The 2008 Mystery Series is expected to attract numerous lovers of crime fiction and mysteries on Friday when it opens at Bookwagon in the Ashland Shopping Center.

will kick off the program. Ford wrote the best-selling and critically acclaimed Leo Waterman and Frank Corso series. Ford will discuss his latest work, "Nameless Night."

Also joining Ford on May 9 is Skye Moody, author of the Venus Diamond mysteries. Moody's character, Diamond, is an undercover agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Pacific Northwest, so the settings are familiar. Her novel, "K Falls," weaves the history of the Columbia River into the story.

Mystery author and Alaska state writer laureate John Straley will be at Bookwagon on June 20 at 6 p.m. to showcase his latest work, "The Big Both Ways." Straley draws from native Alaskan lore, poetry and his background as an investigator with the Alaska Public Defender's office to portray the diverse people and landscape of Alaska. His characters and plots are said to be as quirky and compelling as his book titles, some of which include "The Woman Who Married a Bear" and "Cold Water Burning," which was nominated for a Shamus award in 2001.

Maureen Flanagan and her husband Ed Battistella started the Mystery Series in 2003.

"When we first came to Ashland, we didn't know many mystery readers," Flanagan said. "Now, we have a strong community of eight mystery book groups in the Rogue Valley."

One such group is the Ashland Mystery Readers. It produces the cable access television show "Ashland Mystery, RVTV Noir," which features mystery writers and airs Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. on cable channel 15. The show is sponsored by Friends of the Ashland Public Library.

Ashland Mystery 2008 — — May 9: G.M. Ford and — June 20: John Straley — July 11: Gary Phillips — Aug. 8: Cornelia Read — Sept. 12: Camille Minichino — Oct. 17: David Corbett — Events are held at Bookwagon Books on Ashland Street at 6 p.m. The series is free and open to the public.

"This is the fifth year of the series, bringing mainstream mystery and crime fiction authors to Southern Oregon to entertain and enlighten the mystery groups here in the valley," said Flanagan.

She said this year's authors are the best yet. In addition to Ford, Moody and Straley, the roster of writers includes Gary Phillip, Camille Minichino, David Corbett and Cornelia Read.

Flanagan said each year the series has grown, though the turnout varies.

"We usually expect 20 to 40 people, but lately we see up to 50 people at the events. There is always something special happening," she added.

Though there are numerous reasons people are drawn to mysteries and crime fiction, Flanagan thinks one reason is that "mystery and crime fiction are a mechanism for describing social justice and righting social wrongs."

Connie Jannusch, an avid mystery reader in Ashland, is looking forward to the series this year.

"I love mystery and suspense novels, especially those with a little romance thrown in," she said. "Ever since I was old enough to get a library card, I've been entranced with mystery novels. The best of them are challenging, with a good story."

Flanagan said she and her husband have always loved mysteries, but over time their tastes have changed.

"There's a genre for everyone," she said. "My favorite international mysteries offer a vivid sense of place. You can travel anywhere in the world with mysteries."

Sponsors of the event include Bookwagon, Standing Stone Brewing company, Beverly and David Lively of the Party Place in Medford, and the Ashland Public Library.

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Author John Straley

Photos and book covers submitted