Author: Alexia Gordon

Author of the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, published by Henery Press

Not What You Think

Paradigm, noun: a cognitive framework Paradigm shift, noun: a dramatic change in the paradigm –Dictionary.com I’ve been reading Cop Hater by Ed McBain, written in the 1950s. It’s graphic and brutal (and reminds me why I’m not a fan of noir and gritty urban novels) and totally not what I expected in a novel written 60 years ago. I expected euphemisms and suggestion and “Leave It To Beaver”. I’ve done some research into the 1930s for an idea I have for a series and uncovered things that, again, were a lot less “genteel” than I expected. I’m sure we can all think of examples where someone wrote/directed/painted/created something we enjoyed and we later found out that person was a creep. My question for my fellow Missdemeanors: In your reading, writing research, or other area of your life, what “thing” turned out to be far different than what you thought/believed? Tracee I have an example from real life that changed my perception about the lies people tell. And, let’s face it, much (all?) of domestic suspense and mystery writing depends on the lies people tell. Here’s the real-life example: In a casual family discussion, we were remarking that my father’s grandfather […]

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The New Old-time Radio

Podcast, noun—a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.  –Dictionary.com Sometimes, a definition doesn’t do a thing justice. Dictionary.com’s definition of a podcast doesn’t capture the flavor of the thing. Podcasts are the modern successors to old-time radio shows. Instead of gathering around a cabinet radio in the living room, you grab your smartphone (or laptop or tablet) and stream news, comedies, dramas, and mysteries. I can’t count the number of podcasts available. The number is likely in the thousands. I have more than a hundred in my podcatchers’ queues, the podcast equivalent of my TBR pile. Podcatcher? What’s that. It’s the service, or digital platform, you use to find and stream shows. I use Stitcher and Spotify but there are several others, like Apple and Soundcloud. Some of the podcasts have their own websites through which, as Dictionary.com points out, the episodes can be accessed. I confess to being a true crime podcast junkie. I’m listening to The Vanished as I write this. Other favorites are Already Gone, Swindled, True Crime Obsessed, and the extremely-NSFW, Small Town Murder. I prefer […]

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Back in the Day

Nostalgia, noun: A sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time. Rose-colored glasses, noun: A cheerful or optimistic view of things, usually without valid basis.                                                                                         –Dictionary.com People often speak of “the good old days,” a phrase that conjures hazy, softly lit images of some vaguely defined place where life was easier to understand and easier to cope with than it is now. People long to retreat to the safety and comfort of the “good old days” (also know as “back then”) when they feel overwhelmed by the scary, unpredictable, ever-changing chaos of now. But were the good old days as blissful as people (mis)remember? Are those days easier to locate in our imaginations than they are to locate on a map or a calendar? Every time someone asks me what time period I’d like to travel back to, the Billy Joel lyric, “The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems,” pops into my head. But I’m an admitted cynic. Maybe I’m too hard on “back then”. Maybe it really was a kinder, gentler time. Or, maybe not. I’m reading Cop Hater, the first of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct […]

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Typecasting

Today, Fatality in F, the fourth book in the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, goes on sale. A momentous occasion! Four books makes #gethsemanebrown an official series instead of a trilogy. This time out, Gethsemane has to save Frankie from charges he murdered his rival in a rose-growing competition and from a stalker—who may be out to recreate a decades-old murder case. I learned flowers were big business while writing Fatality in F. Did you know flower industry revenue totals more than $34 billion? Or that $1.9 billion is spent on flowers for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day? I learned about roses, in particular. 30-35% of cut flowers sold in a year are roses. The oldest record of a rose is from China 7,000 years ago. 200 million roses are given on Valentine’s Day. Two of my favorite research resources were the David Austin catalog and American Rose, the American Rose Society’s magazine. I not only learned about rose competitions, the history of roses, and rose growing tips, I learned about the different types and names of roses. In Fatality in F, Frankie’s prize rose, an Old Rose, is named ‘Sandra Sechrest’ after a reader who won a naming opportunity in an […]

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You Just Gotta Tell It Right

I’ve been binge-listening to fraud-focused true crime podcasts like Swindled, Drilled, and The Dropout. Bad Blood is the current book on my nightstand. True Crime books about notorious cons and scams abound. The Strategist, from New York magazine, offers a list of some of the best (Reading Lists, “The Best Books on Con Artists, According to True-Crime Experts,” July 5, 2018, Karen Iorio Adelson). Some of the real-life fraudsters are so outrageous, if you pitched them as characters in a novel, your idea would be rejected as too fantastic. But con artists do often appear in crime fiction, in movies (Catch Me if You Can, American Hustle, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, House of Games, The Hustler, The Color of Money, Trading Places, White Men Can’t Jump, The Ladykillers, Focus, Ocean’s Eleven) and novels (The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, Nightmare Alley). If I wrote a novel starring a con artist, I’d choose a chameleon-like character who put on and shed new identities like a snake skin. My con artist (protagonist? antagonist?) would use those identities to insert herself into others’ lives, motivated more by a desire to reinvent herself , to erase herself and become someone new, […]

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Fatality in F

Taking a break from true crime today to plug my upcoming book, Fatality in F, the fourth book in the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries series. Published by Henery Press, it’s on sale starting February 26, 2019. Available in trade paperback, hardback, ebook, audio CD, and on Audible. Fresh from solving her third mystery–and saving Dunmullach’s firstborn males from a vengeful ghost–Gethsemane Brown’s ready to relax and enjoy her summer. Her plans include nothing more dangerous than performing in the opening ceremony of the annual rose and garden show and cheering on Frankie Grennan, who’s entered his hybrid rose into the competition. But when a mysterious stalker starts leaving Frankie floral bouquets as coded messages, Gethsemane fears a copy-cat may be planning to recreate the still-unsolved murders of the infamous Flower Shop Killer. Then Frankie’s main competitor in the rose show–and the reason his marriage failed–turns up dead in Frankie’s rose garden. Frankie takes first prize in the category “prime suspect.” So much for a relaxing summer. As bodies start dropping like rose petals, Gethsemane must judge the other suspects and find the real killer. Or rose bushes won’t be the only things dead-headed in Dunmullach. Fatality in F— missing it would […]

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The More You Know…

The number of scams seems endless. Check your email spam folder sometime and scroll through the endless list of solicitations offering you bogus romance, lottery winnings, investment opportunities, insurance products, credit card and bank account alerts, and anti-virus software. The Oxford English Dictionary has fewer words. Most cons can be lumped into broad categories. Knowing the categories may make it easier to spot a con. Scamwatch.gov.au lists: –Attempts to gain your personal information. These include phishing (called whaling and spear phishing when it targets businesses and business executives), hacking, identity theft, and remote access scams (those phony computer repair guys) –Buying and selling scams. These include false billing, classified ad scams (think Craigslist), sham health and medical products, mobile/cellphone premium services, online shopping scams, overpayment scams (legitimate sellers are targeted with bogus refund demands), and psychic/clairvoyant scams –Dating and romance scams. Swipe left –Bogus charities –Investment and betting scams. These include real estate and mortgage scams, boiler room operations selling risky penny stocks or phony stocks, and bogus software that promises “guaranteed” gambling wins –Job and employment scams. These include get-rich-quick schemes, pyramid schemes, and job opportunities that require starter kit fees –Threat and extortion scams. These include malware/ransomware that […]

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What’s the Story?: True Crime Fraud

Long a popular subject in fiction—The Sting, Paper Moon, The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Six Degrees of Separation—fraud and con games have become a true crime staple. From early entries like the 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and the 2008 book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, we now have television series (the Stacy Keach-narrated “American Greed” on CNBC), more films (Sour Grapes in 2016, competing Fyre Festival documentaries in 2019), books (King Con, Bad Blood), and podcasts (Drilled, Swindled, American Greed, The Dropout, Dirty John, The Dream). Podcasts, in particular, have embraced the art of the con as a rich source of material. Some, like the American Greed podcast, a spin-off of the CNBC show, offer a brief report of a specific case, similar to a news brief that might pop up in your Facebook or Google newsfeed. Others, like Swindled, offer a deeper dive into each crime, giving listeners more background on the perpetrators and victims along with some analysis of the case. Still others, like Drilled, The Dream, and The Dropout, devote an entire series to a single con, like climate change denial (Drilled), multi-level marketing schemes (The Dream), and the Theranos scandal (The Dropout). […]

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Fool Me Once…

Not all crimes involve a dead body. Robbery, assault, and fraud are as criminal as murder and can be as destructive to victims and families. Fraud, especially, fascinates me. How can someone trick other competent adults (I omit children and incompetent adults because people who prey on them are a special class of evil) into giving them money, property, love, and trust? I’m on the cynical end of the spectrum, so that last one, trust, in particular confuses me. Some frauds are easy to understand. The con artist plays on people’s greed, sympathy, or fear/confusion. Take greed. Face it, if you fall for a con who tells you, up front, he/she needs you to help them launder money—and that’s what helping some deposed royal or disgraced official or surviving spouse smuggle their “inheritance” or other shady fortune out of their country is—then you’re greedy enough to agree to an illegal act for the promise of a cut and shame on you. Shame on the con artist who takes advantage of a tender-hearted person’s desire to help or to rescue someone. Crooks who run charity scams and ransom scams are bottom-feeders and deserve a special place in hell. Cons who ape […]

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And the Award Goes To…

The shortlist for the inaugural Staunch Book Prize, “created to make space for an alternative to the overload of violence towards women in fiction” and “awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered,” was recently announced. The award’s creators wanted to honor “stories in which female characters don’t have to be raped before they can be empowered or become casual collateral to pump up the plot” and that don’t “celebrate the cunning (often, charming sexiness/astonishing brutality) of serial rapists and the dogged brilliance of detectives” at the expense of female characters too often portrayed as two-dimensional victims. The shortlist for the 2018 prize, to be awarded this month, includes a political conspiracy thriller, a psychological thriller, an art caper, a thriller about the immigrant crisis, and a satire about terrorism. In the spirit of new literary awards, I asked my fellow Missdemeanors, “What prize would you create and what would the eligibility criteria be?” Here are their answers. RobinMine is easy. It would be the Amazing Grace Award, which was a nickname for Grace Hopper. Without her, computers would still take up an entire room and do only […]

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