Monday, March 25, 2019

New York City: Poetry Under Your Feet

Annamaria on Monday

Of my favorite places on earth, the handiest and the most useful is the New York Public Library. It is just plain fabulous, and so important to my work that this is the final thank you of the Acknowledgements page in every book I write:

I do most of my research is NYPL's gorgeous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on the corner of the two of the most famous streets in my home town: Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. It's a marble palace of free knowledge.

If you travel there - as I do - by taking the subway to Grand Central Station, you will approach the building from 41st Street,  the direction of the photo above.  As you walk along the sidewalk, you will find bronze plaques imbedded in the pavement.  The first one tells you why:

Walking at a brisk New Yorker’s pace, one has time—going along—to read only the first few words of each plaque.  As I walked along one day, I realized that the first lines from each plaque form a poem.  It's about words and writing.  Mostly it's about what the library itself is about.  BOOKS!!

Here is what the plaques look like:

(Note: I am sure, somewhere on the internet, one can see them in their pristine state, but I choose to show them the way they look now, after having been walked on, pelted with rain, and caked with ice for more than twenty years.  Also I wanted to put them in the order in which they appear on the sidewalk as you walk west along 41st Street, ending at the view of the library in the photo above.  It is the order I was following when I discovered the poem below.  But the numerical order nazis at Google Blogger have engineered (if you could call it that) their software never to deviate from their chosen order, whatever IT is.)

 Here it is the poem, punctuated by me--its Columbus.  Each line is exactly the first words of a plaque, cast in bronze,  East to west is the order.

Now, on my heart’s page--
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed.
There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating.
Not for the proud man apart. 
Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle.
The universe is made of stories, not atoms.
The rose fades and is renewed again.
When I use a word,
Someone is reading in a deepening room.
Information is light,
Then read from the treasured volume,
At the end of an hour,
There is something about the vibrating empty rooms.
Books are the treasured wealth.
I do not know which to prefer.
I want everybody to be smart.
People work much in order to secure the future
In the reading room of the New York Public Library.

All good books are alike.
There are words like FreedomSweet and wonderful.
(Silence) Vladimir: What do they say?

A poem doesn’t do everything for you,
When you are old and grey and full of sleep.

Where there is much desire to learn,
A word is dead When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live.
Nature and art, being two different things,
They ask me to remember.

I love the old melodious lays.

If you do not tell the truth,
I do not know which is more discouraging.

…the reading of good books is alike a conversation
For all books are divisible.
The bird that would soar,
Where the press is free,
hsirebbig ton si siht!

Writing your name can lead to writing sentences.
Those of you, lost and yearning,
Everything is only for a day.

Truth Exists; Only falsehood has to be invented.

All things are words.
…a great book should leave you with many experiences,
Because when I read,
The knowledge of different literatures frees.

I love those plaques under my feet as I walk.  I love the long and the short of what they say.  Mostly, I love books.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Bay—new ITV crime drama set in Charlie Fox’s home town

A new six-part crime drama series started this week in the UK on ITV. Set in Morecambe and called The Bay, it stars Morven Christie as a Detective Sergeant, Lisa, who is assigned as Family Liaison Officer when fifteen-year-old twins go missing in the seaside town. Her job is to support the family and be on the inside for the police investigators.

As soon as the distraught father, Sean (played by Jonas Armstrong) arrives home, however, she discovers that he’s the bloke with whom she had a quickie while on a girls’ pub crawl the night before. Much complication ensues.

Morven Christe in ITV's The Bay

Morven Christie’s recent TV credits include Grantchester, Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence, and The A Word. Jonas Armstrong’s recent outings include Ripper StreetTroy: Fall of a City, and Line of Duty. The work of playwright and screenwriter, Daragh Carville, The Bay has been mooted as ‘Broadchurch in Morecambe’—which I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t yet got around to watching.

I confess, though, that I do quite like TV dramas where one story is told over a number of instalments. You do seem to get more depth to the characters and, ultimately, more sympathy for the victim—and in some cases for the perpetrator as well.

Of course, I’m equally a fan of TV series made up of standalone stories—more like the way a book series is structured. At least if you miss one, you can still follow what’s happening in the next episode. Although, now we’re in the age of catch-up and box set TV, that’s not as much of a consideration anymore.

When it came to The Bay, one of the reasons I was keen to see it was because I lived around that area for many years, and briefly in Morecambe itself. The drone camera footage of the area was particularly effective, I thought. Apart from one climactic scene on the sands, they did seem to manage to pick filming times when the tide was up, which always makes the place look better! Even the famous statue of Eric Morecambe made a brief cameo appearance.

Stunning drone camera shots like this one are now well within the budget of most TV shows.

The other reason, of course, was that the first two books in the Charlie Fox series, KILLER INSTINCT and RIOT ACT, both take place around Morecambe and Lancaster. Indeed, the first scene in KILLER INSTINCT is outside an ageing Morecambe hotel right on the prom. I took a real building and renamed it the Adelphi—soon to be refurbished as the New Adelphi nightclub. The original was knocked down years ago.

I still find the area fascinating and full of dramas of its own, so it’s wonderful to see it playing such a major role in a new TV drama. And even though I had to bite my tongue at some of the decisions she made, I look forward to seeing how DS Lisa Armstrong manages to extract herself from the tangled web she’s unwittingly woven.

As for Charlie Fox, she fought her way out. What else did you expect?

Sorry, I couldn't resist!

This week’s Word of the Week is gaslighting, which is a term I’d heard but not clearly understood. It means to psychologically manipulate someone to the extent that they begin to doubt their own sanity. The term has only come into common usage in recent years but originates from the 1938 stage play ‘Gaslight’ by Patrick Hamilton. In the play—and two later film adaptations—a man dims the gaslights in his home and then persuades his wife that she is imagining the change.

May 2
NOIR AT THE BAR NEWCASTLE—the Town Wall pub, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5HX
Doors open 19:00

Organised by the inimitable Vic Watson, the line-up is Neil Broadfoot, Mik Brown, Ashley Erwin, Derek Farrell, Jónína Leósdóttir, Gytha Lodge, Judith O’Reilly, Zoë Sharp, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, plus a wildcard chosen on the night.

May 9-12
Friday, May 10, 13:40-14:30 Contemporary Issues: Reflecting How We Live Candy DenmanPaul GitshamCara HunterAmanda RobsonZoë Sharp (Participating Moderator)
Saturday, May 11, 11:20-12:10 Ten Year Stretch: The CrimeFest Short Story Anthology Peter GuttridgeCaro RamsayZoë SharpMichael Stanley (Stan Trollip), Kate Ellis (Participating Moderator)
Sunday, May 12, 09:30-10:20 The Indie Alternative Beate BoekerAdam CroftBarry FaulknerLynn FlorkiewiczZoë Sharp (Participating Moderator)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ready or Not, Here Comes THE MYKONOS MOB


Yes, dear reader, today is my once a year unabashed Blatant Self Promotion Saturday, because on Tuesday, April 2nd THE MYKONOS MOB is released.  It’s number ten in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery thriller series, made all the more special because it’s my first book under the auspices of my new publisher, Sourcebooks, which acquired Poisoned Pen Press as its mystery imprint in January.

I’ve been told that those of you attending Left Coast Crime in Vancouver next weekend will be able to purchase pre-release copies, but if not, don’t fret because my website lists places where you can obtain a copy, as well as describing where I’ll be touring, frantically awaiting the opportunity of personalizing your copy with my new fountain pen.  And, yes, that’s the same schedule of book events as sits at the bottom of this post (and has on Saturdays for a month…subtly self-promoting).

So, what’s #10 all about?  My tag line for it is, “#MeToo meets the Mob.”  I say that because while Andreas wrestles to learn what’s behind the assassination of a corrupt ex-police colonel who’d run the island’s protection rackets—a hit that threatens all out war for control of the island’s vice operations—Andreas’ wife, Lila, struggles to find a meaningful role for herself beyond wife and mother. 

Serendipitously, Lila’s search introduces a new character that I’m simply wild about:  Toni, a devil-may-care American ex-pat who pushed her way into a leading role in the book as the quick-witted piano player in a gender bending bar by night, and the island’s most connected finder of stolen items and fixer by day. Toni’s contagious, iconoclastic zest for life soon turns Lila and Toni into fast friends, and they hit upon a plan to mentor young island girls caught up in an exploitative culture, unaware that their well-intended plans are on a deadly collision course with Andreas’ investigation.
But there is another way to look at The Mykonos Mob; from the perspective of Mykonians who asked me to write about the wildly profitable dark side of the renowned 24/7 international playground we call home, the sinister forces battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.

For those who look for bottom line messages in a book, one of my characters suggests a pretty good one:  As long as people thirst after vices, if you’re willing to offer a place for providers and seekers to come together and freely do their business, you will always make money—and all it will cost you is the community life and family values you once cherished.

NEWS FLASH. Just before posting this blog I learned Publishers Weekly had reviewed The Mykonos Mob, calling it “entertaining” and “fun.” As great as that was to hear, I was particularly moved by the reviewer’s grasp of the roles Lila and Toni play in the book. Here’s an excerpt from that review.

Siger’s entertaining 10th mystery featuring Chief Insp. Andreas Kaldis… his right-hand man, Det. Yianni Kouros, and the inspector’s perceptive and understanding wife, Lila, who welcomes a break from her routine life as a wife and mother. American expat Toni, a woman who plays piano in local bars and befriends Lila, says of Mykonos: “It’s a paradise for everyone. Until you become a victim.” Kaldis and Kouros are soon drawn into what is shaping up to be a turf war for control of the island’s many lucrative and shady dealings—from prostitution to exploitive real estate deals. But the question remains: who is really behind the killing of the colonel? Siger seasons Kaldis’s investigation with abundant slices of Greek history and island mores, along with Lila’s consciousness-raising conversations. Armchair travelers will have fun.

 And now I just learned that earlier today Library Journal released a review in which they also call my tenth Kaldis title, “an entertaining read.”  That’s back-to-back “entertainings” by big time reviewers.  Whoopee!!!

The Mykonos Mob is a very special book to me for many reasons, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my proudest reason.  It is dedicated to a Mykonian whose smile never failed to light up a room, whose charity was honest and without pretext, whose consideration and love for his family, friends and community served as a blessing and treasured memory to all fortunate enough to know him.  He appealed to our better natures and served as a beacon for the youth of his island seeking leadership into the future.  Sadly, he passed away while I was writing this book—at twenty-four, after a valiant battle against an insidious cancer, all the while smiling, enduring and strong. We shall not see your kind, sweet, soul again, dear Nikolaos Andreas Fiorentinos.

God Bless you.

My Upcoming Events

Friday, March 29, 4:00 PM
Vancouver BC, Canada
LEFT COAST CRIME –Hyatt Regency Vancouver
Moderating “International Settings” with Alice K. Boatwright, G.M. Malliet, Sujata Massey, and S.J. Rozan

Saturday, March 30, 4:00 PM
Vancouver BC, Canada
LEFT COAST CRIME –Hyatt Regency Vancouver
Panelist, “Keeping a Series Alive” with Anne Cleeland, Mary Jane Malfini/Victoria Abbott, Marty Wingate, moderated by Janice MacDonald

THE MYKONOS MOB book tour begins:

Tuesday, April 2, 7:00 PM
Seattle, WA
THIRD PLACE BOOKS (Lake Forest Park)
Author Speaking and Signing

Saturday, April 6, 3:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
BOOK PASSAGE (Ferry Building-Embarcadero)
Author Speaking and Signing

Sunday, April 7, 3:00 PM
Orange, CA
BOOK CARNIVAL              
Author Speaking and Signing

Wednesday, April 10, 7 PM
Pasadena, CA
VROMAN’S (East Colorado)
Author Speaking and Signing

Friday, April 12, 7 PM
Dallas, TX
Interabang (Preston Oaks)
Author Speaking and Signing

Monday, April 15, 2:00 PM
Fountain Hills, AZ
Fountain Hills Community Center
Fountain Hills Friends of the Library Author Event

Tuesday, April 16, 7:00 PM
Scottsdale, AZ
Author Speaking and Signing

Wednesday, April 24, 6:30 PM
Houston, TX
Author Speaking and Signing

Friday, April 26, 7:00 PM
Denver, CO
Author Speaking and Signing

Monday, April 29, 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh, PA
Author Speaking and Signing

Wednesday, May 1, 6:30 PM
New York, NY
Author Speaking and Signing

Thursday, May 2, 7:00 PM
Naperville, IL
Author Speaking and Signing

Friday, May 3, 7:00 PM
Chicago, IL (Forest Park)
Author Speaking and Signing

Saturday, May 4, 2 PM
Milwaukee, WI
Author Speaking and Signing

Thursday May 9, 5:00 PM
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panelist on “Nobody Would Believe it if You Wrote it: Fake News, Post-Truth and Changing Words,” with Fiona Erskine, William Shaw, Gilly Macmillan, moderated by Paul E. Hardisty

Friday, May 10, 5:10 PM
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panelist on “Sunshine Noir,” with Paul Hardisty,  Barbara Nadel, Robert Wilson, moderated by Michael Stanley

October 31-November 3
BOUCHERCON 2019---Hyatt Regency Dallas
Panel Schedule Yet to be Announced