Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Release Day!

Today my novel The Séance Society entered the world. Heard from many friends and supportive acquaintances. Both my kids called me: my daughter from Rome during her backpacking Grand Tour; my son from college in Burlington where he requested we each get ourselves a glass of Octoberfest ale to toast my book over the phone. Then a lovely dinner with my dear wife at a nice restaurant. Plus I finally snagged that final stop in my book tour which I'd been trying to get in place. All good! A long road indeed to this juncture. Now the novel is a reality and the tour awaits. Onwards!  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Reclaiming the blog life here as I ready myself for the release of my novel The Séance Society. My publisher is St. Martin's Press (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne,) and the book leaps into the world this October 1st. It's a traditional whodunit, and, as the title suggests, has some spooky underpinnings. Seeing as it arrives just around the corner from Halloween, I'm hoping for a happy marriage of theme and season. This fall I'll be scurrying about appearing at bookstores (my publicist has been active!) where I'll be offering a twist on the conventional book signing. In addition to waxing poetic about my 300 pages of plucky prose, I'll also be telling ghost stories -- folk tales and true family lore. Coming from a sprawling Irish family, there have been more than a few shuddery anecdotes that I've taken note of. More of that to come. At present, this summer swelter makes the winds of autumn seem far away indeed...


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Man Who Craved Christie

Recently, following a funeral service for my wife’s uncle, I found myself in the basement/library room of the Pennsylvania house that he had shared with his wife, also deceased. While other family members were gathered upstairs, I took a moment to glance over the titles that lined those shelves. Among other things, I discovered a number of paperback mysteries, including a host of Agatha Christies, circa 1960s. While there are, of course, a multitude of Christie editions out in the world, I always find myself gravitating towards those paperbacks that I read as a teen-ager (mostly Dells, Bantams & Pocket Books.) Back then, I logged close to 40 titles and, to this day, I remember every cover. Those editions passed from my hands not long after I hit my twenties, but I’ve periodically acquired versions of them from used book stores. And now, a good number of those very editions were here on Herb and Molly’s shelves! I knew that their daughter would eventually be selling the house, and that she’d be purging, in various ways, its contents. But still, it seemed a little Dickensian to be coveting the effects of a man who’d just been put to rest. You know, like that creepy trio of cockneys in A Christmas Carol who’ve snatched Scrooge’s bed curtains and whatnot. I sure didn’t want to be a creepy cockney. (Whoa now, I’m not saying that all cockneys are creepy, only the curtain-snatching variety.) Anyway, I consulted with my wife, who said it wouldn’t hurt to ask—and it truly didn’t. After hearing of my enthusiasm for those books, Herb’s daughter was more than happy to pass them on to someone who’d appreciate them. So, therein lies the lesson of this little tale: it never hurts to express honest enthusiasm—even at the risk of appearing Dickensian. And when my time comes—a century or so down the line—please feel free to come raid my bookshelves…. 

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Book Deal!

As the next turn on my long, winding road as a writer, I’ve hit a much hoped for milestone: a deal has been struck to publish my mystery novel. Just this afternoon, my agent reached an agreement with a major publisher – St. Martin’s Press – for a two book contract. The first manuscript is in the editor’s hands; the second is to come. (These novels will feature my detective team of O’Nelligan and Plunkett whom I’ve grown quite fond of after having written and published three of their shorter tales already.) This all came to pass in a rather intriguing way. Last November, I was attending the mystery writer’s conference Crime Bake in Massachusetts. I was there as a panelist, but also as one of many writers trying to find representation for his manuscript. I pitched to a couple of literary agents there, who, in the end, chose not to take on the project. However, one night I ended up by chance dining next to Susan Gleason, an agent who I had not pitched to. Between the entrée and dessert, she told me that if I had something I wanted her to look over, I should feel free to contact her. I accepted her card and filed it in my breast pocket. Jump ahead to a year later, almost to the day. I’m driving down to this year’s Crime Bake, when I get a call from Susan (who by now has become my agent) to say that St. Martin’s has made an offer on the book. Ah yes! The whole cycle of this story begins and ends with Crime Bake – for which I tender an immense shout out. So that, my friends, is today’s tale…

 become a travel writer

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Myth in the Forest

Like Odysseus returning to Ithaca after his eponymous adventure, I come back to this my blog after a bout of worldly activity and cyber absence. (A grandiose comparison, I know.) The center of my autumn doings was the Forest of Mystery, a large-scale outdoor theatrical event which I write and direct. With a cast of thirty and many support folk, it’s quite the production and became the center of my creative world for the fall months. This year, I wrote the script based on the old Irish myth of Sive (Irish spelling: Saidbhin) which I came upon in a roundabout way. Wearing another of my hats, I write traditional whodunits set in the 1950s, my detective being Mr. O’Nelligan, an Irish immigrant originally from County Kerry where my mother’s parents were born. This summer, while preparing for my next story, I was doing some research on Cahirciveen, my grandmother's hometown. I discovered that Cahirciveen translates as Cathair Saidbhín, meaning "little Sive's stone fort" derived from the old Celtic legend of Sive, a maiden turned into a deer through dark sorcery. I located the myth, read it, and had an aha! moment when I realized that here could well be this year's Forest of Mystery tale. Using the basic structure of the legend, I added a few other traditional Irish folk characters and expanded on the idea of a human emerged in a world of meadow and woodland. As the production came together, some of my actors provided various items that come from Ireland itself--here a shawl, there a walking stick, here a tapestry--which found their way into the performance. So, there was indeed a bit of the old country out there in the forest those nights. The shows went grandly and I was much content to have reached back to my Irish roots for an ancient tale. As for Mr. O’Nelligan, he’ll be seeing the light o’ day himself again in December in the upcoming issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. So, all told, it’s been a rather Celtic season for me. All to the good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Goaded by Pogues

My agent has just started to sail my mystery novel (The Spiritualists) out upon the wild blue waves of the publishing world. Here's hoping it finds a friendly port. I'm working now on the second novel of the series featuring my Irish-born detective, Mr. O'Nelligan. After a spell of slow-going, I've finally picked up some speed and seem to be in gear. Today while driving, I was listening to the gentle liltings of the Pogues. (For those not in the know, they're a raucous, stage-shaking punk/traditionalist Irish band who've been plying their wares for three decades.) The song I was listening to was "Down All The Days," a tribute to the late Dublin author Christy Brown--whom many know through the biographical 1989 film "My Left Foot." Born with severe cerebral palsy, Brown taught himself to write (and paint) with the only means available to him: the aforementioned foot. As I listened to the Pogues hard-driving ballad, I thought "Hell, if that guy had to type novels with his toes, what's my blanking excuse?" After all, in the light of Christy Brown's Herculean challenge, "My Two Perfectly-Functioning Hands" would make for a lacklustre book title. Thus goaded, I'm back at the keyboard...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Do Love Thee, Doctor Fell

In getting primed for writing my next mystery tale, I’ve been reading some of the old masters. One novelist who has somewhat fallen from modern view is John Dickson Carr. I’m finishing up Hag’s Nook, the first of his Dr. Fell mysteries. Gideon Fell—a lexicographer by trade—is a rather bulky fellow, bespeckled and mustached, who wears a cape and gets about with the aid of two canes. In some of the novels, he’s compared to Father Christmas or Old King Cole. When not plying his sleuthing skills, the good doctor is busy writing a seemingly endless book on the lore and history of British beer-drinking. Hey, what’s not to like about this guy? John Dickson Carr (who also wrote under the pseudonym Carter Dickson) has earned the reputation as master of the locked room mystery. Additionally, his books often have a gothic, ghostly undercurrent that appeals to my own shadowy Irish heart. Hag’s Nook concerns a crumbling, ancient prison tower, an impossible death, and a creaky old family curse. Again, what’s not to like?