Friday, 20 October 2017

If you like humorous mystery, you'll LOVE Anne R. Allen!

Janet Evanvich, Lisa Lutz, Jana DeLeon - I've been compared to all of them.
But have you met Anne R. Allen?  Her breezy humorous mysteries add another dimension I love - they're sophisticated!  Check out the latest below, and then page down for an interview with one of my favourite writers.  Seriously, Camilla rocks!

The Queen of Staves 

The Camilla Randall Mysteries are a laugh-out-loud mashup of romantic comedy, crime fiction, and satire: Dorothy Parker meets Dorothy L. Sayers. Downwardly mobile bookstore owner and etiquette expert Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong. But she always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Music blogger Ronzo never dreamed that giving an unfavorable online review to the Leftenant Froggenhall band would destroy his life. But he can only escape the band's gruesome persecution and threats to his loved ones by faking his own death and living as a homeless dumpster-diver.

He's forced to hide his blossoming relationship with bookstore owner Camilla Randall to keep her safe from the band's vengeful clutches. Not easy when they're together every day, as Ronzo's unexpected tarot-reading skills keep Camilla's failing Morro Bay shop afloat.

When a mysterious Irish poet shows up dead on a tarot client's beach, it's up to secret lovers Camilla and Ronzo—and the tarot cards—to find the killer. Hopefully before the homicidal Froggenhalls arrive in Morro Bay.  Luckily Buckingham the cat is on the case, ready to fight the bad guys, tooth and claw.

And TheQueen of Staves will be on a 99c Countdown sale in the US and UK beginning tomorrow, October 21, through Wednesday, the 25th


And now - the interview....

Normally, I'd serve coffee when I have a guest on here.  But with Anne, I'm getting out a bottle of Bolly.  (And if you don't know that reference, you probably aren't a regular reader here!)

1.     What style of mystery novel is your favorite (police procedural, cozy, etc.)?

I usually prefer private eye or amateur sleuth mysteries to police procedurals, although I enjoy Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley mysteries.

I especially like Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie detective stories. And I'm a big fan of Lisa Lutz's comic Spellman series. Both of those are PI mysteries, but there's a whole lot of other stuff going on. Lisa Lutz is hilarious.

Oh, and then there's a Canadian author named Melodie Campbell…

I'm kind of over the "blueberry muffin cozies" that are so popular now. They're awfully same-y. Ditto the Girl with the Tattoo Gone on the Train ones. I read several and enjoyed the novelty, but now the unreliable narrator thing has sort of passed its sell-by date for me.

When I really need to relax, I often reread the classic English mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham and of course Agatha Christie. 

I've never been a fan of the really violent stuff, especially if there's a serial killer. So many procedurals these days involve sadistic serial killers. I'm more interested in the "why" of a murder story than the gory bits. Besides, with sadistic serial killers, the motive is always that they're evil. Evil is boring.

Give me a sweet little old lady who's doing in all her friends in the garden club any day.

2.     When you start a new mystery, do you plot it all out from the start (all the clues and red herrings) or does the story evolve as you write it?

I start with a general outline and a pretty clear idea of the ending. With several of my novels, I wrote the last scene first. (Of course the scene changed a lot after I'd actually written the books.)

But the outline usually goes out the window and I often surprise myself and discover the murderer wasn't the person I thought it was going to be. Yes, I do a lot of rewriting.

3.     What are you working on now?

I'm finishing up a book on "Easy Blogging for Busy Authors," but I'm dying to get to the next Camilla mystery. I have a title: Googling Old Boyfriends, and a general idea of the plot and characters. I've got a couple of chapters written, but I haven't had time to really work on it.

4.     What’s the most interesting or unusual research you’ve done for a book you’re writing?
I started researching poisons for So Much for Buckingham, and I got totally caught up in reading about poisonous plants. I found the subject so fascinating I started blogging about poisons. I call the series Poisoning People for Fun and Profit. 

The series has been going for almost two years now and I've covered thirty poisons. I plan to turn it into a book when I'm done.

5.     Do you have a favorite character from your books?

The character I identify with most is Plantagenet Smith, the gay screenwriter who once won an Oscar but now "can't get arrested" in Hollywood. He's Camilla's sensible best friend who tries to keep her on an even keel, but he always seems to get blamed for things that aren't his fault.

I'm also fond of all of Camilla's Mr. Wrong boyfriends. The most fun one is Peter Sherwood, who is a charming British career criminal who often fakes his own death to get out of scrapes. He shows up in Camilla's life at odd moments, mostly to cause chaos, but sometimes to play the hero.

But my absolute favorite character is Marva/Marvin, the cross-dressing dominatrix known as Mistress Nightshade. Marvin is an Iraq war veteran who likes cross-dressing, but has decided he's not trans. He just likes keeping his options open.  He's a major fan of Martha Stewart, and also of Camilla's alter ego, the Manners Doctor. He loves to impersonate them both.

6.  Where do you get your ideas for the mysteries in your books?

Mostly they come from my own life, and sometimes from the news. Some incident in my life usually sparks a story. Often somebody I want to kill. I figure it's best I do it in fiction.  
So Much for Buckingham came from my real-life experiences being harassed and threatened by the notorious Goodreads bullies. I even used the texts of real rape and death threats they sent and posted to Goodreads. (Which they later denied.) 

Ghostwriters in the Sky was inspired by a workshop at a prestigious writer's conference, where the leader lorded it over young writers eager for critiques, often humiliating them horribly. I had fun killing him off.

Sherwood Ltd. was based on my adventures at the UK publishing company that published my first two novels, and the opening scene of The Queen of Staves came from an incident that happened to me when I was working in a bookstore in Morro Bay.

No Place Like Home was inspired by a story I heard on NPR about a New York magazine editor who lost everything to Bernie Madoff, and The Best Revenge was inspired by a nasty interview I read in the NYT where the interviewer was snarky and mean to a clueless young debutante.

More about Anne:

Anne R. Allen is the author of 12 published and forthcoming books, including the hilarious Camilla Randall Mysteries. Anne has an award-winning blog, cleverly named Anne R. Allen's Blog, which she shares with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Do Old Mobsters Ever Really Retire? Not in the Hammer!

I often get asked if the comedy in my books is anything like the comedy I post here.

So here's one of my favourite scenes from THE GODDAUGHTER CAPER.  I often read this one at events.  It answers the question:  Do old mobsters ever really retire?

(Background: Gina has inherited a chest full of cash and bonds from her great-uncle Seb, who was in the mob.  But when the chest arrives at her store, it has a dead body in it!  This scene is two chapters later.)

Still had time to kill. I picked up the magazine that was on top of the pile. Had to smile at the name on the cover.
Association of Retired Seniors…ARS for short.

I paged through it.  One ad in particular caught my interest. This was because someone had taken a black felt pen and circled it. It read:

Fly By Night Funerals
Need Help? Short on cash?
From Rigor to Removal,
we do the whole thing.
Discreet Burials
Plenty of satisfied customers.
Call 555-PLANTUM

I felt the blood leave my face. I recognized that phone number. It was the number
I had used that morning to reach Jimmy in the retirement home.  Crap!

I quickly speed-dialed Sammy, my uncle Vince’s underboss. It immediately went to voice mail.  I said a very bad word.

“Sammy, call me back as soon as you can,” I hissed into the phone.

I sat for a moment listening to my heart pound. But I’m really not good at sitting and doing nothing. So I phoned the number in the ad. Again, it went to voice mail. A shaky elderly voice addressed me.

You have reached Fly By Night Funerals…
You plug ’em, we plant ’em. Please leave a number,
and we will return your call as soon as possible.

The machine beeped at me. I clicked off without leaving a message.

I stared at the phone in my hand. Almost immediately it binged to signal a new call.

“What’s up?” said Sammy.

“Fly by Night Funerals. Spill it,” I said, keeping my voice low.

 “Oh, that,” said Sammy. “Yeah, I figured there was a mix-up. The box with the body in it that got delivered to your place was supposed to go to the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home.”

“The retirement home? Like they need more dead bodies? They don’t create
enough of their own?” This was just loony.

“Easy, sugar. It’s simply a small business we’re supporting. Old Jimmy is the manager.”

I got this cold feeling. “The manager of what small business?”

“A funeral business. Nothing to get excited about. They just run it from the
retirement home so there aren’t that many questions.”

Questions? I had a few questions. But before I could ask them, Sammy said,
“Nobody notices a few extra bodies leaving a retirement home. Get it?”

I was starting to get it. I remembered the answering machine message. You plug ’em—we plant ’em.

“They’re running a business burying people who get murdered?” I said.

“We don’t off them ourselves, sweetheart,” said Sammy. “That’s the joy of it.
We just do the cleanup. We’re actually providing a much-needed service. Or, at
least, they are. I’m only a consultant.”

“Old Jimmy? And Magda? And my great aunt Rita?” I couldn’t believe it. Those
sweet, elderly folk? Okay, maybe they had checkered pasts, but…

Sammy went on. “The key to good business management is to provide a service
that’s got a demand for it. Jimmy nailed it. People are distressed when they have a body hanging around. They pay well. So the Last Chance Club…they got more business than they can handle.”

“But why? I said.  “Why would they do this?”

Sammy’s voice perked up.  “Oh.  Well, that’s easy.  Those old folks at the retirement home - they want to go on a bus trip to Vegas.  You know.  Hit the tables, see the shows.  It costs big bucks to rent a bus to go that distance.  Not to mention hotel rooms and all those buffets. And they need supervision.”

No argument there from me.  “Isn’t this sort of illegal?” I said.

“Embalming and burying isn’t illegal. And Freddie was a licensed funeral worker
guy, although I don’t know that he’s kept up his license. Tends to forget things, what with the dementia.”

“Dementia?” I squeaked.

 “Yeah,” Sammy said. “Once he forgot to dress a guy after the embalming. You wouldn’t believe what a little extra fluid can do to some parts. We don’t do open casket anymore.”

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