Friday, May 04, 2012


A decades-old murder, a strange superstition, an enormous snake, and one giant secret are about to rock the beautiful Belle Vue to its core.
It is a time of great upheaval for the Belgian Congo and Belle Vue is not safe from the changes. But there are more pressing problems as an unsolved disappearance brings up issues for some of the denizens of the village. Add to that a sudden influx of strangers and a horrible storm that literally divides the village in half, and suddenly danger seems to be everywhere.
The lovely young American missionary Amanda, the police chief Captain Pierre Jardin, and the local witch doctor and his wise-woman wife, Cripple, all become embroiled in the mystery as evil omens and strange happenings at every turn suggest that more lives will be lost before the true killer is unmasked.

The action of the story centers around the lives of the free spirited Madam Cabochon, a native Congolese of Belgian ancestry with flaming red hair; Monsignor Clemente; the lovely American missionary Amanda; Police Captain Pierre Jardin, and a cast of colorful local villagers including the Witch Doctor and his intuitive wife, Cripple.

As the story unfolds we learn that Monsignor Clemente is in possession of a terrible secret.  Then, the one person who knows the full truth of his secret shame is found dead, and all fingers point to Monsignor Clemente. To what lengths will the good Monsignor go to prove he’s innocent of murder?  In THE BOY WHO STOLE THE LEOPARD’S SPOTS Monsignor Clemente finds there is only one, rather unpleasant way, to confront his predicament.

Before all is said and done, the entire cast becomes embroiled in this shrouded mystery.  With evil omens and strange occurrences mounting, will the residents of Belle Vue be able to figure out the mysterious forces that have taken over without risk to their own lives? 

In THE BOY WHO STOLE THE LEOPARD’S SPOTS, TAMAR MYERS tells a mesmerizing and authentic tale of intrigue, murder and strange ritual that engages to the very end. 

About the Author
TAMAR MYERS is the author of 16 “Den of Antiquity” mysteries as well as 17 Pennsylvania-Dutch mysteries for Penguin.  Born and raised in the Belgian Congo, she lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
For more information please visit:

To win a copy of THE BOY WHO STOLE THE LEOPARD’S SPOTS by Tamar Myers,  send an email to, with "THE BOY WHO STOLE THE LEOPARD’S SPOTS" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US only. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age. One entry per email address, please. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone. All entries, including names, email addresses, and mailing addresses, will be purged after winner is notified. This contest is only going to run for a couple of weeks so get your entry in by May 18th. Good luck!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Win a review copy of THE ORPHANMASTER by Jean Zimmerman

Have you ever wished that you could read a book before everyone else? Have you ever read a review and thought, "I could do that!"  Well, here's your opportunity! I am giving away 2 galleys (softcover book that comes out before the hardcover) to two lucky readers who want their chance to be immortalized on the BookBitchBlog! If you win, you simply have to read the book and send me your review. It can be as long or short as you like, only you can't give away the ending! Read on to learn more about this amazing new book and how you can get your own advance copy!

Set in 1663 in the hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (present day lower Manhattan), THE ORPHANMASTER pairs a beguiling Dutch she-merchant with a dashing British spy who together hunt down a demonic serial killer preying on the colony’s orphans.  

Nationally recognized independent bookseller Mitchell Kaplan (Books & Books, Miami) and award-winning Hollywood producer Paula Mazur (The Mazur/Kaplan Company) are adding Viking’s major summer release to their feature slate of bestselling titles including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

A Conversation with Jean Zimmerman, author of THE  ORPHANMASTER
 (Viking / Strict on-sale: June 19, 2012 / ISBN: 978-0-670-02364-6/ $27.95)
You’ve had considerable success as a writer of nonfiction. How did it feel to make the transition to fiction?

I’ve always considered it an incredible privilege to write nonfiction, as you get to snoop in private lives via letters, diaries, etc., in order to tell your story. That said, in writing on some historical subjects, particularly the lives of women, these sources are not always readily available. I found that I could use the research I had done and expand upon it imaginatively in a way that was extremely satisfying.

To produce its powerful effects, THE ORPHANMASTER mingles historical fact with some imaginative storytelling. What are some of the more surprising discoveries that you happened on in your research?

I found a map that was drawn in 1660, the first street plan of Manhattan , which conveys every street, structure, meadow and garden in the settlement. It was the world of my characters, and it was the geographical jumping-off point of my work. Also vital was the discovery of the orphanmaster function, an official job that was needed because of the dire trend toward parental deaths through sickness, shipwrecks or Indian incursions. And I also was surprised to learn about the sport of pulling the goose!

Your novel goes rather hard on one of your real-life historical figures, Governor Petrus Stuyvesant. Why were you so rough on him?

Stuyvesant was a complex man. Not readily likable because of his high-handed policies—no one wanted the taverns shut on Sundays!—he also created order in a time when New Amsterdam was going a bit out of control. He was somebody whose domineering personality would definitely create friction with the other characters I portray. Historically, he was so hated that the colonists refused to fight alongside him to resist the English takeover in 1664.

One of your nonfiction books concerns a colonial-era she-merchant similar to THE ORPHANMASTER’s heroine, Blandine van Couvering. What are the major differences between the fictional heroine and her real-life precursor?

For my earlier book, The Women of the House, I researched a trader named Margaret Hardenbroeck, who through smarts and sheer force of will became the richest woman in the colony that would become New York . She-merchants were common in New Amsterdam , where there were roughly two hundred female traders out of a population of 1,500 settlers—a very high percentage. Women such as Margaret Hardenbroeck (and Blandine van Couvering in THE ORPHANMASTER) loved the excitement of commerce, especially the high-end, high-status commodities like fur. Blandine is a young merchant, still earnestly trying to work her way up. But she feels the thrill of trade in her bones.

Blandine knows a surprising amount about seventeenth-century armaments and, by extension, so do you. How did you come by your expertise?

Research is a writer’s best friend, an area of my work that I have come to love and rely upon in nonfiction. And weapons are a fascinating subject to learn about. They were crucial to the lives of the people of the New Netherland frontier. Although not much of a gun freak myself, I read in the field and consulted with people I know who are knowledgeable.

In Blandine and in the villain Martyn Hendrickson, you present an interesting theological diptych: one atheist whose character we find ourselves admiring and another who is utterly contemptible. What thoughts did you mean to suggest by introducing the implied comparison between the two?

While Martyn has abandoned God altogether, or has completely subverted Christian ideals to his own twisted ends, Blandine is in quest of a new definition of God. Ever since the incomprehensible tragedy of losing her parents and sister in a shipwreck, she no longer finds the idea of God as personal savior compelling. Blandine is a questing soul, searching for a new belief system, while Martyn has settled upon a particularly vicious form of nihilism.

In a fairly early chapter, you ask, “How does the superior man live in a godless world Nice question. Any answers?

Drummond’s hallmarks are courage, kindness and reserve. He feels the need to change the picture, to change his idea of god, so he does not, indeed, inhabit a godless world. In this, he attempts to align himself with a larger order, terrible and immense, that he especially perceives in the staggering beauty of the natural world.

Your hero, Edward Drummond, observes that in an old-world cathedral it’s easy to believe, whereas in the American wilderness it is supremely difficult to maintain that God exists. And yet, historically, America ’s religious revivals have been especially vigorous in remote, rural areas, where God is felt to be present in the silence of the natural world. Is Edward just wrong, or is there some way to defend his observation?

We have to remember the seventeenth-century first-growth wilderness that confronted Drummond was very different from the tamer, well-explored woods and cultivated farmlands of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Great Awakenings. God for Drummond cannot be defined in human terms, since that would be a prideful distortion of such immensity. Rather, he sees the sacred as “[a]n entity, an endlessness, a totality.”

THE ORPHANMASTER features scenes of horrific violence and mayhem—possibly off-putting to some, certainly engrossing to others. What emotions do you yourself experience when writing these portions of your novels?

It’s really more about telling the story, getting the characters right, considering how they relate to each other. That’s what makes creating a thriller exciting and powerful. At the same time, I myself did feel challenged at some points in the writing, and sad when some characters suffered or didn’t survive.

Drummond’s idea of God is strongly shaped by his reading of Baruch Spinoza. For the uninitiated, can you briefly explain Spinoza’s philosophy of religion and why it might appeal to someone like Drummond?

Drummond has lived a full life and has seen violent and challenging things. He is embittered and yet still searching for meaning. Spinoza was the supreme rationalist. He wore a signet ring with the inscription “cautiously,” and proposed treating theological questions in the same way a mathematician, for example, might treat a triangle. In Spinoza’s view, which Drummond is coming to adopt, the old-world god has ceased to exist, to be replaced by a more abstract, less personal but more powerful sense of the sacred.

One of your minor characters opines, “The day when a corporation is accorded the same standing as a country, with all the rights attending to that status, will be a sad day indeed.” That also sounded like a somewhat “presentist” comment to us. Any thoughts?

Since all writers exist in the present, all writing is unavoidably presentist. I would say that it is natural to use your current-day intellectual framework even when you write about the past. It would be dishonest not to. And it can be fun to enliven a historical text with sidelong glances at the modern. But I also believe the rules are different for fiction, nonfiction and memoir. At times I enjoy engaging in what I hope is a playful insouciance.

Are there other ways in which you think your novel can be read as a commentary on present-day America ?

At the time of THE ORPHANMASTER, eighteen languages were spoken in New Amsterdam . The makeup of Manhattan is much the same today—immigrants, businesspeople, criminals, orphans, women striving to make something of themselves. The novel addresses in some part how the various ethnicities and races get along with each other. The heroine and hero of the book are the ones that show the most tolerance, understanding and sympathy for other people, even those not like them superficially. This is our mandate for today as well.

What remains today of Blandine and Drummond’s New Amsterdam ?

The Manhattan of today is still haunted by the ghost of New Amsterdam . New York ’s commercial imperative and devotion to progress have buried the past in cement, but the streets of the past exist largely as they did. You can walk Stone Street , Pearl Street or Broadway and see just where Blandine kept her dwelling-house or where she made her way across the canal at low tide. You can feel a poignant vestige of what was, and if you imagine intently, still hear the creaking of the Dutch windmills.

What are you working on now?

A novel about a girl who was raised in the wild, displayed at a sideshow in Virginia City , Nevada , and adopted by a well-to-do couple in 1875 Manhattan to be trained up as a debutante. Mysterious killings ensue, and she must track down the murderer before he gets to her. A darker side of the Gilded Age.

What inspired you to center your book on the year 1663?

It was a period of transition and discovery, danger and excitement. Colonists were arriving in Manhattan to create new lives for themselves. Beaver was king, and fortunes were being made in the fur industry. I chose the precise year because the frictions between Holland and England were about to play out in a way that ultimately gave us the culture we have today.

You can travel back in time on Jean Zimmerman’s website here or get a taste for 16th century treats with the below recipe for traditional Dutch marzipan hedgehogs! 

Tradition Dutch Marzipan Hedgehogs (recipe courtesy of Jean Zimmerman’s website):
·        Take two Pounds of blanched Almonds, beat them well in a Mortar with a little Canary and Orange-flower Water-
to keep them from oiling.
·        Make them into stiff Paste, then beat in the yolks of twelve Eggs, leave out five of the Whites,
·        Put to it a Pint of Cream, sweeten it with Sugar, put in half a Pound of sweet Butter melted,
·        Set it on a Furnace or slow Fire, and keep it constantly stirring, till it is stiff enough to be made into the Form of an Hedhe-Hog;
·        Stick it full of blanched Almonds, slit and stuck up like the Bristles of a Hedge-Hog.

To win an advance reader's copy of THE ORPHANMASTER by Jean Zimmermansend an email to, with "THE ORPHANMASTER" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US only. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age. One entry per email address, please. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone. All entries, including names, email addresses, and mailing addresses, will be purged after winner is notified.  This contest is only going to run for a week so get your entry in by May 10th. If you win, you need to read the book and send me a review by the book’s publication of June 19th. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Edgar Awards

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2011. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 66th Gala Banquet, April 26, 2012 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

BEST NOVEL Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)  

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Hachette Book Group – Orbit Books)  

BEST FACT CRIME Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (Random House - Doubleday)    

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)    

BEST SHORT STORY  “The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)

BEST JUVENILE Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)

 BEST YOUNG ADULT  The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Random House Children’s Books – Knopf BFYR)    

BEST PLAY The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig (Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH)  

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY  “Pilot” – Homeland, Teleplay by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff (Showtime)    

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD "A Good Man of Business" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by David Ingram (Dell Magazines)  

 GRAND MASTER Martha Grimes  

RAVEN AWARDS M is for Mystery Bookstore, San Mateo, CA Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries  

ELLERY QUEEN AWARD  Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group  

 THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD (Presented at MWA's Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 25, 2012)   Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown Publishing Group)  

Paul Levine e-giveaway!

Paul Levine has released all four books of the Solomon vs. Lord series in Kindle editions --- complete with new cover art. Book four, Trial & Error, has been re-titled Habeas Porpoise, which I recall him talking about when the book first came out. Glad he got to re-title it the way he wanted and more in keeping with the series. This is one of my favorite series ever! If you like smart mouth lawyers, a touch of romance, great Florida locales and lots of laughs then this will be one of your favorite series too. To whet your appetite, Paul is giving away a free copy of a short story, SOLOMON & LORD SINK OR SWIM to one lucky  Kindle reader. Read on for more information and all the details. 


By Paul Levine

“When the law doesn’t the law.”

So says Steve Solomon.  It’s his First Commandment, and you won’t find it in the statute books.  Which makes the following conversation even stranger.  A Miami lawyer recently told me that he uses “Solomon’s Laws” to train young associates in his firm.

That’s akin to teaching manners to sharks by tossing them chunks of red meat.

“Someone’s gonna get disbarred,” I told the lawyer.

“No way.  Those laws teach lawyers to be fearless and creative.”

Also irreverent, insolent, and contemptuous.  I ought to know.  After all, I practiced law for 17 years and had my share of courtroom victories, defeats, and being held in contempt.  Honestly.

I also created Steve Solomon, a beer and burger guy with a night school degree and a crooked smile.  He’s the rule-breaking half of Solomon & Lord, while Victoria Lord is his proper and meticulous partner.  Victoria graduated from Yale and believes in the sanctity of the law. 

In “Solomon vs. Lord,” these squabblers extraordinaire defend a young woman accused of killing her wealthy, older husband during a night of kinky sex.  Reviewers have compared the bickering law partners to Nick and Nora in “The Thin Man,” Dave and Maddie in “Moonlighting” and Tracy and Hepburn in well...everything.

So what are Solomon’s qualifications as a legal philosopher?  Well, he barely graduated from Key West School of Law; he passed the Bar exam on his fourth try; he advertises on the back of buses; and he’s frequently held in contempt of court.  Atticus Finch, he’s not.

I always believed there was something special in the attorney-client relationship, and so does Solomon, who has this advice for clients: “Lie to your priest, your spouse, and the I.R.S.  But always tell your lawyer the truth.”

On the other hand, there’s this advice for lawyers: “Always assume your client is guilty. It saves time.”            

In jury selection, I always used this rule, now codified in “The Deep Blue Alibi.”  “Choose a juror the way you choose a lover.  Someone who doesn’t expect perfection and forgives your bullshit.”

Some of Solomon’s Laws have nothing to do with the practice lf law, but rather reflect hard lessons learned from his checkered personal life:  “When meeting an ex-girlfriend you dumped, always assume she’s armed.”  In Florida, with the proliferation of concealed firearms permits, that’s a particularly appropriate rule.

Here’s a law from “Kill All the Lawyers” that used to get me in trouble.

“A creative lawyer considers a judge’s order a mere suggestion.”

Then there’s this law, which pops up after Solomon encounters a sunbathing femme fatale“When you run across a naked woman, act as if you’ve seen one before.”  If you ask whether that one is based on personal experience, I’ll plead the Fifth.

For an overview of criminal law, here’s a tidy observation from “Habeas Porpoise:” “A prosecutor’s job is to build a brick wall around her case.  A defense lawyer’s job is to tear down the wall, or at least to paint graffiti on the damn thing.”

That’s the thing about Steve Solomon...he never runs out of paint.


(We recently talked to Paul Levine, author of the “Solomon vs. Lord” legal thrillers.  The books were nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber awards, and have just been released as Kindle Exclusives). 

Q         “Solomon vs. Lord” opens with the lyrics from an old Frank Sinatra song called “But I Loved You.”  That’s a little odd for a legal thriller, isn’t it?

A:        Would you like me to sing a verse?

Q:        Only if you must.

A:        “Opposites attract, the wise men claim,
            Still I wish that we had been a little more the same,
            It might have been a shorter war.”

Q:        So, is it a thriller with humor or a mystery with romance?

A.        A legal thriller with humor.  A dramedy.

Q:        If you had to compare the story to earlier works...?

A:        Shakespeare, of course.

Q:        Of course.

A.        Seriously.  The ‘opposites attract’ set-up goes all the way back to “The Taming of the Shrew.”  Then there’s Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man.”  “The Bickersons” on radio.  “Moonlighting” on television.  Two people love-hate each other.  Life sizzles when they’re together, fizzles when they’re apart.

Q:        Let’s look at the book’s teaser: 

            “Victoria Lord follows all the rules...
            Steve Solomon makes up his own...
            When they defend an accused murderer, they’ll either end up in ruin, in jail, or in

            Does that leave anything out?

A:        All the kinky sex.

Q:        We’re not sure if you’re being serious.

A:        Totally.  My working title was “Fifty Shades of Plaid.”

Q:        One reviewer described the book as “Carl Hiaasen meets John Grisham in the court of last retort.”  Fair assessment?

A:        I probably bring humor to my work because, as a trial lawyer, I saw so much nuttiness in the courtroom.

Q:        In “The Deep Blue Alibi,” there’s a chapter at a Florida nudist resort.  Is it fair to ask how you researched the scene?

A:        Like Jackie Chan, I do my own stunts.

Q:        What about the title?  Are you paying homage to John D. MacDonald’s “The Deep Blue Good-Bye?”

A:        “Homage?”  That’s French for cheese, isn’t it?

Q:        Now you’re being facetious.

A:        That’s what they pay me for

Q:        Let’s be serious.  You’ve won the John D. MacDonald Fiction award.  You’re not denying his influence on you.

A:        After I moved to Florida, I read all of MacDonald’s Travis McGee books.  When I wrote my first Jake Lassiter novel (“To Speak for the Dead”), one of my first fan letters was from John D. MacDonald’s son.  I think JDM nailed Florida’s weirdness and corruption.

Q:        Does that explain the title of your third Solomon & Lord novel, “Kill All the Lawyers?”   A combination of Shakespeare and MacDonald.

A:        As lawyers constantly point out, that line was spoken by a villain in “Henry VI.”  The guy wanted to overthrow the government, and killing all the lawyers seemed like a good place to start.

Q:        While we’re on the topic of titles–

A:        Which you seem to be obsessed with.

Q:        What about “Habeas Porpoise?” 

A.        I didn’t steal that one from Shakespeare.

Q:        Or anyone else.  That would seem to be original.

A:        Here’s the story.  When Bantam published the book, my editors rejected the title as too funny.  Now, the story opens with two highly trained dolphins being kidnapped by some hapless animal rights people, so I thought “funny” was okay.  But we settled on “Trial & Error” for the book.  When I got the rights back for e-book publication, I restored the original name.

Q:        Tell us about your background.  Your education.

A:        At Penn State, I majored in journalism.  At the University of Miami Law School, I majored in the swimming pool.

Q:        You’ve been a successful television writer.  What advice would you give to people who want to break into Hollywood?

A:        Marry a blood relative of Jerry Bruckheimer or J.J. Abrams.

Q:        Lacking that, when aspiring authors or screenwriters sit down at the computer, what should they be writing?

A:        Ransom notes, maybe?  Look, it’s really hard to break into the business.  Some people suggest writing a spec script.  But that’s a tough route.  Years ago, Elmore Leonard said, “Writing a script and sending it to Hollywood is like drawing a picture of a car and sending it to Detroit.”  So I’d recommend entry level positions as assistants or script readers.  In the TV business, assistants sometimes manage to sell a script to the show they’re working on.               

Q:        Any last words about “Solomon vs. Lord?”

A:        I wasn’t kidding about the kinky sex.

More information on Paul Levine’s website:

(The “Solomon vs. Lord” novels have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber awards.  All four legal thrillers are
now Kindle Exclusives.  For more information, please visit the author’s website:

To win a Kindle only e-book of "Solomon vs Lord Sink or Swim," send an email to with "SINK OR SWIM" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and the email address where you'd like the Kindle ebook sent. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age. One entry per email address, please. Your email will not be shared or sold to anyone. All entries, including names, email addresses, and mailing addresses, will be purged after winner is notified.  This contest ends May 10th so get your entry in fast. Good luck! 

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