Thursday, July 30, 2020

Beau on living forever

This week, Beau Johnson takes a look at some Christopher Farnsworth.

If you could live forever, what would you die for?

Five hundred years ago, a group of Spanish conquistadors searching for gold, led by a young and brilliant commander named Simon De Oliveras, land in the New World. What they find in the sunny and humid swamps of this uncharted land is a treasure far more valuable: the Fountain of Youth. The Spaniards slaughter the Uzita, the Native American tribe who guard the precious waters that will keep the conquistadors young for centuries. But one escapes: Shako, the chief’s fierce and beautiful daughter, who swears to avenge her people—a blood oath that spans more than five centuries. . .

When the source of the fountain is destroyed in our own time, the loss threatens Simon and his men, and the powerful, shadowy empire of wealth and influence they have built. For help, they turn to David Robinton, a scientific prodigy who believes he is on the verge of the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. But as the centuries-old war between Shako and Simon reaches its final stages, David makes a horrifying discovery about his employers and the mysterious and exotic woman he loves. Now, the scientist must decide: is he a pawn in a game of immortals. . . or will he be its only winner?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Policework and Grammar

Anyone in the mood for a police story with no action and a tense climactic scene that involves three cops in an office debating the meaning of words over a dictionary?  I suggest the 2009 Romanian film Police, Adjective, directed by Corneliu Porumboiu.

The setting is a city in Romania, the time period post-Communist. A young detective named Cristi is investigating a group of teenagers who have been smoking and selling hashish.  His main focus is one boy in the group, Victor, who another in the group has informed on. Cristi spends a lot of time following Victor, but he believes that the squealer pointed him in Victor's direction primarily because the squealer likes the same girl Victor does and would like Victor out of the way. Besides this, Cristi dislikes the sheer pettiness of Romania's hash and marijuana laws, which, he insists, will soon be changed to match the laws elsewhere in Europe.  In Prague, for example, where he went recently with his wife, people can carry and smoke small amounts of pot in the streets without fear of arrest.  As he continues to tail his main suspect and other members of the teenage hash ring, putting his file together, as ordered, so he can present it to his superiors who are expecting him to lead a major bust on the ring, he becomes more and more resistant to the idea of continuing with the case.  Why ruin Victor and the others' lives for such a small offense that will soon not even be on the books?  Not unlike cops you see in far splashier cop movies, he has a crisis of conscience, torn between his own sense of morality and the duty to the state's law he is supposed to uphold. His dilemma puts him at odds with his commander, and that puts his career at risk.

Police, Adjective is a procedural as unglamorous as one can be.  Almost the entire film consists of scenes of Cristi either tailing his suspects or dealing with police bureaucracy.  Scenes of his home life with his wife have no dramatics; he and his wife eat dinner and talk about the meaning of certain lyrics in a song she is listening to on her computer.  Post-Ceausescu Romania is a fairly bleak place and people conduct their lives without flash, in a somewhat subdued manner.  Still, the film is shot through with black humor, an understanding of the absurdities of organizational and bureaucratic life, and the story itself, without any fighting or shoot-outs or loud confrontations, becomes compelling.  Suspense builds.  Will Cristi follow his own conscience (as he himself calls it) or do what his superiors tell him to do and uphold the letter of the law?  And what does conscience mean anyway?

It's Cristi's commander who, when Cristi refuses to go through with the bust on the teenagers, calls for a dictionary, a Romanian dictionary, and we get the extended scene between the commander, Cristi, and a third officer where they discuss and debate the dictionary meanings of a number of words including conscience and law.  

"Lads. Know what we're doing here?" the commander asks.

"Having a meeting?" the third officer says.

"No," the commander says.  "Dialectics, that's what it's called. Know what that means?"

The last word they look up in the dictionary is police, and there is more than one meaning to be considered.  We tend to think of the word as a noun, but let's not overlook police as an adjective, as in police state.  

What will Cristi do? The discussion ends with the commander leaving him a few hours to decide.  Will he make the bust as directed or continue to refuse and probably ruin his career?

No shootouts, no beatings, no chases.  A story that takes its time, and the offense that's investigated is very low-level.  But if you give it a chance and have patience, Police, Adjective gets to you and makes you think about a lot of things.  It is definitely the first movie I've ever seen that employs a dictionary, and indeed hinges on a dictionary, at its climax.  A movie involving crime, investigation, and what words mean and imply -- I would think that's a movie that many writers, and especially crime writers, might very well like.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Breaking Down Bosch on TV

Scott D. Parker

When you're a writer, you always notice structure in a story, no matter the medium.

Not sure why the wife and I never started watching Amazon Prime's Bosch TV show, based on Michael Connelly's series of books, but a few weeks ago, we pulled the plug.

And have loved every moment of the first three seasons. Titus Welliver as the titular character is fantastic. Now, I say that as someone who's read only a handful of the Bosch books so he may or may not be everyone's first choice, but with Connelly on as an executive producer, he saw something he liked. Besides, it's a different medium. I love his intensity and Bosch's sense of justice no matter the cost, even to himself or his career. We're just a couple of episodes into the fourth season and I so love the fact that Bosch was assigned the main case because he wasn't the target of the victim, a dead lawyer who had gone after cops. How'd Bosch miss this guy?

Jerry Edgar, or J. Edgar, is Bosch's partner. Played by Jamie Hector of The Wire fame, he's naturally much younger than Bosch. You do get the typical veteran-to-younger guy vibe, but that's okay. J. Edgar dresses nice, has a wife and two young children, and is in a different place in life. Hector does a fine job of saying much by saying little, and I liked how his character gradually changed over the first three seasons, especially the third as he came to understand what makes Bosch tick.

The imposing Lance Reddick plays Irvin Irving, a guy who ends up being promoted to interim chief of police. I swear, if he were interrogating me, all he'd have to do was just stare at me and I'd talk. Another veteran of The Wire, Reddick brings a simmering intensity to even the most mundane of scenes. When the chief experiences a personal tragedy, there is one scene Reddick nails.

Amy Aquino plays Bosch's long-suffering lieutenant. Like all the cast in this show, she fits right in with the hard-boiled detectives of her squad. She gives as good as she gets, and is always there to back Bosch. We got a little of her backstory in season three and its...dicey.

I could go on, but I wanted to circle back to being a writer and watching a show like this. Each season is ten episodes, each about 45-50 minutes, give or take. The writers spin multiple threads during season three. There's the murder-of-the-season, there's the cold case involving the murder of Bosch's prostitute mother, there's Bosch's family life (teenaged daughter and ex-wife and her husband; the ex is a professional poker player), there's J. Edgar's family, and Chief Irving's story. That's five not including the bad guys who are involved in the season-long mystery.

I find it fascinating how well the stories ebb and flow, play off each other, and become resolved. Sometimes, it's about a 30-second scene with a few lines of dialogue. Other times, it's a full section. I haven't yet sat down to analyze a single episode, but I'm thinking about it. It seems so effortless, but I know it's based on long and hard work. You can learn structure and story by breaking down a book or TV show. I did it with The Da Vinci Code back in the day and a few episodes of Castle.

I'll keep watching for structure as we get through season four. It opens up new ideas in my head for how to craft a story. Writers. We're always learning.

The only problem with binge viewing? You eventually reach the end. Next season is next year. But I'm gonna enjoy this show. It'll probably lead me to the books.

What are the best Bosch books?

Friday, July 24, 2020

BBN in Review

This week, Beau offers a review of Beau's Book Nook. You're welcome.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Home's Where Writing and the Job Are

It's been four months now since I started working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I've become accustomed to the routine of both working and writing from home. The experience takes me back many years to periods before I had my current job or a family and could work part-time to get by.  I did have to leave the house to work, but since I worked part-time, I had ample time to get a lot of writing done at home. That's not the same as being able to only write to make a living, but it's as close as I've ever been able to get to that.  Now I find myself in a similar situation, and in terms of writing alone, if I can, at least in the abstract, forget about the reason why this situation developed, it's been great.  The small percentage of writers who don't have to support themselves by leaving their house to go to a job really should never complain.  Writing well is hard regardless of your circumstances, but nothing beats having the means or set-up to be at home on a daily basis, day after day, without the need to leave, and just get your writing done.    

What is it exactly that's so good about this?  Since I do still have my regular job to do (and thank goodness for that), it's not as if I have way more time now to write than during normal conditions.  I don't have my 45-minute subway commute to and from the office each day, true, and that's nothing I mourn losing, but beyond that, my work responsibilities are the same now as they were pre-Covid.  No, what's great about the work at home and write at home model is that you don't have to switch gears every day.  Every day when commuting I either wake early to write before going to work or go to work and then come home to write at night.  I try writing early most days, but I do vary the routine.  And that applies as well now. I write either before or after the long chunk of the day that is devoted to my job.  Sometimes I write in the early morning, do my job through the day, and write a little bit again at night.  But whatever writing routine I follow, the main thing is that mentally I stay in the story I'm working on so easily.  Teleworking, including Microsoft Team meetings, doesn't pull me away from writing mentally in the way that the daily office grind can.  I write, do my job, write, do my job, write, do my job -- all in a kind of continual flow (with movies and phone calls and house life in there as well, of course). There's something about just not having to uproot oneself and live two lives, as it were, one at home where you write and one in the office where you work, that I find pleasing and very conducive to writing.  It would have been nice if such an arrangement had happened without a worldwide pandemic breaking out, but that is what happened, and the unexpected consequence has been the situation I've described.  

Footnote: I don't have small kids, which I have to assume helps me here.

Anyhow, one day, soon I hope (though that's doubtful the way things are going), this pandemic period will be over.  And life will go back to something akin to the way it was before the pandemic hit.  But I'm wondering.  Will it ever be possible again to attain a life -- without a plague being involved -- that is so good for writing as the one now? Retirement, I suppose, but that's a long way off and seems an utter pipe dream at this point.  And to discuss even the mere possibility of retirement means talking about the US economy, student loan debt, and myriad other depressing factors that merit a whole nother discussion.

That's all right then.  I'll stop here.  Have to get to my job, right here at home.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Terri Lynn Coop...Crime and Punishment

Former lawyer and Claymore winning writer Terri Lynn Coop joins us today at Do Some Damage. With a lengthy career in the court system, Terri is a wealth of behind the scenes information. If you’re a veteran crime writer or just starting out, you’re bound to find some gems. Grab a cup of coffee, a pen, and paper. You’ll want to take notes. 

Writing Crime and Punishment 

Before you can have crime and criminals, you have to have laws. And laws breed lawyers. As a 15+ year veteran of the courts in both cities and small towns, I thought I’d take a stroll through the criminal justice system, the 3-way tension needed to make it work, and how writers can use it to create believable mayhem.

The three pillars of the system are: law enforcement, prosecution, and defense. It’s a tight circle and each acts as a check and balance on the other.

Smart cops know that unassailable reports are the crux of their career. It’s not chasing bad guys and breaking up fights. It’s how they write it up. Do a bad job and the whole case can disappear with the speed of a defense motion. Those who have been well-trained or stung by defense attorneys know the value of precise language. It’s why in real life you’ll often hear a cop say “motor vehicle collision” instead of “car accident.’ Accident is an opinion and could give the defense a crack to dismantle their testimony. “How did you know it was accidental, Officer? What other pre-conceived notions did you take to work with you that day?” 

A good prosecutor turns back bad police reports and demands excellence. They also go after rambunctious defense attorneys by building solid cases and managing the courtroom. The defense really has one purpose. It’s not to get their client off on technicalities. They are the civilian overseer of government power. That “technicality” could be your constitutional rights. The state has to get it right the first time. When one of the three is corrupted, well, we know what happens.

As crime writers we also have one job. To make sure that corruption happens. How do we do that and be believable?

First off, cops and attorneys are not stupid. They really aren’t. I see that occasionally used as a cheap ploy. Yes, I’ve run into some bad actors, but it wasn’t because they didn’t have intelligence. They were arrogant, burned out, racist, narrow-minded, sexist, greedy, homophobic, lazy, untrained, out of their depth, even pure evil, but they weren’t dumb. The illiterate hick deputy is a boring trope.

To look at why a professional, someone who took an oath that made them tingle when they raised their right hand, would throw it all away, we can use the same reasoning they do for spies. The MICE framework is equally valid for a cop that plants a gun, an attorney who betrays a client, or a cabinet officer passing missile codes to the Russians. 

Coined during the Cold War, MICE stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion/Compromise, and Ego.

So, what are the MICE up to in your stories? Why are the cops going wrong, the prosecutors hiding or faking cases, and the defense bar betraying their clients?

Money is always a good one and an easy go-to. The bag man of the precinct is tried and true for a reason. It’s believable, has plenty of historic precedent, and is a powerful human driver. Once money enters the scene, either from greed or need, the characters get swept deeper into the vortex. And because they are intelligent and skilled, they often think they can control what’s about to happen. Oh, sorry about that, reader . . .

Ideology is also an interesting track. It covers a lot of territory. The upsurge of white supremacy and racial violence we are seeing is pure ideology at work. The same level of devotion to beliefs can drive attorneys to betray their oath and do that one little thing, either for or against their client, which will tip the balance of the system and send it spinning off its tenuous pedestal. Can your character fairly police, prosecute, or defend a Klansman, a priest, a raving Socialist, a skinhead biker, a pedophile, or a Sunday School teacher? Ideology is ripe for internal conflicts.

Compromise and Coercion is also a deep and complex pit to mine. In the first book of my series, hot rod attorney Juliana Martin is given a choice. She will either help the FBI nab one of the clients from her family law firm, or her father will end up on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. When the deal is laid out, not one player, cop or lawyer, has clean hands. The prosecutors are willing to fake a case. Law enforcement is willing to back them up. Finally, Juliana has no choice. She’s been coerced into agreeing to violate her own principles to help them. Of course, that turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg of betrayals.

The final one is Ego. Our characters are strong minded and willed and imbued with their own sense of right and wrong. The cops are often physically fit and intimidating. They can control any situation they find themselves in and bend it to their will. Ego also often comes into play when one of these characters believes they’ve been wronged. They will get their revenge. Or so they think. A lot of those victories turn out to be pyrrhic.

Are your characters in it for beliefs and dogma, are they being blackmailed, is there a payoff, or are they arrogant enough to believe they can play in the gutter and not get dirty? I can’t wait to read your answers to that question.

Thanks to the DSD crew for the invite. 

Terri Lynn Coop’s anthology contributions include "Just to Watch Them Die," crime fiction inspired by the music of Johnny Cash, "Betrayed," fiction about crime survivors, the "Battlespace" military fiction anthology and the spooky "No Rest for the Wicked" collection. Her first novel, "Devil's Deal" won the 2013 Claymore Award at the Killer Nashville conference. Terri experiments and writes across genres, including "SALT," set in the dystopian post-apoc world of "Sand." by Hugh Howey, and "Burning Kansas," a pulp-style historical romance from the time of Bleeding Kansas. She has been known to blog and post other interesting and moderately useful information at terrilynncoop.comPlease visit her Amazon page Terri Lynn Coop at Amazon

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: Dead Still

During the pandemic lockdown, there’s been no better use of my money than the six bucks I spend on Acorn TV every month. It would be a bargain if you only got one or two shows out of it, but you’ll get more than that, trust me.
Acorn’s catalog runs the gamut from light and frothy cozy mysteries to dark serial killer sagas. Most of them are pretty above-board; what it looks like in the promo and description is what you’re going to get. But not Dead Still. It’s set in 1880s Ireland and features a “memorial photographer,” i.e. someone who takes pictures of the dead as if they were still living. 
Yep, she's dead.
Okay, so you know it’s going to be a little creepy (by today’s standards; the Victorians thought nothing of it). But it turned out to be much more than that.
My first thought—why has this never been done before? How perfect a profession to become embroiled in a murder. And the show’s creators run with it, embracing the macabre aspects and sprinkling it with morbid humor.
There certainly are standard elements, like the new apprentice and the rebellious young relative. They’re done well and allowed to grow within the season’s six episodes. My favorite, though, is the ferocious terrier of a police detective who won’t stop biting at people’s ankles.
One thing a lot of shows don’t even try for is atmosphere. It’s difficult to do well, and getting it wrong can mean devolving into camp. Dead Still nails it. It feels effortlessly grimy and dark and claustrophobic. The pacing contributes to this. It’s different from most shows, slower and more languid in a way that contributes to the overall impact. The whole thing is delightfully different.
If you’re looking to shake up your mystery viewing as we enter another round of stay-at-home orders, this curious show is just the ticket.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Prodigal Son: Come for the Premise, Stay for the Twists

Scott D. Parker

I had seen the promos for Fox’s PRODIGAL SON back in 2019 and my eyes slid off it. “What if Hannibal Lector had a son and they solved mysteries together?” Wasn’t interested.

A few weeks ago, with my wife’s urging, we gave it a try. I am converted.

The Premise

The story focuses on Malcolm Bright (played by Tom Payne), a former FBI profiler, who now works with a small team at the NYPD. The police squad is led by Lt. Gil Arroyo (perennial favorite Lou Diamond Phillips) with Detectives Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau) and JT Tarmel (Frank Harts) as part of the team. Keiko Agena plays Dr. Edrisa Tanaka, the medical examiner.

It is Malcolm’s father who is the serial killer known as The Surgeon, and for good reason: he is renowned surgeon Dr. Martin Whitly. Rouding out the main cast is Malcolm’s mother, Jessica (Bellamy Young) and his sister, Ainsley (Halston Sage).

The pilot centers on a copycat killer who is using The Surgeon’s MO, so Malcolm is brought in. As a kid, Malcolm was the one who exposed his father, leading to his arrest and imprisonment. Lt. Arroyo was there and has taken a fatherly interest in Malcolm ever since.

The Central Question

This is your typical killer-of-the-week type of show, but it is the characters who help lift this show above the mundane. Despite my initial reticence, you might have thought the premise alone would have hooked me, but I’m not a huge fan of serial killer stories. Still the dynamics of Malcolm’s character make it pretty interesting. With a title like PRODIGAL SON and Malcolm’s own mental issues, there’s a strong chord throughout the show asking the simple question: Is Malcolm like his father? Could the younger Whitly succumb just like his father?

The “Is he or is he not a killer?” is a nice twist on the traditional “Will they or won’t they?” question we ask of shows like CASTLE. Speaking of one of my all-time favorite shows, the pilot is very similar to to CASTLE’s pilot. Shrug.

There is also the question revolving around Malcolm’s continued flashbacks to one night, when he was a child, and saw a woman in a chest. Was she a victim? Who was she? And what happened to her?

The Characters

Even if a premise hooks you, it is often the characters who compel you to stay. Here, despite the guardrails of a network television show, the characters are pretty darn good. Malcolm’s great and his mind trips are, well, a trip. His relationships with the various members of his family are dramatic if not a little too dramatic. When he visits his dad, they’re always very formal, with the son referring to his dad as “Dr. Whitly.” But it’s really neat to see the progression of their relationship as the 20-episode first season goes on.

Speaking of The Surgeon, Michael Sheen is having a blast. He knows he’s often the comedic relief and he plays it up. It’s a little jarring at first to see this serial killer be funny and you laugh at his comments, but Sheen does a fine job. Know what else he’s good at? The sudden shift from funny to dangerous, sometimes at the blink of an eye. It is in those moments when you go, “Oh, right, he’s killed twentysomething people.”

Phillips is solid as a rock. He is even-keeled who knows he has to go by the book, but also realizes “by the book” doesn’t apply to Malcolm. This is an “eccentric detective with cops” show after all. He really cares for Malcolm and does his best to keep the young man out of as much trouble as he can, not always successfully.

The Stories

Like most shows nowadays, there is the crime-of-the-week ones and the season-long story arc. Both are satisfying but there are bumps along the road. Highlights include one in which Malcolm wakes to find himself chained inside a cellar (episode 11), the pilot (for setting everything in motion and hooking me), the one with a former cop who worked The Surgeon’s case (episode 10), and the last trio of episodes. I can’t think of a single episode that was sub-par, and many were quite entertaining.

The Twists

If given the premise and the central questions I listed above, I’m guessing you’d form your own opinions on what might happen during the season. Trust me: I had them, too. But creators Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver know what you’re thinking and deliver something different. It’s nice to say that some of the questions are resolved while others just make you anticipate season 2 that much more.

The Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed season 1 of PRODIGAL SON and would certainly recommend. I know I’m eagerly waiting for season 2.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Beau Travels to Idaho

This week, Beau takes a look at BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB by Nick Kolakowski.

When you want someone found, you call bounty hunter Jake Halligan. He’s smart, tough, and best of all, careful on the job. But none of those skills seem to help him when a shadowy group starts taking his life apart piece by piece.

First Jake comes home to find a dead body in his gun safe. He thinks it’s a warning—and when you drag people back to jail for a living, the list of people who want to send that kind of message is very long indeed. With backup from his sister Frankie, an arms dealer and dapper criminal, Jake plunges into the Idaho underworld, confronting everyone from brutal Aryan assassins to cops who want his whole family in jail.

But as Jake soon discovers, those threats are small-time compared to the group that’s really after him. And nothing—not bounty hunting, not even all his years in Iraq—can prepare him for what’s coming next. Jake’s about to become a player in the most dangerous game ever invented…

Boise Longpig Hunting Club is a wild ride into the dark heart of the American dream, where even the most brutal desires can be fulfilled for a price, and nobody is safe from the rich and powerful.


“Nick Kolakowski spins a ripping pulp yarn of smart-ass bounty hunters and bad-ass crime queenpins caught in the Jean-Claude Van God-Damnedest take on The Most Dangerous Game since Hard Target, but with no bad accents.” —Thomas Pluck, author of Bad Boy Boogie and Blade of Dishonor

“Bounty hunters, a Monkey Man and Zombie Bill, explosions, sharp violence and even laughs. Kolakowski brings the goods with this one!” —Dave White, Shamus Award-nominated author of the Jackson Donne series

“A bounty hunter, his underworld criminal sister, and a dead body stuffed in a gun safe. What could possibly go wrong? In Boise Longpig Hunting Club, Nick Kolakowski unleashes a sordid and delightfully twisted tale of double crosses, revenge, and good ol’ redneck justice. Like the bastard child of Joe Lansdale

Buy it HERE

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bosch Impressions, post George Floyd

I started watching Bosch season 6 the other night, and I'm enjoying it as I've enjoyed every season previously.  By now we know the major characters, and the season can just kick off without exposition, throwing you right into the middle of a number of different and engrossing storylines.  Bosch remains as solid a police procedural show as there is.

As I take in the episodes, though, I'm quite aware that I'm watching a series that is before the George Floyd killing and all the recent calls to defund and reform the police.  This is to take absolutely nothing away from the show, which, again, over the years, has become one of my favorites.  All crime novelists should get the kind of adaptations, on film or TV, that Michael Connelly has gotten with Bosch.  And this season's storyline, from what I've seen so far, involves sovereign citizens, both white and black, who are conspiracy theory types with a huge mistrust and hatred of the federal government and the "deep state".  There's no question of the material not being relevant, in tune with the times.

There's something odd, however.  And this is hardly an oddness limited to Bosch.  But is there any fiction that has it both ways like crime fiction does?  I'll explain.  Crime fiction of a particular type in effect prides itself on its so-called realism, its ability to look without blinking at the darkest of human darkness.  Crime writers often all but say that they're just trying to "keep it real".  If there are words more overused when describing crime fiction than "gritty" and "grittiness" -- words used as praise by the way -- than I don't know what they are. This goes for police procedurals as well as for works you'd categorize without question as "noir".  But in countless series, in print and on television, series of which precious few are as good as Bosch, you get as your characters these total pros who represent a fairly idealized kind of realism.  I mean, the investigators in these works are more realistic, say, than Hercule Poirot or the cozy sleuths of the world, but they stand out, quite often, for having a measure of exceptionalism.  Damn, if only every cop was Bosch or Jerry Edgar.  If only every metropolitan police chief was like Lance Reddick's Irving. Now there's nothing wrong with any of this; people go to fiction to spend time with characters who are "real" enough to be relatable but still have something beyond the ordinary about them.   

But in order to grapple with what's "really" going on (and by that I don't mean every single police officer in existence is racist or a militaristic thug), I would imagine that people who write these sort of stories are going to have to show more of a different side of law enforcement in the post-George Floyd world.  Or show us more of the tension, if there is any, between those in law enforcement who aren't racist and on the thuggish side and those who are.  Or show us how a cop who may have started out one way, with the best intentions, may get warped by years working in a particular job, with its hazards and pressures and organizational demands.  And what about when the cops, pissed off by politicians, do a work slow-down, and the ever-present influence of other cops who don't have the best intentions?  Police will always solve crimes and a well-told crime tale will always be interesting, but there's so much else going on now in connection with cops and their place in our world that seems worthy of deep exploration. For starters, I would think the George Floyd incident, and by extension, the many horrible incidents similar to it, and the police protest movement and the variety of characters participating, however seriously, in that movement, should provide writers with a ton of stuff to ponder and write about in their procedurals.  

I don't know.  These are just a few thoughts that popped into my head as I was watching the new season of Bosch.

But I do wonder: how "realistically" will crime writers grapple with what is going on right now?  I guess as readers we'll find out.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Joy of Making Edits

Scott D. Parker 

I'm working on the manuscript of my latest novel. It's a 94,000-word book that I'm pretty jazzed about. I spent June reading and revising the paper copy. It was long and slow, and I took my time with it. I kept a yellow legal pad next to my table and made additional notes along the way. Some of those notes were global ones like "Search for all instances of 'RDX' and determine which character explains it." Bonus points if you know what RDX actually is. I enjoyed re-reading this book and look forward to sharing it with everyone.

But the next step is the making of the changes. Page by page, edit by edit. I make all my changes with green ink as I read the manuscript. When I go back through and implement the changes, I use a pencil. Easy to visualize if I've implemented a change or not.

So, none of this is new for any writer. What I'm really getting at is this: I actually enjoy this last process. What some writers think of as tedious, I truly dig it.


Well, it's in the nuts and bolts of constructing a story. Sure, lots of craftsmen--let's use a carpenter as an example--might not truly fret about which nails to use and which varnish to apply to a completed piece. But many do. As a non-carpenter, I tend to think of a nail is a nail is a nail. That one's silver, this other one is brass. That one has a head, this one doesn't. Whatever. But to a carpenter, every type of nail means something and does something particular. The final result is where all the little choices made along the way add up to something greater than the whole.

So, too, with words and punctuation. I love the re-evaluation of my own edits. So there's my original draft and then there's the changes I made back in June. Now that I'm going back and implementing said edits, I get another chance to ask myself if my changes are good, if the original text is still better, or, perhaps, there's a third option. Or a fourth. 

It's like a carpenter choosing nails or a type of saw blade. The magic happens in the nitty gritty details.

And I love it.

Am I alone in relishing this stage of the writing process?

Friday, July 10, 2020

GUILLOTINE time with Beau and Paul

This week, Beau takes a look at Paul Heatley's Guillotine.

After suffering a lifetime of tyranny under her father’s oppressive rule, when Lou-Lou sees a chance to make a break with the man she loves, she takes it. Problem is, daddy’s also known as Big Bobby Joe, a dangerous and powerful man in the local area—powerful enough to put out a sixty grand bounty on the head of the man she’s run off with, who also happens to be one of his ex-employees.
With every criminal affiliate out looking for them, making good on their getaway doesn’t seem promising. Even their so-called friends are on the take, willing to pull a double-cross if that’s what’s going to turn them a quick buck. But Big Bobby Joe hasn’t counted on his daughter’s resolve to distance herself from him. No matter what he throws at her, no matter what he does, she’s going to get away—or die trying.
Praise for GUILLOTINE:
“A missing girl, a father who wants her back, a hitman. You think you know where this story is going, but in Paul Heatley’s masterful hands, Guillotine never takes the expected path. Full of crackling dialogue, characters whose actions surprise you at every turn, and an ending you’ll be thinking about for days after.” —Hector Acosta, author of Hardway
Praise for PAUL HEATLEY:
“Paul Heatley is one of the most compelling writers currently working in the UK.” —Tom Leins, author of Repetition Kills You
“Heatley has an adept ear, and he’s got the writer’s chops to translate what he hears.” —Matt Phillips, author of Accidental Outlaws
“Heatley has this genre down pat and few others can top his style. Step into the dark and enjoy the fun.” —Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books