TV for those long, hot days of summer

Do you love watching mysteries on TV as much as I do? How about gripping political dramas (the fictional kind for me)? Here are four shows that I highly recommend to get you through the long, hot days of summer (or any climate):

The Dr. Blake Mysteries This Australian production is set in 1950s Victoria. Dr. Blake operates a general medical practice in Ballarat, but it’s his role as police surgeon that gives him opportunities to investigate the many murders that befall the community. Dr. Blake is a troubled soul, bound and determined to right the world’s wrongs.

I’ve seen Series 1 and 2 so far. As of this writing, series 4 hasn’t been released in the US. Dr. Blake spurred me to write this post in April: “The Land Down Under: Books, Film, and a Geography Lesson.”

Borgen is a Danish political drama that focuses on Birgitte Nyborg Christensen, first female Prime Minister of Denmark. Danish politics are as cutthroat as they are in any country (perhaps not as much as here in the good old USA). Follow Birgitte through the vicissitudes of politics and her challenges as a wife and mother. Journalists and news anchors provide intriguing subplots.

Brunetti is based on Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series. The actors in the German TV adaptation speak—no surprise—German, which can be startling until you get accustomed to it. The moody and at times haunting Venice setting is the same as in the novels.

Watch a trailer for Brunetti and listen to the beautiful soundtrack.

The West Wing is quite a departure from the above—although it is along the lines of Borgen. I must say I had to get used to the American accents! I didn’t watch this political drama during its prime time run from 1999-2006, but once I started renting the DVDs in 2016 I didn’t stop until President Josiah Bartlett (played to perfection by Martin Sheen) finished his eight years in office and handed the reins to his successor. This almost coincided with the 2017 Inauguration. I’ll cut off any political commentary and comparisons at this point.

A few more for your consideration:
Agatha Raisin

Grantchester  Season 3 is currently running on PBS

Fog and Crimes

Murdoch Mysteries

Vera

For more suggestions, see this recent post from Lethal Lady Mollie Cox Bryan (she includes books).

What shows do you enjoy? Recommendations are welcome.

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Missing Authors: Update 4

My long-awaited “Missing Author” series is back! Since I last updated in January, I’ve had a number of requests. In March, I guest posted for a week on Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Fan Club (great experience!). Many of my requests came from one of those posts.

Without further ado, read on for the latest updates.

Annette Blair, author of the Vintage Magic mysteries, set in Connecticut

Here’s Annette’s response to my inquiry on her status:

Maggie, I will be writing more mysteries, but I have to wait to get the rights back from Random House. I’m working on new Rogues right now, Rogues 5 & 6. And I should have the rights back to the witches this spring. I went missing because of four years worth of surgeries, months of rehab, horrible side effects and of course depression with all that. But I am back to writing again. Thanks for letting the readers know.

Joyce Christmas, author of the Betty Trenka and the Lady Margaret Priam series.

Joyce Christmas passed away in 2012. Read her obit.

Earlene Fowler, author of the Benni Harper quilting mysteries, set on California’s central coast.

On February 15, 2017 she responded to an inquiry about a new book on her Facebook page: “Not writing currently, personal and professional reasons. So sorry.”

Graham Landrum, author of the The Social Club Mysteries in Borderville, Virginia.

Graham Landrum died in 1995. Here is an article about his last book, The Garden Club Mystery, published posthumously by his son.

I must read The Garden Club Mystery, as I once served as Administrator for the Garden Club of Virginia.

Lia Matera, author of the Willa Jansson mysteries, set in San Francisco

Read Lia’s response to my inquiry:

Hi, Maggie. Thanks for asking! I do hope to finish the manuscripts I’ve been working on soon… or soonish. (Or maybe, at this rate, I should say eventually.) But then the books will have to find homes, and if they do, they’ll be in the pipeline for a year or two. So for now, I’m answering to Lia Who? and wasting time on facebook & twitter when I should be working.

Stephanie Matteson, author of the Charlotte Graham mysteries

All I can find are indications that she’s been involved in the corporate world for the past several years, especially in the solar energy field. She wrote her Charlotte Graham series in the 1990s.

Deborah Sharp, author of the Mace Bauer Mysteries, set in Florida

Read Deborah’s response to my inquiry:

Hi, there … I’m so flattered that readers still ask about me! I love the idea of your blog post tracking down MIA authors. The “Whatever Happened To . . . ?” stories were always favorites of mine to write back in my journalism days. As for me, I never planned that my fifth book, Mama Gets Trashed, would be the last when it came out in 2013. In fact, I had completed a 35-page outline for Book 6, had a title — Mama Gets Schooled — and a commitment from my publisher, Midnight Ink. Unfortunately, life intervened. Health issues, care-taking for my elderly mother, and family responsibilities just seemed to sap the “funny” right out of me. When I sat down to write the book, I found I just didn’t have the heart to do it. I’ve been surprised by how much I miss my characters (not to mention the lovely readers!) My mother — the real mama — recently passed away at 102. I’m not sure if I will return to writing, but if I do, it would likely be to my series, because I love those folks in fictional Himmarshee, Fla. Currently, though, I’m enjoying the freedom I have to travel, read, and do not much of anything, frankly. I kind of like being a lazybones!

S.T. Haymon, author of a series featuring Ben Jurnet, a detective inspector, in Norfolk, England

Sylvia Theresa Haymon passed away in 1995.

Here’s information a reader sent for author Marianne Macdonald and CJ Songer, featured in my January post:

Marianne lives in London, but is in poor health. Her sons were caring for her but have not heard from her for over a year and do not have contact with the sons.

I forwarded your address to CJ Songer.

Note: So far, CJ Songer has not contacted me.

I receive many requests for authors I’ve posted about before. Click on the following names to see the earlier post:

Madelyn Alt

Jill Churchill

Selma Eichler

Jerrilyn Farmer

Stephen Greenleaf He has his backlist on Kindle now

Sue Henry

Karen Kijewski

John J. Lamb

Valerie Wolzien

Thank you readers, for wanting to know what happened to your favorite mystery authors who, for whatever reason, haven’t published in a while.

If you have information on the status of an author included in these posts please leave a comment. And if you have a favorite author who hasn’t written in some time and isn’t included on one of the above posts, include the name(s) in the comments section and I’ll see what I can find out. It may take me some time but I will get back to you, either personally or in an upcoming blog post.

One thing’s for sure—there are a lot of missing authors out there!

Some are easy to find, while some are not. Fortunately, many still maintain websites and are active on social media so I can contact them. Often life circumstances put her or his writing on hold. Some are making a comeback with a new series. Sadly, I find that some have left us for the great beyond. Others have seemingly vanished.

I have more authors to research. I’m waiting on responses to a number of inquiries—Earl Emerson, Jane Haddam, Beverly Taylor Herald, M.D. Lake, Barbara Taylor McCafferty, Beth Sherman, Christine Wenger, and more. I may have to reach out to publishers. So look for an update this summer, earlier than usual.

In the meantime, I’ll have to check out Madelyn Alt’s series—she’s my #1 request.

Find bibliographies for the above authors on Stop You’re Killing Me, a great resource for mystery lovers.

Posts from my “Missing Authors” series, in chronological order:

Missing Rochelle Krich

Discovering a Lost Author: John J. Lamb

Whatever Happened to Gabrielle Kraft?

Whatever Happened to (Name an Author)?

In Memory of My Favorite Mystery Authors (And Maybe Yours)

Those Missing Authors: An Update

Missing Author Found!

Missing Authors: Update 2

“Missing Authors: Update 3”

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Animal Kingdom: A Trip Through a Human Jungle

I never missed an episode of TNT’s Animal Kingdom during its first season. Will I be as loyal when the second season starts on May 29?

Good question.

For the uninitiated, here’s TNT’s blurb for Animal Kingdom:

Animal Kingdom is an adrenaline-charged drama starring Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a Southern California family whose excessive lifestyle is fueled by their criminal activities, with Scott Speedman as her second in command. Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary and Finn Cole also star.

Ellen Barkin shines as the controlling and manipulative crime mom, hell bent on getting her way. She always does. Her sons and grandson are your classic great-looking bad boys. And they don’t mind shedding their clothes on-camera. Often.

Folks, this ain’t Hallmark fare. No one is nice. It’s even hard to root for the detectives who are trying to bring the family down—they may be on the right side of the law, but just barely. But characters don’t have to be likeable, just compelling.

Writers can benefit from watching Animal Kingdom with its nuanced and layered portrayal of a dysfunctional family. The dark tale contrasts with a sunny Southern California setting, creating a virtual underworld that emphasizes the unsavoriness of the plot and characters—characters who are so good at being so bad.

So what’s my hesitation? One word: violence. Animal Kingdom started out with a creepy, menacing tone and only a suggestion of violence. By season end, I watched someone get beaten to a bloody pulp, punch by punch, kick by kick. Can’t say I care to go through that again.

But I’ve long been intrigued by scary moms who manipulate their children, especially their sons, and get them to do their evil bidding. It’s a theme that shows up in my writing. Animal Kingdom illustrates this family dynamic to perfection.

Circling back to my question, “Will I be watching on May 29th?”

You bet.

Animal Kingdom cast; photo from RollingStone.com

 

Rolling Stone: Everything You Need to Know about Animal Kingdom

Review for Animal Kingdom from A.V. Club

 

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Setting as Character

A warm and hearty welcome to F.M. Meredith, aka Marilyn Meredith. This is her third, maybe fourth, visit here. I know that readers are always eager for her next title to come out and, luckily, we never have to wait for long. Today she introduces Unresolved, the latest in her Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and talks about setting as an actual character in her stories.

The setting for any book is important, and can be as important as the characters.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. is located in a small beach community somewhere between the Southern  California towns of Ventura and Santa Barbara. Though it has some of the features of real towns along the coast, it is entirely fictional.

However, it is very real to me. I can see the way the streets are laid out on the hillside as they progress down toward the main part of town and the ocean. I know what stores are at what end of the main street. Where the restaurants are, including McDonald’s, the location of the police department, the churches, the grocery store, and the campground at the southernmost end of the city limits. At the northern end, the bluff that gave the town its name rises above. This is where the most expensive homes are located.

On the other side of the 101 highway, the sharply sloping hillsides are covered by ranches and orange groves. An interesting trailer park is tucked away in a wooded area.

Things are changing though, the low income housing that once fronted the beach has all been taken down with three story condos taking their place.

Where people live can tell you a lot about them, and their homes are an important part of the setting.

Of course, the fact that the town is beside the Pacific Ocean is a huge factor in all the stories about Rocky Bluff. Because the town is beside the sea, fog often complicates life for the police officers and the people they serve and protect.

Where the action takes place and conversations are held are also setting, the reader needs to know where these things are going on.

 

Though most people might not think of setting as character, to a writer setting is as important.

A little about Unresolved, #13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series:
The Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi.

Marilyn signing in Pismo Beach

F. M. Meredith lived for many years in a small beach community much like Rocky Bluff. She has many relatives and friends who are in law enforcement and share their experiences and expertise with her. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.

Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith

Twitter: MarilynMeredith

Buy link for Unresolved: http://amzn.to/2pVTUGw

 

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Things I Learned at Malice

Malice Domestic 2017 was even more fun than usual this year. I congratulate all the Agatha winners, nominees, and honorees. Most memorable to me are some of the fun facts I learned from the panels.

Did you know …

That K.M. Rockwood draws on her prison background for many of her short stories, having supervised an inmate work crew in a medium security state prison. As she is the maternal sort, she was often given the inmates who most needed a mom.

Murder Shorts: Mystery Stories panel. Bottom: Leone Cipronin, Teresa Inge, K.M. Rockwood; top: Alan Orloff, Maggie King. Mo Walsh was camera shy.

Portland, Oregon is a mecca for plump drag queens. Author Angela M. Sanders shared this tidbit that she learned while researching her Joanna Hayworth Vintage Clothing Mysteries. Portly in Portland? Surely someone is using this title to good effect.

Camille Minichino is a prolific author (Malice attracts many prolific authors) who writes under a number of pseudonyms. And she follows the sage advice, “write what you know”—for her Sister Francesca Mysteries she draws on her seventeen year stint as a nun.

Having a father in law enforcement exposed Heather Weidner to dinner table discussions about grisly murders. She was shocked when she learned that most families avoid such topics at mealtime—or at any other time!

Mary Feliz features the looming issue of undocumented immigrants in her upcoming Dead Storage, #3 in her Maggie McDonald Silicon Valley series.

Dru Ann Love received the Raven Award at the 2017 Edgar Awards. She positively beamed as she posed for photos.

Sheila Connelly is likely the most prolific of the many prolific authors at Malice (how do these folks break away from their computers long enough to attend conferences?). Her oeuvre—love that word!—is beyond impressive. She now lives part-time in County Cork to turn out her series of the same name.

My panel, Murder Shorts: Mystery Stories, featured three of the 17 authors who contributed to 50 Shades of Cabernet: Teresa Inge, Alan Orloff, and myself. The aforementioned K.M. Rockwood and Mo Walsh joined us. Leone Cipronin moderated (see our group photo above).

Moderators Joanna Campbell Slan and Rick Ollerman are really, really funny. Do I sound like Donald Trump with the really, really?

Put April 27 – April 29 on your calendars. David Suchet, the ultimate Poirot, is the 2018 Amelia Award recipient!

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