Theater of the Mind/My First Radio; Why Radio Works for Mystery

Nancy Cole SilvermanNancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. In 2001, Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction full time. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014 and the second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. The third in the series, Without A Doubt, was released in May 2016. Silverman also has written a number of short stories, many of them influenced by her experiences growing up in the Arizona desert. For more information visit www.nancycolesilverman.com

When I was a kid, I remember listening to late night mystery theater on the radio. Those old radio plays whose transmissions mysteriously found their way through my bedroom window in the black of night, shadowed images in my mind that were more powerful than a big screen cinema.

Now don’t get me wrong. I grew up loving movies and watching all the popular fifty and sixties TV shows. But, there was nothing like late night radio to sharpen my senses of mystery, and while I didn’t know it then, would prepare me years later for writing for the blank page.

When I was seven-years-old, my dad and I made my first crystal diode radio set.  We strung the antenna through the grapefruit orchards in my backyard, and I had my own headphones, which seemed super cool to me. I could listen to radio stations thousand of miles away. I tuned to KOY in Colorado or KNX in Los Angeles, all from beneath the sheets of my bed in the middle of the Arizona desert, where I slept with a flashlight to keep the bad guys away.

To me, radio embodies everything that is mysterious. Faceless voices. Piercing screams. Hollow sound effects.  Scratchy signals that black out and then bleed into the night from far off lands.

My fascination with radio turned into a career. I spent twenty-five years in the business. Most of it news and talk radio. I wrote everything from news to commercial copy, and I retired as the general manager of a sports talks radio station. Proof that God has a sense of humor!  I’m not a sports babe.  But when the opportunity presented itself for me to pitch the job, I did what any other ambitious female might do. I leaned in.

When I was very young, I was asked to ride the midnight signal.  That’s the equivalent of spot checking the signal, driving to the outermost areas of the station’s signal and listening to make sure there’s no interference.  I think it was more of a joke than a serious request from the station’s engineer,  and when I did it – at least partially – he appeared surprised. Years later I would use that experience in a short story. It was beyond spooky. But then, like radio signals, mystery is made up of that which we can not see or that we can see but can not hear or understand.

Without a DoubtIn 2001, I retired from radio, but it wasn’t long before I found myself itching to write about what I knew.  I think the story picks the writer.  And the stories I’ve penned with The Carol Childs Mysteries have picked me.  They’re not too dissimilar from those I either witnessed or worked on during my career, although for the sake of fiction, they are much spicier.

The only real difference between my career in radio and my protagonist, Carol Childs, is that I wanted a middle-aged woman, who was at a crossroads in her life. She’s been given a chance to reinvent herself as a reporter.  Something she’s longed to do.  Of course, with opportunity comes challenge. Carol’s challenge comes in the way of her boss, a peach-faced whiz-kid who calls her the World’s Oldest Cub Reporter.

Conflict, mystery and that blank page.  I love it, and I hope you enjoy reading the series as much as I have in writing it.

Stay Tuned,

Nancy Cole Silverman

Book Review: Woman with a Secret by Sophie Hannah

Woman with a SecretWoman with a Secret
Sophie Hannah
William Morrow, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-238826-1
Hardcover

Woman with a Secret is a book that could only have been written now, in the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century. While some of its themes – infidelity, the nature of love, the mysteries within marriages, human perversity – are ageless, the way they are explored in this novel is through the thoroughly modern world of online bloggers, Twitter, and virtual dating websites.

The book begins, traditionally, with a murder. Outrageously opinionated Damon Blundy, a celebrity columnist, is found dead in his house in a suburb outside London. The crime scene is bizarre – a knife is taped to Blundy’s face, but was not used to kill him, there’s a knife sharpener in the room, and the killer even leaves an unrecognizable self-portrait to mock the police. There’s also a cryptic clue painted on the wall: the phrase “He is no less dead”, which baffles  the crime scene officers and detectives.

While the book is partly a police procedural, it is much more of a literary novel, with an intense focus on people’s hidden motivations and secret lives. The story is told from a number of different perspectives. There are sections made up of Damon Blundy’s columns, and some of the Twitter wars resulting from the things he has written. These mostly consist of debates about a disgraced cyclist who strongly resembles Lance Armstrong , about a weed-saturated literary novelist named Reuben Tasker, and about gorgeous former MP Paula Riddough, and her faithlessness. These chapters alternate with descriptions  of the police investigation, mainly featuring arrogant, single-minded Simon Waterhouse, and Simon’s wife Charlie Zailer. The sections that are perhaps the most compelling are the first-person, present-tense chapters narrated by Nicki Clements, a feverish, rattled, possibly pathological housewife tormented by an upsetting childhood and a marriage that bores her.

I couldn’t say that I liked Woman with a Secret, because I’m not fond of unreliable narrators, and I didn’t find any of the characters likeable. However, it was an interesting taste of current literary mystery fiction, and I was fascinated by the author’s focus on social media – both the true revelations and the lies that many of us now seek out daily online. Hannah explores people’s psyches deeply, and in a manner that’s often unpleasant, reminding us how cold and selfish some of our motivations can be. Not surprisingly, given the title, Hannah delves specifically into questions around honesty and dishonesty, and all that surrounds those qualities: righteousness, cheating, mistrust, forgiveness. Despite all of the nasty twists and convoluted psychological turns in this book that left me wondering if anyone in it was capable of experiencing real love or friendship, I think the author has captured something authentic about the difficulties of recognizing the truth in the current smoke-and-mirrors atmosphere of social media.

Reviewed by Andrea Thompson, May 2016.

Book Review: He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

He Will Be My RuinHe Will Be My Ruin
K.A. Tucker
Atria Books, February 2016
ISBN 978-1-5011-1207-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin.

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

How well does one person really know another? That question is at the core of the larger mystery in He Will Be My Ruin and working through it is a fascinating study of family relationships.

The relationship between Maggie and Celine is actually that of best friends but it also serves as family in their case. Growing up together, Maggie was the very rich little girl and Celine the daughter of the nanny, Rosa, but the two girls were as close as any children could be while Rosa was something of a surrogate mother to Maggie. Her own parents were distant, far more involved in their own world of wealth, business and society than with their daughter, and Maggie eventually left that life behind.

Having spent the last several years using her enormous trust fund in her nonprofit organization building new lives for third world villages, Maggie is now in New York City to settle Celine’s affairs after her suicide. Trouble is, Maggie finds it impossible to believe that Celine would kill herself and begins to question Celine’s life in the last few years. Those questions lead Maggie to some very tough answers and to the distinct possibility that she herself is about to die.

Fraught with tension, this story is a rollercoaster of emotions as well as an intriguing hunt for the truth about Celine’s life and death. At times, I couldn’t put the book down and that was partly because of the tight plot but also because Maggie and Celine are such appealing and captivating characters, each in very different ways. The final resolution was not entirely surprising but the journey to get there was well worth it and I’m looking forward to trying other books by K.A. Tucker.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

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About the Author

K.A. TuckerK.A. Tucker is the author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and the Burying Water series. She currently resides outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

Connect with K. A. Tucker

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Book Review: Game of Fear by Gledé Browne Kabongo

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Title: Game of Fear
Series: A Fearless Novel

Author: Gledé Browne Kabongo
Publisher: BrowneStar Publishing
Publication Date: February 24, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

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Game of FearGame of Fear
A Fearless Novel #1
Gledé Browne Kabongo
BrowneStar Publishing, February 20116
ISBN 978-0692539729
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A desperate act, an explosive secret, and a diabolical enemy—all part of a treacherous game, with no limits.

Overachieving good girl Abbie Cooper has her future all planned out. As senior year at her elite private school kicks off, she has one simple goal: get into the Ivy League. But at St. Matthews Academy, nothing is ever simple. The pressure is overwhelming, the secrets are dirty, and the games are wicked. Abbie has a dirty secret—one that could destroy her chances of getting admitted into Princeton, and the lives of those closest to her.

One morning, she discovers a note in her locker with the warning, “I know what you did”. Then a photo arrives in the mail. It captures her most shameful deed—the shocking blunder she can never erase, in glorious detail. Someone is out to ruin her, but who and why? The answer lies with the sender of the photo, a mysterious girl known only as The Avenger. For a price, she assures Abbie her secret will remain safe. There’s only one problem: The Avenger may not exist at all. If Abbie doesn’t uncover her true identity before acceptance decisions are made, it’s game over…

Poor Abbie…her nearly perfect, planned-to-the-last-detail life has run into a stumbling block, one she can’t control or even understand. Who could be sending her these threats and what are they referring to? While that’s going on, she’s monumentally distracted by bad boy Christian who seems to be pursuing her relentlessly but Abbie doesn’t trust that his intentions are good and his ex-girlfriend, Sidney, queen of the mean girls, is out to make Abbie’s existence miserable.

Christian actually is pretty likeable and Abbie is, too, except that she’s so controlled, so driven, to the point where I sort of thought these threats from The Avenger might rattle her cage enough to make her a bit more like an ordinary teenager. Her best friends Callie and Frances are truly loyal to Abbie and each other and the three take strength and comfort from each other. In fact, all of this is almost too good.

I know there are very privileged kids in this world and many of them go to extremely exclusive private schools but Saint Matthews Academy and its students are so over the top I couldn’t really relate to any of them. This is a world in which nearly everyone has enough money to buy a small island or the Hope Diamond and they’re all paragons of beauty. Essentially, they’re interesting but nowhere close to normal.

I also can’t really agree that this is a thriller because the pace is pretty slow and, in fact, far more attention is paid to the romance than to the apparent blackmail. The final resolution is kind of ho-hum, possibly because it’s hard to feel too sorry for these kids. On the positive side, though, this is a pretty good story, better than average escapism, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Autumn of Fear, the sequel to Game of Fear, will be coming out in the future but, for those who’d like to know more about Abbie before then can check out her first appearance in Swan Deception, available now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

About the Author

Glede Browne KabongoGledé Browne Kabongo writes intense psychological thrillers—unflinching tales of deception, secrecy, danger and family. She is the Amazon Bestselling Author of Game of Fear, “Mark of Deceit” (Eye of Fear Anthology), Swan Deception, and Conspiracy of Silence. Her love affair with books began as a young girl growing up in the Caribbean, where her town library overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. She was trading books and discussing them with neighbors before Book Clubs became popular.

She holds both an M.S. and B.A. in communications, and worked as a freelance news reporter right out of college. After she abandoned the dream of winning the Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for the Boston Globe, she jumped into marketing management for over a decade. Gledé lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.


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Waiting On Wednesday (30)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Continue reading

Book Review: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman—and a Giveaway!

Wilde LakeWilde Lake
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-208345-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.

If I had to name just one crime fiction writer who I think is the best out there, not only at creating stories that grip me from the beginning but who also has a sure hand with words, it would have to be Laura Lippman, hands down. I first met Ms. Lippman years ago when I had my bookstore and would run into her at book conventions but I fell in booklove with her very first novel, Baltimore Blues, a few years earlier and I admire her work today even more than I did back then. That comes as no surprise because each succeeding book has been exponentially better than those that have gone before. Wilde Lake is no exception.

There are secrets in the Brant family but, since the death of Lu’s mother shortly after her birth, Lu and her brother, AJ, and their dad have made a comfortable life for themselves and Lu practically worships their father, a virtual paragon. Over the years, though, these secrets have festered beneath the surface and the day finally comes when truths begin to come out, triggered by Lu’s first case as state’s attorney for Howard County. No one could possibly have guessed that this trial of a homeless man would become so crucial to the Brants and their past.

Lu is the character who really stands out and she’s a lesson in what a Type A personality is all about. Driven all her life to be perfect, to get nothing wrong, to be like her father, she’s more than a bit cold and ambitious but she still wants to do what’s right and she’s compassionate and likeable. Her controlling nature and her focus on the present have allowed those family secrets to remain hidden for years but when some things begin to come to light, the door is wide open and Lu goes through it. Much of what she learns is devastating but getting to the truth and questioning memories is going to change lives forever.

Ms. Lippman is the author of both series and standalones and Wilde Lake is one of the latter. In a way, I’m sorry about that because I’d like to see who Lu becomes now that there have been so many changes in her life but I’ll just have to look forward to whatever this wonderful author will be bringing us next. In the meantime, Wilde Lake will go on my list of favorite books read in 2016.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

 

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Wilde Lake, leave a comment
below. Three winning
names will
be drawn Saturday evening,
May 28
th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

“Ultimately, Wilde Lake is not so much a crime novel that
rises to the level of serious literature as serious
literature that rises to the level of great crime fiction.
(Chicago Tribune)

“A heady brew of twisting tale and accelerating
introspection, Wilde Lake at once disturbs and delights, as
Lippman impels not only her characters but also her readers
to question the depth of their understanding of the past…”
(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

A Necessary Invention

Gerrie Ferris Finger 4Retired journalist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Gerrie Ferris Finger won the 2009 St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel for The End Game. The Last Temptation is the second in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series and the upcoming American Nights will be released in August 2016. She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband and standard poodle, Bogey. www.gerrieferrisfinger.com

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Where would we be without the venerable, yet nearly obsolete, typewriter? Ever wonder who invented it and what the heck is with the QWERTY letters in the first row? Why not ABCDEF?

“Machine for Typewriting Letters”

So read the patent for the first typewriter. Apparently a concept, in 1771 Englishman Henry Mill filed a patent for an artificial writing machine that impresses letters on a piece of paper. No drawing for it exists.

However, along came Pellegrino Turri in 1808. He built the first working typewriter, at least he’s the first one known to have built one. I would have thought that the invention would come sooner. In 1439 or so, Gutenberg introduced the printing press to Europe. But that was moveable type, not a letter on a stick called a typebar.

Anyway Turri constructed this first typing machine for his blind lady friend, Countess Carolina Fantoni. Being blind didn’t appear to be a hindrance and later was used as an instrument for the blind.

I learned to type in high school where our teacher taught us to use the “blind” method so that we didn’t watch our fingers tangle as we typed along at thirty words a minute—a slow but steady pace that wouldn’t get anyone a typist job back then, but with practice one could get up to fifty words a minute. Today it is politically correct to call such no-look typing “touch” typing.

The Writing Ball Machine – a hundred years ahead of the Selectric.

Inventors in Europe and the U. S. set about creating a better mouse trap, er, typewriter. Some were a bit more outré than others. The Writing Ball Machine was developed by a Danish pastor, Rasmus Malling-Hansen, in 1870. It looked rather like a mouse trap. A typewriter (both machine and humans were called typewriters back then) had to hover over the keyboard and peck the letters onto paper that is stretched on an arched frame.

Gerrie Ferris Finger Early TypewriterCalled the “First Typewriter”

The Sholes and Glidden typewriter was developed by a man named Christopher L. Sholes, a Milwaukee newspaperman and poet. It used only capital letters. Today it would be called a Shouting Machine!

That brings us to the QWERTY keyboard, which Sholes is credited with introducing. It is still in use on computer keyboards today and dusty typewriters sitting on garage shelves across the globe. So what’s with those letters?

The letters were designed to separate frequently-used pairs of typebars so that the typebars wouldn’t clash. Who hasn’t had that happen? QWERTY or no QWERTY, the S&G was a decorative machine. Some were painted with flowers and birds but it looked rather like a sewing machine. Maybe because it was manufactured by the Remington Arms Co.

Gerrie Ferris Finger Early TypewriterWhile QWERTY is still with us, the S&G typewriter had limited success because of its understroke or “blind” writer—meaning the typebars are arranged in a circular basket under the platen (roller) and type on the bottom of it. So the typist had to lift the carriage to see the work.

Stop the QWERTY Machine!

Alternative keyboards fought a losing battle against QWERTY momentum. S&G sold out to Remington and, as you may know, Remington went on to improve and became a signature name in typewriters.

The effort to create a visible rather than “blind” machine led to methods of getting the typebars to the platen. The Hammond patent came with the two-row, curved “Ideal” keyboard. There is no cylindrical platen as on typebar typewriters; the paper is hit against the shuttle by a hammer. Loyal customers kept the Hammond typing up to the beginning of the word-processor era.

Other machines typing from a single type element rather than those clashing typebars included the Crandall. Pictured here, it looks elegant enough to type on, but it’s probably a trial to get used to. Still, it sure is sleek.

Gerrie Ferris Finger Qwerty MachineDoing the Front Stroke

The Daugherty Visible of 1891 was the first frontstroke typewriter to go into production. The typebars rest below the platen and hit the front of it. With the Underwood of 1895, the frontstroke typewriter grew in popularity. Produced in the millions by the 1920s, virtually all typewriters were “look-alikes”—frontstroke, QWERTY, typebar machines printing through a ribbon, using one bar and four banks of keys.

Gerrie Ferris Finger Daugherty VisibleThe Golf Ball Machine

Underwood, Remington and the like became the standard until the IBM Selectric hit the market in the early 1960s. Instead of the “basket” of individual typebars that swung up to strike the ribbon and page in a traditional typewriter, the Selectric had a type ball element that rotated and pivoted to the correct position before striking. The Selectric also replaced the traditional typewriter’s moving carriage with a platen that stayed in position while the type ball and ribbon mechanism moved from side to side.

Gerrie Ferris Finger Golf Ball Machine

Social Implications and the Typewriter

Researching for this blog, I was surprised to learn how quickly the typewriter changed women’s lives. By 1878, typing was taught in a New York school. A year later women were working as secretaries when the New York YWCA offered typing instruction to ladies. Men need not apply. Or none would.

The melding of secretary to typewriter and woman to secretary caught on. Secretaries, typing pools, stenographers became a fixture in government offices and businesses in the United States.

John Harrison wrote in his Manual of the Typewriter, “The typewriter is especially adapted to feminine fingers. They seem to be made for typewriting. The typewriting involves no hard labour and no more skill than playing the piano.”

I can attest that playing the piano helped me type in excess of 80 words a minute. After ten years of classical piano lessons, my father said it was only right that I should have profited in some way by all the money he shelled out. I have. My male colleagues at the newspaper, with their two-finger typing, watched with envy as I clicked out my 20 inch stories with the speed of a Selectric. No pedal needed.

Skillfully submitted on my Microsoft QWERTY,

Gerrie Ferris Finger

American Nights: Released August 17, 2016

6th in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series.

American NightsAmerican Nights

By Gerrie Ferris Finger
ISBN-10: 1432832212
ISBN-13: 978-1432832216
Five Star Publishing
Series: A Moriah Dru/Richard Lake Mystery
Hardcover, 308 pgs
August 17, 2016, $25.95
Genre: Mystery

Saudi Arabian prince, Husam al Saliba hires Dru, a PI specializing in tracing missing children, to find his missing wife, Reeve Cresley and daughter, Shahrazad (Shara).

At a dinner to introduce himself and his story to Dru—and Richard Lake, her lover and an Atlanta police detective—he strikes Dru as charming but unbelievable. He tells of falling in love with Reeve, of turning his back on his possible ascendancy to the power structure in the kingdom for the woman he loves. He also talks of his king’s disapproval of him marrying and siring an infidel. But then he says his family wants him to return, marry his betrothed Aya and get in line to be an heir to kingship. Confused Dru thinks she’s fallen into a fairy tale. After all the prince is known to be a great storyteller and is partial to reciting tales from the Arabian Nights.

The investigation had just begun when Reeve’s parents, Lowell and Donna Cresley, who do not seem disturbed that Reeve is missing with Shara, are killed. That brings the Atlanta police into the case.

A U. S. resident, Prince Husam is a partner in a New York law firm. Reeve is a scientist who works for NASA. The couple spend little time living together. Husam goes off to Paris to see his Saudi princess, Aya, and Reeve is in an affair with Thomas Page. As Dru remarks, nobody in this tale is faithful. Then she finds out all have something to dreadful to hide.