Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Resurrection Garden by Frank Scully

If you're looking for a superb historical murder mystery with a touch of romance, you'll find it in Resurrection Garden by Frank Scully.

Jake Turner is a lone drifter trying to escape a past that seems to catch up with him no matter where he goes. A veteran of the charge up San Juan Hill, he has earned a reputation that he can't shake.

It's 1904 in North Dakota and Jake is a part-time Deputy Sheriff. When he stumbles upon the frozen, brutally murdered body of Hjelmer “Thor” Thorsgaard, he sure doesn't get a lot of help from the townsfolk to figure out who might have wanted Thor dead. Seems everyone in Badger had a reason. The guy was a liar and a cheat who abused his family. Even his wife isn't sorry he's gone.

Jake feels the yearning to move on, especially when he becomes attached to Andy, an eight-year-old orphan boy, and begins to fall in love with his friend Issac's sister, Alice. When Andy is kidnapped and almost murdered, Jake is certain that whoever is behind Thor's death wants him out of the way, and they don't care who they have to hurt to make sure that happens.

He returns to Cuba, hoping to keep those he cares for out of danger. Though he knows he'll return to trap Thor's killer, Jake has no idea what will happen when all the dust settles.

In case you've somehow missed it, I'm a big fan of mysteries and I love historical fiction. That Resurrection Garden was able to blend two of my favorite genres into a well-written, intriguing novel, is a bonus over how much I truly enjoyed this book.

Resurrection Garden is Scully's debut novel, and the first book in his Decade Mystery series. Having read this book, I can barely wait until the next one is released in June.

In this riveting murder mystery, Scully has pulled together the wildness of the West, rich descriptions, a well-developed plot, and a menagerie of complex characters to come up with a winner. I expect this kind of writing from seasoned authors, so it is always a delight when a debut novel captivates me in this fashion. Simply put, I couldn't lay the book down. I stole every waking moment, and even moments when I should have been sleeping, to read this one. Just when I thought I had this one figured out, I discovered I was only partially right. I don't mind being fooled when such a satisfying ending is involved.

Guys shouldn't let the hint of romance turn them off this one. It's subtle and is crucial to Jake's development. As expected in a book set during this time period, there are plenty of bullets flying, and the situations Jake manages to get himself in can be a bit humorous.

Lovers of westerns, historical fiction, and murder mysteries will want to grab this one.

Title:  Resurrection Garden
Author: Frank Scully
Publisher:  MuseItUp Publishing
ASIN: B004HO6A90
SRP:  $5.95

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Interview with Heather Haven, Author of Murder is a Family Business

Joining us today is Heather Haven, author of Murder is a Family Business, the first book in her Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series published by MuseItUpPublishing.

Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.

One of her first jobs as a writer was given to her by her then agent. It was that of writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week and then promptly came down with the flu. Writing "The Sands of Time" with a temperature of 102 delivered some pretty hot stuff. A short stint with No Soap Radio in New York City as a staff comedy writer was a dream come true! She knew writing was for her, in particular, funny writing.

Two one-act plays, The Closet Corpse and Baltimore, farcical comedies both, were well received whenever and wherever they've been performed. She had the good fortune to have Baltimore done at Playwrights Horizon in New York City, shortly after The Closet Corpse premiered off-off B'Way, starring the very talented Sandy Faison, of Broadway's Annie fame. Both have also been recently done in San Jose to an appreciative audience.

Heather is in the process of writing the third novel of the Alvarez Mystery Series and finds it a joy. She gets to be all the characters, including the cat!

Welcome, Heather. It is wonderful to have you here today. Let's start off by learning a bit more about you.

Where did you grow up?

Sarasota, Florida, winter home of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. That’s because both parents were members of the circus. My mother was a featured performer and my father was an elephant trainer. But that’s a story for a later time.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

At the tender age of 9, I was brought to the public library to check out my first book. I chose Nancy Drew, The Secret of the Old Clock. It changed my life. I knew then and there my life would revolve around mysteries and books.

When did you begin writing?

At around sixteen years old, I started writing lyrics to popular songs that had none. It was a fun start the writing process and one I sometimes do to this day, solely for my own amusement. I never did anything with them. I think they’re tucked away in a drawer.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

Yes, yes, and yes. Although, I prefer the morning, when I’m fresh.

What is this book about?

Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and the rest of Alvarez Family, detectives all. Basically, just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? Quirky Lee doesn't think so. The 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Her thinking is, of all the nerve.

Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.

What inspired you to write it?

I don’t know that inspiration has anything to do with it. I write because I have to. Driven, don’tchaknow. But I belive in the family unit, whatever form it takes.

Who is your biggest supporter?

Lucky me, I have a family that is very supportive, down to the cats. Most friends and writing buddies are behind me 100%. That makes it a lot easier.

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

Every writer should be a member of a writing group, in my opinion. The help and support is unbelievable. So, yes, I am a member of several writing groups, plus I have been fortunate to study in the Stanford Continuing Studies Creative Writing program and with Ellen Sussman, a wonderful teacher and superb writer, in her own right.

Who is your favorite author?

Get ready for it: P.G. Wodehouse. I have read every book of his I can get my hands on and he wrote over 90! His writing can make me laugh like no one else’s. He’s most famous for the Jeeves and Bertie Wooster collection of short stories and books but he was a prolific writer of screenplays, plays, novels, short stories, pretty much anything. I’m a big fan.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

It was loooooong. My then agent – a lovely lady - had some near misses with major publishing houses for nearly three years. Then the economic disaster happened. Publishing went into the outhouse and hasn’t quite come out yet. I thought my little series was doomed, but hauled it out of the drawer last year and sent it off to MuseItUp Publishing, a new house in Canada and voila! It was accepted and now we’re off and running. Ain’t life grand?

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

Not one danged thing. I did what was called for at the time. It’s worked out just fine. Maybe I would have exercised more, wouldn’t have eaten so much chocolate…wait a minute. Who am I kidding?

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

MuseItUp Publishing! It awaits there! Specifically at:
It’s lengthy but direct!,, and are some that carry the book.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

You betcha!

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?

The trailer, which I did myself, is on my website. I worked on it for about 50 hours – learning curve – and then revamped it in about 15 minutes three weeks ago. So happy I did! The result is on my website and I’m proud of it. You can also follow Lee’s adventures at Twitter@PILeeAlvarez and join me on Facebook at

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

Listening to my betters and those in the know. These people seldom steer me wrong. Also, everyone at MIU is supportive and helpful. We’re there for each other.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Write, write, write. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. And don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, or you don’t have the talent, or it’s crazy. Ignore them. Write. The world would be a better place is everyone in it planted a tree and wrote one story, even flash fiction. Get out there and write!!!

What is up next for you?

Finishing up the 3rd book of the Alvarez series, Death Runs in the Family, then I have a very exciting idea for a new novel, plus I need to finish a 3-act play I’m writing, and do the final edits on another mystery novel, not part of the Alvarez Family Series. I also like to write short stories whenever I get fifteen minutes or so.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Yes. Live, live, live! As Auntie Mame says, ‘Life’s a banquet and most sons-a-b------ are starving to death.’

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Interview: Terri Lynn Main, Author of Dark Side of the Moon

Joining us today is Terri Lynn Main. Terri teaches communication at Reedley College in Reedley California. She has been writing professionally for more than forty years, but Dark Side of the Moon is her first novel.

Welcome, Terri. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I hate that question. I am not that exciting as a person. I live a fairly quiet life with three cats and a lot of books. I love teaching my classes and writing. In many ways it’s my dream life. There really is not much interesting about me, and I kind of like it that way.

I think in some ways that helps writing fiction. In fiction you can explore parts of yourself that you don’t express openly. If you live a very exciting life, there’s not much left of explore. :)

When did you begin writing?

That would be about third grade. I learned about paragraphs then. Seriously, my first published piece was in the school newsletter that went out to the parents. It was about the sun. I found it after my mother passed away in her cedar chest. I had written that the light from the sun took eight minutes to reach the earth.

The principal had changed it to read “eight light-minutes.” I scratched it out and put back what I wrote. I then went to the principal and explained to him that “light minutes” were measurements of distance and not time. He invited me to join the science club two years before I was eligible to join.

What is this book about?

Dark Side of the Moon is a science fiction/cozy mystery novel. That’s right. There are not that many of those sort of novels around. It takes place in a small community built underground on the moon at the end of the Twenty-First Century. The main character is Carolyn Masters, a history professor and former FBI profiler, who is looking for a change after her mother dies. She is offered a position at Armstrong University and she heads off to the Moon.

She isn’t there long, though, before Juan McAlister, a astromechanics professor and lunar independence advocate, is murdered in his office. Being the first recorded murder on the moon, they call in Carolyn and a former Dallas homicide detective who runs the criminology department to investigate the case. They must now solve the murder, but also deal with clashing personalities, stop a terrorist attack on Earth, and exorcise their own demons.

What inspired you to write it?

Oddly enough, it was a dream. I had this dream in high school about a golden eyed alien who shows up at a lunar colony where I am working as a teacher. He gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and I am defending him.

What does that have to do with this story? Well, back in 2007 when I was planning a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I thought about doing something with that dream. Being in my 50’s, golden eyed handsome aliens were not quite as attractive as they were when I was 17. So, my main character aged a bit, but she was still a teacher and there was still a murder. And the love interest? Well, you’ll have to read to find out, but he’s definitely not a golden eyed alien.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

It will be released in February at a number of locations, but it will appear first on the MuseItUp Publishing website. The URL for that page is huge. So just use this TinyURL

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

Yes, I have a website with free reads featuring these characters, excerpts from the book, information about the moon, and a map of the places mentioned in the novel. I’m updating it frequently.

It’s at

You can also “like” us at

What is up next for you?

Well, right now, I’m working on four sequels to Dark Side of the Moon. The next one which I will be finishing up this month is called Stormy Weather. Someone is messing with the weather control system in Armstrong City. Carolyn and Mike are called in to investigate. Soon they are on the trail of a serial killer. Their investigation takes leads them to sports betting, big time wrestling (in 1/6g it’s pretty interesting) and steroids for the brain. And, yes, it was inspired by another dream.

Thanks for spending time with us today, Terri. We wish you much success.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Invisible Path by Marilyn Meredith

Deputy Tempe Crabtree is back in this superb addition to Marilyn Meredith's award-winning series that blends Native American mysticism, the beauty of the Sierra foothills, and a mystery to solve.

Tempe's son, Blair, returns home to celebrate Christmas, bringing along his college roommate. The boys are curious about some pseudo soldiers they've seen driving through town and ask Tempe what she knows, which isn't much.

When a young Indian is found dead near the recovery center on the reservation, Tempe is once again called in to investigate. Jesus Running Bear, a newcomer to the reservation who has been getting help with his addictions, is the prime suspect. But Tempe isn't so sure he's guilty. A secret, a quest to find an Indian legend, and a visit to the para-military compound put Jesus and Tempe in danger.

Can Tempe solve the mystery and save both their lives?

Marilyn has been my client for at least two years now. I got turned onto the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series before I worked for Pump Up Your Book. I loved Judgment Fire so much, that I later went on to purchase the previous books in the series. With Invisible Path, the author has brought back one of my favorite characters from the series, Tempe's son, Blair.

Blair has been away at college, so it's been awhile since we've heard much from him. It was nice to see Tempe and her husband, Hutch's relationship develop outside of being Blair's parents, but it's great to see them together again. It was also satisfying to see Blair, along with his roommate, be sent off to unofficially help uncover clues to the murder. He's no longer just a kid who you have to come up with story lines for every once in a while to make sure readers don't forget he exists.

Invisible Path is phenomenal! The series improves as time goes on. The last book, Dispel the Mist, included the Native American legend of the Hairy Man. He also helps to move along the plot in this new installment. This, and Tempe's continued confusing dreams, which Nick Two John (the innkeeper and Tempe's friend) doesn't really help Tempe decipher, give this mystery series a unique element.

What the author has always done well in both her series is showcase how a law enforcement career can impact family life. While for Tempe that usually means missing dinners or working on her day off, this makes her a character that readers can relate to.

I eagerly await the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery novel.

Title:  Invisible Path
Author:  Marilyn Meredith
Publisher:  Mundania Press LLC
ISBN-10: 1606592394
ISBN-13: 978-1606592397
(Also available in a Kindle format)

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Guest Blogger: John L. Betcher, Author of The 19th Element

Al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence.

In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist some homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play.

He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists. Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror.

May the better men win.

Terrorist Thrillers – Like a Box of Choc-o-lates
 by John Betcher

I know the title of this post seems a bit of a non-sequitur. But bear with me and let's see where we come out.

Cheryl invited me here to share my views concerning how the events of 9/11 have affected American literature. This is a weighty topic to be sure – but a fair one to ask of me, in particular, since the book I am promoting on my current blog tour is, itself, a terrorist thriller – The 19th Element.

In many ways, the 9/11 attacks represent a fulcrum under American society. Before that date, Americans thought ourselves immune from international terror. Al Qaeda attacks were something that happened in Tanzanian Embassies, or off Yemeni ports. Not in Manhattan.

After 9/11, America was forced to recognize that its perceived invulnerability was a faćade – a figment of our post-Cold War complacency. Once Americans had come to this new understanding, it was no surprise that our new reality began to show up in the writings of American authors. And they had viewpoints as diverse as Forrest Gump’s ‘box of choc-o-lates.'

Probably the first notable work directly addressing the 9/11 attacks was Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson. In the words of reviewer Jeffery Marlow, Gibson’s work of science fiction treats the felling of the World Trade Center as “the end of history – after it we are without a history, careening toward an unknown future without the benefit of a past – our lives before 9/11 are now irrelevant.” Of course, Gibson is known more for his science fiction than his clairvoyancy. But he was the first noted author to take on the post-9/11 terror topic.

In 2006, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author, John Updike, approached Islamic terrorism from what he imagined to be an Islamic viewpoint. His novel, Terrorist, sympathized with the moral struggles of an eighteen-year-old Muslim boy growing up in America. In many ways, Updike’s young terrorist, Ahmad, is among the most morally upright characters in the story. He seeks only to be true to his faith in Allah . . . the faith of his family. Updike delivers a compelling treatment of the factors that might lead a young Arab man to believe Jihad is required. And Ahmad does, indeed, plot to do harm. But in the end, he decides that Allah would not want him to blow up innocent Americans, and he abandons his genocidal plan.

Don DeLillo, another noted American author, deals with the effects of 9/11 in his 2007 release of The Falling Man. The book tells the story of a Twin Towers survivor and his life after the dread date. On a symbolic level, the story addresses a person’s ability, or inability, to reinvent oneself in the wake of grave trauma. As one might surmise from the book’s title, DeLillo tends toward the pessimistic view. In fact, he was once quoted as saying “all plots tend to move deathward.” (Sheesh! I'm not inviting him over for dinner.)

Since 9/11, there have been scores, if not hundreds, of fine examples of American literature motivated by the author’s views of terror and terrorism. Some authors lament how the Jews have always lived under the same pall that all Americans now share. Others cry out for the lost hopes of youth. Some even dare to espouse an optimistic approach. After all, it has been nearly ten years since the event that rocked the world.

With shoe bombers, underwear bombers, the time square bomber and other small-scale al Qaeda attempts to unnerve Americans, who can blame authors for reflecting society's fears in their writings. Yet the ‘terrorist thrillers’ are many. And the literary creativity of their authors sparse. So much so, in fact, that a respected literary agent recently Tweeted that he was “no longer accepting manuscripts describing al Qaeda terror cells in suburban St. Louis.” Apparently, unless it takes a new perspective on the terror discussion, a ‘terrorist thriller’ has become as mundane as a vampire script on Hollywood Boulevard . . . where it is said you can’t take three steps without being hit by one flying out some agent’s window.

With terrorist thrillers seemingly everywhere, I knew I needed to distinguish my book from the pack. So in The 19th Element, the main character lives in a small Midwestern town next door to a nuclear power plant – a location in which I have personally resided since 1973. The terrorists are al Qaeda-backed. But most were born right here in the U.S., with only a single Muslim among them.

And the overall mood of the book is not apocalyptic or foreboding. Sure . . . there are some thrills. And of course it is true that, but for the actions of my main character, millions might die. But that eventuality doesn’t prevent him from displaying wit, creativity, persistence, preparedness and loving devotion to his wife, as he works to defeat the terrorists’ plot. You'll have to read the book to see how it all comes together.

That ends your American Literature lesson for today! Cheers! John

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery. The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at and at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: A Despicable Profession by John Knoerle

Do you like spy novels? Do you enjoy mystery and intrigue? Do you enjoy post-WWII fiction?

If you answered yes to any of these, you must pick up a copy of A Despicable Profession: Book Two of The American Spy Trilogy by John Knoerle.

It's May 1946. America is enjoying its victory over the Germans. The OSS has been disbanded and the CIA is still more than a year away from being formed.

Former OSS agent Hal Schroeder is offered a job as a trade rep in Berlin. When he flies to meet his new boss in New York, he's shocked to come face-to-face with former OSS Chief Bill Donovan. Schroeder has no interest in being a spy.

When rumors swirl about the Red Army massing tanks along the Elbe in East Germany, and Hal ends up meeting a man from his past in Berlin, Hal's interests take a back seat to discovering the truth.

My husband and I have this ongoing battle. I prefer to read fiction set during the American Revolution or the Civil War. The birth of our nation and the War that divided our country--in some places still does--fascinate me. I believe they hold a great influence, even today. My husband, however, believes that anything prior to World War II is unimportant. He prefers to read fiction set during that time period.

This helps to explain why I had no idea while I was reading A Despicable Profession that William Donovan was an actual person. The majority of my fiction entertainment dealing with Nazis and WII came in the form of Wonder Woman. But I enjoy mysteries and intrigue, so I figured I would give A Despicable Profession a chance.

It is an outstanding book!

Knoerle immerses the reader in Hal's world. Hal's a bit of a smart ass. Maybe that comes from being sent on repeated suicide missions in WWII. Speaking of that, did I mention that the guy Hal meets in Berlin is Victor Jacobson, the case officer who sent him on all those missions?

If you're getting the idea that Knoerle does an excellent job of pushing Hal to the limits, you would be right. Hal was more than happy to get out of the spy business. Now he's being drawn back in by his former cronies and forced to work with a guy he can't stand. Those naughty Russians, they are messing everything up. Why does the Central Intelligence Group have to be so darn ineffective?

I have to admit I fell in love with Hal. He's probably the only person more sarcastic than me. But the guy knows his stuff. He's a professional. There are so many twists and turns in this book I thought Hal would come out looking like a wrung out wet towel. And Ambrose, Sean, and Patrick Mooney provide some comic relief, but they are guys you won't forget soon.

Knoerle knows how to keep readers turning the pages. Never once did this book lag. I just kept flipping page after page, hoping to sneak in one more chapter before my eyes shut. Character development is certainly the author's strength, but the plot and the attention to detail are equally superb.

I loved A Despicable Profession so much that I am eager to read the first book in this trilogy, A Pure Double Cross. In addition, I hope Knoerle keeps me in mind when the last book comes out.

A Despicable Profession is a book you shouldn't miss!

Title:  A Despicable Profession
Author:  John Knoerle
Publisher: Blue Steel Press
ISBN-10: 0982090307
ISBN-13: 978-0982090305

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review: Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young

A fast-paced, engaging mystery is what you'll find in Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young.

Waverly Sloan's luck can't get much worse. His wife likes to live the lifestyle she grew up with, but he's just gotten disbarred. He's messed up big time and he's not too keen to let the queen of his castle know.

When a business associate turns him onto a new line of work that can help terminally ill people get their hands on some much needed cash, while also providing Sloan with a nice profit, things are looking up. That is until his clients start dying sooner than they should and Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Evans begins investigating the viatical industry and Sloan's role in this business venture.

Buying Time is a superbly plotted, masterfully told legal thriller. From the first page I was drawn into this story whose Prologue gives you just a glimpse of the wild ride you're in for.

Young blends together a cast of complex characters, a riveting plot, a legal, though ethically questionable business, and a mystery to create a book you simply can't put down. As the investigation continues, Angela Evans and Waverly Sloan are pulled into something so sinister, you feel you have to go to confession just for reading about it.

The author manages to keep the pace quick, but still builds the suspense up to the dramatic conclusion. While I had some of the puzzle pieces placed before the ending, there were still surprises that came my way.

I highly recommend Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young. I'll be checking out more of Young's books soon!

Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
ISBN-10: 098156271X
ISBN-13: 978-0981562711
SRP:  $14.95

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Guest Blogger: Christopher Stookey, Author of Terminal Care

Phil Pescoe, the 37-year-old emergency physician at Deaconess Hospital in San Francisco, becomes alarmed by a dramatic increase in the number of deaths on the East Annex (the Alzheimer’s Ward). The deaths coincide with the initiation of a new drug study on the annex where a team of neurologists have been administering “NAF”—an experimental and highly promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease—to half of the patients on the ward.

Mysteriously, the hospital pushes forward with the study even though six patients have died since the start of the trial. Pescoe teams up with Clara Wong—a brilliant internist with a troubled past—to investigate the situation. Their inquiries lead them unwittingly into the cutthroat world of big-business pharmaceuticals, where they are threatened to be swept up and lost before they have the opportunity to discover the truth behind an elaborate cover-up.

With the death count mounting, Pescoe and Wong race against time to save the patients on the ward and to stop the drug manufacturer from unleashing a dangerous new drug on the general populace.

Alzheimer’s Disease, Clinic Trials, and the Novel Terminal Care by Christopher Stookey

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating brain disorder that leads to memory loss and a steady decline in intellectual functioning. For people under the age of fifty, the disease is fairly rare. However, as people age, the disease becomes much more common. One in twenty people between the age of 65 and 74 will develop Alzheimer’s. By age 85, about half of all people will have the disease.

The hallmark of Alzheimer’s is a gradual progression of memory impairment to the point where a patient can no longer even remember the names of family members and loved ones. The patient becomes completely unable to take care of him- or herself. The disease, ultimately, is fatal.

The underlying cause of Alzheimer’s is still not completely understand. However, one thing is certain: the end result of Alzheimer’s is the death of neurons—brain cells. The overall size of the brain shrinks dramatically as the neurons die off. In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain literally shrivels up.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, because Alzheimer’s disease is so common and so devastating, efforts towards finding a cure are underway at many research centers. Alzheimer’s research is one of the most active areas of medical inquiry.

Right now there are dozens of clinical trials underway to test new drugs as treatments for Alzheimer’s. A wide number of different types of drugs are being looked at. For example, some researchers believe inflammation might be the cause of brain cell death in Alzheimer’s; consequently, clinical trials are underway to test the efficacy of anti-inflammatory drugs in treating Alzheimer’s. Other clinical trials are testing cholesterol-lowering drugs because there are theoretical reasons to think there might be a link between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s. Researchers are also studying antioxidants, certain vitamins, and females hormones as possible treatments.

Most clinical trials are designed in basically the same way. A group of people—the subjects of the trial—are divided into two halves. One half of the subjects get the new, experimental drug that is being tested. The other half of the patients get a placebo, that is, either a sugar pill or some other inert substance such as a saline (salt water) injection. The two groups are then compared in terms of some specific parameter. Thus, in a study of a new drug treatment for Alzheimer’s, memory tests might be given. If the drug group scores better than the placebo group, this is evidence the drug is working to improve memory.

The best clinical trials are those which go by the fancy title “randomized, double-blinded” studies. “Randomized” means subjects are put in the drug group or the placebo group in a random way. A simple coin toss could be used. More commonly a computer randomly put subjects into one group or the other (using a sort of computer-generated coin toss).

“Double-blinded” means neither the researchers conducting the trial nor the subjects, themselves, know who is getting the real drug and who is getting placebo. This may seem odd at first. How could scientists conduct a trial where no one knows who is getting what? Ultimately, of course, someone does know which subjects get the drug and which get the sugar pill. But this “someone” might be a pharmacist who is not otherwise involved in the trial or even a computerized drug dispenser. The “blinding” is done in order to avoid bias. Researchers who know which subjects are getting the real drug might tend to look upon such subjects with a more favorable eye. Subjects who know they are just getting a sugar pill, on the other hand, might not try so hard on, say, a memory test.

Once all the test results are in, then the researchers “break the seals” and reveal who is getting what.

Terminal Care is a novel about exactly this sort of drug trial. Researchers at a hospital in San Francisco are conducting a clinical trial to determine if the new, experimental drug, “NAF,” is a safe and effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Half the patients on the Alzheimer’s ward are getting NAF and half are getting a salt water injection.

In good, scientific fashion, the trial is randomized and blinded. Neither the researchers nor the patients know who is getting NAF and who is getting placebo. Everything seems to be going well for the first six months of the trial, and then a problem starts to show up. The problem is patients on the ward begin to die off at an alarming rate.

The “seals” are broken early on the patients who die in order to determine if the deaths are occurring exclusively in the NAF subjects. The surprising answer is the deaths are occurring in both NAF subjects and placebo subjects. What, then, is really causing the subjects to die? This, ultimately, is the key mystery of the novel, and it takes two physicians who are not directly involved in the clinical trial—Phil Pescoe, an emergency room physician, and Clara Wong, an internist—to find the startling answer.

Christopher Stookey, MD, is a practicing emergency physician, and he is passionate about medicine and health care. However, his other great interests are literature and writing, and he has steadily published a number of short stories and essays over the past ten years. His most recent essay, “First in My Class,” appears in the book BECOMING A DOCTOR (published by W. W. Norton & Co, March 2010); the essay describes Dr. Stookey’s wrenching involvement in a malpractice lawsuit when he was a new resident, fresh out of medical school. TERMINAL CARE, a medical mystery thriller, is his first novel. The book, set in San Francisco, explores the unsavory world of big-business pharmaceuticals as well as the sad and tragic world of the Alzheimer’s ward at a medical research hospital. Stookey’s other interests include jogging in the greenbelts near his home and surfing (he promises his next novel will feature a surfer as a main character). He lives in Laguna Beach, California with his wife and three dogs.

To find out more about Chris, visit his Amazon’s author page at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Guest Blogger: Elle Newmark, Author of The Book of Unholy Mischief

It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.

Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity,

Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.

Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key. In a world of violence an d in trigue, who guards the truth?

Self-publishing, Bone of the Dead Cookies and Winston Churchill by Elle Newmark

The issue of my age came up shortly after Simon and Schuster bought The Book of Unholy Mischief. After I sent my new agent an overly-excited email, she asked, "How old are you?"

OMG, should I lie? No.

I shot back, "I'm sixty. Is that a problem?"

My agent is younger than my children. I considered emergency plastic surgery. I panicked because, frankly, I'm shocked to be over sixty. I feel like I'm thirty-five, only smarter.

I'm smarter, because I've lived. I've had jobs, marriages, lovers, friends, children and grandchildren. I've visited every continent and lived on two of them. I've survived divorce, single parenthood, life-threatening illness, and even teenagers. And through all those heaving life experiences, I kept writing without ever publishing a word.

By fifty-five I had an epic collection of rejection letters, but I needed to write. At fifty-six, I finished my third novel, and I remember the surge of elation when that book caught the attention of a reputable agent who said, "This is a gold mine." It was finally happening!

Then it didn't.

One black day, I accepted that my work would never be published. It was crushing, and I spent weeks wallowing in the tragedy of my crucified ego. On my 60th birthday, I sulked on the sofa in rumpled pajamas and ate cold pizza.

Then I got angry. I'd given away control of my destiny, and the world had shrugged and given it back.

Fine. I'd do it myself. I took the humble route of self-publishing, because I thought just holding my book in my hands would be enough. I risked money and went through endless edits, and then my literary baby made its debut to a shrieking silence and a riot of apathy.

The book languished on Amazon, and that's when I decided that it wasn't only about holding a book but knowing that people were reading it.

One night, slumped in front of the TV, watching a glitzy book launch party on Sex in the City, I got an idea.

I gambled on a do-it-yourself website, took on an Internet marketing course, and threw a virtual book launch party. It was designed to generate a surge of sales on Amazon and catapult me onto the bestseller list.

I brazenly asked droves of website owners to help me. I sent letters, homemade cookies, and signed books marked on the page where those cookies appear in the novel. The cookies are called Bones of the Dead and so, with an aching back, I spent long days in the kitchen, shaping bone cookies -fifteen hundred of them.

Two days before my virtual party, my son said, "Mom, why not invite agents to your party?" Well, that would be a ballsy move indeed, but I figured I had nothing to lose. The night before the launch, I wrote personal invitations with a link to the party site to 400 agents.

By noon the next day agents were clamoring to read my masterpiece, asking me to overnight books to New York. Within 24 hours, I had offers from several impressive agencies-including William Morris, with whom I made an agreement at whiplash speed.

I did hit the Amazon bestseller list. Not that it mattered anymore.

Two weeks after my virtual party, my book went to auction. Bidding was due to start at 11:00 a.m. EST, but at 8:00 a.m. the phone rang. My agent said, "Are you sitting down?" I said yes, though I wasn't. She said, "Two book deal, Simon and Schuster." Then I sat down.

In the following heady days, the foreign sales started. It was a global feeding frenzy. As of this writing The Book of Unholy Mischief will be published in a dozen languages.

In all the excitement, I remembered a famous quote from Winston Churchill-with the sky over London littered with falling bombs and the city in rubble, the sixty-eight year old Churchill growled, "Never, never, never, never give up."

I didn't give up. That's really all I did. I have spent my life pursuing what I love, and every word I wrote was necessary to find my voice as a writer. And success is better later than early. Can you think of anything more depressing than peaking at the age of 25? Then what? Also, I feel profound gratitude, which I probably wasn't capable of twenty or thirty years ago. Being older makes it sweeter.

But here's the ironic part: Now that I'm published, I finally understand that the deepest satisfaction is in the writing itself. The best part is not holding my book or having other people read it-the best part was writing it. Writing is my passion, and passion is our consolation for mortality. Real success is finding something you love, and then doing the hell out of it.

My new book, The Sandalwood Tree, will be out in April 2011, and then I get to write another. And I am old enough to appreciate the hell out of that.

Elle Newmark is an award winning writer whose books are inspired by her travels. She prowled the back streets of Venice to cook up The Book of Unholy Mischief and explored India by car and elephant to conjure The Devil’s Wind. She calls California home.

For more information on Elle or her work visit

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guest Blogger: John Knoerle, Author of A Despicable Profession

Today's special guest is John Knoerle, author of the spy thriller, A Despicable Profession: Book Two of The American Spy Trilogy.

May, 1946. America is basking in hard-won peace and prosperity. The OSS has been disbanded, CIA does not yet exist. Rumors swirl about the Red Army massing tanks along the Elbe in East Germany.

Former OSS agent Hal Schroeder gets an offer from Global Commerce LTD to be a trade rep in Berlin. He flies to New York to meet his new boss. Hal’s jaw drops when former OSS Chief Wild Bill Donovan strides in. Schroeder, who survived perilous duty behind German lines, says he is no longer interested in being a spy. General Donovan assures him that’s not part of his job description.
Hal comes to doubt that when he meets his immediate superior in Berlin. It’s Victor Jacobson, the case officer who sent him on repeated suicide missions in WWII.

John Knoerle's Glossary of Slang

As I fiction writer I love slang, there’s a certain poetry to it. And as a writer of late ‘40s spy and mystery novels I especially love the argot of the underworld of that era. I put a glossary of that slang together from reading everything from Black Mask magazine to Mickey Spillane novels. The films noir were also a good source.

Here’s a sample of what I found. For a more extensive list visit my website at

--John Knoerle

“The buttons don’t like it when a slewfoot gets topped. Especially with his own gat by a gowed-up twist in a rib joint.”

To translate, see below:

arm-breaker - hired muscle

bangtail - racehorse, also a prostitute

basted, boiled, oiled, out on the roof, roofed, tanked - drunk

beezer - nose

berries, cabbage, plasters, snaps - cash money, dollar bills

bindlestiff - hobo, migrant worker

bitch kitty – an obnoxious woman or girl

bones - dice

box job - safe cracking

bughouse - insane asylum

bulls - railroad police, prison guards

burleycue – burlesque show

busted flush - a bad deal, a failure

butter and egg man - the man with the money

buttons, elbows, goms, Johns, muzzlers - cops

buzzer, potsy, tin - a policeman’s badge

C, C-note - hundred dollar bill

caboose, icehouse, jug, sneezer - jail

cackle-broad - a society woman

cake eater - a dandy, a ladies’ man

California bible, California prayer book - deck of playing cards

Chicago overcoat - a casket

Chicago typewriter - a machine gun

to chill, clip, grease, ice, push, set over, spot, top, top off - kill

Chinese angle - unusual twist

to clank - panic

clean sneak - a successful getaway

coffin nail, gasper, pill - cigarette

coffin varnish, panther piss, phlegm cutter, tarantula soup - cheap liquor

corn, cush, geetus, jack - money

creep joint - a gambling parlor that migrates to avoid detection

croaker - doctor

dangle, drift, dust, dust out - go, leave

darb - a beautiful woman, anything of high quality

deek - detective

ding donger - aggressive person

dipsy doodle - chicanery

dog wagon - cheap restaurant

eightball - a loser

have your elbows checked - get arrested

fin - five dollars

frail, jane, twist, wren, x-ray - a woman or girl

frogskin - a dollar bill

to gaff - shortchange

gams, pins, stems - a woman’s legs

gat, heater, iron, piece, rod, roscoe, tickler - a handgun

get a can on, tie a bag on - get drunk

gink - a stupid man

to glim, to hinge - see, take a look

to glom - seize, steal

goozle - throat

gow, hop - heroin, any narcotic

gunsel - an armed criminal, also a young homosexual

Harlem sunset - a fatality with a knife

head fulla bees - crazy

heaters, peepers - eyes

highbinder - a corrupt politician

high pillow - the boss

hotcha - desirable, especially a woman

ing bing - a fit, an outburst

in jigtime - quickly

jingle brained - addled

to jug - to incarcerate

juice dealer - a loan shark

kelly, lid, skimmer - a man’s hat

kick - complaint

the lay - the setup, the arrangement

to lay paper - to pass counterfeit cash or bad checks

left handed - dubious, unlucky

loogan - a hoodlum, especially Irish

lunch hooks - hands

map - face

meat wagon - ambulance

the mop - the final word, the summation of events

mush, yap - mouth

nance - an effeminate man

to nick - take money from

nippers - handcuffs

on the nut, on my uppers - broke

on the pad - on the take

orphan paper - a bad check

oyster fruit - pearls

palm oil, salve - a bribe

to peach, to squeal, to turn up - inform

pissing on ice - living well

plaster - a tail, also a banknote

poke - wallet, bankroll

pro skirt - a prostitute

rats and mice - dice, craps

rib joint - a brothel

rub joint - a hall with taxi dancers

rug joint - a fancy nightclub

What’s the rumble?- what’s going on?

sawbuck - ten dollars

scatter - a room or hideout, also a speakeasy or club

second-story man - burglar

to send over - betray

to shag – tail, chase

on the shake, to shake - blackmail

shamus - private eye, also a police informer

sheever – a traitor, police informer

slapman - an undercover cop

slewfoot - a cop

to smoke - to kill with a gun

table grade - said of an attractive woman

tag - an arrest warrant

taped - under control, cinched

throw a bop into - have sex with

tip your mitt - show your cards

torpedo - an armed thug, a hit man

under glass - in jail

woo bait - attractive female

wrong gee, wrong number - an untrustworthy person

in a yank - in a rush

yard - $100, sometimes $1000

yegg - thief, safecracker

zazoo - a man, a sharp dresser


all aces, or all silk so far - everything’s okay

all wool and a yard wide - first rate

beat down to the ankles - worn out

cut me a huzz - tell me what’s happening

dogshit and razorblades - junk, worthless information

from hell to breakfast - thoroughly, all the way

grab a cloud - raise your hands

the squeeze ain’t worth the juice - not worth the effort

What’s the wire on this guy? - What’s the background, the story?

John Knoerle’s first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, published in 2003, was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, The Violin Player, won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. Knoerle is currently at work on “The American Spy Trilogy.” Book One, A Pure Double Cross, came out in 2008. Book Two, A Despicable Profession, was published in August of 2010.

John Knoerle currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Judie.

Find out more about the books of John Knoerle at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.