What’s In Your Pockets? TWTW # 37

What’s in my pockets? Well it would appear that in terms of my coat, a mix of stuff for walking my dogs or things that I’ve found on our walks. I was clearing out my pockets to get the coat ready to be re-waxed and to transfer the pocket contents to another coat. The coat has big pockets and all of those balls that you can see in the picture are ones we’ve found and not ones that belong to my dogs. I keep them and pass them on to a friend when I see her as her dogs are not fussy about the ones that they play with, unlike mine!

It’s been another busy week, pushing client work along and a mix of being here at my desk in front of the computer or on the phone. The next two weeks however are shaping up to be the weeks from hell, with several evening presentations and quite a bit of travelling. Unfortunately most, if not all of it, is going to be in the car, so other than listening to more audio books I won’t have much time for anything else.

Fair warning therefore that if there isn’t a post here from me next Monday (7th October) that’s why. Hopefully normal service will resume the following week.

I’ve been reading another Maigret novel this week – Maigret and the Wine Merchant.  It’s interesting that this one was originally published in 1970, and although that is many decades ago, it’s nearly forty years after the first Maigret novel – Pietr the Latvian was published in 1931. There are quite a few differences between the two, and the first mention of computers that I can recall in a Maigret novel, as well as many other cultural changes. Quite the contrast between them, and even more so when we’re not far off 100 years since the first one was written.

When I was sorting through some things at my Mum’s house came across a couple of Isaac Asimov books. I’m planning on reading these, as soon as time allows even if it’s only a page or two at bedtime for the foreseeable future! They’re a blast from my childhood but I can honestly say I don’t remember much about them, so hopefully they’ll be a bit of a treat to read again after all that time.

My time on the allotment has been a little curtailed this past few weeks, partly due to available time, but also down to the weather. The apples that I was hoping would stay on my tree have all blown off, so good news we get apple crumble, bad news, we’ll probably be eating a lot of it because that’s a lot of bruised apples that won’t keep for too long.

Dwelling As Resistance

Michael Chabon asks “What’s the Point?”

More than half of native European trees face extinction

I think that’s all I have for this week, all being well I’ll be back on the 14th October (although there is a little post coming later this week, but I wrote that one before I wrote this one – the wonders of technology!) Be careful out !


A Stab In The Dark Podcast

I’ve been listening to “A Stab In The Dark” podcast over the last few days. Featuring all things associated with crime books, and tv, here’s a link to the webpage, although you can download via iTunes or whichever podcast player you use.

So far it’s had some good interviews with authors such as Val McDermid, Lee Child, Anne Cleeves & Michael Connelly; it’s also given me a few good pointers to some new books that I might check out in the future.

Worth a listen if you’re interested in either crime fiction or television.

2014 Review and a Look Ahead

I don’t tend to do review of the year posts each year, sometimes I’ll take a theme and just cover that, other times I won’t bother at all. The latter is more often the norm. 2014 however has been a “bit of a year” for me. So I thought I’d just write out a few highlights and one or two low bits too for good measure.


I’d say that the year as a whole has been backdropped by work-life balance, with the balance being unevenly tilted towards work. I’ve had to reapply for my job as part of a restructure, and it’s been pretty full on. I’ve been offered voluntary redundancy twice (and we’re just going for a third round now), I’ve not applied on both occasions, but am giving the third time some serious consideration.


On the life side of the scale it’s been a tiring year. I’ve done far less, due to pressures of work than I would like. I’ve noticed that I’ve been far less present on social media platforms, as well as reading less books and generally having less time for relaxation.

We lost Sparky our elder dog back in March, and then got Ruby at the end of June. I still miss Sparky every day, and things still feel very empty without him around. Wilson has taken well to being the older dog, and I’m really pleased and impressed with the way he’s turned out into such a well rounded dog.


The allotment has been going along quite happily, it’s not been the best of years, but it’s been far from the worst, and I’m setting a good basis for next year. I’ve managed a few video posts, and have a year ending one to go up, as soon as it’s posted to YouTube.


As I mentioned I’ve read far less than I have done in previous years, mainly due to having less free time. I would however single out a few books I’ve read (I read these in 2014, but they may not have been published this year) to mention here:

The House of Dolls by David Hewson – There’s no such thing as a  bad book by David Hewson, and this new series set in Amsterdam has all the hallmarks of being fantastic. This first in the series is excellent and I look forward to reading the next one, hopefully in 2015.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – This took me back to my childhood and the computer games that I used to play.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly – The latest Harry Bosch, and a great addition to the canon, and likely to be a milestone step in the series. I’m not sure where Michael Connelly is going next here, but there are a number of options, and again I look forward to the next in the series. (I also loved the Amazon pilot of Bosch, and can’t wait for the full series).


Again, a few to single out (and again I watched them in 2014, but they may have been released before that year):

Dawn  of the Planet of the Apes – Only recently watched this, but I loved the direction that the movie went in following on from the previous one, and abandoning the Charlton Heston era movies (and the awful Mark Wahlberg remake).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I love the Marvel movies (and the comic books too), and I’ve seen a few others this year as well; Thor: The Dark World and The Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a close choice between Capt. and Guardians, but again, I think the way that the story and characters have been bought on since the first Captain America movie, plus Avengers: Assemble give this one the edge.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Loved this. Wasn’t sure that it would ever work as trilogy of films, but it does. Looking forward to the final film too, although that will be a 2015 watch for me.

Godzilla – A remake that remain truer to the original and a great film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – I’ve never read the books, but love the films, again looking forward to the final two parts of this series too.

And Looking Ahead to 2015?

I’m not sure what 2015 holds. More upheaval at work I expect, and I need to make a decision about voluntary redundancy again. There will also be more  books to read and more films to watch. I don’t really do resolutions, but I’ve got a few aims for 2015.

  1. Be more balanced of temper. I think in part 2014 has been characterised by me having a shorter fuse than usual. I’m not happy about this, so want it to change. More counting to ten I suspect in 2015.
  2. Better work – life balance than above.
  3. Read more, although be realistic about what’s achievable. I also want to get through the “To Be Read” backlog mountain. Although I’m not setting any firm systems in place to do this as I have in the past.
  4. Have a good year on the allotment, and try to keep a better photo and video record of what’s going on there.
  5. Write more. Both blog posts, but also get back into writing properly.

There are lots of other things in my head (you could always add; lose weight, be fitter etc) but the above are the main aims.

Book Review – The House of Dolls by David Hewson

It’s not often t2014-04-10 16.02.28hat I can stay up late reading a book, my body / mind can’t cope and I fall asleep, however over the last week I’ve been staying up, turning the pages of David Hewson‘s new book. The House of Dolls is set in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, where it’s main character Pieter Vos lives on a houseboat. Vos is a former police detective, who left the job following the kidnapping of his daughter Anneliese. He’s dragged back to his former life by another kidnapping that has similarities to the kidnapping of his daughter.

Why has this book kept me away from slumber? Well the simple answer is that I had to know what was going to happen next. The book is one of short chapters, and this keeps the story moving between characters and actions at a tireless pace, breaking the story up just enough to keep the suspense tight and the reader wanting to know what’s happening.

The characters are varied, many with their own flaws and weaknesses, but some you will like and others come to detest. There’s “old-school” gangsters mixed with new generation cops, politicians and journalists in the mould of the ladder-climbing kind and backgrounds of tourists and café owners.

The story is very believable, it sits in the present and although as far as I could tell doesn’t actually draw on a current or recent situation, it could quite easily. You could imagine that any of the crimes or motivations of the characters are being drawn from real-life and that marks the success of this author. His characters, locations and situations are all true to life. They could easily be where, when and how; today, this week or next, and you’d not be able to tell fact from fiction.

If you’ve read any of David’s books before, particularly if you’re familiar with his Nic Costa series, then you’re really going to enjoy The House of Dolls.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars – I Loved It.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Book Review: Smoking on Mount Rushmore by Ed Lynskey

17228169This is a cracking little short story collection by Ed Lynskey, who’s probably better known for his Frank Johnson PI series and other novels such as “Lake Charles”. It contains 16 stories, some new and some that have been published in other places before. Together they make for a great collection that really show this writers talents, and given that the author reckons to have published over 300 short stories, I hope that this is the first of a number of collections of his work.

The stories range from hardboiled crime, right through to near cosy. They cover a range of subjects, and many are quite poignant. Short story writing often requires a sharp, to-the-point prose style and this collection demonstrates that the author can tell the tale, get you engaged in the character and hit his marks all in a few thousand words.
Some of the characters repeat across a number of stories which is nice, because that gives the readers an opportunity to engage more with them, and I certainly found I wanted more from a couple of the stories.

I feel like I should be picking some favourites, but actually I really liked them all. There were however three that stuck in my head, and are there now as I write this review.

They are:

Lakota Road
How to Defuse a Terrorist; and
Camera Shy

I’m not sure why I should pick them in particular, it was either the story or a particular character that’s stuck in my head, but of all of the stories in the collection, those three are the ones I seem to remember the most or connected with more than the others.

I’d recommend this collection whether or not you are a crime fiction buff; or whether or not you’ve read anything else by this author.

If you are familiar with the author already though, then I wouldn’t waste any more time here, go buy a copy right now.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars – I loved it!

About the Author:

692283Ed Lynskey is a crime fiction writer residing not too far from the Pentagon.

His P.I.Frank Johnson mystery series include Pelham Fell Here, The Dirt-Brown Derby, The Blue Cheer, Troglodytes, and The Zinc Zoo. His small town cozy mystery is Quiet Anchorage, featuring his amateur sleuth sisters Alma and Isabel Trumbo. His standalone Appalachian noir is Lake Charles. Ed lives with his family and one black-and-white cat named Frannie after P.I. Frank Johnson. Ed and Frank are both Washington National baseball fans.

You can find out more about Ed Lynskey from his GoodReads page or Amazon

Enhanced by Zemanta

Book Review: The Prophet by Ethan Cross


Francis Ackerman Jr. is one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Having kept a low profile for the past year, he is ready to return to work – and he’s more brutal, cunning, and dangerous than ever.

Scarred from their past battles, Special Agent Marcus Williams cannot shake Ackerman from his mind. But now Marcus must focus on catching the Anarchist, a new killer who drugs and kidnaps women before burning them alive.

Marcus knows the Anarchist will strike again soon. And Ackerman is still free. But worse than this is a mysterious figure, unknown to the authorities, who controls the actions of the Anarchist and many like him. He is the Prophet – and his plans are more terrible than even his own disciples can imagine.

With attacks coming from every side, Marcus faces a race against time to save the lives of a group of innocent people chosen as sacrifices in the Prophet’s final dark ritual.

About the author:

When a fireman or a policeman would visit his school, most of his classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno. When these moments came for Ethan Cross, however, his dreams weren’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; he just wanted to write about it. His dream of telling stories on a grand scale came to fruition with the release of his first novel, the international bestseller, THE SHEPHERD.

Ethan Cross is the pen name of a thriller author living and writ- ing in Illinois with his wife, two daughters, and two Shih Tzus. In addition to The Shepherd and The Prophet, he has published two novellas––The Cage and Callsign: Knight (with Jeremy Robinson).




Francis Ackerman Jr. stared out the window of the dark copper and white bungalow on Macarthur Boulevard. Across the street, a green sign with yellow letters read Mosswood Playground – Oakland Recreation Department. Children laughed and played while mothers and fathers pushed swings and sat on benches reading paperback novels or fiddling with cell phones. He had never experienced such things as a child. The only games his father ever played were the kind that scarred the body and soul. He had never been nurtured; he had never been loved. But he had come to accept that. He had found purpose and meaning born from the pain and chaos that had consumed his life.

He watched the sun reflect off all the smiling faces and imagined how different the scene would be if the sun suddenly burned out and fell from the heavens. The cleansing cold of an everlasting winter would sweep across the land, cleansing it, purifying it. He pictured the faces forever etched in torment, their screams silent, and their eyes like two crystal balls reflecting what lay beyond death.

He let out a long sigh. It would be beautiful. He wondered if normal people ever thought of such things. He wondered if they ever found beauty in death.

Ackerman turned back to the three people bound to chairs in the room behind him. The first two were men—plain-clothes cops that had been watching the house. The older officer had a pencil-thin mustache and thinning brown hair while his younger counterpart’s head was topped with a greasy mop of dark black. The younger man’s bushy eyebrows matched his hair, and a hooked nose sat above thin pink lips and a recessed chin. The first man struck Ackerman to be like any other cop he had met, honest and hard-working. But there was something about the younger man he didn’t like, something in his eyes. He suppressed the urge to smack the condescending little snarl from the younger cop’s ferret-like face.

But instead of hitting him, Ackerman just smiled at the cop. He needed a demonstration to get the information he needed, and the ferret would be perfect. His eyes held the ferret’s gaze a moment longer, and then he winked and turned to the last of his three captives.

Rosemary Phillips wore a faded Oakland Raiders sweatshirt. She had salt and pepper hair, and ancient pock marks marred her smooth dark chocolate complexion. Her eyes burned with a self-assurance and inner strength that Ackerman respected.

Unfortunately, he needed to find her grandson, and if necessary, he would kill all three of them to accomplish his goal.

He reached up to her mouth and pulled down the gag. She didn’t scream. “Hello, Rosemary. I apologize that I didn’t properly introduce myself earlier when I tied you up, but my name is Francis Ackerman Jr. Have you ever heard of me?”

Rosemary met his gaze. “I’ve seen you on television. You’re the serial killer whose father experimented on him as a child, trying to prove that he could create a monster. I guess he succeeded. But I’m not afraid of you.”

Ackerman smiled. “That’s wonderful. It means that I can skip the introductions and get straight to the point. Do you know why I asked these two gentleman to join us?”

Rosemary’s head swiveled toward the two officers. Her gaze lingered on the ferret. Ackerman saw disgust in her eyes. Apparently, she didn’t like him either. That would make things even more interesting once he started to torture the young cop.

“I’ve seen these two around,” she said. “I’ve already told the cops that my grandson ain’t no damn fool. He wouldn’t just show up here, and I haven’t heard from him since this mess started. But they wouldn’t listen. Apparently they think it’s a good idea to stake out an old lady’s house instead of being out there on the streets doing what the people of this city pay them to do. Typical government at work.”

Ackerman smiled. “I know exactly what you mean. I’ve never had much respect for authority. But you see, I’m looking for your grandson as well. I, however, don’t have the time or patience to sit around here on the off chance that he might show up. I prefer the direct approach, and so I’m going to ask you to level with me. Where can I find your grandson?”

“Like I told them, I have no idea.”

He walked over to a tall, mahogany hutch resting against the wall. It was old and well-built. Family pictures lined its surface and shelves. He picked up a picture of a smiling young black man with his arm around Rosemary. A blue and gold birthday cake sat in front of them. “Rosemary, I’ve done my homework, and I’ve learned that your grandson thinks the world of you. You were his anchor in the storm. Maybe the one good thing in his life. The one person who loved him. You know where he’s hiding, and you are going to share that information with me. One way or another.”

“Why do you even care? What’s he to you?”

“He’s nothing to me. I could care less about your grandson. But someone that I do care about is looking for him, and I try to be useful where I can. And like you said, sometimes bureaucracy and red tape are just too damn slow. We’re going to speed along the process.”

Rosemary shook her head and tugged on the ropes. “I don’t know where he is, and if I did, I’d never tell a monster like you.”

His father’s words tumbled through his mind.

You’re a monster…Kill her and the pain will stop…No one will ever love you…

“Oh, my dear, words hurt. But you’re right. I am a monster.”

Ackerman grabbed a duffle bag from the floor and tossed it onto a small end table. As he unzipped the bag and rifled through the contents, he said, “Are you familiar with the Spanish Inquisition? I’ve been reading a lot about it lately. It’s a fascinating period of history. The Inquisition was basically a tribunal established by Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in order to maintain Catholic orthodoxy within their kingdoms, especially among the new converts from Judaism and Islam. But that’s not what fascinates me. What fascinates me are the unspeakable acts of barbarism and torture that were carried out in the name of God upon those deemed to be heretics. We think that we live in a brutal age, but our memories are very short-sighted. Any true student of history can tell you that this is the age of enlightenment compared to other periods throughout time. The things the inquisitors did to wrench confessions from their victims was nothing less than extraordinary. Those inquisitors displayed fabulous imagination.”

Ackerman brought a strange device up out of the duffle bag. “This is an antique. It’s previous owner claimed that it’s an exact replica of one used during the Inquisition. You’ve got to love Ebay.”

He held up the device—built from two large, spiked blocks of wood connected by two threaded metal rods an inch in diameter each—for their inspection. “This was referred to as the Knee Splitter. Although it was used on more than just knees. When the inquisitor would turn these screws, the two blocks would push closer together and the spikes would first pierce the flesh of the victim. Then the inquisitor would continue to twist the screws tighter and tighter until they received the answers they wanted or until the affected appendage was rendered useless.”

Rosemary spit at him. As she spoke, her words were strong and confident. He detected a slight hint of a Georgian accent and suspected that it was from her youth and only presented itself when she was especially flustered. “You’re going to kill us anyway. No matter what I do. I can’t save these men anymore than I can save myself. The only thing that I can control is the way that I go out. And I won’t grovel and beg to the likes of you. I won’t give you the satisfaction.”

He nodded. “I respect that. So many people blame the world or society or others for the way that they are. But we’re all victims of circumstance to a certain extent. We like to think that we’re in control of our own destinies, but the truth is that much of our lives are dictated by forces far beyond our control and comprehension. We all have our strings pulled by someone or something. It’s unavoidable. The only place that we have any real control is right here.” He tapped the tip of his fifteen-inch survival knife against his right temple. “Within our minds. Most people don’t understand that, but you do. I didn’t come here to kill you, Rosemary. It will give me no pleasure to remove you from the world. But my strings get pulled just like everyone else’s. In this case, circumstances dictate that I hurt you and these men in order to achieve my goal. I’m good at what I do, my dear. I’ve been schooled in pain and suffering my entire life. Time will only allow me to share a small portion of my expertise with you, but I can tell you that it will be enough. You will tell me. That’s beyond your control. The only aspect of this situation that you can influence is the duration of the suffering you must endure. So I’ll ask again, where is your grandson?”

Her lips trembled, but she didn’t speak.

The smell of cinnamon permeated the air but was unable to mask a feral aroma of sweat and fear. Ackerman had missed that smell. He had missed the fear, the power. But he needed to keep himself contained. He couldn’t lose control. This was about information, not about satisfying his own hunger.

“Time to begin. As they say, I’m going to put the screws to this officer. Makes you wonder if this device is responsible for such a saying, doesn’t it?”


After several moments of enjoyment with his new toy, Ackerman looked at Rosemary, but she had diverted her gaze. He twisted the handles again, and the officer’s thrashing increased.

“Okay, I’ll tell you!” she said. “He’s in Spokane, Washington. They’re set up in an abandoned metal working shop of some kind. Some crooked realtor set it up for them. I’ve tried to get him to turn himself in. I even consider calling the police myself, but I know that he and his friends won’t allow themselves to be captured alive. He’s the only family I have left.” Tears ran down her cheeks.

Ackerman reached down and twisted the pressure from the officer’s legs. The man’s head fell back against the chair. “Thank you. I believe you, and I appreciate your situation. Your grandson has been a bad boy. But he’s your flesh and blood, and you still love him.”

He walked over to the table and pulled up another chair in front of Rosemary. As he sat, he pulled out a small notepad. It was spiral-bound from the top with a blood red cover. “Since you’ve been so forthcoming with me and out of respect, I’ll give you a genuine chance to save your lives.” He flipped up the notepad’s cover, retrieved a small pen from within the spiral, and started to write. As the pen traveled over the page, he said, “I’m going to let you pick the outcome of our little game. On this first sheet, I’ve written ‘ferret’ to represent our first officer.” He tore off the page, wadded it up, and placed it between his legs. “On the second, we’ll write ‘Jackie Gleason’ to represent the next officer. Then Rosemary. Then all live. And all die.”

He stirred up the wadded pieces of paper and placed them on the floor in front of her. “I think the game is self-explanatory, but to make sure that there’s no confusion, you pick the piece of paper, and I kill whoever’s name is on it. But you do have a twenty percent chance that you all live. And just to be clear, if you refuse to pick or take too long, I’ll be happy to kill all three of you. So please don’t try to fight fate. The only thing you have control over here is which piece of paper you choose. Have no illusions that you have other options. It will only serve in making the situation even less manageable for you. Pick one.”

Rosemary’s eyes were full of hate. They burrowed into him. Her gaze didn’t waver. A doctor named Kendrick from the Cedar Mill Psychiatric Hospital had once told Ackerman that he had damage to a group of interconnected brain structures, known as the paralimbic system, that were involved in processing emotion, goal seeking, motivation, and self-control. The doctor had studied his brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology and had also found damage to an area known as the amygdala that generated emotions such as fear. Monkeys in the wild with damage to the amygdala had been known to walk right up to people or even predators. The doctor had said this explained why Ackerman didn’t feel fear in the way that other people did. He wondered if Rosemary had a similar impairment or if her strength originated from somewhere else entirely.

She looked down at the sheets of paper then back into his eyes. “Third one. The one right in the center.”

He reached down and uncrumpled the small piece of paper. He smiled. “It’s your lucky day. You all get to live. I’m sorry that you had to endure this due to the actions of someone else. But as I said, we’re all victims of circumstance.”

Then he stood, retrieved his things, and exited onto Macarthur Boulevard.


Ackerman tossed his duffle bag into the trunk of a light-blue Ford Focus. He wished he could travel in more style, but the ability to blend outweighed his own sense of flare. He pulled open the driver’s door, slipped inside, and dropped some jewelry and the wallets and purse of his former captives on the seat next to him. He hated to lower himself to common thievery, but everything cost money. And his skill set didn’t exactly look good on a resume. Besides, he didn’t have time for such things.

He retrieved a disposable cell phone from the glove box and activated the device. As he dialed and pressed send, he looked down at the small slip of paper that Rosemary had chosen. The words All Die stared back at him.

After a few rings, the call connected, and the voice on the other end said, “What do you want?”

Ackerman smiled. “Hello, Marcus. Please forgive me, for I have sinned. But I do it all for you.”

My Review:

If you’re looking for a thriller that doesn’t let up on the action and keeps you guessing at each turn of the page then, The Prophet could be for you.

The action comes thick and fast, with the main characters constantly finding themselves in situations calling for skill, intelligence and heroism. That’s not to say it’s all plain sailing for them, anything but.

Character development is good, and this is the second in a series. It does work as a stand-alone, but I did find myself wishing that I had read the first book in the series. Due to the number of characters at times I lost track of who was who and what they were doing, particularly when the action was coming so thick and fast.

The story was strong and believable. There were times when plausibility was stretched, but only slightly and it made the overall tale more believable. Some of the detail of the murders might put those of a weak-stomached disposition off a bit, but they’re not too gratuitous and bring home the horror of the crimes, and what is going on and how it is affecting some of the main characters.

I will be going back to the first book after reading The Prophet, not because I want to fill in the back story, but because this was a great book and I would like to read more by this author. Although not an author that I had heard of before being asked to review this book, he’s certainly one that I will be keeping my eye on from now on.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars – I Really Liked It.

Guest Post: Jen Estes; Author of Curveball

Jen Estes is my guest on the blog today, I recently reviewed her new book, “Curveball”, a story of baseball set on a tropical island. I asked Jen

Baseball and the colour of a tropical paradise; what prompted you to write a series with the background of baseball, and why did you select the second one to be based in ‘Santo Domingo’ rather than a more familiar surrounding?

Here’s what she had to say:

When it comes to choosing a setting, there are three popular methods. The first is choosing a location close to your heart — maybe your hometown or current city. (Not only does this familiar route give your story the ring of truth, you’ll save oodles of time on research.) But sometimes familiarity isn’t an option, so you have to choose a setting based on your story instead. (Just because you’ve never been outside of Kansas doesn’t mean your mermaid detective has to fight crime in her underground city beneath a local water treatment plant.) Now if neither of those methods tickle your toes, you can always close your eyes, give a globe a big spin and point, then throw your characters in whatever city your finger landed. For Curveball, I chose the second route. (Mostly because my finger landed in the middle of the Pacific when I spun the globe.)

While my first book in the series, Big Leagues, was set in Las Vegas, Cat McDaniel’s career as a sportswriter kept her on the move — I was constantly creating new stadiums for her to visit and new characters for her to meet. That was a lot of fun, but in the sequel, one of her obstacles is being saddled with chaperoning the general manager’s daughter, Paige Aiken. As such, I didn’t want to give Cat a way to “escape” from Paige’s antics. Putting her in the Caribbean training camps during the offseason was my way of chaining her to Paige.

Timing also played a factor in my setting. Curveball directly follows the introduction in the series, Big Leagues, which concluded as baseball season was toward its end. By the time Curveball begins, it’s late November — which is when many Latin American players return home to train in their team’s camps and aspiring ballplayers are being scouted.

Authenticity was key too. The Dominican Republic is a baseball nation and Major League Baseball has a huge presence within the city, with real-life training facilities just like the one in my book (though Cat’s team is the fictional Buffalo Soldiers.) When I visited Santo Domingo, I fell in love with the city’s passion for baseball. There’s actually a chapter where Cat goes to a local baseball game that very much echoed my experience at a Tigres del Licey game. The atmosphere is spellbinding and I knew then that I had to get Cat down to this baseball paradise.

Though I was writing an unfamiliar setting, it helped that my main character is supposed to be unfamiliar with it. She’s a tourist. She’s not expected to know local lore or regional traditions. Though an everyday citizen might not even pay attention to Catedral Primada de América, the famous landmark leaves Cat breathless. Like me, Cat saw Santo Domingo through the romantic and strange eyes of a tourist.


Author Guest Post: John Worsley Simpson

I sent the following prompt to author John Worsley Simpson as part of his virtual tour with Partners In Crime Tours:

Is crime fiction keeping pace with crime, or are criminals learning a few tricks from crime writers?

Here’s what he had to say:

Crime fiction is really murder fiction. With the exception of “heist” novels, few, if any, modern crime novels don’t involve murder. Other crimes, like robbery or theft, in the main lack the punch that makes the reader either want the criminal to be caught or wants him or her to get away with it.

Given that most murders are committed by family or friends of the victim, and involve no intrigue or complications of literary interest, the murderous works of crime fiction writers hardly provide blueprints for real-life killers. Most other killings are of the random variety — muggings and the like — that are equally bereft of the qualities that a crime fiction writer would adopt in his or her efforts. In other words, crime fiction is unlikely to offer anything that might be copied in a real crime of homicide.

Heist novels, on the other hand, seem to offer the potential of suggesting methods to a would-be perpetrator of such a crime, but the reality is that the knowledge that would be required to pull off a successful, complicated robbery (the kind that would be the fodder of a heist novel–an alley stick-up and similar fall far short of the dramatic requirements for interesting fiction) is case specific. You could write a generic plot about breaking into a generic bank vault, but that would be useless to a real criminal interested in breaking into the vault of a real, specific bank. What is more likely is the reverse: crime fiction authors may use real cases as the foundation for their plots: the details of an almost got-away-with murder or a complex robbery that emerge at a trial could be the meat of a novel for a mystery writer. So, I would say the few criminals who might inspire crime fiction are far ahead of the genre’s authors, while it’s unlikely that a mystery story could be a how-to for a potential criminal.

Author Q & A: Mark Gilleo

In addition to reviewing his book today, author Mark Gilleo kindly agreed to me asking him a few questions. So without further delay please welcome Mark to the blog.

Q.  Sweat is your second novel, was it easier to write than Love Thy Neighbour, or with one novel under your belt, did number two come easier?

A.  Believe it or not, I wrote Sweat prior to writing Love Thy Neighbor. I wouldn’t typically mention this, but if you research the William Faulkner-Wisdom competition, and do a little sleuthing, the information is already out there. That said, neither book was “easy” to write. When I am in writing mode, I spend a fair bit of time pacing in circles, mumbling to myself. I am equally apt to cut a conversation off in mid-sentence and scramble for a note pad. And while things may not get easier from one book to another, I would like to think on some level that I am becoming a little more efficient. I do enjoy the task of writing. I look forward to seeing where the story is going to take me, much like a reader would but in a more connected way. Editing, on the other hand, is awful.

Q.  The sweatshop scenes, and those in the Senate seemed very realistic. How did you research these?

A.  The sweatshop scenes were half based on experience and half from imagination. When I lived in Asia I was fortunate enough to travel within the region. On one of those trips I visited a furniture manufacturing facility in Taiwan. (A good friend of mine was a Japanese businessman who had furniture providers in mainland China, Taiwan and a few other places.) The “facility” we visited in Taiwan was in a rural area a couple of hours from Taipei. When we arrived, it was lunchtime, and it was a hundred degrees. All of the workers were lying on benches, sleeping on unfinished furniture. The place was pretty spartan. That is where the experience portion of the sweatshop scenes came from. (I would like to stress that these factories were not sweatshops, they merely provided the mental imagery of what a sweatshop could very easily look like.)

I think the research portion of the Senate was largely a result of growing up the DC area. I was not really aware of the “Mark-Up” process involved on Capitol Hill and the topic was so surprising that I included it in detail in “Sweat.” For the physical buildings, I have been inside many of those I included in the book, so the description aspect was largely based on experience. For the inner workings of congressional hearings and proceedings, I watched CSPAN. When I woke up later with the remote controller in my hand, and the same congressman still on the screen, I figured that part of the research had been exhausted.

Q.  Were you intending to raise awareness of sweatshops, and do you think governments are doing enough with respect to conditions outside of their direct territorial control?

A.  It wasn’t my original intention to raise awareness regarding sweatshops, but that would be a by-product of the book I would certainly welcome. When I first started Sweat, believe it or not, a Senator was not involved. The story only involved a businessman. But as I started writing the story, and consequently doing research as I went, I ended up learning quite a bit about US territories, labor law, etc. There was also a lawsuit a few years ago involving Saipan and some major US clothing manufacturers. So the pieces sort of fell in place as the story unfolded at the keyboard.

I can’t really speak to whether or not the government is doing enough to prevent sweatshop conditions within U.S. Territories. We all know about accusations of major US companies using sweatshop labor, or underage labor, in various locations around the globe. I think it becomes hard to prevent proactively. I am sure when companies expand overseas there are promises made and standards to be enforced, and everyone agrees to abide by the law. I am equally sure that once a manufacturing facility is established, it becomes very difficult to ensure that standards are being followed. But to some degree all parties must realize the potential for abuse is there. And once abuse is discovered, it needs to be corrected.

Q.  Terrorism and sweatshops are not exactly lightweight topics, what can your readers expect from your next book?

A.  I think everyone is going to have to stay tuned for the next book for the answer to that question. All I will say is the next book will also take place in the DC area.