Pixie Dust: a Noir Short

There was a light tapping on my office door, and then it creaked open. A petite young dish stepped inside and glanced around the room with wide eyes. They stopped on me. “Mr. Dinger?” The voice was almost musical, more little girl than woman. But she was a woman all right, and a fine specimen at that.

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If the super hasn’t scraped it off the glass yet then it must be me,” I said. I stood and pointed to the best of the two ratty chairs near my desk. “Have a seat. And you can drop the ‘mister.’ Call me Dinger.” She moseyed across the room and looked down at the chair. “It’s clean,” I said. “I dusted just last month.”

She offered a beautiful fine-boned hand, flashed a brief sugar cube smile, and sat. The scent of cactus blossoms lingered over my desk. She was maybe five-two in those heels, but she filled out the tan skirt and white blouse nicely and in all the proper places. Her light brown whispered innocence, but I’d learned the hard way not to trust eyes, especially such pretty ones. She had the face of a Greek goddess. The full lips were painted apple red and begged to be tasted. “What can I do for you, Miss . . .?”

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“Hathaway,” she said, “Mrs. Greta Hathaway.” She unsnapped the handbag in her lap and pulled out a pack of Camels. As she placed the smoke between her luscious lips I grabbed the lighter sitting on my desk, a dummy hand grenade. I’d picked it up at a local pawn shop—a token of the two years I recently spent island-hopping the Pacific with the First Marine Division. She cocked her pretty head, eyeballed the lighter and then me. The corners of her mouth turned upward. “Are you planning on lighting me up, or blowing me up, Dinger?” she said, the cigarette bobbing as she spoke.

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I thumbed the wheel and held the flame steady as she leaned forward to accept the light. “My intentions are purely honorable, Mrs. Hathaway, I assure you. Besides, blowing you up would be an unforgivable disservice to mankind.” Hathaway. The name rang a bell but I couldn’t place it with the distracting package sitting in front of me. I pushed the clean ashtray across the table to her. “Now, how can I be of service?”

Mrs. Hathaway leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs. She exhaled a plume of smoke. The mid morning sun bleeding through the smudged window to my left ignited specks of gold in her eyes, like pixie dust. As the top leg began to slowly swing like a mesmerizing pendulum she said, “I have reason to believe my husband plans to have me killed. I need you to find out if it’s true. Preferably before it happens.”

I flicked the grenade and lit a smoke of my own. This was some story. I studied her face and tried to see what was ticking behind those beautiful browns. Greta Hathaway would make a hell of a poker player. I took another drag and said, “You care to share the reason, or reasons, why your husband would want to knock you off? Pardon my forwardness, Mrs. Hathaway, but only a damn fool or a lunatic would want to waste a doll like you.”

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She tapped a half inch of ash off her cigarette. The tip turned a fiery gold as she took another puff. “One word, Dinger,” she said as smoke escaped her nostrils and lips. “Money. I have plenty. Martin has none. None of his own, I should say.”

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The light bulb came on. Martin Hathaway, bank president. One of the Mormon-owned banks fencing money for the mob intent on filling the desert with neon lights, titillating entertainment, and get-rich-quick dreams for all the suckers pouring into Vegas. I opened the bottom-right drawer and produced a fifth of rye I kept for such occasions. I held the bottle up. She declined. “Which bank?” I said pouring a couple fingers into the cleanest glass available.

Mrs. Hathaway scooted her chair closer to the desk. She took a final drag and crushed out the cigarette and rested both elbows on the desktop. A smile crept across those fruity lips. “My my, Dinger, you are as advertised. My sources said you were sharp. The Bank of Clark County. My father is . . . was, Thomas Perry. I inherited his entire estate when he was killed in that terrible automobile accident last month. I use ‘accident’ loosely, very loosely.

“Daddy was very fond of Marty. I never knew why, really. I suppose he thought of him as the son he never had. Daddy was the reason behind dear Marty’s meteoric climb up the bank’s business ladder. And when Daddy had his unfortunate accident, Marty was standing in line to assume his office. Unfortunately for Martin, Daddy kept putting off rewriting his will. After all, he was only fifty-one and in excellent health. Alas, who could have foreseen his car running off the road into that canyon?” Mrs. Hathaway’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

I kicked back a swig of rye. I’d had better breakfasts but it would do. “You think your husband was involved in your father’s death.”

“I do. My father had hinted on several occasions that he intended to have his will changed to include my husband. Marty had a great business sense and had proven his worth by making a number of very profitable investments for the bank. Daddy admired that. He wanted the same sound investments when it came to my personal welfare. He figured by cutting Marty in I would be set for life not only financially, but family-wise. Daddy envisioned Marty and I as the perfect couple, living happily ever after. The perfect family with kids that Daddy could enjoy bouncing on his knees as he counted the money Marty made.

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“But then Daddy found out that precious Marty was screwing around with a couple of showgirls working at the Desert Inn. Poor Daddy, all his dreams gone up in a cloud of feathers and lace. That’s when he told me dear Martin was about to be demoted.”

I downed another slug of whiskey. “I’m guessing here, Mrs. Hathaway. I’m guessing that your husband got wind of your father’s plan to can him. Right or wrong?”

She got up and walked to my side of the desk and deftly hopped aboard. Her skirt hiked above her knees, showing enough soft, forbidden flesh to tempt Saint Peter. “I believe I’ll have that drink after all, Dinger, PI.” I wiped another glass presentably clean with my fresh handkerchief and poured her a shot and myself another. “Cheers,” she said. We clinked glasses and drank. She leaned over and brushed her lips against mine. “And to answer your question, you’re right. Martin got stinking drunk one night and let it slip that Daddy was about to, shall we say, shake up management. That was about a week before the accident.”

She leaned in for another kiss. I placed my hands on those inviting shoulders and held her at arm’s-length. “Your husband is a fool. A very greedy fool. Will or no will, if you’re the sole surviving heir he stands to inherit your money.”

I lit two cigarettes and placed one between her lips. “As for how he plans to do it, my guess would be to make it look like an accident, like your father’s unfortunate demise. Looks to me like he’s had some previous experience with accidents. You said as much yourself.”

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She took a drag and exhaled, then picked at a bit of tobacco sticking to her lower lip. “Of course I believe Marty had my father killed. But the big question is who—who did he hire to do his dirty work?”

I stared into those gorgeous eyes again. They were impenetrable. “How much do you know about your father’s business?”

{To Be Continued}

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An Interview with Sasscer Hill

Join me in welcoming Sasscer Hill, for those of you who have not met her (and it’s just a matter of time until she becomes a household name—believe me!) Sasscer is a friend, mentor, and fantastic writer. I fell under her spell when I read her first book, and I haven’t come up for air since.Sasscer Hill

Tell us a bit about your new book.

Here’s the elevator pitch for RACING FROM EVIL, the new Nikki Latrelle novella: What happens to orphaned Nikki Latrelle after she flees from her pedophile stepfather through the streets of Baltimore and climbs the razor-wire fence into Pimlico Racetrack? Nikki’s drawn to horses, knows how to ride, and dreams of being a jockey. But how can a runaway with no ID, no family, and no income survive?

What inspired you to write it?

Though totally thrilled to land a two-book contract with St. Martins in June of 2015, I was surprised to learn that the first in the new Fia McKee series would not come out until the spring of 2017, a wait of almost two years! My last book, THE SEA HORSE TRADE, was published in 2013, and it seemed way too long a gap.

I was aware that some publishers are asking their authors to write novellas and short stories to keep these writers in the public eye during the intervals between their full length novels. The obvious answer for me was a new Nikki Latrelle. But as I was under contract to St. Martins, I knew the time slot was very compressed. A novella seemed like just the thing.

Nikki had a hard childhood—we get glimpses in the full length novels, but not the details, are the details coming in a future book?

Yes, they are in RACING FROM EVIL. I’d always believed the tale of Nikki’s early years would make a poignant and satisfying read, so once I decided to write a novella, I knew I would write this story because I knew it so well. Imagine a fatherless thirteen-year-old girl whose mother dies suddenly. In a sense, this mother has abandoned her daughter, leaving her in the hands of a lewd, malevolent stepfather. Nikki has no family, and when the stepfather forces his way into her bedroom, she flees. Her best times were spent with her mom at the racetrack, so this is where she runs.

Nikki is forced to steal food, sleep in race horses’ stalls to stay warm, and avoid the police and her stepfather who search for her. But just when things seem to be going right for her, Nikki crosses paths with a young man who makes her stepfather seem like a saint.Sasscer cover

How did you get started writing?

As a child I loved horses, action, and adventure. Naturally, I discovered the Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and became addicted to them as soon as I could read. In the fifth grade our teacher asked my class to write a story. Some wrote about waking up, brushing their teeth, and eating cereal. I wrote a scene with a boy and an old man trailering a horse to the races. Something was wrong and the boy was worried. That’s all I remember. But I do remember this – after the teacher asked me to read it to the class, several kids, genuinely interested, asked, “What happens next?”

There is no greater compliment a writer can get than to have that question asked, and I knew I had something.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story provides a place where a reader can go, get lost, and forget about what’s troubling them. A good story will both thrill and comfort the reader. When I was in my late twenties and thirties I read everything Dick Francis and Robert Parker wrote because their books were like a tonic.

How do you incorporate that into your books?

I write about good people who are in danger and how they overcome it. I write about people who made mistakes but ultimately find redemption. This is one of the reasons I like George Pelecanos’ novels so much. He is a master at writing about redemption.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?

If you believe you have talent, don’t waste time going into a funk when your writing is rejected. I gave up for five years. What a waste! Join support groups like Sisters in Crime. Everything good that has happened to me in the writing world has happened through a connection to other writers. For instance, it was Marcia Talley who told me after I was nominated for, but did not win the Best First Agatha Award, that I had to use the nomination to find a new agent. So I did and wound up writing a new series that will come out with St. Martins next spring.

Has that changed the way you write or market your books?

Yes in the sense that Sisters in Crime condones self-promotion, something I was loath to do.

About the marketing thing—love it, hate it?

I actually like marketing on social media, Facebook in particular. But it is a time suck.

You’ve been with a small press, indie, and now with a Big Five—what are the differences?

Small press, you get your foot in the door which led to an Agatha nomination. But with many small presses there is no marketing and no distribution to book stores and libraries. There also is very little money. Because I started with a small press, however, I got enough recognition that when I got the rights back to the Nikki Latrelle series and marketed them myself, they sold. My first monthly check from Amazon was larger than my last six-month royalty check from the small press!

Nikki Latrell is one of my favorite characters. She’s smart, sassy, brave, and probably 90 pounds of grit and gumption. Is she based on you?

Yeah, pretty much. Although she may be a better person than me.

Would Nikki like you for a friend?

I think she would. I would be something like a Carla Reuben to her. Carla is a an older friend and mentor to Nikki who plays a role in each of the first three novels.

What advice would you like to give Nikki?

Stay strong, march on, and don’t let the bastards get you down.

The Nikki Latrell stories are all about trusting yourself, even when you think you can’t and redemption. Is that a recurring theme in all of your writing?

Yes, my themes have always been about chasing the dream, fighting the odds, and helping the helpless. The horses in Nikki’s life teach her the most important life lesson, “You get what you give.”

How do you see Nikki?

Physically? I see her as about five foot three or four, thin, wiry and scrappy. She has a very cute face and a mouth she doesn’t realize is sexy as hell.

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Don’t even want to think about it.

Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!

Still writing good mysteries for St. Martins. Landing a movie deal! Hey, you said to dream big.

Sasscer Hill, a former Maryland racehorse breeder, trainer, and rider, uses the sport of kings as a backdrop for her mysteries. Her “vivid descriptive” prose about greed, evil, heart, and courage  propelled her “Nikki Latrelle” novels to multiple award nominations, including Agatha, Macavity, and the Dr. Tony Ryan Best in Racing Literature awards.

Visit Sasscer’s website:  http://SasscerHill.com/

Visit Sasscer on Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/SasscerHill.

See her Amazon page:  https://www.amazon.com/author/sasscerhill

 

Is There a Book Bubble?: Discussing a Novel’s Market Value

max picBy Max Everhart

A general observation:  the number of people reading novels is dwindling, while the number of people publishing novels is increasing.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me we have a serious supply and demand problem.  Between all the publishing platforms, we are creating a seemingly endless supply (books) for a demand (readers) that doesn’t really exist. Does anyone else find this to be true?  Surely, I can’t be the only one.  I actually saw a FB post the other day that read: “Everybody writes, nobody reads.” How true.  True-ish, anyway.  Is it possible that I’m making a false assumption about the ratio of books to willing readers?  Perhaps.  After all, a good deal of my FB friends are writers, so, naturally, my feed is clogged with stuff about their work, which makes me think that literally everyone is not only writing (#amwriting), but publishing (#HappyPubDay). And, generally speaking, that is a good thing. Writers have lots of publishing options, and the more options the better, right?

barkleyRight-ish.

Sure, I’m glad that all writers have an opportunity to put their work out there. The Internet, an egalitarian forum if ever there was one, allows people everywhere to make their books (and blogs!) available to any and all who care to read them. But when it comes to publishing platforms, with the dog come the fleas. The more books available for purchase, the less valuable each book is. The product itself (a novel) is devalued because there is a surplus of inventory.  Compare books to the US dollar. Every time the government decides to print more cash and put it into circulation the dollars already in circulation become a little less valuable. Similarly, every time a new book comes on the market, the other available books are devalued, which, in turn, creates intense competition and drives the cost way down. Too, from my perspective as an avid reader, I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices. I liken shopping on Amazon for Kindle books to entering a store that has items overflowing the shelves and spilling onto the floor and every other available surface. It’s maddening.

What I’m trying to say is this: we’re about to experience another “bubble”. . .a BOOK BUBBLE. The market is truly saturated.

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I saw the above on twitter the other day, and it got me thinking about what we value these days. Of course, I understand the intent behind this tweet, and, in spirit, I agree. I’d love it if people valued books more than coffee as I love reading and writing books, and, because of a minor heart problem, I no longer drink coffee, which is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions in my view.  But I’m also a cynic/realist: many people, for better or worse, value coffee more than they value books. Fine, I accept that. I’m not in the habit of trying to change the way people think or feel or shop. In addition to being a realist, I’m also cheap; $4.99 is a lot of money, so I sympathize with those casual, budget-conscious readers who don’t want to spend a whole lot on books. I don’t think there is anything wrong with bargain hunting, even when it comes to books.

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Coffee and books: let’s deconstruct those two items for a moment, try to better understand their true market value. Indulge me a quick evaluation.  Coffee is quick, its effects immediate. You buy a latte, take a sip, feel satisfaction. It’s a chemical and physical response that is super-quick.  People–a lot of people–are willing to pay five dollars and up for a cup of coffee.  So that is coffee’s market value.  Books, at least the ebooks alluded to in the above tweet, don’t command as high a price.  A book’s effects aren’t as immediate as coffee’s; with a book, the payoff is delayed, and, for the most part, less physical in nature (caffeine is a drug, after all). Drinking coffee requires no discipline, but reading an entire book does.  Whether the book starts off with a bang or a whimper, reading to the end of the book is the primary goal (think: payoff), and that, according to Kindle, can take upwards of four hours. Imagine that! Four whole hours reading! Many people don’t have the time or the inclination to stick with anything that long. Delving a bit deeper, the intrinsic value of a book is unique to each potential reader and cannot be measured in monetary terms. Ah, but the extrinsic value of a book is most definitely quantifiable. Hence, many people feel that an ebook priced at $4.99 or higher is too expensive. That’s an ebook’s market value. Put another way, like a car or a house or a grape, a book is worth precisely what a reader is willing to pay for it, and many readers these days don’t want to pay $4.99. And while that makes me sad (or sad-ish), it’s the way the market works.

my point

To a larger point: just because an author spends years writing a book doesn’t automatically mean that book has more value than a cup of coffee. It might. It could. But a book, despite the author’s hard work, is not innately worth more than a coffee. Or a sock. Or a walnut. Sorry, it just isn’t. Art’s monetary value was, has, and always will be completely subjective. Example: I wouldn’t pay ten bucks for those silly Campbell’s soup cans by Warhol.  I love books. I read them everyday. I pay for books. I review books.  I write books. But I’m not so solipsistic to think that because I love them everybody else should, too, and they should pay a certain amount for them. I don’t think my books are worth $4.99. Or $1.99. I think my books are worth whatever someone is willing to pay (or not pay). Period.

Back to something I’d written in a previous MMO post: If you want to be a successful writer, you need to manage your expectations. You need to find joy in the process, and not worry too much about sales. Easy advice to give, tough advice to follow. At this point in my career, I’m trying to seek fulfillment in the process of writing. (Or not writing; lately, I’ve been watching the UEFA 2016 Championships on ESPN in lieu of working on my novel. Being a slacker isn’t so bad.) I accept the fact that by writing more novels and publishing them I’m creating more supply where there is, essentially, no demand, and I have mixed feelings about that. As an obscure novelist, I often feel like a well-made VCR in the digital streaming age. My only hope is that some people out there have dusty VHS copies of Mermaid and need a VCR. If so, I’m around. So are my books.

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Discussion Questions

  1. Are we on the verge of a book bubble? What do you think will happen if the bubble bursts?
  2. How do you feel about ebook prices? Are they too expensive? What’s the most you’d be willing to spend on one?
  3. Do you feel like the book market is saturated?

Max enjoys hearing from fans (or critics), so find him on FB or his website.

 

Payback: A Noir Short

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There is no God. I lost my religion the hard way. First on Peleliu where we slugged it out for days taking Bloody Nose Ridge from the Japs, swapping hundreds of good Marines for a worthless chunk of coral somewhere in the vast wasteland of the Pacific. Repeat in the stinking, maggot-infested mud of Okinawa, only this time for months. Then, coming home from the war, scarred but with a chest full of medals, hometown hero for a day, only to learn my girl had dumped me for a college professor—yeah, Semper Fidelis, bitch. And now this: Gordon Lawson lying dead at my feet in a pool of blood still leaking from his shattered skull. So, tell me there’s a loving God who gives a damn for the vermin crawling this earth and I’ll call you a liar.

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It was one of those nights in Vegas where the rains blew across the desert from the Mexican coast and temporarily washed the filth and slime off the streets of Sin City. This cleansing might last till morning, but I doubted it. The air was heavy and the smell of cordite still lingered near Gordo’s body. Whoever shot him did it up close and personal.

I lit a cigarette, leaned against the fender of my Ford coupe, and looked down at him again. Poor dumb kid. He’d drifted into Vegas from somewhere in Nebraska about three months ago after a hitch in the Army.  Said he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life plowing and planting and depending on the weather for good times or bad. Said he wanted to be a private investigator, heard I had a reputation, and asked me to show him the ropes. Gordo had missed the fighting by a few months. Maybe he felt cheated. Maybe he thought being a private dick would provide the rush he’d been seeking when he enlisted just weeks before VJ Day. Whatever the reason, occupation duty in Japan hadn’t satisfied the hunger in his gut. Like the fool I was, I took him on.

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I stared across the Desert Inn’s parking lot at the glitzy green saguaro cactus and yellow lettering lighting the facade. I’d heard Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were back in town. Inside the Painted Desert Room people would be drinking and laughing it up at Charlie’s double entendres. In the casino they’d be throwing good money after bad at the tables, or feeding the gluttonous one-armed bandits coin by coin; dreams of striking it rich running like electric impulses through the wired crowd. But Gordon Lawson would dream no more. I’d sent him on a simple overnight stakeout and things had somehow gone sour. It should’ve been a cushy job. But Gordo had cashed-in his life keeping tabs on one of the Inn’s three hundred rooms. I had to find out why.

police cruiser

Another ten minutes crawled by until I saw the Las Vegas Police cruiser pull into the parking lot. It headed toward my coupe whose parking lights I’d left on after calling in the crime from a phone booth on the corner. Just for effect the cop car gave a short burst of its irritating siren. It pulled to a stop a few yards from me. The driver’s door opened and a dark bulk spilled out of the vehicle and lumbered toward me. His fedora was pushed back on his broad forehead.

“Dinger,” the bulk said, nodding at me.

“Overholt,” I said, returning the courtesy.

“What we got here?” Homicide detective Henry Overholt said, staring down at the body of my late protégé.

“Gordon Lawson. My partner . . .  or was. He was keeping watch on a cheating wife. One of the D.I.’s employees’ wives.”

With a grunt Overholt squatted and placed a finger on Gordo’s neck. “How long you figure?”

“Thirty, forty minutes, max,” I said. “He called in saying a man had entered the room he was watching. I told him to stay put and keep his eyes peeled. That’s when I heard the blast.”

Overholt grunted again and struggled upright, knees cracking in the effort. “So, how’d your partner get from the phone over there,” he said, pointing to the same phone I’d used, “to his car, here?”

“If I knew that we’d both know.”

“Family?”

“Yeah, some small town in Nebraska,” I said. “I got a record of it in my files. I’ll get it to you in the morning.”

“You make sure it’s on my desk by nine, Dinger. Don’t dally around with me. I don’t like corpses showing up in my beat, especially on my watch. You got that?”

“Yeah, got it, Hank,” I said and turned to my car.

“One more question, Dinger. You got any idea who might’ve done this? Him being your partner and all, I figured you might know something we can use.”

I turned to face the shadowy hulk. “I got nothing, Hank. But if I come up with anything, you’ll be the first to know.”

*  *  *

Showgirl-Vegas-3

But I did have something. Shellie Martinette, nineteen years old, a showgirl with the Donn Arden Dancers, a mainstay entertainment troupe at the Desert Inn since its opening a few months back. Gordo had fallen head over heels for the young dame the first time he saw her shaking her stuff in the Inn’s Painted Desert Room. For a while even I thought the attraction was mutual. Until one night I saw her clinging to the arm of Dino Demitri, nephew of one of the mob’s money backers who’d taken majority control from front man owner, Wilbur Clark. Clark was still the big man of record for the new hotel-casino, but it was common knowledge around Vegas by those in the know that his “benevolent backers” were really pulling the strings. Dino was trouble. A punk with a silver spoon in his mouth and an itchy trigger-finger attached to his gun hand.

And so I came up with the brilliant idea that I’d teach the kid a hard lesson. I’d known for awhile that Demitri and Shellie had been having regular late night rendezvous in room 232. I figured the kid could benefit from a dose of harsh reality. Maybe wake him up from Dreamland where everything fell perfectly into place for those who worked hard and kept their nose clean. And now I hated myself for trying to teach Gordo anything, anything at all about life. Who the hell died and made me the expert? I couldn’t even handle my own shit I’d dragged back from the Pacific with me.

vegas home office

I drove back to the dump I called my office and home, located a few blocks off the Strip. My subletters scurried for cover when I flicked on the lights. I brushed the latest roach shit off my desktop and opened the top right drawer. I grabbed the box of .38s, reloaded my revolver, and dumped another dozen or so rounds in my pants pocket. I poured myself a drink from the pint of rye whiskey sitting in the same drawer and gulped it down in one big swig. Relishing the burn, I strode to the hall closet and grabbed my Browning automatic 12-gauge shotgun. I loaded it with five rounds of double-ought buckshot and shoved the remaining three shells from the box into my other pants pocket. Looking around the dump I’d grown rather fond of, I bid it and my fellow residents a fond farewell, just in case things didn’t work out. I grabbed a throw pillow off the ratty sofa and shut the door behind me.

blood splatter

My face was covered with a bandana, and I had the throw pillow in hand as I picked the lock of room 232. For all the glitz and glamour of the joint, they’d cheaped out on the door hardware. I cocked my .38 and pushed the door open. The chain gave way with little resistance. I flicked on the light as I closed the door behind me. Demitri bolted upright, a wild look in his eyes as he reached for the table next to the bed. I smothered the barrel of my revolver with the pillow and squeezed off a round with a controlled trigger pull. Blood and brains splattered the wall behind the bed in a pattern that would make any abstract artist proud.

It took a couple seconds for sweet Shellie to react. She sat upright, finally covering her fine bare breasts with the sheet, not yet realizing that lover boy’s blood and brains had painted a mosaic on the wall behind her.

“What the f—?”

“Easy, doll,” I said. “Take a gander at your friend.” I nodded to her left.

sick in bed

After a furtive glance she started to scream but was interrupted by vomiting on the covers in her lap. Shellie recovered in time to shout, “You bastard! Do you realize what you’ve done?”

MMO pistol - 2

I held up a hand and cocked back the hammer. “Cool it, toots. You better wise up and see what you’ve got yourself into. My advice, free of charge this time, is to get your sweet ass out of that bed, make a beeline to the bus station, and vamoose it back to where you came from. Dino’s friends aren’t likely to take to his untimely demise lightly. You read me, doll?”

She didn’t answer and I didn’t hang around to wait for one. I backed out of the room and drove back to my dive, taking a few more side streets and turns than I normally would have. Back home, I crawled into bed, my trusty .38 by my side, and for once relishing the company of my co-tenants.

 

Meeting and Greeting – A Marketing Plan

This is the first part of a two-part blog, the second part will follow on Writer’s Who Kill on Saturday, June 25th.  Tricky, huh.Who Dunnit

As a member of the Gulf Coast Chapters of Sisters in Crime I attended a marketing day at the Sarasota Barnes & Noble. I have to admit, initially I only did it because I thought I had to. Not for me, but for my publisher. First of all, Sarasota is 100 miles away from my home—and that’s a crow flies distance.  Second, I had to be there by 9:45 AM. Third, like most writers, I’d rather hunker down in my cave and write. Fourth, the Florida rainy season has been hitting with a vengeance most days this week and the thought of driving an hour and a half through gator gushers… Why then, did a reasonably sane woman get leave her house at 6:30 AM with thunder lighting the western sky? Did I mention about my publisher? And, oh yeah, bookstores are catnip to a writer.

About halfway there with the GPS and the Eagles competing for my attention, Desperado’s turn came on the CD.  It was raining. Not a gator gusher, but a steady rain that had followed me through and into the depths of the road construction. I glanced at the tree line on the western side of road and low and behold, there was a rainbow above me. Not just a rainbow, a perfect double rainbow. Talk about a sign!

With renewed hope, I arrived at my destination (yea GPS!) a mere hour early and discovered an IHOP across the parking lot. Fueled by a hearty breakfast, I managed to take my courage in both hands and move on into my first bookstore personal appearance.

My job was to be the first author for the intro/reading/q and a. Let me preface this by saying, public speaking never bothered me. A holdover from what we called forensics in my day (I was on the debate team—given my later profession, I WISH it had to do with forensics in the CSI sense of the word). In fact, give me a microphone, I’m good to go all day. That said, even in debate, I memorized my presentations. I am a lousy read alouder! My eyes go way faster than my mouth. The read aloud part had me flummoxed.At the signing table

The crowd, given that I was first up, was very, very small. I knew after I finished, I’d be up at the signing table in the front of the store. My goal became getting to the Q & A part of the presentation. I did my little intro – who I am, why I am, and how I got there, then I told them that reading out loud was not my strong suit, and I apologized in advance. I opened my book and began to read. I’d selected the first chapter of Death by Blue Water. I wanted to introduce this group to Hayden, and her world. Inside of seconds I was reading out loud with emotion, enjoying the story and the audience reaction. The 10 minutes passed all too fast.

The Q&A was fun. I’m always intrigued by what readers what to know. Sometimes it’s personal questions, sometimes book questions. At this presentation, no one had read the book so the questions were about the characters and the Florida Keys locations. The audience made me so comfortable and welcome, that I didn’t want to leave to go do my book signing. It was fun!IMG_0269

Special thanks to the Sarasota Barnes & Noble bookstore for making us feel so welcome and for tracking down not only my Henery Press books, but Zoned for Murder as well!

Kait loves to hear from fans, check out her website at www.kaitcarson.com; follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor, on twitter at @kaitcarson, or e-mail her at kait.carson@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 Shamus Award Books from 1982-2015

By Max Everhart

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Grateful is my word of the day because Split to Splinters (Eli Sharpe #2) is a finalist in the Best P.I. Paperback Original category for the 2016 Shamus Awards.

Bill Pronzini.  Harlan Coben. Robert Crais. Dennis Lehane. Alison Gaylin. Paul D. Marks. M. Ruth Myers. These are just some of the many previous Shamus Award winners/finalists whose work I greatly admire, whose books have entertained, thrilled, challenged, and inspired me.  My love of reading is the main reason I started writing, and today, I’m feeling particularly grateful to all the aforementioned novelists for providing the blueprint on how to craft a first-rate mystery.  I’m also grateful to my publisher Camel Press for nominating my book.

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I’m also grateful to The Private Eye Writers of America, not only for selecting my book as a finalist, but for staying committed to celebrating, recognizing, and elevating the sometimes maligned P.I. genre.  Without PEWA, an organization that I use as a source for book recommendations, I might never have discovered many of my favorite sleuths such as Elvis Cole, Myron Bolitar, and Maggie Sullivan. For that, too, I thank you.

I’m so excited to be going to Bouchercon in New Orleans this fall that I went back and scoured all of the Shamus Award winners and finalists from 1982 through 2015.  Rediscovering some of my absolute favorite P.I. novels made me create a top ten list that I’m dying to share with everyone. So, if you’ve read these, good work! If you haven’t, you’re welcome. . . and get on it.

My Top 10 Favorite Shamus Award-Winning-or-Finalist Books (in no particular order)

  1. Gone Baby Gone–Dennis Lehane.  In Gone, Baby, Gone, the master of the new noir, New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island), vividly captures the complex beauty and darkness of working-class Boston. A gripping, deeply evocative thriller about the devastating secrets surrounding a little girl lost, featuring the popular detective team of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, Gone, Baby, Gone was the basis for the critically acclaimed motion picture directed by Ben Affleck and starring Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, and Morgan Freeman.
  2. Don’t Dare a DameM. Ruth Myers. Tea with two spinsters thrusts 1930s private investigator Maggie Sullivan into an explosive mix of murder, political rivalries and family secrets. Pursuing their case means risking not only her life, but her detective license.
  3. Fade AwayHarlen Coben. In novels that crackle with wit and suspense, Harlan Coben has created one of the most fascinating heroes in suspense fiction: the wisecracking, tenderhearted sports agent Myron Bolitar. In this gripping third novel in the acclaimed series, Myron must confront a past that is dead and buried—and more dangerous than ever before.
  4. And She WasAlison Gaylin. A breathtaking novel of suspense, Gaylin’s And She Was introduces a remarkable new protagonist: Brenna Spector, a missing persons investigator afflicted with Hyperthymestic Syndrome, a rare disorder that enables her to remember every moment of every day of her life. A twisting mystery, both chilling and surprising, And She Was sets the haunted investigator on the trail of a missing child who vanished more than a decade earlier—a case with disturbing echoes in Brenna’s own scrupulously remembered past.
  5. White HeatPaul D. Marks. Days before the verdict is read in the Rodney King Case in Los Angeles back in the 1992, a weasely little man walks into private detective Duke Rogers office and asks him to locate an old friend, Teddie Matson. The guy is white and Teddie is black, and Los Angeles is just about ready to explode due to racial tensions, but Duke isn’t thinking about that, just the $250 he’ll make on the easy case.
  6. Sunset ExpressRobert Crais. Prominent restaurateur Teddy Martin is facing charges in his wife’s brutal murder. But he’s not going down without spending a bundle of cash on his defense. So his hotshot attorney hires P.I. Elvis Cole to find proof that Detective Angela Rossi tampered with the evidence. Rossi needs a way back to the fast track after falling hard during an internal investigation five years ago. But Cole needs to know if she’s desperate enough to falsify the case against Martin in order to secure her own position. As Cole and his partner Joe Pike work their way through a tangle of witnesses and an even greater tangle of media, they begin to suspect that it’s not the police who are behind the setup.
  7. BoobytrapBill Pronzini. Emotionally exhausted from the events surrounding his partner’s suicide, “Nameless” welcomes the chance for a quiet vacation that comes when San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Patrick Dixon proposes that the burnt-out detective drive Dixon’s wife and son to their summer cottage on a remote High Sierra lake. In exchange, “Nameless” will have a week’s free use of a neighboring cabin.
  8. Big City, Bad BloodSean Chercover. Disillusioned newspaper reporter-turned-private detective Ray Dudgeon doesn’t want to save the world; he just wants to do an honest job well. But when doing an honest job threatens society’s most powerful and corrupt, Ray’s odds of survival make for a sucker’s bet . . .
  9. Fatal Flaw–William Lasher. Ethically adventurous Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl usually does the right thing, but often for the wrong reasons. When old law school classmate Guy Forrest is accused of murdering his beautiful lover, Hailey Prouix, in their Main Line love nest, Carl agrees to represent him — while keeping silent about his own prior romantic involvement with the victim, and his present determination to see that his client is punished for the brutal crime. But once Carl sets the machinery of retribution in motion, it may be impossible to stop it, even after his certainty begins to crack. Now Victor Carl must race across the country to uncover shocking truths: Who, really, was Hailey Prouix? And why is a killer still waiting in her shadow?
  10. Dancing BearJames Crumley. Detective Milo Dragovitch spends too much time boozing until he gets caught up in a case involving two-bit criminals and an old lady on the run.
    His friends call him Milo. No one has ever called him Bud except his father, long dead, and now Sarah Weddington, stirring painful memoires and offering him his first case since he abandoned his private practice and took a job marking time on the night shift for Haliburton Security. The case seems almost too easy, hardly worth the large fee, just to satisfy this old woman’s curiosity. But things are soon exploding all over the place and Milo is turning up grenades, machine guns, a kilo of marijuana and a bag of coke  . . . and suddenly Milo is on the run.

max picI would love to hear from you, so check me out on FB here and/or my author website here. Or send me an email at maxeverhart30@gmail.com.

 

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

Sorry to mislead you, but this isn’t a treatise on Jane Austen’s classic novel pitting one sister’s passion against the other sister’s sound reasoning, although that might make for an interesting post some day (Kait, you interested?). Full disclosure: way back when during high school, my English class was assigned Sense and Sensibility to read, followed by a book report. When school ended for the day I high-tailed it downtown to Cooper’s News Stand and the spiral rack which held Cliffs Notes for many of the classics. Fortunately, there were two copies available. I think I paid about three or four bucks for it, but it was worth every cent to spare the fifteen-year-old me from over three-hundred pages of drudgery (my opinion at the time). But I digress.

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A few days ago I was reading through a blog listing URLs on numerous topics helpful to writers. One that caught my eye was about using the five senses to enhance our fiction: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. I’ll admit to thinking, How mundane. Any writer worth his salt knows that, even most beginners. And then it struck me—what a pompous ass I was to think that! Mr. Know-it-all-Author, how often do you use the five senses to enhance your own fiction? And so I decided to put it to the test, using my first Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Catch, as the guinea pig.

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I grabbed a copy of the book and opened it to Chapter One. With bated breath (oh, the drama, the tension!), I put myself to the test and began reading:

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A quick flick of the wrist and the lure flashed in the rising sun, arched thirty or so yards alongside the grass flats and landed with a quiet splash barely a foot from the edge.

Making-notes

Much to my delight (and surprise) I was able to scratch off the first two of the five senses in just the second sentence of the novel. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

“flashed” = Sight.

“splash” = Hearing.

 Whoopee! So far, so good. I wondered if my luck would hold. I ventured on. At the bottom of the first page and on to the second page of Chapter One, I read,

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The lure wiggled and skirted the grassy edge for ten or fifteen feet when I felt resistance.

“felt”—Hurrah for me! I now could scratch off sense number three, Touch. I’d only reached the top of the second page of my mystery and I already had used senses one, two, and three. Heck, I was—“The Natural,” to borrow the title from Bernard Malamud’s 1952 classic baseball novel. Would my luck continue? I scanned on down the page.

Stench-of-Decay

About halfway to the target a light breeze rose and drifted my way. That’s when the stench hit, almost gagging me.

Hot damn! “stench” certainly qualified for “Smell.” Four out of five senses used in the first two pages of Deadly Catch, and in order as listed on the blog I’d read, no less. Was it karma, or merely coincidence?

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I could hardly contain myself as I ventured to the following page in search of the next—fifth— sense. Could I possibly go five for five, a perfect batting average of 1.000, or would my streak end at a very respectable .800? I took a deep breath and plunged ahead.

A couple pages into Chapter Two I found this:

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I fished a roll of breath mints from my pocket and popped a couple in my mouth.

Hmm, does that qualify? The sentence doesn’t directly state anything about taste, but the implication is there. Mac had polished off a six-pack of beer while waiting for the Florida Marine Patrol to show up after he’d discovered the decomposed body he’d hooked beside the grass flat. It’s not a direct reference, but I think it qualifies. But not to worry: I didn’t score five for five. In between the “smell” and the “taste” references were other mentions of the previously used senses. So, no perfect five for five. But hey, batting .800 ain’t bad at all—just ask any baseball fan.

Confidence word destruction

 

So, what’s the moral of this post? Well, I believe good writing will always include the five senses placed here and there throughout the story to enhance the reader’s enjoyment. Not on every page, or every other page. It just happened to occur in Deadly Catch. I had no idea of that when I reopened the book for the first time in many months. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I don’t recall consciously planting the five senses in the opening pages of the book. It just happened. And that fact boosts my confidence in my writing.

Lesson learned? Using the five senses in fiction makes Sense and Sensibility.

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What about you? If you’re a writer, does your work include these five senses to help enrich your readers’ enjoyment? And as readers, do our favorite books and authors employ the senses to widen our experience as we travel through the pages? Grab a book from the author of your choice and see how far into the story you get until you find all five. It’s fun, and a good way to test your reading chops!