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Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

June 26, 2015 by  •
Knuckleball by Tom Pitts“He made us all victims,” one caller said. “It was a hate crime of the worst kind, the hate was for us all, for society.”

As the city of San Francisco gets ready to direct some good-natured hate against their loathed baseball rival Dodgers during a three-game series with their beloved Giants, a different kind of hate is stalking the city’s Mission District.

In a senseless act of seemingly random violence, Officer Hugh Patterson is brutally gunned down at the end of his shift while standing outside a taqueria watching the game on the TV inside through the window. His partner, who had stepped away to make a phone call, gets to the scene too late—too late to save Patterson’s life, and too late to even see the perp, let alone apprehend him.

Though the city bands together to express their shock and outrage, turing Patterson into a modern-day folk hero in the process, few leads appear in the crime’s immediate aftermath. But as a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer grows in the following days, an eyewitness comes forward.

Fifteen-year-old Oscar Flores lives in an apartment across the street from where Patterson was gunned down. An avid Giants fan, he was in his room watching the game when the crime occurred and claims to have seen the entire thing while looking out the window between innings. It seems like the break the police need to solve the crime, and so you think you know exactly where the narrative’s going as it rounds third and heads for home. But as author Tom Pitts has demonstrated time and again, he’s a master at putting his characters in a moral pickle.

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A Murder Country by Brandon Daily

June 22, 2015 by  •
Brandon Daily“Don’t lie to me. I am your final judgment here. I am your final chance for salvation.” —The Rider

The setting: late eighteenth century. The players: three men moving through a violent and unforgiving world, two looking for earthly revenge, one the self-appointed hand of God. The stakes: a quest to understand man’s place in the world and how the power of belief—and a single act or decision—can set the course of one’s life.

Young Josiah Fuller’s life is irrevocably altered when, upon returning home from a multi-day hunting trip, he finds his parents have been brutally murdered. Not content simply to kill, whoever was responsible tortured the Fullers before stringing them up from a tree and burning down the homestead.

Josiah makes a vow to avenge their murders, and sets out on a quest to track and find the person(s) responsible. Along the way, he is forced through his interactions with the people he encounters to deeply examine his life, and to ask the question whether trading his eternal soul for the satisfaction of earthly vengeance is something he’s truly prepared to do.

William Corvin was once a man of violence, but has reformed his life and now oversees his family’s coal mine. When a random encounter with two drifters visits violence upon Corvin’s pregnant wife, like young Josiah, Corvin is forced to confront the question of whether slipping back into his old skin is worth the loss of his peaceful, hard fought for new life.

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The Adversary / Intrusion by Reece Hirsch

June 19, 2015 by  •
“A little disruption is healthy, makes everyone’s security stronger. It also lets those big corporations know that not everything is under their control. They can still be brought down.” —Zoey Doucet

Using computers, social media and the Internet are a part of the daily lives of nearly 3 billion people. That’s a staggering number, but one that makes it easy to understand why controlling the online world and, more importantly, the ways people access it and the information that can gleaned from those who use it, are things some will stop at nothing to achieve.

Enter Chris Bruen, former Department of Justice prosecutor and current partner in the law firm Reynolds, Fincher and McComb, where he specializes in data security. In his position at the DOJ it was Chris’s job to track down and prosecute big-time hackers. He’s parlayed that experience, as well as some personal hands-on hacking experimentation during his early teen years, into now showing massive corporations how they can protect themselves from the kinds of people he used to run to ground.

That’s the setup for a new series from Reece Hirsch, author of the previous standalone legal thriller The Insider, which was a finalist for the 2011 International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.

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Done in One by Grant Jerkins & Jan Thomas

June 12, 2015 by  •
On the street it’s reflex. Kill or be killed. This is methodical. Cold blooded. There’s not many men or women up to the task. — Jake Denton

Jake Denton is a member of the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department. Most days his job entails the things most people associate with being a police officer: going to roll call and briefings, patrolling his assigned beat, trying his best to make sure he and the people he is sworn to serve and protect all go home safely at the end of his shift.

Most days.

Some days, however, a call comes in that drastically changes Denton’s objective. On those days, odds are high not only won’t everyone be going home safely at the end of Denton’s shift, but that someone won’t be going home ever again. Because of Denton.

On those days, Denton rolls out with the other members of Cameron County Sheriff’s Department’s special weapons and tactics team—Denton is SWAT, the team’s designated sniper.

As Done in One opens, Denton and the SWAT team are called out to a hostage situation in a mini-mart, one police officer having already been killed by the would-be robber. As he’s done sixteen times previously in the line of duty, Denton uses his highly-honed skill to take out the criminal and save the hostage. The manner in which it goes down, however, is slightly different than in times past, earning Denton a mandated trip to a psychologist before he’s allowed back on SWAT rotation.

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Words to Die For by Lynn Kostoff

June 11, 2015 by  •
“You can afford to burn with a self-righteous purpose and champion Truth and Justice because you can’t admit just how terrifyingly little either of them has to do with anyone’s life, including your own.” — Raymond Locke

Raymond Locke is a fixer. His official job title at PR firm Public Domain is public relations specialist, but make no mistake about it, what Locke does is fix problems. Big, ugly, career and business torpedoing problems—the type of scandals that keep the supermarket tabloids of the world in business.

The year is 1986, and in the Reagan-era, greed is good, Iran-Contra fueled American cultural climate, Public Domain has no shortage of extremely rich clients with extremely embarrassing problems to fix before the damage sets in too deeply. Having become something of a rock star amongst fixers for his work on a case involving allegations of impropriety at a daycare center, Locke is known as the go-to guy for the dirtiest of problems.

But even Locke couldn’t have imagined just how far down the rabbit hole his newest client’s case would take him.

Lamar Ditell, owner/CEO of Happy Farms, a giant poultry company, has a Grade A scandal on his hands. Previously just a chicken producer/supplier, Happy Farms recently expanded into the fast-food business. Unfortunately for Ditell, over 100 people were stricken with serious food poisoning following the grand opening of Happy Farms’ first two franchises. And while such an outbreak would normally only be an embarrassing bump in the road, one of the victims, a ten-year-old girl, suffers serious complications and ends up in a coma. It still might be a PR hurdle someone with Locke’s skills could easily clear, until both a crusading journalist and a high-profile activist with Hollywood ties latch onto the scandal like dogs with a bone, determined to bring down Ditell and his empire, which had previously garnered bad press for an anti-union incident at Happy Farms’ processing plant.

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Write the Individual by Christopher Irvin

April 20, 2015 by  •
I’ve been fortunate to work with the talented Chris Irvin on multiple projects, from flash fiction and short stories to his novella, Federales (One Eye Press), and most recently on an early draft of his latest release, Burn Cards (280 Steps). As such, it wouldn’t be proper for me to review the book, but since I do know how good it is I was more than happy to provide Chris a platform to talk about the book, particularly the approach he took as a male author to writing the story from the perspective of a female lead.

I’ve been asked about the difficulty of writing Mirna Fowler, the protagonist in BURN CARDS, in most recent interviews. I think it’s a fair question. It was certainly on my mind when I wrote the book. Is she a convincing underdog? Will I portray her strength well? Perhaps it’s because of the ever-present chatter of tough/strong women written as “just men with boobs” (more of a complaint by SFF readers, I think, as I’ve never seen such “criticism” on the crime/thriller scene – one I disagree with.) But disagree or not, it still sat there in the back of my head.

BURN CARDS initially came about as a sort of challenge. A few years ago I realized I was criminally (zing) under-read when it came to female authors (especially in crime), nor was I writing female characters in my short stories. I took Christa Faust’s Tough Dames class on LitReactor as a way to force myself to do both. After a grueling month, I’d learned a ton, discovered some of my (now) favorite authors – Megan Abbott, Claire Vaye Watkins, Dorothy B. Hughes – and wrote “Bet It All On Black,” the short story that would inspire BURN CARDS.

Fast forward to today – the book has gone through a lot, but one aspect that’s remained constant is Mirna’s voice. It’s a key part of the narrative that I tried very hard to get right. I have a lot of strong women in my life and I think there are pieces of them represented in Mirna. Having female friends read and give a thumbs up to earlier drafts was a boost to my confidence, but at the end of the day I think I realized, in my gut, that I’d been writing to the individual all along, and that’s what brought her to life. (see below for more from Kelly Sue DeConnick)

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A Hard Look in the Mirror by Lynn Kostoff

April 7, 2015 by  •
It is my extreme pleasure to welcome to the blog today author Lynn Kostoff. I think every ardent reader has a stable of authors they think are criminally underrated, the ones they wish they could get on every reader’s radar. Lynn is one of those authors for me. My introduction to his writing was via the Southern Gothic masterpiece Late Rain, a story that dissects a murder from no fewer than four different first person perspectives, including a murder witness in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and a hit man with Asperger’s syndrome. Late Rain not only made my Top 10 Reads of 2011, it remains one of my favorite reads ever. Lynn’s latest novel, Words to Die For, will be released by New Pulp Press on April 15th.

What do Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Flannery O’Connor’s Grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, Nabokov’s Humbert, Camus’ Mersault, Melville’s Ahab, Faulkner’s Snopes clan, and, closer to home, Hammett’s Continental Op and Cain’s Frank and Cora have in common?

They are not likeable.

They are, however, something else.

Of all the criteria for responding to a piece of fiction, the question of a character’s likeability seems to me to be the most reductive and least productive. It’s the equivalent of donning a set of blinders before you go sightseeing.

Crime fiction, even more than other genres, seems susceptible to this kind of criticism; it’s hard to imagine crime writers not hearing at some point or another in their careers that their characters are not likeable or not likeable enough to keep readers turning pages.

That begs the question of why readers turn pages in the first place.

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Cause and Effect by Jan Thomas

February 4, 2015 by  •
Done in One (Thomas Dunne, ISBN: 978-1250054869) tells the story of fictional SWAT sniper Jake Denton. Today, co-author Jan Thomas has stopped by to share some thoughts on police/civilian interaction from her uniquely qualified perspective as someone who has been helping train police recruits for over twenty years.

My first novel, Done in One (co-written with Grant Jerkins), was recently published. In the wake of publication there have been interviews, reviews, guest blog appearances and other opportunities to talk about the book.

I soon found myself here, on Elizabeth’s website, reading a guest blog by another writer. The writer had written a first person account of a trip his novel’s main character had made to Ferguson to see what the civil unrest had wrought. He wanted to see what this battle between civilians and cops was all about.

As I read, I recognized that I am in a very unique position to speak on this issue. And it’s not because I’m married to a SWAT Sniper and therefor biased beyond reason. But because of where my perspective is rooted.

The rampant media coverage, stirring the cauldron of animosity with alleged acts of police brutality, even prompted one highly-rated daytime TV host to say, “I don’t know what kind of training these cops are getting, but they clearly need MORE TRAINING.” Well, I DO know what kind of training these cops are getting. At least within the State of California. I’ve spent the last few decades working at a police academy, helping to train new recruits in any and all situations they might encounter as a patrol officer working a beat.

My work involves taking on many roles: suicidal suspect, sexual assault victim, armed robber, ruthless killer, horrified parent of an abused child, domestic violence victim. The job requires verbal sparring of the highest order and the ability to adapt as situations pivot and change, flowing fluidly from one scenario to the next while balancing the fine lines of the law, personal rights and level of compliance and interaction. At its simplest form, it is an issue of “cause and effect.” If you do “A”, it causes me to do “B” and the effect will not be what you are hoping for.

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The Wolves Are At The Door by Anthony Schiavino

February 2, 2015 by  •
I’m pleased to welcome Shotglass Memories author Anthony Schiavino to the blog today for a post about how an author works hard to earn readers’ trust…so he can betray it in the name of art.

If David Fincher directed Bogie and Bacall in a Hitchcock romance, you would have Shotglass Memories. It’s a mixed drink explained in different ways, through different genres, but I’ll let you come to realize that I’ve eviscerated you emotionally by the time you get to the coda.

Before that happens, I need to earn your emotional attachment. I need to earn your trust, before I throw it through the plate glass and onto the pavement.

You don’t know Joe Sinclair or Kelsey Halliday. You don’t know Deargood, or Norah, or Gabriel. You’re on the outside looking in. You’re not inside my head, or theirs. From the gate, you don’t know the intimate details of what makes them tick; what keeps them up at night or what arouses their souls. You’re a voyeur who has a condition. An urge. I’m here to feed that urge.

But why should you care what happens to any of them at the start, let alone at all?

When I put them through Hell, or have them fall in love, I want you to feel it. I don’t want to tell you to feel it. I want you to feel the dark embrace of the page.

When I break Joe I want you to feel it at the back of your throat.

I want you to feel the chill off the ocean when Norah stands half-naked, covered in blood, crying out for somebody to open the door. I’ll paint the broad strokes and you fill in the rest. Hitchcock didn’t have to show everything.

Because you, the voyeur, can picture far worse.

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Shotglass Memories by Anthony Schiavino

January 13, 2015 by  •
During the early days of the Cold War, a man battles combat fatigue haunted by a past of murder and romance he doesn’t remember. — Shotglass Memories

I first started reading author Anthony Schiavino through his comic book work and short stories. In fact, in what was a departure for me at the time, I reviewed his comic Sergeant Zero: Reigning Fire back in 2011. And while he has continued to work on various comics and short stories, he’s been working away diligently on longer works as well.

Anthony now has a couple of novels working their way through the traditional publishing route, but decided he wanted to go ahead and release one of the novels he’s been working on, Shotglass Memories, himself.

An excerpt of the first few chapters are available to preview on his website, and the novel itself is now up for preorder on Amazon.

I saw an early draft of Shotglass Memories, and without even having read the final version yet I can certainly recommend you go ahead and get your preorder in. I know I have, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turned out in the end.

From the halls of Marvel Comics as a mutant editorial intern to the heights of the Flatiron designing book covers and straight on through newsrooms as an art director, Anthony Schiavino has seen action and then some. Pounding away at the keyboard, working well into the night, he mixes his love of old hard-boiled stories, hopeless romance and black and white movie dialogue like a good stiff drink. You can catch up with Anthony on his blog, Pulp Tone, as well as on Twitter
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Where is the President? by Roderick Vincent

November 28, 2014 by  •
I’m pleased to welcome Roderick Vincent to the blog today. I had the pleasure of working with Rick on his debut novel, The Cause, the first in the Minutemen series, which takes place in a dystopian America of 2022, where the country is on the verge of economic and social collapse, the government having made individual freedom its enemy. The Cause is out today from Roundfire Books.

[Author’s note: Promiscuous is an Anonymous hacker in my debut novel, The Cause.]

February 1st, 2023

In August of 2014, when I still worked for the NSA, I attended an artificial intelligence conference in St. Louis when riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. Details were sketchy through the dubious media, but what I do remember was an unarmed black kid was shot and killed, and his body unceremoniously left on the pavement for four hours afterwards. I remember feeling infuriated with the ordeal, and I felt obliged to go there and join the protests. I left the University of Missouri after the day’s numerous seminars and giving my own lecture on neurosynaptic chips. A few days earlier, I had read a NY Times article on the militarization of the police, and I wondered how much of it was true. Perhaps this was in the back of my mind driving into Ferguson.

I arrived on West Florrisant Avenue as the sun finished reddening the sky. I parked the beige, mid-sized Buick rental car a few blocks away and put my phone in the glove box, leaving it behind even though I had taken out the battery before leaving. Then I walked up the street to where the rally was already underway. As the night crept over the indigo atmosphere, voices blaring from a loudspeaker grew stronger, commanding people to go back to their homes.

They had brought out the heavy machinery—SWAT buses and armored vehicles, MRAPs and paddy wagons. I stood alone watching a good twenty yards from the throng’s circumference as people yelled in the street. I stood there for an hour or so, more content to watch and observe before joining the crowd. After a while, a man split off from the crowd in jeans and a gasmask and approached me. He had a backpack slung over his shoulder and wore a flak jacket underneath his baggy Rams T-shirt, the aqua-blue ram’s horns roping around his chest like a coiled serpent as the humid breeze made his shirt flutter. He lifted his gasmask off his face and asked me my name.