Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A Lost Vintage Crime Novel!

Those of you who follow The Overnight Bestseller may remember that I'm a fan of vintage paperbacks. I have a shelf in the basement filled with Ace Doubles, Dell mysteries, and Pocket Book westerns. Almost all of them are reading copies, dog-eared and chipped. In fact, I just finished re-reading And Be A Villain by Rex Stout in a Bantam Book edition printed in 1950 that is so beat up the pages have all come away from the binding and I have to pick them up one at a time to read the story. That's how much I love these books and the stories they tell.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I had an opportunity to review the first-time publication of The Knife Slipped, a Cool and Lam mystery published by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A. A. Fair. This manuscript was recently uncovered and published by Hard Case Crime. It was originally intended by Gardner to be the second novel in the series but was rejected by his publisher. While I was at NoirCon 2016 in Philadelphia I had a chance to meet Hard Case Crime publisher and editor Charles Ardai. We talked about the discovery of this lost gem, and he graciously provided me with a copy of the book when I mentioned my review copy hadn't yet arrived in the mail.

Read my review of The Knife Slipped in the New York Journal of Books here:


Monday, 31 October 2016

NoirCon 2016

Over the past five days I've been in Philadelphia attending the 2016 edition of NoirCon, a festival celebrating all things noir. The panel discussions were for the most part very engaging, so allow me to give you a brief summary.

First, however, let me explain that I was there for the presentation of the 2015 Hammett Prize. I was honoured to be a finalist this year for SORROW LAKE. I'm very pleased to congratulate Lisa Sandlin on her win for THE DO-RIGHTS (Cinco Puntos Press). I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at the ceremony, and I encourage everyone to read her book!

During the convention I enjoyed a very interesting panel discussion of Forgotten Innovators of Suspense that focused on William Goldman and Len Deighton. While presenter Warren Moore admitted that Goldman is not exactly forgotten, since The Princess Bride will likely live forever, his techniques for creating suspense in novels such as Heat, Magic, and Marathon Man are perhaps not so well known. He focused in particular on Goldman's somewhat perverse habit of informing readers that something bad will likely happen to one of his characters before long -- and sure enough, it eventually does. Meanwhile, I was surprised to hear that Len Deighton is almost forgotten as a writer of spy thrillers. Since I occasionally reread his novels, including Funeral in Berlin and the Bernard Samson trilogies, I was a little shocked to think that other people aren't doing the same thing. Time flies and tastes change, I guess.

A highlight of the convention for me was an on-stage interview of Charles Ardai, recipient of this year's Jay and Deen Kogan Award. The former CEO of Juno, an early innovative Internet service, Charles is the publisher of Hard Case Crime. This imprint revives lost paperback novels from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, as well as publishing new work. I had a chance to talk to Charles, and I think I'll devote another blog post to him rather than cram everything in here.

Finally, I'd like to thank Mary Frisque and the International Association of Crime Writers for enabling me to attend the full convention. Special thanks as well to Lou Boxer and Deen Kogan for an enjoyable event, and to their volunteers for their kindness.

Monday, 26 September 2016

An Invitation from the New York Journal of Books

Recently I was approached by the New York Journal of Books to join their staff as a featured reviewer of new Mystery & Thriller publications. I'm pleased to be joining this well-known online source of quality book reviews, whose panel includes "bestselling and award-winning authors, journalists, experienced publishing executives, tenured academics, as well as highly experienced professionals across a number of disciplines and industries."

For my review of the Swedish crime fiction novel THE VANISHED by Lotte and Soren Hammer, please click here.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A Thorny Dilemma

We have quite a few wild apple trees on our property. None of them are really very old, but for the past few years they've been producing small, often very tart fruit that the deer and squirrels enjoy during the winter.

I've begun to trim the ones closest to the house so that they will look and behave a little more like domesticated trees than wild ones. My thinking has been that if I cap the growth of their upper branches, suckers and so on, they'll concentrate more on fruit production.

This particular tree, photographed above, has had its first summer of absolutely phenomenal production. Its boughs are loaded with bright, colourful fruit for the very first time.

Unfortunately, paper wasps chose this year to build their nest right in the middle of all that good food. In past years I've treated paper wasps as feared enemies and wiped out their nests whenever I found them. Every year, it seems, they build right around the house. We're not allergic to bee venom, thank goodness, but no one likes being stung by these nasty pests.

When I spotted this nest, my first thought was to destroy it, as I have with all the others. Then I began thinking about the changes I've noticed over the past several summers on my property. The monarch butterflies used to return to our back yard in droves to breed, but this summer the milkweed I allow to grow for their use is untouched by monarch larvae. I haven't seen a single one, caterpillar or adult. As well, I've only seen a few bumblebees and honey bees around this summer. Our ecosystem is in serious trouble, and it worries me.

So the paper wasps stayed. We learned to walk around that particular tree, rather than right past it as we usually do when we take the dogs out back. Recently I snuck out after dark, when the bees were sleeping, to try a few of the apples. Oh my, they're delicious. A sleepy warrior stuck his head outside the hole to see what was disturbing the branches around its nest. I backed away, apple in hand, willing to leave him the field of battle until another day.

I find myself now on the horns of a thorny dilemma. I'd like very much to pick all the apples on that tree before they're too soft to use, but the wasps....... 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Arts in the Park 2016

It's been a quiet summer for me this year, so I was very happy to participate in this year's Arts in the Park festival in Stittsville. After several days of steady rain a nice day squeaked in just in time for me to get out and sign a few books, chat with people, and enjoy the fresh (humid) air.

Thanks to Doug Sutherland and the Stittsville Village Association for organizing the event, and thanks to everyone who came out. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next year!

Monday, 18 July 2016

A Perfect Summer Afternoon

Yesterday was a perfect summer afternoon here in eastern Ontario to spend outdoors. I was fortunate to have a chance to participate in the celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the Terrace Green Bed & Breakfast, a beautiful property just outside Winchester, Ontario on Highway 43.

Annette and Jim Angus, owners and operators of the B&B, threw a big lawn party complete with entertainment and a fashion show. As you can see, I was able to set up my canopy under two enormous silver maple trees. It was a perfect spot to listen to the music and chat to people about book writing, reading, and many other things.

Thanks to Annette for a great afternoon!

Monday, 11 July 2016

A Review of Welcome to the Show by Frank Nappi

Once again  The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to host a stop on the Tribute Books blog tour. This time we welcome Frank Nappi with his sports juvenile novel Welcome to the Show.

Book Summary and Buy Links

It’s 1950 and Mickey Tussler—the now-famous pitching prodigy with autism and a golden arm—is back for another baseball season in this third installment of Frank Nappi’s critically acclaimed Legend of Mickey Tussler series. Talk of Mickey’s legendary exploits on the field has grown since his improbable debut two years prior, as have the fortunes of Murph and the rest of the lovable ragtag Brew Crew. Now Mickey, Murph, and Lester find themselves heading to Bean Town to play for the Boston Braves.

The call up is sweet, for all of them have overcome insurmountable odds to get where they are. But life in the major leagues is filled with fast-paced action both on and off the field. The bright lights of Boston hold a new series of challenges, hardships, and life lessons—especially for Mickey, who finds himself a long way from throwing apples into a barrel back on the farm. The three newest Braves have each other to lean on, as well as a new group of fans who are swept away by pennant fever, but balancing everything this new world has to offer may prove to be the greatest challenge of all.

Prices/Formats: $9.99 ebook, $9.99 paperback
YA, Sports, Special Needs
April 19, 2016
Sky Pony Press

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Welcome to the Show YouTube Video

Author Bio

Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty-five years. His debut novel, Echoes from the Infantry, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Nappi continues to produce quality work, including Sophomore Campaign, the intriguing sequel to the much-heralded original story and the thriller, Nobody Has to Know, which received an endorsement from #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille. The third installment of Nappi's Mickey Tussler series, Welcome to the Show, was released April 2016, and he is currently working on his next thriller, As Long As We Both Shall Live.
Nappi lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

The Overnight Bestseller's Review of Welcome to the Show 

Baseball, as America's national pastime, has always been an effective metaphor for the challenges, frustrations, and triumphs of our everyday lives.  

 Frank Nappi's Welcome to the Show is the third in a series of novels set in the 1950s and featuring Mickey Tussler, a young pitcher dealing not only with the challenges of competitive sport but also of autism. To have such a character in a lead role is refreshing.

In this novel, Mickey has now moved up to the Big Leagues with its additional stressors. Nappi skilfully combines historical detail and fiction while fleshing out his story with a well-developed cast of characters.

You do not have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the Mickey Tussler series—although if you are, you'll certainly appreciate the historical references to the game. You just need to enjoy a good story!

A final note: Although the Amazon listing for this novel says it is appropriate for middle-graders (12-year-olds), I found it would be more suitable for young adult readers aged 17 and up because of the mature themes.

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Monday, 13 June 2016

Review of A Loaded Gun by Jerome Charyn

Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to host a stop in the Tribute Books Blog Tour and to review a work by Jerome Charyn.

Book Summary and Buy Links

We think we know Emily Dickinson: the Belle of Amherst, virginal, reclusive, and
possibly mad. But in A Loaded Gun, Jerome Charyn introduces us to a different Emily Dickinson: the fierce, brilliant, and sexually charged poet who wrote:

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—

Though I than He— may longer live
He longer must—than I—
For I have but the power to kill,
Without—the power to die—

Through interviews with contemporary scholars, close readings of Dickinson’s correspondence and handwritten manuscripts, and a suggestive, newly discovered photograph that is purported to show Dickinson with her lover, Charyn’s literary sleuthing reveals the great poet in ways that have only been hinted at previously: as a woman who was deeply philosophical, intensely engaged with the world, attracted to members of both sexes, and able to write poetry that disturbs and delights us today.

A Loaded Gun Excerpt One:

A Loaded Gun Excerpt Two:

Prices/Formats: $11.99 ebook, $19.95 paperback
Genre: Literary Criticism
Pages: 256
Release: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Bellevue
ISBN: 9781934137987

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Author Bio

Jerome Charyn was born and raised on the mean streets of the Bronx. He graduated cum laude from Columbia College. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Rice, was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the City University of New York and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the American University of Paris. Charyn is a Guggenheim Fellow and has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His stories and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, Esquire, American Scholar, New York Review of Books, New York Times, Ellery Queen and many other publications. Charyn's most recent books are The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, I Am Abraham and Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories. His latest book is A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century.

Our Review of A Loaded Gun

Jerome Charyn is an innovative writer whose passion for his subject matter--whether it be his native Bronx, Abraham Lincoln, or Emily Dickinson--is expressed in a style inimitably his own. In A Loaded Gun, as in I Am Abraham, Charyn has conducted extensive archival research to provide his own sense of the inner life of a gifted individual.  Rather than accepting what has been the conventional view of Emily Dickinson as an isolated woman crippled by agoraphobia and manipulated by a dominating father, Charyn sees her as a woman of passion and imagination who was very much in control of her own life. He describes her variously as "an alchemist," "an enchantress," and "a mistress of her own interior time and space".

A Loaded Gun and Charyn's previous work, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, are not only fascinating in their own right, but provide an opportunity for a new generation of readers to discover the poet and her impressive work.

A Loaded Gun will appeal not only to readers of poetry, biography, and literary criticism, but also to all those seeking a refreshing read on a "conventional" life.

For previous reviews of Jerome Charyn's works in this blog, please see Bitter Bronx , I Am Abraham, and Under the Eye of God.

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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Dying to Be Beautiful Blog Tour

Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to host a stop on a Tribute Books blog tour. This tour features the "Dying to Be Beautiful" mystery series by M. Glenda Rosen.


Saturday Morning, 6:00am

The head in the sink stared up at her. Darcy Monroe, the owner of a popular, chic hair salon was used to this. Only this time, the head was there without a body.

Chapter One: The Murder

As a Private Investigator, Jenna Preston had been hired to help solve murders, insurance fraud, cheating spouses and more. This was a new one for her.

She received what could only be described as a hysterical call from Darcy Monroe, owner of a popular, upscale hair salon in The Hamptons. A head without its body was rolling around in one of her shampoo basins.

Almost five-feet, five-inches tall, always looking taller in her two- or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, blue eyes and was often seen driving around the East End in a white jeep, and in recent years, with her Irish setter sitting next to her.


Chapter 1
The Murder

Saturday, 6:10 A.M.

As a Private Investigator, Jenna Preston had been hired to help solve murders, insurance fraud, cheating spouses and more. This was a new one for her.

She received what could only be described as a hysterical call from Darcy Monroe, owner of a popular, upscale hair salon in The Hamptons.

A head without its body was rolling around in one of her shampoo basins.

Almost five-feet, five-inches tall, always looking taller in her two or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, blue eyes and was often seen driving around the East End in a white jeep, and in recent years, with her Irish Setter sitting next to her.

As a well-respected private investigator in the area, she told the salon owner, “I’ll be right there, and don’t touch anything until the police arrive.”

Jenna knew they needed to secure the business as a crime scene and Coroner Doc Bishop and Head of Forensics Lara Stern had to be brought in as well.

“Troy, someone left a head, without the body, in a shampoo bowl at Darcy’s Salon. I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

”Damn it, Jenna, I nearly spilled my coffee listening to this bizarre message. I’ll be there within the half hour. Meantime, I’ll ask Lara to get over there to check the crime scene for prints and other possible evidence and for Doc to arrange to bring the head to the morgue. We’ll want to look at it there, after he’s had a chance to determine how it was cut off and anything else he might find.”

Detective Johnson hung up.

He and Jenna had worked together and known each other for a long time. They clearly trusted each other. He knew she would follow police protocol at the crime scene.

Saturday, as always was an exceptionally busy day, “in season” at Darcy’s Salon, which is why she had gotten there so early. She always wanted the salon looking perfect, ready for stylists and clients, who this day had appointments beginning at 7 am.

Located off the main avenue of this posh resort at the East End of Long Island, less than ninety miles from Manhattan, the salon was known for catering to the rich and famous, as well as some of wanna-be customers, primping for weekend parties and fundraising events.

The salon was truly beautiful with warm color tones and soft matching leather client chairs facing gold (well, fake gold), trimmed mirrors. There was a reception area with the latest issues of fashion magazines from Paris and Rome, and a few of the more popular Hampton rags, like Dan’s Papers were spread out on a marble table, next to it a coffee machine offering gourmet flavored coffee and teas.

Most of the women who came to Darcy’s Salon had plenty of money, some from their own success, although others were arm candy for much older, wealthy men. Sometimes one of them would joke (maybe not) that they were “Dying To Be Beautiful” like some of the famous models and celebrities, many of who summered in the Hamptons.

“Jenna, you’ve seen how difficult and fussy they can be, and their egos—they’re constantly seeking confirmation of how beautiful they look. They want to come to a high- end salon, expecting to be treated like royalty. And believe me, we do.”

Darcy Monroe was only too glad to charge megabucks for her services since it included a whole lot of catering to their whims and demands. Beauty could indeed be expensive in The Hamptons. The chatter amongst the clients, the eight hair stylists, three manicurists and several assistants meant gossip was a basic ingredient of conversation. The story about the body without a head, and the head found in the salon, was sure to explode through The Hamptons. It certainly had all the elements of a soap opera.

“My god, Jenna, the gossip about this mess is going to be like a volcano spilling over this town.”


Dying to Be Beautiful: Without a Head can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble


runs June 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 140
Release: February 1, 2016
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 9781483445304
Click to add to your Goodreads list.



Monday, 6:45am

Kevin Larson swam in his pool nearly every morning. Going on sixty-five, he prided himself on being in good shape.

Walking toward the small pool house, off to the left of the pool, he noticed a light was on. He was certain he turned it off the night before. Strange, he thought.

Even stranger, lying in a different sort of pool—blood—was his long time friend and lover, fashion designer Andre Yellen. Yellen was stuffed into one of the gowns he had designed and a wearing a blond wig.

The gown had been auctioned off the night before at a huge Hamptons fundraiser.

People in the Hamptons were certainly dying to be beautiful.


Chapter 1

Monday, 7:30 a.m.

Detective Troy Johnson was at Larson’s house when Jenna arrived. He had covered the victim with a large beach towel until the coroner and forensics arrived. [deleted “He and”] Sergeant Stan Miller, who had taken the call, accompanied him and was presently attempting to hold back the media. They had heard about Yellen’s death on the police scanner, and in no time, the active crime scene was quite a wild sight.

It was 6:30 A.M. when she had received the call from Johnson that he was on his way to Kevin Larson’s house: “Jenna, there’s been a murder. Designer Andre Yellen, the Fashion Queen, was found dead this morning at the home of movie mogul Kevin Larson. He gave her the address and exactly where it was located, “past the windmill at the edge of Southampton.”

“More like the situation was at the edge of reason,” Jenna thought.

“Jenna, they’re acting like a bunch of hungry vultures. Help! These are your people. Well, they’re reporters like you used to be. The homeowner is either in shock or just completely uncooperative except for telling me where and when he found Yellen’s body.”

Jenna sighed, “Sure, I can’t say no to such a lovely invitation.”

The death of Andre Yellen was big news.

Andre Yellen was squeezed—really, truly squeezed—into a beautiful ocean blue, sleeveless, silk gown he had designed and donated for a fundraiser the evening before. The size-8 dress was torn at all the seams. Yellen, in his early fifties, 5’9” and clearly out of shape, was more like a size-18-plus, and stuffed into a dress way, way too small for him.

As a designer for major celebrities for nearly twenty-five years, Yellen was a man about town who loved both the ladies and the men, or so it had been gossiped around the East End of Long Island, also known as The Hamptons.

After all, this is THE HAMPTONS, and all sorts of lifestyles are accepted, where choices are supposedly not judged, and relationships are not restricted by conventional boundaries. Unfortunately, there are always those determined to exercise their own brand of severe judgment.

However, there was no evidence this murder had anything to do with narrow minds. Not yet, anyhow. In fact, it wasn’t clear at all what this murder was about—or who had committed it.

Private Investigator Jenna Preston was familiar with many celebrities who lived or vacationed on the East End. Before becoming an investigative reporter, she was entertainment and social events reporter for the local daily paper and had interviewed quite a few of the “anointed” as she had once called them. Gossip columnists covered the rest.

Jenna was regularly hired by law firms, insurance companies and businesses for corporate fraud issues. She also had an arrangement and relationship with the local police—especially when it came to murder investigations. Some of the people she had once written about also tried to hire her for personal investigations and for, what she considered, ridiculous reasons. Such complaints included some new fence being too high or people walking on the beach in front of someone’s home.

Most of these cases she didn’t accept.

“For me, it’s about justice. We all have reasons, even life experiences motivating our passions. I have mine for what I do,” Jenna told a local reporter whose paper was doing a story on crime in The Hamptons.

Jenna had a solid reputation for being smart, resourceful and most definitely charming—without an attitude—which was different from many of the people who summered in The Hamptons.

She did love nice clothes, including the red shoes or red boots she almost always wore.

“Hey,” she laughed once when Troy made fun of her red shoes, “you wear a cowboy hat most of the time, so don’t make fun of me, Tex.”

Jenna and Troy worked together professionally almost as soon as she had become a licensed private detective. It was a small police force, often stretched thin during the summer season. Because they actually had few experienced investigators, he had requested and been given approval by his captain to use a discretionary fund to hire Jenna on an as-needed basis. She was often a member of his investigative team, usually for murders.

Lately, there didn’t seem to be any shortage of them.

Slender and almost 5’5,” yet always looking taller in her two- or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, sometimes pulled back in a ponytail when she was working. She also had deep blue eyes. With more than a hint of spunk and mischief about her, she was definitely considered attractive.

Jenna’s new romance, Dave, thought so!


Dying to Be Beautiful: Fashion Queen can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble


runs June 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 132
Release: June 1, 2016
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 9781483449159
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

M. Glenda Rosen is the author of The Woman’s Business Therapist: Eliminate the MindBlocks and RoadBlocks to Success, and award-winning My Memoir Workbook. For over fifteen years, she helped numerous authors develop and market their books, and presented writing programs in New York, The Hamptons, New Mexico and Carmel, California, on “Encouraging and Supporting the Writer Within You!” She's the founder and owner of a successful marketing and public relations agency for twenty-five years.

Links to connect with M. Glenda Rosen:

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

In Memory of a Loyal Reader

I appear at many craft shows and arts festivals in eastern Ontario, particularly during the summer months. It's something I enjoy doing because it gets me out from behind this keyboard and gives me a chance to meet people and talk about what they like to read.

After having done it for several years, I've reached the point where faces are becoming familiar. People often come up to the table and tell me they enjoyed the book they bought the last time, and do I have a new one they could get? I appreciate the positive feedback because writing is a pursuit that takes a lot of courage some days, and it really helps to get a little pat on the back now and again.

One couple in particular became especially familiar. The woman was the reader, and each time I made an appearance in the Kemptville area she came out, just to remind me how much she loved my writing and to check whether I had a new one she hadn't read yet. Her husband mostly smiled and nodded as she talked to me. "She really loves your stuff," is about all he'd say. Coming up to my table was her thing, it was something they obviously planned in advance, and he clearly enjoyed watching her do it.

Last winter at the St. Michael's High School Christmas craft show they came up to my table again. She talked away to me as always, and was pleased to find SORROW LAKE, which she hadn't read yet. When I autographed her copy, I felt bad that I had to ask her name once again before signing it. I've never been very good at putting names to faces, and as she left the table I made a little vow to myself that I would remember her name the next time. Connie. Connie. Connie. The next time I saw her, I'd say, "Hey, Connie! How are you?"

This morning I delivered a presentation to the Probus Club in Kemptville. Before it began, a man walked up to the front of the hall and asked if I recognized him. His name tag said JIM and I knew the face, but.......  He pulled out his phone, and as he flipped through pictures looking for one of his wife, I knew it was Connie's husband. I said, "You're Connie's husband! How is she?"

"She passed away," he said. "Several months ago."

I was devastated. I'd spent the winter keeping her name and face within close reach in my head, waiting for our next encounter so that I could give her a little something back for all her enthusiasm and loyalty. I waited too long.

So this blog post is dedicated to the memory of Connie Haldersen, a sweet person I would have liked to have known better. Thank you, Connie, for all the pats on the back you gave me, thanks for reading my books, thanks for taking the time to come out and tell me how you felt about them. Thanks for being the kind of person whose husband could enjoy her little enthusiasms with so much affection.

My deepest condolences to you, Jim.

Boy, I sure wish Connie would be able to read my next one when it comes out. Fingers crossed, I think she would have liked it, too.

Rest in peace, dear.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Community Greening Begins!

This is the time of year when local communities around here hold plant sales to raise funds for local spring projects. It's a true sign that winter is finally behind us and a whole lot of great weather is on the horizon!

This past weekend I had a chance to attend the Great Burritt's Rapids Plant Sale. Since it was held at the Community Hall, where my office is now located, it was an easy event to make. I took this photo after most of the rush had died down (and I'd already grabbed my plants!).

This particular sale is held by the Village Greening Team. They used the funds raised to maintain the public gardens in Burritt's Rapids. Isn't this a great idea? Many of the perennials are donated from local historical gardens, and this year's sale featured Fire Star Dianthus and Jack Frost Brunnera.

I zeroed in on the day lilies and asked the very kind woman helping me out to choose two that she thought might do well at my place. Turns out she had donated the lilies herself and that they came from her garden at Burritt House. So now I have a piece of history growing in my own modest garden in Oxford Station.

Can't wait to see them bloom. Can't wait for summer!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

"The Human Race is Just Unbelievably Deep"

Yesterday morning while driving I was listening to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's morning radio program "q" when a very interesting interview began. It featured New York Times obituary writer Bruce Weber, who is touring to promote a new documentary film by Vanessa Gould that focuses on the obituary department of the Times.  (Links are provided below.)

Among other things, Mr. Weber talked about the process involved in deciding who will have their obituary written for the Times and who won't. As he said, many people are worthy but not many are newsworthy, and it is this latter quality that is usually the deciding factor.

As interesting as the interview was, it was the very last thing Mr. Weber said that stayed with me. Asked about his insight into how people featured in a Times obit have contributed to history, he said that many of his obituaries have covered people who contributed a great deal to history, such as distinguished veterans, but whose lives are largely forgotten, as the famous tend to overshadow the less-than-famous. However, he said, there are many less-than-famous people whose lives have nudged history in a certain direction.

He concluded: "The human race is just unbelievably deep. We've got a big bench."

He said it with such enthusiasm and affection that it stayed with me long after I got out of the car and went about with the rest of my day. Given that he'd talked about the sadness of his job and how it had affected his long-term view of life, his enduring fascination with people and the contributions they make in their lives resonated with me.

I recognized in it my own unflagging interest in people and my very strong conviction that there is no end to the supply of inspiration for the characters that writers create for their stories. There's no reason on earth why readers should ever settle for flat or stereotypic characters when, as Mr. Weber said, "the human race is just unbelievably deep." There's no reason why I should settle for less, either, in my own work.

Find the CBC interview of Bruce Weber here
Find the teaser for the documentary film Obit here

Monday, 25 April 2016

Spring Reading Season Begins!

Photo by David Koren
It's that time again. Time to shake off the winter rust, get a handle on the nerves, and get out there reading.

This week I had an opportunity to appear at the 2016 Arthur Ellis Award shortlist event at Chapters Rideau in Ottawa. Along with a stellar group of mystery authors including Mary Jane Maffini and Linda Wiken, I helped celebrate the announcement of the short lists for this year's awards. It was a lot of fun, and thanks go out to Linda for all her hard work.

Yesterday I was back at it again, appearing at the 2016 edition of the Navan Fine Arts Festival with Lynn L. Clark. Located at the curling club in this town on the eastern edge of Ottawa, it was an opportunity for us to try a new venue. We were pleased with the results. We both did short readings by the fireplace and chatted with interested readers. Thanks go out to Anne Warburton for all her hard work and support at this event, to the Navan Lions Club, and everyone else involved in making this event a reality.

I should mention that this festival included a very interesting event that other communities might like to try as well. Called the Chair Project, it was a goodwill contest in which families were encouraged to donate wooden chairs. The idea was for children to decorate the chairs in whatever way struck their fancy, donate the chairs to the event, and have a chance to be declared the winner in various categories (Cuteness, Amazingness, etc.). There were three age groups, and a surprising number of chairs entered into the contest. The chairs will be set out around the town during the summer for people to sit in and admire. I thought it was a great idea!

Watch this spot as spring rolls into summer for more updates on our travelling road show!

Monday, 11 April 2016


Spring is slow to arrive in our neck of the woods these days, so it was with a mixture of pleasure and relief that I took a couple of hours yesterday to attend the semi-annual vinyl record show and sale at St. Anthony's Hall in Ottawa.

Now, I've blogged before about being an avid collector of vinyl records, an addiction that goes back to my teens, when we haunted Moondance Records in Peterborough scoping out the latest arrivals. I must stress, too, that I don't collect these things for their value, although I'm aware that vinyl has caught on again and prices have shot through the roof. I collect them because I love them, and I love the music.

As I was walking into the hall, I passed some guy on a cellphone explaining that the record he was thinking of investing in was an original pressing, and the dealer was asking only $99 for it. Well, once I was inside I discovered the prices on most of the stock matched what this guy had found. For me, that would have blown my entire budget. And besides, I've always been something of a bottom feeder, not only for budgetary reasons but also for the challenge. I love finding hidden gems for bargain prices. Who doesn't?

Some of the discoveries not currently in my collection that I pounced on for under $5 included Last of the Red Hot Burritos by The Flying Burrito Brothers, Bare Wires by John Mayall and the Blues Breakers, vibraphonist Fred Raulston's Open Stream, and The Best of Buzzy Linhart, one of those two-record sets issued by Kama Sutra Records in the mid-Seventies. Somehow Buzzy's records  never made it to Peterborough that I ever noticed, but that's what this is all about--filling the holes and catching up with the past!

Oh yes, and my favourite grab of the day--Garden of Joy by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, pictured above. The cover was a little worn, so the guy ignored the $2 sticker and threw it in for free.

How great is that???

Monday, 28 March 2016

An Updated Video Teaser for SORROW LAKE

Click on the link below to view the video!
Our last snowfall of the year a few weeks ago gave us an opportunity to re-shoot some of the video sequences for the SORROW LAKE teaser. So we took a few days and now have uploaded a new version to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

You may not be aware of it, but the terms "book trailer" and "book teaser" are actually registered trademarks owned by a company who produces these book marketing tools. We refer to ours as a video teaser in the hopes that we will not be chased down and prosecuted like dirty, thieving dogs.

It's important to mention again, on this note, that the music used in the video, "Atmospheric Peds," by Themusicase, is provided by agreement with Cyberlink, and additional photos are used under licence with Thinkstock.

There, I think that covers all the bases. Now, on to the video:


Monday, 7 March 2016

5 Tips on Writing a Synopsis

It's done, it's done!!!
Now that the revised manuscript of The Long Road into Darkness, the first Tom Faust Crime Novel, is finished in its present form and is in the hands of my primary beta reader (Lynn) for feedback, the time has come to work on supporting documents for the manuscript. First and foremost is a synopsis.

Like many authors, I hate writing synopses. It feels so wrong to be forced to condense a 260-page manuscript down to a single descriptive page. I'm supposed to cover what took me a year to write in a few breezy paragraphs??

Naturally, I spent the morning today researching the subject. There are many articles and blog posts online that offer advice and guidance on how to write an effective synopsis, and I've gone through them to distill for your reading pleasure five important tips on how to succeed in this gawdawful, onerous task.

5. Remember Your Objective.
A synopsis is a tool you will use to inform a literary agent or publisher about your manuscript. As such, it must answer all their most important questions--what's it about, where is it set, who is it about, and why should I be interested?

As The Literary Consultancy suggests (link below), if you find the job of writing a synopsis distasteful, "think not of yourself, but of the reader, and treat the project as a ... challenge and [an] opportunity to show your work off in its essential form."

4.  Stick to the Basics.
Keep it short. A single-page synopsis is best, about five hundred words or so. While book readers use their leisure time to read your work, agents and acquiring editors do not--don't expect them to be happy slogging through five pages when one will do the trick.

Use an active, third-person voice and present tense. Review each word in your draft synopsis and try to find a simpler, punchier alternative.

Avoid back story, avoid dialogue, and don't format your synopsis into separate sections. KISS - Keep It Short and Simple.

3. Cover Your Entire Story Arc.
Describe in a few clear, concise paragraphs how your story unfolds. Use the rule of three: explain how your story begins, how it gets complicated, and how it ends. Cover the primary plot, of course, and briefly allude to subplot, depending on how important it is, where space permits. Agents and editors want to see that your story hangs together and isn't disjointed or incomplete.

While you're busy with this, work in a brief allusion to where (and when?) it's set.

A last word on the ending of your story. Many bloggers suggest withholding your ending in order to entice or tease an editor. I've been given to understand, in no uncertain terms, that this is a bad, bad idea. Spell it out without holding back, otherwise they may suspect you don't have confidence in it, or worse, that you haven't actually written it yet.

2. Demonstrate Character Development.
At this point you've probably already written five hundred words (or more), but keep in mind that agents and acquiring editors will be focusing on your protagonist and your other primary characters. Give them a strong sense of who they are and how your protagonist develops over the course of your novel. Book readers crave compelling characters--demonstrate that you have them!

1. Hook 'Em, Danno.
Our number one tip takes you right back to the opening paragraph of your synopsis. Plot summary can be rather dry and boring, no matter how great your manuscript may read, so make a special effort right up front to hook the person reading your synopsis. You want them to read the entire thing, since you've slaved and slaved over it, but agents and editors are like everyone else--if you don't grab their attention in the first few sentences, they're likely to move on to something else.

If you've written a crisp, attention-getting synopsis, you'll achieve your overall goal: you'll leave them anxious and impatient to read the entire story!

For more information:

Now it's time for me to get busy and write mine. Agggghhhhhh!!!

Monday, 22 February 2016

What's the Hardest Part of the Writing Process?

I once participated in an author panel discussion in which we were asked to name the part of the writing process we found most difficult. Some of my colleagues explained why they found revision and editing to be the most challenging phase, while someone else talked about getting a new idea started as being particularly difficult for them.

My answer then, and now, is that I find writing the first draft of a new novel to be much more difficult than any other part of the writing process.

This may sound surprising to those of you who know that I spend at least the first two weeks of a new project writing a detailed outline of the story I'm about to begin. As I've explained before, it's essential for me when writing a crime novel to know up front exactly how the investigation will unfold, what evidence will be unearthed, and--most importantly--how the story will end. Only when I have a complete understanding of the plot, the main characters (including suspects) and the basic themes, do I consider it safe to begin actually telling the story. When I write the first draft, I need to know when I get up in the morning where I am in the story and what I need to accomplish that day.

And yet, with all this advance preparation, the first draft is harder than revision, editing, or marketing?

It's a question of confidence. Writing a first draft is like walking a very long and very high tightrope. You know your destination--that roof on the other side of the street--and you have the rope beneath your feet, in a straight line, that you only need to follow to safety. And yet ... I'm not sure I'll make it. Is the story idea strong enough? Are the characters working or are they too flat? Should I switch to first person? Do I even like this guy I'm writing about???

I mention all this now because yesterday I just completed the first draft of my new manuscript The Long Road into Darkness. Featuring Tom Faust, a recently-retired homicide investigator, it tells the story of an unsolved murder of a family in central Ontario and how it comes back to haunt Tom, the lead investigator at the time, seventeen years later.

It has taken me six months to complete this draft, working about four hours a day, pretty much every day. It's a long, long haul filled with self-doubt and stress. And yes, a couple of switches in point of view and a few tweaks to the outline to improve the story as it unfolded.

Now, I feel an enormous sense of relief. The story's been told. It has held together, the characters have worked more or less the way I want them to, and the themes are there.

Now comes the fun part. Now I'll go back to the beginning and run through the whole thing again. Tighten the prose, rewrite passages that aren't working properly, maybe even beef up a few scenes to bring out more clearly what I'm trying to say.

The pressure's off, you see. The story now exists. Now I get to play with it, and to make sure it sings.

Monday, 15 February 2016

What Am I Doing (Right Now)?

The last two weeks have been a blur as I've been working non-stop to finish my current manuscript. Its working title, for those who like to know such things, is The Long Road Into Darkness. It features a new character, Tom Faust, and a new setting in central Ontario. (Tom's a former colleague of Ellie March, who is mentioned once or twice in the story.) Watch for more news about it in the coming weeks.

Needless to say, the excitement about Sorrow Lake's nomination as a finalist for the upcoming Hammett Prize still hasn't worn off. I'm very proud of the novel and very gratified to see it receive a measure of critical acceptance.

I came across this article the other day concerning the judging process followed by the Hammett Prize reading committee. Published last year in LancasterOnline, it features the chairman of last year's committee and provides very interesting insight into the reading and selection process. I was very surprised to see that they considered almost two hundred novels last year. For Sorrow Lake to have made it to the final five this year from such a large field is a humbling honour, indeed!

Read the article here.

Back to work now! Faust is getting restless........

Monday, 1 February 2016


SORROW LAKE has been shortlisted for the 2015 HAMMETT PRIZE for best crime novel in the US and Canada!

The announcement was made this past week by the International Association of Crime Writers, whose North American branch awards this prize for "literary excellence in the field of crime writing."

The winner will be announced in October at the NoirCon literary conference in Philadelphia, which runs from October 26-30, 2016.

Past winners of the prize include Stephen King, Richard Lange, George Pelecanos, Margaret Atwood, and Martin Cruz Smith.

Other finalists for the 2015 award include:

The Stranger, by Harlan Coben
The Whites: A Novel, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt
The Do-Right, by Lisa Sandlin
The Organ Broker: A Novel, by Stu Strumwasser

I'm very pleased and gratified that the reading committee selected SORROW LAKE as a finalist for this prize. And take heart--BURN COUNTRY, the second novel in the series, will be ready for publication in the spring!

In the meantime, please keep your fingers crossed for SORROW LAKE, the "little crime novel that could!"

Read the IAWC press release here

Monday, 25 January 2016


The United Kingdom is a hotbed for crime fiction these days. The genre receives very good coverage from the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, and Stirling hosts the well-attended Bloody Scotland conference each year. Numerous bloggers feature crime fiction news and reviews, and one of the best and most-respected of these is MYSTERY PEOPLE.

This blog is run by Lizzie Hayes, who was a founder of the group Mystery Women in 1997. When this group closed down, Ms. Hayes founded Mystery People in 2012. As a lover of crime fiction, she has been a tireless supporter of the genre. She maintains two blogs, Mystery People and Promoting Crime Fiction.

I'm pleased that SORROW LAKE has been reviewed for Ms. Hayes by Marsali Taylor. She found it to be "an enjoyable and detailed p[olice] p[rocedural] set in rural Canada" with "an interesting set of characters.... The plot moved at a good speed, and the final twist was unexpected, but fairly clued."

Thanks to Ms. Hayes and Ms. Taylor for reviewing the novel. I'm very happy to see it receive positive attention in the UK.

You can read the full review on Promoting Crime Fiction here

Monday, 18 January 2016

Q & A With the Author, Part One

I enjoy using social media to chat with readers and get a feeling for what they like and dislike in the books they read.

I recently sent out an invitation on my Facebook page to ask questions about the writing process, where the ideas come from, or anything else readers are curious to know. In this post I'll tackle the first question, which was posed by friend and former colleague Lorna:

Q: How do you get into a Character's head when you've had no personal experience. I finished reading The Goldfinch today and it was uncanny how the female author got into two male teenage heads.

A:  A difficult question to answer, Lorna, because it cuts right to the heart of what writers do. Without a doubt, great characters make for great stories, and it's my ambition to develop characters that are as round and realistic as possible while still being quirky and original enough to be interesting.

Writers are a little odder than usual folk. Maybe you noticed that when we worked together! It's always been very important for me in my personal life to say as little as possible and to listen and watch other people as much as possible. I remember being in a Tim Hortons one day drinking a coffee, in a foul mood. People around me were getting on my nerves. I caught myself and said, "Listen to them, Mike. Stop crabbing to yourself and listen. They're trying to tell you who they are and what they want from life." It was a good lesson to stop focusing on myself and start focusing on people around me. As soon as I start doing that, I learn things about them I can bring into the characters I develop in my stories.

As for being able to work with female characters, I have to say I'm pleased with the way both Karen Stainer and Ellie March have come along (I've included in this post, at the top, the stock photo I've used as a reference for Ellie).

I've been fortunate to have had an extremely positive relationship through the years with my mother and my wife, and they've taught me things about the female experience that have served me well in life. I'd describe myself, without hesitation and with pride, as a feminist. Many of the things I've learned from them and from other women I've known find their way into my female characters.

Ultimately, though, I suppose it comes down to empathy. As a writer, you need to develop the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and feel what they feel, think what they think, desire what they desire. I haven't read Donna Tartt's book, but I expect she has this talent. I figure if I can develop this talent as well, I'll be able to speak through characters in a voice that is a perfect blend of theirs and mine.

Thanks to Lorna for a great question. Please feel free to stop by my Facebook page and leave a question of your own for another future installment of Q & A With the Author!

Monday, 11 January 2016

What to do about Brownie?

As regular readers of The Overnight Bestseller know, I've moved my authoring operations to a basement office in the Burritt's Rapids Community Hall. The building was constructed as a general store in the middle of the nineteenth century by John French, and when I tip my head back to gaze heavenward for inspiration I can stare at the original heavy wooden beams and floor planks of this solid neo-classical structure.

It's a very quiet work environment, without distractions, and my productivity has thankfully improved since I moved in about a month ago. No more cats running across my keyboard for attention or yelling for food or searching endlessly for the door into summer. Just Mike, his computer, and........

Image: Public Domain
I've seen him twice now. A plump, healthy-looking brown mouse running along the baseboard under the chalk board. I think he's coming from a storage room just to the right of my workspace and heading for the furnace room down yonder at top speed. So ... I'm not alone after all.

Ever the responsible tenant, I informed my lessor of my uninvited guest and suggested I could bring in one of my cats (am I nuts??) to put the fear of Felix into him and encourage him to move elsewhere, or else get caught and suffer the consequences. (A word on gender: I refer to him in the masculine in the fond hope that he's a lone bachelor and not a female looking to nest and produce more Brownies.) She replied right away, letting me know that her daughters had seen the mouse before while taking art lessons from the previous tenant. Oh yes, by the way: his name's Brownie.

I'm toast. He has a name. What do I do now? I can't just up and kill Brownie, can I?

There's an old box of Warfarin on a shelf in the storage room, but unless he's suffering from blood clots I wouldn't do that to him. I've seen rodents killed by mousetraps before, and it's a horrible sight. So I'm back to the cats. We have mice in our house in winter, since we live in the country, and we've refined a system where they chase and trap a mouse in a corner, I put on gloves and grab it, then I take it off a ways from the house and toss it into a pile of leaves. I guess I'll give that a try, after all, because I have an obligation to my lessor to take care of it.

But here's the thing: he has a name. Brownie. I've started talking to him. I ask him how he's doing. Sometimes I get up to take a break, and I give him an update on how it's going. This chapter's looking good, Brownie. What should I do here, Brownie? How does this sound?

I'm toast. I have a new pal, and his name is Brownie.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Going Inside the New Wordshop

Now that we've finally made it to 2016, there are going to be some changes made. As I mentioned last week, I've relocated my workplace to a basement office in the Burritt's Rapids Community Hall. As you can see on the left, I'm just getting settled in with my 1960s vintage rock posters, computers, pencils, and all the rest. Not shown in the picture are the whiteboard on wheels and great big chalkboard I'm already using extensively to work out the kinks as I make my way through the first draft of my current manuscript.

For those of you who enjoyed SORROW LAKE and are looking for the next novel in the Ellie March and Kevin Walker crime novel series, do not despair. The second installation, BURN COUNTRY, is well in hand. However, it is temporarily on hold as I complete the above-mentioned draft of a new manuscript featuring a new character, Tom Faust. This series will be set in central Ontario and, in a departure for me, will be told in the first person. More on Faust later.

Before I let you go on to much more important stuff, I promised last week I'd include another selfie in this week's post. A better one. Well, anything would be better than that sad-sack selfie from last week, so here you go. This was taken this morning, during a light snowfall, and is part of a new set of publicity photos I'm taking to promote SORROW LAKE. I hope you like it:
All the best for 2016, everyone.