Monday, 18 December 2017


Soho Crime's mandate is to publish "atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world." Their author list includes the likes of Colin Cotterill, whose novels are set in 1970s Laos, Martin Lίmon, whose series features American army investigators in South Korea in the same time period, and Henry Chang, whose contemporary crime novels are set in New York City's Chinatown.

I've had pretty good luck exploring Soho Crime's titles as a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and that luck held when I selected Australian Garry Disher's Signal Loss for review.

I must confess I hadn't heard of Disher before, despite the fact he's published 40 books to date, but I enjoyed reading Signal LossHere's why I liked it.

Our challenge as readers is to find new writers with new voices and new perspectives. Many of the old familiar bestsellers have written themselves out, and their new publications are often not worth buying. Thankfully, Soho Crime is opening up our horizons and bringing us new names to try out.

Monday, 27 November 2017


New Year's Day 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley. It appeared on that day in in 1818 in a limited edition of 500 copies and received decidedly mixed reviews.

Now, Reel Art Press (R|A|P) has published an incredible volume by Gothic expert Christopher Frayling to commemorate the monster's 200th birthday.

Frayling provides critical insight into the genesis of the story, and as a special treat to readers the second half of the book is an extravaganza of archival photographs, poster art, and much more.

Kudos to RAP editor Tony Nourmand and book designer Joakim Olsson for producing another remarkable volume.

Read my review in the New York Journal of Books here.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


Bouchercon, the world mystery convention that took place this year in Toronto, is now in the books. I'm home after a five-hour ride on the train on Sunday, a milk run that stopped at almost every town in eastern Ontario along the way including Belleville, Kingston, Brockville, and Smiths Falls. When the train finally reached my destination a few minutes before midnight, I swear that my entire body was a vessel of pain. Oh well, that's what I get for travelling economy.

This was my first time at a Bouchercon, and I thought it was a terrific experience. Thanks go out to Helen Nelson and Janet Costello, co-chairs, who organized a great convention.

Thanks as well to the remarkable Alison Bruce, executive director of the Crime Writers of Canada, who worked incredibly hard to make this a successful event for the CWC and its individual author members such as myself. I just don't know where she gets the energy. Also, my thanks to Cathy Ace, CWC chair, for putting us in the spotlight so effectively.

If you've been following my blog during the convention, you'll know what I mean when I say that it was a great opportunity for me to sit down with fellow crime fiction authors and chew the fat. (If you haven't been following, shame on you. Go back and read them and don't be such an uncaring churl!)

I should definitely mention CWC colleagues from Ottawa, including Barbara Fradkin, Brenda Chapman, Linda Wiken/Erica Chase, Mary Jane Maffini/Victoria Abbott (ah-choo), Mike Martin, and Robin (R.J.) Harlick. It was a pleasure to see you all again and catch up on stuff. And don't worry, Mary Jane, I didn't catch your cold.

Best of all, it was an incredible opportunity to meet readers and fans of crime fiction in its various forms. To the folks from Wisconsin, Nevada, California, and Scotland, among other places, it was a pleasure to listen to you talk about your lives and passion for the mystery genre, and I appreciate your interest in hearing about my work. I wish you all safe travels home.

Finally, to my fellow Canadians who attended and supported this country's authors from Louise Penny all the way down to Michael J. McCann -- we do it best, don't we?

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Day Three at Bouchercon 2017 was a very busy day for me. It started early, as I volunteered at the Crime Writers of Canada table at 8:30 a.m. to spend an hour enticing people to sign up for our newsletter and/or become a member.

The CWC was sponsoring coffee and treats in the refreshment area today, and at 10:30 a.m. I was one of several CWC authors sitting at a table chatting with fans attracted by the lovely pastries. I had a fascinating conversation with a retired couple from Mountain View, California. He was a retired NASA aerospace engineer who worked with their wind tunnel technology. When he was done telling me about his career, I told him frankly that what I do pales in comparison to what he's done. Mind-blowing stuff.

At 1:30 I was back at the CWC table signing up more readers, and at 2:30 I caught a bit of a very interesting panel discussion including Louise Penny, Mark Pryor, Heather Young and Laura McHugh on their "hidden pasts." Very entertaining.

On the way out of the hotel for a mid-afternoon break I saw Colin Cotterill and his wife sitting in the lobby, and he very graciously signed my copy of The Rat Catchers' Olympics. (Read my New York Journal of Books review here.) 

He told me he is a dog-lover and currently has seven, all street dogs he's rescued (he lives in Chumphon, Thailand). He told me he has started up a program to help stray "temple dogs," called WatDog2. They spay females, provide veterinary services, and so on. He has set up a PayPal link with the vet he uses, and they could use a little help. Colin explains the whole thing and provides the PayPal link in his website diary - you really should read this.

At 5:30 pm I was back at the CWC table for another hour-long stint. I should mention the table was managed by Alison Bruce, who's absolutely tireless. It exhausts me just thinking about how much stuff she does for the CWC.

Tonight there's live music down in the ballroom, and I think I'll slide down and give it a listen.

Tomorrow's getaway day, so I'll give you a wrap-up of the convention on Monday.

Catch you on the flip side.

Friday, 13 October 2017


Now that Day Two of Bouchercon 2017 is done, I think I can say I know the true meaning of the word fatigued. Every muscle aches, including the ones in my head, and it's time to blog and crash.

This morning I assisted for an hour at the Crime Writers of Canada table, where we were signing people up for our newsletter and selling memberships. Talked to a very nice retired couple from Chicago who have been attending these conventions for years. This genre definitely has great fans.

I sat in on a few panel discussions, including an interview of Margaret Cannon, the crime fiction critic I mentioned in yesterday's post. She is this year's Fan Guest of Honour. Boy, does she dislike Dan Brown's stuff. Yikes! But she ran through a long list of authors whose work she does like, so it wasn't all bad news.

Once again, I had a chance to meet/talk to a number of fellow authors, including Linwood Barclay, Mike Martin, and Kim Hornsby, and well-known acquiring editor Marcia Markland of St. Martin's Press, who's known for her extensive experience in international crime fiction. I also button-holed Texas mystery author Terry Shames as she was drifting past our CWC table and introduced myself to her. She has been surprised to discover how well-liked her stories are in Canada.

This evening I sat in on a reception for international authors attending Bouchercon and, yes, I was finally able to meet Colin Cotterill, whose Dr. Siri Paiboun series I greatly admire. Wow, I'll just be a silly fan until the day I die, I guess. What a blast to meet these folks and chat with them.

It's starting to get late, so time to draw the curtain on this great cityscape and another great day in mystery world. Tomorrow's a very early start at the CWC table, so goodnight, all!

Thursday, 12 October 2017


Day One of Bouchercon 2017, the world mystery convention underway in Toronto, is now a wrap for me, and it will soon be time to put up my feet for the evening and relax.

This morning I held what's called a "20 on the 20 Spotlight" session. These are 20-minute presentations/readings/Q&As that give fans a chance to interact with authors in a somewhat more intimate setting than the panel discussion events which take place in very large rooms.

Unfortunately, the venue for the 20 on 20s was hard to find, tucked away on a different floor somewhere between the broom closet and the freight elevator (figuratively speaking), so all the 20 on 20s, including mine, were sparsely attended. However, the show must go on, and so it did!

I'm not tired, just very thoughtful.
Afterward I headed down to the book dealers room to sign autographs. While I was there, I went across the floor and introduced myself to Margaret Cannon, the legendary Globe and Mail crime fiction book critic. I've always wanted to meet her, and while she can't review my work because her paper doesn't consider independent authors, she asked for a copy of SORROW LAKE because she wanted to read it anyway. Such a very nice person.

One of the great things about conventions is that you have a chance to meet people. I don't get out much, so that's a real plus for me. I had some great conversations with fans from Las Vegas, Wisconsin, California and Ottawa, and spent part of the afternoon getting re-acquainted with Toronto novelist Rick Blechta, who has to be one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.

Tonight is the opening reception, but I think I'm off duty as soon as I post this baby. I'm bushed.

Oh yeah, one more thing. This the view from my hotel room AT NIGHT. Catch you later.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


At last, the day has arrived! This morning I drove up to the train station in Ottawa and set off for a weekend of crime fiction fun at Bouchercon 2017.

The ride to Toronto was four hours long, but I always find travelling by train to be relatively stress free. I ended up sitting next to a mystery fan who was also going to the convention. Small world!

I'm not really grumpy, just bushed.
Once I arrived at the Front Street train station in Toronto, I lugged my 90 lbs or so of luggage outside and up a few blocks to the hotel. It's been a while since I've been in this city, and it was nice to be back.

Now, as you can see from this experimental selfie taken in the station, I knew where the taxis were. So why the hang didn't I take one??? It's a mystery....

After checking in at the hotel, I registered for the convention and received my goodie bag, name tag, etc.  Good to go. Then I headed downstairs to the book dealer room to deliver my copies of SORROW LAKE and BURN COUNTRY to Sleuth of Baker Street, the local bookstore who will hopefully sell them all so I don't have to lug them home again! And darned if they didn't have copies of BLOOD PASSAGE and MARCIE'S MURDER already there from their store. Kinda nice.

While I was in the book dealer room I had my first intro and conversation with a fellow author not met before. Who do you think it was? Louise Penny. VERY nice person (my wife predicted it! yes you did, Lynn).

Oh yeah, one last thing. Here's the view from my hotel room.

Wow. Nice view.

Monday, 9 October 2017


This coming week I'll be attending Bouchercon 2017 at the Sheraton Centre hotel on Queen St. in Toronto. This is the annual world mystery convention that brings together crime fiction authors, readers, publishers and booksellers for four days.

Attendees this year include Colin Cotterill, Rick Mofina, Louise Penny, Linwood Barclay and Joseph Finder, among many others.

This is the first time I'll be attending Bouchercon, so I'm very excited to see what it's all about. And I'll be pretty busy.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the first official morning of the convention, I'll be delivering a 20-on-20 session in the VIP Room from 11:40 am to noon. I'll use my 20 minutes to talk about my work and to read a short (!) excerpt from SORROW LAKE. Will anyone show up? We'll find out!!!

I'll also be at the Crime Writers of Canada table set up outside the Book Room on Friday morning at 10:30 and Saturday morning at 8:30 (yawn!).  Then I'll move to the CWC table in the refreshment area at 10:30 am on Saturday and again at 1:30 pm.

If you're attending the convention, please stop by and say hello. If you're not attending, watch this space because I'll be posting updates every evening once I arrive in Toronto on Wednesday.

Here's hoping it'll be a great event!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Review of The Bell Tolls by R. Franklin James

The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to participate in the Tribute Books Blog Tour for The Bell Tolls by R. Franklin James.

Book Summary

Hollis Morgan has survived imprisonment, received a pardon and persevered to
finally become a probate attorney. Tough as she is, her newest case will further test her mettle. She discovers her client, Matthias Bell, is a deceased blackmailer whose last wish was to return the damaging documents he collected, letting his victims off the hook. It falls to Hollis to give them the good news. But it’s revealed that Bell was murdered, and the victims of “Bell’s tolls” are now suspects.

Hollis’ white-collar criminal past has left her with keen survival instincts. A gifted liar she knows a liar when she meets one. A lot of people in this case are lying and one is a killer.

On top of that, she’s also representing a dying stripper, a wealthy widow whose estranged daughter spurns her attempts at reconciliation, but whose husband sees the potential inheritance as mending all wounds particularly financial ones.

Clients aside, Hollis is defensive and wary. Her mother, who hasn’t spoken to her for years, needs a kidney, and Hollis is a match, but neither are ready to put away the past. With Hollis’ fiancé and emotional support off on an undercover mission for Homeland Security, she must count on her own survival instincts. She is swept along on an emotional roller coaster as her absent love and her family’s coldness take their own toll.

Work is her salvation. The specter of a killer keeps her focused. Hollis has always had to rely on her wits, but now she finds that others who don’t have her well-being in mind are relying on them as well.

Book Info and Buy Links

Price/Formats: $4.95 ebook,
$15.95 paperback
Genre: Women's Sleuth, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 239
Publisher: Camel Press
Release: June 1, 2017
ISBN: 9781603812177
Barnes and Noble

Author Bio

R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from
 the University of California at Berkeley. From there she cultivated a different type of writing—legislation and public policy. After serving as Deputy Mayor for the City of Los Angeles, under millionaire Richard Riordan, she went back to her first love—writing, and in 2013 her debut novel, The Fallen Angels Book Club was published by Camel Press. Her second book in The Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, Sticks & Stones, was followed by The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club, and The Trade ListThe Bell Tolls, book five, was released in June 2017.

R. Franklin James lives in Northern California with her husband.

Review of The Bell Tolls

Like most people, I'm inclined to think of probate as a dry area of the law not readily lending itself to mystery, but Ms. James has crafted an entertaining story with a protagonist, Hollis Morgan, who engages our attention and interest from the start of the novel. 

The main storyline of The Bell Tolls involves Matthias Bell, a despicable man who dies suddenly and leaves instructions for the disposition of his estate. The reader learns that Bell has been blackmailing several victims throughout the years, and Hollis must now return the files to these victims and assure them that with Bell's death, they are no longer under threat of blackmail. 

As the story unfolds, it becomes evident, however, that Bell was murdered, probably by one of his blackmail victims. In the tradition of Agatha Christie, Ms. James does a good job of having Hollis follow clues and finally expose the murderer with a lot of red herrings along the way. 

The Bell Tolls is an enjoyable read and will appeal to fans of whodunits and cosy mysteries. 

This is the fifth novel in the Hollis Morgan series, and you will no doubt want to check out the earlier books.

lated Sites

Monday, 4 September 2017


I've blogged occasionally about collecting vinyl LP records, but the truth is I love to collect other things as well. The clutter in our house is, I admit, entirely my fault.

One of my particular passions is vintage paperbacks. I have a shelf in the basement filled with them, and while most of them are well-used reading copies as opposed to collector's editions, I still love them.

Recently I attended a massive used book sale in Kemptville. On fill-a-box-for-$5 Sunday I spent four hours browsing the tables. I was exhausted at the end but came away with a few treasures. This copy of Fer-De-Lance by Rex Stout was fun to find. It's a little battered, a ninth printing (1944), and not worth much to a collector, but I didn't have a copy and was very pleased to find it. Isn't the cover art striking?

Among the other paperbacks that found their way into my $5 box was this second printing of the U.S. edition (1957) of He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr. Although I'm somewhat of an indifferent reader of Carr's novels, I was attracted to the cover art on this one.

I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to Vintage Paperbacks and Pulps. I've asked for help in identifying the artists responsible for these cover paintings. When I learn who they were, I'll let you know.

There's a story behind every book, as well as within each book, isn't there?

Thursday, 3 August 2017

From Holmes to Sherlock: A Book Review

As faithful readers of this blog are no doubt aware, I've been busier than a cat at a dog show these days, and the posts have been few and far between.

One of the areas in which I'm staying active, though, is in following up on my duties as mystery & thriller book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.

As I evolve as a reviewer of other people's work, I find I'm less hesitant to speak up when I don't think a book is very good. In this way, I suppose, a reviewer evolves into a book critic.

Book critics, though, also have an obligation to inform readers about books they judge to be a success. Authors who hit the nail on the head should be celebrated in book reviews for their good work, shouldn't they?

Such an author is Mattias Bostrom, a Swedish writer and veteran Sherlockian who has just published a remarkable work: From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon. As someone with only a passing interest in things Sherlock I selected this book to review with mild enthusiasm at best. I ended up reading it from cover to cover and enjoying it immensely.

What was so darned good about it? Check out my review to find out!

Monday, 10 July 2017


Sony Music recently announced it will begin to make vinyl records again in Japan for the first time in three decades, following up the release of a new turntable last year.

As someone who has collected vinyl record albums for nearly five decades, I find the move interesting. I was a little surprised to learn that the market is returning to vinyl in a big way. The Guardian recently reported that sales of vinyl in the U.K. suddenly exceeded sales of digital downloads. Vinyl sales have shown eight consecutive years of growth. These numbers explain, then, Sony's interest in investing in the future (!) of vinyl.

Experts commenting on the trend point to a desire by consumers to be able to purchase something physical to own. Music lovers are drawn by the cover art, lyrics, and liner notes which "give them a more tangible sense of connection to the music they love."

Cover art often drew me to new music. As a teenager I discovered Wishbone Ash by purchasing There's The Rub when it came out because I thought the cover was quirky and cool. The music was solid, and I went back for more. When I spotted Argus, that was it. Now there's a cool cover.

Long-play albums often offer other attractions. I recently picked up John Prine's first album, pictured above, for a buck at a community yard sale in Kemptville. On the back cover Prine had inscribed it in ballpoint pen to "Ric and Bonnie from a Grateful Guest 20/8/74." He drew a peace flower and signed it. Now who wouldn't like to have something like that in their collection?

The best part of the whole thing, though, is the fact that Sony Music is reaching out for expertise to achieve the best possible sound for their new pressings. What does that mean? "Cutting is a delicate process, with the quality of sound affected by the depth and angle of the grooves ... and Sony is scrambling to bring in old record engineers to pass on their knowledge."

There must be a feeling of quiet triumph in the minds of the old guys who suddenly find themselves wanted again. Their sound engineering skills are once again a valuable commodity. Who woulda thunk it?

Rock on, Old Dudes! Show the people how it's done!!

It's enough to blow your mind, man.

Saturday, 1 July 2017


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the confederation of British colonies in North America into the Dominion of Canada. Over the past century and a half we've built this country into the proud, self-reliant nation it is today, and we're very grateful to live within its borders as citizens of one of the most progressive, free, and safe countries in the world.

Unlike patriots in some other countries who like to bray about how wonderful and powerful their nation is compared to others (ahem), we Canadians prefer to maintain a low profile and tout the accomplishments of our nation a little more quietly and politely. However, today being the day it is, this particular Canadian citizen would like to speak a few words explaining to readers of this blog who live in other places such as the Netherlands, Taiwan, the UK, Ireland, and yes--the United States of America--why we're so proud today. We Canadians know who we are and what we're about, but you other folks may be a little fuzzy on the details. Allow me to mount the bully pulpit for a minute and deliver a few words of enlightenment.

Unavoidably, I have to start with health care. While Americans on the political right love to take potshots at our publicly-funded, single payer, national health care system, its inadequacies are the rare exception rather than the rule. Consider this: 99% of all physician services and 90% of hospital care are paid for by the state, and it's been that was since 1966 without Canada falling into complete and total chaos as a result, thank you very much. It works, people. For everyone--rich or poor, male or female, and no matter what race, religion, or whatever the heck else. Period. End of story. Get over it.

Immigrants are welcome in my country. Why? Because we believe very strongly in the concept of a cultural mosaic, a multiculturalism where different peoples from all over the world bring new, exciting, and innovative ideas into our social fabric. We like things that are different and new to us. We're not afraid of them. We embrace diversity with open arms. New music, new food, new languages, new clothing/fabric/fashion ideas, new fiction and film, new perspectives on the meaning of life. My Irish ancestors were immigrants. I like to think their descendants have contributed something to this country in the century and a half since. Let's continue that tradition with smiling faces and open hearts, shall we?

To take this point a step further, Canada is an ideal destination right now for innovators, scientists, engineers, and others to come to Canada to continue their careers. It's a perfect opportunity for Canada to benefit from a brain drain of the best and brightest flowing into our country for once, instead of out. As this trend progresses, perhaps venture capitalists and other start-up investors here will take the opportunity to provide seed money to help a new wave of innovation bear fruit, for example in the alternative energy industry. What a great opportunity for us to grow and show the way into the future!

As welcoming as we are to people seeking a new home in our country, we're still vigilant in keeping our borders, our highways, and our cities safe and secure. Make no mistake, the women and men who maintain our border services and provide our federal, provincial and municipal policing are the best in the world at what they do. Period. End of story. Get over it.

I won't talk about hockey, because the entire world knows we're the best, and there's no point rubbing it in. 

I could go on forever, but I have a suggestion instead. Come to Canada. Check us out. See what we're talking about, why we're making such a fuss here today about what we've got and why we love it so much. Seeing is believing, folks.

Happy Canada Day!

Monday, 26 June 2017


This past Saturday I signed books at the Westport Heritage Festival in Westport, Ontario. We had great weather, and while the turnout to Lockwood Park was a little lighter, perhaps, than in past years when the festival was held on Bedford Street downtown, I still had a great time talking to people and selling books.

Westport is a community of about 600 people on the Rideau Waterway, an extensive canal system that connects Ottawa, our nation's capital, with Kingston, on the shore of Lake Ontario. Its population more or less triples in summer because it is an enormously popular spot for tourists and boaters, particularly Americans who travel the canal or own cottages in the area.

Westport is always very kind to me when I go there, in part because the community is extremely supportive of the arts. My secret weapon, however, is my name. When people walk by my table and see McCANN on my banners and book covers, their feet slow, they edge over, and after a moment or two make eye contact and say, "Are you related to the McCanns who were up on the mountain?"

In my spare time (!) I'm an amateur genealogist of sorts. Over the years I've researched my family history and the histories of other related families, and it's something I love to talk about. My great-great-great grandparents Arthur McCann and Ann Quinn emigrated from Forkhill Parish, County Armagh, Ireland and settled in North Crosby township, which included the village of Westport. They first appear in local records in 1842. My great-great grandfather, Michael J. McCann, was a successful shoemaker and merchant in the village from the 1850s until his death in 1910. My father was born in Westport and lived there until he was 12, when the family moved to Kingston looking for work.

So while I'm not directly related to the "Foley Mountain" McCanns, who were from a different townland in Forkhill Parish, I answer the above question by launching into the above thumbnail sketch of my ancestry, and away we go. The conversation can go on for quite a while as we trade names, ponder possible relationships, and laugh about the fact that at one time you couldn't swing a dead rat in Westport without hitting a McCann!

While I've never lived there myself, my heritage makes me an accepted son of the community, and I couldn't be happier.

Selling books, on a day like this, is an added bonus!

Monday, 19 June 2017


In a recent post, I examined the police procedural sub-genre in terms of its characters and approach to characterization. As a noted authority on the subject explained, "To be a police procedural, a novel must have a set of police characters and--preferably detailed--descriptions of their work as they investigate one or more crimes."

When police characters are added to family members, witnesses and/or suspects, non-police characters involved in the investigation (coroner, forensic pathologist, etc.), and others, the list of characters appearing in a police procedural will be somewhat longer than, say, a private eye novel or a cozy mystery featuring an amateur sleuth in a small town.

Are there too many characters in BURN COUNTRY? To answer this question, it's important to compare its character list to other procedurals, so that apples are being firmly compared to other apples.

To do so, I chose one of Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks novels, AFTERMATH (2002), pulling it off the shelf more or less at random. I charted the characters in this novel using the following criterion: I only counted characters who are named by the narrator and have a speaking part in the story. I excluded unnamed characters who speak, including several SOCOs who interact with Banks or Annie for at least a page, and I excluded characters who are named but do not actually appear in the story. Fair enough? I then charted BURN COUNTRY and compiled a comparable list.

The results? There are 53 characters in AFTERMATH, 18 of which are police characters. On the other hand, there are 48 characters in BURN COUNTRY, 16 of which are police characters.

Are there too many characters in AFTERMATH? This novel has 7442 ratings in Goodreads, 40 of which are 1-star ratings. None of the 1-star reviews mention the number of characters. (Interestingly, fellow crime fiction author Val McDermid gave it 1 star!) Additionally, there are 113 2-star ratings, and none of these reviews mention too many characters. In fact, several have solid praise for Robinson's characterization. There are 837 3-star ratings, and I could only spot one review that complained about the number of characters. Et cetera, et cetera.

The point? Readers who enjoy police procedurals understand that novels in the sub-genre contain more characters than novels in other mystery sub-genres, but they appreciate them for the richness they bring to the story!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


You're never too old to learn something new about yourself.

As you may have heard, I was recently hit by the Type 2 diabetes express train, and I'm now staggering off the tracks trying to make my way back to Normalville. The symptoms have been very severe, including blurred vision, zero energy, lack of concentration, and poor memory recall. I'm now taking the appropriate medication, figuring out how to pay better attention to my diet, and aware that once the needle on my energy level comes back up out of the red I should get more exercise.

While this has been going on, as you can imagine, I haven't been able to write. I'd collapse in the chair, turn on the computer, open the files, and stare at them. Then wander off to find something else to do. Watching TV has been a favourite. You don't have to move while you're doing it.

Of course, being an analytical type, I've been trying to figure out why I couldn't even write a page or two. Even when I wanted to, I couldn't do it. I know where I am right now in the manuscript, I know what comes next, and I know what themes I'm currently working, but I couldn't put one sentence after another. Mulling it over, I eventually realized why.

When I write, I need to hold the whole story in my head while I'm working. I need instant recall of what I've written so far, and what the rest of the outline is calling for, so that in the current chapter I don't repeat myself or introduce something out of order. I even need to be able to remember what I've written in the previous novels, so I'm aware I haven't touched on such-and-such in this story yet.

It's like loading an entire computer program into RAM before calling up a file to work on. And right now, the program won't load. I can't hold the whole thing in my head.

It's something you're not really aware that you're doing, until you can't. I've taken it for granted, I guess, that I rely so heavily on my memory while I'm working, but I definitely won't take it for granted going forward. Just as I won't take my health for granted from now on.

As I say, you learn something new about yourself every day.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Police Procedural and Its Cast of Characters

The March and Walker Crime Novel series, which currently includes Hammett Prize nominee SORROW LAKE and its recently-published sequel BURN COUNTRY, falls into the "police procedural" category.  To enhance the experience of readers as they explore the series, it might help to consider the basic characteristics of police procedurals in general with particular emphasis on their cast of characters.

As crime fiction scholar Kerstin Bergman explains in an essay on Swedish procedurals,
To be a police procedural, a novel must have a set of police characters and--preferably detailed--descriptions of their work as they investigate one or more crimes.... Police procedurals generally display a police 'team of individuals, separated by age, experience, gender, race and ethnicity, [who] work collectively to restore and maintain social order.' *
Unlike other types of mystery such as the private detective novel or the cozy mystery, which tend to feature a single protagonist solving the crime with the help of one or two assistants, procedurals reflect the reality of actual police investigation in which a team of professionals, including homicide detectives, supervisory and management personnel, forensic specialists, and forensic pathologists or coroners come together to play their respective roles in the investigation of the case.  In order to maintain a level of verisimilitude that readers of procedurals demand, the author must depict these various team members to some degree or other as the case unfolds.

As The Guide to United States Popular Culture further tells us,
The method for solving crimes also helps define the police procedural. The investigative process involves a set of established professional procedures for collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, examining crime scenes, and conducting forensic inquiries.... The group dynamics are often highlighted, re-creating in fiction the friendships and hostilities that exist among any group of people that work together.**
With these critical explanations of the sub-genre in mind, readers may better understand that they will encounter a roster of characters in the March and Walker series, rather than two protagonists working in relative isolation to close the case in super-hero fashion, and that the respective roles and various relationships of the characters will be clearly explained in the story. 

As an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer stated about BURN COUNTRY, "Kevin Walker and Ellie March each go their own way in this case, as part of a larger investigative team. The interplay between the various characters feels genuine, with dialogue and exchanges that give us a good sense of each of them as well as their relationships with each other."

So whether it's Swedish police procedurals, American Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct, or the March and Walker Crime Novel series, readers who favour this sub-genre of mystery stories understand that a realistic cast of characters is all part of the police procedural experience.

*Kerstin Bergman, "The Well-Adjusted Cops of the New Millennium: Neo-Romantic Tendencies in the Swedish Police Procedural," Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Andrew Nestingen and Paula Arvas, eds. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011, pp. 34-45.
**"Police Procedural." The Guide to United States Popular Culture, Ray B. Browne and Pat Browne, eds. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2001, pp. 617-18.

Monday, 1 May 2017

It's Goodreads Mystery Week!

In case you haven't already heard, let me be the first to tell you that this week, May 1 - May 7, 2017, is Mystery & Thriller Week on Goodreads!

Goodreads was launched in December 2006 as a literary social network platform. If you're not familiar with the site and you're wondering what the big deal is, here are just a few numbers to tickle your fancy. Goodreads now has 55 million members, it has 1.5 billion books added to its lists, and it carries more than 50 million book reviews. Staggering numbers!

Wondering what Goodreads can do for you, book reader? Their "About" page suggests:

A Few Things You Can Do On Goodreads

  • See which books your friends are reading.
  • Track the books you're reading, have read, and want to read.
  • Check out your personalized book recommendations. Our recommendation engine analyzes 20 billion data points to give suggestions tailored to your literary tastes.
  • Find out if a book is a good fit for you from our community's reviews.

In the spirit of Mystery & Thriller Week, I'm currently running a Goodreads giveaway promo for BURN COUNTRY, the second March and Walker Crime Novel. For a chance to win one of five autographed paperback copies, bang on this link and get yourself entered in the draw:

Good luck, and Goodreads!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Early Reviews of BURN COUNTRY

Early reviews of BURN COUNTRY, the second March and Walker Crime Novel, are now beginning to appear, and they're very reassuring.

A "Vine Voice" reviewer posted on Amazon: "Kevin Walker and Ellie March each go their own way in this case, as part of a larger investigative team. The interplay between the various characters feels genuine, with dialogue and exchanges that give us a good sense of each of them as well as their relationships with each other. Michael McCann's immense research shows in the realism of the police work."

A reader in Florida posted on Amazon as well that "After reading this book, I am going to go back and find the first book in this series [SORROW LAKE], as I found the characters and story refreshing, true-to-life and interesting."

Read both of these five-star reviews here:

As well, a reviewer posted on Kobo: "Another thoroughly enjoyable police procedural mystery by Michael McCann. What can I say? I'm completely hooked with these books."

Read the complete review here:

More reviews will be coming soon, including those that will be part of an upcoming blog tour in June. A reminder: if you read BURN COUNTRY and enjoy it, please feel free to post a review on one of these sites or on Goodreads, LibraryThing, or any other such site. It's greatly appreciated!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Inner Ghosts

This week our sister blog, Behind The Walls of Nightmare, is featuring a Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming feature film INNER GHOSTS.

Selected to the Work in Progress section of the 2016 Frontières Co-Production Market at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, this film is written by Paulo Leite and directed by João Alves. It stars Celia Williams, Elizabeth Bochmann, and Norman MacCallum. 

To find out more, check out Behind the Walls of Nightmare!

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Little Change of Pace

Yesterday I took a little break from routine and drove in to Ottawa for the semi-annual Community Record Show at St. Anthony's Hall. As those of you know who follow this blog, I love attending this show and always come home with a pile of vinyl to add to my collection.

Last October I missed the show, so I was especially looking forward to the spring version. Here's a small sample of my purchases:

One objective is to fill holes in my collection, and another is to take a chance on stuff I've never heard of before. We have a little of both here.

The Nighthawks are a Washington, DC-based blues-rock band especially known for their live performances, which is what this album captures. Although you can't see it in the pic, the album cover is autographed by the band members and dated "Ottawa 82." $2.50. How could I resist?

"Home" was Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett's first album, their only one with Stax, the legendary groove label ($2.50). Canadian guitarist Domenic Troiano was the guy whose band backfilled for Ronny Hawkins when Levon Helm and the rest set off to seek their fortune as The Band ($2.50). "The Three" is an interesting soul/jazz recording featuring Joe Sample (the Crusaders), Ray Brown and Shelly Manne. This is the NY Inner City Records release of the Japanese recording ($5.00). "Oblique," issued in 1985, has been described as one of the best recordings to come out of the Netherlands. They were a latter-day progressive rock band led by Gerard Stokkink and Tommy Backmann ($5.00). New to me.

A great way to relax and have an afternoon's fun for not a lot of money!

Monday, 27 March 2017

BURN COUNTRY - Another Milestone Reached!

It's always exciting to review the proof copy of a new novel from the printer, and this time was no exception, particularly given how long I've waited for it!

As you can see, the paperback version of BURN COUNTRY, the second March and Walker Crime Novel, is now a reality.

Don't forget, if you want a review copy, check out our previous post to find out how to obtain one.

I can't wait to get out on the road to start selling BURN COUNTRY. I think you're going to like it.

Monday, 20 March 2017

BURN COUNTRY is Now Available for Review!

BURN COUNTRY, the much-anticipated sequel to the 2015 Hammett Prize finalist SORROW LAKE, is now available for review.

The Plaid Raccoon Press is pleased to make review copies available in paperback or eBook format (mobi for Kindle, ePub, or PDF).

If you are a journalist who reviews books for print or electronic media, an online book blogger who reviews crime fiction, or a fellow published author interested in providing a testimonial, please contact us at the e-mail address below to obtain a print or eBook review copy.

If you post reviews to Amazon, contact us and we will arrange to send you a courtesy review copy for your Kindle device.

If you post reviews to Goodreads, send us an e-mail and let us know which eBook format you'd like!

Contact us at and let us know you're interested!

Read the back cover blurb here:

Monday, 13 March 2017

BURN COUNTRY - Why Has It Taken So Long?

If you've read SORROW LAKE, the first March and Walker Crime Novel, you probably noticed the back-page ad stating that BURN COUNTRY, the second story in the series, would be coming out in the spring.

Spring last year, that is. Now that BURN COUNTRY is in full production mode and will be published this spring, you may wonder what caused the delay.

In fact, the title was ready to be produced last June. However, not long after the announcement that SORROW LAKE would be a finalist for the Hammett Prize for best crime novel, I was contacted by the acquiring editor of a major New York publisher who inquired about the US rights for SORROW LAKE and the North American rights for BURN COUNTRY.  I won't say which publisher, but let's just say this acquiring editor is extremely well known for her work in the US with Scandinavian noir in translation and that Amanda Hocking, the very successful paranormal romance author I studied closely when deciding to become an independent several years ago, had blazed a glorious trail to this particular publisher back then. I was very excited.

They held onto the manuscript of BURN COUNTRY through the rest of 2016. Once the winner of the Hammett Prize was announced at the end of October and Lisa Sandlin had gone home with the statue, I thought my chances had dimmed significantly, but still no word. Finally, I queried in December but received no response. A month ago, in February, I queried again and was told the publisher was not adding any new authors to their list at this time. I said thanks, and the next day obtained an ISBN for BURN COUNTRY to start the production process.

Essentially the publisher took out an option on the story while the Hammett Prize process unfolded, and afterward lost interest. I completely get it. While writing is a joy and a passion for me, publishing is a business. Understood. I wish I was a better businessman, I guess.

At any rate, explanation completed. Those of you who have waited patiently for more than a year to find out what happens next with Ellie March and Kevin Walker, I thank you very, very much. I hope you'll like what happens next!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Rural Policing in Ontario

Photo (c) Michael J. McCann
How does a large-scale police bureaucracy deliver effective service in a thinly-populated rural area?

BURN COUNTRY, the second March and Walker crime novel, continues to follow detectives of the Ontario Provincial Police featured in SORROW LAKE as they investigate homicides occurring in rural/small town settings.

Ontario is the most populated province in Canada, and it includes this nation's largest city, Toronto, and fourth largest city, Ottawa--our nation's capital.  This province is also the fourth largest in terms of area in square kilometres. While the larger municipalities in Ontario have their own police service, of course, the OPP's jurisdiction outside these metropolitan areas covers over one million square kilometres and well over two million people. As a result, the OPP is one of the largest police services in North America, with more than 6,200 uniformed officers.

As Kevin Walker reflects as he rushes out to the crime scene at the beginning of BURN COUNTRY,  the OPP Leeds County Crime Unit is responsible for investigating criminal offenses in "a rural jurisdiction covering 2,100 square kilometres with only 35,000 inhabitants scattered along county roads and back lanes that hooked and bent around countless lakes, swamps, and rivers. "

One of the questions explored in this series, then, is how such a large police bureaucracy with such an extensive mandate can still deliver effective service to a thinly-populated rural area like Leeds County.

Detective Inspector Ellie March, born and raised in Toronto, is a resource assigned out of OPP General Headquarters to lead the investigation of major cases in East Region, including homicides. Detective Constable Kevin Walker, on the other hand, was born and raised in Leeds County and comes to the crime unit from a defunct local village police service. Together, they represent the meeting point between a large, bureaucratic force and its individual boots-on-the-ground.

Readers who enjoyed Henning Mankell's portrayal of rural policing in Sweden in Faceless Killers, for example, his first Kurt Wallander novel, will want to see how it's done in Canada. BURN COUNTRY will be available for review in two weeks.

Monday, 27 February 2017

BURN COUNTRY - What's The Story?

As I've mentioned in past posts, one of the things I enjoy watching people do at craft shows and art festivals is walk up to my table, pick up a copy of one of my books and turn it over to read the back cover blurb.

Is there any better way to get a quick sense of what the book is about, and whether or not you might be interested in reading it?

With that in mind, I'm happy to present the back cover of BURN COUNTRY, the much-anticipated sequel to 2015 Hammett Prize finalist Sorrow Lake. Enjoy!

Monday, 20 February 2017


BURN COUNTRY, the long-awaited sequel to Hammett Prize finalist SORROW LAKE, is finally on its way.

The Plaid Raccoon Press is pleased to announce that the second March and Walker Crime Novel is now entering its final production stages.

Review copies of the new novel will be available in print and eBook format before the end of March.

Stay tuned for further details over the coming days and weeks!