<i>On Track for Murder</i>: New Excerpt On Track for Murder: New Excerpt Stephen Childs Australia was supposed to be a new life, not take one away. <i>The Child Garden</i>: New Excerpt The Child Garden: New Excerpt Catriona McPherson When the dead begin to talk, nowhere is safe... Now Win <i>This</i>!: Murder in the First Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Murder in the First Sweepstakes Crime HQ The jury has spoken, and all nine books are guilty of murder! <i>Basket Case</i>: New Excerpt Basket Case: New Excerpt Nancy Haddock Who is the weaver of this intricate murder plot?
From The Blog
September 3, 2015
The ZINNG: Women Crime Writers, Poisoned Poe, and a Killer Whale
Crime HQ
August 31, 2015
The ZINNG: The Scents of Outlaws and Spies
Crime HQ
August 28, 2015
The ZINNG: Stephen King, OITNB, and Ulysses
Crime HQ
August 26, 2015
From Page to Screen with Night and the City
Brian Greene
August 25, 2015
The ZINNG: Bank Heists and a Pit of Despair
Crime HQ
Sep 3 2015 5:30pm

Reflections of a Spy: The Secret Pilgrim

Ned—a surname-less protagonist who first appeared in The Russia House (1989)—runs the Sarratt agent training school for The Circus (a thinly disguised MI6) and invites the retired George Smiley to speak as guest of honor at the commencement. Initially Ned is doubtful the laconic Smiley will accept his offer but the old spy seems quite amenable to offer pearls of wisdom to the prospective graduates.

In The Secret Pilgrim (1990), we finally see Smiley getting some well-deserved respect as a revered elder statesman who is imparting his cloak and dagger expertise to an adoring and insatiable audience. Through the book, John Le Carré uses Smiley’s lecture as a framework to Ned’s own reminisces—where Smiley strolls to and fro like an omnipresent Gandalf the Grey—building up the honor of an otherwise overlooked hero.

[About time!]

Sep 3 2015 4:10pm

On Track for Murder: New Excerpt

Stephen Childs

On Track for Murder by Stephen Childs is a 19th Century mystery about an Englishwoman in Australia forced to sleuth her way through a murder that hits close to home (available September 2015).

Traveling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth century, Abigail Sergeant and her brother, Bertrand, are looking forward to their new life. Leaving behind the prejudices that would likely have seen Bertrand committed to an institution before he reached adulthood, Abigail hopes their new life will offer freedom and security. But what awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life. A murder is committed and Abigail's family is thrown into turmoil. The evidence is damning. Only the guilty would be found standing over the body clutching the bloodied murder weapon. But something is not right. Police are convinced they have their killer. Abigail is certain they are wrong. As their one potential witness is missing, Abigail persuades the detective to allow time for a search. But that time is limited. Chasing across Western Australia with a reluctant Constable Dunning as her chaperone, Abigail is determined to uncover the truth. If only she had an inkling of what that may be. Through deception, kidnap, sabotage, and arson, Abigail finds a resolve she didn't know she possessed. Her understanding of mechanical principles surprises everyone, as does her tenacity. She turns out to be a capable young woman. But is that enough to save an innocent from injustice?

Chapter 8

Darkness blanketed the town. Dimly glowing gas lamps spotted the railway platform with pools of warm light. Abigail glanced up. The lamplight, there to provide security, would soon betray their presence to the approaching thug. She slid off the seat and, as quietly as she could, slunk down beside the building. Keeping her gaze fixed firmly on the shadowy figure, who had now reached the shed with the broken sign, she began a slow retreat back down the platform. Sleath dutifully followed, stifling a groan as pain shot through his broken body. Abigail flinched as her foot struck an empty luggage trolley. The resultant metallic clink seemed to echo around the platform. It went unheard by the approaching menace.

[Continue reading On Track for Murder!]

Sep 3 2015 8:45am

The ZINNG: Women Crime Writers, Poisoned Poe, and a Killer Whale

Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s is a box set of work by Dorothy B. Hughes, Vera Caspary, Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Millar, Charlotte Armstrong, Dolores Hitchens, Helen Eustis, and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. The website for the collection is worth exploring, with galleries, also essays from Sarah Weinman, the editor, and cool “appreciations” from other authors.

In the Baltimore Post-Examiner, René van Slooten discusses the hair samples indicating that moving to New York might have poisoned Edgar Allan Poe.

Gerald So's new blog is 3 Minutes from Live, a virtual event space. Writers can read a few minutes-long story into his voicemail, and then sit back for the digital fingersnaps. The debut is “Getting Even” by Bill Baber.

J. Kingston Pierce posts his EPIC quarterly crime fiction rundown at The Rap Sheet, and he admits, it's not every title he could've listed. Ach, we're going to need more eyedrops... and maybe a bigger boat.

Try not to feel dread watching this patient killer whale use his fish to entrap another lunch instead.


Sep 2 2015 12:00pm

The Child Garden: New Excerpt

Catriona McPherson

The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson is a standalone mystery about a care home with a dark and deadly past (available September 8, 2015).

Eden was its name. “An alternative school for happy children.” But it closed in disgrace after a student’s suicide. Now it’s a care home, the grounds neglected and overgrown. Gloria Harkness is its only neighbor, staying close to her son who lives in the home, lighting up her life and breaking her heart each day. 

When a childhood friend turns up at her door, Gloria doesn’t hesitate before asking him in. He claims a girl from Eden is stalking him and has goaded him into meeting near the site of the suicide. Only then, the dead begin to speak—it was murder, they say. 

Gloria is in over her head before she can help it. Her loneliness, her loyalty, and her all-consuming love for her son lead her into the heart of a dark secret that threatens everything she lives for.


I’ve never thought my life was a tragedy. Not mine, not Nicky’s, certainly not Miss Drumm’s. I know other people don’t agree. I can tell what they think from the looks on their faces when they think it, with their heads tilted and their mouths dimpled in at the corners. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m lucky. I’ve got the best kind of job— important yet easy—and a son who lets me hug him and a good friend. I wish I didn’t have to shave her neck, but it’s a small price to pay. I’ve got a beautiful house and an ancient monument to tend to. How many people get that?

[Continue reading The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson now!]

Sep 1 2015 12:00pm

Now Win This!: Murder in the First Sweepstakes

The jury has spoken, and these nine tales are guilty of murder! Enjoy life behind bars!

Click here to enter for a chance to win!

This is NOT a Comments Sweepstakes. You must click the link above to enter.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. Promotion begins September 1, 2015, at 12:00 pm ET, and ends September 15, 2015, 11:59 am ET. Void in Puerto Rico and wherever prohibited by law. Click here for details and official rules.

[Book 'em...]

Aug 31 2015 11:45pm

Hannibal 3.13: “The Wrath of the Lamb” is Ended

Here we are, fannibalizing together a last time, much like Hannibal and Will in the blood-soaked (probably) series finale “The Wrath of the Lamb.” There was some returning to the inspiration of the source material for this episode, and oddly enough, because of times when the show departed, those twists didn't work as well as they might've.

Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley) was kidnapped by Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), taken to his house for threats, then arson, then to witness, but in her sensorially limited way, his suicide by shotgun to the head. Clever, except that we're pretty used to people not really being dead in this show now. The Great Red Dragon, who's now living as kind of a subsidiary entity at the core of the ascendant Dolarhyde, isn't any deader than his host, who will soon make it known to a limited audience. I was glad we got to see Reba explain to Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) that she knows there's nothing wrong with her, other than wanting to back a strong horse and to be seen as one. As very not okay as the whole situation is, she'll go on to be as okay as she can.

But too soon and only metaphorically, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) kisses off Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), asserting his rejection of the monster and his intent, post-TGRD, to head back to the cabin and the dogs and Molly and Walter. Ah, but then Dolarhyde attacks Will, who's apparently abandoned the good hideaway from his picture with Chilton for a motel with a cool neon sign and lousy security. Will's chance to save himself is to set up Hannibal, and maybe that's a good idea, because Will taking on Hannibal alone seems way overmatched.

[Empathy doesn't convey situational awareness...]

Aug 31 2015 11:30am

Show Me a Hero: Parts 5 and 6

The last two episodes of Show Me a Hero were both invigorating and depressing, as the housing actually gets built and the lives of the families in the projects rise, and Nick’s (Oscar Issac) star begins to twinkle. His name has become political poison, and the Democratic Party isn’t behind him when he wants to run for mayor again, with his nomination for a JFK Profiles in Courage Award in hand. The new pick is Terry Zaleski (Daniel Sauli), a fresh-faced and ambitious politician who sees the mayoralty as a stepping stone to Albany and Washington, but little else. Nick decides to run for councilman in a different district, and wins a close battle, but can’t take being second banana (or worse) to the new mayor. Zaleski has it comparatively easy; the housing crisis has been mostly accepted, even though a pipe bomb damaged one of the buildings, and Jack O’Toole (Stephen Gevedon) keeps fighting the war.

Even Mary Dorman (Catherine Keener) has moved on. HUD has sent a consultant to organize transition assistants to help the families chosen to live in the new townhouses fit into their new neighborhood, and that consultant, Bob Mayhawk (Clarke Peters, who played Lester Freamon on The Wire) knows what he’s doing. He asks for names of residents who fought the housing, and goes recruiting. When he visits Mary’s house, he’s polite without being patronizing; she serves coffee and cake, and he carefully wipes the crumbs from her coffee table onto a napkin. Once he has his team together, the story shifts to focus on them, and their important role in the modest success that Yonkers became. The camera is sympathetic of Mary’s fears; she’s one of the few whites in the group, and when Mayhawk compares a neighborhood to a watering hole on the African veldt, it looks as though she might bolt from the room. But she sticks with it, and by visiting the families who applied for the townhome lottery, she sees what they are trying to escape. Instead of cementing her fears, it helps blossom her empathy. She sees they have more in common than not, that they are just like any other people trying to raise a good family.

[Not everyone will understand...]

Aug 31 2015 9:45am

The ZINNG: The Scents of Outlaws and Spies

Hiding in plain sight! Espionage author Frederick Forsyth reveals his 20 years of spying for MI6 in his upcoming autobiography. Read more in the Telegraph: “It is 55, 60 years later. There have been memoirs written, highly secret minutes have been published. There's no East Germany, no Stasi, no KGB, no Soviet Union, so where's the harm?”

Over at Jungle Red Writers, Hallie Epron offers celebrity smells, in aromas legit and delightfully bogus. (This grenade perfume is real.)

Bouchercon 2015, Murder Under the Oaks, posts the panel schedule, so if you're heading to Raleigh in October, check out the line-ups!

Over at SleuthSayers, Leigh Lundin screens “Murder, Ph.D.,” an episode from a classic 1950's detective show, Rocky King, Detective which was broadcast live for the DuMont television network in the early fifties, with all its scene-switching and scenery problems.

The Australian Crime Writers Association (ACWA) has announced the 2015 Ned Kelly Award Winners. See them and the shortlists for Best Fiction, Best First Fiction, Best True Crime, and the S.D. Harvey Short Story Award.

Aug 29 2015 12:00pm

Basket Case: New Excerpt

Nancy Haddock

Basket Case by Nancy Haddock is the debut cozy in the Silver Six Series about a group of crafty retirees caught up in murder accusations after they refused to sell their house (available September 1, 2015).

When Leslee Stanton “Nixy” Nix gets the latest call from Lilyvale detective Eric Shoar, she knows it means trouble. There’s been another kitchen explosion at her Aunt Sherry’s farmhouse, and the dreamy-voiced detective has had enough. If Nixy doesn’t check on her aunt in person, the Silver Six could become wards of the court. But the trouble Nixy finds in Lilyvale is not at all what she expects.

The seniors are hosting a folk art festival at the farmhouse, featuring Sherry’s hand-woven baskets, when land developer Jill Elsman arrives to bully Nixy’s aunt into selling the property. When Jill is later found dead in the cemetery, Sherry is suspected of weaving a murder plot, and it’s up to Nixy and the Silver Six to untangle the truth.

Chapter One

I, Leslee Stanton nix, nixy to my friends, had never been called on the carpet for anything. Up until four days ago, that is.

Now I had third-degree rug burns and the risk of being jobless.

[Continue reading Basket Case by Nancy Haddock!]

Aug 28 2015 4:00pm

The ZINNG: Stephen King, OITNB, and Ulysses

Stephen King reflects on the perceived successes of a busy writer in an op-ed to The New York Times: Can a Novelist Be Too Productive?”

Don't miss this feature by Sarah Weinman for The Life Sentence that profiles the amazing women who edited crime fiction.

Prepare to be disgusted by these five international serial killers profiled by The Lineup.

Travel back to Litchfield Penitentiary annd rejoin the women of Orange is the New Black with this nifty infograph that details the crimes (so far) of our favorite brightly-clad inmates, courtesy of Truthfinder.

James Joyce's Ulysses is considered to be one of the best books ever written, but Alison Flood at The Guardian peels back the curtain on the difficulties Joyce had in trying to find a U.K. publisher, as highlighted in two rare letters recently sold at auction.

Aug 28 2015 2:00pm

TBR Confessions: Jungle Warfare, Nazi Rebellion, and Killer Clowns

My TBR Confessions include a harrowing retelling of World War II’s Pacific Theater, a grass-roots rebellion from a German couple inside Nazi territory, and a famous killer clown to whom I’ve never been formally introduced.

CURRENTLY READING: With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge. Recently, I’ve binged my way through HBO’s Band of Brothers and The Pacific, and I wanted to follow up my immersion into World War II by reading Sledge’s haunting memoir of his time spent fighting the Japanese. The man who would become known as Sledgehammer is one of the main characters in The Pacific, and when I learned that his memoir was used as source material for a great deal of the miniseries, I knew I had to read it.

Sledge grew up in Mobile, Alabama, in an affluent family, but overcome by patriotism, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he joined the famous 1st Marine Division—3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. His first taste of the war came in the battle of Peleliu, where it didn’t take long for the varnish on the allure of war to fade. By the time Sledge makes it to Okinawa, he’s a hardened combat veteran with a deep hatred for the Japanese. Normally, I struggle maintaining interest in military histories and memoirs, because it’s clear that there’s a biased tone. What makes With the Old Breed so different is that Sledge is unfiltered in his thoughts, describing both the good and bad of both sides of the war, and ultimately, the horrors of which mankind is capable of committing.

JUST FINISHED: Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. As you could probably tell by now, I enjoy reading about World War II, and Hans Fallada’s fictional (but based on true stories) tale of an elderly German couple committed to disrupting the Nazi’s agenda is both moving and memorable. Fallada published this book in 1947, a mere two years after Hitler surrendered – a fact that needs to be understood to properly reflect on the weight of this story. Highly critical of the Nazi regime, Every Man Dies Alone follows Otto and Anna Quangel, two hardworking Germans who start off like most of the German populous—too scared to reveal their actual feelings about the Nazi Party. Soon, the Quangel’s son dies in the war, and suddenly they’re no longer content with sitting idly by as Hitler continues pushing his terrible agenda, and they embark on a truth-telling campaign that could cost them their lives.

If you enjoyed Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, I wholeheartedly recommend Every Man Dies Alone. Fallada’s book dives much deeper into the psyche of the average German citizen, and how fear and self-preservation can lead people to the darkest of depths.

UP NEXT: It by Stephen King. I’ve only just embarked on the long trip that is Stephen King’s dense library, and after finishing The Stand last month, I immediately ordered It for my next adventure, but boy, did I underestimate the size of this thing. Unlike The Stand, where I ordered a nifty mass market copy with pages thinner and frailer than Mother Abigail, I snagged a first edition hardcopy of It off eBay. I should have checked the page count! Currently, I’m hyping myself up to start lugging it with me on the subway each morning to work, but that’s a work in progress.


Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates, a psychological thriller where six students play an elaborate game of dares and consequences with tragic results.

Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie, another memoir of the Pacific Theater that was used to shape the scripts of The Pacific.

The Fall by R.J. Pineiro, a sci-fi thriller where a man jumps from the outermost reaches of the atmosphere and lands on Earth five years into the future—a future where he’s already dead. (Read an excerpt of The Fall!)

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.

Aug 28 2015 11:00am

TBR Confessions: Fat Bob, Foxgloves, and Deadly Ghosts

My TBR Confessions include a smoking beagle, a wizard cop, and “ghosts” who aren't by Stephen Dobyns, Ben Aaronovitch, and Mary Roberts Rinehart.

CURRENTLY READING: Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns, which comes out September 1st. The novel begins with a shocking motorcycle accident in downtown New London, Connecticut. A nearby witness is a newcomer, an ambitious and disappointed young man who'll encounter gangs, crooks, cops and feds while working for a fundraising boondoggle addressing the bogus needs of ill-adjusted prom queens and nicotine-addicted beagles.

I became a fan of Dobyns after The Church of Dead Girls, a gorgeously claustrophobic kind of serial-killing Our Town. It's as scary and fine a small-town crime book as I've ever read. Part of what makes the novel great, IMO, is the continual unpacking of the characters and its floating perspective (a tricky maneuver which he nails), revealing secrets while obscuring others.

Dobyns also employs that technique in this darkly comic contemporary crime novel, which earns comparison to Carl Hiassen or Elmore Leonard, though I must toss in my hero, Donald E. Westlake. (You can read full write-ups from Kevin Canfield of the WaPo and Bev Vincent of Onyx Reviews.)  Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? has scores of pithily-drawn characters with memorably evocative names, destined to collide with each other. Above the scrum is the imposition of a (slightly) wiser narrative voice: “This would be the moment to use our cherry picker again, but how much can be said? Once we've reached a point beyond belief, words are unreliable.... Connor still hasn't seen the biker's head, which is just as well. It's been smashed to fragments, or on a rooftop, or is bobbing down the river.”

JUST FINISHED: Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, number five in the Rivers of London series about a young, black London cop, Peter Grant, who's shunted into the much-mistrusted (for good reason) occult crimes area. When two girls go missing in the countryside, a simple offer of extra shoe leather turns up the kind of situation that gives task force leadership heartburn and PR issues. In this series, all the woo-woo is plainly not-celebrated, embarrassingly flouting the crisp acronyms and initiatives that compose modern policing. For me, all the procedural detail and realistic-seeming bureaucracy, with pokes at the absurdity of both, make the weird stuff delightfully weirder by contrast.

STOPPED HALFWAY: Having finished the aptly-titled The Confession by the fascinating Mary Roberts Rinehart, a title which I discuss a bit more at the Women of Mystery blog. Rinehart's plots can walk a line where characters are so beset by the unusual, the inexplicable, and worrying that they cease to trust their own conclusions and become prone to unearthly explanations for their mysteries. I find it more like classic psychological suspense, a kissing cousin to Gothic in its devotion to mood. My copy is a vintage Dell double-title, so the halfway stopping-point means I haven't finished Sight Unseen, but in the first few pages, the latter novel has assembled a cast of skeptical and curious neighbors for an evening's “fun” seance. Eventually, I will surely read on, because I have great faith that the dimly-lit escapade will end in tragedy!


  • Caught Read-Handed by Terrie Farley Moran, the 2nd cozy in her quirky Florida Read 'Em and Eat series
  • Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott, a story of chilling family dysfunction in Philadephia in the seventies
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, originally appearing as a Blask Mask serial, featuring the tubby, middle-aged Continental Op and his pitiless retribution against the corrupt

Clare Toohey is a daytripper through genre gutters. She edits The M.O. and site wrangles here, freelances as an editor, writes short, surreal crime fiction, blogs at Women of Mystery, and tweets @clare2e.

See all posts by Clare Toohey at Criminal Element.

Aug 28 2015 9:00am
Original Story

Black Cat Crossing: Exclusive Excerpt

Kay Finch

Black Cat Crossing by Kay Finch is the debut cozy in the Bad Luck Cat Mystery Series (available September 1, 2015).

Sabrina has never been the superstitious type. Still, when she moves to Lavender, Texas, to write her first novel and help her Aunt Rowe manage her vacation rental business, Sabrina can’t avoid listening to the rumors that a local black cat is a jinx—especially after the stray in question leads her directly to the scene of a murder.

The deceased turns out to be none other than her Aunt Rowe’s awful cousin Bobby Joe Flowers, a known cheat and womanizer who had no shortage of enemies. The only problem is that Aunt Rowe and Bobby Joe had quarreled just before the cousin turned up dead, leaving Rowe at the top of the long list of suspects. Now it’s up to Sabrina to clear her aunt’s name. Luckily for her, she’s got a new sidekick, Hitchcock the Bad Luck Cat, to help her sniff out clues and stalk a killer before Aunt Rowe winds up the victim of even more misfortune…


I laced my fingers, cracked my knuckles, and stared at the few words on my laptop screen. Behind me, the hum of early morning conversation in Hot Stuff Coffee Shop went on as usual. Back when I was a kid visiting my aunt Rowena, the shop was called Das Kaffeehaus, in keeping with the German heritage here in Lavender, heart of the Texas Hill Country. Then a transplant from San Antonio bought the place and changed the name to Hot Stuff. He traded the old oom-pah-pah background music for seventies disco tunes. I’d choose listening to Donna Summer over any polka band in history, but I had to wonder why he didn’t go with a country music theme. After all, this was Texas.

[Continue reading Black Cat Crossing by Kay Finch...]

Aug 27 2015 2:00pm

Hurry! “Lesson Learned” Submissions Mailbox Closes Friday at Noon

At 11:59 a.m. tomorrow, The M.O. submissions close, so get to writing and tell us your “Lesson Learned.”

Two weeks after the submissions mailbox closes (see more info at the link), we'll have previews of the shortlisted stories, mug shots will appear in our Rogues' Gallery, and after the site visitors make their selections, one of the original short crime stories will be published here. We've learned our lesson, have you?

Aug 27 2015 11:30am

Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: New Excerpt

Jeff Smith

Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is a memoir by Jeff Smith about how a senator from Missouri ended up behind bars for one year, and what it taught him about America's prison crisis (available September 1, 2015).

In 2009, Smith lied to the Feds about seemingly minor campaign malfeasance and earned himself a year and a day in Kentucky's FCI Manchester. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison is the fish-out-of-water story of his time in the big house; of the people he met there and the things he learned: how to escape the attentions of fellow inmates, like a tattooed Klansman and his friends in the Aryan Brotherhood; what constitutes a prison car and who's allowed to ride in yours; how to bend and break the rules, whether you're a prisoner or an officer. And throughout his sentence, the senator tracked the greatest crime of all: the deliberate waste of untapped human potential.

Smith saw the power of millions of inmates harnessed as a source of renewable energy for America's prison-industrial complex, a system that aims to build better criminals instead of better citizens. In Mr. Smith Goes to Prison, he traces the cracks in America's prison walls, exposing the shortcomings of a racially based cycle of poverty and crime. Smith blends a wry sense of humor with academic training, political acumen, and insights from his year on the inside. He offers practical solutions to jailbreak the nation from the financially crushing grip of its own prisons and to jump-start the rehabilitation of the millions living behind bars.

Read this exclusive excerpt of the Introduction and Chapter 2 of Mr. Smith Goes to Prison and then comment for a chance to win a copy!

[Start reading Mr. Smith Goes to Prison!]

Aug 26 2015 5:00pm

From Page to Screen with Night and the City

In thinking about Jules Dassin’s 1950 work of film noir Night and the City in relation to the same-named 1938 novel by Gerald Kersh, one striking thing to consider is the fact that Dassin said he never read the book. He apparently fully relied on the screenplay of Jo Eisinger, and his own cinematic vision, to guide him as he took the story and adapted it to the big screen. Was Dassin just too busy to pore over Kersh’s novel, did he not want to get distracted from the tale as it read in the screenplay, or was there some other reason why he chose to not read the book? I don’t know, but the differences between book and film are interesting.

The first thing to establish – and not that many reading this likely need to be told as much – is that both Kersh’s novel and Dassin’s film are superb. Both are influential works of noir that take an unflinching look at a panorama of seedy characters in hardboiled situations. Any lover of edgy crime stories, and/or powerful works of social realism, needs to experience both versions of the tale. Ok, so that’s settled. Now let’s get on with a close look at how the two compare.

Both film and novel are set in London. And both concern a motley crew of hardened characters who are struggling in a joylessly desperate moneyed environment. Primarily occurring in nightclubs and professional wrestling environments, the tale depicts a host of hard-up men and women who are out to make a pound any way they can, within a seemingly hopeless (sewer) rat race. Nearly every person in the story seems to be in a constant state of looking at other people and wondering how many quid they might have on them, and what they might be able to do to get some of that dough. Things like morals and decency to your fellow man and woman get tossed in the gutter like yesterday’s betting sheet, and all in the name of the mighty pound.

[Now for the differences...]

Aug 26 2015 10:00am

Vienna: New Excerpt

William S. Kirby

Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna by William S. Kirby is a modern mystery that focuses on two women linked to a murder as they try to prove their innocence by solving the case while also being forced to flee throughout Europe (available September 1, 2015).

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she's never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she's never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine's current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins-the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna's own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


Awake under a hollow sunrise, Justine Am sought cover behind a hangover that wasn’t there. The previous night’s drinking had consisted of two sips of vodka drowning in peach liqueur. She’d switched to tonic water well before the pink eyedropper of liquid ecstasy made its rounds. Not that she would’ve taken part. Boredom was cheaper and it unleashed the same chaos. Sprawled across a stranger’s swaybacked bed, Justine still felt the subterranean echo of house electronica pacing behind her rib cage: boom, boom, boom. She’d fallen in with a post-tribal, post-trance, post-everything crowd. World-weary gods draped over the cherry and onyx pillows of Holler. They’d offered her a sucker’s bet and she’d raised the stakes right into this bed.

[Continue reading Vienna by William S. Kirby!]

Aug 25 2015 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

Jade Dragon Mountain is the debut mystery by Elsa Hart set in China in 1708 featuring the exiled librarian Li Du (available September 1, 2015).

Here are some of things I know about China: Ming vases, Mao Tse Tung, calligraphy, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and they put on a spectacular Olympic opening ceremony. Not much for a country with a more than 4,000-year history.

I learned a bit more by reading Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart. Most surprising for me was the fact that Jesuit priests not only visited the country, but played a big role in China. As observers, and in an attempt to win converts to the Catholic church, of course. But also as respected advisors to the Emperor. And some Jesuit priests play a role in the book as well.

The protagonist, Li Du, is a Chinese scholar from a good family. After distinguishing himself at his studies—often with Jesuits—he becomes the Emperor’s librarian. At the beginning of the story, in 1708, Li Du is in exile from the capital of Beijing. He wanders the country, using travel books as his guides. Having visited the tea jungles of the far southwest region of China, he comes to the town of Dayan. He applies to the magistrate of the region, his older cousin, for a place to stay.

[Not the best timing...]

Aug 25 2015 2:00pm

The ZINNG: Bank Heists and a Pit of Despair

Check out this beautiful infograph that breaks down the biggest bank robberies of the 21st Century, courtesy of Fast Locksmith.

Over at The Lineup, True crime author Fred Rosen recounts his investigation into the murder of 18-year-old Jennifer Robinson, where the gruesome details almost made him quit his job.

Author Jonathan Maberry lists five futuristic weapons that scare the bejeezus out of him, courtesy of The Hit List.

Tread carefully into these five books guaranteed to dump you into a pit of despair, from of Jason Sizemore at Tor.com.

Learn about one Brooklyn butcher's new cookbook with recipies taken directly from the pages of some of literature's greatest works.

Aug 25 2015 12:00pm

CSI Queensland: The Strip

Imagine Jerry Bruckheimer was so taken by producing The Amazing Race Australia (yes, there was one) that he creates a cop show set in Oz. It’ll have all the Bruckheimerish trademarks: lush, glossy production design, lots of pretty people, less-than-Chekhovian character development, stories that don’t tax the viewers’ minds overmuch. Could it be his next Without a Trace – or the second coming of The Forgotten?

Too late, Jerry. Someone beat you to it. They called it The Strip.

The setup should sound familiar. Jack Cross (Aaron Jeffery, Neighbours), a Sydney detective, moves to Queensland’s Gold Coast to try to glue back together his busted marriage. He lands in Main Beach CID Homicide with a sardonic new partner, Detective Senior Constable Frances Tully (Vanessa Gray, Dance Academy). Together they chase dead bodies up and down the Miami Beach-like strip of surf, marinas, high-rise condos, and nightclubs south of Brisbane while working out their own plentiful personal issues and those of Detective Constables Jessica Mackay (Simone McAullay, Broadchurch) and Tony Moretti (Bob Morley, Home and Away). Gruff, blokish Inspector Max Nelson (Frankie Holden, Blue Heelers) yells at them all at least once an episode when the case gets tough.

That Miami Beach reference isn’t accidental. The series looks a lot like CSI: Miami: tons of saturated blues and greens, palm trees, bright sunshine on white stucco and white sand. Swooping flyovers, ocean sunsets (even though the ocean’s off the east coast) and nighttime skylines are liberally interspersed with the story action on the ground, lest you forget Our Heroes are working just up the road from a place called (I swear!) Surfer’s Paradise.

[All we need is The Who...]