Friends of Mystery Moves to New Digs

The Friends Of Mystery, one of Portland’s premiere venues for fans of mysteries and thrillers, is moving their “Bloody Thursday” events to The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave.

The first event is set for Thursday, Jan. 28, in which Portland author Chelsea Cain will accept her Spotted Owl Award for her thriller, “One Kick.” The event starts at 7 p.m. with a half-hour social and runs until 9 p.m.

If you don’t know Friends of Mystery, this would be a good time to find out what they’re all about. And to support a great Northwest writer at the same time.

Crazy 8s Tour!

It’s a slightly nutty notion, so I thought, “What the hell.”

Shameless Self PromotionPromoter George Wright has created the “Crazy 8 Author Tour,” featuring eight award-winning Oregon authors who will each speak for eight minutes at eight venues around the state.

First up: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, in Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St. SE. I’ll be there with authors Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Lindsay Hill, Susan Hill Long, Ismet (Izzy) Prcic, Jody Seay, Alexis Smith and Christina Struyk-Bonn.

The idea: Each one of us introduces the next, then talks for, you guessed it, eight minutes regarding why we write. Books for all the authors will be on sale courtesy of The Book Bin, a really cool indie bookstore in Salem.

I’ve spoken at both the Salem Public Library and at the Book Bin in the past. Two great venues with great audiences.

This is going to be a blast!

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words — But Which Words?

2 Moscow fotosWhat can a mystery writer learn from these photos?

Both were shot side-by-side and simultaneously. The color photo is by David Maung, Bloomberg News (front page of Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28). The B&W is by Pavel Golovkin, Associated Press (New York Times, page A9, Feb. 28).

Both show a crime scene: the murder of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov. Both are great photos.

The difference is in the cropping.

At the WSJ, the page designer went wide, taking in more of the street scene: the police, the media, the onlookers to the right; the grandeur of the onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral resplendent to the left. And the body of Boris Nemtsov front and center, well-lit but not spotlighted, the investigators and criminalists looking calm and maybe a little bored as they go about their routine.

The NYT page designer tightened up the shot. Nemtsov’s body is much more prominent; almost the first thing we see. The photo is about him, not about the scene. St. Basil’s looms behind him, along with a perfectly bland car park. The juxtaposition of pomp and prosaic are superimposed over the horror of death; a nice metaphor for modern Russia.

It’s the same set of decisions mystery writers use in setting a scene. What elements are essential? How much detail is too much? Is this a crime or a crime scene?

As a page designer, I would have opted for the NYT crop: tight and horizontal (same decision I would use as a reporter). As a novelist, I like the WSJ’s crop; the essential Moscow-ness of it. It looks like a scene shot by William Friedkin or Michael Mann.

(Please note, I do not take lightly the death of a political activist in Moscow, and I apologize for anyone who interprets this as cold-hearted. I react as a human being differently than I do as a scene-setter; distancing myself from the horror.)

When crafting a scene: What do you put in, and what do you take out? Some days, that’s about 90 percent of what we do.


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