Alan Furst is widely recognized as a master of the historical spy novel. He is the bestselling author of numerous books including, most recently, Midnight in Europe. Name the book (and its author) that he calls the best spy novel of all time.
Email your answer to email@example.com (subject line: monthly quiz). The winner, randomly drawn from correct answers, will receive a $25 Mainely Murders gift card.
Congratulations to last month's winner, Marion Hartung of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who identified Bartholomew Gill as the late American writer whose popular long-running series featuring Peter McGarr, a police officer in Dublin, led many to believe he was actually Irish. He also wrote several mysteries under his real name, Mark McGarrity.
Each month we note birthdays of some of the masters of the mystery genre, with hopes that readers might read (or re-read) one of their many gems. In July, we celebrate a number of noted writers, as well as one of your favorite mystery booksellers.
James M. Cain, born July 1, 1892, is often compared to Hammett and Chandler. His most famous books: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce. All were turned into movies that may be more well known than the books. Cain, who died in 1977, was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1970.
Ann Whetstone, co-founder of Mainely Murders, was born July 12, 1944, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Particularly known among customers for her recommendations of the "slightly unusual," as well as Scottish mysteries, she says she presses on despite doubts by some.
Dorothy L. Sayers, born July 13, 1893, in Oxford, England, was the creator of Lord Peter Wimsey (and later, Harriet Vane). Considered one of the three greatest British classic mystery writers, Sayers herself valued her translations and Christian essays more. She died in 1957.
Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, was born July 17, 1889, in Malden, Massachusetts. Some 82 Mason titles were published, and were among the century's best-selling books. As A. A. Fair, he wrote 29 novels featuring PI Bertha Cool and her partner Donald Lam. Designated a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, he died in 1970.
Grand Master Michael Gilbert, born July 17, 1912, in Billinghay, Lincolnshire, England, was one in a long line of lawyers-turned-mystery- writers. Today's readers who enjoy the dry wit of many early British authors will find him delightful. He died in 2006.
Raymond Chandler, one of the founders of the hard-boiled detective school, was born, July 23, 1888, in Chicago. In addition to his books, he was also a noted screenwriter and was nominated for an Oscar for both Double Indemnity and The Blue Dahlia. He died in 1959.
John D. MacDonald, whose most famous creation, detective/thief Travis McGee, featured in 21 books, was born July 24, 1916. The Mystery Writers of America named him a Grand Master in 1972. He died in 1986.
Recent Finds For Those
Who Like Classics (and Others)
Our most recent finds were a number of William G. Tapply
(1940-2009) Brady Coyne books; Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957) stories, many of which had to do with railroads as Crofts made use of his knowledge as a railroad construction engineer; and various books by Paul (P.C.) Doherty (1946- ) under his many and various names and series.
Discounts on Books (Here)
and Food (There)
Save money on your favorite mysteries and at restaurants, too.
Members of the popular Portland Dine Around program qualify for special savings at Mainely Murders. Buy two books and save 50% on a third. (Discount applies to lowest-priced book.) Just show your membership card.
If you're not already a member--memberships run through December 31, 2014--it's not too late. We're still selling them. ($29.95)
Portland Dine Around is Maine's premier dining-rewards program. Enjoy savings of $10 to $25 whenever two people dine out. Members can use the savings at over 300 affiliate partners from Rockport to Bethel, Portland, Kennebunk, and south. More savings than ever before on dining, movies, and entertainment!
Thank you for supporting Mainely Murders Bookstore and other small independent booksellers. At a time of increased dominance by chains and online giants, you've shown a commitment to those of us who are part of the local community and who consider customers to be friends and neighbors.
We take great pride in talking with our clientele, whether it's trading viewpoints on favorites or recommending new titles and authors.
Did You Know?
For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local community. For every $100 spent at a national chain, franchise store, or online, only $14 remains in the community.
What better way to carry your books (or anything else) and at the same time demonstrate your love of mysteries than with our Mainely Murders' black bag.
Made of durable fabric with reinforced 20-inch handles, the bag sports our recognizable logo. ($7)
Travel In Style:
'Mainely Murders Style'
Our classic black bag is made for travel--with books or anything else.
We know our customers love to travel--whether at home or abroad.
Show us where you've taken your Mainely Murders bag. Email (or snail mail) us a photo (jpg) and we'll share it with newsletter readers. You'll receive a Mainely Murders gift card.
Our gift cards are available in any amount. The perfect gift for any event--birthdays, anniversaries, or "just because."
We're happy to take mail/phone orders and will send to you or directly to the recipient.
For those who don't live in Maine, the arrival of
July has a "summer's-half-gone" feel. Here, on the other hand, we know the best is yet to come.
We're bringing in more titles than ever, getting ready for the second session in our Mainely Murders Summer Reading Group, adding hundreds of former hardback bestsellers to our outdoor Sunshine Sales, and welcoming back customers we haven't seen since last year.
Yep, the good just keeps getting better. And, it's only July!
Hope to see you soon.
Paula & Ann
Partners in Crime
Author Lea Wait (above left) attended our first Summer Reading Group, discussing Shadows of a Down East Summer, focusing on the drawings (below) of Winslow Homer and his life in Maine.
More Mysterious Conversations
After making its debut in June, our first-ever Mainely Murders Summer Reading Group returns Saturday, July 26, for the second in its four-month-long series.
Gerry Boyle's Cover Story is the focus of the 3:30 p.m. discussion.
Lea Wait's Shadows of a Down East Summer opened the June debut of the series that features four popular Maine mystery writers, all with a long-running series set in Maine, each written in a very different style.
Those who attended the first session were greeted by the author herself. Thanks, Lea!!!
Still on tap:
Saturday, August: 23:
Mallets Aforethought, Sarah Graves
Saturday, September 27:
Dark Hollow, John Connolly
All titles are in stock. However, for those who choose not to purchase the books, they're widely available in libraries.
We do ask that you will have read the book and come ready to talk about it and other mystery topics. Sign-ups are appreciated (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Visitors to Southern Maine are getting an introduction to mysteries this summer thanks to the widely circulated Tourist News.
At the behest of editor/publisher Judith Hansen, Paula (she's never gotten that newspaper ink of her blood) has been writing a semi-regular series looking at some of the diverse themes in detective fiction.
Starting with murders in the garden--we all know about hiding the body under the rosebush--to crime on the golf course (think bunkers!), Paula is taking tourists on a grand tour of the mysterious.
Let Us Be Your NEW Bookstore, Too
You've shown how much you like our gently used books. They are, and will remain, our specialty. But, new releases are vitally important in today's book business.
We'd love to be your resource for new books, too. Let us order that just-published book--or one that's set to be released in the days or weeks ahead. Author Lea Wait, whose new book, Shadows on a Maine Christmas, is due out in about a month, says pre-orders are vital to both authors and publishers.
When you order a new book from us--or purchase one from our shelf of new releases--you'll become part of our exclusive New Book Club. Once you've bought five during the year--no need to keep track, we'll do it for you--you'll receive a $15 Mainely Murders gift card as our thanks
We've all seen what happens when small independent booksellers can no longer compete with, first, the big box stores, and, now, the internet giants. Think about it.
What We've Been Reading
>Paula: William Kent Krueger
There's something very humbling about having to admit that, until recently, I'd never read one of the country's very best writers--William Kent Krueger.
Ordinary Grace won many of this year's biggest awards, including the Edgar, from the Mystery Writers of America, as the year's best novel. The standalone was a departure from his much-awarded series featuring Cork O'Connor, the part-Irish/part-Ojibwe ex-sheriff in Aurora, Minnesota.
No doubt it was the Edgar Award that shamed me into reaching for one (and then another and another) of Krueger's books. In short order, I read
Ordinary Grace and then on to his O'Connor tales, including the first, Iron Lake (1998).
Each of Krueger's books has the ring of a masterful storyteller. I'm hooked. For now, I'm content to read his earlier titles, but, rest assured, I've marked the calendar for the release of his next book.
>Paula: Ellen Hart
While I was in Krueger's neighborhood (Minnesota), thought I'd get back to another longtime favorite, Ellen Hart. Along with Krueger and Carl Brookins, Hart comprises the Minnesota Crime Wave (minnesotacrimewave.org).
Best known for her longtime series (No. 22 is due out in October) featuring Jane Lawless, a lesbian restaurateur in Minneapolis, Hart
is wildly popular among readers who enjoy good mysteries embedded with riotous laughter. Jane's irrepressible, theater-mad, and bigger-than-life best friend, Cordelia Thorn (who possesses a virtual treasure trove of mystery fiction facts), is among my very favorite crime-solving sidekicks.
Hart's other series with Minneapolis food critic Sophie Greenway--do you get the idea the author finds the food scene fertile ground for murder?--is just as clever and compelling.
I've always been surprised (and disappointed) that Hart hasn't received the acclaim that she merits. That fact hasn't been lost on others--or, for that matter, Hart herself, who acknowledges that the sexuality of Jane Lawless has come with a price:
"Many people won't read them because of that. In fact, I do a lot of traveling with two other authors, William Kent Krueger and Carl Brookins. When we give a presentation, it's always interesting to watch the people who come up afterwards. Some of them won't even touch my books. It's like they're made of plutonium.
"Had I written the same stories with a straight character, I would probably be making a lot more money and be far better known. On the other hand, it's what I wanted to write. The novels themselves don't generally tackle a subject of direct interest to the gay community--and there are no sex scenes. I get slammed for that, too, from the other side. I seem to be either too gay or not gay enough. It's frustrating when all you want to be is a writer . . ."
>Ann: Erast Fandorin, Russian Adventurer/Detective
The Russian Sherlock Holmes? The Russian James Bond? Or simply Erast Fandorin, polymath, diplomat, and detective in late Tsarist Russia?
Boris Akunin's 14 Fandorin (and three Sister Pelagia) mysteries are the most popular in contemporary Russia and the basis for movies, TV shows, and a play. Most have been translated into English (and other languages).
Even in translation the reason for the books' popularity is obvious. Fandorin is witty and appealing (he makes mistakes), the mysteries are good (often with cliff-hanger situations), and the settings dramatic. They are also informative about Mother Russia because they cover the years 1876-1914. Sometimes events reflect political crises; other times social fads and customs. (In the first book, The Winter Queen, the young Fandorin buys a Lord Byron corset to make himself look more manly.)
Akunin knows whereof he speaks. Under his real name, Grigory Shalvovich Chkartishvili, and three pseudonyms, he is also a prolific writer of history books, scholarly works on Japanese literature, children's stories, other mysteries, and standard fiction.
> Ann: Have You Met Wyatt?
Like Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher, Wyatt lives in Melbourne, Australia. But that's about all the two share. It's contemporary Melbourne, and he's a robber. He's not looking for huge scores, just ones that provide a reasonable amount of money.
Gerry Disher's Wyatt prefers to work alone (and if you had his acquaintances, you would, too). When he has to work with others, they frequently provide complications, if not outright betrayal.
The seven Wyatt stories should resonate with fans of Richard Stark's Parker. Disher admits he got the idea for Wyatt from Stark's books, but he also says, quite rightly, that the tone of the books and the plots are very different. In the first place, Wyatt is much more of a loner and has no one he really trusts. It's hard to say what he does like other than being alone. Maybe independent women. But they, too, usually have a reason to disappear.
You might not want to read seven in a row. It could get depressing. But two or three together is perfectly fine for those of us who have a dark vision.
OOPS . . .
We've Been Nabbed!
In last month's newsletter, where Paula was singing the praise of Anne Hillerman's Spider Woman's Daughter, an editing error was made:
"Anne Hillerman has taken over where her dad left off, continuing the story of Leaphorn and Chee, while adding her own character, Bernadette (Bernie) Manualito, also of the Navajo police, and wife of Jim Chee."
She meant to say that Anne Hillerman had added her own leading character, a fact that was immediately caught by Bev Eason of Wells, who wrote to say, "Bernie appeared in at least five Tony Hillerman books, introduced as far back as Hunting Badger."
Bev says she and her husband are both longtime Hillerman fans, and have made many trips to the Navajo and Hopi reservations. "I'd have to re-read the earlier books (again!) but didn't notice any major problems with continuity of the characters. Expect the author will become more confident with plotting as she gains fiction experience."
The following are upcoming July releases by some Mainely Murders favorite authors. Find more at www.stopyourekillingme.com.
Donna Andrews, The Good, the Bad, and the Emus (Meg Langslow #17)
Ace Atkins, The Forsaken (Quinn Colson #4)
Lorna Barrett, Book Clubbed (Booktown #8)
Catherine Coulter, Power Play (FBI thriller #18)
Paul Doiron, The Bone Orchard (Mike Bowditch #5)
J. A. Jance, Remains of Innocence (Joanna Brady #16)
Edward Marston, A Ticket to Oblivion (Robert Colbeck #11)
Marcia Muller, The Night Searchers (Sharon McCone #31)
Tamar Myers, The Death of Pie (Pennsylvania Dutch #19)
David Rosenfelt, Hounded (Andy Carpenter #12)
Daniel Silva, The Heist (Gabriel Allon #14)
James Thompson, Helsinki Dead (Inspector Vaara #5)
Peter Tremayne, Atonement of Blood (Sister Fidelma #24)
Stuart Woods, Cut and Thrust (Stone Barrington #30)
Friend and customer Susan Stewart of Kennebunk has developed quite a following among our newsletter readers. (That means, when she says something's good, sales increase.)
Indeed, we're thinking of adding her to the store staff. Whenever she's here, she's "selling" books to other customers. Honestly, we've seen her in action! We'll pay her in books and promise her husband, George, that she'll be home by dinnertime. In the meantime, her latest reads:
Raymond Chandler is one of my favorite writers
and I've reread my tattered and dog-eared copy of The Long Goodbye
so often I practically know it by heart. So I was completely prepared to dislike Benjamin Black's
The Black-Eyed Blonde, in which he channels Chandler's style and puts Philip Marlowe, his hard-boiled detective, back to
work in 1950s' Los Angeles. Instead, I found myself enjoying the plot, savoring the language, and thinking about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I'm not sure I could ask for mtore.
Recommended to everyone who loves nostalgic noir.
So much for nostalgia, Susan is among our biggest fans of the deeply dark. (Do we need mention that she and Ann share that passion?)
Back to her favorites, the Scandanavians:
Jo Nesbo's latest, The Son, is a long, complex, thought-provoking novel about a soft-spoken, seemingly gentle young man imprisoned for a murder he didn't commit, and the havoc he wreaks when he breaks out and decides to seek revenge. And he doesn't stop at one person but takes on the entire Oslo underbelly of corruption and deceit. The people he goes after are so despicable that I think readers are primed to root for him in spite of the bloodbath he leaves in his wake. This moral dilemma is really the heart of the book and raises it a notch above the average thriller. Warning: very dark, many people die in perfectly awful ways. Loved it!
Helen Kitzman of Madison, Connecticut, doesn't share Ann's (or Susan's) appreciation for the darkly sinister. Imagine, then, these two (Helen and Ann) as best friends and graduate school roommates.
Helen favors the British classics, but she reads a number of contemporary American writers of the traditional mystery:
and Joan Hess
are two mystery stalwarts who have many similarities. They've both lived in Arkansas, the heroines of their best-known series are bookstore owners, and they've turned out titles regularly since the 80s.
feature Annie Laurance Darling--along with boyfriend-turned-husband Max Darling--and her Death on Demand
No. 24, Death at the Door, is her most recent. Her other series stars senior sleuth Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins.
Hess has made her bookstore and its owner, Claire Malloy in Faberville, Arkansas, almost as well-known as Death on Demand, with 19 titles. Her other popular series features a small-town police chief in Maggody, Arkansas.
The bookstore mysteries have weathered the years, but they are starting to look a little worn. They are light, and thus are never very weighty, but now look a bit forced. Still, it is fun to guess the mystery authors in the pictures hanging on the wall at Death on Demand.
As Helen explains, she's branching out in her readings. (But, as we pointed out, she is Ann's best friend.)
Let me make my prejudices perfectly clear. I love the classic and contemporary British mystery writers above all others except for contemporary American mysteries, preferably written by women. But I do try to expand my horizons due to the persistence of my friends (read here: Ann and Paula). I like Anne Holt
and Helene Tursten. I recently picked up
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, and I found it delightful--much lighter, funnier, and less bloody than many Scandinavian mysteries. Depressed with his life and future, Detective Carl Merck nonetheless refuses, to the dismay of his peers and supervisor, to leave the Copenhagen constabulary. So he is sent to the basement near the boilers to establish a new Department Q with the help of a knife-wielding Moslem assistant Assad. And of, course, he solves his case to the joy of the press and despair of his colleagues. How Carl survives and thrives puts this series into the splendid company of the best American and British procedurals.
On our trip last year to Sicily and Southern Italy, Paula recommended I take along Andrea Camilleri to enjoy the exploits of Inspector Salvo Montalbano in the small Sicilian town of Vigata. Since I like to start at the beginning with mystery series, I read The Shape of Water, The Terra-Cotta Dog, and The Snack Thief. I have just finished the most recent U.S. edition, Treasure Hunt. While I might wish sometimes that Salvo spent a little less time rhapsodizing over his meals, his literary pursuits, and the water near his home, I applaud his unorthodox, and often amusing, approach to crime. The characters he meets in this diligent pursuit are idiosyncratic individuals who often have a less than clear approach to living the moral life. Mixing this all together into one delightful romp makes this series justifiably popular. I looked for Salvo in Sicily, and while I did not find him, I think I saw a few of his colleagues.
Mainely Murders is an independent specialty mystery bookstore devoted exclusively to suspense, crime, and detective fiction. Our stock of used recent and hard-to-find hardcover, trade paper, and mass market volumes ranges from classics and cozies to tough guys and thrillers.