda’s husband asks her not to get involved in the unfolding family saga. But Linda has become obsessed with Carrie’s fate, and with the well-being of her vulnerable young daughter. She cannot let the matter rest until she finds out the truth. Is she wrong to go against her husband, the bishop, when her inner convictions are so strong?

Inspired by a chilling true crime and written by a practicing Mormon, The Bishop’s Wife is both a fascinating look at the lives of modern Mormons as well as a grim and cunningly twisted mystery.



Another great selection this month, don't you think? Having lived in Utah for three years, I'm looking forward to The Bishop's Wife, and any month that has new books by John Enright and Val McDermid is a great one as far as I'm concerned!

Did any of these titles make it on your own wish lists? Which ones? This inquiring mind would love to know!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger


First Line: There was a small, angry girl sitting on Eloise Montgomery's couch.

It's ten years after the events in Lisa Unger's first digital short story involving characters who live in  the fictional town of The Hollows. Eloise Montgomery now has a career as a psychic. Her daughter Amanda has moved away and now has a daughter of her own. 

In "The Burning Girl," Eloise discovers some disturbing secrets about her family history-- and the fact that her granddaughter has powers of her own. Moreover, while she's learning these secrets, Eloise is also learning that not all of her visitors are looking for help. Some of them just seem to be inclined to be troublemakers. 

As in "The Whispers," Unger continues to tell the story of Eloise and how she's managed to cope with the deaths of her husband and eldest daughter. Ten years have passed, and although she's learned to use her gift to help others and to keep herself focused, part of her is still shut away from others. Part of this is due to the fact that she shuns the spotlight. She wants to use her gift to benefit those who truly need her, not as some public relations stunt to bring herself fame and money.  However, other reasons for her closing herself off could very well be that she hasn't recovered enough from her loved ones' deaths... and she's not willing to share this often misunderstood part of her life in a deep relationship with anyone else.

Eloise is a good person, and I've really enjoyed getting to know her in these short stories. The paranormal aspects are well done and work to increase both tension and understanding. With the possibility that her granddaughter has inherited her own powers, I look forward to reading the next short story in this series.   

"The Burning Girl" by Lisa Unger
ASIN: B00L6C37GK
Pocket Star © 2014
Digital Short Story, 45 pages

Short Story, #2 The Hollows
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley 


Monday, November 24, 2014

What Dream Event Should You Attend?




You Should Go to Sundance

 


You are artistic and cultured. You are a more reflective person who thinks about everything. You aren't the type of person to usually go for a big event, but you could make an exception for a film festival.

You prefer events where you are free to be social or free to keep to yourself. You need your quiet time, even in public. You're no hermit, but if you're going to spend the energy to go out, it has to be worthwhile. A big cultural even is just your speed. 


 



Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger at The Poisoned Pen!




Denis's work shifts are changing very soon, and he may not be able to come to these author events at The Poisoned Pen for a while. It can't be helped, but I certainly hope that this bid doesn't last very long; it's so much better to have him in the car with me so we can talk over the evening on the way home! 

At least that new shift hasn't begun yet, so the two of us were able to head over to Scottsdale and our favorite bookstore to see Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger talk about their latest collaboration In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon. This book features contributions from writers like Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Harlan Ellison, and Sara Paretsky, and since I hadn't read their first compilation, A Study in Sherlock, I made certain to buy a copy of that before I reserved our seats.


"You're here!"


L to R: Leslie S. Klinger, Barbara Peters, Laurie R. King

Host Barbara Peters had originally intended to talk for a few minutes solo with Laurie R. King. (She and King have been good friends for many years, and are even working on a book together. Whenever King is in town, she stays with Peters.) Barbara did startle me when she first walked up to the chairs-- seeing me, giving me a big smile, and saying, "Our regular blogger is here!" There were also two people from Shelf Awareness in the bookstore, and there was an electric feeling to the air.

Leslie Klinger was on a very tight schedule: flying into Phoenix, rushing to The Poisoned Pen to sign who-knows-how-many copies of the latest book before speaking to us all, signing our books, and then rushing back to Sky Harbor to catch another flight out. Whew!  Peters and King had barely started talking about the 20th anniversary edition of The Beekeeper's Apprentice before Klinger arrived. Peters did mention that King's new Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes book (Dreaming Spies) will be out in February. On Saturday, February 28 at 2 PM, The Poisoned Pen will be having a Mary Russell Afternoon "which is in design, so if any of you have any really good ideas as to how we might do this, please feel free to email me with your suggestions, and Laurie and I will work on it."  

"Especially if it's cheap!" Laurie interjected. 

"That's your publisher, not your bookseller!" Barbara clarified. "They gave us what I would call a modest budget, but budgets have never entered into anything we've ever done here at The Poisoned Pen, so we'll just carry on.

Available February 2015!
"I also wanted to tease you with the fact that Laurie, Rob (Barbara's husband) and I made the trip to Japan together-- which is the background for Laurie's new book Dreaming Spires--"  "Spies!" (Laurie again.) "Spies?" Barbara said, looking at her friend. "I like spires. It's an actual play on words, isn't it?" (A nod from Laurie.) "But you're the person who would never publish Stately Holmes when I asked you to..." "It's in the works!" Laurie objected. Barbara gave her a look filled with doubt. "You know, Sue Grafton rejected my concept of T Is For Lipton, which I've never gotten over...." "Brand names," Laurie said. "I know," Barbara admitted. (And if you are of the opinion that we were all sitting there enjoying their banter, you would be right!)

"Anyway," Barbara said to get back on track, "we made this wonderful trip around Japan, and Laurie and I became enthralled by not only Japanese hygiene, but Japanese plumbing as exemplified by the Toto Toilet manufacturers. Laurie and I are writing the text-- have we come up with the title?"

"I think Flushed With Pride has already been used," Laurie replied to yet another round of our laughter.

"In any case you will be amazed by this book" Barbara said, " and we have some wonderful stories as well as photographs. Our book should be ready in time for The Poisoned Pen's Mary Russell Day!

Personally I think sales are going to be pretty high just from The Poisoned Pen's customers, and while I was thinking that, Barbara switched seats with Leslie Klinger so he and Laurie could talk about their latest book.


Free Sherlock!


Writers, friends and co-editors: Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger.

Laurie wanted Leslie to sit on her left to avoid shining a spotlight on the large bandage he was sporting on one cheek. Making one reference to it as a "Bouchercon bar fight scar," Klinger and King got right down to business. 

After making sure that his microphone worked, Klinger said, "Someone came up to me at Bouchercon and said, 'Thank you for the lawsuit!' I've been practicing law for forty years, and that's the first time anyone's ever said that to me!

"Here's the short version. It's all Laurie's fault. When we were doing the book called A Study in Scarlet, before it came out, Random House got a letter from the Conan-Doyle estate telling them that they couldn't publish new Sherlock Holmes stories because the Conan-Doyle estate owned the copyrights to ten stories, and that gave them the right to protect the characters of Holmes and Watson. Laurie and I said that that was wrong, but Random House said that they didn't care if it was right or wrong, they were just going to pay for a license. It was easier.

Leslie S. Klinger
"When we were getting ready to do this book, we went to Pegasus Books. They said, 'Fine, we believe that you're right in doing this,' and they agreed to do the book. Then Pegasus received a letter from the Conan-Doyle estate telling them that if they didn't pay for a license, the estate would block distribution of the book-- Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Ingram-- the book would never see the light of day.

"Well, this made us angry. So we filed a lawsuit asking for declaratory relief. We weren't seeking damages; we asked the court to determine that we were right. That we were free to create new stories about Sherlock Holmes because fifty of the sixty Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain.

"We filed in the northern district of Illinois because that's where the estate has an office. The Federal Court ruled in our favor. The estate appealed and went to the 7th Circuit. That was a big mistake. The 7th Circuit wrote a scathing opinion in our favor...."

"It's really very entertaining reading," Laurie said. "You normally don't think of something like that being entertaining prose, but it was. You can read everything on the Free Sherlock website."

Leslie continued, "After the court handed down its decision, we asked-- as we were permitted to do under the copyright laws-- for our legal fees to be reimbursed, and not only did the court reimburse us 100% of our legal fees, but wrote a scathing opinion about that, saying that representatives for the estate were acting like extortionists. That they had been forcing writers to pay for license fees when they had no right to do so.

"And I want to emphasize that we weren't asking for new laws-- just for everyone to follow the existing laws. And this ruling does not mean that all the Sherlock Holmes stories are out of copyright!"


Building a Book


Once the lawsuit was explained briefly (don't forget to use that link to Free Sherlock), talk turned to putting together books like A Study in Scarlet and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes.

Laurie R. King having fun at The Poisoned Pen.
"Our poor publisher didn't have any idea what they were getting into, " King said, "but they persisted. It made for some rather complicated letters back and forth with our contributors because there had been deadlines set, and we had to tell them 'You know those deadlines? Well never mind because this is in court.' Then we'd win and tell them the deadlines were back on, and then the other side appealed, and we had to get back in touch with them to let them know there was a hold-up yet again. At the end I think we had three different covers depending on who was in the book and who wasn't. At least for book three we won't be going through all this!"

Leslie picked up the thread of the narrative. "When we set out to assemble the group of contributors, we wanted to go well beyond the mystery genre. I discovered years ago that some of my favorite science fiction writers are huge Sherlock Holmes fans."

"What we were looking for were writers who are a known quality, but not known for writing stories about Sherlock Holmes," King said. "There have been exceptions because we couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Neil Gaiman or John Lescroart.

"It all started with a conference when Les was asked whom he wanted to have on his Sherlock Holmes panel and he named the guests of honor...."

Barbara Peters listening to her friends.
"Jan Burke, Michael Connelly, Lee Child," Klinger supplied.

"And me!" Laurie said quickly. "But the people running the conference told him that these writers weren't known to be Sherlockians to which Les replied--"

"A-Hah! Trust me!" exclaimed Les the Obliging. "It was a great panel, and every time someone would ask an intricate question about Holmes, Jan or Michael or Lee would say, 'Well, I don't know very much about Sherlock Holmes, but....' and then proceed to give a brilliant, erudite answer. Afterwards I said to Laurie, 'Maybe those people should write stories for our anthology?' We'd just finished a Sherlock anthology published by the Baker Street Irregulars.


"Let me tell you a bit about the editing process because I know it will come up in the questions," Klinger said. "I was actually petrified by the idea of editing a story written by-- say-- Michael Connelly or Jeff Deaver or Laura Lippman. These are writers so far above me in skill that I passed that task off to Laurie. My job as co-editor was to make sure all the contracts were signed, and to check technical aspects of the stories. I kept thinking I would catch these authors in errors on Sherlockian facts, but I never did!"

"I've dealt with editors all my life," King said. "I know that the best editing isn't telling someone 'I think if you had this character do this instead of that character,' it's more a case of saying 'I think you need to clarify this for the reader.' We've only had one story that didn't make logical sense, and it took a little diplomatic back and forth to work everything out."


"I'm eighty years old!"


Laurie and Les talked a bit more about the stories in the collection, but there's always an exception. The exception for In the Company of Sherlock Holmes was the story by Harlan Ellison. "Harlan Ellison's story in this collection is so brilliant that I don't understand it," said Klinger. "And of course I wouldn't dare change a word because Harlan would say 'I'm eighty! I'm eighty years old! It's this way or the highway!'"

Laurie nodded in agreement. "That's basically... any question we had about audio rights or editorial stuff, he would say 'I'm eighty, and I don't need to do anything.'"  

"Six weeks before the deadline for this book, Harlan called and said, 'Hey look, I never should've said yes to doing this story. I am so over-committed. I can't do this story' which is true-- he's five years behind on commitments to other anthologies-- so we said we understood." Klinger laughed and continued, "Then with two weeks to go, Harlan called and said, 'Is it too late? I've got the idea. I've almost finished it....' We said 'We'll wait!'"

Available Now!
"So we called Pegasus and said, 'Hold the cover!'" King said.

"Again," Les added. "He did make it in time, but he was the last one in the door."

More wonderful anecdotes ensued about the authors who contributed illustrations and graphic short stories for both anthologies as well as the ins and outs of payments and the like. Once again, this will not be a blow-by-blow recap, or you'll feel as though you're reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. I urge any of you who are interested to check out the whole event on Livestream

One thing that Leslie Klinger emphasized is that every writer involved had a blast because they were all friends who were thrilled to be able to "play in a different sandbox."

"Some of these writers turned out to be closeted Sherlockians," Laurie King said. "Some of the stories are very firmly rooted in the canon while others are very subtle."

"And who knew Sara Paretsky  wanted to do a serious Sherlock Holmes pastiche?" Klinger exclaimed. "If you read Amazon reviews, you'll see that some people are disappointed that these aren't collections of stories about Sherlock Holmes. They aren't pastiches. They aren't stories written to sound like Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. But those people are like the person who criticized my New Annotated Sherlock Holmes because it had that cloud of footnotes around it. Didn't you read the cover where it said 'annotated'? The cover on this book [In the Company of Sherlock Holmes] says 'inspired by the stories of Sherlock Holmes'!"


"Can't you do a book that..."


From Sherlock Holmes, Barbara turned the talk to other books Leslie Klinger has done, in particular his newest book, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. "It's another case of people coming up to me and saying 'How do you pick these trendy authors?' Sherlock Holmes, Dracula...." said Klinger. "As for Lovecraft, more recent writers who have been influenced by him are Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, and Stephen King. Lovecraft was a young man when the Sherlock Holmes stories first began appearing, and he was greatly influenced by Conan-Doyle, but it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that academics began to acknowledge Lovecraft's influence on others. He's now considered to be as influential an American writer of short stories and the supernatural as Poe."

Barbara had one of The Poisoned Pen's staff bring over a copy of Klinger's book, and as Leslie quickly paged through it, we could all see how beautiful the edition was-- well worth the very reasonable $40 price.

Barbara joked about being afraid to put all the books on the same shelf in fear that the shelf would collapse, which prompted Les to tell us about an event in New York with Peter Straub in which a fan showed up with "all three Sherlock Holmes volumes, Dracula, Lovecraft, and all three of my Sandman books."

"Was he carrying them?" Barbara asked in wonderment.

"In a suitcase," Klinger replied. "That's forty pounds of books! I once had a friend ask 'Can't you do a book that weighs less than five pounds?'" 

Laurie King then made an observation that led Klinger to talk about a controversy that's been raging for the past few months. The awards handed out by the World Fantasy Convention are representations of a bust of H.P. Lovecraft. Several writers have said that they don't want him to be associated with the awards because Lovecraft was a well-known racist and anti-Semitic. Les did a marvelous job of explaining Lovecraft without excusing his behavior.


A Little Q&A


Someone asked Laurie how she thought the court ruling would affect film and books-- would there be more or less Sherlock-- and the author replied that she believed the television and film industries would continue to send checks to the Conan-Doyle estate for licenses because it's what they're used to doing, and it's just easier. As for print, she surmised that first-time writers would be more likely to write more stories involving Holmes and the other characters because now they know that they can without having to pay anyone for the privilege.

Another person made both authors giggle with his question for Laurie. "Prior to The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I think the only time I heard a conservative Sherlockian say that Holmes may have had a relationship with an actual woman is the acknowledgement that he may have had a son by Irene Adler who grew up to be Nero Wolfe. Do you care about having gotten any negative feedback from the more conservative experts on Sherlockiana?"

Laurie R. King
"It's been an interesting arc," King admitted. "When the first book came out in 1994, I was not connected to the internet and didn't realize that I was being flamed regularly by the hounds of the internet, and that this happened every time a new book came out. I was in blissful ignorance of this

"By the time I became really conscious of a Sherlockian community, there were enough of them who felt reassured that I was not writing Sherlockian erotica-- some may have been disappointed..."

Amidst our laughter, Leslie Klinger told us, "There is a major collector of Sherlockian erotica!"

"Is there? Really?" asked Barbara.

"Oh yes!" said Klinger.

"In fact, Mr. Klinger is probably the world's expert on Sherlockian erotica. Over dessert, he'll tell you," replied King. "When they began to see that I had a tremendous amount of respect not only for the characters, but for Conan-Doyle, they welcomed me to their manly breasts. A lot of Sherlockians are not devout purists and are happy to play my game as well as theirs. I am now a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, so at least the Head Irregular thinks I'm kosher."

"I have the privilege of having been with Laurie through most of her career, and I remember having this very brisk discussion with her and her insisting that she was writing Mary Russell books, but that began to change after a while," said Peters.

Laurie nodded in agreement. "After I'd written three or four books, I became more interested in Sherlock as a person, and as the books progress you can begin to see the influence that Mary has on him and how his personality changes."

There were a few more questions about Lovecraft and Holmes, and then the evening drew to a close. This was a very special event for me not only because of the information and humor these three shared with us all, but because I got to observe three good friends truly enjoying each other's company. It was a bit of bliss, and possibly the reason why some readers want signed copies of books written by their favorite authors. If they attend events like this, those signatures are proof that they were part of this very special circle, too.

"Weave a circle 'round [them] thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread, For [they] on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise." (Or maybe they just attended one of The Poisoned Pen's extraordinary events. They even make me wax poetic!)



Friday, November 21, 2014

A Demographically Old Weekly Link Round-Up




Those of you who keep an eye on Kittling: Books' Facebook page know that I was a bit incensed when A&E decided to cancel Longmire, a wonderful series based on Craig Johnson's even more wonderful books. And all for more reality TV. (Pardon me while I gag.) I wasn't the only one who didn't like what happened, and many of us have been tweeting and Facebooking about keeping the series alive. Everyone-- from the author to the show's producers to its stars to its fans-- helped the powers-that-be at Netflix decide to take Longmire under its wing. Time to break out the Pappy Van Winkles and do a little celebrating!

However... if a few million television viewers who took umbrage at being called demographically too old can do that, just think of what else we can do....

...like round up some links. Head 'em up! Move 'em out!

 

Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits
  • These two brothers recreated some of their childhood photos for their parents' wedding anniversary.
  • Something else we can blame the Victorians for: making topless females taboo. 
  • How many will follow suit? Navajo lawmakers have approved a junk food tax.
  • How animals hacked the rainbow and got stumped on the color blue
  • The disease of being busy.
  • How readers can avoid buying bad eBooks by indie authors. 
  • Some people in the book business believe eBook subscription services just won't work.
  • Should libraries develop their own eReader apps?
  • Find out how the book business in the UK is managing the shift to digital.
  • The reintroduction of wildlife goes well in some areas, but for some-- like the bighorn sheep near Tucson-- it's a different story.

Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones

The Happy Wanderer
  • 21 of the most breathtaking pools in the world.
  • Make me a not-so-happy wanderer when reading about this Hawaiian marine monument
  • Haeding for New Zealand? Don't forget to visit Hobbiton.

I  ♥  Lists


Book Candy



That's all for this week. Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure. Have a great weekend!