Friday, November 29, 2013


1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?

This has to be a combination of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, with a bit of Sue Grafton thrown in for good measure.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m currently plotting and researching Cait Morgan Mystery #5, which I am due to send to my publisher mid-February 2014, for publication (I hope) in the spring of 2015. Her third mystery, The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb will be published in the spring of 2014, and her fourth, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair, in the fall of 2014.

3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?

Oh heck – I have to be careful here! Cait Morgan is very much like me in some ways, but very different in others. She was born a few years later than I was, but I’ve given her my general upbringing and career – up to a point. She’s also similar to me in terms of likes and dislikes when it comes to food and drink, so we share a body type and similar issues with weight and will-power! But I’ve given Cait talents and traits I do not possess, which help her to solve the complex puzzles she encounters. I’m delighted to say that I tend not to trip over corpses when I travel, but I think it’s essential that Cait continues to do so. One thing I decided to make a big difference for Cait is that she lost her parents in a motor vehicle accident – she keeps their ashes in matching urns on her mantelpiece. Because my Mum is the first person to read anything I write, I wanted her to be very clear that anything I write about Cait’s feelings toward her parents is not what I feel about mine!

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

The plot is paramount, but my characters have to act within the parameters of what they would, or wouldn’t “really” do, in the circumstances I set up for them. As such, while the plot might kick-start the problems, the way that characters react to the situations in which they find themselves can sometimes compound the initial problems, on the way to discovering the final solution, of course.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Plotter! I’m a very detailed plotter, note-maker and planner. I enjoy plots where there are twists and turns, and that sort of thing really doesn’t work well if you don’t plan ahead. I also make copious notes about the entire life stories of all my characters – the main ones who live from book to book, of course, but also those who appear in only one book. For me, these are living, breathing people, so knowing where they went to school, what sort of a home they live in, how they live their lives, is vital for me, before I start to put them onto the page. These back-stories don’t often end up on the page, in their entirety, but it helps me, as a writer, to really know them. I often find myself telling myself “so-and-so wouldn’t say or do that” so I feel this insight helps me keep characters true to themselves.

6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

A feeling that they’ve enjoyed spending time with Cait Morgan. That maybe they’ve learned a little something about a certain bit of history, or art, or geography, and had fun doing it. That they found the characters they met, and the places they visited, to be interesting. That the total, ultimate solution to the puzzle/s are satisfying. Overall, I hope they have fun…and I hope they see my books as an absorbing, gratifying entertainment.

7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?

The real answer is that I hope I sell enough books that I still AM a writer in ten years’ time, and that, if I keep writing for that period, I keep getting better and better. There’s always room for improvement and as I write I learn…I hope to have the chance to keep learning. If people are still enjoying spending time with Cait Morgan in ten years’ time, I would hope that by then my husband would have retired and we’d be able to spend more time together. If that means we can travel as a couple while I research books, and meet readers, that would be the perfect life!

8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

I always eat and drink everything Cait Morgan does just so I can be sure I describe it properly. It’s fun, and sometimes a challenge!

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

I still return to my Agatha Christie collection, like an old pair of slippers, when I want some comfort reading. PD James is the perfect companion on holiday, because of the pace of her work, as is anything by Colin Dexter. Louise Penny, Linwood Barclay, Erika Chase, Alan Bradley and Peter Robinson are five fabulous Canadian authors, writing today, whose work, between them, meets any mood that I’m in. Ian Rankin, Tamar Myers, Sue Grafton, Katherine Hall Page, Rhys Bowen, Andrew Pyper, Lynda La Plante – all are on my bookshelves, along with works by the late Reginald Hill, Tony Hillerman, Robert B Parker and Elmore Leonard. Tolkien, Goethe, Mann, Zola, Austen, Camus, Sartre, Pinter, Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer – these are some of the authors whose works are on my shelves, and who I think of as old friends I am happy to visit when I can.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet

THE CORPSE WITH THE GOLDEN NOSE (published March 2013):

Eccentric Welsh Canadian foodie criminologist Cait Morgan tackles a complex, closed circle mystery at a gourmet event in BC’s wine country.

Friday, November 22, 2013


by Brad Smith

Okay, full disclosure right at the start. I'm a huge Brad Smith fan. I've thoroughly enjoyed every one of his books from the comic noir stand-alones to the recent Virgil Cain series. So, don't be surprised if I state I really enjoyed Shoot the Dog, the third Cain novel.

So, why review it? Because you never know. Not everyone has a winner every time. But Shoot the Dog didn't let me down. It's the same laid back guy with his own code for living and that includes his view of justice. He's still occasional bedmate of police investigator Claire Marchand, the woman who first arrested him in Run Red Run, the first book in the series. Yes, he's been in and out of jail. The out part is what counts. Because Cain, former ball player turned farmer, is one of the good guys who just seems to fall into bad situations and he takes it on the chin, knowing that good trumps evil.

This time, Cain finds himself in the middle of a feature-length movie being filmed in the area. His two Percherons have been hired to use in the western, and Cain is also on the payroll as their handler. When the female lead is murdered, Cain tries hard to just carry on with his work but of course, he's eventually pulled into the fray when he tries to help a young actor who looks lonely and lost. If you've ever wanted to hang around a movie set, this is your opportunity.

This time out, there's not too much chance Cain will end up in jail, although past antagonisms with one of Claire's co-workers always hover. It's Claire who takes the lead and we follow along with her investigation, as seen through her eyes. This is one of Brad Smith's talents -- multiple viewpoint characters, a technique that in many writers' hands can lead to confusion or dissatisfaction for the reader. Smith handles it effortlessly and what the reader gets is a fully-rounded story with well-developed people and multiple motives for everything from jobs to murder.

His writing is clean and detailed, peppered with information that may appear to be extraneous but really adds value to the characters, setting, and plot. He knows about details -- which ones to put in and which one's to leave out. It's a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to hone their writing skills. And besides that, it an enjoyable read with a satisfying mystery.

Friday, November 15, 2013


1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?

That’s sort of a tough one. If you mean for crime writing, I’d have to say there are three: Dick Francis for how he handled the horse racing backgrounds in his novels. I always felt there were just enough interesting informational tidbits as well as a clever way of working the racing background into the plot of the story. Even though the main character became pretty repetitious after awhile, Francis books are a good, fun read.

For dialogue, hand’s down, it has to be Rex Stout. He was such a deft hand at it, you seldom noticed how much information he was feeding you, not just with the words, but also with the actions and reactions of those speaking. There’s a lot to learn about good writing from reading Nero Wolfe.

Among current writers, I would have to say I really admire the way Michael Connelly and Val McDermid put their books together. They make very few missteps in plotting and can paint a pretty amazing picture with just a few, very spare phrases.

2. What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished a full-length novel for Dundurn which happens to be a sequel to my previous publication with them. This is called Roses for a Diva and even though it was a very difficult and time-consuming job, I really enjoyed it and am quite happy the way it all turned out. Roses will be released sometime late next year – at least, that’s what I’ve been told. Readers will like it (I hope) because this time the story travels to Italy for much of the book.

Also out next spring will be a new Rapid Reads novella titled The Boom Room. This is another Pratt and Ellis story and concerns a murder at a nightclub. I enjoy writing these stripped-down works a great deal. I think it improves my prose-writing in general since you have to say just as much with a greatly reduced palette.

3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?

Since I don’t have a main protagonist that travels from book to book (except for this current one), there are only so many generalities about their personalities that they might share with me. My characters don’t give up easily, very much like me, and while they may be occasionally unsure of themselves, they know how to think things through. Some of them also have a rather ironic view of the world, which I definitely do. I do wish I had the amazing musical talents a few of them possess! In which case, I probably wouldn’t be writing novels…

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?

I’d have to say both. I have to really be engaged with the characters in my novels, the good as well as the bad, in order to write each one. They usually have some sort of flaw they have to overcome during the story (or not, if they’re a baddy), but I also feel the plot needs to be strong and compelling in order for the book to be ultimately successful for readers. So let’s put it this way: I like to explore my characters, but I don’t want that to get in the way of telling the basic story. Since not a few of my novels are whydunits rather than whodunits, the plot can be especially important. Above all, everything has to be believable. I’ve occasionally been told (by reviewers as well as readers) that my characters are very much like most people they know, but I take that as a compliment. How many really outrĂ© people does the average person know?

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Lately, I’ve been told by both my publishers that they want at least a detailed plot outline, if not a chapter-by-chapter summary. Because they require it, I do it, but I can’t say I like it. It does help sort things out for plot requirements, but once I send it in, I generally never look at it again while I’m writing the story. If I were to follow things off my summary, I would certainly be more apt to miss those interesting and exciting plot twists you come up against along the way. For instance, with The Boom Room, I got to the final chapter and realized the wrong person did it! If I’d followed my chapter outline, the storyline wouldn’t have changed enough to allow that to happen. As a sidebar, when you work this way it’s very interesting to finish a novel, then look at your long-forgotten summary and see how well you did at following it. To sum up, I would much rather work through my plots without the aid of too much forethought.

6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

A sense of enjoyment, certainly, but since I write about music and try to do it authoritatively, I would hope they might enjoy the insights into how music is made, both internally and externally, since to many, being a musician or involved in the music biz is something mysterious and arcane. Foremost in my mind as I write is in producint “a good story, well-told” to quote one of my publishers.

7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?

I would like to not have to rely on a day gig to earn my living. I work best when I can concentrate totally on writing. Currently, that only happens on vacations or if I don’t have any graphic design work on my desk. And I sure hope that happens sooner than in ten years!

8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

Probably that I can be very unsure of myself at times. I have learned how to think my way out of tight corners, but sometimes I’m very much up against it. They might also be shocked to find out that when I write I always wear a pirate costume – complete with eye patch and a live parrot on my shoulder. Just kidding…

9. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Anything that strikes my fancy. My wife and I both love looking at maps (we have a large number of British Landranger maps for instance), and I often read history. We have amassed over 150 cookbooks. I read one or two biographies every year – usually about musicians. I wish I had more time to read, actually, since it is one of life’s great pleasures. If I have a novel on the go, it’s extremely hard for me to feel anything but guilt that I’m reading instead of working on it.

10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet (140 characters or fewer).

Operatic soprano Marta Hendriks is being stalked as she travels the globe. Is it just an over-enthusiastic fan – or something more sinister?

Rick Blechta is a musician as well as a writer of crime fiction. He has successfully melded the two in his critically-acclaimed thrillers. His 9th and 10th novels are scheduled to be published in 2014. First, another novella for Orca Book Publisher’s Rapid Reads imprint will be released in spring. Next fall will see Dundurn publishing his full-length novel, Roses for a Diva, the sequel to his very popular The Fallen One.

Rick posts every Tuesday on the long-running Type M for Murder blog ( and you can visit his website at

Catch Rick playing trumpet with The Advocats Big Band on the first Monday of every month at Seven44 Restaurant and Lounge, located just south of Eglinton on Mount Pleasant in Toronto.

Friday, November 8, 2013


INSINUENDO: Murder in the Museum
by Miriam Clavir
Bayeux Arts, Inc

Miriam Clavir's first mystery novel has all the right ingredients: a determined middle-aged (that really appeals to many of us) female heroine, a museum with all the attendant inside info on its workings; and a terrific setting, the UBC campus in Vancouver, B.C. It also has an intriguing death that may or may not be murder.

For Berry Cates, almost a fully-accredited art conservator, the internship at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is an ideal job and she's hoping to make it permanent. Recently divorced and graying, she desperately wants to make the most of this new beginning to her life. However, when a visiting art dealer and expert in antiquities drops dead and what was first thought to be a heart attack starts looking more like murder, Berry finds herself dragged into a new role as sleuth.

For starters, her supervisor, Reiko looks like a prime suspect and Berry's worried that without Reiko, she's without a job and her much needed credits. But what Berry finds is much more than she's bargained for. It seems Foley also had a reputation for some shading dealings in the art world. And long-time friendships may mask a deeper sinister bond. Not trusting anyone she's working with, Berry follows the leads to bogus statues and revenge. Bruised and disillusioned, Berry eventually tracks down the killer but at what cost?
Clavir has created a gutsy, witty mature female sleuth who doesn't back off. Hopefully, Berry Cates will be returning. This novel will really appeal to anyone with a fascination for the behind-the-scenes workings at a museum, from the nitty-gritty of art conservation to the politics of self-preservation in a museum environment. Miriam Clavir's own background shows in the amount of background information she deftly weaves into the tale. By the way, the MOA on the UBC campus is a real site; the murder is fictitious.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Busy month ahead!

If you haven't heard about my latest blogspot woes, this time I've not been able to post my usual Events column. I must admit, I have only so much patience when it comes to anything electronic. Maybe one day, when my frustration is a dim memory, I'll try again. In the interim, I thought I'd use today's blog to highlight some of the book events coming up in November. There are a lot more happening in this city, Ottawa being a city that's brimming with mystery writers, however these are the signings that I know.

Sat. Nov. 9 -- Erika Chase signs her latest, COVER STORY at Books on Beechwood, 35 Beechwood Ave., 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Mike Martin signs his second mystery, THE BODY ON THE T at Brittons, 846 Bank St., 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sat. Nov. 16 -- Erika Chase signs COVER STORY at Perfect Books, 258 Elgin St., 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sun. Nov. 17 -- Sandra Nikolai signs her second book, FATAL WHISPERS at Brittons in the Glebe, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sat. Nov. 23 -- Barbara Fradkin signs her latest, THE WHISPER OF LEGENDS at Brittons in the Glebe, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Sat. Nov. 30 -- Vicki Delany signs her newest mystery, A COLD WHITE SUN at Brittons in the Glebe, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.

For a more complete list of book events happening across the country in November, I suggest you visit the Crime Writers of Canada website, always a good place to keep on top of mysterious happenings!