Danny Gardner first made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. So, what’s he doing scribing dark, gritty tales of crime in 1950s Chicago? Turns out the author of A NEGRO AND AN OFAY has also toiled in scriptwriting, acting, and directing—a real Renaissance Man of the literary arts.
“When you take them separately, it seems like a lot,” he says. “But be it stand-up, or screenwriting, or acting, it all comes from my deep, spiritual love for words. First, comedy and acting gave me a career and, eventually, a small place in pop-culture. Now that I’m a published novelist, it’s the ultimate expression of that love. I’m always going to write, be it the next Elliot Caprice novel, or just doing improv on stage for ten minutes. That’s who I am. That’s how I love myself the most.”
In addition to his comedy bits, Gardner is a frequent reader at “Noir at the Bar” events nationwide, and blogs regularly at 7 Criminal Minds.
Fortunately, the transition from the stage to the keyboard wasn’t hard.
“Once I gave myself a chance, I realized my talent was suited for long-form writing,” Gardner says. “I’ve found the proper outlet for my creative desires. I could finally stop cramming all the world building and multiple points of view into screenplays and comedy bits.”
In this interview with The Big Thrill, Gardner shares details about A NEGRO AND AN OFAY, its genesis, and his story of success.
By Karen Harper
I learned a lot interviewing Dana King, since he writes books that are more hard boiled than mine, but I also learned we have a lot in common. We are both drawn to small town settings where the enemy is often us—someone we know—and life is definitely not glitz and glamor. His unique career background has prepared him well for writing both long and short fiction.
Read on to learn more about his new thriller, RESURRECTION MALL.
Please tell us what your book is about.
RESURRECTION MALL is the story of a town fallen on hard times. Various solutions promise grand results, but the profits always go to a select few pockets. There seems to be no downside to a televangelist’s efforts to rebuild an abandoned shopping center into a mall that caters to religious-themed businesses, with his new church and TV studio serving as the anchors. The problem is that low-profit enterprises not only have trouble raising seed money, they often can’t afford to do the research needed to fully understand why no one else has found a good use for this location. The book is about what happens when an event totally unrelated to the mall’s construction might bring down the entire project.
Is the setting of Penns River based on a place you know or, if not, how does it work well for your story?
I grew up in Penns River. Well, the three small towns near Pittsburgh that make up my Penns River. I was struck one day about how big cities have always been well represented in crime fiction, and now writers like Daniel Woodrell are giving voice to more rural areas, but I couldn’t think of anyone writing about the problems of the towns that bridge the two, and what happens when industry leaves and never comes back to a place that lacks the population density to attract new businesses. Pittsburgh reinvented itself as a center for medicine, education, and finance, but that prosperity never seems to make it up the Allegheny River.
You have a varied career background as musician, school teacher, and systems analyst. Have any of these pursuits contributed to your writing?
Teaching has to some extent. I taught in a high school close to the border between Washington, DC and Hyattsville, MD that was 80 per cent minority. I grew up in a working class small town that had no more than half a dozen black kids out of 900 in my high school. Teaching those couple of years developed my sense of empathy, and showed how similar most people are despite superficial differences. It’s been a great help with my characters.
More than that, though, is the musical background. Besides exposing me to things and people I never would have been aware of, it developed my ear. Not only is that essential for good dialogue, but it allows me to know if I’m capturing the voice I’m looking for. There are times when I’ll replace a word the dictionary says would be more appropriate because the one I chose sounds better.
Your excellent reviews and websites describe your work as mystery and thriller. Do these two terms fit only certain of your novels, or are these book genres reflected in each of your books, especially RESURRECTION MALL?
I can’t say there’s a lot of mystery in my books. Even in my private eye novels, where the reader learns the clues as Nick Forte discovers them, Forte often solves the mystery well before the end of the book. After that it’s a matter of finding out what he’s going to do about it.
RESURRECTION MALL has a similar element. The cops have a pretty good idea who they’re looking for less than halfway through the book. The suspense lies in seeing what they can do about it, and how timely they’ll be.
There are certainly elements of noir in RESURRECTION MALL—I doubt anyone would describe the ending as happy—but I don’t really think of myself as a noir writer. I know people who disagree, so I could be wrong. To me, true noir has a bad outcome for the protagonist. Most of my stuff has a bittersweet ending for the main character, so I think of it as noir-ish. (Or gris, as my Francophile daughter and I decided one day.) My writing style is clipped and hard-boiled, which lends itself to noir, which may be what some are picking up on.
Speaking of the fascinating concept of a “religious themed mall,” did a particular place inspire that idea? I’m thinking of Kentucky’s Creation Museum or the Holyland Experience outside Orlando.
I first got the idea to “resurrect” a mall when I lived near Chicago and occasionally drove past the abandoned Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL, where they filmed the great chase scene in The Blues Brothers. The idea of something left for dead like that combined with the evangelical Christian concept of being born again, then placing the entire operation in an impoverished location, appealed to me.
As well as novels (including a Shamus Award), you have also written highly-praised short fiction. Do you prefer one format or the other? What (other than writing time) are the pros and cons for you of these different forms?
Sorry to disagree, but I have to set the record straight: I haven’t won any Shamuses. I have been nominated twice, each of which was a great thrill. I believe that P.I. fiction done well is the highest form of crime writing, so to have a group like the Private Eye Writers of America think that highly of my work is beyond flattering.
To your question, short stories are much harder for me. They’re in an area between writing a flash piece—which I enjoy—and a novel, which I love. The problem with short stories is that if I like a mix of idea, characters, and location enough to write five thousand words, my mind naturally keeps thinking of what happens next and pretty soon I’m outlining a novel. That’s not a problem for a flash piece, because of the natural limitations in scope of a story of fewer than a thousand words.
I find myself needing to write more short stories of late, and I have to confess, about half of them are either flash pieces that lent themselves well to expansion, or bits excised from novels that stand alone well. Even then I write on the short side for almost all my stories, around 1,500 to 2,000 words, or about the length of an average chapter in one of my novels.
You are also adept at writing a series, something I find more challenging than single title books. Are continuing characters a challenge for you or a boon, as in your Nick Forte series?
A boon, absolutely. No question. I constantly find myself watching TV or a movie and wondering, “What would Nick do here? What would Doc do?” It even happens when I’m out places. Say I’m meeting someone in a deli and I’m there first. (Which I almost always am. I’m pathologically punctual.) If I forgot to bring a book I’ll kill the time casing the joint, trying to look at it as one of my characters might.
I enjoy being in the characters’ worlds so much I crossed the two series over and brought Nick Forte to Penns River as a “guest star” in Grind Joint. I had a need for a character just like him and decided he was actually first cousins with Ben Dougherty and grew up in Penns River. It was great fun to write him in the third person to show how other people viewed him.
You have a great blog on how well the classic TV series NYPD Blue holds up over time. Why does that series still work for you, even though, as you say, the police methods are dated? Any current “cop shows” that pass your muster?
NYPD Blue holds up so well for three critical reasons. As I said in the blog, the execution is almost flawless. That goes a long way toward carrying off anything else that might show a little age.
Second is the situations the characters find themselves in. The show is largely about cops’ perspectives on interpersonal dynamics that have been true probably since before language developed. This is why shows like The Honeymooners and All in the Family are still popular. They’re about people, and people as a species don’t change that much.
From the cop angle the show continues to work because, for all the cool CSI stuff we see now, cases are still broken using much the same techniques cops use on the show: paying attention and talking to people. Fibers and DNA may seal a conviction, but someone has to catch the bad guy first. One of my proudest moments as a writer came on a Bouchercon panel a couple of years ago when Jim Born, a retired cop and that day’s moderator, inserted a comment when I gave that answer to a question, saying, “Listen to that. He’s absolutely right.” Made my day.
As for current cop shows, I have to confess that I don’t watch any. That’s not to rip them. I just don’t have time. The little bit of television I watch is spent on things that have already passed muster, either revisiting favorites of mine (The Wire, The Shield, Justified) or something else that people I trust keep telling me I really, really, really, need to see. Which is how I came to “discover” NYPD Blue a mere 22 years after it first aired.
As a busy writer, can you give other authors advice on how to balance writing time with “real life?” Any hints of getting the words on the page?
I can, but it probably won’t help. It’s a matter of butt in seat, fingers on keys. Some days are better than others, but get something done every day, even if it stinks. That’s what rewriting is for. I do five or six drafts of each book, so bad days don’t concern me that much. My idea is I won’t have bad days every time I work this section. Over time I’ll get it where I want it.
I also have two advantages a lot of writers don’t. I’m a classically trained musician and played professionally well into my thirties. Musicians are used to spending hours a day locked in small rooms practicing. The primary difference is that writing is creative and playing music is interpretive. Both activities cut you off from outside contact, so you need to be comfortable with it.
The other advantage I had, and have, is that by the time I got serious about writing I had no small children around the house. That’s not a rap on children. If my daughter were little and around when I started out as a writer, damn right I’d spend the time with her. Kids are always more important. I’ll never criticize those who can’t find time to write because they’re doing things with their kids. My luxury has been in never having to choose.
Dana King has two Shamus Award nominations, for A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window. His Penns River series of police procedurals includes Worst Enemies and Grind Joint, which Woody Haut, writing for the L.A. Review of Books, cited as one of the fifteen best noir reads of 2013. A short story, “Green Gables,” appeared in the anthology Blood, Guts, and Whiskey, edited by Todd Robinson. Other short fiction has appeared in Spinetingler, New Mystery Reader, A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, and Powder Burn Flash.
To learn more about Dana, please visit his blog, One Bite at a Time. He lives in quiet near seclusion with The Beloved Spouse.
In 1946 Archeologist and former SOE operative Duncan Forrester returns to his wartime haunts in Greece to retrieve an inscription which may be the key to Minoan civilisation. But Greece is on the verge of civil war, and when a Greek poet is murdered, Forrester finds himself in the middle of a clash between communism and democracy, on a mysterious Aegean island haunted by a mythical past.
THE AGE OF OLYMPUS author, Gavin Scott, recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his novel:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will take away not just the satisfaction of a mystery solved, but the feeling that they’ve actually spent time in the Greece and Crete of 1946 and magical Aegean islands in the era before mass tourism, exploring Crusader Castles and ruined temples and hidden coves where the ghosts of ancient gods still linger.
Shayna Billups left Tommy Ruzzo and Seatown, Florida in smoking ruins before escaping to New Orleans. She’s slinging rum drinks at a pirate-themed dive bar when a treasure map grabs her attention. All alone and thirsting for adventure, Shayna follows the clues to North Carolina where she assembles a band of drug-dealing pirates to wage war on a murderous mayor and his blood-thirsty biker gang.
As the bodies pile up, Shayna wonders if Ruzzo will find her before she ends up in Davy Jones’ Locker.
Author S. W. Lauden recently took some time to discuss CROSSED BONES with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I’ve heard it said that “love can make people do crazy things.” I’ve also been told that “life will take you funny places if you let it.” This book tests Tommy Ruzzo’s devotion to Shayna Billups, and the results are a bloody mess.
By Dan Levy
Except for a brief stint when he wanted to become a real-life Indiana Jones, J. T. Brannan knew he was going to be a writer early in life. Though a whip and fedora have never been required equipment for Brannan’s varied careers, his resume paints a picture of someone who is predisposed to that level of adventure. It’s hard to believe that someone who is a former national karate champion and nightclub bouncer, and who now serves as a martial arts instructor and member of the British Army Reserves, has the temperament to sit down and write fourteen novels.
But he does, and did. For his fifteenth publication, RED MOON RISING, ITW wanted to learn more.
What started you writing and what keeps your writing today?
I’ve wanted to write for a living since I was about six years old. The motivation is still the same: it is an outlet for my imagination, influenced by a steady diet of books.
An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don’t pay.
When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child—who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier—it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely-worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver’s terrifying criminal underworld.
It all goes downhill from there.
Jack Murphy knows a setup when he sees one. Proving it makes his day. Especially when it involves his own partner. Lured into a trap, Evansville P.D. Detective Liddell Blanchard is accused of murdering a cop who was investigating a shadowy voodoo cult. Justice is murky enough in the swamplands of Louisiana, but when a purported descendent of Marie Leveaux menaces a murder investigation, the gumbo really hits the fan. Corruption comes with the territory. But there are darker forces at play—and only Murphy can see the light.
Author Rick Reed spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, THE DARKEST NIGHT:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
There is a connection between police partners that equal that of a marriage. My series explores the bounds of those connections and lets the reader decide for themselves just how they would react and how far they would go to protect their partner or loved ones. Readers of my books enjoy the camaraderie of my usual characters—Jack Murphy, Liddell Blanchard (aka/Bigfoot), Deputy Chief Richard Dick (Double Dick), and Little Casket (coroner), to name a few.
THE DARKEST NIGHT is my attempt to develop Liddell Blanchard to allow readers to have a glimpse into his past (and what lies in store for him).
Former Texas Ranger Arlo Baines didn’t come to the tiny West Texas town of Piedra Springs to cause trouble. After his wife and children were murdered, Arlo just wants to be left alone. Moving from place to place seems to be the only thing that eases the pain of his family’s violent end.
But a chance encounter outside a bar forces him to rescue a terrified woman and her children from mysterious attackers. When the woman turns up murdered the next day—her children missing—Arlo becomes the primary suspect in exactly the same type of crime he is trying desperately to forget.
Haunted by the fate of his family, and with the police questioning the existence of the dead woman’s children, Arlo decides it’s his duty to find them. The question is, just how deep will he have to sink into the dusty secrets of Piedra Springs to save them and clear his name?
The Big Thrill caught up with author Harry Hunsicker to discuss his latest novel, THE DEVIL’S COUNTRY:
In a series of brutal murders, three young women have been killed on the subway, and panic spreads through the transit system. To make matters worse, one of the investigating detectives is considered a suspect. Detective Inspector Ian McBriar and his team need to track down the real killer before more lives are lost. The one thread that links the deaths together is a thin one, and the only thing the murders have in common is something that makes no sense. This may be Ian’s last case: ghosts from his past, and a chance for a better future, could change his life.
DEATH NEVER LETS GO is the fourth exciting instalment in the Ian McBriar Murder Mystery series, set in Toronto in 1975, the story of a Metis police detective who conquered bigotry, prejudice, and his own personal tragedies to succeed.
Author Maura Azzano took some time to discuss her latest novel, DEATH NEVER LETS GO, with The Big Thrill:
Christmas Day, 1796, on Romney Marsh. Two servants, foraging at New Hall for firewood on a freezing afternoon, discover an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of the horse pond. It falls to Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate.
At first, with the victim’s identity unknown, no murder weapon and no suspects, the task seems hopeless. But as the winter days pass, Rev Hardcastle and Mrs Amelia Chaytor slowly begin to unravel the case—and find more than they bargained for. The body leads them to an American family torn apart by war and intent on reclaiming their ancestral home, and to a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes. Ancient loyalties and new vengeance all add up to mystery, intrigue and danger, and an explosive climax.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss A. J. Mackenzie’s latest thriller, THE BODY IN THE ICE:
Armand Rosamilia has a lot going on in his head. At any given moment, he could be writing a crime thriller, a zombie novel, an over-the-top humor book, or a paranormal thriller. With more than 150 stories published—from shorts to novellas to novels—the only time he’s not writing is when he’s sleeping.
“I keep it all in my head,” the New Jersey boy and Florida transplant says. “I usually write three to five projects at once. I’m not sure how I do it. I just do it. “
Rosamilia’s latest, DIRTY DEEDS 3, continues a crime thriller series starring main character James Gaffney. This time around he’s called upon to give testimony against The Family, a branch of the New Jersey mob operating in Philadelphia. The Philly crew takes exception to Gaffney’s impending testimony and attempts to eliminate him. At the same time, the FBI is working hard to implicate him on kidnapping and child deaths spanning many years.
You don’t have to read Gaffney’s two prior adventures to enjoy this one, but Rosamilia admits it helps to know his full backstory, so we started there.
Who is James Gaffney and what drives him?
James Gaffney is a man hired to kill children. If you’re a sports star or a rock star or a millionaire and you’ve had a baby with someone and it’s making your life complicated, James Gaffney will take care of it. Only he doesn’t actually kill the child. He saves them, gives them a new life. He’s part of this system himself, so he knows what it’s like to have a parent or parents who want you dead. It has guided him into his mid-forties.
By George Ebey
DERANGED by Jacob Stone is the first in a brand new thriller series featuring former LAPD detective turned consultant Morris Brick.
They call him the Skull Cracker Killer. He drugs his victims. Breaks open their skulls with a hammer and chisel. The rest is inhuman. Five years ago he terrorized New York City, claiming twelve victims before the killing stopped. Now he’s racking up victims on a fresh hunting ground. Where former LAPD homicide detective Morris Brick is working as a consultant on a serial-killer film. Where a desperate mayor pleads with Brick to take on the case. And where the only way he can stop the next wave of murders is by outsmarting a madman—before he strikes again, this time much too close to home . . .
The Big Thrill recently caught up with the author to learn more about this exciting new series.
What first drew you to writing crime stories?
I’ve been an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction since I was a teenager. Some of my favorite writers include Dashiell Hammett, Rex Stout, James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, Donald Westlake, and Ross Macdonald, and so it made sense that when I started writing I’d be drawn to crime fiction, although I also write horror. So far I’ve had eleven novels published (DERANGED will be my 12th), as well as dozens of short stories, and I’ve written everything from lighthearted and amusing mysteries to pitch-black noir. While there’s a big difference between my lighthearted Julius Katz stories and my noir novels, like Small Crimes and Pariah, what they have in common is that the stories are driven by tension and suspense, and even humor, and those elements are partly why I enjoy writing crime fiction so much.
But questions gnaw at his gut: Where have his folks disappeared to? Why do old friends want him gone? And who wants him dead?
Teaming with his high school sweetheart turned legal Valkyrie, a hulking body shop bodybuilder, and a razor-wielding gentleman’s club house mother, Jay will unravel a tangle of deception all the way back to the bayous where he was born. With an iron-fisted police chief on his tail and a ruthless mob captain at his throat, he’ll need his wits, his fists, and his father’s trusty Vietnam war hatchet to hack his way through a toxic jungle of New Jersey corruption that makes the gator-filled swamps of home feel like the shallow end of the kiddie pool…
The Big Thrill had a chance to catch up with Thomas Pluck to discuss his latest novel, BAD BOY BOOGIE:
Jackson Donne has spent the last year in prison, where his mentor, Kenneth Herrick, has kept him safe. One night, Kenneth tells Donne a “friend” has bought them out of their sentence. Confused, Donne goes along. And finds himself in the clutches of a partner from Kenneth’s past.
Learning of the release, Matt Herrick decides to pursue his father. But when he finds that his terminally ill mother is now married to Kenneth’s old partner, Herrick turns his investigation into overdrive. And that could cost him everything.
Kenneth’s old partner gives him an ultimatum: steal millions of dollars from the Federal Reserve in New Jersey, or let the disease kill his ex-wife. Donne has no choice but to help his new mentor.
Now Matt Herrick is faced with a choice: Can he let his dad and Donne save his mother, while letting the heist go off without a hitch? Or can Matt Herrick save his mother, and stop the the heist before everyone ends up in prison—or worse—dead?
Award-winning author, Dave White, recently discussed his latest novel, BLIND TO SIN, with The Big Thrill:
When the McCray’s, a family of backwoods Missouri marijuana farmers, signature strain begins to infringe on the St. Louis market, a Mexican Cartel that had recently taken over the city’s drug trade, sends a dozen Cartel soldiers to dispatch the small time growers. The McCray’s slaughter the hit squad and desecrate the bodies, kicking off a war between the two crime families. Unbeknownst to the McCray’s, one of the Cartel soldiers they killed was an undercover F.B.I. agent. Jill Murphy, a bi-racial F.B.I. agent, is chosen to lead a team to the McCray’s hometown to investigate them for the murder of the agent, Jill assumes the identity of a local girl who left town as a child by blackmailing the girl’s father to pass her off as his long lost daughter. With her cover established, she is accepted into the community and quickly establishes a surprisingly easy and comfortable bond with the McCray’s. Things come to a head on a steamy Missouri night when the McCray’s, the Cartel ,and the F.B.I. collide in an explosion of violence that will change all of their lives forever and end some altogether.
Author Jesse James Kennedy took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss MISSOURI HOMEGROWN with The Big Thrill:
Ken Sligo returns in THE KILLERS ARE COMING, a cat-and-mouse investigation across the backstages and back alleys of “The Block,” Baltimore’s red-light district. Forged by the criminals and police, to isolate criminal activity, it can’t contain the various mobsters and shake-down artists sticking their toes outside the perimeter.
The paint hasn’t dried on the door to Sligo’s detective agency, and he’s contemplating closing shop. When Rudy Cohan offers him a cash-filled envelope in Baltimore’s Penn Station, Sligo crosses his fingers and hopes for the best. Is Rainy Dawn cheating on her producer boyfriend? Where does she get her extra spending money? The answers don’t align with the questions, and Sligo realizes his client is holding out, but not before a mob hit points the finger right at him …
Prolific author, Jack Bludis, discussed his latest novel, THE KILLERS ARE COMING, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A sense of what it is like to be a fledgling Private Investigator.
Innocents are being sacrificed in the name of greed, retribution, passion and the lust for power — and the only worthy opponent of this senseless evil is the uncompromising resolve to rise above it, rather than descend to its depths.
The heart pounding sequel to the acclaimed novel Gravesend— from Shamus Award-winning author J.L. Abramo—CONEY ISLAND AVENUE continues the dramatic account of the professional and personal struggles that constitute everyday life for the dedicated men and women of the Six-One—and of the saints and sinners who share their streets.
Award-winning author, J.L. Abramo, spent time discussing CONEY ISLAND AVENUE with The Big Thrill:
Detective Errol Coutinho of the Hawaii County Police has a serial killer of prostitutes to catch and a shortage of leads to pursue. Office Jessie Hokoana of the Honolulu P.D. has an undercover assignment that tests her loyalties and takes her to the brink of death.
When their cases collide in the rainforest of the Big Island, family ties turn deadly, and there may be no pu’uhonua—no place of refuge—for anyone.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to interview author Albert Tucher about his latest novel, THE PLACE OF REFUGE:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
The rainforest of the Big Island of Hawaii is a unique setting for dark crime fiction. Lightly policed, the region known as Puna is home to marijuana farmers, meth cookers, fugitives, survivalists, and 60s holdovers. While several local cases have attracted the attention of true crime writers, I know of no novelist who has used the setting.
Dean Goodnight, the first Choctaw Indian employed by the Oklahoma County public defender’s office, pulls a new case—the brutal murder of a once-promising basketball star. The only witness is Caleb, the five-year-old son of the prime suspect. Investigating the murder, Dean draws four strangers into his client’s orbit, each of whom becomes deeply involved in the case—and in Caleb’s fate.
There’s Aura Jefferson, the victim’s sister, a proud black nurse struggling with the death of her brother; Aura’s patient Cecil Porter, a bigoted paraplegic whose own dreams of playing professional basketball were shattered fifty years ago; Cecil’s shady brother, the entrepreneur and political manipulator “Big” Ben Porter; and Ben’s wife Becca, who uncovers a link between the young Caleb and her own traumatic past.
As the trial approaches, these five are forced to confront their deepest disappointments, hopes, and fears. And when tragedy strikes again, their lives are forever entwined.
Sangster doesn’t seem to be able to escape his past as a hit man, no matter how hard he tries. And now it’s his friend, Father Patrick, dragging him back into the life. When the head of a faded Mafia Family in Philadelphia sends the top hit man in the business, Frankie Trigger, to New Orleans to kill Patrick, the priest goes to the only person he can think of for help … Sangster.
Can the former #1 hit man overcome the present #1 hit man and save his friend, while continuing to hold on to his newfound soul?
The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to interview Robert J. Randisi about his latest novel, ENVY THE DEAD:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope that beyond simply enjoying the story they may come away with some thoughts about their own souls.
In a sealed chamber, deep in the heart of Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of caves and passages sprawling beneath Edinburgh, the victim has undergone a macabre ritual of purification.
Inspector Tony McLean knew the dead man, and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. The baffling lack of forensics at the crime scene seems impossible. But it is not the only thing about this case that McLean will find beyond belief.
Teamed with the most unlikely and unwelcome of allies, he must track down a killer driven by the darkest compulsions, who will answer only to a higher power . . .
Author James Oswald recently took some time to discuss his latest novel, PRAYER FOR THE DEAD, with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I would hope that it widens the idea of what is possible in the genre. All my books suggest at other-worldly forces at play, without specifically acknowledging them. PRAYER FOR THE DEAD examines belief and the extremes people will go to in justifying theirs.
By Dan Levy
Admittedly, novellas are an unfamiliar storytelling platform for me. Positioned somewhere between the plot-driven short story and character-driven novel, novellas can run between 20,000 and 40,000 words (depending on your preferred literary resource). What seems to be common among sources researched for this story is the definition of novella: A work of fiction that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.
Armed with that deep insight, I jumped at the chance to talk to Nathan Walpow. His latest collection of three novellas, THE LOGAN TRIAD is scheduled for release in March. When asked why he favored the novella form, Walpow explained, “What I have found is that with novellas, the time commitment is not proportional to the length of the work. I can kick out a novella in about two weeks once I get started on it.”
For Walpow, the commitment to the novella runs deeper than mere efficiency, “If you’re built to write one kind of thing, and you try another, you may be successful if you’re that rare kind of writer. Otherwise, you’re better off writing what you can do well.”
Though published and promoted like a full-length novel, THE LOGAN TRIAD is a compilation of three novellas:
- Logan’s Young Guns—Readers meet Logan and watch as a talented brood of sidekicks form around the chance meeting of a woman in an emergency room, and the mystery that unfolds around the hunt for the man who put her there. The novella is written in a third-person narrative style.
- Logan Shoots First—Told in first person, the second novella takes readers inside Logan’s head and into a mystery that explores the world of human trafficking and forced-prostitution.
- They Got Logan—Walpow returns to a third-person narrative, as a woman from Logan’s past reappears asking for his help in solving her mother’s murder.
Lono Waiwaiole is the author of the successful Wiley series. Set in his adopted city of Portland, each book has been inspired by an actual event: the murder of a stripper launched Wiley’s Lament, the murder of an upper-class executive by a pimp became Wiley’s Shuffle, the murder of a Portland blues musician turned into Wiley’s Refrain, and the biggest drug bust in the history of the Big Island of Hawai`i was spun into Dark Paradise. But when it came to his latest instalment, the prequel LEON’S LEGACY, Waiwaiole draws on his personal experience as a teacher and coach to pay tribute to another tragic Portland crime.
LEON’S LEGACY addresses what must have happened to Wiley and Leon after their high-school collaboration to put them in their respective places twenty years later. Waiwaiole talks to me about his characters, the inspiration behind the series, and the places that motivate him.
LEON’S LEGACY is the prequel to your award-winning Wiley series. When writing the series did you always intend to go back in time?
The fact that the two protagonists met as hoopers during high school is referred to in all three books, so I guess it was natural to wonder what that meeting was like. At the same time, I started wondering if it would be possible to introduce the series to younger readers by putting the characters in high school.
How have Leon and Wiley developed from LEON’S LEGACY to the later entries in the Wiley series?
Wiley came first, and the idea for his character was sparked from a story in the Portland newspaper. The report said the nude body of a young woman was found in the dumpster behind a strip club during the night. I immediately saw her as somebody’s daughter, probably because I was the father of a young woman myself at the time. I began to wonder what kinds of things must have happened to put her in a strip club dumpster, and what it would be like to be her father and to get this kind of news.
Born in Boston, Susan Alice Bickford grew up in Central New York, then moved to Silicon Valley to live a high-tech life. Not the background one might expect from a novelist, but then, Susan Bickford is full of surprises.
Her debut novel, A SHORT TIME TO DIE, is rooted in a rural community and, unlike many suspense novels, it centers on the perspective of the victim looking out, rather than that of an outsider looking in. The story starts strong, with a young woman fighting for her life against an opponent who should have been her protector. It’s one of the most intense openings I’ve read in quite a while, and the rest of the book didn’t disappoint.
Asked how she managed to pull off such a powerful beginning, Susan says, “I wanted to grab the reader by the throat right away with the initial confrontation and built up layers of action around it. The final touch was to make the physical setting vivid on every page.”
She writes almost every day, usually in the evening, and warms up with “some mental pencil sharpening to get the juices flowing.” Sometimes that means critiquing a short story or outlining her scene points. Waiting for inspiration, though, is not on the menu. She says, “When my mind is full of junk, I set the timer and do free writing without stopping. This pops the nonsense off the stack and good ideas start bubbling up.”
UNPUNISHED is New York Times bestselling author Lisa Black’s second novel in the popular Gardiner and Renner series. In this latest installment, forensic expert Maggie Gardiner investigates an apparent suicide in the newspaper industry. When evidence suggests foul play, Maggie must join forces with vigilante killer and homicide detective Jack Renner in order to catch a murderer. In anticipation of the release of UNPUNISHED, The Big Thrill sat down with Lisa to talk about her latest novel, her background in forensics, and her advice about the craft of storytelling.
What can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
This book is really about Maggie coming to terms with what she has done, with what Jack has done, and how she is to move forward in this new reality.
Please tell us a little about Maggie. What events from Maggie’s past have helped make her the woman—and forensic investigator—she is today?
Maggie is a well-rounded and “normal” person, comfortable in her own skin, but a bit of a loner. She lost both her parents while in college but is close to her ever-traveling musician brother. She had a brief, unhappy marriage to a homicide detective but they are on amicable terms, so it seems that all is well. Without the distractions of a personal life she has indulged her workaholic tendencies until her job is everything.
Despite his mistrust of Clayton, Joe Hunter accepts the job of protecting young Cole. But who is he protecting the boy from? And why?
It’s clear Clayton knows more about his wife’s killer, but he isn’t saying. And when his silence places Cole in the killer’s sights there’s…no safe place.
Author Matt Hilton recently shared some insight into his latest novel, NO SAFE PLACE, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will enjoy a more thoughtful and logical Joe Hunter than the reckless vigilante he was in previous books, to enjoy the lengths he goes to in solving the mystery of Ella Clayton’s murder, and how far he’ll go to protect a vulnerable child.
Gus Murphy and his girlfriend, Magdalena, are put in harm’s way when Gus is caught up in the distant aftershocks of heinous crimes committed decades ago in Vietnam and Russia. Gus’s ex-priest pal, Bill Kilkenny, introduces him to a wealthy businessman anxious to have someone look more deeply into the brutal murder of his granddaughter. Though the police already have the girl’s murderer in custody, they have been unable to provide a reason for the killing. The businessman, Spears, offers big incentives if Gus can supply him with what the cops cannot—a motive.
Later that same day, Gus witnesses the execution of a man who has just met with his friend, Slava. As Gus looks into the girl’s murder and tries to protect Slava from the executioner’s bullet, he must navigate a minefield populated by hostile cops, street gangs, and a Russian mercenary who will stop at nothing to do his master’s bidding. But in trying to solve the girl’s murder and save his friend, Gus may be opening a door into a past that was best left forgotten. Can he fix the damage done, or is it true that what you break you own . . . forever?
Author Reed Farrel Coleman recently spoke with The Big Thrill about his latest thriller, WHAT YOU BREAK:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A sense that they’ve read a realistic and exciting crime novel that makes them think about the weight of grief and the price we all pay for violent crime.
By Rick Reed
Hector Acosta was born in Mexico City and moved to the United States. He spent time in El Paso and Dallas before moving with his understanding wife and dog to New York. His time living on the border left an impression on him, and much of his writing revolves around that area and its people. In his free time he enjoys watching wrestling and satisfying a crippling Lego addiction.
Hector Acosta is a spinner of tales that will take your breath. His short stories have appeared in Weird Noir, Thuglit, and in three volumes of Shotgun Honey Anthologies.
HARDWAY is the story of fifteen-year old Spencer who loves professional wrestling. He and his brother Billy start their own wrestling promotion operation in their Dallas apartment complex. Soon after a rival promotion outfit run by Eddie Tornado opens in a nearby apartment complex. Eddie is an unhinged teenager with a connection to Billy’s girlfriend, and an axe to grind. The feud between teenagers heats up and Spencer finds the world of professional wrestling is more real and dangerous than depicted on television.
What was your first experience with being a published writer? How did that experience influence your future writing?
It happened during my first year of college while taking an English class. One of the first assignments was to write a personal essay about an unusually strong memory. I wrote about the time my dad took my brother and I across the U.S border into Mexico to see a lucha show. Lucha is the Spanish word for fight. Lucha libre shows are underground wrestling entertainment events.
I thought my first essay was decent, and the teacher apparently thought so too, because a few days after I submitted it, she took me aside and asked me if it could be reprinted in the college newspaper. She was the editor.
A volatile hostage situation at a foster home reaches a bitter end: shots are fired, some die, some live to tell a sordid tale. In the midst of the anguish and confusion is one child who will bear the scars of this unbelievable turmoil.
As a special investigator for Child Protective Services, Ivy Nash lives by one rule: she’ll do anything to fight for the wellbeing of children. Something that was never done for her. As a “system” kid, she spent time in seventeen foster homes.
Very quickly, the facts of the case are blurred…accusations of sibling abuse, connections to drugs. Nothing lines up, and authorities want it all to go away. Their target? A ten-year-old boy. Unrelenting in her pursuit to find the truth, Ivy and her new friend Cristina uncover alarming new information to pinpoint who is at the root of the crime.
But evil knows no boundaries. Shockwaves of her most horrific childhood memories erupt into the present, and Ivy knows that she’s in the fight for her life.
Dominick “Dee” de Venise’s textile warehouse has been in the family for generations, but he’ll have to torch it for the insurance money. De Venise has no other choice. The Mezzatesta family is into him for boo-koo bucks and if he doesn’t pay off, he’s history.
The only other option de Venise has is to stage a big-money heist planned by his crooked lawyer friend Arnie, but he’s already turned down that particular deal. Arnie’s plan is too risky, and besides, de Venise knows Arnie long enough and well enough not to trust him. De Venise doesn’t trust anyone to torch the business either. Wanting it done right, he plans to do it himself, then set up an ironclad alibi.
Everything goes like clockwork until the insurance company refuses to pay off on de Venise’s policy, leaving him with no business to run and no money to buy off his wise guy creditors.
With no more cards to play at this point, de Venise agrees to do the European heist. If nothing else, it will get him out of the country, and if de Venise is really lucky and really smart, there’s even an outside chance of him scoring the bucks he needs to get him straight with the mob and put him back in action.
Just like when he was a kid, the name of the game is CO—CO—CALEEVIO—single, double, triple. Catch the ball to win. Fumble the ball and … forget about it.