Some Nice Words from Publishers Weekly

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*Starred Review*

Did you know  that in its Nov. 25, 2013 issue the trade journal Publishers Weekly gave a starred review to my latest Nero Wolfe novel, “Murder in the Ball Park.” PW is most selective in handing out its starred reviews, and I was honored to again receive that merit, which also had been awarded to my “Archie Meets Nero Wolfe” a little more than a year earlier.

The PW reviewer called my latest effort “superb” and went on to say that in the storyline “the investigation follows the dynamic of Rex Stout’s originals, with Archie (Goodwin) dutifully reporting back to the sedentary genius (Nero Wolfe) before a gathering of the suspects in Wolfe’s West 35th Street brownstone for the satisfying denouement.”

I hope readers agree the PW assessment of “Murder in the Ball Park,” which came out January, both in print and as an e-book.

You can also find several of my previous Nero Wolfe books on Amazon.com.

Nero Wolfe and Baseball

Goldsborough_Murder_1[5][2] (1)Given my love of baseball, I suppose it is no surprise that I have finally set a Nero Wolfe novel–my ninth–against a baseball backdrop. “Murder in the Ball Park” will be published by Mysterious Press/Open Road Integrated Media early in 2014.

Without giving too much away–heaven forbid!–I will say this much: the story is set at the midpoint of the 20th century and opens at a baseball game in New York’s Polo Grounds between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, two teams that have long since departed the Big Apple for San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively.

Archie Goodwin, a Giants fan, and Saul Panzer, a follower of the Dodgers, are in the stands on a fateful June afternoon when a political figure of note is gunned down in his seat during the game. Pandemonium ensues, followed by a public outcry, fueled by the newspapers and aimed at the city government and the police department. The police are stymied in their hunt for the killer, and eventually, albeit reluctantly, Nero Wolfe steps in.

Rex Stout, the creator of the Nero Wolfe series, was an avid baseball fan, often attending games at the Polo Grounds and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, but not Yankee Stadium (he disliked the Yankees). And he set one of his Wolfe novellas, “This Won’t Kill You” from the trilogy “Three Men Out” (1954), at the Polo Grounds, where a murder takes place during a World Series.

“Murder at the Ball Park” is my second mystery with a baseball setting. The first was “Three Strikes You’re Dead” (2005), a Steve ‘Snap’ Malek story from Echelon Press. The year is 1938, and famed pitcher Dizzy Dean has been traded to the Chicago Cubs. Although well past his prime, the colorful Dean helps pitch the Cubs into the World Series. He also saves newspaperman Malek’s life during the hunt for a killer. This book is available from Echelon Press or Amazon. If you love baseball, you might consider adding both of these books to your library.

A Cherished Honor

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough

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I was delighted to learn in February that “Archie Meets Nero Wolfe” had been named “Best Historical Mystery of 2012” at the annual Love Is Murder mystery conference held near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The “Lovey” (as these awards are called) is the culmination of several months of activity for me in introducing my “prequel” to the Nero Wolfe series created and continued for four decades by the great Rex Stout.

It was a special pleasure for me to win this award at what long has been my favorite mystery gathering. Love Is Murder, held each year on the first weekend in February, brings together mystery and thriller writers and fans from across the country. The three days are filled with panel discussions on subjects ranging from how to find a literary agent and how to keep your series fresh to tips preparing your manuscript for publication and strategies for getting your book on the shelves of public libraries.

As interesting and instructive as the panel discussions are, the informal gatherings over food and drinks can be equally stimulating, as best-selling authors mingle with other attendees and share their experiences with publishers, agents, and readers. When a top-flight mystery writer talks about his or her difficulties in initially getting published, it gives hope–and stimulus–to those struggling to get into print and/or the e-book world.

So this new “Lovey,” my third such award spread over the last decade, now occupies a place of honor on a shelf in my den and will, I hope, spur me to keep on writing.

* * *

Publishers Weekly starred review of Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: “Goldsborough hits nary a false note, an impressive achievement…”

Archie Goodwin & Snap Malek–Twins Separated at Birth?

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough

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Since I began writing the Steve “Snap” Malek Chicago historical mysteries for Echelon Press nearly a decade ago, several readers have commented that the brash Malek, a police reporter for the Chicago Tribune, bore a decided similarity to the equally brash Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the Nero Wolfe stories and Wolfe’s right-hand man.

Not surprising, because before publishing my five Malek books, I had written seven Nero Wolfe novels in the 1980s and ’90s, continuing the series created by the late Rex Stout. Had I purposely created Malek in Goodwin’s image, these readers asked? The answer: I’m not altogether sure.

Probably somewhere in my subconscious, I wanted to at least partially clone Archie Goodwin, whom I feel to be one of the most colorful and memorable characters in the history of American detective fiction. In Snap Malek, there are many parallels to Archie, along with marked differences.

Among the similarities: Both Archie and Snap are self-assured to the point of cockiness. Both are street-smart as well as steadfast in the face of danger. Both tend in their headstrong attitudes to rile their superiors–Nero Wolfe and the Chicago Tribune, respectively. And both have an ambivalent attitude toward the major law officer in their stories–New York Police Inspector Cramer and Chicago Police Detective Chief Fergus Fahey. (I also have been accused of fashioning Fahey into a carbon copy of Cramer; let me mull over that charge.)

As to some differences: Snap has battled alcoholism, Archie drinks only in moderation. Snap is married (for the second time), Archie is a bachelor, albeit with a longtime girlfriend, Lily Rowan. Snap lives in a suburban Chicago home, Archie dwells in that legendary brownstone in the heart of Manhattan.

Now that I am back to writing about Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin after an 18-year hiatus (“Archie Meets Nero Wolfe”), I wonder if readers who knew only of my Snap Malek stories will pick up this new book and ask me: Did you model this Archie Goodwin fellow on Snap Malek?

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe

From the time I began reading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries some 60 years ago as a teenager, I was fascinated by how Wolfe and his irrepressible sidekick and chronicler, Archie Goodwin, happened to join forces. We don’t know the answer in Mr. Stout’s compelling mysteries because when Wolfe and Goodwin appear in their first novel, “Fer-de-Lance” (1934), there is no back story and little detail about their previous lives.

This fascination with the beginnings of the partnership continued when I became privileged to be the family-approved continuator of the Wolfe series after Mr. Stout’s death in 1975. During the 1980s and ’90s, I was author of seven Nero Wolfe mysteries for Bantam Books but never delved into the origins of the team. Still, I remained intrigued by the possibility of some day writing about how Archie came to meet Nero.

I became further enthused about the idea in 2009 with the publication of longtime mystery novelist Joe Gores’ “Spade & Archer,” a prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon.” Mr. Gores, who died in 2011, had captured the essence of Hammett’s characters and the noir flavor of his writing and his settings.

That sealed the deal for me, and I began to form what was to become “Archie Meets Nero Wolfe.” In developing the story, I made use of what few clues Mr. Stout had sprinkled around in his tales, including a brief reference to the kidnapping of a wealthy hotelier’s son. That kidnapping became a central focus of my book, along with young Archie Goodwin’s coming of age as a detective in the Manhattan of 1930.

Approved by Mr. Stout’s estate, “Archie Meets Nero Wolfe” will be released this fall, both in print and as an e-book, by Mysterious Press and its longtime head, Otto Penzler. Mysterious Press also will be re-releasing my seven earlier Wolfe novels as e-books. For me, working with Mr. Penzler seems fitting, because it was at his Mysterious Bookshop in New York that I had the launch of my first Nero Wolfe novel, “Murder in E Minor,” 28 years ago.

 

 

 

My Best of British Mysteries

I have been a fan of British TV mysteries for decades and eagerly look forward to new series (most recent example, “Zen”) as well as fresh episodes of old favorites. Lately, I have mulled over which of these series are my favorites and, at the risk of wading into treacherous waters, here is my “top 10″ list:

1. Foyle’s War (starring Michael Kitchen). This tops the list in part because of the intriguing premise: District Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle (Kitchen) toils in a small Channel city (Hastings) during World War II and constantly finds himself at odds with the British military, which frequently feels secrecy trumps the quest for justice. Sometimes Foyle prevails, sometimes not. Superb Kitchen is ably supported by cast members Honeysuckle Weeks and Anthony Howell.

2. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett). Brett made the role his own in more than 40 episodes, all drawn from Conan Doyle stories, and he became the consummate Holmes. It will be interesting to see how the new, contemporary Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch fares with audiences. It’s off to a good start.

3. Poirot (David Suchet) Like Brett, Suchet has co-opted the role of the protagonist, making it difficult to see anyone else playing the part. I favored the earlier episodes co-starring Hastings (Hugh Fraser) and Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) over the more recent and somewhat darker versions.

4. Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) Although a spinoff of the “Inspector Morse” series (see below), I prefer this iteration in large part because of better synergy between Whately and his assistant, Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox of the great acting family).

5. Miss Marple (Joan Hickson) Hickson was wonderful and unflappable as Agatha Christie’s busybody small-town spinster, who always was one step ahead of the police. She nailed the role as no one has before or since (see below).

6. Inspector Morse (John Thaw) Thaw and Kevin Whately (Lewis) made a good team in their Oxford series based on Colin Dexter stories, but Thaw too often put down and derided the intrepid Lewis. Thaw’s constant sneering at his partner wore thin in an otherwise well-done series, which had top-notch guest stars including Sir John Gielgud.

7. Midsomer Murders (John Nettles) The granddaddy of British mystery series in terms of number of episodes (81 to date), this is set in fictitious semi-rural Midsomer County. Nettles is top-drawer as Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, but many of the episodes feel they must pile on multiple murders to keep the plot moving. Nettles is leaving the series to be replaced by Neil Dudgeon, who will play his cousin, John.

8. Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) The current Marple, McKenzie is a solid choice, better than Geraldine McEwan, who played the part after Joan Hickson’s death. McKenzie seems to thrive in the role.

9. Maigret (Michael Gambon) My regret is that too few episodes of this series (14) were made. Gambon brought novelist Georges Simenon’s Chief Inspector Jules Maigret to life in these stories, well produced with exteriors in a Budapest made up to be Paris. Jack Galloway as Janvier and Geoffrey Hutchings as Lucas were well cast as Maigret’s police sidekicks.

10. Adam Dalgleish Roy Marsden ably played P. D. James’s Commander Adam Dalgleish in several haunting mini-series drawn from her books. Marsden’s screen presence as a steady, thoughtful police detective was the glue that nicely held these stories together.

No doubt many of you have your own choices, such as Prime Suspect, Jericho, Inspector Lynley, and the two Lord Peter Wimsey series, among others. I’d be interested in your rankings.

“Best Historical Novel” – Lovey Award Winner

Robert Goldsborough author of "Terror at the Fair" 2012 Lovey "Best Historical Novel"As the publisher of the Snap Malek series, I am thrilled and honored to announce that at the Love is Murder 2012 Conference, Robert Goldsborough accepted the Lovey Award for “Best Historical Novel” for book five in the Malek series, Terror at the Fair.

As a long-time fan of Robert Goldsborough’s wonderful additions to the Nero Wolfe series created by Rex Stout, it was more than a thrill to put Bob’s original historical mystery series into print, and each one in the series since. Snap Malek quickly became one of my favorite characters in the historical mystery genre, earning a place next to Nero Wolfe on the podium in my mind.

When we first published Three Strikes You’re Dead, nothing could have pleased us more than being there when Bob won the Lovey Award that year at Love is Murder for “Best Historical Novel.” What this tells me is that  Robert Goldsborough has definitely got what it takes to tell entertaining stories and to create unforgettable characters. It would appear that mystery readers agree with me on that.

Congratulations to Robert for this latest honor, and I, for one, look forward to many more outstanding novels written by this acclaimed author.

With great pride and respect,

Karen L. Syed, President
Echelon Press LLC

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