4H Blues

Kathleen Delaney returns to talk about what life

was REALLY like when her kids discovered the joys of 4H.

I have just returned from a family vacation in California. Two of my grandchildren flew out with me and spent two weeks with their aunts, uncles, and cousins doing all kinds of things. We spent part of the time in Paso Robles, where the country fair had just opened. One of the highlights of the fair is the cattle drive. The main street leading to the fairgrounds is closed and many of the cows used in various events are driven through streets lined with spectators by real live cowboys mounted on real working cow horses the final few miles to the show grounds. My grandkids got to ride on the chuck wagon with the drovers. Watching them, seeing the cows, the kids at the fair getting their animals ready to show, the smells, the sounds of the animal barn brought back memories of when my children were growing up, in 4H, and the fairs we attended for many summers.

We had just moved to a rapidly growing area where Orange and Los Angeles counties meet. For years it had housed nothing but dairy farms but now new tract homes, small shopping centers and huge supermarkets arose out of what had once been cow fields. We were settling comfortably into our new home on a postage stamp size lot when our oldest child came bursting in one afternoon announcing that she wanted to join 4H. We had already been through Indian Guides, Brownies, Cub Scouts, Little League, ice-skating lessons and junior swim team. I wasn’t sure I was up to another new adventure.  But 4H! How wholesome! How American! Visions of smiling children, immaculately dressed in white, standing beside plates of perfectly baked bread danced before my eyes and I dreamily murmured “maybe that’s not a bad idea.”

My husband was not as easily swayed so we all trooped off to the last fair of the season before making a decision.

“This is a great idea.” I pointed out the beautiful table settings, the elaborately decorated cakes and the high, fluffy biscuits. No one answered. No family member was in sight. Clutching my three year old by the hand I went in search of them. My husband was quickly located looking at the woodwork and electric exhibits. “This is a great idea,” he shouted over the whine of a buzz saw demonstration. Then, looking around, asked, “Where are the kids? Why aren’t they looking at all the 4H exhibits?”

They were. They were in the barn, looking at the livestock.

“Wait just a minute,” I said in my sternest voice. “This wasn’t what I had in mind at all.”

Their father was more emphatic. “No animals. We have no room for animals.”

Home we went, the two of us chatting about the projects the four oldest children could take the next year. They were ominously silent.

Summer passed quickly and school began. With it came the start of the new 4H year. Our family had signed up to go to the first meeting where the children would choose their projects and we would meet their leaders. We were as eager as the children and looked forward to offering our help. Little did we know what that meant.

We no sooner walked in the door than the four oldest scattered. A group of smiling adults took their place, offering hand shakes and introductions. They said things like “Hi, I’m Greg, Kris and Laura’s dairy leader.” Or “Hello, I’m Tom Moody, Dave’s beef leader. We’ll be going up north to look for calves in a couple of weeks. Hope you can come with us.” This last was addressed to my husband who was beginning to look a little wild eyed.

“What’s going on here?” he whispered while poking me in the side with his elbow.

“I have no idea.” I moved out of his range.

Right then a formidable looking lady walked up, introduced herself as Wanda Turner and said, “I’m sure glad that Eric decided to take swine. No better project than swine. About that land those kids of yours want to lease. Can’t see a problem. You’ll build the fences, right? Kids will feed and clean, right? Should work out just fine. Always like to help out a 4H family.”

My husband led me quickly to a chair and sank down beside me, searching vainly for a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his forehead. “When did all this happen?” He was still whispering but an accusing, or perhaps it was a desperate, note had crept in. I had no answer.

The meeting started but I heard little of it. I was trying to understand what those four demons of ours had gotten us into when suddenly I was conscious of someone speaking my name.

“…and she has generously agreed to lead the beginning cooking group. Ten girls have already signed up.”

“No,” I shouted. “No, no.”

The first cooking meeting was set for the following Wednesday at our house. A beaming Mrs. Stevens, who led both the advanced cooking group and sewing, filled my arms with manuals. “I’m looking forward to having both of your girls in my sewing group. They’re so enthusiastic.” I was glad someone was.

We drove home in silence. Then it was time to take inventory. Kris, at fourteen, the oldest and obviously the ringleader, had signed up for dairy, cooking, sewing, dog obedience and horse.

“Horse?” yelped my husband. ”Horse!”

I sighed and turned to thirteen-year-old David. “And you?”

“Just beef and woodwork. Although dairy sounds like fun.” He looked thoughtful. I ignored him and turned to eleven year old Laura. “”Well?”

“Just dairy, cooking, sewing and horse.” She glanced at her sister as if for approval.

“Horse,” my husband repeated weakly. He seemed stunned, a feeling I shared.

Controlling my rapidly growing hysteria I turned to nine year old Eric. “What did you choose?”

“Pigs. Only you’re supposed to call them swine. I wanted dog obedience but Kris says she’s going to take Mindy this year. I can take her next year.”

Feeling a pang of sympathy for the poor unsuspecting dog I pressed on. “Where do you think you are going to keep all of these animals? Not in my back yard.”

“You heard Mrs. Turner, Mom.” Kris was ready with the answer. “We have it all worked out. We’ll all help and we’ll go over every day and feed and stuff. It’s real close, you’ll see, it’ll be great.”

I want to go on record that I said no. Their father said no. We both said no all of the time we built the fences, all of the time we went looking for calves and baby pigs, all during the time that small girls filled my kitchen with flour and greasy fingerprints. I’m pretty sure we said no.

However, events moved quickly and soon we acquired two small black and white calves, which the girls promptly named Tisha and Leche. A pair of piglets followed. The last arrival was a medium size Black Angus steer with huge, scared looking eyes. David immediately dubbed him Henry the Ninth. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be whimsical or if his grasp of history was a little shaky.

By now we were in full 4H swing.  Every project had a list of  requirements and I was getting worn out helping the kids keep up with them. However, we were all learning. The children were learning that animals have a mind of their own, that putting a halter on a calf not inclined to wear one is no easy task and leading that same calf represents an even greater challenge.  The calves had a tendency to go off in any direction they fancied, dragging a screaming child behind them. Pigs cannot be haltered. They require an altogether different technique, one that, to this day, we do not seem to have mastered. We were making progress however. David could now approach Henry’s pen without the steer either jumping the fence or going through it. The girls and the calves had worked out a compromise. If the girls wanted to go in the same direction that the calves did, the girls could come along. I could get my kitchen back to normal in only two days after a cooking meeting instead of a week. But the real star was Mindy, our sheltie. She took to dog obedience like she was born to it. She and Kris practiced for what seemed like hours. Sit, stay, come, down, they did it all. It got to the point where she heeled right next to me all around the house. She sat when I stopped, stood up when I went, circled around and sat in front of me, looking up with expectant eyes, ready for the next command. I used to like that dog.

The time came for our first fair. We were all beside ourselves with excitement. My husband and I kept telling the kids not to expect blue ribbons their first time out, after all, this was practice. But they did their best. The calves actually walked beside the girls most of the way, Henry didn’t jump out of the ring, and although Eric’s pig mostly ignored his tapping cane, she didn’t bite anyone. It was a success. We got better as time went on, had different animals and filled one wall in our family room with ribbons and trophies. They were good years, filled with fun and treasured memories. I hoped my grandkids were having an equally fun and memorable time.

Oh. I almost forgot. One more thing about that first fair. We did bring home one blue ribbon. Mindy won the dog obedience class.

Book Review: Died On the Vine by Joyce Harmon

Died On the Vine
A Passatonnack Winery Mystery
Joyce Harmon
Joyce Harmon, January 2012
Available in various ebook formats

From the author—

1996 – dial-up internet, car phones! Tech pioneer Cissy Rayburn loves the new technology that brings the world to her fingertips and allows her to be a contract software manual writer from her home nestled in the vineyards of the Virginia countryside. She’s left the fast lane with her retired government bureaucrat husband Jack, and they’ve turned their summer place into a winery.

But the past intrudes on their idyllic thoroughly modern country life when Colonel Obadiah Winslow comes to call. Winslow, famous (or notorious) for his belief that countless soldiers were left behind in Vietnam to rot in commie prisons, tells Cissy that he believes that her first husband Jimmy, reported KIA thirty years ago, is still alive. Cissy’s not buying it – but could it be true?

Three days later, Winslow is dead in the vineyard, stabbed with Jack’s pruning shears. Cissy is sure that Jack didn’t do it, but can she convince the sheriff? And if Jack didn’t do it, who did?

The Passatonnack Winery in rural Virginia is the central setting of this cozy mystery but the Vietnam War and those who were lost are its heart.  There have been MIA and KIA soldiers in every conflict but Vietnam stands out for sheer numbers as well as those infrequent touching moments when a family gains confirmation of a loved one’s fate. The idea that someone could use this vulnerability for his own purposes is, of course, horrible but we’ll always have con men, won’t we? I’m not sure whether Ms. Harmon is old enough to have lived through that terrible war (and war it truly was no matter what some may want to call it), but she has handled a still-sensitive subject with grace and real understanding.

It doesn’t hurt that the characters we meet in Died on the Vine are so very likeable. Cissy and Jack Rayburn could be your next door neighbors, caught in a potential trap but ready to meet it head on. Cissy’s friend Julia Barstow, journalist Mary Nguyen and attorney Andrew Billington Smith (great name) round out the sleuthing team and they all snoop quite well without putting themselves in dire situations. And who can resist Polly, Beau and Tough Stuff, canines and a kitten who do exactly what four-footers are supposed to do and no more but with such charm?

I have to admit that I didn’t spot the killer but there was nothing unfair about that—I just didn’t pick up on the hints. Readers should pay special attention to the epilogue which shows that the consequences of a crime are not always what you might expect. Altogether, I have to say that this debut mystery with a bit of history and a dollop of humor is decidedly entertaining and well done and I’m looking forward to the next in the series, Bidding on Death.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2012.

An Interview with Robert Fate

Robert FateIn 2007, Robert Fate burst onto the crime fiction scene with his debut novel, Baby Shark, gathering immediate attention and praise from the mystery-reading community for an exciting, heart-tugging story of love and revenge, acceptance and deceit that is set in 1950s Texas and stars a young, formidable, pool-shooting, female protagonist, nicknamed Baby Shark.

It is presently 2012, and his series is now five installments strong. Check him out at robertfate.com.

Since his publisher, Capital Crime Press, threw in the towel, he has chosen to publish at Kindle Direct Publishing. Showdown at Chigger Flats is available at Amazon.com as a download for Kindle devices––or a PC or MAC with a Kindle app––$3.99.

Showdown at Chigger Flats opens in May 1960 –– After ten years behind bars, the bloodthirsty murderer Walter Fairchild breaks out of a Texas prison with revenge on his mind, and the cantankerous Fort Worth private eye Otis Millett is at the top of his list. After several failed attempts to kill Otis, the Fairchild clan finally finds success in kidnapping him.

This doesn’t sit well with Kristin Van Dijk aka Baby Shark, who forms a fragile bond with law enforcement agencies across Texas to rescue her partner before he is tortured and killed. Kristin is a lethal handful at the best of times, but threatening Otis puts her in a particularly dangerous frame of mind. Get ready for some quintessential Baby Shark action-adventure as Kristin, Henry Chin, and a U.S. Marshall with pale green eyes go hunting for trouble in the oilfields of West Texas.


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Please help me welcome Robert Fate, author of the

acclaimed Baby Shark series, to Buried Under Books.

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Q – The title of your new book makes it sound like an old western, but it takes place in 1960, a time when the world was about to change in significant ways. I didn’t see much of that change in this book, but I’m curious about your future books. As Kristin moves through that period, will her stories reflect more of what we think of as the 1960s?

Robert Fate – Ah, the ’60s. As you know, Kristin is growing up. She’s twenty-five in Chigger Flats, no longer a young girl. So, in the books coming up, she will be very aware of the changes taking place around her. In the next stories she will see her favorite music, jazz, moved out of the way for rock’n’roll, and clothing and hairstyles will radically evolve, as well. She will find herself between generations, slightly older than the Baby Boomers, but still a youngster in the eyes of her partner, Otis, and his contemporaries. Bad guys span all periods of history, of course, so she’ll stay busy.

Q — What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

Robert Fate – The opening couple of chapters are always a pleasant challenge for me in any of my books, since they set the story in motion and introduce the characters to new readers and remind returning readers who’s who. I find those pages get worked and reworked.

Although, in Chigger Flats, having Kristin confronted with scenes of violence with a woman in her seventies as well as a gun totin’ pregnant woman was entertaining to put together. Kristin is a lethal handful, and everyone knows that, but we all also know she’s a good girl with a good heart. She is self-observant enough to dislike the picture of herself pushing around a woman old enough to be her grandmother, and threatening with a gun a woman eight months along. But she knows evil in all its forms must be stopped and takes care of business without flinching.

 

And the ending always takes special attention, since it has the dual job of concluding the present story in a satisfying way, while hinting at the future.

Q – Speaking of age, after your success as a male fashion model, a playwright, a share-cropper, a special effects technician, and on and on, what made you switch careers again––at age 70––to become a mystery novelist?

Robert Fate – You had to bring up my age, didn’t you? Well, I have always liked writing. My mother gave me a typewriter when I was in the 8th grade. She knew her son. So, I’ve always written something, short stories and poetry (oh, oh, my wife just fell asleep. The mere mention of my poetry sends her into the arms of Morpheus). Anyway, I’ve written scripts for TV shows, magazine articles, and other stuff, but I’d never written a novel. For some reason, I didn’t think I could. But a friend encouraged me to join a group of mystery writers who were determined to write a mystery novel and get it published. Working together over a period of a year or so, all four of us finished novels and got them published. I just happened to have been seventy-years-old. Since then I’ve written and had published four more mystery novels for a total of five by the age of seventy-six. So, if someone says they’re too old to do something, you have my permission to laugh at them.

Q – Okay, you decided at seventy to write a novel, never having done it, got it published, and saw it nominated for awards, but I have to ask––why choose to write in the voice of a young girl? That seems over the top, given all the other challenges.

Robert Fate – As a novice, I didn’t see what difference it made. Women write for men all the time. Well, okay, a series in first person might seem a bit much, but I didn’t know that was going to happen when I wrote the first book. When readers began asking for more, I was caught off guard––delighted, but surprised.

However, that doesn’t answer your question. Let’s see––I had a story I wanted to tell and it was about a girl who loses her father after only just getting to know him. (She was a child in school and he was away at war.) Baby Shark, the original story, is about Kristin’s struggle to patch up her life and regain her self-esteem after surviving a brutal attack that saw her father murdered and her gang-raped, beaten, and left for dead. It is also a story of revenge, since she hunts down the nomad gang that assaulted her and killed her father.

 

Showdown at Chigger FlatsSo the protagonist I’d chosen was a seventeen-year-old girl, and I wanted her to tell the story. So, I guess you could say I painted myself into a corner, but it seems to have turned out okay––many women readers have said the voice of Baby Shark is convincing.

Q — What is the last book you read purely for pleasure?

Robert Fate – Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, etc. I’d had the books stacked on the table for the longest time, but didn’t want to touch them until I could read them all. That day came recently, so I sat down and absorbed the three of them without a break. Heaven.

Q — If Kristin were shipwrecked on an uncharted island with no hope of rescue, who is the one person she would want with her and why?

Robert Fate – Kristin is a reader and she loves her music, specifically the cool, West Coast jazz that was popular in the 50s and 60s. So, that “person” should be a storyteller who possesses a large collection of mellow jazz albums. She could abide the separation from the world with someone with those qualifications.

Q – What is in store for you? What’s happening next?

Robert Fate – I have a standalone coming out in the fall. It’s called Kill the Gigolo, and is a contemporary, hardboiled crime adventure. It has a male protagonist, of course––the gigolo.

Q – So this is not part of your Baby Shark series?

Robert Fate – No, it will be the first novel that I have written that is not part of the series. It’s about a Boston gangster that puts a hit out on a New York City gigolo.

I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for dropping by to visit today!

Book Reviews: Quinn by Iris Johansen, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo, The Confession by Charles Todd, The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin, and Back of Beyond by C.J. Box

Quinn
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s Press, July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-65121-3
Hardcover

This is the second volume in a trilogy [the first was Eve, and the next Bonnie], wrapping up the mystery of the disappearance of Eve Duncan’s seven-year-old daughter who was presumably murdered.  This novel gives a lot of background on how she and Quinn came to meet, fall in love and come together.

Of course, it has to begin with Quinn near death in the hospital from a knife wound, but making a superhuman effort to get out and rejoin the hunt for Bonnie’s killer, aided by CIA agent and friend Catherine Ling.  [None of this is a spoiler, please be assured – it’s all revealed on the book cover.]

I had the feeling that a lot of this book was mere padding, an effort to fill out the three-volume “conclusion,” and bringing to an end one aspect of it:  the quest for the truth about Bonnie’s disappearance. The writing and tension keep the reader turning the pages, but wasn’t completely fulfilling for this reader, having not read any of the previous novels.  Of course, I can’t really comment fully on this observation, nor judge its accuracy.  The book is recommended, but I would suggest that at least the first book of the trilogy be read first.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2011.

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Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-957-1
Hardcover

In the beginning, we had Alex Delaware, psychologist and sometime police consultant.  Now we also have Daniel Rinaldi, psychotherapist and part-time police consultant.  There, of course, the similarities end.  Whereas the Kellerman protagonist is more cerebral, the Palumbo creation is more physical, in keeping with his background as a Golden Glover from the mean streets of Pittsburgh.

This novel, the second in which Rinaldi is involved in a murder mystery which endangers his life (multiple times), begins when he is called by a Pittsburgh detective following a bank robbery, to treat the sole surviving hostage (all the others were shot).  From that point, a series of events takes place, fast and furious.  In the midst of everything, there is a gubernatorial campaign in which the D.A. is running as a tough law-and-order candidate, complicating the police efforts and raising other concerns.

The complex plot proceeds apace, with scant clues but much physical action, especially a few murders and lots of firepower. The only criticism I have about an otherwise entertaining novel is Rinaldi’s omnipotence, allowing him to merely espouse solutions to the various mysteries without any preceding facts in the narrative (maybe that’s the way motion picture scripts are written – – the author formerly was a Hollywood screenwriter).  Nevertheless, the book is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Confession
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-201566-2
Hardcover

This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before..  The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to “clear his conscience.”  Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days.  Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.

Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel.  Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman’s locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man’s neck.  Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur.

A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown & Co., November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-03977-2
Hardcover

Ian Rankin usually lays a foundation of current and past events in his novels.  And, in this second Malcolm Fox mystery, he creates a tale reaching back a quarter of a century, when agitation and violence marked efforts for a separate Scotland.  Fox, who made his debut in The Complaints, grows exponentially as a protagonist, along with his sidekicks on his Internal Affairs team, Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith.  They are worthy successors to the now retired Rebus, although more subtle in the presentation.

This murder-mystery has its beginnings in an investigation of fellow cops who may have covered up for a corrupt co-worker, Detective Paul Carter, who had been found guilty of misconduct.  The original accuser was Carter’s uncle, an ex-op himself.  When the uncle is found dead, perhaps murdered with a pistol that theoretically did not exist for it should have been destroyed by the police in 1985, and Carter himself dead by drowning shortly afterward, Fox is drawn into his own inquiry outside the aegis of a Complaints review, resurrecting the turmoil of the past and terrorist threats of the present.

Rankin also demonstrates his trademark attention to character development, concentrating much of the story on the deterioration of Fox’ father’s physical well-being and his relationship with his sister, each with sensitivity and care.  At the same time, the author shows his talent for integrating the setting, plot and theme, tightly intertwining the various elements.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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Back of Beyond
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-36574-5
Hardcover

Against the vastness and isolation of Yellowstone Park, C.J. Box has once again created a suspense-murder-thriller novel using the natural environment as a backdrop.  Cody Hoyt, a rogue cop who first appeared in Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, returns once again, as he is called in to investigate the death of a man shot in the head and burned in his half-destroyed mountain cabin, later identified as Cody’s AA sponsor, making the case very personal to the detective.

In the course of his investigation, Cody discovers that the murderer has joined a group on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip in a remote part of the park.  Adding incentive, Cody learns that his son is part of the group on the trip, so has to not only find the murderer but save his son.

The author then takes the reader on a wild ride, never once giving much away in clues as bodies and riderless horses start turning up along the trail as Cody, who now is suspended and AWOL from the Sheriff’s Department, tries to close in on the remaining group.  The descriptions are sweeping, the character development deeply absorbing.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

Why Mystery Authors Make Great Friends

Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder, was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. A Reunion to Die For was released in hardback in June 2007. Both of these books are in re-release.

Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in her series, It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard have been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. The third book in this series, Shades of Murder, was released in May 2012. This is Lauren’s fifth mystery.

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@comcast.net

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Ten Advantages to Having a Mystery Author for a Friend (in person or on Facebook):

  1. If you’re ever locked out of your home, your mystery author friend will know best how to break in.

2.   Who better to show you where best to conceal a weapon?

3.   At Pampered Chef’s parties, they are very handy in detailing what kitchen utensils make the best weapons for use in self-defense … just in case your family launches a coup after serving them your world infamous tuna casserole once too often.

4.   Mystery authors are less sappy at conferences than Romance authors. We don’t hug as much. That isn’t because we’re standoffish. It’s because we don’t want you to detect our concealed weapons. Since we don’t hug as much, this means we don’t spread as many germs and you’re less likely to catch a cold when you get home.

5. Mystery authors are more exciting. They are the only friends able to plot out your murder and list your friends and family as suspects in order of interest when you’re fifteen minutes late for lunch. (If your friend reveals that the babysitter did it, you may want to take a closer look at the sitter’s text messages.)

6. During those paranoid moments when you think your next door neighbor is a mob assassin because he has been acting suspicious, your mystery writing buddy is the one friend you can count on to not only support your belief, but break into his house to illegally search it for proof. Of course, you can depend on your friend to bring the lock pick kit and know how to use it. (Don’t ask her how she knows how to use it.)

7.   If your spouse leaves you for another woman, your mystery author friend can advise you on how to fake your death and make it look like he killed you so that he will spend the rest of his life in jail for what he did.

8.   Your mystery author friend is more than happy to run a background check on that new mate you met online.

9.   On that first date, you can count on your mystery writing friend to tail you and your date all evening to make sure you don’t end up in a plot for their latest book … whether you want her to or not.

10. We know what countries don’t have extradition.

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So make a Mystery Writing friend today! I’d love to make your acquaintances at any of my sites:

Websites:  http://mysterylady.net/
http://acornbookservices.com/

Blog: Literary Wealth: http://literarywealth.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991

Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries

Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Book Review: Party Doll by Steve Brewer

Party Doll
Steve Brewer
Steve Brewer, February 2012
Ebook available in multiple formats

Strippers and dirty politicians pretty much go together, correct? In Party Doll, author Steve Brewer not only brings them together, but adds in a private detective, a nosy reporter, and some fun for all. Albuquerque heats up with some expected fist fights and, of course, murder.

When Albuquerque private eye Bubba Mabry is hired by a strip club owner to find one of his dancers gone missing, there are not a lot of leads. His wife, star reporter, is working on a corruption scandal involving the state fairgrounds. Slowly, pieces start falling together and Mabry realizes the dancer’s disappearance may be connected to the scandal. Mabry finds himself involved with big bad bouncers, a United States Attorney, and federal marshals. As more people enter the picture, Mabry gets in deeper and must discover who is desperate enough to commit murder.

Okay, please forgive me and don’t call me a pig, but when the story started off in a strip club and the humor flowed like water, I was hooked. Party Doll is a light-hearted typical PI story but still enjoyable. It’s a fast read with memorable characters. Brewer even pokes a little fun at fiction writers in one scene. A thoroughly fun little story and I wouldn’t mind reading something else by Brewer if I ever had the chance.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, June 2012.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.

Book Review: Giant George by Dave Nasser with Lynne Barrett-Lee

Giant George
Life with the World’s Biggest Dog

Dave Nasser with Lynne Barrett-Lee
Grand Central Life & Style, April 2012
ISBN 978-1-4555-1145-7
Ebook
Also available in hardcover

From the publisher—

With his big blue eyes and soulful expression, George was the irresistible runt of the litter. But Dave and Christie Nasser’s “baby” ended up being almost five feet tall, seven feet long, and 245 pounds. Eager to play, and boisterous to the point of causing chaos, this big Great Dane was scared of water, scared of dogs a fraction of his size and, most of all, scared of being alone.

Giant George is the charming story of how this precocious puppy won Dave and Christie’s hearts and along the way became a doggie superstar. In 2010, George was named by Guinness World Records as the Tallest Dog in the World-ever. He appeared on Oprah, and even has his own global fan club. But to Dave and Christie, this extraordinary animal is still their beloved pet, the one who has made them laugh, made them cry, and continues to make them incredibly happy.

What can I say about a book that is full of laughter and joy and even a few sniffles of sheer happiness as well as human heartache now and then? This tale of a very large dog made me want one (until I came to my senses) and I defy other readers to claim they don’t end up feeling the same way.

Imagine a runt who gains a pound a day, grows up to weigh 245 pounds, stands 43 inches at the shoulder and measures 7 feet in  length. George’s dad got a little uneasy early on, wondering if he and his wife were the right people for him but, thankfully, he just couldn’t let George go. Life has never been quite the same since for George’s family and friends. After all, who would expect to have to provide a queen-sized mattress for a dog to sleep on or that an enormous dog would be afraid of being alone or that he’d refuse to step in snow?

The anecdotes told by Dave Nasser are funny and sniffly and awe-inspiring, all at the same time, and there’s something new and entertaining to read about in every chapter. Even at a time when Dave and Christie are faced with heartbreak, George makes things a little bit easier.  Each time I tell friends about George, I find myself smiling and laughing and, after all, making us love them is what dogs are all about, isn’t it?

Giant George is pure pleasure from beginning to end and it’s one I’m sure to re-read, something I rarely do. If you love animals and want a heartwarming story, you can’t go wrong with this one. In the meantime, you can find George on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as well as on his own website.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2012.