Tag Archives: Jo Beckett

How my characters spend time over the holidays

Last week on Twitter, mystery reader JayeL wrote:

Then she named some authors including me, and said: “Challenge issued.”

Well, if it’s a challenge…

This was fun — short fiction, 140 characters at a time. It also says something about how readers perceive characters, and how writers structure suspense novels.

Readers love vivid characters. Especially series characters, who come back time after time to face new challenges and adventures. But when those characters feature in crime fiction — mystery, suspense, thrillers — the challenges they face involve mayhem, danger, and death. The characters must face those challenges, or it’s not a crime novel.

Readers have asked me why the pace in my novels is fast. Why must the characters race to solve mysteries under time pressure? Why can’t they enjoy a leisurely lunch, or spend a week on the beach, or take a painting class?

Because that’s not even a story.

Here’s a secret. My characters all live full, rounded lives. They throw New Year’s Eve parties and deliver Meals on Wheels and spend long weekends reading Sue Grafton and binge watching The Sopranos. But the portion of their lives that makes it to my thrillers involves danger and daring.

A couple of years ago, a forensic psychiatrist wrote a journal article about how that specialty is portrayed in popular fiction. I was thrilled that she included Jo Beckett. And I was amused that she noted, somewhat skeptically, that in all the Beckett novels, Jo solves the case. Of course she does. The only cases I write about in the Beckett novels are the ones Jo solves. The cases her colleagues solve aren’t part of the story.

But just for the holidays, I’ll let you imagine Evan Delaney, Jesse Blackburn, Jo Beckett, and Gabe Quintana chilling on the beach in Santa Barbara. Ho ho ho and Happy New Year.

Question Time 2104: Answers Part II

Jason asks:

I know you prob can’t answer but… nothing ventured nothing gained right? Meg Gardiner and JT Ellison… Jo Beckett or Evan Delaney meet Taylor Jackson. Any remote possibilty?

Let’s see about that.

If that’s not enough for you, check out JT Ellison’s novels about Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson.

Awkward conversations

Here’s a transcript of an awkward conversation for a thriller writer. Leave it to my son Mark to recognize an aspect of my novels that no reviewer has ever asked about.

Chat with Mark Shreve

Bonus points for the kid throwing in a Game of Thrones reference.

And no, Mark doesn’t actually have an evil twin in the attic.

For the record: the order of my novels


Because I am often asked about the order of my books, here’s a quick post listing them in order, from earliest to most recent.

Evan Delaney series

China Lake
Mission Canyon
Jericho Point
Kill Chain

Jo Beckett series

The Dirty Secrets Club
The Memory Collector
The Liar’s Lullaby
The Nightmare Thief
(featuring Evan Delaney)

Ransom River

This information and much more is available at my main website. A good starting place is Frequently Asked Questions.

California Dreamin’ — Songs my characters love

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray… okay, all the leaves are scarlet and it’s a vivid autumn day. The point is, songs. And not just songs I love, like “California Dreamin’,” but songs my characters love. I want to reassure everybody that my characters do have loves and hatreds. Because in a recent post — What do writers owe readers? — some commenters expressed surprise that the characters in my books are fictional. Please don’t panic. They’re as real to me as they are to you, and to prove it, here are their favorite, and least favorite, songs.


Evan Delaney — Patsy Cline, “Crazy.” Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Jubilee.”

Jesse Blackburn — Jimi Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower.” Foo Fighters, “Times Like These.”

Jax Rivera — Ray Charles, “Georgia on My Mind.”

Jo Beckett — Elvis Costello, “Complicated Shadows.”

Gabe Quintana — Stephen Sondheim, “Johanna.” No, only kidding. Los Lobos, “Will the Wolf Survive?”

Lt. Amy Tang — Beyoncé/Jay-Z, “Crazy in Love.”

Rory Mackenzie — Radical Face, “Welcome Home.”

Riss Mackenzie — Amy Winehouse, “Some Unholy War.”


Jesse — “Memory,” played on a Hammond organ at the Holiday Inn in Goleta, California.

Evan — Donny and Marie.

Rory — anything that Riss has played within her hearing.

Q&A with Girls Just Reading

The avid readers at Girls Just Reading have posted a Q&A they did with me. Hop on over there and check it out.

Author Interview: Meg Gardiner

GJR: It always takes us by surprise that you can (and do) kill off your characters so easily. We have to ask, does it hurt you as much as it hurts us?

MG: It’s not easy at all. It’s terrible. But I write thrillers. This means the characters will find themselves in danger, facing life and death situations. And if they always survive, where’s the suspense? When I first started writing, I protected my characters, because I liked them. Though I put them in danger, I knew in the back of my mind that they’d be okay. I never truly put them at risk, and that meant that I never truly took a story as far as it could go. I stunted its possibilities from the beginning.

Read the rest.

Halloween reading: get scared with Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett

Halloween is in five days. And before you carve your jack-o’-lanterns and plan your trick or treating route and plant an army of zombie garden gnomes on your front lawn, you’re going to need some Halloween books. What, oh what, will you read this year?

Don’t forget that two of my novels take place around All Hallows Eve.

In China Lake, Evan Delaney faces off against an apocalyptic sect that believes Halloween is a “doorway to evil” that allows demons to escape from hell and infiltrate our world.

In The Dirty Secrets Club, Jo Beckett faces off against earthquakes, Klingons, a crazed Capuchin monkey, and a couple of homicidal maniacs.

Just sayin’.

Jo Beckett gets spied on

Over on Dru’s Book Musings, find out who’s conducting surveillance on Jo Beckett.

Date: July 17
Place: San Francisco
Observation point: Residence adjacent to Jo’s. On the balcony, behind the statue of Cupid.

A Day in the Life of Jo Beckett.

Then stick around Dru’s blog to read more Day-in-the-Life stories from other mystery characters.

My Book, The Movie — the Jo Beckett series

Back in August, I asked who you’d cast in a movie version of the Jo Beckett series. Now my own answers are up at My Book, The Movie, where I have some fun casting fantastical screen editions of Jo and her friends.

I’m outside the box, thinking.

The characters in the Jo Beckett series live vividly, and sometimes obstreperously, inside my head. I know what they look like. So do readers—when I asked them who should play the characters in the movie, I got twenty-five different answers.

So, how can I pick a single cast? In this era of HD, 3D, avatars and performance capture, why collapse the possibilities to a single face? Let’s not. I’m casting Jo Beckett, The Movie with a few mashups.

Jo is a forensic psychiatrist—a deadshrinker. The Kirkus Mystery and Thriller Review called her a “rock climber, monkey wrangler, and confessor extraordinaire.” She needs spunk, intelligence, and some serious physicality.

Read the rest.

And here’s a special thank you to Marshal Zeringue, who runs the Campaign for the American Reader and all the blogs in the Campaign’s network, including The Page 69 Test, Writers Read, and The Page 99 Test, along with My Book, The Movie. The CftAR network is a treasure trove of fresh and intriguing information about authors and their books.

The Jo Beckett series — who would you cast in the movie?

I’m writing an article for My Book, The Movie. The thesis is simple: If they make my book into a film, here’s who I’d like to play the lead role(s).

Of course I’m mulling and thinking and wondering about it. (Really. That’s why I need to look at photos of Brad Pitt and James Franco and Johnny Depp. No other reason.) And I’m curious whether anybody else has ideas. Jo? Gabe Quintana? Amy Tang? Skunk? Pray? Ian Kanan?

Mr. Peebles?

RT interview: Evan Delaney and Jo Beckett

The final part of my interview with Morgan Doremus of RT Book Reviews.

RT Book Reviews video: talking about Jo Beckett

Here’s the second video I recorded in New York with Morgan Doremus of RT Book Reviews. And before my mom mentions it — yes, I know my hair was in my face. Next time I promise to brush it back.

Friday: Lucien Francoeur talks about Jo and Evan on CNV radio

For all French speakers, Montrealers, Canadians, or anybody else who wants to listen: tomorrow, Friday April 30 , musician and radio host Lucien Francoeur will be talking about my books during his weekly show.

Says Lucien:
“Friday live 11 to 12 noon Eastern
Saturday and Sunday en reprises rerun.”

You can listen to the show online at cnv.ca.

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San Francisco — Jo Beckett’s neighborhood

And now, because I’m in the Bay Area, here are some photos of the neighborhood where Jo Beckett lives, just to give you a full-color flavor of her corner of San Francisco.


The Powell-Market cable car, on its way down the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf.


Lombard Street, looking east toward the bay.


A view across the city to Telegraph Hill, with Coit Tower on its peak and the Bay Bridge beyond.


One of the Victorian homes that exemplify the city.

(Thanks to Snart for the photos.)

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