Category Archives: Elaine Flinn


It was used before – in another interview (January Magazine/Anthony Rainone) – as a title for an interview – but  ‘A STAR IS BORN’ so aptly fits Jim Born, that I had to steal it.  And thank God -‘Write What You Know’ – is being taken seriously these days – else we may never have met so many fine writers – and Jim Born is a perfect example.  He knows for sure from where he speaks.  His first book – WALKING MONEY – was an instant hit.  Jim followed up with SHOCK WAVE – and secured his place in the firmament.  ESCAPE CLAUSE made his star shine brighter – and now – Ladies & Gents – put on your shades – FIELD OF FIRE is on the way! 

One of the best perks about doing these interviews – is the opportunity to offer both the serious and not-so-serious side of my favorite writers and friends.  If you’re gonna do one of these things every week, you might as well have some fun, right?  At least my guests and I obviously think so.  If you do too – then come along and have some fun with us.  But if you’re looking for one of those no-nonsense, heavy into the mechanics of literati – the pulling of hair, the suffering for your ‘art’, the angst searching for that perfect paragraph – or that hidden key to the best seller list – this ain’t the place. 

So – if you’re still with us – come along and meet Jim Born!

Jim_born JIM BORN

EE:  Rumor has it that the head man at the FBI – Bob Mueller – would look kindly upon you if in your next book you’d make the Feebs look like they were on the ball instead of – well – you know.  Uh, your are mulling this over, right?

JB:  I am a graduate of the DEA academy, which used to be in the same facility as the FBI at Quantico.  I’ve heard jokes about the FBI since my first days as a cop.  If you keep saying you’re the best and the brightest, you better prove it every day.  Individual FBI agents are great.  I’ve met a number I count as the smartest, hardest working cops in the country.  But the agency continues to frustrate our desire to hold them in the esteem in which they believe they deserve.

My first two books made jokes about the FBI but in the end – FBI agents helped save the day.  In last year’s ESCAPE CLAUSE – the FBI is not even mentioned.

Field_of_fire_small FIELD OF FIRE is not part of the Tasker series.  The novel is about the ATF.  There is an FBI presence – but not too much.  I’ll leave it to the reader to decide how they are portrayed.

Well, guess that should satisfy Mueller, huh?  I’ll let you know after he calls me later today.

EE:  I know you to be a devoted husband and father, Jim – but how on earth do you manage to remain a vital member of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, write intricate thrillers, go on book tours and attend cons?  I mean, that is one very heavy schedule!

JB:  I pretty much ignore my family.  I steal most of my novel ideas, that’s a real time-saver.  I have a mountain of leave time built up at work and I travel easily.  All in all it works out.

Steal ideas?  But…but…you’re a cop!  Stealing is a crime!  But I like it!  Let’s talk, okay?  Maybe you can help me find some antiques dealer sleuths to copy.

EE:  And speaking of writing – what’s the scoop on the Tasker/Chin connection? That’s one dynomite lady.  Hmmm?

JB:  She is wholly fictional.  Most of my characters are based, at least physically, on someone I know.  It helps to visualize them when I write.  Renee Chin is the exception.  I liked her sleek, aggressive nature.  She can learn from mistakes but not admit them.  That’s talent.

Talent?  No – that’s being a woman.  Ohhh….I can already hear the screams from women out there now!

EE:  How much teasing do your law enforcement friends give you now that you’re damn near a household name?

JB:  I do take some – but I’ve never had anyone say anything nasty.  All the people I work with are supportive.  I get a huge kick out of being on a scene and having a cop there ask, "Hey, are you the guy who writes books?"  And now it happens a lot more frequently.

It’s nice to know you’ve got a great cheering section – you’ve done a lot to honor your profession.

EE:  What thematic plans are itching to get out from under that Kevlar?  Is FIELD OF FIRE the beginning of more standalones?

JB:  It started as a standalone – but Putnam has purchased the sequel to it.  BURN ZONE will be published next year and follows Alex Duarte to New Orleans and Panama where his informant has been killed, sparking him to find the killer.

I have another, tender, coming-of-age story about a dull boy from St. Louis who moves to LA to be a screen writer and hits it big.  Really big.  I mean JUDGING AMY big.  Then chucks it for the simple life back in the mid-west.  It’s titled ARE YOUR FREAKING CRAZY?

Congrats on the new series!  But, uh – the coming-of-age one?  Sounds like a downer to me.  I mean, this is the age of ‘I wanna be a star’ – who the hell is gonna cheer for a guy who left fame and glory behind?  But – who am I to second guess you?  So – who inspired this new tome?  Anyone we know?

EE:  What’s your greatest indulgence since you’ve become a successful published writer?

JB:  I eat out all the time.  And I bought a new truck.  Is that indulgent?

Oh, you spendthrift, you! 

EE:  Time for the Walter Mitty Dream segment, Jim.  What’s yours?

JB:  To rule a South American country with an iron fist.  To smash opposition and instill fear in all who know me.  OR – To be a scuba instructor in the Florida keys.

I like your first choice better.  How about starting with Venezuela?  And after that…

EE:  It’s widely known that you have a terrific sense of humor, but would you say it is your most marked characteristic? 

JB:  Along with my large nose, yes.

Awww, come on!  You have a very aristocratic nose.  Besides, you know what they say about men with an interesting nose, don’t you?

EE:  Okay, you’re moderating a panel at ThrillerFest – and you get to select your panelists.  Who would they be – and why?

JB:  Donna Moore for the cool accent and humor.  Paul Guyot for his experience in TV and humor.  Peter Speigleman for some class and Jeff Shelby so the rest of us look good.

Uh, Jim? That’s only four panelists.  You can have five, remember?  I, uh…well…I know I need to work on my sense of humor, but I could bring age and wisdom.  Think about it, okay?

EE:  If you could change one thing about yourself – what would it be?

JB:  That’s a tough question.  It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with myself.  I wouldn’t mind having a range of emotion.  People tell me it can be fun.  I like being ‘even tempered’ but wonder what it would be like to let go.  To get really excited or really bummed out.

Oh, that’s easy, darling!  Just do it!  But really you need to be Italian first to do it first rate.  Call me, okay?  I can help you there.

EE:  Scuttlebutt Station reports Al Pacino misses Florida.  He hasn’t been back since SCARFACE – and he wants you to get rid of Derrick Sutter and write him in your next book as Tasker’s new sidekick.  What does Sutter think of that?

JB:  Sutter wouldn’t give him a second thought.  A miniature Italian man from New York wouldn’t last eight seconds with a Miami cop like Sutter.  The city alone eats up and spits out guys like that all the time.  I get a kick when I hear Pacino or Joe Pesci described as "tough guys".  My daughter would kick their ass.

Speaking of ass – I’m laughing mine off now.  Now you know why I married an Irishman.

EE:  Who are the six living writers you’d like to have a night on the town with?

JB:  I’ve already had a night on the town with a couple of them.  Whenever we’re together, Reed Coleman, Ken Bruen, Jason Starr and I have a fine time.  Throw into that mix Michelle Martinez, Christine Kling and Jonathan King and it’s a party where someone will get hurt.  Wild, unpredictable and not too serious.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.  Might produce good On The Bubble material?

EE:  My favorite spy tells me that many of your female fans went ballistic when you shaved off your beard.  Seems there will be no more hotel room key cards thrown your way at cons anymore.  Maybe you should rethink this, Jim?  I mean, women buy a lot of books, darling.  It would be a shame to lose all that adoration and sales to Eisler and Child.

JB:  I gave my extra keys to Eisler anyway.  By the way, he makes a cameo as himself in FIELD OF FIRE.  The beard was a little scratchy and gray.  I grew it for my police job but then had to keep it when that was the only way anyone ever recognized me at Bouchercon.  The new look is easier and more professional.  That’s a word you don’t hear in connection to me very often.

What word?  Easy?  So Barry’s in FIELD OF FIRE, huh?  He’ll be my guest next week here – Hmmm.  Wonder what he’ll have to say about that?  You were kind, I hope.

EE:  Who is your favorite fiction character?

JB:  Harry Bosch

Ohhh…I love that guy too!

EE:  What book do you wish you’d written?

JB:  MEMORY OF RUNNING by Ron McLarty or, of course, the KITE RUNNER – by some guy.  Both, I might add, are part of the Penguin family of fine books available at book stores everywhere.  Always the company man.

That ‘some guy’ is Khaled Hosseini – and I’m very much taken by your choices.  I think they say much about you as a person – and one I’m pleased to say – I admire – even if you didn’t include me on your panel or night out.  But hey, I’m a big girl – I’ll get over it. Snif.

Thank you, Jim – for playing with us today.  Please do come back again – and I promise to have a photo of you sans the beard.  But it was just so…so…devilish looking, you know?

Feet Fetish

I usually introduce my guests with a little background info, sincere personal praise – a mention of nominations and awards, spectacular blurbs from acclaimed writers, a few glowing reviews from prestigious critics and publications – and then we head right into our chat.  I have never asked my guests to provide this info-I seek it out myself.  In Dylan’s case, I was prepared to remind you that besides being a criminal defense lawyer for the past fiften years, Dylan was also a guest blogger here at Murderati, AND he writes an absolutely terrific legal thriller series – first being, of course, MISDEMEANOR MAN, which won Mystery Ink’s 2004 Gumshoe for best debut, and the second in the series – I RIGHT THE WRONGS, was a Booksense selection.  Oh, so was MISDEMEANOR MAN.  And then I was going to tell you that his next book, LIFE, DEATH & BIALYS: A FATHER/SON BAKING STORY (which made me laugh, smile and cry all at once) is due out September 6th.  And…ta da…is a Barnes & Nobel Discover pick.

Anyway, God help me, I still don’t know why I asked Dylan for some additional info, but I did.  I mean, I know him, okay?  He’s a pal.  I know that a mischevious monkey resides in his cranium-so I shoulda been warned.

Fasten your seat belts – here’s what he sent me:

Dylan Schaffer was born Hilda Nihelitheg in 1912.  During WWII she served as a factotum to the Emperor of Jerusalem.  Ms. Nihelitheg disappeared from the political scene until 1974 when, having shed his female skin, he took a position as Gerald Ford’s manicurist.  After careers in journalism, plumbing, and phlebotomy, Mr. Schaffer settled into the final chapter of his life as a writer.  His comic legal thrillers, MISDEMEANOR MAN and I WRITE THE WRONGS were both well received in the Japanese religious community.  The well known celebrity chef Mario Batali called Schaffer’s new memoir, LIFE, DEATH & BIALYS: A FATHER/SON BAKING STORY,  "a book."

See what I mean?  But, not to worry, it gets better.  Well, sort of.  But be warned -you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet. 

Oh, and I should mention this interview will be in two parts.  Dylan was so generous with his time, we just got carried away chatting.  You know how that is with friends.  You just go on, and on and on.  So be sure to come back next Saturday for the conclusion.  If you can handle more, that is.

EE: Somewhere in the night, Dylan, or at what point in your career, did you find it necessary to stop after each chapter draft to go outside and stare at the moon?  I mean, to know you is to love you, but what?

DS:  Elaine, Elaine.  You’re amazing.  I haven’t thought of that weekend in New England in years.  It was fall, Saturday, 1970.  I was taking a few days away from my job trading zero coupon bonds on the Street.  My pockets were full, but my heart was empty.  I parked in a shuttered seaside town. The fog slithered over me, its chilly fingers sneaking behind my collar and up my pants legs.  I ducked into a dive, Avenue C.  The barmaid was called Mandy.  She looked like Terri Hatcher, only blond and tall, with Streisand’s nose and a chest that would have hooked Johnny Depp.  She fed me near beers and laughed at my jokes about Jewish cannibals and David Hasselhoff.  By the time her shift ended I swear I couldn’t smile without her.  It could have been magic. But around daybreak, during some romantic gynmastics, I tripped and spent the next six hours in the emergency room trying to get the feeling back in my left foot.  Mandy said she was going out to find some Chuckles.  I never saw her again.  To this day I’m running too hard, chasing that feeling, saying these words, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there."

Gosh, is that all it took?  Uh, Dylan? Don’t turn around. There’s a duck chasing you yelling, ‘AFLACK!

EE:  I understand you like to talk to yourself (?!).  I’ve been told you and Gordy Seegerman, your protag, spend a lot of time deciding you’re ready to take a chance again and get Barry Manilow to sign one of your books.

DS:  I knew you were going to ask that.  You could substitute any kind of cannibals you like – Polish, Republican, doesn’t matter.  But the way I like to tell it, two Jewish Cannibals are standing around a big pot of stew.  One says to the other, "I just can’t stand my mother-in-law." So the other says, "Geeze, what’s the big deal?  Just eat the noodles."

Ha!  I’ll bet that was you and Jackie Mason last week at the Joan Rivers soiree.

EE:  When October goes, will you have fond memories of Bouchercon in Madison?  Or will you still want to ring ‘…………’s’ neck for heckling you last year at your panel in Chicago?

DS:  Speaking of Bouchercon in Chicago, my wife has a bunion.  Do you know anything about bunions?  It’s more serious than it sounds.  She’s a very normal person, my wife.  Cute, smart, pretty good dresser.  Works like a dog to keep me in electricty and Captain Crunch.  But all of her left shoes have a bulge at the side that looks like she’s growing another toe.  The disturbing thing about bunions is that they are mostly self-inflicted.  Women, mostly, get them from wearing tight shoes.  Reminds me of the Chinese practice of binding women’s feet.  Women who wear the wrong size shoes can also develop other disabling foot problems like corns, calluses and hammertoes.  I suppose this will sound unfeeling, but I really hope my wife doesn’t develop hammertoes.

Actually, I know very little about bunions.  But, Pari does.  Maybe you three should get together?  Uh, Pari?  Take two Advils first.  Preventive medicine is always smart.

EE:  Please don’t be scared, or take offense, but I’ve got to ask this next question.  You do thoroughly scrub your hands before making those famous cookies you give out at book signings, don’t you?  I promise not to turn you into the Cookie Police if you just rinse them, but I’ve been asked to ask you.

DS:  Thanks for asking.  You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what a bialy is.  I suppose you can’t really blame them.  I sometimes think that bagels are the insecure bread, couldn’t tolerate sharing the Jewish breakfast food arena.  I suppose we have Noah to thank for that.  You don’t see that dude pushing bialys on bus stop advertisements, do you?  Anyway, I suppose by now it’s pretty obvious that bialys are like bagels – round, baked, made with flour, good for spreading cream cheese.  But unlike bagels, they don’t require boiling to taste good.  If you ask me, only narcissistic bread feels the need to sit in a hot tub before baking. A hot oven is good enough for bialys, and bialys are good enough for me.  There’s a good bialys recipe ( on my site.

Where’s my Advil?  Nevermind, where’s my Jack Daniels??

EE:  Okay, I can handle this guy. Really. Let’s try this: What is your favorite retreat?  And what do you do there?  Just don’t tell me it’s the Bermuda Triangle, okay?  Or a weekend in New England.

DS:  My favorite retreat?  Well, that would be any sort of conversation with you, Elaine, of course.  I’ve done a lot of interviews in the past few years, and before that, even more in my work as a construction engineer, and before that when I appeared in the sixties situation comedy, My Mother the Car.  I’ve rarely encountered someone with a more natural, instinctive, relaxing style.  Obviously this is because you’re a writer, and you understand character, and you know how to work your way into a guy’s heart before getting under his skin and finally opening up his arteries.  You’re the best, Elaine, truly.  Chatting with you is one of life’s great treats.

Gosh, that was nice.  But I owe any and all accolades to my guests.  Particularly the lucid ones.

EE:  Somewhere down the road, people begin to develop a Walter Mitty dream. I’m almost afraid to know yours, but what the hell, go for it.

DS:  Incredible.  I swear to God I have goose bumps.  My gardener’s name is Walter.  Seriously.  I have no reason to make this stuff up.  Walter Laing.  He’s normally a damn good gardener.  But lately, I don’t know.  We have some trees in the backyard he’s been promising to cut down for ages.  When I call him he give me all sorts of excuses – his back went out, he’s in Boston.  It’s just ridiculous.  If he doesn’t want to get paid to cut down our trees, all he has to do is say so.  I’d be fine having someone else do it.  But this business of putting me off is aggravating to say the least.

Walter Laing?  Sure you got the spelling right?  Wasn’t Walter Lang that famous director?  Didn’t he direct ‘Call Me Madam’ and ‘The King and I’?  So he turned to gardening, huh?  But, Dylan-since he died in 1972, it’s no wonder he hasn’t done your trees.

EE: Word on the street is that even though some good things never last, you’ve been plauged by angry Oaklanders to change the name of Santa Rita in your series to Oakland in the next Gordy Seegerman book.  Has there been that much social pressure from a town known as ‘there’s no there there‘?

DS:  I’ll just answer that question by asking you a question.  Is that okay?  I hope so.  I really do.  Sometimes I think being definitive, answering directly, is such, I don’t know, western, linear, right brain bullshit.  Sometimes the reader ought to have to work for the answer.  Sometimes the audience should have to engage.  I’m not criticizing the question at all.  It’s totally a fair question.  But I’m just weary of the straightforward response.  Anyway, sorry, here’s my answer: If there’s no there there, then where are you when you’re there?

That’s what I mean!!  There’s no there there!  I know that for a fact! I was born there!! 

EE:  Could it be magic, or can you really complete a first draft in two weeks?

DS:  Magic.  Please.  Magic?  I don’t think so.  I’m not trying to embarrass you, but magic?  If someone’s magic, it’s you, Elaine.  Your books?  Incredible.  The awards?  Deserved, deserved, deserved.  I remember watching you eat your Kung Pao shrimp in Chicago last year and thinking to myself, "Magic.  There’s really no other appropriate word."  Listen, if I’m Magic – and I have my moments, sure – well, you’re triple super-duper magic.  Seriously.

You’re a darling to say such wonderful things about me, but lean closer and I’ll let you in on my secret.  No, closer.  That’s it…a few more inches.  Okay, just between us, right?   I cast a spell, and it worked.  I have all these dolls, see, and at midnight at every new moon, I…well, I’ll have to show you.  It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  I mean, a gal’s gotta do what she can, right?  So I used magic.  They don’t call me Evil E for nuttin’.

EE:  Even now, after reading MISDEMEANOR MAN and I WRITE THE WRONGS twice, I still can’t get enough of Gordy.  When can we expect to see him again?

DS:  That’s a painful question to address.  I don’t want to seem like I’m unwilling to go there.  I’m willing.  I am.  I don’t want to come off as someone who is unwilling to answer the tough questions.  I just, it’s only, well, it’s painful.  Can you understand that?  I’m being honest here.  I’m not hedging.  I’m not avoiding.  I’m letting it all hang out.  I’m showing you the real me.  Can you handle it?  Can your readers?  They’re used to seeing the protected me,the closeted me.  The guy with the smiling face on television and in the magazines. The guy with the beautiful woman on his arm walking the plank at the Oscars.  That’s me.  Sure it is.  But there’s another me, too.  This is that me, the me  you’re talking to.  The me who’s willing to face the music, who’s open to a meaningful, heart-to heart dialogue.  The me who says, "Shit, bring it on, baby."  I wasn’t born yesterday.  I’ve been to hell and back.  Give me your best shot.  You may knock me out today, but I’ll be back tomorrow.  Oh yeah.

Oh, just come here and let me give you a big hug.  Poor baby, I had no idea! Come hell, or high water, we’ll work it out.  You’ll see.  Trust me. Have I ever let you down?  We can do this.


Lansdale Florist



I don’t know who the hell Donna Moore’s muse is – but I want her!

Ken Bruen has called her ‘The Dorothy Parker of Scotland’! Who’s gonna argue with him? Charlie Stella said – ‘It’s like having Groucho Marx feeding you one-liners over your shoulder the entire trip.’ I ain’t gonna argue with Charlie either. GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET is one of the funniest books to come out in a long time. And I especially loved Reed Farrel Coleman’s – ‘Sam Spade in a skirt on acid.’

While a string of top-notch writers are obviously enthralled with Donna’s wit, I would be remiss in not reminding all of you that Donna has been regaling ‘4MysteryAddicts’ for some months prior to publication with her hilarious bus trip stories – and I think the members of that august on-line mystery group would be the first to take pride in saying how much they’d encouraged her to write a book! And aren’t we glad that she did! And – aren’t we glad that THEY did!

So, come along with me – and meet Donna Moore.

EE: At what point in your exciting life did you decide to get off the bus?

DM: I’m never getting off the bus – that’s where my most exciting things happen. Blimey, is there any way I can make that sentence sound any weider? I’m sure people think that my tales of the number 62 bus are made up or exggerated. Well, the numbe 9 can be just as bad. My most recent experience was sitting on the bus on the way to work, and this woman sitting ten seats behind me with her two male companions – all of them dressed in identical flammable shell suits and Burbery baseball caps and dripping enough gold to melt down to make a life size statue of the Empire State Building. This woman had a voice like a foghorn and proceeded to relate to the patrons on the bus the most intimate details of her life. When we were all agog, she dealt the killer blow. “Ma man came oot the jail early last week, ‘an when he got tae the door he didnae huv his key, so he jist booted the door in.” Apparently, his first words to his lovely lady were “Surprise! I’m hame!” I felt like turning around and saying “Could he not just have brought you flowers?” The the thing that really galled her about the whole episode was not the fact that her door was now hanging off, nor that it had a whopping dirty great boot dent in it, nor the fact that she’d got a bit of a shock as she was watching Eastenders. No, it was the fact that the electricity man was now able to get in and sort out the electricty meter that she had fraudulently fixed so that she could get free electricity. She was even thinking of calling Scottish Power to complain. I would love to have heard THAT conversation!

Uh, Donna? I think maybe you need to try another bus line.

EE: Isn’t it true, Donna – that you’re madly in love with Bob Hoskins, and patterned Robin Banks after him? Well, okay – so you made him a bit taller, but still?

DM: Isn’t EVERYONE taller than Bob Hoskins? We have the same test for telling a good book me and Bob. Apparently when he gets a new script he takes it to the loo and if he’s sitting there and his bum goes cold and numb then he knows the script is a good one and he accepts the role. I’m the same. The number of times I’ve fallen off the loo reading a Ken Bruen…

Charming. Thank you for sharing that with us. I’m sure Ken is delighted to know he is found in all the better places…

EE: Rumors abound that now that Helen Mirren has let Jane Tennison retire, she’s interested in playing Helena, but you’re trying to convince her to play Heidi instead. So, what’s the scoop on that? Think Helen can handle that role?

DM: Well, having seen the last episode of Prime Suspect, I’m beginning to think it was the cocktails that were the attraction, rather than the role of Helena. And let’s face it, Elaine, ANYONE can handle the role of Helena. She’s so dim. For some reason my family think she is based on me. I have no idea why.

Surely you jest! You’re not at all like Helena. Well…maybe a little bit…uh, now that I think about it, there is a similarity. I mean, not physically,of course. Maybe they mean your great sense of adventure? Actually, you’re…well, nevermind. Oh, wait! I know! It’s the shoes. That’s it, the shoes.

EE: And speaking of shoes (!) – I understand Imelda Marcos is angling for a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most shoes – and she’s challenged you to surpass her. Is it true you’ve enlisted David Corbett to go under cover and get Imelda’s shoe count before you embark on your shopping spree?

DM: When they raided her wardrobes they also found some bulletproof bras. I asked David to sneak out a couple of those for me. You can never have too much bulletproof lingerie can you? Apparently she was most annoyed when it was reported that she had over 3,000 pairs of shoes and was reported to have said, “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.” Yeah, like that makes a difference Imelda. For the record, I only have 100 or so pairs (do you like the ‘or so’ by the way?)

Like it? I love it. Never, ever, cop to the number of ANYTHING you have. Keep ’em guessing, chickie. That’s my motto.

EE: Whispers are rampant that you tried to drink John Rickards under the table at Harrowgate, but Steve Booth talked you out of it. Care to comment?

DM: Since I was not at Harrowgate this year, I believe that must have been my body double Angelina Jolie. Oh, wait, I keep forgetting she turned down the role and it ended up going to Jabba The Hutt.

Sure. Okay. I’ll print that answer – but Donna – ain’t nobody – especially Evil E – is gonna buy it.

EE: Now that you’ve finally buckled down and written your first book (after dozens of us have badgered you for months and months), could you possibly have a Walter Mitty dream left? If yes, spill it, doll face.

DM: Yes. Being a rock chick. I want to be a drummer with a rock band. Firstly because I have always loved the drums and used to practice on anything handy – pans, arms of chairs, my little brother’s head. Secondly becasue I have always loved reading about those outrageous riders the big stars ask for when they go on tour – you know – they want a bowl of M&Ms in the dressing room but with all the brown ones removed, or they want tea made from leaves grown on the eastern slopes of Mount Fuji and picked at dawn by naked castratos playing the Alpenhorn. Iggy Pop apparently once asked for seven dwarves and some broccoli. He was asked why he wanted the broccoli since he doesn’t eat it and he said he just wanted to throw it away. Why did no one think to ask him what he wanted the dwarves for? What was the question? Oh yes…well, I wrote to Green Day and asked them to bear me in mind when they were next on the lookout for a new drummer. They were VERY interested…until I told them my drum teacher had sacked me after three lessons. Actually, he didn’t so much as sack me as retire from teaching the drums. He was only 35 too. I sent him a postcard to the Happyvale Sanitorium for Traumatised Musicians, but never head back. Strange.

How about sending him a copy of GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET? Hell, it might cheer the poor sod up.

EE: You’re having six guests for dinner (Yes, Donna – you are! Why? Because I am Evil E and I get to call the shots). Who would they be, and what will you serve?

DM: Gawd, I KNEW you were going to ask this question, Elaine – and I still never thought about it. It’s a tough one. There are so many people I would love to invite to dinner. If I’m cooking then first and foremost a doctor would be imperative. But assuming I’m getting it catered (by far the best option) then I think it have to be Mae West and W.C. Fields (because I think they would both be great fun), Cary Grant (because he was so charming and sophisticated and a wonderful comic actor), Caligula (because he wa so completely bonkers and a fascinating character), Lola Montez (a really bad exotic dancer from the Victorian era knows as ‘La Grande Horizontale’. She was the mistress of people such as Franz Liszt, Alexander Dumas and King Ludwig of Bavaria. She had a horrendously bad temper and carried a whip which she used on lovers, unappreciative audience members and newspaper reviewers and she once shot at a presumably disappointing lover as he ran down the street with his trowsers around his ankles), Oscar Wilde and Johnny Depp. And-Johnny Depp is staying to help with the washing up, no matter how hard he struggles to get away. There, I did it (desperately hoping Elaine doesn’t notice that I picked 7).

Tell you what – after Mae takes off with W.C. for a private show, and Oscar & Caligula leave to compare lovers, you keep Depp in the kitchen, and I’ll sit with Cary & Lola and take notes. Cary could give me a few pointers on timing, and Lola…well, hell, I’ll think of something.

EE: The word around Mysteryville is that you agreed to be photographed reading Ken Bruen’s book if he’d stop teasing you about your shoe problem. Huh? I mean, it’s not like he needs the exposure. So, Donna – what’s the real story here?

DM: With the photo you mean? Well, my enormously talented photographer friend, Stuart McAllister (several of my friends want to hire him because, as they put it, “he makes even YOU look reasonably good, Donna”) told me that he wanted to take a picture of me reading a book that meant something to me. Ken’s books were an obvious choice. I hope it doesn’t detrimentally affect his sales. Sort of like a Pavlovian reaction on behalf of the book buying public – “No, Ethel, I can’t buy The Guards – for some reason it has an association that makes me shake and sob with fear.”

Oh. Yes, I can see your point. Maybe you two better forget that promo idea of Ken being photographed reading your book? I mean, why tempt fate, huh?

EE: Oh, this just in – Mark Billingham is on the line and wants to know if Helena will do a club act with him next week in Leeds. What should I tell him?

DM: Having seen Mark do stand up, I think she’d much prefer to be in the audience – he’s hilarious. But could it not be Leeds? The only time I was in Leeds – I was…errr…fortunate enough to stay in a hotel slap bang in the middle of the red light district. I could tell the prostitutes because they were the ones wearing short denim skirts, turquoise leg warmers and white high-heeled boots in November. It was like The Hookers From Fame. The alleyway right outside my window was a hive of activity all night. I couldn’t eat sausage for a month.

Well, hell, Donna – that’s what you get for insisting on five star hotels. But listen, try Jimmy Dean brand. It comes plain, or spicy. Your choice.

EE: Okay, let’s get serious (?) here – which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at the next con?

DM: The choices are endless, but sadly no one is queueing up for that rather dubious pleasure. Present company excepted, I think it would be Barbara Seranella. She is great fun and I always love spending time with her, but feel as though it’s always too short. Or Tony Broadbent becasue he does the most amazing Cary Grant impersonation and is just as charming. Or Joe Lansdale. I met him briefly recently and was in awe.

Well, that’s kind of you to include me, but hey – Barbara Seranella is one hell of a great broad – and I’d move over for her any time. So – Tony Broadbent does Cary Grant, huh? Hmmm. I’ll have to remember that. You WILL introduce me, won’t you?

EE: You’re moderating a panel – and you get to choose six panelists. What is the theme, and who are they?

DM: Ken Bruen, Eddie Muller, Bill Fitzhugh, Steve Brewer, Victor Gischler, Jim Born, David Corbett and Gary Phillips (obviously, math is NOT my strong point). No theme – I would just let them chat for several hours. They are all funny with great stories. Or, I would reprise the one and only panel I have ever done with Al Guthrie, Charlie Willimas, Ray Banks and Jason Starr – brilliant panelists and great sports who made a very nervous first time moderator almost enjoy the experience.

That will be me in the green visor outside the panel room selling tickets. As soon as you firm up the deal, I’ll get set up with eBay too, okay? Sixty-forty sound okay to you?

EE: Who would be your two idea book tour mates?

DM: Good grief, Elaine! Your questions are so tough! Twist Phelan and Meg Chittenden. I love them both to bits. They would be wonderful traveling companions and it would be a hoot. If they are not free, then Reed Farrel Coleman and Simon Wood who both have knack for making me laugh.

Stick to cabs with Twist. She has a knack for hiring deranged drivers. And Meg is fun. The three of you, however, could be dangerous. Maybe you ought to go with the guys?

EE: My number one spy tells me that the UK’s M16 brought you in and has demanded that you abandon your plans for a Helena Handbasket sequel. I understand you’ve come too close to describing one of their top operatives and they fear you may have blown her cover. This is serious, Donna! How are you handling this?

DM: They tried to poison my margarita with thalium, but I have a cast iron constitution and just asked for another jug.

Spoken like a true Scottish lass! I’m so damn proud of you! But maybe you should find another favorite drink and throw them off?

EE: So, Donna – word on the street is that Virgil is really a dog. This is outrageous! Cat lovers are up in arms, committees are being formed, banners are being printed as we speak. Please, please tell us this isn’t so!

DM: I asked Virgil for a comment on this. He glowered at me with his one eye and held up the middle claw of one paw. He then used his cat litter tray and, strangely enough, the results seemed to spell out the message, “Swivel, lady.” Take from that what you will.

Uh, I think we got the message loud and clear. But, hey – can I borrow Virgil for a week or two? I’d love to teach my cat that middle claw trick.

Well, what can I say to Donna Moore – other than thank you? I guess I could tell her what a joy she is, how much fun this was, how much I loved GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET – but then – she already knows all of that – so I think I’ll just wish her the very best of luck – a zillions book sales – and, oh yes – get off the phone and get cracking on Helena’s next adventure.
I hope you’ll all come back next week – I have a special treat for you. December will be a pastiche of interviews – some of the funniest – and some of my favorites.

Wit of the week: Alfred Hitchcock’s description of drama: Life with the dull bits cut out.

Contemporary Pool Table

If I were to list all the credits that accompany M.J. Rose, we’d run out of space.  So let’s just remind you of a few, okay?  She’s written eight novels-her newest is THE VENUS FIX, has an Anthony nom, contributes to a slew of magazines, has her short fiction published, and is in the new THRILLER anthology.  She’s been called one of the reigning queens of psychological suspense and erotica – was profiled in Forbes, The New York Times, Newsweek and more – as the poster gal for e-publishing – which, by the way, was the first self-published novel chosen by the Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club-and subsequently found a home with a top-rate New York publisher!  AND – she has the wildly popular blog – BUZZ, BALLS & HYPE and BACKSTORY.  Somehow, she manages to be on the board of International Thriller Writers and is the marketing chair.  I don’t know when she has time to sleep, let alone write!  You’ll need a good half hour to read all of her accomplishments on her website!  And you can do that by clicking on:  and don’t miss checking out her other great sites:  and  !

By the way-I’ve been remiss in posting the website addresses of my brave guests.  My apologies to you all.  But hell, you’re all famous anyway – I just figured everyone knew where to look.

Okay, are you ready for M.J. Rose?

EE:  So, M.J. – that was a pretty nifty idea your panel – "Sex in Thrillers, with Booze" (at ThrillerFest) came up with by offering free booze.  Uh, think you all might have started a precedent?  I hear some of the writers are going to bartender school now to come up with some wild drinks for next year.

MJ:  The real idea behind the booze was to get my fellow panelists tipsy so the women in the audience could take advantage of them.  But then, who knew how well Barry Eisler, John Lescroat and Steve Berry could hold their liquor? What’s a conference like without some good gossip?  Apparently wonderful, because the only hot stuff that happened at ThrillerFest was the weather, the energy-and the couple I saw having sex in the pool one morning at 4:30 AM when the time difference got me up too early.  And that scene was before Sex in Thriller panel.  And no, don’t ask.  I don’t tell.

Not even a little hint?  Okay-we’ll pretend it was one of those sorority gals and her boyfriend.  I mean, what writers do we know that would indulge in public, huh?  By the way, I’ve got a drink you can use next time that will do the trick.  We’ll talk, okay?

EE:  How hard, M.J., was it to change your protag, Morgan Snow’s profession from a children’s TV program host to a sex therapist?  I mean, Morgan really rocks, but readers would love to know what really goes on behind the scenes at those kid’s TV programs.

MJ:  You’ve got it wrong.  Morgan never had that gig.  Before she was a sex therapist, she was a madame at NYC’s only male escort service.  And what went on behind those scenes would burn up the pages of a book.  Unfortunately, Morgan won’t eve write a non-fiction tome.  It would land her in jail and not even Det. Jordain would be able to make the evidence disappear.

You know, I’m gonna fire a few spies!  But, oh la la! A madame, huh?  Maybe I should get Charlie Sheen on the phone and get the lowdown from him.

EE:  Okay, M.J. – time to fess up here – just how much research did you feel was necessary to conjure up the Scarlet Society in The Delilah Complex?

MJ:  About five years visiting every sex club in America.  You want to hear about it?  My lips are totally sealed. They say our country is repressed – the only thing repressed is the reality about what goes on between mild-mannered middle-aged men and women.

Five years?  And you want to know if I want to hear about it??  Surely you jest!  Egads, woman!  I’m all ears!  Come on, spill!

EE:  Rumors are rampant that Sally Fields wants to option The Halo Effect and play Morgan Snow.  You’re not going to do this are you?  I mean, I know she offered big bucks…but please, not Sally!

MJ:  It all fits into my nun obsession.  How did you put this together?  Sally has promised to do a screen test for us after which we’ll make the final decision.  Personally, it’s much harder to cast Detective Jordain.  Finding an actor who can successfully pull off being a tough cop, a Cordon Bleu Chef, a man who listens and a jazz pianist – where is one when you need him?

So true.  That old saying – ‘a good man is hard to find’ – ain’t baloney.  But I happen to know a few – my secret loves – so maybe we should talk?  As for Sally, well…

EE:  My favorite spy told me that you dress primarily in black because you’re really shy and don’t want to stand out in a crowd.  Come on – with those glamorous eyes of yours?  You think you won’t be noticed?

MJ:  You’ve got it backwards.  I dress in black primarily because I want to be noticed as the one one always dressed in black.  No really – the reason is because when I was a kid I planned on becoming a nun – the first Jewish nun – and started the black thing to see if I could deal with the garb.  Ever see the DEVILS OF LOUDON?  To know that was a seminal film for me – at eight – explains it all.  Then I found out today’s nuns weren’t having as much fun, so I dropped the idea but kept the concept of the clothes.

Whew!  I’m glad you changed your mind.  I mean, that scene when Vanessa Redgrave watches Oliver Reed burn at the stake was demonic!  And you saw that when you were eight? 

EE:  Okay, M.J. – after reading all of your books – I’m dying to know your Walter Mitty dream.

MJ:  I want to go back in time to Paris.  Be the muse first for Rodin, then for Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and Bransuci.  ( You do know what the lives of those muses was like don’t you?)  Once my looks were shot and my libido exhausted, I’d emerge as a woman of a certain age with the skills I learned from them all and have my own atelier.

Sigh.  A bon commencement bonne fin!

EE:  Talk around Thrillerville is that your next book will be about a certain best seller who really isn’t a writer, but it’s the only cover he wanted when he went into the witness protection program.  Tell me this isn’t true!  Leave it alone, okay?  We want you around for a long time, M.J..  What would be do without Morgan Snow to guide us?

MJ:  I thought about it for five minutes, that’s true, because Morgan is in the midst of an existential crisis and she needs some time off to figure out how to have a sex life herself.  Instead, I’ve gone into the witness protection program.  It has something to do with that sex scene I saw acted out before my eyes at the Arizona Biltmore.

Holy Moley.  So that’s why you’re dressed in lavender?  I didn’t want to ask.  I mean, I know I’m Evil E, but I’m not rude.  But I must say, that curly red wig you have on is most fetching.  And I love your snakeskin boots!  Feramgamo, right?  Just keep the dark glasses on, okay? 

EE:    Speaking of designers, what’s this I hear about you and Donatella Versace?  She’s wining and dining you to come up with an exotic perfume called ‘Morgan’, but you turned her down?  What?  The condo in Miami Beach for two months every year, the private jet at your disposal and the semi-annual trips to Paris and Rome – besides some heavy duty dough – wasn’t enough?

MJ:  I turned her down because I got a much better offer considering my personal preferences.  I’m working on it with Karl Lagerfeld instead.  I much prefer what he offered.  And apartment in Paris, a villa in St. Tropez and a lifetime supply of Chanel bags.

Hey, I always knew you were a smart cookie! Good for you!  Uh, I love Chanel bags.  I mean, I thought I’d let you know in case you come across one you don’t care for. 

EE:  Your books have been touted as having characters so real they step off the page.  Uh, M.J.?  do you really know people like this?

MJ:  Don’t you?  Oh, you poor dear, you haven’t lived!  Come to New York for a few weeks and let me introduce you to some of my friends.

I’ll be there next July for ThrillerFest, chickie!  Set up the schedule.

EE:  Time to get serious.  What writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at the next ThrillerFest?  You can have more than one, but then I get to sit in too, okay?

MJ:  I had them.  Two of them, at once, in fact.  And I didn’t invite you because I don’t share.  There were no pictures and since I was all in black no one did notice.  (See, sometimes it does work that way.)

Two?  All at once?  Oh, my.

EE:  Between us gals, (I still adore you even if you don’t want to share) who’s that guy with the hat and dark glasses one of my spies saw you with at the Arizona Biltmore pool (in the afternoon, by the way) at ThrillerFest?  You know, the one who had orchids sent to your cottage every day?  I’ve been told it was Dan Brown – and he wants you to co-write the love life of Michelangelo with him because he needs some legitimacy.  Care to comment?

MJ:  No-I already turned Dan down.  Michelangelo was gay.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with it.) But Dan apparently, had missed that in his research.  Or maybe Blythe cut Art History 101 one too many times.  I explained that to him and he’s moved on.  Besides, I’m all into collaborations but not when it comes to writing.  Not to mention that while Dan is a nice guy, he doesn’t have the savoir faire to pull off that kind of wooing – too into albino’s to think of orchids.

Someone else suggested the mystery man was Janet Maslin in drag begging me to give her the news mss of my next novel so she could review it early.  Maybe, maybe not.  I don’t like to give away too much.  I do write suspense, you know.

What?  Janet Maslin?  How the hell didn’t my spy know that?  That’s it!  I’m done with that guy.  Sayonara.  Adios.  Au revoir.  Ciao.  I’m gonna fire that puppy.  Glad to know you nixed the idea with Brown, though.  No sense in working with a guy who doesn’t bother with research.

EE:  I understand you’ve been swamped with requests to help organize sexual therapy institutes ala The Butterfield Institute.  Has this impacted your writing time much? 

MJ:  I’m teaching a class in how to set one up – it’s online of course – six weeks in email and at the end everyone can set up their own institute.  Writing time?  Come on – I don’t write those books – Morgan does – I’m just fronting for her because she can’t publish under her own name.  She’s afraid of all the lawsuits from her patients who would claim she didn’t disguise them well enough in the books.

Note to readers:  You can reach M.J. from her website for information on taking the course.  The first fifty responders will receive a substantial discount.

Note to readers:  I know the real identity of Morgan Snow.   I cannot be bought, swayed or influenced in any way to divulge that information.  Unless, of course, you’re a high-flying editor dying to see my new character driven suspense standalone.

EE:  Back to writing questions:  You’re moderating a panel – you get to select the panel members. Give me the name of six of your ‘most wanted.’

MJ:  I’m sorry – trying to be creative here, but I can’t imagine a panel that would ever be better than those ‘Sex in Thrillers with Booze’ guys.

Oh.  Well.  Okay.  But if you ever want to add one – I mean, I could be available.  Remember, I’ve got a drink to tell you about.

EE:  You’re having a dinner party for six. Who would you invite, and what will you serve?

MJ:  Pauline Reage, the author of ‘The Story of O."  Georges Sand and her lover, Chopin, Alfred Hitchcock, Ayn Rand and Carl Jung to make sense of them all.  I’d serve lobster paella because I know you can make it before hand and not fuss once your guests are there – and with these guests – the last thing I want to do is be in the kitchen.

Ayn Rand with that group?  Oh, please invite me.  Please, please, please.  I’d be your best friend forever and ever.  Honest I would.  Cross my heart and all that stuff.

EE:  Damn, M.J.!  You’re so much fun – I can’t wait to find out which historical figure you would have loved to be.  Oh, yeah – and why.

MJ:  Anastasia.  I’d have a fascinating childhood, get to wear all those great Russian jewels, find out who really helped her escape and what happened to her after Yekaterinburg – and settle down in my old age and write the definitive story including divulging the real scoop on Rasputin.

Oh, now that would be a read!  And what a movie that would be.  Yeah, yeah-I know it’s already been done. But not from Anastasia’s point of view.  Think of it, M.J.  You can still do it.  I mean, Rasputin and Morgan Snow together?  Zowie.  It’s got legs.

EE:  Okay, last probing, take-no-prisoner question:  What is your greatest extravagance?  And don’t tell me designer sunglasses!

MJ:  A single one?  C’mon Elaine.  I don’t believe in moderation when it comes to living well being the best revenge.

Spoken like a true woman!

Many, many thanks to you, M.J. – for being a great guest and for taking the time to chat. As I always say – I only invite the best and the brightest – and you’re certainly one of them. 

Note to readers:  Get thee a copy of THE VENUS FIX!  Just be sure you keep the lights on.

Another note to readers:  I’ll be off next Saturday.  The Husband is getting ready for surgery.  Gotta be there, you know?  Do drop by though – you won’t be disappointed. But miss me, okay?  I’ll be back the following Saturday with a sassy new writer who is taking Horrorville by storm.  I’d tell you who it is, but you know me – I love surprises.  Don’t you?


Bob Levinson is living proof that it’s never to late to follow your dream.  Bob Levinson is living proof that one can have multiple careers – excel in each – and still tackle another with resounding success.  Where he has found the time and energy to wear so many hats, is astounding.  Six acclaimed books, short stories, an active member (and often holding board seats) of MWA, ITW, Writers Guild of America, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, SINC, Private Eye Writers of America…and besides a host of others…Bob was a six-term president of the Hollywood Press Club -which later voted THE ELVIS AND MARILYN AFFAIR – ‘The Best Novel About Hollywood’ in it’s annual HPC Awards of Distinction.   AND THEN…he produced one of the absolutely BEST entertaining awards gala evening EVER at last years ThrillerFest in Phoenix.  I mean, he had a packed room stomping their feet and clapping until it hurt. 


Bob_killerettes_1 BOB LEVINSON

EE:  Rumors are rampant, Bob – that after producing that rollicking ITW Gala last year in Phoenix – Hollywood is making overtures for a nod for next year’s Oscar party – but you’ll only agree if you can bring the dazzling Killerettes along.  So, what’s the scoop on that?

BL:  Well, if you insist… Truth is – the Killerettes started that rumor – originally talking about performing at the Hollywood Foreign Press awards banquet.  Alex said later they were inspired by Heather’s Golden Globes (Harley said I’m the one said that, not Alex.  If the gag just got a laugh, Harley’s correct.  No laugh, what does she know anyway?)

There are times when even moi – Evil E – leaves answers alone.

EE:  And isn’t it true that John Lescroat is demanding to go along with you as chaperon for those lovely ladies, but F. Paul Wilson and Michael Palmer are flipping coins over who will watch Lescroat?

BL:  Those guys rock, but absolutely not.  I work alone.

Wise move – I know those guys, and well…

EE:  Most writers I know have a quote or two they keep by their computer.  Do you have one, or do you write your own?  Can we steal them?

BL:  There’s a quote I’ve kept close going back decades, to my years on a Selectric:  "Im ain, mi li?  It’s from the Talmud and translates as – If I am not for me, who is?  And this one from Marcel Duchamp:  "Don’t let yourself become hypnotized by the smiles of yesterday; rather, invent the smiles of tomorrow"

One of my making has been quoted for years:  Don’t give up the quip. (And you can’t imagine how tired I am of going around quoting myself…)

Damn, those are all so good – I’m not sure which one I want to steal!

EE:  Besides writing, Bob – what would you be doing if you weren’t writing?

BL:  I’d be struggling as an actor instead of struggling as an author.

I doubt it would be much of a struggle!  You have a knack for making dreams happen.

EE:  "Write what you know" is what new writers are always told – so I’m wondering here, Bob – (and it’s been rumored) – if those letters between Marilyn & Elvis in your debut book – THE ELVIS AND MARILYN AFFAIR – were really letters Marilyn sent to you.  I think it’s time we knew the real skinny on this.

BL:  Get real, my darling.  If that first novel had been titled THE BOB AND MARILYN AFFAIR. you really think it would have found a publisher?  However, I do remember bumping into Marilyn once and for some reason was immediately struck by thoughts of the Hollywood Foreign Press awards  banquet.

Uh, I think I’ll pass on this one too.  ๐Ÿ™‚

EE:  As a seasoned and popular panelist – we’d all like to know who would be your ideal panel mates at the next con?

BL:  Any on a long list of those whose talent I admire and opinions I respect, who welcome opportunity to educate and inform an audience based on their practiced knowledge and experience, especially the authors with a natural, spontaneous wit, able to spice their serious observations with a bit of humor.  Happily, they outnumber the authors who hijack a panel and use it to promote themselves and their latest book exclusively, motormouths too self-absorbing to realize the good will and sales their showboating is likely to cost them.

Yep – I’ve seen a few of those hijackers…and I don’t buy their books.  And – you’ll never see them here at OTB.

EE:  What advice – if any – would you like to offer writers these days?  I don’t mean just new writers – all of us.

BL:  Hmmm. I suppose something along the lines of "Don’t be discouraged."  For new writers, it’s by those rejection letters from agents and editors.  For published authors outside the safety zone of the NY Times bestseller list, it’s the sense of gloom and doom caused by corporate mergers, a shrinking market place, indie bookstores going out of business, and, of course, the fear of falling off the mid-list as the mid-list shrinks into memory.  I believe resiliency is the key to success and survival.  I also believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows.  And to all of us, I say – nay, I sing (everybody join in!):  When you’re down and out, lift up your head and shout, "There’s gonna be a great day!"

Great advice, Bob.  I wonder how many terrific books are still languishing in a box somewhere because rejections from agents and editors were just too much to take.  One should remember the number of rejections The Godfather and Catch-22 encountered.

EE:  You and Sandra are having six guests for dinner.  Who are they – and what will you serve?

BL:  Since our dining room table can seat twelve guests, we’ll go with some of the usual crowd: Gershwin, Jolson, Merman, Berle, Eddie Robinson, Hitchcock, Wilder, Hemingway, Truffault, Lennon, Audrey Hepburn, and reserve one place for you, dear Elaine.

The dinner, as prepared by our Chef Sandra:  Assorted cheese and crackers; a salad of mixed baby greens with balsamic vinaigrette dressing; Cornish game hens with Dijon walnut sauce served on wild rice; baby artichokes; lemon gelato and cookies for dessert – coffee and appropriate dinner and dessert wines.

Moi?  I’m invited too?  With that bunch?  My heart is jumping here.  Can I sit next to Eddie Robinson (I can talk art) and Berle (maybe he could help me develop a sense of humor) – and oh, Audrey Hepburn?  Maybe I should just help Sandra?  I mean, that’s an awesome group, Bob.

EE:  Which best selling book do you wish you’d written?  Just PLEASE don’t say that DVC book!  Ah, hell – go ahead if you must.

BL:  Ragtime by E.L.Doctorow.  Talk about storytelling at it’s finest and making every word count.  If you were asking for a list, I know I’d include Gatsby, just to give me some credibility, and something by Hemingway and a couple by Ira Levin, and, oh, yeah – Catch 22, and I suppose The Catcher In The Rye (or J.D., if he reads this, will never speak to me again), and Time and Again, and early Harold Robbins (Never Love A Stranger, A Stone for Danny Fisher), and Robert Traver (Anatomy of a Murder) and Evan Hunter/Ed McBain and Joe Wambaugh, and who or what am I forgetting?  Yikes!  Ray Bradbury! Philip Roth!  Oh, and Freddy the Pig by Walter R. Brooks…DVC?  Nope.  Haven’t read it…

Ragtime! Absolutely!  Oh, J.D. said he might drop in-he’s not mad at you,okay?  And as far as Robbins goes – I’ve always felt he was a master.

EE:  We’ve had some pretty interesting Walter Mitty dreams offered here at On The Bubble, Bob – what’s yours?

BL:  I’ll level with you…My dream was to write a novel and get it published.  I got lucky and pulled it off.  Other than that, it’s been to write a play and get it performed.  I’m sort of on that road now.  "Transcript", a one-act I wrote a few months ago during a breather from the novels and the short stories, is on tap to be staged during the International Mystery Writers Festival at RiverPark Center in Owensboro, KY – June 12-17.  (Subtle how I worked in the plug, eh, Elaine?)

Congrats on the play!  And Bob? You don’t have to be subtle here – this is about you…so thanks for letting us know what else you’re up to. 

EE:  You and I have seen a lot of changes lo these past decades in Bookville – what trend or which writer stands out in your mind?

BL:  Judge Traver for sure.  With Anatomy of a Murder, the novel I credit with inspiring lawyers to leave the courtroom where they belong and invade the wunnerful-wunnerful world of fiction.  Joe Wambaugh, of course, brought realism to the ranks of fictional cops and perhaps single-handedly created a breed of writers who’ve been following his lead ever since.

A trend that stands out in my mind?  The rise of the small press, where new homes and hopes have opened up for both new and established writers.

Couldn’t agree more… And yes – a round of applause for small presses!

EE:  Other than your own – which series protag do you most identify with?

RL: According to a just-this-minute tour of authors and titles on my bookshelves, hunting for an answer:  Nobody.  (I’d love to say Sherlock Holmes, but I still haven’t figured out why that damned dog didn’t bark.)

Maybe someone out there can tell us why the dog didn’t bark?

EE:  Your favorite non-writing quote?

BL:  "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."  Anne Frank

Lovely – thank you for reminding us.

EE:  How would you like to be remembered?

BL:  Fondly

Count on it.

EE:  What writer or book has influenced you the most?

BL:  The Kinsey Report

I wasn’t ready for that, Bob…but, uh…what the hell, huh?

EE:  Are the rumors true that you were the one who killed Paul Guyot’s blog – INK SLINGER – and do you have plans to convince him to leave Murderati???!!!!

BL:  First, understand I was among the first to pronounce his name correctly (it rhymes with Gaul) – and yes, ‘mdear, I plead guilty.  I screamed at him for wasting his time and considerable talent blogging, using his blog as his time-crunching excuse for not writing the novel he wanted desperately to write.  So, Paul – quit the blog – and the rest – as they don’t say isn’t history.  Not yet, anyway…  (Paul, you reading this?  Paul?)

Okay, just wait a minute here… We’re all for Paul working on his novel…but we ain’t letting him leave Murderati!  So – as much as I love you, Bob – knock it off, okay? 

Meanwhile, you won’t catch me blogging.  What I have to say, I say on (wait for it) (here it comes) (another subtle plug) – my website   And, in response to invitations to Q & A visits on wonderful blogs like yours, sweet Elaine…

All of us at Murderati appreciate your compliment – and want you back again.  So consider this an open invitation.

Okay, are we done?  Is it a wrap?  If so, thanks for inviting me; thanks to all who’ve read down to here; and please join me in pausing for a moment in fond memory of the indomitable Barbara Seranella.

A wonderful exit from a terrific guy…


I’ve been asked to be the spokesperson for the WHY IS GILLIAN ROBERTS RETIRING AMANDA PEPPER CONCLAVE that is in the workings – but I refused.  I mean, after THIRTEEN books – the latest and out now – A HOLE IN JUAN – and two Emma Howe books – I think Gillian Roberts deserves this break she’s taking.  How much more could we ask from this absolutely wonderful writer?  So she wants to try something new…should we drag her through town and display her at the town square?  Stamp our feet, wave placards, cry with crocodile tears?  We could, but that would be mean spirited after all the joy she has given us – and the terrific adventures she’s let us tag along with her on… (and don’t shake your head at my poor use of grammar here – I’m speaking from the heart – so who really cares?)  Instead, let’s just wish her luck with her new book and tell her to hurry the hell up so we can all read it.

By the way – In case some of you didn’t know -Judy taught at the University of San Franciso in their MFA in Writing program for nearly a dozen years.  And…ta da…she will be resuming her fiction classes ( 8 sessions) in March at Book Passages (independent book store in Corte Madera, California) in March.  If you live nearby or in the San Francisco Bay Area, and would like to learn from one of the best – give Judy an email at:

Now come and chat with us – Judy will be watching – so remember what I said – she’s earned the break, so be nice, okay?

Judy_portrait_024_large GILLIAN ROBERTS

EESo, Judy – at what point in your day do you find it difficult to remember who you are?  I mean, you’ve got Judy (Jude on occasion), Gillian, Amanda, Emma and Billie – and heaven only knows who the hell else is lurking around.  Whew!  Did you ever see that great Joanne Woodward movie – "The Three Faces of Eve"?  Joanne only had to contend with three faces – you’ve got five!

GR,etc:  Dear heart, I don’t know quite how to say this, but…Amanda, Emma and Billie are…fictional.  That is: not real.  (Are you okay?  Did I break it to you too abruptly?)  It doesn’t seem fair to count them as ‘me’.  I have enough problems being two-faces as Gillian and Judy!

I’m okay…really.  I’m over it.  If you wanna stick with just two, that’s okay with me – but look at all the fun you’ve had being so many great dames!

EE:  Many writers I know have quotes – or inspirational reminders nearby as they work.  Do you have one?  Care to share?

GR,etc:  For many years, I had the following taped to my computer:  "Don’t Write it Right.  Write it Down."  I can’t remember whose wise saying it was, but I still love it as a way to face the terrors – and maintain my usual low standards.  (These days, I have a little golden milagro of a stack of books pasted to my compute screen.  You never know…)

Oh, will you listen to her?  Low standards?  Ha!  I should have such low standards!

EE:  What is the most important thing you tell your writing students?  Give us something we can all hang our hat on.

GR,etc:  Do it.  Don’t talk about doing it, don’t plan to do it: do it.  And then do it again.  Writing is a lifelong apprenticship – begin it now.  (But that’s two things.  Or three…)

Great advice.  No, the BEST advice.  How many of us are guilty of that before we sat down and bit the bullet?  Any of our readers care to tell us their tale of ‘I’ll-do-it-when-I-have-time-itis’?

EE:  Okay, Judy – let’s hear who you’d love to have all to yourself in a softly-lit corner of the bar next month at LCC?

GR,etc:   I promised the person I wouldn’t say.  I want to see your look of surprise when you find us in that dark corner…

Oh, you little devil, you – you’ve got Redford showing up,huh?  I know he’s your neighbor in TiburonThought I was living in a cave up here in the Northwest, huh?  Ohhh…I’m so excited!  I better rebook that facial I cancelled.  I’ll just stop by to say hello, that’s all.  I promise.  Sorta.

EE:  Rumor has it that all those trips you take to Guatemala are to finalize the decorating details for the rehab spa you’ve established for writers who can’t stay off the internet and continuously miss their deadlines.  Now, we don’t expect you to name names…but I have it on good authority that your twenty room casitas (with private bath) are booked up until 2010.


GR,etc:  Your authorities aren’t so good, cookie.  I told you when you tried to register that we’re booked until 2017!

Note:  I kidded Judy about the trips she and her husband take to Guatemala on purpose.  But here – in her words – is the real reason.  I wanted everyone to know about this wonderful and selfless act.  I should think a round of applause in in order, don’t you?

GR,etc:  Of course, in truth, it’s my husband who’s been there a kazillion times, translating for a group of volunteer doctors.  I have no skills.  I don’t mind taking credit for his good works, though.

It takes few skills, Judy – to be a giving person…and you have them in spades.

EE:  Okay, here’s a tough one for you:  What would you do if you weren’t writing?  Other than join the Peace Corps.

GR,etc:  Unable to drop the writerly habit of peeking behind (metaphorical) curtains, needing to unearth (fictional) people’s embarrassing secrets – I’d undoubtedly annoy the hell out of everybody I met until somebody had me arrested for trespassing.

Oh, I love that answer!  Between all of us writers – we could sure as hell populate the jails!

EE:  Writers like to say they lie and get paid for it.  I know I do.  So, what about you, Judy?  When do you find lying acceptable?  Okay, how’s little white lies then?

GR,etc:  My sad secret is that I have real trouble lying in real life, so I do try to avoid it.  But small evasions of unnecessary truths: ("What a beautiful baby!"  "No, you don’t look fat,"  "This is the best book I’ve ever read!" – that final one is to be said to me by kind people) – are always in season.

Ahem.  So you really didn’t mean it when you told me I didn’t look fat?   

EE:  Mysteryville is abuzz with talk that many of your English teacher fans are up in arms over Amanda Pepper taking leave.  I’m also hearing rumors that the plan a march in San Francisco next week and are heading for Tiburon.  I guess you’ll be out of town?

GR,etc:  Yup.  Casita #5, Antiqua, Guatemala.

Want company?  I could handle a few days off…

EE:  Okay, Judy – let’s get serious here.  Which living person do you most admire?  Besides me, that is.

GR,etc:  Really, really seriously?  Right now: Nancy Pelosi, for being all the things she is, has done, and represents – but also, all the voters who put her in position to be Speaker of the House.

Admirable choice.  She’s the epitome of ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’.

EETime for the Walter Mitty Dream, kiddo.  Tell us yours.

GR,etc:  I hate to be sappy but – to me, the best part about being a writer of fiction is the chance to be all different sorts of people and to live many lives.  Before I settled into writing, I thought about being a lawyer (so I’ve written/become one), a psychologist (so I’ve written/become one) and always wanted to be taller, thinner, younger, braver and smarter – so I’ve written that character, too.  And of course I’ve wanted to avenge wrongs and take revenge from time to time.  That’s the real perk of being a mystery writer, even though of all of my victims, only two were "real" people.  Poor Mr. Mitty needed a computer in which to live out his dreams and sometimes get royalty checks for them, too.

Not sappy at all.  A reason – I think – many writers would identify with…  I know I do.  And I’ve killed off a few dastardly antiques dealers I knew in real life.  And I’m not sorry either. ๐Ÿ™‚

EE:  We all have favorite books we revisit – which book do you find you read again and again and again?

GR,etcThis is really embarrassing.  I’m sure real writers have a lodestone book, and I’ve tried and tried to think of one myself.  But aside from reference books, or re-reading classics as research while I was writing the Amanda Pepper books, I can’t think of any I intentionally re-read.  Could this be related to the fact that I’m a compulsive book-buyer with no desire to be cured, so there are close to 1,000 waiting-to-be read books in the house?

Possibly. ๐Ÿ™‚

EE:  So now that we know Amanda is retiring – what’s up next?

GR,etc: For both of us, new adventures.  She’ll have to tell you about hers.  As for me, I’m working on a historical novel set in Colonial Mexico during the Inquisition.  I can’t seem to get away from murder, but apparently being garroted and/or burned at the stake doesn’t need ‘solving’.  So Gillian might also be taking a vacation on the Riveria or wherever she’s been while I wrote all those mysteries for her, and this might be a Judy book.  I honestly don’t know, and that’s scary.  But that’s probably what makes it an adventure.

And one we’ll all be waiting for!

My thanks to Judy for visiting with us – for willing to play with Evil E – but most of all – for being one of the truly lovely women I’ve been priviledged to know in Mysteryville.


Hope to see you next week when Bob Levinson takes the plunge.  Oh, what an interview that’s gonna be.


It is said – one picture is worth a thousand words.  So take a gander at this photo of Simon Wood.  Looks like the guy next door, right?  Clean cut, happy smile -loves his dog, Royston -just the epitome of a happy-go-lucky guy who waves at his neighbors, helps elderly women across the street, catches the ball for the kid next door and throws it back with a huge grin.  Just your all-around nice guy.  Hmmm.  Hard to believe that open, charming smile belongs to a guy who hunches over a laptop until the wee hours conjuring murder, fear, and enough horror to make you hide under the covers.  Mr. Charm here has done just that in countless short stories, four horror anthologies, four books – CRESTFALLEN’S WIDOW, DRAGGED INTO DARKNESS, ACCIDENT’S WAITING TO HAPPEN and his latest – WORKING STIFFS.   Oh, and did I mention several articles in Writer’s Digest?

I’ve known Simon for quite some time – I always want to hug him when I see him.  He just does that to me.  But after I began reading his work…well, now I just blow him a kiss and leave it at that.  See, I’m afraid of the dark.  I admit it.  And – well, Simon scares the hell out of me now.  I mean, anyone who can come up with some of the stories he’s done – well, I’d rather stay on his good side.

But not today.

Simonandroystonlow SIMON WOOD

EE:  Scuttlebutt Station reports the real reason you moved to the U.S. was to infiltrate the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America to suss out the rumors that the surplus of talent there is a result of the unique weather conditions surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area.  Don’t tell me your Brit handlers think that just because the climate surrounding San Fran is the key to the best French bread (Sourdough to the unenlightened) in the world might have something to do with growing creativity!

SW:  I must admit I have a bread addiction.  I used to travel to France for bread.  Living in Breadtown by the Bay seemed like a cheaper alternative.  Then I saw the house prices.  I’d leave but I’ve blown all my bread on bread.  That’s why I turned to writing.  I’m hoping to earn enough to cover my addiction.

Oh, very clever – but you don’t fool me.  I happen to have it on good authority that you’re working undercover for Ali Karim who is planning an expose for SHOTS MAGAZINE.  I’ll plead for mercy in your behalf – but I can’t promise anything, okay? 

EE:  But then, my number one Brit spy has another version for your immigrating to the colonies.  He tells me that Fergie was smitten with you when she first saw you race those single-seaters in old Blighty – and she’s still sending you flowers.  How well is Julie handling this?

SW:  No, I came to this country for a different Fergie, she belonging to the black eyed peas variety.  Julie handles it well.  She’s hoping someone will take me off her hands.

A different Fergie and black eyes peas?  I’m sorry, darling…but you really lost me there.  Oh, wait.  I get it.  Answer #44a/397/TK  when being interrogated by Evil E.  Yes, yes – I know all about that code being passed around Mysteryville.  Like I’ve said – I have spies everywhere.

EE:  So, Simon – I understand you have a thing about elephants.  What does Royston think about this?

SW:  Lainey, I’m not sure what you’re referring to here???

Oh, sure – use your pet name for me here will you?  If you think that’s gonna soften me up and make my questions less intense – think again, baby.  I don’t fall over that easy.  Well, that’s not to say I can’t be had – but the price is high.

EE:  I’m hearing rumbles that you plan to fly over and buzz Barbra Streisand’s beach front villa just for kicks.  Guess you never heard about the guy she sued, huh?  You ready for her heat?  The publicity will NOT endear you to her fans.  But then, now that I think of it – I doubt they read.

SW:  I’m doing her the favor.  She needs some good buzz after cussing out a heckler.  I do what I can for Babs. 

True.  That’s awfully kind of you.  She is getting rather long in the tooth – and I imagine her career could use a boost or two.  By the way – I know a few good lawyers just in case.  In fact, you could always sic Dylan Schaffer on her or John Hart.  Dylan’s in South America now, but John might be willing to take time out from his next mega-hit and help out.  Call me, okay?

EE:  Horrorville is abuzz with talk about a certain jealous writer (name withheld for security reasons) blabbing that the reason you write creepy-scary stuff is because you’re really afraid of the dark and your therapist insists it will help you manage turning off the lights at night.  Here’s your chance to squelch that dastardly rumor.

SW:  Jealous people say mean things.  I ain’t afraid of the dark.  No night lights in my bedroom, although Royston’s eyes do glow in the dark.  He makes for a great dachshund flashlight.  Mirrors at night, that’s a different story…

I think I’ll leave that one alone.

EE:  You’ve just rented a billboard on the freeway heading for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – what does it say?

SW:  Where’s the sodding cycle lane?

Oh, hell, Simon!  That’s not fair.  I wanted something profound – earth shattering – scintillating – explosive!

EE:  So – what’s this I hear about you wanting Selma Hayek to sit on you lap?  Is this something you’d like to share with us, Simon?

SW:  Selma said, "I keep waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do."  I’d just like to know whether I pass muster.


EE:  Uh, after that – I think we’ll just ease into one of my regular questions.  Sound of clearing throat goes here.  Which writer would you love to have all to yourself (note: I have eliminated ‘cozy’ in deference to our Head Mistress) – in a dark corner of the bar at LCC next month?

SW:  Well, not all authors get the kind of advances they would like.  This is where I come in.  I lend a little money here, a little money there.  I just request that when they pay back my generosity they include a little gratuity.  So I have a number of writer friends who’ve yet to repay my kindness.  I won’t embarrass anyone by saying who they are, but I’ll be needing a dark corner.  The darker the better.

Gratuity?  Uh, isn’t that called ‘vig’?  And now that I think of it – money lenders usually have a sign outside their place of business – three balls, right?  So listen up, Simon – if you took those three balls…and …well, you could call Selma then.  You will keep us posted, won’t you?

After that – I think we’re out of here, folks…

But do stop by again – coming attractions include, besides the rest of my blogmates (why should they get a free pass?) – and not in the following order:  Jim Born, David Corbett, Lee Goldberg, Doug Lyle, Joan Hess, Gillian Roberts, Phil Hawley, Dave White & Bryon Quertermous together!, Bob Levinson, Keith Snyder, Barry Eisler, Suzanne Beecher, Kevin Burton Smith, Ken Bruen, Lee Child and Marcus Sakey.  And return engagements by …well, never mind – you’ll just have to drop in and see for yourself.

Hmmm…I just noticed I only have three women listed.  I wonder what a shrink would have to say about that?



But let’s not get carried away just yet.  Pari, as you all know – is the sassy mother of Sasha Solomon – the quirky gal inhabiting two Agatha nominated mysteries:  THE CLOVIS INCIDENT and THE BELEN HITCH – with SOCORRO soon to be in your favorite independent bookstore (and chains, naturally).  I love Sasha – she doesn’t suffer fools very well, but when she does – it is with such elan… and has us laughing all the while.  Were I to be so accomplished.  I could go on and on – tell you that Pari and I first met at Bcon/Las Vegas – she moderated the ‘newbie’ panel (which I was on) and as a newbie herself – did a standup job.  We became fast friends then – and still are.  So why am I telling all this breaking news?  Well, see – it’s like this – I just couldn’t bring myself to grill her too hard.  At least not this first time.  When SOCORRO comes out – that’ll be a different story.  I mean, she’s been snowed in with her girls home from school and I understand she’s been, well…sort of sloshing around the snowdrifts making those so-called snowshakes.  Suffice it to say she’s a bit frazzled at just now.  And good friend that I am, I’ll take it light this time.  I’m not always evil, you know.

So, here she is – PARI NOSKIN TAICHERT

P8050204 Okay, I lied.  After seeing this photo – I was too chicken to ruffle her feathers. It’s kinda small (Pari’s fault not mine- so blame her if you have to squint) – but I still got the message.  That’s quite a kick she’s managed to master.

EE:  So, Pari – I’ve been hearing rumors that Jackie Chan is a fan of yours – and when he found out that you’re into Tae Kwon Do, he went bananas and wants you in his next film which begins shooting in April, but you’ve turned him down to go to Malice.  Are you nuts, or what?

PT:  That’s partially true because, well, Jackie is slowing down a little and I just wasn’t sure he’d be up to the stunts we discussed.  But, I did propose doing some of the filming at Malice – you know – a chase scene during the tea with all of those ladies wearing such wonderful hats.  He said he’d get back to me.

Well, guess I should tell you that he called me today.  He’s a little nervous about being around all those women who kill for fun and profit.  He’s hoping you might reconsider the venue and is asking me to be the go-between.  He was thinking about the parking lot-he’ll have a Hummer waiting for him just in case the ladies get too rambunctious.  Let me know, okay?

EE:  Talk of the Town is that a group of citizens (and fans) are trying to get you to run for mayor of Belen, New Mexico.  They claim you’ve done more to put their fair little town on the map than Mayor Torres – and they want you bad.  What does Sasha think about all of this?

PT:  Ronnie Torres is only a part-time mayor.  He’s really a hairdresser (I kid you not.)  I wouldn’t dare run against him; I don’t know the first thing about conditioners.  As to Sasha’s opinion?  She’s firmly against the idea.  She’d rather I write her into more travels – maybe in other small towns out of New Mexico – like Antibes or Cap St. Jean Ferrat.

Oh? Going international, huh?  Hey, I’m with you!  Listen – I know of a gorgeous little villa overlooking Lake Como that maybe I can get you and Sasha into.  My friend George has a lovely place there.  He’d do anything for me.  I saved his…well, nevermind.  Want me to call him?

Paribellydancer1 EE:  A voice from your past told me that the belly dancing routines you did on that TV show you had some years ago (I’m not saying how many, okay?) was considered quite…er…spicy, and it had to be taken off the air after the local square dance and polka groups put up a fuss.  Wanna splain that, kiddo?

PT:  Nah, that didn’t happen.  But something that did:  I hated Econ 101, despised it and wasn’t doing too well in the class.  The night before my final, I had a dancing engagement in Beloit College’s "coffee house."  (They served really good micro-brewery beers – not coffee.)  Anyway, I was dancing away with too much merriment when I did this nifty spin and turned to face…you guessed it…my Econ prof.  Somehow, I passed the final.

Well, hell – one look at that outfit you’re wearing must have made him realize…well, how about ‘one picture is worth a thousand words’?  I think we can fill in the blanks here.

Hong20kong2020kowloon EE:  Just between us gals, tell me about that year in Hong Kong when you were supposed to be studying at the Chinese University.  I mean, okay – so you really do speak Chinese and Russian – but – well, do I have to spell it out?  You weren’t really a student, right?  If you want to say it was research for a novel, go ahead – but…

PT:  Of course I was studying.  I spent a whole damn year painting one character in calligraphy.  That’s the only class I truly remember.  But, in Hong Kong proper, there was this great bar called Waltzing Matilda’s where the Aussie and British ex-pats used to hang out.  Oh, and the tea at the Peninsula was to die for.  And, I used to save up all my money to go to Gaylord’s, a fab Indian restaurant in Kowloon…

Hells bells!  If it takes a damn year to paint one character – I’d be hanging out at a few bars myself.

EE:  Okay, enough of the light stuff.  Which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar next month at Left Coast Crime?

PT:  Cozy!!?  Did you say "cozy?"  I’m so tired of people putting me in …oh, excuse me…um…  You know what?  I’d love to hang out with all of the Murderati crowd.  Hell, I’d love to hang out with absolutely anyone who’ll buy me an Oban or two.  Frankly, at conventions, I find just about everyone fascinating.

Crapola!  I didn’t think!  Yes – that damned word!  Funny – I didn’t realize it until now.  You can bet I’ll be changing the wording from now on.  I HATE IT TOO!  I mean – we write about murder, right?  What the hell is COZY about that?  Note to readers:  Did you notice she really didn’t give us a specific name?  See what I mean?  Diplomacy r us to the max.  Damn, I hate that in a woman.

EE:  Since you’re gonna side-step all my questions, how about telling me about your Walter Mitty dream?

PT:  You know, I really can’t think of much.  Well, there’s that chateau in Cap St. Jean Ferrat…and the jet-setting around the world to meet adoring readers…and being paid to do it.  There’s the win at American Idol.  There’s that great review in NYT.  There’s dancing the tango in Argentina.  Actually, dancing professionally would be pretty cool.  There’s that seventh don in Tae Kwon Do, and being able to do flying kicks and actually get hang time.  To look like Alex, Twist, Harley or Laura.  There’s brokering world peace,  Solving the global warming problem.  Eradicating child abuse…  I know that list is pretty mundane, but, really, my life is good.  Family, friends, love, health, a career that will pay someday.  What could be better?

Not a hell of a lot, Pari.  Not at all.  Unless… well, nevermind.  I guess I was thinking about you and Jackie Chan.  I mean, there’s this small role he promised me…and I just thought…well, being we’re friends and all… but, don’t give it another thought, okay?

EE:  Here’s an easy one:  You just bought a month’s advertising on a billboard.  What’s it gonna say?

PT:  Hey, I just wrote a Murderati post about creative space and I’m answering these questions with the kids still around.  So, I’ll take a first shot and reserve the right to change it when I’ve had a couple of gallons of coffee.

Let’s see…Billboards need short text and a lot of white space.  I’d have great graphics of my books, maybe me smiling…maybe not.

And, I like the idea of a campaign that would change weekly (I might even want to change it more frequently) to interest the commuters on the freeway going to and from work.

1st week – "Buy my books.  You know you want them."

2nd week – "You must have my books."  Imagine Vincent Price saying that!

3rd week – "I mean it."

4th week – "I know where you live."

Okay, well, that might be a bit scary.  Let me get another tankard of coffee.  ‘Kay?’

Uh, yes – please do.  Take your time.  I’ll just step out while you gather your thoughts.  No hurry.  Honest.  Oh, by the way – I moved.  I’ll, uh, get my new address to you soon.  Ciao.

I heard from Pari today.  She’s doing fine now.  The coffee did wonders for her mood.  The trembling is gone, the girls are back in school – she’s back to squirting whipped cream in her mouth…and I hope to hell the snow has melted.  Those forays out to the slush stuff were sort of doing her in…

Thanks for stopping by today – and don’t forget about ITW’s grand giveaway!

Itwlink "150 Thrillers" Contest!  Just signing up here for the free online ITW newsletter, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a whole library of new, author-signed thrillers. A hundred and fifty, in all.

p.s. I stole this from Louise’s post today.  I have to be a little evil, don’t I?

Playboy April 1997

Well, yes – it’s true.  Raymond WAS James Bond for nine books.  I mean, you can’t get any closer than than, can you?Rbtux   Just take a gander at Raymond here – talk about imersing yourself in your work!  But he does look great, doncha think?  I have to give him a lot of credit though – imagine wearing a tux all the way through ZERO MINUS TEN (1997), THE FACTS OF DEATH (1998), HIGH TIME TO KILL (1999), DOUBLESHOT (2000), NEVER DREAM OF DYING (2001) and his finale – THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO (2002).  That’s quite an impressive set of credits.  And even more fascinating (besides being Bond for so many years)-The Japanese Bond fans aka the Kagawa Prefectural government-this year opened a permanent ‘007 MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO MUSEUM on the island-and have honored Raymond with the title of Ambassador!  Now, those are fans!!   Add to all this – he’s done the film novelizations for TOMORROW NEVER DIES, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and DIE ANOTHER DAY.  And did I mention his non-fiction – THE JAMES BOND BEDSIDE COMPANION?  Yep, that’s his as well.  And then there are the computer games, the stage plays he’s written and directed, and uh, let’s see – oh, hell – go to his website:

But there is much more to Raymond’s writing career besides Bond – so much more – it would take an hour just to type his credits.  You can read all about that on his website – and please do – Raymond is truly a renaissance man!  Last year he spent nearly three weeks in Italy promoting the re-issue of ZERO MINUS TEN, a week as a judge of the Courmayeur Noir Festival along with Val Kilmer and Jeffery Deaver.  Currently, his work can be found in the anthology -THESE GUNS FOR HIRE, and earlier this year – he interviewed Hugh Hefner for CINEMA RETRO, and there’s more – EVIL HOURS will be re-published in Italy!  Raymond’s newest – SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS is out and is one heck of a terrific read – so start there and then you’ll see what a truly talented guy this is.

Now that you’ve learned a bit about this amazing guy, come see what he’s got to say

EE:  So, Raymond – I imagine having to don a tux while writing those Bond books became annoying after a time.  I’ll bet your neighbors did a double-take when you took out the garbage.

RB:  Ha!  Most of the time I write wearing only underwear or (gasp) less.  That’s the luxury of working out of one’s home.  My commute from the bedroom is ten feet.  I must admit, though, that when I do interviews like this, I dress a bit more formally.  I have a white shirt on, but no pants.  (and it was nine books – six originals and three movie novelizations!)

Ahem – I do hope the shirt is buttoned at least.

EE:  Uh, I don’t think I’m going to ask you what your Walter Mitty dream is – I mean, you lived it through NINE books, but well – is it possible you still have one you’d like to tell us about?

RB:  I suppose I may have ‘lived it’ while writing the Bonds…but I certainly wouldn’t want to be Bond.  I don’t have that kind of tolerance to torture and pain.  I really dislike the kind of martini he drinks, and even some of the meals Bond eats turn me off.  I’m a coward when it comes to gambling at a casino, and I’m even more of a wimp with the physical stuff like jumping out of airplanes without a parachute, fighting someone on top of a moving train, driving like a maniac in heavy traffic while bullets are flying all around, or having less than a minute to disarm an atomic bomb.  (Hmm…the ladies…now tht might be a different matter…)  But I suppose my Walter Mitty dream right now is simply to make a success of my recent non-Bond novels and the stuff I have yet to write!

Oh, darling…that’s no Walter Mitty dream!  After what you and Bond have been through – that’s a cakewalk.

EE:  I’m told you and your pal, Hugh Hefner had quite a difficult time staying on track during that day at the Mansion when you two were reminiscing about your your six appearances in Playboy – the excerpts from the novels and the two Bond short stories Hef published in Playboy – just what caused all the interruptions?

RB:  Hef is not only a kind and generous person, he’s also an animal lover.  On the grounds of the Playboy Mansion are kinds of exotic animals.  In fact, I believe he’s the only private citizen in L.A. with a zoo license.  There are flamingos and dozens of other species of strange birds, monkeys, Japanese koi, dogs and more dogs, it’s amazing…  oh, did I mention the bunnies?

Bunnies?  Ohh, how sweet!  I just love rabbits.  So cute, so cuddly…so…  Wait.  We’re are talking about rabbits, aren’t we?

EE:  Rumors are you’ve had to hire two bodyguards or your November 25th book signing at Murder by the Book in Houston due to the unprecedented number of female fans expected.  Can it be true those women don’t realize you’re NOT Bond?

RB:  Don’t ask, don’t tell!

Oh, like that, huh?  Hells bells – my lips are sealed.

EE:  One of my most trusted spies has informed me that you are persona non gratis in Hong Kong.  Is it true several of the main Triads have a price on your head because your description of their ceremonies in ZERO MINUS TEN were so on the money – the cops can’t guarantee your safety?

RB:  You know, I really thought I would be come the Salmon Rushdie of the Bond novelists.  It’s true that I described in detail the sacret initiation ceremony that Triads used in that book.  But the Royal Hong Kong Police gave me a transcript of it!  (This was back in 1996 before the handover).  I asked them if I could get into any trouble if I used it…and the two inspectors who specialized in Triads just looked at each other and grinned.

Aieee!!  Well, you could always call on Jackie Chan if you get in a pinch.

EE:  While we all know Sean Connery is your favorite Bond, and you even thought Timothy Dalton did a great job – the buzz around Thrillerville is that when you gave the producers of the new Bond flick – Casino Royale – a thumb’s up on Daniel Craig as the new Bond – Craig was so grateful – he’s been sending you flowers.  Flowers?  Is this a new guy thing?

RB:  No, no, it wasn’t flowers.  It was socks.  He’d heard about the usual outfit I wear when I work at my computer.  He thought I could use some.

Oh. Socks.  Okay.  I feel better now.

EE:  But  back to your other life – Is it really true you were bored to teares while doing research for your latest – SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS?  Gosh, I’d think checking out the adult porn industry would have been rather exciting, er, illuminating.

RB:  Research?  Who needed research?  Ahem.  Seriously, folks, I do take pride in the amount of research I do for all my books.  For Bond, I had to get the weaponry and technical and British-ness right.  For TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL, I had to get the military jargon right.  For SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS I had to…you know.

Yes, well – we’ll just have to use our imagination I suppose.

EE:  And what about those computer games you’ve so successfully created?  Was this hiatus from writing block-busters prompted by your inner child crying out?

RB:  Actually, the computer game portion of my side-winding career was an unexpected left-turn that happened to come around at the right time and in the right place.  I was always a game-player and by the 1980’s I had become enamored of role-playing games like ‘Dungeons & Dragons’.  When home PCs started becomming big in the mid-80’s, this style of interactive story-telling game was a natural port over to the computer.  I got in on the ground floor an dedid it for about ten years.  I left the industry behind, though, when I started writing novels full time.  A funny thing about that ‘inner child’ stuff…I was usually one of the oldest people working at the various game companies that employed me!

Well, we’re just glad you got Dungeons & Dragons out of your system and turned to writing!

EE:  You won’t need your tux for this, but we’d all like to know which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at next year’s ThrillerFest.

RB:  You, Elaine.

And now that I’ve buttered you up, let’s see if I can think of some runners-up.  So many of my favorite writers are already friends of mine, so dragging them to a corner wouldn’t be that difficult.  Actually, some of them I really wouldn’t want all to myself in a cozy corner.  Eww.  I suppose I’ll just let that question slide and see if anyone seeks me out for a cozy corner.

Well, now that you buttered me up – I’ll do the same – you won’t have a problem, okay?  You’ll probably need those body guards again.  When the gals out there see you in your tux, you’ll be swamped!

EE:  So, is it true that since you are officially an Ambassador to Kagawa Prefecture in Japan, you insist your students at William Rainey Harper College address you as ‘Sensei’ in your classrooms?

RB:  No, but I do insist that they bow every time they enter and leave the classroom.

I’ll try to remember that next time we meet.  But, my memory does depart me on occasion. ๐Ÿ™‚

EE:  Who would be your ideal SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS book tour mate?  Be careful here, your wife may be reading this.

RB:  Well, if my wife is unable to make it, then I’d want the actress playing the lead character in the movie that should be made based upon the book.  It’d make a terrific vehicle for a talented and attractive leading lady in her 40’s.  (Are you listening Hollywood?)

Drat. That leaves me out.  I just turned…well, nevermind.

EE:  You’re having six guests for dinner, other than Miss Moneypenny, who would you invite, and what would you serve?

RB:  I assume I can name dead people as well as living.  Whenever I’m asked a question like this, I always name my heroes – Ian Fleming, Stanley Kubrick, John Lennon, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx (sorry Zeppo, no room!), and Marilyn Monroe for some glamour.  Gosh, they’re all dead.  What does that say about me?  And what bizarre conversations would incur!  It would be such a lively even that we’d all forget to eat, so who cares what I’m serving…

You forgot one guest – I think you’d need a medium too.

Many thanks to Raymond Benson for playing ON THE BUBBLE with us today.  Might I add that the real Raymond – is just as charming as any of the Bond men – and I look forward to seeing him again next year at ThrillerFest.  It’s been great fun to chat with this incredibly multi-talented guy, and a thrill (no pun intended) to read his extraordinary escapades with 007!  But wait until you read SWEETIE’S DIAMONDS!  WHEW!

See you next week, when my guest will be…well, you’ll have to check back to find out.  I mean, this is a ‘mystery’ blog, right?


I spent the holiday season pondering this case.  After consuming two fruitcakes, more eggnog than usual, and a partridge in a pear tree – I threw my suspect 5×8 cards up in the air and decided the first three that landed right side up would lead me to my perps.  How foolish one can be when one is in a sugar down slide.  Alas and alack – there were too many variables.  Too many nut-case civilians trying to play sleuth back at me.  I was faced with answers that had no relevance to my questions, bore no semblance of sanity – facts were skirted – allegations scorned – my superior methods of interrogation were ignored – all in all – it was a total cock up.

And these last five interviews?  Ha.  An ex-cop looking for some old grubby statue of a falcon, a guy who get’s off on amusement parks and has a signing dog, a wee lass who’s hung up on shoes, a dignified looking gent who’s really a pool shark and a blonde who looks like an angel and writes stuff about the devil.  I mean, are these people for real?  I dread writing up my report.  My Chief is gonna think I’ve lost it.  Maybe I have.  Maybe I should just hand in my keyboard and sail off in the sunset.  No.  That won’t work.  I get seasick.  The mountains, maybe?  No.  I have allergies.  The desert.  Yeah, that’s …no.  I hate brown on brown.  I’m a color person.  Honolulu?  Yes!  The Moana in Waikiki.  The verandah and pu-pu’s…and Chi-Chi’s…lot’s of Chi-Chi’s…and…



THE CRIMES:  Writing some of the best damn fiction out there.


Robin_burcell ROBIN BURCELL

The good news is that Robin will have a new book out this year – THE FACE OF A KILLER.  The only bad news is that she’s kept her readers waiting far too long.  The other news is check out this photo – and then remember that even though she’s no longer a cop – she still knows how to use that thing – so don’t mess with her, okay?

EE:  So, Robin – my San Fran spy tells me you were seen hovering over lattes at Starbucks on Union Street with a certain famous romance writer who lives close by.  Is it true (Oh, please God!) she’s run out of plots and called you for help?

RB:  Well, that’s what I told the paparazzi that were snapping photos of the event, but the truth was that I happened to walk in at the same time as her, and she asked me to pass the sugar.  I said, ‘raw or regular?’  And she said, ‘Which is best?’  So you can see how that was misinterpreted.  I’ll take my photo ops any way I can get ’em.

Okay, we’ll buy that for now.

EE:  And what about that rumor that you’re a high-ranking member of James Lincoln Warren’s (aka JLW) PHART’S, but you’re afraid if it gets out you’ll have to go into a witness protection program?

RB:  Highly over-rated rumor.  Not true in the least.  Besides, even if the truth did leak out, the organization is so highly secretive, it makes the secret society of Freemasons look like the public information office.

Damn, but she’s a hard nut to crack.

EE:  Word on the street (I love cop shop talk) is that your former role as Prez of NorCal MWA was really a cover up for a special ops job you’re doing for the Maltese Society to find that damn falcon.

RB:  Well, that was before I realized the dang falcon was right there where we meet each month in the display case at Historic John’s Grill in San Fran all along.  Of course, I’m a trained investigator.  Not everyone can lay claim to such refined skills.

Huh?  I went to several of those meetings.  It was there?  All that time?  Doesn’t say much for any of us so-called sleuths, does it!


Even though Chris is guilty of writing TV commercials – we can ignore that part of his shady past.  After all – anyone who can rescue a wonderful guy like Fred (the one without the shades) – he can’t be all bad.  Fred, by the way, was a star on Broadway appearing in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ – and is helping Chris weather the pressures of stardom after winning the Best First Novel Anthony for TILT A WHIRL.

EE: Rumors are rampant that Bruce Willis – your former comedy troupe member – is hankering to become a mystery writer, but you’re not returning his calls.  What’s up with that?

CG:  Yes, he’s ready to moonlight again.  But every time he calls, it sounds like he’s trapped in a building without any shoes hiding from German terrorists with semi-automatic weapons.  I remember when Bruce did his first movie, back when we were still doing improv comedy for ten dollars a show down in the east village in a basement theater just off the Bowery and he had to shave his head (something he seems to do on a regular basis these days) to play a bald guy riding the Roosevelt Island tram.

Gosh, I like the way you skirted that question.  But hey, who needs another mystery writer, huh?  I mean, we can live without Bruce in the bookstores.

EE:  Okay, time for your Walter Mitty Dream Sequence.  Whatcha got for us?

CG:  I’m on stage.  People are blowing into sticks of candy like flutes.  I hear the strands of ‘Toot Sweet’.  I jump on the bad guy.  Okay, it’s Fred’s dream…but I want to have stage credit’s as good as our dog’s!

Hold that thought – I’ve got Carol Shorenstein Hays on the other line – we’re working something up.  Just make sure I have two front row center’s on opening night, okay?

EEO:  Which sex symbol do you think you most resemble?

CG:  Fred Flint stone.  Maybe Barney Rubble.  Oh, you should have seen me eighty pounds ago…which is how much weight I lost three years ago.  Weight Watchers On Line and Book Writing.  Perfect together.

You LOST weight writing?  Yo.

Donna_moore_1 DONNA MOORE

I don’t know who the hell Donna Moore’s muse is – but I want her!  Ken Brien has called her the Dorothy Parker of Scotland.  Charlie Stella said – it’s like having Grouch Marx feeding you one-liners over your shoulder the entire trip.’  Is it any wonder Donna’s hilarious debut book – GO TO HELENA HAND BASKET has been nominated for a Lefty next month at Left Coast Crime?

EEO:  Isn’t it true, Donna – that you’re madly in love with Bob Haskins, and patterned Robin Banks after him?  Well, okay – so you made him a bit taller, but still?

DEM:  Isn’t EVERYONE taller than Bob Haskins?  We have the same test for telling a good book me and Bob.  Apparently when he gets a new script he takes it to the lo and if he’s sitting there and his bum goes cold and numb – then he knows the script is a good one and he accepts the role.  I’m the same.  The number of times I’ve fallen off the loo reading a Ken Bruen…

Charming.  Thank you for sharing that with us.  I’m sure Ken Bruen is delighted to know he is found in all the better places.

EE:  Rumors abound that now that Helen Mirren has let Jane Tennison retire, she’s interested in playing Helena – but you’re trying to convince her to play Heidi instead.  So, what’s the scoop on that?  Think Helen can handle it?

DM:  Well, having seen the last episode of Prime Suspect, I’m beginning to think it was the cocktails that were the attraction, rather than the role of Helena.  And let’s face it, Elaine, ANYONE can handle the role of Helena.  She’s so dim.  For some reason my family think she is based on me.  I have no idea why.

Surely you jest!  You’re not at all like Helena.  Well, maybe a little bit…now that I think about it…there is a similarity.  Not physically, of course.  I’m sure it’s your great sense of adventure.  Oh, wait!  I know!  It’s the shoes.  That’s it.  The shoes.

EE:  And speaking of shoes (?) – I understand Imelda Marcos is angling for a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most shoes – and she’s challenged you to surpass her.  Is it true you’ve enlisted David Corbett to go undercover and get Imelda’s shoe count before you embark on your shopping spree?

DM:  When they raided her wardrobes they also found some bulletproof bras. I asked David to sneak out a couple of those for me.  You can never have too much bulletproof lingerie can you?  Apparently she was most annoyed when it was reported that she had over 3,000 pairs of shoes and was reported to have said, "I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty."  Yeah, like that makes a difference Imelda.  For the record, I only have 100 or so pairs (do you like the ‘or so’, by the way?)

Like it?  I love it.  Never, ever, cop to the number of ANYTHING you have.  Keep ’em guessing, chickie.  That’s my motto.

Rfatepixfinal ROBERT FATE

Philosopher?  Riverboat Gambler?  Rare Book Dealer?  Nope.  How’s about Oscar winner (special effects for DUNE) and the debut author of BABY SHARK – one of 2006’s most talked about books?

EE:  So, Bob – going along with ‘write what you know’ – care to tell us how many roadside pool halls you frequented in order to soak up atmosphere for BABY SHARK?

RF:  Like I can remember?  My buddy, Snake, and I used to slip out the window during Ms. Herbert’s class and go to Chili Jake’s to shoot nine ball.  That’s all I recall, and that’s all you get.

Oh, sure.  Memory loss.  Happens all the time. But okay, we’ll buy it for now.

EE:  We will assume the rumors of the mini-rumble you supposedly were involved in at Ruby’s Red Dragon Bar in Waco wasn’t your fault, right?  You were just kinda setting things up for those knock-out scenes in BABY SHARK to get some flavor, right?  I mean, we all know it wasn’t really your fault the place went berserk.

RF:  You’re never gonna let me live that down.  Have I got this right? The blonde in the purple corset said she’d be right back and I was just waiting around.  It was all a mistake from beginning to end.  Well, that brass knuckles business was a little bit my fault.

Well, I wasn’t going to mention the blonde in the purple corset, but since you did…

EE:  But the real buzz around ThrillerVille is that Efren Reyes – the top men’s money maker in the game – hoped to convince you to model your protag after him instead of a woman.  Is it true you had to let him beat you at pool to soothe his ego for being rejected?

RF:  I’m thinking you know an awful lot about snooker and such, Ms. Flinn.  But re: Mr. Reyes – not on his best day can he take me at the table – and you can tell him I said so.

Darling, I know a lot about a lot of things – but there just isn’t space here.  I’ll pass your message on to Efren when I see him later.  We’re having…er…coffee at his place.

Alexandra_sokoloff ALEXANDRA SOKOLOFF

Who’d a thunk this gorgeous blonde – posing so angelical – seeming so lost in thought –  perhaps about a favorite Debussy strain – could write such scary monster scenes?  I had to leave the light on for weeks after reading THE HARROWING.  I’m sure as hell glad Alex has joined us here at Murderati.  I mean, I think it’s always prudent to be good friends with horror writers.  One never knows when one might find themselves in their books.  And not as one of the good roles either.

EE:  So, Alex – that year in Istanbul?  You wanna tell us about that when you were sixteen?  Or, do you want to save that for another time? ๐Ÿ™‚

AS:  Seriously, it was very hard.  I was blonder than I am now and so, so obviously American.  I was harassed everywhere I went – abduction attempts – not fun.  But that’s the year that I threw every practical plan out the window and decided to go into theater, because life is too precious not to do what you love.  And Istanbul itself is a phenomenal city – it was life-changing.

Life changing?  How about life CHALLENGING?  Abduction attempts?  Aieee!  But wait – there could be a story here.  I can see it now – Jude Law is at an outdoor cafe at the Grand Bazaar – the one commissioned by Suleyman…sipping thick Turkish coffee, pondering his life when he witnesses an attempt to kidnap a young girl.  He springs to action…  I mean, think about it, okay?

EE:  Rumor has it that John Travolta is begging you to teach him ballet for his next film – but you turned him down.  Was it because you just couldn’t envision him in tights, or what?

AS:  I don’t have the slightest difficulty in imagining ANY man in tights – I have this Elizabethan fetish.  I wouldn’t presume to teach JT anything about dancing – but I’d dance with him any time, any place, anywhere.  Can you set that up?

Can I set it up?  Darling, you’re talking to moi.  Consider it done.  John and I go back, you know?

EE:  My favorite little spy tells me that you’re working on new lyrics for a duet with Paul Guyot for next year’s gala at ThrillerFest, but Guyot wants to make it a three-some and have Tony Bennett do back up.

AK:  I have no doubt Guyot would be up for a three-some thing, but Tony Bennett wouldn’t have been my first guess for a third.  Works for me.

You sure about Bennett?  I mean – I can talk to Guyot.  Between us – we could pull a few strings and get someone else.  I hear Wayne Newton is writing a thriller and could use the exposure.



My very sincere thanks to all the terrific writers who had the courage and great sense of humor to play with me here – at ON THE BUBBLE.  So – to end the year, let me once again offer my thanks- in order of appearance- to:  Denise Hamilton, Stephen Booth, Paul Guyot, Robin Burcell, James Lincoln Warren, David Montgomery, Gayle Lynds, Gregg Hurwitz, Louise Ure, Jim Rollins, Laura Lippman, Ian Rankin, Alex Kava, Chassie West, Tess Gerritsen, Sarah Weinman, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Dylan Schaffer, Linda Richards, John Hart, M.J. Rose, Alexandra Sokoloff, P.J. Parrish, Chris Grabenstein, Raymond Benson, Robert Fate and Donna Moore.