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Free Agent by Joe Clifford

December 3, 2012 by  •
It makes Mondays so much easier to deal with when they can be met head-on with a kick-ass guest post, which is why I am so pleased to welcome the incredibly talented – and busy – Joe Clifford to the blog. Joe already has one release out this year, Choice Cuts, has another on the way before the ball drops in Times Square, and yet a third lined up for 2013. And you know what? He still wants more. I sure hope he gets it.

Joe Clifford2012 was a pretty good writing year for me. I saw three books accepted for publication: Choice Cuts, my short story collection, which was released in August (to better-than-expected sales and reviews); Wake the Undertaker, an old-school, comic-book detective novel, slated for later this year; and Junkie Love, the darling the trifecta, my autobiographical drug novel and a book very dear to my heart (for obvious reasons), which will be coming out in 2013.

The first two are with the upstart home for noir/hardboiled authors, Snubnose Press, that last one with Vagabondage Press. Both publishers have been supportive, making me and my work feel welcome, wanted, and loved; and I feel fortunate to be associated with the other terrific writers at these houses: Court Merrigan, J.A. Kazimer, Ryan Sayles, Heath Lowrance, Eric Beetner, C.S. DeWildt, to name a few, and of course my former partner in crime (literally) and current co-editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive, Tom Pitts. Still, I want more.

I don’t think that’s selfish. That’s what we’re all in this game for, right? Yes, there’s the love of reading and writing, the prerequisite to even suit up and take the field, but the drive for success dictates that we continually strive for the greatest heights, make attempts to reach the greatest audience; it’s natural to want to more.

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Slaughter’s Hound by Declan Burke

November 29, 2012 by  •
Potential Spoiler: As Slaughter’s Hound is the sequel to 2004′s Eightball Boogie, an important plot point from Eightball Boogie is mentioned in my review, as well as in the book itself.

Slaughter's Hound by Declan BurkeOnce a man finds himself out in the badlands, out beyond rule and law and custom, who knows what anyone might do?

Back in Sligo after spending four years in a psychiatric hospital in Dundrum for shooting his brother, former private investigator Harry Rigby now finds himself driving a cab in order to make a meager living. He also acts as the middle man for drug deals, which is how Rigby comes to be at the Port Authority building where his former roommate in Dundrum, Finn Hamilton, broadcasts a pirate radio station.

Finn’s ordered up a tidy delivery of dope, enough to cause Rigby to wonder if Finn’s selling it on. Finn assures him it’s for personal use, that he’s laying in stock because he and his fianceé are running off to Cyprus. It may sound like a pipe dream coming from some, but Finn’s from a very wealthy family, even if their property empire has taken a hit of late in the bottomed out real estate market. Finn, it seems, is on top of the world.

Which is why Rigby is stunned to see Finn take a dive out the building’s ninth floor window as Rigby’s in the parking lot taking a call from his son. Thankfully, Rigby chose to wander around while on the call instead of sitting in his cab, as Finn’s graceful dive is brutally interrupted by the cab’s roof, the impact of which ruptures the gas tank and causes an explosion. After calling the authorities, Rigby heads out to inform Finn’s mother, feeling he owes it to her as both Finn’s friend and the only witness.

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A Kind of Distraction…or Self-Preservation by Declan Burke

November 26, 2012 by  •
Getting around that Mondays suck thing by welcoming the wonderful Declan Burke back to the blog. The last time he was here, in support of the phenomenal Absolute Zero Cool, Declan was ruminating on violence in crime fiction and the author’s “right” to write about it. Today Declan’s here in support of his latest, Slaughter’s Hound, and, after a very busy past two years, he’s contemplating whether it’s time for a little break from writing.

Declan BurkeI have become extraordinarily busy in recent weeks. Honestly, there just isn’t enough hours in the day. I’ve had to rearrange my filing cabinet, sort out my tax receipts, catalogue my new collection of classical music (chronologically, since you ask), and give the office carpet its annual vacuum.

Outside, there has been the year’s final mowing of the lawns (back and front), winter’s logs to be chopped, gravel to be raked, drains to be cleared. Meanwhile, the jobs keep on piling up. Only this morning I realised that the back of the PC hasn’t been dusted in ages, and that I haven’t sifted the no-hopers out of my TBR pile in over a month. And on and on it goes …

You’ll understand, no doubt, what’s going on here. It’s a kind of nesting, in one sense, such was when parents-to-be get into a frenzy of preparation for the new arrival, much of it pointless. It’s also a kind of distraction, of self-diversion. Or self-preservation, perhaps.

Because there’s a book coming. A book that will – as always – need me to be a better writer than I am in order to do it justice. A book that will soak up more time than I can afford to give. A book that will in all probability find me revealed as the arm-chancing hack I know myself to be.

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My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarry

November 23, 2012 by  •
Pleased to welcome Claudia McGarry to the blog today. I’ve previously reviewed two books in her astrology thriller series, My Scorpio Soul and My Aries Secrets, but today Claudia’s here to talk about her newest release, something a little bit different, but near and dear to her heart.

My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarryThis short novel, Beignet and Grandpa Au Lait, is told in first person by two dogs. It is actually very autobiographical, but was written in a fictional manner.

I was born in New Orleans and spent my childhood there. Although I haven’t resided there in years, I was devastated in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.

At that time, my cousin Carol and her family were living in Metarie. Katrina resurfaced colorful memories of time spent with my immediate family when we all lived there together.

My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarryThe memories brought with them a host of southern belles.

Beignet and Au Lait’s stories are my New Orleans roots. Their names, Beignet and Au Lait, came from the Café Du Monde desserts and coffee that I have enjoyed when revisiting New Orleans. And since this type of oddly shaped, powdered, sugary, fried donut with the accompanying café au lait was made famous at the French Quarter’s flagship outdoor café, it made perfect sense to give my two narrators these names.

The hurricane, some colorful memories and our family pet, all created a desire write this story.

My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarryI had written several screenplays through the years, then I began my astrology series of thrillers (My Scorpio Soul and My Aries Secrets). I acquired my daughter’s puppy by default, and soon I was writing this little adventure, slice of life story from his point of view.

My own recollections are emboldened with smells of fried chicken, gumbo and jambalaya, ornamented with Southern-styled accessories for dresses and pant suits like pearls and matching pearl earrings.

I still can hear the distant hum of jazz resonating through that balmy breeze, and as the saints continue marching, I wouldn’t trade my New Orleans heart for anything.

Claudia McGarry is a New Orleans native, but presently lives in California and teaches writing. She has three adult children. Her husband is a musician and college professor. In addition to Beignet and Grandpa Au Lait, Claudia is also the author of My Aries Secrets and My Scorpio Soul, and is currently hard at work on her next book, My Gemini Ghost. To learn more about Claudia, visit her website.
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One Day in the Life of Jason Dean by Ian Ayris

November 20, 2012 by  •
One Day in the Life of Jason Dean by Ian AyrisI knew today was gonna be bad, but I never got close to this. – Jason Dean

It’s a cold, dreary morning the day we meet Jason Dean. He wakes in the predawn hours loath to get out of bed, but he has a special date with his daughter, Sophie, waiting for him after work, so he forces himself to brave the sure to be ugly day, one which finds him with a few pieces of business to attend to for his boss, Mickey Archer, before he can keep his date with Sophie.

Mickey’s a right nasty piece of work, one who makes his living in all manner of criminal ways, not the least of which is loan sharking. And though god knows Mickey’s not above getting his hands dirty (Sliced one geezer in half once with an electric bread knife. I was there. I saw it. It weren’t pleasant, I can fuckin tell you.), a guy can only do so much himself. That’s where Jason comes in.

Jason’s one of Mickey’s oldest mates, the one Mickey sends out to knock on doors, and heads. Jason’s three tasks for the day: two collections and, well, one thing a little more extreme. The thing is, Jason’s enthusiasm for the job is fading fast. Like fading by the hour fast.

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The Day I met Jason Dean by Ian Ayris

November 19, 2012 by  •
So incredibly pleased to welcome Ian Ayris back to the blog. Earlier this year he stopped by for a guest post in conjunction with his release Abide With Me, a book that you’ll be hearing me mention again come Top 10 Reads of 2012 time. Today he’s back with a fantastic post that explains how he met his novels’ characters, both those in Abide With Me as well as the star of his latest, One Day in the Life of Jason Dean.

IanAyrisAlmost exactly a year ago today, I met Jason Dean. I didn’t know it. Not at the time. But I know it now.

It happened like this . . .

In mid 2011, my writing pal – Luca Veste – asked me to write a story for a charity anthology he was planning. Of course, I agreed straight away. Luca is such a gentleman, and the cause so worthy, how could I not? As always, I had no idea what to write. The story ended up becoming – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – the protagonist an unnamed hitman with a penchant for poetry, philosophy, and high-faluting literature. An odd mix. And, like I said, he had no name. He just wouldn’t tell me. The hit man thing was odd, but it was just a job to him. And he had a daughter he loved very, very, much. Sophie.

I wrote the story, and I moved on. My debut novel – ABIDE WITH ME – was due out in a few months, and I had loads to do on the promotional side of things. My head, it was going at a million miles an hour.

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The Rendition by Albert Ashforth

November 19, 2012 by  •
The Rendition by Albert Ashforth“My friends would hate me if they knew some of the things I’ve done to make a living.” – Alex Klear

That statement may sound a bit extreme, but then Alex Klear isn’t talking about having engaged in aggressive telemarketing or selling door-to-door. No, Klear is one of those people who works in the shadows conducting operations of questionable legality on behalf of the government.

The opening of Albert Ashforth’s The Rendition finds Klear in the Balkans on just such a mission. He and two other operatives are there on a rendition, which is really just a euphemism for a government sanctioned kidnapping of a foreign national.

Having been thrown together at the last minute by those higher up the chain – and severely undermanned in Klear’s opinion – conditions are ripe for the mission to fail. How spectacularly it would fail, however, Klear couldn’t possibly have anticipated, as he ends up captured by the very person his team was sent to extract.

He’s tortured for two days by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) before finally being sprung by a hastily arranged rescue team, at which point he decides his days as a covert operative are officially over. Except, of course, they’re not. Nearly a year later he’s lured back for another mission with the promise that it will allow him a measure of redemption, and revenge. Turns out a U.S. operative is being held on suspicion of murder in a high security prison in Germany, and Klear is assured that it is somehow related to his failed rendition.

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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.