Sunday, August 7, 2011


"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." – Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Borders Bookstore ClosedOne of my favorite pastimes is meandering through bookstores. Partly for the obvious reasons and partly for less obvious ones. And I'm not a snob about it. I like both the big chain stores and the small independents. Each has strengths and weaknesses. The independents often carry a more eclectic stock or are sometimes even dedicated to a single genre, such as mysteries. Their staffs are usually more knowledgeable and well read. The big box stores have more variety and selection.

But either way, I look at going to bookstores as a social experience. Even if I say no more than "Hello" and "Thank you" to the clerk checking me out, I have a social experience with hundreds of authors and books.

On the social level I have met women I've dated at bookstores and seen authors I like do signings and readings. Check out a James Ellroy event some time if you want to see insanity in motion. And I've done signings and speaking gigs at bookstores myself.

I like bookstores that stay open late. That I can run to when an urge for something in particular strikes at an odd hour – and I keep plenty odd hours. Sometimes it wasn't a traditional bookstore but some other type of store that also sold books. But it was a place to go. A destination. Before moving out of the city proper (Los Angeles) to a more rural area, I would often hop in the car at all hours to go find a book to satisfy my addiction.
But that's getting harder and harder to do, even in the city. And yes, I also patronize Amazon, but I still patronize brick and mortar bookstores. And there is nothing like browsing through one, discovering new books and authors. Whenever I see a bookstore, I want to go in. Whenever I go in, I buy at least one or two things, hoping to help keep the stores afloat.

A few weeks ago I went to a Borders that's relatively near me. When I got there I found that they were soon to close. The stock had been decimated. But I still spent an hour walking through there and came out with a couple of books. Still, it was a very depressing experience.

I didn't know then that Borders would soon be closing all of its stores. But that news hit the airwaves recently. And I found it singularly depressing.

Maybe the art of the reading won't die. Maybe people will continue to read on various electronic devices, though I have my doubts about that too, at least in terms of what they're reading and the state of the language. Compare today's internet shorthand to how Shakespeare wrote (for example: CAS [crack a smile] vs. "If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourselves into stitches, follow me"). I couldn't find a good analogy for LOL, can you? But even if people continue to read books in e-form there will be something lost. The social experience that I speak of above. The joy of walking through a bookstore, seeing books you might not have heard about, picking them up, discovering new authors, new stories, new worlds. Feeling a new book in your hands. Opening it for the first time. Being in a place where there are like-minded people – people who like books. Who maybe want to be transported to other worlds, other times, other places, whether real or fictional. Who want to learn and laugh. Who also enjoy the experience of being in a candy store of reading.

I will miss Borders as I miss all of the independent stores that are no longer here. I will miss yet another place to go in and browse and while away the time. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


MGM book off Amazon -- D1We're back for Part II of my interview with Steven Bingen, co-author with Stephen Sylvester and Michael Troyan of MGM: HOLLYWOOD'S GREATEST BACKLOT. If you missed Part I scroll down and catch up on it before reading Part II. Enjoy:

Welcome back, Steve. What are your and your co-authors backgrounds? Tell us a little about your personal as well as Hollywood backgrounds.  mgm-logo11

There are 3 credited author's on this book, "MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot."
Years ago our agent was told by a publisher that there could never be a "unified vision" on a book with 3 perspectives. That publisher didn't understand that we all felt exactly the same way about Hollywood's backlots and shared exactly the same odd obsessions. Whatever the book's virtues and flaws, I defy anyone to figure out where one of our voices stops and another's starts. Our collaborating was just like the production of most Hollywood movies. The book's very existence is a sort of 2-Dimensional denial of the auteur theory. Creativity by committee, if you will.

Mike (Troyan) and I both came out of Warner Bros. Corporate Archive – although his background is more academic than mine. I have a background rooted in film production while his is more literary. Mike is the author of "A Rose for Mrs. Miniver," about MGM star Greer Garson – which I can't recommend highly enough, by the way.

Steve (Sylvester), my other partner is in possession of vast amount knowledge and a vast collection of materials relating to MGM as a physical place. He's the only one of us who was actually able to boast of visiting the MGM backlot before it was all destroyed. In some ways, in visiting the studio he was able to do what I've aspired to do for my whole life. Because I was too late to see the place, the studio always seemed almost mythical, like Shangri-La or Camelot to me. But it was real and Steve was there. I wanted that perspective in the book. It just seemed like a good fit for the three of us to coauthor – and it was.

Who have you contacted (MGM old-timers, etc.) and have they been willing to help?

MGM Backlot #2 -- New York Street 3 --"Show Biz"I don't know if it was a conscious decision, but we tended to avoid talking to movie stars because their stories have been told so often, and because their worlds at the studio were so insulated. Elizabeth Taylor was at MGM for decades, but her experience on the backlot would have consisted of being driven through the sets in a limo to her particular location. I doubt if she would have had much opportunity or interest in exploring a place which wouldn't have seemed at all unusual to her because of the odd circumstances of her life. It would be like asking a coal miner what was extraordinary about a mine shaft!

On the other hand we spoke to a lot of "regular people," some of whom worked on the lot for their entire careers who had amazing stories to tell, and who realized, even at the time what a bizarre and wonderful place MGM really was. Some of our best stories were from people who grew up near the studio who used to climb the fences and explore inside as children. I really do envy those people.

How many backlots were there? Where? What did they have on them?

MGM Backlot #2 -- European Street --"Show Biz"MGM wasn't a single lot. Lot One contained the soundstages, corporate offices and post production facilities. The backlot was literally at the rear, or back, of the plant. As the studio grew it expanded across the street onto a property known as Lot Two. Lot Two contained a small-town street, residential districts, railroad stations (with working trains) – the largest of which replicated New York's Grand Central Station. It also had European and Asian villages, a jungle with a bridge, man-made lake, gardens, pools, castles, Southern and English estates, and a half dozen blocks, built full scale, replicating New York City and all its Burroughs – right down to the last street sign, man-hole cover, and fire escape.

Up the road a few blocks was Lot Three, which was even larger and contained three distinct old westerns settings, two more waterfront districts, a tropical rainforest, rock formations, winding roads, a Mississippi steamboat, a circus set, military bases, a POW camp, a vintage era New York Street, farms, ranches, an Arabian Knight districts and the world's largest process tank for shooting miniatures.

Lot Three was itself surrounded by the satellite lots; Four, Five, Six and Seven – which collectively housed zoos and stables, more sets, storage sheds, partial fleets of aircraft and locomotives, a peat farm…. whatever there wasn't room for anywhere else. When L. B. Mayer, the boss, took an interest in horse racing in the 40's, people used to suggest that the Santa Anita racetrack should perhaps be rechristened Lot Eight!

What are your philosophical thoughts about the loss of the backlots?

I've always been haunted by and interested in Hollywood's backlots in general.  The idea that there exists places in the world where there are entire phantom towns constructed to mimic the real world – and yet where no one has ever lived, could ever live, is fascinating and mysterious and a little creepy.  Backlots are supposed to duplicate our lives, our homes, and the city streets we move thorough every day, and yet although they can be as familiar to us as places we've lived in our actual lives, they remain unknowable, untouchable, just out of normalcy and of recognition.

Backlots are like the purest form of architecture.  They really are designed just for aesthetic reasons.  The backlot architect doesn't have to worry about service elevators or building codes or faulty wiring.  A backlot just has to look good and to set a mood in order to do its job.  There are no real world considerations involved. Find an architect and ask him where else in the world that happens?

During the writing of this book it occurred to me that Hollywood's backlots are responsible for an awful lot of the defining non-movie architecture of the last century as well.  Think about it.  If Hollywood hadn't started designing sets to suggest moods or foreign settings would we really have shopping malls, or theme parks, or places like Las Vegas today?  All of these places, for good or bad, came out of backlots and the people who designed them.

I used to give tours of Warner Bros. Studio in my capacity as historian for the company. Once I was showing the family of some executives an artificial lake out on the backlot and describing how that lake had been dressed as India for a film which I'd seen shot there. I was going on about how the set had looked exactly like the real India when all of a sudden it occurred to me, and I told my bemused guests this, that I'd never personally been to India at all. That my entire idea of what India is, in fact came not from the real thing, not from India at all, but rather from movies, some of which had undoubtedly been made right where we were standing right at that moment!

You should talk to my wife, she grew up in India for a time – but yes, she does have an American birth certificate.... But changing elephants in midstream now, What is your next project?

I can't speak for my partners…but…I will.  Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to shake off the current project!  After all, I'm doomed to see the MGM backlot every time I sit back to relax and turn on the TV!

We'd love to make this book the first volume in a series about all 7 of Hollywood's major studio lots – the Seven Sisters.  I'm just not sure if logistically, and legally it's going to be possible to do so.  To look at it from the viewpoint of the other studios I can't really blame them for not wanting someone from the outside to come around and start rooting around in their past.  We were able to "do" MGM because so many different hands have been running the company and the people who owned the copyright on the materials we needed weren't the original owners. But I don't know if that set of circumstances could come up again in regards to another studio. We'll see…

"MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot" is available in bookstores and at Amazon. Click here:

Thank you, Steve, for joining me here at Cafe Noir. And good luck with the book.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


MGM book off Amazon -- D1 - Copy Only one studio in the golden days of Hollywood could claim as its motto "more stars than there are in heaven" and actually mean it: MGM – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Not only did MGM have more stars than in heaven it also had more backlots – the place where dreams were made. In Culver City, CA, besides the main studio lot, were eight backlots, depending on how one counts them. I have the distinction of being one of the last people to have shot a film on MGM Backlot #2, one of the two main backlots and the last one standing, which is an interesting story in itself, but for another time.

Because of that, I was contacted by Steven Bingen, an archivist at Warner Brothers, who, along with Mike Troyan and Steve Sylvester have authored a book for Santa Monica Press called MGM: HOLLYWOOD'S GREATEST BACKLOT – with a foreword by Debbie Reynolds.

Unfortunately MGM ain't what it used to be and, in fact, the main lot, the only lot left, is now owned by Sony. All the backlots met with the wrecker's ball and made way MGM starsfor condos or other developments.   "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot," as Joanie Mitchell once sang. Luckily the photos, memories and stories of people who remember the backlots have been collected in this book.

What follows is Part I of my interview with Steve Bingen about the book and the backlots. Please note that the interview was done before the book was finalized and released so that is reflected in the interview's wording.

Thank you, Steve, for coming to Cafe Noir. What gave you the idea for this book – what was your inspiration?

There have been books written about MGM before, and I recommend them all. But there was always a major part of the equation, maybe the major part of that equation missing on each and every one of them. All of these books would inevitably contain one aerial shot of the lot – usually the same one – and a single paragraph, maybe, about soundstages and backlots at the studio. And that would be it!
This struck all three of us as mysterious. It always seemed to us that if you were writing about a place, and MGM was indeed an actual physical place, then why would an author choose to tell us what amounted to virtually nothing about that place? People always describe Hollywood's studios as "dream factories." Well that phrase isn't bad for what it is, and anyone who was there will tell you that life in those dream factories was if anything, even more interesting than the product the factory was producing. Yet no one had ever talked about that factory. Ever.

What we wanted to do with our book, was to zoom in on that single aerial photo in everyone else's book, to climb the fences of one of those dream factories and look around a bit.

Tell us about the book and what makes it unique.

Let me just say that the book is formatted as a "virtual tour" of MGM Studios.  The text mostly consists of a walk around the lot, circa 1960, with every major set and department described and illustrated.  We've included hundreds of unseen photos of the place as well, many of which were saved from catacombs and basements and archives which no living person has accessed in decades.  I'm not sure about the "not living" people.

What did you learn about MGM and/or the various backlots that was new or really interesting?

I thought it was fascinating and haunting how many famous movies and television shows shot on that lot for which no one ever suspected that what they were watching was a backlot at all. Even if audiences were watching a set they had already seen in hundreds, thousands of other films, people seemed to accept that a curved European street was Paris one week and Transylvania the next just because a visual cue, a street sign or an establishing shot told them it waimg577 -- adjusted-sharpened - cright_edited-3-a copys. Something like a fifth of all the movies made in the United States, historically were made somewhere on the MGM backlot! Sadly, and decades after the fact, this only proves how successfully these facades were at doing what they were designed to do. Even today in an era of wide-spread location shooting and so-called digital backlots, Hollywood's few surviving actual backlots manage to succeed in constantly fooling today's "sophisticated" audiences time after time. I recall watching the Super Bowl on TV recently, and counting at least 4 commercials during the broadcast which replicated real locations using current LA backlot sets which every single person in that game's vast worldwide audience had seen hundreds of times before. I can't help but wonder how many of those people, besides me, have ever suspected that was the case? 

NY-St -- D1aWhat were some of the movies shot on them?

In the book we came up with a list of every major backlot set with the titles of films shot on that set listed underneath. I'm not sure how much of that list is going to be published, and in what form, but as it stands now those lists alone, in reduced print, equal over 40 pages of text, and frankly are not even close to being comprehensive! It amuses me that people write books about, and make pilgrimages to, locations where their favorite scenes from their favorite films were shot. You know, Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood hills where a single scene in "Rebel Without a Cause" was recorded for example. Well, that location pales in significance to any single inch of any single movie studio – which has probably hosted hundreds, thousands, of films across the decades. I sometimes drive though those vast anonymous subdivisions which were built where MGM's Lot Two once stood, and I can't help but wonder if the people in those tract homes on that land, know, or care, how historic their property really is. Movie-wise that real estate is more important than any single block of Hollywood Boulevard ever was! 

Anyway, I think it's kind of fun to hopscotch through these lists and realize how versatile these sets were, and how much of our shared movie memories were created on them. 

How and why did you hook up with me?

Now that's an interesting story.  I don't know if readers of this blog are aware of this but Paul directed one of the last movies ever made on the MGM backlot.  That 40 page chronological list I mentioned of films shot at the studio ends with his name on it.

I didn't know any of this. I had noticed that there were a few very tantalizing stills floating around on the internet of the studio in its very decrepit very last days.  I couldn't figure out what film these stills were from or what movie was seen in production in them.  I started asking around on the sites where these "holy grail" shots had been posted and that finally led Paul and I to a meeting where he was good enough to loan me some of these same stills and describe the strange production history of his picture "Show Biz."  I'm not going to tell that story here because I can't do so as well as he can, but needless to say it is in my book, and hopefully some of those pictures will appear there as well.  (The photo selection is still being assembled [at the time of the interview]). Let me just say that the history of Paul's movie quite a tale.  Ask him to tell it to you…

MGM: HOLLYWOOD'S GREATEST BACKLOT is a fun read and jammed full of great photos.  Anyone interested in MGM and Hollywood history should have this book.  It is available in bookstores and at Amazon. Click here:

In Part II find out about more about MGM. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Packed and Loaded Cover off Amazon--cropAndrew McAleer is the publisher of the venerable Crimestalker Casebook mystery magazine. He's also authored three well-received mystery novels, including "Bait and Switch" and "Appearance of Counsel," as well the non-fiction "Mystery Writing in a Nutshell," written with his father Edgar winner John McAleer, and the number one best seller "101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists: Insider Secrets from Top Writers".

Mr. McAleer, along with Harry Sapienza, has recently ushered ajames-m-cain-2--adjusted D1 project of his father John McAleer's to fruition: PACKED AND LOADED: CONVERSATIONS WITH JAMES M. CAIN, who as many of you know is the author of "Double Indemnity," "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Mildred Pierce," to name just a few.

Not only does Cain discuss his first notions to be a writer, his newspaper days and his Hollywood years. He also reveals his brutally honest thoughts on everyone from Hammett and Chandler to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Arthur Miller and even Marilyn Monroe. The book is peppered with epigraphs from Elmore Leonard, Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane among others.

McAleer Quote 1a

andew mcaleer -- adjusted D1Q: Welcome, Andy. Before we get to PACKED AND LOADED, maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? I understand that you're a prosecutor in Massachusetts. It seems that your profession has had a definite impact on your novels, can you expand on that a little?

A: Thanks, Paul. I’ve had I think a fairly interesting legal career so far. Right after law school I started a small law practice in the town I grew up in – Lexington. The only legal books I had were my grandfather’s old law books dating back to the 19 teens and 20s including the Mr. Tutt casebooks by Arthur Train, which I devoured and highly recommend. I did a lot of “country” law – real estate, probate, criminal defense. My first book Appearance of Counsel is about a small-town lawyer and my second and third novels Double Endorsement and Bait and Switch about a PI. I prefer the malice domestic formula used by Rex Stout and many of the Golden Age of mystery greats. My latest novel Fatal Deeds (Cherokee McGhee) will be released in August 2011 and is about a retired sheriff Gus Churchill. He hangs his shingle in Concord, Massachusetts. Working as a prosecutor has really helped round off my writing more from an investigative stand point. How things are done from a tactical questioning point of view and in terms of character development. In Fatal Deeds Gus likes to catch bad guys with brain over brawn and a little country charm. I may be old fashioned, but I like to know who the bad guys and good guys are. I would say my entrepreneurial background and legal background have served me well on what it’s really like to survive as a self-employed PI – keeping the wolf off the door can be as challenging as catching bad guys.

Q: You also taught at Boston College. I'm sure that's also had some effect on your writing.

A: I think everyone should teach. It keeps you young and in touch and you definitely learn more from your students than you could ever teach them.

Q: And the third corner of your tri-corner hat is that you're a Sergeant in the Army National Guard. Are you with the JAG? Has your army duty come into play in your writing? And do you plan to do a novel that might specifically revolve around that?

A: Actually I’m with the Military History Detachment now. Like my character Gus Churchill I love local history – I mean . . . I have to, right. . . ? I’ve lived in Lexington all my life just a mile from the Battle Green where the “Shot heard ’round the world” was fired. I enjoyed writing my non-fiction works Mystery Writing in a Nutshell and the 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, so I hope someday to produce a non-fiction book worthy of the men and women who make it all possible for us to write our tales.

Q: I understand that shortly before his death in 1977, James M. Cain commissioned your father, Dr. McAleer, to write his biography? That's a pretty interesting story in itself. Can you tell us a little more about how that came about?

A: Sure. My father was writing Rex Stout’s biography at the time when he and Cain somehow made contact. They began a correspondence where my father would send him questionnaires and Cain would respond. Then, in the fall semester of either 75 or 76, my father’s graduate student Harry Sapienza went down to Cain’s home in Maryland and interviewed him for a couple of hours. Harry did a phenomenal job and really got Cain to open up about all facets of his life. Eventually it came out that Cain had already hired Roy Hoopes to write his bio, so my father put the brakes on things and took up his bio on Emerson. He felt Hoopes had first dibs on the project. I know my father admired Hoopes’ biography on Cain as do I.

Q: Cain responded to Dr. McAleer's questions with the intensity known to him. He gives his thoughts on everyone from Hammett and Chandler, in the mystery genre, to Hemingway and Fitzgerald in literary fiction. Even Arthur Miller. Do you have a favorite story or quote?

A: As a fan of local history one of my favorite chapters in Packed and Loaded is Cain’s vivid description of what a Hollywood “Triangle Girl” is. I mean . . . he talks about Marilyn Monroe and how she was a Triangle Girl and what it really meant to be one. There’s a great story there about this culture perhaps long forgotten by all. Now it’s codified nowhere I think, but in the memories of Cain through Packed and Loaded. These fascinating gals, doing what it takes to survive in the gritty Hollywood of the 40s and 50s, could be the “Mad Men” of their day.

Q: What was your father's impression of Cain?

A: Very high. In one of his letters to Cain he told him he was happy just to be on the same planet with him. My father admired people who were straightforward and by the book. Rex Stout and Cain were very much cut from the same cloth. He was the real McCoy.

Q: Is there anything in particular that you find funny or insightful or unusual that Cain comes up with?

A: I think in his afterword to the book by Shamus Award winner Jeremiah Healy, he summed it up best focusing on how after each question Cain would ask, “What else you got?” Like his works, Cain was the king of “less is more.” You knew where you stood with him.

McAleer Quote 2a

Q: How did Cain feel about the film versions of his work?

A: Cain wasn’t full of “Cain.” He enjoyed his success because it gave him a platform to write. Above all the story was what mattered. “Why does this story need to be told?” That’s why he preferred the first person POV. It has more of a ring of truth to it. He did not let Hollywood go to his head.

Q: I understand, too, that these interviews were almost lost to us until you found them. Can you tell us a little about that?

A: Good question. Around 2000 a publisher was releasing a new edition of my father’s Rex Stout biography. P.G. Wodehose wrote the original foreword to the Stout bio and when we dug out my father’s Wodehose correspondence to do some research for an updated introduction to the Stout bio, the Cain work – long since thought to be lost – was found!

Q: Your father was a serious literary biographer of people such as Dreiser and Thoreau before tackling Rex Stout in the mystery field. How and why did he make the jump?

john mcaleer -- adjusted d2A: My father was an eclectic scholar. I think his military training in the Big Two taught him how to adapt and in the old days of education this is what you had to do. In the 40s and 50s Boston College was not the big school it is today. The Jesuits gave him an assignment and it was his job to learn the subject, master it, and disseminate the knowledge to his students. Interestingly, it was his Dreiser bio that landed him the Stout bio. When my father was visiting his cousin in Connecticut back in 1968 or 69, his cousin invited him to meet his neighbor – Rex Stout. When Stout met my father he had just completed my father’s book on Dreiser and admired it very much. Soon after he hired my father to author his bio. They became great friends. A picture of Stout tending to his irises still hangs in my father’s study nearly forty years after Stout’s death and seven years after my father’s. Well . . . I guess my secret as to why I like the malice domestic formula so much is out . . . Rex, Nero, and Archie are alive and well here. Cain, too! There is some more great stuff on Stout and my father on my website

Thanks, Paul. But I can’t leave without asking you a question or two. You’ve been able to master the short story formula quite well and have appeared in some great anthologies. How are the novels coming and what can we expect?

I feel a little funny since this is an interview about you and your book. I'm just about done with my novel "The Blues Don't Care," a mystery set on the L.A. homefront during World War II. And almost done with another satirical novel about a screenwriter in L.A. – sort of a 21st Century West Coast "Bright Lights, Big City".

Thank you for stopping by, Andy.

I think anyone who's interested in mystery in general and Cain in particular, would enjoy this book. I know that I love both "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" both as books and as movies. And, in fact, if I had to show a Martian the ultimate example of film noir it would be "Double Indemnity".

So anyone interested in mystery or Cain or the McAleers or any of the authors mentioned here should check out...


McAleer Quote 3a

Also check out

Buy "Packed and Loaded" at Amazon

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Glue Gun-full sizeJoining me today is Lois Winston, author of Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, House Unauthorized and the Dreams and Desires series. She's just come out with ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book of a new series, the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

PAUL:  Hi Lois and welcome. What is your background – before becoming an author and needlepoint aficionado?

LOIS: First, thank you for hosting me on your blog today, Paul. Secondly, I’m not a needlepoint aficionado. I don’t think I’ve designed or stitched needlepoint in at least 20 years. What I design, among other things, is counted cross stitch. Big difference. Probably not to most guys (except those who own craft publishing or manufacturing companies) but a huge one to needlecrafts enthusiasts.
I’ve been designing needlework, fabric crafts, and general crafts for book and magazine publishers and kit manufacturers for many years (if I told you how many, you’d try to figure out how old I am, and in our youth-obsessed culture, I can’t have that, now can I?). Before that I worked as an advertising art director and a staff artist for a major department store chain.

Tell us a little about yourself, your background.  Do you have a day job or are you able to support yourself with your writing?  ...and needlework?

I wish I could support myself with my writing! Few authors can. I know NY Times bestselling authors who still can’t quit their day jobs. I juggle three careers. Besides my writing, I still design for one manufacturer and several magazines. I’m also an associate of the literary agency that reps me.

And tell us a little about your new book, "Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun."

I thought you’d never ask! ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN is the first book in my new Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series from Midnight Ink. It’s a fast-paced amateur sleuth mystery infused with humor. Kirkus called it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” How cool is that?

I understand that the protagonist in this novel is a new one for you.  Tell us a little about her.  Is she like you?  How did she come about?

Is Anastasia like me? I’m getting asked that question a lot. Anastasia and I have similar backgrounds. We’re both North Jersey girls. We both went to art school. She’s a crafts editor for a women’s magazine. As I mentioned earlier, I design for magazines. I’ve also worked as a crafts editor for several craft book publishers. We both have two sons and one other relative in common (but I’m not saying which one!) The differences? My husband is very much alive (thank goodness!), I don’t have a Shakespeare quoting parrot, and I haven’t found any dead bodies hot glued to my office chair. Yet.

Love the title: Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun.  And I know you write humorous mysteries, but where did that title come from?  --Have you ever been assaulted with a deadly glue gun...

Anastasia came up with the title. And yes, I have been assaulted with a glue gun -- on more than one occasion. I’ve got the scars to prove it.

Would you say deadly glue guns kill people or do people kill people?

I’d say people kill people with deadly glue guns. Although certain glue guns have been known to take on a life of their own. Just ask mine.

And do you sleep with a glue gun under the pillow for protection – is it licensed?

Doesn’t everyone? No license required for glue guns, at least not yet.

In the new book, there's a Shakespeare quoting parrot named Ralph.  Can you tell us some of his favorite lines from Shakespeare?  And does he look for animalcentric quotes from the Bard or is he a generalist?

Ralph’s quotes are always situation-appropriate. He’ll pick up on something being said by someone and run with it.  For instance, at the beginning of the book, Anastasia is confronted by a demand for $50,000 from her dead husband’s loan shark. Ralph sums up the situation by squawking, “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now, Julius Caesar. Act Three, Scene Two.”  Ralph always annotates his quotes. Comes from spending most of his life in Great-aunt Penelope’s English lit classroom.

And what's this about Anastasia's mother-in-law being a Communist?  Or does she just like to wear pink?

Lucille is a card-carrying commie. Very old-school. Decidedly red.

How much of your fiction is drawn from real life?  Or your life in particular.

lois2010-small file
I get much of my source material from either personal experience or observing life around me. I’m a total news junkie and have used actual news stories as springboards for plots and characters. And as I mentioned earlier, there is this one relative that Anastasia and I both have in common…

One of your pet peeves is people who don't return phone calls or answer their e-mails.  I'm with you on both.  Any chance the glue gun or another weapon might be used on these folks in a future novel?

Always a possibility. Anastasia’s been known to wield a mean X-acto knife, as well.

Tell us some of your signings that people can go to.

Right now I’m in the middle of a month-long blog tour. The schedule is posted on my website,, and at Anastasia’s blog, I’ll also be at several writers’ conventions and conferences throughout the year, and those are also posted on my website.

How and when/where can people get your book?  And how can they reach you...assuming you want to be reached.

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN is available now at most bookstores, all the usual online venues, and at my publisher’s website, I have links on my website that will take you directly to Amazon, B&N, etc. As for me, people can contact me through my website or by emailing me at
Anything else you want to share with us?

For the blog tour I’m doing this month, I’m giving away 5 copies of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. Everyone who posts a comment to any of the blogs where I’m guesting (see above for where to find schedule) will be entered into a drawing. (Anyone who’s email isn’t included in their comment should email me privately at to let me know they’ve entered.) In addition, I’m also giving away an assortment of crafts books to anyone who posts a comment on select blogs.

Thank you for being here today. I now know to stay out of the line of fire of glue guns. And I hope people will go and buy ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN before the glue is dry.