Category: Crime & Mystery

The L.A. Times Book Prize Logo

L.A. Times Book Prize Finalists Include Michelle Obama, Tara Westover

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is the largest literary gathering in the country, attracting over 150,000 people to a massive celebration of culture. Categories include First Fiction, Current Interest, Biography, Fiction, Poetry, Graphic Novel, Thriller, History, Science & Technology, and Young Adult Literature. This year, the nominations are as exciting as they are nerve-wracking—not all of them can win! Here’s the conundrum: they all deserve the prize. Don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at some of our most distinguished nominees.

 

Michelle Obama with book 'Becoming'

Image Via The Chicago Tribune

 

Michelle Obama’s Becoming has already become a staggering success. Penguin Random House paid over $65 million for the rights to Michelle and Barack’s autobiographies, making it one of the most expensive book deals of all time. This figure is also unprecedented among other presidential figures: Bill Clinton earned an advance of $15 million for his own autobiography, which, as you might have noticed, is less than half of that sixty-five. Critics have called Barack Obama “that rare politician who can actually write,” and The New York Times reviewed Dreams From My Father as a literary masterpiece rather than another ghostwritten memoir. But Michelle isn’t doing so bad—Becoming sold a record-breaking two million copies in only fifteen days, and it went on to become the best-selling book of 2018. (And yes, Barack put his wife’s book on his famous reading list.)

Other titles in the category include Michael Lewis’ incisive The Fifth Risk, which critically examines the Trump administration. Given increased visibility regarding issues of immigration, human rights, and the possible border wall, Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River is also a timely inclusion.

 

Michael Lewis' 'The Fifth Risk'

Image Via The International Anthony Burgess Foundation

 

Though Becoming is a memoir, judges have classified it within the Current Interest category—which means, fortunately, that it isn’t competing against Tara Westover’s Educated, a memoir of triumph, persistence, fanaticism, and violence that earned the world’s attention in 2018. USA Today called it the best memoir in years, and with good reason: it’s been a finalist for just about everything. (Of course, it was also on Barack Obama’s reading list.) The memoir chronicles Tara Westover’s journey from beneath Buck’s Peak, the mountain that looms in her childhood as enormous as the influence of her father’s survivalist views. By the age of seventeen, Westover had never seen a doctor nor set foot in a classroom—in fact, until her teenage years, there was no record of her birth at all. Westover has since received a PhD from Cambridge. While there are other books in this category, this is certainly a contender.

 

Tara Westover with memoir, 'Educated'

Image Via Bustle

 

Other titles in the running for various L.A. Times prizes carry serious weight—Elizabeth Acevedo’s YA novel The Poet X is up for a prize after having won the National Book Award. Acevedo’s diverse novel explores poetry as means for personal freedom in an immigrant community with traditional (read: sexist) values. Particularly interesting nominations in other categories include Science & Technology’s Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy, a notable book in the wake of the opioid epidemic.

 

Elizabeth Acevedo with novel, 'The Poet X'

Image Via Medium

 

Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage: A Novel, a nomination for the Fiction category, was among Oprah’s 2018 book club picks and also featured on Barack Obama’s 2018 reading list. Of course, it has some fierce competition: Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, an evocative depiction of the AIDS crisis, is also in the running. Renowned comedian Amy Poehler is currently optioning the novel for a TV adaptation—if that’s not good enough, it’s also one of the NYT‘s top ten books for 2018.

 

'An American Marriage' by Tayari Jones and 'The Great Believers' by Rebecca Makkai

Image Via Entertainment Weekly

 

There are too many excellent titles to list: with ten categories and five nominees in each, you could finish reading one by the time we described them all. Take a look at the 2019 finalists, and decide which one would be a winner on your bookshelf.

 

Featured Image Via The L.A. Times

6 Top Writing Tips from the Best Crime Writer of All Time

Don’t miss your chance to win your name in a Peter James novel, signed copies of Absolute Proof and more thrilling Peter James goodies! 

 

Peter James is the UK’s biggest thriller writer. With more than thirty books under his belt, which have been translated into thirty-seven languages and sold over 19 million copies, James has won countless awards, including the Best Crime Author of All Time, and has had a number of his books adapted for film, television and the stage. Suffice to say, it is not hyperbole to refer to James as one of the the most successful writers on the planet. “How has he done it?” we hear you cry. Well, luckily for you, Peter James was kind enough to provide some terrific advice to baby writers.

 

Image Via PeterJames.com

 

When asked ‘What is your advice to would-be thriller writers, or aspiring writers in general?’ James responded: 

Characters. I think that there’s an inseparable trinity in any great thriller of character, research and plot. I put them in that order deliberately, because first and foremost, we read books to find out what happens to characters we meet and engage with from the first page. They don’t have to be ‘nice’ people, but they have to engage and fascinate us. You know, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is not a nice character but he engages.
I put research in second position because people who read are smart. I think when we read we don’t just want to read a great story, we read because we want to learn something about human nature and the world in which we live, and I think you can tell very fast if an author doesn’t know their subject, if an author’s writing about a lawyer but they’ve clearly never sat in a lawyer’s office, or they’re writing about a gun and they’ve never held one, or someone flying a plane and they’ve never sat at the controls of a cockpit, it’s apparent. It’s understanding what you’re writing about.
Plot is obviously important, but if you don’t care about the characters, and you don’t think the author’s done their research, the plot’s not going to matter because you’re not going to read on.
So in terms of the best tips I can give you, these are:

1. Create engaging characters.

2. Research every aspect of what you are going to write.

3. Know the ending that you want to get to – I find this enormously helpful – it may change as I approach it but it gives me a vanishing point on the horizon to aim at.

4. Think of a series of high points for your book – and make sure each one is bigger than the previous one.

5. Write something 6 days a week – it is crucial to get into a flow – find an amount that you can write each day, whether is is 200 words or 2000 words, and rigidly stick to them because that will get you into a rhythm.

6. And finally… Have fun! If you enjoy writing, that will come through in the pages!

 


Want to know more about Peter James? Check out our interview with him, find him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, and online at PeterJames.com. And don’t miss our Facebook Live interview below!

 

 

Featured Image Via Blake Friedmann / James Clarke

Nightflyers Syfy Promo

Syfy Cancels George R.R. Martin’s ‘Nightflyers’

If you ever have impostor syndrome over your creative work—which is practically a given if you make creative work—sometimes it’s reassuring to know that even your idol can’t always be perfect. Even George R.R. Martin can’t always make winners. That’s bad news if you’re a fan of Syfy’s Nightflyers… but it turns out, few people were.

 

'Nightflyers' Still from Premier

Image Via Variety

 

The TV show, based on George R.R. Martin’s futuristic novella of the same name, was one of the network’s riskiest undertakings. As the most expensive series Syfy has ever produced, even this best-seller wasn’t a sure thing. As a result, the show needed to nab higher earnings than the GDP of most of the nations of Westeros. Ultimately, it only recieved 420,000 viewers for its finale, a drastic drop from its initial 630,000 views for the premier. Given that Game of Thrones premiers and finales can get double-digit millions of views, the network’s gamble didn’t exactly pay off. Syfy attempted to boost the show by releasing the entire series across all platforms. Sadly, Nightflyers didn’t make it too far off the ground.

 

'Nightflyers' Still, ft. man screaming on spacecraft

Image Via Wired

 

Even though the show is leaving Syfy after one season, the novella is still available for our enjoyment. Though we primarily know George R.R. Martin for his fantasy writing (or maybe his massive wizard beard), he’s also an award-winning author of horror and science fiction. Nightflyers combines elements of both genres while also ditching the length of his fantasy works—this may not be a book big enough to use as a blunt-force weapon, but the storytelling will still knock fans flat. Take a look:

 

'Nightflyers' Novella by George R.R. Martin

Image Via Goodreads

 

Nine misfit academics on an expedition to find the volcryn, a mythic race of intersteller nomads, and the only ship available for this strange quest is the Nightflyer, a cybernetic wonder with a never-seen captain…

Nine innocents are about to find themselves in deep space, trapped with an insane murderer who can go anywhere, do anything, and intends to kill them all.

 

Despite the limited success of the adaptation, the novella itself is an acclaimed work of fiction. Shortly after its release, it was nominated for a prestigious Hugo Award and adapted into a feature film. So, what went wrong? Apparently, George R.R. Martin had little involvement in the show’s development. Turns out you can’t just sell a big name. The show may have been set in 2093, but it didn’t have a future.

 

Featured Image Via Kill 2 Birds TV

ben affleck batman

Ben Affleck Officially Confirms His Exit as Batman

With great pain (and great responsibility), I have to report that Ben Affleck officially confirmed his retirement from the role of Batman on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this week.

After it was announced that the next solo Batman movie would feature a younger Bruce Wayne within the chronology of DC’s cinematic universe, everyone speculated whether or not this meant that Affleck would be excluded from future installments. It is now true.

 

 

“I tried to direct a version of it and worked with a really good screenwriter but just couldn’t come up with a version — I couldn’t crack it and so I thought it’s time for someone else to take a shot at it. They got some really good people so I’m excited.”

While the caped crusader is in good hands with Matt Reeves (Planet of the Apes trilogy), so many potential Batman adaptations are now out the window. With an older Batman, we could have seen adaptations of notable comic book arcs such as Hush, The Court/Night of the Owls, or Death of the Family.

Fortunately for Affleck, he appeared to be quite content with the announcement, as he joked with Kimmel, “I’m not Batman.”

 

 

Featured Image via Consequence of Sound

'Saving April' by Sarah A. Denzil VS 'The Woman in the Window' by A.J. Finn

First Deception, Now Plagiarism: New Dan Mallory Scandal

Want to read Dan Mallory‘s thriller The Woman in the Window but don’t want to support someone who lied about having terminal cancer? That shouldn’t be a problem: Sarah A. Denzil‘s Saving April has nearly the same plot.

If you missed our earlier article on Mallory’s cancer lies, click the link or continue for a summary of the horrifying details. The thriller author’s recent notoriety should have been more fatal to his career than the cancer he falsely claimed to have. Instead, there have been few professional repercussions-a plot twist many attribute to Mallory’s race (white) and gender (male). Behaviors that may have doomed another writer or editor’s career-speaking in a fake British accent, allegedly leaving cups of urine around the office, pretending to have two PhDs while having exactly zero PhDs-seem benign when considering the big, ugly lies. Mallory did not have terminal cancer; his mother did not have terminal cancer; his father was not dead; his brother did not kill himself. The bigger, uglier truth, is that these falsehoods are unlikely to slow the sales of this runaway bestseller.

Mallory’s second novel is in the works. His publisher, William Morrow, has shown continued support.

 

Dan Mallory at an author event

Image Via Ny Times

To those just jumping in on the Dan-Mallory-is-a-liar bandwagon, you may be wondering, “could any of it really be true?” Bluntly, no. In an official apology (if that’s what his evasive statement actually was), Mallory admitted to his never having cancer. While he claimed his lies about a physical illness were to conceal his bipolar II diagnosis, psychology professionals say that the disorder would not cause organized, deliberate deception over an extended period of time. This was not an offhanded lie-Mallory impersonated his brother in emails, describing his (Mallory’s) own devastating wit and inspiring bravery in the face of terminal illness. Yikes. Also, all of his family members are distinctly not dead. So there’s that.

Unfortunately for everyone but Dan Mallory (and his loyal publisher), the novel was an instant #1 bestseller, the first debut to top the charts in eleven years.  The resounding success of The Woman in the Window is no joke and no lie-but the novel itself may also have its basis in deception.

 

Author Sarah Denzil

Image Via Sarah Denzil

A recent New York Times article has drawn comparisons between The Woman in the Window and Saving April, a 2016 bestseller from British author Sarah A. Denzil. If you don’t mind mild spoilers, let’s take a look at the similarities in a tidy, damning list form.

Both novels include the following:

  1. Anxious, middle-aged female protagonists… One named Hannah, one named Anna…
  2. …who discover something awful when spying through a window.
  3. They discover something awful about their neighbors, who…
  4. are an unhappily married couple and their troubled adopted child.
  5. The troubled adopted child has a birth mother with substance abuse issues.
  6. The protagonists are wracked with guilt over their past car crashes…
  7. …which killed their husbands and young daughters…
  8. all because they were distracted during a fight about their husband’s infidelity.
  9. Unreliable narrators whose use of alcohol leads police not to trust them.
  10. The same exact final plot twist.

“It is the EXACT same plot like down to the main characters’ back story,” reads an Amazon review comparing the two eerily similar novels. “Sorry but there’s no way the amount of stolen material is a coincidence.”

 

'Saving April' by Sarah A. Denzil VS 'The Woman in the Window' by A.J. Finn

Image Via Ny Times

While it’s true that many crime novels share similar attributes, the timeline is also suspicious. Denzil’s novel hit shelves in early 2016; Mallory didn’t sell his novel until autumn of the same year. Mallory claims to have written his own thriller during summer 2015. Since he also claimed every member of his family was dead, his statement seems impossible to unilaterally believe. The Times article reports that Denzil has spoken out about her discomfort with the similarities-specifically, regret that some online reviewers believe Mallory’s book was the original. (It wasn’t.) Readers and writers across the Internet are asking the same question: is the book plagiarized?

Here’s a question with a more upsetting answer: if it is, will it matter?

The most effective accusations of plagiarism come when an author has copied another’s specific language or phrasing. Theft of creative intellectual property (plot points, characters) is much harder to prove-particularly in cases of genre fiction, where beloved tropes abound. As a result, most authors choose not to pursue legal action.

One such rare lawsuit occurred recently between fantasy authors Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter books) and Cassandra Clare (Shadowhunters franchise). The series are similar in the broadest sense: both feature demon-fighting characters who protect the ordinary world, ordinary objects imbued with magical powers, and swords with names. Though Kenyon’s claims were dubious, this particular case illuminates the problem of intellectual property suits.

 

Comparisons between Kenyon and Clare's work, as outlined by Clare's lawyer

Image Via Cassandra Clare

Sherrilyn Kenyon didn’t invent glowing swords, and Sarah A. Denzil didn’t invent unreliable female narrators. But Dan Mallory did sell his book after Saving April‘s successful release… and he’s lied about everything else. While it’s unlikely that Denzil will endure the financial and emotional burdens of a copyright lawsuit, it is regrettably even less likely that it would make a difference in the face of Mallory’s financial success.

 

Featured Image Via NY Times