Us and Them Edition

Us and Them

Subscriber News

Absence of Malice (Domestic)

homeland2Us and Them

In the last issue of Mysterious News, we explored a "criminal" desire through Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt and Todd Haynes's film adaptation Carol.

In working on The Catalonian Candidate, I've been exploring a much more mysterious desire. Why in the world would anyone want to be President of the United States?

I watched the documentary Mitt on Netflix, which includes the Romney family meeting where the presidential run is discussed. The documentary The War Room shows the inner workings of the Clinton campaign, including the handling of the Gennifer Flowers incident (a crucial plot point). Best of Enemies speculates that ABC's bargain basement coverage of the 1968 conventions featuring debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal set media coverage on the slippery slope to today's shouting heads. And then, there's the 2016 presidential campaign...

On the bright side, people in states who vote later on in the primary process will actually get to have their say this year.

So far, no one has run an ad suggesting a vote for his or her opponent is a vote for nuclear annihilation as in this blast from the past from 1964. The two party system has always been a contest of "us" and "them."

In Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate, (from the book and movie that inspired my title) the "us and them" of choice was the ideological struggle between democracy and communism. The tone of the 1962 film is serious, and the plot is sort of ridiculous. In this year's election cycle, there are so many "us and them" combinations to choose from that in trying to keep my plot realistic, I find myself working on a farce.

As Pierre Luoÿs observed in his nineteenth-century farce The Woman and the Puppet, there's a little more of them in us than we care to believe. "You know that in Spain they call hidalgos the descendants of families who are free from any mixture of Moorish blood.... They will not admit that during seven centuries Islam took root on Spanish soil. I have always thought it ungracious to deny such ancestors. We owe entirely to the Arabs those exceptional qualities which have drawn in history the great design of our past. They bequeathed to us their scorn for money, their disdain of lies, of death, their inexpressible pride. We inherit from them their rigid attitude against everything that is low, and likewise an unaccountable laziness toward manual labor. In truth we are their sons and it is not without reason that we continue to dance their Oriental dances to the tune of their 'ferocious songs.'"

This month's mystery/thriller viewing recommendation is Homeland (Season Four), which manages to steer clear of farce and does a very good job of demonstrating why the war on terror is much more complicated than some candidates would have us believe. It's built around the life and death decisions of the current drone program. I wasn't sure where the series was going after it ended a three-year storyline about a returning POW suspected of being a terrorist. The answer: the series creators managed to find more than enough no-win situations, plot twists, and edge-of-your-seat suspense cliffhangers to induce binge viewing.


And if you need something to buck you up after an onslaught of negative campaigning, here's a little dose of "Us and Them" from Pink Floyd.

Subscriber News

olivertwistedCindy Brown's Oliver Twisted (An Ivy Meadows Mystery Book 3) is available for pre-sale with a June 21, 2016 release date.

"Orphans. Thieves. Murder. And an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet!
When Ivy Meadows lands a gig with the book-themed cruise line Get Lit!, she thinks she’s died and gone to Broadway. Not only has she snagged a starring role in a musical production of Oliver Twist, she’s making bank helping her PI uncle investigate a string of onboard thefts, all while sailing to Hawaii on the S.S. David Copperfield.

But Ivy is cruising for disaster. Her acting contract somehow skipped the part about aerial dancing forty feet above the stage, her uncle Bob is seriously sidetracked by a suspicious blonde, and—oh yeah—there’s a corpse in her closet.

Forget catching crooks. Ivy’s going to have a Dickens of a time just surviving."

Cindy's first Ivy Meadows Mystery Macdeath is up for a Agatha Award at Malice Domestic later this month. See below.


Stephen Campbell on CrimeFiction.FM has been busy since the last newsletter interviewing Tim Adler, Trudy Nan Boyce, Philip Donlay, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Angela Misri, C.A. Newsome, and Eliot Pattison, in addition to hosting The Author Biz and The Taylor Stevens Show.


murderusaKristen Elise edited Murder U.S.A. (A Crime Fiction Tour of the Nation) FREE!

Murder, U.S.A. is a compilation of excerpts from thirty-one full-length crime fiction novels. Each mystery, thriller, or suspense novel in the collection is set somewhere in the United States; together, the collection offers a "murder tour of the nation" to readers of all sub-genres of crime fiction. Organized by setting and labeled by sub-genre, the collection features pieces of romantic suspense, cozy mystery, legal and corporate thriller, paranormal mystery, historical mystery, dystopian suspense, near-future thriller, medical mystery, traditional mystery, political procedurals, hard-boiled/noir, international thriller, and psychological suspense.

Excerpts from Patrick Balester, Stephen Brayton, Joyce Ann Brown, Craig Faustus Buck, James R. Callan, Lance Charnes, Sue Coletta, G.G. Collins, Diana Deverell, Lesley A. Diehl, Pam Eglinski, Kristen Elise, Ph.D., Elaine Faber, Sunny Frazier, M.M. Gornell, Michael Hebler, Dorothy Howell, Gay Kinman, Tracy Lawson, Sheila Lowe, Janet Elizabeth Lynn, Kathy McIntosh, Kelly Miller, Cathy Perkins, Sara Rickover, Carole Sojka, Linda Thorne, and Will Zeilinger.


severedrelationscRebecca Forster is offering a sneak peek of the first book in her new series Severed Relations. It's available for pre-order (for only 99¢) and will be out June 1, 2016.

"Murder behind the gates of Freemont Place was unusual; two children and a nanny slaughtered in the home of a rich young lawyer and his beautiful wife was unheard of. When Detective Finn O'Brien, recently cleared of murder charges in the death of a fellow officer, catches the call it creates a political nightmare. The cops want him to fail, Angelino's want him to save them from the monster in their midst, and Finn wants to come face-to-face with a child killer so he can put his personal demons to rest. Paired up with his old partner, Cori Anderson, the Irish ex-pat and the Texas blond work Los Angeles from the mansions of Hancock Park to Miracle Mile high-rises and the dive bars of Hollywood; they connect the dots between the ladies-who-lunch, lawyers who skate on the edge of the law, pornographers, and freaks. Following a trail of bodies and shattered relationships, they uncover the horrific truth behind the murders only to be faced with a situation that is both personal and deadly. What comes next will either bind Cori and Finn together for eternity or severe their relationship in the cruelest cut of all."


chasingnathanJeanette Hubbard's Chasing Nathan is available for pre-order and will be out June 7, 2016.

"Jeanette Hubbard's humorous style of suspense writing has been compared to Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich. In this quirky follow-up novel, a chance encounter in a remote forest campground plunges plucky pensioner Claudie O'Brien into a vortex of crime, kidnapping, and a marijuana hijacking. A pleasant dinner with Nathan, the gentleman at the next campsite, is interrupted by angry young thugs. The next morning both Nathan and the thugs are gone, but Claudie suspects something is not right. No one believes her when she tells them that Nathan might be in danger. It's up to Claudie to connect the dots and find out why Nathan disappeared in the middle of the night."


beatPaul D. Marks offers up a piece of hard-boiled hitman fiction in the short story Nature of the Beast at beattoapulp.com


cloudsinmycoffeeJulie Mulhern's Clouds in My Coffee (The Country Club Murders Volume 3) is available for pre-order and will be out May 10, 2016

"When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again? Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee."


withoutadoubtNancy Cole Silverman's Without a Doubt (A Carol Childs Mystery) is available for pre-sale with a May 24, 2016 release date.

"As radio reporter Carol Childs investigates a series of Beverly Hills jewelry heists, she realizes her FBI boyfriend, Eric, is working the same case. Even worse, she may have inadvertently helped the suspect escape. The situation intensifies when the suspect calls the radio station during a live broadcast, baiting Carol deeper into the investigation.

In order for her to uncover the truth, Carol must choose between her job and her personal relationships. What started out as coincidence between Carol and Eric becomes a race for the facts—pitting them against one another—before the thieves can pull off a daring escape, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, and taking the jewels with them."


Nancy also offers up the flash fiction The Pub Crawl at Out of the Gutter Online. There's nothing quite like a girl's night out. But here in the Gutter, the hangovers are deadly.


Pam Stack talks with Will Viharo on April 15 about pulp, noir and B movies. Follow her feed on Authors on the Air!


agathafirstAbsence of Malice

The five nominees for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel at this year's Malice Domestic have seen right through this "us and them" game. They've been actively promoting each others' books. I approve. Here's a little promotion for them.

Update: Art Taylor wins for On the Road with Del and Louise.

Blog Tour

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, Tessa Arlen (Minotaur Books)

"…A magnificent novel set in rural Edwardian England, in the home of the Montforts, an aristocratic couple who are noble in the true sense of the word. Their peaceful and civilized existence is shattered on the night of the annual summer costume ball when their debauched nephew, Teddy, is brutally murdered. Even worse, the official police enquiry points towards their son as a suspect. Lady Montfort decides to take matters into her own hands, with the help of her tactful yet formidable housekeeper, Mrs Jackson...

Arlen’s evocation of the Edwardian era is pitch-perfect, and the book is full of lovely period detail, which never feels extraneous or heavy-handed, but is seamlessly woven into the story… I particularly liked Arlen’s recognition of the constraints placed on the women of the age, and the clever way Lady Montfort discovers the identity of the murderer without violating a single one of these constraints. " – Amazon Review

Start Reading Now


Macdeath, Cindy Brown (Henery Press)

"Ivy Meadows is a wanna-be actress who is looking for her big break. The role she lands in Macbeth is not going to get her on the red carpet, but it is an acting job and everyone has to start somewhere. But when the leading man ends up dead, things are not looking so good. Everyone thinks that the actor drank himself to death but Ivy is not convinced. Since she works part time at her uncle’s detective agency she thinks she is qualified to solve the mystery. Will she be able to follow the clues and find the murderer or will her snooping be her final curtain call?

I loved the quirky personalities of Ivy and her friends. What they lacked in crime solving abilities they more than made up for with lots of dedication and enthusiasm. Ivy tries very hard to follow instructions but she is not always successful."– Amazon Review

Start Reading Now


Plantation Shudders, Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)

"Pelican, Louisiana has its share of picturesque old plantations, fat lazy cops who love free food, and alligators wandering into the woods from the bayou. There's a famous family feud between the Crozats and the Durands, fueled by a nineteenth-century curse. But aside from that, things are pretty quiet -- until a guest is murdered in the historic Crozat Plantation, now a B & B.

Murders, wrongful arrests and blossoming romances all take place against the backdrop of a lively local festival, intriguing local gossip, antebellum costumes, and fabulous cooking (recipes included).

I savored every page of this Southern cozy. Lightly romantic and deliciously entertaining, it's full of colorful characters and cleverly seeded with surprises." – Amazon Review

Start Reading Now


Just Killing Time, Julianne Holmes (Berkley)

"Ruth Clagan is shocked when she learns her grandfather has died. While she was very close to him growing up, they had been estranged after her grandmother died and he had remarried. She has inherited the family business, the Cog & Sprocket clock shop, from him, so she heads to the town of Orchard, Massachusetts, to reconnect with this part of her past.

I knew from the first page I would love Ruth, and I was right. She is a very fun main character who is rediscovering a part of her life that she’d left behind. Over the course of the book, she reconnects with friends from the years she spent in Orchard as a child and makes some new ones. I loved them just as much as I did Ruth. I can’t wait to spend more time with them.

Just Killing Time is a polished debut… I’m already counting the seconds until I can revisit Ruth and the town of Orchard."– Amazon Review

Start Reading Now


On the Road with Del and Louise, Art Taylor (Henery Press)

"Each chapter in this novel is a story complete in itself, but all six come together to form an even more satisfying whole, bringing us deeper into the main characters’ lives and hopes. Crime is an element in every story: Sometimes Del and Louise are the perpetrators or would-be perpetrators; sometimes, they’re the victims… As they drive from state to state together, the two get into one precarious situation after another. I loved every one of these twists, but that’s not the main reason I enjoyed the novel. Del and (especially) Louise felt very real to me, so real and so vulnerable that I always wanted them to come out ahead, even when I couldn’t approve of what they were doing… All they want is a normal, stable life together, a chance to leave crime behind, settle down, and start a family. The sweetness and poignancy that pervade the novel made it stand out for me. No matter what Del and Louise were up to, I always wished them well." --Amazon Review

Start Reading Now


lastheartthrobAnd finally, you'll find a clue about the identity of The Catalonian Candidate in the first chapter of this book.

A subject with a hidden past. A client with a hidden agenda. A mysterious woman who holds the key to their deadly secret.

"Great story - Highly recommended for fans of noir."

"With a Hitchcock-esque flair for noir, Bruce Cantwell uses the rain-soaked city of Portland as the backdrop for a twisty tale with retro undertones and a bang-up finale. Highly recommended!"

"Great Noir tribute."

Find the Clue Now


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