Ice Chest by J.D. Rhoades

 JD Rhoades“We’re a team of the best security and personal protection operatives in the world, surrounded by half-naked women dressed as tropical birds, protecting a bra that’s worth the GDP of a small country.” — Zoe Piper

Clarissa Cartwright isn’t entirely sure how she ended up being the “It Girl” for Enigma lingerie’s newest fashion line, nevertheless she finds herself heading out on a multi-city tour, ready to be the face of the company.

Of course, considering she will be sporting a jewel-encrusted bra worth over 5 million dollars in diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, it’s not likely many people will be looking at her face anyway, gorgeous as it may be.

Paragon Security’s Charles “Chunk” McNeill and his partner, Zoe Piper, have been tasked by Gareth Gane, promotions manager for Enigma, with keeping both the so-called “Fantasy Bra” and the Birds Of Paradise, what Enigma calls the models in their show, safe.

It’s a bit of a challenge considering the number of people traveling with the production, not to mention the local personnel at each tour stop, but McNeill is a twice-decorated police veteran turned private security operative with over twenty years’ experience. Even the most experienced security professional, however, can’t account for every possible situation, especially when there are wild cards involved.

Mixed Up With Murder by Susan Shea

“I’d love to. It’ll be a nice break from the routine.” — Dani O’Rourke

On one hand, Dani O’Rourke, chief fundraiser for the Devor Museum in San Francisco, can be forgiven for thinking a trip back East to serve as a consultant at a quaint New England college sounds like a pleasant distraction.

On the other hand, Dani has an unfortunate history of finding herself caught up in highly irregular situations… ones that usually involve dead bodies. (Murder in the Abstract | The King’s Jar).

Not one to turn down an interesting professional endeavor—the consulting job involves overseeing the donation of a large art collection, as well as a twenty million dollar endowment—Dani heads to Lynthorpe College in Bridgetown, Massachusetts for what is billed as a straightforward one-week review. She’s there less than a day, however, when it becomes clear there is some dissension amongst the bigwigs at the school about the terms of the donation.

It seems the donor, school alumnus Vincent Margoletti, while never outright accused or indicted, has been involved in some business deals during his climb to wealth that some have found shady at best. And for some strange reason he’s pushing the college to accept the donation immediately, before Dani’s vetting process is completed, with a not so implied threat of its withdrawal otherwise.

City of Rose by Rob Hart

Rob Hart“If collecting scars by means of stupidity were a hobby, I’d be ready to go pro.” — Ash McKenna

When readers last saw Staten Island born and bred bouncer/amateur private investigator Ash McKenna (New Yorked), he’d been through the ringer trying to get to the bottom of the murder of his longtime friend and unrequited love, Chell. Along the way things got rough and people, including Ash, got roughed up.

Having burned a few bridges and ruffled more than a few feathers, Ash decides it’s time to take a leave of absence from his beloved New York City. He ends up in Portland, Oregon, working as a bouncer at a vegan strip club named Naturals.

Determined to leave his past in the past, Ash has embraced non-violence and is determined not to slip back into his old ways—control your anger before it controls you is his new mantra. So it’s with only the slightest hesitation that Ash refuses a request from one of Naturals’ dancers, Crystal, to help her locate her missing daughter.

A funny thing happens on the way to tranquility, however. Only minutes after Ash turns down Crystal’s request he is abducted at gunpoint—by a man wearing a chicken mask, no less—and warned off having anything to do with Crystal or the search for her missing daughter. Bad move. There are many things Ash McKenna does not like, but top of the list is being told what to do, or not do as the case may be. Add to the mix the fact Chicken Man breaks Ash’s phone during the abduction and, well, it’s on.

Five Faroe Island Facts by Chris Ould

It’s an honor to welcome BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Chris Ould to the site today. Chris has been working successfully as a screenwriter for quite some time, and has also written novels, both a YA series and several standalone offerings. Today, Chris is here in conjunction with his latest release, The Blood Strand, the first in a new series. The Blood Strand finds Jan Reyna, now a British police detective, returning to the Faroe Islands, where he was born and spent his early years, after his estranged father is found unconscious and covered in someone else’s blood, a shotgun near him. The novel’s setting is unique, and today Chris presents a little “getting to know you” primer about the Faroe Islands for readers.

Chris OuldFive Faroe Island Facts

When I first read about the Faroe Islands a very long time ago there was precious little information to be had. What there was just added to their mystique: out in the middle of the northern Atlantic; a small population speaking a language known only to themselves; ancient traditions going back to the Vikings…

Finally, years later, I made it out there to research the islands as a setting for a crime novel and I fell in love with the place. Truly. To me the islands have a majestic, awe-inspiring, unique quality: completely different to anywhere else I’ve ever been. So, when I was asked to come up with five facts about the Faroes for anyone who might be tempted to go there, I thought it was like asking me to choose my favourite child. Only five? (Yes, because it alliterates, stupid.)

So, this has taken me days to decide, but here goes.

Fact One: It’s wet. Often. Very. Even the proudest Faroe Islander will admit that they don’t (quite) have a Mediterranean climate. So there’s every chance you’ll be rained or drizzled on for hours. And then, because it’s the Faroes, the sun will come out and the dazzlingly saturated colour of every house, boat and field will make your eyes hurt.

My personal theory is that the Faroese paint everything brightly to make the most of the sunlight when it appears. I exaggerate for effect, of course, but waterproofs and decent boots are essential, even in summer. And on my first day there I discovered there’s no point in wearing a baseball cap. I spent half an hour trying to retrieve mine after the wind tossed it over a cliff. Not recommended. I went and bought a waterproof beanie instead.

But whatever the weather you’re experiencing at any given moment, the chances are that it’s the polar opposite at the other end of the island, or on the other side of a mountain. It’s not unusual for the Faroese to drive thirty miles from a fog-bound Borðoy to Streymoy just because someone’s called to say it’s

The Evolution of a Character by Dave White

It’s a pleasure to welcome Derringer Award-winning author Dave White to the site. An Empty Hell, the latest entry in White’s series featuring New Jersey-based ex-cop turned private investigator Jackson Donne (following last year’s Not Even Past), is out now, and White stopped by to talk about where the inspiration for characters can come from, and how those characters’ voices can come and go seemingly of their own volition.

The Evolution of a Character

Way back when I was a kid, my dad wrote a private detective novel called Blood Tells. He wrote it after Ross MacDonald died, and he submitted it—without an agent—to Knopf, because that’s whom he said published MacDonald. Eventually, he got a rejection slip back and to my knowledge, my dad never submitted it again.

I’ve read the novel. It’s good. It features a detective named Matt Herrick, who’s caught up in a very MacDonald-esque case. Sins of the Father and all that. I loved the character’s name. It stuck in my head for years.

Until 2006, when I was in the middle of drafting the first Jackson Donne novel, When One Man Dies. Because of Donne’s situation in the book, I didn’t want to put him in the middle of a new short story, but I had an idea. So, I created a new detective. An older man with a family. He was the exact opposite of Donne. And, he needed a name.

I chose Matt Herrick (with my dad’s permission).

Then a weird thing happened. After the story was published, Herrick’s voice went away. Don’t know why, don’t know how. But several times I tried to write about it and just couldn’t get past a paragraph or two. Herrick was there for one story.

For a bunch of years, the character went away.

The Joy of the Heist by J.D. Rhoades

I’m pleased to welcome J.D. “Dusty” Rhoades to the site today. After a successful run of novels featuring hard as nails Gulf War veteran turned bail enforcer Jack Keller—series debut The Devil’s Right Hand was nominated for the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel—as well as the standalone Breaking Cover (an intense thriller featuring a deep cover FBI agent), Dusty has decided to lighten up a little in his newest novel, Ice Chest (Polis Books), a comedic heist caper. In today’s guest post, Dusty explains what motivated him to switch things up a bit, and what challenges doing so presented.

 JD RhoadesThe Joy of the Heist

“So, Dusty,” you say, “here you are, a writer with a small but devoted following, known for writing what’s come to be called ‘redneck noir’—dark crime fiction set in the American South. Why on earth would you turn to writing something as different as your latest book, ICE CHEST–a comic heist novel?”

To this I would answer, “Excuse me, but who are you and what are you doing in my house?”

But seriously, folks, why would I undergo the perils of changing from gritty thrillers to zany caper novels? Because make no mistake, there is a certain amount of peril to switching up like that. Fans want something just like the thing that made them fall in love with your work in the first place. Publishers want something just like the thing that was successful last time, only different. It’s a little like a restaurant owner going to a table of regulars and saying, “I know you you’ve always enjoyed the steak here, but I’m going to bring you the tilapia. Trust me, you’ll love it.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

But it’s a little scary to make that change, especially when you’re doing something as subjective as humor. There are few things more awkward than telling a joke or making an observation you find hilarious, only to have your listener stare at you blankly and say, “I don’t get it.” Imagine doing an entire book you hope is humorous and having it fall flat. So why do it?

Food and Fiction by Rob Hart

It’s my pleasure to welcome Rob Hart to the site today. Hart’s first novel, New Yorked, debuted last year and introduced readers to the world of Ashley (Ash) McKenna, a Staten Island born and bred New Yorker who finds himself drawn into the hunt for the killer of his longtime friend and unrequited love. City of Rose, the sequel to New Yorked, drops today, and Rob has been kind enough to stop by to talk about how food unwittingly became an underlying theme in his writing.

Rob HartFood and Fiction

Someone else had to point it out—I didn’t even notice that my short stories were taking on a food theme. But there they were: a bagel-maker defending his turf, warring food trucks, gourmands duped into thinking they were dining on human charcuterie.

When a friend reached out and asked how long until I released a collection of food noir, I was putting a polish on a story about a bakery bouncer and working on my second book, which is set in a vegan strip club in Portland.

City of Rose lands this week, and while I was putting the book together, I didn’t really intend to dive into the Portland food scene. But I couldn’t help myself. Here’s the thing about Portland: Any place that serves alcohol has to serve food, by law. And in Portland, they take their food pretty seriously. I’ve been out there a few times, and I’ve always eaten well.

There are some fun storytelling possibilities there. Setting the book in a vegan strip club felt turned out to be a natural extension of the story. The chef is trying to crack the code on vegan cheesy nachos and vegan cupcakes. They never come out right, because they’re tough to replicate without staples like butter, eggs, and milk.

Kind of like the protagonist, Ash McKenna, who is trying very hard to be something he’s not. And he pays for it in the end.

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Bad Citizen Corporation by S.W. Lauden

“I’ve lived through every second of my life and I still don’t know how I got to exactly this moment.” — Greg Salem

Greg Salem can be forgiven for being a bit confused about the state of his life. After all, he’s traveled a bit of an unusual path. Currently an East Los Angeles police officer, once upon a time Greg was known as Fred Despair, punk legend/lead singer of the band Bad Citizen Corporation (BCC).

Though he’s pretty much kicked the excesses of his former punk lifestyle, Salem’s still a bit of a square peg in the round hole that is the police department. When he’s not on the job, Salem still appears occasionally with BCC for special one-off gigs, and also enjoys indulging his passion for surfing.

It’s an interesting balancing act, one that starts to unravel after Salem is involved in an on-the-job shooting.

Art + Money = Crime by Susan Shea

Very happy to welcome to the site Susan Shea, whose latest book, Mixed Up With Murder, drops February 2nd. Mixed Up With Murder is third entry in the Dani O’Rourke mystery series, following Murder in the Abstract and The King’s Jar. Despite being the chief fundraiser at San Francisco’s prestigious Devor Museum of Art and Antiquities, a position one wouldn’t think could lend itself to too much “action,” as Susan explains in today’s post, the high-stakes, high-money world of art does indeed provide more than sufficient opportunity for Dani to get mixed up with crime…including murder.

Art + Money = Crime

If your preferred crime fiction is measured by the number of shots fired, people killed, cars demolished, and drug busts gone wrong, my books are going to be a harder sell. The Dani O’Rourke series, the third book of which comes out February 2, is not cozy by any means, but it’s not hard-boiled.

However, if measured by the amount of money at stake in the crimes I write about, move over Dirty Harry! I write about the contemporary art market, especially that part of it that trades in paintings and other work with auction values in the multi-millions. Think this isn’t worth some desperate criminal risks? Consider these sales, made in the past 10 years:

Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” $179 million
Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucien Freud” $140 million
Warhol’s “Silver Car Crash” $105 million
Cézanne’s “The Card Players” $250 million

These are only a few examples of A List works selling for close to or over $100 million recently. They’re not exceptions to the trend. In the past two decades, with a slight pause in 2008, even works by lesser and “unproven” (that means to the market, not to aesthetics) artists have been fetching extraordinary amounts of money, been traded like baseball cards as their prices ratcheted up to swooning heights with not much in the way of market fundamentals behind them. Not that anyone is quite sure how the market can properly value anything as subjective and prone to damage and fashion and rumor as paint on canvas.

So, as a crime writer, I follow the money, a tactic that gets Dani O’Rourke, a fundraiser for my fictional museum, into real trouble again and again. Who’s buying these art works? Why? Where are they going after they’ve been claimed? And what about art that simply vanishes off the walls? And the art that turns out to be fake? So much running room for a crime writer.

swlauden

The Sophomore Slog by S.W. Lauden

Very pleased to welcome S.W. Lauren to the blog today. His debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, dropped last November and was extremely well-received by both readers and reviewers alike. Today he’s here to talk about what it’s like for an author to tackle the second book in a series, especially the realization that the character you spent so many days, weeks and months creating is no longer exclusively yours anymore.

The Night Charter by Sam Hawken

“I’ve done some things in my life that put me in front of some bad people. I always tried to do right, though. That’s all you can do.” — Camaro Espinoza

For ex-combat medic Camaro Espinoza, doing the right thing is more than a lofty concept—it’s the way she lives every day of her life, and the standard by which she evaluates every decision she makes.

To be clear, in Camaro’s mind doing the right thing and doing what’s legal are not necessarily the same, and as such Camaro has accordingly had her fair share of trouble over the years.

A particularly bad bit of it in New York City roughly a year ago ended with five men dead and Camaro relocating to a low-profile gig in Miami. Acting as captain and sole crew member of a fifty-foot Custom Carolina charter boat, Camaro takes groups out for catch-and-release deep-sea fishing excursions.

Things seem to be going fine for Camaro, until ex-con Parker Story shows up. Parker wants to book Camaro for a night charter for himself and a few friends. Only thing is, they aren’t looking to fish. They want Camaro to run them out to just off the Cuban coast to pick up a special passenger. Initially reluctant, Camaro finds it difficult to turn Parker away once she finds out he is a single father to a teenage daughter, and that his associates have made it clear things won’t go well for Parker, or his daughter, if he doesn’t make the charter happen.

It’s So Miami by Sam Hawken

It’s always a pleasure to welcome Sam Hawken back to the blog. Over the years I’ve been honored to both read and review Sam’s novels, as well as to work with him on his Camaro Espinoza novellas. That’s why it’s a particular pleasure to welcome Sam today, as his newest novel, The Night Charter, which will be released tomorrow by Mulholland Books (ISBN-13: 978-0316299213), features Camaro making her full-length novel debut. Today Sam is here to talk about how a thirty-year-old TV show helped shape who and what the Camaro series is all about.

It’s So Miami

I watch a lot of Miami Vice. I’ve been watching it for thirty years, and I’ll probably watch it for thirty more, or for however long I have left. I’ve even been reviewing every episode, week by week, for over a year and am finally coming to the end of all five seasons. Everything about this show is embedded in my brain, from the storytelling to the politics, and has followed me through my writing career up until this day. So it makes sense that I would end up here, with the publication of The Night Charter, in the city of Miami.

This is the story of Camaro Espinoza, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran with the damaged history of someone who spent a thousand days in war zones, and an entire life dealing with the fractured pieces of her past. She’s a fighter, and though she no longer wears a uniform she has discovered the warrior’s path is one that has no end.

As The Night Charter begins, she works as the captain of a charter fishing boat, trying to forget that one year before she helped kill five bad men in New York City, and trying to reconcile the memory of all the people she’s killed over the course of her life. But circumstances change to the point that she had no choice to pick up a gun again. And maybe some part of her wanted to do it all along.

The Incurables by Jon Bassoff

Faith and delusion aren’t that far apart, when you really think about it.

The setup of The Incurables, the latest offering from Jon Bassoff, is both incredibly straightforward and wonderfully disturbing.

In the early 1950s, after decades of treating patients and pioneering the transorbital lobotomy, aka the “icepick lobotomy,” Dr. Walter Freeman is put out to pasture by the board of directors of the facility where he works.

Seems they’ve finally realized Freeman’s method of “curing” patients suffering from mental illness—inserting an icepick into the corner of each eye socket, hammering it through the orbital bone with a small hammer, then moving it around in order to sever the connections of the prefrontal cortex— isn’t the most humane.

Crushed that his work is being cast aside for newfangled measures and meds, Freeman decides to take his show on the road, and absconds with his last patient in the process. Going from town to town, Freeman “preaches” the power of the transorbital lobotomy to cure what ails you, or a loved one. He uses his patient, Edgar, as living proof of the miraculous power of the pick.

Short-Changing the Noir by Andrez Bergen

As always, it’s an immense pleasure to welcome Andrez Bergen back to the blog. There’s not much I can say about Andrez that I haven’t already, many times. Bottom line: he’s one of my all-time favorite authors, and someone who I believe consistently produces some of the most creative, complex, and challenging fiction around—the man has crazy skills.

Andrez BergenShort-Changing the Noir

The writing of my fifth novel, Small Change: A Casebook of Scherer and Miller, Investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane (out December 11 through Roundfire Fiction), has meant a rediscovery of roots plundered in the very first novel I did, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

And not just regarding long-winded titles.

No, I’m talking up the hardboiled stuff.

Not that I forgot – or set aside – my love for all things Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but with subsequent books I found myself determined to also push the envelope and explore other terrains.

The genre I prefer to call ‘noir’ – since it can then relate to film as well – lends itself nicely to being coaxed into a corner with a fistful of ulterior styles. I mixed it with dystopia and sci-fi in TSMG, decanted the brew into more surreal bents – verging on, dare I say, magical realism – with One Hundred Years of Vicissitude and Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, while Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? matched noir up in a ring with pulp and the silver age of comics.

But I always did have a hankering for softer horror and a relatively offbeat sense of humour as well as budding detectives, and got to combine all three with Small Change.

Reading as a Writer by Mark Richardson

Today I welcome Mark Richardson to the blog in conjunction with his recently released novel Hunt for the Troll. The book hasn’t quite made it to the top of my TBR yet, but I’ve heard great buzz about it and wanted to go ahead and give Mark a chance to introduce himself. I love what he chose to write about—how his love of books as a reader has affected him as an author—because I’m a firm believer that it is damn near impossible to be a great writer unless you’re also a great consumer of books as a reader.

Reading as a Writer

The first book I have a conscious memory of is Make Way For Ducklings. I can distinctly remember as a Pre-K being pressed against my mother’s side as she read it to me. We sat on a yellow sofa in our family’s living room, the sun streaming in a window. Or maybe that sofa was robin’s egg blue? That tidbit is a bit unclear, but no matter. Thus began a lifelong love of books.

Reading brings me joy. When it comes to books, I’m down for just about anything—biographies, detective novels, literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy—you name it. Practically every day of my life, one book or another has occupied a spot on my nightstand.

Like a lot of book lovers, I always had a vague notion that one day I would write something myself. And by something, I mean fiction. But I never got around to it, at least not until I hit middle age. That’s when I was working in the corporate communications department at a tech company in Silicon Valley. Each week I would go to lunch with two of my co-workers. Like me, they both wrote for work—webpage articles, speeches, press releases, video scripts—that sort of thing. But unlike me, they were also writing fiction on the side (novels and short stories). One day, one of them asked me, “Dude, when are you going to write something?”

The gauntlet had been dropped.