Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Linwood Barclay, Ross Macdonald, and me: What I shot and thought at Harrogate, Part II

Linwood Barclay signs a book for
an adoring fan. Photo by Peter
Rozovsky by special agreement
with Detectives Beyond Borders.
I’ve never been able to get Ross Macdonald or, as Macdonald himself might have said, I am paralyzed by a deep-seated fear of wince-makingly amateur Freudianism that I just can’t express.

Linwood Barclay, on the other hand, is a great admirer of Macdonald’s, so naturally when Barclay approached as I chatted with a fellow attendee at the Theakston Ole Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate last month, I said: “Oh, hey! We were just ripping the ---- out of Ross Macdonald.”

Barclay, born in Connecticut but rendered good-natured and amiable by his years in Canada, pretended to be offended. But then he smiled widely and offered a disarming explanation for his Macdonald love.

When he first encountered Macdonald, Barclay said, "I didn't know anything about Freud." And no wonder. Barclay was just 15 years old at the time, and a meeting just a few years later was a formative experience for Barclay. I don't remember the rest of his apologia for Macdonald. Perhaps he was touched by that author's yearning empathy for his characters, and not just his protagonist.

And that's what's important, isn't it, that Barclay, through the deadening welter of Macdonald's Freudian theorizing, found something that touched him and helped make him a critically admired and internationally successful author in his own right. So no, I'm not sure I'll ever warm to Macdonald, having tried his early overwrought imitations of Raymond Chandler and his mid-career embrace of Freud and found both wanting. But I was humbled by Barclay's innocent and whole-hearted early embrace of the man and by how deeply and author can touch his readers.

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Friday, August 10, 2018

What I shot and thought at Harrogate, Part I

Jay Stringer
This is Parker Bilal, who said: “If Chandler
were  writing today, he’d be writing about
Cairo or Mumbai or Lagos, these new
Chris Brookmyre
Howdy. And may I say it's nice to be back? Here are some photos I shot at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, known to most as, simply, "Harrogate." Photos by me unless otherwise specified.
This is Stav Sherez, whose book The
Intrusions won the festival's novel of
the year award. He also said that of all the
crime writers influenced by James Ellroy,
Don Winslow is the only one who took
what Ellroy did and advanced it.
This is Don Winslow, who stepped
in when the person choosing who
got to ask questions of Winslow
after his onstage interview repeatedly
ignored my raised hand. Winslow,
a prince of a man and a hell of a
writer, said. "There's a fellow down
here who's been trying to ask a
question for a while," and then gave
a long, thoughtful, and wide-ranging
answer to my question about how
he transmutes his meticulous
research into convincing fiction. 

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

Martina Cole with your humble blogkeeper. Her novel
"Get Even" is "a soap opera in the best sense, full of
incident and with empathy for its violent characters,
and taking the tribulations of those characters
seriously. The narrator of the audiobook was
well-chosen, too. I’m guessing her accent is
East London, but not campy or overdone
in the least. It’s good stuff."
(Photo by Ali Karim)
Somber Steve Cavanagh, whose
novel "Thirteen" is brilliantly
executed and excellent fun.
Vic Watson, who kindly invited me
to be a part of Noir at the Bar
Harrogate, where I talked about the
event's history since I staged the
first one in 2008, read a story of
my own, and got a beer spilled
me, which I did not mind, because
the day was hot.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Shot at the Edgars

Peter Lovesey, named an MWA Grand Master at the 2018 Edgar Awards. Photo by
Peter Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond Borders.
© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Sunday, May 06, 2018

A Few Minutes of the Condor: James Grady at the Edgar Awards

James Grady. Photography by Peter
Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond Borders
Authors talk about how tongue-tied they get in the presence of their literary heroes.  Not me. I've made Susan Sontag and Fran Lebowitz laugh. I know from firsthand experience what one Nobel laureate thought of instant coffee.  And I've schmoozed giants of crime and thriller writing in limousines, outside banquet halls, by coat racks, and queued up for free booze.

Three years ago I wrote this after the 2015 Edgar Awards dinner of the Mystery Writers of America:
"I got my New York errands done early on Wednesday, slipped into a phone booth to change into my suit, and got to the ballrooms at the Grand Hyatt a few minutes before anything had started at Wednesday night's Edgar Awards. 

"At the end of the long anteroom outside the banquet hall, a bald man slouched on a bench, looking not nearly as tall as he does when gesticulating behind a podium.
"`Mr. Ellroy,' I said. `Congratulations.' 
"`I've met you before,' he said, extending his hand. 
"`You have. Otto's store, when you read from Perfidia.' 
"`Did you enjoy it?' he said, straightening slightly.  
"`I did. I read it in a week, a solid hundred pages a night.' 
"`That's the way to do it,' Ellroy said with an approving nod. `Steady reading, a couch, a dog.' 
"`Except for the couch and the dog, just how I did it.' 
"`Well, they want me in there. We'll talk later.' 
"`I'll be running up, getting in people's way, shooting pictures.` 
"`Shoot away.' Another approving nod.'
That meeting was funny, slightly awkward, and for me revelatory--or it would have been if I'd not already suspected that James Ellroy's outsize bluster masked a touching and eager vulnerability. I like to think that this colored my subsequent reading and rereading of his work, particularly Blood's a Rover, but also The Big Nowhere and The Black Dahlia.

I gained no such insight when I buttonholed James Grady at the 2018 Edgars a week and a half ago.   But I had just bought Grady's Six Days of the Condor, having no idea I would meet the author two days later, and I had to share the news. "Do you mind talking about a book you wrote so long ago?" I asked Grady. (Condor appeared in 1974, the film version starring Robert Redford the next year.)

"Not at all," he replied, smiling broadly, and we talked for a minute or two about that other Washington suspense novelist E. Howard Hunt, whom Grady said he had not known, and Hunt's fellow Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis, whom he had. (Grady writes about his discussions with Sturgis in an informative introduction to the Mysterious Press edition of Six Days of the Condor.)

So what's the lesson? If you're a reader or a writer, the writers you like are probably pretty interesting people who know pretty interesting stuff, and why would anyone be shy about chatting with someone like that?

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Two audiobook quirks, one that works

My latest report from the world of audiobooks concerns an author who appears to confuse "concede" and "accede." (At least twice he has had political leaders "concede to" demands.)

The other thing he does is a lot more interesting. The book is a history of the Habsburg Empire, and it naturally mentions cities that have names in German and one or more Slavic languages. Many books of history handle such matters of nomenclature with a prefatory note in which the author presents the problem, then explains why he or she has chosen to use one name or the other.

This author, on the other hand, almost always gives both or even all three names of a city every time he mentions it. This must be obtrusive on the page, and it's almost maddeningly disruptive when one has to hear someone reading it. And yet, many hours into the book, while the violence this does to the rhythm of the reading remains, it begins to drive home the multiethnic character of the empire in question. This is of particular interest given the various types of nationalism and regionalism that came into play in Habsburg territories in 19th century. So I grudgingly concede (note my proper use of that word, author) that the device is effective.

(The book is The Habsburg Empire: A New History. The author is Pieter M. Judson. The audiobook reader/narrator is Michael Page.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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More New York crime seen

This time it was (from left) Ed Aymar, Jenny Milchman, Angel Colón, and Hilary Davidson stopping in at Mysterious Bookshop to talk about The Night of the Flood, a novel to which they and a bunch more authors contributed.

All photos by Peter Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond Borders
They talked about the book, the story behind it, the issues it embraces, and the chords it struck with them. Colón and Davidson were especially compelling and, as was the case when Scott Adlerberg touted his new novel at Mysterious not long ago, authors talking can be even better than authors reading when it comes to making a case that you ought to buy their books.
There's more to New York than crime writers. The city is also rife with picturesque precipitation, and its ethnic diversity is nearly as great as Toronto's.

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

More crime in New York

Alison Gaylin. Photos by Peter
Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond
Another day, another crime fiction event at Mysterious Bookshop. This time it was Alison Gaylin talking about her new novel If I Die Tonight on Tuesday with Megan Abbott for a crowd that included Sarah Weinman and other luminaries I'd have had a chance to talk to if I hadn't had to get back to work.

Elsewhere, well, from the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side, New York is just a fine place to do some shooting. And let me tell you: The hotels up there are nicer than the ones down here.

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Cavanagh, McKinty, and Child at the Mysterious Bookshop

Lee Child, Steve Cavanagh. Photos by Peter Rozovsky for
Detectives Beyond Borders.
Steve Cavanagh is a lawyer in Northern Ireland who sets his legal thrillers in New York because the U.K. legal system, which divides a lawyer's job into the two professions of barrister and solicitor, would force him to create two protagonists, and besides, who could take seriously a hero in a white powdered wig?

That's what Steve said, at least, and if he was having his audience (Friday, at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York) on a bit, that would be thoroughly in keeping with the sort of fun and misdirection that he says characterizes great courtroom advocates.  Such lawyers, Steve said, know just how to hold the room's attention and when to misdirect it. It may help if you know that Steve's protagonist, the irrepressible Eddie Flynn, star of The Defence (The Defense in the U.S.), The Plea, and The Liar, is a con man turned lawyer, and the type of lawyer I'd want on a my side even if he sometimes sleeps in his clothes, tiptoes along high ledges, or works with a bomb attached to his body.

"Is there anything you have thought about having Eddie do but then rejected as too wild even for him?" I asked.

"No," Steve said, and if you suspect from this that the Eddie Flynn novels are fun, you're right.
Steve Cavanagh, Adrian McKinty
Cavanagh appeared with Lee Child at the event, and the audience included Adrian McKinty, in downtown Manhattan by way of Carrickfergus, Melbourne, and uptown Manhattan. Adrian is a longtime Detective Beyond Borders favorite, an Edgar Award winner, the author of two superb series in addition to a bunch of standalone novels, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of beer, and an erudite boon companion whom it is always a pleasure to see.

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Sunday, March 04, 2018

MWAaaaaaaaa! for mystery

Jeff Markowitz, head of the MWA's New York
chapter, who really is as genial as he appears here.
Photo by Peter Rozovsky
I'm not a joiner, but I'm going to make an exception for the Mystery Writers of America, the New York chapter of whose Mix and Mingle brunch I attended Saturday. A good time was had by everyone whose opinion I could verify, and the only glitch was that, thanks to some confusion on the staff's part, I got an extra margarita. 

Here's some of what I learned:

1) Sara Blaedel, Danish crime writer, now lives in New York, knows a lot of stuff, and is good to chat with over brunch.

2) Ben Keller, whom I had not known previously, is a PI and from Louisiana, and what could be cooler background for an author than that? Except that's not even the coolest thing about his career.

It was good to see Charles Salzberg, author, teacher, writing guru, and a generous soul who has channelled some editing work my way; author Chris Knopf, previously unknown to me and apparently a good egg (but what else would you expect from someone who hangs out with Charles Salzberg?); Tim O'Mara; Dru Ann Love, one of those super volunteer-fan-reviewers who are a big part of the glue that holds the crime fiction community together; and other folks whose names I never got but who left me feeling like a hayseed clutching a worn carpet bag and gaping in awe at all the crime-related events going on in this city. And the food was good!

 © Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

It Had to Be Hitchcock

One of the cool things about my new job in New York is that one of my new colleagues is a big Alfred Hitchcock fan. In her honor, here's a photo I took in New York's Chinatown last week.

© Peter Rozovsky 2018

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

News flash: Peter Lovesey is an MWA Grand Master

Peter Lovesey (Photograph for Detectives
Beyond Borders by Peter Rozovsky)
Mystery Writers of America have announced that Peter Lovesey has been named an MWA Grand Master. The Last Detective, first of Lovesey's novels about Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, is one of the best alienated-cop novels. I got to meet and chat with Lovesey at Crimefest 2017 in Bristol, and I am pleased to report that he is one of the most pleasant fellows one could want to meet, entertaining as a panelist and informative as an interview subject. And here's an old post about that most virtuosic of crime-fiction feats, Lovesey's Bertie and the Seven Bodies.
I like authors who solve narrative problems, and that superb craftsman and fine storyteller Peter Lovesey solved a whopper in his 1990 mystery Bertie and the Seven Bodies (Felony and Mayhem Press), the second of his three novels about Bertie, Prince of Wales.

I picked up this affectionate tribute to Golden Age mysteries, Agatha Christie's in particular, as a change of pace, and I noticed early on how skillfully Lovesey captures the flavor and tone of an English country-house mystery while at the same time remaining thoroughly up to date.

How does he do this? First by making the jovial prince and the pretty hostess more explicitly randy than his predecessors in the Golden Age probably would have; second, by describing the pheasant hunt that is the occasion for the story's house party far more thoroughly than I expect a Golden Age author would have done:

"The planning for this week of sport had begun more than a year ago, and the arrangements couldn't be altered at the drop of a hat. What with loaders, beaters, stops, pickers-up, drivers and catering staff, we could be using more than two hundred personnel."

"The dead birds were tidily lined up for counting, almost two hundred pheasants, one of the gamekeepers said, bringing our day's bag past seven hundred."

"I waited, flanked by my loaders, picturing the activity in the coverts as the fugitive birds scampered ahead of the beaters. A pheasant has a natural reluctance to take to its wings, and it requires a well-managed beat to put it up precisely over the guns without flushing too many other at once."

battue was faultless. They presented the birds in a long, soaring sequence almost vertically above us. I worked with three guns, receiving from the loader on my right, firing and passing it empty to the other man, never shifting my eyes from the sky."
The accumulated weight of these vignettes adds up to a startling picture of sybaritism, a portrait of long, hard work by many devoted to the idle and momentary enjoyment of a few. And yet they work as action and description without ever coming off as shrill, polemical, condescending or anachronistically knowing.

Why? Because Bertie describes the scene with an innocent eye. He does not know that what he sees might be appalling to the democratic and ecological sensibilities of today's readers. That distance safely allows us both to enjoy the scene and to be surprised, even shocked, by its waste and luxury. To put it another way, Lovesey has written the most socially authentic-seeming hunt scene I can remember in any crime story.

Lovesey appeals beautifully to current readers' sensibilities. At the same time, he maintains the atmosphere of a story composed in the past (that he does this all against yet a third layer of time, the story's 19th-century setting, is a matter for discussion elsewhere). What other authors do this?
(Read another Detectives Beyond Borders post about Bertie and the Seven Bodies.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008, 2017

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Friday, November 17, 2017


Three from Bristol shot by me, one from New Orleans not.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016, 2017

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Knowles and Truman: What I've been reading

© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Top news from the antipodes: New Zealand's Ngaio Marsh Awards

Craig Sisterson, last heard from in this space explaining cricket to your humble blog keeper, sends along cool news about the recent Ngaio Marsh Awards, New Zealand's top crime fiction prize, and the flock of talented newcomers who won this year's awards. (Craig founded the awards, and I served as a judge a few years ago, so Craig is the man in N.Z. fiction, and I'm an old friend.)  Here's Craig:
"The usual suspects took a back seat as first-time crime writers Fiona Sussman, Finn Bell, and Michael Bennett swept the spoils at the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards in Christchurch on Saturday night.  
"The talented trio made history on several fronts at a special WORD Christchurch event hosted in Dame Ngaio’s hometown by Scorpio Books as part of nationwide NZ Bookshop Day celebrations.  
“`Each of our winners this year is a remarkable storyteller who uses crime writing as a prism through which to explore broader human and societal issues,' said Ngaios founder Craig Sisterson. `When we launched in 2010 we wanted to highlight excellence in local crime writing, beyond traditional ideas of puzzling whodunits or airport thrillers. Our 2017 winners emphasise that broader scope to the genre, and showcase the inventiveness and world-class quality of our local storytellers.' 
"Sussman is the first female author to win the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. THE LAST TIME WE SPOKE (Allison & Busby) is her second novel but the first foray into crime storytelling for the former GP who grew up in Apartheid South Africa. It explores the ongoing impact of a brutal home invasion on both victim and perpetrator. `Laden with empathy and insight,' said the international judging panel. `A challenging, emotional read, harrowing yet touching, this is brave and sophisticated storytelling.' 
"It took Sussman seven years to research and write her winning novel. She travelled Aotearoa visiting prisons, talking to police and victims, inmates and ex-gang members, and seeking advice from Māori writers to ensure she brought authenticity to the disparate worlds of her characters. She won a Ngaios trophy, special edition of a Dame Ngaio book, and $1,000 cash prize courtesy of WORD Christchurch. 
"Self-published e-book author Finn Bell won Best First Novel for DEAD LEMONS and was a finalist for Best Crime Novel for PANCAKE MONEY. His debut explores themes of addiction, loss, and recovery as a wheelchair-bound man contemplating suicide decamps to a remote cottage in Southland, only to be obsessively drawn into a dangerous search for a father and daughter who went missing years before.  
"Bell has worked in night shelters, charities, hospitals, and prisons. He is the first author to ever have two books become finalists in a single year. The judges called him `a wonderful new voice in crime writing' who `delivers a tense, compelling tale centred on an original, genuine, and vulnerable character.' 
"Experienced filmmaker Michael Bennett (Te Arawa) won the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Non Fiction for IN DARK PLACES (Paul Little Books), the astonishing tale of how teenage car thief Teina Pora spent decades in prison for the brutal murder of Susan Burdett, and the remarkable fight to free him. The international judging panel called it `a scintillating, expertly balanced account of one of the most grievous miscarriages of justice in New Zealand history.' 
“`Decades ago a woman from Christchurch was among the biggest names in the books world,' said Sisterson. `In recent years there’s a growing appreciation abroad for the top talent of our contemporary Kiwi crime writers; a reputation that’s going to flourish even more thanks to this year’s winners.'" 
For more information about the Ngaio Marsh Awards, contact the Judging Convenor: craigsisterson@hotmail.com or ngaiomarshaward@gmail.com
© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bouchercon 2017, Part II: Cricket lesson

Craig Sisterson (right) with
William Deverell. Photos by
Peter Rozovsky
Craig Sisterson is a small land mass in the South Pacific, about 600 square kilometers in area, 700 meters high, and characterized at times by sparse facial vegetation. He also created New Zealand's Ngaio Marsh crime fiction awards, and he's been a jovial companion at crime fiction conventions in England and North America.

At the recent Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto, he gave me a lesson in cricket, explaining the sport's tactics and pointing to fellow hotel guests and saying things like, "He's a short third man" and "She's a fine leg," by which he meant that those are the names of the cricket fielding positions corresponding to where those guests were standing in relation to us, had Craig and I been bowlers, strikers, wicket keepers, umpires, or silly mid offs. The bemused smiles and puzzled stares of those so anointed did not detract from Craig's lesson, and I now know much more than I once did about cricket.

Toronto City Hall

Antti Tuomainen, Karen Sullivan
I also took some pictures.

Colin Cotterill
Ian Truman
Elizabeth Heiter, Stuart Neville
© Peter Rozovsky 2017
James Ziskin

Karin Salvalaggio, Mindy Mejia, Lori Roy
Anita Thompson, Kay Kendall
David McKee, John McFetridge
Barry Lancet
Baron Birtcher
Emelie Schepp

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Two smart authors, one of them Sharp

Zoe Sharp and John Lawton in New
York. Photos by Peter Rozovsky
Bouchercon is a great opportunity to hang out with people who believe that a good piece of writing should be at least 141 characters long and that those characters should form an elegantly written whole that, nonetheless, deserves a second look before it leaves the writer's desk and goes public.

A week after returning from Bouchercon in Toronto, I visited the Mysterious Bookshop in New York to hear fellow attendees Zoe Sharp and John Lawton read from their new novels. (Sharp's is Fox Hunter. Lawton's is Friends and Traitors.)  Lawton said spies (if I remember correctly) are made in the nursery. The man talked Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and what made those celebrated British defectors what they were, and he never mentioned geopolitics.

John Lawton,
Bouchercon 2017,
Sharp bemoaned the idea of the strong female character in crime fiction. A male character kicks ass, he’s just a character. A female character does the same, and she’s singled out. Worth thinking about, I’d say.
Zoe Sharp at Noir at the Bar, Bouchercon, Toronto
Alluding to recent news headlines, Sharp said she hopes the new word “Harveyed” enters the language, to which a woman in the audience replied “and leaves the workplace,” to nods of assent and quiet cheers.

Read Lawton, read Sharp, and go hear both authors if you can. They’re worth reading and also listening to.

© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bouchercon 2017: A Report from Loonie Land

My 10th Bouchercon included a few firsts and superlatives:

1) The first panel on which I sat as a panelist rather than a moderator.

2) My first Bouchercon outside the United States.

3) The most cold medicine I'd ever taken at a Bouchercon and, as a consequence ...

Zoe Sharp reads at the pre-con Noir at the Bar.
Photos by Peter Rozovsky.
4) The least gin I'd ever drunk at a Bouchercon. (I made up for this by drinking  more wine and eating more oatmeal.)

Jacques Filippi
5) This was the first Bouchercon to which I'd arrived by car (from Montreal to Toronto in the company of Jacques Filippi and Karen Salvalaggio, the latter of whom learned much about maple doughnuts, while all three of us practiced swearing in Yiddish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Quebecois French). It was in no way Jacques' fault that a normally five-and-half-hour trip took eight. The soothing presence of Karin, Jacques, and Tim Hortons eased any angst that the endless highway construction might otherwise have caused.

Karin Salvalaggio
6) It was the first Bouchercon for whose story anthology I served as a judge.

7) My first panels, as either panelist or moderator, with David Poulsen, Alex Gray, Margaret Cannon, Thomas Enger, Leonardo Wild, and Timothy Williams.

The Toronto street where I lived when not
dining with Karin, Jacques, and Martin
Eryk Pruitt
8) My first experience of Sarah Weinman as a moderator. Sarah chaired the "History of the Genre" panel in which I took part, alongside Poulsen, Gray, Cannon, and Martin Edwards. Moderating: one more thing Sarah does well.

Noir at the Bar
Jen Conley, Jay Stringer
Karen Sullivan, Zoe Sharp
S.G. Wong, Thomas Enger
David Morrell, Ann Cleeves,
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
William Deverell, Craig Sisterson
Jennifer Soosar
Christopher Brookmyre,
Colin Cotterill
John McFetridge
Lou Berney
Eric Beetner
Kay Kendall, Ryan Aldred
Jamie Mason
Three guys from Montreal:
Kevin Burton Smith,
Jacques Filippi, me
Emelie Schepp
Craig Robertson
© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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