Guest Post: Seth Margolis – PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Hello, my bookish peeps. I’m excited to introduce you to today’s guest, Seth Margolis, author of the political suspense thriller Presidents’ Day. Mr. Margolies will be discussing a host of things with us today, but namely how our current reality seems a bit stranger than fiction. 

Another 2016 Election Loser: Novelists?

I’m reluctant to pile onto the collective anxiety in the air since the inauguration. Believe me. But I feel I must point out that, in addition to Hillary Clinton, political norms and overall decorum, there may have been another victim of the 2016 election: fiction.

I mean, can you make this stuff up? A thrice-married, thrice-bankrupt real estate tycoon/reality-TV star with an itchy Twitter finger got elected president with the help of Vladimir Putin. What editor would agree to publish such nonsense? And even if one did, surely they’d take a blue pencil to a few of the less credible plot twists (Ok, the three marriages can stay, but kill the bankruptcies) and demand a less clichéd name for the candidate’s evil Russian sponsor (Vladimir? Really?)

Reality may have (sorry) trumped fiction once and for all, at least as far as thrillers are concerned. I feel this quite keenly because my latest novel, Presidents’ Day, is about a billionaire New Yorker who, having swallowed up many of the largest corporations in America, decides to purchase one more trophy: the White House. My protagonist doesn’t want to be president. He believes that Washington is the back office of New York, where the real power lies. He just wants to own the president.

I thought I’d pushed the plot of Presidents’ Day as far as it could go. There’s murder, a trumped-up (ugh, see? There’s no avoiding it) drug scandal, and financial shenanigans aplenty. But then along came PizzaGate, a widely-tweeted conspiracy theory about a child pornography ring run by Hillary Clinton that was apparently believed by quite a few people, including one idiot who showed up at Comet Ping Pong with a gun. (Even the pizzeria’s name—no novelist would dare go there.) What’s a few murders compared to a former first lady running a child-porn ring? Fake news is fiction without editorial intervention, and it doesn’t seem to matter how outlandish it is—enough people will buy seemingly any story and potentially swing an election. What’s left for us novelists?

As a teenager, I was quite taken with Jerzy Kosiński’s 1970 novel Being There. The hero, Chauncey Gardiner, is a simpleton who knows only what he’s seen on television and speaks in monosyllabic words that are widely misinterpreted as profound. Miraculously, he becomes an advisor to the president and, ultimately, is chosen to succeed him. A TV-obsessed simpleton with a fifth-grade vocabulary who ends up running the country—outrageous! Lucky for Kosinski he didn’t publish the book in 2017.

Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, written in 1959, is about the son of a prominent U.S. political family who is brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for a Communist conspiracy. The novel was adapted into two major motion pictures. Do you think anyone’s interested in a third adaptation these days, when “brainwashing” a president to do the bidding of a foreign power is no more difficult, apparently, than heaping praise on him?

Is there anything on Netflix’s House of Cards that approaches the surreality of the past year in politics? Yes, Frank Underwood pushed a young reporter into an oncoming subway train on his way to the Oval Office. But at least he never corralled the entire press corps covering his rallies into a fenced-in holding pen, calling them “disgusting” and “horrible people.”

I wrote Presidents’ Day before Donald Trump announced his candidacy. I swear I did. But I don’t know what worries me more, being accused of pumping out a quickie novel to capitalize on the political upheaval we’re undergoing, or having the novel greeted with a sort of “been there, done that” shrug: A billionaire who buys his way into the White House? No biggie.

If a candidate claims he didn’t support the invasion of Iraq, despite the existence of a tape recording of him doing just that, and if millions of people see no problem with this contradiction, then what’s the future for those of us who make a legitimate living by … well, making things up? When seemingly everything is made up, what’s left for us?

Then again, Donald Trump may not be the most serious threat to fiction writers. That would be fake news itself – actual fake news, if that’s not an oxymoron, stories deliberately made up to mislead and misinform. To some extent, it’s the job of a novelist to make even outlandish stories credible. This is particularly important for writers of thrillers, who must work extra hard to convince readers to willingly suspend disbelief. But it seems our country has, collectively, decided to suspend all disbelief. How else to explain the fact that, after someone tweeted that he enjoyed working for the post office in Ohio because he could rip up absentee ballots for Trump, the story was picked up by Matt Drudge and by Rush Limbaugh? An analysis by the news site Vox found that the top 20 fake news stories, including one about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump and another about the murder of an FBI agent investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, “outperformed” real news stories at the end of the election as measured by online shares, reactions, and comments.

Maybe in an era of fake news and a Twitter-happy president, we novelists just have to raise the stakes. A billionaire buys the White House? Meh. How about he targets the Kremlin, Elysee Palace, Number 10 Downing Street, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue all at once? Or here’s something even more outrageous: a Manhattan billionaire goes after the presidency solely to enhance the value of his brand and manages to enrich himself and his family while the whole world watches, powerless to do anything about it.

Oh, wait, too late for that one. Sad.

Presidents’ Day by Seth Margolis 
ISBN: 9781682306970 (paperback)
ASIN: B01N9144FR (Kindle version)
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

For readers of David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer comes a timely political thriller from the bestselling author of Losing Isaiah. 

In this twisting, ferocious novel of suspense, the presidential race has a number of men all clawing to get to the top. Each man has a locked closet of secrets. And one man holds every key. 

Julian Mellow has spent his life amassing a fortune out of low-risk / high-reward investments. But the one time in his life he got in over his head, he left another man holding the bag, and made an enemy for life, one who has nothing to lose. Now, Mellow has an even greater ambition—to select the next President of the United States—and to make that man do his bidding, in business and beyond. 

It all ties to an African nation where his son died years before, where a brutal dictator still rules supreme, and where a resistance movement lurks in the alleys, waiting for the right time to strike. Margolis spans the globe to weave together a brilliant story of politics at its most venal, where murder is a part of the political process, where anyone’s life is up for sale, and where one man—that bad penny of an enemy—could bring the whole kingdom toppling. 

As the new President is inaugurated, Seth Margolis has penned a perfect thriller for the voting public, one that asks who really puts the next person in the White House—and at what cost?

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Meet the author:

Seth Margolis lives with his wife in New York City and has two grown children. He received a BA in English from the University of Rochester and an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business Administration. When not writing fiction, he is a branding consultant for a wide range of companies, primarily in the financial services, technology, and pharmaceutical industries. He has written articles for the New York Times and other publications on travel and entertainment.

Connect with Seth

Website  | Facebook  | Twitter 

This guest post and blog tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours 

Guest Post: Gary Grossman – EXECUTIVE ACTIONS

Good morning my bookish friends. As most of you know, I have incredibly eclectic fiction reading tastes and enjoy thrillers, suspense, mystery, romance, historical, YA, classical literature, literary fiction, etc., so needless to say I jumped at the opportunity to host a visit from the acclaimed thriller author Gary Grossman. Then I learned that he taught at Emerson College (Boston MA) and that just ramped up my enthusiasm even more (I attended Emerson for my Freshman year many, many years ago). So sit, back, relax, and learn a bit about Mr. Grossman’s writing process and the adaptations he’s had to make as a result of recent world changes. Thank you, Mr. Grossman, for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit and share with us today.

by Gary Grossman

     I’ll start off with what I used to do.  

     As a journalist, TV documentary producer, and novelist, I would begin each day reading the LA Times, watching local TV coverage and national and international cable news, and listening to talk radio on the way to work.

     I’d think about where we were going today and consider why the things that were happening were actually happening. I’d ask myself, “Why Today?”

     That approach often led me to create television documentaries that were based on what we knew and where we were going – both historical and relevant stories. It worked for years.

     But on September 11, 2001, the unthinkable replaced the historic and the predictable.     

     Now, there’s hardly an hour or a day without a significant surprise. I think we can all agree that revelations, rumors, leaks, whispers, and testimony constantly take us to new territory.  

     As I evolved from documentary producer to thriller novelist, I realized I had to adjust my way of thinking to more than just staying ahead of the curve. I had to anticipate how sharp and unexpected those next carves were going to be. Along the way, I decided I was writing in a new genre, a fiction genre I call political reality.  

     Here’s how I’ve done it as the author of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS and the sequels EXECUTIVE TREASON and EXECUTIVE COMMAND, and in my geographic thriller, OLD EARTH.  

     I take a three-level approach. As a matter of fact, I recommend this for anyone writing thrillers and for readers trying to figure plots out ahead of the characters.

     I start with known knowns. They’re the things that we do know. They’re in the news or certainly within grasp of my characters and the experience of readers. Known knowns are the firm ground we walk on. The familiar. They’re the dramatic hooks; the way into the action.

     Then it’s time to change things up, to challenge the characters and readers, and take the plot into the realm of unknown knowns.  

     Simply put, unknown knowns are the things that we may see happening, but the characters don’t. Or they don’t make complete sense yet. Here, readers are often ahead of the characters in the plot encouraging them to discover the unknown knowns. Just when they do, I shake things up again.    

     Time for the unknown unknowns. These are major red herrings, twists and turns; surprises for both the readers and the characters in the book.

     What I love about constructing an exciting plot based on this approach is that the unknown unknowns are there to be researched and discovered. They are real or about to become real. We just might not know about them yet. But we better.

     For EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, it’s recognizing that Cold War Russia’s school for training sleeper spies to pass as Americans still has long roots. REAL. Well-funded plots sponsored by both rogue nations and American businesses are aimed at drastically changing American politics. REAL. Manipulation of markets, media and people move these diabolical plots along. REAL. And the public’s belief that most of it’s not possible is the ultimate danger. EXTREMELY REAL.

     Unknown unknowns until it’s too late.

     The plot of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS weaves through the three categories starting with we what know and climaxing with a scenario that very well could be just around one of those curves.

     The great fun in the reading is the same fun I had in the writing. The characters take over. Secret Service agent Scott Roarke really does learn along the way. He meets Boston attorney Katie Kessler, not because I outlined her role, but because he needs a smart, dynamic woman to help him. He’s up against a masterful assassin who constantly stays one step ahead as he delves into the life of Teddy Lodge, a charismatic congressman, who runs a brilliant political campaign.

     They emerge and converge in a story that begins with knowns – news that we can all recognize and figures that seem relatable and reliable. And then EXECUTIVE ACTIONS kicks into gear, exploding from what we do know into the other realms. I’m not painting a picture of an alternate reality, though it’s fiction. It’s the political reality of tomorrow…or maybe even later today! You decide.

     I hope my writing approach works for you. It’s driven with a fast-paced cinematic style. Lots happening simultaneously. Things to figure out. So, let me know what you think. I’m reachable at,, or via Twitter @garygrossman1.

     Thanks. Enjoy!


Executive Actions

by Gary Grossman

on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017


Executive Actions

In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke gets an assignment that turns his world upside down. His investigation uncovers a plot so monstrous it can change the course of America’s future and world politics. Roarke discovers that presidency is about to fall into the hands of a hostile foreign power. The power play is so well-conceived that even the U.S. Constitution itself is a tool designed to guarantee the plot’s success. With the election clock ticking, Roarke and Boston attorney Katie Kessler race at breakneck speed to prevent the unthinkable. But they also know that it will take a miracle to stop the takeover from happening.

Praise for the Executive Series:

Executive Actions is the best political thriller I have read in a long, long time. Right up there with the very best of David Baldacci. [A] masterpiece of suspense; powerfully written and filled with wildly imaginative twists. Get ready to lose yourself in a hell of a story.”
Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author

“Break out the flashlight, and prepare to stay up all night … Once you start reading Executive Actions you won’t be able to put it down.”
Bruce Feirstein, James Bond screenwriter, and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

Executive Command mixes terrorists, politics, drug gangs and technology in nonstop action! Gary Grossman creates a … horribly plausible plot to attack the United States. So real it’s scary!”
Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Plan, Cold Choices, Red Dragon Rising

“Moving at break-neck speed, Executive Command is nothing short of sensational … Executive Command is not just a great book, it’s a riveting experience.”
W.G. Griffiths, award-winning, bestselling author of Methuselah’s Pillar, Malchus

Executive Command ramps up the excitement … A truly bravura performance from a master of the political thriller!”
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, New York Times bestselling co-author of Lincoln’s Last Days, Uncommon Valor

“Intricate, taut, and completely mesmerizing. Grossman expertly blends together globe-spanning locations, well-researched technology, finely crafted narrative, and intriguing characters to create a virtuoso tale. Highly recommended.”
Dale Brown, New York Times bestselling author

Executive Treason is more chilling than science fiction … You’ll never listen to talk radio again without a shiver going down your spine.”
Gary Goldman, Executive Producer, Minority Report; Screenwriter, Navy SEALs & Total Recall

Book Details:

Genre: Political Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Diversion Books
Publication Date: TBD
Number of Pages: 556
ISBN: 1626811059 (ISBN13: 9781626811058)
Series: Executive #1
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 

Author Bio:

Gary Grossman

Gary Grossman is a multiple Emmy Award-winning network television producer, a print and television journalist, and novelist. He has produced more than 10,000 television shows for 40 broadcast and cable networks including primetime specials, reality and competition series, and live event telecasts.

Grossman has worked for NBC, written for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald American, and the New York Times. He is the author of four best-selling international award-winning thrillers available in print, eBooks, and Audible editions: EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, EXECUTIVE TREASON, EXECUTIVE COMMAND and OLD EARTH. (Diversion Books, NYC) and two acclaimed non-fiction books covering pop culture and television history – SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL and SATURDAY MORNING TV.

Grossman taught journalism, film, and television at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC and has guest lectured at colleges and universities around the United States. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Emerson College in Boston and he serves on the Boston University Metropolitan College Advisory Board. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association and The Military Writers Society of America.

Catch Up With Gary Grossman On:

Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !

Tour Participants:


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gary Grossman. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $15 Gift Card AND the opportunity to Suggest a Character Name for the Next Book in the Executive Series! The giveaway begins on June 1 and runs through August 3, 2017.

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Author Interview: Blake Fontenay

One of the many authors included in the Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded anthology is Blake Fontenay with his story, “The Coal Torpedo.” Mr. Fontenay takes a few minutes to stop by The Book Diva’s Reads and answer a few questions about himself and writing. 

Thank you Mr. Fontenay for stopping by…

Q. You’ve described yourself as a “recovering journalist.” Did you find it difficult to transition from journalist to novel writer?

A. Writing a novel is much different from writing a story for a newspaper. As a newspaper reporter, you know you’ll be working on a story for a day, or maybe a few days, or maybe even a few weeks. But you know at the end of that time, your work will appear in print under your byline. (Or if the story doesn’t pan out, at least you know you’ll get paid for your time.) With novel writing, you don’t have those assurances. You work for months on end, not knowing for sure if your work will ever be published or if anyone will read it if it is. I think novel writing is a much tougher test of self discipline.

Q. The Politics of Barbecue was your first published novel; was it your first attempt to write a novel? 

A. Actually, I wrote a book called Scouts’ Honor before I wrote The Politics of Barbecue. On my first attempt, I didn’t have any luck finding a publisher for Scouts’ Honor. But after I got The Politics of Barbecue published, I re-worked Scouts’ Honor and it was published last year.

Q. Writing a novel can be a relatively solitary endeavor. Did you find it easier or more difficult to write your novels or the story for this anthology?

A. In newspaper writing, you’ve always got editors who are monitoring your progress. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because editors keep you motivated and focused on meeting your deadlines. It can be a curse if you’ve got an editor who is always breathing down your neck and trying to micro-manage you. At least I’m told that can happen with some editors.

Q. Do you have any rituals you adhere to while writing, such as dedicated writing space, typewriter versus computer, set hours to write daily, silence or music in the background or can you write anywhere?

A. I typically write in the evenings after I get home from work. Usually, that only happens after quite a bit of procrastination. I’ll flip on the TV and spend a while surfing Facebook or reading news stories online before I ever get serious about writing. But once I do get serious, I tend to go on writing benders. I’m not a big believer in forcing myself to write every day because if I’m not feeling it, the work product isn’t going to be any good. But when I am feeling it, I don’t want to stop writing.

Q. Do you need a detailed outline before writing your stories or do you allow your creativity free reign? 

A. I’ve written with outlines and without outlines. For me, I think it’s helpful to have a general skeleton of what the story will look like before I start writing. However, I’ve never done an outline from start to finish for a novel. I just try to outline the first few chapters to get me started, then I make up the rest as I go along. I like not knowing how a story is going to end. Until I have to write the ending, of course.

Q. If you had to choose a soundtrack for “The Coal Torpedo,” what songs would be included?

A. “The Coal Torpedo” is a really dark story. Since the story is set right after the Civil War and concerns events that happened during the Civil War, I think a really slow, creepy whispered version of “Dixie” would have to be on the soundtrack. Maybe the same kind of treatment for “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” If I had to go with something modern, maybe “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence. But even that might be too upbeat to fit this story.

Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded
ISBN: 9781626818781 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781626818774 (ebook)
ASIN: B014RY2W00 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Diversion Publishing

Bestselling authors Jeffery Deaver and Anne Perry join rising stars like Dana Chamblee Carpenter and Paul Gail Benson in a collection that proves Music City is a deadly place to be when your song gets called.

Featuring stories by: Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, Jefferson Bass, Mary Burton, Jonathan Stone, Steven James, Maggie Toussaint, Clay Stafford, Heywood Gould, Jaden Terrell, and more…

Every year, some of the biggest names in the thriller world converge in Tennessee for the Killer Nashville conference, an event where stars of the genre rub elbows with their most devoted fans, where the bestsellers of tomorrow pick up tricks of the trade, and where some of the best writers of today swap dark tales of good deals gone bad, rights made wrong, and murder in all shades…

This collection of new stories features some of the biggest names in suspense, from bestsellers to ferociously talented newcomers. Grouped around the classic theme of murder, Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded is a first-class collection and a must-have for fans of the genre.

“The Coal Torpedo” by Blake Fontenay 

The Civil War has just ended and historical figure Allan Pinkerton is in Washington, D.C. in the office of President Andrew Johnson on a mission to set wrongs right. But Johnson may have another agenda than the truth and – if Johnson has his way – the person responsible for the deaths of 1,700 American civilians may go unpunished.

Meet the Author:

Blake Fontenay spent more than 25 years as a reporter, columnist and editorial writer for metropolitan daily newspapers — including the Sacramento Bee, Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), Orlando Sentinel and Commercial Appeal (Memphis). Since leaving the newspaper business, he has worked as the communications director for Tennessee’s Comptroller, Treasurer and Secretary of State. He is currently the coordinator for the Tri-Star Chronicles project at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. He has two published novels: The Politics of Barbecue, which won an Independent Publishers Book Awards gold medal for fiction in the South region, and Scouts’ Honor.

Connect with the author:     Goodreads      |     Facebook      |     Twitter 


Enter to win 1 of 8 ebook copies of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded via Diversion Books and the Killer Nashville Team. Giveaway ends November 30 and is open to US residents only.

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Book Blast: TROPICAL DEPRESSION by Jeff Lindsay

Tropical Depression

by Jeff Lindsay

August 25 Book Blast


coverNEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jeff Lindsay mastered suspense with his wildly addictive DEXTER series. Before that, however, there was former cop and current burnout Billy Knight. When a hostage situation turns deadly, Billy loses everything—his wife, his daughter, and his career. Devastated, he heads to Key West to put down his gun and pick up a rod and reel as a fishing boat captain. But former co-worker Roscoe McAuley isn’t ready to let Billy rest.

When Roscoe tells Billy that someone murdered his son, Billy sends him away. When Roscoe himself turns up dead a few weeks later, however, Billy can’t keep from getting sucked back into Los Angeles, and the streets that took so much from him.

Billy’s investigations into the death of a former cop, and his son, will take him up to the highest echelons of the LAPD, finding corruption at every level. It puts him on a collision course with the law, with his past, with his former fellow officers, and with the dark aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. Jeff Lindsay’s considerable storytelling gifts are on full display, drawing the reader in with a mesmerizing style and a case with more dangerous blind curves than Mulholland Drive.

Book Details:

Genre:  Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural

Published by:   Diversion Books 

Publication Date:   August 25, 2015 (Re-Release)

Number of Pages:  256

ISBN:   2940151536677

Series: Billy Knight Thrillers, Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Want a Red Tide Sneak Peek?

Join in on this special mailing list so you can see a sneak peek of the trailer for Jeff Lindsay’s upcoming book, Red Tide. 

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Read an excerpt:

Somebody once said Los Angeles isn’t really a city but a hundred suburbs looking for a city. Every suburb has a different flavor to it, and every Angeleno thinks he knows all about you when he knows which one you live in. But that’s mostly important because of the freeways.

Life in L.A. is centered on the freeway system. Which freeway you live nearest is crucial to your whole life. It determines where you can work, eat, shop, what dentist you go to, and who you can be seen with.

I needed a freeway that could take me between the two murder sites, get me downtown fast, or up to the Hollywood substation to see Ed Beasley.

I’d been thinking about the Hollywood Freeway. It went everywhere I needed to go, and it was centrally located, which meant it connected to a lot of other freeways. Besides, I knew a hotel just a block off the freeway that was cheap and within walking distance of the World News, where Roscoe had been cut down. I wanted to look at the spot where it happened. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t learn anything, but it was a starting place.

And sometimes just looking at the place where a murder happened can give you ideas about it; cops are probably a little more levelheaded than average, but most of them will agree there’s something around a murder scene that, if they weren’t cops, they would call vibes.

So Hollywood it was. I flagged down one of the vans that take you to the rental car offices.

By the time I got fitted out with a brand new matchbox—no, thank you, I did not want a special this-week-only deal on a Cadillac convertible; that’s right, cash, I didn’t like credit cards; no, thank you, I did not want an upgrade of any kind for only a few dollars more; no, thank you, I didn’t want the extra insurance—it was dark and I was tired. I drove north on the San Diego Freeway slowly, slowly enough to have at least one maniac per mile yell obscenities at me. Imagine the nerve of me, going only sixty in a fifty-five zone.

The traffic was light. Pretty soon I made my turn east on the Santa Monica. I was getting used to being in L.A. again, getting back into the rhythm of the freeways. I felt a twinge of dread as I passed the exit for Sepulveda Boulevard, but I left it behind with the lights of Westwood.

The city always looks like quiet countryside from the Santa Monica Freeway. Once you are beyond Santa Monica and Westwood, you hit a stretch that is isolated from the areas it passes through. You could be driving through inner-city neighborhoods or country-club suburbs, but you’ll never know from the freeway.

That all changes as you approach downtown. Suddenly there is a skyline of tall buildings, and if you time it just right, there are two moons in the sky. The second one is only a round and brightly lit corporate logo on a skyscraper, but if it’s your first time through you can pass some anxious moments before you figure that out. After all, if any city in the world had two moons, wouldn’t it be L.A.?

And suddenly you are in one of the greatest driving nightmares of all recorded history. As you arc down a slow curve through the buildings and join the Harbor Freeway you are flung into the legendary Four-Level. The name is misleading, a slight understatement. It really seems like a lot more than four levels.

The closest thing to driving the Four-Level is flying a balloon through a vicious dogfight with the Red Baron’s Flying Circus. The bad guys—and they are all bad guys in the Four-Level—the bad guys come at you from all possible angles, always at speeds just slightly faster than the traffic is moving, and if you do not have every move planned out hours in advance you’ll be stuck in the wrong lane looking for a sign you’ve already missed and before you know it you will find yourself in Altadena, wondering what happened.

I got over into the right lane in plenty of time and made the swoop under several hundred tons of concrete overpass, and I was on the Hollywood Freeway. Traffic started to pick up after two or three exits, and in ten minutes I was coming off the Gower Street ramp and onto Franklin.

There’s a large hotel right there on Franklin at Gower. I’ve never figured out how they break even. They’re always at least two-thirds empty. They don’t even ask if you have a reservation. They are so stunned that you’ve found their hotel they are even polite for the first few days. There’s also a really lousy coffee shop right on the premises, which is convenient if you keep a cop’s schedule. I guessed I was probably going to do that this trip.

A young Chinese guy named Allan showed me up to my room. It was on the fifth floor and looked down into the city, onto Hollywood Boulevard just two blocks away. I left the curtain open. The room was a little bit bigger than a gas station rest room, but the decor wasn’t quite as nice.

It was way past my bedtime back home, but I couldn’t sleep. I left my bag untouched on top of the bed and went out.

The neighborhood at Franklin and Gower is schizophrenic. Two blocks up the hill, towards the famous Hollywood sign, the real estate gets pretty close to seven figures. Two blocks down the hill and it’s overpriced at three.

I walked straight down Gower, past a big brick church, and turned west. I waved hello to Manny, Moe, and Jack on the corner: it had been a while. There was still a crowd moving along the street. Most of them were dressed like they were auditioning for the role of something your mother warned you against.

Some people have this picture of Hollywood Boulevard. They think it’s glamorous. They think if they can just get off the pig farm and leave Iowa for the big city, all they have to do is get to Hollywood Boulevard and magic will happen. They’ll be discovered.

The funny thing is, they’re right. The guys that do the discovering are almost always waiting in the Greyhound station. If you’re young and alone, they’ll discover you. The magic they make happen might not be what you had in mind, but you won’t care about that for more than a week. After that you’ll be so eager to please you’ll gladly do things you’d never even had a name for until you got discovered. And a few years later when you die of disease or overdose or failure to please the magic-makers, your own mother won’t recognize you. And that’s the real magic of Hollywood. They take innocence and turn it into money and broken lives.

I stopped for a hot dog, hoping my sour mood would pass. It didn’t. I got mustard on my shirt. I watched a transvestite hooker working on a young Marine. The jarhead was drunk enough not to know better. He couldn’t believe his luck. I guess the hooker felt the same way.

The hot dog started to taste like old regrets. I threw the remaining half into the trash and walked the last two blocks to Cahuenga.

The World News is open twenty-four hours a day, and there’s always a handful of people browsing. In a town like this there’s a lot of people who can’t sleep. I don’t figure it’s their conscience bothering them.

I stood on the sidewalk in front of the place. There were racks of specialty magazines for people interested in unlikely things. There were several rows of out-of-town newspapers. Down at the far end of the newsstand was an alley. Maybe three steps this side of it there was a faint rusty brown stain spread across the sidewalk and over the curb into the gutter. I stepped over it and walked into the alley.

The alley was dark, but that was no surprise. The only surprise was that I started to feel the old cop adrenaline starting up again, just walking down a dark alley late at night. Suddenly I really wanted this guy. I wanted to find whoever had killed Roscoe and put him in a small cell with a couple of very friendly body-builders.

The night air started to feel charged. It felt good to be doing cop work again, and that made me a little mad, but I nosed around for a minute anyway. I wasn’t expecting to find anything, and I didn’t. By getting down on one knee and squinting I did find the spot where the rusty stains started. There was a large splat, and then a trickle leading back out of the alley to the stain on the sidewalk.

I followed the trickle back to the big stain and stood over it, looking down.

Blood is hard to wash out. But sooner or later the rain, the sun, and the passing feet wear away the stains. This stain was just about all that was left of Roscoe McAuley and when it was gone there would be nothing left of him at all except a piece of rock with his name on it and a couple of loose memories. What he was, what he did, what he thought and cared about—that was already gone. All that was hosed away a lot easier than blood stains—a lot quicker, too.

“I’m sorry, Roscoe,” I said to the stain. It didn’t answer. I walked back up the hill and climbed into a bed that was too soft and smelled of mothballs and cigarettes.

Author Bio:

authorJeff Lindsay is the award-winning author of the seven New York Times bestselling Dexter novels upon which the international hit TV show Dexter is based. His books appear in more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world. Jeff is a graduate of Middlebury College, Celebration Mime Clown School, and has a double MFA from Carnegie Mellon. Although a full-time writer now, he has worked as an actor, comic, director, MC, DJ, singer, songwriter, composer, musician, story analyst, script doctor, and screenwriter.


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Book Blast: PEERLESS DETECTIVE by Michael Raleigh

Peerless Detective

by Michael Raleigh

August 3, 2015 Book Blast


coverOnce Billy Fox starts looking for trouble, he discovers that—in Chicago—trouble’s under every footstep.

Home from the war, Billy Fox leaves Michigan for Chicago, hoping to find his ex-girlfriend, Rita—now another man’s wife. Chicago isn’t a town that takes kindly to strangers, and Billy finds himself barely scraping by, working odd jobs and living in squalor among convicts and other men that the city hasn’t spit out just yet.

A chance encounter lands him a job with Harry Strummer, the streetwise owner of the Peerless Detective Agency. At Harry’s oddball agency, Billy hones his skills, learning how to stake out a mark, find a bug, and spot a tail. Odd life lessons and unexpected romance come his way. But as he searches for Rita, an even bigger mystery comes along, one that puts Harry, and Billy with him, in the crosshairs.

This punchy, spellbinding noir spins a web that will catch readers and hold them captive to the final page, when we learn that Billy’s Chicago is a town where nothing is ever truly left up to chance.

Book Details:

Genre:  Hard-Boiled PI

Published by:   Diversion Books

Publication Date:    August 4th 2015

Number of Pages:  301

ISBN:   1626817804 (ISBN13: 9781626817807)

Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  iTunes  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Billy Fox stood on the corner of Division and Clark waiting for a sign, at the end of his second endless week in Chicago. Not from God, necessarily, for he was not yet convinced there was one. Just a sign that this was where he was supposed to be. And if not here, then where? He was beginning to believe the answer to that question might be nowhere. More than once in the past year he’d woken in a strange place, unable to remember for a moment where he was – just one more hot dark room on a street he didn’t know. Different rooms but the same smells of sweaty sheets and cigarettes, same panic squeezing his heart in a cold fist.

A cop car went by and the red-faced one riding shotgun gave him the look.

Yeah, you made me for a drifter.

What was the word now? A transient. The cop squinted his way and Billy met his eyes. If they spoke, Billy knew exactly how the conversation would play out.

I’m looking for work, Officer, he’d say.

But the cop lost interest, bored and hot, and they drove on.

Up the street he saw a hot dog joint. He’d told himself he wouldn’t eat until he knew where his next buck was going to come from – he was down to just a few bucks – but here was food, hot food, and he could smell the onions and the dogs and Polish sweating on the grill, and he shook his head. Almost time to stand on corners again. Hardest thing of all, you were either cut out for it or not, the ability to buttonhole strangers and feed them a line of crap: Hey, buddy, help a guy get back on his feet? Hey, man, I’m trying to get to (fill in the blank here but first you needed to know the names of places a guy on foot might be trying to get to). Hey, Miss, I just need to get a sandwich.

No, I don’t want to do that again, Billy thought. I’ll shovel shit somewhere in this place first.

Billy looked at the hotdog stand and began moving that way. He was just a few feet from the doorway of the hotdog stand when he saw the man in the suit – a white suit, an ice cream suit, his mother would have said, rumpled but a white suit nonetheless, and then the hat, a porkpie with the brim turned up all the way around, like something out of a gangster movie. A small man, but this man in the white suit moved up Division Street toward Billy in a rolling walk, what might have been his tough-guy strut, deep in thought, so deep, Billy thought, that he was nearly talking to himself. He could see the man’s jaw moving. The man looked up, seemed for the first time to notice the hot dog stand and stopped, jingling his change in his pockets in that way that Billy’s father had, as though reminding himself he wasn’t broke yet.

The man in the suit never saw the two kids step out from a doorway behind him. Two of them, one white and one black and Billy knew the look and what was about to go down. The white kid bumped the man off balance and the black one gave him a push and he went down. The white kid reached down with a practiced move and came up with a wallet. Then they were off. They’d gone only a few steps when a cab driver in a turban came running toward them, a big brown-skinned man with a black beard, and the kids took one look, stopped on a dime and went back the other way. The man in the suit was still on the sidewalk, he seemed stunned or injured. Then, as the kids ran past him, Billy saw a bony leg shoot out and the white kid went down, dropping the wallet as he hit the pavement. He scrambled for the wallet but the man in the white suit was on him like a cat. For a moment they were both reaching for it, even as they grappled with each other, and then Billy saw the wallet go flying off the curb. A passing pickup truck rolled over it. Billy walked over and picked it up. Then he turned in time to see the kid get to his feet.

They faced each other, a wiry middle-aged man in a white suit and a tall, thin street kid in a sleeveless t-shirt, and if asked Billy would have said the kid had already made his second mistake – there was no reason to turn this into a fight with witnesses – no, an audience. A few yards up the street, the second thief had stopped at the corner, started to come back and then had second thoughts: the small street action had drawn a crowd – four or five passersby, three of the cabdrivers parked beside the hotdog stand, a woman with a dog. The second kid shook his head in irritation and took off.

Billy hefted the wallet in his hand and told himself he was probably quick enough to take off without fear of pursuit, he’d have money. As though he’d heard the thought, the man in the white suit looked his way for the briefest moment in time, then turned his attention to the problem at hand.

The fighters circled in that old minuet of the street, the kid with his hands hung low, they all fought that way now – Muhammad Ali had ruined an entire generation of street fighters who all thought they could box with their hands down around their waists while they bounced and boogied. And as Billy watched, the kid began dancing and bobbing and moving his head, and looked startled when the man in the suit cracked him in the mouth with a stiff left. The kid licked his lip, glared and waded in throwing wild punches, and one grazed the small man along the side of his face but the others caught nothing but the air. The man in the suit moved steadily to his left, and just when the kid adjusted his stance to this movement, the man shifted his feet and began circling to the right. He threw the jab again, and another one, and then the right hand, which caught the kid on the cheek. The kid threw another roundhouse and took a punch in his eye, a perfect straight right, and the eye starting swelling immediately. The kid shook his head as though this might make the swelling go away. The man came inside then, moved inside the kid’s reach, the kid threw a half-hearted punch at the air, took a fist in the mouth and then bolted. A heavy-set bystander gave chase but stopped after a few paces, panting and grinning.

Billy waited as the short man patted and smoothed his now-abused costume, put the hat back on and gave it a little pat. He straightened his tie, tucked at his shirt cuffs, brushed dirt from his white trousers. He missed the place where his knee had hit the pavement.

The turbaned cabdriver said, “Are you all right, sir?” and the man in the suit held up a hand and nodded.

“No problem. And thanks.”

“You did good,” the cabdriver said, and the man shrugged.

The man in the suit looked around for the wallet – no, he knew exactly where the wallet was. He looked for Billy. Billy held up the wallet and stepped forward.

“Here you go.”

The man glanced at his wallet and then looked Billy in the eye. Then he grinned but Billy had caught the look that preceded the grin. It had passed in the merest fragment of a second but Billy knew this one, a measuring look, as though by looking Billy in the eye this man in the unlikely suit could tell if he’d taken anything out of the wallet.

“Thanks.” He took the wallet and made a show of wiping it off.

“A truck rolled over it. If you got credit cards in there…”

“Nah, no plastic for me. I’m a guy that pays cash.” Now he looked in the wallet, held it up. “Doesn’t look like they got anything.”

“Good,” Billy said and turned to leave.

“Hey,” the man called to him. “Thanks.”

He was holding out his hand. Billy shook it and the man came up with a small vinyl packet from which he extracted a business card.

“Here, take this. I’m just around the corner on Wells. My, ah, place of business, I mean. I’m Harry Strummer. If I can do anything for you – ” He squinted as though to get a better look at Billy. “You looking for work? If you’re looking for work I could make some calls.”

For the first time Billy Fox was embarrassed.

To hide his embarrassment he looked at the card. It said “H.A. Strummer, President.” Below this was the name “Peerless Detective Services,” and just below, as though it explained the name of the firm, the card promised “Discretion, Professionalism, Persistence. Licensed in three states.”

Billy bit back a sudden impulse to ask which three states. Instead he just nodded and said, “Okay. Thanks. I’ve got a couple things going right now –”

“Oh, sure, sure. Maybe sometime down the road, you’re looking for something, give me a jingle, I’ll get on the horn. Smart guy like you, there’s a lot out there.”

Billy heard that note in the voice, that Good-time-Charlie salesman’s note that said he was bullshitting and they both knew it, and the question came out as if of its own volition, “How do you know I’m smart?”

“Your eyes,” Harry Strummer said, as though this was obvious, and Harry Strummer’s own eyes said he was serious.

Billy stopped himself from asking what else Harry Strummer could see there.

“Okay, thanks,” he said, and left. At the next corner he stopped to wait for the light and shot a quick glance over his shoulder. The short fellow in the ice cream suit was walking toward Wells Street, hands in his pockets, looking at the traffic. But he hadn’t gone very far. He’d stood for a while and watched Billy.


Author Bio:

authorMichael Raleigh is the author of five mysteries set in Chicago and featuring detective Paul Whelan, as well as three other novels. He is Professor Emeritus of the City Colleges, where he taught Composition, Literature, and Chicago History. He currently teaches in the First Year Writing and Honors Programs at DePaul University. His novel THE RIVERVIEW MURDERS won the Eugene Izzi Award for best crime novel by a Chicago Writer, and he has been the recipient of four Illinois Arts Council awards for fiction. He is married with three children, and lives not far from the setting of the five Paul Whelan novels.

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