Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Nancie Clare and Speaking of Mysteries podcasts

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?

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?


  1. This is so interesting --- now I need to go check out podcasts.

    As for interviewing unavailable mystery authors, there are lots of interesting choices, but I think I'd like to hear Agatha Christie interviewed . . . .

  2. Just found a BBC interview w/Dame Agatha in '55 - Fascinating sort of... she claims to have had little education and less method. Thinking and worrying, that's the thing. "3 months seems to be quite a reasonable amount of time to write a book." HA HA HA

    Have a listen: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialAgathaChristie/posts/141608252671132

  3. Love to hear Agatha! (And yes, Hallie, ha ha ha)
    Or Daphne DuMaurier. Or Shakespeare--Nancie could ask: was it really you?
    Arthur Conan Doyle-why am I thinking there was something unpleasant about him? Maybe that was a movie.

    Hey Nancie! Love your interviewing tips. You can always tell when someone has a list of questions, and they're just going to plow through them, no matter what. "Uh-huh," they respond to each answer. Next question. SUch a waste of possibilities!

    On the other hand, Larry King used to say he'd never prepare, because he wanted to be spontaneous.

    So, like you, I'm middle-ground. Prepared, but flexible. Thank you!

  4. Great interview tips and ones I will be thinking about as I "prepare" for moderating my panel at Bouchercon. Of course, it's always a juggling experience when you have multiple authors on the same panel.

    Like everyone, I'd love to hear Agatha interviewed, but I especially would love to hear her discuss how here work has been appreciated and adapted in the modern age. This of course, would require her to have time to experience all of that before the interview. ;)

    As for harder to get interviewees: Probably the top of that list is Donna Tartt, with Tana French not far down the line.

    Off to check out the wonderful sounding podcast.

  5. Nancie, I agree that mystery writers are some of the nicest people I've every met (for those who deal in death, at least fictionally).

    I think I'd also like to hear Agatha Christie. And Arthur Conan Doyle - who would get his approval for the best portrayal of Sherlock?

    And who knew Kareem Abdul Jabbar was a Sherlockian?

  6. And guess what else is out on the Internet - a 1930 interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - talking about how he came to write the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and his psychic experiences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWjgt9PzYEM

  7. This is such a fascinating discussion, Nancie and Hallie! Thanks for letting us in on it. I will soon be addicted to your podcasts. I just know it.

  8. Welcome, Nancie! I'm now off to download podcasts.... : )

  9. Listing who I'd like to interview was a fascinating question. Yes, it would have been wonderful to query writers such as Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, but I'd also want to add Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald and his wife Margaret Millar. I'd specifically ask Ms. Millar how she really felt about her husband's voluminous correspondence with Eudora Welty. A book of those letters has just been published, co-edited by the fabulous Tom Nolan.

  10. Hi Nancie! Downloading podcasts now. And sending link to my brother in New Caledonia, who loves podcasts!

    I've been thinking for half an hour on the dead mystery writer interview...I think I'd go with Dorothy Sayers, although I don't necessarily think she'd be easy. And you would certainly have to be prepared!

  11. Sounds like a fun podcast that would make my TBR pile topple over on me. Just reading this interview left me with several new books I want to read.

    I'd love to hear an interview with Dorothy Gilman to learn more about the creation of Mrs. Pollifax and how the character and series evolved over the years. I can sort of see it as I read the books, but it would still be fascinating for this fan.

  12. Dorothy Gilman - what an interesting choice, Mark Baker.
    And I agree, Debs, Dorothy Sayers would be fascinating though she lost her mojo when she turned so religious. Such a shame because I could have gobbled up a lot more books.

  13. Nancie, that's fascinating about Ross MacDonald.

    Wish I'd had a chance to talk to Ed McBain/Evan Hunter. And Wilkie Collins. And Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  14. Thanks Nancie and Hallie, for the podcasts and the Arthur Conan Doyle you tube interview. I'd also have liked to hear Ed McBain/Evan Hunter. Also, must add my 2nd-grade teacher, Dolores Hitchens, to the list. She used to allow me to help prepare before classes and listened to "Secret Agent Man" play on the record player.


  15. Oh yes, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What a great choice, Hallie. I keep saying I am going to go back and re-read that mystery novel of hers that was found 15 years ago or so. I remember enjoying it, but don't remember enough to know why.

  16. Hi Nancie: It was great meeting you at Book Passage and I look forward to doing a podcast with you. I'd really have liked a podcast with Shakespeare. As an actor I expect he would have been as quick and witty as his plays. And if he was tongue-tied and lost for words, then I'd suspect he didn't write them!

  17. I seem to be in step with others here who would enjoy a sit-down with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and/or Dame Agatha Christie. I'd like to talk with Sir Arthur about his spiritualism as well as Sherlock. Julian Barnes wrote a fascinating book, Arthur and George, based on Doyle's defense of a wrongly accused man, and in that book, Doyle's spiritualism comes into play. So, that case in which he got involved would be an interesting topic. With Agatha Christie, I would want to discover just how independent a woman she thought herself, and I might inquire about her surfing days. Thanks, Hallie, for the Dame Agatha and Sir Arthur interview links. Oh, Hank, you mentioned Daphne du Maurier, and I'd love to talk with her, too.

    Josephine Tey is one not mentioned yet. I'd like to tell her how much I loved Daughter of Time and ask how she came to be interested in Richard III and his innocence of the twins in the tower murder. The book certainly made a believer out of me. I'd also like to talk to Ariana Franklin (pen name for Diana Norman, British author), who wrote, among other books, the Adelia Agular series of four books about a woman physician trained in forensics in Salerno, Italy and secretly working for King Henry II in 12th century England, solving murders of some importance. Ms. Norman died in 2011 while still in the thick of this series. I'd like to ask her what else she had intended to do with it.

    Nancie, what a great job you have, and that you made it happen is truly inspiring. I can't wait to start listening to these podcasts. And, I wholeheartedly agree that mystery/crime writers are the nicest people. They are so accessible to their fans and generous with their time. Now, off to look up the podcasts.

  18. Rhys, thank you! I agree about Shakespeare, although I would be way too intimidated.
    As for the podcast, I can't wait to talk to you as well!

  19. Kathy, you reminded me, I raed that book by Julian Barnes. And reminded me of someone ELSE I"d like to talk to... someone Doyle tried to talk to but couldn't reach after death, Houdini. He deserves a place in the mystery pantheon as the great debunker.

  20. Hi Nancie, so lovely to have you visiting today. I LOVE your points for interviewers--anyone who moderates a panel at one of our mystery conventions should keep them in mind.

    Yes on AC--I wonder how surprised she'd be at the explosion of cozy mysteries?

    And I'd love to hear you talk with John D. MacDonald--just to hear what he was like as a person...