Happy New Year!

We’re looking forward to a brand-new year (play it, Pete Townshend!) . . . hoping it will be full of reignited friendships, collaborations, festivities, and hugs.

While the late winter Left Coast Crime conference won’t resume in person until 2022, mystery writers and fans are still crossing our fingers for Malice Domestic at the end of April. We’re especially excited about the launch of Malice’s 2021 anthology Murder Most Diabolical, presented by Lifetime Achievement Award winner Walter Mosley and featuring CJ Verburg’s story “A Terrible Tragedy.” Set on Cape Cod, this is reluctant sleuth Edgar Rowdey’s first foray into the buzzing local theater scene, when he’s tapped to design the set for a Hollywood director’s production of Macbeth.

Whether Malice Domestic 2021 is 3-D or virtual, keep an eye out for Murder Most Diabolical!


Updates on Our Authors

Happy New Year!

What can we look forward to in 2020? Clear vision, everyone claims jokingly. Wouldn’t that be a welcome shift! Meanwhile, zooming in on the book world:

Regency romance author Charisse Howard assures us she’s still thinking hard about her next novel and writing whenever she can. Time, however, is on the side of her other career (classified), which has commanded her full attention ever since she published Regency Rakes & Rebels #3, the heart-wrenching Lady Caroline, The Corsair’s Captive. Good luck on both fronts, Charisse!

Multimedia biographer and mystery author CJ Verburg spent much of 2019 writing and publishing short stories. Congratulations, CJ, on “Birdbrain,” which appears in Fault Lines: Stories by Northern California Crime Writers, and “Peccata Mundy,” in Seascape: Best New England Crime Stories (2019). “Disarmed: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Story” is available free on most ebook platforms ($.99 on Kindle). Next up: CJ’s first story for Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, “Scandal at the Savoy: The Missing Monocle,” due out in early 2020.

For 2020, CJ is putting final touches on her novella Scalped, or The Toastrack Enigma. That’s projected to be #1 in her D. Awdrey-Gore series of mysteries inspired by titles and covers created by her longtime friend and collaborator, the late artist/author Edward Gorey in The Awdrey-Gore Legacy. Next in line: Skewered, or The Pincushion Affair. These six sequels to CJ’s novels Croaked and Zapped (as well as her story “Disarmed”) are meant to debut in parallel with her nonfiction theater biography Edward Gorey’s Art of the Theater. More news on that as it comes in.

Also in the pipeline is #3 in CJ’s Cory Goodwin mystery series, the Barcelona novella Gaudi Knight.

Best wishes from all of us at Boom-Books to all of you authors and readers out there. Remember, whenever you need a fresh look at the world, or a few hours’ escape from it, nothing can match the ease, comfort, and imaginative power of a good book!

Death and Taxes, Désastre, and the Easter Bunny

by CJ Verburg

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of Edward Gorey’s death; and in Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral is burning. Edward majored in French literature at Harvard and was as fluent in the language, art, and cinema of France as if he’d ever set foot there. If he were alive, he’d be watching the live-streamed fire in horror right now, probably while etching away at a completely unrelated drawing for his latest book or theater project.

Elsewhere across America, people are filing their taxes today. And even as the flames of homophobia, racism, and misogyny consume our heritage of aspiring to (if not attaining) liberty, equality, and fraternity, our grocery stores and pharmacies overflow with plastic baskets stuffed with rainbow jellybeans and dark-, milk-, and white-chocolate rabbits for this coming Sunday’s oddly ecumenical holiday.

Thanks to resistance from his friends, Edward Gorey’s house was not consumed after his death by the hotel next door (“The Doubtful Guest Room”?!?). Instead it’s become a very personal museum, which just opened for the season last weekend with this year’s unique exhibit of his art and ephemera: Hippity Wippity: Edward Gorey and the Language of Nonsense, which “explores Gorey’s embrace of a genre . . . that revels in breaking down any expected narratives and structures, that lobotomizes language, that confuses with inexplicable storylines and thrusts the reader into an active participation.”

If anyone asked me “What’s the one thing you admired most about Edward Gorey?” (that maddening, misleading, time-saving question so dear to interviewers), I might respond with E.M. Forster’s epigraph from Howards End: “Only connect.” Edward (and other brilliant people I’ve loved) saw behind the façade of things into the web that links them. You can sometimes discern this in his classic or straightforward nonsense, e.g., The Wuggly Ump — made-up language and creatures in the Edward Lear vein. I’m fonder of his more esoteric nonsense, where “only connect” is blatant. This occurs more often in his stand-alone drawings than stories. The relationship between elements of the scene transmutes menace into nonsense, and vice versa at the same time: the “characters” are real, but their connection is nonsensical.

Six months ago I spent a glorious hour, uncommonly mellow for a November morning, strolling around Notre Dame de Paris. Watching flames pull down its ancient, legendary spire today, I felt not only devastated but uneasily responsible, somehow, as if behind that sunshine and tranquility I should have detected the menace lurking half a year ahead.

The April 15 when Edward Gorey died was, for me, even more excruciating (double-entendre intended). Yet I can imagine happily tossing him that same double-entendre across the table at Jack’s OutBack, over his iced coffee and Tooner Sallid Samwich and my cup of chili, confident that it would be caught and chortled at by the penner of “She toyed with her beads Jadedly” and “He fell off the pier Inadvertently.”

If you can, go see “Hippity-Wippity” sometime this summer and wander through the house where so many exceptional works of art were created, nonsensical and otherwise. If you can’t, or until you get a chance, you can travel to that deceptively unthreatening spot in my books Edward Gorey On Stage: A Multimedia Memoir (nonfiction) and Croaked: An Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery (fiction) and its sequels.

Read the memoir for the facts. Read the mystery for the hidden connections.

To find out more or to order a book (print or digital), click “About CJ” above. For a free e-mystery story, click Disarmed.

Reviews & Comments: 4 by Rex Stout, & Why Language Matters

And Four to Go (Nero Wolfe, #30)And Four to Go by Rex Stout
Review by CJ Verburg

Four short novellas or long stories, each fun in a different way. Rex Stout was at his (long-lived) peak in the late 1950s, so these are vintage Nero Wolfe capers. Oddly, the first three are holiday-centered, whereas the fourth opens on a random Tuesday in the fashion business. In “Christmas Party,” Archie Goodwin strikes fear into his boss’s heart by announcing he’s getting married. “Easter Parade” features (you guessed it) orchids. “Fourth of July Picnic”–in which Wolfe leaves home to make a speech–and “Murder Is No Joke” both involve women named Flora. My favorite moment comes in “Fourth of July Picnic,” when Wolfe and Goodwin give us brief impromptu autobiographies. A treasure for Stout fans; a good intro for newcomers.

View CJ Verburg’s other Goodreads reviews

Pen vs. Sword, or Why Language Matters

Clash of the Titans: Apple & Google Refocus on Books; Amazon Reloads Audio

by CJ Verburg

Suddenly Amazon’s facing some potentially serious competition.

As 2018 started, Apple announced several significant changes to the company’s approach to books. According to Mark Gurman in Bloomberg, they plan to retool their reading app, making it easier to read (and buy) e-books or listen to audiobooks on the iPad and other Apple devices. This accompanies a plan to morph iBooks into Apple Books, with a fresh design to echo Apple Music. Heading the new effort is Kashif Zafar, a senior vice president from Audible, Amazon’s market-dominating audiobooks business (see below), who previously was a content VP at Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader division.

Meanwhile, Google has launched Google Play Books, which will compete for audiobook sales with Apple Books and Amazon’s Audible. Michael Schaub reports in The L.A. Times that Google’s plan is to enable “readers in 45 countries to play audiobooks purchased through the service on several platforms, including Google Home, the company’s popular smart speaker.” The Google Play Books listener also benefits from automatic syncing — you can start listening on your way home from work on your Android or iPhone, and pick up where you left off on your home speaker or computer.

Amazon, as always, remains a moving target. According to Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, they too have audiobook innovations in the pipeline. Coming later this year are the first hot new audiobooks that will precede the release of the print or e-book. Now that many “readers” are listeners, Amazon is working with (or twisting the arms of) publishing companies as well as authors to bring content straight to consumers’ ears:

Audible is pitching literary agents on the benefits of using its services, saying authors will get a competitive bidding process that could mean more money in their pockets, and . . . adding pressure on book publishers to hold on to a modest but growing area of an otherwise challenged book industry. In the first eight months of 2017, publishers’ revenue from audiobooks grew 20% from the same period a year earlier, while print books only rose 1.5% and e-books slipped 5.4% . . .

For those of us with a stake in the outcome, it’s useful to keep in mind a contrast in corporate strategy noted by Bloomberg’s Gurman:

Apple’s renewed effort highlights its different approach to software services and hardware, compared with Amazon. Apple sells e-books to make its high-priced devices more attractive, making money on the sale of the hardware. Amazon churns out new versions of Kindle devices at or near to cost and tries to make money selling content.

What outcome is likely for authors? As Sancho Panza remarked in Man of La Mancha: Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s bound to be bad for the pitcher.

CJ Verburg signing 2 new mysteries on Cape Cod, Aug. 1-3

C J Verburg, author of the Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod mysteries and Cory Goodwin mysteries, will be on Cape Cod speaking and signing two new books Aug. 1-3:

Bourne Library, 19 Sandwich Rd., Bourne – 7 PM Tues., Aug. 1

Yellow Umbrella Books, 501 Main St., Chatham – 11 AM-1 PM Wed., Aug. 2

Yarmouth Port Library, 279 Main St. (Rt. 6A), Yarmouth Port – 3 PM Thurs., Aug. 3

Author C J (Carol) Verburg lived in Centerville, West Dennis, and Falmouth before settling in Yarmouth Port in the late 1980s. With her friend, neighbor, and fellow mystery fan Edward Gorey, she spent more than a decade writing and directing plays for Cape theater companies from Provincetown to Bourne. Her pivot to crime fiction began with a half-joking “idée du jour” over lunch at their local café. Gorey’s death left that project in Verburg’s hands. The result was Croaked: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery—with a thinly disguised Edward Gorey as a sleuth instead of coauthor. Now Cape artist “Edgar Rowdey” is back to steer the seaside village of Quansett through another disaster in Book Two, Zapped.

C J Verburg’s second mystery series grew out of her dream of traveling to exotic places where she could write novels. Narrator Cory Goodwin is the Boston journalist daughter of legendary New York private eye Archie Goodwin. Silent Night Violent Night finds Cory helping a frightened friend at a science publisher’s posh holiday party. In the brand-new sequel, Another Number for the Road, Cory’s off to Paris on the trail of an unsolved murder and a vanished ‘60s rock band. Another Number for the Road: a Cory Goodwin Mystery is a literary novel for music fans—complete with a live original soundtrack.

Miss the Summer of Love? Get It While You Can

It’s been 20+ years since Cory Goodwin broke into journalism by interviewing Mickey Ascher and Dan Quasi of The Rind at an antiwar march in DC. Mickey’s long dead, bludgeoned with a champagne bottle after a party in his Back Bay penthouse. The Rind broke up. Dan — murder suspect #1 — disappeared. Cory swung a summer assignment in Paris and came home married. Now she’s teaching school, separated, wondering what the hell she’s doing . . . until her old editor at Phases offers her a gig in Paris covering a Mystery Band.

That’s where Cory’s search for lost time collides with Dan Quasi’s.

What the hell is he doing? Is Boston’s onetime rock-protest hero really playing for an upscale networking program? Why would Dan and the other Rind survivors pick the Eiffel Tower, EuroDisney, and a village strawberry festival for their long-awaited comeback?

And what does this trip have to do with Mickey Ascher’s murder?

CJ Verburg’s brand-new Cory Goodwin mystery Another Number for the Road will whirl you back to the best of times and the worst of times: music, love, and flowers / drugs, sex, and violence. The leitmotif is music. This jukebox novel overflows with familiar songs and new ones, including some you can listen to with a click — interspersed with T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and sneak peeks at a rock opera in Fantasyland.

To celebrate this unique book’s debut, we’re pricing the Kindle version at just 99 cents/pence until Memorial Day. Paperback $14.99.

Get it while you can!

Of Chuck Berry, JS Bach, Derek Walcott, & Miranda’s Hamilton – Pt 2

by C J Verburg

Part 1 of this post appears on Boom-Books author C J Verburg’s website.

Another great artist died two days before Chuck Berry, at age 87. Poet Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. He was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where he got a classic British education, steeped in Odysseus and Julius Caesar, Henry V and Good King Wenceslas. When I met him he’d moved to Boston, teaching poetry and playwriting at Boston University.

Derek Walcott embraced his identity as a Caribbean writer, but when he won a Macarthur Fellowship, he used the award money to build the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, where B.U. students and alumni could see their work onstage. That’s as crucial to a playwright as keyboards and bass were to J.S. Bach and Chuck Berry.

Whoever wrote the New York Times obituary didn’t seem to know what to make of Derek Walcott: this lyrical lilting Caribbean voice, speaking intricately literate poetry, expressing deep insights about human nature, and also values, in small vivid details of human behavior and the natural landscape. From his poem “Europa” (in his book The Fortunate Traveller):

The full moon is so fierce that I can count the
coconuts’ cross-hatched shade on bungalows,
their white walls raging with insomnia.
The stars leak drop by drop on the tin plates
of the sea almonds, and the jeering clouds
are luminously rumpled as the sheets.

The obituary writer mentioned that Walcott was friends with fellow poets Seamus Heaney and Joseph Brodsky, without apparently appreciating that all three of them were members of an international fellowship of all poets — writers who spent time in the United States, where if you spoke English you could earn money in academia and publishing, but whose home might be Ireland or Russia, Colombia or Peru or Nigeria, and whose vision, curiosity, and reach went way beyond landing a tenure-track job at Harvard.

Poets of the Caribbean: Anna Walcott (Derek’s daughter), Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney

One of Derek Walcott’s many wonderful short poems is “Love After Love.” A number of famous actors have recorded it, but if you want to hear it as it was written, listen to the reading by Jamaican-born English poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. The central image is how you recover from the pain of unpinning your heart and your identity from another person, and come back to where you can see your own self in the mirror again.

That international fellowship of all poets who met at the U.S. crossroads is mirrored in the musical Hamilton, which I saw just before it opened in San Francisco. Hamilton is a breakthrough on many levels; and one of them is showing us our identity in a mirror, where we can see back into history and sideways into the varied national, racial, cultural, and creedal heritage that is God’s gift to this country. A key line is sung by the diverse immigrants who invented the United States: “Just like my country I’m young scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwin away my shot.”

Alexander Hamilton, like Derek Walcott, was born on a Caribbean island. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show, was born in New York’s Washington Heights, but his mixed-race family went back often to Puerto Rico. He understands and uses not just the complexity of American history, but the whole range of American music — rap or jazz or pop, depending who’s singing about what. But the real genius of Hamilton is the mirror that Miranda and his gifted young collaborators hold up to those other gifted young collaborators they portray — Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, the three Schuyler sisters, the Marquis de Lafayette, and a dozen others. Roll over, Beethoven. We belong here too. We are this country. We are your future.