by James L’Etoile
July 12 – August 8, 2021 Tour
Sanity is something you don’t miss until it’s gone. Hard charging pharmaceutical executive Jillian Cooper fears she’d destined to inherit her mother’s history of mental illness when she finds herself accused of murdering her boss. All the evidence tells her she’s either a murderer, or insane. When Jillian struggles to find the truth, she uncovers a web of black market pharmaceuticals, prison gangs, and greed. She begins to believe she may have killed to cover up the off-the-books drug operation.
Can she discover the truth before she’s condemned to life in prison, or a mental hospital?
“Tight, terrific, terrifying. BLACK LABEL delves into the murky world of pharmaceuticals where profit is prioritized above all else. L’Etoile creates a strong female lead in Jillian Cooper, a woman who faces obstacle after obstacle, but still charges into the abyss. More unnerving than a fistful of amphetamines. Unputdownable.”
—K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK
“James L’Etoile’s BLACK LABEL is a delightfully complex and twisty thriller with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that will make you think long and hard before you swallow your next dose of medication. Add in an intrepid heroine willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth no matter the cost, and L’Etoile’s newest offering is a winner!”
— Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER and THE WICKED SISTER
“Relentlessly fast-paced and compellingly twisty! The talented James L’Etoile sets up an irresistibly high-stakes situation: a woman is certain to be charged with murder and doesn’t remember a thing. Can she prove her innocence before she’s silenced forever? A dark journey through the world of big Pharma and big money—you will turn the pages as fast as you can.”
— Hank Phillippi Ryan USA Today Bestselling author of THE FIRST TO LIE
“If this book had a tag, it would say ‘proceed with caution’ because nothing is what it seems. Told with a vivid and visceral style, this is le Carré’s Constant Gardener meets The Fugitive. As the title suggests, BLACK LABEL is a top of the line thriller.”
— Gabriel Valjan, Agatha & Anthony Award nominated author
Read an excerpt:
James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise.
Q&A with James L’Etoile
What was the inspiration for this book?
The inspiration for BLACK LABEL came to me a bit differently than the stories, characters, and plots in my other books. Usually, I have a kernel of a plot idea and a vivid grasp of the characters coming from my years of working in prison. You know, the gangs, the murders, and all the secrets wrapped up in a criminal organization. You are going to spend months with these characters and places, so you have to ready to allow your mind space to dwell there for a while. This book, though, came from sitting around with a bunch of fellow authors at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Marin, California. We got onto the topic of fear and there wasn’t anything more threatening to me than feeling helpless, especially when you’re faced with defending yourself from serious allegations. In this case, Jillian Cooper finds herself as the suspect in a murder—and all the evidence points to her, but Jillian can’t remember a thing.
The plot question of what’s in those prescription drugs we take was developed pre-COVID, long before the anti-vaccine movement started to show its hand. Now, I’m definitely not an anti-vaxxer and I signed up the moment I became eligible. But, it does make you wonder what’s really in those prescription drugs?
What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?
This is a difficult question to narrow down for me. Each book so far has come with its own set of challenges, from querying that first novel, to getting an agent, to contract terms, and book distribution. But, I’m learning—continuously. I know more now about the craft of writing, my own writing process, and the business of publishing. Establishing my own writing process has probably been the most difficult and rewarding challenge in my writing career. Writing bootcamps, craft seminars, and “experts” tell you that you must write in a certain way, develop a story using a specific method, and use color coded index cards to meticulously outline your book’s plot. And that may be fine—for them. More power to them and if that helped them create a book, good on them.
For the longest time I tried to mirror these “have-to’s” and while I came up with books that sold, I wasn’t enjoying the creative process as much. I’m discovering I’m more of an intuitive writer and following a strict outline inhibits some of the creative options that may pop up as I write. Am I a total “pantser?” Not really. When I sit down to write, I have a good idea how the story begins, who inhabits the pages, and a general idea how the story ends, without the compulsive need for a detailed outline. For example, I wrote an award-recognized screenplay from sparse notes scribbled on a Starbuck’s napkin.
What do you absolutely need while writing?
I’ve found the most important thing is to protect the time you have to write. There will always something that needs to be done, pulling you away from the keyboard. The key is giving yourself permission to sit down and write and let other commitments or distractions slide a bit. Keeping distractions at bay is always a struggle. I can tell when I’m writing a difficult scene, where emotion and tension are at a peak. I’m a guy and I stuff that stuff down as deep as possible. So, dogs are walked, floors vacuumed, and the lawn gets mowed. Finally, I know I have to come back and write that difficult passage, but hey, the house is nice and tidy…
Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?
The routine helps keep me productive. My daily schedule starts early—with an assist. Apparently, Corgis demand feeding before first-light. After a dog walk (plot lines and twists often fall into place during these walks) and coffee, I try to put in at least four hours at the keyboard when I’m drafting. I find that I’m creatively spent after four to five hours, so I’ll move onto promotion, marketing, or other book business tasks that need attention. But all the while, plot lines, dialogue, and twists are circling in my mind.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Jillian Cooper is the main character in BLACK LABEL and I’m drawn to her because she isn’t the helpless damsel in distress. She’s a tough, smart woman who earned her way to the corporate boardroom. In her focused, driven climb to the top, she’s become isolated and has no one around her to help her deal with the damning accusations she faces. She finds an inner strength and she’ll need it to survive.
Tell us why we should read your book.
There’s a subtle, but swift undercurrent in our work-lives demanding all of our attention. In some respects, the work from home movement and constant Zooming from one meeting to another has made us more disconnected, isolated, and emotionally exhausted. Jillian was so focused on her important job that she didn’t notice what was going on around her. Her lack of work-life balance made her vulnerable. So, in some respects, Jillian serves as a warning to us to about work-life balance.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
The San Francisco Police inspector’s name, DiManno was the result of a Sacramento Library Foundation auction. Mario DiManno was the highest and very generous bidder. The proceeds went to children’s literacy programs in the Sacramento, California area.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope readers take away we can’t do it alone. Go through life, that is. We need the connection and support of others and with that interconnectedness we can accomplish anything. Additionally, I think it’s interesting the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry is a $200 billion business and the safeguards in place between greed and unsuspecting consumers are paper thin. As thin as a Black Label.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I use my twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in my novels, short stories, and screenplays. As a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system, I have an insider’s perspective into crime and the impact it has in our communities. I’ve been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. My published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, Little River -The Other Side of Paradise, and Black Label. Look for Dead Drop in the summer of 2022 from Level Best Books. You can find out more about me and what goes on in my head at www.jamesletoile.com
What’s next that we can look forward to?
Next up is DEAD DROP (Level Best Books), the first of three books in the series set in the Arizona desert looking at the complicated and dangerous relationship between law enforcement and illegal immigration. Detective Nathan Parker’s finds he must depend on the very people he chased over the border if he is to survive.
Catch Up With James L’Etoile:
BookBub – @jimletoile
Instagram – @AuthorJamesLEtoile
Twitter – @JamesLEtoile
Facebook – @james.letoile
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for James L’Etoile. There will be Seven (7) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $20 Amazon.com gift card; Three (3) winners will each receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card; and Two (2) winners will each receive 1 signed print edition of At What Cost and Bury the Past by James L’Etoile. The giveaway begins on July 12 and runs through August 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.