The world has been a crazy place since the emergence of Covid-19. Although it’s still out there, I’ve begun to venture forth into the world and attend author events. It feels wonderful to get back into the world of books and speaking with other writers! I think the last event I went to was the Bullet Books event in February of 2020 at the Bosslight Bookstore in Nacogdoches. (Fellow AMW writers Kathy Waller, Helen Currie Foster, and Laura Oles are also Bullet Books authors.)
My first foray back into the public realm was a Noir At The Bar event in Dallas back in June. Of course, it was outside and still blazing hot even though it started at 7. But I had such a great time listening to the other authors that it was worth it! Not a dud in the bunch. We laughed at some stories and were creeped out by others. I read a short piece that I wrote a few years ago, Tutusuana. (“Tutusuana” is a Comanche word that’s explained in the story.) It was nice to see old friends and finally meet online friends in person. Loved the experience. I highly recommend The Wild Detectives bookstore/bar. This is a jewel in the Bishop Arts district in Dallas.
Now we travel to Book People. Yesterday, August 21, I went to my first Book People event since pre-Covid. Mark Pryor has a new book Die Around Sundown. This is the first book in a new series so of course I had to be there to cheer him on! I’m excited to read this book. It’s an historical mystery set in Nazi-occupied France. I enjoyed the book talk and, again, seeing friends in person that I haven’t seen in a while.
This Wednesday I plan to go to an author event at my local library. I haven’t met Michael Miller but since I live in a small town, I want to attend events and provide support. He’s a long-time university professor, presently at Texas State. And he is also a Presbyterian minister, serving La Iglesia Presbiteriana Mexicana for the last ten years in San Marcos. His book is The Two Deaths of Father Romero: A Novel of the Borderlands. Sounds interesting!
Then the next day I’ll be back at Book People, if the roads aren’t flooded. (We’ve been in a severe drought this summer, as much of the world has been too. I’m looking forward to the rain, but I hope it’s a slow, soaking rain and not a deluge.)
If you keep up with any missing persons notices, especially in Texas, you’re likely to come across the name of an incredible organization, Texas EquuSearch.
Texas EquuSearch, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is funded solely by donations, started in 2000 and has grown to over 1,000 members. They use the best technology available while providing compassion and understanding to the families. They are thorough and professional and get results.
According to their website, their members:
“…come from all walks of life, consisting of business owners, medics, firefighters, housewives, electricians, students, former FBI and law enforcement, current law enforcement, former and current U.S. Marshall, Coast Guard and all walks of military, former and current, on our team. Our resources range from horse and rider teams to foot searchers and ATVs. We conduct water searches using boats, divers and sonar equipment. Additionally, we perform air searches using planes, helicopters and small drone airplanes with highly sophisticated cameras. We have also utilized infrared and night vision cameras, along with ground penetration units in some of our searches. Texas EquuSearch has more resources than most law enforcement agencies, which allows law enforcement to conduct their investigation, while Texas EquuSearch conducts organized searches. This has worked out to be a great working relationship between law enforcement and Texas EquuSearch. This has also resulted in Texas EquuSearch being contacted by law enforcement agencies across the nation to assist them in their missing person cases.”
They have been involved in over 1,800 searches in 42 states and in other countries. They have helped find over 400 missing people, many who would have been deceased if they hadn’t been found, and many of the cases have resulted in criminal convictions. And because so many of the organization’s members are knowledgeable about law enforcement and proper procedures, evidence has never been compromised during any of the searches.
Unfortunately, the reason for the organization has stemmed from tragedy. The daughter of TE director Tim Miller, Laura Miller, was abducted and murdered in 1984, in north Galveston County. Again, from their website,
“To date, there has been no arrest in this case. Additionally, Jane and Janet Doe, who were also found near Laura’s body, have not been identified. Tim Miller continues his fight every day to ensure Laura gets justice. As a result of the death of Laura Miller, Texas EquuSearch was born. Laura Miller’s spirit lives on. Tim Miller has dedicated his life to helping families with missing loved ones. Tim has vowed to never leave a family alone if there is anything he can do to help them. Our motto is “Lost is Not Alone.””
Tim Miller has appeared in countless TV programs, news articles, and spoken at many law enforcement conventions. He has also received the “Point of Light” award by George W. Bush and other notable awards from cities who understand the commitment and dedication he gives to families in need of the organization’s help.
I hope that the Miller family will get their answers, like they’ve done for so many others.
If you would like to know more about the organization, give a donation, or become a member, you can find more information on their website.
Here are also some social media links where you can keep up with their efforts. More links are also on their website.
I’ve been reading this summer and wanted to share some great books with you!
The Blessing Way is book #1 of the famous Leaphorn and Chee series by Tony Hillerman. This series has been in my TBR (To Be Read) pile for years and I’m happy to say that I finally got around to it! I knew that it would be good because everyone I’ve talked to has loved these books. Even knowing that, I was pleasantly surprised. Leaphorn is interesting and has an inherent understand about people and what makes them tick. His internal dialogue also teaches the reader about his heritage and culture. I honestly found that aspect of the story to be entertaining and enlightening. It was also full of suspenseful action. There’s a seen where a character is stalked by something or someone in the night. That scene was the best in the book! It was chilling and creepy. I loved it. *happy chills*
I’m currently reading book #2, Dance Hall of The Dead and it’s just as creepy and suspenseful.
Good Reads description of The Blessing Way: Homicide is always an abomination, but there is something exceptionally disturbing about the victim discovered in a high lonely place, a corpse with a mouth full of sand, abandoned at a crime scene seemingly devoid of tracks or useful clues. Though it goes against his better judgment, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn cannot help but suspect the hand of a supernatural killer. There is palpable evil in the air, and Leaphorn’s pursuit of a Wolf-Witch is leading him where even the bravest men fear, on a chilling trail that winds perilously between mysticism and murder.
The second book that I recommend is The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott. It’s also the first in a series, the Chris Cherry series. While it also has a landscape that’s remote, isolated, and vast, this book is quite different. The story is told in alternating chapters from different characters. It took me a bit to get the characters straight, but once I did that, it took off. Scott does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the west Texas landscape and its people, especially bullies in small towns. As most good books, there’s a showdown of sorts and my nerves were raw, waiting to see what happens. It’s not a small book but you’ll be turning pages.
Good Reads description: Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff’s deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee’s darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb’s father and Chris’s boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford “Judge” Ross. Dark, elegiac, and violent, The Far Empty is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it’s a debut novel you won’t soon forget.
Recommendation #3 is South California Purples by Baron R. Birtcher. It’s set in 1973 and starts out with an easy feel of a typical traditional Western. Then rancher Ty Dawson gets conscripted into helping the county’s law enforcement, who seems to have no interest in dealing with the growing problem. When time after time Dawson doesn’t get help from the local cops, Dawson decides to handle matters as he sees fit. If you’re looking for a mix of hard-boiled with a Western, this book fits the bill. Biker gangs vs. cowboys. You know it’s full of action. *trigger warning- it does deal with rape*
From Good Reads: Cattle rancher Ty Dawson, a complex man tormented by elements of his own past, is involuntarily conscripted to assist local law enforcement when a herd of wild mustangs is rounded up and corralled in anticipation of a government auction, igniting the passions of political activist Teresa Pineu, who threatens to fan the flames of an uprising that grows rapidly out of control.
As the past collides with the present, and hostility escalates into brutality and bloodshed, Ty is drawn into a complex web of predatory alliances and corruption where he must choose to stand and fight, or watch as the last remnants of the American West are consumed in a lawless conflagration of avarice and cruelty.
I hope this helps you find some new books. And remember, whenever possible, please try to purchase your books from local, independent bookstores. Thank you!
I don’t know where you are on this infernally cold day, but my husband and I have refugee’d to my sister’s place in Austin because her neighborhood has underground utilities. Yes, the underground power lines mean she’s thumbing her nose at all the ice hanging from every tree, shrub and bush.
In contrast, our sixty-year old abode in Dripping Springs is all electric. Rainwater system with a pump. Electric heat. Oh, sure, a fireplace and a charcoal grill. But the trees hang heavy with the ice…all along our dirt road the frozen cedars clutch the single power line.
So we flung bales of hay to the burros, dripped the faucets, fed the birds, hung a worklamp over the faucet to the washing machine, and left.We crept down Fitzhugh at fifteen miles an hour, flashers on. Hills that we ignore suddenly loomed large ahead of us. But we slithered up and down to my sister’s.
Which is where we wound up watching David Byrne’s American Utopia, filmed by Spike Lee. Okay, the Talking Heads got no attention from me––they seemed too urban and inward back in the day when I was living on tunes from Emmylou, Guy Clark, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Gram Parsons. Tender harmonies, accessible. Relatable. Now there’s a word. Maybe. When did it pop up everywhere? As a positive term, too. Cozy. Approachable. I identified with the characters in those songs. Not so much with David Byrne…he’s not “relatable” but he’s riveting.
Watching David Byrne, singing his disorienting lyrics while moving as one with his variegated carefully chosen ensemble, with their precisely rehearsed exact choreography, reminded me that genius also resides in those we don’t “get.” Those who insist on providing their ownlarge vision of their creation. Those who challenge us (like David Byrne does when he stares at his puzzled and entranced audience). Who make us look at their unique and unfamiliar vision and…buy into it.
Maybe now you’re also recalling how Amanda Gorman created her own new vision at Biden’s inauguration: her smile, her high and formal hair, her slender hands waving in the air, almost forming the words as she spoke her poem. A new way to say a poem, be her own poem, draw us forward into her poem.
So after watching American Utopia I’m thinking of artists who refuse to get stuck in their genre but keep moving ahead of us down the road, hoping we’ll “get it” sooner or later, while remaining––regardless––determined to achieve their vision.
Two from the last century come to mind. First, Picasso. He refusedto get stuck in a rose period, a blue period. Just as we’d learned to love his line drawings of figures from myth or commedia dell’arte, we found ourselves facing guitar collages and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, large Cretan eyes in all the wrong places. If he’d lived forever he’d still be shocking us.
Second, Virginia Woolf. She never wrote the same novel twice. She focused on that unique human trait, individual consciousness, and the mystery of our occasional interconnection. Her compulsive drive in her novels to capture life––moments of revelation––emerged in differentstructures. Orlando. The Waves. The “Time Passes” scene in my lifetimefavorite, To the Lighthouse; also, the incredibly satisfying moment whenLily Briscoe, the spinster amateur artist, cautiously applies a final brushstroke to her painting and senses its rightness. Lily has “had her vision.” In Woolf’s last effort, Between The Acts, she overlays the battle of the sexes, the gulf (occasionally bridged) between a husband and wife, on the annual village pageant unfolding at the ancient barn at their country house where all the villagers participate in a precis of English history.
Woolf was severely criticized, and deeply wounded, by a then-dominant critic, Desmond McCarthy. He sneered, “Of the drama of the will in action out of which stories are made …she knows nothing. What an extraordinary, what a fatal limitation…in a novelist!”
But hey, does anyone read Desmond McCarthy anymore? Take comfort, Virginia. You still challenge, you still astound us.
What does this have to do with mystery writers? Do such lofty goals––never becoming too formulaic or overly predictable––apply to mystery writers? Well, a mystery must have––mystery! Which means a writer can’t get stuck doing the same things over and over. Hence mystery writers do somersaults to stay fresh. Point of view? Proseoptions? Choice of detective(s)?
Consider point of view. Think of Reginald Hill’s police inspectors Dalziel and Pascoe: sometimes one handles the case, sometimes the other. But in Arms and the Woman, Hill gave the point of view to Pascoe’s acerbic wife Ellie. Dorothy Sayers shifted point of view from detective Peter Wimsey’s manservant Bunter, to his love interest Harriet,to his Scotland Yard brother-in-law, Charles. Tony Hillerman uses a mixin his Leaphorn and Chee novels. The Dark Wind begins with omniscience: in chapter one we, along with “the Flute Clan boy,” and fellow Hopi kiva members, are the first to see the body of a Navajo, lying in the middle of the path where the kiva members are transporting sacred spruce branches for a desperately needed rain dance. In chapter two point of view shifts to the pilot of a night flight in the desert. Only inchapter three are we finally in the head of Navajo policeman Jim Chee. But the first two chapters set up the murder and create the powerful desert setting in which Chee operates.
Mystery writers also play with prose. Letters back and forth? Diary excerpts? Dorothy Sayers used both in Busman’s Honeymoon where she advances the plot and setting through the letters and diaries of the detective’s mother and manservant, as well as those of catty London socialites. (As you were about to mention, using such sources reveals the diarist’s/correspondent’s point of view too.) Emails? Reginald Hill used those as Dalziel’s source of information, when Dalziel’s confined to his hospital bed in A Cure for All Diseases. He even copied arial typeface for the emails (which actually I found quite irritating).
As mystery readers we settle comfortably into our favorite chairs fully expecting a murder. Yet sometimes the author teases the reader, providing comedy, but no murder, or granting us a body, but denying us a murderer. Georges Simenon occasionally had the indefatigable Inspector Maigret conclude that in fact there’d been death but no crime, as in The Late Monsieur Gallet. And what about the famous novelist’s death upstairs in the movie Knives Out?
For a real treat, take yourself back to 1913, and E. C. Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case. No spoilers, but the oh-so-clever, so artistic, so fluent, so utterly charming detective…screws up his solution. I won’t tell you how many times, I just recommend it as another mystery twist.
Sometimes the author puts the reader to work, possibly too hard. Inher Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries Eleanor Catton uses many narrators, some unreliable, leaving the reader to make leaps of logic as to which death(s) were murder, and if so, who the murderer might be. Which, admittedly, is a great deal like life itself: we’re always trying to explain events without having enough information.
In my Ghost Next Door a murder occurs and is solved. But characters also debate a long-ago death: was it, or was it not, a murder?I’m now finishing the last chapters in my seventh Alice MacDonald Greer murder mystery. Again the point of view belongs to Alice; the bigquestion she faces is finding the motive. Alice operates on the premise that “If you know why, you know who.” We’re at the point where she hasn’t figured out why.
I’ve been following Nick Russell for a few years and have found him to be funny and fascinating. So I wanted to introduce him to all of you!
VP Chandler- Nick Russell, welcome to the AMW blog and thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’ve followed you and your work for a few years now and I have to say, you’re a very interesting person! It’s like you’ve lived different lives within your lifetime. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Nick Russell – I have had some adventures and a lot of fun in my life, no question about that. My dad was a Border Patrolman back in the days when they rode horses as much as trucks or Jeeps, and I spent much of my early years living on the Southwest border. I joined the Army right out of high school and spent fourteen months as an Infantry squad leader with the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam, and when I came home, I was a firearms instructor at the US Military Academy at West Point. When I left the Army, I spent a few years working as a criminal investigator for the Arizona Attorney General’s office. But from the time I was a kid, my first love has always been writing, and I started and ran several small town newspapers on the Pacific Northwest coast and in Arizona. In 1999 my wife Terry and I sold everything, bought a motorhome, and spent the next 18+ years living and traveling on the road full-time, publishing the Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper. In later 1999 we hung up the keys and bought a home on the central Florida Atlantic coast.
VP Chandler- Wow! I knew that you had done a lot of things but I hadn’t realized just how many. When did you know that you wanted to write mysteries and how is it different from writing the news?
Nick Russell– I had written and self-published ten nonfiction RV/travel books but never had any faith in my ability to write fiction. I actually wrote my first mystery, Big Lake, before we hit the road full-time, then I sat on it for 14 years until my wife finally nagged me into publishing it as an ebook on Amazon in May of 2011. That December, it made the New York Times bestseller list, and I guess the rest is history. I usually put out four books a year, but last year I managed to do six, including two books in my new Tinder Street historical saga. I will be releasing my 44th book late this month or in early February. As for the difference between writing mysteries and the news, mysteries are much more fun. When writing a newspaper story, you are telling the facts of who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes how. And sometimes a news story leaves you feeling unsettled because there isn’t always an immediate resolution, if ever. In writing fiction, I can use my imagination, and the bad guys don’t go free on a technicality. However, I can tell you this, if I tried to use some of the stories I covered in my newspaper days in one of my books, readers would say that was way too wild to believe!
VP Chandler– I didn’t realize that you had been a NY Times best seller! Good for you! Can you tell us how your life experiences have influenced your stories?
Nick Russell – In many ways, I think. I believe I have seen and done things that most authors never will, and I try to incorporate some of that into my books. I know what it feels like to have bullets fired at me and to see my friends killed or wounded. I know what it’s like to be the man pulling the trigger and its long-term effects on a person. I have seen the agony of the families of crime victims and those killed and maimed by drunk drivers. My newspapers were all in small towns, and my mysteries are set in small towns because I know how people in those kinds of communities think, how they act, their hidden prejudices, the oddball characters that every small town has, and the challenges their citizens sometimes have in trying to make a living with limited opportunities. I try to incorporate all of that into my books.
VP Chandler– Do you use any special computer programs to help you write?
Nick Russell– I use Grammarly, though I sometimes feel it is more trouble than it is worth, especially in writing regional dialect. I also use Dragon Professional dictation software since I am a very slow two-finger typist at best. However, it comes with its own challenges and is not nearly as accurate as their television commercials would have you believe.
VP Chandler– You’re also well known for your blog and I’ve noticed that you write for it every day. Is that a habit left over from your newspaper days?
Nick Russell– I started the blog as a marketing tool and income source back around 2007 when we were publishing the Gypsy Journal, and at one time, it was getting over 700,000 hits a year. That number has dropped by at least half now, but I still do a 500 to 1,000 word blog every day. It is a good way to keep in touch with my readers, and it’s still a great marketing tool. It is not uncommon for me to announce a new book in the blog and see a thousand sales in the next 24 to 48 hours.
VP Chandler– Holy cow! That’s certainly something that many writers can learn from. You mentioned earlier that you’re now trying your hand at historical fiction. How’s that going?
Nick- I have always wanted to write a family saga, and last year my wife had a dream about a family who lived through hard times but stuck together, and the strong women in the family who were well known for always being there for their neighbors in need that the locals called the street they lived on Tender Street instead of its official name of Tinder Street. I knew that was the story I had to write. The first two books in the series have been well received, and I will start on the third book in the series sometime in March. They have become my personal favorites of all of my books.
VP Chandler– That’s great! Anything else that you’d like to tell our readers?
Nick Russell– From the time I was a kid, I loved books and reading. They took me on adventures that no movie or television show ever could, and my dream was to someday write stories that would take others on their own adventures. Doing so is the most fun I have ever had. It’s been said that if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. I know that’s true, because I never have.
VP Chandler– Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that many readers discover your writing and enjoy as much as I have.
His most recent book is Big Lake Hoarder and he will be releasing his 9th John Lee Quarrels book the end of the month, Fresh Out Of Mojo. So keep an eye out for that one. You can follow his blog at the link, Nick’s blog.
In addition, about a year ago my friend and suspense author, Alexandra Burt, mentioned that she was writing about a crime that had happened in her hometown in Fulda, German, in 1983. An anthology was asking for short stories, so she submitted it and it was accepted into the publication.
Working on that story got her to thinking about things back in Germany and she did some poking around and well, there were some revelations and things got crazy. So, what did I do? I said, “This is fascinating. We should start a podcast!”
And if you know me, I’m always eager to try my hand at something new. (Hello, cello and bass guitar that I bought a few years ago, even though I’m 50+ years old.)
So, … we started a podcast! Not only will we be discussing the crime in Germany, we will be interviewing authors and even law enforcement professionals. We’ll be talking about crimes, solved and unsolved, that happened long ago and in the recent past. And because we are who we are, we’ll also be poking around to get to the truth. We plan on being meddling “kids”.
(I’ve always thought of myself as a Velma. I think Alexandra is more like Daphne, the newer version who knows martial arts.)
We are both excited about our new endeavor. But don’t worry, we’ll still be writing scary stories.
So please follow us as we investigate crimes! All of the information and links can be found on our Anchor page.
And you can get updates and additional content on our Facebook page
“Check. Check. Is this mic on?”
You can learn more about V.P. Chandler and her adventures at vpchandler.com
There are a wide variety of fiction writers. Some are “pantsers”, who don’t write an outline and just write whatever pops into their heads. And others are “plotters”, who write outlines and make sure that the story follows a three-act structure or whatever structure they think is best. (I’m in between. I do a little of both but try to stay on track.) But I think that we all have something in common. I think that we use real life people as inspiration for our characters.
While writing my first novel, Gilt Ridden, I needed a character that was wise, experienced, and knew how to make bullets. Did I know anyone like that? There was no question. I based the character on my husband’s father’s cousin, Eldon Chandler, and named him accordingly. The Eldon in my story is a throwback to the era of cattle drives and skirmishes with native tribes. And like men of his day, he made his own bullets. The real Eldon was not much different. He grew up in West Texas when it wasn’t much different than the cattle drive days.
Eldon “Slim” Chandler was a living example of integrity and grit. He was born in 1926 just outside of Lubbock, and like most kids of that era, he was tough and resourceful. He grew up to be a big bear of a guy, with a barrel chest, and had a deep voice to match. He was over six feet tall and extremely strong. He told us a lot of stories about his life and one that sticks in my mind was when he drove a beer truck. Instead of using a dolly to carry the kegs, he’d put one under each arm and carry them inside the bar. He liked the surprised looks on people’s faces when they realized these were full, not empty, kegs of beer. He always laughed when he told us the story.
He was an excellent marksman and an award-winning trap shooter. Once when I was fishing with his son, Victor, Victor told me that they did trick shooting as a family for a while. The kids would practice twirling wooden guns while they watched Bugs Bunny cartoons. I love that image. That’s such a “Chandler” thing to do.
So, I guess it’s also no surprise that back when I married into the Chandler family and was living on a farm/ranch in the middle of rattlesnake country, Eldon gave me my gun that I’ve used to kill hundreds of rattlesnakes. It’s a .410 shotgun called a “Snake Charmer”. I remember when he was visiting and gave it to me. I liked how it handled. It’s a small shotgun and perfect size for me. He said, “Keep it. It’s for you.” No, it’s too much. “I got it for you. You’ll need it.” And he was right! I think of him every time I take it hunting. And to go along with all of those talents, he also became a craftsman at making homemade knives. He could take an old oxidized butcher knife and turn it into a work of art.
In 1945 Eldon had married Othella Owens, who was equally an incredible person. She was tall and artistic. I never saw a woman who wore so much turquoise. She’d wear large turquoise and silver rings, earrings, and necklaces, sometimes all at once. It would have looked ridiculous on someone else, but it was somehow flawless on her. She was amazing. She could paint anything or take a bunch of horseshoes and somehow turn them into art. They were a perfect pair.
And Eldon, like most Chandlers, took his family bond seriously. Like I said, Othella was an Owens. Well, back in 1927 her uncle, Jake Owens, had been a deputy sheriff. Sheriff Robert Smith and Deputy Owens had arrested two men for stealing a bale of cotton. They were decent lawmen and they took the suspects home to change clothes before transporting them to jail. But one of the suspects had gotten a gun and concealed it in his clothes. In route, he pulled out the gun and shot Sheriff Smith in the head, killing him. Deputy Owens jumped from the vehicle but was gunned down. The sheriff and Deputy Owens were buried side by side. The suspect was eventually sentenced to death and electrocuted at the Texas State Prison in Huntsville on October 17th, 1930. The second suspect was released 14 years later. Some time, I assume after Eldon married Othella in 1945, Eldon learned that the second suspect was working in a shop in Odessa. Eldon drove the long distance and paid him a visit at the shop. With his words and his presence, he told the guy that he needed to make himself scarce, he wasn’t welcome. The guy tried to act big. When he asked who Eldon thought he was to make such a proclamation, “My name is Eldon Chandler and I’m married to an Owens.” That was enough for the man. He never returned to the shop and hightailed it out of West Texas.
Thank you for letting me tell you about a wonderful man who leaves behind a legacy of faith, love, grit, humor, and art. My character only played a small part in my story, but since he was a larger than life person, I’m sure that I’ll use the real Eldon for inspiration in other stories. I also used his father, Price, briefly in my novel. I had forgotten at the time that Price was Eldon’s father. I just remember a lot of funny stories about him and wanted to use someone who was humorous yet wise.
I’ve had people ask me if I was ever bored in West Texas. No. And whenever I write a story, I try to capture the spirit of the place, both good and bad.
Each Friday, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields invites readers to compose 100-word stories based on a photo prompt. Writers post stories on their own blogs and then link to an inLinkz list to share with other Fictioneers and with the public. It’s fun. Specific rules are found here.
Sammi Cox posts a weekend word prompt: The rules: “Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like. Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.” Participants are free to link their efforts in the comments.
TSRA also promotes—and thank goodness, considering how much writers need it—”FUN and an OASIS OF CALM and Font of useful Knowledge andTips for Indies (please do NOT feed my naughty chimps or they may follow you home) from the woes and stresses of the real world”—such as,
Kate was on a bit of a hiatus for a while but is back now with “Social Distancing for Dogs.” She’s posted a lot of dog stories—my favorites are about the dear (and sometimes smelly) Macaulay, the dog with the Neville Chamberlain mustache, including
As you may know from past blog posts, I’m often late to the game when it comes to reading a new book. Although I have purchased several of the Hugo Marsten books, written by Mark Pryor, I finally got around to reading the first one, The Bookseller (2012)
(It was my turn to recommend a book for my book club so I was happy to recommend it. Two birds, once stone, and all of that. 😉 )
*WARNING, if you read this book, you will be craving French coffee and pastries!*
It starts with Hugo Marsten, head of security at the U.S. embassy, looking for a book at his favorite bouquiniste’s (bookseller’s) stall. These stalls are set up for tourists along the Seine. Pryor does a great job of explaining what these look like and describing the history of the bouquinistes without bogging the narrative down in details. As with many things in the book, I was interested in learning more. The bouquinistes have been in Paris for centuries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouquinistes
While Marsten is browsing and chatting with his friend, a nefarious-looking character approaches and Max, the bookseller, is kidnapped at gunpoint. The next day Marsten goes to the bookstall, hoping to see his friend, but a strange ferret-faced man is in his place. The man says he doesn’t know anything. Thus, starts the hunt to find Max. Marsten enlists the help of an old friend, semi-retired CIA agent, Tom Green and they uncover a myriad of dark secrets.
While searching for Max, they learn that Max was a survivor of the Holocaust and had been a Nazi hunter. Is his disappearance related to that? Soon other booksellers start to disappear and their bodies are found floating in the Seine. There is also a turf war in Paris among drug gangs who could be involved. And Marsten discovers that his new girlfriend has her own share of secrets. AND THEN, “…as he himself becomes a target, Hugo uncovers a conspiracy from Paris’s recent past that leads him deep into the enemy’s lair.” (description from markpryorbooks.com)
So there’s a lot going on in the novel, but Pryor is masterful at juggling all the pieces.
And I’m happy to report that my choice was a hit among my friends. We were all impressed that this was Pryor’s first novel! There are a few of us in the bunch who are fans of Sherlock Holmes and we liked the Holmesian touches that were peppered into the story. By the time we met, via Zoom, some had already read the second in the series. So two thumbs up for The Bookseller!
You can find more about the series on Mark Pryor’s website.
The Hugo Marston series has now been optioned for television / film by Ivan Schwarz at Like Entertainment, Inc.!
The ninth Hugo Marston novel, which is titled, THE FRENCH WIDOW, will be released on September 15, 2020.
Congratulations to Mark Pryor!
*I’d also like to add a reminder to please consider buying books from independent booksellers. The Bookseller, and other books, are available at IndieBound, a great resource for finding independent bookstores.
The first Anna Pigeon book that I read by Nevada Barr was Blind Descent, book 6 of the series, back in 1998. And I’ve read most of her books since then. I’m hooked!
Since the main character in the books is a park ranger, each story is set in a national park. I’ve learned so much about nature, each park, and its landscape and history. I particularly liked the history in Flashback, book 11. It was set in Dry Tortugas National Park. I didn’t know that that is where those who had been accused of Lincoln’s assassination were imprisoned back in 1865!
Here is the complete list of her books and where they are set.
As you’d expect, Anna has to solve mysteries and face all sorts of dangers in each book like mountain lions, bears, natural disasters, forest fires, and of course the most dangerous of all, people.
Boar Island starts away from the park with a case of cyber-bullying. You know what? Here’s the description from Barr’s website:
Anna Pigeon, in her career as a National Park Service Ranger, has had to deal with all manner of crimes and misdemeanors, but cyber-bullying and stalking is a new one. The target is Elizabeth, the adopted teenage daughter of her friend Heath Jarrod. Elizabeth is driven to despair by the disgusting rumors spreading online and bullying texts. Until, one day, Heath finds her daughter Elizabeth in the midst of an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She calls in the cavalry—her aunt Gwen and her friend Anna Pigeon.
While they try to deal with the fragile state of affairs—and find the person behind the harassment—the three adults decide the best thing to do is to remove Elizabeth from the situation. Since Anna is about to start her new post as Acting Chief Ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine, the three will join her and stay at a house on the cliff of a small island near the park, Boar Island.
But the move east doesn’t solve the problem. The stalker has followed them east. And Heath (a paraplegic) and Elizabeth aren’t alone on the otherwise deserted island. At the same time, Anna has barely arrived at Acadia when a brutal murder is committed.
While this does describe the setup, it doesn’t come close to describing the action and complex story that weaves together. Poor Anna! By the end I think she could totally commiserate with John McClane of Die Hard. She’s a physically fit character, but the injuries that she’s had in past stories still plague her at times. As they should! And the choices that she’s made, good and bad, also haunt her. She’s a life-like character that you can relate to.
Boar Island is a good book that will keep you turning pages. I sped right through it. Cyber-bullying, obsession, murder, feuds, high tech, and a harsh environment in a remote location, it’s got it all!