Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

There’s a hole in my heart today. That’s not a medical diagnosis–there is an empty spot inside me because on Monday, September 13, my friend David Thompson, as Kinky Friedman would put it, “stepped on a rainbow.” How did I meet David? I walked into a bookstore called Murder by the Book in Houston, somewhere around fifteen years ago, and there he was to greet me.  I love mysteries, read them, review them, attempt to write them, so I have spent a lot of time in that store, and through the years David became much more than a book seller to me, and to many other people all over the city, the country, and the world. He loved books, and it didn’t take him much time at all to know what each customer wanted, could make spot-on recommendations on what other books they might like – he never missed with any of the books he recommended to me. If he read a book by an unknown writer and liked it, he would often call and ask the writer to come to the store and do a signing-even if said writer lived in Brazil or Thailand.

MBTB has been my home away from home, my main source of a social life, the place where everybody knows my name … Carolyn Hart, one of the big names in mystery, had her first signing at the store, and one of her series features a book store based on MBTB. Lee Child, writer of the wonderful Jack Reacher thrillers, is long past the stage where he needs to do any touring to promote his books, but he makes a point of coming to the store with each new book. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories like that. The whole staff is wonderful, but David is the one who livened up the room and warmed the heart of everyone who ever met him.

A few years back, a lovely redhead named McKenna Jordan joined the staff. It took me awhile to figure out their relationship – David could get irritated and frustrated, and he often took it out on McKenna. She dished it right back. I figured they either hated each other or were in love. They were married in a Scottish castle two years ago.

My aunt told me what happened when my mother became a widow at age twenty-two. Her first husband died in WWII, leaving her with a little girl not quite two years old. When Mother got the dreaded yellow telegram, she walked home from the post office, handed it to her sister, and shut herself in her room. For two weeks she sat in a chair, not eating, not sleeping, not speaking. I know she is grieving for my father, who died last Christmas, but he was 89 and they’d spent 65 years together.

I’m editing this bit to explain why I mentioned my mother’s widowhood. The morning of my father’s funeral, her granddaughter asked her which was more difficult, to lose a husband so young, after just a few years of marriage, or to lose one after so many years together. Mother didn’t really have an answer – she said she’s always wondered what life would have been had her first husband lived to a ripe old age, but she knew she would miss Dad after so many years of marriage. I know what she felt in her heart, though. She did, and does, grieve for my father, but it is not the soul-shattering pain she felt so many years ago when that yellow telegram came.

McKenna and David should have had another 50 years to carry out all their plans and dreams. Life is not fair. We are not promised that it will be, but things like this are so very wrong and sad, and my heart breaks for all of David’s family, but most of all for McKenna.

I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll turn to my stash of quotes and poetry to end this post.

Lawrence Binyon wrote a poem called The Fallen for the British soldiers who gave their all in the Great War. I have adapted it slightly:

He shall not grow old

As those who are left grow old.

Age shall not weary him,

Nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun

And in the morning

We will remember him

David Harkins wrote these words:

“You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived…”

Dear David, I am both smiling and shedding tears. I hope there is a big bookstore in Heaven, where you can guide the other angels to books they will like, and maybe even send spiritual encouragement to writers on earth who might need a little help in writing their books. Here’s a hint – me :-)You can have long discussions with all the writers you’ve admired, those already there and those to come, and you will make Heaven a much brighter place to be. I will miss you always, and whenever I look at my Tigger doll, I will think of you.  All of us will do our best to support and comfort your beloved McKenna and your other loved ones, and we will shamelessly spoil Jack, who must be wondering where you are. Goodbye, my friend, you will be greatly missed. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.


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It’s a Mystery to Me

I love mysteries – reading them, writing them, and writing about them. I started ca. age 10 with the classic mystery queen, Agatha Christie, but I’ve gone way beyond her. I still like the Christie-esq “cozy” mysteries, but I also enjoy thrillers, historical, suspense, fantasy, and the occasional hard-boiled. Through all these decades of reading, and for the last 10 years reviewing, mysteries, I’ve discovered some wonderful writers. It has been my good fortune to live in Houston, home of the legendary Murder by the Book. http://www.murderbooks.com/ The good folks there bring in new writers as well as some of the Big Names. I’ve been able to meet many of my personal fav writers, and I’ve developed many “virtual” friendships with others.

Today I’m going to talk about my favorite war mysteries. James R. Benn (www.jamesrbenn.com) has 2 books out so far in his fabulous Billy Boyle series. Young Billy was a Boston policeman when the war rudely interrupted his plans. Through connections he was assigned to a distant relative for what he believed would be a cushy office job. The relative’s name was Eisenhower. Billy is a likeable character with a few flaws, an all-American boy who is able to step up to the plate when the chips are down. I think that’s a mixed metaphor 🙂 but it’s what I mean.

Jacqueline Winspear: http://www.jacquelinewinspear.com/ Jacqueline is English, and her series is about Maisie Dobbs, a nurse in the Great War turned psychologist/private investigator. There are 5 books-the latest is An Incomplete Revenge. Most of the action is set in the 1920’s and 30’s, with flashbacks to Maisie’s wartime experiences. Jacqueline is a lovely and very talented woman and a great speaker.

Thomas Holland is a new discovery: http://www.thomas-holland.com/ He is the Scientific Director of the DOD Central Identification Laboratory, responsible for the recovery and identification of U.S. war dead in earlier wars, through the Vietnam War. His two books, One Drop of Blood and K.I.A., are about a guy who has a similar job. The books are fascinating, poignant, and informative – in a good way, you’ll hardly notice you’re learning new things. He’s a dynamite speaker – lots of practice, he travels around the country to meet families whose loved ones are still missin, updating them on their findings and when possible to collect DNA samples from relatives to compare to unidentified remains. And small world, he studied archeology at U. Missouri with Mike O’Brien, who gave me my first paying job for the Cannon Dam Human Ecology Project in Missouri.

Anne Perry: http://www.anneperry.net/ has 2 series set in Victorian London, but since this is about war today, she recently completed a 5 book series on The Great War as experienced by one English family. I think it’s her finest work Like Jacqueline Winspear, she based much of the work on her family’s experiences and memories.

More on other favorite authors to come.

I decided to make this category about books with a military theme, not just war.  One of my favorite books last year combines WWII and time-travel, and the author is Pauline Baird Jones, my buddy in The Final Twist, the Houston chapter of Sisters in Crime.  http://www.paulinebjones.com.  Besides being a cool story, it has a great cover.

Martin Limon writes a badly underrated series about Army M.P. George Sueno, set in Korea in the early 1970’s.  Mr. Limon spent a lot of years in the Orient and knows Korea well.

Lee Child!  I love Lee Child!  http://www.leechild.com — His character, JackReacher, starts out as an M.P., then leaves the military and travels around slaying dragons and righting wrongs, kicking butt and taking names – not my usual comfort read, but I’m addicted!  Mr. Child is tall, dreamy (sorry, it can’t be helped, I have a big crush – as do many, many of his female fans) gentle, and very generous to new writers.   Reacher is tall, dreamy in a nightmarish sort of way, for the bad guys, and he travels with nothing but a folding toothbrush & buys new clothes when the old ones wear out, and he IS NOT gentle, except to his loved ones and little children and the occasional lady friend.

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