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Aren’t We All Some Kind of Contradiction?

Michael Pronko Author Interview

Michael Pronko Author Interview

In Tokyo Traffic detective Hiroshi is once again called in, to solve a crime that involves human trafficking and crypto-currency scamming. Did you know what criminal themes you were going to use for this novel or did they develop while writing?

The theme was there from the beginning, but only in an abstract way. The concrete actions and decisions of the characters, along with the motivations and results, shaped the themes and made it something to see and touch and feel. The interesting part is how they develop inside the characters. As those broad themes became embodied in the characters, they came alive.

At first the theme of human trafficking threatened to swamp the whole story. It’s too big and too horrible. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered how can they get away with that? How can something so vicious and inhumane just keep going? And who’s “they”? Part of the answer is cryptocurrency. Follow the money to where theme meets characters. Some people will cast aside all human feeling for money, and cryptocurrency makes that easier. Its hidden, digital, clean. Of course, the way of the future will probably be all kinds of digital currencies, but the downside is how people use that illicitly, and for such terrible purposes.

This being book three in your series was there anything new you wanted to introduce into Hiroshi’s character?

He moves in with his girlfriend and works at being with her and not sleeping in his office on a pull-out futon. That’s hard work for him. Overall, Hiroshi gets a bit more of his footing in this novel. His skill set is limited, so he bumps against his own limitations, but he learns to pay attention to what he stumbles onto, what he suspects but isn’t sure of, and what others tell him. An intuitive accountant may sound like a contradiction, but aren’t we all some kind of contradiction? We all have that internal division between our different sides.

What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?

This one took me a lot longer to finish than the second one. The tricky part was having three main characters. Before I’d always just focused on two. Adding that third one made the story exponentially harder to keep track of. Braiding the three threads of the bad guy, the victim and the detective, plus the people on their side, was tricky. It was like passing a point-of-view baton. The race kept going as each character carried it a bit further. But to me, that’s very Tokyo-like, different kinds of stories flung together.

It was also a challenge to have two young women as main characters. Sukanya doesn’t know Tokyo at all and Chiho knows Tokyo all too well. So, those two different young women and their different views of Tokyo were hard to get right. But I felt their point of view was important. They see the city so differently than I do, but that’s the interesting part. I’m not sure I set those as challenges for myself, writing is enough of a challenge in and of itself, but those became the challenges to tell the story the way I wanted to.

Does Tokyo Traffic end the story for detective Hiroshi or do you have other novels planned?

I have two more in the Hiroshi series already outlined. The one I’m working on right now is titled Tokyo Overtime. It’s about the pressures of the workplace. What other country in the world has a word, karoshi, for death from overwork? After that, I’m planning to write about the whole fish industry, which is very big business in Japan. Two years ago, one of the owners of a sushi chain restaurant paid the equivalent of three million dollars for a single six-hundred-pound bluefin tuna! After that, I have notes for a standalone with sumo wrestler-turned-detective Sakaguchi and Detective Takamatsu is ripe for a prequel about his early, rough days. So, I’ll see where those lead. I’m looking forward to finding out.

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Tokyo Traffic (Detective Hiroshi Tokyo Series Book 3) by [Michael Pronko]

Running from a life she didn’t choose, in a city she doesn’t know Sukanya, a young Thai girl, loses herself in the vastness of Tokyo. With her Bangkok street smarts, and some stolen money, she stays ahead of her former captors who will do anything to recover the computer she took. After befriending Chiho, a Japanese girl living in an internet café, Sukanya makes plans to rid herself of her pursuers, and her past, forever.

In Tokyo, street smarts aren’t always enough

Meanwhile, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu leaves the safe confines of his office to investigate a porn studio where a brutal triple murder took place. The studio’s accounts point him in multiple directions at once. Together with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi and old-school Takamatsu, Hiroshi tracks the killers through Tokyo’s music clubs and teen hangouts, bayside docks and byways, straight into the underbelly of the global economy.

As bodies wash up from Tokyo Bay, Hiroshi tries to find the Thai girl at the center of it all, whose name he doesn’t even know. He uncovers a human trafficking ring and cryptocurrency scammers whose connections extend to the highest levels of Tokyo’s power elite.

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Literary Titan Book Awards July 2020

The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Literary Titan Gold Book Award

Gold Award Winners

The Albatross: Contact by Connor Mackay

IZ – The Saga: Creation by DDWLEM

Literary Titan Silver Book Award

Silver Award Winners

Book of Chaos: From 22 Back to 21 by Yin Dolmah

 

Visit the Literary Titan Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

 

Christmas and Thrillers

Kristina Rienzi Author Interview

Kristina Rienzi Author Interview

Winter Road follows Amelia who’s heading home for Christmas and must deal with her family, her new love and her dangerous ex-fiance. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

I wish I knew what specifically inspired me to write Winter Road. It was a story that came to me and then told itself, almost in a blink. If all my stories did that, I’d be a much more prolific writer! What I remember most is driving home from work in late fall, thinking about the upcoming holidays, and the title popped in my head out of nowhere. Looking back, it was a little bit of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (a perfect book for creatives). Winter Road began to slowly unfold in front of my eyes from that moment on. Instead of driving on the Garden State Parkway in massive traffic, I was suddenly the only car on a rural-snow covered road heading home for the holidays. A foreboding hung over me as I pictured a woman escaping her big city life, running from a relationship gone wrong and into the arms of a family in crisis. The pieces cemented together in my mind creating an explosive holiday celebration. It, oddly, allowed me to marry two of my favorite things: Christmas and thrillers.

Amelia was a strong female lead that never really wilted under pressure. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Amelia’s primary value is family, which she lost along the way by getting wrapped up in an all-consuming relationship and blossoming career. When the person she was expected to be collided with who she really was, her world began to unravel and life became clear. She lost her independence and was under the thumb of a man she thought she wanted, but didn’t. Going home was the only way for her to reconnect with her true self and to be reminded of her strong, familial roots, and find herself again.

I enjoyed how you were able to create an aura of danger around Jake and his intentions. What were some influences that guided his relationship with Amelia?

Sociopathology comes to mind! Jake, oddly, couldn’t love anyone because his capacity to love was limited – not only from his past, but from his psychological challenges. Therefore, he was all about ownership. Possession. And it defined him – what he had and who he controlled. When the core of his identity was under siege, his only option was to retaliate with deadly force.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently writing a paranormal thriller, Unleash the Wicked. It follows a former Manhattan socialite who’s forced to move back to her mysterious hometown where she faces her tragic past and, unwittingly, unleashes a deadly curse. With an 11 month old, it’s anyone’s guess when it will be published, but I’m hoping before my daughter goes to school!

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Winter Road: A Novella by [Kristina Rienzi]

HOLIDAY ROAD
On the heels of a bad breakup, Amelia Montgomery heads home for the holidays. Her hometown is a far cry from the metropolis where she lives now, but not nearly far enough away from Jake Grayson.

TERROR ROAD
Amelia’s family festivities turn terrifying when a distraught Jake shows up uninvited on the Montgomery’s doorstep. Jake will not stop until he possesses Amelia; one way or another, she will be his.

DEADLY ROAD
In a chilling nightmare, one man’s obsession is so evil, it’s deadly. Amelia must fight for her life, and the lives of those she loves most, in the only place she’s ever called home…WINTER ROAD.

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Blown Away

Blown Away (The Crimes of Passion Series Book 2) by [Charlene Johnson]

Blown Away (The Crimes of Passion Series Book 2) by Charlene Johnson is a romantic suspense thriller about Zackary Daniels, a homicide detective in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police who also works as a security consultant at a hotel owned by his friend, where his past suddenly collides with his present. When a murder occurs at the Majestic Peacock Hotel and Casino, Zack must set aside his personal search for revenge in order to focus on his current case–discovering the identity of the killer and protecting the beautiful witness, Sonnet Banks. But Sonnet is not what she appears, and she’s not ready to reveal the secrets from her past. Can Zack gain her trust and stop the hit-man before he kills again?

I enjoyed thoroughly reading this book, but I had trouble getting into the story at the beginning. I felt that there were too many characters introduced in the first few pages (almost a dozen names were mentioned), and I struggled to keep them all straight. There were times when I had to go back and check who someone was when they were mentioned again because I couldn’t remember the details of that particular character. Part of the issue might have been that there was a lot of backstory explained all at once. I appreciated the detailed narrative of past events as it created an intricate and well throughout world, but it slowed the pace of the story prior to Sonnet witnessing the murder.

After this point the story accelerates with a consistently fast pace, engaging characters, and a gripping plot. I liked the surprises that were revealed about Sonnet’s character, which weren’t what I had been expecting and added much welcomed dimension to an already stand out character. There were several other unexpected twists in the story which kept things interesting and far from being your standard crime thriller. Charlene Johnson was able to make me care about Sasha Petrov, who seemed completely beyond redemption when we’re first introduced to him at the beginning of the story. But by the end of the book, when the truth about what really happened to Zack’s sister had finally been revealed, I wanted to read more about Sasha, and I was even hoping that there will be another story with him as the hero.

With well defined characters thrown into the middle of a perilous situation things naturally take off and go in unexpected directions. Anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller will find plenty to like.

Pages: 224 | ASIN: B087NSZJRG

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Death and Disorder

Death and Disorder: A Vivian Wexler Galactic Mystery by [Patricia Crumpler]

Death and Disorder: A Vivian Wexler Galactic Mystery by Patricia Crumpler is an adventurous sci-fi story set in outer space. Vivian Wexler is hired to investigate a bunch of suicides on a foreign planet. The twist is that this involves a placid and non-violent species; they have never killed themselves or others. Compared to the Sores, life on Earth is considered a “cesspool.” Wexler’s investigation into the suicides leads to a fascinating and shocking conclusion.

However, she soon encounters more alien species on a mission. Slug-like creatures are used by a lot of these aliens, especially the creative types, to boost their intelligence and abilities. However, they are addictive. Vivian soon becomes involved in this weird and sticky situation, simultaneously aided and suffering from the substance. I enjoyed this duality and how it is portrayed.

Death and Disorder is both gripping and funny; there were a few places where I even laughed out loud; rare for me. Vivian Wexler is an engaging character with an alluring personality- she’s funny and smart without being too staid. I love a well-written heroine, especially in science fiction stories, that can not only hold their own but hit back as well. The pacing in combination with the weird worlds was an addictive combo, so I had trouble putting it down. The author’s imagination is on full display, with numerous species, behavioral tics, and amusing jokes that are rampant throughout the book.

The comparisons between Sarolole and Earth were really interesting. The contrast casts light on the fact that certain tragic and disastrous events on Earth are so often taken in stride. We, being human, often forget how odd we all must seem to an outsider, and Patricia Crumpler has a unique way of giving us this outsiders view of humanity. The romance between Dee and Vivian was also quite adorable. The intriguing dialogue along with well defined character relationships was something that kept me rapt .

Although the terminology of all the new creatures and characters takes a while to catch on, with a little bit of time it gets easier to understand all the Zetas and EBI agents and all. I thoroughly enjoyed this sci-fi space opera and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a funny and adventurous romp through the vastness of space. The ending left me with a smile on my face.

Pages: 273 | ASIN: B086HXFTC7

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The Dark Trail

The Dark Trail by J.C Fields is another thrilling entry in the continuing Sean Kruger saga. This time FBI agent Kruger must try to determine who killed his friend… who happened to be the deputy director of the FBI. As part of the investigation he is granted access to the deputy director’s computer where he uncovers a spreadsheet of dates, times, and case file numbers. The deputy director started a secret project on a suspicion, and it got him killed. Join Kruger works to find the killer while piecing together his friends work to see it to its completion. This story is not a simple ‘whodunit’, it goes so much deeper than a simple assassination.

What I liked most about The Dark Trail was the healthy balance between gripping thriller and slice of life storytelling, which seems to be a knack for J.C. Fields. The primary plot revolves around the dramatic drive to solve a shocking murder, and secondarily resolving the sinister threads hanging from a dangerous knot of secrets. Just when I thought I was getting tired of the thriller genre, J.C. Fields tosses in the B plot to keep your interest piqued before ramping up into the A plot. Kruger is a man who is equally defined by what he does and how he takes care of his family. He believes it is critical to walk the line of not upending his wife’s career and his children’s childhood but also not “waste away” after his agency mandated retirement on his 57th birthday. He could take a promotion into management, but that would force the family to move. It’s a decision he views as selfish, but if he does not solve the A plot before his 57th birthday it might not get solved at all. That would be even worse. The balance of A plot and B plot was so masterfully woven together that once I started reading, I could not put this book down. I think this story could be enjoyed by any adult reader, even if you have never given the thriller genre a try before. A suspenseful political thriller to rival Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series.

Pages: 301 | ASIN: B084PZ8JZ4

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Tokyo Traffic

Tokyo Traffic (Detective Hiroshi Tokyo Series Book 3) by [Michael Pronko]

When bodies start to pop up in Tokyo bay detective Hiroshi is one again called in to solve the horrible case and put together the pieces to a perplexing crime that involves the grim underworld of human trafficking and crypto-currency scamming.

Pronko’s characters are always something I look forward to. This being the third book in the Detective Hiroshi Tokyo series I found detective Hiroshi to be a well established character but Hiroshi Shimizu continues to hold an allure that is subtle yet ever present. While the investigation seems to go off in many directions I was always impressed with Hiroshi’s detective skills, which were always believable, which allowed me to follow an otherwise circuitous story easily.

Sukanya is the story of a girl lost in a big city. She’s being chased by thugs but luckily for her her cunning and intelligence keeps her one step ahead of the villains. It’s always nice to see strong female leads and with Sukanya and Chiho we’re treated to a nuanced view of women contending with a dense city that cares little for them by using their own wits.

The way in which these two genuinely intriguing characters riveting story lines come together is something that I rarely see and makes Tokyo Traffic the most thrilling book I’ve read this year. We’re treated to modern versions of Japanese culture that have evolved in the shadow of Tokyo. Michael Pronko creates the backdrop to this story as if it is a character all on its own and invites readers into this colorful world in an easy yet striking way.

If you’re looking for a thrilling crime fiction set in an exotic location then Tokyo Traffic is a prime choice. The enigmatic mystery at the heart of this intriguing novel was something I swiftly gave up in trying to solve as I realized that the chaotic and dramatic journey was the fun part. Tokyo Traffic is an exceptional ending to an extraordinary series from a mystery writer that knows how to entertain.

Pages: 341 | ASIN: B087QVRXZB

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A More Cerebral Based Mystery

Paul S.  Bradley
Paul S. Bradley Author Interview

Darkness in Malaga follows three unlikely allies who must work together to find girls who’ve mysteriously gone missing. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

I live in Nerja, a small but quaint fishing village on the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain. It’s a popular tourist resort visited by many from all over the world to enjoy the balmy all year-round climate, intimate beaches and hiking in the beautiful surrounding mountains. Crime here is practically unheard of, yet in 2008 a girl was murdered by her jilted lover outside the café where she worked in front of the church. The whole town was shocked rigid. It inspired me to glue myself to the keyboard and from that evolved the Andalusian Mystery Series of which Darkness in Malaga is the first of four linked mysteries.

Prado, Amanda, and Phillip are all well developed characters. What were some ideas that drove their character development?

Nerja is a cosmopolitan place, home to over seventy-seven nationalities, many retired and not speaking anything more than basic Spanish. This can cause problems in health clinics, hospitals and police stations where there are few linguists. Prado is a veteran detective and speaks only Spanish but most of his cases involve foreigners. The police have no budgets for translators and rely on volunteers. I live near the Guardia Civil barracks and have helped out from time to time. The case of the Belgian man killing his wife was an actual event that I was involved with. I preferred that my characters reflected the maturity of the residents. Young whizz kids in fancy cars and guns are not appreciated so much among senior citizens, so I opted for a more cerebral based mystery with less death.

I enjoyed the twists throughout the story. Were these planned before writing or did they come about organically while writing?

I’m not a great planner, preferring the spontaneity that evolves through creativity. I start with a strong idea of the whole series in my head and let the details flow as I write. My editor then picks out any holes which I’ve missed. I learned long ago that a book is not written but rewritten so have happily adopted that principle. With each book, I improve my ability to get it right first time, but it still takes me about a year to produce each one.

This is book one in the Andalusian Mystery series. What can readers expect in book two?

There are four books in the series that are linked mysteries. Each book exploits a different aspect of the beauty that Spain offers as a setting. The second book is set in the world of bullfighting. The third in Flamenco and the fourth that I’m writing now is in and around The Alhambra Palace in Granada. In each book, the three main characters continue to investigate the possibility of a mastermind being behind Malcolm Crown, the perpetrator in the first book. That runs parallel with a new mystery in each book, ending in a thrilling climax at the end of book four.

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