Meg Gardiner Talks Unsub Series

By Maggie Denena

Monday afternoon, Students headed to Murder By The Book in Houston for a discussion and book signing by author Meg Gardiner. True to MBTB style, the book signing was for Gardiner’s newest release, The Dark Corners of the Night, the third book in a murder mystery/detective crime series.  A former attorney and Stanford graduate, Gardiner is also a three-time Jeopardy winner.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Gardiner is the author of 15 books, the last three of which have featured Caitlin Hendrix, an FBI Behavior Analyst.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Each of these books is based on a real-life serial killer, and her latest features a “Night-Stalker” like killer.

Joining Ms. Gardiner “on stage” was fellow author S. C. Perkins, who asked insightful questions.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Sample questions:

  • Are you a plotter or “seat of your pantser”?  This question refers to authors’ different styles of writing.  Some plot out each of their books, almost to the point of where writing is anti-climactic.  Others fly by the seat of their pants, letting each day’s writing take them in a new direction.  Gardiner leans toward plotting.
  •  How much of your time is spend on research?  Gardiner spends extensive time on research, to the point that she compiles mounds of paperwork as background knowledge, while knowing only about 10 percent of it will actually go into the final book.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

The audience was invited to ask questions as well.  When asked, for example, if she thought of her main character, Caitlin, on an everyday basis, Gardiner said, “yes,” adding that “she is always thinking of what Caitlin would be doing and how she would spend her free time.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

As it turns out, we can all spend a little more time with Caitlin, now that Amazon has purchased the rights to the character and series.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Ms. Gardiner was a sharp presenter, offering crisp and entertaining responses to questions, and she was super accommodating following the discussion.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

As readers of our blog know, we typically tie our event theme into the restaurant we find for dinner , but Gardiner’s discussion did not have a strong regional tie (serial murder is a universal phenomenon).  Therefore, we went for an easy option: since “Dark Corners of the Mind” was set in California, we followed up the signing with dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.  The pizza kitchen served some good sized pizza portions that most of us had to take home in to-go containers (nothing is better than left over pizza for breakfast). Our table had an arrangement of pizza, pasta, and soup!​

 

 

Just Watch Us Learn: Jeff Lindsay at Murder by the Book

By Makayla Mason

Murder By The Book is one of many jewels in Houston.  Not only do they have a great book collection, but they bring in amazing authors throughout the year.  And on December 4, one of our last events of 2019, we went to see, Jeff Lindsay, the creator and author of the Dexter books and tv series.

And as an interesting biographical note, Lindsay is married to Hilary Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s niece!

After we arrived, we purchased some of Lindsay’s books including his latest book Just Watch Me. After showing Miranda and Esme (it was their first time to the store) around the store, we found seats, excited to hear Lindsy speak!

Lindsay was an expressive and humorous speaker, and the audience appreciated the presentation.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Jeff Lindsay, Just Watch Me

There were some die-hard “Dexter” fans in attendance, and the program provided highly interactive.

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We learned about Lindsay’s writing process and how he created the main character, Riley Wolfe, in Just Watch Me.  Riley is a master thief who steals from the wealthiest .1% and his new target is the Crown Jewels of Iran. Lindsay said Riley Wolfe makes the impossible, possible.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Jeff Lindsay, Just Watch Me

We also got the inside scoop on Lindsay’s opinion of actor Michael C. Hall as Dexter on the show. He admitted he was worried at first, but after watching the filming of the first scene on set, he knew Hall was the perfect fit.

After his talk, we had the opportunity to have our books signed and take a picture with him.

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It was a great experience to meet Jeff Lindsay! Big shout out to Murder By The Book for bringing in such amazing authors!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Jeff Lindsay, Just Watch Me

Dinner at Aladdin

Since Just Watch Me is about the Crown Jewels of Iran, we decided to eat Mediterranean food at Aladdin restaurant.  It was cafeteria style with all the food laid out with tons of options to choose including many vegan dishes. We decided to get a meat with three sides and pita bread. We ordered fish, gyro meat, and curry chicken as our meats with lots of different sides and hummus of course! It was all so delicious!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Aladdin Restaurant

It was a great night and with new books in our hands and good food in our stomachs, we headed back to Huntsville.

 

 

Crime and Punishment: With Kathryn Casey in Houston

With a busy couple of weeks ahead of us, we decided to take a Friday-night opportunity for a trip to Houston to meet an interesting author known for her Texas true crime books.

Five LEAP Ambassadors traveled to Houston for a presentation and book signing by Kathryn Casey, a mystery and true crime author, at Murder by the Book. Over the course of her career, she has authored seven highly acclaimed true crime books.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Murder by the Book, Kathryn Casey, In Plain Sight

I was one of the few who had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Casey on a previous occasion. She was a featured guest at SHSU’s Let’s Talk event in 2016, and I had collected some of her books, including one about the I-45 murders.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Let's Talk,, Kathryn Casey

On Friday, she discussed her newest book, In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders.  The title refers to the unprecedented murders of two prosecutors and a prosecutor’s wife in Kaufman County in 2013.

She describes the small town of Kaufman as a small and quiet town where everyone knows each other. Suddenly the quiet town was thrown into chaos when the County Assistant District Attorney, Mark Hasse, was killed outside the county courthouse. A month later the District Attorney Mike McClelland and his wife were brutally killed in their own home.

Kathryn Casey decided to tackle this story and write a book about it. This prompted moving to Kaufman and doing extensive research on the murders. She described her experience in Kaufman and the extensive challenges she faced until she was able to make connections in the community, speak with different people, and gain unique access to the story.  She described her research as comprising of over 100 interviews, including interviews with Eric Williams and his wife, both of whom were convicted of murder.

After a great conversation with Ms. Casey, in which she mixed gravity, seriousness, and even a little humor…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Murder by the Book, Kathryn Casey, In Plain Sight

…we headed to Kenny & Ziggy’s for dinner. We expanded our horizons this time with a New York Delicatessen Restaurant. It was certainly a special treat to have dinner at an authentic third generation deli. When we arrived we were surprised and slightly overwhelmed by their menu. Personally, it was the biggest menu I’ve ever seen! Some of us went for the hot dogs while others went for specialty sandwiches. Everyone’s food was amazing and we ended up voting it one of our favorites!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Murder by the Book, Kathryn Casey, In Plain Sight

An Evening with Author Wendy Walker

With school still more than a week away, the LEAP Ambassadors still have time for some fun learning before the semester gets underway.  So, six LEAP Ambassadors and friends traveled to Houston to visit Murder by the Book and enjoy a presentation by author (and family-law attorney) Wendy Walker.Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

Ms. Walker has written several books, but her reputation as a writer was largely established with the publication of “All is Not Forgotten.” The book, addressing “memory science” and the affect that it can have on personality and the legal system, was a hit, and it prompted Walker to adopt a similar theme for her latest, “Emma in the Night.”  By “similar theme,” we don’t mean to suggest that she wrote “All is not Forgotten” part 2; rather, she is continuing her exploration of how cognitive or personality disorders can play out in families and in the legal system.

In “Emma,” Walker explores Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  As Walker notes, her books are a mix of psychology, family relationships, crime, and the legal system, and that is a good description of “Emma in the Night.”  It’s an engaging book.  In fact, it is so engaging, it has even prompted to Christina to read it!

Walker did a fine job of describing the book and her career at Murder By the Book.

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

She discussed her various careers, her slowish path to becoming an attorney, and—most interestingly—her foray into writing.  Her first books didn’t sell well (“friends and family”), and her agent told her to adopt a new approach to her plots.  Taking a step back, inspired by a NY Times article on memory science, and working more closely with her agent, she produced “All is not Forgotten.”  With that hit—and the film rights picked up by Reese Witherspoon—Walker got the sales and publicity needed to become a full-time writer.

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

Walker was more engaging than most authors, and she was particularly gracious in reaching out to us during her presentation, asking us what we were studying, what interested us, and thanking us for coming.

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

We had time for a nice group photo…

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

–she even indulged us in a selfie–

Wendy Walker, Emma in the Night, SHSU, LEAP Center

…and she spent time discussing her travels and career after her presentation.

We thought about inviting her to dinner with us, but she had previously mentioned her crazy book-tour schedule, and we didn’t want to impinge upon her sleep availability further.  So we headed off to Azuma on our own, to continue to expand our cultural horizons with six types of sushi!

It was also a chance for us to catch up—four of us work full-time, two of us work part-time—and to begin some preliminary plans for our trip to Big Bend National Park next week as well as the beginning of the fall semester.

The night was a nice break from the summer job grind, and many thanks to Wendy Walker for an educational and entertaining evening!