HALLIE EPHRON: Podcasts are hot, and Nancie Clare is riding the wave. Co-founder of the iPad publication Noir Magazine and former editor-in-chief of LA, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, she’s teamed up with Leslie S. Klinger (everyone’s favorite Sherlockian) to create Speaking of Mysteries podcasts.
And speaking for mystery writers, we’re all eager to be featured.
Nancie, where did this wonderful idea come from, and when did you guys post your first podcast?
NANCIE CLARE: Les and I published our first podcast in April 2014. Robert Crais was our first guest. We figured why not open with a bang!
As for the idea: In 2011 Los Angeles Times Magazine had an iPad app and our April issue, which was always an annual mystery issue that featured people who worked in the genre, went global. I mean it’s not a great revelation that the audience for crime fiction is everywhere, but it was astounding to me to get emails from all over the world from fans of the genre who found the issue at the iTunes store.
After the LA Times shut the magazine down, the former creative director Rip Georges and I did a Kickstarter campaign and raised funds for the tablet publication Noir Magazine. Unfortunately that didn’t go any further than the first issue. But I was determined to continue in the genre. I asked Les to join me in the adventure and, well, here we are, more than a year into it with more than 60 episodes!
HALLIE: What’s been your most exciting “get” in terms of guests?
NANCIE: Every guest is a “get”! But in terms of best selling authors on both sides of the pond, we’ve interviewed Jo Nesbø, Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Alan Furst, Thomas Perry, C.J. Box, Ace Atkins, Sara Paretsky …
HALLIE: Wow. That's some list. Which author surprised you?
NANCIE: Robert Olen Butler knocked my socks off. I had certainly heard of him as a Pulitzer Prize winner for literary fiction, but his three crime fiction books featuring Christopher Marlowe (Kit) Cobb—The Hot Country, The Star of Istanbul and The Empire of Night that take place before America enters World War One—are extraordinary. Otto Penzler read “The One in White,” a short story Bob had written for The Atlantic—which itself was inspired by one of the postcard’s in Bob’s collection—and suggested creating a novel using that voice.
HALLIE: How often do you put up new interviews, and what authors do you have in the pipeline?
NANCIE: I do my best to publish one podcast a week. This month (August 2015) we’ve had an embarrassment of riches.
We just published an interview with former Sports Illustrated staff reporter and editor, Bill Syken, whose Hangman’s Game, his debut mystery is set in the world of the NFL, and we’ll interview Belinda Bauer about Rubbernecker, her remarkable mystery featuring an anatomy student with Asperger’s Syndrome.
We're going to interview Kareem Abdul Jabbar who, along with Anna Waterhouse, wrote Mycroft Holmes. Yes, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is a Sherlockian!
HALLIE: What unavailable author (dead, reclusive…) would you most like to interview, and what would you like to ask?
NANCIE: Alain Robbe-Grillet for The Erasers. I’m not trying to be high-falutin’ by naming a French author, and a writer in the Nouveau Roman (new novel) vein at that, but The Erasers, which was his first published book, is a mind-bending mystery story about a detective who is investigating a murder that hasn’t yet occurred, only to uncover that he is the intended murderer.
HALLIE: Whoa. I'm going to have to read that.
NANCIE: And Patricia Highsmith. I’d ask where did Strangers on a Train and Tom Ripley come from? And considering she was a famous misanthrope, she probably wouldn’t answer. Hell, she probably wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called.
HALLIE: What have you learned about mystery writers?
NANCIE: For a group of writers who toil in an—albeit fictional—world of deceit and death, they are the nicest group of people on the planet.
HALLIE: And could you share tips that you’ve learned about creating engaging podcasts since you started Speaking of Mysteries?
NANCIE: I’m pretty much the ultimate crime fiction fan girl and after three decades in journalism, am a pretty good interviewer, so I figured why not combine the two. But here are the things that I think are important:
1. Always, always read at least one book by the author and certainly the one that’s going to be discussed.
2. Prepare your questions, but be prepared to go off the script. The great thing about interviews is the direction in which they can wander.
3. Have a chat before turning on the recorder. Ask the interviewee if there are any topics that are off limits, or if there are any questions he or she might have for me.
4. Keep in mind that listeners are coming to the podcast to hear who’s being interviewed, not me; that means have great questions that will elicit engaging answers.
5. Edit the interview down to around thirty minutes. Audiences have a limited attention span. Leave them wanting more.
HALLIE: Nancie, you also wrote a gorgeous, lavishly illustrated coffee table book commemorating the 100th anniversary of Beverly Hills, In the Spirit of Beverly Hills. Did you discover anything unexpected about famous crimes that took place there?
NANCIE: First, thank you! It was a fun book to write and I learned a lot about your hometown and it made me sad that I had grown up so close—Sherman Oaks—but oh so far away!
Of course I read about the Johnny Stompanato murder and the Menendez murders. But what piqued my interest was an incident that took place before the vote on the attempted annexation of Beverly Hills by Los Angeles in 1923: a bomb—which was referred to in the press coverage as an “infernal device”—was sent to the office of Al Murphy, the editor of the Beverly Hills News was pro annexation. It exploded, but since it was built of firecrackers, Mr. Murphy only sustained minor burns. The note accompanying the bomb indicated it was sent by someone in the anti-annexation camp—which included such luminaries as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Will Rogers, Rudolph Valentino, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Fred Niblo.
I’d like to find out who sent the bomb. And why.
HALLIE: So everyone, run right over to Speaking of Mysteries podcasts and DOWNLOAD!Today's question: What dead or otherwise unavailable mystery author would you like to hear interviewed and what would you like to know?