Tuesday, December 25, 2012

White Christmas Hanford 2004, OKC 2012


White Christmas, from dense fog in Hanford, California 2004, to snow and ice in Oklahoma 2012. Nothing much has changed in the past eight years. Christmas Day is still a day for balancing the books, a time for contemplation.

I wrote A WHITE CHRISTMAS IN HANFORD on my last Christmas in California before moving back to Oklahoma. I repeat it every Christmas, creating my own tradition.

A WHITE CHRISTMAS IN HANFORD
By Pat Browning

Christmas Day, 2004: That white stuff is ground fog, not snow. But this is Christmas Day, so the town was pretty much closed down anyway.

There are interesting Christmas stories in the papers, both print and online.

From the war in Iraq:
An online Washington Post headline: Fear Dims Christmas Eve in Baghdad. Steel barricades are up at the Virgin Mary Church of Palestine. Iraq's 800,000 Christians have lived peacefully among Muslims for centuries, but now they are afraid to come to church. Ah, Babylon ...

From World War I:
The Post also has an interesting story on the Christmas Truce of 1914, when British, French, Belgian and German soldiers came out of their trenches to sing, exchange food and tobacco, play soccer, bury their dead. Cultural historian Modris Eksteins is quoted as calling it "the last expression of that 19th-century world of manners and morals, where the opponent was a gentleman."

From World War II:
In The Hanford Sentinel, local businessman and Sentinel columnist Bob Case tells the special stories of two local people.

One, now a retired teacher, was in the first wave of Marines to hit the beach at Guadalcanal in 1942. He spent Christmas Eve in a jungle hospital, under blackout conditions. But after the patients had sung carols, the C.O. allowed them to light one match for just a moment as they sang "Silent Night."

In the second story, a local woman recalls Christmas Eve 1943, when a local church group went to a nearby POW camp to sing carols to Germans who had been captured in North Africa. After the church group finished singing, there was momentary silence behind the barbed wire fence, and then the sound of 400 German prisoners of war singing "Silent Night" in the original language ... "Stille Nacht!Hiel'ge Nacht! Alles schlaft ... "

Small, bright lights in the darkest of times.

****
Photo: This World War I cannon, a reminder of the "war to end all wars," sits in front of the Veterans Memorial Building in Hanford, California, wrapped in dense fog on Christmas morning. Copyright 2004 Pat Browning.

****
Update: Christmas 2012
Another White Christmas, this one  in Oklahoma, and that white stuff really is snow. It’s pretty, but treacherous. It has been eight years since I wrote about my last Christmas in California. Has anything changed? Yes and no.

For openers, the world didn’t end. I didn’t expect it to but many people did. Don’t blame the Mayans. They didn’t say the world would end. They merely marked off the end of an era, and the beginning of the next one. One can only hope that the new era will be an improvement.

There is still war and unrest in the Middle East. Another American -- a civilian U.S. adviser -- has been killed by a member of the “friendly” Afghans, this one a policewoman. Syria is a bloodbath. Political and religious hatreds are alive and well in Israel, Palestine, Egypt.

In this country we reel from tragedy to tragedy. The most staggering are Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. And yet good triumphs over evil.

From various news reports:
The Troy family in New York lost their home to Hurricane Sandy. Along comes a businessman who offers to build them a brand new home. No ulterior motive. He’s had some close calls in his lifetime and believes God saved him for a reason. Within 24 hours the businessman and his contractors show up and go to work. The Troys will spend Christmas Day in their new home.

Meanwhile, food, toys and money keep pouring into Connecticut after the school massacre. There’s no more room in freezers for the food, the money is being turned into foundations and a hall is stacked with teddy bears and toys of every description. Generous people are being asked to “pay it forward” by giving their donations to charities of their choice, in memory of the children and teachers who died at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Here in the Oklahoma City Metro, soup kitchens and food banks give hope and sustenance to hundreds of local folks who need it. And a worldwide movement, Random Acts of Kindness, has arrived in my local WalMart store.

At the checkout counter this week I had a small purchase from the pharmacy department. The total was $6.52 and the woman in line behind me said, “I’ll pay for that.” The WalMart clerk said, “We’re seeing a lot of that this year.”

I was dumbfounded. It wasn’t much, but it made my day. I’m looking for a chance to do the same thing for another stranger.

Small acts of kindness, paying it forward, piling up some good karma. Like a candle in the window, the spirit of Christmas still shines, even in the worst of times.


Resurrecting an old slogan from World War II -- "Is this trip really necessary?"

****
   

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Offbeat, fast-moving and a world class thriller



Offbeat and fast-moving, BEWARE THE JABBERWOCK is the first book in a trilogy of espionage thrillers inspired by the real-life adventures of an FBI agent.

Author Chester D. Campbell knows the intelligence community first hand. He was an Air Force intelligence officer in the Korean War and afterward in the Air National Guard, retiring from the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel.
He also had a long career as a reporter and editor. As editor of
Nashville Magazine he interviewed a former FBI agent with a fascinating
story to tell. They talked about putting his adventures into a
non-fiction book but the agent had second thoughts. The statute of
limitations was still running on some of the things he had done.

Campbell writes: “I lost contact with the ex-agent before we got to the point of putting anything on paper. I learned he died several years ago. It makes for quite a story.” He based his character Burke Hill on the agent, and tells the story on his blog, Mystery Mania, at http://tinyurl.com/7dkczpv


My Review: BEWARE THE JABBERWOCK

Time and place: Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv, May 1992

“Burke got out of the taxi near the Franciscan Monastery of St. Peter,
which stood above the blue waters of the Mediterranean, commanding a
magnificent view of Israel's largest city. Modern hotels rose above a
sprawling hodgepodge of architecture as diverse as the origins of its
people, all accented by the curving Mediterranean coastline.

“He looked up from paying the fare just as a slow moving car crept
past. He had only a quick glimpse of a face on the passenger side, but
it gave him a hard jolt. Hooked nose and heavy brows, short black
beard. The man from the flea market. The realization that he was being
followed hit him like a slap in the face.”

The protagonist, Burke Hill, is an ex-FBI agent currently working as a
professional photographer. As a favor to Cameron Quinn, an old CIA
friend, he lets himself be drawn into a Byzantine scheme that will
shock the world.

It has begun in October in Vienna when two Russian and American
intelligence agents plot a power grab by assassination. Disgruntled by
liberal-leaning leaders in their respective countries, the agents look
ahead to an American-Russian summit in June, scheduled to take place
in Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada. They sketch out Operation
Jabberwock, named after a Lewis Carroll story.

The plot is bizarre but apparently possible. The team they assemble
will pose as employees of a Texas TV network providing live coverage
of the American-Soviet visit to Toronto. They will purport to provide
live feeds by satellite transmission, the uplink to be generated from
a transmitter truck parked near the Toronto City Hall.

Establishing a base on an island off the coast of Florida, the two
plotters pull in spies from several countries and begin to procure,
modify and test equipment they will need.  When Cameron Quinn gets an inkling that something suspicious is underway, he enlists Burke Hill
to ferret out the details.

BEWARE THE JABBERWOCK delivers step-by-step excitement in a thriller marked by cross and double-cross. Burke Hill and three close friends defy death to stop the operation before it’s too late.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Chester Campbell says:
(Quote) I got hooked on mysteries back in 1947 after I went to work as a reporter for The Knoxville Journal (I was also a journalism student at the University of Tennessee at the time). At the library I picked up a copy of Horacy McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and then his No Pockets in a Shroud. The latter involved a newspaper reporter researching corruption that involved murder. I found it so fascinating that I soon parked behind my portable typewriter and hammered out a murder mystery about a reporter solving a murder. It didn't get published, but I knew some day I would make it as a novelist. About fifty years later, I did. (End Quote)

Chester won the 2012 Magnolia Award given to a SEMWA member who has shown exemplary service to the Mystery Writers of America, Southeast Chapter, which covers the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. SEMWA’S purpose is to further the writing, publishing, and marketing goals of our chapter’s members by organizing, sponsoring, and promoting activities to that end.
Chester is the author of two mystery series featuring private investigators. The Sid Chance series includes THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MURDEROUS (2011) and THE SUREST POISON (2009). Chester has also written five Greg McKenzie novels featuring a retired Air Force investigator and his wife: A SPORTING MURDER (2010), THE MARATHON MURDERS (2008), DEADLY ILLUSIONS (2005), DESIGNED TO KILL (2004) and SECRET OF THE SCROLL (2002).

THE POKSU CONSPIRACY, Book No. 2 in the Burke Hill thrillers, takes place mostly in South Korea, and is now available on Kindle. The third book will be titled OVERTURE TO DISASTER.
Chester Campbell lives in Nashville. For more about him and his books, see
Mystery Mania Blog: http://chestercampbell.blogspot.com
and his web site at http://www.chesterdcampbell.com



Monday, November 26, 2012

Bright and breezy holiday reading


PLAYING WITH POISON by Cindy Blackburn was the perfect book for the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s bright and breezy, an easy read that kept me laughing.

Opening line: “‘Going bra shopping at age fifty-two gives new meaning to the phrase fallen woman,’ I announced as I gazed at my reflection.”

The speaker is Jessie, the protagonist. Her friend Candy pokes her head around the dressing room door and says, “I hope my figure looks that nice when I’m old.”

Really, now, fifty-two isn’t that old, and it doesn’t bother Jessie as much as it seems to bother everyone else, especially Captain Wilson Rye of the Clarence, North Carolina Police Department.

And why is it any of Rye’s business? No sooner has Jessie paid for the royal blue bra and matching panties and hauled them home than her doorbell rings. Candy’s handsome fiancé stumbles in, flops down on Jessie’s couch and dies. Enter Capt. Rye. Since the victim died on her couch, Rye figures Jessie for the killer and becomes an unwelcome fixture in her life.

Jessie writes steamy romance novels under the name of Adele Nightingale. Like everyone else on the planet she has a work in progress. The working title is “Temptation at Twilight” and passages are scattered throughout this book, making it part of the fun.

Jessie’s loft features a roof garden overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and The Stone Fountain bar, where she likes to play pool. These days her pool sharking is a distant memory. She pays her bills with royalties from her novels which Jimmy Beak, an obnoxious local newscaster, tells the world are “almost pornographic.” Sales, of course, shoot up over the moon.

The attractive Capt. Rye keeps dogging Jessie with yet another set of incriminating questions. During a search of her loft he ogles her book shelf and pinches her copy of “A Deluge of Desire." He admits later that he only read the good parts. Twice.

Jessie’s real life associates are every bit as colorful as her fictional characters. There’s Lt. Densmore, who’s deathly afraid of heights. There’s Bryce, the bartender at The Stone Fountain who keeps changing his college major because he can’t decide what he wants to be. There’s Ian, Jessie’s asinine ex-husband, and his equally asinine new wife. There’s Jessie’s cat Snowflake, who likes to sit on laps.

And there’s Candy, whose taste in clothes runs to mini-skirts and stiletto heels, who inherits money under the terms of her murdered fiance’s will, and whose old boy friend shows up hot to trot. Talk about a perfect pair of suspects.

Jessie decides to clear her own name and keep Candy out of jail by ferreting out the killer. The denouement, while fraught with peril, is just plain funny.

Next up, DOUBLE SHOT, Book #2 in this delightful new series, and after that Book #3, THREE ODD BALLS.

FTC DISCLOSURE NOTICE       
I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.

FTC Disclosure Notice
FTC has a new regulation which went into effect in December, 2009 which says, basically, "Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined." Here's my required FTC Disclosure Notice regarding review copies of books obtained for this blog. No other compensation is accepted beyond review copies of books. When I do write a review, or opinion, the source of the book cited will be disclosed in the post in which the review/opinion appears. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.


MEET THE AUTHOR


When Cindy Blackburn isn’t writing books she’s teaching history and grading papers. Cindy holds a Master's degree in European history from the College of Charleston (South Carolina) and teaches at Trident Technical College in Charleston. Come summer she'll be on the porch of her lakeside shack in Vermont.

Her favorite travel destinations are all in Europe, her favorite TV show is NCIS and her favorite authors (if she must choose) are Joan Hess and Spencer Quinn.

Check her out at


Saturday, November 17, 2012

A priceless treasure comes within reach

SKULDUGGERY by Carolyn Hart

San Francisco, 1980s: A knock on the door. The unexpected visitor is a young Chinese man named Jimmy. He has read a newspaper article referring to anthropologist Ellen Christie as “the bone lady” and wants her to examine a skull he believes belongs to Peking Man.

Those ancient bones have been missing since 1941. At the prospect of such priceless treasure within reach, Ellen throws caution to the winds. She climbs on the back of Jimmy’s motorcycle and they roar off to Chinatown.

When she holds the skull in her hands Ellen is mesmerized, but before she can question Jimmy, his older brother Dan bursts in. Within minutes they are assaulted by two thugs who had followed Dan. Ellen, Jimmy and Dan escape through a secret tunnel and Jimmy disappears.


What follows is a journey through another time, another place, as Ellen and Dan search Chinatown block by block, looking for Jimmy. The author paints a harrowing picture of a Chinatown that tourists never see, a warren of immigrants living in squalor and despair. Also emerging are a portrait of Jimmy, who devotes his life to helping others, and a revealing look at the resilience of the immigrants he works with.

Ellen and Dan must question people without revealing anything that would start a storm of rumors about the reappearance of long-lost fossils. Ellen is constantly torn between her concern for the safety of the ancient bones and her concern for the living people she comes to admire and respect. She must also deal with her growing attraction to Dan, a handsome, no-nonsense lawyer, and her out-of-the-blue brush with death.

In this slim volume (175 pages) the author touches on 500,000 years of human evolution without slowing the plot’s momentum. The startling denouement comes in the aftermath of a Chinese New Year’s parade.

In her Introduction to SKULDUGGERY, Carolyn Hart writes: “Ellen’s challenge occurs in the San Francisco Chinatown of the 1980s, evoking a part of the past of American Chinese, whose families came to this country as immigrants, as so many of our forebears did, and stayed to become a part of the rich and varied tapestry that makes America truly a land created by those who dare.”

I will never again think of San Francisco’s Chinatown as simply an exotic collection of shops and restaurants.

FTC DISCLOSURE NOTICE       
I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.

FTC Disclosure Notice
FTC has a new regulation which went into effect in December, 2009 which says, basically, "Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined." Here's my required FTC Disclosure Notice regarding review copies of books obtained for this blog. No other compensation is accepted beyond review copies of books. When I do write a review, or opinion, the source of the book cited will be disclosed in the post in which the review/opinion appears. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.



MEET THE AUTHOR

What makes Carolyn Hart tick? Writing!
This busy Oklahoma author writes several mystery series and has about 3 million books in print. Her first love was journalism and she saw herself as the next Marguerite Higgins. Higgins was a famous American reporter who covered World War II, the Korean War and the war in Vietnam.

In Carolyn’s case, love, marriage and motherhood intervened, and she gave up working as a reporter. How she developed a career as a best-selling mystery novelist is told in a fascinating article by another best-selling Oklahoma author, Judith Henry Wall, in an article titled “Hart of the Mystery.” Wall’s article was published in Sooner Magazine, Winter 2007 issue. You can read it at http://tinyurl.com/c9kx8k8


Carolyn Hart’s many awards include:
• Guest of Honor at the Malice Domestic annual conference in 1997 and recipient of its Lifetime Achievement in 2007.
• 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
• Invited to speak at the 2003 Library of Congress National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

She may have given up her dream of being the next Marguerite Higgins, but she’s doing very well as “the American Agatha Christie.”


Peking Man


Archaeological excavations at Zhoukoudian near Beijing (formerly known as Peking) began in the 1920s and uncovered fossils half a million years old. Excavations came to an end in 1937 with the Japanese invasion.

(Quoting from Wikipedia)
Fossils of Peking Man were placed in the safe at the Cenozoic Research Laboratory of the Peking Union Medical College. Eventually, in November 1941, secretary Hu Chengzi packed up the fossils so they could be sent to USA for safekeeping until the end of the war. They vanished en route to the port city of Qinhuangdao in northern China. … There are various theories of what might have happened, including a theory that the bones sank with the Japanese ship Awa Maru in 1945. … The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987. New excavations were started at the site in June 2009.
(End Quote)
The Wikipedia article with some excellent photos are at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

VALLEY OF THE SHADOW -- Welcome to Cornwall

Welcome to Cornwall, a peninsula with the longest stretch of continuous coastline in Britain, making it a smugglers’ haven. But that was more than 100 years ago. Or was it?

Carola Dunn’s latest Cornish mystery takes place in the present. An early autumn afternoon begins agreeably enough. The protagonist, Eleanor Trewynn; her Westie, Teazle; her neighbor, artist Nick Gresham; and her niece, Detective Sergeant Megan Pencarrow, get together for an impromptu coastal excursion.

Eleanor, who operates a charity shop, wants to contact a few farm wives. Nick wants to do some sketching. Megan wants a temporary respite from her stressful job. The Westie is ready to run and romp. It is not to be. A perilous journey through a woodland of “cliffs’ coves and caves” takes them to the inlet, where they find the body of a man floating in the water.

He’s breathing, though barely. Megan launches a complicated rescue operation, aided by a couple of passing hikers, which ends with the completely nude victim in a sleeping bag, warmed by the body heat of the mostly naked female hiker. Eleanor manages to find a telephone and soon the trails are buzzing with emergency personnel.

Megan’s boss, DI Scumble, orders her to sit watch at the hospital. Eventually the patient regains consciousness long enough to mumble his name—Kalith Chudasama—and a few disconnected words: “The cave … my family … They didn’t come … must swim … My mother … dying …”

Back at the station Megan and Scumble theorize that Indians living in East Africa, which no longer wants them, are being smuggled into England via the Cornish coast. English law prohibits some immigrant settlers even though they may hold British passports. The man Megan rescued fits the profile, especially if he is traveling with his family.

In this set up, the author introduces several village characters and draws the reader into the small, cozy world of Cornwall.The action moves in a leisurely manner but it kept me turning the pages. As the police-procedural aspect of the story kicks in, Eleanor and Megan make a good mother-daughter team.

Megan takes her job seriously, while sidestepping a couple of romantic entanglements. Eleanor is absent-minded and soft-hearted, but her mind ticks like a clock. She figures that if a family has come ashore illegally, someone must know which smuggler’s cave hides them. She goes through the village one house at a time to find the answer.

The denouement is both wild and funny, and the author ties up all the threads in a surprising but satisfactory ending.

This is the third book in Carola Dunn’s Cornish mystery series. The earlier books are MANNA FROM HADES (2009) and A COLOURFUL DEATH (2010).


FTC DISCLOSURE NOTICE
I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.

FTC Disclosure Notice
FTC has a new regulation which went into effect in December, 2009 which says, basically, "Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined." Here's my required FTC Disclosure Notice regarding review copies of books obtained for this blog. No other compensation is accepted beyond review copies of books. When I do write a review, or opinion, the source of the book cited will be disclosed in the post in which the review/opinion appears. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Meet the author. From her web site:
I was born and grew up in England. After graduating from Manchester University, I set off around the world, but only made it halfway, to Fiji, before turning back to get married. I lived in Southern California for 20 years, and then moved to Eugene, Oregon, where I live now.


VALLEY OF THE SHADOW by Carola Dunn
Minotaur Books, Hardcover Dec. 11, 2012
Robinson E-book, Kindle and Nook June 20, 2013



“The Smuggler’s Song”

Smuggling was a way of life in 18th century England, due at least partly to taxation imposed by a succession of governments who needed money to pay for wars in Europe. With France just across the English Channel, and the rugged Cornish coast pocked with caves for hiding goods until they could be picked up and distributed, smuggling was a source of income for entire communities.

There’s a history of smuggling here:

Smuggling flourished because so many villagers were involved, and everyone turned a blind eye (or “watched the wall”) to all the activity going on.

British author Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called “The Smuggler’s Song.” First stanza:

“If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,/
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street./
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie./
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!”

There’s an excellent YouTube video with Murray Lachlan Young reading the poem. It’s very atmospheric and gives me the shivers!



Friday, October 26, 2012

Gone but not forgotten -- Katherine Shepard


Katherine Shepard,Kingsburg, California 2004


Katherine Shepard was a member of the Texas Coalition of Authors, Writer's League of Texas, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America and Kiss of Death, but when she died in 2006 it was if she had dropped off the face of the earth.

What was worse, it was as if she had never been here at all. Her web site came down immediately. There was no place to go for tributes, or even for news of her death and her survivors. The multi-talented, multi-tasking Katherine had a bio that boggles the mind and she had just begun a new career as a mystery writer, but today she’s barely a blip on Google.

When Jenny Hanahan and I talked about this on Jenny’s Facebook forum, Mystery Most Cozy,  she said she had just read the blog I posted at Murderous Musings in 2009. I looked it up for a re-read, which brought back a flood of good memories. Katherine was a bright spirit and a barrel of fun to know.

I have a few snapshots from 2004 and they, too, bring back a flood of good memories. Here they are – photos, and my blog dated August 1, 2009.
****
Summer Shorts: The Way We Were
By Pat Browning

Katherine admires mural on Kingsburg Library outside wall. 
May 20, 2004
Rolling down the highway on a moonless night, hugging a white line to nowhere. Nothing on either side except shades of Black and Empty. Ahead and behind, the lights of long-haul trucks, drivers trying to get the hell out of California before fuel prices took another jump …

The distance between Katherine Shephard’s library program in one little town to her motel in another little town was about 15 miles, 20 max, but it’s easy to get lost on country roads at night. Cotton fields on one side of a two-laner, vineyards on the other, irrigation ditches waiting to reach out and pull you in. We made one wrong turn after another, but finally found that old workhorse, Highway 99, and headed south to find a road going west, laughing all the way.

“Thelma and Louise, Part Deux,” Katherine said.

****

 

Pat Browning and Katherine after Kingsburg Library program.

Meeting people is part of the fun of belonging to the mystery community. I first met that bright spirit Katherine Shephard when we did a signing together at the Foster City Library in San Francisco’s Bay Area on October 7, 2003.

The appearance was arranged by PJ Nunn’s Breakthrough Promotions. The librarian made a poster on butcher paper and taped it to a sandwich board. “Mystery Tuesdays,” the sign said. “Meet up and coming mystery writers …”

After our program Katherine took the poster down, gave it to me and said, "I keep things like this around my computer to remind me of happy times." I still have the poster. One of these days I'll find a frame big enough and hang it behind my computer.

Katherine and Deni Dietz, Left Coast Crime Monterey


We met again on February 21, 2004 at Left Coast Crime in Monterey. Katherine was just getting started in her career as a mystery writer. She had written two novels in what was to be a series. In FRATERNITY OF SILENCE and BETRAYED BY SILENCE she blended romantic comedy and mystery, with politics as the backdrop.

Though she wrote about political corruption, her books are warm-hearted, even cozy. Newlyweds Beth and Bob Larken are a delightful couple, devoted to each other and a feisty little dog named Bowie Aloysia Dog, or B.A.D. for short. Katherine carried a toy version of B.A.D. to all her appearances.

She spent much of 2004 on the road promoting her books. I was delighted when she let me know she had scheduled a program at the library in Kingsburg, a small town near Fresno. I lived close by in Hanford, so she picked me up for dinner and then we tooled off to Kingsburg in her little red car.

Katherine really connected with an audience, and it came naturally. She was “on stage” for most of her life in the worlds of entertainment and politics. Her technique was to speak quietly. Plainly, but quietly. Chit-chat simmered down and before long you could have heard a pin drop, except for the sound of Katherine’s voice. The audience seemed to lean forward as one, so as not to miss anything she was saying.

As usual, she charmed everyone. And as usual, she got a variation of the question: "How did you make the leap from writing political speeches to writing fiction?" She took a beat and said, "What leap?"

It cracked us up and led her into the story of “the mole in the hole,” or how she got the idea for her mystery series from overheard conversations in the women's restroom at a political convention. She called her fiction “faction” -- fact-based fiction.

Katherine packed a lot into her too-short life. Here are bio highlights still posted at Murder Express:

“Author Katherine Shephard was born and raised in Northwest Detroit, Michigan. She is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Criminal Justice. After graduation she moved to east Grand Rapids where she worked in criminal law. Her involvement in politics began during those years in Grand Rapids when she volunteered for several campaigns in 1976. She has been involved in politics and writing ever since, winning a Christian speech contest that led to her addressing the UN in New York on the role of youth in world affairs.

“Her writing career began in kindergarten when she would tell her mother to ‘grab a pencil and write down this story.’ Those stories would always involve a puppy and usually a princess. She also began entertaining at a young age. She sang and danced her way onto local Michigan television as well as the national arena during the Tournament of Roses in 1969.

“That same year she traveled to Europe with Youth Understanding, as well as playing violin with the Scandinavian Symphony across the United States. For relaxation and entertainment, Ms. Shephard still plays the piano and violin. Music has played a major role in her life and deep throughout her novel, ‘Fraternity of Silence.’”

Impressive as all that is, my favorite memory of Katherine will always be of the wild ride through the Central Valley boonies and down Highway 99, laughing all the way. She died two years later from a rare form of cancer, but she is remembered fondly and with pleasure.

****
FRATERNITY OF SILENCE, published in paperback by Seven Locks in 2003 is only available from re-sellers.
From the Publisher: “There's a dead body in the dome and nobody's talking. Silence your questions. Silence your love. Silence the truth. You've just joined the Fraternity of Silence. Engrossing and exciting with lots of action, Fraternity is fact-paced, romantic, and suspenseful from the opening scene to the last page. Texas Lt. Governor William Glinnis is found dead at his desk and no one is asking how it happened. Will the truth be silenced?”

BETRAYED BY SILENCE, published in hardcover by Seven Locks in 2004, is still selling on Amazon, at the reduced price of 15.56.
From MurderExpress.net: “When an ex-judge disappears, and a talkative jailbird shows up out of nowhere, the governor-elect's career could go up in smoke. Can Bowie Aloysia Dog (B.A.D.) root out the truth in time to save the inauguration?”








Tuesday, October 23, 2012



OLD MURDERS NEVER DIE by Marja McGraw is a good reading choice for October’s longer nights in the run-up to Halloween. A couple of Los Angeles PIs come to Arizona on vacation, get lost in mountainous terrain, stumble upon an abandoned Old West town and end up being stalked by a mysterious cowboy on a black horse. Is he real or is he a ghost?
****
Marja writes two series, one involving a young, female private investigator named Sandi Webster, and one featuring a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart named Chris Cross. The books are light with a touch of humor.

Born and raised in Southern California, Marja worked in both criminal and civil law enforcement and calls on her experience when writing.  She eventually relocated to Northern Nevada where she worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation.  Marja also did a stint in Oregon where she worked for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and owned her own business. She now lives in Arizona.






Here’s a list of her books:

Sandi Webster Mysteries
#1 - A Well-Kept Family Secret
#2 - Bubba's Ghost
#3 - Prudy's Back!
#4 - The Bogey Man
#5 - Old Murders Never Die

The Bogey Man Mysteries
#1 - Bogey Nights
#2 - Bogey's Ace in the Hole






Here’s my review.

OLD MURDERS NEVER DIE by Marja McGraw
Wings EPress, Paperback 2011
Wings EPress E-books, Kindle and Nook 2011
Book #5 in Sandi Webster Mysteries
  
Told from the first person viewpoint of PI Sandi Webster, this is a traditional mystery, with suspense building slowly, page by page. I spent an evening engrossed in the tale of a small town whose inhabitants were so terrified by a series of murders that they simply loaded their families into buckboards and fled the area.



Sandi Webster and Pete Goldberg, her partner/fiancé, plan a peaceful week camping on San Francisco Mountain in Coconino County. Looking for a place to spend the night, they park the Jeep, hike up over a rise and stumble upon a ghost town. Almost hidden by weeds and brush sits an abandoned house that looks like "the owner had simply walked away, leaving everything in place."

When Sandi and Pete head back to the Jeep to get a few things for the night, the Jeep’s doors are standing open, personal possessions are strewn on the ground, and there's a horse hoof print in the dirt. Spooked, they prepare to go back down the mountain but the Jeep won't start because the ignition relay is missing.

With Pete’s gun and Sandi’s dog -- half-wolf, half-golden retriever -- for protection, they decide the old house might be a safe place to bunk temporarily. Fortunately they had packed food, picnic supplies, bottled water and sleeping bags. After bringing those necessities into the house, they begin to clear out and clean up some living space.

They prowl, poke, scrub and polish to the point of exhaustion, getting a first-hand experience with living conditions of a hundred years earlier. In an enclosed space beneath a wardrobe they find log books kept by Sheriff Joseph Croft of Wolf Creek. The logs are dated 1879-1880.

When Sandi finds a woman’s wedding band in a dresser drawer she begins to feel like a trespasser. The house and the silent town have finally drawn her into something akin to “an episode of the Twilight Zone.” Determined to find out what happened, she and Pete begin to explore the town one house at a time, with the rider on the black horse tracking their every move.

The inevitable confrontation reveals the mysterious cowboy’s agenda. By the end of the book I felt as if I had explored the town alongside Sandi and Pete, and I understood the grief and fear that gripped the citizens of Wolf Creek. Wrapping up all the loose ends, the author reveals what happened at the time of the murders and long afterward.

****

Marja McGraw’s web site tag line is “A little humor, a little romance, a little murder!” The site includes her blog and book trailers. Be sure to check out her Vintage Movies page.


FTC DISCLOSURE NOTICE
I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.

FTC has a new regulation which went into effect in December, 2009 which says, basically, "Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined." Here's my required FTC Disclosure Notice regarding review copies of books obtained for this blog. No other compensation is accepted beyond review copies of books. When I do write a review, or opinion, the source of the book cited will be disclosed in the post in which the review/opinion appears. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet Radine, author and handy-dandy cook


Radine Trees Nehring, who sets her novels and non-fiction articles in Arkansas, has collected at least 25 award certificates since 1992, beginning with an essay she entered in the Oklahoma Writers Federation annual contest.

She’s been honored with a key to one city, a key to a National Historic Site jail, two trophies … well, you get the picture. It’s no wonder that in 2011 the Arkansas Writers Conference chose her to be inducted into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame.

Well done, Radine, well done!

Radine is also a cook who does it the easy way. At least, that’s my impression after reading the handy-dandy recipes in JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, plus those on her web site. A recipe for No-thaw Hamburger Bake begins:Use approx. 1 lb lean hamburger, frozen in a lump, just as it came from the grocery store and went into your freezer.” Would you believe I have a lump of hamburger in my freezer, just waiting for a recipe like this to come along?

For that recipe and a handful of others, check out Radine’s web site:


JOURNEY TO DIE FOR by Radine Trees Nehring
Wolfmont Press, Paperback and Kindle 2010
Book # 6 in the To Die For series
Winner of 2010 Silver Falchion award at Killer Nashville

The gently told tales in this cozy series are set in the scenic Ozark Mountains and feature two older people for whom love is better the second time around. Carrie McCrite and Henry King, a retired policeman from Kansas City, have the best of intentions but still get caught up in other people’s problems, mayhem and murders.


This time Carrie and Henry board the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad’s historic excursion train for a trip to Van Buren, an Arkansas River town with a colorful past. Also on board is the host of a TV program, Exploring Arkansas, and his camera man. A three-hour stop in Van Buren is barely enough for Carrie, who wants to shop for antiques, and Henry, who wants to eat. They do both, but Carrie leaves Henry to linger over the “plate lunch” in a famous café while she hikes along the river. When he finally catches up with her, she has discovered the body of a train passenger snagged in trash at the water’s edge.

Henry's law enforcement instincts kick in; he secures the scene and calls the cops.When Henry admits being retired from the Kansas City Police Department. Sgt. Burke of the Van Buren PD tells them that the victim was stabbed but probably drowned. The big question: who was he, and how did someone manage to meet and kill him within such a short span of time? Back on the train there’s a stunning development. The victim boards the train and takes a seat in front of Carrie. Since no passenger appears to be missing, the train is cleared for its return journey.

Once home, Carrie and Henry regale their four closest friends with tales of their adventure. When they watch the TV program filmed of their trip, Carrie realizes that the “victim” who re-boarded for the return trip was not the same man she found in the river. Obviously, someone brought in a ringer.

Henry is drawn into the case when he learns the dead man’s billfold held a driver’s license with a Kansas City address. With Carrie by his side, Henry is soon back in his old stomping ground, where the couple act unofficially to help the KCPD unmask a surprisingly dangerous criminal enterprise.

My favorite line comes when Carrie helps prepare questions for interviewing a possible suspect. Capt. Boinevich of the KCPD says, “Hope for the moon and be glad when you get a pinch of stardust.”

My thanks to the author for a copy of this book, and for the recipes at the end. I’m getting ready to make Henry’s Chocolate Cake in a Mug.

 ****
Author photo from


FTC DISCLOSURE NOTICE
I don’t have the foggiest idea what this is all about, but I keep seeing it on other blogs, so here it is.
----
FTC has a new regulation which went into effect in December, 2009 which says, basically, "Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined." Here's my required FTC Disclosure Notice regarding review copies of books obtained for this blog. No other compensation is accepted beyond review copies of books. When I do write a review, or opinion, the source of the book cited will be disclosed in the post in which the review/opinion appears. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Singapore Sling and a stroll through the 20th century


“The Singapore Slings at the Raffles Hotel are still delicious!” So says William S. Shepard, and he is an authority. In 1965, that historic city-state at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula was his first diplomatic assignment.

In the Dedication to his memoir, SUNSETS IN SINGAPORE, Shepard writes: “It is June, 2012, and Lois and I have just returned from a visit to Singapore, our first in many years. Now memories of long ago coexist with modern Singapore -- the world famous Botanical Gardens, and an amazing skyline, with tropical forests setting off the skyscrapers.”

He speaks of his lifelong affection for Singapore, and notes: “We made lasting friends, in particular because I also taught at the University of Singapore Law School, which is another story.”

SUNSETS IN SINGAPORE is strictly a memoir of his diplomatic service and it was an exotic journey. In his quarter-century as a diplomat he served in Saigon, Athens, Budapest, plus five tours of duty in Washington D.C., before retiring as Consul General in Bordeaux.

A Fulbright grantee and Harvard Law School graduate, William Shepard and his wife, Lois, live in Oxford, Maryland.


Reviewing William S. Shepard's memoir --

SUNSETS IN SINGAPORE A Foreign Service Memoir
Copyright 2001 as "Consular Tales" and in 2006 as Part One of "Diplomatic Tales"
Kindle Edition 2012

In his Preface, Shepard recalls: “Several years ago, a former classmate remembered at our law school reunion that I had told him when we were students that I was not going to practice law. Instead, I planned to enter the Foreign Service ‘because I didn't want to wake up one morning late in life and wonder what seeing the sunset in Singapore would have been like.’”

He need not have worried. Shepard’s stroll down memory lane is a walk through 20th century history for readers. His career in the Foreign Service of the United States included service in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

His duties thrust him into the thick of international crises: The Third Operations Center Task Force when terrorists from the Japanese Red Army took over the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; The Cyprus Task Force in the Johnson administration; The Pueblo Task Force when North Korea seized the USS Pueblo in 1968.

Chapter Four on Security and Terrorism addresses problems and precautions for Americans abroad, a concern that was “almost an afterthought” when he joined the Foreign Service but one that takes on a wrenching importance today. Describing his security measures, Shepard notes that “A little paranoia can be a healthy trait now and then.” Especially fascinating to me are the chapters on Shepard’s service in Vietnam and in Hungary.

Not all of a diplomat’s duties are grim. Some days are spent on mundane matters and social activities. In an interview with Joanne Troppello on her blog, The Mustard Seed, Shepard notes: “The word ‘diplomacy’ is itself instructive. It means ‘having two eyes,’ one for watching the capital which sent you, and the other for observing the capital where you are serving.”

Shepard laces his memoir with humor. He recalls his armored car in Bordeaux, so heavily plated that when the police tried to tow it out of a parking zone the back of the police tow truck collapsed, much to the amusement of an audience from a nearby cafe.

He also has an anecdote about a field trip to Miskole, Hungary during Iron Curtain days, when he picked up a tail by a Hungarian secret police car. It was no cause for alarm. He says they were “bored fellows just doing a routine job ... We used to pack sandwiches for them.”

One of my favorite Singapore anecdotes is of Shepard's meeting with Bill Bailey. Yes, THAT Bill Bailey, who kept the Coconut Grove Bar, was imprisoned during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, and never did go home to the United States.

A prize winning mystery writer, Shepard also created a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, now comprising four novels whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. These books explore his rich, insider background in the world of high stakes diplomacy and government.

This Foreign Service memoir has a companion Ebook, "Southeast Asian Quartet: Robbie Cutler Stories." This is, perhaps, the Southeast Asia of fiction. Take a look at http://tinyurl.com/7fmnd6m