Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Henning Mankell's latest

My review of Henning Mankell's latest, Daniel, ran in today's Boston Globe. I wished I liked it more. I've also just read an advance of his last Wallander mystery and, wow, did I hate that. Sometimes, I think, a writer loses respect for his readers, and that's a sad thing.

From today's Globe:
How do we see our world, and how does that vision affect others? These are the questions at the heart of Henning Mankell’s “Daniel,’’ a quiet tragedy that sets an obtuse white man against a young African boy....

Friday, December 3, 2010

Me on "Moonlight Mile"

I'm not usually a Dennis Lehane fan. Usually seems like he's trying too hard. But going back to Patrick and Angie, he hits all the right notes - the real notes. My review in today's Globe.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Under construction...

Please excuse the lack of writing (or crime or cats) while I oversee the renovations on our new house! At the very least, this is a marvelous distraction while I await my editor's comments on the first 100 pages of Pru #2, Cats Can't Shoot. In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thank you, Library Journal!

"Don’t miss Dogs Don’t Lie (Poisoned Pen. ISBN 9781590588604. $24.95; pap. ISBN 978 1590588628. $14.95) from Clea Simon, a regular contributor to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and many other venues when she’s not writing sharp nonfiction works or animal-based mysteries." - from Library Journal's pre-pub alert, Spring 2011 mysteries to watch out for!

Monday, November 1, 2010

My GREY ZONE cover

The kitten leaves her mark... Grey Zone, the third Dulcie Schwartz mystery, out in the UK in Dec., in the US in April:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Drumroll, please...

The final cover for my debut pet noir, Dogs Don't Lie (coming in April), which Beth Kanell, co-owner of Kingdom Books, Waterford, VT, calls, "a tightly plotted and interesting mystery, with a strong underlying flavor of 'Nancy Drew grown up.'"

(and, while you should wait and get it from an indie, yeah, you can also pre-order it here.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Foreign affairs, by the masters

"Information is dangerous currency. How we get it, what we do with it, and how we dismiss that which we would rather not know are hot topics, especially in contemporary thrillers. Spy master John le Carré has long dealt with these questions, chronicling betrayals both personal and patriotic. His British peer mystery writer John Lawton is now entering this tricky territory as well. In their new books, both authors ponder the hidden price of the data trade..."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nothing for it but to write

Just sent off the copy edits for Grey Zone. Sent back the corrected ARC for Dogs Don't Lie last week (did I really repeat/misspell that many words? Guess so). Have done enough research so that I should be able to write at least half this book without doing any more. Nothing for it but to write. Hooboy...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scent bottles and other gun terms...

I love writing, but sometimes research takes the cake. I'm getting ready to start the second Pru Marlowe pet noir and have been immersed in the world of antique guns. In some ways this is silly: the collectible that appears in the first scene of this next book will probably not be seen again after page 30. But I want to get it right. And besides, when you start researching something esoteric like this, you uncover a whole world of experts and trivia. Did you know about scent-bottle powder holders? No, neither did I.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Revisions and the restorative power of rock & roll

I'm re-reading Grey Zone this week - my editor loved it (yay!) but considering all the crap that went down this spring, she gave me a week to re-read/revise one more time. And I'm slogging along when, yesterday, I hit one of those passages where I wonder, "What the hell was I thinking?" Couldn't for the life of me figure it out.

Skip ahead a few hours: the Neighborhoods and Iggy Pop at House of Blues. Loving the Neighborhoods, who I used to go see in the '80s. The fact that they've stuck to it is proof that they're the real thing, artists, and the time has been put to good use. They know how to play. Then... Iggy. 63 and a little saggy, but still tough as nails. "Raw Power," wow. "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is transcendent. Mike Watt playing with his leg in a brace, the band just shredding. Wonderful.

And on my way out, I realize how to rework that passage. Sweet!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Looking ahead....

OK, I admit I am psyched that Dogs Don't Lie, my first Pru Marlowe pet noir mystery, is already listed as available for preorder on Amazon (and I promise, indie bookstores, as soon as you list it, too, I'll post links!) That book won't be published until April, 2011, but it was edited and accepted in June. But I just saw that Grey Zone, my third Dulcie Schwartz mystery, is also now listed on Amazon. It's not yet available for pre-order, just there so you can be notified when it becomes available. But still... I just sent the manuscript in last Monday and my editor hasn't even read it yet! I guess it's nice that they have such faith in me and Dulcie, huh? Maybe that's Mr. Grey's influence?

Friday, July 16, 2010

"And behind the chalet, the holiday's complete..."

Cheap Trick and Squeeze, row N. So much fun. Reviewed it for the Phoenix here.

photo by Scott M. Lacey for the Boston Phoenix.

My total fan-girl moment!

Monday morning, I was sick as a dog but I had one un-missable appoint: a phone interview with Naomi Novik. Novik, you may already know, is the author of the Temeraire novels: Napoleonic-era fantasy, only set in an alternative world with intelligent, sensitive dragons. Not my usual cup of tea, but they're so smart and funny - well, others have made the comparison to Jane Austen. Let me just say it holds up.

Transcribing the tape on Tuesday, I realized how bad I sounded. But Naomi was sparkling and fun and full of news (both about her personal life with husband Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime - there's your crime fiction connection! - and about Temeraire). And later a friend pointed out that in many ways the dragons are like oversized cats, so maybe that's another connection.

At any rate, this is what ran in this week's Boston Phoenix. They promise the full transcript will be up soon, so I'll post a link then.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tana French's "Faithful Place"

My review in the Boston Phoenix:
"Frank Mackey's life changed when he was 19. The year was 1985, and he and his girlfriend Rosie Daly were about to run away together. Growing up in Faithful Place, one of working-class Dublin's more depressed byways, they knew they had no future in Ireland, particularly because Rosie's aspiring family despised Frank's booze-ruined clan. London — freedom — beckoned, and they were making their break.

Except that Rosie never showed, and the letter Frank found made it seem she shared her parents' aversion to his violent, alcoholic family. So he went off alone, hating everyone who'd doomed him to a lonely, loveless life.

Twenty-two years later and Frank Mackey is still in Dublin, though he's never returned to the old neighborhood. Now he's on the Undercover Squad, with a beautiful daughter, an educated ex-wife, and the kind of life nobody in Faithful Place could ever imagine. His only contact with the past is through one sister, Jackie. And so, when she calls to say that Rosie's suitcase has been found in the abandoned house where the lovers used to meet, the complications are not only criminal, they're personal, as Frank's past rises up to meet him with a vengeance....

Read more:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One down, one to go

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but I've been busy! DOGS DON'T LIE, the first Pru Marlowe mystery, is finally through revisions and on track to be published by Poisoned Pen Press next April. This cover isn't final, but it looks pretty good, doesn't it? (If you don't think so, please tell me - and why - before publisher commits to it!) Cover will have "A Pru Marlowe pet noir" on it somewhere, I am told.

Now I'm finishing up the third Dulcie Schwartz mystery, GREY ZONE. I'm now doing one of my favorite tricks - reading it through in a different typeface. I find I catch so many more errors and awkward passages that way. For me, Times Roman is the norm so reading a printout in Helvetica pushes me just enough out of my comfort zone. And, yes, I do recycle.

GREY ZONE is due to its publisher, Severn House, at the end of the month, which has had me feeling like I had plenty of time. Except that yesterday I got an email from my editor, asking if all was on track and could I send her a blurb. They'd like to publish GREY ZONE in December! (That's UK publication, US is usually three months later.) December 2010!! Yikes.

So it's back to work for me. One down, one to go....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Introducing Pru Marlowe and the genre of "pet noir"

From Publishers Marketplace:

"Mystery/Crime: Clea Simon's DOGS DON'T LIE, first in a new "pet noir" series featuring a bad-girl animal psychic and her sidekick, a crotchety tabby, to Annette Rogers at Poisoned Pen Press, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in April, 2011, by Colleen Mohyde at Doe Coover Agency."

More info when I have time - am now waiting to hear from editor on Dogs Don't Lie revisions and also finishing up Dulcie #3, tentatively titled "Grey Zone." So a little harried, but VERY HAPPY!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Found dialogue

I love summer (or, ok, spring) in the city. Everyone lives outdoors, from the shirtless man in mardi gras beads to the couples returning from dinner out. And as we did the same, we encountered these random bits of conversation:

" ... I don' t think anyone could live 20 minutes underwater..."

"It has a little bit of everything."
"No, it doesn't."

"My father always kept his shotguns (plural) under the bed."

All dialogue, as Stan Mack used to say, verbatim.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Me on "Agents of Treachery"

I got to review the new spy-fiction anthology "Agents of Treachery" in today's Boston Globe:

"What is the proper setting for an international thriller in these global times? Is it World War II, the last unequivocally just war, or the fight against terrorism? Does it take place in Europe or the Middle East, or right here at home? These are some of the questions tackled by the authors in this packed anthology, “Agents of Treachery.’’...

read more here:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pet Noir on the radio!

"Dumb Beasts," the first Pru Marlowe story, will air on "Lit 103.3, Radio for the Ears," on WXOJ, 103.3, a low-power FM in Northampton, Mass. The show broadcasts original short stories every Tuesdays, at 1 p.m., and my offering will be in rotation with two others, airing on June 1, June 22, and July 13. On those days, it will also stream from the station's website at and sometime after it should be available as a podcast at the Lit 103.3 site,

I'm very excited to be part of this great show – especially because Pru and her sidekick, the crotchety tabby cat Wallis, will be making their debut in a full-length mystery next year, and that mystery is set in Western Mass.! More details as they firm up, but look for more pet noir soon....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Librarians rule!

Check out this lovely review of "Grey Matters" in the Bristol Public Library book blog. Melon is a major consumer of feline fiction, as you can tell..

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inspiration from a friend

My wonderful friend, the artist Chris Mesarch, sent me this illustrated quote from an Adam Gopnick New Yorker piece on Vincent Van Gogh.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reading aloud

Oh, isn't this COOL! Just heard that Alan Vogel, host of "Lit 103," on WXOJ in Northampton, Mass., will be reading my story "Dumb Beasts" over the air later this month or early next month. The show, which bills itself as "Fiction for the Ears," airs Tuesdays, 1-2 p.m. EST, but I believe all the shows are also available as podcasts. More details as I get 'em!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yann Martell's new "Beatrice and Virgil"

I review Yann Martel's latest, "Beatrice and Virgil," in the Boston Phoenix:

In contemporary literature, the Holocaust is the okapi in the room: looming and somehow irresistible. Such, at least, appears to be the thesis of Beatrice and Virgil, Yann Martel’s first novel since his 2002 Booker Award winner, Life of Pi.

The okapi, in the book, is stuffed, the namesake of Okapi Taxidermy, an odd little store in a foreign city in which the narrator, an author named Henry, has gone to live. The author, much like Martel himself, has had great success with a small novel that used animals to tell a story. The choice of animals, as Henry explains, “was for reasons of craft rather than of sentiment. Speaking before his tribe, naked, he was only a human and therefore possibly — likely — surely — a liar. But dressed in furs and feathers, he became a shaman and spoke a greater truth.” ...

Read more:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Denise Mina's new "Still Midnight"

Denise Mina seems to be taking a gentler tone with her characters in her new book, "Still Midnight." Click to read my review in the Boston Globe.

"It may be “Still Midnight’’ in Glasgow, as the title of Denise Mina’s latest crime novel suggests, but somewhere in the dark, beleaguered city dawn is showing through. In her seventh noir-ish outing, Mina, winner of the John Creasey Memorial Award for best first crime novel, doesn’t abandon the broken-glass scenarios that have won her a following. For perhaps the first time, however, the Scottish author expresses some optimism – even for the unlikeliest characters. ...


Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown & Co., 352 pp., $24.99

Friday, April 2, 2010

Watching a candle burn

One of the Jewish traditions is that you burn a candle for the dead for seven days. So last Monday, actually a day after my mom died, the funeral home asked me if I wanted one - and since I've been picking and choosing between the traditions that feel right to me, I said "sure." Lit it that evening. And... it kept burning. I found it very comforting and when it hadn't burned out by Monday, I kept hoping it would burn through to the memorial.It did. Yesterday, in fact, it was clearly quite quite low but still burning. I was in a very calm, peaceful mood still, after the memorial - all that cello - and spent a lot of time yesterday just watching it. It's just such a beautiful metaphor - the candle was so low there was no way I would have been able to re-light it if it went out. i couldn't see what it was burning on at all, except the end of the wick. But it was still a light, definitely a light. And I knew that at some point it would go out - and that would be that. The light would be gone and even though it had burned so so low, there was a profound difference between a flame and no flame.

The candle burned out a little before 6 last night. I found this a very peaceful vigil.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Memorial for my mom

Memorial for my mom

My mother was a complicated woman, and my relationship with her was not always easy. But I loved my mother, and I know she loved me and was proud of me.

One of the very few times, in fact, that I think I ever really disappointed her was back when I was in elementary school. My class - maybe it was third or fourth grade - had had a discussion about jobs, particularly about what jobs our parents had - and if our mothers worked. Some mothers, after all, were secretaries or nurses in those days. Not mine, though.I told my class that my mother didn’t work. And I remember her reaction when I told her the same thing.

“But I’m an artist,” she said, and even my eight-year-old ears heard how hurt she was. “I’m an artist.”

The confusion, as we both came to understand, was that my mother’s art wasn’t separate from her life, the way a job in an office or a nearby hospital would have been. It wasn’t even that separate from our home. For many years, my mother used two studios to paint and sculpt and create her etchings. One big studio in the basement under my father’s office, and a little one at home – and for me, her youngest child, these were both an extension of our home life.

Those studios – the places where my mother made art – were my playrooms. In those studios, I spent after-school hours fooling around with bits of rice paper, gluing together what she’d torn up for collages. Taking the colored beach glass or feathers that she used in her assemblages for my own toys, and coloring on scraps of the thick, textured blotters that she’d use over the plates in her etching press.

My mother’s studios were where I, too, learned to experiment, and they provided a full sensory experience: In those studios, I grew up as familiar with the scents of turpentine and carbon tet as with Shake-and-Bake chicken.

And the music! My mother’s friends know of her love for classical music, for opera. But to the last she was also a fan of Billie Holiday, and would tell me of seeing Lady Day at Cafe Society Downtown in the ‘40s. But she wasn’t stuck in a time warp. In her studios, she would often have Janis Joplin playing. Bob Dylan. I first heard the Band’s “Music from Big Pink” in those rooms, as well as the Great Society and its successor, Jefferson Airplane. Anything with Grace Slick.

This was the music that my mother loved but my father had less patience for – music I grew to love, too, and which helped shape my feelings about the interconnectedness of the arts. But that interaction – that these loud, often dissonant sounds were not to be played in the house proper – also taught me something about how easily the vitality of the arts, of the artist’s life could be shunted aside - how the act of creation, the expression of the spirit could be made secondary to more mundane concerns.

My father, I believe, adored my mother, but he did not always understand her. Nor did he always appreciate her, who she was, and what she did. To some extent, I initially accepted that without thinking – that day when I told my class that my mother did not work, I was voicing something I had picked up at home. I never made that mistake again, and I know she forgave me. But I believe this was a problem my mother struggled with all her life, and it has certainly shaped me – given me a determination and an ability to perservere, and also prompted me to chose a more supportive life, a more supportive mate.

My mother was not always successful as an artist. Which of us is? And there were times, many times, that she gave in and gave up. But as recently as three weeks before her death, when she barely had the hand-eye coordination to write a legible note, she asked me for a pad and some pastels. “I don’t know if I’ll do anything,” she said. “But just in case.”

So I’d like to thank her now, and remember her for that – for her art, and for showing me the work that makes it happen. Most particularly, I’d like to thank her for her perserverance, which I hope I have built on and extended. For her eye and for all her senses, which have sharpened mine and taught me to trust my own. And for teaching me that the creations of our minds and our fancies are as valid as any workaday job.

My friends know that I often quote one couplet of the Yeats’ poem, “Adam’s Curse.” I’d like to read the entire poem now. It isn’t entirely appropriate in a literal sense, but covers many of the issues that I associate with my mother, the artist, and that I deal with still.

"We sat together at one summer's end,

That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,

And you and I, and talked of poetry.

I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;

Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,

Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

Better go down upon your marrow-bones

And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones

Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;

For to articulate sweet sounds together

Is to work harder than all these, and yet

Be thought an idler by the noisy set

Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen

The martyrs call the world."

And thereupon

That beautiful mild woman for whose sake

There's many a one shall find out all heartache

On finding that her voice is sweet and low

Replied, "To be born woman is to know --

Although they do not talk of it at school --

That we must labour to be beautiful."

I said, "It's certain there is no fine thing

Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.

There have been lovers who thought love should be

So much compounded of high courtesy

That they would sigh and quote with learned looks

precedents out of beautiful old books;

Yet now it seems an idle trade enough."

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;

We saw the last embers of daylight die,

And in the trembling blue-green of the sky

A moon, worn as if it had been a shell

Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell

About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:

That you were beautiful, and that I strove

To love you in the old high way of love;

That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown

As weary-hearted as that hollow moon."

Thank you, Mom.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Odd, but, hey, he calls me 'Austen-esque.'

This is possibly the oddest review I have ever received and begs the question: why was this particular critic, who clearly neither likes nor is familiar with this "prosaic genre,"was assigned this book. (I also wonder why, for all his own fastidious prose, he could not get the name of my protagonist right.) Still, I don't mind being called "Austen-esque," even in this backhanded way.

"Dulcie Swartz is not a modern Miss Marple, nor is she, heavens forbid, another Jessica Fletcher. She occupies a unique niche in the regiment of nosy, busybody, female would-be detectives: she is a third-year Harvard grad student of eighteenth century gothic novels and, as such, brings a higher intellectual dimension to this prosaic genre. The narrative voice is accomplished, measured, and professional. The style is über-descriptive, painting baroquely elaborate word-pictures of places and people and even thought processes.
There is something that is vaguely Austen-esque about Clea Simon’s writing in its use of carefully structured sentences and grammatically fastidious prose. ... Ultimately, perhaps like Harvard itself, Grey Matters lives somewhere cerebral, above mere storytelling, in a lycean realm of excruciating whys, wherefores, and if-onlys."
Confession: I had to look up "lycean." Does he mean theatrical? I'm still not sure.
From the New York Journal of Books, a new online publication. And there is more, some of it much less nice – including a bit that seems to imply that the critic doesn't understand that indoor cats use litterboxes. As I said, odd.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Photos of my mom

Scanned these in to put on memorial program for Wednesday: 2009 and (approx) 1975:

(not sure how to flip the newer one, sorry.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What I said at Brookline Booksmith last night.

Thank you for coming tonight.

As many of you know, I lost my mother on Sunday, so I’d actually like to start this reading by talking a little about her, before going onto my new book. There is a connection: My mother came to several of my readings here at Brookline Booksmith, and some of you probably met her here.

One of the last times she really went out into the world was to come to a reading here. That was for one of my mysteries, I don’t remember which. She already was having health problems and the logistics of that trip were difficult, but she was always incredibly supportive of my writing and she had wanted to be here, so I’m glad in retrsopect that we made it work.

What I remember most though, was when she came here to Brookline Booksmith for my first book, what might have been my very first reading. That book, as many of you know, was “Mad House,” about growing up with a brother and a sister who had schizophrenia – and the fact that my mother came at all was a real show of support on her part. I grew up, and she lived through, an era when mental illness was blamed completely on mothers. With two kids who were sick she was labelled a “schizophrenegenic mother,” and just took a lot of shit from social workers, psychiatrists, and others over the years. Even though those theories have since been discredited, the stigma lingered – and when I started working on “Mad House,” my mother definitely cringed. She expected more blame. Still, she managed to support my efforts throughout my research and writing. She even ended up revealing some family secrets that had stayed hidden until then. And when the book came out, she was at first unhappy – our relationship was complicated and I remember her saying, “Some people remember things differently” – but ultimately supportive. And she made plans to come to this reading.

This was a big step for her - coming out as the mother of two people with schizophrenia. But because it was her youngest daughter’s first book, she came – and several of her friends came too. And what happened was pretty amazing. I read, and her friends turned to her – and started to talk. These women had come to support her, and to celebrate her daughter’s first book. But what they began to talk about were their own lives. They talked about the mental illnesses in their own families. The spouses with substance abuse issues. The relatives who were never spoken of. The cousins who had “problems” and somehow disappeared. Nobody blamed my mother, instead, they all celebrated her strength and courage – and shared their own stories in a new, free spirit of intimacy. That evening here at Brookline Booksmith started a bonding and an outpouring of shared support for my mother, as well as for me. I’ll never forget it.

So with that in mind, I’d like to dedicate this evening’s reading to my mom, Iris Simon. But because I really don’t want to turn this into: My mother died, buy my book. I’d like to talk about what I’d originally planned to talk about tonight. I’d like to talk about motives for murder.

“Grey Matters,” like all my mysteries, is a book about cats and the people who love them – but it’s also a book about secrets. This book set, like its predecessor “Shades of Grey,” in and around Harvard, starts with a murder, and of course the identity of the murderer is a secret until the end. But I also wanted to make it a book that shows how all of us have secrets, though of course not all of us are murderers.

“Grey Matters,” like all my mysteries, is a traditional or cozy mystery. And one of the traits I love about this subgenre is that cozies are character driven. Even our crimes are supposed to emerge from the kind of real human emotions we all experience. Cozies don’t have crazed serial killers or dogma-driven fanatics as the villains. We write, more or less, about real people. And so when I’m setting up a crime, I need to be able to relate as much to the criminal as to the victims.

This can be a problem when you’re plotting a murder. Traditionally, characters are motivated to act through one of a series of prompts: rage, lust or greed, or envy. But we all experience these, and we’re not all murderers, right? So maybe it’s opportunity. But then again, motive and opportunity are not always enough either. When I started writing “Grey Matters,” I thought, for example, that I knew who the murderer was. I already had one character who has a terrible secret, the kind of secret that threatens to destroy everything that character has worked for – so I thought I had my murderer.

But one day, over brunch, I tried explaining my plot to Sophie, my 93-year-old mother in law - I guess there’s a mother theme tonight. And I kept trying to make the case for this one particular version of the crime. Sophie was great about it. She kept saying things like, “I understand. We are all capable of murder if driven hard enough.” Something which, if you know Sophie, you might doubt. But somewhere in the midst of all of this, I realized that I was trying too hard. The character I had in mind had motive and opportunity, but still, that character wasn’t the killer. It just didn’t feel right.

That’s when I realized I wanted to do my version of a classic mystery trope - a “Ten Little Indians” or “Murder on the Orient Express” style mystery in which many people have motives. Many people have secrets. This, after all, is true to life as I know it - maybe this does relate to “Mad House,” as well. And so in “Grey Matters,” I played it out. In this book, everyone has a secret. These secrets may seem minor, they may seem personal, but each one threatens something a character holds dear. Even my heroine, Dulcie Schwartz, has a secret: She hears the ghost of her late, great cat Mr. Grey talking to her, a secret that could seriously damage her academic credentials if it got out.

But which one would be the murderer? Working through these characters, I came up with a complex equation. Nothing scientific, or even mathematically accurate, but something like murder equals situational and underlying pressure plus basic character traits - plus a catalyst. In other words, you have to be the right person, under the right pressures – at the right time. It has to make emotional sense.

Does the result work? Does the mystery make sense? That, dear people, I leave up to you to decide. All I can tell you is that writing this book gave me a great opportunity to think about the human condition – and to work out what really could be a motive for murder.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My mom

Hi folks. My mom, Iris Simon, passed away this morning at the age of 83. I may not be posting for a while. Thanks for understanding.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Simon scores..."

"Simon scores with the spectral Mr. Grey and the likable Dulcie." – PW 3/15/10

So you want a signed book...

Hi folks,
I often get emails asking if I can sign and mail books. I'm always happy to! But sometimes the logistics can get complicated. So, I thought I'd get out ahead of this one. I'll be doing a launch event (reading/signing) at Brookline Booksmith next Tuesday, March 23. If you're anywhere nearby, I'd love you to come and chat and have some snacks with us. But if you can't, and you'd still like a signed and/or personalized book, I can do that for you that night. If you do want that, please call Brookline Booksmith at 617-566-6660 and order one over the phone - but tell the person taking your order that you want it signed and/or personalized (and if you want it signed to someone, or some cat, please let them know). I'll sign all orders on Tuesday night and Brookline Booksmith will ship them out promptly. You'll get a signed book made out to you – and you'll also be supporting one of the last great independent bookstores!

Please feel free to email me with any questions.

All best,

“With skill and style, Simon fashions a true whodunit ... with catlike grace.” — Richmond Times-Dispatch

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Girl Who Fell From the Sky" by Heidi Durrow

Meant to post this review, which I wrote for the Boston Globe. Belatedly...
"Does truth, as well as beauty, exist in the eye of the beholder? That’s one of the questions posed in Bellwether Prize-winner Heidi Durrow’s heartbreaking debut, “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.’’ Others - about race and memory, love and family - follow hard on its heels in this dramatic coming-of-age novel.."
(more here.)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thank you, Richmond Times-Dispatch

From today's Richmond Times-Dispatch:

"Back-stabbing, jealousy and gamesmanship. Is it corporate America? Or could it be academia? In Grey Matters (232 pages, Severn House, $28.95), the second installment in Clea Simon's series featuring Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz, it's definitely the latter.

This time out, Dulcie is continuing to research her thesis, a study of an obscure Gothic novel of the 18th century whose author is unknown -- and whose identity Dulcie is trying to discover. But after a meeting with the professor who's her faculty adviser, she stumbles over the body of a fellow grad student outside the adviser's posh house.

Dulcie soon realizes that something is wrong inside that house, and it may be connected to her adviser, or two of his assistants, one of whom also serves as a semi-housekeeper, or a dealer and repairer of old books. Meanwhile, Dulcie believes she's getting hints and warnings from her late, beloved cat, Mr. Grey, and she's having a hard time bonding with her new kitten.

With skill and style, Simon fashions a true whodunit, a look inside the cutthroat academic world and an homage to the pets we've lost but who remain forever in our hearts. It's a tricky trifecta, but Simon makes the leap with catlike grace."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How self-referential can we be?

This Court Reporter blog noted my blog as covering a variety of topics "from animal rights to crime fiction." Um, I guess I'd better get back to updating this!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I love Henning Mankell, but...

I just couldn't love "The Man from Beijing," (as I say in my Boston Phoenix review). Too many things kept throwing me out of the book, mostly a sense of heavy handed message. Mankell is – as are most crime writers – highly moral. Usually, he lets his characters do the talking. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not kicked too hard

"Sure to provide cat fanciers with a relaxing couple of hours." – Kirkus Reviews on Grey Matters.

Not bad, right? Well, coming from Kirkus, this is probably meant to be snarky - the infamous "Kirkus kick." But I'll take it. I mean, I write to entertain and those who fancy cats are my natural audience. The funny thing is, the Kirkus review of Grey Matters starts off with a wonderful synopsis - makes my new book sound quite exciting. Then there's one nasty sentence, and then the above. Ah well, it all helps spread the word.

Congrats to Lesa - and The Conscious Cat

One of my favorite blogs, combining pet news and advice and book reviews, is The Conscious Cat. This week, TCC awarded an "Over the Top" award to longtime librarian and indefatigable book blogger Lesa Holstine and her Lesa's Book Critiques blog. The award is most apt - Lesa reviews and interviews nonstop, providing a serious alternative to the quickly disappearing newspaper reviews (especially for us mystery writers). But Lesa's family is going through some health issues, so she can't right now publicize her award as she should. That's why I'm happy to put it here: CONGRATS, LESA! JOB WELL DONE!! (And kudos to The Conscious Cat's Ingrid King, as well!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank you, Booklist!

My Grey Matters officially pubs in March – here's my first pre-pub review:

Grey Matters, Simon, Clea (Author), Mar 2010. 240 p. Severn, hardcover, $28.95. (9780727868404).

Simon’s second Dulcie Schwartz mystery picks up a few months after the end of Shades of Grey (2009), with Harvard doctoral student Dulcie deep into her fall semester, overloaded with grading papers and concerned about getting her adviser’s approval on her thesis. Then she finds the body of a fellow graduate student on her adviser’s front step. The ghost of Mr. Grey, her deceased cat, returns to offer his usual cryptic advice, and her new kitten takes a noncommittal stance toward crime-solving, leaving Dulcie on her own to try and find the real murderer before the killer finds her. While the cats are an important part of the book, they are not an overwhelming presence, in fact, the academic setting is a much stronger part of the novel’s appeal, making this easily recommendable to readers who enjoy Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series or Jennifer Lee Carrel’s literary thriller Interred with Their Bones (2007), which also has significant scenes set in Harvard’s Widener Library. A solid follow-up to an entertaining debut.

Grey Matters is already available through Amazon and at such indies as Harvard Book Store and Brookline Booksmith. (Folks who want a signed copy can order one from those two bookstores - then email me to let me know.)

James Patterson, not so much

Why does James Patterson bother? From reading the New York Times profile, I've learned that he has five "co-authors" who actually writethe books he drafts. He skews his plots for marketing purposes. He's abandoned his early literary potential to write sadomasochistic rape/torture thrillers. And he does this why? Don't get me wrong. I'd love to have tons of money. But if that were my main motivation, I think I'd have gone into a different profession - plumbing, for example. I write because I want to write. What James Patterson does? Not so much...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting ready for GREY MATTERS!

Coming soon! Officially, a March 1, 2010, book. But, because it was published in Dec. in the UK and, I guess, copies shipped, it's already available at a few places (primarily online.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Robert B. Parker, RIP

A few years ago, I had the honor of being on a panel at the Concord Literary Festival with Robert B. Parker. I'd seen the local luminary - the creator of the Spenser mysteries, and arguably the reviver of hard-boiled crime fiction - before, often. When Jon and I would splurge for a dinner at Rialto, we'd see him comfortably ensconced on one of the restaurant's big wraparound banquettes. When I'd squeeze into Kate's Mystery Books for her annual holiday party, it was usually after Parker had made his annual appearance - and the crowd had subsided somewhat. He was, like his hero, larger than life.

In truth, at the Concord fest, I was a little shocked, even put off, when he told a capacity crowd that he never re-wrote. He never, or so he said, even re-read what he'd written. He simply wrote – and sent off the ms. Since I'm one of those writers who consider revising a manuscript a form of torture, I envied him. How wonderful to be able to just dash off a draft – and have it published! I remember thinking that was how he managed to be so prolific, but also that this was exactly why I'd stopped reading him recently. The quality of his work had fallen off, at least to this reader.

But to hear that he died at his writing desk yesterday morning, hard at work at something, despite it being a holiday... well, that's inspiring.

What I wrote for the Globe:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nora in concerto!

Words do not do this Lithuanian composer's orchestration of Nora the Piano-Playing Cat's music justice. Just watch.

Yup, I need new photos

Musetta is still sporting this classic look, but I've replaced this old iMac with a sleek flat-screen model. Sadly, the mess on the desk remains pretty much the same! Anyway, Musetta once again takes her place among literary fat cats in today's Galleycat.