June 1st @ Grousable Books: 20% off, Ellery Queen, SS Great Eastern

Grousable Books Newsletter


In this issue: 20% off all my books, Ellery Queen, A Warm Mug of Cozy, June author event cancelled, and the SS Great Eastern.

Subscriber special!

Starting today and continuing for a fortnight, readers can save 20% on all my books by ordering direct at Grousable Bookshop. Use the code NEWS20. You can even get an autographed copy if you’re in the U.S.

my books

But shhhhh, for now it’s just for newsletter subscribers.

Ellery Queen

I was watching a mystery show the other day: Death in Paradise. They usually have four suspects, but this time only had two, and the murderer was one of them. I still couldn’t figure it out.

When I can’t figure it out, I always hear Truman Capote saying to the roomful of detectives in Murder by Death (1976)

You’ve tricked and fooled your readers for years. You’ve tortured us all with surprise endings that made no sense. You’ve introduced characters in the last five pages that were never in the book before. You’ve withheld clues and information that made it impossible for us to guess who did it.

And it was one of those. The vital clue was at the very end. (More on Murder by Death another time!)

I miss the tv show Ellery Queen.

At the end, Jim Hutton as Ellery would turn to the camera and ask whether you, the audience, had figured it out. He’d remind you of all the clues, and then there’d be a commercial for you to think/discuss at home and come to your conclusion. After the commercial, Ellery would tell you (and the other characters) the answer.

Jim Hutton and David Wayne on Ellery Queen tv show

And yes, that’s David Wayne (whom I’ll always see in my mind playing the song Farewell, Amanda in the Tracy-Hepburn classic film Adam’s Rib) playing his dad.

My short story was accepted!

“No Good Deed”, a story featuring as Rosie and Lou from Bummer at Luna Beach, was accepted for the A Warm Mug of Cozy second anthology of cozy mystery stories. It’s a detective story. I can’t call Rosie and Lou detectives, though, since they’re amateurs and police detective Rory Gallardo is totally involved.

This is a major distinction in mysteries: is it “amateur sleuth” or “police detective”? Sherlock Holmes, arguably, was neither, so he seems to come under the moniker “private investigator” (which these days sounds pretty noir). Sticking to one of these categories is expected. 

Tom Barnaby (Police Detective), Jessica Fletcher (Amateur Sleuth), Sherlock Holmes (Private Detective)

So when was the last time I did what was expected? My first Victorian mystery, Murder at Old St. Thomas’s, features Inspector Slaughter (“police detective”). But Murder at an Exhibition has an “amateur female sleuth”. And how do I categorize Murder on the Pneumatic Railway? It’s more of a detective ensemble – everyone has a role to play in solving it.

In my “No Good Deed” short story, Rosie and Lou are looking for a deed that will reveal who owns property on an island off the coast of California. They find much more than they bargained for, and must hunt for a murderer. I don’t know the publication date yet, but the last A Warm Mug of Cozy anthology came out in fall. I’ll let you know!

Change of plans

You may recall that I was excited about being a local author at Beach Town Books in San Clemente on June 23. Unfortunately, the event has been cancelled. They are considering a July reschedule, so I’ll let you know.

While I’m thinking about bookstores, I want to shout out to local bookshops in the San Diego area: Artifact Books in Encinitas, which hosts fantasy and thriller authors out on the sidewalk because the shop is so small. Mysterious Galaxy, whose eclectic collection of fantasy and mysteries leads to unexpected discoveries.

Mysterious Galaxy bookstore

And The Book Catapult, which has its own book club.

Did you know that when want a new book and you order through Bookshop.org, you can choose which bookstore to purchase from? You can set it to order from these, or your local indie bookstore. If they don’t have it in stock, they order from the publisher and it’s shipped to you. It’s a great way to support independent shops.

Historical research notes

Thanks to the bright-eyed readers who reported the incorrect link to my research process posts, I’ve added a second installment on the possible New Orleans short story and you can see both here.

In another change of plans, I will be setting aside the New Orleans story for now. Instead the focus is on the Tommy Jones Mysteries prequel, which has been half-written for many months. I’d love to publish Murder at the Gasworks later this year. So the research posts will now return to Victorian England, and here’s a new note.

William Samuel Parrott, Building the “Great Leviathan” (1858)

When Murder at Old St. Thomas’s begins, Inspector Slaughter greets his new sergeant. It’s 1862, and the sergeant has come over from Baltimore on the “Great Eastern”, also known in the painting above as the “Great Leviathan”. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it was 692 feet long and was the largest passenger ship in the world, and could carry 4,000 people. It featured paddlewheel, sails, and a screw propeller. (Yes, all three.)

Like other extravagant technologies, the SS Great Eastern would not fulfill the dream. There wasn’t demand for the amount of cargo it could carry, and at various times in its history the boiler exploded, there were pounding noises from the hull, and it struck a rock off Long Island that ripped a hole in the ship. Although it would help lay the transAtlantic cable, it was defunct by 1874. 

By the way, I love researching good technologies that get abandoned. My favorite airplane, the Airbus A380, also got off to a rocky start in 2000, going far over budget, requiring nations to chip in to build it, and developing cracks after ten years. Production was ended in 2021 because it was too large for the airport system.

I promise more parallels to contemporary life as I continue research for Gasworks.

And more!

Want to read previous newsletters? They’re located here at my website, where you can also find information and buy links to all my books. You can post comments there too.

Until next time, keep grousing!

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