Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Killer Holiday by Amy Korman

Today we have guest post from Amy Korman, author of Killer Holiday. Amy tells us why holidays are murder and where she turns for a great holiday read. 

True story: A few days before a Christmas not so long ago, I gave into a stress-induced milkshake craving, and was paying at the drive-thru window when I happened to glance back at the car behind me. 

Clearly in a holiday meltdown, its driver had his left hand on the steering wheel and his right on a 750 ml-bottle of wine, which he up-ended directly into his gullet as he cruised forward to pick up his Big Mac. 

Holiday panic had gotten the better of him, and so had a craving for Sauvignon blanc!

Personally, I turn to Poirot when December arrives. There's something touching about the fictional Belgian detective's plan to spend the holidays alone in his modern flat, his central heating turned up against chilly London nights, as The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding begins. A missing ruby and the promise of a not-too-drafty manor house lure him to country house King’s Lacey, where anonymous notes and a corpse await. 

Agatha Christie is the answer to vegan dinner guests, mall traffic, and drunk uncles this winter! Herewith, mysteries to make the season bright:

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen. The holiday entry in the delightful Royal Spyness series sends Lady Georgiana Rannoch, poverty-stricken, charming aristo-sleuth and cousin to the King of England, as companion-for-hire to a manor in Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Murders aplenty abound, as do fun 1930s characters such as Noel Coward and Belinda Warburton-Stokes, Georgie’s naughty best friend.

Murder for Christmas: Tales of Seasonal Malice. Classic tales galore, including the above-mentioned Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and classics by Ngaio Marsh, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dorothy L. Sayers make up this compendium, currently available as an audiobook only. As cozy as only murder and stolen pearl necklaces can be.

E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton. Naturally, the holidays are nothing but misery for the quintessential loner Kinsey Milhone. Two days after Christmas, Kinsey discovers that $5,000 was deposited in her bank account on December 24th, which kicks off a mystery involving one of Kinsey’s ex-husband and ends with her garage apartment getting blown up. Luckily, her one black dress survives….

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich. This is the recipe for unwinding after your annual Christmas tree fight: bond agent Stephanie, rogue elves, Grandma Mazur, and an intriguing new man in Stephanie’s life. 

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers. Lord Peter Wimsey and faithful valet Bunter’s car slides off a snowy country road on New Year’s Eve, and the pair are drawn into a masterful, literary mystery involving church bells, an extra corpse in a local grave, and long-missing emeralds.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. The master of California noir kicks off his book with Philip Marlowe helping drunken Terry Lennox safely exit a bar on Sunset Boulevard; Marlowe assists Lennox’s wealthy ex-wife in locating her former husband, whereupon the Lennoxes remarry in Vegas. Lennox repays Marlowe the $100 he owes the private eye a few days before Christmas, with a cheery note wishing Marlowe happy holidays. Not a chance!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie. The Dame of all Golden Age writers naturally had more than one holiday tale of murder in store for Poirot, and this one involves a country house, a difficult elderly paterfamilias, and a locked-room murder.

Amy Korman is a former senior editor and staff writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and has written for Town & Country, House Beautiful, and Men’s Health. Her new book is Killer Holiday. She is the author of KILLER WASPS, KILLER GETAWAY, and KILLER PUNCH.

About Killer Holiday:  Antique dealer Kristin Clark is ready for a festive winter holiday in Bryn Mawr, PA, this winter—one that involves sipping martinis at Bootsie McElvoy’s annual bonfire, an engagement ring for former Mafia wife Sophie Shields, and a semi-legal poker tournament at Kristin’s store. But this year, Old Saint Nick has something more dangerous to deliver.

A stranger dressed in a Santa suit has Kristin’s friends on his naughty list. First, Sophie’s favorite handbag is blasted by a bullet. Then, Father Christmas goes after Bootsie’s brother Chip with a golf club and leaves a threatening note demanding fifty grand and threatening to chop off Chip’s eyelid.

The annoying Eula Morris is also back in town for the holidays, more bossy than ever after winning a mega-jackpot in the lottery. She’s returned from a luxury cruise around the world with a handsome new boyfriend (who looks oddly familiar) and a Samsonite suitcase filled with gold bars. When the suitcase is snatched, Eula implores Kristin and the team to track it down.

Where is Chip? Why is a vengeful Santa targeting the gang? Who stole Eula’s suitcase? Kristin and her basset hound Waffles are on the case—before this white Christmas turns even darker….

Friday, November 17, 2017

Bolt Action Remedy and The Mind Eraser

JJ. Hensley joins us today for Drinks with Reads matching his book, Bolt Action Remedy from Down & Out Books with the perfect drink. J.J. is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.  He is the author of the novels Resolve, Measure Twice, and Chalk’s Outline.  J.J. graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University.  

His first novel Resolve was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was named a Thriller Award finalist for Best First Novel.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into an old homicide. He arrives in quiet Washaway Township, Pennsylvania to look into a murder that could only have been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: skiing and shooting. At first, it appears the suspect pool would have to be extremely small, but when he discovers the crime scene is adjacent to a biathlon training camp—where EVERYONE can ski and shoot, things become a bit more complicated. 
Also, Galloway has enemies. A lot of enemies. Some are real, but he suspects a few might be the hallucinations that occasionally stalk him. As Galloway attempts to solve a very real homicide, he has to sort out what is fact verses fiction while trying to erase the demons racing around inside his mind.
What better drink to exorcise some demons than a mind eraser? Like Galloway, the drink is pretty straight-forward:
  • Two ounces of Kahlua or your favorite coffee liqueur
  • Two ounces of unflavored vodka
  • Two ounces of club soda (If you don't have club soda, you can substitute lemon-lime soda in a pinch.)

The good things about the mind eraser are that it can be a drink or a shot (bolt action rifles…biathlon… get it?) and you can easily throw in some Sprite if you don’t happen to have any club soda around the house. Most people recommend drinking it quickly through a straw (to scare off those particularly belligerent hallucinations), but sipping it as a cocktail may adequately pacify any demons hanging out on the dark street corner at the end of memory lane. I was first introduced to the mind eraser during college, but for some reason our meetings seem a little fuzzy. 

You can find JJ on Facebook and on Twitter @JJHensleyauthor. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Q&A with Ben Lyle

South London resident HB Lyle joins us today for a special Q&A about his new novel, The Irregular. After a career in feature film development, he got an MA in creative writing - then a PhD - at the University of East Anglia, an experience which led to the creation of The Irregular. He also writes screenplays and teaches undergraduates. He believes that it's time for work class spy fiction

Can you give us some background on how The Irregular came to be?

I had the idea for the novel in 2009, when I was doing an MA (MFA equivalent) at the University of East Anglia.  Around that time, there was a good deal in the media here about the secret service, in its centenary year.  I’d been doing a lot of film work (in my role as a development executive) on spy novels and spy stories, and I’d always been a Sherlock Holmes fan.

When I found out that the secret service was set up in 1909, I realized that Wiggins would be about the right age to be its first – and greatest! – agent. 

It took me a while longer to start writing the novel, as I was writing other stuff, including a PhD. It then took quite a long time to research, and I plotted the book in conjunction with the research. 1909 in London was an absolutely fascinating time, with so many parallels to today. Once I started looking into it, I couldn’t believe that this era wasn’t a more popular source of mystery, spy and thriller fiction.

 Why did you decide to pick Wiggins as your central character in The Irregular?

Who wouldn’t love Wiggins? Seriously, he only has about three or four lines in the whole of the Conan Doyle canon, but he is cheeky, quick witted and unforgettable.  And who better to be a secret agent than a former street kid, trained by Sherlock Holmes?

On a more serious note, spy fiction in this country normally revolves around the higher echelons of society – James Bond and George Smiley are privately and university educated for example. I wanted to write about a hero, who is as talented as anyone, but who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. 

Britain in 1909 was a two tier society, and it’s fun to write about someone besting the upper-classes when he can.  

You’ve done an incredible job melding real-life historical figures with fictional ones. How did you create such a believable blend of characters?

Thank you. My aim was obviously to include real history, and real people, in as seamless a way as possible. 

One of the inspirations for the book was the Flashman series of novels, by British writer George MacDonald Fraser.  In that series, he took the Flashman character from Tom Brown’s Schooldays, and gave him an entirely fictitious military career that was nevertheless set amongst almost wholly real events, and likewise populated by real people.  

As a teenager, I loved those novels and one of the reasons was that they gave me a working knowledge of Victorian history, wrapped up in a very entertaining and ironical page-turning novel.  

That said, when it comes to the characters in The Irregular, they are by and large my creations (or at least my interpretations of real people, rather than painstaking recreations of them.) I think this helps with the blend. 

Can you give us an insider’s look at your Sherlock Holmes/mystery novel collection? (Pictures would be great!)

Ha! That would be hard, as my bookshelves are chaotic and are not  arranged in any kind of thematic order. Generally, my reading isn’t confined to the mystery genre, and I haven’t read much on Sherlock Holmes, other than the original stories. 

If anything, I’m more likely to be found reading Ian McEwan or Philip Roth, or a historical novel rather than a crime fiction. However, I do have a soft spot for spy fiction at the moment, and my to-read list includes: Real Tigers by Mick Herron (the third in the Slough House series), Waiting for Sunshine by William Boyd (one of my favorite authors), and the last George Smiley novel from John Le Carre, A Legacy of Spies. 

[NB I have included a picture of one of my bookshelves, so you get the point!]

Can you tell us a little known fact about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

He was a keen amateur cricketer, although not very good. His claim to fame as a player, was that he took the wicket of WG Grace – the greatest player of the Victorian and Edwardian age. 

This is the equivalent of Raymond Chandler turning up to pitch at Yankee Stadium and striking out Babe Ruth five times straight. 

What are you working on next?

I am currently editing the second Wiggins novel, which continues his adventures in London and Europe a year after The Irregular (i.e. 1910.)