Ben Coes’ First Strike

Ben Coes, author of First Strike, will appear at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, June 28 at 7 PM.

First Strike

He’ll be joined by Brian Keene, Weston Ochse and Stephen Coonts. Thanks to Criminal Element, you can read an excerpt from First Strike now.

Here’s our link with information about the event. You can click on the authors’ names to order their individual books.


Gina Wohlsdorf & Rachel Howzell Hall – Photos

Gina Wohlsdorf, author of the debut, Security, and Rachel Howzell Hall, author of Trail of Echoes, recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen. Here are photos from the event.

Gina, Barbara & Rachel
Left to right – Gina Wohlsdorf, Poisoned Pen owner Barbara Peters, Rachel Howzell Hall
Gina & Patrick
Gina Wohlsdorf talking with Poisoned Pen’s Patrick Millikin
Gina and Barbara
Gina Wohlsdorf and Barbara Peters
Gina, Barbara listening to Rachel
Gina Wohlsdorf, Barbara Peters and Rachell Howzell Hall
Gina (really Rachel)
Rachel Howzell Hall

If you’d like to order signed copies of either book, check out the Web Store.

Diana Gabaldon and The Outlander Kitchen

Outlander Kitchen

Are you a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander? Diana Gabaldon hosts Theresa Carle-Sanders for the signing of Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook at The DoubleTree Resort. The event will be on Saturday, June 25th at 7:00 PM, although the doors will open at 5:00 PM. This is a ticketed event and tickets cost $40.00 and come with a double-signed copy of Outlander Kitchen. There are only 500 seats available, so we advise purchasing sooner rather than later as we expect to sell out. There will be a professional photographer for fan photos with Theresa and Diana at no additional charge. There will also be a cash bar. Please note that time will not permit a book signing so no personalization requests can be accepted nor personal books brought to the event. Thank you for your understanding.

If you would like to order a ticket for the event, here’s the link.

If you want a signed copy of the book, here’s the link.


Grant Blackwood & Whitney Terrell at The Poisoned Pen

Anne Wilson recently hosted Grant Blackwood, author of Tom Clancy’s Duty and Honor, and Whitney Terrell, author of The Good Lieutenant. It seems, from the photos, as if everyone had a great time.

PP Whitney talking
Left to right – Whitney Terrell, Grant Blackwood and Anne Wilson

PP Whitney, Grant & Anne

PP Whitney...laughing

Would you like signed copies of either Blackwood’s Tom Clancy’s Duty and Honor or Terrell’s The Good Lieutenant?

June 16

They’re available through the Web Store.

And, Anne Wilson will be appearing again at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, July 12 at 7 PM with her debut novel, Clear to Lift. It’s always fun to hear a debut author, and feel as if you were in on the ground floor. You might want to mark your calendar.


Trail of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall – An Excerpt

Rachel Howzell Hall, author of Trail of Echoes, will be at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, June 21 at 7 PM, along with Gina Wohlsdorf.

Trail of Echoes

Thanks to, we can link to an excerpt from the novel. It’s a teaser. We hope you’re interested and want to come meet Rachel Howzell Hall on Tuesday.

And, don’t forget! You can order a signed copy of the book through the Web Store.

Christine Carbo & J. Todd Scott at The Poisoned Pen

Did you miss The Poisoned Pen’s recent program with Christine Carbo and J. Todd Scott? Carbo is the author of a novel of suspense, Mortal Fall.

Event - Mortal Fall

J. Todd Scott wrote The Far Empty.

Event - Far Empty

We do have a few photos to share for those who missed it. The store even had two moderators participate – Karen Shaver and Patrick Millikin.

Event Karen Shaver & Christine Carbo
Moderator Karen Shaver with Christine Carbo
Event - shaver, Carbo, Scott, Millikin
Shaver, Christine Carbo, J. Todd Scott, Patrick Millikin
Event - Scott & Carbo signing
Scott and Carbo signing books
Event - Scott and Carbo
Authors J. Todd Scott and Christine Carbo

You can purchase signed copies of Carbo’s Mortal Fall and Scott’s The Far Empty through the Web Store.

Gina Wohlsdorf, In the Hot Seat

Debut author Gina Wohlsdorf will join Rachel Howzell Hall at The Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, June 21 at 7 PM. Gina’s debut novel, Security, is set at a glamorous resort called Manderley. She agreed to be put In the Hot Seat so you could meet her.

Gina Wohlsdorf

Congratulations, Gina, on your debut novel. Because it is a debut, our readers will want to meet you.  Please introduce yourself.

Hello, Poisoned Penners! I grew up in North Dakota, graduated from Tulane University, worked at bookstores in 4 states, taught English in the south of France, earned an MFA at the University of Virginia, and wrote the whole time.

I’ve seen way too many horror movies. I love Mexican food. Pugs are probably my favorite thing on the planet; if I happen to pet one, my whole day is better.

I’m (charmingly?) scattershot at introducing myself.

Tell us about the Manderley Resort.

It’s the most opulent, luxurious, beautiful hotel you’ve ever seen, built on a flawless stretch of Santa Barbara beach. With service unmatched and safety guaranteed, you’ll leave all the worries of your life behind. I promise.

A fifty-by-fifty-yard hedge maze out front will entertain the adventurous – but please skip it if you’re at all claustrophobic. The rows are somewhat narrow, the correct path is hard to find, and there are all those red roses, with their sharp thorns.

The pool is an ecological wonder – a former underwater cave, it’s primarily lit with phosphorescent algae. Not recommended for children, of course, as the naturally occurring rock is unforgiving of falls.

And inside? Twenty floors of pure bliss – or, excuse me, nineteen. The twentieth floor is off-limits to all but security staff. Excuse me again, eighteen floors. There is no thirteenth floor at Manderley. Bad luck, you know . . .

Tell us about Security, without spoilers.


Security is the story of a luxury hotel getting ready for its grand opening. A skeleton crew staff is putting the finishing touches on every detail so the gala later this week will be the talk of Los Angeles. A skittish maid is counting toilet paper on the second floor. The manager is up to no good in his office. The head chef is reading his underlings the riot act.

Their boss is holding it all together, barely, until a man from her past arrives and throws her whole night into turmoil.

And unbeknownst to all of them, The Killer is cleaning blood off his hands in Room 717. Masked, immense, and unrelenting, he hunts them down one by one.

Who will live, who will die, and just who is telling the story?

What made you decide to write?

I was an insomniac as a kid. I didn’t like to dream asleep; I much preferred to do it awake. So I’d sit up at my little pink desk and write stories on the backs of my father’s mimeographed English quizzes that he had by the pileful in our house.

I wrote a memoir at age 11, and yes, I too find that hilarious. I started trying novels in junior high, kept trying through high school, and could never finish one — until I finished one at age 22. I was hooked. I never really stopped after that.

I read a few reviews of Security that hinted as to who the reviewers were reminded of when they read Security. But, what authors do you feel influenced you?

Stephen King. As a teen, I read everything he wrote.

Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, the grand masters of haunted places populated by haunted people.

And, out of left field, Alain Robbe-Grillet, a French modernist from the mid-twentieth century, who wrote an entire first-person novel called Jealousy in which the pronoun “˜I’ does not appear once. Jealousy is such a mind-bend — can’t recommend it enough.

Now, I’m going off-topic. Hypothetically, you have the money to live any place you want. You can’t pick Denver. Where would you live, and why?

Fortunately, a lot of places qualify, so I’ll just tell you what it looks like.

I’m near the beach; it’s walking distance but not right outside my door. There’s a really good coffee house in walking distance, too, and several restaurants that serve excellent soup. Several others serve excellent Mexican food. Snowy winters happen, but they are short and – this is important – not North Dakota brutal.

Where do you take friends when they come to visit?

In Denver? Tattered Cover. It’s embarrassing, but most of my friends know that my idea of a good time is a book store. I’m so in the right line of work.

Describe yourself in 5 words or phrases.

How about song lyrics?

1) I swim for brighter days, despite the absence of sun

2) Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Halleluja

3) Imagine no possessions

4) I don’t care if they eat me alive, cuz I’ve got better things to do than survive

5) I’ve got a long way to run

What’s on your TBR (To Be Read) pile right now?

Descent by Tim Johnston. I’m halfway. I stopped to revise my second book for Algonquin, and it’s killin’ me — the suspense!

Arcadia by Lauren Groff. I’ve heard so many amazing things about her.

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro. The word “˜genius’ gets tossed around a lot. But he’s a genius.

Better by Atul Gawande. I’m in the middle of this one too, but here I’m progressing. I can read nonfiction, but not fiction, while writing fiction. Gawande’s writing is a clinic in clarity.

Thank you, Gina! (I liked your answer with song lyrics. I may have to adapt that for future interviews.)

As I said, Gina Wohlsdorf will be at the Pen on Tuesday, June 21 at 7 PM. But, Security is already available through the Web Store if you’d like a copy.


Hannah Dennison & Honeychurch Hall

Hannah Dennison and I didn’t connect before her recent appearance at The Poisoned Pen. So, I asked her to follow-up on her visit with a discussion of the inspiration for her Honeychurch Hall mystery series. Thank you, Hannah!

Thank you for inviting me to talk about the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries today. As you know I’m a huge fan of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore!

In a nutshell my protagonist Kat Stanford stars in a hit road show called Fakes & Treasures. Weary of being permanently in the public eye, Kat switches careers initially to set up an antique business with her newly widowed mother, Iris. Kat’s mother, however, has other ideas and Kat is horrified to learn that not only has Iris secretly purchased a dilapidated carriage house on a crumbling country estate several hundred miles away from London, she’s actually an internationally best-selling author of erotica, writing under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm. Kat sets off to make her mother “see sense” and ends up staying herself.

The inspiration for this series came from my own mother’s rash decision to purchase a highly impractical wing of a country house in Devon, after my Dad passed away in 2002. She was 73 at the time. As you can imagine, my sister and I were really worried. It wasn’t so much the isolated location with a mile-long drive, no local shop and no public transport. The house was a money drain, with a roof in need of mending, heating and plumbing breaking down constantly and generally, the whole estate was falling apart.

Hannah - view from mum's kitchen window
The view from the kitchen window at Hannah’s mother’s house

Then we realized that it was what Mum really wanted. Although my parents had shared 54 years of marriage together, it had been in a different time when the man ruled the house. Suddenly, she could do exactly what she liked.

Hannah & Mum
Hannah Dennison with her mother

Of course I’m no former TV celebrity—although I have had some experience in the antique world—and my mother is definitely no romance writer nor does she have a brother who has spent a career in various establishments at “Her Majesty’s Pleasure” —although my relatives did box with the notorious Kray twins back in the 1960s.

Honeychurch Hall itself is based on two private houses. The first is Dundridge, near Totnes, where my mother lives and the second, where I grew up.

Hannah - Carriage House Exterior
Above pictures, Dundridge, the entrance, and the old carriage house

We used to live in the converted gatehouses at the bottom of the main drive of Hillersdon House near Cullompton, Devon. I was always fascinated by the “goings-on” at the big house. When Hillersdon came up for sale in June of 2009, I discovered that it had had a reputation for holding wild society parties during the 1890s or “naughty nineties” as they were then known. Elinor Glyn, who was rumored to be one of the first writers of erotic fiction, was a frequent visitor.  

Men were to say: “Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn on a tiger skin? Or would you prefer to err with her on some other fur?”

Elinor Glyn was said to popularize the concept of “It” as in, “You either have it, or you don’t.” She claimed that “With ‘It,’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man.” By modern standards, her books are pretty tame but well-worth reading. She said, “Romance is the glamour that turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.” I rather like that!

Mike Lloyd, my friend and the man who took on Hillersdon House, has unearthed the original plans dating from the mid-seventeen hundreds and he’s following them to the letter—putting back the lakes, introducing deer, and sprucing up the grotto and stumpery.  It’s very exciting.

Hannah - Hillersdon - old drawing
Old drawing of Hillersdon House
Hannah - Hillersdon stumpery
Hillersdon stumpery


Now at age 87, my mother is more vibrant than ever. She continues to spy on the neighbors—all in the name of helping me with my stories. She still works as a docent at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s summer home and believe me, that comes in very handy whenever I’m stuck on a plot point or facing a blank page. She’ll just give me a few Agatha Christie tips. There is nothing my mother does not know about the Queen of Crime.

Yet, murder and romance aside, at the core of the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries is the relationship between a mother and daughter facing new and uncertain beginnings. I’m fascinated by the notion that it’s those who are nearest and dearest to us who are often the most duplicitous of all.

Interested in more about the mystery series? Check out this video of the carriage house that became the influence for the Honeychurch Hall mysteries.


Murder at Honeychurch Hall (Minotaur) May, 2014

Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall (Minotaur) May, 2015

A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall (Minotaur) May, 2016

Other series: The Vicky Hill Mysteries

Hannah Dennison’s books can be purchased through the Poisoned Pen’s Web Store.

Hannah - A Killer Ball


David Morrell & the Department of First Stories

David Morrell recently shared a delightful story of his first sale as an author. We’d like to share it with you.


This is the background to my story “The Granite Kitchen” in the July issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Back in 1971, I finished the manuscript of FIRST BLOOD and sent it to my agent. Shortly afterward, I had a dream so vivid that I immediately used it as the basis for a short story. It was called “The Dripping,” and I submitted it to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I still recall the excitement of receiving an acceptance letter and a check for $100.  My first sale. I smiled more broadly when I learned that the magazine had a “Department of First Stories,” which drew attention to writers whose first sale was to EQMM. Many authors who’d influenced me were in that “Department of First Stories”: Jack Finney, Stanley Ellin, William Link and Richard Levinson (Columbo, Murder She Wrote), for example.  Last year, many decades later, EQMM asked me to write a new story for a 75th anniversary issue that celebrated the “Department of First Stories.” The joy of that first sale came back to me as I wrote the new story, remembering the suspense with which I’d submitted “The Dripping” years ago and now feeling that because EQMM had actually asked me to write a new story for it, I had finally arrived.  My novel First Blood  was later published, unleashing Rambo, but the thrill of that publication couldn’t equal what I felt when I received that acceptance letter from EQMM in 1971.  “The Dripping” turned out to be my most reprinted story and was included in The Best American Noir of the Century, edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler.


Congratulations, David! We’re so glad you feel as if you finally arrived! (And, thank you for allowing us to share the story of your first sale.)