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The Slow Moral Collapse

Robert Brighton Author Interview

The Unsealing follows two attorneys as they descend into the world of corruption in the upper class during the Gilded Age. What was the initial idea behind this story, and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

The Avenging Angel Detective Agency™ Mysteries are what I like to call ‘whydunits’ – not ‘whodunits’ as in the classic Agatha Christie type mystery. I like to explore what motivates people, sometimes very ordinary people, to do extraordinary things. (Many of which are criminal, immoral, or in shockingly poor judgment.) In The Unsealing, I explore the slow moral collapse of two initially high-minded attorneys and friends, who succumb to the temptations of wealth, power, and sex. It’s a very human story, but with the additional interest and complexity of being set in a very different time from our present day and one with very different attitudes toward just about everything.

I find that my characters reveal their stories to me gradually. There are times when something appears in my mind’s eye – a scene, a snippet of conversation, a sound or smell – without any apparent connection to the story I think I’m telling at the time. So I wait … and eventually the connections are revealed, and I write them down. I think of myself more as an observer than as a creator: I am emphatically opposed to making things up. If that all sounds a bit mystical, then I am guilty as charged, but it’s the way it happens to or for me. The title The Unsealing was (in part) inspired by this slow process of revelation, in which the characters themselves share with us more and more of their lives and innermost desires as the book progresses. I hope that readers will enjoy that unveiling of a story that my characters knew all along and which they chose me to write down.

Why choose this place and time for the setting of the story?

I grew up in Buffalo, and have always been fascinated by the place. In 1901, Buffalo and its neighbor, Niagara Falls – were the Silicon Valley of the day: a hive of innovation and bustling commerce across a number of industries. Buffalo was at the time the eighth-largest (and fastest growing) city in the United States, and it was in many ways ‘the place to be’ for the young and ambitious. Today, though, the city’s population is smaller than it was in 1890, while the United States’ population has expanded fivefold, and clearly the centers of innovation have gone elsewhere. How that happened and why – what seeds of decay were sown even in the city’s heyday – is a very intriguing and complex story, and one I like to tell. And that, too, is a human story – how it can take many years for bad decisions or bad karma to catch up to you. But they always do.

What were some of your inspirations as a writer?

I suppose that I’ve always been captivated by the written word’s mysterious ability (not unlike music) to conjure up thoughts and emotions in people I have never met, never will meet, or who may not yet be born. My greatest goal is to transport people to another place and time, show them things they can never see any other way, and then bring them safely back. If I think about artists who have inspired me, Emily Dickinson and Jim Morrison would be at the top of the list. Both of them were obsessed with the notion of peering beyond the boundaries of ordinary human experience and guiding us through those sometimes unusual psychological landscapes – and all at no risk to ourselves, other than a challenge to our settled ways of thinking.

Will this novel be the start of a series or are you working on a different story?

The Unsealing is the first in a series of books, the Avenging Angel Detective Agency™ Mysteries. Some of the characters from The Unsealing will continue on in future volumes, but many new ones will appear – and each book is a free-standing, independent story that does not require that one read the books in any order. That said, I think readers who follow along as the books appear will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation of the back-stories of their favorite characters. But it’s by no means a requirement. Thus far I’ve completed four Avenging Angel manuscripts, and they’ll be published over the next two years or so, and I’m working on the fifth now. If readers enjoy them, they’ll keep on coming.

Author Links: Website | GoodReads | Instagram

This highly anticipated debut novel by Robert Brighton is inspired by a true crime ‘murder of the century’ and transports us to Buffalo, New York, set against the backdrop of Gilded Age splendor and excess…
Named BookLife “Editor’s Pick” – “… Written with grace and power, capturing the moment that electricity lit up the world …”
Love, Lust, and Murder in the Gilded Age …
Buffalo, New York, 1901 … a muscular, young city, Queen of the Lakes … The Electric City … where the money spent to build Newport mansions and Park Avenue townhouses is made, plays host to the world’s greatest fair, the Pan-American Exposition and its 8,000,000 guests. Yet the city is only weeks away from disaster, when a crazed anarchist will assassinate President McKinley.
And less than a mile from the spectacle of the Pan-American, a web of love, lust, and intrigue is forming within the elite enclave of Ashwood. Alicia and Edward Miller may be one of Ashwood’s most envied couples, but inside the walls of their luxurious home, a toxic malice is brewing. When simmering and sultry Alicia falls for dashing Ivy League attorney Arthur Pendle, on whose mysterious income he and his longsuffering wife Cassandra – facing demons of their own – live fast and high, infatuation soon curdles into something sinister and obsessive.
Meanwhile, the beautiful Sarah Payne – who from girlhood has dreamed of becoming a detective – struggles to find fulfillment in a man’s world. Trapped in a loveless marriage to a dissolute dentist — who has become dangerously dependent on ether and alcohol — Sarah befriends the unhappy Ed Miller and is drawn into the deadly drama inside the Millers’ disintegrating marriage.
When Edward comes into possession of a trove of explicit letters from Arthur to Alicia – love letters, to be sure, but also a confession of much darker doings – he and Sarah, along with the Pendles, are plunged headlong into a deadly whirlpool of official corruption, graft — and murder.
Inspired by Buffalo’s true crime ‘murder of the century’, in The Unsealing Robert Brighton recreates a world at once utterly strange and strangely familiar. Pitting detective against detective, husbands against wives, and set against the backdrop of Gilded Age splendor and excess, The Unsealing is a gripping, psychological tale of forbidden pleasures and fathomless pain.
Contains three original interior scratchboard illustrations.
Join Robert Brighton on a journey into the real Gilded Age in an electrifying tale of scandal, love and murder – and the birth of the Avenging Angel Detective Agency. Get your copy today!

Justice Was A Struggle To Achieve

William Auman Author Interview

If Trees Could Testify follows a defense attorney who is investigating and trying a double homicide that has more questions than answers. What inspired you to write a fictional novel based on this real case?

The actual case upon which my book is based generated a significant amount of publicity, particularly in the Asheville area of the western NC mountains. As is noted, I was the principal defense attorney and therefore privy to information that would be subject to varying degrees of privacy concerns. Those factors, combined with a need to protect both the innocent as well as the potentially guilty, gave me no choice but to fictionalize the account to some degree.

How do you balance story development with shocking plot twists? Or can they be the same thing?

The plot twists really weren’t planned or sensationalized as they were based largely upon an accurate rendition of how the case transpired, although I did take the liberty of injecting some degree of diversion with regard to characters such as the draft-dodging son of the snake-handling minister.

What was the hardest part about writing a mystery story; where you constantly have to give just enough to keep the mystery alive until the big reveal?

The “mystery” was not overly difficult to recount in that it was based on events that had essential components of an intriguing story already built in. Many rabbits were chased in the form of biker gangs, organized crime, etc., but the essential and unfortunate message was that justice was a struggle to achieve for both defendants and victims. Human impacts can be lingering and strong when our system fails to fulfill its purpose.

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

My next book will likely be a sequel to my first, that being “Pioneer Paddling Colonial Carolina.” I am an avid kayaker with a data base of over 350 bodies of water, but also a history buff with a passion for paddling in historical areas wherever they are found. I hope to expand and update the Carolinas, but also include much of Florida together with parts of Virgina, Georgia and Tennessee. Thank you for asking.

Author Links: Amazon | Website

IF TREES COULD TESTIFY… is a historical mystery novel based on the true story of Madison County’s infamous Gahagan murders. The homicides occurred near the Appalachian mountain town of Marshall, North Carolina, known by some as the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge,” but known by locals to be “a block wide, a mile long, sky high and hell deep.” The French Broad River bisects the town, which harbors both ghosts from Civil War events and the lore of mermaids.

On a quiet summer night in 1983, two elderly siblings were tragically murdered in their colonial, Georgian-style home across from Big Laurel Creek. Known for their distrust of banks and having a collection of antiques, gold, and silver coins, it was naturally assumed that robbery was the principal motive for the double homicide. The murders captivated a close-knit rural community for nearly two decades, as the local family roots of the victims dated all the way back to the early 1800s.

During the years that followed the senseless tragedy, a time during which the home was boarded up and abandoned, local folks rumored that they had occasionally seen the house lit up like a Christmas tree at night. There were also stories where the ghost of an elderly woman, walking and swinging a lantern, was reportedly seen along the highway which runs adjacent to the property. Some county residents have further claimed to have seen this apparition standing in a window on the second floor of the home during the time that it was vacant.

Suspects came and went as the case investigation spanned three different sheriff administrations. “Who done it” rumors abounded, with theories of involvement ranging from organized crime to outlaw biker gangs to even local family members. Finally, almost eighteen years after the murders, warrants were issued charging a father and two of his sons with having committed the crimes. The defendants maintained their innocence throughout the course of the legal proceedings, which blazed a trail of intrigue with numerous twists and turns along the way.

According to Fred Hughes, at the time the publisher and editor of the Madison News-Record and Sentinel, a Hollywood film crew was interested in producing a major motion picture based on the case. As noted in a subsequent editorial, Hughes was “reasonably certain” that the story could have made the silver screen, as it was full of “stranger than life events.”

This book should be categorized as a fictional mystery novel which is based on the true story of the murders and subsequent prosecution of those accused. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (as well as the potentially guilty), and a haunting tale is told with a focus on the search for justice for both victims and defendants. Colorful characters, including the draft-dodging son of a snake-handling minister, intertwine with more serious undertones as a surprise ending eventually unfolds. The author, William Auman, was the principal defense attorney in the actual case, and provides the reader with a dramatic and informative account of what was otherwise a tragedy to many.

If Trees Could Testify

If Trees Could Testify is an exciting crime novel about a cold case involving the murders of two well-off, elderly siblings. After police received a tip of dubious origins, a father and two sons are arrested for the murders. The story follows Alex Reynolds and his legal team in rural North Carolina and the surrounding areas as they try to untangle the details of the decades-old case. We meet quite a colorful cast of characters ranging from a biker with hooks for arms to an overeager, over-green public defender to an old Sheriff who may not have been all that he seemed.

The author, William D. Auman, just so happens to be the defense attorney who worked on the actual case on which If Trees Could Testify is based. The tale is laid out extremely well, giving the reader a period of discovery through flashbacks and pithy legal banter. The author also adds a nice bit of history for the locations, such as Madison County, Asheville, and the French Broad River, really bringing them to life.

The dialog is snappy but sometimes falls into the trap of having too much legal-ese. Auman blunts these moments with the author’s notes, which some may find helpful, but it breaks up the flow for me. The dialog seems a little too idealized at times, where the good guys are overly good, and the bad guys are really bad. Sometimes I felt like the author may be too close to the material. However, he is very passionate about the law and adequately defending people who are innocent until proven guilty.

If Trees Could Testify is an intriguing legal drama that offers readers suspense and some surprising moments. Actual crime readers will enjoy this thrilling novel as they follow along with Alex and his team to get to the bottom of this mysterious murder.

Pages: 286 | ASIN : B099KT1PBR

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The Smallest War

The Smallest War, by Mark Sheehan, is a rollicking action tale of political intrigue. The global balance of power is at stake when viral sabotage leads to an international incident in the Bering Sea, which happens to be home to a massive, newly discovered oil reserve. Calling upon a little-known process laid forth by the charter of the United Nations, the Russian Federation seeks to solve a potentially world-ending dispute with the United States of America through a “Small War.” Through a series of bizarre circumstances, the US team is made up of a ragtag group of individuals who were chosen not for their skills but for their failures.

The Smallest War is quite a ride. While the fantastical story is grounded in reality, the reader must embrace their suspension of disbelief to follow the events leading up to the “small war.” Impossible viral attacks, an absolute dereliction of duty by the US Department of Defense, the military-industrial complex pulling all the strings to guarantee nothing but massive warfare, while the Russian federation uses dirty tricks and a loose interpretation of international law to get their way…  on second thought that all seems incredibly feasible.

I had a good time reading The Smallest War, despite some shortcomings. It reads very much like a Hollywood blockbuster, with locations spanning the globe, giant action set pieces, and characters ranging from damaged, struggling anti-heroes to absolute villains who will do anything to accomplish their goals. The characters are tried and true tropes of the genre: the Americans feature greatest hits such as the strong dumb guy, the mouthy rich guy, and the level-headed woman who can pull the team together. Each has their own flaws that bring a bit more to the stereotype.

The Smallest War: an action-adventure thriller is a riveting military and war novel. Readers will encounter suspense and thrills in each chapter as they wait to find out how this small war will play out and who will end up with control over the oil.

Pages: 406 | ASIN : B0B7P4ZKMF

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The Lawyer’s Angel

Attorney James Crosson’s life is falling apart after his wife’s death. Crosson faces the start of a doomed time, from being the primary accused of the tragic accident to losing his career. A widow appoints Crosson to challenge the injustice that befell her late spouse. Unfortunately, justice is hampered by a rich, exploitative business tycoon to avoid facing the consequences of mishappenings caused by his company. While fighting the undefeatable with almost no chance of survival, James Crosson proves how inner and worldly demons are fought with persistence and in sync with divine intervention.

The Lawyer’s Angel by Scott Allen Benkie is a suspense law thriller crafted carefully with legal integrities. It takes you on a ride that will give you goosebumps when you expect it the least. From grief to guilt, it weaves complex treachery of emotions while simultaneously keeping the plot moving forward. Though the courtroom drama is mechanical, the author keeps it easy for readers from non-legal backgrounds to catch the essence of the law.

The book tries to intertwine spirituality with faith in justice. It explores a theme generally not inculcated in legal suspense. At some points, the plot seemed to be affected by the complexity of its multifold theme. The entire plot revolves around the main protagonist, which keeps the story tied to the main strand but also causes monotony in the narrative arc. The author adds a tinge of drama sustaining the realistic form of narration. In the end, it inspires you to fearlessly take control of your life and try your best to turn it around. It keeps you engulfed in the world of law, justice, and hope, with its characters effortlessly marking their way in your mind.

The Lawyer’s Angel is an engaging legal thriller that will have readers questioning whether truth and justice win in the end. It is a rollercoaster ride as the protagonist battles physical and mental demons in an effort to obtain justice.

Pages: 441 | ASIN : B09ZLSG6H6

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Not a Solution For Crime

Joe Clark Author Interview

Demented follows a woman who’s trying to live a normal life after being assaulted, but finds that one of the attackers is her coworker which sets in motion a series of events that spiral out of control. What inspired the setup to this crime novel?

I felt a need to address what I see as misconceptions about the value of sending people to prison and a novel is the best way I know to do that. Demented allowed me to dramatize the difference between justice for the less wealthy (Troy) and the very wealthy (Adan and Beau). I was able to talk about the fact that simply sending people to prison is not a solution for crime. I was able to raise the issue of treatment of those who have completed their sentences and sincerely want a second chance to be good citizens.

What scene in the book was the most emotionally impactful for you to write?

There are many scenes that I consider powerful and it is hard to pick one that tops all the rest. But the scene where Cindy comes to Troy’s apartment to confront him. They struggle to work past their issues but don’t quite make it.

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

First was resolving Troy’s post prison life. Does he build a new future of does obsess over revenge? And why? Depicting Cindy as events unfold. She doesn’t come off as a sympathetic character. She is resilient, proud and strong. She stumbles and she doesn’t get everything right but she never stops fighting. I think she does as well as any of us would in her circumstances. Talking about prison and the justice system without being preachy. Bringing down Adan Jackson without resorting to cheap tricks.

Do you have plans to write more stories featuring Private Investigator Nickey Arnold?

I am excited about Nickey. I have a story in mind and I have done some research but it’s in line behind my current project – a Civil War Saga based on my Great Grandfather’s years in the Union army.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

It had been a gang rape. As bad as that was, it was not the turning point. Her life turned around when Cindy Smith put it behind her and started over. She got her degree and a good job. She married a great guy. Then she discovered that one of the rapists was a coworker.
When Adan Jackson begins harassing her, Cindy tries to protect her secret past by ignoring him. When he escalates, she turns to Private Investigator Nickey Arnold for help.
The PI quickly finds herself caught up in unfinished business from the past. When she confronts Adan, things spin out of control. Troy Mondale, who served time for the rape, is dragged back into the mess. Adan descends into madness. His increasingly violent behavior forces Police Sergeant Jack Edwards to step in and put an end to the nightmare.
Demented is a story of crime, punishment and getting away with it. The insanity of our legal system is exposed. The sanity of our society is brought into question by this unforgettable tale.


Cindy Smith is a young woman living in Washington, D.C., making a life of her own. Her present seems perfectly happy until her past hunts her down. Cindy has frequent suspicious encounters with Adan Jackson at her workplace. Adan Jackson is one of the three men who gang-raped her sixteen years before and got away with a misdemeanor assault charge. Cindy engages a private investigator, Nickey Arnold, to deal with her tormentor. But, as Nickey investigates further, a harrowing set of events lead all three men to make their way back into Cindy’s life, and she has to reopen chapters she never wished to read.

Demented by Joe Clark is a crime thriller novel that begins like a mystery and ends like an action movie. As stated by the author, it is genuinely a “story of crime, punishment and getting away with it.” Though being a crime drama, the author successfully maintains the characters’ compassionate nature. The story revolves around events that would help bring the plot forward and dwells in the great depths of its real-life characters.

The writing style is simple yet gripping. The story progresses with multiple episodic scenes, which could be translated well into a screenplay. The plot may feel like a train where we keep adding carriages to reach the end. Though this might be interesting for readers who love the suspense as a genre, it might be mind-boggling for others. The numerous characters and their names could be hard to keep in line with the story. However, the multifold narrative, strong roles, and quick pacing story wouldn’t let readers put down the book. The author effectively covers a realistic description of how law and justice play out in society.

Demented is a mystery thriller that will leave readers wondering if it is right to believe everything is either black or white or if it has been a grey area all along. It is a reviving tale of right or wrong and everything in between.

Pages: 412 | ASIN : B0872HRL57

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Confessions of an Accidental Lawyer

Daniel Simmons struggles between his work and family life. His wife, Hannah, wants more kids even after giving birth to their daughter, Lilly, which causes physical and mental trauma. Meanwhile, Simmons, an up-and-coming lawyer, is looking to make his way in the world. After receiving a call, Simmons gets the opportunity to take on his first case. Emmett Kendrick is a prisoner assigned to solitary confinement. Under constant scrutiny and harassment from the staff, Kendrick has made multiple attempts to change his circumstances through the legal system. Together Simmons and Kendrick work to make prison life more humane.

Confessions of an Accidental Lawyer by Michael Stockham is exceptionally well-written. The writing is beautiful, clear, and concise, and the author’s knowledge of medicine and legal commentary is impressive. It’s a relaxing and educational read with a storyline that slowly picks up the pace. Stockham provides much information regarding the legal and medical fields, but he does this to help the reader better understand what is going on.

The main character’s wife, Hannah, seems excessively aggressive towards her husband when the topic of children arises. She’s very stubborn and does not seem to want to explore other options, and she frustrated me as a reader. I feel sorry for Daniel because it almost feels like Hannah is driving him into a corner. It’s wonderful to have children, but at the expense of whom? Daniel’s character is one that many can relate to because he is trying his best to take care of his family while also focusing on his career. The fact that this book is inspired by actual events made this book even more intriguing.

I feel that if the medical scenes were cut shorter and simplified, the story would’ve been much more powerful. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book because once you get past the medical jargon, the tension begins to rise, and you begin to appreciate how beautifully written this book is.

Confessions of an Accidental Lawyer is a domestic and legal thriller that has been inspired by a true story. Readers will be given a look at the challenges faced by those in the medical and legal fields, as well as the prison system.

Pages: 314 | ASIN : B0B5YDHHCC

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