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At the Scene, May 2012               Solving the mystery of what to read next!
In This Issue
Marcia Clark on James Ellroy
Solar Eclipse Mysteries
Mike Hammer Overheard
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May Greetings
Spring Issue #124, Marcia Clark on James Ellroy's Killer on the Road, Solar Eclipse Mysteries, Mike Hammer Overheard

Spring Issue 124
Spring Issue 124
Hi everyone,
Well, the Spring Issue #124 is out and it's a doozy! Here's what we've got for you.

Thomas Perry believes that the chase story has a primal fascination. "It's simply hard-wired into all our brains," he says. "We recognize it, we think about it, we even dream about it." No one rings the changes on this theme with more skill, imagination, and narrative daring than Perry in his Jane Whitefield novels. If you haven't already, go on the lam with Jane - it's aerobic reading.

Elizabeth Hand's two Cass Neary novels about a perpetually stoned, self-destructive, kind of despicable but kind of charismatic, burned-out former punk have got a lot of people talking. I'm a big fan and so is Art Taylor who has contributed an essay in this issue. Paul Doiron has a fascinating conversation with Hand in which she cites Kem Nunn's
Tapping the Source as an influence. I can see that, she's that good.

At the other end of the crime fiction spectrum are the charmingly whimsical Homer Kelly mysteries by Jane Langton. As the author says in her interview with Brian Skupin, her interests became those of her Harvard professor / sleuth, including Transcendentalism, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, and much more. The new ebook editions of her mysteries contain the delightful pen-and-ink drawings that recent reprints have failed to include.

Another character who went through life with zest is writer Anthony Shaffer. In this issue, Joseph Goodrich takes stock of the playwright's various accomplishments, including: the wildly successful play, Sleuth, which has been filmed twice; various novels, including two mysteries with his twin brother Peter Shaffer of Amadeus and Equus fame; many screen adaptations (Death on the Nile, Frenzy, etc.) and what seems to have been a vastly entertaining social life. (Don't miss his account of dinner with Agatha Christie on page 40.)

Martin Edwards has fond memories of his friend and mentor Reginald Hill, author of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels. As Edwards so rightly notes, Hill, who died earlier this year, was a towering figure on the British crime scene for the past half century. There's lots more in this issue, we hope you enjoy it!

If you're not a regular subscriber, the Spring #124 is available for back issue purchase.

Best wishes,

Kate Stine


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Marcia Clark on Killer on the Road by James Ellroy 


I will never forg
et the experience of reading James Ellroy's Killer on the Road. It was back in the eighties (I've seen it listed as having been written in '99, but it actually came out ten years earlier under another name) and I'd been reading murder mysteries for quite a few years by then. I started as a child with Nancy Drew and never stopped - even when I was prosecuting homicides full time. So when I ran into Killer on the Road, I was no neophyte mystery reader.


Killer was my first experience with James Ellroy's brilliant prose and plotting, and it knocked me out. Centered in the mind of a serial killer, it evoked exactly the kind of warped self absorption I knew to be so true of the breed. And unlike so many others who wrote in this sub-genre, Ellroy never glamorized his subject. He delivered Michael Martin Plunkett in all his depraved, despicable and confounding sickness with no holds barred. In that book, as never before, I felt I'd climbed inside the belly of the beast.

James Ellroy himself has said that he'd never write another serial killer novel, that he doesn't want to glorify these monsters who are, in reality, statistically insignificant. He's 100% right about that and I never intend to write a serial killer novel either, for those same reasons. I'm sure Mr. Ellroy, one of the most brilliant writers to ever put pen to paper, would say Killer was not his best work.

It's not.

But the book was an inspirational, even game-changing experience for me. Ellroy's vivid descriptions - more powerful for their haiku-like brevity - and the way he uses a detached, almost prosaic voice to deliver the sock-you-in-the-gut horror of a terrifyingly twisted mind was simply sheer mastery. Although I've read many other Ellroy books since then and have loved them all, Killer On the Road moved my reading and appreciation of the mystery/thriller genre to a whole new level. It and he still inspire me today.



Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark


Marcia Clark's latest book is  Guilt by Degrees (Mulholland Books, May 2012). 

"Writers on Reading" is a special ongoing Mystery Scene series available as a first look exclusive to our newsletter subscribers. 


Poisoned Pen Press Advertisement
Writes of Spring anthology MS Review
The Writes of Spring

edited by Gary Shulze & Pat Frovarp

Nodin Press, April 2012, $16.95 


What better way to begin the spring than an appropriately titled anthology issued in honor of an independent bookstore?

Writes of Spring, edited by Gary
Shulze and Pat Frovarp, celebrates the 25th anniversary of Minneapolis' Once Upon a Crime bookstore and the 10th annual "Write of Spring" open house event at that store.


Read the review at 

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Reading in the Dark
Mysteries of the Solar Eclipse

May 20, 2012 Solar Eclipse
Image courtesy of


May 20, 2012 will mark the first central eclipse of the 21st century visible from the continental US.


Astronomers have long pondered the solar eclipse's own mystery, known as the Allais Effect, so named for French polymath Maurice Allais who first observed that a Foucault pendulum in motion, appeared to change its angle of motion by 13.5 degrees from its usual course during the solar eclipse of 1954, and again in 1959. Does a solar eclipse indeed effect the action of a pendulum? And if so, why?

Scientists around the world from the US to Scotland to India to Australia have attempted to solve the mystery of the Allais Effect for decades, but the results have remained polarizing, as have the theories behind Allais' unexplained phenomenon.

Astronomy sleuths can read more about the Allais Effect at its Wikipedia page and online articles such as The Economist's "An Invisible Hand?"

Here are three more solar eclipse related mysteries for reading in the dark...

ECLIPSE by Richard North Patterson SHOOTING THE SUN by Max Byrd SOLAR ECLIPSE by John Farris

Tweet us your thoughts @MysteryScene.




Mike Hammer
"From the Files of Mike Hammer: Dark City" (January 31, 1954)

""When you're right you're a hero.
When you're wrong you're kill-happy.


- Mike Hammer, in One Lonely Night, Mickey Spillane, 1951.



Hear more from our favorite PIs in "Hearing Voices"  from #124 Spring Issue, now  at  


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