Sunday, January 30, 2011

Roman Noir - Is It or Isn't It? by Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley is an award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about. She is the author of two crime fiction series, one set in 1940 San Francisco (featuring hardboiled female PI, Miranda Corbie), the other in first century Roman Britain.

Her novels include CITY OF DRAGONS, NOX DORMIENDA, THE CURSE-MAKER, and CITY OF SECRETS (September, 2011). “Children’s Day”, a prequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, was published in the International Thriller Writers anthology FIRST THRILLS: HIGH OCTANE STORIES FROM THE HOTTEST THRILLER AUTHORS

Kelli earned a Master’s Degree in Classics, loves jazz, old movies, battered fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies. You can learn more about her and the worlds she creates at

Roman Noir - Is It or Isn't It?
by Kelli Stanley

Kaye’s blog is one of the most auspicious hangouts on the internet, filled, as it is, with the warmth and goodness and loveliness of the woman herself. So when she invited me to write—a distinct and cherished honor—I thought, “What better date than the day before the launch of a book called THE CURSE-MAKER”?

It’s kind of like saying “ex-jinx”, one reason why my original working title was “Maledictus” [Cursed]. Sounds a bit softer in Latin, don’t you think? But Latin or English, as a relaunch to my first series and sequel to my first book, THE CURSE-MAKER embodies a dream realized, and I want to attract all the good luck I can.

One question that has popped up in interviews—in addition to the natural one of how crazy am I to try to publish two books in one year—is whether or not it’s possible to write a “Roman noir” novel with a (happily) married protagonist.

Doesn’t that violate some noir law somewhere?

The short answer is no. The long answer is a little more involved.

THE CURSE-MAKER (and the Arcturus series as a whole) is an affectionate homage to the hardboiled genre. Even “Roman noir” is a pun, since it’s the French term for a detective story as well as a description of my setting and tone. THE CURSE-MAKER was inspired by Hammett’s Red Harvest and The Dain Curse, yes, but it was also inspired by The Thin Man and Chandler’s unfinished manuscript of Poodle Springs (later completed by the wonderful Robert B. Parker).

The Thin Man is much more of a biting satire than the classic film franchise would lead you to believe, but it does feature two people who love each other, one of whom is a detective. In Playback, Chandler’s final finished novel, iconic loner PI Marlowe is headed for the wedding aisle. In Poodle Springs, he’s taken the plunge.

So I thought—why not? Let’s see how and where and why the more recognizable elements of noir insert themselves—and see if pairing up Arcturus and Gwyna—actually, I had no choice, they paired themselves up, as characters sometimes do—see if writing about a couple in love (and not the crazy “amour fou” type found in noir lit and film noir) can still preserve the dark atmosphere I was trying to capture.

In other words, I had precedent! Noir is such an elusive topic—we’re forever trying to define it at conventions—and writing a protagonist that can see the darkness, yet have a little light to hold on to, doesn’t negate the fact that the setting is frightening (a necromancer who raises the dead and communes with spirits, ghosts in abandoned mines, and a titular curse-maker whose curses come true), dark and captures the desperation of a spa town where people go to heal.

Except in Aquae Sulis, far too many are turning up dead.

So the classic themes are all there. And I, as a writer, really enjoy the challenge of capturing that darkness, as well as the love and passion between the two lead characters. This makes THE CURSE-MAKER lighter than CITY OF DRAGONS and the upcoming CITY OF SECRETS in the Miranda Corbie series (Miranda is suffering from a tragic loss and PTSD, as well as other issues in her background), because the emotional heart of the novel is about Arcturus and Gwyna’s relationship … not about the darkness around them.

So is it still “Roman noir”? You bet. It’s a hardboiled detective story with plenty of vivid (and seedy) characters that will make your skin crawl. Curses have a unique history in Aquae Sulis (today’s more genteel Bath), and I’ve shared some original research in the novel on how and why they may have been used in first century Roman Britain. “Roman noir” is a lens through which you can hopefully see the past a little clearer, not as a distant and removed and alien landscape, but one populated with the same kind of people who may live down your block.

And as always, through the Roman-ness and the noir-ness speaks a tough man and a good doctor, who walks the mean and muddy streets of Britannia both slightly tarnished … and occasionally very afraid.

Thanks and hugs to Kaye for the honor of hanging out on Meanderings and Musings!!

Photo of Bertie: canis fidelis! (it means faithful dog in Latin) ;)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recipe for Murder! by Janet Rudolph

Janet Rudolph is the editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, and creative director/writer at Murder on the Menu and TeamBuilding Unlimited. She blogs daily at Mystery Fanfare and, facilitates a weekly mystery bookgroup, hosts literary salons with mystery authors, and has been a committee member on numerous mystery conventions. A long time contributor to the mystery genre, she received her Ph.D. in religious mystery fiction. She lives in the Berkeley (CA) hills with her husband, a golden retriever, and two cats. Her websites are:, and Blogs: Mystery Fanfare and DyingforChocolate

Recipe for Murder! by Janet Rudolph

Some of you may know me as the Editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, blogger at
Mystery Fanfare and As such you’ll assume, and you’d be
right, that I’m a book collector. I have a passion for collecting ‘things’--
books, to be sure, patriotic Americana embroideries, rugs, American folk art,
and the occasional cat and dog. I love flea markets and garage sales, and the
occasional dumpster. Don’t leave something by the road, because I’m bound to
find it.

Besides the 15,000 mysteries I have collected that are stored both here and in
Bodega Bay…yes, that Bodega Bay-- no birds in the belfry, as far as I know, but
not sure about the garage where many of my books are stored-- I have a passion
for food and the written word.

Mystery Readers Journal has had four issues devoted to Culinary Crime. The last
two issues on the subject were divided into courses. Each contributing author
who wrote an Author! Author! essay, also included a recipe.

Over the years of moderating my weekly mystery book group, I have assigned four
10-week sessions on food mysteries (culinary crime). In two of the sessions I
led, I prepared the ‘suspect’ food in the book for our dining pleasure…sans
poison, of course. This was over 20 years ago, and it was quite unique for its
time. I also set up a Lord Peter Wimsey dinner at a local restaurant where
everything was prepared from the recipes in the Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook.
Harriet Vane appeared half way through the dinner! Very exciting! I was able to
arrange this since I write and produce mystery events. My company’s name? Murder
on the Menu®! I also set up a Nero Wolfe Dinner. Everyone came in costume, and I
wore Yellow Silk Pajamas. Perhaps my other love of orchids came from the Nero
Wolfe books? But that’s ‘another’ collection.

And this leads me to one of my favorite collections: Literary Cookbooks, books
that tie in with famous mysteries, writers, detectives, TV shows, art, and movies.

I've been collecting Themed Cookbooks for years. For purposes of this post, I’m
confining the list to my mystery cookbooks. This list of titles is in no
particular order and certainly not definitive. I have over 150 mystery themed
cookbooks. My complete Tie-In Cookbook Collection is over 700 and extends to
cookbooks such as Linda Wolfe's The Literary Gourmet which I've bought at least
three times -- it's always so intriguing at the used bookstores that I forget I
already have multiple copies, The George Bernard Shaw Vegetarian Cookbook, The
Pooh Cookbook, Miss Piggy's Cookbook, Dining with Proust, Blondie's Cookbook,
The Cross Creek Cookery, The Rock & Roll Cookbook, and many, many more.

Mystery Cookbooks: A Sampling

The Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook by Elizabeth Bond Ryan & William J. Eakins
(Ticknor & Fields,1981). This is a classic and a must-have for any fan of
Dorothy L. Sayers.

Cooking with Malice Domestic, edited by Jean McMillen & Ron McMillen (Mystery
Bookshop Bethesda, 1991). I bought this book at Malice the year it came out, and
it's filled with great recipes by authors and fans of the malice domestic
subgenre. I attended the first Malice Domestic conference, and I’m looking
forward to receiving the Poirot Award at this year’s Malice. I’m honored.

Sneaky Pie's Cookbook for Mystery Lovers by Sneaky Pie Brown co-written by Rita
Mae Brown (Bantam, 1999). I envy Rita Mae Brown having a cat who not only cooks
but also writes about it! My cats are much more stereotypical and depend on me
to prepare and serve their food.

The Murder She Wrote Cookbook, edited by Tom Culver and Nancy Goodman Iland
(Chicago Review Press, 1996). This is a compilation of recipes from the cast and

The Cop Cookbook: Arresting Recipes from the World's Favorite Cops, Good Guys
and Private Eyes, by Greta Garner-Hewitt, Ken Beck and Jim Clark, with foreword
by Robert Stack (Rutledge Hill Press, 1977). TV, movie and real cops contribute
to this cookbook with great archival photos of CHiPS, various Femmes Fatales and
more. Take a ride down memory lane.

Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cook-book, concocted by Prof. Ebenezer Murgatroyd
with Comic Drawings by Herb Roth (Peter Pauper Press 1951). A cookbook to "end"
all cooks. Very funny humorous collection of deadly recipes with great

The Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout and the Editors of Viking Press (Viking
1973). This is another of my favorites. Any collection would be incomplete
without recipes prepared by Fritz Brenner, Wolfe's world-class personal chef.
Too Many Cooks is my favorite of the food Nero Wolfe mysteries, and this
cookbook contains several recipes from that novel. The photographs in this
cookbook alone are worth the price. There are 44 museum-quality images of New
York in the '30s, '40s, and '50s -- very art deco.

The Kitchen Book by Nicolas Freeling (David Godine, 1970) and The Cookbook by
Nicolas Freeling (David Godin, 1972). Wonderful cookbooks filled with great
recipes encapsulated within cooking text. If you are a fan of Freeling as I am,
you'll want to have these two books in your collection to read on a cold
winter's day.

The Cat Who Cookbook by Julie Murphy & Sally Abney Stempinski with a special
note from Lilian Jackson Braun (Berkeley Prime Crime, 2000). Recipes from the
Cat Who series. Koko and Yum Yum are not the cooks. Perhaps Qwilleran will
become inspired. Includes a special section on feline fare.

Food To Die For by Patricia Cornwell and Marlene Brown (G.P. Putnam, 2001).
Secrets from Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen. We know that Kay loves to cook and this
clever cookbook with glossy color illustrations capitalizes on just that.

Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Puffin Books,
1994). Unfortunately no Lamb Recipe. Although a kid's cookbook, I had to include
this as Roald Dahl is a master storyteller.
Recipes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and more.

Dishes to Die For... A Compendium of Culinary Concoctions Collected from
Canadian Crime Writers (Crime Writers of Canada, 1996). Novel format with
suspect statements, backgrounds and previous record.

The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking by Carolyn Keene (Grosset &
Dunlap, 1973). Reads like Nancy Drew. How can you become a really good cook?
"It's no mystery, " Nancy Drew reveals. "You must do what fine cooks have always
done -- add your own special touch."

Cauldron Cookery: An Authentic Guide for Coven Connoisseurs by Marcello Truzzi,
illustrated by Victoria Chess (Meredith Press, 1969). Must be initiated into a
coven in order to procure ingredients such as eye of newt.

Murder on the Menu: Food and Drink in the English Mystery Novel by Jeanine
Larmoth, with recipes by Charlotte Turgeon (Scribner's, 1972). This is a true
classic and one to snap up when you find it at a garage sale, used bookstore or
online. Includes a wonderful analysis of the genre, citing authors such as
Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie and more, with 160 recipes ranging from
potted shrimp to gooseberry fool.

Desserticide, aka Desserts Worth Dying For, edited by Claire Carmichael,
Paulette Mouchet and Mary Jerrill (Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles Chapter, 1995).
Who doesn't like a dessert cookbook? And Sisters in Crime Los Angeles put
together a mouthwatering collection of recipes from Swift Dispatch Cake to Layer
Me in the Grave Cookies to In for the Kill Tiramisu. Unfortunately individual
recipes are not attributed. Fun, interwoven writings about oleander and other
deadly ways to die.

The Lucretia Borgia Cookbook: Favorite Recipes of Infamous People by Dorothy and
Martin Blinder (Price/Sloan/Stern, 1971). A small volume originally priced at
$1.95. Nothing particularly new to shed on Lucretia Borgia but it found its way
into my collection based on title.

A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery
Writers by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezahl (Dell, 1999) including Lillian
Jackson Braun, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, Tony Hillerman and dozens more. Great
recipes and mystery writer anecdotes. This is a great cookbook for any and every
mystery reader. Just about every contemporary mystery writer at the time it was
published contributed to this cookbook and its successor, A Second Helping of
Murder: More Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers. I
have a ‘Flourless Chocolate Cake to Die For” recipe in this 2nd volume.

Madame Maigret's Recipes presented by Robert J. Courtine with a Letter-Preface
by Georges Simenon (Harcourt Brace Jovanich, 1974). As we all know, Madame
Maigret is an excellent cook and Simenon's Inspector Maigret has enjoyed her
cooking for many years. This is a classical French cookbook. Delicious.

Sherlock Holmes Cookbook by Sean Wright and John Farrell (Bramell House, 1976).
One of several Sherlock Holmes cookbooks with typical English fare.

Cooking with the Bad Guys: Recipes from the World's Most Notorious Kitchens by
Don Abel (Overlook Press, 1995). Where else would you find recipes fit for Al
Capone, Marie Antoinette, Jack the Ripper and Rasputin?

Plots & Pans: Recipes and Antidotes from The Mystery Writers of America, edited
by Nancy & Jean Francis Webb, illustrated by Gahan Wilson, introduction by Isaac
Asimov (Wynwood Press: Mystery Writers of America, 1989). One of my all-time
favorites with terrific illustrations by Gahan Wilson. Subtitled: Hundreds of
Delicious recipes from the Most Imaginative Writers in America -- Spiced with
their Wit, Leavened with their Malice, and Served with their Own Distinctive
Style. Oh yes!

Où Est Le Garlic: French Cooking in 50 Lessons by Len Deighton (Harper & Row,
1965). Len Deighton, like Nicholas Freeling, was a chef and this book shows it.
Wonderful "cookstrips" (hand-drawn illustrations) bring the recipes to life.

Writers' Favorite Recipes compiled by Gillian Vincent and the National Book
League of Great Britain (St. Martin's: 1979). Recipes by Len Deighton, Edward
Gorey, Graham Greene and others. Breezy anecdotes as well as recipes.

The Gun Club Cookbook by Charles Browne (Scribner's, 1930). Not a mystery
cookbook, really, but wonderful illustrations and a great period piece.

The Sopranos Family Cookbook as compiled by Artie Bucco by Allen Rucker (Warner
Books, 2002). Yes, “family” recipes..

Brunetti’s Cookbook: Recipes by Roberta Pianaro with Culinary Stories by Donna
Leon (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010), with anecdotes, recipes and beautifully
drawn illustrations! There are also excerpts from the novels and original essays
by Donna Leon on food and life in Venice, the perfect addition to this wonderful
cookbook. I reviewed this cookbook on both and Mystery

Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction by Esterelle
Pavany, Illustrations by Jean-Francois Martin. One of my most recent
acquisitions, and a must for Mystery Cookbook Collectors. I still need to review
this cookbook. Hannibal’s Express Sweetbreads should give you an idea about the
type of recipes! Illustrations are marvelous.

Reading these cookbooks can be as intriguing as reading a mystery.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Welcome to My Virtual Retirement Party

Ta DA!

Retirement Day!


Today's the big day!

Welcome to 

My Virtual Retirement Party

It's not easy finding the right music for a retirement party - but we're giving it our best shot - Thanks to the Meanderings and Muses crowd who sent some great suggestions.

Happy Retirement to me,  Happy Retirement to me . . .

Here are a few images reflecting how I'll be spending my days -

A perfect opportunity for me to use one of my very favorite videos of one of my very favorite songs by one of my very favorite singer/songwriters - enjoy

This day will definitely be one of the diamond days . . .

January 28, 2011

Retirement Day - Yay!

Have some cake and a glass of champagne

and a truffle or two - - -

and a strawberry . . . 

or two . . . 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stillpoint by Karen Schindler

Karen Schindler writes even when she's not writing. A passionate lover of life, Karen lives with gleeful abandon and pulls others into her wake.  You can see more of her work at Miscellaneous Yammering.

I’m so pleased that I was slated to guest post the day before Kaye’s retirement party.  A person who takes time to be happy and who shares her happiness with others is a person to cherish in your life. Kaye could be the poster child for my poem. Her inner child is so bright you gotta wear shades. 


Cup pleasure
in your hands

Bury your nose
in it

Let it overwhelm
your spirit

Revel, soak, wallow,
saturate your senses

Gather instances of joy
into your pockets like
sparkly breath mints

To be taken out
and savored as
refreshment for the soul
For more from the always delightful Karen Schindler - - -

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Catacombs are Swell When You’re Wearing Chanel by Bobbi Mumm

Bobbi Mumm is a mystery and thriller writer in Saskatoon, Canada where she works half-time as an event planner at the University of Saskatchewan. On the speaker’s bureau for UNICEF, Bobbi delivers presentations at dozens of schools every year. She speaks French fluently and continues her language studies. Married to a nuclear physicist, she has four children, two of whom are college-age. The twins remain at home. Bobbi practices Karate, as do her kids.

In 2009 Bobbi wrote her first novel, Cream with Your Coffin. This past year, Bobbi signed with a U.S. literary agent who is now pitching Cream with Your Coffin to New York editors. Almost finished her second novel, thriller De Rigueur Mortis, Bobbi has fallen in love, all over again, with the mystery that is Paris.

Catacombs are Swell When You’re Wearing Chanel
By Bobbi Mumm

Twenty years ago, nothing, not even the laughing taunts of my French boyfriend, could persuade me to face my fear and enter the Catacombs of Paris. So what compelled me to swallow my terror and venture down there two summers ago? It wasn’t a great dose of courage or even a bit maturity acquired over two decades. 

I was, and still am, morbidly afraid of rats. And I’ve only seen two rats. Neither was here in Canada. One was in a Paris Metro station, that same year, and the other was in Hong Kong. To my way of thinking, an underground Parisian catacomb—some parts of which are millennia old—equals rats.

The Catacombs of Paris have an ancient and fascinatingly horrible history. Ever since the time of the Gauls and Romans, Paris has been quarried—limestone for buildings, sand for glass, green clay for bricks and tiles. Paris’s unusual compulsion to devour itself from below is how the Catacombs came to be.

Even in more recent history, miners still exploited the rock under the Latin Quarter to produce the finest building stone in Europe. Notre Dame, the Palais Royal, and most Parisian mansions were constructed from this limestone. The hundreds of years of mining left a foundation of modern Paris that was, until recently, not much more than a honeycombed bed. Almost 300 kilometres of tunnels made Paris streets dangerously prone to sinkholes.

In the eighteenth century a Paris city administrator, Charles Axel Guillaumot, realized that the city was in danger of collapse. Sinkholes swallowed entire buildings and street intersections. For years his crews reinforced underground tunnels, matching them to the streets above—matching even to the extent of street names and building numbers.

When Guillaumot’s consolidation of the tunnels was complete he turned his attention to the problem of Paris’s cemeteries. And this is where it gets gruesome.

Cemeteries were overflowing with the dead. It was so bad that body parts burst through retaining walls and found their way into Parisian cellars.

Guillaumot decided that his newly reinforced catacombs would solve the problem of the overfull cemeteries. Workers hauled human remains from Paris’s graveyards to the ossuary beneath the streets of Montparnasse. When it was complete, the population of the ossuary was ten times the population of the Paris above. The underground ossuary of Paris covers an area of three acres.

In the summer of 2008 my family rented a large house in the centre of Paris, very close to the Catacombs. It was a wonderful place to gather our friends and family and we found that on most nights we had eight to ten people seated around the courtyard dinner table. That summer I cooked and I explored. Explored everywhere, that is, except the Catacombs.

The last week of our visit I knew that I couldn’t put off any longer the visit to the Catacombs. All of our guests had gone there, the entrance being only three blocks from the house. Not one had admitted to seeing a single rat.

From our guests came stories of how, in WWII, the catacombs had housed the headquarters of the Paris Resistance. Amazingly, the Resistance fighters were only a few hundred yards away, through the labyrinth of tunnels, from a German underground bunker. Neither knew of the other’s nearby existence.

In 2008, it wasn’t a newfound bravery that caused to me visit this probable rat-lair. It was something much more compelling. Research. A drive to do research for a novel that was already simmering in my brain.

Finally, one day, with my husband and children, I visited the Catacombs. I wish I could say I did it without fear. But the truth is that, for most of the visit, my rat-radar was on high-alert and I was teetering on the edge of running in blind, adrenalin-fuelled panic. But no rats were to be seen.

Later, in a much calmer state I began forming the idea to a story which would become my now, almost complete, De Rigueur Mortis.

De Rigueur Mortis is a mystery thriller is set in 1954 Paris. American school teacher, Amelia Erickson, has come to Paris to uncover the truth about her brother—a brother long thought killed in WWII. Amelia poses as an au-pair and through her investigations finds that, hidden beneath the elegance of the haute couture houses, secrets fester.

British scientist, Nate Hall, is swept into this conspiracy and he, together with Amelia, must race to stop a former Nazi war criminal, who is intent on forcing the United States into another world war. A war against Britain.

De Rigueur Mortis is a story that couldn’t have come about had I not forced myself to swallow my fear and go down into the Catacombs of Paris.

For a riveting history of the catacombs I highly recommend reading Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb.

So tell me, readers of Meanderings and Muses, have you had to conquer a fear to accomplish something important? What fear was it?

I’d like to thank the fearless Kaye, for inviting me to be her guest.