Dan Petrosini and the Detective Frank Luca series

Dan Petrosini and the Detective Frank Luca series

Dan Petrosini, mystery author and wine afficionado, was featured last month in the Mystery Ahead newsletter. His latest is THE SERENITY MURDER–just the name gives me the shivers. If you like police procedurals as much as I do, here’s a replay of our chat.

1  Carmen Amato: Dan, thanks so much for stopping by. Your police procedural series features Detective Frank Luca, (AM I THE KILLER, VANISHED, THE SERENITY MURDER) with action that travels between Florida and New Jersey. You describe them as “noir-heavy” detective stories. Tell us about the type of crime featured in the series.

Dan Petrosini: It’s great to be here. Luca, a homicide detective, pursues killers. Usually, he investigates one puzzling murder per story. However, Book 4, which is to be released in a couple of weeks, revolves around a serial killing.

2  CA: Luca has had a troubled life. How does that impact the plotlines of your books?

Dan Petrosini: Like all of us, Luca has personal issues; sickness, divorce, self-doubt, etc. At times they impact how he approaches a case and other times it’s a sub-plot. I’m a fan of realistic fiction. There are no super heroes or special powers in the real world and Luca lives in the real world.

Dan Petrosini3  CA: How did your writing style develop and what books and/or authors inspire you?

Dan Petrosini: When I began writing novels my writing at times was too dense.  I have worked hard at creating quick paced stories with realistic dialogue and the feedback is positive. I’ve accomplished that.

4  CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

Dan Petrosini: Whoa, just one? This is tough. Can’t we have a dinner party? My pick would surprise most people – Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  His portrayals and recounting of harsh Soviet means to silence dissent resonated with me.  Not one for goulash, we’d chat over fish and pasta washed it down with a river of wine.

5  CA: What is your best protip? Tell us about a writing habit, technique, or philosophy that keeps your writing sharp.

Dan Petrosini: I believe the most important component to writing successfully, is to do it regularly.  I write each and every day. My word count has grown and it has become easier. Not easy, but easier.

I realize many cannot find the time each day, which is fine. Find a time, one hour a week, one day a week, etc and stick to it. You will be surprised at how being disciplined will improve your craft and the words will pile up.

(Additionally, read like a mad man!)

More about Dan: Born in NYC, Dan Petrosini lives in SW Florida. Married with two adult daughters and a needy Maltese, Dan has written eight novels. Passionate about motivating others to pursue their dreams and creative sides, he plays saxophone in several bands and drinks too much wine.

Website www.danpetrosini.com

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B004LYEJ9E/

FB – https://www.facebook.com/DanPetrosiniAuthor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JAZZYWINE

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Hard-core hard-boiled with mystery author Jim Nesbitt

Hard-core hard-boiled with mystery author Jim Nesbitt

A warm welcome to Jim Nesbitt, author of the hard-core hard-boiled Ed Earl Burch private investigator series. Ed Earl Burch is a not-quite washed up Texas cop turned PI with a notch collection on his bedpost and bad knees. Ed’s world is crude and rude and he punches through it with a pack of Lucky Strikes and a glass of Kentucky bourbon. A brisk pace, sliding points of view, shades of gray crooks, and dialogue spit out of the corners of everybody’s mouth make this series a real gem for hardboiled genre fiction fans.

mystery author jim NesbittJim books are collecting awards. THE SECOND LAST CHANCE was a finalist for the IPPY, Forewords INDIE and Killer Nashville Silver Falchion awards last year. It was also a Top Pick and finalist for Novel of The Year for Underground Book Reviews (UBR) and won a best hard-boiled mystery award from the Independent Crime Master Authors group. THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER is a UBR Top Pick this year and is in the running for Novel of the Year for 2018.

1.Carmen Amato: Jim thanks so much for stopping by. Your Ed Earl Burch mysteries caught my eye because of the great tagline: “Nobody’s hero. Nobody’s fool.” Tell us about Ed Earl’s backstory and what makes him tick.

Jim Nesbitt: I think Ed Earl is a bit of an Everyman with whom folks can readily identify. He’s been smacked around by life and carries the guilt of a dead partner he couldn’t keep from getting killed, a couple of ex-wives and the loss of his gold shield, largely because of his own actions. Getting booted from the force in Dallas denies him the source of pride and recognition for the one thing he does best in life, tracking down bad guys and making them pay.

Burch is deeply flawed. Besides being angst-ridden, he drinks too much, he’s fatally attracted to women who leave him an emotional train wreck, and he’s a terminal smartass who never knows when to shut up. He’s also a guy with a code he sometimes forgets until the chips are down. He’s not super-smart like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe and he sure isn’t super-cool like Steve McQueen in Bullitt. He’s got bad knees, a beard and balding pate, a belly and an empty bank account. He also comes across like he might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. He’s Columbo without the caricature and people have a bad habit of underestimating him. He makes them pay for that — either with handcuffs or a bullet. Doesn’t matter to him — however they want to deal the play.

At his core, he’s smart, tough, profane and reckless and has been described as a classic American anti-hero. I’ll buy that.

2. CA: Where do you find inspiration for your often damaged and dangerous characters?

JN: My hillbilly cousins and all the journalists I helled around with for four decades. We’re a rude and intemperate lot. I also ran across a lot of colorful characters chasing politicians, crooks, cops, cowboys, loggers, miners and just plain folks while roving the country as a national correspondent out of Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

I’ve always had a good ear for dialogue and an eye for detail that lets me create a keen sense of place. The people I met along the way as a journalist gave me a helluva head start on creating the rogue’s gallery of characters you meet in my novels. So did those hillbilly cousins.

3. CA: How do you use setting to create and build suspense? Tell us about a favorite location that you used in a book.

JN:  I think it’s essential for a writer to create a keen sense of place and too many fail to do what you do so well in your Emilia Cruz series. I come from a long line of hillbilly storytellers who instilled in me the strong tie between family and the land we come from — both were steeped in the stories they told about my ancestors, my uncles and aunts, my cousins and my mom and dad when they were young and growing up in the North Carolina mountains. I tried to capture that as a journalist and it was natural that this would carry over to my novels.

I knew I was going to write very stark and violent tales of revenge and redemption. And none of the characters in my novels are nice people, not even Burch — they’re all fairly nasty and violent folk. I wasn’t born in Texas, but I lived there for a while and I spent a lot of time wandering the border between Texas and Mexico and flat fell in love with the harsh beauty of the desert mountains of the Big Bend Country that rise out of Mexico. The mountains there clash and collide in a way that makes it seems like the very bones of the earth are there for you to touch.

What better setting for the tales I was trying to tell? But I was gunning for more than just a backdrop — I think the interplay between people and the land where they live is endlessly fascinating. And I wanted to capture how a place shapes a people and how the land becomes a character unto itself in their story, inseparable from who they are. Texas — particularly the harsh and brooding beauty of West Texas — is more than a backdrop or framework for my novels. It’s a character that adds its own relentless element of foreboding and impending violence and is a big influence on the people in my novels and what they do.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

JN: The late, great and vastly underappreciated James Crumley whose novels Dancing Bear and The Last Good Kiss taught me it was okay to let it rip with frank descriptions of sex and violence instead of euphemisms that I think insult the reader. And it was okay to drop f-bombs and other profane and earthy phrases. Both of his main characters, Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. ‘Sonny’ Sughrue, are deeply flawed PIs who drink and drug too much and chase the bad girls. Neither one toes the line or gives much of a damn about the law, but both have a code they might stray from but always return to in the end. His books also have raucously funny passages where the joke is often on the main character.

All that impressed me because those guys are vastly different from Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, two guys who might bend the rules, but kept to their code and used brains rather than brawn and a gun. And the joke was never on Sam or Phil. Crumley gave me license to NOT lace Ed Earl up in the strait jacket of the hard-boiled detective template.

So, what’s for dinner? Deep whiskeys before and after the main course, which will probably be thick ribeyes served with mashed potatoes swimming in butter. Or maybe something more primal — backstrap venison or elk steaks. Since we’re both good ole’ boys, I imagine we’ll sit at the kitchen table with the bottle between us, smoking cigarettes and talking about family, the places that stole our hearts and the women who left us flattened like three-day-old roadkill.

I’d ask him about that interplay between people and the land, the sense of family and place we carry even in a rootless and highly mobile society like the one we live in. Did he deliberately set out to make the sense of place so strong in his novels that it became a character unto itself or did that naturally spill out because he was raised on the same type of stories I heard from my family? My bet is, he’ll say something like: “Hell, bud, I just rared back and let it rip.”

5. CA: What is your best protip? Tell us about a writing habit, technique, or philosophy that keeps your writing sharp.

JN: Well, you and I both know there’s no silver bullet to writing — you just keep your butt in the chair, open a vein and bleed into your computer. Yeah, I poached a Hemingway line there and tarted it up — so, sue me, Papa. What I can tell you is something I learned a long time ago as a cub reporter — facts are your friends and the more facts you have, the firmer the foundation you can build for your writing and the surer and more authoritative and authentic your story will be.

It seems counter-intuitive since we’re writing fiction, but the firm foundation of facts frees up your writing and really allows it to fly. The horrible cliché told to young writers is to write what you know. What you know is only the starting point — and a poor one at that.

Do some research — if your books are set in the late 1980s and early 1990s like mine are, you better gather up all the facts you can about that time. Were laptops and cellphone in use back then? Who was president or governor? What were the political scandals of the day? Was that building you put in Chapter 12 even there back then? You’re not writing sepia-toned history, but you want to get these facts right to give your story authenticity. If your characters carry guns, you better get that right. You’re not going to use all these facts in your story, but they’ll be there underneath your writing.

If you get those details wrong, you run the risk of undermining your story because believe me, somebody will catch it or Google it and call you out. Or just drop your book, walk away and never think of you again. Best of all, if you have the time and the money, go walk the ground of where your story takes place. Most of the scenes in my two novels are set in places I went to as a journalist and that proved invaluable to creating a strong sense of place.

Thank you!

More about Jim Nesbitt:

Jim Nesbitt writes hard-boiled crime thrillers set in Texas and northern Mexico that featured a defrocked Dallas vice and homicide detective named Ed Earl Burch. Nesbitt is a former roving correspondent whose assignments included stories on both sides of the border and his novels — The Last Second Chance and The Right Wrong Number — are laced with the sights, sounds and people he encountered while wandering that rugged country. To learn more about Jim’s work, visit his website at https://jimnesbittbooks.com.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Gripping Audible Mystery Series Flies You to Acapulco

Gripping Audible Mystery Series Flies You to Acapulco

The first four books in the Detective Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco are all available on Audible from Tantor Media!

The books are narrated by the fabulous Johanna Parker, who also voiced the Sookie Stackhouse series. Johanna has really nailed a singular “voice” for the Emilia Cruz series narration, with energy, heart and perfect Spanish pronunciations. I hope she earns a 2017 Audie Award!

Does she sound like Emilia? Sample CLIFF DIVER here.

Click here for Audible titles or search for “Carmen Amato” on the Audible app.

The audiobook cover art is by Matt Chase, creator of the print and ebook covers. What do you think?

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Author to Author with Susan Spann

Author to Author with Susan Spann

I’m thrilled to host Susan Spann, author of the Hiro Hattori mystery series. Even if you don’t like sushi, you’ll be riveted by this series featuring a ninja warrior in medieval Japan.

1  Carmen Amato: Susan, thanks so much for stopping by. I found your mystery series books via Twitter and was immediately struck by their uniqueness. Two terrific key characters: master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo investigate crime in 1560’s Japan. Tell us how you came to write the Hiro Hattori series.

Susan Spann: Thank you so much for inviting me, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed the books! I fell in love with Japanese history and culture after reading James Clavell’s Shogun back in the 1980s—enough to major in Asian Studies at Tufts University during my college years—but the idea for the Hiro Hattori novels didn’t come to me until many years later. While getting ready for work one morning in 2012, I had the random thought: “Most ninjas commit murders, but Hiro Hattori solves them,” and knew immediately that I had to tell that story.

2  CA: Hiro Hattori is a “master ninja” but certainly not a caricature. What was your inspiration and how did you craft him as a multi-dimensional character?

SS: Real ninjas—shinobi in Japanese—were masters of espionage as well as highly trained assassins. I’ve always felt the Hollywood portrayals (though entertaining) didn’t do them justice, and I wanted to make sure my ninja detective was closer to the real thing. I wanted Hiro to feel real—in his weaknesses as well as his strengths—and I did a lot of research to ensure I was portraying ninjas accurately while still creating a page-turning mystery adventure.

3  CA: Hiro Hattori’s sidekick is a Portuguese Jesuit priest. You have really departed from the norm here. Tell us how you came to match up these two unique characters.

SS: When creating the Hiro Hattori series, I needed a “cultural translator” to make the intriguing facets of Japanese culture and history more accessible to readers, most of whom wouldn’t know much about ninjas or samurai Japan. Since Jesuits came to Japan in the 16th century, which also happens to be the height of real ninja activity in Japan, pairing my ninja with a Jesuit priest seemed like a perfect solution.

Originally, I intended Father Mateo to serve as a “Watson” – more of a sidekick than a real partner in crime (solving). As it worked out, the characters felt differently, and I have to admit I’m glad. I love the dimension Hiro and Father Mateo’s relationship gives to the books.

4  CA: You weave together historical myth and true history. Please share a surprising detail about your research process.

SS: People are often surprised to learn that I’m allergic to fish—which means I’ve had to find alternative ways of researching and describing many of the popular foods that appear in the novels, including Hiro’s favorite dish: udon (noodles) topped with onions and grilled fish. Fortunately, the allergy doesn’t stop me from enjoying my research trips to Japan—people are also often surprised to learn that a lot of Japanese cuisine does not involve fish at all!

5  CA: Medieval Japan has been the setting for some great movies aka The Last Samurai but what makes it a good setting for a mystery series? How do you use setting to create and build suspense?

SS:  Medieval Japan—what people sometimes think of as the “samurai era”—was a time of many contrasts. Samurai warriors often studied painting, literature, and flower arranging as well as martial activities like archery and swordsmanship. The juxtaposition of beauty and danger, as well as the intricate social rules and severe penalties for disobedience or dishonor, make it a fascinating place in which to set a mystery novel, because the characters often have far more to worry about than *just* who wanted the victim dead.

6  CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

SS: The list of authors I’d like to meet and talk with is so long…if I could choose only one, I think I’d like to meet Agatha Christie, and talk with her about plotting, twists, and where she got her fantastic ideas for her classic traditional mysteries. As far as the menu, I’d love to introduce her to shojin ryori—traditional Buddhist temple cuisine. It’s one of my favorite styles of cooking, and I’d love to hear her thoughts on that as well!

7  CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

SS: One of my all-time favorite novels is Michael Crichton’s JURASSIC PARK. I loved the film, but I read the book first (and several times since), and it remains a go-to when I need a familiar adventure. His worldbuilding, pacing, and dialogue are fantastic, and he manages to weave real-world wisdom into a page-turning thriller, with lines like “In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.”

I hope that my novels never banish thought, and I aspire to someday write as well as he did.

Thank you so much for inviting me!

An attorney as well as a mystery author, Susan was the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year and is a former president of the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Association. She is represented by Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency.

Find Susan online at her website (http://www.susanspann.com), on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SusanSpannBooks) and on Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she loves to share photos and stories from Japan.

 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Author to Author with Brian Stoddart

Author to Author with Brian Stoddart

I’m thrilled to host mystery author Brian Stoddart, creator of the Superintendent Le Fanu historical series set in India in the 1920’s. Think Sherlock Holmes meets The Jewel in the Crown, with a bit of my favorite thriller, too.

Brian is a New Zealand-based but globally engaged writer whose historical crime fiction is based in Madras, India of the 1920s. He trained as an historian, and worked as an academic in Australia, Malaysia, Canada and the Caribbean before becoming a university executive and later an international consultant on World Bank, Asian Development Bank and European Union projects in Cambodia, Laos, Jordan, and Syria. Follow him at www.brianstoddartwriter.com.

1.Carmen Amato: Brian, thanks so much for stopping by. I love historical mysteries that teach me something and your Superintendent Le Fanu series set in 1920’s India reminds me of the BBC’s Jewel in the Crown, with a touch of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts thrown in for verve. Tell us how you came to write such a complex and fascinating series.

Brian Stoddart: My PhD research was on modern nationalist politics in South India, and even as an academic I thought that those times and events had great dramatic qualities. That backdrop immediately allowed me to develop characters and events that were based in the historical record and, as we all know, truth is often more fascinating than fiction.

Some of the characters in the Le Fanu novels really did exist, and around them I can orbit fictional characters who also draw off people who were working at that time. The detailed historical knowledge allows me, then, to weave these stories in detail.

That said, I have had also to revisit Madras (now Chennai) as a writer rather than historian, because the city is as much a character as the people. Knowing the city well has allowed me to make the blend and set a place that is different, exotic but knowable. I am delighted that readers have felt that they learned something from the stories as well as being entertained by them.

2. CA: How do you create multi-dimensional fictional characters, including your lead character Christian Le Fanu? Where do you look for inspiration when creating characters?

BS: Those historical characters who lurk behind my fictional ones were all multi-dimensional and complex, often controversial, frequently combative and sometimes illogical. All those traits feed into Le Fanu and his colleagues as well as his opponents.

For example, I wrote a biography of an Anglo-Italian named Arthur Galletti who served in Madras and was the archetypal square peg in a round hole: anti-authority, hugely intelligent, socially awkward, pro-Indian and all the rest. Others were themselves writers who questioned the British regime. All of this feeds easily into creating characters who belong in the time. So that inspiration comes from the past and the historical record.

The other influence is from other writers and seeing how they create characters who live. Among my favourites are writers like Evelyn Waugh, Ian Rankin, Kate Atkinson, Parker Bilal, Fred Vargas – this is by no means exhaustive but will give you the idea. I also draw ideas and influence from television writers like Sally Wainwright, Anthony Horowitz, Neil Cross and others, because they create visuals that transfer well into print.

3. CA: Le Fanu has a personal relationship that was not allowed under British law in India at that time. How will this impact his decision-making as the series goes on?

BS: It was not so much “not allowed” to have a relationship between European and Anglo-Indian (mixed race) as severely damaging to a reputation and career, much the same if not even more so as a relationship between European and India. That is a trope for several novels, of course, perhaps beginning with E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India.

I use Le Fanu’s complicated relationship with Ro McPhedren almost as a lodestone to that complex matter of race relations in India at the time, and that shows up in how some other European characters relate (or do not relate) to Indians both professionally and personally.

By definition, the relationship will continue to bear on Le Fanu’s life as a whole, and be something of an allegory for the broader relationship patterns as independence nears for India. At the same time, the relationship allows me to explore the nuances of all this community-based activity in British India: Anglo-Indians who dominated the railway services, the missionaries who brought another corrective, the European business classes who had different outlooks again, and a range of others. India was all about relationships, in many respects, and Ro McPhedren helps focus that.

4. CA: What makes India a good setting for a mystery? How do you use setting to create and build suspense?

BS: As I say, Madras for me is really another character that influences the interactions between the characters. There are those Europeans who hate the place because they hate being in India and refuse to understand the locals. Le Fanu’s boss and bête noir Arthur Jepson is like that. As a result of WWI, Le Fanu now understands India and Indians better and is at home exploring it. That is why the Udipi food stand is in there – Le Fanu is the only European in the small eatery (which itself is drawn from reality and was the beginning of what has become a major restaurant chain). Habi, Le Fanu’s sidekick, provides the strongly necessary Muslim element in the story because Madras has always had a big Muslim presence.

In many ways, India is such a natural setting for these kinds of stories because of multiple cultural strands (the north differs from the south), cross-faith issues, caste, education, and all the rest. The historical context itself provides so many opportunities which is why the Le Fanu plots and storylines move across all these things and others like them – Madras in the 20s was replete with visitors blundering into systems and situations of which they were ignorant. That makes for great stories.

5. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

BS: Oh wow! I will cheat and pick one dead, one alive. The latter first. Andrea Camilleri, the marvelous Sicilian creator of Commisario Montalbano. The books and the television series are captivating because they so “get” local nuance, story, history, relationships and networks. The menu would be all seafood drawing on the restaurant favourites and recipes that appear in the books. I am a huge fan – my wife and I have even been to Ragusa and that area of Sicily to immerse ourselves in the Montalbano story. The conversation would be about writing and storytelling based on local knowledge and insights, and how far fact can be stretched into fiction.

The writer from the past would be Robert Louis Stevenson who was one of the very first writers to impress me way back when, and who I talk about these days in my cruise lectures. When he went to Samoa he immersed himself in local politics and culture, and the stories from then reflect that. The food would be Polynesian, and the discussion would focus on the relationship between history and fiction. And the fact that he was a Scot is a bonus.

6. CA: How do you go about researching your books? How do you know when you have done enough to begin a project?

BS:  Really great question. The research for Le Fanu has, of course, been done over many years and is almost natural. I have a lot to draw on. Because of that, the idea of when is enough really does not arise. What I tend to research now are the details of places and historical figures.

I spend a lot of time on geography, for example, trying to get the streetscape right. That includes finding local tales and myths that might add to the plotline or the storyline. Those are things that historians sometimes overlook but are the things that writers rely on. When I am happy I have enough of that to pace the book, then I am happy to quit, until the next time.

7. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

BS: I am really driven by the idea of what I call “crime and place”. That is, in all locations and settings the best storylines and plots are driven by local history, folklore, events, characters and conditions. So the concept of place in crime fictions is something I am always trailing after and I always get a great buzz and a sense of encouragement when I find examples that push the boundaries in the genre.

For that reason I find great encouragement in work by people like Barbara Nadel (Istanbul), Donna Leon (Venice, although I think she is having trouble aging Brunetti), Michael Connolly (a really complex character in Bosch set in the ultimate tangle of LA), Paul Thomas (Auckland, with a Maori cop), John Enright (Samoa) and others like that. The inspiration, then, is from the interplay between location, background and character. Hopefully, something of that emerges in the Le Fanu series.

Thank you!

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

What Happened to the Jesse Stone Mystery Series?

What Happened to the Jesse Stone Mystery Series?

When mystery author Robert B. Parker passed away, I mourned the end of the Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery series, as well as his Westerns featuring the enigmatic Virgil Cole. Sunny Randall, not so much, as I never quite connected with the female PI and her annoying ex-husband issues.

Like many others, I was of two minds when it was announced that Parker’s novel franchises would continue but be written by other authors. Excitement that more books with favorite characters would be forthcoming, doubt that others could capture the style that made Parker’s books so successful.

Related: Book Review: Cold Service by Robert B. Parker

Ace Atkins took up the Spenser series and really delivered, even as he introduced a new character (Sixkill) who helped expand Spenser’s world. The dialogue still drives the narrative, the pace is still swift, Spenser’s code is still in tact, and Susan and Hawk are still at his side. For the most part, the transfer of authorship has been seamless.

The Jesse Stone series was always a distant second to Spenser in my reading affections and I didn’t keep up as the series grew under new authorship. Parker wrote 9 novels about the ex-minor league shortstop who washed out of the Los Angles Police Department because of his drinking and lands on his feet as the chief of police in Paradise, Massachusetts. After Parker’s death, the franchise was handed off to Michael Brandman who wrote 3 novels, and then to Reed Farrell Coleman who has also written 3.

Has Jesse Stone’s road been as smooth as Spenser’s?

To decide for myself, I read two early Jesse Stone novels, TROUBLE IN PARADISE and STONE COLD, then the last two in the series, THE DEVIL WINS and DEBT TO PAY, both by Coleman.

Here’s my verdict:

The new books dive even more deeply into Jesse’s character. We spend more time inside Jesse’s head as he remains absorbed by his relationships with alcohol, his ex-wife Jenn, and his missed chance to be the world’s greatest shortstop. Jesse is flawed, and Coleman is making the most of it but still in Parker’s nuanced way. Jesse still talks to his picture of baseball great Ozzie Smith. Dix the therapist is back, too, both in Jesse’s thoughts and in scenes in which the two men discuss Jesse’s problems.

In early books Jesse has a number of female friends with benefits; in the later books he’s faithful to a new character named Diana, a former FBI agent now a security consultant in Boston. But there’s a precipice beckoning to Jesse in the form of the new Paradise medical examiner. Tamara is an attractive woman with her own drinking problem. I sense an undercurrent of doubt that Jesse can continue to resist this doubly fatal mix of woman and drink. If you are not tired of alcoholic main characters in mystery novels, then the tension is grand.

Related: Character Sketches, The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

For those who remember Spenser’s run-ins across several books with the Gray Man, Coleman has introduced a similarly continuing bad guy named Mr. Peepers. I’m not sure why Mr. Peepers has spent the last 20 years carrying out his twisted agenda of murder and torture, which would help the believability angle, but he’s a worthy opponent for Jesse.

Two things stand out as significant differences between early and later Jesse Stone novels. First, Coleman has departed from Parker’s staccato pace, except in some dialogue scenes where Jesse does the man-of-few-words act that has always been a character trademark. The pacing is slower and the paragraphs much longer. Indeed, in THE DEVIL WINS, the normally laconic Jesse delivers a 1.5 page paragraph explanation of how he caught the bad guy. Despite the chunky paragraphs, the prose is smooth, although a few awkwardly phrased sentences stand out. The villain’s voice is heard at pivotal moments, the same as when Parker was writing.

Second, there is the assumption that the reader knows the entire series’ backstory. For example, in THE DEVIL WINS, references were made to a person named Crow. This villain appeared in the early STONE COLD, but he and Jesse did not meet. But some 10 books later, it is obvious that both Jesse and Paradise cop Molly Crane have had a previous interaction with Crow. Alas, we don’t know the context or who Crow is. I’ll have to read more of the post-Parker books to find out.

Bottom line is that Jesse Stone is one of mystery fiction’s most complex, irritating, and heroic characters. Coleman has both captured and expanded this persona, while creating villain-based plots that manipulate Jesse’s flaws to good effect.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

New Release! PACIFIC REAPER, the New Detective Emilia Cruz Novel

New Release! PACIFIC REAPER, the New Detective Emilia Cruz Novel

New release!

Detective Emilia Cruz goes up against the cult of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death in PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th novel in the series set in Acapulco.

Without giving anything away, early reviews say REAPER is the most powerful Emilia Cruz mystery yet. But you be the judge. Get REAPER on Amazon and please remember to leave a review.

In case you missed the run-up to REAPER, check out some background on the cult of Santa Muerte and read Chapter 1 for free:

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

Background to PACIFIC REAPER

PACIFIC REAPER, Chapter 1

Thanks to great readers like you, PACIFIC REAPER debuted on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for the International Mystery and Crime category next to some of the genre’s heaviest hitters. Matt Chase’s stellar cover art held its own next to the likes of Jo Nesbo’s THE THIRST.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

Every Detective Emilia Cruz novel uses unique aspects of Mexican culture to create crimes and situations that would not be possible anywhere else.

In PACIFIC REAPER, Emilia confronts the cult of Santa Muerte, the saint of death embraced by drug cartels. Someone is killing gang members and leaving altars to Santa Muerte next to the victims. Emilia doesn’t believe in the power of the Skeleton Saint, as some call her, but when something bad happens to everyone who is important to Emilia, she jumps at the chance to go undercover as a worshipper.

Related post: Coming soon! PACIFIC REAPER

Who or what is Santa Muerte?

Condemned by the Catholic Church, the popularity of Santa Muerte continues to grow. She’s the personification of death but wears many hats: angel of death, miracle worker, love doctor, supernatural healer, protector of believers.

In 2013, as US law enforcement saw more evidence of Santa Muerte associated with narco crimes in the US, the FBI published a 3 part report on Santa Muerte, with the warning that  “Law enforcement professionals who encounter Santa Muerte artifacts and related narcotics cult paraphernalia at crime scenes should not dismiss them hastily.”

Read the whole report. Intended for law enforcement officials, it is a bit dry but fascinating reading nonetheless.

Santa Muerte gallery

The cult of Santa Muerte is rich in visual drama. The saint is usually depicted as a skeleton holding a sythe in one hand and a globe in the other and wearing a hooded robe akin to the West’s Grim Reaper figure.

Photo credit FBI — A white Santa Muerte statue surrounded by candles and liquor

Photo credit AP Photo/Guillermo Arias — Santa Muerte charm found along with a weapons haul from a cartel-related crime scene

Colors have different meanings in the Santa Muerte universe. In PACIFIC REAPER, Emilia first encounters a black altar, which is intended for power against enemies. Later, undercover as a worshipper, she carries a yellow robed Santa Muerte statue to a ritual event. Emilia’s cover is that she is there to ask for her mother to be healed.

Related post: Book Review: Devoted to Death

Business insider had a great gallery of Santa Muerte photos when it reported on Pope Francis’s trip to Mexico.

Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut’s website has a blog on the home page with the street view of Santa Muerte, including this post about a shrine in the state of Michoacan.

Photo credit: Reuters/Claudia Daut — Tequila is poured over a white (for purity) Santa Muerte statue carried in a young girl’s pink backpack.

Emilia’s undercover adventure as a Santa Muerte worshipper is part evangelical happening, part criminal mastermind at work. The result is shocking, to say the least and a milestone for both reader and writer . . .

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Author to Author with British Mystery Writer M.A. Comley

Author to Author with British Mystery Writer M.A. Comley

British author M.A. Comley is here to talk about her multiple mystery series. Her latest book IN PLAIN SIGHT, 3rd in the DI Hero Nelson series, came out last week and quickly shot to the top of Amazon’s Hot New Releases chart!

1. Carmen Amato: You are the master of the short swift mystery novel built mostly around a single plot thread, a format that has really resonated with readers. Tell us how you came to embrace this style and if you have a writing role model.

M.A. Comley: Hi Carmen, thank you for inviting me to take part in this Q&A with you. To be honest with you, I’m not one of those writers who try to fill their novels with worthless words just to achieve an 80K word count. My first two books were 88.000 and 80.000 respectfully but then I cut it down to writing 60.000 only because I had very impatient fans who wanted to see more and more books from me. My role model has to be James Patterson, the only difference between us, is the fact that I write my own books. Ha ha.

MA Comley

With her dog, Dex

2. CA: You write multiple series and maintain a fast publishing pace. Tell us about the different series and how you keep each fresh and unique.

MAC: I used to just write and publish the Justice series as the main character Lorne seemed to be the only character shouting, urging me on in my head. Then I started writing the DI Hero Nelson series, he’s the only male character I write. All of a sudden, all these other characters started screaming at me, demanding to be heard. Therefore, I went on to write a Private Investigator series, the Intention series. Finally, I began writing another police procedural series, the DI Sally Parker thriller. I intend to alternate the series over the coming years. Recently, I have co-authored two other series with Tara Lyons and Linda S Prather, although they were fun projects to write, I think I’ll be concentrating more on writing my own books going forward as I’m a bit of a control freak at heart. As for keeping the characters fresh and unique, they tend to do that themselves to be honest during the writing process, I suppose I’m lucky in that respect.

3. CA: Who is your target reader? What other authors do they read who are similar to you?

MAC: My target readers are anyone who appreciates a fast-paced thriller, sometimes they can be a little gory, but then you only have to look at a news bulletin every night to see that unfortunately, we live in a violent society, it would be totally unrealistic not to include at least some violence in my novels. Again, I have to mention James Patterson, Karen Rose, Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen.

4. CA: Which of your characters are your favorites? No, wait. I’ll make this harder! Tell us about a favorite relationship in one of your books.

MAC: That’s a no-brainer, it has to be Lorne Simpkins/Warner, she is me. We both escaped a violent abusive marriage, the only difference really is that Lorne went on to find the love of her life in Tony, an ex-MI6 agent. I think I’ve given up hope of that ever happening to me. I’m too devoted to my career as a writer now to ever contemplate getting out there and finding a man who I can trust to have my best interest at heart.

5. CA: I hear one of your series is coming to the silver screen. Tell us all about it!

MAC: Crikey, not sure where you heard that, of course if Hollywood came knocking I’d bite their hands off. Until then, I’ll just have to dream about my characters playing out their roles on the silver screen.

6. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

MAC: Sorry to sound repetitive, but again it has to be the master crime writer himself, James Patterson. I’d get my mum (she’s a qualified chef) to serve up a traditional roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, followed by a steamed syrup sponge and custard, lots of calories but sooooo good to eat. The conversation would be all about him and his books, his phenomenal writing ethic, and would end with me pleading with him to co-write a series with me, I live in hope of that happening, we always sit side by side each other in the charts so he must have noticed me, surely. 😊

7. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

MAC: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

Thank you!

More about M.A. Comley: I’m a hybrid author with a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books. I started self-publishing the Justice series in 2010 and now have over thirty full length novels and several novellas and short stories to my name. I intend to write and publish four more books in 2017, beginning with COLD CASE due out May 2017t.

Visit  M. A. Comley’s website and find her books: Amazon author page

KOBO author page

iTunes author page

Barnes and Noble author page

Google Play author page

Twitter

Facebook author page

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Book Review: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

Book Review: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Michael Stanley is a deeply authentic visit to Botswana, hosted by Detective David “Kubu” Bengu of the country’s Criminal Investigation Division. The novel stands alone but if you like international culture wrapped up in a mystery, I recommend all the books in the Detective Kubu mystery series.

Kubu, which means “hippo” in Setswana, Botswana’s native language, is an apt nickname. Alexander McCall Smith, author of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, perhaps the best known books set in Botswana, would describe Kubu as “traditionally built.” The book even opens with Kubu’s dream of eating an enormous meal.

The murder of Kubu’s father, a traditional healer suffering from Alzheimer’s, shocks everyone. Kubu is shut out of the investigation to keep from prejudicing any future prosecution and is assigned to look into the suicide of a government official dealing with mining licenses. Botswana is a top producer of diamonds and uranium.

With a little help from an American consultant, Kubu realizes that the suicide is really murder. Murky connections lead to a village debate over expansion of a Chinese-run uranium mine. The tribal chief has the final say over the expansion but doesn’t know his son has made a deal with the Chinese. The son gets the young unemployed of the village on his side by plying them with cheap Shake Shake beer in shabeens—the local bars.

The chief announces his decision not to allow the expansion at a town hall event, which erupts in violence. The chief, council members, and police are killed. Election of a new chief is supposed to rotate between five tribes, but the late chief’s son takes advantage of the turmoil to claim the throne and make good on his promise to the Chinese mine mangers.

Meanwhile, to get Kubu out of the way of the investigation into his father’s death, he is sent to New York for an Interpol conference. His trip perfectly captures wintry New York City through the eyes of someone who lives without snow, skyscrapers, crowds, or constant urban abundance. He didn’t want to go to the conference, but it gives him insights needed to break open the mining drama at home. Kubu may be a product of Botswana, a small country, but he knows how to find the wider context.

At times the narrative is a bit slow, Kubu is admonished too many times for sticking his nose into his father’s murder investigation, and I guessed the connection between Kubu’s father and the Chinese mine far earlier than he did. These nits are forgiven because I really admire how the novel, and the entire mystery series, demonstrates the critical issues facing Africa today: unemployment, corruption, violence against women, tension between traditional authority and the laws of the state, and China’s growing investment and influence at the local level. The issues are handed deftly and naturally; they are simply part of Kubu’s landscape.

As a reader, you are caught up in the tension between old and new as you feel the bewilderment of the chief as he attempts to navigate the modern world by relying on tribal customs. You march into the Chinese compound with Kubu, and realize that a fiefdom has been carved out to take and never to give.

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY starts as a murder mystery. But it ends as a snapshot of contemporary Africa that should be mandatory reading by anyone travelling to or studying the continent. Highly recommended.

Book review of Detective Kubu mystery series novel

10 Ways to Get a Clue

10 Ways to Get a Clue

How many moving parts does it take to build a mystery novel?

Do you want the short answer? (lots)

Or the long answer? (lots and lots)

Building Blocks

Now, I’m not whining over the terrible fate of being a mystery author. Actually, I like being a mystery author. I like building intricate plots and craftily connecting seemingly disparate elements that you never expected. I like writing cliffhanger chapter endings and dialogue that kills (pun intended).

But it does take alot of scribbling and planning and editing and coffee drinking, all while elbowing (literally) the dog away from the keyboard. Sometimes all goes swiftly, other times not so much.

Right now, as I slog away on the 4th Detective Emilia Cruz, KING PESO, I’m stuck on the little matter of how one key bit of evidence is revealed to Emilia.

Elementary, my dear Emilia

How can Acapulco’s first and only female police detective Emilia find the clue without getting herself into more danger? Here are the choices:

1. Snitch (also known as stoolie) on the street tells her: Emilia pays somebody for information

2. Online research and discovery: criminal posts a YouTube video, information is about a business with a website or listed in a business registry, etc

3. Part of a parallel investigation: another cop finds out somehting relevant to her case and shares it

4. Forensic evidence: DNA testing; fibers or dirt provide context and additional information, tire treads, etc etc

5. Anonymous caller: tip comes in through a hotline or to police station

6. Ballistics: gun used has a history known to the police

7. Autopsy results: something about manner of death or body provides important information

8. Cold case files: the current case is linked to a past unresolved case

9. Photography: video or still photos capture information relevant to her case

10. Witness: witness at the scene of the crime tells all to Emilia

Hmmm. #10 would be so easy.

I hate easy . . .

Got an idea? Leave a comment and help an author out!

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Film Rights to Acapulco Mystery Series Acquired by Screenwriter

Film Rights to Acapulco Mystery Series Acquired by Screenwriter

I am thrilled to announce, after weeks of negotiations between lawyers, that a contract for the film rights to the Emilia Cruz mystery series has been inked. Screenwriter and director Emily Skopov (ever hear of a little series called Xena, Warrior Princess?) released the news yesterday:

PITTSBURGH, May 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Screenwriter and director Emily Skopov is pleased to announce the acquisition of film and television rights to the Detective Emilia Cruz series by mystery author Carmen Amato. The series, which includes the novels CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, and DIABLO NIGHTS, as well as a collection of short stories, features Emilia Cruz as the first and only female police detective in Acapulco. Physically tough yet emotionally vulnerable, Cruz must be her own moral compass as police investigations pit her against Mexico’s drug cartel violence, government corruption, and gender bias against a woman in a traditionally male occupation. A relationship with an American man in a high-profile position further complicates Cruz’s life.

Read the rest of the press release here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/writerdirector-acquires-rights-to-groundbreaking-emilia-cruz-detective-novels-300084734.html

Join me in a virtual margerita! Hollywood, here we come.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Carmen Amato at Spring Hill

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