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Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money.

1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A. the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due.

Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all—early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.

Author Linda Bennett Pennell took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with The Big Thrill about her latest novel, MIAMI DAYS, HAVANA NIGHTS:

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

My hope is to provide readers not only with a riveting story, but to also leave them with characters that will stay with them long after the last sentence is read. In following Sam and Liz as they struggle with their personal debts, perhaps readers will also find some light shed on the path toward resolving issues of their own.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

The story spans almost the entirety of the first half of the 20th century (1926-1960). It provides an in-depth look at how ordinary people are impacted by the big events and even bigger characters of history, especially in the area of American crime.

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

I discovered, at least for myself, why beautiful, accomplished, successful, intelligent young women sometimes insist on falling for the bad boys.

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

There are several scenes and chapters that are based on real events known to only a very few people and on persons of my own acquaintance. These scenes take place in the historical chapters during the period of the Cuban Revolution.

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

The following have been influences:
The Name of the Rose for the solving of a Byzantine mystery.
The Help because it is set in the South and I write stories set in the South or about Southerners traveling far from home. My tagline is Fiction Seasoned by the South.
Rebecca and Jane Eyre because they feature strong young women who meet great challenges and succeed in protecting themselves and those they love.
The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness because they are well written historical mysteries.


Linda has been in love with the past for as long as she can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws her in. It probably comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on her grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around the fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course, being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into Linda’s work.

As for her venture in writing, it has allowed Linda to reinvent herself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. Linda encourages you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Never forget that all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, “Let’s pretend.”

Linda resides in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

“History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” ~Voltaire

To learn more about Linda and her work, please visit her website.