Collins, Max Allan, & James L. Traylor, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction| Buy this book| Kindle it! Collins and Traylor return at last, with the long-awaited follow-up to their 1984 classic, One Lonely Knight, this time offering the first-ever biography of arguably the most popular and most influential pulp writer of all time.
September 2022 Reference, Non-Fiction & True Crime
Worsley, Lucy, Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman| Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! The first new biography in years, benefitting from a deep dive into Christie’s rarely seen personal letters and papers. An important and surprisingly entertaining look at an extraordinary writer who didn’t live (or write) by the rules—she made up her own.
August 2022 Reference, Non-Fiction & True Crime
Edwards, Martin, The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries & Their Creators| Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! CWA archivist and mystery maven Edwards is like a graverobber digging a little deeper than most–there are several “Wait! There’s another body under here!” moments, as he unearths the fascinating stories behind the stories of some of the genre’s major (and sometimes, undeservedly obscure) contributors, ranging from William Godwin (who?) to some of the more usual suspects (Doyle, Grafton, Doyle, Cornwell, etc.). Edwards covers it all, with wit, knowledge and often surprising passion, making this a major new history of crime fiction.
Wenner, Theo, Homicide (photos)| Buy this book A breath-taking and occasionally heart-breaking coffee table collection of moody, evocative and haunting photographs of Brooklyn’s murder police, by celebrity photographer Wenner (son of Jann), capturing the daily grind of some of New York’s Finest. But be warned—this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around. It’s as bruising and in-your-face as a pair of brass knucks, a striking record of Wenner’s two-and-a-half years of riding along, snapping full-colour photos of it all—the mean streets, the bad coffee, the cop suits (and hats!), the back rooms, the interrogations, the after-hours bars and the crime scenes (”You never forget your first homicide, says Theo). You’ll want to wash your hands after—and possibly your eyeballs. The best book about murder police since David Simon’s 1991 groundbreaking non-fiction classic Homicide: A Year on the Killing Street ($25.00, Picador), which related his time embedded with the Baltimore murder cops.
Fabricant, M. Chris, Junk Science & the American Criminal Justice System| Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! A chilling must-read for those who toil in the crime fiction trenches (and anyone else who gives a hoot about justice), Fabricant of the Innocence Project puts the boot to some of the dubious forensic garbage presented to TV viewers (and jurors!) as scientific “fact.” The damage when some couch potato believes some easy-peasy plot point is negligible, just slack-jawed entertainment and hey, it’s time for a commercial. But when a juror buys it, and an innocent man is found guilty and executed? It’s murder.
Fischer, Paul, The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures| Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! A true tale of obsession, murder, and the movies? Did Thomas Edison really bump off Louis Le Prince, the alleged inventor of motion pictures? Or is the truth even stranger than that?
Ross, Martin, Short Suspects: Lost, Forgotten, and Neglected American Mystery Stories & Where to Find Them| Kindle it! A hodge podge collection of essays on crime fiction short stories, including over 150 reviews ranging all over the genre from Poe to Parker.
March 2022 reference, Non-Fiction & True Crime
Krouse, Erika, Tell Me Everything (memoir)| Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! The simple act of reaching for a Paul Auster novel in a Colorado bookstore starts the author on a career as a real-life private eye; one blessed/cursed with a “magic face” that just seems to get people to reveal their secrets. But her investigation into a rape case at a local university leads the rookie detective on a journey that reveals her own secrets as well.
February 2022 Reference, Non-Fiction & True Crime
Weinman, Sarah, Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free (true crime)| Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! How William F. Buckley and conservatives made excuses and set out to free a convicted psycho in the 1960s. Now is the time for your tears.
January 2022 Reference, Non-Fiction & True Crime
Van Dover, J.K., The Truman Gumshoes: The Postwar Detective Fiction of Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, Wade Miller & Bart Spicer| Buy this book| Kindle it! A deep dive into the hard-boiled detective fiction swamp of the late 1940s, when a new breed of young writers who had lived through the Depression, the New Deal, and WWII stripped the genre for parts and rebuilt it in their own image, spotlighting the work of four (well, five, really) major private eye writers of the so-called “Truman” era, offering the first real in-depth (and long overdue) analysis of the Max Thursday novels of Wade Miller (actually the pen name of Robert Wade and Bill Miller) and the Carney Wilde novels of Bart Spicer, and taking a fresh gander at Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels of Ross Macdonald and, yes, Spillane’s Mike Hammer. Yeah, you could quibble over some of the arguments, and challenge the inclusion of Wade and Spicer over, say, Thomas B. Dewey, Robert Martin, William Ard or Richard S. Prather, but Van Dover certainly makes his case.
October 2021Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Pearl, Matthew, The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations & the Kidnap That Shaped America (non-fiction; Daniel Boone) | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it!
Sondereker, Kierra, Mixology and Murder (non-fiction) | Buy this book| Kindle it! Sub-titled” Cocktails Inspired by Infamous Serial Killers, Cold Cases, Cults, and Other Disturbing True Crime Stories,” this is the perfect book to run to during the commerical breaks of a long weekend Dateline binge. This couch potato essential pairs 75 deliciously wicked cocktails with the notorious true crime stories, from like JonBenét Ramsey and Ted Bundy to the Ant Hill Kids cult and Charles Manson, that inspired them. Hey, I could go for some Helter Skelter Sangria right about now.
September 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Roach, Mary, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! When bad animals meet good humans (or is it the other way around?), it’s not always “cute”–in fact, it could be criminal. And Roach is there to cover it all, from jaywalking moose to barbarian seagulls and delinquent squirrels, looking at the messy spot where humans and wildlife collide, from scientific, biological and legal standpoint. Polly doesn’t want a goddamn cracker, okay?
August 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Aldridge, Mark, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! A lively and highly readable valentine to Hercule Poirot, the legendary little Belgian and his gray cells, featuring new info and helpful pieces of context. The hardcover boasts over 400 illustrations.
Schecter, Harold, & Eric Powell, Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? (true crime; graphic novel) | Buy this book A deep dive into one of the most notoriously deranged killers in American history; fact-based and heartbreaking.
June 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Block, Lawrence, A Writer Prepares (memoir) | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! Some chips off the young Block. Essential reading for writers, readers and maybe even those somewhere in between.
Child, Lee, A Little Gold Book of Unconsidered Trifles (collection) | Buy the book A limited edition of odds and sods, fiction, non-fiction and snippets from the (now retired) creator of Jack Reacher.
Jenning, Patrick, The Long Winding Road of Harry Raymond (biography) | Buy this book| Kindle it! A real-life detective’s journey down the mean streets of pre-war Los Angeles, and possibly Chandler’s inspiration for Marlowe.
April 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Cantrell, Tom, The Mysteries of Roy Huggins & the Deportation of Harry Carlisle (biography) | Buy this book “… a harrowing and exquisitely researched examination of a television writer’s life.”
Child, Lee, & Laurie King, editors, How to Write a Mystery (reference) | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! A handbook from the Mystery Writers of America, collecting helpful essays on everything from before, during and after the writing process, from the likes of Jeffery Deaver, Tess Gerritsen, Charlaine Harris and a whole bunch of the other usual suspects. And just in time, too–the last time the MWA cranked out one of these was 1992, and Sue Grafton was the editor. Publishing has, er, changed a little since then.
White, Edward, The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock (biography/criticism) | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! Sub-titled ” An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense,” this brave and brassy critical biography divvies the famous director’s life into twelve distinct slices, examining his life and work from various angles as he serves up his case of Hitchcock as “the definitive modern artist.”
March 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Enfantino, Peter, & Jeff Vorzimmer, The Manhunt Companion (reference) | Buy this book Mystery geek heaven! The complete issue-to-issue guide to Manhunt, from January 1953 to April/May 1967, with story and author indexes.
Owen, Erika, Lawbreaking Ladies: 50 Tales of Daring, Defiant, and Dangerous Women from History (reference) | Buy this book| Kindle it! Have a bad girl on your list who’s more naughty than nice? This fun little tome will introduce her to some of the more infamous members of the Sisterhood who have defied the Man: pirates, scam artists, ramblers, gamblers, bootleggers, gunslingers, serial killers, molls, madams, and more. A breezy and punchy read, with illustrations by Alexander Wright.
February 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Block, Lawrence, Hunting Buffalo with Bent Nails (non-fiction essays) | Buy this book Collectors edition, covering everything from travel and collecting subway cars to Donald Westlake.
Tefler, Tori, Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters & Shapeshifters of the Feminine Persuasion (non-fiction) | Buy this book | Buy the audio| Kindle it! Are women really better scamsters than men? Tefler makes her case, providing plenty of examples over the last 300 or so years. But I still wasn’t sure, soI asked my friend Jodie, and she said I should give her my passwords, and she’d tell me tomorrow.
January 2021 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Block, Lawrence, Afterthoughts: Version 2.0|Kindle it! New, and much expanded edition of the much loved 2011 collection of forewords, afterwords, essays, articles and digressions about Block’s huge body of work, and his storied career based on telling lies for fun and profit.
Bradford, Richard, Devils, Lusts & Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith (biography) | Buy this book | Kindle it! In this Winter of Discontent, this bio of Little Miss Sunshine might be just what we need.
Truhler, Kimberly, Film Noir Style: The Killer 1940s (non-fiction) | Buy this book| Kindle it! Say what you want about film noir, but those folks knew how to dress. Film and fashion historian Truhler divvies the classic noir period (1940-50) into four distinct eras (Before the War, The War Years, The Transition Year: 1946 and The Post-War Years) and explores how each era’s films influenced fashion, then and now, with special attention paid to the babes of noir, including Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Gene Tierney, Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, and many others who knew how to dress to kill. Loaded with oodles of photos in black and white (what else?) to die for.