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Now Entering River Heights

January 18, 2013 in Fiction, Mystery Writers, Travel, YA Fiction, Young Adult Literature

“Half an hour later she turned into the beautiful country road which wound in and out along the Muskoka River”  –  The Secret of the Old Clock

Some of the literary journeys I wish I could take would be impossible to pull off. Not because of time constraints or travel expenses, but because the destinations simply don’t exist. At least not in reality. But as literary travelers, that has never stopped us.

As a child I spent countless hours traveling around the country without leaving my porch swing. Now, as an adult, I miss those nostalgic literary adventures.  So recently I decided to pay homage to the books that sparked my love of literature. Join me as I set out on this bookish “staycation”–no need to bring a sweater, what you’re wearing will be fine.  The weather in Sweet Valley, California, is lovely this time of year.  Accommodations in Silver City may be a little pricey, but I hear there’s a boxcar that is quite comfortable.  And if you have children, not to worry, there are plenty experienced babysitters in Stoneybrook, Connecticut.  Of all the stops on this road trip through fictional America, however, no destination holds the same allure as River Heights, Ohio…or Illinois…or, err, New Jersey.  Unfortunately, its exact location remains a mystery –which hurts tourism, wouldn’t you say?.  Good thing it’s the home of one of the finest fictional detectives ever…Nancy Drew!

Welcome to River Heights.  Established in 1930 with the publication of the first of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, the town is itself an enigma. Many an amateur detective has taken a page from the area’s most famous resident and done a little sleuthing into its geography. While most argue that it’s somewhere in the Midwest, others claim the town has moved east in recent years.  Some hypothesize that it depends on which ghostwriter inhabiting the infamous Carolyn Keene wrote the particular text.

The original Nancy Drew books often read like compelling travel guides to River Heights and its surrounding areas. Amidst the pursuit of unscrupulous characters, Nancy and her friends are whisked away to various country estates and charming inns where there is always time for a well-prepared luncheon.  For a quaint little town, the crime rate is quite high, but I’m sure the River Height Chamber of Commerce makes it a point to highlight the area’s positive attributes in their hardback yellow-spined travel guides.

Looking for things to do while you are in town?  A scenic drive down Larkspur Lane in a little blue roadster can make for a lovely afternoon.  At one time the home of nefarious schemers, it is now known for its flourishing horticulture.  Don’t mind the electric fence surrounding that old rustic estate, it’s most likely deactivated now.  Bring a picnic, if you dare.

For a romantic weekend with the Ned Nickerson of your life, book a getaway at the Lilac Inn.  Make use of the in-room safe and store your valuables out of sight from lurking jewel thieves. Don’t mind the ghostly apparitions that appear sporadically on the ground, they add to the property’s historic charm, don’t you think?

While you are in town, make sure to stop in at Red Gate Farm.  The cider is top notch, but don’t feed the animals.  And if you venture off the property and run into any lingering members of the Black Snake Colony, don’t drink the Kool-Aid.  Word is that they may be in the counterfeit business as well.  I knew I shouldn’t have made change for that twenty.

River Heights thrived in the 1960s and 1970s (when most of the original 56 texts were written or rewritten).  It was a simpler time, when an afternoon ride down a winding country road in Nancy’s convertible would be followed up with a light lunch at one of the town’s tearooms. Yet the landscape of River Heights has changed throughout the years; criminals using intricate webs of carrier pigeons upgraded to landlines and eventually, in the latest YA volumes, the internet.

After every literary adventure, as I return to reality always slightly jet lagged from the trip, I am sad to leave the intangible world, but I remember that I can return anytime. River Heights may be impossible to place on a globe–my GPS may never calculate its route–but as Herman Melville states in Moby Dick, “it is not down in any map; true places never are.”


If you are looking to travel by the book, indulge in a little girl sleuth nostalgia by participating in one of the annual Nancy Drew conventions.  Much like River Heights, they change location every year.  Each event takes its theme from two geographically appropriate titles – one from the original fifty-six and one from the later paperbacks.  This spring journey to Boston and join other Drew devotees as they immerse themselves in the settings that provide the backdrop to The Secret of the Wooden Lady and The Case of the Vanishing Veil.



The 2012 Edgar Awards

February 9, 2012 in Mystery Writers, Publishing and Writing Prizes, The Edgars, Uncategorized

There are a lot of specialized awards within the book publishing industry.  For Sci-Fi, there are the Hugos, the Philip K. Dick Award, and about a dozen others. For cooking, the James Beard Award is well known. For Children’s, you’ve got the Caldecott Medals; for Horror, the Bram Stokers. And the Edgar Award, along with the Agatha and Macavity Awards, is one of the best known and most prestigious awards given to mystery writers. Named after Edgar Allan Poe, the Edgars are given by the Mystery Writers of America, honoring the best in mystery fiction, TV, and nonfiction published or produced each year.

Former winners include some of the most well-known names in the genre, including Raymond Chandler,  Dick Francis, Agatha Christie,  Truman Capote, Vincent Bugliosi, and Michael Crichton.

2011’s winners will be announced at the Mystery Writers of America’s 66th Gala Banquet on April 26, 2012 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. In a separate event, Mystery Writers of America will also hold a symposium, featuring presentations by current and past winners and nominees on a variety of relevant topics. Past subjects have included “How to Write a Novel,” and “Getting Here From There,” a presentation on some of the books that inspired certain authors to become writers. If you’re interested in attending, keep an eye out for more information on the website, which will continue to be added in the coming months.

Although we won’t find out who comes out on top until April, the nominees were announced just last week. Check out the following (abridged) list to see if your favorite mystery book of the past year appears!

The Ranger by Ace Atkins
Gone by Mo Hayder
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
1222 by Anne Holt
Field Gray by Philip Kerr

Red on Red by Edward Conlon
Last to Fold by David Duffy
All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen
Bent Road by Lori Roy
Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder

The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Faces of Angels by Lucretia Grindle
The Dog Sox by Russell Hill
Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley
Vienna Twilight by Frank Tallis

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
–  The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge by T.J. English
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender by Steve Miller
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal

The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time by Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer, and John-Henri Holmberg
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making by John Curran
On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda
– Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film by Philippa Gates
Scripting Hitchcock: Psycho, The Birds and Marnie by Walter Raubicheck and Walter Srebnick

– Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger
– It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett
– Vanished by Sheela Chari
– Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
– The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey

– Shelter by Harlan Coben
– The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
– The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
– The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
– Kill You Last by Todd Strasser.

For a more complete list of the nominees, including the nominees of stage, short fiction, and film, and further details on the books and authors listed here, check out the Edgars’ website here.


Scott Turow Mystery Suspense Novelist & Working Lawyer

April 12, 2011 in American literature, Mystery Writers, Pop Culture

Scott Turow

When you become a best-selling author who has sold more than 25 million copies of your books worldwide, you quit your day job, right?  Not Scott Turow.  The mystery-suspense novelist has had his books translated into over 25 languages, but he still works as a partner in a Chicago law firm.  Turow, born April 12, 1949, seems happy to wear both hats as writer and lawyer.  In his spare time, he contributes opinion pieces and essays to a plethora of literary magazines, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Playboy and The Atlantic.

Turow has been developing his other creative side: music.  He plays in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band of bestselling authors, which includes heavy hitters such as Stephen King, Mitch Albom and Amy Tan.  Their motto is simple: “The more people drink, the better we sound.”  Even though it sounds like a comedy, the band seriously donates all their proceeds to literary causes.  They’ve raised $2 million so far, and in 2010, they played their “Wordstock” tour to support the victims of the Haitian earthquake.

Scott Turow is a man of many talents.  We celebrate his birthday today, April 12, as his new novel Innocent hits the shelves.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Turow!

Black-Jewish Walter Mosley

February 15, 2011 in African American Literature, American literature, Black Literature, Mystery Writers

Walter Mosley / Photo by David Shankbone, CC LicenseHe’s the guy wearing the fedora.  He’s the guy who looks black, but actually comes from an extensive history of Jewish Eastern Europeans.  He’s also the guy who explores American black culture in his mystery series with star detective Easy Rawlins.

Of course, we’re talking about none other than Walter Mosley.  In continuing with Black History Month, we’re honoring Mr. Mosley by celebrating his multicultural roots.  Not many writers, let alone people, can talk about what it’s like to grow up both black and Jewish, but Mosley can.  He embraces both cultures in his writing, including when Easy Rawlins spies on a Polish-Jewish communist in A Red Death.

Interestingly enough, Mosley grew up in notorious Watts, California–a city known for its violent and explosive racial tensions.  Somehow the writer sidestepped all the negativity and turbulence and let his imagination run free as a child.  Fortunately for 12 year-old Mosley and his parents, they moved to an affluent Los Angeles suburb in 1964 … only a year before the horror of the Watts riots.

Today, he is a man of great importance, not only in the writing world, but he is also known for his literary editing skills as well.  For a man who started writing late in life–at 34 years of age–he’s become a favorite of President Bill Clinton and Denzel Washington has played Easy Rawlins in the movie adaptation of Devil in a Blue Dress.

Therefore, we celebrate Walter Mosley and all his accomplishments, proving that being both black and Jewish is a beautiful thing.

Please enjoy The “Easy” Yet Complex Writing of Walter Mosley, A Black Jewish Author.

Agatha Christie on the Nile, Egypt

January 10, 2011 in Agatha Christie, cairo egypt travel, Classic Writers, Mystery Writers

Death & Life on the Nile, Agatha Christie's Egypt by Veronica HackethalWhen I think of Agatha Christie, I definitely think of her on the Nile.  But did you know that when she visited Egypt as a kid she hated it?  I had no idea either.  One of our favorite LT writers, Veronica Hackethal, takes our readers on a journey down the Nile on a fabulous, five star cruise.  You will see how to experience Egypt in style, feeling the luxury and decadence of Agatha Christie’s time spent there.

Hackethal shows us how oppressive the desert can be, yet how spectacular the pyramids really are.  As she says in her article, “everyone handles the desert differently.”  With these observations, our readers understand how Agatha Christie felt when she toured Egypt both as a child and as an adult.

I’ve personally never been to Egypt, but friends of mine have gone and raved about the experience.  Agatha Christie’s connection to the Nile just makes the trip more desirable to me.  Thus, I hope one day I’ll be writing about cruising down the Nile in a five star ship, dreaming of Hercule Poirot, murder mysteries, sordid affairs.  It sounds like a perfect, literary trip to me.

Enjoy our latest article, Death & Life on the Nile, Agatha Christie’s Egypt.

~ Jennifer, Network Editorial Director

Agatha Christie in Torquay England

January 1, 2011 in Agatha Christie, British literature, Classic Writers, Mystery Writers

Agatha Christie in Torquay EnglandHappy New Year to all our literary travelers! In order to ring in 2011, we start with a fan favorite: Agatha Christie.  She is one of those authors you just have to admire.  Her brilliantly woven stories and exciting life make her an enigmatic and well-respected writer of mystery.  Christie seemed to have “owned” the mystery genre in a sense.  She even won accolades over his male counterparts–not an easy feat in the early to mid 20th century.

Thus, Christie was a trailblazer in many ways.  In our latest article by DJ Coode entitled Agatha Christie’s Torquay, learn how and where Christie developed her plot lines and mystery writing chops.  Christie always considered Torquay home, so join DJ Coode as she journeys to all the spots Christie roamed and loved.

Also, don’t forget to tell us what you think.  Sign up for your very own blog on for 2011.

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