My Bookish Ways

Interview: James Renner, author of The Man From Primrose Lane

Maybe you saw my review of The Man From Primrose Lane on Monday. If you did, you know how stunned I was by what I consider one of the best books of 2012. The man behind the book is just as fascinating and after I did this interview with James, I wanted to know soooo much more about his story. He really should write a book about his life…oh, wait, he sort of did. In Amy: My Search for Her Killer: Secrets and Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic, the author tells the story of his search for the killer of a girl that started when he was just a boy and that he continued into adulthood. James was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog!

James, your novel The Man From Primrose Lane came out in February of this year. What inspired you to write this novel? Did you model your protagonist, David Neff, after yourself?
The inspiration for writing this novel was being fired from my job as a reporter for the Cleveland Scene and having a three year old kid and no source of income. I’d write at the local coffee shop after my wife got home from work and then come back and put my son to bed.

David is an exaggerated version of myself, what I might become if I didn’t have Julie, my wife, to keep me balanced. Like David, I became obsessed over an old cold case and went on an adventure trying to solve it. And like David, it almost killed me.

Your career as an investigative journalist certainly gives you the appropriate background for writing, but did you always see yourself as a novelist?
I always wanted to be a novelist. Somewhere in my basement is a box that contains a terrible novel I wrote when I was in the 8th grade. But journalism paid the bills for a while and I wondered if I would ever find the time to really give it a try. I got lucky with Primrose, I think. Writing fiction is much more fun than writing true crime for newspapers. It uses the same tools of writing but you actually get to bring closure to the cold cases you create.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Stephen King is a huge influence. I remember bringing IT into my 4th grade homeroom class and the teacher pitching a fit. King has a great voice and I admire his work ethic. John Irving is another author I think about when I’m writing. He has such great sympathy for his characters, as flawed as they are. He’s super realistic and yet has a sense of whimsy. It’s hard to tell what he’s inventing and that’s a sign of a great writer, I think.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. A “literary” zombie novel. Bleak but dreamy. Somewhere between Cormac McCarthy and Joshua Ferris.

In your bio, it states that you’ve been hunting the killer of Amy Mihaljevic since you were 11. Will you tell us more about that?
She and I were about the same age. She was my first crush. One look at her missing poster and I was smitten. It became my hobby to hang out at the mall and look for her killer in the crowds. I wanted to bring him in. A strange hobby, in hindsight, for an 11 year old boy. Years later, hers was the first story I pitched as a journalist. I have spent the last seven years actively working the case and have flown around the country tracking down and interviewing potential suspects.

Your fiction writing covers much of the same dark territory as your true crime writing, and must take a toll on you somehow. How do you come back into the light after immersing yourself in this kind of material?
A couple years ago, after researching the nonfiction book The Serial Killer’s Apprentice, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychologists had begun to see this in journalists who had covered the Oil Wars. Seems stress and trauma have the ability to rub off on journalists who write about dark things, like flecks of asbestos to deal with later. And I don’t mean the fashionable PTSD some people get where they have trouble sleeping. I mean, my physiology changed. I smelled different. I was convinced everyone in the grocery store was a serial killer. I was a danger to myself and others. They got my on this wonderful drug called Cymbalta and eventually I got my perspective back.

Will you tell us a bit about your upcoming novel, The Great Forgetting?
It’s a BIG novel that plays with BIG ideas. It’s about a group of blue-collar folk who learn of a government conspiracy and how they go about trying to save the world. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s my favorite novel by far. If it ever gets published it will BLOW. YOUR. MIND!

What’s next for you?
I’ve turned two novels in to my editor and friend Sarah Crichton. The Great Forgetting and a little bullet of a horror novel set in 1960’s New England. It’s up to her really what comes next.
Keep up with James: Website | Twitter
Purchase The Man From Primrose Lane: Amazon| B&N | Indiebound

Interview (& Giveaway): Timothy Hallinan, author of Crashed

It’s been a pretty awesome year for suspense writer Timothy Hallinan, for more reasons than one. The man has written over 10 novels and has been nominated for both the Macavity and Edgar awards. His first book in the Junior Bender series, Crashed, just came out, and not only was Timothy kind enough to answer a few of my questions (and make me want to travel to Asia-like, now), but we’ve got a copy of Crashed up for grabs, so be sure to see the details at the bottom of the post!

Please welcome Timothy to the blog!

Tim, you’ve had a super busy year! You moved to Soho for your latest Poke Rafferty book, The Fear Artist, and the first novel in the Junior Bender series, Crashed, just came out! Will you tell us a bit about your “burglar with a magic touch” Junior Bender and Crashed?
Like most thriller writers, I have a soft spot for crooks. Characters who invent their moral code on the fly have a certain energy that threatens to hijack the books in which they appear. So I decided to write a series in which pretty much everyone is a crook. Junior is a normal, everyday, middle-class guy, unhappily divorced and deeply in love with his thirteen-year-old daughter, except that he’s a burglar. He’s 37 now and he’s been a burglar since he was 15 without ever getting caught, so he’s obviously good at it. He’s also usually the smartest guy in the room, and he gains a reputation as a sort of private eye who solves crimes for crooks. When a crook has a crime committed against him or her, going to the cops is often not an option, which leaves Junior. The books are, I think, pretty funny, but not at the expense of the mystery. These aren’t cozies; people get killed and the stakes are high. I think of them as Monty Python Noir, and I’m delighted that Soho bought them and is publishing the first three in a more-or-less unprecedented eight-month period.

Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us about your journey to crime writer extraordinaire?
I’ve wanted to write ever since I read Gone With the Wind at eleven years old and realized it was possible to make up a story that was more interesting than real life. And then, in eighth grade, I fell in love with my English teacher, Miss Reid, who must have been all of 22 years old and was, I realized even then, excessively fine. I wrote her a love poem, and she handled it with extraordinary delicacy, giving it a very positive literary critique and telling me I had talent. God bless her. So I grew up and joined a band and wrote songs and then got a real job, and started to write at night. My third book got me a three-book contract, which turned into a six-book series about an overeducated Los Angeles PI named Simeon Grist. When the Simeons sank beneath the weight of almost total public indifference, I took a few years off to make money so I’d never have to do anything but write. Then I wrote the first Poke Rafferty, A Nail Through the Heart, and four years later, the first Junior Bender, Crashed. I put Crashed up as an ebook because the company to which I was under contract, HarperCollins, didn’t want it, and then three years later the whole series got bought for hardcover and paperback by Soho and for film by Lionsgate and for audio by Blackstone. So I’m a multi-media king, although I’m a multi-media king who doesn’t sell many books.

What do you love most about writing suspense and crime?
I love writing, period, unless it’s not going well, when I ask myself what in the world I’m doing with my life. I write crime because I’ve read so much of it that I think I understand the conventions involved, even if I don’t always adhere to them. Crime and suspense novels, despite the darkness they sometimes describe, are ultimately optimistic, in that they deal with the restoration of order and some kind of reckoning for wrong that’s been done. Essentially, a crime novel presents a world that’s out of balance and then, over the course of the story, brings the universe back into moral alignment. More or less, anyway.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Hammett and Chandler essentially invented the modern, non-cozy mystery and took it an amazing level, and anyone who writes such books is just trying—seventy, eighty years later—to keep up. Aside from those two, and many who followed in their footsteps, my favorite writers aren’t usually crime writers, and I can’t claim that they influence me. I love Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, Edith Wharton, Banana Yoshimoto, Anthony Trollope, William Gaddis, on and on. These writers dazzle me, but it would be presumptuous for me to say they influence me.

What are you reading now?
Just finished Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse, the master of the first-person narrative. Bertie Wooster, the harebrained twit who tells the Jeeves stories is absolutely consistent, totally confident, and unerringly wrong. I hadn’t realized until I read this—the first Wodehouse I’ve read in years—how much he affected Junior Bender, especially in his realization that so much of first-person narrative is rhythm. We all pay attention to rhythm when we write dialogue, but first-person narrative is essentially an extended monologue, and for it to feel like there’s a real person behind it, rhythm is essential. It’s so much of what makes a voice individual instead of generic. I also just finished Creole Belle by the Faulkner of crime fiction, James Lee Burke, The End of Everything by the prodigious Megan Abbott, and Killer Instinct, the first Charlie Fox novel, by Zoe Sharp. I’d read a couple of the others in the series and loved them, and then went back to the first. Charlie (short for Charlotte) is a former special forces op who absolutely kicks butt, and does it convincingly on every level. I think Zoe’s overdue for the best-seller lists.

Your Poke Rafferty series is based in Bangkok and it says in your bio that you’ve spent lots of time in Southeast Asia. What led you to travel there for the first time? What are a few things you love most about Asia?
I first went to Thailand more or less by accident; I’d been working on a PBS series in Japan. I was going to spend a few weeks there, but it was the coldest February in years, and I don’t do cold very well. My travel agent looked at warm Asian countries that didn’t require a visa and chose Thailand. I fell in love with it on first sight, just as Poke does in the books. What I love about Thailand, specifically, is that it is home to the most cheerful, best-tempered people in the world. (Seriously—if you want to get a laugh, tell your joke in Thailand.) They call it the land of smiles for a reason. But I’m also in love with the history, the ruins, the whole ancient-temple-by-the-sea thing.

What do you think is one of the most common misconceptions that Americans have about Asia and its people and vice-versa?
Asia is much more varied than some people realize. The Philippines has nothing much in common with Korea, China is completely different from Indonesia (hell, Southern China is completely different from Northern China), and Japan isn’t like anywhere else in the world. Four of the world’s great religions are there – Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Islam—and the cultural differences from place to place are enormous.

I think the biggest misconception about Americans are that we’re all rich, we all love hip-hop, and our cities are 24-hour death zones. I’ve had Thai people who have, perhaps, watched too many movies, ask me if I’m not terrified to live in Los Angeles.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it (besides traveling, of course!)?
I’m boring beyond belief. I love my wife and can happily just sit around with her doing nothing until she flees the room screaming, and I read. And read. And read. Once in a while I jog. But (with the exception of my wife) what I love most is writing.

What’s next for you?
Oh, Lord. I have to finish the sixth Poke Rafferty book, For the Dead. The second Junior, Little Elvises, comes out in January and the third, The Fame Thief, will be published in June, and I’ll be touring for that. And I have to write the fourth Junior, King Maybe, and finish revising the seventh Simeon Grist (the first Simeon since 1996), Pulped. And then there’s, you know, life.

Thanks so much for letting me ramble on like this.
Keep up with Timothy: Website | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of Crashed by Timothy Hallinan to to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/30/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Soho Press
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview (& Giveaway): Rhodi Hawk, author of The Tangled Bridge

Rhodi Hawk writes the spookies. Her first novel, A Twisted Ladder, featuring psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc and her newest book in the series, The Tangled Bridge, just came out on Oct. 30th. Rhodi was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and I also have a signed copy of A Twisted Ladder to give away, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!

Rhodi, I read that you got the reading bug when your grandmother read to you from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. What were some of your favorite authors or novels when you were growing up?
Yes, that was one she read to me and later, I read it for myself. I still go back to it. I love all the children unapologetically misbehaving or using tools such as temper tantrums (going mad dog) to get their way. And I love the illustrations. I remember the first novel-length book I read was The Boxcar Children. I was enthralled. Then in school, I remember reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries, short stories collected by Alfred Hitchcock, and books like Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series.

You won the International Thriller Writers Scholarship for your first novel, A Twisted Ladder. Can you tell us a bit about it?
A Twisted Ladder opens with New Orleans psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc coming to terms with her brother’s suicide and her father’s schizophrenia. But she soon realizes that there’s a common thread between both, and it may not have anything to do with mental illness. In fact, she herself begins to experience sinister, unexplainable phenomena. At the same time, she’s falling in love with Ethan, a neuroscientist and colleague at Tulane. The story line follows Madeleine’s descent into a world of river devils, interwoven with glimpses into the distant past, when Madeleine’s ancestors grappled with the same hauntings. As children of the briar, they develop uncommon abilities—they can perform miracles—but they also develop dark tastes. Madeleine struggles to maintain who she is, but then finds herself ensnared in murder. She realizes she as to decide whether to embrace what she’s become, and accept that things will never again be the same.

How about teasers for your newest book, The Tangled Bridge?
The Tangled Bridge picks up where A Twisted Ladder left off. Madeleine and Ethan stumble into a string of simultaneous murders among street people living near Bridge City. But, the murders seem unrelated, and the murderers are otherwise non-violent perpetrators who have no motive. Madeleine knows instinctively that river devils are involved. And that means that there must be a connection with one of the children of the briar, like herself.

Do you think your career in Army intelligence helped you in writing A Twisted Ladder and The Tangled Bridge, especially the psychological aspects?
If anything, it contributed in that there was a lot of opportunity to let my imagination run wild. There was very little emphasis in psychology, at least for my MOS (Military Occupation Specialty).

What’s your most unusual writing quirk?
Hmm. I think it’s probably the level to which I need to get absorbed in order to flow. It’s hard for me to sit down for small amounts of time—I need long stretches. And when it’s working, I lose track of time and look up from my work a bit disoriented. It almost feels drunk! Or like waking from a dream. I hit that zone and it usually bodes well for the story.

What is on your nightstand right now?
Live by Night by Dennis LeHane. I’d gotten a few chapters into it, was engrossed, then my husband pointed out that it was built from the same world as another book by LeHane, The Given Day. So I stopped reading Live and started Given, finished that; and now I went back to the beginning of Live by Night all over again. Both are amazing tales.

What’s one of the most daring things you’ve ever done (that you’re willing to admit to)?
Daring stupid, or daring acceptable? If the latter, I guess jumping out of an airplane. Oh, I had a parachute, so it wasn’t all that harrowing. (We won’t talk about the “daring stupid” stuff.) That was an exhilarating feeling. Would love to do it again.

If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go, and why?
Poland. I speak Polish because I learned it in the army. But that was a long time ago (we won’t say how long) and I’ve STILL never been to Poland! I’d spent so much time learning the language, studying the geography, and absorbing myself in the culture. I need to go. I’d like to see the mountains. Stol lat!

Quick! What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
My husband. He’s ridiculously funny. If I can attribute a flat tummy to anything, it’s the double-over, hard rocking belly laughs. That’s got to be good for the abs.

When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a home body. I like to relax with the husband and kids, dabble in the garden, and feed the birds and squirrels. I also like to play with our dogs, sugar gliders, fish, geese, ducks, and bearded dragons. My home is full of life!

Is there any news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
Yes. I’m currently on book tour for The Tangled Bridge, which has been a whole lot of fun so far. In December, I’ll have a short story out. It’s called “A Head and a Foot,” for the Zombies vs. Robots anthology, Women on War. My first time writing about zombies, so this was a lot of fun. I’m also working on some collaborative efforts. One is a five-author project that I’m doing with my writing group, Candlelight: Hank Schwaeble, David Liss, Joe McKinney, and Robert Jackson Bennett. The other collaborative work is a short story with F. Paul Wilson. And finally, I’m working on the next book in the Twisted Ladder series. I love returning to that world.
Keep up with Rhodi: Website | Twitter

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of A Twisted Ladder by Rhodi Hawk to to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/26/12
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Rhodi Hawk
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

The Man from Primrose Lane. Man With a Thousand Mittens. No matter what you call him, he’s dead. In fact, he’s sitting in his living room in a pool of blood, one gunshot to the chest and missing all of his fingers. Those are in the blender, by the way, only so much mush now. When a young patrolman Tom Sackett responds to a call from the man’s delivery boy, he immediately senses something is wrong. He never could have imagined the horror waiting for him inside of that house, or the confusing mess the case would eventually become. For years, the Man From Primrose Lane has been a mystery to his neighbors. Seldom venturing outside of his house, he did who-knows-what within the walls of his home and kept very much to himself. If his life was a mystery, his death was even more so.

David Neff is in self-imposed exile in his home and taking care of his four year old son Tanner. Tanner has never known his mother, Elizabeth, since she supposedly took her own life the day after he was born. Her death nearly destroyed David. It also seemed to have destroyed his writing career. Luckily, the proceeds from his wildly successful true crime novel has kept his little family afloat, and then some. No, money won’t be a worry anytime soon, but his editor is ready for him to write again, and the death of the Man From Primrose Lane is the story he presents to David. The familiar tingle of a story in waiting hits David when he hears about the death, but the medication he’s been prescribed for PTSD has completely wiped out any creative instincts that he used to have. The PTSD is a nice little reminder of his search for a child killer that resulted in the true crime novel, The Serial Killer’s Protégé,and the medication has, quite frankly, kept him from taking his own life. His fierce love for his son has kept him sane, and he starts to think that maybe this is what he needs, something to get him out of his funk and write again. But the meds will have to go. Shaking the meds is a dubious proposition, one that actually might kill him, but he’s determined to go through with it.

Eventually David seeks the help of the police officer that found the old man’s body in the beginning, Tom Sackett, who’s also being assisted by the FBI. Sackett thinks David is hiding something, and the feeling is mutual, but David needs him. As David begins digging into the Man from Primrose Lane’s life, he soon finds out that his life, and his wife’s, were intertwined with the dead man’s in shocking ways.

The Man From Primrose Lane is the first fiction novel by James Renner, and it’s a doozy. The book, while following the investigation into the old man’s death, also details David’s courting of his unusual and troubled wife, the court case that nearly destroyed him, and his all-encompassing obsession with finding the thieves of children: those that take their lives and destroy everyone around them.

Equal parts Stephen King, Dean Koontz’s Lightning, and dystopian scifi, The Man From Primrose Lane is never what you think it will be, and is one of the most haunting books that I’ve read in a long time. It demands your unwavering attention. Trust me, you’ll want to wrap a cozy blanket around you and tune out all outside distraction while reading this one, because the narrative is not linear and as the threads from the story lines unravel, you may find yourself wondering how all of it could possibly connect, but they do, in spectacular, shocking, and devastating ways. There may be times when you think things are “getting really weird”, and they do, but I promise, the author makes sense of it all in the end and the payoff is well worth the effort.

Moments of horror and dread highlight moments of almost aching tenderness, and as dark as this book gets, underneath it all it is ultimately a story of love, the boundless ability of the human heart to care for others and the desire to see justice done for those that are so, so vulnerable. The Man From Primrose Lane is a genre defying, horrifying, and rewarding read that will surprise you at nearly every turn. James Renner’s imagination is a vast, strange, wonderful, terrifying thing and we’re very lucky he’s willing to share it with us.

If you’re in the mood for a breezy mystery, or a straightforward thriller, this is NOT that book. It’s not a light read, and you really must pay attention. I love a light read as much as the next person, but this doesn’t fall into that category, so proceed accordingly, but most definitely DO proceed when the mood for something a little more “meaty” strikes you.

This is one of the best books of 2012, and if you haven’t discovered this gem yet (and you like a bit of a challenge-I mean that in the very, very best way), you’re going to want to remedy that.


Goodreads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Saturday Giveaway: All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

The paperback edition of All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen just came out, so to celebrate its release, I’m offering a copy of this steampunk delight to one lucky winner, courtesy of Tor Books. Feel free to check out my review, and good luck!

About All Men of Genius
Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who continues his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.

But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest, speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of All Men of Genius to to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (no PO Boxes)
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/24/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Tor Books
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview (& Giveaway): Leigh Evans, author of The Trouble With Fate

Please welcome Leigh Evans to the blog! Leigh is the author of The Trouble With Fate (out Dec. 24th) and was kind enough to stop by and talk about the book. This is a fun interview (Ms. Evans is rather cheeky-love that about her:))and we’ve got 2 copies up for giveaway courtesy of St. Martins Press, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!

Leigh, your new book The Trouble With Fate, comes out next month! Will you give us a teaser for The Trouble With Fate and tell us a bit about your heroine Hedi Peacock?
Hedi Peacock has a secret. She’s not human, and she has the pointy Fae ears and Were inner-bitch to prove it. Her childhood was damn near perfect. Matter of fact, life was all magic and fur until tragedy struck. Ten years later, Hedi’s got her priorities straight: make enough money to keep her Aunt Lou knee-deep in maple syrup, and find enough trees to keep her amulet Merry well fed. Then the Alpha of Creemore kidnaps her aunt, and Hedi is left with no choice but to steal another amulet to get her back. There’s just one tiny wrinkle in the plan. The jewel hangs from the neck of the one werewolf Hedi Peacock swore that she’d never speak to again—her childhood crush, Robson Trowbridge. And Karma hates her, because he’s just as beautiful as she remembered…

What do you like most about writing fantasy?
Your imagination can run wild. Which means if the writer decides there’s a red door to another world, well, by golly, there’s going to be a red door to another realm.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
This is where I’m supposed to tell you about my favourite authors, right? That would be dead easy to do because I have a really long list of to-die-for writers. There are so many people who can write lush prose, or taut prose, and an equal number that can write where’s-the-fan, steaming hot prose. But really? The biggest literary influence in my life was a thin, square, Rand McNally book about a billy goat with a staunch heart, titled “The Goat That Went to School.”

Bucky had a nice cave, and he was as strong as he was smart, but he wanted to play with real children in the worst way. One day, he decided—damn the obstacles, he’d do just that. On his way to the school house, he encountered circumstances that required courage, fortitude and sheer-cussedness to surmount. The punch line—the hook that summed up Bucky ‘s tenacious spirit—was priceless: “But Bucky was Plucky, he kept right on.”

Talk about an influence. That simple sentence has stuck with me all these years. When life sucks (as it sometimes does), I think about dear old Plucky Bucky, and I keep right on.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. Reading his novels? It’s like sitting on your porch, listening to someone tell you a story. Soon, your eyes drift shut because the narrator’s voice is both soft and rough—fine velvet brushed against its nap. You forget your surroundings, you lose track of the hour. You’re inside Kvothe’s life, experiencing his triumphs and heartbreaks as if they were your own. The day turns into night, and still you sit, listening intently, hoping the speaker will never stop talking… Yup. That’s how good Patrick Rothfuss is.

What are you reading now?
These questions.

You have the chance to organize the perfect dinner party. Who would you invite (living or dead)?
I’d invite Queen Elizabeth I, though I can’t make up my mind if I’d send the invite before or after the Spanish Armada hit the shoals. I’d send a telegram to Elizabeth Taylor, telling her that we’d devote a solid hour to the topic of Hollywood men. I’d text an invite to Pink and send a telegram to Marilyn Monroe.

Then I’d make a bet with Bonnie Hunt that she couldn’t outlast Ellen DeGeneres in a mute-challenge . Near spitless with delight, I’d loll in my chair watching Ellen and Bonnie struggle not to comment. Can you imagine their expressions? Oh. Sweet. Joy.

You’ve written a series of blog posts that detail your writing journey, which is full of fun info and inspiration! What’s one piece of advice you would give to struggling writers?
There will never be a perfect set of circumstances to write that book. Stop talking about it, stop thinking about it. Pull out the chair, uncap the pen or fire up the computer. It’s simple. Just write. You will find your plot. You will find your story. Stop dwelling on the obstacles.

Be Bucky, okay?

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
In utter sloth. Happiness is a warm tub, a Lush bath bombe, and a good book. Perfection is a tub big enough for two.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
It’s bed time. Tomorrow I plan to dive back into the middle of writing the third book in the series. But right now? I’m going to shuffle off to the bedroom, shed my clothes and slip into something comfortable. Then I’m going to dream. About Hedi Peacock, and her lover, Robson Trowbridge. About a place called Merenwyn, and dream world called Threall…
Keep up with Leigh: Website | Twitter

My name is Hedi Peacock and I have a secret. I’m not human, and I have the pointy Fae ears and Were inner-bitch to prove it. As fairy tales go, my childhood was damn near perfect, all fur and magic until a werewolf killed my father and the Fae executed my mother. I’ve never forgiven either side. Especially Robson Trowbridge. He was a part-time werewolf, a full-time bastard, and the first and only boy I ever loved. That is, until he became the prime suspect in my father’s death…

Today I’m a half-breed barista working at a fancy coffee house, living with my loopy Aunt Lou and a temperamental amulet named Merry, and wondering where in the world I’m going in life. A pretty normal existence, considering. But when a pack of Weres decides to kidnap my aunt and force me to steal another amulet, the only one who can help me is the last person I ever thought I’d turn to: Robson Trowbridge. And he’s as annoyingly beautiful as I remember. That’s the trouble with fate: Sometimes it barks. Other times it bites. And the rest of the time it just breaks your heart. Again…

1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 2 copies of The Trouble With Fate by Leigh Evans to 2 winners.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only (no PO Boxes)
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 11/23/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of St. Martins Press
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Book News: November 16th, 2012

Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!

Also, don’t miss my list of gift ideas for book lovers at the bottom of the post. I’ll try to offer up new ideas every week until the end of December.

Interviews and more:


Excerpts and such:

Fun stuff (some book-related, some not):

Gift Ideas for Book Lovers!!

Interview: Andrew Nette, author of Ghost Money

Andrew Nette is not only the author of the new crime thriller, Ghost Money, and the creator of Pulp Curry, but he’s also a fellow contributor to Crime Fiction Lover. So, please welcome Andrew to the blog, and when you finish the interview, be sure to snag a copy of Ghost Money while you’re at it.

Andrew, your first novel, Ghost Money, just came out from Snubnose Press. Will you tell us a bit about it?
With pleasure, here’s the pitch.

Cambodia in 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of an unstable coalition government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan.

But Avery has made dangerous enemies and Quinlan is not the only one looking. Teaming up with Heng Sarin, a local journalist, Quinlan’s search takes him from the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle scarred western borderlands. As the political temperature soars, he is slowly drawn into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia’s bloody past.

Ghost Money is a hardboiled crime story but it’s also about the broken society that was Cambodia in the nineties, the choices people made to survive and how they dealt with poverty and the legacy of genocide.

I intend it to be the first in a series of novels featuring the character of Max Quinlan. Quinlan finds people who have gone missing, intentionally or not. That could take him anywhere.

He also features in a story in issue 2 of the journal Noir Nation, called ‘Homeland’, in which he attempts to track down a Vietnamese woman missing in Melbourne’s illegal sex trade.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What inspired you to write Ghost Money?
I used to be a journalist, so in that sense I’ve always written for a living. And I’ve been a fan of crime fiction ever since, as teenager, I started reading the old pulp novels my father kept in his den.

I’m not exactly sure when it was that I wanted to be a writer.

I started writing the book that eventually became Ghost Money in 1996 when I worked for several months in Cambodia as a wire service journalist.

I’d first travelled to Cambodia in 1992. It was a desperately poor and traumatized country. The Khmer Rouge, responsible for the deaths by starvation and torture of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians during their rule in the seventies, were still fighting from heavily fortified jungle bases. The government was an unstable coalition of two parties who’d been at each other’s throats for the better part of a decade and whose main interests were settling historical scores and making money.

Phnom Penh was crawling with foreigners; peacekeepers sent by the West and its allies to enforce peace between the various factions, and their entourage of drop outs, hustlers, pimps, spies, do-gooders and journalists. There was no power most of the time. The possible return of the Khmer Rouge caste a shadow over everything.

Cambodia fascinated me and I thought it would be a great setting for a crime novel. But I was too caught up trying to make a living as a journalist to put much of a dent in the book. That didn’t come until nearly a decade later, when one day I sat down and started reading through some old notes.

In early 2008, my partner and I quit our jobs and moved to Cambodia for a year with our then two year old. I freelanced, did fixing work for foreign TV crews and finished the first draft of my manuscript.

What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
James Ellroy and UK writer David Peace have both been massive influences. Peace’s quartet, Nineteen Seventy Four, Nineteen Seventy Seven, Nineteen Eighty and Nineteen Eighty Three, is possibly the best crime series I’ve read. His depiction of northern UK is incredibly vivid and real for me, given how influenced Australia was by by English culture.

I’m a huge fan of Parker, the professional thief character created by Richard Stark AKA Donald Westlake. Westlake writes cool, stripped-back stories. He’s really influenced n me in terms of how I write action and any kind of procedure, like robberies and such.

I’m a big fan of Martin Limon’s books featuring Sueno and Bacom, officers in the Criminal Intelligence Division of the US military based in South Korea. They are among the small but growing number of good, hardboiled/noir books set in Asia.

I love all of Megan Abbott’s books. Special note the Charles Willeford books that feature the character of Hoke Moseley and the Cliff Hardy books by Sydney writer Peter Corris.

What do you love most about writing and reading crime fiction?
Crime fiction is the most effective literary vehicle for discussing society’s problems and shining a light on abuses of power. It’s that simple. I love the diversity of plot devices and character traits crime writers use to illustrate and explore society’s wrongs. And while the current obsession with Nordic crime fiction doesn’t show any signs of slowly down, I’m excited that more authors are choosing to set crime fiction in more out of the way locations, like South Africa and Mexico.

Ghost Money takes place in Cambodia, and in your bio, you note your fascination with Asia. Have you done any traveling there? If so, what is a favorite destination? If not, and could pack your bags tomorrow, where would you go first?
I lived in Asia for nearly seven years in the nineties, in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, and have travelled in travelled extensively through the region since. Without wanting to avoid your question, there’s aspects of every country I’ve lived or travelled in, including Australia, I love and hate.

If I could go anywhere tomorrow it would be New York. Indeed, I was booked to fly there a couple of weeks ago, but Super Storm Sandy put paid to those plans. I have spent time in the US but never in New York. The city conjures up images from so many films and books. I was looking forward to just hanging around and then attending Noir Con in Philadelphia. I’m now planning to do the trip next year.

If you could read any book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy. “Knock, knock, whose there, Dudley Smith so Reds beware.”

What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading three books.

The first is a 1964 novel called Only Lovers Left Alive by Dave Wallis. It’s a wonderful piece of pop culture dystopia set in a version of sixties London where all the adults have died and teenagers are left to run completely wild.

Dark City Blue is a hardboiled little page-turner by a Melbourne author called Luke Preston. I think Australia crime fiction is a little conservative sometimes, so it’s nice to see a book set in my hometown that’s not afraid to push the boundaries.

I’ve also started dipping into The Darkest Little Room, by Patrick Holland. Released by a small Melbourne publisher called Transit Lounge, it’s a Grahame Green-like story about a down at heel expatriate in Saigon who makes as a small time hustling. It reminds me of the wonderful Paul Theroux novel Saint Jack, about a pimp in Singapore in the early seventies.

When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of free time left after all my writing commitments are finished. My stack of unwatched DVDs is almost as big as the piles of books I want to read. Aside from that, you’ll most likely find me spending my free time working in the garden, or hanging out with my family or with friends.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’ve got several ideas for Quinlan novels, but right now I’ve started a book with a new character, a heist story set in Queensland, Thailand and Melbourne. I’m also in the very early stages of working with another writer on a history of counter cultural pulp fiction from the sixties and seventies.
Keep up with Andrew: Website | Twitter | Crime Fiction Lover

About Ghost Money: Amazon | B&N
Cambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of an unstable coalition government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan.

But Avery has made dangerous enemies and Quinlan is not the only one looking. Teaming up with Heng Sarin, a local journalist, Quinlan’s search takes him from the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle scarred western borderlands. As the political temperature soars, he is slowly drawn into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia’s bloody past.

Ghost Money is a crime novel, but it’s also about Cambodia in the mid-nineties, a broken country, and what happens to people who are trapped in the cracks between two periods of history, locals and foreigners, the choices they make, what they do to survive.

“Ghost Money is a fast-paced, atmospheric crime novel. Its journey into a cynical and treacherous world is tense and suspenseful.” – Garry Disher

Home by Matthew Costello

Home by Matthew Costello
St. Martins Press/Oct. 30th, 2012
Kind thanks to St. Martins Press for providing a review copy

Besieged and attacked, a mother and her children must escape a post-apocalyptic nightmare world of cannibals and betrayal

Jack Murphy thought he’d found the perfect escape for his family from a world gone horribly mad. He thought wrong.

Matthew Costello’s Home begins mere minutes after the terrible sacrifice made by Jack to save his family at Paterville Camp. Barely escaping, Jack’s wife, Christie, and two children, Kate and Simon, must accept that their lives and their future have changed forever.

In this intimate and human survivalist horror story, the three of them will face even greater dangers, as well as yet-unknown horrors, to simply stay alive as together they search for a road “home” in this intense and original postapocalyptic thriller.

REVIEW (Warning: If you haven’t read Vacation, there are some spoilers here, but nothing that’s not revealed on the back cover of the book)
Home opens right where Vacation left off. Actually it opens up a little bit sooner in order to remind the reader just how much of a tragic disaster the ending of Vacation was. By that I mean our hero in the first book, Jack Murphy, made a terrible sacrifice in order to help his family escape what was supposed to be a family vacation free of restrictions, where his kids could run and play in an environment not overrun by Can Heads (cannibalistic plague carriers.) The world of Vacation and Home is a world trying to overcome a devastating plague that turned people into monsters. Your every move is monitored and if you’re lucky, you live in a gated community with armed guards and hopefully your own huge stockpile of guns and ammo. Jack and Christie Murphy were one such family. Jack saw what these creatures could do on a daily basis, and in turn, took a nearly phobic approach to protecting his family. Vacation impressed the hell out of me, in part by the fact that even though Jack was the main character, the author made Christie a force unto herself, one that, in spite of some problems, loved her husband and trusted him implicitly, so that when the you-know-what hit the fan, Christie trusted that her husband wouldn’t lead them astray. He didn’t, and Home continues Christie’s story with her two children, Kate, and Simon.

When the threesome head out of Paterville Camp, they notice that things aren’t quite what they should be. When they stop at a gathering of civilians and police, they learn that home may not be the safe (er) place it used to be. Even so, they’re going to need the supplies that have been stockpiled at the house, so in spite of strong misgivings, Christie makes the decision to head home anyway. They arrive home to a devastated neighborhood and Christie decides to gather up supplies and leave, but a group of Can Heads throw a wrench into things, and a neighbor, Helen, comes to their timely rescue. Helen offers them warm beds and a place to stay for the night and she also offers a bit of hope: a hotel in the mountains called Mountain Falls Inn. Supposedly, a former military buddy of her late husband’s is heading up a group of survivors, and they may be able to offer a safe haven. Christie is understandably dubious, since Paterville Camp was supposed to be safe too, but where else could they go? With little options left, Christie decides to head up to the mountain compound with Helen, where “the Colonel” holds sway and things may not be as they seem.

In this series, Matthew Costello offers up his version of zombie apocalypse (but his creatures aren’t quite zombies), and after plowing through Vacation in record time, I couldn’t wait to get back to this terrifying world. The prose style is short sentences, short chapters, and plenty of tension and suspense. I love it. He doesn’t waste words and because of that, there’s a constant feeling of immediacy and dread that will have you turning the pages with lightning speed. It will probably hit a nerve with parents, in particular, because this is Christie’s story, and her strength, determination, and willingness to defend the ones she loves, especially her children, at all costs will certainly resonate. This series is perfect for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction and of course, zombie fic, but to ignore it as a just plain good thriller would be a mistake. I’m hoping the author has more plans for this series, and if so, I can’t wait.
Purchase Home: Amazon |B&N | Indiebound

Interview: Derek Haas, author of The Right Hand

Derek Haas is the author of The Assassin Trilogy (The Silver Bear, Columbus, Dark Men) and his newest thriller, The Right Hand, just came out. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog!

Derek, your newest thriller, The Right Hand, just came out! Will you tell us a bit about it and its hero, Austin Clay?
Clay is the field officer the CIA sends in on missions so black, they’ll deny any knowledge of his methods or existence. He’s a bit of an anti-Bond… he doesn’t rely on gadgets or sophisticated technology. He survives by careful planning coupled with quick-witted improvisation. He has his own code, which may or may not line up with his Agency’s.

Are you planning to write any more books featuring Austin Clay?
I am. I’m going to try to write a book where Clay meets up with Columbus, a character I wrote about in three previous books. I think they’re going to hate each other, which will make for some good prose.

What kind of research did you do for The Right Hand?
While doing research for a movie, I was fortunate enough to talk to some former CIA officers, which spawned the idea for this book. As I got into writing the book, I did a combination of traveling, googling, reading everything I could get my hands on, and talking to people who had lived in Russia, where half of the book is set.

As well as being a novelist, you’re also a screenwriter. Which one came first, and have you always wanted to write?
After grad school, I tried to write a novel, but failed miserably. I spent a few years working in advertising, and then broke through when my screenwriting partner and I sold our first script in 1999. We’ve been lucky enough to have a few movies produced since then. My first book was published in 2008, so I came to novels later. I did always want to be a writer. I asked my parents for a typewriter when I was twelve. I’ve been hitting the keys ever since.

Have thrillers always been your genre of choice? What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I do love thrillers, and always wanted to write fast-paced, page turning novels. My biggest influences are Stephen King for storytelling, Ernest Hemmingway for economy of words, Somerset Maugham for character development, and Michael Connelly for pace. I could go on and on. I’m in a constant state of being influenced.

What are you reading right now?
I’ve been reading this Neal Stephenson book REAMDE for something around two months. I love it, but damn is it looooooong.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS… the greatest war novel of all time. Robert Jordan and that bridge… fantastic book.

Since you’re a screenwriter, I have to ask…seen any good movies lately? Any recent standouts?
Two in a row. LOOPER is a wonderful science fiction movie… smart and ambitious. FLIGHT is as well-written a character study as one can find in theaters these days.

Will you tell us about
I started a website a few years ago that promotes genre short fiction. I’ve been lucky enough to publish amazing screenwriters, literary giants, and brand-spanking-new first-timers on there. Check it out!

I imagine you’re a pretty busy guy, so when you do carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Number one, with my family. My wife is hilarious, and I have two boys, 7 and 5, who stun me with their imaginations and creativity. If I’m not with them, and I’m not writing, then I’m probably playing golf.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects and events (or anything at all!)?
I’m delighted that the rights for THE RIGHT HAND were snapped up by Universal Pictures and Scott Stuber. Michael and I are going to write the screenplay… I can’t wait to see what he does to screw up my book. Thanks so much for the interview!
Keep up with Derek: Website | Twitter

About The Right Hand: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Meet Austin Clay, the CIA’s best-kept secret.

There has always been a need in the spy game for operations outside the realm of legality-covert missions so black no one in the American government, and almost no one in intelligence itself, is aware of their existence. The left hand can’t know what the right hand is doing.

Austin Clay is that right hand, executing missions that would be disavowed by his own government were he ever to be compromised. His team consists of only his trusted handler and himself. His missions are among the most important and dangerous in U.S. history.

Clay is sent to track down a missing American operative, a man who was captured outside of Moscow, in the Russian countryside. Soon he discovers the missing officer is only the beginning of the mission, and finds himself protecting a desperate woman who believes a mole has penetrated the top levels of the U.S. government, throwing the international balance of power into jeopardy.

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