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The Writer in the Mirror by Dianne Emley

December 14, 2011 by  •
Yesterday I reviewed Cold Call, the first book in Los Angeles Times bestselling author Dianne Emley’s Iris Thorne mystery series, which is being reissued after a bit of a hiatus. Today I am pleased to welcome Dianne to talk about her walk down memory lane revisiting books she hadn’t looked at in well over a decade.

Dianne EmleyThank you, Elizabeth, for allowing me to share your blog today. Thank you also for your terrific review on this space yesterday of Cold Call, my debut novel that was published in 1993. Cold Call was the first of five books in my mystery series featuring Iris Thorne–a savvy, sexy, and sassy investment counselor who prowled the streets of Los Angeles in her red Triumph sports car in the “greed is good” late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Iris Thorne mysteries, long out-of-print, are being reissued as e-books and trade paperbacks. Cold Call and the series second, Slow Squeeze, are out now. The remaining three—Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover—will be out in 2012.

Cold Call holds a place in my heart as not just my first published novel, but it was also the first novel I’d ever written. While toiling in business middle management, I harbored a faint yet persistent dream to be a novelist. I wrote Cold Call over three years, writing from 4:30 to 6:30 on weekday mornings before I went to my day job and on weekends. When the book was sold at auction to Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster, it was more than a dream come true. I was overwhelmed—so overwhelmed that I was sick for two days. My editor’s comment was, “I hate to see what’ll happen to you if you hit the New York Times bestseller list.”

Before republishing the Iris Thorne books, I decided to first reread them. After all, I hadn’t looked at them for fifteen to twenty years. People often ask me if I read my own books. Nope. I don’t. Honestly, once the book is published, I don’t know an author who does. Of course, rereading the Thorne books inevitably led to some “gentle” editing. The passage of time let me see the books with fresh eyes and I learned some interesting things.


Dead Money by Ray Banks

December 13, 2011 by  •

Dead Money by Ray BanksNo matter how much you think you have it figured out, you don’t. There’s always something waiting in the shadows to bite you in the arse. – Alan Slater

No good deed ever goes unpunished, or so goes the sardonic saying. It’s one Manchester-based double glazing salesman Alan Slater would have done well to keep in mind before agreeing to help his so-called friend, Les Beale, out of a jam.

Of course, considering the jam in question involved helping Beale cover up a particularly nasty crime perhaps Slater should have seen the world of hurt he ends up in coming. Thankfully for readers of Ray Banks’ Dead Money, he did not.

Given that Slater is already having enough difficulty juggling his unsatisfied wife, impatient mistress, and declining career, the last thing he needs is to be burdened with someone else’s problems as well. Yet, somehow, he always seems to find himself out with co-worker Beale, a hard drinking, hard gambling bigot with a hair-trigger temper. Problems are Beale’s business, and business is good.

That is until he ends up on the wrong end of a rigged high stakes poker game. Unfortunately he doesn’t realize until he’s in too deep what’s going on, leaving him five figures in debt to the sort of people you don’t cross… or skip out on. Incensed, Beale confronts the person responsible for setting up the game, and that’s when things go from bad to worse.

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Cold Call by Dianne Emley

December 13, 2011 by  •
You are probably familiar with Los Angeles Times bestselling author Dianne Emley’s outstanding Detective Nan Vining thrillers, but did you know that before there was Nan there was Iris? Originally published in the mid to late 90s, Emley first entered the writing scene (under the name Dianne G. Pugh) with a mystery series featuring investment counselor Iris Thorne. That series is now being reissued, both in paperback and ebook formats.

Cold Call by Dianne Emley“You always think that once you get power, you’ll change the rules.” – Iris Thorne

Slugging it out with the big boys in the trenches of Los Angeles’ glittering financial district Iris Thorne has to fight for every scrap of power she can get, and all too often finds herself playing by a set of rules she feels both stacked against her and powerless to change.

Still, she has an apartment with a nice view of the ocean, a closet full of designer clothes (even if they aren’t quite paid off yet), and a snazzy Triumph sports car (even if it does leak a little oil). All told, she’s doing well for herself and has had no reason to question the path her life is taking. All that changes overnight when one of her coworkers is murdered.

Alley Munoz was not only the mailroom/all-around “go to” guy in the office, he was also Iris’ best friend at the company. Having previously taught the deaf for several years before embarking on her financial career, Iris got along well with Alley, who was himself both deaf and physically handicapped as well.

When the police seem inclined to write-off Alley’s death as being the result of a drug deal gone wrong given his ethnicity and the location of the murder Iris is incensed, and determined to prove them wrong. Easier said than done, especially considering the lead detective on the case, John Somers, also happens to be the man Iris was seriously involved with during her college years. Now Iris not only has to deal with essentially solving Alley’s murder on her own, but also with the feelings stirred up by the divorced detective’s reappearance in her life.


Death Match by Jason S. Ridler

December 12, 2011 by  •
Death Match by Jason S. Ridler“There is an art to performance, Spar. There’s no art in hurting someone for real.” – Ray “Clown Royale” Kingston

Murder, professional wrestling, an underground punk rock scene, a nasty biker gang, a psychopathic mime, and a dominatrix with an affinity for 50’s style. If you read that and thought, “Hell, yeah!” just go ahead and buy Death Match. (And it’s clear why you’re my kind of people.)

If you read that and thought, “That’s… interesting.” please allow me to explain how those pieces fit together to form the entertaining puzzle that is author Jason S. Ridler’s debut novel.

Having barely survived his wild, drug and alcohol fueled youth as frontman for a punk band, Spar Battersea was finally able to get his life on track with the help of his friend, Ray. Now working at a book store and as a stringer for the local paper, the excitement in Spar’s life is confined to cheering for Ray’s alter-ego “Clown Royale” at his professional wrestling matches.

When Ray dies in the ring on the eve of the biggest match of his young career, Spar doesn’t buy the official conclusion: heart attack/natural causes. For one thing Ray was only 25 and healthy as a horse, and that also wouldn’t explain the disturbing and extensive scarring found on Ray’s back, some of it quite recent. Determined to do right by his friend, Spar wades into the underground world of shady wrestling promoters and discovers there was a lot about his friend he didn’t know. Now Spar has to decide just how far he’s willing to go to discover the truth, and if he really wants to know.


The Death of Ronnie Sweets by Russel D McLean

December 9, 2011 by  •
The Death of Ronnie Sweets by Russel D McLeanYou’re probably familiar with Russel D McLean’s books featuring Dundee, Scotland based private investigator J. McNee (The Good Son and The Lost Sister ), but before he cut loose with those powerhouse full length crime fiction offerings McLean gave the world glimpses of what was to come via a series of short stories featuring the character Sam Bryson.

Also a Dundee, Scotland based private investigator, the tales of Sam Bryson have heretofore been scattered hither and yon throughout crime fiction publications such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Thrilling Detective Mystery Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine, and Needle.

As a result, most people have not been fortunate enough to read all of them, and many have never had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Bryson at all. Fear not, as The Death of Ronnie Sweets (and other stories) features the complete Sam Bryson collection.

The collection opens with the eponymous “The Death of Ronnie Sweets,” in which Bryson is hired by the parents of a young man who was brutally beaten and left for dead. In addition to being an interesting case, was Ronnie an innocent victim or mixed up in something unsavory, the story gives us a glimpse of Bryson’s past as a police officer and sets the tone for what’s to follow; namely, edgy, well-crafted stories that don’t flinch from tackling some of the more unpleasant aspects of life: crime and corruption, danger and doubt, regret and revenge amongst others.


Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles by Edward A. Grainger

December 6, 2011 by  •

Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles by Edward A. GraingerI have a confession to make. As a general rule, I don’t read Westerns. I find that too often the stories get lost in the author’s desire to provide the reader with every little period-accurate detail they’ve researched, and bogged down with unwieldy “cowboy” lingo in the dialog. And while that may appeal to some, it’s just not my cup of tea.

I have another confession to make. Edward A. Grainger, aka David Cranmer, is turning me into a convert. You see, Cranmer doesn’t write Westerns per se, he writes well-crafted stories with engaging characters that just happen to take place in the Old West. And he does it very, very well. Don’t get me wrong, the adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles are unquestionably Westerns, but Cranmer never loses sight of the real prize: character and story. And that makes all the difference in the world to this reluctant reader of Westerns.

It helps that Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, both U.S. Marshals, are charismatic and unique individuals. Laramie is known to display an unorthodox streak as questionable as the outlaws he hunts, his behavior often fueled by the approach to life that was ingrained in him having been raised by Native Americans. For his part, Miles brings the challenge of being one of the first black Marshals into play, showing how his status as a black man in the 1880s Old West can make both all the difference in the world and none whatsoever to how he does the job… often at the same time.

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The Eradication Dilemma by William Wilkerson

November 28, 2011 by  •

The Eradication Dilemma by William WilkersonImagine a genetically altered plant disease exists that could wipe out the production of cocaine worldwide virtually overnight by specifically targeting and destroying coca plants. Now imagine you are in the position of making the call whether to unleash that virus.

The decision whether to do so or not isn’t as easy as it may initially seem, as DEA Agent Jake MacQuilkin learns when he’s thrust into that position in William Wilkerson’s The Eradication Dilemma.

After serving for years as the DEA’s point man in Latin America, MacQuilkin leaves the department after a bust gone wrong causes the death of a fellow agent… who also happened to be his fiancée.

MacQuilkin’s called back into action when the genetically altered virus starts wiping out coca crops in Bolivia despite the program having officially been shut down by the US Government. Now, instead of destroying the cocaine industry, the agency actually wants MacQuilkin to use his expertise and experience in Latin America to find and stop whoever is behind the rogue unleashing of the virus.

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The Writing on the Wall by Julie Morrigan

November 16, 2011 by  •

The Writing on the Wall by Julie MorriganHaving previously read Julie Morrigan’s short stories various places online, I was quite pleased when she offered her first collection, the outstanding Gone Bad, earlier this year. So imagine my excitement when a mere months later – with a novel, Convictions in the interim – Morrigan released yet another collection, The Writing on the Wall.

Featuring six short stories and a novelette, The Writing on the Wall proves that Morrigan is both a talented and versatile author, one who inhabits her short stories as comfortably as a second skin.

“Shadow Man” takes an already terrifying experience, sleep paralysis, and pushes the concept even farther. Those who experience sleep paralysis vividly experience as waking hallucinations things people normally only encounter in their dreams. But what if what you were encountering was neither a hallucination nor dream, but real?

“The Black Dog” demonstrates that while reading may be both fundamental and fun, some books are more powerful than others. Far more.

In “Chocolate Button Eyes” a man out on a date gets a bit more than he was expecting when he’s invited back around to his date’s place for an after dinner drink. “Lust makes men stupid and I’m thankful for the fact.” Guys, this one will make you reconsider just who’s about to get lucky when you go home with a woman you barely know.

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Skating Over The Line by Joelle Charbonneau

November 15, 2011 by  •
Skating Over The Line by Joelle CharbonneauI should have learned by this point that being impulsive always got me into trouble. – Rebecca Robbins

Considering the misadventure Rebecca found herself caught up in upon her return to Indian Falls in series debut Skating Around The Law, you really would think the concept that impulsive = bad would have sunk in a little deeper. Fortunately for readers it did not, as Rebecca returns for another rollicking adventure in author Joelle Charbonneau’s second Rebecca Robbins mystery, Skating Over the Line.

Still stuck in tiny Indian Falls trying to unload the roller rink she inherited from her mother, things seem to be looking up for Rebecca when her realtor informs her a buyer has finally been located. Rebecca’s escape back to Chicago is interrupted, however, when her grandfather, Pop, and the folks down at the Senior Center implore Rebecca to help locate a car which has been stolen.

Despite having run afoul of Deputy Sean Holmes for her unwanted “assistance” investigating the town’s last crime wave, Rebecca just can’t say no to Pop, the man who helped raise Rebecca after her father walked out when she was twelve. Unfortunately, things get complicated quickly when the missing car turns up ablaze in a cornfield, Rebecca’s deadbeat father blows back into town – and promptly goes missing, along with his car – and a group of menacing men start lurking around the roller rink leaving poorly penned threatening notes… in Spanish.

Throw in a sexually frustrated best friend who’s trying to snag the local Lutheran Pastor, a new rink manager who’s more obsessed with directing his film than doing his job, Rebecca’s gorgeous but slightly patronizing boyfriend, Pop’s wildly popular at the Senior Center Elvis impersonator act, and Rebecca is in for another off-the-wall adventure.


Pulp Modern by Alec Cizak, Editor

November 11, 2011 by  •
Pulp ModernOver the past nine days I’ve reviewed four short story collections (Crime Factory: The First Shift, West Coast Crime Wave, The Chaos We Know, and Noir at the Bar), am serving up Pulp Modern today, and have at least two more on the immediate horizon. Clearly the crime fiction/pulp/noir short story is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

And you know what? It’s good stuff. I mean really good stuff. In fact, there are so many talented authors out there it can sometimes seem overwhelming figuring out where to jump in, which is why these collections are so great; they’re one stop shopping for a smorgasbord of talent.

Pulp Modern is such a collection, and editor Alec Cizak has distinguished Pulp Modern by expanding the spectrum of its roster to include not only crime fiction, but stories with Western and fantasy themes as well. It makes for a pleasant change of pace, and exposed me to a couple of authors I may otherwise not have come across in the wild. A few standouts…

“Legacy of Brutality” by Thomas Pluck features man-mountain Denny, previously seen in the short “Rain Dog” (Crimespree Magazine, Issue #43). Having come up hard – If there was a God, I’d beat his ass for making this hateful world. – Denny learned early it’s better to listen than talk, and that you have to set things right yourself if you want justice in this life. Brutally good stuff.


Noir at the Bar by Ayres and Phillips, Editors

November 9, 2011 by  •
Noir at the BarBirthed in the mean streets of Philly, escaped to the back alleys of St. Louis, recently spread to the dark side of the City of Angels, there’s a disturbing phenomenon that threatens to expand to even more unwitting cities in the future. It is… Noir at the Bar.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Noir at the Bar ceremony consists of a tribe of crime fiction aficionados, writers and readers alike, gathering together to partake of booze and listen to sensual and sinister original works read aloud by their creators. It is, from all accounts, an exhilarating and surreal experience one is lucky to escape without a trip to the local hoosegow.

Previously reserved only for those fortunate enough to live nearby, or crazy enough to make the pilgrimage, the demented minds behind the St. Louis chapter of Noir at the Bar have come up with a way for everyone to get a taste of the debauchery. Editors Jedidiah Ayres and Scott Phillips present to you, Noir at the Bar, the anthology.

Featuring stories from eighteen top-notch writers currently working in crime fiction, Noir at the Bar is a hide the women and children collection of some of the most creative and deliciously disturbed short fiction ever rounded up in one volume.

As always it’s like Sophie’s Choice picking only a few to highlight, but here ya go…