Flat-Footed, Part 11
May 31, 2009
FLAT-FOOTED, PART 11
Sid Davenport’s secretary reminded Biz of Shaquille O’Neal. Big, broad, black. Unfortunately, Davenport’s secretary’s name was Mary Nelson and she looked cramped behind her desk. But she was a damned good dragon at the gate.
“Do you have an appointment with Mr. Davenport?”
“Does he know who you are?”
“Have you done business with him before?”
“Is this about business?”
“Mr. Davenport has an opening in his schedule late next week. Why don’t we pencil you in for that time. Does Friday at 4:45 work for you?”
“Then he’s not available until--”
“I’m a private investigator. I’m looking into the murder of Del Fontaigne,” Biz managed to squeeze in.
“You said private investigator? You’re not with the police?”
“Yes and no. But I think he’ll want to talk to me.”
“Mr. Davenport is very busy--”
Biz slid a business card onto the cluttered desktop of Ms. Nelson. On the back of the card he had written: ShalaVU IPO. “I think he’ll give me a few minutes.”
She studied the card, then lurched out from behind the desk and disappeared through a doorway. A moment later she returned. “Have a seat, Mr. Leightner. Mr. Davenport will see in you a couple minutes.”
It turned out to be about fifteen, but finally Biz was allowed to enter Davenport’s inner sanctum, a surprisingly utilitarian office with a smallish maple desk, brown leather chair and inexpensive-looking end tables. Davenport himself was a blue jeans and rolled up chambray shirt kind of guy with a fleshy face and a bad combover.
He eyed Biz and said, “You’re a private eye?”
“You know, you don’t hear that phrase too much in the real world.”
“Kind of short for it, aren’t you?”
“There are no height restrictions.”
Davenport grunted. “Has it caused you problems getting work?”
Biz shrugged. The answer was: maybe. But everyone had their limitations. “You don’t look like an investor,” he said instead. “You look like a truck driver. Has it caused problems for you?”
Davenport’s grunt turned into a laugh-like bark. “Sometimes, but I dress to work, and my old man felt that always meant out on a construction project somewhere. I started out as a carpenter, then a contractor, then went into commercial real estate, then started investing and moved into money. Now, what’s this about the ShalaVU IPO? I’ve heard rumors she was going public, but nothing’s been confirmed.”
That was straight up, no chaser, thought Biz. “You and Del Fontaigne were thinking of ways to manipulate it.”
Davenport leaned forward, thick hairy arms on the desktop. “We were? How do you know what we were thinking?”
“I’ve read the e-mails.”
Davenport blinked. “What e-mails?”
“Between you and Del Fontaigne.”
Davenport seemed genuinely confused. “Can you show me?”
Biz cocked his head, slid out his laptop and booted it up. After a minute he brought up all the copied e-mails and showed them to Davenport. Davenport read through them, his expression growing darker and angrier every minute. Finally he said, “I want copies.”
“Because I didn’t write those. In fact, I think Del Fontaigne is a dipship. I don’t trust him. We did some business a year or two ago and he jerked me around and I promised to never work with him again. So that means either a hacker did or somebody in my company did. And I’m going to find out who did. And I’m going to notify my attorney that there’s a truckload of crap headed our way.”
And the odd thing, Biz thought, was that he believed him. But... he’d been lied to and believed it before. Still...
To be continued...
Stephen Parrish's Words of Wisdom
May 27, 2009
Fellow scrivener, Stephen Parrish
, is all over the place today, but I thought I'd refer you to his blog, where he gives us thoughts on, er, training people to throw hand grenades, then you can follow his links to a chapter of his upcoming novel.
Otherwise, I'm just thinking about one of his comments on the Bookroast blog. I believe he was responding to Erica Orloff's comments, to whit: You need to prioritize your paranoia.
I mean, really, shouldn't you?
FLAT-FOOTED, Part 10
May 26, 2009
FLAT-FOOTED, Part 10
Holmby Hills was described as semi-gated, which meant if you weren’t paying attention you might get stopped getting in. Biz paid attention and had no problems getting into the wealthy enclave. Getting closer to the Fontaigne estate was more difficult, although he was able to park about a hundred yards away from the Mediterranean-style home. As much as Biz hated to admit it, it was gorgeous, all tan adobe, Mediterranean arches, palm trees...
And wrought-iron gates. Nobody walked in off the street and killed Del Fontaigne. Del either let the killer in or the killer knew the gate keypad combination.
Biz snapped pictures of the house using his digital camera and was getting ready to get out of the Mustang and take more when the passenger door opened and the leggy Detective Summer Rain slid into the seat.
“Well, Detective Rain. Are you stalking me?”
“Why are you here, Mr. Leightner?”
“Aw, call me Biz. All my friends do. And you want to be my friend, don’t you?”
She sighed. “Just answer... no, never mind. I’m not an idiot. You’re here either because you’re actually investigating Del Fontaigne’s murder out of some misplaced sense of devotion--”
“I don’t think it’s misplaced.”
“--or because you’re returning to the scene of the crime because you’re the killer and you get some sort of sexual thrill out of it.”
“Summer ... it’s okay if I call you Summer? Let me assure you that the only sexual thrill I’m currently having is because I’m in your presence.”
Her face flushed just a tiny bit before she slapped on her you’re-pissing-me-off mask. “Why are you here?”
“Just trying to get a sense of the place. Was the gate open when Shala Fontaigne came home?”
Summer nodded. “So she says. And the house has a good security system.”
“With digital video cameras that record?”
Biz studied the house. “Are you aware Del Leightner was having an affair?”
Summer jumped slightly. He’d surprised her. “So we’ve heard. Delia Fox.”
“So her husband is a significant suspect.”
Summer shook her head. “With a nice alibi, being on business in France right now. With his wife.”
“Do you know much about IPOs, Summer?”
Summer seemed a little slower to respond to this question, thinking it through before she answered. Finally, “Where are you going with that?”
“I have some reason to think that ShalaVU was going public. I also have reason to think that Del and a guy named Sid Davenport had at least discussed the possibility of manipulating the stock opening.”
Summer blinked. Suddenly she turned sideways and glared at him. “How do you know that?”
“I’m a very good investigator.”
“I want your source. Now.”
He shook his head. “No, but I can give you all of Del Fontaigne’s e-mails over the last couple months. Did Del have a computer? You can go find them yourself.”
“He had a laptop and according to Shala Fontaigne, it’s missing.”
“Do you believe her?”
Summer shrugged. “Fine. Give me the e-mails.”
Biz had uploaded the flash drive’s contents to his own laptop, so he handed over the drive. “You’ll want to check out the e-mails from Sid Davenport. Get a forensic accountant to read them over, too. Oh, and if you want, we can read the e-mails to and from Delia Fox together. They’re hot.”
Biz grinned. “See you at seven for drinks. Bet I’ll have this case wrapped up before you do.”
Her eyes flashed. “Want to bet?”
Biz’s eyes widened. “Hmmm, what would the stakes be?”
Summer shook her head and climbed out of the Mustang, flashing her legs. “You’re impossible.”
“I’m challenging, Summer. Not impossible. Challenging.”
To be continued...
Flat-Footed, Part 9
May 25, 2009
FLAT-FOOTED, PART 9
Biz found a Starbucks, bought another fill-up of hot caffeine and settled into a comfortable armchair with his laptop and the flash drive of Del Fontaigne’s e-mails. It was hideously boring reading, but he quickly got a sense of the most important players in his dead client’s life.
DanX was a businessman, a developer. He and Del were involved in some land deals throughout the L.A. area. The e-mails mostly discussed ways to get better deals with a lot of talk about which inspector or politician they needed to bribe or blackmail. After slogging through seventy or eighty of those e-mails, Biz decided DanX was a definite possible simply because the two of them were so clearly dirty that he couldn’t be trusted. He also figured it would be straightforward to identify who DanX was simply on the basis of the business. His best bet was Daniel Tocco with the Bellagna Corporation.
Sid Davenport was another business associate, one of three partners in DHC, Inc. Biz wasn’t entirely sure what DHC, Inc.’s business actually consisted of. They appeared to be speculators of some sort, investors, perhaps. The word that kept popping into Biz’s head while reading the e-mail was “bagmen” but he wasn’t sure. He was pretty sure that the SEC would find the e-mails interesting, because if he was following the exchanges correctly, ShalaVU was going public to raise money to go international. They already had factories in Mexico and Shanghai, but their distribution was primarily in the U.S. In order to raise money to expand into Asia and Europe, Shala Fontaigne had plans for an IPO. But Del and Sid Davenport were making plans to manipulate the stock and make a killing. All Biz could make of it were hints, but if what he thought was going on was, in fact, going on, the SEC could have both men up on charges of fraud, money-laundering and many other things.
Biz took a sip of his Mochawatziz and blew out a puff of frustrated air. It would take forensic accountants years to figure out what was going on there. He’d have to turn it over to Detective Rain, but how to do that without admitting he got the e-mails illegally?
Back to the e-mails, he picked up one from email@example.com. She was apparently a lover and the nature of the e -mails was incendiary to say the least. She signed all her e-mails F, which left him with no clue who she might be.
He phoned his office and asked his Mom to run some further background checks, then jumped into his Mustang and headed to Holmby Hills, the scene of the crime.
To be continued...
Free e-Book on The Career Novelist
May 21, 2009
Literary agent Donald Maass has made the e-book version of his book "The Career Novelist"
available free as a PDF download on his website. Check it out.
Thought for the Weekend
May 22, 2009
I got this off Michael Lara's blog, but since he put it down as Anonymous, I felt okay with just cut+pasting it here. A great lesson here, I think. Hope you all have a great weekend. I'll get some work done on FLAT-FOOTED, I promise.
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long," answered the Mexican.
"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."
"And after that?" asked the Mexican.
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City. From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican.
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."
Flat-Footed, Part 8
May 19, 2009
FLAT-FOOTED, PART 8
Biz had been hanging around with lawyers--including his Mom--for long enough to understand that TV’s notion of the steely-eyed shark was not always the case. If he had been asked to predict what Walter Chang would be like based on his reputation--a top defense attorney who handled generally wealthy clients--he would have suggested a brilliant tactical mind, but more importantly, he would have said, “I bet he’s likable.”
Because in his experience, the jury tended to listen intently to the facts of a case, then vote for the lawyer they liked the most, defense or prosecution.
As a result, when he met Walter Chang he wasn’t entirely surprised to be met by a relaxed-looking Asian guy with an open expression and big, friendly smile. “So, Benjamin Leightner. I’ve heard a lot about you over the years. Come in, have a seat. Can I get you coffee?”
Accepting the coffee and the seat, Biz said, “As you know, I was hired by Del Fontaigne to determine if his wife was having an affair with her assistant.”
Chang’s eyes twinkled. Biz wondered if it came natural or he practiced it in a mirror. “And apparently proved it.”
“Were you surprised?”
“No. But then again, I’ve yet to have a conversation with Mrs. Fontaigne. Charles let me know that I would be handling her defense, should it come to that. Which I do not believe it has. I’ve already contacted the L.A.P.D. and discussed having a meeting with their detectives and my client. Full disclosure and everything.”
On his turf and on his conditions, Biz thought. He sipped his coffee and pointed to the bone china mug it came in. “Wow, that’s excellent. Kona?”
“Very good, Mr. Leightner. The question is, what can I do for you?”
“You’re the council of course, but I wonder if you have considered the ‘alternate story’ yet?”
Chang grinned and pointed a finger at Biz, laughing. “Your mother’s influence, correct? I don’t call it the ‘alternate story,’ Mr. Leightner. I call it the ‘Other Guy Scenario.’”
“The other guy did it.”
“So have you developed an ‘other guy’ for the murder yet?”
“I’m considering options. There is, of course, the ‘random crime’ alternative.”
Biz shook his head. “Nowhere for me to go with that.”
Chang tugged at the lapel of his slightly rumpled brown suit. “My understanding--and this is pending further investigation on my part, of course--is that Del Fontaigne’s business interests were not always successful and as a result he ran up a lot of debt. There are ... rumors ... that his wife had decided to let his businesses succeed or fail without any financial assistance from her.”
“That’s a definite place to start.”
“I thought you might think so. Also, there are also, hmmm .... I’m not sure rumors so much as innuendo, suggestions ... okay, rumors ... gossip ... that Del Fontaigne may have had affairs of his own. That sort of thing can get out of hand, of course. Jealous husbands, that sort of thing.”
“Also a good place to start. Anything else?”
“No, not yet. Things may develop.”
Biz took another sip of the coffee. It really did taste great. “How about, perhaps, Shala Fontaign’s lover hiring someone to have Del murdered so he could become the next Mr. ShalaVu.”
Chang grinned. “I like the way you think, Mr. Leightner. That’s an interesting idea.”
“The ‘Throw Him To The Wolves’ Scenario?”
Chang smiled. “Exactly.”
To be continued...
Flat-Footed, Part 7
May 18, 2009
Flat-Footed, Part 7
James Q. Buschell was as wide as he was tall, and he was really tall, at least six-foot-two. Biz refrained from referring to him as the Big BOOB, but he thought it. Buschell’s office wasn’t measured in square-feet, but in acres and Biz was pretty sure the Big BOOB’s desk cost more than, well, everything possession he owned combined. It was a deep black and seemed carved of some rare and undoubtedly endangered African wood. His suit was tailored in a failed attempt to make him look thinner than your average rhinoceros. He tapped his fingers together and peered down at Biz.
“Did you know that your mother and I dated for a while in college?”
“No. I don’t know much about my mother’s love life, before or after her tryst with my father.” Or want to know, when you come right down to it.
“The Israeli professor.”
Biz chose not to respond to that. He said, “I’m here to discuss Del Fontaigne. I understand he, as well as his wife, was your client. I’ve read background on him, understand that prior to meeting Shala Fontaigne he was modestly successful real estate developer. What kind of business deals has he been involved in recently?”
Buschell tapped his fingertips together. Biz wondered if there was some music wafting through his head that he was tapping his fingers along with. Perhaps “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony,” “Money” by Pink Floyd or maybe “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” Or maybe nothing at all.
“I’m an attorney.”
Biz voted on “nothing at all.”
“I sort of figured,” Biz said. “You’re the head of a large law firm. I was under the impression those two things go together.”
“What I mean,” Buschell said with only a small amount of patience in his voice, “is that my communications and dealings with my client are confidential.”
“Even though he is dead.”
“Even if the L.A. cops come here with a subpoena and demand it?”
“They won’t. No judge will sign that. Trust me on this.”
That and very little else, Biz thought.
“Who do you think murdered Del Fontaigne?”
“I’m sure I have no idea.”
“You’re sure you have no idea.”
“That’s what I said.”
“I don’t see why I should.” More finger tapping.
“Because you once dated my mother years ago and because you know her well enough some forty-or-so years later to grant me an audience.”
Buschell grimaced. He gave up the finger tapping and waved a pudgy hand, indicating, Biz was fairly sure, that Biz might speculate away.
“Let’s assume for the moment that Shala Fontaigne had nothing to do with her husband’s murder.”
“A working hypothesis.”
“It gives me a place to plant my flag, Mr. Buschell. Now, familiar as you are with Del Fontaigne’s business dealings, and you were to, say, suggest, oh, in just a purely speculative way, some of Del’s business dealings that went well for him but didn’t go well for them... what names might you speculate about if you were to speculate?” Biz liked the confused expression on Buschell’s face. He barely knew what he’d said himself. He wondered if the $500 an hour Big BOOB could figure it out.
Buschell blinked. Slowly. “So you may...”
Biz put a finger in his ear wiggled it around. There seemed to be an echo in the room. “Yes,” Biz said. “Pursue leads that point away from Shala Fontaigne. A long ways a way.” Always good to prime the pump.
“Ah. Yes. Just speculating, I would suggest you look at Williams Enterprises, Bellagna Corporation and, perhaps, mmmm, DHC, Inc.”
“I don’t suppose the D in DHC stands for Daniel?”
Buschell blinked again. Then the hands came up and the fingers started tapping again. Biz thought, Willie Nelson: “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time.”
Buschell said, “Davenport.”
Damn, thought Biz. It’s never that easy.
To be continued...
Flat-Footed, Part 6
May 17, 2009
Flat-Footed, Part 6
Biz was actually up at 11:30 and on the road by noon and he felt exactly as if he had been up all night and only gotten two hours of sleep. Sipping from a Starbucks High-Octane Mochawhatziz, he pulled into the driveway of a taco place set up with a dozen picnic tables with a view of the beach. Not even the seagulls moved when he pulled in.
He made his way to the window, glanced around the parking lot, ordered a fistful of tacos and carried them to a picnic table where a heavy-set woman with muted red hair and a maroon blazer that clashed with her hair sat hunched against the sea breeze. The seagulls shows a more than casual interest in the food.
He handed her half the tacos and a Coke. “I don’t want to be seen with you,” she said.
Biz looked around. “Nobody’s following you. Have the cops questioned you yet?”
“No. Why would they?” Her hands toyed with the wrapping on a taco, but didn’t unwrap.
“Go ahead. Eat.”
“When I agreed to do this I didn’t think anybody was going to get killed.”
“Me neither.” Biz bit into a taco and chewed, washing it down with his Starbucks concoction. “And don’t worry, I’m not telling unless they make me.”
The woman, an IT manager for ShalaVu, looked up. “I don’t want to lose my job!”
“It’ll be okay. Look, did you...”
She shoved a flash drive across the table at him, glancing over her shoulders to see if someone was watching. No one was. Even the seagulls were more interested in the food. Biz pocketed it and slid her two hundred dollars in twenties. “Anything interesting in there?” he asked.
“I could get in trouble for that. Don’t tell anybody.”
Biz sighed. “Melanie, you’re not selling trade secrets. You’re giving me copies of e-mails sent and received by a murder victim. I’m not asking for Shala Fontaign’s correspondence or anything related to the business.”
“I gave you her schedule!”
“And I’m her damned alibi for her husband’s murder as a result. Relax, would you? Have a taco.”
She tore it open and took a huge bite. “I don’t know what’s going on, but Mr. Fontaigne was back and forth with a lot of people, especially someone called DanX at a Gmail account. They talked money a lot.”
“Any way to backtrack the account?”
She shook her head. “Not through Gmail. Maybe there’ll be something--” She wolfed down the taco and unwrapped another. Apparently Melanie’s guilt was a transient thing. “--in the content. But there are dozens of them. They’re the ones that stood out.” The second taco was gone in two bites and she was on to a third.
“I appreciate it, Melanie. I’ll keep you out of it.”
“Promise. Confidential source.” He hoped. There was nothing like a four-foot-four-inch man facing jail time to make you question your resolve. Biz ate a taco and glanced at his watch. DanX, he thought. Who are you?
To be continued...
Yeah, I'm alive
May 15, 2009
I've been absent lately because I'm cranking to complete a report by today and it looks like I'll make it. It's been roughly equivalent to writing about 20 magazine articles, give or take, and most of the writing occurred this week although the interviews were spread out over the last couple weeks. And I've got one more interview today, a company and PR guy I've been nagging for about 6 weeks.
So yes, I do plan to get back to Biz Leightner and all that other stuff. Soon.
Have a good weekend.
May 12, 2009
And yes, I have had editors--wise ones, I think--specifically say, "Don't use Wikipedia as a source."
This isn't publishing, it's something else entirely
May 12, 2009
Here's a link to Rick Riordan's blog
. The 5th book in his middle grades series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians (the book is The Last Olympian), just came out and he's busy promoting. And when he promotes, as you see in the pictures here, tons of people show up--over 4,000 for this event. He signed for 5 hours! Over 5000 books! Kids dress up in costume. They send him artwork.
Folks. This isn't publishing. This is something different. It's something like JK Rowling (not quite as big, at least yet), but Rick tapped into something. Maybe the Greek Gods are alive and smiling down on him. I don' t know. The rest of us mere mortals can only look on in awe, though.
p.s. I've talked to Rick and he blurbed my first novel, DIRTY DEEDS, and he's a genuinely nice guy. A very talented and deserving guy who only gave up teaching middle school kids reluctantly. In this rare case I don't feel much if any jealousy (hell, I wouldn't want his touring schedule). Kudos to Rick.
Flat-Footed, Part 5
Flat-Footed, Part 5
Biz followed Detective Rain out of his office and waved her to the door. As the door closed behind her Biz turned to his mother. She was busy at the computer.
“Get her number?” she asked, not looking up from the computer screen.
“We’re having drinks.”
“She’s too tall for you.”
“Every woman on the planet is too tall for me. If I only dated women my height I’d be arrested as a pedophile.”
“You’re always chasing after tall women.”
“I wonder why that is, Doctor Freud?”
Now his mother looked up from the computer screen. “Sure. Blame me. It’s always the mother’s fault. I suppose you’re going to investigate?”
“He paid me an advance and I haven’t earned it back yet. I need you to pull up as much information on Delbert Fontaigne as you can. I’m going to assume for the moment that the cops are going to focus on Shala Fontaigne hiring someone to kill her husband.”
“I hope you’re not ruling it out.”
“I haven’t. I’d also like you to get hold of your lawyer buddies and see if you can find out who’s representing Shala Fontaigne and if Delbert had any separate counsel for whatever he might have needed it for.”
Rumproast whined and Biz picked her up and rubbed behind her ears. “Who is Walter Chang?”
“Delbert Fontaigne’s attorney.”
“And you know this... how?”
“I knew you’d want to know.” Mom smirked. “Right?”
“Absolutely. Know him?”
“Personally? Only by reputation. I am friends with one of his partners, Jimmy Buschell.”
“You’re not going to make that joke, are you?”
“About how we have a criminal lawyer in town but nobody’s caught him at anything yet? No, I won’t make that joke.”
Mom rolled her eyes. “Jimmy Buschell handles all of ShalaVu’s legal matters. Or his legion of legal minions does. Buschell, Ogilvie, Ornstein, Baldwin and Associates.”
“You think you’re the first person to make that observation?”
“I hope not. And Chang?”
“Criminal defense. BOOB has about two hundred lawyers, Benjamin. Walter Chang runs their criminal defense division.”
“Can you make an appointment for me with him? This afternoon?”
“Sure. Then what?”
“I don’t know. I’ll make it up as I go along.”
Mom pursed her lips. “I don’t believe you. You’ve got some inside information or person at ShalaVu. Who is it?”
Biz yawned. “Just doing my job. And thanks.”
“Meanwhile, I seem to be doing all the work. What are you going to do next?”
“Take a nap.” He put Rumproast down. “I’ll be up at noon.”
To be continued...
5 Lies Writers Believe About Editors
May 8, 2009
“Editors are just like us.” No, we’re not. You don’t have a neverending stream of bad writing coming at you day in, day out. You get to read for pleasure, selecting material that has been through at least one filter. Whereas you turn on the tap and get a stream of nice drinkable water, we put our mouths to a sewer pipe and hope to get at least one swallow that won’t give us raging diarrhea.
Erica Orloff Guest Blog: Appeal
May 7, 2009
My friend Erica Orloff is guest blogging today. Her latest novel, under the name Erica Kirov, is Magickeepers and it arrived in the mail yesterday and I'm going to read it just as soon as I finish the book I'm reading. So, will you please give a warm welcome to The Mahvelous Ms. Orloff!
We all know when we find a hero or heroine that we like to read about. I was very fond of Butch Karp, a creation of Robert K. Tannenbaum (and his ghostwriter, as it came to light). I like Andrew Vachss’s Burke until I reached a point when the darkness got to me a bit and I needed a break from Burke’s world of unrelenting grit.
But what’s the appeal of why you choose to write your particular hero or heroine? It’s not solely, I’m sure, that you want to sell your book. You’ve got to slip into that voice, that fictional character’s life for a bit. So what do you like about him or her, your alter ego, in a fictional sense?
I thought about why I wrote about Nicholai in The Magickeepers. Why did I pick him? Or why did he pick me? And what do I like about slipping back into his voice in Book II, now that I am writing it?
I think I am fond of him because he is true. He is true of heart and loyal, and he will nearly always speak his mind, even to the most intimidating grownups he encounters. He’s very clever. He’s mildly annoyed by the mantle of responsibility thrust on him. And most of all, he is compassionate. My favorite moments are when he has conversations with the Grand Duchess. She is ancient, and half the time he figures she has fallen asleep as she’s talking to him. Yet he is patient and willing to wait for her to tell him her secrets. I modeled him, in some ways, after my Oldest Son, who volunteered at a nursing home and patiently played bingo with a woman who could no longer count and would only laugh—yet my son found her utterly sweet and charming and called her his “friend.” I like people who remember that there is value in every person if only we stop to look.
So that’s the appeal of writing my hero for me, I suppose. We get older. We become adults. We have responsibilities. I like to think I am still “true,” but I know sometimes I am less so—too impatient, too tired, too stressed. So when I write about Nicholai, I get to be true again, if only for a while.
What’s the appeal of writing YOUR hero or heroine?
What I've Been Reading
May 7, 2009
I'll get back to Flat-footed as soon as I re-learn how to concentrate. Here's the last 10 books I've read.
Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child
I like Lincoln Child a lot, singly or with Doug Preston, but this is not his best book. Sorry, but I thought it needed a re-write. Or something. I felt disappointed.
Night and Day by Robert B. Parker
Ummm, boy, it's sad when you don't even remember the plot. I just went and looked. I thought it was a Spenser novel. It was a Jesse Stone novel and, um, it sucked. Jesse gets tangled up in a case of the high school principal making female student show their underwear. Stupid and unlikely. Sorry.
The 39 Clues: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis
The third book in this 10-book series for middle grades. It was good. The kids went to Japan. Not quite as satisfying as I would hope, but I'm enjoying the series to-date.
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston w/Mario Spezi
A resoundingly brilliant piece of true crime. If you want to figure out why the current trials about the American woman in Florence who might have murdered her friend, read this book. Frightening, fascinating, horrifying.
Six Days of the Condor by James Grady
I read this to write an essay on Essential Thrillers for a book coming out next year. I also interviewed James Grady. The book holds up pretty well, although I would have liked it to be less journalistic. It's hard to separate the book from the movie, Three Days of the Condor, but you can see how so much of what happened in the book sort of set a precedent for a lot of espionage thrillers to come.
Illegal by Paul Levine
I reviewed this already, but it's a terrific book by one of my favorite authors.
Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines
A comic fantasy novel. For a premise, imagine this: Lord of the Rings told from the point of view of Gollum. You know, goblin minding his own business, is found by a group of adventurers who think he knows how to find a treasure, they put a rope on his neck, beat him and generally force him to do what they want. Hilarious fun.
The Second Perimeter by Mike Lawson
I wrote about this one already. It's a thriller. The main character is a troubleshooter/investigator for the Speaker of the House and he's doing a favor for the Secretary of the Navy and it blows up in his face. Involves espionage, etc. Really terrific.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
I reread the series over the last 9 or 10 months and finally wrapped it up. I found this more satisfying the second time than the first and I got a lot more out of it. I'm also still puzzling about the technical reasons for her compulsive readability and the immersive quality she brings to her books. I wish I could duplicate it, though.
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream by Barack Obama
I liked this quite a bit and probably should have read it before I voted for him. If anyone's surprised by what he's doing in the White House, you should read this, because it's all there. He's a good writer and a clear thinker and he at least suggests that he understands how complex the world economy and foreign relations is.
Star Trek Captain's Directions
May 6, 2009
I didn't work on Flat-footed because, um, I was busy with paying gigs, and because She Who Must Be Read was supposed to guest blog today--maybe tomorrow--and now I'm heading out early to go to a high school jazz band festival some 60 miles away, so here, I ripped this off from some other website because it amused me. See you tomorrow where maybe She Who Must Be Read, hereafter referred to as SWMBR AKA Erica Orloff, Erica Kirov, Tess Hudson, et al., will be writing something and I won't.
Flat-footed, Part 4
May 5, 2009
Flat-footed, Part 4
by Mark Terry
Apparently Detective Rain was not a big fan of being embarrassed because she shot back, "I want to see your gun, Mr. Leightner."
"On the first date? Now it's my turn to blush."
Detective Rain scowled. It occurred to Biz that his scowl to blush ratio was out of whack. "I can get a warrant."
"My lawyer is on the other side of that door and she files her teeth and has a taste for raw meat."
Rain raised an eyebrow. "I know you're licensed, I know you have a CCW permit. Let's see the weapon."
"How was Delbert Fontaigne killed? The news was a little vague."
Rain tapped his desk. "Let's see the gun."
Reaching into his desk drawer, Biz gently placed the Colt .45 on the desktop. It was actually a semi-automatic, an M1911 that had been customized with the pearl grip.
Rain seemed to relax. "Let me see your other gun."
"You're not going to take me out to dinner first? Wine me, dine me?"
"I don't have one. This is it. As surprising as this may sound, I don't like guns. Their sole purpose is to kill people and that's something I try to avoid."
"You can put it away."
He did, studying her. "He wasn't killed with a .45, was he?"
"Nine millimeter semi-automatic, because we found the brass."
"How many shots?"
She hesitated, then shrugged. "Three. Two in the chest, one in the head."
"Eliminates suicide and probably eliminates a professional because he--or she--didn't police the brass. Did it have the looks of a hit, though? Was the one in the head a coup de'grace?"
"No, more like he was running for his life and the killer shot him as he was moving."
"And I've effectively eliminated the wife and her lover as the killers--"
"--and probably yourself."
"So we're looking for motive. He let someone into the house, we know that much. Any thoughts, Mr. Leightner?"
"Drinks at six?"
She sighed. "Make it seven."
Score two for the flatfoot, he thought, and refrained from pumping his fists in the air.
To be continued...
Flat-footed, Part 3
May 1, 2009
Flat-footed, Part 3
Detective Rain cocked her head, apparently interested. It was an expression Biz rather liked on her face.
"Del Fontaigne hired me to prove that his wife was having an affair."
"When was this?" Rain's notebook was out, pen in hand.
"A week ago."
"I wondered the same thing. Great minds think alike."
Detective Rain waited. Biz said, "Great minds don't think alike?"
"Did they have a pre-nup?"
"No idea. He hired me, I put her under surveillance. She spends most of her very long business days at company headquarters in Century City."
"How did you know what she was doing there?"
"I didn't. Well, let's say I have access to her corporate calendar, but you don't want to know about that."
"Yes, I do."
He shook his head. "No, you don't. Anyway, it's entirely possible she was doing the Dirty Boogie with her lover right there in her office on the top floor. Maybe on the couch, in the executive washroom, maybe right there on top of her desk. The mind reels just thinking about it. Titillating, isn't it? Which would you pick?"
Absently Detective Rain said, "Couch or shower, I suppose." She tapped the pen on the notebook, looked startled at what had just come out of her mouth, then focused again. "Last night?"
"She and the secretary--actually I think they're called executive assistants now. Maybe I should get one? I hear they're all the rage."
Rain scowled at him. Biz shrugged. "She and the secretary came out of HQ, got into her Lexus and drove to the beach house in Malibu. I got pictures."
Biz turned the computer screen around and clicked on a file. He'd immediately uploaded the pics into the computer before contemplating his first stinger of the day. He had a few dozen photographs of the beauteous Shala Fontaigne in her Rodeo Drive custom-designed suit frisking her executive assistant, Steven Laud, in the front seat of the Lexus, stepping out of the Lexus, and heading into the door of the Malibu beach shack before the garage door closed behind them. Either they were about to have sex or she was performing mouth-to-mouth on him and he was performing heart massage on her. He’d even gotten a good pic of Shala F tossing Laud the car keys, his left hand high to catch them, better to make him think he was in the driver’s seat, uh-huh, yeah, babe.
Biz said, "I suppose she told you they were in a business meeting."
Rain shook her head. "Actually, she said she was having an affair with Laud and they'd spent the night in her place in Malibu."
Biz tapped his fingers on his desk. "That's remarkably straightforward of her."
"We thought so."
"Nice alibi, though."
"It was sort of flimsy, actually, but now you've brought proof."
"Yeah, I thought of that. Convenient. I suppose you want copies of the photographs."
"Yes. How did you get access to her corporate calendar?"
He went about burning a disk for her. "Would you want to meet me after work for drinks in exchange for that information?"
"Dancing? Horseback riding? Lakers game? Putt-putt golf?"
"You're not my type."
"Together we're sort of average."
"The answer is still no."
Biz smiled. "For now. By the way, are those ShalaVus you're wearing?"
Detective Rain's face colored pink.
Biz thought, Score one for the flatfoot.
To be continued...