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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Glen Erik Hamilton's debut PAST CRIMES has been nominated for Best First Novel at the 2016 Edgar Awards, and for the Barry Award for Best First Novel. PAST CRIMES was given starred reviews by Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal, and called "an exciting heir to the classic detective novel" by Kirkus.  The second book in the Van Shaw series, HARD COLD WINTER, was published in March by William Morrow (US) and Faber & Faber (UK).  A native of Seattle, Glen now lives in California but frequently returns to his hometown to soak up the rain.

 

Find Glen on Twitter and Facebook.

http://glenerikhamilton.com

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item1 Light Fingers, Light Hearts: item1
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My main character, Van Shaw, is a thief. Or at least he used to be, when he was a teenager working under the uncompromising eye of his career criminal grandfather, Dono. Van has since seen the light. It’s true that he will lean on those larcenous skills when getting himself, or friends, out of jams. And perhaps he’s just a little bit tempted, if he spies somebody else’s pile of loot, just waiting to be liberated by someone who’ll appreciate it more. Van’s harrowing adventures might be more akin to those of Richard Stark’s tough crook Parker. But both characters can appreciate a well-planned score, and the avoidance of noisy violence whenever possible.

The gentleman thief has a long history in fiction, predating even the novels featuring “cracksman” A.J. Raffles and Arsène Lupin from more than a century ago. Criminals who prey on the elite, in between social engagements where they hobnob with those very same victims. Today we tip our top hats to those who steal with style.

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item6Robin Hood

Preference of Pillage: Whatever the rich happen to hold in their overstuffed velvet purses.

The First, and the King (even if he was only an Earl, in some of the tellings). Quick: How many characters and facts can you recall about the legend of Mr. H? I’ll wager this shiny ducat that you could name at least half a dozen. From Little John to archery contests, the tale has changed and survived for centuries, but the heart of the story beats on: To help those in need, Robin and the Merry Men become outlaws. Bad guys, but good guys. That’s a tale often imitated, but never outdone.

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Edward Pierce: The Great Train Robberyitem9

Favored Swag: Gold, and lots of it.

In Michael Crichton’s novel and the movie which followed, Pierce is a man of considerable mystery. Equally at home in ballrooms and back alleys, we learn nothing of his background, leaving even his real name an open question. What is made clear is Pierce’s clever, methodical nature. He takes a year to prepare for the greatest heist ever known -- the removal of a gold shipment bound for the Crimean War, from a moving train.

Pierce dreams very big, but tries to plan his crime down to the smallest detail. Even so, fate lends a twist or two, and Pierce will require an acrobatic burglar, a mistress of disguise, and a coffin to keep the heist running on schedule.

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item10John Robie: To Catch a Thief

Objets Volés: Jewelry, naturally. Sometimes taken right off the lady herself.

Technically speaking, Cary Grant’s Robie is a former thief, pardoned for his crimes after aiding the French Resistance during the war. Robie has since settled into a quiet life of gardening and enjoying the Cote d'Azur shore. But when jewels begin to go missing, the police (and Robie’s criminal associates) cast a baleful eye towards the man once called The Cat.

Robie’s quest to clear his name takes an appropriately leisurely pace, so that he (and we) can better admire the sun-drenched elegance of the Riviera, five-star hotels, and Grace Kelly. What point would there be in being a gentleman thief, if not to enjoy one’s surroundings? To Catch a Thief may be lighter than most of Alfred Hitchcock’s oeuvre, but that only helps it reach new heights.

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Selina Kyle / Catwomanitem11

Pet Plunder: Gems, and anything valuable that’s remotely feline in nature. A solid silver catamaran? Purrfect.

I read a metric ton of Batman comics while growing up – and my grades probably reflected that. The mysterious Ms. Kyle was always one of my favorites from the Rogues Gallery. A bit like Robin Hood’s legend, the story of Catwoman has been retold and adapted so many times that a reader can mix and match versions of the character to suit their preference. From the start, however, she was unique: An unrepentant thief, but not a killer. Fiercely independent, yet unmistakably drawn to the Caped Crusader.

In recent decades, and with the help of comics’ frequent retroactive continuity, Catwoman is as much a superhero as the conflicted vigilantes around her. Protector of the downtrodden, stealer from the rich – she’s Robin Hood and Maid Marian combined. Plus, she wields a serious whip. Or cat o’ nine tails, if you prefer.

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item12Bernie Rhodenbarr: Burglars can’t be Choosers, and others

Boodle of Choice: Art, cash, jewels, rare books, baseball cards. Mr. Rhodenbarr is egalitarian in his exploits.

Ah, Bernie. He’s a calm, pleasant fellow. He enjoys reading (and has plenty of options, being a bookseller). He chats amiably each evening with best friend Carolyn over scotches. If he doesn’t have his other hobby scheduled for later in the evening, that is. Is it Bernie’s fault that his only profitable skill – his genius, in fact – is opening locked doors?

The problem is, Bernie never knows what he might find on the other side. Big dogs. Napping policemen. Maybe even a corpse. Police are terribly quick to lay the blame on a humble burglar. Fortunately for Bernie and his readers, his mind (and author Lawrence Block’s) is as agile as his fingers. Getting himself out of jams, and indulging in the occasional awful pun while he does it, is the joy. As much as Bernie claims to like the quiet life, he does seem at his best when he’s scrambling to stay a step ahead of the law.

And his pet cat’s name? Raffles, of course.

 

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Van Shaw may not have been raised in high society, but it’s not difficult to imagine him sharing a drink and shoptalk with any of the felonious favorites mentioned above. With everyone keeping one hand on their wallets, of course.

 

 

 

WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE THIEF? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of HARD COLD WINTER! (US entrants only, please.)

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