Some Nice Words from Publishers Weekly

Click Cover to Buy

Click Cover to Buy

*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.

A Cherished Honor

Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough

Click Cover to Buy Now!

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

Click Cover to Buy Now!

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?

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

In Praise of John Nettles

Actor John Nettles

Actor John Nettles

If, after reading the headline, your reaction is “Who Is John Nettles?” you cannot call yourself a fan of television detectives, particularly the British version. In terms of longevity, Nettles is the reigning champion of TV detectives by a wide margin. For 13 seasons, he has portrayed Chief Detective Inspector Tom Barnaby in the series “Midsomer Murders,” episodes of which are regularly telecast on Public Broadcasting stations throughout the U.S.

Midsomer Murders

Midsomer Murders

The series, adapted from the books of Caroline Graham (born 1931), is set in England’s fictitious Midsomer County, with most of the filming done in picturesque rural and small-town Buckinghamshire. Nettles portrays a calm, clear-eyed and happily married detective who remains unrattled as the deaths pile up all around him in the unlikely bucolic settings.

In his Barnaby role, Nettles appeared in 81 “Midsomer” episodes, far surpassing the late, great Jeremy Brett’s 41 episodes as Sherlock Holmes from 1984 to 1994. Nettles, 67, made his final Barnaby episodes earlier this year. During his long tenure as Barnaby, he had three different sergeants as his sidekicks. Jane Wymark played Barnaby’s wife, Joyce, in all 81 episodes, stoically putting up with him upsetting the family schedule by dashing off to a case in mid-meal or during a stage play in which their daughter is performing.

Although Nettles is departing, “Midsomer Murders” will continue. New episodes, filming this year, feature Neil Dudgeon as Detective John Barnaby, Tom’s cousin. It will be interesting to see how he is received by viewers.

The Good, the Bad, the Sequel

The recent announcement that the late Robert B. Parker’sSpenser” and “Jesse Stone” mysteries will live on under new authors is just the latest in a long line of series continuations. Mystery writer Ace Atkins is writing a Spenser novel for Spring 2012 publication, while Hollywood producer Michael Brandman will bring Jesse Stone back in a novel this September.

Series continuations under later authors have been both lauded and damned. As the one who extended the life of Rex’s Stout’s famed private eye Nero Wolfe with seven novels in the 1980s and ’90s, I got both praise and derision–praise from readers who were glad to have more tales of Wolfe and his loyal right-hand, Archie Goodwin, and derision from those who either lamented that “you haven’t got it right” or who felt fictional characters should be allowed to die with their creators.

Otto Penzler, longtime mystery publisher and bookstore owner, falls into that latter camp. Quoted in an April Wall Street Journal article about the Spenser continuations, Penzler said he has “a philosophical opposition to people picking up other writers’ series.”

In many instances, the estate of the creator approves a continuator. Such was the case with the new Spenser stories, which were approved by Parker’s widow, Joan. The estate of Margaret Mitchell has okayed multiple sequels to her iconic “Gone with the Wind.” Several writers including my friend Raymond Benson got the green-light from the estate of Ian Fleming to do more James Bond stories. And I received the blessing of the Rex Stout estate in my continuations. Interestingly, Parker himself also was a continuator, completing the unfinished Raymond Chandler manuscript of “Poodle Springs,” a Philip Marlowe story. He also wrote “Perchance to Dream,” a sequel to Chandler’s “The Big Sleep.”

In another recent development, novelist Jamie Freveletti has been invited by the estate of the late Robert Ludlum to continue Ludlum’s “Covert One” series. So the beat goes on, and it is a good bet we have not seen the last of continuators rising up to carry on the adventures of fictional characters that have engendered and strong and fiercely loyal followings.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,414 other followers

%d bloggers like this: