Saturday, July 3, 2021

Cold Case: The TV Show With Heart


Scott D. Parker

It's not every television show that makes me emotional. Despite what you might think, it's pretty rare and often coincides with a series finale. But when it comes to Cold Case, I've teared up about three times watching the few episodes of season one, making it a truly special show.

Discovering the Show

My wife finds a lot of our shows we watch together. I’m not into her “murder shows” (AKA all those true crime series) but but both love detective shows. After reading some review somewhere, she started watching Cold Case a couple of weeks ago. One evening, I waltzed into the TV and she was finishing up the second or third episode of the series. I recognized Kathryn Morris as the lead for this show we just never watched. We both remember the commercials, but I had to go back and research when it actually aired (2003-2010). Shrugging, I sat down and watched the end of the episode.

Then immediately asked to watch the next one with her.

The Premise

Kathryn Morris plays Lilly Rush, a homicide detective specializing in cold cases. She has a lieutenant (John Finn), a pair of peers (Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera and Thom Barry as Will Jeffries), and, a couple of partners in the first half dozen episodes. Justin Chambers (Karev from Gray’s Anatomy) was in the first few episodes and he left as was replaced by Danny Pino as Scotty Valens. Not sure the reason Chambers left, but whatever.

Each week, the team tackles a cold case. The, ahem, cold open is always the flashback to the murder. What helps put you in the mood for the time period is the extensive use of era-appropriate music. There we see the characters and the victim and witness the crime.

Flash to the present and Lilly, with her new eyes, does her research and starts to investigate. In the nine or so episodes I’ve watched (up through episode 12, but I missed episodes one and two), Lilly always gets her bad guy.

But that’s not what makes this show special. In nearly every network TV cop show, the bad guy is going to get caught. Whether it’s the science of CSI or the foot leather of Colombo, the bad guy always lose. Cold Case is right there following this same pattern.

So why has it yanked tears from my eyes on at least three separate times?

Because it makes you care.

And those last scenes.

The Fun of Casting

For stories that take place more than a decade in the past, the casting director had the fun task of finding actors to play the same characters at different stages of their lives. This is incredibly effective, especially when it involves kids. Multiple times during the episodes when Lilly goes to interview a person, the present-day actor and the past actor will flash back and forth. It’s to help you remember which one is which, naturally, but it jolts your thinking. 

Some of these crimes involved characters who were children at the time, but no matter how old they were, they still witnessed or were affected by a crime. By having the younger actors flash in and out, it serves as a visual reminder that, for many people involved with a crime, they remain in that time forever. The father who lost his daughter will always be that age in which the cops gave him the bad news. Ditto for the young men in 1964 who had to hide their homosexuality for fear of violent recriminations. 

The Fun of Seeing the Actors

The oldest episodes are now seventeen years old. That’s not too far in the past, but it’s just far enough to where the wife and I have seen them in other roles. I recognized Silas Weir Mitchell’s lips when they were all that the camera showed in early scenes of his episode. He played Monroe in Grimm while another future Grimm actress, Bree Turner, also appeared. The most fun so far is Brandon Routh, the future Superman in Superman Returns. 

Those Last Scenes

Every last scene shows the bad guy being led away by the cops. And in every scene, you get the actor flashback to the past actor. So you’ll see the old man being cuffed and walked past the young boy he killed. And you see the young actor! Ditto for all these episodes. In "A Time to Hate,” the one from 1964 and the murder of a gay man, not only did the creators show you the young actor, but they reinforced the message by using The Byrds’s “Turn Turn Turn.” I could hear the wife sniffling just as she heard me.

How did we miss this show first run? Not sure, but I’m glad the wife found it and we’re watching it. In the cop genre, there are a lot of good shows over the years, but I can’t think of many who pull at the emotions so frequently and so well.

I know what we’ll be watching the rest of this summer.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Extra Ways To Die In Glasgow

 By Jay Stringer

My two Sam Ireland novels are on sale at the moment over at the Zon. In the UK you can pick up Ways to Die in Glasgow and the sequel How to Kill Friends and Implicate People for £0.99 each. In the US How to Kill Friends... (Or Ways 2 Die as it was called early in the process) is available at $1.99. 

The development of this series was a total accident. 

   Ways to Die in Glasgow was originally written as a standalone and (spoiler) the main character died at the end. That was my original vision for the story, and for the point of the story. Everybody died. When Thomas & Mercer bought the book, really the only change we talked about was keeping Sam alive. They felt the original ending was too brutal, and broke a contract with the potential reader.

   They were right.

   I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight I can see it as a transitional point in my writing. Away from flirting with noir, and more towards my natural instincts for humour and -quite often- a happier ending. As a result of the change, Sam was still alive and eligible for a sequel. While Ways to Die was being prepped, my editor asked me to look at writing another Sam book. That’s what led to How to Kill Friend and Implicate People, book I hadn’t planned on writing, going on to become the closest thing I’ve had to a breakout. It picked up an Anthony nomination in the United States and was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize in Scotland. And, while that book was in production, we talked about a third.

Book Three never came to be. Publishing be publishing. But I did some work on it, including the first few chapters, and after a few years in the vault I thought it might be fun to put some of it up here, for free. If people enjoy this, I may post the original ending in a few weeks. Show you all how close I came to ruining the book.  



Baz and Nazi Steve knew the evening had taken a sartorial turn when they found a severed hand on the golf course. 

      "I don't think that's the right word," Nazi Steve said.

      "Aye it's is." Baz said. " I read it in a book." 

      It was midnight, or just after. They liked to play at Sandyhills Golf Club, and it was much easier to do at night. There were less people on the course, and nobody cared about things like 'membership fees' or 'public urination.' The torches and guesswork only added to the fun. 

      The previous summer, Baz had arranged a tournament. They'd called it the Jakey World Series, and over a dozen people had taken part. The only rules were that nobody could shout 'fore,' and that everybody had to share their drinks. Drugs were a different matter, people were expected to pay for those. Baz had come second, and Nazi Steve third. The trophy had been won by their friend, Cal Gibson, because he’d had the idea of coating his ball in a florescent paint that glowed in the moonlight. 

      Baz's golf bag was the stuff of local legend. It only held two clubs -the big one and the flat one- but was always stocked with spirits and beer. 

      They were on the eighth hole when they found the hand. It was in a sand trap on the edge of the putting green, with a trail of blood poring towards the flag. Nazi Steve pulled out his flag and started taking pictures with his phone, but the electronic light of the flash was casting an odd glow onto the palid flesh. He gave up and started googling something. 

      "I knew it," he said. “Sartorial is about clothes an' that." 

      "Exactly," Baz said, pointing at the hand. "And some guy used to be wearing that."

      Nazi Steve let that one go.

      They stood and stared at the hand for a few minutes, taking turns sipping at a bottle of voddie. 

      "So what do we do?" Nazi Steve said. 

      "With the hand?"

      "Well it's touching my ball. What do the rules say about that?"

      Baz thought that over. "I don't think the rules really have anything to say about severed body parts. I tell ye what, I'll turn around, look the other way, you do whatever you wanna do."

      Baz swivelled on his feet, kicking up sand as he went. Nazi Steve pulled out the flat club and pushed the hand away. He picked his ball up and tossed it underhand up onto the green. 

      When Baz turned back, he lit up a joint and took a large pull before passing it to his friend. "What's the score?"

      "Shit, I thought you was keeping track."

      They both giggled as they stepped up onto the green. The laughter died away when they saw the briefcase. And the handcuffs fastened to the handle. And the blood on the metal. 

      "Shit," Baz said.

      Nazi Steve took another hit on the joint. "See, now that is something the guy was wearing. Now we're talking sartorial."

      "This never goes well," Baz said. 

      "We don't even-" 

      "You've seen the movies. Some sweet innocent bozo finds a bag full of money, or drugs, and then the bad guys come looking for it."

      "Come on, we don't even know what's in it."

      Nazi Steve bent down to try and open the case, but it was latched shut on a combination lock. 

      "We should just walk away," Baz said. "Pretend we never saw anything. Leave it to the polis." 

      "But what if-"

      "No way." 

      "Here me out. See those stories? It's always that some daft wee cunts tries to keep the money-"

      "Or drugs."

      "Or drugs, aye." Steve took another belt. "The baddies come looking for what's theirs, and our man-"

      "Or woman."

      "Okay, or woman. He or she gets in trouble because they think it's all free. But if we let the Polis deal with this, they'll take the case. Whatever's in it becomes evidence, they impound it. And whoever lost it? They lose out." 

      "No way."

       "But if we take it, we're just providing a service. We find the guy who lost it, return it to the them, and they pay us a reward for our trouble. Come on, this is a genius idea. Have I ever let you down?"



BAZ and NAZI STEVE face away from us. They’re stood next to each other at urinals. 

NAZI STEVE is not standing well. He’s leaning forward. Swaying slightly. Drunk.


Hey, man. You okay?

NAZI STEVE staggers. He turns to face BAZ. He throws up down Baz’s front. 


That sorted it. 



"Okay,” Nazi Steve knew what Baz was thinking of. “That's a daft question. But I'm right about this. Come on. We do someone a favour, we get some cash, we move on. What could go wrong?”




They were halfway home in Baz's car before he changed his mind. He turned the volume down on the MP3 player' muting the pirated copy of Loki's new album. "Haw, we gottae go back, man." 

      "You whit?"

      "It's no good. Bad idea. We'll only get into trouble."

      "It's too late now, our prints are all over the case, and the blood will be on the car seat."

      "See that, right there, was probably when we should have known not to do it. The bit when we were thinking about blood." 

      "Aye, fair point." Nazi Steve Sid. "But we're in it noo. We need to stick to the plan and find the guy who lost this." 

      "How we going to do that?" 

      "We could just say 'anyone who lost a briefcase, raise your hand.' Trick question, like. That'll be a giveaway." Nazi Steve paused to look at Baz's pissed off expression. "I'm kidding on. Don't worry.  I have a plan. We just need to follow the clues." 

      "What clues?"

      Nazi Steve pulled the severed hand from inside his coat. "Well we've got this, for a start." 

      Baz nearly skidded off the road. "What the fuck?"

      "It's our best lead, man. And we couldn't just leave it there, could we?"

      "Yes." Baz's volume rose and his voice cracked. "That's exactly what I said we should do. But you had this biiiiiig plan." 

      "In retrospect," Nazi Steve's tone was subdued. "I think the drugs may have had something to do with it." 

Come closer, Beau says


This week, Beau takes a look at Sara Gran's COME CLOSER

If everything in Amanda's life is so perfect, then why the mood swings, the obscene thoughts, the urge to harm the people she loves? What are those tapping sounds in the walls? And who's that woman following her? The mystery behind what's happening to Amanda in Come Closer is so frightening that it "ought to carry a warning to...readers."

“What begins as a sly fable about frustrated desire evolves into a genuinely scary novel about possession and insanity. Hypnotic” (Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho) 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Art of Letting Go

One thing I like about writing blog pieces and critical pieces and short stories is the feeling of completing something.  It may be short, but it's done. It's easy to let go and pretty much forget all about what you just wrote.  On to the next written thing, you can say, and in the meantime, I'll keep working on the longer thing. Except that with the longer things, I have real difficulty finishing.  I guess the crux of the problem there is just letting go.  I almost never once feel "proud" when I've completed something long. It's not that I think what I wrote may not be pretty good, or at least the best I could make it, and that I didn't put my all into trying to make it as good as I could make it.  More, it's the nagging feeling that "The book is not finished. There's something that can be improved.  What didn't I do that could make this a bit tighter, sharper, better written?" As Martin Scorsese says in his Master Class talks, about how he views a film he has shot and now is editing, "The truth is. It's never finished. It's never finished."

But I'm starting to view this mindset as my biggest liability connected to writing.  I have to get better, with longer stuff, at letting go.  Everyone else seems to do it.  People churn out two or three or four books a year.  They produce books fast, and, to all outward appearances, they seem pleased with them. Of course, you have to speak positively about your own book if you're going to promote it.  Who is likely to buy a book from an author saying, out loud, "Well, it's okay.  And underneath it all, I don't even think it is really and truly finished, but, buy it anyway.  You'll love it."?  That would be absurd.  No, what we repeatedly hear is, "I'm so proud of this book, my newest, and I can't wait to share it with you."  That kind of thing.  And the author may be sincere in expressing these sentiments.  They have, I would assume, self-doubts (What halfway intelligent writer does not?), but the time when you are promoting your book is hardly the time to display any of that self-doubt.  At a minimum, whatever that author may feel about his or her book, whatever imperfections the author feels that book may have, they have learned to be able to accept letting go of the book and putting it out in the world.  Because, to state the obvious, what is the point of writing the book if not to put it out in the world?

What I'm talking about here is not fear of criticism or tough responses.  That's something else entirely, a natural part of the territory for anyone engaging in creative activity.  I can't say that part of the process has ever weighed on my mind much.  Some people like what you've done, some don't. So be it.  You did the best you could, and that's it.  After that, regarding reactions, all bets are off, as they should be.

But letting go, looking at a longer work I've done and saying "It's finished" or saying, "It's as good as I can possibly make it" or saying, "From here on in, the time put in is not worth the tiny tweaks I might make when I could start something new" is something I need to work on. I wouldn't say I need to seek out therapy about this, but then again, in this day and age, what's more natural than seeking out therapy for a psychological sticking point?  The therapist's office, the soft couch or cushioned chair, the lulling quality of the white noise machine, the cocoon of the place as one talks about oneself with utter self-indulgence...

It's tempting, but no.  I can see myself talking about the issue for months without making much headway on it. I just need, by myself, with novellas and novels, to learn one simple thing. 

How to let the fucking book go. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Try To Keep Up With Kellye Garrett

Hot on the heels of her LIKE A SISTER release date announcement, Kellye Garrett is introducing her new website. Make sure you head over to her page and check out all the information on her upcoming book, interviews and features. Ms. Garrett has a lot going on and you need to keep up.

Learn more at Kellyegarrett!

Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So, after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen-grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money—she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it—until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.

  • Named one of BookBub’s 100 Best Crime Novels of All Time
  • Agatha Award for Best First Novel
  • Anthony Award for Best First Novel
  • 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel
  • 2018 Independent Publisher Award (Ippy) Gold Medal for Best First Book – Fiction
  • Barry Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original
  • Macavity Award Nominee for Best First Mystery Novel
Tinseltown’s awards season is in full swing, and everyone is obsessed with dressing up, scoring free swag, and getting invited to the biggest awards shows of the year. But when popular Silver Sphere Awards publicist Lyla Davis is killed during a botched ATM robbery, the celebratory mood comes to an abrupt halt.

Dayna Anderson—an actress turned apprentice private investigator—uncovers the killer almost immediately. Unfortunately, what starts as an open-and-shut case turns out to be anything but. Lyla’s murder was no robbery-gone-wrong. Someone hired the gunman to kill her. Diving back into the investigation, Dayna gets a backstage look at the worlds of gossip blogging, Hollywood royalty, and one of entertainment’s most respected awards shows—all while trying to avoid her own Hollywood ending.

COMING 3.8.2022

In this twisty, voice-driven thriller, no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth.

Learn more at Kellyegarrett!