Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Crime Fiction Grab Bag No. 9

Time for our first reach into the crime fiction grab bag for 2013. What's new and exciting out there?

Quill & Quire has published its spring preview, which includes the following authors of Canadian crime fiction and mysteries:

Jack Batten's latest novel in his  mystery series featuring the protagonist Crang, Take Five, is due out in April from Thomas Allen Publishers. The previous novels in this series are Straight No Chaser and Bloodcount

Ian Hamilton offers the fifth in a series featuring Ava Lee in The Scottish Banker of Surabaya due out in February from Anansi. 

Anthony Bidulka is scheduled to have two novels out in April from Insomniac Press.  Sundowner Ubuntu continues his Richard Quant series of mysteries.  Where the Saints Go Marching In is the first in a series of thrillers that will feature the protagonist Adam Saint as a disaster-recovery agent.

Alan Bradley's fifth novel featuring his protagonist Flavia de Luce is entitled Speaking from Among the Bones (Doubleday Canada, January).

Mike Knowles will debut a new series with S.O.B. this May published by ECW and featuring P.I. Frank Sullivan.

Cathy Ace will publish her second novel, The Corpse with the Golden Nose, which is a cozy mystery featuring Professor Cait Morgan.  The novel is to be published by TouchWood Editions in March.

For further details, see http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/in-the-magazine/spring-preview-2013-canadian-short-fiction-crime-fiction-and-poetry/ .

Peter Robinson, who has published his twentieth Banks' novel, Watching the Dark, is the subject of an interview with J. Kingston Pierce in the Kirkus Review, January 8, 2013, at http://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/robinson-heats-cold-case-watching-dark/.

If you're a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction, the latest Kristina Ohlsson novel, Silenced, has been released in its UK edition and will be available in its US edition in March 2013.  For a review of this and other recent Scandinavian crime novels, see http://scandinaviancrimefiction.wordpress.com/.

And for the Telegraph's take on the brightest and best in crime fiction and thrillers, see the January 13, 2013 edition at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/9200912/The-best-recent-crime-and-thrillers-January-13.html (included are books by Connelly and Wambaugh).

Saturday, 26 January 2013

One Shot at Jack Reacher

I think I'm as willing as the next person to willfully suspend disbelief when it comes to literature and the arts, but  I've decided to draw my line in the sand with the casting of Tom Cruise as Lee Childs' protagonist, Jack Reacher.

I like Tom Cruise and bear him no malice. After all, he was the unabashed hero of Top Gun, a movie I still like to watch, and it's hard to picture anyone else with that swagger and great s**t-eating grin.  But fans of Lee Childs' novels know that Reacher is a larger-than-life character who is 6'6” * (not to mention a blond) while Cruise at 5'7” is shorter than his previous two wives (Nicole Kidman is 5'10” and Katie Holmes is 5'9”).

So, being fond of research, I decided to have some fun and see what I could come up with through the wonders of the Internet.  Here's what I found out.  Many of the old-time leading men, adventurers, and dare-doers were well within Reacher's height.  These include John Wayne (6'4.5”), Rock Hudson (6'4'), James Stewart (6'3.5”), Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck (6'3”), Errol Flynn (6'2”),  and Cary Grant and Burt Lancaster (6'1”), just to name a few.  The closest contenders today would be Nicholas Cage, Christian Bale, and Leonardo DiCaprio, all at 6 feet.  (I should hasten to add that none of these actors would probably have been good casting for Jack Reacher.)  Brad Pitt and George Clooney are both 5'11”, while Robert Downey Jr. is 5'9”.

By the way, my own personal favorite for the role of Jack Reacher would have been Jim Caviezel (6'2”), who plays Reese on the CBS television series Person of Interest.

The first Jack Reacher movie, based on One Shot, has grossed $150 million thus far.  For a sequel to be considered, it would probably need to gross at least $250 million (according to industry insiders). Meanwhile, Cruise has bought the rights to all seventeen Jack Reacher novels (groan).  So we'll have to wait and see if Cruise will spin a franchise out of it.

* For those, unlike me, who prefer metric measurements, 6 feet equals 1.8288 meters.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Photo Shoot for Ottawa At Home Magazine

The upcoming Winter Edition of Ottawa At Home magazine will be featuring Ottawa-area individuals who are reaching out for national and international success, and I'm pleased to be included in the feature by editor-in-chief Mary Taggart. As a result, I was at the Ottawa Convention Centre yesterday morning for the photo shoot for the issue.

It was a great deal of fun, and photographer Mark Holleron did an outstanding job setting a relaxed and informal tone so that my butterflies quickly went away as he and Mary put me through my paces.

I stuck around afterward to watch the next session, pictured above, with Ottawa entrepreneurs Stephen Bleeker and Janice McDonald. It was fascinating to watch editor and photographer work together to get just the right look for what Mary had in mind.

Photo by Mary Taggart
After the shoot I was pleased to sign a copy of The Fregoli Delusion for Mark, who told me he planned to take it to the beach on his upcoming vacation along with the latest John Grisham. Great company to keep!

So how did my shots turn out? Mark gave me a peek in the LCD screen, so I have an idea what they'll look like. However, you'll have to pick up the Winter issue of Ottawa At Home to find out for yourself!

Thanks very much to Mary Taggart for including me in this feature. You can find Ottawa At Home online at http://www.ottawaathome.ca/. Follow Mary on Twitter at @Ottawaathomemag.You can also find photographer Mark Holleron online at http://holleronphotography.com/.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Alzheimer's Awareness

Alzheimer's is a disease that you may be aware of only peripherally unless it has touched your family or friends. January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month with the goal of increasing knowledge of the disease while decreasing the stigma associated with it. We'd like to use today's blog to provide links for additional information and support.

There are approximately 500,000 people in Canada suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.  This figure is expected to double by 2038. 

Researchers are still uncertain as to the exact effect of Alzheimer's disease on the brain, although they do know that cells are damaged and eventually die in different areas of the brain. The death of brain cells leads to dementia, characterized by memory loss, impaired judgment, and behavioral changes.

Although no one knows the exact cause of the disease, there are a number of risk factors that have been identified such as head injury, vascular disease, and gender.  For example, women are twice as likely as men to develop the disease.

There are ten major warning signs of the disease:

·    memory loss that affects day-to-day function
·    difficulty performing familiar tasks
·    problems with language
·    disorientation of time and place
·    poor or decreased judgment
·    problems with abstract thinking
·    misplacing things
·    changes in mood and behavior
·    changes in personality
·    loss of initiative

At this time, there is no treatment to delay, cure, or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Approved drugs temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for about six to twelve months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them.

The Alzheimer's Society of Canada has recently launched a campaign entitled: “See me, not my disease.  Let's talk about dementia.”  For further information, visit http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/AW13-home?gclid=CK3036GS8LQCFYxaMgod6zMACg

It is vital for family members who are caregivers of persons living with Alzheimer's to seek help (without feeling guilty) to cope with the disease and to safeguard their own physical and mental health.  There are multiple resources and support groups.  For a list of Canadian web resources, see http://www.forgetfulnotforgotten.com/caring/resources/canadian-sites.

For those of you who live outside Canada, please take a moment to find out more about available resources in your country.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Fregoli Delusion, the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel

In our last two posts we've featured a refresh of the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, including Blood Passage and Marcie's Murder. Let's take a look now at the most recent novel in the series: The Fregoli Delusion.

What if the only eyewitness to a high-profile murder suffers from a rare psychotic disorder causing him to misidentify people? What if the person he insists he saw running away from the crime scene is the person who is the object of his delusional paranoia? And what if you're Detective Karen Stainer and you're the only one who believes him?

The Story
Billionaire H.J. Jarrett has been shot to death on a bike path in the prestigious Granger Park neighborhood in Glendale, and the chief of police has personally assigned Lieutenant Hank Donaghue to the case. Is it because Hank's mother, retired state's attorney and political backroom power broker, has pulled some strings? Or because Hank, thanks to his family background, knows many of Jarrett's associates and friends, and the chief wants these important people to be handled with kid gloves?

As he and Detective Karen Stainer investigate the Jarrett homicide, they find themselves coming into conflict. While Hank believes you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, Karen is pure vinegar by nature and doesn't know any other way to handle potential suspects than the direct and in-your-face approach!

In a world where money and power buy privilege and influence, can Donaghue and Stainer run a proper murder investigation without interference to find their killer?

The Inspiration for the Story
Fregoli syndrome is a rare but documented condition in which a person believes that different people are in fact a specific individual stalking them while in disguise. Named after Leopoldo Fregoli, an Italian stage actor famous as a quick-change artist, this condition most often appears in conjunction with paranoid schizophrenia or similar pre-existing psychoses.

In the novel, the eyewitness Brett Parris suffers from the ongoing delusion that a man named Richard Holland is persecuting him by appearing to him disguised as strangers in a crowd or even family members or friends. When Parris tells police it was Holland he saw running away from the scene of Jarrett's murder, no one believes him, assuming it was a re-occurrence of his delusional psychosis. No one, of course, except Karen Stainer.

What to Look For
While Marcie's Murder gives readers a chance to get to know Karen Stainer better, The Fregoli Delusion unwraps the personal life and motivations of Hank Donaghue, focusing on his family ties, his social connections, and some of his lifestyle choices as a member of the so-called One Percent, the wealthy ruling class. It also updates his relationship with Meredith Collier, whom he met in Blood Passage.

Despite all this, does Karen Stainer once again manage to steal the show? You'll have to read it to find out!

Where to Buy It
The Fregoli Delusion is available in paperback from any bookstore that has online access to the Ingram Catalog. They can order it for you right away. It's also available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sources throughout the world.

The Fregoli Delusion is available in eBook format from Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, iTunes for any Apple device with an e-reader app, and Kobo.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Marcie's Murder, the second Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel

In our previous post we began a refresh of the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series with Blood Passage. We now move the clock forward to the second novel in the series: Marcie's Murder.

While on vacation four months after the events of Blood Passage, Hank Donaghue stops overnight in the small town of Harmony, Virginia. Without warning, local police kick down the door of his motel room in the middle of the night and drag him off to jail on suspicion of having strangled a local woman. Hank calls Detective Karen Stainer to help him get released from custody and find the real killer.

The Story
Hank Donaghue sees Marcie Askew briefly as he walks into a bar in Harmony for a beer before turning in for the night. She looks upset, and is clearly waiting to meet someone. As Hank later learns, within an hour or so of this chance encounter she has been strangled to death behind the bar and her body dumped in the ravine beyond. An eyewitness in the kitchen believes he saw Hank walk around the back of the bar at about that time, and the local chief of police is determined to make Hank pay for the crime, because the victim is his wife!

Hank and Karen must convince the powers that be in Harmony that he had nothing to do with Marcie's brutal murder. Beyond that, Hank can't help but take personally the knowledge that if he'd done something differently he might have saved Marcie Askew's life. As a result, he's determined to probe Marcie's personal secrets to find the identity of her killer. Their suspects include the abbot of a monastery in Burke's Garden which operates a free health clinic, an instructor at the local college, and the chief of police himself!

The Inspiration for the Story
Tazewell County is a rugged, beautiful spot located in the rolling hills of the Appalachians in southwest Virginia.  Home to only 40,000 people, it has a proud rural heritage and rich local history, and violent crime is a rarity. The story ranges from Harmony up to Bluefield, on the border of West Virginia, down to Tazewell, the county seat, and over to spectacular Burke's Garden.

Cast of Characters
Hank and Karen are joined by Deputy Chief Neil Branham, the tall, handsome local cop who's sweet on Karen, Detective Ansell Hall, the alcoholic cursed with a perfect memory, and Chief Billy Askew, the violent, distraught husband of the victim.

Where to Buy It
Marcie's Murder is available in paperback from any bookstore that has online access to the Ingram Catalog. They can order it for you right away. It's also available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sources throughout the world.

Marcie's Murder is available in eBook format from Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, iTunes for any Apple device with an e-reader app, Kobo, and Sony.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Blood Passage, the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel

As 2013 swings into gear, we're pleased to see that readership of The Overnight Bestseller is steadily growing. We recognize, though, that everyone's time is severely divided these days and that new blog readers don't often have an opportunity to explore the archives to play catch-up on past posts.

In the spirit of bringing back to light relevant information that may lie buried beneath the silt, we thought it might be fun to do a refresh of the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, beginning with Blood Passage.

Would you believe a small boy who claims he was murdered in his previous life?

The Story
A university graduate student researching past life memories experienced by small children arrives in Glendale, Maryland to investigate reports that little Taylor Chan has begun to talk about his previous life as Martin Liu, his mother's cousin, who was shot and left to die in an alley four years ago. Taylor recalls details about unfamiliar people that Martin knew. He asks questions about the strange bird tattoos on the chest of Martin's cousin, "Uncle" Peter Mah, which the boy has never seen because they relate to Peter's affiliation with the local Triad brotherhood. He also remembers the names of the men who shot him and left him to bleed to death "when he was Martin."

When the graduate student is beaten up for asking questions in the wrong places, Homicide Lieutenant Hank Donaghue and Detective Karen Stainer find that the Martin Liu cold case has suddenly become hot. However, while they go back through the murder book and begin the investigation from scratch, Peter Mah follows clues supplied by little Taylor to track down the men responsible for Martin's shooting, and he exacts his own revenge, throwing the local Asian community and his Triad brothers into turmoil at the same time.

The Inspiration for the Story
Taylor Chan and his memories of his past life as Martin Liu were inspired by Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives, by Dr. Jim B. Tucker (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005). Dr. Tucker, medical director of the Child & Family Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Virginia, is a child psychiatrist who directs research into the past life recollections of small children, an ongoing project founded by Ottawa native Dr. Ian Stevenson in the 1960s. To the best of my knowledge, their research has never led them into an open murder investigation, but the subject immediately appealed to me as a great premise for a crime fiction novel.

What You Need To Know
Blood Passage is a police procedural, meaning that its primary focus is on the homicide investigations of Hank Donaghue and Karen Stainer. Every attempt is made in the novel, and the series as a whole, to depict police activities as accurately as possible, with a little artistic license built in to allow for the fact that the Glendale Police Department doesn't actually exist! The policies and procedures followed by the GPD are influenced by several U.S. municipal police departments (whose SOPs are actually available online), FBI guidelines, and general law enforcement policies and procedures with which I'm familiar from various sources, including my own experiences during 15 years with the Canada Border Services Agency.

It's not necessary to believe in reincarnation to read and enjoy Blood Passage. While Taylor Chan and his past-life memories echo real-life cases reported by Dr. Tucker, and while these cases present some very compelling evidence suggesting reincarnation as a possible explanation for these memories, you are not expected to accept that Taylor was, in fact, the reincarnated spirit of Martin Liu. The central characters, with the exception of Peter Mah, do not necessarily believe in reincarnation at the end of the story. The theme is presented to entertain, and also to make you think, but not to convince. What you believe is up to you.

Blood Passage, as is the case with every novel in the series, has been very carefully written, edited, and produced. Attention to detail is a way of life for us. The manuscript is reviewed by multiple sets of eyes in each stage of preparation, and while human error can never be completed overcome, the book you buy is as clean and error-free as we can make it. Blood Passage contains two typographical errors of which I'm aware: a missing space, and a word that should have been deleted in the "About the Author" blurb at the end but wasn't. If you can find another one, I'd love to hear about it. I might even send you a free t-shirt.

Where to Buy It
Blood Passage is available in paperback from any bookstore that has online access to the Ingram Catalog. They can order it for you right away. It's also available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sources throughout the world.

Blood Passage is available in ebook format from Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, iTunes for any Apple device with an e-reader app, Kobo, and Sony.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year: Reviewing 2012 and Looking Forward

From everyone here at The Plaid Raccoon Press in Oxford Station, Ontario, Canada, to all of you who read The Overnight Bestseller and follow the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, we send our best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013.

A New Year's Day Postcard from Oxford Station (M.J. McCann photo)
The past year was our first full calendar year in business. In 2012 we published two books: Marcie's Murder, the follow-up to Blood Passage; and The Fregoli Delusion, the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel. I also had the supreme good fortune to travel to Rothes, Scotland, to visit The Glenrothes distillery as a winner of their 2012 Vintage Moment competition. While promoting Marcie's Murder I made several radio appearances and a television appearance, was profiled in magazines and newspapers, and the novel was reviewed favorably by Jack Batten in the Toronto Star. I participated in the Word on the Street Book Festival in Toronto as part of the Crime Writers of Canada contingency and made a number of book signing appearances, which provided an opportunity to meet many enthusiastic readers of crime fiction.

It was an exciting and eventful year. Can we top it in 2013?

The fourth Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel is underway. I'm completing my research and writing the preliminary background material. Very shortly I'll write the outline, and then another manuscript will begin to take shape. Plans are for the novel to be published this summer.

On another front, The Plaid Raccoon Press will add supernatural fiction to its lineup this year as well. I have re-acquired the rights to my very first novel, The Ghost Man, and we will soon issue a revised edition under our own imprint. A second title under the new banner will aim for a Halloween 2013 release date. Fans of The Ghost Man will be pleased to know that this novel will also be set in eastern Ontario.

It's a great time to be an independent. The just-in-time print-on-demand model has proven itself to be a viable and forward-looking option for small publishers to produce their books on paper (see this article by Danny O. Snow in Publishers Weekly),  and enterprises such as Smashwords have revolutionized how the world receives books in ebook format (see Smashwords founder Mark Coker's 2012 Year in Review).

While traditional publishing houses grow larger (as Penguin and Random House merge) and fewer (as Douglas & McIntyre and others file for bankruptcy), and traditionally-published authors such as Sue Grafton, Jodi Picoult, Richard Russo and David Hewson launch incendiary strikes against what Hewson calls "a phoney revolution," the fact remains that the publishing business and the book market for readers have turned a corner, and there's no going back. For me as an independent author beginning a new career, it has happened, if you will, "just in time."

The key to success, of course, will have to be quality. Best-selling A-list authors can get away with publishing a sub-par title to fulfill contract requirements with their Big Five publisher because their name alone sells the book, but independents have no such wiggle room. As a result, our objective is always to do our very best to make sure the next title is better than the previous one. Continuous improvement is not just a cliché around here, it's the way we do business.

With that in mind, we promise to continue to offer engaging stories that are well-written, are as free of typographical errors, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors as humanly possible, with eye-catching covers, and all with an upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic attitude.

Come join us as we continue the publishing revolution in 2013!

Happy New Year and best wishes from me, from my wife, business partner and editor Lynn, our son Tim, who shoots our author photos, our editorial reader Margaret, and our manuscript readers Gwenda, Anie, Danielle, and Larry.

And, of course, from Cody, who's going to end up being our biggest celebrity by far!

Happy 2013, everyone!