Marshall Karp - Terminal

Terminal by Marshall Karp

“You started out this morning in the morgue, and you ended with a room full of people who are getting ready to take the big dirt nap. If you work homicide, it doesn’t get any more fun than that.” — Terry Biggs

As much as Detective Mike Lomax really doesn’t want to undergo his prostate exam, finding himself in the middle of an active shooter situation is not the way he’d have preferred to get out of it. Yet, in perhaps the ultimate case of being in the wrong place at the right time, Lomax springs from the exam table and responds, complete with ass hanging out of a flimsy exam gown, to the unmistakable sound of shotgun fire in the medical office complex where his doctor is located.

He arrives just in time to witness the shooter kill himself while standing over the body of the doctor he’s gunned down. Investigation reveals the shooter, Cal Bernstein, was terminally ill with a brain tumor, and though there was no connection between him and his victim, a fertility doctor, it still seems like an open and shut case.

Tom Pitts - Hustle

Hustle by Tom Pitts (Down & Out edition)

Hustle by Tom PittsIf you missed Hustle by Tom Pitts when it was first released, good news—a new edition is now out from Down & Out Books! Jacket copy:

Two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs. Donny and Big Rich want to film Gabriel Thaxton with their cell phones during a sexual act and put the video up on YouTube. Little do they know, the man they’ve chosen, a high-profile San Francisco defense attorney, is already being blackmailed by someone more sinister: an ex-client of the lawyer’s. A murderous speed freak named Dustin has already permeated the attorney’s life and Dustin has plans for the old man. The lawyer calls upon an old biker for help and they begin a violent race to suppress his deadly secret.

I reviewed the book when it first dropped, and here’s a taste of that:

Ian Ayris - April Skies

April Skies by Ian Ayris

Ian AyrisSomething’s movin towards me. Gettin closer. Feelin its way in the dark. It’s took two years. But it’s comin.— John Sissons

John Sissons is working hard to put the events of the past behind him, events that landed him in prison for a seven-year stretch. (Abide With Me) Out for two years, he’s been working at a market stall several days a week selling produce.

When that job dries up, John signs on with a job placement agency that gets him in working at a door factory. It’s dreary, repetitive, soul-crushing work, but twenty-five years old and knowing it’s time to get on with being a man, John sucks it up and sticks things out.

Slowly, things seem to be taking a turn for the better. John settles into the pattern of the work, the money’s coming in, and he even starts dating a young woman who works in the factory office. And then news arrives that changes John’s world forever.

Lost Found2016

The Office of Lost and Found by Vincent Holland-Keen

Ian Ayris“My name is Thomas Locke. I am a private detective and what I’m about to say might sound strange, but it is absolutely true.”

Vincent Holland-Keen’s (Billy’s Monsters) debut novel The Office of Lost and Found is fueled by a cast of wonderfully quirky and endearing characters, and unfolds as several parallel, if time-bending, plots.

Thomas Locke is not just a detective, he’s a detective capable of finding anything, anywhere, no matter how long lost or how well hidden. He is the “found” half of The Office of Lost and Found.

Locke’s partner, Lafarge, brings new meaning to the term shadowy, literally appearing only as a tall, dark figure cloaked deep in shadows. He is the “lost” half of The Office of Lost and Found, and you better be sure you really want something lost before seeking his help, because things Lafarge loses stay lost. Permanently.

Alex Segura - Down The Darkest Street

Down the Darkest Street by Alex Segura

This was old Miami, classic, historic, with a coat of paint over something darker and more dangerous.

It’s been a year since we last saw Pete Fernandez in Silent City. And while he made it out of the events of that book alive, he may wish he hadn’t.

Fernandez has lost his job as a journalist, his marriage has fallen apart, his best friend was killed, and he’s learned those closest to you are the ones whose betrayal hurts the most—and are the ones that you never see coming.

Hey, Kids, Collect them All: The Awful Truth About Completism by Gavin Scott

It’s a pleasure to welcome Gavin Scott to the site today. Gavin has extensive experience in radio, film and television, having spent twenty years working as a reporter for the BBC and ITN, as well as in Hollywood as a screenwriter on projects with such film royalty as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Gavin’s new novel, The Age of Treachery, first in a new series set in post WWII England and featuring ex-Special Operations Executive agent Duncan Forrester, is out now from Titan Books.

Hey, Kids, Collect them All: The Awful Truth About Completism

I suspect the syndrome began when I read the backs of serial packets in the 1950s and was urged by the manufacturers of Shredded Wheat and Rice Crispies to make sure that I had the complete set of the plastic Space Men/Pirates/Guardsmen/Divers/Miniature Nuclear Submarines that they were offering. Sadly, I was rarely able to eat enough Rice Crispies or Shredded Wheat to succeed: but the lust for the complete set was planted.

I think in literature the process began with the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge, if only because the art on the dust jackets of the adventures of the boys at Jennings school was so colorful and full of delight.

Interestingly, although I loved Captain W.E.Johns’ Biggles books, I was never tempted to try to collect them all because there was simply so many– and the same applied to Richmal Compton’s magnificent William books.

I think the enthusiasm for complete sets really took hold courtesy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At the age of 11, a newly arrived emigrant in New Zealand and staying at a Salvation Army hostel in Cuba Street, Wellington, I discovered in the window of the bookstore opposite a hardback copy of the John Murray edition of His Last Bow. It had a white cover decorated with the magnificent painting of Sherlock Holmes holding, of all things, a cockerel. It was some years before I was able to get a copy for myself and by that time I had discovered that the painting was one of a whole series of Holmes which decorated the covers of all the books in the Collected edition from The Adventures onwards.

The Long Goodbye by Ian Ayris

It is an extreme pleasure to welcome Ian Ayris to the site today. I don’t know what Ian’s middle name actually is, but I secretly think it’s Midas, because everything he writes is pure gold as far as I’m concerned. His debut novel, Abide With Me, completely blew my doors off and was one of my Top 10 Reads of 2012. He followed that up with the complex and powerful novella One Day in the Life of Jason Dean, a story built around a hit man whose enthusiasm for the job is fading fast—like fading by the hour fast. Today, Ian’s here to talk about his newest novel, April Skies (out tomorrow from Caffeine Nights Publishing), an unexpected sequel to Abide With Me. Why unexpected? Well, Ian previously explained how difficult it was to write Abide With Me, so I’ll let him explain why writing the follow-up was unexpected, and why he was so scared of letting readers down.

Ian AyristThe Long Goodbye

I began the writing of ABIDE WITH ME – my debut novel – some time in 2010. I never plan anything I write, and ABIDE WITH ME was no different. What I discovered very quickly, however, was whilst I thought I was telling the story of Kenny – a young lad with unspecified autism – the story I was actually telling was that of John, the narrator of the book.

As the story unfolded, and John began to tell me of his childhood years, various aspects of my own childhood began to filter into the book. I wrote the final few chapters of ABIDE WITH ME with tears running down my face. At the end of it all, I was emotionally shattered. That’s when I realised I’d stopped telling John’s story a long way back, and the story I was really telling was my own. Not the plot, as such, but the themes and the characters. Each were intrinsically a part of me, and always had been.

By the final chapter, I was broken.

I had nothing left.

The book was incredibly well received – something I hadn’t anticipated. In hindsight, ABIDE WITH ME was all about the purging of myself, the making it out alive. I had no thought that it might touch others as it did.

There were two constant themes to the feedback I began to receive – ‘What a great film it would make’ and ‘When is the sequel coming out?’

There would be no sequel. I was sure of that. After the first one broke me in half? You’ve got to be kidding. In terms of the story, there was ample room for a sequel, but I refused to write one simply because people wanted me to. The story, for me, had ended.

Catching Up With Alex Segura

Alex Segura is a busy man. In addition to his longtime, ongoing work with Archie Comics, he’s already had a novella (Bad Beat, co-written with Rob Hart) and a full-length novel (Silent City) released in 2016, with a second full-length novel (Down the Darkest Street) ready to drop on April 12th. He and his wife also added a beautiful baby boy to the Segura family in February. Despite his hectic schedule, Alex was kind enough to make some time recently for an interview, during which we talked comics, crossovers, his approach to writing, how location shapes and informs a story, and what he has planned for the future.

You’ve always kept busy as a writer, both through your work in comics and novels, as well as your background in journalism, but 2016 is posed to be a particularly bountiful year for you. It kicked off in January with the digital short exclusive Bad Beat, a crossover you co-wrote with Rob Hart. The story features both your character, Pete Fernandez, and his, Ash McKenna (New Yorked, City of Rose). How’d that collaboration come about, and what was it like co-writing with someone in a purely prose setting versus the collaborative work you’ve done in comics?

It came up really organically, which was nice. Rob and I were having dinner after an event and got to talking about our mutual affection for comics, which lead us to talk about great crossover. Eventually, we latched onto the idea of doing it with our own characters in advance of our new books. By the time we were on our respective trains home, Jason Pinter at Polis Books had OK’d the idea and we were off.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried the idea would fizzle – mainly because Rob and I are both very busy. But the writing was seamless and easy. We brainstormed the outline and where the story fit in our respective character timelines and then split up the work. We’d each take turns writing our sections and then took passes editing the whole thing. We both have journalism backgrounds, so I think that helped in terms of letting someone else tinker with your work. The end result was a fun story – and one that I got to nod to in the reissued version of SILENT CITY, making it more “canon.”

Rob and I have similar sensibilities and work ethics and I love the Ash books, so it was really a treat to work with him. I hope we can do it again, if the stars align the right way.

Trace Conger - Shadow Broker

The Shadow Broker by Trace Conger

I’m sort of like Death’s GPS. — Finn Harding

Finn “Mr. Finn” Harding has a unique talent for finding people, even those who desperately don’t want to be found. Unfortunately for the people he locates, once he finds them they’re usually never seen again—hence, Death’s GPS.

Once a legit, licensed private investigator, Finn strayed a little too far over the line into murky ethical waters during an assignment for a client and had his license revoked by the state of Ohio. Now, he’s been reduced to working for people who not only don’t care he doesn’t have a license, they kinda prefer it given they work outside the law themselves.

When Bishop, the owner of an underground website called Dark Brokerage that traffics in stolen sensitive and financial information, becomes the target of a blackmailer who hacked the site, Finn is hired to locate the source blackmail. Easy enough, it’s Finn’s speciality after all.

Except, once Finn locates the blackmailer it doesn’t end there. Bishop persuades Finn to accompany fix-it man Little Freddie to…take care of the problem. Little Freddie will do all the heavy lifting, Finn is assured, he’ll just be along for the ride as backup. Right.

Though the task doesn’t go quite as planned, Finn gets more involved than he’d prefer, he and Freddie are successful, leading to an offer of more work for Finn from Bishop. Against his better judgment, Finn finds himself getting pulled farther and farther down a path he knows it’s not safe to be walking.

Surveillance by Reece Hirsch

“How are we going to run from them? How do you run from an agency that’s in the business of surveillance?” — Ian Ayres

There’s a saying that no good deed goes unpunished, and surely something similar to that has to be top of mind when Ian Ayres walks into the San Francisco law firm of Chris Bruen. A so-called “ethical hacker,” someone who hacks into companies at their request to test their cybersecurity and show them where their weaknesses are, Ayres found far more than he bargained for on his last job.

While conducting what he thought was a routine security probe, he came across information that indicates the existence of a highly classified, top-secret government organization, one which has apparently developed a program called Skeleton Key that can break any form of encryption. Unclear whether the program is on the company’s servers intentionally or if they’re being hacked/surveilled, Ayres brings his discovery to their attention. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.

When the company that hired Ayres not only cuts all ties with him but denies having hired him in the first place and accuses him of hacking their system, Ayres knows he’s stumbled onto something far out of his league and that he desperately needs help. Enter Chris Bruen. A former Department of Justice cybercrime prosecutor, Bruen is well known to those in the hacking community, and it’s him Ayres turns to for help. Along with his partner, Zoey Doucet, a former black-hat hacker turned ethical hacker, Bruen has literally just opened the doors of his new private practice for the first day of business when Ayres shows up on the doorstep with his problem, and a whole lot of trouble in tow.


Crosswise by S.W. Lauden

“Do your job, Mr. Ruzzo. Everything else will become clear in time.” — Mr. Adamoli

Tommy Ruzzo was once a promising NYPD officer. That was before his access to the precinct evidence locker, and the cocaine in it, sent his life on an unexpected detour. Though Internal Affairs was never able to prove Ruzzo took the coke, the cloud of suspicion he was placed under killed his career.

With no options on the table locally, Ruzzo tags along with his girlfriend, Shayna Billups, when she moves back to her hometown of Seatown, Florida. Given that Shayna, and her coke habit, was the reason Ruzzo was dipping into the evidence locker to being with, it’s a particularly low blow when she leaves him for her ex-husband as soon as the drugs and drug money run out.

Stuck in Florida with no chance at resuming a legitimate law enforcement career, Ruzzo is forced to settle for work as a rent-a-cop at Precious Acres retirement community. Despite being promoted to Head of Security after only a couple of months, Ruzzo knows the job is a dead end, and resignedly settles in to a pattern of fielding wisecracks from septuagenarian retirees and chasing off mischievous teenagers during the day, then getting bombed out of his skull every night.

Six Things I Learned While Writing Surveillance by Reece Hirsch

I’m pleased to welcome Reece Hirsch to the site today. Hirsch’s latest thriller, Surveillance, third in the Chris Bruen series, drops today from Thomas & Mercer, and the plot couldn’t be more timely. Bruen, an attorney specializing in computer-crimes, and his partner, Zoey Doucet, a hacktivist, get drawn into a life or death scenario involving a top-secret government agency that has developed a program that can break any form of encryption. Today Hirsch is here to talk about quantum computing, domestic surveillance and what it’s like to write thrillers that may put you on the radar of exactly the type of people and agencies you’re writing about.

Six Things I Learned While Writing Surveillance

Like a lot of writers, I tend to think about my life not so much in years but in books. Whatever book I happen to be writing at the time casts its shadow over everything else that I happen to be doing. The things that I’m learning writing the book tend to seep into my personal life, and my personal life certainly seeps into the books. Here are six things that I learned while writing my new thriller Surveillance:

1. Spy vs. Spy. In researching the NSA for Surveillance, I learned that a state-of-the-art laser microphone can reproduce a conversation from the vibrations of sound waves against the glass of a window. Of course, for every surveillance tactic there’s a countermeasure. The NSA employs dual-pane windows in its offices and pipes music in between the panes to block the sound waves from conversations.

2. No Quantum of Solace. In my books, I’m always trying to look over the horizon to the next scary privacy and cybersecurity issue that might provide fodder for a thriller plot. In Surveillance, I speculated that quantum computing, which seems like something out of science fiction, could become a reality. Unlike traditional computing that is based on ones and zeros, quantum computing uses “qbits,” which can be both a one and a zero – at the same time. A quantum computer could theoretically perform calculations at such blinding speeds that it could break any form of encryption. In Surveillance, I suppose what might happen if the NSA developed a quantum computer and what that might mean for its surveillance of U.S. citizens.

So far I’ve managed to stay ahead of the headlines with the subjects my books. However, it’s often a close call — earlier this year, a few months before the release of Surveillance, Google announced that it had tested the first quantum computer.

An Empty Hell by Dave White

This was all about him, and everyone else was collateral damage.

It’s been a year since former NJ cop turned private investigator Jackson Donne was involved in a case that ended with two men dead and Donne pegged by law enforcement as the killer. (Not Even Past) Though on the face of it evidence did seem to indicate Donne was responsible, the reality of the situation was far more complicated.

Unfortunately, Donne is persona non grata with the local police, who hold a serious grudge against him for his actions while a member of their ranks. So, rather than stick around and try to explain Donne decided a change of scenery was in order.

Now, the lifelong Jersey resident finds himself using the name Joe Tennant and working as a handyman in a small town in Vermont, living pretty much off the grid and isolated from all but a few locals. It’s a situation that’s far from ideal, but one Donne has come to accept as the way things need to be.

Trouble seems to have a way of finding Donne, however, and the first hint of it occurs when the owner of the small motel where Donne works is abducted. Donne makes the mistake of indulging his investigator instincts and pokes around the motel, where he comes across information that leads him to believe the abductor wasn’t only after Donne’s boss/friend, but that Donne is a target too.


Crossword Puzzles Save Lives by S.W. Lauden

S.W. Lauden is a busy man. His debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, dropped last November and the follow-up, Grizzly Season, will be published this September. In the meantime, he’s managed to sneak in a novella, Crosswise, out now from Down & Out Books. Today he’s here to talk about how crossword puzzles figure in to Crosswise, and how having a firm grasp of one’s apse can save lives.

Crossword Puzzles Save Lives

Flying means one thing for me these days: crossword puzzles.

The first thing I do when boarding a flight is take the airline magazine out and flip to the back. The game is to complete the crossword puzzle before the plane takes off.

The logic is simple. Finish the puzzle before the plane takes off and we won’t crash. Fail, and, well…let’s just say that my fellow passengers should be very thankful I’m so good at word games.

I invented this ritual many years ago in response to my latent fear of flying, which, I’ll admit, seems at odds with the implied God complex. But that’s a dilemma for another blog post.

Now, when I say that I’m good at crossword puzzles it should be understood what I mean. In my experience, crossword puzzles are less like an IQ test and more like learning a rudimentary language. Do enough of them and you’ll start to see certain clues and answers repeated. When’s the last time you used words like “apse,” “etui,” and “oleo” (or “olio,” for that matter) in polite conversation?

You haven’t, and neither have I. That’s the point.