Better Lock the Door

Month: March 2022

John D. MacDonald

by Tim Suddeth

John D. MacDonald was one of the most prolific and acclaimed American writers. He is best known for his Travis McGee series and the many TV shows taken from his writing. Stephen King praised MacDonald as “The great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”

John D. MacDonald's first Travis McGee novel

The Deep Blue Good-by

But he cut his chops by writing for numerous pulp magazines in the 30s and 40s. He wrote over 500 short stories for over 20 magazines and under several pseudonyms. Between the years 1945 to 1986, he sold an estimated 70 million books, third in detective fiction behind Perry Mason and Mickey Spillane.


Early Years, Education, and Military

John D. MacDonald, known to his friend as John D., was born in 1916 in Sharon, Pennsylvania. When he was 18 (1934), he spent several weeks in Europe, creating a love for travel and photography.

He attended Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, leaving during his sophomore year. He later went to Syracuse University, where he met his future wife, Dorothy Prentiss. They married in 1937 and he graduated from Syracuse in 1938. In 1939, he got his MBA from Harvard University. The education he received in business and economic shows in some of his later work. Continue reading

Daughter of the Morning Star by Craig Johnson

Reviewed by Tim Suddeth


Daughter of the Morning Star

Daughter of the Morning Star by Craig Johnson

Daughter of the Morning Star (Viking, 2021) is Craig Johnson’s 17th novel in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series. The fictional Walt Longmire is the sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming, “the least populated county in the least populated state in the union.” The series has been the basis of the Longmire series on A&E/Netflix.

Longmire grew up in Absaroka County and played football at the University of Southern California. He and served in the Marine Corps as a military police officer where he earned several medals. Throughout the series, we’ve seen several of his relationships change. But one that has stood true is with his high school friend, Henry Standing Bear. Standing Bear is a giant of a man who is an integral part of the Native American culture.

In Daughter of the Morning Star, Tribal Police Chief Lolo Long contact Longmire to look into the threatening letters to her niece, Jaya ‘Longbow’ Long. Since Jaya’s sister went missing the summer before, Long’s worried that the threats may be more than just kids having fun. Continue reading

Reacher or Hardboiled, here’s a little something for everyone

Opening a Mystery welcomes you and we hope we have a little something for everyone. Spring is coming. The clock has changed. Now we actually have an afternoon to enjoy. If you’ve been coming home from work in the dark, I’m sure you are doubly happy.

We are seeing a great time to be a crime fiction lover. Whether it is people looking back at the classics, or the number of future best-sellers that are coming out in the next few weeks, there is a little something, whether a book or a show, for everyone.

Reacher TV series on Amazon

Lee Cobb’s Reacher

Let’s start with Lee Lofland’s review of the first episode of Reacher. Reacher is the hero created by Lee Child, a powerful, quiet, no-nonsense type of guy. When trouble finds him, trouble is always sorry.

Lee Lofland is a former police investigator, former police academy instructor trainer, and acts as a consultant for several best-selling authors. He is also the founder and host for the Writers Police Academy. The Academy is a chance for authors to meet and receive training from trainers for law enforcement officers. I got to go to it a few years ago, and it was a blast. Continue reading

Canine Mystery Novels

Canine mystery officer

K-9 Detective

Canine mystery stories have long been popular with dog lovers and mystery readers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us, considering how many people passionately love their pups, whether they’re the size of a rodent or a VW bug. In my house, our two little ankle biters are a huge part of our family. No discussion. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

A canine mystery usually represents a dog in one of three ways, as a pet, as a dog on a job (K-9s), or telling the story from their point of view.

Humans often have a special connection with their dogs. Our first two dogs, sisters from different litters, had very different personalities. The youngest, a black miniature schnauzer, was nervous and became so attached to me she didn’t want anyone else, including our other dog, near me.

But the other dog, Polly, a salt-and-pepper, loved everyone and other dogs. She seemed to have a connection where she knew when to play and when we needed just to chill. When we had a death in our family, she was the one who climbed on the couch beside us and laid her head on our laps.

Some dogs just have that special connection. And that works well with the emotions characters encounter in dog mystery or K-9 mystery stories. Continue reading

How Do Writers Find Time To Write?

How do writers find time to write? Ooo, this should be good. I think this is one of the most popular questions that writers ask themselves. Right up there with ‘Am I really a writer?’

So, let me share two interviews with writers who have find the precious time that feels like getting water out of a rock.

The first is David Heska Wanbli Weiden. His debut novel, Winter Counts, which won several awards for Best First Novel. He holds an MFA degree, a law degree, and a Ph.D. Dr. Weiden is a tenured professor of Native American Studies and Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He teaches MFA classes on the side and is a father of two sons.

In this interview at CrimeReads, Dr, Weiden tells why he started writing while being a professor and describes his writing routine while teaching classes and mentoring students. A great illustration of a driven man and father finding time to achieve a dream.

Over on The Murder Memo, Danny Smith interviewed Linda Healy who was one of the first women in the California Highway Patrol Academy. Her memoir, The Experiment (2022), chronicles her rise from meter maid to a commander in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. You can listen to the interview here.

Now, excuse me. I need to get back to writing.

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