Saturday, July 31, 2021
Black Beacon Books: Submissions Open: Hitchcockian Suspense
KRL This Week Update for 7/31/21
Up in KRL this morning a review of "Little Black Book" by Kate Carlisle along with a giveaway of a "Little Black Book" padfolio https://kingsriverlife.com/07/31/little-black-book-by-kate-carlisle/
And reviews and giveaways of "The Art of Betrayal": A Kate Hamilton Mystery by Connie Berry, "Murder at the Lakeside Library": A Lakeside Library Mystery by Holly Danvers, "A Rogue’s Company": A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery by Allison Montclair, and Murder She Wrote: "Killing in a Koi" Pond by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Moran https://kingsriverlife.com/07/31/end-of-july-mystery-catch-up-2/
We also have you can also enter to win a copy of "Double Chocolate Cookie Murder" by Devon Delaney https://kingsriverlife.com/07/31/august-coming-attractions-end-of-summer-edition/
And a review and giveaway of "With Neighbors Like These" by Linda Lovely along with a fun guest post by Linda about senior sleuths https://kingsriverlife.com/07/31/with-neighbors-like-these-by-linda-lovely/
For those who prefer to listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL here you can find the player for the latest episode featuring the mystery short story "Killer Clue" by Guy Belleranti read by local actor Paddy Myers https://kingsriverlife.com/07/31/featuring-killer-clue-by-guy-belleranti/
Up during the week we posted another special midweek guest post, this one by mystery author Nancy Nau Sullivan about how important setting is to her as a writer, and about her new book "Trouble Down Mexico Way" https://kingsriverlife.com/07/28/location-locationsetting/
Up in KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and ebook giveaway of "Wildlife, Warrants, & Weapons" by Tonya Kappes https://www.krlnews.com/2021/07/wildlife-warrants-weapons-by-tonya.html
And a review and giveaway of "It Takes Two to Mango" by Carrie Doyle https://www.krlnews.com/2021/07/it-takes-two-to-mango-by-carrie-doyle.html
Lesa's Book Critiques: BRING YOUR BAGGAGE AND DON’T PACK LIGHT BY HELEN ELLIS
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
SleuthSayers: Stories, Slightly Used by John Floyd
Scott Reviews: Flash Facts by Mayim Bialik
Flash Facts by Mayim Bialik and others is an anthology by DC Comics designed to teach STEM concepts using DC characters such as Batman, Supergirl, The Flash, and more. These ten stories cover topics such as electricity, forensic science, global warming, the solar system, atoms, and more. The art and the quality of the writing varies from very good to okay. The plots are pretty simplistic, but I would imagine they would be fun ones for a child to read. Overall, most of the stories are good and feature above average art while teaching science topics to early elementary kids.
There is some humor, a bit of action, and plenty of science. The end of the book even includes some science experiments one can do at home and web links for children to teach themselves more about the topics.
A personal pet peeve of mine is when a character gets dumbed down for a story. The Flash is treated this way in the book and somebody should have said no. He goes from teaching forensic science at the beginning of the anthology to not knowing how electricity works or how global warming works in tales later in the book. Did nobody during development or at the publisher point out that stupidity?
My personal favorite was the Supergirl tale where she teaches the solar system to a child and teaches her to appreciate our planet and our solar system. Appreciating the planet we have is important as well as appreciating our place in the universe around us.
Flash Facts by Mayim Bialik is a fun book to help children learn about science from their favorite DC Comics heroes.
Paperback (eBook available)
My reading copy came from the Forest Green Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2021
Friday, July 30, 2021
Writer Beware®: The Blog: How Bad Contest Entry Rules Can be Mitigated: THE MEDIUM WRITER'S CHALLENGE
Lesa's Book Critiques: WINNERS & SKY THRILLERS GIVEAWAY
SleuthSayers: Pro Tips by Eve Fisher
Happiness Is A Book: FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOK: GIDEON’S DAY BY J. J. MARRIC
SleuthSayers: Pulphouse: A FIction Magazine by O'Neil De Noux
The Rap Sheet: Bullet Points: Another Overstuffed Edition for 7/29/2021
FFB Review: The Last Call: A Bill Travis Mystery by George Wier
Earlier this week, the horrible news that Texas author George Wier had passed was posted to Facebook. I was stunned as I had no idea that he was fighting cancer. George was a very talented author and I am a big fan. He was also a cyber friend who occasionally reached out to me as Sandi fought her own battle and far more often after she passed as he tried to make sure I was sticking around and not having stupid thoughts. I suspect he deliberately did not tell me he was fighting cancer these past months so as to not upset me. I wish he had told me, but I get why he did not. The news has been very hard to take. I still have a number of books of his to read in the old eBook TBR pile and it is going to take quite some time before I can even think about trying to do so.
On this final Friday in July 2021 when the world seems mad on so many levels, I offer you my review from many years ago of the first book in this series, THE LAST CALL. George made it a permanently free read in eBook format several years ago, ignoring the naysayers who said not to do that sort of thing, and it did very well for him. If you have not read him, you really should.
Bill Travis first saw the beautiful woman while he was driving in heavy traffic on the loop near downtown Austin. The beautiful reddish blonde in the red roadster didn’t seem to mind that Bill Travis was staring at her. For a few minutes they played a cat and mouse game passing each other in the heavy morning traffic. After a smile his way and a couple of quick moves on her part in the stop and go traffic, she was gone down the interstate and out of his life. That left the nearly 40 year old Bill Travis with only one option---head to work as if nothing had happened at all.
That is until a short time later, as his first client of the day, she walks into his office.
Julie Simmons may have flirted and then cut him off in traffic, but she has bigger issues then being a sexy and rude flirt. She has crossed Archie Carpin, a North Texan Liquor Baron and legendary figure with a violent family lineage dating back to the 20’s in Texas. This is one family that you leave very well alone if you have any brains at all. Julie was desperate and took two million dollars and ran. Of course, Archie Carpin very much wants his money back.
Bill Travis, a man that helps well off people with their money problems can’t help falling for her in every way possible. Even if there is far more to her story and he knows it from the very start. The beautiful woman wasn’t kidding when she said her name was trouble. He just didn’t care. He should have as she was not lying about that much at least.
On the run and trying to stay alive on a trail that takes them from Austin to North Texas and back again, Texas author George Wier crafts an intriguing tale full of twists and turns. Populated with complex main and secondary characters, plenty of clues, and plenty of action this recently released novel first in a planned series is a good one. Even seasoned mystery readers will be surprised by some of the twists the complex case takes while imparting some legendary Texas history.
The Last Call: A Bill Travis Mystery
eBook (also available in print and audio formats
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011, 2021
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Beneath the Stains of Time: Murder Among Actors (1963) by Ton Vervoort
In Reference To Murder: Mystery Melange for 7/29/2021
The Rap Sheet: Missing Them Already
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 84 Calls for Submissions in August 2021 - Paying Markets
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Found Reviews
Lesa's Book Critiques: MUCH ADO ABOUT NAUTICALING BY GABBY ALLAN
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 35 Writing Contests in August 2021 - No entry fees
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Early this afternoon, Scott was released. He is back home where he belongs. He feels fine.
Dad is a basket case.
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Rough Afternoon and Evening
First and foremost, Scott is relatively okay.
He started feeling very strange late this afternoon. I checked his BP and it was very high. He started getting nauseated. He seemed somewhat out of it. So, I started worrying big time and called 911, Paramedics came, assed, and they thought he was okay and could stay here. Having gone through what we did before with the seizure a year ago, I pushed hard and they took him to a local hospital. A different one from last summer.
CT has been run as has blood work. His body chemistry is way off, but we caught things in time and prevented a seizure. He has been admitted for the night so they can start working him slowly back to where he should be body chemistry wise. They are also running kidney function tests to make sure everything is okay that way.
I am home, exhausted, and very stressed. Also very glad that things are not way worse.
D Magazine: Your 2021 Summer Reading List: Last Tango in Dallas by Harry Hunsicker
Just learned that mystery author and cyber friend George Weir has passed. Damn cancer. Had no idea he was sick. He never said a word. Just devastated.
After Sandi passed, he made a point to reach out every now and then and check on me to make sure I was not having any stupid thoughts. I was. He got my head back on a little less crooked on more than one occasion. Not only am I going to miss the hell out of his books he had planned, I am going to miss the hell out of him as the person he was.
Lesa's Book Critiques: A FIANCÉE’S GUIDE TO FIRST WIVES AND MURDER BY DIANNE FREEMAN
Reads, Writes, Reviews: Review: The First English Hero: The Life of Ranulf de Blondville by Iain Soden
Jeanne Reviews: Adler by Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey
An arresting cover featuring a woman in red wielding two long daggers with Big Ben and zeppelins in the background was enough to make me pause and pick up this book. The title helped as well, as I immediately assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that the woman in question was Irene Adler, “The Woman” to Sherlock Holmes.
She’s joined by other heroines to form the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, and are immediately plunged into a web of intrigue. Marie Curie has important papers that need to be delivered but there are dark and menacing forces who are intent on intercepting them for nefarious purposes. Some of those names are familiar as well, such as Moriarty.
This edition collects all five issues of the individual comics to make one story. The art is very nice to look at, with good use of color and beautiful details. I have to say that there do tend to be scantily clad big chested women wandering around throughout the book which was a bit off-putting for me. (Also I kept wondering if they were freezing.) At least it seemed to have been toned down a little from some of preliminary drawings. Having just seen the movie Black Widow, I guess I expected better but comic book conventions die hard.
Adler is a fast-paced adventure which also enjoys name-dropping both real and fictional characters into the mix—Jane Eyre, Lady Havisham, Dr. Tesla, Camilla, etc.—and has a bit of a steampunk feel to it. There are a few inside jokes but I won’t give examples because I love a good inside joke and I am disappointed when someone spoils it before I have a chance to spot it.
While not a new concept by any means, I still found a few twists along the way that enlivened the proceedings. Irene does some very Holmesian turns, especially at their first meeting when she pronounces that Jane has just come from Boer War in a mirror image of the first meeting between Holmes and Watson. It was cute in a way, but in another way I would have liked to have seen these two be their own persons, not just feminine versions of male characters. Besides, this scene is pretty standard for most Sherlock Holmes bits, so it’s pretty much been done to death unless there is something else going on. I have a specific example in mind but I won’t reveal it because it’s a delicious twist pivotal to that story. This one isn’t.
It was fun but not compelling. There were some good moments. My criticisms are more because it could have really risen above and instead from my point of view, it took the conventional route. On the other hand, I guess I am reviewing it for the book I wanted, not the book that it is. Mea culpa.
If another series is done, I’ll read it—but I’m not anxiously awaiting it.
Monday, July 26, 2021
Reviewing The Evidence July 2021 Issue
The July 24 2021 issue of RTE is out and includes fifteen new reviews and a new interview.
Our guest in the "Sixty Seconds" spot this week is Rahul Raina
REVIEWS THIS WEEK:
LAST FLIGHT TO STALINGRAD by Graham Hurley
M. KING'S BODYGUARD by Niall Leonard
THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR by Liv Constantine
THE WONDER TEST by Michelle Richmond
THE HEATHENS by Ace Atkins
MOON LAKE by Joe Lansdale
FIND YOU FIRST by Linwood Barclay
THE BONE CODE by Kathy Reichs
THE HOLLYWOOD SPY by Susan Elia MacNeal
DEATH WITH A DOUBLE EDGE by Anne Perry
MURDER, SHE EDITED by Kaitlyn Dunnett
DOG EAT DOG by David Rosenfelt
MURDER IN A TEACUP by Vicki Delany
TWO WICKED DESSERTS by Lynn Cahoon
THE ABDUCTION OF PRETTY PENNY by Leonard Goldberg
We post more than 900 new reviews a year -- all of them are archived on the site -- as well as a new interview with a top author every issue.
Beneath the Stains of Time: The Case of the Climbing Rat (1940) by Christopher Bush
Lesa's Book Critiques: DIANNE FREEMAN, AN AUTHOR INTERVIEW
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Moonlight & Misadventures
Bitter Tea and Mystery: All Systems Red: Martha Wells
Lesa's Book Critiques: MURDER IN CONNEMARA BY CARLENE O’CONNOR
In Reference To Murder: Media Murder for Monday 7/26/2021
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 23 Awesome Writing Conferences in August 2021
The Practicing Writer: Markets and Jobs for Writers for 7/26/2021
Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon
Marcie Rendon lives in Minnesota and is a member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation. She is a playwright and author of both nonfiction and fiction. She is mentioned on Oprah Magazine’s 2020 List of 31 Native American Authors To Read. Her second mystery was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s 2020 Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Her first mystery Murder on the Red River (Cinco Puntos Press, 2017) won the Pinckley Women’s Debut Crime Novel Award in 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2018 Western Writers of America Spur Contemporary Novel Award.
Set along the Red River, which creates the Minnesota and North Dakota border, in the early 1970s, this book is as much a story of the abuse of Native American children as it is a conventional mystery. Renee Blackbear was taken away from her mother as a toddler and lived in a succession of white foster homes. When she was eleven years old her foster mother sent her to work in the crop fields. A farm laborer she remained, shooting pool at night and on weekends for extra funds. Her laser-like focus on earning money resulted in the nickname of Cash.
Her only support system was the county sheriff who always looked out for her, starting from the time he removed her from the auto her drunken mother had wrecked. When a farm laborer is found stabbed to death in the county, the sheriff asks her if she can learn the name of the Native American victim. Her investigation takes her to the Red Lake Reservation, more than 100 miles north, where she finds the dead man’s wife and children waiting for his return.
Who killed a harmless itinerant agricultural worker and why occupies Cash’s mind when she’s not in the wheat fields or winning pool tournaments or listening to the sheriff try to convince her to enroll in college. The daily news broadcasts about the Vietnam Conflict from the televisions in the bars Cash visits firmly set the timeframe.
The shameful practice of separating minority children from their parents did not start along the Mexico-United States border. It went on a long time before that in populations of Native Americans. This book relates the details of the mistreatment and substandard education of these children while it rolls out a competent whodunit. Especially for mystery fans looking for more ethnic diversity in their reading.
· Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press; First edition (April 11, 2017)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 208 pages
· ISBN-10: 1941026524
· ISBN-13: 978-1941026526
Aubrey Hamilton ©2021
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Lesa's Book Critiques: FROM SANDIE’S CORNER – THE DEADHOUSE
Writer Beware®: The Blog: Bad Contract Alert: BYTEDANCE'S FICTUM READING/WRITING APP
Lesa's Book Critiques: WINNERS & A COUPLE MALE INVESTIGATORS
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Five for Silver: A John the Eunuch by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Beneath the Stains of Time: Golden Rain (1980) by Douglas Clark
While I read a lot the last three days, the break did not do much for my stress levels. But, you get reviews out of it in the coming weeks so that is something. Because I started things up tonight instead of waiting till tomorrow morning, you also have a number of linked pieces going live here the next few hours. Things you might have missed.
The heat is on and we are hiding inside at Casa Tipple and Home Eatery Library. Stay frosty, my friends!
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Taking A Break
Taking a break from the blog for a few days. No cause for alarm. I am just very stressed and need some time.
Back here on Monday.
Lesa's Book Critiques: WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Punk Noir Magazine: AN INTERVIEW WITH PULP MEISTER ALEC CIZAK BY STEPHEN J. GOLDS
In Reference To Murder: Mystery Melange for 7/22/2021
The Wickeds: Genre Hopping with Bruce Robert Coffin
Review: Dead of Winter: A Novel by Stephen Mack Jones
Dead of Winter: A Novel by Stephen Mack Jones reflects the way things are changing in local neighborhoods all across the United States. Places that were ignored for years and residents were left to fend for themselves are now the cool place to be and rehabbers and others are snapping up properties. Some homes are rehabbed and put back on the market for double or more the purchase price. In other cases, long time neighborhood fixtures are purchased, bulldozed, and replace with whatever is trendy at the moment.
That is apparently the fate in mind of some for Authentico foods owned by Mr. Ochoa in Mexicantown. What started as a mom-and-pop small store front grew over the decades into a major supply house for the Midwest that catered to restaurants and more. The recipes for tortillas, salsas, and queso came from Ochoa family who never forgot they were part of the neighborhood. In good times and very bad times, Authentico Foods and the Ochoa family took care of their neighbors. Mr. Snow's mom worked for him and rose up the ranks at the company. So, when Mr. Ochoa wants a meeting with August Snow, his mom passes the word, and the former cop goes to the meeting.
Mr. Ochoa is dying thanks to cancer and is trying to make things right for folks after he passes. He wants Snow to buy the company. While Snow could do so because of the settlement with the city of Detroit that paid him millions, he does not know a thing about running such a company. He does not want to buy the company, but as the meeting continues it becomes clear that Mr. Ochoa is in a squeeze and not just because of the cancer.
Some sort of real estate speculator who only goes by “Mr. Sloan” is pushing hard for him to sell. Allegedly he is working on behalf of the wealthy Vic Bronson who made his fortune in adjustable-rate mortgages and balloon payments when the housing market was crazy two decades ago. Apparently, the plan is fire everyone, demolish the place, and build some sort of ethnic mall with all the culturally appropriated trappings, put some high-end apartments on the floor above the shops, and slap a cheesy name on the place. All Mr. Ochoa wants is to protect what he has built and keep his workers employed so they have jobs after he dies. To make that happen, he is willing to sell the company for a lot less money.
Snow is still very reluctant to get involved until he learns that as part of the initial negotiating offer by Sloan, a piece of blackmail was given to the family. The loan shark and a few other things, Marcus “Duke” Ducane, is involved. Many decades ago, Mr. Ochoa had business dealings with him. The involvement of Duke Ducane makes things very personal as Snow put an end to his criminal enterprise as a young Detroit cop. Duke did five years at a minimum-security prison, got out, and now runs a high-end recording studio in a Detroit Suburb. The business is supposedly legit. In Snow’s mind, it is probably more likely to be crooked and better hidden thanks to Duke Ducane’s time inside with his companions from the banking and investment world.
A visit by Snow to Duke Ducane as well as some other activities soon results in a counter response and things quickly escalate in Dead of Winter: A Novel by Stephen Mack Jones.
Social commentary has always been part of the fabric of the series. Some of the fact-based societal observations in this fast-moving mystery read are sure to tick off some folks. They may even stop some folks from reading the book. That would be a shame as, if they do, they will miss a very enjoyable and intense read that features a complicated mystery and more. While there are references to earlier events in the preceding books, those references are fairly brief in nature and background, thus making this book one could easily read if new to the series.
Dead of Winter: A Novel, as are the preceding books, is highly recommended.
The preceding books and my reviews:
August Snow (April 2018)
Lives Laid Away (February 2019)
Dead of Winter
Stephen Mack Jones
eBook (also available in print and audio formats)
While I was on hold for the print copy, the eBook version became available at my local library system. Once again, Scott made the magic happen and got technology to work for this reader.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2021
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers for 7/21/21
Lesa's Book Critiques: FALLEN BY LINDA CASTILLO
Beneath the Stains of Time: The Libertines (1978) by Douglas Clark
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Short Story Wednesday -- Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont
Jerry's House of Everything: SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: KOOTCHIE
Patti Abbott: Short Story Wednesday: "Father, Dear Father" by Charles Beaumont
Short Story Wednesday Review: Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue 1, Summer 2021
Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue 1, Summer 2021, opens with “Midnight At The Oasis” by Robb T. White. His uncle, Rexford Allan Roisch, likes to call himself, “the Notorious Double-R.” He also has mood swings, a prison rap sheet, and a plan. The plan tonight is for Uncle and nephew to grab stuff from a certain house high up in the hills as a wildfire rages nearby causing a mandatory evacuation.
Max Caspian is in Paris on holiday when the police sweep into the lobby of his hotel. Soon he is questioned by a Captain Badeaux who dismisses him as a suspect in the murder of Michelle Lambert. He also dismisses the idea of having Max Caspian, who is a psychic who has worked with NYPD on cases in the past, assist with this case. Until the good captain changes his mind in “French Twist” by Joe Giordano.
No one ever knew why Principal Taylor was found in the parking lot of a small-town drug store roughly two hundred miles away and suffering from a heart attack. His dying words as well as his theft of a truck from the school parking lot earlier in the day never made sense. Moving the dead man’s desk may explain at least one piece of the puzzle in “Unprincipled” by Stephen Sottong.
It has been a few years but Houser is the same guy he always was back in the sandbox. In “Give Me A Reason” by the magazine’s editor, Brandon Borrows, Chris Zender is in Miami and the plan is underway. Houser is the target and is going to get his. Finally.
Robin always looks forward to visits by Richard in “Bridal Wreath” by Jill Hand. He has his rules, but always brings her a plant. He created a garden out at the back of her place where it comes up against the state forest. He brings her shrubs and trees and plants them out there in the dark hours of the night. Robin is single, in her early 40s, and glad to have his visits to her farm.
Raven and Sparrow, two escorts, showed up to party with the three guys. At least that was the plan the guys had when the two walked in the door. Then the dope filled leather briefcase came out. The women had other ideas in “Cymbaline” by Alec Cizak.
“Chasing 61” by Bruce Harris takes readers back to when Roger Marris and Mickey Mantle were chasing history as the two Yankee players sought to break Babe Ruth's record of sixty homeruns in a single season. It is September 1961 and history could be made with 61 homeruns. History could also be made in the stands as Frank Zuletto, Frankie Z. to his friends, is in the stands chasing his personal best record of 61 wallets stolen.
“The Famous Last Words of Mickey Spillane” by Mike McHone is a nonfiction piece that brings the issue to a close. It takes a look at the last words of three of the books featuring Mr. Spillane’s legendary Mike Hammer character.
The seven tales and one non-fiction piece in Guilty Crime Story Magazine: Issue 1, Summer 2021, are all good ones. The tales are complicated crime fiction reads with a frequent hint of noir to them. Occasionally graphic, this is not a magazine for all crime fiction or all mystery readers. It most definitely is a magazine that is solidly good and well worth your attention.
I picked this up back in May to read and review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2021
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Little Big Crimes Review: Sonny's Encore by Michael Bracken
Lesa's Book Critiques: FATAL FAMILY TIES BY S.C. PERKINS
Writers Who Kill: Celebrating the 2019 and 2020 Agatha Nominated Best Short Stories
SleuthSayers: Over and Over and Over Again by Michael Bracken
Guest Post: The Mystery of Writing by E. E. Williams
Please welcome mystery author E. E. Williams to the blog today…
The Mystery of Writing
It took me 25 years to write my first mystery novel, “Tears in the Rain,” so titled after the famous line uttered in the movie Blade Runner. It took another 17 years to write the second book, “Tears of God,” and another five to complete the third, “My Grave Is Deep,” which was published on Amazon.com last year. All three feature amateur detective, Noah Greene, who sacrifices everything dear to him to follow a dream of becoming a private investigator.
Why it took that long to write that first book is a mystery in and of itself because from the time my father handed me a book – a thick tome about a black stallion in the Arabian desert, the name of which has vanished on the winds of time – and told me to read it, it was my life’s goal to be an AUTHOR. I put that word in caps because I didn’t just want to write books. I wanted to be famous, and rich, and so successful John Grisham would call me for tips.
I had this vision in my head that I would live in an A-frame house in the Colorado mountains during winter, where I would hunker down over my typewriter (yeah, that should tell you just how old I am), pecking out my next bestseller, and then in spring, take the manuscript to my publisher, drop it off, pick up a fat paycheck and catch a plane for Europe where my wife and I would travel to ancient cities, and eat at the world’s best restaurants, and where I’d be recognized and asked to sign autographs for my adoring fans. I’d return to the states just as the latest book hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list and do a book tour that would take me from the East Coast to the West, and sell the movie rights to Ben Affleck or George Clooney, before returning to Colorado and another winter of writing.
Oh, I was going to be a star, baby. Excuse me. A STAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then, life happened.
I got married my senior year in college at Kent State. I graduated with a degree in journalism and got my first job at the Dayton Journal Herald, now defunct. From there I went to the Miami News, now defunct. And then the Dallas Times Herald, now defunct. (Yes, I was a serial newspaper killer.)
It was when I worked at the Miami News that I decided to get serious about writing the book I always wanted to write – a mystery. A surprise, that. After reading the book my father gave me, I started a strict regimen of Sci-Fi novels. I devoured everything written by Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein, and Ursula K. Le Guin. (Now, of course, I devour everything written by John Scalzi, James S.A. Corey and Richard K. Morgan.) I thought if my dream were to ever come true it would be writing Sci-Fi. But … before I hit the shift key for the first time, I read an Esquire Magazine piece that stated some of the best writing being done by novelists was in the mystery genre. They recommended Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald and John. D. MacDonald.
It was John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series that I first picked up. Travis lived on a houseboat, The Busted Flush, and did investigative jobs for hire. There was a color in each of the book titles. “The Deep Blue Good-by.” “The Girl In the Plain Brown Wrapper.” “Nightmare in Pink.” “The Dreadful Lemon Sky.” I was hooked. I devoured all 21 McGee novels like a starving man. Then chomped down Chandler, followed by Hammett, the other Macdonald, Robert Parker and James Lee Burke. I was fascinated by the stories of world-weary detectives overcoming long odds to turn back evil. That was the kind of book I wanted to write.
And so, I started a book that didn’t even have a title because Blade Runner was still off in the future. I wanted a McGee-like amateur hero, someone who loved movies with the same sort of passion as I did, and who lived in Miami because, well, that’s where I lived.
I dove into the book with gusto, determined to make it a bestseller. The gusto didn’t last long. I had a family – a wife and young son. Could I afford to take a risk on writing books, I asked myself. I was good at newspapering. What if I failed as a novelist? What if I failed my family?
So, I put my energy and focus on writing about sports stars, and actors, and yes, other novelists. I did it well enough to keep getting promoted, a velvet fist if there ever was one. I bounced from one paper to another, – 14 in 42 years – working at some of the country’s biggest and best, including the New York Daily News, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Fresno Bee.
Oh, it wasn’t as if I didn’t work on the book. I’d write for a day or two, sometimes three, and put it in a drawer and go months before starting again. By which time, the thread of the plot was lost, requiring a do-over. I did a lot of do-overs. Then I lost the manuscript in one of those 14 moves (remember, everything was on paper, not in a computer). Began again. Moved and lost it again. My wife once threw it out in the trash, something I prefer to chalk up to as a tragic mistake rather than a comment on the book’s quality.
The years stacked atop one another and when I looked up, 25 of them had passed. I told myself it was because I had that day job. And yet, so many of my friends and colleagues were successful novelists – John Scalzi, one of the Sci-Fi genre’s biggest names, Sheryl Woods, whose romance novels have been turned into a series on the Hallmark Channel, and John Katzenbach, who wrote “The Mean Season,” the movie adaptation of which starred Kurt Russell, and “Hart’s War,” which was turned into a film with Bruce Willis, and “Just Cause,” which starred Sean Connery – and they all had day jobs just like me. I was embarrassed by my own inability to do what they’d done. I decided it was either do what I always dreamed of or stop dreaming.
Eventually, I found the will and discipline to drag “Tears in the Rain” over the finish line and get it published by a small independent press … which is now defunct. (I’m sensing a pattern here, do you?)
Stardom, fame, and fortune did not follow.
Still, I loved the characters I’d created and gave it another go with “Tears of God.” It’s a better book and only took me 17 years to write.
Stardom, fame, and fortune did not follow.
Nevertheless, I continued to enjoy writing and seeing my characters grow, so out poured (can something that takes five years really be described as pouring out?) “My Grave Is Deep.” It is, I think, the best of the three.
Yes, stardom, fame and fortune did not follow.
Why? It’s something I’ve wondered about. Still wonder if I’m being honest. Were my friends just lucky, or were they, are they, better than me? Are all those mystery authors I see – and read – at Barnes & Noble superior writers? Some are, but in my mind, some aren’t. So, why are their books lining the shelves and mine aren’t?
It’s something for which I have no answer. I have mostly accepted that unless Stephen Spielberg is a regular reader of Kevin’s blog, stardom, fame, and fortune aren’t likely to happen. Ever.
Still, realizing this, I’ve started to write a fourth Noah Greene mystery. I have but one hope.
That it doesn’t take 25 years to write. Because, you know, death.
E. E. Williams ©2021
E.E. Williams is a former journalist who worked at some of the country's best and biggest newspapers. A 1971 graduate of Kent State University, he published in 2002 his first Noah Greene novel, Tears In The Rain. His second novel, Tears of God, was published in 2014. The third Noah Greene thriller, My Grave Is Deep, was published last year.