Wednesday, June 20, 2018

FEATURED CHARACTER: EVA GATES’ LUCY RICHARDSON




ABOUT THE BOOK

Halloween in North Carolina’s Outer Banks becomes seriously tricky when librarian Lucy Richardson stumbles across something extra unusual in the rare books section: a dead body.



Wealthy businessman Jay Ruddle is considering donating his extensive collection of North Carolina historical documents to the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, but the competition for the collection is fierce. Unfortunately, while the library is hosting a lecture on ghostly legends, Jay becomes one of the dearly departed in the rare books section. Now, it’s up to Lucy Richardson and her fellow librarians to bone up on their detective skills and discover who is responsible for this wicked Halloween homicide.



Meanwhile, very strange things are happening at the library―haunted horses are materializing in the marsh, the lights seem to have an eerie life of their own, and the tiny crew of a model ship appears to move around when no one is watching. Is Lucy at her wit’s end? Or can it be that the Bodie Island Lighthouse really is haunted? 



With The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on everyone’s minds and ghoulish gossip on everyone’s lips, Lucy will need to separate the clues from the boos if she wants to crack this case without losing her head in The Spook in the Stacks, the delightful fourth in national bestseller Eva Gates’ Lighthouse Library mysteries.




Book Details:


Title: The Spook in the Stacks


Author: Eva Gates

Character’s full name: Lucy Richardson

Genre: cozy mystery

Series: A Lighthouse Library Mystery, book 4

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (June 12, 2018)


Print length: 250 Pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours









ABOUT LUCY

Lucy Richardson is the assistant librarian at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library. A few months ago she left her long-promised fiancĂ© on bended knee (literally) and quit her job at Harvard Libraries to seek escape in her favorite place in the world: The Outer Banks of North Carolina, with her favorite relative: Aunt Ellen. But Aunt Ellen isn’t one for indulging nieces, and she soon arranged for Lucy to meet Bertie James, library director at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, who just happened to be searching for a new assistant librarian.


INTERVIEW WITH EVA GATES’ LUCY RICHARDSON


Lucy, how did you first meet Eva?
 

I was a work-for-hire, meaning I was conceived in the offices of Penguin Random House. But Eva took to me instantly, and I felt that I could work comfortably with her. So she made me her own, so to speak, and now we get along just great. I was let go by Penguin, but was lucky enough to find a new home with Crooked Lane.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
Now that it’s all over, I can say that my favorite scene in The Spook in the Stacks is when I spot strange lights moving in the marsh. It wasn’t my favorite scene to live in, I can tell you. Scared the heck out of me. 

Did you have a hard time convincing Eva to write any particular scenes for you? 

She can be a bit prudish, so I have to push her to write romantic scenes between me and Connor McNeil. Let’s just say she’s still balking at that.

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

I’d be taller and thinner and have less unruly hair.

Do have any secret aspirations that Eva doesn’t know about? 


I wish I could stop finding dead bodies in my library.

If you had a free day what would you do? 

My favorite thing in all the world is a beach day at the Outer Banks with my cousin Josie and our friends, followed by dinner of shrimp and grits at Jake’s Seafood Bar with Connor and then a long walk along the beach at night.

Tell us about your best friend.


My best friend is my cousin Josie O’Malley. We’ve been close all our lives. I was born and raised in Boston, but we visited my mom’s sister and her family in Nags Head every summer. Josie and I grew up together on the beaches and in the dunes. One of the best things about living in Nags Head now is how close Josie and I are as adults. I love her to bits. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that she owns Josie’s Cozy Bakery in town. 



What’s the best trait Eva has given you?

Best and worse are probably the same. I can be tenacious. When I face a problem, I can’t let go until it’s answered. I suspect that Detective Sam Watson would say that’s a bad thing. 



What’s Eva’s worst habit? 

She doesn’t take anything too seriously. Come on, it’s my life we’re creating here, and she keeps throwing curve balls at me. 



Is there anything you would you like to change about your life right now?
I’d change nothing at all. I’m exactly where I want to be, for now. I love my job in the library, I love my tiny apartment on the fourth floor of the lighthouse. I love my friends and (most of) my co-workers. And I’m loving getting to know Connor. Some day I might want more, but for now I’m good. 


Describe an average day in your life. 

No such thing! At our library we’re as much of a community center as a public library. People are coming and going all day, using the computers, attending literacy programs or children’s programs, taking in one of our historical lectures, doing research in the rare books room. And, of course, wanting advice on books. An average day does not include finding a dead body in the library and trying to find out how it got there, but sometimes it seems as though it does.

What makes you stand out from any other characters in your genre?
Nothing really. I love being a cozy character.  My setting is somewhat unique though: our library is in a real-life place. Not just Nags Head, but in the actual Bodie Island Lighthouse. Which, I should mention, is not big enough to house a library and all that goes with it, including my fourth floor apartment. But it lives large in Eva’s and my imagination.

Will you encourage Eva to write a sequel?
No encouragement needed. She’s already finished Something Read Something Dead in which we are busy planning Josie’s wedding.  Eva has a contract for the sixth book with Crooked Lane. 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eva Gates is the pen name for Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. Under her real name of Vicki Delany, she has written more than thirty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing three cozy mystery series: the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane, the Year Round Christmas mysteries for Penguin Random House and, as Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library series, for Crooked Lane Books. 

The fourth Lighthouse Library book, The Spook in the Stacks, was released in June 2018.

Vicki lives and writes in bucolic Prince Edward County, Ontario. She is the past president of the Crime Writers of Canada.  Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards.



Connect with Eva/Vicki:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Indiebound  |  Kobo




Monday, June 18, 2018

FEATURED AUTHOR: LIDA SIDERIS




ABOUT THE BOOK

Newly minted lawyer Corrie Locke has taken a vow of abstinence. From PI work, that is. Until her best friend Michael finds his bully of a boss stabbed in the back after confronting him earlier that day. Michael panics, accidentally tampering with the crime scene…which could lead the cops to Michael instead of the real culprit. He turns to Corrie to track down the killer. She doesn’t need much coaxing. Her late great PI dad taught her the ropes…and left her his cache of illegal weaponry.

They return to the scene of the crime, but the body’s missing. Racing against time, Corrie dredges a prestigious Los Angeles college in pursuit of clues. All she finds are false leads. Armed with attitude and romantic feelings toward Michael, Corrie dives into a school of suspects to find the slippery fugitive. Will she clear Michael’s name before he’s arrested for murder?


BOOK DETAILS:

Title: Murder Gone Missing

Author: Lisa Sideris

Genre: Cozy Mystery/Soft Boiled Mystery

Series: A Southern California Mystery, book 2

Publisher: Level Best Books (April 10, 2018)

Page count: 262 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours








GUEST POST BY LISA SIDERIS


Unexpected Perks of Being Published


Holy moly, nearly three years ago, I realized a dream come true: the publication of my first novel. I could hardly believe it at the time, and I still need to pinch myself now and then. So what did I expect to happen after publication? Work. A lot of it. The ever present constants of marketing, promotion and writing, while working the day job and breathing and eating, being with my family, and sleeping now and then. What I didn’t expect were the marvelous byproducts.

A byproduct is something that happens as a result of something else. As a result of my publication, I started a Facebook account and reconnected with wonderful friends from long ago. And I discovered new ones. There are so many lovely people I never would have had the pleasure of encountering but for the book life. I’ve met other writers, bloggers, bookstore owners, bookstore visitors, readers, local postal employees, librarians, friends of friends, everyone at my local bank, a hostess at a popular restaurant and a multitude of others – an absolutely wonderful mix! All because they’d read or heard of my novel. It’s such a surprising, wonderful treat.

Recently, with the launch of Book Two in my series, I was being interviewed by a reporter at a local coffee shop. A copy of my latest novel sat on the table. A woman walked by and saw the book. She asked if I was reading it. I had the great pleasure of informing her I wrote it, which made her pull out her copy. She'd just purchased it from a nearby book store. A truly wonderful, almost surreal moment!

I’ve heard tales from other writers of unkind remarks by friends and strangers alike, but thankfully, I’ve not yet been subjected. Or maybe I have, but I haven’t noticed because I’m walking on cloud feet when I think about books and writing.

And another important perk? I’ve learned firsthand, the not so secret ingredient behind success, the magic that makes goals happen: persistence. I gave up several times during my drafting days. Especially the early drafting days. I even swore off writing forever a few times. Sometimes weeks would go by without my writing, and then something would draw me back. A quiet but necessary something. A burning desire.

There’s a ton of blood, sweat and tears that goes into that first book. But it's worth every last drop.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Lida Sideris is an author, lawyer and all around book enthusiast. She was one of two national recipients of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America scholarship for her first novel, Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters. Murder Gone Missing is the second book in the Corrie Locke series. Like her heroine, Lida worked as an entertainment attorney in a movie studio. Unlike her heroine, she keeps her distance from homicides.

Connect with Lisa:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads


Buy the book:
 Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble

Saturday, June 16, 2018

FEATURED AUTHOR: PAMELA FAGAN HUTCHINS




ABOUT THE BOOK

A controversial tourist resort. An unsolved beachside murder. Does she have the pipes to blow the whistle on a deadly conspiracy?

Everyone wants a piece of Ava’s skyrocketing star power… including her serious boyfriend and her deadbeat baby daddy. But when she visits the future site of a controversial resort and stumbles upon a dead body, Ava thinks she’s finally found a worthy cause for her newfound celebrity. Determined to catch the killer and stop the construction of the eco-unfriendly tourist trap, she plans to put her sex symbol status to good use.

Infiltrating the resort chain gala’s celebrity guest list, she teams up with a heavyweight boxer to dig up dirt on the investors. But her investigation takes a critical hit when her ex sues for full custody. Faced with the possibility of losing her daughter, she may have to give up the flirty persona she’s put to good use in wheeling out secrets from under the noses of corrupt investors.

To solve the murder and save her career, Ava must find a new way to take down the multi-million-dollar nest of corruption before her dead body joins the construction heap.

Knockout is the third book in Ava’s trilogy within the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery saga. If you like strong single mothers, glamorous celebrity lifestyles, and hard-hitting whodunits, then you’ll love Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ award-winning series.

Buy Knockout to step into the spotlight for a star-studded mystery today!


Book Details:


Title: Knockout

Author: Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Genre: Romantic Mystery


Series: What Doesn't Kill You, book 3

Publisher: SkipJack Publishing (June 12, 2018)

Page count: 300








LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH PAMELA FAGAN HUTCHINS


A few of your favorite things: Headbands. Funky boots. Pill cases. Big horses. Baby goats. Pushy donkeys. Rescue dogs. MY HUSBAND.
Things you need to throw out: Old makeup that I never use. Clothes the Boston terrier has gotten too chunky to wear. Half my pairs of brightly colored muck boots.


Things you need in order to write: Diffuser. Back massager. Teddy bear chair (my super comfy recliner). A view.
Things that hamper your writing: Wifi. Noise. Needy dogs. 


Things you love about writing: The End. Rewrites. Readers.
Things you hate about writing: First sentences. First drafts. Line edits.

Things you love about where you live: Wildflowers. Wildlife. Serenity. Seclusion.
Things that make you want to move: Crazy people. Snakes. Extreme weather.

Words that describe you: Energetic. Hermit. Animal lover. Loyal. Helpful.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: Intimidating. Controlling. Pushy.

Favorite music or song: Dixie Chicks
Music that make your ears bleed: Opera

Favorite beverage:Mango Bai
.
Something that gives you a pickle face: Goat milk kefir (I make it for my husband.)

Last best thing you ate: Red velvet cake paleo doughnut.
Last thing you regret eating: Enough popcorn for an army while reading the other night.

Favorite things to do: Riding my horse. Hiking. Dancing.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing:
Handling raw meat. Washing dishes. Eating canned asparagus.

Best thing you’ve ever done:
Go on the first date with my husband (where we decided to get married).

Biggest mistake: Holding back from chasing my dreams.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done:
Sneak into the Texas capitol building after it was closed. There may have been youth and alcohol involved. Oh, or the time I jumped off the Willie T and earned a free t-shirt. I can’t blame youth, but I can assure you the alcohol was a huge factor.
Something you chickened out from doing:
Cliff jumping at Tie Hack reservoir. The water was dark and cold, the rocks were very high!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pamela writes overly long e-mails, the What Doesn't Kill You romantic mysteries, and (possibly) hilarious nonfiction. She resides deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming. Pamela is passionate about hiking with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs (and an occasional goat and donkey), riding her gigantic horses, experimenting with her Keurig, and traveling in the Bookmobile.



Pamela's mysteries have won a lot of awards, from the 2017 Silver Falchion for Best Adult Mystery WINNER (Fighting for Anna) to the 2016 and 2015 WINNERS for USA Best Books Fiction: Cross Genre (Hell to Pay, Heaven to Betsy). With downloads of nearly 2,000,000 for the What Doesn't Kill You series, readers seem to enjoy her smart, sassy female sleuths.


Connect with Pamela:
Website Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:

Amazon BookBub 



 


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Thursday, June 14, 2018

FEATURED AUTHOR: R.G. BELSKY




ABOUT THE BOOK

When eleven-year-old Lucy Devlin disappeared on her way to school more than a decade ago, it became one of the most famous missing child cases in history. The story turned reporter Clare Carlson into a media superstar overnight. Clare broke exclusive after exclusive. She had unprecedented access to the Devlin family as she wrote about the heartbreaking search for their young daughter. She later won a Pulitzer Prize for her extraordinary coverage of the case.

Now Clare once again plunges back into this sensational story. With new evidence, new victims, and new suspects―too many suspects. Everyone from members of a motorcycle gang to a prominent politician running for a US Senate seat seem to have secrets they’re hiding about what really might have happened to Lucy Devlin. But Clare has her own secrets. And, in order to untangle the truth about Lucy Devlin, she must finally confront her own torturous past.


Book Details

Title: Yesterday’s News

Author:  R.G. Belsky

Genre: Mystery

Series: Clare Carlson, book 1

Publisher: Oceanview (May 1, 2018)

Page count: 343

On tour with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours








INTERVIEW WITH R.G. BELSKY


What’s the story behind the title of your book?

The title of Yesterday’s News is about the crime in the book being a cold case – the unsolved disappearance of an 11-year-old girl many years earlier. But the title also is about how the media (which I worked in for many years) forgets about stories after a few days, even the big ones, and moves on to more current news. The phrase “yesterday’s news” generally means it’s old news that no one cares about anymore. But in this case my protagonist Clare Carlson – a TV journalist – goes digging again into this old story and makes it big, front-page news all over again. 

Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
This is the first book in the Clare Carlson series. So you’ll be starting at the beginning when you read it. The second Clare Carlson book is coming in 2019.

Where’s home for you?
New York City. I’ve lived here most of my adult life. Pretty much the same apartment too in the Gramercy Park section of the city. Came here as a young man, fell in love with the place and never left. I’m not a native New Yorker, but I feel like one at this point.

Where did you grow up?
Cleveland, Ohio. Then went to school in Ohio too at Ohio University in Athens, O. And worked for a short time in Dayton. I was pretty much all about Ohio until I graduated from college at 22, then came to the New York area for my first real job and wound up staying here.

Have you been in any natural disasters?
Fortunately, only hurricanes and massive Northeast storms. The scariest moment came when I was on vacation once on the island of Nantucket, off the Cape Cod coast, and we were directly in the path of a hurricane. I mean the eye of the hurricane passed right over Nantucket! Hurricanes are always risky business, but the idea of being on a tiny island in the middle of one was particularly frightening. As it turned out, the hurricane itself didn’t do a great deal of damage to the island, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a vacation.

Sounds like a great idea for a new book! Do you have another job outside of writing?
I’m a longtime journalist. Spent most of my life working as one in New York City. I was metropolitan editor of the New York Post; managing editor of the New York Daily News; news editor of Star magazine; and a managing editor at NBC News.

I wrote mystery novels set in the media world too most of the time I was doing all that. The novels were a nice change of pace for me from the intensity of chasing day to day news. In my job as a journalist, I had to deal with tracking down facts for every story. As a novelist, I got to make the facts up! So that was fun.

Now, since leaving NBC in 2014, I just write mystery novels.

What’s your favorite line from a book?
Oh, there’s probably about a million of them – mostly from Raymond Chandler’s books. But I guess my all time favorite line from a book was in The Long Goodbye when Philip Marlowe says: “There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.” To me, that just perfectly captures the feel of a Chandler book (or any good mystery novel).

How did you create the plot for this book?
I’ve covered a lot of crimes as a journalist, but I’ve always been particularly struck by how tragic the missing person cases were. Edna Buchanan – a crime writer in Miami and a mystery author too these days – had a great quote about it that I use in my book: “One misfortune is worse than murder: it is to lose someone you love, without ever know that person’s fate.” As a young journalist in New York, I covered maybe the most famous missing child case ever, the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz on his way to school. For years afterward, there were false leads and false hopes that he might still be alive. But recently a man was finally convicted for his murder, which at least gave the family some kind of closure. I decided to write a book about a case in which there was no closure – a little girl who disappeared mysteriously and no ever found out what happened to her. The result was Yesterday’s News.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Well, I write about fictional journalists working in a fictional newsroom, and pretty much all of them are inspired by real journalists I knew in real newsrooms. Of course, people ask me: “Is that character based on me?” My answer is always no. The characters I write are a compilation of some of the most colorful and interesting reporters and editors I’ve worked with over the years, not any single person. There is no real Clare Carlson, the main character in Yesterday’s News. But lets just say that I’ve known a LOT of Clare Carlsons in my life.

Who are your favorite authors?
Raymond Chandler, Michael Connelly, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais, Sue Grafton and Lawrence Block. Chandler was the one that started it all for me. I read The Big Sleep a long time ago and decided I wanted to try to write mystery novels too. I loved all Parker’s Spenser books, especially at the beginning, and I think Connelly is the most consistently excellent mystery author of our time. (He’s a former newspaper man too, which is always a good thing.) The others…well, their great books speak for themselves. 



Do you have a routine for writing?
My routine for writing is a very simple one. I just write. That’s really the trick to being a writer. A lot of people talk about writing and think about doing it, but never actually sit down at the computer or whatever to put the words down.

Me, I write every day. I don’t wait until I’m inspired or in the mood or have a great idea. You’ll never get anything done if you do that. Again, it’s a very simple concept. To be a writer, you have to write. Do it every day. Good or bad (and you’ll be surprised how good a lot of it turns out), just keep at it. That technique has worked well enough for me to publish 11 mystery novels.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I write in the morning.  Always have. When I worked full time, I got up early to write before going into the office. But I still get up early to write now even though I have all day to do it. Morning is my creative time. The rest of the day I spend thinking a lot about what I’m going to write the following morning.

I never write at home, even though I have an office there. I write in crowded, busy places like coffee shops, on street benches, at the beach or even in a bar. I can’t stand working in a place that’s too quiet. I guess that comes from me spending so much time in hectic newsrooms. But I like to have a lot of people around me while I’m writing.

My writing process is also a bit different than most authors these days. I write all my fiction out in long hand on yellow legal pads, not on a computer. I put it into the computer after I’ve done the creative part of the writing. I’m not sure why I do it this way. I always composed news stories directly on a computer when I was a journalist. But it just seems to work better for me like this when I’m writing fiction. For whatever its worth, I read once how Ernest Hemingway used to write his novels out in long hand too. (Except for the dialogue which he used a typewriter on). Hey, if it worked for Hemingway, it’s good enough for me!

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
This is an easy one. The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the big main one with the two lion statues in front. When I first came to New York City after college, I was mesmerized by the place and spent many wonderful hours there. Then, in later years, I nearly forgot about it as I spent most of my time in newsrooms. But, a few years ago, I rediscovered the place all over again and I do much of my writing there now. Impossible to describe it other than to say it’s beautiful and majestic and captures everything great about New York City. Best library for me, hands down. Having said that, being in any library anywhere is always a good thing for me.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?


Philip Marlowe. Okay, I’d have to get hit over the head with a sap, beaten up and maybe rousted by the cops. But I’d get all those gorgeous blonde dame clients coming to my office; I could drink gimlets with Terry Lennox (a reference from The Long Goodbye for anyone who hasn’t read it); and I’d get to deliver all those classic Marlowe wisecracks and observations. No question about it, being a PI in 1940s or ‘50s Los Angeles would be a very cool thing.

What are you working on now?
The Cinderella Murders, the second in my series featuring Clare Carlson -an New York city TV journalist. It’s about the seemingly insignificant murder of a homeless woman who calls herself Cinderella – which leads Clare into a tangled web of long-buried secrets and murder involving some of the most powerful and prominent people in New York. The Cinderella Murders will be out in the spring of 2019.




EXCERPT FROM YESTERDAY'S NEWS


PROLOGUE


School was always special to her. Some children hated to go to school. But she always looked for- ward to going back to school each morning. She loved her friends. She loved her teachers. And most of all, she loved to learn.For her, it was a time of excitement, a time of adventure, a time of new beginnings each day she sat in the classroom—like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon in a field of flowers underneath a blue, cloudless sky.And so, on this sunny morning, like so many others, the mother and daughter leave their house and walk together toward the school bus that will pick up the little girl.“What about your lunch?” the mother asks.“I’m buying it at school today, remember?”“Do you have enough money?”“Yes, you gave it to me last night.”“Right,” she says. The mother knows that, but she’s forgotten. “And remember to come home right after school.”“You worry too much, Mom. I’m not a baby anymore.” That’s all too true, of course. She is growing up. Just like they all do.But today she is still her little girl.The mother hugs her and puts her on the school bus, watching her in the window until the bus disappears from sight.A little girl who has everything in the world ahead of her. A lifetime of memories to come. And all the time in the world to enjoy it.

THE RULES ACCORDING TO CLARE


I always tell the same story to the new reporters on their first day.

It goes like this: Two guys are sitting in a bar bragging about their sexual exploits. As they get drunker and drunker, the conversation becomes more outrageous about how far they’d be willing to go. Would you ever have sex with an animal, one of them asks? Of course not, the other guy replies angrily. What if someone paid you $50 to do it with a dog? That’s ridiculous, he says. How about $500? Same answer. Okay, the first guy says to him, would you have sex with a dog for $5,000? The other guy thinks about that for a while, then asks: “What breed?”

The point here is that once you ask the question “what breed?” you’ve already crossed over a very important line and can never go back.

It’s based, I suppose, on the famous old Winston Churchill story. They say Churchill was seated at a dinner party next to a very elegant and beautiful lady. During the meal, he turned to her and asked if she’d be willing to have sex with him if he gave her $1,000,000. The woman laughed and said sure. Then he asked if she’d have sex with him for $25. “Of course not, what do you think I am?” the indignant woman replied. To which Churchill told her, “Madame, we’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

This is a crucial concept in the news business where I work. Because there is no gray area for a journalist when it comes to honesty and integrity and moral standards. You can’t be just a little bit immoral or a little bit dishonest or a little bit corrupt. There is no compromise possible here.

Sometimes I tell a variation of the dog story. I call it the Woodstein Maneuver. The idea is to come up with a new scenario for the Watergate scandal. To speculate on what might have happened if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (“Woodstein!” in the Robert Redford–Dustin Hoffman movie) had not written their stories that led to Richard Nixon’s ouster, but instead gotten hush money to cover up the scandal. What if Nixon had paid them to make it all go away?

I ask a new reporter to put themselves in Woodward and Bernstein’s place and think about what they would do if offered such a bribe.

Most of them immediately say they would never take money under any circumstances to compromise a story. I’m not sure if they say it because they really mean it or simply because they believe it’s the answer I want to hear. A few laughingly say they’d go for the money, but I’m not sure I believe them either. I figure they’re just trying to be outrageous or different. Only a few reporters ask the key question. The “what breed?” question. “How much money?” they want to know. Those are the ones I worry about the most.
 

PART I


LUCY

CHAPTER 1


“It’s the fifteenth anniversary of the Lucy Devlin disappearance next week,” Maggie Lang said. “Little eleven-year-old girl leaves for school and just vanishes into thin air. It’s a legendary missing kid cold case. We should do a story for the anniversary.”

“Lucy Devlin is old news,” I told her. “The girl’s never been found, Clare.” “And after a while people just stopped caring about her.” “Well, you sure did all right with it. You won a damn Pulitzer.” Maggie Lang was my assignment editor at the TV station where I work as a news executive these days. She was a bundle of media energy—young, smart, ambitious, outspoken, and sometimes a bit reckless. I liked Maggie, but she scared me, too. Maybe because she reminded me of someone I used to know. Myself when I was her age.

Back then, I was Clare Carlson, award-winning reporter for a New York City newspaper that doesn’t exist anymore. When the paper went out of business, I moved on to a new career as a TV reporter. I wasn’t so successful at that. They said I came across as too intense on the air, too grating, too unlikeable to the viewers. So, they offered me a job in management. I was never quite sure I followed the logic of that, but I just went with the flow. I started out as an assignment editor, moved up to producer, and then was named news director for Channel 10 News here in New York City. It turned out that I really like telling other people what to do instead of doing it myself. I’ve always been a bitch. I guess now I just get paid for being one.

Maggie looked over at the Pulitzer Prize certificate I keep prominently on my desk at Channel 10. Hey, you win a Pulitzer—you flaunt it.

“You helped make Lucy Devlin one of the most famous missing child stories ever in New York City fifteen years ago, Clare,” she said. “Imagine if we could somehow find her alive after all this time . . .”

“Lucy is dead,” I told her. “How can you be so sure of that?” “C’mon, you know she’s dead as well as I do. Why else would she never have turned up anywhere?”

“Okay, you’re probably right. She is dead. And we’ll never find the body or catch who did it or know anything for sure about what happened to her.”

“So, what’s our story then?” “There’s a new angle.” “Believe me, I covered all the angles on this story a long time ago.”

“Anne Devlin, Lucy’s mother, is telling people she has some new evidence about the case,” Maggie said.

“Anne Devlin always claims she has some evidence. The poor woman has been obsessed with finding answers about her daughter for years. I mean, it’s understandable, I guess, given all the pain and anguish and uncertainty she’s gone through. But none of her so-called evidence ever goes anywhere.”

“Doesn’t matter. We go to the mother and say we want to hear about whatever new evidence she thinks she’s come up with. I tell her we want to interview her about the case for the anniversary. That maybe someone will see it and give cops some new information. It’ll be great TV. And that video—the heartbroken mom still pleading for someone to help her find out what happened to her daughter fifteen years ago—would go viral on social media.”

She was right. It was a good idea. A good TV gimmick. A good social media gimmick.

And that was my job now, whether I liked it or not. I was a long way from winning Pulitzer Prizes or writing thoughtful in-depth journalism. In television, it was all about capturing the moment. And an emotional interview like that with Lucy’s mother on the anniversary of her disappearance would definitely be a big media moment.

I looked out the window next to my desk. It was early April, and spring had finally broken in New York City. I was wearing a pale-pink spring pantsuit to celebrate the onset of the season. I’d bought it at Saks one bitterly cold day during the depths of winter to cheer myself up. But right now, I didn’t feel very cheerful.

“Okay,” I finally said reluctantly to Maggie, “you can reach out to Anne Devlin and see if she’ll sit down for an interview with us.”

“I already did.” Of course. Knowing Maggie, I should have figured she’d already set it in motion before checking with me.

“And?” I asked her. “She said yes.” “Good.” “Under one condition. She wants you to be the person who does the interview with her.”

“Me?” “She said she’d feel more comfortable talking to you than some reporter she didn’t know.”

“C’mon, I don’t go on air anymore, Maggie.” “She insisted on talking to you. She said you owed her. She said you would understand what that meant.”

I sighed. Oh, I understood. Anne Devlin was holding me to a promise I made a long time ago.

It was maybe a few months after Lucy was gone. Anne had become depressed as people stopped talking about the case. The newspapers, the TV stations, even the police—they seemed to have given up and moved on to other things. She felt so alone, she said. I told her that she wasn’t alone. I told her I’d always be there for her. I made her a lot of promises that I couldn’t keep.

“Let’s make a pact,” she said, squeezing my hand on that long- ago night. “If I ever find out anything, you’ll help me track Lucy down, won’t you, Clare?”

“I promise,” I said. “No matter what happens or how long it takes, you can’t let people forget about her.”

“No one will ever forget about Lucy.” I thought about that long-ago conversation now as I sat in my office looking at the Pulitzer that had come out of my coverage of the Lucy Devlin story in what seemed like another lifetime ago. That story had been my ticket to fame as a journalist. It made me a front-page star; it catapulted me into the top of the New York City media world; and it was eventually responsible for the big TV executive job that I held today.

“She said you owed it to her,” Maggie said again. Anne Devlin was right. I did owe her.
 

CHAPTER 2


Lucy Devlin disappeared on a sunny April morning.

She was eleven years old, and she lived on a quiet street in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan with her parents, Anne and Patrick Devlin. That last day her mother had helped her get dressed for school, packed her books in a knapsack that hung over her back, and then kissed her goodbye before putting her on the school bus.

As far as anyone knew, she was with the other students on the bus when they went into the school. The first indication that something was wrong came when Lucy didn’t show up in her classroom for the morning attendance. The teacher thought she was either late or sick, reporting it at first to the principal’s office as a routine absence. It wasn’t until later that police began a massive search for the missing eleven-year-old girl.

The disappearance of Lucy Devlin exploded in the media when the New York Tribune, the newspaper I wrote for, ran a front-page story about her. The headline simply said: “MISSING!” Below that was a picture of Lucy. Big brown eyes, her hair in a ponytail, a gap between her two front teeth.

The story told how she was wearing a blue denim skirt, a white blouse, and cork sandals when she was last seen. It said she loved reading; playing basketball and soccer; and, most of all, animals. She petted every dog in the neighborhood and begged her parents to get her one. “She was my little angel,” Anne Devlin said in the article. “How could anyone want to hurt an angel?”

The whole city fell in love with her after that. The Tribune story spared no emotion in talking about the anguish of her parents as they waited for some kind of word. It talked about their hopes, their despair, and their confusion over everything that had happened.

I know because I was the reporter who wrote it. With my help, Lucy Devlin—just like Maggie had said— became one of the most famous missing person stories in New York City history. Posters soon appeared all over the city. Announcements were made in schools and churches asking people to look for her. The family offered a reward. First it was $10,000. Then $20,000 and $50,000 and as much as $100,000 as people and civic groups pitched in to help the Devlin family. For many it brought back memories of the tragic Etan Patz case—a six-year-old boy who had disappeared from the streets of New York City a quarter century earlier. Little Etan became the face of the missing child crisis all over the country when his picture was the first to appear on a milk carton in the desperate search for answers about his fate. In that case, the family had finally achieved some closure when a man was eventually arrested and convicted for their son’s murder. But there was no closure for Anne and Patrick Devlin.

I sat in the Devlins’ apartment—crying with them, praying with them, and hoping against hope that little Lucy would one day walk in that door.

I’ve never worked a story before or after where I identified so much with the people I was writing about. My access to the parents gave me the opportunity to see things no one else did, and I put every bit of that into my stories. Everyone was picking up my stuff—the other papers, TV news, and even the network news magazines like Dateline and 60 Minutes.

Yes, I did win a Pulitzer for my coverage of this story. The Pulitzer judges called it “dramatic, haunting, and extraordinarily compassionate coverage of a breaking deadline news story” in giving me the award. That was nice, but they were all just words to me. I wasn’t thinking about a Pulitzer or acclaim or my career when I covered the Lucy Devlin disappearance. I just reported and wrote the hell out of the story, day after day.

Eventually, of course, other stories came along to knock this one off the front page.

All the reporters moved on to cover them. In the end, I did, too. It wasn’t that easy for Anne and Patrick Devlin. The police told them that Lucy was probably dead. That the most likely scenario was she’d been kidnapped outside the school that day, her abductor had become violent and murdered her. He then must have dumped her body somewhere. It was just a matter of time before it turned up, they said.

Anne Devlin refused to believe them. “I can’t just forget about my daughter,” she said. “I know she’s still alive. I know she’s out there somewhere. I can feel her. A mother knows. I’ll never rest until I find her.”

Her obsession carried her down many paths over the next few years. Every time a little girl turned up murdered or police found a girl without a home, Anne checked it out. Not just in New York City either. She traveled around the country, tracking down every lead—no matter how slim or remote it seemed.

There were moments of hope, but many more moments of despair.

A woman who’d seen the story on TV said she’d seen a little girl that looked like Lucy at an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. She was standing with a man holding her by the hand near the roller coaster, looking confused and scared. At one point, she tried to break away, but the man wouldn’t let her go. The woman told one of the security guards that there was something suspicious about the man and the little girl, but never found out what happened. Anne went to Ohio and talked to everyone she could find at the amusement park. She eventually tracked down the security guard and finally the little girl herself. It turned out that the man was her father, and she looked scared and tried to run away because she was afraid to ride the roller coaster.

Another time a group of college coeds thought they spotted her in Florida during spring break. Some fraternity guys who tried to hit on them had a young girl in the back seat of their car, and she seemed out of place amid the beer swilling Neanderthals par- tying up a storm in Fort Lauderdale. The coeds told Anne they were convinced it was her missing daughter. That lead turned out to be a dead end, too. She was the daughter of a woman the fraternity guys had picked up the night before. The woman had passed out back in their hotel room, and they were just driving around with the girl because they didn’t want to leave her alone.

And then there was the time the body of a young girl about Lucy’s age and description was found alongside a highway in Pennsylvania. The state troopers found Lucy’s name on a list of missing children and contacted Anne. She drove ten hours through a blinding snowstorm to a morgue outside Pittsburgh, where the body had been taken. The entire time she had visions of her daughter lying on a coroner’s slab. But it wasn’t Lucy. It turned out to be a runaway from Utah. A truck driver had picked her up hitchhiking, raped and killed her, then dumped the body alongside the road. Anne said afterward she felt relief it wasn’t Lucy, but sadness for the family in Utah who would soon endure the same ordeal as she did.

Once a psychic came to Anne and said she’d seen a vision of Lucy. Lucy was living somewhere near the water, the psychic told her. Lucy was alright, but lonely. Lucy wanted to get back to her family, but she didn’t know how. Eventually, the psychic said she saw a sign in the vision that said La Jolla. La Jolla is a town in Southern California, just north of San Diego. The psychic offered to travel with Anne there and help search for her. They spent two weeks in La Jolla, staying in the best hotels and running up big bills at fancy restaurants. The psychic found nothing. Later, it turned out she just wanted a free trip to the West Coast and some free publicity for her psychic business.

Worst of all were the harassing phone calls. From all the twisted, perverted people in this world. Some of them were opportunists looking for extortion money by claiming they had Lucy. Others were just sickos who got off on harassing a grieving mother. “I have your daughter,” they would say and then talk about the terrible things they were doing to her. One man called Anne maybe two dozen times, day and night, over a period of six months. He taunted her mercilessly about how he had turned Lucy into his sex slave. He said he kept her in a cage in the basement of his house, feeding her only dog food and water. He described unspeakable tortures and sexual acts he carried out on her. He told Anne that when he finally got bored, he’d either kill her or sell her to a harem in the Middle East. When the FBI finally traced the caller’s number and caught him, he turned out to be one of the police officers who had been investigating the case. He confessed that he got a strange sexual pleasure from the phone calls. None of the others turned out to be the real abductor either. But Anne would sometimes cry for days after she got one of these cruel calls, imagining all of the nightmarish things that might be happening to Lucy.

All this took a real toll on Anne and Patrick Devlin. Patrick was a contractor who ran his own successful construction firm; Anne, an executive with an advertising agency. They lived in a spacious townhouse in the heart of Manhattan. Patrick had spent long hours renovating it into a beautiful home for him, Anne, and Lucy. There was even a backyard with an impressively large garden that was Anne’s pride and joy. The Devlins seemed to have the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect life.

But that all changed after Lucy disappeared. Anne eventually lost her job because she was away so much searching for answers about her daughter. Patrick’s construction business fell off dramatically, too. They had trouble meeting the payments on their town house and moved to a cheaper rental downtown. Their marriage began to fall apart, too, just like the rest of their lives. They divorced a few years after Lucy’s disappearance. Patrick moved to Boston and started a new construction company. He remarried a few years later and now had two children, a boy and a girl, with his new wife. Anne still lived in New York City, where she never stopped searching for her daughter.

Every once in a while, at an anniversary or when another child disappeared, one of the newspapers or TV stations would tell the Lucy Devlin story again.

About the little girl who went off to school one day, just like any other day, and was never seen again. But mostly, no one had time to think about Lucy Devlin anymore.

Everyone had forgotten about Lucy. Except her mother.
***

Excerpt from Yesterday's News by R.G. Belsky. 
Copyright © 2018 by R.G. Belsky. Reproduced with permission from R.G. Belsky. All rights reserved.



OTHER BOOKS BY R.G. BELSKY





ABOUT THE AUTHOR


R.G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His newest mystery, Yesterday’s News, was published in May 2018 by Oceanview. It is the first in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station. He previously wrote the Gil Malloy series for Atria about a tabloid newspaper reporter. Belsky himself has been a top editor at the New York Post (where he helped create the famous “Headless Body in Topless Bar” headline), the New York Daily News, Star magazine and NBC News. Two earlier Belsky thrillers that came out in the ‘90s – Loverboy and Playing Dead  – were re-released by Harper Collins recently in ebook form for the first time.   



Connect with the author:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads


Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

FEATURED AUTHOR: MICHAEL OKON





ABOUT THE BOOK 


After Monsterland has been destroyed, the entire world is thrown into chaos. Wyatt Baldwin and his friends must go beyond the boundaries of their small town to reestablish contact with the outside world. During their journey they discover a new threat released from the bowels of the defunct theme park. The danger of werewolves, vampires and zombies pale in comparison to an army of relentless mummies, Vincent Conrad's reanimated monster and the menace of a life-sucking ooze they call The Glob. Will Wyatt and his friends survive when they reenter the scariest place on earth?




Book Details:

Title: Monsterland Reanimated


Author: Michael Okon

Genre: Action Adventure / Young Adult

Series: Monsterland, book #2

Publisher: WordFire Press (April 13th, 2018)

Page count: 250

On tour with: Pump Up Your Book







INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL OKON


Michael, tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Two books for Monsterland are out now. Five more are planned. They would need to start with the book one: Monsterland.

Where’s home for you?
North shore of Long Island.

Where did you grow up?
North Shore of Long Island.

What’s your favorite memory?
Driving to Florida with my family.


If you had an extra $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
More steak.


What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
A magic eight ball.


What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Some people are so poor, all they have is money.

Who would you pick to write your biography?
Me.

What do you love about where you live?
The isolation of living on an island. 



Have you been in any natural disasters?
A few hurricanes, but I have a generator so I’m good.

What is the most daring thing you've done?
I’m a wimp, so nothing crazy. I want to go surfing one day. 


What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
I hit a horse while driving. Head on. I’m serious.

What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
Get married young. The dating thing was stupid.

What makes you bored?
Social media.


If someone gave you $5,000 and said you must solve a problem, what would you do with the money?
Try to get another $5,000 and play in the World Series of Poker. 



What makes you nervous?
Flying. 


What makes you happy?
My wife and kids.

What makes you scared?
Flying.

What makes you excited?
Hearing good news from my agent.

How did you meet your spouse? Was it love at first sight?
Yes, it was love at first sight. Was introduced to her in college. I couldn’t get it right until I matured.

What are your most cherished mementoes?
My poker chip and shot glass collection.

What brings you sheer delight?
BBQ with my family.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
"Your future is just as you’ve imagined." That’s by me from my book Just Ask the Universe.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
Disney World.

Are you like any of your characters?
All my characters have the same fears I had as a teen -  fitting in, being comfortable in my own skin.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
Give me sugar.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
Most people say all my books should be movies.

What are you working on now?
Monsterland 3. Revamping Witches Protection Program.








ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



Michael Okon is the award-winning, best-selling author of 15 books, including Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist, Stillwell, and The Battle for Darracia series, all of which were written under his nom de plume Michael Phillip Cash. Michael writes full time and lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.  


Connect with Michael:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble


Sunday, June 10, 2018

FEATURED AUTHOR: SUSAN HUNTER




ABOUT THE BOOK

When teenager Heather Young disappeared from the small town of Himmel, Wisconsin everyone believed her boyfriend had killed her—though her body was never found. Twenty years later, his little sister Sammy returns to town. She begs her old friend, true crime writer Leah Nash, to prove her brother Eric isn’t a murderer.

But Sammy has no new evidence, and her brother doesn’t want Leah’s help. Leah says no—but she can’t help feeling guilty about it. That feeling gets much worse when Sammy is killed in a suspicious car accident. That’s when the independent, irreverent, unstoppable Leah takes up her cause. Her investigation takes her to some dark and dangerous places, and the truth she finds has an unexpected and shattering impact on her own life.


Book Details:

Title: Dangerous Places

Author: Susan Hunter
Genre: Mystery

Series: Leah Nash Mysteries #3
Published by: Himmel River Press (November 2016)
Number of Pages: 348

On tour with: Partners in Crime Book Tours







INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN HUNTER


Susan, tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?

The series features Leah Nash, a tough-minded journalist with a soft-spot for underdogs. After her career takes a giant step backwards, she's forced to accept a job at the small-town weekly paper where she started. 

All the books in the series are standalones, in the sense that the main mystery is resolved, there are no major cliff-hanger endings, and there's enough backstory in each book to bring a new reader up-to-speed on Leah and her life. However, a supporting cast of characters does carry over from book to book. Reading the books in order allows a reader to see characters and relationships grow and change, but newcomers to the series won't be "lost" without having read previous volumes.

How did you create the plot for this book?
I started with the idea of Leah solving a cold case missing person mystery and as I worked out the details, I decided I wanted to weave something from her own past into it. The twists and turns grew from there.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
All of them, and none of them. I don't model any characters directly on real people, but I do use bits and pieces of physical descriptions, personal histories and a mannerism or voice here and there in creating the characters who populate my story.

Are you like any of your characters?
I have some of my lead character's less desirable characteristics, but sadly not many of her best. She is far braver and more generous of heart than I am. I share her enjoyment of cookies, other people's cooking, and an occasional shot of whiskey. We also have the same love of singing, accompanied by the absence of any ability in that area.

What are your most cherished momentoes?
Personal notes and letters from people that I love.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
"What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult to each other?" – George Eliot

What’s your favorite line from a book?
"Something will turn up." –Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield.

Who are your favorite authors?
Reginald Hill, Ruth Rendell, Sue Grafton, John Irving, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Liane Moriarty, Madeleine, L'Engle, P.D. James, and Louise Penny
.

What book are you currently reading and in what format?
The Sea Detective, by Mark Douglas-Home, in ebook. It's very good.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
In my office at home—quite often with the shades drawn to keep me from staring out at the river that runs by our house when I should be writing.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
The obituary for my closest friend, who died in a plane crash eight years ago.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
It's in the past. When I was a child, the library in our town was a 19th century Queen Anne-style house. The immense arched wooden door had a lion's head knocker, inside it was cool and dark on hot summer days. The circulation desk was on a slightly raised platform just beyond the entryway. We would hand our chosen books up to the librarian to be checked out. I can still remember my library card number: A1862.

What are you working on now?
The fifth book in the Leah Nash Mysteries series, as yet untitled.



EXCERPT FROM DANGEROUS PLACES


Chapter 1

 
So, Leah, good to see you. I almost missed your book readin’ there. But what I heard, you did real good. I’m late because the stop ’n’ go light on Main is on the blink, caused a little fender-bender. But that’s OK, eh? Because we put the—”
 
“I know, Marty, you ‘put the sure in inSUREance.’ ”
 
Marty Angstrom beamed, thrilled at the evidence that his painstakingly-crafted slogan for the A-1 Independent Insurance Agency had achieved market penetration.
 
“Noreen was gonna come too, but she’s at her mother’s over to Waukesha tonight. But she bought your book anyway. Gonna give it to her sister for her birthday. I got it right here. Could you sign somethin’ personal? You know, make it special for her to give to Arlene?”
 
“Sure.” I took the book he handed to me and sat down to autograph it.
 
Unholy Alliances is the true story of the death of my younger sister Lacey at a residential school run by Catholic nuns. Years after the fact, I got a tip that her death wasn’t accidental as we’d all believed. The investigation I did for my small-town paper, The Himmel Times Weekly, brought the truth to light and also generated some national interest. I wound up with a book deal and a career switch from reporter to true crime writer.
 
My book reading at the annual Himmel Public Library Wine and Cheese Fundraiser was my first official “celebrity” appearance in town. Although I’d spent the past few months promoting my book across the country on every radio show, television interview program, and podcast that would have me, I’d been a little nervous no one would show up on my home turf. But there was a respectable crowd.
 
As I signed the book, Marty kept talking.
 
“So, you’re a big deal now, aren’t you? I saw you on the TV the other day, everybody at McClain’s was watchin’. Gettin’ real famous and all. Leah Nash, big-time author, eh? But I can still say I knew you when.” He smiled with the kind of hometown pride that was usually reserved for a Packers player. I was very touched. He really is a nice man.
 
“I don’t know about that. The book’s doing well, but that promotional tour stuff is pretty wearing. I’m glad to be home.”
 
“Speakin’ of home there, Leah, how you set for insurance on that new loft apartment you moved into? Renters need insurance too.”
 
“I hadn’t really thought about it, Marty. I’ll call your office and—” As I handed him the book, my response was cut off by a jolt to my arm from a woman carrying a full glass of burgundy. The slosh from it instantly made my pale-yellow blazer look as though I’d been a casualty in a shootout.
 
“Oh! I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” She began dabbing ineffectively with her hand at the spreading deep red stain on the front of my blazer.
 
“It’s OK, don’t worry about it.” I stood and stepped away from the table, slipping out of my jacket. Fortunately, the wine hadn’t penetrated through to my shirt. I snagged a bottle of water and a napkin from a circulating waiter. As I liberally doused the front of my jacket, the woman apologized again, her voice high and tense.
 
“Hey, c’mon. It’s not a big deal,” I said. Several people began to glance our way. “I’ll just run to the bathroom and run some cold water on it.” I smiled to ease her embarrassment and hurried off to the restroom. I pushed through the door and narrowly missed slamming it into the bent head of a man who had just started to rise from kneeling under the sink. Startled, I took a half-step back to check the sign on the door. “Ladies.” Nope, I hadn’t barged into the men’s room by mistake.
 
As he stood I realized he was wearing workman’s clothes and held a wrench in his hand.
 
“Had a leaky pipe emergency. All done except the moppin’ up.” He indicated a puddle of water that nearly reached the two stalls on the opposite wall.
 
“Oh, well, sorry to bang in here. Is it OK if I just run some water on this stain so it doesn’t set?”
 
“Sure, sure. Workin’ fine now. I got to say, Leah, your daddy would sure be proud of you tonight.”
 
I stopped cold. Nothing brings me up short like mention of the father who abandoned us. “Excuse me?”
 
“Now, don’t get all huffy, there. You ’member me, don’t ya? It’s Dorsey. Dorsey Cowdrey. I knowed your dad. Knowed you too. We both did a little work for Anthony Dunn, back when he wasn’t so hoity-toity and his name was Tony. Likes to be called Anthony now. Mr. Dunn is even better.” He started a laugh that ended in a smoker’s cough before he went on. “I’m still Tony’s go-to guy. What my daddy used to call a jack-of-all-trades. Little plumbin’, little carpentry, little electrical, little this ‘n’ that. Not much I can’t handle.”
 
I stared at him without recognition. He had a foxy face, long and sharp-featured with weathered skin. His build was lean, his hair ginger-colored and streaked with gray. Even his ears were fox-like, high and almost pointed. I guessed him to be in his late fifties or early sixties.
 
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember you, Mr. Cowdrey.” I had turned my back and was running water over the spot on my blazer.
 
“Oh now, darlin’, don’t say that. You can’t forget the man what used to give you them Baby Ruth candy bars you was so crazy about. I used to call you ‘little Ruthie’ ’cause you liked ’em so much.”
 
As I squeezed the excess water from my jacket, I closed my eyes and saw my five-year-old-self and a much younger version of this man leaning toward me. “Here you go, little Ruthie. You sit right there on your swing and chew on this. I’m goin’ in to talk to your daddy fer a minute.” I hadn’t liked him very well—he smelled like stale sweat and tobacco—but I had indeed been crazy about the Baby Ruths, and at five, I was easily won over. Actually, even now, the right candy bar can take you pretty far with me. I faced him and said, “Yes, you’re right. I do remember you, Mr. Cowdrey.”
 
He smiled, revealing small, sharp yellow teeth that made him look more vulpine than ever. “I heard your little presentation there. You did a real nice job. I’m not much of a reader myself. My boy Cole, though, seems like he read your whole book. I guess he likes bein’ famous, even if he don’t come out lookin’ too good.”
 
Again I was puzzled. “Cole Granger? He’s your son?”
 
Cole had been a low-level drug dealer involved with my youngest sister Lacey in her lost days. The last time I saw him, he was a pretty scared loser, on the run out of town from some criminals who were a lot more dangerous than he was.
 
“By marriage, yeah. He’s my stepson. We don’t get along too good. Still, kin is kin, right?”
 
The door swung inward then as two laughing women came through. They stopped at the unexpected duo who greeted them. I gave them that funny little half-smile you offer to strangers, and I stepped to their left.
 
“Excuse me, please. Bye, Mr. Cowdrey.” I didn’t say it was nice seeing him, because it really hadn’t been. Something about that guy gave me the willies. He was picking up his tools as I left.
 
I hurried back to the reception room, lest Dorsey Cowdrey decide to escort me, and found an empty chair to drape my damp blazer on. As I did so, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and saw the woman who’d spilled my drink. My expression must have conveyed a not-very-friendly “Enough, all ready. Let it go,” because she started talking quickly.
 
“No, but wait, please. What an idiot I am. I’m just nervous, I guess. You know, you think something through in your head, and you imagine what you’ll say and how it will go, and then it doesn’t.” She was speaking so quickly that it was hard to follow her, and what I did catch I didn’t understand. Her obvious nervousness was all out of proportion to the slight accident she’d caused.
 
“I have to talk to you. I need you to—please.” She gulped, emitting a sound between a gasp and a hiccup. She continued a little desperately, “Leah, don’t you remember me?”
 
Two in one night. What were the odds? I had no idea who she was, and she saw the lack of recognition on my face.
 
“It’s me, Samantha. Sammy. You have to remember. You were my best friend!” Her voice was stronger now, but still pleading. And then I saw it, as I looked straight into her face. I flashed back to a big, sunny room, with two little girls sitting on a bed, repeating in unison: “We’re best friends. We’ll always be, ’cause I’m for you, and you’re for me.” Then high fives and waves of laughter.
 
“Sam? Sammy.” I repeated the name with growing certainty. The eyes had it. They were Samantha’s—big and wide set, a little wary now, as though the world were an unfriendly place, but still an amazing shade of aquamarine. Her fine flaxen hair was darker, and instead of hanging like a shining curtain down her back, was cut short and blunt-edged. But it was Sam.
 
***
 
Excerpt from Dangerous Places by Susan Hunter.  Copyright © 2018 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.
 




OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:

Dangerous Habits –Leah Nash Mysteries Book 1,
Dangerous Mistakes –Leah Nash Mysteries Book 2
Dangerous Secrets –Leah Nash Mysteries Book 4




ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first-place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.

Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain's Bar and Grill.

Connect with Susan:
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