Monday, November 30, 2015

Major Crimes Q&A with Executive Producer Leo Geter

Tonight on the weekly Major Crimes Facebook Q&A, Executive Producer, Leo Geter, took over for Show Creator and Executive Producer, James Duff, and even answered questions under James' Facebook ID. I've recapped his answers below. It's pretty easy to figure out the question from the context of the answer. 

Before we get started, check out what Jonathan Del Arco (Dr. Morales) drinks when he watches Major Crimes (and live tweets). And here's James Duff's take on tonight's episode.

And last but not least, we should all take a moment to be ecstatic that Major Crimes has been renewed for another season. Well done TNT. Congratulations to our favorite cast & crew.

And now for the recap...

  • Sharon and Andy's relationship will continue to grow through the end of this season and into the next. Having to keep work and life separate will be a constant challenge - but first Andy has to get well.

  • This week's theme is 'Trust in your caretaker' - which is really the road Sharon and Andy are on at the moment.
  • We had so much fun shooting Tony and Dawnn in the hospital. Tony's realization that he went too far cracked everyone up in video village
  • You can probably tell I'm not typing on my own keyboard! At least that's my excuse for all the typos.

  • The young lady on Flynn's desk is Stephanie Fowler who was a make-up artist in the early years of The Closer.

  • Hey llona - a producer's job depends on what their responsibilities are - in my case I run the writer's room and manage the production of each episode. Some producers handle how the money gets spent. Some make sure all the things you see on screen - like computers, pictures, anything that needs to be created is done correctly. We 'produce' the show basically, but everyone's does something a little different.

  • Thanks everyone! Fun to spend time with you and try to watch my episode at the same time. Luckily I have a DVR at home! LEO

You can find the special Turkey Day edition of the recap here and other recaps as well...

Presents for the Short Story Fan

Naturally, everyone at Mystery Playground loves to give books as presents, but finding the right book for the right person can be a bit tricky. This is a rundown of ideas for the short story lover. With so much going on around the holidays, sometimes all you have time for is a bite sized peice of fiction. Here are some short story options for you that we love.

1) Subscriptions to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. These monthly magazines come full of wonderful stories, puzzles and news from the world of Mystery. 

About Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

For over fifty years, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine has been one of the foremost publishers of mystery, crime, and suspense short stories. Stories featured in AHMM have won dozens of awards, including many Robert L. Fish awards for Best First Mystery Short Story of the year. 

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine is home to many bestselling authors, including Martin Limon, Jane K. Cleland, Loren Estleman, Rhys Bowen, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Every story is illustrated, and every subgenre of mystery fiction is represented in AHMM, from the classic whodunit to the hardboiled tale to suspense and everything in between.

About Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine was launched in the fall of 1941 by Lawrence E. Spivak of The Mercury Press (who subsequently founded and hosted the popular TV show Meet the Press). It was heralded as the brainchild of Ellery Queen himself, really the two-cousin writing team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. 

In 1941, Dannay explained his manifesto for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine as being to "raise the sights of mystery writers generally to a genuine literary form," to "encourage good writing among our colleagues by offering a practical market not otherwise available," and to "develop new writers seeking expression in the genre." In pursuit of the first goal — to raise mystery writing to a respected literary form — he set about finding and publishing stories with elements of crime or mystery by great literary figures past and present. The result was the inclusion of more than forty Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners in EQMM — Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and Alice Walker among them.

2) TRIGGER WARNING by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman's third book of short stories not only includes a Sherlockian tale called, "The Case of Death and Honey" but there is a Dr. Who story called "Nothing O'Clock," and a ode to Ray Bradbury called "The Man That Forgot Ray Bradbury". Gaiman's notes are just as much fun to read as the stories. 

3)  THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES edited by James Patterson

I reach for this book each year when it comes out in October. This year features stories from Jeffery Deaver, Brendan DuBois, Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane and Michael Connolly. 


Elmore Leonard, who passed away in 2013, is famous for novels and short stories that turned into popular movies and TV shows, like Get Shorty, Out of Sightand Justified and a slew of best selling books, like Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, and Rum Punch.  I love this book not only for the stories but also for the Elmore Leonard's edits you can see on the end pages. 


This is a wonderful compendum of short stories that Otto Penzler originally commisioned to give to his bookstore customers at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Stories by Lawrence Block, Anne Perry, SJ Rozan and Donald Westlake are included. 

My favorite story of the bunch is What's in a Name? by Mary Higgins Clark, much of which takes place inside the Mysterious Bookshop and Otto Penzler, the editor, is a character. You can tell Higgins Clark had fun with this one. Especially in her ending. Although this book came out in 2010, it is still widely available online. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review: Santa Cruise by Mary & Carol Higgins Clark

Sharon Long is here to review one of her favorite Christmas mysteries by one of her favorite writing duos, Mary and Carol Higgins Clark. If you are looking for the answers to the Parnell Hall crossword puzzle we posted last Tuesday, scroll to the end of the page. 

Santa Cruise: A Holiday Mystery at Sea published by Simon & Schuster. This is the fourth, holiday mystery from Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. A few years ago I met both Mary and Carol at a book signing at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Highlands Ranch, CO. They explained they went on a cruise in the summer and sat side by side to write this book. Both were extremely gracious when I met them. It was a thrill for me to shake Mary's hand as I have read every one of her books. I have read the majority of Carol's Regan Reilly mystery series as well. What I find so interesting is that each has their own personal style of writing and together it is even a third style.   

Alvirah Meehan, lottery winner and now amateur sleuth, has won a holiday cruise due to her many charitable contributions. She along with her husband, Willy, convince their good friends, Nora and Luke Reilly and their daughter Regan and her husband Jack to join them.  The six of them board the Royal Mermaid on December 26th. This is the maiden voyage and the Commodore has decided to invite 400 people who have made the world a better place to join him for free. The cruise complete with 10 Santas in costume is dubbed the Santa Cruise.

But once the ship sets sail, trouble ensues as unknown to the passengers except one, criminals have been smuggled onboard. During this four day cruise, there are various mishaps, a ghost and, of course, a terrible storm is brewing. As more things keep happening, Regan, a private investigator, and her husband, head of the NY Major Case squad, become suspicious. But not to worry, Alvirah and her famous starburst microphone pin are ready to start investigating. 

What follows is a wonderfully told mystery with a little humor. Santa Cruise makes for a fast, nice holiday read. This book will put in you the holiday spirit. With a cruise, mystery, possible murder and 10 Santas, doesn't that just spell holidays.

Come find us on Facebook or on Twitter @mysterplaygrnd

Here are the answers to the Mystery Crossword Puzzle that we posted last Tuesday:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Plates from Felix Doolittle

Ever loan out one of your favorite books to a friend or colleague never to see it again? Worry no more. Felix Doolittle has your covered with these beautiful little-personalized bookplates. There are pages and pages from which to choose. What a fabulous way to hold onto your collection. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Drinks with TV: Major Crimes

Photo: Jonathan Del Arco

Every Friday Mystery Playground matches a wonderful book with the perfect drink, and every Monday, during the season of TNT's Major Crimes, we recap Q&A sessions on social media with the shows' stars and executive producer, James Duff

Dr. Morales not drinking cocktails here
Well, this week Friday has collided with Monday, because Jonathan Del Arco, Major Crimes coroner extraordinaire, has provided us with what he considers to be the perfect drink to enjoy while watching the show... 

The Major Crimes Greyhound with a Sugar Salt Rim

His recipe goes a little like this:

"Vodka and grapefruit juice and sugar and salt on the edge of the glass! Bam!" Sounds delicious. 

Jonathan's character on the show, Dr. Morales, is one of my favorites and we'll get to see much more of him because Major Crimes was renewed for another season. 

Major Crimes: James Duff, Mike Berchem, Kathe Mazur, Jonathan Del Arco, Damani Johnson, Kendall Sherwood and Adam Belanof

Major Crimes airs on TNT Monday nights at 9 pm. 

You can see our other Major Crimes coverage or check out Drinks with Reads.

Come find us on Facebook or on Twitter +Mystery Playground  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Major Crimes Q&A with Kearran Giovanni, Phillip Keene & James Duff - Turkey Day Edition

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'm a few days late on the Facebook Chat recap with James Duff this week due to a family trip to Disneyland, but we're back on track. Joining James this week was Kearran Giovanni and Phillip Keene. Kearran even answered one question directly from her Facebook profile, which was a first for the chat. 

The biggest news happened yesterday: Major Crimes has been renewed for another season. We've all been waiting and glad to see the team will be back next year. More details on how many episodes and when we'll see them will be forthcoming. 

Before we hit the chat, here's Rusty's vlog from last week:

Here's the link to this weeks entry, in case you need to catch up: Identity: The Other Side of the Coin.

Tomorrow on Mystery Playground we will have a special post where Jonathan Del Arco matches Major Crimes with the perfect drinks. 

And finally here is the chat recap. I've just included answers from James and Kearran since they recap the questions when they respond. 

James Duff Welcome everyone! All new episode coming at you. Our first Thanksgiving episode ever!

James Duff I'm here with Kearran Giovanni, the irrepressible Det. Amy Sykes, and her partner in crime, Phillip P. Keene, Reserve Officer, Civilian Tech, Buzz Watson.

James Duff While we're waiting for the page to update, I'll just say that we have a lot of personal story in addition to our mystery tonight. It's part of our holiday ritual.

James Duff Ilona Arcari gets us started by asking if we still use film on Major Crimes. We don’t. We are digital and have been since the last six episodes of The Closer, so that the transition would look as smooth as possible. However, the language of film making hasn't changes so much. We still say cut at the end of the scene. We still say print. We still say "Moving on" when the camera changes position.

James Duff Lorraine Brown asks if Amy and Malcom Jamal Warner (Lt. Cooper are going to be taking their relationship to the next level.  And the answer is probably! Sometimes our stories depend a little bit on the availability of our actors.

Kearran Giovanni Ilona Arcari GW influences me on and off screen. He has taught me to see the obvious and use it as a tool. Love love love working with him.

James Duff Donna Burns Tucciarone talks about what it was like behind the scenes here during filming, and how much everyone seemed to like each other. That affection is very real. And a few months ago, everyone went to Mary's house for dinner, and then we had birthday parties at our house. When you work with most of the same people for twelve years, you'd better get along! We also went to Kearran's husband's birthday party a month or so ago! And he is really nice. Except the last time the writers got together for a poker game, he kind of cleared the table. You know Kearran's husband is a great guy if he turns up with four Aces and everyone still loves him.

James Duff Elaine R asks Kearran how she manages to work so much with two little children. Kearran says "Lots of managing of everyone's schedules and a very understanding husband."

James Duff Kearran came to Major Crimes from New York and Broadway where she was known as one of the best hoofers on the boards. She can still kick her foot up over your head.

James Duff Nancy G P asks what we're doing with Andy? Sometimes, when police officers get hurt on the job, there are long term consequences. You don't just get over it in a week. Very serious.

James Duff People in the box below ask what Kearran is doing for Thanksgiving. She's going home to Texas! I'm from Texas, too, but not going there this year. People ask in the box below this one if the cast is going to share a Thanksgiving dinner.

James Duff Tonight's episode also features a terrific scene between Provenza and Flynn in the hospital. It's a little desperate tonight. But I'll just say medical care is a serious issue in this episode.

James Duff Andy's doctors is played by Angel Desai, a Broadway actor like Kearran. Angel does a great version of Another Hundred People by Sondheim. Genius!

James Duff Sue B says she enjoyed meeting Phillip at an award ceremony for Mary in Palm Springs. Phillip loved meeting you, too, and thought it was a great experience and that Mary was fantastic!

James Duff Graham and Mary probably have more one-on-one scenes than any two actors on the show.

James Duff Phillip, Raymond, Michael Paul Chan, Tony Denison and G W just spent the weekend in Florida together raising money for The Sunshine Kids.

James Duff One thing I'd like to mention, this is Nick Zaya's first episode as a writer. He pairs up here with the great Jim Leonard, and together they brought us an out-of-the-box holiday show.

James Duff See you next week as we hurtle toward Christmas and debut another new writer on our staff, Mike Zara teamed up with the inestimable Leo Geter!

James Duff JuLia K asks if we'll ever see Sharon break down. I think if you watch our five parter this February, she has big challenges.

James Duff Though this is not generally known, detectives have a pretty hard row to hoe inside the LAPD. They are necessary, they are respected and they are not trusted so much! That's because everyone - everyone - every single person - knows that deceives have to lie all the time. They live in a grayer area than SWAT or the Air Ship pilots or patrol officers.

James Duff Lauren G asks if Sharon is still the LAPD's women's coordinator. No, she has passed that job on to someone outside the detective branch of the LAPD.

James Duff Provenza has Andy's Power of Attorney for health affairs.

James Duff Toni B asks how long a scene takes to film and if it takes a lot of times to get it right. The length of the scene depends a lot on how many people are in it and how much action takes place inside action and cut. Usually, scenes with more pages and characters take longer to shoot.

James Duff @Joan R asks where Fritz Howard has been lately. He'll be back very shortly in our December finale. Four weeks from now! Wow! Our autumn season is half over tonight.

James Duff Karla O says hello to Phillip and how much she loves Buzz.

James Duff Kearran, Phillip and I wish you a great Thanksgiving and I'll see you here next week.

Take a look at past Major Crimes Facebook chats. 

We'll be back tomorrow with a special Drinks with Reads Major Crimes Edition. Until then, you can find us on twitter +Mystery Playground and on Facebook

A Prayer of Thanksgiving to Readers of Crime Fiction

Crime fiction writer Brad Parks delivered this fabulous prayer to readers of crime fiction at Left Coast Crime in 2014 as part of his duties as Toastmaster for the event. It's so good, I had to re-run it today. Happy Thanksgiving!

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. 

Toast courtesy of Brad Parks. Photo of Brad courtesy of Darrell Hoeman Photography.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Biblio College Class Four: Building a Collection

Kerry Hammond recently attended a four part series of classes at her local used book store, The Printed Page Bookshop. Each class taught a different topic about rare books, preservation, and collecting. Here are her notes from Class Four: Building a Collection. We've been running her notes on the other classes each Wednesday this month. 

Now that the class had learned how to identify a first edition, protect a collection of old books, and use a bibliography to research the value of a book, it was time to discuss how to build a collection of our own.

One of the first things to remember in collecting is to buy and collect what you love. After all, if you don’t love it, it won’t feel like much fun. Inspect the books you plan to buy very carefully, looking for marks, mildew, etc. Be an informed consumer. Know what a book is worth in the condition you have in front of you.

The most fun part is that if you’re a better reader, you will be a better collector. The more you know about an author, the more you’ll know about the books in print and this will help you determine which to add to your collection. Cultivate relationships with dealers, especially ones who sell in the area you intend to collect.

When buying online, be careful. Buying from someone who has been around for a long time, or someone who is recommended by a trusted friend is best. Read the seller’s descriptions of a book to determine if they sound knowledgeable. If they use the correct terms to describe the book (and use them properly) that’s a good sign as well.

If you’re adventurous, you can even try live auctions. Many have pre-sale exhibitions where prospective buyers can examine the books that are going to be auctioned. The most important thing, though, is to have fun. Collection should be an enjoyable hobby or business. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?