Tuesday, July 28, 2020

MYSTERY MINUTE GOES ROGUE

Rogue Readers, you are in for a real treat! Starting this Tuesday, ZJ Czupor Goes Rogue. He will be bringing us one of his famous Mystery Minutes on Tuesday every 5 weeks. Sometimes funny, ALWAYS interesting, these short write ups give us a view into the history of crime novels and the lives of crime writers. So, with no further ado...

ZJ Czupor is an award-winning writer. His current novel, Cut Right Through Me, is seeking representation. He is vice president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and writes a monthly column, “The Mystery Minute.” He also co-chairs Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s annual literary competition. In 1990, he and his wife co-founded The InterPro Group, one of Denver’s leading marketing and public relations firms. They are proud to be owned by two beautiful, and way too smart, rescue collies.

by ZJ Czupor

The Mother of the American Detective Story: Anna Katharine Green

Every serious mystery writer knows full well who holds the title of the “father of the American detective story.” That title belongs to Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), whose 1841 short story, Murders in the Rue Morgue, introduced C. Auguste Dupin, the detective hero.

But little known is the identity of the “mother of the American detective story.” According to Michael Mallory, writing in Mystery Scene magazine, (Spring, 2018), it was Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935). Her first novel, The Leavenworth Case: A Lawyer’s Story, published thirty-seven years later in 1878, is widely regarded as the first American detective novel.

Over a fifteen-year period, her novel sold more than three-quarters of a million copies. She distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories. Her influence and reputation were so great that Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), the creator of Sherlock Holmes, sought her out during his visit to the U.S. in 1894.

She was college-educated—rare at that time—and started a career as a poet and often corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Then when her poetry failed to catch on, she turned to writing novels. She worked on her first novel for six years. It was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. She later married, raised a family, and wrote three dozen more novels over the next forty-five years.

In fact, her novel’s insight into legal matters was used in Yale University law classes as “an example of the perils of trusting circumstantial evidence.” Interestingly, her novel sparked a debate in the Pennsylvania State Senate over whether the book could really have been written by a woman.

The Leavenworth Case was the novel that first established the “whodunit” and the idea that “everyone and nobody” is a suspect.
Green’s innovative plots thrilled readers with dead bodies in libraries, newspaper clippings as clues, the coroner’s inquest, and expert witnesses. She succeeded in a genre dominated by male writers. But she disapproved of many of her feminist contemporaries and she opposed women’s suffrage.

Green died in 1935 at the age of 88 in Buffalo, New York. If you visit, you can take a walking tour which highlights authors with local connections. She’s included with Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Taylor Caldwell, and others.

Years later, Agatha Christie (1890-1976), the best-selling author of all time (outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare), revealed that it was Green who influenced her to begin writing mysteries. 

Thank you, ZJ Czupor! Readers, have you read any stories by Anna Katherine Green?

Friday, July 24, 2020

FIVE JUNE RELEASES TO ADD TO YOUR TBR SHELF

by Liv Constantine

With the weekend looming, and beaches beckoning, it’s the perfect time to pull out a good book. Take a break from the grill, grab a cold drink, and settle down for a good read. Here are five June releases bound to keep you glued to the page: 

THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS by Megan Miranda

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

THE HALF SISTER by Sandie Jones

Meet the half sister, and unravel the ties that blind us.

The truth.

Sisters Kate and Lauren meet for Sunday lunch every week without fail, especially after the loss of their father.

The lie.

But a knock at the door is about to change everything. A young woman by the name of Jess holds a note with the results of a DNA test, claiming to be their half sister.

The unthinkable.

As the fallout starts, it's clear that they are all hiding secrets, and perhaps this family isn't as perfect as it appears. 

THE LAST FLIGHT by Julie Clark

Two women. Two flights. One last chance to disappear. 

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of 10, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he's not above using his staff to track Claire's every move, making sure she's living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn't know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish. 

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets - Claire taking Eva's flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it's no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva's identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden. 

For fans of Lisa Jewell and Liv Constantine, The Last Flight is the story of two women - both alone, both scared - and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennet

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, Southern Black community and running away at age 16, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her Black daughter in the same Southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father's book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father's death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.

What have you read (or are reading) that should be on everyone’s TBR list?

Friday, July 17, 2020

THE REAL BOOK SPY'S JULY 2020 ROGUE RECOMMENDATION IS...


by The Real Book Spy

When it comes to beating headlines, there is nobody better than Brad Thor, whose books have such a habit of coming true that I’ve taken to referring to them as “prophetic fiction.”

The master of the modern thriller, Thor has now reached unchartered waters with the release of his latest Scot Harvath series, Near Dark, bringing the series total to nineteen books and counting. Not only is Thor not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon, the craziest thing—at least in my opinion—is that he’s actually finding ways to get better each time out.

Think about that. Almost nobody can keep a series going for twenty books. And not only has Thor accomplished just that, but I’d argue that Near Dark is his best thriller to date—a feat that is, frankly, unheard of.

So, what makes Near Dark so special? Well, for starters, the plot—which involves someone putting a 100-million-dollar bounty on Scot Harvath’s head—is supercharged unlike anything else hitting bookstores this summer. I mean, seriously, once you start this one, there is no stopping whatsoever. On top of that, though, even after all these adventures with Harvath, Thor still found a way to show readers a new side of his hero. Here, Harvath is a broken man. His wife, mentor, and one of his closest friends were all murdered. Still reeling from such incredible loss, Scot doesn’t want to be bothered. And he doesn’t know how to go on.

Of course, that changes just as soon as waves of assassins begin trying to kill him, sucking him back into a world he wants nothing to do with.

Not to give anything away, but we’re nineteen books in, and the bad guys still haven’t learned not to mess with Scot Harvath. Maybe they’ll think twice in next year’s book because I can’t imagine anyone would want to cross him after this.

To bring a little extra something special to this month’s Rogue column, I’m including an excerpt from an interview I just did with Brad Thor that will run on The Real Book Spy at a later date. Specifically, I asked him about beating headlines and what his secret it, and then I followed up by asking if he would be writing COVID-19 into his next book, given the impact the virus has had on the entire world. I think you’ll find both of his answers (below) interesting. I sure did!

Near Dark comes out on July 21 and is the must-read adventure of the summer. Trust me, you do not want to miss it. 

Excerpt from my interview with Brad Thor:

One of the first questions I wanted to ask Thor, who is known for predicting events and wiring them in his books long before they happen, is how he does that. I mean, this is a guy who, at one point, was recruited by the government to wargame out-of-the-box attack scenarios. So, what’s his secret?

“Part of it is just that I’m a voracious consumer of news,” Thor told me, before dropping a great quote from one of the most famous authors on the planet. “I’m always looking for patterns. Stephen King once said, ‘a writer is someone who’s trained their mind to misbehave,’ and that’s very true with me.

“So, after 9/11, when I got recruited into the analytical Red Cell program in D.C., that’s part of what they were having me do for them. It was like, okay, think about your books—what’s the next thing, what’s the next attack, what’s the target, all that kind of stuff. It’s just a product of how I do think and connecting dots—and there are other people connecting the dots too, I’m not the only one—but if you’re paying as close of attention as I am . . . that’s the trouble. Politics, domestic and international, global politics are my baseball. I’m not going to sit here and talk to you about the Twins and the Cubs or that sort of thing, but I’ll talk all day long about whether or not it’s a good idea to pull troops out of Germany and put them into Poland. Or about what Putin’s really doing and that sort of thing, all that kind of stuff. That is what fuels the novel. It’s just a passion of mine. So, yeah, do I get some stuff in the books that end up being correct? Yes.

“The funniest thing was when we did the prisoner swap for Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban members, and that was on page one of one of my books. Some of it’s getting lucky, you know, I’m not going to say I have a crystal ball and can see it all. And then, sometimes, it’s knowing what not to put in the book that’s even more important than what you do put in.”

Indeed, First Commandment, which came out in 2007, literally opened with a prisoner exchange where the U.S. swapped five men who were jailed for various acts of terrorism, and actually showed them being ushered onto a plane so they could be traded. Not four men. Not six men. Five men—the exact same number of prisoners who would be swapped for Bergdahl nearly seven years later.

Maybe it does come down to luck sometimes, but Thor has been “lucky” more than just about anyone else.

While on the subject of headlines, the conversation naturally turned to COVID-19, and I asked Thor if he would be writing the virus into his next book.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever do it, to be honest with you,” Thor said. “I think people want an escape, and I’m in the escape business. I’ve had other people ask me if I’ll put COVID in the next book, and I just don’t think so. I did a virus in Code of Conduct and I did a bioweapon in Blow Back. I think if you read one of my books, you want to get away from everything. I don’t want to have to deal with Harvath in a mask or worrying about if the cafĂ© tables in Paris are six feet apart from each other. I don’t want to live in that world, and I don’t want to write in that world, so therefore I won’t.”

Honesty, can you blame him? I think right about now, we’re all sick and tired of COVID and could use a little bit of an escape. Having already read Near Dark twice, I can promise you—that’s exactly what you’ll get with Thor’s new book. And right now, we need it more than ever.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Brad Thor! We will be sure to pick up a copy of Near Dark.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

MY ONLINE (NON) ROMANCE

by Lisa Black

We’ve all gotten them. The friend requests from someone designed to catch our eye. Men will get well-endowed models. Young women will get hunky 20-somethings. Older women like me will get distinguished, successful silver foxes. Most of you are smart, decide you have no idea who this person is, and hit Decline. As part of my ongoing research into scams and scammers, I click Accept. Problem is, they’re never as entertaining as I expect, because they’re almost regimentally similar.

- They don’t seem to understand first names and last names, often listing themselves as “James Mark” or “Smith Joseph” or “Harrison Keith.” On top of that they often put an entirely different name in parentheses, as if that’s going to make them sound more authentic. Sure, someone with an alias sounds like terrific boyfriend material. I asked John Gabriel (Arif Arif) if his name was John or Arif, and he said he uses one ‘because of the Taliband.’ I pointed out that posting the alias on Facebook was hardly secure. We didn’t last long as a couple.

- They’ll have a few photos, half of which will be flowers or puppies. Selfies will usually be cropped just enough so that a Google Image search won’t find the true owner, but many times they’re too lazy to even do that.

- Their status is always widowed, with a child or two of school age. Wait for it, this child will have some sort of medical condition down the road that requires funds, though you would think a military contractor stationed in Afghanistan would make pretty good money.

- They’ll be from some large city in the U.S. though their English skills sound suspiciously like something run through Google Translate.

- Usually very little other information is provided. They don’t bother, and there could be several reasons for that--they’re casting as wide a net as possible, or they think lonely old ladies are so desperate they’ll jump at any Friend Request out there, or they’re simply lazy. But I think it’s mostly a matter of efficiency. They’re not going to last long on Facebook, because quickly, often within days, someone will report the profile as spam and they’ll be kicked off. (This surprises me, because when I report the profile I usually get a message back that it ‘doesn’t violate community standards.’)

- When they do fill in anything in the ‘About’ section, take a look . They’ll have the sense to list American TV shows and maybe celebrities among Likes, but the walls begin to crumble in Music and Sports. After all, young men have very firm opinions on their music and sports. Now there’s no reason why your blue-eyed engineer from Dallas can’t be following a Bangladesh cricket team or listening to Ghanese singer Sark Gh. I appreciate a man who has international tastes. But these entries fascinate me. Are they a private joke among the scammers? Do they think I won’t bother looking past the silver fox’s photo? Or are they a Freudian slip, a breadcrumb of truth they simply can’t help dropping?

- Once you accept their friend request, you’ll get an instant message, usually within hours. It will say ‘hi’ or ‘hello dear.’ Very rarely will they use your name, even though your entire profile is only a click away. They just friended a writer named Lisa in Florida, but they don’t bat an eye when I tell them I’m a waitress named Chloe in Wisconsin.

- After you’ve become fast friends, very fast, they will want to get you off Facebook as quickly as possible, preferably to Hangouts, a chatting app. This is where my research breaks down since I’m not going to use my real phone number. I told charming James Mark that my mother won’t let me install apps on my phone. That produced a flurry of texts.

James Mark: Tell your mom/ That I’m so interested to make good friendships with you in honesty trust and understanding way/ I won’t tell you do any bad
C: Yeah, I don’t think she’s going to buy that. Why can’t you just email me? 
I did get him to move to email, but he continued to harangue poor Chloe to get on Hangouts. The army surgeon threw up excuses about not knowing how to use ‘confusing’ email, and that for some reason his UN barrister would get suspicious if he emailed her. Chloe had had it.
C: I AM NOT GOING TO DOWNLOAD THE APP. If that’s a deal-breaker, so be it. We’ve got coronavirus up the wazoo over here, and I don’t have time to deal with this. I would think a surgeon in Syria would have a lot more to worry about than some phone app.

Jimmy gave up after this, and took himself, his army career, and his 10 year old in the Canadian boarding school back to the drawing board.

And that’s why I’m having trouble finding love on the internet.

How about you? Have you had requests that looked legit but turned out to be scams?  

Sunday, July 5, 2020

SUPPORTING LOCAL BOOKSTORES

by Karna Small Bodman

Even before Covid-19 forced many bookstores to close, several faced the challenge of online shopping and the rising popularity of e-books vs. the print variety. Now that we all have been spending more time at home, working virtually, self-quarantining and all the rest, people are finding more time to read great books they simply could not get through before. (Have you read War and Peace yet?) Now, it turns out that certain independent bookstores are defying the odds and thriving with online sales, curbside pickup, and especially organizing Zoom events with bestselling authors as their speakers. Some of the most successful stores are owned by authors. I’d like to tell you about them.



Novelist Ann Patchett, along with her business partner, Karen Hayes, own Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN. In spite of the competition, they built up a thriving business by attracting customers with Children’s Storytime, book clubs, author readings, a bookmobile and a first-editions subscription box, among other inducements. Throughout the pandemic, Ann Patchett kept spreading the word about her store and her books by posting photos on Instagram showing her in a ballgown or cocktail dress because, she says, “the alternative was staying in yoga pants for the rest of my life.” She also uses her account to offer compelling book recommendations.
At the moment the store is busy with online sales and curbside pickups and hope to reopen soon. Meanwhile, you might like to check out Ann’s latest book, The Dutch House, already a bestseller.


Remember the great novelist and screenwriter, Larry McMurtry who usually set his stories in the Old West or contemporary Texas? Sure you do. Who could forget the famous television miniseries that earned 18 Emmy award nominations – winning 7, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. What you may not know is that he opened a bookstore with two partners in Georgetown, Washington, DC back in 1970, named BOOKED UP, which became one of the largest used bookstores in the United States, carrying 450,000 titles. Eventually, he decided to move the store to Archer, TX. He sold some of his inventory in an historic auction, but today his store still carries 200,000 titles of “Fine, Rare, and Scholarly” books. Besides Lonesome Dove, you probably recall other novels such as Horseman, Pass By, The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment which were adapted into films earning some 26 Oscar nominations and 10 wins.

I wanted to include something special for children here as well. An international bestselling author of books for them is Jeff Kinney, who became famous for his Wimpy Kid stories. Next in the series, which will be book #15, is titled The Deep End Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and will be released in October.. For families who have been hunkered down at home with their children,  this is something  to look forward to, although reading the other Wimpy Kid books to them right now could be a most entertaining exercise. Jeff Kinney also owns a bookstore, AN UNLIKELY STORY, in Plainville, Massachusetts.



Finally, up in Brooklyn, author Emma Straub created the BOOKS ARE MAGIC. This store features many virtual events which you can check on their website (note several coming up this month). The owner-author has a new novel out, All Adults Here, which The Wall Street Journal describes as a “Perfect novel for summer reading.” And People Magazine called Emma Straub a “Master analyst of romantic relationships … witty and wise tales.” Other popular titles include Modern Lovers, The Vacationers and Laura’s Life in Pictures. These bestselling books are now sold in 15 countries.

This is just a sampling of the many independent bookstores owned and operated by authors. During these trying times (and in the future), I hope we all can support our local bookstores, no matter the ownership, of course.

Question: What bookstores do you have in your own community that you would like to recommend and support? Leave a comment so we can share your thoughts, and thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

Friday, July 3, 2020

ROGUE WOMEN JUNE ROUNDUP!


Here's what we Rogues talked about, researched, and revealed in June...

In early June, NYT best-selling author, Laurie R. King went Rogue, sharing info about her writing style, daily routine and divulging details on her newest release, RIVIERA GOLD.

Nest, best-selling thriller writer Joseph Badal came by and filled in the secrets behind his latest novel, PAYBACK.

Who knew that Heather Young harbors a hidden literary passion for fantasy and sci-fi. It's a passion that informs her newest release, THE DISTANT DEAD, and makes it a book we all need to read.

June 15 marked the first ROGUE READS online presentation featuring special guests: Robin Burcell, John Gilstrap, Joseph Badal and Don Bentley. You definitely want to check out the Rogue Reads video on the Rogue Facebook page.

The Real Book Spy's Rogue Recommendation, Mike Maden, releases his final Jack Ryan Junior novel FIRING POINT, and passes off the franchise to Don Bentley. A terrific choice for a replacement, but Maden will be missed.

Have you ever wondered where the name Ponzi came from, as in Ponzi scheme? Lisa Black reveals that the name comes from Charles Ponzi, an Italian who came to America with dreams, BIG dreams. He saw BIG profits, too, until....