IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
With Regan’s April TBR!
What were your first memories of reading as a child?
My first memories of reading were my mom reading to me as a toddler. She worked with me and I was reading by the age of four. I read Gone with the Wind when I was twelve.
Thank God for Moms!
What were your favorite sleuths as a youth?
My favorite sleuth as a child was Trixie Belden. I had all the books in the series that were available in the 70’s.
Good ol’ Trixie Belden. I hear her name quite a bit.
What else do you enjoy in a story besides solving the crime?
Besides figuring out the “who did it” part of a story, I enjoy the interacting of the main characters.
YES. I love this too. The dynamics amongst characters brings out more depth, dialogue and conflict!
Name your favorite classical and modern sleuths.
I have no classical favorite sleuths; as far as modern sleuths, Lucas Davenport from John Sanford’s prey series.
Eh, I don’t have a favorite classical sleuth either. I’ll have to check out this Lucas Davenport character and see what he’s about.
How do they solve crimes and what makes them different from one another?
Both classical and modern solve cases by talking to witnesses and listening to their hunches. Modern sleuths have the advantages of modern technology, dna bases, fbi profiles, gps tracking, cell phone records, etc.
I love seeing how things have progressed over the years. Of course, the main staples don’t change!
Name some recent suspense books you’ve read.
I recently read Triple Six by Erica Spindler and I re-read all of Tess Gerritson’s Rizzoli and Isle series of books over the past couple of months.
Thanks for the recommendations! Gotta love em’.
Who are some of the best suspense writers?
Some of my favorite suspense authors are Erica Spindler, John Sanford, Lee Child, Tami Hoag
Lovely. I’ve never heard of Spindler or Tami Hoag, but that’s never stopped me from finding great authors!
If you could pick a character as the director of the FBI, who would it be?
I think the best choice for director of the FBI would be Benton Wesley, Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s husband, written by Patricia Cornwell.
Awesome! Great choice.
If you could marry a fictional character who would it be?
If I could marry a fictional character it would be Lucas Davenport from the prey series.
Hmm. This Davenport character must’ve really scored some points.
Name 3-5 pet peeves as a reader.
If the print isn’t right I won’t read it. I hate when a story drags too.
I can’t stand dragging stories either. Since I normally finish every book, I end up dragging right along with them. *Sigh*
*Who influenced your reading habits the most as a child?
My parents taught me to love reading. I was read to extensively by both parents. My father would put his rocking chair in front of my and my older sister’s bedroom doors, and we would go to sleep to the sound of his voice and the shushing of the rocker on the hardwood floor. We read the Narnia series, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, all the great books. The other big influence I had as a child was my paternal grandmother. Granny read mysteries and westerns, she got me into those genres.
I love that they taught you a *love* of reading. That says much more than just reading itself.
*Who were your childhood heroes?
Nancy Drew. Misty of Chicoteague and the two kids who own her. Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Outside the literary world, probably Carl Jung. My parents had a Jungian library for a while. It was the 70s.
Oh wow. Carl Jung. I’ve been enjoying his work too, among others. ENFP’s rock!! Everyone’s heroes are unique.
*What sort of books did you read as a teenager?
Mysteries – Tony Hillerman, Sue Grafton, I loved the Jean Auel Clan of the Cave Bear series. I read a lot of Sci-Fi – Robert Heinlein, Asimov, Anne McCaffrey.
Lovely. I like Sci-fi too. Haven’t read Sue Grafton yet, unfortunately.
*Any particular books that shaped you in this time period?
Watership Down was a big one. And The Hobbit. I use The Hobbit all the time when I teach story structure. Little House on the Prairie series, I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. Any book about horses, I’m still in love with them.
YES. I just listened to the Hobbit audiobook and it was wonderful. I got a better realization of the story this time around.
*How did you get into theater?
I dropped out of high school, so when I decided I was going back to school I had to start at a community college, because I didn’t qualify for a four-year. I started back, while working full-time as a bartender, and started with Spanish and Acting. Spanish because I’d need a language requirement and I’d been very good at it in high school. I grew up in San Diego, so there was a lot of Spanish spoken around me. I took Acting because I’d always thought it would be fun to try and I was easing into going back to school. I loved the acting class and went on to take every theater course Grossmont College offered, as well as working on a number of productions. I went on to get a theater minor at the University of San Diego, a M.Ed with an emphasis in teaching theater from UW-Tacoma, and a Ph.D. in dramatic theory and criticism from the University of Georgia. Throughout my educational years and beyond I continued to work professionally in theater and teach on the university level.
Very academic! I’d love to hear one of your classes!
*Name the core elements of a play, and what is its purpose?
This could be answered a number of ways. I’m going to go with dialogue, conflict, and universality. Dialogue, because despite the fact there is action in plays and we go to watch them, not just hear them, the basis of a play is the text written by the playwright, primarily in dialogue. Conflict, because without conflict there’s nothing to overcome, and if there’s nothing to overcome, there’s no tension or rising action or character development, and universality because it is through the specificity of a character or event that makes the experience of going to see theater universal. We have the opportunity to realize we often struggle through the same issues, regardless of race, ethnicity, politics, or religion. I can watch a play about a black family and feel it resonate with my own experiences, even though I’m white. I can watch a play about gay issues or struggles of faith, and while I’m straight and agnostic, I can still find common ground with the characters. It also creates the opportunity to recognize our own prejudices and hopefully become more accepting and compassionate.
Very interesting. I’ve actually only been to one play so I don’t anything about the subject. Thanks for sharing!
*How does the structure differ from a novel?
I would argue it really doesn’t, except there are no intermissions in a novel. I often hear people talk about “Three-act structure” – but as a playwright and novelist, I think novels are like One-Act plays, not Three-Act plays.
Interesting. I wish I could pick your brain more about this subject!
*Have you written any plays?
Several. I’ve been published and produced around the US, and parts of the UK and Canada.
Awesome. I wonder what happens next? Do you submit it to someone for casting?
*Name your top 5 favorite characters.
Bilbo Baggins from JRR Tolkien. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Pryor from Angels in America. Bosch from Michael Connolly. Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton.
YES. Bilbo Baggins is a wonderful reluctant hero. LOVE Bosch.
*Did your taste in books change while in college?
Simplicity is bliss.
*If all the books were going to be burned, yet you had your choice of three, which would you select?
The Oxford English Dictionary, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Then we could write new ones.
Oh wow. This is s fascinating choice indeed. Then writing new ones! You have the right kind of spirit!!
*If you could pick any fictional character for a sibling who would it be? Brother or sister.
Merlin the Magician. He would be an awesome brother. Though Gandalf would be a close second.
I can see you love magic! Personally I’d take Gandalf.
*Name your favorite modern authors and what you appreciate about them.
Dennis Lehane, he writes stand alones, a contemporary series, and historical, I love his breadth. Gillian Flynn for her strong, unique voice and proof women can write terrible people too. Blake Crouch, I can’t put it into words why his books enthrall me so, but I can’t put them down once I start them. Sue Grafton for her sheer tenacity and so many years of wonderful books.
Historical fiction is now one of my favorites. Not so familiar with the others. At least I haven’t read them yet. (Don’t hate me).
*What books would you like to recommend to us?
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens, Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
Awesome. I’ve come across William Kent Kreuger. Thanks for the recommendations!
Title: Two Days Gone
Author: Randall Silvis
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: Trade Paper
Paperback: 400 pages
A January Indie Next Great Read
“…a suspenseful, literary thriller that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished. A terrific choice for Dennis Lehane fans.”—Library Journal, STARRED review
“Beneath the momentum of the investigation lies a pervasive sadness that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.”—Kirkus Reviews
“…skillfully written thriller.”—Publishers Weekly
“…impressive novel…an intriguing thriller.”—Booklist
“…this novel [will] linger in readers’ minds well after Two Days Gone.”—Shelf Awareness
“Two Days Gone is a quiet, intense, suspenseful mystery about a man who has lost everything. Rich with descriptions and atmosphere….Two Days Gone is relentless in its suspense, and the final twists in the novel are sure to not disappoint.”— Foreword Review
“An absolute gem of literary suspense, pitting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and told in a smooth, assured, and often haunting voice, TWO DAYS GONE is a terrific read.”
—Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.
Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.
Barnes & Noble:
About the Author:
Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. His essays, articles, poems, and short stories have appeared in various online and print magazines. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Silvis is also a participating author in this year’s Mystery Thriller Week celebration along with 200+ authors from around the globe! Don’t miss out on all the fun. If you’re a fan, book lover, bibliophile, vlogger, blogger then definitely don’t want to miss this one.
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First Chapter Excerpt
The waters of Lake Wilhelm are dark and chilled. In some places, the lake is deep enough to swallow a house. In others, a body could lie just beneath the surface, tangled in the morass of weeds and water plants, and remain unseen, just another shadowy form, a captive feast for the catfish and crappie and the monster bass that will nibble away at it until the bones fall asunder and bury themselves in the silty floor.
In late October, the Arctic Express begins to whisper south- eastward across the Canadian plains, driving the surface of Lake Erie into white-tipped breakers that pound the first cold breaths of winter into northwestern Pennsylvania. From now until April, sunny days are few and the spume-strewn beaches of Presque Isle empty but for misanthropic stragglers, summer shops boarded shut, golf courses as still as cemeteries, marinas stripped to their bone work of bare,splintered boards. For the next six months, the air will be gray and pricked with rain or blasted with wind-driven snow. A season of surliness prevails.
Sergeant Ryan DeMarco of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop D, Mercer County headquarters, has seen this season come and go too many times. He has seen the surliness descend into despair, the despair to acts of desperation, or, worse yet, to deliberately malicious acts, to behavior that shows no regard for the fragility of flesh, a contempt for all consequences.
He knows that on the dozen or so campuses between Erie and Pittsburgh, college students still young enough to envision a happy future will bundle up against the biting chill, but even their youth-ful souls will suffer the effects of this season of gray. By November, they will have grown annoyed with their roommates, exasperated with professors,and will miss home for the first time since September. Home is warm and bright and where the holidays are waiting. But here in Pennsylvania’s farthest northern reach, Lake Wilhelm stretches like a bony finger down a glacier-scoured valley, its waters dark with pine resin, its shores thick on all sides with two thousand acres of trees and brush and hanging vines, dense with damp shadows and nocturnal things, with bear and wildcat and coyote, with hawks that scream in the night.
In these woods too, or near them, a murderer now hides, a man gone mad in the blink of an eye.
The college students are anxious to go home now, home to Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah, to warmth and love and light. Home to where men so respected and adored do not suddenly butcher their families and escape into the woods.
The knowledge that there is a murderer in one’s midst will stagger any community, large or small. But when that murderer is one of your own,when you have trusted the education of your sons and daughters to him, when you have seen his smiling face in every bookstore in town, watched him chatting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, felt both pride and envy in his sudden acclaim, now your chest is always heavy and you cannot seem to catch your breath. Maybe you claimed, last spring, that you played high school football with Tom Huston. Maybe you dated him half a lifetime ago, tasted his kiss, felt the heave and tremor of your bodies as you lay in the lush green of the end zone one steamy August night when love was raw and new. Last spring, you were quick to claim an old intimacy with him, so eager to catch some of his sudden, shimmering light. Now you want only to huddle indoors. You sit and stare at the window, confused by your own pale reflection.
Now Claire O’Patchen Huston, one of the prettiest women in town,quietly elegant in a way no local woman could ever hope to be, lies on a table in a room at the Pennsylvania State Police forensics lab in Erie.There is the wide gape of a slash across her throat, an obscene slit that runs from the edge of her jawline to the opposite clavicle.
Thomas Jr., twelve years old, he with the quickest smile and the fastest feet in sixth grade, the boy who made all the high school coaches wet their lips in anticipation, shares the chilly room with his mother. The knife that took him in his sleep laid its path low across his throat, a quick, silencing sweep with an upward turn.
As for his sister, Alyssa, there are a few fourth grade girls who, a week ago, would have described her as a snob, but her best friends knew her as shy, uncertain yet of how to wear and carry and contain her burgeoning beauty. She appears to have sat up at the last instant, for the blood that spurted from her throat sprayed not only across the pillow, but also well below it, spilled down over her chest before she fell back onto her side. Did she understand the message of that gurgling gush of breath in her final moments of consciousness? Did she, as blood soaked into the faded pink flannel of her pajama shirt, lift her gaze to her father’s eyes as he leaned away from her bed?
And little David Ryan Huston, asleep on his back in his crib— what dreams danced through his toddler’s brain in its last quivers of sentience? Did his father first pause to listen to the susurrus breath?Did he calm himself with its sibilance? The blade on its initial thrust missed the toddler’s heart and slid along the still-soft sternum. The second thrust found the pulsing muscle and nearly sliced it in half.
The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.Snap your fingers five times, that’s how long it took. Five soft taps on the door. Five steel-edged scrapes across the tender flesh of night.
*Who influenced your reading habits the most as a child?
Oh, so many people. Probably the earliest was my grandmother, but once I started school I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers. And once I discovered the public library and that librarians LOVED to help kids find new books about things they liked, I couldn’t be stopped.
Thank the Lord for grandmothers! That’s wonderful you had so many helpful people early in life. I remember two particular teachers in elementary that encouraged me a lot. We never forget the ones who truly cared for us.
*Which were the first mysteries that drew you into the genre?
The first mystery I ever read was in third grade, and it was The Brownie Scout Mystery by Dorothy Sterling. I checked it out of my elementary school library and honestly only chose it because I was a Brownie at the time, so felt that connection. Then, for Christmas, my aunt (the daughter of the grandmother I mentioned in the earlier question) gave me my first Trixie Belden book. It was the fourth book in the series, and I was thrilled to realize there were so many more Trixie Belden books for me to read, since I think they were all written before I was born. That led on to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and I read a few Robin Kane mysteries that my cousin had, but none of them compared to Trixie and Honey’s mysteries and adventures. Later, I moved on to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.
I love hearing about the mysteries that shaped a writer early in life.
*Name your top 5 favorite books and what affect they had on you.
1) The Odessa File by Frederick Forsythe – I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I still have that amazed feeling whenever I think about the answer the bad guy received when he asked why the main character continued trying so hard to pursue him. I’d read the whole book up until then wondering why, myself, and the answer surprised me so much—especially when I realized the clue had been there all along, but I’d missed it.
2) Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams – I purchased the hardcover edition of this book in 1987 because I was already an Adams fan due to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. So, I knew this wasn’t going to be your standard mystery. The absolute creative genius behind this book makes it not only my all-time favorite by this author (though the addition of Thor in the sequel The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul makes that novel come a close second), but I’ve read and reread this book (and too short series) several times. I haven’t yet seen the BBC program featuring the novel, but it’s on my to-watch list when I get time for some British binging.
3) Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy – This isn’t a mystery, but there were so many absolutely beautiful passages to fall into as I read the book. The first time I read it I probably took three times longer than usual to do so because I kept going back and rereading whole paragraphs and pages.
4) Every Single Novel by Elizabeth Peters – Actually, I like a lot of her Barbara Michaels books, too, and I own several of her nonfiction books written under her real name of Barbara Mertz. But truly, I love everything penned as Elizabeth Peters and own every title she wrote under that name. Rather than list a novel, I’d have to say her Amelia Peabody Mystery Series would be my favorite because of the way she wove fascinating real facts within her historical mysteries, and had such standout characters throughout the titles. For almost the same reasons, I’d have to list the Vicky Bliss Mystery Series as a close second—with less books in the series it doesn’t have quite the depth of Peabody, but it does a great job of blending fact and mystery plot and characters. And, of course, there are the Jacqueline Kirby books, and the many wonderful standalones Peters wrote before all her series took off.
5) The Harry Potter Series – I think every book in that series was wonderful, but together, seeing the complete series arc by the end, and all the pieces Rowling wove within the individual novels requires this whole series to be listed as one piece in my top five. But I’ve always been a series reader—as implied by my inclusion of all-things-Peters in the previous question—so this probably isn’t surprising.
I like these! Of course, I only recognize one of them, but I love to get book recommendations. There’s too many good writers around to count.
*Name your favorite classic sleuths and how are they different from one another?
I love Miss Marple and Columbo for the same reasons: they pay attention to so much more than just the visible clues and they want to solve the crime to truly give the victim justice—not for accolades or to improve their own position.
I also love to read Martha Grimes’s Inspector Richard Jury series, but primarily the ones where Melrose Plant is involved in the case with him—because I love Melrose. He’s kind of a contemporary Lord Peter Wimsey and I look forward to his arrival in the books each time and the way he impacts the case.
Equally, I especially enjoy unconventional sleuths. I often stay up late on weekends to watch the old Avengers shows with Diana Riggs as Mrs. Peel, to see what kind of off-beat crime she and Steed will solve—usually eminently quirky. And finally, I adore the new BBC Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman because they so perfectly play off one another and show not only Sherlock’s brilliance, but how his almost sociopathic tendency to not consider others is offset by Watson’s tempering humanity—which all comes together to better solve the case and understand the outcome.
I’ve yet to see the Sherlock Holmes series with Cumberbatch, although it’s cued and ready to go.
*How has reading affected your style of writing?
I think my writing has more often affected my reading style than the reverse. I’ve always been a voracious reader and read across all genres and literary and nonfiction standards. But while I used to be able to read through things that weren’t…shall we say…written as well as they could be, now that isn’t the case. I simply cannot read something filled with bad editing or—especially—are written with unbelievable plots, or if characters begin changing to suit a plot need rather than acting the way they always have. I just stop reading and move on to something else.
I find this very fascinating for some reason. The dynamic relationship between reading and writing is wonderful. I would say a voracious reader would develop a keen eye for the matters you mentioned above. Then developing the writing craft would only serve to sharpen those skills to a whole new level.
*If you could hire any fictional sleuth to solve a major crime who would it be? Who would be the sidekick?
I would love to see Columbo and Adrian Monk solve a crime together. I know that sounds mean because Columbo just standing next to Monk would probably give the OCD detective a mental breakdown, but to me it would be kind of an American Sherlock/Watson combo. I imagine Columbo would be the humanizing end of the team and Monk would be…well, Monk. But the crime solving could be the absolutely fastest on record with those two brilliant minds working on it at the same time.
That sounds like a great combination!
AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME
*Name 3-5 of your pet peeves as a reader
1) Love triangles. Hate them. Just pick a guy or girl already and move on to the real story. Don’t let the “which guy will she choose” go on from book to book to book.
2) Authors who don’t think readers are smart enough to figure things out and try to fill in every single dot or write mostly dialogue and skimp on narrative because it’s easier.
3) Characters who change from the way they’ve been throughout the story to fit plot problems a writer stumbled into and couldn’t figure how else to get out of.
4) Unnecessary sex, violence or language as a quick and cheap way to try to heighten the tension.
I always find this one interesting. Writers can learn so much by hearing these.
*How have mysteries changed over the years?
It feels like they’ve become more real to life through the years, but that may just be that I’ve gotten older and read things more contemporary to my life. I still love the old standbys like Christie and Dick Francis and Forsythe, but there are so many new authors like Michael Connelly and Lee Child who write fabulous, exciting mysteries that truly are 21stcentury. I think more than anything, we’re getting more blending of genres, so while we can find straight mysteries still, we also have great combinations we likely wouldn’t have had decades ago. The aforementioned Dirk Gently series, for example, or the fabulous Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz, both of which use humor and contemporary insight as much as they do elements of mystery. Another offbeat cross-genre example is the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler, or anything by Jasper Fforde.
Wow, great examples here. I’m very interested in this topic for some reason. So intriguing!
*What makes a great mystery?
It must give me something to figure out, and provide good characters I want to spend time with. I’ve read so many mysteries that I’m seldom halfway through a book before I’ve figured out whodunit, and that’s okay, as long as there are still surprises for me to discover as the character(s) still look for clues. I don’t want to know everything about everyone from the beginning, I want that to unfold just like the mystery, so if I solve the mystery halfway along, there’s still something to keep me reading.
That’s wonderful. There’s something so cerebral about solving a good puzzle, especially a ‘whodunit’. When you weave in great characters, the book is well worth the read.
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Author page of JR Handley, a veteran who writes military science fiction to excise the demons of his time spent fighting in the Late Unpleasantness in Mesopotamia.
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