Aug 212019
 

The Ornery Gene by Warren C. Embree Banner

 

 

The Ornery Gene

by Warren C. Embree

on Tour August 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

The Ornery Gene by Warren C Embree

When itinerant ranch hand Buck Ellison took a job with Sarah Watkins at her ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska, he thought he had found the place where he could park his pickup, leave the past behind, and never move again.

On a rainy July night, a dead body at the south end of Sarah’s ranch forces him to become a reluctant detective, digging into the business of cattle breeding for rodeos and digging up events from his past that are linked to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Sam Danielson.

Working with his boss Sarah, her nephew Travis Martin, and the cook Diane Gibbons, Buck unmasks the murderer, but at the cost of learning the reality of past events that he chooses to keep to himself.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Published by: Down and Out Books
Publication Date: April 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 216
ISBN: 1643960121 (978-1643960128)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Down & Out Books

 

Author Bio:

Warren C Embree

WARREN EMBREE and his wife grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska. He did both farm work and ranch work during those years, and he still keeps track of what goes on in the hills. After leaving the area, he pursued an academic career in English, Classical Languages, and Divinity. He lectured at a couple of institutions and preached at a few churches, and he now works in Lincoln as a data analyst for the University of Nebraska. His knowledge and love of the unique culture of the Sandhills, his education in languages and literature, and his analytical skills contribute to his story telling. He and his wife currently live in Nebraska and have 3 grown children.

Q&A with Warren C. Embree

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to answer a few questions.

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

I have been writing fiction off and on for over fifty years but, with a few exceptions, I never took it seriously. Even those exceptions were half-hearted. Then, a number years back, I ran into an old college classmate at the University bookstore, and he wondered if I was still writing. He said he had always enjoyed what I had written in the classes we had taken together and told me I needed to write a novel about the Nebraska Sandhills. I wrote a couple of novels after that, but I wasn’t happy with them. However, a few years ago I finished one I rather liked. After numerous rewrites, I let it sit for a while with the intention of making a final version. Then my older sister, Paula Horii, wanted to read it, liked it, and said I should get it published. It was her dogged persistence that got it finished. So I was inspired to write the book by one individual and motivated to finish by another. Unfortunately, the gentleman passed away last year before he could see results of his “charge” to me.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Actually, there are two biggest challenges for me with anything I am writing. One is focus and the other is an obsession to find the right word or phrase. With respect to focus, I often go down the rabbit hole when my imagination is ignited by some image or an idea that pops into my head in the process of writing. While writing and thinking about how to motivate Buck to look into his mother’s past, I thought finding an old thimble of hers would be an interesting thing. So I wondered about what metal–gold or silver or steel. Then I wondered about what pattern would be etched into the thimble. Before I knew it, I’d worked on a number of pages and literally days and weeks, and I had to throw it all away and backtrack to get back on track. I enjoy those adventures, but there comes a time to force myself to finish a book. I’ve learned over the years that I need to create an outline of some sort to guide my thinking and keep me focused on the story. Otherwise, as noted, I get lost in my imagination.

With respect to the right word, I’m haunted by Mark Twain’s observation that “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” As an example, as I was writing one scene where I was having Buck consider his options, he crumpled up a beer can and tossed it across the floor. I spent countless hours trying to come up with the “right word” that embraced both the motion and the sound of the can across the floor. All the rest of my writing stopped. I finally came up with it–skittered. But the whole thing never got into the book because it ended up not being able to drive the story. Which dovetails into the challenge of focus.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

While I grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska, Dad was a school superintendent and Mother a teacher, so I didn’t grow up on a ranch. I did work on ranches and worked on our farm on the edge of the Sandhills, but I never worked much directly with livestock. Dad had a small ranch and would buy calves in the spring and feed them out during the summer to sell in the fall, he didn’t breed cattle. Fortunately, my wife did grow up on a ranch, was familiar with the various nuances of the cattle industry, and so was always my first source of knowledge. I also read books and articles about brands, bulls, cattle chutes, DNA, rodeo bulls, leatherworking, red angus, saloons, soapweed, windmills, and the like. And of course, the internet is now a great resource.

That would be a glimpse. But as I mentioned in the previous question, my lack of focus would have be researching things in a wide range of areas, none of which found their way into the novel.

How did you come up with the title?

I had a working titles for the novel throughout the process. One was “Death of a Bullfighter” and another “Recessive Gene.” However, after the book was finished and I needed to have a title, I wanted one that embraced all the layers of the novel as well as focus on a central thread that was woven into the entire story. “The Ornery Gene” seemed to provide such a focus and tied rather nicely into the central story, the characters, and the various scenes.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I’m afraid my routine in writing is “fits and starts.” Although I work full time, I do daydream a lot about characters and storylines. I enjoy the process of research immensely and even enjoy rewriting once I have something to edit, but the actual business of writing takes place in a rather haphazard fashion. At one time I did force myself to write 2 to 4 pages a night, but I neither liked the process nor the results. I hope to be a little more dedicated once I retire.

Tell us why we should read your book?

It is simply a well-written novel, with a satisfying story, set in a little known part of the United States, and populated by interesting and compelling characters. The Sandhills of Nebraska is the largest grass-stabilized sand dune region in the Western Hemisphere and sits atop the largest aquifer in North America (the Ogallala estimated at 174,000 sq. mi.–450,000 sq. km.). Its culture is as unique as its geography.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

I am working on another novel, plus a couple of other books.

My sister wants to know about one of the minor characters in the “The Ornery Gene,” Peggy Williamson, who did not make the final cut of the novel. Buck knew her from the time he worked construction in Gordon, Nebraska and roomed with her boyfriend, John Lambert. She had left Gordon under suspicion of having had a part in the death of a classmate and ended up working in a bar and grill in Tryon, a small town north of where Buck was working at Sarah Watkins ranch. When Lambert turns up dead in Tryon, Buck gets reluctantly involved in finding out why Lambert was killed and why Peggy has vanished. The background to the story is, of course, the Sandhills, but more specifically the county fair, show cattle, 4-H, trucking, and whatever else I might be able to weave into it. I do not know when it will be done or if it will be picked up to be published.

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

Buck Elison: Jeremy Lee Renner
Sarah Watkins: Ellen Tyne Daly
Travis Martin: Kodi Smit-McPhee
Diane : Chloe Bennet
Goff Hansen: Robert Duvall
Harvey : Joshua James Brolin
Tom Anderson: Kurt Russell
Eleanor Anderson: Annette Carol Bening

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

During the summer I garden and during the winter I work on indoor projects, but reading is my primary leisure activity.

Favorite foods?

Philly cheese steak sandwiches, but only when I’m in Philly. Sweet corn, shrimp, ice cream sandwiches and, believe or not, spam. Spam was a treat when I was a kid.

Catch Up With Warren Embree On:
warrenembree.com, Goodreads, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Wednesday, 9:15 p.m.

Sam Danielson slowed his pickup to a stop beside an old cattle chute, switched off the engine, rolled the window all the way down, and listened. He absentmindedly counted the cricket chirps for ten seconds, added forty to the number of chirps and calculated it to be about sixty-five degrees or so outside. A trick his dad had taught him. It was a little chilly for July in this part of the hills, but he had heard the low rumbling of thunder on the drive out. It smelled like rain; there was a storm moving from the northeast that was cooling things down. There could even be some ice in it. He checked his watch: nine-fifteen. Just past twilight. He opened the pickup door and took a deep breath. He reached over, grabbed the flashlight from the glove box, and slid out of the driver’s seat onto the soft sand.

Off in the distance, he heard a mama cow lowing. This was the life he had chosen, and he had never looked back. It hadn’t been easy working for, and then with, his dad. They had gone back and forth on the best way to select the bulls and broncos they supplied for “rough stock” events at the rodeos in the Sandhills of western Nebraska. There was only one way for Dad. “You don’t have the feel for how much the bull don’t want rode,” his dad would say. But Sam had gone to school and studied twentieth-century methods of livestock rearing. For his dad it was a way of life; for Sam it was a business. Sam liked the numbers. He liked to narrow the odds by more than just a feeling. He had tried to show his dad the value in breeding techniques and genetic tracking in estimating the probability that a particular bull would do well in the arena. His dad would just laugh it off. “Show me the ornery gene,” his dad would laugh. “I’ll have five bulls picked before you decide on one.” But Sam knew his would be a better one than the five. He could prove the temperament of a bull before anyone tried to ride it. He had never convinced his dad. The ornery gene had been elusive, but not the genetic makeup of the ornery bulls. He had been right, and he had a genetically identifiable line of stock to prove it.

During his travels from his ranch outside of Laramie, Wyoming, Sam had been made aware of a genetic curiosity in one of the cattle he purchased in Colorado in the spring. Being off in the records would end up being off in the genetic makeup of the calves. There never was just one gene that made the difference. It was a matter of multiple generations. He had traced the lines that looked the most promising, and closely followed the leaders in the industry. Discovering that curiosity had led him into this part of the Sandhills of Nebraska. Talking about it at the bar had got him into an argument with the old cowboy, and listening to the old man had brought him to this particular spot.

“You’ll find what you’re looking for out there,” the old cowboy had said. “Then you’ll know I was telling you the truth.” Danielson switched the flashlight on and scanned the area around the cattle chute. He had let himself be convinced that the old man knew a thing or two about cattle breeding. What had surprised Danielson most was that the old man had known about the science behind modern breeding at all. The old cowboy looked more like he’d been “rode hard and put up wet” as his dad would have said: a man who had spent a hard life out in the sun and the rain and the snow. Danielson expected someone like that to know less about biogenetics and more about old school solutions. Like his dad.

The excitement the old cowboy had shown assured Danielson it would be worth his time to find out if he was headed in the right direction. But as he looked around the area, all he saw was a dump site for old batteries, tires, cook stoves, windmill parts, cans, bed springs, and used up corral panels. He saw nothing that would explain the old cowboy’s intensity. Now he was more curious to find out how the old cowboy would explain the genetic anomaly that he was so passionate about. It was one of those things his dad would say shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference in his deciding on a bull. It probably wasn’t all that important to breeders either. But he was curious, and keeping careful records was important to the integrity of breeding livestock. It was a necessary component in the breeding business and his business. He was hoping he could find some answers out here as he tried to piece together the puzzle. He was determined to take some time to track it down to the source and maybe be able to verify when and where the mistake was made.

He had tried to be low-key when he was asking questions, but the speed at which the old cowboy had raised his hackles this afternoon showed Danielson just how hard that was going to be. He had touched the wrong nerve on the first try. He wasn’t sure whether he had asked the wrong question or his question had been taken the wrong way. It took a couple of beers and a good bit of time getting the old man calmed down. When it finally got friendly again, the old cowboy had told him about the spot out here in the hills. He gave directions and said he’d meet him out there around nine that evening.

As he waited for the old cowboy to show up, Danielson kicked at a broken pitman, picked it up, and used it to move around some cans at the edge of the dump site. He wasn’t terribly interested in getting bitten by a rattlesnake or a rat. It was a half-hearted effort. He sniffed the air again and caught the scent of pine and cedar trees this time. The hills hadn’t changed much from when he was a kid except the cedar trees. They were becoming a weed out in the hills. He shoved a wooden box with the pitman, then threw the stick of wood back into the pile. It was altogether possible that the old cowboy had sent him out on a snipe hunt. It just as well be. There was nothing he’d seen so far that was tied to the cattle breeding. If it were here, it wasn’t something obvious. What galled him was that he could be looking right at it and still not see it. For that matter, there could be nothing to it.

A loud clap of thunder caused Danielson to look up at the sky. In the southwest the clouds were fast turning to an ugly black. He saw the lightning streak across the sky and started counting. He reached fifty-two and he heard the thunder again. The storm was only about ten miles away. He didn’t want to get caught in the storm, and he hadn’t found anything yet. It wouldn’t be the first time he had gone on a wild goose chase.

He walked over to the rear of the pickup, pulled out a can of chewing tobacco from his back pocket, and stuffed a pinch in the back of his cheek. He put the can back in his pocket and picked up an old spur that was in the pickup box. He turned it over in his hand as he walked over to the chute—just an old spur. The old cowboy had given it to him, along with some old rodeo flyers, claiming he’d known Danielson’s dad and had got it from him. His dad had never been a bull rider, so the spur didn’t belong to him. He didn’t know whether someone had given it to his dad or his dad had simply found it tearing down after one of the rodeos they had supplied the bulls and broncs for. It reminded him that he needed to go through his dad’s things, a clutter of boxes, something he’d put off for ten years after his dad died. He tossed the spur toward the pickup box but hit the fender instead, bouncing the spur at an odd angle forward of the pickup. He walked over toward the cattle chute and battery and pointed his flashlight in the direction the spur had bounced.

Danielson caught the flash of lightning in the corner of his eye, heard a pop from behind him, then felt a sledgehammer hit him in the middle of the back. The strength drained out of his legs. He felt a sharp pain spring out from where the hammer had hit that seemed to rush through his torso. His legs gave out and he hit the ground, knees first, and then fell on his face. The pain was now a hot, burning sensation from the place where the hammer had hit and his back felt wet. He thought he had been struck with lightning, cursing himself for miscalculating the distance of the storm. He tried to use his arms to push himself up, but he couldn’t gather the strength. He dropped back down. He could feel that his back was soaked, but it hadn’t started raining yet.

From off to his right, he heard something moving cans around. It wasn’t the wind. It was deliberate. No animal would do that either. A few moments later, he felt someone kick his side. He grunted involuntarily, and then tried to roll over. His legs were a dead weight. He twisted his face away from the pickup, but couldn’t see anything. “He shot me,” he whispered. He tried to raise himself with his arms, but was light-headed now. I can’t believe he shot me. A few moments later rain poured from the clouds, diluting the blood from his back and mingling it with the sand.

***

Excerpt from The Ornery Gene by Warren C. Embree. Copyright © 2019 by Warren C. Embree. Reproduced with permission from Warren C. Embree. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Aug 142019
 

The Best Lousy Choice by Jim Nesbitt Banner

 

 

The Best Lousy Choice

An Ed Earl Burch Novel

by Jim Nesbitt

on Tour August 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

The Best Lousy Choice: An Ed Earl Burch Novel

Dallas private eye Ed Earl Burch is an emotional wreck, living on the edge of madness, hosing down the nightmares of his last case with bourbon and Percodan, dreading the next onslaught of demons that haunt his days and nights, including a one-eyed dead man who still wants to carve out his heart and eat it.

Burch is also a walking contradiction. Steady and relentless when working a case. Tormented and unbalanced when idle. He’s deeply in debt to a shyster lawyer who forces him to take the type of case he loathes — divorce work, peephole creeping to get dirt on a wayward husband.

Work with no honor. Work that reminds him of how far he’s fallen since he lost the gold shield of a Dallas homicide detective. Work in the stark, harsh badlands of West Texas, the border country where he almost got killed and his nightmares began.

What he longs for is the clarity and sense of purpose he had when he carried that gold shield and chased killers for a living. The adrenaline spike of the showdown. Smoke ‘em or cuff ‘em. Justice served — by his .45 or a judge and jury.

When a rich rancher and war hero is killed in a suspicious barn fire, the rancher’s outlaw cousin hires Burch to investigate a death the county sheriff is reluctant to touch.

Seems a lot of folks had reason for wanting the rancher dead — the local narco who has the sheriff on his payroll; some ruthless Houston developers who want the rancher’s land; maybe his own daughter. Maybe the outlaw cousin who hired Burch.

Thrilled to be a manhunter again, Burch ignores these red flags, forgetting something he once knew by heart.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And it might just get you killed.

But it’s the best lousy choice Ed Earl Burch is ever going to get.

Book Details:

Genre: Hard-boiled Crime Thriller
Published by: Spotted Mule Press
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Number of Pages: 347
ISBN: 978-0-9983294-2-0
Series: An Ed Earl Burch Novel; 2
Purchase Links: Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Jim Nesbitt

Jim Nesbitt is the author of three hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers that feature battered but dogged Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — THE LAST SECOND CHANCE, a Silver Falchion finalist; THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER, an Underground Book Reviews “Top Pick”; and his latest, THE BEST LOUSY CHOICE.

Nesbitt was a journalist for more than 30 years, serving as a reporter, editor and roving national correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story.

His stories have appeared in newspapers across the country and in magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and American Cowboy. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey and a well-told story.

He now lives in Athens, Alabama.

 

Guest Post
SHOW, DON’T TELL: CHARACTER REVEALED THROUGH
SNAPPY DIALOGUE AND A KEEN SENSE OF PLACE

I’m a Chandler junkie. As in Raymond Chandler. Always have been, always will be.

One of the founding fathers of the hard-boiled school of crime fiction, Chandler’s at the head of a semi-long list of writers who taught me a lot about the trade before I ever tried my hand at it.

Most of them are dead. Which means they won’t be calling me out for hanging their names on what I’m about to say about character and dialogue. Not even Chandler, although his cantankerous spirit might just give it a go.

What I learned from Chandler was the importance of character and dialogue over plot. Chandler was a notorious ‘pantster,’ the term the modern wags use for writers who make it all up as they go along rather than outline elaborate plots and character sketches before they start telling a story.

One of his famous quotes: “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” Which is the second primary lesson I learned from Chandler — use action and concrete descriptions of place to drive a story largely told through character and dialogue.

Character and dialogue are intertwined. You show a character’s traits — you define them — through dialogue, either snappy exchanges with other characters or the internal dialogue they have with themselves.

Dialogue between characters is a dance where they reveal themselves by what they do and don’t say and the way they say it or stay silent. Internal dialogue is a character dancing in the dark with themselves, but the same revelations occur. Or should occur. If they don’t, a writer has blown a golden opportunity to define a character and give the story life, depth and context.

I’ll give two examples from my latest work, The Best Lousy Choice: An Ed Earl Burch Novel. My main character, Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch, is a cashiered vice and homicide detective. He’s also a terminal smartass who doesn’t know when to shut up. I don’t tell you that — I show it through dialogue with a crooked West Texas sheriff looking to frame him for the murder of a prominent local rancher who died in a suspicious barn fire.

“You run the ID on those shooters I blew away? Bet they’re either freelance talent or connected to some other drug lord slimeball. Looks like you got a little turf war going on. Or maybe Dirt Cheap crossed his cousin. Just guesses on my part. But either way, it ain’t a good look for an anti-drug crusader like you, Sheriff.”

“Burch looked at Willingham. The anger that colored his face and flashed in his eyes was gone. He wore the stone mask of a poker player and his voice was a husky whisper as he asked a quiet question.


“You a barnburner, son?”

Burch was flummoxed. No smartass quips, no barbed conjecture. All he had as a comeback was the brass to meet the sheriff’s stare head-on and not flinch.

“Let me put it to you this way — are you a man who could set another man’s barn on fire, burn up his horses, burn up the man himself? Are you that kind of murderin’ sumbitch, a fire worshiper, a man-burner?”

“Jesus, Sheriff — you need to make up your mind what you want to frame me for. First you have me as a gun for hire workin’ for this Malo Garza fella, now you got me as the second coming of Ben Quick’s daddy in The Long Hot Summer. I’m way too ugly for any frame job that needs me to look like Paul Newman.”

“Ugly will do, my friend, if I find out you did the crime.”

Burch also has frequent conversations with his dead partner, Wynn Moore. Burch blames himself for getting his partner killed while they were tracking a narco and murder suspect in Dallas years ago when he still carried a gold shield.

These conversations are real as a dime to Burch and show both the guilt that still gnaws at him and the left-handed relief he’s found when Moore appears. They also reveal the simple and brutal approach to police work Burch learned from Moore.

He felt shaky from his session with Bustamante and fished out the bottle of Percodan and a dented nickel flask from his bag. He shook out a pill, broke it in half and popped it on his tongue, washing it down with a long pull of Maker’s. It wasn’t quite noon but he needed a Percodan cocktail to get rid of the jangles and keep the demons in their holes.

He stood under the fan in his boxers, smoking another Lucky until he felt the half-hit and e-less whisky take hold, then carried the Colt into the bathroom and placed it on the porcelain top of the toilet tank. He reached into the shower stall to turn on the water and wait until it was as hot as he could stand it, then stepped into the scalding spray.

You ain’t right, sport model. Poppin’ them pills, sluggin’ whiskey and it ain’t hardly noon yet.

Keeps me sane, Wynn. On track and movin’ down the trail instead of curled up in a corner screamin’ about demons and snakes with wings.

Turnin’ into a goddam junkie and day drinker, you ask me.

I ain’t askin’.

Never could talk sense to you, sport model. One more thing, then I’ll shut my yap. You fly the black flag on this one. Take that rule book we usta have to work around and chuck it right out the fuckin’ window. You sabe?

Rule book already chucked, Wynn. No quarter. No prisoners. No judge and jury.

Good deal, sport model.

One other lesson I learned from Chandler, whose novels and short stories are packed with detailed physical descriptions of the rooms, places and streetscapes where his stories take place.

These “concrete descriptions” help create a Los Angeles that is so real that it becomes a character unto itself. Far more than mere backdrop, these descriptions of place define the characters that live and move through this landscape.

This struck a chord with me, largely because of my upbringing and lineage. I come from a long line of North Carolina hillbilly storytellers. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins told stories of our kin and the mountains my ancestors called home, creating a keen sense of family and place in my sister and me, even though we grew up in suburban Philadelphia.

As a journalist, I was always fascinated with how the land shaped the people who lived there, even as they struggled to make a living from it. I also fell in love with the harsh beauty of West Texas, with stark mountain ranges that look like the bones of the earth on display for any and all to see.

It seemed like the perfect place for the bloody tales of revenge and redemption I was trying to tell in my Ed Earl Burch novels, a land so forbiddingly beautiful and demanding that it shapes the characters in my books and gives resonance to their dialogue.

It’s another way of revealing who your characters are. And showing instead of telling is the essence of the writer’s trade.

 

Catch Up With Jim Nesbitt On:
jimnesbittbooks.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Burch slipped through a thick snarl of gawkers, glad-handers, gossips and genuine mourners going nowhere fast in the vestibule of Sartell’s Funeral Home, nodding and smiling like the prodigal returned to the paternal table.

To ease his passage toward the chapel where Bart Hulett’s charred corpse was surely hidden in a closed casket, he patted the passing shoulder, shook the hand thrust his way and mouthed the “good to see you” to the stranger’s face that smiled in mistaken recognition. Baptist reflexes from a long-ago boyhood, handy for the preacher, pol or low-rent peeper — remnants of an endless string of God Box Sundays he’d rather forget.

The chapel was packed and the well-mannered buzz of polite stage whispers filled the room, triggering another Baptist flashback — the hushed sanctuary conversations of the flock anticipating the opening chords of a Sunday service first hymn.

Ten rows of hard-backed dark wooden pews flanked each side of a center aisle leading to a low lacquered plywood platform topped by a glossy Texas pecan wood casket with burnished brass lugs and fixtures. Two blown-up photographs in fluted gilt frames faced the mourners, standing guard at each end of the casket — a colorized, wartime portrait of a young Bart Hulett in Marine dress blues and visored white cover at the foot; a candid of Hulett and his blonde wife on horseback at the head, their smiling faces goldened by the setting sun.

Behind the pews, five rows of equally unforgiving aluminum folding chairs, all sporting the durable silver-gray institutional enamel common to the breed, stood as ready reserve for the overflow of mourners. The pews were filled and a butt claimed every chair — a testament to Bart Hulett’s standing as a fallen civic leader and member of one of the founding families of Cuervo County.

No cushions in pew or chair. Comfort wasn’t on the dance card in this part of West Texas. The land was too stark, harsh and demanding, intolerant of those seeking a soft life of leisure. And Baptists damned dancing as a sin and kept those pews rock hard so you’d stay wide awake for the preacher’s fiery reminder about the brimstone wages of sin.

Dark blue carpet covered what Burch’s knees told him was a concrete floor. Flocked, deep-red fabric lined the walls, brightened by a line of wall sconces trimmed in shiny brass that reflected the dimmed light from electric candles. Two brass candelabras hung from the ceiling, bathing the chapel in a warm, yellow glow. Heavy, burgundy velour drapes lined the front wall and flanked the rear entrance and the opening to a sitting room to the left of the casket.

The total effect was meant to be plush, somber and churchly, yet welcoming. Don’t fear death. It comes to us all. Just a part of the great circle of life and God’s eternal plan. Let us gather together and celebrate the days on earth of this great man who has left us for his final reward.

But Burch wasn’t buying the undertaker’s refried Baptist bill of fare. To his eye, the drapes, the wall covering and the brass light fixtures looked more like the lush trappings of a high-dollar whorehouse than a church, an old-timey sin palace that packaged purchased pleasure in a luxury wrapper. All that was missing was a line of near-naked whores for the choosing and a piano man in a bowler hat and gartered shirt sleeves, tickling the ivories while chomping a cigar.

Nothing more honest than a fifty-dollar blow job from a working girl who knows her trade.

Nothing more bitter than the cynical heresy of a backslidden Baptist sinner.

Nothing more useless than a de-frocked cop still ready to call out the hypocrisy of a church he thought was just a dot in his rearview mirror.

Burch cold-cocked his bitter musings and wiped the smirk off his face. He grabbed a corner at the rear of the room and continued his chapel observations. He tried to settle into the old routine. Relax. Watch and wait. Keep the eyes moving and let it come to you. Don’t force it.

But the watcher’s mantra wasn’t working.

Couldn’t shake the feeling that eyes had been on him while he juked and doubled back through town earlier in the day and that eyes were on him now. Couldn’t blame the demons for this. He was still cool and calm from that special cocktail he served himself before leaving the ranch. That meant the sixth sense was real, not a figment of his nightmares. And he was far too old a dog to ignore it.

Burch took a deep breath and let it out slow, just like he did at the rifle range before squeezing off the next round. His heartbeat slowed. He felt himself relax. The uneasy feeling was still there, but it was a small sliver of edginess. Do the job. Watch and wait. Keep the eyes moving. Let it come to you.

From the chapel entrance, a thick line of mourners broke toward the right rear corner of the room and angled along the wall opposite Burch before bending again to crowd the closed casket, leading to a small knot of Hulett family members standing next to the photo of Bart and his dead wife.

Stella Rae was playing the head of household role, reaching across her body to shake hands with her left because her right was burned, bandaged and hanging loose at her side, the white tape and pinkish gauze riding below the rolled-back cuff of a navy cowgirl shirt with white piping and a bright red cactus blossom on each yoke.

She was wearing Wranglers too new to be faded and pointy-toed lizard-skin boots the color of peanut brittle, her dark blonde hair swept back from her oval face and touching her shoulders. The warm light from the candelabras picked up the slight rose tint of her olive skin and the flash of white from her smile.

A beautiful woman putting on a brave front. A woman custom-made to be looked at with lustful intent. Burch didn’t need imagination to mentally undress Stella Rae Hulett. He had seen her at her carnal best while staring through the telephoto lens of a camera as she fucked her lover in a dimly lit motel room. He had his own highlight reel of her taut body stored in his brainpan.

But his mind was on the charred chain in the bed of Gyp Hulett’s pickup, his eyes locked on the bandaged hand dangling at her side. How’d you really burn your hand, missy? Where were you when your daddy died?

Jason Powell stood behind her, looming over her right shoulder, the protective hand of a lover on her upper arm as he nodded to each mourner paying respect as Stella Rae shook their hand. Gotta give the guitar picker some credit. Looks like he’s in it for the long haul.

To Stella’s right stood a young man in jeans, boots and a red brocade vest over a crisp, white shirt and a bolo with a silver and onyx slide. His round face was pale and pockmarked, his hair black and wiry. Burch guessed he was looking at Jimmy Carl Hulett, Bart Hulett’s only son.

Jimmy Carl looked like a sawed-off version of his ancient cousin, Gyp, minus the gunsight stare, the wolf smile and the Browning Hi-Power on the hip. Which was another way of saying the boy had more than a few dollops of bad outlaw blood running through his veins, but none of the lethal menace.

The younger Hulett looked uncomfortable shaking the hands of mourners, his eyes shifting but always downcast, his head nodding with a nervous jerk, the overhead glow highlighting a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead. Between handshakes, he wiped his hawk’s beak nose with a dark blue bandana.

He looked like a man who needed a drink.

Or a spike of Mexican Brown.

Burch knew the look. Saw it a thousand times as a Dallas street cop. Telltales of a junkie. A loser. A Hulett in name only. A weak link who would sell his soul for his next fix. Or sell out his daddy. How bad are you hooked, boy? Who has his claws in you besides your dealer? Malo Garza? Needle Burnet? Or another player to be named later?

Burch tucked these questions into his mental deck and resumed scanning the crowd, ignoring that edgy sliver, keeping a slight smile on his face — just a prodigal looking for old friends and neighbors. Damned tedious work, standing in the corner of a whorehouse chapel, watching and waiting, working a cop’s most hackneyed routine — hitting the victim’s funeral.

His feet and knees started to ache. Never cut it walking a beat again. He ignored the pain and kept his eyes moving. He wasn’t expecting a lightning flash of sudden insight or the appearance of a beady-eyed suspect wearing their guilt like a gaudy neon sign. That only happened on Murder, She Wrote and Angela Lansbury didn’t fit in with this West Texas crowd.

Burch was looking for smaller stuff. Dribs and drabs. A pattern. A sense of how people caught up in a case fit together — or didn’t. A loose thread. An odd moment. A step out of line or time.

A facial tic or look. Like a Hulett with the junkie’s sniffles.

A mismatch. Like a beautiful woman with a burned and bandaged right hand.

A shard. Anything that caused his cop instincts to tingle, triggering questions he needed to ask. He found two. Small kernels, granted, but grist for the mill.

He kept his eyes moving, looking for more of something he wouldn’t know until he saw it. Minutes dragged by, grinding like a gearbox with sand in it. The line of mourners grew shorter. The pain moved up to the small of his back.

The sliver grew into a sharp stab of warning. Eyes were on him. Felt rather than seen. He shifted his gaze to his right, keeping his head still. Across the center aisle, at the near end of the last row of chairs, a gaunt brown face with thin black hair turned to face the front of the chapel. Before the turn, Burch saw intense, dark eyes studying him — the watcher being watched.

Both knew the other was there so Burch took his time studying the man’s profile. Thin, bony nose, hair brushed back dry from a receding widow’s peak, black suit with an open-collar white dress shirt. The man quit pretending he hadn’t been made, turning to look at Burch with a slight smile and close-set eyes that flashed a predatory interest.

Burch returned the stare with the dead-eyed look of a cop and burned an image for his memory bank.

Who are you, friend? Another Garza hitter? Jesus, Burch, that isn’t what the narcos call their gunsels. Get your head out of the 1940s. Sicario — that’s it.

What about it, friend? You another of Malo’s sicarios? Or are you outside talent? Maybe that specialist Bustamante talked about. Maybe a freelancer working for Malo’s competition. Or the Bryte Brothers.

You the eyes I feel watchin’ me? Why the sudden interest? Those two shooters I smoked friends of yours?

Movement up front caught Burch’s attention. Gyp Hulett, hat in hand and wearing a black frock coat straight out of the 1890s that wasn’t in the truck cab during the ride to town, parting the sitting room drapes. The old outlaw walked up to his younger cousins in a bow-legged stride, whispering to each, then beckoning them to follow him as he retraced his steps.

Burch glanced back toward the gaunt Mexican. Gone. A sucker’s play if he followed. Burch slid out of his corner perch and along the back row of chairs to get a better look at the sitting room entrance. Gyp parted the drapes to let Stella Rae and Jimmy Carl enter.

Through the opening, Burch could see Boelcke standing next to a tall man with a thick, dark moustache, an inverted V above a stern, downturned mouth, echoed by thick eyebrows. He had ramrod straight posture and was wearing a tailored, dark gray suit, a pearl gray shirt and a black tie. Black hair in a conservative businessman’s cut, light brown skin and an aquiline nose gave him the look of a criollo, the New World Spaniards who ripped the land of their birth away from the mother country.

Malo Garza, paying his respects in private. Gyp Hulett swept the drapes closed as he ducked into the room. Burch braced himself for the bark of a Browning Hi-Power he hoped he wouldn’t hear and marveled at the high hypocrisy of Garza showing up at the funeral of a man he wanted dead.

Took balls and brass to do that. Matched by a restraint Burch didn’t know Gyp Hulett had.

“Bet you’d like to be a fly on the wall in that room.”

For a split second, Burch thought he was hearing the voice of Wynn Moore’s ghost. Then he looked to his right and met the sad, brown eyes of Cuervo County Chief Deputy Elroy Jesus “Sudden” Doggett.

“Wouldn’t mind that one bit. Imagine it’s quite the show. Lots of polite words of sorrow and respect. Lots of posturing. Lots of restraint. Have to be considerin’ one man in there would like to kill the other.”

“That would be your client, right? The ever-popular Gyp Hulett, gringo gangster of the Trans-Pecos.”

“Can’t tell you who I’m working for, Deputy. You know that’s confidential.”

Doggett’s eyes went from sad to flat annoyed and his voice took on a metallic edge.

“That ain’t no secret, hoss. Not to me or anybody else who matters around here, including the other big
mule in that room. And that man probably wants to kill you.”

“Malo Garza? The man don’t even know me.”

“That’s a point in your favor. If he did know you, he’d put you out of your misery right now.”

“A big dog like him? He’s got more important things to worry about than lil’ ol’ me.”

“You don’t know Malo Garza. Anybody pokin’ his nose anywhere near his business draws his personal interest. And believe you me, that ain’t healthy.”

“Ol’ Malo might find me a tad hard to kill. I tend to shoot back. If he wants a piece of me, he’ll have to get in line.”

Doggett paused. His eyes turned sad again. When he spoke, the edge was gone from his voice.

“Listen to us — two guys talkin’ about killin’ at a great man’s funeral. Let’s step outside for a smoke and a
talk.”

“Unless this is the type of talk that follows an arrest, I’d rather stay here and watch the floor show.”

Doggett chuckled.

“Don’t have that kind of talk in mind right now, although the man I work for just might. This’ll be a private chat between you and me.”

“Thought we had a meeting tomorrow. You are the hombre that had that trustee give Lawyer Boelcke that invitation to Guerrero’s, right?”

“Right. Things change. Come ahead on. I’ll have you back for the next act. It’s one you won’t want to miss. Star of the show. Blue Willingham, shedding crocodile tears for Bart Hulett. He won’t show up until Garza’s done paying his respects.”

Nothing like dancing the West Texas waltz with bent lawmen, lupine outlaws, patrician drug lords, gaunt killers and Baptist undertakers with bordello tastes.

In three-quarter time.

***

Excerpt from The Best Lousy Choice: An Ed Earl Burch Novel by Jim Nesbitt. Copyright © 2019 by Jim Nesbitt. Reproduced with permission from Jim Nesbitt. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Giveaway:

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Aug 012019
 

The Experiment by Robin Lamont Banner

 

 

The Experiment

by Robin Lamont

on Tour August 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

The Experiment by Robin Lamont

Jude Brannock is a brash and single-minded female protagonist for today’s readers who believe that nature and animals deserve our respect and must be protected. In The Experiment, author Robin Lamont brings these forward-looking themes to her newest suspense novel.

Jude is an investigator for an animal protection organization. When the young man she has trained for an undercover job suddenly vanishes after a tantalizing text that he’s “on to something,” Jude rushes to the quiet, farming community of Half Moon, only to discover that her trainee might have perpetrated an elaborate con job on her. Determined to get to the truth, she unearths a biopharmaceutical company’s deadly secret, and in doing so, comes up against dark secrets of her own.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Grayling Press
Publication Date: May 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 0985848588 (ISBN13: 9780985848583)
Series: The Kinship Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Robin Lamont

Before becoming a novelist, Robin was a popular Broadway actress and singer, turned private investigator, and then New York prosecutor. She draws on these diverse careers for her work, infusing suspenseful plots with character-driven drama.

Robin’s prior work has garnered awards and recognition, including Suspense Magazine’s Best of the Indies and a Gold Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards for her novel If Thy Right Hand. Her book The Chain, which introduced Jude Brannock to readers, was a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Finalist. Her screen adaptation of the book, Six Seconds, is currently under option.

Q&A with Robin Lamont

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m a big animal lover, and this is the 3rd book of a series in which the central character, Jude Brannock, is an investigator for an animal protection group. I thought that there are so many cops, PI’s, lawyers, etc. who seek justice for human victims of crime, there should be a protagonist looking out for the animals. In The Experiment, I sought to deepen her character and explore how her job often drives her to the fringes of society and the effect that has on her.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

It’s been challenging to create a main character in the suspense genre who works in a field that not many people know about. A lot of readers don’t know that investigators for animal protection groups are out there every day trying to hold abusers accountable. It can be a dangerous and difficult job. So, I’m trying to bring Jude to life, with all her passion and her own personal issues that get in the way, and still create a character that will resonate for readers.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

Naturally, I did quite a bit of research into the science part of the book. But I called up my own experience as an undercover investigator in New York City. What it’s like to wrap yourself in a different persona while at the same time trying to elicit information on the “bad guys” you’re investigating. It’s a bit like juggling – in a really uncomfortable way. Before I became a private investigator, I was an actor. There’s always some nervousness that you’ll go up on your lines and muck things up, but it’s nothing like the hum of constant fear that your criminal targets will find out who you really are. The consequences are quite different.

How did you come up with the title?

The Experiment has dual meaning here. The book does touch on the testing done on animals before a product can go to clinical trials. But the story also deals with genetically engineered plants for food, which hasn’t been around long enough for us to know the long-term health effects. We’re playing with nature, believing we can control it in every circumstance, and that’s one big experiment – we don’t really know how that’s all going to play out.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I’m definitely a morning person, and I come up with my more workable ideas when I’m moving – driving a car or walking the dog in the park. I have a few friends who don’t understand why I don’t jump at the chance to walk the dogs together. But it’s usually because I like the time to think.

I used to keep a journal, but now I work primarily on the computer, where I have easy access to the internet to look things up as needed. Of course, that means that I have masses of disparate files and pages on research, characters, scene ideas, dialogue, etc. I could probably use some better organization.

Tell us why we should read your book?

First, The Experiment is a fast-moving story with some non-traditional characters each of whom has a deeply personal story that drives them. I also bring readers into a world that they may not be familiar with but will find interesting and fraught with emotional tension.

As an avid suspense reader myself, I appreciate a story with twists and turns. But if it’s lacking in human feelings, then it can leave me feeling a bit flat. The Experiment is, first and foremost, a human drama wrapped in a suspense theme.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m working on creating a TV/cable series about Jude Brannock and the organization she works for. It may incorporate ideas from some of The Kinship books but will ultimately focus on her animal protection group – and all the odd characters there.

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

I could see Kate Mara as Jude – edgy, progressive, flawed. Perhaps Casey Affleck as Lucas – a character where 90% lurks under the surface.

Also wouldn’t mind seeing Meryl Streep and Idris Elba up there. Not sure what roles they’d play, but I’d find something, and they’d sure class up the film.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

I’m an avid tennis player. I like to knit and usually have 2-3 unfinished sweaters lying around that I mean to get to. I hate to cook but do it anyway because whole foods are good for me and my family.

Favorite foods?
(I’m shaking my head here – too many to name). I go through phases. Right now, I’m into rice pudding, which I make slowly like a risotto with almond milk. Oh my God, the ultimate comfort food!

Catch Up With Our Author On:
thekinshipseries.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

John Harbolt wasn’t easily shaken. With over forty years of medicine under his belt, there was hardly an injury, disease, or fatality he hadn’t seen, and he’d treated just about everyone in the small town of Half Moon at some time or other. But on that late summer day, young Tori Lacey showed him something that baffled him. Her symptoms were inexplicable and downright scary.

She was his first patient of the day, a young woman who had battled her weight for years. In between the earaches and the sore throats, Harbolt had gently counseled her about diet and exercise. He hoped she wasn’t here to ask him about diet pills again, because as far as he was concerned, they were off the table.

After removing her file from the plastic holder bolted to the outside of the examination room, he adjusted his wire rim glasses and straightened his lab coat. The younger doctors often wore khakis and a short-sleeved shirt at work, and maybe it put the kids more at ease. But Dr. Harbolt stuck with a freshly starched white coat, believing that it made his patients feel more confident in his abilities. And confidence in one’s doctor was important to the healing process.

“Tori Ann Lacey,” he announced jovially as he shambled into the room.

“Hi, Dr. Harbolt.” The morose girl before him sat on the table. She had taken off her running shoes but left her sweatshirt and shorts on.

“I haven’t seen you for a while,” he said, noting with some surprise that she had slimmed considerably, her round face now leaner and more mature. “How is college life treating you?”

“Ok, I guess.” Her voice and posture belied this.

“What brings you here today, my dear.”

“I don’t really know. But we thought you should look at these.” She pushed back the sleeve of her sweatshirt and held out her arm for inspection.

There were several bruises that vandalized the translucent skin of her inner arm. Dr. Harbolt held her wrist and peering over his glasses, looked closely at the red and purple marks.

He pressed lightly on one of them. “Does that hurt?”

She shook her head no.

“What happened?”

“That’s the thing. Nothing happened. They just appeared.” She showed him another set of bruises on her other arm.

“Did you fall?”

“No.”

“Knocked into something?”

“No,” she exclaimed, as though he didn’t believe her. “My mom thinks it’s my diet. That I should be eating meat.”

“And you’re not?”

“No. I needed to lose five more pounds for the track team, which I was having a hard time doing, so I switched over to a raw food diet. And it really helped because I made my goal.”

“And you were selected for the team?”

She nodded, anxiously chewing on a nail.

“Congratulations. You getting enough protein?” he asked, studying the bruising and letting her answer drift past him. This wasn’t because of her diet.

She rambled for a moment about nuts and spinach, then peeled off her socks and lifted her bare feet to the end of the examination table. “And then yesterday after a run, I found this,” she said. “I didn’t even show my mom ’cause she’d freak out.”

Dr. Harbolt caught his breath. It looked as though someone had taken a baseball bat to the soles of the girl’s feet. Fiery maroon blotches screamed out some kind of violence. Three of her toes had turned a dark purple.

“Good Lord!” he blurted out. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing! I’m telling you nothing happened,” wailed Tori. “They just … showed up.”

***

Excerpt from The Experiment by Robin Lamont. Copyright © 2019 by Robin Lamont. Reproduced with permission from Robin Lamont. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Robin Lamont. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2019 and runs through September 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Jun 262019
 

A Cloud Of Fraud by Linda Ferreri Banner

 

 

A Cloud of Fraud

by Linda Ferreri

on Tour June 1-30, 2019

Synopsis:

A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri

A man is shot dead in front of City Hall in Philadelphia where his family is tangled in a bitter lawsuit. One brave woman, drawn there by a work of art, finds herself following a twisted trail to the hills of Le Marche in Italy to learn why. All the while, the cloud of fraud grows thicker and darker around her. But, as C. S. Forester said, perhaps the scandal of fraud enhances the flavor.

This thrilling story grabs and holds the reader from the first chapter through unexpected twists all the way to the richly satisfying ending. Art expert Claire Bliss and police Comandante Baldo are joined and antagonized by unforgettable characters in both Philadelphia and Italy. The authenticity of Ferreri’s players and their territories give special vibrance to the novel.

Lovers of the Renaissance will be drawn in immediately by the book’s cover, a painting of Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli (ca. 1480) in the Rijksmuseum. Inside the book, a great art crime story unfolds together with a gem of a murder mystery.

A Cloud of Fraud is colorful, fast-moving entertainment.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Published by: Linda Ferreri Trustee
Publication Date: May 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 315
ISBN: 978-0-578-47624-7
Purchase Links: Amazon | Kindle | Apple Books | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Linda Ferreri

Linda Ferreri is the author of several art crime novels as well as witty illustrated iBooks. She is a highly respected international art law expert who divides her time between the United States and Le Marche in Italy.

Sometimes she says her most amusing book was her first, The King of UNINI, a sophisticated little romance set in Paris.

Q&A with Linda Ferreri

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Thanks very much for having me here!

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

A lawsuit is a nasty thing, I believe, and it changes people. I have been a lawyer for many years and seen some of the problems caused by litigation, which I abhor. Nothing is worse than a family lawsuit. So, it began there. But the painting on the cover of the book…oh I really love it. Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli, the version in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. That, too, because he painted in my territory in Italy…Le Marche.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Not getting stuck in a plot hole. The story is full of twists and turns and red herrings. The author has to follow those closely in a mystery.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

Years of being an art historian and studying artworks in museums takes the mind to all sorts of “sources” of information. I had to do some serious work on Carlo Crivelli, the painter. I read an excellent catalogue prepared for a recent exhibition of his works at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He was long forgotten but has had his own little renaissance, thank goodness.

How did you come up with the title?

A judge once spoke those words. Truer words were never spoken about the affairs in too many courtrooms.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I like sunny locations and quiet around me. For these mysteries, I cannot focus with music or too much other noise around me.

Tell us why we should read your book?

The characters are, I think, delicious and the settings, also. Anyone who knows Philadelphia politics will have a chuckle and anyone who dreams of the Italian countryside and those beautiful medieval hill towns will have some lovely images. The story is very satisfying. I think bright people like to read mysteries like this that take them on a ride and satisfy in the end because they fully occupy the mind. It’s quite visual and I really do hope someone makes this tale into a film. The scenery alone is worth that.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes. There is a strong character in Miami Beach, Florida involved. I’d like to tell you all of what happens to her but I can’t without spoiling the story. She’s young, single, poor and has a major adventure. Along the way, she solves a few life problems. But don’t all heroines do that?

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

Oh please, God! And the choice role in this book is Rose. That is the role that all mature actresses should line up to play. Nobody tall or blond. I think that Helen Mirren can play any role, so we’ll put a wig on her and give her the job. Besides, she owns a pomegranate ranch in southern Italy and she knows plenty of Italian.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

I grow roses and make rose water. And I knit all the time. Cant live without roses or knitting. Nope.

Favorite foods?

Italian food, of course, and Vietnamese. I took cooking lessons for a few days in Saigon and learned to make wonderful foods, only to get home to the US to discover that many of the ingredients are impossible to buy. Darn it.

Catch Up With Linda Ferreri On:
acloudoffraud.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Early on in the Hard-heads case, at one of the bar association luncheons, Judge Pirandello had positioned himself next to one of his former clerks who was now a successful litigator in the Probate Court. Biggers, by name. There was the introductory chat about the wellbeing of their family members and the joke about the latest case here or there. The dialogue was familiar to both of them. The Hard-heads plaintiff was a problem person, the judge had learned, and he needed to be squashed to put an end to mostly frivolous claims, driven by greed. Everybody in the family knew it, the judge heard. He knew the type. The Probate Court was littered with greedy relatives, angry children with buxom young stepmothers wearing expensive jewelry their fathers had bought. He knew it all. The judge wanted rid of this case, and so he was pleased to learn that it was not worthy of His Honor’s dignified much less close attention. The Hard-heads case had to go.

It would have gone long before now, the judge was thinking to himself as he growled into the cup of black tea, but these damned people had refused to take the hint, refused to be cowed or put in their places. Here and there at the few hearings he had conducted over this motion or that, he had seen a shrug of the shoulders by one or another lawyer.

“What could we do?” They might as well have said that out loud. The judge understood.

His knee was throbbing, but Judge Pirandello refused to have it replaced. The fact that cold weather was coming on made it worse. The goddamned orthopedic surgeon was another money-grubber. Were there no professionals left in his world who were not money-grubbers? He stretched his corpulence forward over the edge of his chair to reach for his footstool, then winced as he elevated the bad leg. He yelled out for Mary to bring him another cup of tea. Then, he opened the enormous file on the small table beside his chair.

In Re the Estate of Seri. He hated even the name. Italian people should not behave in this fashion, he thought. His own father would have come back from the dead to beat the daylights out of his heirs if they had behaved as these people were behaving. Suing one another. Claiming fraud. All of it. Disgraceful, he thought. They were each poised to receive a generous amount of money but no, that wasn’t good enough. As with errant children, the Judge was both angry with and ashamed of the parties.

***

Excerpt from A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri. Copyright © 2019 by Linda Ferreri. Reproduced with permission from Linda Ferreri. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Ferreri. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2019 and runs through July 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Jun 192019
 

The Wedding Crasher

by Nikki Stern

on Tour June 1-30, 2019

The Wedding Crasher by Nikki Stern

Synopsis:

A brunette in a bridal gown turns up in Pickett County, Tennessee, throat slit and ring finger missing. She’s the latest victim of the Wedding Crasher, a serial killer who murders women just weeks before their weddings.

Samantha Tate is Picket County’s yoga-loving, poker-playing new sheriff, a former Nashville homicide detective who struggles with her inner demons. To catch the meticulous murderer, Sam will have to follow her instincts and ignore her worst impulses. Can she stop the Wedding Crasher before another bride-to-be dies?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Ruthenia Press
Publication Date: May 8, 2019
Number of Pages: 340
ISBN: 978-0-9995487-3-8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Nikki Stern

Nikki Stern is the author of the inspirational HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal finalist, and the thriller THE FORMER ASSASSIN, a 2018 Kindle Book Review category finalist. Her essays are included in three anthologies and she co-authored the interactive Café Noir murder mystery series, published by Samuel French. Eight of her short stories have been published in various online journals and she was a Mark Twain Royal Nonesuch finalist for her short story “Long Away and Far Ago.” Nikki is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Q&A with Nikki Stern

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

I was thinking I’d like to create a character as compelling, maybe as restless, as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. A bit more settled than that but not much. No strong attachments, no commitments, running from a nightmare that would extend through a series, if I were writing one.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

The nature of the lead character changed completely per the advice of a developmental editor I resisted for a LONG time. The character had to change, but that particular rewrite, unlike earlier revisions, was a beast. Forty percent of the book changed. Sam Tate’s essence changed. I didn’t know if it would work; I think it did.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

I get into the details as to how murders are investigated in an underpopulated rural county like Pickett County. Every state is different, every jurisdiction. The sheriff’s office, the coroners and Medical Examiner, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and any of these departments and agencies might interact with an FBI field agent. I find this kind of crime procedural nitty-gritty fascinating. It has to be accurately portrayed. Fortunately, I was put in touch with some invaluable experts.

How did you come up with the title?

The book takes its title from the name of the serial killer at the center of the investigation

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

When I’m working on a book, I put in four to seven hours a day and that’s not counting my thinking process, which is non-stop. I do take time off between books, sometimes a LOT of time off. But I always end up doing something related to the business end.

Tell us why we should read your book?

The central character, Samantha (Sam) Tate) is a complex, conflicted, utterly likeable character. She’s resourceful, resolute and she’s in danger, which is always appealing. The plot contains plenty of twists and turns; the ending is a surprise; the writing is strong. Readers will have a good time.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

It’s the second in the Sam Tate series. For reasons I can’t disclose, Sam relocates to the eastern shore of Maryland where she’s joined a local police department and is leading a murder investigation that involves rumors of buried treasure.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

Hmm. I’m not sure these actors are the right age but perhaps Angie Harmon as Sam and Damian Lewis as Terry.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Biking, reading, yoga, playing with my dog Molly

Favorite foods?

Roast chicken with root vegetables. Graham crackers. Anything chocolate.

Catch Up With Nikki Stern On:
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Read an excerpt:

The dead woman lay in the clearing like a macabre version of Sleeping Beauty. She was dressed in a long-sleeved, high-necked ivory gown, set off by luminescent pearl drop earrings and a matching necklace that almost hid the dried blood around her throat. Her head rested on a satin pillow, her silky walnut hair spread behind her like a fan. The right hand held a bouquet of wilted flowers and rested on her chest underneath the left, absent the fourth finger. The ring finger.

Sheriff Sam Tate stood to one side of the grim tableau, arms folded, and took it all in: the victim; the tall white-haired man who knelt by the body; the deputy who walked the scene in throwaway boots, snapping pictures; the pale young man in running gear sitting on a rock, head almost to his knees; the uniformed officer who squatted beside him.

Sam had dressed in her standard uniform of pressed black slacks and a spotless white shirt. A shaft of early-morning sun bounced off the polished badge at her left breast pocket. On her right wrist, she wore a utilitarian watch. Three small studs twinkled along one earlobe, her single visible concession to a rebellious streak. She’d pulled her unruly dark locks into a tight braid. Ray-Bans shielded her green eyes, though not the line that formed between her brows.

One of the victim’s low-heeled white pumps had dropped off to reveal a slim ankle in hosiery. Stockings, not pantyhose, held up by an old-fashioned garter. Sam didn’t need to look.

He’s back, she thought, adding a curse for good measure.

***

Excerpt from The Wedding Crasher by Nikki Stern. Copyright © 2019 by Nikki Stern. Reproduced with permission from Nikki Stern. All rights reserved.

 

 

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