JOAN LONG -A Locked Room Author

Joan Long is the author of the locked-room-style mystery THE FINALIST, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She is a third-generation Floridian who earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University and a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications from The University of Florida. She has written for universities, public television, healthcare corporations, a magazine, and more.

Joan was a finalist in a Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Novel Competition and was a short-listed finalist for a William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for Best Novel-in-Progress. Her short story “The Extra Ingredient” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely! Joining writing associations is probably the best thing I’ve done for my writing career. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and its Guppy chapter, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Authors Guild. Through these organizations, I continually learn the craft and business of writing. They also help me make connections with other authors. I’ve met some of my best friends through these groups.

How do you come up with character names? I use multiple sources—baby registries, online name generators, old phone books, and church directories. I try to begin each name with a different letter and vary the syllable lengths. As a reader, I find it confusing when character names are too similar. And because I want to be nice to audiobook narrators, my main characters’ names don’t end in s or th.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outlining works best for me. I begin with a logline, followed by a brief synopsis and the outline. However, my outlines constantly change. They evolve as the story grows.

What kind of research do you do? Setting is an important element in my debut novel, The Finalist. Because the story takes place on a tropical island, I researched plants, flowers, local foods, charter boats, satellite radios, and—ahem!—how long it takes a person to dig a grave in sand.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I prefer fictional settings that are loosely based on real locations. Key Island—the fictional location of The Finalist—takes place on a private island in the Caribbean. My work-in-progress is set in Florida in a fictional community near the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, I like to write about warm-weather places!

Do you have any advice for new writers? I recommend learning the craft and becoming active in a writing community. I also suggest keeping a “Happiness Journal” or something similar. Remembering the great things that happen can help on days when writing is a challenge. Did you receive a wonderful blurb or a five-star review? Did you find your book in a library? Has your word count increased? Whatever it is that made your day, write it down. One of my favorite moments happened when I was going up an escalator. A woman riding the down escalator recognized me and shouted, “I’m reading your book!” I smile every time I think about it.

Many thanks to George Cramer for inviting me to post on his blog.

My website is

Here is my buy info:

Barnes & Noble:
Apple Books:



  1. Deb Richardson-Moore

    I love your settings and will pick up one of your books. Thanks for the interview, George.

  2. Kathleen Kaska

    I enjoyed the interview, Joan and George. Your books look right us my alley, Joan. I will check it out. I like the idea of keeping a Happiness Journey!

    • Joan Long

      Thank you so much, Kathleen! I hope you enjoy The Finalist.

  3. Lida Sideris

    I love the idea of a Happiness Journal. Brilliant! And I loved reading The Finalist – a gripping, page turner, all the way.

    • Joan Long

      Thank you, Lida! I’m so glad you enjoyed The Finalist!

  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Joan, your escalator story is contagious. LOVE IT! Best of luck with THE FINALIST!

  5. Beth Schmelzer

    I love Joan Long’s locked room mystery novel. She’s a fun, encouraging novelist. The advice to keep a happiness journal mirrors my Inspiration Journal which I peruse often for happy feelings and a muse.

    • Joan Long

      Thank you so much, Beth! I appreciate that, and I love that we both keep journals to bring us joy and inspiration!

  6. Michael A. Black

    Excellent writing advice, Joan. I love your suggestion about maintaining a happiness journal. Your escalator story made me smile. Good luck with your writing.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Lenore Hart is the author of eight novels and editor of the fantastic fiction anthology series The Night Bazaar. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, she’s also published short stories in fantasy magazines and literary journals. She’s been a recipient of grants, awards, and writing fellowships from the NEA and arts organizations in Florida, Virginia, Ireland, and Germany. Her work has been featured on “Voice of America” radio and the PBS-TV series “Writer to Writer.” She teaches at The Ossabaw Island Writers Retreat. Her most recent release is The Night Bazaar London: Ten Tales of Forbidden Wishes and Dangerous Desires. (Northampton House Press, Dec.)

“A good horror has its place in literature.” – Thomas Hardy (Tess of the D’Urbervilles)

Mr. Hardy, how right you were. I write novels in horror and several other genres: historical, literary, contemporary, horror, and dark fantasy. I’m also the editor of a fantastic fiction anthology series called The Night Bazaar. Some writers consider it odd not to specialize, much less mix several genres in one work. I see no contradiction. Reality is certainly tinged with horror at times – from the personal sort to horrific events on the world stage. And, as a category, horror has been ubiquitous in both genre and literary works, including gothic works by 19th-century authors revered in the literary canon. The genre persists and travels well.

I began my writing career decades ago, tired of passive female characters in plots (mostly) conceived by men: warm bodies who said little and screamed much, hoping for rescue by a male protagonist. I first wrote gothic fiction to create the female heroes I’d wanted to read.

I expected this choice to be questioned, but hadn’t expected to be reviled or verbally abused. But one such encounter in the mid-1990s occurred at a crowded booksellers’ conference in Atlanta. I was talking to the owner of a regional press about my first novel, which was set in Florida, where he was based. “Oh, horror. I never read it. I wouldn’t tolerate it in my office. It’s not literature but despicable junk. Morally reprehensible,” he concluded, smirking at others in the booth.

I was suddenly conscious of the people around me, a silent, complicit audience to his contempt and intended shaming. I briefly doubted the wisdom of my choice.

But he’d said, I never read it. Then how could he intelligently judge? He wasn’t merely  being sanctimonious but reveling in ignorance of the entire genre. Did he also consider Edgar Allan Poe’s works’ morally reprehensible’? Was Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of the purest examples of gothic fiction ever written, really ‘despicable junk’? If so, then Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Shirley Jackson must also be simply genre hacks posing as literati.

Is some genre work slipshod? Sure. As are some so-called ‘literary novels.’ I should’ve said, “Novels of horror, fantasy science fiction, or any other genre can be, and often are endowed with the same craftsmanship as ‘fine’ literature.” Over the years, this has remained the case in works by such writers as Vincent LaValle (The Changeling), Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians), and Jess Kidd (The Night Ship). But I was new to publishing back then, unsure of myself, and simply departed, fuming.

Reticence is no longer the default, though – for me or for horror. Several aspects of the new ascendance of the genre are thrilling. For one, it’s been widely recognized as not just worthy and legitimate but a desirable part of the literary conversation – as should’ve been the case all along. Also, delightful is the merging over the last few years of horror with some of my own lifelong interests – myths, folktales, and fairytales – in the currently popular subgenre of Folk Horror. Those themes are timeless. Every possible plot and character type inhabits these dreamlike, compelling, archetypal stories, whatever culture they originate from.

For human beings, it seems, a bit of fright is pleasurable. Aristotle claimed we could get fear out of our systems by indulging in it safely through the arts. This may be partly why horror’s popularity persists, but it’s more complicated. As children, we experienced fear and mystery daily, inhabiting a world we did not comprehend. One built to a larger scale than we could cope with, run by strange, sometimes threatening ogres called adults. We existed at the mercy of everything and everyone: the neighbor’s growling dog and needle-wielding nurses. The darkness in the closet and under the bed. Aware of our helplessness and the frequent, patronizing refusal of adults to help or even listen. No wonder children identify with the protagonists in scary stories!

I read at adult level by age nine, and my parents were not nearly as vigilant as those of today. Also, a Saturday afternoon horror double-feature was at a nearby rococo hole-in-the-wall called the Vogue Theater. Sometimes, I went with my little sister, at others with two boys from the neighborhood who were competing for my affection. I sat in the middle, and each held one of my hands while giant grasshoppers, leech women, or triffids loomed between the worn red velvet curtains.

At home, though, I read scary fiction in solitude. I craved the barely-glimpsed terrors of an ancient manor in a Poe story, the unseen but horribly perceived presence of ghosts in Shirley Jackson’s novels. Not the bloody, ham-handed slasher plots or the laughably obvious monsters in poorly crafted paperbacks. The stories that captivated me didn’t bludgeon their audience. Instead, they lulled the reader into a sense of safe but pleasurable anticipation, stretching taut nerves until they sang, then allowing one to emerge unscathed after savoring strong emotions and impossible fears without risk.

The most vivid, well-crafted chills have always been delivered by authors who mostly keep the horror just offstage, wisely understanding they could never create anything to outdo their readers’ personal ideas of ultimate terror. Often, they isolate the protagonist, physically or psychologically, much the way a child dwells alone in an oversized world, his warnings or cries falling on deaf ears. How much more satisfying it feels to get a handle on this fear later, after having already read and viewed it, experiencing intense dread for a limited time, yet emerging unscathed.

When I was nine, I liked being scared. Many decades later, I still do – by a well-crafted book or film. It’s cathartic. Far less frightening than the all-too-real threats of climate change, endless wars, and economic doom.

Horror fiction will endure, challenging us to safely consider the unthinkable, venture from our comfort zones, and challenge our preconceptions. There, we can confront and face down our greatest fears and yet survive. The horror authors will survive as well because readers will always need them.
I belong to the writers’ organizations below and, in some cases, serve on their boards:

The Connecticut Poetry Society
The European Writers Council
North Florida Writers
The Historical Novel Society
The Horror Writers Association
The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (managerial board)
The Irish Writers Centre
The Irish Writers Union (executive board)
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Society of Authors (Ireland)
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Fellow, member of Boxwood Collective)

Trade paperback:



KOBO eBook:






  1. Michael A. Black

    Good thoughtful essay, Lenore. I agree, good writing is good writing, no matter what the genre. I just finished a novel in which I had Ambrose Bierce as a character. I remember reading “The Damned Thing” as a youngster and it scared the bejesus outta me. Congratulations on winning the Shirley Jackson Award and best of luck to you.

    • Lenore Hart

      Thanks, Michael. Bierce should make a great character!

  2. G.M. Malliet

    Love Shirley Jackson stories. Congrats on such a prestigious award.

    • Lenore Hart

      Thanks! She’s definitely one of my writing heroes. That made it even more exciting.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

G.M. MALLIET – Mystery and Cozy Mystery

G.M. Malliet is an American award-winning author of mystery and cozy mystery novels. She is best known for writing the Agatha Award-winning Death of a Cozy Writer (2008), the first installment of the St. Just Mystery Series, named among the Best Books of 2008 by Kirkus Reviews.


The holder of degrees from Oxford University and the University of Cambridge, G.M. Malliet has wide experience in journalism and copywriting. Before switching to fiction writing, she wrote for national and international news publications (Thomson Reuters) and public broadcasters (PBS). She currently resides in the U.S.

Elevator Pitch: Max Tudor thought he’d left the world of deceit when he resigned from MI5 to become an Anglican priest. Then his bishop asks him to return to his Oxford college, St Luke’s, to investigate the death of its chaplain, and Max realizes there’s no leaving the past behind.

What brought you to writing? Writing was always just there. It’s the kind of thing you are compelled to do rather than take up idly on a whim. The longer I live, the more I wish I could cut back on the writing, but that compulsion is still there.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My office is right in the middle of a several-story house, so it’s Grand Central Station. I think that might just be what I’m comfortable with. If I have too much quiet, I can’t really work.

Tell us about your writing process: The early stages of writing are always the fun part when you’re not committed to anything. That’s where the joy comes in.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? What are you currently working on? Book 6 in the St. Just series. It is called Death and the Old Master.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Both SinC and MWA have provided friendships with seasoned experts willing to share their expertise.

How do you come up with character names? Like most authors, I use a baby naming site or the Census records.

Do you ever kill a popular character? I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.

G.M. Malliet is a member of:
Crime Writers’ Association (U.K.),
International Thriller Writers,
Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (former National Board member).

Contact me:
Email me at gm at gmmalliet dot com.
I can’t always answer, but I love fan mail 😉



  1. Glenda Carroll

    “It’s fun but … it’s not.” Glad to hear someone else say that. I think that’s my motto. Get interview.

    • G.M. Malliet

      There’s a meme or whatever going around FB that says, “We don’t do this because it’s easy. We do it because we thought it would be easy.” That sums it up perfectly, doesn’t it?

  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’m sorry I don’t understand not being committed to anything when you start writing. I am always committed the story I have in my head. I’ll grant you the story doesn’t always go the way I intended, but I don’t think I was would have started writing if I wasn’t committed to the story.

    • G.M. Malliet

      I’m committed (probably) to the place or theme or characters. but at the beginning, wide open!

  3. Michal Strutin

    “…the fun part” indeed! On the reader end, just starting a new mystery is also fun. It so happens that the one I’m starting this evening is The Washing Away of Wrongs.

    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you Michal! I hope you like it!

  4. Vinnie Hansen

    I enjoyed learning more about you, G.M.

    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you. So glad George gave me the opening!

  5. Karen A Phillips

    Thanks for sharing “I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.” It is always interesting for me to hear what it’s like to be an author with a traditional publisher.

    • G.M. Malliet

      Publishers tend to want to keep doing what worked in the past for them. But that means they miss a chance to break out into new areas.

  6. Michael A. Black

    Ms. Malliet, I loved your comment abut your favorite part of writing is the early stages when you’re not committed to anything. So true. Best of luck to you.

    • G.M. Malliet

      So true, yes. Right now I’m editing a short story and fixing the “Little Problems” that crop up as I go along. It’s fun but … it’s not.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

JUNE GILLAM – Social Justice Crime Fiction / Indie to Traditional

June Gillam writes the Hillary Broome crime fiction series. She is sketching out a new thriller trilogy she’ll fine tune at 2024’s Thrillerfest in New York. A native of California’s Central Valley, June loves the company of writers and readers and was honored with a Jack London Award for service to the writing community. Just out on Audible is Nest of White Crows, book five in the Hillary Broome series.

Legacy of the Wild Vines, book six in the Hillary Broome Crime Fiction series, to be released in spring 2024:

In Legacy of the Wild Vines, a professor on a summer trip to Rome tries to keep her sixteen-year-old gay daughter safe amidst a rash of kidnappings, but when her daughter vanishes, the professor must probe the secrets of a remote Italian village to help find her daughter before it’s too late.

June at the 2023 CA State Fair Authors Booth

Along with Archy the cockroach, “expression is the need of my soul,” as the little poet typed onto paper left in columnist Don Marquis’ typewriter at the Chicago Sun Times office back in the mid-20th century. Archy typed no capital E since he could not operate the shift key with his tiny body flung as he did every night when the journalists went home. For details, see E. B. White’s “From The Best of Archy and Mehitabel.”

Like Archy, I started out as a poet and then an academic papers writer until I was hired as a full-time faculty member in English at San Joaquin Delta College in 1990. It was then it hit me that I didn’t know how to write stories even though many of my poems wanted to become stories. Over the next ten years, I studied fiction and had a few short stories published, then took the craft deeper as part of my doctoral work in Transformative Learning and Change at the California Institute of Integral Studies. My dissertation was a cooperative inquiry, published in 2009 as a monography: Women Writing Stories Containing Conflict. I was thrilled.

However, Lambert Academic Publishing priced it at well over $100 and I could not get them to reduce the price. That was when I decided I wanted to be in control of my price points. As a result, Gorilla Girl Ink was born as my imprint and has published all my books: poetry, writing, fiction, and just last year, a children’s picture book with my daughter as illustrator.

So, I’ve been an Indie-published writer since 2012 with Gorilla Girl Ink. Thanks to the support of fantastic sister writers and critique groups along the way, I’ve had a bit of success and enjoyed the ride. But Indie publishing is a lot of work beyond the writing. It includes finding, hiring, and supervising editors, cover designers, formatters, etc. Recently, a medium-sized publisher, Bedazzled Ink, has approached me because of the platform I’ve built with Gorilla Girl Ink. They are interested in publishing my next book, a thriller trilogy set in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

The pros and cons of Indie vs Trad publishing are presented on websites such as the well-balanced Book Bub and Writers Digest assessments.


Although not every point in these comparisons holds true all the time, they are worth the effort to consider. After more than ten years as an Indie, I am now ready to focus my time on my writing rather than the publishing of it. I am eager to turn over the publishing tasks to Bedazzled Ink and concentrate on writing, marketing, and teaching workshops, which I enjoy.

My advice for new writers is to join a writer’s group for support and camaraderie. Take a look to see if the San Joaquin Valley Writers branch of the CA Writers Club could be a good fit for you. Check us out at 

Readers may contact me about my books and upcoming workshops starting in February at

Groups I belong to include
San Joaquin Valley Writers
Capitol Crimes, Sisters in Crime
Mystery Writers of America
Gold Country Writers

Links to buy my work:
Nest of White Crows, Hillary Broome book 5, Audible
June Gillam’s Amazon Author Page:


  1. Michal Strutin

    My first fiction (just finished my second) was published by Bedazzled. They have an excellent contract, based on the Authors Guild model contract. Helpful and easy to work with.

  2. Karen A Phillips

    Hi June – I’m excited to hear about your upcoming trilogy set in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe! Good luck with Bedazzled.

  3. Nancy Schoellkopf

    Congrats, June, on the new trilogy and the new publisher. Eager to hear more about both!

  4. Rebecca Partridge

    I look forward to reading Nest of Crows. I enjoyed House of Hoops–especially with its Sacramento setting. Best wishes as you start working with Bedazzled Ink. Are they a hybrid or a traditional press?

    • June Gillam

      Hi Rebecca. They are a medium sized traditional publisher. They are in the Bay Area and we spoke at a couple events then they asked me to lunch and we came to an understanding. Super excited!

  5. Michael A. Black

    You’ve got an interesting background, June, and writing poetry is an excellent way to develop your prose skills as well. Best of luck to you on your new series.

  6. Bill VanPatten

    I highly recommend Nest of White Crows! I’m privy to a draft of The Legacy of Wild Vines and know it will be well received.

    • June Gillam

      Thanks, Bill. I’m honored by praise from a terrific writer like yourself!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DAVID POYER – Naval Officer – Adventurer – Author

Nearly fifty of David Poyer’s novels and nonfiction are in print with major publishers. He’s also published oral history, travel, biographical nonfiction, and collaborated on memoirs.  He’s been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian, and rights have been sold for films. Writers he’s mentored have been taken on by major literary agencies, published by major houses, appeared on New York Times Top Ten bestseller lists, won the International Latino Book award and other prizes, and become college teachers. He currently teaches at the Ossabaw Island Writers’ Retreat.

His latest, The Academy, was published by St. Martin’s/Macmillan in December.

“The Academy, a profoundly human story, is a captivating and fitting finale to the Lenson series from David Poyer, a master in modern naval fiction.” – Quarterdeck Magazine.

“This long-running naval series continues full-steam ahead. . . [Poyer generates] top-notch suspense.” – Publishers Weekly

“The Lenson series is an intriguing alternate history saga […] Fans of the long-running series—will be well pleased.” – Booklist

David Poyer is set to captivate readers once again with THE ACADEMY, just published by St. Martin’s/Macmillan. Known for his gripping military fiction, Poyer brings to life a tale of courage, honor, and the complexities of life within the hallowed halls of a military academy. With high ethical stakes and a suspenseful past-and-present narrative, it’s Poyer’s capstone novel in the Dan Lenson series.

In his final tour of duty after a harrowing career at sea, Lenson is appointed Superintendent of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. He begins at a difficult time: Congress is cutting military budgets in the wake of a devastating world war, calls for radical reform are upending traditions, and Dan himself faces legal jeopardy for his actions during the war. And when a Category 5 hurricane threatens to overwhelm the coast, Dan must fight to rescue the Academy itself.

Parallel to this narrative runs the dramatic story of Dan’s years as a first-class mid, many years before. A plebe he coaches commits suicide, and Dan is drawn into the investigation. The decisions he makes will shape how he comes to lead troops in battle and at peace.

What brought you to writing? I’m four years old, sitting on the porch with my mother. She’s reading to me, which she did a lot, and I’m grateful! But her stock answer for my questions, and I was full of questions in those days, was “God made it.”

Where did the moon come from? “God made it.” The sky? “God made it.” I ask her, then, “Where do books come from?” And she says – a sentence that changes my life – “Writers write them.”

I realized what I was here for.

Now, I didn’t start right away. I felt I had to go out, live, and see the world. In 1976, I was in the Navy when an accident dictated several months of leave in a cast to my waist. So I bought a desk and a typewriter and tried to write 50 to 60,000 words and have them all be different.

The result was The Hill, a YA novel about cross-country running and a small-town scandal. No one’s ever read it, though I’m thinking about publishing a limited edition. Maybe next year?

Tell us about your writing process. I believe waiting for inspiration is unfruitful and frustrating and a self-limiting strategy for a career novelist.

A group of contractors reports to a building site. Do they stand around waiting for inspiration as to what they will build? No. They have blueprints, lists of materials, timelines, and milestones. They may change a partition wall here and there, beef up a structure, or adjust to a new zoning regulation. But in general, they know where they’re going. They can work with a minimum of stress and uncertainty.

I operate the same way. My outlines run 10 to 15 single-spaced pages, organized by chapter. That charts my course, though I’m still free. When inspiration does strike, I’ll follow. But I modify the outline as I go. This synopsis becomes a sales tool for film rights or, sequels, or promotion.

How long did it take to write your first book? How long to get it published? As I said, I didn’t send out the first manuscript. The second, White Continent, is speculative fiction about a group establishing a technologically advanced colony in Antarctica. They declare independence and then have to defend themselves. It’s a Utopia, an Erewhon. I sent it out fifteen times and got it back fifteen times. So I put it away and started on another.

But if you persist, the Universe gives up on discouraging you. A newspaper editor persuaded me to pull the manuscript out and send it to a friend at Lippincott. Lippincott didn’t like it, but my editor’s friend’s secretary read the first page while it was in the mail room getting boxed up to go out. She liked that page, so she stole it and took it home. Read it and made her boyfriend read it the next time he came over. As luck would have it, he was an agent. He sold it to the first publisher he sent it to.

Do you ever kill a popular character? I have, though not without soul-searching. One of my recurring characters in the Dan Lenson books is SEAL Master Chief Teddy Oberg. He’s captured in a raid, tortured, sent to a horrific POW camp in Xinjiang, escapes, and leads a Uighur rebellion in Western China.

Over several volumes in my War with China arc, Oberg grew steadily darker. Eventually, in Violent Peace, he had to be terminated with extreme prejudice by a CIA agent, Andres Korzenowski. (A bow to Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad’s real name was Korzienowski.)  Some readers saw this coming. Others, who identified with Teddy as a fighter and overlooked his misogyny and ruthlessness, protested. But an author has to be true to the fact: governments feel no sense of loyalty when their tools outlive their usefulness.

Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations? Saul Bellow says each writer has an “arcanum,” a milieu in which they can set any story. Mine is the Navy, the sea, and diving, with a sideline in Pennsylvania, where I grew up.

The Lenson novels are the most popular. The 22 books trace Dan’s arc as he begins in The Circle as an ensign and ends – in the final volume – as Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, a vice-admiral facing retirement.

The Hemlock County novels deal with the struggle of the people against the greed that’s historically plagued the Northern Appalachians: extractive industries, organized crime, and governmental corruption.

The Tiller Galloway novels are about a black sheep diver. Tiller joined the Coast Guard, served in Vietnam, then got tangled up with a cartel and went to prison. As an ex-con, he tries to make a living as a dive boat and salvage captain.

The Whiteness of the Whale and Ghosting are sailing novels set on the high seas.

So you can see how the settings of my books have reflected my arcanum!

Do you have any advice for new writers? This spring, I pulled together a group of articles and talks I’d published over the years. I rewrote and ordered them into chapters. Writing in the Age of AI came out from Northampton House Press in July. It explains how I approach writing how the process can be made easier, and advises writers on the best ways to deal with AI technology. Everything I know about writing is in that book!

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Finishing the Lenson series feels like retiring from the Navy, which I did after 30 years of active and reserve service. Like retiring from university teaching, which I did for 16 years. But I’m not going to stop writing. A day without writing feels like a day not fully lived.

There might be another Galloway. I may have one more sailing book. A memoir? Maybe. Right now, I’m taking a year off to mull things over. Digitize my photographs, overhaul the boat, and we’ll see what comes next.

Perhaps this account will inspire a few fans of your blog. I hope they’ll also pick up The Academy and enjoy the concluding – and, I hope, satisfying – chapter in Dan Lenson’s long, star-crossed career!

Naval Academy Alumni Association,
Shipmate Magazine,
Authors Guild,
Surface Navy Association,
American Society of Naval Engineers,
Civilian Marksmanship Program,
Ossabaw Writers Retreat,
Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia,
Kevin Anderson Associates,
Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Library board,
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Buy link:



1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your books sound fascinating , as does your life. Thank you for your service and good luck with your writing.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

MICHAEL J. BARRINGTON – Whatever Happened to Punctuation?

Michael was born in Manchester, England. He lived in France and joined a French Order of Missionary priests. He spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He spent a year living as a hermit in Northern Ireland, was a teacher in Madrid, Spain, and as part of the British ‘brain drain’ taught at the Univ of Puerto Rico.

The owner of MJB Consultants, he flew all over the world monitoring and evaluating humanitarian projects and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is fluent in several languages, an avid golfer, and academically considers himself over-engineered, having three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara Desert.

Michael lives with his French wife, who designs and paints the covers of his books, and a Tibetan terrier in Clayton, California.

 I have just finished reading my third novel by Sally Rooney, followed by Cormac McCarthy’s latest,  Stella Maris, and I’d like to report the speech marks are missing! Punctuation goes in and out of fashion, and the marking of text with inverted commas to signify direct speech seems, in the current moment, is decidedly going out of fashion.

Cormac McCarthy called punctuation, “Weird little marks. I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.” Since this was his first novel after a 16-year hiatus, I started reading it because I was intrigued by the subject matter, dedicated solely to a dialogue between two people, a woman who self-committed to a mental institution and a psychiatrist. It was a disaster. After twelve pages, I’d had enough and just couldn’t handle page after page with no italics. However, I was sufficiently intrigued to purchase the audiobook. And oh, my goodness, what a difference. I didn’t want to stop listening. I was enthralled by the female and male voices that gave color and texture to a dynamic, intriguing, and labyrinthine script.

But with Sally Rooney, not so. Why she has chosen to use this technique in her novels, only she can say. I found it gimmicky at best since her lack of italics didn’t enhance the flow of the story or blend with the rest of the text. But a greater irritant for me was her use in all three novels of another technique, the way she attributes the spoken word. No writer wants their characters to become disembodied, but attribution, clarifying for the reader who’s saying what, is key to maintaining good order in dialogue. It sustains the novel’s pace and orients and relieves the reader from unnecessary guesswork. As writers we shouldn’t have to send the reader window-shopping in search of a speaker to “assign” the script to! Distractions of that sort break the spell of the interactive flow, and are really an earmark of the inexperienced writer.

I’m speaking here, of course, of “she said” and “he said” the most common attributions, and their host of variants. When it’s evident who’s talking, the reader can readily do without them. Often enough, in a brisk exchange between two people once the talk gets rolling, it takes nothing more than a paragraph change, the customary tool for differentiating speakers, to make clear to the reader who’s saying what. Repeated attributions can serve to heighten the intent of the exchange two people are having. Beginning writers in particular are prone to suppose that “she said” and “he said” become too humdrum, are used too frequently, and need to be replaced by such alternatives as “she replied,” “he explained,” “he responded,” “she murmured,” “she protested,” and so on… all of which, when used judiciously, are useful.

Repeated indications as to who’s doing the talking can also be used for dramatic effect. And this is where Sally Rooney drives me crazy. A creative writing teacher advised, not to labor too much about attributions, “Go ahead and use “she said” and “he said” with little fear of over-use! They soon enough become mere transparencies for the reader, barely noted in passing as the reading proceeds.” If this is the case, why does it irritate and distract me from the story line making me want to stop reading? In Rooney’s Normal People on just one page I counted thirteen times her use of “he said, she said.”

An additional curiosity is Rooney’s point of view as she described her characters. In Beautiful World Where Are You much of its tension comes from the disconnect between the spare prose of the third-person sections, (I can’t remember seeing a semi colon in any of her books) with sometimes one paragraph filling an entire page, and the rambling soliloquies of the emails. Once they have been named, she ghosts her characters through page after page by simply referring to them as ‘she’ and ‘he,’ and given that she rarely fully develops them, I found it annoying and my attention flagging.

But there is a reason her books are bestsellers. In addition to her famous sex scenes, described as “the best in modern literary fiction,” she captures with unembellished, often plaintive prose, the angst of her millennium audience, albeit, her sometimes meandering chapters while reflecting the time and milieu, can be perplexing to those of us north of 40. But be that as it may, I still need my punctuation.

Michael’s latest book is No Room for Heroes: A novel of the French Resistance 1942-44.


Books on website:


  1. Harlan Hague

    Enjoyed the post and will welcome a discussion about the topic one of these days.

  2. Mihael A. Black

    I totally agree. I refuse to read McCarthy’s books for exactly the reason you listed. I haven’t thought about an audio version, but I think I’ll pass. I remember struggling to get used to the James Joyce’s use of a dash instead of quotation marks in Dubliners. And what about the current “woke” trend of using the plural pronoun “they” in place of “he” or “she?’ It makes my blood boil. Writers like McCarthy corrupt the language by not following the basic rules of grammar, not that these rule can’t occasionally be ignored. Faulkner did the same thing in the long version of “The Bear,” but given his proclivity to tip the bottle, this was probably not totally intentional. Anyway, thank you for an entertaining and thoughtful blog posting. Good luck with your writing.

  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This post got me thinking, Michael. Very thought-provoking. Thank you.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SID MELTZER – Various Stops on His Way to Publication

After a long career in 9-to-5 jobs – caseworker, teacher, Probation Officer, urban planner, copywriter, and even aircraft carrier tour guide – Sid became a published author at the age of seventy-one. Whether or not he makes a dime from his thrillers, that alone is an accomplishment he’s proud of.

Two of his past jobs were particularly helpful when he began writing crime novels. As a Probation Officer, he learned to see things from a criminal’s point of view and to tip-toe past their minds’ many dark alleys. As a copywriter, he learned how to craft stories that draw readers in and keep them wanting more.

Murderer from Moscow is the sequel to his debut Kim Barbieri thriller, Unwitting Accomplice. The Russian mafia has to stop reporter Kim Barbieri from exposing their money laundering in NY—and they’re going to use the world’s most lethal poison to shut her up.

Will they succeed in killing her? Or will she succeed in putting them out of business for good?

What brought you to writing? As a copywriter for many years, I convinced customers to buy what my clients were selling. That was my job, and I was pretty good at it – according to the lawyers, suits, and clients who approved my work. When I retired, I decided to write to please a whole new audience – readers of crime novels like myself. I knew three things going in: Crime fiction readers could be a tough audience, I had a compelling story idea, and I was up to the task.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? The challenge is making my characters of the opposite sex credible and relatable to my readers of the opposite sex. Rightly or wrongly, male writers have a reputation among women readers for not doing female characters well. My protagonist, Kim Barbieri, is both a strong, tough woman unfazed by violence and a very human person dealing with everyday issues faced by women of a certain age in our society. I was determined to do right by her—and several female readers have told me I’d succeeded.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? That’s not an either/or question, as far as I’m concerned. I do an outline, of course, to make sure all the moving parts conform to the story arc. But as I develop my characters, they often seem to take on a life of their own. They grow. They change. I then find myself becoming a pantser, letting them make decisions I hadn’t planned on. How does she react when she stumbles upon a crime scene? How does she deal with a crisis? Those become her decisions as much as mine. And her actions sometimes change the plot I’d so carefully laid out in the outline – for the better!

What kind of research do you do? They say, ‘Write what you know’. But when I develop an idea for a novel, I make it a point to include topics I know nothing about. For instance, to write my first thriller, Unwitting Accomplice, I learned the pros and cons of using specific weapons—knife, gun, poison, vehicle—to end a victim’s life without getting caught by the police. And for my second thriller, Murderer from Moscow, I learned all I could about one lethal weapon: poison. How many there are, how each enters the body, which organs each one attacks, and how long each takes to kill. For both books, there was a lot of physiology and chemistry jargon to master, and my challenge was to write everything I’d learned in an easily understood way that wouldn’t kill the desire of the average reader to go on to the next chapter.

Where do you place your characters? Real or fictional settings? My two thrillers take place in New York, a vibrant, dynamic, ever-changing metropolis with many unique neighborhoods and ethnic communities. I grew up there and found that if described well, a neighborhood, a street, or even a particular shop can become an interesting character.

The settings for my two thrillers are in neighborhoods I know especially well from my days as a New York State Probation Officer – Fort Greene in Unwitting Accomplice and Williamsburg in Murderer from Moscow. They’re both fully gentrified now, with upstanding citizens and excellent schools, and they both are a good place for my protagonist to come home to. But back in the day, they were both “bad” neighborhoods, with drug addicts, muggings, poverty, bad schools, high unemployment, etc.

Groups where you can find Sid:
Mystery Writers of America NY
Sisters in Crime, NY
Facebook groups:
• Authors and book lovers connect
• All things books
• Authors and writers promoting to readers
• Writers and authors promotions
• Author/publisher/editor/book readers
• Book authors, show off your books
• Book Promotion
• e-book authors promo
• crime fiction addict
• black rose writing authors
• indie writer book and self-promotion
• NY authors, writers, poets, book clubs, and literary organizations

You can read more about my thrillers at
You can email me at
You can order Murderer from Moscow on Amazon at or from Black Rose Writing.
You can order Unwitting Accomplice on Amazon at or from Rogue Phoenix Press.



  1. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Sid. You sound like you have a good handle on writing and know how to make it work. Best of luck to you.

  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    What a varied array of professions you’ve had, Sid. It sounds perfect for a mystery writer ( ; And thanks for the discussion about writing a POV gender that is different from your own. I’ve been working on writing my male detective POV character more believably. (I’m pretty sure he’s still too touchy-feely, if you know what I mean). Best of luck with MURDER FROM MOSCOW.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

LISA TOWLES – Award Winning Crime Novelist

Lisa Towles is an Amazon bestselling and award-winning crime novelist and a passionate speaker on fiction writing, creativity, and self-care. She has eleven crime thrillers in print, and a new thriller, Codex, is forthcoming in June 2024. Her latest thriller, Terror Bay, won a NYC Big Book Award, Literary Titan Award, and she is a Crimson Quill Awardee from Book Viral. Her 2022 thriller Salt Island won five literary awards and is the second book in her E&A Investigations Series. Lisa’s deep commitment to helping other authors led her to develop her Author Spotlight blog and her new YouTube author interview series, Story Impact, which gives authors a powerful medium for promoting themselves as speakers and discussing the meaning and impact of their books to readers. Lisa has an MBA in IT Management, is a communications and marketing advisor, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.

Tell us about your latest book. Terror Bay is a standalone psychological thriller about a San Francisco detective whose life falls apart after he’s shot in the line of duty. While in a coma, he “encounters” a female diver and wakes up to a sudden impulse to discover if she’s real and what she wants from him. In so doing, he discovers an ancient shipwreck, buried treasure, and the answer to a question that had haunted him since childhood.

What do you think are some challenges of the writing path? Being a published author requires two distinct skill sets – the creative aspects of writing and editing a book for publication and the business of writing. Writers need to be adept at social media, book promotion, cultivating a following, connecting with readers, and public speaking to talk about their books. These themes connect them to readers and explain why their books matter. So, a challenge is knowing what tasks to do yourself and what tasks to outsource to others. And this can be tricky.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? My books do have subplots, sometimes several. And the process of integrating all the threads into one is both an art and a science. I use plotting techniques like storyboarding to understand how subplots fit together, but some of those answers are just intuitive and require quiet time in my thinking chair…and time to allow the story to emerge.

What kind of research do you do for your books? Every book I write requires research, but Terror Bay required even more, such as diving research, medical research on coma and traumatic brain injuries and related recovery, regional research on the Puget Sound/Bainbridge Island setting, and historical research on the actual shipwreck and treasure on which the plot is based.

Besides promoting Terror Bay, what else are you currently working on? I’m working with my editor to prepare my next thriller, Codex, for release in June 2024, and I am writing a new standalone thriller about the oil and gas industry.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I always advise novice writers to honor the truth of the story that wants to emerge. There’ll be plenty of time to edit and polish that story later and align it with a specific reading market. But it’s so important (especially early on the writing journey) to allow yourself the freedom to just openly create and to give voice and wings to the story that wants to be told.

How do our readers contact you?

• Email:
• Buy my books on Amazon:
• Follow me on social media:


  1. Vinnie Hansen

    George and Lisa, You are so generous to our writing community. I appreciate you both and am happy I know you!

  2. Pat Morin


    I am so impressed with how prolific you are, and how interesting your plots seem, especially Terror Bay. Your advice is timely since my husband has completed his first thriller. I wonder, though, what did you mean by : “So, a challenge is knowing what tasks to do yourself and what tasks to outsource to others.” Can you name a task you outsource?

    • Lisa Towles

      Hi Pat, Thank you and that’s exciting about your husband’s book! I do a lot on my own now, like graphic design and book trailers, but I do have some marketing tasks that I outsource to consultants, also cover and bookmark design, and I’m better now about asking for help when I need it 🙂

      • Pat Morin

        Got cha. Thank you so much for your reply. Starting our list. 🙂

  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    George and Lisa, thanks for sharing this. TERROR BAY sounds like the type of book that gets the little hairs on the back of my neck tingling–LOVE IT! As a writer still seeking a book deal, it was encouraging to learn about how Lisa threads in her subplots, and as one who writes historicals, I loved the discussion about research. It is amazing (and very fun) for me to chase down all those different little things I don’t really know enough about and learn them well enough to sew them into my stories. Lisa’s examples from writing this book really brought that home for me,

    • Lisa Towles

      Thank you Pamela and so nice to meet you! 📚

  4. Susan Dunn, AKA Sue Ward Drake

    Hi, Lisa. This sounds like a very cool What if in TERROR BAY. I love your writing. Are you expecting to put out any more E&A investigations stories?
    P.S. I totally agree about the two separate parts of the writing adventure. The business part is very Argh!-inducing.
    You’ve published a lot of books in a short span of time. Any tips on how to juggle the publishing part with the writing? And do you outline or plan your stories? Thanks.

    • Lisa Towles

      Hi Susan, The last E&A book “should” be out end of this year, fingers crossed. I’m both a plotter and a pantser so I do outline the direction and specific plot points but I also leave space for new ideas that inevitably come up. Juggling publishing and writing, for me, depends on my timelines and schedule. Thank you for your great questions and support!

  5. Michael A. Black

    Terror Bay sounds like a fascinating book, Lisa. Your advice on writing is first rate. Best of luck to you with your new one. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    • Lisa Towles

      Thank you Michael and lovely to meet you! 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

BILL RAPP – Writes from the Viewpoint of a CIA Agent

Bill Rapp began his professional life as an academic historian of Modern Europe (B.A.: University of Notre Dame; M.A.: University of Toronto; Ph.D.: Vanderbilt University) but left after a year of teaching at Iowa State for something a little less sedentary.  So, he spent the next 42 years working at the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst, diplomat, senior executive, and consultant.


Bill started writing while still working full-time at the Agency, but after his retirement in 2017, he has devoted the majority of his time to his fiction and, most recently, to his Cold War Spy series.  He claims that this series allows him to combine his twin passions of history and the world of intelligence.  It also provides him with an opportunity to draw on the lessons he learned and things he’s seen over the last 40-plus years and, hopefully, provide readers with a realistic glimpse of what it’s like to live and work in that world. Bill also has a three-book P.I. series set outside Chicago, where he grew up and currently lives with his wife, older daughter, and their two dogs outside Chicago.  He belongs to the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the International Association of Crime Writers.

A Turkish Triangle, a quick summary:  It is October 1962, and the Cuban missile crisis has the world on a nuclear edge.  CIA officer Karl Baier is sent to Turkey to investigate the deaths of three Soviet assets, all of whom have either disappeared in the bowels of the KGB headquarters in Moscow or were shot execution style in Ankara and Istanbul.  It isn’t long before Baier realizes that the three deaths are only the tip of an espionage iceberg and part of a much more ambitious Soviet operation to undermine America’s posture and policy in the Middle East, the Caribbean, and beyond.  Before his assignment is over, Baier will face challenges to his mission, his integrity, and his perception and understanding of the people he has spent his career with inside the Agency.  This is the fifth book in the Cold War Thriller series.

What brought you to writing?    I have always loved literature, a term I define as broadly as possible.  In fact, during my undergraduate years, friends were surprised to learn that I was a history major because I spent so much time reading fiction.  During my graduate studies, I found that I occasionally needed a break from reading history, and I was lucky to discover the works of such masters as Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald.  Not only did I find those books incredibly enjoyable, but they were also inspiring and challenging.   Once I started dabbling in the world of mysteries and thrillers, I couldn’t stop.  I started with a private eye series, naturally, but soon found that my background in intelligence–and a new publisher–led me to a new series in espionage fiction.

What are you currently working on?  A Turkish Triangle is the fifth book in the Cold War series, all of which lead the reader through the 1940s, 50’s, and 60’s as we faced off with several adversaries. but principally the Soviet Union, in a global competition.  The series began in the ruins of postwar Berlin in 1945 and then progresses through such seminal events as the Hungarian revolt and Soviet invasion, the building of the Berlin Wall, and now the Cuban missile crisis.  In the next book, CIA officer Karl Baier–the protagonist throughout the series–is sent to Vietnam in 1964 by then-Director John McCone for his assessment of the developments, challenges, and prospects as Washington prepares to Americanize the war effort.  The Director warns Baier not to get involved in operational activity while on this particular assignment, but, of course, as a prototypical operations officer, Baier cannot resist when he discovers the makings of a budding espionage plot that illustrates the dangers and complexities the US faces in that environment. The new book is tentatively titled Assignment in Saigon.

What kind of research do you do?  Given my background in history, I am already familiar with much of what went on during the Cold War.  However, that information does not suffice for a deep probe into the specific events of the period.  So, I do additional reading before I begin to familiarize myself further with the setting and environment for the story, which fortunately gives me an excuse to buy more history books (which drives my wife crazy).  But then, like most authors, I find it necessary to do a second, more specific round of research as questions arise over individual items and occurrences as the story unfolds.  For example, I often need to find more information on the weapons or automobiles that appear in the story, not to mention the roles of certain historical individuals I introduce.  That is also where I can focus more effectively on the physical world as it existed at the time.

Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations?  All my locations are real.  I use specific events and crises as the backdrop to the stories to bring the reader to the heart of the Cold War and to help them understand the ambiance, mindset, and perspectives of the period and how the characters react to the challenges of that time.  My publisher was the one to suggest this series, and I readily agreed, noting that there are numerous events during the Cold War that provide an intriguing and exciting setting for the novels.  That also allows me to create stories that stand alone, despite the use of a single protagonist and other characters that often reappear in the various editions.  Each setting and time are unique, which makes for a unique story.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process?  I think there are two aspects to that question.  The first has to do with my impatience.  It’s basically why I am a pantser and not a plotter.  Aside from the fact that I find the former more fun and more creative, I also find that once I start thinking of a story or plot, I want to just sit down and put pen to paper.  The other aspect that applies to the Cold War series in particular, is the challenge of placing myself and my characters in an accurate environment for the period.  By that, I do not mean the proper physical backdrop–as important as that is– but rather the outlooks, perceptions, and preferences.  Writing some 50 to 80 years after the fact, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making your characters prescient and omniscient. I know how the various crises turned out, or I know what sort of pitfalls we fell into in Vietnam, for example.  Karl Baier and the other characters did not have that advantage.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Well, there are still numerous Cold War crises that await Karl Baier.  The largest on the horizon would be the Czechoslovak experiment in “Socialism with a human face”  and the subsequent Soviet invasion it produced.  I also skipped right past the Korean War and am wondering if there isn’t a way to travel back to that time, much as Philipp Kerr did in his Bernie Gunther series.  Also, now that my family has moved back to the Midwest after four decades in the Washington, D.C. area, I’m tempted to revive the suburban noir series starring P.I. Bill Habermann, which is set in the Chicago area and principally my hometown of Naperville.

For those interested in learning more about my books, please visit my website at  Copies of all the books are available on Amazon, from my publisher Coffeetown Press, at Barnes & Noble, or at bookstores near you.






  1. John G. Bluck

    Bill Rapp has had an interesting life, and I look forward to reading his books. I also lived in the general area outside of Chicago where Bill now resides. It reminds me of how differently people’s lives unfold as the years go by.

  2. Michael A. Black

    Bill Rapp writes with a sort of retrospective historical hindsight that covers important events in our history, but also reminds us that these events are more than things we read about in a history book. Although his books are fiction, they are also reminders that heroic individuals were involved in making these situations turn out for the better. I highly recommend his books. He’s walked the walk and knows what he’s talking about.

  3. Jim Guigli

    I met Bill in Las Vegas at the PSWA Conference. I read two of Bill’s books and think they are first rate.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

JOHN T. AQUINO – A Fiction Writer Penning a Fact-Based Story

I am an author, attorney, and retired journalist. My last journalism employment was covering legal cases for the Bloomberg Industry Group. I was the publisher and editor of several trade magazines, including Waste Age, Mortgage Banker, and Music Educators Journal, and vice president of finance and production for Hanley-Wood Inc. My short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Shakespearean Whodunnits, Royal Whodunnits, Jacobean Whodunnits, A Matter of Crime No. 2, and Malice, Matrimony, and Murder, as well as the UK publication Crimeupcopia: Rule Britannia, Britannia Waves the Rules. My  books include Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems in Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictional Medium ( ) and The Radio Burglar: Thief Turned Cop Killer in 1920s Queens (

Apart from my journalism work, most recently on court cases for Bloomberg Industry Group, the writing on my own has mostly been fiction, primarily short stories. (The most recent one appears in the anthology Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.) I took on my true crime book—The Radio Burglar: Thief Turned Cop Killer in 1920s Queens–for a personal reason that blossomed into the pursuit of a good story.

My wife’s mother was in the process of dying. In order to keep her mind occupied and entertained, I asked her to tell me the story of the Radio Burglar. For years, she had casually mentioned when the dinner-table conversation turned to crime that her uncle, Patrolman Arthur Kenney, had been killed in the line of duty by the Radio Burglar. Most of us were unsure what that really meant. But when I asked her to tell me the story, she described how the burglar had been so named because he had primarily stolen radios, which in 1926 were the most expensive item in homes and had the unfortunate attribute of calling attention to themselves—“Hey! This house has a radio!”

The burglar’s actions terrorized all of New York City and prompted the formation of police manhunt units. Kenney was part of one that spotted the burglar; he pursued him and was shot. He died a week later in the hospital. The manhunt intensified with the death of a member of the force. Two detectives picked up a clue—the New York Times later compared their work to Sherlock Holmes—and captured him at a celebrated sports event with Mayor James J. Walker in attendance.

The Radio Burglar confessed and tried. His confession forced his attorneys to employ an argument that had been offered in the trial of the accused murderer of President James Garfield in 1882. Kenney’s wounds had become infected at the hospital, and the defense contended that he had been killed not by the burglar’s bullet but by hospital malpractice. There was a conviction, an appeal before renowned Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo, and a trip to Sing Sing Prison.

But the story and the trauma suffered by the Kenney family didn’t end on death row. Nine years later, the Kennedys, the NYPD, and the city were involved in another sensational murder trial.

By the time of her death, I was able to show my wife’s mother a partial manuscript, which pleased her because she had always wanted to write a book. But there was more to do. My Bloomberg experience enabled me to pursue century-old court records to flesh out the story more, especially the trial transcripts. I interviewed other family members and their children. I almost lived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., searching for and reading long, out-of-print memoirs of police officers and detectives who were involved in the case. And most important of all was the ability to access, online and on microfilm, the daily reports of over a dozen New York City newspapers that covered the events daily, as well as accounts on the trial from across the country.

When the book came out, I had good friends saying kindly and almost confidentially, “You have all this dialogue and comments. You must have made some stuff up.” I assured them that the quotes were all from the trial transcripts and newspapers, with the quotes documented in the notes. Even small stories, such as how a teenager told the police she was the burglar’s girlfriend and had accompanied him on his crime spree, actually happened. She was ultimately discovered to have made it up.

I think it is essential that the reader be comfortable in a book describing a “true crime” that the events actually happened as related. (I have another book, Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems in Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictitious Medium, which explores how “based on a true story” can mean something different for filmmakers.) But I found out in writing The Radio Burglar that not only my legal reporting experience but also my storytelling background came into play, not in making things up but in making the faintly remembered real. For example, I was able to visit, either in person or through Google Maps—street view, some of the locations where the crimes and trials took place. But all I saw was how these places look one-hundred years later. The trial transcripts included photos of the crime scene and the backyards where the bullets were fired. But these were flat and faded. And so, I tried mentally to enter the images and imagine the feel, scent, and sounds of those backyards, remembering helping my mother hang laundry behind her house, going through neighborhoods in Long Island and Queens where my wife and her family lived, and hearing the scratchy music from 45 rpm records seeping out of the house next door. For the chase where Patrolman Kenney pursued the burglar, I recalled being pursued in alleys in tough neighborhoods of downtown Washington, D.C., with the gravel scattering and pinging as I ran.

After ten years of research and writing, the book was finally completed and published. I believe it’s an exciting story worth the retelling. I hope you think so, too.

 I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Mid-Atlantic Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the National Press Club (Silver Owl–+25 year member).

For contact information: .




  1. Candace Hardy

    This book sounds fascinating, fun to write, and even more fun to read.

  2. Michael a. Black

    Wow, John, his sounds like one hell of a good book. I’ll have to check it out. Best of luck to you.

    • John T Aquino

      That “wow” makes a great deal to me, Michael. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Marie Sutro

    Thank you for sharing the story of The Radio Burglar. I’d never heard of it – such a fascinating case!!

    • John T Aquino

      Thanks for your comment, Marie. I appreciate your taking the time and letting me know.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *