My Name is Nelson is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a mystery, satire, and political thriller as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I’d say it just happened. I started with a simple premise – an unstoppable weapon – and just went wherever the story took me. I have to admit I’ve been a little surprised by how focused readers have been on genre, (specifically, is a thriller supposed to be funny) because in my opinion, the style of the book really isn’t all that unique. Much like other satirical military works like Catch-22, MASH, and Doctor Strangelove, at various times it’s funny, poignant, romantic, absurd, heartbreaking, or action-packed.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Thank you for the compliment. It’s definitely hard to choose, because I’m extremely proud of all the characters. The socially dysfunctional mad scientist, the dejected, hard-drinking exotic dancer, the physics prodigy and her navy officer partner, the “jagoff” of a boss, the clever First Lady, the F.B.I. agents, the fighter pilots, the small-town sheriff…
The book is dedicated to all the men and women who work so hard to defend our nation, so there’s quite a few characters in law enforcement and the military. Ultimately, if I had to choose one, I really enjoyed writing the repartee between National Security Advisor Chet Addington and President MacIntyre. And Chet Addington gave us the book’s provocative subtitle!
What was your initial idea behind this story and how did that develop as you were writing?
I guess the idea was twofold. First, I had already written some very serious, intensely-researched novels, and I wanted to let my hair down and have some fun. I wanted to write a page-turning, popcorn thriller about politicians, a mad scientist, and an unstoppable weapon. Secondly, I started with the assumption that it’s impossible to write a modern page-turner without strippers. (Just kidding. Maybe.)
As the novel progressed, I found myself lurching into some weighty issues. Childhood trauma. Wealth inequality. Racial strife. The weight of the presidency. Particle physics. Broken lives renewed. Ultimately, I think there’s quite a bit packed into 222 pages.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I genuinely don’t know. We’re clearly well-positioned for a sequel to Nelson, so we’ll see. I’ve written quite a lot over these last two years, so I may just enjoy some well-deserved vacation time.
The audiobook for Nelson should be available this summer, however. To say I’m excited about the narrator would be a huge understatement. I never dreamt one guy could single-handedly do all the voices this novel requires, (not to mention the singing) but I think I’m about to be proven wrong.
From The Indie View: “A brilliant and unique novel…in terms of sheer storytelling mastery, it’s one of the best books we’ve seen in a while. We give ‘My Name Is Nelson’ five-plus stars and look forward to an equally well-written sequel…it’s a tremendously entertaining storyline with rich characterization and cinematic action scenes. It’s safe to say the author’s crafted a potential bestseller — and, possibly, a hit movie.” (Don Sloan)
President Andrew MacIntyre was having a pretty good first year in the Oval Office. Suddenly, during what should have been a peaceful Christmas season, he’s facing one of the worst national security crises in American history. And it’s being masterminded out of a sleazy, New Mexico strip joint? What the hell?
Is this a political thriller? Or is it science fiction? A zany comedy? Perhaps it’s a love story. Whatever it is, it’s a riveting page-turner with a little sex appeal, and a lot of laughs. If “Doctor Strangelove” can find the humor in nuclear war, then surely there’s a little bit of laughter lurking in unmanned aviation, as well as some serious, heartfelt moments.
It’s little wonder White House National Security Advisor Chet Addington* said this was, “Pretty much the best novel ever.” **
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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?
Posted in Interviews
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Cliven Bundy American Patriot is the shocking, yet true, story as told to the author, with twists and turns, highs and lows of intrigue and common sense of the life of one man, his devoted family, and fellow patriots that seem to only be matched by the lives of the Founding Fathers of this American Experiment known as the The United States Of America. It’s a story not yet finished in its telling. It’s a story every family should read and declare their own voice in! It’s a story you must decide for yourself: Is Cliven Bundy a American Terrorist or an American Patriot?
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.
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Posted in Literary Titan Book Award
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Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is like reading Lawrence Hoffman’s diary. This is a not a fiction novel, it is all real life told from Hoffman’s voice. The book starts out when Lawrence is just a boy and his fascination with uniforms. We walk though his college and young adult life as he takes different jobs and finds his way eventually ending up taking the police officer exam for the NYPD. From here the book is a series of stories, like sitting and listening to a relative recount their life. As a reader you get to hear his emotions, see what he sees, and experience life on the New York city streets from the eyes of the police from the moment he takes his exam, to his retirement over 20 years later.
One of the first things that grabbed me in this book was the details of New York, Lawrence describing growing up on Long Island (LI) and the city boroughs and bodegas it was almost nostalgic. I could imagine his life growing up on LI with his friends and their experiences with school and sports and even the crazy neighbor that he ends up respecting and admiring as he grows older. I felt like I was in the city the way Lawrence described the locations and the people he encountered, it made me want to keep reading. Aside from the great detail of NYC, the book is just engaging. The chapters are all individual memories and stories and each one is entertaining. You follow his career and you feel like you are right there with him as his partner. Some moments are horrifying, others are deeply emotional and touching. This account isn’t political, it isn’t written to sway readers to love or hate the police, it is just an account of his life. It is told on such a realistic level, he explains all the police codes and jargon as he goes along so you don’t need to Google search to constantly look up what each code calls for. It is written for the novice level reader when it comes to police terminology. A lot of this is explained though his stories as it was explained to him by his peers. It adds to the authenticity for me, Lawrence isn’t trying to impress anyone with his technical terms or fancy language, it is all just plain and simple to understand so you can focus on the experiences.
Reading Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is like watching the life of Lawrence Hoffman play out in front of you. You can’t help but become attached and be transported to those streets of New York. Even the scary moment and horrifying experiences you are right there with him and you don’t want to stop reading, you have to keep going to see how things turn out. It is not a book of happy stories, it is not all horror and gore, it is real. Life is full of good and bad, and Lawrence shows it all, he doesn’t hold back on corruption or the really good people that care deeper than you can imagine. This book drew me in and kept my interest all the way though, it is a worthy read and one you won’t regret picking up.
Pages: 394 | ASIN: B01B54DUU6
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Keep the lights on when you read this book! Sour Lake Or, The Beast will transport you back in time to East Texas, 1911. Chapter one is called Pray, and that is your only warning of what is to lie ahead. A brutal and gruesome death of the young school teacher Lenard Dalchau leads you into the world of this small Texas county of Ochiltree. Prejudice and racism run high and the locals want this death solved and forgotten quick. Reeves Duncan, the sheriff however isn’t one to just jump to conclusions and hang the wrong man. Agreeing with the sheriff that this is no ordinary murder case is “Doc” Walter McDivitt that has seen enough brutality for a lifetime. These two take the lead in discovering the truth. Together they discover a truth that no one wants to hear, and no one would believe if they did.
Bruce McCandless III is a talented author that is a cross between Steven King and the voice actor Robert Clotworthy. The historical descriptions and language are offensive to modern society but are accurate for 1911. It is so clear you feel like you are really back in Texas in the early 1900’s and living with this society. I’m not typically a person that enjoys horror novels because my imagination will just keep me up all night with every bump in the dark. McCandless however has written a story so engaging I couldn’t put it down. There are so many surprises in the pages it is hard to reveal much for fear of giving away the next piece of the plot. I can say I fell in love with the character of Sheriff Duncan. A man that lost his wife, became an alcoholic and overcame it. A mild mannered man that wants to be fair and not rock the boat. He does have a conscience and uses that to guide him as the story progresses, that inner instinct and unwillingness to follow a mob mentality. Sheriff Duncan believes in facts, and even when those facts point to things that should not be real he doesn’t discredit it. When all is said and done, he just wants to walk away. But how can you walk away from the nightmares he endured?
This is a novel you just can’t put down, it will draw in readers that like historical fiction, horror, a little sci-fi and a lot of action and gore. All the main characters are given rich back stories so you feel you really know who they are and how they ended up in Ochiltree County. The story line is unique and completely original probably because of when it takes places. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that needs an escape from modern drama, this book will take you away and make you think, as well as surprise you from one chapter to the next.
Pages: 228 | ASIN: B06XR9T91W
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Sudden and violent loss is the introduction to this story, a war veteran and his family fall victim to a tragic and yet seemingly deliberate attempt on their lives. Our main character survives, along with the family dog, but we quickly learn the fate of his wife and son was far more grisly. When local law enforcement fail to provide the answers he seeks, our war veteran takes matters into his own hands. Answers alone will not right this; we follow the recently widowed down the rabbit hole of his own thirst for revenge, strongly driven in his pursuit.
Death by the Jaguar piqued my interest right away, a personal fan of sailing and being on the water, and I definitely enjoyed how often it returned to that setting. Either James Ruby is experienced himself or did his research, as his attention to detail regarding many basic mechanics and proper names surrounding the handling of water craft was on point. His technical skill as a writer shined through once more in regards to setting the scene. Ruby paints a picture well, giving enough focus on the characters surroundings to immerse the reader without putting too much weight in to detail. One aspect that continuously distracted me was his over use of commas. The flow of the story remained choppy throughout, thoughts consistently broken up too much by the trip of a comma.
I feel Ruby did a solid job portraying the scattered and distracted mindset of the main character, writing his portions of the story from a first person point of view. Consistently being pulled into the memories of a war veteran while he doggedly pursues justice for his family shows a glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD. I was a little bit back and forth on how I felt overall about just how quickly he gained his thirst for revenge, with little to no mourning and not even attending the funeral. However, I still felt he wrote this broken character with fair knowledge of human psychology. One thing that caught my attention was that we never seem to catch the name of our main character. I could be wrong and just missed it, but I personally find myself relating to a character better when I at least know their name.
Another issue was the repetitive interactions of Sullivan, an arrogant Chief of the local law. It seemed that with every interaction there was so much focus on this characters need to assert his station of power, his need for it to be recognized. The story itself left me wanting; the entire tale is a build up of vengeful actions, but in many respects it lacks the expected action factor, making it somewhat difficult to stay interested.
I was impressed with James Ruby’s ability to set the scene and draw the reader in, as well as his attention to detail regarding areas that the common person wouldn’t be too educated in.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B0755JWFNR
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A cop killing in New York throws up all the horrors of the Vietnam War.
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The Biggest Little Crime In The World is the third book in the popular Ham McCalister Series and follows the lives of two Las Vegas Homicide detectives turned private eyes. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
This one flowed naturally from the book before. Although each is written as a standalone so that they may be read in any order, the ending of each at least hints at the start of the next. In this case, the wedding between Drew and her beloved superstar was foreshadowed and thus the book began as such. And that led to the story arc, a rather natural extension of the characters and their responses to life, incidents both good and bad. The denouement arose from the investigation and, though the why and the who were a surprise to me, the ending was at least partially suggested by the plot outline developed before writing began. And it did tie nicely to the series, I am pleased to say.
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
I love this question because it’s the foundation that makes writing such an enjoyable endeavor. The answer is that in this book, as in each I’ve written, the players never cease to surprise me. They say and do as they please, and take the plot in directions I had not anticipated. That despite the rather extensive plot and character outlines. It’s so much fun to run the other way from that which was anticipated. In sum, the characters act it out and they and they alone dictate the plot development.
I love the dynamic relationship between Drew and Ham. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
Drew and Ham are complicated by their exposure to the underside of life. As homicide detectives for the Las Vegas police department, they saw and experienced more that most of the underbelly of society. Both are imperfect characters in that both are inherently honest and rigidly law and order, yet both are not above bending the rules when the circumstances, as they see them, warrant the dishonesty therein. And both struggle with that dilemma, the eternal battle between that which we see as ideal and that which we refuse to allow, no matter the moral cost. It is a constant struggle for both, as each seeks truth and justice, rewards for their efforts, conviction of the guilty and protection for the innocent—this while refusing to bend to niceties when evil rises before them. Erasing evil, to the both of them, takes precedence over a simple genuflect to the rules.
What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?
The next book is The Curious Case Of Ham On Wry. It follows Ham and Drew as they try to exonerate their client, U.S. Representative Harold Wry from a charge of murdering his Washington intern. I expect the book to available sometime next summer.
Shots ring out and two find their mark, just under the arch that declares Reno “The Biggest Little City In The World.” A crime, an assassination that the press will dub “The Biggest Little Crime In The World.”
That very day Ham McCalister had walked his dearest friend and business partner, Drew Thornton, down the aisle to wed her rock superstar betrothed, Russ Porter, one of the frontmen of the legendary band Truckee River. In that happy moment, what neither he nor Drew could have foreseen was the sudden tragedy that would greet them on the streets of Reno, mere minutes after the wedding bells chimed. For there, under that iconic arch, Russ Porter falls victim to an assassin’s bullet, along with an unknown second casualty.
While Russ is tended to at Reno’s finest medical center, by the state’s finest physicians, Ham and Drew race to uncover the who and the why behind the unspeakable evil unleashed in the aftermath of the wedding of Drew’s dreams. And then exact a revenge that she will personally inflict.
What they find, what they don’t’ expect, what they finally uncover, is The Biggest Little Conspiracy In The World.
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Black and White is contemporary novel focused on interracial couples and the stigma they endure. Why was this an important novel for you to write?
I felt with everything going on in the world today, this book was needed. I want this book to help improve the world or at least get people to start talking and create a dialogue for change. The world can be an ugly place and I wanted to show that ugliness so that people can also appreciate the beauty.
The story is set in a city filled with crime and focuses on the animosity between black communities and the police. You take a balanced perspective in your story, do you feel that is something that is lacking today?
I feel there is mistrust on both sides when it comes to the Black Communities and the Police. I feel that both sides need to work on change and the only way that can happen is with dialogue. I want this book to help. I’m an NYPD Detective and I feel that it’s important that Cops acknowledge that there are some cops who are prejudice and pray on minorities but at the same time it’s important that minority communities don’t assume that every cop is corrupt and prejudice. I feel society forgets that cops are people too. I feel that sometimes some cops become so calloused from the job that they began to see minorities as bad. Balance is the key to everything. Understanding each other helps also. I talk to communities often and sometimes after I explain certain situations to the crowd, they understand things better and have less animosity. Sometimes the community members help me see things differently than I do through the lenses of being a cop. In order for the world to get better, we all have to change.
Did you put any personal life experiences in this book?
I put some personal life experiences in all of my books. “Ben”, “Ebony”, and even “Bill” and “Becky” are all parts of me. At times I felt like Ben where I felt my own race believed I wasn’t “Black” enough and I was too “Black” for some White people. I know the struggle of dealing with the public at protests like Ebony. I’m an NYPD Detective. Like Ebony, before I became a Cop, I hated cops and I became one to make a difference in the world. I’m heavily involved in urban communities and I’m in an interracial relationship. I’m similar to Becky because I wrote this book to change the world. I wouldn’t want to alter it or tone it down. I love this story the way it is and my writing is important to me. I’m similar to Bill because I grew up in Queens Bridge. Despite growing up in a low-income family, I didn’t let my environment hold me back. I’m also a huge basketball fan and play regularly. Some of the situations and even dialogues in the book I have actually had or have been involved with. I like to put some of my real experiences in my stories because I believe it helps them feel more authentic.
What is one thing that you hope readers take away from Black and White?
I want readers to understand that we all have biases, we all have assumptions and stereotype, but it’s important not to base our actions and decisions on these things. It’s important to get to know people and not assume that a certain race is all the same. I want people to read this book and understand that love is love. It doesn’t matter what race your partner is, be with anyone you love. I also want people to feel comfortable in their own skin. Ben and Simone were examples of two characters that struggled with that and it’s important to know that until you have love and appreciation for yourself, you can’t truly do the same for someone else.
What is the next novel that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next novel will be a story celebrating the strength of Mothers. I’m writing a story about three different types of Mothers in three different situations and I’m calling it “Mothers.” I hope to have the novel out in time for Mother’s Day.
When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?
Posted in Interviews
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