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The Backlist by Frank Zafiro & Eric Beetner

September 28, 2015 by  •
RumrunnersOh, Christ. I was being laid off by the mafia. — Bricks

Paula “Bricks” Brickey is a mafia legacy. Her father, Antonio, served long and faithfully, even going so far as to do a stretch in prison rather than rat out the family. It’s why even as a woman she was able to get a foot in the door to do more than answer phones, though her skill and efficiency more than earned her a place as a button (wo)man once she got a chance to show her stuff.

Cameron Lowe is also a mafia legacy, though with not nearly the skill, polish or prestige as Bricks—hell, he doesn’t even have a cool nickname. Cameron grew up hanging around his uncle Rocco’s crew, happy to run whatever errands they sent him on. And though he’s now a grown man, he never really grew beyond his role as a glorified errand boy. Until now.

Seems not even the mafia is immune to a severe downturn in the economy, and when several high-ranking capos decide to head south with part of the family business things get critical financially for the boss Bricks and Cameron work for—downsizing is in order.

As there will only be room for one button man on the payroll in the family’s future, the boss decides to have a competition: both Bricks and Cameron will be given a list of “overdue accounts” to settle, and whoever turns in the most impressive performance will get the job. For Bricks it means proving she deserves to stay. For Cameron it’s a chance to prove he’s ready to step up.

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Banned Books Week 2015: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 27, 2015 by  •
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to ReadToday is the start of Banned Books Week 2015:

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, BBW 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 BBW 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 BBW 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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Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Vol. 3 by Paul O’Brien

September 23, 2015 by  •
Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Vol. 3“We all know the rules. Most of us live by those rules. If you don’t, then we will kill you on the vine.” — Joe Lapine

Author Paul O’Brien showed up on my radar back in 2012 with the novel Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, an engaging trip through the back rooms and shady deals that formed the backbone of the professional wrestling circuit during its heyday of the late 1960s/early 1970s.

O’Brien built the story of battling territory owners Proctor King and Danno Garland to a crescendo that was left tantalizingly hanging, before picking things up in early 2013 with Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 2, which focuses on Garland, who has finally clawed his way to the top and now controls the World Heavyweight Champion.

It wasn’t an easy climb, however, and the backstabbing and double-crosses finally catch up with Garland, who gets caught in a deadly downward spiral of retaliation and revenge. Relative bit players in the first book, ring-rat/limo driver Lenny Long and Garland’s right-hand man, Ricky Plick, move out of the shadows in the second outing, with both playing crucial roles as Garland’s life and empire crumble around him.

All of which sets the stage for the sledgehammer final book in the trilogy, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Volume 3, which finds the formerly gritty world of ‘60s/’70s wrestling giving way to the neon spandex, face paint, and baby oiled bodies of the flashy 1980s. Twelve years have passed since the climactic events that ended the previous entry, twelve years that saw Lenny Long doing the ultimate slow burn in prison, waiting for his chance to settle scores and make his own power play.

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Abnormal Author seeks Abnormal Readers by Grant Jerkins

September 18, 2015 by  •
I’m pleased to welcome one of my all-time favorite authors, Grant Jerkins, back to the site, though I wish the circumstances were slightly different. There’s no question Grant is a phenomenally talented author—his first three novels were universally praised, each made my Year’s Best list the year it was released, and his debut novel, A Very Simple Crime, has been adapted for screen by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Kazan and O’Neill Fellowship playwright Terry Curtis Fox. But a funny thing happened on the way to the publication of his most recent book, Abnormal Man. He can tell the story far better than I ever could, so I’ll turn things over to Grant.

Abnormal Author seeks Abnormal Readers
All Serious Enquiries Considered
No Brain Too Damaged, No Heart Too Dark

I want to thank Elizabeth for having me on her site and giving me a voice. When I published my first novel in 2010, Elizabeth was quite kind and supportive and has been that way ever since. I think that’s true for a lot of writers.

Most likely, this is the only promotion I’ll be doing for Abnormal Man, my fifth novel. I won’t be going on a blog tour, or chatting on internet radio, or posting a starred Publishers Weekly review on my Facebook page. PW won’t be reviewing Abnormal Man. Neither will Booklist or Library Journal or The New York Times for that matter. Because Abnormal Man is self published. I won’t even be doing a signing at my local bookstore, because the owner has made it clear to me that she has no intention of stocking the book. Why? Because she doesn’t approve of the printer I’m using. They’re owned by Amazon. And she would rather turn her back on me than see Amazon make a nickel. (Let’s all take a moment to feel sad for independent bookstores and how hard they’ve got it.)

So, you might be wondering why I’ve chosen to self publish Abnormal Man. I have an answer for that, but it’s not a simple one. Let me bullet it for you:

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The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

September 15, 2015 by  •
Chris Holm“I’ve been asked to send a message. Your death is merely to be the punctuation mark at the end of said message.” — Alexander Engleman

FBI Special Agent Charlotte Thompson has an obsession. Over a period of several years she’s been tracking a man she calls the ghost, a hit man she’s convinced is responsible for an unusual string of murders—her ghost only kills other hit men.

Neither her new partner nor her bosses at the Bureau are convinced.

But as it turns out, calling her quarry a ghost is incredibly apt since, unbeknownst to Thompson, the target of her obsession is dead. Well, on the books he is anyway.

Michael Hendricks was once a member of a covert ops unit sent to perform false-flag missions for the US government. When all but two members of his squad—Hendricks and one other—were killed in a roadside attack in Afghanistan, Hendricks saw it as an opportunity to disappear and start his life over.

Upon finding his way back to the States, Hendricks decided to put his special skill set to use in a way he hopes will help him clear his conscience and earn redemption—he becomes a killer of killers. With the help of his friend, tech wizard Lester Myers, the other survivor of that attack in Afghanistan, Hendricks identifies people who are targets of impending “hits” and offers to take out the hit man assigned the job—for a price: ten times the cost of the hit. People who accept Hendricks’s offer live to see another day. Those who decide to pass, well, their track record isn’t too great when they decide to roll the dice without Hendricks as backup.


Why I Write Crime by Chris Holm

September 11, 2015 by  •
It’s a pleasure to welcome Chris Holm back to the blog. You can check out all of Chris’s previous guest posts, as well as my reviews of his work, in the Chris Holm archive. Today, Chris is here in conjunction with his impending release, The Killing Kind (Mulholland, Sept. 15th), which introduces the character Michael Hendricks, a hitman with a twist: he only takes out other hitmen.

Chris HolmWhy I Write Crime

My grandfather on my mother’s side—Papa to his grandkids, because nobody, but nobody, called him Grandpa—was a great many things. A decent man. A fierce competitor. A stern disciplinarian. A consummate storyteller.

But most of all, Papa was a cop.

A damn good one, by all accounts. Papa rose through the ranks of the Syracuse PD from beat cop to Deputy Chief, busting his share of bad guys along the way. Somehow, despite everything he’d seen, he still never locked his doors at night. “If they want to get in, they’ll get in,” he’d say. “No point forcing them to break a window to do it.”

I remember riding with him in his Caddy (he always said that when he made it, he was gonna get a Cadillac—and even though his turned out to be a piece of junk, he loved it just the same) while he made his weekend rounds, my legs not yet long enough for my feet to reach the floor mats. To the newsstand, for a Batman comic (mine) and a Sunday paper (his). To his favorite bakery to pick up doughnuts (some stereotypes are true, I guess; the man was thin as a rail, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t love a good doughnut). To the Public Safety Building, where every cop in the place would say hello to me like I was some kind of VIP.

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Not Even Past by Dave White

August 31, 2015 by  •
Rumrunners“It wasn’t a foolproof plan. Not even close.” — Bill Martin

The last time readers saw New Jersey-based ex-cop turned private investigator Jackson Donne (The Evil That Men Do) things were decidedly rocky, serious problems with both his family and his profession having reared their heads.

Now, three years later, Donne has turned the corner. He’s deep into the process of earning his degree, having gone back to college after being forced to leave the private investigation business, and is engaged with a wedding date looming. Things are going well.

Until Donne gets an email that completely blindsides him, turning life as he knows it forever upside down.

At first it appears to be some weird spam with a click-bait subject: Click and watch. Her life depends on it. Normally, Donne would know better than to click on links in strange emails, but the email also contains an eight-year-old photo of him graduating from the police academy—there is some level of personalization there.

Against his better judgment, Donne follows the link, which leads him to an ominous video of a woman bathed in spotlights bound to a chair in an empty room, battered and screaming for her life. It’s a sight that would be disturbing enough on its own, but what makes the hair on the back of Donne’s neck stand up is that he knows the woman…and had thought for the past six years she was dead.


Rumrunners by Eric Beetner

August 14, 2015 by  •
Rumrunners“Hugh, after this if you ever see me again it will mean we’re both dead and the devil made us roommates.” — Calvin McGraw

Calvin McGraw has seen and done a lot in his 86 years, a great bit of it illegal. Let’s get one thing clear up front though: Calvin McGraw is no criminal—he’s an outlaw. It’s a distinction that makes all the difference in the world to the McGraw family, who have been the go-to drivers for the Stanley clan’s off-the-books enterprise for almost a century.

Now though, there’s trouble in outlaw paradise, in more ways than one. For starters, the McGraw-Stanley connection already looked to be coming to an end. Though Calvin had successfully passed the shifter to his son, Webb, Calvin’s grandson, Tucker, decided to break the chain, opting instead to go into the insurance business. It was a move Calvin and Webb found both disappointing and embarrassing, but in the end they could live with it.

A bigger problem has taken center stage, however, one the McGraws may not be able to live with. Tapped by Stanley patriarch Hugh for a high-stakes and well-paying job, Webb is reluctant to admit he can’t drive an eighteen-wheeler. Instead, Webb enlists the aid of a driver he barely knows, and things go very badly indeed—the cargo is hijacked from Webb, who takes a few hard bumps in the process. Now Webb has two choices: go on the run, or go back to Hugh and admit he lost the precious cargo.

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Bite Harder by Anonymous-9

August 13, 2015 by  •
Anonymous9I look useless, you think. You think wrong. — Dean Drayhart

When we last saw Dean Drayhart and Sid, the lead duo in Anonymous-9’s critically-acclaimed Hard Bite, Dean was in jail and Sid’s fate was unclear. And while one could read Bite Harder without first having read Hard Bite, Bite Harder is a sequel in the very truest sense of the word—events pick up literally where those of the first book left off and expand upon them—so I do think to get the most out of Bite Harder one should first read Hard Bite.

To that end, a quick recap of the premise of Hard Bite is in order (my full review here).

Dean Drayhart used to be a normal guy, until a hit-and-run driver destroyed everything he held dear—his daughter was killed, he was maimed and paralyzed, and his marriage disintegrated. Stuck in a funk, things took an interesting turn when Dean was provided with a service animal, Sid, an extremely well-trained capuchin monkey.

Together, the two turned into vigilantes, unleashing vengeance on hit-and-run drivers across LA—on the command of “hard bite” from Dean adorable little Sid will rip someone’s jugular out with his not so adorable fangs. Unfortunately, one of their targets/victims happened to be the son of Orella Malalinda, matriarch of a Mexican drug cartel, and needless to say things got very messy—many died, Dean ended up arrested, and Sid was in the wind. Cue Bite Harder.

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Pig Iron by David James Keaton

August 10, 2015 by  •
David James Keaton“Sister, I’ve said a lot of things. But that was before the world ended.” — Preacher

The place is Aqua Fría, a nothing town in the middle of nowhere, fast running out of water and hope. The players are The Ranger, a man destined from birth to wear a badge and uphold the law; Red, leader of a gang of thieves and killers, a man destined from birth to be The Ranger’s nemesis; the various residents of Aqua Fría and members of Red’s gang; a horse with no name, but with a hole in its head; and last but certainly not least, a crafty camel spider.

How exactly that all fits together is a bit too complicated to explain, but suffice it to say that those who didn’t hightail it out of Aqua Fría before the wells ran dry are now staring at a ticking clock: three days until they die of dehydration. Three days to make their peace and square up their debts, earthly and spiritual. Three days to, perhaps, find some way out of the hell they are quickly descending into.

Folks, Pig Iron, the latest from David James Keaton, is not your daddy’s Western. That is, not unless your daddy dropped a lot of acid and was particularly fond of camel spiders and walking-dead horses.


The Bitch by Les Edgerton

August 6, 2015 by  •
The Bitch by Les EdgertonI was sailing right into the nasty part, and I had a feeling it was only going to get worse. — Jake Bishop

Jake Bishop is on the verge of achieving the American dream. He’s married, he and his wife have their first baby on the way, he has some college under his belt, and he’s a few short weeks from making the leap from working as a stylist in someone else’s salon to opening his own shop.

True, Bishop didn’t exactly take the most direct route to get there, and the trip wasn’t without some serious bumps in the road. For one thing, he’s a recovering alcoholic, though it’s been years since he’s touched the stuff. More serious, he’s an ex-con, having done two stints for burglary at Pendleton Reformatory, a maximum security prison in Indiana.

Still, the past is the past, and everything seems to be going fine. Until the call comes that alters Bishop’s life irrevocably.

Seems Bishop’s old cellmate from Pendleton, Walker “Spitball” Joy, has a job he’d like Bishop’s help with. The kind of job Bishop doesn’t do anymore. Problem is, Bishop kinda owes Spitball, who looked out for Bishop during his last stretch in the joint. Figuring he owes Spitball at least a sit-down, Bishop goes for the meet. There, he finds out the situation is much more dire than just a prison buddy trying to cash in a moral IOU. Seems Spitball’s in deep with the wrong person, someone he shared information about Bishop with. The kind of information that gives them leverage Bishop can’t easily say no to.