Revelatory Stories from a Master of Crime Fiction
In spring 1959 the California newspapers were full of stories about a young woman’s disappearance. Linda Millar, a 19-year-old honor student, vanished from the University of California Davis campus. For more than a week, her distraught Santa Barbara parents, Kenneth and Margaret, tried to find her, hiring a private detective and asking the media to publish stories on the search. Linda read a written appeal from her father in one newspaper and telephoned home. She had been wandering through Northern California and Reno, Nevada. “She just wasn’t herself,” said a private detective.
The problems of Linda Millar ran deep. Three years earlier, driving drunk, she hit three pedestrians and killed one, a 13-year-old boy; she was on probation and under psychiatric care when she disappeared from college. After her father drove to Reno to reunite her with her family, Linda was hospitalized for emotional stress.
Leap forward to the early 1960s: Three novels in the Lew Archer detective series hit the stores: The Zebra Striped Hearse, The Chill and The Far Side of the Dollar. They were meticulously constructed mysteries, with spare yet eloquent prose and haunting Southern California atmosphere. And the plots of all three books revolved around the disappearance of a young woman or a young man, or the breach between a father and daughter. The author: Ross Macdonald, the pen name of Kenneth Millar. The author of 18 Lew Archer novels, Macdonald is today considered the third in the “holy trinity” of American crime fiction icons, with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Macdonald’s writing style has influenced writers from Sue Grafton to Michael Connelly.
Author and critic Tom Nolan selected these three books for the collection, published by the Library of America. “He was a brilliant writer in so many ways and these three are first-rate books representing a golden period.” (Macdonald aficianados debate whether The Chill or The Galton Case is his best book.) The connection between the personal traumas of Kenneth Millar and the professional work of Ross Macdonald is anything but news to Nolan. He wrote an acclaimed 2008 biography of Macdonald revealing the at-times unhappy life (an impoverished, fatherless Canadian childhood, a difficult marriage) of the deeply private writer, who had been known to make it a condition of press interviews that his daughter not be mentioned. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1983.
Writing From a Unique Perspective on Crime
By Dawn Ius
As millions of TV viewers settled in to watch history repeat itself, Marcia Clark considered hiding out somewhere for a few weeks to escape reliving yet another portrayal, another chilling perspective on the trial of the century, The People V. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, produced by Ryan Murphy.
For the former prosecutor-turned bestselling author, re-witnessing the trial, even disguised as an at-arms-length bystander, made her miserable. In the end, curiosity won out.
“I wanted to see what they did, how they showed it, whether they got it right,” she says. “I was very glad to see that they did get it right to a great extent, at least when it came to the big issues. And the performances were stellar.”
Especially the work of actor Sarah Paulson, who Clark describes as “simply brilliant.”
“She was so good, her ability to show how I was feeling inside throughout the trial was so spot on . . . it was painful to watch.”
Indeed, Paulson’s compelling portrayal has once again cast Clark—and O.J. Simpson—into the spotlight, perhaps for better or worse.
“I think it’s good that the case has sparked some serious discussions about important issues. I just hope people will remember that these discussions come at a terrible cost,” she says. “Whenever people speak of the case, I hope they will remember that the reason they’re having that discussion is because Ron and Nicole were tragically murdered.”
Even years after leaving the L.A. District Attorney’s Office in pursuit of a new passion, this is still the Marcia Clark that resonates with people. A prosecutor that fought passionately, diligently, and tirelessly for justice against unsurpassable odds. But since 2011, Clark has been making a new name for herself writing thrillers that have earned her a loyal—and growing—fan base, not to mention well-deserved praise from masters of the genre.
James Grippando has been thrilling fans since his debut Jack Swyteck novel, The Pardon, in 1994. His twenty-fourth book. GONE AGAIN, is out March 1, and it’s an emotionally complex powerhouse of a story. Jack Swyteck is back, older and wiser than he was all those years ago. He’s returned to his old stomping grounds, the Freedom Institute, and is instantly drawn into a death row case that presents both conflicts of conscience and a race against the clock. GONE AGAIN breaks the stereotypes associated with missing-teen stories. This is an original, a classic.
I got the chance to discuss Grippando’s latest with him and snuck in a few other questions about his writing as well.
GONE AGAIN is the eleventh in this addictive series. How do you keep Jack fresh?
I introduced readers to Jack in The Pardon as an ideological and somewhat naïve twenty-seven year old lawyer whose love life could have filled an entire volume of “Cupid’s Rules of Love and War—Idiot’s Edition.” In other words, there was a lot of room for Jack to grow. He and his second wife are expecting their first child in GONE AGAIN, and he’s taking on the kind of cases that you would expect an accomplished criminal defense lawyer to handle. Readers have loved watching him “grow up,” and there’s more to come.
GONE AGAIN explores the fallout of a harrowing adoption horror story. Sashi Burgette, the teenaged girl at the center of GONE AGAIN, bears deep, emotional scars that her adoptive parents are ill-equipped to handle. Best intentions aren’t enough to spare the family devastating pain and suffering. Can you tell us about reactive attachment disorder or RAD, the syndrome that afflicts Sashi?
RAD is a mental disorder that is usually caused by severe neglect or abuse early in life. The most serious cases are orphaned children from war-torn countries. Their false belief that they are incapable of being loved continues through adolescence and into adulthood. It was a challenge to develop a character like Sashi, because RAD children are the complete opposite of what you expect of children. If a parent tried to hug her, child with RAD would typically reject physical contact even from those closest to her. As they get older, they might develop all the attributes you’d expect in a teenage runaway. Jack makes this point better than I can when questioning a doctor on the witness stand in GONE AGAIN:
“Dr. Pollard, as the expert witness in this case, can you tell us whether a RAD child would likely feel any remorse about running away from home?”
“The brain of a RAD child is not really programmed to feel remorse.”
“And if she did run away, would she find herself pining away for mom and dad?”
The doctor shook his head. “Not likely.”
By Karen Harper
I think all writers are interesting in different ways, but Larissa Reinhart amazes me. She may be a southern Georgia girl but she lives in and loves Japan. Go figure—and go figure on getting her next book if you want sassy characters and humor. I was glad to e-meet her.
What is THE BODY IN THE LANDSCAPE about?
The novel is the fifth Cherry Tucker mystery. Cherry’s a struggling portrait painter from small town Halo, Georgia. Her sassy spitfire reputation has her in trouble back home, so when invited to paint the winning portrait for Big Rack Lodge’s Hogzilla hunt contest, it seems like a paid vacation. While landscape painting she discovers the body of local ne’er-do-well and, of course, embroils herself in hunting for the killer. Which is not the brightest of ideas when surrounded by hunters. Just sayin’.
Where does your Cherry Tucker series, of which this is a part, fit in the category of “cozy mysteries”? Is there a range of cozies or sub-genres within?
I think it depends on where you’re looking. For example on the big sites—like Amazon—the Cherry Tucker Mysteries are listed under Amateur Sleuth, Humor, and Cozies, with a subgenera of Crafts and Hobbies (as opposed to Culinary or Animals).
In some conferences I’ve attended, we’ve discussed a new genre for cozies, the “modern cozy” which calls for more action, stronger language, and more sexual situations than traditional cozies. The Cherry Tuckers definitely have a strong romantic component, but I’m aware of my audience in terms of language and sex (I always say the books get a PG-13 rating). However, I try to drive scenes with action and dialogue rather than the slower pacing of traditional cozies.
When High-Octane Thriller Meets Family Drama
Pick up any major newspaper, anywhere in the country, and you’ll find gross miscarriages of justice. Those stories are what drive New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, who believes that the law should work for everyone, not just a few, that sometimes criminals go free and the innocent get put away, and the rules are constantly evolving. And that’s what drives her Rosato & DiNunzio series, featuring an all-female law firm. Fans won’t be disappointed with the latest book in the series, CORRUPTED. It’s filled with suspense, intrigue, and courtroom drama, along with a good dose of the wit and humor that’s a Scottoline hallmark. The lawyer-turned-author has sold 30 million books in 35 countries by shining the light on injustice, at the same time capturing the hearts and minds of readers with sympathetic, believable characters.
In CORRUPTED, attorney Bennie Rosato is taking on a case that brings her back to a painful event in her life. Thirteen years ago she represented Jason Leftavick, a twelve-year-old boy who was sent to a juvenile detention center after fighting a class bully. Bennie couldn’t free Jason, and to this day it’s the case that haunts her. Today, Bennie only rarely represents those accused of murder, but when Jason is indicted for killing the same bully he fought with as a kid, she sees no choice but to take on the case as his attorney. She doesn’t know whether or not to believe his claims of innocence, but she knows she owes him for past failures–of the law, of the juvenile justice system, and of herself.
Scottoline’s books have landed on every major bestseller list. She’s received an Edgar Award, the Fun, Fearless, Fiction Award by Cosmopolitan magazine and was named a PW Innovator by Publisher’s Weekly. She has taught a course she developed, “Justice and Fiction” at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, and also writes a weekly column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Chick Wit,” which is a witty and fun take on life from a woman’s perspective.
Lisa took time from her hectic schedule to share her thoughts on her latest book, tips on writing and how flaws in our legal system inspired so many of her novels.
From French Citadels to the Arizona Desert
By J. F. Penn
Simon Toyne is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Sanctus trilogy, a genre-stretching, end-of-days epic involving ancient history, modern technology, religious conspiracy, and rollercoaster-quick storytelling. Often described as the British Dan Brown, Toyne has written books that to date have been translated into 28 languages and published in 50 countries.
USA Today bestselling thriller author J. F.Penn interviewed Simon for The Big Thrill. You can watch the video discussion here or read the transcript below.
First of all, just give us an overview of THE SEARCHER so that people have a sense of what it’s about.
Solomon Creed is a man on an epic journey of redemption. He arrives at the beginning of this first book, clueless as to how he’s got there, walking down the middle of an Arizona Road towards a town called Redemption. Behind him is a burning plane and he’s got emergency vehicles screaming towards him.
He knows nothing about himself at all. All he has is this sensation that he is there to save a particular man, whose name he knows. But as the police cars pull up and they start to check him over, he mentions this guy and says, “I think I’m here to save him.” And the Chief of Police says, “We buried him this morning.” So that’s how the book kicks off, and the central mystery is how do you save a man who is already dead?
I’ve read the Sanctus trilogy, which I absolutely loved. That series featured the town of Ruin and now you have Redemption. How important is sense of place to your writing and tell us a bit more about Redemption?
Sense of place is hugely important for me because environment forges character. So if you don’t have a sense of the environment, then you are missing a lot of tricks, really, as regards character and setting. With Ruin, it was kind of accidental. I really tried to find a place that would fit the story and I just couldn’t find one. There was nothing that quite worked and I felt really bad about taking a real place and taking too many liberties with it to try to make it fit my story.
When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.
After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined. A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down.
Heath Brandon’s mother died when he was barely three years old. His father never spoke about her, or her family. So when her family reaches out to him after his father’s death, Heath decides to make the trip to Louisiana to get to know the only family he has left.
But he soon learns that there was a lot more to his mother’s death than he ever knew…and the beautiful old mansion on the Mississippi River has many secrets, secrets someone would kill to protect.
And the key to everything that happened when he was a child just might be hidden in his own memory…
Greg Herren is the award-winning author of over thirty novels. He lives in New Orleans with his partner of twenty years.
To learn more about Greg, please visit his website.
On the surface, my work doesn’t have much in common with contemporary medical novels. Today’s thrillers with medical themes often involve highly educated professionals—doctors, nurses, surgeons—while I’m invested in a peasant from the 14th century, whose medical education includes bleeding patients to balance their humors, the belief that water spreads disease, and the use of human anatomical charts based on pig dissections.
My adventure-based historical fantasy series, the Dark Apostle, which continues July 2 with ELISHA REX, began with reading far too many books about medieval medicine, until the facts and the anecdotes exploded into the idea for a story. My research began with a single title: Devils, Drugs, and Doctors by Howard W. Haggard, M. D. I have the Pocket Book edition of 1940, the fifteenth printing of a work that first came out in 1929.
This is a rambling and engaging popular volume which follows the history of medicine through a variety of approaches, none of which involve footnotes or a bibliography. It frames this history through the window of childbirth, a common biological event, yet one fraught with risk for both mother and child. I wouldn’t recommend this book as a sole reference, but as a source of inspiration for medical fiction, it’s a treasure trove. It doesn’t shy away from lurid tales and speculations, but includes lots of quotes from historical sources, including illustrations and broadsheets from the past. It is, in short, just the sort of work that gets a writer curious, then excited, to learn more.
Mid-way through reading Devils, Drugs, and Doctors, I had an idea for a character, a barber-surgeon, during a problematic childbirth. This is when the true research began. I drilled into Haggard’s text, searching for other references, finding more books, and running my interlibrary loan librarian a bit ragged in my quest for knowledge. It also led me to Kalamazoo, to the International Medieval Congress, an annual gathering of medieval scholars, and a great place to pick up ideas and research materials.
The Big Thrill sat down with Paul Levine to discuss BUM RAP, his new legal thriller (Thomas & Mercer July 1). “BUM RAP brings together the protagonists from Levine’s series: Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, and Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, squabbling Miami law partners. In a starred review, Booklist calls the novel, “an irresistible Florida crime romp.”
Paul, has it really been twenty-five years since Jake Lassiter burst onto the crime fiction scene with your first novel, To Speak for the Dead?
Is that a polite way of saying Jake’s old…or that I am?
Only that the Lassiter novels are one of the longest running series in contemporary crime fiction. To what do you attribute their longevity?
Maybe because readers grow attached to characters and want to know what becomes of them after the caper ends. Think of the long careers of Lew Archer and Travis McGee or Kinsey Millhone and Stephanie Plum. And I haven’t even mentioned Sherlock Holmes. In Lassiter’s case, I like to think that his values are timeless.
“I have old habits, old friends and old values. I don’t tweet or blog or order pizza with arugula on top. I don’t have a life coach or an aroma therapist, and I sure as hell don’t do Pilates. I’m so un-hip that I could soon become trendy, like skinny ties and pants that stop at the ankles.”—Jake Lassiter
In BUM RAP, Lassiter defends Steve Solomon, who’s accused of killing a Russian club owner on South Beach. Pretty quickly, Lassiter begins to doubt his client’s story. Did that frequently happen to you as a lawyer?
I always assumed my clients were guilty. It saved time.
By Eyre Price
With his latest legal thriller, LOSING FAITH, just released, I had the great pleasure of putting litigator-turned-best-selling novelist, Adam Mitzner, under my own cross-examination. What followed was an engaging conversation about the incriminating content of rap lyrics, writing dos and don’ts, the relative value of Coldplay, and the future (?) of Batman.
First, the expected question: How has your practice of law influenced your writing?
There’s an economy in my writing that I think is a direct result of truly learning to write through preparing legal briefs that not only often have a page limit, but in preparing a brief in which you’re very mindful that if the judge gets bored, he won’t read the rest of it. Also, I began my legal practice at a large law firm where I was tasked with writing the first draft, and then my work was revised by more senior people. That was a better writing class than I could have ever imagined because I got to see how my finished product, which I always thought was pretty good, could be made so much better.
And the follow-up, (from a fellow litigator) how has your career as a novelist impacted your practice of law?
I don’t think my writing has added much to how I conduct my day-to-day legal practice. I normally don’t even tell my clients that I moonlight as a novelist. But, it has made me much happier in my day job, that’s for sure.
The reality of the judicial system is often very different from what’s portrayed in print. What sort of concessions and accommodations do you make in writing about litigation?
I try my very best not to deviate in my books from what would actually happen in litigation. I understand that goes on all the time in fiction, but as a practicing lawyer, it makes me crazy when I’m reading a book or watching television and the judge allows in hearsay evidence. The one accommodation I made was in A Conflict of Interest. That book was told in the first person, and so I needed to have my protagonist, Alex Miller, watch the trial even though he was called as a witness, which normally (although not always) is prohibited. As you can see, I still feel bad about it, but I don’t think I’ve made another legal mistake since.
What can one man do against a huge criminal organization bent on world domination? Jon Land shows us in BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN, and thriller fans will love getting the answer.
The man in question is Michael Tiranno, whose cunning and ruthlessness in business earned him the nickname “The Tyrant.” Land introduced him in The Seven Sins. In that novel, Tiranno saved Las Vegas from a terrorist attack. This impressive character fully deserved to return in an even bigger adventure.
“You’d find him captivating, fascinating, charismatic, engaging, and a bit brash,” Land says. “The Tyrant inside him only emerges when he, someone close to him, or someone vulnerable, is harmed or threatened. The question, of course, then becomes which is the real Michael Tiranno.”
Tiranno gives us a clue to that in BLACK SCORPION when asked why he helps a family that just lost their house to foreclosure. He says, “Because I know what it’s like to lose a home.” But as Land points out, Tiranno’s motivations are more complex than that.
“I think Michael’s entire life, the core of his very existence, is about replacing what he lost the day as a young boy he witnessed the murder of his parents,” Land says. “But he can never get it, not really, which leads to him being a constantly restless soul moving on from one quest to another.”
By Rick Reed
When you read THE MISSING PIECE, I want you to imagine that you are Gary Martin, a court officer assigned to the New York County Courthouse. You are part of a security team in a civil trial with legal representatives from Croatia and Hungary vying for the ownership of the Salvus Treasure, a $70 million dollar hoard of ancient Roman silver. Suddenly, gunmen burst into the courtroom, shoot you, and flee with one piece of the treasure, a silver urn. A mistrial is declared, but that is not the end of the case.
Much changes over the next three years. As a result of the shooting you are in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. A new judge has inherited the case, and the trial resumes in a different courtroom. What has not changed is that you are still convinced that the thieves hid the missing urn in the courthouse. Is it still there? Will the thieves return to claim it?
Kevin Egan is the author of six previous novels, including Midnight, a Kirkus Best Book of 2013. He works in the iconic New York County Courthouse, which serves as the setting and inspiration for THE MISSING PIECE. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Rosebud, and The Westchester Review. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Cornell University.
THE MISSING PIECE is Kevin Egan’s seventh novel and as this thriller plays out he will give his readers an inside view of the legal system, as well as the extralegal system, at play in New York City’s courtrooms.
By Ken Isaacson
Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel, THE DEFENCE, features con-artist-turned-top-defense-attorney Eddie Flynn. One advance reviewer has told us to imagine The Verdict’s Frank Galvin crossed with The Firm’s Mitch McDeere, and you’d get something like Eddie Flynn. This is enough to hook me, and I’m looking forward to the book’s release later this month.
The plotline for THE DEFENCE is taut: It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn last set foot in a courtroom. That was for the trial that cost him his career and his family, and Eddie has vowed never to practice law again. But when Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, blackmails Eddie into defending him in a murder trial, Eddie has no choice but to comply. The Russians have kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy and her life is on the line.
With all eyes on this high-profile case, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and unparalleled skills in the courtroom to defend his client and ensure Amy’s safety. Finally forced to confront the demons from his past and come to terms with the case that all but broke him, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? And with the clock ticking, will he be able to call on his contacts from the old days in order to double cross the Russians and get his daughter back?
Cavanagh has kindly agreed to answer some questions.
Priscilla Holmes is a Cape Town–based writer of many sorts of fiction, most recently a crime fiction novel. Set in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, NOW I SEE YOU is a modern-day thriller with dark undertones. It contains love and jealousy, human cruelty and sexual obsession, as well as humor and pathos. Part detective-story, part-elegy for a lost culture, it highlights the enormous changes that have happened, especially for young women in the years since the first democratic elections in South Africa. Thabisa Tswane (the feisty protagonist) is caught between two cultures. NOW I SEE YOU thrusts her into a powerful plot and some dark and dangerous situations.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve always been a writer. As a kid I wrote stories for all my friends and family, wrote plays at school satirizing the teachers (nearly got expelled!), and I’m a passionate reader. I worked most of my working life as a communications consultant in Australia, UK, and Hong Kong, and when I came to Johannesburg from Sydney to marry the man of my dreams (and yes, it has worked out!), I started my own training and communications business. We retired to Cape Town seven years ago and I started a writing group—The Write Girls—that has gone from strength to strength. We’ve collaborated on two novels that have been a great success. In 2004, I published a teenage novel The Children of Mer. And now, of course, I’m thrilled about the publication of NOW I SEE YOU.
NOW I SEE YOU has a deft, light touch. I think Alexander McCall Smith should make space for your fabulous Detective Inspector Thabisa Tswane! How do you feel about that?
Well, what a compliment! However, my book is a much darker, rougher version of his books. We are promoting it as a “thriller” but it really is so much more, with the descriptions of rural life, the violent crimes, and the constant fight for Thabisa between her past and present.
Mike Pace’s new thriller, ONE TO GO, is a deft mix of sub-genres—legal and political with a dash of the supernatural. The story follows a young Washington lawyer, Tom Booker. While driving across Memorial Bridge, Tom, distracted while texting, causes an accident with a minivan carrying five young girls, including his own seven-year-old daughter. The force of the collision flips the van up on two wheels, but just as the vehicle’s about to fall into the Potomac River killing all on board time freezes for everyone and everything—except Tom. He exits his car to see his daughter through the van window, frozen in time, but can do nothing to save her. Chad and Brit, a young couple who appear to have just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, approach. They offer Tom a Faustian deal, a “rewind” where time would spin back to just before the collision, allowing Tom to avoid the accident—no one would die. The price for this deal? In a “soul exchange” Tom has to agree to kill five random strangers instead. He quickly agrees, anything to save his daughter.
Later Tom laughs at the hallucination he experienced and pays it no mind. Preppy demons from Hell? Ridiculous. Then his sister in law, the driver of the van dies, bludgeoned to death by her husband. Chad and Brit appear on Tom’s cell phone screen, smile and say, “One down, four to go.”
My God, the bridge incident was real.
Tom has never held, much less fired, a gun in his life. He’s lived a middle-class existence in a middle-class neighborhood. Now to save his daughter he must turn into a serial killer and commit a murder every two weeks or the girls in the van will die.
Abe Beckham, the protagonist of best-selling author James Grippando’s compelling new novel, CANE AND ABE, has remained a star prosecutor in the Miami State Attorney’s Office despite the untimely death of his first wife, Samantha. His new wife, Angelina, has helped him through the loss. Yet, Angelina can’t help feeling that their marriage is not what they’d hoped for because Abe still loves Samantha too much.
Then things go terribly wrong. The FBI has been tracking a killer in South Florida known as “Cutter,” whose brutal methods hark back to Florida’s dark past, when machete-wielding men cut sugarcane by hand in the blazing sun. A woman’s mutilated body is discovered dumped in the Everglades. When Angelina goes missing, Abe becomes a suspect. Was Abe responsible for Angelina’s disappearance because of his lingering love for Samantha, or because of a new woman? In the course of answering these questions, CANE AND ABE explores love, death, loyalty, and the dark side of humanity.
At the beginning of CANE AND ABE, you recount an incident that occurred in 1941, when on the promise of steady employment, African American men were led into virtual slavery by the big sugar companies, forced to cut sugarcane by hand at unconscionable wages. How does this past injustice inform your novel?
That backstory is based on the actual indictment of U.S. Sugar by the Department of Justice in 1941, but I didn’t include it CANE AND ABE simply to paint the sugar industry as a villain. CANE AND ABE is not a story about “Big Sugar.” It’s a psychological thriller that’s driven by the breakdown of trust between a husband and wife. Abe Beckham is white, and he fell in love with Samantha Vine, a black woman whose father was one of those enslaved sugar workers. Abe made promises to Samantha and her family before she died, including the promise to look after Samantha’s bipolar brother. Keeping those promises has consequences for his new marriage. Putting the backstory about Big Sugar upfront—which involved lies and broken promises on a massive scale—establishes a powerful backdrop against which Abe struggles to keep his promises.
By Wendy Tyson
DEADLINE FOR MURDER, the new novel by Linda Y. Atkins, is the fourth book in the Hilary Adams Mystery Series. In this latest installment, attorney Hilary Adams returns to the defense side of the law and her new client, a crime columnist for the local newspaper, is accused of double homicide. Fast-paced and tightly written, DEADLINE FOR MURDER is a thrilling glimpse into the Louisville legal system.
As a practicing attorney and former prosecutor, Linda Y. Atkins knows her subject. She brings a fresh perspective and a strong dose of realism to her legal thrillers. Recently, THE BIG THRILL had the chance to catch up with Linda.
Hilary Adams is a criminal defense attorney—a job that often demands quick wits, a strong stomach, and the ability to deal with ambiguity. What inspired you to write legal thrillers?
I began writing in the late 1990’s after defending a woman accused of murdering three of her own family members. Before I became involved in her case, however, she had already been tried and convicted once, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. On re-trial, the prosecution decided to again seek the death penalty. When my law firm was approached about her case, we knew that representing her would be an uphill battle, but since my husband and I were both death qualified lawyers (meaning we were authorized to represent defendants facing the death penalty as a possible punishment) we accepted the case pro bono. What followed was my first introduction to rural Appalachia, and being from “the big city,” as Louisville was described by the local residents in that area, I found the experience both harrowing and hard to shake. So, after it was all over, as a sort of cathartic exercise, I wrote a true crime novel about the struggles we had encountered in events that turned out to be truly stranger than fiction. Though I believed the case and the people involved would provide for riveting reading, unfortunately, the manuscript got no further than the back of a file cabinet in my office. But by that time, I had been bitten hard by the writing bug and decided to try my hand at fiction. And, on a whim one day, while waiting outside a courtroom for a hearing to begin, I started jotting down some thoughts on a legal pad and the main character—criminal defense attorney Hilary Adams—came into being. But even though I draw upon my experiences as an attorney, all of my work is fiction—none of my cases, clients, or fellow lawyers are even remotely re-constructed in my novels.
By Ken Isaacson
Chuck Greaves’s THE LAST HEIR is the third installment in his award-winning mystery series featuring trial lawyer Jack MacTaggart, who has been described as an attorney with the talents and ethics of Clarence Darrow combined with the charm and mischief of Jack Sparrow.
Philippe Giroux, estimable patriarch of the Chateau Giroux wine empire, has tragically lost a son. Or has he? Once confirmed by the court, Alain Giroux’s death will pave the way for his brother Phil to inherit America’s most storied winery. Or will it? Andy Clarkson, Alain’s boyhood chum, covets the Chateau Giroux vineyard acreage for his neighboring golf resort. Or does he? Claudia Giroux, Philippe’s hauntingly beautiful daughter, has proof that Alain’s death may not have been all that it seems. Or does she?
As the scions of a privileged California wine dynasty grapple for control of their family’s legacy, MacTaggart is caught in a cross-fire of estrangement, betrayal, and murder. To complicate matters, MacTaggart is being shadowed by film star Ethan Scott, who hopes to spin the dross of a family’s private travails into box office gold.
Amid the stately oaks and sylvan vineyards of California’s fabled Napa Valley, MacTaggart and his colleagues Marta “Mayday” Suarez and Regan Fife learn the hard way that while blood may be thicker than water, money is a powerful anticoagulant. As the long-buried secrets of a troubled family are finally revealed, only one question remains to be answered: Who will survive to become The Last Heir?
After twenty-five years as a trial lawyer in Los Angeles, Chuck decided to pursue a writing career. His 2012 debut novel, HUSH MONEY, the first in the Jack MacTaggart series, won the SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest and was a finalist for, among other honors, the Shamus, Rocky, Reviewer’s Choice, and Audie Awards. The Los Angeles Times called Chuck’s second novel, HARD TWISTED, a work of literary fiction based on a Depression-era true crime, “a gritty, gripping read, and one that begs to be put on film.” In 2013, Jack MacTaggart returned in THE GREEN-EYED LADY, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston called “the wickedest read of the year.”
Chuck is currently at work on his next historical novel. He’s kindly agreed to answer some questions:
There’s a secret train station beneath the Waldorf Astoria, reserved for the President of the United States, and a dead young woman found there with train tracks carved into her skin—but who killed her isn’t the only secret lurking in the miles of dark tunnels stretching out from Grand Central Station.
TERMINAL CITY is the latest novel by Linda Fairstein to feature prosecutor Alex Cooper, and this is a case where the setting is truly a character.
The list of suspects couldn’t be larger. More than 750,000 people go through Grand Central every day: commuters and tourists, police officers and buskers. There are hidden basements, secret staircases, and six hundred people living deep underground, mole people with their own mayor.
So how do you find a killer hiding in plain sight among the crowds—or staying in the dark, emerging only to kill?
Linda Fairstein, like her hero, worked as a prosecutor, so she knows the same courtrooms and locations she writes about.
Here’s what she said about her latest novel, how she started—and how the adventures of Alex Cooper may end.
How is this novel different than what you’ve written before?
The challenge for any author writing a series is to make the experience seem fresh for readers who’ve been through the earlier books. I think it’s important to have the characters evolve and learn from their past experiences, especially in a crime novel.
My protagonist, Alex Cooper, is a sex crimes prosecutor. I’ve got to make her tough enough for the courtroom and mean streets, but let her grow a personal life apart from the violence she sees. So TERMINAL CITY shows Alex’s vulnerability as she struggles to balance her worlds with a changing relationship, and also takes us to an unexplored part of Manhattan that most folks aren’t even aware exists.
Author Robert Rotstein returns with his sophomore release in his Parker Stern series, RECKLESS DISREGARD. Robert’s background is cemented in Los Angeles, being an entertainment attorney for over thirty years. Robert grew up in Southern California and fell in love early with legal thrillers, especially the television shows Perry Mason and The Defenders. Robert graduated from UCLA law school and went into private practice shortly after, where he handled cases for many celebrities including Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and Lionel Ritchie.
His first book, CORRUPT PRACTICES, introduced fans to his character Parker Stern. He received many top reviews, including praise from New York Times bestselling author Sue Grafton: “This is a terrific book…. A fresh take on the legal thriller… [with] maximum intrigue and suspense.” Let’s take a look inside RECKLESS DISREGARD:
Former topnotch attorney Parker Stern, still crippled by courtroom stage fright, takes on a dicey case for an elusive video game designer known to the world only by the name of “Poniard.” In Poniard’s blockbuster online video game, Abduction!, a real-life movie mogul is charged with kidnapping and murdering a beautiful actress who disappeared in the 1980s. Predictably, the mogul—William “the Conqueror” Bishop—has responded with a libel lawsuit. Now it’s up to Parker to defend the game designer in the suit.
In defending Poniard, Parker discovers that people aren’t always who they claim to be and that nothing is as it seems. At one point, his client resorts to blackmail, threatening to expose a dark secret about Parker. Then, many of the potential witnesses who could have helped the case die prematurely, and the survivors are too frightened to talk. Parker begins to feel as if he’s merely a character in a video game, fighting malevolent Level Bosses who appear out of nowhere and threaten to destroy him.
THE BIG THRILL caught up with Robert for a few questions about his latest book.
By Ian Walkley
To get to the truth, she’ll have to break the code of the hills.
THE CODE OF THE HILLS is a powerful legal thriller from Nancy Allen, who practiced law for fifteen years, prosecuting over thirty jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses. It tells the story of ambitious Missouri prosecutor Elsie Arnold who anticipates a huge career boost when appointed to prosecute a high-profile case of incest. But the case soon begins to go sour. The star witness has gone missing; the three girls are reluctant to talk, their father terrorizes the courtroom; their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives, and mom’s new boyfriend raises suspicion that there’s more going on in this household than meets the eye. To make matters worse, Elsie begins to receive gruesome threats from religious extremists. With her job at stake, her personal life is taking a one-two punch. And the safety of three young girls hangs in the balance.
Nancy served as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and as Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks (the second woman in Southwest Missouri to serve in that capacity). She is now an instructor of law at Missouri State University. THE CODE OF THE HILLS is her first novel.
Nancy, you must have a bundle of interesting cases and characters from your years as a prosecutor?
It can’t be denied: the hill country of the Ozarks has more than its share of colorful characters, and in the practice of criminal law, I was exposed to the underbelly of the community. And because I was the only woman in the prosecutor’s office when I joined the staff, I was assigned a great many sex cases. Handling those terrible offenses, I saw patterns that appear time and again: the generational history of abuse and the code of silence that surrounds it. It’s important that people see the challenges of prosecuting these cases from the inside, and I wanted to tell a story that would shed light on the subject.
By Rick Reed
With his powerhouse blend of imagination and legal expertise, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author James Grippando has become the go-to novelist for readers seeking intellectually provocative, relentlessly suspenseful, and tremendously entertaining thrillers that capitalize on his unique ability to anticipate tomorrow’s headlines and make nail-biting “what if” scenarios frighteningly real.
Now Grippando brings back Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck for his most dangerous and politically charged case yet in BLACK HORIZON, the latest entry in the wildly popular Swyteck series.
As this exciting page-turner kicks off, Jack and his wife, undercover FBI agent Andie Henning, are honeymooning at a luxury resort in the Florida Keys when breaking news interrupts their idyllic getaway. Just three years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, once again millions of gallons of oil are spewing from a hole in the ocean floor after a deadly explosion aboard a massive rig. Only this time, the circumstances are even more nightmarish. The rig was in Cuban waters, just sixty miles from Key West, and the biggest manmade environmental catastrophe in history is headed not toward Havana, but straight for the U.S. coastline. The Cuban navy threatens to fire upon American cleanup equipment as “hostile invaders,” and a geopolitical crisis looms, since the venture received its mineral lease from Cuba and its funding from a consortium that includes China, Russia, and Venezuela.
Not long after Andie’s sudden departure for a secret assignment, Jack files a wrongful death suit on behalf of a young widow who lost her Cuban husband in the blaze. Jack expected an uphill legal battle, but his relentless search for the real cause of the catastrophe puts him, his career, and even his new marriage at risk. Was Andie called from their honeymoon because terrorists are behind the spill? Has the battle between Big Oil and environmental extremists reached a catastrophic fever pitch? Has the Cuban regime finally found the ultimate leverage against its capitalist neighbor? Is this an even broader political showdown on the world stage in which America’s most powerful adversaries—China and Russia—intend to bring the White House to its knees? Jack is caught in the crosshairs of ruthless adversaries with a high-stakes agenda, pressured even by his own government to drop the case for the sake of national security.
Fighting for much more than his client’s rights in a Key West courtroom, Jack plunges through a maze of international intrigue to find that the “accident” was indeed no accident—and that the force behind this raging disaster is an act of desperation more shocking than anyone could have imagined.
SUDDEN IMPACT is more than a tale about a hit and run.
One rainy night in Sacramento, a cop never sees the car that struck him. The victim, Officer Tommy Ensor, is no ordinary cop. He’s a hero, a devoted family man, and a coach to at-risk kids. When he dies as a result of the accident, the public, not to mention the Sacramento Police Department, want his killer.
But the driver who didn’t stop isn’t ordinary either. He’s a judge. And in that split second, he did something so totally uncharacteristic it changed his life and the lives of everyone close to him.
The case is spearheaded by Terry Nye, head of Major Crimes, whose retirement is just weeks away. He is joined by his partner, Rose Tafoya, a smart, ambitious, and young detective who recently joined the unit. Adding to the difficulties of the case is the intense public scrutiny coupled with inter-departmental politics over the next chief of police—either of which could be career-enders.
As Nye and Tafoya search for Officer Ensor’s killer, Judge Stevenson is presiding over a criminal case as if nothing is wrong. Stunned by the fact he didn’t stop, he nevertheless has steeled himself to do what has to be done: compelled, he believes, to break the law in choreographing his cover-up.
This is William P. Wood’s new page-turner, SUDDEN IMPACT.
By Ian Walkley
KIRKUS REVIEWS describes E.C. Diskin’s debut mystery-thriller THE GREEN LINE as “a satisfying, suspenseful novel with an engaging heroine…well drawn characters, knotty and believable puzzles, and an easy, confident writing style.” After self-publishing the novel, successful sales and reviews on Amazon led to Thomas & Mercer approaching E.C. with an offer to publish under the Amazon imprint.
The story finds Chicago attorney Abby Donovan with her decade-long dream of partnership just months from fruition. But after a late-night train mishap leaves her stranded on Chicago’s west side where drugs, gangs, and violence fill the streets, everything changes. Abby is haunted by what she’s seen and the mysterious death of a kind stranger. Though her work suffers, deadlines are missed, and her promotion hangs in the balance, she’s compelled to investigate with the help of an unlikely new friend. But Abby’s investigation jeopardizes more than her career. Someone is watching. Someone willing to do anything to protect his secrets.
E.C. Diskin, a former Chicago attorney, spent several years in practice while fantasizing about chucking firm life for a more artistic one. After six years, and with a drawer full of story ideas and two toddlers at home, she finally did it. Diskin joined a writers group and began work on what became THE GREEN LINE. Though it took nearly a decade from start to publication, Diskin is now focused on a sequel and the completion of other works in progress.
Does the GREEN LINE really exist? Or is it fictionalized or symbolic in some way?
Oh, it’s real. Though I wouldn’t call it a uniformly “unsafe train”—it’s a busy commuter train during the day, filled with all kinds of people. The fear for the character, and the real danger for any woman in particular, is being alone late at night in a dangerous neighborhood.
My new thriller THE ADVERSARY deals with the very real threat posed by the sophisticated new generation of computer viruses exemplified by the Stuxnet virus. As reported in David Sanger’s 2012 book CONFRONT AND CONCEAL Stuxnet was created through a collaboration between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies that succeeded in disrupting the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment center, the heart of the Iranian nuclear program.
But a “smart bomb” computer virus like Stuxnet is different from a traditional weapon that is destroyed when it is detonated. A computer virus is made up of computer code that, once deployed, is out there in the world. THE ADVERSARY considers what might happen if a computer virus like Stuxnet was retooled by black hat hackers and turned back against our country as a weapon of cyberterrorism.
THE ADVERSARY is the first book in my new series featuring Chris Bruen, a former Department of Justice cybercrimes prosecutor who is now in private practice helping his clients combat hackers and cybercriminals. In what should have been a routine assignment in Amsterdam, Bruen finds a hacker’s dead body and uncovers a hidden flash drive that contains the code for a remarkably sophisticated computer virus known as Lurker. Upon returning home, Bruen finds himself the target of a shadowy group of hackers who plan on unleashing Lurker, which will bring a major US city to its knees in seven days. Suddenly, Bruen finds that he’s become the top suspect in an international manhunt and he must stay ahead of the FBI and CIA while he tries to decode the virus, find the hackers, and clear his name. With the lives of tens of thousands of people hanging in the balance, Bruen must go beyond the brink to stop the hackers.
DEADLY DIAMONDS begins innocently enough. Michael Knight, a young lawyer, is asked to prevent an all-out mob war by brokering a deal between competing mobs over a stolen vehicle. As both sides respect his tough but fair method of operating, he seems an ideal choice. But to Michael things just don’t add up. Knowing this, he never expected to find himself involved with diamonds and learning more than is comfortable with the evil circumstances surrounding the blood diamond trade.
John Dobbyn brings back the entire Michael Knight/Lex Devlin crew in his fourth novel, DEADLY DIAMONDS. The car stolen for a joy ride has the misfortune of having a dead body in the trunk. Then there is the question of why the son of an Irish mobster decides to steal an Italian mafia car for his joy ride in Italian mafia territory. And yes, the dead man belongs to the Italian mafia. Michael knows there is more than meets the eye in all of this. As he tries to make sense of it all he finds himself involved in life-threatening situations and a quest for information that leads from Boston to Dublin, to Sierra Leone, to Antwerp, and back again. And in this journey he finds an incredible man, a survivor of the diamond pits, who will move heaven and earth to reunite his family.
Robert Rotstein grew up in Culver City, California. He earned an undergraduate degree from UCLA and graduated with honors from the UCLA School of Law, where he was an editor of the law review. After graduation, he was a law clerk to the Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy, then Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and currently Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Robert then went into private practice with a Beverly Hills law firm whose practice focused on the entertainment industry and copyright law. His first trial involved a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by a well-known science fiction writer against a major movie studio. He authored a law review article that explores the relationship between literary theory and copyright law, and has taught as an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, California. Robert is currently a partner in a major Los Angeles law firm, where he co-chairs the firm’s intellectual property department. During his career, he’s represented many well-known writers, producers, and musicians, and all the major studios. CORRUPT PRACTICES is his first novel and comes out this month from Seventh Street Books.
Walter Walker, a high-powered attorney writing outstanding legal thrillers, is back after a self-imposed, sorely missed absence of almost twenty years with the publication of CRIME OF PRIVILEGE, rated “a stunning thriller” by GoodReads. His “god-given talent,” recognised by James Lee Burke, is focused on a concern for social justice embodied in American values inculcated by family, church and school.
CRIME OF PRIVILEGE “ is not only a first-class legal thriller, it is an astute examination of our society and how we are corrupted by power and money” –Nelson DeMille.
The nephews of a famous politician rape a woman in Palm Beach. Young George Becket is a silent witness. His reward comes in the form of admission to law school and then a low level prosecutor’s job with the Cape Cod District Attorney.
Years later, the father of a murdered girl approaches a lonely, unfulfilled George Becket. Nobody seems to want to investigate her brutal death. Increasingly certain that the same person who committed the rape is responsible for the murder, George sets off on an investigation that takes him to Idaho, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and France, and that is as much about restoring his own self-worth as it is about finding the killer. As William Landay writes, “a twisting, engrossing, irresistible detective story.”
By Josie Brown
When a political candidate with a wandering eye wakes up naked in a stranger’s home, where a priceless painting has been stolen, the first person he calls isn’t his campaign manager, his press officer, or even his lawyer:
It’s Jack MacTaggart.
GREEN-EYED LADY, the second novel in Chuck Greaves’ mystery series, has all the elements readers loved in the first book, HUSH MONEY: slick sleuthing, snappy dialogue, a cavalcade of characters who leave you laughing, keep you guessing, and keep you up all night.
Here’s what Chuck has to say about writing relatable heroes, and stories that keep you on the edge of your seat…
Wow, GREEN-EYED LADY sounds like my kind of book! I love mixing mystery with politics–and humor. So, how did the plot come to you?
During my 25 years as an L.A. trial attorney, I had occasion to handle a few cases with political implications, plus I served for many years as campaign treasurer for a friend who’s an L.A.-area city councilman. But the genesis of GREEN-EYED LADY was actually a short story I wrote on spec, about an art heist. As I sat down to plot the next installment in my Jack MacTaggart series, I realized that the short story would be a perfect jumping-off point for a work of book-length fiction. So the man in the story – the sting victim – became a U.S. Senate candidate, and I was off to the races.