Saturday, February 28, 2009


If you're not familiar with Sleuthfest, it's the annual writers' conference sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. This year's event is being held in Deerfield Beach, a stone's throw from my home so how could I not attend? Not to mention this year's Guests of Honor are two of my favorite writers, John Hart and Brad Meltzer, along with 220+ mystery writers, agents, editors and readers.

While the conference is geared towards writers, there are plenty of panels that fans would enjoy as well. My first panel of the day was something called "How to Read Like a Writer" and featured authors Vicki Hendricks, Caro Soles and Susan Froetchel. I found the discussion very interesting and for anyone who has an interest in writing, there was lots of good advice offered. Susan talked about outlining someone else's novel as a good exercise in how it works. Vicki talked about her experience studying with James Hall. He had her use a novel as a model to writer her own. She used The Postman Always Rings Twice and noted things like the number of chapters, pages per chapter, when characters were introduced, and so forth. It must have paid off because one of her reviews said, "Vicki Hendricks is Jim Thompson in a g-string." Finally, all the authors agreed that you should write a book that you'd want to read.

The next panel I attended was the Legal Eagles panel and featured recovering attorneys John Hart and Julie Compton, as well as prosecutor Jerry Sanford, Judge Barbara Levenson and was moderated by retired Judge Miette Burnstein. Hart didn't like his work as a criminal defense attorney, and the breaking point came when he was asked to defend a child molester a few weeks after his first child was born. With the support of his family, he quit his law practice and wrote the multiple-award nominated King of Lies. There was much more from John during his keynote address at lunch, post to follow shortly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maeve Binchy on YouTube

Maeve Binchy has a new book out, Heart and Soul. While the 68 year old isn't well enough to tour, she is savvy enough to use YouTube to discuss her how the world has changed since she started writing:

as well as her new book:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The 2008 Agatha Awards will be given for materials first published in the United States by a living author during the calendar year 2008 (January 1-December 31), either in hardcover, as a paperback original, or e-published by an e-publishing firm.

The Agatha Awards honor the "traditional mystery." That is to say, books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie as well as others. The genre is loosely defined as mysteries that:

-contain no explicit sex
-contain no excessive gore or gratuitous violence
-usually feature an amateur detective
-take place in a confined setting and contain characters who know one another

Novels and stories featuring police officers and private detectives may qualify for the awards, but materials generally classified as "hard-boiled" are not appropriate.

This explains why I haven't read any of the books on this list; in general, I read thrillers, suspense and hardboiled mysteries.

FYI, a ballot listing each category's nominees will be given to all attendees of Malice Domestic 21, which will be held May 1-3, 2009. Attendees will vote by secret ballot, the ballots will be tabulated and the winners will be announced at the 2008 Agatha Awards banquet to be held on Saturday, May 2, 2009.

2008 Agatha Nominees

Best Novel:

Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's Minotaur)
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Penguin Group)
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (St. Martin's Press)
Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry (Random House)
I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best First Novel:

Through a Glass, Deadly by Sarah Atwell (Berkley Trade)
The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis (Penguin Group)
Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris (St. Martin's Press)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)
Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan (Midnight Ink)

Best Non-fiction:

African American Mystery Writers: A Historical & Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland & Co.)
How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson (Perseverance Press)
Anthony Boucher, A Bibliography by Jeff Marks (McFarland & Co.)
Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Metro Books)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whitcher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Co.)

Best Short Story:
"The Night Things Changed" by Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe (Penguin Group)
"Killing Time" by Jane Cleland, Alfred Hitchock Mystery Magazine - November 2008
"Dangerous Crossing" by Carla Coupe, Chesapeake Crimes 3 (Wildside Press)
"Skull & Cross Examination" by Toni Kelner, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - February 2008
"A Nice Old Guy" by Nancy Pickard, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - August 2008

Best Children's/Young Adult:

Into the Dark by Peter Abrahams (Harper Collins)
A Thief in the Theater (A Kit Mystery) by Sarah Masters Buckey (American Girl Publishers)
The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Children's Books)
The Great Circus Train Robbery by Nancy Means Wright (Hilliard & Harris)

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