In this issue of the Blood-Letter: a preview of upcoming Bloody Thursday guest Loren Pankratz, an interview with Timothy Hallinan, and more!

November 2010

November Bloody Thursday: “Imposters, Pretenders and Deceivers” With Dr. Loren Pankratz – November 18th

Dr. Loren Pankratz

We are pleased to welcome Loren Pankratz, Ph.D. on Thursday, November 18th. Dr. Pankratz was a Consultation Psychologist at the Portland VA Medical Center and a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Oregon Health Sciences University. Since his early retirement, he has worked as a forensic psychologist for the past 15 years.

Dr. Pankratz got his start in “mysteries” by studying deceptive patients. He began with a study subtitled “Summering in Oregon,” about patients who were wandering from hospital to hospital, telling false stories about their lives. The next critical paper was about veterans who claimed to have been traumatized in war. He found that four of five had never been in Vietnam, and two had never been in the military. This work was subsequently expanded into an exploration of other claims by imposters.

His professional publications include many provocative titles, such as “The Ten Least Wanted Patients”, “Abdominal Self-Surgery”, and “The Assessment and Treatment of Geezers.”

He has written about the frauds of faith healers, patients who scam doctors for drugs, bogus recovered memories, dancing manias, Greek oracles, spiritualistic fraud, and historical hoaxes. He has published articles in journals for magicians, mentalists, and sideshow performers.

His book, Patients Who Deceive, was part of the Behavioral Science and Law series published by Charles Thomas. Dr. Pankratz has an extensive library on the history of deception and mistaken ideas.

We hope you will be able to join us for what promises to be a most interesting presentation by Dr. Pankratz. The meeting will be held at Terwilliger Plaza, 2545 SW Terwilliger Blvd. in the Conference Room, located on the P3 level. Directional signs will be posted in the building. There will be a reception at 7:00 pm, followed by the program at 7:30 pm. The meeting is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the Terwilliger Plaza employee lots across 6th Avenue from the lower level entrance, and on Sheridan Street. Handicapped parking is available at the upper level entrance. Tri-Met bus #8, Jackson Park, stops just in front of the lower level entrance. Click here for directions to Terwilliger Plaza, including a map which shows parking in the area.

Date: Thursday, November 18, 2010, 7:00pm
Location: Terwilliger Plaza, 2545 SW Terwilliger Blvd, Portland, OR

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An Interview With Timothy Hallinan

bu John Walsdorf

Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan is the author of two widely praised mystery series. His first series featured professor-turned-private investigator, Simeon Grist. There were six suspense novels beginning in 1989, with the last in 1995. His second series is set in Bangkok, Thailand, with Poke Rafferty as a travel guide writer of offbeat locations. Poke has become fascinated with the country, culture and people, especially a woman named Rose. The most recent novel, The Queen of Patpong, is the fourth in the series.

JW: In your forthcoming novel, The Queen of Patpong, you once again transcend the ‘mystery’ genre and delve into the history of your characters and the complexities of their human emotions. How do you bring so rich a realization to the imaginary people that populate your books?

The Fourth Watcher

TH: Well, thanks for the implication that I do. If you’re right, it’s probably a product of my most fundamental conviction about writing, which is that plot is what characters do. I start with the characters at a time in their lives when they’re engaged in, or on the brink of, a situation that will test them one way or another, and then I simply follow them. I have no outline, no kind of map of where the story is going. In Queen, I knew before I started to write that Rose began in the village, went to Bangkok one way or another, and survived to marry Poke. That’s all I knew. Howard Horner came to me after I wrote the long first chapter, which introduced the milieu of the bars and the un-worldliness of the youngest and newest of the girls who dance in them. I had no idea until Rose said it that she thought she’d killed him. And then I got very involved in watching the family fragment and begin to fall apart – for the first time ever – until Rose calls a halt and finally tells her story. And then I found myself in that village and Nana paraded by, all sparkly and glamorous, and the moment she took off that earring and threw it to Rose, it brought a whole bolt of story with it, like a length of fabric. I knew that Rose would put on these “valuable” earrings and, just at the time she learned in Bangkok that she had been lied to about absolutely everything, she’d see that they’d turned her ears green. I laughed out loud when all that arrived, sort of in a telegram. Then I simply followed Rose through all that, and beyond. So, if it’s true the people in the books are richly realized, it’s probably because they’re literally the only things I care about.

JW: Thailand has been embroiled in political turmoil in the last few years. How much time do you spend there, and what is the current situation there?

Breathing Water

TH: I’m there a little less than half of each year. At the moment – as of October 6 – things are calm, but that’s only because a lid has been clamped on top of the pot. Beneath the lid, the water is boiling furiously. Thailand has been governed relatively successfully, if corruptly, for generations and generations by a small, Thai-Chinese power elite, a relatively small number of interconnected families. The telecommunications tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra changed all that when he ran on a platform of benefits and assistance to the poor and bought literally millions of votes, mostly of the poorest voters in the Kingdom. He became the first prime minister in Thai history to win a majority of the popular vote. But (a) he’s an authoritarian thug and something of a crook, and (b) the power elite couldn’t stand him. He got tossed out of office in part because he sold his company for several billion dollars and through creative bookkeeping avoided paying a penny in income tax – to the country of which he was prime minister. The people promptly elected two of his allies in rapid succession, and both of them were tossed, too, and the current prime minister was installed by a legislative fiat that included huge payments to several legislators who had been Thaksin’s allies. The Red Shirts were protesting the illegal dismissal of three duly elected prime ministers, and they were put down, but only after a lot of indecision on the part of the current administration. Problem is that there’s an election tentatively scheduled for next month, and it’s going to be a tinderbox: if it’s postponed, I think you’ll see rioting; if an elitist candidate wins, I think you’ll see riots and charges that the election was stolen; if a popular candidate wins – well, will the power elite allow him to remain in office? It’s a dreadful situation, made even worse by the precarious health of the King, who is the moral, ethical, and emotional center of the Kingdom.

JW: You write on, and teach about, writing. What is the key piece of advice you have for struggling authors?

The Queen of Patpong

TH: I give them four. (1) Write the book you’d most like to read. (2) Write on tiptoe, trying to do things you aren’t sure you know how to do, because that’s the only way we grow. (3) Write every day, and I mean seven days a week – first, because we need the exercise and second, because books die if the writer doesn’t enter the book’s world so frequently that it’s as real to him or her as the “real” world, the book will die. (4) Finally, read everything in sight.

By the way, the largest part of my website is essentially a book-length section called FINISH YOUR NOVEL in which I say pretty much everything I’ve learned over the course of writing sixteen of them. It’s a greatly expanded version of the class notes I used in my novel-writing seminars and it’s all free. It’s at

JW: Your upcoming book is the fifth in the Poke Rafferty series, what is this one about and where do you see the series going from here?

TH: The next book is probably called The Fear Merchant and it begins in the middle of one of the recent riots. A dying American, shot through the chest, stumbles into Poke and drags him onto the sidewalk. While a TV news crew grinds away, the dying man says three words: a woman’s name and ”Cheyenne,” as in the city in Wyoming. Within six hours, Poke has been hauled into the Thai equivalent of Homeland Security and interrogated in a room with a one-way mirror in it. On his way out, Poke shoves the door open into the room behind the mirror and finds an American Secret Service agent he met in The Fourth Watcher. Beside him is a fat, redheaded man in a Hawaiian shirt who radiates danger. Needless to say, everyone thinks Poke knows something he doesn’t and the only thing he can do is to try to find out who the dying man was and what he might have known, and he puts together a team of his own made up of some of the retired spooks who infest Bangkok – a Russian, a Syrian, and a generic European who won’t say where he’s from. I’m having a great time writing the spooks, especially a melancholy Russian named Vladimir, who’s going to walk off with the whole book if I’m not careful.

And I’m also writing two other books, not in the series, for ebook publishing – for the Kindle first. I’ve put up three of the six books I wrote in the nineties and they’re doing very well, and I see ebooks as a way to write anything I want, without worrying about whether publishers will think it’s “commercial.” Darwinian capitalism – put it out there and let it sink or swim.

Thanks for giving me a soapbox.

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Oregon Cultural Trust Tax Credit

Friends of Mystery is pleased to be designated as an Oregon non-profit cultural organization. Donations, including dues to FOM, qualify you to make a tax-free contribution to the Oregon Cultrual Trust. If you donate up to $500.00 (or up to $1000.00 per couple filing jointly) this year to designated Oregon non-profit organizations, you can also make a matching gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust. That second donation will earn you a matching credit on your Oregon income tax. This is a tax credit, not a deduction. Therefore, your contribution to the Trust doesn’t cost you anything. Your contribution to FOM would be a charitable tax contribution, and your contribution to the Oregon Cultural Trust will give you a dollar-for-dollar tax credit in the amount due on the bottom line.

The purpose of the tax credit is to stimulate direct giving to Oregon cultural non-profit organizations while raising money for the Trust to distribute in grants. We hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity. For more information, visit the website at, or your tax advisor.

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If you have not yet renewed your membership, we urge you to do so without delay. We have held our dues at $20 per year again and depend on our members to provide the funds we need for newsletters, postage fees, website expenses and various other expenses. A membership form is found on the back page of this newsletter.

Upcoming Programs

  • Thursday, January 27, 2011
    Michael Brown, Deputy District Attorney for Multnomah County
  • Thursday, March 24, 2011
    Cara Black, best-selling author
  • Thursday, May 26, 2011
    Spotted Owl Award Winner and book sale

Submissions Needed

Members and readers are encouraged to submit book or film reviews, comments on authors, recommendations for books to read, or questions about mysteries, crime fiction and fact. You can mail these to our PO Box 8251, Portland, OR 97207 or send to our email address at

Mystery Conventions

Mystery conventions are a great place to meet and hear your favorite authors and to be in the company of mystery fans from all over the world. If you get a chance to attend one, you will want to be at another.

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