Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Heritage Room display features crime and mystery fiction

In Nebraska, the historical giants of crime fiction are Mignon Good Eberhart (1899-1996) and Jim Thompson (1906-1977). Eberhart was a classic creator of fictional detectives who combined her mysteries with elements of the romance novel. With some 59 novels to her credit, she is the most prolific Nebraska novelist ever. In her day, which stretched from the 1920s to the 1960s, she was very popular. By the late 1940s she was the third highest earning woman mystery writer in the world, right after Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Jim Thompson’s writing contrasted starkly with Eberhart’s. Growing up in Oklahoma and in the Sandhills around Burwell, Nebraska, Thompson had an intimate understanding of harsh realities of poverty and drink that could engulf the wished for gentility of middle class life. Thompson came to himself as a writer in Lincoln in the 1930s, under the tutelage of Lowry Wimberly. Thompson’s writing explored the dark side of the American experience, the inner world of the criminally insane, or the sudden fatal inspirations of a half-formed, trapped, and uncomforted American everyman. Thompson’s writing has a sharp bite. Readers and critics now have a greater appreciation for his work than they did during his lifetime.

If Mignon Eberhart’s heroines all find their way, from some exotic setting, to middle class dreams and ideals, Jim Thompson’s stories corrode middle class dreams and distort them into nightmares.

Along with books by Eberhart and Thompson, our display includes mysteries and crime fiction by these contemporary Nebraska authors who have gained recognition as being among the most popular and distinguished American writers working in these genres:

Omaha native and resident Richard Dooling is a lawyer who has written collaboratively with Stephen King. His scripts and novels are making their way into television and the movies. Dooling writes mysteries that offer a darkly comic views of contemporary cultural decay and technology, topics he also addresses in critically acclaimed non-fiction. His first novel, White Man’s Grave was a National Book Award finalist. His more recent Bet your Life is about investment, insurance fraud, and the corruption of cube life in an Omaha insurance company.

Sean Doolittle, from Hickman, is a master of the detective mystery whose books have won a number of awards, including an “best 100 books” award in 2001, “book of the year” awards from Forewords Magazine (2003), and Crimespree Magazine (2006), among others. Doolittle lived and worked in Los Angeles before moving, a few years back, to Omaha. His most recent books have Nebraska settings. Raindogs is set in the Nebraska Sandhills, and The Cleanup in Omaha. Both books have gotten rave reviews in the national press.

Alex Kava is an internationally best-selling mystery-thriller writer whose books have appeared on the New York Times best seller list, and on similar lists in Britain, Germany, Italy, and Australia. She has said that “I love using Nebraska as a setting because so many people have such a misconception of the state and it gives me an opportunity to share what it's really like.” Her gritty, carefully researched fiction is sometimes based on real events.

Omaha native and Omaha Westside graduate Julie Kaewert began to write mysteries after working for a London publisher. Her detective series carefully explores the intricacies of publishing and the rare book and manuscript trade. Famed London rare book dealer Ed Maggs, current proprietor of the famous Maggs Brothers Books, founded in Charles Dicken’s day by Uriah Maggs, has allowed Kaewert to include him as a character in her fiction under his own name. Kaewert’s books appeal to those who especially love literature and the book trade. Kaewert also co-wrote the novel that accompanied the screenplay for the movie, The Avengers.

Former Lincoln resident and actress turned mystery writer Harley Jane Kozak writes off-beat mysteries with a quirky comic bite and a romantic twist. Her work is popular with readers, especially with women, and has gotten great reviews from the national critics.

Falls City Nebraska native David Wiltse is a playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and tennis journalist. Wiltse’s acclaimed, prize winning plays have been produced in New York, London, Tokyo, South Africa and Sweden. He began to write for television to better support his family, he has said. He has written for a number of successful television series and movies. He began to write novels in the 1980s. His popular, fast paced thrillers include several recent novels set in the Falls City area. His awards include the Drama Desk Award for most promising playwright, and an Edgar Allen Poe Award for his television script for “Revenge of the Stepford Wives.”

Our crime and mystery display also includes novels by Lisa McClendon, Jean Potts, and Don Winslow.

Here is a link to our printer friendly crime and mystery fiction booklist.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

The 2009 Sandoz Society Meeting and Conference

The 2009 Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Conference will be held March 26-28, 2009 at Chadron State College. The conference will focus on Mari Sandoz and her literary contemporaries, with special attention to Nebraska writer Wright Morris, who will also be the subject of a special exhibit at the Mari Sandoz Center. The influence of John Neihardt, anthropologist Franz Boaz, and Amos Bad Heart Bull will also be featured. The conference program is available. A reading list, campus map, and links to lodging are available here, courtesy of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center.

The 2009 International Cather Seminar

The theme of the 2009 International Cather Seminar will be "Cather, Chicago and Modernism." The conference will be held June 25-28 2009 in Chicago. Conference sponsors are the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Willa Cather Foundation. The Conference Program is now available via UNL's Cather Archive. Online registration is available here, via UNL's conference link.