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Goodbye James Bond by Albert Ashforth

November 15, 2012 by  •
Author Albert Ashforth is on a virtual tour to support his latest release, The Rendition, and I’m pleased to welcome him today to talk about how he believes the tone and perspective of the espionage thriller changed after the events of 9/11, both for those writing them as well as those reading them.

Albert AshforthI always found spy thrillers enormously entertaining. I liked the action and suspense, the plentiful supply of gorgeous gals who always seemed to turn up and the exotic backgrounds.

Probably no one had the formula down better than Ian Fleming, and over the years the James Bond novels not only had more than their share of imitators; they provided the perfect template for other writers to follow. Beginning with Casino Royale, the first Bond novel, I read all of them at least once.

And as I think back, I can see why I and millions of other people were such eager consumers of these exotic stories. Take, for example, the plot of Casino Royale. M sends Bond to Casino Royale in France to play baccarat against Le Chiffre, who is the money man bankrolling SMERSH, the Russian counter-intelligence agency. Fleming was clearly ahead of his time. By the 1990’s there actually was a Le Chiffre on the world stage. His name was Osama bin Laden, and he was bankrolling a terror operation called al Quaeda. Like bin Laden, in the course of the story Le Chiffre finally gets his just desserts, but because Bond has played a role in Le Chiffre’s death, he is targeted for assassination, and this is where From Russia With Love begins.

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Chalk Valley by D.L. Johnstone

November 13, 2012 by  •
Chalk Valley by D.L. JohnstoneHe wondered for the hundred and first time if he had arrested the Chalk Valley killer, caught him dead to rights, and was losing him to the system. – Sergeant Dave Kreaver

When some teenagers out looking to party in a remote section of the forest in Chalk Valley, British Columbia stumble upon the remains of a young woman, Detective John McCarty is tasked with heading up the investigation. It’s a task that becomes exponentially more complicated when, during their search of the surrounding area for evidence, the bodies of two more young women are discovered. The subsequent autopsy on the first victim reveals her killing was extremely methodical and highly brutal. A single such murder in the sleepy town would have been news enough, but the idea that there is a serial killer on the loose is unimaginable.

Two hundred kilometers away in Baywater, British Columbia, Sergeant Dave Kreaver is having problems of his own. While on the way home late one evening, Kreaver witnesses a van crash off the side of the road and stops to help. The driver, Phil Lindsay, appears unhurt, but is overly anxious to downplay the event. Not realizing Kreaver is law enforcement, Lindsay tries to persuade Kreaver to just drive away. Suspicious, Kreaver looks inside the wrecked van and finds a partially clothed, unconscious teenage girl. Kreaver gets backup to the scene, but during the turmoil of trying to help the girl, whom Lindsay claims is his niece, Lindsay slips away into the woods. He’s picked up five kilometers away trying to flee the area by cab, and by that time Kreaver has discovered something else in the back of the van: a bag containing a mask, rope, duct tape, a pipe, and handcuffs. A rape kit.

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Cocaine Zombies by Scott A. Lerner

November 13, 2012 by  •
Cocaine Zombies by  Scott A. LernerI have represented rapists, killers and worse, but I have never met anyone who made me as uncomfortable as this woman.

When your new client looks like an angry NFL defensive end, complete with a nasty scar over one eye, yet the person you’re getting the bad juju from is the beautiful, petite woman with him who’s paying the bill, well, something’s definitely off. Unfortunately, Urbana, Illinois attorney Sam Roberts has no idea how off until he’s in way too deep.

Thomas, his client, has been arrested and charged with selling cocaine. The police seem to have him dead to rights, the sale having been caught on video during a sting. Thomas’s mysterious friend, Chloe, however, is willing to pay handsomely for Sam to do whatever it takes to make the charge go away. You’d think Thomas would be thrilled to have an enthusiastic advocate with a big bankroll backing him, but Sam can’t help but notice Thomas seems to be extremely jumpy around Chloe.

Determined to represent his client well and without external influence, Sam goes to meet with Thomas without Chloe around to see if there’s something Thomas isn’t telling him. Far from being happy to see Sam, Thomas is distraught over the visit, claiming Sam has sealed a fate for him worse than death. When Thomas is found gruesomely murdered shortly after Sam’s visit, minus his head and with Sam’s name written in blood at the scene, Sam finally begins to understand the depth of the mess he’s gotten into. At least he thought he did…until Thomas’s head shows up in his fridge.

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Chocolate and Peanut Butter by Scott A. Lerner

November 12, 2012 by  •
Welcoming author Scott A. Lerner to the blog today as part of his virtual tour in support of his debut novel, Cocaine Zombies. I’ll also be reviewing the book tomorrow, but for now the floor belongs to Scott.

Scott A. LernerI was asked if Cocaine Zombies is more about cocaine or zombies, as if the title was a list of ingredients. This is not like being asked if a peanut butter cup is more about the chocolate or the peanut butter. The essence of Cocaine Zombies is not cocaine or zombies; it is human nature.

Chloe, the antagonist, holds that at its core mankind is essentially evil. Just as the essential nature of a toaster pastry is flakey goodness. She believes we can no more change that nature than we can change the nature of the pastry. Her position is well supported by our history of torture, slavery and genocide. The present is not a whole lot better. If humans are essentially evil, she reasons, we are undeserving of freewill.

Chloe would further argue that even if we are not evil we are certainly no better than animals. That humanity is ruled by instinct and greed. That people are willing to put their values aside as well as the values of society for personal benefit. This is also a compelling argument. If humanity is indifferent to the plight of others and focused solely on our own needs and desires, we are undeserving of freewill.

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Hard Bite by Anonymous-9

November 9, 2012 by  •
Anonymous9Inside my head I try to keep the truth black and white, no grey area: I like to kill. – Dean Drayhart

Hard Bite by Anonymous-9 features a paraplegic vigilante, his enforcer (an extremely well-trained capuchin monkey named Sid), a pissed off mother (who just happens to be the de facto head of a Mexican drug cartel), a savvy streetwalker, a boatload of Los Angeles law enforcement, enough blood to float the Titanic, and a guns blazing finale.

Now, I know a sizable portion of my regular readers are as “off” in the head as I am, and for you lot that will be all the description you need to be hooked. So, off you go. Buy the book.

For those of you who want a little more, here we go.

Dean Drayhart used to be a normal guy. He worked a boring but lucrative job in insurance, had a wife and lovely seven-year-old daughter, and while he was aware of the fragility of life – how can you not be looking at actuarial tables and statistics all day – he never really thought about death in terms of himself or his family. That is not until a hit-and-run driver destroyed everything Dean held dear.

Now his child is dead, and his marriage is as distant a memory as his ability to use his legs. He lost a hand too, and his GI tract hasn’t been quite right either since the accident, which had the added insult of “squashing [his] large intestine to mush.” Now, well, Dean’s on a first name basis with death these days. Initially it was in terms of considering suicide, “which lost its appeal contemplated deeply,” but instead turned into an obsession with seeking vengeance on hit-and-run drivers.

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Moondog Over the Mekong by Court Merrigan

November 8, 2012 by  •
Moondog Over the Mekong by Court MerriganYesterday Court Merrigan stopped by for a guest post, in which he very creatively presented via animated gifs a reworking of his short story “The Scabrous Exploits of Cyrus & Galina Van, Hellbent West During the Third Year of the Harrows, 1876.” The story is as wonderful as you’d imagine given the title, and Merrigan’s tongue-in-cheek retelling of it via gifs was truly inspired.

So it comes as no surprise that along with “The Scabrous Exploits…”, the dozen other stories which make up Merrigan’s recently released collection, Moondog Over the Mekong (Snubnose Press), are equally as creative and inspired. And though I’d love to talk about every one of them, I do want to leave you some things to discover completely anew for yourself, so I’ll just highlight a few of my favorites.

“The Cloud Factory” kicks the collection off, and quickly sets the tone for what’s to come. Seemingly a straightforward story of a guy driving his meth maker/dealer buddy to the bus station for his “last ride” out of town having finally quit the business, things take a hard left about a third of the way in and the story morphs into something very different. It’s a quick, neat study in how a lifetime of spinning your wheels can explode when that futile spinning suddenly finds unexpected traction.

“The Last Ladder” takes the old adage age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill and plays that out in the wonderfully wicked story of cocky young drug dealer Jeff and his unlikely delivery “boy,” the nearly 70-year-old Roy. Broke, a widower, and with a bad back in desperate need of surgery, Roy seems like the perfect candidate to accept whatever he’s given and do Jeff’s bidding without question. Oh, man, does Jeff have another thing coming.

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Where Do Ideas Come From and What Will They Think if I Write Them?! by Anonymous-9

November 8, 2012 by  •
It is my extreme pleasure to welcome to the blog today the woman, the myth, the legend… Anonymous-9.

Anonymous9Where Do Ideas Come From?

None of my ideas come fully formed. Inspiration is unusually sourced. For instance, way back in 2008, I was eagerly searching for e-zine publishers for my third and fourth short stories. One site looked promising but said no stories with cats in them would be accepted. I felt this was heavy-handed although the publisher had every right to set rules. Focusing on cats as a problem seemed misdirected instead of illuminating the problem underlying the cats (an avalanche of cloyingly cute story submissions perhaps?).

Anyway, my subconscious mind got hold of it and the very next idea that came to me involved a badass, hardboiled cat. Feeling faintly defeated from the get-go, I scribbled the idea down anyway, on the back of an envelope while in the car.

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Why So Serious? by Court Merrigan

November 7, 2012 by  •
And now for something completely different, Moondog Over the Mekong author Court Merrigan.

Court MerriganNoir tends to take itself pretty seriously, all death and affliction and, well, darkness. I’ve been no exception; my story THE SCABROUS EXPLOITS OF CYRUS & GALINA VAN, HELLBENT WEST DURING THE THIRD YEAR OF THE HARROWS, 1876 is proof of that. But there’s more than one way to skin a story, right? We don’t have to be so damn serious all the time, do we?

So, supplementary to your reading this story in the next issue of Needle and also in my short story collection MOONDOG OVER THE MEKONG, I lightened up a little, and so present to you that same story told via animated gifs.

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Confabulation by Ronald Thomas

November 7, 2012 by  •
Reaching The End, Then Not by Ron BrownThe drive was silent, and for a few minutes Henry could remember what his life had been like just a few weeks before.

The mind is a powerful thing. It can lead people to accomplish tremendous things, both admirable and abominable. To do either, however, requires drive and focus. So what happens when you suddenly realize you’re consumed by a focus you have no memory of setting your mind to, something you are compelled to accomplish without understanding why?

That’s the situation facing three individuals in Confabulation. Once a happily married man and productive employee, Henry Adamson has become obsessed with the idea that his wife is in mortal danger. He can’t remember why he thinks this, but with every fiber of his being he knows it to be true.

Simon Klein and Carolyn Hansford are also having strange experiences. Simon is experiencing bizarre episodes of vision loss, while Carolyn is suddenly in possession of an amazing wealth of information she’s been able to leverage for financial gain, information she has no memory of obtaining.

On the surface the three seemingly have nothing in common, neither in relation to one another nor in the events they are experiencing. That is until they are each contacted by someone claiming to know what’s happening to them, someone who offers up fantastic tales of government conspiracies and a shadow organization manipulating psychic abilities. When events conspire to bring the three together they must figure out whom to believe, but how can you trust a stranger when you’re not even sure you can trust your own mind?

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Genre? by R. Thomas Brown

November 5, 2012 by  •
I’m pleased to welcome R. Thomas Brown back to the blog. The last time he was here was in conjunction with his outstanding release, Hill Country. Today Ron’s here in support of his latest release, Confabulation, a story which takes him a little outside the confines of his straight up crime fiction background.

Reaching The End, Then Not by Ron BrownI love crime fiction. I like reading it, writing it, editing it. Really, I’m just a huge fan. Okay, maybe I’m not the target audience for PI stories, but the genre and I are good friends.

I also like speculative fiction. Epic fantasy, hard sci-fi from time to time. I like contemporary fantasy most (yeah, maybe it’s just urban fantasy, but I like rural settings, too.) And, sure, I like the blending of them as well. Chris Holm and Chuck Wendig in particular are doing some things that I just love.

So, I tried my hand at writing a story that pulled together the kind of crime fiction I like to write (some call it laconic, some overly violent, some weird people actually like it) with some paranormal elements. What came out of that was Confabulation, a story that centers on the paranoia of not being able to discern reality.

It’s still a fast moving tale (I think) and still works mainly with normal people struggling against assaults. This time, though, the assault aren’t guns and fists, but hallucinations, false memory, and the occasional brain melting.

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Blood & Sawdust by Jason S. Ridler

October 31, 2012 by  •
Jason S. Ridler“Shouldn’t we both be afraid of something badass enough and strong enough to scare her?” – Milkwood

It’s a very perceptive question Francis “Milkwood” Mace poses to his young friend, Malcolm Tanner. After all, the her in question is Lash, one of the few surviving members of an ancient bloodline and the vampire who turned Milkwood. But let’s back up for second…

Thirteen-year-old Malcolm (first introduced in Jay Ridler’s short story “Blood & Sawdust” in his collection, Knockouts) and his older brother make their meager living betting on the underground fight circuit. His brother’s in it strictly for the money, but Malcolm is a true fan who knows all the fighters. At least he thought he did.

That was until the night he saw Milkwood fight for the first time. Short, pudgy, with a face only a mother could love – and that’s before taking a beating – Milkwood was utterly annihilated in his fight, a human punching bag who absorbed an inhuman amount of punishment. Dragged out the back door of the fight club and left for dead, Malcolm figured he’d seen the first and last of Milkwood.

So imagine Malcolm’s surprise when only a few hours later he runs into a Milkwood who is not only conscious and vertical, but who looks like no one’s ever laid a finger on him, much less a beating of epic proportions. Malcolm begins to piece things together when he realizes he actually has seen Milkwood fight before, except it was as a masked character billed as Stretch Armstrong…who was also beat to hell and back. In fact, those in attendance that night four months ago were sure Stretch had suffered a broken neck.