This is a classic tale of vulnerability leading an everyman to sell his soul for riches, until he reaches a point that he can no longer deny the evil to which he contributes. Of course the good-hearted girlfriend does her best to turn him around, and somehow her story intersects with his in a “small world” kind of way. Mitzner does a nice job of imbuing a modern take on this story, with graphic details of the unearned hedonistic life, and an interesting resolution for the everyman. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this well-written book from the publisher Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.
Maggie feels something imminently dangerous coming to her daughter Emma, who just headed off on her first year of college. When police come to her door one evening, she knows her premonition has come to fruition. The widow of a police detective, Maggie conducts her own investigation into her daughter’s disappearance, with all new information obscuring who she believed her daughter to be. Simmons writes a good mystery, replete with complex family dynamics, secrets spilling out all over, and a storyline that builds until it bursts and everything makes sense. Fans of Liane Moriarty, Diane Chamberlain, and Kerry Anne King will appreciate Simmons’ writing style and storytelling brilliance. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of the book by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Sourcebook Landmark through NetGalley.
The stories get better as you go deeper into this collection. The graphic depictions of sex and violence are just enough to give Dear Readers with active imaginations speculative ammo for tremors and terrors. Run, don’t walk, through these stories. Something always goes awry in the everyday worlds of Jack Rollins. A woman seeking sexual release exacts supernatural revenge on the shady service professional she hired for this purpose. An elderly couple become fungi. The ghost ship’s captain shows a very human sense of integrity. A young man cheating on his boyfriend discovers that not all legendary villains are fiction. A family man finds what appears to be evidence of a serial killer in the garage of their newly acquired home. Oh, and the lost god Mammon trips lightly through many of these tales—don’t turn around; keep running. Jack’s work is unique and his style feels personal, almost as though the characters are sharing too much, which works into a creepy crawly feeling under your skin. The only thing that popped me out of his stories is the common description of any man as tall, strong, and muscular. There are no wimps in Jack’s worlds. Despite that niggle, his work is solid and entertaining. I highly recommend this collection; really, anything by him. He’s so open and frank that his introductions to each story are nearly stories themselves; I thought the first one was the story!
The FBI visits Mrs. Ford, a middle-aged widow in a tony coastal neighborhood, to question her connection to a Chaldean gun-runner who happened to have her name and address on his person. Their story began with two young women—troubled Annie and her straight-laced friend Susan—working in a Detroit discotheque as cocktail waitresses in the late 70s. Naivete inadvertently placed them amidst the territory negotiations between the Chaldeans and the Italian brothers who owned the discotheque. Royce brilliantly juxtaposed their young lives upon the questionable atmosphere of the discotheque and the shady men who ran it and frequented it, the flashbacks graphically detailed and relevant to Mrs. Ford’s current incarnation as the widow of Jack Ford. I graciously received this intriguing thriller from the publisher Post Hill Press through NetGalley for an honest review.
Betsy’s sister, the good sister, her parents’ favorite, died last year, and her mother has spiraled down into a deep depression, refusing help and alienating Betsy and her father. They struggle along until a revelation rips into the family. Rouda carefully extracts truth from underneath appearances and flays expectations. Fans of Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain will appreciate this story and Rouda’s style. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful story from Graydon House through NetGalley.
Sarah’s superior, a securely ensconced tenured professor who’s brought in great funding for the university, is a serial harasser offering her a (well-deserved) promotion in exchange for her “cooperation.” While picking up her child from school, she foils the kidnapping of a little girl, whose quietly powerful father then offers her a favor—choose a name and that person will cease to be a problem for her. Sarah struggles with the moral morass of resolving not only her own situation, but ending the reign of a decades-perpetrating, multi-victim offender against becoming someone she doesn’t want to be. A 29-second phone call changes the course of her life. Logan brilliantly portrays the frustrating inner battle of desire to set things right versus not wanting to stoop to the same level for resolution. I received this well-written story from the publisher twenty7 through NetGalley.
Eddie Flynn reluctantly takes on a celebrity client on trial for murder based on his belief in the man’s innocence, while a murderer sits on the jury, gleefully watching the process. Cavanagh cleverly plays the murderer’s presence against the brilliance of the conman lawyer. I received a copy of this crime thriller from the publisher Orion through NetGalley, and although it’s a decent standalone, I wish the publisher would include on NetGalley the fact that a book is part of a series.
Taylor Watson is heavily pregnant and hopeful that moving to England will put her husband’s affair behind them. An introverted social media junkie, she makes a point to get out and make friends, but one of them betrays her trust, stalking her online. Kantaria eases Dear Reader through a cavalcade of characters who are all a bit shady, making each one suspect in turn. This is not only a tale of the dangers of social media, but a lesson in vetting family and friends in person. The ending rocks! I received this well-written, suspense-filled thriller from HQ through NetGalley.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations, etc.
I almost always write first thing. The to-do list, errands, even gardening, which is also a passion, waits until I get pages done. I think routine and persistence are my strategies. Where I write is a gift, a special place. It’s also my potting shed. I designed it, and my son and a few others built it using a lot of salvage. It overlooks my garden and down a kind of meadow. My garden is a big source of inspiration to me, along with reading.
Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.
With Lake Union, when I finish a draft, I send it to my editor who does a read-through and then returns it with suggestions. Once I’ve gone through and made changes, I send it to a developmental editor to whom the book has been assigned. We go through anywhere from 2-4 rounds of extensive edits. I think here is where the book is really made, if that makes sense. I both love and hate the process, but I’m always pretty thrilled with the result. Next the draft goes to the copy editors, possibly as many as three different ones, for final polishing. After all their changes are incorporated into the manuscript, the book goes into production.
As for marketing, I have a street team of early reviewers who are kind enough to read and review advance copies of my books. I also have a website and a Facebook author page where I try and post news regularly. I run regular Amazon and Goodreads giveaways of my books and publish a quarterly newsletter too. Marketing doesn’t come easy for me, so compared to other authors, what I do is pretty minimal!
Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I have a few author friends with whom I chat back and forth, and then there are my street team members, some of whom have been readers of my books since I self published my first one back in 2011. Along with my two sons, who are terrific supporters, these are the folks who keep me going!
In your bio on your website, you share how your background laid the foundation for your writing career. I’m interested in how your life and work intertwine today.
I still draw on my experience of life past and present, and on the experiences of others as well, even total strangers. I’ll find myself listening (sometimes it’s hard not to!), standing in the grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, to others telling stories, talking to each other or to their children. Snippets of conversation can set my imagination off. I’m a total ID TV addict, so crime and how it affects families remains an interest … one I’ve had since I lived on prison grounds. Story is just a huge part of my life … how I work things out or work things through, you know? Writing stories is contemplative and thoughtful for me, which is kind of how my life is, so it’s all sort of this one fluid thing, like a long rippling wave with a little foam at the curl.
What do you love most about your creativity?
Oh, what a wonderful question. That I have it? Is that an answer? It’s what pops into my mind. That it’s a gift I’ve been given, one that’s different every day. One that keeps on surprising me and that leads me to places I’ve never been, or would think to go if it weren’t for that spark of interest, of desire. It’s just a source of fascination to me and a delight.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
A terrible tragedy unleashes a fateful chain of events for two families from starkly different worlds in a breathtaking new tale of suspense that doubles as a razor-sharp take on class conflict in today’s America.
In his remarkable debut, THE EAST END (Park Row Books; May 7, 2019; $26.99 U.S./$33.50 CAN.), novelist Jason Allen constructs a multi-layered story about the powerful and the powerless, about love and loss, and about self-destruction and the possibility of redemption. Set in the Hamptons over one explosive holiday weekend, this immersive must-read illuminates both sides of the socio-economic divide in a place where dreams of escape drive potentially catastrophic decisions.
Unfolding from multiple perspectives, THE EAST END opens with the countdown to Memorial Day underway and recent high school graduate Corey Halpern in need of a fix. A townie, he burns off his resentment of the affluent “invaders” who flock to the community in the summer months by breaking into their lavish mansions and pulling harmless pranks. Staring down a bleak future, he sees his hopes of going away to college vanishing. He can’t disappear, not when his troubled mother, Gina, is barely making ends meet, trying to get away from an abusive, deadbeat husband, and chasing pills with too much booze. Trapped in a downward spiral, she staggers towards rock bottom as Corey and his brother look on helplessly.
Before calling it a night, Corey makes one last stop at the sprawling lakeside estate where he and Gina work. There he intends to commit his first-ever robbery but nothing proceeds according to plan. Married billionaire CEO Leo Sheffield shows up to his ultra-exclusive Gin Lane property early, accompanied by his handsome, much-younger lover, Henry. In an instant, everything changes: Drunk, high, and all alone, Henry is the victim of a fatal poolside accident. Unfortunately for a distraught Leo, Corey saw what happened—and so did someone else.
For this immensely privileged man who is not used to getting his hands dirty, his very existence now depends on containing the collateral damage. And time is running out. Leo’s overbearing wife and three grown children will be arriving soon, along with a house full of high-maintenance guests. Desperate to preserve his fortune and his freedom, Leo takes irrevocable steps that expose him to scandal and far worse. Over the next few tension-filled days, hidden entanglements, unexpected opportunities, and clashing loyalties propel Corey, Gina, and Leo to extremes—and ultimately, to shocking outcomes no one will anticipate.
Atmospheric, emotionally probing, and complexly unmissable, this kaleidoscopic narrative plunges its brilliantly realized characters into timely, all-too-relatable moral quandaries that defy easy answers and resound long after the final page.
Corey breaks into the houses of the wealthy who summer in the Hamptons, to play pranks on them as a way to vent his frustrations as a local serving these “invaders.” The night he chooses to enter the home of his mother’s employer Mr. Sheffield, he learns a scandalous secret and witnesses a tragedy, and then he falls in love. The weekend brings a multitude of challenges for the Sheffield family and Corey’s mom, who’s fighting a drug addiction and a violent ex, as well as Corey and his new love. Allen brilliantly portrays the blurred lines of integrity and honesty for the haves and have-nots in a scenario that flips dependency from one to the other and exposes everyone’s agenda. No character is truly endearing, nor is any character wholly evil, but all are complex, self-serving and compassionate in turn. Fans of “Somethings in the Water,” “Beautiful Bad,” or “Hunting Annabelle” will appreciate this story. It’s a peek at what we might do if we had the chance, and what happens when we involve ourselves in something that’s not our business. I received a digital copy of this fantastic story from Park Row Books through NetGalley.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.