Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
If the movie didn’t fill your hunger for more Mars, Rob Thomas comes through with the first of two books written with Jennifer Graham about his cult hit creation. Veronica takes on the town of Neptune’s corrupt cops and dangerous secrets as she goes looking for a coed who goes missing on spring break in her first case back in Neptune as a private eye.
The Kill Switch: A Tucker Wayne Novel by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood
Rollins teams up with military thriller writer Blackwood in this spin-off from his Sigma Force series, featuring Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his working dog, Kane. Blackwood’s Army edge brings a deeper realism to Rollins’ daring and weird science adventure in a book that travels through Russia and Africa and involves a deadly weapon with origins in the Boer war.
Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
Milchman follows up her critically acclaimed thriller Cover Of Snow with the story of a woman uncovering her husband’s dark past in order to find where he’s taken her children. Read it now and join us at BookPeople June 16th when Jenny is here to sign and discuss the novel.
MysteryPeople April Pick of the Month: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson
I’ve said before that Hilary Davidson is somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde author. Her short fiction has a hard noir style, usually showing the worst of humanity. Her series featuring travel writer Lily Moore consists of edgy thrillers with a damaged-but-decent heroine confronting her problems. With Blood Always Tells, a stand alone thriller, Davidson fuses both sides of her writing personalities.
The book begins with Dominique Monaghan, a second tier model having an affair with an ex-boxer who married another woman for money. After Dominique discovers he’s cheating on her, as well, she slips a muscle relaxant into his drink, hoping to get him talking about the wife and affairs all while recording the conversation for blackmail purposes. The plan goes awry when some guys with guns burst in and kidnap both of them.
This isn’t your average kidnapping. In one entertaining passage, Dominique is schooled by one of the accomplices on the many reasons for kidnapping. This section has the darker motives and even darker humor of Davidson’s short fiction work.
After a little over a hundred pages, the book goes into hard-boiled sleuth mode as we follow Dominique’s brother Desmond as he tries to find her. The search puts him up against Gary’s diamond-for-a-heart wife and more than a few unhinged criminals.
Davidson has a gift for taking you seamlessly through these different point-of-views and sub-genres. By crafting many well placed reveals and twists that become a part of the pace, she makes the reader accustomed to the speed at which she likes to change it up. There’s also a theme of the importance of family weaved throughout the book that binds it together. All three of the characters come from broken homes and the double edge sword of bother-sister relationships.
Blood Always Tells is a fresh and engaging read. It plays with genre and narrative in a unique way, not flinching when it comes to the characters and their past. I look forward to Hilary’s next walk on the wild side.
Blood Always Tells is available for pre-order on our website. Hilary Davidson will be in the store on Thursday, April 24 at 7PM speaking & signing copies of the book. Click here for more information & to pre-order your signed copy.
Bruce DeSilva‘s latest book involving Rhode Island newspaper man Liam Mulligan, Providence Rag, is a bit different in approach. Mulligan races against time to keep a killer in prison as another reporter is uncovering prison corruption that would set him free. We turned the tables on the former reporter and asked him a few questions.
MYSTERYPEOPLE I found the story Providence Rag takes on a much darker and somber tone than the previous Mulligan books, which are partly known for their humor. What was it like working on a novel where you couldn’t always pull that humor tool out of the box?
BRUCE DESILVA: I don’t entirely agree with the premise of your question. I think my second novel, Cliff Walk, which peers into the bleak world of the sex trade and deals with the abuse and murder of children, was an even darker story. And there is humor in Providence Rag. For example, there’s Mulligan’s displeasure with his new roommate, Larry Bird, his attempt to fob the creature off on Whoosh, and the way he deals with the gangsters who want the bird back. However, I do understand what you’re driving at.
What changed in Providence Rag was the point of view.The first two novels were written in the first person with Mulligan as the narrator, so his trenchant observations and wise-guy humor were never far from the surface. Providence Rag, however, is written in third person limited. Sometimes we see the story from Mulligan’s point of view, but nearly as often we see it from the point of view of his earnest young colleague, Mason. And parts of the story are told from the points of view of their friend Gloria, the one-eyed photographer, and of the killer. Mason and Gloria aren’t humorless, but they are not given to the kind of smart remarks Mulligan is noted for. And the killer does not display much of a sense of humor. It was necessary to change point of view in this novel because the story was too complex to be told only from Mulligan’s vantage point. The very heart of the novel required that readers be exposed to how different things look depending on where you sit. But in the fourth Mulligan novel, tentatively titled A Scourge of Vipers, Mulligan will return as the lone first-person narrator. That book is already finished and will be published in March of 2015.
MP: Mason comes into his own during the book and drives the story as much as Mulligan. How did you handle two characters sharing the spotlight?
BD: Providence Rag poses a troubling question: What are decent people to do when a loophole in the law requires that a murderous psychopath be released from prison–and the only way to keep him locked up is to fabricate charges against him?
To tell the story, I needed a strong character on each side of the issue. Mulligan, whose youthful idealism long ago gave way to cynicism about how the world really works, is the one willing to look the other way if that’s the only way to protect public safety. Mason, given how his character developed in the first two novels, was the logical one to take the position that allowing public officials to subvert the criminal justice system is dangerous. After all, if they can fabricate charges against this killer, they could do the same thing to anyone.
Of course, the moral dilemma the two friends, and the whole state of Rhode Island, face in the novel has no right answer. No matter which side of the issue you make your stand on, you end up condoning something that is reprehensible. So Mason, and Gloria as well, do drive the action more than the supporting characters did in the first two books. But the Mulligan novels have always had ensemble casts. In the first, Rogue Island, Mason, Whoosh (Mulligan’s bookie), and his best friend Rosie Morelli, all play major roles. Mulligan is always Seinfeld to their Kramer, Elaine and George–but in Seinfeld, nobody got stabbed or shot.
MP: Your serial killer, Kwame Diggs, I found to be as chilling as Hannibal Lector, yet more believable. How did you approach him?
BD: The serial killer is loosely based on Craig Price, a real teenage serial killer I wrote about as a journalist many years ago. But Price was already in prison when I researched and wrote his story. I never met him face-to-face. I know little about his childhood, have never heard him speak, and can’t even say for sure what drove him to murder. So the background, motivation, and speech patterns of the killer in the novel are drawn entirely from my imagination. I chose to reveal Diggs to the reader in three different ways:
1. With the overkill and chilling blood-lust he unleashes on his victims.
2. With the string of lies he tells to Mason in a series of jailhouse interviews.
3. With a series of flashbacks in which the reader sees him as a young child in the process of becoming a monster.
Each approach provides a different look at him, but together I think they reveal the full measure of the man
MP: Not only do Mulligan and Mason have ethical dilemmas about what is being uncovered, but so do the editor and owner of the Providence Dispatch. As someone with a journalism background, what did you want the reader to understand about how a paper faces those situations?
BD: Journalists face ethical dilemmas almost every day. Many of the stories they do print not only inform the public but have the potential to both benefit and harm. Sometimes the people harmed by news stories deserve what they get. Sometimes the harm is not deserved but is nevertheless unavoidable if the truth is to be told. But journalists should be cautious about harming people unnecessarily. As a writer and as an editor, I always tried to take care to prevent that from happening. In Providence Rag, I did want readers to see how seriously reporters and editors struggle with this–although few real-life dilemmas are as extreme as the one the book presents. But I also wanted readers to consider how the prosecutors, prison guards, politicians, and citizens of the state grappled with the same moral question–and to ask themselves how they would deal with it as well.
MP: From talking to you at Bouchercon, I know that you’re an aficionado of crime fiction. Which author from the past hasn’t got his due?
BD: If I may alter the question slightly, I’m more concerned with a couple of writers who were popular in their day but have been largely forgotten. Nobody reads Richard Prather or Gregory Mcdonald anymore. Prather’s hard-boiled Shell Scott novels, most of them published in the 1950s and 1960s, were great fun and really well-written. And Mcdonald’s, two series, Fletch and Flynn, published in the 1970s and 1980s, were both funny and devastatingly effective at lampooning sacred American institutions.
MP: Other than being able to draw from your experiences, what makes a reporter a great crime fiction hero, as opposed to, say, a PI or cop?
BD: Real private detectives are nothing like fictional ones. The real ones spend their days serving court papers, investigating insurance claims, back-grounding job applicants, chasing child-support delinquents, and trying to figure out who’s pilfering from warehouses. They go their whole lives without ever shooting anyone down or beat anyone up. The amateur detectives in popular fiction — many of them little old ladies – don’t exist in real life either. Aside from the many varieties of local, state, and federal law officers, the only professionals who regularly investigate wrongdoing are investigative reporters.
In my own career as an investigative reporter, I exposed political corruption, voter fraud, criminal business practices, child abuse . . . In fact, I even investigated a murder. So it was natural for me to make my protagonist an investigative reporter. But unlike cops, reporters don’t get to handcuff people and bring them in for questioning. They can’t get judges to issue search warrants or approve wiretaps. That makes their work more difficult and more challenging – and the inherent difficulties make for good fiction.
Providence Rag is on our shelves now and available via bookpeople.com. Bruce Desilva will be at our store on Friday, Mar 28 at 7PM in conversation with Tom Abrahams (Allegiant) and signing copies of Providence Rag. Click here for more information & to pre-order your signed copy.
Tom Abrahams has applied his experience covering politics as a TV reporter to some involving thrillers. His latest, Allegiance, draws a politico into a conspiracy involving Texas politics. Tom will be joining Bruce DeSilva on Friday, March 28 at 7PM for a discussion here at BookPeople. We shot Tom a few questions in advance.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: You do a wonderful job of taking what seems like a far fetched premise and making it believable. How did you approach the antagonist’s plan?
TOM ABRAHAMS: Thank you. I’m glad the plot rang true. I approached the plan through research. My idea was to mix a political thriller with plausible science fiction. It blends my love of George Orwell and my enjoyment of all books Michael Crichton. To me, there’s no bigger influence of Texas and, by extension, Texas politics, than energy. I knew the science fiction element needed to be built around oil and gas and alternative fuels. So I did some online research, reached out to some leading nano-scientists, and crafted a plot that would seem realistic enough to both the reader who knows nothing about nanotechnology and someone who works in the field. Those scientists help me craft the right scenario and the best way to convey it. The trick was giving just enough detail without overwhelming the reader with too much scientific jargon.
MP: Texas and its politics play an important role in Allegiance. What did you want to say about the state?
TA: I don’t know that I have a message about Texas, so much as I wanted Texas to be a central character in the book. Texas politics and politicians are so often larger than life. From LBJ and Anne Richards to Barbara Jordan, George W. Bush, and Rick Perry; Texas consistently produces people who engage the public in unique ways. They sometimes become caricatures of themselves. I hope that, in some small way, the novel indicates a love for Texas and what it contributes to the national debate.
MP: How does being a reporter inform you as a writer?
TA: As a reporter, I write every day. I ask questions. And I tell stories with little waste. In those respects, my job as a journalist benefits my job as an author. It also helps that I work in television. As a TV reporter, I think visually. So when I sit at my computer writing a novel, I craft the scenes in my head. I can see what’s happening as I write it. I also think the healthy cynicism I’ve developed over the years translates into a novel with an underlying grit, a darkness that doesn’t jump off the page but is always lurking underneath.
MP: Do you pull from any influences when you write?
TA: My two favorite authors are George Orwell and Michael Crichton. When I write, I try to pull a little from their voices. Though I’ve yet to use deus ex machine in the way Crichton typically does at the end of his novels, I’d like to think the complexity of the plots approaches his storytelling.
MP: What makes thrillers the genre for you to write in?
TA: It’s what I read. I think to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Subconsciously, I’m pulling from all of the great (and not so great) thrillers and suspense novels I’ve read since I plucked my first Hardy Boys book from the school library shelves. There’s a saying in television that the camera doesn’t lie. Neither do books. A reader can tell if I’m informed, and more importantly invested, in the story I’m telling. I wouldn’t be a good romance or cozy mystery writer, because it’s not what I read. I tried writing a police procedural years ago. It lacked. I don’t read enough of that genre to be good at it. That’s why I chose this genre. I like politics. I like thrillers. I love science fiction. I wrote a book I’d like to read.
Allegiance is on our shelves now and available via bookpeople.com. Tom Abrahams will be at BookPeople in conversation with Bruce DeSilva on Friday, Mar 28 at 7PM speaking & signing copies of Allegiance. Click here for more information.
Providence Rag by Bruce DeSilva
The first two books by Bruce DeSilva‘s, Rogue Island and Cliff Walk, have a certain amount of dark brutality to them. This feeling punches through the books along with a disarming fun spirit, thanks to the humor of the affable hero of Providence, Rhode Island, Reporter Liam Mulligan. With Providence Rag, DeSilva gives us a change in tone as well as in structure and approach. This time he goes for the gut right at the beginning.
Instead of following Mulligan in first-person perspective, as we have before, DeSilva gives us the point-of-view of another reporter, Edward Anthony Mason III, to tell the story.
We start with Mulligan in the ’90s, working as a sports reporter when a serial killer is on the loose. Because the lead investigator is a basketball fan, Mulligan ends up working the story. Mulligan discovers the identity of the killer, a young kid named Kwame Diggs.
When we jump to 2013, that is when we enter Mason’s perspective. Readers of the previous books may know him better as “Thanks Dad,” the moniker Mulligan has given him because he is the son of their paper’s (The Dispatch) owner.
In Providence Rag, Mason breaks from being Mulligan’s annoying tag-along to reporting on his own story of Rhode Island corruption. Due to an odd state loophole, a juvenile prisoner must be set free by his twenty-first birthday, no matter what he did. However, the Providence prison authorities have been keeping Kwame Diggs fifteens years past his 21st birthday on false infractions. Mason’s investigation into this power play by the prison guards creates a serious deadline for Mulligan. He wants to connect Diggs with another murder before he can be put on to the street to potentially kill again.
DeSilva’s novel is full of his trademark level of suspense, but more than that, it engages the reader in an ethics debate. Both Mason and Mulligan are equally right and misguided. The fact that neither is blind to his situation nor to the consequences of his actions make them both smart and sympathetic to one another.
Then, there’s the world of the reporter that DeSilva enlightens us to. We see some of the tactis reporters can use with witnesses as well as the process between reporters, editors and owners on the legal and ethical ramifications of running a story versus killing it. These scenes are reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone.
Providence Rag is a unique newspaper thriller. It ties emotion to debate, having you think as much as feel.
Providence Rag is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Bruce DeSilva will be at BookPeople on Friday, Mar 28 at 7PM, in conversation with Tom Abrahams. Click here for more information & to order signed copies of Providence Rag.
Make sure to join us on Wednesday March 26th for the Hard Word Book Club. On the docket is The Ranger by one of our favorite authors, Ace Atkins. You definitely don’t want to miss because we’ll be joined via telephone by Ace Atkins during the meeting to discuss the book.
Edgar nominated, The Ranger is a smart, fun mix of many of Ace’s loves: blues, country & western music, classic hard boiled crime fiction, Faulkner, and, especially, the Southern-set action films of the 1970s that starred Burt Reynolds and Joe Don Baker. The Ranger also takes a look at small town America post-recession and post the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The Hard Word Book Club discussion will take place on Wednesday, Mar 26 at 7PM on BookPeople’s third floor. Ace Atkins will be calling in to discuss The Ranger and its influences with us. Remember, the book is 10% off to those who attend the meeting.
This week’s story comes from the crime fiction online zine, Shotgun Honey. It’s written by Jim Wilsky, co-author of a three book series: Blood on Blood, Queen of Diamonds and the most recent release, Closing the Circle.
Also, to note, Shotgun Honey is looking for submissions. They have served as a launching pad for great writers in the past few years. The biggest rule is that stories have a maximum of 700 words. You can find out more about their guidelines by clicking here.
“The car stopped and he was pulled out, landing on his knees. Yanked to his feet, he was pushed forward. They stopped. Two pounds on a door and it creaked open. The door slammed behind him and he heard a bolt being thrown.
Forward again. Another door opened.
“Steps.” The voice on his left shoulder grunted. Bender tripped immediately and began to fall forward. And down. Hands tied behind him, his face would be the first to hit wherever he ended up….”
Look Out for The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya
On Our Shelves April 29th
It’s been close to half a decade since Dennis Tafoya came out with a new book. His take on Philly area crime has the gritty pathos of a Springsteen song. The Poor Boy’s Game proves he hasn’t lost his rhythm.
The main character, Frannie Mullen has more than her share of demons. The main one is her father Patrick, a vicious union enforcer. Patrick escapes from prison and in his wake leaves a trail of dead bodies. Everyone is in danger, including Patrick’s pregnant girlfriend. It’s up to Frannie to confront him and protect those closest to her.
The story is a dysfunctional family tale disguised as a crime novel full of intense shoot-outs, grimy settings, and hard dialogue. Like a great cop film from The 70s, The Poor Boy’s Game is uncompromising entertainment.
The Poor Boy’s Game is available for pre-order online via bookpeople.com.
Bruce DeSilva is a bit hard to define as an author. His series is both classic and modern. He can be incredibly funny, then plunge you right into the brutal darkness. The two distinct things about him: he writes in the subgenre of journalistic hard-boiled mystery and he’s damn good at it.
DeSilva’s hero is Liam Mulligan, a newspaper reporter in Providence, Rhode Island. He’s low on money, flush in the bad luck department (especially when it comes to women), and packs a revolver when he needs to. He also has great quips, an old school sense of justice and an addiction to getting a good story. There’s strong forward momentum here carried by the dialogue, action, and reveals.
What keeps his series up to speed are the subjects DeSilva looks into. His debut, Rogue Island, had Liam investigating arson tied to corrupt politicians and real estate investors. In Cliff Walk, the plot involves a discovered loop hole in Rhode Island law that makes certain kinds of prostitution legal. In a further twist, a Navy SEAL is murdered and is linked to the newly allowed brothels. Mulligan’s investigations keep him more than occupied, but DeSilva brings us back down into the grind while Mulligan’s newspaper struggles to stay alive.
Desilva’s latest, Providence Rag, is a bit of a departure. It has a darker tone from the outset and is told in third person with Mulligan racing against another reporter. In the past, Mulligan scoffed at Mason, the newspaper owner’s son, thinking him a joke. But, now he’s his hardest competition. Mulligan’s digging to find a serial killer while Mason is uncovering corruption within the Providence prisons that could set Mulligan’s accused man free.
There’s so much energy and excitement here. It’s further proof that DeSilva has a lot more stories to tell.
Bruce DeSilva will be at the store on Friday, Mar 28 at 7PM speaking & signing copies of Providence Rag (available on our shelves now). He’ll be joined in conversation with Tom Abrahams (Allegiance). Click here for more information & to pre-order your signed copy now.