Monday, 23 December 2013

Resurrecting the Millennium Series of Stieg Larsson

Fans of Stieg Larsson's trilogy of novels may have mixed feelings about the announcement that Quercus will publish a fourth book in the Millennium series in August 2015. Larsson died in 2004, but before his death had penned about two hundred pages of the fourth novel in what was intended to be a ten-book series.

The fourth novel will be written by Swedish author David Lagercrantz, who is not exactly a household name in Sweden, but has co-authored an autobiography of a Swedish "footballer" and has written some fiction. He was apparently chosen by Quercus because he "has in his writing constantly sought out odd characters and complex geniuses".

I'm always dubious about one writer taking over another author's works, although it's a fairly common practice (for example, Felix Francis for his father Dick Francis, Andrew Neiderman for V.C. Andrews, and various writers for Robert Ludlum). On the one hand, this practice encourages continued interest in the original author, who may have died prematurely, and allows his/her fans to enjoy a similar type of novel. On the other hand, the practice can be viewed more cynically as a means of generating ongoing revenue for the publisher.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how the uniquely individual Lisbeth Salander fares in the hands of a new author.

For the full text of the article in The Bookseller, please click here.

On another note, I'd like to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday. Merry Christmas!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Michael Connelly: Influences and Favorite Books

The Sunday Book Review of The New York Times has an interesting interview with Michael Connelly in its "By the Book" feature. We discover, for example, that Connelly has an eclectic taste in books from historical non-fiction to Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. 

Connelly has some interesting observations to make about writing. He refers to the "momentum" that carries an author through the writing process rather than the time spent writing a book. In fact, Connelly thinks that his best novels are the ones he wrote quickly when he had an "unstoppable" momentum.

He also talks about how his mother introduced him to crime fiction and how he became "hooked" once he began reading John D. MacDonald. And of course he has very strong words of praise for Raymond Chandler, whose work was the impetus for Connelly himself to become a crime fiction writer.

For the full text of the interview, please click here.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Book Review: Ruby Heart by Cristelle Comby

Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to host a Tribute Book blog tour. We would like to welcome Cristelle Comby as we look at her new-adult novel Ruby Heart.

Ruby Heart Book Summary:

When elderly client Doris Hargrave informs private investigator Alexandra Neve that her beloved antique ruby heart necklace has gone missing for the second time in a period of over sixty years, Alexandra knows this is no ordinary jewellery theft. The ruby heart is a family heirloom and the only thing that connects an ailing Mrs Hargrave to her parents, who were murdered during the Holocaust.

To solve the case, Alexandra and her business partner, blind history professor Ashford Egan, must sift through obscure Holocaust documents to find out the truth. It’s that way that they learn of a secret World War II-era love affair which could hold the key to all the answers they are looking for. Meanwhile, Egan is under immense pressure from the university to quit his private investigating business, and Alexandra is afraid that a man she trusts will leave her. Again.

When Alexandra begins to receive anonymous threats and her flat is vandalised, this all becomes personal. Knowing that there is someone out there to hurt her, Alexandra vows to find that elusive ruby heart if it’s the last thing she ever does.

Buy Link:

Cristelle Comby's Bio: 

Cristelle Comby was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, in Greater Geneva, where she still resides. Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and television dramas, her English is fluent. She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.

Ruby Heart is her second new-adult novel, and she’s hard at work on the next titles in the Neve & Egan series.

Our Review of Ruby Heart:

In Ms. Comby's previous novel, Russian Dolls, Alexandra Neve and Ashford Egan team up to investigate the death of Alexandra's friend. Ruby Heart is the second novel featuring this private investigation team. The two work well together despite their obvious differences in temperament, and are engaging and unique characters. Operating on a shoe-string budget, Neve and Egan have no real office and often meet clients in a local bar. However, they are anxious to establish themselves as professionals and are delighted to tackle the case of a stolen ruby necklace (as opposed to searching for missing dogs).

Comby has drawn a sympathetic portrait of an elderly and gravely ill woman trying desperately to recover her family heirloom. She has also done a very good job of weaving together current events with the back story of World War II and the plunder of valuables from Jewish victims.

This is an interesting and enjoyable novel, and readers will no doubt look forward to the third novel in the Neve-Egan series.

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Monday, 2 December 2013

A Simpler Way to Celebrate the Holidays?

Now that the snow is here, and Christmas music is being piped into sound systems in every store, there is the "traditional" mad rush to buy gifts. The excesses of Black Friday are probably the best symbol of consumerism gone rampant-- fed by the advertising industry and based on the premise that buying more is better. On the one hand, I understand this.  Retailers are still feeling the effects of the recession, and they especially count on Christmas spending to pump up their bottom line. But I find the advertising starts earlier and earlier each year, and the ads get more crass.  (Witness the ad where the salesclerk is piling more and more electronics on a lady who is trying to find gifts for her nieces and nephews and would have to have Bill Gates's income to afford all that stuff!)

Maybe we should take a small step back and enjoy precious time spent with our families rather than seeing how much we can buy for people who probably already have a lot of stuff. Not a new theme certainly, but one that bears consideration in the face of all this pressure to spend...

Monday, 25 November 2013

The New Italian Idol

 Italy has aired a new program called Masterpiece, which is billed as "the first talent show for aspiring writers". The writers are competing for a chance to publish their novel with Bompiani, one of Italy's major publishers. The producers are being careful to avoid the term "reality show", although it closely follows the "Idol" and "X Factor" models.

Contestants are chosen on the basis of excerpts from their writing and then thrown into simulated situations. In the first episode, two contestants were sent to a refugee home run by a Rambo type and the other two went to a disco for senior citizens. (I am not making this up, I swear!) The contestants are then given 30 minutes to write about their experience. At the end of the show, the two remaining contestants have 59 seconds to make an "elevator pitch" for their book.

I guess it could be worse. It could have Simon Cowell as a judge.

If you'd like to read about this "masterpiece" of a show, please see

Monday, 18 November 2013

Judging Books Written under Pseudonyms

A rose by any other name...
There is an interesting article in the Sunday Book Review of The New York Times about why authors choose to write under pseudonyms and how we should judge such books.

One of the writers of the article makes the point that if she discovers an author she likes, she will read everything by that author, regardless of his/her name. This is a refreshing attitude at a time when big-name recognition frequently determines who gets publicized and promoted.

For the full text of the article, please click here.

One of the main examples in the article is J.K. Rowling's use of a pseudonym to publish her first crime fiction novel. If you'd like to read my "Open Investigations" blog on this subject, please click here.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Maigret Revisited

Crimetime reports that Penguin will re-issue the seventy-five Maigret novels of Belgian author Georges Simenon with new translations and cover art. This will be the first time that the Maigret novels are published in the UK under a single publisher. The prolific Simenon wrote a novel a month, and Penguin will be releasing a new Maigret novel each month, beginning with Pietr the Latvian. For the full text of the article, please  visit

If you are interested in reading my Open Investigations blog on Georges Simenon and the Maigret novels, please click here.

Monday, 4 November 2013

John Grisham's Sycamore Row

John Grisham's latest novel, Sycamore Row, has now been released. In it, Grisham reprises the character of Jake Brigance, the young lawyer featured in his first book, A Time to Kill. The inspiration for the original story came when Grisham, as a young lawyer, overheard the testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim. Grisham readily admits that Jake Brigance is his most autobiographical character.

A Time to Kill was rejected by various publishers before finally being published in 1988 with only 5000 copies being printed. The novel was subsequently reprinted once Grisham became a bestselling novelist with the publication of The Firm. It is now one of his most popular novels.

Although Grisham has obviously refined his style and story-telling techniques since his debut novel, his themes have remained consistent throughout his work as his often idealistic young lawyers encounter the realities of the legal system and attempt to find justice for those they defend.

Grisham is said to have enjoyed writing the book so much that he was reluctant to finish it and give the manuscript to his publishers. If you're interested in reading more about the background to Grisham's latest novel, please visit NPR Books.

Monday, 28 October 2013

John Lange/Michael Crichton

I was interested to learn that Hard Case Crime books (the publisher of Stephen King's Joyland) will be publishing all of Michael Crichton's hard-boiled detective novels that he wrote under the pseudonym John Lange. Apparently, he choose his pseudonym because "lange" in German, Danish, and Dutch means "tall one", and he was 6'9" (thanks to GoodReads for this information). I have read most of Crichton's science fiction novels, my favorite being The Andromeda Strain, but I have never  read any of his crime novels.

Crichton wrote these books while a med student at Harvard Medical School between the years of 1966 and 1972. Hard Case Crime previously published two of these books, Grave Descend and Zero Cool, under the name of Lange.  After Crichton's death in 2008, his family authorized Hard Case Crime to reprint all eight Lange novels under Crichton's name.

The novels being released in October and November are Grave Descend, Zero Cool, Easy Go, Scratch One, Binary, Odds On, The Venom Business, and The Drug of Choice.

For more information, please click here.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Gods of Guilt

Fans of Michael Connelly will be pleased to know that his latest novel will be available on November 21 in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand and on December 2 in the US and Canada. The Gods of Guilt features the character Mickey Haller, known as the "Lincoln Lawyer".

Readers who are familiar with Connelly's Bosch novels will immediately recognize the themes of guilt, redemption, reconciliation with one's past, and the death of a prostitute: one of society's most vulnerable. In The Gods of Guilt, Haller's former client has been murdered: a woman he thought he had rescued from prostitution. Haller learns that she had gone back into the trade prior to her death and rather than rescuing her, he may have put her in harm's way.

To read an excerpt from the novel and see a video of the author discussing it, please visit Connelly's website at

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Goodreads Giveaway!

Yes, it's time for another Goodreads giveaway. We're giving away five autographed paperback copies of the new Donaghue and Stainer crime novel, The Rainy Day Killer. Click on the button below to enter! The giveaway will be running until November 14, so enter now!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Rainy Day Killer by Michael J.  McCann

The Rainy Day Killer

by Michael J. McCann

Giveaway ends November 14, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Book Review of Fatal Whispers by Sandra Nikolai

After a brief hiatus, The Overnight Bestseller is back, and we're pleased to offer a review of Sandra Nikolai's latest novel.

About the Author

Sandra Nikolai was raised in Montreal, Québec, and graduated from McGill University. As a young girl, she loved reading the Nancy Drew mystery series and was determined to write her own stories one day. Her career choices didn’t exactly lead her along the “yellow brick road” to writing mystery novels—though working in a bank and experiencing a string of armed robberies did ingrain terrifying memories worthy of a story!

In 2002, Sandra won an Honorable Mention in Canadian Writer’s Journal short fiction competition. She has since published a dozen short stories online and in print. She has also published two mystery novels featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott.

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Please visit Sandra's website at

Her blog is available at

Our Review of Fatal Whispers 

 Fatal Whispers is Sandra Nikolai's second novel in the Megan Scott/ Michael Elliott mystery series. We first met these characters in False Impressions when they teamed up to solve the mystery of the death of Megan's husband. A year later, they are in a relationship that Michael would like to make long-term. Megan, however, is reluctant to commit herself after having been deeply hurt by the revelations of her husband's infidelity while they were married.

The setting has switched from Montreal to Portland, Maine, as Michael agrees to write a series of investigative articles for the local newspaper while his journalist friend is on vacation. They are staying with Megan's cousin and her family, and Megan agrees to assist her cousin Bianca in setting up a newsletter to publicize her florist shop. Three related deaths occur, and Megan and Michael become involved in unraveling the truth and identifying the killer among a number of plausible suspects.

Nikolai has written an urbane, witty and enjoyable mystery that was also the hallmark of her first novel. Her dry wit is readily apparent in the culminating scenes as Waldo, Batman, costumed and real policemen, and a guardian angel with slightly mutilated wings are part of the general mayhem of the Halloween party where the real villains are unmasked!

Fans of Nikolai's excellent prose style and engaging characters will already be looking forward to the next mystery in this series.

To order a copy of Fatal Whispers, please click here.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Time for a Breather

I'm taking a break from my three weekly blogs, The Overnight Bestseller, Open Investigations, and Behind the Walls of Nightmare until about mid-October so I can start writing a new supernatural novel.

In the meantime, The Rainy Day Killer, the fourth Donaghue and Stainer crime fiction novel, is up and running on NetGalley. Our Plaid Raccoon Press is doing a soft release of the novel. It has been posted to Amazon as a Kindle selection, and the trade paperback version and other electronic formats will be available in October.

If you'd like to read and review the novel, I've posted information below on how to access it through NetGalley:

Here's your chance to read The Rainy Day Killer via NetGalley, an online site that provides digital galleys to reviewers, bloggers, media, librarians, booksellers, and educators. 
If you're not already a NetGalley user, you can register for free at, create a profile, and browse their catalog to select titles. Then just hit the “Request” button for the title(s) you want. 
Once you request the title, you’ll just need to wait until the request is approved, and then the galley will appear on your NetGalley homepage (under “New Invitations to View Titles”). You will receive an email notification once your request is approved, so that you’ll know to log in to view the galley. 
You’ll have the option to download the galley to your computer or read it on a variety of devices. You can find step-by-step instructions for each here.

Be sure that you download Adobe Digital Editions (the program you’ll need to view our galley) first – it’s quick and free:
If you have any questions, feel free to contact NetGalley:

Monday, 26 August 2013

Book Review of Assured Destruction: Script Kiddie

Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to host a Tribute Books blog tour. This time we welcome back Michael F. Stewart as we take an inside look at his second novel in the Assured Destruction YA series.

Assured Destruction: Script Kiddie Book Summary

Jan Rose no longer steals data from the old computers she recycles. She doesn't need to. As the newest member of the police department’s High Tech Crime Unit, the laptop of a murderer has landed on her desk. Her job: to profile and expose a killer.

But that’s not all.

A creep lurks in the shadows, stalking a friend, and Jan must stop him before the hunt turns deadly. The clock counts down for Jan to save her friend, her job, her boyfriend—maybe even her life.

Formats: paperback & e-book
Release: August 2013
Pages: 156
ISBN: 9780981269979
Publisher: Non Sequitur Press

Link to Michael F. Stewart's Amazon page:

Michael F. Stewart: Biography

After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults.

Our Review of Assured Destruction: Script Kiddie

This is the second novel in the Assured Destruction series, and Jan Rose is back along with all of the virtual inhabitants of Shadownet. The term "script kiddie" in the title refers to a juvenile who lacks the ability to write sophisticated hacking programs and must use scripts or programs developed by others. Jan Rose is the "script kiddie" who must prove herself to the hacker community whose network she uses to understand how credit card information is being stolen. Additionally, she must prove herself to the doubting members of the High Tech Crime Unit with whom she is doing community service; the principal of her school, who doesn't want to give her a break; and her new boyfriend, who is feeling generally neglected. Added to this, Jan wants to help her friend Hannah, who is being victimized online, and is trying to keep her mom's business afloat while her mother's MS worsens and she sinks further into depression. These are a lot of plates for a sixteen-year-old to spin, but Jan Rose proves worthy of the task.

Like his first novel in this series, Stewart's second novel is a well-written and engaging read with a protagonist who is likeable in spite of all her missteps. There are very serious themes in the novel, including internet luring, but the use of humour helps lighten the mood and keeps us looking forward to more of Jan Rose's exploits!

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Monday, 19 August 2013

Indie Music Alert: Jim Guthrie

It's been quite a while since I did a post on indie musicians, so I thought Jim Guthrie's story would be an interesting one to share with you. He's a singer/songwriter who is originally from Guelph, Ontario, and who now lives in Toronto. Jim recently performed three songs from his latest album for the NPR Tiny Desk Concert. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, the idea is that National Public Radio provides a small space in an office to allow musicians to perform their songs, which are recorded on the NPR Music website, and get national exposure.

Guthrie and his back-up musicians traveled nine hours in a van from Ontario to perform the concert. When they finished the three songs, they got in the van and drove nine more hours straight home.

It has been ten years between albums for Guthrie. In 2003, he recorded Now, More Than Ever. This year's album is entitled Takes Time, which is described as "a collection of wistful pop with sweet harmonies and uplifting, infectious melodies".

To hear the three songs, please click here.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Little Free Libraries

Occasionally you come across an initiative that makes you feel good inside. That's the case with the little free libraries. The Oklahoma Gazette reports on this new type of low-tech lending library. The portable libraries, which are about the size of a dollhouse, have been established by the roadside in various locations in Oklahoma and are spreading across the United States and around the world.  Each site is maintained by a "steward" who oversees installation and upkeep. The initial books were donated by Barnes & Noble, with the steward and community responsible for keeping titles current. Books are lent and returned on an honor basis. The structures have been constructed to look like birdhouses, mailboxes, and British telephone booths (pictured on left), among other designs. These portable libraries have been designed as a way of encouraging literacy and a love of reading.

For the full text of the original article, please see For a map of these libraries, please see

I would like to extend a special thanks to Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City, 1900 NW Expressway, for drawing my attention to these new "pocket" libraries. Please visit their website at

Monday, 5 August 2013

Writing Screwball Comedy and Loving It! A Guest Post by Melodie Campbell

The Overnight Bestseller is very pleased to welcome Melodie Campbell, who has over 200 publications and was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer and Arthur Ellis awards. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She's also a very funny lady.

Melodie's first two novels are A Purse to Die For (mystery) and Rowena through the Wall (comic fantasy). Her third novel is The Goddaughter concerning which the Library Journal said:"Campbell`s crime caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans. Wacky family connections and snappy dialogue make it impossible not to laugh."

 Over to you, Melodie. . .

“I had the flu once. It was terrible. I couldn’t eat a thing for three hours.”

I hope you giggled at that line. I think it’s one of my best. And yes, I am a tad fond of eating. In fact, you could list it as my major hobby.

My name is Melodie Campbell, and I write comedies. (This is a self-help group, right?) Sure I’d like to kick the habit and write a ‘real’ book with literary merit.

Okay, so that’s a lie. Leave The Goddaughter behind? Not write a sequel? I’m starting to hyperventilate. Actually, I love writing comedies. It’s in my blood.

Some people are born beautiful. But most of us aren’t and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life. Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask. That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.

As a means of self-preservation in the cruel world of teenagers, I looked for the ‘funny.’ More often than not, I made fun of myself. This was easy to do. I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material. And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.

When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side. I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.

So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode’. Write it funny.


Worse than chocolate and foreign Counts… Comedy writers take a situation, and ask themselves ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen now?’ And then, what’s the funniest?

What’s the worst thing that could happen to the Goddaughter when she is reluctantly recruited to carry hot gemstones over the border? Predictable would be: she gets caught at customs. But I don’t want predictable. I want funny. Instead, they get stolen. By a complete amateur! It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. How is she going to keep this from her new boyfriend Pete, who thinks she’s gone clean? And what the heck is she going to tell her uncle, the crime boss? Nothing, of course. She’s going to steal them back. Or die trying.

And hopefully the audience will die laughing.

But why do it? Why does an otherwise sane individual write zany and some might say silly comedy, and risk the inevitable hit from critics who say your book is without great literary merit?

One reason, and one reason only: many readers love it. Their comments and reviews are heart-lifting. I’ve lightened their day with romance and laughter, and in some cases given them a story they can escape into, over and over again. These readers are the whole reason I keep writing screwball comedies. Yes, it’s true. It wouldn’t be fun to write if I didn’t have warm and generous readers.

Melodie Campbell's second novel in the Rowena series is Rowena and The Dark Lord (April 2013), and she will publish The Goddaughter's Revenge in October 2013. Follow her comic blog at

Monday, 29 July 2013

Pulp Fiction and the Hard-Boiled Tradition

My July 15th post, which touched on social realism in crime fiction, got me thinking of the old-time pulp magazine writers who helped make the "hard-boiled" style a staple of crime fiction. Many of these writers published their first stories in the Black Mask pulp magazine. (I'll leave the history of that magazine to another day.)

Dashiell Hammett - In his early life, Hammett was a prolific writer with more than 80 short stories, many of them serialized in the Black Mask, and five novels. Hammett is noted for his realism, his crisp, colorful language, and his “lean” story-telling style. He was a major influence on Raymond Chandler, who said of Hammett in The Simple Art of Murder: “He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before."

Raymond Chandler - Chandler began his writing career at the age of 44 by publishing short stories in the  Black Mask. Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade and Chandler's Philip Marlowe are considered to be the original hard-boiled detectives. They paved the way for Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, Robert B. Parker's Spenser, and Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, among others. Chandler's ability to depict the California setting so that it became a metaphor for both the opulence and decay of modern American society also had a major influence on the works of both Ross Macdonald and Michael Connolly.

Erle Stanley Gardner -  Gardner began his writing career by contributing short stories to the pulp magazines of the day. He was a regular and popular contributor to the Black Mask under the pen name Charles M. Green. Renowned for his Perry Mason novels, he described the character as “a fighter possessed of infinite patience”. Gardner drew upon his own experience in creating Mason: his love for trial work and his defence of the underdog. His creation of a lawyer/crime solver in the character of Perry Mason laid the foundation for such modern-day characters as John Lescroart's Dismas Hardy and Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller.

I've adapted some of this material from my Open Investigations blog, where you can find my original posts on Hammett, Chandler, and Gardner.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Rainy Day Killer

I'm very pleased to announce that I've finished the first draft of the fourth novel in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Fiction series, The Rainy Day Killer. I'm currently doing a re-write before I send it to my beta readers. Also, I'm trying something new this time. I'll be posting the electronic version of the Advance Review Copy (ARC) on NetGalley at the end of August to generate early reviews. This is my first experience with NetGalley, so I'm hoping it's a positive one.

The Rainy Day Killer focuses on Karen Stainer and her upcoming marriage to FBI Special Agent Sandy Alexander. A serial killer preys on women in Glendale while Karen plans her wedding in Virginia. Will she still go through with it after the killer vows to make her his next victim?

Hank Donaghue leads the investigation with the help of FBI profiler Ed Griffin, who made a brief appearance in Marcie's Murder. Of course, Karen also works the case with partner Jim Horvath, but she's distracted by the arrangements she needs to make for the wedding. Needless to say, she struggles to get into the "bride-to-be" mindset.

The novel is set in both Maryland and Virginia, the venues for the previous novels. Karen's fiancé Sandy is originally from the Covington, Virginia area, and his family has agreed to stage the wedding on their property in Alleghany County.

Fans of Karen Stainer will meet her family for the first time and get a better understanding of her upbringing and the forces that shaped her personality. If you thought Karen was a handful, wait until you meet the Stainer brothers.

If you'd like to read and review an electronic copy of The Rainy Day Killer, please send us an e-mail with "Rainy Day Killer" in the subject line and your return e-mail address, and we'll make sure you are on the list to have access to the ARC at the end of August.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction

In the spring of 2013, a new award called the "Petrona" was announced for the best yearly Scandinavian crime novel. The award was named after the blog of the late Maxine Clarke, who was a champion of Scandinavian crime fiction. The short list for this year's award was based on reviews and recommendations in her blog. The winner of the 2013 Petrona Award was announced at this year's Crimefest in Bristol. If you missed the news, the award went to Lisa Marklund for her novel Last Will, which is the sixth novel in her series featuring protagonist Annika Bengtzon, an investigative journalist. For Maxine Clarke's review of the novel, please see

According to Maxine Clarke, the appeal of Marklund's writing--and Scandinavian crime novels in general--is the tackling of contemporary social issues. I find this observation interesting because I regard this social realism as a hallmark (and legacy) of "hard-boiled" detective fiction in general: the protagonist reflects on the corruption and injustices he encounters (think Hammett, Chandler, or Ross Macdonald, for example).

If you're interested in reading my Open Investigations blog on the popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction,  please click here

Monday, 8 July 2013

How Sherlock Changed the World

For those who are fans of Sherlock Holmes and his crime-solving methods, you'll want to catch a new two-hour PBS special coming this fall. It's entitled How Sherlock Changed the World and has as its premise that Holmes was not only the most famous of all fictional detectives, but also had a lasting impact on real-world criminal investigations.

The program discusses real-life crimes solved by the equipment, forensic techniques, and methods of detection employed by the fictional detective.

How Sherlock Changed the World is scheduled to air on PBS on Tuesdays, November 19 and 26, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET.

By the way, if you are interested in my post on the importance of forensic research in crime fiction writing, please visit my Open Investigations blog at

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Two Worlds of Scottish Crime Fiction Writer James Oswald

Scottish crime fiction writer and farmer James Oswald paid $80 for a cover and bought his friends a few beers to proofread his novel Natural Causes. He then self-published it as an e-book. This novel and its sequel, The Book of Souls, have sold a phenomenal 350,000 copies since they were released last year. His work was soon at the centre of a bidding war, and Penguin was the successful bidder for the rights to publish the printed version of his work. His six-figure contract with Penguin puts Oswald in the same ranks as Ian Rankin (no pun intended) and Val McDermid. Oswald has also won critical acclaim, making the shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award.

Oswald will continue to farm and write, and in fact has used some of his earnings to purchase a new tractor for his farm. He says his day job helps him write because he always has his notebook at hand and has lots of time to think while he's performing his various tasks.

For the full text of the article by Tom Rowley, see There is also a video with Oswald on his farm. He is a quiet, self-effacing man, a bit bemused by all the fuss, and his Highland cattle look singularly unimpressed b y the photographer's presence.

James Oswald's website is

Monday, 24 June 2013

Some Assembly Required

Now that summer is officially here, I must admit that one of its more dubious aspects is the need to assemble “things” in order to: (a) enjoy the season or (b) keep from having your yard condemned under various noxious weeds regulations. We're less than a week into summer, and so far I've had to assemble a screen house to keep out homicidal mosquitoes; a “garage in a box” (cute name) because my previous one caved in last winter; a gas-powered grass trimmer; and a pressure washer. (Actually, my wife assembled the pressure washer, but I gave her advice, which should count for something.) I did not have to assemble, but still have nightmares about having assembled my gas barbecue. I also have not assembled a metal tool shed that I bought ten years ago because I gave up trying to figure out the instructions.

Having learned the hard way, I offer this advice to those brave souls who plan to assemble anything with more than four parts:

  • The term “instruction guide” is a misnomer. These guides are written in barely recognizable English by people who wish to torture, not help you. They are so cheerful about it too, using such nonsensical terms as “easy to assemble”. The diagrams are particularly unhelpful, because there are so many arrows, labels, and parts that you would need an advanced degree in engineering to understand them. Do the best you can, but trial and error may play the biggest role in your success.
  • Do not assume that when you have parts left over, the manufacturer was being generous and gave you spares.
  • Do not assume that a manufacturer includes “accessories” needed for the successful operation of the machine should you be lucky enough to put it together.
  • Do not pick a windy day to put up a screen house.
  • Do not involve loved ones in your assembly attempts.
  • A square is not a rhomboid.

And by the way, have a great summer. . .

Monday, 17 June 2013

And the Edgar Goes To...

You've probably read by now that Dennis Lehane is the winner of the 2013 Edgar Award for his novel Live by Night. It is the second of Lehane's historical crime novels (the first being The Given Day, which has a few of the same characters) and is set in the Prohibition era. The novel chronicles the (mis)adventures of Joe Coughlin, the outlaw son of a police officer. Lehane moves from his traditional Boston setting to Tampa, Florida, for most of the novel's exploits.

Lehane's novels have consistently been favored by Hollywood film-makers: Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Shutter Island have all been made into movies. So it's not surprising that when Live by Night was released, it precipitated a bidding war for film rights. (Lehane sardonically commented that Hollywood started the bidding before it even read the book.) The film is currently in pre-production and is being directed by Ben Affleck, who also directed the film version of Gone, Baby, Gone starring his brother Casey. Both Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio, who was the lead actor in Shutter Island, are producers of the current project. Incidentally, Lehane is also writing the screenplay for a movie based on John D. MacDonald's novel The Deep Blue Goodbye, and starring DiCaprio as Travis McGee.

For a novel that earned its author his first Edgar Award in 18 years of writing, Live by Night has received mixed reviews. If you're interested, see the NPR review at and the New York Times review at

But if you're a fan of Lehane's clipped dialogue and noir themes, you can judge for yourself.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Crime Fiction Grab Bag No. 10

It's time to reach into the crime fiction grab bag to see what's newly published or coming shortly.

Bruce DeSilva, the winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for best first novel (Rogue Island), has written a follow-up novel entitled Cliff Walk, which once again features the protagonist Liam Mulligan, who is an old-school investigative reporter at a dying Providence newspaper. It is billed as a hard-boiled mystery, and Mulligan investigates corruption, kickbacks, and the sex industry in Rhode Island.

Award-winning author Loren D. Estleman has written a biographical novel entitled The Confessions of Al Capone. It is billed as a well-researched and intimate portrait of the legendary Scarface and his inner circle after his release from prison in 1941. Capone was suffering from the neurological effects of untreated syphilis and, aside from his occasional periods of lucidity, spent his last years ranting and rambling as he awaited his own death.

Bill Pronzini has written another in his “Nameless Detective” series entitled Nemesis. The detective must work to clear Jake Runyon and save the agency's reputation after they become the target of a vicious legal vendetta.

Kevin Egan has created a thriller entitled Midnight involving a conspiracy to temporarily conceal the death of a New York County Courthouse judge.

On the Canadian crime fiction front, see Margaret Cannon's reviews in The Globe and Mail at

And on the other side of the Atlantic, see reviews of recent crime fiction in The Telegraph at This issue contains an interview with Mark Billingham on his latest novel, The Dying Hours, as well as an article on William McIlvanney, the Scottish novelist generally regarded as "the father of tartan noir".

Monday, 3 June 2013

An Interesting Set of Statistics

I'm always interested in stats relating to independent authors, and I recently came across a summary of the 2012 Taleist survey of self-published authors in a blog entitled Publishing a Book Is an Adventure. Here are some of the stats I found most interesting:



 Less than 10% of those surveyed reported making enough money to live from their earnings. More than half the respondents earned less than $500, and a quarter of them did not recoup their initial investment.


Of those who were able to make a living from their writing, two-thirds are women who spent 69% more time writing than those outside the top earners' group. 
Thirty-two per cent of the top earners tried and failed to get a traditional publishing deal before self-publishing. Those authors who went straight to self-publication without submitting their work to a traditional publisher earned 2.5 times more than those who submitted it and were rejected. 
Those who spent the least time marketing made the most money. (Which makes sense when you consider that time spent marketing is time spent away from writing.)

Top earners had four times as many reviews for their most recent book than authors outside this group. One of the most effective tactics—submitting books to Amazon top reviewers—resulted in 25% more reviews.

Finally, romance writers earned more than science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction writers.

These statistics indicate that (if anyone actually thought this) self-publishing is obviously not the road to riches. However, I found one of the most encouraging statistics to be that 90% of those surveyed said they would continue to self-publish. This, to me, suggests that the ability to reach an audience is more important to indie authors than the money aspect. Of course, in an ideal world, an author could have both...

To access the list of Amazon top reviewers, see (A caveat: many aren't responding to inquiries because of backlogs.)

To access the list of Kindle top reviewers, see (Note that you can only contact ONE reviewer at a time, and many are not currently accepting requests because of backlogs.)

Monday, 27 May 2013

An Interview With Rosemary McCracken

As Canadian mystery author Rosemary McCracken launches her new Pat Tierney novel, Black Water, we're very pleased to have an opportunity to catch her as she embarks on a whirlwind blog tour to promote the sequel to Safe Harbor, which was shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger in 2010.

Has your experience as a journalist affected your writing style when it comes to fiction?
     As a newspaper journalist, I was trained to write clean, factual copy, and I aim to write clean, crisp fiction. I hope I succeed. And years of interviewing people for newspaper articles certainly helped with dialogue. It fine-tuned my ear to the nuances of how different people speak.
     But description is where newspaper articles and fiction differ dramatically. Description is kept to a minimum in newspaper articles; photos show readers what a person or a place look like. A fiction writer, on the other hand, has to describe characters and setting. But I try to keep descriptions brief—with a few brushstrokes rather than detailed portraits. I give every character in my novels and short stories a short physical description. Pat Tierney, for example, is in her mid-forties, and has short blonde hair and green eyes. But what characters say and do reveals much more about them.
     Settings, so important in crime fiction, also need to be described. Black Water is set in cottage country north of Toronto. When Pat first arrives in the town of Braeloch at the beginning of the novel, she notes that it was “postcard pretty that morning with a fresh dusting of snow sparkling in the sunlight.” The entire township is breathtakingly beautiful with its lakes and rugged, rocky landscapes, which has drawn wealthy cottagers to the area. They have built million-dollar vacation homes, while some local residents have difficulty making ends meet.

How much of your expertise in the financial services industry finds its way into your stories?
     I’m a journalist, not a financial professional, and I’ve written about personal finance and the financial services industry for the past 20 or so years. I interview financial advisors and investment managers. I attend their conferences. I know the issues they face and the concerns they have.
     So when I was looking for a central character for a mystery series, Pat Tierney appeared full-blown in my mind. She has the traits of the people I admire most in the industry. She cares about her clients. She’s a champion of small investors. She has sleepless nights when markets are down.

What compelled you to make the leap into fiction? Is it something you always wanted to do?
     I’ve always wanted to write fiction. I wrote several stories when I was a child. They were pretty dreadful, and I had no idea how to make them better. So I stopped writing fiction and became an avid reader, and went on to study English literature in university. After university, I decided to get into journalism because that involved writing. But I really wanted to write fiction. I wanted to create my own stories instead of relating facts.
     Ironically, my entry into business journalism pushed me into fiction writing. When I joined the Financial Post in Toronto in the early 1990s, it was “highly recommended” that I take the Canadian Securities Course, an intensive self-study course that is the starting point for becoming licensed to work in Canada’s investment industry. So for six months, when I wasn’t at work, I was studying and doing assignments for the course. It was a gruelling exercise, and it eventually hit me that if I could hunker down and learn about stocks, bonds and mutual funds, I could apply myself to learn to write fiction. When I finished the course, I did just that.

Could you describe your novel-writing process for us? For example, do you work from an outline? How many drafts do you go through before you submit the MS to your publisher for editing?
     I’m a character-driven writer, so I need to know my characters well—and by now I’m pretty intimate with the main characters in the Pat Tierney series. For the third book in the series, I’ve decided on the setting, the time of year, the mystery Pat has to solve and one of the subplots. I hope to start writing the first few chapters in June, put them aside for a few weeks, and loosely outline the course Pat will take to solve the mystery, and how the subplots will fit into the story. But I don’t want a rigid outline because that would take the fun—the sense of discovery—out of it for me.
     I’m still a working journalist, so I find it difficult to carve out a set chunk of time for fiction writing every day. My days are often shaped by interviews for articles and publication deadlines. But because I’m now a freelancer, I have control of my schedule and I try to keep my summers free for writing fiction. I spend most of the summer at my cottage in the Haliburton Highlands north of Toronto (which bears a strong resemblance to the fictional Glencoe Highlands in Black Water). I hope to get to the point where I can start moving through the novel by the beginning of July 1. If I do, I should be able to get a lot of work done on the novel in July and August.
     If that happens, I’ll work on subsequent drafts—two or three—in the fall and winter. I have a writer’s group that I regularly run chapters by. Then I’ll give it final self-edit and turn the manuscript over to my husband, Ed, who’s a newspaper editor and has done editing for Harlequin. He’ll go through the manuscript, editing and making suggestions for rewrites. After that, I’ll find another person with an editing background to look at the “big picture,” which Ed and I sometimes have difficulty seeing.
     If all goes extremely well, I could be ready to submit the manuscript to Imajin Books next April or May. If it’s accepted, it will go to one of its editors. The talented Todd Barselow handled Black Water and he was a treat to work with.

Black Water is the second Pat Tierney novel, following your debut novel, Safe Harbor. What kind of challenges did you face in writing a sequel?
     Black Water is a continuation of Safe Harbor’s story. The premise of the novel evolved quite naturally out of the first book because there’s unfinished business at the end of Safe Harbor. Pat’s daughter Tracy makes a surprising announcement, and Tracy isn’t at all happy about her mother’s reaction to it. When Black Water opens about six week later, Tracy has moved out of the Tierney family home. She returns one evening to ask Pat to help her find her sweetheart, Jamie Collins. Feeling she has let Tracy down, Pat heads off to Ontario cottage country where an elderly man has been murdered and Jamie is the prime suspect.
     When I started the book, I already knew many of the main characters—Pat, her daughters, her adopted son Tommy, and Sister Celia de Franco. They were old friends, and it was fun to create a new set of characters for them to interact with. And it was great fun to move the story out of Toronto and into a rural community based on an area I know and love.
     The big challenge in writing a series with the same central character is always staying faithful to that character’s personality. Pat’s fierce sense of loyalty to her family and those she loves drives all her decisions. At the end of Black Water, for example, Pat has to decide whether to stay in cottage country or return to Toronto. I had to let Pat’s character make that decision, which wasn’t necessarily the one that I as a writer would have chosen.

Will there be more Pat Tierney novels, or will you strike out in a different direction in the future?
     I enjoy writing about Pat, and I have at least two more Pat Tierney novels planned. As I said, I’ll start the third novel in the coming weeks and hope to get a lot of work done on it over the summer. I also have another Pat Tierney mystery sitting in a desk drawer. Titled Last Date, it’s actually the very first in the series and it was shortlisted for Crime Writers of Canada’s inaugural Best Unpublished Crime Novel Award in 2007, but it was never published. I’d like to take another run at it, change a few things, and hope it becomes the fourth book in the series.
     And after that…who knows?

How active are you in online social media? Do you find them useful in promoting your work?
     Online social media is must for writers today, and I try to take as much advantage of it as I can. E-readers and the Internet have made it possible for book lovers to shop online. They find out about the books that interest them on Facebook, on Twitter and on blogs such as yours, and they buy them in the comfort of their own homes. Readers are in every country of the world, and they are combing the Internet for books like ours.
     Social media is all about being sociable, and writers have turned this to their own advantage. They’re teaming up on social media platforms to promote one another. They’re joining tweet teams to shout out about their books and those of their fellow writers. They’re hosting other writers on their blogs, as you are doing today, and on podcasts. All this produces good karma and very positive results.

Do you feel that Canadian crime fiction authors are under-appreciated?
     We have some very fine crime writers in Canada, and some of them like Louise Penny and Peter Robinson are well known outside this country. There are also a lot of relatively unknown Canadian writers, including crime writers, but there are many unknown writers in the United States. Unfortunately, we have a small publishing industry, and it has become even smaller in recent years, so fewer Canadian books are being traditionally published. Many good books are overlooked simply because publishing companies can only afford to publish a handful of books every year. But e-books may change the profile of Canadian crime writers. More writers are turning to e-publishers, and many are publishing their works independently. Readers around the world are buying these books, and I’m certain this will have positive results for Canadian writers.
     We also have some pretty amazing organizations such as Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime that do a great job of building the buzz for Canadian crime writers. The CWC’s Arthur Ellis Awards raises the profile of writers, and Sisters in Crime Canada recently published The Whole She-Bang, an anthology of Canadian crime fiction, with the intention of promoting its members who write crime fiction. Two other Canadian crime fiction anthologies are in the works, Nefarious North and the Mesdames of Mayhem’s Thirteen for 2013, and are scheduled to come out this fall. I’m fortunate to have stories in both!

BLACK WATER: synopsis
     When Pat Tierney's daughter, Tracy, asks her to help find Tracy's partner, Jamie Collins, their mother-daughter relationship is stretched to the limits. Pat heads out to cottage country where an elderly man, who killed Jamie’s sister in an impaired driving accident years ago, has perished in a suspicious fire. Unfortunately, Jamie is the prime suspect.
     Pat takes charge at the new branch her investment firm has opened in the seemingly idyllic community where Jamie grew up, and her search for Tracy's missing sweetheart takes her through a maze of fraud, drugs, bikers and murder.
     Once again, Pat proves that her family can always count on her.

     Purchase Black Water at a special introductory price of $0.99 through the following Amazon links:

Rosemary McCracken has worked on newspapers across Canada as a reporter, arts reviewer, editorial writer and editor. She is now a Toronto-based fiction writer and freelance journalist. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger in 2010 and published by Imajin Books in 2012. You can buy it here.

To win a $50 Amazon gift certificate, enter the contest here. Deadline is June 15.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Selecting An e-Book

I came across an interesting article recently that talks about the criteria for selecting an e-book. It was written by a prolific reader/reviewer. She notes the following factors: price, subject matter, and reviews. With regard to the first criterion, she mentions her annoyance when she discovers e-books priced comparably to physical copies, says that she gets most books free, and never pays more than $5 for an e-book. The second criterion, subject matter, is pretty straightforward. She prefers non-fiction and sees reading as a means of escaping the mundane. (If her view is shared by the majority of readers, this would account for the popularity of romance, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance these days.) With regard to the third criterion, she prefers the reader reviews in Amazon and Goodreads as being more indicative of an honest and open opinion, as opposed to “professional” reviews and bestseller lists.

I would enjoy receiving your comments on what sells an e-book to you: do you agree with price, subject matter, and reviews as the primary criteria? Do you enjoy downloading freebies or are you wary of their quality? What about cover design? Is this important to you?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Diamonds Are Forever

Fans of Lee Child's novels will be pleased to hear that he is to be awarded the Diamond Dagger by the Crime Writers' Association for life-time achievement in crime fiction. Previous recipients include P.D.James, Colin Dexter, Ruth Rendell, and Elmore Leonard.

Lee Child turned to fiction writing at the age of 40 after he lost his job at Granada Television following a restructuring in 1995. His first Jack Reacher novel was Killing Floor. His novels are best-sellers in both the US and UK, and he has sold 60 million copies worldwide.

Child writes in the “hard-boiled” tradition rather than in the style of genteel "whodunits" that have spawned many popular cozy mystery series. His protagonist Jack Reacher is larger-than-life, constantly battling with his fists in a series of tightly woven stories featuring Child's laconic prose. One could argue that Child's recent novels have become formulaic with Jack Reacher fighting for the underdog with a stubbornness that belies common sense, taking on all comers and triumphing in spite of the odds stacked against him, and getting the girl before moving on to his next exploit. Sometimes there is more of caricature than character in Jack Reacher. Nevertheless the Reacher novels remain immensely entertaining, and Lee Child's mastery of prose is impressive.

For the full text of the article, please see The award is to be presented to Child this summer.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Book Review: Assured Destruction

Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to host a Tribute Books blog tour. This time we welcome Michael F. Stewart as we take an inside look at his novel Assured Destruction.

Assured Destruction: Book Summary

Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.

Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They're stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose their livelihood.

When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.

Formats: paperback and ebook
Release: March 22, 2013

Amazon paperback ($8.99)

Kindle ($2.99)

Michael F. Stewart: Biography

After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults.

Our Review of Assured Destruction

Michael F. Stewart's Assured Destruction is a YA novel that is well-written, interesting, and enjoyable to read. It follows the exploits of the young protagonist as she builds her Shadownet of virtual friends and then must face the consequences as real life intrudes on her private domain, and bad things begin to happen in real time. But Jan Rose is up to the challenge as she tries to dig her way out of the mess, save her mom's company, and find the real culprits. 

The protagonist is both likeable and humorous, and the references to Ottawa throughout the novel (the city "that fun forgot”) will spark instant recognition by anyone who has lived or worked there. At the same time, the protagonist faces numerous challenges in her own life, and Stewart has done a very good job of weaving serious themes into the novel: Jan's perceived abandonment by her father, her mother's daily struggles with MS, and the daunting task of surviving school life and online bullying. A central thread in the novel is Jan's attempt to write an essay on Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Plath's depression and subsequent suicide serve as a counterpoint to Jan's conscious efforts to take control of her life and resolve her problems. It's good to see a strong female protagonist in YA novels.

As Stewart's website indicates, Assured Destruction is planned as a transmedia experience, with four books serving as an anchor for an Internet connection that will bring Shadownet to life. We wish him the best with this endeavour and look forward to following Jan Rose in her future adventures!

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