In this issue of the Blood-Letter: a preview of our November guest Hannah Dennison, awards, an interview with Terrill Lee Lankford, and more!

November 2016

For Bloody Thursday, November 17, 2016, We Welcome Hannah Dennison

Our speaker, Hannah Dennison, has had a varied career. Born in Hampshire, England, her family moved to Cullompton in Devon (Agatha Christie country) when she was a teenager. After a stint in the Royal Navy, she applied to the local weekly newspaper to become a cub reporter. Her duties primarily involved standing at the church door taking down the names of the mourners – a tradition the newspaper was very proud of in those days. This job became the basis of her Vicky Hill Mysteries, complete with all the quirky English customs and traditions that give Britain a reputation for eccentricity.

A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah DennisonDennison moved to Kent, where she was a secretary to a Formula One World Champion, followed by a job working for a French antique dealer who specialized in seventeenth century oak furniture. This is one of the interests that gave her the idea years later for her newest series – the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries – a contemporary upstairs-downstairs, set against the backdrop of a crumbling country estate.

For the next decade she worked as a flight attendant for both commercial airlines and private jet charters, and traveled extensively all over the world. On one of the private charter flights she met Steven Spielberg and was inspired to act on her writing aspirations. This eventually led to moving to Los Angeles, where she worked for various film studios, read lots of scripts, and learned all she could about the craft of writing, be it screenplays or long-form narrative. She enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she still teaches the occasional mystery workshop.

Hannah now works for the chairman of a west coast advertising agency, living in Portland and commuting regularly to Los Angeles for work.

Please join us at The Old Church in downtown Portland (1422 SW 11th Avenue). This event is free and open to the public. A reception (with cash wine bar) begins at 7:00 pm, followed by our program at 7:30 pm.

NOTE: Bloody Thursdays typically take place on the fourth Thursday of the month. However, in November, because of Thanksgiving, we go a week earlier.

Parking is available in the neighborhood, and there is a City Center Parking lot next to The Old Church on Clay @ 10th, and metered parking in the area. Directions on how to find the church are available at:

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And the winners were…

Anthony Awards

  • Best Novel
    The Killing Kind, by Chris Holm
  • Best First Novel
    Past Crimes, by Glen Erik Hamilton
  • Best Paperback Original
    The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney
  • Best Critical or Non Fiction Book
    Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime, by Val McDermid

Macavity Awards

  • Best Mystery Novel
    The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney
  • Best First Mystery Novel
    Past Crimes, by Glen Erik Hamilton
  • Best Critical/Biographical
    The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story, by Martin Edwards
  • Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award
    The Masque of a Murderer, by Susanna Calkins

Shamus Awards

  • Best P.I. Novel
    Brutality, by Ingrid Thoft
  • Best P.I. Paperback Original
    Circling the Runway, by J.L. Abramo
  • Best First P.I. Novel
    The Do-Right, by Lisa Sandlin

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An Interview with Terrill Lee Lankford

By John Walsdorf

Terrill Lee Lankford has been involved, in one aspect or another, of the movie business since the 1980’s, but I was first introduced to him as a writer of memorable fiction.

North of Sunset by Terrill Lee LankfordHis books include: Shooters (1997), Angry Moon (1997), Earthquake Weather (2004), Blonde Lightning (2005), and North of Sunset (2014).

JW: Your novels generally portray the darker side of the Hollywood story, the seamy underbelly, and Michael Connelly said you ‘may be the most honest writer I know’. How much does your fiction reflect your experiences in the bowels of Los Angeles over the years?

TL: I used a lot of things I either experienced or witnessed or heard about second hand when writing the Hollywood stories, but highly fictionalized of course. Hollywood is different things to different people, so my Hollywood is a very different Hollywood than someone like Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie or Ridley Scott knows and experiences. I’m just a grunt. Most of my friends are just grunts. (Although some of them are very wealthy grunts.) If you want to know how the super rich and famous get it done, then you are better off reading Dominick Dunne. I’m a street animal. But I’ve been down a lot of weird streets.

JW: At one point you owned a bookstore, what were your experiences with physical books?

TL: I only had the store for about two years and unfortunately it was not open very much. I made the mistake of moving out of the area not long after I bought the place and between other work, ferrying children to various schools, and general ineptitude, I neglected the place. I also found it very difficult to charge people for books. Especially my friends. This is a terrible trait for a bookseller. We had no liquor license, so I had to give all the booze away for free as well. And there was a lot of it. When we were open it was often just a big party. It was an expensive, but fun, experience and I wish I had taken it more seriously.

JW: On the subject of books, several years ago you made headlines by rejecting the terms for E-books from a traditional publisher. Can you tell us what the results of that were, and where you see the future of books going?

TL: The result was I rejected the deal and never finished writing that book. Then I returned to the film world where I can make the money it takes to provide for my family. I just couldn’t see working within the standard publishing business model at the time. The idea that a publisher would be taking 75% of e-book sales for eternity and I would never be able to get the work back because it would technically never go out of print just didn’t make sense to me. We’re talking about a part of a business that has next to no physical expense, yet the publisher wanted to keep 3/4s of every dollar earned. It was ludicrous. I think the terms are somewhat better now, but at that time it was not a realistic consideration. They had come to me looking for a book, so it’s not like I was dying to be published again anyway. I showed them something I had been tinkering on and we worked out a deal for hardcover, softcover and e-books. We got right down to the end of it before I realized what they were intending with the e-book sales part of the contract. When they had originally told me it was going to be a 75/25 split I had assumed they meant I was getting the 75. When they sent me the paperwork it was the other way around. I called them and told them there was a typo in the paperwork. That’s how insane the concept sounded to me. Boy did I feel silly when they told me that it was no typo. It blew my mind. I canceled the deal 20 minutes later. And don’t regret it. (Although my agent does.) I don’t know what the future holds in store for the world of books other than that there will still be plenty of people writing them and plenty of people reading them. It’s not a world I deal with now except on the periphery when I have book related film jobs or promotional films to shoot and I have to say I don’t miss it. I miss writing the books a bit, but the rest of the hustle. It’s just not for me. Never really was. If I ever publish again it will be because I have something I just need to get out. It won’t be because I take it seriously as a way to make a living. There are very few writers out there who can survive just from writing books. And I don’t write the kind of books that would allow me to join their ranks.

JW: Your experiences in motion pictures encompass just about every aspect of the business, writer, actor, director, producer, crew, camera, what have you enjoyed the most?

TL: Probably working on the documentaries and promo films I’ve been involved with. There’s a lot less politics and a lot less interference from producers on those. When you’re making movies or television you end up dealing with a lot of people who have the power to ruin your day. And they often exercise that power. The money is great, but that other part of it makes it difficult at times. Everything you do in this business has elements of pleasure though, balanced with the various challenges. The worst job I ever did related to movies, books or TV still beats digging ditches. Except for those few times I wanted to dig a ditch and throw someone into it. In the last few years I got to help out Steve De Jarnatt and Monte Hellman on two small projects and that was just a blast. And I helped shoot an all-star jazz concert at San Quentin. Those are the kinds of things you will gladly do for free.

JW: The common question of ‘What are you working on at the moment’ is often asked of creative people, but in your case it could potentially encompass a multitude of things. So, what are you involved in that you are the most excited about?

TL: I’m developing two different TV series right now. Because we’re in the early stages I can’t talk about either of them – but I wish I could! If either of them happen it will be very exciting. I’m also about to make a couple promotional films for the San Fernando PD which should be an interesting experience.

JW: Finally, is it true you were once struck by lightning?

TL: Absolutely. I think that’s where the trouble all began.

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Membership Renewal

If you haven’t renewed your membership to FOM yet, please consider doing so. Dues are $20.00 annually. Friends of Mystery is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Dues and additional donations are deductible to the full extent of the law. Please send your check to: Friends of Mystery, PO Box 8251, Portland, Oregon 97207. Include your name, address, city, state, zip, email and telephone. The newsletter will come to you electronically unless otherwise requested.

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Member News

Friends of Mystery is happy to publish news and press releases from our members in our Member News section, with the following considerations:

  • The news must be related to mystery or true crime writing, films, and television, as well as non-fiction examinations of the mystery genre.
  • Friends of Mystery will not be able to edit announcements, and will publish them as provided.
  • Friends of Mystery will include one image with each announcement, if provided.
  • Friends of Mystery is not responsible for the content of news announcements, and we reserve the right to not publish any announcements which we feel will reflect poorly on the organization and do not advance the organization’s mission.

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Submissions Needed

Members and readers are encouraged to submit book or film reviews, comments on authors, and recommendations for books to read or questions about mysteries, crime fiction and fact. If you have suggestions of mysteries worth sharing, please contact the editor at: