Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Dreams I Had - When Writing Midnight Eyes

Doug Dorow's recent post on the research he did for his novel The Ninth District jogged my memory about the original writing of Midnight Eyes.

Although I did an extensive re-write recently, I set down the first draft a few years ago while I was working as a librarian. Handy inter-library loan tools were at my fingertips.

While I'd worked for years before that as a newspaper reporter, often shouldering police beat duties that included late-night visits to crime scenes, I spent a lot of time reading books and references about serial killers and pouring over police training textbooks and FBI journals.

I was striving to construct the psychology behind the book's central killings properly. I've never seen Midnight Eyes as "just" a serial killer novel. A series of brutal murders plague the cops in the story and bring the protagonist, former FBI agent Wayland Hood, home to Louisiana to help his sheriff father, but the identity of the killer is not simple. There are secrets to be unraveled and psychological complexities.

I scanned encyclopedias of serial killers during the research, reading about famous and less famous killers.

Dark dreams
The research produced more than a few nightmares during the writing. I didn't dream so much that serial killers were after me as I did about their deeds and about the crime scenes depicted in the training texts. And about the loss of life.

That channeled into Wayland, a haunted man, damaged by his past and by his work with the FBI in the apprehension of four major serial killers. In dreams, I felt really in tune with Wayland's cold and dark places.

I guess that was an ancillary effect of the research, expanding beyond the acquisition of facts. Since some of the reviews and comments about the book suggest Wayland seems real for readers, I guess those nightmares were a benefit even though they didn't seem so at the time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: The Hustler - Fifties Mainstream Fiction

This is a 1984 edition of The Hustler,  released to coincide with the release of the sequel, The Color of Money. A message from Walter Tevis is included, noting that his Minnesota Fats was a completely fictional character, though he only alludes to Rudolf Wanderone who took on the name Minnesota Fats after the book and movie. 





Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Author Interview: Renée Pawlish - Mystery, Suspense and The Genesis of Evil


Renée Pawlish and I bumped into each other on one message board or another recently, or maybe it was Twitter. At any rate, I wound up discovering the e-book edition of her novel Nephilim: Genesis of Evil. It's a  horror thriller, and I was prompted to write this review:


 Fans of early Bentley Little should enjoy Nephilim: Genesis of Evil, a chilling, horror outing that uses The Apocrypha as source material for its menacing beings. It's a well-crafted tale of the re-emergence of spirits who are the offspring of humans and angels. The spirits begin possessing humans in a small Colorado town in order to obtain corporal form, capturing the attention of paranormal journalist Rory Callahan who's traveled from New York City where he witnessed a strange and malevolent presence. Rory joins forces with Anna Holmes, a local resident with a troubled past. Anna is a counterpoint to the skeptical Rory, allowing a deeper metaphysical exploration as the novel charges forward into a full-fledged confrontation between good and evil. This is a powerful and well-written effort.

Renée agreed to drop by the blog for an interview, so there are a questions and answers below. You should also know that she is a Colorado resident with a love for travel, hiking and playing guitar.


Thanks for dropping by the blog. Your bio states you have degrees in history and
counseling. Tell us a little of the path that led you to writing.

I've always had stories running around in my head, and I even dabbled in writing as a
child. One of the classes I most enjoyed in high school was a creative writing class.
About the time I received my degree in counseling, I had an idea for a story that just sat
with me, just waiting to be told. A friend kept encouraging me to write the book and
I finally did. It's not written very well, but I still think the general story idea is good.
From there, I just kept at it, honing my craft.


I’m intrigued by Nephilim: Genesis Of Evil and its basis in Genesis. Tell us a little about the nucleus of the novel. How much did your seminary background influence the book.

Nephilim came about because of a dream I had. I was rereading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, and I dreamed about characters trying to escape some malevolent presence they knew was coming, and the action in the dream occurred on the shores of a lake. I woke up and knew I had to write it. Some of the characters from that dream ended up in Nephilim, and I incorporated the lake into the book as well. Of course, studying the Bible helped in my research, but I actually did not have the Nephilim as the "bad guys"
initially. Originally, I wanted the characters to think they were dealing with vampires, and then realize they were mistaken. As I was working through that idea, I was in a Bible study and we were reading Genesis. As we discussed the Nephilim, I knew I had my bad guys.

The synopsis and reviews state that it’s a vampire novel and a detective tale, could you elaborate on that?

It's really a twist on the vampire tale, in that the residents of this small town are dealing
with an evil presence that tries to overtake their bodies. The similarities end there,
but I don't want to give away too much. I've mostly written detective stories, so those
elements exist in Nephilim, where the characters have to piece together clues in order to figure out how to handle this evil presence. Unfortunately, from a marketing standpoint, I didn't help myself because Nephilim doesn't fit into just one genre. People think that Nephilim is horror, and although it certainly has horror components in the story, Nephilim is also a mystery or thriller. The feedback I consistently get is that Nephilim is just a great read and that it's hard to put down. That's the best compliment an author can receive.

The next book
Speaking of mystery and suspense, Renée's new book, a mystery, was just released this week.


Synopsis: Thirty-something Reed Ferguson, a wannabe private eye with a love of film noir and detective fiction, needs a paying client to prove his career choice to himself and his parents. The customer shows up at his downtown Denver office in the form of Amanda Ghering, a rich, attractive, but unhappily married woman. She hires Reed to find her husband, who is presumed dead. The superb cast of characters include a duo of oddball brothers who lack common sense and a genius computer geek. Follow Reed as he solves crimes akin to his cinematic hero, Humphrey Bogart. Get it from Amazon

Visit Renee on the web or follow her on  Twitter.

Further reading

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: For the Love of Imabelle - Fifties Crime Fiction

For the Love of Imabelle is an alternate title for the perhaps more familiar A Rage in Harlem, the title of the 1991 film adaptation. 

The book is the first novel from Chester Himes to feature African American cops Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. They were featured more prominently in titles such as Cotton Comes to Harlem, also adapted as a film in the seventies. There were nine novels in the Harlem Cycle, though Plan B, the final entry was unfinished and published after Himes's death. This, as the cover art style suggests, is a 1974 printing.







Monday, July 18, 2011

A New Review For Midnight Eyes

Midnight Eyes gets a fairly good review over at Good Book Alert. Seems like the reviewer's honest opinion, which is all you can ask for.

An excerpt:

Midnight Eyes explores these dark relatives of mainstream humanity in often disturbing detail. Accordingly, this novel is not for the faint of heart. Although the book doesn't revel in gore, a victim-mutilating serial killer is a key aspect of the book. More disturbing, and a testament to the author's characterization skills, is the mental insight and depth provided into serial killers (both the primary antagonist and already imprisoned killer near the start of the book). They are monsters, yes, but monsters with depth.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

John D. MacDonald: The Red and Gold - Two Early Travis McGee Novels

I read many Travis McGee novels as they came out in the early eighties including The Green Ripper,  Cinnamon Skin and the final McGee, The Lonely Silver Rain.

During that same era, I also read early titles from the local library or snagged from used shops. The Deep Blue Good-Bye, Nightmare in Pink, A Purple Place for Dying and Pale Gray for Guilt were among those I enjoyed.

Lately I've been reading the titles, and colors, I missed. I recently finished The Quick Red Fox and A Deadly Shade of Gold. The fourth and fifth entries in the series, they seem to mark an evolutionary turning point.


Red is a slim entry that embroils McGee in the search for embarrassing photos of movie star Lysa Dean. It's a quest that takes him from Florida on a cross-continental journey where he has to employ usual amounts of brawn and intellect.


In typical MacDonald fashion, the tale is balanced with character and humanity. Lysa Dean's sends an assistant, Dana Holtzer, to help McGee.

Dana is employed in order to fund care for her sick husband, and the story is as much about her emergence as a person as it is about McGee's core quest. It is not the best McGee, but it represents a MacDonald flourish that always elevates his work above genre expectations.

The Golden Mean
The edition of Gold I picked up is an early paperback printing from Fawcett and dubs it "a double-length adventure..." It's a slam bang adventure and has many twists, but it also seems MacDonald was moving it up a rung up in scope and theme.

As with most McGees, things start in Florida with the return to Fort Lauderdale of McGee's old friend Sam Taggart. Sam's acquired a gold Aztec idol from nefarious antiquities dealers.

We learn at the outset Sam broke the heart of McGee's friend Nora with his departure a few year's earlier, so his return is an emotional event. Before the emotional damage can be tackled, however, Sam is murdered.

McGee agrees to investigate for Nora and delves into the idol's origins before heading to Mexico where Sam worked before his return to Florida.

While Hercule Poirot might have picked up clues in conversations and accidental eavesdropping, McGee always has a tougher time of it. He has to scale secluded estate walls, battle guards and face attack dogs before he can hover by an eave to overhear pertinent data.

Before Gold's finished McGee has faced loss, his own descent in the underworld and brutal violence, though the novel's also deftly plotted and winds its way to a tight, clever wrap up. In contrast to Red, it focuses more on the toll McGee's world exacts from him.

As he did with many earlier novel, MacDonald proves he's digging much deeper than a standard men's adventure title. The books have a few dated references and attitudes, but overall they significant entries in the McGee series and significant pieces for consideration in the evolution of the detective story.

Further reading

Murder by 4: The Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Biblioholic's Bookshelf: Death Commits Bigamy - Forties Crime Fiction

There's a definite Mondrian feel to this cover for 1947's Death Commits Bigamy, an entry in the Johnny and Suzy Marshall series described by The Thrilling Detective as a suburban Nick and Nora Charles. I suspect this is a later edition in spite of the '47 copyright. As you can see by the scrawl, I got this one free at a library book sale. 





Further Reading

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Bibliohohlic's Bookshelf: Pennies On Her Eyes Sixties Horror

Mary Linn Roby penned a number of novels and short stories as well including some that were adapted for Rod Serling's Night Gallery in the seventies. This one's from 1969. Read an interview with her on Phil Jason's blog.

This is a book that's been with me a while. I'm not sure where I acquired it now. It bears the rubber stamp from a used book store I never visited. That's a sure sign of biblioholism. You often turn up with a book you can't quite remember acquiring.




Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: The Silent Girl By Tess Gerritsen

I became a fan of the Tess Gerritsen thrillers with The Sinner and backtracked then moved forward from there to keep up with the adventures of Rizzoli and Isles before the TNT series rolled around.

Here's the trailer for the all new novel from Tess Gerritsen. Looks exciting.



Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Author Interview: Aliya Anjum - Travel, History and Information You Might Not Know

Recently I did an interview with Robert Lory that seemed popular, so I thought I would do some more interviews, at least on an occasional basis.

I put the call out  on the Kindle Boards, Twitter and a couple of other places for authors with a couple of books.

One of the first writers to touch base with me was Aliya Anjum, author of several recently-released e-books.

It was a real pleasure to learn of Aliya's work.  I was once a religion reporter, so some of her topics took me back to some of my interviews from those days, meeting and chatting with people of many faiths and creeds.

If you read to the end you'll also discover what she has planned next makes her a particularly appropriate interview for my little web corner here on another literary front.


The synopsis on some of your books, and even some of the subtitles note that you are Pakistani, but tell us a little about yourself and your writing background. You write of history and Hollywood and many diverse topics. What prepared you for that.

First of all, thank you for this interview. Coming to your question, briefly, I am a Pakistani author and free lance journalist as well as part time MBA faculty at a business school. I hold a BBA/MBA from The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi and an MS from Philadelphia University, US. I have also worked at a French and a British Bank in Karachi, before going to grad school in US. After my return, I worked for the government of Pakistan and prior to that had a very short stint as a Live TV Show host for a current affairs program.

I have been an avid reader, all my life. After studying in US in the post 9/11 environment, my interest in geo-politics, globalization and history deepened. I started to read up on Islamic history and geo-politics, beginning from Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilisztions". As I read up on history, I got hooked. Even though my studies in US were in Fashion Apparel Management, however, I am not even remotely linked to it.

As for Hollywood, I think most Americans do not realize the global reach of Hollywood. Even prior to cable TV, which is available the world over now, Hollywood movies have been watched on TV and Cinema, everywhere. In many countries including Pakistan, unfortunately, pirated CDs hit the market, simultaneously with its US release. Hollywood is everywhere, in the cinemas, on TV, at CD shops and even on the internet now.

I will also tell you a surprising thing about Hollywood. Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood is US's biggest goodwill ambassador and the US is admired in many ways because of it.

Two weeks of solo travel in Greece: a Pakistani Girl's Diary is called on Amazon a “look at Greece through the eyes of a solo Muslim female traveler.” Tell us a little about the focus of the book.

This book is based on my trip to Greece in October-November 2010. Of late I have been traveling to historically blessed destinations. In 2009, I went to Spain and Turkey to see Muslim history (Spain was under Muslim rule from 751 to 1492. This was Spain's glorious age, in the European dark ages). Coming back to my travels, I visited Greece to see the scientific, philosophical and cultural foundation of the western world. Greece is blessed with natural beauty and a amazing people. My book reflects all of that. It also hints at globalization. The book however, has its feminine moments too, and thus it's a solo female traveler's account.

You have illustrations tied to the book. Tell us a little about some of the images and some of your photography.

I have three slide shows links from the site Tripadvisor wow with about 185 pictures, covering almost everything I mentioned in my book. So if you read my book, and see the pictures, you can visually follow the narrative. The pictures are taken from my Sony Cybershot camera, and I would leave it for my readers to decide upon the quality of the visuals. I am only an amatuer photographer, but I thoroughly enjoyed being click-happy in Greece, which was a sensory overload.

You have looked into Muslim history in a couple of your titles. In Muslim Inventions in the Islamic Golden Age 750-1500 AD you explore some discoveries and scientific information that’s been lost or misinterpreted over the years. Can you give us a little overview of what the book addresses.

This manuscript was awarded a Commendation Certificate by the National Book Foundation, Pakistan.

Islam is unfortunately greatly misunderstood in the US. Political Islam has overtaken and even maligned the scripture and Muslism. Islam is an Abrahamic religion and during the middle ages, the Islamic civilization, was a glorious civilization, which gave impetus to the European Renaissance. Muslims empires ruled over parts of Africa, Asia and even Europe, and the sciences and arts reached new heights in this era.

To elaborate, Bayt-ul-Himkah (House of Wisdom) was a scientific research institution in Baghdad, Iraq where Muslims collected the knowledge of all ancient cultures including Greek works. It was here that Arab Muslims and Jews worked together to greatly build upon existing sciences and created new sciences such as Algebra. Chemistry is also an Arab Muslim invention. Muslim and Jewish Arab surgeons and physicians such as Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis) and Moses Maimonides performed even cosmetic surgeries and treated complicated illnesses. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) created the first medical encyclopedia and his book the Canon, was standard medical text in European universities for 500 years. Muslims also mastered urban planning and wrote literary masterpieces such as the One thousand and one Nights, penned circa 800 AD. Islamic knowledge began to spread to Europe during the Crusades (1099-1192). Otherwise, after the ancient Greeks, the last of whom existed circa 150 AD, there was over a mellinium of the European dark ages.


The Islamic civilization is the bridge that connects ancient Greeks to Renaissance Europe. However, much of this has been lost to history due to colonialism. Interestingly, these facts are being re-discovered and brought to light in European universities and institutions. Science is the collective heritage of humanity.



And in Muhammad’s Wives you look at the 11 wives of Muhammad. That’s an area Westerners and possibly many others don’t know much about. Tell us a little about the book and the wives, and what the information reflects about contemporary life.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) in unfortunately also greatly misunderstood on account of Political Islam. He is often portrayed as a militant misogynist. The widespread poverty and economic backwardness of Muslim countries, also strengthens this negative image.

Muhammad's life is a road map for all Muslims and his role as a husband is thus very important. It would be surprising to note that the book would be equally educational for Muslims as it would be for non-Muslims to know many surprising facts about the wives. Take for example that Ayesha (the infamous child bride, which is something open to debate) is the greatest knowledge bearer of Islam. Her youth and intelligence, served Islam for 38 years after Muhammad passed away. This is iconoclastic for an Abrahamic Religion, when a woman was trusted as such. Then there is Hafsa, who was trusted with the safekeeping of the Quranic (scriptural) text. It was her text that was compiled in the current format of the Quran that you see today. Finally Muhammad, never indulged in physical or psychological abuse and he married widows and divorcees.

The book is a condensed 20 page e-book available for 99 cents, and I would urge people to read it.

What are you working on now? What’s next on the horizon.

All three of my e-books were launched in June 2011. I am currently involved in establishing myself as an author by marketing my books. Interviews such as this one, are a great help. I am at present, completely consumed in this effort, which is labyrinthine, due to the breadth and scope of Social Media. It is especially, hard for a foreign, non-fiction, indie author to create readership. Being so far away, I can't manage any coffesshop or bookshop appearances or a speaking session etc. And then my books are not in the hot selling romance genre either. The internet is my sole medium, but it is a powerful medium.

My next project is going to be a collection of horror short stories, which was actually the first book I penned down. It participated in the National Book Foundation's annual competition, where it was featured in the annual new book selection, a booklet aimed at publishers. It would be my fiction debut and I am looking forward to it.

Thank You!

Thanks to Aliya for dropping by. Check out her books by clicking the links above, or learn more here:

Aliya's titles on Smashwords
Aliya's blog


Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Big Thrill Interview

If you missed it from my tweeting it, another new interview with me is out. This one is on The Big Thrill, website of the International Thriller Writers association.

It was conducted by Gary Kriss, a former newspaper man like me, and author of the upcoming novel The Zodiac Deception.
 
It was an interesting interview to do. Gary asked some great questions about books, thrillers and a lot more.
Check it out.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Damballa - All New African American '30s Pulp Hero

Saw this mentioned on another blog the other day, and noticed I had news about it in my in-box from Cornerstone Books and Airshop 27. They're billing Damballa as "pulpdom’s first ever 1930s African-American pulp hero as created by the acclaimed author, Charles Saunders."

Synopsis
From the heart of Africa to the streets of Harlem, a new hero is born sworn to support and protect Americans of all races and creeds; he is Damballa and he strikes from the shadows. When the reigning black heavy weight boxing champion of the world agrees to defend his crown against a German fighter representing Hitler’s Nazis regime, the ring becomes the stage for a greater political contest. The Nazis’ agenda is to humble the American champion and prove the superiority of their pure-blood Aryan heritage. To achieve this end, they employ an unscrupulous scientist capable of transforming their warrior into a superhuman killing machine.

Can the mysterious Damballa unravel their insidious plot before it is too late to save a brave and noble man?

Seems to blend a lot of pulp elements.

“Racism and sexism were a few of the ugly aspects of the pulps we’d all like to forget,” according to Editor Ron Fortier in the Cornerstone release. “Minority groups based on race, sex and religion were ostracized and either ignored completely or denigrated in their outlandish portrayals. Since its creation, Airship 27 Productions has made it a goal to address these wrongs and help correct them within the context of providing top-notch action fiction to our readers. Damballa is a major step in that direction and we are truly excited about its release.”

Interesting on many fronts. It's available for order here.
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