Monday, June 30, 2014

Mystery or Thriller?

Edgar Allan Poe introduced the world to the mystery detective stories with “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter” which all featured his detective C. Auguste Dupin.

Alexandre Dumas gave the world The Count of Monte Cristo which has been considered by many to be the first true thriller book.

Of course, thousands of novels could be considered mystery, thriller or something in between. The question is which would you prefer?

When I was younger, I think for me, mystery was the biggest appeal. Following the detective on his journey through the crime world until finally at the very end, the killer or guilty party is revealed.

Oh the possibilities.

I thought it was that guy!

Man, I had no idea!

I have to read it again to see the set-up. It totally fooled me!

Yes, the mystery novel is truly remarkable. After all, every novel is a mystery until you read it all the way through based on the idea that it must be a mystery since you have no idea what happens.

Now then, there is the thriller. Thrillers all seem to have an element of mystery but unlike mysteries where the criminal or perpetrator of a crime is not revealed until the ending, the the thriller also gives you insight into the criminal world. In this way, we see the detective or hero in action, but we also get to see the juicy details of the plotting and scheming of the criminal as well.

Nowadays in my writing and reading, I must say I like the thriller much better. I don't get as much of a bang as I once did out of seeing who the killer is in the end. It can be interesting and surprising but eh. I don't feel like I know the killer that well really.

However with the thriller, I feel like I know protagonist and antagonist very well and this I very much enjoy. My own book Jack Little, is definitely more of a thriller. Will Hodge loses his business at the hands of a conman but he also finds the conman dead along with all of his merchandise he lost to the man and lots of other merchandise as well. He sells the goods off but starts looking around for other things to a five fingered discount.

As you can guess, the book is more about the situations Will finds himself getting into when he is stealing the items and of course his own wrestling match with the moral implications of what he's doing. So I believe it is definitely a thriller. And I just have to love this type of suspenseful writing.

A thriller can even put you on the side of the antagonist and hope he pulls off his wrong deed. It's funny and almost kind of sick but it just appeals to human nature. Even if the perpetrator's crime is horrible, we still hope they get through whatever problem they are having because we all hate problems and have to work through them on a daily basis. So in a sense, we have been there even if for different reasons. So a thriller can give us a much better look at both sides and of the story as a whole. Perhaps even the villain had a good reason for doing what he did even if he is a

Now don't get me wrong. I still enjoy a good mystery. I have not lost my love for the genre. It's just that the crime thriller is my favorite. I still have plenty of mysteries on my shelf and they will remain there.

But writing a mystery?

I cannot say I have ever really written a straight up mystery. My book certainly is not one and I doubt if any of my short stories could be called that either. I love writing about crime and well, criminals. Law enforcement is always out there as a threat to them, but many times they appear to the criminals as little more than interrupters. The criminals would much rather rip each other off and steal from one another than bring the law in at any cost. They have their own little seedy world and as a writer I have to appreciate that by proxy.

Will I ever write a mystery? Maybe. I never rule anything out. But I read a long time ago that if a writer wants to be successful, they must pick their favorite genre and explore that for most of their career. I can always branch out later. And I must say it has helped. I picked thriller at first and eventually made my way around to crime thriller. I find it so much more interesting than a lot of other types of thrillers although I like most of the others, too. I feel that I chose correctly.

So what do you think?


Or Thriller?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bad Actions Lead to Worse Thoughts

Soldiers often have nightmares about what they have done. Even though they were usually just serving their country and doing what they had to do, the violent actions still weigh on their minds.

Do criminals who have committed violent crimes go through the same thing?

I believe SOME do. Any person that takes another life has blood on their hands and that can never be changed or taken back. It is done and that is the reality. I would say most of them have nightmares, possibly panic attacks and maybe even worse conditions.

But are there some who feel nothing over what they have done?

I think there are.

Some people just have the right kind of mind for it. They feel little to no empathy. They have justified their actions in their own minds to the point to where they were right for committing the violence.

Now in some cases, they could be right. If they were attempting to steal a car, the owner caught them and started firing a gun at them, well what choice do you have but to fire back? Of course, they should not have been stealing the car to begin with, but does a criminal really think that way?

Definitely not.

I must say it is fascinating to think about. I know I definitely do not have a criminal mind to the point that I could justify violence for any reason other than a criminal coming into my home to kill or rob me and I had to defend myself. Even then, I'm sure the act would haunt me. I have never been a real violent person. By that, I mean that yes, I have enjoyed gun fights in books and movies as much as anybody else. However, to actually go through with it would be another matter.

When I was younger, I boxed with some friends. We were in a back yard with gloves and head gear. Having a little tournament. Well, I hit one friend pretty hard a few times but only after he hit me in the face. I have that revenge type complex I think. Until I get hit, I have trouble hitting the opponent. This told me long ago I should never pursue a career in boxing. If you wait to get hit first, most times it ends with just you getting hit if you can't take the other guy's punch.

Either way, after our little brawl, I apologized to my friend immediately. After all this was a good friend who even went to the trouble of buying me a Scottish flag license plate for my truck. I am of Scottish descent and I love the movie and book Braveheart. So I really hated that I did hit him like that. I have thought about it since and I may not really regret it all that much, but I can see that to hurt another person can definitely weigh on you.

So maybe I just don't have the criminal mind.

In a way, it could be looked at as a bad thing.

I don't have a criminal mind. How could I ever expect to WRITE about criminals or cops or soldiers who have ever been in such a situation?


Most authors who write about violent situations have been involved in few themselves. It takes two things for me-

Other people's stories and imagination.

There are message boards about everything as well as people I personally know in real life who can offer insight. I add a dose of my own imagination in and I'm set. I can write about sociopaths and psychopaths and any other path all day long.

However, these criminal minds who justify what they do but have no real empathy must be the scariest type of individual.

I remember when I was a kid, an older boy came to our house. We had a bunch of cats running around. We were never mean to them, but this kid took one and dunked it in a bucket of water. My brother and I were appalled and got him inside away from the cats in a hurry. I am not sure what ever became of the boy, but those were not encouraging early signs. My brother and I felt so bad for the poor cat, but he seemed to feel nothing except fr maybe amusement.

That type of thinking is not too amusing in fiction but it's down right sick in real life. Of course, things could have went a lot further, but still. I never understood how a person would think that was funny. Oh but I can write about people who do as I am doing so now.

What about you? What are your own experiences with people who may have been less than sympathetic when you thought they should be? Have you ever known a person that seemed to be mean to the core with no empathy for any living being? Are they in jail now? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Jack Little Excerpt

For this week, I would like to offer an excerpt from my novel, Jack Little.


On the Saturday following his flea market trip, he and his wife drove to a friend’s house in the Germantown section of the city. The friend was Tim Broderick. Tim’s father knew Will’s father and often the two dads hung out over at the Hodge’s when Will was a boy. Naturally Will and Tim played together while their dads played pool and talked about current events. They were never best friends, but they had stayed in contact over the years. Will did not know one single classmate from high school besides Tim. The others had disappeared from his life as old acquaintances often do.

The fireplace roared. Tim loved the crackle in his study. Tim was not considered rich, but he never really went without much of anything either. His father was in the construction business. Now his business was not the biggest outfit around, but his dad made quite a bit of money over the years. Tim sought the less laborious work of architecture. When he returned from college, he helped to design many of the structures his father oversaw building. Since his father died, Tim sold off the business and now only worked once in a while on contract. He had been married but was now a widow with no children. He was more than happy for any attention he received.

Will and his wife sat at the long oak table in Tim’s study. Two book cases held at least four hundred books. And knowing Tim he had read every single one of them. Tim returned to them after a few minutes with fresh coffee. Will thanked him and took a sip from his cup. His wife declined.

“Are you sure, honey? You haven’t had any coffee today.”

“It’s fine, dear. So, Tim. How have you been getting along?”

Tim sat in the recliner next to the table. He took a drink from his own cup and warmed his hands by the fire. The house was very warm, but it was more of a ritual for Tim. The rubbing of the hands together. An act man had done since his creation. Tim loved traditions. He enjoyed many with his wife before she passed on. Now in the presence of others, Tim came alive again.

“I’ve been reading mostly. I have a lot of time on my hands. It’s almost crazy how much time I have these days. My dad always said he never had enough time for anything, but me? Well I do.”

“But maybe you should get out of this house. Maybe go meet somebody.”

Will’s wife hated to think of anybody being unhappy or lonely. She had mentioned lots of her friends and relatives to Tim in the two years since his wife passed. He didn’t appear too interested. Will figured the man just loved one woman his whole life and wanted to keep it that way, but his wife persisted.

“Oh. I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Sure. There’s my friend who works at the salon. A really sweet girl. And just around your age.”

His wife continued talking up her friend from the salon. Will nodded along. The girl was quite a looker. Maybe she could help bring Tim out a bit. Perhaps his wife was right.

The flash caught his eye.

Will had to look twice to make sure. In the corner of Tim’s study sat a pitcher. But not just any pitcher. Will had been looking at nothing but antiques guides for weeks. He knew that pitcher was no ordinary pitcher but it was Depression era glassware. The antique show in Crossville would scoop it right up for quite a price. He should let his friend know about this great chance for profit.

After the coffee was done, they moved into the living room. Tim turned on the TV. He went into the kitchen where he and Will’s wife began preparing cocktail weenies. Will sat on the sofa and watched the football game on TV. Actually his eyes were on the screen but his mind remained fixated on the pitcher. Yes. After the cocktail weenies and a few beers, he would let his good friend Tim know that he had a special gem in his house worth a good bit of money. Will was on fairly easy street now with the money from the flea market. And he was developing an eye for antiques. Lots of treasure sat around on the shelves and in the attics and basements of thousands of men across the nation. Men who were too ignorant to know what they had and too lazy to try to find out. Will would capitalize on their folly. But not on his friend. Tim was too good a man for that.

An hour later, the three ate the cocktail weenies. Tim and Will drank a few beers while the wife read part of the book she had with her. She usually carried a book with her, but whenever they came to Tim’s she made sure to. She knew boys would watch their game and drink their beer, but she wasn’t going to be part of that. Will and Tim shared a few laughs and night fell. Around nine o’clock, Will and his wife left his friend’s house.

Over the next three days, Will told himself he would call Tim to tell him about the pitcher. That antique show was coming up in February. He started to call his friend. He flipped his phone open. He punched in the number. But then he closed it back. He threw on his jacket and went to his wife.

“Honey, I’m stepping out a minute. I think I might go see if I can’t find a new rake.”

She paused.

“Well I think all the leaves are gone for the year.”

“Yeah. But that one is old and just about done. I’d really like to replace it for next year. You know I like to stay ahead of things.”

She nodded.

He leaned in to kiss her.

“Want me to go?”

He told her that would be fine, but once again he slipped. There was a half-second delay. Her eyes told him she was not pleased although she said she was. She pecked him on the mouth and returned to her reading.

As he reached the front door, he turned back to her.

“Maybe we could go out to dinner tonight.”

She smiled to him.

“Sure. Where?”

“Anywhere you like, honey. Just think about it while I get us a new rake.”

She winked at him.

“Will do.”

He left his house and cruised around a while. He figured to pick up the rake first. He entered the Home Depot. He picked up the rake. Not a bad price. The quality was decent although they didn’t seem to make tools like they used to. But that was how things went. The best made things are usually hard to find. As hard to find as the pitcher in Tim’s house.

He pulled into Tim’s driveway. Tim had a two car garage and rarely left. Will figured him to be home. He walked to his front door and gave it two knocks. He peered around. The day was quiet. Very little traffic around. He gave it two additional knocks. Nothing.

From his earlier visits, he knew Tim had no security system. He tried the front door even though he figured it was locked. Tim was a careful guy. He would have locked it.


The door eased forward. Will stood there for a moment. He knew this was wrong. No. It wasn’t. He would see if his friend was home. Fairly likely considering the door was left open. He stepped inside.

The house was entirely quiet. No TV going. No radio. The central heating might be working but it was not running. Just dead silence. He stepped into the house with caution. Surely something hadn’t happened to his friend. He called out his name. No answer. He walked into the study. He thought maybe Tim would be curled up with a book at his fireplace. Maybe he fell asleep. He checked but found no sign of Tim and the fireplace sat cold and dormant. He stepped into the hallway. Called to his friend again. He checked the bathroom. He even pulled back the shower curtain. Nothing. He stepped back into the hallway. There were two bedrooms. He checked the first. Nothing out of the ordinary. He walked down to the second bedroom. He knocked lightly and called to his friend. Nothing. He entered the master bedroom.

The room was much darker than the rest of the house. Will literally could not see much of anything. He called to Tim again but got no answer. He flipped the light switch. Nothing but darkness. The bulb must have blown. He moved to the window. He drew back the curtains and turned to look. Just an empty bed. He checked the bathroom connected to the bedroom. Nothing. Once again he pulled back the curtain. Nothing.

Will figured to call his friend. After all he needed to let him know about this. He also felt some concern. It wasn’t like Tim to just go off and leave the house un-locked. Or he figured it was not typical behavior for him. He pulled out his cell phone and returned to the study. As he punched in the number he stared at the pitcher. Closing the phone, he walked to the pitcher and examined it. As he guessed it was in immaculate condition. It was real Depression era glassware and it would bring a great price. He stood holding the pitcher. Then the thought occurred to him.

On the drive back to his house, he figured Tim needed some cheering up. Will would take the pitcher to the antiques show and sell it himself. He would surprise Tim with the profits. Add a little cheer to his life. Besides Will would know the right price to get. Tim did not know about such matters. To Tim, the pitcher was covered with black enamel like that old falcon. Will made sure to leave the house unlocked. He returned to his house and placed the pitcher in the basement later that night while his wife slept.

For more, check out Jack Little here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

More than Entertainment...secondly

One of my favorite books is Pale Horse Coming by Stephen Hunter. It has lots of action, two terrific protagonists in Sam Vincent and ex-Marine Earl Swagger and a group of bad guys as brutal and dangerous as any I can think of. From cover to cover it is filled with intensity and lots of surprises.

But the real reason I like it?

Because justice is handed out.

Often times in life- not just in what we read in the papers or well on the internet since printed things disappear in droves every day- we just don't things go fairly. I mean, I think it's not right that gas prices are so high, much less that a crime as described in the book is being pulled off and gotten away with.

So any time when things do get set right as they often do in Westerns, but not as much in modern fiction, I feel that good does exist in the world. Even if it is fiction...and sometimes because of it.

When justice is handed out in the real world, that is truly worth rejoicing over. If in the case of a murder victim, the friends and family want justice but I think they have the bigger problems on their hands of how they're going to move on without their loved one in their lives anymore. Whether the killer gets justice or not, their loved one is gone forever in this life. However for the rest of us not as close, we do feel great that the perpetrator did get punished since they took so much away from somebody else.

But in fiction?

What difference does it make?

For me it makes a big difference. It means that someone else feels the same way about justice as I do. And that's a great feeling. Any time others are in agreement with me, I feel a little better about it. I think I can't help it. It solidifies my argument to an extent. It's only human nature. But I think it's more than that. It means that what I believe in is not crazy by any means. Even in the face of those who seem to never care about the victims and ONLY the rights of the killer, I can feel that I am right. And that counts.

Fiction can serve to more than entertain. In fact it often does for us deeper thinkers. Are we deep thinkers special? I don't think so. Sometimes I wish I did not think so deeply. Lots of people who do not seem to be very happy and content and often never seem to worry about much of anything. I love to be like that but it's pretty difficult when I wonder about how my words can help the world on some level? What I usually end up getting back to is...

Don't think. Write.”

Now don't get me wrong. The main purpose of fiction is to entertain. Some classics I have had to literally strain to turn another page of the monstrous thing to finish it- just to say I did it. It was a test of endurance. Would I do it again? Maybe it I ever end up in prison. But most likely no. Those older works are not meant to be that entertaining to us now. So out they go as far as I'm concerned. I'm happy that I read them, but when I really want to delve into some entertaining fiction, it has to be from this century or the last one. Just the way it is.

So if fiction is mainly meant to entertain, then why is it important to know the writer or characters in the story agree with you or your sense of justice?

To the writer, I don't think it is important. Ever really. But I think it makes us bigger fans of that writer since they were able to create a character that got to us. And because of that we remember that writer's name and we try another book. Then maybe another and another.

So any time fiction can not only entertain me, but also offer up a view point where I agree or even don't but then have my eyes opened a bit, that makes the experience that much better.

How about you?

Do you like it when the characters or events of a fictional book reiterate your own views and opinions?