The Tao of Doo

In his kind and generous review of my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, author James Reasoner said the plot was vaguely reminiscent of something found in Scooby-Doo, only played seriously. He meant it as a compliment and I took it Read more


Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I'd be used to it. But nope, I'm not. BAD MOON's publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE's did last year. For readers, the Read more

Writing With ... Louise Penny

I am thrilled beyond words to welcome one of my favorite writers, Louise Penny, whose Armand Gamache mysteries have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.  Her last book, BURY YOUR DEAD, won the Ellis for best mystery in Canada, and Read more

Is Browsing Dead?

I'll be the first to admit that I was a nerdy teenager. Not pocket protector nerdy, but no sports star, either. I was bookish, I guess you could say. I read A LOT back then, and nothing pleased me Read more

Why We Left Earth

Outer space has always been a mystery. Even before mankind fully grasped its vastness, they wanted to go there. Early astronomers, fascinated by the stars, invented ways to get a closer view. Think Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini. Writers not content Read more

Writing With … Catriona McPherson

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Today, I present Catriona McPherson, one very funny woman and a great writer to boot. Catriona is a recovering academic, now a full-time writer, recently transplanted from southern Scotland to northern California.  Her Dandy Gilver novels (six and counting) are set in a slightly imaginary time and place, made up of 1920s Scotland and the golden age of detective fiction. Her latest book is DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS. Visit her online at

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS  is the story I’ve been looking forward to as it came down the pipe towards me.  I started writing about Dandy Gilver when she was in 1922 and I was in 2001.  We were the same age then.  Now, ten years later, she’s six years younger than me.

Anyway.  The thing about 1926 was the general strike.  Reparations to Germany/cheap coal/denationalisation — the trick is to do all the research but put as little as possible of the boring stuff in the book — all led to a walk-out by the coalminers and a huge supporting shutdown.  For nine days, in May 1926, it looked possible, even likely, that Britain was going to see a workers’ revolt the like of which kicked off the Russian revolution.  We know that didn’t happen , but I was excited at the thought of writing about characters who didn’t.  Talk about tension.

Also, for once it wasn’t too bonkers to have a private detective solve a murder.  During that nine days, anyone who stood still long enough got drafted in as a special constable to help the police.  Dandy was one of them.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

Okay, so the other half of this story is that during the nine days of the strike, Dandy is undercover as a servant in an Edinburgh mansion house, trying (and failing) to prevent a murder.  And it wasn’t so much that I had to do research as that I had to write the book to release all the research that I had done already.  I do a lot of traipsing around stately homes, castles and palaces (and I have the cheek to call it a day’s work) but impressive as the state rooms are, it’s the domestic offices that fascinate me.  Finally, in this book, I got to use all the treasure trove.

For example, did you know: That the staircase leading to the bedrooms of the male servants was wooden so the family wasn’t disturbed by their boots clonking on the steps, but the female staircase had a layer of slate on top so that the family would hear the boots of any men who tried to sneak up there?

Also, I discovered that although jam and honey were kept in the larder (U.S. pantry?) with the rest of the food, marmalade was kept in the cupboard which housed the boot polish and laundry soap.  I’ve no idea why.  I put this snippet in the book hoping someone would email me and tell me.  Nothing so far, but I’ll put it in my FAQs if I ever find out.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

So many different ways to answer this question . . . I’ll choose the one that makes me sound like an idiot, I think.  Right.  I revered writers, envied them, imagined being one ‒ all that.  I just had no idea how they did it.  I also spent a lot of my life in the midst of day-dreams of unbelievable length and complexity, with settings, characters, scenes and dramatic twists.  It took until I was 35 for me to realise that writing these down was how it was done.  See?  Moron.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Prepare to be amazed: I read a lot.  I also garden.  I used to garden pretty well in Galloway; now I garden very badly in California.  I’m slowly turning my gardening vigilance from frost-protection to drought-proofing.  But it’s a humbling experience to know nothing again.  I love cooking (and the resultant eating) and so, because I’m vain, I run and cycle and swim.  If I could grow a tapeworm, I’d happily never run again.  It’s not about health: it’s all vanity.

Q. What are you reading right now?

Bugger.  It’s never something obscure and impressive when you’re asked that question, is it?  Makes me think of when I went for a sign-up visit to my new doctor in Galloway and he asked, “What did you eat yesterday?”  I said, “Ahhhh, yesterday’s not a good example, as it happens.”  He said  “Exactly”.  Clever man.

I’m reading Abraham Verghese’s CUTTING FOR STONE, which is perfect reading matter while I’m pounding out a first draft because I could no more write an epic about an Ethiopian/Indian surgeon than I could grow a watermelon (it turns out).  So it doesn’t interfere.

There are some writers I daren’t look at while I’m writing a first drat — chipping it out of the ground without breaking bits off, as Stephen King puts it.  PG Wodehouse is horribly infectious.  So is Raymond Chandler.  And it’s depressing to write a crime novel while reading one written by a genius, so Ruth Rendell is out.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

Right, well, BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs spots you Shakespeare and the Bible.  I always thought I’d take another copy of one — Shakespeare, it’s longer — in an exotic, unstudied language.  Then, falling back on my training as a linguist, I’d use the two texts to decode the new language and write a monograph.  When the shipload of burly rescuers hove into view around the headland, I’d have a completed work to wow the world with.  Well, to wow a few dozen grammarians with.  This plan might need some work.




SUNSET’S WESTERN GARDENS (and I’d be up to speed for my return)


Are we allowed collected works? Dickens. For the length. I panic if I’m in a waiting room with nothing to read.  I’d go nuts on an island.

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

What’s that you say?  My favourite five movies?  Okay 1) North by Northwest (except for the cheesy last shot) 2) Moonstruck  (worst plot-envy of my life; it’s perfect) 3) Calamity Jane (I don’t care; I love her) 4) Mildred Pierce (the Joan one) 5) The Station Agent — this is a recent addition to my list of favourites, but I adore it.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

Leftovers.  Especially leftover Christmas dinner.  Specifically, very clear cold turkey gravy, set to a stiff  jelly, chopped onto hot buttered toast made with home-made bread, for breakfast, on Boxing Day.  Quite a lot of salt and insane amounts of black pepper.  With a strong cup of Yorkshire tea with whole fat milk in a white cup.  (Fussy, moi?)

Q. Cats or dogs?

Cats, cats, a thousand times cats.  I’m always surprised that people happily admit to preferring dogs — “Yes, I like an animal who looks up to me with slavish devotion.” Although, now I think of it, American dogs don’t understand my accent so when I say their names they treat me as a cat would.  I like it.

 Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I dye my hair?  Kidding.  Ummmmm — there’s been a lot of accidental nudity.  I met the art director of an important UK publishing house when I had no knickers on.  And I once went to work without my skirt.  On a third occasion, I wore this weird-shaped dress to a party that was easiest dealt with in the bathroom by taking it off and hanging it up on the door hook then putting it back on again afterwards.  I forgot the last bit.

On The Road Again

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Pardon my lack of blog updates in recent days. I’ve been traveling. Quite a bit actually. My Magical Mystery Tour is now in full swing and I haven’t had much time to do anything other than promote BAD MOON. (I’m not complaining. I’m so proud of the book and want the world to read it.)

Last week saw the release of BAD MOON and a series of events in my home state of Pennsylvania. This weekend, the national part of my tour kicks off with a trip to Murder by the Book in Houston. I can’t wait! It’s a fantastic store in a fantastic city. And if you’re ever near Houston, you must drop by the store and say hi to McKenna, John and Co.

I’ll be taking a few pictures there, like I do at most bookstore stops. And speaking of pictures, here are some fun ones from my first week on the road.

My parents’ dog, Ty, gets ready to dive into a copy of BAD MOON. Or maybe he’s just thinking about napping on it.

One of the first stops on the Magical Mystery Tour was a stock signing at Doylestown Bookshop in lovely Doylestown, Pa.

Look! BAD MOON is right at the front of the store!

Another awesome store I visited in Pennsylvania was Aaron’s Books, in Litiz, Pa.

Lititz is a beautiful place, with a charming downtown and a very cool strip of park. If you visit, be sure to say Hi to the ducks there.

By Sunday, I was back home in New Jersey, signing at the Barnes & Noble in North Brunswick. Here’s me signing a copy for my friend Kristen.


Posted on by Todd Posted in Featured, News | Comments Off on BAD MOON Rises

Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I’d be used to it. But nope, I’m not. BAD MOON’s publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE’s did last year.

For readers, the release date is a chance for them to rush to their local stores (or, let’s face it, pick up their e-readers) and buy the latest from one of their favorite authors.

For authors, the pub date marks the end of a long, long road that probably began years earlier. I started preliminary research work on BAD MOON in May 2009. I wrote the bulk of it between March and August 2010. I took it to bed with me, writing late into the night. I took it on vacation with me, typing away on my laptop in a hotel in Walt Disney World. I took it to work, editing and revising the manuscript while my boss wasn’t looking. I loved it, hated it, loved it again, stopped caring because I just wanted to get it finished, then fell in love with it all over again.

Now it’s done. And available all over the country. And readers can get it in their hands, devour it and tell me what they think. Some critics already have, and I’m (no pun intended) over the moon about their reviews.

Here’s a sampling:

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Finally, it’s open season on a serial killer who’s gone undetected for years.

Perry Hollow, Pa., Police Chief Kat Campbell pitches in to help former state police officer Nick Donnelly solve a cold case. Years ago, when Kat’s father was chief, young Charlie Olmstead went missing. After his bike was found at the bottom of a waterfall, he was presumed drowned even though no body was ever found. Now his younger brother, famous author Eric Olmstead, is back in town to bury his mother. Her dying wish was for him to find Charlie, whom she always believed was still alive. Nick, injured and tossed out of the state police, now runs an agency specializing in cold cases. He is hired by Eric, whose high-school romance with Kat came to an abrupt end when he skipped town after graduation. Now the three team up to reopen the investigation of Charlie’s disappearance. A map and news clippings discovered in Eric’s house make the trio suspect that Charlie was just one of a series of vanished young boys. Now that the hard questions are being asked, a great deal of information missed in the original investigations, all thought to be accidents, is turning up—clues that may provide closure for grieving relatives.

Kat and Nick’s second (Death Notice, 2010) draws you in irresistibly and doesn’t spit you out till the very end, your head spinning with surprising revelations.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“July 20, 1969, was the day Neil Armstrong  walked on the moon, but it’s also the night that ten-year-old Charlie Olmstead, a boy entranced with all things NASA-related, disappeared. It looked like a case of drowning when his bicycle was found abandoned by a local waterfall that night: case closed. Turns out, however, his grieving mother never thought he drowned. After her death some 40 years later, Eric, the surviving son, discovers her copious research that indicates other young boys’ disappearances were tied to subsequent Apollo moon landings. Fully focused now, Eric, along with local police chief Kat Campbell and independent investigator Nick Donnelly, finds himself pursuing connections across rural Pennsylvania. What’s hardest to figure out is who had that much motivation and anger. VERDICT: Ritter’s second outing (after Death Notice) will captivate readers with a tone reminiscent of John Hart (Down River) and Chelsea Cain (The Night Season). Ritter was on ThrillerFest’s Debut Authors Class of 2010/11 panel. Catch him now!”

Publishers Weekly

“In Ritter’s compelling second mystery featuring Perry Hollow, Pa., police chief Kat Campbell (after 2010’s Death Notice), Eric Olmstead, a successful author and Kat’s former high school flame who’s recently returned to the area, asks Kat to look into the disappearance of his brother, Charlie, who went missing at age nine 40 years earlier, during the first moon landing. Kat uncovers not just one missing boy but several, all of whom disappeared during moon landings. As the evidence mounts, Kat must balance her duties as top cop and single parent to James, her fifth grader, who doesn’t appreciate her all-consuming passion for her work. Ritter does a fine job evoking the dreams, mores, and political upheavals of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, along with the evolution of the U.S. space program and its deceleration in the 2010s. Readers will find themselves ensnared by this unusual tale of love, loss, enduring pain, and betrayal.”

Now it’s your turn, readers. If you plan on reading BAD MOON — and I sincerely hope you do — be sure to tell me about it when you’re done. My e-mail address is I hope to see note from a whole bunch of you.

Until then, I sincerely hope you enjoy BAD MOON. I worked hard on it and I incredibly proud of the end result. Happy reading!