Month: December 2014

The Best Books I Didn’t Read of 2014

This is the time of year when people make lists. All sorts of lists, but for our purposes, here today, I’m talking about book lists.  Everyone wants to tell you the best books they read in 2014 and I’m okay with that. I enjoy the recommendations. But what I want to talk about, what has been most remarkable about my reading habits in 2014 has been the books on my ever-growing TBR (to-be-read) pile. So let me tell you about some of the best books I didn’t read in 2014. Not all of them were written in 2014, but they are all books that I had good intentions of reading in 2014. They sit on my night table, or on the floor by my bed, a reminder of my inability to keep up.

City of Silver, by Annamaria Alfieri –  My TBR pile may skew toward mysteries (I am, after all, a mystery writer). City of Silver (2009) is Alfieri’s first historical mystery. When the Mayor’s daughter dies of an apparent suicide, it falls to the Mother Abbess to uncover the truth. Set in seventeenth-century Potosi (Potosi, in what was then Peru, was the richest city in the Western Hemisphere in the 1600s), it is an absorbing tale of politics, religion and greed.

Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon – Michael Chabon deserves a special place on my TBR pile. I have a long history of starting some of Chabon’s best books. The fault is undeniably mine and not his. Chabon is an accomplished story teller and Telegraph Avenue (2012) may very well be his most ambitious novel yet.

So Anyway, by John Cleese – Published in 2014 and gifted to me by my son just this week, Cleese’s memoir is too recent an acquisition to belong on my TBR pile. I don’t expect it will remain unread for very long.

Sailing Three Oceans, by Herb and Doris Smith – I had the pleasure of sailing in Boothbay Harbor, Maine with Herb and Doris Smith on a sixty-something foot schooner that they built in their yard. It’s what they do. They build these extraordinary schooners and sail up and down the coast and around the world. We sailed with them for a couple of hours. I can only imagine what it must be like to circumnavigate the globe with them on a schooner of their own making. Fortunately, I don’t have to imagine it, because I have a copy of Sailing Three Oceans (2002) by Herb and Doris Smith on my TBR pile.

The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates – In a review in the NY Times, Stephen King referred to The Accursed as “the world’s finest postmodern Gothic novel.”  At nearly 700 pages, reading The Accursed (2013) is a commitment. It’s a commitment that will not go unfulfilled another year.

The Outsmarting of Criminals, by Steven Rigolosi – The Outsmarting of Criminals is Rigolosi’s homage to the mystery genre. Published in 2014, it introduces us to Miss Felicity Prim. A lifelong reader of mysteries, Miss Prim is convinced that her extensive reading has prepared her to take on the challenge of outsmarting criminals. I have great respect for Steve Rigolosi’s writing. So you can imagine my surprise when I read a certain scene on pp 63-64. It is the most generous thing another author has ever written about my own writing.

“Miss Prim stopped to gaze in the windows of the local bookshop, Cambria and Calibri. To the left of the door a dozen mystery novels with brightly colored jackets featured prominently under a sign reading CRAPPY MYSTERIES BY PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T WRITTEN A GOOD BOOK IN YEARS.  In the window to the right of the door was a sign reading REALLY GOOD MYSTERIES BY WRITERS YOU SHOULD READ: WHY AREN’T THESE PEOPLE ON THE BEST-SELLER LIST? Nicely displayed under the sign were books by Wallace Stroby, Karin Fossum, Brian Freeman, Jeff Markowitz, Sandra Carey Cody, C. Solimini, D.J. McIntosh, Robin Spano and Dennis Tafoya.

I like this bookstore already, Miss Prim thought.”

So do I.

There is, of course, one other book, released on December 15, 2014, that I hope will make it onto your TBR pile, my new book, Death and White Diamonds.


Guest Blog Post By Jeff Markowitz, Author of “Death and White Diamonds”


Jeff Markowitz (photo credit, E. Harcus) Jeff Markowitz
(photo credit, E. Harcus)

Death and DiamondsI wrote the first draft of “Death and White Diamonds” in eight weeks during the summer of 2013. But that is not entirely accurate because I wrote the first paragraph in 2006. Perhaps I should explain. It’s all about finding the dead body.

Whenever I’m travelling or otherwise outside of my normal routine, I have a certain writing exercise that I do. I look for the dead body. It’s an exercise in finding story ideas. I think of it like a musician practicing his scales. I imagine dead bodies in the airport, on the train, at black-tie galas and minor-league baseball games. I imagine the dead body and then I write a few sentences to capture the moment.

I’ve found dead bodies in middle-eastern bars on M Street and on the elevator at the Kennedy Center. I’ve found dead bodies floating in Baltimore’s Inner…

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Blog Tour Spot – Day 2 – Jeff Markowitz’s first chapter of Death and Diamonds


Death and Diamonds



The weather was changing, clouds blocking out the stars, wind whipping the surf into a frenzy. As high tide approached, the beach was nearly gone, just a narrow strip of sand between water’s edge and dune grass, the rhythm of the waves pounding at the shore, washing away the evidence. My attention was drawn to the distant lights of a lonely freighter. There was a chill in the air. I hardly noticed. The knife was still warm in my hand.

I looked down the beach. Not ten feet away lay Lorraine, her blouse ripped, an ugly gash just above her left breast, a delicate thread of blood making its way between her breasts and running down along her abdomen. I couldn’t take my eyes off the blood. Something in me stirred. Was it wrong that I saw her, at that moment, perhaps for the first time, achingly lovely?

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In which I try not to jump up and down

We had the launch party ten days ago (thank you to everyone who came out on a rainy night in NYC) and I’ve been celebrating more or less (mostly more) ever since, but yesterday, officially was the release day for Death and White Diamonds. I didn’t make any particular plans for release day, no promotional blitz, no appearances, just a bit of social media whoring (excuse me, that should read, just a bit of social media networking), some nervous checking of my amazon numbers, perhaps a glass of scotch. In other words, a normal day in the life of a writer.

So I was more than pleased to read Walt Giersbach’s review when it posted. Mr. Giersbach described Death and White Diamonds as “a merry-go-round of mayhem”.  He drew parallels to Elmore Leonard and to Peter Sellers.

Oh my… Peter Sellers… Elmore Leonard…

And then, the day got even better.  Death and White Diamonds made amazon’s list of hot new releases. The list is updated hourly, so of course I grabbed a screen shot. In case it was gone next time I looked.

Hot new releaseThis morning it’s still a hot new release.

Oh my…

Tomorrow I’ll be guest blogging. I hope you’ll stop by and visit. You’ll find me at and also at the Gotta Write Network.


Noir at the Bar: Queens

I’m exhausted. I’m not complaining, mind you, just tired. I’ve had three fabulous book events in the last 7 days, celebrating the release of Death and White Diamonds. Last night was Noir at the Bar: Queens, the third and final in-person event before the “official” release on Monday, December 15. jmNoir at the Bar is an opportunity for mystery writers to get together and “read some of their darkest and most disturbing pieces of noir fiction.” I tell myself I don’t write dark and disturbing. The excerpt I read last night started with Richie putting his dead girlfriend’s body parts through a sausage grinder. “In one end of the sausage maker I fed Lorraine parts and from the other end the machine extruded ground Lorraine.” After that, the scene does get a wee bit disturbing. In all, eight of us read last night. I caught up with some old friends and made some new ones.natbI decided not to do an extensive blog book tour when the book releases, but I will be visiting a couple of book bloggers next week. I’ll post the details this week-end.