Monthly Archives: August 2016


Contact:               Joanne Sinchuk 561-279-7790

Victoria Landis 561-716-3481

Mystery Writers of America’s Florida Chapter Announces Sleuthfest 2017 Writers Conference:

[See separate post for Fall Sleuthfest.]

SleuthFest 2017 Writers Conference Will Take Place February 23-26, 2017  in Boca Raton Florida

BOCA RATON, Florida – Mystery Writers of America’s Florida Chapter is pleased to announce dates for Sleuthfest 2017 Writers Conference. SleuthFest will take place February 23-26, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Boca Raton, Florida.

One of the country’s premier conferences for writers, Sleuthfest is an intensive four day conference featuring writing workshops, social events, and pitch sessions.  SleuthFest includes four tracks of workshops, presentations, and panels on the craft of writing, business, traditional and self-publishing, marketing, and forensics. In addition, top literary agents and editors will be available to hear pitches from aspiring writers, offer troubleshooting sessions, and manuscript critiques.

David Baldacci

David Baldacci

The 2017 SleuthFest Writers Conference features a host of luminaries, best-selling authors, and industry insiders, including Keynote Speaker David Baldacci; Forensic Guest of Honor Dr. Vincent Di Maio, legendary publisher Neil Nyren, and special guest authors, including Jeff Lindsay, Reed Farrel Coleman, SJ Rozan, Joe Lansdale, and Jane Cleland.

A preeminent event for writers in all genres, SleuthFest attracts writers from around the world. Filled with networking opportunities, social events, and programming designed to appeal to a wide variety of writers, SleuthFest provides a warm, welcoming atmosphere where writers can learn from the pros—and learn the secrets of a successful career as a writer.  Moreover, SleuthFest affords writers a unique opportunity to connect with industry insiders, writers and publishing professionals.  Past conferences have featured such Keynote presenters and Guests of Honor including Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, James W. Hall, Dr. Henry Lee, Dr. Michael Baden, Robert Crais, Brad Meltzer, Lisa Scottoline, and Linda Fairstein, Valerie Plame, and others.

To Register: Space is limited. For more information please contact SleuthFest 2017 Co-chairs: Joanne Sinchuk  561-279-7790 or Victoria Landis 561-716-3481





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“The English Teacher,” by Yiftach Reicher Atir

Translated by Philip Simpson. Penguin Books. 272 pp. Trade paperback $16.00.

This psychological thriller probes the damaging uncertainties of life undercover.

Rachel Goldshmitt, Rachel Brooks, Rachel Ravid. Who is Rachel, exactly? Knowing she is a Mossad operative involved in a dangerous undercover assignment only begins to answer the question.  Cover_TheEnglishTeacher

In this dark, interior tale, identity is scrutinized from several angles: identity hidden, identity adopted, identity lost. How does an operative playing out her cover story hold on to who she really is underneath? What does she have to sacrifice to be effective? And is she, herself, the sacrifice?

The English Teacher begins with the disappearance of this seasoned and exceptionally successful operative. Her former mentor and handler, Ehud, along with another senior Mossad operative, is assigned to determine what happened to her.

While Ehud cares deeply about this woman, whom he has known and secretly loved for a long time, it is not caring alone that motivates him. A stray agent is a danger to the Mossad and to Israeli security. She knows too much. How could this person, who as a young woman immigrated to Israel and whose Zionist passion made her a fairly easy recruit, simply disappear?

Much of the novel follows the investigation conducted by Ehud and his associate, Joe. Their dialogue is a rich blend of their personal and professional lives. For Ehud, his future is at stake. While the two men have a high degree of trust and shared understanding of the spy business, there is a game going on in which Joe has the upper hand.

Yiftach Reicher Atir

Yiftach Reicher Atir

Another dimension of the novel follows Ehud’s interior life at various times in his life and in his relationship with Rachel. And yet another segment, by far the most provocative, though dependent on insights afforded by the other characters, follows Rachel: her challenges, her loneliness, her search for a way of holding on to a centered self among the variable selves she dons for her country.

Rachel, whose cover is as a Canadian citizen raised in England, enters an Arab city (probably left unidentified due to Israeli censorship) and finds work at a school specializing in teaching English. She had already developed this skill while living in the Israeli town of Rehovot.

Breaking every rule, but perhaps still with a spy’s intent, she allows herself an affair with an Arab man named Rashid. In his company, she can visit places at which she might otherwise seem out of place. . . . .

To see the entire review in its original appearance, click here: The English Teacher | Washington Independent Review of Books

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P.J. Boox – not your ordinary bookstore

Phil Jason interviews Patricia Jefferson  

Phil (on left) with Michael and Young Richards

Phil (on right) with Michael and Young Richards

On June 25, I had the pleasure of meeting the proprietor of this unique bookstore, which is located on Reflections Parkway just off Cypress Lakes Drive. I knew right away that it was a special place. On that day, thriller author M. A. Richards was also at the bookstore with his wife Young for a book signing. After strolling around and enjoying the distinctive layout of the store, I just had to share Patti Jefferson’s vision with my readers.

  1. How — and why — is P. J. Boox different from other bookstores?

In many ways we are just like every other bookstore you have ever been in. We offer great mysteries, romance, poetry, children’s books and a bunch of other genres. In spite of that, almost everyone who walks through our doors knows that we are definitely NOT like any other bookstore that they have ever seen. I suppose it starts with the fact that our books are all displayed face out. You can see the cover of every book that we offer. Turns out that the old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is really about making assumptions about people and not books at all!

Patti in her Boox store

Patti in her Boox store

Of course the biggest difference is the fact that the books we sell are all by independently or small press published authors from around the world. What does that mean for the average reader? Not much actually. I have never yet met a reader who cared who the publisher of a book was — they just want a good story with characters they can love or hate. Working with these authors directly gives us different advantages than a big box store does. For instance, most of our books are signed by the author and we can Skype or Facetime with them for a book club. Readers can connect and follow the authors on social media because they are accessible to their fans. It’s just a different way to connect authors and readers.

  1. How does your selection process work?  

    A woman and her Boox

    A woman and her Boox

For a long time, independent or small press publishing had a bit of a stigma as being an inferior product to traditionally published books. In the recent years, however, independent authors have fought to correct that ill-conceived notion so it vital for us to be able to present the best books available to our readers. We get submissions on our website directly from authors and we also solicit select authors on-line. We judge the books by their cover designs, whether the manuscript was professionally edited, and we look at reviews in places like Amazon and Goodreads. We check out the authors other marketing platforms, and we are especially interested in books that have won national or international book awards.

  1. Clearly, you must have a different business model from the “usual” bookstore. Will you describe it? . . .

To find the answer and the rest of the interview, as they appear in the August 24,2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 25 Naples, Bonita Springs,   and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – P.J. Boox

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The Lebanese security outposts are long gone, but nothing is over

Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story, by Matti Friedman. Algonquin Press. 256 pages. Hardcover $25.95

This remarkable book – part memoir, biography, history, and meditation – explores a particular place of intermittent combat at a particular time in the history of the Middle East. Matti Friedman takes us through that brief sequence of years, the winding up of the twentieth-century and the unleashing of the twenty-first, with a journalist’s eye and a poet’s heart. The transition is one from fragile hopes of peace to something far less optimistic: a condition of endless and perhaps escalating war.  Friedman_Pumpkinflowers_jkt_HC_rgb_HR

The place is the security zone established in southern Lebanon by Israel and its Lebanese Christian allies. More particularly, it is an outpost in that zone at the top of a hill known as the Pumpkin. The time is the 1990s, with a peek into the coming century. These young soldiers, teenagers for the most part, learn what has been learned before throughout the history of war. There is very little glory in it. The soldier’s bond is increasingly to other soldiers and not to the ideals or even the nation and citizens for whom he or she fights.

What soldiers suffer through during their tours of duty is rarely in the public consciousness, especially in a war that has no official name and where television news is not being made. For all but its surviving participants and the relatives of those who died there, it is quickly forgotten if ever known at all. There is a serious question about whether the sacrifices made changed anything, whether the costs bought anything. Perhaps the security zone experience only accelerated the misunderstandings, hatreds, and patterns that mark the region’s situation fifteen years later.

Matti Friedman tells the story of his time spent on the Pumpkin, but he does not begin there. Rather he begins with someone else’s story, a soldier named Avi who came to the Pumpkin in 1994. Avi was an individualist, a young man who distrusted institutions. His outlook added stresses to his time in the Security Zone, but, knowing himself, he managed to overcompensate and get his job done. Through Avi’s story, Friedman tells a version of the universal coming-of-age tale that is military basic training. This is a process of stripping you down and rebuilding you as part of a dedicated team – as part of a machine.

Avi was an eloquent person who was likely to become a fine writer. His writings about life in the Security Zone survived him, and Friedman makes effective use of these to paint one version of the mid-1990s on The Pumpkin. In this section we learn: “In the jargon of army radiomen, wounded soldiers are ‘flowers.’ Dead soldiers are ‘oleanders.’ It isn’t a code, because it isn’t secret.” Such language is “intended to bestow beauty on ugliness.” The outposts take names like Basil, Crocus, Red Pepper, or even Pumpkin. A piece of military technology might be named Buttercup. Such naming is a useful distancing device from the horrors that soldiers will most likely need to describe.

The Avi section introduces a range of interesting characters, as a group learning to live with the constant threat of guerilla warfare: improvised explosive devices, standard land mines, and shelling. It concludes with an accident: the rotors of one helicopter cut through the bottom of Avi’s.

Matti Friedman

Matti Friedman

Part Two opens with the aftermath of this dual crash – the reaction to the sudden death of seventy-three Israeli soldiers. This momentous event usher’s in Friedman’s moving exploration of the Israeli way of mourning and memorializing. He notes: “There are many layers of dead in this country.” The new top layer created on February 4, 1997 is, for Matti Friedman, “the beginning of the end” of the security zone enterprise. It forced the questions “what were these young people doing here?” and “what did they die for?” –  questions for which no answers both honest and uplifting were available.

The accident changed nothing but the people. A kibbutznik woman named Bruria started a movement of mother’s to end what seemed to her and those who joined her an insane policy. Soon after her cause began taking shape, it was Matti Friedman’s turn to serve his country on the Pumpkin outpost.

Part Three describes Friedman’s time of duty in the security zone, really not very far from his parents’ home in northern Israel. Here, as elsewhere, the author’s journalistic and literary gifts provide a kind of pleasure within a series of observations and experiences brimming with pain. He gives us the sensations of daily life, whether under attack or within the numbness of routine. As one would expect, Friedman traces the short route from innocence to experience.

He writes:

“It is hard to recall how little you once knew, and harder to admit it. I understood that we were Israeli soldiers, that our enemies were Arab fighters, whom we called terrorists, and that we should kill them before they killed us: that the battlefield was this place, Lebanon. I knew I couldn’t let my friends down. That was it. Matters seemed fairly clear to me on the first day.”

In the deceptively simple prose, readers cannot help feeling that a much more complex, nuanced response will build and build. And it does.

This section includes a careful portrait of Nabatieh, the nearby Lebanese town. It also contains the delightful story of the religious soldiers who visited the Pumpkin with blowtorches in order to prepare the place for Passover. Friedman brings to life a cast of characters, his comrades in arms, and he lets us know how it feels when Hezbollah gunners are firing at you.

All is beautifully textured in a tone that often seems oxymoronic: hard nostalgia. Part Four takes us beyond the end of Matti Friedman’s time at the Pumpkin, and then records the shutting down of the security zone. He also offers us a stirring vignette on his more or less secret return to the Pumpkin as a Canadian tourist, and then leaves us wondering about what this story tells us about the future.

Indeed, looking back from the situation of today’s Middle East to the abandonment of the security outposts, one can piece together the accumulating future that gave us the Arab Spring and its demise. Where have all the flowers – the oleanders – gone? Why?

This is an instant classic of Israeli literature and of war literature.

The review appears in the September 2016 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee).

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Wit and wisdom meet in the sweet howl of Wylie Coyote

I Don’t Like Where This Is Going, by John Dufresne. Norton. 256 pages. Hardback $25.95.

Wylie Coyote is back, the original and highly engaging character readers met in “No Regrets, Coyote” (2013, reviewed in these pages). The publisher is uncertain about whether to use the phrase “A Wylie Coyote Novel” or “A Wylie ‘Coyote’ Melville Novel.” Me, I don’t care. I just want more. I like where this is going. Wonderfully wacky, and yet suspiciously sane, this is hoot noir – a new subgenre. IDONTLIKEWHERETHISISGOING_978-0-393-24468-7

Plot may not be its main interest. When Mr. Dufresne provides in his Acknowledgments a “thanks to Jill Bialosky for finding the story in the manuscript,” one can take it as a kind of confession. There’s something jazz-like in Dufresne’s thought process and prose, an improvisational wizardry of the highest order. Pyrotechnics, puns, and even a bit of prophesy. When South Florida meets Las Vegas, anything can happen. You can forget about who killed two young women and still have a wonderful – though frequently disorienting – experience.

Wylie and his good friend Bay Lettique have left home for a while. Things have become uncomfortable in Melancholy, Florida; mobsters are after them. Wylie is a therapist turned sleuth; Bay is an illusionist – sleight of hand his specialty – and a gambler. Soon after arrival in this mecca of delusion and corrupt values (their first stop is the Luxor), Bay gets to work in the casino and – once they are moved into a proper longer-term residence – Wylie volunteers at the Crisis Center.

The precipitating event happened back at the Luxor. Something caught Wylie’s attention up at the apex of the pyramid when a women fell over a balustrade and plunged to her death. Mr. Dufresne’s description of this seminal event, which I have no space to quote, is quite marvelous and sets high expectations for the rest of his story, expectations he meets and often surpasses. The detail and the distinctive evaluative thought process is given to Wylie himself. After all, he is the sleuth narrator of these experiences.



Murder, accident, suicide? Once readers discover who this women is, and why she is in Las Vegas, they are on their way to the Q & A sequences that are at the heart of detective-centered crime fiction. What is most curious is the reaction of the officials who visit the crime scene. Soon after, they don’t seem to have any knowledge anything untoward happening at the Luxor. Nothing in the newspaper or on television. Then come only denials by the police spokesperson. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 17, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 18 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – I Don’t Like Where This Is Going

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Determined PI unravels murder at an art class

ArtofMurder_revised(2)The Art of Murder, by Elaine Viets. Obsidian/NAL. 304 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

No one does Fort Lauderdale like Elaine Viets, alert to the vibes of neighborhoods and how social networks develop in places where most people are not natives and many are newcomers. How people define themselves by their dress, by their home decor, and by how they fit into the city.

The Art of Murder, the 15th title in her “Dead-End Jobs” mystery series, opens at the delightful Bonnet House Museum. Private investigator Helen Hawthorne is visiting Bonnet House with her seventy-six year old landlady and friend Margaret. Readers learn what the visitors learn about the history of Bonnet House while taking in its architecture, colors, Interior design, and stories about founders Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife Evelyn.

Helen and Margaret come across an art class being held there. They meet the teacher and several students, including Annabel – a painter whose reputation is rapidly rising in the art community. After the class, Annabel falls ill in the parking lot, and before long she is dead. Her ex-husband, who has joined the class to make Annabel’s life miserable, doesn’t even offer help the frail, immobile woman. When one of the others in the group hires Helen to investigate, the client insists that Helen prove the ex-husband guilty.

Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets

He makes a good suspect, but there are other possibilities. There is also some chance she committed suicide. Nicotine poisoning is the cause of death. Nicotine “vaping” fluid ended up in Annabel’s tea.

So, plot line number one: who, if anyone, is guilty of murdering Annabel? It it’s murder, what was the motive and where is the evidence? Somewhere along the line, perhaps the author asked herself: “do I have a 300 page novel here?” Or, “do I need another center of interest?”

In any case, Ms. Viets came up with plot line number two, this one featuring Helen’s husband Phil as the principal investigator who receives some very special help from Helen playing the role of a high class call girl. Valuable gold coins are being stolen from collectors living on the top floors of upscale condos. Building security clearly needs an upgrade, and Phil is hired to find out what’s going on and put a stop to the thefts. Property values, you know!

As we might expect, Phil’s investigation brings readers into the world of building security, condominium life, and collectable coins. His plan is to set a trap for the Gold Ghost (or ghosts), and Ms. Viets builds the suspense around Phil’s plan as it is set into action. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 11, 2016 issues of the Naples and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – The Art of Murder

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Going fishing: it’s far more work than play

A Pioneer Son at Sea: Fishing Tales of Old Florida, by Gilbert L. Voss, edited by Robert S. Voss. University Press of Florida. 200 pages. Hardcover $19.95.

This unexpected gem, a project which had been abandoned for over two decades, sheds a bright, multi-colored light on the southeastern Florida fishing industry during the 1930s and 1940s. The author, Professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of Miami and mainstay of its Marine Laboratory, had prepared it for publication shortly before his death in 1989. However, the time wasn’t right and it ended up in a drawer where it sat until quite recently.  Pioneer_Son_at_Sea_RGB

Fortunately, the author’s son decided to breathe new life into the project and quickly found success. We are all the beneficiaries of the publisher’s wisdom and of Robert S. Voss’s industry, determination, and final preparation of the book. Rob Voss’s chapter introductions, foreword, and afterword create an extremely useful historical and scientific context for his father’s reminiscences, which are in themselves finely crafted narratives of his early adult years – years working the region’s fisheries in the hopes of making a living in that trade.

Gil Voss’s good-natured tales capture a world already long vanished. He presents a Florida that he knew long before its paving over, population boom, and excessive exploitation of natural resources. If you want to learn about the various fisheries, this is the book. If you want the inside story of a fisherman’s life, this is the place. If you want to understand the passions that drive someone willing to toil for bare subsistence in the chaotic fishing economy, open this book.

It’s not as simple as casting nets and drawing them in. It’s knowing the right net for the fish and the fishery, how to make and repair the nets, and how to use them efficiently. These are not simple matters, as the authoritative and colorful details make clear.

Gil Voss with squid

Gil Voss with squid

The sponge business receives the same kind of vivid discussion

Gil Voss grew up here, in Lantana. The first thirty years of his life were informed by his direct experience with the Old Florida life that his parents lived, that Gil came to understand and cherish, and that he watched change and fade – if not totally fade away.

His memories of working friendships with colorful characters, told through vivid conversations set on boats and in bars, capture the humor necessary to survive a rough, demanding livelihood. He details the international flavor of the fishing communities. Bahamians, Greeks, and even transplanted New Jersey folks (!) all with their special ways of doing business and relating to those around them. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 3, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 4 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Voss

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Fall Sleuthfest 2016 coming soon

SleuthFest on Saturday


Note: This is not the annual Sleuthfest (coming in February 2017), but a special addition to a monthly meeting). See for details on the annual Sleuthfest.       Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 8, 2016, in Venice, Florida. A crackerjack team will launch your writing career into orbit. (Jupiter? Mars? The sky’s the limit!) But hurry because space is limited by our venue.

Where: Ramada Venice Hotel Venezia, 425 US Highway 41 Bypass N, Venice, FL 34285 (Room reservations 844-211-5710. Tell them you’re with Mystery Writers of America and get our special rate of $89.)

What: Sixteen powerful sessions designed to accelerate your career as an author. Lunch and mid-afternoon snack are included in your SOS registration fee. Book signing to follow the event. (Consignments will be accepted. Sales will be handled by Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.)

When: Check-in begins at 8 AM/ Sessions start at 8:30 AM/Final session ends at 6 PM/ Book signing ends at 6:30 PM

How much: $125 for members/$135 for non-members.

Details: go to

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