Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Readers of Crime Fiction

Brad Parks is back at Mystery Playground today and is graciously letting us print his super official Toastmaster toast from Left Coast Crime, a benediction of sorts. The photos here were taken by Darrell Hoemann Photography. 

Delivered at Left Coast Crime Opening Ceremonies
By Brad Parks

Fellow crime fiction readers, let us bow our heads with meekness and humility... 

Oh God of Chandler and Christie, Oh Deity of Dorothy L, Oh Maker of MacDonalds – Ross and John D… We come to you today to express our thanks for the many blessings you have bestowed upon our genre.

We thank you for knitting shop owners whose places of business act as magnets for unexplained corpses... for busybody old ladies whose mah-jong groups end up having more crime-solving wherewithal than the state police... and for small towns in the Adirondacks where the body count resembles the Battle of Gettysburg.

We thank you for law enforcement officials who go rogue more often than breakaway Russian Republics... for conspiracies whose tendrils reach all the way to the White House... and for highly trained ex-special forces demolitions experts who hang out their own shingle as ham-and-egg private detectives.

We thank you that while our characters sometimes have sex, our authors have enough decorum not to describe it in forensic detail.

We thank you for strong female characters… yet we also pray fervently for the day when we can stop having to use the words “strong female character.” 

And while I’m at it, oh Elohim of elocution, can you please also retire the phrase “transcend the genre.”... And go ahead and tell certain Chilean authors that if they’re not a fan of mysteries, we’re perfectly comfortable with them not writing one.

Yes, we know you by many names, oh heavenly reader spirit. To some you are the King of Kinsey. Or the Giver of Gamache. Or the Lord of Leduc. Or the Maharajah of McCone... or the ... dangit, Pronzini, how am I supposed to do something cute and alliterative when you don’t give the detective a name!

However it is we summon your spirit, we thank you for conferences such as this one, where we can have perfectly normal conversations in the elevator about our favorite ways to administer poison... and we admit, we sort of like it when that causes the other people in the elevator to start slowly backing away from us.

At this gathering in particular, oh most holy of Hemingways, we in the congregation who call ourselves authors would like to thank you for the bar. Let me try that again: will the authors please make a joyful noise for the bar. 

Guide us, oh creator of nouns and adjectives, to fabulous debut authors whose work is ripe for discovery... to rising stars of the genre who will someday be our bestsellers... and to established authors whose work may have been unfairly overlooked—not that we’re going to mention names.

We thank you in particular for the Guests of Honor. May you bless Sue Trowbridge, who venerates so many of the authors present both in person and in web design; bless Cara Black, and see that her characters never run out of Parisian underworlds to explore; bless Sue Grafton, so that Kinsey may continue to have horrible taste in men; bless Bill Pronzini, because anyone who has written that many books needs to be blessed; bless Marcia Muller, because I have this sneaking suspicion she could kick my ass; and bless Louise Penny for not being nominated for the Lefty Award... because I believe I speak for every writer here when I say: I’ve lost enough awards to Louise already.

Let us also extol our librarians, who spread the gospel of good books, one patron at a time. Let us raise up our booksellers, who are the high priests and priestesses of our world, even though they’re often paid like monks who have taken poverty vows. Let us ordain our publishers: may they make the size of our advances be fruitful and multiply.

And whether we enjoy traditional mysteries or cutting edge thrillers, whether we like our heroes hard-boiled or soft, whether we prefer series or standalones, we thank you – above all – that our extensive reading has given us at least five foolproof ways to make a body disappear forever... because you just never know when that’s going to come in handy.

Oh alpha and omega of red herrings, may you increase our herds and our flocks and our TBR piles. May our spouses remain blissfully ignorant of just how much we spent during our last trip to the bookstore. And may you see to it the Toastmaster doesn’t go to hell for this prayer. 

May the words of my mouth, the meditations in our hearts, and the volumes on our nightstand remain acceptable in your sight. Amen. 

Brad with his newly minted Lefty

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Harry Potter Forever Stamps

I love the invention of the Forever stamps, especially not having to worry about using up all of the old stamps you found in the back of a drawer with the wrong postage on them. 

And these limited edition Harry Potter stamps from the postal service have made Forever stamps fun.

They come in a cute booklet of twenty and they'd make a great stocking stuffer (I know it's only April, but I plan these things all year round.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Mob Museum

Kim Hammond tells us all about her visit to the Mob Museum in Vegas. (You can also read all about her report on the CSI Experience in Vegas).

I don’t go to Vegas for the gambling. I like the weather,  shows and sights to see. This fun-filled girls’ weekend included a trip to the Mob Museum.

I can’t think of the origins of Las Vegas without thinking of organized crime. American organized crime figures such as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Meyer Lansky managed or funded most of the original large casinos in Vegas back in the day. The mob had its hand in everything and the stories are numerous and interesting, some embellished, but many true.

What better place to open The Mob Museum (The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement™) and what better location that two blocks from Fremont Street, where Vegas got its start. The museum is full of over 500 artifacts, 3D holograms and live actors dressed in period outfits.

The building alone is a sight to see. The museum is located in the former federal courthouse and U.S. Post Office and is on both the Nevada and National Registers of Historic Places.  One of the unique things about this museum is that it tells the story from both sides, the police and the criminals. The museum worked with the FBI and many undercover agents, including legendary agents Joe Pistone who infiltrated the Mob posing as a small time jewel thief, Donnie Brasco; and Cuban-born Jack Garcia who was with the Gambino family.

Visitors can shoot a simulated Tommy gun, listen to real FBI surveillance tapes on wiretapping equipment and take part in FBI weapons training. You can even host a private party there and they were setting up for one while we were visiting.  What a fabulous time. Don’t forget to stop in the gift shop for some unique items.

To find out more go to

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Judith Leiber Stacks of Books

Judith Leiber is known for her crystal covered handbags that come in whimsical shapes. I do love a fun handbag and book inspired clutches are among my favorites. These Judith Leiber book inspired clutches are fabulous to look at, but more than pricey, even on the secondhand market. The designs are fun though, especially the bag above. So colorful and detailed. You can see a bigger photo of the side of the bag directly below. 

Side of the book above

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan

Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan is the 5th in the Mattie Winston Mystery series about a small-town coroner who'll investigate the death of a nursing home owner.

Mattie Winston is a nurse-turned-coroner by profession, living in a small town in Wisconsin. Mattie is tough, never dainty, and sweet on Steve Hurley, a local homicide detective whose ex-wife, Kate, just moved back in with him. When Kate shows up on his doorstep, Hurley finds out that she’s not so much his ex-wife as his current wife (since she never signed the divorce papers) and she’s not so much alone, as she's traveling with the 15 year-old daughter that he never knew he had. Feeling bad, Hurley lets them stay with him, causing Mattie to enter a downward slide. Losing your boyfriend is one thing, but finding out he’s still married and has a daughter is more than most people can handle.

As the story opens, we find Mattie attending a mandatory therapy session, ordered by her boss, Izzy, at the coroner’s office. It’s a requirement to getting her old job back, which she desperately wants. She might as well work for the coroner if she’s not going to date Hurley. Since they broke up, the conflict of interest issue is a moot point. In addition, she’s been spending a little too much time at the casino, and kind of needs to stop.

You can read the rest at Criminal Element

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Fistful of Collars and Bourbon Plain & Simple

Sue Carpenter joins us today to match the book A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn to Bourbon Plain & Simple. Sue is on the committee for Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery convention. 

Here's a little background on A Fistful of Collars:

Hoping to bring some Tinseltown money to the Valley, the mayor lures a movie studio to town to shoot their next production, a big-budget Western in the classic tradition. The star is none other than ruggedly handsome—and notoriously badly behaved—Thad Perry. When the mayor decides that someone needs to keep an eye on Thad so that he doesn’t get into too much trouble, Bernie and Chet are handpicked for the job. The money is good but something smells fishy, and what should have been a simple matter of babysitting soon gets more complicated—especially when they discover that Thad has a mysterious connection to the Valley that nobody wants to talk about. What kind of secret could Thad have left behind when he went to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune? The only people who might know the answer have a bad habit of turning up dead before they can talk.

As Bernie’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend Suzie goes long-distance, and Chet’s late-night assignations appear to have resulted in an unexpected dividend, it’s all our two sleuths can do to keep Thad and his motley entourage of yes-men, handlers, and hangers-on in their sights. Worst of all, Thad is a self-proclaimed cat person, and his feline friend Brando has taken an instant dislike to Chet.

Like the winning books before it, this fifth book in the series combines a top-notch mystery with genuine humor and a perceptive take on the relationship between human and dog that will stay with you long after the case is solved.

Here's what Sue has to say:

A Fistful of Collars is a great blend of good mystery and humor. The main characters, Chet (a dog) and Bernie, are the perfect team even if both of them are bit flawed. They are both dedicated to their profession and one another. Seeing the action through Chet's eyes makes for an easy and totally enjoyable read. I laughed out loud throughout this book. If you need a humorous escape and have a great sense of humor, I highly recommend A Fistful of Collars

Bernie is a bourbon guy and it fits him. Plain, simple and gets the job done. Chet’s favorite smell is a mixture of bourbon, pepper and sweat, which is how his favorite human Bernie smells. 

You don't even need the recipe for Bourbon Plain & Simple which is really the point, just pour it in a glass at room temperature and enjoy! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Library Notecards

In celebration of National Librarian Day yesterday our craft today is library note cards. We made these out of the check out pages from damaged books withdrawn from our local library, but you can use any type of paper -- even children's drawings (we've made them with Nancy Drew illustrations, too). 

Materials & Tools:

  • Blank note cards (I got these at Michaels)
  • Photo corners (also purchased at Michaels)
  • Paper trimmer (you can use scissors but it's hard to get perfectly straight cuts
  • Card catalogue pages from damaged and withdrawn books from the local library sale (don't use these pages from library books still in circulation.)
  • An Exacto knife

Step One: Cut out your book page (I use the exact knife for this). Then use the paper trimmer to cut it to the right size with clean straight edges.

Step Two: Use photo corners to attach to the card. And you're done!