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Reflecting on Martin Luther King Day

We celebrate Martin Luther King Day for King’s leadership in advancing the civil rights of black Americans by means of nonviolent protest. Ended in the 1950s and ’60s was segregation on buses and trains, segregation in public schools, colleges and universities, segregation in movie theaters, restaurants and hotels, segregation at swimming pools, on beaches and [...]

New Year’s Day mysteries hard to find

If you went poking through your local bookstore or scanned Amazon for a Christmas mystery to buy and read – or buy and give – you found lots of them. Most are schlock, but three of our top mystery writers put up excellent reads this past year: Anne Perry (A Christmas Garland), James Patterson (Merry [...]

Rose Bowl parade celebrates . . . reading!

Okay, okay, the University of Wisconsin’s football team lost to Stanford in the Rose Bowl. I’m a Badger. Marge and I watched the game, and we suffered through the last minute . . . when a pass interception by Stanford’s Usua Amanam effectively killed UW’s chance at a win. Well, next year may be better [...]

Labor Day crime week – Part 5

Boston crime writer Dennis Lehane made his reputation as one of the best in our field with his 2001 novel, Mystic River. But for this Labor Day crime week, we turn to Lehane’s ninth novel, The Given Day. He sets the story in Boston at the end of the First World War, a time of [...]

Labor Day crime week – Part 4

In A Bitter Feast, New York crime writer S.J. Rozan sends her Chinese-American P.I., Lydia Chin, into Chinatown to find four restaurant workers and a union organizer who have disappeared. Ahh, here’s a good labor mystery. A bomb destroys the Chinese Restaurant Workers’ Union headquarters, killing one of the missing men and injuring the union [...]

Labor Day crime week – Part 3

Los Angeles crime writer James Ellroy hit it big with four books between 1987 and 1992, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. He followed that quartet of L.A. crime novels with American Tabloid which Time magazine declared to be the best fiction book of 1995. Labor is involved in this [...]

Labor Day crime week – Part 2

I’ve met Rhys Bowen, a gracious, witty woman and a superb crime writer. But I never knew, until the other day, that Rhys Bowen is a pen name, that the Britisher, now living and writing in the San Francisco area, is Janet Quin-Harkin Harkin got her start writing radio plays for the BBC. In the [...]

Labor Day crime week – Part 1

I Googled Labor Day mysteries to see whether anyone had written one. There are a couple, and those I scanned are schlock. But Google for labor mysteries, and there are a flock of good ones out there. Dasheill Hammett’s Red Harvest is at the top, if you like hard-boiled crime fiction. Red Harvest was Hammett’s [...]

The Christmas story with a Southern accent

Have you ever heard of the Cotton Patch Gospel? Georgia preacher and Bible scholar Clarence Johnson wrote this paraphrase of the New Testament back in the 1950s and ’60s to, as he said, take the Bible out of the “long ago and far away” and place it in the “here and now” of the people [...]

Memorial Day

As a writer of mysteries, it’s only right for me to ask on this day ARE THERE ANY MEMORIAL DAY MYSTERIES OUT THERE? Yes. There are. Two . . . Harry Shannon’s 2004 novel, “Memorial Day”; and Kathryn Kenny’s 1984 kids’ mystery, “The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire.” There could be more, but these [...]