Friday, August 29, 2014

Five on Friday - Alex Segura

Happy Friday, friends! I hope today finds you happy, healthy and stocked up on good reading material. It is, after all, a holiday weekend, which means extra time for reading, right?

A couple odds and ends to share with you quickly. First I was sad to see this. While I'm certain Longmire will be able to find a new home, it was unfortunate that Warner and A&E couldn't come to a mutual agreement.

Next, I wanted to let you know that starting next week, Mondays will be dedicated to non-crime fiction books and topics. Since I'm reviewing a lot more non-crime fiction for Shelf Awareness and there have been other books I'm interested in come to my attention recently, I wanted to have a day specifically for that kind of coverage. It may be that I need another blog altogether for that content, but for right now I want to try one day a week on here. Keeping up with just this blog is work enough! But, I hope you'll check out those posts as well as the crime fiction stuff. However, if you're a purist and don't want to venture outside the realm, you now know Mondays will be different content.

For those anticipating the Gone Girl movie. Here's a new trailer.

Craig Sisterson who runs the Crime Watch blog down under invited me to participate in his "First Taste" series. I got to pick a series character and write about my first reading experience with him/her. I chose Walt Longmire--what can I say, he sent me the request while I was in Wyoming, so of course it was my first thought. Anyway, you can read my contribution to his series here.

I do believe that's it for my odds and ends this week. Now let me do a rundown of contests/sweepstakes. I have a couple extras this week so here you go:

Win and advanced copy of Consumed by David Cronenberg from Simon & Schuster.

Win admission for an early screening of Dennis Lehane's upcoming The Drop. The screenings are in Chicago, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC, so if you're not in one of those areas, sorry--neither am I if it makes you feel any better.

At Criminal Element this week you can find the "Thrillers and Killers" sweepstakes. Seven books in that prize bundle!

And since I'm writing this before Lesa is posting her new contest, I don't have the details, but be sure to stop over to her site and see what fun she has in store this week!

And now on to our Five on Friday. Alex Segura published his first novel, Silent City, but he's not new to the publishing industry. He's also been involved in the comic side of publishing for some time. In fact, he wrote the Archie Meets Kiss storyline and graphic novel. I've had a couple of splendid opportunities to meet Alex in person and he's been reading at some NYC Noir at the Bar events. Sadly I haven't been at those, I just see the pictures afterward *sob*.

So, if you would be so kind as to help me, let's welcome Alex Segura!

Better not mess with Alex. He's got friends in capes!
1. The last book I recommended to someone was: I was just talking to a friend of mine over email about Megan Abbott. He was asking if he should check out THE FEVER, her new novel, to which I responded: “YOU SHOULD READ ALL HER BOOKS.” She’s that good. You can’t go wrong. I suggested Megan’s work because I’ve never been let down by her writing – she’s so deftly brought the noir sensibility to modern storytelling I’m in awe of her work. Her prose is masterful and I’m jealous of anyone reading her work for the first time. I’ve also been loving anything Kelly Braffet writes, and I suggest her to anyone looking for a good read.

2. My biggest pet peeve is: I get really grumpy when people are rude – to me, strangers, etc. My commute to work is a bit long, so I get to see a wide range of people on my way there and it really runs the gamut. I just think the world would be a better place if more people opened doors for each other, or offered up their seats or didn’t cut in line. Commuting is a weird microcosm for the world, I think. You get people at their best and worst together.

3. My favorite toppings on a pizza are: Pizza is a rare treat for me, being vegan, so if I find a place with a vegan pizza option, I’m very happy. So, I guess by default my favorite topping has become any kind of cheese/dairy alternative. Exciting, right?

4. My favorite t-shirt is: I have this LCD Soundsystem shirt I bought while at one of their final shows at Terminal 5 in NYC – a terrible venue, but they put on an amazing show. The shirt itself is pretty neat looking and extremely comfortable – a rare combo for a band show shirt.

The #1 item on my bucket list right now is: I’d really like to visit Cuba, which is where my parents were born. It’s such a part of my personal and cultural history, and I want to spend some real time there and explore where my parents and grandparents grew up. It also strikes me as a great setting for a crime novel, so maybe I can chalk it all up to research! 

Exactly! Research and a tax write-off. Creative thinking on Alex's part! And I'm on the exact same page as Alex about rudeness. I, however, have no commute. So now when I have to venture out of my hobbit hole, I'm acutely aware of rudeness all around.

Thanks so much to Alex for taking time out with us. You can learn more about Alex at his website and find all his social media links there. But I'm going to personally recommend you follow Alex on Twitter where I know first-hand that he's enjoyable to interact with.  

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, my friends. Happy reading!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't Look Back - Gregg Hurwitz

My review of Gregg Hurwitz's Don't Look Back first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is appearing here today with their permission.
First line: "Terror came as a vibration, a plucked-wire note more felt than heard, primary to the deadening heat, to the flick of unseen insects against her face, to the oppressive night humidity that pressed into her pores."

If there’s a dip in Mexican tourism this year, fingers might point at Gregg Hurwitz (Tell No Lies) and his chilling new standalone thriller. Hurwitz’s most recent novels terrorize his everyman characters in the midst of civilization, but Don’t Look Back drops Eve Hardaway, a nurse and single mother, into the jungles of southern Mexico.

What’s supposed to be a fun vacation turns into an unfathomable nightmare when Eve wanders from her tour group, stumbling on an isolated house. She observes the inhabitant throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. The sight is frightening enough, but it doesn’t begin to compare with the horrors about to rain down from the life-threatening trip-wire she’s innocently triggered.

Hurwitz has a history of creating smart, driven female characters, but they usually take a supporting role. Don’t Look Back puts a woman firmly in the protagonist’s seat. Eve’s fears and doubts, her motivations and emotions all ring true for a struggling American parent.

The Mexican setting takes on a character-like role in the novel as well. From the unforgiving weather to the punishing terrain, Hurwitz brings readers up close and personal with the sights, sounds, smells and even the creepy-crawly sensations of the jungle’s occupants: sweeper ants, termites and bats, oh my!

Non-stop action in a darkly exotic land keeps the adrenalin pumping from beginning to end. In one of his darkest books yet, Hurwitz pokes a stick in a hornet’s nest of American fears to excite and entertain. Just don’t read it on the plane to Mexico.

Don't Look Back is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780312626839) from St. Martin's Press and as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 978-1455882465), narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Scott Brick, from Brilliance Audio.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five on Friday - T. Jefferson Parker

Happy Friday, my book-loving friends. I hope you've had a great week. What are you reading or listening to that's great? I just started Tammy Kaehler's new Kate Reilly mystery, Avoidable Contact. I also finished a new book coming from Quirk called Horrorstör. If you like a good ghost story, this one is for you. More on that one later.

We have a great guest for Five on Friday! So let me do the contest rundown so we can get to Jeff Parker as quick as possible.

First, Kirkus has a sweepstakes going on that could win you a bookish trip to New York City. Definitely check that one out if you haven't already. But you need to get your entry in by Sunday, so don't delay.

Criminal Element still has a chance for you to win the "Histories and Mysteries" sweepstakes.

And Friday Reads has copies of Ridley Pearson's The Red Room and Kieran Shea's Koko Takes a Holiday.

And of course, don't forget to stop at Lesa's and see what fun she has going on!

Now on to the main event!

T. Jefferson Parker has a backstory like numerous writers: got his start in newspapers, writing his first book over nights and weekends. But few can claim his talent or success.  He's a three-time Edgar winner and a L.A. Times Book Prize winner. His novels and stories have published to great success and in October a new twist in Jeff's career will be published. Full Measure is a literary novel  that explores "the bonds of loyalty between brothers, the contest between responsibility and personal freedom, and the wars, both at home and abroad, that inform 21st century America." Wow! Sounds pretty ambitious, but if anyone can tackle it, T. Jefferson Parker can.

And since I've given this superstar more introduction than he really needs, let me turn this show over to him for today's super special Five on Friday!

Going after that rainbow trout?

1. If I could tell my 16-year-old self one piece of advice, knowing what I know now, it would be: Don't doubt yourself. Doubt kills. Find what you love and love it forever.

2. One thing I have no tolerance for is: People whose entire world is limited to themselves and themselves only. This is especially true when they're driving a car. Terror to me is a driver who believes he's alone in the world. Of course this danger applies to any situation in life where the self-obsessed roam freely!

3. A skill I’ve always wanted to have, but don’t is: I wish I could sell things. You know, really get in there and make a person think they have to have what I'm selling. I know people like this and they amaze me. Think of the success!

4. The most daring thing I ever tried (to date) was: I jumped in a high fast river once, fully clothed, to save my bird dog from being swept away. When I finally got to him a thousand yards downstream and dragged him to a mud bank, he still had the bird in his mouth. I'm not sure which of our separate dedications was stronger!

5. The #1 item on my bucket list right now is: There's this gigantic, kype-jawed rainbow trout living in the Long Years section of the Upper Owens River near Mammoth. I hooked him once and after quite a battle, the fly came out and the fish got away. Gotta catch that guy, take his picture, then let him go on purpose

Did this make you chuckle? Nod your head in agreement? Smile? I know it did for me! And you all know I have to admire a man who would go to such lengths for his dog. I just loved everything about this Five on Friday. I hope you did, too. My sincerest thanks to Jeff Parker for his wonderful responses. People like this make this series so incredibly special. You can learn a lot more about Jeff at his website.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend and happy reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Toughs - Ed Falco
First line: "A New York City summer evening and Loretto Jones looked sharp in a dark blue and white pinstriped double breasted suit as he waited on the corner of East 107th Street, between 2nd and 3rd: Loretto, the house where the Blessed Virgin was born and where she ascended into heaven, a name pinned on him by the nuns at Mount Loretto Orphanage on Staten Island where he had been abandoned sometime before dawn twenty-one years earlier to the day, July 28, 1910."

Toughs opens with a drive-by shooting. Irish gangster, Vince Coll is attempting to take out Richie Cabo, but instead shoots children, one of whom dies. Loretto Jones was in the wrong place at the wrong time and Richie Cabo saw him, so he believes Loretto is in on the shooting.  Coll's actions bring the wrath of the New York Police Department down on him as well as that of mobsters Dutch Schultz and Owen Madden. But Coll's determined to get a share in the illegal booze trade.

Left with few choices, Loretto joins Coll's gang and buckles in for the most dangerous ride of his life.

Ed Falco wrote Toughs based on historical events in Prohibition Era New York City. The authenticity of the time period reflects his thorough research, but it is the fictionalization of the characters and their relationships that makes this mob story so engrossing.

Loretto Jones is the focal character of the novel. His life's ambition isn't necessarily the path of a gangster, but he's attracted to the rush of adrenalin and--more than anything--the money. He's also attracted to Gina Baronti, the sister of fellow gangster, Mike Baronti. Loretto's conflict between doing the right thing and sticking with his gang is well developed. You, as the reader, hope and hope that Loretto will do the right thing and when he doesn't the anxiety rises because he's walking into a war zone.

Another fascinating character is Lottie Kriesberger. Lottie is Coll's girlfriend. She's a bit of a Lady MacBeth. Coll is by no means indecisive or weak, but Lottie has ambition and plans to use Coll to get where she wants to go. She loves him--or gets as close as she's capable to love--but she never loses site of her goals. Lottie is a character who might be viewed negatively because of this ambition, much the way Lady MacBeth was. However, she very much mirrors Coll's character and personality. But in a period when her gender limited her, she exhibits those characteristics the only way she can.

Toughs is a fascinating foray into a small segment of Depression-era New York. The atmosphere takes the reader into the speakeasies, homes and streets. The clothes, the music, the language, the smell of foods, it all comes alive and transports readers back.  Falco includes the violence but not the gore. He takes readers far enough visually to engage their own imaginations and lets them do the rest. This is a book that dims the lights around you and allows you to get lost in another time and place, if only for a little while.

If you're a fan of gangster stories, great character-driven novels or period pieces, be sure to put Toughs on your reading list. 

Toughs is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 9781609531119) from Unbridled Books. To the best of my knowledge there isn't an audiobook version, but gosh would it be great in that format!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five on Friday - Joelle Charbonneau

Happy Friday all. August is quickly slipping away without my permission! Hope you had a great week. What good books have you read lately? I just finished a non-fiction book about a psychiatrist who spent a year working in a hospital for the criminally insane. Whoa, talk about frightening!

I don't have a lot of extra stuff to share today, so let me give you sweepstakes/contest links and then we'll get to the main attraction!

Friday Reads has copies of DEATH MONEY and THE KILLS.

Criminal Element has a "Histories and Mysteries" sweepstakes--7 BOOKS! Plus,  this is a hot, hot prize...there's a chance for you to win an advanced copy of Craig Johnson's WAIT FOR SIGNS. It's the upcoming collection of all his short stories. Nice! Be sure to get in on that!

And of course, make sure you stop over and see what Lesa is up to this week! Tell her I said "hi" while you're over there. 

And that brings us to this week's Five on Friday guest! Joelle Charbonneau first began entertaining her audiences on stage--in musical theater and operas. Today she still teaches voice when she isn't hard at work on one of her successful book series or on her many duties as a mom.

Joelle's writing career started with a mystery series centered around roller skating. Can I just say I'm glad no dead bodies ever turned up in the Roll Arena during my roller skating days? She added to her bibliography with the Glee Club Series (huh, I wonder where that idea came from?). And most recenlty she's been rocking the YA world with her Testing Trilogy. The final book of the trilogy, Graduation Day, came out this summer.

Whenever I've had the chance to interact with Joelle, she's always been cheerful and happy. So today I am especially happy to have her here on the blog. Please help me welcome her for Five on Friday:

Is this research for the next book? Murder by fork?
1. If I could tell my 16-year-old self one piece of advice, knowing what I know now, it would be "Lighten up!"  I was really serious in high school and unless I was on stage I was often really afraid to cut loose and have fun.  I think I was worried that I'd make a fool out of myself.  Since then, I've learned that it's often the days where I make a fool out of myself that I have the most fun.

2. One thing I have no tolerance for is People posting things on their social media accounts that they haven't bothered to fact check.  Just because an article someone else shared says something you agree with doesn't mean it is true.  SNOPES is a wonderful thing.  More people should use it.

3. A skill I’ve always wanted to have, but don’t is Drawing.  I can't draw--well, technically, I can put pencil to paper, but nothing I draw ever actually looks like what I intended it to.  Somewhere along the line, I missed the drawing gene and now you are all forewarned.  If you have to pick a team for Pictionary - I'm probably not your girl.

4. When I’m feeling under the weather, I….make Chicken Tortellini soup and watch a lot of bad court TV shows.  Judge Judy and chicken soup are the perfect cure for the common cold.  And if that doesn't work, I just pretend I'm not sick and hope for the best!

The #1 item on my bucket list right now is: To see one of my students on Broadway. It's something totally out of my control, but I would love to be in the front row watching one of my students achieve that dream. (If one of them ends up in a movie, that would be good, too!) 

Everything about Joelle's responses fascinates me! First, I wish someone would make me chicken tortellini soup when I'm under the weather. Yum! I was so excited that Joelle chose to answer the question about a skill she wished she had. Most people answer that with a musical skill response. She has the musical skill so it's interesting to hear what she would like to be able to do.

And her bucket list item? How cool is it that she's all about her students? Now THAT'S a true teacher there, folks. I love it!

So happy that Joelle had time for Five on Friday today. This has been a great installment. Hope you enjoyed it too! You can connect with Joelle on Twitter and Facebook. And you can learn more about Joelle and her writing at her website.

Have a super great weekend and happy reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book-shaped Plates!

I'm constantly on the look-out for cool non-book gifts for book lovers. If you have book lovers on your gift list who are like me, it's hard to shop for them. You know they love books, but they have a lot already, you aren't always sure what they've already read, and what if you pick a bad one? So, while I don't do this very often, I do try to share with you book-related gift ideas or craft ideas that I really like. Remember the stone bookends? Still my favorite bookends ever!

When Brad Wirz from Gone Reading International contacted me and asked me to take a look at their book-shaped plates and share my honest reactions about them, I thought this might be another chance to share a fun gift idea with you. Wow was I mistaken. If you get your hands on these, you are not going to want to give them to anyone else. Trust me.

First, the plates arrived so well packaged that they could have gone through a war zone and come to me intact, I think. I recently ordered two ceramic bowls for my dogs. Both arrived literally shattered, so to see not one scratch on the three plates from Gone Reading--that was cause for a party. Never undervalue good packaging. Having to replace broken pieces is a hassle.

When I've seen the images of the plates online before I wasn't really sure that people would always necessarily know what the plates were, but seeing them and holding them myself there's no doubt. Maybe an alien who's never seen a book would be confused but anyone else wouldn't.

One of the characteristics I liked most about the plates--and that gives them their unmistakeable books shape--was their depth. As you can see, I treated myself to a dinner of pasta, salad and bread to try the plates out. I wasn't worried about any sauce or dressing running off the plate, and the shape of the "pages" allowed my butter knife to rest easily along the edge. You know the klutz who is always dropping silverware on the floor because she leans it unbalanced against her plates and it falls? Yeah, that's me. I didn't run into that problem with these plates.

The plates are also sturdy. I was quite impressed with their weight and size. They were originally designed for restaurants, so that explains the heft. They were meant to be high use items. The large dinner plate measures 10 1/2" square, the salad plate is 8 1/2" square and the bread plate 6 1/2" square. And as you can see, they can all nest inside each other for a lovely presentation on the table. While I was eating I was figuring out if I should try to find some bookish placemats or go find fabric and make my own.

I chose to eat pasta with a marinara sauce to test the plate for staining. And this is the plate post-dinner and through the dishwasher. As you can see, as lovely as when I first unwrapped it.

And speaking of the dishwasher, the plates were easily washed on either rack. I'm a lazy gal when it comes to dishes. I don't like to have to wash them by hand. So being dishwasher safe on all racks is another big plus to me.

They are also safe in the microwave. My primary concern was whether the large dinner plate would fit o.k. in my microwave. The interior base of the microwave rotates while cooking, so I worried about the corners of the plate possibly knocking into the sides of the microwave, but there was plenty of room.

While I don't have a book club that comes to eat at my home, I could see these being a great feature to such a group. But I simply fell in love with them because I thought they reflected my personality. Since I've owned my home, I've had a set of non-descript hand-me-down dishes that were handed down to the person who gave them to me. This is the first time I've seen some that I felt compelled to buy in order to replace the second-hand ones; I just feel that they fit me.

There's an added bonus for me on these plates. Do you all know about the basis for Gone Reading? It's a philanthropic e-commerce site. The sale of their products benefits reading-related causes. You can read more about the company in this Huffington Post article.  For me, there's simply something rewarding about knowing a purchase I am making helps others less fortunate instead of padding a wealthy business's bottom line.

So, YES! I can whole-heartedly recommend these plates. I adore them. I'm going to complete a set for myself. I think other book lovers would enjoy them as well, especially if there is have some kind of occassion that calls for household goods: house-warming party, wedding shower, etc. There are also platters available so maybe you want something as a hostess gift for a holiday party. There are probably endless ways you could find to gift these beauties, but again, I think if you get your hands on them, you won't want to part with them.

If you have a question about the plates that I didn't address in this post, feel free to leave it in the comments. I'll answer it to the best of my ability based on my use of them. Or you can find out more about the plates as well as other fun reading-related items carried by Gone Reading at their website.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled reading!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Man Called Ove - Fredrick Backman

My review of A Man Called Ove first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is appearing here today with their permission. It was also my Nerdy Special pick for July. This book is presently at the top of my favorites list for 2014. It is so wonderful, and I've already recommended it to about 100 people. Honestly, this is so worth the read.

First line: "Ove is fifty-nine."

Ove is a man who always views the world in black and white; it’s either right or wrong. So when the three-year-old next door draws a picture of him, her mother explains to Ove, “You’re the funniest thing she knows. That’s why she always draws you in colour.”

In his quirky, heart-warming debut, Fredrik Backman introduces the world to Ove, a Swedish curmudgeon who recently lost his wife, Sonja, to cancer and his job to downsizing. Ove lived for both and feels he no longer has relevance, so he’s resolved to commit suicide.

Fate has other plans. When they turn to Ove for help, an overweight IT geek, a spirited family new to his neighborhood, a gay young man, an old friend and simultaneous arch enemy, even a stray cat interrupt Ove’s meticulous strategy to rejoin his wife in the afterlife.

Backman juxtaposes the seriousness of tragedy with the hilarity of life’s unpredictability in a respectful and endearing recitation of Ove’s experiences. The chapters alternate between the past and the present--as Ove tries repeatedly to leave this world, readers learn the beautiful love story of he and Sonja.

A Man Called Ove is exquisitely written. The lyrical language is the confetti thrown liberally throughout this celebration-of-life story, adding sparkle and color to an already spectacular party. Backman’s characters are so authentic, readers will likely find the equivalents living in their own neighborhoods.

Readers will laugh and cry and see all the color in this astounding debut: part love story, part crusade, all wonderful.

A Man Called Ove is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781476738017) from Atria Books. In addition there is an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 9781626239842), narrated by George Newbern, available from Dreamscape Audio. An Audible version of the audiobook, narrated by Joan Walker, is also available. (Note: both versions are available on Audible, but the Walker narration was recorded by Audible.)

Because I was so moved by the writing in this book, I just wanted to share a couple of quotes with you, so you can have a feel for why I loved it so much:

"It was the first time since the accident that he heard Sonja laughing. As if it was pouring out of her, without the slightest possibility of stopping it, like she was being wrestled to the ground by her own giggling. She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space. It made Ove feel as if his chest was slowly rising out of the ruins of a collapsed house after an earthquake. It gave his heart space to beat again."

"...but all people at root are time optimists. We always think there's enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like 'if'."

"The Lanky One looks as if he's trying to drum up some courage; he glances at Parvaneh, and looks at Ove with an expression of someone expecting the whole world to start firing rubber bands at him."

I simply can't say enough about this book. It's beautiful, funny and so memorable. It's one I'll definitely make time to re-read. Now go, find a copy and luxuriate in its wonderfulness!

Monday, August 11, 2014

More from Longmire Days

One of my favorite events during Longmire Days was a session with Craig Johnson at the Johnson County Library called "So You Want to Write a Mystery." When I spoke to Craig afterward he said that he had hoped it could be more of a workshop-type event, but that didn't happen. However, it was still incredibly successful as they packed the library, possibly to the point of some fire code violations? Who knows.

Johnson County Library building

A statue outside the library that attracted my attention.

Craig arrived a little early and he informally started taking questions which set the tone for the entire session. After having attended many author events, some questions have become slightly tiring to me (who proofreads your books? who writes the copy for the dust jackets?--thank God no one asked where he gets his ideas!) but again, I attend a lot of these things and these types of questions simply don't interest me...unless of course there's some cool story to go with them. "Well, I'm glad you asked, President Obama actually proofreads my books because years ago we had a bet..." (of course Craig did not say that). And you know, you really have to give kudos to the authors who have to repeatedly discuss things like that. But....

There were great questions and great discussion in the session as well.

Craig shared with the group that when he started writing he was advised never to do three things:

1.) give your characters a pet--because then you have to take care of it. Craig said he manages a ranch, writes books and is still able to take care of all his animals, so he thought Walt aught to be able to handle one dog. His alternative was to have an armed man driving alone all over Wyoming talking to's much better he has his dog to talk to.

2.) take your characters to a new setting. Well in book three, Craig takes his characters to Philadelphia.

3.) have your characters hook up--sexual tension is o.k., but no follow through. And of course in that same book three, Craig writes his famous three-sentence sex scene.

The point of his story, though, was never let someone else tell you how to write your book. Write the story you want to tell.

For Craig (as I've heard some other writers mention) there is no "literary" and "genre" fiction. There aren't various different types of genres, but there are two categories: good writing and bad writing.  Craig aims for the good with each book he writes. Craig enjoys investigating Walt and his character and trying a new approach with each book. His aim is less to write a book than to have his reader feel like they've just walked up to the bar, taken a seat next to Walt and had him turn to them and say, "let me tell you a story." Then the reader falls into that story along with Walt.

When Craig was asked which character he most enjoys writing dialogue for, he said it is all dependent on his mood. I'll let you guess who he likes to write when he's in a foul mood...

In the realm of where do you get your ideas....Craig shared that the real-life Dorothy (from the Busy Bee) gave him the inspiration for Death Without Company. As he was battling with ideas about the book, going back and forth about motivations, she got fed up and said to him, "if you want to know why a man is the way he is, find the woman in his past." That set off all the triggers and away he went.

A popular question for Craig: "why did you choose Rainier Beer?" He says not a week goes by that he doesn't get an inquiry as to why he has Walt drink that awful beer. Craig says Walt just isn't a "microbrew, blueberry beer kinda guy." He wanted a blue-collar type beer. Budwiser and Coors didn't need any help from him, so he went in search of something that reflected the West. Ultimately he ended up with Rainier (which incidentally, was a big sponsor of the Longmire Days!).

Another question for Craig--less about writing, more about the television show--does he want to appear on the show. Craig has been asked by the staff every time he's on the set if he'd like to appear in the show and he says he isn't interested. He likened it to the scene in Field of Dreams when Moonlight Graham crosses the line and knows that life isn't ever going to be the same. Craig says he's just not "of that world." 

And that question is a great lead-in to the first guest to join the session. Robert Taylor arrived about mid-way through and the audience had plenty of questions for him as well. The ease with which Taylor and Johnson joked reflected a special connection between the novel writer and the actor that I would think is rather rare in instances like this.

Robert Taylor explained that he has read The Cold Dish but had to stop at that book. Once the show has run its course, which he hopes won't be for awhile of course, he plans to read all of the books. But allowing Craig's Walt Longmire to seep into his brain would cause problems because it isn't the same Walt that the show's writers have created. So in order to keep them separated, he refrains from reading the books...right now.

Taylor was also asked how he got into acting. His response, "I literally fell into it." Taylor originally wanted to be in the Navy and he did enlist. But when a fall on his ship put him in the hospital, he happened upon a casting call in the newspaper he was reading. He answered it and the rest is history. Of course his wide geographical resume has confused his accent quite a bit. He claims he's pretty much lost track of it after all the work in the UK, playing a drunk Irish priest, his work in the US and others.

And as if two major speakers at this session weren't enough, Hunt Baldwin, a writer and executive producer for the show, also joined in. He received an inquiry about when they were going to have Dog join the cast. To which he informed the audience that's one of the most common questions they get for the show. They'd like to add Dog, but he said don't hold your breath.

Of course, being in the real-life Durant, locals wanted to know why all the filming for the show is done in New Mexico. Essentially it comes down to money and weather. New Mexico already has sound stages and crews in place (Wyoming has none of either), there are tax credits involved and they can film in March.

Like Taylor, the writers on the show have all read The Cold Dish. Beyond that, some have read all the books, some only The Cold Dish and others somewhere in between. A lot of what determines that is the individual writer's approach to research.

Another question for Baldwin was how far ahead the staff writes. The answer: in March they are way ahead and by June they're about a day and a half ahead.

Craig doesn't envy the TV writers. Their scripts have to be 42 minutes long--not 42 minutes and 13 seconds, 42 minutes period. For Craig, that's like writing haiku. He says another drawback is that the sponsors tend to infringe on those 42 minutes. His example was Dodge. With the exception of Walt's truck, the cars on the show have all had to transition (through on scene accidents and such) to Dodge vehicles.

And of course the question of renewal came up for the television show. The three representatives explained that the hold-up is actually a battle between A&E and Warner Brothers. Each has claims to different revenues from the show. But due to its success each wants in on parts of the other's now, so the battle isn't about the popularity of the show (well, indirectly it is) but it's about the executives duking out the profit distribution (sound familiar?). 

The stars were put to work signing after the session. They had A LOT to sign!

This session was absolutely fascinating and I think I could have spent an entire day listening to Johnson and Baldwin talking about the different facets of their writing mediums and the different approaches they call for. Their humor, authenticity and candid responses made this one of the big highlights of my trip. I hope I did it some justice for you today. I'll leave you with my wonderful picture with Robert Taylor. Many thanks to a new friend, Diana, who snapped the shot for me.

If you missed my previous writings about my Longmire Days adventure, you can find my literary tour of Buffalo (a.k.a. Durant) here and my overview of the weekend for Criminal Element here. There will be a couple more articles here at the blog in the coming days.


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