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Posts Tagged ‘mysteries’

Smashwords is sponsoring “Read an Ebook Week” in an attempt to promote ebooks to readers with discount coupons, and my Depression-era pulp thriller The Choking Rain is participating with a 50% coupon.

Los Angeles, 1932. Six months before the Olympic Games are to bring relief to a Depression-battered city, men are falling dead in the rain-swept streets, their necks broken as if by an invisible noose. Pulled into a shadowy, rain-slick storm of murder and kidnapping, an ex-fighter pilot, a cop, a couple of football players-turned scientist, and a Kewpie-doll blonde with a black belt join forces to track down the terror plotters and stop their deadly spree. But when tragedy strikes the group, the survivors must brave one of the last untamed places on Earth to learn the secret of the Invisible Death–a secret designed to destroy America’s greatest cities, one by one…

The promotion ends on March 11.

shelfscreen

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Every once in a while, there’s nothing that will fill the void in your soul besides a good mystery yarn. It doesn’t have to be something they put on Masterpiece Theatre with family secrets going back a generation leading to murder, nor does it have to be a Raymond Chandler triple-cross love triangle. Sometimes, the mystery is real. And the real ones are the best, because you can’t always wrap them up in 80,000 words. Sometimes they go on for years. Some of the best mysteries go on for centuries.

Take my favorite: the Loch Ness Monster. Now I know that the odds of a plesiosaur living in a Scottish lake are minuscule, at best. But that has not kept me from scanning those placid waters like a hawk every time I’ve been there, nor did it make me any less nervous when I took a ride across that dark pond on a foggy day. Scientists and curious amateurs keep bringing more and more sophisticated technology to the problem, but with luck they’ll never prove definitively that the old girl doesn’t exist. And they shouldn’t! (If nothing else, it would hurt the Scottish tourism industry.)

But now it appears that another mystery, of nearly equal vintage, has been solved: the Shakespeare Identity Question. The head archivist at the Folger Library, Dr. Heather Wolfe, claims to have “the smoking gun” that will put the controversy to rest. To this, I have two responses: (1) it won’t, and (2) finally!

Normally, as with Nessie, or Bigfoot, or the Kardashians, we will never be able to get to the truth of the matter, and we’re happier for it. Some things are better left unexplained. But this one, this one I’ve always thought was rather dopey. The best evidence I’ve ever heard for someone else having written Shakespeare was that Shakespeare didn’t write it. Not really a winning argument.* So if this is done at last, so be it. There are many more and better mysteries to be solved.

Like, what is it with those Kar–no, like I said, some things are better left unexplained. And unasked.

*Besides, I explained it right here.

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I’ve been watching some of those Sunday-night British mystery series on PBS for the past few months, and although I am in no way asserting that I have conducted any kind of in-depth survey, I have noticed a difference between British and American mysteries. (Aside from the fact that our cops carry guns.)

In American mysteries, the genesis of the plot, the motive behind the crime, is typically found in the present or the immediate past: someone is having an affair, or a crime has gone wrong, or someone is trying to secure an object that has recently come into his sphere. In British mysteries, the story seems to go back to something that went badly years ago, like an abandoned child, or a schoolyard prank gone horribly awry that haunts the participants in adulthood, or a love affair two generations ago that would rend the families apart even today.

As I say, this is hardly a scientific observation, so please don’t bombard me with examples that I’ve missed. But it has happened enough (at least in the ones I see on TV) that I’ve noticed it. And my wife, who is much more widely-read in the field than I, agrees, so there must be something to it. (Note: Suggest panel idea to next mystery con I attend.)

So why? Are the Brits just that much more in their history? Is it because they have more history? (True story: We were in Wales, hunting down some ruins we’d heard of. A woman comes out of her house and asks: “Are you looking for the castle? It’s around the back.” And sure enough, we rounded her house and there were the ruins. In her backyard. That’s British history.)

Maybe we’re so rushed in this country we can’t be bothered to dig into the past even in our mysteries? Could be, but those “cold case” shows seem pretty popular. I have no idea.

It’s a mystery…

#SFWApro

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