Crime Fiction

Full Tilt by Rick Mofina

Full Tilt by Rick MofinaBy Basil Sands

Does crime pay? Rick Mofina might say yes. He has been making his living writing about it since he sold his first short story to a magazine at age fifteen. During college he walked in Hemingway’s shoes as a rookie reporter for The Toronto Star launching a career in journalism that spanned three decades. He’s been face-to-face with murderers on death row, covered a horrific serial killing case in California, an armored car heist in Las Vegas, and the murders of police officers in Alberta. He’s flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD, and gone on patrol with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. And he’s reported from the Caribbean, Africa, and Middle East. All of it helped prepare him for his work as a successful crime novelist.

Today we’re here to talk about his latest novel FULL TILT.

Rick, please tell us a little about FULL TILT.

FULL TILT is the second book in the new series featuring Kate Page, a reporter with a global wire service based in New York City. Kate was orphaned as a child and had a hard life. But she’s a fighter and a survivor. We find Kate, now a single mom, working in Manhattan, when she receives a heart-stopping call from a detective. A guardian angel charm found at a horrific crime scene fits the description of the one belonging to Kate’s sister, Vanessa, who washed away after a car crash in a mountain river twenty years ago. Kate has spent much of her life searching for the truth behind her little sister’s disappearance. Now Kate is faced with one last chance to either mourn Vanessa’s death—or save her life.

How do you come up with the story lines you write?

I like to start with a “seed of ‘reality,’” to help shape a story. A larger part of my news reporting experience involved working the police beat. It put me face-to-face with the best and worst of the human condition. I was expected to write about it, to make some sense out of horrible incidents that made no sense at all, then present it in a story to readers on deadline. Sadly, the true horrors that happen everywhere every day seldom end well, if they end at all. This is something I bear in mind in writing crime fiction. I try to apply the fundamental code of most crime fiction, which is the restoration of order to chaos. And I try to start with a ‘grain of truth,’ to build on a solid foundation for a compelling story, from there I’ll apply the “what if,” this happened element, and off we go.
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Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton

Past Crimes by Glen Erik HamiltonBy Ian Walkley

debut-authorGlen Erik Hamilton’s debut thriller introduces readers to an exciting new protagonist, Van Shaw, whose military and thieving skills inevitably find him immersed in the high-stakes and violent underworld of ruthless criminals where right and wrong aren’t defined by the law.

In PAST CRIMES, former thief and now Army Ranger Shaw receives a call from his criminal grandfather Dono to come home to Seattle. But when he arrives at Dono’s house in the early hours of the morning, Van discovers the old burglar bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot to the head. With a lifetime of tough history between him and the old man, the battle-tested Ranger knows the cops will like him for the crime. Diving back into the illicit world he’d sworn to leave behind, Van reconnects with the ruthless felons who knew Dono best. Armed with his military and criminal skills, he follows a dangerous trail of clues that leads him deeper into Dono’s life—and closer to uncovering what drove his grandfather to reach out after years of silence.

The book already is creating buzz: Lee Child described it as “a home run off the first pitch,” and J.A. Jance called Hamilton “a gifted writer with a sure hand.”

Glen, first tell us what made you come to write this type of story.

The story evolved by blending my favourite aspects of mystery literature. I’m never quite sure what to call it. It’s definitely intended to be thrilling, with a lot of action scenes. It has many characters who are crooks tangled up in their various schemes, but it’s not strictly a crime thriller. And there’s a fair amount of good old-fashioned whodunit in the recipe. Add a dash of memoir, since we see Van at different ages as he’s growing up with Dono. A bouillabaisse thriller, perhaps? Mystery smorgasbord?

Speaking of Dono, tell us a little about the relationship between Van Shaw and his grandfather—how is that background an important element in the changing nature of Van Shaw?

Van came to live with his grandfather Dono—a career criminal—at six years old after his mother died. Dono and Van’s mother had a falling out, and Dono may be trying to make that right by giving his grandson a home. But of course, Dono’s approach to raising a child is a little outside the norm. Van grew up with a very skewed sense of right and wrong. As an adult and as a soldier, he’s worked hard to reset that moral compass.
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The Replacements by David Putnam

The Replacements by David PutnamBy Sidney Williams

In David Putnam’s new novel, THE REPLACEMENTS, ex-cop Bruno Johnson is drawn into a deadly, twisted game to save two kidnapped girls. They’re in the hands of Jonas Mabry, a man Johnson once saved from death—as a child, Mabry was shot by his own mother. Now, seeking a warped form of revenge, he’s demanding a $1 million-dollar ransom for the girls.

Following the events of 2014’s The Disposables, Johnson is living in Costa Rica when the book opens. He’s hiding out from the FBI, tending bar and supporting eight children he illegally rescued from abusive homes. Johnson agrees to help a former colleague and risk arrest back in L.A. to help track Jonas down.

To write THE REPLACEMENTS Putnam, who’s now retired, draws on his former law enforcement experience. During his career, he worked primarily in California on teams for patrol, investigations, S.W.A.T., narcotics, violent crimes, criminal intelligence, internal affairs, detective bureau, and as child protective services coordinator. His final assignment in law enforcement was as a Special Agent working in Hawaii.

He took some time out from growing organic California avocados and spending time with his wife, Mary and their two dogs, to answer a few questions about THE REPLACEMENTS, and writing contemporary thrillers.

Your hero from The Disposables returns in THE REPLACEMENTS to work on a case for which he has a strong personal tie. How important do you believe a link between the hero and his goal is in a contemporary thriller?

I believe the goal is only the vehicle or framework to display character. What is more important is how the character evolves within that framework. In order for the story or novel to be a success, the character has to be three-dimensional. I believe this is accomplished through voice: consistent, strong, emotional, unique and with nuance of point of view. A long-time mentor of mine, Jerry Hannah, has always drilled into me that: story is not story; character is story.
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Complicit by Stephen Edger

Complicit by Stephen EdgerBy John Raab

Stephen Edger started out like thousands of other authors today and self-published his first novel, Integration in 2010. By 2014, he’d not only had several other successful titles on Amazon, but was picked up by Endeavour Press, which published Crosshairs, the first in his The Cadre series.

The Big Thrill recently had a chance to catch up with Stephen to talk about his second book in the series, COMPLICIT .

COMPLICIT is your latest book, can you give us the inside scoop, not on the back cover?

COMPLICIT is the second book in The Cadre series and follows on from where the first book (Crosshairs) finished. It is now November 2014. The current Prime Minister has been executed by ‘The Cadre’ a secret organization fronted by the heads of industry (media, finance, security services etc.). They have plans to start a new war on the Middle East, with a view to driving forward a New World Order, with Britain at the head of the table. The trouble is: the man hired to kill the PM, Dylan Thomas, is a petty thief who has just ripped off a loan shark, drug dealer and the Russian Mafia, and is on the run. The group identify Dylan’s oldest friend, Connor Price, as their best chance of silencing Dylan before he reveals their plans.

It’s a political thriller with a ‘man against the world’ plot.

There is a debate between Character Driven vs. Plot Driven, which side do you stand on?

Definitely plot driven. I always start with a plot and build characters around it. You can write the strongest character, but if the plot is weak, you will upset your readers.

You have published over a dozen books, when someone meets you for the first time where do you suggest they start?

Of the eight novels I’ve published, three of them are part of a trilogy (Integration, Redemption and Shadow Line), three of them are standalone stories (Remorse, Snatched and Trespass) and the final two (Crosshairs and Complicit) will be part of a series when I publish the final part (Double Cross) in June this year. Despite this, the time periods for each story mirror the order they were published in. Although the main characters can vary from book to book, a number of the background characters (e.g. police officers) appear in several of the stories and I make references to previous stories in later books. I guess what I’m trying to say is people should start with my first book Integration and work forwards.
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Dead Red by Tim O’Mara

Dead Red by Tim O'MaraBy Michael Sears

Oh, what a sorry sight we must have looked, two New York writers of Irish descent, staggering from bar to bar along Seventh Avenue on a cold night in January. But it was the first night of the NFL playoffs and the Patriots versus Ravens had every bar with a television packed. Tim O’Mara and I finally found a relatively quiet table in the back of one of those fine establishments and ordered something medicinal—we were both fighting colds. Tim is the author of three mysteries featuring ex-cop turned public school teacher, Raymond Dunne. Sacrifice Fly, which introduced the series, was nominated for the Barry Award, followed by Crooked Numbers, and his latest, DEAD RED, published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in January. The New York Times has called his work “authentically gritty.”

Tim, the police are New York’s finest, the firefighter’s, the bravest. What are the public school teachers? The toughest?

I love working with kids. I started out as a camp counselor and still feel a bit like one now.

But, twenty-seven years in the New York school system? You’ve been a mainline middle school teacher, a Special Ed teacher, a dean, and now you work in an Upper West Side school. How do you think this has molded you?

I’ve seen so many changes. It’s the things that remain the same, though, that blow my mind. We still have folks who’ve never stood in front of a group of teenagers, but have the whatever to try to teach my colleagues and me the best way to do it. I have a pretty simple philosophy about that: the farther you work from an actual classroom with real live kids, the less you know what you’re talking about. And the kids—they’re great. Sure there’ve been societal and technological changes since 1987, but the kids are amazing. They never bore me, they occasionally crack me up, and they are a constant source of inspiration for my writing. Which I will deny if I’m ever sued.

There’s more than a bit of you in Raymond. You made what I think is a great choice to have him be an ex-cop from a cop family—his uncle is the Chief of Detectives. It gives him immediate credibility—both with readers and with other characters. Where does that come from? Are you from a police family?

Yes and no. Not the same, at any rate. My brother is a Sargent with the Nassau County Police out on Long Island. But he’s the only one of us to go in that direction. But you’re right, Raymond is a combination of the two of us.
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A String of Beads by Thomas Perry

stringBy Dawn Ius

After a two-year hiatus, Thomas Perry returns to his bestselling Jane Whitefield series with, A STRING OF BEADS—a fast-paced thriller about how abandoning the past can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, even when your life—and the life of those you love—depends on it.

It’s a book Perry has wanted to write for some time, but it wasn’t until he received a letter from a fan that he found true inspiration.

“I acquired a friend who might be called my ‘culture guide,’ an expert in Senca culture,” he says. “He’s a Canadian lawyer specializing in rights issues concerning the Iroquois nations, who live on both sides of the border.”

He’d read all of Perry’s books, and while he enjoyed the stories, he was able to share expertise that not only helped Perry understand some of the more intricate parts of the Seneca culture, but also got him fired up to return to this series.

“He had a lot to say that was new to me, and new to readers, and so, I knew it was time to write,” Perry says. “I could hardly wait.”

In A STRING OF BEADS, Jane Whitefield is enlisted by the eight clan mothers of her tribe to find one of her childhood friends who has been accused of murdering a local white man. But as she retraces the steps of a walking trip she and her fellow tribesman took together at age fourteen, she soon realizes the police aren’t the only ones after him—and bringing Jimmy back before he is killed or arrested might be much more dangerous than she anticipated.
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Frozen Grave by Lee Weeks

frozen-grave-pbbBy Basil Sands

Lee Weeks is a prolific thriller writer who has been called “The female James Patterson.” Her books seem not only to tell tales of adventure but to bring them alive. And that lively adventure is something she is more than a little familiar with. Born in Devon, England she left school at seventeen and, armed with a notebook and very little cash, spent seven years working her way around Europe and South East Asia. She returned to settle in London, marry and raise two children. She has worked as an English teacher and personal fitness trainer. And her books have been Sunday Times bestsellers.

Her seventh novel, FROZEN GRAVE, is third in the riveting Willis/Carter series that follows two detectives in a London murder investigation squad. Full of excellent police drama, I found the well-written dialogue moved the story seamlessly, it reminded me of the BBC series Spooks (MI-5 in the US).

Lee graciously agreed to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.

Lee, tell us about FROZEN GRAVE.

FROZEN GRAVE is the story of love lost, longed for or imagined—and a killer’s cold heart.

What was your inspiration for detectives Willis and Carter?

Willis and Carter, are a miss-match—I chose them so that they could view the world differently; they come from very different backgrounds. Together they form an interesting and unique investigative team.
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Doing the Devil’s Work by Bill Loehfelm

devils workBy Wendy Tyson

DOING THE DEVIL’S WORK is Bill Loehfelm’s fifth novel and the third book in the Maureen Coughlin crime fiction series.  His first two books in the Coughlin series, The Devil She Knows and The Devil in Her Way, were published to strong reviews. And Bill’s first novel, Fresh Kills, won the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  A prolific author, Bill’s essays and short stories can be found in a number of anthologies, including Year Zero, Life in the Wake, and Soul is Bulletproof (which feature his work about post-Katrina New Orleans) as well as Staten Island Noir and Books to Die For.  Bill, who was born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, makes his home in New Orleans.  In anticipation of his upcoming release, Bill sat down with The Big Thrill to answer a few questions.

Booklist called your main character, Maureen Coughlin, “as compelling a character as this reviewer expects to see this year.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune called her “unforgettable” and “the character of the year.” Can you tell us a little more about Maureen and some of the elements of her past that have made her the woman she is today?

I like to save the real juicy stuff for the books, but there certainly are things about her that keep me coming back. Like a lot of crime fiction heroes, she’s a loner. She’s thirty now and has been making her own way since she was eighteen. But in joining the NOPD she’s found a place and a career where she desperately wants to fit in and belong—and of course she’s not very good at fitting in. I really enjoy writing someone who’s trying to be happy, and to be the best version of herself that she can, and who has virtually no clue how to do those things.

Also, there’s the issue of power. All her life, she’s never had any. She’s a small woman, who’s not particularly attractive and who’s always been broke. When she wasn’t getting overlooked she was getting pushed around. Her history has made her tough and wily and angry, and now she has a badge and a gun. Taking her through her struggles with having some real power over other people has been really interesting. She makes some mistakes.
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Shadow Boys by Harry Hunsicker

ShadowBoys-SmallBy Austin S. Camacho

How far wrong can a missing persons case go? You can find out, and truly enjoy the thrills and mystery in the process, in Harry Hunsicker’s latest novel, THE SHADOW BOYS.

This character-driven mystery follows former DEA contractor Jon Cantrell. As the story opens things are going well for Cantrell. He has a new job working for a law firm. But then his ex-girlfriend asks him to meet with a high-ranking police official. Cantrell is forced to take an off-the-books assignment to find a missing boy. And then, everything starts to unravel.

Cantrell is not a hero in the strict sense, but he is a fascinating character with, as Hunsicker says, a sharp wit, an eye for the quickest escape route, and a fascinating history.

“Jon Cantrell is a third-generation law enforcement officer, now in the private sector because of an altercation with a federal agent while he was a Dallas police officer,” Hunsicker says. “Cantrell thinks of himself as a cop even though he’s not wearing a badge in SHADOW BOYS.”

Cantrell’s client, Deputy Chief Raul Delgado, is an up-and-coming politico who bears his own tragic burdens. Forty years earlier, a racist cop killed Delgado’s brother. Now, Delgado works for the same department. Cantrell relates to Delgado, even though he’s not really a cop or even a private eye.
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Dressed to Kill by Charles Alvarez

dressedBy J. H. Bográn

debut-authorIn DRESSED TO KILL, Victor Espinoza, a short, youthful LAPD patrol officer, is sent undercover as a cross-dresser to catch a serial killer. His ambition to become a detective gets snarled when, ignoring his captain’s orders, he goes it alone. He establishes himself at the Velvet Glove, a Hollywood bar that caters to transvestites. The secret nature of his assignment strains his relationship with his girlfriend, Jannine—who wants to marry and start a family—but also puts him hot on the trail of the killer. Victor gets a little too close and now is targeted as the next victim.

THE BIG THRILL recently caught up with Alvarez to ask some questions about his intriguing new thriller.

Let’s tackle the origins of the story first, shall we?

Let me give you a few words of background. Here in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles LAPD sent an undercover police officer into a high school to glean information about a drug operation rooted there. He was a very youthful looking man who passed as a student. That news piece was followed by an experience my wife and I had in Chicago.

My brothers and sisters (I have eight of them) and their spouses were attending the wedding of my nephew and we all stayed at a major hotel near O’Hare Airport. We noticed that there were a significant number of very big women also staying there. Turns out the Cross-dressers of America were holding their annual convention there. My younger brother whose fuse is very short got into an argument with a couple cross-dressers at the bar.

Several years later I read of the murder of a cross-dresser here in the Valley and everything clicked. The story almost wrote itself. I just added in the bar scene for dramatic binding of the novel’s topic.
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Night of the Jaguar by Joe Gannon

jaguarBy Austin Camacho

debut-authorIt seems mystery is more mysterious and thrills more thrilling if set in a foreign place and time. Anyone who doesn’t believe that hasn’t read Joe Gannon’s impressive debut novel, NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR.

The novel is set in Nicaragua in 1986, the mid-point for the Sandinista revolution. That volatile environment shaped Captain Ajax Montoya, homicide detective and classic man-without-a-country. Montoya, the novel’s investigator protagonist, was conceived in Nicaragua but born and raised in America. So even after fighting for years with the Sandinista revolutionaries he was still neither Nicaraguan nor American. Neither, yet both, and as Gannon explains, a classic noir hero.

“Like all such detectives he has a flawless moral compass,” Gannon says. “It always points true north, but that is both curse and, well, pretty much just curse. But he is the last one on earth who would view himself a hero. In fact, much of what others see as heroic he sees as a source of shame: killing and sending others to their deaths.”

Much of that killing was for a good cause, the overthrow of tyranny, but that is no solace to a man living with the damage done to his soul from so much sustained violence. So when a corpse turns up in a poor barrio it shakes Montoya to his core.
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Death Sentences by Michael Zimecki

Deathsentencescover-smallBy Ian Walkley

DEATH SENTENCES (from Crime Wave Press) had me at page one, and not many other novels would I say that about. Michael Zimecki writes fiction, nonfiction and plays while continuing to work as an attorney. From inner-city Detroit, hehas been a steelworker, advertising copywriter, medical editor, and teacher before taking up law. He has written for Harper’s Magazine, The National Law Journal, College English, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among other publications.

A novella, The History of My Final Illness (Eclectica Magazine, Jan/Feb 2011), about the last five days in the life of Joseph Stalin, appeared in Eclectica Magazine. A play, Negative Velocity, about the father of the atom-bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, is a past winner of the New Playwright’s Contest of the Fremont Center Theatre.

In DEATH SENTENCES, we have the story of Peter “Pop” Popovich—an unemployed glazier, anti-Semite, and white supremacist who is pushed over the edge by his problem-plagued mother, an unresponsive lover, an uncaring stepfather, and the right-wing media hate machine that tells him liberals want to take away his guns and his liberty. While he waits to be executed for his crimes, “Pop” pens a novel about life on Death Row in which he reprises the crimes that landed him there.

Michael, you clearly have some views about American society and politics that you convey through your fiction (very cleverly, I might add). How did you come to choose “Pop” as the way to do this in your debut novel?

I wanted to get inside a mind that believes the lies broadcast by the American right-wing noise machine and see what it is like to inhabit it for a while. It’s a scary place. I can tell you that. It’s also very real. If it wasn’t, kids like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown wouldn’t be shot to death in places like Sanford, Florida and Ferguson, Missouri.
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Liebe – Sünde – Tod (Love – Sin – Death) by Monika Mansour

LiebeBy Kathrin Lange

In a special international interview, German thriller writer Kathrin Lange recently sat down with Switzerland’s breakout crime writer Monika Mansour, to talk about Mansour’s debut release, Liebe – Sünde – Tod (Love – Sin – Death).

Liebe – Sünde – Tod has two completely different settings. On the one side, the world of nightclubs and prostitution, on the other, the hard life of truckers. How did you decide on this contrast of settings?

It was clear from the beginning that my police team is from Lucerne, a very safe place, but I wanted a murder in a red light district. And therefore Zurich’s Langstrasse was an ideal setting. I grew up just outside Zurich and live now in Lucerne. So those two places were perfect for my first crime novel. And to connect these two places, the truckers were just what I needed.

Your protagonist Cem Cengiz is Turkish, but was raised and works in Switzerland. What prompted you to give him this background?

Switzerland is not only that cliché of mountains, lovely cows, and cheese. Around twenty percent of the people living in Switzerland are not native. Our little country is multicultural. And this is what I wanted to show. We have many people who grew up in Switzerland with parents from other cultures. We call them ‘Secondos’. Cem is one of them. I wanted to show that conflict of living and working as a Swiss, but still feel, in his case, as a Turkish, when he’s sitting with his family. I know this conflict myself. My husband is Egyptian. And where we live, there are families from Turkey, Iraq, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Syria, and some Swiss too. A mix of cultures. And I love it. When you’re willing to meet all these people, it is really fascinating how it opens your eyes to the world.
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The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping by Les Edgerton

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00028]By Don Helin

Les Edgerton’s novel, THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING, is a mix of Cajun gumbo, a couple tablespoons of kinky sex, and a dash of unusual New Orleans settings. The reader follows the comic mis-adventures of Pete Halliday, busted out of baseball for a small gambling problem, Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a “red man,” and Cat Duplaisir, a part-time hooker and full-time waitress. With both the Italian and Cajun mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourette’s outbreak in a black bar, and other zany adventures, all seems lost.

Les Edgerton has an unconventional background in that he’s an ex-con, having spent a bit over two years in prison for burglary, armed robbery, strong-armed robbery, and possession with intent to sell. He’s since taken a vow of poverty (became a writer) with eighteen books in print.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Les the other day and ask him a few questions.

Is that anything special you’d like to tell us about your novel?

This novel began life as a short story titled, I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger published in The South Carolina Review, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I liked the story and the characters so much, I decided to expand it into a novel. I’ve also written a screenplay based on it. The screenplay was named a finalist in both the Writer’s Guild and Best of Austin’s screen writing competitions.

Did any particular event inspire the plot?

While much of my life was spent as an outlaw—did time in prison, etc.—I did have stretches of being a “straight” (regular guy on the street). During one of those periods, I sold life insurance and one of the tenets of that business is a concept called “the million dollars on the kitchen table.” It refers to the mindset that most folks have when they’re being sold a policy. The million dollar policy is just an abstract figure, and it’s a goal for salesmen to move as many of these as possible. The trick of the salesman is to get customers to imagine a million dollars sitting on the kitchen table, rather than just an abstract number… and that’s when you make the sale.
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Prodigious Savant by J.J. White

Savant20CoverBy Dan Levy

debut-authorIt was the late W.C. Fields who said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” Fortunately, many writers never got that message and, as a result, wrote many great things after struggling to get published.

J.J. White is among the authors who either didn’t get the message from, or just plain ignored, Mr. Fields. In fact, after seven fiction manuscripts and over 250 short stories, PRODIGIOUS SAVANT is White’s debut novel. “You have to be persistent in everything you do, no matter what age you are.”

At 61, White would be the first to tell you that he’s not really wired toward the conventional. He still surfs in the ocean, has kept his liberal leanings, and listens to Top 40/Contemporary music (unless his wife hears Rihanna, then she changes it). What’s more, unlike most authors, White had neither a penchant for writing or a mentor to inspire him at a young age.

White wrote and submitted a short story to his high school composition teacher who, after grading the story, suggested to White, “Good story. Please learn how to write.” He didn’t.

Decades past, and one day White found himself out for a week with a back injury. “During that week, I said to myself Why don’t you start writing? I was like Forrest Gump who started running for no reason. I started writing for no reason and got hooked.”

And it paid off. PRODIGIOUS SAVANT is set in 1962 Burlington, Vermont, where seventeen-year-old Gavin Weaver survives a dreadful explosion, six hours of brain surgery, and thirty days in a coma. He wakes possessing not just one savant talent, but several, including art, music, mathematics, and memory, and all without suffering any of the usual mental disabilities associated with head trauma. Even in the pre-cable TV/Internet era, Gavin quickly becomes a global sensation. The notoriety puts a murderer on his tail, while his newfound abilities, which seem like a gift, are coalescing into a madness that is robbing Gavin of reason and reality. The odds are slim he will survive both the internal and external conflicts that keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.
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Turnaround / Shallow Secrets by Rick Ollerman

turnaboutBy Hank Schwaeble

debut-authorIf there’s something readers love more than a fresh read in their favorite genre, it’s two fresh reads. Stark House Press has delivered just that for mystery fans with its double-shot combination now available by new author Rick Ollerman featuring a pair of crime novels, TURNABOUT and SHALLOW SECRETS. Recently, THE BIG THRILL caught up with Rick and asked him to share some of his thoughts about writing along with some tidbits about his two-for-one mystery debut.

Congratulations on the publication of your two novels, TURNABOUT & SHALLOW SECRETS (published in one combined volume by Stark House Press). It’s impossible not to notice that both of these stories are set in Florida. How important is setting to your writing?

I once read an introduction to a Ross Macdonald that described Southern California as if it were another character in his books. I think that’s really true. What I did with TURNABOUT was make it my “Florida book,” meaning it could only take place in Florida. You have the Ten Thousand Islands, the Everglades, alligators, crocodiles, seemingly every insect known to North America, and a rich “tradition” of smuggling, poaching, and other illegal moneymaking opportunities. Ninety percent of the birds in the Everglades were wiped out long ago, when there was a demand for feathers for women’s hats. After a hurricane and a flood, the governor of the state tried to actually drain the Everglades. Now you’ve got Big Sugar sucking the nutrients out of the soil upstream, you have Miami encroaching constantly into the edges of what is otherwise the last and greatest wilderness area in the country.

An FBI agent once told me that if you took all the drug money out of Florida, the city of Miami would collapse. That’s how important the drug trade was to that part of the state—the invention of air conditioning made the area livable and the importation of dope made it rich.

Setting is always important, no matter where it is, but in TURNABOUT I use the features of the state to follow a plot that could only happen there. SHALLOW SECRETS is a bit different; I’d already written my “Florida book.” The last kind of writer I’d like to be is one who writes the same book over and over again. You can’t hide from your style but you can keep from templating your plots and characters. SHALLOW SECRETS takes place across a span of years with a series of killings that bring down a cop when it turns out that not only did the killer know him personally, he’d been his roommate for a while. During the time of the killings. When he was caught, he tries to implicate the cop and the resulting mess just became something the cop needed to walk away from. It didn’t matter what he said or did, people would always wonder….
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Spectrum by Alan Jacobson

Spectrum_v2_72dpi_smBy Kurt Anthony Krug

For New York Times best-selling novelist Alan Jacobson, creating his recurring protagonist FBI Agent Karen Vail was an accident.

“I needed an FBI agent in a novel I was writing and she kind of came right off my fingertips. She exploded from the pages and I couldn’t write her lines fast enough. I knew I had something special there. During that time, I had started doing research with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. A short time later, when I began writing THE 7TH VICTIM, the first book in the series, I knew the main character was going to be a female FBI profiler. Karen Vail was perfect for the role and once I started writing that first paragraph, I never looked back. Writing Vail excites me—and it shows,” explained Jacobson, a New York native.

In addition to THE 7TH VICTIM, Vail has also starred in CRUSH, VELOCITY, INMATE 1577, NO WAY OUT, and his latest SPECTRUM(due out Oct. 7). She and her supporting cast appeared in several chapters of HARD TARGET, which featured another one of Jacobson’s recurring characters: Department of Defense black ops agent Hector DeSantos (who debuted in THE HUNTED and joined forces with Vail in VELOCITY) and a new character FBI Agent Aaron Uziel, aka Uzi.

THE 7TH VICTIM was originally intended to be a standalone, according to Jacobson. However, his publisher asked him to consider making Vail a series character, something the author was reluctant about doing.

“I’d seen a number of colleagues get stale writing series, in that after a while they were inadvertently writing the same books over and over. That did not sound appealing to me, so I decided I’d stay away from series . . . until my publisher told me they really wanted me to make Karen Vail a recurring character because of the tremendous advance response they’d gotten from the sales reps and booksellers. I explained my concerns and told them I’d have to think about it,” recalled Jacobson. “After a week of navel gazing, I figured out a way to keep Vail—and thus me—fresh from book to book. My goal was to write a different story each year while remaining true to the character, retaining what we all love about Karen Vail yet allowing her to grow over time. Six years and six novels later, I’m very glad my publisher urged me to continue with Vail because I love each one of her stories. In many ways, that series has changed—and certainly defined—my career.”
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Stinking Rich by Rob Brunet

Stinking Rich by Rob Brunet

By Azam Gill

debut-authorSTINKING RICH is the long-awaited debut novel by an author already known for his short fiction. From web producer to short-story writer to novelist, Rob Brunet’s talent just seems to keep growing.

Light-handed satire with a light touch within a noir framework held up by unforgettable characters and an original theme readies Rob Brunet’s STINKING RICH for possible cult status. To quote award-winning author Les Edgerton, Brunet’s novel is “part THE GANG THAT COULDN`T SHOOT STRAIGHT, part Serge Storms on LSD, part Raising Arizona.”

While the satire works its magic, at heart STINKING RICH remains a spellbinding yarn. Here’s a short summary: What could possibly go wrong when the backwoods Libidos Motorcycle Club hires a high school dropout to tend a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Plenty, it turns out. In a world where indoor plumbing is optional and each local wacko is more twisted than the last, drug money draws reprobates like moths to a lantern. And each and every one of them wants a shot at being stinking rich—any way he can get it.

Rob Brunet’s award-winning short crime fiction has appeared or will appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, and Out of the Gutter. Before taking up writing, Brunet produced award-winning websites for film and TV, including sites for Lost, Sin City, and the cult series Alias. In an exclusive interview for THE BIG THRILL, Brunet talks about himself, his writing, and his interests

Let’s start with a brief introduction.

An Ottawa native, I’ve spent my life living and working in central Canada, with a five-year stint in Montreal and the last two decades in and around Toronto. I grew up expecting to write. By the time I was eight, teachers told me I had a gift, but that’s true of most writers, isn’t it? It’s in us forever? As for work, to call me independent would be an understatement. I lasted all of six weeks in university, quitting to join an Internet start-up in some guy’s living room. In 1982, more than a decade before the “Web” was born.
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Close to the Bone by Lisa Black

Close to the Bone by Lisa Black

By Sandra Parshall

Lisa Black writes what she knows. Like her heroine, Theresa MacLean, she is a crime scene investigator, a forensics specialist who collects and analyzes the physical evidence that will help convict the guilty. In her forensics thriller series, though, she lets Theresa take an active role in tracking down killers, while always striving to keep the stories as realistic as possible.

Lisa is now a forensic scientist for a police department in Florida, but she sets her novels in Cleveland, where she worked previously. In CLOSE TO THE BONE, the latest in the series, Theresa faces death and destruction in the one place where she’s always felt safest: the quiet coroner’s office where she has worked for the last fifteen years. Returning late at night with evidence collected from a crime scene, she finds one colleague missing and another dead—with the word “Confess” written on a wall in his blood. Deeply shaken but determined to do her professional best for her co-workers, Theresa throws herself into her job. Soon she finds a link to another death ten years before. As more staff members die, Theresa realizes she is an integral part of the killer’s scheme and must work against the clock to uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago and save herself from becoming another victim.

Recently Lisa talked to THE BIG THRILL about why she brought murder so close to home for Theresa, why she sets her books in Cleveland, and other aspects of her writing as well as her day job. She also provided a tantalizing hint of what might lie ahead for Theresa after the devastating events of this novel.

CLOSE TO THE BONE is a perfect title for a story in which Theresa MacLean’s workplace colleagues are being murdered and she could also be a target. What inspired you to start killing off people who work in the forensics department?

I try to keep the books very true-to-life, and give an accurate portrayal of how things actually work in the field of forensics. Despite that, my forensic scientist always seems to spend more time out of the lab than in it, which is not at all realistic, so I thought if I could set a story right in the lab, that problem would solve itself. Besides, what better way to make my character vitally, and very personally, involved?
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Helsinki Homicide: Darling by Jarkko Sipila

Helsinki Homicide Darling by Jarkko Sipila

By J. N. Duncan

As the head of the crime news unit for Channel Three News in Finland, Jarkko Sipila has a unique perspective on the lives of those who work to fight crime, and offers this in his realistic procedural series, Helsinki Homicide. DARLING is now the fifth of his Finnish crime series to be published in English. So, let’s get to finding out more about Finnish crime.

Can you give us a quick sentence or two about what your new Helsinki Homicide story, DARLING, is about?

This is a ruggedly realistic, police procedural story about the murder of a twenty-six-year old, slightly mentally handicapped woman in her apartment in Northern Helsinki.

This is the fifth English Helsinki Homicide book to reach the U.S. While I understand the stories are stand-alone books, there is obviously some ongoing character stories and development that occurs. Can you tell us a little about that?

The main characters are the same in all the books. Detective Lieutenant Kari Takamaki is the leading character. He’s a work-oriented family man. The other two main characters are Anna Joutsamo, a single woman in her late 30s, who usually truly leads the investigation and an undercover cop, Suhonen, who really feels at home with thugs and bikers.

I try to describe the work of real policemen, so their private lives have never really been the main focus in the stories.

Interestingly in the Finnish tv-series on the books, Joutsamo and Suhonen had a relationship, although I’ve never written that into the stories.

Being (or having been) involved in reporting crime news in Finland, what do you feel this background brings to your crime writing? What sort of edge do you feel this gives you in developing your stories?

If I wasn’t a crime journalist, I would’ve never written crime novels. Following the real stories really helps with the realism and making the fiction believable. One of the main ideas in writing these Helsinki Homicide stories is that they are fiction, but could really happen.
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Phantom Limb by Dennis Palumbo

Phantom Limb by Dennis Palumbo

By Cathy Perkins

Palumbo’s fourth novel in the series, PHANTOM LIMB, opens with psychologist and Pittsburgh police department consultant Daniel Rinaldi’s new patient: Lisa Campbell, a local girl whose lurid, short-lived Hollywood career sent her scurrying back to the Steel City. Now married to one of the city’s richest tycoons, she comes to Danny’s office with a challenge: talk her out of committing suicide. Though he buys some time, she’s kidnapped right outside his office. The search for Lisa pits the police—and Danny—against a lethal adversary. At the same time, he tries to assist a friend’s brother, a bitter Afghan vet who lost a leg in combat, whose own life now appears at risk. Or is it?

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (including My Favorite Year and Welcome Back, Kotter), Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist and author. His acclaimed series of crime novels (MIRROR IMAGE, FEVER DREAM, NIGHT TERRORS and the upcoming PHANTOM LIMB) feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh police. All are from Poisoned Pen Press.

You’ve had a fascinating career—screenwriter to psychotherapist to novelist. As a psychotherapist, do you find this background provides insights into human behavior and/or helps develop the hero, villain, and perhaps the victim in your novels?

Definitely! I think the merging of my two careers—seventeen years as a TV/film writer and nearly three decades as a psychotherapist—has benefitted both the writing in general, and my exploration of human behavior in particular. Certainly my ongoing study of trauma has contributed to my understanding of the psychological issues with which the crime victims in my novels grapple. As for my hero, psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi, my experience as a therapist in private practice—as well as time spent working in clinics and a psychiatric hospital—has given me a unique perspective on what might motivate a guy like him. As it turns out, he and I share a lot of the same ideas about the flaws in the mental health system and how psychotherapy is practiced. Go figure.
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Father of Fear by Ethan Cross

Father of Fear by Ethan Cross

By Christine Goff

Early on Ethan Cross knew he wanted to be a writer. With a partially finished screenplay in high school, he contemplated a move to California to pursue a career in the film industry, and then threw it over for a more promising profession—music. A parent’s nightmare! And, yet, he succeeded. Opening for national recording artists as a lead singer and guitar player, recording a few CDs—but the stories just wouldn’t leave him alone.

His dream came to fruition on a grand scale with the release of his first book, THE SHEPHERD. An international bestseller, he followed it up with four more great titles. Now, his latest book, the third installment of The Shepherd series, FATHER OF FEAR has hit the bookshelves.

To give you a snapshot, in FATHER OF FEAR a father returns home to find his family has been kidnapped and the only way to save their lives is for him to kill another innocent person.

So begins a journey that will force Special Agent Marcus Williams of the Shepherd Organization to question all that he believes, unearth his family`s dark legacy, and sacrifice everything to save those he loves. In order to stop the serial murderer whom the media has dubbed the Coercion Killer, Williams must enlist the help of one of the world`s most infamous and wanted men: the serial killer Francis Ackerman Jr.

The praise for the Shepherd series comes from greats such as #1 New York Times bestselling author Andrew Gross, who said about The Shepherd, “A fast paced, all too real thriller with a villain right out of James Patterson and Criminal Minds.” THE BIG THRILL was lucky enough to catch up with Ethan Cross to ask a few questions.

I read in your long bio that you grew up as the youngest in your family, so far behind your older siblings that you were in many ways raised as an only child. An only child myself, I know how you have to learn to entertain yourself. Was making up stories part of that entertainment?
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Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, a Jesse Stone Novel by Reed Farrel Coleman

Robert. B. Parker's Blind Spot, a Jesse Stone Novel by Reed Farrel Coleman

By Tim O’Mara

“All right,” I said as we both settled into a new booth a few moments after the waiter spilled milk on the signed copy of his Robert B. Parker novel. “You’re probably tired of talking about it, so you get to make one statement about taking over the Jesse Stone series.”

Reed Farrel Coleman leaned back and smiled. “You know,” he began in that gravelly voice that sounds as if he’s ordering one more slice of pizza, “everyone loves Spenser. People look at him like he’s the Everyman: the boxer, the PI. But Jesse’s more like most people. He struggles with the stuff a lot of us struggle with: drinking, relationships, regrets. And he’s got the regrets most of us can relate to. His failed marriage, the baseball career cut short by injury, lost opportunities. We all have that woman who got away, that job we didn’t get, something we said that we wish we could take back.”

In the past six weeks, I’d read Coleman’s HOLLOW GIRL; the last Moe Prager novel; BLIND SPOT,his first in Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series; and ONION STREET, the novel that shows us how Moe became a cop. In that order. It’s very clear that Reed is a writer who understands regret.

“Man,” he said, “I took on all my parents’ foibles. I was a resenter, a regretter, I was jealous. It took me eight years of therapy to work that out. I moved to Milwaukee to to be with a woman. Probably the worst decision I ever made, but it made me realize at the age of twenty-one, I needed help.”

Twenty-one? That’s kind of early too figure something like that out.

“I was always introspective. I’ve been writing poetry since I was twelve. But I was a quitter.” His voice took on a retrospective tone. “Back in high school, I was the long snapper for the football team. I was good. One time in a big game, I snapped the ball over the punter’s head. And I decided it was time to quit. Like I said, I was good at it, but I was afraid of failure. I got that from my dad.”

I pointed out the obvious: quitters don’t become novelists.
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The Lost Key by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison

The Lost Key by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison

By Steph Cha

J.T. Ellison is a seasoned thriller writer with more than a dozen novels holstered to her belt. She’s written both series and standalones, made bestseller lists and won accolades, including the 2010 ITW Thriller Award for best paperback original for her novel THE COLD ROOM. In her latest venture (one of them, anyway), she’s teamed up with the formidable Catherine Coulter, for the Nicholas Drummond series, about a Brit in the FBI. THE FINAL CUT came out last year and sold like thriller-stamped hotcakes, and the sequel THE LOST KEY hits stores this month.

J.T. took time out of her busy thriller-cranking schedule to talk collaboration, discipline, and White House gaffes.

I’ll start with the most obvious question—what’s it like collaborating on a novel, and with Catherine Coulter in particular? Enquiring lonely writers want to know.

It’s awesome. Absolutely one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I wasn’t in the market to co-write, and I wouldn’t have done it with just anyone. But I’ve been a huge Catherine Coulter fan my whole life. I’ve been reading her books—both romances and thrillers—since well before I wanted to be a writer. The opportunity to work with one of my all-time favorite writers was impossible to pass up. And as it happens, it’s bigger and better than I could have ever hoped. Not only am I getting a Ph.D. in writing, we have a real synchronicity together that leads to heights of creativity we’d never find ourselves. We’re downright combustible together.

Writing is supposed to be a lonely occupation, but I’ve always had creative people around me that make me better, from my first critique group, to beta readers and editors, and now Catherine. They do it in screenwriting, so why not novels?

THE LOST KEY is the second in your Brit in the FBI series, featuring new agent Nicholas Drummond. How did you go about doing research for this novel? Did you and Catherine divvy it up?

I do a lot more research than Catherine simply because she’s got a Master’s in early 19th Century history, and a career of research behind her for both her historicals and her FBI thrillers, and I’m playing catch up. For THE LOST KEY, we spent a lot of time working on the story together, doing a pretty comprehensive outline, then I went off and worked on the actual writing, and did most of the research on the fly as I went. It was incredibly broad for this book, including a research trip to Scotland to get everything just right. My kind of research, actually, the hands-on work.
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City of Ghosts by Kelli Stanley

City of Ghosts by Kelli StanleyBy Sandra Parshall

Kelli Stanley is easy to spot in any gathering, with her friendly smile and one of her trademark fedoras perched atop blond hair. She’s a thoroughly modern woman—but she has made her name as a novelist by living in the past.

Kelli arrived on the mystery scene with NOX DORMIENDA (“a long night of sleeping”), set in Roman Britain and featuring Arcturus, a half-British, half-Roman doctor who ferreted out killers as a sort of Philip Marlowe in ancient times. This “Roman noir” debut won the Bruce Alexander Award for Best Historical Novel and earned Kelli a Certificate of Honor for literary achievement from her hometown of San Francisco. Following THE CURSE-MAKER, the sequel to NOX DORMIENDA, she fast-forwarded in time to 1940 and created Miranda Corbie, the San Francisco-based protagonist Library Journal has called “one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

With her beauty, her stylish suits and hats and impeccable grooming, she might be the femme fatale who shows up at Marlowe’s door in search of help, but in Kelli Stanley’s noir world Miranda is the one with the gun and the private eye license. She’s a woman with a troubled past that is far from dead, but she knows how to protect her vulnerable core and she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves.

In CITY OF GHOSTS, the third series entry (after CITY OF DRAGONS and CITY OF SECRETS), the time is June of 1940, France has fallen to the Nazis, and U.S. involvement in the war seems inevitable. The State Department official who helped Miranda get her P.I. license arrives in her office to collect on the debt: he wants her to track a San Francisco chemistry professor who may be spying for the Nazis. This assignment, which coincides with the murder of her latest client, could get Miranda killed, but she accepts because the payoff would be passage to bomb-ravaged England, where she believes she will find her long-missing mother. Her desire to find her mother, and learn the truth about her disappearance, drives Miranda on as she investigates her client’s death and Nazi activities on U.S. soil and eventually finds herself framed for murder.

Recently Kelli talked about her memorable heroine and the challenges of writing historical fiction set in her own hometown.
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A Beautiful Madness by Lee Thompson

A Beautiful Madness by Lee ThompsonBy George Ebey

Author Lee Thompson brings us a tale of crime and suspense in his latest novel, A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS.

The story unfolds when a Texas senator and his wife go missing … On the same day, their son is slaughtered by an enigmatic killer on the lawn of ex-Governor Edward Wood’s residence. Sammy, Wood’s drug dealing son, suspects his father of the crime. After all, his old man snapped once before and crippled his wife with a lead pipe. In direct opposition to Homicide Detective Jim Thompson, Sammy begins an investigation of his own, searching for the truth in a labyrinth of lies, deception, depravity, and violence that drags him deeper into darkness and mayhem with each step. And in doing so, brings them all into the sights of an elusive and horrifying killer who may not be what he seems.

We recently caught up with Thompson to find out more about A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS and to get his insight into what elements make up the best crime and suspense fiction.

Let’s talk about the genesis of your story.  Where did your inspiration for A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS come from?

A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS started with an image of a rainy day and someone dumping a body on a shamed ex-governor’s lawn while he sits drinking beer on his porch.

From the beginning, I wanted to mess with perception by having my narrator, Sammy—who is biased and conditioned by the people he grew up around and his father’s dark history—share a story built from Sammy’s sister Delilah’s experience, along with a detective named Jim Thompson, and through pilfering the journal of a killer the police had dubbed the Wolverine. It’s all after-the-fact, although the reader doesn’t know how far into the future.
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Cornered by Alan Brenham

Front Cover (3)By Christine Goff

Writing just seemed like a natural career move for Alan Brenham, former U.S. Treasury special agent, patrol officer, criminal prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and a current reserve deputy sheriff. His first novel, PRICE OF JUSTICE, received the Best in Police/Crime Fiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors 2012–2013 and was a finalist for the 2014 International Book Awards and the Eric Hoffer Award’s The da Vinci Eye, as well as the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Award.

Now, his second novel, CORNERED, due out in July, is launching to great acclaim. Kirkus Review, for one, praised it as “A rock-solid thriller….multiple scenes of nail-biting intensity…first-rate crime fiction…”

Perhaps the most gratifying comment comes from one of Brenham’s favorite authors, Michael McGarrity, New York Times bestselling author of HARD COUNTRY and BACKLANDS: “Alan Brenham’s CORNERED is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”

In CORNERED, not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve a case involving the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does—an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. Haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong, Brady must now discover what happened to seven missing women, plus a murder. He is sure the cases were connected, but how?
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Terminal Life: A Suited Hero Novel by Richard Torregrossa

TL bookBy Dan Levy

During a time when the favored attire of anti-heroes can range from a wife-beater T-shirt soaked with blood and caked with gunshot residue to whatever the nearest Wal-Mart carries to militia gear and camo paint, it’s nice to see certain heroes emerge that still value a suit.

And not a jump suit, flight suit, or space suit. In the case of TERMINAL LIFE: A SUITED HERO NOVEL, the business suit is the hero’s attire of choice. You know, the kind that spawned the pejorative “a suit” to describe a group of men usually painted as ego-inflated idiots, inept law enforcement, or establishment types that are not to be trusted.

For Luke Stark, the protagonist in TERMINAL LIFE, author Richard Torregrossa explained the power of the suit: “[Exploring] the mythic quality of the suit interested me. It’s all [Stark] has, and it empowers him. It’s like Superman’s cape.”

By giving the business suit meaning, Torregrossa not only adds depth to a protagonist that is a composite of his favorite anti-heroes, it enabled him to tap into a subject for which he is already a bestselling author and expert. This is evidenced in his book, CARY GRANT: A CELEBRATION OF STYLE.

Following the success of his style book, Torregrossa moved into thriller fiction to pursue his love for action stories—Jason Statham movies and Ken Bruin novels among the most influential—and explore storytelling beyond the constraints of nonfiction. “Fiction is what I always wanted to write, but I didn’t have the skills. After years of being a journalist and then writing the Cary Grant book, I thought I was ready to take a shot at fiction.”
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The Natural Law by Steve Attridge

The Natural LawBy Ethan Cross

Steve Attridge’s work has been described as “Brilliant…thought-provoking, dark, and very, very funny.”With THE NATURAL LAW, his fifteenth book, the bestselling and award-winning author continues the string of success with another exceptional book, this one featuring protagonist Paul Rook.

Rook is a philosopher and a crime investigator, but he only works for criminals. He finds them more interesting and he has a secret agenda. When a criminal client of his is brutally murdered his investigations take him into a murky world of government conspiracies and a bizarre community of lost souls living rough beneath a London Bridge.

Tell us about THE NATURAL LAW in one line.

The murder of a petty criminal leads Paul Rook, investigator and philosopher, into a world of murky politics, violence, personal crisis and strange friendships.

What kind of research did you conduct for THE NATURAL LAW?

I read and re-read key philosophical works which are important to the main character, the way he sees the world, and the crimes he deals with. The main one was Aquinas’s Natural Law, hence the title. I read a fair bit online and in newspapers about the abuse of arms and military security trades, especially in a political context. I revisited parliament to get the sensory detail. I also got out my Prague maps, holiday photos and diary to get a bit of local detail. I try to use background reading to inform character, not to impress the reader. As a reader, I like well chosen telling detail rather than pages of exposition and description, so I try to practice that in my own work. Less is usually more.
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The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne

The Killing - new cover, frontBy Jeff Ayers

Fans of the AMC series The Killing will be thrilled to hear that Karen Dionne has written an original novel based on the critically acclaimed show. When firefighters respond to a suspected meth explosion at a trailer park, they discover a man’s body in a neighboring trailer, unburned but with terrible head wounds. The meth cooker lies in critical condition, and undercover narcotics officer Stephen Holder feels a kinship with the child the man leaves behind. Then another man’s body is discovered in a shipping container at the Port of Seattle, shot execution-style. For Homicide Detective Sarah Linden, two cases soon become one, and she must unravel a complex web of addiction, greed, and betrayal to reveal a killer.

Dionne’s riveting adaptation is sure to please The Killing’s many loyal fans, but it works just as well as a standalone if you’ve never watched a single episode. That should come as no surprise. Dionne’s skill as a storyteller and writer is well known. She’s the author of two incredible environmental thrillers (BOILING POINT and RT Book Reviews Best First Mystery nominee FREEZING POINT). And, among her many achievements, Dionne was previously the Managing Editor of THE BIG THRILL, helping build the magazine to what it is today. With THE KILLING: UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR, she’s once again receiving rave reviews. Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore, which doesn’t mince words, praised Dionne’s “smooth and meticulous story telling,” and called the book, “[a] terrific read . . . with good plot twists, red herrings, and heartbreaking details essential to any good noir.”

Dionne recently took some time to chat with THE BIG THRILL.

Could you talk about the “Point” novels? How did those come about?

I’ve always loved thrillers set in the real world that include a dash of science—Michael Crichton and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child are early influences—so when I started writing, I naturally gravitated toward those kind of books.

My first novel, FREEZING POINT, is about a solar energy company that wants to melt Antarctic icebergs into drinking water to help alleviate the world’s fresh water shortage, but things go horribly wrong. Think Jurassic Park on ice.

BOILING POINT elevates two of the secondary characters from FREEZING POINT into major roles, and is about an erupting volcano, a missing researcher, and a radical scheme to end global warming involving geoengineering. I traveled to the Chaitén Volcano in Northern Patagonia, Chile, to research the book a year after the volcano erupted. The volcano was still on Red Alert, but my guide arranged lodging for me in Chaitén, even though the town was evacuated and without electricity and running water, and took me to within one mile of the new lava dome, where I saw steam vents, heard explosive noises coming from the caldera, and felt a small earthquake. It was an amazing and awe inspiring experience that really informed the book.

Berkley brought out both novels in mass-market paperback, and FREEZING POINT was also published in Germany and the Czech Republic. Both novels are currently available in electronic versions only.
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