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2021 Anthony Awards

With so many mystery books coming out each month, how can you make sure you don’t miss the best ones? One of the best ways is to look for the books that are honored by other writers and readers. That is why I will be posting lists of nominees and winners of some of the top awards as they come out.

The Anthony Awards nominees have been announced for 2021. The Anthonys are given out each year at the Bouchercon, the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention. The awards are voted on by the attendees.

The awards are named after Anthony Boucher, an editor, writer, and reviewer for the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Boucher was one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America in 1946. The awards have been given out since 1986 and are considered one of the top literary awards for mystery writers.

The 2021 conference will be held in New Orleans on August 25-29. The title for this year is New Orleans Blood on the Bayou Postmortem. Some of this year’s guests of honor include Michael Connelly, Steph Cha, and Craig Johnson.

You can see a list of the nominees here.

 

Police Procedurals

“Just the facts, Ma’am.” Joe Friday delivered this line in his flat, robotic tone every week on the TV series, Dragnet. Dragnet aired two different times, once from 1951-1959 and then in 1967-1970. Detective Joe Friday of the Los Angeles Police Department was played by Jack Webb, who was also the producer.

Dragnet, and the similar show Adam-12,  are great examples of one of the more popular genres in mystery,  the police procedural. These books and shows centered on the work of the police, usually focusing on one individual but highlighting more their time on the job and working with others in the department than on the person’s personal life. It is the life and environment of a police officer that the reader is interested in, rather than an individual. Although how much this is carried out varied with the series.

Although cop shows have been common on TV, even today, I want to focus on the novels and their authors. Continue reading

RIP Margaret Maron

 

On February 23, 2021, we lost one of the legends of crime fiction with the passing of Margaret Maron. Born in Greensboro, NC, in 1938,  she grew up on her mother’s family farm in Johnston County. She shared that farm life with us in the twenty books in her Judge Deborah Knott series.

Ms Maron had been in hospice care and died of stroke-related illness.

Her first book, One Coffee With, was published in 1982. Continue reading

The Hardboiled Mystery

Hard Boiled Detectives The classical mystery story came to its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. World War I had just ended, and the world was coming through the 1918 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population.

In England, the classic mystery had already been established by Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories showed the reader a very upper society, very proper, with tea being served often. The detective often had a tie to police, but were intellectually superior. They were often given a reluctant acceptance by the local law enforcement officer. Sometimes, the police would call them in because they couldn’t solve the case, but more often the detective burst onto the scene, showing up the helpless officer.

But in America, we saw the emergence of a different type of detective in the hardboiled detective mysteries. In another kind of society, Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler introduced us to the private eye. Often a lone wolf, who tried to dispense his own style of justice in a world with few rules.

[bctt tweet=”The hardboiled American detective was much more cynical than his English counterpart. It wasn’t a game or puzzle to him, but a more personal battle against evil, even of life or death. ” username=”httpstwittercomTimSuddeth”] Continue reading

2021 Edgar Award Nominees

The 2021 Edgar Awards nominees were announced yesterday by the Mystery Writers of America. The Edgar Awards take their name from Edgar Allan Poe, considered to be one of the inventers of the detective genre. The winners will be presented in New York City later this year.

The nominees come from usually around 2000 submissions from publishers and writers, representing the best in mystery fiction in novels, young people books, short stories, and television.

This year the Grand Masters are Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris.

You can find the link to the nominees here.

Dashiell Hammett

The Golden Age of Mystery refers to the period between World War I and World War II. In America, writers created the hard-boiled detective. They portrayed the detective, a male, usually as a loner, facing the violence and nihilism of the post-WWI world. Often cynical, tough, hard-boiled, they lived with an internal code of right and wrong. Unlike the English detective, the American private eye is from the common people. They don’t use their great minds to solve puzzles. Instead, they use hard work and a willingness to get dirty to catch their criminal, or not.

This hard-boiled detective fiction is also called noir. Because of the time period, I always think of the films as being in black-and-white.

Although Dashiell Hammett only wrote five novels, he is known as one of the pioneers of detective fiction. He brought us Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and the Continental Op. Many of the best-selling mystery writers, including Raymond Chandler, say that they were influenced by his style and stories. Continue reading

What’s Your Genre?

Shelf of mysteries

So many books to get to.

Every year, over 650 million books in print are sold. So, how can you find a book similar to the one you just enjoyed? If you have ever tried to find a book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you know what an impossible task it seems as you glaze at the rows and rows of bookshelves. Most of them spine out, which is a pet peeve of mine. Even after you learn where the mystery/suspense section is, you are still looking at a large section of the store. And that isn’t even talking about shopping on Amazon, where you can’t even see how the books grouped together.

Say, I like the The Cat Who books, but I’ve read them all and I want someone a little different. What should I do? Continue reading

Critical Review of The Last Mile

The Last Mile by David BAldacci

The Last Mile by David Baldacci

The Last Mile is the second entry in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series.

Amos Decker is a former NFL football player who, just as his pro career started, received a traumatic brain injury. The injury not only knocked him out of football but, also, left him with a disorder in which he remembers everything, including the painful events he would rather forget like the murders of his wife and daughter.

The Last Mile begins with Decker headed from Burlington, Ohio to Quantico, VA to take a position with a newly-formed team at the FBI. The team combines combining FBI agents with civilians who have their own special gifts. Continue reading

How Scott Turow Got His Start

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40769964

It is always interesting to hear how a bestselling writer worked their way into their career. Some writers knew they wanted to write in grade school. Others didn’t pick it up until much later. And often there are many starts and restarts as a writer struggles to find their niche.

In My First Thriller on the Crime Reads blog, Scott Turow tells about how he became the author of multiple best selling novels, capped off by his blockbuster hit, Presumed Innocence.

Turow had dreamed about being a writer in school, even having some articles published in college. Then life happened. He became a lecturer at Stanford before going to law school and becoming the Assistant US Attorney in Chicago. Part of that time, he worked on a novel during his thirty-minute commute to work.

We are glad he can now make more time to write stories that thrill, entertain, and make so many of us think.

Here is Rick Pullen’s article on his interview with Scott Turow. I hope you find it as informative and encouraging as I did.

 

 

Ellery Queen-a mystery himself

Whether it’s from his novels, films, radio, short stories, or TV, Ellery Queen is one of the premier names in the world of mysteries. He has been read, watched, or listened to all over the world. But answering who Ellery was, that is a little more complicated.

Ellery Queen the Character

Ellery and His Father on teh 70s TV Series

Ellery and Father from the 70s TV series

Ellery Queen was the main detective character in over thirty crime novels and short story collections from 1929 – 1971. He first appeared in The Roman Hat Mystery in 1929. He was the adult son of Inspector Richard Queen of the New York Police Homicide Squad and was an author who spent most of his time with his nose stuck in a book. His father leaned on him to help solve the murder.

It is hard to describe Ellery with one description as he changed over the course of the series. He began as a bookworm assisting his father in New York. His mother had passed away and there was no interest in women, in fact they both lived a decidedly bachelor lifestyle wanting only to spend their evenings in the apartment they shared.

In the late thirties, Ellery, like his authors, moved to Hollywood to begin writing movie scripts. He no longer assisted his father on police cases. And he found time for women. In Hollywood. Who would have guessed. The cases became less police procedurals and took on more psychological elements.

Beginning in 1942, Ellery Queen moved to a fictional New England town called Wrightsville. This let them loosen the structures even more and allowed more emphasis on relationships and less on the details of the case.

Ellery Queen the Author(?)

In 1932, Ellery Queen was invited by Columbia University to present a lecture on mystery writing. The catch was that Ellery wasn’t a person, but a pseudonym for two cousins and they didn’t want to reveal that Ellery wasn’t a real person. To decide who would address the school, they flipped a coin. The loser addressed the college wearing a mask.

The brains behind the great detective were two cousins from Brooklyn, New York. Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee were close cousins. They were both born in 1905, bore a close resemblance to each other, and often finished each others sentences during interviews. Together, they edited collections of short stories under the Ellery Queen name and founded the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine that still comes out bimonthly. Manfred was the loser of the coin toss and continued in the guise of Ellery Queen, wearing a mask.

Dannay and Lee were prolific writers. Not only did they produce over thirty Ellery Queen novels. They also wrote nineteen plays, a screen play, radio plays from 1939 to 1948, and numerous short stories. They wrote four novels about the detective Drury Lane under the pseudonym Barnaby Ross.

They were early pioneers in franchising when in the sixties they commissioned more than twenty-five crime thrillers from other writers. These were published as paperbacks under the Ellery Queen name. Many of them were outlined by Dannay.

The Ellery Queen Style

Ellery Queen mysteries fit the style commonly known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Other writers of the style include Agatha Christie, Philip MacDonald, and Dorothy Sayers. It was very popular before World War II. Afterwards, the stories became grittier, less gentile.

Ellery Queens stories were looked at as games, puzzles. The writers were careful to give all the clues to the reader that the detective would have. A crime, usually a murder had to happen early. The murder had to be presented near the beginning of the book. Although there would be numerous ‘red herrings’, the clues could point to only one person as the criminal. “Fair play’ was important and taken very seriously. If other writers thought another cheated, say by introducing an identical twin at the last moment, they would be called out in reviews.

With many of the Ellery stories, the reader would find the following elements: a geographic title, an unusual crime, complex set of clues, and multiple possible solutions until the climatic reveal. In the early books, there would be a page near the end declaring that the reader has all the clues and challenging them to give the answer. This disappeared as the public became less interested in a puzzle and more interested in the characters and relationships.

Review of The Roman Hat Mystery

The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery QueenThe Roman Hat Mystery introduced us to Ellery Queen. Inspector Richard Queen is given the case of a murder in a crowded theatre during the play, Gunfire. Everyone was so intent on the actions and sounds from the stage that no one knew that a man had been killed until the police stopped the play. When the Inspector fails to come up with an answer, he is happy to see Ellery come in the door. The most suspicious thing about the crime scene was what wasn’t there. Where was the man’s hat?

In this day of men wearing shorts, jeans, and tee shirts, we don’t usually think of going to the theatre in formal wear. And the best most men can do is a work suit and their suit they wear to funerals. But a hat? This was a different time and Ellery immerses us in it totally. Back then, anyone wearing formal wear would have to have a top hat. But after turning the theatre over, they couldn’t find it. And they were careful to make sure no man left with two.

So, where was it? And why was it important?

The Roman Hat Mystery revealed a different time for policing. This was in the early days of forensic, toxicology tests, and fingerprints. The characters were diverse and well developed. Watching the Queens wade through the suspects lies was a lot of fun. We can see why the series lasted so long.

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I hope you continue finding stories that will keep you on the edge of your seats.

Keep those pages turning.

Tim Suddeth