The Z in Michael Z.

It's a real middle initial standing for Zinn, which was my mother's maiden name. The Zinns and the rest of my mother's family lived in Indiana and elsewhere in the midwest for a looong time before I came along.

Early steps on the road to crime

The modern Zinn family has ancestors who were in the US even before it became the US and at least one who fought with George Washington against the Brits.

But among the patchwork of genetic contributors was a Johan Gottfried Zinn. He was a professor of medicine at Gottingen University in Germany with a special interest in the anatomy of the eye. But he was also interested in plants and was the guy who described a scruffy little flower that had first been found in Mexico and named it after himself: the zinnia.

So, in honor of my family connection, I grow zinnias each year - though the variety I grow is not the original, and not the one most commonly grown in the US - which was developed by the seed company, Burpee. But though they are small, multi-colored and they shimmer in the evening light.

But that's the "Z" - included as a sign that I'm proud of my mother's side of the family.

Early evidence of a rich fantasy life

Early canine influence, though we had cats too

Out of print books


If you are trying to find copies of my out of print titles or editions in languages other than English, I'm happy for you to contact me to see if I have spare copies of what you're looking for.

Bio/biblio

My mystery writing career began when I was eleven and collaborated with my friend and neighbor, Harold York, on a seven act play called "The Case of the Money Murders." We killed off my sister in the first scene, though she rather delayed her demise by giggling wildly each of the first four times the curtain opened. Fifth time lucky. The play had a successful run of two performances in our basement, followed by an encore outing the next week in our classroom at PS 70. I've scarely looked back since.

It wasn't the first play Harold and I wrote. That was "The Grandma's Daughter," a melodrama

Cast as the villain, I intimidate my sister and her mother - neighbor Betsy Kuether.

After the seven minutes of its only performance my father said, "Is that all?" I didn't know at the time he was a stifled writer. He unstifled later. No copies of either play script are known to have survived.

But I wrote no more mysteries until 1969 when I began a short story that I thought would make my (then) wife and my mother laugh. The short story eventually finished as my first Albert Samson novel, ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION. I don't recall if either of them laughed, but I bet my daughter, Liz, did. She was aged 2 months when I birthed Albert. Those days she laughed at about anything.

The gap between the Money Murders and ASK was not filled with fiction writing. I majored in hard sciences in college, and expected to sign on for a PhD. But in my junior year I wandered into a creative writing class. It had been suggested by my father on the strength of my writing good letters. Maybe the truth was he hoped it would belatedly improve my craft as a dramatist. Whatever the reason I signed up - fully expecting to be turfed out at the first hurdle: a writing sample. But I crawled under what other, more experienced writers leapt. And here I am, thanks in no small part to the sympathetic teaching in that class of Alan Lebowitz.

As for biographical facts, I was born in 1942, in Springfield, Massachusetts, also the birthplace of basketball. I was raised up in Indianapolis where my high school career began in the first year of North Central High School's existence. That hard science - "Chemistry and Physics" - was at Harvard, as was the writing class. From there I went to Cambridge (England) but spent far more time in the Footlights - a club devoted to revues - than in the chem labs. I taught science in American high schools (Bridgeport CT and New York City) for three years before becoming a full time writer in 1969 on the occasion of getting a contract for my first book, a subversive non-fiction tome called HOW TO BEAT COLLEGE TESTS. I was told by the publisher at the time that it sold well in Texas.

Not long after COLLEGE TESTS came out, and then went back in again, my wife and I and two diminutive children (son Roger followed Liz 19 months later) left Manhattan for the greener pastures of Somerset in England: professional writers with young families ought to be in a place where they can grow their own food. I liked it in England, and have stayed.

At the end of 2000 I moved to a flat in Bath – an outrageously beautiful small city – where I have a patio that overlooks Walcot Street, on which one set of my characters, the Lunghis, live and work.

My crime writing through 2001 is listed in detail in THE RELUCTANT DETECTIVE. I have, however, also written quite a bit of non-crime stuff including, as well as books and stories, sports articles, diaries, crossword puzzles, a diet, revue skits and songs, a stage play for young adults, and even an article on Indianapolis for the NY Times’ “Sophisticated Traveler.” Best not to think about what litters my office, unpublished.


Books and first publication details

Indianapolis novels.

These books feature a main character but also have characters who reoccur in other characters’ books.

Albert Samson
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION 1971 Putnam
THE WAY WE DIE NOW 1973 Putnam
THE ENEMIES WITHIN 1974 Knopf
THE SILENT SALESMAN 1978 Knopf
MISSING WOMAN 1981 Knopf
OUT OF SEASON (OUT OF TIME, UK) 1984 Morrow
CALLED BY A PANTHER 1991 Mysterious
EYE OPENER 2004 Five Star

Leroy Powder
NIGHT COVER 1976 Knopf
HARD LINE 1982 Morrow
LATE PAYMENTS 1986 Morrow

Adele Buffington
AND BABY WILL FALL (CHILD PROOF, UK) 1988 Morrow

Jan Moro
UNDERDOG 1993 Mysterious

Joe Prince
OH JOE 2008 Five Star

Non-series
OUTSIDE IN 1980 Knopf

Other novels

CUTTING LOOSE 1999 Holt
This is a historical novel, published as a Young Adult book. It’s set in the US (including Indianapolis) and the UK.

Lunghi novels – set in Bath, England

FAMILY BUSINESS 1995 Foul Play
FAMILY PLANNING 1999 St Martin’s
FAMILY WAY 2011 Five Star

CONFESSIONS of a DISCONTENTED DEITY 2012 Amazon Kindle

Story collections

TELLING TAILS 1994 PawPaw (UK)
ROVER’S TALES 1998 St Martin’s
Illustrations by Karen Wallis
THE RELUCTANT DETECTIVE and other stories 2001
Crippen & Landru
The title story of this collection was nominated for an Edgar in 1984 but after publication a second story in the collection was also nominated for an Edgar in 2002.
FAMILY TRIO 2011 Amazon Kindle Three Lunghi stories

Audio book:

ROVER’S TALES Unabridged, read by the author
Blackstone Audio Books, 99

Novelization:

THE NEXT MAN 1976 Warner
This book was based on was a movie starring Sean Connery. I included all the scenes and dialogue from the film script with many enhancements and embellishments of my own. The film's producers were pleased with the result and the book came out in at least two countries where the movie didn't. Sorry to say, the screen version was not a success. Part of the NY Times review read that it was “made by people whose talent for filmmaking and knowledge of international affairs would both fit comfortably into the left nostril of a small bee.” Ah well.


Non-fiction:

HOW TO BEAT COLLEGE TESTS: A Guide to Ease the Burden of Useless Courses 1970 Dial Press
Even today college students find many tests to be a mystery – especially the badly written ones.

Non-book information


The extended list of my stories, plays, non-fiction and awards goes on a bit, but a few visitors to this site have asked that I post them. So here goes.

Short stories

The Loss Factor UK: “Penthouse”, 75
Students of Disaster First with the Swedish
edition of THE ENEMIES WITHIN, 78 UK: MATCH ME SIDNEY, No Exit, 89, US: EQMM, Jan 94
Fast Lane "Woman" July 7, 79
Wrong Number CRIME WAVE, Swedish Academy of
Detection, 81 Collins, London, 81
How in One Week I Achieved A Place in the Frome Basketball Hall of Fame "Basketball" 1981ish
The Frome Fundraisers "Basketball" 1981ish
How I Took Up Coaching and Got My First Whiff of Success "Basketball" 1981ish
Silent Testimony AHMM, March 82
The Reluctant Detective THE EYES HAVE IT, ed Robert J Randisi, Mysterious, 84
Family Business Lunghi story UK: WINTERS CRIMES 20,ed Hilary Hale, MacMillan, 88 US: AHMM March 94
At Home UK: NEW CRIMES, ed Maxim Jakubowski Robinson, 89
Wedding Bells Lunghi story UK: NEW CRIMES 2, ed Maxim Jakubowski Robinson, 90
Danny Gets It Right UK: CRIME WAVES 1,ed HRF Keating, Gollancz, 91
You Pay For Everything EQMM, Dec 92
The Truth EQMM, Mar 92
Danny Pulls His Weight UK: 1st CULPRIT, eds Liza Cody and Michael Z. Lewin, Chatto & Windus, 92
Rainey Shines EQMM, July 93
Gains And Losses Lunghi story UK: MIDWINTERS CRIMES, ed Hilary Hale, Scribners, 93 US: EQMM, July 94
The Stranger EQMM, Sept 93 ROYAL CRIMES, ed Maxim Jakubowski and Martin H. Greenberg, Signet, 94
Boss UK: 2nd CULPRIT, eds Liza Cody and Michael Z. Lewin Chatto & Windus, 93 US: EQMM, Feb 95
Kitty Kitty Japan: Hayakawa Mystery Magazine, 93
In Mitigation UK: NEW CRIMES ?, ? 93?
Travel Plans Lunghi story AHMM, April 94
Suicide Note The Armchair Detective, Winter 94
What A Woman Wants MURDER FOR HALLOWEEN, ed Michele Slung and “Roland Hartman”, Mysterious, 94
Blood Blue EQMM, June 94
The Hit EQMM, Oct 94
Cormorants UK: LONDON NOIR, ed Maxim Jakubowski, Serpent’s Tail, 94
The Hand That Feeds Me Rover story UK: 3rd CULPRIT, eds Liza Cody, Peter Lovesey and Michael Z. Lewin, Chatto & Windus, 94
Dr. Bud, CA UK: CRIME YELLOW, ed Maxim Jakubowski, Gollancz, 94
Cross, Rems Of EQMM, April 95
Albert’s List Albert Samson story UK: NO ALIBI, ed Maxim Jakubowski, Ringpull, 95
Oil And Water EQMM, May 99
Backing UK: BLUE LIGHTNING, ed John Harvey, Slow Dancer, 99
Night Shift Leroy Powder story, Japan: Hayakawa Mystery Magazine, ? 99 US: EQMM July 01
Backwater DIAGNOSIS DEAD, Jonathan Kellerman and Martin H. Greenberg, pbk, 99
Gunpoint Lunghi story Japan: Hayakawa Mystery Magazine, Sept 00 US: EQMM, Dec 00
Pay Phone Lunghi story AHMM, Mar 01
If The Glove Fits EQMM Sept/​Oct 01
Rover - CSI Indy Men's Magazine Oct 03
Cigarettes EQMM Sept/​Oct 04 and Best British Mysteries 06, ed Maxim Jakubowski
911 Leroy Powder story EQMM Feb 05
The Jane Case Lunghi story AHMM May 05
Block AHMM Sept 05
And Maybe More Lunghi story EQMM Sept/​Oct 05
Friends of the Garrick in The Verdict of Us All, Crippen & Landru 2006
Wheeze in The Ideas Experiment 06 and EQMM Mar/​Ap 07
They Never Listen and D'Ya Hear Me Garth and Annette, EQMM May 07
Death Row AHMM Mar 08
The Wilt of Love Albert Samson, EQMM Feb 09
Who Killed Frankie Almond a whodunnit, EQMM Nov 09
Password EQMM, Mar/​Ap 10
Powder Goes Hunting Leroy Powder, EQMM Feb 11
Anything To Win The Strand Magazine, June/​Sept 11
Who I Am Albert Samson, EQMM Dec 11 Shamus winner
Last Laugh EQMM Sept/​Oct 12
Good Intentions Albert Samson, EQMM Nov 12
Extra Fries Albert Samson, EQMM May 13
A Question of Fathers Albert Samson, EQMM May 14
The Right Thing Lunghi story in Motives for Murder, Sphere and Crippen & Landru, Nov 16

EQMM is Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
AHMM is Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Competition mystery story:

Murder in the Library Indianapolis Star, 93

Poem

Whodunnit? EQMM July 2003

Drama

Crimey radio plays

"The Loss Factor" 74 45” BBC, adapted from my story of the same name
"The Way We Die Now" 74 90” BBC, adapted from my novel
"The Enemies Within" 76 90” BBC, adapted from my novel
"Arrest Is As Good As A Change" 82 45” BBC, original play
"Rainey Shines" 87 55” BBC, adapted from my story
"Ask the Right Question" 88 60” Germany, BBC 9?, adapted from my novel
"Missing Woman" 91 60” BBC, adapted from my novel
"Cross, Rems Of" 9? 30” Belgium, adapted from my story of the same name
"Rough Cider" 9? 90” BBC, adapted from Peter Lovesey novel
"Keystone" 9? 90” BBC, adapted from Peter Lovesey novel
"The Silent Salesman" 99 90” (in 2 parts) Germany, adapted from my novel

Competition radio play

"Who Killed Gnutley Almond?"
Five 5” episodes of this original play were broadcast on consecutive days on the BBC for a week leading up to the 95 Bouchercon in Nottingham. Listeners were invited to provide a solution. All the episodes plus my solution were then broadcast as complete 30” play.

Vaguely mystery radio plays

"Place of Safety" 85 90” BBC, original play
"The Interests of the Child" 87 90” BBC, original play
"Jingle" 99 45” BBC, adapted from the story “Backing”


Crime Stage Plays

"Deadlock" Written on commission for and with Dr Fosters Travelling Theatre. British-set small-cast multi-role whodunnit.
Toured in the UK for 8 weeks in Oct/​Nov 90

"Who Killed Frankie Almond?" Based on the competition radio play of similar name.
This version was first staged in a radio format as a competition library event in the fall of 95 for the Indianapolis and Marion County Public Library.

"Whooodunnit?" Episodic play structured in a radio format, like Frankie Almond. First staged in Indianapolis and Marion County Public Library in fall of 98.

TV movies

MISSING WOMAN In Japan in the late ‘80s

AND BABY WILL FALL Japanese TV, 90” adaptation 2001



Non-fiction (not including book reviews)

"Now Is Now" Sport Magazine 1970 (on Roger Brown)

"Mr Inside Mr Outside" Sport Magazine 1970

“Soft-Boiled But Still An Egg” (how Albert Samson originated)
MURDER INK, ed Dilys Wynn, Workman, 77

“Afternoon by the Pool” (about meeting Ross Macdonald)
INWARD JOURNEY – Ross Macdonald, ed Ralph Sipper
Cordelia Productions, 84

"The Calorie Bank Diet" - Syndicated in US early '80s

“Liza Cody’s Anna Lee” UK: 100 GREAT DETECTIVES, ed Maxim Jakubowski
Xanadu, 91

“Foreword” to Marcia Muller’s EDWIN OF THE IRON SHOES
UK: Chivers, 93

“Chandler from the Perspective of a Working Detective Writer”
Germany: RAYMOND CHANDLER JARHBUCH 1.
Ed William Adamson, Andreas-Haller-Verlag, 96
(Published in English…)


Awards type stuff

Edgar nominations

1972 ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION for best first novel

1984 “The Reluctant Detective” for best short story

2002 “If the Glove Fits” for best short story


International Short Story Competition 1981 “Wrong Number”
One of fifteen equal winners after 1st, 2nd & 3rd in the competition run by the Swedish Academy of Detection in association with the International Crime Writers Conference in Stockholm.

Falcon 1987 HARD LINE
Best foreign novel of the year in Japan.

Shamus 2012 "Who I Am" for Best Short Story of 2011
Shamus nomination 2014 "Extra Fries" for Best Short Story of 2013

Thrillercon nominee 2012 "Anything To Win" for Best thriller short story of 2011

North Central High School Hall of Fame 1991
I was one of the ten inaugural inductees, recognized for our “outstanding achievements and the honor [we] bring to [ourselves] and our school."

Marlowe 1992 CALLED BY A PANTHER
Awarded by the Raymond Chandler Society of Germany for the best PI novel of the year.

The Detection Club, invited to join in 1993

Mystery Masters Award 1994
Awarded by the Mid-America Mystery Conference “in recognition of [my] distinguished career as an outstanding writer of crime and detective fiction and [my] numerous contributions to the genre.”

"Member of the Month" nominee, Bath YMCA Health Suite, September 2003

Co-creator of Cribbage v the Universe, 2009
In this form of the game two players play together against the cards/​fate/​the universe. One player plays low - trying to score as few points as possible. The other plays high, as usual. If the high player scores 61 points before the low player pegs 31 points, the human beings win. If the 31 comes first they lose. The low player gets first crib and the new element to this version of the game is that teamwork replaces competition. Games last four or five hands and are often finely balanced.

Can you spot the mystery writer in this picture taken 30-some years ago for "The Somerset Standard"?

SELECTED WORKS
Click on the title for more information.

A
Click the title to see a sample of this new novel - or look at the first 15% of the book on Smashwords.
B - Albert Samson Novels
C - Short story collection
Stories written over a period of twenty years or so, along with an introduction - by me - about writing stories and an extensive bibliography of my crime writing. Click on the blue title for more information.
D - Leroy Powder Novels
The three Lt Leroy Powder novels. Click on the blue titles for more information.
E - The Lunghi family private detective novels
Three generations of an Italian family run a private detective agency in Bath, England. Ever seen a detective agency run as a family business? I don't think so. Click on the titles for more information.
F - other Indianapolis novels
A homeless "entrepreneur" in Indianapolis gets more than he bargains for when he sees an opportunity in UNDERDOG. Albert Samson's woman friend gets a book of her own in AND BABY WILL FALL. A mystery writer finds himself compelled to participate in a real life mystery in OUTSIDE IN. Click on the titles for more information.
G - a historical mystery
A young woman pursues her best friend's killer in 19th Century US and England. Click on the title for more information.
H - stories told by Rover
Rover, a stray dog, describes his live as a crusader on behalf of downtrodden dogs. Click on the titles for more information.
I - novelization of a film script and non-fiction book
Sean Connery starred in the movie THE NEXT MAN and I wrote the book while it was being filmed. HOW TO BEAT COLLEGE TESTS was my first book. Click on the titles for more information.