Sunday, February 25, 2018

Q & A with Tom Fowler

Tom Fowler writes books about a PI without a cop background who's a bit younger then a lot of private eyes and has a soft spot for novellas. Sounds like my kind of guy, you will understand if you know my Noah Milano stuff. All in all, a guy I just had to interview...

Q: What makes C.T. Ferguson different from other hardboiled characters? 
A: Mainly that he doesn’t come from a law enforcement background. Characters like Spenser and Scudder are great, but I didn’t want to write someone who’s an ex-cop. I wanted a character who would be more of a fish out of water. I think the series starts more “medium-boiled” in the first book, but the more C.T. sees and does, the more the harder edge comes in.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: Basically, I asked a lot of questions once I knew I didn’t want to write another ex-cop. What’s his background? Is he licensed? What makes him want to be a PI? Is it his full-time job? Etc. It didn’t take long to come up with a character bankrolled by his parents, and the reasons why flowed pretty well from there. I spent a few months cranking out short stories. Most of them were terrible and unprintable, but they allowed me to flesh out the character more and find his voice.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: I say this as someone who loves physical books: it’s great. Paper books will never go out of style. Look at music: vinyl is still a thing (niche, but it’s around), even though we’ve had CDs for a generation or more, and despite the ease of downloading and streaming songs. Ebooks allow people to read more easily, in more places, and to carry entire libraries in their pocket, purse, or backpack. It’s terrific. As an author, anything that makes it easier to reach readers is a good thing.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
A: I have the next couple of C.T. novels written, and a couple more plotted out. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil anything, but in coming books, C.T. is going to have some personal conflicts he never expected, and he’ll deal with a case that rocks him right down to his core.
As for me, I have a couple other characters I want to explore at some point. I wrote two spy thrillers years ago. They’re awful, but the main character is good, and I can salvage elements of the plots. I also have another crime thriller protagonist I’m kicking around and developing. Those will come after I’ve published a few more C.T. books and established both him as a character and myself as an author. Later this year, I’d also like to get into audiobooks. I want a bigger platform first, and I’m hoping that sometime in the fall or winter will be good for that.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
A: Well, I do have a full-time job. Besides work and writing, my wife and I bought a house last summer, so we’re doing projects and working on some things to make it our own. It’s coming along nicely. As a writer, reading is a big hobby. I like movies and TV, and there seems to be a lot of good TV these days now that we have so many more people and networks making shows. There isn’t enough time for us to watch all the shows that look interesting. I’m also a sports fan and am a total homer for Baltimore teams. Both my full-time job and writing are sedentary, so I try to get to the gym three or four days a week.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Probably not very well yet. 😊 I have a website with a blog ( It’s not super important for a fiction writer, but people have found me that way. I’ve promoted my free novella, The Confessional, on Instafreebie and BookFunnel (and I’ll have another free one out in early March called Land of the Brave). I try to write good book descriptions and have engaging covers. Especially since The Unknown Devil came out, I’ve dabbled in ads on various platforms. With only two books at the moment, I can’t get a ton of read-through, so I haven’t immersed myself yet. My initial impressions are that AMS ads on Amazon are probably the best, and that Facebook ads are better at building a mailing list. Other authors’ mileages may vary, of course.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I do most of my reading in the mystery-crime-thriller space. Outside of that, I read graphic novels and trade paperbacks (I’m liking some of the DC Rebirth stories after not caring for The New 52). I’ll also read some occasional fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural thrillers, and science fiction. In the nonfiction world, I like books that teach me something or come at an idea from an interesting angle. And, of course, books for writers.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
I hope those classic writers (and a few others) will continue to be influences. It’s hard to innovate in the genre without knowing the tropes and understanding what came before you. But I also think the coming generation will take their cues from more than just books. Teens and college-aged people today absorb information and stories in ways that just weren’t possible when I was younger. I think you’ll see people influenced by movies and TV, especially now that more studios and networks are creating content.
TV and movies can also lead people back to books. Someone could see the Jack Reacher movies, for instance, and like them enough to check out the books. (This is how I got started with the series—I watched Jack Reacher on a long flight, bought Killing Floor a few days later, and have since read all the books.) Then, after twenty-some books, our hypothetical person may fancy him or herself the next Lee Child. I wonder how many people watch Bosch on Amazon, read the Michael Connelly books, and are inspired to write their own crime stories? Or maybe someone streams House, M.D. on Netflix and goes on to write a medical mystery.
I don’t know which newer writers will be the influencers. Reading some of them, I can tell they were inspired by the masters. If you don’t know and understand what Chandler, Parker, Block, Grafton, etc. did, I think you’ll have a hard time meeting reader expectations. And meeting those expectations is important, regardless of what genre you write in.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Crime stories are great. You have a hero, usually flawed with his or her own problems, trying to solve a major problem for someone else. Done well, you get a lot of elements of the hero’s journey. They’re classic, timeless tales. You can graft anything onto a crime story and it still has the same heart. Look at The Dresden Files—magic and supernatural creatures play a big part in it, but if you strip all that away, you’re left with a damaged detective trying to solve a mystery. There’s not much better than that.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Slaughterhouse Blues (Bill & Fiona) by Nick Kolakowski

I first met Bill and Fiona, the con man and the killer in A Bunch of Heartbroken Saps and was delighted by the fun and fast crime story. The couple is back in this one, living in Havana and on the run for the mob since the events in that book. Via some detours they end up fighting an assassin couple and with a decades old loot.
What makes this one so fun is pretty much the same things as the first one. Bill and Fiona are so much fun and there's such a wonderful sense of humor that goes very right with the fast-paced action.
So don't be fooled by the dark and depressing (though very beautifully written) first chapter. There will be laughs along the way.
Not a mystery novel or the kind of PI stuff I usually review it IS a solid crime novella. Regular readers of my blog know how much I dig a novella.
Icing on the cake is the snarky references to Coldplay, kudos for those!

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Nine (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man who turns out to be a pimp called Larry Thunder. When he arranges to meet her in a motel the pimp shows up as well, armed and dangerous. Luckily Lenny convinces him to let her leave. Here's the last chapter in this serial. For earlier episodes click here

Lenny and Casey smiled happily at the couple in front of the altar. Lenny had managed to find a blazer he wore over a Metallica t-shirt and Casey actually turned out to own a modest black dress. They looked pretty respectable although a bit out of place among the other guests. Still, they felt honored to be invited to Tommy and Jill’s wedding. It had been a few weeks since their encounter with Larry Thunder and now Lenny’s nose only hurt when he sneezed.

Casey nodded at the two bridesmaids, dressed in pink dresses. “Wouldn’t mind hitting that.”

“Sheesh, you’re awful,” Lenny whispered.

Casey shrugged. “Living life to the fullest, that’s all.”

The metalheads listened as the couple said their vows and sealed their marriage with a kiss. There was so much love in both their eyes Lenny couldn’t help but be moved.

“Are you tearing up, you big wuss?” Casey said.

“It’s the incense,” Lenny said.

They headed out the church where the newlyweds were greeted with a handful of rice. Lenny and Casey shook their hands and congratulated them.

“I owe you so much,” Jill told them. “Tommy was so kind to me. We’ll have Larry paid off within a year.”

“That’s great,” Lenny said. “If he bothers you after that don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

“Thank you, thank you!” Jill said and hugged Lenny and Casey both.

The couple walked to the big white limousine with the cans and sign saying “Just Married” waiting in front of the church. They got in, waving at everybody. So much happiness, no sign of the hardships they went through. Lenny felt really good about that and told Casey so.

“You know what also felt good? That hug from Jill. What a body,” Casey said.

Lenny just shook his head, glad to have seen from the newlyweds that romance and true love wasn’t dead yet.



Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Confessional (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

I really enjoyed the collection of short stories featuring C.T. Ferguson, the Reluctant Detective. I couldn't wait to read this novella because of it. After all, novellas are my favorite story form.
In this one
A man is found dead, stabbed in the chest. A blogger gets himself arrested when he gets himself involved a bit too much in the case. He asks C.T. Ferguson to prove he is innocent. This gets the reluctant detective involved with an abusive priest and a local bunch of thugs.
I still dig the idea that Ferguson isn't paid by his clients but instead by his rich parents whenever he closes a case. I love his hacker background and how he was taught how to fight because his parents wanted him to be able to fight off a schoolyard bully as a kid.
The story flows along at a nice speed and the ending is pretty clever.
If you want to read this one you don't have to pay anything for it. Just subscribe to Tom Fowler's newsletter here .

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Deep Six (Jake Longly) by D.P. Lyle

You would expect this to be a forensic heavy mystery as it is written by forensic expert D.P. Lyle. Well, it's not, not in any way. In fact, the procedures and bond between the main PI's and the cops sounds a bit unrealistic really. So, don't hesitate to read this one if you dislike stuff like the Scarpatta books or hate shows like Bones.
Jake Longly used to be a baseball player. Now he runs a beach bar and sometimes does some work for his dad, Ray who's a very succesful private eye. When he stakes out a woman living near his ex-wife he gets his car windows smashed in and meets a new love interest who turns out to be quite the amateur investigator herself. When the woman he was staking out gets killed Jake is compelled to investigate. Things get dangerous when he gets involved with a Ukrainian mobster who has a nice yacht and a trophy girlfriend.
There's a nice feel to this story, a bit breezy but still hardboiled enough. Sometimes there's a POV switch from first to third person, shining some light on the other characters. Personally, I didn't care for these switches. In my opinion they messed with the pacing too much and didn't add enough of to the story.
I loved the fun banter between the characters and Jake and his love interest Nicole are the Nick and Norah of this generation.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Battered Badge (Nero Wolfe) by Robert Goldsborough

I have a lot of respect for authors that dare to follow in the footsteps of succesful writers. So yeah, guys like Ace Atkins or Reed Coleman I do adore. Robert Goldsborough is among those as well. He's been writing quite a number of Nero Wolfe books and he really knows how to write the characters and the style of Rex Stout.
In this one Nero Wolfe and his sidekick and narrator Archie Goodwin investigate the death of an influential New Yorker to clear the name of their cop friend, Inspector Cramer.
This is not an angsty, noirish or very hardboiled PI novel. Stout didn't write those either. It IS an enjoyable ride with old friends, a nice mix between a cozy and more hardboiled fare.
There's also a nice twist in the end where Robert plays with the usual endings of Nero Wolfe novels, but I won't spoil it for you.
Entertaining but perhaps forgettable.

Broken Ground (Jay Porter) by Joe Clifford

Divorced from his wife Jay Porter now spends his days as an estate cleaner and at AA meetings. At such a meeting he is asked by a recovering addict to track down her sister who's last known address was a rehab center. When it turns out she didn't use drugs he finds out the real reason she went missing and encounters his old arch enemies once again.
Jay is one unique PI. He's an unlicensed one, more of a guy doing favors for friends like Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder, but at least Scudder was an ex-cop. Jay gets his edge from his anger, not his police background. In fact, it's that undertone of anger and frustration that makes Jay's voice such an interesting one to read about. Beware, this voice is so well-written you might get drawn into the story too much. Whenever I was reading it I felt a craving to smoke or drink, just like Jay. I had to be careful to be nice to my wife. There were times when I looked at my son and almost cried at the idea of having to be without him.
This is something special. And if you read or listen to interviews with Joe Clifford you will find out just how special. He really infused this novel with his own experiences and I have the deepest respect for how this man took his painful past and managed to create this wonderful novel from it and managed to start a wonderful family, holding on to all Jay lost.