Thursday, May 30, 2019



If it wasn’t for art thieves, spies and killers, Alex Vlodnachek’s life would be bliss.

Her freelance career is catching fire. Her relationship with B&B owner Ian Sterling is flirty and fun. She’s even attending a glittering cocktail party at his sprawling Victorian inn.

But, to this ex-reporter, something seems “off.” And it’s not the canapés. When Ian’s father vanishes, the enigmatic innkeeper asks for her discretion. And her assistance.

Meanwhile, Alex is having the opposite problem at her tiny bungalow: People keep piling in uninvited. Including a mysterious intruder found sleeping in her kitchen. Her grandmother, Baba, who shows up “to help”—with Alex’s own mother hot on her heels.

When the intrepid redhead discovers a body in the B&B’s basement and a “reproduction” Renoir in the library, she begins to suspect that Ian is more than just a simple hotel owner.

With editor pal Trip, brother Nick, and rescue-pup Lucy riding shotgun, Alex scrambles to stay one step ahead of disaster—and some very nasty characters.

Can she find the missing man before it’s too late? Or will Alex be the next one to disappear?

Book Details:

Title: Seeing Red

Author: Dana Dratch

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Series: A Red Herring Mystery, book 2

Publisher: Kensington (May 28, 2019)

Print length: 368 pages



If you could live in any time period which would it be?
Now is good. Also, 100 years from now. Not instead – still.

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
I have no other marketable skills. If you don’t believe me, just ask my college advisor.

If you had to do community service, what would you choose?
Always the food bank. No one should go hungry.

If you were on the Amazon bestseller list, who would you choose to be one before and one below you?
James Patterson and Stephen King. And it wouldn’t matter which was which. Because that would be the stratosphere of the bestseller list.

If you could choose a fictional town to live in what would it be and from what book?
Well, St. Mary Mead, from the Miss Marple stories, is looking pretty good right now, despite the outrageous body count. And I’ve always wanted to see Lochdubh  (from M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth books), but definitely during the summer.


5 favorite possessions: 
    •    my “murder board” (cork board I use to plot stories)
    •    notebooks (full of notes, bits of dialogue and plot points)
    •    iPad
    •    wireless keyboard
    •    comfortable chair
When I’m using all of these, I’m deep into a book – and having a great time!

5 things you need in order to write:  
    •    coffee
    •    coffee
    •    coffee
    •    coffee
    •    chocolate.
Not necessarily in that order.

5 things you never want to run out of:   
    •    books
    •    food
    •    coffee
    •    chocolate
    •    a good pair of running shoes


What’s your all-time favorite movie?
Silverado is the one I’ll sit down and watch anytime it’s on. Cast, story, scenery, cinematography, and music – it has it all.

What’s your all-time favorite author?
When it comes to reading, I’m an omnivore. Some favorites include: Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Lynn Cahoon, Lee Hollis, M.C. Beaton, Spencer Quinn, Robert B. Parker, Gillian Flynn, Donna Tartt, Jonathan Kellerman, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Gregory Macdonald, Paula Hawkins, Stacy Schiff, Hilary Mantel, Ace Atkins, Louise Penny, Stephen King, James Patterson, Lee Child, J.K. Rowling, Allison Weir and David Rosenfelt.

What’s your favorite meal?
Thanksgiving dinner. Every year.

What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
I love to run in the morning.

What’s your favorite ice cream?
Whatever flavor I’m eating now. And I’m currently on an ice cream sandwich kick.

What’s your favorite candy bar?
Reese’s Cups and Mounds – love them both!

What’s your favorite movie snack?
Reese’s Cups and popcorn with extra butter. (Salty + sweet + butter = good.)

What’s your favorite color?
Got to be red. I write the Red Herring mysteries.

What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
A pad and pen. I never know when I’ll get an idea – or see something I can use.

What drives you crazy?
Many things – and it’s a very short drive.

What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
No desktop. I write on an iPad. And I kinda like that beach scene that was preselected when I opened the box. (How’s that for lazy?)

What movie genre do you prefer: drama, comedy, action, adventure, thriller, or horror?
I love movies (and books) that aren’t afraid to mix and match genres. Smart horror with a side of comedy, drama with funny or thriller moments. And a good mystery will always pull me in.

What is your obsession?
Where to hide the body. Never mind whose.

What is a pet peeve?
A body that won’t stay hidden. Sigh.

What do you collect?
Dust bunnies (when I’m writing). And words.

What book are you currently working on?
Red Hot, the next Alex Vlodnachek mystery adventure.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Yes, please.
Music: Definitely. (Now it’s a party.)
Book: Good Omens. Loved the book, can’t wait to see the mini-series.
TV: Love It or List It, Agatha Raisin, The Durrells in Corfu.
Netflix/Amazon Prime: Midsomer Murders, Lie to Me, Endgame.


Dana Dratch is a personal finance writer and the author of Confessions of a Red Herring and Seeing Red. She’s currently working on the third Alex Vlodnachek mystery adventure, Red Hot. Get updates at

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Google Play

Tuesday, May 28, 2019



Amateur sleuth Charley Carpenter discovers a coded journal that could crack her small town’s most infamous cold case wide open in this charming cozy mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of The Book Club Murders.

As the owner of Old Hat Vintage Fashions, Charley Carpenter supplies retro apparel to the residents of Oakwood, Ohio, but she’s been known to set business aside to play detective when a mystery rears its head. And there’s no bigger mystery in Oakwood than the murder of Regan Fletcher—a case that’s haunted the town for decades.

Regan’s boyfriend, Carter, did time for the crime—until another man’s confession freed him. But did the “real killer” really do it? Or did Carter walk away with blood on his hands? When Charley stumbles on an old journal written in code, it only complicates the case by revealing a blackmail scheme that targeted dozens of Oakwood’s citizens, giving them all a motive for murder. 

Now, with a spate of new suspects to pursue, plus a fresh murder and the abduction of her teenage code breaking expert, Charley must dig still deeper into the past—even as she risks being buried by her shadowy prey. Joining forces with Detective Marcus Trenault and the newly formed Oakwood Mystery Book Club, Charley turns to a classic whodunit for clues on catching a killer—before more lives are lost, and the truth dies with them.

Book Details:

Title: The Codebook Murders

Author:  Leslie Nagel

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Series: The Oakwood Book Club Mysteries, book 4

Publisher: Random House Alibi (May 21, 2019)

Print length: 270 pages 

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours



If you could talk to someone (living), who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d love to meet Stephen King. I would ask him out for drinks, get him yakking, then convince him to adopt me and teach me his many secrets. Also, we’d have to rent a camper and drive around Maine.

If you could talk to someone (dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
If I could speak with Dame Agatha Christie, I would ask her about those famous lost eleven days, from December 3-14, 1926. She went missing and never would tell where she went or what she did. Speculation about it has inspired a number of excellent books and movies. The ultimate mystery . . .

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
Whew! I’ve already tried so many things: radio DJ, real estate sales, restaurant manager, marketing VP, wife and mother, Scout leader, special events planner, college professor. I came to writing later than most, not publishing my first book until I was in my (gulp) fifties. And yet, I could not have become the writer that I am without having traveled down all those other paths.

Every single thing I’ve done in my life informs my fiction in some way. Sometimes it’s very explicit, such as the land development and zoning information that forms the basis for The Antique House Murders. More often it’s subtler: my strong ties to family and community, the work ethic I assign to my characters, and of course, Oakwood. My mysteries are set in the small town where I’ve lived all my life. Adding in real places and people (names changed, promise!) isn’t just a blast, although it is definitely tons of fun. It also enables me to deliver an authentic feeling of place and time to my readers.

If you were on the Amazon bestseller list, what authors would you choose to be one before and one below you?
JK Rowling writes a fantastic detective series under the name Robert Galbraith. I’d be so honored to find my book listed after any one of hers. And listed after my bestseller? Tana French, writer of the incomparable Dublin Detective Squad series. That is some seriously good company for any author.

If you could choose a fictional town to live in, what would it be and from what book?
I’ve heard Hobbiton of The Shire has quite a few good pubs. I think I’d enjoy the custom of six meals a day, giving presents for any and all occasions, and naming children after plants and flowers. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien has been a treasured favorite since I first met Bilbo Baggins when I was twelve years old.


5 things you need in order to write:
    •    sticky notes in multiple colors
    •    the Internet
    •    my squashy chair cushion
    •    plenty of strong black coffee

5 things you love about writing: 
    •    The freedom to set my own schedule
    •    the creative outlet (difficult to obtain in most other lines of work)
    •    the opportunity to talk with readers about what they find in my stories
    •    hearing my words narrated in audiobook format

    •    researching obscure methods for murdering someone.
About that last one? I sincerely hope Homeland Security never has cause to poke into my search history . . .

5 favorite foods: 
   Just five? Okay . . .
    •    PIZZA is an entire food category on its own. All those toppings!
    •    I love a juicy burger with lots of extras piled on top
    •    omelets with plenty of sautéed veggies and feta cheese
    •    a stadium dog with all the trimmings—but only if I’m at an actual baseball game
    •    my personal creation: 5-layer lasagna
As I review this list, I’ve made an interesting personal discovery. I like COMPLICATED FOOD. Things with lots of toppings, parts, components. What’s up with that?? And what does that say about me as a mystery writer? Fact is, I love things to be complicated, especially when all the disparate elements come together into a final, delicious, solution.

5 favorite books:
    •    Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
    •    The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    •    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    •    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie
    •    Still Life With Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
This is a very diverse list, but they all have a common attribute: excellent storytelling, with tight prose and characters that stay with you.


What’s your favorite time of day?
I am a morning person. As one of four children growing up in a smallish house, finding alone time wasn’t easy. I loved the feeling of being the only person in the house, of getting the sofa to myself, of fixing breakfast without having to jockey for position. I still enjoy getting outside at dawn, when my only company are birds and squirrels—they are refreshingly nonjudgmental about morning hair.

What’s your favorite beverage?
You cannot imagine my joy at finding red wine on the list of “20 Foods to Reduce Your Cholesterol.”

What’s your favorite thing to do when there’s nothing to do?

There’s always something to do, especially when you are a writer! However, on the rare occasions when my characters have fallen silent and all other obligations have been fulfilled, I love to read. I’ve been exploring previously ignored genres lately, like YA and fantasy. There is so much talent out there, and so many amazing stories waiting to be discovered.

What’s your favorite quote?
“Pressure Makes Diamonds.” Don’t know who said it, but when I first heard this back in college, I took it for a personal mantra. It applies to so many life situations, from work burnout, to new-parent anxiety, to relationship discord.

What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
Last summer I helped my daughter move to Washington State. We hiked to the top of Kamiak Butte and snapped a photo of the breathtaking view. What a strangely beautiful landscape! So many shades of green, brown and gold, a crazy-quilt of irrigated farm fields draped over the hills and valleys in every direction. This is the arid eastern half of the state, a climate so very different from my rainy home state of Ohio. That photo is a daily reminder of a special memory shared with my favorite girl, whom I miss every day.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food:  My son has me eating a lot of Indian food, although, unlike him, I remain firmly at the bottom of the spicy scale.
Music:  Classic rock all the way, especially Bowie, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd and the Beatles.
Movie: If you haven’t seen Captain Marvel yet, you’ve missed a fabulous piece of storytelling with a strong feminist theme. This movie breaks a number of superhero tropes, which is a tough one, considering how many of these things have come out in the last few years. Five pink stars.
Book: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It’s tough to find a truly original story; this one fills the bill. Not a traditional mystery, but a thread of whodunnit runs through this haunting and satisfying tale.
Audiobook: Just finished The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. Creepy thriller with several twists and turns, right up until the final page. An excellent narrator makes all the difference, and Euan Morton’s nuanced reading brings all the characters vividly to life.
TV:  Elementary – this fresh take on Holmes and Watson continues to deliver good mysteries layered with believable personal development of all the major characters. I’m sorry to learn Season 7 will be the last. Thank heaven for syndication.
Netflix/Amazon Prime: The Umbrella Academy took me completely by surprise! Loved the atmospheric tension combined with a hint of the supernatural. Cannot wait for Season 2.


The Book Club Murders
The Antique House Murders
The Advice Column Murders


Leslie Nagel is the author of the USA Today and Amazon bestselling Oakwood Book Club Mysteries series. She lives in the all too real city of Oakwood, Ohio, where murders are rare but great stories lie thick on the ground. In addition to writing about murder, she also teaches writing at a local community college. After the written word, Leslie's passions include her husband, her son and daughter, hiking, tennis, and strong black coffee, not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Leslie:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  

Buy the book:

Amazon  |   Barnes & Noble  |  iBooks  |  Kobo 

Sunday, May 26, 2019



Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son's thirteenth birthday and is looking forward to being with his family, when his world is cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially he thinks he can cope with the loss, but finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist, to regain his equipoise. What he does not know is that Cynthia herself is trying to cope with a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband over her daughter . . .

What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat? Moreover, when they are rowing in opposite directions--one clinging to the past, and the other unable to get rid of it! In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia's daughter, who harbors a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.

Taut with tension and intensity, Dark Blossom is a glimpse of what lies under the surface of apparently 'normal' people.

Book Details:

Title: Dark Blossom

Author: Neel Mullick

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Rupa Publications (December 21, 2018)

Print length: 224 pages



If you could talk to someone (living), who would it be and what would you ask them?

I’d love to talk to Barack Obama and discuss his thoughts on the balance and tradeoffs between power and diplomacy.

If you could talk to someone (dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d love to talk to Ayn Rand to learn more about her evolution from philosopher and non-fiction writer to a fiction writer, the challenges she faced and lessons she learned in doing so.

If you could live in any time period which would it be?
Phew! That’s a toughie. The romantic in me would love to live in Europe during the Renaissance, but if time travel were to become a reality, then I’m afraid the realist in me is more than likely to succumb to the temptation of traveling to the future to find out the result of next year’s Super Bowl!

If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
I’d go back to the Amazonian rainforest because I have never since known tranquility like I experienced there.

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
I’d be a Nascar driver. I grew up in India and even though the 1.2 billion of us haven’t discovered it yet, I believe we are genetically predisposed to excel at that sport!

If you had to do community service (or already do volunteer work), what would you choose?
I am fortunate enough to currently be working with four women-led NGOs in as many continents and what I’d like to spend more of my time doing is working with children’s education. In fact, half the royalties of my debut novel, Dark Blossom are being donated to, an NGO devoted to the primary education of girls from the most impoverished sections of India.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
If I could, I’d be living just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand, running a small B&B in a vineyard, writing and entertaining guests in my free time.


5 favorite possessions:
-my Ridley cycle
-Serious Steel resistance bands
-iPhone XS
-Bluetooth earphones
-my MacBook Air, without which I wouldn’t be able to write.

5 things you need in order to write:
-my laptop
-well, a little more time!

5 things you love about writing:
-allowing my imagination to run amok yet be focused on every little detail
-the joy of discovering how even the smallest change in a sentence can make the biggest difference to its meaning
-the opportunity to have an impact on others
-empathy for my characters to take them through their entire range of expressions
-empathy for readers to be able to make a desired impact on them

5 things about you or 5 words to describe you:

-more than a dash of nutty!

5 favorite places you’ve been:
-Machu Picchu

5 favorite books:
-Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand  
-Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
-Primal Fear by William Diehl
-A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
-Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal and Sidra Stone

5 favorite things to do:
-meeting new & interesting people


What’s your all-time favorite memory?
The first time I did a solo paragliding flight in California. It was a flawless forty-five minutes, and it’s the closest I’ve felt to Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
Oh! Now’s the time I give away how old I am. I remember watching the Keanu Reeves-movie Speed as a teenager and I can’t remember, either ever before or after, being on the edge of my seat for as long.

What’s your all-time favorite author?
Ayn Rand for her ability to create characters that are unique yet their struggles so relatable, stories that are grand yet realistic, and a narration that is dogmatic yet immersive.

What’s your all-time favorite city?
Barcelona, for it has the best of everything – the sea, the hills, culture, modernity, food, wine, and people!

What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
That I have survived ten days (and nights!) at an airport and a free fall five-hundred meters from the sky!

What’s the most beautiful sound you’ve heard?
The sound of a thousand waterfalls in a valley in Tibet.

What’s your favorite time of day?
Early in the morning, the first few hours in fact. For that’s the only time of day I’m able to stick to a discipline!

What’s your favorite meal?
The midnight snack for it usually constitutes dessert!

What’s your favorite thing to do?
Writing! It used to be cycling for almost as long as I can remember but now writing has replaced it. And that’s saying a lot.

What’s your favorite snack?
Ice cream. Yes, I gain two pounds for every 10,000 words I write, if you must ask!

What’s your favorite dessert?
Kanafeh. If you haven’t tried it yet, drop everything you’re doing and sink your teeth into a portion. It’s got sugar, cheese, almonds, pistachios, and rose water. Can’t go wrong with all of that!

What’s your favorite beverage?

Coffee. Can’t seem to get enough of it.

What’s your favorite ice cream?
Dulce de Leche… No, Belgian Dark Chocolate… No, Sea Salt and Caramel… grrr… All of them?

What’s your favorite hobby or past-time?

What’s your favorite thing to do when there’s nothing to do?

Playing poker online. I’m a novice, and I don’t play with money, but I’ve realized that I can discover my mind’s level of unrest based on how I play. And knowledge, in this case, is definitely power.

What’s your favorite quote?
It’s mine: Good storytelling happens at the intersection of personal authenticity and people’s perceptions. While the former can get you to the first draft, it takes brutal honesty and painstaking diligence with one’s understanding of the latter to get to the final manuscript.

What’s your favorite color?

Blue. My first name in my mother tongue means is a shade of the color.

What’s one thing you never leave the house without?

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
That I could write. I would have started it before I could walk!

What is your obsession?
To continuously evolve and improve as a writer.

What smells remind you of your childhood?



What book are you currently working on?
My next novel is also going to be a psychological thriller, narrated from the perspective of Abigail, a young nanny who has just started working at a prominent bureaucrat’s home. It starts with her charge, six-year old Stewart fighting for his dear life in the pool and Abigail soon discovering it might have been his older sister who had pushed him in and covered her tracks.

What’s your all-time favorite picture of yourself? It’s actually a recent one taken a couple of years back in Cambodia.

What’s your all-time favorite place you’ve visited?
Machu Picchu.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Ilili close to Madison Square Park in NYC. Never disappoints!
Music: EDM. Try listening to a couple of tracks by Joe Lyons but beware, you might not want to listen to anything else after!
Movie: Miss Sloane with Jessica Chastain. I think both the movie and Jessica’s acting were hugely underrated.
Book: Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World by Raun K. Kaufman. It is filled with so many life lessons told in a simple and endearing manner that it’s a must read.
TV: Game of Thrones
Netflix/Amazon Prime: Ricky Gervais on Netflix. He’s one of the best comics I’ve ever seen.


Neel Mullick is the author of Dark Blossom. The Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company, Mullick is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and INSEAD. He mentors female entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially-aware leaders with Nigeria’s Steering for Greatness Foundation, supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers through Peru’s Emprendedoras del Hogar, and works with IIMPACT in India to help break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities. Dark Blossom is his first novel.

Connect with Neel:
Facebook  |  Twitter  Instagram  |  Wattpad

Buy the book:


Friday, May 24, 2019



Big Tech meets Die Hard in this techno-thriller Kirkus Reviews calls "a clever, spirited tale with a brainy, nimble heroine at the helm."

From IndieReader's 5 star (highest rating) review:
"Bond weaves an entertaining story filled with deceit, robots, Russians, and tech entrepreneurs that all combine to give the reader a reason to flip pages furiously to find out what might happen next.


Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.

Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.

Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.

Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour — Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

Book Details:

Title: Blackquest 40

Author: Jeff Bond

Genre: Techno-thriller

Publisher: Jeff Bond books (May 15th, 2019)

Print length: 348 pages


Race: Caucasian

Age: 27

Height: 5’2”

Weight: Hundred-odd pounds

Build: Wiry

Hair color: Blond

Hair style: Short, spiked

Eye color: Green

Relationship status: Single/occasionally dating

Name of romantic partner: Liz

Distinguishing features: Deb blends just fine on the San Francisco coffee shop circuit, but at the office – among her engineering coworkers, who’re 90 percent male and homogenous as Safeway milk? She sticks out like some freak-colored poisonous frog.

Mental handicaps: Deb’s mother lives at Crestwood Psychiatric, a schizophrenia care facility. Deb is prone to occasional disorientations herself; “One ear seems to accelerate to the floor while the other flies off my head, then they flip, then flop, then flip again—like some sadistic kid is yanking kite strings.” She worries these could be precursors to her mother’s disease.

Does she have any quirks? Deb is a robotics and software engineering savant whose workspace is a veritable cornucopia of gizmos: Raven, her trusty solar-powered quadcopter drone; a bin of remote-controlled Hot Wheels; her buggy mechanical dragonflies (which suck at flying); and Hedgehog Eleanor Roosevelt, who she built as a peacenik entry in a battle bot competition while at MIT.

What is Deb’s favorite catchphrase?
When Deb needs to establish ground rules for new male coworkers who seem skeevy, she simply states, “I’m gay.”

Is she optimistic or pessimistic?
Depends. Deb keeps a “Polarity of the Universe” toggle on her desktop. As Blackquest 40 begins, it’s set to Amoral. Other settings include Good and Evil.

Does she have any bad habits?
Once daily, she sends her buggy dragonflies to secretly film Jared—her slovenly coworker with a demonstrated penchant for harassment—to make sure he’s behaving. Deb realizes this is an abuse of power but doesn’t consider it a bad habit, per se.

What is her strongest character trait?
A desire to do good. Deb pours her spare time—and much of her non-spare time at Codewise Solutions—into an app she built called Carebnb, which matches up the homeless with hosts willing to share spare beds in their homes.

What is her weakest character trait?
Cynicism—particularly towards people who don’t share her worldview.

What is her obsession?
Solving homelessness, the plight she shared with her mother.

What is her pet peeve?
Software engineers who don’t properly indent their code.

What is her greatest achievement? 

The Carebnb launch, which—as cruel fate would have it—is scheduled for the same day that Deb’s bosses impose Blackquest 40 on the firm.

Where’s her favorite hangout place? 

Simple Pleasures, a café just down the street from her apartment in the Outer Richmond—a western neighborhood of San Francisco.

What is her password? 

Wouldn’t you like to know.

What is her favorite food? 

Bánh mì.

Is she superstitious?
Deb weirdly won’t kick off a program if her cursor isn’t at the beginning of a line.

Is she a messy or a neat housekeeper?

Neat—but she can’t take credit. She’s not home enough to make messes.

What does she do first thing on a weekday morning? 

Ensure none of her gizmos have become sentient and hidden her hair gel for laughs.

What does she do on a Sunday afternoon?

Either code or troubleshoot Carebnb problems in the field, among the homeless.

What does she do on a Friday night?


What is her soft drink of choice? 


What is her alcoholic drink of choice? 

She’ll drink a straight-up whiskey with Cecil or froofy drink if a girlfriend’s into them, but Deb doesn’t go out of her way to impair her own mental faculties.

How does she feel about herself? 

Meh. Deb feels proud of her interpersonal integrity—she calls BS when she sees it, to your face—but angsty about the percentage of her career devoted to work she doesn’t care about.

Is there any aspect of herself that she is blind to?

Deb doesn’t see the world from other people’s perspective. At all.

Does she make a positive or negative first impression? 

Depends how you feel about bike messengers with androgynous hair and attitude.

Does that impression hold up?

Depends how you feel about good-hearted geniuses with no verbal filters.

Does she have a big or small family? 

Small: just Deb and her mother.

What is her perception of family? 

Deb is fiercely protective of her mother, often confronting Crestwood Psychiatric orderlies about her dosages.

Describe her best friend. 

Deb has been variously close—manically, desperately—with women she’s dated, but doesn’t have a prototypical best friend otherwise. She might call Cecil a half-friend, half-father figure.

Does she have any pets? 

Nope. No time.

Who are her enemies? 

Jared Ackerman: the embodiment of all that is wrong with Tech Bro culture.

Is she in a relationship? 

As the novel starts, Deb is between relationships.

Has she ever had her heart broken? 

On page 323 of Blackquest 40.

Does she have a sidekick? 

Deb would never demean Prisha—the woman she and Susan hired out of Cal-Berkeley—with the term “sidekick,” but, yes, Prisha would fit the commonly understood definition.


How does she respond to a threat? 


Is she most likely to fight with her fists or her tongue? 


What is her kryptonite?
Corporate-speak. She feels it on her skin like eel slime.

What does she love to hate? 


What are her phobias?

Institutions taking advantage of her mother. Life passing without purpose.

What is her choice of weapon? 


Does she have a secret? 

The percent of her Codewise work hours that are, in fact, devoted to Carebnb. Deb’s contract stipulates 25 percent, and she kinda…sorta…well, actually, not at all, complies.

Does she carry a weapon? 

Deb’s politics prevent her from carrying a weapon, but by the end of Blackquest 40? You bet.


What is her current job? 

Principal software engineer, Codewise Industries.

What does she think about her current job?

It’s a paycheck.

What is her educational background? 

Deb entered MIT at age sixteen, graduating with a double major in robotics and gender studies. She then received her PhD from Harvard in computational science and engineering.

Does she have a natural talent for something? 

Deb’s graduate advisor at Harvard once told his department chair, “If I can only have one human to defend the planet when our alien overlords arrive, I’ll take Deb Bollinger.”


What is in her fridge? 

Cold air.

What is on her bedside table? 

Programming manuals.

What is in her car? 

Deb, a faithful rider of SF muni, owns no car.

What is in her pockets? 

A Google phone, which she largely designed and built at Google before jumping ship to Codewise.

What is her most treasured possession? 

Deb doesn’t treasure possessions, but losing Raven—her trusty quadcopter drone—would be super awful.


If she could call one person for help, who would it be?

Cecil, the homeless man who’s known her since she was a baby, “When her mother would push her around in a cart, snuggled in among dumpster scraps and Styrofoam peanuts. Cecil walked Deb through the roughest part of the city every day of second grade, and taught her the nutcracker choke after a kid pushed a shiv through her septum in fifth.”

What would she do if she won the lottery? 

Plow the money into solving homelessness and other societal ills.

What would she ask a fortune teller? 

Will the launch of Carebnb succeed? If not, why?—what can I fix?


I am in the middle of solving homelessness when my boss raps his knuckles on my cubicle border. I know it's Paul - my eyes stay on the computer monitor, what with an intractable social ill hanging in the balance - by the timid tap...     tap-tap pattern. Also the smell. Paul eats McDonald's every morning for breakfast. He's a Sausage McGriddle man.
"Deb, we're heading up to the meeting - "
"Busy." I squint around the San Francisco street map on-screen, mousing over a blinking dot labeled Wanda. She isn't moving. None of them are moving.
Paul sighs. "We're all busy. But it's a Company-All, so if you - "
"Is it a Susan meeting?"
"No. It's the kickoff for Blackquest 40."
"Means nothing to me." I click Wanda. Why aren't they moving? Database problem?
Paul says the meeting invite should have explained everything. Blackquest 40 is a training exercise, mandatory for every employee in the company.
I look up and see that, indeed, he has the whole team in tow. Jared in his My Code Can't Fix Your Stupid trucker hat. Minosh fingering his spiral-bound notebook, peeking at a clock. They are watching me - all 5'2" if you count the platinum spikes, and a decade younger than them - like zoo visitors wondering if the glass is thick enough around this freak-colored poison frog.
"Susan hired me," I say, invoking our rockstar CEO again. "Susan said I don't have to participate in anything I don't believe in."
"Look, this project - "
"Is corporate training. High on my list of things to not believe in."
With that, I pop over to the log file, which confirms my worst fear: the Carebnb database isn't refreshing. The last GPS coordinates are from eight minutes ago, meaning Wanda and every other unhoused person on that map is misplaced.
The timing is brutal. Today is my launch, the day I am supposed to start demonstrating to all the venture capitalists not funding my side project that a little technology plus basic human decency can equal disruptive positive change.
Across the city, 137 unhoused San Franciscans are wearing 137 smart wristbands, produced at great expense by a local micro-manufacture co-op, in the hopes of connecting with a beta host. I signed up 344 hosts, but that number is dicey because many I bullied into joining. Some will have uninstalled the Carebnb app, not anticipating that I'll soon be combing my list for chicken-outs and visiting their apartments to measure, then post on social media, just how many square feet of covered living space they waste nightly.
My brain races for solutions, but Paul's voice and eau de McGriddle distract me. He's explaining that Susan is out of pocket tying up loose ends in Davos, that Carter Kotanchek has the ball until -
"Okay Paul, honestly?" I click over to the T server, the probable source of my issue. "There is no combination of words or faux-words you can say that will get me off this workstation."
"You're the principal software architect, Deb," he says. "We need you. I'm still in the dark myself, but I'm hearing Blackquest 40 is enormous."
My mouth twists. "Getting colder."
Paul hates managing me. I'm sure he goes home every night to Li Wei, his former-secretary-now-wife, and curses Susan for poaching me away from Google.
Now, as his eyes roam my workspace - hemp satchel, bin of droid Hot Wheels, Polarity of the Universe toggle currently set to Amoral, my toes in their sandals (he has a pervy thing for my feet) - his face drops another shade closer to dough.
He looks at my screen. "How much time are you spending on Carebnb?"
"Twenty-five percent, just like my contract says." I manage to keep a straight face.
It's a required Company-All. You don't badge in, you lose network privileges. It would set you back."
"You can void that."
"I can." Paul taps his ample jowls, thoughtfully paternal. "But I won't."
I've been working throughout our exchange, deciphering error messages, rebooting, tweaking this and that...     nothing is helping.
I grit my teeth. Resetting my network privileges would be a big, sticky wad of red tape.
"Fine," I say, "I'll do the meeting. But I am still not participating in this Blockquest deal."
"Whatever." I can bring my laptop and troubleshoot from the conference room. "Our queue is about ten miles long - whose bright idea was some lame time-suck training?"
Paul grimaces. "Carter is driving it."
Carter Kotanchek, our chief financial officer, is warring with Paul about the makeup of the Codewise Solutions workforce. Paul favors programmers in keeping with our reputation as the leading machine-learning and optimization company on the planet.
Carter wants more salespeople and has a knack for finding third-party vendors who sport the same Gatsby slickback he does. Inexplicably, Carter is winning.
The engineers behind Paul knock in place like pens in a mug, waiting.
I flop my wrist toward the elevators. "Go, go - I'll catch up. Two minutes."
They go. Paul lowers his gaze in a final I know you will choose wisely appeal.
I focus on my screen with a wonderfully McGriddle-free breath, then try refreshing the database.
I rejigger a script and try again.
Same error every time.
This is infuriating. Have I been found out? I never officially informed Paul about routing Carebnb's unhoused-person GPS data through T, Codewise's least busy server. Did he shut me down without telling me? Coincidentally on my most important day of the year?
No way. Paul would write a huffy email or file a ticket. He won't refill our departmental stash of teabags without paperwork.
I stand and grab my laptop, then remember it doesn't have the software to access the T server. I won't be able to troubleshoot during the meeting after all. I'll be forced to sit there and eat an hour's worth of corporate mumbo-jumbo.
"Raven!" I call over my shoulder.
My trusty solar-powered quadcopter perks up. She hums around to my sightline, her underside dome blipping green to indicate her attention.
"Attend meeting in conference room 6-A. Badge in. Watch, back row. Record."
Raven processes each command using natural language algorithms I wrote in grad school, then lowers her claw - repurposed off a junked arcade game - to accept my keycard.
As the drone whispers up the hall, I feel a twinge of unease. She's attended meetings in my stead before but never on a different floor. She will need to push a button, read a floor indicator, possibly accommodate human riders...     logic I have given her but not thoroughly stress-tested. It's asking a lot.
I work another five minutes without success.
Air blasts through my nostrils.
I need eyes on a live wristband.
I grab the phone and dial Cecil, my go-to trial user. Cecil has known me since I was a baby, when Mom would push me around in her cart, snuggled in among dumpster scraps and Styrofoam peanuts. Cecil walked me through the roughest part of the city every day of second grade, and taught me the nutcracker choke after a kid pushed a shiv through my septum in fifth.
"Lil Deb, yo," he answers in a deep baritone.
"Cec! Hey Cec, I'm seeing weirdness on my end and I need to know if you - "
"How's your mom?"
"Oh, she's cool, I talked to the orderlies and - "
"They're keeping her meds straight?"
"No no, yeah, it's all good," I say - Cecil is so unfailingly polite you have to move him along sometimes - "listen, what are you seeing with Carebnb? Is your wristband working?"
"Think so."
"Green light?"
"Map of available host beds showing up?"
"How many hosts in range? My database wonked and I gotta know if the problem is local or if peer-to-peer transfers are broken too."
A guttural breath over the line. "English, Deb. Regular English please."
I grip the keyboard tray, slow myself down. "Could we possibly meet? I think I have to see the wristband myself to diagnose this. Sorry, I hate to inconvenience you."
"I'm homeless. Where else I gotta go."
"Right. How about our usual spot, say twenty minutes?"
Before he can respond, the call drops. Bzzzzzzzzzz.
I clench my jaw and redial.
I stand and waggle my phone outside my cube, I walk to the window, I glare at the Verizon logo and telepathically threaten to hack their transceivers to mush if they don't find me a signal.
I plunk back down. I'm contemplating flipping my Polarity of the Universe toggle to Evil when a tinny sound announces the presence of a new window on my monitor: Raven's livestream.
She made it up to the Blackquest kickoff meeting. Atta girl. I resize the window to span my entire screen and watch as the big conference room comes into focus.
The Company-All is underway. Carter Kotanchek stands at the podium in a dapper summer-weight suit. Raven's camera won't win any TechCrunch awards, but Carter's teeth still gleam from the middle of a plastic grin.
"Like y't'meet Jim Dawson," he says, introducing a stone-faced man in chunky glasses. "Jim here runs Elite Development, the company that will be facilitating Blackquest 40. Guys are doing phenomenal stuff in a new space called Extreme Readiness. Helping organizations build capability to complete projects of extreme complexity, requiring extreme teamwork, on extreme deadlines. So far they've been working with high-leverage government agencies, paramilitary, et cetera. We, ladies and gents, are fortunate enough to be corporate client number one."
Dawson, in a bland accent - Ohio? Indiana? - thanks Carter and says he's pleased to be here today. Excited for our shared journey.
Gag. So not participating.
As my focus returns to Carebnb, I groan at the ceiling. I need to test a wristband, but if I can't meet Cecil...     hmm. I have a few spares lying around, but none are initialized.
I'm figuring how long initialization would take - and how true a read I'd get from a wristband not in the field - when I hear something that stops me cold.
"...     campus quarantine and data blockade will remain in place for the duration of Blackquest 40. If you absolutely require outside contact, in case of emergency or vital family obligation, a protocol exists...    "
Wait, data blockade? I rewind Raven's feed and replay the last fifteen seconds. Elite Development, in the name of "improved focus and personal efficiency," is collecting every cellphone in the building and blocking all inbound-outbound internet traffic.
I feel slight queasiness at the authoritarianism of the whole setup, but mostly relief. Because now I get it. These jerks shut down T. They killed my call. Probably they're using some military-grade antenna to zap cellular signals, and a simple software block on the servers.
And that won't stop me.
Excerpt from Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond.  Copyright © 2019 by Bond. Reproduced with permission from Bond. All rights reserved.


Jeff Bond is a Kansas native and graduate of Yale University. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Michigan, and belongs to the International Thriller Writers Association.

Connect with Jeff:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Buy the book:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019



When a murderer crashes a masquerade ball, it's up to Liz to unmask the killer . . .    

It's been quite a year for novelist Liz Holt. She's overcome a lot and is finally feeling at peace with her new life at her family's hotel, the Indialantic by the Sea, on the beautiful barrier island of Melbourne Beach, Florida. She's exactly where she needs to be to ring in the New Year at the Florida Writes Literary Masquerade Ball.

But when her ex-boyfriend surprises her at the ball, she can't disguise her anger, and the two engage in a very public argument. Naturally, after her ex is found dead on the hotel grounds, shot through the heart, Liz tops the suspect list. With the help of family and friends, she needs to clear her name before the real killer waltzes away scot-free . . .

Book Details:

Title: Murder by the Sea

Author: Kathleen Bridge

Genre: Cozy mystery

Series: A By the Sea Mystery, Book number 3

Publisher: Lyrical/Kensington (May 21, 2019)

Print length: 204 pages



If you could talk to anyone, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Louise Penny. I would ask her about her writing process and tell her how big a fan I am.

If you could talk to someone no longer living, who would it be and what would you ask them? That would be Dame Agatha Christie. I would ask her how shedunit! To have sold the most books in the world besides the Bible is pretty astounding.

If you could live in any time period which would it be?
I think I would pick the late-19th century. I believe in another life I was a governess working at a dark and mysterious castle on the moors—Can we say Jane Eyre?

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
Can’t think of anything. I’m living my dream.

If you were on the Amazon bestseller list, who would you choose to be one before and one below you?

Louise Penny before, James Patterson below.


5 favorite possessions:  
-my antique Underwood
-typewriter for inspiration
my WRITER coffee mug my daughter bought me 

my collection of antique 19th century books

-my oil lighthouse painting
my framed family photos

5 things you need in order to write

-reading glasses 

-Montauk baggy T-shirt 


-classical music in the background

5 things you love about where you live: 
-my cozy cottage
the Atlantic Ocean a block away
the Florida birds

-Sea Turtles 

-the great restaurants on the water

5 favorite foods:  
-Duck Foie Gras



-anything Mexican
-Stove Top Stuffing with melted cheese on top and sour cream

5 things you always put in your books:  
-the ocean
-cottages on the beach
-a cozy sense of family and friends


What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
I used to play an extra in TV and movies.

What’s your favorite/most visited Internet site?
Pinterest, I love crafting, cooking, fashion, vintage décor etc.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

What’s your favorite thing to do?

What’s your favorite quote?
It’s never to late to be what you might have been. –George Eliot (Mary Evans)

What’s your favorite candy bar?
Pay Day.

What’s your favorite color?

What’s one thing you never leave the house without?

What drives you crazy?
Close-minded people.

What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
My latest book.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Not to sweat the small stuff.

What do you collect?
Antiques, Vintage, Books.

What book are you currently working on?
Evil by the Sea, the 4th By the Sea Mystery and Hamptons Scream House, the 4th Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery.

What’s your all-time favorite place?

What’s your all-time favorite memory?
Giving birth to my children.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
To Kill a Mockingbird.

What’s your all-time favorite library?
The NYC main Public Library, the one with the lions Patience and Fortitude at the entrance.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Avocado toast on homemade whole-grain bread.
Music: Contemporary Country, I’m a late bloomer to country music, but loving it.
Movie: A Star is Born.
Book: Murder at Ochre Court, Newport Historical Mystery by Alyssa Maxwell.
Audiobook: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny.
TV: Poldark and The Durrells in Corfu (PBS—my fav).
Netflix/Amazon Prime: The Night Manager.


National Bestselling author Kathleen Bridge started her writing career at the Michigan State News in East Lansing, Michigan. She is the author of the Hamptons Home and Garden Mysteries: Better Homes and Corpses, Hearse and Gardens, Ghostal Living. She is also the author of the A By the Sea Mysteries: Death By the Sea, A Killing by the Sea, and Murder by the Sea. Kathleen is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and blissfully lives on a barrier island on Florida's central east coast.

Connect with Kathleen:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Pinterest 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Monday, May 20, 2019



When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who's swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can't say no. Although he doesn't actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner's mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortunetellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.

While working his partner's case, he's approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who's scheduled to go on trial in a week for murder he claims he didn't commit. Swann's search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant's girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the bay from Mobile, Alabama. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?

Book Details:

Title: Swann’s Down,

Author: Charles Salzberg

Genre: Detective/Crime
Series: Henry Swann Mystery, book 5

Publisher: Down & Out Books (May 20, 2019)

Print length: 300 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours


Things you need in order to write: all I need is my computer and the will to actually sit down at it and write.
Things that hamper your writing: just about everything. What I mean is that I am always distracted by “shiny” objects. In other words, I’ll use every possible excuse not to write.

Things you love about writing: what I like best is having written. But in terms of what I love about writing is seeing these letters magically appear on the page when I press down on a key. And then seeing them form words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. And there’s nothing better than the feeling of thinking you’ve written a perfect sentence. Of course, as soon as I think that I begin to think it’s probably the worst sentence I’ve ever written.
Things you hate about writing: seeing that blank page.

Easiest thing about being a writer: writing.

Hardest thing about being a writer: writing.

Things you love about where you live: I live in New York City, and I’d never live anywhere else. I love the energy the city gives off. I love knowing that at any time of day or night there’s someone out on the street and there’s some restaurant and drug store that’s open.
Things that make you want to move: absolutely nothing. I don’t care how noisy or dirty or loud or crowded it gets, I’m here for the long haul.

Things you never want to run out of: ketchup.
Things you wish you’d never bought: all those clothes in the back of my closets and drawers that I never wear but am too lazy to throw out or give away.

Favorite foods: pasta; anything Mexican; hamburgers; lamb chops; fries.
Things that make you want to throw up: tongue, beets (although the latter I just retch a little).

Favorite music or song: very eclectic. Blues, classic rock, country, classical, or any combination of the aforesaid. Anything by the Beetles or the Stones or The Band.
Music that make your ears bleed: that kind of disco that mimics your heart beat.

Something you’re really good at: I’d like to say everything but then everyone who knows me would know I’m a liar. I’ve always been good at sports, remembering people’s names, and typing—I can type around 90 words a minute. And I have an excellent memory for the spoken word. If you say something, I will remember it forever, almost word for word. It’s a talent that came in very handy when I was a journalist for reasons I won’t go into here. I warn my friends, “Don’t say anything to me that you hope I’ll forget.”

Something you’re really bad at: most things requiring good balance: bicycle riding, roller skating, ice skating, and driving a car. For the latter, I learned but never got a license, and I think I’ve probably saved hundreds of lives because it.

Something you wish you could do: ride a bike.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: I love learning new things, so I can’t imagine something I’ve learned to do that I wish I didn’t—except maybe washing dishes.

People you consider as heroes: anyone with a disability, no matter how large or small; anyone who lives life in a way that doesn’t harm anyone or themselves.
People with a big L on their foreheads: people who hate or belittle other people; people who are intolerant; bullies; people who think they know who you are but really haven’t the slightest idea.

Things you’d walk a mile for: I’d walk a mile for just about anything because I love walking, especially here in New York. But please don’t call it hiking! I associate that with climbing up, and that’s far too much work. I’d also walk a mile, more than a mile, actually, to help out a friend.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: boring people and people who are boors.

Things you always put in your books: information about something I didn’t know before I started writing the book, and that includes anything about myself. I always try to make my books about something and have them take place in worlds I’m not all that familiar with.

Things you never put in your books: if hardly ever counts, then it would be love scenes.

Things to say to an author: “I’ve read your books and I love every single word you’ve ever written.” And “When can I expect your next one?”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “Have I ever heard of you?”

“Have I ever read anything you’ve written?”

“I read your book and loaned it to three other people.” 

“I took your book out of the library (don’t get me wrong, I love libraries, but we actually want you to buy our books so we can write another one, not so we can get rich, which for a writer is pretty much impossible.) 

“On page 142 there’s a mistake . . .”

Favorite books: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, Seize the Day, by Saul Bellow, Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth, The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett, Naked and the Dead and The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer, In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, anything by Margaret Drabble and Jean Rhys, Desperadoes by Ron Hansen.

Books you would ban: not a single one. Ever. No matter what was in it.

Most embarrassing moment: every single moment of the day . . . and that can even include sleeping hours.

Proudest moment: when I first saw my name in print . . . it was a magazine article in the Daily News Sunday magazine.

Best thing you’ve ever done: learned to say yes to everything. It’s the underlying reason behind every single thing I’ve accomplished, from being published to teaching to taking jobs I had no business taking.

Biggest mistake: saying no when I should have said yes. And giving in to my shyness and not asking for something I wanted.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: quit my job in the mailroom at New York Magazine, while having very little in the bank, not having another job lined up, and not having published a single thing.

Something you chickened out from doing: the page isn’t long enough to list the things I’ve chickened out of doing but what comes immediately to mind is being too shy to ask out a woman I found interesting and attractive, and not standing up for myself when I should have.


The Age of Aquarius

"We're partners, right?"
Nothing good can come from that question when it comes from the mouth of Goldblatt.
"I mean, all for one and one for all, am I right?" he quickly added in an attempt, I was sure, to seal the deal.
"I think you're confusing us with the three musketeers. May I point out there are only two of us, and I'm afraid that's not the only fallacy in your declaration. But you might as well finish what you've started."
We were having our weekly Friday lunchtime sit-down to discuss what Goldblatt likes to refer to as "business." I have another name for it: waste of time.
Our venue changes from week to week but the concept is always pretty much the same: a cheap diner-slash-coffee shop somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Today's eatery of choice (Goldblatt's choice, my destiny) is the Utopia Diner, on Amsterdam, near 72nd Street. And as for the business we'd just finished discussing, well, to be honest, there never is very much actual business to discuss and today was no exception.
At this particular moment in time, we were going through a bit of a dry spell, which always makes me a little nervous because no matter how much I banish it from my mind, the rent is due the first of every month and at least three times a day I seem to develop a hunger that must be quenched. Still, a good fifteen, twenty years away from Social Security, and with precious little dough in the bank--okay, let's be honest, no dough in the bank--and no 401-K to fall back on, I need to keep working. And, as much as I don't like to admit it, lately it's been my "partner," as he likes to refer to himself, as opposed to my preferred albatross, who's brought in the bulk of our clients.
We'd already finished eating--though technically, Goldblatt never actually finishes eating which means a meal can easily turn into an all-day affair, if I don't apply the brakes--and we were just waiting for the check to arrive. This is a crucial point of any meal with Goldblatt because it is the opening gambit in what has become our weekly routine of watching the check sit there in no-man's land somewhere between us until I inevitably give in, pick it up, and pay. Otherwise, I risk one of two things: either we'd be there all afternoon or, worst case scenario, Goldblatt will decide he's still hungry and threaten to order something else. Neither one of these options is the least bit appealing.
"I'll get right to the point," he said.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the waiter, like a white knight, approaching with our check in hand. If I acted quick enough I might be able to get out of there before I can be sucked into something I don't want to have anything to do with.
"That would be nice," I said, reaching for my wallet. "What is your point?"
"I need to hire you."
I was stopped in my tracks before I got my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.
"Really? To do what?"
"I want you to find someone for me. Well, to be more precise it's not really for me. It's for my ex-wife."
Wait a minute! Goldblatt married? Goldblatt with a wife? Goldblatt a husband? This was a new one on me, something I'd never even considered.
"You…you've been married?" I stammered.
Truth is, I never pictured Goldblatt being in any relationship other than with, yes, as irritating as it might be, me. I mean the guy isn't exactly anyone's idea of Don Juan, although I suppose in theory there are women who might find him if not attractive in the conventional way at least interesting in a specimen-under-glass way. Or maybe as a project. Women love a project. They love a challenge. They love the idea that they have the opportunity to remake a man in their image. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was, my world was shaken to the core. And what would shake it even more would be to find that he was actually a father, too. But one shock per meal is more than enough, so there was no chance I was going to pursue that line of questioning.
"Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once, in fact."
"Holy Cow," I blurted out, channeling the Scooter. "You're kidding me?"
At this point the same bald, squat waiter who seems to serve us in every diner we patronize, reached our table and dropped the check right in front of me.
"This is not something a man usually kids about."
"How many times?"
He held up three fingers.
"Three times! You've been married three times?"
I gulped.
"Are you married now?"
He shook his head. "Nah. I'm kinda between wives. Giving it a rest, if you know what I mean.
But chances are I'll be back in the saddle again soon enough."
"Okay, so let me get this straight. You've been married three times and now you're single but you would consider getting married again?"
"Man is not meant to be alone, Swannie. You might consider the possibility that your life would be enriched if you found your soulmate."
You're fortunate if you find one soul mate in life and I'd already had mine. She was yanked from my life as a result of a freak accident, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't know if Goldblatt knew the circumstances of her bizarre accidental death, but I wouldn't have been surprised because he seems to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.
"Some men are meant to be alone, Goldblatt. I'm one of them and after three failed marriages maybe you should consider the possibility you are, too."
He smiled and puffed out his chest. "What can I say, Swann? I'm a friggin' babe magnet."
I would have laughed, should have laughed, but I was still processing the scary fact that he'd been married three times. That meant there were three women in the world who not only were willing to marry him but did marry him. I wanted to know more. Much more. Everything, in fact. But this was not the time and certainly not the place to delve into Goldblatt's mysterious, sordid past. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would revisit this topic in the not too distant future.
Still in shock, I avoided our weekly "who's paying for this meal" tango, grabbed the check and reached for my wallet...again.
"So, wanna know the story?" he asked.
"Which story would that be?"
"The story of why I want to hire you?"
Excerpt from Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg.  Copyright 2019 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.



Charles Salzberg is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Henry Swann Detective series, Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, Swann’s Way Out, and Swann’s Down. He is also author of Devil in the Hole, which was named one of the best crime novels of 2013, and Second Story Man, which won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Crime Fiction in 2018. His novellas, Twist of Fate and The Maybrick Affair, were included in the collections Triple Shot and Three Strikes.

He is a former magazine journalist, whose work has appeared in New York Magazine, Esquire, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review, GQ and other periodicals; and he has written over two dozen nonfiction books including Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times, with Soupy Sales, and From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA.

Charles was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is also on the MWA-NY Board.

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