Feb 232018
 

Shadow Crimes

by E. J. Moran

on Tour February 1 – March 3, 2018

Synopsis:

Shadow Crimes by E. J. Moran

The year is 1978, and the New York fashion industry is an orgy of glitz, glamour, and decadence. New models—especially those as beautiful as eighteen-year- old Anna McKenna—are prime targets for all kinds of predators.

Anna is already aware of the men who enjoy preying on models. She knows a woman represented by her modeling agent was found raped and murdered—but she tells herself that, tragic though it was, this is New York. Such things happen. Mickey Gallo is less sanguine about the killing, but he’s both a police detective and Anna’s protective uncle. In Anna’s mind, she doesn’t need his protection. Or so she thinks.

When one murder becomes two, Anna’s confidence is shaken, but she’s determined to accept an offer to model in Italy. There, surrounded by beauty, Anna will confront the darkest side of the fashion industry. It’s an encounter she may not survive.

Check out my Review here and enter the giveaway!

Book Details:

Genre: International Mystery & Crime, Mystery & Detective
Published by: TreeLane Press
Publication Date: December 2017
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN: 0999523503 (ISBN 13: 9780999523506)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Q&A with E.J. Moran

Welcome!

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I draw from personal experience.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
When I write, I start from the beginning and see where the story line brings me.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Many of my characters are based on people I’ve known, or a combination of such.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I write most mornings when I first wake up. No idiosyncrasies other than I demand absolute silence! 🙂

Tell us why we should read this book.
You should read this novel because it will take you along on a thrilling and terrifying journey through life as a fashion model in the late 70’s with a rapist/ killer on the loose.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite author is Erik Larson. I love the way he combines history and crime, as demonstrated in Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck, two of my favorite books of all time.

What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and am about to pick up ‘The Swans of Fifth Avenue.’

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m working on a sequel at the moment. It takes place between New York City and Tokyo, Japan and encompasses many of the characters from Shadow Crimes.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

If my book were to be made into a movie, maybe I would cast Bradley Cooper as Mickey. We’d have to darken his hair and rough him up a bit, but he already has beautiful light eyes, he’s the right age, and he’s half Italian. I’d cast the gorgeous Jessica Green as Anna. She has striking eyes, but we’d have to change her hair color.

Thank you for stopping by!

Author Bio:

E. J. Moran

Born and educated in the United States, E. J. Moran began a career as an international fashion model at the age of eighteen when she was scouted by a top modeling agency based in Milan, Italy.

Moran’s move to Italy set in motion the rest of her career. She signed with top agents and modeled for famous fashion designers and photographers. Her work took her to Milan, Tokyo, New York, and Paris.

After marrying and starting a family, she retired as a fashion model and continued life as an expatriate in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Singapore, and Italy, where she divided her free time between teaching English and volunteering for multiple international organizations.

Recently, she decided to put pen to paper and make fictional use of the plethora of experiences she gained during her globetrotting life. Moran and her husband currently divide their time between Europe and the United States.

Catch Up With E. J. Moran On ejmoranauthor.com & on Facebook!

Read an excerpt:

Part 1

New York City, 1978

April Night

The buzz of the intercom surprised Rhonda. It was 11:00 p.m. and she was about to go to sleep.

“Hello?” she said.

“Hello, Rhonda?”

The man identified himself and she recognized his name immediately. “What are you doing here?”

“Sorry. I know it’s late. I wanted to speak to you earlier but couldn’t because there were too many other models around. I may have a potential opportunity just for you.”

“Oh?” She was dead tired and the last thing she wanted was unexpected company. Nevertheless, she didn’t feel she could say no to any possible break that presented itself. She was desperate to make it in the modeling world.

“OK. Let me buzz you up.” She opened the front door and waited for the rickety vintage elevator at the far end of the hall to set in motion. It was completely black, so she turned on the hall lights. She thought about how crazy she had been to rent an apartment in a building that was mostly for commercial use. The building was totally empty at night, as was the surrounding area. It was the meatpacking district after all. No one ever showed up until around 6:00 a.m. Yes, the rent was dirt cheap, but in hindsight it was a huge mistake. How could she know any better though? She was only eighteen—a complete babe in the woods. Not only that, no one taught her anything. Growing up, her mom worked every day, and most nights, to support her and her younger sisters. Her father was nowhere in sight, never had been, so with no money and no father she knew very little about how to make decisions; she just had pure ambition. That’s what lead her to NYC, hardly a penny in her pocket, to become a model.

The clattering elevator came to a halt. Its passenger opened the scissor gate, then the double door, and exited. “Thank you for letting me up,” he said as he walked toward Rhonda.

“Hi,” she said sweetly. “Come on in.” Rhonda motioned him through the door. “I’m really sorry but I’m already in my nightgown. I was about to go to sleep.”

“Of course, it’s late.” He glanced around the miniscule studio. It was neat and barren, apart from a tiny, decrepit kitchenette, a single bed, and a small side table lined with a few of Rhonda’s modeling photos. “So, this is the apartment you were talking about?” he said, shaking his head in dismay. “You can do better than this. It’s horrible here.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Rhonda said, putting her head down with embarrassment. “Unfortunately though, I couldn’t afford more.” Regaining her composure, she smiled softly. “Anyway, the good news is I pay month-to-month, and as soon as I make some decent money modeling I’m going to move out.”

“That’s what I wanted to speak to you about.”

“Well, have a seat,” she said, laughing as she motioned to a corner at the far end of the bed. “Can I get you something to drink first?” she asked as he sat down.

“No, nothing, thank you.” He looked at her intently, following her every gesture as she perched herself down near the head of the bed.

“So you want to be a famous model?”

She nodded in agreement.

“Let’s talk about what I can do for you.”

“Terrific” she said, overjoyed by his interest in helping her.

“I think you have a lot of potential. I really do.”

Rhonda smiled eagerly and took in a big breath of air, emphasizing her svelte, perfect figure.

“It’s not easy though to make it as a model. Beautiful girls are a dime a dozen,” he said.

“I know. It’s true. I see so many beautiful models every day.”

“Exactly. That’s why you need someone with connections, someone with power, to help you.”

“You’re right,” Rhonda said. She could hardly believe she may be about to get her lucky break, one that could launch her to stardom in the modeling world.

Suddenly, he reached for her arm and pulled her toward him.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Rhonda’s eager smile faded. Confused, she tried to pull away.

“You know what I’m doing, Rhonda.”

“No I don’t. You said you wanted to speak with me.”

“You want help? You want to make it big?”

“Yes, but not this way.” She struggled to get away, but her resistance made him angry.

“You know you want this. I could see it in your eyes earlier.”

“No I don’t,” she said, still trying to pull away as his fingers dug into her arms.

He didn’t loosen his grip. “You are so sexy, don’t you know that?”

“Stop. I don’t want to do this. I’m still a virgin.”

“A virgin?” He pushed her back and held onto her tightly with outstretched arms, his piercing stare locking onto her terrified eyes. “I don’t believe you.”

“I am, I swear!” She tried to loosen his grip and get up from the bed. “You got the wrong impression.”

“Then why are you such a cockteaser?” His large almond-shaped eyes began to shrink as he held her firm and squinted at her with the most evil look she had ever seen.

“I’m not. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Pulling her closer, he kissed her hard as she desperately made futile attempts to get away.

“You slut!”

Rhonda squirmed and dodged his attempts to kiss her, shrieking in terror. He wrestled her down on the bed, straddling her hips and pushing her down against the pillow. He smothered her face with one of his large hands, both to shut her up and hold her still. Terrified she froze.

“Cockteaser! You’re like all the others,” he hissed.

Using his free hand, he undid his trousers and forced himself inside her. Rhonda could only whimper, too paralyzed with fear to do anything else. He grew more and more excited with each thrust, mumbling incoherent words of disgust and hatred until he reached his climax.

Rhonda bled to death in her own bed, her throat sliced with a seven-inch combat knife.

***

“Looks like she’s been dead a few days,” Detective Tansey said as he stared at Rhonda’s decomposing body. The ruggedly handsome man held his cool demeanor while the two officers from the crime lab covered their noses—the room was beginning to have a foul smell.

“Do you think she was a model?” Officer Kasinski asked.

“Maybe.” Tansey glanced over at the professional-looking photos of Rhonda on the nightstand. “Definitely not a famous one though if she was living in a place like this.”

“Unless she was a druggie. Could have spent all her money on cocaine or something,” Officer Smith added.

“True, seen that before.”

Kasinski checked out the bathroom and returned. “No signs of drug paraphernalia.”

Tansey searched Rhonda’s outstretched arms. “No signs of track marks either. She must have been living in this shithole because it was cheap.”

The men shook their heads in disgust at the level of violence.

“Killer didn’t just cut her throat, he damn near took her head off,” Smith said.

“Looks like she’s been raped too, judging by the bruising,” Tansey added.

“My guess is that she let him up here,” Kasinski continued. “The intercom works, and there are no apparent signs of forced entry. That is, unless he was already in the building and snuck into her apartment while she slept. The lock is a joke.”

“Or maybe she brought him home with her,” Smith countered.

“Possibly. OK, let’s get to work. We don’t need to stare at her anymore.” Tansey glanced away from the dead girl and began assessing the room for more evidence.

A few hours later, he picked up Rhonda’s telephone and called the coroner’s office. The men had collected everything that could be useful; now it was time to have the poor girl removed from the putrid, blood-soaked bed and taken to the morgue.

***

Excerpt from Shadow Crimes by E. J. Moran. Copyright © 2017 by E. J. Moran. Reproduced with permission from E. J. Moran. All rights reserved.

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Feb 082018
 

Framed

by Leslie Jones

on Tour February 1 – March 3, 2018

Synopsis:

Framed by Leslie Jones

The next action-packed thriller from the author of Night Hush, Bait, and Deep Cover

When former hacker turned FBI cybersecurity specialist Hadley “Lark” Larkspur is asked to analyze a piece of malware, she never imagines the simple task will put her on the radar of underworld criminals. After armed gunmen try to abduct her outside a nightclub, though, it’s suddenly clear she’s in way over her head.

Delta Force operator Thomas “Mace” Beckett is in Boston awaiting his next assignment when he witnesses an attempted kidnapping. His training forces him to intervene, but then the woman pulls a gun on him. Mace isn’t sure what to make of the spitfire holding him hostage, but he quickly discovers that Lark is an innocent pawn in a dangerous game. Someone has framed her for the theft of millions from the mafia, and they want her to pay… in blood, if necessary.

With only days to find the funds, Lark and Mace scramble to track the real culprit. But their investigation unexpectedly leads straight to the heart of a terrible plot, one that could mean death for thousands. The criminals have stolen something far worse than money… and it’s about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 30th 2018
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 0062499475 (ISBN13: 9780062499479)
Series: Duty & Honor #4 | Each is a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Q&A with Leslie Jones

Welcome!

Thank you Cheryl! I’m thrilled to be here.

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

I do use my personal experiences in my writing. Eleven years in the Army exposed me to a plethora of sticky situations and entertaining characters. Great grist for the mill! I’m always on the lookout for current events that will inspire a plot twist, but I generally don’t write from the headlines. By the time the book comes out, the events are already dated. I’d rather create my own unique plots.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I’m a plotter by nature. I always start a book by developing my heroes and villains. Then I brainstorm different scenarios, accept or reject plot ideas, and try to go beyond the obvious to something unique and exciting. While my books aren’t inspired by real-world events, I strive to create believable scenarios that will make readers say, “Boy, I hope that never really happens!”

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

Lark, the female protagonist in Framed, was inspired by my best friend. Lark has a vibrant personality all her own, with quirks and mannerisms that are unique and entertaining. I enjoyed writing her the most of any of my characters. My BFF says I nailed it!

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

Now that I’m an empty-nester, I sleep in until 8:00, then stumble to the coffeepot for my caffeine. I check email and Facebook, then play a couple rounds of Candy Crush while I eat breakfast. Eventually I schlep myself through the shower. I write from 10 till 6 weekdays. Sometimes I remember to eat lunch.

Tell us why we should read this book.

Framed has a complex plot that was very challenging to write. It follows the story of Hadley “Lark” Larkspur, who is framed by an unknown entity for the theft of millions of dollars of mafia money. That’s just the beginning, though. With only days to find the funds and return them, Lark and Delta Force special operator Mace Beckett scramble to track the real culprit. But their investigation unexpectedly leads straight to the heart of a terrible plot, one that could mean death for thousands. The criminals have stolen something far worse than money…and it’s about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Suzanne Brockmann, Janet Evanovich, Robert B. Parker, and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series. I also love Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books. When I want something a little darker, I head for Andrew Vachss.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading One Shot by Lee Child.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m excited to be starting a brand-new series, tentatively called the Hard Chargers. The 1st book, Kill Zone, is about a joint Delta Force/85th Military Police Battalion training mission that takes a deadly turn when convicts bound for the United States Disciplinary Barracks overrun a Fort Huachuca, Arizona prisoner transfer facility. I’m thoroughly enjoying figuring out how to torment my heroes!

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I would be so thrilled to have any of my books made into a movie, I’d love anyone they cast.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I love reading and painting. I’m also heavily involved with my local writing chapter.

Favorite meal?

Pizza, without a doubt – ham and pineapple with black olives. And double chocolate fudge ice cream for dessert. Yum.

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

Thanks so much for having me!

Leslie Jones

Author Bio:

Leslie Jones was an Army Intelligence officer for many years and she brings her first-hand experience to the pages of her work. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is currently hard at work on her next book.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt:

Lark came even with an idling taxi, unaware of the danger as the two men stopped on either side of her. She half-turned, surprise and then alarm filling her face as she finally noticed them. A puff of white escaped her open mouth. She wrenched open the door of the taxi to escape, but one of the men yanked her away, pulling a Colt M1911 and pressing it into her stomach.

Mace came in fast and low, catching the second gunman around the waist and riding him down hard. The man’s head smacked against the pavement. Mace tore the semiautomatic from his hand, already rising and turning to the man holding Lark. The taxi driver yelled something Mace couldn’t hear and burned rubber as he raced away from the violence. Fucking coward.

He forced himself to ignore the blind panic on her face, instead focusing on the threat.

“What the fuck?” said the gunman. “Who the hell are you?”

Mace felt his expression go cold. “I’m the man who’s goan kill you if you don’ let her go.”

The man’s eyes narrowed and his grip on Lark tightened. The two gunmen—Dumb and Dumber—wore clothing almost identical to his own. Black jackets over T-shirts, military pants and black boots.

Dumb frowned as he looked Mace up and down. “Did Palachka send you? We got this covered, man. Get lost.”

“Let her go. Now.”

Dumb shook his head, anger growing in the depths of his eyes. “I got my orders. Palachka wants to have a chat with her, so I ain’t going to hurt her none.”

Damned straight he wasn’t. These men were muscle, just following orders. Palachka’s orders.

Who the hell was Palachka?

He glanced at the crowd. A small group watched them, grinning and nudging one another. As long as they thought theirs was simply a drunken brawl, no one would bother to call the police.
Lark hadn’t so much as twitched a muscle, but the whites of her eyes showed and he could feel her terror. She, too, looked at the line outside the nightclub.

He took a risk with a bald-faced lie. “Palachka tol’ me to take over. He said to tell you to head back and leave her to me. I’m the one’s goan to chat with her.”

Dumber picked himself up off the pavement and staggered over to his partner. “Lying prick. He’d’ve called us. And I don’t know you.”

“Best you don’ know me. I’m who Palachka calls when fucks like you bungle it.” Mace snorted. “What, you think he don’t have nothing better to do than deal with the likes of you? He’s waiting for you, though. Don’t want him pissed, do you?”

Both blanched. Mace walked casually over and tugged on Lark’s arm. Dumb hesitated, looked into Mace’s icy eyes, and finally loosened his grip. Mace lifted the Colt he’d taken from Dumber, pointing the barrel at the sky.

“This registered anywhere?”

Dumber felt the back of his head for the lump that must be forming. His fingers came away red with blood. “Nah, man. It’s clean. Why’d you wallop me, man?”

“Get out of here. We’re attracting attention.” He stared pointedly at the line of people outside the Promenade. “I’ll check in with Palachka when I’m done with her.”

Mace settled the matter by tightening his grip on Lark and dragging her toward the parking lot. Dumb and Dumber followed, exchanging a look.

“I’d better check in with him,” Dumb called. “Make sure you’re on the level.”

Mace forced an uncaring shrug. “Your funeral.”

They reached the edge of the deserted lot. Mace paused, raising his eyes pointedly. The two men hesitated, then shrugged and started in the opposite direction.

Stupid fucks.

Lark wrenched her arm so abruptly he lost his grip, and she took off like a rabbit back toward the nightclub. How could she even run in those ridiculously high heels? He caught her in three strides. Sure, she’d be safe inside—for now. But what happened when the two gunmen realized Mace had clowned them? They’d be back, and they would be furious.

“Wait,” he said. He pulled her to a stop.

She swung her huge purse like a brick. He pulled back just in time to avoid being clocked in the head. She dug into her bag, scrabbling around inside. Maybe she really did have a brick in there.

“Come on. We have to get away from here. It won’t take those idiots long to figure out I’m not one of them.” He risked a glance behind.

When he turned back a second later, she had dropped her purse and now pointed a Smith & Wesson .38 Special at him, backing off several steps to gain distance. Her hands shook so badly he feared she’d drop it. He looked hard at it, then had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop the laughter that threatened.

The cylinders were empty; the revolver wasn’t even loaded.

Clearly, she was no criminal mastermind. So why were those men after her?

He needed to get her somewhere safe. Then he could get the answers he wanted. Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, he punched in the code to unlock it.

“Put it down!” she nearly shrieked. “Put down the goddamned phone. Drop it right now!”

Of course. He was the idiot. She now thought he worked for the same man who’d sent thugs after her. Interestingly enough, she’d demanded he drop the phone, but not the pistol he still carried. He bent down and set both on the muddy slush of the asphalt, stepping away from them and raising his arms from his sides to show her he meant her no harm.

“Look, that was just—”

“Shut up,” she snapped, narrowing her eyes. He guessed she was trying to cow him, but she seemed as threatening as a baby kitten. “If you don’t do what I say, I’ll…I’ll shoot you.”

********

Saturday, February 18. 12:35 a.m. The Promenade. Boston, Massachusetts.

Lark tightened her grip on the gun, her mind a blank. Her life had been threatened. Why? And what the hell was she supposed to do now?

“I’m calling the police.” She tried to reach her right front pocket with her left hand, but it shook so badly she couldn’t manage it.

“No.”

“What?” She stopped fumbling with her phone out and stared at him.

“No. I can’t allow you to call the police. Either I’ll have to vacate the area or they’ll arrest me. Either way, I can’t protect you.”

He seemed so calm. Did he know she wouldn’t shoot him? The gun Kaley had insisted she buy felt heavy in her hand. In fact, Kaley had all but dragged her to the gun store, explaining to the owner that Lark often worked late at night, when Chelsea was dark, deserted, and dangerous. The box of bullets in the bottom of her purse made it worse than useless, but she’d barely had time to register for a class in how to use the gun, let alone load it. Not that she’d admit such a thing to him.

His words finally penetrated her panicked mind. “You should be arrested. Attacking defenseless women on the street? Kidnapping? You should be in jail.”

“I did none of those things.” Mace nodded toward the nightclub. “This is too public. Someone is going come into the parking lot soon. Someone will have called the police by now. We need to get out of here.”

She snorted. “So you can protect me?”

“Yes.” He remained maddeningly calm.

“Bullshit.” Call the police, her rational mind told her. Let them handle it. It was their job, after all. But some buried instinct agreed with him. In her experience, the police were the enemy. You’re not a hacker any more. You’re legit. You work for the FBI. You have nothing to fear.

Except maybe being arrested for carrying a gun in her purse without a permit. She’d worry about that little detail later.

But old habits died hard. If Mace were arrested, the odds that the cops would share information with her were minimal, and she would still be in the dark. And it pissed her off that her big brain couldn’t find a logical solution to her current dilemma. “We’re going to walk to my car. If the police show up, so be it. You become their problem. Get your hands up higher, and walk in front of me.”

Common sense dictated she force him to leave. To get into her car and drive away. To call 911 and hope for the best. But she’d still know nothing. Mace was clearly working with those other men with guns, and she needed him to tell her what was going on. That meant keeping him with her. Not her smartest idea ever, since he’d been sent to kill her. But what choice did she have?

She’d make him spill the beans. Somehow.

Right now, she needed to get out of this neighborhood before any more black-clad thugs came within grabbing distance of her.

“Move,” she said, deepening her voice and snapping off the words. Hopefully he couldn’t see the tremors in her hands. Thankfully he obeyed, strolling down the line of cars as though she didn’t have a gun trained on him. She scooped up her purse and followed.

“Go to the left. Down this row. There…no, stop. The orange Jeep Liberty.”

He paused beside her car. “Good God. You actually drive this thing?”

It had been her first purchase after getting her Master’s degree, even before the FBI hired her. She’d been so relieved to ditch her junker and drive a new-ish car, and she’d gotten a smoking deal on it. Her hackles rose, and for a moment, she forgot to be terrified.

“It’s a sweet ride. What do you know?”

He grinned at her. “Whatever you say.”

For a moment, she wished she’d gone through agent training with the FBI, instead of as a computer scientist. She’d know, for instance, how to shoot her shiny new gun. Computer scientists received training at Quantico, sure. But in reverse engineering of malware, digital forensics, and intrusion detection. Administrative processes. She’d received no training in firearms, tactics, or taking smokin’ hot men prisoner.

Who else could she call for advice? Trevor’s mobile was number five on her phone’s favorites tab. It would be, what? Nine in the morning in London, assuming he wasn’t on assignment. She put a hand to her head. Her gun hand, she realized, as it thumped her temple. “God damn hairy ass wrinkly old man balls!”

Mace laughed. “You don’ mess around, do you? Dat was an impressive bit of cussing.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Lark, I’m serious. It won’ take those yahoos long to come back. We need to be long gone by then. Please trust me.”

First thing first. Before her innards melted from his honeyed Cajun drawl, she switched the revolver to her left hand, keeping it trained on him as she fished her phone out.

“Please don’t call the cops,” he said again. “Say they show up. You tell them what happen’. I tell them what happen’. Maybe they take me down to the station, maybe they just put me in a squad car while they check me out. Either way, the cops will release me. But while all the fuss is going on, you might decide to just walk away. Bad people are gunning for you. Keep me with you.”

She shot him a warning glare and pressed Trevor’s number. It went straight to voice mail. Now what?

She swung her bag forward so she could scrabble inside for her keys. Damn it! She risked a quick look inside her purse and spotted them. Hooking the ring out with a finger, she tossed the whole thing to him. He caught it one handed.

“Get into the driver’s seat,” she commanded.

He obeyed, squashing his six-foot-three inch frame into the driver’s seat. “Gawd damn. This t’ing built for a child.”

He reached down and pulled the seat lever, sighing in relief as the seat moved back. He stretched his legs, reaching across to unlock the passenger door for her. She dropped her bag at her feet before easing inside, keeping the gun trained on him. He glanced at her and away. She could have sworn he hid a smile.

“Now what?” he asked.

She had no earthly clue. Putting a hand to her aching head, she made a sound of pure frustration. Only he could provide the information she needed.

She couldn’t take him to her home; that would be insane.

Would it?

It would have to be her room at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge. Kaley had insisted the entire wedding party stay at the hotel the night before the wedding.

“A hotel.”

“Good choice. I know one down by—”

“No,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere anyone knows you, or can find you.”

“All right. You’re calling the shots.”

Why did he seem so calm? She’d threatened to shoot him.

“Get on the freeway.”

He put the car into gear and drove on surface streets till he got to the highway, then took the entry ramp and merged with traffic. They headed northwest.

“Take this exit.”

“Why this one?”

“Just do it!” She couldn’t help the way her voice rose. “Turn left.”

Mace made a soothing motion with one hand, then returned it to the wheel. “Look, I know what I said back there. I played along to get them away from you. I’m not trying to hurt you.”

“Yeah, you’re just trying to kill me.” Anger replaced her fear. She lifted the gun and pressed it against his head. “Turn in here, asshole.”

Mace slowed and turned into the parking garage for the Hyatt Regency Cambridge. Lark cringed, already regretting her choice to bring him back here.

“What now?”

In for a penny, in for a pound. That sounded like something Trevor would have said. Remembering his cool competence steadied her. She squared her shoulders. “Park it.”

Mace did so. “Now what?”

Lark felt like tearing her hair out in frustration. How could she get him up to her room without him just walking away? “Now you tell me what’s going on. Now you tell me who the fuck Palachka is, and why he wants me dead.”

Surprise lifted his brows. “You don’t know?”

“Aagh!” She thunked her head against the headrest. “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. All right. This is what we’re going to do. You’re going to open your door and come out with your hands where I can see them. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

What would she do if he attacked her here, in the still, dark parking lot? He’d already caught her once because of her high heels. She could threaten all she liked, but, ultimately, she had no control over him.

“Stand by the hood and don’t move.”

When he’d complied, she dug frantically in her purse for the box of bullets. The store owner had shown her how to open the cylinder thingy so she could put the bullets into the holes, but hadn’t allowed her to load it inside his store. Pulling the box into her lap, she fumbled it open, spilling most of the bullets down her leg and onto the floor mat. Swearing and sneaking looks at Mace to ensure he hadn’t moved, she pressed the button to swing the cylinder open, and got it on the third try. Shoving some bullets into the holes, she pushed the cylinder closed again. According to the gun store owner, all she had to do now was pull the trigger. She reached down and scooped as many bullets as she could find back into her purse.

Time to face the music. Or the firing squad.

***

Excerpt from Framed by Leslie Jones. Copyright © 2017 by Leslie Jones. Reproduced with permission from Leslie Jones. All rights reserved.

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Feb 022018
 

The Amendment Killer by Ronald S. Barak Tour Banner

The Amendment Killer

by Ronald S. Barak

on Tour February 1 – March 3, 2018

Synopsis:

The Amendment Killer by Ronald S. Barak

“WE HAVE YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER. HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.”

That’s the text message Supreme Court Justice Arnold Hirschfeld receives as hearings commence in the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the fate of the 28th Amendment – enacted to criminalize abuse of power on the part of our political representatives.

In court to defend the amendment, retired U.S. District Court Judge Cyrus Brooks observes his old friend and law school classmate Hirschfeld acting strangely and dispatches veteran D.C. homicide detective Frank Lotello to find out why.

In the meantime, Hirschfeld’s precocious and feisty 11-year-old diabetic granddaughter Cassie, brutally kidnapped to control her grandfather’s swing vote upholding or invalidating the amendment, watches her insulin pump running dry and wonders which poses her greatest threat, the kidnappers or the clock. As Brooks is forced to choose between saving our nation or saving the girl.

**Read my review HERE and enter the giveaway**

 

Editorial Reviews

THE AMENDMENT KILLER is tense, timely, and terrific!”
-Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels

“With an unparalleled sense of terror forewarned on the opening page, Ron Barak’s THE AMENDMENT KILLER is a high-speed, tense political thriller about one of today’s most fundamental issues, the integrity of our SupremeCourt.”
Andrew Gross, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The One Man

THE AMENDMENT KILLER is a high concept, hybrid blend of a political, psychological and action thriller all rolled into a smooth, savory, and suspenseful mix. Ron Barak manages to channel the best of John Grisham, David Baldacci and even Steve Berry in this amazingly timely tale cast with a SupremeCourt backdrop. As prescient as it is thought-provoking and as much fun as it is factual, this is reading entertainment of the highest order. I’d be shocked if this book doesn’t become a bestseller.”
Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of Strong Light of Day

“From its electrifying opening line to its powerful conclusion, THE AMENDMENT KILLER is a ripped from tomorrow’s headlines story of law and politics set against the backdrop of the Supreme Court. But more so, it’s a story about the lengths we will go for the ones we love. Timely, fast-paced, and heartfelt, you’ll mourn the turning of the last page. Ron Barak is a writer to watch.”
Anthony Franze, author of The Outsider

“Ron Barak’s THE AMENDMENT KILLER is easily the best high stakes legal thriller we’ve read in 2017.”
Best Thriller Magazine

 

Book Details:

Genre: Political and Legal Thriller
Published by: Gander House Publishers
Publication Date: November 1st 2017
Number of Pages: 570
ISBN: 0982759096 (ISBN13: 9780982759097)
Series: Brooks/Lotello Thriller, Volume 1

 

**Q&A with Ronald S. Barak**

Welcome!
Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I draw from personal experiences and current events. The idea for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution criminalizing abuse on the part of our political representatives came from my observation of current events, the political dysfunction in modern day Washington, D.C. But I combined my observation of those current events with my personal experiences as a courtroom lawyer, both how the Supreme Court battle takes place in The Amendment Killer and on the language of the 28th Amendment. The story is about that amendment. As you may know, I drafted that amendment in the real world and put it on my website even though it’s just fantasy in my novel.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start in the beginning and work toward the end. I know what happens in the opening scene of the novel and generally what I think will happen, but I don’t know the specifics or the details. I am not a plotter. I don’t make an outline first of how the story will go. I am a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants, making up the details as I go.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Yes. First of all, Cyrus Brooks is patterned after me. I think his personality and his humor is very much like mine. Also Cyrus’ wife Eloise is very much like my wife Barbie. You will note that Cyrus and Eloise have a dog, named Ryder, and a cat, named Maccabee, or Maccs. Ryder and Maccs are based on a real dog and a real cat that Barbie and I have. Unfortunately, the real world Maccs recently had kidney failure and became very ill. We had to put him to sleep because he was suffering. That was of course very hard on Barbie and me. I wrote about losing Maccs on my website blog. There is one other character in The Amendment Killer that is based on real world people we know. Cyrus works with a detective by the name of Frank Lotello. Frank has a daughter who is named Madison. She is best friends in the novel with Cassie Webber, the young kidnapped diabetic granddaughter of the Supreme Court Justice who is kidnapped in the story to control her grandfather’s vote in the very important case concerning the 28th Amendment. Our granddaughter is named Madison. Frank’s daughter is patterned after our real-world granddaughter Madison.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
My routine is not very routine. When I have lots of responsibilities to my law clients, I have to fit my writing in when I can, one or two hours at a time here or there, sometimes very early in the morning or late in the day. When I’m able to reduce my law practice commitments then I write as much every day as possible, at least four to six hours and sometimes twelve to fifteen hours. That’s not hard on me because I really like writing. The only idiosyncrasy that I have is I like to write sitting on the floor. I put my back against a sofa and my laptop computer keyboard and monitor on a coffee table in front of me. It sounds weird, but it’s actually very comfortable and works well for me. I listen to my music while I write and I have my cell phone within reach—unless I’m on deadline.

Tell us why we should read this book.
Because I wrote the book for people to read. I love engaging with my readers. I answer all of my emails personally. I think people should also read the book because it is very timely in terms of the political dysfunction in our country today. I try to write novels that are very timely, and cause people to think about what’s going on in the world. I also try to make my stories very exciting. Lee Child, NYT #1 bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novel called my book “Tense, timely, and terrific!” He gave me that for the cover of my novel. Best Thriller Magazine recently featured The Amendment Killer on the cover of its magazine and called it “Easily the best high stakes legal thriller of 2017. At the end of the day, the reason why people should read this book is because what all the readers who have posted five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are saying about it. They are the judges, not me. Oh, and one other reason to read this book: To read it you need to buy it and my wife and I have pledged 50% of the proceeds of sales of the book to diabetes research. Like Cassie in the novel, 30 million people in the real-world U.S.—one in every ten Americans is diabetic. I am one of those 30 million.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I read almost all of the novels of the present and past bestselling thriller and mystery writers.

What are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading two novels, The Outsider by Anthony Franze, who writes great mysteries about the U.S. Supreme Court where he practices appellate law, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie, which many in England call the best English mystery of all time.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am working on my next novel, The Puppet Master. It’s another in the Brooks/Lotello Thriller series and is the prequel to The Amendment Killer. It’s in final rewriting and editing and I expect it to be released before next summer. You can read the first five chapters of it at the end of The Amendment Killer. It’s about a vigilante serial killer in modern Washington, D.C. going around assassinating corrupt political leaders. It’s a real who-dunnit. Or maybe I should say why-dunnit? No spoilers here.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie.

From you lips! Who would you cast? I’ll go you one better. Please go to my website, www.ronaldsbarak.com/meet-the-characters/the-amendment-killer and www.ronaldsbarak.com/meet-the-characters/the-puppet-master, and see the images of all of the characters in The Amendment Killer and The Puppet Master as I perceive them and you tell me who you’d cast to play them.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Golf and reading.

Favorite meal?
Sushi and other Japanese food.

 

Author Bio:

Ronald S. Barak

Described by his readers as a cross between Agatha Christie, Lee Child, and John Lescroart, bestselling author Ron Barak keeps his readers flipping the pages into the wee hours of the night. While he mostly lets his characters tell his stories, he does manage to get his licks in too.

Barak derives great satisfaction in knowing that his books not only entertain but also stimulate others to think about how things might be, how people can actually resolve real-world problems. In particular, Barak tackles the country’s dysfunctional government representatives—not just back-seat driving criticism for the sake of being a back-seat driver, but truly framing practical remedies to the political abuse and corruption adversely affecting too many people’s lives today. Barak’s extensive legal background and insight allow him to cleverly cross-pollinatepollenate his fiction and today’s sad state of political reality.

In his latest novel, THE AMENDMENT KILLER, Barak calls upon his real world legal ingenuity and skill to craft a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution criminalizingcriminalizng political abuse and corruption that Constitutional scholars across the country are heralding as a highly plausible answer to the political chaos destroying the very moral fiber of the country today. It’s difficult to read THE AMENDMENT KILLER and not imagine what could—and should—be expected and demanded of those political leaders who have forgotten they are there to serve and not be served.

Barak is also a committed and strident advocate of finding a cure for diabetes. One of the primary characters in THE AMENDMENT KILLER is the feisty and precocious 11-year-old diabetic granddaughter of the Supreme Court justice holding the swing vote in a case in which Congress is challenging the validity of Barak’s hypothetical 28th Amendment. It is no small coincidence that Barak is himself a diabetic. Or that he has committed 50% of the net proceeds of THE AMENDMENT KILLER to diabetes research and education.

Barak is singularly qualified to have authored THE AMENDMENT KILLER, which will appeal to political and legal thriller aficionados alike. Barak is a law school honors graduate and a former Olympic athlete. While still in law school, he authored a bill introduced in Congress that overnight forced the settlement of a decades long dispute between the NCAA and the AAU to control amateur athletics in the United States.

Present-day politicians would do well to read THE AMENDMENT KILLER and not underestimate the potential of Barak’s 28th Amendment. You can read his 28th Amendment at ronaldsbarak.com/28th-amendment-page-2. You can also read his occasional political blogs at ronaldsbarak.com/blog.

Ron and his wife, Barbie, and the four-legged members of their family reside in Pacific Palisades, California.

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The Amendment Killer Trailer:

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Tuesday, May 6, 6:30 am

We have your granddaughter. Here’s what you need to do.

Thomas T. Thomas III reviewed the language. Again. He closed the phone without hitting send. Yet.

He stared through high-powered binoculars from atop the wooded knoll. As always, the girl hit one perfect shot after another.

Cassie Webber. Age 11. He’d been tailing her for three months. It seemed longer.

She was chaperoned everywhere she went. Two-a-day practices before and after school. Her dad drove her in the morning. He watched her empty bucket after bucket and then dropped her off at school. Her mom picked her up after school, ferried her back to the practice range, and brought her home after daughter and coach finished. Mom and daughter sometimes ran errands on the way, but always together. Even on the occasional weekend outing to the mall or the movies, the girl was constantly in the company of family or friends. Having someone hovering over me all day would have driven me batshit.

His childhood had been different. When Thomas was her age, he walked to school on his own. And he lived a lot farther away than the girl. His daddy had never let his driver chauffeur him around. Wasn’t about to spoil him. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Didn’t spoil me that way either.

He kept telling himself patience was the key. But his confidence was waning. And then, suddenly, he’d caught a break. The girl’s routine had changed.

She started walking the few blocks between school and practice on her own. Dad dropped her off at morning practice and Mom met her at afternoon practice instead of school. Only a ten minute walk each way, but that was all the opening he needed.

Everything was finally in place. He would be able to make amends. He would not let them down.

This time.

She completed her morning regimen, unaware of Thomas’s eyes trained on her from his tree-lined vantage point. No doubt about it, he thought to himself. She was incredibly good. Driven. Determined.

And pretty.

Very pretty.

He relieved himself, thinking about her. A long time . . . coming. Haha! As the girl disappeared into the locker room, he trekked back down the hill, and climbed into the passenger side of the van. He returned the binoculars to their case. He removed the cell from his pocket, and checked the pending text one more time.

Moments later, the girl emerged from the locker room, golf bag exchanged for the backpack over her shoulders. She ambled down the winding pathway, waved to the uniformed watchman standing next to the guardhouse, and crossed through the buzzing security gate. She headed off to school.

Without taking his eyes off her, Thomas barked at the man sitting next to him. “Go.”

Chapter 2

Tuesday, May 6, 7:00 am

Eloise Brooks stared at Cyrus and shook her head. After more than 50 years of marriage, she understood everything about him there was to understand. Still: “I take the time to make you a nice breakfast. The least you could do is eat it while it’s hot.”

She held the warm cup of tea in both hands. “And can’t you talk to me, Cyrus? Why do you treat me like I’m not here? Like I’m some kind of a potted plant.”

Cyrus moved the eggs around on his plate. Speared a bite of fruit, swallowed it, but showed no visible pleasure in it. “I’m eating. What do you want to talk about? You think the couple cut from Dancing With The Stars last night deserved to be sent packing?”

“Should have got the hook weeks ago. You dance better than he does. Even with your two left feet.”

He didn’t answer. She knew why. “What’re you thinking about? Esposito? Whether 50,000 is enough? Your two left feet?”

“All of the above.”

She gazed at him but said nothing. Notwithstanding his apparent disinterest in the plate of food in front of him, his appetite—and his imagination—were never-ending. He loved upbeat music and dancing. And sports. He couldn’t carry a tune or dance a lick. Except for an occasional round of golf, his sports these days were mostly played out in front of the television. But that didn’t stop him from daydreaming. He danced like Fred Astaire. He sang and played guitar and harmonica like Bob Dylan. He moved around a tennis court like Roger Federer.

However, Eloise knew his real passion in life was the law. He had enjoyed a distinguished legal career, first as a trial lawyer and then as a U.S. District Court judge. Now retired from the bench, writing and teaching, and occasionally trying a case that got his hackles up, when it came to the law, those who knew Cyrus Brooks knew he was second to none. Amazing how sometimes he exuded that—with confidence bordering on arrogance—but at other times did not. More so since Frank Lotello had been shot, and barely survived.

Brooks sat there fidgeting restlessly with the newspaper. Eloise reached over and put her hand on his. “You’ll be great, Cyrus. I need to walk Ryder and get dressed, so we can drive into Court together. Please make sure Maccabee’s dishes have enough water and dry cat snacks.”

Arguments in the case were scheduled to commence in barely two hours. The chance to appear before the United States Supreme Court was rare, even for Brooks, but to do it in a landmark case that could permanently change the U.S. political landscape was unparalleled.

When they were first married, Eloise often attended Cyrus’s court appearances, both to show her support and because the judicial process was new to her. Now long accustomed to Cyrus’s legal adventures, Eloise was a less frequent visitor to the courtroom. Given the importance of this case, she told Cyrus the night before that she planned to attend.

He looked up absently with a gentle, distant smile, still fixed in some far-off place, no doubt grateful for her efforts to distract him, and bolster his confidence. “Macc’s snacks? Sure.”

Chapter 3

Tuesday, May 6, 7:20 am

Cassie left the practice range, looking momentarily at the clock on her phone. School began at eight. She had plenty of time.

She strolled along the familiar middle-class neighborhood route to school, sticking to the tree-hugged, concrete sidewalk. Well-kept houses on modest-sized manicured lots, one after another, adorned both sides of the paved street that divided the opposing sidewalks.

Mouthing the words to the song streaming through her earbuds, she made a mental note of a few questions from her morning practice to ask Coach Bob that afternoon.

Using her ever present designer sunglasses—a gift from her grandparents—to block the sun’s glare, Cassie texted her best friend Madison:

Hey, BFF, meet u in cafeteria in 10. Out after 1st period to watch ur mom & my poppy in S Ct—how dope is that? 2 excited 4 words!

As she hit “Send,” she was startled by the sound of screeching tires. She looked up from her phone and saw a van skid to the curb a few houses ahead of her. A man in a hoodie jumped out and charged straight at her.

She froze for an instant, but then spun and raced back in the direction of the clubhouse. “Help! Help!! Someone help me!!!”

As she ran, she looked all around. No one. She saw no one. The guard kiosk was in sight, but still over a block away. Does he want to hurt me? Why? Why me?

Hearing the man gaining on her, she tried to speed up. If I can just get close enough to the gatehouse for someone to help me. She glanced back, shrieking at the top of her lungs, just as the man lunged. He knocked her to the ground, shattering her glasses in the process. “What do you want?! Leave me alone! Get off me!!!”

She saw him grappling with a large syringe. “No!” She screamed even louder, clawing and kicking him savagely—until she felt the sharp stab in the back of her neck. Then nothing.

***

Excerpt from The Amendment Killer by Ronald S. Barak. Copyright © 2017 by Ronald S. Barak. Reproduced with permission from Ronald S. Barak. All rights reserved.

 

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and
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Dec 272017
 

One Red Bastard

by Ed Lin

on Tour November 20 – December 31, 2017

Synopsis:

One Red Bastard by Ed Lin

It’s the fall of 1976, and New York’s Chinatown is in turmoil over news that Mao’s daughter is seeking asylum in the U.S. Robert Chow is a detective in training, and he is thrilled when his girlfriend Lonnie scores an interview with the Chinese representative of Mao’s daughter. But hours after the interview, the man is found dead. Lonnie, the last person to see him alive, is the main suspect.

As Lonnie is subjected to increasing amounts of intimidation from his fellow policemen, who want to close the case, Robert is tempted to reach into his own bag of dirty tricks. Will he stay on the right side of the law, or will his loyalty to Lonnie get the better of him? Find out in this exciting and fast-paced mystery set in one of New York’s most fascinating neighborhoods.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: November 21st 2017
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 0062444204 (ISBN13: 9780062444202)
Series: Detective Robert Chow #3
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Ed Lin

Ed Lin:

Ed Lin, a native New Yorker of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards and is an all-around standup kinda guy. His books include Waylaid and This Is a Bust, both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively. Snakes Can’t Run and One Red Bastard, which both continue the story of Robert Chow set in This Is a Bust, were published by Minotaur Books. His latest book, Ghost Month, a Taipei-based mystery, was published by Soho Crime in July 2014. Lin lives in Brooklyn with his wife, actress Cindy Cheung, and son.

INTERVIEW

Welcome!
On Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

I would say both. Even though One Red Bastard is set in 1976, when I look back through the lens of today to the past, I like to find a way to comment on today’s issues by showing similar events back then. My own take on things is the filter I write through, so my personal experiences and opinions are embedded with the story.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I actually go from the beginning to the end, but as I near the end, I jump ahead to write the ending and then backtrack a bit. I’m just so anxious to get the ending right, I want to jump there and get a first crack at that last line as soon as I can!

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

All of my characters are based on me. You know what they say about dreams, that every person you meet is really you. That’s what my books are like.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I don’t have a routine anymore–having a child will do that to you! Whenever I can clear an hour to work, I will. I made a point years ago to not have any “writing rituals” I needed to get out of the way because it was simply more procrastinating. I do, however, do my writing on vintage Macintosh laptops because I like the feel of the older keyboards, not the super-quiet newfangled ones.

Tell us why we should read this book.

This book will blow your mind with its surprising twists and turns. You will also never be able to look at Chinese people the same way.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Some of my favorite dead writers are Charles Willeford, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Hughes, Shirley Jackson and Chester Himes.

What are you reading now?

I am reading The Butcher’s Wife, which features the title novella and a few short stories by Li Ang, a Taiwanese writer. It’s quite ugly and violent but acts as an indictment against misogyny.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I also write a mystery series set in Taipei for Soho Crime. I’m currently writing the third book, the follow-up to Ghost Month and Incensed.

Fun questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I can’t do this. My wife is an actress and so many of our friends are in the acting community, which is rather tight among Asian Americans–these are the people who would populate the film version of the book. Let’s just say that I would try to get all my friends into it!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I really enjoy video games and reading, of course. I play bass, too, but I haven’t been able to round up people to be in a band for years.

Favorite meal?

Anything with decent fries, and by that, I mean real potatoey fries–none of that dry, mummy-meat sticks.
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

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Read an excerpt:

The woman was standing in a pool of wet ashes, her hands at her sides. She was about five seven but that was with heels on. Her thick black hair cascaded over her ears and shoulders, and she did something to it to make it shiny. A light brown coat stopped above a skirt that stopped midway down two taut thighs in stockings with a dull glow.

I smirked because I was sure that she had spent some time thinking about how she wanted to look from the rear. To men.

But this was no time for amusement. I came in close to her forehead and growled under my breath, “Barbara, what the hell are you doing here!”

When she turned around I saw my head and torso in her two black, sparkling eyes. Her face was long and not too narrow and came down to a chin that fairy princesses had. Her red lips, usually curved like a little blossom, were pulled taut into a wide smile.

She grabbed my arm and said, “Robert!”

“This is a crime scene! Now let’s get out of this thing!”

“I’m so sorry!”

She continued to hold on to me as we stepped over the tape together, matching leg for leg. I had lost part of my mind in Nam, but she had lost a lot more. Barbara used to be the prettiest girl in Chinatown. Now she was its prettiest widow.

“You know anything about the fire, Barbara?” I looked into her face. There was lightning behind her dark eyes.

“No. I don’t. Can we stop whispering now?”

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter at this point,” I said in full voice.

“Look, I didn’t mean any harm. I just had to see the place up close. Artie Yee published my first story, back when I was in grade school.”

“I didn’t know about that.”

“I brought it into school to show everybody. Don’t you remember?”

“How am I supposed to remember that one thing? You always had something to show off in school. If it wasn’t a story you wrote, it’d be a story about you.”

She snorted.

“Did you stay in touch with Artie over the years?” I asked.

“I’d run into him from time to time.”

“Were the two of you friends?”

“Oh, no, no. I learned to keep my distance from that one. Did you know that he asked me to marry him when I turned eighteen?”

“He wasn’t much better looking back then, was he?”

“He looked like a younger walrus.”

“You’re not enemies with Artie, though, are you?”

“I’m not one of them, but he has many enemies,” she said. “You know that.”

“He did his part in pissing off all areas of Chinatown.”

“Artie doesn’t respect authority. That’s a good thing for a journalist.”

“Then how come you didn’t keep writing for him?”

“Artie doesn’t respect women.” She shivered and then slapped my arm. “I heard Paul got into that program at Columbia.”

“Thanks to you,” I said.

“Thanks in part to me, anyway.” She paused. “Doesn’t that mean you’ll take me to dinner?”

“Maybe Paul should.”

“Get serious. Actually, maybe Paul should come and meet my youngest sister. You know she’s up at Columbia because she got into Barnard early. Maybe she should stick to Chinatown boys, like I should have.”

“Hey, Barbara, let’s talk about this later. I have to get back to work here.”

“You’re going to call me?”

“I’ll get in touch.”

She walked off and I returned to my post.

Years ago, Barbara and her three younger sisters were the four little princesses of Chinatown. She liked to say that her parents never did get that son, but the truth was her parents learned to love all their daughters to death. They all had beauty and smarts, and because of that you knew they’d get out of Chinatown and never come back.

But Barbara did return after her husband was killed in Khe Sanh. The oldest, the prettiest, and the smartest of the sisters, she moved back alone into their old family home to find some comfort, I guess.

There was a brief period when I thought she was the love of my life, but it was a while ago and it ended embarrassingly enough. Thinking about it again put me in a bad mood.

“Hello Sunshine,” said Vandyne.

“It was Barbara,” I said.

“Oh! What the hell was she doing there?”

“She wanted to see the place up close. Artie published one of her stories back when she was a smart, little girl.”

“Seriously, though, could she have had anything at all to do with this?”

“Her? No way, man!”

“Do you know that for sure?”

“Yes,” I said. “I would bet my soul on it.”

***

Excerpt from One Red Bastard by Ed Lin. Copyright © 2017 by Ed Lin. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

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Dec 072017
 

Strong to the Bone by Jon Land Banner

Strong to the Bone

by Jon Land

on Tour December 4, 2017 – January 31, 2018

Synopsis:

STRONG TO THE BONE by Jon Land

1944: Texas Ranger Jim Strong investigates a triple murder inside a Nazi POW camp in Texas.

The Present: His daughter, fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself pursuing the killer her father never caught in the most personal case of her career a conspiracy stretching from that Nazi POW camp to a modern-day neo-Nazi gang.

A sinister movement has emerged from the shadows of history, determined to undermine the American way of life. Its leader, Armand Fisker, has an army at his disposal, a deadly bio-weapon, and a reputation for being unbeatable. But he s never taken on the likes of Caitlin Strong and her outlaw lover, Cort Wesley Masters.

To prevent an unspeakable cataclysm, Caitlin and Cort Wesley must win a war the world thought was over.

**Read my review HERE and enter the giveaway**

Strong to the Bone is another fine effort by Jon Land, who manages to mix character development with gripping, page-turning plots. This is his best novel yet.”
StrandMagazine

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0765384647 (ISBN13: 9780765384645)
Series: Caitlin Strong Novels (Volume 9)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗| Macmillan 🔗

**Q&A with Jon Land**

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Definitely from current events. I call myself a sponge in that I’m not only always looking for obvious fodder for my thrillers, but also for the less than obvious. For example, STRONG TO THE BONE features, as a Maguffin, a groundbreaking discovery of a new anti-rejection drug that could change the lives of transplant patients. That sprang directly from an article in the New York Times about the developmental progress of such drugs. That’s the equivalent of the light bulb going on and then burning even brighter once I figure out how to weaponize this potentially life-changing discovery because, hey, I write high-stakes thrillers, right? Outside of setting scenes in places I’ve visited, I never draw on my own personal experiences because, truth be told, almost all of mine are mundane or boring.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I start at the beginning and let the story takes me where it needs to and let my characters do their share of the heavy lifting. Knowing too much of a book before you start lends the final product a formulaic feel, whereas spontaneity implies that if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader can’t possibly know. I like to let my stories develop organically from the inside out. In STRONG TO THE BONE again, for instance, the villain doesn’t have a nefarious plot to wreak havoc on mankind when the book opens—that plot develops in the course of the story because of something that happens in the course of the story.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

I find inspiration in real people or situations, mostly to build villains more than good guys but almost never from those I know personally, because then it doesn’t feel like fiction anymore. In STRONG TO THE BONE, the evil Davey Skoll is a thinly disguised version of Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical tycoon prone to jacking up prices astronomically on commonly-used drugs. And the neo-Nazi villain Skoll hooks up with, Armand Fisker, is based on a story I once read of towns in California and elsewhere that are actually controlled and run by lawless biker gangs.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I write in two shifts, each 2-3 hours; say, from 12-3 in the afternoon and then in the evening maybe from 10-midnight. I’ve always been a late night person, so sometimes I work even later. The key is to always feel like the writing is fresh, kind of like when you’re a runner and want to push yourself just hard enough. I have two idiosyncrasies that have become kind of staples. The first is that I always try to leave off in the middle of something so I have a running start the next day when I pick up the work. The second is I’ll have some books set aside by my favorite authors to read to get into the proper mindset before I start writing. Nothing gets me in the right frame of mind better than that!

Tell us why we should read this book.

Oh, lots of reasons! It’s got all the hallmarks—action, suspense, a great puzzle, history—that all the Caitlin Strong books have. But it’s also the most personal of any title in the series. That’s because instead of just tracking a random bad guy, this time out Caitlin finds herself on the trail of the man who sexually assaulted her eighteen years before and has now resurfaced. So at long last she gets to finally slay the dragon. But that gives her cause for concern because she’s not sure she really wants to catch him. What if that costs Caitlin her edge? What if this horrible experience from her past is the primary driver of who she is, her very sensibility? So what happens after she slays the dragon.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Lee Child, James Lee Burke, James Rollins, Steve Berry, David Morrell, Stephen King, James Hall, Brad Meltzer, Stephen Hunter, John Hart—the list goes on and on!

What are you reading now?

I’m finishing GONE DARK by James Hall, in the middle of G-MAN by Stephen Hunter, and have just started THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m just starting STRONG AS STEEL, the next in the Caitlin Strong series which will be published in December of 2018. All I can tell you, because it’s all that I know, is that involves skeletal bones being uncovered in the Texas desert where something else was also dug up out of the ground. Something with the potential to be world changing, maybe in more ways than one. Check back with me in a couple months and I might be able to tell you more!

Fun questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Anyone who gets the movie made!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I love working out at the gym and following Brown University football for which I serve as vice president of the Brown Football Association.

Favorite meal?

Nothing beat a great steak, although a great lobster comes close!

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

Author Bio:

Jon Land

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 43 books, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller, and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. Strong Cold Dead became the fourth title in the series in a row to win the International Book Award in 2017 and about which Booklist said, “Thrillers don’t get any better than this,” in a starred review. Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, was published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Austin, Texas

What the hell?

Caitlin Strong and Cort Wesley Masters had just emerged from Esther’s Follie’s on East 6th Steet, when they saw the stream of people hurrying down the road, gazes universally cocked back behind them. Sirens blared off in the distance and a steady chorus of honking horns seemed to be coming from an adjoining block just past the street affectionately known as “Dirty Sixth,” Austin’s version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

“Couldn’t tell you,” Cort Wesley said, even as he sized up the scene. “But I got a feeling we’re gonna know before much longer.”

* * *

Caitlin was in town to speak at a national law enforcement conference focusing on homegrown terrorism, and both her sessions at the Convention Center had been jam-packed. She felt kind of guilty her presentations had lacked the audio-visual touches many of the others had featured. But the audiences hadn’t seem to mind, filling a sectioned-off ballroom to the gills to hear of her direct experiences, in contrast to theoretical dissertations by experts. Audiences comprised of cops a lot like her, looking to bring something back home they could actually use. She’d focused to a great extent on her most recent battle with ISIS right here in Texas, and an al-Qaeda cell a few years before that, stressing how much things had changed in the interim and how much more they were likely to.

Cort Wesley had driven up from San Antonio to meet her for a rare night out that had begun with dinner at Ancho’s inside the Omni Hotel and then a stop at Antone’s nightclub to see the Rats, a band headed by a Texas Ranger tech expert known as Young Roger. From there, they’d walked to Esther’s Follies to take in the famed Texas-centric improve show there, a first for both of them that was every bit as funny and entertaining as advertised, even with a gun-toting woman both Caitlin and Cort Wesley realized was based on her.

Fortunately, no one else in the audience made that connection and they managed to slip out ahead of the rest of the crowd. Once outside, though, they were greeted by a flood of pedestrians pouring up the street from an area of congestion a few blocks down, just past 8th Street.

“What you figure, Ranger?”

“That maybe we better go have ourselves a look.”

CHAPTER 2

Austin, Texas

Caitlin practically collided with a young man holding a wad of napkins against his bleeding nose at the intersection with East 7th Street.

“What’s going on?” she asked him, pulling back her blazer to show her Texas Ranger badge.

The young man looked from it back to her, swallowing some blood and hacking it up onto the street. “University of Texas graduation party took over all of Stubb’s Barbecue,” he said, pointing in the restaurant’s direction. “Guess you could say it got out of hand. Bunch of fraternities going at it.” He looked at the badge pinned to her chest again. “Are you really a Texas Ranger?”

“You need to get to an emergency room,” Caitlin told him, and pressed on with Cort Wesley by her side.

“Kid was no older than Dylan,” he noted, mentioning his oldest son who was still on a yearlong leave from Brown University.

“How many fraternities does the University of Texas at Austin have anyway, Cort Wesley?”

“A whole bunch.”

“Yeah,” she nodded, continuing on toward the swell of bodies and flashing lights, “it sure looks that way.”

Stubb’s was well known for its barbecue offerings and, just as much, its status as a concert venue. The interior was modest in size, as Caitlin recalled, two floors with the bottom level normally reserved for private parties and the upstairs generally packed with patrons both old and new. The rear of the main building, and several adjoining ones, featured a flattened dirt lot fronted by several performance stages where upwards of two thousand people could enjoy live music in the company of three sprawling outdoor bars.

That meant this graduation party gone bad may have featured at least a comparable number of students and probably even more, many of whom remained in the street, milling about as altercations continued to flare, while first responders struggled futilely to disperse the crowd. Young men and women still swigging bottles of beer, while pushing and shoving each other. The sound of glass breaking rose over the loudening din of the approaching sirens, the whole scene glowing amid the colors splashed from the revolving lights of the Austin police cars already on the scene.

A fire engine leading a rescue wagon screeched to a halt just ahead of Cort Wesley and Caitlin, at the intersection with 7th Street, beyond which had become impassable.

“Dylan could even be here, for all I know,” Cort Wesley said, picking up his earlier train of thought.

“He doesn’t go to UT.”

“But there’s girls and trouble, two things he excels at the most.”

This as fights continued breaking out one after another, splinters of violence on the verge of erupting into an all-out brawl going on under the spill of the LED streetlights rising over Stubb’s.

Caitlin pictured swirling lines of already drunk patrons being refused admittance due to capacity issues. Standing in line full of alcohol on a steamy night, expectations of a celebratory evening dashed, was a recipe for just what she was viewing now. In her mind, she saw fights breaking out between rival UT fraternities mostly in the outdoor performance area, before spilling out into the street, fueled by simmering tempers now on high heat.

“You see any good we can be here?” Cort Wesley asked her.

Caitlin was about to say no, when she spotted an anxious Austin patrol cop doing his best to break up fights that had spread as far as 7th Street. She and Cort Wesley sifted through the crowd and made their way toward him, Caitlin advancing alone when they drew close.

“Anything I can do to help,” she said, reading the Austin policeman’s nametag, “Officer Hilton?”

Hilton leaned up against an ornate light pole that looked like gnarled wrought iron for support. He was breathing hard, his face scraped and bruised. He noted the Texas Ranger badge and seemed to match her face to whatever media reports he’d remembered her from.

“Not unless you got enough Moses in you to part the Red Sea out there, Ranger.”

“What brought you boys out here? Detail work?” Caitlin asked, trying to account for his presence on scene so quickly, ahead of the sirens screaming through the night.

Hilton shook his head. “An anonymous nine-one-one call about a sexual assault taking place inside the club, the downstairs lounge.”

“And you didn’t go inside?”

Hilton turned his gaze on the street, his breathing picking up again. “Through that? My partner tried and ended up getting his skull cracked open by a bottle. I damn near got killed fighting to reach him. Managed to get him in the back of our squad car and called for a rescue,” he said, casting his gaze toward the fire engine and ambulance that were going nowhere. “Think maybe I better carry him to the hospital myself.”

“What about the girl?”

“What girl?”

“Sexual assault victim inside the club.”

Hilton frowned. “Most of them turn out to be false alarms anyway.”

“Do they now?”

Caitlin’s tone left him sneering at her. “Look, Ranger, you want to shoot up the street to get inside that shithole, be my guest. I’m not leaving my partner.”

“Thanks for giving me permission,” she said, and steered back for Cort Wesley.

“That looked like it went well,” he noted, pushing a frat boy who’d ventured too close out of the way, after stripping the empty beer bottle he was holding by the neck from his grasp.

“Sexual assault victim might still be inside, Cort Wesley.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Got any ideas, Ranger?”

Caitlin eyed the fire engine stranded where East 7th Street met Red River Avenue. “Just one.”

CHAPTER 3

Austin, Texas

Four firemen were gathered behind the truck in a tight cluster, speaking with the two paramedics from the rescue wagon.

“I’m a Texas Ranger,” Caitlin announced, approaching them with jacket peeled back to reveal her badge, “and I’m commandeering your truck.”

“You’re what?” one of the fireman managed. “No, absolutely not!”

The siren began blaring and lights started flashing, courtesy of Cort Wesley who’d climbed up behind the wheel.

“Sorry,” Caitlin said, raising her voice above the din, “can’t hear you!”

* * *

The crowd that filled the street in front of Stubb’s Barbecue saw and heard the fire truck coming and began pelting it with bottles, as it edged forward through the congested street that smelled of sweat and beer. What looked like steam hung in the stagnant air overhead, either an illusion or the actual product of so many superheated bodies congealed in such tight quarters. The sound of glass braking crackled through Caitlin’s ears, as bottle after bottle smashed against the truck’s frame.

The crowd clustered tighter around the fire engine, cutting off Cort Wesley’s way backward or on toward Stubb’s. The students, their fervor and aggression bred by alcohol, never noticed Caitlin’s presence atop the truck until she finally figured out the workings of the truck’s deck gun and squeezed the nozzle.

The force of the water bursting out of the barrel nearly knocked her backward off the truck. But she managed to right and then repositioned herself, as she doused the tight cluster of students between the truck and the restaurant entrance with the gun’s powerful stream.

A wave of people tried to fight the flow and ended up getting blown off their feet, thrown into other students who then scrambled to avoid the fire engine’s surge forward ahead of its deafening horn. Caitlin continued to clear a path for Cort Wesley, sweeping the deck gun in light motions from side to side, the five hundred gallon tank still plenty full when the club entrance drew within clear view.

She felt the fire engine’s front wheels mount the sidewalk and twist heavily to the right. The front fender grazed the building and took out a plate glass window the rioting had somehow spared. Caitlin saw a gap in the crowd open all the way to the entrance and leaped down from the truck to take advantage of it, before it closed up again.

She purposely didn’t draw her gun and entered Stubb’s to the sight of bloodied bouncers and staff herding the last of the patrons out of the restaurant. Outside, the steady blare of sirens told her the Austin police had arrived in force. Little they could do to disperse a crowd this large and unruly in rapid fashion, though, much less reach the entrance to lend their efforts to Caitlin’s in locating the sexual assault victim.

She threaded her way through the ground floor of Stubb’s to the stairs leading down to the private lounge area. The air felt like it was being blasted out of a steam oven, roiled with coagulated body heat untouched by the restaurant’s air conditioning that left Caitlin with the sense she was descending to hell.

Reaching the windowless sub-level floor, she swept her eyes about and thought she heard a whimpering come from a nest of couches, where a male figure hovered over the frame of a woman, lying half on and half off a sectional couch.

“Sir, put your hands in the air and turn around slowly!” Caitlin ordered, drawing her SIG-Sauer nine-millimeter pistol. “Don’t make me tell you twice!”

He started to turn, without raising his hands, and Caitlin fired when she glimpsed something shiny in his grasp. Impact to the shoulder twisted the man around and spilled him over the sectional couch, Caitlin holding her SIG at the ready as she approached his victim.

She heard the whimpering again, making her think more of the sound a dog makes, and followed it toward a tight cluster of connected couch sections, their cushions all stained wet and smelling thickly of beer. Drawing closer while still keeping a sharp eye on the man she’d shot, Caitlin spotted a big smart phone lying just out of his grasp, recognizing it as the object she’d wrongly taken for a gun. Then Caitlin spied a young woman of college age pinned between a pair of couch sections, covering her exposed breasts with her arms, her torn blouse hanging off her and jeans unbuttoned and unzipped just short of her hips.

Drawing closer, Caitlin saw the young woman’s assailant, the man she’d just shot in all likelihood, must’ve yanked them down so violently that he’d split the zipper and torn off the snap or button.

“Ma’am?” she called softly.

The young woman tightened herself into a ball and retreated deeper into the darkness between the couch sections, not seeming to hear her.

“Ma’am,” Caitlin said louder, hovering over the coed while continuing to check on the man she’d shot, his eyes drifting in and out of consciousness, his shirt wet with blood in the shoulder area from the gunshot wound.

Caitlin only wished it was her own attacker lying there, from all those years before when she’d been a coed herself at the Lone Star College campus in West Houston. Some memories suppressed easily, others were like a toothache that came and went. That one was more like a cavity that had been filled, forgotten until the filling broke off and raw nerve pain flared.

Caitlin pushed the couch sections aside and knelt by the young woman, pistol tucked low by her hip so as not to frighten her further.

“I’m a Texas Ranger, ma’am,” she said, in as soothing a voice as she could manage. “I need to get you out of here, and I need you to help me. I need to know if you can walk.”

The young woman finally looked at her, nodded. Her left cheek was swollen badly and one of her arms hung limply from its socket. Caitlin looked back at the downed form of the man she’d already shot once, half hoping he gave her a reason to shoot him again.

“What’s your name? Mine’s Caitlin.”

“Kelly Ann,” the young woman said, her voice dry and cracking.

Caitlin helped her to her feet. “Well, Kelly Ann, I know things feel real bad right now, but trust me when I tell you this is bad as they’re going to get.”

Kelly Ann’s features perked up slightly, her eyes flashing back to life. She tried to take a deep breath, but stopped halfway though.

Caitlin held her around the shoulders in one arm, SIG clutched in her free hand while her eyes stayed peeled on the downed man’s stirring form. “I’m going to stay with you the whole way until we get you some help,” she promised.

The building suddenly felt like a Fun House Hall of Mirrors. Everything distorted, perspective and sense of place lost. Even the stairs climbing back to the ground floor felt different, only the musty smell of sweat mixed with stale perfume and body spray telling her they were the same.

Caitlin wanted to tell Kelly Ann it would be all right, that it would get better, that it would all go away in time. But that would be a lie, so she said nothing at all. Almost to the door, she gazed toward a loose assemblages of frat boys wearing hoodies displaying their letters as they chugged from liquor bottles stripped from the shelves behind the main bar on the first floor. How different were they from the one who’d hurt her, hurt Kelly Ann?

Caitlin wanted to shoot the bottles out of their hands, but kept leading Kelly Ann on instead, out into the night and the vapor spray from the deck gun now being wielded by Cort Wesley to keep their route clear.

“’Bout time!” he shouted down, scampering across the truck’s top to retake his place behind the wheel.

Caitlin was already inside the cab, Kelly Ann clinging tight to her.

“Where to, Ranger?”

“Seton Medical Center, Cort Wesley.”

Before he got going, Caitlin noticed Officer Hilton and several other Austin cops pushing their way through the crowd toward the entrance to Stubb’s.

“Don’t worry, Officer, I got the victim out safe and sound,” she yelled down to him, only half-sarcastically. “But I left a man with a bullet in his shoulder down there for you to take care of.”

“Come again?”

“I’d hurry, if I were you. He’s losing blood.”

***

Excerpt from Strong to the Bone by Jon Land. Copyright © 2017 by Jon Land. Reproduced with permission from Jon Land. All rights reserved.

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