The Dark Tower: <i>The Gunslinger</i>, Chapter 4 The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Chapter 4 David Cranmer Join the discussion! <i>Strong Cold Dead</i>: New Excerpt Strong Cold Dead: New Excerpt Jon Land The 8th Caitlin Strong novel. Review: <i>Combustion</i> by Martin J. Smith Review: Combustion by Martin J. Smith Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review! Review: <i>The Reckoning on Cane Hill</i> by Steve Mosby Review: The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby Cindy Kerschner Read Cindy Kerschner's review!
From The Blog
September 27, 2016
Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Revisiting a Wild 1970s Film
Brian Greene
September 27, 2016
God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits
Lisa Turner
September 23, 2016
Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Angie Barry
September 22, 2016
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic
Peter Foy
September 21, 2016
Page to Screen—Rebecca: du Maurier vs. Hitchcock
Angie Barry
Sep 27 2016 4:00pm

Beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Revisiting a Wild 1970s Film

Criterion’s new Blu-Ray edition of Russ Meyer’s 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls gives me a prompt to write about a movie that I treasure. I could try to describe how much I like the film, but it might be easier and more telling if I just mention how many times I’ve watched it: I estimate 10-12 start-to-finish viewings, in addition to innumerable re-watches of individual scenes. I own the (glorious) soundtrack on vinyl, and it’s never but so far away from my turntable’s needle.

When people see BTVOTD for the first time, many of them (this was true of me, for sure) feel the need to start it back up and watch it again. There are so many dizzying cuts in the film, such a barrage of zinging one-liners, that on first viewing, it can be a sort of pleasurable assault on the your’s senses that leaves you feeling like you only really took in a portion of what happened and need to cue it back up to get what you missed.

[Be kind, rewind, and replay...]

Sep 27 2016 3:00pm

Which Marvel Project Do You Prefer?

With the release of the first season of Luke Cage on Netflix slated for this Friday, September 30th and the upcoming Doctor Strange premiering roughly a month and a half later, Marvel Studios is running on all cylinders, pumping out hit after hit.

But so far, the silver screen super heroes are much different in look and feel than their streaming season counterparts. The Marvel movies have a certain lighthearted wit and “gotta save the world(s)” feel to them, where crashing through a building hardly leaves a bruise and everything wraps up with a happy ending. However, the NY defenders of the smaller screen deal with darker, more adult themes, and the realistic violence often has real consequences.

But which do you prefer? Vote on which Marvel Universe you enjoy the best!

[Vote below!]

Sep 27 2016 1:00pm

God’s Garbage Men, A Trust Betrayed, and Hominy Grits

I’ve heard it said that writers are God’s garbage men. We pick up people’s cast off details and deeds—some inspiring, some appalling—and use them to create our stories. 

For mystery writers, the newspaper is also a rich place to rummage through. Southern crime writer Ace Atkins commented, “I don’t have to make up plots. I just read the local papers.” Atkins’s latest, The Innocents, centers on a horrific story taken from a Mississippi news article about a former cheerleader who was set on fire and left to die, apparently by a trusted friend. Atkins does a stellar job of turning a true tale into fiction.

Read David Cranmer's review of The Innocents!

Think about the novels, movies, and news stories that have stayed with you. They’re often about powerful people who’ve forsaken the trust of those who most rely on them. Think of the mother in Judith Guest’s Ordinary People, who hated her second son just for being born. The revelation that priests have been abusing children for decades is abhorrent, but the Vatican’s coverup of the crimes is the ultimate betrayal.   

[Read more from author Lisa Turner!]

Sep 27 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, Chapter 4

After a debate about betrayal and the ultimate goal last week for Chapter 3, we step into the darkness of the mountain and into the hands of the slow mutants for Chapter 4...

Thank you for joining me on a reread of what Stephen King has called his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series featuring Roland of Gilead, the gunslinger. It’s been 38 years since Roland’s quest began in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and four years since the last Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012). Let’s see if this equal parts Western, mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy epic still packs a punch.

*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!

The plan is to read a chapter a week, and each Tuesday we will meet to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This chapter is dark in more ways than one—so let's shed some light on Chapter 4 of The Gunslinger:

CrimeHQ's The Dark Tower Reread

[“Go then. There are other worlds than these.”]

Sep 27 2016 11:00am

Longmire 5.02: “One Good Memory” Episode Review

If the Season 5 premiere of Longmire was a bit slow on the windup, then “One Good Memory” delivers a fastball that wraps up the mystery of the missing Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker). 

It starts nerve-wracking enough for Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) as he hurries in the middle of the night to neighboring Cumberland County to see if a reported Jane Doe is the good physician. Have to confess, I was fooled by Walt’s emotive reaction to the woman on the slab, but it turns out not to be Donna, leading him to ask a deputy of Cumberland named Eamonn O’Neill (Josh Cooke) for assistance. You may remember Eamonn from when he subbed in Absaroka County and had a brief roll between the sheets with Vic (Katee Sackhoff).

[Read David Cranmer's review of “One Good Memory”...]

Sep 27 2016 10:00am

Strong Cold Dead: New Excerpt

Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead by Jon LandTexas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in Jon Land's Strong Cold Dead, a thriller with heart-stopping action and a high-stakes terrorist plot (Available October 4, 2016).

The terrorist organization ISIS is after a deadly toxin that could be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The same toxin holds the potential to eradicate cancer. There is a frantic race to see who can get to it first, even as Caitlin Strong begins to assemble the disparate pieces of a deadly puzzle.

At the center of that puzzle is an Indian reservation where a vengeful tycoon is mining the toxin, disguising his effort as an oil-drilling operation. This is the same reservation where Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger, once waged a similar battle against the forces of John D. Rockefeller.

In her highest-stakes adventure yet, Caitlin Strong faces off against a host of adversaries that just might include the beautiful Comanche girl with whom the son of her ex-outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters has fallen in love, along with a mythic monster culled from Native American folklore that the tribe believes has risen to protect its land. The lives of those Caitlin loves most are threatened by the villains she’s pursuing; her own moral code is challenged. The fate of both the country and the state she loves are dangling on the precipice of a strong cold death.



“What ’xactly you make of this, Ranger?”

Texas Ranger Steeldust Jack Strong looked up from the body he was crouched alongside of—or what was left of it. “Well, he’s dead all right.”

The male victim’s suit coat had been shredded, much of the skin beneath it hanging off the bone. He’d worn his holster low on his hip, gunfighter style, and his pearl-handled Samuel Walker Colt was the latest model, updated from the one Jack Strong had used since joining the Texas Rangers after the Civil War.

[Read the full excerpt from Strong Cold Dead...]

Sep 26 2016 4:30pm

Review: Combustion by Martin J. Smith

Combustion by Martin J. Smith is a page-turning thriller with a sh0cking twist (Available September 27, 2016).

Detective Ron Starke is having a torrid time of it all. A body shows up at the bottom of the local pond—a midnight swim gone wrong, possibly. It’s true that alcohol mixed with unexpected cold temperatures can have a shocking effect on a person in the water, particularly if it is in a place they are not used to swimming. However, the heavy piece of computer machinery with a steel cable looped through the handle, around the victim’s neck, then back through the handle again and secured with a combination lock suggests an accident this, most certainly, is not. 

The victim is a man who has done very well for himself: a big house, a big wife with big hair and a big history, a big bank account, and—due to his abrasive and unforgiving personality—a big long list of people who may have provided the anchor to take him down his one way journey to the bottom of a cold, dark, slimy pond. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Combustion...]

Sep 26 2016 3:00pm

Review: The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby

The Reckoning on Cane Hill is a terrifying and heartbreaking new novel of guilt and innocence, from CWA Dagger-­winner Steve Mosby.

In a world where guilt and innocence are in the eye of the beholder, what if you could see someone's sins? What would their sin look like?

Charlie Matheson wore her sins like a badge of repentance. An elaborate spider's web of scars covered her face. Each line carefully crafted. A message intended for the world to see. She claims these marks were put there by the Devil in Hell.

But that wasn't the message Charlie was there to deliver. 

Two years prior, Charlotte (Charlie) Matheson died in a car crash. Now, she's back from the dead to deliver a message for retired Detective John Mercer's ears only. A detective haunted by his own demons.

[Read Cindy Kerschner's review of The Reckoning on Cane Hill...]

Sep 26 2016 2:00pm

Longmire 5.01: “A Fog That Won’t Lift” Episode Review

Season 5 opens in an outpouring of emotion with Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman) imploring, “Please don’t leave me, Dad!” Her father, Sheriff Walter Longmire (Robert Taylor), is writhing in his own blood, shot at home by an unknown assailant. 

He’s not laid up for long though. Not since the old Gunsmoke days, when Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) could take a slug and keep on tracking, has a hero thrown health to the wind like when the strong-willed, determined Walt leaves the hospital. He’s looking for Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker), who had been sharing his bed when the assailant struck. Only Walt’s blood is initially found at the scene, so a kidnapping is assumed.  

Walt believes there is a connection to the shady oil company that he’s been investigating and that the still-at-large Walker Browning (Callum Keith Rennie) is involved. The Ferg (Adam Bartley) is leaning toward Zachary (Barry Sloane), who Walt had fired, while Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) thinks the wisest choice is to investigate patients of Dr. Monaghan who have been known to do a crazy thing or two like set a van on fire. 

[Read David Cranmer's review of “A Fog That Won't Lift”...]

Sep 26 2016 12:00pm

Agatha Raisin 1.08: “The Murderous Marriage” Episode Review

Our season is at an end, and it couldn’t have been a more exciting finale. The entire season seemed to be leading up to this event. Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) is getting ready for her upcoming nuptials—to James Lacey (Jamie Glover). 

Drunk at her hen party, Agatha tells Gemma (Katy Wix) that her only wish is for Gemma to get together with Bill Wong (Matt McCooey). Meanwhile, a homeless man is looking at a newspaper announcement of PR guru Agatha Raisin’s upcoming marriage, and he seems quite disturbed by it. We know this will not bode well for Agatha.

Church bells ring and James and Charles Fraith (Jason Merrells) are in the church waiting for the bride. Roy Silver (Mathew Horne) walks Aggie down the aisle. However, the blissful event is interrupted when Bill Wong runs in yelling “Stop!” Is Bill trying to stop the wedding because he has a crush on Agatha? Nope. He’s putting an end to the wedding because Agatha’s husband—and the homeless man we see at the beginning—Jimmy Raisin (Jason Thorpe), is still alive. So she’s kinda still married; great timing on Bill’s part.

[Read Kerry Hammond's review of “The Murderous Marriage”...]

Sep 26 2016 11:00am

Crime/Mystery/Thrillers Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in October 2016

October—literally the best month of the year. Unfortunately, Netflix seems to have missed the mark because I'm seeing a disappointingly small amount of decent horror films coming this month. Good thing I have my own collection—Halloween horror nights at my house!

Thankfully, if you're like me, you might have an episode or two left of Marvel's Luke Cage come October 1st. If not, here is a convenient list of all of the new thrillers/mysteries/crime films coming to Netflix in October 2016.

*Honorable mention: Black Mirror returns on October 21st

[Check out the list here...]

Sep 26 2016 10:00am

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy: New Excerpt

Jay Bonansinga

Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy by Robert Kirkman, Jay BonansingaRobert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy by Jay Bonansinga is the 7th book in The Walking Dead series (Available October 18, 2016).

What could possibly go wrong?

For one brief moment, it seems Lilly and her plague-weary band of survivors might just engineer a better tomorrow. Banding together with other small town settlements, they begin a massive project to refurbish the railroad between Woodbury and Atlanta. The safer travel will begin a new post-apocalyptic era of trade, progress, and democracy.

Little do they know, however, that trouble is brewing back home …

Out of nowhere, a brutal new faction has attacked Woodbury while Lilly and the others have been off repairing the railroad. Now the barricades are burning. Adults have been murdered, children kidnapped. But why? Why subject innocent survivors to such a random, unprovoked assault?

Lilly Caul and her ragtag posse of rescuers will soon discover the chilling answers to these questions and more as they launch a desperate mission to save the kidnapped children. But along the way, the dark odyssey will take them into a nightmarish series of traps and hellish encounters with incomprehensible swarms of undead.

And as always, in the world of the Walking Dead, the walkers will prove to be the least of Lilly’s problems. It’s what the human adversaries have in store for her that will provide Lilly’s greatest challenge yet.


On that sweltering Indian-summer morning, not a single person working the rails has any clue as to what is transpiring at that very moment in the small survival settlement once known as Woodbury, Georgia. The restoration of the railroad between the village of Woodbury and the outer suburbs of Atlanta has consumed these people—occupying every daylight hour for nearly twelve months now—and today is no exception. They are closing in on the midway point of the project. In a little less than a year, they have cleared nearly twenty miles of track, and have laid down a sturdy barrier of split-rail and chicken wire on either flank in order to keep the line clear of roamers, stray feral animals, and any other obstruction that might blow, seep, grow, or creep across the tracks.

[Read the full excerpt from Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy...]

Sep 23 2016 4:30pm

“Drinking Up Daisies” Cocktails

It must be stressful to live in a town like Carsely in the Cotswolds, where there seems to be murder around every corner. I wouldn't judge Agatha Raisin one bit for needing to unwind every now and then with a nice cocktail or two.

So, relax with a variety of delicious cocktails for this week's Pick Your Poison—where we create a cocktail inspired by a recently published mystery, thriller, or crime novel—“Drinking Up Daisies,” an ice-cold sour made with your spirit of choice, inspired by M.C. Beaton's 27th Agatha Raisin Mystery, Pushing Up Daisies!

[Check out the recipe below!]

Sep 23 2016 3:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: Revisiting Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

THE SUBGENRE: Cartoon noir.
THE HERO(ES): Private eye Eddie Valiant and the eponymous Toon.
THE VILLAIN: The mad Judge Doom.
THE LOVE INTEREST(S): Loyal “Girl Friday” Dolores and femme fatale Jessica.
THE SETTING: An alternate 1940's Hollywood.

1947, Hollywood. It's a familiar setting to any fan of noir.

This Hollywood, however, is different in one very significant way: there's a strange neighborhood on its fringe called Toontown. It's a Technicolor dream world with inhabitants that are downright animated...

Private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) has a chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar when it comes to Toons: those brightly-colored, two-dimensional characters that routinely smash through walls, break plates over their heads, and burst into frequent song and dance numbers—anything to make people laugh. 

[Don't hit me! I'll hit me! Cause I'm craaaazzzyyyy...]

Sep 23 2016 1:00pm

Daisy in Chains: Audio Excerpt

Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton features a convicted serial killer who insists he's innocent and a notorious defense attorney who eventually takes the case (Available September 20, 2016).

He’s a serial killer. A murderer of young women, all killed in brutal attacks.

But despite Hamish Wolfe’s conviction, he’s always stuck to his story—he’s innocent and he’s been wrongly imprisoned. And now he wants someone to investigate and, more importantly, to write his story.

Maggie Rose is a notorious defense attorney and writer whose specialty is getting convictions overturned. At first, Maggie is reluctant to even acknowledge Hamish’s requests to meet, ignoring his letters. But this is a very charismatic and persuasive man, good-looking and intelligent.

Eventually even she can’t resist his lure…

[Listen to an audio excerpt from Daisy in Chains...]

Sep 23 2016 11:00am

Burglar Steals Fake Money from Toy Cash Register

A man was caught on security camera cleaning out a cash register of all its money at a YMCA. But here’s the thing: it turns out the cash register was actually a children’s toy filled with fake “play-money” instead of the real thing. Yup, this guy was a master thief...if he lived in the world of Monopoly

The suspect was filmed breaking into the YMCA Child Development Center in California by busting through the ceiling tiles and dropping to the floor. Once on the ground, he made his way to a [toy] cash register, smashed it open, and pocketed the [phony] cash inside before exiting through the front door.

Local police believe the suspect is no stranger to this type of crime. 

“Thieves tend to have specific MOs that they follow, stuff they get comfortable with,” Sergeant Dan Marshall told reporters. “They don’t get caught doing it once and they figure, 'Hey, it’s a tried and true method,' and then they stick to it.”

According to ABC, local police are now using the footage to try and track down the suspect. I suggest they look for him in Candy Land.

Here is the video for your viewing pleasure:

Sep 23 2016 10:00am

Presumption of Guilt: New Excerpt

Archer Mayor

Presumption of Guilt by Archer MayorPresumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor is the 27th book in the Joe Gunther series (Available September 27, 2016).

A forty-year-old skeleton is found encased in a concrete slab at a recently decommissioned nuclear energy site. It becomes a case for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) and its leader, Joe Gunther, since they have the resources and the ability to investigate an old, very cold, missing persons case that has now been reclassified as murder. The victim was Hank Mitchell, and Gunther must chase down old rumors and speculations—who benefited from his death and the disappearance of his body? And was his death somehow tied to New York City mafia money being laundered through the construction project?

But what seems the coldest of cold cases roars back to life when one of the central figures in this mystery is shot to death, right after speaking with Gunther. And when a young police officer—the son of VBI investigator Lester Spinney—is kidnapped, is that meant to be a warning to the VBI team to drop the case?

After all these many years, the truth behind the murder still has to the power to kill, and it’s up to Gunther and his team to capture the living and finally put the dead to rest.



Tony Farnum waited until he saw Barry’s face in the driver’s-side mirror before motioning him to back up, looking over his shoulder to make sure the concrete mixer’s rear wheels didn’t hit the staked wooden form bordering the pour site. Satisfied, he held up both hands to a chorus of squealing brakes and a whoosh of compressed air. Barry swung out of the cab, strolled back, extracting a pack of cigarettes, and threw a wheel chock under one of the back tires with practiced ease.

He offered the pack to Farnum, who shook his head. “Too hot,” he said. “And I wanna get this load going. Told my old lady I’d take her out tonight.”

[Read the full excerpt from Presumption of Guilt...]

Sep 22 2016 4:30pm

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic

When literary laureates list their picks for great American novels, rarely are crime novels brought up in the same breath. Sure, there were plenty of bestsellers in the genre that led to more acclaimed film adaptations (Mario Puzo’s The Godfather being perhaps the most obvious), and certain authors like Jim Thompson were even lauded for how transgressive they were able to be with the genre, but, as a whole, the genre was collectively seen by reviewers as pulp, shallow, and ultimately disposable. A shame, too, as at its strongest, crime fiction can eclipse preposterous ideas and represent something undeniably human. Perhaps the most indispensable example of this is Don Carpenter’s first novel: Hard Rain Falling.

A generation-spanning story set in America’s West Coast (primarily in Oregon and Northern California) in the mid-20th century, the book recounts the lives of two street-raised kids and their tribulations into adulthood. We’re first introduced to Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager in Portland who spends his rebellious days seeking sex and booze and partaking in crimes with his local gang. His life takes a real turn-around, however, when he meets Billy Lancing, a light-skinned Negro from Seattle who has run away from home to try and make it as a billiard champ. Levitt forms a strong bond with Lancing that takes them from the dingy pool halls of Portland to a tumultuous prison sentence—and an unexpected happiness that follows.

[Read Peter Foy's review of the lost American classic, Hard Rain Falling...]

Sep 22 2016 3:30pm

The Case for Cultural Appropriation & Assimilation in Kevin Smith’s Dogma

Kevin Smith’s Dogma is a biting and insightful look at many mythologies and modern religions. And while some of it is a little sharp, there is insight in its critique as well. Smith attempts to present a unified system of mythological entities borrowed from different cultures. This idea, though, is not his own, as nearly every culture in the world attempts the same in order to justify its own cultural supremacy.

Smith borrows Loki from Norse mythology. As anyone who is familiar with Marvel’s Thor (the comic or the film adaptation), Loki is not really a nice guy. He wants to destroy things, play tricks, and generally just cause mischief. The angel in Dogma, then, is a perfect incarnation of Loki, but Matt Damon's version has been reassigned to be an angel instead of a pagan deity.

[Maaaatt Daaamonnnnn....]