Thursday, 21 September 2017

2017 DAVID THOMPSON SPECIAL SERVICE AWARD to GEORGE EASTER

The Bouchercon National Board of Directors has selected George Easter as the recipient of its 2017 David Thompson Special Service Award for “extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the crime fiction field.”

The David Thompson Special Service Award was created by the Bouchercon Board to honor the memory and contributions to the crime fiction community of David Thompson, a much beloved Houston bookseller who passed away in 2010. Past recipients of the award include Ali Karim, Marv Lachman, Len & June Moffatt, Judy Bobalik, Otto Penzler, and Bill and Toby Gottfried.

Founded in 1970, and named after distinguished mystery critic, editor, and author, Anthony Boucher, Bouchercon is an all-volunteer non-profit organisation that each year brings together fans, authors, publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers from around the world in a different location for a four-day celebration of their shared love of the crime genre. This year's Bouchercon, Passport to Murder, will take place in Toronto, October 12-15, 2017

George Easter is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, one of the premiere review periodicals in the mystery community. Deadly Pleasures, a great resource for readers, was started in 1992. DP also includes news of forthcoming releases in the U.S. and abroad, and columns, reviews, and interviews from an international group of contributors. Sneak previews of upcoming books are divided into soft boiled, hardboiled, medium boiled and more. Deadly Pleasures was nominated four times for an Anthony Award for Best Mystery Magazine and won the Anthony for Best Critical/Biographic Work in 1999.

But Deadly Pleasures was not enough for George, being a fan’s fan, and in 1997 he conceived the Barry Awards (named after fan Barry Gardner) that are presented by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine in various categories for excellence. George also presents the Don Sandstrom Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mystery Fandom (named after fan Don Sandstrom).

George has served on the Bouchercon National Board, has attended every Bouchercon, except two, since 1991 in Pasadena, CA, and volunteered to produce the Program Book for the 2000 Bouchercon in Denver, CO. He was also responsible for getting publishers to donate books to the Book Bazaar giveaway at last year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans.

The Bouchercon Board is pleased to honor George Easter with the David Thompson award for all he has contributed to the mystery community and for his honoring both mystery authors and fans. George Easter is truly a Fan’s Fan.

H/T - Janet Rudolph


The inspiration for ‘The One That Got Away’ by Anna Kantaria

The title implies that this is a story about an ex. And I suppose on the surface it is. But it’s about a lot more than that. I try to put a psychological issue at the core of my novels and this one stemmed from my fascination with the concept of gas-lighting – namely, the ‘systematic and repeated psychological manipulation’ of a person in order to make them question their own sanity. 
It sounds dramatic. You’d think you’d know if someone was doing this to you, wouldn’t you? But, the more I researched gas-lighting, the more I realised two things. First, how subtle gas-lighting can be. It doesn’t have to be an obvious thing. It can be as discrete as someone taking your mobile phone, watching you search the house for it for a couple of days, then placing it back exactly where you left it, leaving wondering if you imagined the whole thing.
Or it could be someone removing two thirds of the shampoo from a new bottle so you wonder whether or not you actually opened the new one you’re sure you bought but now can’t find. You start to question yourself; your self-confidence is slowly eroded and, ironically, the person you turn to for reassurance will often be the gas-lighter him or herself.
The second thing I noticed is how pervasive gas-lighting is in everyday life. In any relationship between two people you have the potential for it. You might think of it as happening primarily in marriages – there’s always the cliché of the controlling husband and the insecure / timid wife – but gas-lighting also occurs between parents and children, between office colleagues, and friends. If you look, the internet is chock-a-block with articles on how to spot if you’re being gas-lit and, if you are, how to get away from the perpetrator (in a nutshell: carefully and completely).

So I had all of this information bubbling in my head when my senior school reunion rolled around. Torn between curiosity and nerves, I went – and I really enjoyed reconnecting with people from my past. School reunions are funny things. Some of the people with whom I spent least time at school have, since that night, become good friends. And, as I reflected on the connections that were re-established that night; the forgotten relationships reignited; and the friendships that last over the decades, I realised a school reunion would be a great place to start a book. You could have a couple, I thought, who used to date at school. They meet again as adults – they think they know each other – but they have no idea what’s happened to each of them in the missing years – and how it’s damaged the people that they’ve become… throw in some gas-lighting and there you have the basis for a juicy plot.

The One That Got Away by Annabel Kantaria published by HQ
Everyone has one. An ex you still think about. The one who makes you ask ‘what if’?  Fifteen years have passed since Stella and George last saw each other. But something makes Stella click ‘yes’ to the invite to her school reunion.  There’s still a spark between them, and although their relationship ended badly, they begin an affair.  But once someone gets you back, sometimes they’re never going to let you go again…

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

How I took over writing the Dick Francis Novels - by Felix Francis

L-R Felix, Mary & Dick Francis (© Felix Francis)
It was all rather unplanned, almost a mistake, but one that now seems so natural, so obvious – so inevitable.

My father and mother wrote their first novel together in 1961, when I was aged eight, and, by the end of the millennium, a further 38 bestsellers had followed. Hence I grew up living in one of the greatest fiction factories of the twentieth century.

The annual book became the focus of the whole family. My chosen profession of teaching became the basis for Twice Shy, while my brother’s racehorse transport company was the inspiration for Driving Force. Even my uncle’s wine-importing business was utilised in Proof, and my architect-cousin was depicted in Decider. My mother became a pilot for Flying Finish, a photographer for Reflex and tried her hand at oil painting for In The Frame. Holidays to South Africa, Russia and Canada became the bases for new stories.

In the year 2000, my parents decided that, after completing their 39th novel, Shattered, they would retire. My father was approaching his 80th birthday and my mother’s health had never been particularly robust since she’d contracted polio in her mid twenties. She’d also had a heart attack in 1995 and had developed Parkinson’s disease on top of her lifelong asthma. It was time to step off the yearly treadmill of delivering a new manuscript every spring – time to take a well-earned rest from the stress of everyone’s expectation.

But Shattered was well named – both my mother and father were exhausted by it and, when I flew out to their Caribbean home to collect the manuscript, it was only two-thirds written with less than a week remaining before the deadline. Hence I rolled up my sleeves and set to work, sitting at my father’s computer night and day to complete the work and deliver it to the publishers on time. But that wasn’t the only part of a Dick Francis novel that I had written. As an A-level physics student I had designed the remote-controlled bomb that destroyed a light aircraft in Rat Race, I wrote the computer program in Twice Shy, and there were plentiful other bits of science related material in numerous books that all had my DNA on them.

So Shattered would be the last Dick Francis novel, at least that is what everyone thought, and not least because my dear mother succumbed to a second heart attack less than a month after the book’s publication. It really had been one book too far.

Felix Francis (© Felix Francis)
Five years later, Andrew Hewson, my father’s literary agent, invited me to lunch where he told me we had a problem – my father’s books were going out of print. Not that the stories weren’t good enough but, with no new Dick Francis for five years, everyone was forgetting about them. What we needed, he said, was a new novel, a new hardback, to stimulate the sales of the backlist. I remember looking at him as if he were mad. My father was now in his mid-eighties and had difficulty remembering what he’d had for breakfast – hardly the degree of recall needed to write a full-length novel. And my mother had been dead for five years. There was absolutely no chance.

But Andrew was seeking my permission to ask an existing and established crime writer to write a new ‘Dick Francis Novel’.

Well, I must have had a few glasses of red wine by this stage because I simply said, “Before you ask anyone else, I’d like to have a go.” To his credit, Andrew didn’t roll his eyes and ask me why I believed that someone with no measurable writing experience could pen a novel worthy of the Dick Francis name. Instead he said that he would give me two months to write two chapters and then we would see. He probably thought that, after the two months, he would get the permission he sought.

I went home and set to work – two months to write only two chapters, surely that was easy enough.

I had grown up devouring the Dick Francis books and I reckoned I knew them as well as anyone alive, including my father. But writing one was another matter. My mother had spoken to me often about the rhythm of a sentence and how she strived to produce prose that flowed smoothly off the page. Now I had to do the same.

My first decision was to resurrect Sid Halley as my protagonist. Sid was the only recurring main character in the Dick Francis canon, making his first appearance in Odds Against in 1965, returning in Whip Hand in 1979 and then again in Come to Grief in 1995. Now he would make his fourth outing.

Next I needed a plot based around the world of horseracing, in keeping with the Dick Francis custom. At the time, race fixing was in the news with a recent arrest of several jockeys. I decided that race fixing would form the basis of my story. I even settled on a book name, continuing the tradition of Dick Francis double-meaning titles. Now I was ready to start the actual writing.

Six weeks later, I sent my chapters to Andrew Hewson. I was happy with my words but I awaited Andrew’s judgement with a degree of apprehension that I hadn’t experienced since my school-exam days.

“Get on and finish it,” Andrew told me, “and go talk to your father.” The first appeared less daunting than the second. But I gave my dad the two chapters to read and he became very keen on the project. Satisfied and relieved, I set to work completing the manuscript.

Under Orders was published in September 2006 to great fanfare from the publishers but without my name on it anywhere – a situation that was my idea. If the plan was to stimulate the backlist, then it had to be a ‘Dick Francis’ book.

It sold well, of course it did with ‘Dick Francis’ on the cover, but I waited nervously for the reviews. I fully expected them to say that Dick had finally lost his touch, but they didn’t. Quite the reverse, in fact, with most claiming the master was back in the saddle. Everyone was delighted. A book conceived only to give the backlist a boost, suddenly had a life of its own, topping the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic. The publishers wanted another one, so I started writing Dead Heat. I would have been happy for it also to appear with only Dick Francis on the cover but the American publishers insisted that mine should be seen alongside his, albeit in the smallest typeface they could find.

And so it has gone on and here we are in 2017 and my twelfth novel, Pulse, is published this
September. Over the years the Dick Francis name has gradually become smaller while mine has grown so that the positions are now completely reversed. But it is my decision to keep calling the books a ‘Dick Francis Novel’ even though the man himself passed away in 2010. I consider that he and my mother are as much a part of my books as I feel a part of theirs. A ‘Dick Francis Novel’ is a brand and I suspect I will go on writing them for as long as I can and for as long as people want to read them.

And did it work?

Very much so. All the Dick Francis books are still in print and still selling strongly. They have even been reissued in new editions with new cover artwork.

Job done.