Founded in 2004, Crimespree is an award-winning print magazine that covers all aspects of crime fiction, including books, movies, DVDs, comics and more. It features interviews with authors, articles about crime fiction and also articles by authors.
Me In Monaco
by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb brings Grace Kelly back to life. Readers will
take a journey to the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 as the authors intertwine
the romance between the actress Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco and
their characters Sophie Duval and James Henderson. These two authors, “Team H,”
have a chemistry when writing together. They have a knack for creating an
enchanting story written in one voice.
plot opens with Grace Kelly ducking into a small perfume shop, owned by Sophie
Duval, to escape a tabloid photographer, James Henderson. Sophie gives Grace
Kelly a sanctuary from the paparazzi and sends James on his way. Very grateful
Kelly forms a bond with Sophie and helps her failing business by publicizing
that Sophie will be the “parfumeur” for the wedding to Prince
Rainier. Meanwhile, James is given the coveted
assignment to cover the wedding of the century, and sail with Grace Kelly’s
wedding party to Monaco. Before sailing to Monaco he sends a letter to Sophia requesting
a date. With the backdrop of the wedding Sophie and James have a whirlwind
romance that has stretches of friendship, love, and tragedy.
romances stand out even more with the news clips fabricated by the authors.
They transport the readers back in time to the 1950s and add authenticity and
realism to the story. Also, bringing believability is the narrative where Grace interacts with James and Sophie are
expertly woven into this cleverly layered fairy talelike plot. Sophie’s character is smart, confident and
independent, while James is an enigma, surprisingly sensitive at times and
aloof at others.
The novel is full of
life lessons, difficult choices, and historical facts. Readers might even enjoy
having their interest spurred and will find old pictures and footage. With a
fabulous setting, interesting characters, and a story of second chances people
root for all the characters to have their wishes come true.
Elise Cooper: Is this story based on any truth? Yes
TEAM H: Meet Me in Monaco was inspired by Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance
and wedding to Monaco’s Prince Rainier. All the events we write about in the
book, surrounding their meeting, romance and wedding are based in fact. Also,
one of our main characters, Sophie Duval, was based on a perfumer who was, in
fact, asked to submit samples for the big day.
EC: How did you get the idea for the story?
TEAM H: We had such fun writing Last Christmas in Paris together, and wanted our second co-written book to be a real contrast to the setting of war. We started to think about a summer book, full of fun and glamour, and the south of France and Grace Kelly soon followed! Meet Me in Monaco starts at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, the year Grace met her prince—and when our parfumeur, Sophie Duval, meets press photographer James Henderson, sparks begin to fly.
EC: Are either of you fans of Grace Kelly?
TEAM H: Of course! We have both admired
her and have been fans of her movies, and after spending so much time with her
during our research for the book, we are now bigger fans than ever!
EC: Did you write the press
articles or are they real?
TEAM H: They are fictional, although
closely based on actual articles we discovered during our research. We created
our fictional journalist and these newspaper articles as a way for us to allow
the reader to stay with Grace, even when she isn’t centre stage in a scene. Our
newspaper articles and dramatic headlines also capture the media fascination
with Grace Kelly throughout this period of her life. Grace’s wedding was one of
the first paparazzi storms of the 20th century.
EC: How would you describe Grace Kelly?
TEAM H: kind, unaffected, sincere,
vulnerable, charming, talented
EC: How would you describe
TEAM H: adventurous, risk-taker, serious,
focused, and passionate
EC; How would you describe
TEAM H: Great sense of humor, caring,
considerate, and passionate, too, in his own way
EC: Do you see any comparisons
between Sophie and Grace?
TEAM H: There are parallels both in the
risks they chose to take in their lives and also in the way they used their
talents to add a measure of beauty to the world. They went after what they
wanted in a determined and dedicated way. We don’t go much into Grace’s life
outside of the short stint of 1955-56, but all of the research pointed to these
qualities in our princess.
EC: How would you compare Lucien
TEAM H: Lucien: cold, demanding,
controlling vs. James: Warm, down-to-earth, and passionate
EC: Are there any comparisons
between the relationship of Sophie and James versus Grace and Rainier?
TEAM H: We didn’t set out to deliberately
create comparisons between the two couples, but we will let the reader decide
this for themselves!
EC: Why the professions of a
Parfumeur and photographer? Why not?
TEAM H: We chose these professions for our
main characters because it gave them a way to get close to Miss Kelly. There
really was a bespoke perfume created for the princess for her wedding, and, of
course, press photographers were constantly at Miss Kelly’s side. Also, they
are both artistic professions, which allows for some lovely sensory and
EC: Do either of you have hobbies
or knowledge of these?
TEAM H: No! We chose these professions for
our main characters because it gave them access to Miss Kelly.
EC: What role does the landscape play in the story?
TEAM H: The dramatic landscape of the Cote
d’Azur, Provence and Monaco’s winding roads were such fun to write into the
book. These places are iconic, and it allowed us to create a sense of place for
the reader. We hope to whisk people away to the South of France and Monaco,
wherever in the world they are reading the book!
EC: Please explain this quote by
Grace Kelly: “Women can do anything they decide to do.”
TEAM H: We both love this quote. Grace
Kelly was a feminist. It’s easy to say giving up her career for marriage is not
a very feminist thing to do, but in reality, her profession just changed. She
became wife and mother, certainly, and those are big enough and noble enough
jobs in and of themselves, but she also began a foundation that continues to
support artists today. She also raised very large sums for the Red Cross
efforts and many other charities.
EC: A heads up about your next
TEAM H: We’re currently working on our third Gaynor & Webb book, Advice
for Lady Adventurers. It’s a coming-of-age tale in the vein of Thelma and
Louise, about two feuding sisters who must follow in the footsteps of Nellie
Bly’s race around the world in order to secure their inheritance, only to
encounter the Nazi occupation in Europe at the start of WW2.
KNIFE by Jo Nesbo
Brilliant, audaciously rogue police officer, Harry Hole from The Snowman and The Thirst, is back and in the throes of a new, unanticipated rage–once again hunting the murderer who has haunted his entire career.
Harry Hole is not in a good place. Rakel–the only woman he’s ever loved–has ended it with him, permanently. He’s been given a chance for a new start with the Oslo Police but it’s in the cold case office, when what he really wants is to be investigating cases he suspects have ties to Svein Finne, the serial rapist and murderer who Harry helped put behind bars. And now, Finne is free after a decade-plus in prison–free, and Harry is certain, unreformed and ready to take up where he left off. But things will get worse. When Harry wakes up the morning after a blackout, drunken night with blood that’s clearly not his own on his hands, it’s only the very beginning of what will be a waking nightmare the likes of which even he could never have imagined.
To be entered in the drawing, send an email to: Jon@crimespreemag.com
Put CONTEST in the subject line. Please include your address in the body of the email.
I live in a small town, Poughkeepsie, New York, which is located on the banks of the Hudson River halfway between New York City and Albany. I was born and raised here, and now reside here with my husband in the stone house built by my grandparents in 1941. During my adult life, I’ve lived in other places, from New York City to Ann Arbor, Michigan, yet the magnetic pull of the Hudson Valley has always drawn me home. It is the essence of a place flowing through my veins like blood, and an unexpected brutal event severing that vein, that drove me to write my debut thriller, THE MIDNIGHT CALL. In my novel, the life of a young, expectant attorney living in Poughkeepsie is disrupted when her mentor, a popular high school teacher, commits what appears to be a random act of violence and requests her help. As a writer, my own brush with true crime inspired me to write THE MIDNIGHT CALL, which is based upon a gruesome homicide committed in Poughkeepsie. As a reader, I’ve enjoyed the dark stories of mystery, murder and mayhem in small American towns, like mine, for years. Here are five stories that inspired me write small town thrillers based upon true crimes:
1. TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD by Harper Lee
I can hear the gasps of horror over my suggestion that “Mockingbird,” designated by PBS as the “Most Beloved Book in America,” is a true crime novel. What blasphemy! However, when I taught Law and Literature at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School, my class examined this story of the consummate literary American lawyer, Atticus Finch, who believed in the innocence of a black man accused of rape during the Great Depression-Era Macomb, Georgia. Lee drew upon her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, who in 1919 unsuccessfully defended two black men accused of murder. Lee, like me, attended law school and many of the elements contained in “Mockingbird” parallel our country’s struggle with civil rights in the 1950’s. The case of the “Scottsboro Boys” may have influenced the character of Tom Robinson, the man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman in Lee’s book. In Scottsboro, nine black youths were arrested on a train passing through Point Rock, Alabama, when two white women claimed to have been raped by them to avoid prostitution charges. All but one of the defendants was sentenced to die in the Alabama electric chair. In “Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch insists on telling the truth even though he knows he will fail. The telling of the truth is essential to his honor, and inevitably life threatening for his children, Jem and Scout. In “The Midnight Call” my protagonist, Jessie Martin seeks the truth behind the murder allegedly committed by her mentor and confidante, Terrence Butterfield, and she embarks on a search, unaware that it will threaten her career, her life and her unborn child as well.
2. IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote
When I first read IN COLD BLOOD, I was so overcome with Capote’s groundbreaking book that I didn’t know if I was reading fact or fiction. In the telling of the murder of the Clutter family of rural Holcombe, Kansas, Capote investigates the minds of the killers and their prey along with the capture, trial and execution of the murderers. The book read like a novel with its brilliant characterization, setting and plot, but there was an undertone of sadness for the ruthless killings. The story was chilling and I couldn’t put it down. Capote, jealous of his friend Harper Lee’s success with “Mockingbird” dedicated the book to her, but neglected to acknowledge her extensive research on the project. She was allegedly angered by this snub and their relationship deteriorated after the publication of IN COLD BLOOD. I can’t blame her. At times, Capote expressed sympathy toward the plight of the killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, raising the question of nurture versus nature. Can a man be held responsible for his actions when his environment has neglected him? I have tried to apply the same lens to my antagonist, Terrence Butterfield, the charming, charismatic teacher who brutally kills a teenager trespassing through his yard late one August night. The reader is asked to consider whether hidden mental health issued plagued Butterfield throughout his life or whether he was a psychopathic monster-in-disguise all along.
3. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL by John Berendt
Savannah, Georgia is my favorite big city with a small town atmosphere. The gentility of the Spanish Moss dripping from the gnarly limbs of the Live Oaks, the taste of deep fried shrimp and grits, and the smell of salt water taffy nab me every time I’m there, which is about once a year. John Berendt weaves the slow pace of the city with its southern charm, eccentricities, sexual mores, comedy of manners and the power of gossip into “Midnight,” creating another creative non-fiction work. I immediately read the book upon its release and hopefully Mr. Behrendt appreciated my spreading the sparkling reviews to my friends and family. This is one of the few books, like “Mockingbird,” that I’ve read multiple times. “Midnight” begins with a portrait of Jim Williams, an antiques dealer, who allegedly shot and killed a small-time hustler, Danny Hanaford, his occasional employee. While reconstructing Danny’s murder, the author conjures the decadence of Savannah society and depicts a ghoulish cast of characters ranging from a voodoo priestess to a transvestite to the author inserting himself as an expat Yankee in this southern Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s a legal thriller that makes you wonder whether Williams is guilty or innocent, but captures a strong sense of place. Could this murder have occurred anywhere else? Similarly, the murder of Ryan Paige in “The Midnight Call” offers the same question; could the murder have happened anywhere but Poughkeepsie, New York with its beauty and warts?
4. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie
I owe my addiction to crime thrillers to the Grand Dame of Mystery – Agatha Christie. I used to devour her books like popcorn at a movie. Many consider her plots and characters as pedestrian, but I disagree. Her novels transported me to exotic, faraway places, and allowed me to enter the mind of one of the world’s greatest detectives and to use my mind to solve the complicated crimes. In “Orient Express,” the well-mustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solves the mystery of the grisly stabbing of an American tycoon traveling on the infamous Orient Express. When Poirot searches the dead man’s compartment, he discovers a burnt piece of paper containing the name “Daisy Armstrong.” Daisy had been the 3 year-old heiress who had been kidnapped, ransomed and murdered. Even the official Agatha Christie website acknowledges that the “trial of the 20th century” – the Lindbergh baby kidnapping – inspired the novel’s subplot. Lindbergh’s baby son, Charles Jr., had been taken from his crib in the middle of the night from the Lindbergh’s suburban Hopewell, New Jersey mansion. After months of unsuccessful rescue attempts, the child’s corpse was discovered near the Lindbergh’s home. Crime continues to live in the collective consciousness of Hopewell, New Jersey, as it does in mine. In my hometown, we refer to “The People Vs. Albert Fentress” as one of the most infamous murder cases in our city’s history. In 1979, Fentress, a popular Middle School teacher, horrifically murdered a teenager trespassing through his yard. This local homicide became the seed of the idea for “The Midnight Call,” along with the legal maneuvering, allegations of legal impropriety and the surprising outcome to the case, which I can’t reveal – no spoiler’s here.
5. A DEATH IN BELMONT– Sebastian Junger
In A DEATH IN BELMONT, Sebastian Junger tells the story of his life as a young boy in Belmont, Massachusetts, an idyllic suburb of Boston, in the early 1960’s. In stark contrast, he relates the series of murders by strangulation occurring throughout the Boston area by a man nicknamed “The Boston Strangler.” By amazing coincidence, the man who later confessed to the crime, Albert DeSalvo, had been working at the Junger’s home as a carpenter during the time of the murderers. Junger’s first-hand knowledge of DeSalvo, and his ease with him, parallels my own “true crime” experience. In 1969, I attended Forbus Junior High School in Poughkeepsie and my World History teacher was Albert Fentress. As I mentioned above, ten years later Fentress committed murder, and his actions rocked our small town, and personally struck home. We all wondered whether we had ever really known Fentress and whether any of us had been in danger. These themes are woven into fabric of my novel and I hope that my readers will question how well they really know the people in their lives -or- how well they really know the people they love.
Her Deadly Secrets by Laura Griffin has plenty of action and suspense with a touch of romance. Readers are easily drawn into the investigation of this murder mystery that involves the mob and a surprise villain.
starts out with a bang, literally. The
heroine, Kira Vance, a private investigator, arrives to a meeting with her
boss/mentor, Ollie Kovack, and the lead defense attorney Brock Logan. Unfortunately,
she finds herself in the wrong
place at the wrong time. Shortly after arriving, she witnesses the murder of
Ollie and the attempted murder of Logan. Because the trial will not be
postponed, Logan asks Kira to take over the case. She finds that Ollie has
unearthed relevant information that might throw doubt on the person up for
murder. Kira is now more determined to find out who killed Ollie and are they
related to the possible new suspect.
Wolfe Securities is hired
by Logan to protect all the defense team because of the possible dangers. Knowing
this protection will hamper her ability to investigate Kira agrees to it with
limitations. She allows Jeremy Owen, a former Marine, who is assigned to
dutifully protect her, to be covertly present. As they work together to solve
the case of her co-worker Ollie’s murder, both learn to respect what the other
other female protagonist is Detective Charlotte Spears. She
trusts her instincts when it comes to her job and people, which included
following leads offered by Kira. She’s tough, no-nonsense and
clever. Dedicated to her job, she’s a terrific investigator and someone who weighs
the clues carefully. Griffin shows the different
points of view between the detective and a private investigator. Readers see
the diverse sides of the investigation as well as how the two women came to an understanding in regards
to sharing information each considered confidential from the other.
Kira is written as intelligent,
independent yet a vulnerable young woman, doggedly determined, highly astute
and a quick learner. She is sassy and
tough. This is directly in contrast to
Jeremy who is the silent type, appears grumpy, and is very intense.
is able to create female characters who are capable, intimidating and uncompromising. She contrasts them with the male lead who are
tough yet very placid. Her stories never disappoint. The problem with finishing
one of her books is that readers will long for a new story right away.
Elise Cooper: How did you get
the idea for the story?
Laura Griffin: It originated when
I interviewed a defense attorney for the previous book in the series, Desperate
Girls. She spoke of her investigator
who helped in building the case for court.
I was intrigued by that profession, a private investigator, who worked
for an attorney. I thought, what if the client was framed and it was the PI who
figured out by whom. I hope this became
an interesting murder mystery.
EC: Was Wolfe Securities based on anything?
LG: It came about when
I was reading about Gavin De Becker who provides security for celebrities,
business moguls, and athletes. The idea
is to harden the target, having them take precautions instead of being
vulnerable. Not everyone can have
security provided like government officials. I had Wolfe Securities in my “Tracer
series.” Shadow Fall had the head
of Wolfe Securities in it. I hope to continue the overlap.
EC: The setting plays a significant role?
LG: I put the story in
Houston, where I grew up. Because I had
an internship with a law firm there, I had a feel for the place and could describe
the behind the scenes stuff. This is a place I know and love.
EC: Houston has tunnels?
LG: Since Houston is so
hot in the summer, everyone takes the tunnels.
Wearing business attire and high heels anyone going out in the heat
would be soaking wet so everyone takes the tunnels. They are elaborate with many stores and
restaurants. It connects all the
downtown major buildings.
EC: You have the heroine devastated by Hurricane Harvey?
LG: It was also personal with me. My parents’ house was flooded and they were
displaced for a year. We helped with the
hurricane recovery. It was a pretty intense experience and I know that a lot of
people are still feeling the effects of it, now almost two years later. I
wanted to show through Kira how relentless rain can create a whole different feeling,
a sense of dread. For me, rain had previously felt so harmless. But after this national disaster there is the
feeling of having no control over mother nature.
EC: The previous heroine Brynn was MIA?
LG: I did not involve
her in this story on purpose. If a
previous strong character is brought in they can take over what is happening. I
wanted Kira to be the center of attention in this one.
EC: How would you describe Kira?
LG: She is underestimated
because of her being petite. Kira flies
under the radar, and literally can slip into and out of places because she is
good in blending in. She uses that to
her advantage when investigating. Very
resourceful, outspoken, driven, headstrong, and is hard to pin down.
EC: How would you describe Jeremy?
LG: Very protective, focused,
disciplined, controlled, and quiet. He
hides his emotions.
EC: How would you describe the relationship?
LG: Both are
guarded. It is the case of opposites
attract, a case from different backgrounds.
At the beginning there were trust issues. Kira bends the rules, is opinionated, while
Jeremy is the strong and silent type.
She is small and hates guns and he is from a military background, a
EC: How would you describe Detective Charlotte
LG: I like her a lot
and would like to write a book where she plays a leading role. She has a tenacious attitude. No bullshit, a leader, strong, and determined.
I think there will be more ahead for her.
EC: You touch on social justice?
LG: You might mean this
quote, “More accused murderers couldn’t afford anything close to that amount and
ended up awaiting their trials as guests of the county…Meanwhile, rich guys
like Quinn got to await trial at home.” There is a dual justice system where
anyone who can afford the right attorney, experienced with good oral arguments
for their client, will get a different treatment in the system. I have seen it a lot after reading stories
and speaking with people.
EC: You brought back the sketch
artist Fiona Glass?
LG: Yes. She was a main character years ago in the
book, Thread of Fear. Her
character is based on a forensic Houston artist, a real person that I
interviewed. She has done many high
profile cases. She is an amazing person with
great stories to tell. I bring her back
because she is talented and has something amazing to bring back into the
EC: Your next book(s)?
In September the fourth e-book of the “Alpha Crew series” will come
out. It is set in Southern California,
starting in San Diego with a SEAL training mission and then moving to L.A. The title
is Total Control and will bring back Jake, a SEAL, and Alexa, an FBI
Next summer Hidden will be
out. It is a romantic suspense novel set
in Austin. The heroine is an investigative
reporter that butts heads with a detective who is trying to keep the details of
a murder out of the news. THANK YOU!!
Bringing you superb crime writing from around the world
Kia ora and haere mai; hello and welcome to the fourth edition of Māwake Crime Review, an initiative we began at Crimespree in 2018. On a regular basis I’ll be featuring great crime writers and crime novels from beyond the borders of North America and Europe. For those new to this column, Māwake is a word from the Māori language (the indigenous people of my home country, New Zealand) which can translate to ‘south-east sea breeze’.
In Māwake Crime Review we’re harnessing that breeze, so to speak: highlighting terrific tales ‘blown in’ for crime-loving readers from the southern and eastern continents: Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific).
I hope over the course of this series I’ll encourage you to try some new authors you may not have heard of, to step into new places alongside new characters. Each edition of Māwake Crime Review will include an interview with one or two crime writers, and reviews of three or four books. Future columns may be themed in various ways, or focused on a particular region, but for this instalment I’m once again sharing the love, covering all four continents.
Since this is still something relatively new, I’d love to hear your feedback or suggestions. Feel free to email the Crimespree editors or get in touch and heckle me on Twitter.
But for now, let’s kick off with exciting Nigerian storyteller Leye Adenle, of whom none other than the great James Ellroy, the Demon Dog of American crime writing, said “Leye Adenle has my vote for crown prince of crime writers in the UK.” High praise indeed.
Out of Africa
LEYE ADENLE AND HIS VIVID AND VIOLENT AMAKA TALES SET IN NIGERIA’S CAPITAL CITY
What inspired you to write EASY MOTION TOURIST and WHEN TROUBLE SLEEPS, and what draws you to the crime/thriller genre of storytelling in general?
The inspiration for Easy Motion Tourist came from a conversation I had with my mum and three of my brothers. When we all get together, we discuss and debate every issue from global warming to the chance of finally finding intelligent life on Earth (or on other planets). And it’s not just all talk; we come up with solutions for all the problems of the world.
This particular day we had segued into a particularly horrible topic: naked murder victims, usually female, and usually missing body parts, dumped on Nigeria’s highways, the apparent victims of black magic ritual murder. The victims, almost exclusively young females, are assumed to be sex workers and this got us into talking about decriminalization of sex work in Nigeria as a way to protect the women from such gruesome ends.
It was in the middle of this discussion that I thought of another explanation for the murders, and the plot for Easy Motion Tourist came to me, and along with it the main Character, Amaka, who is in actual fact my mother – a woman who has dedicated her life to fighting for justice for women in her own way.
When Trouble Sleeps, the second book in the series, draws its inspiration from the deadly game of greed known as politics.
Your first crime novel was told from the perspectives of several characters. When did you know you’d be bringing social activist Amaka Mbadiwe back again rather than her being a one-off (before your began writing EASY MOTION TOURIST, during its writing, after publication?), and what makes her such an interesting character for you to explore?
Amaka was the hero of the first book even before it was written. I find that I enjoy spending time with her because she’s a lot like the women in my life. She is firstly inspired by my mother, she takes her name from two former partners, some of her backstory is from another friend, and she speaks like a woman I have admired and loved since I first met her many, many years ago. She’s also kick ass, which I like in people.
What do you most enjoy about writing your crime thrillers set in Lagos?
Lagos is the most amazing character ever. She’s unpredictable, she’s beautiful, she’s rude, she’s unapologetic, she’s resourceful, and she always has time for fun. I suspect that writing about Lagos is going to be my one most enduring love affair.
As a Nigerian who doesn’t currently live there, what sort of responsibility (if any) do you feel when writing about your home country, and how you portray it? How have you felt bringing Nigerian settings and issues to a broader audience through the medium of crime & thriller stories (novels and short stories)?
In writing about Lagos, I think I have a responsibility to be honest. Not every face of Lagos is beautiful. I often get the question, ‘Is Nigeria really like that?’ My answer is alway, yes, because I’m telling a crime story. If I were to write a romance novel, I’d probably go to the places in Nigeria where even the trees look like they’re in love. I published a speculative fiction novel this year, The Beautiful Side of the Moon, and I set it in Lagos, on the moon, and other dimensions. Some of the Lagos locations are shared with Easy Motion Tourist and When Trouble Sleeps, but you encounter them through the pages of a book that’s got UFOs and Men in Black, and flying magicians, and a magnetic garden. Many murders away from the Lagos of a crime story.
What have you learned as an author over the writing of your books so far, and how has the experience of writing your third Amaka novel (which I understand is on the way) been different to your experience writing your debut?
I have learnt that I might never be able to quit my day job. I once did a calculation and determined that it has cost me more to write my first two books than I’ve so far made from both of them combined. I think this is the one significant thing that has changed about writing. I still enjoy the process like nothing else, but now when I write, it is with the solemn acceptance that this book will not make me rich.
Who were/are your literary influences as an author, and what impact has their work had on your own storytelling?
I shy away from naming authors who have influenced me. All authors I have read have influenced me, even if I did not know it at the time. That said, I have read all of Chinua Achebe’s books and his Things Fall Apart is the only book that I read at least once every couple of years or so. Amos Tutuola also blew my mind with his The Palm-Wine Drinkard, and James Patterson’s Alex Cross made gave me freedom in ways too simple and too difficult to explain.
At a time when as humans we seem to consume information in smaller and smaller chunks (Twitter, clickbait articles on the internet, listicles, using social media to curate our news intake, etc), what are your thoughts about the importance of reading books, and the place of books and authors in the changing global landscape?
I need a good novel. I need the escape. I need the way a great story transports one to a world the writer has dreamt up. I want to be captive for the duration of the story. I want to get to the end and wish it hadn’t come. I want to be totally immersed in the fictive dream and forget, howbeit for a few hours, that we humans have destroyed the Earth, that we continue to destroy the Earth, that we have hunted many species to extinction, that we kill majestic elephants for their tusks, that the world is in the grip of politics of division, that we have more nuclear weapons than it takes to destroy the earth many times over, that potentially insane people have access to said weapons, that Britain walked into a abyss of a thing called BREXIT, that turkey sausages exist.
Which other African crime writers do you enjoy reading and/or would recommend to crime fiction fans?
More and more readers are turning towards Japanese crime fiction in recent years, and for very good reason. The mystery roots also run very deep there; in fact the Mystery Writers of Japan began recognising their local genre’s Best Novel in 1948, six years before the Edgars.
Tokyo author Kirino won her country’s Best Novel prize with this intense, horror-tinged tale fifty years later. After being adapted into a film, it then became the first Japanese crime novel ever nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, after it was translated in 2004.
Four Japanese women, dissatisfied with their lives for various reasons, spend each night looking out for each other as they make boxed lunches at a bento factory. One night Yayoi finally snaps, strangling her violent drunk of a husband Yamamoto after he returns home bruised and beaten, having gambled their savings away at a strip club owned by a psychotic gangster. Life torn asunder, Yayoi turns to her colleague Masako for help, and together the four women chop up Yamamoto’s body and leave pieces in garbage bags across Tokyo.
The discovery of bits of Yamamoto’s body sparks a murder investigation, which initially zeroes in on the gangster club owner, Satake. He loses his club and dedicates himself to finding and wreaking vengeance on the real killer. Friendships are strained and fracture between the four women as pressure mounts, leading to many unexpected consequences.
Kirino adroitly tiptoes the tightrope of disbelief, delivering an unsettling and idiosyncratic tale that has its own internal morality and raises plenty of questions about the challenges and discrimination faced by everyday women in modern Japanese society.
Readers whose mystery preferences lean cosier may be better to try Japanese masters like Seichō Matsumoto or Masako Togawa (the ‘PD James of Japanese crime’), but for those who can handle a creepy atmosphere with gory flashes, Out is an intense and clever tale that raises questions about wider society while it pushes its characters beyond their limits.
Set in the 1980s among the messy aftermath of the military junta that terrorized Argentina for years following a right-wing overthrow of the government in 1976, Ernesto Mallo’s second Inspector Lascano tale is a vivid and blistering expose of Argentinean life of the time.
Buenos Aires is a city rife with corruption. Those in power are often more violent and criminal than the criminals they’re meant to catch. Despite the return of some sort of democracy, the after-effects of years of suspicion and tens of thousands of people being ‘disappeared’ means daily life remains turbulent. Perro Lascano is recovering from being gunned down by a death squad, but returning to his old job may be even more dangerous.
Lascano’s new Chief, a tainted man who despite his flaws valued and protected Lascano, is murdered. Dirty cops circle like vultures. Lascano wants to uphold justice and be a good cop, but his world may not let him. Honour and ethics are all well and good, but can get you killed. Meanwhile another relatively honourable man with a broken life, ‘Mole’ Miranda, is released from prison. A non-violent robber, Mole is forced to return to his former life despite wanting to go straight. His ‘one last job’ goes wrong, and Lascano is on his tale.
Mallo delivers a gritty, atmospheric tale with its own style (eg dialogue is run-together in italics). As the slim but powerful crime tale unfolds plenty of broader issues are canvassed, giving Sweet Money a real sense of depth. Lascano is a philosophical hero, and the author muses on various topics throughout. The second in a trilogy, Sweet Money is a sweet read (in antipodean or surfer use of the word), and hopefully the third will be translated soon.
Melbourne author Jane Harper avoided any sophomore slump when she followed her massively successful Outback mystery The Dry (which scooped the CWA Gold Dagger among a clutch of other prizes), with terrific rain-swept bushland tale Force of Nature. Third time around, Harper lures readers back to the arid Outback, but federal cop Aaron Falk is absent.
We start at the barren border between sprawling cattle ranches in heat-struck Queensland. This is no tourist Mecca of glistening beaches and vibrant barrier reefs, but instead a parched climate that every local knows can quickly kill. So why would Cam Bright, the golden middle child of the Bright farming family, leave the safety of his truck to wander to his death at an old stockman’s grave? The marks in the dusty earth tell a harrowing story: he scrambled for shade in the hours before he succumbed. An isolated, harsh death.
As older brother Nathan and little bro Bub meet at the scene, questions swirl. Why would Cam, who seemed to have it all, take such a final walk? Had financial pressures broken him? What part was played by a woman from his past? Or is something more sinister at play?
Nathan has been living in near-exile, but is pulled into a family situation overflowing with grief and secrets. Relationships fray and long-hidden truths come to light. Nathan is forced to confront and re-evaluate incidents from his own past, and how different ‘realities’ form.
The Lost Man is a stunning standalone that shimmers with subtext and subtlety. There’s a taut elegance and quiet intensity to Harper’s prose as she surveys the pressures of Outback farming and examines the darkness that can fester within isolated communities. For a couple of years now we’ve talked about Harper’s special debut; it’s time we just talked about her as a special author.
Craig Sisterson is a former attorney who lives in London and writes features for magazines and newspapers in several countries. A lifelong fan of crime fiction, in recent years he’s interviewed more than 200 authors, chaired crime festival events on three continents, been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards (Australia), McIvanney Prize (Scotland), and Ngaio Marsh Awards (New Zealand), and helped launch the Rotorua Noir crime writing festival in his home country. You can heckle him on Twitter: @craigsisterson
Today, Monday, July 15, Clive Cussler will awake to find himself 88 years old. How many authors get to reach that point, let alone remain as active as Cussler has? As of last week he was still co-authoring four adventures a year for Putnam with a variety of writers???one of them his son Dirk, who began co-Authoring the flagship Dirk Pitt series in 2004, some thirty years after its debut (with The Mediterranean Caper, a Pyramid paperback original).
But Clive Cussler was not always published by Goliath G.P. Putnam, and therein lies a tale…. During the Eighties and Nineties, his Dirk Pitt books were a fixture on the bestseller lists for Simon and Schuster. And then, one day something happened that led to him joining Putnam in 1999.
As Clive himself explained it to me during one of our many book tours together, he was in New York City one day visiting his agent, and decided to drop into the S&S offices at 1230 Sixth Ave to say hello to his editor. Being Clive, he didn’t call first, but instead arrived at their waiting room and asked the receptionist to let Mr. Korda know that Mr. Cussler was sitting outside. So Clive sat down to wait. And waited, and waited. After a half hour or so Clive got up and told the receptionist to let Mr. Korda know that he was leaving. And he did. According to Clive, he never went back to the S&S offices. But he did tell his agent to find him a new publisher. Six months later he was signing with Putnam for a new Dirk Pitt adventure, Atlantis Found.
After hearing that story, I often wondered… Was Mr. Korda inside at a meeting, entirely unaware that his star adventure author was cooling his heels out in the lobby until seeing the message when it ended? Or was he possibly out at a glamorous lunch, returning an hour or two later to discover that he had inadvertently alienated one of his star authors? At this juncture we will never know. But the effect of this (probably) unintentional slight was seismic.
I well recall the excitement at Putnam when we learned a major bestselling author would be joining our already star-studded lineup. Though I had never read any of Cussler’s adventure thrillers, I was well acquainted with his name from scanning each weekly iteration of The NY Times fiction list. Atlantis Found was given a publication date of December 6, 1999; an unusual date for a Putnam release, but done at Clive’s specific request, because he was convinced that sales would be boosted by the book’s appearance during the height of Christmas gift-buying season. He probably was right. Our announced first printing of 750,000 copies was probably exaggerated a bit from the actual release number, but it immediately made Clive Putnam’s second biggest fiction author, behind only Tom Clancy.
The book was an immediate smash, appearing in the Times bestseller list at #4 and staying there for several weeks. It never managed to climb any higher because of a peculiar situation??? the top three spots were occupied by the hardcover editions of the first three Harry Potter books. Of course those were children’s books, but at the time there was no separate list to keep such a phenomenon from swamping the adult fiction lists. Clive was not happy about that situation, and he let it be known. Soon afterward The NY Times changed its policy and launched a separate Children’s bestseller list, which remains to this day.
The 1999 book tour for Atlantis Found was unlike any other I had been involved with up to that time. It began with a three-day launch in New York City that included stops at West Point, the CUNY Maritime College in the Bronx, where Clive received an honorary PhD, an indie bookstore in Ridgewood NJ, which told us it was the second largest turnout they’d ever had, and a Borders down in the World Trade Center, two institutions that are long extinct. And then it was on to the rest of America. There were many rollicking moments in several major markets, but the peak was probably at the Tattered Cover Bookstore Denver, where signing took almost four hours. In part that was due to the fans who had lugged along forty previous books for him to sign (they had to wait til the end of the line to get them all done) but it was also due to Clive’s propensity for drawing a little picture on the title page for some of the female fans in the line, which usually involved the caption, “we’ll always have Paris.” And for anyone who presented an early edition of Raise the Titanic!, his breakout book, a little cartoon of that legendary ship sinking beneath the waves was Clive’s standard bonus.
When we parted ways at the Denver airport, with Clive flying home to The Scottsdale area for some final signings and me bound for my suburban NJ home, we shook hands and Clive thanked me for showing him such a good time. “This is probably the last time you’ll see me though,” he warned me. “I won’t be doing any more book tours. I’m too old.” I was shocked to receive that news. (At that point Clive was 68, one year older than I am now as I write this.)
And with that he handed me one of the half dozen bottles of tequila he had been gifted at each of his tour stops, and which I had been dutifully lugging from tour stop to tour stop. “Enjoy it,” he said with a twinkle.
I don’t remember drinking that bottle of tequila, but I do know that I went on at least ten more book tours with Clive between 2001 and 2014. They were some of the most enjoyable times of my life. Several of them included his son Dirk, a terrific guy himself. And seeing Clive interact with his hordes of fans, who literally were age 8 to 80, taught me a valuable lesson about the power of pure storytelling.
Happy 88th, Clive! You’ll have to get your own shot of tequila today.. But put it on my account.
Rules of Engagement by David Bruns and J. R. Olson brings to the forefront the real threat of cyber warfare in this military thriller. Both authors use their past experiences as naval officers to bring a wealth of accuracy and realism to the story, which only serves to heighten its authenticity. Bruns is a former submarine officer who left the business world behind to write sci-fi novels. Olson spent more than 20 years in the Navy, retiring as a commander, and now teaches college courses in Intelligence/Counter-Terrorism.
This tale of clear and present
danger forewarns how cyberwarfare is the next battleground that can play out on
the world stage. Although some military
thrillers can sometimes be bogged down in the details, this one has just the right
balance between information given, plot development, and action.
As in real life, Russia is in the midst of the trouble making. A criminal enterprise known as Bratva is
losing money on its arms dealing business, so its leadership hires a North
Korean go between to create havoc. Rafiq
Roshed, one of the world’s most wanted cyber terrorists, now residing in North
Korea, is enlisted to pit China, Japan, and America. the nations with the three
most powerful navies, on a collision course for World War III. He inserts a computer virus into a country’s command system to gain
control and has it begin to learn how to carry on its own warfare. First
penetrating the Chinese, he has their war machine launch a series of attacks on
the U.S. Pacific forces. As China and Japan are losing control of their
military, the U.S. is also in danger of doing the same. Casualties are mounting,
and an apocalypse is looming large. The only way to stop this disaster from creating
further trouble is to stop it at its source.
This plot driven military thriller does not have
a single hero, but realistically shows how a team working together can complete
the mission. Midshipmen Michael Goodwin, Janet Everett, and Andrea Ramirez are
asked to find and eliminate the source before it is too late. Working collectively,
they must connect the dots to find and destroy the deadly virus and its
Readers are left with an unsettling feeling after
reading this story. It heightens a frightening wake-up call. Fans of military thrillers will delve into
the intrigue and heart pounding action of this novel. It has plenty of clever
twists, strategic moves, and high stakes.
Elise Cooper: Why did you both decide to team up?
J. R. Olson: As Naval
Academy graduates, we attend Alumni Association events. In 2011 we were invited
to speak to the Naval Academy parents.
One of them said, ‘you two should get together to write a book.’ We did just that five years ago.
EC: What inspired you?
David Bruns: In July
1984, just after the Hunt For Red October had come out, I had a chance
to meet Tom Clancy before he became super famous. In reading his book my world was
changed. Being a midshipmen in the US
Naval Academy I decided to become a submarine sailor. I spent six years as a commissioned officer
in the nuclear-powered submarine force chasing the Russians in the frigid
waters of the North Atlantic. I thought how the Clancy book affected me, the
movie “Top Gun” affected many who went on to become Navy pilots, and what Tom
Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff did for astronauts. We are hoping this book
might do the same for the next generation of Cyber Warriors. Maybe inspire the next generation to join the
service and serve their country.
EC: Cyber warfare does not seem to be on the
DB: We wanted
to write a book identifying and developing a story around the threats of the 21st
Century. We are hoping to take a threat
not talked about publicly and dial it up to an ’11.’
JRO: We were
driven to write about cyber security.
The Naval Academy actually has a new facility called Hopper Hall that
houses the cyber security program. The
midshipmen majoring in it will be able to study it from a national security
perspective. The heroes of our story are
the team of three midshipmen.
EC: This is the third book of the series?
DB: The first
two books were self-published. For book
three, and going forward, we decided to get an agent and publisher.
JRO: The first
book, Weapons of Mass Deception, is about nuclear proliferation with non-state
actors. The second book, Jihadi Apprentice,
delves into home grown radicalization.
This book highlights how a cyber threat can be used as a tool by a rogue
actor working inside a nation state.
EC: There are many ways of using cyber as a weapon?
are a lot of systems connected all over the world. With this plot we played off of SCADA: Supervisory
control and data acquisition is a system of software and hardware elements that
allows industrial organizations to have a centralized control. A great example was the Stuxnet Worm. It
penetrated inside the Iranian centrifuges and locked on the central panel. Everyone observing thought it was functioning
normally, but what was actually happening is that the centrifuges were coming
apart. Similarly, the electrical power
grids are also system of systems that can be vulnerable to a cyber-attack.
DB: Other examples are the hacking of the Democratic
Committee through spear phishing where someone clicked on a link they should
not have. There is also Target and Sony where
a hacker was able to gain access to many people’s information.
cyber warfare have any fingerprint?
DB: This is an issue because no one can tell who
it is right away. A code has to be taken
apart. It takes awhile to be absolutely certain. It is an issue of attribution. How do we tell what constitutes a cyber-attack
that should lead to war?
Besides an entertaining story what was your goal in writing this story?
DB: There is a certain level of expectation
from the reader that they will get a plausible explanation. We wanted to make it realistic and interesting
without bogging it down in the details.
I have the benefit of a son who is a computer science major so I can run
by him bits of information. We did not want
to write a Skynet book like Terminator that takes over the world. The threat we wrote about is man-made.
JRO: The ability for computers to make decisions
is far greater than any human being. In
the future, this whole cyber arena may be computers fighting other computers.
Although we made up “Happy Panda” and “Trident” we wanted to make sure that we
created realistic systems with plausible vehicles.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
DB: The threat will be from biological agents used
as weapons. The three Midshipmen are
back, but now will be junior officers.
One of our characters from the previous books, FBI Special Agent
Elizabeth (Liz) Soroush may have an important role.
THE STORIES YOU TELL by Kristen Lepionka
“Lepionka is setting a high standard for crime fiction.” —Booklist (starred review) on What You Want to See
The Stories You Tell is Shamus Award-winning and Anthony and Macavity Award-nominated author Kristen Lepionka’s heart-pounding third novel that will keep readers on the edge of their seats with her signature twists and mile-high stakes.
A late-night phone call is never good news, especially when you’re Roxane Weary. This one is from her brother Andrew, whose evening was interrupted by an urgent visit from Addison, a hip young DJ and one-time fling, who turns up at his apartment scared and begging to use his phone. She leaves as quickly as she appeared, but now Andrew is worried—especially when Addison never makes it home and her friends and family demand to know where she is. As the police begin to suspect that something may have happened to her, and that Andrew is involved, Roxane tracks Addison’s digital footprint as she goes deeper and deeper into the events preceding her disappearance. Meanwhile, a cop is found dead on the opposite side of town, leading to a swirl of questions surrounding a dance club whose staff—which includes Addison—has suddenly gone AWOL. As Roxane struggles to distinguish the truth from the stories people tell about themselves online, it’s clear that the mystery of Addison’s whereabouts is just the beginning.
To be entered in the drawing, send an email to: Jon@crimespreemag.com
Put CONTEST in the subject line. Please include your address in the body of the email.
People who know me in real life keep asking when my private investigator character, Roxane Weary, is going to get a cat. This says way more about me than it does about Roxane–I’m the one with the Crazy Cat Lady bumper sticker–and the truth is, I doubt she could care for another living creature with any kind of regularity (especially since cats don’t drink whiskey). I’m also not sure that she likes cats. So while there’s no chance of Roxane sharing her apartment with a feline roommate any time soon, all of my books have been written with a cat nearby.
I’ve had this gorgeous, crazy lady since
2004–she was a twentieth birthday present to myself. So we’ve been together
for my entire adult life, through seven apartments, eleven jobs (!), and the
writing of seven completed manuscripts and countless short stories and
abandoned drafts. She is named for a specific variety of Snapple, the peach
iced tea, which is by far the most delicious of their offerings. I can’t take
credit for the name though–an ex-girlfriend came up with it. I had wanted to
name her Thisbe. But in hindsight, said ex-girlfriend, who was right about
very, very little during our fraught time together, was quite correct on the
subject of Snapple’s name. It suits her. Snapple is a rescue kitty who chose me
by literally sticking a paw out of a cage at the shelter and tapping me on the
He crossed the rainbow bridge in 2016 at the age of eighteen, but this handsome gent was instrumental in my first novel, The Last Place You Look, because he kept my feet warm while I was writing it in my chilly office. Starfish originally belonged to my partner, Joanna (or perhaps she belonged to him), after he showed up on her doorstep and she put out some tuna, not realizing this was basically a blood oath to care for him forever. He was a wonderful, stubborn cat who was an expert at opening doors and occasionally escaping to the dirty basement of our apartment building. He almost murdered me one time by knocking a full glass of cold water onto my head while I was asleep but I’m pretty sure he meant it with love.
Continuing the apparent trend of cats with S-names, Spenser came into my life three years ago after Starfish resigned his spot as the resident male of the home. It was a dark time, and Joanna and I went to a shelter seeking kittens (I know, I know, older cats need homes, but listen–Fishes was eighteen and Snapple was then thirteen, so wanted a fluffy ball of ridiculousness who would stick around with us for the next decade-plus). We were told there were none in at the moment. But before we left, we happened to hear a shelter volunteer talking about a little black cat who gave good snuggles. We were very interested in snuggles! The little black cat was so black that was nearly invisible–we’d actually missed him completely on our first pass through the facility because he blended into the shadows–and he did give good snuggles. In the space of about three minutes, I realized he was meant to be ours. He was eight months old at the time, still technically a kitten. Now he’s four, and maybe not technically a kitten any longer, but he certainly still acts like one, like this morning when he crash-landed on my writing desk and proceeded to go back and forth from my keyboard to the window sill for about five minutes and deleted a paragraph of my fourth Roxane Weary novel (I guess he didn’t like it).
Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin is a suspenseful psychological
thriller. Her readers will not be
disappointed with this latest novel based on a true murder crime spree.
The plot delves into how, in 1976,
April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California’s Inland Empire,
killing a dozen victims before perishing in a fire. More than forty years later, a True Crime
podcast gets an unexpected tip that April did not die in the fire and is living
in New York under a new identity. Hoping to find definitive proof
that Renee Bloom is really April Cooper, Quentin, who has the podcast, journeys
to New York and reaches out to Renee’s daughter, movie columnist Robin Diamond.
Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. His aunt was one of the
victims and he wants closure for himself and other families who are still
impacted by the murders. Quentin and Robin each conduct their own
investigations, determined to get to the truth. But in doing so, will they place
their own lives in danger?
This intense thriller took readers on a roller coast ride with all
the twists and turns. Written from multiple points of view they get an overall
impression of each character. An added
bonus was the letters written by April to her future child explaining her feelings
and thought process.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story
Alison Gaylin: I always
wanted to write about this couple, Charles Starkweather and Carii Ann Fugate
that went on a killing spree, which started in Nebraska. She was fourteen and
he was nineteen. Even though it seemed obvious he abducted her, she was tried as
an accessory to murder and sentenced to life in prison, since they were
boyfriend/girlfriend. Eventually she was let out.
EC: Is your character April
exactly like Carii?
AG: I did create a similar
murder spree set in the 1970s. But April
is a little less of a victim and more of a survivor. The story came together for me when I thought,
‘what if that was me or my mother.’ I did not make it a straight up kidnapping
like what happened with Patty Hearst.
Remember, April knew her abductor from the very beginning.
EC: Are you a True Crime
AG: I have a great love of
True Crime podcasts, which is why I gave the character Quinton that profession. He is a journalist but is investigating
something personal. I suggested five crime podcasts I like in the finished copy
of this book.
EC: Why the letter format
to a future child?
AG: I had a similar assignment
when I was in school. I thought this
format would allow April to come clean and tell the truth. I originally thought to make it a diary but
then I thought she might not be honest with even herself. Because her main goal in life was to be a
mother, I thought she would tell the truth to her future child.
EC: You always involve social
media in your plots?
AG: It seems to be an ongoing
theme in my books. I like to write about
things that scare me. Social media is
the fastest route for someone to be misunderstood because the facts are boiled
down into small sound bites. It becomes
a place of outrage and can actually muddy the facts. I think one of the easiest
places to form an angry mob is on Twitter.
EC: How would you describe
AG: She is a flawed
character. Because of everything that happened
to her she sometimes has a lot of rage.
Everything was taken away from her.
Yet, she is also a nurturing mother.
I think her heart is in the right place. She is essentially a good
person who contributed to some bad things.
The reason she stayed with her murderous boyfriend Gabriel is that he
told her if she tried to escape he would kill her little sister. Did she let her situation take over her soul? I think the environment had a lot to do with
EC: How would you describe
the daughter, Robin?
AG: She had an awakening
through the course of the book. Very
perceptive, smart, and values the truth.
She must deal with the fact that all those close to her have lied to
her. I hope she is seen as sympathetic.
EC: This story makes readers
question how well do we know our parents?
AG: Our parents had a whole other
life, many fully mature adults, before we came into existence. They could have had moments of great shame,
regret, or nobility that we might never know about it unless they choose to tell
us. What we know about our parents’ past
is through their own perceptions. What I
wanted to explore in this book is that we never fully know anyone else.
EC: Is this a story about
AG: Yes. They can be nurturing and destructive at the
same time. Everyone has a family. Some are made from friends, and some are
actual families. They range from dysfunctional
to unconditional love. We forgive a lot
that we would not in other relationships.
I think in this story Quinton had a dysfunctional mother, while Robin’s
mother gave her unconditional love.
EC: There is a scene in the
book where April’s husband is a huge Yankee fan, are you?
AG: Growing up in Southern California I was the biggest Dodger
fan. My dad and I would go to games
together. He taught me that the Yankees
were a store bought team. I make a lot
of my book characters Yankee fans as an inside joke between me and the memory
of my dad.
EC: Your next book?
AG: It delves into female
rage. The main character had a horrible
tragedy in her life that was made more unfair by the person who perpetuated it
and never got punished. It will probably
come out in 2021.