Saturday, January 31, 2009

Library Loot - The Hunger Games & More

So, what did you bring home from the library this week? I brought home a book, and something personal.

I brought home one of the hottest young adult novels in our system, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The cover copy says, "In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV."

When sixteen-year-old Katriss Everdeen takes her younger sister's place in the Games, she doesn't expect to survive. But, Katriss is smart, athletic, and fast, and she could be a contender. the sequel to this intriguing story is due out in September. I had The Hunger Games home before, and had to take it back. This time, I'm going to get to it before it's due.

I also benefited in an intangible way this week, from my library job. At the beginning of the month, my Head of Reference retired, and, with the economy, we're in a hiring freeze. So, I've been spending entire days working the reference desk, instead of filling in now and then. I also had a reference librarian out sick all week. Guess who filled in those hours as well?

Do you know what loot I brought home? I'm a much nicer person after spending all those hours on the reference desk. There isn't one of us who isn't worried about losing our jobs. But, hour after hour I talk to people who are filling out resumes, job applications, trying to find jobs. Our library has really changed in the last year. Our computers used to be taken up by teenagers on MySpace and other social networks. Now, they have to compete with the adults for computer time, and the adults are taking over.

We're in scary times. And, talking with my library patrons, and helping them, day after day, has made me nicer, and not as bureaucratic, in some of my work. As Martha Stewart used to say, "It's a good thing." It's part of this week's library loot.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic, Inc., Oct. 2008. ISBN 9780439023481 (hardcover), 374p.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Engineered for Murder

Oh, I miss Aileen Schumacher's Tory Travers' mysteries. Engineered for Murder was the first of only four mysteries to feature Tory, a young, widowed, structural engineer, living with her son, on the outskirts of a campus town in New Mexico. When a scandal erupts, surrounding a football stadium that Tory has to inspect, her business is endangered, and a technician is murdered. Her life changes forever, with this job, and the appearance of Detective David Alvarez in her life. He soon discovers her connection to the building project, and her mysterious past.

The four books showed the development of Tory's relationship with Alvarez, and the growing success of her business. Tory's family and friends were all interesting. Engineered for Murder was followed by Framework for Death, and then Affirmative Reaction. The final book in the series, Rosewood's Ashes, took Tory and David into a Florida mystery that started seventy years earlier with a racist mob.

Again, it might not be easy to buy these mysteries, but your local public library should be able to borrow them for you, through interlibrary loan. Engineered for Murder, and Aileen Schumacher's other mysteries, shouldn't be forgotten.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winners and Hardcover Crime Novels Contest

Congratulations to the winners of my "Favorite Authors" contest. Still Life by Louise Penny will go to Michael C. in Kalamazoo, MI. The Drop Edge of Yonder by Donis Casey also goes to Michigan, to Sherrie M. from Muskegon. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two hardcover crime novels. If you read this blog regularly, you know I just reviewed Linda L. Richards' second Kitty Pangborn mystery, Death Was in the Picture. I'm giving away the first book in
the series, so you can start at the beginning. Death Was the Other Woman introduces Kitty, secretary to Dex Theroux, a private detective. Kitty isn't sure what side of the law they're working on when Dex takes a case for the wife of a shady businessman. Richards' mysteries are a fascinating peek into the Depression.

Lisa Jackson's Lost Souls is the story of a young woman whose dreams of being a true crime writer leads her to enroll in All Saints College despite her police detective father's wishes. Four girls, "lost souls", have disappeared from the school in the last two years. Kristi Bentz' search takes her undercover into a cult, and into the path of a serial killer.

So, do you want Death Was the Other Woman or Lost Souls? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "The Other Woman" or Win "Lost Souls". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Off to Teach a Workshop

Nothing special on the blog this morning, but tonight I'll announce the winners of the "Favorite Authors" contest, and start a new one. Have you entered the contest yet?

In the meantime, I spent last night collating handouts. I'm teaching a Readers' Advisory workshop at the Basha Branch of the Chandler Public Library this morning. I do two versions - a two hour workshop, that doesn't include many websites, and a three hour workshop that includes websites. I always have fun, and, since Chandler asked me back to a different branch, I think their staff enjoyed it as well.

Readers' Advisory is one of the hardest parts of the public librarian job, and, one of the aspects that is the most fun. It's suggesting books for people, after listening to them talk about what kinds of books they like, and what they're in the mood to read.

In the workshop, we get to do something that librarians don't do as often as people think - talk about books. While a number of people think we spend our days reading or talking about books, in reality, I spend my time answering reference questions, dealing with computer questions, attending city meetings, and, since I'm a library manager, working with, and assisting my staff. I've fixed copiers, toilets, cleaned up unspeakable messes. But, my favorite part of the job has always been talking about books.

I hold a quarterly brown bag luncheon in my office to tell people about books. Library staff in our system take one lunch hour a month, and spend it talking about books. My favorite question, and, the one I cringe when I get, is "I need a good book." It's fun, and challenging. And, every bit of my education, life experience, and reading experience can go into answering that question.

Today, I get to meet with other library staff, in Chandler, for two hours, and discuss the best way we can talk about books with you - our library patrons. Have you talked about books with a librarian lately?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Anna Mae Mysteries: The Golden Treasure

L.S. Cauldwell's first Anna Mae mystery, The Golden Treasure, introduces Anna Mae Botts, and her unusual psychic gifts. Accompanied by her brother, Malcolm, and her best friend, Raul Garcia, the three young people are in for the weird adventure of their lives. It's a mystery designed for ages twelve and up.

Anna Mae is an outcast in seventh grade, and the large black fist that appears out of the sky, dropping mysterious notes, doesn't help. It's particularly bad when the class bully, Stanley Paxton, sees the fist as well, and panics. Anna Mae doesn't need the "Pit Bull of the playground," and leader of the elite white kids, to consider her different. But, it's too late for Anna Mae. Between the unusual events at school; a hand writing on the blackboard, the sprinkling system going off only in their classroom, and, Stanley's fear of the psychic world, she's doomed. In the segregated school in Lowry, Georgia, it doesn't pay to be a black girl with unusual gifts.

A class assignment gives her the chance she needs, though. All of the ghosts she saw, and notes she received, indicated she was to find the Lost Confederate Gold of Jefferson Davis. When, she and Raul are made partners for a project about the Myths and Legends of the War Between the States, it's a project made for Anna Mae.

Ghosts, legends of lost gold, and Civil War Stories. What more could a reader want? How about a fascinating grandmother who has "the sight", the ability to see the future? Most of all, it's a book about truth triumphing. It's also a multicultural story in which groups segregate themselves in the classroom, and there's a hierachy according to race. This is a difficult book to read, as readers watch Anna Mae suffer at the hands of other students, and even teachers. But, it's a story of courage and triumph in the end.

L.S. Cauldwell's website is

Annd Mae Mysteries: The Golden Treasure by L.S. Cauldwell. Star Publish, ©2008. ISBN 9781932993981 (paperback), 228p.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Death Was in the Picture

Linda L. Richards' second Kitty Pangborn crime novel, Death Was in the Picture, is a vivid portrayal of Depression era Los Angeles, with the contrast between Hollywood, and the ordinary people. Kitty, an innocent, but tough, young woman, provides a fascinating view of the times.

Kitty Pangborn is secretary to Dex Theroux, a hard-drinking, womanizing detective, typical of the times. Dex agrees to watch Laird Wyndham, a movie star, and even attends a party in order to do the job. But, things are not what they seem, and Laird is arrested for murder, with Dex as a witness that he saw Wyndham go into the room in which a starlet died.

Neither Dex nor Kitty are willing to accept Laird's guilt, and they agree to take his case, and find the actual killer. Dex needs Kitty to act as his date at The Masquers Club, and portray an extra on a movie lot. Suddenly, Kitty is deeply involved in a murder investigation.

Kitty's innocence is a perfect vehicle for describing 1931 Hollywood, and the contrast between the movie world, and ordinary people. While Kitty struggles to find a nickel to go to the movies, those involved in the movie industry are living the high life, with parties, drink, and food beyond Kitty's wildest dreams. Kitty leads the life that readers expect during the Depression, living in her own home turned into a boarding house, and celebrating when there's seafood for dinner. She's desperate to keep her job at a time when Okies are flooding into California, in search of work.

However, the world of the studio system is dirtier than Kitty knows. And, it's easy to get on the wrong side of the studios and the press, and forces more powerful than she can imagine. It will take a great deal of digging for Kitty and Dex to find the truth about the murder of a starlet.

Death Was in the Picture is a successful sequel to Richards' Death Was the Other Woman. Richards, and Kitty, bring 1931 Hollywood to life.

Linda L. Richards' website is

Death Was in the Picture by Linda L. Richards. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312383398 (hardcover), 288p.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ghost at Work

I originally wrote this review for Mystery News, but there had already been a published review of Hart's novel. Here's the review, in the format for that journal, rather than my normal style. Fun book!

Ghost at Work
by Caroline Hart
William Morrow
ISBN 978-0-06-087436-0

Bailey Ruth Raeburn died along with her husband when their cabin cruiser went down in the Gulf of Mexico. Although she enjoyed Heaven, she was ready to help someone in need, so she applied at the Department of Good Intentions. Wiggins, the station master, was waiting to send her back to earth, but put her on probation for her first assignment. Before he could go over the rules, called the Precepts, Bailey Ruth had to be dispatched to her hometown, Adelaide, Oklahoma, to help the rector’s wife.

Kathleen Abbott was standing over a dead body on the porch of the rectory when Bailey Ruth arrived. Since Kathleen was going to move the body, Bailey Ruth felt she had to break a Precept, revealing herself as a ghost, and scaring Kathleen. Kathleen never did grow comfortable with Bailey Ruth, but she desperately needed her assistance. On the other hand, Kathleen’s eleven-year-old daughter, Bayroo, could see Bailey Ruth, and was pleased to have a ghost around.

Bailey Ruth tried to help Kathleen, but the rector’s wife only seemed to dig herself in deeper as a murder suspect. Bailey Ruth found herself investigating the victim’s past, only to find that Daryl Murdoch was not popular in Adelaide, and had some very interesting pictures on the cell phone that Kathleen pitched into the water. Ghost at Work is a fun story with the ghosts, murder and blackmail.

Bailey Ruth is an enchanting character. Readers willing to suspend disbelief, and accept a ghost that investigates a murder, and interferes with the police investigation will probably enjoy Ghost at Work. Hart devised eight Precepts for ghosts, and Bailey Ruth broke four of the eight; revealing herself, becoming visible, allowing herself to be noticed, and alarming people. She’s a delightful characters who enjoys the new fashions, and is fascinated by new technology such as cell phones and computers. She’s thrilled when she finds out why she was the perfect choice to help Kathleen.

Hart’s characters are all interesting. I’d like to see more of Wiggins and Bayroo in future books. Readers who enjoy a fun mystery, with humor, suspense, and a ghost, will appreciate Hart’s latest book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Winners of New Year, New You Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the New Year, New You contest, with books supplied by Hatchette Book Group. The winners will receive their books directly from Hatchette within in the next few weeks.

Here are the winners:

Lisa P. of Chelmsford, MA
Daniel M. of Weymouth, MA
Stephanie R. of Philadelphia, PA
Faith Ann H. of Missoula, MT
Kearsten LB of Youngtown, AZ


Sunday Salon - Plum Spooky

I've been disappointed by recent books by Janet Evanovich. I couldn't get into Motor Mouth. Fearless Fourteen felt flat and uninspired. There's not enough character development in the short "Between-the-Numbers" books. But, with Plum Spooky, Evanovich has struck gold again.

When Stephanie Plum opened the door to find a monkey named Carl standing there, left while his owner went on her honeymoon, the book looked like it had possibilities. And, why is it that Stephanie has three hunks drooling over her? Soon after Carl arrives, Diesel shows up. He's hunting for an Unmentionable named Gerwulf Grimoire, who goes by Wulf. Wulf has teamed up with an eccentric scientist, and they are leaving dead bodies behind them. Unfortunately for Stephanie, her latest job as a bail bond enforcement agent is to find that scientist, Martin Munch. So, she's stuck with Diesel.

For readers who love Morelli, they'll have to lust from a distance with this book, since Stephanie's long-time cop boyfriend is tied up, working a gang war, and stuck with his brother, who was kicked out of his house, and moved in with Morelli. Between Diesel and Ranger, though, there are hunks to spare.

Only Stephanie Plum would get stuck chasing a vampire-type character into the Barrens, a New Jersey wilderness populated by the Easter Bunny, a man who farts fire, Sasquatch, and the Jersey Devil. There are rockets to spare in this explosively funny novel. Oh, and monkeys. Lots and lots of monkeys, but Carl is the one with personality.

Evanovich successfully rises to the top of her form in Plum Spooky.

Janet Evanovich's website is

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich. St. Martin's Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780312383329 (hardcover), 320p.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Library Loot

I brought Jim a number of books this week. He has a pile of paperbacks featuring the Navy Seals. And, right now he's reading Larry Bond's The Enemy Within.

But, I didn't bring anything home for myself. Instead, I took them a gift, and I'm getting ready to take another one. When I saw Donis Casey, I bought a copy of her latest book, The Sky Took Him, for the library. We're going through a tough economy, and libraries throughout the country are hurting. I'm "gifting" my library with books. I just finished a book designed for tweens, ages 12-15. My review

of L.S. Cauldwell's The Golden Treasure, the first Anna-Mae mystery, will appear on my blog sometime in the next week. The book will also be given to the library next week.

What do you do with books you've read once, and don't want to keep? Will your public library accept gifts for the library? Or, do they need them for their library book sales, to raise more money for the library? I do understand that some libraries won't accept gifts. There is a great deal of time and money involved in adding books to a collection. My library is grateful for the gifts, so I can pass on a treasure now and then.

Library Loot isn't always what I bring home from the library. Sometimes, it's treasures I can give to the library.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Masao Masuto mysteries

If you're familiar with Howard Fast's bestsellers, and historical novels, you might not be familiar with the mysteries he wrote under the name of E.V. Cunningham. During World War II, Fast worked with the United States Office of War Information, writing for Voice of America. But he had joined the Communist Party USA in 1944, and was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to cooperate, and was imprisoned for three months in 1950 for contempt of Congress.

Because he was unable to write under his own name, he used different pseudonyms, including that of E.V. Cunningham. And, my favorite books written under that name featured a Nisei police detective, Sergeant Masao Masuto. In 1967, a book called Samantha introduced Masuto. The title was later changed to The Case of the Angry Actress. Masuto was a Zen Buddhist, like Cunningham, and the books included aspects of his meditation that were not common in mysteries. Masuto was a detective, family man, a karate expert, and a rose lover. The series began in 1967 with The Case of the Angry Actress, and ended in 1984 with The Case of the Murdered Mackenzie.

They are not easy to find, but the Masao Masuto mysteries were always fascinating.

David Snowden, Guest Blogger

I'd like to welcome David Snowden, author of the espionage novel, The Mind of a Genius, as guest blogger today. Thank you, David.


Espionage is the process of using spies to procure secret information. It involves spies, procuring secret information without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage usually involves locating the secret information, or locating the people, who know the information and might reveal it. Spies normally have to receive special training and also have to travel abroad, and in the dangerous world of espionage, only the best spies survive. The Espionage Act was passed by Congress in June 1917, after the US joined the First World War. The British MI6 and the American CIA are good examples of modern espionage organizations.

It was the practice of espionage that led to the creation of spy fiction. And classic James Bond novels such as Casino Royale, Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia with Love, are a very good example of spy fiction. The James Bond 007, character was created by Ian Fleming in 1952, and has been featured in 22 James Bond films to date. The latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, was released in the UK on the 31st of October 2008, and took nearly £103 million at the global box office in the first nine days.

Espionage has been described as the second oldest profession in the world, as people have been spying on each other for a very long time. The main attractions over the years have been the intrigue and the gadgets are sometimes used in the process.

Thank you, David.

And, here's some information about The Mind of a Genius.

The Mind of a Genius by David Snowdon
(The Formula That Could Change The World)

Special Agent, Jason Clay from the MI4 is hired to find a secret formula that was invented by the famous British scientist, Malcolm Prince. The only weak element in Clay’s strategy to accomplish his mission is Laura Prince, the beautiful wife of the scientist, who Clay has to seduce in order to obtain the formula.

But the CIA, the Denmark Intelligence, the Australian Intelligence and many other very determined individuals are also after that formula, and can’t wait to get their hands on it. The competition is fierce, but who’s going to win?

The story develops as a travel through the world; with the action starting in London, then moving onto Copenhagen, Hong Kong and Australia.

Clay appears to be the right man for the job; extremely handsome and a natural charmer, nothing could be easier for him than seducing a beautiful woman in order to obtain a top secret.

For more information visit

About the book:
The Mind of a Genius by David Snowdon
ISBN: 978-0-9552650-1-3
Publisher: Pentergen Books
Pages: 288
S.R.P £6.99/ $13.56

About David Snowdon -
British thriller writer, David Snowdon was born in London, and lives in London. He started writing in 1983, and wrote his first book, which hasn’t been published in 1984. His first published work, Too Young To Die, was published in August 2006. And his second novel, The Mind of a Genius, was published in November 2007.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Winners and Contest for Favorite Authors

Congratulations to the winners of the Overseas Mystery Contest. The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis will go to Charlene K. from Spotsylvania, VA. The Price of Butcher's Meat by Reginald Hill goes to Lorrie H. from Glendale, CA.

In the last week, I had the chance to hear two of my favorite authors, Donis Casey and Louise Penny. I bought trade paperbacks of one book by each, had it autographed, and now I'm offering them to you.

The Drop Edge of Yonder by Donis Casey is the story of a family murder. One summer evening in 1914, someone killed Bill McBride, kidnapped his fiancée, and wounded Alafair Tucker's daughter, Mary. Nothing would make Alafair more determined to find a killer, than an injury to one of her children.

If you missed Louise Penny's debut mystery, the book that won so many awards, now is the time to try to win an autographed copy of Still Life. It's the traditional mystery that introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and the beautiful little village of Three Pines. Escape to the rural village south of Montreal in a Canadian autumn.

Would you like to win The Drop Edge of Yonder, or Still Life? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Drop Edge" or Win "Still Life". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Louise Penny on Tour - A Rule Against Murder

Louise Penny's tour for A Rule Against Murder brought her to Phoenix on Inauguration Day. It was a perfect day for friends to get together before Louise's appearance at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. Louise Penny joined me, along with Barbara Peters, owner of the bookstore, and two other friends, Patti O'Brien and Kay Stewart, for dinner at The Italian Grotto. The conversation turned to topics as varied as the Inauguration to why crime fiction novelist Eric Stone was on the TV over the bar while we had dinner.

It was a natural transition to The Poisoned Pen for Penny's program. When Barbara Peters welcomed her, in French, she said an author from Penny's area in Canada needed to be conversant with French and English. Language is a political issue in Quebec. Louise said that her books are about duality, what we think, and what face we present to the world. They are about the French and English, and how they get along on the surface. Montreal's license tags are in French, but they translate to "I Remember". And what they remember is being conquered by the English on the Plains of Abraham.

Penny said when she leaves Phoenix on Wednesday, she'll be going to Montreal, and then Quebec City, where she is staying for a month. Her sixth novel takes place there, where she has rented an old stone house in the city. She said Quebec City is magical in winter, where the Christmas lights are still up, with the lights, and snow, and mullioned windows.

When Barbara Peters commented that she likes shopping in Quebec City because she's petite, and can find clothes that don't need to be shortened, Louise commented that Quebec women are tiny. When she first moved to Quebec City from Winnipeg, she thought she'd blend in quickly after learning French, but she's tall, and the women there are short, and they dress beautifully.

That brought the conversation around to Armand Gamache's wife, Reine-Marie (Queen Mary), and A Rule Against Murder. St.
Martin's Minotaur has put Penny's mysteries on the same schedule as the Canadian books, so the next book will be out in October.

Peters said Three Pines is almost like Brigadoon. Penny said her fictional village of Three Pines is almost magical, people find the village when they need it. Three Pines is Penny's ideal village.

With her latest book, she said she wanted to let the series settle. She wanted to step back, and take a breath. She allows Gamache and her readers to do the same, so she set it outside of Three Pines.

This book is a clear and deliberate homage to Agatha Christie, with a 21st century sensibility. Gamache and his wife go to an isolated inn in an isolated woods. There's a sense of And Then There Were None. It's a country house murder.

Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, are on their 35th visit to the inn, where they go every summer for their anniversary. As part of the duality, there is a dysfunctional family taking up the rest of the inn. There's a subtext of family.

There's a finite number of suspects. Penny said A Rule Against Murder was a fun book to write, and see if she could write a book away from Three Pines. She didn't want to limit herself to that village. But, book five, The Brutal Telling, will go back to Three Pines.

Penny tried to explain that Gamache works for the Sûreté de Quebec by saying they are sort of like state troopers. They are provincial police. Peters said they are probably similar to a county sheriff. Someone commented that Gamache is lucky that so much crime is centered in one village. Louise laughed and said even the villagers of Three Pines realize that. In book five, Clara says every village has a vocation. Some make cheese. Three Pines makes murder.

A Rule Against Murder was called The Murder Stone in Canada. Louise asked the audience if they knew the British magazine, Country Life. She said it has high-end houses for sale. She got tips for using the stone out of that magazine. So, she contacted the Royal Academy, asking if she could have an appointment with their Head of Sculptures. She said she was a mystery writer, and wanted to run something by her to see if it would work for a murder. For some reason, that wasn't well-received. But, she soon received an answer that her solution would work, and no one had ever heard of it before.

Louise and Barbara agree that A Rule Against Murder has all the cliches of a traditional mystery, the isolated country house, the resident sleuth, and the storm. Penny deliberately put them in, and then subverted an Agatha Christie tenet. Peters said, for fans of the classic mystery, there's a lot to explore. It's a "Manor House Mystery".

The Brutal Telling is the name of Penny's next book. Penny said she wanted to start the book with "Once upon a time," and she did start her first and second drafts that way. In her third draft, she had to take it out because it wasn't working. Penny said, "Good writers are good editors, and good editors are willing to kill their young." Author Rhys Bowen, who was in the audience, said she tells her classes to write on the computer. Nothing is written in stone.

Penny has an interesting discussion of class in A Rule Against Murder. The moneyed family in the book regard Gamache and his wife as a shopkeeper and a cleaning woman. The family insists on regarding them that way. It's the courtesy that is often present on cruise ships or lodges. Since Gamache is a Francophone, and he's staying in a back room, the family assumes his status in life, and treats him that way.

The inn in the book, Manoir Bellechasse, is a log house built by skilled Canadian loggers. The robber barons built it as a hunting lodge. The inn is based on Manoir Hovey, a favorite of Louise's. She and her husband, Michael, got married there. In the book, the lodge looks like a log cabin from the outside. But, that's part of the duality. On the inside, it's very sophisticated with a superb cook. Louise said she loves to write about food.

Before taking questions, Penny thanked everyone for coming out on Inauguration Day. She said it was a thrilling day for her. She said she started crying at 5 after 7, and stopped when President Obama and Michelle got back in the car the second time during the parade, hours later.

She was asked what Canadians thought about the change in government. She said the Conservative government is thrilled. She showed off her Barack Obama button she received from "underground Democrats" handing out buttons when she was doing an event on Mackinac Island. Penny said she wanted to be here for the inauguration. She said how moving it was that even people who didn't vote for Obama, or agree with him, stood out there for eight hours to be part of history. She commented that many were getting behind him with grace once the decision was made.

Barbara said she had such an experience on Prince Edward Island once when she was there on July 1, Canada Day. It was years ago, but everyone was out, including the children. And, ice cream was popular. But, there was a feeling of pride and good will.

Louise has written the fifth book, and it will come out in October in the U.S., at the same time as her release in Canada. When Still Life came out, it was almost a year before it was published in the U.S. The U.S. publication has been moved back three months with every book. The publishers were worried that her October book would disappear because many of the big authors come out with their books then.

She commented that she made Reine-Marie a librarian because she loves them, and librarians are heroes to her.

She also said her editors have the fifth book. She enjoys breaking rules by nature. She didn't want to be in danger of slipping into a rut. With that in mind, her agent asked her to think about what else she might want to write, in case she tires of the series. But, Louise said right now everything she wants to say she's saying with this series. It allows her to talk about what she believes in, her philosophical underpinnings. Maybe she'll take a break after finishing the sixth book. She said when she finishes one, she feels like she's been running a marathon.

She was asked about the Canadian bookselling/publishing scene. She said the U.S. was her biggest audience. But, the Canadian mystery writing scene is exciting, and growing. She mentioned Giles Blunt, Vicki Delaney, Peter Robinson, and Maureen Jennings. Penny said publishers were afraid people wouldn't want to read mysteries set in Canada, but they were wrong. Canada does have a small population, so if 10,000 copies of a book are sold, it's considered a bestseller. And, Peters added that there is a duty on books shipped into Canada.

Peters mentioned Vicki Delaney's books, In the Shadow of the Glacier, and the new book, Valley of the Lost. These are village mysteries set in British Columbia. Modeled on Nelson in British Columbia, the city is called Trafalger. They depict country life in Western Canada.

When asked about her background, Louise said she was born in Toronto, and lived for five formative years in Montreal as a child. She was a journalist before writing. She got the chance to listen to people's stories for 25 years. She hosted live current affairs shows on CBC radio. She met people in extreme circumstances, good or bad.

She was asked what drove her to fiction from journalism, and she said she was weary. Journalism is too cynical. Penny became too cynical at 35. That was not the type of person she wanted to be. She was weary of a world view that saw only disaster. Fiction allowed her to step back. Her book are not about murder and blood. They are about he human toll - friendship, love, redemption and hope.

Penny encouraged people to read poetry. She said poets say in one line what she struggles to say Auden said, about Yeats, "Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry."

Louise Penny said she was hurt into fiction. She turned her back on a cynical world, and saw light. Gamache chooses kindness. There is nothing else to write about. She chooses kindness. It's all she wants to say, and she'll say it over and over again.


We were fortunate to host Louise at Velma Teague on Wednesday as part of the Authors @ The Teague series. She told the audience she has a brother who lives in Edmondton, who loves coming to Phoenix. He's planning to buy a place here.

Penny said she would presume the audience were not familiar with her books. She said she writes traditional murder mysteries. There are a subsets of mysteries - noir, police procedural, and traditionals are a few.

How did she find mysteries? Her mother introduced them to her. They had a rocky relationship, which is often common between mothers and daughters. But they did share a love of mysteries. Her mother introduced her to Josephine Tey, Agatha Christie, and Ngaio Marsh, authors of the Golden Age. She has a huge affection for them.

She thought she would write literary fiction. She wanted to write the best book ever, and win a Pulitzer Prize. But, it was paralyzing to think, if you can't be the very best, why bother? So, she had writer's block, and sat around and ate gummi bears and watched Oprah for five years. Her husband has said he'd support her after she quit her job, but he didn't know what he was getting into. She was able to move on after moving to the country, where she found artistic, creative women of all ages, artists, writers, and she was inspired by them. The women had courage to create because they cared. And, yes, they hurt when their work wasn't well-received, but it didn't kill them, and they picked themselves up because they found pleasure in creating. But, as in Waiting for Godot, if you have a dream, should you actually put it to the test? What if you finally try to write, and discover you can't write? Eventually, when she saw the mysteries on her nightstand, she realized they say write what you read. Her heart and history was with Golden Age mysteries. She has a huge affection for them, and understands them.

Still Life , her first book, was a traditional mystery, written just for herself. It was set in a village not far from Quebec, Three Pines. Three Pines is Penny's ideal village. She said if she had to spend all her days someplace, why not build the ideal place. She created a used bookstore, then a bistro with wonderful homemade food. She added a baker and a general store. The villagers are people she would choose as friends. They are nice, kindly people who like each other, and have an acceptance of each other. People think intelligent people live in the city, and she wanted to show that all kinds of people live in small towns, as well as the city.

Then, she created a Chief Inspector of Homicide for the Sûreté de Quebec, Armand Gamache. In the first draft, his name was Pierre, and he was in his 30s, in a bad marriage, an unhappy man with a drug problem. Then, she thought, why would I crate such a dismal person? Why not create a person I would love to be around? She had heard that Agatha Christie grew to hate Poirot, and she was imprisoned by her character. If she was lucky enough to be punished, Louise wanted to have a character that would be someone to hang around. So, she created a man she could marry; in his mid 50s, tall, weighing about fifteen pounds more than he should, who liked to take long walks, and read and recite poetry. His wife is a librarian. He's a good man; a content man; a kindly man. He knows love, and gives love. He's content because he knows how cruel the world is. He chooses compassion, patience, goodness.

Gamache is quite a bit like Louise's husband, Michael, who was Chief of Hematology and Oncology at Montreal Children's Hospital. He was a man who dealt with children, and wore bow ties with teddy bears and Disney characters. He knows what a gift life is. Louise had to love him.

Beginning with Still Life, each of the first four books was set in a different season in Quebec. There is extreme weather in Quebec. It was 40 below last week, and normal is 10 to 12 below. She wanted to write about the Canadian Thanksgiving, with the leaves, and the autumn apple smell. Penny wanted to show what Christmas was like in Three Pines. There's no quiet like the country after snowfall. It's muffled, pristine, dazzling. It's the duality. Most mysteries are about contradiction, the public face and what's hidden.

The third book, The Cruelest Month, is set at Easter. It's a time of rebirth. But, the book shows that things thought dead and buried can come back.

The new book, A Rule Against Murder, is the last in the seasonal cycle.

Penny said Still Life received fifty rejections. No one wanted it. Did it confirm that her writing was bad? But, writing "The End" was so fulfilling. She had promised herself at the age of eight that she would finish a book; not necessarily publish it, or write a good one, but finish it. She did feel satisfied that she didn't not write the book because of the fear of failure.

Still Life was shortlisted for an award in Britain, for the best unpublished mystery. She came in second, but it brought her enough recognition to get an agent, who then sold it all over the world. It went on to win almost every award in the world.

Louise Penny has a keen sense of how lucky she is. She knows how lucky she is. Some people have read jobs, while she can sit by the fireplace in her pajamas, and visit Three Pines with Armand. She knows how lucky she is.

She said her books are set in Canada, and are traditional. They are not dark, at a time when noir crime novels are popular. But, there is a depth to her books.

Louise and her husband started the same kind of award in Canada that she had won, for the best unpublished mystery novel. They worked with the Crime Writers of Canada, and in the second year, had 100 submissions. She met the first woman who won. She got her book published, and her second one on the basis of the award. She's almost seventy.

She said Stephen Booth is a crime writer who doesn't know what his characters will do. She is a planner, and carries a notebook with her. At quiet times, the new characters become real. She sees scenes in her head as snippets. On the plane for this trip, she figured out who the murderer is in book six. She knew who was killed, but now knows who and why.

For the health and longevity of the series, she's now going to set every second book in Three Pines. It will give them a chance to repopulate the village.

Louise Penny's books have very little to do with murder. There are other issues that hang on the murder. And, there's only one in the book. Her books are actually puzzles, in the style of the best Christie. The clues are there, with red herrings.
She took the puzzle element and village element of Agatha Christie, and made it her own, placing the books in the 21st century. Christie's books were cunning, but not strong on character. Penny's mysteries are about redemption; the choices we make, and love. They're in a form she understands.

It was wonderful to have dinner with Louise Penny, and attend two programs. I gave her a gift of the Authors @ The Teague mug, filled with gummi bears. And, she writes special mysteries as gifts to us, her readers. Vive Gamache!

Louise Penny's website is

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312377021 (hardcover), 336p.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Left Coast Crime 2009 Award Nominees

The Left Coast Crime award nominees have been announced. This years Left Coast Crime Convention is from March 7-12 in Hawaii. The nominees are voted on by the registered attendees at the conference. Winners will be announced on March 11.

Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award

Nox Dormienda: A Long Night Sleeping by Kelli Stanley (Five Star)
Touchstone by Laurie King (Bantam)
Tell Me Pretty Maiden by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin's Press)
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Berkeley Prime Crime)
A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander (HarperCollins)

Hawaii Five-O

Angel Falls by Baron Birtcher (Iota)
Fractured by Karin Slaughter (Delacorte Press)
The Black Path by Asa Larsson (Delta)
The Angel of Knowlton Place by Kate Flora (Five Star)
Mahu Fire by Neil S. Plakcy (Alyson Books)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)


Thugs and Kisses by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Midnight Ink)
Six Geese a Slaying by Donna Andrews (St. Martins)
Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill by N.M. Kelby (Shaye Areheart Books/Random House Group)
Greasing the Pinata by Tim Maleeny (Poisoned Pen Press)
Getting Old is to Die For by Rita Larkin (Dell/Bantam)
It Happened One Knife by Jeffrey Cohen (Berkeley Prime Crime)

Congratulations to the nominees!

The Necklace

Cheryl Jarvis' book, The Necklace, tells an unusual story. In 2004, a group of thirteen women pooled their money to buy a diamond necklace. The story has been covered by the media, but Jarvis tells the entire story of "Thirteen women and the experiment that transformed their lives."

It was a diverse group of women, married, single, divorced, Democrats and Republicans, mothers still raising children, and others working as teachers, real estate agents, and farmers. Their politics differed, and their reasons for joining the group differed. But, they all had a story to tell.

Jarvis tells the story of the naming of the necklace after Julia Child. There were arguments that disrupted the group, ranging from sharing the necklace, to when to wear it. And, then, there are the reasons to read about a group of women who could afford to buy a share in a diamond necklace. Some of these women needed other women in their lives. For all of them, it became a special group of friends. And, the necklace became a tool to give back to their community in Ventura, California.

I'll admit, after a while, it was hard to keep the women straight. And, although I'm in that same age group, I certainly couldn't afford that necklace. But, it's an interesting story.

If you'd like to read the story of a diamond necklace, and women working to overcome their differences, try The Necklace.

The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives by Cheryl Jarvis. Random House Publishing Group, ©2008. ISBN 9780345500717 (hardcover), 240p.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

The 44th President of the United States
Barack Obama

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. Crown Publishing Group, 2004. ISBN 9781400082773 (paperback), 480p.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. Random House Inc., 2006. ISBN 9780307237699 (hardcover), 320p.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9780743270755 (paperback), 944p.

The American Journey of Barack Obama by Life Magazine Editors. Little, Brown and Company, 2008. ISBN9780316045605 (hardcover), 176p.

Obamanomics by John R. Talbott. Consortium Book Sales & Dist, 2008. ISBN 9781583228654 (paperback), 256p.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Rule Against Murder

This is not an unbiased book review. I'm a big fan of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache mysteries. In the first books, beginning with the award-winning Still Life, she introduced us to Gamache, the Chief Homicide Inspector for the Sûreté in Quebec, and the timeless village of Three Pines. She's taken us through three seasons filled with murder investigations, and a emotionally draining threat hanging over Gamache's head. We were ready for a break, right along with her detective.

A Rule Against Murder takes Gamache and the readers into an Agatha Christie traditional vacation, with the dark overtones that Penny masters. For thirty-four years, Armand and his wife, Reine-Marie, have taken their summer vacation to coincide with their wedding anniversary on Canada Day. This year, as always, they planned their retreat at Manoir Bellechasse, a quiet resort in the woods, with a wonderful chef, a superb maître d', and a beloved owner. They weren't planning on the disruption of the Finney family reunion, or an unusual death.

As in a Christie mystery, Penny's tribute is a story set in an isolated lodge, with a limited group of suspects, family members and retainers, with the detective on the spot. Fortunately, Armand Gamache has the added expertise of his squad, familiar characters to readers. And, two members of the Finney family are familiar, when Three Pines residents, Peter and Clara Morrow, show up late for their reunion.

Penny's story has extra layers that always make her mysteries fascinating. Readers who hungered for more information about Reine-Marie will be pleased with the time spent on Armand's family life. His family is quite a contrast to the divided, unhappy Finneys.

The conversations in Penny's books are always treasures. The owner's comment that there is a rule against murder at the Manoir Bellechasse leads to a telling story. The sculptor, Pelletier, has a provocative comment, that God is a serial killer. And, there's my favorite comment, when Gamache talks about his wife, a librarian. "But you want murderous feelings? Hang around librarians," confided Gamache. "All that silence. Gives them ideas."

Louise Penny is a master of the traditional mystery. Armand Gamache might have been forced to take a busman's holiday, but it was a vacation readers will treasure, in A Rule Against Murder.

Louise Penny's website is

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312377021 (hardcover), 336p.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Salon - Donis Casey at The Poisoned Pen

It was a nice crowd that showed up at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale for the book launch of Donis Casey's The Sky Took Him, the fourth Alafair Tucker mystery. And, few of them knew there would be pies - chocolate pie from a recipe from Casey's new book, and vinegar pie from her next one.

Barbara Peters, bookstore owner, and Casey's editor, held a free-ranging conversation with Casey, while they waited for the audience to gather. They discussed the name of an earlier book, Hornswoggled, and even library budget problems. Donis said it's a shame that libraries face budget cuts during times of bad economies, because people turn to their libraries, and library use goes up at times like this.

To start the discussion of The Sky Took Him, Peters mentioned that the book had received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Donis said she loves this book. She put so much effort into making it smooth, trying not to put in too much information. She had so much information she could have put into the book.

Alafair travels in this book. In the first three books in the series, Alafair lives in Boynton, in eastern Oklahoma. In this one, she takes the train to Enid, OK with her oldest daughter, Martha, and her youngest, Grace. Enid, in the northwestern part of the state, is a whole new world. It's still the Wild West, while the eastern part of the state was very southern. In 1894, Enid opened with a land run. By 1915, the timeframe of this book, it was a well-to-do town. Enid still celebrates Pioneers Day, but in 1915, it was called Founders Day, a celebration of the founding of the town twenty-two years earlier.

The Cherokee Strip was prairie, flat grasslands, owned by the Cherokee, who rented the land to cattle ranchers. The Cherokee finally sold the land to the United States. The strip, and the town, was opened up with a land run. People were allowed to go in ahead of time, and pick out land they would like to own. If they claimed it, they could own 160 sq. acres for a homestead. On, Sept. 16, 1894, at noon, people lined up on the starting line. When the gun was fired, they took off, on foot, horseback, and Conestoga wagon, trying to run to the land, and stake a claim, by driving a stake into the property. Then they would have to live on it for two years. There were some people who snuck in early, and, they were called Sooners. This is the background for The Sky Took Him.

At the beginning of the book, Alafair does her family duty, going to visit her sister whose husband is dying. Something that happened twenty-two years earlier, from the time of the land run, comes back to influence current events. Casey said she used descriptions of the Founders Day parade from the newspaper at the time, the Enid Daily Eagle. She said the descriptions were some of the things she had to leave out. Peters said that's why some authors use afterwords, for stuff they don't want to let go.

Casey said Enid was rich at the time, with cattle, land and an oil boom in the early 1900s. Alafair's niece's husband had sunk money into a wildcat oil well. Casey set it in the field where one of the largest oil strikes came in.

She said oil wells would get gummed up. To clear out the well, they would send a torpedo down, made from nitroglycerin. Men who specialized in this were called shooters. Often, they had one eye, or one hand. They received extra pay, and no one would insure them. Donis thought this would be an interesting way to kill someone. So, she did research, although she said with Homeland Security, she was worried about doing research on nitroglycerin and explosions from home. (She joked and said she did her research on the Tempe Public Library's computers - one more reason to be grateful for libraries.) She found an expert who recommended a book called Is There Nitroglycerin in This?, about explosions.

Barbara Peters mentioned that she was glad to see Alafair get out of town. Donis said when Hornswoggled came out Peters told her to be careful about having all her murders occur in a small town. She needed to avoid the "Cabot Cove syndrome".

Casey told the audience how she started The Sky Took Him. She and her husband went to Enid to visit his sister, and they went to a restaurant called Pastimes Restaurant, converted from an old laundry. On the walls, there were pictures of Enid from 1910. One street scene showed Klein's Department Store. While her husband and sister-in-law bickered over the check, Donis zoned out, and suddenly she could see Alafair and Martha walk into Klein's. She wondered what they were doing in Enid, and why they were shopping. The first scene she wrote was the shopping trip to Klein's.

Barbara Peters commented that Alafair needed a trip, because of the backbreaking work in her life. As the mother of ten, and a rancher's life, her life consisted of hard work, and meals. Casey agreed, saying that she thinks Alafair appreciated the break. When she first saw the guest room at her sister's, she was struck by the luxury and size of the room. But, she started to appreciate it.

An audience member mentioned Alice, one of Alafair's daughters, saying there had been trouble between Alice and her mother because Alice wanted to marry a rich man. Donis said that Alice had seen her mother's hard life, and she didn't want to marry a poor farmer. This caused a rift between the two in Hornswoggled. Casey hinted at a future book, saying Alice's story isn't over.

She also said there are certain themes she carries through all of the books. And, she said Alafair might take another trip, since she had mentioned in this book that her other sister lived in Tempe.

Peters, as her editor, cautioned Casey to watch her timeframe, saying she'd gone from 1908 to 1915 so far, and she didn't want to move too fast. However, after discussion, Casey said she could take the series up to World War II, with an aging Alafair. They agreed that a writer has to continue writing interesting stories that people enjoy.

The discussion ranged back to the work that Alafair did. An early book had a chapter about laundry for twelve people. In another book, Alafair was hanging clothes. They said soap making is coming back, so maybe she could discuss that. Casey mentioned butchering, and food preservation. She said her grandfather used to butcher one hog a year, and they used every bit of the hog. She mentioned future books set during WWI could deal with austerity, since there were meatless Mondays.

It's hard to pick and choose the historical facts to deal with, according to Casey, who said she isn't writing history books. Alafair is only concerned with the news that affects her personally. There's no TV, to bring the world closer. The draft only started in 1917, after the U.S. was in the war. And, one of her sons, Gee Dub, will be 21 then. At first they only took single men, 21-38, then the war expanded so they took anyone they could get. In this book, The Sky Took Him, Alafair and her sister mention the sinking of the Lusitania, and Alafair's German prospective son-in-law.

In many ways, the rural area in the earlier books, and the city of Enid in the present one is almost like having two centuries going on at the same time. Enid was a city, with indoor plumbing, electricity, and refrigeration. Peters said Alafair had to have been changed by the experience. Donis Casey said Martha had been changed by the experiences of Hornswoggled. Martha is a more modern woman than Alafair. She works, and she's interested in Women's Suffrage. A lot of the relationship between Martha and Alafair is similar to that between Donis and her own mother.

When Barbara said she would give extra points to anyone who guessed the ending, she said it's her business to read mysteries, and she had been surprised. Donis said she herself had been surprised by something in the ending.

Peters commented that one of the greatest joys of being an editor is the relationship with authors, and getting to help them. Casey responded that good editors are worth their weight in gold. Barbara said when one of the Poisoned Pen mysteries gets a bad review, she takes it personally. What did she miss? On the other hand, sometimes she edits it so much that she no longer cares.

Peters also said technology is the enemy of the mystery. Cell phones, GPS, and DNA make it difficult to write crime novels. One of the audience members said, on the other hand, it makes historic mysteries more appealing.

When she was asked about Alafair's name, Donis said it was her great-grandmother's name. All of the family names are taken from Donis' family. And, she showed us the cover of The Sky Took Him. The picture of the oil well is an actual well, taken from an Enid Historical Society picture. And, the picture of the girl? Donis Casey.

Donis Casey's website is

The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-571-9 (hardcover), 252p.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Library Loot

Eva, at A Striped Armchair, came up with the idea of Library Loot, a place to tell about the treasures you brought home from your public library in the last week. I think it's a fabulous idea to share titles, new or old, that you found on the library shelves.

I only brought one home this week, because I was trying to finish books before I saw the authors this weekend. I brought home a nonfiction title, recommended by another library staff member when she booktalked it at our brown bag luncheon. I just started Cheryl Jarvis' The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment that Transformed Their Lives (Ballantine Books, 2008). It's the story of thirteen women who bought a diamond necklace together, and what happened. From what I understand, this is a story of a group of women with very little in common, and the possibilities that necklace brought them. I'll be reviewing it in a few days.

Only one book from the library this week. What library loot did you bring home?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Edgar Award Nominees

Well, although I read a number of mysteries this year, I didn't do very well with the award nominees. To be honest, I've read some of the Mary Higgins Clark nominees, but none of the others. I'm not even familiar with most of the novels nominated for Best First Novel by an American Author. Did you do better than I did?

Mystery Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2009 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, television and film published or produced in 2008. The Edgar Awards will be presented to the winners at the 63rd Gala Banquet, April 30, 2009 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House - Delacorte Press)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)


The Kind One by Tom Epperson (Five Star, div of Cengage)
Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (Hyperion)
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (Random House - Doubleday)


The Prince of Bagram by Alex Carr (Random House Trade)
Money Shot by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)
Enemy Combatant by Ed Gaffney (Random House - Dell)
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library - Obsidian Mysteries)
The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli (Random House - Bantam)


For The Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by
Simon Baatz (HarperCollins)
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of
the Century
by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It To The Revolution by T.J. English (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Hans van
by Jonathan Lopez (Harcourt)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Company)


African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie
Y. Bailey (McFarland & Company)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by
Leonard Cassuto (Columbia University Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by
David Geherin (McFarland & Company)
The Rise of True Crime by Jean Murley (Greenwood Publishing - Praeger)
Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories
by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Sterling Publishing - Metro Books)


"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" - Hardcore Hardboiled by Sean Chercover (Kensington
"Skin and Bones" - Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by David Edgerley Gates
(Dell Magazines)
"Scratch of a Woman" - Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins -
William Morrow)
"La Vie en Rose" - Paris Noir by Dominique Mainard (Akashic Books
"Skinhead Central" - The Blue Religion by T. Jefferson Parker (Hachette Book
Group - Little, Brown and Company)


The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Enigma: A Magical Mystery by Graeme Base (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff (Random House Children's Books - Wendy Lamb
The Witches of Dredmoore Hollow by Riford McKenzie (Marshall Cavendish
Children's Books)
Cemetary Street by Brenda Seabrooke (Holiday House)


Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (Random House Children's Books - David Fickling
The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Harry N. Abrams Books - Amulet Books)
Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group - Dutton Children's Books)
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby (HarperCollins Children's Books - HarperTeen)
Torn to Pieces by Margo McDonnell (Random House Children's Books - Delacorte Books for Young Readers)


The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the story by
Robert Lewis Stevenson (Arizona Theatre Company)
Cell by Judy Klass (International Mystery Writers' Festival)


"Streetwise" - Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Paul Grellong (Wolf Films/NBC
"Prayer of the Bone" - Wire in the Blood, Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (BBC
"Signature" - Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Judith McCreary (Wolf Films/NBC
"You May Now Kill the Bride" - CSI: Miami, Teleplay by Barry O'Brien (CBS)
"Burn Card" - Law & Order, Teleplay by David Wilcox (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)


The Bank Job, Screenplay by Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (Lionsgate)
Burn After Reading, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Focus Features)
In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Tell No One, Screenplay by Guillaume Canet, based on the book by Harlan Coben
(Music Box Films)
Transsiberian, Screenplay by Brad Anderson & Will Conroy (First Look

"Buckner's Error" - Queens Noir by Joseph Guglielmelli (Akashic Books)

James Lee Burke
Sue Grafton

Edgar Allan Poe Society, Baltimore, Maryland
Poe House, Baltimore, Maryland


Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (Random House - Doubleday)
A Song for You by Betsy Thornton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (St. Martin's Minotaur)

And, a personal congratulations to Louise Ure, a friend, and one of our author presenters from Authors @ The Teague. I also find it interesting that two of the four Mary Higgins Clark award nominees, Ure's The Fault Tree, and Thornton's A Song for You, are set in Tucson, AZ.

Congratulations to all of the nominees.

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Dying to Sing

Meg Chittenden wrote a number of books, both before and after Dying to Sing, but I've always had a fondness for her Charlie Plato books.

Charlotte "Charlie" Plato is divorced, 30, and the co-owner of Chaps, a country-and-western tavern on the San Francisco peninsula. When an earthquake hits, exposing a skeleton in the backyard of the tavern, she's the only one of the four owners who is up to the job of investigating. Savanna, an African American version of Dolly Parton; Angel, an ex-rodeo rider; or Zack Hunter, a former actor, couldn't solve it, although Zack assists with advice from the scripts of shows in which he played a sheriff.

The Charlie Plato books, and, my favorite, Dying to Sing, are mysteries with a sense of humor. And, the book has one of the best scenes with a pet rabbit outside of Bunnicula. Dying to Sing, with its fun characters, is a good introduction to a series that lasted for too short of a time.

Meg Chittendeon's website is

Dying to Sing by Meg Chittenden. Kensington Publishing Corporation, 1997. ISBN 9781575661896 (paperback), 296p.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winners and an Overseas Mystery Contest

Congratulations to the winners in the "Dead"lier Species contest. Coreen W. of Glendale, AZ won Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News, and Lasa D. from Hurst, TX won Carolyn Hart's Ghost at Work. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

I've given time this week to mysteries set overseas, so I'm offering two ARCs with European settings in the latest contest.

The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis has been compared to a combination of The Devil in the White City and The Alienist, injected with wry humor. In 1889, an exclusive group of the most renowned detectives from around the world, The Twelve Detectives, are supposed to meet for the unveiling of Eiffel's magnificent structure at the Paris World's Fair. However, one sends a message to a friend, Victor Arzaky, who is drawn into the investigation when one of The Twelve is discovered murdered beneath the new Eiffel Tower.

Reginald Hill brings back Yorkshire cops Dalziel and Pascoe in The Price of Butcher's Men. Dalziel is recuperating at a seaside resort, one that also houses some very odd people. When someone ends up dead, Pascoe and Dalziel reunite to investigate the case. It's another riveting story from the award-winning author.

Would you like to win The Paris Enigma or The Price of Butcher's Meat? You can enter twice, once for each book. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either Win "Paris" or Win "Butcher's Meat". Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. MT. Jim will draw the winners at that time. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Murder in Mykonos

When I first read Jeffrey M. Siger's Murder in Mykonos, I knew it wasn't the typical crime novel that Poisoned Pen Press published. Their publications tend to steer away from serial killers. But, Siger's book is not typical, and it certainly is up to the high standards of Poisoned Pen Press.

Mykonos is the most famous of Greece's Cycladic islands, the one known as a vacation playground. When a young woman disappears the same night she arrives by ferry, no one notices. But, the disappearance of young female tourists is about to become a nightmare for the new police chief. Andreas Kaldis has been "promoted" out of Athens to a tourist island. And, he's just in time to investigate when the body of a woman is found in a church. A police chief exiled to an island doesn't need problems with ritual murders.

Unfortunately, the chief homicide investigator for the Cyclades, Tassos Stamatos, knows a story of a young woman who disappeared ten years earlier. Rumors of a ritual killer, who has been preying on women for years, is not what the Greek government wants to hear, when Mykonos' economy depends on tourism. Andreas and Tassos try to quietly search for the killer. But, events escalate when another woman disappears. Andreas is faced with a horror story if he can't find the killer before a young woman's time runs out.

As I said, this is not a typical book published by Poisoned Pen Press. However, Jeffrey M. Siger's Murder in Mykonos is a riveting story. The story unfolds from various viewpoints, as the reader watches a victim, an unknown killer, and the man desperate to find them both. Along the way, the reader learns about Greek politics. Mykonos is described vividly, with its gorgeous landscapes and historic churches. Yes, it's the story of a serial killer that even has a chase scene. But, it's a rich drama as well, and a story right out of the headlines, reminiscent of stories of wealthy young women who have vanished while on vacation.

Siger's book received excellent reviews in Greece. With it's debut in the United States, he's kicking off a series with a fascinating police officer. It's a series that should find equally excellent reviews, and avid fans, in this country.

Jeffrey Siger's website is

Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey M. Siger. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-581-8 (hardcover), 288p.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Matt Beynon Rees, A Crime Novelist Looks at Gaza

I'm very honored today to have Matt Beynon Rees as guest blogger. Rees is the former Jerusalem Time Magazine bureau chief. He is also the award-winning author of the Omar Yussef mystery series, set in Palestine. His comments are timely now, and he's the perfect person to discuss Gaza, as a journalist turned novelist sees it. Thank you, Matt.

From the first time I visited Gaza in 1996 I've been drawn to its breeze-block alleys and dirty beaches. My first visit was during a rainstorm. All the drains in the refugee camps overflowed, so I waded through brown muck to the office of the Hamas man I had gone to interview. "You're British," he laughed. "You brought the rain." But I'd never seen rain like that. It wasn't depressing and grey; it touched Gaza with an exotic magic.

No matter how many Israeli bombs fall, no matter how many rockets Hamas fires, Gaza will never for me be the place we see in the headlines. Visiting every month for a decade, I learned something so much deeper about Gaza than its media portrayal--even in the journalism I used to write for Time Magazine--and I felt readers ought to know. That's why I used it as the setting for the second of my Palestinian detective novels, A Grave in Gaza (Soho Press, 2008).

Even when I decided to get out of journalism and devote myself to my novels, I stayed here. I could've gone to live in Tuscany. I could've read about all the death and destruction that happens in Gaza in the newspaper like everyone else does. I thought that was what I wanted, until actually faced with the opportunity.

But I didn't leave.

The people here gave me such insight into the reality of their lives that I wanted to continue to portray that in my fiction. Ironically, because fiction needs to delve inside the heads and hearts of its characters, it gets much closer than "objective" journalism to the truth that lies there. My detective protagonist is a Palestinian (a schoolteacher in a refugee camp, who's forced to take on cases because law and order has degenerated in towns run by gunmen) because I wanted to show that Palestinians aren't the stereotypical terrorists or victims portrayed in the news. They do take responsibility for their own society. But only when the story (whether it's in the media or my novels) moves beyond the reflex to blame Israel for everything.

Most of all I want my novels to give readers the true emotional experience of being among people who live in extreme situations.

One Gazan mother took me onto her roof to show me the birds her 11-year-old had kept until he was shot and told me that in Arabic the sound of a dove's cooing is a reminder to "remember Allah." Memories such as these are the direct basis for scenes in my crime novels (The doves crop up in A Grave in Gaza). A decade ago, I spent time with the wife of Fathi Suboh, a professor arrested on trumped up charges because he discussed government corruption in class. This case formed the initial spark for the plot of A Grave in Gaza. It isn't that I'm so interested in human-rights--that belongs to the realm of journalism, where one writes about events and statements, exterior things. As a novelist, I remembered the sadness of Suboh's wife as she described her attempts to dissuade him from his protest, to let them have a quiet family life. Her emotion is the heart of the novel.

In A Grave in Gaza (as in my first novel, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, Soho Press, 2007) all the characters are based on real people I encountered during a decade of reporting--the sinister chief of secret police, chainsmoking with one hand while expectorating into a tissue in his other; the gunman who, in the dark of his hideout on Gaza's Egyptian border, allowed me to feel the smoothly burned skin and jagged bones of his fist where a tank shell had smashed it; the flirtatious hotel clerk who joked with me about how many camels I'd have to pay her father to marry her. Sometimes these experiences left me quivering with adrenaline, other times with laughter, but always feeling more alive than I've ever felt at home.

My first trip to the West Bank in 1996 ignited that sense of animation. At the funeral of a Nablus man tortured to death in one of Arafat's jails, I was struck by the candor and dignity with which the dead youth's family spoke. The alien nature of the place thrilled me. An old oil drum held black flags and palm fronds, symbols of Islamic mourning. I felt a powerful sense of adventure, as though I had uncovered an unknown culture. That visit planted the seed for the third of my novels The Samaritan's Secret, which is out Feb. 1 from Soho Press.

I found the Middle East a lot funnier than you might think, too. The first Hamas man I met wasn't a stereotypical bloodthirsty fanatic. He was a comical, tubby man with a grey beard circling his jaw and a clean upper lip. He spoke English like Gielgud and drew his vocabulary from a calendar designed to teach a new word each day. When I first saw him, the word was "fructuary". (It means "one who enjoys the profits of something." In the Middle East, I suppose it applies to those who believe like Hamas that violence leads to the joys of Paradise or, perhaps, those who write crime novels about it).

Such humorous moments have often given me insights as deep as the bloodiest battles of Gaza. Take my friend Zakaria, who lives in the village of Beit Hanoun, a major battleground in the current fighting. Zakaria was for decades Arafat's top intelligence man. He became a good source and a friend. I've seen him during hard times when he expected his home to be stormed by rival Palestinian factions; when he sent armed men to bring me to meet him in secret. But my deepest impression of him came when he jovially served me giant scoops of hummus laced with ground meat and cubes of lamb fat at breakfast. As a foreign correspondent, I've eaten some rough meals (Bedouins once milked a goat's udder directly into a glass and handed me the warm fluid to drink), but try raw lamb fat at 9 a.m. and see how you like it. For Zakaria, the dish was a tremendous delicacy and a demonstration of his hospitality. As a writer, I found the mannerisms with which he served me and his insistence that I eat a second plate just as interesting as his tension during moments of conflict.

The result of all these experiences, I hope, will be to imbue my novels with realistic portrayals of the Palestinians--and my readers will be the fructuaries.

Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to discuss Gaza, and your books, with my readers. I know it helps to bring the people of Gaza to life. And, I have to suggest that interested readers check out Matt's website at Watch the YouTube video. The music, the atmosphere, and Rees himself are very effective.

Matt Beynon Rees is the author of The Samaritan's Secret, to be published in the U.S. on Feb. 1. His first novel, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, also featuring Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef, won the Crime Writers Association New Blood Dagger. His novels have been sold in 22 countries. He was Middle East correspondent for Time Magazine and Newsweek for more than a decade. He lives in Jerusalem. For more:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Sky Took Him

No other mystery author brings the American past to life for me as Donis Casey does. Her new book, The Sky Took Him, is the fourth in the fascinating Alafair Tucker series. Her books are always intriguing, and this one is particularly complicated, but it's what she does with everyday life in Oklahoma in the early twentieth century that continues to draw me back.

When the story opens, Alafair and two of her daughters, her oldest, Martha, and her youngest, Grace, are on the train to Enid, Oklahoma. Alafair's younger sister, Ruth Ann, asked her to come because Ruth Ann's husband, Lester, is dying. When they arrive, they find that Lester is as bad off as everyone said, but there are other family problems. Ruth Ann's son-in-law, Kenneth, has disappeared on a business trip just when his wife, Olivia, and the family, need him the most. Ruth Ann and Olivia are confident he'll be back shortly, but the longer Alafair stays, the more she learns about Kenneth's business problems, and his dealings with a ruthless man in town, the more concerned she grows. And, she and little Grace seem to share some troubling dreams.

As usual, Casey provides mystery readers with a complicated story. But, she also tells the story of life in the early twentieth century. Martha is a modern working woman, proud of her job, and unwilling to give it up for marriage. Casey tells of the changing role of women, the Oklahoma oil fields, and, in this book, the story of the run for land in Oklahoma. It's hard to believe that at the time of the book, 1915, Enid was just celebrating twenty-two years as a city with a Founder's Day Jubilee.

The Sky Took Him has mystery, a little romance, history, recipes, and Founder's Day. The book contains fine details of daily life, and family life, in 1915, as well as the foreshadowing of war. It's hard to believe it's just two weeks in Alafair Tucker's life because The Sky Took Him is so rich in detail. Donis Casey continues to grow as an author of fascinating historical mysteries.

Donis Casey's website is Casey will be discussing The Sky Took Him at the debut program at Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale on Saturday, Jan. 17 at 2 p.m. Hope to see you there!

The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-571-9 (hardcover), 252p.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Judge Lynn Toler Appeared for Authors @ The Teague

Judge Lynn Toler, author of My Mother's Rules, and star of TV's Divorce Court, appeared at the Velma Teague Library as part of the Authors @ The Teague series on Saturday, Jan. 10. If her television audiences enjoy her comments half as much as the audience for her recent appearance did, she must be a ratings success.

Lynn Toler is originally from Columbus, Ohio. She received her BA from Harvard University, and her JD from the University of Pennsylvania, before spending ten years as a practicing attorney, and then seven years as administrative judge of Cleveland Heights Municipal Court. In 2001, she hosted the TV show Power of Attorney. In 2007, she began appearing as the judge on Divorce Court. She's married, with two children.

Somewhere in there, she decided she wanted to do a memoir with rules attached. She said when she was most successful with cases, she used the lessons her mother taught her. But, when she told her mother she was writing a book, the book that became My Mother's Rules, her mother got mad.

Toler's mother had a number of reasons she didn't want the book written. She told her, "I don't want you writing a book about my life. I've already lived it." Her mother said, you don't have a job. What are you doing writing? Get a job. The most important reason was that Lynn's mother didn't want her to tell the story of her father. Toler's father was bi-polar, with psychotic episodes. He was a brilliant man, with an I.Q. of 145. He was born in West Virginia, and worked coal mines to put himself through school to become a lawyer. But Judge Toler's father was already dead by this time. He left her and her sister trust funds, and her mother is living on her trust. Toler's mother didn't want her ridiculing Bill Toler. She took great care in addressing the subject of her father.

And, Toler's mother said she didn't have any rules. She didn't, but they're Judge Toler's rules, based on what she was taught. She set her mother's intellect and lessons in a shape and form to pass them on.

Judge Toler's mother was born in Chicago to a young mother, who was ugly poor. She put the children in an orphanage on and off because she couldn't afford to feed them. But, she always came back to get them, and Toler's mother always appreciated that.

Toler's mother married her father, a man whose first wife had committed him to Chillicothe State Mental Institution in Ohio. Lynn's mother stabilized him. He could be relentless, but her mother handled him. When Toler's father went on a tear, she'd load the two girls up in the car, and they'd sleep at the drive-in movies. Lynn's mother couldn't fix her father, but she could contain him.

And, she made sure her two daughters were educated. She got them to school every day. They were signed up for every extracurricular class there was in Columbus, Ohio. Toler said she took ballet, track, gymnastics, violin (which she hated), piano, and baton twirling. Her mother held the family together. One of the girls, Lynn, went to Harvard, and her sister went to Dartmouth. Judge Toler said she's considered the failure in the family because she's not a doctor. Her sister is a neurologist.

Judge Toler said don't let anyone tell you they don't feel powerful when they're on the bench. They do a schedule, and tell everyone what to do. Tell them to show up at 9 a.m., and who's going to make you show up then? She felt as if she had some power as she told defendants what to do. But, then she had her "frequent fliers" who appeared more than once. And, she took it as a personal failure if people came back. Then there were the moments when someone hung their head, and said they got it, Judge. She realized those moments came about when she used the rules that came from her mother.

Toler's mother said people do things because of what they feel, not what they know. You have to talk to who they are to get them to understand.

It was almost impossible to insult Toler's mother. She said an insult spoke to the person who passed it on. Check to see if the insult is right, and if it is, you're a better person because of it. If you don't get insulted, it kills the insult. And, Judge Toler learned to handle things with humor.

People used to comment to Lynn's mother that she didn't get into Harvard Law after going to Harvard undergrad. It almost became a comedy routine that she did with her mother. She admitted she goofed off, and wasted her parents' money. Toler said her best moments were authored by her mother, who went to junior college, and didn't finish that because she married. But, the evidence of her mother's brilliance was Lynn's father, her sister, and herself. She made their lives a successful situation. So, Toler's job was to show her mother was right, without telling bad things about her father.

Judge Toler read the opening of her book, Her Mother's Rules, in which she discusses a time when she wouldn't come out of the closet as a child. Her mother's biggest fear was that Lynn would inherit her father's problem. Toler said she has a number of fears. She's afraid to drive, and afraid to fly. Her mother taught her to act in opposition, and face your fears. Make sure you have a good view of who you are. She said she knows what's wrong with her. She talks too much, too fast, and too loud. She likes to talk, which is why she became a judge, got on TV, and is paid to talk. She also worries too much.

In Her Mother's Rules, Judge Toler uses examples of people who appeared before her on the bench. They broke rules, and there are consequences.

She told the audience she would give them the inner scoop on Divorce Court. They called her on Wednesday, and offered her the job, asking her if she could be there on Friday. She said, no, she had a family, and arrangements to make, but she could be there on Monday. She's been appearing on the show since 2007. She knows it's not Masterpiece Theater, but, hopefully, it's funny. She tries to teach people, using humor. People watch the show, and sometimes have lives that relate to the episodes, and they can learn from the situations. She gets mail from people who say they had a situation, and they liked what she had to say.

Judge Toler says she tapes 23 days a year. She thinks the people are interesting. She goes to work, and has a good time. Everything she does well on the show, she does as a function of what her mother taught her. The show is meant to be funny. She doesn't take herself too seriously. She addressed the men in the audience, and said she hoped they didn't take it personally, but she went to an all girls school until she was eighteen, and she had no use for men. She thought they were horrible. Then, her hormones kicked in.

She said she's OK with everything in her life. Judge Lynn Toler said, "The past is what you decide it's going to be." You can make it an excuse to use every excuse in the book for your life, or you can use it as a reason to be strong.

She said she has a PIP, a Personal Improvement Program. She's always on one. Her whole life is a continuation and process.

A member of the audience asked what her mother thought of the book. Lynn said she read the first three pages, cried, and said she couldn't read it. She's never read the book. And, she doesn't want to go to Divorce Court, because she doesn't want to be introduced. But, Lynn said she's going to get her there in March for a taping.

Toler said it wasn't a difficult book to write because she led with her own weaknesses. She can't spell, can't cook. She admits what she did in college. She wasted her parents' money because she played in college. The hard part was that her mother didn't want her to write the book. They were close, and they talk everyday. Her mother was upset with her when she was writing the book. She would only give her cursory answers to questions. Finally, she told her she wouldn't write the book if she didn't want her to, but her mother told her it was her life, too, so she wouldn't ask her not to write it. Her mother understands it now, and is OK with it, although she didn't want her to do it.

She said her mother was worried about what she'd say about her Daddy. There were people in the audience who spoke up, and said, it wasn't my father, it was my mother, or someone else in the family. Toler acknowledged there were other people in the audience who had lived it. You feel isolated when no one knows you're living it. You feel very alone.

Judge Toler was asked, why Phoenix? She said her husband likes Phoenix. She was commuting from Cleveland to L.A., and he wanted a warm climate. She wanted to live in a community with families, and it had to be a place with regular flights to L.A. Her choices were Phoenix or Vegas. She has the community she wants to live in here in Phoenix.

One audience member said she was amazed people would go on the show and bare everything. Judge Toler said she knows why people go on the show, because the limo drivers tell her.

1. Women want to be heard, and they want someone in authority to say to the man, you did her wrong. They want someone to hear their story. They want vindication.

2. Then there are the people who want to be on TV, and they don't care how they get there.

Divorce Court flies people out, and picks them up at the airport. They get to go to L.A., and they get a tape afterward. It's the highlight of their lives.

Divorce Court doesn't pay a fee or for the judgment. Some shows do. They fly them out, pay for their hotel room, gives them $250 for an appearance fee, in case they want to get a new outfit for TV. But, they don't pay the judgment. It is binding arbitration, though. The parties are contractually bound in front of the judge.

She was asked if she can practice law in California, and she said, no. Judge Toler passed the bar in Ohio. She thinks she'll try to pass the bar in Arizona, though. One audience member said he watches her show everyday, and she's wise young woman for her age.

Judge Toler did say they have a harder time getting people on their show than some do. They walk a thin line, because there is stuff you can't show on daytime TV dealing with divorce. They try to find the people that are in between, and are interesting. They can't be retiring and shy. They have to be vociferous, and loud, but with a true story. The producers sift through the applications to find personality, a story, and something to arbitrate.

Since she'd pointed out her husband in the audience, when she said he drives her, she was asked how they met. She met him at a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game when she was 27. The late Congresswoman, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, was a judge at the time. She walked up to her, and said, "Do you have somebody?" When she said no, she said, "Come here." Jones' husband, and the man that would become Toler's husband, were at the bar. Jones married them two years later.

When audience members shared their family stories, Toler said, those are shining examples as how you keep secrets in difficult times. No one knows what you went through, and how hard it was. When it's your parent, it's your world, and you don't take it out of the house. Lynn's mother never called the police. And, her father's first wife had put him into a mental hospital. He made her promise never to put him in the state mental hospital, only in private facilities.

She was asked if she has any goals in life? Lynn Toler said she wants to write a novel. She's started three, and they were no good. But, that's a major goal. And, she wants employment security, so she's always looking for other work.

The last question was about the eight-year-old boy accused of murder here in Arizona. She said there is nothing between juvenile and adult, and that needs to be changed, with something that spans that age gap. An eight-year-old can't think things through. We have thirteen-year-olds who get sentenced for life, but they don't have a reasoning process yet. We should rewrite the laws for juveniles and adults. They need to be fixed.

Judge Lynn Toler presented a warm, enjoyable program, filled with laughter, to an appreciative audience. After autographing books, she was presented with a gift of an Authors @ The Teague mug.

Judge Lynn Toler has already blogged about the program, on her blog at

My Mother's Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius by Lynn Toler. Agate Bolden, ©2007. ISBN 9781932841220 (paperback), 300p.