Friday, May 30, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 43

My monster tee-shot splits the eighteenth fairway. Two-sixty-five, maybe two-hundred and seventy yards. Not long enough for the rankest of professional golf tours, but sufficiently distant and pretty to impress the members of any local men’s club. Present company included.

“They serve drinks on that flight?” Bluefish says.

True, my child has been kidnapped. And worrying about Beth--I imagine her alone, sick with fear--well, this father can barely consider outside stimulus, let alone enjoy golf or the thematic white verbena and azalea of the Navasquan River Country Club. Yet as any good golfer will tell you, not thinking about our physical actions is exactly how we Golf Legends earn the extra attention. We turn loose our muscle-memory. Shut off the mind’s calculations and let our bodies, training, and instincts take control.

I bend over to pick up my tee. “Only beer and wine on that flight. The stews don’t have enough time to serve ice.”

“Ha ha ha.” Bluefish’s laugh possesses a certain bullfrog quality. Kind of a wet croak.

Such good buddies, Bluefish and I. Playing friendly golf. Joking on the back nine. Enjoying the outdoors together. Trust me, I don’t forget one second this scaley bastard had my little girl kidnapped. At least two or three times a hole, I imagine myself spinning suddenly and burying the business end of my aluminum putter deep inside one of Bluefish’s eye cavities.

But so far I’ve suppressed my murderous impulses. I mean, the results of such conduct would hardly improve Beth’s situation, or mine, and might include some kind of gruesome death for both of us. But every once and a while, just for a split second, I get the irrational notion that Bluefish wearing a putter in his face would somehow be worth any consequence.

Actually, that’s insane, not irrational. I might need to improve my grip.

I wave to my cart partner, Bluefish, that I want to stroll this hole. He can have the freaking cart to himself. The less time I spend next to Bluefish, the less chance there is I’ll attack and spoil my chance to get Beth back safely.

Bluefish drives our electric geezer-mobile on ahead to help my golf game partner Al look for his ball, maybe watch to make sure Al doesn’t cheat. I’ll walk with Jerry, who like me put his drive in the fairway. See, Bluefish and I each have best-ball partners for this big money match. A $2,000 Nassau with unlimited presses, plus $500 birdies, sandies and one-putts. The winners could go home with enough loot for a beach front condo.

Bluefish’s partner is Creeper’s pal from that Brooklyn spaghetti bar, the solid-shouldered gentleman with a diamond earring. Jerry. He can’t drive well consistently, or hit his irons, but Mr. Diamond Earlobe can sure the hell putt. Sank a thirty-foot twister on the seventeenth to once again tie the Bluefish-Carr Cup championship.

Al, my partner, is a nervous grandfather. Big stomach, big ass, no hair. A decent golfer, and won a few holes early. But not much help lately. His soft brown eyes grow shiftier, his golf swing jerkier with every hole since we had a beer at the halfway house. He sweats a lot lately, too. Seems there’s something more than money at stake for bald, round Al.

I asked Bluefish last hole why my partner’s so nervous. But like every time I bring up the subject of my daughter, Bluefish says we’ll talk about that stuff later, over a Cuban cigar and brandy in the clubhouse.

“You didn’t know Bluefish was such a good golfer, did you?” Jerry says.

The close-cropped Bent grass under my feet succumbs to my weight like the carpet in a Ritz-Carlton lobby. “You’re the one giving your team a chance to win, not Bluefish. All day long.”

“You’re not too shabby yourself,” Jerry says. “What are you? Like one or two over?”

I shake my head. “More like six. I’ll be lucky to break eighty.”


On this, the final hole, with water and trees down the right, my partner Al’s tee shot soared into the lakeside forest like a migrating bird. So now, when I see Al roll from the electric cart to go find his errant bird, Bluefish right behind him, I give up my stroll in the fairway to help my partner search.

Al discovers his ball tucked against the base of a tree trunk, the ball glued to the bark by a serious clump of twelve-inch crabgrass. This is what you call your basic bad lie, probably unplayable, and thus Bluefish’s dream, the reason he came along to observe. With bookie-man watching, Al will not be tempted to use the old foot-wedge. He’ll have to take the penalty.

Me and Bluefish staring at him, Al calls the lie unplayable, picks up his ball, takes a drop, then selects a four-wood from his bag and lines up directly toward the green. He’s planning to hit his next shot straight through the trees. Maybe Al thinks he can steer it like a Cruise missile.

“Geez, Al. Can you even see the green?” I ask.

He shrugs. “I’m lying two with the penalty. If I don’t get this on, I’m out of the hole.”

Tiger Woods couldn’t put that ball on the green.

Me shaking my head, Al whacks his third shot into the trunk of another pine. Like an angry bumble bee, the ball whizzes dead right, ricocheting into a long pond of black murky water.

Nice shot, pard.

Bluefish saying, “Looks like the match is riding on you, Carr.”

Funny, I don’t feel any extra weight. Not with Beth still missing.

Al drops his four-wood onto the pine needles like it’s a cigarette butt. Something he’s finished with forever. He waddles closer to me. His lips are white.

“Don’t let him win,” he says. “Please. Don’t let Bluefish win.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hot Rods of SoCal

We visited The Famous Author's friends earlier this week, and I must say, TFA's old high school racing chums surprised me. Not only haven't THEY changed, their racing machines haven't either. Giant new engines in rickity, 40-year-old cars. We saw no redheads. No one talked much about crime fiction or stock tips. But man, oh, man, did we have fun.

We went for a fast ride in Tim's 2002 Corvette.

We went for a more powerful ride in Tim's 65 Chevy Chevelle. I forgot the engine's cubic inches and horsepower. More than 500, less than a thousand. It felt like we were riding a freight train.

Then we went over to Dickly's garage. He's building a '65 Olds 442 with a super charged, 600 cubic inch, aluminum engine built to duplicate the standard steel version. He has to spend thousands beefing up the rear-end and the suspension with special shocks, struts, and all kinds of doo-dads to keep the engine from ripping the car apart.

"So where are you going to race this puppy?" TFA asked Dickly. "They're aren't any drag strips left in Southern California."

"The WalMart parking lot. After midnight."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why Authors Need Bookmarks

The Famous Author guest blogs today on our trip to Texas:

HOUSTON, TEXAS — Beside me is a friend, a writing chum, but I’m still nervous, apprehensive. Murder by the Book on Bissonnet Street here is rated one of America’s top mystery book stores. EVERYbody comes here. Michael Connelly, Carolyn Hart, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, Anne Perry, and–today only–Jack Getze. Gulp.

Thanks to some fancy gab by PJ my PR Lady, I am talking today about my new novel at the center of American Mystery Fiction. Well…it’s a big, famous store, anyway. And The Big Stage is certainly what it feels like, shaking hands with storeowner David Thompson, and my co-author at today’s event, Baron Birtcher.

“Tell me you had Chinese for lunch,” Baron says. “Because if that’s not a noodle on your beard, I don’t want to know.”

My gaze finds an intimidatingly large stack of books David has pre-ordered for this event. A fine sheen of moisture dampens my collar. Hopefully, I’ll sell a few books for the store, get a few new readers for myself. My business plan calls for early round losses. I’m not worried about making money yet.

Good thing.

I wander toward the table where Baron and I will blab about our new releases. First time ever, there are more than 10 people gathered. Baron must be a hit.

“I loved your first book, Big Numbers,” a man in the front row says to me. Baron and I aren’t even seated. “I can’t wait to read this new one. Big Money. It’s a great series.”

I swoon. The store’s floor-to-ceiling racks of multicolored books swirl in a blurred jumble. The floor rolls like a Jersey Shore amusement ride. Baron has to grab my shoulder.

“It’s a fan, dude,” Baron says.

When it’s over, I’ve sold and signed more books than I’ve ever sold in a bookstore. Ever sold anywhere, really, except for the kickoff I threw, where purchase of the book was the price of admission to a cruise ship, with steak and lobster dinner, all-you-can-drink open bar, and a live concert by Madonna.

I did well at Murder by the Book, but I didn’t entirely deplete that stack of pre-ordered books.

“Sign what’s left and send me some bookmarks,” David says. “Why don’t you have bookmarks?”

“I thought they were like, for collectors. Not much good, really, there being so many other bookmarks around.”

He hands me the book I’ve just purchased, Megan Abbott’s Edgar winner, QUEENPIN. “Look inside,” he says.

Oops. Now I get it. Bookmarks with enticing blurbs about Megan Abbott’s other two books are stuffed between the pages. Duh! Bookmarks are a great form of one-on-one advertising–for the bookstore, AND the author.

“When a customer buys a book by another funny mystery author, I’ll stick one of your bookmarks inside,” David says.

My knees tremble. I almost pass out for the second time in an hour. “Expect a box next week.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 42

The little girl is not so little. She asks Max to call her Elizabeth, not Beth like her daddy and mommy call her. And the little girl has some things growing under her shirt. Not a woman yet, no. And Max is no pervert. But Elizabeth not a little girl either.

“Why are you mad at cats, Max?”

Max pushes the edge of his shovel into the soft ground, slicing a tuft of new grass, the big man wishing he didn’t have to dig a hole, but glad the rain made the bad job easier. “Not mad at cats. Don’t like them,” he says. “Is big difference.”

“How is it different?” Elizabeth says. “How, exactly?”

Max smiles. “Being mad at cats is emotional. No thinking involved. I know cats all my life and do not like for many good reasons. Is opposite of emotional. For Max, it is completely logical. Cats are mean and selfish. If they need, or just decide for any reason, they will kill and eat things. Even people.”

“Those little cats you drowned couldn’t eat anybody.”

“Little cats grow into big cats. They eat pretty birds, torture their prey after catching. And cats do not always eat what they kill. Cats are very mean.”

Elizabeth gazes at Max like she knows more than him. Superior airs, Max’s mother used to say. Some women look at Max this way all his life.

“My freshman psychology book would say you might have another, even bigger reason for not liking cats, Max. Something that happened when you were a kid?”

Max stops his digging. He leans on his shovel. “Is true what you say, Elizabeth. Did your father tell you I used to be in circus? Travel all over Europe with animals and crazy peoples?”

“He said you’d been in the circus.”

“When I was little boy, lions got out of their cage and killed my father. Ate most of him before we find.”

“Oh, my God, Max. That’s awful. I’m so sorry.”

“Lion tamer Frederic say it was accident that cages got open, but lion tamer Frederic marry my mother next month in Budapest. Then lion tamer pretend to be my Daddy. Only mean. He made me sleep outside with his smelly lions.”

“The same ones that ate your real father?”

“Same ones.”

“Oh, my God. That’s the worst story I ever heard.”

Max smiles. “I got even.”

Elizabeth stare at him a long time before she asks. “What did you do?”

“I tell you later. First, you tell me something.” Max starts digging again, but slower than before. Bluefish call him soon. Maybe this hole is not needed. “Tell me a story about your mother and father.”

“My mother and father? Why?”

“Max like stories about love. You ever see them doing it?”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sunset & Vine

While it's true that not a single person in Los Angeles remembers him, The Famous Author was actually raised there, went to grammar school, high school, and junior college there, wrote thirteen years for two major newspapers with a combined circulation (at the time) of more than 1.5 million people daily, and to this moment, still owns an Alhambra municipal record for the 30-yard dash.

How quickly they forget, huh? I remember when they were talking about statues.

Well, anyway, TFA and I are headed back to Los Angeles this week, and while the bands won't be outside playing, and his old chums won't be throwing a party, his ex-wives WILL BE dialing their attorneys, and TFA and I are going to have some big fun anyway. Come on out and see us!

Help us answer Time's ageless question: Does Lucy's still make the best red chili burrito?

On Saturday, May 24, 2 to 4 pm, TFA and I will be at Book'em Mysteries in South Pasadena, not two miles from the scene of the local power company's infamous 1963 soap suds disaster. TFA says he took no part of that closure of Fair Oaks Blvd. for a day. Someone poured a 10-pound box of Tide in the power company's giant water fountain. Can you believe it?

On Sunday, May 25, TFA and I will be in Whittier, signing books at the Little Old Bookshop on Greenleaf Ave. Figure 1-3 pm Sunday afternoon, but we could make a sidetrip to the Nixon Museum. We've always wanted to pet the former President's stuffed dog Checkers.

And one week from today, Wednesday, May 28, TFA and I will sign books and greet the stars at Sunset and Vine, the big Borders Store at that famous corner of Tinseltown. 1501 Vine Street. Starting at 2 pm, we could go all night if Brad Pitt and Oprah show up like they promised. Or maybe I'll be discovered by some big director, say Randall Wallace,

Phone numbers and more details are clickable, hiding beneath the "Come See Us Near You, Our Very Latest Travel Schedule" headline in the righthand column. I'm trying to put up the Wednesday Borders info now, as it was a last minute favor to Brad and Ops.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Redhead of the Week

From Vanity Fair: This ravishing flametop is 2005 Oscar nominee Amy Adams, and she's about to appear in an astonishing lineup of films: first, November's fantasy Enchanted, opposite Patrick Dempsey, and then Mike Nichols's Charlie Wilson's War, with Tom Hanks; Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, with Frances McDormand; and the film version of Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy, the daughter of American parents Kathryn and Richard Adams, who was a U.S. serviceman stationed in Italy. She grew up as one of seven children in Castle Rock, Colorado and was raised in the Mormon religion, although her family left the church after Adams' parents divorced when she was 11 years old. Throughout her years at Douglas County High School, she sang in the school choir and trained as an apprentice at a local dance company with ambitions of becoming a ballerina. However, after graduating from high school, she decided that she was "never going to be that good [at ballet], no matter how hard [she] work[ed]" and entered musical theater, which she found was "much better suited to [her] personality"

To support her community theater habit, Adams worked at Gap as a greeter and at Hooters as a hostess and a waitress. She began working professionally as a dancer at Boulder's Dinner Theatre and Country Dinner Playhouse, where she was spotted by a Minneapolis dinner-theater director. While she was off work nursing a pulled muscle, Adams auditioned for the satirical 1999 comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, which was being filmed in Minnesota, and was cast in her first film role. Persuaded by her Drop Dead Gorgeous co-star, Kirstie Alley, Adams moved to Los Angeles, California in 1998.

Thanks to Amy, Vanity Fair, Wikipedia, and my Big Tipster, Gene

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who Won the Contest?

The Famous Author guest blogs today with the winners of his latest book-giveaway contest:

‘THE KNIFE’ CONTEST WINNERS are Karen T, Diane L, munwell, Louis M, Neville from South Africa, Arlene F, Pearblossom Herself, Stephen 633, Madame La Farge, Joyce K, Margaret P, Ann B, and our Grand Prize Winner, Christina from Wisconsin. Each and all will receive a signed hardcover copy of BIG MONEY, and a “Big Money World Tour, Official Staff” T-shirt. Christina’s answer was so good, however, she also gets a $50 check for inspirational consulting. Who knew that knife was so literary?

Okay, here’s the question: 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?

All thirteen winners correctly identified the thing as a knife, representing manhood. It’s the “why” where divergence set in: Karen thought it signified boys can’t become men until they endure hurt. Diane said it was a “guy clean under your toenails with.” Munwell said it was about pride. Louis said blades aren’t to be messed with. Neville said it was about never having a father.

A lot of people mentioned sex. Arlene said the knife is “the most phallic symbol there is...” Pearblossom said the knife was like manhood “because it’s hard, you keep it in your pocket, and it springs out when needed.”

Oh, my.

Stephen mentioned Jack and Lorena Bobbit. But nobody got into the sex aspect more than Madame La Farge. Check this out, straight from her entry:

“Think about a large hunting knife. Imagine the size and shape...wielded by a strong, alpha male. The force of the thrusts, the strength of the body driving in and out...”


Joyce is a winner because she really wants to read my book. Margaret picked the right answer, but it helped she’s my cousin. Ann came close to winning, as she touched on the real theme when she said, “Men use knives as a choice...” And Pearblossom also mentioned “power and authority,” but was tossed from the final judging for picking two themes in one entry. No cheating, Sweetcakes.

Here’s the answer we got from Christina, our giant Grand Prize Winner and new inspirational coach:

“No random act of violence was ever committed with a knife. Because sinking a steel blade into flesh requires personal contact and intention to harm, there is nothing ambiguous about wielding a knife. A knife is a tool of choice and a weapon of intention. More than a phallic symbol a knife represents manhood.
Right or wrong, true men make their own decisions and commitments, then act upon the choices they make. At the time of the parking lot melee in BIG NUMBERS, (when Austin first found and returned the knife to Luis) Austin Carr was not living a life of choice. His life was living him and Austin was along for the ride.
As Austin’s ‘ride’ was about to end in violence, Luis gave him a knife. Luis did not save him, but did gave him back his manhood, by giving Austin Carr a weapon and a tool to use - to choose - to save his own life. Manhood is all about choice.”

And all this time I thought I was just writing genre stuff.

Thanks Christina, and thanks to everyone who entered the contest. If you didn’t have time or the inclination, you can still get a T-shirt by showing up at any of my book store appearances and mentioning the knife and manhood. In May and June, I’ll be in Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Eastern Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York City’s Mysterious Bookshop. For details and a complete listing, click on

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Drive 11 Hours, Sell 8 Books

At this rate, The Famous Author could be a bestseller in the year 2067, although I have to tell you, the mileage is tough. Even riding in a computer case on the back seat. I don't how the old geez does it, handling that Toyota through state after state.

It's a good thing his PR lady doesn't know any store owners in Nome.

We drove from Central New Jersey to the Providence, RI area yesterday, did two bookstore signings, and then drove home in the evening. In total, a 16-hour day. Two hours per book sold.

"It's worth it," TFA says today over Blue Mountain Hawaiian coffee. "Eight new readers is big."

When I scoff, TFA reminds me that he, the author, can always change characters, genres, even names. My life depends on the Austin Carr Mystery Series.

Gulp. Think I'll put a shot of tequila is this coffee.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Try This New Author

We don't know her name, where the heck we are, or at what point in history and time the characters occupy. But the young lady telling you her story--a protege learns her trade from a tough and powerful crime boss--is headed for big trouble, and oh my goodness are The Famous Author and I having fun watching her operate.

To explain how much we like QUEENPIN by Megan Abbott, we have to make an admission. Both TFA and myself. We don't read, or identify with, many female protagonists. Before you brand us sexist, know that we love and buy new in hardback, both Sue Grafton's Kinsey Malone, and Janet Evanovitch's Stephanie Plum. There are many exceptions, but in general, female protagonists are more difficult for us as readers. Not sure why. I offer no speculation.

Megan Abbott has come up with another exception. We picked up QUEENPIN in Houston for something to read last Sunday, our one day off touring. Nothing more than 250 miles of driving. After the first few pages, we were tempted to dump the driving and just finish her story. This protag is cruising for a bruising, and both TFA and I are dying to watch it unfold.

But the writing is so good, the character so well drawn, we've decided to savor it. Little pieces every day. Something to look forward to as we wander the countryside, hawking TFA's own meager printed ramblings.

There's a reason Megan Abbott's first two books won Edgars. DIE A LITTLE won Best First Novel in 2006. QUEENPIN was just named 2007's Best Paperback Original. The reason: Megan Abbott is a major talent, dudes. Not only are we captivated inside this story, This Woman writes.

Disclaimers? Nope. TFA and I have never met this woman. She's not even a chat-room buddy. We just love her stuff and had to share.

Here's a QUEENPIN blurb from Publisher's Weekly:

"Abbott delivers a sharp, slender, hardboiled tale of a protégé's schooling by a notorious, been-there-done-that moll. The first time the unnamed 22-year-old female narrator lays eyes on Gloria Denton, her first thought is I want the legs. The setting is the Club Tee Hee, an indeterminate Las Vegas–L.A. nowhere where the kid is doing the mobbed-up books, and Gloria comes in every few weeks to count Jerome's vig.

"The kid absorbs very entertaining lessons in how to dress, move, behave, and how to pick up, transport and distribute payoffs and winnings—until she falls for sweet-talking gambler Vic Riordan. Abbott is pitch-perfect throughout: Gloria Denton, still turning heads in her 40s, is as hard a moll as any, and the kid is a beautiful combination of foil and tool as she strives to emulate her role model. The collision, violent and inevitable, rips away the facade of glitz and glamour, and leaves their low-end edifice starkly exposed."

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

Friday, May 16, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 41

The spring grass tastes cold and wet. I know this for a fact because I’ve been wrestled to the ground. My stomach, nose and mouth now burrow deep into the shady green turf.

“Where do you think you’re going, Carr?” Franny says.

El Capitan seems to be the only living thing not latched on, pinning me to the lawn. Bet Luis and Stuart total three-fifty, three-hundred and seventy-five pounds, easy. Even Stuart’s bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, Doris, who smells like ear cheese, has a sharp-clawed paw on my neck. I guess everybody wants a piece of the credit for my arrest and detention.

I got a little lathered up, I guess. All I could think of was wrapping my hands around Bluefish’s throat. I started running.

“I asked where you were going, Carr?”

“Bluefimmsh’s.” Think it’s my face being squashed that makes the ever-mellow Carr tones ring slightly out of tune?

“Bluefish’s? Good. I’m glad,” Franny says. “But instead of storming over there, getting yourself killed, how about working with me? When you go see Bluefish, my guys could have you wired up to broadcast like Geraldo Rivera. You get him to say the right thing, give me the right evidence, maybe you don’t have to pick out Mama Bones for the Grand Jury.”

I stop struggling against Stuart, Luis, and Doris. Not that I was getting anywhere. The three of them were too much for me, although I do believe that damn dog’s paralyzing ear odor was the margin of victory. “Bluefish would be certain to check me for a wire, wouldn’t he?”

“Presumably,” Franny says. “But he won’t find the transmitter my people place in you.”

I stand up. Luis and Stuart let me dust off a few dozen chunks of chocolate brown mud. “In me?”

“Nano technology,” Franny says. “You won’t feel a thing.”

My stomach’s reaction seems somewhat negative over possible venous inserts and trans-dermal implantation. My gaze starts scanning for a place to barf.

“Are you sure Bluefish will get in touch with me?” I say.

“He already did,” Franny says. “While you were doing your macho jailbreak thing.”


Franny hands me a telegram with a lawyer’s signature. It says Mr. Joseph Pepperman may have information of import to one Austin Carr, who is believed to be in the custody of New Jersey State Police. A private golf round and meeting is proposed for tomorrow at the Branchtown Country Club.

“Bluefish wants me to play golf?” I say.

“Damnedest kidnapping I’ve ever seen,” Franny says.

(Austin's note: TFA and I began serializing BIG MONEY last July, pretty much on a weekly basis. You can go back in the archives to catch up, or click on the headline above--BIG MONEY, Chapter 41--to read just the opening scenes.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Stefanie Powers (born Stefania Zofia Federkiewicz) is an Emmy Award-nominated American actress and singer, who's best known for her role as Robert Wagner's wife and crime-fighting partner, Jennifer Hart, on the popular 1980s crime drama, Hart to Hart. For her contribution to the television industry, Powers has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6778 Hollywood Blvd.

Powers was born in Hollywood, California. Powers appeared in several motion pictures in the early 1960s in secondary roles such as the thriller Experiment in Terror (1962), the comedy If A Man Answers (1962) with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, and in a serious role as the daughter of John Wayne in McLintock! (1963). In 1966, her "tempestuous" good looks led to a starring role in the short-lived television spy thriller series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.. In 1969, she appeared nude for the only time in her career, in the movie Crescendo.

Couldn't find that picture. Drat.

Although she continued to appear in television guest roles and made-for-TV films, she is best known for her role opposite her old friend, Robert Wagner in the 1979-1984 hit television series, Hart to Hart.

Powers was married to actor Gary Lockwood between 1966 and 1972. She had a later relationship with actor William Holden that led to their being involved with wildlife conservation. Following his death in 1981, Powers became President of the "William Holden Wildlife Foundation" and a director of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch in Kenya. In the United States, she works with both the Cincinnati and Atlanta zoos. She devotes a great deal of time to the cause and is international guest speaker on wildlife preservation.

On April 1, 1993 she married a somewhat younger French aristocrat, Patrick Houitte de la Chesnais, but they divorced in 1999. Powers has no children.

Thanks to Stefanie and Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TFA's Happy Day

The Famous Author and I are in Texas, hawking my latest adventure in bookstores and with the Texas media. And yesterday, TFA had one of those glowing moments new authors experience too rarely. In the audience at Murder by the Book in Houston, TFA and I met...

A fan!

"I won a copy of BIG NUMBERS in your contest last year," the man said. "I really enjoyed it, and have been looking forward to the second. It's a great series."

I thought TFA was going to kiss him.

Friday, May 9, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 40

He is liking the drive very much. The big rented Buick surges up and down these green hills, no effort for the big V-eight engine, or the tight steering.

Max spots the hand-painted sign only as he’s whizzing by, much too late to stop. Though quickly making his decision to go back, he must still drive over a mile before finding a turnaround.

Back to those three children and their offensive sign.

Is nice day in the Pennsylvania country. Cool, but with a bright blue sky and pine-washed air Jerry said comes from Canada. The budding crooked oak trees and the rolling hills remind Max of semi-wooded land around Budapest. With the car windows down, the clean air blowing, even the wet-earth smell is same.

Max stops the car on a dirt pull-off. He squeezes from the driver’s seat, then stands a moment to cough at a dust cloud before approaching the kids and their sign. Kids’ eyes get bigger and bigger as Max walks toward them.

The boy with crewcut hair and big hands is surely the oldest. The two girls might be his sisters. All of the kids are blond with blue eyes, all staring at Max like he was Papa come to hit them with a stick. Kids all the same.

“You want a kitten, mister?” the boy says.

The boy stands up to face Max. His younger sisters stay in their beach chairs, beat-up aluminum frames with green and white plastic strips for cushions. Lawn chairs, Jerry calls them. Is early spring, still pretty cold for beach chairs.

“How many cats you have?” Max says.

“Six. All of them two weeks old.”

“Fluffy had babies,” the youngest girl says.

The crewcut boy looks very worried about Max’s size and strange accent, scared maybe he’ll have to protect his sisters if Max turns out to be a creepy sex pervert. Max is used to this reaction, especially from children. He stretches his mouth and cheeks into a maximum smile. Maybe showing his crooked front teeth.

“Is lucky day for Max,” he says. “I have exactly six nieces and nephews. They’re waiting now for presents from Uncle Max. I need a cat for each.”

“You want them all?” the boy says.

“Yes. You are smart boy. Is exactly what I want. Six kittens for six nieces and nephew.”

The boy glances at his sisters, then down at the black-and-white spotted smelly little cats. Squirming like cockroaches.

“Six kittens might be too much for one person, mister,” the boy says. “We want them to have happy homes.”

Max pulls from his pocket the Timberland wallet Jerry gave him last year for Christmas and slips out a one-hundred-dollar bill. Max knows he could just grab box of cats and walk away, but he sees no reason to upset these children. Not job, like other thing.

Max sticks out hundred-dollar bill for the boy to take. “Is cold day, and children like you must have happier things for doing than to stand here. Let me make my niece and nephews happy. They like kittens, will take home to four different houses.”

The crewcut boy is finally interested in something other than Max’s size and shape. His gaze focuses on the money. One hundred is many dollars for a child so young.

“You’re sure they’ll have a good home?” the boy says.

“Nieces and nephews love little cats,” Max says. “They take very good care.”

Max opens the Lincoln’s trunk, blocking the children’s line of sight, and then dumps smelly cats into an empty burlap bag. Lucky thing he brought extras, although for first time in hour, little girl in first burlap bag completely quiet and still.

Max pokes her leg, checking to see if she’s alive. A low whimper gives Max his answer.

Eighteen miles away from where he bought the smelly cats, Max sees the river and the bridge he’s approaching will be a good place.

Max steers the Lincoln off the highway when he can, works the big car down dirt roads to the base of the steel and cement bridge. The big river is fast and smooth on this side, right away deep. Plus there are lots of heavy round stones to put in burlap bag.

He parks, oozes himself out into the chilly river air. Sky is orange and gold with evening. The water smells dirty, like mud and old car tires. Birds squawking somewhere. Crows maybe. Or jays.

Max opens the trunk.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Redheaded Writer Arouses Raves

In Pittsburgh 10 days ago, The Famous Author dispensed (a few) books and signatures at a table next to Susan Goodwill, author of the Kate London Mystery Series. Her latest is LITTLE SHOP OF MURDERS, and they were going like biscuits and butter at The Festival of Mystery. I was on the floor, in TFA's computer case right behind them, and I heard fan after fan say to Susan, "We loved the first one (BRIGADOOM) and can't wait to read this new one."

Susan seemed to take things in stride. TFA would have been squealing like a stuck pig. You should have seen him when some lady bought two of his books. He hugged her until the police came.

But anyway, I thought Susan's new book (shown here in all its yellow-covered glory) deserved some more attention, especially since Susan's a redhead.

Here's publisher Midnight Ink's blurb:

When Walter, a bathrobe-clad octogenarian, robs the bank using a concealed banana as the hold-up weapon, Kate and Aunt Kitty speed after him in Kitty’s mammoth 1974 Eldorado convertible. But instead of retrieving their cold hard box office cash, they find a still-warm dead body, much to the consternation of a sexy law enforcement official who happens to be Kate’s current person of interest in the boyfriend department. Things go from bad to worse when Kate’s ex-flame from the Treasury Department and a quart-low biker gang—the Devil’s Cheerleaders—get involved in the mayhem.

Laughs, romance, and suspense. Susan's got it all. And her books aren't bad either.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Amanda Blake (February 20, 1929 – August 16, 1989) was an American actress best known for the role of the red-haired "Miss Kitty" on the longest-running television drama of all time, CBS's Gunsmoke series (1955-1975).

Born Beverly Louise Neill in Buffalo, New York, she was a telephone operator before taking up acting. Nicknamed "The Young Greer Garson," she became best known for her 19-year stint as the fictitious "Kitty Russell" on Gunsmoke. Miss Kitty was owner-operator of the Long Branch Saloon, from which she dispensed wisdom, whiskey, and — though not overtly — boarding room keys and "fancy" women. Like Perry Mason and his secretary Della Street, Kitty and Dodge City's U.S. Marshal, Matt Dillon, seemingly carried on a cloaked relationship.

I thought Matt loved only his horse?

In 1968, Blake was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. This was six years before the legendary John Wayne was inducted in 1974 and more than a decade before Gunsmoke co-stars James Arness, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver, and Milburn Stone in 1981. Blake was the third performer welcomed into the Hall, after Tom Mix and Gary Cooper.

Hey, Miss Kitty. Can I have a double shot of your love?

Thanks to Wikipedia and the late Beverly Neill.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Future Star

The Famous Author always said there was something magical about his Fiesta de Fiction last January. All those up and coming writers in St. Petersburgh, gathered around the barbecue to hear TFA tell tales of his newspaper days. The wild women of his youth.

Actually, nobody listened, but that didn't stop TFA. You know him. But there just might be something to his claims of a special presence down there last winter. We've already mentioned Melissa, Brenda, Kim, Jason, and just last week, Lorin, as being Future Stars. Writers whose talents will soon be heralded among all those literary. But guess who TFA forgot? The dingbat. Guess who was there? Guess which writer in attendance, not two months later, had their play picked from hundreds of Florida writers for PRODUCTION.

An EIGHT-SHOW production at Tampa's Gorilla Theatre. With actors, a director, cash, and a cast of thousands?

Guess who is now a member of the Dramatists Guild?

It's Elizabeth, the teenaged daughter of a previously mentioned Future Star. She's wearing glasses in this shot, and I think she looks more the playwrite than any of these young writers.

The Gorilla Theatre offers full-scale, professional productions of teens' works. Now in its eighth year, the playwriting competition is open to all middle and high school-aged students in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Polk counties of Florida. The world premiere of the five winning scripts by five up-and-coming student playwrights will occur May 29 - June 8, as the official close of the Gorilla Theatre's 2007-2008 season.

Congratulations, Elizabeth! There's nothing futuristic about your stardom.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Truth About Cinco de Mayo

Don your sombreros, mi amigos y mi amigas. The Famous Author is making tacos and enchiladas tonight, but being the front-runner he is, you'd better get there by eight if you want to eat.

The fifth of May is not Mexican Independence Day, by the way. Nor does May 5 celebrate the anniversary of tequila's creation, a noble holiday in its own right. So then, what IS Cinco de Mayo, exactly?

The Famous Author sponsored a contest last year asking just that question, and the grand prize-winning entry by Fred Pellerito explained it all:

"Cinco de Mayo is a date of great importance for the Mexican and Chicano communities. It marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla.

"Although the Mexican army was eventually defeated, the "Batalla de Puebla" came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. With this victory, Mexico demonstrated to the world that Mexico and all of Latin America were willing to defend themselves of any foreign intervention. Especially those from imperialist states bent on world conquest.

"Cinco de Mayo's history has its roots in the French Occupation of Mexico. The French occupation took shape in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered a period of national crisis during the 1850's. Years of not only fighting the Americans but also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt.

"On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.

"The English, Spanish and French refused to allow president Juarez to do this, and instead decided to invade Mexico and get payments by whatever means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the French refused to leave. Their intention was to create an Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III. Some have argued that the true French occupation was a response to growing American power and to the Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans). Napoleon III believed that if the United States was allowed to prosper indescriminantly, it would eventually become a power in and of itself.

"In 1862, the French army began its advance. Under General Ignacio Zaragoza, 5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army in what came to be known as the "Batalla de Puebla" on the fifth of May.

"In the United States, the "Batalla de Puebla" came to be known as simply "5 de Mayo" and unfortunately, many people wrongly equate it with Mexican Independence which was on September 16, 1810, nearly a fifty year difference.

"Over the years Cinco de Mayo has become very commercialized and many people see this holiday as a time for fun and dance. Oddly enough, Cinco de Mayo has become more of a Chicano holiday than a Mexican one. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on a much larger scale here in the United States than it is in Mexico. People of Mexican descent in the United States celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folk lorico dancing and other types of festive activities."

Fred knows his stuff, huh?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dreams of Summer

I roll closer, and the heat of her burns my bare skin. We sizzle on the beach like hot dogs under a broiler. Voices swirl closeby, but muted, filtered through steady wind and the crash and swish of a mild Atlantic surf.

Oops. Must have fallen asleep on the couch. It's only 50 outside, foggy and drizzling. I am SOOOO ready for summer.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bannered in Boise

After our trip to Denver earlier this year for Left Coast Crime, The Famous Author wrote about karma. He'd sold some Denver airport bonds in his youth, helped build the airport in a sense, and he ended up almost winning the trivia contest. Well, this month--old merry, merry May--the karma from our Redheads of the Week column came rolling back from Idaho. BIG MONEY, my second adventure, is one of two mystery picks at The Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise.

You can call them at 208-376-4229 if you don't believe me. Or click on the headline above, Bannered in Boise, and you can see for yourself. It's right there in Rediscovered's new online newsletter.

Who do we have to thank for this pinpoint of light in a dark night sky? A redhead, of course. Iris Cline. She met TFA and read BIG NUMBERS almost a year ago, made our first novel one of her five staff picks last summer. Now, the new one gets ranked among the top two mystery recommendations for May. Yahoo. Sounds like Iris liked BIG MONEY even more than the first. Here's what she said in the newsletter:

"Austin Carr returns in this mystery sequel and has made a big step up! No longer living in his truck, he has been to tapped to run the securities exchange office he works at. Now, his dinner companion has been murdered, his daughter kidnapped, and he is accused of co-mingling funds. Will Austin's full-boat smile be able to get him out of this? A character driven story with some inside looks at the brokerage market and a well intentioned guy who sometimes can't get out of his own way."

We love you, Iris. Big Time.

Friday, May 2, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 39

Her round backside aimed at me, the top half of her covered by gray tweed, Franny Dahler Chapman--Ms. Strawberry--listens and whispers to someone on the kitchen wall phone. My body feels weightless. Floating over a deep, dark, bottomless hole.

Luis saying, “Capitan Chapman is hearing now from her detectives.”

Luis rests his hand on my shoulder. Now and then he squeezes muscle beneath my dress shirt. The sturdy weight of his grip lets me breathe slower and more deeply, like a swimmer attached to a harbor buoy. But I am so damn angry. I want to scream out the window.

“My men are inside the house,” Franny says.

I push away from the table and stand. Again, that dizziness whacks me. I bend forward at the waist, but extra blood to the head doesn’t help. My sickness comes from the heart. What the hell would I do if something happened to Beth or Ryan? I can’t even think about it.

Outside, birds squawk. Telling me something, I’m sure. The crows and jays know something I don’t.

Franny glances at me. “Someone’s been inside.”

“Are Beth and Ryan safe?” I say.

Franny points her palm at my chest like a traffic cop, telling me to back off. Screw you, honey. I’m not waiting my turn in a line by the curb while Beth and Ryan get run over by a bus.

“Yes. But I’m staying on,” she says to the phone.

“What?” I say.

“They’re going downstairs,” she says to me. “They hear...noises.”

“What kind of noises?”

She holds up her palm again. My jaws grind. I might yet decide to flatten that statuesque nose of hers. I take steps in her direction. Never hit a woman before. Never thought it was even possible. But Ms. Strawberry here deliberately put my kids at risk.

“Yes?” she says to the phone.

I stop close enough to smell lilac, then lean in, try to hear the mumbled voice on the other end of the phone. Franny’s purple-flower perfume brings back the taste and feel of her nude body. Unfortunately, it’s an image that doesn’t last long.

Having children is a real damper on sex.

Franny covers the mouthpiece to speak to me. “Ryan and your wife’s friend are safe. They were tied up in the basement, but they aren’t injured.”

My heart skips. “What about Beth?”

Franny touches my arm. The concern in her eyes cuts me into digital sections. A hundred slices vertical, a hundred slices horizontal. I begin to disassemble like cable TV on a stormy, electrical night.

“The man who tied them up also took your daughter,” Franny says.

My gut makes a fist. The sound my throat issues is part howl, part growl.

“Did they identify the perp?” Franny says to the telephone.

Her gaze finds me as she listens. My face bulges with blood. I’m ready to pop.

Her slender fingers slowly cover the microphone. She says, “Sounds like our friend Max.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Spunky, no-nonsense, in-your face--whatever you want to call that certain "attitude," redheads like Cynthia Nixon carry it around like a purse. They take no crap. Give them some lip, and POW, they smack you in the head with it.

Emmy winner Cynthia Nixon began acting at age 12, and is best known for playing Miranda Hobbes in HBO's Sex and the City. Cynthia made her feature film debut co-staring with Kristy McNichol and Tatum O'Neal in Little Darlings (1980). She made her Broadway debut as Dinah Lord in a 1980 revival of The Philadelphia Story. In 1985 she appeared alongside Jeff Daniels in Lanford Wilson's Lemon Sky at Second Stage Theatre.

After Emmy nominations as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2002 and 2003, Cynthia grabbed the trophy in 2004 for the series' final season.

Filming has reportedly been completed on a Sex and the City feature film with HBO executive producer Michael Patrick King and the cast, including Cynthia.

She has two children with Danny Mozes, an English professor, with whom she had a relationship from 1988 to 2003.

Thanks Cynthia and Wikipedia