Crooked: Honest Criminality by Bronwen John @toydog16r @matadorbooks @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Ashia ‘Ash’ Cox isn’t your average teenager. She’s a sixteen-year-old con artist headed for greatness – until celebrity criminal Harry Holmes destroys the family and life she loves.

Taking matters into her own hands, Ash links up with Esther Crook – a legendary con who has her own motivations against Holmes and his associates. After a little persuasion, Esther puts together a new crew using Ash as ‘the insider’. The crew feel the heat of the criminals on one side and the encroaching crime agencies on the other, but as the heist unfurls, who is really doing the conning and who is pulling the strings?

With plot twists aplenty, Crooked raises the stakes in crime fiction as the plot equally surprises – and cons – the reader.

 

Troubador| Amazon | Goodreads

I had a good impression while reading Crooked Honest Criminality.  The whole realm and art of “the con” is very fascinating. It provides a good insight into the criminal enterprise of the con artist. The characters kind of remind of the classic movie, Oliver, who also was an estranged orphan. Full of action, adventure, and dialogue, Crooked  will keep you turning the pages until the very end. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens next! 

AUTHOR BIO


Bronwen John is a Civil Servant with a Creative Writing degree from the University of Wales. She has previously published four poetry anthologies which include; The Kardomah Kid (2011), Mind The Gap (2013), The Lotus Blossom and The Kardomah Kid (2017), as well as a children’s book, The Mystery of Smugglers Drift (2017). She lives in a tiny village in Dyffryn Cellwen, Wales.





337 by M. Jonathan Lee @mjonathanlee – #337LEE @HideawayFall @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.

While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.

Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

AmazonGoodreads  | Book Depository

MJL 337 EXTRACT #4

 

“I suggest you do,” he says in a voice which suggests there may be ramifications if I choose not to. 

My only remaining thread of control is severed when he hangs up the phone. I take a deep breath and wait for him to call back, which is something he does when he feels he may not have made his point as clearly as he might. I lay there staring at the dust that has collected in the corners of my phone. The screen stays black, and after a minute or two passes I feel safe again. I place the phone on the duvet and turn my face into the darkness of the pillow. 

For a moment I am gripped by anger, a feeling that twists in my chest like a coiled rope. I have spent a good part of the last ten years trying to remove this feeling from my life. I have been told on a number of occasions that if I cannot leave it behind, it will eventually consume me. I’ll be tossed into the black hole of its throat like Jonah and his whale. Gobbled up in one. My final resting place will be the belly of the giant beast and, unlike Jonah, I’ll never be seen again. 

The last person who told me this was Sara. In fact, she told me plenty of times that I needed to change aspects of myself. For some time I listened to her, convinced that my macabre back story was reason enough to be the person I’ve become. It was only latterly, when I had an awakening, that I realised that her criticisms of me were actually a product of her own insecurities. Her insecurities moulding me into an angry and self-pitying person. A person I never used to be, nor ever wanted to be. And so, over the last year or so, the words I had listened to so attentively were rubberised and deflected, unheard, back to where they came from. 

And of course, as I am sure you can now guess, Sara is gone. 

And I feel the real me returning. 

Slowly.


M Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born Yorkshire where he still lives today with twins, James and Annabel.

His debut novel, The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.

His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015.

His much anticipated third novel, A Tiny Feeling of Fear was released in September 2015 and tells the story of a character struggling with mental illness. All profits from this novel are donated to charity to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was accompanied by the short film, Hidden which was directed by Simon Gamble and can be seen here.

www.mjonathanlee.com

Primal Calling by Barry Eisenberg – An Excerpt

While rummaging through the attic, high school senior, Jack Davies, is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling bit of information that changes his life. The story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is revealed to be a lie, shattering long-held beliefs and the trust he had for her. Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, leading him down a dangerous path. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue. Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become?

Amazon| Goodreads | B&N

An excerpt from Primal Calling by Barry Eisenberg

 

Jack walked toward the student parking lot. It was late in the day for a final exam, and he didn’t encounter any acquaintances on the five-minute walk to the parking lot. The driver of the Taurus spotted Jack entering the parking lot and turned on the ignition. Jack got into his car and backed out of the spot. His mother was expecting him home before dinner. He became preoccupied with thoughts of the important phone call he was scheduled to get the following morning. 

 

The Taurus followed the Accord, the driver carefully staying sufficiently back to avoid arousing suspicion. After exiting the college, the Accord turned right onto Rockaway Avenue, a main thoroughfare that cut through several suburban towns. Rockaway Avenue had an eclectic mix of old shops and newer, trendy stores. A health foods store sat adjacent to a shop that sold antique toys. When Jack was a boy, he had loved to watch the Lionel train set displayed in the window. The sturdiness of the train cars and the authenticity of their appearance mesmerized him, as did the fantasy of hopping on board and being whisked beyond the confines of his community. 

 

Jack turned onto Valley Mill Turnpike, a single-lane road that ran through a stretch of woodland. Jack was about seven miles from his home. About two miles onto Valley Mill Turnpike, Jack noticed that the Taurus behind him was getting much closer. That guy is in a big-time rush, Jack thought. The Taurus, gaining ground, was now about a car length behind. Jack gently tapped the brake to slow the car, hoping the Taurus would pass. 

 

After a few seconds, the Taurus began to pass. Jack glanced into the Taurus as it pulled alongside. He noticed three people in the car, all of whom were staring directly back at him. It struck Jack as a look of scrutiny, as though to confirm their find. The female passenger, sitting in the front passenger seat, had a piercing, frightening gaze. She waved to Jack to stop. 

 

Jack’s mind was racing. His fear that this group would seek him out had materialized. But he knew he must try to avoid them, lest he expose Cathy to danger. He believed he had no choice but to dodge them and call her. He also knew he should not use his cell phone. 

 

Jack hit the accelerator and his car lurched forward, pulling in front of the Taurus. The Taurus regained speed and, again, came up just behind the Accord. The driver was clearly skilled at this activity and, at once, was able to maneuver his car beside Jack’s. Another wave by the woman to slow down. Jack needed to get away. As he fixed his gaze on the road in front, the driver of the Taurus, in anticipation of Jack’s plan to try to race ahead, pulled his car in front. 

Jack was now behind the Taurus. Both cars were moving at sixty miles per hour. Jack knew that a string of about ten stores, including a gas station, was just two miles up the road. Just then, the Taurus started to slow down. Suddenly, the deceleration became abrupt, and Jack couldn’t help but get too close for comfort. He slammed on his brakes. Panic! 

 

Jack tried to steer around the Taurus, but it shifted to the left, a deliberate attempt to prevent Jack from passing. The Taurus was slowing to a complete halt, and Jack was unable to steer past it. His only choice was to put the car in reverse and try to back out of the area. Jack took a deep breath and threw the car into reverse. The Taurus, now also in reverse, followed closely. Jack desperately wanted to turn the car around, and thought he had an opening. He spun the wheel and the car veered toward the shoulder. But Jack was no match for the driver of the Taurus. Before Jack could put the car in drive, the Taurus lunged back, tires screeching, until it was positioned directly in front of Jack. 

 

Trapped! 

 

Jack slammed the gear shift into park and bolted from the car, leaving it running, and darted directly into the wooded area behind him. The lanky man from the back seat and the woman scrambled from the car in pursuit. In the meantime, the driver of the Taurus repositioned both cars to the shoulder of the road. 

 

Jack had no choice but to use his phone now. His hands trembled as he fidgeted for it, and the uneven terrain made it impossible to maneuver through his pockets. Then he realized his phone was on the passenger seat of his car. 

 

The man shouted to Jack to stop. The woman, not far behind, screamed, “We’re not going to hurt you.” In the face of this madness, Jack found her tone oddly believable. Fearing no possibility for escape, Jack was left with no choice but to confront them. 

 

He wheeled around, screaming, “What do you want from me? Who are you?” 

 

They stood about twenty feet from Jack, separated by a small clearing in the thicket of trees. 

 

“We are not here to hurt you. We need you to come with us,” the woman repeated. 

 

Jack succumbed to a strange, paradoxical mix of panic and curiosity. He didn’t know these people, though he had been aware they might seek him out. But he could not reveal this awareness to them. And he didn’t know if he was in danger. “What if I don’t? You can’t do this to me.” His wobbly voice managed a trace of defiance. 

 

“Actually, we can,” the man declared. His tone was powerful and convincing. That was it. With those three words, the man’s authority — an unequivocal dominance over Jack — became deadly certain. 

 

Jack stood there, frozen, while the pair walked toward him. He suspected he wouldn’t be hurt, but he couldn’t be positive. He was at once consumed with energy and sapped of it. 

 

“Where are we going?” Jack asked, relinquishing himself to a fate over which he knew he had no control. 

 

“Back to the car,” the woman replied. “You need to come with us.” 

 

The woman led the way back to the highway. Jack followed, not wanting to provoke the man, whose presence loomed directly behind. Along the path lay rocks and tree branches. One of these might be used as a weapon, he thought. His mind raced; is there time to grab something? But other than a small tussle with a class bully in the third grade, Jack had not been especially schooled in the ways of physical confrontation. In fact, among the best of his social talents was conflict avoidance. No, he’d surely lose out in a physical struggle. 

 

Jack pressed the pair for information. “Who are you? What do you want from me? Take my car. Take my money. Just please let me go.” As Jack’s pleas faded, so did any semblance of his resistance, and the pair offered nothing. No hint of purpose. No gesture of reassurance. The remainder of the short walk to the car occurred in silence. 

 

As the group neared the car, the man told Jack to get into the back seat with him. The driver and the woman assumed their original positions in the front. She turned to Jack and instructed him, “You need to call your mother. Where’s your phone?” 

 

“It’s in my car,” he responded. 

 

The woman retrieved Jack’s phone from his car and handed it to him. Then she advised him on what to say: “Tell her that you were asked by Mr. Dwyer to help with a project at the department tonight.” Holy shit, she knew his computer instructor’s name. “If she asks what the project is, tell her the department is planning the installation of new hard drives on the school’s computer system during the summer, and you’ve been asked to help with preparation.” Jack felt a sense of terror — she knew about that too! “Tell her you’ll be home close to midnight, but she shouldn’t worry if you’re running late.” 

 

“Is all that clear?” the man in the back asked with stinging bluntness. 

 

Jack nodded.

The man’s stare was laser-like. “Be convincing,” he said, which sounded to Jack like a warning.

Jack hit the call button and stared at the woman as the phone rang. 

 

The driver, who had not turned around during the entire time Jack had been in the car, kept his sights on the road ahead. 

 

“I got her voicemail,” Jack informed the group. 

 

“Perfect,” said the woman. “Just leave the message and tell her you’ll be home late tonight.” 

Jack delivered the message as directed. The slight hesitancy in his voice was not enough to create concern for the group. 

 

“Unfortunately, we’re unable to answer any questions right now,” she confirmed. “But I assure you our aim is not to hurt you.” Then she exited the car, walked to Jack’s car, and got into the driver’s seat. Jack watched as his car made a U-turn. The Accord drove alongside the Taurus and stopped. The window rolled down, and the woman instructed the driver of the Taurus to follow her back to the college. 

 

The trip back to the college was made in silence. Despite her cool assertiveness, the woman’s presence eased Jack’s fear. There was a cold, menacing steeliness without her, and Jack believed there could be harsh consequences if he showed any sign of resistance. 

 

As they arrived at the college, Jack realized he had yet to hear the driver utter a single word. Jack watched as his Accord passed by the student parking lot and headed for the visitor lot. The majority of students at New Jersey Central College commuted to school, but about a fifth of the student body was from out of town. Parents and friends who visited were directed to park in the visitor lot. Jack knew that cars could be parked there for days without being ticketed by college security. Apparently, Jack’s abductors knew this as well. 

 

The woman parked the Accord and returned to the Taurus. Jack observed her placing his car keys into her purse, which had been on the front floor of the Taurus. The Taurus pulled out of the visitor lot, through one of the smaller gates of the college and then back onto Rockaway Avenue. 

 

As the Taurus left the immediate area, Jack, impelled by trepidation, dared to question his captors again. His tone was pleading. “Who are you? Why are you doing this?” 

 

“Everything will be made clear in due time,” the woman replied, icily. “Now, please, no more questions for now.” 

 

Jack knew the car had been heading north, but he was unfamiliar with the route the driver was taking. After what felt to Jack like a distance of about seven or eight miles, the car pulled onto a small side road. It was desolate, eerily so under the circumstances. The lanes were narrow, not much wider than the car itself, and the quick succession of twists and bends in the road made it impossible to see beyond a few yards. 

 

The car drove about five hundred feet up the road, then pulled off onto a dirt shoulder. The woman turned around and faced Jack. Jack’s fear — this terror produced by a sense of imminent doom — caused his mind to scramble, scanning everything, anything for any possibility of escape. But there was no way out, and the fear manifested in jolts to his system. He could feel his heart beating in his chest. A strange numbness gripped his hands and descended toward his wrists. The tips of his fingers tingled and were overwhelmed by a paralyzing weightiness. A stinging electricity coursed through him. 

 

“I can’t tell you where we are going or why. And I’m not free to answer any questions right now. I need you to wear these for the remainder of the trip, though,” the woman said, handing Jack what appeared to be a pair of sunglasses with shields that wrapped around the sides. 

 

Jack slowly extended his hand to take the glasses from the woman and asked why he should wear them. “Just put them on, please. It’s for your own protection.” Jack sensed impatience in her voice, but with a hint of sensitivity. She was a model of efficiency. There was nothing wasted about her. Her words were delivered methodically without a syllable to spare. Her hair, shoulder-length with just a hint of a wave, had fallen back neatly into place despite a run in the woods. Jack felt his heart pulsing. 

 

Jack discovered these were not ordinary sunglasses. They blackened out all traces of light. He had no idea where they were going. 

 

Travel resumed. Jack felt the car make several turns in quick succession. He believed this was a deliberate strategy to confuse him. Until they had stopped, he knew they were headed north, but this jarring sequence of turns was disorienting. He knew only that there was no stretch of extended highway driving. 

 

About twenty minutes later, the car slowed, pulling onto gravel. The front passenger door opened and the woman stepped out. The two men remained in the car. The woman opened the rear passenger door where Jack was seated. He made no move. The woman reached in and placed her hand under Jack’s elbow. “Please come with me,” she demanded, her tone firm but noticeably polite.

Jack slowly extended one foot out the door and felt a gravel incline beneath his feet. With the glasses still on, Jack was escorted by the woman for about twenty yards. He heard a door in front of him open and was told to go up one step and enter a house. The wooden floor felt like the floor in his kitchen at home. Its hard texture was offset by a suppleness that muffled the sound of shoes making contact with it. 

 

Jack was advised by the woman that he was heading to a room in the back of the house. She led him straight for a few feet and then made a turn to the left. He surmised that a kitchen was to his right from the faint hum of what sounded like a refrigerator motor. He was also aware of the presence of other people in the house, not from voices, but from the dampened creaking of the floor. Another turn, this one to the right, then up five steps. The steps were carpeted, as was the hallway they entered on this elevated floor. 

 

A door opened in front of Jack and he was asked to enter. The woman escorted Jack about five steps into the room, then guided him toward a folding wooden chair. Once seated, Jack heard the door to the room close. 

 

“You can remove the glasses now,” she said. 

 

Jack squinted as his eyes adjusted to the light. The room was almost bare and small, about ten by twelve feet. In front of Jack was a small wooden table made from lacquered pine, flimsy in its construction. A plastic pitcher of water and two plain drinking glasses sat on the table. A small puddle of condensate had accumulated at the base of the pitcher. Jack was in one of four wooden-slatted folding chairs. The room had no windows and nothing on its bleak, beige walls. The light was dim, emanating from four recessed low-wattage lights in the ceiling. 

 

“Would you like to use the restroom?” the woman asked, her tone softer than at any time earlier. 

 

“No.”

“Please help yourself to some water if you like,” she offered.

“I’m not thirsty.” Then, after a beat, “What am I doing here?”

The woman glanced quickly at the door. Her eyes were in a constant state of alert, radiating a confident vigilance. This woman has never known panic, Jack thought. She checked her watch, then fixed her gaze onto Jack. “We brought you here to meet your father.” 

Reprinted from Primal Calling with the permission of Pegasus Elliott MacKenzie Publishers. Copyright © 2020 by Barry Eisenberg. 



Barry Eisenberg is an associate professor of health care management in the School for Graduate Studies at the State University of New York Empire State College, a health care management consultant and a former hospital administrator. He and his wife, Amy, live in New Jersey. They have three grown children and one grandson. Primal Calling is his first novel.

Thursday Book Frenzy 11/19/20



Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.

Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.

Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.

Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door. What’s the worst that could happen?

Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

Stand down, Bruce. Deb’s got this.

Amazon

 



From the author of The Winner Maker and Blackquest 40 comes The Pinebox Vendetta: a genre-bending thriller that combines a love story, cold-case murder mystery, and political blood feud – told over the course of a single breathless weekend.

The Gallaghers and Pruitts have dominated the American political landscape dating back to Revolutionary times. The Yale University class of 1996 had one of each, and as the twenty-year reunion approaches, the families are on a collision course.

Owen Gallagher is coasting to the Democratic nomination for president.

Rock Pruitt – the brash maverick whose career was derailed two decades ago by his association to a tragic death – is back, ready to reclaim the mantle of clan leader.

And fatefully in between lies Samantha Lessing. Sam arrives at reunion weekend lugging a rotten marriage, dumb hope, and a portable audio recorder she’ll use for a public radio-style documentary on the Pruitt-Gallagher rivalry – widely known as the pinebox vendetta. What Sam uncovers will thrust her into the middle of the ancient feud, upending presidential politics and changing the trajectory of one clan forever.

The Pinebox Vendetta is the first entry in the Pruitt-Gallagher saga: a series that promises cutthroat plots, power grabs, and unforgettable characters stretched to their very limits by the same ideological forces that roil America today.

Amazon

 



When a corpse surfaces in the aftermath of a hurricane, the storm has only begun for Devon Ritcey. Friends and family in Caleb’s Cove offer up an excess of secrets and suspects. With ex-cop, ex-lover, Greg Cunningham, suspecting everyone, can Devon trust him to help her unravel the tangled truths in time to stop a desperate killer?

Amazon

 



Cowgirls. Bikinis. Murderous media conspiracy. What could go wrong?

After Meg Brecker’s scuba-diving boyfriend is scooped up by a firefighting plane, she returns incognito to investigate the crime scene. Spear-gun-wielding dolphins attack; Meg escapes and collapses on a Galveston beach. So much for going incognito—she wakes up surrounded by the cast of the Next Bikini Cowgirl reality show, which launches her and the cowgirls into the viral stratosphere.

Meg links the show to her boyfriend’s demise and joins as a contestant to find the motive. As she pits her cowgirl skills against talented rivals, can she avoid her own demise and uncover the nefarious Bikini Cowgirl plot before it reaches its must-see-TV climax?

Bikini Cowgirls of the Urban Legion envisions hilarious conspiracies behind the news, entertainment media, and not-so-legendary urban legends. You’ll even learn the fragile truth about mimes.

 

Amazon

 



While in the Lake District, journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon overhear a man attempting to hire international assassin Hugh Carstairs, a MI5 agent who went rogue. They race back to London to warn Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office and Superintendent Oliver Burnell. But it’s a devil of problem to prevent a vicious killing, if the target is a mystery.

More trouble brews as Emmeline pursues a story about shipping magnate Noel Rallis, who is on trial for murder. Rallis is desperate to keep the negative publicity from exposing his illicit schemes, especially something sinister called Poseidon. Lord Desmond Starrett, whose dark past made him easy prey for blackmail, is getting cold feet about their dubious partnership. Hovering in the shadows of this ugly secret world is a Russian mole buried inside MI5. Scorned prima ballerina Anastasia Tarasova makes the fatal mistake of threatening to reveal all she knows. The hunt for the answers takes Emmeline and Gregory up to Scotland, where they learn that the truth has lethal consequences.

Amazon


Book Review: A Time To Kill by John Grisham

Before “The Firm” and “The Pelican Brief” made him a superstar, John Grisham wrote this riveting story of retribution and justice. In this searing courtroom drama, best-selling author John Grisham probes the savage depths of racial violence, as he delivers a compelling tale of uncertain justice in a small southern town, Clanton, Mississippi.

The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes matters into his hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life, and then his own.

 

Amazon| Goodreads | Audible

I had already read Sycamore Row, Jake Brigance book 2, but hadn’t read A Time to Kill. The first one was just as riveting as the second! Full of suspense, racial violence, intrigue, great characters and a gripping storyline; A Time to Kill certainly leaves it’s mark far after the book is read. Like meat and potatoes that fills you up and sticks to your ribs. That’s John Grisham. That’s Jake Brigance. I was utterly amazed at Grisham’s storytelling genius. There’s great writing, and then there’s great storytelling far elevated above the rest. Now it’s time for book 3, A Time For Mercy. Jake Brigance is back once again!


Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written at least one book a year (his other works are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, Gray Mountain, Rogue Lawyer, The Whistler, Camino Island, The Rooster Bar, The Reckoning, and The Guardians) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently more than 350 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 45 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection. In addition, Grisham has written seven novels for young adults, all in the Theodore Boone series: Kid Lawyer, The Abduction, The Accused, The Activist, The Fugitive, The Scandal, and The Accomplice.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500–the biggest verdict of his career.

When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

www.jgrisham.com

THURSDAY Book Frenzy Recommendations

THURSDAY Book Frenzy Recommendations




A plague is coming, and it’s not COVID-19. Terrorists have engineered a bioweapon called Siren’s Tears that strikes hard and kills quickly, and the clock is ticking for the country. FBI Agent Rita Goldman uncovers the first clues, which lead her to investigate a Chechen terrorist group operating in East Texas. The Piney Woods are filled with snakes, ticks, mosquitos, and rednecks, and that’s the last place she wants to be… except that the area also happens to be the territory of a certain Texas Ranger, Sam Cable.
Teamed up again, the odd couple races the clock to prevent the devastating release of this weapon of mass destruction. Pitted against crazed, virus-mad citizens, Chechen terrorists, and meth-dealing motorcycle gangs, Rita and Sam have a rough path to navigate, complicated by an unexpected, and surprising, mutual attraction.
The feisty FBI agent and the lantern-jawed Ranger take on the terrorists and each other. Who will come out on top?

Amazon


Even the darkest secrets can’t stay buried forever…
Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

Fans of Rachel Abbott, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham will be gripped by this exceptional new voice in British crime fiction.

Amazon


Once, her heart was empty. Now it’s filled with ice…

 

Ellen’s therapist told her to forget the past, but the life she’s left with is boring. All she wants is to be happy and normal, but the approaching long bleak nights of winter loom threateningly in front of her, especially as she’ll be alone.

When the secrets her mother put in place to protect her are uncovered, Ellen learns the frightening truth. Her history is darker than she imagined. She’s not who she thinks she is, and the real her is a very different person to the one that others have mistreated and exploited.

If she has any hope for a future, Ellen must find answers about the past. This winter, there will be vengeance on Ellen’s mind, and DI Barton will struggle in his hardest case to date.

 

How can he find the truth when all the victims and witnesses are dead?

 

Ross Greenwood writes gritty, heart-pounding thrillers, with twists aplenty, and unforgettable endings. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride.

Praise for Ross Greenwood:

Move over Rebus and Morse; a new entry has joined the list of great crime investigators in the form of Detective Inspector John Barton. A rich cast of characters and an explosive plot kept me turning the pages until the final dramatic twist.’ author Richard Burke

‘Master of the psychological thriller genre Ross Greenwood once again proves his talent for creating engrossing and gritty novels that draw you right in and won’t let go until you’ve reached the shocking ending.’ Caroline Vincent at Bitsaboutbooks blog

‘Ross Greenwood doesn’t write clichés. What he has written here is a fast-paced, action-filled puzzle with believable characters that’s spiced with a lot of humour.’ author Kath Middleton

Amazon


1894. The monstrous Hound of the Baskervilles has been dead for five years, along with its no less monstrous owner, the naturalist Jack Stapleton. Sir Henry Baskerville is living contentedly at Baskerville Hall with his new wife Audrey and their young son Harry. Until, that is, Audrey’s lifeless body is found on the moors, drained of blood. It would appear some fiendish creature is once more at large on Dartmoor and has, like its predecessor, targeted the unfortunate Baskerville family.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are summoned to Sir Henry’s aid, and our heroes must face a marauding beast that is the very stuff of nightmares.

Amazon


Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara knows that the beautiful surface of his adopted city, Florence, hides dark undercurrents. When called in to investigate a series of brutal and apparently random murders, his intuition is confirmed.

Distrusted by his superiors and pilloried by the media, Ferrara finds time running out as the questions pile up. Is there a connection between the murders and the threatening letters he has received? Are his old enemies, the Calabrian Mafia, involved? And what part is played by a beautiful young woman facing a heart-rending decision, a priest troubled by a secret from his past, and an American journalist fascinated by the darker side of life?

Ferrara confronts the murky underbelly of Florence in an investigation that will put not only his career but also his life on the line.

Originally published in Italy as Scarabeo.

 

Amazon

The Crew Reviews: Michael Connelly – THE LAW OF INNOCENCE

Michael Connelly | THE LAW OF INNOCENCE

TheCrewReviews.com

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MichaelConnelly.com


Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller is back in the heartstopping new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly.

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can’t make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder–as an officer of the court he is an instant target.

Mickey knows he’s been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence.

In his highest stakes case yet, Mickey Haller fights for his life and shows why he is “a worthy colleague of Atticus Finch…in the front of the pack in the legal thriller game” (Los Angeles Times).

 

Goodreads |Amazon | B&N


About Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is the bestselling author of over thirty novels and one work of nonfiction. With over eighty million copies of his books sold worldwide and translated into forty foreign languages, he is one of the most successful writers working today. A former newspaper reporter who worked the crime beat at the Los Angeles Times and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Connelly has won numerous awards for his journalism and his fiction. His very first novel, The Black Echo, won the prestigious Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1992. In 2002, Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the movie adaptation of Connelly’s 1998 novel, Blood Work. In March 2011, the movie adaptation of his #1 bestselling novel, The Lincoln Lawyer, hit theaters worldwide starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller. His most recent New York Times bestsellers include Fair Warning, The Night Fire, Dark Sacred Night, The Late Show, Two Kinds Of Truth, The Late Show, The Wrong Side Of Goodbye, The Crossing, The Burning Room, The Gods of Guilt, The Black Box, and The Drop. Michael is the executive producer of BOSCH, an Amazon Studios original drama series based on his bestselling character Harry Bosch, starring Titus Welliver and streaming on Amazon Prime. He is also the executive producer of the documentary films, SOUND OF REDEMPTION: The Frank Morgan Story and Tales Of the American. He spends his time in California and Florida.
 
 

www.michaelconnelly.com

Book Frenzy Book Recommendations

Welcome to Thursday Book Frenzy book recommendations! Since I LOVE searching for good books and exploring, I decided to put together a weekly list of recommendations. At least, that’s my intention. Some will be my own, but a lot will be from other readers, bloggers, authors, and other book lovers. Here we go!


Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

Amazon| Ruthware.com


The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Amazon|Alyssa Cole


At the age of twelve, Eve Black was the only member of her family to survive an encounter with serial attacker the Nothing Man. Now an adult, she is obsessed with identifying the man who destroyed her life.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle has just started reading The Nothing Man—the true-crime memoir Eve has written about her efforts to track down her family’s killer. As he turns each page, his rage grows. Because Jim’s not just interested in reading about the Nothing Man. He is the Nothing Man.

Jim soon begins to realize how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first …

Amazon|CatherineRyanHoward.com


The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

Amazon| SimoneStJames.com

All the book recommendations are from a wonderful book lover, Laura Rash, aka Wonder Chick.

You can find her on Twitter or on Instagram.

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft by Elena Hartwell

 

 

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft

By Elena Hartwell

 

As a novelist and playwright, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Almost every writer I know gets this question, and I think we all feel the same. Ideas are never the problem. That’s the easy part. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part, the magic part, is turning the idea into a polished, final manuscript.

 

The writing process varies wildly from author to author. Some write extensive, detailed outlines. Others sit down with an idea and write scenes on the fly. A number of writers fall somewhere in between, while they may not outline, neither do they sit down and write completely organically. They might write a synopsis or outline a chapter in advance.

 

The various combinations of these methods all work, depending on the writer and the project. There is no “wrong” way to write a novel. The “how” a writer works isn’t why their manuscript sells or doesn’t sell. The primary reason an author’s work has not yet sold is a lack of craft.

 

People who lack craft skills rarely sit down to write a novel. Or if they do, they can start, but never finish. Or if they do finish, they don’t rewrite. Or if they do rewrite, they quit after a single pass. Or, if they do continue to rewrite, they aren’t aware enough of craft to recognize the flaws in their own work. You get the picture. The problem is the writer stops too soon.

 

As a writing coach—I do one-on-one manuscript critiques as well as teaching workshops—there are some fundamental issues I see repeated in early drafts, over and over. These same issues show up in my own work, and probably on some level, in the early drafts of every writer out there. So the first thing aspiring writers can do to increase their chances of writing a successful manuscript, is learn how to identify these problems.

 

The first is a lack of clear objectives, obstacles, and stakes. It’s not enough to have a dead body to write a mystery. Someone has to investigate the murder. The person investigating the murder has to need to solve the crime. If they don’t need to solve the crime (objective) there’s no tension about the investigation. If the solution doesn’t matter to the investigator, it won’t matter to the reader. 

 

The sleuth also can’t solve the crime easily, that’s not dramatic. Various impediments (obstacles) have to appear, one after the other, to prevent the protagonist from catching the killer. The more the investigator has to overcome, the more satisfying to the reader when they do. 

 

Lastly, it has to matter (stakes). For example, the protagonist with an internal struggle, coinciding with their investigation, is far more interesting than someone who simply goes through the motions of solving a crime.

 

The more important solving the case is to the protagonist, the more dangerous or difficult the journey, and the greater the importance to find the guilty party, the more invested a reader will be. That’s what keeps a reader turning pages.

 

Complex protagonists will also have personal objectives, obstacles, and stakes to go along with their investigation. For example, a crumbling marriage, a child in danger, or overcoming an addiction are common tropes within the genre. When we know an investigator has to choose between catching a killer and saving their marriage, the stakes are high and we breathlessly turn each page waiting to see what the character chooses.

 

Another common error I find is a lack of structure. All stories have an underpinning structure. While there are variations to that structure, for the most part, especially in crime fiction, we start with the world as we know it, which is disrupted by a specific event, followed by rising action, where events pile one on top the other, each more important than the one that went before. This ends with a climactic scene, with the maximum danger to our hero or heroine, followed by a glimpse into the new world order for our characters.

 

If any of these parts are missing, the story can feel unfinished. For example, if we don’t have some sense of what the character’s life was before the intrusion, we don’t know what they are putting at risk. The “world before” can often be well hidden, it might not appear in the first chapter, but later in reflections the character makes as the story progresses, but usually a reader can identify it if they look for it. 

 

The middle of a manuscript might falter if a lot of exciting things happen at the beginning, then nothing exciting follows. Rising action is important, because it builds dramatic tension, making it impossible to put the book down.

 

Lastly, an ending can feel unsatisfying if we have no sense of the outcome. Readers don’t need everything tied up in a bow, but they do want the primary threads to be resolved enough to know what the character’s lives will be like after they read “the end.”

 

Dialogue can also be difficult to master. One of the most common problems I see is when authors have their characters say exactly what they feel and exactly what they mean. That doesn’t ring true. People lie all the time. We lie because it’s expedient, it benefits us in some way, it keeps us from hurting others, or we don’t want to get in trouble. We rarely say what we mean, we obfuscate, we dither, we agree out loud when disagreeing feels like a mistake. Dialogue works best when each character speaks distinctly from the others, through word choice, sentence length, grammatical accuracy, and the use of slang. 

 

If a writer can identify just these specific problem areas in their own writing, their next draft will be a much tighter, more polished manuscript. It can feel overwhelming to try to identify and fix all the issues I’ve outlined at one time. My recommendation for writers is to choose one aspect and rewrite just for that. Heighten the stakes in one rewrite. Focus solely on dialogue for the next. Breaking down the process into smaller chunks can make each rewrite a more successful venture. This will help the writer get through a series of rewrites rather than attempting one and feeling like the mountain is too high to climb. My final piece of advice. Don’t give up. That’s the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one. 

 


Elena Hartwell started out her storytelling career in the theater. She worked for several years as a playwright, director, designer, technician, and educator before becoming a novelist.

Elena has more than twenty years of teaching experience and now works one-on-one with writers as a manuscript consultant and writing coach.

She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, two cats, and the greatest dog in the world. When she’s not writing, teaching writing, or talking about writing, she can be found at a nearby stables, playing with her horses.

For more information about Elena, please visit www.elenahartwell.com.

 

Twitter |Goodreads | Amazon


For fans of Julia Keller and Sheena Kamal, All We Buried disturbs the long-sleeping secrets of a small Washington state mountain town.

Deep in the woods surrounding the Cascade mountain range, a canvas-wrapped body floats in a lake, right in Elizabeth “Bet” Rivers’s jurisdiction. Bet has been sitting as interim sheriff of Collier after her father’s–the previous sheriff’s–death six months ago. Everyone knows everyone in a town like Collier. She has made it her duty to protect the people she’s come to see as family. And she intends to hold her title in the upcoming election, but she’s never worked a murder investigation on her own before and her opponent and deputy, Dale Kovac, isn’t going down without a fight.

Upon unwrapping the corpse, Bet discovers the woman is from out of town. Without an identification, the case grows that much more puzzling. Determined to prove herself worthy, however, Bet must confront the warped history of Collier. The more she learns, the more she realizes she doesn’t know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.

 

Amazon|B&N | Audible

 

A Q&A with Crime Writer Thomas O’Callaghan

 

 

No One will hear will you scream book image

 

 

Is there a sociopathic killer on the loose and murdering prostitutes in New York City? NYPD’s top cop, Homicide Commander Lieutenant John Driscoll, believes there is. Someone who calls himself “Tilden” and claims to have been sexually abused as a child by his mother’s john. But what could have triggered Tilden’s rage that has him on a mission to eradicate all the women of the night in The Big Apple?

 

AmazonGoodreads | Goodreads

 

 

Police line crime scene in New York City with blurry background

 

 

 

Q&A with Thomas O’Callaghan for Benjamin Thomas’ The Writing Train

 

How did your early reading habits lead you to become a writer?

After graduating with a liberal arts degree from Richmond College I landed a job with Allstate Insurance Company as a sales agent.  When the company opted to take their sales force in another direction I decided it was time to retire and find something else to do with my time. I spent much of that time reading.  On the beach in summer and on the couch in winter.  One day I picked up a copy of HELTER SKELTER, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This is an often used adage, but I couldn’t put it down. The author’s attention to detail fascinated me. After that, I was hooked on novels depicting murder, mayhem and suspense. I soon discovered such notables as Thomas Harris, John Sandford, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain, just to name a few. Unlike, HELTER SKELTER, where the storyline was based on an actual murder, Harris, Sandford, Block, McBain and company, created murder and the intrigue that surrounded it. I was enthralled all the more. Read on, I said, and so I did.  After I finished reading my twelfth 87th Precinct novel, I thought: I could do that!  And so, on a gloomy, rain-soaked Friday afternoon, that happened to follow Thanksgiving, I began writing NIGHTKILLS, which would later become BONE THIEF.  Looking back, I’m happy with the course my life had taken me, bringing me to what has become my life’s passion:  Writing!


Was it a journey developing the confidence to write, or did it come naturally? 

 

It was a journey that had begun at a slow pace.  Aside from essays in college I’d never written in a narrative fashion.  When I took an early retirement from Allstate I was 49.  With a great deal of free time on my hands a very good friend suggested to either take on a new job or devote time to a hobby I’d enjoy.  My first venture toward that end had me wandering through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY armed with a 35mm camera taking photographs of nature-in-the-raw.  That interest waned after four or five weeks.  I then enrolled at HB Studios in NYC to study the art of ‘acting’.  It was fun, but after two months I began to lose interest. Since I enjoyed reading mysteries and thrillers, my trusted friend suggested I write one.  Me?  Write a book?  I haven’t a clue as to where to start, I argued.  She suggested I write 

an opening chapter similar in style to what I liked to read.  And so I did.  After she read it she asked me what I had in mind for the next chapter.  This went on for several weeks at the end of which I had written the opening of a story that only she and I had read.  I didn’t think it was very good but she encouraged me to call a friend of hers, a “writing coach” of sorts, which I did.  His name was Stephen Ohayon.  He had once taught the art of writing on a college level and offered to work with me to turn my feeble attempt into a saleable novel.  We met weekly in his office in Manhattan where his day job was as a psychotherapist.  He scheduled time for me between patients.  I brought him a typed chapter and during a one hour session he helped me push that chapter from first draft to second, third, fourth and fifth.  When we reached Chapter Last I set out to market the book.  It sold close to 100,000 copies and was translated and published in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy.   

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy writing for a number of reasons.  One that comes to mind immediately is that writing allows me to escape the hum drum of everyday life.  Another reason is that creating characters for the sole purpose of performing in a story that I’ve set in motion is exciting.  I’m fueled by that. And, because it’s fiction, I’m motivated to weave memories of times in my life, some good, some regrettable, into the back story of my characters. We all have chapters we wish never to see published, but, with the right finesse, the theme of those blunders can and do add human authenticity to fictional entities. 


What are the most challenging aspects?  

One of the most challenging aspects of being a writer is constantly competing with an inner voice that tells me what I’ve written isn’t very good.  That, of and in itself, drives me to be a better writer.  Writers write.  Rewriters get published.


How has your writing process developed over the twelve years it took to become published?

The writing process as outlined above continued in the same fashion, day after day, week after week.  Those weeks became years as I needed to convince a publisher my work was ready for print.  That involved submission after submission of query letters and partial manuscripts to every single literary agent that specialized in my genre.  When I reached the end of the line, so to speak, and any further submission would be repetitive I took the advice of a few well intentioned literary agents along the way to have a professional editor have a look at my manuscript.  After working for two years with the late Dick Marek, who’d edited The Silence of the Lambs for Thomas Harris along with nine of Robert Ludlam’s books, Kensington Books agreed to publish my debut novel.  


What are some ways working with an editor has helped you?

Aside from learning that a tightly written novel reads very quickly, thereby keeping the reader engaged, working with a professional editor taught me a wonderful lesson:  a writer, especially someone starting out, often feels his or her work is sacrosanct, but the editor is keenly aware of what a publisher is looking for and what sells.  It’s best to accept that reality and be open to change.  It will increase the chance of having your work published.   

How important is rewriting when working on a manuscript?

Extremely important.  I begin by writing a first draft of a chapter which entails typing without concern for spelling, punctuation, or cohesion.  The point is to get the thought on paper as quickly as possible without listening to that inner voice telling you “Oh, that’s not good,”  Once that’s done, I’ll go in and rewrite the chapter over and over again, until I have what I consider perfection.  In essence, one must write drunk and edit sober.


If we were to meet NYPD homicide cop John Driscoll, what kind of person would we meet?

In short, he’d be a taller version of me.  He’s an Irishman with a sense of morality who tries to do the right thing.  A compassionate soul who tries to be kind to friends and foes alike. Yes, Lieutenant Driscoll is flawed.  But, then, who isn’t?

 

Do the John Driscoll mysteries employ a certain theme?

Yes, the theme is that good prevails over evil.  They are psychological thrillers which detail the fictionalized onslaught of heinous murders perpetrated by a madman, or in the case of THE SCREAMING ROOM, a set of demonic twins, using New York City as a killing field.  Lieutenant Driscoll is brought into the equation intent on putting a stop to the madness.

 

If you were John Driscoll in, No One Will Hear Your Screams, could you solve the case?

 

Absolutely!  The Lieutenant is a resourceful investigator who, with the able-bodied assistance of two professional and ingenious associates in Margaret Aligante and Cedric Thomlinson, evil can’t triumph.

 

What are you currently working on?

My current work in progress introduces Richard Singleton, a bestselling author suffering from writer’s block.  When he becomes the owner of a beach house where a heinous murder had taken place, he finds stimulation and is able to put the pen to paper again.  His manuscript is progressing well and his faltered career is looking bright again, that is until he gets an anonymous call from the former owner of the house who had perpetrated the aforementioned murder who has plans of his own regarding what this bestselling author should write. 

 

 

Thomas O'Callaghan

 

 

Thomas O’Callaghan’s work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O’Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O’Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York. His debut novel BONE THIEF introduces NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. THE SCREAMING ROOM, is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, NO ONE WILL HEAR YOUR SCREAMS was recently released by WildBlue Press. For more information, please visit: ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

 

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