Next to Justice, I Like Winning Best.

Matlock said that. matlockx-large

I like winning. I like winning a lot.

In my “day” job, I’m a litigation attorney. After doing court appointed work representing indigent accused earlier in my career, a noble job by the way, I figured out pretty quick that getting laughed at by prosecutors and cops was a drag.

Attorneys have a very clear idea about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are and I wanted to be a good guy. Mind you, I have nothing but respect for those who choose to defend the indigent accused. Spending one’s weekends visiting jails is a drag. The people you meet are often not very uplifting creatures. And the pay is awful.

One of my major shortcomings is that I like being the good guy. And so I worked in different areas of law, mostly in sole practice where I had no one but myself, the IRS, a ton of creditors and my kids to answer to, but I have learned that you don’t have to sell your soul to practice law. You can work the kinds of cases that you feel good about and make money too. Maybe not as much money as when you sell your soul but the trade off is worth it.

Nowadays I represent injured employees who have been treated unfairly by workers compensation insurance companies. And I do love winning those cases. So much so that Ifist-pump blog on my attorney website about it, post this little man, repost it on Facebook and then boost the post. I know for a fact insurance adjusters follow my FB page and so I am sending them a very direct message.

Because I love to gloat.

There is only one downside with owning your wins is that you have to own your losses too. Or you develop a zen-kind of philosophy that you not your wins or losses, that you are a human being — as are those sad insurance defense attorneys and adjusters I beat — and what I do is what I do, not what I am.

I’m sure I’m not alone. I bet you like to gloat too. Admit it. It feels good when you find an incorrect charge on your credit card and you’re successful in having it removed. Or when you dispute a traffic ticket and win. Or when you talk down a car dealer on his price or negotiate a favorable price for buying or selling your house. Or an agent signs you. Or a publisher signs you. Or you win a writing prize. Or your short story gets picked up.  Don’t you tell everyone you know? Because we’re only human.

And vindication feels oh so good. Better than chocolate.

What about you? What wins are you most proud of?

 

Father Brown

I am enchanted with the BBC mystery series, Father Brown. Seasons 1-5 are available on Netflix.

father-brown

Father Brown is a priest in a charming English village. He is a mild-mannered, but headstrong, with the super power of connecting with bad guys’ need for redemption. Mark Williams, who you will remember as Ron Weasley’s father in Harry Potter, plays the Father.  His memorable eccentricities include riding around the village on a bike and carrying an umbrella everywhere he goes — although it apparently never rains in that part of England (it must be somewhere near Camelot).

Sorcha Cusack plays Mrs. McCarthy, the parish secretary. She may look familiar to you if you watch a lot of British mysteries, as her sisters, Sinead and Niamh, have appeared in Poirot, Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders. They look enough alike that I thought they were one person at different stages of her life until I jumped on Google.

There are various Watson-types besides Mrs. McCarthy that change up during the course of the show. Two of my favorites are Lady Felicia and her chauffer Sid. Lady Felicia is appropriately pictured here in red as she is a married lady who doesn’t act like one. She and Mrs. McCarthy tend to bicker like sisters. The roguish Sid is a former criminal, or maybe not so formal, who has the ability to go where the Father and the ladies cannot go. One of my favorite episodes was when he went undercover in a seminary.

The frustrated cop who tells Father not to do something when he should know that is exactly what Father is going to do changes from season to season. The name of the character is different and the actors are different but the role is defined by the function so, like Inspector Barnaby’s sidekicks, the characterization varies little.

Readers, what British mystery series is your favorite? Is there a character you especially like?

Grantchester

GRANTCHESTER_EPISODE2_02.JPGI, for one, am thrilled about the new season of Grantchester from our friends across the pond. I just want to take Sidney home, feed him a warm bowl of soup and wrap him up in a blanket.

And I want to slap Geordie around the head and shoulders with a wet dishtowel. An old, stinky dishtowel.

And sweet Leonard, another character I’d feed warm soup to and wrap up in a blanket. I want to keep him safe and tell him everything is going to be alright. I’d marry him and we could be lovely friends, going to bingo together, reading, going for walks.

Readers: who is your favorite Grantchester character?

Grumpy Fries & Crazy Lies – Final Episode

Man, did my head hurt. I remembered hearing footsteps creeping up behind me. Then, crash, bam, disco lights! I was out. Someone had bashed me in the head. As I came to, the computer screen in front of me flickered with the story I’d been reading when I first heard the ruckus.

Ater Detective Delicious cleared me, I came back to my office. A deadline is a deadline, after all. But I couldn’t get back to my story until I solved Grumpy’s murder. So I pulled out a legal pad and listed the suspects and evidence just like my favorite Belgian detective would have:

Merry Gooseberry, the Granny Berry heir, her fortune threatened by the tainted food scandal. Lawsuits, FDA investigations and plant closure would ruin her. She could have planted the shoe and the glitter to frame Claudia Fries. But why kill Grumpy?

Claudia Fries, Grumpy’s daughter. She had the glitter, and the ladies’ canvas shoe was her size. But what motive? She and her father got along, and he didn’t have anything to leave her, the poor old man.

Claudia’s brother, Elton, claimed he found his father dead, but did he? Or did he kill him? Grumpy was alive and well early this morning when I talked to him. Again, no known motive.

Aloysius Everslam, that here-today, gone-tomorrow slimeball with a violent streak. Alo had cans of applesauce. But was he stupid enough to keep the evidence?

Besides Grumpy would never have eaten apples because he knew he was allergic. No, he was poisoned some other way and after he died, the applesauce was poured on him to confuse the cops.

He must have smoked the poison. Anyone could have easily put something in his pipe tobacco.

What about the pipe smoke? Even though Grumpy was one-legged, he still got around. The remnants of pipe smoke were at Claudia’s and Alo’s so he must have gone to their places. But none of them mentioned a visit. Maybe they didn’t know he’d come around. Maybe Grumpy wasn’t looking for them. Maybe he was looking for someone else.

Duncan. Duncan, Claudia’s ex. Duncan, Alo’s ex. Grumpy would have gone to both those places looking for Duncan. Duncan, who no one’s seen since the Blue Parrot incident.

“Duncan,” I whispered as I fingered the warm, pulpy bump my skull.

“That’s right, Sugartoes.” I turned to find Duncan Meadows crouching beneath the window overlooking my backyard. He was skinny, dirty and bearded from living on the run. And he reeked of pipe tobacco. “I seen that cop prowling in your yard and I didn’t want him catching me. Not just yet. Not until I get my story told.”

“You trashed the Blue Parrot to get back at the Gooseberry family because they own it, right?”

“I knew you’d figured it out sooner or later. Merry set me up to take the fall for the tainted sauce. Right after you left, the old man started hacking and coughing and fell over dead. That’s when I split.”

“What about the applesauce and glitter?”

“I don’t know nothing about applesauce or glitter. I high-tailed it out back.”

“So if you didn’t call the cops, who did? Must have been the person who dumped the sauce and glitter all over Grumpy.”

“Merry,” we both said.

I grabbed my cell phone, saw I’d missed a call from Detective Divine and I thumbed call-back. He answered on the first ring.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“At the Blue Parrot.”

“Order me a Shirley Temple. I’m on my way.”

When Duncan and I arrived, the luscious cop, his sidekick and Claudia and Elton Fries were sitting at the bar. Upon seeing Duncan, Sterling reached for his cuffs. I held up a hand. “Wait until you hear what he has to say.”

Duncan saddled into an empty spot, slugged down my Shirley Temple and belched. “I was the plant manager at Granny’s. When the food went bad, Merry blamed me, can you believe that? It wasn’t me. It was her.”

“She poisoned her own factory?” Sterling asked.

“Sure, the property is worth way more than the company ever was. All she had to do was convince them to close the plant and sell the land. The IRS was about to audit the books and find out about the money she stole. She figured all her problems would go away if the plant shut down. She knew I knew so I had to hide out until my story got told.”

“But why kill Grumpy?” Sterling asked.

Duncan ate the Shirley Temple’s maraschino cherry. “He saw everything that happened on that street, sitting there day in and day out on his porch. She must’ve figured he’d seen something, like maybe her sneaking out in the middle of the night when the factory got poisoned. Not knowing he was allergic, she tried to make it look like he died of the same applesauce poisoning and set it up to look like Claudia had offed her own father so she could sue Granny Berry. Persy, did he tell you anything?”

“You talked to Grumpy!” Sterling was not wearing his happy look.

“This morning,” I said. “I went over to borrow some coffee.”

Just then, a white van sputtered down the road. It made a big bang, belched black smoke, and slowed to a stop.

“Damn,” Elton said. “I forgot to add oil. Meant to do that after I talked to my dad. But after I found him dead, I took off running and forgot all about it. Guess I left the keys in the ignition.”

We watched as Merry jumped out of the van and tried running in four-inch heels, a heavy tote bag slung across her shoulder. In less than a yard, she turned her ankle and fell.

“Must have gone back to get the proof she was ripping off the company,” Duncan said. By then, Merry was on her feet again, limping down the road.

“Must have,” Sterling said as he and the sidekick pulled themselves off their bar stools. Just as Detective Darling pulled open the door, he turned back, and said to me, “I’ll pick you up in a couple of hours.”

He gave me a wink. “Wear something sexy.”

 

Busted! Arresting Stories from the Beat

 

Busted!Busted! Arresting Stories from the Beat edited by Verena Rose, Harriett Sackler and Shawn Reilly Simmons was published in May of 2017 by Level Best Books.

It is an anthology of thirty-one short stories written about or by police. The first story, a psychological thriller entitled “Bygones” was written by Bruce Robert Coffin, a retired detective sergeant from Portland Main and author of the Detective Byron Mystery Series. The last story, “Bad Friday” was written by award-winning British writer Martin Edwards, who has authored mystery series and the acclaimed The Golden Age of Murder, and is so accomplished he has his own Wikipedia page.

Authors include Jack Bates, Micki Browning, Leone Ciporin, Bruce Robert Coffin, Randall DeWitt, Sharon Daynard, Peter DiChellis, Martin Edwards, Sanford Emerson, Tracy Falenwolfe, Kate Clark Flora, Gavin Keenan, CC Guthrie, LD Masterson, Steve Liskow, Cyndy Edwards Lively, Ruth McCarty, Alison McMahan, Claire A. Murray, Dale T. Phillips, AB Polomski, Keenan Powell, KM Rockwood, Verena Rose, Steve Roy, Harriette Sackler, Brenda Seabrooke, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Albert Tucher, Kari Wainwrigth and Vicki Weisfeld.

The stories run the gamut from period pieces including my “Cattle Raid of Adams” to female officers to modern-day issues of gang violence, homelessness, returning veterans to small-town cops, and animals.

Anthologies are a great way to spend a few minutes immersed in a story when you don’t want to commit to reading a full novel, and a great way to meet new authors. It’s perfect for carrying around in your bag for those periods of lounging in doctor’s offices, airports, in the plane, or by the pool or beach.

Pick up your copy of Busted! through Amazon.

Seeds of Inspiration

Two of my short stories were published this month. In the “The Velvet Slippers”, housekeeper Mildred Munz plots a solution to intolerable work conditions.

Liam Barrett, first generation Irish American and a police officer, makes his debut in “The Cattle Raid of Adams”. Liam has set aside his personal ambition and taken on the responsibility of supporting his widowed mother and siblings following the death of his father. He must solve the riddle of a disappearing bull while dealing with a headstrong younger brother.Child workers N. Adams MA

These two short stories are set during the Gilded Age in Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts. Located in the northern Berkshires, this is the place where my Irish ancestors settled after immigrating in the 1860’s. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s it was home to the cotton mills where Lewis Hines photographed working children, bringing national attention to child labor and the adoption of child labor laws.

During a genealogy-research trip to Adams a few years ago, I was struck by the charm of the two towns, and their proximity to Pittsfield and Lenox. At the same time children were laboring in cotton mills, the nouveau riche and at least one robber baron lived in “summer cottages” just a few miles away.

By the time Hines took this photo in North Adams, circa 1911, my family no longer worked in the mills although in the previous century, most of the Gannon and Barrett children went to work when they were fourteen years old. By the time this photo was taken, my family, still in Adams, owned bars, dress shops and farms. One of my grandfather’s cousins built the Barrett hotel now the Barrett House, across the street from the railway station, where it still stands today.

It was these conditions that led to the rise of unions, the Molly Maguires and the Pinkertons. You can imagine how the proximity of these two populations, the robber barons next door to the immigrant laborers, was fraught with tension and ripe with inspiration. This summer, I will be working on Book I in the Liam Barrett series.

Mysteristas: what are you summer writing plans?

Malice Domestic 29

Before I get into the uniquely joyous celebration that is Malice Domestic, I want to tell you about who will be honored at Malice 30 (mark your calendars for Bethesda, Maryland, April 27-29, 2018):

Louise Penney, Guest of HonorMalice Dessert

Catriona McPherson, Toastmaster

Nancy Pickard, Lifetime Achievement

David Suchet, Amelia Award

Janet Blizard, Fan Guest of Honor

Robin Hathaway, Malice Remembers.

My Malice was a bit different that Mary Sutton’s and it only goes to show that you can create any experience that you want from the compendium that is offered. This is my third convention and I decided to volunteer as a monitor. The monitor is the guy in the back of the room with signs that say “10” and “5” to remind the moderator of the time.

Being monitor didn’t get me into any special panels; all the panels are open to everyone. What it did was get me to the panels that I had wanted to see and prevented me from giving in to the lure of napping after 12 hours of travel, a 4 hour time change and serious jet lag. Who needs to sleep? I have 51 weeks to sleep before Malice 30. It also was an opportunity to get to know the wonderful people who put on Malice.

The panels I saw included: Simply the Best (Agatha Best Contemporary Novel Nominees) moderated by Shawn Reilly Simmons with panelists Ellen Byron, Catriona McPherson, Barbara Ross and Hank Phillipi Ryan. Another great panel was New Kids on the Block (Agatha Best First Novel) moderated by Harriette Sackler and with panelists Marla Cooper, Mysterista alum Cynthia Kuhn, Nadine Nettman, and Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan). Not only was it encouraging to see Cynthia up there, but Nadine Nettman told the most inspiring story. Having written five books over ten years and having received 451 rejections, her debut was nominated first best. I should only live so long.

Mary Sutton and I had a cracking good time on Small Stories in a Big World panel moderated by Kaye George. We were joined by Debra H. Goldstein, Eleanor Cawood Jones and Kathryn O’Sullivan.

Charlene Harris, mystery goddess and author of the Sookie Stackhouse series that became the TV show True Blood and who now has one television series, Midnight in Texas, about to air on NBC and two movies on the Hallmark channel, was interviewed in a separate event. What a delightful and real lady!

If you go, definitely go to the interviews. Tiny little tidbits fall from the mouths of these giants shifted the ground upon which I stand. For instance, Charlene Harris had two series her publisher “didn’t continue” and Marcia Talley was orphaned when her publisher went out of business. But, they’re still standing! The story of mystery and mystery writers is the story of overcoming obstacles.

The best thing I remember about Malice is the laughter. We laughed from the Opening Ceremonies through to the Agatha Tea and Closing Ceremonies celebrating the genre that we love.

And, yet again, we got a really great dessert at the banquet. Chocolate mousse and cake and sinful. It’s definitely worth dieting all year for.