If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Maddie Day (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Events that Shaped Generations by Kait Carson

Just before the turn of the new year, an article in The New York Times caught my attention. “What Events Most Shaped America in Your Lifetime?” A Pew Survey Tries to Answer.[1]  It was one of those articles that you read as you are looking back on one year, and forward to a new year, or perhaps, looking back on a life and forward to a future. What struck me was how different my list was from the list in the Pew Survey. Sure, there were some similarities. 9/11 and the assassination of JFK, but the Orlando shootings? The election of Obama? Defining moments to be sure, but life-shaping? Can the definition of life-shaping vary so much among the generations?

The article set me to thinking about what events shaped my life. I am a mid-boomer, raised with three channel television in a town where the local newspaper was titled The Rutherford Republican. We were proud to support the first Catholic presidential candidate as students at St. Mary School. Three years later, word filtered through the same classrooms that our president was shot and we were to pray the rosary before dismissal. At home, we turned our TV sets to Walter Cronkite and saw him wipe tears from his eyes. America lost its innocence that day. November 22, 1963. And eleven-year-old children knew if a president was at risk, so was the world. Literature in the coming year reflected both the fear of Russia who was believed to have set the assassin up on us (John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) and the disillusionment with the world around us that would allow something so awful to happen (Hannah Green’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Mary Mc McCarthy’s The Group, Saul Bellow’s Herzog).

Two assassinations in 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, further increased our sense of insecurity, but by then, the world knew that anything was possible, and literature had morphed from reflecting the horror of real life to reflecting the tenor of society. The popular books of the day were Jacqueline Suzanne’s The Love Machine, and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, bracketed by Helen MacInness’s taut WWII based thriller The Salzburg Connection, and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

A number of years passed with a number of wonderful and/or horrific, but not necessarily life-shaping events in the national sense, at least not for my generation. We rejoiced in the moon landing. Shed tears following the Viet Nam war on television. The tragedy of Wounded Knee tore at us all. Watergate is still a conundrum. Nixon’s resignation both expected and shocking. Amnesty for draft dodgers, I don’t want to delve into politics so I’ll leave it at that. The horror of seeing the giant Y shaped contrails of Challenger piercing the Florida sky. The firestorm of Waco. Hurricane Andrew and the Iraq war both personal experiences. So many events. Events that marked and changed the lives of those that participated in them, but not the nation as a whole. Not until 9/11.

The world stopped again on that awful day. And again, literature followed suit by offering solace and sympathy. The January best seller of 2002, most telling was John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas. The rest were a mixed bag of mystery, thriller, short story, horror. In short, we seemed to draw comfort from books, however we best found it.

Life changing events are apt to be generational. What were yours? Did literature, television, or movies offer ways to help make sense of the inexplicable, or provide escape?

[1] It is important to note that this survey was conducted between June 16 and July 4, 2016, well before the election of President Trump although the article appeared after the election.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Phantom Lady by Cornell Woolrich: A Review by Warren Bull

Phantom Lady by Cornell Woolrich: A Review by Warren Bull

Phantom Lady was first published in 1942 by Cornell Woolrich using the pen name William Irish. Woodrich is often credited with being one of the authors who developed noir fiction. The book cover blurb states that more of his work has been adapted to film, TV and radio than any mystery writer since Edgar Allan Poe.

Phantom Lady read like an extended nightmare. It began with the protagonist wandering the streets showing signs of smoldering anger to everyone he encountered. On impulse he stopped in a bar where he met a woman and made her an offer. He suggested they go to dinner and attend a show together without exchanging any personal information and without asking any personal information. One evening of companionship is all he asked. After consideration, she agreed. They had a pleasant evening and parted.

When he returned home he found police detectives waiting for him. They told him his wife had been murdered, strangled by one of his ties. They questioned him about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. He told them about the evening, but the shock of discovering what had happened destroyed his memory of details about the woman’s appearance. 

Luckily, several people saw them together. Unluckily, none of the people who saw them remembered that he was with a woman.  He is tried, convicted and scheduled for execution. He has to find the woman to save his life. Imprisoned and knowing that police efforts to find her failed, he must find some way to locate her. But how?

Woolrich builds tension by the steady erosion of time before the execution date. Each time there is hope for proving his innocence, the hope is snuffed out, often by the death of the possible witness.  The author writes with clarity and effectiveness. Some of his descriptions are almost lyrical even when what he describes is grim.

I recommend Phantom Lady highly.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Descendant of Immigrants

I’m a descendant of immigrants. Of course that’s not unusual. The only ones in our country, who do not have immigrants in their ancestry, are those who are one hundred percent Native American. They came over from Asia many years ago before anyone else, so they are natural citizens.  

My mother’s side is a mixture of Welsh, Scotch Irish and English. My sister and her husband couldn’t trace them back any further than New England. because the name Jones was a very common Welsh name, Grandpa Jones ancestry was only traced a couple of generations past not far from where we grew up. It was pretty much the same with my Grandma Jones with her English, Scotch-Irish background. 

However we had better luck with my Grandpa Steven Hovanic, He is the one I want to write about. He came over from Slovakia in 1901 with his mother when he was eight years old. It was after his father died, and his already much older brothers were already here. The actual country is a little bit iffy because there were so many changes between Poland, Slovakia and even Austria in those days. Also, the 1920 census that said Poland could have been written down wrong. If my great-grandmother spoke with an accent, and the census takers didn’t understand, they could have written it down wrong. However, my sister and her husband did go to Slovakia and found the cemetery with his family members’ tombstones.

They settled in a little coal mining town in Crabtree, Pennsylvania, and eventually my grandfather married Anna Radesky. Her family lived in Warren, Ohio, so I don’t know how they met. They lived in the Patch, a group of homes owned by the mines for those who worked for the mines. I don’t know what his original mining job was, but he eventually became the superintendent of the mining stables caring for the ponies that pulled the carts full of coal.  Some mines used mules, but from what I’d been told the mine he worked for used ponies.

Each section of the Patch had different nationalities on each street. There were the Italians, the Irish, the Polish or Slovak, African Americans and so forth. From what my father told me they mostly got along although they pretty much stayed with their own group because of the language differences, and maybe because of the different churches they went to.

 Grandma canned the vegetables she raised in her garden and did a lot of baking for her large family. The town had a general store owned by the mine, and the workers or their wives were to do all their shopping there. What they bought was recorded in a ledger, and the amount was taken out of the miner’s pay. My grandmother thought the prices of food and other items in the mining store was too high, so she started taking a bus to the next town to do her shopping. When the fact that she wasn’t buying much at the company store came out, Grandpa was called in and told if they didn’t shop at the company store, he’d be fired. So grandma stopped that.
My grandparents had thirteen children, but twins, who were premature, died soon after birth. The rest were all healthy and survived. The second daughter got a job as a postmistress when she was
in her teens, and she changed the Hovanec name to Hovanic. Most of the many Hovanecs in the
country still has the ‘ec’ ending, but Aunt Margaret thought the ‘ic’ ending sounded better. The company homes were mostly duplexes and because of the size of the family, they had the larger side of the one they lived in. There was room for a big vegetable garden in the back yard as well as a shared outhouse for the two families.

 Grandpa Hovanic was a magician, who entertained with his tricks sometimes when events were put on for entertainment in the patch. I remember the few times I saw him in his later years, when he came back for brief visits, and the magic tricks he did to amuse my children. He also had a weird sense of humor. One Christmas when one of his sons wanted a pony in the worse way, he left some horse droppings near the Christmas tree, and said Christmas morning that since his son didn’t leave a rope for Santa to tie the pony, he must have gotten away. An aunt who has now passed on told me a lot of stories about what they did and played as children.
Many mines used mule but Grandpa's used ponies.

The depression years were hard years for everyone, and I imagine it was just as bad in the mining town my grandparents lived in. One day the mining superintendent called my grandfather in and wanted him to cut back on the feed for the ponies they were using. My grandfather objected, and the superintendent insisted. So Grandpa threw down his keys and quit then and there. Of course, that meant they had to leave their home, too. At that time I think he had about nine children. They packed up everything and headed for Ohio. Grandpa had a strong sense of what was morally right and wrong and passed those strong values on to his children.

Grandma Anna Hovanic had two unmarried brothers and an unmarried sister. I’m not sure if her parents were still alive then, though. They lent them the money to buy a small farm north of Warren, Ohio, where Grandpa and Grandma settled in with their large family. He sent his three older sons including my father out to find a job. When they didn’t find one right away, he went out and got a job right away in a factory, and then got jobs for his sons in that factory, too.
These are my chickens and never butchered.

In addition to a large garden, Grandpa Hovanic and his family raised chickens. When they were large enough he butchered them and with a wagon and horse, he went to Packard Park in Warren, Ohio where a farmers market was set up on weekends. He sold his cleaned chickens that were ready for sale. I heard that customers came to him first because he didn’t leave the neck and gizzard inside to make them weigh more since they were sold by the pound. He probably sold eggs, too, although with a large family maybe there weren’t enough to sell. I know my father once said he didn’t like chicken because that’s about the only meat they ate in those years.

Then World War II came. Three of his sons joined, but the youngest one was allowed out because his very young wife managed to get a Catholic Priest to get him out. Both of them were teenagers. The other two fought bravely, one parachuting into Normandy on D-Day, and the other fought in Northern Africa and Italy. His best friend was shot next to him. Both returned safely. If they suffered from PTSD no one knew because in those days I don’t think anyone talked about it. If they talked about it at all, I never heard anything about it. My father didn’t go because he had two children, and worked in a factory that made shells for the army. He was with the same business until he retired in his sixties, but by then he’d moved up to a position as purchasing agent.

I was five years old when my Grandma Hovanic died of a heart attack.  She was only in her fifties. The only thing I remember of that is my father picking me up to look at her in the casket in the parlor in front of the grand piano. It wasn’t unusual to have funerals in the home then. My aunt Catherine, the oldest child, quit her job to take care of the younger ones, the youngest was eleven year old Adrian, who is one of only two of the eleven children still alive.

Eventually, but I don’t know how many years later, Grandpa Hovanic started dating again. He and his new wife moved to Florida so we didn’t see much of him after that. The aunt who had quit her job to care for her younger siblings, now owned the house, and I don’t think she would approve of a new wife coming to live there. In fact, they never had an indoor bathroom even though her many brothers all wanted to put in one for her. My Uncle Adrian said he always thought it was because Pappy’s wife would never want to live in a place without a bathroom. So until Aunt Catherine died, there was only an outhouse and a pot with a lid in the basement. It never bothered any of the many nieces and nephews who came to visit every Christmas night along with their parents and for picnics in the summer.

One year after my parents had died, my sister Suzanne and I went to Crabtree, Pa. to visit. She had gone with our parents years before so she knew where the house my grandparents and family had lived. It was interesting. Also, we went to the cemetery and were able to find the tombstone for the twin baby boys.

Postscript: When my sister and her husband were doing research, they found out we had a second cousin, Evelyn A. Hovanec, who was a professor at Penn State, in Fayette Pennsylvania. It was within easy driving distance from where we lived. So when my sister and her husband flew in from Washington State, we went to meet her. She had helped with putting in a museum in the basement of one of the colleges building to honor the coal miners and their families. We went to meet her and to tour the museum. I bought her book Common Lives of Uncommon Strength., a book about the women of the coal and coke era of Southwestern Pennsylvania in the years between 1880 and 1970. It’s a fascinating book of first person stories from so many of these women along with pictures.  I used it for one of my short stories, “Death in the Patch.” She also co-wrote a book Patch Work Voices – The Culture and Lore of a Mining People with Dennis F. Brestensky and Albert N. Skomra which was also very interesting.

Do you have stories about the lives if your grandparents or older relatives?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Interview with Agatha Nominee Cynthia Kuhn by E. B. Davis

When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious
cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is
thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week. The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer
and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan:
strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous
incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens
to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more
reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.

Last May, I interviewed Cynthia Kuhn on the release of her first novel, The Semester Of Our Discontent. When the Malice Domestic nominations were released, sure enough, that book was on the list in the Best First category. Congratulations, Cynthia, from all of us at WWK, and welcome back.     E. B. Davis

Thank you so much—and thank you for letting me visit WWK again! Happy to be here.

First things first—what was your reaction to the Agatha nomination? As a professor, was there any reaction on campus from students or colleagues about the nomination?

Stunned! And very grateful to those who nominated it and to Malice Domestic. I’m a big fan of the other writers in the Best First Novel category, and it’s an honor to be among them. People on campus were very kind about the news. 

Are there still literature snobs who discriminate against genre authors on campus?

Both on and off campuses, surely. But...to each their own.

When a student fails to cite sources on her paper, Lila reports her failure to the student judicial board. Why didn’t she let the girl off the hook?

Schools have policies in place for dealing with plagiarism, and Lila is following Stonedale’s procedures. The student’s paper was cobbled together from sections of various sources, so Lila didn’t have much of a choice. (Sidenote: there were a surprising number of “big” news stories about plagiarism this year!)

What do suspenders say about a man?

Well, in Spencer’s case, they say he’s dapper. He has an extensive collection. It was fun to “design” the ones that resemble an inked manuscript.

The reader learns more about Lila’s famous artist mother, Violet O. Does she live life large or is she melodramatic?

She lives life to the fullest and she’s a bit over the top. I would love to go to one of her art shows.

Francisco’s behavior seems to change depending on who he is with. Is he arrogant or not?

Great question. I don’t think he is arrogant. Lila can’t quite read him at first, but what seems like arrogance comes from an earnest desire to establish his scholarly credentials, to be recognized as an expert on his topic. The reception of his current project will genuinely affect his career, and he’s on edge about that.  On the other hand, he tends to be more relaxed around his close friends (like most of us are).

Judith, Lila’s mentor, and the department chair, Spencer, are married. Calista is dating Francisco. Are there no rules about fraternization in universities?

It varies, depending on where one works, but some schools do have policies that caution against or ban such fraternization. It can be especially complicated where different levels of authority/supervision are involved—for example, professor and student, or administrator and professor. (But Judith and Spencer were married before he became chair, whew.)

Poor Lila. She submits a nonfiction proposal for a book based on her dissertation. But the focus of it is an unknown author of mystery fiction. She realizes her book proposal won’t be of interest to anyone because she must get the author’s books published first. Is publish or perish still the edict for those without tenure? Has Lila messed up her chances?

Lila would appreciate your empathy for her situation! Yes, in places where research is expected for achieving tenure, it’s publish or perish. Because there was only a small press run of mystery writer Isabella Dare’s books, she is virtually unknown to contemporary readers. In order for Lila to persuade a press to publish her research (which is no small feat even if the author is well-known), she may first need to convince someone to republish Dare’s work. This could go either way for her, and it’s not going to be easy, in any case.

Does Nate deserve Lila’s consideration especially now that Detective Archer is interested?

Readers do seem to have an opinion on this matter after finishing The Art of Vanishing. Let’s just say I’m listening with great interest.

When you beta read, what are the most typical mistakes mystery writers make?

This is a difficult question to answer—every story is different. But there does need to be something upfront that engages readers, whether it’s an instant conflict that pulls us in or a style/character/structure so compelling that we are content to float along for awhile until the conflict is initiated.

Would you read Jane Austen or J. D. Salinger if you had time to fill waiting in an airport terminal?

Jane Austen for the win! Though I do like Salinger as well.

What’s next for Lila?

She will soon have cause to sleuth again—Stonedale University is chock-full of mysteries.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Serendipity, Sisters in Crime, and Robert Dugoni, Oh My!

by Paula Gail Benson

Serendipity has been defined as a happy accident, a course of action that leads to unexpected benefits. According to Wikipedia, the word serendipity was initially used by author Horace Walpole, who, in a 1754 letter written to a friend, described a Persian fairy tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip” where the characters were always encountering things they were not seeking.

Generally, as mystery writers, we’re cautioned about not giving characters their answers too easily and making them face conflict or adversity before reaching resolutions. However, most of us remember in the course of our individual writer’s journey being the beneficiary of good fortune through serendipity.

Two instances where I’ve experienced an unexpected writing benefit were in becoming a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) and meeting New York Times bestselling and Edgar nominated author Robert Dugoni. How those two separate fortunate incidents came together is the story of this message.    

In my post yesterday on The Stiletto Gang, I described how current national Sisters in Crime President Diane Vallere’s association with Sisters in Crime had influenced and advanced her writing career. Similarly, I credit joining that organization with giving me the information and boost I needed to start submitting my short stories to publishers and to become involved in the mystery blogging community.

Cathy Pickens, author of the Avery Andrews mysteries and former President of Sisters in Crime (thus properly recognized as “Goddess”), encouraged me to become a member. Due to her influence, I joined not only Sisters in Crime, but several of its chapters, including the Guppy Chapter, where I now serve on the Steering Committee and one of my stories appeared in the third Guppy anthology, Fish or Cut Bait.

Meanwhile, after we met at the South Carolina Book Festival, Robert Dugoni invited me to collaborate with him on a short story that was published in Killer Nashville Noir: Cold Blooded.

So, when I learned that Robert was headed to Beaufort, S.C., as part of a book tour, and that his trip coincided with the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s celebration of SinC’s 30th anniversary, I asked if he could make a stop in Columbia. As serendipity would have it, Robert was able to attend the Palmetto Chapter meeting, where he was made an honorary member. In addition, he was interviewed by his good friend Cathy Pickens and told the group how it felt to receive the Edgar nomination for his novel The Seventh Canon.

Of course, there was cake and Cathy Pickens had the honor of making the first “stab” into it, as is benefiting a celebration of mystery authors.

The serendipity continued the following day when Robert accompanied me to a church service and met a fan of his Tracy Crosswhite series. She was thrilled to receive an autographed copy of the latest novel, The Trapped Girl.

So, while I’ll be careful of allowing my characters to experience too much serendipity, I’ll keep enjoying all that I encounter in life.

Has serendipity ever taken you down a happy pathway?    

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bringing Two Worlds Together

by Linda Rodriguez

I live professionally in two worlds as a writer—the world of crime fiction novels and the world of poetry and literary fiction. It's not often that those worlds connect. A few years ago, my then-editor at St. Martin's proposed a panel on women crime writers to AWP, the huge conference of literary writers, editors, and academic writing programs, and I sat on it, bringing together my worlds. But this kind of thing seldom happens, not because of any problems crime fiction has with literary fiction and poetry, but more because of the literary world's ignorance and, occasionally, hostility to all genre fiction.

At Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans, my worlds crossed again when a fellow poet, Patricia Smith, finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, showed up to give me a hug and joined Sisters in Crime since she's now working on a crime novel. This was a lovely bit of serendipity.

I've just come back from AWP, which I attend every year, and this time my two worlds connected once more. Friend and acclaimed mystery short story writer and anthology editor, Art Taylor, attended this AWP for his academic day job, and we had the chance to get together and chat about both worlds for a while. This kind of experience is still so rare that it's a lovely treat in the midst of the high-strung literary world and its politics to sit with someone from the warmer community of crime fiction, and Art was a particularly great person to share it with since he's familiar with both circles. I'm only sorry that I didn't think to get a photo of us while there.

At AWP, I spent a lot of time helping my husband in the BkMk Press/New Letters (University of Missouri-Kansas City) booth in the book fair and a lot of time involved in administrative and political issues (around diversity in the lit world) with both the Indigenous Writers Caucus of which I'm past chair and on the leadership council and the Caucus of Caucuses of which I'm co-founder. But I also had time to visit the Library of Congress—such a gorgeous building throughout, so if you get the chance to see it, snatch it—and record an interview with the legendary Grace Cavalieri for the Library of Congress' long-running public radio show, The Poet and the Poem. (If you'd like to hear it, you can listen here.)

Also, AWP was the launch of the very special anthology I recently co-edited, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, and we had a panel about it at the conference. Over 50 people showed up to surprise us, since were the last program of the last day of the conference and hidden away in a room that was difficult to find. We had several contributors, as well as the co-editors and publisher, on the panel and several others joined us in the audience to add their perspectives to the discussion, which developed into a lively and engaged Q&A session at the end. Many audience members stayed afterward
to talk with the contributors and have their books signed. All in all, a success that pleasantly surprised us, given the scheduling and location of the panel.

AWP also put more panels about genre fiction on its huge schedule, and for a change, trade publishers have joined the many literary publishers and university presses in the book fair. So I anticipate ever more crossovers between my two professional worlds in the future. I think that's an excellent development for the largest writers conference (17,000 attendees) in the United States.