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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?

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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.

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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!

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Friday Reads: Two Likes and a Little Loathing

It is Friday and I am reporting on my reading, so I’m not technically late for FridayReads. If you squint. The exciting news, from our end, is that I’ve been reading not one but two books that are good enough that we plan to publish them! One’s an irresistibly well written piece of non-fiction – I know, quite a departure for us, but it is written by one of our best-loved authors – and the other is a terrific British psychological chiller, never previously published on this side of the Pond. Why am I being so coy? The contracts aren’t signed yet: Look for proper announcements when they are.
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A Killingly Good Play

Matthew Arnold famously wrote – at length – about the difference between art and fleeting entertainment. But he was a pontificating, ponderous pain in the butt, so I have long since tried to craft my own sense of the dividing line. I haven’t gotten very far, but I do know one thing: In my eyes, something that stays with you for years…is art.

Eighteen years ago I was in London and was lucky enough to see a revival of Company, starring Adrian Lester, an actor I had never heard of. I was blown away. I’m a Sondheim fanatic (this may not come as news), and even at that point I had seen several productions of Company. None of them had made me weep. This one did.
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Thursday Quiz: Murder and the Bard

I am still, a week after my first viewing, completely shaken by Red Velvet, a play about a 19th-century actor who specialized in the great classical roles. With that in mind, this week’s quiz looks to the fella Cole Porter so memorably called “Da Bard of Stratford on Avon.” Brush up your Shakespeare.

 

  1. If you attend a mystery convention, you may well see us roaming around with a video camera, asking questions. One of our choicest queries is “What’s your favorite method of murder?” Hamlet’s father was famously murdered. What was the method?
  2. Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s most notorious villains, but he doesn’t do his own dirty work. Name the two characters who, at Richard’s behest, open the bloody floodgates by murdering Richard’s brother, the Duke of Clarence.
  3. Actors tend to hate the stage directions that appear in scripts, and Shakespeare’s are no exception. Titus Andronicus, arguably Shakespeare’s most violent play, features one of the most difficult entrances in theater-history, with one character required to come on stage with “her hands cut off and her tongue cut out, and ravished.” She then has to sit around – bleeding from both her stumps and her nether regions, presumably – while her uncle makes a long and boring speech about the awfulness of her injuries. What’s the poor girl’s name?
  4. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously described a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays as being driven by “motiveless malignity.” (Readers may understand this as a swanky way of saying “I dunno…he just plain bad.”) What’s the play?
  5. Shakespeare wrote some spectacularly vicious women. The neurotically hand-scrubbing Lady MacB. may be the most well-known, but in a cage-fight, I’d put my money on Queen Margaret, from Henry VI, Part Three. She has a memorably chilling monologue on the battlefield, in which she goes frighteningly nuts while taunting her royal prisoner. The speech ends with her order to her henchmen: “Off with the crown, and with the crown his head; And, whilst we breathe, take time to do him dead.” Who’s the hapless victim? And, for extra credit, what’s his relationship to Richard III?

Answers to the two previous week’s quizzes will appear shortly; Julia is on vacation and Maggie cannot remotely figure out how to work the thingie with the thing.