The Testimony of a Villain follows Manuel into the gritty alleys of the inner city as he seeks retribution. What was the inspiration that made you want to write such a thrilling novel?
Good question. My inspiration or should I say, “the book that inspired me to write” was The Adventurers by Harold Robbins. In his story, he wrote about a South American character named Dax who lost everything. The book was almost a thousand pages, it covered decades of history. It took me on a ride through time. I enjoyed it.
So, I was compelled to I start writing about Manuel Doggett a man who lost everything. I asked myself, how would it effect a black man here in the United States? So I pulled from the history of the African-American experience. Manuel is born on the tail-end of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King is dead. Malcom X is dead. The Black Panthers and the original Nation of Islam had been dismantled.
Here comes Manuel Doggett. The future.
As a child, he shows great leadership abilities. He is smart, thoughtful, and a good speaker. Further, there’s nothing stopping him from being anything he wants to be. He has aspirations of being a judge or the first black president.
His family is murdered in front of him. His wealth is stripped. He is forced to live in the inner-city. This young man with so much potential is now faced with dangers from the same black people that his family talked about with so much pride. He realizes that he is a cub that has become prey to a jungle of hyenas.
Manuel had two choices. Try to rise above it or become part of it.
From the spirt of a leader, he took the third choice. He became it. He became the fear. He became the danger. He became the king of the concrete jungle.
He became the villain.
For me this was thrilling to write.
Manuel Doggett is a boy who lost everything and was formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. How did you set about creating such complicated characters?
A loaded question. I will try to answer it the best I can. The characters around Manuel are not complicated to a person who grew up in the inner-city. You see them all the time a car thief, a pick-pocket, or a drug dealer. You see the upset aunt or the concerned mother. Manuel, on the other hand, is a complicated character. He has physiological issues and is force into different environments, his higher intellect compelled him to rise up at any cost. Further, he had become a killer. Now, as an author, I had to navigate Manuel through the streets. I had to take on the mind of a madman. What would an intelligent madman do?
The original title of the book was “Product of Environment”. I named it Product of Environment because while I was writing I noticed how Manuel had to adapt and lead others into each new environment he faced. A leader will be a leader wherever he goes.
The title changed to Product of Environment: The Testimony of a Villain and was later changed again when I sat down with my project manager, Anthony Lindo.
Anthony was putting the book cover together on a computer and I was watching him. We were discussing colors and letter sizes, and then, all of a sudden, he deleted Product of Environment out of the title. After looking it over, it made sense.
Thus, we have The Testimony of a Villain.
I found myself enjoying the book because I found a lot of truth embedded in the story about life, justice and society. What themes did you try to capture while creating this story?
The themes that I tried to capture about social justice revolved around relevant issues: abortion, race, politics and crime. I think most readers found it interesting how “living the life of crime”, didn’t seem like a crime to the people living it.
It was simply a way of life.
To me, the the biggest social issue that the Testimony of a Villain brings to light is that there are people who live like the characters in the story every day. For them, it’s normal. They never had a job and they don’t plan on getting a job. They are just waiting to go to jail or get murdered or hustle another day.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book that I’m about to release is called: Wisdom of a Dying God. It’s a crime story about a crime fiction writer who is in prison, dying. He has books floating around the prison system. He is revered by his peers because of his knowledge of the criminal underworld. As the prisoners read his books, they find better ways to commit crimes.
The book should be available in the next 60 to 90 days.
Outsiders call Manuel a villain. After spending his youth entangled in inner city gang warfare, he’s lied, robbed, and murdered his way to the top of the brutal organized crime underworld. His path toward vengeance was set long ago when two killers massacred his family in front of him…
Manuel tracked down one of the murderers and exacted revenge, but his bloodlust grew for the killer who got away. When he got the chance to complete his vengeance, the city cowered beneath his thirst for retribution. As he continues to retrace his old scars, Manuel has one chance for vindication. To succeed, he’ll need to take a hard look at the street life he’s built upon the ashes of his childhood…
The Testimony of a Villain is a dark crime thriller set on the unforgiving streets of inner city Boston. If you like true crime stories, complex characters and an unapologetic look at urban reality, then you’ll love Aaron G. Harrell’s poignant psychological thriller.
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This is a drama filled novel following the lives of four main characters who are all connected in different ways and share similar struggles. A modern day Romeo & Juliet novel but focused on interracial couples and the stigma and struggles they are forced to endure despite racism being a supposed thing of the past.
Set in a city filled with violent crime and heavily focused on the animosity that exists between black communities and the police, this story explores the stories from all points of views. From the courtroom of a major murder trial to a high-profile rape case and the subtle racism that exists in big city law firms, you will learn how to respect other people’s points of view after reading this compelling story.
Ben Burgess Jr. has written a fantastic book that makes you feel you are a fly on the wall of all the scenes. The author makes you feel like you are in the outcast communities actually feeling the struggle young black people feel on a daily basis. You can’t help but feel disgusted towards police at points in the story but then the next chapter has you feeling empathy for the police as you hear the same story from their point of view.
This all leads to a roller coaster of emotions as you watch the story unfold from different characters perspectives and you feel yourself torn between which person you should root for. The undertone throughout all sides of the story is the huge amount of prejudice both sides of an interracial couple have to deal with which is a sad reality that despite how far we have come as a society, we are still so judgmental of others even when it has no affect on us at all.
There are some graphic sexual scenes that, for this story, are necessary to make the story truly feel real and believable. Although you feel uncomfortable reading them, I think that is the exact feeling the author was hoping because the truth of sexual crime is harsh and hard to swallow.
This is a novel begging to be turned into a movie or TV show or at the very least will have many novels written in the series because once you reach the end of the book you have become so enthralled by the tale you don’t want to say goodbye to your new found friends and want to see where their journey through life takes them next. The world needs more stories like this to continue to bridge the gap between races.
Pages: 340 | ASIN: B0732MBZQB
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Globes Disease is a fast paced thriller that follows seven individuals as they suffer from the affliction of lycanthrope and are being hunted by a vampire because of it. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this suspenseful novel?
The original idea began as a short story about a black man named Terry who is infected by a lycanthrope. As he walks down the street he wanders if people are looking at him because of his infection or because he is black.
As I added more characters, more stories grew, and eventually a lot of the back stories became short stories, that became novellas and before I knew it, a novel!
The characters, I felt, were well developed and really stood out as unique in the end. What was your favorite character to write for and why?
Its difficult to say. I like them all. I have seven kids and four grandchildren, and a good number of nieces and nephews, I truly have no favorites. I love them each based on who they are.
Lets just say, everyone that survived my book are my favorite characters (laughing). Though some of the ones that died had to die to move the story forward.
I will say that Terry and Quake stand out to me for the males and Jodi and Goldy stand out for the females.
I love your review of my book, it’s so dead on. I could never say in words what I was thinking when folks asked me what my novel was about. You hit the nail on the head.
You mentioned names, believe it or not, Quake is based on someone I know, named Dozer, and Quake comes from a name I know of someone named Earthquake. I combined the two. As far as Ano, I went to school with an Austrian fellow who was a big guy and natural athlete name Onno, that’s where that name came from.
Jodi is based on some Japanese and Chinese friends of mine who have traditional parents. I just turned them in to one girl. Goldy is based on the women I grew up listening to; beautiful, smart, professionals, and the challenges they faced in their lives.
This book seamlessly blends many different genres. Was this planned before writing or did it happen organically?
Organically, I actually like to tell stories about people and put them in precarious situations and see how they react. The genres you mentioned in your review are genres I know and love. So I naturally lean towards telling stories in those genres.
I can honestly say that I would love to be the hybrid of King, Tarantino, Lee, Palahniuk, Shyamalan, Chaykin and Gaiman. I love how Gaiman has written comics, novels, movies, etc. That seems very natural and fluid to me. Writing what strikes you. Writing when you are inspired and writing in the genre and medium you want has got to be the best of feelings.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have completed the prequel to Globes Disease. I am waiting on the editing to be finished. I am currently working on the sequel as well…
In the mean time I am working on a comic, some short stories, a guest blog and a few other things…
These unfortunate residents of the small quiet town of La Mort Douce must band together as their peace is threatened by a mysterious Vampire, Hunters who treat them like wild game and a Government Agency with promises of a cure.
With many more threats looming, this eclectic group must come together to achieve a common goal.
They must fight for their humanity or die alone, like animals.
A thrilling action-packed novel about Lycanthropy through the eyes of 7 brave souls who suffer from the disease.
Do you have it?
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The Testimony of a Villain by Aaron Harrell is a dark, slick ride into the gritty alleys of the inner city. The book is not your typical crime thriller but one with a social lens that can only be given substance by one who has lived it. The reader follows Manuel Doggett, a boy who lost everything to be formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. He is out for retribution not redemption when an opportunity arises to have his vengeance on one of the murderers of his family.
Harrell provides a fresh and new take to the “true crime” thriller. His style is so firmly set in the bitingly grime reality of the inner city that the reader could even give this novel a new sub-genre of socio-economic thriller. The new threads do not stop there either, because the plot of the book itself is almost like a hero’s journey in reverse. Manuel is the classic anti-hero and one that does not once look to the audience for sympathy. Instead, there is only apathy towards almost everything, except towards the memories of his past.
The weaving of the inner city struggle and the complex inner life of Manuel makes this novel a stand out for readers of not only crime thrillers, but also those who wish to delve into the dark, broken mind of a man walking the line between light and shadow. The writing is fraught with graphic images of both violence and sex and is not for the weak-hearted.
I found myself enjoying the book from the start, because of the quick and realistic dialogue and the meta conversation about corruption, justice and social strata. There are a lot of binaries at play here, between the poor and wealthy, justice and injustice, and morality and immorality. Harrell does a fantastic job with surveying these issues, touching on them just enough without becoming too explicit. I can only guess at what Harrell’s personal experience has been with the inner city, but I very much appreciated the taste of authenticity that he lends to the narrative.
I find Manuel to be a compelling character. Most readers may find something akin to the backstory of Batman here, but there is a real human struggle that Harrell puts on display often.
Overall, I do believe that The Testimony of a Villain stands up to the best the crime thriller genre has to offer. It makes for a pleasurable read for any fans of such novels!
Pages; 489 | ASIN: B06XG6FYVH
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Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. What inspiration did you find in this book that made you want to publish an annotated scholarly edition?
I am certain that most of my admiration stems from my appreciation for Horace, the African American southern woman writer, who remained true to her commitment to write “creatively but constructively.” Before I began conducting research on Horace and her writings, she and the archival material treating her life and works were largely overlooked by scholars.
The protagonists she created all exemplify the kind of determination that Horace herself demonstrated throughout her life.
I wanted to create an annotated scholarly edition to help Angie Brown find its way into the literary canon, where students and scholars of African American literature could weigh in on its value.
Angie Brown is a strong women that is finding her path through troubled times. What are some things you admire about her character?
I admire Angie’s determination, practicality, openness to learning, friendly nature, and commitment to progress.
What kind of research did you do for this novel and Lillian Jones Horace?
I conducted extensive archival research to better understand Horace and the characters she created. A comprehensive list of the repositories I visited appears in my first book-length publication on Horace titled, Recovering Five Generations Hence: The Life and Writing of Lillian Jones Horace (2013). I have been researching and writing about Horace since 2003. Her papers are held in the Fort Worth Public Library, Fort Worth, TX.
I understand you contacted some of the Horace family for this book. What were their reactions to you pursuing this 100 year old story?
I contacted her niece and two of her great nieces. Her great niece, who remembered her well, knew that Lillian Horace was a respected educator, but she had no idea that Horace had written two historic novels. Most of what I shared with her and other family members about Lillian Horace was new to them.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes. I am working on an edited version of Lillian Horace’s diary, and a book project comparing and contracting the trajectory of Horace’s life and works to those of her younger and more popular southern African American contemporary, Zora Neale Hurston.
“Angie Brown is a romance migration novel set in the Jim Crow era. Angie, the protagonist, determines to embrace all life has to offer despite the social restrictions facing young black southern women like her. Angie holds fast to her desire to find financial success, personal fulfillment, and true love, but she does not achieve her dreams alone, nor do they unfold in the same place. From Belle, her confidant; to Betty Yates, the teacher; to Chester, the pool hall owner; women and men from various social stations in life and different places share nuggets of wisdom with Angie. With their love and support, she overcomes tragedy, welcomes fresh possibilities, climbs the social ladder, and opens her heart to love. Angie’s progressive journey reflects the migratory trek of many African American Southerners of the Jim Crow era, who left the South for greater educational and economic opportunity. Her quest leads her from a small segregated community to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and eventually to the Midwest, including St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, and Southern Illinois. As Angie travels from place to place, she gradually comes into her own and learns key life lessons. Angie learns that struggle is universal. While doing domestic work, she discovers that whites, who live on “The Other Side,” also experience pain, suffering, and grave disappointment. Love eludes white women, too, and they, too, face gender discrimination. Having overcome her fair share of personal losses, Angie reaches across racial lines to console Gloria, a member of the Parker family, for whom Angie does domestic work. Her experience with the Parker’s is juxtaposed to her dealings with the Mungers, a rich, Northern white family she meets. Although the Mungers are kind to Angie, she learns that life beyond the South is not perfect. Yes, she and other blacks face less virulent forms of racism outside the South, but economic stability and educational opportunity are not easily achieved.”
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Our tale centers around the life of one woman, Angie Brown, as she struggles to live and love in an unforgiving world. Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. Angie Brown is a window to the past: a look at what life was like for black people during the Jim Crow era. It opens with heartbreak as Angie is denied medical care for her ailing child. Angie is at a disadvantage for her entire life simply for being black. Her child is black. Therefore, they are treated as less than second-class citizens. The beginning of Angie’s heartbreak occurred before that moment, but is amplified as her child dies in her arms: denied a potentially life-saving treatment solely based on the color of his skin.
Many books about this subject can feel like textbooks, but this book is beautiful and heartfelt. Wrapped up in an emotional love story, Angie Brown will teach its readers about life from the point of view of a young woman. She has loved, she has lost both her husband, Jim, and her son. She finds herself abandoned with no way to return home. Her religious mother has forsaken her and Angie must persevere if she wants to survive. Through her sorrow and her uncertainty Angie rises above the hand that life has dealt her. She works her hardest to become someone she can deem as worthy.
While there is activism in this book on Angie’s part, it doesn’t overshadow the romance. It is important to understand that Angie is not going to take her fate lying down. As she learns and exposes herself to the world she begins to understand that she can make a difference if she wants to. Her eyes are opened to the trappings of the world and she realizes that someone must stand up for the young black children who are disadvantaged solely because of their skin color. Described with powerful words the reader may feel as though they are there as Angie involves herself with politics and does her best to support Roosevelt in his bid for president. He desires to be a president for all people, something that Angie believes in.
Angie loves. She loses and she finds herself in sorrow. She sees the disgusting side of the world and she sees the beauty in it as well. She builds herself up from the timid young girl to the successful woman at the end of our tale. Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance by Lillian Jones Horace will show readers the beauty and agony of love against the backdrop of a time where injustice was rampant in the South. There are reading comprehension questions at the end of the book which make this an excellent selection for further classroom reading or even as an addition to a book club roster. The romance is beautiful in this tale but the underlying message is just as important. Whether you’re reading for fun or reading to learn more, you will not be disappointed with this book. Even though so much time has passed, this timeless piece remains poignant and elegant.
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Hidden in Plain Sight follows Jason White as he discovers a devastating family secret about the identity of his biological father. This is an intriguing setup to a well-developed novel. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?
The inspiration was a reoccurring dream I had for over a year starting in 2001. I quite literally had the dream every single night, sometimes multiple times per night. It was very disturbing not just because of the imagery but also because of HOW I experienced the dream. As I went through the mental movie each night I would become a character. For example, one night I would be Jason. I would have all of Jason’s thoughts and memories from birth to present. I would think like Jason and see things the way Jason saw them. Not only that but I would dream the exact same dream with the exact same dialogue but from Jason’s perspective. The next night I may go to bed and become Lucy in the dream!
The dreams were so incredibly vivid that when I awoke it would take a few seconds for me to come back into myself again. I experienced phantom pain and the emotional residue of the character as I regained consciousness. I honestly thought I was cracking up! Long story short I tried and failed to journal the dream in a notebook. I sat down at the computer and began to type it out instead. Months later I finished and had over two million words. It was a story! I knew the name was Under The Shadow Of The Almighty because it deals with living in the shadow of the ‘almighty’ celebrity types but also living under the Shadow of an Almighty God as outlined in Psalm 91 (Bible). I was advised that I had a series on my hands and needed to break the book down into smaller books. The first installment is Hidden In Plain Sight.
I thought you did a great job drawing the reader into the culture surrounding the life of the families that make these super churches function. Is there any moral or idea that you hope readers take away from the story?
I would like the readers to realize that religious leaders are people too with families and lives to live. Leaders have histories and not all of them are pretty. I want people to develop a compassion for leaders rather than being so quick to tear them down. At the same time I also want people to understand that no person is worthy of a pedestal. Respect is one thing but worshipping a person is another. We live in a church culture that has created rock stars out of their leaders. Even if the leader is a good, honest person, the rock star mentality is dysfunctional and often corrupts sparking a sense of entitlement.
Mega churches are essentially large corporations and due to the size of the membership need to be run as such to make sure every ‘I’ is dotted and every ‘T’ crossed. That being stated, some neglect the faith aspect in favor of the dollar which causes situations like Bishop Stewart. Others neglect the business side in favor of faith which often results in IRS charges, church foreclosures and other financial embarrassments. As with everything else, there needs to be a balance.
I also need for people to realize that just because someone calls themselves a pastor, bishop (or whatever), does not mean they are called to that role. It also does not mean they are honest, good, operate in integrity, etc. Too many churches are led by Quincy Stewart-types. It is obvious to the naked eye but the members choose to remain blind to it or if they see the shenanigans, they makes excuses because it is easier to ignore than to confront.
I felt that Jason White was a complex character. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the characters development?
Ah, yes. Jason. It was important to understand the slights Jason experienced in his childhood with regard to his sister’s fathers and the majority of his external family. He was unwanted and they had no problems telling and showing him how they felt. An impoverished childhood with an oft absent mother who worked three jobs put a very large chip on his shoulder. That chip caused him to also strive to be the best which he accomplished thanks to educational intervention from his aunt. Then his mother’s sudden lifestyle switch had her turning to God when he was a preteen. That change rubbed Jason the wrong way. It made anything dealing with faith a turn off for him because he saw it as a intrusion into his life that took more than it gave. All of those things also speak to Jason’s misogyny in the form of using women as a means to an end. It also speaks to his resentment of men in authority / father figures.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I am currently working on the second (yet unnamed) installment in the Under The Shadow Of The Almighty Series. Although it was written 14-15 years ago, it requires a lot of clean up. Now that I have been through the publishing process once I am viewing it with fresh eyes and a better understanding of what it takes to tell a story. I have no idea when it will be released I hope it will be out at least by this time next year but that all depends on how long it takes me to complete it as well as my publisher’s timeline.
When Philly-born playboy, Jason White, discovers a devastating family secret about the identity of his biological father, he launches an angry quest to find and confront the man. A lengthy investigation into his father, a prominent pastor of a large church in North Carolina, spurs a quick, covert, out-of-town visit to the pastor s church on Easter Sunday. Will Jason follow through on his desire to destroy the man he believes left him alone and in poverty? In Raleigh, North Carolina, the greedy and lecherous Bishop Quincy Stewart’s less than discreet history of deceit and all around messiness is threatened with exposure when he loses control over his manufactured persona. A chance encounter and life-changing lunch unlocks the chains holding Stewart s wife, Lucy, hostage and sets the stage for a much needed shift in her life. In a desperate act to break his wife s spirit and force her into compliance, Bishop Stewart does the unthinkable. Will he go down for his horrific actions? Will Lucy ever be set free from the pain he has caused her? The Camelot-like existence of popular and honorable Bishop James Collins becomes shrouded in an indefinable dark cloud when his wife, Victoria, invites an unstable element into their lives. Will Bishop Collins overcome being blindsided by the ugly truths he s forced to face or will his life and ministry be forever changed?
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A man of God does not always equate to a Godly man. In Sharon Moore’s novel Hidden in Plain Sight the reader is submerged into the life of two Bishops; Bishop James Collins and Bishop Quincy Stewart. Both minister to super churches in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. They have competing congregations that appeal to similar groups but the two Bishops have drastically different goals and priorities. Both men are married and like their churches, their marriages are different and mirror their situations. Playing off well known images of the African American society Moore draws the reader into the culture surrounding the life of the people and families that make these super churches function. The novel also reminds us that just being ordained in the house of God does not remove one from all sin and does not make one perfect.
This story takes place in modern time, going back to the early 60’s when the characters meet. You learn how James Collins and Quincy Stewart meet their wives and start building up their mega church communities. The readers are also introduced to Jason White, the 29-year-old, grew up and out of the ghetto man, that has a chip on his shoulder and is out for revenge. It is discovered early in the novel that one of the Bishop’s is his father, but it isn’t said right off who. Jason’s mother, Bridgett, has recently died and his aunt tells him the truth about his family and father. This sets him off and he decides to seek out his father for revenge but he is unsure what exactly he wants. While seeking out his father he himself starts finding himself taking an interest in becoming and more Godly man. While James Collins appears the model Bishop with a happy family life, there is some underlying tension with his oldest son Lee. Quincy Stewart is quickly shown to be an abusive and manipulative man who cares only for his own needs and appearances.
The stories of the bishop’s families and Jason White all intermingle by the end of this novel. Outside influences play a large part but so do the internal struggles of each character. One disappointing point of this novel is the ending. This book is the first in a series, typically in a book series, one story line would be concluded with tie ins to the next novel, this book ends like a TV series season ending, cliffhanger with no resolution and just many questions. I found this frustrating especially given the volatile situation one character ends up in.
Moore does a good job bringing out the personalities and culture of her character’s environment. The use of traditional African American dialect is used not to be profane or show ignorance, rather it is indicative of the normal conversational language of the culture. She also does a good job showing how the mega church culture is more than just a church, it is a life style for those that their entire lives revolve around the church. Hidden in Plain Sight shows the good and the bad involved with the community and struggles and challenges it presents, especially on the families living it. Over all it is a great start to the series and I look forward to seeing how things go in the lives of all the characters.
Pages: 290 | ASIN: B01JBKHIZY
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