Maybe not a stalker, but a great Scot, anyway. I'm talking about a major surprise here today at Seattle Mystery Bookshop...Ms. Chris Mearns came all the way from Scotland to see me. No kidding. Me. All that way. For all those who doubt this story. I have a beautiful scarf to prove it (courtesy of Chris and the woolen mills of Scotland). I had a great time here, as always! Many thanks to SMB!
It's a gray Seattle day - very different than Ethan Gage's Middle East - and I'm in one of the coziest, most intimate bookstores anywhere, not entirely from the underground places Ethan explores in my new historical thriller, The Rosetta Key. As usual, warmth and charm from dedicated mystery fans. My new book is a sequel to Napoleon's Pyramids, both based on Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt and Israel in 1798-1799, just before he seized power in France. What's fun at a store like this is talking about mixing real history with speculative mystery - about ancient secrets, Knights Templar, the Book of Thoth, and the early story of electricity! And Seattle Mystery Bookshop draws wonderful readers. As I sign copies of TheRosettaKey I'm hard at work on the next Ethan Gage adventure...this one taking him to North America in the first year of Jefferson's presidency.
The sky is blue, the clouds wispy. Could this really be Seattle? I'm here at one of the best mystery bookstores in the entire world (yes, I said, " . . . in the entire world.") where writers are treated like royalty, customers are celebrated and the staff is so knowledgeable about absolutely everything, they could probably convert your Hummer into a green car in a couple of heartbeats.
I signed books and sold them, but for me, the real joy is spending time with people who live and breathe mysteries, who make this whole community the glory it is.
JB wants me to explain the genesis of my new YA thriller, Steel Trapp, so here goes:
I originally wrote a sequel to Cut and Run, my thriller featuring a Justice Department agent, Roland Larson. The sequel was a pursuit thriller involving a young boy with a photographic memory, who discovers a briefcase on an overnight train -- a discovery that led him in a mountain of trouble. After finishing a 700 page manuscript, I moved from Hyperion to Putnam and my new publisher, whom I was thrilled to be with, did not want to continue "older" series characters, but start a new series. That resulted in Killer Weekend (2007) and the upcoming Killer View (July 2008) but left "the train book" on a shelf.
My assistant at the time, Louise Marsh, read the train book and promptly told me it would make a good YA thriller, because she loved the character of the young boy with the photographic memory. I didn't want to hear this, of course, because I'd already written that book as an adult book. But the thought had been spoken and it wouldn't go away. About six months later I approached my agent, Amy Berkhower, and later my editor at Disney, Wendy Lefkon, with the notion of recrafting the train novel as a YA novel. The next three edits brought the young boy to the front and cut 300 pages out of the original, and Steel Trapp was the result.
I see it as a PG version of my typically R thriller novels. But it is certainly not dumbed-down; no punches were held. It is a very fast, tightly plotted thriller that I hope adults will enjoy as much as younger readers.
Killer Books selections from the Independent Mystery Bookseller's Association for April
A FETE WORSE THAN DEATH, by Dolores Gordon-Smith (Carroll & Graf, $14.95).Recommended by Tom & Enid Schantz, The Rue Morgue, Boulder www.ruemorguepress.com:
Set in 1922 but with its roots in the Great War, this first novel introduces former Royal Flying Corps pilot turned mystery writer Jack Haldean, who teams up with Scotland Yard’s Superintendent Edward Ashley when one of Jack’s former fellow officers is found murdered in the fortune-teller’s tent at the local fete. More murders follow, and Jack gradually traces them back to a tragic incident during the Battle of the Somme when a group of British soldiers is betrayed by one of their own in the chalk tunnels beneath Augier Ridge. And it’s in these very tunnels that the mystery plays out to a chilling denouement when Jack and Superintendent Ashley finally trap the killer.The fun of the book lies in its almost reverent observance of the traditions of the classical English mysteries of the Golden Age—the seemingly peaceful country house setting, the ebullient gifted amateur who quickly gains the trust of a seasoned Scotland Yard detective, and the large cast of characters, any one of whom might have a motive for the murder. It’s not the actual 1920s that the author transports us to, but the fictional world portrayed in crime novels from that period.
THE NIGHT FOLLOWING, by Morag Joss (Delacorte Press, $22.00).Recommended by Linda Dewberry, Whodunit? Books:
The Night Following is a case of one small thing drastically changing your life. The woman of our story is involved in a hit and run.Why did she hit? Because she found a condom wrapper in her husband's car. What can she do to make up for the death she caused? She can visit the woman's husband and in so doing she finds herself unable to walk away. She makes atonement in her own way, and the widower tries to recover from his grief in his own way. He can't accept his wife's death and keeps leaving her notes and then being upset when she doesn't answer. Included with the notes are part of a writing project his wife was working on. I found this story poignant and fascinating. How any of us deal with that one small nanosecond where our life changes in a downward spiraling kind of way is interesting. I'd look for this one to be another award winner like "Half Broken Things" was.Terrific writing about characters you care about!
CITY OF THE SUN by David Levien (Doubleday $24.95).Recommended by Louise Pieper, I Love a Mystery, Mission, KSwww.iloveamystery.com:
Twelve year-old Jamie Gabriel rides his bike in the early morning hours to deliver newspapers.One morning, he doesn’t return home.After fourteen long agonizing months with no leads and little help from the police, the parents turn to Frank Behr for help. Behr, an ex-cop, is now a private investigator. Behr is an intense man, a strong loner who seldom forms relationships with anyone. He’s reluctant to take the case—a case that’s gone cold with the chance of finding Jamie alive highly unlikely, yet he agrees to help, perhaps because he understands the parents’ anguish of “not knowing.”Behr is undaunted in his relentless, yet methodical, search for the answers to Jamie’s fate. The book’s jacket describes the story as riveting.There is no better word.This book grips you from the start and holds you to the very end without stopping.You will not put this book down until you are finished.
HOODOO by Susan Cummins Miller (Texas Tech, $25). Recommended by Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ. www.poisonedpen.com:
Geologist Frankie MacFarlane is described by Miller’s fellow Tucson author J.M. Hayes as "hard and beautiful and fragile like obsidian. Fracture either and you'll find an edge sharper than steel. Miller's writing cuts the page like a scalpel." In this, her fourth detection, the traditional homeland of the Chiricahua Apaches once led by Geronimo is just like a tinderbox. Down Under Copper's mineral exploration plans pit landowners, worried about their water supply and land values, against those profit seekers. Then a DUC executive is shot. Frankie, her students, and her friend Joaquin Black, a local rancher, while on a field trip, find the victim lying in a clearing among the volcanic hoodoos of ChiricahuaNational Monument. And that night, near Paradise, on the eastern side of the mountain range, someone kills an ethnobotanist. Miller draws parallels between Arizona's Massai Point linked to the Apaches and Africa's Masaii tribe to form an unusual, imaginative spine for the story. While Miller’s publisher is a university press, her works are not at all dry, but are grounded soundly in her specialty and will appeal to fans of Sarah Andrew, Nevada Barr, and in Hoodoo, Tony Hillerman.
THE SHANGHAI TUNNEL by Sharan Newman (Forge, $24.95), recommended by Robin Agnew, Aunt Agatha's, Ann Arbor, MI, www.auntagathas.com:
Oh, how I have missed Sharan Newman! I'm not alone - fans of her wonderful Catherine LeVendeur series are legion - and I'm also not alone in being not so sure about Newman switching her locale from 12th century France to 19th century Portland, Oregon. But I should have had a little more faith - Newman is one of the more gifted narrative storytellers writing at the moment, and her gift does not fail her in this latest, and very welcome, outing. Lots of the themes in this book will be familiar to any Newman devotee. Emily Stratton, a recently widowed mother moving back to the States from a lifetime spent in China, is more relieved than saddened that her brutal, coarse husband Horace is dead. With her sixteen year old son, Robert, she sets up a household in Portland in the luxurious home Horace had bought and furnished before dying suddenly on the trip home. Emily is thus truly a stranger in a strange land - not only has she never lived in Portland, she's never lived in America, and she desperately misses the Chinese language, clothing and food she grew up with. The hoopskirts and corsets current in 1868 America are a puzzle to her and a decided disadvantage. As with Catherine LeVendeur, Emily is thus an insider and an outsider at the same time. Quickly introduced to both her husband's business partners and the sister and brother-in-law and nieces she has never met, Emily attempts to settle into Portland, while at the same time being disquieted at what she finds as she combs through her husband's books, to the complete dismay of his partners. When her Chinese cook is found shot to death, Emily's worries deepen, and they aren't helped by her ignorance of her son Robert's wild behavior. She thinks he's an angel - the servants know otherwise. I found myself becoming completely involved in Emily's life - her quest for the Chinese herbal medications she's been used to; her suggestion to Horace's partners that they import bean curd rather than opium and "coolies"; and her attempts to understand calling cards, her sister-in-law, and to make sense of the general friendliness of the Americans she meets every day. This is a complete world the reader is introduced to, populated by both prostitutes and ministers and everyone possible in between, with, as is characteristic of this talented author, completely memorable and believable backstories of their own. This isn't a book where you'll be flipping back pages trying to remember who all the characters are; they're indelible right from the start. The mystery itself is twisty and complex - I never figured out the ending and/or the ultimate villain of the piece - plus, I learned the true meaning of the term "being Shanghaied". As with the Catherine books, Newman's eye for the unjust - here the treatment of the Chinese as virtual slaves by Americans - as well as a feminist story arc for her main character, anchor the story. Emily, like Catherine, never seems an anachronism or a polemic, though, just a smart survivor. When you're finished, I would be surprised if you weren't both in floods of tears, as I was, as well as eager for the next installment. [We've got Signed 1st Editions]
Just finished signing my new Mike Travis novel, ANGELS FALL, in beautiful, sunny downtown Seattle. If the'd let me, I'd adopt THE SEATTLE MYSTERY BOOKSHOP as my second home -- sipping coffee (100% Kona, of course) and working my way through the best selection of mysteries this side of the Pacific.
I love this store. I contemplated asking if I could pay rent to stay here all the time with all of these fabulous books--including mine. I'm in here under Urban Fantasy, or if you can't remember the title (NIGHT LIFE) or the author (me!), you can always ask for that little purple book with the werewolf girl on the cover. They'll know what you mean.
It's a gray, cold, rainy day and since it's a perfect day to stay inside signing and reading, I'm going to get back to it.
Maybe I can hide in the store room when they close up tonight...
Hi, this is Lisa Lutz reporting from the Seattle Mystery Bookstore on April 1, 2008. I just signed tons of copies of The Spellman Files(Now available in paperback!) and Curse of the Spellmans. They got lots of copies, so please come and take them off their hands.
I also thought I should mention that today is Isabel's birthday. If you want to know how old she is, please read the book.