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.

Mystery Most Historical, Part Deux

mystery most historical cover

Today, I’m following up on Liz Milliron’s post, introducing authors included in Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical.

Charles Todd is the pen name of the writing partnership, Caroline and Charles Todd, a mother and son team who write two series, the Inspector Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series. The Todds bring their love of England and the period to their stories.

Mark Thielman won the 9th Annual Black Orchid Novella Award with A Meter of Murder. A former prosecutor, his story The Measured Chest, is one of the twenty-nine stories in this anthology.

Kathryn O’Sullivan recently published the fourth in her Fire Chief Colleen McCabe series set in the Outer Banks village of Corolla, North Carolina. She won Malice Domestic’s Best First Traditional Mystery.

Martin Edwards is Malice Domestic’s British friend and will be honored as the Poirot Award at this year’s convention. In addition to writing many fiction and non-fiction works including the Lake District series and an award-winning non-fiction, The Golden Age of Murder, he is the president and archivist of the famed Detection Club, a group of mystery authors formed by Agatha Christie and her crime-writing friends.

Verena Rose, a member of the Dames of Detection the publishers of Level Best Books. She edits anthologies and her story, “Death on the Dueling Grounds”, appears in this anthology.

Su Kopil is a writer of short mysteries with offbeat characters with more than thirty published stories. Find her on Goodreads at: Su Kopil Goodreads page

Kathy Lynn Emerson writes under several different genres and several different names. As Kathy Lynn Emerson, she is best known for her historical mysteries including the Face Down Mystery series. She won an Agatha for her nonfiction How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries.

John Gregory Betancourt writes science fiction, fantasy and mystery as well as short stories. In 2007, he received the Black Orchid Novella Award for his novella Horse Pit.

Victoria Thompson, is a prolific writer of mystery and romance. She is currently writing the popular Gaslight Series set in 19th century New York City.

The award-winning Vivian Lawry is a writer of short fiction as well as mystery. Most of her work is set in the Chesapeake Bay.

K. B. Owen is the author of the Concordia Wells Mysteries set in 19th century Connecticut.

Yours Truly, Keenan Powell, is publishing her first story in this anthology, “Velvet Slippers”, which was inspired by a genealogy research trip to Adams, Massachusetts.

Everyone knows Edith Maxwell the very prolific writer of five series including the popular Quaker Midwife series.

Nancy Herriman writes romance and historical mysteries. Her current series of mysteries is set in old San Francisco.

Georgia Ruth has written short stories and a non-fiction book centering on North Carolina.

If you are at Malice, hunt down Liz and me and say hello. We will be on signing the anthology Friday night and speaking on the panel Small Stories in a Big World Saturday morning. The anthology will be available to purchase at Malice. You can also order Mystery Most Historical directly from Wildside Press.




Why is Rhys Bowen Funny?

Crowned and Dangerous

Rhys Bowen is my go-to author when I need a laugh. So, in service of this month’s topic, humor, I bought her last audiobook in the Royal Spyness series, Crowned and Dangerous, and began critically listening in hopes of understanding why she’s funny.

My first point will be: it helps that she has a talented reader. Katherine Kellgren’s voice reminds me of Dudley Do-right’s girlfriend, Nell Fenwick. One just expects funny from her.

Ms. Kellgren narrates in first person as the Lady Georgianna Rannoch, the 35th person in line to the throne of England. The stories are set between the first and second world wars, a time during which, as all of who watched Downton Abbey knows, was hard on aristocrats.

Just stop and think about that for a moment. I, for one, being Irish, do not naturally feel sorry for the progeny of in-bred descendants of Norman thuggery who have dominated the social, economic and political structures of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales for centuries, yet when this one aristocrat falls on hard times, I feel sorry for her – a tribute to the author’s talent.

Georgie’s father lost the bulk of the family fortune gambling on the Riviera, so when he died, passing the title and lands to her brother, Binky, there wasn’t enough left over for Georgie. She is impoverished and must make her own way.

Nevertheless, she is up-beat, self-effacing, resourceful and self-reliant. In every story, the first question is (even before the whodunit): where is Georgie going to live and how is she going to get fed? Not naturally funny material, but the author works it. In earlier books, Georgie sometimes lived in the family’s London home without servants or heating, scrounging for income at various amusing occupations to support herself. She failed as a model. She failed as a housekeeper. She failed working the perfume counter of a department store. These situations often give rise to some amusing slap-stick like clutzy accidents in front of the Queen, or becoming entangled as she dons haute couture. And, all the while, she is dreaming of marrying her Anglo-Irish boyfriend, the charming and handsome, but penniless, Darcy O’Mara. They will live on love.

Along the way, Georgie meets an amusing cast of characters reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s comedies of society: the stingy Yorkshire innkeeper, the snobbish German countess who doesn’t understand British idioms, the slinky Polish ex-pat princess, the lecherous Frenchman, the sinister, scheming Mrs. Wallis Simpson and the overly-familiar, over-fed and incompetent maid, Queenie.

Because the tone of the books is uplifting, putting the reader in a receptive mood for humor, when the slapstick appears, it’s laugh-out-loud funny. It’s been said before: dying is easy, comedy is hard, and I don’t know how she does it. Conjuring these silly romps amongst the royals is Rhys Bowen’s talent and gift to her readers. Brava, Ms. Bowen!

So, Mysteristas: what authors make you laugh out loud?

If I Knew Then….

If it’s so good to know, why didn’t Merlin just tell Arthur what the future held for him in Once and Future King and be done with it?

Because there would be no story.

It’s the story that is important. The ending is only one part of the story. I have heard of people who read the end of the mystery first. I do not. I want to play the puzzle that the author spent a year plus of his or her life constructing for me. But I do sometimes re-read a mystery in order to study how that writer exposed and buried the clues.

Still the puzzle is only one part of the mystery story. There is the thrill of adventure. There are character arcs. We want the characters to get what they deserve whether it’s happy-ever-after or a comeuppance. I love surprises. I love the escape. Sometimes there is exposure to a new point-of-view on something that is germane to our times and I like seeing how other people think.

Girl on a Train was a big hit even though the ultimate question (“Is she going to get murdered for sticking her nose in to other people’s business?”) really wasn’t at stake at all. Unless it became apparent early that she was telling the story from beyond the grave, we knew she wasn’t going to get killed. So the thriller-style ending didn’t work for me. I liked the book otherwise. The author tracked the downward spiral of the protagonist’s alcoholism vividly.

At times, I feel like the author tried, and failed, to manipulate me by posing a mortal threat that is obviously no threat at all. Even as I watch Star Trek with my 12 year old grandson and it looks like one of the crew is in some mortal danger, he’s learned from me not to worry if the crew member is a star of the show. That actor has a contract and he’ll outlive the instant danger to appear in the next episode. Not so for the redshirts, of course, those sad unnamed crew members that get vaporized by some hostile alien. Even so, every episode is a ripping good story so I watch them.

Adrian McKinty successfully played with the mortal-threat-to-the-progat stakes in his last book in the Sean Duffy Series, Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly. He opened with bad guys taking Duffy out into the woods to be shot. The scene stops just when Duffy is pretty sure there is no way out. The next scene starts with the backstory and the book spools out the events leading up to this climactic scene. Added to the suspense was my expectation that this would be the last Duffy book. He could get shot. Authors have killed off their sleuths before to be done with them. Conan Doyle killed Sherlock. Dame Agatha killed Poirot.

But you won’t hear it from me. If you want to know if Duffy dies, buy the book.