Archives for category: Mystery authors

Congratulations to fellow blogger Vickie Lester at Beguiling Hollywood on the May 2013 release of her first novel It’s in His Kiss.

BOOK DESCRIPTION (FROM AMAZON): Hollywood. The Dream Factory A camera-ready world of fantasy fulfilled, artifice and bone-deep glamour — or a place of dark reality, depthless closets, failed love, false prophets and untimely death. Anne Brown must find where the truth lies. Truth. Lies. It’s in his kiss. Vickie Lester has written the ultimate Hollywood insider murder-mystery with gasp-worthy plot twists and plenty of delicious, naughty moments. It’s in His Kiss roams from the dark underbelly of Palm Springs to the power canyons of Hollywood. Everyone has a secret: once-wealthy moguls, studio executives with double lives, wry East Coast novelists plunged into intrigue, uneasily blended families and a certain church that likes to keep its movie colony types in check. A must read that you won’t want to put down until its final brilliant conclusion.

Find It’s in His Kiss by Vickie Lester at


For a limited time, the Kindle version of The Kept Girl by Kim Cooper is available for just $2.99. Get your copy of this fascinating read at (The price is “counting down” each day until it reaches the $7.99 list price.)

ABOUT THE BOOK: Kim Cooper‘s The Kept Girl is inspired by a sensational real-life Los Angeles cult murder spree which exploded into the public consciousness when fraud charges were filed against the cult’s leaders in 1929. The victim was the nephew of oil company president Joseph Dabney, Raymond Chandler‘s boss. In the novel, Chandler, still several years away from publishing his first short story, is one of three amateur detectives who uncover the ghastly truth about the Great Eleven cult over one frenetic week. Informed by the author’s extensive research into the literary, spiritual, criminal and architectural history of Southern California, The Kept Girl is a terrifying noir love story, set against the backdrop of a glittering pre-crash metropolis. To learn more about the book, visit the author’s blog. Read a sample chapter here.

Chapter Twenty-Four (Opening Paragraph)
By Raymond Chandler

The apartment house lobby was empty this time. No gunman waiting under the potted palm to give me orders. I took the automatic elevator up to my floor and walked along the hallway to the tune of a muted radio behind a door. I needed a drink and was in a hurry to get one. I didn’t switch the light on inside the door. I made straight for the kitchenette and brought up short in three or four feet. Something was wrong. Something on the air, a scent. The shades were down at the windows, and the streetlight leaking in at the sides made a dim light in the room. I stood still and listened. The scent on the air was a perfume, a heavy cloying perfume.

ABOUT THE NOVEL: Published in 1939, The Big Sleep is a hardboiled crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first to feature detective Philip Marlowe. The book has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and again in 1978. The story, set in Los Angeles, is noted for its complexity, with many characters double-crossing one another and many secrets exposed throughout the narrative. In 1999, the book was voted one of the ”100 Books of the Century” by French newspaper Le Monde. In 2005, it was included in “TIME’s List of the 100 Best Novels.” (Read more at



  • A writer who is afraid to overreach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.
  • Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder… The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.
  • The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the single most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It [style] is a projection of personality and you have to have a personality before you can project it. It is the product of emotion and perception.
  • The challenge is to write about real things magically.
  • The more you reason the less you create.
  • Don’t ever write anything you don’t like yourself and if you do like it, don’t take anyone’s advice about changing it.
  • I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn’t have to be great writing, it doesn’t even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine.

Photo: Raymond Chandler’s novels


The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I am pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.”



Noir fiction master Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago on July 23, 1888 and spent much of his childhood living in his divorced mother’s native England. He moved to Los Angeles in 1913 — and remained forever identified with the city, thanks to his short stories and novels where Los Angeles plays a central role.

Chandler was 51 years old when his first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. He had spent many years as an executive in the oil business and, when he lost his job in the early 1930s (during the Depression, no less), decided to reinvent himself as a crime fiction writer.

After figuring out  the formula to the pulp detective stories, Chandler submitted his twist on the genre to the popular magazines of the day — most notably Black Mask, where his first published work appeared in 1933. Of this experience, he later wrote: “I spent five months on an 18,000 word novelette and sold it for $180. After that I never looked back, although I had a good many uneasy periods looking forward.”

During the 1940s, Chandler worked for a brief period as a Hollywood screenwriter — his most notable contribution as cowriter with Billy Wilder on the film noir masterwork Double Indemnity (1944), which earned the two men Academy Award nominations.

He spent his final years in La Jolla, California, just north of San Diego, and passed away in 1959.

BOTTOM LINE: Chandler turned something commonplace (pulp fiction) into something extraordinary — bringing style, originality, and unforgettable prose to crime sagas and turning them into high art.

Illustration by Scott Laumann, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (Used by permission). Visit Scott’s website here. I love Scott’s illustration because it sets Chandler in his free-ranging Southern California milieu, yet the formally attired writer remains detached, distanced — as if tilting his head to get a perspective on the bleached out, gritty place he called home for most of his life.



Novel by Kim Cooper

 Silver Birch Press Review

*****Five stars *****

While Los Angeles has been called a city with a “history of forgetting”—with wide-scale demolition of landmarks and even entire neighborhoods—author Kim Cooper helps readers relive L.A.’s past in her captivating first novel, The Kept Girl (Esotouric, 2014), a book based on real people and events.

Cooper—a social historian, nonfiction author, and historic preservationist—serves as our guide as we travel back to Jazz Age L.A., the summer of 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression.

It was a time when L.A. was starting to boom, thanks to abundant oil reserves and the burgeoning movie business—with dreamers and people who preyed on dreamers converging on the City of Angels to reach for the gold ring.

One of these California transplants was Raymond Chandler, who moved to L.A. after his years of service during WWI—and by 1929, he had lived in the city for a decade. As a 41-year-old oil executive, his fondness for booze and broads complicated both his professional and private lives—since he made a living as an executive in the oil business and was married to an ailing woman nearly 20 years his senior.

Cooper’s novel reveals Chandler before he became L.A.’s premier chronicler of crime—the writer who more than anyone created the neon noir image of L.A. that the city has enjoyed ever since.

The Kept Girl—which takes place a decade before Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939—offers a speculative history of how the author may have got his start as a purveyor of crime fiction. In Cooper’s telling, Chandler’s employer asks him to investigate a religious cult that has squeezed $40,000 from Clifford Dabney, the boss’s nephew. Chandler enlists his secretary/mistress Muriel Fischer and an honest cop named Tom James—believed to be the model for detective Philip Marlowe—to assist him in solving the crime.

Throughout the story, the three protagonists deal with personal demons—including aging, sexism, alcoholism, and corruption—as they endeavor to crack the case of the Great Eleven Cult, headed by a shady mother and daughter who claim they receive messages and directives from angels.  A range of gullible types fall for their spiel—mainly out of greed, since the angels promise to reveal the locations of the richest oil deposits in California.

As P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and the L.A. of 1929 is much like a circus sideshow—with humanity in all its flaws, foibles, and hopes on full display. Cooper does a masterful job of pulling all the disparate parts of the story together into a riveting mystery. The big reveal at the end is worth the price of admission. So step right up and read The Kept Girlyou’ve never seen anything like it: history, social commentary, and an engaging mystery all in one tidy 274-page package.

The Kept Girl is available in Kindle and paperback versions at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA–The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage,vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For LifeBubblegum Music is the Naked TruthLost in the Grooves and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

COVER ART: Paul Rogers


Congratulations to Marcia Meara — whose poetry has appeared in three Silver Birch Press anthologies — on the recent release of her romantic suspense novel Wake-Robin Ridge, available in paperback and Kindle versions at Marcia is an inspiration — and we’re looking forward to reading her novel over the holidays.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  On a bitter cold January night in 1965, death came calling at an isolated little cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge. Now, nearly 50 years later, librarian Sarah Gray has quit her job and moved into the same cabin, hoping the peace and quiet of her woodland retreat will allow her to concentrate on writing her first novel. Instead she finds herself distracted by her only neighbor, the enigmatic and reclusive MacKenzie Cole, who lives on top of the mountain with his Irish wolfhound as his sole companion. 

As their tentative friendship grows, Sarah learns the truth about the heartbreaking secret causing Mac to hide from the world. But before the two can sort out their feelings for each other, they find themselves plunged into a night of terror neither could have anticipated. Now they must unravel the horrifying events of a murder committed decades earlier. In doing so, they discover that the only thing stronger than a hatred that will not die is a heart willing to sacrifice everything for another. 

A story of evil trumped by the power of love and redemption, Wake-Robin Ridge will transport you to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and introduce you to characters you won’t soon forget.

…Find Wake-Robin Ridge at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marcia Meara is a native Floridian, living in the Orlando area with her husband of twenty-seven years, two silly little dachshunds and four big, lazy cats. She’s fond of reading, gardening, hiking, canoeing, painting, and writing, not necessarily in that order. But her favorite thing in the world is spending time with her two grandchildren, eight-year-old Tabitha Faye, and seven-month-old Kaelen Lake. Marcia is the author of Wake-Robin Ridge, a romantic suspense novel set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and Summer Magic: Poems of Life and Love. She is currently working on her second novel, Swamp Ghosts, set alongside the wild and scenic rivers of central Florida. Her philosophy? It’s never too late to follow your dream. Just take that first step, and never look back.

Book cover by Nicki Forde at



(from introduction to Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life)

I once named a character Frank Matisse, but he acted older than his age; and for some reason he wouldn’t talk as much as I wanted him to. I changed his name to Jack Delany and couldn’t shut him up.

Because I use a lot of dialogue in my stories, the characters must be able to talk in interesting ways. So I audition them in opening scenes to see which ones will have important roles in the plot. If a character doesn’t speak the way I want him to, and changing his name doesn’t work, he could be demoted to a less important role.

The best kind of character is one who starts out in a minor role – sometimes without even having a name – and talks his way into the plot. He says a few words, and I see this guy has an interesting personality and I look for more ways to use him in the story.

I write my stories in scenes and always from a particular character’s point of view. Then I may rewrite the same scene from a different character’s point of view and find that it works better. After I finish a book, I continue to think about my characters and wonder what they’re up to.

ELMORE LEONARD (1925-2013) was the bestselling author of nearly forty books, including Get Shorty, La Brava, Cuba Libre, and Stick, many of which have been made into films.

SNOOPY’S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE is available at books is out of print, but used copies are available for around $7.50 plus shipping.)

Photo: Elmore Leonard at his home in Michigan, photo by Carlos Osorio/AP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


In this excerpt from The Paris Review interview with Haruki Murakami — bestselling author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — the writer discusses the influence of hardboiled detective fiction on his work.

INTERVIEWER: … hard-boiled American detective fiction has clearly been a valuable resource. When were you exposed to the genre and who turned you on to it?

MURAKAMI: As a high-school student, I fell in love with crime novels. I was living in Kobe, which is a port city where many foreigners and sailors used to come and sell their paperbacks to the secondhand bookshops. I was poor, but I could buy paperbacks cheaply. I learned to read English from those books and that was so exciting.

INTERVIEWER: What was the first book you read in English?


MURAKAMI: The Name Is Archer, by Ross Macdonald. I learned a lot of things from those books. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. At the same time I also loved to read Tolstoyand Dostoevsky. Those books are also page-turners; they’re very long, but I couldn’t stop reading. So for me it’s the same thing, Dostoevsky and Raymond Chandler. Even now, my ideal for writing fiction is to put Dostoevsky and Chandler together in one book. That’s my goal.

INTERVIEWER: At what age did you first read Kafka?

MURAKAMI: When I was fifteen. I read The Castle; that was a great book. And The Trial.

INTERVIEWER: That’s interesting. Both those novels were left unfinished, which of course means that they never resolve; your novels too—particularly your more recent books, like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—often seem to resist a resolution of the kind that the reader is perhaps expecting. Could that in any way be due to Kafka’s influence?

MURAKAMI: Not solely. You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all. I don’t care who the killer is in The Brothers Karamazov.

INTERVIEWER: And yet the desire to find out who killed the chauffeur is part of what makes The Big Sleep a page-turner.

MURAKAMI: I myself, as I’m writing, don’t know who did it. The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.

Read the rest of The Paris Review interview here.

Photo: Haruki Murakami and cat friend.