Fiction

Writer Mark Stevens, and His Books

Mark Stevens at BoucherCon

Mark Stevens is an award-winning Colorado writer, former journalist, now PR and Communications Specialist, whose work caught my eye on Twitter a few years ago. He tweeted about the country’s environmental challenges, a subject near and dear to my heart, and I readily ‘followed’ him. He mentioned that his second book in the Allison Coil Mysteries, “Buried by the Roan,” had recently been published, so I picked it up. I was hooked by the topical storyline and the multi-faceted characters caught up in events tearing their beloved landscape apart.

 

The lead protagonist, Allison Coil, is a big game hunting guide in the Flat Top wilderness of Colorado. And lest you think that a woman might not really choose this as a career, Coil is based on a real-life guide that Stevens met while pondering the setting and the focus character for the series.

 

Each of his books could have been ripped from the headlines and in always absorbing writing, deal with hot-button topics, such as human trafficking, marijuana laws, undocumented workers, fracking, big game hunting, drought, and wilderness protection. But, in addition to these and other ‘big concept’ themes (and the murders) Stevens’ stories are grounded in real life, with his core characters facing the challenges of rebuilding a life in a new location, managing a small business, finding/trusting love after heartbreak.

 

Colorado’s majestic wilderness plays a major role and Stevens’ imageries put us right in the saddle as Allison rides through the Flat Tops. The big game hunts and plots unfold against a backdrop of rich country that everybody wants a piece of, but few acknowledge that through the very development they seek, the land as they know it will disappear.

 


“Antler Dust,” the book that started it all.

 

 

 

 

“Buried by the Roan”    Review here.

 

 

 

 

“Trapline”      Review here.

 

 

 

Book Cover "Lake of Fire"

 

“Lake of Fire”  Review here.

 

 

 

“The Melancholy Howl,” the fifth in the series, reveals more in the background of each of the central characters, some of it a bit edgier than before. There are glitches in the love lives of the two continuing couples and one major character has a whopper of a secret that tears at the core of his public persona. These are flesh and blood people, some with serious flaws and baggage, but all have each other’s backs in a crunch.

 

The ‘big concept’ in “The Melancholy Howl” deals with medical marijuana (legal in Colorado) and how its use and the industry has changed since the first stores opened. There is loads of money to be made, but as it turns out, there is a gap between the perceived need and the actual market, and not everyone is following the law. A plane crash, an ‘illegal’ grow, con- artists, tragedy, drought, and greed, all play a part in this gripping page-turner.

 

Mark Stevens also writes short stories, the most recent of which, “A Bitter Thing,” appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

 

Please visit https://www.writermarkstevens.com/  for the latest news about his books and the fascinating podcasts he produces.

 

CrimeFest 2020

Covid19 has struck down yet another crime fiction convention, this time CrimeFest, held in Bristol, UK, each year. In most cases, eligible titles were submitted by publishers, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlists and the winning titles. The winners were announced on July 6th. The authors and their books are innocent bystanders in this pandemic, and deserve to have your attention and support. Click on the links to take a look at the nominated titles. The winners are indicated in red.

 

CRIMEFEST has a new sponsor and they have instituted a new award for a crime novel by a debut author first published in the British Isles in 2019. The winning author receives a £1,000 prize as well as a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

Specsavers Crime Fiction Debut Award nominees:
– Fiona Erskine for The Chemical Detective
– Katja Ivar for Evil Things
– Carolyn Kirby for The Conviction of Cora Burns
– Alex Michaelides for The Silent Patient
Laura Shepherd-Robinson for Blood & Sugar
– Holly Watt for To The Lions


AUDIBLE SOUNDS OF CRIME AWARD
The Audible Sounds of Crime Award is for the best unabridged crime audiobook first published in the United Kingdom in 2019 in both printed and audio formats.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award nominees:
– Kate Atkinson for Big Sky, read by Jason Isaacs
– Oyinkan Braithwaite for My Sister, the Serial Killer, read by Weruche Opia
– Alex Callister for Winter Dark, read by Ell Potter
Lee Child for Blue Moon, read by Jeff Harding
– Lisa Jewell for The Family Upstairs, read by Tamaryn Payne, Bea Holland & Dominic Thorburn
– T.M. Logan for The Holiday, read by Laura Kirman
– Peter May for The Man with No Face, read by Peter Forbes
– Alex Michaelides for The Silent Patient, read by Louise Brealey & Jack Hawkins


eDUNNIT AWARD
The eDunnit Award is for the best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the United Kingdom in 2019.

eDunnit Award nominees:
– Helen FitzGerald for Worst Case Scenario

– Sarah Hilary for Never Be Broken
– Andrew Taylor for The King’s Evil
– L.C. Tyler for The Maltese Herring
– Holly Watt for To The Lions
– Don Winslow for The Border


LAST LAUGH AWARD
The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel first published in the United Kingdom in 2019.

Last Laugh Award nominees:
– William Boyle for A Friend is a Gift you Give Yourself
– Hannah Dennison for Tidings of Death at Honeychurch Hall
– Helen FitzGerald for Worst Case Scenario
– Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May – The Lonely Hour
– Antti Tuomainen for Little Siberia
– L.C. Tyler for The Maltese Herring


H.R.F. KEATING AWARD

The H.R.F. Keating Award is for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction first published in the United Kingdom in 2019.

H.R.F. Keating Award nominees:
– Ursula Buchan for Beyond The Thirty-Nine Steps

– John Curran for The Hooded Gunman
– Barry Forshaw for Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide


BEST CRIME NOVEL FOR CHILDREN
This award is for the best crime novel for children (aged 8-12) first published in the United Kingdom in 2019.

Nominees for the CrimeFest Award for Best Crime Novel for Children (ages 8-12):
– P.G. Bell for The Great Brain Robbery
– Vivian French for The Steam Whistle Theatre Company
– Sophie Green for Potkin and Stubbs
– A.M. Howell for The Garden of Lost Secrets
– Simon Lelic for The Haven
– Thomas Taylor for Malamander


BEST CRIME NOVEL FOR YOUNG ADULTS
This award is for the best crime novel for young adults (aged 12-16) first published in the United Kingdom in 2019.

Nominees for the CrimeFest Award for Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (ages 12-16):
– Kathryn Evans for Beauty Sleep
– John Grisham for Theodore Boone: The Accomplice
– Samuel J. Halpin for The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods
– Simon Mason for Hey Sherlock!
– Tom Pollock for Heartstream
– Nikesh Shukla for The Boxer

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

 

Jump into June with Four Books, Four Genres

 

 

The books couldn’t be more different, but each is a great read in its own genre. Each has the potential to be fodder for a TV or big screen movie, with thoroughly interesting characters and visually descriptive writing.

 

Cozy Mystery

“Kernel of Truth” by Kristi Abbott, is the first in her Popcorn Shop Mystery series set in Grand Lake, Ohio. It’s an engaging murder mystery, complete with a personable poodle and a gourmet popcorn shop.

Rebecca Anderson hesitates when she hears screams coming from outside, having to choose between taking her sauce off the stove and investigating the screaming. Her conscience and her dog’s interest prevail and she discovers that the screams are from her friend’s chocolate shop next door. Her beloved friend, Coco, is dead and Rebecca’s life is about to change in unexpected ways.

 

While coping with the shock, Rebecca’s ex works to get her back, and Coco’s niece publicly denounces Rebecca with having ulterior motives. Accused of theft, her popcorn business in peril, and her reputation besmirched, Rebecca must solve the murder of her friend in order to regain the trust of the customers and the town. The characters are well-drawn in this nicely plotted beginning to the series. Recipes included.

 

Thriller

Nick Heller is back in “House on Fire,” the fourth entry featuring the former Special Ops soldier, now Boston P.I. An Army pal dies from a drug overdose and Heller is drawn into an investigation about the death. Who’s responsible? The easy answer is to blame the buddy himself, but Heller agrees to dig deeper.

 

In typical Finder fashion, “House on Fire” combines current events with a page-turning thriller. Undercover work reveals a surprising ally and loads of twists to surprise the reader. Family politics, personal tragedy, greed, government contracts, and billions at stake drive the story. Who can be trusted? Will Heller get out of this alive? Not everyone does. Prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

 

Legal Suspense

Functioning within the limitations of sporadic donations, the overworked guardians find the evidence to exonerate the wrongly incarcerated. The ‘Guardians’ in the title refers to Centurion Ministries, an organization that Grisham learned about some years ago while conducting research for another project. The work the Centurions did and still do, stuck with Grisham and this story is based on an actual case written about in the New York Times in 2018.

 

Grisham’s writing is compelling as fictional Cullen Post, a pastor and lawyer, doggedly pursues every lead to help those with one last hope. Post is not in it for the money, only justice for those less fortunate. The process followed to uncover new evidence in the various cold cases, with some witnesses long dead, and evidence lost or buried, is grueling and sometimes dangerous. A well-written, fascinating read, one of Grisham’s best.

 

Non-Fiction

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” by Douglas Preston, is non-fiction, but the events described are so wildly dangerous that it reads like page-turning fiction. The search for the ancient White City begins deep in a Honduran rainforest, probably untouched for hundreds of years.

 

Preston presents a fascinating look at the tremendously complicated planning that a legitimate investigation of a major archeological site requires. Helicopters, sophisticated technology, local government with access to permits and soldiers to guard the expedition, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent even before the explorers put boots on the ground, the right people to pull it all together, all come into play.

 

The field of archeology appears to be highly competitive and the expedition itself was surprisingly controversial, but the group of which Preston was a part, was the first to document their expedition and findings and go through official channels. The book includes photos of the search, finding the astonishing cache of artifacts, and an insane snake story, but also discusses Preston’s serious brush with death. Preston and half of his (and subsequent) expedition people contracted a potentially lethal parasitic tropical disease, one that is hundreds of years old. The interviews and research in “The Lost City of the Monkey God” are thoroughly footnoted and documented, and also reference modern epidemics and pandemics. Excavation of this extraordinary site continues today.

 

The Agatha Awards – 2019 Books

 

The winners of the Agatha Awards for 2019 Books (named for Agatha Christie) have been announced. The nominated books were first published in the United States by a living author between January 1 and December 31, 2019. Normally, the nominated titles would be voted upon by the attendees at the annual Malice Domestic conference for mystery and crime writers/fans in early May, 2020. But, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference was cancelled. The Malice Board  determined the voting protocol, with the winners announced on May 2, 2020.

The Agatha Awards recognize the “traditional mystery,” meaning that there is no graphic sex and no excessive violence in the writing. Thrillers or hard-boiled detectives cannot be found here, but instead, picture Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot at work.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners! (indicated in red)  🙂

 

Best Contemporary Novel (6 titles this year)
“Fatal Cajun Festival” by Ellen Byron
The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves
“Fair Game” by Annette Dashofy
“The Missing Ones” by Edwin Hill
“A Better Man” by Louise Penny
“The Murder List” by Hank Philippi Ryan

Best First Mystery Novel
“A Dream of Death” by Connie Berry
One Night Gone” by Tara Laskowski
“Murder Once Removed” by S. C. Perkins
“When It’s Time for Leaving” by Ang Pompano
“Staging for Murder” by Grace Topping

Best Historical Mystery
“Love and Death Among the Cheetahs” by Rhys Bowen
“Murder Knocks Twice” by Susanna Calkins
“The Pearl Dagger” by L. A. Chandlar
Charity’s Burden” by Edith Maxwell
“The Naming Game” by Gabriel Valjan

Best Nonfiction
“Frederic Dannay, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Art of the Detective Short Story” by Laird R. Blackwell
“Blonde Rattlesnake: Burmah Adams, Tom White, and the 1933 Crime Spree that Terrified Los Angeles” by Julia Bricklin
“Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep
“The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women” by Mo Moulton
“The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold

Best Children/Young Adult
“Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers” by Shauna Holyoak
“Two Can Keep a Secret” by Karen MacManus
“The Last Crystal” by Frances Schoonmaker
“Top Marks for Murder (A Most Unladylike Mystery)”
by Robin Stevens
“Jada Sly, Artist and Spy” by Sherri Winston

Best Short Story (links are highlighted)
Grist for the Mill” by Kaye George in A Murder of Crows (Darkhouse Books)
Alex’s Choice” by Barb Goffman in Crime Travel (Wildside Press)
The Blue Ribbon” by Cynthia Kuhn in Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
The Last Word” by Shawn Reilly Simmons, Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
Better Days” by Art Taylor in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine


Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Pandemic Themed Fiction and Nonfiction

 

You asked for it. A list of books that deal with pandemics. In the past, we’ve watched the pandemic movies and TV shows and a few thriller authors have addressed the topic in their fiction. But, here we are in 2020, fighting a real life pandemic. Don’t read any of these books if you want to be reassured. Some, although written decades ago, are eerily predictive of our current worldwide battle with the Coronavirus, Covid 19.

Bobby Akart series: Starts with “Pandemic: Beginnings: A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller Series”

Michael Crichton: “The Andromeda Strain”

Molly Caldwell Crosby: “The American Plague” (nonfiction)

Stephen King: “The Stand”

Dean Koontz: “The Eyes of Darkness”

Emily St. John Mandell: “Station Eleven”

William Maxwell: “They Came Like Swallows”

Thomas Mullen: “The Last Town on Earth”

Katherine Ann Porter: “Pale Horse, Pale Rider”

Richard Preston: “The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus” (nonfiction)

Mary Shelley: “The Last Man”

Karen Thompson Walker “The Dreamers”

Do you have a favorite pandemic themed book that’s missing from the list? Let us know in the comments below.
 

Valentine’s Day Mysteries and Fiction

 

Are you a fan of holiday themed reading? Published between 2016 and 2020, here is a list of twenty-three novels, novellas, and short stories centered around Valentine’s Day. Be prepared to swoon, or laugh, or be delighted by the selection. Click on the titles to discover more about the books and enjoy!

 

Jennifer S. Alderson  “Death by Baguette”

 

Carolyn Arnold  “Valentine’s Day is Murder”

 

Patti Benning  “Tall, Dark, and Deadly”

 

Franky A. Brown  “What Happened to Romance?”

 

Susan Carroll “The Valentine’s Day Ball”

 

Cherry Christensen  “Secret Valentine”

 

Sylvia Damsell  “A Valentine Wish”

 

Steve Demaree “A Valentine Murder”

 

Liz Dodwell “Valentine’s Day: a Polly Parrett Pet-Sitter Cozy”

 

Jessica L. Elliott “Operation: Romance”

 

Tammy Falkner “A Valentine’s Day Miracle”

 

Deborah Garner  “A Flair for Truffles”

 

Patricia Gligor “Marnie Malone”

 

Holly Hepburn “Valentine’s Day at the Star and Sixpence”

 

Liwen Y. Ho “Romantically Ever After”

 

June McCrary Jacobs “Handmade Hearts”

 

Libby Klein  “Theater Nights Are Murder”

 

Jackie Lau  “A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day”

 

Lia London “Love from A to Z”

 

Ava Mallory & nine more authors “Stirring Up Love & Mystery”

 

Leslie Meier  “Valentine Candy Murder”

 

Summer Prescott “A Blossom of Murder”

 

Amy M. Reade  “Be My Valencrime”

 

Happy Reading! 

 

 

“New York Times Best Fiction and Nonfiction of 2019”

 

It’s always interesting to see which books the Book Review editors choose for their “Best of…” lists for the year. The titles are sometimes bestsellers, sometimes from debut or international writers, but more importantly, the NYT Book Review editors have fallen in love with the story (or the writing) and ta-da! the book makes the list.

 

Check out their Best of Fiction and Nonfiction choices from 2019. Listed in alphabetical order by author, click on the book titles to read their reviews.

 

Fiction:

 

Night Boat to Tangier” by Kevin Barry

 

Exhalation” by Ted Chiang

 

The Topeka School” by Ben Lerner

 

 

 

Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli

 

 

Disappearing Earth” by Julia Phillips

 

Nonfiction:

 

The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom

 

The Club” by Leo Damrosch

 

Midnight in Chernobyl” by Adam Higginbotham

 

 

 

 

 

Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe

 

 

 

No Visible Bruises” by Rachel Louise Snyder

 

Have you read any of the titles? Please let us know what you thought in the comments below.

 

 

 

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