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"Assumptions" with Emilya Naymark

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Max talks to Sue Grafton Memorial nominee Emilya Naymark about her short story "Exit Now." Along the way, we also talk about the difference between mystery and suspense, what's it like to be in the room with Harlan Coben, and how Emilya's husband getting mistaken for a carnie inspired her to write the story.


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Emilya also recommends a trio of books, each of which has been adapted into film, and only one of which I've read or seen!




This is a pretty classic noir -- recently adapted by Guillermo del Toro into a film with Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper -- although it was originally published all the way back in 1946. It's seedy and fun, and Emilya thought it would be a good thing to read if you're enjoyed the carnival setting of her story. Note that a read alike for it is "The Bride Wore Black" by Cornel Woolrich, an author that Joe R. Lansdale suggested we take a look at.


I was particularly tickled with the Kirkus Review of this book -- also published in 1946 -- which calls it a "realistic handling of distasteful characters" that is "not for conservatives, or most public libraries." That tracks, given that it's a book about a bunch of carnies, although I suspect it seems more tame by modern standards. But I haven't read it yet. If it's truly "one-hundred proof evil", as promised on the cover, let me know!




Americans Gods, which I have read, has sort of a seedy road trip vibe, although it traffics in fantasy rather than just noir. Neil Gaiman is a treasure, though, and this is possibly his best book -- come fight me if you disagree. If you haven't read Gaiman, you gotta. This was adapted into a TV series by Bryan Fuller, although I gather it diverged pretty heavily from the source material.


On a more wholesome note, we have Water for Elephants, which Emilya worried that most of you have already read, but if you're like me, you probably just heard that it was Very Good and then just went back to reading murder novels. This, too, has been made into a movie, which Emilya Naymark cautioned me not to watch, because it's not great. Read the book instead!


Lastly, Emilya mentioned Murder at the Marina, a story anthology for this year's BoucherCon -- a massive gathering of mystery-writing bigwigs -- and it features beachy tales of crime and murder in Southern California. It has a story by Emilya herself in it, as well as one by Ann Cleeves, who might be my favorite mystery writer at the the moment. Ann Cleeves books invariably take place in desolate Scottish villages, however, and the notion of her writing a story set in San Diego makes me giggle with incongrous delight. Sadly, this book isn't out yet! But Emilya suggested that you're enjoying a good mix of crime stories, this would be a good next read. We'll add it to our collection when it hit the shelves.

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