Cursed in the Act, Raymond BucklandI was sitting in the local tire store, having the winter tires put on my wife’s RAV4, and while waiting was thinking about a theme for a new mystery series. I had written three books in a series set in Victorian London and my agent was urging me to come up with a second series. When most people think of Victorian mysteries they immediately seem to lock onto Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle certainly produced the quintessential Victorian investigator when he created Holmes, so much so that quite a few modern writers have picked up the character and created new adventures for him. So many have done this, in fact, that I wanted to stay well clear of Mr. Holmes. And yet . . . there was much to be said – from a writer’s point of view – for working with a character already well established in the minds of readers.

So who else was available, I thought? Perhaps Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu? Or H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain? I ran various characters through my mind but couldn’t fully relate to any of them.

I briefly thought of Dracula but discarded the idea, not wanting to get into the whole vampire scene. True, vampires are very much “in” these days but . . .    And then I thought of Dracula’s creator, Bram Stoker. I knew that he had been an extremely interesting man in his own right. Perhaps I should forget about previously created characters and concentrate on those who had created those characters? And who better to work with than Bram Stoker?

I left the tire store on my new set of wheels, with my mind running over all that I knew of Mr. Stoker. I realized that he and I had a lot in common; so much, in fact, that he was the perfect character for me to work with. “The Bram Stoker Mysteries”, I thought!  Yes, that had a nice ring to it.

Stoker’s background

Abraham Stoker was the third of seven children born to Abraham Stoker Sr. and his wife Matilda Charlotte Blake Thornley. Known generally as Bram, Stoker was born November 8, 1847, in Clontarf, Ireland (a suburb of Dublin). Like so many Irishmen, he had a healthy respect for the unseen world: for the little people, the second sight, the ghosts and phantasms of tradition. Throughout his life he studied and absorbed beliefs of religio-magic found in many different people. It was knowledge of Transylvanian Gypsies and their belief in vampires that eventually led to his penning “Dracula” in 1897. Prior to that he had written a number of short stories, several drawing on this occult knowledge.

When the great Shakespearean actor Henry Irving visited Ireland, Stoker – who freelanced as a theatre critic – wrote a glowing review of Irving’s “Hamlet”. This led to Irving inviting Stoker to relocate to London and become Theatre Manager at Irving’s Lyceum Theatre. Stoker took up that position in 1878 and held it till his death in 1912.

My background

My own background was in writing non-fiction books on various aspects of the same occult, or metaphysical, world. I, too, had a background in theatre, from a first appearance on stage at the age of ten, in 1944, until my emigration to the United States in 1962. The world of the theatre and that of mystery seem to run a parallel course. I found myself thinking of “Phantom of the Opera”, for example. I could see that basing a mystery series around Bram Stoker would be something that I would not only be knowledgeable about but that I would very much enjoy. So The Bram Stoker Mysteries has become a reality, with Cursed in the Act the first of the series now available.
















The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigIt was like, fifteen degrees outside all this weekend in New York.  I just want you to appreciate that.  Fifteen degrees is cold.  Very cold.  When I remembered that I was supposed to make this recipe and blog about it, I was a little disappointed to see that all I had in my fridge was a tub of possibly questionable creme fraiche and a bag of carrots.  So I had to go outside in the ridiculously bitter cold to buy potatoes, cheese, and broccoli.  I lost a toe to frostbite all in order to bring this recipe to you, Penguin blog readers!  Well, ok, that’s not really true, but I could have.

However, if your fridge is reasonably well-stocked (by “well-stocked,” I basically mean that you have other groceries beside hoity-toity expired dairy and rabbit food), then this is a great recipe for you because it’s easy, healthy, and very tasty.  It really doesn’t even feel like health food, which is why when we were divvying up recipes for these blog posts, I jumped on it.

Potatoes? Delicious. Cheddar cheese? Delicious. Broccoli covered in cheesy potatoes? Delicious. Cheesy broccoli potatoes topped with a dollop of creme fraiche that is a little bit….off?  Still delicious.

Recipe from Fat Chance Cookbook:

Broccoli-Cheddar Cheese Potatoes

3 baked russet potatoes

2 bunches of broccoli, steamed until just tender

½ c. milk

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground pepper

12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

Toss broccoli, milk, salt, pepper and 10 ounces cheese with scooped out baked potato flesh. Stuff skins and sprinkle remaining cheese over all. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Posted by:  Ashley Pattison McClay, Associate Director of Marketing, Plume and Hudson Street Press

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigA lot of people assume being a vegetarian means I am a healthy eater. While I’m sure there are plenty of vegetable-loving vegetarians out there, I do not happen to be one of them. I stopped eating meat at the age of eight, and constant lectures from my parents about protein and fiber never really stuck until a few years ago. In college, I would often eat half a can of Pringles and call it dinner. I know you’re reading this, Mom, and I’m sorry.

Now that I am a semi-adult, I manage to incorporate vegetables in my diet on a fairly regular basis. I wouldn’t call my diet a tragedy, but I am still a die-hard frozen yogurt addict, and the occasional (okay, frequent) bag of Smartfood graces my kitchen cabinet. I have loved to cook since I was a little girl, so I was eager to test out some of the recipes from The Fat Chance Cookbook. It isn’t filled with diet recipes disguised as real food. It has recipes that would sound great to me anyway, and, fortunately, they have little or no sugar. While visiting my parents recently, I cooked us dinner using recipes from the Cookbook, and it was a definite success.

Tofu crusted with oregano pesto, cheese, and bread crumbs. This was a little time-intensive, but it really was worth it. I substituted walnuts for pine nuts and they worked well. I can never have too many tofu recipes, so I’ll be sure to add this delicious version to my repertoire. Even my dad, a stubborn carnivore, conceded that it tasted good, although he still doesn’t like the texture of tofu.

“Almost risotto” brown rice pilaf with veggies. My semester in Florence in college made me fall in love with risotto. Even though I enjoy cooking, I’ve never actually attempted to make it on my own. This recipe is godsend: easy, vegetarian, and very yummy. Since it is not the right season for zucchini, I used twice the amount of mushrooms suggested as a substitute. The result was a creamy, cheesy, fragrant dish. I really couldn’t tell the difference between this and real risotto, and, from what I gather, it is much quicker rendition. I could see nearly any other vegetable working well in it, and I definitely plan to try some out.

I am eager to try out some more of these recipes on my friends in the city. Dinner party at my place coming soon!


= Serves: 4

= Serving size: ¼ recipe

= Active time: 15 minutes

= Total time: 30 minutes


1 carton (12 ounces) fi rm tofu

. cup dry cornmeal or quinoa

. cup fresh oregano leaves, or 3 tablespoons dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped almonds or sesame seeds

. cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup grated Parmesan, Manchego, or pecorino romano cheese

STEP 1: Drain the tofu on paper towels. Slice crosswise into 6 pieces.

Cut each piece into triangles.

STEP 2: Put the quinoa or cornmeal into a small bowl.

STEP 3: In a blender, or food processor if you have one, add the oregano, garlic, and nuts. Process until all are fi nely chopped. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Process until a paste forms.

STEP 4: Season the dry tofu lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Rub the pesto mixture over the tofu triangles. Toss the cheese and the quinoa or cornmeal together in a small bowl. Press this into the tofu.

STEP 5: Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu pieces and fry on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.


= Serves: 6

= Serving size: 1 cup

= Active time: 20 minutes

= Total time: 30 minutes


1 cup peeled and chopped onion

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon peeled chopped garlic

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced mushrooms

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 cups cooked brown rice or barley

1 cup water or vegetable stock

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

STEP 1: Saute the onion in the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to soften and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the zucchini, mushroom, and rosemary and continue to saute 5 more minutes. Add the brown rice or barley to the pot. Cook until the grain begins to brown a little.

STEP 2: Stir in the water or vegetable stock and Parmesan cheese to the pot. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes, melting the cheese and allowing the flavors to meld. Turn off the heat, and let it sit until ready to serve.

Posted by: Laura Berlinsky-Schine, Marketing Coordinator, Plume and Hudson Street Press

Penguin’s list of Golden Globes nominees is below.

12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup - Author; Henry Louis Gates - Editor; Ira Berlin - Introduction by; Steve McQueen - Foreword by Philomena,  Martin Sixsmith - Author; Judi Dench - Foreword by


Winner: 12 YEARS A SLAVE







We would also like to congratulate our friends at Random House for its The Wolf of Wall Street nominations: Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy and Leonardo DiCaprio as Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.

You can get more great coverage of the Golden Globes at Word and Film

If you can’t get enough Downton Abbey, check out these books on our Pinterest board and on our website.

secret rooms





Flawed male protagonists are cropping up everywhere in film and TV. If you liked Breaking Bad or were a fan of the now late James Gandolfini, you should pick up Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad, by Brett Martin

Posted by: Amy Brinker, Online Content Coordinator

Fantasy Life, Matthew BerryThis holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” I’ve been knocked down a lot in my life, and Vince’s famous quote always reminded me to keep going. He’s become a legend, but this book shows that he was very much a man, full of doubts and flaws but also determination and greatness.

The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons

Bill’s a good friend of mine, so I’m biased, but I promise you, this is a great book. Bill has an encyclopedic mind when it comes to basketball, and it’s not just hilarious, but the passion oozes out of every page.

Read an Excerpt »

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis

Fantasy sports is all about statistics. And no one’s made statistics as interesting as Michael Lewis. He tells the stories behind the stats. It’s not a numbers book; it’s a book about the people who use those numbers.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, by H.G. Bissinger

Growing up in Texas, I saw firsthand how crazy high school football can be. Here, Buzz Bissinger follows a high school team in small-town Texas for one season, and it’s amazing. You feel like you’re living in Odessa, Texas. And oh yeah, the movie and the TV show are great, too.

The Myron Bolitar series, by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is my favorite writer, and anything he writes is a stop what I am doing and read it for the next two days straight kind of deal.  Impossible to put down.  I discovered him through his Myron Bolitar series.  Myron’s a sports agent and that’s the window Coben uses to let us into a captivating world where lines are crossed, secrets are kept, and there are no lengths people won’t go for their families.  Always featuring Wyn, Myron psychopathic best friend and the best sidekick in the world of mysteries, a new Myron Bolitar book is serious business.

The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays, by Ron Jaworski

I’ve learned so much from Jaws in my time at ESPN, and this book shows you how football has evolved into the sport we all love today. No one knows more about football than Jaws.

Read an Excerpt »

Semi-Tough, by Dan Jenkins

Going a little old school here, but growing up in Texas, I loved Dan Jenkins books and frankly, any one of them would do for this list. If you like your sports, your characters, and your women with attitude, Dan Jenkins is for you.  Perfectly captures the atmosphere around, be it pro football or just Texas.

The Dixie Association, by Donald Hays

A send up of the crazy, sometimes hypocritical South set against the backdrop of minor league baseball, I must have read this book a billion times when it came out.  The redemption of a man is at the center of a hilarious and poignant book that has a lot to say while still being ridiculously entertaining.  Love, hope, friendship, and second chances are at the center of one of the all-time great baseball books. If you like baseball, you’ll love this book.

Rotisserie League Baseball, by Glen Waggoner and Daniel Okrent

The original Rotisserie League Baseball Book isn’t a typical book, so fine, I’m cheating a little, but the importance of this book cannot be overstated.  Introducing a brand new game that was very stat heavy is no easy task, but these guys made it all seem so fun.  The spirit and joy that comes from playing fantasy baseball leaps off the page and you not only quickly understand the concept, you can’t wait to find 9 other people to start a league with.  If this book had been dry at all, it fails.  Instead, it spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Quite simply, I wish I had read this book before I started working for ESPN.  I’d have had so much more knowledge about where I was coming to work and the inner working of a truly remarkable company.  If you’re at all fascinated how a small town in middle Connecticut became the World Wide Leader in Sports, this book is for you. This oral history tells the funny, the insane, the uplifting, and the controversial moments that went into building the most recognizable brand in sports media today.

The Vanishing Thief, Kate ParkerOne of the joys of writing is discovering new source material. On a trip to England, I discovered a reprint of “The Lady’s Dressing Room” by Baroness Staffe, translated from the French by Lady Campbell, in 1893.

Baroness Staffe has opinions and suggestions on everything, from the sensible (green is a “dubious” choice for an olive-skinned brunette, very fat women shouldn’t wear a low cut dress) to the incredible (using cocaine on insect stings, rubbing in arsenic for the complexion).

Along with her opinions comes information about everyday life in the 1890′s for Georgia Fenchurch, the heroine of The Vanishing Thief and the other books of the Victorian Bookshop Mystery series. These suggestions and directions of the baroness’s give wonderful clues about a character to plant in a story.

Buttoned and laced boots were both popular at that time, and the baroness gives directions for putting both on. I would never have guessed you don’t button the first two buttons on the boots by the toes until after you close the boot from the instep to the ankle. That might be another case of the baroness’ opinion, but it could be used in describing a character’s actions.

She recommends if your “fingers are square or wide at the ends, you may narrow them a little by pinching and squeezing the tips.…in time you will become aware of a notable and pleasant change.” Can’t you see a possibly guilty woman doing this while being questioned?

“A woman should speak in a rather low voice, but distinctly. To shout in speaking denotes vulgar habits, and sometimes shows a domineering spirit…We should have self-command enough never to shout, even when under the influence of anger, indignation, or pain. Such outcries spoil forever the chords of a musical voice.” A character who carries on in a mild voice while everything is falling apart around her would be interesting. What would make her finally scream at someone?

“A badly-dressed woman is only half a woman, if her being so comes from indifference.” Can you imagine a meeting of Baroness Staffe and a suffragette?

On the other hand, the baroness recommended walking and housework for exercise. She preferred using chamois leather or cotton satin for corsets which should be short and only boned in the front and back, allowing freedom of motion.

A woman like Georgia who is running a bookshop and investigating crime in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries would need to move easily. It’s nice to find evidence that upper crust dispensers of advice in the books in Georgia’s shop would approve of her corset, if not of her occupations.

This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Liane Moriarty is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the reading group hit, What Alice Forgot, as well as The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, and the Nicola Berry series for children. Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

I had such a sense of movement when I was reading this book, it was as though the author was spinning me round and round, leaving me laughing, dizzy, breathless and exhilarated. I didn’t quite get the ending, but that’s just because I was so dizzy (and also I read it too fast and greedily). It would be a wonderful book club choice because everyone could argue over the ending, and perhaps someone could e-mail me and explain it.

Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

I shouldn’t really suggest this one because it’s already been such a huge book club hit, you’ve probably already read it and loved it. But if you haven’t, you should. Beautifully written and such a moral conundrum to get everyone all worked up.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

This is a wonderful, original story about an unforgettable family. I laughed and cried the whole way through. Lots of interesting ethical issues for your book club to discuss.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »

A Corner of White: Book 1 of The Colors of Madeleine, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Every now and then someone in your book club selects a book that is unlike anything you’ve read before, and you’re so grateful to them for choosing it. If you’d like to be that person, choose A Corner of White. It’s the first in an extraordinary three-book fantasy series that takes you on an incredible journey between Cambridge, England, and the Kingdom of Cello. (It was written by the award-winning YA writer Jaclyn Moriarty, who happens to be my sister.)

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

This is an amazing postapocalyptic adventure novel. It was so good, I even forgave the author for not putting his dialogue in quotation marks. The writing style is very different, and you can all argue over whether this worked for you or not. The correct answer is that it did work and if someone didn’t like it, you should be really mad at them and forget to refill their wineglass.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »

Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver

I adored this book, but if you look at the Amazon reviews you’ll see that it’s one of those books that people love or hate, and that’s perfect for book clubs, because you’ll have such a heated, interrupting-each-other debate. I can already anticipate what some of your members will say, and I understand but I disagree, and I would love to tell you why but then I would give away an important element of the book. Serve a big chocolate cake.

The Vanishing Thief, Kate ParkerMy series of Victorian Bookshop Mysteries takes place during a fascinating time period, the 1890′s. From the 1880′s until the beginning of World War I, Europe and North America seemed to run under the belief that there was no problem that couldn’t be solved by technology and good will.

This was the time period when telephones and electricity made their appearances in many homes, particularly in large cities such as London. Automobiles and airplanes began to be useful instruments and not just curiosities. Mass production brought more and better goods to the middle class.

This was also the period when large numbers of people began to have leisure time because inventions meant tasks took less time to perform. Travel, whether across town by bicycle, tram, or Underground, or long distances by ever faster ships and trains, took less time and energy. Labor saving devices made their way into offices, homes, and factories.

Despite lives cut short by diseases seldom fatal with today’s medicine, and poverty many times worse than anything experienced with today’s safety nets, we think of this time period as the last age of innocence. They saw the world and their lives as constantly improving. We look back at this time through the smoke of world wars, depression, and terrorism and see only a simpler age.

For young women of that day, their lives were more taken up by sports, doing “good deeds,” and education than previous generations. During this time, it went from rare to more commonplace to find women attending colleges, although job opportunities for graduates were limited. Fashions changed to allow for freer movement for sports. During this time, skirt lengths began to rise from the floor to just above the ankle.

I chose this time period for Georgia Fenchurch and the Archivist Society because attitudes were changing. Women had more freedom of movement than during the earlier Victorian period. Universal education became the law. Travel increased between countries and continents, and with it, communication between people, businesses, and governments. And before World War I, there was an innocence about society that with strong leadership, improved sanitation, and good intentions, life would continue to improve.

All of these advances created a world where Georgia had both the freedom to go about her investigations and the expectation by society that she would do good deeds. This was also a world where universal education and more leisure time meant more customers for her bookshop. Money coming in from the colonies and an increase in manufacturing led to more people buying luxuries including antiquarian books from Fenchurch Books. Along with the innocence of society, Georgia has a belief that her individual efforts can solve crimes and make the world a better place.

And isn’t that something we all hope for despite terrible events in today’s world? Join me in the simpler age of The Vanishing Thief, the first of the Victorian Bookshop Mystery Series.

This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, and designer. He both cofounded the Guadalajara International Film Festival and formed his own production company—the Tequila Gang. However, he is most recognized for his Academy Award-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Hellboy film franchise. He has received Nebula and Hugo awards, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and is an avid collector and student of arcane memorabilia and weird fiction.

The Case Against Satan, by Ray Russell (to come in 2014/2015)

The Vampire Tapestry, by Suzy McKee Charnas

The Terror, by Dan Simmons

Blue World, by Robert McCammon

The Damnation Game, by Clive Barker

Dark Feasts, by Ramsey Campbell

Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories, by Algernon Blackwood

View the table of contents »

The Monk, by Matthew G. Lewis

Read an excerpt »

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, by M. R. James

Uncle Silas, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

The White People by Arthur Machen

Read an excerpt »

View the table of contents »

The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson

Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

The King in the Golden Mask, by Marcel Schwob

This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestselling author for both her Sookie Stackhouse fantasy/mystery series and her Harper Connelly Prime Crime mystery series. She has lived in the South her entire life.

I am particularly smitten with a novel when I think the writer has raised the bar on world-building. Luckily, I read several books this year that were really amazing in that respect; books that transported me to another place where the rules are different.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop was fascinating from start to finish. In her world, humans and “others” do interact — but very, very, carefully. Her heroine, caught in the middle and running from trouble, is totally engaging. Benedict Jacka’s Chosen, a continuation of the adventures of mage Alex Verus, exposes the lead character (warts and all) in a milieu where magic is hidden in plain view and survival is never a given.

I’m still thinking about E.E. Knight’s Appalachian Overthrow, the latest entry in the really superior Vampire Earth series. Overthrow has a different protagonist, a Golden One, but his part of the revolution trying to reclaim America is just as compelling as Knight’s usual human protagonist, David Valentine. I’m not an enthusiast over military science fiction, but these books are enthralling.

Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes is part of his modern London series about a policeman who finds he has magic powers. Every book in this series is a winner, and Broken Homes is no exception. The only “magic” in Leigh Perry’s A Skeleton in the Family is that Perry’s protagonist, an adjunct professor named Georgia Thackeray, has a best friend named Sid . . . who is a skeleton who can walk and talk. It’s delightful, and I found Sid as credible a character as the humans around him.

Read an excerpt from Written in Red, by Anne Bishop »

Read an excerpt from Appalachian Overthrow, by E.E. Knight »