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April 24, 2014

Thursday Quiz: Simon Brett

We’ve been celebrating Simon Brett this week, so we thought we’d keep that theme going with the quiz. Mr. Brett is one of the funniest writers in the mystery realm: How well do you know your giggles?

    1. Blotto and Twinks are often accompanied by their intrepid chauffeur. What’s his name?
    2. What with dodging the Bad Guys, being falsely accused, and putting up with Blotto’s (admittedly endearing) ineptitude, the chauffeur rather exemplifies “long suffering.” And yet he has nothing on Charles Paris’ wife, who has spent almost 20 novels listening to her husband swear that he was turning over a new leaf, only to watch him – one book after another – get drunk, fall into bed with some nubile young lovely, and trip over at least one dead body. What’s the truly long-suffering woman’s name?
    3. In 1990 one of Mr. Brett’s rather rare non-series novels was turned into a film, starring Michael Cain and an actress that many would recognize from “Downton Abbey.” What was the novel?
    4. Mrs Melita Pargeter, a comfortably padded widow of a certain age, gets frequent and invaluable assistance from her late husband’s business associates. What was Mr. P’s line of work?
    5. Long before he began writing crime fiction, Simon Brett’s first career was in radio, at the BBC. One of his last projects there involved producing the pilot episode of a series that became enormously popular. The author of this series is known for (among other things) claiming “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they fly by.” Who’s the writer, and what was the series?

Last week’s quiz, now with an answer!


April 22, 2014

Making It Up


I got a scholarship to Oxford University to study History. The result of this is that I know enough about the subject to know how little I know. One effect of my self-awareness is that I was always wary of writing anything with an historical background. I was afraid of putting in some unwitting anachronism. I remembered too well the story of the Hollywood screenwriter working on some great mediaeval epic, who needed a rousing exhortation from the King to send his men into battle. He wrote a speech which began, ‘Men of the Middle Ages… tomorrow begins the Hundred Years’ War!’

But then I had the idea for the Blotto & Twinks series of books, about a pair of aristocratic siblings who got involved in adventures during that 1920s and 30s between-the-wars cloud-cuckoo-land beloved of Golden Age mystery writers. The social background I thought I could cope with. After all, the books were meant to be light-hearted spoofs, not works of serious historical accuracy.

But the problem of how the characters spoke was less immediately tractable. I didn’t want to venture into the kind of heavy-handed gadzookery that spoils so many historical novels. I knew, however, that there had to be a lot of slang. Anything you see on television set in the 1920s – particularly if it involves the aristocracy – is full of the stuff. And as a lover of P.G. Wodehouse, I knew how much power his characters’ slang added to the narrative.


April 21, 2014

Felony of the Week: Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger’s Moll

Now is the winter of our discontent turned (at long last) glorious springtime – at least for this daughter of (New) York. Sun is bouncing off the windows of skyscrapers, a breeze is ruffling the waters of the Hudson, daffodils are frilling the edges of the concrete islands in the middle of Broadway. To celebrate, we’re offering a discount on one of the giddiest, giggliest book in our line: Simon Brett’s gloriously goofy Blotto, Twinks, and the Bootlegger’s Moll. Trust us, there’s nothing funnier than financial collapse, forced marriage to an heiress, and gangster shoot-outs on the streets of Jazz-Age Chicago.

I love spring.

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April 16, 2014

Thursday Quiz: Jewish Mysteries

It’s Jewish Week at Felony HQ, in honor of Passover, so this week’s quiz is all about Jewish mysteries and Jewish mystery writers. Enjoy, dolling! But would it kill you to brush your hair?

    1. This author writes “like a Jewish Damon Runyon,” says one review, despite his spectacularly WASPy-sounding name. Best known for the “Moe Praeger” series (read, in audio-format, by Maggie’s old roommate Andy Caploe!), he’s also written three other series, as well as several stand-alone novels, and has recently been tapped to continue the “Jesse Stone” series originated by the late Robert B. Parker. What’s his name?



Jewish Mysteries

All this week it’s Passover, the holiday that celebrates the Jews’ release from slavery in ancient Egypt – and, by extension (and literary license) from all bonds that restrain, restrict, and tie us down. Modern interpretations of the story often focus on what might be called internal bonds – the bondage of addiction, for example, or of destructive habits of thought – and the struggle to break free of them. But there’s precious little discussion about what happens after freedom comes calling. It’s as though freedom – slavery, begone! – is something like the equivalent of marriage in old-fashioned novels: The point at which the story and struggle are over and an amorphous pink happiness begins.

The truth, of course, is that every story is different, and the happy truth is that some Jews have put their freedom to good use by becoming mystery writers. (more…)

Unorthodox Practices, by Marissa Piesman

April 14, 2014

Felony of the Week: Unorthodox Practices, by Marissa Piesman

Why is this week different from all other weeks? Because this week we eat the bread of affliction, otherwise known as Matzo. AND because this week we’re running not one but two Felonies of the Week: In honor of Reginald Hill we’re continuing our sale on all the books of his that we publish – nine of the early books in the “Dalziel and Pascoe” series, and four of his stunning non-series novels. And in honor of Passover, we’re offering a sale on Unorthodox Practices, the first in Marissa Piesman’s laugh-out-loud series about the ultimate Nice Jewish Girl.

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April 10, 2014

Thursday Quiz: Fictional Coppers

If I were truly loyal to the memory of Reginald Hill, this quiz would focus on Yorkshire. But I’m a pathetically soft southerner, and a Yank at that, so this week’s quiz is instead focused on coppers. How well do you know your fictional constabulary?

    1. In Martha Grimes’ “pub” series, Richard Jury reports to Chief Supt. Racer, whose life is made miserable A) by Jury, and B) by a cat. What’s the cat’s name?
    2. Inspector Morse has a number of grand passions, including opera, real ale, and crossword puzzles. He’s also keen on cars, and drives a Jaguar…but didn’t always. What car did he drive in the series’ early novels?
    3. Morse may love opera, but for Nottingham cop Charlie Resnick, it’s jazz all the way. Plus a snack. So what does Resnick most like to eat?
    4. Laurie R. King is perhaps best known as the author of the “Beekeeper’s Apprentice” novels, featuring a woman who apprentices herself to an aging but once famous detective. However, King also writes the “Kate Martinelli” series, about a gay police officer…in what city?
    5. The Dead Sit Round in a Ring (published by Your Favorite Small Press), features London detective Stella Mooney, who has “a vicious little vodka habit,” and is generally “messy, conflicted, angry, aging, and extraordinarily interesting.” She’s a splendid character in her own right, but also tips a hat to perhaps the greatest female copper in fiction, who could be similarly described. She was created by Lynda La Plante. What’s her name?

Last week’s quiz, now with an answer! And the previous two quizzes as well.


April 4, 2014

Felonies of the Week: Celebrate All of Reginald Hill!

One of the games I used to enjoy playing with my bookstore customers was “What mystery writer would you most like to bring back from the dead?” Agatha Christie was a perennial favorite, ditto Raymond Chandler. But meaning no disrespect to either, today at least my vote would go to the late and much-lamented Reginald Hill, who wrote a stunning number of books  (more than 24 in the Dalziel-and-Pascoe series alone, plus a clutch of short-story collections, the Joe Sixsmith series, and over a dozen stand-alone novels) and yet, by my calculation, didn’t write nearly enough. Andy Dalziel is one of my all-time favorite characters in the annals of mystery-fiction – fat, sweaty, vulgar, rude, and possessed of more nuanced intelligence and heart-stabbing decency than almost any series protagonist I can name. And I am at least as fond of Hill’s non-series books, particularly the ones that tilt toward espionage. Cheap thrills they may be – the literary equivalent of Doritos – but conspiracy thrillers are my secret guilty pleasure, and Hill’s Who Guards a Prince is perhaps the pleasur-iest of them all, with its twisted Masonic lodge and its knowing wink in the direction of the Kennedy compound.

Hill’s birthday was last week, but in a reminder that the Almighty doesn’t always giveth, Hill died about two years ago, taking with him stories we will never hear and characters we will never meet. Still, it’s always better to concentrate on the half-full glass, so on special this week: ALL the books we are privileged to publish by Reginald Hill. If somehow you have missed making Fat Andy’s acquaintance, jump on the series (completist-types will want to start with #1, A Clubbable Woman, but to my mind the series really finds its voice with #3, Ruling Passion, which came out in 1973). And if you’re a long-time Pascoe-and-Dalziel fan but have stuck there, jump on Prince or the wonderfully understated The Spy’s Wife, with Traitor’s Blood or Death of a Dormouse as a back-up treat. And raise a toast to Mr. Hill. He liked a drink, and if there’s any justice in the afterlife, he’s raising a pint himself.

Once again, this week only, all of Hill’s books are on sale at a 25% discount!