D. R. Martin & Richard Audry Books


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A Daughter’s Doubt: Mary MacDougall Goes on Tour

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Beginning Monday, April 4, my new Mary MacDougall novel, A Daughter’s Doubt, goes on  a 15-stop blog tour, organized by Lori Caswell of Escape with Dollycas. (Thanks, Lori!) If you care to check into any of these fine blogs—which include reviews of the book and interviews with yours truly—here are all the dates and links.

April 4 – I Wish I Lived in a Library  – REVIEW
April 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – INTERVIEW
April 6 – Community Bookstop –  REVIEW
April 6 – View from the Birdhouse – INTERVIEW
April 7 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT
April 8 – Deal Sharing Aunt – INTERVIEW
April 9 – Musings and Ramblings – INTERVIEW
April 10 – Off
April 11 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, INTERVIEW, SPOTLIGHT
April 12 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW
April 13 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
April 14 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
April 15 – Author Annette Drake – INTERVIEW
April 16 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT
April 17 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW


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A Bicycle Built for Mary

Spring seems to be here in Minneapolis and the bicyclists are out in droves. Mary MacDougall does a spot of cycling on Mackinac Island in her new mystery, A DAUGHTER’S DOUBT, out on Kindle this Tuesday. Her biking outfit was sewn by her seamstress. But if she had needed to buy one, it might have looked like this ensemble that I came across in Victorian and Edwardian Fashions from “La Mode Illustrée” (Dover).

The caption describes it as a “Bicycling costume. Dark gray homespun with stitched homespun piping. The lined skirt is divided to form trousers.”

Mary enjoys bicycling, but I’m thinking an automobile is in her future. Just in time, as 1902 (the year the new story takes place) saw the founding of the American Automobile Association (AAA) in Chicago.

Richard Audry's photo.


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Fargo at 20: Notes from an Extra

Frances McDormand as Police Chief Marge Gunderson

Frances McDormand as Police Chief Marge Gunderson

It was about twenty-one years ago that Sue and I were extras in a movie that was being made in Minneapolis. That weird little flick came out on March 8, 1996. It was called Fargo. In honor of the black comedy’s 20th anniversary, here’s my account of my day as a big-screen extra…

In the fall of 1994, Sue and I trekked over to Concordia College in St. Paul to sign up to be extras in the new Coen brothers’ film, tentatively titled Fargo. Which seemed odd, considering that it was to be set mainly in Brainerd, Minnesota.

Sue’s gig took place early one February morning in ’95. Dressed up in evening wear, she made the long drive out to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater—filling in for the defunct Carlton Celebrity Room—where she spent several hours sitting at a table with her “boyfriend,” while José Feliciano sang and joked on the stage before them. She has no recollection of seeing Steve Buscemi, who was sitting with the two “hookers” in the same room.

When the shoot was over, Sue found a pay phone and decided to call me. Before she dropped her quarter in the slot, Ethan Coen sidled up behind her and said, “It’s a prop.” She was a runner-up to be Frances McDormand’s double—a dubious honor, considering all the snow that had to be stood in for lengthy stretches while the star was warm and cozy in her trailer.

Sunday morning, 3-5-95, was my movie debut. Decked out in my blue blazer, khaki trousers, blue shirt and tie, I would be pretending for a few hours that I was a Minneapolis police detective. Sandy, the “extra wrangler,” had called me up a couple of weeks prior with the news of my new gig as a police dick. She had a southern twang, and everyone was “darlin’” to her.

The day before my big performance, I had phoned her and found out my call was at the old FMC Building, near downtown Minneapolis. 9 a.m sharp. My car might also be needed, as it was of the proper vintage—an ’86 Chev Celebrity. Have a full tank, I was told.

After breakfast, I mushed off through the four inches of snow that had arrived overnight. When I arrived, a grip directed me into the “holding room” where they kept the untamed extras.

Sandy was forty-something and cigarette/coffee skinny. She had on tight jeans, a sweatshirt, and Sorels, which she clumped around in nervously—dispensing and receiving vouchers and forms of various kinds, the better to distribute our munificent wages (minimum). At one point, as she squatted down to scribble something on a form, she muttered, “I’m too damned old for this.” She may have been right, but I figured the “glamour” of showbiz gets in your blood. Every extra felt they had a pal in Sandy.

Everyone’s clothing had to be approved by the wardrobe mistress, who rooted out ’90s fashion with a hard, merciless eye. Most people did all right, especially those with suits. “Great. Super. I love it!” she proclaimed. She came up to me, looked me over dispassionately, and said, “I can live with that.”

We “police detectives” ranged from gray-haired gents in charcoal gray suits to young MBA types; also a few youngish women in dress-for-success suits. The busboys for the Minneapolis Police Cafeteria scene were a pair of barely-post-college-age guys. Their uniforms were of a light gray fabric. Why light gray? Because the white uniforms that busboys might normally wear would be too bright for the film being used.

While we sat around for two hours in the holding area, some of us chatted, some read the newspapers, others read books. I began The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Sitting ahead of me was a new retiree. He had finished his career two days before as a government bureaucrat, and then heard from Sandy on Saturday. He’d lived all over the U.S., and said he’d never seen taxes as high as Minnesota’s. I was at a loss to explain it. He looked just like a cop—perfect for the role.

Next to me was a fellow who resembled an ex-boxer, with interestingly blunt features. His job was to be a “walker,” going from one table to another during the shot. Behind me sat a gray-haired, middle-aged woman who’d taken a screenwriting course and really wanted to sell one. Thee and me, I told her.

After a while they herded all the extras from the holding area to the outside, and into the “cafeteria.” I have no idea if it really was a cafeteria. The food line was up on wooden boxes, presumably because it didn’t look right at its proper height. The camera stood behind it, on rails. There were various lights and softboxes and reflectors up all over the room. The sound gear was off to one side, and that’s where all the techie types fled during each take, including the Coens.

The brothers were two skinny guys who had grown up in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park (also the hometown of Al Franken). Joel was tall, lanky, dark, with a ponytail. He flipped his yo-yo constantly. Ethan was shorter, fairer, and he seemed to interact with people more. The assistant director was a guy with a bowl cut and a German accent. The second assistant director dealt with the extras, dispensing them around tables in the room. He told me to lose my glasses because they were too new-looking.

Some of the extras sat, like yours truly. Others walked from one point to another, said hello to someone, then moved on, sometimes off camera. About fifteen uniformed “cops” were scattered about.

The trickiest bit was that none of the extras could speak during a take. We had to mime our conversations, not having a clue about what our tablemates were saying. Which resulted in spasms of head shaking, head nodding, and gesturing, with our lips flapping away. At one point, the 2nd assistant told us to calm the heck down, and try to look more natural.

The filming began. The assistant would yell, “Roll sound.” The guy with the clapboard would clap it in front of the camera and say the scene and take number. Then the assistant would yell “Background action,” meaning we extras were to start our faux conversations. Finally he’d say, “Action,” and the real actors—a black female detective and Frances McDormand, playing the Brainerd police chief—would begin moving down the cafeteria line.

During the takes—about five complete ones, and five botched ones—the Coens huddled in front of a video monitor that showed each take from the lens’s point of view. The shooting took maybe one hour altogether, and by the end of it I and the two guys I was seated with were getting pretty lively with our miming. We all enjoyed the absurdity of it.

I had read that William Macy was the co-star with McDormand, so I kept my eye open for Maude’s husband, Bill Macy. In fact, William H. Macy was there all the time, though—being the hapless murderous husband Jerry Lundegaard—he was not in the scene. I  didn’t even know who he was then, but I’ve become a big fan. Especially of his hapless “superhero,” the Shoveler, in Mystery Men.

After the cafeteria scene wrapped, some of us were asked if we would be willing to drive out to a suburban office high-rise, where they were to shoot the scene of Jerry scraping ice and whacking his windshield. I volunteered, but only spent the time keeping warm in the building’s lobby. It turned out my car wasn’t needed. Jerry’s car was the only one in the shot. I had no problem with that, as I was being paid minimum wage to be there. Anyway, I would get my 15 seconds of fame in the cafeteria scene.

Fargo fans will no doubt wonder: What cafeteria scene?

Alas, my single film appearance was left on the cutting room floor. It soured me on a Hollywood acting career forever. Better to write stories, I figure, than to not appear in them.

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Hanging with Elvis Cole

First there was Travis McGee in the ’60s. Then there was Spenser in the ’70s. Then came V. I. Warshawski in the ’80s.

These three, as I see it, are the start of the self-reflective American P.I. genre. These were the sleuths and gumshoes who were constantly sharing their thoughts and opinions and gripes—unlike their stoical precursors. Their stories were almost as much about their lives as they were about their current cases.

Two more good ones came along in the ’90s—Doc Ford and Elvis Cole. Doc was very much from the McGee lineage. But Elvis came out of Spenser. A wise-ass tough guy with a nose for crime and a heart of gold. His first adventures were very much Spenser-like, except in LA instead of Boston. Two decades later both Doc and Elvis are still trucking along. But the Doc Ford books, while entertaining, haven’t really shown much growth or innovation; and at times have jumped the shark. Robert Crais’s Elvis, though, has developed a gravitas and intelligence that approaches that of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch (IMO, the best police procedural going). The newest Elvis yarn, The Promise, is a case in point.

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This novel involves what seem to be two separate cases. Elvis is hunting for a missing woman who works for a munitions company. One of the first places he goes turns out to be a murder scene in a house packed with explosives and military-grade weaponry. Simultaneously, he encounters the K-9 cop and his German shepherd, who both saw the house’s surviving occupant, the killer. Going forward, the apparently separate plot lines unfold in primarily three POVs—Elvis’s, the K-9 cop’s, and the dog’s.

Having been at the crime scene, Elvis is immediately a suspect. He needs to juggle the confidentiality of his own case with the increasing police pressure he faces. In the meantime, the K-9 cop and his dog are targeted by the bad guy, who the cop had clearly seen and can identify. An intricate game of cat and mouse ensues—masterfully crafted by Crais. Virtuoso stuff. The key to everything is the missing woman, whose story is on the order of Greek tragedy. After Elvis figures out her role, and negotiates tricky alliances, things begin to fall into place.

I know it’s still early in the year, but if you read only one piece of crime fiction in 2016, make it The Promise.


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Bimbos of the Death Sun and Me

Right now I’m in the process of outlining the third King Harald mystery. And it presents me with a challenge: The story takes place over three or four days in a blizzard-isolated resort hotel. I’ve never tried to write a novel with such a compact time frame. My stories usually play out over weeks or longer. So I went looking for a model of how to do it and came up with Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun.

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This slick, quick read is a very funny sendup of 1980s sci-fi/fantasy conventions and takes place over the course of a weekend. The character you figure is going to get it gets it. But, alas, there are no bimbos. Or death sun. That’s just the title of a book by the story’s amateur sleuth—a title foisted on him by his publisher. If you’re looking for a light beach read, you can’t go wrong with Bimbos.

 

 

 


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New Mary MacDougall Available for Pre-Order

My new Mary MacDougall mystery, A Daughter’s Doubt, is now available for pre-order as a Kindle e-book. It comes out March 15. Here’s what happens during Mary’s first investigation as a paid professional:

Mary MacDougall’s first case of 1902 seems simple enough.

Just before the 19-year-old heiress leaves for a summer holiday on Mackinac Island with her Aunt Christena, she’s hired to stop in a little town along the way and make inquiries. Did Agnes Olcott really die there of cholera? Or were there darker doings in Dillmont?

Mary’s mentor, Detective Sauer, thinks it’s merely a case of bad luck for the dead woman. But Mrs. Olcott’s daughter suspects her detested stepfather played a hand in her mother’s untimely death.

With the reluctant help of her aunt and her dear friend Edmond Roy, the young detective struggles to reveal the true fate of Agnes Olcott. As she digs ever deeper, the enemy Mary provokes could spell disaster for herself and the people she loves. But in the end, it’s the only way to banish a daughter’s doubt.

You can order it right here.

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New Mary MacDougall Cover Debut

DaughtersDoubtcoverwebvers

The third Mary MacDougall mystery, A Daughter’s Doubt, is with my proofreader right now and should be out as an e-book in just a few weeks. In the meantime, here’s the cover in its debut appearance. The design is by Steve Thomas and the artwork is called “Strolling along the Seashore,” by the Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla.


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The New Mary MacDougall Cover Girl

Mary 3

My third Mary MacDougall Mystery—A DAUGHTER’S DOUBT—is almost done. A few more weeks at most.

For each of my three Mary covers, I’ve turned to public domain art depicting young women at the turn of the 20th century. The newest Mary, on the top, shows her walking a beach. She is from a painting by Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla. And she’s my favorite cover girl so far. The bottom Mary in the hat is from the first novella, A PRETTY LITTLE PLOT. Right above her is Mary from THE STOLEN STAR.

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Mary 1

 


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Visit Scenic Tatooine! — The Star Wars Prints of Steve Thomas

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We saw the new Star Wars film on Christmas day and enjoyed the heck out of it. Lots of beloved old characters and themes, but many new ones to carry the franchise forward. We especially liked Rey, the desert scrounger—a fearless female action hero. Though one wonders where a rough-and-tough desert scrounger dealing in machinery debris gets her nice eye makeup and manicures.

Steve Thomas, the talented artist/designer who has done most of my book covers, also does a series of limited edition giclee prints of 1930s-style travel posters for destinations in that galaxy of a long time ago and far, far away.

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He’s made over two dozen of these prints—officially licensed by the Star Wars people. And they’re highly esteemed by Star Wars collectors. Most of the limited edition prints are sold out. Several newer ones are still available. But sold out or not, you can still enjoy seeing them at Steve’s website. T-shirts are also available.

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