A Very Tardy Review of Jon Talton’s Gripping Newspaper Mystery, “Deadline Man”

Several years ago, after one of my book signings at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ, the proprietor, Barbara Peters, gave me a copy of Deadline Man, a stand-alone crime novel by Jon Talton published by her independent publishing house, Poisoned Pen Press. Since Talton’s protagonist was a journalist at a dying newspaper — just like the hero of my Liam Mulligan crime novels — she figured I’d enjoy it.

I brought the book home and tossed it on my to-be-read pile. There, it was quickly buried under a growing stack of other books I intended to read. But yesterday, I finally dug it out, and . . . wow!

The action begins when a wealthy hedge fund manager plunges to his death from his office balcony moments after giving a mundane interview to a business columnist for the fictional Seattle Free Press. At first, it looks like a suicide, but gradually, the death becomes entangled in a complex and baffling conspiracy involving two missing teenage girls, a business conglomerate that is secretly up to no good, the FBI, a rogue private security outfit, a deadly team of killers, and . . . you’ll have to read the book to find out where this all leads.

The characters are well-drawn, the action is non-stop, the tension is gripping, and the writing is tight and vivid.

As an old newspaperman myself, I also admire how well Talton captures the atmosphere inside the newsroom of a once-great newspaper now facing oblivion.

Jon Talton

Talton is an old newspaper hand, too — a former columnist and editor at the Dayton Daily News, Cincinnati Enquirer, Rocky Mountain News, Charlotte Observer, and Arizona Republic. He is currently covering business for the Seattle Times. Turns out, he’s also the author of a series of mysteries featuring a character named David Mapstone and several other books that I’ve yet to read. You can learn more about him and his writing here. 

You can order a copy of Deadline Man here.

I highly recommend that you do.



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My Review of Don Winslow’s “The Force”

It’s a thing now–books, movies, and TV shows that ask us to sympathize with, and even root for, dirty cops.

Of course, we’ve long been accustomed to characters like Dirty Harry, Martin Riggs and John Luther, fictional cops who broke the rules, but did so in the interest of justice. Now, however, we are seeing more characters like Hank Voight, ably played by Jason Beghe on NBC’s “Chicago PD.”

Beghe is on the pad to the mob. He also savagely beats suspects and occasionally even executes them. Yet we find ourselves rooting for him, and characters like him, because they get dirty in the name of keeping the streets safe for “citizens.”

Denny Malone, the self-styled King of Manhattan North in Don Winslow’s The Force, is a different kind of cop.  Like Beghe, he takes protection money from mobsters and brutalizes suspects while occasionally protecting the innocent. But Malone also rips off drug dealers, steals their money for himself, and puts their drugs back on the streets.

Because Malone narrates his own story, the reader is apt to root with him at first, too, especially when the walls start to close in on him and his pals.. But Winslow is too fine a writer to succumb to that cliché. As he fills in Malone’s back story, demonstrating how a young man who once longed only to be a good cop descended, step by step, into hell, he asks us only to understand.

Don WinslowDon Win

The Force is Winslow’s first New York City novel, his previous books set on the west coast or along the Mexican border. But he perfectly captures both the city and the lingo of its cops, mobsters, and street dealers. As he weaves his complex saga of political corruption, race relations, a failing justice system, and what it’s like to be a cop in The Big Apple, he laces it with so many twists and betrayals that it is impossible to stop reading.

The Force — along with a body of work that includes The Cartel, Savages, and The Winter of Frankie Machine — secures Winslow’s place beside the likes of Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, Daniel Woodrell, George Pelecanos, Thomas H. Cook, and James Ellroy – writers who have turned the American crime novel into true works of literature.

You can order it by clicking here.


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Our Remarkable Friend, Benjamin Busch

Our multi-talented friend Benjamin Busch dropped in on us toting bags of groceries last night and proceeded to spend two hours whipping up a fantastic meal while singing along to Van Halen, Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, and Night Ranger at the top of his lungs.

How multi-talented? He’s a published poet, memoirist, and short story writer, an actor (playing Anthony Colicchio in HBO’s “The Wire” and Major Todd Eckloff in the HBO’s “Generation Kill,) a screen writer, a film director, an illustrator, a photographer, a painter, and a teacher in an MFA program — and excels at all of it. And last night we learned that he once fronted a heavy metal band and that he can COOK!

It was both a pleasure and an honor to be in his company on Memorial Day weekend, because he was also a soldier, serving his country with courage and distinction in several tours of duty with the U.S. Marines in Iraq. My wife Patrica and I are truly blessed to have such a remarkable and generous friend.

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Trump’s Budget Proposal Represents An Unprecedented Threat to Public Health and Safety.

While Americans are preoccupied with the battle over the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, many of us are overlooking the fact that the Trump administration’s budget outline presages an even greater threat to the public’s health and safety.

The outline – a preliminary plan listing the administration’s spending priorities — would eliminate or cut the following essential programs:

  • It makes deep cuts in the EPA’s local air monitoring program, which warns local communities when pollution levels are dangerously high.
  • It makes similar cuts in funding for testing drinking water to ensure its safety.
  • It slashes funding for wastewater treatment facilities.
  • It eliminates cleanup funding for tens of thousands of sites polluted by chemical and radioactive waste.
  • It slashes grants to states for addressing poisonous lead contamination.
  • It deeply cuts grants to states for implementing the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
  • It eliminates the Environmental Justice program that helps poor communities grapple with severe pollution problems.
  • It strips the fossil fuel industry of its obligation to collect data on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from its wells.
  • It cuts grants to eliminate indoor radon poisoning.
  • It eliminates the diesel emissions reduction grants program, which seeks to reduce emissions from old diesel engines—a cause of asthma and other lung diseases.
  • It eliminates the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on developing technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • It eliminates funding for the successful programs that have been reducing water pollution in The Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, Puget Sound, South Florida, and San Francisco Bay
  • It eliminates support for Alaska villages sinking because of climate change.
  • It wipes out the EPA’s environmental education programs.
  • It cuts 40 percent of the funding for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, which works on air and water quality, chemical safety, and climate change.
  • It cuts $513 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellite division, which provides 90 percent of the data used for weather forecasting, that helps find and rescue lost ships and aircraft, and that monitors the rise of ocean levels and other evidence of climate change.
  • In addition, the Affordable Care Act replacement bill moving through the House calls for cutting $1 billion from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, hitting hardest on the Prevention and Public Health Fund which helps states combat preventable diseases and childhood lead poisoning.
  • And the President’s federal hiring freeze is already forcing the military to curtail or close down its child health care services.

Taken together, these proposals amount to a huge sellout to the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and other polluters. And they represent an unprecedented threat to the public health and safety.

And this only what I’ve been able to glean so far from news reports in the media, including scientific journals.

Call your congressmen. Make your voices heard.

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The Harvard Review Says “Incendiary Art” Is “Brilliant,” “Necessary,” and “Urgent”

The Harvard Review lavishes praise on “Patricia Smith’s brilliant and urgent new book of poems, Incendiary Art, her sixth collection. In it, Smith demands that readers recognize the racism and brutality that have always been part of American history before we dare look ahead to the future or even begin to understand our present.”

If you are one of those people putt off by poetry, don’t be afraid of this book. Patricia’s writing is accessible to all. Check out the full text of this new review here.

Better yet, order it here.

This review is just one of many that rave about this new work by one of America’s most honored writers. I’m so proud to be married to this magnificent woman.


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Timothy Hallinan’s Wildly Inventive New Simeon Grist Novel

Timothy Hallinan

Simeon Grist, the hero of six gritty Los Angeles private eye novels by Timothy Hallinan, is about to get a hell of a shock in Pulped, the next book in this fine series. He’s going to find out that he is a fictional character. All of his heroics, investigative skills, and snappy dialogue were never his. They were written for him.

 “It felt to me―it still feels to me―like I was in charge,” he says mournfully, “like I was really risking everything and doing everything I could to stay alive. Solving all those problems on my own.”

To make matters worse, all the unsold Grist novels have been pulped – pulled from the market, ground up, and recycled into cheap newsprint. As a result, Grist finds himself caught in a mysterious limbo, where out-of-print fictional characters slowly fade away.

Still worse, when their last few readers no longer open their books, the characters vanish from this literary limbo as if they had never existed.

So when one of Grist’s few remaining readers is murdered, he finds himself channeling a snatch of Sam Spade’s dialog from The Maltese Falcon: “When a detective’s reader is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your reader and you’re supposed to do something about it.”

And so, of course, he sets out to do just that.

Hallinan, who as Grist’s creator is a character himself in this wildly inventive novel, emailed me a copy and asked for my thoughts. Here they are:

Pulped is at once a gritty private detective yarn, an enchanting fantasy, an unconventional love story, a laugh out loud comedy, and an insightful exploration of the nature of storytelling—a triumph of imagination told in prose as precise as a sniper’s rifle by a novelist with the soul of a poet.”

Most of Hallinan’s work, including his outstanding Poke Rafferty and Junior Bender crime novels, have been released by major publishers, but he is self-publishing this one. It should be available on Amazon.com in six to eight weeks.

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Who’s Reading “The Dread Line” Now? Acclaimed Children’s Author R.L. Stine!

R.L. Stine reading "The Dread Line" by Bruce DeSilva

R.L. Stine reading “The Dread Line” by Bruce DeSilva

R.L. Stine’s books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, making him one of the best-selling children’s authors of all time. I snapped this photo of him at a writing conference last fall. You can learn more about him and his work here.

The Dread Line is the fifth book in the Edgar Award-winning series of hardboiled crime novels by Bruce DeSilva. In it, New England Patriots, still shaken by a series of murder charges against one of their star players (true story) have hired Liam Mulligan, the hero of the novels, to investigate the background of a college star they are thinking of drafting. At first, the job seems routine, but as soon as he starts asking questions, he gets push-back. The player has something to hide, and someone is willing to kill to make sure it remains secret.

dread lineTo order The Dread Line, you can choose from a list of independent or chain online bookstores here.

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Who’s Reading “The Dread Line” Now? Chicago Bluesman Lil’ Ed!

lil-ed-2Lil’ Ed (last name Williams) is the singer-songwriter and guitar-playing frontman for one of the last authentic Chicago blues bands, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials.

My wife Patricia and I met him on a Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise last fall. You can learn more about him here. And you can see one of his band’s performances here.

Liam Mulligan, the hero of my crime novels, is as big a fan of the blues as Patricia and I are. He listens to the likes of Buddy Buy, BB King and Tommy Castro as he cruises around New England rooting out crime.

The Dread Line is the fifth book in the Edgar Award-winning series of hardboiled crime novels by Bruce DeSilva. In it, New England Patriots, still shaken by a series of murder charges against one of their star players (true story) have hired Liam Mulligan, the hero of the novels, to investigate the background of a college star they are thinking of drafting. At first, the job seems routine, but as soon as he starts asking questions, he gets push-back. The player has something to hide, and someone is willing to kill to make sure it remains secret.

dread lineTo order The Dread Line, you can choose from a list of independent or chain online bookstores here.

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Thank You, Howard Frank Mosher, For Your Friendship And The Inspiration Of Your Life’s Work

Howard Frank Mosher showing me his beloved Northeast Kingdom, VT

Howard Frank Mosher showing me his beloved Northeast Kingdom, VT

Yesterday, I was reading The True Account: A Novel of the Lewis & Clark & Kinneson Expeditions, one of couple of Howard Frank Mosher novels I hadn’t yet gotten around to, when I received word that the author, and my dear friend, has entered hospice care with an aggressive, virtually untreatable form of cancer. And my heart just broke.

Howard, the closest thing America has ever had to Mark Twain, was already a favorite of mine when I wrote a glowing review of his 2014 novel, Waiting for Teddy Williams, for The Associated Press. He responded with a warm note of thanks, and a long-distance friendship was born. He and his sweet wife Phillis started corresponding with me sporadically, usually by email or on Facebook, often about our work.

Howard was always warm, gracious, and generous, writing several times with praise about my novels. As it turned out, he was also an admirer of my brilliant wife Patricia Smith’s poetry, able to recite lines of it from memory. So when she sought (successfully) a Guggenheim, Howard, a Guggenheim fellow himself, wrote an elegant letter in support of her application.

Howard Frank Mosher (l) with me and my wife Patricia Smith

Howard Frank Mosher (l) with me and my wife Patricia Smith

In July of 2013, Patricia and I made the long drive to Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom to visit with Howard and Phillis. During our two days at their rambling farmhouse, they were perfect hosts, treating us to a tour of the area, some excellent meals, and, best of all, two evenings of great conversation about storytelling, family, and the Boston Red Sox. Howard also spun some Northeast Kingdom lore which later showed up in one of his novels. Although it was the first time we had met face to face, those two days passed in such comfortable intimacy that it felt as if we had always been friends.

As we took our leave, the four of us agreed we would have to do this again. But, as tends to happens, life in the form of work and family intervened, and somehow we never got around to it making that long trip to the Northeast Kingdom again. Now Patricia and I are left with our memories and a shelf of great books that deserve to be read and reread forever.

Me with Howard and his wife Phillis

Me with Howard and his wife Phillis

If you don’t know Howard Frank Mosher’s wise and funny novels, do yourself a favor. Start with Waiting for Teddy Williams or Up On Kingdom Mountain, and if you treasure great writing and storytelling, you won’t be able to stop. Howard’s next and last, Points North, will be published later this year. For his friendship, his good humor, and the inspiration of his life’s work, I will always be grateful.

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Forensic Outreach Names Me One of the 50 Top Crime Writers

Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva

My thanks to the Forensic Outreach website for naming me one of the 50 top crime writers. I know it’s from 2014 but I hadn’t seen it before.

Being included on a list that includes the likes of Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, Louise Penny,  George Pelecanos, James Ellroy, and Harlan Coben is a thrill.

Check it out here.

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