John Hegenberger’s Cross Examinations: Crime in Columbus is currently available only as an ebook. It’s a collection of four short stories, all of which have “ache” in the title. They feature a private eye named Eliot Cross in 1980s Columbus, Ohio, and the stories are traditional first-person PI stories. I liked “Neckache” especially, because of the setting, a late-’80s comic-book convention, but all the stories are fast-moving fun.
Ken Follett’s career, from the early pseudonymous novels to his 20th-century trilogy culminating in Edge of Eternity (2014), is discussed by the author of the earlier Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer (1999). Access to his subject’s papers, plus a decade and a half of new work, provides a wealth of new material.
An opening chapter on Whiteout (2003), a model of expert thriller construction and execution, outlines Follett’s painstaking writing methods, including research, outlining, revising, and consultations with agent and editors. Subsequent chapters recount his journalistic career, his short-lived efforts at writing series characters, and film and television work as it influenced his later writing. The discussion of his breakthrough bestseller Eye of the Needle (1978; British title Storm Island) and the books that followed recounts his stormy relationship with Arbor House editor-publisher Donald Fine, whom Follett would later sue to prevent being promoted as principal author of a nonfiction book on which he had only done a final polish. In another lawsuit, Follett defended against a groundless plagiarism claim directed at The Key to Rebecca (1980).
The nonfictional On Wings of Eagles (1983), about the rescue of two Electronic Data Systems employees from captivity in Iran, was commissioned by H. Ross Perot, with whom Follett clashed (apparently in a mostly friendly way) over the inclusion of facts and inferences that might have put the billionaire and later presidential candidate in a bad light. Follett fought to stick to his journalistic principles. A chapter on political themes, including Follett’s denunciation from the left of Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, includes some very interesting discussion of historical fiction.
Illustrated with manuscript pages and correspondence, along with photographs and book covers, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read on the career and methods of a popular novelist. If that patronizing cliché about transcending genres discourages you, ignore the subtitle and read the book.
In Lisa Jackson’s Never Die Alone, Zoe Denning awakens under the most horrific of circumstances. Roused by dripping water, she finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings, naked and bound. Slowly, she comes to realize her twin, Chloe, is also in the dank and dismal chamber, as well as a strange man, clad only in a leather apron. The man, we later discover, has been dubbed the 21 Killer, due to his penchant for kidnapping twins on the eve of their 21st birthdays, then dispatching them at the exact time of their births.
The only ones to realize that something is wrong are the twins’ mother, Selma, and Selma’s counselor, Brianna Hayward, who runs a “twinless twins” help group. Together, they desperately seek to convince New Orleans detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya and newspaperman Jase Bridges that the girls are in imminent peril.
Immediate and visceral, Jackson’s latest is a superlative beach book, guaranteed to keep you glued to your folding chair until the sunlight fades. Especially gripping are Zoe and Chloe’s struggle to survive their ordeal, which takes the narrative in surprising directions. Although the revelations, which come toward the end of the tale, reek of deus ex machina, the book is compelling. Jackson definitely knows how to keep readers riveted.
Laying Down the Paw, Diane Kelly’s third installment in her Paw Enforcement series, brings back Fort Worth, Texas police officers Megan and Brigit. The very human Megan partners with Brigit, a lovable—and willful—German shepherd K-9 officer. The Paw Enforcement books are generally clever and lighthearted, and Laying Down the Paw follows that pattern to a certain extent. Surprisingly, though, this superb book deviates from the formula, blazing new territory into more serious concerns. The book explores issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug addiction, child abuse, poverty, crime, and stereotyping. In the aftermath of a tornado, Megan and Brigit encounter a trio of young looters, one of whom pulls a weapon. One of the young men, though, defuses the situation so that violence does not ensue. He even gives Brigit some of his stolen beef jerky. When this young man is suspected of murder and burglary, Megan doesn’t believe that he is the culprit. In the end, he behaves in heroic fashion and earns a happy ending. Complex and touching, Laying Down the Paw has a heart the size of Texas.
By OLINE H. COGDILL
Robin Burcell’s more than 30 years in law enforcement have given her 10 novels an authenticity that has won her fans and awards.
Burcell is now embarking on a new chapter in her career—of continuing established series.
She will be co-writing Clive Cussler’s Fargo series about husband and wife treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo. Currently, the action/adventure series has seven novels and Burcell is working on the eighth, still untitled installment that is expected to be out in September 2016.
But that’s not all.
Burcell also will be continuing the late Carolyn Weston’s series about homicide detectives Al Krug and Casey Kellog, who worked for the Santa Monica, California, police.
Weston’s novel Poor, Poor Ophelia was adapted into the 1972 pilot film for ABC’s The Streets of San Francisco, which starred Michael Douglas and Karl Malden.
While Weston’s work is no longer in print, Brash Books, an independent publisher, has come to the rescue.
Brash Books has acquired the rights to the Krug/Kellog novels from her heirs and has reissued Weston’s three novels in this series during the past year.
Brash also has signed Burcell to write new novels in the Krug and Kellog series. The first one, The Last Good Place, is due out in November and will find the detectives truly on those streets of San Francisco.
The experience of working on the Cussler and the Weston series was “two different processes,” she said.
“Working on the Weston novels, I knew I’d have to meld her original characters with modern-day policing, while trying to keep them true to how she envisioned them,” she told Mystery Scene in an email.
“I thought it would be easy to bring the stories to present day. All I needed to do was read her three books and voila! I’d have the gist. But not so. I found it to be much harder, because so much has changed in policing since then, and I can’t exactly ask anyone if I have any questions,” she said.
“Working with Clive Cussler is a much different experience,” she added.
“There are seven Fargo books that came before, so there’s a lot more history to draw from while writing the main characters of Sam and Remi Fargo. The trick—if you can call it that—is keeping my writing in line with the Cussler brand.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill. Not only in the previous Fargo writers who came before me, but in working with Clive himself and making sure that I embrace his particular style of action and adventure. The beauty about working with him is that there’s instant feedback if I don’t get it right or have any questions. He’s just an email or phone call away.”
Burcell’s law enforcement career includes work as a police officer, hostage negotiator, and a detective, investigating sexual assault, child abuse, crimes against persons, crimes against property (burglaries, thefts, embezzlements), and welfare fraud.
She has testified as an expert in the fields of forensic art, fingerprints, and child abuse. An FBI Academy-trained forensic artist, her drawings have been used to solve a number of crimes, including homicides, bank robberies, and hate crimes, and she was called upon by the various Valley law enforcement entities, including the FBI, for this skill.
Burcell says she also plans to continue her own series. Incidentally, Burcell is one of those extremely nice authors who always seems to have time to talk with her readers during mystery conferences.