Misdeeds know no season, but when a curiously large number of new mystery and true crime books slated for summer release was dumped off at the Chronicle offices like so many dead bodies, it seemed an optimum time to indulge our love for the unlawful. Thus, we give you July Is Crime Month, four weeks' worth of Chronicle writers and editors going down those "mean streets" and sharing what they've found there: reviews of recent crime fiction and nonfiction, interviews with authors and publishers in the field, plugs for upcoming crime-related readings and screenings, and appreciations of classic crime sagas – and their creators – in print and onscreen. We'll also be using Crime Month to launch the Austin Chronicle Book Club, a chance for readers to "gather" online and share their thoughts with one another about particular literary works. (We'll kick it off with the longest and most ambitious novel by King of the Gumshoes Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye.)
This issue gets Crime Month started with the lowdown on recent Texas criminal activity via a roundup of reviews of books in which the crimes or the authors writing about them have connections to the Lone Star State. But that's just the beginning of the murder and mayhem we'll be dishing up for you throughout the month. Keep your peepers peeled for:
• in our July 18 issue, an excerpt from Slap Noir, a new novel by the one and only James "BigBoy" Medlin, legendary Austin Sun columnist and co-screenwriter with Michael Ventura of the film Roadie. It coincides with Medlin's Slap Noir reading and booksigning at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, Friday, July 18;
• a look inside the July 15 episode of the PBS series History Detectives, which focuses on Austin's Servant Girl Annihilator murders in the 1880s;
• Jessi Cape's interview with Edgar Award winner Meg Gardiner, now a full-time Austin resident, about her just-released mystery novel, Phantom Instinct;
• an interview with the publishers of Akashic Books' extensive, geography-focused Noir Series;
• Raoul Hernandez's account of years spent chasing down a series of vintage paperback editions of Raymond Chandler novels for their cover art;
• Amy Gentry's appreciation of Fort Worth native Patricia Highsmith, the novelist who gave us such chilling works as Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley;
• this writer's appreciation of the series of graphic novels that artist Darwyn Cooke adapted from the Parker series by Donald E. Westlake;
• Wayne Alan Brenner's review of Some Dead Genius, Lenny Kleinfeld's second novel featuring Chicago homicide detectives Mark Bergman and John Dunegan, this one set among the Windy City's art scene;
• the debut of the Austin Chronicle Book Club, which will "meet" on Twitter (#ACreads) to discuss the Chandler classic The Long Goodbye Monday, July 28; and
• the 411 on local events in the crime-writing realm such as BookPeople's Noir at the Bar (July 7) and the Sisters in Crime Texas Chapter's monthly meeting (July 13); and screenings such as TV Noir (Austin Film Society, July 21), Mildred Pierce (Paramount Summer Film Series, July 21-22), and Robert Altman's take on The Long Goodbye (MysteryPeople Film Series, July 23).
By the time July hits the Big Sleep, you'll be so savvy in the ways of crooks, hoods, and goons, you'll be able to hang out your own shingle as a shamus. Just watch your back.
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