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A Wicked Welcome to James Ziskin!

I first met Jim at Left Coast Crime in 2016, when I was a debut author. That’s when I met Ellie Stone as well, and I love reading this series. I’m delighted to welcome Jim back to the blog to talk about Turn to Stone, the latest Ellie Stone

Three Interesting Research Challenges for TURN TO STONE

by James W. Ziskin

I write a series of traditional mysteries set in the early 1960s, featuring plucky young newspaper reporter Ellie Stone. In the latest installment, TURN TO STONE, I send Ellie to Florence, Italy, where she investigates the mysterious death of the man who invited there to accept a posthumous award for her father.

Since the series takes place in the early 1960s, research presents challenges at every turn. These turns can be fascinating. In the case of Italy in 1963, the research was even harder due to the language, but also the availability of documentation.

The straight historical research was the easy part. Much of the book’s plot centers on what happened during the twenty-year Fascist era in Italy and the Second World War. The dates and events are well documented. But there were a few other areas that made for a difficult time in getting the facts right. I’ve decided to concentrate on three of those today: food, transportation, and music.

And here is a menu from the period, including prices in lire.

An added treat in TURN TO STONE is Ellie’s discovery of the Beatles. They were not yet well known in the US in September of 1963. They hit it big with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in December of 1963. It went on to be their first number 1 record in America.

These are just three of the fascinating research areas that made TURN TO STONE a lot of fun to write. There were plenty of others as well. I hope readers will find the same enjoyment reading about them as I had writing about them.


It’s September 1963. Ellie is in Italy to attend an academic symposium honoring her late father. Just as she arrives in Florence, she learns that her host, Professor Alberto Bondinelli, has been fished out of the Arno, quite dead. Then a suspected rubella outbreak leaves ten of the symposium participants quarantined in a villa outside the city with little to do but tell stories to entertain themselves. Making the best of their confinement, the men and women spin tales and gorge themselves on fine Tuscan food and wine. And as they do, long-buried secrets about Bondinelli rise to the surface, and Ellie must figure out if one or more of her companions is capable of murder.

About James W. Ziskin

James W. Ziskin (Jim) is the author of the Anthony and Macavity Award-winning Ellie Stone Mysteries. His books have also been finalists for the Edgar®, Barry, and Lefty awards. He was the director of NYU’s Casa Italiana before spending fifteen years in Hollywood running international subtitling and visual effects operations. He speaks Italian and French. Jim can be reached through his website or on Twitter @jameswziskin.

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