The Incident Report covers the world of small press crime fiction for the week of November 25th through December 1st with news and new releases
The big news in the mystery community was the awarding and subsequent taking away of the Grand Master award to Linda Fairstein. She is considered by many as being complicit in the wrongful conviction of Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, and Korey Wise, five young African-American boys who are known collectively as the Central Park Five. Their convictions were vacated.
Thirteen years after an investment banker jogging in Central Park was savagely beaten, raped and left for dead, a Manhattan judge threw out the convictions yesterday of the five young men who had confessed to attacking the woman on a night of violence that stunned the city and the nation.
Subsequently, the City of New York agreed to a $40 million settlement with the wrongfully convicted men.
And yet Linda Fairstein to this day feels she has done nothing wrong and bluntly continues to tell the public so.
Let’s take a step back and see how this unfolded. Early on November 27th, the Mystery Writers of America announced that two mystery writers would be honored with Martin Cruz Smith and Linda Fairstein. Smith is best known as the author of “Gorky Park”. Fairstein’s claim to fame is the Central Park Five conviction and the author of some books you’ve never heard of.
Being from outside of New York, I was unaware of Fairstein’s involvement in this infamously racist travesty. Luckily Attica Locke, author of “Bluebird Bluebird” and winner of the 2018 Edgar Award for Best Novel, knew of Fairstein’s issues and spoke up.
Many writers and fans helped increase the volume of Locke’s tweets. Some of the writers were Lori Rader-Day, Jordan Harper, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Elizabeth Little, Winnie M. Lee, Sarah Weinman, Danny Gardner, Jason Pinter, and Rob Hart. Special shout-out to Stephanie Cha and Nick Kolakowski for articles they published in the Los Angeles Times and Do Some Damage respectively. Apologies to anyone I missed.
But what was disconcerting was the number of writers who said nothing such as Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Don Winslow to name a few. (I used Twitter to see if they even had a retweet of Locke’s first tweet. I set the bar really low.)
Though the Mystery Writers of America rescinded the honor to Fairstein, there are still several questions that need to be answered. How could this possibly have happened? Fairstein’s involvement with the Central Park Five can be found with the lightest of research. Did those in charge think they could sneak one by? Also, the MWA’s apology has its own problems.
On Tuesday, November 27, Mystery Writers of America announced the recipients of Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Awards, special awards given out annually. Shortly afterwards, the MWA membership began to express concern over the inclusion of Linda Fairstein as a Grand Master, citing controversy in which she has been involved.
When the MWA Board made its selection, it was unaware of Ms. Fairstein’s role in the controversy.
After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.
MWA will be reevaluating and significantly revising its procedures for selecting honorary awards in the future. We hope our members will all work with us to move forward from this extremely troubling event and continue to build a strong and inclusive organization.
This a classic non-apology that they apologized “for any pain and disappoint this situation has caused.” They didn’t apologize for screwing up, they apologized for your pain. They also skirted the entire Central Park Five issue by citing a nebulous “controversy”. It’s like the MWA is either totally ignoring her assisting Harvey Weinstein or are they that naive.
It will be interesting to see what happens.
Kellye Garrett, author of “Hollywood Ending”, tweeted about a Forbes article covering the shutdown of Midnight Ink, “What Authors Should Do When Their Publisher Closes”. The publisher might protest that they aren’t shutting down, that they are “merely not taking any new submissions and not publishing new titles beyond September 2019.” Me thinks Midnight Ink is protesting too much, protesting like anti-homosexual Republican politician who ends up getting caught being with their pants down.
I disagree with the general consensus of writers of writers just get back to writing and try not to worry about what is happening with the publisher. The book is your work, you own it. You just lent it to a publisher for some cash. It was a business transaction. Do everything in your power to get it back and shop it elsewhere. Writers with Midnight Ink need to remember that Llewellyn, the parent publisher, is treating the closing of their imprint as a business decision as you should.
While we are on the subject of Kellye Garrett, she had a wonderful article regarding writers of color for the Los Angeles Review of Books, “It’s Up to Us: A Roundtable Discussion”. Along with Garrett, the discussion included Gar Anthony Haywood, author of the Aaron Gunner series; Walter Mosley, author of the Easy Rawlins series; Barbara Neely, author of the Blanche White series; Rachel Howzell-Hall, author of the Detective Eloise Norton series; and Kyra Davis, author of the Sophie Katz series.
The wide-ranging conversation begins how they all got started and as Davis noted, “And it was interesting because, like most of us, I lived in a bit of a bubble. I didn’t realize that my character’s ethnicity would cause a conversation.”
They talked about having to explain things from the Black experience or sometimes leaving them out. Howzell-Hall noticed that this doesn’t go both ways, “But she sees like I see that white folks get to explain things and say things that none of us understand but they keep going. It’s up to me as a reader to figure out what the hell life in Maine is like.”
Remember Karl Ove Knausgård wrote his ridiculous anti-dog essay in The New Yorker? Of course you do. Jonathan Franzen and his publisher FSG in a fit of not be out-Frasier’ed, reprinted Franzen’s “10 Rules for Novelists”. The response on Twitter was almost immediate.
LitHub got in on the action as well with a write-up of the reaction. But what was funnier were the tweets rushing to defend Franzen’s asinine pretentiousness.
But, I’ll just end it this Franzen-bashing with this quip from 2012, “The truth is that Franzen is really good at being an asshole.”
Gravy Train by Tess Makovesky
All Due Respect
Crime pays. So barmaid Sandra thinks when she overhears details of a betting scam and wins herself and fat husband Mike eighty thousand pounds. But they’ve reckoned without mugger Lenny, lying in wait outside the betting shop door. And he’s reckoned without a top-notch car thief, his own devious boss, a fellow gang-member with a grudge, and Sandra’s unpleasant almost-Uncle George.
Chaos ensues as a whole bunch of disparate—and desperate—characters chase the bag of money around Birmingham’s back streets. Plenty of them help themselves to the cash, but none of them are good at hanging onto it. As they hurtle towards a frantic showdown on the banks of the local canal, will any of them see their ill-gotten gains again? Or will their precious gravy train come shuddering to a halt?
The Bad Kind of Lucky by Matt Phillips
Remmie Miken is starting over after a bad run. He’s got himself a crappy apartment in the big city and a job hustling burgers and fries. One night Remmie makes nice with a neighborhood gangster. So begins his quixotic pursuit of a whore-on-the-run and ten grand in cash. Heading south into Baja, Remmie brushes shoulders with lowdown crooks, a Catholic priest, cartel enforcers, a strawberry picker, and a wild-eyed expat.
The Bad Kind of Lucky is a twisted comedic noir that follows Remmie straight into the void.
Skin & Bones edited by Dana C Kabel
Down & Out Press
From a host of bestselling and award-winning authors come the stories from the darkest corners of their imaginations featuring one of the most abhorrent acts of mankind; cannibalism!
Throughout history, human beings have feasted on human flesh. Whether it was to survive starvation or to horrify their enemies or to satisfy their own deranged urges, people have eaten other people for centuries.
Skin & Bones features stories by Patricia Abbott, Charles Ardai, Lawrence Block, Joe Clifford, Angel Luis Colón, Bill Crider, Glenn Gray, Tim Hall, Rob Hart, Tess Makovesky, Terrence McCauley, Marietta Miles, Richie Narvaez, Stuart Neville, Thomas Pluck, Ryan Sayles, S.A. Solomon, Jason Starr, Liam Sweeny, Dave Zeltserman, and Dana C. Kabel.
The Big Machine Eats by Beau Johnson
Down & Out Books
Life has never been easy. Life has never been kind. It is always hungry. It is never full. Enter the struggles within the pages of The Big Machine Eats. Where fathers clash with sons, cannibals turn on cannibals, and sometimes sandwich meat is far from the worst choice a person can make.
These stories, along with the continuing adventures of Bishop Rider, make up the bulk of this collection. They are not for the faint of heart. They are not for those who fail to believe one should get what one deserves. We must help ourselves. We must help those who find themselves unable. If not, it’s as the sign says: The Big Machine Will Eat.
Adrenaline Junkie by Les Edgerton
Down & Out Books
Adrenaline Junkie is more than a renowned, multi-award-winning author entertaining with his life history. Les Edgerton understands that backstory matters. It influences the present. So he journeyed through his past seeking answers for why he was the way he was. Seeking answers for his thrill-seeking, devil-may-care, often self-destructive, behaviors. Seeking a sense of personal peace.
Why was he compelled to be the best he could be in all his endeavors—legal or otherwise. What drove him to excel, then flee success, only to strive for supremacy in another field?
Adrenaline Junkie holds the answers. With nothing held back. With his life-saving humor, an indomitable spirit, and a fierce courage to expose the ugly and painful. Like the tough, raw, vulnerable characters Les writes about in his short stories and novels, he exposes us to a man fighting against family, society, and his own sense of injustice. Fighting for a moment—regardless of how fleeting—to feel in control of his life. And, as uncomfortable at times as Les’s life adventure may be for us to witness, we come away grateful he took us with him.
So settle back. Meet a real-life, twenty-first-century Renaissance man. A real-life adrenaline junkie.
101 by Tom Pitts
Down & Out Books
On the cusp of pot legalization in California, Jerry runs afoul of some San Francisco bikers in the marijuana game. He flees straight up Highway 101 to Humboldt County to hide out deep in the hills at Vic’s, a reclusive pot farmer and old pal of his tough-as-nails mother. But trouble finds Jerry no matter where he goes and soon the bikers, a pair of stone killers, and a Russian weed tycoon named Vlad the Inhaler are all hot on Jerry’s trail.
Fallout from the unfolding chaos piques the interest of SFPD detective, Roland Mackie, when he learns Jerry’s host, Vic, is somehow involved. It opens a twenty-year-old wound, an unsolved case called the Fulton Street Massacre, and Mackie is willing to do whatever it takes to get a pair of cuffs on the elusive Vic.
When Jerry and his protectors are chased off the mountain and back down the 101 to an inevitable showdown back in the Bay, he learns Vic is much more than his host, he’s a mentor, his mother’s hero, and the toughest man he’s ever met.
With an unforgettable cast of characters and an action-packed plot, 101 is a wild ride through Northern California’s “emerald triangle.”
Broken Dreams by Nick Quantril
A cracking authentic crime thriller.
Joe Geraghty is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull.
Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times.
The case soon becomes anything but routine when Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.
As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends.
With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.
Broken Dreams is the first urban thriller from Hull based writer ,Nick Quantrill, featuring private detective Joe Geraghty.
Mistress Murder by Mark Ramsden
“A visceral, comic, sexy masterpiece.”
Susie Godly is many things to many people. Lover, daughter, mother, ex-wife, entrepreneur and – in her guise as Mistress Murder – one of the most in-demand dominatrixes in London.
Susie has bought herself a first-class ticket on the hedonism express and shows no sign of slowing down for anyone or anything. Yes, her marriage ended badly – sure, it’s fair to say she’s probably doing a few too many drugs – and yeah, most people would agree her love-life sits at the more ‘complicated’ end of the spectrum – but it’s nothing Susie can’t handle, right?
As she does her best to ride the wave of joyous mayhem she’s created, Susie’s attempts to live her best life are thwarted by the appearance of a mysterious stalker who seems infuriated by both her and her lifestyle. Susie’s dealt with stalkers before of course – they’re par for the course in her business – but this one operates on a different level of malevolence, and she is forced to take desperate steps to ensure her safety and the safety of the people she loves.
Mistress Murder provides a hilarious, beautifully frank, and entirely unselfconscious window into a hedonistic subculture where few have dared to tread.
August by Jim Lusby
“The return of a master story-teller… With August, Jim Lusby easily reclaims his place alongside Rankin, McDermid & Connolly.”
Detective Sergeant Jack Mason’s search for an escaped convict is derailed by the discovery of the bodies of three teenagers in the crypt of a deconsecrated church.
Initially the case looks to be straightforward – teenage drug experimentation gone wrong, ending in a tragic double murder and suicide.
Tragic but no great mystery.
Some hope. Much to Mason’s annoyance any chance of a quick resolution become a distant hope when evidence of occult rituals are uncovered at the murder scene.
Jack Mason has no choice but to follow the case wherever it leads. As a result he finds himself embroiled in the dark underside of modern Irish society where the establishment closes ranks to ignore the spectre of institutional child abuse, where organised crime gangs operate an increasingly violent drug trade, and where populist politicians build their reputations whipping up hysteria over immigration.
As the complicated case unfolds, deeply buried memories from Mason’s past begin to resurface causing the competing demands of the investigation and his increasingly chaotic personal life to become almost overwhelming.
The Late Greats by Nick Quantril
“Hull’s most successful band of the 1990s is making a comeback…but not everyone is happy…”
Having been convinced by their manager, Kane Major, to put their acrimonious break-up behind them and launch a comeback, New Holland, Hull’s most successful band of the 1990s, is reforming.
Allowing one privileged journalist to document the process. Joe Geraghty is employed to act as a liaison between the different camps. What appears to be a straightforward assignment sees him neck deep in trouble when singer, Greg Tasker, disappears leaving behind a trail of people who wanted him out of their lives.
Geraghty has to choose sides and the investigation penetrates deeper into the city. As the rich and famous rub shoulders with the poor and vulnerable, the stakes increase.
Forced to keep his friends close but his enemies’ closer still, the case could see Joe Geraghty lose everything.
So Many Doors by Oakley Hall
Hard Case Crime
The legendary lost crime novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Oakley Hall, instructor of Ann Rice, Amy Tan, Richard Ford, and Michael Chabon, who calls SO MANY DOORS “Beautiful, powerful, even masterful.”
It begins on Death Row, with a condemned man refusing the services of the lawyer assigned to defend him. It begins with a beautiful woman dead, murdered – Vassilia Caroline Baird, known to all simply as V. That’s where this extraordinary novel begins. But the story it tells begins years earlier, on a struggling farm in the shadow of the Great Depression and among the brawling “cat skinners” of Southern California, driving graders and bulldozers to tame the American West. And the story that unfolds, in the masterful hands of acclaimed author Oakley Hall, is a lyrical outpouring of hunger and grief, of jealousy and corruption, of raw sexual yearning and the tragedy of the destroyed lives it leaves in its wake. Unpublished for more than half a century, So Many Doors is Hall’s masterpiece, an excoriating vision of human nature at its most brutal, and one of the most powerful books you will ever read.
Thanks for stopping by and reading the latest Incident Report.