Crime Fiction

Black Summer by M. W. Craven

By Charles Salzberg

M. W. (Mike) Craven’s latest novel, BLACK SUMMER, the latest in the Washington Poe series, is a wonderfully rich and twisty mystery/thriller that takes place in Cumbria, England, where he lives with his wife, a bookkeeper and a “qualified proofreader,” along with their springer spaniel, Bracken, the real-life inspiration for Poe’s dog, Edgar.

His father, who was a cigarette salesman, died when he was 14, and his mother, a nurse who then became a full-time mother and unfortunately passed away three years before he became a published author. He has two sisters, one an ex-police officer who lives in York, and a theater nurse who lives in Devon.

In this The Big Thrill interview, Craven spends some time discussing his path to publication and the latest installment of his Washington Poe series, BLACK SUMMER.
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Countdown by Matt Phillips  

Welcome to California. Weed is legal. Grow it. Sell it. Smoke it. Eat it. But the money you make off it—there’s the rub. Bank it, and the Feds will ask questions. Keep it around, and you’ll get robbed. LaDon and Jessie—two hustlers who make selling primo weed a regular gig—hire a private security detail to move and hold their money. Ex-soldiers Glanson and Echo target the cash—they start a ripoff business.

It’s the wild, wild West. Except this time, everybody’s high.

With their guns and guts, Glanson and Echo don’t expect much trouble from a mean son-of-a-gun like LaDon Charles. But that’s exactly what they get. In this industry, no matter how much money there is for the taking—and no matter who gets it—there’s always somebody counting backwards…to zero.

Acclaimed pulp writer Matt Phillips spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing COUNTDOWN, his head-spinning take on Southern California’s lucrative and not-quite-regulated marijuana industry.
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Charlie 316 by Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro

Tyler Garrett is a model SWAT officer whose good looks, education and familial status add to that image. The fact that he is a black man in the predominately white Spokane Police Department only adds to the city administration’s pride in one of their own. He’s often pointed to as an example of the department’s best and brightest—a young man on the rise.

One summer evening, Garrett stops a reckless driver. It’s something he’s done a thousand times except this time, gunfire erupts from a nearby house. As Garrett dives for cover, the driver turns and begins shooting as well. Garrett survives the ambush by killing the driver and chasing off the additional shooter.

The legend of Tyler Garrett grows and the community rallies around him.

Until the initial investigation determines the driver was shot in the back and his gun has somehow disappeared. Suddenly, the police department, city hall, and even the national news media are wondering just what happened that night. In a nation where police brutality dominates the headlines, Garrett’s case has suddenly become a flashpoint.

Now, Officer Tyler Garrett must take matters into his own hands. Time is quickly running out for him to find the second shooter and clear his name.

The Big Thrill had the opportunity to sit down with the authors Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro to gain some insight into the process of writing of CHARLIE 316:
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Borrowed Time by Tracy Clark

In Tracy Clark’s electrifying new mystery featuring Cassandra Raines, the former Chicago cop turned private investigator looks into a suspicious death as a favor to a friend—and makes some powerful enemies . . .

Sitting in cold cars for hours, serving lowlifes with summonses…being a PI means riding out a lot of slow patches. But sometimes the most familiar paths can lead straight to danger—like at Cass’s go-to diner, where new delivery guy Jung Byson wants to enlist her expertise. Jung’s friend, Tim Ayers, scion of a wealthy Chicago family, has been found dead, floating in Lake Michigan near his luxury boat. And Jung is convinced there’s a murderer on the loose…

Cass reluctantly begins digging, only to discover that Jung neglected to mention one crucial fact: Tim Ayers was terminally ill. Given the large quantities of alcohol and drugs found in his body, Ayers’ death appears to be either an accident or suicide. Yet as much as Cass would like to dismiss Jung’s suspicions, there are too many unanswered questions and unexplained coincidences.

Why would anyone kill a dying man? Working her connections on both sides of the law, Cass tries to point the police in the right direction. But violence is escalating around her, and Cass’s persistence has already attracted unwanted attention, uncovering sinister secrets that Cass may end up taking to her grave.

The Big Thrill caught up with author Tracy Clark to discuss the second installment of her Cassandra Raines mystery series, BORROWED TIME:
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The Furious Way by Aaron Phillip Clark

Lucy Ramos is out for blood—she needs to kill a man, but she has no clue how. Lucy calls on the help of aged hit-man, Tito Garza—also known as El Perro of Pedro. Garza’s signature method of killing? Using dogs to maul his targets to death. Now, in his golden years, Garza lives a mundane life in San Pedro, a port town south of downtown Los Angeles. With a backpack full of cash, Lucy persuades Garza to help her murder her mother’s killer, Assistant District Attorney Victor Soto. Together, the forgotten hit-man hungry for a comeback and the girl whose life was shattered as a child set out to kill the man responsible.

But killing Victor Soto may prove to be an impossible task. The newly elected assistant district attorney’s wealth and political clout keep him well-insulated. Lucy and Garza’s plan is further complicated when Lucy begins to develop feelings for Victor Soto’s son, Martin. With their romance threatening to derail the mission, Lucy fights to keep Martin out of Garza’s cross-hairs when his violent urges become more unpredictable.

Will Lucy’s feelings for Martin jeopardize everything she’s worked for? Will Garza’s unchecked rage cause innocent people to die? Lucy Ramos and Tito Garza are furious, deadly, and driven by vengeance—but vengeance comes at a price.

Novelist and screenwriter Aaron Phillip Clark took a few minutes to discuss his latest thriller, THE FURIOUS WAY, with The Big Thrill:
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Outcry Witness by Thomas Zigal

When a Catholic priest is found murdered in his New Orleans rectory, the aging pastor who discovers the body calls on his loyal nephew to help conceal evidence that might implicate the dead priest as a child sex offender.

As Father McMurray and his nephew, Peter Moore, become enmeshed in a cover-up that involves the Church hierarchy and an obliging district attorney, the two men grapple with the moral consequences of their participation, which has compromised their integrity and threatens to shatter their faith.

In the course of their own private investigation, Father McMurray and Peter Moore eventually discover who murdered the priest and are confronted by the killer in a chilling finale.

OUTCRY WITNESS provides an insider’s view of how sex abuse crimes have taken place for decades among the Catholic clergy and how innocent lives have been destroyed.

Award-winning author Thomas Zigal spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, OUTCRY WITNESS:
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Love is a Grift by Graham Wynd

One woman, four cities—and a string of bodies in her wake.

How does obsession begin? For one hit man it starts with a target he just can’t kill. She leads him on a crime spree across Europe. With every step he’s in deeper. Each crime binds them together like a vow and only death can part them.

But will it be his—or hers?

Sex, death and crime: the essentials of noir. LOVE IS A GRIFT and the other stories in this volume offer a fresh take on the classic genre that begins with obsession and often ends in death.

The Big Thrill sat down (virtually) with author Graham Wynd to gain some insight into his latest noir compilation, LOVE IS A GRIFT:
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Rose City by Michael Pool

When Cole Quick returns to his estranged hometown of Teller, Texas, for his alcoholic father’s funeral, it doesn’t take long for old debts, both criminal and psychological, to drag him back into the underworld he fled 13 years earlier.

Fresh off the death of his wife, a former local debutante who swore off her inheritance to skip town with him, Cole soon finds trouble from her family on the other side of the tracks as well.

To escape Teller County with his life intact he’ll have to solve an old friend’s murder, resist powerful forces conspiring to pillage his inheritance, and crack open the debutante town’s sterile outer shell to reveal the dark forces of racism, classism, and corruption operating just beneath the surface.

Author Michael Pool was kind enough to spend some time with The Big Thrill discussing his second novel, ROSE CITY:
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Silent Remains by Jerry Kennealy

A nail-biting thriller with a Hitchcock-style MacGuffin.

When SFPD Homicide Inspector Nick Jarnac investigates the murder of a 19-year-old girl missing for 40 years, her skeleton found in the mud of a construction site near the remains of two dozen Miwok Indians who have been in the ground for two centuries, he becomes involved in a bizarre, complex plot that involves a Macau-based Mafia chief, several crooked state and local politicians, a cross-dressing Mongolian hit man, a 77-year-old private eye and his burned out ex-SFPD partner, who is hoping to make one last big haul before leaving the department.

Award-winning author Jerry Kennealy spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest crime thriller, SILENT REMAINS:
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The Maltese Jordans by Seth Harwood

What if Michael Jordan played one secret pickup game in summer 1996 to pay off a debt so big it would get him banned from the NBA for life? What if that game was on a private court in Malta, and Jordan’s parting gift was a jewel-encrusted pair of Jordan 11s for the king, a pair of shoes so special and rare that they could be worth millions—if they exist?

Follow Jack Palms on a hunt from San Francisco to Hawaii and back across the country as he tracks the man who knows the truth about these shoes, a felon who just skipped bond to chase his dream—and the mythical pair of sneakers that can only go by one name.

The Big Thrill caught up to Seth Harwood to discuss his latest novel, THE MALTESE JORDANS:
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The Lonely Grave by Keith Dixon

Student Alistair Minton is missing, and his parents want Sam Dyke to find him. He does … but then learns that the reason Alistair went missing goes back to when he was five years old, to an event that his parents, Carol and Giles, have been hiding both from others and from themselves.

Dyke uncovers two murders separated by 15 years but connected by the same moral blindness and willingness to lie and act as though the ends always justify the means.

Writing in the spirit of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, THE LONELY GRAVE examines how damaged families can perpetuate the hurt and the shame experienced by one generation into the next, with results that are damaging to all.

Keith Dixon is a two-time first-place winner, private eye/noir category, in Chanticleer Reviews’ CLUE Awards for crime writing.

Dixon had a chance to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the ninth installment of the Sam Dyke Investigations series, THE LONELY GRAVE:
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Bridge to Burn by Rachel Amphlett

When a mummified body is discovered in a renovated building, the gruesome discovery leads Detective Kay Hunter and her team into a complex murder investigation.

The subsequent police inquiry exposes corruption, lies, and organized crime within the tight-knit community—and Kay’s determination to seek justice for the young murder victim could ruin the reputations of men who will do anything to protect their business interests.

But as Kay closes in on the killer, tragedy strikes closer to home in an event that will send a shockwave through her personal life and make her question everything she values.

Can Kay keep her private and professional life under control while she tries to unravel one of the strangest murder cases of her career?

The Big Thrill caught up with Rachel Amphlett to discuss the creation of her seventh book in her Kay Hunter British detective murder mystery series, BRIDGE TO BURN:
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Where Angels Fear by D. K. Hood

As she opened her eyes and took in her surroundings, a feeling of terror ran through her weakened body. She knew exactly where she was. And she knew exactly what was about to happen to her…

When Ella Tate stumbles into Black Rock Falls, her exhausted and bloodied body is a terrifying sight, but not as frightening as the story she has to tell. Ambushed on their way into town when they stopped to help a man by the side of the road, Ella and her friend, Sky, ran when he pulled a knife on them. But only one of them got away.

As Detective Jenna Alton investigates the case, she looks into the history of missing persons in the town, and uncovers more cases—all young people. All stopped on the same stretch of road into town. All vanished without a trace.

When a distinctive pink sweater belonging to Sky turns up in Black Rock Falls, Jenna follows the trail to a derelict building on the outskirts of town. But she isn’t prepared for what lies behind those doors. Can she stop the killer before more lives are lost?

USA Today bestselling author D. H. Hood spoke with The Big Thrill about her latest thriller, WHERE ANGELS FEAR:
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Guillotine by Paul Heatley

By Tim O’Mara

So, Quentin Tarantino and Patricia Highsmith walk into a bar. They hit it off, play a little pool, some darts are tossed, they argue over the best rock-and-roll song to play while killing an innocent victim. After one too many drinks, they decide they should write a crime novel together.

The result would be something along the lines of Paul Heatley’s GUILLOTINE, out now from Down & Out Books/All Due Respect.

When gangster Big Bobby Joe’s pregnant daughter Lou-Lou runs off with her boyfriend, Big Bobby pulls out all the stops to get her home and make her boyfriend dead. His first choice for the job is Mikey, known in the murder-for-hire profession as “Guillotine.” When Mikey turns the job down, an underling of Bobby Joe’s picks it up successfully, but makes the huge mistake of using the signature move that gave Mikey his moniker.

Chaos ensues.

Heatley lives in northeast England, but sets his story somewhere in the American South. I asked him why and wondered if he thought there was a difference between American crime fiction and British crime fiction.

“I do write British stuff as well,” Heatley explained, “primarily set in the northeast of England—Newcastle and Northumberland, etc.—but my tastes in reading (and viewing for that matter) are very much American. It’s what I enjoy and that bleeds over into my own work when I set out planning and writing. When I start a new project I give it a little thought first: is this British or American? I go with whichever setting will work best for the story.”
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Hipster Death Rattle by Richie Narvaez

Murder is trending…

Hipsters are getting slashed to pieces in the hippest neighborhood in New York City: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As fear and tension rise in the summer heat, police detectives Petrosino and Massoud eye local gangbangers for the crimes.

Meanwhile, slacker reporter Tony Moran and his ex-girlfriend Magaly Fernandez, pursue a cold case involving an old woman who mysteriously disappeared a year before. But the closer they all get to the truth, the closer they get to losing their heads.

Filled with a broad cast of local characters and told with sardonic wit, this fast-moving, intricately plotted story plays out against a backdrop of rapid gentrification, skyrocketing rents, and class tension, written like only a true native could.

Award-winning author Richie Narvaez took some time to discuss his debut novel HIPSTER DEATH RATTLE with The Big Thrill:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope they have an enjoyable experience and maybe end up thinking about serious issues like gentrification and/or they get up and go to the fridge for a beer, chuckle and say, “Hey, that wasn’t too bad.”

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

HIPSTER DEATH RATTLE plays with familiar tropes but adds a widely diverse cast of characters not usually present in crime fiction. Also, now there will be a deluge of books with “hipster” in the title, such as Gone Hipster, The Hipster with a Dragon Tattoo, and Hipster on the Train.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

How supportive my friends are of my writing. I thought it was an incredibly selfish imposition to ask them to beta read my drafts, and I was shy about it, but some of them were asking me if they could help me out. It was very touching, and I owe a lot of drinks.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

That there is a reference to an episode of the Rod Serling TV show Night Gallery that is spot on metaphorically.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

When I was writing this, I have to say Philip Kerr, whose Bernie Gunther novels I absolutely love. The way Kerr develops character and place is inspirational. He passed away last year, and it’s a great loss that we won’t have any new Bernie Gunther books. I got to meet Kerr once, by the way, and he was thoroughly unimpressed with me.

*****

Richie Narvaez was born and raised in Brooklyn. His work has been published in Latin@ Rising: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Long Island Noir, Mississippi Review, Murdaland, Pilgrimage, and Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, among others. His first book of short stories, Roachkiller and Other Stories, received the Spinetingler Award for Best Anthology. Hipster Death Rattle is his debut novel.

To learn more about Richie, please visit his website.

 

 
 

Lizzie’s Lullaby by Lono Waiwaiole

By P. J. Bodnar

After spending some time in prison, Leon returns home to Portland—and all his old tricks. He attempts to move in on a sports book operation to make some money, but when Leon’s goddaughter goes missing, he takes matters into his own hands to get her back—and will use any means he can.

Author Lono Waiwaiole might be the only half-Hawaiian writer of noir crime fiction in the world. In his fifth book, LIZZIE’S LULLABY, Waiwaiole gives a glimpse into the past of his characters, Wiley and Leon, from his successful Wiley series.

Writing full-time from his adopted home of Portland, Waiwaiole took a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for The Big Thrill.

In LIZZIE’S LULLABY, good attempts to conquer evil. Is it possible to combat evil without lowering yourself to that level, or is it better to have someone willing to get a little dirty?

Very interesting question, but not one these characters would ever ask. I don’t think they think in terms of good or evil. Wiley and Leon don’t appear to have anything against “evil” in general; they only spring into action against the villains when they are under attack. In that mode, they don’t really have a filter on what they’ll do in response—this is determined wholly by what works and doesn’t work, and they are fine with wherever that takes them. So in the context of Lizzie’s abduction, this means they will do literally whatever it takes to get her back safely, and would not consider whatever was required “dirty” in any way. Yes, Wiley is fortunate to have someone like Leon around, but not because Leon is willing to do more—it’s because Leon is capable of doing more than Wiley can. He has more tools in his toolbox for this kind of work than Wiley has.
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Unleashed by Jacob Stone

By Azam Gill    

There’s a new demon unleashed in the City of Angels—The Cupid Killer targets couples in love, mercilessly torturing women before murdering them. Then, he forces the men to watch before leaving them beaten and broken—but alive—and wishing them “an especially wonderful day.”

The surviving male victims have all identified the killer’s snarling wolf tattoo.

L.A. detective Morris Brick is on the case—though he’s never hunted a psycho who’s taken such sadistic pleasure in destroying people’s lives before. He knows he’s on the trail of a brutal predator who’s taunting him, but he doesn’t realize the danger is much closer to home than he imagines…

UNLEASHED is the fifth book in the Morris Brick thriller series by Jacob Stone—Dave Zeltserman’s pseudonym. His other fifteen thrillers are under his real name.

Prolificacy being the child of talent and perseverance, it took Stone 11 years to sell Fast Lane, his first novel, finished in 1992. His big break came with Small Crimes and Outsourced in 2008.

The books triggered a starburst of recognition—movie rights, translations, and spots on the Best Books of the Year lists from The Washington Post, NPR, Booklist, American Library Association, and WBUR. He’s been crowned with the Shamus, Derringer, and two Ellery Queen Readers awards. Four of his books have been optioned for films.

In his enthusiastic review, Jeffery Deaver spotlights Stone’s rare quality of being able to work the binary nature of evil into a single tale, integrating a moral statement without challenging societal values. It is at this epicenter that thriller literature distinguishes itself from other genres which can bore readers to a standstill or test their stamina to slog.
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Last Night by Karen Ellis

Titus “Crisp” Crespo, Princeton-bound valedictorian and self-proclaimed nerd, avoids risky situations at all costs. Glynnie Dreyfus, solid C-student and self-proclaimed screw-up, can talk—or buy—her way out of almost any difficulty she lands in. They aren’t exactly friends, but when a negative encounter with the NYPD threatens to unravel all of Crisp’s achievements, he figures it can’t get worse if he tags along with rich, white Glynnie to visit her weed dealer…near his absentee father’s old stomping grounds.

Now they’re both missing.

In the middle of the night, near the blinking lights of Coney Island, Crisp’s mother begs Detective Lex Cole to find her son; a few miles away in a  brownstone in upscale Boerum Hill, Glynnie’s parents summon Detective Saki Finley to bring home their wayward daughter. When it emerges that the teenagers were last seen together, the two detectives combine forces to retrace their path through a dangerous maze of housing projects, abandoned warehouses, and drug dens.

Brilliant storyteller Karen Ellis deftly alternates between the teens’ misadventures and the detectives’ investigations, ratcheting up the tension as the hours tick by. The police, we see, aren’t the only ones scrambling to catch up to Glynnie and Crisp … and their futures will look very different depending on who finds them first.

Author Karen Ellis spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the second installment in the Searchers series, LAST NIGHT:
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Once a Liar by A. F. Brady

Did he kill Charlie Doyle? And if he didn’t…who did?

Peter Caine, a cutthroat Manhattan defense attorney, worked ruthlessly to become the best at his job. On the surface, he is charming and handsome, but inside he is cold and heartless. He fights without remorse to acquit murderers, pedophiles and rapists.

When Charlie Doyle, the daughter of the Manhattan DA—and Peter’s former lover—is murdered, Peter’s world is quickly sent into a tailspin. He becomes the prime suspect as the DA, a professional enemy of Peter’s, embarks on a witch hunt to avenge his daughter’s death, stopping at nothing to ensure Peter is found guilty of the murder.

In the challenge of his career and his life, Peter races against the clock to prove his innocence. As the evidence mounts against him, he’s forced to begin unraveling his own dark web of lies and confront the sins of his past. But the truth of who killed Charlie Doyle is more twisted and sinister than anyone could have imagined…

The Big Thrill caught up to A. F. Brady to gain some insight into her second thriller, ONCE A LIAR:
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My Darkest Prayer by S. A. Cosby

Whether it’s working at his cousin’s funeral home or tossing around the local riff raff at his favorite bar, Nathan Waymaker is a man who knows how to handle the bodies. A former marine and sheriff’s deputy, Nathan has built a reputation in his small Southern town as a man who can help when all other avenues have been exhausted. When a local minister with grandiose ambitions is found dead, Nathan is approached by his parishioners, who feel the local police are dragging their feet with the investigation. What starts out as an easy payday soon descends into a maze of mayhem filled with wannabe gangsters, vicious crime lords, porn stars, crooked police officers and a particularly treacherous preacher and his mysterious wife. Nathan must use all his varied skills and some of his wit to navigate the murky waters of small town corruption even as dark secrets of his own threaten to come to the surface.

Author S. A. Cosby stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, MY DARKEST PRAYER:
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Trigger by David Swinson

By Tim O´Mara

The inciting incident of TRIGGER, David Swinson’s third novel featuring ex-cop-turned-private investigator Frank Marr, is, as they say on television, “ripped from today’s headlines.” Frank’s ex-partner and best friend, Al Luna, has been involved in a shooting that leaves a young black man dead. Al swears the kid had a gun, but none was found at the scene. Frank leaves no piece of concrete or Dumpster unturned in his search for the truth and to prove the shooting was justified.

Swinson, himself retired from the DC police force, spent 16 years—12 as a detective—on the streets of the nation’s capital. He knows from where he writes.

“Listen, terrible mistakes happen with police,” he says. “Some of them are justified, some are criminal. But no cop has ever gotten out of bed in the morning and put on their uniform and gun thinking, ‘I’m gonna shoot someone today.’ And keep in mind, cop-related shootings have not gone up over the years. What’s changed is the widespread use of smartphones. So much of what happens these days is caught on video.”

Swinson says he took on the controversial topic because he wanted the reader to look at the situation from both sides—“not just the cop side”—and to see the realities of each perspective.  “My goal was to be sympathetic and honest to both sides,” he says. “A tragedy like this never has an ending; there is a lot of area in between, a lot of gray. The Al Luna shooting is my way of showing that good cops can get involved in bad situations.”

As Frank is busy trying to redeem Al’s reputation, another type of redemption plays out in TRIGGER, thanks to the return of a memorable character from the first Frank Marr novel, The Second Girl. Returning for another shot at life is Playboy, a.k.a. Calvin Tolson. The first time we met Playboy, Marr tried to kill him and Playboy ended up locked in the trunk of a car.
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Hell Chose Me by Angel Luis Colón

By Dan Levy

Angel Luis Colón loves stories. Whether it’s through his blog, his podcast (the bastard title), his award-winning short stories, or his Blacky Jaguar novella series, Colón has a unique ability to see inside a story and shepherd it into the best venue to bring it to life. This month, Colón will bring a new story to life in HELL CHOSE ME, about a hitman’s quest to avenge the death of his brother. Colón’s first published novel came to be because he felt the story demanded it, but it also opens a new avenue for him to keep telling the stories he loves.

“This genre lets me entertain people,” he says. “Nothing in the world feels better than when I know I’ve entertained someone.”

The Big Thrill caught up with Colón to shed some light on the pitch-black contours of his debut novel.
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Ten-Seven by Dana King

By Cathy Perkins

There’s a lot going on in TEN-SEVEN, the latest installment in Dana King’s Penns River series. A murder at the local casino is only one challenge facing Detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty and his colleagues. Secrets and politics, both internal and external, complicate matters for the police, while Pittsburgh mob boss Mike Mannarino faces a different kind of pressure from the guys in New York. As King puts it, “It’s another week in the town of Penns River, with distractions that range from petty vandalism to a bridge jumper keeping the cops’ full attention away from the critical task at hand.”

The Big Thrill caught up with King during the flurry of the holidays to talk about TEN-SEVEN, the fourth novel set in the struggling Rust Belt town. King, who grew up in a series of small towns in western Pennsylvania, explained that Penns River is actually an amalgam of three small cities about 20 miles up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. He pulled in elements of “his” small towns to create Doc’s fictional hometown, a city whose fortunes are inescapably tied to Pittsburgh’s flagging steel industry.

It’s hard to say what’s most striking about Penns River: the people, the setting, or the town’s “edge city” dynamic. For King, it’s a combination of all three factors.

“What appeals to me most is how the three are inextricably related,” he says. “The people are shaped by the situation and they in turn make changes to the town that alter the situation—could be for the better, could be for the worse.”
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Alive in the Rose City by R. Barri Flowers

By Basil Sands

From the mind of bestselling writer and criminologist R. Barri Flowers, author of the Dean Drake hardboiled mystery Dead in the Rose City, comes the much-anticipated sequel, ALIVE IN THE ROSE CITY.

Dean Jeremy Drake, a six-foot-five Jamaican-Italian-American private eye nicknamed D. J., is once again up to his neck in danger, deception, and murder in 1990s Portland, Oregon. Packing a .40 caliber Glock, sharp detective skills, raw nerve, and gut instincts, Drake follows the clues wherever they lead, never giving up until he solves the case.

Flowers recently set aside some time to chat with The Big Thrill about creating his hardboiled hero, the demands of writing across multiple genres, and, of course, the Hardy Boys.

What inspired the character of Dean Drake?

All the wonderful, hardboiled, and hardnosed private detectives I grew up reading or watching in movies and television. I wanted a protagonist who was tough as nails, charming when he wanted to be, and able and willing to see any case to its end.

It’s been fun watching him take shape as a character, turning Portland into his own as he goes after bad guys and helps the good guys.
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All the Way Down by Eric Beetner

By P. J.  Bodnar

In a city where corruption is the norm and the drug kingpin is untouchable, the pull can sometimes be easy for hardworking street cops. In Eric Beetner’s ALL THE WAY DOWN, small mistakes quickly turn into real crimes for Detective Dale Burnett—until he gets in too deep to walk away.

Now, when the mayor’s daughter is kidnapped, Burnett is faced with a life-altering decision…suicide mission to save the girl, or life in prison as a crooked cop? Burnett chooses to risk everything for a chance at redemption—or at least death on his own terms.

With a career that includes more than 20 novels, Crime Fiction Lover calls Beetner the “hardest working man in noir.” Here, he takes time out of his busy schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about his latest release, ALL THE WAY DOWN.

ALL THE WAY DOWN is a story of redemption. In your opinion, is redemption only possible if you have to give up everything to get it? 

I think we all seek redemption in small ways, quite often in one-on-one relationships. In those cases, I don’t think you need to give up anything, maybe a little ground in your argument or a little of your pride. But if you’re talking fiction, especially thriller fiction, I know I want to see characters who have to lose it all, or nearly so. And sometimes it’s an inverse equation: the amount you need to give up is directly related to how badly you screwed up and how far back your road to redemption runs.
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Game Piece by Alan Brenham

Detective Barry Marshall hunts for a hardened serial killer with the ultimate endgame, one intended to strip Marshall of everything he holds dear—his career, his wife, and his reputation. Unbeknownst to Marshall, the killer had dated his wife years ago. Seeing Marshall with her, the killer is pushed over the edge. He wants to punish Marshall for stealing his beloved by playing a cat-and-mouse game of murder. As the body count rises, Marshall is forced to face his worst nightmare.

The Big Thrill caught up to author Alan Brenham and had a chance to discuss his latest thriller, GAME PIECE:
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The One that Got Away by Joe Clifford

In the early 2000s, a string of abductions rocked the small upstate town of Reine, New York. Only one girl survived: Alex Salerno. The killer was sent away. Life returned to normal. No more girls would have to die. Until another one did.

It’s been 12 years since Kira Shanks was reported missing and presumed dead. Alex Salerno has been living in New York City, piece-mealing a livable wage, trying to forget those three days locked underground and her affair with the married detective who rescued her. When a hometown reporter requests an interview, Alex is drawn back into a dangerous game of show and tell in an insular town where everyone has a secret to hide. As details emerge about the night Kira Shanks went missing, Alex learns why so many are willing to kill to protect it. Can Alex Salerno escape the noose once more in time to reveal the horrific truth?

In the modern vein of Girl on the Train and The Bone Collector, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is a dark psychological thriller featuring a compelling, conflicted heroine and a page-turning narrative that races toward its final, shocking conclusion.

Author Joe Clifford spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY:
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Rotten Peaches by Lisa de Nikolits

ROTTEN PEACHES is a gripping epic filled with disturbing and unforgettable insights into the human condition. Love, lust, race and greed. How far will you go? Two women. Two men. One happy ending. It takes place in Canada, the U.S., and South Africa. Nature or nurture. South Africa, racism, and old prejudices — these are hardly old topics but what happens when biological half-siblings meet with insidious intentions?

Can their moral corruption be blamed on genetics — were they born rotten to begin with?

And what happens when they meet up with more of their ilk?

What further havoc can be wreaked, with devastating familial consequences?

The Big Thrill spent some time with award-winning author Lisa de Nikolits discussing her latest thriller, ROTTEN PEACHES:
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Gravy Train by Tess Makovesky

By Tim O’Mara

When asked to do an interview for The Big Thrill, I always say yes. Typically, I get a copy of the book, find a comfy place to read, and break out my notebook. While reading Tess Makovesky’s GRAVY TRAIN, I had so much fun, I never took a single note—that’s never happened to me before.

The story centers on Sandra, a barmaid who learns details of a betting scam that nets her and her husband a cool 80 thousand pounds. Crime pays, it would seem. Except they don’t anticipate the mugger waiting for them outside the betting shop, or the chaos that ensues.

Since Makovesky resides on the other side “of the pond,” our conversation about GRAVY TRAIN was conducted over the Internet—even that was fun, as you’ll see in the below interview.

One of the most interesting things about GRAVY TRAIN is how all of Sandra’s scenes—and only hers—are in the present tense. What led to that choice?

It just seemed to work out like that. I wanted to do chapters from several different characters’ points of view and was looking for ways to make them sound different enough that the readers could tell pretty much who was “talking” in each chapter. For example, crime boss Ball is a bit prissy, Todd-the-chauffeur swears a lot. It just seemed to happen that Sandra’s chapters ended up in present tense. Given that in many ways she’s the main character in GRAVY TRAIN, it adds to the immediacy of her scenes.

It’s something I used sparingly in my previous book, Raise the Blade, and that gave me the courage to try it in slightly longer passages here.
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Harbinger by Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky

By P. J. Bodnar

Set off the Gulf Coast of Florida, on the sleepy little island of Sanibel, HARBINGER is anything but sleepy. The storyline takes the reader to the origins of Frank Zafiro and Jim Wilsky’s character, Ania.

As they have throughout the series, the authors each voice one of the two main characters—lifelong friends Boyd Tomlin and Hicks Ledoux. Boyd is a straight shooter and the brains of the business. Hicks is the laid back and carefree one, who is always the life of the party. Boyd and Hicks own the Harbinger, a charter fishing boat passed down to them from their fathers.

When times get tough, Boyd and Hicks have to make some questionable decisions that put a strain on everything except their friendship. But when they meet sisters Ania and Karolyn, everything for them changes.

HARBINGER is the prequel to Zafiro and Wilsky’s Ania Series, which includes Blood on Blood, Queen of Diamonds, and Closing the Circle. The duo is also working together on a novella anthology, A Grifter’s Song, with several other authors.

Zafiro and Wilsky took time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions for The Big Thrill:
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