Rides the Black-and-white Horse

Some years back at a mystery convention in Boulder, Colorado, I performed this tone poem with John Harvey on tambourine, Bill Moody on drums, and a variety of semi-volunteers snapping their fingers to the beat. I wrote this as an homage to the mystery novel. Recently someone quoted snippets of it on twitter with illustrations, and I liked it so much I’ve added a few of my own.

I’m always amused at reactions of people who don’t read mysteries and thrillers, who don’t know the excitement of entering a frightening world of evil or an everyday town where strangers wait their turn to make mayhem. Got the shivers yet?

Here’s how the book sees you the reader.

 

I am a book.

Sheaves pressed from the pulp of oaks and pines
a natural sawdust made dingy from purses, dusty
from shelves.
Steamy and anxious, abused and misused,
kissed and cried over,
smeared, yellowed, and torn,
loved, hated, scorned.

I am a book.

I am a book that remembers,
days when I stood proud in good company
When the children came, I leapt into their arms,
when the women came, they cradled me against their soft breasts,
when the men came, they held me like a lover,
and I smelled the sweet smell of cigars and brandy as we sat together in leather chairs,
next to pool tables, on porch swings, in rocking chairs,
my words hanging in the air like bright gems, dangling,
then forgotten, I crumbled,
dust to dust.

 

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
a book brand-new, sprung from the loins of ancient fathers clothed in tweed,
born of mothers in lands of heather and coal soot.
A family too close to see the blood on its hands,
too dear to suffering, to poison, to cold steel and revenge,
deaf to the screams of mortal wounding,
amused at decay and torment,
a family bred in the dankest swamp of human desires.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
I am a mystery.

I am intrigue, anxiety, fear,
I tangle in the night with madmen, spend my days cloaked in black,
hiding from myself, from dark angels,
from the evil that lurks within
and the evil we cannot lurk without.

 

I am words of adventure,
of faraway places where no one knows my tongue,
of curious cultures in small, back alleys, mean streets,
the crumbling house in each of us.

I am primordial fear, the great unknown,
I am life everlasting.
I touch you and you shiver, I blow in your ear and you follow me,
down foggy lanes, into places you’ve never seen,
to see things no one should see,
to be someone you could only hope to be.

 

 

I ride the winds of imagination on a black-and-white horse,
to find the truth inside of me,
to cure the ills inside of you,
to take one passenger at a time over that tall mountain,
across that lonely plain to a place you’ve never been
where the world stops for just one minute
and everything is right.

I am a mystery.

-Rides a Black and White Horse”
Lise McClendon

Celebrating a Life

Reposting from my own blog.

The death of a mystery writer: it sounds like the title of a novel (and has been used.) But in this case it is Real Life. It’s a sad but expected part of living, part of knowing lots of people a little over the years as well as having your own close clan. Illness, accidents, and tragedy, well, they exist. Like it or not.

Last week a writer I knew took his own life. A heartbreaking part of the human story. I wasn’t close to Jerry Healy – who wrote under his own name, Jeremiah Healy and a pseudonym Terry Devane – but he was outgoing and friendly and like many newbies he befriended me somewhere along the line, at conventions and conferences. Among other things he’d been an MP in the Army and didn’t mind if you gave his bicep a squeeze. He liked everyone and had a big booming voice and a laugh to match. Once a law professor (always a law professor…?) he could lecture on topics he loved, crime writing, lawyering, and tennis.

In 2006 I was in Europe for an extended time and my husband and I joined the International Crime Writers in Zaragoza, Spain. It was a small group, about 25 or 30 writers plus spouses. We had a great time on that trip, visiting Goya’s childhood home and looking at his etchings, eating traditional Spanish food at a fancy winery, and being feted by the governor in the fabulous capitol building with its trumpeting valets and painted ceilings.

It will surprise no one who knew Jerry that he made a few impromptu speeches during that trip. After awhile the Bulgarian crime writer who bore a striking resemblance to Boris Yeltsin would raise a glass and call out, “Jerry Jerry USA,” with a twinkle in his eye whenever Jerry stood to speak.  Jerry led the IACW for some five years and was known to crime writers from Iceland to Bulgaria, Italy to Cuba. Naturally his last name sometimes became ‘USA!’ He would have liked that, the old Army MP in him, I think.

BluntDarts-small-97x150In celebration of Jerry’s life and work I am giving away a copy of his first book, the one that introduced him and his private eye, John Francis Cuddy, to the world. Of Blunt Darts the New York Times said, “Mr. Healy writes so well that he tends to transcend the cliches…The plotting is impeccable, and everything comes together to make BLUNT DARTS one of the outstanding first mysteries of the year.” Booklist said, “Healy offers a hard-hitting plot full of clever twists and turns. For readers who like the hard-boiled style shorn of any nouvelle flourishes.” 

Jerry will live on through his books. I can’t wait to read them all. Sign up for the mailing list to enter to win BLUNT DARTS. Everyone on the list as of September 7 will be entered.

New, Hot, Scary

McBleak-ExtractorsMeet Malcolm Cavanaugh Bleekston, most often called McBleak. He appears to be a one percenter, hobnobbing with other millennials of his ilk; excursions on yachts while extolling the virtues of banksters, and enjoying the fruits of his non-labors while the rest of us hustle to put food on the table and keep the wolf from the door.

In the novella The Extractors by Gary Phillips, he lays plans to take a greedy man’s gain while wondering if his girlfriend, who comes from inherited wealth but is dedicated to using her resources to make a difference, is beginning to see through his façade – and if so, can he bring her to his side or will she turn on him?  But nothing ever goes as planned, and McBleak has to think fast on his feet or his life might be extracted from him.

Available for $2.99 on its own app bookxy across all platforms as well on Kindle, Kobo, etc.

• • • • • • •

Also in Southern California, Taffy Cannon has been lurking at the library.

I was just on a Noir panel for the Oceanside Library’s Big Read program with Lisa Brackmann, Alan Russell, Ken Kuhlken, and Debra Ginsberg. On April 5, I’m moderating a mystery panel at the Carlsbad Library with Denise Hamilton, Vince Aiello, Isla Morley, C.E. Poverman, and Matt Coyle.

• • • • • • •

Blackbird_FLY=ebook-NOOK

It’s back to France this summer for the five Bennett Sisters, last seen in Lise McClendon‘s Blackbird Fly. The new book will be out in May (called The Girl in the Empty Dress) but in the meantime you can read installments of Blackbird Fly for free on Wattpad. Suspense, wine, & intrigue. There’s a snazzy new cover too, redesigned by the amazing Lisa Desimini.

Ready to read it straight through? That can be done!

Kindle Nook KOBO Paperback Audio

• • • • • • •

JD Rhoades reports in with exciting news. Look for his new thriller, Devils and Dust, coming soon.

I’m pleased to announce that Polis Books the digital imprint started by bestselling author and former St. Martin’s Press editor Jason Pinter, will be publishing six of my books this spring: all three books in the Shamus award-nominated Jack Keller series (with spiffy new covers, naturally) , then the thrillers BREAKING COVER and BROKEN SHIELD, all leading up to the release of a brand new Jack Keller novel, DEVILS AND DUST. I’m totally psyched to be working with Jason and Polis.

• • • • • • •

Kate Flora, 2013 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction winner, has been busy. She reports in on three upcoming book releases.
My crime story, Girl’s Night Out, will be published as an e-book by Shebooks, an exciting new internet publishing venture featuring fiction, memoir and essay, by women and for women, in April, 2014.
My Canadian true crime, Death Dealer, which was five years in the making, will be published by New Horizon Press Books in September. Death Dealer fascinated me because while the killing took place in northeastern New Brunswick, it would involve search and rescue teams and game wardens with trained cadaver dogs from the neighboring state of Maine to locate the victim’s hidden body. Two full first degree murder trials, and many appeals later, the killer was sentenced to life is prison.
The fourth book in my Joe Burgess police procedural quartet, And Grant You Peace, will be published by Five Star in October.

Well, You Can Parking Lot THAT Pre-Plan!

by Taffy Cannon

            Perhaps the only thing dedicated grammarians agree on is that the English language is under continuous assault by linguistic barbarians and probably will not survive the attack.  This position was first articulated in a compelling series of grunts by a cave librarian who overhead some surly cave teens using slang, known in that culture as “dung,” and has been regularly updated ever since.

Image

            Popular culture takes a lot of heat for perpetrating atrocities on language, and in my lifetime alone the named culprits have included beatniks, hippies, greasers, gangstas, hipsters, and folks in all manner of music fields: R&R, RNB, C&W, disco, bubble gum, hip-hop and rap.  Was ever thus.  Who can forget the Music Man warning the parents of River City to watch out for such nasty words as “swell” and “so’s your old man”?

            I believe, however, that the single most dastardly attack on language today comes from a source that might be considered laughable if it didn’t have so much money.  Yep, I’m talking Corporate America.

            A young grammarian of my acquaintance  we’ll call Deep Briefcase has become  immersed in a major national corporation, and has found the language challenging since orientation, when new employees were warned to avoid email jail, proactively touch base with others on the team, and keep everybody in the loop about the timing of bio breaks.  Bio breaks, it turns out, are a TMI way of letting others know your excretory habits, as opposed to the more discreet “breaks” that we used to take a few decades back when I was wandering around the business world as a perennial temp.

            Deep Briefcase was happy to provide the following sample of current corporate lingo, which no longer pushes the outside of the envelope or thinks outside the box.  Instead, it seeks sufficient bandwidth to take a 30,000 foot view of reallocation of resources, thus assuring a win-win.

I’ll ping Rick and communicate to him that moving forward, we need to circle back with the team to parking lot that idea.  My understanding is that he wanted to spike out some of those concepts and leverage them into a more brand-centric approach to client communication and get this project off the ground in the 3rd quarter.  We are using a much more robust piece of software, and should be able to solution for this issue I referenced earlier and drill down to deliver the final product by EOD Monday.

             There is much to find annoying here, of course, but I think that the single most irritating feature of current Bizspeak is its reassignment of words to different parts of speech.  For the most part, this involves turning perfectly good nouns into highly questionable verbs, and of the current crop, I have to say “parking lot” is my favorite.  Sure, it has lots of competition: repurpose, ball park, transition, prioritize, incentivize.  But “to parking lot” actually carries a pretty good visual.  Your idea, that brilliant concept those morons couldn’t understand – it’s sitting out there under an eerie orange-brown light in row 5-H, surrounded by other junker notions.

            Certain outright corporate doublespeak has blossomed in recent years as a sign of unfortunate economic times.  Take termination, which now has as many synonyms as “snow” in cultures located above the Arctic Circle.  Few, of course, come even close to addressing the central issue, being fired, or the end result, being unemployed.

            There’s downsizing. Rightsizing. Outsourcing. Reduction in Force, also known as RIF, which doesn’t feel like a Keith Richards move when it happens to you.  Some companies will even say with a straight face that you are being de-hired, as if the whole thing were simply Pam’s bad dream on Dallas.

            And if Bizspeak has gotten cagier about ending things, it is falling all over itself with beginnings, which now have their own beginnings.  You don’t plan until you have pre-planned.  Prepare at your own peril if you haven’t pre-prepared.  All of which will get you ready for the pre-meeting to set up the meeting on Best Practices, which is usually another way of saying outsourcing.

            But I’ll have to get back to you on that.  I’ll be out of pocket the rest of the day, drilling down on some low hanging fruit.

A Trunk in the Attic

by Taffy Cannon

I wasn’t looking for a coonskin cap when I walked into the gift shop in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon last summer. But straight ahead stood a furry six-foot tree of them in various sizes and I knew immediately there was no way I’d leave that shop without one.

Why? I can’t exactly tell you, though I’ve always loved playing dressup. I never had a coonskin cap as a kid, though my husband did, back when they were all the rage and everybody was singing about Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier. I dressed in Annie Oakley buckskins back then, with fringed vest and skirt, a spiffy cowgirl hat, and shiny six-shooters on each hip.

by Taffy Cannon

I wasn’t looking for a coonskin cap when I walked into the gift shop in the Cascade Mountains of  Oregon last summer.  But strai

ght ahead stood a furry six-foot tree of them in various sizes and I knew immediately there was no way I’d leave that shop without one.

Why?  I can’t exactly tell you, though I’ve always loved playing dressup.  I never had a coonskin cap as a kid, though my husband did, back when they were all the rage and everybody was singing about Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.  I dressed in Annie Oakley buckskins back then, with fringed vest and skirt, a spiffy cowgirl hat, and shiny six-shooters on each hip. Continue reading “A Trunk in the Attic”

I Want Room Service, Dammit!

by Gary Phillips

I suspect the reason strongmen and dictators don’t ask mystery writers to their parties is they’re worried these writers might not only read something from one of their books bumming out the gathered with passages about desperate characters taking desperate measures – and thus a not-so-subtle rallying cry to the downtrodden in their land – but one of these writers might make some extemporaneous comment about those hungry kids with their noses pressed to the windows of the castle.

Because generally speaking, writers of various political persuasion and stripes, Ayn Rand being an exception, tend to stand up for the put upon, and have a sense of fair play and justice that comes through in their work.  Some of them are compelled by what they write to other walks of life.  Clare Booth Luce wrote the insightful The Woman among other Broadway plays and became a congresswoman, and another playwright and novel writer, Václav Havel, was part of the dissident movement to free his country from the Soviet Bloc and became the last president of Czechoslovakia.  While as a teenager Chris Abani was jailed and tortured in his native Nigeria for publishing a near future novel and went on to edit the anthology Lagos Noir in this country. Continue reading “I Want Room Service, Dammit!”