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San Francisco. Late September, 2004.

The Giants are hanging on to the slim hope of a spot in the Major League baseball playoffs.

The Forty-Niners are hoping for their first win of the season after three losses.

Vinnie “Strings” Stradivarius is in the intensive care ward at St. Francis Memorial Hospital—and Jake Diamond is hoping Vinnie will both survive and avoid a homicide indictment if he pulls through.

Vinnie has been double-crossed, shot, and left for dead at a crime scene, and he is the chief suspect in the murder of one of the city’s most influential businessmen.

Anyone who knows Vinnie knew he wouldn’t hurt a fly.

But the district attorney and the San Francisco Police Department brass don’t know him—and they don’t care. There’s pressure from the mayor’s office and the public is calling for a quick indictment and conviction—and Vinnie is handy.

Jake Diamond has a strong dislike of the double-cross. If asked why the chicken crossed the road, Jake would suggest the road had crossed the chicken.

In a race against time—with the help of Darlene Roman, Detective Sergeant Roxton Johnson of the SFPD, Sonny “The Chin” Badalamenti, bookmaker William “Big Bill” Conway, and mob underboss Tony Carlucci—Jake frantically scrambles to find answers before the case is closed with Vinnie taking the fall.

In Abramo’s first Jake Diamond mystery since the Shamus Award-winning Circling the Runway, Jake is determined to prove that you cross the chicken at your own risk. The Big Thrill caught up to the award-winning author to discuss his latest mystery, CROSSING THE CHICKEN:

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

The San Francisco setting was pretty much a given with Jake Diamond. The plot, dealing with the consequence of the double-cross, was a subject I had wanted to explore for a while.

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

When it comes to protecting or rescuing a friend—there are no holds barred.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

The first-person narrative.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge was following up a Shamus Award-winning novel in the series. The biggest opportunity was the chance to give it my best shot.

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

I am always surprised by how comfortable I am with Jake Diamond and the other series regulars, no matter how long I am away from them.

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

Reading has always been the inspiration for my writing, long before I ever thought about writing as a career. I am most impressed by work that is character- and dialogue-driven—and smart—from Dickens to Cain to Kesey to Lehane.

What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?

Can I purchase the rights to the movie or television series?


J. L. Abramo was born and raised in the seaside paradise of Brooklyn, New York, on Raymond Chandler’s 59th birthday.

A long-time journalist, educator, and theater artist, Abramo earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and education at the City College of the City University New York and a Master’s Degree in social psychology from the University of Cincinnati.

Abramo is the author of Catching Water in a Net, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America prize for Best First Private Eye Novel; the subsequent Jake Diamond mysteries: Clutching at Straws, Counting to Infinity, and Circling the Runway (Shamus Award Winner); Chasing Charlie Chan, a prequel to the Jake Diamond series; the crime novels Gravesend, Brooklyn Justice, and Coney Island Avenue; and American History.

Abramo serves as president of the Private Eye Writers of America. To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.