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By now all of you know who won those cute little busts of Poe, and while one might say it’s all over but the shouting - I hope you won’t mind a few echo’s from me.  I could go on and on about what a great time was had, and you’ll probably think - “Oh sure, everyone says they had a ball.  Ho-hum.”  Well, I did.  Saw a lot of old friends, made some new ones (yes, it’s possible-I’m not that evil).  But, since (to use another saying) one picture is worth a thousand words, let me show you some.  Alas, quite a few didn’t work out (nasty camera!), and I missed shots I’d particulary wanted to have for you - but, hey - I’m not perfect, okay?  I mean, it’s easy to forget when one is having such a grand time.   But first - I wanted to suggest that if you’ve never been to an Edgar week - you’re missing a great opportunity to get interesting news about what’s going on in the book biz.  The symposium - or - Crime Fiction University - two days filled with great panels, plus a free continental breakfast! 

You’ll note (I hope) over the next couple of months - there will be some changes on Evil E.  While most of you know my intrepid crew of interrogators, I’ve been remiss in not listing them and their websites.  Terribly evil of me, I know.  But honest - it wasn’t because I want all the attention and glory - I just didn’t think about it.  But now that my brain’s in gear - we’ll get that on next month, and a few links to other blogs.  This month - we’ve added a subscription box so I can send you an alert when the next Evil E will be up.  Oh, and one more thing - a ‘how to leave a comment’ info. You won’t believe how many e-mails I’ve had asking how to do it.   I mean, not everyone is up to snuff on how to join in the conversation on these blogs.  We’ll have that info at the end of each column from now on.

WARNING!  This will be a rather long session - got a lot of photos, the book saga - and…ta da…our PERSON OF INTEREST IS none other than MEGAN ABBOTT who won the Edgar for Best Paperback Original!!

So - to some great photo’s!

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The deliriously happy young gal next to me is STEFANIE PINTOFF - the winner of the MWA/St.Martin’s Unpublished contest.  Even though I look like I just crawled out of a Maytag spin cycle - I wanted you all to meet her.  And why? Well, darlings, I was one of the judges - and Stefanie was my top pick - and she won!!  So, keep your eyes out next year for MURDER IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM.  In case the title changes - just remember her name.   But wait - there’s more!  I introduced her to Megan Abbott and would you believe -they’d gone to college together and hadn’t seen each other in years?   If we all hadn’t been so dumfounded - I’d have taken a photo of them!   

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Just had to show you our resident mischief maker - PAUL GUYOT - autographing my copy of the MWA Anthology -THE BLUE RELIGION.  The signing - held at Otto Penzler’s famous  The Mysterious Bookshop - was during Edgar week.  The lovely lady next to him - as you all know - is ALAFAIR BURKE - who also graciously signed.  This is one exceptional collection of short stories that should be on your bookshelf.  I devoured it on the flight home and couldn’t have asked for better company.

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Oh, but I just loved this one!  Ken Bruen & Louise Ure finally met in person!  They’ve been alternate posters on Murderati for months - developed a warm and lovely relationship via e-mails - and finally met for the first time at Edgar week.  What a time we had that night in the bar (official command post) at the Grand Hyatt!  I won’t show you the one with Ken & moi taken that night - he had me in an affectionate choke hold…and well…I look a little deranged.

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Here’s John Hart with his agent and editor pre-banquet.  All easily relaxed as John laughed and told me he had no hopes of winning and was just ready to have a good time.   Since I was one of the Best Novel judges - and knew he’d won - let me tell ‘ya - it was damn hard keeping a straight face.  But I did - and he told me later that night in the bar that I had one of the best poker faces he’d ever seen. :)

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And if you think it was hard keeping a straight face with John, it sure as hell wasn’t easy with these guys either!   This is at the VIP cocktail party (nominees, judges, VIP’s, ect) prior to the ‘regular’ cocktail party and the awards banquet.   No doubt you recognize Reed Farrel Coleman, Ken Bruen and Ed Kaufman (M is for Mystery Books, San Mateo, Calif).   I’m a bit less deranged looking here.

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Two of my favorite people - and great Edgar week dinner mates - I give you - Doug Lyle and the very lovely Nan Owen.  This was taken at the book signing at Otto’s.  We later broke bread with Lee Goldberg (should taken a photo!) and laughed our way though a great time at Pershing Square.

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Two more of my favorite people!   The inimitable Larry Gandle (co-editor of Deadly Pleasures) and C.J. Carpenter - one of the funniest, brightest and most loveable gals I know.   Larry, who is one of my secret loves, took C.J. and moi out to lunch at Jean Georges (Trump’s Hotel) - and let me tell you - three hours, haute cuisine and Leonard Lauder (Estee Lauder) at the next table?  Oh, my dears!  Hell, I even wore heels.  (Oh, the guy on your very left? Harry Hunsiker.  Had a great photo of him with his lovely wife, Allison -but it was too dark to show you.)

I know you’re all anxious to get to Megan’s interview - but I’ve got more photos.  I mean, I DID promise you tons, right?  Well, I don’t have tons -just a few more (some - I hate to admit - didn’t turn out).

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Larry and C.J. with James Lincoln Warren (love that white dinner jacket!!) and Con Lehane.  JLW was regaling them with one of his great stories -which I missed since I was taking the photo.

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Oh, this was hysterical!  Another one of Ken’s ‘love hold’s - this time with close friend Judy Bobalik (co-chair with Ruth Jordan for Bcon 2008/Baltimore) outside the Grand Hyatt as we were all contemplating moving on to Otto Penzler’s post-Edgar party.   I, alas - opted for bed.  It was past the witching hour and I had to get up at 4am for my flight home.

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And then…moi & Otto!  Just had to include this one - at least I don’t look like I’m about to be put away here.   Okay, stop laughing.  I know who you are and where to find you.

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Last one - but worth waiting for.   The gorgeous super agent, Donna Bagdasarian, and our crime fiction heart throb.   Ohhh….to be young and…  Oh, well.

OTHER THINGS TO MENTION….

LEFT COAST CRIME/2008 on the Big Island is not that far away - and Bill and Toby Gotfried are urging you to sign up and get your hotel room booked wiki-wiki!  I’ll have more on that (and photos) next month.

MICHELLE GAGNON has asked me to remind those planning to go to ThrillerFest to get a move on as well!  The hotel is filling rapidly and ITW is currently running a contest where the prize is a free ticket to attend - so head over to their webside and check it out.

Exciting news from ALLISON BRENNAN - SPEAK NO EVIL is finaled in the RWA contest for Best Romantic Suspense, and SPEAK NO EVIL for Best Novel w/romantic elements!  The RWA convention will be held August 2nd in San Francisco.  Go get ‘em, Allison!!

And just finished JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING’S ARC of  I SHALL NOT WANT.  Wow.  That’s about all I can say - except she’s done it again!!  Naturally.

ALAS - NO BOOK SAGA THIS TIME.   I would have taken you on the quest, but with all the photos…I didn’t want to wear your eyes out and have you miss the great interview with Megan.

AND NOW - EDGAR AWARD WINNER - MEGAN ABBOTT!!!

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NICK STONE:

What are the five best white collar crime/noir novels to have come out of the US?

MEGAN:

This is a great question and I guess it reveals the embarrassingly narrow band of reading I do that it’s hard for me to answer.  While I do start mhy book QUEENPIN with a bit of white-collar book-cooking, I mostly end up reading novels centered on violent crime or crimes of the ’sin tax’ variety (gambling, prostitution).  That said, I find true stories of white-collar crime, especially fraud, to be completely riveting, e.g., the Stephen Glass scandal.  Also, many of my favorite noir novels involve a white-collar crime that leads to a violent crime, such as you frequently get in Highsmith novels, or, more recently, Peter Spiegelman and Jason Starr.  And, while it’s a violent-crime novel, I love all the minutiae of the insurance scam in James M. Cain’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY.  That collision of white-collar treachery and the primal forces it conceals and then unleashes is pretty great.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:

You have the most fabulous covers in all of crime fiction.  Have you ever considered getting Richie Fahey, the artist, to paint you in a bad girl pose? 

MEGAN:

Not even for a second!  I know when I’m out of my league.  I thank goodness for Richie’s lush talents, though.  His covers just make you want to sink right into the world he renders.  A few times, I’ve met people at bookstores who can barely conceal their disappointment that I’m not the model for some of these cover girls.  I always find myself apologizing…

PAUL GUYOT:

I only discovered your work this year, and was so impressed that I blathered about it on a couple of blogs, only to learn that, like always, I’m the last on to the party.  You got mad skills, which is rare these days.  I’d like to know where some of the raw stuff comes from - can you speak publicly about some of your vices or non-writing interests?  And if not, please email me privately.

MEGAN:

Gee, Paul, thanks so much!  I’m a woman with sadly few vices, which probably explains why I write about vices so much.  Like a lot of writers, I am a hopeless voyeur.  For example, I don’t gamble, but I love going to Atlantic City.  I don’t place bets, but I’ll stand at the roulette wheel for hours, watching it all go down.  The nihilistic energy of anyone, lost to their dream, their compulsion, their obsession completely captivates me.  I’m a sucker for addicts of any kind; I can’t get enough of them.  This is starting to sound like a pretty sordid vice on its own, isn’t it?

DAVID MONTGOMERY:

What did your colleagues in academia think when you started writing crime fiction?

MEGAN:

I haven’t been in full-time academia for a few years, but I have taught lit classes on occasion since and the bigger issue for me has been whether to admit to students that I also write fiction.  It feels a little bit like an exposure because we’ll be reading Chandler or Hughes or Spillane and breaking them down and the students are so skilled at taking apart these books and I don’t know if it’s a good thing to do that to one’s own books.  I’m always afraid if you break down your own writing to its component parts you may not be able to put it together again.  Plus, I get uncomfortable when anyone I know reads my writing because whenever I read fiction by people I know I feel like I’ve unveiled something about them.  All your secrets are laid bare. 

LOUISE URE:

The historical details in your work bring each scene to life.  How do you go about doing research for your work?

MEGAN:

I just love digging into the past, trying to inhabit it.  Especially the 1930s through the 1960s.  I read a lot of nonfiction, especially the more dubious variety: gangster chronicles, old movie star bios, Hollywood Babylon-style exposees, obscure true crime books and assorted, long out-of-print memoirs.  I also scour old newspapers and magazines endlessly.  When I look at one tabloid page from a 1949 Los Angeles Mirror, it seems like five novels to me.  And it gets a little ridiculous in terms of collecting.  1940s pinup girl calendars and men’s magazines, matchbooks from long-lost nightspots, movie magazines and endless, endless pulp novels.  I love all that unofficial history.

ALI KARIM:

I really enjoyed your post at Rap Sheet on Zodiac - one of my fav movies of 2007 - so who do you think is/are the Zodiac killer?

MEGAN:

Thanks, Ali.  I had so much fun writing that piece and I am fairly obsessed with the movie.  I was very sure for so long that Arthur Leigh Allen, Robery Graysmith’s and Dave Toschi’s guy, was the one, despite the negative DNA test.  But you always come up against chaos in that case.  The more you think you have all the facts at hand, there always seems to be something that prevents resolution.  In one of the documentaries on the DVD, someone talks about how the problem with much of the investigation - and you can extrapolate this more widely to all the Zodiac theorists - is that investigations began to follow the favorite suspect and work backwards to the evidence, rather than the other way around.  That’s what happens to with Zodiac.  Because Allen’s the kind of guy who clearly could or would do this, you start to believe he had to.  Because there are so many tantalizing connections,  you begin to only seek more connections.  It’s a trap.  And, as you can probably tell, I’m still stuck in the trap!

JASON STARR:

Can you ever see writing a novel in a contemporary setting?  If so, would you write it in a similar style as your period novels, or do you think you’d have to alter your approach?

Can you ever see having a series character?  Does that interest you at all?

MEGAN:

It’s a challenge I hope to take on.  My next book is set in the 1930s, but after that, I’d like to try.  Lately, I’ve written a few short stories set in the present or more recent past.  It’s very hard for me because my books are pretty unrealistic; they tend to spring from my glamorization of the past.  But I see the ”now” pretty realistically (thankfully, or how would I get to work or by groceries?), so making the transistion is tricky.  But I recognize that trying is a pretty good idea for just that reason.

I’ve grown attached to some of my characters and I’d like to return to them.  But they always end up in pretty dark spaces by the end and I can’t always figure out how to dig them out.  I’d probably have to be more gentle with a character for him or her to return.

Watching the long arc of a series character, like Philip Marlowe or Matt Scudder or many of James Elroy’s recurring characters, can be so rewarding as a reader.  But hard to pull off, I’m sure.

ALLISON BRENNAN:

First, I love your covers Megan!  Now to get serious.  As an avid reader of true crime, I’m particularly interested in your research for your second book, THE SONG IS YOU, which was inspired by the true-life case of Jean Spangler.  Can you share a little about what inspired you to writ this book?

MEGAN:

I love, love, love true crime too.  I was reading some article about Hollywood’s unsolved cases and there was this passing reference to Jean Spangler, this aspiring actress who had gone missing back in 1949.  She was so beautiful and the case was so cryptic.  I tracked down one of the movies she had a bit part in: The Miracle of the Bells.  You see her onscreen for just a few seconds and she has one line but, knowing what happened to her later, it became a really haunting moment.  I was hooked.  So I started finding out what I could.  The story was so sad, this working mother, a divorcee supporting her family, dancing in revues.  And it seemed like there were two lives for her - this home life with her own daughter and mother, her sister-in-law, all in one apartment - and this other life she was leading in Hollywood:  dating Kirk Douglass, making the scene with gangsters on the Sunset Strip.  And the details of her disappearance seemed like the plot of the darkest film noir.  Writing it let me draw on all the things I love about true crime but with the freedom of fiction to do what real life couldn’t: give the story an ending.

EVIL E:

So come on, Doll face - let’s have the real skinny…I mean the real low-down here…just who the hell gave you the inside look at Vegas in the 60s?  I mean, those are famigilia secrets.  You’re not Italian, are you?

MEGAN:

Not that I know of!  But I’ve been reading mob books all my life.  I’m from Grosse Pointe, just outside of Detroit, which, believe it or not, has its own storied mob-heritage (some of which made its way into local boy Jeffrey Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides).   But mostly, after first coming upon Nicolas Pileggi’s Wise Guy many years ago, I became really interested in stories of the day-to-day mechanics of organized crime, of how money gets moved, of how the numbers racket works.  Right before writing QUEENPIN, I’d read Henry Hill’s memoir, Gangsters and Goodfellas and a biography of mob courier and Bugsy Siegel flame Virginia Hill and a lot of books about gambling scenes in smaller cities during the ’50s and ’60s and I was just dying to try to write something in that world.

Many thanks to Megan for joining us - and - as always - my thanks to David Montgomery, Louise Ure, Paul Guyot, Ali Karim, Nick Stone, Allison Brennan, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Jason Starr for taking time out of their very busy schedules to play interrogators.   Doug Lyle will be joining the investigative crew next month - JUNE 6TH - when we grill Jason Starr!

Okay - here’s how to leave a comment (if you’re so inclined) - just click on ‘comment’ at the end of the column - and a message box pops up.  Say what whatever…(hint:  Great stuff!  Love the photos!  Get a life!  You get the drift) and then hit ’submit’.   Easy!

And - if you’d like a reminder when the next Evil E will appear - hit the ’subscribe’ link in the upper right corner of the page (under the title “Pages”).  

So - see you next month, or not.

Until then - stay safe, stay warm - and be nice to each other.

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