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Never mind…you’ll only tell me that the older you get, the faster time flies.  So forget it…

Just glad you dropped in today - got some interesting folks with us, so grab your coffee - and join in. This month’s edition is rather long, but then, it’s the end of a wonderful year and there are some particular folks - besides all of you - that I wanted to thank.

DECEMBER’S PERSON OF INTEREST is…ZOE SHARP!  My merry band of interrogators have some very interesting questions they’ve put to her…

BUT FIRST - I’d like to ’spotlight’ some great contributors to our world.  People who, for the love of the genre, give their all -  and they do it unselfishly  - and often unheralded.

doug-lyle.jpg I think I must have told Doug a zillion times that he had to start charging us writers every time we called on him to help us out with a medical or forensics puzzle.  Think he listened to me?  Nope.  But then, that’s the kind of guy he is.  He saved my bacon with a question I had about the mummified corpse I had in DEADLY COLLECTION.  I’d venture to guess that he’s helped more writers out dougs-book.jpgof a mess than he’d ever admit to.  But the good news is - Doug was honored and recognized with a Best Fact Crime Edgar nomination for FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES in 2005, and WON the MacAvity in 2005 for FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES!  So THANK YOU, Doug - for all that you give so freely - and for being such a sweet guy.  So be sure to pick up his new book - FORENSICS & FICTION as a thank you.

me.jpgAnother terrific contributor - is the great photographer, Mary Reagan.  Mary’s photos for CrimeSpree and so many of the mystery magazines all the more interesting and fun to read.

Remember those hilarious photos of Gregg Rucka, David Corbett & dana Cameron I featured last month?  Those were just a fun example of Mary’s work - but take a gander at these!  This lady has a special eye and I know you’ll agree after you’ve seen these.




Mary tells me one of the highlights for her was when ‘Time Out Moscow’ asked to use one of her shots of Ken Bruen for an article about his books being translated into Russian.  Many of her photos have been used in MWA and PWA newsletters, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and The Rap Sheet.  Not to mention the dozens of shots she’s taken at all the major mystery conventions, Backspace and the PEN World Voices Festival.

Our thanks, Mary - for capturing so many fun memories for us!  Oh, uh, my right side is best.  Just thought you might want to know…

Next spotlight is on a favorite guy, a terrific writer - and one of my inquisitive interrogators - JASON STARR.

jason-starr.jpg Much buzz about Jason being the heir to the throne of noir.   jason-starr-2007-book.jpg Even the covers on his books scream darkness, intrigue, conflict and all that kinda scary stuff.  I mean, just look at this cover.  See that dame standing in front of the window?  Is she nuts, or what? I mean, she’s just looking for trouble, right?  Ah, but we know that Jason has something in store for her, huh?  Gives you chills, don’t it?

Attention short story lovers - or just lovers of great fiction…Don’t miss CHICAGO BLUES!  chicago-blues.jpgSeriously.  But don’t just take my word for it - PW said - ‘This impressive volume has soul, grit and plenty of high notes.’  Kirkus tells us ‘Twenty-one excellent reasons to stay out of the Windy City.”  Brilliantly edited by Libby Fischer Hellman (whose own YOUR SWEET MAN is included) - you know right off the bat that she’s rounded up a terrific band of scribblers.  One of my favorites is THE SIN EATER by Sam Hill of Buzz Monkey & Buzz Riff fame - and how can you not love anything by Stuart Kaminsky, Sara Paretsky, or Sean Chernover, or…Just get it, okay?

This and that…

Most of my friends know I’m in the throes of quitting smoking, and one of them - Ivan Van Laningham - sent me this - this sign is at the entrance of his cubicle at work:

“I am a Vietnam veteran, I used to work at the Post Office, I am quitting smoking, and the only thing that stands between you and certain destruction is this silly little patch I’m wearing.  Be very nice to me.  You’ve been warned.  :-) ”

And did you know that…120 years ago this month, Arthur Conan Doyle published his first Sherlock Holmes story, A STUDY IN SCARLET, in 1887’s BEETON’S CHRISTMAS ANNUAL?  Or that a copy of Beeton’s sold at auction for $156,000?!  Or…that Holmes NEVER did utter ‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’?  Oh?  You did?  Of course you did!  I mean, Evil E’s readers are the cream of the literati…

And I LOVE this one…

This came in from a friend of mine - the one and only Stan Davis!

A crowded flight was cancelled - a single agent was re-booking a long line of travelers.  Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his was to the front, slapped his ticket on the counter, and said, “I HAVE to be on this flight and it HAS to be first class!”  The agent calmly replied, “I’m sorry sir, but you’ll have to get in line.  I’ve got to help the folks ahead of you first.  I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out.”

Loudly, so everyone could hear him, the passenger said, “Do you have any idea who I am?”  Without hesitating, the agent smiled, and grabbed the mic - “May I have your attention please?  We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who doesn’t know who he is.  If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Gate 14.”

While everyone in line laughed, the man glared at the agent, and swore, “Fuck You!”  Without flinching, the agent smiled, and said, “I’m sorry, sir, you’ll have to get in line for that too.”

Sound like anyone you know?  Let me know - we’ll compare notes.

Speaking of Sam Hill…he sent me these…can any of you come up with more?  And yeah - he needs to be certified one of these days - but I love him just the way he is!

Rudolph The Blood Stained Slain Deer
Frosty The Stalker
Away In A Station House
God Rest Ye Merry Victims

By the way - did you know that…The estimated total annual revenue of panhandlers in the Las Vegas metro area is $24,000,000.00??  Do ya think we’re in the wrong business?  And that the minimum number of edits to Wikipedia since June 2004 that have been traced back to the CIA is 310?  And I’ll bet you also didn’t realize that the estimated number of stripper poles sold in the U.S. last year, for home or gym use, was 59,000.  I just love Harper’s Index…


We last left our team heading for the ISLAND OF EXILES, where they’d been told A THOUSAND BONES could be found on the DEAD STREET.  Well they got there and found THE LAST FAMILY instead - all standing SIDE BY SIDE watching them turn buildings INSIDE OUT and damn near UPSIDE DOWN.  But the clues were TOO FAR GONE by the time they reached the DARKHOUSE down the road.  THE FIRST WAVE of regret was soon displayed when they knew they’d been FOILED AGAIN.  HEARTSICK, they stayed until DAYBREAK, knowing THE CHASE might not require only NIGHT WORK.  By the time they got DOWN RIVER, they were positive they were ON THE WRONG TRACK when they found a sign that read T IS FOR TRESPASS.  Finally, one of the team decided the only way to find the right route was to open THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS.  If they followed those clues, and waited until it was time for the FEVER MOON, the path to the MAGIC CITY would be clear, as long as they didn’t run into any DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, or THE 47TH SAMURAI.  They knew they had to ignore the VOICES of the followers of THE QUEENPIN, or they wouldn’t be able to SLIDE past THE SEANCE and THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL.  But like most capers, it all boiled down to TRIAL & ERROR.  When one of the team members became A REAL BASKET CASE, it was time for some HOT LAPS to avoid A CONCRETE MAZE.  Was it possible they’d been victims of a SHELL GAME of clues?

Nearly TAPPED OUT, they rushed to find THE PERFECT GRAVE so THE SHADOW OF THE RAVEN could lead them to WHAT THE DEAD KNOW, which is precisely what they were freakin’ after!!  I mean, let’s face it - who could better answer the identities of the killers than the dead??  Duh!  But alas and alack, that SLIVER OF TRUTH demanded A HARD BARGAIN, and they needed time to think.  They also knew they’d have to rest, so they hit the trail for SANCTUARY HILL in OLD TOWN and hoped to hell they could get some shut-eye at THE PICASSO FLOP hotel.  They were in luck for once - the WALLA WALLA SUITE was available and they settled down for some R & R - hoping to watch some PRIMETIME.  But as usual - foiled again!  The film & TV writers were on strike!!  What to do?  Stay tuned…

zoewithgun.jpgBet you didn’t know this charming, soft-spoken dame could easily dislocate your shoulder without batting an eye.  Of course, she’d only do that if you interrupted her when she was making up a batch of Molotov cocktails…Zoe’s newest?  SECOND SHOT

TIME TO PUT ZOE ON THE HOT SEAT…but first I want to introduce a new addition to the investigating team - PAUL GUYOT.  I invited Paul to join us so that he may add a modicum of sanity to our sometimes irreverent questions.  Stop laughing.

ALI KARIM:  Now that your heroine Charlie Fox seems to be spending more time in the US, can you see her relocating permanently to the US?

So apart from the Charlie Fox novels, I know you write a number of short stories - do you think you’ll do a stand alone any time soon?

ZOE: Charlie kind of moves to the US with Sean at the end of SECOND SHOT, and the majority of next year’s book, THIRD STRIKE is set there.  New York, Boston, and Texas, with a brief trip back to Cheshire.  She both fits into the U.S. and stands apart from it, which sounds weird, but I’ve always thought of Charlie as an outsider to sivilian life.  Her ability to kill set her outside the bounds of acceptable behavior.  And putting her in a foreign landscape means she’s doubly removed from her surroundings, looking at America from a Brit perspective.

I’m not a natural short story writer, but if someone gives me a deadline, I do one.  The latest is in the HELL OF A WOMAN anthology of female noir, edited by Megan Abbott, which is just out.  And, funny you should mention the standalone.  I’ve already delivered next year’s Charlie Fox book, so I’m writing something new at the moment, something which is bigger and darker - I hope.  It was intended to be the first in a series, but as i go on it’s taking on more the feel of a standalone.  We’ll see how that turns out…

ALLISON BRENNAN:  Charlie Fox has a dark side and you’re not afraid to explore.  What about your own dark side?  Can you share without having to kill us?

You built your own house?  Are you insane?

ZOE:  I’d rather let my demons speak to the reader through the characters on a page.  Yeah, writing is a kind of therapy - it’s certainly a compulsion.  I just put on some dark music and sit down at my computer and let it all come spilling out.  Charlie’s dark side, the way she deals with it and the way it threatens to take over, is one of the things I find most interesting about her.  Someone suggested recently I might find a wider audience if I softened her down some, but she wouldn’t be Charlie if I did.  I think I’d rather kill her off first.

Yeah, we built the place.  It was a field when we bought it.  Andy and I did all the interior joinery, the kitchen and bathrooms, plumbing, wiring, lighting, heating, insulation, tiling, etc.  Being our own contractors meant that at least we always turned up when we expected us, and we didn’t attempt to hide any bodies from the homeowners!  At one point I tried to remove my left forefinger with an industrial chopsaw but, on the whole, I would say it was a lot less stressed and painful than writing a book.

PAUL GUYOT:  Can you speak to the differences (or similarities, if need be) between the US and UK readers you encounter while on tour?

What  are the differences between touring the States and the UK?  Other than food and lodging?

ZOE:  Touring the UK doesn’t take so long, for a start.  It’s somewhat small - think ‘fell out of your trouser pocket and got lost down the back of a sofa’ small.  And there are only a couple of specialist independent mystery bookstores in the UK -both in London within a stone’s throw of each other.  There are some great independent general bookstores, though.  And the library system is great in the UK - a real boon to writers who are just starting out.  particularly the fact that UK-based writers actually receive a small royalty on every library lend.

Touring the US in September for the hardcover launch of SECOND SHOT and the mass market of FIRST DROP was a lot of fun.  People you encounter on tour tend to be very similar.  And food and lodging in the US is cheaper and much easier to come by.  All those signs by the side of the freeway, telling you the direction and distance to the nearest gas station, restaurant, or motel.  There’s nothing like that in the UK.  And gas has just hit $10 a gallon over here.  It sucks.

LOUISE URE:  If you couldn’t be the photographer and writer that you are, what other profession would you have liked to try?

ZOE:  These are all great questions, by the way!  What would I be?  How about a Lady who Lunches?  At the moment, bearing in mind the skills I’ve aquired over the last couple of years, probably a construction worker.  Actually, my first love was sailing, and although I did some yacht delivery on a semi-professional basis when I was in my teens, there was a real gender bias back then.  If you were a woman on a boat you had to be either the cook, or the owner’s girlfriend, but I was an astro-navigator.  I could fix a position using the sun and a sextant.  Of course, now everybody has a hand-held GPS, so it’s a bit of a moot point.  By the time I was fifteen, I’d already written my first novel - which is still gathering dust in a drawer - and I always knew that’s what I really wanted to do.  I did try a lot of other things on the road here, but it’s probably best not to go there, and none of them really stuck.

DAVID MONTGOMERY:  Is it true that you could snap Barry Eisler in half like a twig?

ZOE:  What, with those sad lost puppy-dog eyes, how could you possibly want me to hurt poor Barry?  Oh, David, shame on you!  Actually, to me - hand-to-hand is always a last resort.  Running away is by far the best option.  The main reason I learned self-defense (rather than a specific martial art) is because i’m a very slow runner.  The guy who taught me was a karate instructor and also did a lot of kyushu jitsu - pressure point fighting - and knofe work.  he start me to never start a fight, but always to finish it.  Besides, as Barry himself would no doubt tell you, is you want to snap someone in half like a twig, far better to be six hundred yards away in the tree-line and blow them in half with a .50 cal Barrett M82A1…

JASON STARR:  How do you get such a great sense of America in your writing?

Publishers often throw around the ambiguous term ‘the big book’.  What do you consider a ‘big book’?

ZOE:  Wow, I take it as a big compliment that you think I’ve got a sense of America in my books, Jason.  Thanks you!  We’ve spent a lot of time in America over the past seventeen years  - I think the tour last September wsa our 35th visit.  And we’ve been to some fairly off-the-map areas, which gives you a real feel for different places.  I think being a photographer helps.  I do a lot of location shoots for the magazines I work for, which I have to find very quickly qonce we arrive in a particular place, so I’m used to driving around looking out for interesting backgrounds.  Plus i get bored quickly if I have to read great swathes of description, so I try not to write it.  I’m always aiming to capture a place or a person in as few words as possible.  A snapshot rather than a portfolio.

‘Big book’ is an interesting concept, isn’t it?  I think it’s something that captures the spirit of the moment.  I have been having a conversation similar to this with Ali Karim recently, and we kicked around the idea that a breakout book is something that really plugs into a zeitgeist.  And we all know how long it takes to plan and write a book, and then for it to go through the production process, there really is a huge amount of luck involved in striking just the right note at the right time when it  finally hits the shelves.  I would also take a guess and say it usually falls outside a series, a more weighty, character-based novel, and has a theme that can be summed up in a few words rather than half a page.  A real ‘high-concept’ idea, to borrow a phrase from the movie industry.  Does that sound about right?  If you find out the answer, can you let me know?

My thanks…to Zoe for allowing us to probe her inner secrets (?)  :-)   - and to my erudite interrogators for coming up - once again - with such scintillating questions.

NEXT MONTH’S PERSON OF INTEREST IS OUR OWN LOUISE URE whose new book - THE FAULT TREE - comes out in January.  The raves about this mesmerizing story is already making big time buzz…and I easily predict it will be one of 2008’s big books!

Since I won’t be back until January 5th - I’d like to wish you all a glorious holiday season - so…

HAPPY HANUKKAH!  (just made it in time - December 4th - 11th) menora.jpg

And… lest we forget…this is what we’re celebrating…


p.s. - Don’t forget to come back on January 5th, k?



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