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 on opening afternoon. 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: pictured below.
After the seven minutes of "The Grandma's Daughter"'s 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. Unless you have one, Harold. Are you out there?
But I wrote no more mysteries until 1969 when, on a visit to Los Angeles, I began a short story that I thought would make my (then) wife and my mother laugh. When the short story didn't come to a rapid conclusioin, I carried it back to New York and continued to wonder what would happen next. Eventually it became the first Albert Samson novel, ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION. I don't recall if either wife or mother laughed, but I bet my daughter, Liz, did. She was aged 3 months when I birthed Albert. Those days she laughed at almost 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 although I've continued to write and occasionally publish. 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, a stage play for a traveling theatre company, and even an article on Indianapolis for the NY Times’ “Sophisticated Traveler.” I've also written thirteen radio dramas broadcast on BBC's Radio 4, some of which have also been produced in other countries. Best not to think about what litters my office, unpublished.
Books and first publication details
These books feature a main character but also have characters who reoccur in other characters’ books.
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
ALIEN QUARTET 2018 iUniverse (not a novel but part of the Samson story)
NIGHT COVER 1976 Knopf
HARD LINE 1982 Morrow
LATE PAYMENTS 1986 Morrow
AND BABY WILL FALL (CHILD PROOF, UK) 1988 Morrow
UNDERDOG 1993 Mysterious
OH JOE 2008 Five Star
OUTSIDE IN 1980 Knopf
CUTTING LOOSE 1999 Holt
This historical novel, published as a Young Adult book, is set in the US (including Indianapolis) and the UK and I actually wrote it with adults in mind.
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 all electronic platforms; puslished separately on Amazon (for Kindle) and Smashwords. Paperback Gatekeeper Press, 2022
MEN LIKE US 2021 iUniverse
WHATEVER IT TAKES 2022 Gatekeeper Press
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
ALIEN QUARTET 2018 iUniverse (Albert Samson stories)
ROVER’S TALES Unabridged, read by the author
Blackstone Audio Books, 99
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.
HOW TO BEAT COLLEGE TESTS: A Guide to Ease the Burden of Useless Courses 1970 Dial Press
This was written at a time when college students were deferred from being drafted to go, potentially, to fight in Vietnam. Even today college students find many tests to be a mystery – especially the badly written ones.
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.
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
The Cards You're Dealt Leroy Powder EQMM 2020
One Two Three Four In a high school, with cheerleaders EQMM 2022
Asset To the Community Albert Samson EQMM anticipated 2023
Her Upstairs EQMM anticipated 2023
EQMM is Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
AHMM is Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
Competition mystery story:
Murder in the Library Indianapolis Star, 93
Whodunnit? EQMM July 2003
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.
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 (about Ron Johnson)
“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
“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…)
Blog for EQMM's "Something Is Going To Happen" Sept 2022.
Titled "Life Doesn't Always Work Out".
Awards type stuff
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.
The Marlowe 1992 CALLED BY A PANTHER
Awarded by the Raymond Chandler Society of Germany for the best PI novel of the year.
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.”
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
2021 "The Eye" for life achievement from the Private Eye Writers of America.
2022 Hayakawa Mystery Magazine's September cover and edition celebrates my eightieth birthday.
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."
The Detection Club, invited to join in 1993
"Member of the Month" nominee, Bath YMCA Health Suite, September 2003
Co-creator (with Liza Cody) 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 usually last four or five hands and are often finely balanced.