Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DAMAGE CONTROL - a Carl Brookins Review

Damage Control
by Denise Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9674-8
a 2011 hardcover release from
Scribner. 372 pages.

More than just romance can often flower under the hot desert moon. In southern California, a lot more. In the artificially irrigated hothouse of perfectly sculpted bodies, overabundance of wealth, aggressive power and overweening ambition are a dangerous combination that leads, almost inevitably, to corruption. And it is corruption that’s at the heart of this complex, lyrically written tale, along with a strong dose of murder and mystery.

Maggie Silver grew up on the far side of the tracks. Now in adulthood with a mortgage, a failed marriage, and an ill mother, she’s scrambling for a place, if not in the sun, as near as she can get without singeing her fingers. Her values are aspiring middle class. She’d like to be one of the beautiful people, and for a while in a private school with a rich girl friend named Anabelle Paxton, the giddy, youthful exuberance of unsupervised teenaged life seems to point to a life to come of luxury and happiness.

Fast forward to today. Having lost that youthful connection to the good life, Maggie is establishing herself as a fixer. Working for the powerful public relations firm, Blair Company, she find herself once more entangled with the Paxton family, Henry, now a powerful U.S. Senator, Luke, the golden son and Anabelle, once her very best girl friend. A murder has happened and the situation must be managed. The Blair firm gets paid a great deal of money by wealthy clients to do exactly that. What happens then, to Maggie, the Paxtons, to other members of the firm is enthralling, complicated, and almost a Greek tragedy.

The author has taken a common theme, power, wealth and their corrupting influences, and infused the story with a strong dose of both good and evil. and while she carefully and fully illuminates much of the evil that resides in Los Angeles and its special culture, there is at times, a faint but fascinating aura of envy, as if the author yearns, however ruefully, for just a little taste of the life she writes about. The genius of the novel lies in part in the complex and convoluted story and the way the author infuses this story with life.

Hamilton has not penned a polemic against the culture of southern California. Rather she holds up the citizens, and the organizations to a searing light and lets readers judge the actions and the influences that result. Unlike Raymond Chandler, with whose writing she is compared, her sympathies clearly lie with all the characters, while never condoning their actions, or trumpeting the consequences. So in the end, readers, themselves having perhaps experienced a little bit of envy for the characters, can close the book and ponder the questions we all may ask ourselves, to whom do we really owe the greatest loyalty?

Carl Brookins, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, December 16, 2011

William S. Shepard - A New Genre is Born!

My guest this week is William S. Shepard. 


Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

His books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. He evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of four “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, now also available on Kindle, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler, his main character, is just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders. The most recent of the series, The Saladin Affair, has Cutler transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State.

 Now I have a few questions for Mr. Shepard (eight to be exact):

1. In Vintage Murder, Robbie Cutler, your protagonist, is a suave, smart American diplomat living in France. How did he join the Foreign Service?

 Bordeaux is his second diplomatic assignment. To join the Foreign Service, he passed the Foreign Service oral and written and security exams (still I think about 1 in 100 survive). Robbie grew up in a Foreign Service family, so is used to living overseas. He is also though a fairly junior official. I had a problem with that, for I wanted him to have, here and in succeeding novels, access to highly classified information. That is how Uncle Seth came about – a nationally prominent man who keeps Robbie in the picture on national security matters.     

2. What do you and Robbie have in common?

 Like Robbie, I am a Francophile. I supposed that started with Dad’s stories about World War One when he was a combat veteran there, and then a university student. I was a French literature major in college, and taught in a French high school for a year after graduation. His love story is his own business, with very little help from me!
3. The setting for Vintage Murder is the lush countryside of Bordeaux and the rugged region of the Basque country in France. What made you set the story here?

 I served as the American Consul General in Bordeaux, and so it is an area that I know very well, on both sides of the border. I wanted a vivid enemy, and the Basque ETA fit that requirement. What they have not done is take my “suggestion” and start blackmailing the owners of the great wine estates in Bordeaux. If that happened, I’m not sure I would still be welcome there!

4. Where does Robbie go from here?

He is assigned to the Embassy in Budapest for the second novel in the series, Murder On The Danube. Here, the murder of a prominent American visitor sets off a change of events. The back story is the Hungarian Revolution against the Russian occupation. Someone apparently was a traitor to the Freedom Fighters, and is now trying to cover his (or her) tracks). My research into the actual events was extensive, and had the assistance of both the American Embassy in Budapest (where I served as Political Officer), and the Hungarian Embassy in Washington. I was honored to be invited to present this novel at both the Library of Congress in Washington, and at the Hungarian Embassy.

5. Describe your writing process.

 There are times when I cannot write (March/April, devoted to income tax preparation). I try to set aside roughly half a year, and then spend lots of time plotting out the novel. After that, it is a ruthless deadline – one chapter each week. I write in the morning. A cat perched on the desk usually helps!

 6. Authors today are expected to do most of their own promotions. How do you balance social networking with writing? What promotions work best for you?

 This is a work in progress. Writers’ blogs such as this one help spread the word. So do personal acquaintances. Reviews are most helpful. So is some paid advertising. I would like to be at the stage where this all melds together and is self-sustaining. But not yet, I fear!

 7. What inspires and motivates you to write?

 I enjoy storytelling, and writing is based on that. It may be something of a family trait. I had an uncle who was a gifted storyteller, and had virtually no formal education. He was a spellbinder. He and my Aunt took in foster children. When someone misbehaved, the worst punishment would be banishment to bed, and no story hour! Of course this was before television, but Irvin Foster really had the gift.

8. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about starting a novel?

 I’d say there are four things to consider. First, write about what you know and have experienced. Second, do try to plot out the entire novel, at least as a sketch. Third, consider whether what you have planned fits the entire story line. For example, in my novel Murder On The Danube, the back story continually involves a small group of Hungarian Freedom Fighters. Who is present at what stage of the fighting is crucial, and that had to be planned with great care – the one who was missing might be the one who betrayed the group! Fourth, sit down and write the first chapter. Then revise it, again and again. Characters you hadn’t considered will begin to assert themselves, you’ll see!
Yes, we will see. Murder On The Danube (Robbie Cutler Diplomatic Mysteries) eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store Vintage Murder (Robbie Cutler diplomatic mysteries) eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store

Thank you for letting us know about this new genre. Fascinating!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meet Alina Adams - "turning visual into words"

Welcome Alina. You've had a busy, prolific career and we'd like to know more about it and you, so the forum is now yours.

By Alina Adams

I spent close to a decade of my life working in figure skating: As a researcher for ABC, as a producer for ESPN, as a Contributing Editor for “International Figure Skating Magazine” and as a writer of non-fiction titles like “Inside Figure Skating” and “Sarah Hughes: Skating to the Stars,” as well as fictional mysteries like “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop” and “Skate Crime.”
I spent close to a decade of my life turning something purely visual into words.
Now, I am in the process of turning words into something purely visual.
Because, after a decade of describing world-class skating, I came to a simple conclusion: World class skating is indescribable.
I like to think that my mystery novels (originally published by Berkley Prime Crime) do a pretty good job of introducing engaging characters, tangling complex plots, and generally making readers smile in both amusement and periodic “oooh!” surprise as we twist our way towards the final Whodunit.
What they don’t do a nearly good enough job of is conveying the beauty, grace, control, and raw power of elite figure skating.
Until now.
In the past, storytellers had no choice but to be limited by words, even when dealing with subjects where words were decidedly not enough.
But, with the advent of technology, a plethora of options have opened up that were inconceivable even a few years ago.
I no longer need to merely tell about the skating going on in my books. I can show it.
In partnership with The Ice Theatre of New York (, I am re-releasing all five of my skating mysteries as enhanced e-books, with real, professional quality skating videos embedded in the text as part of the story.
Ice Theatre gave me access to their entire video library (even routines by stars like Johnnie Weir).
Now, in a perfect world, I would write a story around the videos I had.
And I still intend to do that… down the line.
But, right now the world isn’t perfect (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed), and, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.” (Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the world is currently so imperfect…)
Which means that I needed to take the edited and published books I already had, and the videos I got from Ice Theatre, and make the two fit together.
In some cases, I got lucky. “Skate Crime” features a prominent subplot about an African-American woman skating pairs with a white man at a time when that just wasn’t considered acceptable. And, what do you know? Several Ice Theatre videos just happened to feature the exact same combination skating together! To see how I worked the videos into the text, check out my $.99 cent excerpt, “Skate Crime: Multimedia” at: on Amazon. (You’ll need a reading device with an Internet connection and the ability to play videos.)
With other cases, I was forced to massage the text just a little bit to make it match up with the available footage. Obviously, I couldn’t change a character’s race (that would be one too many cases of Search and Replace, and utterly out of the question in cases where race was a key part of the story). But, I’ll admit, a few imaginary people did receive a quick change of hair-color just to make the juxtaposition flow easier.
I plan to release “Murder on Ice: Enhanced Multimedia Edition” and “On Thin Ice: Enhanced Multimedia Edition” on Amazon this December 2011, with the last three books in the series, “Axel of Evil: Enhanced Multimedia Edition,” “Death Drop: Enhanced Multimedia Edition” and “Skate Crime: Enhanced Multimedia Edition” in January of 2012, just in time for the US Figure Skating Championships.
Please check them out and let me know how you think I did!

In addition to her Figure Skating Mystery series, Alina Adams has written romances for AVON and DELL (a reprint, "When a Man Loves a Woman" is also available as an enhanced e-book on Amazon), and NYT best-selling tie-ins for the soap operas, "As the World Turns" and "Guiding Light." Her enhanced, nonfiction e-book, "Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments" was an Amazon best-seller in 2011. In addition, her company, Alina Adams Media, produced "The Worldwide Dessert Contest: Enhanced Multimedia Edition" by Dan Elish, a children's fantasy with an original musical score. She is eager to work with other authors to help turn their previously published works into enhanced e-books.



As the newly crowned 2011 US Figure Skating Team prepares to make its debut at the World Championships in Japan this coming March, Alina Adams, author of the figure-skating cozy mystery series of books including “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop,” and “Skate Crime,” has taken experiencing her books to an unprecedented next level by adding skating videos (courtesy of The Ice Theatre of New York; right into the text!
While all five novels were initially published as trade paperbacks by Berkley Prime Crime, only one, “Skate Crime” is currently available as an e-book.
“Skate Crime: Multimedia Edition” does not contain the entire text of the original but is, instead, a condensed excerpt enhanced with video clips. When figure skating coach Lucain Pryce is murdered on the eve of his own televised tribute, the suspects include his much younger wife, his resentful daughter, the student he guided to Olympic gold, as well as the one he drove to a nervous breakdown.
The portion high-lighted in “Skate Crime: Multimedia Edition” looks back at Lucian’s romantic relationship with his former Pairs partner… and why she might have had the best motive of all for wanting to see Lucian dead.
Adams got the idea to combine text and visuals after spending ten years as Creative Content Producer at TeleNext Media/Procter & Gamble Productions. “While at P&G, I developed two on-line properties for them, and Mindy Lewis’ Twitter, which told serialized, romantic stories in a combination of words and video clips. I thought that if it worked for on-line soap-operas, it would be even better for figure skating, which is such a visually-oriented sport.”
She also wrote the “New York Times” best-seller “Oakdale Confidential,” (an “As The World Turns” tie-in), and co-wrote, “Jonathan’s Story” (a “Guiding Light” tie-in), along with the romance novels “When a Man Loves a Woman” (DELL), “Annie’s Wild Ride,” “Thieves at Heart,” and “The Fictitious Marquis” (AVON).
Adams says, “I have been fascinated with the potential of enhanced books ever since the idea became technically possible. However, most of what is currently available is either non-fiction or, if the enhanced book is fiction, it features extras like author interviews, music, or historical context. I was itching to make the added videos an integrated, vital part of the story, like I had with my on-line work. “Skate Crime: Multimedia” fits that bill. It’s not exactly a book and it’s not exactly a movie. I see it more as Storytelling for the 21st Century.”
“Skate Crime: Multimedia Edition” retails for $.99 cents in Amazon’s Kindle store at: and can be experienced through the Kindle app on iPad, iPhone, and your desktop.

Thank you Alina for being my guest and best of luck for your future success.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My guest for the next few days is Lee Barwood. She writes about the road she followed to write her excellent thrillers.

Welcome, Lee. We're paying attention!

 Sometimes the road to crime can be paved with good intentions, just as the proverbial road to Hell. When that happens, it’s a reminder that the human mind is a very complex thing. People, as well as characters, can be drawn into actions that they never thought they would take—or that, under other circumstances, they would recognize as crime.

Fiction is rife with examples, such as police officers so determined to catch a killer that they will plant evidence to ensure conviction because they know they will never nail him any other way. But that is a very dangerous road. Two real cases are that of the Nebraska CSI director, David Kofoed, who in 2010 was convicted of evidence tampering in a 2006 murder case, and that of a New York City police detective who just recently was convicted of planting drugs on innocent people.

Kofoed, as reported by the blog at the Innocence Project, was accused of planting a specimen of the victim’s blood in the car of two suspects who later proved to be innocent. His attorneys claimed he had used a contaminated testing kit, but the judge said there was no evidence of that. Kofoed, in prison, is working on appeals on the grounds that a former coworker set investigators on him.

The police case is a bit different. Detective Jason Arbeeny was found guilty November 1 of official misconduct, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records, as reported by The New York Times, in the case of planting drugs on an innocent woman and her boyfriend. Testimony in the case included that of a former detective, Stephen Anderson, who said that rules were often bent or broken and evidence planted so that police could meet arrest and conviction quotas.

There are plenty of avenues that lead straight to wrongdoing, and in my books the antagonists, like real people, find that various well-meaning motives seduce them into actions that under other circumstances they might find—well, criminal.

 For instance, in A Dream of Drowned Hollow, my paranormal environmental thriller, Trevor Dalton thinks he has long since shaken the dust of the little Ozarks farm community where he grew up from his shoes. But in his childhood and youth he was surrounded by poverty and violence, self-interest and hypocrisy, and these shape him far more than he knows. The orphan child of a man led down the path to despair and murder by desperation, Dalton has seen some of the worst of human nature at work.
Regarded as a charity case with “bad blood” after his father kills his mother and then himself, Trevor is taken in by a well-to-do man respected in the community who treats him as little more than slave labor. There he sees and hears much as community leaders protect their own turf and their own businesses rather than do anything to alleviate the poverty that surrounds them.
The lessons strike home but in all the wrong ways, as Trevor determines to become wealthy and powerful himself so that he can bring jobs and prosperity to the people he left behind. But his use of the power and influence he acquires is as hard-edged as what he left behind, and he becomes as ruthless as those who kept his community bound in poverty in the first place: any resistance to his original well-meaning goal is met with force—subtle at first, then increasingly obvious, though still not visibly tied to him. In his blind determination to right one wrong from his youth, Trevor becomes the instrument of far worse wrongs, until he is guilty at a single remove of intimidation, blackmail, and even murder—not to mention the environmental destruction his projects bring in their wake.
In Some Cost a Passing Bell, Tim Carthan wasn’t a very nice fellow to begin with. He had quite a sense of entitlement when it came to women and power, although he hid it well—had he lived, he most likely would have continued to deceive those closest to him that he was an all-around good guy, while those far enough removed to see him for what he was would observe how he manipulated people and used them for his own ends. In this case, however, death intervenes and takes him very far down the road of wrongdoing until he becomes a returned-from-the-grave murderer who will do anything to take back what he believes is  his—his widow, Camilla, and her psychic abilities.

And in A Lingering Passion, my most recent paranormal, Stan Richards has the ego that his show business success would seem to demand. Yet he is only following in the steps of his great-grandfather Duncan Lorean, a talented but not gifted actor who believed his acting skills to be far greater than they actually were. Both men had a heady sense of self-worth, and Lorean crossed over into obsession, committing murder when his own rise to fame was threatened. Stan, in uncovering the truth about his scandalous family history, awakens more than memories in his quest to learn why Lorean fled the country—and the line between life and death blurs even more as Stan, influenced by Lorean’s lingering presence in the theater he has bought, is unable to see his single-minded pursuit of fame for what it is: megalomania. Other lawbreakers are at work in the story, adding their own complications, as Stan goes beyond what once he would have considered unthinkable behavior and is willing to put the lives of those around him at risk to succeed in his new goal: vindication of his murderous ancestor.

Thanks, Lee for a very inciteful essay on the road to crime. Criminals might learn something, if they wre smart enough to learn anything.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


My guest is Eloise Hill is a Bay Area nurse, psychic, and writer who has been in love with the Tarot since she picked up her first Rider-Waite Deck, at the age of eighteen. She teaches classes on a wide variety of metaphysical subjects and is the author of The Eight of Pentacles, available at Amazon at:

Welcome Eloise. You have a favorite character to tell us about? Good, we love characters. 

The Character of Place: Oakland, CA

When pondering the setting for my paranormal cozy, The Eight of Pentacles, I decided to stick with the go-with-what-you-know adage and use the town I resided in for eighteen years: Oakland, California. Oakland is frequently given a bad rap, in the media, and I wanted to offer a long time resident’s perspective of the place I had come to love: one that included multiple excursions into the character of this diverse city.

I decided to place the murder, in my novel, at Lake Merritt, on the edge of downtown Oakland, not only because of its popularity as a solace from the stresses of urban living, but also because it would provide me with the opportunity to do some research. As any writer knows, that which lies on the surface is only the beginning of the story and the lake, as it turned out, had a far richer history than even I imagined…
Lake Merritt might never have been conceived, but for the political and monetary ambitions of Dr. Samuel Merritt, a physician from Massachusetts who, at 6’3” and 340 pounds, possessed the physicality that matched his larger-than-life personna.

IIn 1849, Dr. Merritt was running a successful medical practice in the Northeast when he made the acquaintance of Daniel Webster, who encouraged him to pack up his surgical instruments and head west. Figuring Mr. Webster might know a thing or two about what it took for a man to make his mark in society, Dr. Merritt stocked a ship with general merchandise and set sail for San Francisco in November of that year. He arrived on the west coast, six months later, to discover the city in the process of recovering from a major fire and, in a matter of days, turned a tidy profit by selling off the ship’s cargo. He re-opened his medical practice and, within two years, had invested his considerable income into transporting lumber and in the buying and selling of real estate in San Francisco, and, across the bay, in Oakland.

In 1852, Dr. Merritt purchased land along the shores of a tidal lagoon called San Antonio Slough for the sum of $6000. The slough, formed from the run-off of the last ice age, was bordered by two villages on its eastern shores and the recently incorporated city of Oakland, on the west, and was being used as a sewer. By the 1860’s, the situation was getting…well…stinky and in 1867, Dr. Merritt—now, mayor of Oakland—proposed a plan to redirect the sewage elsewhere and, create a dam which would effectively sever the estuary’s neck from the San Francisco Bay. In an attempt to enhance civic pride and the value of the potentially profitable real estate he owned along the water’s edge, he financed the construction of the flood gates that would allow control over the lake’s water levels and decrease its overall salinity, thereby, making it a more hygienic locale for potential urban dwellers. The end result was the creation of the first salt-water lake in any metropolis in the U.S.

The 140 acre body of water became immediately known as “Merritt’s Lake” and substantial residential development followed. The wetlands that bordered the lake continued to attract migratory birds, as they had for centuries, and, in 1869, Dr. Merritt had the area declared a wild life refuge—the first in the nation—much to the relief of north shore residents tired of dodging bullets from hunters firing from the south end of the lake. By the 1880’s, stately Victorian homes, stables, private gardens and boathouses studded the more than three miles of shoreline.

Unfortunately, what turned out to be a goldmine for Dr. Merritt quickly deteriorated into an  environmental quagmire…literally. Much of the wetlands disappeared, with the unchecked development, and raw sewage continued to find its way to the bottom of the lake. His damn caused an interruption in natural tidal flows and Lake Merritt began to silt up. It was eventually dredged in 1891, but water movement remained so severely restricted that it often set stagnant and polluted—leading to high salinity, low oxygen levels, and periodic fish kills.

By the 1920’s, unhealthy bacterial levels had made swimming unadvisable, although recreational boating was still allowed. The then mayor, Frank Mott, encouraged by the rise of the City Beautiful movements—thought, by social reformers, to encourage both moral and civic pride and social cohesiveness—supported the creation of a municipal boathouse, bowling greens, yacht club, tennis courts, and a band stand, as well as the establishment of parklands, a beach, and a road around the lake. In 1922, more dredging was done and the first of what would become five bird islands was formed from the silt. By 1925, a “necklace” of one-hundred and twenty-six lamps and the string of lights that connected them ringed the water, providing both beauty and security for those walking or boating the lake after dark.

Fish populations continues to rise and fall, and some species, carried by what remained of the incoming tides, managed to proliferate there. It was rumored, in the mid 1930’s, the striped bass population was so plentiful, they could be removed by pitchforks. Postcards of Lake Merritt at twilight, alive with light, circulated around the world, along with serene views of  sailboat regattas gracing its waters. After the Pearl Harbor bombings, the lamps and lights were extinguished and, in 1948, the Oakland courthouse’s Art Deco/Classical facade was completed on the southwestern shore. The park’s Children’s Fairyland, one of the proto-types for Disneyland—according to urban legend—enchanted the first of the baby boomers and their parents in the 1950’s. A science center soon followed along with a cactus garden, museum and a restaurant. By the 1980’s, the summer “Festival At the Lake” had become an annual event, drawing crowds from all over the Bay Area—enhanced by the rehabbed and relit “String of Pearls”.

But the ghost of Samuel Merritt’s manipulations continued to haunt his lake in the form of decades of pollution, continued fish kills, and algae overgrowth. In an effort to put an end to these long-standing issues, a decision was made to divert the remaining sewer pipes to water treatment facilities and to dredge the lake, again. Fountains were placed in the northern arms of the lake to aerate the water and, in the 1990’s, the floodgates were positioned to allow for regular tidal flushing. The strategy worked and a more suitable habitat evolved for water contact sports as well as the fish, crabs, shrimp, clams and other delicacies enjoyed by the resident wildlife and those traveling the Pacific Flyway.

The Lake Merritt enjoyed by the families, joggers, walkers, and boaters of today bears little resemblance to that of Samuel Merritt’s era or its humble Pleistocene era origins…and represents only one of the many faces of Oakland. If you’d like to see how the lake figured into my murder site and plot resolution, check out my paranormal cozy, The Eight of Pentacles, the first in the Eileen McGrath Tarot series, at

Thank you Eloise for a wonderful trip to an historic and lovely place.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

Monday, November 14, 2011


Try and top these true crime stories, fiction writers:

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)

2. Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry (1974)

3. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon (1991)

4. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson (2003)

5. Crime and Science: The New Frontier in Criminology, Jurgen Thorwald (1967)

6. Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Empire, Mark Bowden (2000)

7. Wiseguy, Nicholas Pileggi (1986)

8. Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, Joseph D. Pistone (1987)

9. Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster, Harold Schechter (1998)

10. Blind Eye: The Terrifying Story of a Doctor Who Got Away With Murder, James B. Stewart (2000)

11. Finders Keepers: The True Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million, Mark Bowden (2002)

12. A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder and Its Aftermath, Jeanine Cummins (2004)

13. The Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule (1980)

14. Lethal Intent, Sue Russell (2002)

15. Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders, Terry Sullivan and Peter T. Maiken (2000)

16. The Lives and Times of Bonnie & Clyde, E.R. Milner (1996)

17. Dead Man Walking, Helen Prejean (1993)

18. Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34, Bryan Burrough (2004)

19. Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox, Barbie Latza Nadeau (2010) Amanda Knox was found not guilty of the murder in 2011.

20. The Killing Season: A Summer Inside an LAPD Homicide Division, Miles Corwin (1997)

21. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale (2008)

22. And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, Steve Oney (2003)

23. Confessions of Son of Sam, David Abrahamsen (1985)

24. Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill — The Story of Mary Bell, Gitta Sereny (1999)25. Blood and Money, Thomas Thompson (2001)

Submitted by
Gerrie Ferris Finger
The Ghost Ship

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE LOST WOMEN OF LOST LAKE - a Carl Brookins Review

The Lost Women of Lost Lake 
by Ellen Hart
ISBN: 978-0-312-61477-5
2011 hardcover release from
Minotaur Books, 320 pgs.

It is interesting how these things come in multiples. Libby Hellmann recently released a novel with its genesis in the riotous summer and fall of 1968. The Minnesota History Center has just opened an elaborate exhibit focused on 1968, and the History Theater in Saint Paul has mounted an original play, “1968, The year That Rocked The World.” And now here we have a powerful, emotionally intense novel by that excellent Minneapolis writer, Ellen Hart. It is a story of two women who are unable to divorce themselves from that same year, 1968 and the decisions and actions they took then.

 The story is another event in the evolving saga of Minneapolis restaurateur, Jane Lawless. This time she and bosom chum Cordelia take what they intend to be a short vacation trip into Minnesota’s benign northern wilderness to the Lawless family lodge on a lake north of the Twin Cities. It’s a common enough activity, and bucolic time on placid water amid peaceful forests is expected to provide calm and rejuvenation. Jane is trying to decide whether she can commit to working with a close friend toward becoming a professional private investigator.

 The peaceful appearing forest, like so many lives, conceals dark doings and Jane is drawn into a maelstrom of murder, revenge, drugs and double dealing. The multiple threads of this complex story intersect, divide, and then reweave. At times the action is high with tension, the pace frantic. At other times, the story becomes thoughtful, calm, like the smooth waters of the lake itself, allowing readers moments to reflect, perhaps, on their own lives and paths not taken. The women of lost lake, must, in the end, decide for themselves, and take for themselves the heart-rending consequences of their lives.

-Review by:-
Carl Brookins, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky
Submitted: Gerrie Ferris Finger

Sunday, November 6, 2011

MURDER IN THE 11th HOUSE - a Carl Brookins Review

Murder in the 11th house
by Mitchell Scott Lewis
ISBN: 978-59058-950-2
a 2011 release from
Poisoned Pen Press

 A team of intrepid and intelligent agents in league with an astrologer take on difficult cases of potential injustice. The feeling one gets from this debut novel about the Starlight Detective Agency is one of a small team of right-minded individuals with varied skills united around common goals. When government doesn’t get it right, the agency will. And they’re not above bending the law for all the right reasons. How that affects the lawyer/daughter on the team remains to be seen. The agency does work with police in New York City whenever possible, and because of his wealth and reputation, that seems to be often, but David Lowell, Astrologer non parallel, is not above spending his considerable money and influence to right apparent wrongs.

Angry bartender Johnny Colbert has a loud confrontation with a judge in a small New York Courtroom. It’s a civil case but the judge is soon dead in spectacular fashion and the bartender has no alibi. Enter Lowell’s daughter, defense attorney, Melinda, who prevails on her father to attempt to solve the mystery of who killed the judge and why, thus, presumably, exonerating Ms Colbert. The why of the murder proves far more fascinating that the astrological explanations. There are many explanations, and in some detail. They tend to slow the pace of the story considerably.

But it doesn’t matter whether you believe in astrology or not, the writing is generally smooth and the story develops logically. All of the characters stay in character, even if it’s a bit of a stretch for the young idealistic attorney to countenance what she knows is marginally illegal activity on behalf of her client. Several of the characters, Sarah and the client in particular, are interesting and well-drawn. all in all a nice traditionally-styled crime novel for a pleasant reading afternoon.

- Carl Brookins, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ROCK HOLE - a Carl Brookins Review

The Rock Hole
by Reavis Z. Wortham
ISBN: 978-1-59058-884-0
2011 release from Poisoned Pen Press.
HC, 284 pages

A sensitive, suspenseful debut crime novel. Full of twists, wry and earthy humor, it epitomizes the grit, the patience and the perseverance, of middle America. Folks who grew up in Texas, where the novel is set, or anywhere in the belt that runs from the northwest angle of Minnesota to the Padre Islands and from the middle of Pennsylvania to Cody, Wyoming, will recognize themselves in this novel. Their humor, their practicality, their keen natural observations, are all here to savor.

Welcome to 1964. In Center Springs, Texas, farmer and part-time constable Ned Parker is faced with a puzzling series of animal deaths. That they are brutal, atrocious unnecessary killings, only adds to the tension and suspense. Across the river, the black deputy, John Washington, is trying to find reasons for the same killings, while also dealing with the added difficulties of racism in the county. All these factors entwine to create a real and growing calamity for the small communities in the county surrounding Center Springs.

As the killings continue, strange footprints are found near bedroom windows and citizens begin to carry weapons and look suspiciously at their neighbors.

Laced with forthright humor, the novel proceeds at a racing pace through event after event as suspicion grows and plot twist after twist keeps readers off-balance
until the stunning climax is reached. Ned Parker is a real character who carries the story in an authentic and realistic manner.

The novel is not without its problems. Abrupt and annoying changes of points of view are occasionally confusing, but the writing, like the stories within the narrative is solid. This is an eminently satisfying novel. I look forward to the next.

Carl Brookins Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Monday, September 12, 2011

MURDER HAS NO CLASS - a Carl Brookins Review

Murder Has No Class

byRebecca Kent,


A Berkley Prime Crime 2010 release

Tired of the daily news of the world? Read too many grim thrillers or suspenseful detective stories lately? If you are looking for a change of pace, for an amusing, diverting traditional mystery in the best of the cozy fashion, I give you Rebecca Kent. Author of more than twenty-five novels, this one is set in the Cotswolds of Edwardian England when women sought sufferage and the keepers of tradition sought desperately to rein in rabunctious but upper-class young women.

The novel is set at the Bellhaven Finishing School, run by Headmistress Meredith Llewellyn, with the assistance of a staff of tutors. Llewellyn’s tasks are complicated by her extra-sensibility to the ghost of a hanged man who demands her attention to prove his innocence. Meanwhile, some of the girls and some of the servants are anxious to prove their support for the burgeoning suffragette movement in England.

Ms. Kent has got pretty much everything just right. The characterizations, the tone, the emotional turmoil are all in precise keeping with the time and with the story. The principal characters are classy and distinct and any reader tuned in to the traditional mystery will have a pleasurable experience with this novel.

Carl Brookins
Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Monday, August 29, 2011

THE GHOST SHIP, an Outer Banks romantic thriller

My beloved Hatteras Island has been cutoff from the rest of the Outer Banks because the sea breached Highway 12 when Hurricane Irene hit the cape. The same thing happened some years ago. I was reporting from the region for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the road had just been rebuilt then.

In the wake of Irene, it appears the long skinny islands will recover and rebuild as the residents have done for centuries. Seafaring people are tough as I came to witness.

I wanted to share with you the genesis of my novel THE GHOST SHIP. A couple of years ago, it wasn't a hurricane, but a severe storm that uncovered the hulk of an early 20th century coastal schooner near Cape Hatteras Light House. Honestly, it gave me the creeps. It's no wonder this part of the Atlantic Ocean is called The Graveyard of the Atlantic.

At that time, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum at Cape Hatteras was under construction. The director told me that these wrecks were often uncovered from the sands in storms, and that in time another storm would bury my ominous ship skeleton.

While going through the artifacts and photographs at the museum, I came across the The Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals. The Carroll A. Deering was a five-masted schooner. Returning from her maiden voyage to Rio and Barbados, and still in full sail, she somehow ran aground and her hull and keel buried on Diamond Shoal. This was in January, 1921. When the Coast Guard boarded her, they found no officers, crew, anchors or lifeboats. Only a six-toed cat. Six government agencies investigated the wreck, worldwide, but came to no conclusion. Was it pirates? mutiny? storms? Bermuda Triangle woo-woo?

So, my little gray cells (thank you, Hercule) conceived the idea of my own fictional solution to the mystery. I published THE GHOST SHIP at the end of June. It's not exactly a romance (which has strictures) nor a classic murder mystery. In other words, publishers loved the idea and the writing, but couldn't put it in a category. So, I had Kimberly Hitchens edit and format it for me and it's on Kindle and Nook.

I spent a lot of time on the Outer Banks reporting on the building of the museum and the controversial move of the Cape Hatteras Light House by the Park Service. I have a special affection for the mystery of the Outer Banks. It has lore galore, ghosts, legends, myths and houses made from the timbers of shipwrecks. Go into one of those, and you can sure get the spooks.

The Outer Banks survived another onslaught, as it always will. It seems the wind and sea gods also have a reverence for the The Graveyard of the Atlantic.


Review from GoodReads:"A ghost story mixed with a mystery and a love story told by an author who weaves a wonderful tale. A look into a piece of nautical history as well makes this a great read! I don't believe in ghosts but this book....has me changing my mind."


Thursday, August 25, 2011

WHEN SERPENTS DIE - Book One in the Laura Kate O'Connell Plantation Series

Laura Kate O'Connell left her life of excitement as an overseas news correspondent to return to her Georgia hometown to raise her two young cousins.

When Royce Lee, Laura Kate's attorney, supposedly commits suicide, too many pieces of evidence tell a different story. Her instincts as an investigative reporting are tingling, and she just can't leave it alone. She meets Jack Rhodes, Royce's business partner. Sparks fly, but can she really trust a man she knows nothing about? And why is it that every time something new develops in the case, he seems to be there?

Warnings to back off escalate to an attempt on her life. Now, for Laura Kate, it's more than just a mystery.

Depending on Jack might be a mistake, but if Laura Kate can get past his southern charms and the nervous way Jack makes her feel, she may get the facts, solve the case, and even save her own life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THE GHOST SHIP, a short review: "It's characters were alive (even the ghosts) and ohhh I was so happy with the ending."

THE GHOST SHIP was the best read I have had since Karen Kingsbury! I have never read on 'kindle' before and this proves what a great read it was. To sit for almost 12 hours straight in front of my computer and read is a great testiment of Gerrie's talent. First 'time travel' novel I have read that hits on WHY the time travel happened. The characters breathed, they lived on the page. It was a satisfying ending that I didn't want to end

Reviewed by Trisha Petty, Th.D.

Trisha Petty Th.D. co-authored 13 novels with Linda Crockett, among these were Siren, To Touch a Dream and Tangerine, published by Tor Press and Harlequin Romances (Simon and Schuster).

For 35 years Trisha was also a much sought after Production Assistant, then Personal Assistant to actors, directors and producers. Working with some of Hollywood’s most creative people, Trisha contributed story boards and character development to projects such as “Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn,” “North and South,” and “Paint Your Wagon.”

Recently retiring to Tennessee, Trisha used her experience, education, and the Civil War history steeped in her newly adopted home and began writing historical novels with Christian perspective.

Trisha Petty currently lives in Columbia, Tennessee and is the founder of Cellophane Ministries, and Antebellum Productions.

Thanks, Trisha.

Best of luck with your work.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Fans of any southern-style epic will really love this story

Laura Kate O'Connell is a super-star of a clever southern bell with quick wit and a nice way with horses. Honored Daughters is truly more mystery than romance, but the romance matters and readers will really enjoy Jack Rhodes when they finally meet him. It won't be a painful wait though, as from the first moments, interest and intrigue build.

Overall, the quality of the story is excellent. Epic-like adventures - and love - befall our heroine, who seems pulled in several directions most of the time. Her personal life, her decisions and future plans are complicated; Jack Rhodes is her distant, if still true love. He seems to envision an ordinary, predictable sort of future for the two of them, a future Laura Kate isn't enthused about at all. (Although after meeting him, we do realze he's more insightful than Laura Kate gives him credit for.)

Before we even get to questions of romance; Agent Nyan Hill complicates her life, with his desperate effort to see the murder of his niece Dari solved. Nyan & Laura Kate's antagonistic relationship, and occasional sharp dialogue, really make reader's admire our heroine. She's nobody's fool, but is at heart a caring, almost driven person.

Ferris has a distinctive voice, giving Honored Daughters a continuous, rather evocative aura. She creates a time, a place, and a series of characters that seem utterly original, yet also familiar and appealing. There are some seriously suspenseful moments, as well as more tender times; and the mystery is a real mystery, both intriguing and heart-wrenching from the start.

  Although this is contemporary, there is a certain historic feel to it. The horses, the hunt club, the southern-bell comments, and Honored Daughters School itself. Although contemporary, it all has an old, old feel to it. Fans of any southern-style epic will really love this story; perfect reading by a cozy fire.