The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.
Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.
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My Name is Nelson by Dylan Fairchild is a political thriller set in modern-day America. Nelson Troutman is a phenomenal scientist who has been working under the radar until one day he snaps at his treatment under his employer’s hand. Armed with an extensive background, tons of knowledge and access to weaponry equipment, Nelson moves into his familiar strip club with favorite acquaintance Tiffany Golden, where he sets up an office for himself. His plan is to begin exacting his revenge to teach both his boss and the thousands of bullies out there a lesson in how to treat people with respect!
From the very first page to the last, My Name is Nelson is a captivating read with spectacular prose throughout. The forthcoming action and story line are not immediately apparent in the first few chapters, as Fairchild develops our relationships with some fascinating and likable characters, such as the President Andrew Macintyre and his National Security Advisor Chet Addington, alongside Nelson’s favorite stripper, Tiffany Golden. There are also other enjoyable characters including a security guard named Walt and Julie the Presidents Science Adviser. I found I only had to read a few lines of each chapter and immediately felt a connection with every character in this thrilling story.
However, what I personally think is done to perfection in this book is Fairchild’s pacing as it all begins to come together. With many strands all initially unrelated, when the plot does start to take shape, each character and chapter is perfectly woven together, so much so that you continue to marvel at just how good Dylan Fairchild is as a writer!
It does feel at times, albeit naturally so, that the book weaves effortlessly between several genres, including that of political, thriller, sci-fi and even a hefty dose of humor! This only succeeds in making it a more approachable and enjoyable read for a broader audience.
Then there is the man himself, Nelson. When we are first introduced to him, it is perhaps not in the best of lights, more so as in awkward scenarios, as an odd guy who likes to frequent one particular strip club which is home to his favorite girl. However, Nelson is not your average strip club customer, and Tiffany has become more of a trusted companion and the club his safety net when things get tough with his boss, Hawthorne.
What follows is an enthralling, though peculiar, character whom you cannot help but root for as the story progresses, despite what Nelson intends to do. It does not take much for his character to pull you in and encourages you to begin thinking he just may have some form of entitlement, some sort of right, to continue on the path he has prepared for himself, after the way he has been treated throughout his childhood and indeed his adult life.
I could not find fault with this book and devoured it with enjoyment. My Name is Nelson is most certainly a worthy five-star contender.
Pages: 222 | ASIN: B07B4KCTYR
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Six months have passed since Dr. Samantha Delaney faced deadly encounters with a man who had sworn to destroy her and take the $60 million she had received as the last remaining heir to the Delaney legacy—a legacy that had been stolen many decades before. Given the demise of her enemy, Samantha thinks the danger is over.
But but she is wrong.
When a distant relative sends her a newspaper clipping reporting the 1914 murder of Samantha’s great-great-grandmother in Costa Rica, Samantha and her husband, Dr. Brett Perry, decide to do some preliminary research, never dreaming that their investigation would imperil Samantha once again.
Beginning their research in Costa Rica, Samantha and Brett hope to learn about the murder of her ancestor and the loss of the family cacao planation. What they find is a picturesque country with clear ocean water, pristine beaches—and more danger than they had ever anticipated. Their investigation quickly catapults them into the middle of a very calculated, lucrative, and illegal gold mining operation where the stakes are high enough to make murder a necessity for anyone who gets in the way. Samantha quickly learns that as a beneficiary to her great-great-grandmother’s company, she will most certainly be in the way.
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YEGman by Konn Lavery is a dark thrilling romp through the back allies and underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Michael Bradford, our hero, is a vigilante, who struggles with violence. His issues aren’t going to get better as he investigates the most notorious gang in Edmonton, the Crystal moths. His methods are caught on film and uploaded online to become viral sensations and are labeled with the hashtag, YEGman. The videos fascinate a rebellious journalist, who wishes to cover the story of this mysterious hero.
This novel is an unexpectedly gritty trip through the Canadian crime scene that I don’t find too often in literature. Most of what comes to mind may be cozy mysteries, not ultra-violent vigilantes dealing with criminals. The novel takes a fun turn with the involvement of the student, Lola and how she gives a better and deeper inside look of the gang culture. In some ways, the trope is rather familiar with an attractive journalist in training along with the brooding vigilante in Bradford. It kind of brings to mind a mix of Batman, Spiderman, and Lois Lane. It’s an affirmation of Lavery’s skill to synthesize all of this together to make a novel that engages the reader and doesn’t let up until the end.
Lavery’s style leans on description, which helps to develop the world of this noir thriller, but I felt that the characters sometimes overly explain things. The prose is decent and kept me involved, but the pacing sometimes slows because of the over explanation which left me often wandering from the story. With an action packed story like this, putting the brakes on to go into detailed explanations lowers the tension on an otherwise exciting story.
This novel is plenty gritty, with a dark narrative and the definite feel that danger lurks within every shadow. With a consistently murky tone and treacherous atmosphere to the novel I was able to sink my teeth into the dark underworld set in an alternative Edmonton. For Canadian readers and noir thriller aficionados alike this novel would be a fun read, even people who enjoy a little bit of mystery and can tolerate the violence, this is recommended reading. Overall, an exciting addition to Lavery’s body of work.
Pages: 461 | ASIN: B07B3N5S92
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Man with the Sand Dollar Face, by Sharon CassanoLochman, is a detective-crime thriller novel. The story is centered on Harriet Crumford, who at times also goes by Hattie or Henrietta. She is a 62-year-old woman working as a secretary for a private detective in Crescent City — New Orleans. Shortly into the book an incident takes place, and the action picks up quickly. The book seems to be a mix of feminist and hardboiled noir, and though it struggles in a few places, it reaches a sound level of quality for both.
Harriet Crumford does not seem like a heroic character, at least not in the classical sense of the hero’s story. She is 62-years-old in the story, but little is given about her other than her being a widow. In classic heroic tales, the central character often pushes away from the table — unwilling to take up the heroic cause — due to more pressing, mundane tasks. Eventually, the hero comes to his (frequently it is a ‘his’) senses and begins the hero’s journey. In some ways, this novel is a subversion of the traditional heroic arc — Harriet was the dutiful, longsuffering, strong, silent wife. This provides a strong contrast against her boss, Wallace Woodard, who is philandering to the point that Harriet cannot keep straight who the girlfriend is and who the wife is. Harriet is so given over to subservience, and to old values, that she does not even have a valid driver’s license. Up to the point of this story, she had forsaken the hero’s call for all her life, and once she takes it up, she looks back on her past with pain and sorrow. She then finds within herself, with some assistance, the necessary energy to pursue a mystery to its conclusion. In this way, the text provides those feminist elements through Harriet’s newfound internal strengths.
CassanoLochman attempts to make the novel feel like an old, hardboiled detective novel so much that it strains credulity. The writing, at expertly evokes hard rain, melancholy, brooding, existential pain and anguish typical of hardboiled noir, but then makes a sharp right turn into the “iced coffee with whipped cream and pink sprinkles.” In terms of other characteristics of hardboiled stories, this one fits many of them, but they do sometimes feel forced. In either case, fans of crime fiction will be hard pressed to put the book down.
Overall, the book is certainly a strong read, and contains plenty of action and is recommended. Harriet is an excellent character, not obviously heroic, but willing to take risks. Man with the Sand Dollar Face seems intended for adult audiences, but it is not beyond the reach of younger adults who have an interest in this sort of literature. The book does contain some sexual content (nothing too graphic), definite alcohol and drug use, and more than a little violence.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B077Y4T192
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Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, by Mel Anastasiou, is a series of dramatic detective mysteries. The novel contains four different detective stories, each of which are interconnected yet independent. In addition to the stories, the opening of the book contains an interesting philosophical and logical argument. It also gives a hint to some of the content of the book. Anastasiou does an excellent job of providing depth to not only the characters and their actions and motivations, but also in the general style of her writing.
The novel practically seems to drip with British style. So much so, that without careful reading and generous knowledge of Canadian and American culture and institutions, most readers will probably assume that it is set somewhere in Britain instead of actually being set in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Having read her, Stella Ryman engenders the same feelings as most Dorothy Sayers detective stories. However, there are some subtle differences between the style of Stella Ryman and the British detective novels of the 19th and early 20th century. Those old stories tended to deal with a static, aristocratic society, police forces that were not corrupt, but were certainly not in any position to solve the case, and a lack of emotion among the affected cast of characters. Stella Ryman is similar and brings in other classic mystery themes: a senior care home provides a rather static environment (even though the residents may invariably change from time to time), the managers of the care home are bumbling but not corrupt, there are no supernatural causes in the story, there is a secret passageway, and Stella has a tendency to honestly declare her thoughts, intuitions, and deductions.
There are also significant tie-ins to American pulp detective novels as well, primarily in the commonality of the characters (there are almost no aristocrats and most people are average and middle-class) and the feeling of inevitability—that truth will out and that justice will be done. Overall, Stella Ryman seems to fit roughly a quarter of the way between British and American writing styles—perfect for Canada.
Stella Ryman, as a character, is quintessentially heroic — in the classic sense. At points throughout the book, it appears that Anastasiou is reading Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces as she is writing her own book. In the beginning, Stella refuses the call to adventure (being a detective), is completely content with her own mortality, and is merely waiting to die. Eventually, she realizes that there is a third option—something besides life and death. As a side note, herein lies a common theme within the novel, the breaking of logical fallacies—ad hominem, false dichotomies, circular arguments, causal fallacies, and hasty generalizations being the most common. Stella, after making her third choice, is confronted with supernatural assistance (Mad Cassandra, whom is herself rife with mythological allusions). Stella runs across a few other mentors along the way, makes a deep, personal transformation, and returns with a gift for her fellow residents: the ability to make life worth living again.
Overall, this book is an excellent read, full of colorful characters. Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, is appropriate for teenage and adult readers. Although younger demographics may have difficulty with some of the allusions and references that are peppered throughout the book. Younger readers may also have difficulty relating to an octogenarian, but Stella’s tenacity is something certainly worth emulating. There is no obvious sexual content (there are hints, however) or illicit drug use, there is some personal violence, and a lot of discussion of heavy, emotional and existential topics.
Pages: 151 | ASIN: B06XTG2GWJ
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A.J. Macready’s Redemption, book three in the Descendant Darkness series, details both the rise and fall of a line of vampires dominating the mountains of Virginia. Deemed “America’s Transylvania,” Clarke’s Summit is home to a plague of sorts dating back to the 1700’s and a rash of murders in 1982. Sheriff Stan Pryor finds himself facing a terrifying night of death and retribution in Clarke’s Summit in 2003 when the town is again host to the vile and nefarious acts of Lydia, a vampire of old seeking vengeance on the three remaining members of the town’s founders. Richard Gaston, Tom Campbell, and Father Ryan Bennett are left to face Lydia’s wrath.
Macready’s Redemption is as filled with action as it is brimming with rich characters. From beginning to end, readers are left breathless with the anticipation of Lydia’s next move. There are few, if any, breaks between chaotic and harrowing scenes. The energy is high throughout the book, and the meetings between the citizens of the cursed Clarke’s Summit township build to an almost exhausting level.
As a first-time reader of Macready’s Descendant Darkness, I wasn’t sure who to peg as the main character right out of the gate. The longer I read, the more I realized that Macready’s main character is the vampire storyline in and of itself. Though each of the characters is memorable and comes with a strong backstory, no one character stands out as the focus of the storyline. Sheriff Pryor helps to set up the premise of book three while Richard Gaston, his son Mike, and Tom Campbell (the vampire hunters, as it were) work as a cohesive unit to battle Lydia, her heinous attacks, and life-altering mind games. Even Lydia, a vivid protagonist, can’t be pointed out as the book’s sole focus. I found this particular choice in the writing to be quite appealing.
I have always been intrigued by the notion that some aspects of truth are embedded in folklore. That being said, one of my favorite elements in Macready’s writing was the inclusion of excerpts from local newspapers describing historic events and the details surrounding what the town deems the “Clarke’s Summit Blood Cult.” The lengths to which Macready has gone to give his vampire tale credibility are impressive. I found myself as absorbed in the passages from the Shenandoah Observer as I was in the lengthy and involved action sequences.
One of the most striking facets of Macready’s vampires is their ability to manipulate the minds of their victims. Throughout the book, Lydia is able to inject her own words into their thoughts and, essentially, control their actions. These episodes are peppered throughout the plot, and each one brings a chill.
Any fan of vampire stories will find this book appealing and engaging. Not having read the first two books in the series, I don’t feel that I missed vital information. The author expertly incorporates the backstories of Lydia and the vampire-hunting descendants into this third installment. With side stories paralleling those of the book’s main cast of characters, Macready provides mystery, suspense, and action in one neat package.
Pages: 290 | ASIN: B06XPHDPB6
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Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is the story of your life, from childhood to retirement, told with an honesty that lays bare some remarkable and sometimes scary moments in your life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a memoir?
I lived only 25 miles from where I worked and grew up in a middle class neighbor that was so different from where I now went to work. It was definitely cultural shock for me. This was early 80’s and crack was on the scene and people were dying by the thousands. Life, in a sense, was cheap. As a young cop I often wondered why people hated me when I was on patrol. I got to see the anger in their eyes just walking down the street. I later realized they hated the uniform and what it represented. I wanted people to know that there was a person in that uniform. So I used what God gave me and used my life experiences to show that as people we are not that different, we all have struggles and lose, and that there was “A Life Beneath The Shield” and so came part of the title to my memoir.
Each chapter tells a story from your life. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
I found it to be a very cathartic experience writing about my life. There were many difficult areas to write about. Certainly one that was hard was the passing of my mother and coming to terms with our relationship. But the most difficult was the chapter regarding 9/11. This event changed the world and the way we live. A lot of innocent people lost their life that day. But what hurts the most is that first responders are continuing dying every day and a lot more are suffering from the after effects of that day. Many are in treatment for cancer and other health issues related to 9/11. I have written a stage play based on this chapter of my book. A working title for the play is: “9/11…Never Forget…I can’t”.
You retired from the New York Police Department after 20 years. What is one common misconception you find people have about police officers and detectives?
I believe most people base their opinions of cops either on a one-time, first-hand bad experience or form their opinion from a news story, or a second or third-hand story. Cops are human beings. We make mistakes. we hurt, we bleed, we cry… more than you will ever know. There are good and bad in every profession. Priests-teachers-CEOs…you name it. Police officers are faced with life and death situations every day and only have a split second to decide a course of action. We have families and friends who we love, and who love us. It is our duty to make sure we come home safe. Believe me, no cop ever wants to fire his gun in the line of duty. The responsibility and consequences are enormous. We are truly here to serve and protect.
Are you working on another book? If so, what is it about and when will it be available?
I have written an unpublished novel titled: “Core Four”. I have written a screenplay with Erik Wolter which is currently being reviewed by some interested production companies. It is a coming of age story about four 11 year old boys. Danny’s struggles with the loss of his father (cop) to 9/11 related disease and his expectations. Danny and his 3 closest friends go on an adventure that brings them face to face with a gang of thugs and find a hero in the most unlikely person.
As a kid growing up on Long Island, I struggled with an unknown psychological need to wear a uniform and a strong desire to be a part of an organization. My search would take me through Little League, Cub Scouts, and various fraternal organizations. This desire would only be fulfilled after joining the NYPD in February of 1984.
Somewhere during my twenty-year career, I was transformed from that kid into a veteran New York City police detective. This is my evolution from a middle-class suburban kid with simple values who naively thought the “projects” were a homework assignment into a veteran detective working in some of the most unforgiving neighborhoods of New York City. With this transformation comes the ability to separate the daily exposure to the dark side of human nature from your own life-sustaining core beliefs. Many will fail to acquire this ability and fall victim to drugs, alcohol, divorce, crime, and even suicide. This is a process which I have come to call Turning Blue.
This is my story of how I dealt with life-changing experiences at home while my gun belt and uniform hung safely in my locker. In my twenty years of experience as a police officer, I can honestly say that I have been scared and feared for my life. Could you go back to work after crying yourself to sleep, reliving your partner’s screams as he lay bleeding to death in the backseat of your unmarked car, and the only thing keeping your heart in your chest was your department-issued bulletproof vest?
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The Gumdrop House Affair is a genre-crossing novel with elements of mystery, thriller, and crime drama as well. Did you start writing with this in mind or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I never considered what genre anyone would label or put The Gumdrop House Affair in when I began writing it. The character of Father William Yeats Butler also known as “The Monk”, is so multi-faceted both physically and spiritually and I have known him so intimately, he doesn’t fit just one genre. However, as the book developed from my initial outline it became its own entity. The characters, including the Monk became deeper and, in some cases, more complicated. Empathy, cynicism, anger, spiritual beliefs and violence at all levels came from unexpected sources.
An outline is a good start, but I feel you should never be a slave to it. As I write, my ideas seem to expand because I am more open to the flow of the work. This may sound odd, but often my characters surprise me. They tell me things or remind me of things that I never considered or have forgotten about in their development. The organic part of writing and character development is too important to dismiss because it wasn’t in your outline. It’s what makes it the writing the most fun and rewarding. Sometimes the most beautiful things appear that were never in any outline.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
The Ugly in all his forms and his confrontations with the Monk directly or indirectly. There are a surprising number of Christians who don’t believe in Satan because they don’t want to think about there being a Hell as a possible destination after they die. Every religious belief I’ve read about has some form or entity like the Ugly.
Even those who profess no faith question the seemingly senseless acts of cruelty and violence that man does to his fellow man. What motivates a timid Florist to go home one night, beat his family to death, then kill himself. Someone or something moved this man to commit such an unspeakable crime.
Being the Irish Catholic that I am, expressing how I feel the Ugly works and giving him human forms, a conversational voice and intellect gives the reader an awareness of the Ugly in a way they may not have had before reading any of the Monk Mysteries. He can appear as the 14-foot-tall winged purple creature with a long tail and scale like skin or a handsome man in an Armani suit, what ever works best at the time. If the Devil was at your party, he would be the most popular and attractive person in the room. Plus, he would be able to tell you everything you ever wanted to hear about yourself to make you feel special and superior.
Giving the Ugly a sense of humor, a temper, a social presence and a fantastic awareness of the nature of man made the Ugly a compelling character. His surprisingly humorous shenanigans with the Monk could not hide the true malevolence of his presence. This was intended to make the reader aware who the real enemy in our culture is.
The novel touched on many social issues prevalent today like crime and corruption. What were the themes you wanted to explore in this novel?
Thousands of men and women takes vows and oaths everyday and promise to live up to those vows and oaths as to their jobs as Priests, Nuns, Policemen, Doctors and Politicians. Those who live up to those oaths and vows seldom receive any press. Those who don’t live up to those oaths get more press than they deserve. However, the coverups by the Church, payoffs and ignoring all types of crimes has become culturally systemic in the Church and needs to be addressed.
Having been a Criminal Investigator most of my life I know firsthand these men and women are also human with stresses and problems like everyone else. Everyone has character defects, but too often society expects Priests and those who are in Law Enforcement and positions of trust to be faultless. When you spend so much of your day dealing with people as their worst or as victims it is easy to become extremely cynical.
As in The Gumdrop House Affair, everyone reaches their breaking point and responds one way or the other. Stress, both physical and mental are often internalized in the name of being a “Tough Cop”. What this does to personal relationships and your spiritually is something I wanted the Reader to understand and be aware of. These men and women are just as susceptible to the tricks of the Ugly as anyone else, badge notwithstanding. Often the badge can make it worse.
This is the second book in your Monk Mysteries series. What will book 3 be about and when will it be available?
In Vol 1 The Monk, Father William must deal with his personal epiphany as to his calling to the Priesthood and leave the Police Department. All the while dealing with Jack Laskey’s feeling of betrayal and assisting Laskey with one of the most high-profile murders in years.
In The Gumdrop House Affair the Monk gets to deal with the Ugly head to head and is put on notice the Ugly will be giving him special attention. The first two books take place in Denver. Vol. 3 Death by Kachina takes place in Sedona Arizona and Monument Valley on the Navajo Reservation. “Thou shalt not murder” is the original Aramaic quote for the 6th Commandment. The King James version says “Thou shalt not kill” which has always caused confusion to Christians and non-Christians alike. It is because most people think the definition of kill and murder are the same. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
If you are commanded not to kill why does the Church pray for victories in wars that are won by killing the other people. The Monk is dealing with spiritual burnout and takes a sabbatical in Sedona with old friends. It is not long before spiritual forces have the Monk in Monument Valley dealing with powers and principalities seen and unseen. He will have to struggle with both translations of the 6th Commandment. Due to be published in July 2018.
A Jewish Accountant chokes on a Polish Sausage in a City Park. A young Catholic Priest is found wearing only his collar with a dead “Gay Hooker” hanging from the Ceiling. The body of Mafia “Construction Baron” is found in the parking lot of the Diocese of Denver.
It’s obvious how Denver Homicide Detectives, Sargent Jack Laskey and his partner Detective Mai Li McDuff would become involved with these events. But how does Father William Yeats Butler of the Franciscan Order become totally involved in every one of these events and more with his ex-Partner Jack Laskey.
An African American standing 6’5″and weighing 315 pounds of muscle, Father William Butler was an imposing figure in the robes of a Franciscan Priest. Father William was always known as “The Monk” because of his devout Catholic faith when he was an All American Linebacker at Notre Dame or a Narcotics and Homicide Detective for the ten years that he and Laskey were Partners.
In the tenth year of his police career the Monk felt a calling to the Priesthood. He felt as a Police Officer he was only dealing with the spiritual symptoms of humanity’s illness not the real cause of the illness, the Devil’s influence on common man. The Monk had an acute and powerful awareness of the Devil’s presence. Not a “6th Sense”, but a powerful gift from God.
The Devil, who the Monk calls “The Ugly” is now and always has been active on Capitol Hill. In The Gumdrop House Affair many of his deceptions and ploys are revealed as the Monk and his faith stand against the “Wickedness and the snares of the Devil.” Written by a Veteran Cop the pace is fast, violent, profane, humorous and honest.
A tribute to the men and women who give all to stay true to their Vows and Oaths as they protect a cynical public and a decaying culture.
You will fall in love with Father Augustus O’Shea, Aunt Rhoda, Popcan Charlie, Paisley Bob Lewis, Frank the English Bulldog and all the people who visit St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church.
The Gumdrop House Affair”deals with the recent Sex Scandals in the Catholic Church and the effects in an honest Blue Collar Layman’s fashion.
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Action Men and Silly Putty follows Jack and Andy as they try to find what is so important about a teddy bear from 1915 that Jack purchases at an estate sale. What was the initial inspiration behind the setup to this fun novel?
This might seem strange, but I don’t know if I can even explain how certain ideas came to me, except that the bear and estate sale set up must have stemmed out of my interest in antiques. I watch both Pawn Stars and American Pickers and refer to them both collectively as “the guys.” I’ll pick up the remote and say, “Let’s switch it to the guys,” and, by that, I mean switch it to the History Channel for one of those two shows. I also have an Antiques Roadshow book at home, and in it, there is a … guess what? 1915 Steiff teddy bear. That is where I drew some of the details for the bear. I suppose that photo of the bear drew me in more than a lot of the other items in the book. How I figured out how to involve this bear in a crazy plot is harder to explain.
It might interest you to know that my Jack Donegal character first appeared in a short story that was not a mystery, featuring Jack and a supporting character, Ellen Danforth, the owner of the Salvador Deli. Andy Westin wasn’t yet even a character which is interesting for me when I reflect on it, because, by now, I’m equally attached to both characters! It was a friend who suggested that I write a mystery. I had already established Jack as a toy inventor before I entertained the thought of him as an amateur sleuth, so the estate sale and the bear was one way to get my characters to stumble into a mystery for them to solve.
Jack and Andy have a unique and often humorous relationship that lends well to the overall lighthearted mystery of the book. What were some themes you were trying to capture when writing their characters?
For a long time, I was interested in the absent-minded professor type character or the eccentric scientist character. I liked characters such as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future and was interested in some real life stories about scientists or inventors in history who had some quirks. My dad is actually a retired scientist and inventor, although not in the field of toys and, as a child, earned the nickname of “absent-minded professor” from his family. Dad and Jack do not share all of the same quirks … but perhaps a few of them. I’m also kind of fascinated with the individualist, and Jack is that. He doesn’t mind being different or dressing in his own unique style. I thought I’d rather make him a confident individualist than an awkward nerd, although he’s definitely still a nerd too by some definitions.
I really wanted Andy to be, more or less, his complete opposite. He’s the sensible, organized, in-the-moment practical guy who also has a kind of humorous way of looking at things. I wanted the balance of the two different extremes, so they can help one another out, as well as the comedy from being a sort of “odd couple.”
I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout the book. Did you plan the novel before writing or did it come organically while writing?
It was more like the second option. The story developed more spontaneously as I wrote, but I might have planned several scenes or chapters ahead when the creative juices were really flowing.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I am actually working on several things. The next book to come out fairly soon is unrelated to this series but is an illustrated children’s book called The Journey of Digory Mole about a little mole who turns a mountain into a mole hill. I have one other “Action Men” book already available and that is Action Men and the Great Zarelda which is a little shorter, a Kindle book novella. The two guys have a mystery adventure with a suspicious female illusionist. I also have a mystery short story for Kindle, starring a female sleuth, English professor, Grace Darby. That one is titled The Lit Club Mystery. I have several stories in the planning for both mystery series and even hope to do a spin-off series for kids starring Jack Donegal’s niece and nephew. Right now, I have a related mystery serial, Action Men with Duct Tape as a blog on my website, https://susan-joy-clark.com. I will likely publish that as a book when it is complete.
Jack Donegal is an engineer, toy inventor and the head of his own toy company but not a detective until he stumbles into a strange situation. While on a business trip, he stops to purchase a 1914 teddy bear at an estate auction. While still on the auction grounds, armed thugs, who mistake him for a Dalton Starks, seem to think he’s in possession of something they want. Although police rescue him from his first encounter with criminals, Jack and Andy Westin, his marketing manager, roommate and friend, begin to think there’s something special about this teddy bear to make it interesting to criminals. They engage in a cat and mouse hunt with various members of the criminal world, but who are the cats and who are the mice? With the help of their combined wits and various technical gadgetry including toy parts and prototypes, Jack and Andy help bring several criminals to justice. With two personalities like those of Jack and Andy, there is bound to be some silliness along the way in this comedy mystery.
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