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Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken

September 22, 2014 by  •
“I can almost stand the bodies, even when they’re in pieces, but when they burn them…” – Matías Segura

Matías Segura, a member of the Policía Federal Ministerial in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has seen more than his share of dead bodies. From gang members gunned down in the streets in broad daylight to mass graves and scenes of unspeakable torture and brutality, dealing with the carnage that flows from the Mexican drug trade has become a part of Segura’s daily routine.

Just across the border in El Paso, Texas, Detective Cristina Salas is all too aware of the atrocities occurring far to close to home for comfort. When in the course of her work with the El Paso Gang Unit she learns of a possible connection between the notorious Mexico-based Barrio Aztecas and gang activity in her city, she is determined to do whatever it takes to make sure El Paso doesn’t become another Ciudad Juárez-style killing field.

Caught in the middle is Felipe “Flip” Morales, a minor criminal who ended up in prison when one of his crimes took a turn for the unexpectedly serious with devastating results. Unfortunately for Flip, while in prison he became indebted to the Barrio Aztecas, who provided Flip with protection from the other gangs inside. Now free from confinement, Flip is far from free of the hold the Aztecas have on him. Though he has the support of a loving mother and the inspiration of a new girlfriend to fuel his desire to go straight, the Aztecas have other ideas for Flip’s future.

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Banned Books Week 2014: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 21, 2014 by  •
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to ReadToday is the start of Banned Books Week 2014:

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. Banned Books Week is also endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.”

For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, visit their official website.
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The Night Visitor by Dianne Emley

September 19, 2014 by  •
Dianne EmleyWe’re part of you, whether you like it or not.

Up-and-coming artist Junior Lara returns home one night to find all the windows open and his loft apartment filled with doves. As he makes his way through the dark rooms shooing the birds out and closing widows behind them, a deep feeling of unease overtakes him as he realizes something very wrong has occurred—all of his canvases are in tatters, ripped to shreds.

When he slips in a patch of something wet, but disturbingly sticky, Junior barely has time to comprehend he’s stepped in the blood of his girlfriend, supermodel Anya Langtry, whose lifeless eyes stare up at him from the floor, before he has a terrible sense of falling…and everything goes black.

And with that wonderfully eerie, atmospheric opening, The Night Visitor, the newest offering from LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley, is off and running.

Fast forward five years, where we learn Junior survived being shot in the head that night…if you call being in a persistent vegetative state surviving. We also learn that his girlfriend was an illicit one, and that in fact Junior had been engaged to Anya’s sister, Rory, at the time. The police have long since written off the events that occurred that evening as a murder/failed suicide, a theory that Rory and Anya’s family agrees with. Junior’s family, on the other hand, believes it was Rory who shot both Anya and Junior in a jealous rage upon learning of their affair.

Under the skilled and nuanced storytelling of Emley, the reader is taken on a journey that reveals the truth to be far more complicated that anyone could possibly have imagined.

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A Writer Wastes Nothing by Dianne Emley

September 17, 2014 by  •
Very happy to welcome LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley back to the blog. Well-known for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills) and Iris Thorne mysteries (Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover), Dianne’s new standalone novel, The Night Visitor, was released yesterday. Today she explains how writers mine even the most painful of life events for use in their creative material.

Dianne Emley“A writer wastes nothing,” a saying that’s attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, may not be true for all writers, but it’s true for me. It’s especially pertinent to my new standalone novel, The Night Visitor, which was released yesterday. It’s a tale of love, murder, corrosive family secrets, and the inexplicable mysteries of the human heart and mind. It was inspired by a tragic period in my life.

The protagonist of The Night Visitor is Rory Langtry, a young socialite and business executive who may have murdered her twin sister and shot her fiancé, Junior Lara, making it look a murder/suicide. Junior survived but has been minimally conscious and in a hospital subacute unit for years. He’s still accused of murdering Rory’s sister. While Rory has gone on with her life, Junior’s family maintains that she’s the shooter, protected from justice by her wealthy family.

As Junior finally nears death, Rory begins to have inexplicable visions and sensations—some terrifying, some wonderful—of things that only Junior could know and feel. She comes to the frightening conclusion that Junior has opened a mind/body connection with her and she’s doomed to die with him unless she can find a way out. Has Junior attached himself to Rory as a way of enlisting her help to find the real murderer before he dies or is Rory, consumed by guilt, losing her mind?

So, what prompted me to make a minimally conscious man a major character in a book? The short answer is: I know Junior’s world and its unique heartaches because something similar happened to my father and I felt compelled to tell the story.

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How To Survive The Munitions That Underlie Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth by Andrez Bergen

September 15, 2014 by  •
It’s always a pleasure to welcome author Andrez Bergen to the blog. You can catch up on all things Bergen that have previously appeared on the blog by clicking here. Today, Andrez is here to riff on the potpourri of inspiration that went into the creation of his latest novel, the amazing Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth.

Andrez BergenThe best feedback to my latest novel, published in July? A mate said it was like The Catcher in the Rye — for girls. I can certainly live with that.

But this is also a yarn that additionally throws in a murder mystery, a sprinkling of gothic horror, surrealism, and dialogue heavily influenced by both Raymond Chandler and Angela Carter. I’m hardly claiming the strength and agility of any of these — yet there you go.

One of the things I like to do in my books is lob in hundreds of additional nods and the occasional homage to things I dig and cherish, or that may have had a role in developing my peculiar psyche.

Some of this fodder is just plain obscure, and Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is no stranger to these things.

I’m therefore going to skim the surface here, in order to give prospective readers a vague idea of what to expect in the book between the lines — and if you have read it, these tarnished nuggets may add flavour.

For starters, the old truck in which Mina hitches a ride — a World War Two era, canvas-backed General Motors lorry — featured in The Great Escape. It has the license plate ‘JJZ-109’, which was the number plate on Steve McQueen’s Mustang in Bullitt. Hip-hop DJ Clive Campbell is a direct reference to DJ Kool Herc (same real name), considered by many to be the ‘father’ of hip-hop.

Much of the new novel focus on music, especially that created in the 1980s. When creating character names, I couldn’t resist the winks. Margaret’s boyfriend Danny Murphy is an amalgam of Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash, the singer and guitarist from British gothic rock band Bauhaus, while Mina’s form teacher Roslyn Williams spins out of Rozz Williams, who formed American band Christian Death in 1979. Glenda Matlock, the school counsellor, comes from Glen Matlock, the Sex Pistols’ original bass player before Sid Vicious joined the band. Police constables Copeland and Andie Summers are based on members of The Police — the band — namely Stewart Copeland (drums) and Andy Summers (guitar).

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Always Judge A Book By Its Movie Poster by David James Keaton

September 12, 2014 by  •
Pleased today to welcome David James Keaton back to the blog. Those in the crime fiction community will no doubt know David from his work in places like Noir At The Bar, Beat To A Pulp, Needle, Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey and Thuglit, among others. His collection of short stories, Fish Bites Cop!, was well received by both readers and critics alike. Today, David is here to talk about the evolution of the cover for his newest release, The Last Projector (Broken River Books – October 31, 2014).

David James Keaton“Always judge a book by its cover.” – Dave’s dad.

So Broken River Books recently unveiled the cover art for my upcoming novel, The Last Projector, and since it’s gotten such a great response (the cover, I mean) and I’ve fielded more than a few email inquiries about the artist and the strange cover concept, and because Elizabeth White has a great venue for these kinda guest musings I figured I’d throw down some back story for the curious on this artwork’s long, strange journey to completion.

Initially, because of the novel’s obsessions with movies and videos, when J. David Osborne and I brainstormed ideas, we considered a schematic for a film projector, like one of those exploded blueprints, and/or some sort of swirl of videotape. I was also a big fan of Matthew Revert’s cover of Stephen Graham Jones’ The Last Final Girl and how it had those seams on the image to remind people of the traditional “four-sheets” from the heyday of movie posters.

This started me thinking less about the more obvious “projector” idea and more about movie posters. Because thinking about movie posters is way more fun. So we talked and talked about how we thought movie posters had taken a nosedive as far as creativity, almost always cashing in on the fame of the star with what I called the typical “giant famous head” design (see any Tom Cruise film for examples of this). But before the invasion of the heads, movie posters were amazing.

Also affecting the design was Broken River’s new venture into hardcovers. Mr. Osborne wanted this to be their first hardcover, and thought of this release as more of event, a more collectable work of art. Not to take away from his distinct paperback covers, and the Matthew Revert designs for their first dozen publications which had already made their own splash. He just thought a hardcover should look a little different to justify its existence. And I had fond memories of dust jackets that were almost as action-packed as those movie posters way back when.

Well, maybe some softer scenery, and maybe not quite the heroic poses, but there definitely used to be a lot more going on, wasn’t there? Looking around at my ‘70’s and ‘80’s hardcovers, Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline and The Great Santini had a movie poster feel, I thought, even though it was more respectable heads leading the charge in the image rather than war-torn, cigar-chomping soldiers or grizzled cops. V.C. Andrews covers were fun, too, with those die-cut false fronts and the spooky faces waiting behind them like an evil curtain call, the art casting weird shadows, like they had flashlights under their chins ready to scare you over the campfire. Stephen King’s hardcover for The Shining was a good example, too, although at some point publishers must have realized his name was all they needed.

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James Thompson: 1964 – 2014

August 6, 2014 by  •
I had the good fortune to both enjoy the writing of James Thompson, author of the Kari Vaara series, as well as to engage with him for several very personal, in-depth interviews. So it was with incredible sadness that I opened an email two days ago from a longtime friend of Jim’s informing me of Jim’s untimely passing.

James ThompsonThough I never met Jim in person, we did talk fairly regularly via email, and he joked that doing one of those “soul-baring interviews” had come to be part of his book release ritual that he most looked forward to.

Today I do my little part to help people enjoy and celebrate Jim’s life and work with links to my reviews of his writing and interviews with him.

Helsinki Blood by James Thompson

The Culture Must Change to End the Slaughter – An Interview With James Thompson

Helsinki White by James Thompson

Will I Be Assassinated? – An Interview With James Thompson

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

My Life Just Isn’t Anybody Else’s Business by James Thompson

Snow Angels by James Thompson (Nominated for Edgar, Anthony and Strand Critics awards.)

My sincere condolences to his friends and family, both in his adopted home of Finland and in his home state of Kentucky.

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Reaching for the Light by Sam Hawken

June 6, 2014 by  •
Very pleased to welcome Sam Hawken back to the blog. For my money, Sam Hawken is one of the most underrated authors working in crime fiction today, and it’s been my pleasure to both read and review Sam’s novels, such as The Dead Women of Juárez and Juárez Dance, as well as work with him on the Camaro Espinoza novellas (currently on hiatus). Sam’s novel Tequila Sunset, which has already had a successful run in the UK, is set for its official US release next week (though some outlets are already selling it).

Two years ago saw the US release of my debut novel, The Dead Women of Juárez. Nominated for a Crime Writers Association John Creasy New Blood Dagger — whew, that’s a long name! — it had garnered some degree of critical and commercial success in the UK, where it was first published. When it hit over here, however, it made no impact at all. Few copies were sold and fewer readers were satisfied with what they read. One memorable Goodreads review declared that the book “commits entertainment suicide” at the midpoint, when a major plot twist kicks in. Not exactly the sort of thing that breeds confidence. People didn’t like the characters, they didn’t like the setting and they weren’t all that interested in the plight of the real dead women of Juárez, the victims of what Mexicans call the feminicidios.

I wrote another Mexico-set novel after The Dead Women, this one called Tequila Sunset. It was likewise critically lauded and the Crime Writers Association again nominated it for an award, this time the far more easily named Gold Dagger. This was satisfying, as you might expect. To make matters even more gratifying, Tequila Sunset did so well in the UK that it even went bestseller. And when the book was tapped for an American release, Publishers Weekly and Booklist raved. This was a whole other level, and it got me thinking about what was so different about this book than the one that came before.

The Dead Women is essentially two interlocking stories with lead characters who are, shall we say, deeply flawed. There is very little light in the novel and it both turns and ends on bleak notes. Some got what I was going for and even liked it, but I think it’s safe to say most didn’t. Entertainment suicide, indeed.

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Hustle by Tom Pitts

May 2, 2014 by  •
Piggyback by Tom PittsHe hated Rich for his cynicism, for his instinctual inability to trust anyone. He didn’t want to end up that way, with that black hole for a heart.

Street hustler Donny is wise to be concerned about that path he’s walking. Though relatively new to the life of a male prostitute turning tricks with gay men in order to fund his drug habit, he’s already been in long enough to know it’s a fast track to a dead end. Donny doesn’t have to look far to see what lies in store for him, after all.

Big Rich, Donny’s friend and mentor of sorts, has been in the life longer than any of the other guys working the corner in San Francisco’s notorious Tenderloin where Donny plies his trade. And while Donny’s learned some valuable lessons for staying alive and getting over from Rich, there’s no denying they’re both going nowhere fast, spinning their wheels waiting for the next high or the next john, whichever happens to be on deck.

The opportunity to escape the boomerang cycle of drugs-hooking-drugs presents itself in the form of Gabriel Thaxton, one of Rich’s routine customers. Thaxton is a wealthy, well-known defense attorney, one Rich is convinced will be willing to pay handsomely to keep his proclivity for young, gay men a secret.

Rich’s plan is for the two of them to use a cell phone to record Thaxton in a compromising position, then threaten to upload it to YouTube unless they’re paid off—a seemingly solid, if sleazy, plan. It would have been, that is, if Thaxton weren’t already so far down the blackmail rabbit hole he’s willing to go to extreme measures to get out from under it, enlisting the help of a biker ex-client of his to do whatever it takes to remove the threat. If they don’t watch their step, Donny and Rich may just end up collateral damage in a situation far beyond their control.

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The Ex-Soldiers: Butterfly Road by Jason Duke

May 1, 2014 by  •
In somewhat of a departure, today on the blog I’m pleased to present the first chapter of a serialized novel by Jason Duke, The Ex-Soldiers, that we are working on and will be rolling out here on the site in the months to come. Jason’s fiction has appeared in publications including Plots With Guns, Thuglit, Spinetingler Magazine, Crimefactory, Needle Magazine, and A Twist of Noir. Jason is not just any old author, however, he is also a U.S. Army and Iraqi war veteran, and his time in the service clearly shows through in The Ex-Soldiers. So, enjoy the first chapter, “Butterfly Road,” and be on the lookout for more to come.

Jason DukeThe Ex-Soldiers
Chapter One: Butterfly Road

The interstate west of Gila Bend, Arizona cut a wide swath through the vast Sonoran desert. There, the long road appeared to run on forever into the deep blue distance of the horizon under the thin sheet of gauze cloud in the azure sky. It was seven in the morning. Long-armed sprinklers were spraying what looked like alfalfa in the wide green fields each side of the interstate. Heat was already up, rippling on the air and turning much of the water into steam, rising, shimmering and, finally, scattering in the oven-heated wind.

The Sergeant gazed out on the wide blue heaven and baked landscape hell below. He wondered why Hensley had attempted to smuggle her across in the midsummer; the worst time. Desperation? If that was true, then his love for the girl had turned him into a desperate fool. Now Hensley was…well, the Sergeant was not sure exactly. He did not know what became of the ex-soldier. That was what he was here to find out.

He looked to the dashboard, rechecked the locator device. Then he saw them: the yellow butterflies in the busy road. Hundreds of ‘em. Bright yellow wings with intensely orange wingtips bounded by black markings, though from his vantage point behind the steering wheel of the Jeep, the butterflies looked all yellow. Hensley was the real sap when it came to animals and little creatures, like the butterflies of the Earth. Yet, killing a thing so beautiful hurt the Sergeant, too. He knew the world was getting uglier. It needed more beautiful things. In his heart, he was not cruel, was not a terrible man—although he’d done many cruel and terrible things. The Sergeant wished there were another road. But there wasn’t another road. Only this road. He had no choice. He needed to arrive at the coordinates in the desert; the exact coordinates Gun had given him. And before it got too dark.

Rechecked the locator device. The coordinates pointed far into the desert. He still had a ways to travel.

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Big Money by Jack Getze

April 30, 2014 by  •
Here it is again, that special Austin Carr moment when I know I am about to speak words that will produce inevitable, disastrous repercussions.

Stockbroker Austin Carr can be forgiven for his somewhat bleak outlook. After all, the divorced father of two is barely on the comeback trail following a pretty rough series of events in the first entry in the series, Big Numbers.

Big Money, the second chance for readers to take Carr for a spin, finds Austin serving as a consultant/advisor at the investment firm he’s a part owner of, Shore Securities, while he waits for the suspension on his license to be lifted.

Trouble is, it may not matter whether or not he gets that license back, because Shore is being investigated by the feds for allegedly commingling funds, a problem his boss, Vic Bonacelli, leaves Austin to handle while Vic runs off to Tuscany. Of course, if that were the only problem Austin had to deal with he may still be okay.

Instead, he’s also saddled with keeping an eye on Vic’s daughter, who’s in the midst of a messy breakup, and Vic’s mother, the infamous Mama Bones, who’s been known to have a hand in some underhanded dealings involving bookmaking…and bingo fixing. (Don’t ask.)