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in one thousand or fewer words.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Robert B. Parker, RIP

Robert B. Parker, prolific American crime writer, has died at the age of 77. He has published about 60 books and has two in the pipeline with publishers. He is perhaps most notable for this Spenser-series of books which inspired a television crime/detective series. Here is Robert B. Parker's personal web site.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Harlequin Delisted from RWA and MWA

Background: these two FFO posts [1 2] gave the story of romance publisher Harlequin's dance with a self-publishing imprint, and the near-immediate threats from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers of America to delist Harlequin from their approved publishers list. The consequence of those actions would be that writers could not then use Harlequin publishing credits for membership into the those writers' professional organizations or participate in their awards programs. (There are speculative fiction subcategories in romance.)

Recently, Mystery Writers of America has delisted romance publisher Harlequin from its qualified publishers list, even though Harlequin removed its direct connection to the self-publishing arm by renaming it from Harlequin Horizons to DellArte Press. That link includes MWA's statement about their decision and Harlequin's reply. Earlier, Romance Writers of America delisted Harlequin, too, according to various sources. (The RWA requires a membership to read its breaking news section, so a link is not provided here.)

In a side note, here is an SFWA article (by way of Writers Beware) about the blurring of the distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

Yes, Virginia, of course there are puzzles to be solved. And there are Egyptians and Scottish Rite Freemasons and other ancient lore...this time in America.

This muted comment, from the L.A. Times reviewer, seems to be a common thread in generally positive reviews of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, the long-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code:

...And yet, it's hard to imagine anyone, after reading "The Lost Symbol," debating about Freemasonry in Washington, D.C., the way people did Brown's radical vision of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in "Code." That book hit a deep cultural nerve for obvious reasons; "The Lost Symbol" is more like the experience on any roller coaster -- thrilling, entertaining and then it's over.

Here is Mr. review of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wiretapping for Writers and Readers

Wiretapping, to use a generic term that includes wired, wireless and other means of snooping, is a commonplace part of thrillers, mysteries and other genres. (Has anyone wiretapped an ansible, yet?) Here is a concise article on wiretapping, that includes modern forms (such as IP/Internet Protocol tapping) and addresses some of the ethical/legal aspects of it. The article has some related sidebar articles on data collection/sensing technology used in mobile phone systems and DRM (digital rights management).

By the way, the article is in acmqueue, one of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM's) publications. ACM is a respected professional organization for engineers in the computing industry.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mystery/Detective Buffs: the Low State of Forensics

Whether you're a mystery/detective reader or writer, or interested in the criminal justice system, you may be interested in this. Popular Mechanics has a series of articles that generally decry the low state of forensics. In the first general article on the state of forensics ("CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics"), they give anecdotes about convicted persons who were cleared much later using DNA-matching techniques. In one case, a fireman who reported finding a murder victim later committed suicide when the case was reopened for DNA analysis. This fireman was a suspect that the Sheriff's Department had suppressed from official evidence. The wrongly accused man had been convicted on the basis of odontology and the matching of bite marks.

The problem is, forensics methods were developed over time by law enforcement people rather than scientists and were not given scientific scrutiny:

...Congress commissioned the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to examine the state of forensics in U.S. law enforcement. The result was a blistering report that came out this February, noting “serious deficiencies” in the nation’s forensic science system and advocating extensive reforms. It specifically noted that apart from DNA, there is not a single forensic discipline that has been proven “with a high degree of certainty” to be able to match a piece of evidence to a suspect.

In one study in the U.K., experienced finger print analysts were given samples from actual past criminal cases and were given the task of validating the original results. They weren't told that the cases were their own past cases. The results of the reexaminations were often inconsistent with the original results. (Data was also taken on whether knowledge of the result of the first examination affected the results of the second examination.)

In four related articles, Popular Mechanics takes aim at four pillars of criminal prosecution and police work: finger prints, ballistics, trace evidence, and biological evidence.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Can Frankenstein Save New Orleans?

If you've followed Dean Koontz's series of Frankenstein novels, you may be happy to know that he's finally publishing the third of the series, Dead and Alive, after much wrangling from his fans. It's arriving in the bookstores any day now. Here is a synopsis of Dead and Alive from Dean Koontz's Frankenstein web site.

This is the first of the series that Koontz wrote alone, according to the Wikipedia article about the series. The first, Prodigal Son, was co-written with Kevin J. Anderson. The second, City of Night, was co-written with Ed Gorman. The Wikipedia article has a very brief synopsis of the series.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Feisty New Sherlock Holmes Movie

The guys and gals at SF Crowsnest are reporting a trailer for a new Sherlock Holmes movie that is not as buttoned down as in the traditional treatment of this character. Flash Fiction Online receives a mystery now and then in its slush pile, and a certain unnamed editor-in-chief here has a fondness for this genre.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Two Agatha Christie Poirot Stories Found

If you bought the world's thickest book, you're going to be annoyed or happy, depending on the angle of your book collector/reader seesaw. According to the NYT, author John Curran found two new Poirot short stories while researching Agatha Christie's papers.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Audies Winners for 2009

The 2009 Audies Award for audiobooks have been announced which, according to TheAudies.com website, are:

Awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (APA).

Unless you are an out-of-touch Martian, you'll have heard of some of the winners:

  • Audiobook of the year: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman, Harper Audio/ Recorded Books
  • Fiction: Tie:
  1. DUMA KEY, Stephen King, Read by John Slattery, Simon & Schuster Audio/ Recorded Books
  2. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows, Read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, Juliet Mills, Random House Audio/ Books on Tape
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy: CALCULATING GOD, Robert J. Sawyer, Read by Jonathan Davis, Audible, Inc.
  • Short Stories/Collections: ARMAGEDDON IN RETROSPECT, Kurt Vonnegut, Read by Rip Torn, Mark Vonnegut, Penguin Audio/ Blackstone Audiobooks

Note that the award web site also lists the finalists and winners.

Other categories include: Distinguished Achievement in Production, Non-Fiction, Solo Narration - Female, Solo Narration - Male, Audio Drama, Audiobook Adapation, Biography/Memoir, Business/Educational, Children's for Ages 8-12, Children's for Ages Up to 8, Classic, History, Humor, Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction, Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multi-Voiced Performance, Mystery, Narration by the Author or Authors, Original Work, Package Design, Personal Development, Politics - Judges Award, Romance, Spanish Language, Teens, Thriller/Suspense.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

World's Thickest Book

It's a mystery what the world's thickest book is: a new, limited-edition (500 copies) Agatha Christie collection containing 12 Miss Marple novels and 20 short stories. The book has 252 hand-sewn sections each having 16 pages. A picture at this AgathaChristie.com web site article has a proper lady with book in lap if you wish to see the scale of the book. This is a HarperCollins effort using a period book binding company. (If you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it...but if you can, a HarperCollins sales rep will call you personally.)

I wonder if in their claim that this is the world's largest book that they considered the U.S. Congressional Record.

BONUS! Besides being Memorial Day in the U.S., it is Towel Day. This day celebrates towels because they are considered the most useful object in the universe, according to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Doug Adams. Don't Panic!

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Monday, May 4, 2009

2009 Edgars Awards Winners

On Jan 19 of this year, Flash Fiction Online noted Edgar Allan Poe's bicentenial. This event was no less observed during the 2009 Edgars Awards banquet held by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Here are the nominees and the winners (red, asterisks) for best novel and best first novel by an American author. See here for the other categories.

Best novel:

  • Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
  • * Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin’s Minotaur) *
  • Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
  • The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
  • The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House – Delacorte Press)
  • Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)

Best first novel by an American author:

  • The Kind One by Tom Epperson (Five Star, div of Cengage)
  • Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (Hyperion)
  • * The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador) *
  • Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
  • A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (Random House - Doubleday)

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speculative Mystery

I began searching out a genre out of curiousity using "science mystery" as my search. Mistake. I got nothing but stuff like yesterday's post about some of the mysteries of science. I found that "speculative mystery" was a better phrase. At the top of the search heap was the Spec Mysticon blog, that is a very nice resource to learn about speculative mystery. The bloggist (I couldn't easily find his/her name), identified these sub-genres:

  • Science Fiction / Mystery (yeah, that's what I was looking for)
  • Supernatural Horror / Mystery
  • Fantasy / Mystery
  • Dark Fantasy / Mystery
  • Science Fiction / Supernatural Horror / Mystery
  • Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery
  • Dark Fantasy / Science Fiction / Mystery
The blog supports an online publication, Speculative Mystery Iconoclast. I do like the websites, but after looking at the submissions guidelines, I think the bloggist/editor/publisher needs to correct his thinking: "No Flash fiction (for now)." I can understand the difficulty with a triple-genre work like dark fantasy/science fiction/mystery. That's only 350 words per sub-sub-genre.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe: 200th Birthday

Edgar Allan Poe's 200th birthday is today, January 19.

Free world premiere of a new movie based on Poe's life, today only: Last Days of the Raven. Or go here and click Watch the Movie or view info about the cast and production company, Theatre Crossing Film Corp. The website is vague about how long the free showing will be available. After today, you'll have to buy the DVD. Here is the official trailer.

Says The Literature Network: Contributing greatly to the genres of horror and science fiction, Poe is now considered the father of the modern detective story and highly lauded as a poet. Walt Whitman, in his essay titled “Edgar Poe’s Significance” wrote: "Poe’s verses illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal themes, a demoniac undertone behind every page. … There is an indescribable magnetism about the poet’s life and reminiscences, as well as the poems."

Flash Fiction Online published Poe's "Shadow - A Parable" as Classic #10 (HTML, PDF) in its Sept. 1, 2008 edition.

Other observances:

  • WSJ: Poe at 200 -- Eerie After All These Years
  • UVA: A student at UVA, he was honored - 'Nevermore' Writer Always Present at the University of Virginia
  • United States Postal Service issues $0.42 Poe stamp.
  • What's the connection between Baltimore, the Addams Family and Poe?
  • Observances noted in SF Chronicle.
  • Weird collection of Poe-related items at Guardian.co.uk.
  • Quiz: What U.S. President was born the same year as Edgar Allen Poe, was assassinated in a theater, oversaw a major U.S. civil war, fathgered the civil rights movement by proclamation, wore a stovepipe hat, chopped wood, and read by a fireplace? I'll do some research and get back to you on this. Follow-up: I've narrowed it down to Abraham Lincoln and Grover Cleveland (the latter of which who, if he ever wore a stovepipe hat, kept it a secret).

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