James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. His novels have been shortlisted or awarded the Lefty, Anthony, Silver Falchion, and the Public Safety Writers Award.
Face of Greed is his most recent novel. Look for Served Cold and River of Lies, coming in 2024. You can find out more at www.jamesletoile.com
There’s this old saw in literary circles that authors should write what they know. I don’t necessarily agree with that guidance because I often find it more interesting to write about what I want to know. If I’m interested, then maybe the reader will be as well.
But there was a piece of that advice that stuck with me as I wrote Face of Greed. Write what you know, but write it while you can. There is a plotline in the book dealing with the main character’s mother, who is struggling with the ravages of cognitive decline—dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Detective Emily Hunter is a hard-charging investigator working to solve a complex murder of a political powerbroker who has to balance that demanding job with acting as a caretaker for her mother.
Emily’s burden is something many of us with aging parents have experienced or might have waiting for us in the years ahead. It’s a scary thing, and for the purpose of the story, in Face of Greed, it keeps Emily off balance. She’s sure-footed in her role as a detective with keen instincts and a solid partner in Javier Medina to follow the clues and bring down the bad guy. But with dementia and Alzheimer’s, Emily struggles.
One day, her mother is living independently, and the next, she’s had to move in with Emily because her memory lapses had gotten to the point when she nearly burnt her house down, forgetting the stove was on. It’s an insidious disease. Emily has a conversation with her, and she seems “with it,” aware of what’s happening around her. Then, the next moment, she loses touch and thinks Emily is still in high school.
Emily has to balance her responsibilities to her mother as her primary caregiver with the demanding job of a homicide detective. She has no family to rely upon, and she’s not the kind of person to ask for help. Emily must step outside her comfort zone and not only ask for help to care for her mother but make critical decisions for her long-term care.
So where does all this come from, you ask?
I was once in Emily’s shoes. My mother had dementia in her later years. It crept in slowly, and, as I found out, those who experience dementia become clever about filling the gaps in their memory. They’ll invent an idea that fits, and they’re convinced it’s what really happened. For example, I found Mom dressed and ready to go to a doctor’s appointment when I went to her place. I picked her up, and halfway there, she forgot where we were going and decided we were going to the grocery store instead. Another sign was simple decision-making would cause anxiety, so she found a workaround common to people with dementia. At a restaurant faced with dozens of menu options, the deception is, “What are you having? Oh, that sounds good. I’ll have that too.” It’s a workaround so they don’t have to make that decision. All the sensory input from the menu can’t get through.
As a caregiver for an aging parent, the roles are suddenly reversed. You’re now the parent to the much older child. And that dynamic can create a great deal of friction. Emily experiences it, and so did I. The person living with dementia sometimes realizes their life, who they were, is slipping away. They feel lost, disconnected, and alone. Some experience Sundowner’s Syndrome, where they try to leave wherever they are to get “home.” Their perception of home may be a fragment of memory from the distant past.
Caregiving can be difficult for the caregiver as well. It’s exhausting and mentally draining listening for the next sound of an escaping parent or that phone call that they’ve run off or hurt themselves.
I wanted to bring this into Face of Greed for a couple of reasons. It makes Emily struggle to balance her life. She feels guilt and sadness over her mom’s situation. And she realizes she can’t do this alone. She must bring other people into her life and let them help. Asking for help isn’t something that comes naturally to Emily—wonder where she got that from?
But I also wanted to talk about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease because so many of us have gone through this—parents are aging, and this is an unfortunate common experience. I’ve gotten feedback from many readers who tell me that Emily’s struggle in this area resonated with them. They’d felt similar demands and struggled to find the help their parent needed.
It makes Emily a bit more multi-dimensional, and as tough as she seems, she’s got a big heart. It opens her up to people coming into her life at the right time—as she’s the better for it. I guess we all need to be a little more like Emily. And we all need to write what we know while we can because we don’t know what the future will bring.
Visit Amazon to meet Emily: Face of Greed (A Detective Emily Hunter Mystery) – Kindle edition by L’Etoile, James. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Frank Zafiro writes gritty crime fiction from both sides of the badge. He was a police officer from 1993 to 2013, holding many positions and ranks. He retired as a captain. He is the award-winning author of over forty novels, most of them crime fiction. You can find out more at http://frankzafiro.com
On October 4, 2023, my novel, All the Forgotten Yesterdays, the fourteenth installment of my popular River City series, will be released. When I wrote the first book in the series, Under a Raging Moon, back in 1995, I couldn’t have predicted that I’d still be writing about these characters almost three decades later.
But I’m glad I am.
River City is a police procedural series that follows an ensemble cast of officers, detectives, and even leaders as they face a different challenge each time out. To date, RCPD has encountered robbers, kidnappers, rapists, gangsters, a school shooting, a serial killer, a terrible chief of police, and more. Through it all, one of my intentions was to show these events in a realistic light. In fact, these books have been favorably compared to the works of Joseph Wambaugh and Ed McBain in that respect—high praise, if you ask me. One reader called them “a paperback ride-along, ” which also sums it up well.
In the beginning, I thought I’d be focusing mostly on a young patrol cop named Stefan Kopriva. But by the time I hit the second book, Kopriva’s fate on the department was already sealed (though he lives on in a spinoff series, the Stefan Kopriva mysteries). Another officer, Katie MacLeod, rose to the forefront. And while she was certainly first among equals, I spent considerable time with a half dozen other characters—the veteran Thomas Chisolm, partners Anthony Battaglia and Connor O’Sullivan, and police leader Lieutenant Robert Saylor, to name a few.
That’s not to mention a score of others that the reader gets to know less well but still interacts with. Then add in the fact I’ve written enough short stories in this setting to fill more than three collections, and the result is that the River City canvas is heavily painted upon. (The nice thing about the short stories is that it allows me to explore main characters more deeply at times, and at others, to explore characters who don’t get to be stars in the novels but do in their own short story).
The River City timeline starts in 1994 with the first novel. The newest book, All the Forgotten Yesterdays, is set in 2010. That’s sixteen in-universe years. A lot of things change in sixteen years (especially when it’s been twenty-eight years for me in our world!). I’ve made sure these changes are reflected in the series. New technologies and tactics emerge. There are marriages, retirements, and even deaths. No one is safe from the ravages of time.
Katie MacLeod was in the very first book, and by the third book, she had emerged as the core character of the series. Even so, she sometimes plays a minor role in certain books, such as her sole appearance, Chisolm’s Debt. In other outings, she is the POV for the entire book—this is true in The Worst Kind of Truth and again in All the Forgotten Yesterdays. She will retain her status as a major POV for the next couple, as well.
But time marches on. More than half of the officers prominently featured in the first book have either retired, been promoted, or are dead. It’s been difficult to say goodbye to them, whether that was due to their demise or simply because their new position meant I wasn’t going to be featuring them nearly as much. This is the pain I’m referring to in the title of this essay.
The steady march of time also requires rookies to join the department and graduate to veterans. As Katie’s role changes, new officers fill in her old roles—whether as a patrol officer or a detective. Getting to know these new officers and introducing them slowly over the course of several books, is one aspect of that joy I referred to in the title.
Does this require knowing where things are going for the next seven or eight books? If you’re not an outliner, this might sap the fun of creation for you. I’m not an extensive outliner myself—more of a note-taker—but I have to say I have found it at least as satisfying to view my series through the meta lens as through the micro.
In the micro, I’m right there on the street with the characters in each individual book, reveling in the details that make for good police procedurals. That experience is about moments.
In the macro, I get to see the long view of things and explore the journey and the ultimate fates of these fictional characters. That experience is about the years, even the decades.
Honestly, there is joy and pain in both elements. Here’s what I mean: I’ve only been moved to tears while writing a scene on two occasions. The first was in the fourth entry of the series, And Every Man Has to Die. As the title suggests, someone does die. Writing that scene—indeed, reading it back to my wife later on—choked me up and brought tears to my eyes. It was all pain.
The other instance was in The Worst Kind of Truth, which I wrote eleven years later. This time, the scene was a wedding. Now, I don’t normally cry at weddings. But this one was a long time coming. It tied directly back to that death in book four and represented a sort of healing without forgetting. Thus, it was both happy and bittersweet. Pain and joy, you see.
I think, in the end, what it comes down to is this: after spending almost three decades of my life with these characters and shepherding them through almost two decades of their own fictional lives, I’ve come to see them as being real. I know it’s a writer’s worst cliché, but it is absolutely true. And because their journey hasn’t been a static one, but has passed through time and events as well, there has been plenty of opportunity for both pain and joy to occur.
But, on balance, mostly… joy.
(Note: Even though this is #14 in the series, each volume stands alone, too. You can start anywhere in the series, but if you want to experience what I just wrote about, I suggest going back to number one).
email: email@example.com (or contact button on website)
Buy ALL THE FORGOTTEN ESTERDAYS: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BSB6HFPJ
Check out the whole River City series: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRDW2SN
The first book in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series, New Liberty, is available from many sources. I’m taking this opportunity to share a teaser and Chapter 1.
Outside Phoenix, two gangs rule…
…and one police officer is caught in the middle.
How will he stop them?
Hector’s parents, wealthy east coast college professors, raised him to work towards making the world a better place. In New Liberty, Arizona, gangs have ravaged the city. As a young police officer who lost his mentor, he struggles with the question.
Why did his partner kill himself?
Across town, a small sickly-looking man approaching fifty is about to make a move. DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway has a reputation as a contract assassin who prefers to kill with the Japanese Tanto. And It’s time to take control.
The war will start on his terms.
In a world of human trafficking, drugs, and violence, two people’s lives are about to be intertwined in a way where only one can survive.
But this story isn’t all black and white.
This dark urban crime novel will grab you as it reveals far more than just greed and power. This one will keep you turning the pages.
A Hector Miguel Navarro Novel
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and
Hades followed him. And they were given authority . . . to kill with sword
and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Rev. 6:8
They were alive moments ago.
“I told you to use the GPS. Why’d you buy a Lexus if you aren’t going to use the gadgets?” The old woman chides her even older husband.
“The map program takes too long. Besides, the boy’s graduation isn’t until tomorrow.”
“I know, but we’re not even in Phoenix. We should have been there an hour ago. Admit it. We’re lost.”
“Okay. I’ll pull over and set the GPS. Will that make you happy?” The man was tired from the long drive. Even breaking the drive into two days from Oakland to the Arizona city was more than he should have undertaken at seventy. His wife had suggested they spend a few days in Los Angeles, maybe even visit Disneyland, but the old man had insisted. She had been right. I should have skipped poker with the boys this time.
“Now we’re lost, exhausted, and you finally agree with me. That doesn’t help much.” She was younger by a decade and had offered to help with the driving. The old man was always stubborn and refused to give up the wheel. “This neighborhood looks pretty sketchy. I don’t think we should stop here?”
“We’ll be fine. Besides, there’s no one around.”
A minute later, absorbed in entering the address in the GPS, it’s difficult for the old man with his arthritic hands and new trifocals. Hearing a banging on his side window, and without thinking, he hits the down switch.
“Hey, old brother, whatcha doing?” Standing next to the car door is a skinny kid, fifteen or sixteen. It’s hard to see his face. He’s wearing a dark hoodie with the front cinched down. His hands are jammed deep into the pockets.
“I’m checking my map. We’ll be going.”
“I don’t think so,” the kid says as his right hand appears. He’s holding a small pistol, barely visible in his large hand.
“He’s got a gun,” screams the woman.
“That’s right, Bro. You and the sister get out and walk away.”
The man may be in his seventies, but he’s not about to let a teenage punk rob him. Reaching to put the car in gear, he says, “No.”
The old man doesn’t hear the shot or feel the twenty-five-caliber bullet that passes through his skull and into his brain. The small lead slug comes to rest against the right side of his skull, ending his life. His wife screams as another teenager opens the passenger door and drags her out of the car. Drawing her head back exposes her neck. She sees the Ka-Bar. The blade, dull and heavy, is meant for work, not slicing throats. As the boy saws her neck open, cutting the carotid arteries, blood gurgles until she is dead.
“Don’t get blood on the seat,”
“That’s why I pulled her out. What about the old dude?”
“He didn’t bleed much.”
* * *
Now that they have killed the old couple, they aren’t sure whether to run or take the Lexus. Their problem worsens when three men emerge from Ernesto’s Pool Hall.
“What’re you doing?” demands Jerome. “Geronimo” Dixon. The easily recognized president of the 4-Aces. Even at fifty, he is an imposing figure towering over the men behind him. The man stands six feet five and carries three-hundred pounds—no fat—packed on a muscular frame.
The frightened shooter’s answer is a whisper, almost apologetic. “We jacked them for the Lexus. The old man gave us shit. We had to off him and the old lady.”
“Who the hell gave you permission to jack a car in 4-Aces territory?”
“No one, we didn’t. . .”
“Shut up and gimme the piece. What else you got?”
The boy hands over the small pistol and the other gives up the K-Bar, “All we got.”
Geronimo turns to one of the men standing behind him. “Get DeShawn.”
Within minutes, DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway is at his side—Geronimo motions for the young killers to stand behind the Lexus. Out of earshot, he hands their weapons to Galloway. “This’s going to bring a load of shit our way. Make the idiots disappear.”
“Forever.” The tone of Geronimo’s voice leaves no doubt.
“The old couple?”
“I ought to. If they weren’t innocent civilians, I would.” Geronimo lets out a sigh. “Leave them.
“Don’t nobody touch da bodies, nothing. No DNA to tie the Aces to this shit.”
Galloway calls the other men over and tells the first, “You drive. We gotta clean this up.” To the second, “Put the fools in my Escalade. You ride with me.”
Showing false bravado, the shooter speaks up. “Why?” Stepping close to Galloway, he looks down at the much older and shorter man and repeats, “Why?” adding, “I ain’t no fool, old man.”
Galloway raises his head and gazes into the face of the shooter. His expression is as lifeless as his eyes. The shooter does his best to maintain a defiant pose and succeeds for perhaps three seconds. His body begins to shake. The shivers betray the boy’s fear; without another word, he walks to the Escalade and death.
Here’s the link to the trailer created by Lisa Towles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvrdESP4jTI
Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, and four mysteries, including a 2021 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion finalist, Murder, Forgotten. All have been published by Lion Hudson of Oxford, England.
Deb is a former journalist and minister to homeless parishioners in Greenville, SC. She tells the story of her mid-career switch in The Weight of Mercy, a memoir that reveals the traumas and rewards of dealing with addiction and poverty. It has been studied at Harvard and Duke Divinity Schools.
Murder, Forgotten is a stand-alone in which an aging mystery writer is losing her memory. When her husband is murdered in their beachfront home, her grief is mixed with panic: Could she, deep in the throes of a new plot, have killed him? Upcoming in 2023: Deb’s latest work, Through Any Window, has been accepted by Red Adept Publishing in the U.S. Set in a gentrifying area of a vibrant Southern city, tensions are already high between old-timers and rich newcomers. When a double murder explodes, police must determine whether its roots are personal or the rocky result of urban renewal.
Do you write in more than one genre? After a 2012 memoir, I have stuck to murder mysteries.
What brought you to writing? A lifelong love of reading and a 27-year career as a feature writer for a newspaper. After leaving the demands of daily deadlines, I was finally able to write books.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my cheerful sunroom, with five uncovered windows and loads of happy artwork and family photos. At this point, I’m not in a race to see how many books I can produce! I do allow distractions – coffees and lunches out, volunteer work, speeches, travel.
What are you currently working on? I’m in the editing process of a mystery tentatively titled Through Any Window, which is set in a gentrifying neighborhood in a Southern city. People in new mansions live side by side with people in boarding houses and a homeless shelter and can see their neighbors’ lives through their windows.
Who is your favorite author? It’s a toss-up between Joshilyn Jackson and Jodi Picoult. I’m amazed at the breadth of their work.
How long did it take you to write your first book? In all, it probably took a year. When I was halfway through, my board of directors gave me a sabbatical to finish it. Without that nine weeks, I’m not sure I could have done it. I was in a deathly fight with my inner critic.
How long to get it published? Another three years. To my surprise, a publisher in England picked it up, then agreed to publish my fiction titles as well.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Yes, I did this once. ( I won’t say which book!) My writers’ group got into a major argument over it. One member thought it was breaking a contract with the reader. Others liked the surprise of it. I loved it because I believe it allowed the story to veer into a deeper, sadder place.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? You have to have subplots. In Through Any Window, one subplot whirls around the tensions of rich and poor living side by side, and another concerns a young man who recognizes a property where he once lived. The subplots give rise to possible motives for the murders.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I wrote my three-volume Branigan Powers series about a homeless man who helps a news reporter (Branigan) solve murders. Because he glides through their town virtually unseen, Malachi sees and hears things that other people don’t. I based him on a dear friend, a homeless man who attended my church for 15 years. As for Branigan herself, I’m sure she has aspects of me, as does her friend, Liam, a pastor in a homeless ministry. (I also wrote my dog, Annabelle, into Murder, Forgotten).
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I don’t know that term! But I don’t outline, so I guess I’m a pantser. I think it’s more exciting if you can constantly surprise yourself. I had so much fun writing Murder, Forgotten, because I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. It was quite literally almost as much fun as reading a twisty thriller.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I mix them all together. The Branigan Powers series was set on my grandparents’ farm in northeast Georgia, but I plopped it near a city that doesn’t exist. In each book, Branigan usually travels to the South Carolina coast. Murder, Forgotten was set on Sullivan’s Island, SC, and the eastern coast of Scotland. I mixed actual villages and streets and restaurants with fictional houses. Through Any Window is set in fictional Greenbrier, SC, but I draw on much of what is going on in Greenville — and any growing American city.
What is the best book you have ever read? Oddly, not one by my favorite authors. I’d have to say Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Or possibly Ira Levine’s Rosemary’s Baby. I get shivers thinking about both.
How do our readers contact you or learn more about you?
Contact for Deb: firstname.lastname@example.org
To purchase: www.debrichardsonmoore.com or any online seller
Glenda Carroll is the author of the Trisha Carson mysteries that take place in the diverse San Francisco Bay area, from the tree-lined streets of Marin County to the fog-covered Golden Gate Bridge and the ‘play ball’ atmosphere of Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. They include Dead Code, Drop Dead Red, and Dead in the Water. Currently, Glenda is working on the fourth book in the series, Dead to Me. The underlying current in the series is open water swimming. When she isn’t writing or swimming, she tutors first-generation, low-income college-bound high schoolers in English.
Glenda authored an article, Why I like Michael Connelly’s Bosch, for the September 2022 issue of the Northern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America newsletter, Line Up. I’m sharing what she had to say about Harry Bosch with her permission.
When everything shut down at the start of the pandemic, I discovered Bosch, a police procedural series streaming on Amazon Prime. The seven-season crime series about Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch is based on the books by Michael Connelly.
I liked the character of Bosch immediately. He was more than the tough on the outside, marshmallow on the inside detective. He didn’t talk much—he liked jazz.—and had a dog named Coltrane. His past was complicated. His mother was a prostitute who loved her son, fought for him, and was murdered. He ended up in the foster care system. Then, he married and divorced an FBI agent who morphed into a risk-taking professional gambler. Their daughter loved them both but understood that Harry, who spent evenings going over his cases and listening to jazz, was the stable parent. That complicated backstory came into play in each episode, while Harry took extra (and sometime not-so-legal) steps for the homeless and addicted.
It was that personal understanding and internal warmth that set him apart from the usual hardcore detective. He’d been there, down in the trenches, and never forgot it. The part of Harry Bosch couldn’t have been more perfectly cast. Titus Welliver, an actor I had never heard of before, stepped into the persona perfectly.
Somewhere during all this television time, I realized that Bosch was adapted from several police procedurals written by Michael Connelly. I wondered how true to the books the scripts were, so I became a steady customer of the San Rafael Public Library, reading the 20-odd books that Connelly wrote that featured Harry Bosch. To my surprise, the plots were followed, twist by twist. Even some of the dialogue found its way into the scripts. I thought about this for hours, and I really couldn’t say which was better—the books or the streaming series.
When Bosch concluded (you can still find it on Amazon Prime), another series, Bosch: Legacy popped up on Freevee with the same characters and tight plots.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen every episode of both series at least twice. I am currently Boschless, waiting for whatever comes next.
“(Trisha Carson is)…a smart, steadfast gumshoe who continues to flourish… Carroll’s writing bounces off the page.” Kirkus Reviews
Books are available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Kindle
You can reach Glenda at:
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/glenda.carroll
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ms.-Glenda-Carroll/e/B00CIJ7HJ8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0