Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Day to Win Book & T-Shirt

Once more, The Famous Author hijacks my blog to hawk our book. As he reminds me, however, my future is more associated with product sales than his. TFA can always change his name and try a new series. Maybe a female, vampire cat who catches mean mice at the library.

So today is the last day of TFA's Big Contest. (He calls it #3 in the filing system.) TFA will accept email entries until midnight. The 10 best answers win stuff, and so far, he has 13 entries. Here's the way the question appears on his website, which is linked to the headline (You can go there to get a tip on the correct answer, or you could pay attention here):

A First Edition, signed hardcover copy of BIG MONEY, and a “Big Money World Tour Official Staff” T-Shirt, to the ten best entries. Answer the following: In my debut novel, BIG NUMBERS, what is the thing Austin first finds for Luis, and Luis later gives to Austin? Symbolically, what do you think the thing represents? Why? Okay, too tough? How about multiple choice. The thing is one of the following, (and it represents):

1. A revolver (violence)
2. A key (wisdom)
3. A lucky rock (faith)
4. A knife (manhood)
5. A bar of soap (soul cleansing)

Deadline for this contest will be April 31, 2008, and all decisions of the judge--Jack Getze--are final.

Send your entries to

Okay, I'm back. TFA has received nine more entries since begging two weeks ago, a total now, like I said, of 13. Also, note he states the deadline is April 31. Minor detail there is no April 31. I consulted Mr. Z, my mouthpiece, and he says TFA's probably okay legally, as in either case, May 1 is obviously too late.

Gosh, Mr. Z always makes sense. Wait until you see what he pulls off in BIG MOJO.

P.S. -- You know, the more I think about it, the more I like this vampire librarian cat idea. Only, what if TFA made it a tomcat who, besides catching mice and solving murders, lusts after redhaired females. Could his name be Austin?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

He Won't Come Out of the Bathroom

I can hear him in there, flopping around on the floor like a beached fish. Wailing. Sobbing. Cursing his fate.

The Famous Author is not happy. He thinks he didn't sell enough books today at MLB's Festival of Mystery. His fan, Bob the Big Reader, didn't show. And the librarians didn't fawn all over him at the afternoon tea. I mean, poor TFA. What a day, huh?

The man needs a life.

Although he did spend some time talking to these two women.
The redhead is Susan Goodwill, author, and former Redhead of the Week.

The brunette is Hallie Ephron, also an author, and TFA mentioned something about her being a reviewer for some big paper. I think her parents are famous, too.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Facing the Music

It's Sunday night, so this must be Pittsburgh. Not sure what happened to Malice Domestic and Arlington, VA. We were there. I'm sure of it. But push on, I say. Tomorrow it's The Mystery Lovers Book Shop's, Festival of Mystery, The Famous Author's Number One All-Time Favorite Event. He thinks he will be lavished with praise from the dozen or so readers who bought his book last year. I know I'm a loveable character, at least for many, but I'm a little worried about angry fans. I mean, what if that Kathy or Karen person shows up, the one who sent TFA his book back? For once, I'm glad I'll be in that computer case.

Click on the above headline for all the info on the Festival. Here's a list of the authors scheduled to attend this year's

Donna Andrews Vicki Delany Beverle Myers
Sarah Atwell Hallie Ephron T. Lynn Ocean
Deb Baker Kate Flora Jason Pinter
Aileen Baron Kathleen George Julia Pomeroy
Lorna Barrett Jack Getze Sara Rosett
Charles Benoit Susan Goodwill Mary Jo Rulnick
Miranda Bliss Kathryn Haines Sharon Short
Rhys Bowen R.J. Harlick George D. Shuman
Ellen Byerrum Rosemary Harris Andy Straka
Jane K. Cleland Mary Ellen Hughes Pari Noskin Taichert
Sheila Connolly Linda O. Johnston Marcia Talley
C.R. Corwin Diana Killian Heather Terrell
Ellen Crosby John Lamb Elaine Viets
Barbara D'Amato Con Lehane Sally Wright
Shirley Damsgaard Mary Jane Maffini Elizabeth Zelvin
Casey Daniels Nancy Martin Mark Zubro
C. William Davis III

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wrong Plane, Right Crew

The Famous Author carried me onto the wrong Continental jet Friday morning, and instead of Washington, D.C. and Malice Domestic, we did our conventioneering yesterday in Puerto Vallarta with this mariachi band. TFA's not bad with the spoons.

Maybe we'll show up in D.C. today sometime.


Friday, April 25, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 38

A metallic click-click snaps open my eyes.

Paranoid imagination? Or could that have been the latching apparatus on my Trooper-assigned bedroom door? Or maybe I’m still dreaming. I swear there was just a giant robot grasshopper in the hall. Like on that episode of Star Trek Voyager.

Why don’t these aliens just knock?

Thick blackout curtains keep the midday sun at bay, the darkness thick, slowing my herky-jerky rise to consciousness. But I can’t help waking up entirely when something or someone slides inside my room and gently seals the door behind them. Fear gooses my heart rate.

After the briefest shaft of hall-light, darkness again hugs me close. I breathe without making a sound. Clothes rustle nearby. Soon I hear the soft intimate whisper of a woman’s breathing. I smell her lilac perfume.

Captain Franny’s weight on the edge of the bed draws me to her, and her body heat toasts me through sheet and thick cotton blanket. Slowly, she slides an arm and a leg over me and tugs at the fabric between us.

“Don’t say a word,” she says.

While El Capitan nibbles my chest, rubbing her breasts across my stomach, I consider this naked Trooper’s potential motivations.

Hmm. Let’s see. Hmm.

Well, after admittedly incomplete deliberations, I figure either Franny fell in love with the full-boat “phony” Carr grin, or this is one of those top-secret super special police interrogation techniques they can’t show you on Law & Order.

A method too effective to make public.

Despite being in my utmost glory--I’ve spent twenty odd years waiting for an uninvited woman to sneak into my bedroom for a hump--I must say Franny is definitely taking her time getting down to the nitty gritty. If I get any more excited, in fact, we could be looking at early departure. An unscheduled culmination.

I try to steer her hips into a more accessible position, but she pulls away, quickly and completely.


I’m left with the scent of lilac, the whisper of cloth on skin as she dresses.


“We’ll finish this after your State Grand Jury testimony,” she says. “I believe in carrots as well as sticks.”

Carrots? Sticks? Is she talking about my penis?

Next time I see Franny, maybe two, two-and-a-half-hours later, I’ve got my fork stuck in a three-layer stack of Stuart’s blueberry pancakes.

These State Troopers sure know how to make a guy feel welcome. Although it really really makes me wonder what Stuart did to draw this duty as Franny’s personal chef. I think his transgression must have been significantly worse than a poor voting record.

Anyway, El Capitan, as Luis now calls her, looks undeniably scary storming into the gray stone and black-tile kitchen this afternoon. The woman’s face reminds me of Dracula stalking her castle.

“What’s the matter?” I ask. I’m hoping her bad mood involves her self-denied sexual encounter with yours truly. Your chance may never come again, honey.

El Capitan glances at Stuart, then looks me straight in the eye. “Mallory tipped off Bluefish to your children’s location,” she says.

My fork tumbles in slow motion, pancakes and syrup flying. The steel utensil clatters hard on the stone floor, an echo that travels around the big kitchen like a parading hearse.

My right hand aches from being balled into a fist. I know she’s a woman, but Franny just sold out my children, I suppose in exchange for possible career advancement. My right hand wants to make her cover-girl nose bleed.

“If you had Mallory under surveillance, his phone tapped, then you knew he was crooked, knew he might give Bluefish the location of my kids,” I say. “Basically, you used my family as bait.”

“You picked Mallory, not us,” Franny says. “You trusted him.”

“You could have told me not to.”

“Why? I didn’t know you. I still don’t. I didn’t start worrying about your kids until you told us Mallory knew where they were. We worked hard to find them since then.”

Can’t believe anything this woman says. “Where are they?”

“Staying with a friend of your ex-wife’s an hour outside of Philadelphia.”

“Give me the phone number.”

“We’ve already called. There’s no answer...yet.”

An odd dizziness hits me, like I jumped up too fast after sitting too long. My eyes see faded images. Kitchen shadows in a yellowish glow. “But you’re still trying?”

My voice sounds unfamiliar.

“Of course,” Franny says. “And I have two detectives and eight State Troopers already on their way. Fifteen minutes out.”

(Click on Headline to read the opening chapters of this book, BIG MONEY. All previous 37 chapters are on this blog. Somewhere. I'm a fictional a character, not a techno genius. Try the archives.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kissing Bookseller Ass

I've been working under a false impression. I thought The Famous Author and I were trying to sell books, get people to fall in love with me. Keep our Austin Carr Series alive. Well, guess what? On the eve our departure for the Washington D.C. area, to attend one of the largest fan-attended mystery conventions anywhere, Malice Domestic, The Famous Author informs me that, no, we're trying to meet booksellers. INDEPENDENT booksellers. No chains at Malice.

"Selling you to readers one at a time ain't working, pal," TFA said last night. "We have to get bookstores working for us, recommending you to their customers."

What he said made a lot of sense. Especially at Malice Domestic where the room is full of independent booksellers, guys and gals who don't get big bucks from publishers for product placement, men and women who are willing to take a chance on a new author, People Who Stand Up The Little Guy!

Okay, maybe TFA got me carried away. But if you're looking for me and TFA at this year's Malice Domestic, check out the bookroom. Better believe I'll be with him, stuffed in that black computer case, helping him schmooze. In fact, I've already started. Click on the headline, KISSING BOOKSELLER ASS, and you will be taken to a BookSense search page for an independent store near you. And, if you use it, a surprise.

I'll probably also be there for his panel Sunday, at noon, strangely entitled "Me and My Shadow--Who is the Dr. Watson to these sleuths?" TFA will be sharing the cloth draped platform with Dean James, Barbara Graham, Linda O. Johnston, and Cathy Pickens, who obviously are authors, not sleuths. Aw, who cares. TFA was lucky to get on a panel. Malice Domestic draws the biggest and best names in mystery.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Future Stars

The Famous Author met Lorin in 1998, but didn't drag me out of the computer case to meet her for seven years. Maybe he knew what would happen.

See, Lorin is one of those magical writers whose words make you fall in love with her. You want to read the note she left for the cleaners. Her poetry has been published all over the world, and her short stories have found a home in many literary magazines, anthologies, and spoken phone messages.

TFA got this one a few years ago: "When are you going to learn the spelling of my name, turkey?"

Note the rhythm, the subtext.

Unfortunately for us readers, Lorin spends most of her time helping other writers. It's how she earns her living. If you click on the headline FUTURE STARS, you can see her company's website and learn more about her editing services. TFA has used her several times. She's one of the reasons TFA finally got published and yours truly saw the light of day. But TFA and I--not to mention a myriad of her other friends and book agents--wish she drove a truck, or did night cleaning services. Anything but reading and writing. When she gets around to finishing her current novel project, the world will be in for a treat.

Lorin is the final member of TFA's hot Future Stars, his St. Pete Beach team of writers that gathered last January in South Florida. TFA, remember, claims his Fiesta de Fiction will go down in literary history like Paris in the 1920s. How did all those great writers end up in the same place at the same time? Previous Future Stars were Melissa, Brenda, Kim, and Jason.

Write, Lorin, write.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Name These Authors

The librarian in the clean white shirt Is Paul Schroeder of the Bound Brook Memorial Library. The subject this night was "New Jersey as a Setting for Mystery Novels." Yeah, yeah, that's TFA, second from the right. Who the heck do you think made me run this photograph? Clue: All are members of the New York Chapter, Mystery Writers of America.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Back to the Grind

So this past weekend, The Famous Author and I finished writing BIG MOJO, number three in my series. We celebrated Friday night with four large orders of saki, a dinner of hibachi steak, and about fifteen twenty-somethings who were also celebrating the birthday of TFA's number-two son. (Try saying that three times fast). But the party is over, and now we must squeeze back into our writing den (shown here) and come up with another idea for a novel.

"Don't we get a vacation or something?" I asked TFA last night.

"Nope. We've got to write another book, plus promote #2," he said. "In fact, we're off to Washington D.C. today for a cable TV show."

"Oh, boy. Geraldo?"


"John Stewart?"

"Nope. Better."

"Anybody I know?"

"It's called "Communicating Today," and it's on Channel 10 in Fairfax, VA. The host/producer is John Monsul."

"How is that better than John Stewart?" I asked.

"Oh, nobody watches that guy."

TFA, you've been stuck in this crumby, crowded, smelly office too long, dude. Maybe this train ride today will do you some good.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Make Them Smile, Jack

Over my strong objections, The Famous Author guest blogs today. He even made me run this stupid picture. I don't know why he doesn't get his own darn blog.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- I take deep breaths as Diane Defonce takes the microphone to introduce me. Diane is Manager of this two-story Borders store, and was named Bookseller of the Year by The Romance Writers of America. Tonight is mystery night, however, and seven authors--me included--are talking about their books.

“So tell us about your new book, Jack,” Diane says.

Here I go again. The pressure’s on. I have ten minutes or so to interest a room full of people in my novel. I’ve learned from experience that being clever, funny, entertaining, and charming is absolutely mandatory.

I wish I’d remembered to wear socks.

“My second novel, BIG MONEY, was sparked by a true event,” I say. “A gangster’s black limousine pulled to the curb in front of my father-in-law’s contracting office one day, and three large men made him go for a ride.”

So far, so good. I have their attention. Now I give them the punch line.

“I didn’t see this happen to my father-in-law. I just read about it on the front page of the local newspaper--the same day I met him.”

It’s a great story. And true. It was 1979. My future wife and I traveled back to New Jersey to meet her parents and attend the wedding of my wife’s brother. At the kitchen dinette that first morning, I found myself eating breakfast with the star of the local paper’s front page.

The big news that day was about the trial of a local gangster, and much of the previous day’s testimony concerned my future wife’s father and that limousine ride. The driver had been wearing a wire, and much of the conversation was played aloud in court.

In the back seat of the limousine that day, a gangster threatened my father-in-law with death if he didn’t pay for protection. My father-in-law said...well, he refused in colorful language. Told the gangster to go ahead and kill him. Then the gangster threatened his wife and children--including MY future wife. My father-in-law said, go ahead and kill them, too, and something like, “They hate me anyway.”

There were a lot of blank spots in the newspaper story, quotes with holes for cursing. At one point in court, during the playing of the taped conversations, a juror raised his hand and asked, “Which one is the bad guy again?”

Of course, when it came down to pointing out the guys who’d taken him for that limousine ride, my future wife’s father refused. He said he couldn’t be sure.

My father-in-law was tough, not stupid.

“You were a big hit,” Diane says after the show. “Does that story really have anything to do with your book?”

“There’s a limo ride,” I say.

Friday, April 18, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 37

Gaunt lines condense Luis’s ancient face, as if the five or so pounds he lost in the hospital pushed his primitive features back further in time. His piercing, roasted-coffee eyes shine even sharper. Hawkish.

“It is my experience that only under most unusual and extreme circumstances should one say no to the Federales,” Luis says. “Perhaps only if they ask, ‘Would you like a blindfold?’”

After encouraging me and Luis to step outside and talk privately, Ms. Strawberry--Ace Jersey Trooper--watches us from inside the warm and massive kitchen, her gaze unflinching behind the side door’s glass window. Framed and pretty as a picture.

“Did you just make a joke?” I say to Luis.

“Are we not laughing?”

Luis not only looks more ancient, I think he’s getting prehistorically mystical on me. I shiver. It’s cold out here on this little side-entrance porch.

“They’re State-erales by the way, and I ask again, Luis: How the hell did the New Jersey Troopers get involved? I requested you and your Jeep, not Franny Dahler. Or Chapman. Or whatever the hell her name is.”

Trooper/Coffee maker Stuart smokes a cigarette maybe forty yards away from us, snug in his Northface jacket, pacing east and west along the edge of the budding maple and oak forest. Silver vapors rise from his burning tobacco. Stuart’s rubber soles squish on a soggy blanket of decades-old fallen leaves.

“Cap-i-tan Chapman overheard our telephone conversation,” Luis says. “She marched into my hospital room with her many men and demanded that she be included in your rescue. What was I to do?”

“She must have been showing off for her troops. Wanting to come along for the potential shootout. But how did she overhear our conversation? Did she say my cell phone was tapped?”

“I think my hospital room,” Luis says.

His breath materializes as it glides through the yellow porch light. Must be in the low forties outside on this exposed cement slab. Lucky there’s no wind. My nuts would freeze-up and fall off like early flower buds.

I turn my gaze on Franny inside the house. Definitely a hard edge to her, those now-frosty green eyes, but certainly a knockout. That copper-blonde hair all fluffy around her chiseled face. I don’t like that she tapped Luis’s phone, though.

“Your anger is misplaced,” Luis says. “Without the capitan’s covering fire tonight, the rifleman’s bullets would have found us.”

I nod. I must have been frowning at her. “You’re right. I think both of you saved my life. Thanks for showing up, risking yourself.”

“Thank you for seeing your error. It is clearly your most admirable quality. Now please explain to me why you will not identify this Mama Bowls.”

So my pal Luis Guererro does want me to flip state’s evidence. No wonder Ms. Strawberry let us have this private time together. “One big reason, Luis. Mama Bones, B-O-N-E-S, saved my life last night. Two, she’s Mr. Vick’s mother. A friend.”

Luis’s penetrating gaze seems to have texture as it passes into my soul. My eyes itch from the transmission. Must be some kind of ancient Toltec thing. Luis saying, “But it is better I think that we let the police arrest Bluefish, is it not?”

“Better than what?”

Luis’s careful gaze rises to the block of pure starlight between the roof of the Tudor and the thick forest. “Better than killing him. Even success could bring us failure.”

Hard to argue with that. “I can’t give up Mama Bones, Luis. Not after what she did for me.”

Luis eyes a star he likes. “Then we will have to kill Bluefish,” he says. “Only your testimony could make the capitan arrest him now and save us this task.”

I don’t like it. “Why can’t I just hide out for a week or two, hope Captain Franny puts Bluefish away without my help?”

Luis brings his gaze back to earth. He nods at me, resigned, but his face stays hopeful. Has my favorite bartender thought of something I failed to consider? Or am I about to once more sense the touch of Luis’s ancient Toltec magic?

“What if you only pretend to identify this Mama Bones?” he says.

Pretend? “What exactly do you mean, pretend?”

“You’ve made the right move, Carr,” Franny says an hour later. “But are you sure you want Detective Mallory to know you’re staying with me until I can assemble a State Grand Jury? I don’t have to tell anybody locally.”

“No, I want you to tell Mallory,” I say. “He’s in touch with my children.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sucking a Shoe

Unless you're a stockbroker, or living with one, you have no clue what "sucking a shoe" means. It's just a little reply we like to throw out there sometimes, usually when another broker asks us,"How are you doing?"

Okay? I mean, if my answer to that question is, "sucking a shoe," do I really need to explain? I mean, obviously. I'm sitting there, no sales pending, no ideas for even making another sales call. I ain't doing nothing good, man, I'm sucking a shoe. It can also mean EVERYthing is going badly, even our personal investments.

Well, our latest hot tip, Image Entertainment (DISK), is sucking a shoe. Drifting down, past even where I said I would sell. I wasn't paying attention. The Famous Author has been a maniac lately, trying to finish our third adventure, and he won't leave me alone. Yanking me out of my computer case at the strangest hours. Asking stupid stupid questions about knife fights, sleeping habits, and my feelings toward a fictional daughter I've only talked to in our stories. In short, he's distracted me from my investment management duties.

Gee, gang, looks like we're buried again in another loser. Here in central New Jersey, we're sucking a shoe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Redheads of the Week

Oh, man, oh, man, oh, man. As a stockbroker, even fictional, I understand fear vs. greed. It's the nature of all investment, maybe the nature of life itself, folks. You make your picks, you take your chances. But I stumbled on the ultimate last night, the final contest between fear vs. greed.

If you click on today's headline, you will be transported to something called "Redhead Date Link," where every visitor is promised to "Meet The Redhead Girl of Your Dreams Right Now."

And they have this nice, wholesome young woman--well, semi-wholesome--smiling at you.

Okay, that's the greed part. Fill out the application, and totally FREE, you can be introduced to thousands of beautiful redheaded women. Oh, man, Oh, Man. Oh, man.

But here's what I'm afraid they're really selling:

And I don't want to get locked up in that porn-site tango that happens everytime we try to look at naked women on the internet. That, friends, constitutes real fear. When The Famous Author first bought a computer years ago, we got locked up on a porn site for two days. Even turning the computer off didn't help.

What should I do?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Change of Heart

The Famous Author dragged me into the Splaining Department last night. He said I will fall in love or die. Strictly business, he said. Characters must do what they're told.

In his less-studied, unpublished days, TFA says he used to let his characters run their own course--"come alive" and do what they wanted to do. After some critiquing, however, TFA found his main characters liked to "come alive" by avoiding all the good conflict TFA had lined up for them in his outline. And since writers have no story without conflict, TFA says he's the boss now, not his creations.

Well, okay. I don't wanna, but I guess I'm falling in love.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Refuse to Fall in Love

So maybe I've mentioned before that The Famous Author is nearing completion of #3 in my Austin Carr Mystery Series, BIG MOJO, but last night TFA began reading the manuscript outloud and making final red ink marks. He'd warned me about a certain redhead in this story, but until I heard the words TFA put in my mouth, I had no idea what lengths my bozo boss would go to. He made me fall in love!

I protested the minute I heard the beach scene, where the redhead and I kiss on the sand. What is TFA thinking? He's going to ruin my reputation. Cads don't fall in love. They make WOMEN fall in love. Sheesh.

Anyway, I told TFA I'm going on strike. I refuse to consult with him on these stories anymore if he's going to dream up junk like this. I refuse to fall in love.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

TFA's Local Warehouse

Book signings are a hit and miss operation for the big names in crime and mystery fiction, but for writers like The Famous Author and characters like me--new, unknown, hungry for readers--book store events appear on our schedule like trips to the dentist. Anticipated with fear.

We've had two book signings at the Borders store pictured here. It's located in the Monmouth Mall at the intersection of Highways 35 and 36 in Eatontown. Neither event was a roaring success, due at least in some part to a serious lack of communication between author and store. The first signing, around Christmas, TFA and I had lots of foot traffic and a glib tongue that day, but we ran out of paperbacks and had to sell the hardcovers. Tough job selling $30 books at full price while Steven King, Lee Child, and Janet Evanovitch are going for 30% off in the same store.

The second signing, last week, was supposed to feature my new adventure, BIG MONEY, but the books didn't come in time and we had to sell BIG NUMBERS. Hard to believe, I know, but everybody in the mall that day had already read the first one.

As a result, and the reason I'm blogging today about these nice people at Borders in the mall, this one little store in Eatontown, NJ has enough copies of BIG NUMBERS on their shelves to entertain the Army. Hardcovers and paperback decorate The Famous Author's section like a birthday cake. I'd hate to think this nice store is going to get stuck with them.

If any of you nice local Jersey types out there needs a copy of BIG NUMBERS, will you please go see Danielle at Borders at The Mall?


Friday, April 11, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 36

I’ve seen her gun, so the badge isn’t much of a surprise. Like love and marriage, the two are supposed to go together. What makes me squint, blink, crane, and refocus is the curious and voluminous expanse of Ms. Strawberry’s law enforcement specialties, each one clearly detailed for me on her slick, anchor-weight and permanently laminated government identification card.

Frances Dahler Chapman not only holds a captain’s rank with the New Jersey State Police, and is therefore automatically the Garden State’s best-looking Jersey Trooper, Ms. Strawberry also carries the title of Special Prosecutor for the Governor’s Select Task Force on Organized Crime, and was graduated magna cum laude from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Advanced Weapons Training School in Quantico, Virginia.

Oh my. I’m talking to the Queen of Jersey cops.

“Why did your majesty want an undercover job at Shore Securities?” I ask.

I get a sneer, more contempt in her green eyes than her twisted lower lip, and Ms. Strawberry takes her identification back. She and I face each other in the viking-hall kitchen of what she earlier described as a State Police safe house.

“Why the hell do you think?” she says. “Shore is the absolute center of this corrupt mess. Where else would I want to be?”

I can’t get over the sudden changes. Sexy Ms. Strawberry in the bar becomes big hitter, Walter’s all-business replacement, then becomes a pistol-packing state cop hunting mafia dons. The X-Men have nothing on Franny Dahler. Or Chapman. Or Ms. Strawberry. Or whatever the hell her name is.

“What corrupt mess?” I say.

“Illegal gambling, prostitution, fencing stolen goods, counterfeit securities, extortion, burglary, fraud, murder, and conspiracy,” Franny says. “I’m just getting started. Want me to continue?”

I place my hands on the kitchen table where we sit, a swimming pool-size octagon of thick, polished hand-pounded copper, and spread my fingers like I’m checking the polish on my nails. Nonchalant. “You think Shore’s involved in all that stuff?”

“Probably. Or about to be. The spoils of an ongoing war.”

This copper table shines like a gold wedding ring. Some safe house the Jersey Troopers have staked out for themselves. A rock singer’s retreat would be more apt. Twenty giant rooms of English Tudor inside a secluded, five-acre forest, a dock on the Navasquan River. The raw land has to be worth $10 million.

Speaking of dinero... “So those commission runs you showed Carmela are just bullshit?” I say. “Shore Securities is still missing one big hitter?”

“That’s right. I’m a cop, not a broker.”

Did my query sound that stupid? I guess maybe. It’s just that I have certain business responsibilities, certain financial priorities. “And you’re going to stay with us...undercover?”

Ms. Strawberry sips her third mug of premium coffee. “Probably not after tonight.” She ordered some older guy named Stuart to brew a fresh pot, Stuart probably with the Troopers thirty years, forced to search cupboards, grind and measure Colombian beans, satisfy some thirty-year-old cutie with a Trenton State law degree. “Why?” Ms. Strawberry says. “You thinking about outing me to your mafia friends?”

Maybe his boss found out Stuart voted Republican in the last election.

“Of course not,” I say. “I’m thrilled you want to put Bluefish away. The bastard threatened my children.”

“My job isn’t to help you, Carr. Although I easily could, and might, if you cooperate with me.”

“For instance?”

“For instance, was anyone in the lodge when you saw Max Zakowsky torturing this Gianni person?”

Pieces of gold sparkle inside Ms. Strawberry’s sea-green eyes. She’s wearing a white blouse tucked inside blue jeans, two-inch black heels and a gray tweed coat. Oh, yeah. And a tan leather shoulder holster.

“No,” I say.

Hardly Carr-like patter, I know, but I feel lucky to make noise. I’m still stunned by this woman’s previously undisclosed identity and intentions. Like the time my little sister’s new babysitter turned judo-meister while shaking my hand, twisting my thumb ‘til I yelped and flopped myself onto the carpet.

“Did you see Bluefish at the restaurant last night in Brooklyn?” she says.


“What about Mama Bones?”

“No,” I say. Maybe a little too quickly.

Franny’s head slowly shakes. Her light copper hair catches highlights from the chandelier. “I’ve already explained that lying to me is a crime. I’m giving you one more chance to tell me the truth. Not sure why. Maybe I like your gorgeous smile.”

I smell sarcasm. Don’t get me wrong. I have more than a little faith in the full-boat Carr grin. It’s pulled me out of many tight and ugly spots. But this time I just don’t think she means it.

“We already know it was Mama Bones in that Escalade,” Franny Dahler says, “so do yourself a favor, don’t tell me you didn’t see her at that restaurant. You saw her plenty because she had to be the one dragged your skinny ass out of Brooklyn.”

Skinny ass? Now I have a skinny ass?

Over the course of my so-far semi-wasted life--everything but Beth and Ryan has been pretty much a disaster--I’ve found the best way to lie involves actually believing your own bullshit. You must make yourself deeply and truly accept the stink icing you are about to spread over simple righteous cake.

“I see Mama Bones all the time,” I say. “Mr. Vick asked to me to keep an eye on his mother while he was in Tuscany. But it wasn’t Mama Bones who pulled me out of that restaurant.”

Invisible fingers tug on Franny’s square-ish, magazine-cover jaw, stretching the skin. A threat sparkles in her green eyes. “You’re shielding a gang who wants to kill you, Carr. Who will kill you, and maybe your children, unless you let me protect you. But I cannot arrange your safety if you won’t cooperate.”

She searches my face for signs of intelligence.

It’s a long and fruitless journey.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Jersey, State of Mystery

Tomorrow evening at 7 pm (free pizza at six), The Famous Author and I will participate in a mystery writers panel at the Bound Brook Memorial Library at 402 E. High St. in Bound Brook. The subject: New Jersey as a source of material for crime writers.

Librarian Paul Schroeder has come up with some interesting questions: What makes the Garden State such an interesting backdrop for so many mysteries? How is New Jersey different from other areas? Why do we writers choose New Jersey as our locale?

Participating with TFA and myself (I'll be hiding in the computer case) are Chris Grabenstein, Jeff Cohen, and Ken Isaacson, NJ crime writers all. Chris's series, which takes place on the Jersey shore amidst the cotton candy and boardwalk rides, recently moved to St. Martin's from Carrol & Graf. Jeff's latest book was a finalist for Left Coast Crime's Lefty Award for funniest mystery of the year. And Ken's thriller has taken quick wings and is selling like hotcakes. All of them are members of the New York Chapter, Mystery Writers of America.

TFA and I were discussing the subject last night:

"Why IS New Jersey such a great place for writers?" I asked him.

"Are you kidding? The mob? A U.S. Senator 'elected' without appearing on the ballot? A gay governor who hired his lover as security chief? Lindburgh? The only Nazi act of sabotage? New Jersey is the crime capital of the world!"

Gee, I never thought of it that way. Rock on, Jersey!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Redhead of the Week

His name is Jonesy. He toils long and hard without recognition and for small reward. We salute!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dog Days of Spring

After a grueling weekend of book signings, library panels, and trying to finish #3 in our series, BIG MOJO, The Famous Author and I are beat, bushed, whipped, strapped, and worn out. We are taking the day off. If anyone has any inquiries, questions, or non-fiction writing assignments, please leave them with our secretary, Murphy the chocolate Lab.

He's a nice dog.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

His Wife And His Best Friend

The Famous Author and I had a tough weekend, culminating Saturday afternoon when nobody but Baha Jeff showed up for our local book signing at Border's Express in the Monmouth Mall. Our hometown, for crying out loud. Even TFA's wife, and his best friend, Corkface, turned out to be no shows.

In fact, they've both been missing for 24 hours now. Hmmm. Corkface and TFA's wife have been friends since childhood. As you can see in the above photo, taken recently on a two-couple vacation, the two are very close. Hmmm.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Shirt Face

On one of our recent adventures to south Florida, The Famous Author and I ate dinner, caroused, took a tour of the Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach, where we saw a drunken young man trying to pick up this window display. By the time TFA got his camera out, the man was gone, but at least you can see what aroused the guy's interest.

Click on the SHIRT FACE headline to take your own tour of Lincoln Road.

Friday, April 4, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 35

A thin yellow beacon extends into oncoming traffic when I depress the button. I keep the flashlight on three beats, off for the same. Kind of like humping when I’m trying to extend my performance time: It definitely helps to employ techniques and devices.

I couldn’t remember exactly which Parkway exit Gianni used last night--something south of sixty-three--so Luis suggested I blink the flashlight off and on between six o’clock and six-fifteen. If we don’t hook up, I’m to hide, er...retreat again until seven, do the same fifteen-minute drill then.

It’s six-o-five. Nothing yet. The headlights zip by me in flourishing numbers, Atlantic City drawing its usual and dedicated contingent of Saturday night gamblers. Imagine focusing all that energy--all those quarters--on some major world problem? Imagine the resources the right organization could muster?

Stop Hunger for Infinity Through Slots. Well, maybe S.H.I.T.S. isn’t such a great acronym.

I blink the flashlight again. Wish the thought occurred to me earlier, say while Luis and I made our plans, but what if one or more of Bluefish’s men is making regular trips down this part of the Parkway, too? Waiting for just such an obvious signal as my flashlight?

They don’t know I have a cell phone, of course, that I can call for help. But why would they rule it out? And lost in the pine barrens, where else would I meet someone, if not just north of the exit I used last night?

I’m worrying too much. No way this baseball team from hell, the Branchtown Bluefish, is looking for me here. They walked right past me, then must have doubled back because I never saw them again.

Luis will be here any minute anyway.

A tall pair of headlights flash their high beams, an answer to my latest signal. The vehicle slows, kicks on its orange emergency blinkers, and searches for parking near my position by the fence.

Sure the hell hope this is Luis. Although actually, at this point, I’d take even Susan.

A soft night breeze brushes cool against my cheeks and neck. My knees ache from crouching.

I recognize Luis’s Jeep and breathe happy for the first time all day. My lips spread into a grin.

When the Jeep’s wheels stop rolling, I scramble up the grassy incline. My legs balk with weariness. My arms and hands sting with scratches. I try to forget my exhaustion and pain, keep my intent focused on safety--that red Jeep’s back door.

Who is that riding shotgun? Sure ain’t Umberto.

I yank at the back door handle, bend my butt to stuff myself inside. The interior light stays off. I understand the concept, but the darkness starts a shiver. My driver and front passenger show me only outlines.

“Hurry,” Luis says.

Is that a woman next to Luis? Looks like it. In fact, I’m thinking the shape seems familiar, her hair, I mean, the way--

A meteor rips the right shoulder of my jacket and cobwebs the window beside Luis’s head. Popping glass and the sharp crack of gunfire hit my ears a fraction of a second later. My heart rate doubles.

I yank shut the Jeep’s back door. Wonder if that meteor could have been a bullet. Think?

Luis’s front seat passenger leans out her window. She’s got something in her--

Bang. Bang. Bang. Her three, return-fire gunshots light up the woman’s face, the interior of the Jeep, even the edge of the forest. Oh, my. Her two-handed grip and rapid sturdy shooting tell me Walter’s new replacement, Franny Dahler, has fired many a handgun at hostile forces.

Ms. Strawberry an experienced shooter?

The Jeep’s engine races when Luis stomps the accelerator. Our ass-end fishtails down the slope before catching purchase in the grass.

Five seconds later we’re on the Parkway, free and clear.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Literary Lovers

We wrote about THE MALTESE FALCON and author Dashiell Hammett yesterday, but because the longtime romance between "Dash" and "Lilly" (writer Lillian Hellman) has always fascinated both The Famous Author and myself, I thought today I'd recommend PENTIMENTO by Ms. Hellman. It's a cold hard look at a a rather lousy love affair. Sad, really, in that you can tell Lilly really loved her man, but Dash was a jerk.

The movie version kind of sucks, but it makes Dash out to be a real villain. Maybe he was. But Lilly loved him.

It's the kind of story us rogues like to hear.

Samuel Dashiell Hammett (May 27, 1894—January 10, 1961) was an American author of hardboiled detective novels and short stories. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse). In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on film, Hammett "is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time" and was called, in his obituary in the New York Times, "the dean of the... 'hard-boiled' school of detective fiction".

Lillian Florence Hellman (June 20, 1905 – June 30, 1984) was a successful American playwright, linked throughout her life with many left-wing causes. She was romantically involved for 30 years with mystery and crime writer Dashiell Hammett (and was the inspiration for his character Nora Charles), and was also a long-time friend and the literary executor of author Dorothy Parker. She was the first woman to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Thanks to Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Maltese Falcon, A Favorite

It's in the rules, printed in their handbook. Mystery and crime writers have to read THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett before they write a novel. Why? Because when Detective Sam Spade becomes embroiled with a mysterious client, avenges the death of his partner, and chases a priceless, bejeweled treasure, it's the stuff dreams are made of, that's why. It's also a shining example of the private-eye novel, one of America's great contributions to literature and art.

Well, I'm quoting The Famous Author with that one. Me, I'd say WHIP ANGELS carries more literary weight.

The 1941 movie by John Huston, also called THE MALTESE FALCON, was so faithful to the book, many people believe the "stuff dreams are made of" line--one of the classic pieces of dialogue in all movie history--was in Hammett's book. It's not. Director Huston was not happy with the ending of Hammett's book, at least for the movie. In the book, Sam Spade wraps up the case for his secretary. Huston wanted something snappier, and guess who provided it?

Humphrey Bogart, according to Lawrence Grobel's 1989 biography, THE HUSTONS. Bogie himself, the man who got to speak it, came up with, "The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of." It's a paraphrase of a Shakespeare line from The Tempest.

THE MALTESE FALCON was featured last month for The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. Click on the headline and see what other events are part of The Big Read.

The Famous Author will discuss THE MALTESE FALCON and its influence on his writing (If you go, try not to laugh) at New York's Mercantile Library, Center for Fiction, Thursday night, April 3, beginning at 6:30 pm. 47th Street between Park and Ave. of the Americas. TFA appears with some real mystery writers, including Chris Grabenstein, SJ Rozan, Peggy Ehrhart, and Chris Knopf.

Look for me inside the black computer case. I'll have a prize for you if you ask.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Redhead of the Week

In 1963, a photographer for the BBC's Radio Times asked Jane Asher to pose with Paul McCartney. They began a five-year relationship, getting engaged in 1967. Redheaded Jane supposedly inspired many of McCartney's songs, such as "Here, There and Everywhere", "I'm Looking Through You", "You Won't See Me", "We Can Work It Out", "And I Love Her", "All My Loving" and "For No One" (all credited as Lennon/McCartney).

Lennon/McCartney penned the number one hit "A World Without Love" for her older brother Peter Asher (formerly of Peter & Gordon), now a record producer.

Jane's British TV appearances included three episodes (1956–1958) of the British TV series, The Adventures of Robin Hood (working alongside her brother Peter), and as a panellist on the BBC's Juke Box Jury.

Marianne Faithfull remembers McCartney and Asher "never getting on very well," and describes one evening when McCartney wanted a window to be open and Asher wanted it shut. McCartney would repeatedly get up and open the window and then Asher would get up and close it, although neither of them made any comment about it during the whole evening.

Sounds like a redhead to me.

Click on the headline if you want to see what Jane's up to now.

Thanks to Paul, Jane, and Wikipedia.