Stupid Criminal Tricks

handcuffsFrom the “How Dumb Can They Be?” Files 

Last fall, a Montana woman apparently robbed or attempted to rob five casinos in 24 hours, to raise bail money for her boyfriend, a man known as “Darkness,” who’d been arrested and charged in a shooting the previous day. According to the Billings Gazette, the owner of a stolen car spotted Darkness and the car in a Target parking lot and confronted him; Darkness fired a shot and fled. He was later found hiding behind a nearby house.

The woman—let’s call her “Dumbness”—was charged with three counts of felony robbery, two counts of attempted felony robbery, and one misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer. Her M.O.: walk into a casino, ask an employee to make change, then grab cash from the cash drawer or demand it be handed over. Three times, employees cooperated; two times, they refused. She was caught when employees at a bar reported that two women left without paying for their meals and sheriff’s deputies stopped their car.

I’m not sure whether the moral of the story is to always pay for your food, or to avoid men named Darkness. Both, probably.

Update: After I wrote this, Karen Damron  was sentenced to 20 years for 3 counts of robbery and 2 counts of attempted robbery, and ordered to pay $4,300 in restitution. According to the Billings Gazette , that gives her 11 felony convictions. she has a long, sad story, including childhood sexual abuse and forcible drug use. I appreciated that she said she is not using that as an excuse. 

““I don’t have a problem doing incarceration,” Damron told [Judge Russell] Fagg. “It’s society I have a problem with.”

She said when she isn’t incarcerated she isolates herself until she relapse into substance abuse.

“I caused an atrocity in this town because I relapsed,” Damron said, adding, “I’m not a victim of my childhood, I’m a survivor of it … that’s all I have to say, and I’m sorry. These were just the crimes I was caught and charged for.” She also requested a recommendation to the culinary arts program at the state Women’s Prison—which might indicate her hope for rehabilitation. Let’s all hope she makes it.



Stupid Criminal Tricks

Summertime, and the books are blooming!

Cheers! And thank you!

huckleberry martinis

huckleberry martinis


Thanks to you, Crime Rib joins its older sister Death al Dente as a national bestseller, reaching #22 on the Barnes & Noble mystery list.

We’re toasting you with huckleberry martinis!


You can be a winner! The big giveaway on Goodreads is over — congratulations to all 25 winners! — but other contests are continuing or starting this week. The contest at Dru’s Book Musing continues until Tuesday, July 22. At Lori’s Reading Corner, I’m confessing my obsession with my home state and why this vast and sometimes jagged corner of the world is a great place for cozies. Fill out a short entry form for a chance to win a free copy of Crime Rib — open till July 26.  Thanks to my publisher, Berkley Prime Crime, for the generous giveaways!

The Last Best Place?  The wonderful Lori Dollycas at Dollycas Escapes celebrates escaping into a great book. On Wednesday, July 23, I’m teeing off on Montana’s slogan as “the last best place,” talking about Montana as a great place to escape—and to hide, as some of my characters have done. Join us!

And a preview: Next Sunday, July 27th, at Killer Characters: Where the Characters Do the Talking, painter Christine Vandeberg takes the stage, “feasting on summer.”

This past week, I visited the Crow’s Nest Gallery in Polson, Montana and the Books n Cuppa book club in Lakeside, Montana. Thanks to my hosts and everyone who joined me to talk books and food and other things we love.

Crow's Nest Gallery

Crow’s Nest Gallery

Erin's Tapenade

Erin’s Tapenade

smoky sailing

smoky sailing

Lakeside Book Club

book giveaways, Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, Guest Blogs -- Leslie elsewhere, The Writing Life

The Saturday Writing Quote — Flaubert

Writing is hard sometimes. The craft is challenging, the pressures of publication and promotion daunting. The best thing we can do is to get out of our way, and remember that writing is our passion, our play, our refuge, and our privilege.

“It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horse, the leaves, the wind, the words that my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes.”

-Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

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The Case of the Phony Feebie

th_badgeSearching for a colorful criminal opportunity for your WIP? We all know it’s a federal offense to impersonate an FBI agent, but some folks will do anything for free coffee. This AP article reports on the case of Steven Goldman, an Air Force vet and convicted swindler who wasn’t quite talented enough to fool the Boomtown Babes who staff a coffee shop in Williston, N.D., center of the Bakken oil boom.

Goldman’s fakery includes passing himself off as an FBI agent, claiming a government rate for a hotel room, conning free limo rides and helicopter rentals, and snagging free dog treats for a non-existent K-9 unit. Once again, I find myself admiring the tremendous creative energy some crooks display, and wishing they could channel it into more positive efforts.

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Still dancing!


Mr. Right and I are having a grand time sharing Crime Rib with all of you! By the time you read this, we’ll be on our way home from a quick trip to Seattle, where we launched The Book at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, ate our way through Pike Place Market, gaped at Mr. Chihuly’s Garden, and visited friends. But summer in Montana is mighty fun, and we’ll be mighty glad to be home

A chance to win! The Goodreads Giveaway continues until July 15. My wonderful publisher is giving away 25 copies, so the odds of winning are GOOD!

Come play with me! On Wednesday, July 16, from 5-7 pm, I’ll be at Crow’s Nest Gallery in Polson, MT for a book talk, reading, and signing.

Ruff on deskLet’s visit online! On Thursday, July 14, I’ll be at Mochas, Mysteries & Meows, where Ruff the Cat dishes about his first year as a cover model and book celebrity. Thanks to Berkley Prime Crime, there will be a book giveaway!

On Friday, July 18, get a glimpse into life in the heart–and heat–of high summer in a tourist town, as Erin Murphy describes a day in the life of the Merc and Jewel Bay at Dru’s Book Musing.

And on Saturday, July 19, come play Book Trivia with me at Shelley’s Book Case!

Curl up with me! Well, on the page. My latest column in 406 Woman Magazine (p. 40) features the recipe at the heart of the mystery in Crime Rib, filet with huckleberry-morel sauce, and the story of how Mr. Right created the recipe—with my tasting help! And if that whets your appetite for a little Montana mystery, pick up a copy of Crime Rib—the books page on my website includes links near and far, to bricks-and-mortar shops and online outlets, as well an excerpt.  

Malice 2014 me and teapot 2


Thanks so much for sharing in the fun!


Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, Guest Blogs -- Leslie elsewhere, The Writing Life

The Saturday Writing Quote — the pursuit of perfection

“Works of art are not so much finished as abandoned. Perhaps poems can be perfect. A short-short story might even be perfectible, as effective and enjoyable for one reader as the next. But novels and other book-length narratives are great rambling things that always contain some flaws. For works of any length, there comes a point when your continued tinkering won’t improve the whole, but will just trade one set of problems for another.”

– Bruce Holland Rogers, Word Work 246 (2002) (Quoted in Bryan Garner’s blog on Modern American Usage)

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Join me in the Emerald City!

IMGP2323Hey, Seattle friends! I hope to see you Friday, July 11 at noon at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, at First and Cherry. I’ll be signing CRIME RIB and DEATH AL DENTE, and we can chat mystery, mystery, mystery! If you plan to come, do give the shop a call (206) 587-5737 so they can have enough copies on hand. See you there!


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Life After Meth: A Lawyer’s Story

life after methThe Washington State Bar Association journal, NW Lawyer, includes this first-hand account of a Seattle prosecutor’s meth addiction, which led to his conviction and disbarment. He completed rehab, spent time in the Washington state prison system, and eventually, was reinstated to the bar.  He still practices law, and works as a recovery coach for meth-addicted lawyers around the country.

It’s a chilling story that will give you insight into writing about drug-addicted characters, particularly lawyers, and may give you character ideas.

writing about legal issues ,

The huckleberry fun continues!

IMGP2390Thanks to you all for a most wonderful book launch!

Offers: A reminder: My publisher, Berkley Prime Crime, is giving away TWENTY-FIVE COPIES of Crime Rib  at Goodreads.  The contest continues through July 15. You must join Goodreads to enter, but it’s easy and fun.

A chance to meet! Next week, Mr. Right and I are heading to Seattle for a short vacation—researching sights and sounds for my Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries. Oh, okay, we’re mostly going to eat. But I’ll also be signing Crime Rib at the Seattle Mystery Book Shop at noon on Friday, July 11. I’d love to see you!

Or we can talk online! Delighted to share this email chat, in the July issue of The Big Thrill, the online magazine of the International Thriller Writers. John Clement, author of the Dixie Hemingway mysteries, and I talked about writing process, discovering Erin, her past, and her future, and of course, food. Enjoy!

I also talked with cozy writer Gayle Trent, aka Amanda Lee, about Crime Rib, and our conversation is now a free download podcast on her website, as part of her “Writing Up a Storm” series.

Next week, I’ll be part of the Writerspace chat on Tuesday, July 8, at 7 pm, with a host of other authors with new cozy mysteries. I hope you can join us!

IMGP2223On Friday, July 11, I’ll be toasting my friend Deborah Lacy at The Mystery Playground for her feature, Friday Reads with Drinks. IMO, Crime Rib is the perfect accompaniment to a huckleberry martini!

I get lots of questions about Erin’s love life—hmm, wonder why? I’ll be chatting about that on Friday, July 11, at Marie’s Cozy Corner. And Berkley Prime Crime is providing a copy of Crime Rib for a giveaway that day!

And on Saturday, July 12, I’ll be at Lori’s Reading Corner, talking about Cozy Montana. (Another free copy offer — thanks, Berkley!)

Gallery: A few pictures from my visit to Fact & Fiction Books in Missoula on July 2. How cool is it that James Lee Burke and I have new books out at the same time, and our posters hang together? (And huge thanks and hugs to those of you who pre-ordered signed books, even though you couldn’t make the event!)



Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, Guest Blogs -- Leslie elsewhere, The Writing Life

The Saturday Writing Quote — creativity and anxiety

back of the house“Creative acts begin with anxiety. Scared or uneasy? Build a fire, write a ghost story like The Shining, compose a song like Coltrane’s “Alabama,” cook a nine-course meal to show love. One difference between the artist or performer and a person who suffers from anxiety and is disabled by it is that the creative individual managers more routinely to use the worrying to inspire action.”
– Scott Haas, Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant (2013) A food writer and clinical psychologist looks inside the mind and kitchen of a top chef — Tony Maws of “Craigie on Main” in Boston.

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