Exclusive Excerpt – Boystown 4 – A Time For Secrets – by Marshall Thornton

January 24th, 2015

Boystown 4 – A Time for Secrets

by Marshall Thornton

“You owe me five pounds of potatoes,” the man said, and I had no idea what he was talking about. His name was Ronald Meek, and he’d shown up at my office unannounced. He was in his mid-sixties, far too thin, with a hawk’s nose and a few tufts of tea-colored hair.

He arrived while I was in the middle of packing my files into some beat-up cardboard boxes I’d gotten from behind the Jewel. My landlord had finally decided to tear down the south Loop building, where my office had been located for a couple of years, and put up a building twice as big. They sent me a flyer inviting me to rent from them again in fall 1984 when the building would be finished. Of course, I’d have to win the Pick Three or marry some fat old heiress to do it. So I figured chances were slim I’d be back.

I’d rented a new office up on Clark Street a few blocks from my apartment in a neighborhood that was sometimes called Boystown and sometimes called New Town, depending generally on which team you batted for. Of course, I had no idea how I’d get all my crap up there but figured I’d manage. I had three days left before I had to be out, so I kept packing while I talked to Meek.

“Five pounds of potatoes?” I asked. “Do you want to explain that?”

“You don’t remember me? I’m crushed.” He put on a face that mocked sadness.

I stopped what I was doing and took a closer look at him. The summer sun was bouncing off the building across LaSalle Street, so I got a little more light than usual. Otherwise, I might not have noticed that Meek was wearing makeup, subtly applied and covered with a light dusting of powder. On another man it might have seemed odd, but it went well with Meek’s green velvet blazer and paisley ascot. He sat in my guest chair with his legs crossed and a hand tucked under his chin. He reminded me of an overdressed praying mantis. None of this was familiar, though. I was sure I didn’t know him.

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“You’re going to have to give me a clue,” I said, opening the bottom drawer of my desk and finding a two-year-old reverse phone book, back issues of Crain’s Chicago Business, and a company directory for First Chicago, something I was not supposed to have. I put everything into a box.

“I’m your knight in shining armor,” Meek said.

All his coyness began to piss me off. “Look, whatever this is about, just come out and say it.”

He took a deep breath and began. “One night about five years ago, I heard a commotion outside my window. I opened my window and looked down to find some young ruffians attacking a nice gay couple on the sidewalk below. Soooo…I got a bag of potatoes and started dropping them on the goons. A few minutes later they ran away.” He leaned over to make this point, “I saved your ass, Mr. Nowak. Though you hardly seemed grateful.”

Now I remembered him. I didn’t want to, but I did. My ex-lover, Daniel, and I had been coming home drunk from a bar when the kids jumped us. I wasn’t hurt, but Daniel ended up having a couple of surgeries to rebuild his cheekbone after getting hit square in the face by a baseball bat. I imagine all that surgery must have been extremely unpleasant. I wouldn’t know because we broke up that night, and I never got around to asking when our relationship had briefly rekindled the previous winter. By then his face looked good, too good, and we were, well, occupied.

“Other than receiving my undying thanks, is there a reason you stopped by?” I asked, giving up on packing and sitting back in my chair.

“You’re a private investigator?”

“It says so on the door.” Aside from the door with my name on it, my office boasted a desk, some filing cabinets, the guest chair Meek sat in, a half-dozen, half-filled cardboard boxes, and a dead plant I was considering moving to my new office solely for sentimental reasons. None of the stuff was any good; I could probably have just thrown it all away and started over.

“There’s someone I’d like to find. I thought you’d be right for the job.” He shifted in the chair as I waited for him to continue, his bravado fading. “He’s someone I once loved. We had a brief but quite intense affair. I suppose you’d say he’s the one who got away. I’m not getting any younger and I thought, if not now when?”

“What’s his name?”


“Does Vernon have a last name?” I was already afraid of the answer.

“I think it began with an S. Or maybe an M,” he said, naming the two largest sections of the phone book. “The last time I saw Vernon, he was throwing a party in his apartment at the Edgewater Arms. It was April 22, 1959.”

“Twenty-three years ago?”


I sighed. “What was the apartment number?”

He shrugged.

“You know the exact date, but you don’t know Vernon’s last name or his apartment number? That doesn’t make sense.”

“I keep a journal. On April 22, 1959 I wrote, ‘Went to a divine party at Vernon’s apartment in the Edgewater Arms. The view was amazing. Vernon was delightful. We all drank too much, and Vernon was very witty. We kissed on the roof under the stars.’ Well, we more than kissed, but discretion forbids.”

“Why didn’t you ever see him again?”

He sighed. “I’m not sure someone your age can understand. In the fifties, we were degenerates. Perverts. Sickos. To many of us, the idea of forming a relationship, having a real lover, well it barely entered our minds. We were told we couldn’t have that, that it wasn’t in our nature. We didn’t dare contradict that. Nowadays things are so different. If I were your age and I met Vernon today, well…I would make different choices, let me tell you.” He smiled in what he thought was a demure way. “Can’t you help me, please?”

“Is that all you know about Vernon? He was good kisser who lived at the Edgewater Arms?”

“No, not all. I know lots of things.”


“He’d been in the Navy. He was a Republican. He worked as a hairdresser on Oak Street, and the ladies called him Mr. Vernon. He was quite popular.”

“Have you tried to find him yourself?” I asked.

“Oh, I couldn’t. I’d have no idea where to start.”

“Detective work isn’t rocket science. It’s mostly paperwork.” And the occasional gunfight, I thought but didn’t mention.

“I don’t just want to find him,” he admitted. “I’m hoping you’ll give him a message for me. Tell him that I’d like to see him, that I’d like to talk over old times. If he’s willing.”

“And if he says no?”

“Then that’s all you have to tell me.”

Something was a little off about the whole thing and I had a bad feeling, or maybe the grilled ham and cheese sandwich I’d had for lunch wasn’t sitting well. I couldn’t be sure. Given the few scraps of information he’d provided, I didn’t think I’d be able to do a lot for him. I didn’t want to rip him off. No, it wasn’t the sandwich. My gut said not to take the case. On the other hand, my bank account said I was about to start bouncing checks.

I dug around in a cardboard box and found an index card. I slid it across my now empty desk. “Write down the message,” I said. “Write it down exactly as you want me to say it.”

While he did that I told him my rates. He swallowed hard when I asked for a two hundred and fifty dollar retainer, but he handed me the message and took a checkbook out of his inside jacket pocket. He wrote me a check.

“I hope you’ll get started as soon as you can,” he said, sliding the check across my desk.

I glanced at it; his bank was on the other side of the Loop. As soon as I walked over and cashed the check, I’d get started.

“Sure thing,” I said.

He said his goodbyes and rose to leave. Before he got to the door, I asked, “How did you find me?”

“You’re listed in the phone book.”

“My name is, yes, but I don’t remember introducing myself the night we met.”

“Oh.” He blushed. “There was a police investigation afterward. Don’t you remember?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“The policeman who came by my apartment asked if I knew you, and not very nicely. I think he was hoping that the three of us knew one another and were somehow trying to con four nice kids from the suburbs.”

That didn’t sound far off. I was a cop then myself. It wasn’t just that cops didn’t like fags. Some cops didn’t like victims much either and seemed to delight in turning things around and making them guilty. If you were a fag and a victim you didn’t stand a chance. It was no surprise the CPD never bothered to find those four nice kids from the suburbs, which at the time didn’t bother me much. There were a couple of days when I even thought the whole thing might blow over and I’d get to hold onto my job. I stonewalled in the two interviews they tried to have with me. But then copies of the police report and Daniel’s statement made the rounds of the department.

“And, of course, I met Daniel,” Meek said.

“You did?”

“I went to see him in the hospital. He’s a nice young man.”

“Yes. He is a very nice young man.”

“He was grateful for my help.”

I nodded.

“Are the two of you still…?” Meek asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No. I’m with someone else now.”

“I guess that’s the way of the world,” he said, and floated out of my office.




Exclusive Excerpt – The Butcher’s Son, A Dick Hardesty Mystery by Dorien Grey

January 17th, 2015
The Butcher’s Son, a Dick Hardesty Mystery by Dorien Grey
Exclusive Excerpt:
At the moment, I was being rather embarrassingly overpaid by a
small public relations firm, Carlton Carlson & Associates. The
reason for the high salary was that CC&A was run by the rear end
of a horse with a monumental ego, and the only way he could keep
help was by paying them so much they couldn’t afford to go
He had, thanks to his rich wife’s family connections, passably
juggled the careers of one or two fairly well-known clients over the
years. Now, he had volunteered his—that is to say, his staff’s—
services in the promotion and setup of a press conference for the
chief of police’s contemplated assault on the governor’s mansion.
His magnanimous gesture was hardly altruistic, since C.C. viewed
it as his key to taking over the chief’s entire campaign.
The task wouldn’t be an easy one, as anyone with his head a
little less far up his behind than my boss would readily have
recognized. The chief’s political beliefs fell considerably to the right
of Attila the Hun’s, and he ran his department like Vlad the
Impaler. Need I add that he loathed homosexuals? His tact,
diplomacy, and delicate handling of any problem involving the gay
community had, among some gays, earned him the nickname “The
But his methods, however reprehensible, had kept the local
crime rate in check, and he had, until now, maintained an extremely
low personal profile.
If the chief managed to win the primaries—his opponent was
one Marlen Evans, a moderately popular but lackluster state
senator—he would be pretty much a shoo-in, since the incumbent
governor’s wildly liberal policies had alienated the most powerful
lobbying groups in the state.
The first step in humanizing the inhuman, my boss decided, was
to play up the chief’s warm and loving family life. Guess who got
stuck with gathering homey bits about this little nuclear holocaust?
Yep, yours truly. The fact that, up until now, very few people had
any idea, or the slightest interest, that the chief had a license to
breed, let alone that he had exercised it five times, left me a pretty
open field.
We started by building a rather anemic file of newspaper photos
and articles. The chief’s wife Kathleen was always on hand at
functions that required the presence of a spouse, but she generally
blended so well with the wallpaper she was almost impossible to
pick out if there were more than three people in the picture. Of the
children, there was almost nothing known except that the eldest son
was a minister, and the chief had recently become a grandfather.
It was, therefore, decreed that I, together with a freelance writer
noted for never having met a subject she didn’t like and a
photographer selected for his Vaseline-lensed portrait work—both
handpicked by C.C. himself—would be sent out to meet with the
entire family. The object was getting a feature story into the Sunday
supplement of the city’s leading newspaper. My purpose for being
there was a bit vague, other than to ride herd on the writer and
photographer and to steer them clear of the unlikely possibility they
might touch on anything that could smack of controversy.
I viewed the entire project with the same enthusiasm as I’d
anticipate a root canal, but I had little choice.

“Available in or on order from any bookstore or on-line bookseller.”

Exclusive Excerpt: Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries by Marshall Thornton

January 10th, 2015

Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries

From “Little Boy Blond”

Sex and money mess most things up. That’s what people think, anyway. And I used to agree. These days, I’m thinking love can mess things up pretty badly, too. Sometimes it can mess things up a whole lot worse.

Paradise Isle reopened on a Friday night at the beginning of October. Davey Edwards rented a klieg light and put it out front. It was good advertising, but I think the main reason he got it was to piss off the neighbors who’d done their best to prevent the nightclub’s reopening—though all they’d managed to do was get it postponed by a month.

I stood under a banner that screamed GRAND REOPENING to check IDs and keep a head count. Davey had decided to skip the cover charge that night in hopes of creating a line around the block behind a velvet rope. It worked. Though at times I had to keep the crowd inside at about twenty-five heads below the number the fire marshal allows so the line stayed populated. Davey had taken a full-page ad in Gay Times, but a line winding down Broadway was better advertising.

Inside, the club had been not only re-created but reinvented. Where there had once been a Plexiglas dance floor, there was now a gleaming expanse of polished black linoleum right out of a Busby Berkley musical. Davey had recreated the neon palm trees and the thatched roofing that had always hung over the bar, but added sturdy, five-foot Grecian pillars on each corner of the dance floor. For opening weekend, there were go-go boys dancing on each pillar in tiny Speedos—consequently, no one asked what Grecian pillars had to do with a tropical theme. Gone were the tacky Hawaiian shirts and the leis he’d once passed out; remaining were the sweaty, bare-chested bartenders.

Miss Minerva Jones wore a spangled mini-dress, white patent-leather platforms, and a pink beehive wig that put her over seven feet tall. As DJ, she’d been planning this night for months. She and Davey had gone round and round about what would be played. “I Will Survive” seemed like a natural, given that the club was literally rising from the ashes. Miss Minerva would only agree to play it twice, though. Davey wanted it every hour on the hour. They also had friction over Blondie, the Police, and Devo. Davey sensed competition from a couple of New Wave clubs that had recently opened. Miss Minerva was a purist, whose tastes ran to classic, urban disco. A single request for Abba could upset her for an entire evening. Still, she acquiesced and played “Call Me,” “Whip It,” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” once each.

Boystown 2 Cover 2nd Edition2

The evening was a huge success, and by two a.m. my feet were killing me. I needed to get out of my size twelve Frye boots and into a tub of hot water. Usually, my shift ended an hour earlier when business started to taper off; that night, people kept coming. Finally, though, the tides turned and more people were leaving than coming, and Davey came over and told me to get myself a drink. I headed over to the bar and ordered a beer and a shot of Jack. I downed the shot and lit a Marlboro.

The go-go boys were still dancing. By that point, they were all pretty tired, and some of them were having trouble keeping the beat. I figured they had about fifteen more minutes before exhaustion set in and they fell off their pedestals. On the one nearest me, a stocky blond gyrated and bounced. I’d had my eye on him most of the night. His floppy hair, prominent cheekbones, and faint dimple in his chin had caught my attention early on. I also liked that his body was thick, well muscled, and had patches of light brown hair on his chest and belly. His crooked smile didn’t hurt, either. I sipped my beer and stole looks at him. He noticed my attention and started playing with the band of his blue and white Speedo. Dollar bills were tucked into the trunks, giving his basket a crunchy look. I looked up at his face and caught him smiling at me.

Davey came over and I had to take my eyes off the dancer. A kid was with Davey. Tall and gangly, with an Adam’s apple that could cut glass. The kid looked like a freshman in college. I wondered for a moment if he was Davey’s nephew.

“Great night,” I said to Davey.

He nodded and said, “It’ll do.” I knew something was up, since Davey wasn’t normally shy about basking in success. “Nick, this is Martin Dalton. He owns The Jewel Box.”

I was surprised. I’d heard of The Jewel Box; it was a theater somewhere in Old Town that specialized in showing gay porn films and turning a blind eye when the patrons got friendly with each other. I didn’t think someone so young could be associated with some place that notorious, much less own it.

I shook Martin’s hand. It was warm and damp. “We also make films,” he added. I waited to see why that was important.

“Martin is in need of your services,” Davey explained.

The bulk of my business is background checks. I doubted there was much point in that type of service when it came to triple X actors, so I asked, “What happened? One of your actors run off in the middle of a scene?”

Martin shook his head and said, “No. He was murdered.”

Usually, I flat-out tell people no when they bring up murder. It’s not that I hadn’t investigated murder before, but I did really try not to. This time, I lit a cigarette and said, “Tell me about it.”

“My biggest star was beaten to death in his kitchen,” Martin explained.

“Dex Summers,” Davey added, though it didn’t mean much to me.

“Sounds domestic,” I said, not because it did so much but because most murders are. “The police will figure it out soon enough.”

He shrugged. “In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of aldermen trying to use it as a reason to shut me down.”

“You gotta help him out, Nick,” Davey said.

I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I was titillated by the idea of porn, or maybe it annoyed me that a couple politicians were trying to get ahead by using this poor guy’s murder, or maybe I just wanted to go home and figured Davey wouldn’t let me until I’d said ‘yes.’ No matter what the reason, I crushed out my cigarette and asked Martin Dalton for a retainer.

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Exclusive Excerpt:Boystown(#1)Three Nick Nowak Mysteries by Marshall Thornton

January 3rd, 2015

Exclusive Excerpt:

Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries by Marshall Thornton

From “Little Boy Burned”


That Valentine’s Day I was sleeping alone—by choice.

I was in the middle of a sex dream about the kid in that island movie that came out last year, the one about the boy and girl who get shipwrecked, run around mostly naked, and eventually learn about sex. In my dream, though, there wasn’t any girl on the island, and things between the kid and I had begun to get hot and heavy when the phone rang.

“Yeah,” I said, untangling my hard-on from my twisted boxers. I glanced at the clock. It was 6:12 a.m. I’d slept a little more than two hours.

“Nick, it’s Ross.” His voice was electric. “Something’s happened. Paradise is on fire.”

“I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

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I worked the door at Paradise Isle two nights a week and had for a couple of years. Ross was one of the bartenders and my occasional fuck buddy. The nightclub, which we usually called just Paradise, was part of a string of brick storefronts down on Broadway right above Diversey. Ross and I had both finished shifts just hours before.

Groggy and a little horny, I threw on some clothes and ran out to find a cab. It had been easier to find one at three a.m. In the wee hours of a Sunday, cabs cruised around ready to take late-night revelers home. But by six-thirty they’d become scarce. It took almost ten minutes, but I finally got one, and it zipped me down Clark to Diversey. We couldn’t make the V turn to get onto Broadway because fire trucks blocked the way. I paid the driver and hopped out.

I got there about six-forty. Smoke was still pouring out of the top of the building, but it looked like the fire was winding down. The sky in the east had turned pink, and I figured the sun would be up in a few minutes. The air was frigid cold, but at least it wasn’t snowing. Two big, red fire trucks sat in front of the bar. Hoses crisscrossed the street. Firemen scuttled back and forth; the sidewalk slick with icy water, washing away the dirty snow that currently graced most curbs in Chicago.

I saw our DJ, Miss Minerva Jones, standing on the east side of Broadway in a small crowd. I made my way over. I’d never seen Miss Minerva out of a dress. Usually she favored wrap-around silk disco dresses, six-inch heels, over-teased blond wigs, and a dusting of glitter. That morning, though, she wore a pair of Sergio Valente jeans with their bull’s-head logo stitched into the back pockets and a gray parka. She’d left her wig at home and made a half-hearted attempt to take off her makeup. Whiskers were starting to poke their way through the remaining streaks of foundation.

When she saw me, she growled, “Every album I own is in there.” In the DJ booth, there were about five milk crates stuffed with the best disco ever recorded. “My life is ruined,” she moaned.

“What happened?” I asked.

“No one knows. I was getting ready for bed when I heard the sirens.” Miss Minerva had a studio apartment a block away on Clark Street. “They kept getting louder and louder. When they stopped, I knew. I called Davey and then Ross.”

I looked around and saw the owner, Davey, and Ross talking with a fireman. Ross was wearing a long, gray wool coat that was actually mine. He’d borrowed it a couple weeks back and now seemed unwilling to return it. Too thin for this weather, the only way I got away with wearing it in winter was to layer up with a corduroy blazer, a flannel shirt, and a T-shirt. Ross wasn’t wearing anything underneath but a BVD T-shirt. Even from where I stood, I could see him shivering.

“Bernie was inside,” Miss Minerva said flatly. Bernie was another of the bartenders. I didn’t know him well. He’d started on the afternoon shift and had only recently begun working the peak nights, Friday and Saturday. I had noticed that, like all of Davey’s bartenders, he was a very good-looking boy.

“Is he dead?” I asked.

“No. He’s burned pretty bad. They took him to the hospital a few minutes ago.” She was sullen, seeming to grind her expensive caps.

“What time did this start?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Not long ago. Close to six?”

“What was Bernie doing here at six in the morning?

“Sleeping in the storeroom,” Miss Minerva said. Then with a roll of her eyes she added, “Boyfriend trouble.”

I nodded, then headed over to join Davey, Ross, and the fireman. As I walked over, I noticed that an axe had been used to get through the front door where I usually stood checking IDs and keeping an eye out for trouble.

Davey and Ross greeted me, and I patted Davey on the shoulder.

The fireman wore stiff, yellow turnout gear that made him seem enormous. His face was smudged with soot, and he smelled like sweet, acrid smoke. He explained, “It appears the fire began near the bar or possibly even behind it. Accelerants were used, but it could have been bottles of liquor.”

“151 Rum would have done it,” said Ross.

“It’s arson,” the fireman said bluntly.

Davey went pale. “Someone did this on purpose?”

“We’re not finding any signs of forced entry.”

“What does that mean?” Davey asked.

“It could mean a lot of things,” I interrupted. Davey didn’t seem to understand the situation, but I did, and I didn’t think he should say anything else. The fireman gave me a look. His eyes were a sharp blue. We stared each other down for a moment. And then he said, “I’ll be back to talk to you later.” He walked away.

Davey shook his head, confused. Paradise was his world. It was the second bar he’d put together. The first had been called The Cellar and had a five-year run in Old Town. He’d hit at just the right time. Disco was big then, and there had been long lines around the block on Fridays and Saturdays. Paradise Isle was successful, but not on the same scale.

Ross pulled out a pack of Camel Lights. He offered me one, and I took it. We lit up and smoked for a minute. “If there are no signs of forced entry, it means that whoever started the fire was let in or had a key,” I explained.

“They had a key?” Davey wondered. “How would they get a key?”

“They might have hidden somewhere,” suggested Ross. “In the bathroom maybe?”

I took a drag on my cigarette and said, “The thing is, Davey, you’re gonna be the most likely suspect.”

He blushed a little. “I have an alibi.” Davey had a much younger, Asian boyfriend who barely spoke English and called the bar if Davey was five minutes late leaving.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “You could have hired someone to start the fire.”

“I love this place. I would never burn it down.”

“You have insurance, right?”

He nodded.

“That’s your motive.”

“What, they think I burned the place down so I could redecorate?”

I smiled. “That’s a better reason than some I’ve heard.”

“I have to go to the hospital and see how Bernie’s doing,” Davey said, as though to himself. He walked away without saying goodbye. Then he turned and came back.

“Find out,” he said. “Find out who did this.”


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Exclusive Excerpt: PRETTY BOY DEAD, a mystery/thriller novel by Jon Michaelsen

December 28th, 2014

Lambda Literary Award Finalist – Gay Mystery 


A murdered male stripper. A missing go-go dancer. A city councilman on the hook. Can Atlanta Homicide Detective Sgt. Kendall Parker solve the vicious crime while remaining safely hidden behind the closet door?



Exclusive Excerpt:

“I’ve talked to a few of the bartenders,” Perelli shouted, leaning near his partner’s ear. He stuck a thumb over his shoulder as Parker turned. “None….good…say…”

Unable to understand, he motioned for them to move up the stairs and out into the main room. “What were you saying?” he asked, ignoring the ringing echo in his ears.

“No luck so far. I’ve talked to several employees, but nothing.” Perelli tipped his cup on end, licking the remnants of alcohol from the corners of his mouth. “I’m getting another. Want one?”

“Take it easy on the alcohol, Perelli.”

Perelli waved him off and shot across the carpeted floor, returning moments later with a fresh drink. “Cops carry clout in these places,” he said. “No waiting in line either.” The threat to his masculinity had abated with a few drinks. So, it seemed, had his cold shoulder to Parker. “Hell, this place ain’t so bad,” he sneered. “Despite all the fucking fags.”

Parker ignored his partner’s comment, distracted by the movement of a patron across the room. The young man was edging toward the emergency exit and kept an eye peeled in their direction.

“What’s up, partner?”

“I’m not sure yet,” said Parker. “You see the guy over there in the red tank?” Perelli followed Parker’s stare and nodded. “Since we’ve been standing here, he’s slipped through the crowd, not a word to anyone, but kept watching us. Looks like he’s headed for that exit.”

“I’d say he’s about to bolt.” Perelli tossed his cup into a nearby trash bin and leaned in close to Parker’s ear. “I’ll head out front and swing around,” he said. “He makes a run for it, I’ll be there.”

Parker studied the character over his partner’s shoulder. “Keep it cool, Perelli,” he said. “If the dude makes a break for it, detain him and that’s all. It’s probably nothing, but I want to be sure. And watch your back.”

Perelli disappeared through the squash of bodies. Parker sipped his cocktail, peering over the rim of the plastic cup as he watched the man’s eyes springboard around the room. Parker spotted Callahan and two goons moving in fast as the man rushed to make a break for it. A hand slapped onto Parker’s arm about the time he started to advance.

“Slade. What the hell are you doing here?”

The reporter smirked. Parker turned back in time to see the red shirt had moved closer to the emergency exit. A cluster of chatty men blocked his view as Slade tugged his arm again.

“You’re working the park homicide, aren’t you? Why else would you be here?” Slade tried to follow Parker’s line of sight across the room. “I know the victim worked here as a dancer, a mighty popular one, I might add.”

“What’s your point?” Parker turned away and craned his neck over the crowd in front of him. He spotted the tousled blond hair of the young man within inches of freedom. “Some other time,” he said.

All eyes were on Parker as he shoved and elbowed his way through the crowd, stepping on a few toes along the way. He heard some choice words and threats in his wake. Patrons dashed out of the way and protected their drinks.

The guy threw open the emergency door and set off the alarm. Someone nearby screamed and people scattered in the opposite direction. Callahan and his men retreated as Parker reached the exit, slammed through the door and leaped into the alleyway beside the club.

Pitch black. Retrieving his gun with his right hand, he clasped the butt of the weapon with his left and waited wide-eyed for his pupils to adjust. Where was Perelli? Brooks? The smell of sewage and stale beer hung in the night air. Behind him, the heavy door shut.

An eerie silence invaded the area.

Parker stood in total darkness, his weapon aimed, and safety released. His heart pumped like a jackhammer as he scanned the area. He ventured forward, placing one foot carefully before the next in slow, measured steps. The grit on the asphalt crunched beneath his rubber soles and echoed in his ears.

The exit door had dumped him into the narrow alleyway accessed by main roads at either end of the Metroplex. A long, dark vehicle facing the opposite direction hugged the cinderblock wall of the building, exhaust from its tailpipe drifting skyward from an idling engine. The tinted windows were slick with raindrops, and the headlights off. Parker glanced to the left. A pile of empty liquor boxes seemed to be the only hiding place, because the guy didn’t have enough time to get to Juniper Street.

LammyFinalist_Small_Web_v3Where the fuck’s Perelli?

Seconds ticked away in the quiet alley. Parker edged forward to inspect the pile of rubbish, poking at the refuse with the barrel of his gun. Nothing. Moving around to the other side, he nudged at several lower boxes with his toe. No movement. His stomach constricted and his legs stiffened with anticipation. Perspiration slid down his temples, but he dared not wipe the sweat away. Two minutes had passed since his burst through the door and still nothing stirred.

Every cop dreaded such a situation, slow dancing in the shadows alone with a robber, a thief…a killer. Fear had a way of clutching the heart and soul, controlling all logic. He knew from experience the anxiety coursing through his veins was enough to riddle a man’s body stiff and lock his joints, even for tough cops like him. It had a mind of its own…fear, dominating the human psyche, causing one to act out of desperation, to strike when provoked. Fear.

Fear of the unknown or fear of death?

Parker backed away from the boxes, his eyes glued to the pile of cardboard, his breathing more rapid and his heartbeat echoing in his ears. Easy, he coaxed himself. Wait him out. He swung his arms slowly to the right, following the point just above the barrel of his weapon. Steady…

A cat screamed in the distance, sending chills up Parker’s spine. He stepped into something cold and wet, the mess oozing into his shoe as a pungent odor hit his nose. A door in the wall next to the parked vehicle burst open and out stepped a short figure in a suit, bathed in the interior light when the car door opened. He heard a faint step, saw a flash of red before something heavy struck hard against the back of his head.

Pain shot through his neck and shoulders. He stumbled forward off balance, but managed to fire a single shot into the brick wall before losing his grip on the gun. A broken bottle, lead pipe, splintered board—whatever the hell it was—held by a shadowed hand cracked hard across Parker’s skull. He tumbled to the wet pavement in time to see confusion flicker across the face of the suited man ducking into the backseat of the sedan. The vehicle’s engine revved, and its tires squealed as it raced away. Fuck!

The attacker dropped its weapon and sprinted in the opposite direction. Parker got to his knees and fumbled around for his gun. He stood, staggered a second, and took off after the attacker in a running stumble. The pressure and pain at the base of his head pulsated as he ran. Warm blood flowed from above his right ear, filling his ear canal and running down his jaw and neck.

The suspect had darted around the building onto Juniper. Parker neared the corner wall and halted, putting his back against the brick wall to avoid another attack. He  sucked in a deep breath and threw his entire weight around the corner with his pistol drawn. In the distance, two figures scuffled in the middle of the road, their struggle illuminated by a nearby street lamp.

Freeze!” Parker chased after the man, spitting blood as he ran.

The suspect glanced up, panicked and clamped his teeth down hard on Perelli’s arm before stabbing him in the chest with something. Perelli yelled, released his hold and fell to the asphalt clutching his neck. The perpetrator sprinted down the block and disappeared at the next side street.


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Exclusive Excerpt: Death by Pride (a Kyle Callahan Mystery) by Mark McNease

December 20th, 2014

Death by Pride

a Kyle Callahan Mystery

by Mark McNease



Killing wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. He expected to be a bit rusty after three years, but he had never anticipated this … dullness, this sense that, in the words of bluesman B.B. King, the thrill was gone. Maybe he had just been away from it too long; maybe he needed to get up to speed. The man whose body he deposited into the East River just before midnight was, after all, only the first in his current series. There would be two more before the week was out, and maybe the old rush would return with the next one. He had to trust it would, to believe as a child believes that Santa Claus is real and will come shimmying down the chimney every Christmas Eve. Or how Dorothy believed, clicking her slippers in that dreadful movie. That might be a more appropriate comparison, given the occasion. Click, click, click … and he was home.

He did not come all the way back to New York to resume his annual ritual for something as lackluster as this first kill. Had it been the young man himself whose death stirred so little response in him? What was his name? Victor? Victor Someone. Dense and inattentive; he had been too easy, and far too handsome. Cute, really. The kind of cute that becomes very sexual in manhood. Innocent smile, calculated shyness. Victor Someone knew exactly what he was doing flirting in the store that afternoon, and he had succeeded, much to his regret.

Unfortunately, Victor wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to kill as he was to look at. Too easy, too unchallenging. Like a cat who had no trouble capturing a wingless bird, he had not had fun with this one. He would have to analyze the experience, figure out why it had not been as satisfying as it was before, and what he might need to do to reignite his excitement. Did he need to be more brutal? Did he need to introduce tools into the game, a scalpel, perhaps, or a drill of some kind? He would think hard on it. A decision had to be made quickly; he’d already placed an online ad looking for the next one and the emails were flooding into his special account, the one no one would ever trace no matter how hard they tried. A phantom as elusive as he was deserved a phantom email routed through Chicago, then London and Tokyo, server after server erasing any clue to its origin.

Deidrich Kristof Keller III—D to everyone who knew him well (a thought that made him chuckle, since the only ones who truly knew him died with the knowledge) had only been back in his townhouse since March. His tenants, the ones he rented to when he left for Berlin to take care of his mother, had a lease through February and D had waited patiently for them to leave. A lovely young couple with two small children. He’d never met Susan and Oliver Storch—the rental had been arranged through an agent—but they had taken very good care of the place, he would give them that. And you would never know they had children; no stray toys were left behind, no evidence, really, that anyone had been there at all for the past three years. His kind of people.

Death by Pride FRONT

He was so glad to be back. He’d hated Berlin, all of Germany for that matter, though he saw very little of it and had no desire to see more. For D being German was as meaningless as someone being Scottish who had never been to Scotland, spoke with no brogue, and was only tied to the land by name and ancestry. His parents were from Germany, but they had moved to Anaheim, California, before D was born. His mother, Marta, returned to Berlin a broken, bitter woman, but that was not his fault. She was a coward. Cowardess? he wondered, making a cup of tea at his kitchen counter. It was an island counter, surrounded by a stove and refrigerator large enough to impress and too large to be practical—there was almost nothing in the refrigerator, and he rarely cooked. The entire townhouse was furnished for show—the furniture, the artwork, the paintings and photographs of nonexistent family members and forebears. It had been carefully put together to deceive. Anyone who came into his home would think he was just another wealthy man in New York City with a long lineage, should one wonder where he came from. Men with paintings of their grandfathers above a fireplace surely belonged in Manhattan’s upper reaches and had unquestionable pedigree. That was the point, to be unquestioned. By the time anyone got around to questioning him, to wondering about his authenticity, it was too late. He answered their questions with a belt around their necks. The belt he kept especially for them. You’re right, good man, I’m not who I appear to be. Please keep that to yourself. And they did.

He was tired now. He’d worked out how to get the bodies out of his house unnoticed some years ago, but he was getting older, forty-two this coming September. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be. And this one had been heavier than he’d guessed when he chose him.

Note to self: never, ever, pick a customer from the store again. No matter how cute or handsome, no matter how liquid and shining the eyes or seductive the smile. Stay online, stay hidden behind a dozen re-routers, change names each time, do not take this risk ever again.

He’d been away too long, losing his edge in his mother’s dreary Berlin apartment, saving himself for his return to the killing ground. He’d have to sharpen quickly; mistakes were something other people made. He’d made one this time—the only time in all his successes—and he would not make another one.

He would look at Victor Someone’s driver’s license in the morning. Sense memory was a beautiful thing, and nothing brought it back quite like his keepsakes. The license was his souvenir—his thirteenth. Lucky thirteen. The rest of the wallet stayed with the body. He wasn’t interested in making identification difficult. It didn’t matter if the police knew who had been killed, only that they would never find the man who did the killing.

It had been dark when he parked by the river. The new moon had worked to his favor, a first. No one had been around; he made sure no one saw a man with a heavy, strangely shaped object wrapped in black plastic trudging his way to the river’s edge. Then a simple heave and splash, and he was on his way home.

Bedtime at last. But before then, for a few minutes anyway, he wanted to go through those emails. He’d requested photos, knowing many of them would be old and meant to trick him, and that was okay. He was less interested in finding a man who looked exactly like his picture than he was in finding a man who made him want to kill. It was like falling in love with an image: he never knew which one it would be, but knew it when it happened. This one. Oh yes. This one will be here soon.

He turned off the kitchen light, took his tea cup with the little chain from the tea ball hanging over the side, and headed to his large master bedroom on the second floor. His laptop was open and waiting for him. He would sift through a dozen or so email responses and see if any of them struck his fancy. But first, the pictures of Victor. Victor Someone. He would enjoy those before sleeping. He always took pictures.



*** Excerpt from Chapter Two

“Did you see Vinnie when you picked up the mail this morning?” Danny asked, stirring creamer into his coffee and taking it to the table. He sat next to Kyle and picked up the mail, flipping through it so see what was his. Leonard stayed in the kitchen, staring up at the coffee pot as if he could not understand there were no treats in it for him. Smelly, the wiser of the two, followed Danny to the table and perched at his feet, knowing he would eventually relent and get the pouch of fish-flavored nuggets for her.

“Come to think of it, no. The relief guy was on duty, what’s his name?”


“Dayton? That’s an unusual name.”

The building had doormen. It was a perk Kyle had never known before moving from Brooklyn into Danny’s apartment. It took a while to get used to, but not too long. Having someone open the door for you and receive packages and visitors was luxurious without being too elitist. Vinnie—Vincent Campagna—had the overnight shift and was among the most reliable doormen the building had ever had. He was in his mid-thirties, and in ten years on the door had not been off more than three or four times. This was the second night he’d called in.

“Is Vinnie sick?” Kyle asked, scanning the paper. The city’s new mayor was making changes, many of which were controversial and demanded above-the-fold coverage.

“No, it’s some family thing,” Danny said. “Something about his brother missing, I’m not sure. There’s not that much communication between tenants and the doormen, but I’ve heard things in the elevator.”

Kyle kept reading the paper. The mayor was pushing for some new legislation, the mayor was insisting on a vote his way by the City Council, the U.S. Congress was at a stalemate again. He flipped the paper over to see what news hadn’t made it to the top … and he froze. An article just below the fold was headlined, “Man Found in East River Identified, Police Searching for Clues.”

Kyle started reading the story.

“You know, I think Smelly’s finally losing weight,” Danny said, looking down at the cat. She had been pre-diabetic for several years, but every effort at trimming her down had failed. “Maybe it’s age.”

“Shh!” Kyle said, focused on the article

“What’s so interesting that you have to ‘shhh’ me?”

Kyle ignored him, reading. “What is Vinnie’s last name?” he said after a moment.

“Campagna. Vincent Campagna.”

“He has a brother.”


“A brother who’s also a doorman.”

“Yes. I think their father was, too. A family tradition I guess, like the military. What are you reading? Is Vinnie in the news?”

“No, he’s not,” Kyle said, sliding the paper to the side. “But his brother, Victor, is.”

“In a good way, I hope,” Danny said, reaching for the paper to read about it himself.

“Not at all. In a bad way. A very bad way.”

Danny read the article quickly. “Oh my God,” he said.

“Oh my God is right. Victor Campagna is the body they found in the river Tuesday morning. You saw the story.”

“It was everywhere. But nothing about it being an accident or a murder.”

“This is awful.”

Smelly began meowing, an escalation of her demands for a treat. Kyle swatted her away with his free hand.

“He’s back,” Kyle said.

Danny looked up at him. The article hadn’t named a suspect. “Who is ‘he’?”

“The Pride Killer.”

Danny remembered then. Every year for four years at Pride weekend the East River had become a depository for victims of a man—assuming it was a man—who remained uncaught. The media had dubbed him the Pride Killer, because the murders only happened that weekend in June, stopping once the festivities were over. Then radio silence. No killing, no bodies, nothing for another year, and another.

“Three years,” Kyle said, as if he’d read Danny’s thoughts. “He stopped three years ago and they couldn’t figure out why. Everyone hoped he was dead, or that he’d come to his senses, if madmen have senses.”

“But the paper doesn’t say who—”

“It’s him. The hands and feet bound, the strangulation, the location of the body. Even if it traveled in the current they’ll trace it back to the general vicinity of where this guy dumps his bodies.”

“Now we know why Vinnie hasn’t been to work,” Danny said. “He must be devastated.”

“It says the body was found two nights ago. Poor Vinnie. And his family, I can’t imagine.”

The men grew silent. Smelly, sensing something was wrong, stopped her meowing and slinked off into the living room. She would get what she wanted, but later, when moods had returned to normal. Leonard was still staring at the coffee pot.

Finally, Kyle said, “He won’t stop.”

“How do you know that, if it’s even him? He stopped for three years.”

“Because this was the first. There will be a second, and a third. That’s the way he works.”

Danny had a sinking feeling. If timing was everything, it worked against them very well. Detective Linda visiting, a body in the East River; the stars had aligned in a way most displeasing to him as he watched Kyle’s face for the telltale glazed expression, the speeding, clicking thoughts. He worried Kyle would not stay out of it, and that sooner or later something terrible would happen to them. They were married now, together forever. What happened to one of them, happened to both of them.

“Listen, Kyle …”

“Don’t worry. This is one for the police.”

Danny had the feeling he had just been lied to. Not deliberately; Kyle had every intention of staying out of it. But it was his nature to wonder—wonder who this man was taking the lives of other men, where he lived, how he found his victims. Danny knew that as much as Kyle might try to ignore this, it would take root in his mind and grow until he had to do something.

“What’s cooking?” Detective Linda said, startling them both. Neither had heard her come out of the bedroom.

A sense of dread came over Danny as he blew across his coffee, cooling it. He knew Linda and Kyle would soon be lost in conversation about serial killers and floating bodies. Why can’t his husband just be an amateur photographer and a personal assistant? Why must he take it upon himself to rid the world of bad people? Sooner or later one of those bad people might rid the world of Kyle.

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT – The Best Corpse For The Job by Charlie Cochrane

December 13th, 2014


Inspector Bright, looking just as attractive as he’d had earlier—maybe more so, given that his collar had clearly been loosened a bit—stood on the step, smiling. “Thanks for seeing me. I know it’s a bit late, but the more we can get sorted early on, the better.”

“Not got your sergeant with you?” Adam, trying not to sound too pleased about that fact, ushered his guest into the hallway.

“He’s got the job of contacting Ian Youngs’s family. I got the long straw for once.”

Adam wasn’t sure how to answer that, apart from showing the way to the kitchen and hiding his grin. “Bloody awful job that must be. How can you bear to do it?”

“I was going to say you get hardened to it, but I suspect if you did, you’d be no use at it.” Robin slipped onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar, then took out a notebook and pen. “Black coffee, please,” he said, in response to Adam’s gesture towards the coffeemaker. “This house is really nice. I thought teachers were poorly paid.”


“We are.” Adam poured the drinks. “This was my grandparents’ cottage. As their only grandchild, they left it to me. I’d rather still have them here and be a lodger or something.” Oh God. Already pouring my heart out. “Sugar?”

“No. Just as it comes, thanks.” Robin took the mug. “Have you always lived around here?”

“God no. Born and brought up in Hampshire.” Adam fetched his drink and a plate of biscuits—maybe he’d get his appetite back?—over to the breakfast bar. “One of life’s coincidences, the job at Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s coming up just about the same time I got this place. And a bit of a promotion—inclusion coordinator as well as class teacher.” Nerves were getting the better of his tongue. Shut up with the life story.

“I bet you think that’s a two-edged sword, now. Being at St. Crispin’s.”

“You mean because of this murder?”

“Not just that.” Robin took one of the biscuits, tapping the crumbs off but not eating it. “It’s not exactly a high-flying place.”

Adam shrugged. “I knew it wasn’t all the local reputation cracked it up to be. It was going downhill even before I got there, in case you think I’m the one who scuppered it.”

Robin laughed, wearily. “It’s always had a high opinion of itself.”

“I don’t know, it’s . . .” A scratching noise at the back door made them both turn round. “Excuse me. That’s Campbell.” Adam hopped off his chair.


“The dog. I inherited him with the house too. Come in, boy.” He opened the door for a large Newfoundland to make a regal entrance. “Does he bother you? I’ll lock him in the bedroom if he does.”

“No. I like dogs.” Robin tapped his leg, encouraging Campbell to come over for a pat. “I don’t have the regular hours to let me keep one.”

Adam slipped back onto his chair. Funny how the arrival of the dog had eased the atmosphere immediately, creating a common point of contact that had nothing to do with dead bodies or schools. “Unlike us teachers with our allegedly short days and long holidays.”

“I didn’t say that.” Robin smiled, caressing Campbell affectionately behind the ear.

“You’ve made a friend. Just don’t give him any biscuits. He’s spoiled enough.”

“Noted.” Robin flashed another one of his devastating, dark-eyed smiles. “You were saying?”

“I was going to say that there are plenty of people who’d leap at the chance to run the school.” Adam watched the interaction of dog and rozzer. George had never really established more than a wary truce with Campbell, even when he’d been living here for weeks on end. Didn’t they say that animals knew? “If someone comes in and turns us around, it’ll be a real feather in his or her cap. Campbell!”

The dog, suitably chastened, took his nose out of Robin’s pocket where it might have hoped to find a stray custard cream.

“Where’s your chewy toy? Go find it. Go on, boy.”

Campbell, reluctantly, went to his bed, rooting around under it.

“He’s a daft beggar. I’m sure it’s not there. Still, it’ll keep him out of mischief.” Adam sighed. “For whoever gets the headteacher job, there’s every chance it’ll turn out to be this year St. Crispin’s, and two years down the line some failing inner-city primary school with a mega salary to boot. People should be falling over themselves to get it.”

“Really?” Robin made a sour face, swiftly hidden. “If the job’s such a plum, then why did nobody decent apply the first time?”

Campbell, proving his owner wrong, waddled over with a teddy bear firmly clenched in his jaws, depositing the vile object in Robin’s lap.

“I said you’d made a friend. You’ll have to pretend to be pleased, even if it’s revolting.” Adam found the sight of dog and man together strangely comforting.


Excerpt: Invisible Curtain – A Corey Shaw Mystery by Alex Morgan

November 22nd, 2014




Invisible Curtain – A Corey Shaw Mystery

by Alex Morgan



Faruq Boussora gauged the distance between vehicles driving westbound on Lower Thames Street and when a gap appeared, he dashed across to the median, ignoring the horns blaring at him.  His heavy backpack jostled on his shoulders, causing him to stumble.  The straps rubbed sore spots on his back no matter how he tried to shift its weight.  He hacked a few times to clear his lungs of the diesel smoke and the stench from his nostrils.

He was on a mission of peace.  Although he knew many would think it was one of murder and terror, he didn’t care.  The infidels would see the truth, see the error of their ways.  They had developed weapons that were an abomination to mankind.  The infidels were abominations.  How would they like having those weapons turned against them?

Would that make us just as guilty if we use them as well?  No.  The ends will justify the means.  Isn’t that the phrase the infidels always used? 

Faruq fancied himself being part of the new ambitious program.  Why else was he chosen for this mission, hand-selected from dozens of candidates?  He trained for months and now he was ready.

Faruq crossed Byward Street and entered the relative quiet of Great Tower Street.  A few steps away, he walked into the Hung, Drawn and Quartered Pub, a popular gathering place in London despite its macabre moniker.

He scanned the interior, noting with satisfaction the place wasn’t completely full.  The smell of food made his mouth water and his stomach growl with anticipation. More people entered behind him but his favorite booth sat empty and he made his way to it, avoiding waiters and waitresses carrying trays of food and pitchers of beer.  He sat his backpack on the floor underneath the table, relieved to be unburdened from its weight, and slid into the seat.

A young waitress with bleached white hair hanging to her shoulders appeared at his elbow.

“ ’allo, Mr. ’alliwell,” she said, giving him a bright smile and making an effort to pronounce his name.  “’aven’t seen you in ‘ere for a while.”  Her tongue piercing glinted in the dim light of the pub as she spoke.

Faruq bit his lip, preventing a smile from splitting his face at the alias he’d given her.  It sounded so proper, so British.  And Sarah was so sweet, so gullible.  “Hello, Sarah.  It’s been a few weeks, yes.  I had business in America,” he said.  He had worked hard to drop his middle-Eastern accent and perfect the Queen’s English.  Maybe I should add a South London drawl?  No, that would be overkill.

“Well, it’s great to see ya again. Gonna be stayin’ with us a spell?”  Sarah asked.  She balanced a tray in one hand and put the other on the table, shifting her weight.

Faruq ignored the question and tried to divert his gaze from Sarah’s ample cleavage.   “The place looks just the same as the last time I visited.”  He glanced around the pub.  Nothing has changed.  That’s good.

“Expected us to tart the place up, did ya?”  She laughed.  Faruq smiled back.  “The usual?”  He nodded and Sarah withdrew.

Faruq leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table, resting his chin on interlaced fingers.  Of course, he hadn’t expected them to renovate.  He would’ve found that out weeks ago if they had.  Therefore, no last minute changes to his plans.  From his earlier surveillance of the place, he chose this booth as the most advantageous spot from which to launch his mission.

His handsome and uncharacteristically fairer-than-normal features let him blend in with the Londoners without drawing attention to himself, and his mastery of their speech and even a few dialects made his disguise complete.  Since 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings, Faruq felt all eyes were on him and anyone who even resembled someone of middle-Eastern descent.

As well they should be, he thought with grim satisfaction.

Out this week – Exclusive Excerpt from Fair Play by Josh Lanyon

November 15th, 2014

Fair Play by Josh Lanyon


They walked the three-mile loop called Old Road, crossing Little Bridge and then Big Bridge, moving deeper into the wilderness at the center of the ten-mile-long island, not talking much except to point out the occasional rabbit or fox.

“Any word from the arson inspector?” Elliot asked after a time.

“Nah.” Roland sounded untroubled. And maybe that was good. If Roland really could take a philosophical attitude about this catastrophe, more power to him. Elliot was probably worried enough for both of them.

Birdsong filled in the comfortable silences. Bees hummed in the liquid gold of the closing day, and clouds of gnats drifted over the long sun-tipped meadow.

“‘In wilderness is the preservation of the world,’” Roland observed, when they stopped to study a distant blacktail doe urging her fawn into the safe shadows of the woodline.


Roland smiled. “Very good.”

“See. Even storm troopers can appreciate a nice turn of phrase. And a pretty day.”

Roland chuckled.

Of course, Thoreau had also said, Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. Elliot glanced at his father’s profile. Roland was still smiling, but it was clear his thoughts were miles away.

It was tempting to view your family as an extension of yourself, but it was a mistake. And no one knew that better than Elliot, having had the clearest possible illustration when he’d been accepted into the FBI and his father had effectively disowned him for betraying the values he’d been raised with. Roland had backed down from that stance, but by then Elliot had been wounded and furious over his own sense of betrayal.

That was all in the past now. All but forgotten.

“Your mother would have liked this place,” Roland said suddenly.

Elliot nodded.

His mother had been killed in a hit-and-run several years earlier. In fact, it was his mother’s death that had brought about his reconciliation with his father. It was hard to say how long he might have hung on to his hurt and anger. Tucker had occasionally accused him of being intractable, and he was probably right.

Elliot said, mostly thinking aloud, “I don’t know how you do that. Stay friends with someone you used to be in love with.”

“I can’t think of a better reason to stay friends than that this is someone you’ve loved.” Roland eyed him consideringly. “You don’t stay friends with your ex-lovers?”

“I never have. It’s too awkward. Most people don’t fall out of love at the same time. One person always wants more than the other person can give them. And that ends in bitterness.”

“You wouldn’t want to stay friends with Tucker if things didn’t work out between you?”

Elliot was silent for a moment, absorbing the pain the idea brought him. “Honestly? I don’t want to think about that.”

“Of course. No reason you should think about it,” Roland turned away from the green, sunlit sea of the meadow.

“Do you think you’ll ever marry again?”

Roland laughed shortly. “I don’t think so. I’m pretty old and pretty set in my ways now to try to set up house with someone new.”

And the person he would most likely want to set up house with was married to his best friend.

They continued on their way in silence, walking toward home now. Roland suddenly chuckled.

“What?” Elliot glanced over at him.

“I just remembered something. When you were about seven you used to sing along with ‘Purple Haze.’” Roland sang in his raspy baritone, “‘Actin’ funny but I don’t know why. Excuse me while I kiss this guy.’”

Elliot laughed.

There was a hard, dull thunk to his right. He glanced over, but it took his eyes a moment to pick out the shining slender shaft protruding from the trunk of a towering Douglas fir. And then another second to make sense of the red-and-yellow fletching, the red nock…

An arrow.

An arrow lodged in a tree. Not two arms’ lengths away from where they stood.

“Christ.” Elliot rushed at Roland, hustling him off the sandy road into the trees, yelling over his shoulder, “There are people here, you asshole!”

“What’s the matter with you?” Roland sounded astonished, trying to free himself and face Elliot.

Elliot was already second-guessing his instinctive dive for cover. Tree foliage was a mistake if they were dealing with a hunter having trouble telling humans from deer. But no. That couldn’t be. Not a hunter. There were no hunters on this island. Hunting was prohibited by law. Besides, Elliot’s T-shirt was red. Roland’s denim shirt was blue. They had been walking in the middle of a road. In full view. Their voices would have carried.

Not a mistake then. Not a hunting accident. Not an accident at all. Someone had tried to kill them. Or, more likely, tried to kill Roland.

“Don’t stop!” Elliot kept pushing his father toward the shelter of thick trees. Another gleaming missile whistled past, this time to their left. Elliot veered sharply, feeling the ominous twinge in his bad knee as he tried to drag Roland the other way. “Christ almighty, Dad. Didn’t you see that? Didn’t you hear that?”

Another arrow cut through the air—to the right again. Elliot jerked away from the thin, tight-pitched hum it made, his heart jumping. The hum was followed by another heavy, dead thud as the arrow penetrated a tree trunk a few feet beyond the bigleaf maple they landed behind.

The sick knowledge of what that missile could do to flesh and bone…

It was impossible to know how far away their attacker was. There were too many variables. The design of both the bow—draw weight of the bow and the shooter’s draw length—the design of the arrow, as well as weather conditions, particularly wind, were always going to be factors. The shooter could be a thousand yards away, for all he knew.

Or he could be moving up on them right now.


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Twitter: @JoshLanyon

Chatting with north Londoner and Suspense, Thriller author, WD Jackson

November 8th, 2014

Interview by Jon Michaelsen © 2014

WD, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.


Let’s start off with, where do you live?

Though I grew up in Birmingham, I now live in North London.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Well, I live with my boyfriend Roberto and our French bulldog Oscar. Our flat is pretty small but nice, and our home life is quite simple. When we’re not at work we watch an awful lot of American tv, I write, give the PS4 a blast, and we go to the theatre or galleries quite a lot, which is huge perk of living in London.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

I’d say being able to have a full time job, having my first mortgage, being able to write (and actually getting a publishing contract) and managing to sustain a long term relationship all at the same time. Sometimes my life feels very hectic and I’m always tired, but I’m pretty lucky to have such a combination of things to be proud of.

Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels were released, and if so, what forms has it taken?

I haven’t ever faced homophobia due to my writing – I think that comes from being fairly anonymous as a writer up until recently. I never really had much online or offline presence as an author before my latest novel. I am fortunate to also live in a city where being gay is not really an issue for the most part. It is something I am quite aware of in the back of my mind though as I have obviously faced homophobia before. I would imagine as my profile grows it may become an issue at times, but hopefully not!


How long have you been writing? Publishing?

Technically over a decade, but seriously for about three years. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, really just as another way to vent some creativity, but nothing came of it at the time. I wrote little bits here and there, but not with much effort, until I discovered self-publishing on Amazon. I was like ‘Oh, I have a book, let’s release it and see what happens,’ and amazingly it sold quite well, so I finished my second novel which had been languishing on my laptop for months, and it was then, probably about two years ago, that it occurred to me that actually writing is something I would really like to do as a profession.

Your novels seem to have a common theme in that they are mainstream thrillers, not gay-themed, but do include gay characters; can you clarify and share your influences?

Well all my novels are suspense thrillers, and now crime, with horror elements, which comes from my parents. I picked up their loves – crime fiction and murder mystery from my mum, action and horror from my dad. I was brought up on Poirot and Ellen Ripley!

As for how I include gay characters, I think that came as a reaction to having read a huge amount of books in my lifetime and as far as I recollect, unless they were classed as gay fiction, none ever featured gay characters. I still find this odd, and so I decided I always wanted to feature gay characters where appropriate. It’s part of everyday life for me to be around people of all descriptions, and on tv a range of people are pretty well represented these days, albeit often stereotypically, so why not in commercial fiction? What I don’t do is gay themed fiction. This is because it is not my aim to write about gay people and about being gay. I don’t think my stories would benefit from simply making everyone gay, but they do benefit from featuring what I hope are realistic representations of gay people because I think it makes them more realistic and reflective of modern life. They are not written to be about being gay, they just happen to be. In Red Light, my second novel, one character’s sexuality does affect the narrative to an extent, but none of my main characters have been gay yet. However, this is more because it hasn’t made sense in the story for them to be – so I reckon in future books I will have some main characters who are gay, but again the books won’t be gay themed.

Your latest novel, Slasher, is a serial killer thriller featuring police officer protagonist, Joshua Matthews. Can you share more of the plot with our readers?

Of course. Slasher is very close to my heart for a number of reasons. I love the genre wholeheartedly so it was great to write a book that plays with the genre, and also it came out of a bad review I got for my first novel. A woman on Amazon said Loose Ends, the book I wrote when I was 18, was nothing more than a slasher movie in print. I remember thinking that clearly she had never actually watched one, because it’s nothing like a slasher movie, but it certainly inspired me to see how I actually could successfully write a slasher novel.


In the novel, a serial killer is targeting actresses who have played final girls in slasher films for a horror production company called Hitlist Pictures, and they happen to have a new high profile film, actually called Slasher, in production. This of course means that the new Hollywood starlet that has landed the lead also find herself directly in the crosshairs of the killer. Trying to catch the killer is Sergeant Joshua Matthews, a man whose painful past has stopped him from working homicide. After being handed a murder case out of circumstance, he must overcome his pain in order to stop the killer before Hollywood’s latest star is murdered. The serial killer is building up to a nasty finale staged at the world premiere of Slasher, and so it becomes a race against time for Matthews and his partner Detective David Crawford.

It’s a very pacey, filmic story, which I hope is a really interesting mix of horror and crime, something which I have found to be quite rare.

Slasher is billed as a Joshua Matthews Thriller. Do you have plans of serializing the cop?

I do indeed, in fact I have already started the next novel. It too takes a familiar horror genre and again throws it in to the world of crime fiction. While I don’t want to reveal much yet, I will tell you that the genre this centres around is demonology, and will force Matthews into a case of science versus the supernatural, leaving him doubting what is real. Matthews is also promoted in this one, he’s now a fully fledged detective.


Do you ever see yourself writing a gay-themed novel in the future?

Honestly I’m not sure. As I said, I think a gay protagonist is likely – Joshua Matthews is straight but there could be a more prominent character in his series that is gay, but I also have numerous ideas for standalone novels, so perhaps one of those will go that way. Actually gay themed? Probably not a full length novel, because I would always want a mixture of people, but maybe a short story, that could be good fun. Incidentally, I did start a gay romantic comedy once, many years ago, after quite a painful breakup. I didn’t get far with it, and to be honest romance is not the genre for me when it comes to writing, but there are certainly elements of that which could emerge somewhere else.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

Well my current WIP is the next Joshua Matthews novel. I do have another novel that I started that is on hiatus until I finish Matthews 2, which I’m pretty excited about, and is a standalone, but it’s a long long way off yet.

Slasher is my current release, brand new to the world. It released on October 27th on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Foyles, iBooks and a few other retailers. So far it has been pretty well received and fingers crossed it will do well! I love writing, and it means a lot to me when people get a kick out of something I wrote, so go check it out everyone!

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.


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