Saturday, April 30, 2016

I missed the bus home from the Edgar Awards. You won't believe what happened next!

(All photos by Peter Rozovsky)
Walter Mosley
I missed the 11 p.m. bus from New York after the Edgar Awards Thursday, so I returned to the Grand Hyatt and tagged along to a party at the Center for Fiction, where I had a nice schmooze with Sara Paretsky, ran into John Lawton, complimented W. Paul Coates on the speech he had made introducing Walter Mosley earlier in the evening, gabbed with Janet Rudolph, renewed acquaintances with Sheila York after we'd shared a row on a plane from Phoenix to Long Beach for Bouchercon in 2014, gawked at Meredith Cole's polka-dotted rain boots, and apologized to Otto Penzler for crashing the party, to which he graciously replied that he was glad I'd shown up.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Sam Reaves
Then it was back to the hotel bar for drinks with some of the same gang plus Reed Farrel Coleman and others. That part of the evening included some good stories about the Ivory Coast from Janet's affable husband.

Sara Paretsky
I forgot to mention yesterday that I've been going to these events long enough now that I knew just about everyone who sat at my table for the awards dinner. That included Sarah Weinman, Stacia Decker, Paul Charles, and Ellen Clair Lamb, the last of whom was happy to answer some questions about publishing. Once again, it was good fun spending time with people who know about things that I don't and who like to share their knowledge.  So I'm not sorry I missed that bus.

Jon McGoran, Linda Joffe Hull
© Peter Rozovsky 2016


Friday, April 29, 2016

What they said at the 2016 Edgar Awards, or Paretsky-Mosley for president

All photos by your humble blogkeeper, Peter Rozovsky
Star systems sometimes work. Two of the biggest stars at the Mystery Writers of America's 2016 Edgar Awards dinner also cut two of the evening's most impressive figures. Walter Mosley, honored as the organization's 2016 grand master, spoke with exemplary humility, passion, and great good humor, often about subjects this country finds it difficult to discuss.

Sara Paretsky
And Sara Paretsky, named a grand master five years ago and the MWA's outgoing president, reported on her term in a way that suggested she could run any damned thing she wanted to.  I was even more impressed after a discussion with her at a post-awards party. Mosley and Paretsky would make a dynamic, popular, and, for all I know, capable presidential ticket. They could flip a coin to decide who would be president and who vice. W. Paul Coates, who introduced Mosley, would make a fine press secretary.

Martin Edwards
Other speakers were thought-provoking and inspirational in the best possible non-maudlin way. Margaret Kinsman, a scholar who received the MWA's Raven Award, said: "I would like you storytellers to know we in academics are some of your biggest fans."

Martin Edwards, whose book The Golden Age of Murder won the Best Critical/Biographical Edgar, said he had "tried to address the rather patronizing attitude ... to these thoughtful mysteries of the 1920s."

Janet Rudolph
It was good to see Janet Rudolph receive the Ellery Queen Award. I've written for her Mystery Readers Journal, and she's been a friend to Detectives Beyond Borders for going on 10 years and to the crime fiction community at large for two decades before that.  And it was pleasant to see that Reed Farrel Coleman took the loss of his status as crime fiction's best basketball player with something like good grace.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walter Mosley
(Find a complete list of the 2016 Edgar Award nominees and winners at the Edgars Web site.)

Duane Swierczynski
Megan Abbott
© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Words, words, words: Nine years of blog posts on Shakespeare as a crime writer

Photo by Peter Rozovsky
The 400th anniversary this week of William Shakespeare's death has crime readers and writers remarking on similarities between Shakespeare's work and crime fiction. Here are links to some posts I've made on that subject over the years.

Some of the posts sound the standard Shakespeare-crime themes, mainly that lots of people die by foul means in the plays. Another explores Shakespeare's use of repetition to build tension in Hamlet. One post I especially like discusses a 17th-century criticism of Shakespeare that sounds like a 20th-century criticism of Mickey Spillane or a 21st-century knock on noir.
Sarah Bernhardt
as Hamlet

  1. "Hamlet, our crime fiction contemporary"
  2. "Words, words, words"
  3. "Jeopardy! catches up to Detectives Beyond Borders, then gets one of its own questions wrong"
  4. "A bit more from a great seventeenth-century crime writer"
  5. "Bill Shakespeare, sleuth / A question for readers"
  6. "Critic blasts crime fiction for lacking ontological scrutiny"
  7. "An English writer's Scottish crime story," and my favorite of the bunch, a post in which
  8. I catch Samuel Johnson out for an erroneous Shakespeare attribution in his Dictionary of the English Language.
© Peter Rozovsky 2016


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Classical (and biblical) gas: Walter Mosley's characters

Walter Mosley in a photo
I wish I'd taken.
I've been reading some Walter Mosley in preparation for next week's Edgar Awards dinner, where Mosley will be named a grand master by Mystery Writers of America and I'll be snapping pictures and schmoozing. Once again I ask myself: Does any crime writer take the Western intellectual tradition as seriously as Mosley does?

He has created protagonists with names taken from biblical wisdom literature (Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins) and from the ur-figure of Greek philosophy (Socrates Fortlow), as a bonus giving the latter a surname related to a Latin root meaning "strong." I thus take it as doubly clever that when Mosley creates a hero short on book learning, he drops the classical and biblical allusions in the name and cuts straight to a quality like those that such names embody: Fearless Jones.

But the Fearless Jones books also include characters named Ulysses (known to all but his mother as "Useless") and Hector. And Fearless' brainy co-hero, who operates a used bookstore when he's not getting into deadly trouble, is Paris Minton.  I suspect, given Minton's susceptibility to female beauty, that he just may be named for Paris, who eloped with Helen and started the Trojan War.

I take it is significant that all those character names go back before the New Testament to Greece, Rome, and the Hebrew Bible. Mosley, I think, is interested in the very roots of things. I find circumstantial support for this view in the novel Fear of the Dark when Minton notices a shelf of Greek philosophers and says: "I like some'a these guys ... But I prefer the older generation: Herodotus, Homer, and Sophocles."

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Photos from the 2015 Edgar Awards banquet

James Ellroy
The Edgar Awards, given by the Mystery Writers of America, are coming up April 28, 2016, and this year two friends and associates of Detectives Beyond Borders' are up for awards: Adrian McKinty, up for Best Paperback Original Novel for Gun Street Girl, and Duane Swierczynski, nominated in the best novel category for Canary.

Ian Rankin, Stephen King,
Karin Slaughter, Stuart Neville
I'll be there taking pictures, schmoozing, and maybe asking a question or two of 2016 MWA Grand Master Walter Mosely.  In the meantime, some photos I took at the 2015 Edgars.

Stephen King, Hilary Davidson
© Peter Rozovsky 2016
Sara Paretsky
Stephen King, Karin Slaughter
James Ellroy
Sara Paretsky

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Sweetheart of the Secret Service, or Bernie Sanders comes to (my place of) work

Bernie Sanders (Photos for Detectives Beyond Borders
by Peter Rozovsky)
Bernie Sanders came to Philadelphia today, including a stop at my newspaper for a chat with the editorial board and some reporters. 

We civilians got close enough for handshakes and, if one had a long enough lens, for good photos.  We were kept from getting too close to the glass-walled room where Sanders spoke by a woman I'd suspect must be the lowest-key and most genial agent in the Secret Service. 

"Where is the senator going next?" I asked.

"Need-to-know basis," she replied, but she smiled when she said it. "They only told me I was coming here this morning."

Granted, this was not the most dangerous situation in which a presidential candidate is likely to find himself. Still, the wide-shouldered, black-suited,  ultra-tense Secret Service man with a earphone stuck in his ear is such a reliable pop culture joke that the easy atmosphere surprised me. Even the black suits, the ones who stayed alert at all times and kept their eyes on the elevators and only occasionally wandered into the photos I was trying to line up seemed to be turned to 5 or 6, tops, on the tension meter.  So, props to the Secret Service for doing its job well.
Unlike Barack Obama eight years ago, Sanders did not walk through the newsroom. I was off  the day Obama dropped in, but everyone who was there reported that Obama joked about being shocked by the age of our computers, by one account giving the publisher a friendly chuck on the arm as he did so. And maybe that's why we kept Sanders away from our computers.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

"It is coated with a yellow poison paste and comes from Canada"

Why Robert Musil's story "Flypaper" might interest readers here at Detectives Beyond Borders: First, because the opening sentence of his story "Flypaper" gives my native country a shout-out:
"Tangle-foot flypaper is approximately fourteen inches long and eight inches wide; it is coated with a yellow poison paste and comes from Canada."
That's enough to make anyone from Kitimat to Come By Chance proud.

Second, while the story is cooler and more detached than noir generally is, its final paragraph includes this:
"Sometimes even the next day, one of them wakes up, gropes a while with one leg or flutters a wing. Sometimes such a movement sweeps over the lot, then all of them sink a little deeper into death."
Noir is sometimes about the horror of sliding toward death. Musil's story is about the horror, and the dirty little thrill, of watching something else do the sliding.
Musil's great novel, The Man Without Qualities, which remained unfinished when he died in 1942, weighs in at about 1,100 to 1,700 pages in English translation, depending on how one counts. But I once boiled it down to six words, in response to a challenge on social media:
"Empire decays. People talk. War looms."
You should still read the book, my choice for greatest novel of the twentieth century. But if you don't have time, my summary is accurate.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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