Magna cum Murder

crime writing festival

October 29-31, 2010

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Molly Weston reviews new Charles Todd novel
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Muncie, Indiana

Magna cum Murder
Kathryn Kennison, Director

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Jama Kehoe Bigger
Austin Lugar
Nancy Lindley
Diane Watters
Kenny Jones
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It's time for another Magna cum Murder Author Spotlight:

Magna intern Austin Lugar caught up with another of our favorite authors, John Gilstrap, for a short Q&A:
You are an answer on a Sporcle quiz for most challenged and banned books in the past decade. Does that frustrate you or excite you to be up there with Harry Potter and The Giver?
I've always considered this to be a badge of honor.  A few years ago, I attended a school board meeting in my home community of Fairfax County, Virginia, where a group called PABBIS (Parents Against Bad Books in Schools) was proposing a sweeping book ban that included my novel, Nathan's Run.  I ended my presentation by proposing the formation of a group called CRAPP (Caring Readers Against Pissed Parents).  I got a standing ovation.
Q: You have mostly done stand-alone books for years, but now you have been working on your Jonathan Grave series. How has this been a different experience and what are the perks of series over stand-alone?Gilstrap book
For me, storytelling is storytelling.  I haven't found anything significantly easier or harder about writing a series over writing stand-alones.  The best perk, if that's the right term, is the fact that I get to develop a long story arc for the main characters, allowing a much more leisurely pace.  Jonathan Grave changes a little from the beginning to the end of each book in the series; but over the course of five or six or (God willing) ten books, he'll change substantially.
Q: What is your research process like to learn more about hostage rescuing? 
I have been blessed with many great contacts and friends who always take my phone calls.  Having lived in the DC area since I was a little boy, and having served in the fire and rescue service for as long as I did, I've come to know all kinds of people, from flag officers in the military to CIA operatives to cops to undertakers.  They'll generally keep me from making stupid mistakes.  (Not that a few haven't gotten by me.)
Q: What was the last great book you've read?
Wow, questions like this are always tough.  There's so much great stuff out there.  The one that comes first to mind is Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson.  It's nonfiction, but it's one of the best thrillers of the decade.
Q: What are you looking forward to with this year's Magna?
There's nothing about Magna that I don't look forward to.  In the fifteen or so years that I've been a semi-regular attendee, it has always been my favorite conference.  It's well-run, it's relaxing, and it's flat-out fun.  Every year is like a reunion with old friends.

And to all mystery authors and fans, John has this to say: "Don't miss this year's Magna or I'll put clear Karo syrup on your toilet seat (my favorite prank for faculty rest rooms when I was in college)."

Molly Weston reviews new Charles Todd novel

A frequent Magna participant, Molly Weston recently reviewed An Impartial Witness (by Magna Guests of Honor Charles & Caroline Todd) on her blog, Meritorious Mysteries. She kindly gave us permission to reprint it:

When World War I battleground nurse Bess Crawford is charged with escorting wounded soldiers back to England, she watches one of her charges closely. He's severely burned and requires special attention, so it's easy for her to notice the photograph of his wife pinned to his chest where he can see it often.

Once Bess has turned her responsibilities over to a hospital, she makes her way to London for a respite before going to her parents' home. At Waterloo Station she sees a distraught young woman clinging to an officer who turns and boards his train. Bess is stunned, not because this is an unusual occurrence, but because the woman is the wife of the pilot she's just escorted to London. Bess tries to follow the woman, but she loses her in the crowd. No amateur sleuth can walk away from such a scene-especially when she learns the woman has turned up dead!

During the Great War, there were no forensics, little communication among law enforcement communities, but there was an intrepid nurse with a great deal of curiosity who wanted to put things right. An Impartial Witness is a marvelous addition to this impressive series.
Halloween Costumes!

Since this year's Magna cum Murder is Halloween weekend, you can pack your favorite costume and wear it to the Saturday evening banquet!

of us remember our dear Hugh Holton as Zorro!
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