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?
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.
February 1994—Lynwood, Louisiana: Flaming crosses light up the night and terrorize the southern town. The resurgent Klan wants a new race war, and the Klansmen will start it here. As federal civil rights prosecutor Adrien Rush is about to discover, the ugly roots of the past run deep in Lynwood.
For Nettie Wynn, a victim of the cross burnings and lifelong resident of the town’s segregated neighborhood, the hate crimes summon frightful memories of her youth, when she witnessed white townspeople lynch a black man. Her granddaughter Nicole DuBose, a successful journalist in New York City, returns to Lynwood to care for her grandmother. Rush arrives from DC and investigates the crimes with Lee Mercer, a seasoned local FBI special agent. Their partnership is tested as they clash over how far to go to catch the racists before the violence escalates. Rush’s role in the case becomes even more complicated after he falls for DuBose. When crucial evidence becomes compromisethreatening to upend what should be a celebrated conviction—the lines between right and wrong, black and white, collide with deadly consequences.
No Truth Left to Tell is a smart legal thriller that pulls readers into a compelling courtroom drama and an illusive search for justice in a troubled community.
NO TRUTH LEFT TO TELL
By Michael McAuliffe
The following excerpt is reprinted from No Truth Left to Tell by Michael McAuliffe, released on March 3, 2020. Reprinted with permission of Greenleaf Book Group. Copyright © 2020 Michael McAuliffe.
Nettie glided along the sidewalk in her best dress, her mother’s creation that would soon be too small. That Saturday, however, the colorful outfit still fit and perfectly complemented her wide smile and earnest stride. The dress was spring blue with flower patterns bursting open into full blossoms, quite like Nettie herself.
She stayed out of the way of the white pedestrians inspecting her with what appeared to be a mixture of curiosity and irritation. “What’s that one doin’ here?” one woman asked as she passed by. So Nettie hugged the buildings as she moved, trying to disappear against the facades. There was something big going on in the square, but Nettie couldn’t see over or through the gathering, since she was just seven years old.
She had pleaded with her parents to go with her father from their home in Mooretown, Lynwood’s section for blacks, to a nearby town while he delivered a meal to a close friend who was gravely ill. At the last minute, Nettie’s mother had wanted one more item added to the delivery from a store on Lynwood’s downtown square—an establishment that served them only from the back door off an alley. Nettie was supposed to wait in the car, but despite her father’s admonishments, the strange and festive noises drew her out into the nearby crowd where she was protected only by her look of youthful wonder.
Lynwood’s civic core was comprised of an expanse of lawn with a massive oak reigning over the surroundings. Four perpendicular streets framed the lawn, and they had been closed for several hours so people could mingle without regard to sputtering cars. The attendees had obliged the gesture by swarming the entire area by midmorning. The day’s activities appeared to originate across the street nearer the tree, allowing the spectators along the periphery to wander about with more freedom. From where Nettie was she could see the crown of the tree, and she moved in that direction as if pulled by some invisible force.
The day was hot and humid. High clouds had gathered through the morning and darkened the midday sky, but the music played on and people chatted in small groups as if they were at an annual parish fair.
After several minutes of distant rumbling a sprinkle started, and it soon developed into cascading water pouring from invisible pots in the sky. The drenching dispersed the crowd into stores and under awnings. Deserted chairs and soda bottles lay across the lawn.
The scattering of the masses created large openings around the square. What was an impenetrable wall of people became a flat, open field of vision. The oak, of course, remained right where it had begun decades before as a sapling.
Nettie couldn’t run into any of the stores like the others caught out in the street during the rainstorm. So, like the oak, she remained standing, although now she had a clear view of the square. Her dress—dripping and heavy with water—would have distracted her in any other setting, but unanswered curiosity kept her searching the square for clues about the day’s festivities.
The oak tree had long, thick branches, like the heavy arms of a giant. A braided rope was slung over one of these arms, out about ten feet from the trunk. The rope was wrapped once about the branch and secured to a large stake in the ground. The other end of the rope was fashioned into a noose, and suspended from it was the still body of a black man. The man’s neck was grotesquely angled, and the feet were bare. His hands were bound behind his back.
Nettie leaned forward like she was about to rush toward the oak. But she neither ran away nor went to it. She stared up at what had been until moments before a living, breathing person. She was frozen in place and time—alone in the moment when her world changed forever.
Her father came running from behind and snatched her up with such force that the dress ripped along a side seam. He covered her with his protective embrace and spirited her away to the car that waited in the alley. They headed straight home using back streets and little-known shortcuts, the car not speeding despite the urgency of the situation. The trip to deliver the meal basket was abandoned as her father kept swearing that he’d never go to the square again.
Nettie didn’t look outside the car. She kept her head down and stared at one of the dress’s printed blossoms, the flower part of the pattern ending at the hemline to reveal her trembling knees.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael McAuliffe is the author of No Truth Left to Tell and has been a practicing lawyer for thirty years. He was a federal prosecutor serving both as a supervisory assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Florida and a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. In 2008, Michael was elected and served as the state attorney for Palm Beach County, leading an office of approximately 125 prosecutors. He was known for leading the ethics reform movement in county that resulted in the creation of a permanent inspector general, an ethics commission, and new ethics code. Michael and his wife Robin Rosenberg, a US district judge, have three children and live in Florida and Massachusetts. For more information, please visit https://notruthlefttotell.com/
The third book in the Mbuno & Pero series pulls terror from headlines to create a gripping international thriller for readers of John le Carré, Daniel Silva, and Iris Johansen.
Expert safari guide Mbuno and wildlife television producer Pero Baltazar are filming on Lake Rudolf in Northern Kenya, East Africa, when they receive news that Mbuno’s son, himself an expert guide, has been kidnapped while on a safari five hundred miles away in Tanzania. After gathering the clues and resources needed to trek through the wilderness, they trace the kidnappers back to an illegal logging operation clear-cutting national park forests, manned by sinister Boko Haram mercenaries. There, they find not only Mbuno’s son but also a shocking revelation that has terrifying and far-reaching consequences.
Relying on Mbuno’s legendary bush skills, the pair must overcome the danger both from inside and outside the camp to bring Mbuno’s son out alive. In doing so, Mbuno and Pero discover that kidnapping and deforestation are only the beginning of the terrorist group’s aspirations, and they realize a threat that would herald an even more dangerous outcome for Tanzania—a coup. A rescue might just risk the entire stability of the region.
Exciting and expertly plotted using facts ripped from news’ headlines, Kidnapped on Safari is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller set in deepest, darkest, Machiavellian, East Africa.
Interview with Peter Riva,
Author of Kidnapped on Safari: A Thriller
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
As an adult? No. However, as a child I was always writing and making up stories based on real events, machines, animals. My mother, of course, loved these, as did my much younger brothers. Then school took that hedonistic pleasure away. It was only in later years, post-40, that I found that pleasure of writing for fun again. It’s a slightly guilty feeling to allow myself the pleasure…
Have you ever written a screenplay?
Yes, at UCLA film school 1969-70. Those years were interrupted by the anti-military riots and it went nowhere. I did critique other young TV/filmmakers—like Steven Spielberg (at USC- he used to come to see original films at UCLA)—with my opinion of films and their perspective. My advice to Steven was useless. He always had a steel-trap memory, remembered every credit of every film he had seen. Steven, who worked with my brother Michael, is a storyteller at heart. We have that in common.
How did you become a literary agent?
As a gopher on Monty Python’s Flying Circus for BBC TV—and I mean a gopher, I had, for example, to fetch two ladies of the night willing to dress as nuns for the penguin tennis sketch… and bare their chests (BBC 2 allowed that, it was aired, but never in video). When the TV season was over they asked my help in getting a book published. My father was a toy agent and he was able to steer me in the right direction. Things went on from there…
How did you develop a love for wildlife in Africa?
I first went to Africa age 16 and then returned –this time to East Africa with a client Peter Beard. There I met some wonderful people, real people, people of the land and adventure, who showed me their connection with nature. Three times I walked solo across the Maasai plain to the Ngong Hills and back, eight miles each way. Lions let me pass, hyenas paid me no heed. I walked through herds of gazelles. There I also met Mbuno who, as you can see in my stories, had a profound impact on me. The stories of his exploits and those of his father (who guided Teddy Roosevelt) are awe inspiring.
What are your favorite animals?
Let’s start with those I hold in my heart… a succession of wonderful companions since I was 18, dogs, currently Lil Lady and Tay, both Golden Retrievers. Except for those dog friends who I consider much like family members (I do not own them, we share life), I have always admired, studied, and been fascinated by animals. I had a farm back east with a rescued pulling horse, Big Jim, 1500 pounds of muscle, along with cows, ducks, chickens and wonderful goats. Where I live now on a ranch in NM we have Pinzgauer cattle that I hand feed when they turn up early morning.
How did your writing process develop? Or has it always been the same?
I am afraid as a writer I binge. In work I read 100k to 150k words a week, write maybe 10k words at least. I have written for the past 20+ years a weekly op-ed piece, 800 words, for the Millerton News and often the Lakeville Journal. It all adds up. But writing a story? I sit down, pluck events I know about out of the thin air, write them down and let the characters construct events. Sometimes that means I’m still typing at 3am… sometimes I need to stop and mull it over for a day or more.
Do you always write what you know? And if not, would you write something outside your direct knowledge base?
Yes, I rely on what I know, have studied, learned about or—and this is the fun part—connect the dots on. Take two separate events, especially when everyone assumes that there is one event and that’s final—and there is another event and that too is final, self-contained. If you then find the link between them, if you can find that thread that mysteriously (plot twist) connects them, then you have great fun allowing the threads to be woven into a good story. If I reach a point where my personal knowledge fails me, I have resources, people I can talk to of course. Quite often that gap not found on Google until you get to the 20th or more page down. I often prefer my 1956 Encyclopedia Britannica. Research is never frustrating, it is always illuminating.
Write something outside my direct knowledge base? Yes, sure, insofar as data and facts are concerned. That’s fun. My SciFi stories fit that bill, tons of learning (all fun). Write something outside of my personal emotions and experiences as a character or those of characters I have known? Not sure I can make up a human out of whole cloth. Can anyone?
I believe storytelling originates out of some kind of appreciation. What do you appreciate about Mbuno?
Mbuno embodies—both the real man and the character I write which is an amalgam of Mbuno, his father and stories of pre-colonial East Africa—that which is most honorable, most deliberate, least constrained by false values levied in modern society. I’m not talking about PC here, but let’s take an example. The real Mbuno was asked to help the British powers during the Mau Mau revolution. This was a terrorist faction of the Kikuyu tribe, set on upending British rule. Mbuno didn’t care who wanted to rule the country. Like ownership of land which he believed to be nonsense—“Only the gods own the land they created.”—ruling a country didn’t interest him. However, Mbuno could not stand by and watch Mau Mau butchers hacking up women and children in the dead of night. He had no hesitation in tracking those killers down. Nothing to do with sides, just moral right from wrong, nothing PC about his thinking.
What do appreciate most about the setting in your book?
It is so hard to convey the true majesty of real nature. I live in New Mexico, abutting the Gila Wilderness, 3.5 million acres set aside as wilderness. To be here, to inhale unspoiled air, revel in the scenery, watch the wild animals (bears, coyote, fox, javelina, snakes, and 1/3 of all the bird species in N. America come through here)—it’s like a meal for the senses. The difference between here and East Africa’s wild places? On foot, almost nothing, but Africa has that primordial connection to a part of your brain that you cannot escape. The senses can be overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty. In a zebra-painted tourist minivan, your TV is better.
Is everything in Kidnapped on Safari real?
Oh, of course, real yes and actual fact? No. Times, events, places are moved about. A similar coup in Tanzania was a real possibility until it was stopped in the ‘70s. Boko Haram kidnapped girls (news events). Transporting the girls to Tanzania as a means to effect the coup? My imagination and that connection thread no one expects. The trains, the places, the parks, the animals, all real, researched or experienced first-hand. Mbuno’s ability to communicate with elephant? As told by him true and, in his old age (approaching 80 when I knew him), no longer fully possible—but the prowess of his father to do so—taught to him—always astounded me and even him. He used to explain, “You need the beat of the land, of nature. Without that, they will not listen.” Mbuno was the real deal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peter Riva is the author of Kidnapped on Safari. He has spent many months over thirty years traveling throughout Africa and Europe. Much of this time was spent with the legendary guides for East African hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series in 1995 called Wild Things for Paramount. Passing on the fables, true tales, and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife is his passion. Nonetheless, his job for over forty years has been working as a literary agent. In his spare time, Riva writes science fiction and African adventure books, including the previous two titles in the Mbuno and Pero Adventures series, Murder on Safari and The Berlin Package. He lives in Gila, New Mexico. For more information, please visit https://peterriva.com
The global power and communications outage arrives without warning…
About Audiobook #1
Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Narrator: Price Waldman
Length: 9 hours 46 minutes
Publisher: Chris Muhlenfeld⎮2018
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Obsolescence Trilogy, Book 1
Release date: Nov. 14, 2018
Synopsis: And then it went dark…the world’s electrical grid was gone.
Who would survive the chaos?
For James and Alexa, they saw it unfold from their ranch, which was a blessing. They were away
from the chaos, and they thought they were safe. They thought wrong.
What will they do?
All across the country cities are in crisis.
Logan and his family look out from their Manhattan penthouse. The world is crumbling before their eyes. Unprepared, he’s got to do something. They can’t stay. But how can they leave and where will they go?
Someone has a solution.
It’s Logan’s domestic android.
Can he believe a machine?
You won’t believe the twists and turns, but you’ll love the adventure.
Get it now.
Buy Links for Audiobook #1
Buy on Audible
This was a very fascinating book. The premise was great and it only gets better towards the end. Although it provides good suspense, I thought the author could’ve filled in, or sprinkled, more information in the first and second acts. That’s the only reason I believe that weakened the story. However, everything is tied together quite nicely towards the conclusion of the book. Having this book as the foundation for the rest of the trilogy makes me wonder how the remaining books play out. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!
Narrator Price Waldman does an excellent job with a variety of accents. From British English, to American southern accents, Waldman does a good job of characterization and breathing life into the story.
About the Author: Chris Muhlenfeld
Chris has been reading and writing science fiction since he was a teenager. After roaming all over the world, he finally settled down in the beautiful mountains of western Montana where he publishes Distinctly Montana magazine with his wife. When he’s not hiking, biking or camping in the Montana wilderness, he and his wife are traveling the world.
About the Narrator: Price Waldman
Price Waldman is an actor and singer, born and raised in NYC. Classically trained, and working professionally in the theater for over 20 years he is new to the world of audiobooks. As an actor he has performed multiple times on Broadway, toured nationally and internationally and appeared on film and television.
From the New York Times bestselling, celebrated, and award-winning author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell comes the spellbinding, epic account of the dramatic conclusion of the Civil War.
The fourth and final year of the Civil War offers one of that era’s most compelling narratives, defining the nation and one of history’s great turning points. Now, S.C. Gwynne’s Hymns of the Republic addresses the time Ulysses S. Grant arrives to take command of all Union armies in March 1864 to the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox a year later. Gwynne breathes new life into the epic battle between Lee and Grant; the advent of 180,000 black soldiers in the Union army; William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea; the rise of Clara Barton; the election of 1864 (which Lincoln nearly lost); the wild and violent guerrilla war in Missouri; and the dramatic final events of the war, including the surrender at Appomattox and the murder of Abraham Lincoln.
Hymns of the Republic offers angles and insights on the war that will surprise many readers. Robert E. Lee, known as a great general and southern hero, is presented here as a man dealing with frustration, failure, and loss. Ulysses S. Grant is known for his prowess as a field commander, but in the final year of the war he largely fails at that. His most amazing accomplishments actually began the moment he stopped fighting. William Tecumseh Sherman, Gwynne argues, was a lousy general, but probably the single most brilliant man in the war. We also meet a different Clara Barton, one of the greatest and most compelling characters, who redefined the idea of medical care in wartime. And proper attention is paid to the role played by large numbers of black union soldiers—most of them former slaves. They changed the war and forced the South to come up with a plan to use its own black soldiers.
Popular history at its best, from Pulitzer Prize finalist S.C. Gwynne, Hymns of the Republic reveals the creation that arose from destruction in this thrilling read.
CHAPTER ONE: The End Begins
Excerpted from HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2019 by Samuel C. Gwynne. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Washington, DC, had never, in its brief and undistinguished history, known a social season like this one. The winter of 1863–64 had been bitterly cold, but its frozen rains and swirling snows had dampened no spirits. Instead a feeling, almost palpable, of optimism hung in the air, a swelling sense that, after three years of brutal war and humiliating defeats at the hands of rebel armies, God was perhaps in his heaven, after all. The inexplicably lethal Robert E. Lee had finally been beaten at Gettysburg. Vicksburg had fallen, completing the Union conquest of the Mississippi River. A large rebel army had been chased from Chattanooga. Something like hope—or maybe just its shadow—had finally loomed into view.
The season had begun as always with a New Year’s reception at the Executive Mansion, hosted by the Lincolns, then had launched itself into a frenzy whose outward manifestation was the city’s newest obsession: dancing. Washingtonians were crazy about it. They were seen spinning through quadrilles, waltzes, and polkas at the great US Patent Office Ball, the Enlistment Fund Ball, and at “monster hops” at Willard’s hotel and the National. At these affairs, moreover, everyone danced. No bored squires or sad-eyed spinsters lingered in the shadows of cut glass and gaslight. No one could sit still, and together all improvised a wildly moving tapestry of color: ladies in lace and silk and crinolines, in crimson velvet and purple moire, their cascading curls flecked with roses and lilies, their bell-shaped forms whirled by men in black swallowtails and colored cravats.
The great public parties were merely the most visible part of the social scene. That winter had seen an explosion of private parties as well. Limits were pushed here, too, budgets broken, meals set forth of quail, partridge, lobster, terrapin, and acreages of confections. Politicians such as Secretary of State William Seward and Congressman Schuyler “Smiler” Colfax threw musical soirees. The spirit of the season was evident in the wedding of the imperially lovely Kate Chase—daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase—to Senator William Sprague. Sprague’s gift to Kate was a $50,000 tiara of matched pearls and diamonds. When the bride appeared, the US Marine Band struck up “The Kate Chase March,” a song written by a prominent composer for the occasion.
What was most interesting about these evenings, however, was less their showy proceedings than the profoundly threatened world in which they took place. It was less like a world than a child’s snow globe: a small glittering space enclosed by an impenetrable barrier. For in the winter of 1863–64, Washington was the most heavily defended city on earth. Beyond its houses and public buildings stood thirty-seven miles of elaborate trenches and fortifications that included sixty separate forts, manned by fifty thousand soldiers. Along this armored front bristled some nine hundred cannons, many of large caliber, enough to blast entire armies from the face of the earth. There was something distinctly medieval about the fear that drove such engineering.
The danger was quite real. Since the Civil War had begun, Washington had been threatened three times by large armies under Robert E. Lee’s command. After the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, a rebel force under Lee’s lieutenant Stonewall Jackson had come within twenty miles of the capital while driving the entire sixty-thousand-man Union army back inside its fortifications, where the bluecoats cowered and licked their wounds and thanked heaven for all those earthworks and cannons.
A year and a half later, the same fundamental truth informed those lively parties. Without that cordon militaire, they could not have existed. Washington’s elaborate social scene was a brocaded illusion: what the capital’s denizens desperately wanted the place to be, not what it actually was.
This garishly defended capital was still a smallish, grubby, corrupt, malodorous, and oddly pretentious municipality whose principal product, along with legislation and war making, was biblical sin in its many varieties. Much of the city had been destroyed in the War of 1812. What had replaced the old settlement was both humble and grandiose. Vast quantities of money had been spent to build the city’s precious handful of public buildings: the Capitol itself (finished in December 1863), the Post Office Building, the Smithsonian Institution, the US Patent Office, the US Treasury, and the Executive Mansion. (The Washington Monument, whose construction had been suspended in 1854 for lack of funds, was an abandoned and forlorn-looking stump.)
But those structures stood as though on a barren plain. The Corinthian columns of the Post Office Building may have been worthy of the high Renaissance, but little else in the neighborhood was. The effect was jarring, as though pieces of the Champs-Élysées had been dropped into a swamp. Everything about the place, from its bloody and never-ending war to the faux grandiosity of its windswept plazas, suggested incompleteness. Like the Washington Monument, it all seemed half-finished. The wartime city held only about eighty thousand permanent residents, a pathetic fraction of the populations of New York (800,000) and Philadelphia (500,000), let alone London (2.6 million) or Paris (1.7 million). Foreign travelers, if they came to the national capital at all, found it hollow, showy, and vainglorious. British writer Anthony Trollope, who visited the city during the war and thought it a colossal disappointment, wrote:
Washington is but a ragged, unfinished collection of unbuilt broad streets.… Of all the places I know it is the most ungainly and most unsatisfactory; I fear I must also say the most presumptuous in its pretensions. Taking [a] map with him… a man may lose himself in the streets, not as one loses oneself in London between Shoreditch and Russell Square, but as one does so in the deserts of the Holy Land… There is much unsettled land within the United States of America, but I think none so desolate as three-fourths of the ground on which is supposed to stand the city of Washington.
He might have added that the place smelled, too. Its canals were still repositories of sewage; tidal flats along the Potomac reeked at low tide. Pigs and cows still roamed the frozen streets. Dead horses, rotting in the winter sun, were common sights. At the War Department, one reporter noted, “The gutter [was] heaped up full of black, rotten mud, a foot deep, and worth fifty cents a car load for manure.” The unfinished mall where the unfinished Washington Monument stood held a grazing area and slaughterhouse for the cattle used to feed the capital’s defenders. The city was both a haven and a dumping ground for the sort of human chaff that collected at the ragged edges of the war zone: deserters from both armies, sutlers (civilians who sold provisions to soldiers), spies, confidence men, hustlers, and the like.
Washington had also become the nation’s single largest refuge for escaped slaves, who now streamed through the capital’s rutted streets by the thousands. When Congress freed the city’s thirty-three hundred slaves in 1862, it had triggered an enormous inflow of refugees, mostly from Virginia and Maryland. By 1864 fifty thousand of them had moved within Washington’s ring of forts. Many were housed in “contraband camps,” and many suffered in disease-ridden squalor in a world that often seemed scarcely less prejudiced than the one they had left. But they were never going back. They were never going to be slaves again. This was the migration’s central truth, and you could see it on any street corner in the city. Many would make their way into the Union army, which at the end of 1863 had already enlisted fifty thousand from around the country, most of them former slaves.
But the most common sights of all on those streets were soldiers. A war was being fought, one that had a sharp and unappeasable appetite for young men. Several hundred thousand of them had tramped through the city since April 1861, wearing their blue uniforms, slouch hats, and knapsacks. They had lingered on its street corners, camped on its outskirts. Tens of thousands more languished in wartime hospitals. Mostly they were just passing through, on their way to a battlefield or someone’s grand campaign or, if they were lucky, home. Many were on their way to death or dismemberment. In their wake came the seemingly endless supply trains with their shouting teamsters, rumbling wagon wheels, snorting horses, and creaking tack.
Because of these soldiers—unattached young men, isolated, and far from home—a booming industry had arisen that was more than a match for its European counterparts: prostitution. This was no minor side effect of war. Ten percent or more of the adult population were inhabitants of Washington’s demimonde. In 1863, the Washington Evening Star had determined that the capital had more than five thousand prostitutes, with an additional twenty-five hundred in neighboring Georgetown, and twenty-five hundred more across the river in Alexandria, Virginia. That did not count the concubines or courtesans who were simply kept in apartments by the officer corps. The year before, an army survey had revealed 450 houses of ill repute. All served drinks and sex. In a district called Murder Bay, passersby could see nearly naked women in the windows and doors of the houses. For the less affluent—laborers, teamsters, and army riffraff—Nigger Hill and Tin Cup Alley had sleazier establishments, where men were routinely robbed, stabbed, shot, and poisoned with moonshine whiskey. The Star could not help wondering how astonished the sisters and mothers of these soldiers would be to see how their noble young men spent their time at the capital. Many of these establishments were in the heart of the city, a few blocks from the president’s house and the fashionable streets where the capital’s smart set whirled in gaslit dances.
This was Washington, DC, in that manic, unsettled winter of 1863–64, in the grip of a lengthening war whose end no one could clearly see.
Excerpted from HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2019 by Samuel C. Gwynne. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
About the Author:
S.C. Gwynne is the author of Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War and the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stints with Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife. For more information, please visit https://scgwynne.com
***The first book in a new fantasy series from best-selling author Jennifer Anne Davis.***
About the Audiobook
Author: Jennifer Anne Davis
Narrator: Kim Bretton
Length: hours minutes
Publisher: Reign Publishing⎮2019
Series: Knights of the Realm, Book 1
Release date: Oct. 11, 2019
Synopsis: Reid has spent her whole life pretending to be a man so she can inherit her father’s estate, but when a chance encounter threatens to expose her lie, she is forced to risk everything.
In the kingdom of Marsden, women are subservient to men, and land can only pass from father to son. So, when Reid Ellington is born, the fifth daughter to one of the wealthiest landholders in the kingdom, it’s announced that Reid is a boy.
Eighteen years later, Reid struggles to conceal the fact she’s actually a young woman. Every day, her secret becomes harder to keep. When one of Marsden’s princes sees her sparring with a sword, she is forced to accept his offer and lead her father’s soldiers to the border. Along the way, she discovers a covert organization within the army known as the Knights of the Realm.
If Reid wants to save her family from being arrested for treason and robbed of their inheritance, she will have to join the knights and become a weapon for the crown.
To protect her family, Reid must fight like a man. To do that, she’ll need the courage of a woman.
This is the first book in a new fantasy series from best-selling author Jennifer Anne Davis
The Realm of Knights is a gem! I was very delighted to find this book via Audiobookwormpromotions.com. The premise, plotting, characterization is excellent. Reid Ellington is faced with a dilemma at every turn that forces her to comply and keep her family secret. I thought the writing was brilliant. It kept me turning the pages!
How often do you write?
I write five days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I usually set a goal for myself, and I’ll work until I reach that goal. When I’m writing a first draft, I try and write 5,000 words a day. Then when I’m editing, I usually try and edit 10 pages a day.
Tell us a little bit about the characters in Realm of Knights.
Realm of Knights is centered around Reid Ellington. She’s an 18 year old young woman, and the fifth daughter of Duke Ellington. Since land and title can only pass from father to son, the duke tells everyone Reid is a boy when she’s born. So Reid has grown up wearing boy clothing and playing with boys. It has made her fiercely independent and she views the world differently than those around her. There are a few other characters of importance in the book. Her best friend, Harlan, helps her out. He’s the sort of guy that’s always there, fiercely loyal, and he respects Reid even when he learns she’s a woman. Then there’s the princes—Ackley and Gordon. They’re brothers and best friends. Ackley is tall and lean. There’s a fierceness to him that he manages to keep hidden. Gordon is the commander of the army. He’s shorter and stockier than Ackley, he’s fairly quiet, and he’s a little stubborn.
How do you balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
It’s hard to balance everything. I treat writing as my full-time job (because it is). It allows me the freedom to be there for my kids when they need me. However, when I’m on a deadline, it can be rough revising when I need everything to be quiet around me. Thankfully, my family is very supportive and we make it work.
What makes a great story line?
Interesting characters that the reader can connect with, an obstacle the main character has to overcome, a fantastic villain, and a unique love interest.
What is the hardest thing about writing a book?
Revising. Writing the first draft is the fun part. Revising—which is basically rewriting the entire story—is difficult for me. I want to make sure that everything I’m thinking and feeling in my head is exposed on the page. It usually takes me about 25 min to revise one page.
Do you have any people who help you with your story lines as well beta reading and such?
Yes. I have two people that read everything I write. They’ve both been with me for years, and I couldn’t write without them. One started out as my biggest critic and now is my biggest cheerleader. The other is a pro at finding plot holes and inconsistencies.
How did you choose your narrator?
For Realm of Knights, I wanted a female voice with a British accent. It was important to me that the narrator have a youthful voice since Reid is only 18. However, I also wanted her to have a maturity to her that hints at the hardships Reid has faced over the years. When I was listening to auditions, the second I heard Kim’s voice, I knew I’d found the perfect narrator. I was so excited when she agreed to take on the project, that I had her sign for all three books in the series. She is the perfect person for these books, and I couldn’t be happier.
About the Author: Jennifer Anne Davis
Jennifer Anne Davis graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. She is currently a full-time writer and mother of three kids, one weimaraner, and a tortoise. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart and lives in the San Diego area.
Jennifer is the recipient of the San Diego Book Awards Best Published Young Adult Novel (2013), winner of the Kindle Book Awards (2018), a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards (2014), and a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (2014).
Publishers Marketplace listed Jennifer as one of the best-selling indie authors in June 2017. She has also been ranked among the top 100 best-selling authors on Amazon.
About the Narrator: Kim Bretton
Kim is an accomplished and award winning actress and director with West End/Broadway theatre credits. Kim has narrated over 35 audiobooks and counting. She is also an in demand voice over talent in the commercial and corporate arena and owns her own class A recording studio in Nashville. Kim is from the UK but has lived in NYC, L.A. and now Nashville TN. She continues to work in Theatre, Film and TV as an actress and a director alongside narrating audiobooks and commercial voice overs.
Former opera singer Emma Streat has survived the murder of her husband and the destruction of her beautiful old house. Now a full-time single mother, she struggles to move forward and make a home for her two sons. Because of her detection skills, she has become a go-to person for help–so, when her rich, feisty, socialite godmother is blackmailed, she turns immediately to Emma. Soon, Emma founds herself thrust into the dark world of cybercrime. Mounting challenges take her to exclusive European settings where she mixes with top people in the financial and art collecting worlds and has intriguing and emotion-packed experiences with men–including her dynamic ex-lover, Lord Andrew Rodale. When she is targeted by a cybercrime network using cutting-edge technology, it takes all of Emma’s resilience and wits to survive and bring the wily, ruthless criminal she’s hunting to justice. Action-packed and full of twists and turns, this third book of the Emma Streat Mystery series does not disappoint!
Excerpted from Firewall: An Emma Streat Mystery by Eugenia Lovett West. Copyright © 2019 Eugenia Lovett West. All rights reserved. Published by SparkPress.
A spring blizzard was cascading snow over Boston’s Public Garden. I poured my first cup of coffee and went to the living room window of my temporary apartment. People going to work struggled along the paths, heads bent, feet slipping. I watched, glad that in a few days I’d be on an island in the Caribbean. Lying in the sun with a man. Finding out if a dynamic former relationship could be renewed.
My phone on the counter sounded its little chime. I picked it up and saw that the call was from my godmother, Caroline Vogt. She never called before noon, but today the gravelly tuba voice reverberated in my ear.
“Emma, I need you, and I need you now.”
This was demanding, even for Caroline. I took a deep breath. “Why do you need me? Are you still down in the Keys?”
“I’m back in New York and something has happened.”
“Oh God, I can’t believe it, but someone’s trying to blackmail me.”
“Just now. I was simply sitting in my bed, eating my breakfast, and the doorbell rang. Minnie went to open it. No one was there, just a note shoved under the door telling me to pay a million dollars to an account in a Miami bank. Pay it today. If I don’t, my dirty little secret will go to the media tomorrow. All the media.” The tuba voice wobbled.
I shifted the phone. Caroline’s usual reaction to trouble was assault mode. Strike back. Never show weakness. This call for help was totally out of character—and the timing couldn’t be worse.
“Look. I can see why you’re upset,” I said, trying to apply calm. “Blackmail is nasty, but it happens. The dirty little secret bit— everyone has secrets and that person is just trying to scare you. If you’re really worried, I think you should call the police or a detective. Someone who has real expertise.”
“No. Absolutely not. I won’t have strangers prying into my business. You’re the person we all trust in a crisis. You found Lewis’s killer. You exposed those virus terrorists and saved your niece Vanessa. You have credentials. You have to find this bastard before he comes back and wants more.”
“Wait. Let me think.” I pushed back my hair. No way did I want to be the family detective, involved in another crisis, but Caroline was now in her eighties, a mega heiress from Chicago, a fixture in New York society. Divorced four times, no children. I was the closest thing she had to family and she was frightened. I must go, but with any luck I could still get to that island. Spend three days sorting her out, then fly there from New York.
“I’m here. Listen. It’s snowing hard in Boston, a freak storm, but I’ll try for a flight today. Failing that, I’ll take the train. I’ll let you know. Relax, no need to be paranoid. Love you,” I said and clicked off.
A siren went shrieking down Arlington Street, the sound that signaled trouble. I sat down on the stool at the counter and reminded myself that I owed Caroline. She had been my unfailing support from the day I was born. She had taken the place of my dead mother. Fourteen months ago she had given me a stern lecture:
“You’re still young. You survived losing your rising opera career. You’ve done a superb job bringing up those two hunks of boys, but now they’re off to college. Cut the cord and let them go. You’ve got the money and the energy to do something important. Different.”
Good advice, but three days later, my husband was murdered and my world had gone up in flames along with my beautiful old house on the Connecticut River. I still had Jake and Steve, but creating a new life wasn’t easy. It was time, past time, to move forward.
I took a deep breath and picked up a pad of paper. First, call the airlines, then cancel this morning’s appointment for a haircut. Start packing.
By now experience should have taught me that one small incident can spiral into a tsunami of trouble. But no siren sounded, warning me that by helping Caroline I would be targeted by a network of cybercriminals. No way of knowing that her call would take me to many countries, lead to heartbreak, and nearly cost me my life.
Excerpted from Firewall: An Emma Streat Mystery by Eugenia Lovett West. Copyright © 2019 Eugenia Lovett West. All rights reserved. Published by SparkPress.
About the Author:
Eugenia Lovett West is the author of Firewall: An Emma Streat Mystery. Eugenia was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was Reverend Sidney Lovett, the widely known and loved former chaplain at Yale. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and worked for Harper’s Bazaar and the American Red Cross. Then came marriage, four children, volunteer work, and freelancing for local papers. Her first novel, The Ancestors Cry Out, was published by Doubleday; it was followed by two mysteries, Without Warning and Overkill, published by St. Martin’s Press. West divides her time between Essex, Connecticut, and Holderness, New Hampshire, where she summers with her large extended family. For more information, please visit http://www.eugenialovettwest.com
IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
Book Recommendations with Peruse Project