Storyknife at Anchorage Rotary

Originally posted on Storyknife Writers Retreat:

[My remarks at Anchorage Rotary yesterday, as follows, and my thanks to Jon Deisher for making it happen.]

I have to start with a story, because you know that’s what I do. A guy walks into a bookstore, the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona. He tells the owner, Barbara Peters, that he left his book on the plane, and it was really good and he wants to finish it. Great, she says, thinking instant sale, what was the title? He can’t remember. Who was the author? He can’t remember that either. What was the story about? Well, it was a mystery. Finally she says to him, can you remember anything at all about this book that you loved and can’t wait to finish? Well, the cover was red.

This is my job. I’m the one who wrote the book the only distinctive thing about which this guy can…

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A triumvirate that would set any British statesman’s hair on fire.

Jack of SpiesJack of Spies by David Downing

It’s 1915, they’re shifting from butter to guns in Europe, and British espionage is as yet only a twinkle in the British Navy’s eye. They contract hire their spies, as in Jack McColl, a car salesman currently in the German-occupied part of China (a place I never knew existed until now).
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Sunset behind Mt. Douglas.

Knives are pulled, shots are fired, people die and governments sell out.

Night HeronNight Heron by Adam Brookes

A man named Peanut escapes from prison in western China, where he has been incarcerated since 1989, and makes his way to present-day Beijing. There, he gets in touch with British journalist Philip Mangan, whom he mistakes for the heir to his previous contact. Mangan, who isn’t a spy, yet, is perfectly appalled, at first. When he passes the Peanut info on to someone he knows at the British Embassy, the scene shifts to London and SIS, where case officer Trish Patterson runs it up the food chain and discovers that Peanut may in fact be a Chinese asset who mysteriously disappeared over twenty years before and who is now the potential producer of vital information on current Chinese MIRV ballistic missile capability. In spite of himself Mangan, succumbing to the temptation to become part of the story instead of just reporting it, slips and slides into the shadow world of international espionage. It proves just as dangerous and as deadly to those around him, lovers, friends and strangers alike, as he at first suspected it would be.

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Before the Poison

An instant Golden Age classic crime novel.

Before the PoisonBefore The Poison
by Peter Robinson

In England in 1953 Grace Fox is hung for poisoning her husband. In 2010 Hollywood composer Chris Lowndes returns to his Yorkshire birthplace and buys a house in Swaledale which once belonged to Grace, and becomes obsessed with finding out if Grace was guilty or innocent of the crime.

Before the Poison reads like an instant Golden Age classic crime novel, an unhurried, deliberate unraveling of a mystery paralleled by a long, slow reveal of the narrator’s own motivation, told with a ratcheting up of tension that I found excruciatingly delicious. It is so well plotted, and the two narratives dovetail at the end so naturally, without a hint of contrivance. The scenes of Grace in World War II are devastatingly real. I wrote to Peter Robinson when I finished the book and he wrote back… Continue reading