At Crime Reads: MWA Nominees On The State Of Crime Writing.

The State Of Crime Writing

Like nearly all writing and publishing events, this year’s Edgar Awards ceremony will occur online, the winners announced by the time you’re seeing this via Twitter on April 30th.

In “The State of Crime Writing In 2020: Part 1 – A Roundtable Discussion With The Nominees For The Mystery Writers Of America’s 2020 Edgar Awards”, Crime Reads gathered two dozen Edgar nominees including Karen Abbott, Maureen Callahan, John McMahon, Mo Moulton, Lara Prescott, Hank Phillippi Ryan and others for a timely roundtable. The discussion runs in two parts, the first appearing today (link below), which included a wide range of topics, such as, “Is there a kind of crime novel overdue for revival or reinvention?” and “What’s the most encouraging recent trend in crime fiction?”

The participants’ replies to “Is there a crime fiction trope you wish would be retired?” were no surprise (answers: Serial killers and the ‘Dead Girl’ trope). On the other hand, I was intrigued by some responses to “What’s the most pressing (non-pandemic) issue facing the crime fiction community today?” Some reinforced the marketplace’s need to foster diverse voices, while others pointed to more pragmatic issues, like money, the growing online piracy problem, and then a real thought-provoking remark about the over-abundance of “bad and self-published fiction”. That one alone could warrant its own roundtable discussion!

Room And Dame Howell Dodd

But don’t settle for my few comments here — follow the link below to Crime Reads to read the first half of this wide-ranging conversation with notable newcomers and genre luminaries alike, and watch for the second part in an upcoming Crime Reads edition. And enjoy the masthead’s modified Howell Dodd painting that originally appeared on a vintage ‘sexy digest’ from Quarter Books (Room And Dame by Gerald Foster) and was later re-used on the 1951 Crime Year Book, that one including “I Was Queen Of The Stag Party Strippers”. Yikes! Well, at least they located one of Dodd’s customary bad girlz holding some reading material instead of a cocktail or gun.

Crime Year Book 1951 Howell Dodd

https://crimereads.com/the-state-of-crime-writing-in-2020-part-1/

 

The Secrets We Kept

via laraprescott dot com

Though she was profiled in this week’s Sunday New York Times Book Review, I had no idea that Reese Witherspoon hosted her own book club. Worse: I didn’t even notice the “Reese’s Book Club” icon on the front cover of Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept, and once I did, wasn’t even sure what it was. Guess I have to bone up what’s going on in the media and entertainment world. But why, when I can be immersed in incredible novels like Prescott’s debut instead?

The Secets We Kept Lara Prescott

Spanning a period from 1949 to 1961, The Secrets We Kept by the aptly named Lara Prescott provides an intriguing look at post-WWII era young women armed with formidable educations and noteworthy skills, but shunted off to steno pools and typist jobs, their comparably equipped male counterparts now their supervisors, ripe with all of that period’s dismissiveness and even blatant abuse. For these portions of Prescott’s complex multi-POV novel, you may be reminded of Renee Rosen’s Park Avenue Summer and White Collar Girls, or Fiona Davis’ The Dollhouse and The Chelsea Girls. But then mix it up with Ian Fleming. No, check that. More like Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel series, or Jane Thynne’s Clara Vine novels. The Secrets We Kept isn’t about underwater spear gun battles, no one brandishes a Walther PPK, and it’s no simple espionage thriller.

It’s really about three women: Irina, a typist, Sally, a receptionist, both at the Cold War era CIA. And then there’s Olga, the mistress of famed Russian poet and novelist Boris Pasternak. But the receptionist is really a glamorous international spy. The typist is recruited to become one, while Pasternak’s ever loyal lover endures torture in Lubyanka prison and then the Gulags to protect the writer. The unfolding story is actually about the smuggling of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago manuscript out of Soviet era Russia, its publication in Europe, and once finally translated into English, smuggling copies back into Russia so his countrymen could actually read the Nobel Prize winning but banned novel. And like Zhivago and Lara in Pasternak’s epic novel, love can sometimes feel utterly doomed in Prescott’s book, with Olga suffering unimaginable horrors while forced to share her beloved with the novelist’s pragmatic but shrewish wife, while Irina and Sally fall in love, but in a time and place that simply won’t tolerate their relationship.

Sharing a first name with Pasternak’s iconic Lara, Prescott may have been destined to write this novel. It’s a thick, rich 350-page book, but I devoured it in two days, unable to put it down and admittedly enthralled from the first page. At first it took a little getting used to the author’s shifting points of view from one chapter to another, but it was well worth the effort. It’s quite a debut, and it looks like Prescott’s book is already on the bestseller lists, so let’s just guess that we can anticipate a movie version in a year or two. I just hope Hollywood doesn’t find some way to muck up this intimate and intriguing tale of three women by stuffing it full of out-of-place action. Explosions and super-villains won’t be needed. “Lara’s Theme” from David Lean’s 1965 movie version of Doctor Zhivago wouldn’t hurt, though.

lara prescott by travor palhaus

http://www.laraprescott.com/

Author photo: Trevor Palhaus

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