Agatha Historical Nominees and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where we still are waiting for that last bit of snow to melt on the north side of the house.

It is my very great pleasure today to welcome the nominees for the 2017 Agatha Historical Award! Each of my fellow nominees were gracious enough to answer the following question:

What first attracted you to the historical era in which you set you books and what draws you back to it time and time again? 

P1120916Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series: the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in early 1900s New York City and the lighter Royal Spyness novels featuring a minor royal in 1930s London. She has now also published two stand-alone novels. The first of these, In Farleigh Field was #1 on Kindle for six weeks, won the Lefty award for best historical and is currently nominated for the Edgar and Agatha awards.

Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona (and Europe whenever she can escape)

Rhys: In Farleigh Field was something I’d wanted to write for a long time. It was a bigIn Farleigh Field risk for me: a stand-alone novel when I have built up a great fan base for my series. Would they follow me to a new time and place? To a book that is more thriller than cozy mystery?

I’ve always been fascinated with WWII. It was the last time we had a clear sense of good versus evil and everyone knew he had to do his part to stop evil before it swallowed up the world. It was a time of hardship and misery and bombings but also a time of heightened emotions, camaraderie and a joy in being alive.

I suppose I am attracted to the period partly because I was born toward the end of it and so my early memories were of my father coming home, rationing that continued until 1953, stories of hardship and bombing, and the black market. What I had not heard as a child were stories of traitors. I was horrified, when I read a biography of the former King Edward VIII (the Prince of Wales who married Mrs. Simpson) that suggested he was whisked to the Bahamas because of his pro-Hitler sentiments and that the Germans wanted to invade and put him on the throne. Further investigation revealed that there was a group of aristocrats who were pro-German and wanted to aid the invasion, believing, mistakenly of course, that Hitler would treat Britain kindly and that this would stop the destructive bombing of Britain’s monuments. This was a story I had to write.

I also loved the freedom of multiple stories, multiple points of view. We see the war and the unfolding mystery through the eyes of Lady Pamela, daughter of an Earl, now working secretly at Bletchley Park, her sister Margo, now taken by the Gestapo in Paris, her youngest sister Phoebe, a precocious 12 year old, and Ben, the vicar’s son, now also working secretly for MI5. And through each of them we put together pieces of the puzzle while we watch their interpersonal relationships develop.

crop_4182Renee Patrick is the pseudonym for married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

Rosemarie and Vince share a love of movies, cocktails, and the New York Mets. Together, they’ve introduced movies at the famous Noir City Film Festival and on Turner Classic Movies. Separately, they’ve appeared on game shows. While they grew up mere subway stops apart in Queens, they didn’t meet until fate threw them together at a South Florida advertising agency. Their most successful collaboration to date, Design for Dying was published one month before their silver wedding anniversary. And some said it wouldn’t last.

Renee: What attracted us to the era is the same thing that attracted us to each other,Dangerous to Know cover proof February 2017 namely our love of classic Hollywood movies. We both grew up watching black and white films on television, and that interest has only intensified over the years. We’re both still suckers for the 1930s Hollywood version of sophistication exemplified by the Thin Man movies and Astaire & Rogers musicals—the champagne cocktails, the sparkling repartee. Knowing that Hollywood was serving up these dreams as the world was struggling through the Great Depression only makes us admire the movies more. The 1930s is also when Edith Head, one half of our detective duo along with failed actress Lillian Frost, was coming into her own as both a costume designer and an executive. What keeps drawing us back? Those movies! That will always be our answer to everything.

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Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of The New York Times, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today-bestselling Maggie Hope mystery series, starting with the Edgar Award-nominated and Barry Award-winning Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, which is now in its 22nd printing. She is currently at work on The Prisoner in the Castle, the eighth novel in the series.

Her books include Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, His Majesty’s Hope, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante, The Queen’s Accomplice, and The Paris Spy. The Maggie Hope novels have been nominated for the Edgar, the Macavity, the ITW Thriller, the Barry, the Dilys, the Sue Federer Historical Fiction, and the Bruce Alexander Historical Fiction awards. The Maggie Hope series is sold worldwide in English and has been translated into Czech, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Turkish. It is also available in large print and audio. Actress Daisy Ridley (Star Wars, Murder on the Orient Express) has bought the film and television rights to the series. 

Susan graduated from Nardin Academy in Buffalo New York, and also cum laude and with honors in English from Wellesley College. She cross-registered for courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Her first job was as the assistant to novelist John Irving in Vermont. She then worked as an editorial assistant at Random House, assistant editor at Viking Penguin, and associate editor and staff writer at Dance Magazine in New York City. As a freelance writer, she wrote two non-fiction books and for the publications of New York City Ballet.

Susan is married and lives with her husband, Noel MacNeal, a television performer, writer, and director, and their son in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Susan:  I was in London with my husband (who was promoting his show with the Jim7bb682bc269e83b0572bd585ae20c124 Henson Muppets) and we met up with a friend in a pub. Our friend handed me a copy of Time Out London and when I flipped to a page with an ad for the Churchill War Rooms, he said, “Maybe you should go — despite what you Yanks may think, World War II didn’t start with Pearl Harbor.” So I took it as a personal challenge and went.

It was an absolutely life-altering experience.

Of course, I never dreamed that I would be so captivated by going there, and that the visit would be a catalyst for writing a novel! Or a series! THE PARIS SPY comes out in Trade paperback tomorrow and Maggie Hope, #8, THE PRISONER IN THE CASTLE is to be published on August 7.

 

MaxwellCropEdith Maxwell Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Maxwell’s second Quaker Midwife mystery, is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries.  

Maxwell is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, KillerCharacters.com, and Under the Cover of Midnight . Read about all her personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com.

Edith: I stumbled onto the late 1880s from a newspaper article about Amesbury, Called to JusticeMassachusetts’ Great Fire of 1888, and I wrote a short story about a Quaker mill girl who solves the mystery of the arson (which wasn’t the cause, historically). The characters and setting – 130 years ago right here in my town – didn’t want to go away, so I wrote Delivering the Truth, got a three-book contract (already renewed for at least two more), and here we are!

It turns out the late 1880s is a fascinating period to write in. So much was on the cusp of change. The horse-drawn trolley didn’t become electrified until 1890 but parts of the town had electric street lights. The germ theory of infection was known but not blood typing, and most births still happened at home. Fingerprint analysis wasn’t yet developed. Some fancy houses had indoor plumbing but not the modest ones. Amesbury’s factories sold well-engineered graceful carriages internationally and the town was thriving. Screen doors were new. Corsets were loosening and hems were starting to creep upward.

I love having Rose experiences these changes, navigate them, and comment on them, and I hope you do, too.  See you all in North Bethesda!

SONY DSCJessica Ellicott loves fountain pens, Minin Coopers and throwing parties. She lives in northern New England where she obsessively knits wool socks and enthusiastically speaks Portuguese with a shocking disregard for the rules of grammar. 

As Jessie Crockett she’s the author of the nationally bestselling Sugar Grove Mysteries and the Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Live Free or Die.  She also is the author of the books in the Change of Fortune Mystery series under the name Jessica Estevao.

Jessica: I think it was a combination of influences that led me to write about the 1920s.MURDER IN AN ENGLISH VILLAGE As a child I loved reading books by Agatha Christie and that lead me to seek out books written by her contemporary mystery writers. I particularly loved those written by Ngaio Marsh. At about the same time I fell in love with the work of P.G. Wodehouse. I just couldn’t get enough of his charming, uproarious world. Somehow along the way the two sorts of books set in the same approximate time period wound together in my mind.

And as much as I love writing about the era because of the hats, the automobiles and the music, it is the way the world was changing for women and for each socioeconomic class that keeps bringing me back. The more I research about the people who experienced the aftermath of WWI and the march towards WWII the more  I want to explore, to mull over and to create.

Readers, do you have a favorite historical era? The nominees will each give away a copy of their latest book to one commenter!

Agatha Nominees for Best First 2017

Julie here, hoping this blizzard was the last for New England.

Last year I had the thrill of having Just Killing Time nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel. My fellow nominees and I became good friends during the run up to Malice Domestic, and did a small blog tour. Sherry did the same thing the year she was nominated. We’re thrilled to give a wicked welcome to this year’s nominees.

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Today they are going to answer the question who would play the main characters in the movie or TV show made from your novel?

Alexia Gordon, author of Murder in G Major (Henery Press)

Gosh, that’s a difficult question. Truthfully, I don’t know. I could see Thandie Newton or Zoe Saldana as Gethsemane. Maybe Richard Harrington (from the Welsh TV series Hinterland) as Eamon. A member of a book club that discussed Murder in G Major suggested Kerry Washington as Gethsemane.

When I watch movies and TV shows I forget (on purpose) who’s “starring” in the role and focus on the character being portrayed. For instance, Hugh Jackman isn’t Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, he is Wolverine. Hugh Jackman ceases to exist for 120 minutes. Consequently, I’m pretty good with characters’ names but I’m pretty bad with actors’ names. Not what any actor wants to hear but I mean it as a compliment. It takes talent to convince a rational adult that you’re someone who doesn’t really exist.

I have this fantasy of WGBH Boston or BBC America turning my books into a series and holding an open casting call. Hundreds (oh, why not, thousands) of unknowns would line up to audition and the casting directors–the people who cast Midsomer Murders or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (David Suchet was brilliant as Poirot)–would discover the new “it” actors.

Renee Patrick (Rosemarie and Vince Keenan), author of Design for Dying (Forge)

This is a tricky one. Can we name the 1930s actors who could play our characters instead, because that’s when Design for Dying is set? No? Very well.

Let’s start with Lillian Frost, the toughest casting call for one reason: the role has to be played by an actress good enough to make us believe she’s terrible. It’s Lillian’s lack of skill in front of the camera, after all, that chases her out of pictures. She’s also got to be resourceful, kind, and look stellar in period wardrobe. On second thought, it’s not so tough, especially if you’ve seen Brooklyn. The Oscar-nominated star of that wonderful film Saoirse Ronan would be perfect as a young woman making a new home for herself in a strange and distant place. We know from Captain America that Chris Evans can sport vintage attire, and he’s got the low-key charm of Detective Gene Morrow down pat.

We considered plenty of names to play Lillian’s partner in sleuthing, legendary costume designer Edith Head, and settled on the wild card: pop provocateur Lady Gaga. No, really. It’s not only the resemblance. Gaga has blazed her own trail in show business, developing a distinctive persona and ensuring that everyone knows her name. Just like Edith did decades earlier.

Oh, and the 1930’s version? Priscilla Lane, Dennis O’Keefe, and Mary Astor.

Nadine Nettmann, author of Decanting a Murder (Midnight Ink)

Although a fun question, it’s always a tough one. One of the main characters in Decanting a Murder is Detective Dean, who I describe as tall with slicked back blond hair. While I didn’t have a specific actor in mind for this role when I wrote it, I watched some recent work of Mark-Paul Gosselaar and I think he would be great as Dean. I’m also a fan of Jason Lewis, from Sex and The City, as he has the stoic look that Dean carries, as well as Ryan Kwanten from True Blood. Though, I wouldn’t mind a brand new actor to play the part. It’s always great to see new talent.

As for the main protagonist, Katie Stillwell, I purposefully don’t describe her in the book as I want the reader to identify with her and perhaps put themselves in her shoes. So I’ll hold back on any potential actresses and let readers decide who they would like cast in that role.

Cynthia Kuhn, author of The Semester of Our Discontent (Henery Press)

All of the following not only “look” the part but have something else that makes them seem like strong contenders. (The age of the actor may not align perfectly with the age of the character in these choices, but that’s where the magic of the movies comes in, right?) And now, without further ado: for Lila, someone like Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Connelly, who have played strong characters who sometimes fumble (with amusing results) in certain situations; Reese Witherspoon or Kristen Bell for Calista, either of whom could capture the poet’s quirkiness; Paul Rudd has the right blend of earnestness and laid-back vibe for Nate; Michael Ealy seems like a perfect match for the confident and determined Francisco; and Armie Hammer has the charming, smooth qualities of Tad.

Marla Cooper, author of Terror in Taffeta (Minotaur)

I’ve gone back and forth about who I would cast as Kelsey McKenna, but right now Cristin Milioti from How I Met Your Mother and Fargo is my top pick. (I’m sure she’d be thrilled to know that she’s even being considered for the part—ha!) Her deadpan delivery and comic timing won my heart as the Mother in How I Met Your Mother, and I really, really want her to have a role where she doesn’t have a terminal disease.

As for the supporting roles, there’s only one that I can picture perfectly, and that’s Mrs. Abernathy. Now, I’d probably get outvoted because she’s slightly more “mature” than the role calls for, but Susan Sullivan (AKA Castle’s spitfire of a mom) would be the perfect choice to play the Mother of the Bride in Terror in Taffeta. I had so much fun writing the demanding Mrs. Abernathy, and I can perfectly picture Susan Sullivan delivering lines like, “Put your shoes on, girls. This is a wedding, not a hoedown!”

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Marla Cooper is the author of Terror in Taffeta, an Agatha and Lefty nominee for Best First Mystery and book one in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries. Her second book, Dying on the Vine, is set in the California wine country and comes out April 4. As a freelance writer, Marla has written all sorts of things, from advertising copy to travel guidebooks to the occasional haiku, and it was while ghostwriting a guide to destination weddings that she found inspiration for her series. Originally hailing from Texas, Marla lives in Oakland, California, with her husband and her polydactyl tuxedo cat. Learn more at www.marla-cooper.com.

Alexia Gordon has been a writer since childhood. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, she returned to writing fiction. She completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published her first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, premiers July 2017. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Writers’ League of Texas, she listens to classical music, drinks whiskey, and blogs at www.missdemeanors.com. AlexiaGordon.net

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. She teaches English at MSU Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has visited wine regions around the world, from France to Chile to South Africa, but chose Napa Valley as the setting for her debut novel, Decanting a Murder. The next book in the Sommelier Mystery Series, Uncorking a Lie, releases in May 2017. Chapters are paired with wine recommendations. NadineNettmann.com

Renee Patrick is the pseudonym of married authors Rosemarie and Vince Keenan. Rosemarie is a research administrator and a poet. Vince is a screenwriter and a journalist. Both native New Yorkers, they currently live in Seattle, Washington.

The Detective’s Daughter – Hollywood Glamour

Good morning – we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a special announcement!

The winners of the Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker contests are:

Gail Arnold (Shannon’s winner)
Ann Mason (Jess’s winner)

Gail and Ann, message us your emails on the WCA Facebook page and we’ll put you in touch.

Now, over to Kim!

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Kim in Baltimore melting from the intense heat.

A few months ago I read a book called Design for Dying by Renee Patrick which I highly recommend. I love reading about old Hollywood and show business, in fact I’m a bit obsessed with it. I blame my grandmother. She had subscriptions to Photoplay magazine and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. We spent hours – and I do mean hours – flipping through the glossy pages covered with updates on everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Paul Newman. While other girls on my block were dreaming of Robby Benson and Parker Stevenson, I was setting my alarm to get up at 3am to see a Robert Mitchum movie. The best nights were the ones where a Barbara Stanwyck film followed.
As much as I enjoyed the movies and magazines, what I really loved were imageNana’s stories of her older brother Al. Al was a bandleader who had his own club in the D. C. area in the 1940’s. I was fascinated with the photos of his orchestra and the many acts that had performed in his club. I could picture William Powell and Myrna Loy sipping martinis and watching as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glided around the dance floor.image
Just like all good Hollywood pictures, Al Norton’s life had a dramatic end. Nana told me many times how her brother, dejected by the woman he loved, died of a broken heart in his kitchen. Many years later I found a newspaper clipping about his death that revealed the truth; it wasn’t so much his broken heart that killed him as it was the gas on his stove he had purposefully turned on. Nana would never admit to that, but would tell me two notes were left. She burned hers after reading it.image
Though I never met this man, he has been a great influence on my life; from the books I read to the cocktails I drink. When I find a delightful book like Design for Dying or watch I Love Lucy reruns, I can’t help wishing to be sent back to that glamorous era.

Readers,
If you could be transported back in time, where would you want to go? Would you want to meet one of your ancestors or a famous historical figure?