Sunday, June 30, 2013

Adam Scott, Amy Poehler & Hart to Hart





Love this parody of the Hart to Hart TV show intro with Adam Scott and Amy Poehler. For those of you who don't remember, Hart to Hart was a mystery series that ran in the late seventies early eighties about a rich couple who liked to solve murders in-between shopping trips. They were quite good at it. The show starred Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers. 


Last year Adam Scott did another side by side parody of the show Simon and Simon with Jon Hamm. Simon and Simon was a show about two private eye brothers. Love this one as well. 


If you get Mystery Playground updates via e-mail, you have go to the site to see the videos.



Saturday, June 29, 2013

Police Car Circa 1968



Stumbled upon this restored 1968 Ford Custom 500 police car on display the Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend by the Menlo Park Police. The car wasn't actually used in Menlo Park. It was a police car used by another city's police department although identical to what the Menlo Park police had at that time. Any any event, its a lovely working car with a V8 engine it's 1968 radar restored.



The vehicle is privately owned by Communications Officer Darryl M. Lindsay. Thank you for sharing your vehicle with us Officer Lindsay. 


Friday, June 28, 2013

Faves: Deadly Appraisal, Antiques to Die For, Dolled Up for Murder


All summer long Mystery Playground is featuring Friday guest bloggers who recommend a book with a matching drink. Today's guest post is by Siobhan Nash, the woman behind the fabulous food blog, Food Fixe



I discovered Jane Cleland's Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series last year when I was on medical leave and doing a lot of reading. For me, Deadly Appraisal was like reconnecting with an old friend. I have long been a lover of mysteries, starting with Nancy Drew when I was a girl. At some point, though, mysteries and I lost touch. But that's the beautiful thing about a true friendship, you can always pick right up no matter how much time has passed. And in Josie Prescott, I had found a new friend. 

Deadly Appraisal is the first book I read; however, it’s the second book in this cozy mystery series. As often happens, I will discover a book only to find that it's part of a series—and not the first one in the series. Fortunately, Jane Cleland does an excellent job of providing enough backstory to keep you from feeling lost or left out. Here’s the premise:

Josie Prescott is an antiques appraiser who, after blowing the whistle on her employer (a high-end antiques auction house in New York City) for price fixing, moves to Rocky Point, New Hampshire and opens her own antiques business. As seems to be the case with all small Eastern seaboard town (Cabot Cove, Maine, anyone?), there is a steady stream of murders—all of which touch Josie’s life in some way.



Although I chose Deadly Appraisal for my summer reading recommendation, I’ve really enjoyed all the books in the series. The plots are well developed and the characters engaging, especially Josie. In addition to living the life I dream of (minus the murders), she (like me) loves a good cocktail and likes to mix it up—from a simple Bombay Sapphire on the rocks to the more exotic Guavatini and Cherry Blossom.  

Champagne and bourbon haven’t made an appearance as one of Josie’s cocktails, yet. However, they are two of my favorite spirits and when I saw a recipe for a Champagne Mint Julep, I knew I had to try it. I tweaked the recipe, adding a touch of sweetness. The result is a cocktail that’s not too strong, not too minty, and with just enough effervescence. I hope you enjoy it. 


Champagne Mint Julep 
(Makes 1 cocktail)

8 mint leaves, or to taste
2 teaspoons simple syrup, or to taste
1 ounce bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
Champagne or sparkling wine, to fill
Mint sprigs, for garnish


Twist the 8 mint leaves to release their oil and add to a champagne flute. Add the simple syrup and gently muddle with a spoon. Add the bourbon to the glass and then top off with champagne or sparkling wine. Add a sprig of mint for garnish. Cheers!

Don't forget to visit Siobhan's blog, FoodFixe. I love the recipes here. Great food and the directions are clear and easy to follow. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller



Since the 4th July is coming up, I thought it might be time to throw a little non-fiction of the presidential kind in the mix. Specifically, Scott Miller's fabulous book about the the story behind the assassination of President William McKinley. Granted this isn't our usual fare at Mystery Playground, but it's incredibly well written and interesting to read. The book is just out in paperback after a hugely successful run in hardback. 

Here's the description for the President and the Assassin:

In 1901, as America tallied its gains from a period of unprecedented imperial expansion, an assassin’s bullet shattered the nation’s confidence. The shocking murder of President William McKinley threw into stark relief the emerging new world order of what would come to be known as the American Century. The President and the Assassin is the story of the momentous years leading up to that event, and of the very different paths that brought together two of the most compelling figures of the era: President William McKinley and Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who murdered him. 
The two men seemed to live in eerily parallel Americas. McKinley was to his contemporaries an enigma, a president whose conflicted feelings about imperialism reflected the country’s own. Under its popular Republican commander-in-chief, the United States was undergoing an uneasy transition from a simple agrarian society to an industrial powerhouse spreading its influence overseas by force of arms. Czolgosz was on the losing end of the economic changes taking place—a first-generation Polish immigrant and factory worker sickened by a government that seemed focused solely on making the rich richer. With a deft narrative hand, journalist Scott Miller chronicles how these two men, each pursuing what he considered the right and honorable path, collided in violence at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. 
Along the way, readers meet a veritable who’s who of turn-of-the-century America: John Hay, McKinley’s visionary secretary of state, whose diplomatic efforts paved the way for a half century of Western exploitation of China; Emma Goldman, the radical anarchist whose incendiary rhetoric inspired Czolgosz to dare the unthinkable; and Theodore Roosevelt, the vainglorious vice president whose 1898 charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba is but one of many thrilling military adventures recounted here.  
Rich with relevance to our own era, The President and the Assassin holds a mirror up to a fascinating period of upheaval when the titans of industry grew fat, speculators sought fortune abroad, and desperate souls turned to terrorism in a vain attempt to thwart the juggernaut of change.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Carl Hiaasen and Bad Monkey


Today's guest post is by Kerry Hammond.



I attended an author talk and book signing with Carl Hiaasen at Denver's The Tattered Cover bookstore.  I am pleased to report that almost half of the people who came out to see Carl were men. I know that there are a lot of men out there who read fiction, but rarely see many attend book signings.  So at first I began to wonder: why here, why now, why did all the men come out for this specific event?  Then Carl opened his mouth and I realized that he is just as funny in person as he is in his books.  

He even promised that his latest book Bad Monkey is “just as depraved as the others.”  If you’ve read any of his work, you not only know what he means, but you’re thrilled at the same time. 

Carl is a native and resident of Florida who writes a regular column for the Miami Herald.  In addition to his newspaper career, he’s written young adult fiction, non-fiction, 14 novels on his own, 3 novels he co-wrote with Bill Montalbano, and even a short story.  (Hopefully I haven’t left anything out.) One of his books, Striptease, was made into a movie starring Burt Reynolds and Demi Moore, and there have been other movie options on his later books, but he’s not holding his breath.

His novels have such a deranged and interesting sense of humor that you can’t help but love them. His characters are like none you’ve ever read before, but sometimes resemble people you know.  He told us that he often gets comments about his characters and everyone wants to know if they’re based on real people.  Although he didn’t admit to any being exact replicas, he did say that he often uses personality traits of people he knows when creating his colorful characters.





His latest work, Bad Monkey, involves Medicare fraud, something that Florida faces in the real world. His main character, Andrew Yancy, is a Police Detective who has lost his badge and been demoted to Health Inspector (or roach counter as Carl puts it). Readers can look forward to reading this book to find out more about the severed arm Yancy has in his freezer, a voodoo doctor in the Bahamas, and of course, the bad monkey. According to Carl, monkeys often get a bad rap in movies and TV (think The Hangover). They can be ornery creatures and he decided he wanted to create a character with a back story. One whose actions could be explained by his past experiences. No, you didn’t skip a paragraph, we’re still talking about a monkey.

I can’t wait to start reading this book, I’m just dying to find out more about this monkey.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

You Can Be a Character in a "Rizzoli & Isles" Thriller




Author Tess Garritsen is giving away great prizes to raise money for Alzheimer's research at the Scripts Research Institute. Each donation gets you a chance to win prizes including a character named after you in Tess' next "Rizzoli & Isles" thriller. That would be very fun.

Her goal is $25,000 and she's got about $5000 more to raise. The donation page is here


EACH $5 DONATION ($25 donation = 5 chances) ENTERS YOU IN A RAFFLE TO WIN:

TWO GRAND PRIZES
- Two opportunities to name a character in Tess’ next “Rizzoli & Isles” thriller, coming in 2014. The named character’s role in the story is up to the discretion of the author.

Three runners-up “Rizzoli & Isles” prize packages including: 
- Signed copy of Tess’ most recent hardcover, LAST TO DIE
- “Rizzoli & Isles” baseball cap, tee shirt and surgical scrub top

- Handcuff earrings

Don't forget that Tess is also a Guest of Honor at the world's largest mystery convention this year - Bouchercon. It's in Albany, NY in September and there are more details about the conference here

Note:
If you are receiving Mystery Playground via e-mail you will have to click the link to go back to the blog to view the video. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mixing It Up with Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg


Today's guest post is from the fabulous Kim Hammond


What do you get when you cross Stephanie Plum and Mr. Monk? THE HEIST, a book by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, two very successful authors. After being friends for many years, they decided over beer and pizza that they liked the idea of working together. As Evanovich described it to CBS news:

"We were...going over our bucket list of writing projects we never got to do and it turns out we both wanted the same thing."

The writers corresponded via email and the phone on their drafts with Evanovich doing the final polish on the book. 






THE HEIST tells the story of a cat-and-mouse game between a former Navy SEAL and the conman she can't stop thinking about. FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job. Her boss thinks she is dedicated and ambitious and her friends think she’s obsessed. While Kate has made a name for herself for the past five years the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants, in more ways than she should.

Nicolas Fox is a con man who runs elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. Just when it seems that he has been captured for good, he surprises everyone and convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.
  (You can read the first chapter here.)


The book was released on June 18, 2013 and the two authors strode into the Barnes & Noble at Crocker Park, outside of Cleveland, Ohio to rowdy cheers. Since this was such a big event you had to check in and get a number. I had pink #35. Not too bad I thought, until the man said I was the fourth color in line. There were 234 people ahead of me. Ouch.

I trudged to the designated “pink” standing section to take my spot, while mentally calculating how much time I had on my meter. We were on the first floor and the signing was taking place on the 2nd floor. I could see a line of people running around the entire perimeter of the second floor, guided by special green balloons flying high and made just for the occasion, saying "THE HEIST”.

Fortunately my group got to stand near the cards and journals so most of us milled around, shopping of course. Before you ask, yes, I did purchase a few things too. I think this might have been B&N’s secret plot to sell more this evening.

Thirty minutes later a cheery barista from the on-sight café brought over a tray of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, gratis. Brilliant again B&N. While time ticked by you could hear snippets of conversation. People trading favorite Monk episodes and Stephanie Plum moments.  There was very little grumbling and we excitedly watched the signing taking place above us.

I was fortunate to have met Evanovich 7 years earlier at Sleuthfest in Florida. It was a small venue so I was actually able to chat with her and get a few books signed. But I had never met Goldberg and Monk is one of my favorite shows. My sister’s also a huge fan and she mailed me a few of her Monk books from Denver so that I could get them signed for her.




We got the high sign from our “pink handler” that we could head up the escalator and there were cheers and smiles all around. Unfortunately the next book section was Biography so we had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. After about 40 minutes we were in the home stretch. Sticky notes were handed out so you could write down your name for personalization and we were told to have the book(s) open to the correct page and ready. The pressure was enormous, no room for error. They wanted to get the authors done at a decent time so there wasn’t a lot of lingering. But you could still take pictures and there was no limit on the number of books to get singed (I had five). 



Three hours after I arrived I had my booty and was heading to my car with meter time to spare. Hats off to B&N for a smooth signing under pressure. They had called in extra employees from other stores for crowd control and were efficient and orderly. 


In case you live under a rock and don’t know who these authors are: Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Stephanie Plum series.  Lee Goldberg is the best-selling author of the Monk series, as well as a screenwriter and producer. He has served as a board member for the Mystery Writers of America has earned two Edgar Award nominations for his television writing and was the 2012 recipient of the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sad Cat Diary



This video of sad cats complaining about such tragedies as "the authorities" leaving their food bowls half filled is just too funny to miss.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nathan Fillion in Monsters University


Castle and Serenity fans will recognize the voice of one of characters in Disney's Monsters University as belonging to Nathan Fillion.  Fillian plays big man on campus, the "handsome" monster Johnny (well handsome by monster standards.) 


Here's the trailer for Monsters University...





Friday, June 21, 2013

Lavender Lemonade & Murder


All summer long Mystery Playground is featuring Friday guest posts matching drinks with fabulous summer reads. Today's post is from Bella McGuire at Cozy Mystery Book Reviews


With the summer weather around the corner, I love sitting outside enjoying a good mystery and a nice glass of Lavender Lemonade. Some of the great books I look forward to starting this summer are: Father Knows Best by Jeffrey Allen, Steamed to Death by Peg Cochran and A Cookbook Conspiracy by Kate Carlisle. Looking for something a bit edgier? I highly recommend Joyland by Stephen King, a serial killer at a carnival, with a great summer feel.

Recipe for Lavender Lemonade:
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey)
3 Tbsp dried lavender
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups water
1 lemon, sliced (for garnish)

Over medium heat, combine two cups of water and sugar, bringing to a boil until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in agave nectar and dried lavender.  Cover for about 15 minutes, allowing mixture to steep.  Strain lavender, making sure to release all juices and syrup.

In a large pitcher, combine freshly squeezed lemon juice, lavender mixture and water.  Feel free to add a drop of blue coloring and a drop of red to mixture to give it a lovely purple color.  Chill for at least 2 hours and serve over ice.  Enjoy!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fall TV Previews: Once Upon A Time Wonderland



It's no secret that I am a big Alice in Wonderland and that I also love the show Once Upon A Time. ABC has announced a new show this fall called Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.  

The premise is that Alice's father thinks she's crazy and that she never went to Wonderland. There's no white rabbit. No Queen of Hearts. No Cheshire Cat. Of course if we believed that, it would be an entirely different show. Of course this time Wonderland is real and Alice winds up going right back down the rabbit hole. 

Here's the trailer...




As much as I love the whole Alice story, I am curious how this will play out against the original Once Upon A Time. After all in Storybrooke, the Queen of Hearts is already dead, there is a Mad Hatter alive and well, and I've always though that Emma was really Alice and she didn't know it. I know it's a separate story, and suspended disbelief is necessary in fantasy shows, but still. My jury is out. 

Will I watch it? Of course, I'll give it a shot and keep a look out for details from the new show. 

And here's the description from ABC:

In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice (Sophie Lowe) tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she’s seen during this impossible adventure. Surely this troubled girl must be insane and her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything. Alice seems ready to put it all behind her, especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever—the handsome and mysterious Cyrus (Peter Gadiot). But deep down Alice knows this world is real and just in the nick of time, the sardonic Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) and the irrepressible White Rabbit (John Lithgow) arrive to save her from a doomed fate. Together, the trio will take a tumble down the rabbit hole to this Wonderland where nothing is impossible.  
Once Upon A Time In Wonderland stars Sophie Lowe (Beautiful Kate) as Alice, Michael Socha (This Is England) as Knave of Hearts, Peter Gadiot (The Forbidden Girl) as Cyrus, Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks) as Queen of Hearts and John Lithgow (Third Rock From The Sun) as the voice of the White Rabbit. 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fiction Writing Advice from a New York Times Best Selling Author


Today's guest post is by the fabulous Kim Hammond. 


Many authors are generous with their time and give talks on the craft of writing. They offer advice, tell their horror stories, and share their love of fiction writing. I love attending these talks and was fortunate to be able to attend one put on by the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

The author in residence was New York Times bestseller Taylor Stevens. Right from the introduction she wanted you to know her background so you would better understand her comments and advice. The audience sat mesmerized as she described what sounded like the plot of a thriller, but was actually her own life growing up.

Born in New York state and into the Children of God cult, she was raised in communes across the globe and denied an education beyond sixth grade. Forbidden books and television, she secretly obtained a notebook and wrote her own fiction, only to be discovered and severely punished, her stories burned. Stevens was in her twenties when she broke free and entered the foreign world of general society, trying to cope and fit in.


With little formal education and no writing background whatsoever, she wrote The Informationist over a three year period. It’s no coincidence that the setting of this book is in East and West-Central Africa, where Stevens lived for four years. The Vanessa Munroe series, now on its third book (with a fourth in the works) has received critical acclaim and the books are published in twenty languages.

Taylor was entertaining and funny. She described her informal writing process, riddled with procrastination, and her long road to publication. She shared with the audience what she called her Five Myths of Publication:

1. You can make a living from writing - not unless you’re James Patterson or Lisa Scottoline.

2. Writing is an art - If you want to be a bohemian writer for self fulfillment that’s okay, but publishing is a business and if you don’t write what people want to read then you won’t sell books.

3. Authors have control over what happens to their books - the only thing you control is words on the page and you may have to even fight for some of those.

4. You have to know someone in publishing to get published - she’s living proof this isn’t true. Her advice is write a good book and write a good query letter. Remember that “rejection is part of the gauntlet you run to publication.”

5. Writing is about the writing - No again. There’s a threshold that the average reader will tolerate. They won’t read below a certain level of writing and won’t read above a certain level of writing. You just need to be within that threshold.  Most read because of the subject and the story, not the quality of the writing. There are some authors who's writing isn't that great, but they sell a ton of books. The writing has to be good enough, not perfect.

Stevens then discussed the top five questions she’s asked:

1. I have an idea. How do I get it published? Write a book. Ideas don’t get published, books do. You have to be a big name or have a track record to sell a book that isn’t written yet and even the big names usually have to submit a synopsis and outline.

2. How do I find a publisher? You don’t, your agent does.

3. How do I find an agent? Research, then research some more. Do your homework. A few places to research are Publisher's Marketplace and Agent Query. Make sure the agent represents your genre, is taking new clients and accepts email queries. Go to the agent’s website and read the submission guidelines. Do EXACTLY what it says. Stevens was fortunate enough to have had two agents interested in her. She went with the one who scared the crap out of her because the agent was tough as nails and Stevens knew the agent would fight for her.

4. How do I write a query letter? Stevens was not specific on this, but she did offer suggestions on how NOT to write a query letter. Check out Query Shark and Slush Pile Hell 

5. Should I self-publish? This is a very personal question that only you can answer. The pros are: you can keep more money; you’re in control; you get your book in print faster. The cons are: it's a lot of work and if you don’t know how to do it all, editing, marketing, promotion, social media, etc. you are at a disadvantage; it’s hard to get discovered when you self publish.  



Stevens described the traditional publishing route in a very entertaining way. Her book is a car built out of legos and it’s a Toyota. She gives it to her agent who pulls it apart, removes some things, adds some things and gives it back to Stevens. Stevens rebuilds the car and it’s now a Mercedes. Then the book goes to the editor who pulls it apart, removes some things, adds some things and gives it back to Stevens. She then rebuilds once again and now she has a Lamborghini. The public only sees the Lamborghini.


As you can see, I paid attention and took copious notes, while laughing all the while.  If you have a chance to hear Stevens speak, whether it’s at a writing event or an author event, I recommend seeing her. She’s worth your time and is one author to keep an eye on.




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New York City Speakeasy: The Raines Law Room


This year marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and as such Mystery Playground (and fun loving friends) is visiting modern speak easy bars all over the United States in recognition. The latest in our series took us to The Raines Law Room in New York City.  

The Raines Law Room is named after an 1896 law which said that bars could not serve alcohol on Sundays unless they were affiliated with a hotel. Since most laborers only had one day off - Sunday, this meant they couldn't in effect go drinking unless it was in a hotel. The law intended to keep them from drinking. What it meant in reality was that bars sprung up as part of hotels that were thinly disguised brothels, compounding the possible vice on Sunday. The Raines Law Room may have taken it's name from the law, but it looks nothing like a brothel or  dive bar. It is filled with velvet couches, a beautiful tin roof, and there's even a little garden in the back for clients who prefer to be outdoors on a warm spring night. 






Drinks:
I had the Sicilian Cobbler made up Camprari Lambrusco Frizzante, Campari, muddled blood orange & lemon. Served over crushed ice. It was fabulously refreshing.

My friend Susan had the San Luis Cup. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Ancho Chili syrup, muddled lime & cucumber, dash of sea salt & black pepper. Shaken and stirred with cracked ice. She loved it. 

Food:
They have one food item and I have to warn you, it's not super impressive. It's a "cheese" plate that's really two bowls - one filled with hunks of cheddar cheese with toothpicks in them and a few pieces of salami and the other bowl with olives. We would have stayed longer if there had been a bit more to nosh on but we went right after work. 





Directions: 
The Raines Law Room is located on 17th Street between 5th and 6th streets. There is no sign outside, but the address is clearly marked. You enter in the door above which brings you to another little door with a bell. No password is required. We made reservations for 7:30 pm, but we didn't need them on a Tuesday night. The people we met at the adjoining table said reservations on the weekend were a must. 





What are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were secret bars that sprang up when the U.S. outlawed alcohol in 1919.


Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. Today, there are many modern speakeasy bars that retain some of these traditions. They usually feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, in discreet locations that lack signage. Some model the decor after the periods and some require passwords. You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

Monday, June 17, 2013

Decorating with Mystery Flair



Today's guest post is from Kim Hammond.


As I may have mentioned before in another post, one of my addictions is Etsy. I typically come across things accidentally while searching for something else. I previously purchased a Sherlock Holmes pendant from Natura Picta, but that’s not all they make. Take a look at these.






Each print is printed on a vintage dictionary page that could be in any language. The background is not always the same as the picture above. Each time they do a print they use another page from rare book of a different century, from 1600 to 1900. It sounds like they rescue damaged books and save the good pages to use in their craft. This is not only a one of a kind gift, but an amazing conversation piece.



Another addictive website is Pinterest.com. I can be on there for what seems like 10 minutes and when I look at the clock it has been over an hour. I can across a picture of a metal plate mounted to a wall and it was used as a floating book shelf. When 4-6 books were stacked you couldn’t see the metal plate anymore. I coveted this and I re-pinned it. That was 3 months ago and I finally came across these metal plates at www.umbra.com.

Here’s what a single and double shelf look like. What you can’t see is the underside of the bottom plate. There’s a notch on each side and when you slide the back cover of the bottom book over the plate the edge comes to rest on the notches and stays in place.

I found my shelves at The Container Store and I purchased the large size. When I got them home and picked out some of my coveted autographed books, I realized that the books weren’t wide enough to slide over the plate and reach the notches. My husband had to find me some of his old college text books to temporarily use until I can get to the used bookstore and look for some larger sized mystery books. So I recommend checking the dimensions because you may want to purchase a size smaller. Amazon also carries these.


So before you make that next birthday, Christmas or Hanukkah purchase for the avid reader in your life, take a look at these websites for something more one of a kind.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson


Kerry Hammond has a great review of The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson over on Criminal Element and we thought we'd share. 

The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson is the third book in the Baker Street Letters mystery series featuring Reggie and Nigel Heath, barristers whose office address happens to be 221B Baker Street in London.
I am a big fan of anything Sherlock Holmes, and there have been many different spin-offs related to the master detective. You even see modern day Sherlocks on television, giving the sleuth 21st century cases to solve. What I loved most aboutMichael Robertson’s version is that it’s kind of based in reality; the reality of fiction of course.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Taking on Jane Eyre: Joanna Campbell Slan




Today we have a Q&A with the author of The Jane Eyre Chronicles,  Joanna Campbell Slan. 



1)     Why did you decide to write The Jane Eyre Chronicles?

While I was on a panel at Malice Domestic, the mystery conference, someone asked what my favorite mystery of all time was, and without thinking I said, “Jane Eyre.” That started me thinking, why not revisit the classic?

2)     What did you love most about Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë? 

Edward loves Jane for her spirit, and I find that enchanting. I also empathized with a character who was poor, unassuming and overlooked. That described me perfectly as a young woman.

3)     How did you prepare to write about such a well known and beloved character?

It’s strange, but I had to distance myself from the original. Otherwise my writing mimicked Brontë’s, and that would have been a bit too much for modern readers. But of course, I re-read the original, I bought study guides and every book about the Regency, the Brontës and their works that I could find. I also bought an 1816 two-volume set of Bewick’s History of British Birds, which is what Jane is reading when the classic opens. Just running my hands down the binding gives me chills.


4)      Did you visit England? If so, what did you learn that didn't make into the books? 

From 2001-2, my family and I lived in Sunningdale, outside of London, near Windsor. Living in a country is very different from visiting as a tourist. I learned a lot about the British mindset, and I believe that is apparent in my work. I realized quickly that people are both proud of the monarchy and have their criticisms of it. There’s so much that won’t be in one of my books, as I tried to see and do everything I could, and I’ve been back many times since.

5)     What are your thoughts on other works, such as the Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, that also use Jane and Edward Rochester as characters?

In a word, wonderful! I also love The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey and Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys. As the author of several other mystery series with original characters, I can think of no finer tribute than to inspire others to keep one’s characters alive.




6)     Besides writing an entertaining book, did you have any other goals when you started this series?

Yes, I hoped to bring a new generation of readers to Jane Eyre. My proudest moment was when the Voice of Youth Advocates said, “For readers who love Jane Eyre, she lives on in Joanna Campbell Slan.”