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The King lecture

Once upon a time there was a man born in India, educated in England, working in Africa, who was hired by a visiting American to help set up a new college and program at the newest jewel in the crown that is the University of California.

When Noel King came to Santa Cruz, most of the UCSC colleges were little more than architectural plans. It was the era of Flower Power, teach-ins, and self-actualization. Life Magazine came to record this peculiar manifestation of the taxpayer’s dollars for the wonder of readers in Dubuque and Amarillo, and included this wild-haired professor on the page.Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 9.23.47 AM

Noel taught undergraduates religion and history until he retired in the early 90s. When he died in 2009, his family—both blood and his university kin—began a series of Noel King lectures with a goal of maintaining the presence of religious studies on campus. The third such was particularly great, a panel of women crime writers talking about how they use religion in their work (slightly ironic, considering how fiction baffled Noel!)—the video of it is on my YouTube channel, here.

This year’s NQK Memorial Lecture will take place at 7:00 Thursday night at Merrill College, UCSC, the college Noel and his first wife helped to found. The topic is as dear to his heart as the venue: African Art and Religion, with Professor Elisabeth Cameron talking about how an artifact speaks of the religious truths of a people.

Come and join Noel’s wide-spread family in celebrating his life of ideas.NQKLecture

Me & Edgar & Agatha & friends

That shriek that rattled the country just before 10:00 pm EST was me reacting to the sound of my name from the podium at the Agatha Awards: Malice Domestic’s choice of Best Historical Mystery is Dreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King!


I was nominated for an Agatha once before (for The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, in 1995) and the convention chose me as their Guest of Honor three years ago, but the award teapot (this convention, after all, focuses on the Traditional Mystery) eluded me until now.

Best of all, I got to sit at a table with the awards of three other friends on it: one each for my friends Barbara Peters and Rob Rosenwald, joint recipients of the Poirot award (for which I got to conduct the conference interview, which ranged over subjects from the state of modern publishing to whether or not they had the requisite RomCom “meet cute”–which, it turns out, they did, over accusations of cheating at cards)LRK, Barbara, Rob

…and also on the table was Margaret Maron’s Agatha for Contemporary Mystery (for the gorgeous 20th and—alas!—final Deborah Knott story, Long Upon the Land.) Here are three of the four of us winners:


In general, Malice Domestic is a really fun conference, casual and filled with dedicated book-lovers. I was pleased this year to hear that Good Friends Alice W. (who took a couple of these pictures) and Merrily T. would be going,LRK, Alice, Merrily

along with more-or-less locals like Bill M. and eminent Sherlockians Peter Blau and his wife Bev Wolov (a Smithsonian lace expert!)

My trip to DC came on the heels of a quick 36 hours in New York, during which I fit in dinner with friends, meetings with Picador (who do the stunning paperbacks of the early books) and Random House’s enthusiastic Team LRK, and the Edgars Awards banquet of the Mystery Writers of America. There I had the honor of giving the Ellery Queen Award (for work in the mystery-publishing field) to my friend Janet Rudolph, whose passion for Crime is exceeded only by the joy she takes in fine chocolates.  I introduced her by saying:

It’s not often a person is given the chance to speak for an entire community.  I am so pleased to be the one to stand up here and say, Janet, we love you. We honor and respect you. We stand amazed at your unflagging energy, your unfailing good will and optimism, and your endless creativity in celebrating the genre.

We, the world’s scribblers, give you our thanks, our affection, our Ellery Queen Award–and, more to the point, our chocolate.

Janet Rudolph.

And then handed her the MWA statue, along with a box of chocolate truffles.

The Edgars banquet also involves, of course, drinks in the bar before and after with friends like SJ Rozan and Dan Stashower and Laura Caldwell and—well, it wouldn’t be a black tie party without Les Klinger.IMG_1365

You can read about MWA’s 2016 awards, here.

And think about joining us for the fun, in New Orleans or Honolulu!

Dressing the part of Murder

One of my favorite times on the recent tour for Murder of Mary Russell was the launch, when friends near and far gathered to celebrate the publication–and to admire the amazing donning of Victorian garb by Caroline Bellios, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Fashion and assistant director of the Fashion Resource Center at SAIC.

I got in touch with Professor Bellios when I was looking for a fun way to launch the book, and a search for Victorian cosplay enthusiasts that began with The Victorian Society of Chicago ended up with a whole lot more.

Professor Bellios started off dressed in her combinations, stockings, and shoes (once you put on a corset, you don’t want to be bending to fasten your shoes…)CB combinations

She laced on her corset with the assistance of her sister, Joanna Bellios Wozniak, playing the role of lady’s maid. First Caroline worked the front hooks of the busk, then let out her breath while the laces in back were drawn tight, after which she could tie the long strings. She noted that those corsets we see in museums, which give rise to the belief that all Victorian women had 20″ waists, would in fact not have been laced all the way together, but instead would be separated by a few inches. (Which may be something of a relief, although that doesn’t account for those tiny shoes one also sees…)

CB corset front fastening

CB corset lacing





CB lacing corset

Then came the petticoat–which in 1879, the year Clara Hudson meets Sherlock Holmes, would have been relatively straight, since the fashion was for the long line rather than the exaggerated hips of the crinoline era.

CB petticoat goind on

CB petticoat

It was followed by the underskirt and the skirt itself, with ruffles (removable for cleaning–the streets were filthy!)

CB overskirt

CB overskirt going on

After the skirts came a many-buttoned bodice

CB fastening bodice

then the jacket with its long, snug sleeves.CB putting on jacket

In 1879, hoops were long gone and even bustles were (temporarily) in abeyance, replaced by ruffles that emphasized the smooth front and dramatic back line of the skirt:CB showing back of skirt

We now added a hat:

..and with a small reticule fastened to her wrist, had the very model of the Victorian lady, out to conquer the world:

CB fully dressed

Professor Bellios even brought a few actual vintage garments, including gorgeously delicate silk 1920s undergarments, and a Victorian corset and pair of bustles, one with wires, the other composed of tightly-stuffed linen rolls (horsehair, probably).bustles

This really was a thrill, and I owe a Victorian boat-load of thanks to Caroline and her sister, to Anderson’s at Naperville, and to long-time friend of Russell and photographic genius John Bychowski, who took all these photos except the last.  (John is also a moderator in the Book Club.)

Finally, if you’d like to add a couple of pages to your meditative coloring book, a page illustrating a lady’s Victorian garments is here, with its 1925 counterpart here.

Happy Birthday, Bill!

Today (or yes, maybe Tuesday…) is the birthday for the man who changed the English language, William Shakespeare.  There’s a fascinating article over on the New York Post about the near-disappearance of all that genius (thanks to The Passive Guy for the link), where only the determination (and financial commitment) of two friends led to the publication of the Folios.

By the 1620s, his plays were no longer being performed in theaters. On the day he died, no one — not even Shakespeare himself — believed that his works would last, that he was a genius or that future generations would hail his writings.

He hadn’t even published his plays — during his lifetime they were considered ephemeral amusements, not serious literature. Half of them had never been published in any form and the rest had appeared only in unauthorized, pirated versions that corrupted his original language.

Sobering, especially for those of us publishing in the digital era, electronics being the very definition of ephemera…

And speaking of The Bard of Avon, many of us in Santa Cruz were saddened when our longtime annual event, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, lost its support and its home at UCSC. And perhaps even more of us were heartened when news came that a new venue had been found, with a new name: Santa Cruz Shakespeare.Build-the-Grove-Header-Image-Hastag

They’re building a new home, deep inside De La Veaga Park, which is only a couple of miles from my front door!  Suitably enough, the first season will be blessed with Midsummer Night’s Dream (always best in an out-of-doors venue) as well as Hamlet and Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending Orlando.

My friend Lisa Jensen (author of the fantastic Alias Hook) has a fuller blog post about the building process, here.  And Santa Cruz Shakespeare will keep us up on their progress here.  Send them a donation, if you’re interested in keeping The Bard in Surf City.

See you in the forest of Athens, with Puck and the wedding-goers…