THE MONA LISA SISTERS – Now Available on Audible

the mona lisa sistersThe Audible release of The Mona Lisa Sisters on October 9, 2023, marked my first foray into putting my work on audiobooks.

After listening to author Alec Peche talk about the number of books she has released as audiobooks, I reached out to Lois Winston for help understanding audiobooks. Lois took the mystery and fear out of ACX in about a half hour. I was able to begin the process.

After completing all of ACX’s questions—extremely easy— I uploaded my manuscript. When these tasks were complete, I began the search for a narrator. There was a simple choice among a mere 200,000 or so. What!

I found the project tool and narrowed the search to over one hundred.

Listening to maybe twenty narrators, I narrowed the search to six or seven. The three at the top of my wish list were all royalty-sharing listed artists. I listened again to all three and dropped one. I sent an offer to my top choice. Her response was, “I belong to SAGA/AFTA. I can’t work for less than $250.00 an hour.” I didn’t care for her response when I pointed out she was listed as available for royalty sharing. I hope she corrects that before another new author wastes time listening to her.

On to my second choice, Connie Elsberry, she accepted my offer. Connie was a dream to work with, responsive and always timely—a consummate professional. Her voice was perfect for my female protagonist. Connie captured the protagonist and the story as if it were her own. I especially appreciated how she was able to communicate and deliver the emotions where I envisioned them. Listening to her recordings, I had to wipe my eyes once or twice.

Will I do it again? You bet.

I created a new project for Robbers and Cops and have asked several narrators to audition.

The Mona Lisa Sisters at Audible is waiting for you.

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your fortitude in venturing into the realm of audio books is inspiring. Good luck with the new project.


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FRANK ZAFIRO – The Pain and Joy of Writing A Long-Running Series

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




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).
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Check out the whole River City series:


  1. Thonie Hevron

    This was a terrific post. I just finished The Ride Along. It knocked my socks off! I just started the The Worst Kind of Truth which I bought at the Public Safety Writers Conference. Frank graciously personalized it for me. These opinions are right on–Frank is a writer’s writer. Keep up the good work!

    • Frank Zafiro

      Thanks, Thonie! I am mid-way through BY FORCE OR FEAR at the moment and look forward to seeing how it wraps up. I’m already composing my (positive!) review!

      Thanks for your kind words about THE RIDE ALONG. It is a book I am especially proud of, so it feels good to hear it landed for you.


  2. Vicki Weisfeld

    I’m so glad you confessed to tearing up when you read certain scenes in your own novels. I do that! Even though I know what’s coming and have read the scene many times. I thought maybe I was being too semtimental, too Something. BTW, I enjoyed the story about the mummy that you gave out at the conference. Good work!

    • Frank Zafiro

      Thank, Vicki! I’m glad I’m not the only one, too!

      I think it comes back to how real your characters feel to you. Plus, as authors, I believe our empathy factor is dialed up to eleven to begin with, so…

      I’m glad you liked THE BASTARD MUMMY!

  3. John Schembra

    I met Frank at the PSWA conference a couple of years ago, and can sympathize with his feelings on writing two or more diferent series. On the one hand, I really dislike leaving my Vince Torelli series (6 books) to undertake another series with a new proagonist and other characters, which is an off-shoot of the Torelli book #6, Southern Justness. It almost feels like I am insulting Torelli to do so, feeling like he is no longer interesting, but it’s also exciting.
    I will return to Vince in the near future for a 7th book, at least, but will write 2 or 3 in the new series, with Detective Sergeant Louise (Louie) Princeton. Using a different locale for her stories helps asuage those feelings of betrayal of Vince- talk about your characters becoming real, eh?
    By the way, I have a copy of The Ride Along waiitng on my nightstand to-be-read-stack.

    • Frank Zafiro

      That’s an interesting take, John, and I know how you feel… sorta. I mean, I always enjoying “fooling around” with other series but going back to River City has the feel of a comfortable pair of jeans to it.

      Looking forward to your thoughts on The RIDE ALONG!

  4. James L'Etoile

    I agree with Michael Black’s comments here. Frank is the consummate professional. He’s a superb writer and the River City series is but one example of his ability to bring real life into his fiction. Many ex-cop writers can tell a story, Frank makes you feel the story.

    • Frank Zafiro

      Thank you, Jim! Coming from you — a talented storyteller — that means a lot!

  5. Marilyn Meredith

    I met Frank long ago in Seattle during a mystery convention Delighted to meet him again at a PSWA conference. All the praise for his books are well-deserved. And as for his comments about his series, I totally agree about writing a series, I have two and to me the characters are real. I know how they will act and what they think. Thanks for sharing

    • Frank Zafiro

      High praise, Meredith — thank you!

      And you would know, when it comes to writing long running series!

  6. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    I enjoyed this post immensely, Frank. You know you’re doing something right when your own writing chokes you up, and I’m so glad you told us about those two times it happened to you, particularly as you stressed the importance of the long-term connection between time 1’s tears and time 2’s tears. Thanks for exploring the ‘micro’ and the ‘macro’ with us. Congratulations on the success of this series.

    • Frank Zafiro

      Thank you, Pamela — it was my pleasure. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Michael A. Black

    Frank Zafiro is a writer’s writer and a pro’s pro. Last year I was blown away by his book, Ride Along, which he co-wrote with Colin Conway. I was fortunate enough to meet him at the PSWA Conference two years ago and can say he’s a nice guy. It’s interesting that he began this series when he a young copper, and continues to write it after he retired from the force. The comparisons to Wambaugh and McBain (especially the latter) are very appropriate. He’s an excellent writer and his River City books reflect not only his writing talent but a unique, behind-the-scenes look at how police think, feel, and react. Check out his books, You won’t be sorry.

    • Frank Zafiro

      Wow, Mike — thanks for the high praise! It means a lot, coming from you.


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PAMELA CHARTRAND – You Are Never Too Old

I got the writing bug in second grade, after writing a poem that the teacher loved and asked me to read to the class. I still remember classmates’ encouraging comments on the playground afterward. Writing seemed pretty cool!

I majored in English in college and thought about becoming a novelist, but it seemed too uncertain a profession. Then I moved to Silicon Valley in the early days of the tech boom and became a technical writer. After over a decade of high tech, I traded in my steady paycheck to become a licensed therapist, which I love and still practice today.

While my love affair with writing never left, I wasn’t a very nurturing partner. Over the years, I started a few novels. I wrote the first few chapters of a couple of “self-help” books and the occasional magazine article when I was “in the mood.” Mostly, I didn’t write much – I was busy finding my place in the world. Besides, if I’m perfectly honest, writing wasn’t fun, and I was frustrated and depressed when I sat down to the page because I didn’t know how to finish writing a book. I could never figure out what came next in the story. The first chapters flowed, but I hit the wall and stopped writing. I expected it to be as easy as that first poem I wrote in second grade.

But sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can’t ignore that niggling voice in the back of your head that says “write.” Especially when you have a friend looking out for you.

This friend knew of my interest/frustration in writing, and she knew that I even had an idea for a novel in mind. So she encouraged me to go with her to a writing class at Stanford University. At the time, I was sixty years old. I had no plan to become a novelist. But it sounded like a fun thing to do on a Saturday, so I said Yes.

My first Stanford instructor wrote, “Your subconscious knows more than you do” on the whiteboard. As a psychotherapist, this completely resonated with me. What she was saying was that I didn’t have to know what came next, that I could leave that up to my subconscious and ultimately to my characters. I excitedly thought, “Maybe THAT’S how I’m going to finish a novel!”

I jumped into writing with both feet. Over the next couple of years, I took other classes at Stanford. I took seminars and did something I hadn’t done since I was a child – I went to camp – a five-day writer’s camp. I bunked with a stranger, who became a friend. I learned new things, and I wrote.

One “hallelujah!” moment was learning about plotters and pantsers and discovering that I’m a pantser! No wonder I never knew what happened next! I never would, and now I felt freed from the quicksand!

I took a “Novel in a Year” class and finished a book. I revised and rewrote it. I sent it to beta readers and incorporated their wise comments. Friends and family read it, and I sent it to two professional editors. Everyone loved it except the agents.

After thirty rejections, a few agents were kind enough to send encouraging ideas, but with the last really nasty rejection, which included “I don’t like your main character, and I don’t like your writing,” I gave up. I put the manuscript “in the drawer” and returned to quilting!

But unlike in decades past, I couldn’t stop thinking about writing. I guess that when you finally nurture something, the niggling voice becomes more persistent and more demanding. And it brought me a new idea for a story.

It took me well over a year to write the novel, but by then, I had a group of people who would help me when I was stuck, or something didn’t work. I rewrote, revised, sent it out again for critique to editors, and finally had something I thought MIGHT work.

By then, I was in my mid-sixties and wondered if I wanted to go through the rejection process. I wondered if Indie was the way to go. But only briefly. Instead, I set myself a goal of one hundred rejections and began the tedious task of preparing queries and looking at agents’ wish lists — preparing for the day I would send out my queries.

Then, I began to hear horror stories from writers about their experiences with agents and ultimately not getting a book deal.

Several of my Sisters-in-Crime buddies had great success going Indie. They encouraged me to try, and after looking into it, I hired a marketing coach and a cover designer. I was advised to enter the intimidating world of self-promotion. I didn’t want to be on social media, set up and manage a website, or learn formatting software. Whatever it was, I resisted. And I routinely asked myself if I was too old. But I persisted even when I didn’t think I could ever learn how.


And as I could see seventy approaching a few stops down the tracks, I became an Indie writer. Amazingly, my novel, The Herbarium, sold well, had tons of great reviews, and wonderful comments from readers asking for a sequel. And as a side thrill, Tantor Media acquired the rights to the audiobook version. I received an advance and now have an “entertainment attorney.” The second book in the series, The Stone of Time, has just been published, and I’m working on the third. And maybe I’ll open the drawer and dust off the first novel!

If you are on the fence, think you are too old, don’t have the skills, or aren’t sure how to finish a novel, be true to that writer’s voice, no matter how small or fragile. After all, you are never too old to learn new tricks!!

Website: Pamela Chartrand
Facebook: (1) Facebook

Links to novels:
The Herbarium (The Herbarium Chronicles)
The Stone of Time (The Herbarium Chronicles)



  1. Kathy McIntosh

    This is a wonderful statement about finding your way and pursuing your dream. Your success has inspired this over-70 indie author to keep at it! Yay, you!

    • Pam

      Definitely keep at it, Kathy! I’m so glad my story encouraged you! And thank you for your comment. Yay for you, too! Pam

  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Pamela, I love this blog. What an intelligent comment from your professor “Your subconscious knows more than you do.” That falls in line with the well-known quote, “I write to know what I think. And just for the record, technical writers make the very best novelists (and, no, I do not belong to this esteemed group.) 🙂 Lovely to “meet” you. Keep writing.

    • Pam

      What a lovely comment, Donnell Ann. My professor’s comment was a game-changer for me and sent me on a path I would never have imagined. Thanks for taking the time to write. Pam

  3. Ginny Burns

    As a senior writer myself, I identify with your story, Pam. After retiring from my long career in corporate communications, I finally had time to write the novel I always wanted to write. I’m still working on it with my critique group, and have yet to send it out to any agents. Your story gives me hope that someday (hopefully soon) I’ll become a published author like you!

    • Pam

      Hi Ginny (fellow tech writer)! Glad you have a critique group. It makes all the difference. You can never have too many writing buddies! Good luck with your book! Pam

  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Pam, this post was inspirational. I wonder, though, did you ever start sending out the 100 queries to agents? I myself sent out nearly that many and found that some rejections hurt a lot more than others. That “I don’t like…” rejection you received sounds devastating and cruel. You show we can heal and come out stronger on the other side. Thank you.

    • Pam

      Hi Pamela Ruth, I did send out a few queries, but not with the same gusto as the first time. Once I decided to go Indie, I didn’t bother. Good luck with your novel. I hope it finds the right home! And thank you for your comment. Pam

  5. Cindy Johnson

    The PERFECT blog of me to read as I walk in your shoes — nearing 70, several rejections from agents, undecided about self-publishing, and wondering if I should just chuck the mystery series into a drawer and snap it shut with finality.

    I deeply appreciate hearing about your journey, Pam. It is so heartwarming to know that others have walked along this same path of uncertainty.

    • Pam

      Hi Cindy! I’m so glad this post came at the right moment for you. Whatever you do, don’t chuck the novel without being able to go back to it when you are ready! Listen to your writers voice…it’s the one that matters! Pam

  6. Kathy Crabtree

    So delighted to hear of your success-better than the praise of your second grade teacher! Looking forward to reading your books-

    • Pam

      Hi Kathy, I didn’t think anything could be as rewarding as that second grade experience. But finishing a novel and having people respond to it…kinda knocks it out of the park!! I hope you enjoy the books. Be sure to let me know! Pam

  7. Pam

    Thank you so much for your good wishes, Michael! And I’m so glad you found my story inspiring. I’ll definitely keep writing…it’s finally fun!!

  8. Victoria Kazarian

    Pam, this is such an honest, encouraging post. I was there the day you said, “That’s it. I’m going back to quilting!” I’m so glad you pushed through and that you’re seeing such success now.

    • George Cramer

      I’m not sure I was there for the quilting comment, but I certainly heard about it. I echo Victoria’s comment. Glad you kept writing.

      • Pam

        Thanks, George! And thank you for the honor of being featured on your blog! What you do is inspiring! Pam

    • Pam

      Thanks for the comment, Victoria. You are definitely among those I consider cheerleaders and writers offering wise counsel! You’ve been there almost since the beginning!

  9. Michael A. Black

    What an inspiring story… Pam, I salute your tenacity and sticking to your dream. Best of luck to you. Keep writing.


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GEORGE CRAMER – Shares His Latest Work

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:





    Draws the reader right in…arresting dialogue.

    Kudos to you, George!

    • George Cramer

      Thank you Marijo. Glad we got your attention.

  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    George, your dialogue is gripping! The trailer spooks the hell out of me and the bible quote under the picture of the tiny book in your hand spooks down into the bones. Truly, well done. Best of Luck with NEW LIBERTY.

  3. Thonie Hevron

    This has my interest, George! I’ll be buying it so I can find out what happens.

  4. Donnell

    Intriguing George! And of course fearless creating. Congratulations!!!

    • George Cramer

      Intriguing and fearless are not words I would use to describe my work. WOW!! Thanks

  5. Michael A. Black

    I was privileged to be able to read an ARC of this one and enjoyed it immensely. i’d certainly recommend it, and enjoyed it so much I bought a copy at the PSWA Conference last month in Las Vegas. It’s the first book in what will no doubt be a great new series.

    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Mike. This is indeed high praise coming from you. Take Care & Stay Strong.

  6. Margaret Mizushima

    Plenty of action in the opening chapter, George! Great beginning! Thanks for sharing!

    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Margaret. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Shelley Lee Riley

    What a great idea, a look inside. This first chapter showcases the depth of evil that lies in waiting for the most innocent among us. I was gripped by the sheer horror depicted on these pages. Explosive and compelling. I’m hooked.

    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Shelley. I wish I could take credit for the idea. A great friend suggested I make the post. But, thanks again.


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JAMES L’ETOILE – When Fiction and Reality Collide

There’s the devil you know and the devil within
—when the two collide; no one is safe.

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novel, 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. Black Label earned the Silver Falchion for Best Book by an Attending Author at Killer Nashville, and he was nominated for The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. Dead Drop garnered a Lefty and Anthony Award and Silver Falchion nomination. Devil Within is his most recent novel. Look for Face of Greed, coming in 2023.

Hundreds go missing each year, making the dangerous crossing over the border. What if you were one of them?

That’s the back cover copy from DEAD DROP, my novel, which looks at border violence, border politics, and who is really caught in the middle of that struggle.

The impetus for the series came several years ago when I worked in the California prison system. I was leading an audit at a prison near San Diego when a very odd set of circumstances revealed themselves. The prison is near the border, and you can see “The Wall” from the yard. Undocumented migrants use the trails around the prison’s hills to make their way north.

The type of audit I was conducting was a stressful event for the administration at the prison. They want to make sure everything is running smoothly and got to great effort to make sure The Guys From Sacramento don’t find any security issues. When I arrived, the warden’s office was frantic for the most basic reason—they could not clear their count. That meant the official number of inmates the prison was supposed to have didn’t match the official records.

As you can imagine—this is a bad thing, and the warden had visions of his career crashing on the rocks.

They soon isolated the problem to the minimum facility, a smaller 250-bed unit housing low-risk inmates outside the main prison fence. After several more counts, they found they had one more person than they were supposed to have. Finally, they discovered the reason for the bad count. An undocumented migrant was so cold and so hungry he broke into prison for a warm place to spend the night.

How difficult was the crossing that breaking into prison was his best option?

That stuck in my mind as I wrote DEAD DROP. I don’t pretend to portray the migrant experience—that’s not my story to tell. But I can reflect on the desperation and hardship I witnessed for those leaving everything familiar to come to a strange new land.

That’s where DEAD DROP begins when Detective Nathan Parker discovers a series of undocumented migrants buried in the desert. The forces behind the murders might not be who you’d expect. We learn early on that Detective Parker’s partner was murdered by a coyote smuggling the undocumented over the border, and as you can imagine, that colors his perspective of the immigration issue. He follows the evidence to find his partner’s killer, only to become trapped on the other side of the border. He needs to rely on the undocumented to get him safely back home.

This first book in the Detective Nathan Parker series garnered a Lefty Award nomination for Best Mystery Novel of the Year, an Anthony Award nomination for Best Paperback Original Novel, A Silver Falchion Award nomination for Best Investigator Novel, and the Public Safety Writers Association awarded Dead Drop with the Marilyn Meredith Award of Literary Excellence as the best-published novel.

The sequel, DEVIL WITHIN, was released on July 18th. It takes the story further when Detective Parker finds a connection between a series of shooting victims—each of them held a role in an organization founded to help undocumented migrants make the crossing. Where there are vulnerable people, isolated from their own culture, predators line their pockets, offering hollow promises of jobs, housing, and hope—all at the expense of the most helpless. Parker soon discovers no one is exactly who they seem.

You can find out more at


  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    James, your book addresses an incredibly tough topic and a heartbreaking one. Thanks for bringing a touching dose of humanity to an issue that strains so very many while breaking the spirit and bodies of so many more we will never even know about.

  2. Peg Roche

    Congratulations, James! I’ll look forward to reading both. I enjoyed your presentation at PSWA this month!

  3. Vicki Weisfeld

    This sounds like a great read! Such a difficult subject, worthy of whatever attention we can give it.

  4. Lisa Towles

    Great interview and congrats on your successes!

  5. Margaret Mizushima

    I’m thrilled by the success of this series, James! Looking forward to seeing you soon at Bouchercon. Thanks for sharing your experience and talent with us!

  6. Robin Somers

    James, your series sounds (and looks) intriguing. Congratulations on your award and nominations! Sad stories set in a sacred desert place hooks me, especially fiction inspired by reality.

  7. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve read Dead Drop and it is great. The characters are real, the story is current and the settings vivid.

  8. Thonie Hevron

    Great to see you again at PSWA! Congrats on your well-deserved awards. I’ll be following up the second Nathan Parker novel soon. Can’t wait~

  9. Bob Doerr

    I’m definitely looking forward to reading them! James, it was great to meet you at the PSWA conference.

  10. Marilyn Meredith

    I have to get this one still. It is on the tope of my list.

  11. Michael A. Black

    I’m really looking forward to reading Nathan Parker’s latest adventure. Dead Drop was excellent and deserving of all the accolades it received. James is a fabulous writer, so if you haven’t read his stuff yet, don’t delay. You won’t be disappointed.

  12. Valerie Brooks

    James, fantastic ideas, themes, and story. You have the cred to write such stories and I thank you for that. We only hear what the news lets us hear and fiction often captures the heart and soul of a story that is missing with the media. Congrats on your success!

  13. Francelia Belton

    Hi James! Both of these novels sound like interesting reads! I’ll be sure to check them out. 🙂

  14. Pat Weill

    Looks great!

  15. Donnell Ann Bell

    James, what a fantastic impetus for a book! Congratulations on all your success! Well done. Thanks, George!


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