Monday, July 31, 2017

The Fabulous Linda Fairstein


I'm thrilled to welcome Linda Fairstein to the blog today!  Not only is she a New York Times bestselling author, Linda is also a champion for women and a pioneer in the prosecution of sex crimes.  The former head of the Sex Crimes Special Victims Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney's office, Linda has been fighting for women's rights long before she created whip smart prosecutor, Alexandra Cooper.

Linda is as generous and fun to talk with as she is smart and talented.  See for yourself!

Ingrid Thoft: Tell us about DEADFALL, your latest Alexandra Cooper book, and I want to assure readers new to the series that they don't have to start with book one.

Linda Fairstein:  Exactly.  Readers can start here even though it’s the 19th in the series.  The last book, I did something I think is pretty radical for a writer in a series.  We usually tie up all the ends and give the reader a neat package, and so, when I turned in KILLER LOOK, the 18th in the series, I had two endings.  I had the ending that is now the next-to-last chapter, and I tacked on this two-page scene because I really wanted to do it. I was quite sure my editor would say, "You can't do this."  But she said, "I like it.  I really like it.  I love leaving the readers hanging that way.  Your regular readers will come back."

IPT: Absolutely. This was a real change in terms of how you work, though.

LF:  So starting this book, as you would guess, was the easiest thing, and it's never easy to start.  I knew I had to pick up just hours later after the shooting in [KILLER LOOK]. When you're looking for that first page, "how do you get the first scene that's going to capture the reader?"  I had it!  It’s going to be in the morgue!  I didn’t know whether it would capture the reader or not—I don’t mean to sound vain about that—but I just knew where I had to start.  That was the unexpected boon to ending the book with a suspenseful killing that Alex witnessed.

She becomes the suspect, in the sense that, did she actually lure the man to the assassination that was triggered? I turned the tables on her for the first time in 19 books and made her a suspect, a person of interest, as they now say.  Those first 100 pages were such a wonderful challenge for me to write because it was taking all the interrogations I've done over the years and putting her in that seat.
Linda was recently interviewed by Lesley Stahl for
 "CBS Sunday Morning." Photo: Linda Fairstein/CBS

IPT:  Animal conservation and international wildlife trafficking are central topics in the book.  Have you always been interested in these subjects?

LF:  I’ve been on the board of a wildlife conservation organization, a nonprofit called the White Oak Conservation Center, and I've been interested in this issue for a long time.  I only recently read about the global connection.  It’s only recently that federal prosecutors began to prosecute [wildlife trafficking] in America. The fact that that the predators use what’s called the “heroin highway” to smuggle was totally new to me.  

IPT:  As a reader and lay person, I was fascinated seeing the local versus the federal law enforcement issues. I knew that there were turf wars and issues about jurisdiction, but I didn't have a true understanding of that.  

LF:  It's interesting to me because with my specialty—sex crimes special victims work—there really were not turf battles.  The feds have no jurisdiction for sex crimes unless they’re on Indian reservations, a military base or in a post office.

IPT:  A post office?

LF:  Yes.  We had a couple of West Point investigations, and they usually called me for help.  Bob Morgenthau was the DA for most of my tenure, and at the most vicious point, Rudy Giuliani—when he was a federal prosecutor, before he was mayor—and Bob fought for global cases like children in a sand box.  As an executive in that office—but not in the middle of those cases—I watched with great wonder as these grown men fought.  They were really federal cases, most of them, but Morgenthau was smart enough that if something happened at a bank with a New York branch connection, to just go for it.

IPT:  One of the main settings in DEADFALL is the Bronx Zoological Park.  I was fascinated that this place exists in what is, technically, New York City.  You thank the park in the acknowledgements and mention it was a frequent childhood destination.

Picture courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization
 that aided Linda in her research.
LF:  I grew up in a very un-fancy suburb called Mount Vernon, New York, a town adjacent to the Bronx, and we were a fifteen-minute car ride to the Bronx Zoo.  Spring and fall, there would always be a mother or father to say, "Let's go to the zoo, and spend a few hours there on a Saturday."  I grew up with incredible access to the zoo and learned so much.

Of course, in those days, the '50s and the early '60s, they were horribly different places; the lion had a space probably the size of my living room, and these caged animals were pacing back and forth, but I’ve watched it evolve.  I’ve probably never—and I say this with a big smile—I’ve never researched anything that was more fun than th

IPT:  Did you do a lot of research into big game hunting?  I had no idea these animals are imported into the country for the purpose of hunting them.

LF:  I did a lot of research.  I knew from White Oak where I was involved, that the man who founded it, Howard Gilman (he’s longer alive), would bring endangered species from Africa to a 7,000 acre preserve [in the U.S.].  He had scientists who did DNA, and the whole point was to repopulate the wild.  They were not animals on display like the zoo.

When Justice Antonin Scalia died, I was fascinated that it was at a private hunting preserve in Texas, where they bring in wild animals, the more endangered animals from Africa, for you to shoot.  The price per night of these lodges—not for him I'm sure—depends on how rare the animal is that you want to kill, which just revolted me.

IPT: I'm with you on that.

LF:  My husband has a place in Montana, and it’s obviously a part of the country where hunting is the culture.  I'm not part of, and Mike’s not a shooter, but it also got me reading.  In fact, just at the time I was writing the book, a huge article, "The Ultimate Pursuit in Hunting: Sheep" by John Branch that I credit in the acknowledgments about the bighorn sheep auction, was in the New York Times.  I really just took a left turn and went to Montana with the story because I knew the landscape.  I had no idea that people would pay half a million dollars to come shoot the sheep, and then, that money is used to “save” other sheep.

IPT: That is just bizarre.

LF: It’s bizarre.  It’s oxymoronic.

IPT:  Moving on to a topic dear to both of our hearts, you dedicated the book to the women who were Carolyn Keene.  I assume you grew up reading Nancy Drew?

LF:  Absolutely.  For me it was the gateway to two things: it was the girl sleuth—woman—but she was really a girl, and it was the series.  I remember so clearly if I were home sick with the measles or it was Christmas, my mother would give me the next one.  It was the gateway for me and to my devotion to try—certainly not imitate her—but it's my homage to Carolyn Keene.  Carolyn Keene really set me on my way.

IPT:  One of the things I always loved about Nancy Drew is that there would be an intruder in the night at the house, and after Nancy foiled this person, Hannah Gruen would always serve angel food cake and hot chocolate.

LF: That’s so perfect.

IPT:  Almost makes an intruder seem worth it!  Speaking of girl sleuths, you have a relatively new series starring Devlin Quick.  That’s a middle grade series?

LF:  Yes, middle grade, not young adult.  It's eight to twelve-year-olds.  It's really a kid thing.  No sex, no violence, no drugs.

IPT:  The first came out last fall, INTO THE LION’S DEN, which was set in the New York Public Library.  When can all the parents and grandparents reading this expect the second installment?  And does it also take place in New York City?

LF:  The second one is called DIGGING FOR TROUBLE, and it's coming out on November 5th.  It’s set here in Montana, which is probably the most dinosaur fossil-rich part of the US because there once was an inland sea through this area.  The kids are on a ranch—much like my husband’s— and go on a dig, and they find bones.  It goes back to the Museum of National History in New York.

IPT:  Okay, Here’s my curve ball question.  I love your author photo; you look knowledgeable, approachable, elegant, in charge, but not rigid.  Author photos are really tough to get right.  Like I said in an email to you, my editor warned me, "No small animals, no hats,” which weren't actually an option.

LF: That was hysterical.

IPT:  So how did you approach your author photo?  Did you have help with it?  How did it come about?

Photo by Katherine Marks
LF:  I'll tell you how it came about it.  What I love about this is nobody has ever asked this question.

IPT:  Really?  Right away, I thought, “This photo is fabulous!”

LF:  Well, as a 70-year-old woman—and this started in my 60s—I have a double chin genetically, and I cringe at all those authors' photos where women of a certain age are holding up their jowls with their elbow on the table.

IPT:  Or with their small dog.

LF:  I really wanted to get away from that.  The New York Times did a story, completely unrelated to the book, for their Real Estate section about apartments and where you live.

IPT: I saw that! "The Case of the Disappearing Chintz." I love the Real Estate section of the Times.

LF:  A women named Katherine Marks was hired by the Times to photograph me in my home.  She spent so much time with me because she was photographing objects, so there's just enough time to loosen up and be comfortable.  Katherine came up with the photograph, and when my editor said, "Okay.  New author photo,"  I said, "Why don't you look at these pictures Katherine took. There are three or four that I'd be perfectly happy using."  And so, that came out of a New York Times’ “show me your apartment feature.”

IPT:  This is a slight detour from talking about books, but I wanted to be sure to tell you that I’m a big fan, not only of you as a writer, but also of your work as a prosecutor, and of the work you do for women.  It’s quite impressive.

LF:  Well, thank you.  I'm always grateful when somebody says something about the first career.  It means the world to me, and the work meant the world to me.

IPT:  Thank you so much for spending the day with Jungle Red!

LF:  The Jungle Red women have always been good to me, and it’s a smart, fun site, so I'm happy to be included.

Today is a giveaway bonanza!  Linda is very generously giving away a copy of DEADFALL, a copy of KILLER LOOK, and a copy of INTO THE LION'S DEN!  Three readers will be winners!  Just comment to enter or ask Linda a question; she'll be checking in throughout the day.


A wild heart beats within New York City. Amid concrete and skyscrapers, the Wildlife Conservation Society works to preserve and protect the animal kingdom both within and beyond the borders of the five boroughs. But dangerous creatures don't always have claws and fangs, as Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace know all too well. Predators lurk close to home, and in the aftermath of the shocking assassination of an iconic public figure—someone Alex has worked with for years—the trio must unravel the motive behind the shooting to discover who is the bigger snake: the killer or the victim.

The murder investigation provides more questions than answers, as a tangled mess of secrets slowly comes to light. From street gangs to secret societies, from big-game hunting to the illegal animal trade, from New York City zoos to the highest offices in city government, Alex has her work cut out for her—especially since the task force handling the investigation, led by the US Attorney, seems to be more against her than with her. As tensions rise between Alex and the feds, she must determine just how far she is willing to go to uncover the truth—and uphold the integrity of the office she has so proudly served.

Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America’s foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I Cannot Resist...


When I walk through the Pike Place Market, I resist the place selling mini cheesecakes, even though the peanut butter version is calling my name.  I resist taking a nap on gray afternoons when I should be working.  I resist binging season three of "Broadchurch" though I desperately want to.  

However, there are some things I can't resist:

Wheat Thins.  Ridiculous, right?  How can I ignore chocolate in my pantry, which I love by the way, but a box of those salty crackers doesn't stand a chance?  I don't buy them because the temptation is too great.

What else is my personal kryptonite?  Baby elephants get me every time.  Really any baby animal will do it or human babies, for that matter.  Adorable videos and pictures are a guaranteed time-waster for me.

The last thing on my list?  Water.  When I see it, I want to go in it.  I particularly can't resist warm, tropical seas, but I have to admit that I even gaze wistfully at cold Puget Sound and wish I could be in its depths.

Anyone share my love of salty wheat crackers?  What's on your list of things you just can't resist?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Bingo

Our visit with the librarians from the Seattle Public Library and a comment on Monday’s blog inspired today’s post.  Earlier this week, Ramona talked about the teacher who insisted that she read books that challenge her.  Good advice, no doubt, but how to actually do that with so many books and so little time?

The Seattle Public Library's Book Bingo card

One solution is to play “Book Bingo.”  The Seattle Public Library offers book bingo every summer, as do other libraries.  You can complete the card and be eligible for a prize drawing, but even just reading one selection out of your comfort zone will stretch your mind a bit.  And as Linda and Andrea reminded us on Thursday, you can always “bother the librarian!” for suggestions!

I reviewed the Book Bingo card and was intrigued by square that said, “published the year one of your parents were born.” Hmmm.  I’d never considered seeking out books published in 1936 and 1939 (sorry, Mum!), but Goodreads has lists of the top books published by year.  It turns out those years were treasure troves for great books.

Papa Hemingway

What does 1936 have to offer?  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C Murders, or The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway.  Should I tackle Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce?  That’s one of the options for 1939, but that might be too much of a challenge!  How about The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck or Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep?

Other squares will be easier to fill.  In the biography and memoir category, Hunger by Roxane Gay is at the top of the list.  I also know what my choice will be in the “author of color” category. I’ve heard amazing things about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  A Separate Peace by John Knowles fits the bill for a book I read in school.

You know what’s going to be tough?  Choosing something for the “genre that is new to you" square.  I don’t generally read science fiction, fantasy, or romance.  I think I’ll have to ask Linda and Andrea for some suggestions!

Our ever-growing TBR piles!

Reds and readers, do you purposely choose books that challenge you?  How would you fill in some of the squares of Book Bingo?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dinner with (imaginary) Friends


There’s a standard list of questions that writers get asked. One of the favorites (it’s in the New York Times’ “By the Book” section every week) is: Which writers would you like to have dinner with—living or deceased? This question elicits interesting responses, but I think an even more interesting question is, which fictional characters would you invite to dinner?

So, who would I like to see around my dinner table? Whose brain would I like to pick? The personalities I’ve chosen are strong, so no doubt, it would be a lively evening!

James Bond (and yes, I expect him to look like Daniel Craig.)

Ian Fleming's super spy is licensed to kill, and he knows how to do everything.  Fly a helicopter?  Check. Disarm a nuclear weapon? Check.  Choose beautiful dresses for his female companions?  Check.  I’d want to hear about his adventures and near-death experiences, and I’d like to breathe in his confidence i.e. arrogance.

Quinn Colson

Full disclosure: I have a crush on the sheriff of Tibbehah County in Mississippi.  I know, I know, he doesn't really exist, but Ace Atkins' creation feels real to me.  The head of law enforcement in an area full of underhanded deals, backstabbing, and tangled family trees, Quinn navigates it all with a quiet strength. And biscuits. I'd like him to bring some biscuits.

Barbara Havers

Yes, she’d turn up looking unkempt, but Elizabeth George’s detective sergeant is whip smart and not afraid to speak her mind.  Often in the shadow of her handsome, nattily dressed boss, Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, Havers holds her own. Time and again, she  proves a critical member of the Met’s investigative team.

What about your dinner party?  Which fictional characters would get an invitation from you?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bother the Librarian!


Let me introduce you to my favorite librarians (after our own Jenn McKinlay, of course), Andrea Gough and Linda Johns.  They are both reader services librarians at The Seattle Public Library, where their jobs involve connecting readers with the right book at the right time.  Doesn't that sound like an amazing job?  They were kind enough to give me the scoop on their days in the stacks.

INGRID: The Seattle Public Library does much more than just provide books to Seattle’s citizens.   Can you tell me a little bit about the library’s patrons and the services they utilize?

The spectacular Central Branch
ANDREA: First, I will just say that I feel lucky to be a librarian in the city of Seattle, where so many people are readers. So we do have a ton of people who use the library to get books (print, digital, audio) and suggestions for what to read next - for themselves, and for their kids. Outside of books and reading, the library is still very much “the people’s university,” a place patrons come to learn new skills or just satisfy their curiosity.

Of course, our computers are still very in demand, by folks who may not have internet access or a computer at home, and we’ve tried to expand that type of service by assembling a collection of WiFi hot spots available for check out. I’m continually amazed at how busy our library branches are - along with the bus, it’s really one of the only spaces left where every part of society mingles. We try to do fun stuff, too - writing classes, bookish happy hours in bars, story times (for children and adults!), occasional concerts, book bingo, and summer learning.

LINDA: I hope people will keep in mind that libraries are the “people’s university.” You can dabble or dive in, keep up on civic discussions through programs, attend an author reading and feel like you’re coming away from it a bit smarter, a bit more enlightened. The same wonder you loved about libraries as a kid still holds true for all ages and stages of your life.
Linda in the stacks

IPT: I always recommend that visitors to the city take time to see the spectacular Central Branch, which was designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus.  What’s it like working in an iconic building?  Are there things you like best?  Least?

LINDA: Going to work in the Central Library in downtown Seattle feels like a privilege - and I truly love it.  It feels a bit like a European museum structure. It’s not for everyone, though, and particularly not for people who haven’t been in a library for years (or decades). Those people tend to cling to nostalgia about libraries, hoping for hushed atmospheres and dark corners. It’s the light that I like best in the Central Library. It’s apparently hard to find bathrooms in our library, though, based on the number of times each day staff get asked!

ANDREA: I love that it brings in people - both tourists and Seattle residents - who haven’t been to a library in years, although Linda’s right that that may clash with their expectations of a library. I love coming to work in this building, in part, because it is a testament to how much the people of Seattle support libraries. The navigation here is tricky, though, which I think can lead to frustration for people who just want to use the resources, not marvel at the architecture.

IPT: What do you wish library patrons knew about librarians?

LINDA: Remember that you can ask a librarian ANYTHING! You can walk into any library, anywhere and ask for a book recommendation, ask for ideas for your book group, or ask how to research a new vacuum cleaner in your budget. When school groups come in, we encourage them to always talk to the librarian. In fact, we often have them shout “Bother the librarian!” in unison. It’s a glorious thing to hear 30 middle-schoolers shout “Bother the librarian,” (although less enchanting when a lone adult does it) and we hope they remember that motto for the rest of their lives. 

ANDREA: Ditto. Also, I always want to know when a patron has read a good book and what they liked about it - come tell me! 
They're well-read and glamorous!

IPT: What would you like to know from readers?

ANDREA: How do you find your books?!? Where are you looking to find new authors and titles to read? Sometimes I feel like I’ve been surrounded by professional readers for so long that I don’t know how other people figure out what to read next.

LINDA: I want to know how readers make their choices, too! And how do they stay on top of things? I’m always mystified and delighted when I go to place a hold on a forthcoming title, feeling like I’ve got insider knowledge from an early review, and then find that 22 readers are already in the hold queue for that book. How did they know? How do you decide what to read when browsing online? Also, if I recommend a book to you, I’d love to hear what you thought. It helps me make a better book match for you in the future.

IPT: How do you figure out what to read next and what to recommend to us next?

LINDA: We look to trade reviews (Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal) for forthcoming titles and to keep up on the pre-publication buzz.  We also pay attention to Library Reads where librarians across the U.S. vote for their favorite new books each month. I feel super lucky to work in a reading culture where there are daily conversations with colleagues about what we’re reading and loving. I’m always eyeing Andrea’s book stacks for my next reads, too.
ANDREA: I’m pretty active on Goodreads, where I keep track of what I’ve read and also get to see what other people I know are reading. I also love NPR’s book coverage, especially their end-of-year Book Concierge; it’s a great discovery tool! I feel lucky to have a community of readers, too, friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers.

IPT: Last question:  Name a book you love recommending to patrons.

ANDREA: Just one?! I frequently recommend the Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) series, beginning with The Cuckoo’s Calling. I feel like the books in that series fire on all cylinders: twisty plots, well-written, and I find the main characters Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott to be so interesting I just want to spend more time with them.

IPT: I love that series!  Great pick!

Andrea with one of her picks.
ANDREA:  In a very different direction, I love suggesting Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. That book and its sequel take a very specific kind of reader, one who is open to weirdness, unconventional methods of detection, and a sometimes unlikable character - but when I find those readers, I get so excited!

LINDA: The Ellie Rush series (starts with Murder on Bamboo Lane) by Naomi Hirahara stars a young L.A. bike cop whose connections to the rich ethnic neighborhoods of Los Angeles and aspirations to be a homicide detective combine into terrific character-driven mysteries. I’m always looking for younger sleuths and it’s a pleasure to recommend this series. 

Thank you so much Andrea and Linda, and now, it's time to "Bother the Librarian!"  They'll be checking in all day to answer your questions!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

House Guests: Yea or Nay?


“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”  - Benjamin Franklin

Summer is the season of visiting out-of-town friends and family and hosting them, especially if you live in a particularly appealing location.  July and August are perfect in Seattle, but for better or worse, we don’t have much room for hosting.

Some people set the hosting bar quite high.  Martha Stewart suggests you provide guests with a manual on how to operate appliances, a baked good for the trip home, and chilled water at their bedside.  She even advocates for a attractive sitting area if space permits!

Arden goes for it!
When we lived in Massachusetts, ten years ago, we didn’t host many overnight guests.  However, we had a pool, and we’re the hosts with the most in the summer months. We routinely welcomed twelve + guests for the day with the goal of feeding and entertaining them, and of course, making sure no one drowned!

It was great fun, but exhausting.  Interestingly enough, I found the clean-up from such days to actually be meditative.  I’d put on some favorite music, and my husband would tackle the outside while I put the kitchen and laundry (lots of beach towels to be washed!) in order.  We’d finish the day worn out, but so happy that we could provide a fun respite to those we love.

Ella and her turtle.
Most of my visits are to family, and although there’s a familiarity there, I try to follow the same rules as I would with a friend: be considerate, take care of a couple meals, strip your bed on your last day, and always write a thank you note. And, as Benjamin Franklin so aptly said, don’t overstay your welcome.  I’ve also found that a box of my favorite chocolates, Harbor Sweets, makes every host happy, and for a truly unique hostess gift, I bring some murder-themed cocktail napkins!

What do you say, Reds and readers?  Do you like to host or visit?  Any pet peeves?

House guests should be regarded as perishables:
Leave them out too long and they go bad.
-Erma Bombeck

Jay Roberts you won yesterday's giveaway!  Send me your address on FB!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Happy Pub Day, Glen Erik Hamilton!


I'm thrilled to welcome Glen Erik Hamilton to Jungle Reds. The third book in his critically acclaimed Van Shaw series, EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND, is out today.  Glen's debut, PAST CRIMES, won the Anthony, Macavity, and Strand Magazine Critics awards for Best First Novel and was also nominated for the Edgar, Barry, and Nero awards.  The follow-up in the series, HARD COLD WINTER, was published to rave reviews in 2016.  Glen is a native of Seattle, but currently resides in LA with his family, where we recently met up at a tiki bar for great conversation and strong zombie cocktails!  I'm so glad he's spending his pub day with us!

INGRID THOFT: Your new release EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND is out today, and it’s fantastic. Can you tell us about it?

GLEN ERIK HAMILTON: Thank you! EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND is the third in the Van Shaw series.  Van was raised by his grandfather, a professional thief, and escaped the criminal life in his late teens to serve in the Army Rangers.  At the start of EDAG (as the publisher and I affectionately call it), Van has been out of the military for a few months.  He’s trying, with some difficulty, to rebuild his life and home after the events of the last book.  An old partner of his grandfather’s approaches Van with the offer of a safe cracking job.  Van would normally refuse any criminal work, but he convinces himself that this score is at least semi-legal and on the side of the angels.  As is often the case in crime thrillers, the job does not go as planned.

I had a lot of fun writing EDAG:  Van is forced to contend with some wild characters, villains at both the apex and bottom rungs of the smuggling world, and no less dangerous for being at either end.  His personal relationships are also rocky.  Van has the bad habit of neglecting his emotional life for his more active one, even when he needs the people around him more than ever. He’s a family guy without a normal family. Part of EDAG is him wrestling with those friendships and those responsibilities. 

IPT: You grew up on a boat, which is a very unique setting in which to live.  Has that experience influenced your writing?

GEH: Tremendously.  Some of those inspirations are easy to spot: I have major characters living aboard and many scenes set on or around the waterways that almost completely surround Seattle. Seattle is also our largest western seaport north of Los Angeles, so the shipping business is a tremendous opportunity for crime stories.

But beyond that, people who live aboard boats make the deliberate choice to be a little removed from mainstream society. There’s an outsider mentality, which includes a distrust, if not outright rejection of the norm (whether that’s a positive or a negative, I leave for the observer).  I have at least some of that outlook, and there’s no question that Van, with his skewed upbringing, does as well.

IPT:  If writing is your dream job, what would your second dream job be?

GEH:  This is a tough one.  I love acting on stage.  Before writing, theater was my primary creative outlet; I have a degree in it and it’s how my wife and I met. I fully intend to continue acting for the fun of it when life allows. I also enjoy reading history, and teaching, and can easily imagine an alternate life path that could have lead me to becoming the world’s foremost expert on post-WWI North African territorial wars, for example, and the impoverished academic career that might result.

IPT: Ha!  I had no idea that you have an interest in post-WWI North African territorial wars!  What are you working on now, and is there a book you’re dying to write? Romance?  Sci-fi?

GEH:  I’m working on a standalone novel, more of a direct thriller than the mystery-thrillers of the Van Shaw series. What I’m most eager to try next, time allowing, are short stories. The interstitial chapters of the Van books show our hero at different ages.  I approach those as if they were independent stories, and I have a lot of fun with the flexibility and the challenge.  Seeing one of my short stories appear in "The Strand" or "Ellery Queen" someday would be a huge milestone.

IPT:  Okay, you know I have to ask: How do you come up with character names?

GEH:  [For the reader:  Ingrid is asking this because one of the major characters in EDAG is also named Ingrid.  She’s a bad bad person.  The character, that is…]

Anytime I hear a name that strikes me as unusual and evocative, I note it down in a running list.  The best names have a particular tone, a musicality.  For example, Ostrander is a town in Washington State. The name always struck me as chilly, removed, and monied. I used Ostrander for the name of a well-heeled attorney and personal fixer for a billionaire in my second book, HARD COLD WINTER.

Van Shaw has a fun genesis – Van is short for Donovan; I wanted he and his grandfather to share the name.  In the Irish way, the granddad is Dono, so the younger Donovan is Van.  Shaw comes from two places: my favorite playwright George Bernard Shaw, and the late actor Robert Shaw, who would have made a wonderful Dono. The name Shaw also has an appropriate music to it, like a sword being unsheathed.

Oh, and the character Ingrid?  “Ingrid Ekby” had a great sound, both Nordic and subtly mechanical. Ekby, by the way, is a shelf unit from IKEA

IPT:  Now it’s Glen’s turn to shoot a question to the readers of Jungle Red!
GEH:  What’s your favorite character name, the one that best sounds like the fictional person’s personality?

I’m going to make this a little harder and say: No Harry Potter characters allowed.  J.K. Rowling is just too good at that game.  Comment, and you'll be entered to win a copy of EDAG!

It sounds like a thief's dream to Van Shaw: A terminally-ill ex-con tells him of a fortune in gold, abandoned and nearly forgotten after the original owner died in prison. To rebuild his destroyed house and to help the dying man leave a legacy for his pre-teen daughter, Van agrees to the job. But the safe holding the fortune is a trap and Van must figure out who the hunters are really after—while being hunted himself.

Glen Erik Hamilton's debut Past Crimes won the Anthony, Macavity, and Strand Magazine Critics awards for Best First Novel, and was also nominated for the Edgar, Barry, and Nero awards. Publishers Weekly and Library Journal gave Past Crimes starred reviews, and Kirkus called the book "an exciting heir to the classic detective novel". The follow-up in the Van Shaw series, Hard Cold Winter, was published to rave reviews in March 2016 by William Morrow (US) and Faber & Faber (UK).
A native of Seattle, Glen grew up aboard a sailboat, finding trouble around the islands and marinas and commercial docks of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in California with his family but frequently returns to his hometown to soak up the rain.


Facebook: @glenerikhamilton
Twitter: @glenerikh

Monday, July 24, 2017

My Favorite Teacher


Pencils and notebooks and binders.  That's what I recently stumbled upon in the "seasonal" aisle of my local Target.  Is it really back-to-school season already?  I imagine it can't come soon enough for some parents, but it was a walk down memory lane for me rather than a not-too-distant goal!  I thought about my school days:  dissecting a fetal pig in science class; pieces of pizza that resembled floor tiles; field hockey drills wearing pinnies; and my favorite teacher.

Her name is Mrs. Harder, and I don't think that it's a coincidence that my favorite teacher was my English teacher.  Kind, thoughtful, and energetic, Mrs. Harder was the highlight of my academic day, and she will always be bonded in my mind with Edith Wharton and Shakespeare.  She fed my love of reading, and she taught how to write, which has clearly served me well.  More than that, in her classroom there were always lively discussions about bigger, more complex issues, which suggested she thought we were up for the challenge of beginning to tackle the adult world.  She taught us about values and integrity and the power we all have to choose the kind of people we want to be.  Grammar, punctuation, imagery, and ethics:  It was all on the agenda in Mrs. Harder's classroom.

These days, she insists I call her Joanne, which I still can't quite get used to, and she's one of my most enthusiastic and loyal fans.  She attends my Boston-area events, and last fall, invited me back to speak to the student body at my alma mater.  I feel enormously grateful that she was my teacher all those years ago, but I'm also thrilled that these days she's my friend.

How about you, Reds?  Who was your favorite teacher?  Were you in touch after your school days?

LUCY BURDETTE: Ingrid, you are so lucky to have your favorite teacher morph to fan and friend! Probably like the rest of you, I adored school and going back to school. I think my fave was Mrs. Covey in fifth grade. She was warm and interesting and made school fun. The details are fuzzy, and here's a story that tells more about me than her. Report cards came out and I had nothing but A's. Except for one B, which must have been given by the gym teacher. But my best friend Lynn had an A in gym. I went sobbing to Mrs. Covey, and she changed it to an A:). 

In high school, we had the most wonderful drama and choral music teachers, Mr. Schneider and Mr. Dorhout. I had very modest (almost minimal) talent in both of those subjects, but I was in love with the community they built and the seriousness with which they taught us and their great good humor and dedication. I still remember the alto harmonies from the choral pieces we sang...such a gift!

HALLIE EPHRON: My favorite teacher was in sixth grade, Barbara Ann Schenkel at El Rodeo school in Beverly Hills. She was lively, interesting, and she encouraged me to think for myself and say what I thought. Maybe it was because of her that I decided to go to Barnard College (she was an alum) and become a teacher. Sadly, by the time I tried to reach out to her (I'd moved to the East coast, was teaching education courses at the college level, had started a family...) it was too late. She'd died of breast cancer.

So my advice to everyone about your favorite teachers, if you want to reach out and tell them so, don't wait.

JENN MCKINLAY: I did not love school. In fact, if it weren't for my English teacher, Mr. Taylor, my science teacher, Mr. Meehan, and my favorite teacher, Mrs. Bodwell, I probably would have cut school a heck of a lot more than I did. Mrs. B was the choir teacher at East Lyme High School in CT, and I was lucky enough to be in choir, select choir, and her specially chosen group of eight for a small ensemble choir, where we were invited to perform as backup singers for a Broadway recording and in a gospel church in New London to name just a few of Mrs. B's field trips. Pretty much any cool gig she could throw us into, she did, and it was awesome. She was an amazingly talented woman who performed as a soprano in operas at the Met, but what I remember most about her was that she always wore four inch heels (she was on the small side of petite), kept her blonde hair in a neat bob, and had the biggest grin when she was conducting us from the podium. The woman was a live wire, and it was contagious!

We recently reconnected through social media. She's retired and living in Vermont, while I am in AZ. She still sings, I do not, but we both have a passion for knitting. We've been sharing our knitting adventures, and it's like rediscovering our friendship all over again. During my turbulent teen years, she was definitely one of the few teachers who saw past my tough exterior to the creativity inside of me, looking for an outlet. She taught me to be poised and confident, to pursue my passion wholeheartedly, and to push through failure and try, try, and try again until I got it right. I owe her so very much.

RHYS BOWEN: Like Jenn I did not adore school! I was very smart, always at the top of my class, but I was at an all girls school, and most of my teachers were close to retirement age--mean-spirited old spinsters who loved to criticize and inflict punishments. In sewing class, the teacher would walk around with a ruler and if our hands moved to the wrong position beside the sewing machine THWACK came the ruler over our knuckles!  I did like my music teacher and was also in the choir. We had a lovely young history teacher, but she got married and left. Great weeping and wailing. I didn't particularly like my sixth form English teacher, Miss Willis, but she helped to make me the writer I am. She challenged. She also mocked, I'm afraid, but she set creative assignments and a friend and I took those challenges, which resulted in my winning the English prize, editing the school magazine and being invited to tea with Arnot Robertson, a famous novelist, when she visited the school.

Oh, but college was a different matter.  I had some wonderful professors, especially for my thesis. She never taught. She would throw out seemingly unrelated questions, and then suddenly light would dawn, and we'd see the connection and go "Oh!". She wanted me to stay on and do my PhD, but I got lured away by the BBC. 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Have you ever heard of a high school where the English teacher created a club, called The Hastings Club, and encouraged all his students to wear black armbands on the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings to mourn the defeat of the Anglo-Saxons by the Normans? I am thrilled to have a chance to once again honor the name of the fabulous Thomas Thornburg. I was just at my high school's 50th reunion, as you know, and every single person there mentioned how much Mr. Thornburg had changed their life. (He probably would have mentioned that my pronouns do not agree in the previous sentence.)

He was hilarious, and, hoping he doesn't read this, so incredibly cute, and brilliant--and I mean brilliant. He let us all love Shakespeare and Spenser and F Scott Fitzgerald and writing and poetry and the power of our own language and imagination. 

He was incredibly tough grading papers. He had a rubber stamp with the word GUG on it, which he would stamp on our papers when something was so indescribably terrible that he couldn't even manage to explain why it was so terrible.

I would not be where I am today (wherever that is) without him, and I have to say that so many people at the reunion said just the same thing.
The good news is he lives in Montana, and his wife and I are Facebook friends, and how cool is that? (I still imagine him looking just like this photo. And that's me and good pal Susan Palmer in the Hastings Club yearbook photo.)
I have used his name as a character in several of my books, just in honor of him...the books would not exist without him, you know?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: School was not a great experience for me once I hit middle-school, although I did have a very good and encouraging English teacher in tenth grade. But in elementary school, my best friend and I had the same teacher in third and sixth grade, Miss Schwann. I can't imagine what either of us would be like today without her. She was a wonderful teacher, kind and demanding and funny. She always let you know she had expectations, and you had better live up to them. She loved reading, and the half hour when she would read aloud to us was the high point at the end of every day. In sixth grade, she read us A WRINKLE IN TIME, and it was such an experience it has stuck with me ever since. I was a good reader before her classes, and a great (and addicted) reader after.

Here's the "Wrinkle" cover from my youth.  It cost $1.25!  

Tell us readers, who were your favorite teachers?  Do you stay in touch with them?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

From English to Emoji.

RHYS BOWEN: Did you overlook an important public holiday this week? It was national Emoji day! I mentioned it on my Facebook page and so many readers came forward to tell me which emojis they love using. Do you use emojis? I really don’t apart from adding a heart to the end of a note to granddaughters. Other than that would feel weird and self-conscious.

I’m not even very good at texting. When people text me they get a coherent sentence in reply. Some long words. How can I reply to my publicist THX CU AM.  But my grandkids generation communicate with each other like this all the time. So I’m wondering: have we come to the end of language as we knew it. Let’s think about it.
We started with grunts and gestures which progressed to words. To sentences: meat good. Go kill more.
Then writing was born from keeping tally of goods in early Babylon. Cuniform. And the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Duck duck maiden sun god meant “Would you like to come to tea on Friday?”
Well, I think we’ve just gone back to that with emojis. Sad face sun trees means “I’m sorry but I can’t join you for the picnic because I’ve got a sunburn.”
With English as the world language it was only a matter of time that it was spelled phonetically any way. Don’t cum thru Ive got a cof.
Where are those lovely long poetic sentences of the Victorian poets. All those impressive words they invented: permambulator  omnibus umbrella

You see the one thing they had that we don’t is time. I’m not talking about those who toiled in factories or trekked Westward. But the educated class had too much time on their hands and no television (another lovely invented word). They were quite content when their books started with twenty pages of description of the roof of the house. They loved sentimental poetry. My great aunt knew by heart endless recitations that she performed with great drama at parties.
Words for them were to be savored, enjoyed, made the most of because they had to fill time.
Now we are always in a rush. Half an hour for lunch? Can’t leave the office.
Can U pu fish for dinr? And add the smiley face to show you are not mad/stressed etc.
Do you use emojis frequently? Do you text? Do you still try to write coherent English?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wait until the Movie Starts!


You wouldn’t think that popcorn could be a divisive issue, but believe me, it can be.  I love to go to the movies, and I love movie popcorn, but over the years, I’ve developed a strict rule about the consumption of said popcorn.  The Ingrid Thoft popcorn rule is that you can’t start eating it until the main attraction begins.  Not when the lights go down.  Not when the previews begin.  Not even when the opening credits come on the screen telling you that Paramount or MGM produced the film.  I wait until the moment the movie starts.

When and why did this rule come about?  I can’t pinpoint when it started, but as long as I can remember, this has been my stance on popcorn at the movies.  The why is a little more obvious:  The movie itself is such a special event that I want its beginning to be heralded, not just by the opening chords of the soundtrack, but also by that first bite of buttery, salty deliciousness.

I know it sounds rather strict, but the good news is that my movie-going companions are not required to follow my rule.  In fact, I have one friend who enjoys placing her bag of popcorn under my nose during the previews in an attempt to lure me to the dark side.  The interesting thing I’ve found, however, is that some people adopt the rule voluntarily and then never go back.  They, too, have experienced the satisfying ritual of true movie popcorn.

What about all of you?  Popcorn or not (my hubby opts for Twizzlers)?  Wait or dig in?