Murder’s a Beach Final Newsletter
April 16, 2020

2020 Guests of Honor

Unfortunately the event ended before it had hardly started and one thing we really missed out on was hearing from our Guests of Honor. Rachel Howzell Hall and T. Jefferson Parker have both sent a message to make up for the lack of interviews and events at the conference this year.

Rachel Howzell Hall

David Corbett: You didn’t start out as a crime-mystery writer at all. What were your first efforts in fiction, and how did that turn out for you?

Rachel Howzwell Hall: No, I didn’t start out as a crime writer, but my stories always included elements of the genre—people doing bad things to each other and someone trying to understand motives. I always wrote worlds that were ‘off,’ but back then, I didn’t know to label it as ‘crime.’
In my first published novel A Quiet Storm, there’s drama, psychological suspense and a disappearance. The question that threaded the story was, “What happened to Matt?”And, of course, if I wrote that story now, it would probably have the point-of-view of the detectives who, as it stands, make relatively minor appearances in the story.
But I liked the crime and mystery part of the story the most, I just didn’t know how to pull it off while also figuring out my voice. This led to a period in my career where I couldn’t sell a thing because I liked darker material, with black characters, with my odd sense of humor. Editors didn’t like it, couldn’t figure me out. Some were offended by my humor and some didn’t think my stories were ‘urban’ enough.
Rejection became as common as pigeons to me but while I flirted with the idea of quitting, I didn’t. I let those hours of dejection and depression pass and I went back to it. In the meantime, two of my rejected novels were self-published on Amazon. While they weren’t perfect, the stories are solid and should’ve sold.
But they weren’t urban enough. Heh.
When and why did you decide to turn to crime fiction?

I always wanted to write crime fiction, but I didn't know if I could. It wasn't until I went through some life drama of my own that I said, Why not? I decided to attempt a police procedural. If I failed, I failed.
My first intentional dip into the genre was my second self-published novel No One Knows You’re Here. And that's where we meet Syeeda McKay, who is the best friend of Eloise “Lou” Norton, the detective protagonist of my series. Syeeda is a reporter who is following the story of a serial killer murdering women he finds along Western Avenue in Los Angeles. In real life, that serial murderer was nicknamed the Grim Sleeper. After writing that novel, I was hooked, and I began work on the first book in the Lou Norton series, Land of Shadows.
No One Knows You’re Here is where I found my voice and learned that procedurals required a different type of learning, a different type of writing. I’m still learning—and still fine-tuning my voice. And I’m still being rejected. It’s almost like Groundhog Day with having a writing career. ‘Next book’ is not a sure deal when you’re a midlist writer.
It's a natural fit for me—I'm always drawn to figuring out why and what led to that Bad Thing. Crime scares me like it scares most people—but I need to know. Crime also has structure—and I like structure. There's a body—that person got there, someone needs to figure out how and why that body is there and what the repercussions are now that this Bad Thing has happened. Crime stories have romance, suspense, fantasy, sci-fi... There is freedom in crime fiction, and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed in my creativity—there are so many stories to tell.
What inspired you to write an iconic African-American woman detective protagonist? What did you see as the unique challenges from a writing perspective on bringing her to life on the page?

I wanted a new perspective. When I made a determination to write crime, I read everything I could. None of those books talked about the part of Los Angeles where I lived or featured a young black woman like me. I wanted to write those stories, and I wanted to tell readers about events that happened to my friends and me in our part of the city. I wanted a character who was accessible, someone who understood the city and knew its history.
All writers face obstacles, but African-American women writers face unique ones. What were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome as your career advanced?
The biggest obstacle is that we don't see ourselves. Everyone learns from example. For the longest time, there were no leading black characters in mystery and crime. Alice and Toni and Zora—they wrote important stories, but not the ones I wanted to write. Octavia was close but she was horror science-fiction. This field was white and male or female and cozy with accidental detectives solving crimes in between knitting circles or baking cupcakes.
I came to crime fiction as a first-hand observer, as someone directly affected by the results. Less than six degrees of separation lay between me and those who were either victims or perpetrators.
There are only so many stories in the world but it's how you tell them and who your leads are. There were editors who saw nothing special about Lou Norton. Oh, just another detective story. That may be true for that story, but I think overall, I think Lou’s story is different. Her relationships with her colleagues, with her family and friends, even with the victims and perps are different because of who she is, what she grew up with. Yes, the detective story maybe a trope but when it's a person of color, they bring different backgrounds, different ways of interaction with the community. My experience as a black woman in Los Angeles is totally different than Michael Connelly’s, but Lou Norton is not Harry Bosch. And that's a wonderful thing.

T. Jefferson Parker

Dear Kim and all of LCC,
The 2020 LCC celebration will certainly go down as the weirdest of all time.  Still, I take great pride at being a guest of honor.  As I've looked over the program, and admired the beautiful award, I realize not only what a tremendous amount of work went into LCC 2020 but what a tremendously enjoyable event it would have been.

I want to thank all of you who put this LCC together — the organizers and volunteers and writers and publishers and agents — and to tell you how truly honored I feel to be recognized like this.

I've always loved the tradition of crime writing, and I've always enjoyed being a part of it.  To be honored along with Raymond Chandler?  It just flat out doesn't get any better than that.  Our mysteries and thrillers have changed with the times, but strong characters, tight plots and sharp social commentary remain at the heart of what we do.

So, Kim and Lisa; Maryelizabeth and Matt, and everyone I would have celebrated with at LCC — thank you.  

Until we meet again, Jeff

Juvenile Court Book Club: The 2020 Charity

The silent auction this year closed rather abruptly but we did manage to get all the items to their surprised winners. The auction raised $610 for our worthy charity. LCC contributed an extra $1390 for a total contribution of $2000. We thank all of you who participated. For those of you who didn't get a chance to bid on an Auction item, you can donate directly at

Quilt Raffle

This year’s quilt raffle was a fundraiser for the Noemi Levine Memorial Fan Scholarship. The raffle brought in $220. Additional donations to the LCC Scholarship Fund can be made directly at

Murderous Visions

(sponsored by Poisoned Pen Press)
One of the casualties of the cancellation was the interactive murder game we were going to play at the event. While Sandy Yeggo was murdered on schedule Thursday morning, we did not complete the clues or solve the case. We have decided to resurrect the author and she will be attending 2021. While her name and the puns on her optometrist-turned-detective Iris Sclera (chosen because the year 2020 can also refer to 20/20 vision), may be a little dated next year, the murder and clues should still be exciting to follow. Author Kim Keeline is already deciding what she might add or change for the new location. Follow author Sandy Yeggo on Facebook and you might get early clues to the murder.

Author-Reader Connections

Though our time together was short, we managed to enjoy a few Author-Reader Connections!


T-Shirts Are Here

Some of you said you wanted T-Shirts to not only recognize you were there at LCC’s historic one-day San Diego conference, but to help support LCC’s rainy day fund. We’ve now released several designs (including a simple 30th anniversary shirt) in a Cafepress store and profits come right back to us. Check out the store at:

Thank You

On behalf of the San Diego committee, I want to thank the LCC community. In the face of a difficult situation this year, so many of you were warm, gracious, and supportive. You truly showed that you are a community that cares.

Kim Keeline, Co-Chair
Kim's Facebook Author Page

Lefty Awards

Our thanks to everyone who voted for the 2020 Lefty Awards. Our winners have received their Lefty Awards and have some pictures to share.

Catriona McPherson with the Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery

Sujata Massey with the Lefty for Best Historical Mystery

Carl Vonderau with the Lefty for Best Debut Mystery

Matt Coyle with the Lefty for Best Mystery

Authors in the Time of Coronavirus

We hope you are staying safe and well and have plenty of books to read!
Lucinda Surber & Stan Ulrich, Lefty Award Co-Chairs


Left Coast Crime 2021: Albuquerque, New Mexico

When: April 8–11, 2021
Where: Hyatt Regency Albuquerque
Guest of Honor: Mick Herron
Guest of Honor: Catriona McPherson
Fan Guest of Honor: Kristopher Zgorski
Toastmaster: Kellye Garrett
Ghost of Honor: Tony Hillerman
Visit the LCC 2021 website for more details and to register.