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    Washington DC
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    Novel writing, film, teaching, website production, and trail hiking.

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  1. Illustration: Liby Hays. Courtesy of Hays. Liby Hays’s Geniacs!, a graphic novel out this summer from the art book publisher Landfill Editions, takes place at a hackathon—truly inspired material for slapstick comedy, body horror, and philosophical reflection alike. This tech competition’s goal? Invent a new life-form. “People always think my ideas are dumb … but they’re purposefully so! Their failure is coded within them! It’s like when scientists artificially reanimate the cells of a dead pig’s brain. The brain becomes trapped in an infinite loop reliving the terror of its final moments. But
  2. “Few suspected women of spying, and certainly no one expected a middle-aged knitter to be surreptitiously gather­ing intelligence.” -Elizabeth Bentley, A Most Clever Girl While researching topics for my next novel, I stumbled across Elizabeth Bentley’s name and was gobsmacked that I’d never heard of this American spy who once ran the largest Soviet spy ring in America. Because Bentley was a female NKVD-spy-turned-FBI-informer—a combination America wasn’t quite sure what to do with—she was overshadowed both in life and after her death by Joseph McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers. In fact, Whitt
  3. Gustave Caillebotte, Woman at a Dressing Table, 1873. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons My grandmother collected perfume bottles, a seeming whimsy for a woman of such plainness and ferocity. I have three of them, given to me when she was still alive. They lived in a drawer and then later, in a decorative moment, on the bookshelf, where I have since placed them higher and higher out of reach, as my daughter has attempted to climb up to play with them, a slow-moving game between us, until now they are so high up as to be out of view. I tend not to be sentimental about objects, but I at least
  4. The question we have been asked more than any other in our career as pro podders is ‘why are women so obsessed with true crime?’. And the numbers do stack up, we at RedHanded have been in the criminal fixation game for nearly five years, and we still boast an audience heavily swayed in the female direction. Eighty-two percent swayed, to be exact. So, the question is worth asking, but the truth is, true crime and the commercial consumption of it is nothing new. As far back as 1888, Victorian media moguls cottoned on sharpish to how much faster they could sell their papers if they recounted the
  5. “Are you trying to bust my balls?” The speaker is Inspector Salvo Montalbano, head of the fictional municipality of Vigata, Sicily’s, police department, and in the 28 novels and two short story collections written by Andrea Camilleri and published in Italian and English…someone always is. The criminals, from petty to monstrous, who occupy his frustrating days (and sometimes alarming nightmares); the Mafia thugs who spread their tentacles into every Sicilian institution; the corrupt politicians who march hand in hand with them; the witless press that blindly supports whatever government is i
  6. Matthew Arnold suggested the best method of judging the excellence of literature is the amount of time it has survived. There is no greater proof of this touchstone for a novelist than Graham Greene. His books are still selling, often in terms much greater than newly published books that get intense media coverage. His books are read with enthusiasm and taken seriously. It is surprising that many of his contemporaries, many Noble prize winners included, are simply vanishing into the past, while the books of Greene not only endure but thrive. For the modern novelist, these facts demand attenti
  7. It’s no secret that cozy mysteries often feature cats. They’re the trusty side-kicks, the comic reliefs, the silent partners with noses dewy for crime. Rarely are they the protagonists though. That role is saved for the sleuthy humans with their dual legs, lavender lattes, and marvelous penchants for snooping. Yet, as much as I love these mysteries with their human protags and perspectives, as an animal lover, I always find myself wanting to know more about the cats. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized that when they bathe they’re actually doing laundry, or because during food time they all hav
  8. Graham Crumb, 2011, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. People were drinking wine out of plastic cups. The chairs were pushed close together. Bags were tucked under feet. I sat on the bookshop stage with two other writers, ready to read our ghost stories. Before we began, the moderator asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?” After a pause, we spoke of doubt. Creepy incidents were related. I found myself saying that perhaps the dead might be watching us. I’ve never seen a soul move through the air. I am not sure that we are anything more than a skin-bag of electrical impulses. But ghosts are diff
  9. This essay, much like its subject, is imbued with the desire to wake the dead. Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller’s strange, polychromatic television show about a shy baker whose touch can bring the dead back to life, has been off the air since it was cancelled after its second season in 2009. There have been whispers of revival hopes (both from fans and the cast itself), but still, it remains kind of quiescent in mainstream culture; a series that many loved and seem to remember fondly, but which has not experienced a public afterlife, even despite the increasing notoriety of its lead, Lee Pace. Pe
  10. John Vercher’s debut novel Three-Fifths was nominated for nearly every crime-writing award imaginable after it was published in 2019. Three-Fifths has also been added to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. John’s forthcoming book, After The Lights Go Out (June 2022), is a literary novel that focuses on a mixed-martial arts fighter suffering from dementia. Oh, and John also happens to be a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu himself. But don’t let any of that fool you. John isn’t one of those grind-it-out types of writers. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the tr
  11. I love reading a book with an interesting setting. And because I grew up in the Colorado high country, I’m particularly fond of mountainous settings in the western United States. The rugged terrain can’t be beat for creating natural barriers and challenges for characters to overcome. Authors use settings in many creative ways. Often, those of us who write mysteries in the mountains use setting as a character, specifically as another antagonist that tests our protagonists, providing them with conflicts that force them into action that ultimately shapes them and makes them grow. We throw terri
  12. The flashing blue lights were noticeable the minute I turned the corner onto Park Street. My house was just down the block, and I had been at enough crime scenes as a reporter to understand that this meant the police were there. Midnight, after midnight actually, on a Saturday, was not always quiet in Atlanta. But all was usually serene on the street where I lived. I had just finished anchoring the weekend news at the CBS affiliate in Atlanta. Had I, by chance, come across a breaking news story? As I got closer, I realized the swirling blue lights–– and all the police cars attached to them
  13. On April 12, The Paris Review announced N. Scott Momaday as the recipient of the 2021 Hadada Award, presented each year to a “distinguished member of the writing community who has made a strong and unique contribution to literature.” Over the past few months, the Daily has published a series of short essays devoted to his work. Today, in the final piece of the series, Terry Tempest Williams writes about her decades-long friendship with Momaday, the power of his work, and what can be done to atone for ecological destruction. N. Scott Momaday, Dance Group, 2015. Courtesy of Momaday. The events
  14. Hello again! Here I am with another group of excellent writers: Ivy Pochoda (These Women), Amy Gentry (Bad Habits), Cynthia Pelayo (Children of Chicago), Elisabeth de Mariaffi (The Retreat), and a special appearance by Lisa Taddeo (Animal). Our topic was deliberately broad: women and violence. We talked about that and a whole bushel of related and unrelated topics: horror, Momfluencers, Cottagecore, arrogant women, likeability, the Texas mom cheerleader murder, Medea, bookstagram, ambition and, Ivy’s mic drop revelation about a job she had in proximity to the rich and famous. Don’t steal our i
  15. Hap and Leonard have been with me for so long, I can’t imagine them not existing for real. They seem real to me. Back in the late eighties I wanted to write a novel that would be about crime and suspense, but I wanted to write about the sixties, the generation I grew up in as well. Like the fifties, most representations of the sixties and seventies are silly and have nothing to do with how it really was. By the time I was planning to write SAVAGE SEASON, the world had changed, but the echoes of the past were still there. I decided to write in what was then a contemporary time, and look back o
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