Book Review: Rose Gold by Walter Mosley

Rose GoldRose Gold
An Easy Rawlins Mystery #13
Walter Mosley
Doubleday, September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-53597-7

This newest novel from the prolific Walter Mosley (whose next novel, in the Leonid McGill series, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, is due out in May) brings the return of private detective Ezekiel Porterhouse (“Easy”) Rawlins.  The last novel in the series was nearly two years ago, the highly acclaimed Little Green, which in turn was preceded six years prior to that by Blonde Faith, which seemingly ended with Easy’s demise in a car accident when he’d lost control of a car he was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu.  This book takes place five months later.

The novel is set in post-war Los Angeles, an era of radical black nationalism, where “innocence was rarely a key factor for justice,” eerily also reflecting today’s recurring headlines of black men generally guilty of nothing more than walking/driving/whatever while black, shot by white police officers.  And I can’t think of another author today who can capture this quite like Mr. Mosley.

Now nearing 50, Easy, a black man with a sixth grade education, had moved from New Orleans to LA in the late forties, and in the opening pages is moving into a new home with his 12-year-old adopted daughter, Feather, and his adopted son, Jesus.  Among the usual cast of characters present is Easy’s “oldest and deadliest friend,” Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, computer expert Jackson Blue and his wife, Jewelle, and Melvin Suggs (a white man and the only LA cop Easy trusts, describing the LAPD as “morally bankrupt”).

Easy is approached by the special assistant to the Chief of Police who offers to pay handsomely if Easy will take on a missing person’s case, leaving Easy briefly speechless:  “No policeman had ever offered me money – – and I had been stopped, rousted, beaten, and caged by a thousand cops in my years on and near the street.”  A kidnapping is suspected, since the missing young woman, Rosemary Goldsmith (who Easy comes to think of as the titular Rose Gold), missing from her dorm at UC Santa Barbara for two weeks, is the daughter of a very wealthy weapons manufacturer and philanthropist.  But nothing in a Walter Mosley novel is as simple as it seems, and never more so than here.  The book combines Easy’s philosophizing with a quiet humor, has an intricate and somewhat convoluted plot, and houses a large (at times unwieldy) cast of characters.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2015.

Book Review: The Warning by Sophie Hannah and The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

The WarningThe Warning
Sophie Hannah
Witness Impulse, June 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-242884-4
Mass Market Paperback available August 2015

From the publisher—

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

When a kindly stranger does Chloe a good deed, she decides she must repay him. But in tracing him, she meets a sympathetic woman named Nadine, who warns Chloe to stay away from the man at all costs. “Give him nothing, tell him nothing, don’t trust him,” she says. “Avoid him like the plague.”

Chloe knows the sensible thing to do: walk away. But her curiosity gets the best of her. What is the truth about the good Samaritan? How dangerous could he be? And can Chloe find the answers without putting herself and her daughter in harm’s way?

Years ago, when I was a Girl Scout, both as a girl and, later, as a troop leader, one of my very favorite campfire songs was “The Ash Grove”. Since that song is pretty much the catalyst for everything that happens in this story, I was completely hooked from the beginning. Unfortunately, it took no time at all for me to recognize that Chloe is essentially a stalker and, perhaps worse, TSTL.

Make no mistake, Ms. Hannah has crafted a terrific story full of questions and suspense and interesting characters. It’s a good thing because, otherwise, I might have closed the book right when Chloe signed a note to a near-stranger “Lots of love”. What woman in her right mind does that? If I hadn’t closed it then, I would have when she muses about how he’d be so hurt at what someone else said about him. Yes, she’s got the obsessive gene for sure.

When Tom mentions diamonds in a joking manner, Chloe immediately jumps to a ridiculous assumption. What is wrong with this besotted woman? Wait…could it be that Chloe and Tom are two peas in the proverbial pod?

And then it all goes upside down.

One of Sophie Hannah‘s many talents is that she can keep me reading even when I’m sure I no longer want to. Mind you, I still think Chloe is more than a little off the rails but, still and all, I’m not the least bit sorry I continued on, if only because I had the chance to once again see Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, soon to be starring in their own book, Woman with a Secret, coming in August.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2015.


The After HouseThe After House
Michael Phillip Cash
CreateSpace, September 2014
ISBN 978-1-5006-0036-5
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life after a failed marriage in a 300 year old cottage in historic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Little do they know, another occupant is lurking in the haven of their own home. Will the After House be their shelter or their tomb?

The After House strikes me as a story that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a romance? A ghost story? A tale of love lost and love found? Of escaping an abusive relationship? Of foul play?

Actually, it’s all of the above and I think that works to its detriment because, as a relatively short book, we don’t have enough time to be really invested and the multiple threads don’t help. I also think that some of the behavior of the main character, Remy, becomes questionable because of the time restriction.

Why, for instance, is Remy virtually wallowing in self-pity when it’s been nearly a year since her divorce and surely longer since the events that ended her marriage? Why does she claim to be gunshy of relationships and then show herself to be otherwise? Why is whoever is out to cause her trouble so very, very incompetent?

Then there’s Captain Eli. I actually liked him much better than anyone else and had a good deal of sympathy for his inability to move on. Then again, I had to wonder why practically everyone can see him and/or feel his presence and, in some cases, even touch him physically?

Oh, I also liked a couple of characters named Sten and Marum but to tell you why would be to spoil things so I’ll say no more about them.

Anyhoo, I choose to look at this as a simple ghost story with some other elements thrown in to flesh out the tale and, as such, it was a few short hours nicely spent. I don’t regret the time 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2015.

Book Review: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh—and a Giveaway!

After We FallAfter We Fall
Emma Kavanagh
Sourcebooks Landmark, June 2015
ISBN 978-1-4926-0919-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A plane falls out of the sky.
A woman is murdered.
Four people all have something to hide…

Shortly after takeoff, flight 2940 plummets to the snow-covered ground, breaking into two parts, the only survivors a handful of passengers and a flight attendant. 

Cecilia has packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy and sees no way out.

Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.

Jim is a retired police offer and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared, and he knows something is wrong.

Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.

Four people, who have never met but are indelibly linked by these disasters, will be forced to reveal the closely guarded secrets that unlock the answers to their questions. But once the truth is exposed, it may cause even more destruction.

From the opening lines, we’re thrust into the overwhelming fear that must come when a plane is about to crash and, almost in the same breath, we begin to learn a bit about four very different people, different and yet not so much so.

Why was Cecilia driven to quit her job as a flight attendant but, more importantly, why has she abandoned her husband and her toddler son? How can Tom, a CID detective accustomed to seeing and hearing terrible things,, summon the courage and the right words to tell little Ben that his mom was on that plane and, worse yet, she meant to leave them behind?

After thirty years on the force, Jim never thought he’d have to cope with the disappearance of his daughter, Libby. herself a cop on the beat. The signs are all there, though, to a man trained to see them. And Freya, well, this poor girl is about to hear the TV news story that will turn her life upside down.

Four people. Four lives that will be irrevocably changed by murder and the freefall of an airplane.

Multiple points of view don’t always work, in my opinion, but they do in this case. In fact, I don’t think any other style would have been nearly as effective, primarily because only two of the four are clearly connected. Ms. Kavanagh has done a really nice job of bringing these diverse and interesting characters into the reader’s life and I felt a good deal of empathy with each and every one. Also, while it would have been easy for the horror of a plane crash to overwhelm the murder of one person, Ms. Kavanagh never lets that happen.

Part psychological thriller, part character study, After We Fall is well worth a reader’s time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2015.


Emma KavanaghEmma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff, and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. She started her business as a psychology consultant, specializing in human performance in extreme situations. She lives in South Wales with her husband and two young sons.

Leave a comment below to enter the
for a trade paperback copy of

After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh.
The winning name will be
on Tuesday evening, June 30th.

Open to residents of the US.

On Writing – and Rewriting – History

Credit Imagine Studios

Credit Imagine Studios

Vanessa Lafaye is a Florida native, now living in the UK.  She has worked for nearly 30 years in academic publishing, for Oxford University Press, Blackwell Publishing, and Wiley.  She has published numerous articles in British broadsheets, and several short stories.  She lives in Wiltshire. Under a Dark Summer Sky (published as Summertime in the UK) is her first novel.

Under a Dark Summer Sky

My first work of historical fiction has just been published and I’m still in that shiny, breathless, everything-is-magical stage of being a debut author. Under a Dark Summer Sky is the book that almost wasn’t. I previously wrote two books of women’s fiction which were not published, although they did get me signed by a good agent. Discouraged, and then debilitated by cancer treatment, I had pretty much resolved to find another creative outlet. Clearly the universe didn’t intend for me to be a writer.

All this changed on a visit to my family in Florida in 2010, when I opened the morning paper. There I found a long feature about an horrific lynching which took place in Greenwood in 1935. It carried a striking photograph of an African-American man standing beneath the legs of a corpse hanging from a tree. The observer’s face was blank of all emotion. I wondered who he was, why he was there… what he was thinking. These wonderings led me to discover the real events of the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 which destroyed Islamorada in the Florida Keys. I decided to dramatize the already impossibly dramatic story of the locals and a group of desperate, destitute World War I veterans who were caught up in the storm. In doing so, I would take my first steps into the unknown world of historical fiction, which was totally unlike any previous writing experience.

Islamorada cemetery marker, thrown 150ft by the hurricane

Islamorada cemetery marker, thrown 150ft by the hurricane

But I made a deal with myself: this book would be my last attempt to get published. If it didn’t work, I resolved to listen to the universe and give up.

I decided to set my story during the days leading up to the arrival of the storm. The real events became a framework, a scaffold, which I would populate with my fictional characters. I have heard other authors complain about the constraints of writing about historical events, but I actually found it very liberating to have history impose itself on my story. When we watch the ‘Titanic’ movie, we can be gripped all the way through, even though we already know how it ends. The thing that keeps us watching is not just the visual spectacle of the sinking ship, impressive though it is, but wanting to know the fates of the characters. I had to give the reader a reason to keep turning the pages, although the hurricane’s arrival was signalled in chapter one. For me the hurricane became a character in its own right, a psychotic, destructive, irresistible force that would reveal to the humans what really mattered to each of them.

Hurricane memorial, Islamorada

Hurricane memorial, Islamorada

I took several liberties with the facts, to make my story flow and give myself certain freedoms. I moved the date to the 4th of July to make the callous neglect of the veterans even more profound. I invented the town of Heron Key to create settings and geography not found in Islamorada. Such is the license of fiction…or is it? Although my characters were entirely imaginary, as were all of the events depicted leading up to the storm, the hurricane sequences were based on factual accounts. The responsibility weighed heavily. It made for a very different writing experience. My motivation was different too. Yes, I was telling a story, but it meant something more because it really happened.

Another native Floridian

Another native Floridian

Writing this book also made me examine my personal history. I was born and raised in Florida but have not lived there for 25 years, having settled in the UK in 1989. I never expected to write a novel set in Florida, but once I started, it opened up a vast store of childhood memories. The tastes, smells, sights, and sounds of Florida came flooding back, straight from my brain and onto the page. Writing the book was like a two-year nostalgia trip, like discovering a huge time capsule in a dusty attic. In many ways, the book has turned out to be a love letter to my home state. Writing it made me examine my feelings about the place that I left so long ago, made me appreciate what I love about it…reminded me of why I left.

It also made me realise that it is still, on some level, home.

Book Blitz: Tor Maddox Series by Liz Coley—and a Giveaway!

Tor Maddox Blitz Banner


Title: Tor Maddox Series 
Author: Liz Coley 
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult



INTRODUCING Tor Maddox, a heroine for our times

“I know that one day, I’m going to have to live in the
real world. I’d like it to be a decent one.” – Tor

UnleashedBook I Tor Maddox: Unleashed

When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being  spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious  to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action?

Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined.  But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become  public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy  suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a  teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog  would become a mission to save them all.

EmbeddedBook 2 Tor Maddox: Embedded

Life has been way too quiet for Tor Maddox since her fifteen minutes of CNN fame. Then agent-in-training Rick Turner reappears with what sounds like a simple assignment—to embed herself as his eyes and ears in her own high school. When she agrees to keep tabs on high school state swim champ Hamilton Parker for the Feds, she is plunged into the deep end of a sinister plot. Knowing that freedom, justice, and lives are at stake again, Tor jumps in feet first, but has she gotten in over her head this time?

When observe and report becomes kiss and tell, Tor’s first mission may blow up in her face.

MistakenBook 3 Tor Maddox: Mistaken

Grab a flotation device and welcome aboard for more shenanigans, villainy, and romance.

Eight leotards and a ball gown—that’s what Tor Maddox packed for her summer ballet intensive in New York. Pity she never arrived. Kidnapped once by the good guys and once by the bad ones, Tor finds herself involved in a high seas adventure featuring princesses and pirates, a wedding ring, and the guy she thought she’d never be allowed to see again, junior man-in-black Rick Turner.



Purchase Links:

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Tor Maddox Quote 1


Q & A with Liz Coley

How did you get the idea for the Tor Maddox series?

The story idea for the first book, UNLEASHED, came to me as many do when I was listening to NPR. They were covering the bird flu epidemic—the first time around! My husband and I were driving past Best Friends Veterinary Clinic at the time. The reporter mentioned the millions of birds that had to be destroyed to stop the spread, and I said, “What would happen if it were dogs?” Brian said, “You should write that.” This became my very first NaNoWriMo project in 2006.

What has changed about the book since that first draft?

Here’s what changed in real life: In 2006, the canine flu had been around for only two years. The bird flu epidemic was raging. In 2015, the canine flu is having a major resurgence in the American Midwest. So is the bird flu. Once upon a time I was worried that the events of my story would happen before I could get published. Now I think I got my book out there in the nick of time.

Here’s what changed about the characters: Originally Tor was 14 and Rick was 24 and there was NO WAY there could ever be a romantic thing—just a school girl crush. By up-aging Tor and down-aging Rick to within 4 years, it became a difficult but believable entanglement.

Here’s what changed about the title: Original title was Best Friends, as a salute to dogs being man’s best friends and all of Tor’s best friend relationships. This was revised on submission to Sixty Million Best Friends, the number of dogs in the United States at the time. Under the Radar was considered briefly. And then I settled on the one-word title scheme for the series where every title contains a double meaning.

What’s with the funny character names?

I love unusual names, especially the ones that make you ask, “What were the parents thinking?!” I wanted to recognize the trend of mad creativity with baby name choices and spellings. Tor’s mom, representing the older generation is Suzie. Tor’s best friend is the hip, new version, Sioux-san.

Why are the first two books set in San Diego?

I grew up in San Diego, so the culture and geography and local political issues were all on my radar. I felt like I could work well with that location.

What kind of research do you do for your books?

In UNLEASHED, Tor copies a lot of the research I did, looking in detail at flu genetics and pandemic numbers. I also researched sunset and sunrise times, moon phases, actual flight itineraries, and the street view (and inside photos) of CNN headquarters. There’s a website where you can actually print out the genetic code letter by letter for different strains of influenza and compare them. To plan for Tor and Rody’s escape, I hiked the specific route they took with a camera.

For EMBEDDED, I researched white supremacy and anti-immigrant websites, which are rather chilling. Almost all of the news quotes at the tops of the chapters are quoted from real online sources. I also had one of those “browser history” moments that authors feel very self-conscious about when they are researching things like improvised explosives. Just saying.

For MISTAKEN, I did extensive research on a particular cruise line which shall remain nameless so Big Mouse doesn’t get mad at me. There are hours of videos on the cruise ship work experience, expectations of employees, and orientation procedures. I also looked at cruise itineraries, ship layouts, and the actual CDC handbook on the Vessel Sanitation Program (and several years of inspection data). Most chilling was a book I read/skimmed called Cruising for Trouble. Finally Google Earth and Google Maps were extremely helpful in figuring out very specific plot points.

What about all the cool technology in your books. Is it real?

I wrote my first draft of UNLEASHED before the iPhone was released. So all the smart phone functions that Tor performs—searching the web, doing mail, submitting assignments, GPS—that all came out about 6 months after I wrote it, which tells you the dangers of trying to write near future.

The high-res photo pen she uses in EMBEDDED can now be bought on SkyMall, although not with some of the other fancy features hers might or might not have. Pocket printers are now available on Amazon. But as far as I know, we aren’t microchipping people yet; we are following their phones, student IDs, etc. via GPS and RFID. It will happen; it’s only a matter of time. Does the government have something that captures live feed from private webcams? Well, what do you think?

As far as MISTAKEN, yes, we really do drink ocean water that has been distilled and reflavored when we cruise. The LRAD sonic cannon to repel pirates exists. You can buy them online, and the website makes for very interesting reading.

Will there be more books in the series?

That’s going to depend on how successful these books are. I would love to write more stories, because these characters have become like family to me. Quirky family, but family. The best way to ensure the continuation is to tell lots of people about the series, ask your library to carry it, and encourage everyone to purchase and read legitimate e-copies or paperbacks, not pirated files. There’s no sonic cannon to repel book pirates.


Tor Maddox Quote 2


About the Author

Liz ColeyIn 2013, Liz Coley’s psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 was released by HarperCollins in the US and UK. Foreign translations have been published in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, and Chinese (simplified and traditional).

Her independent publications include alternate history/time travel/romance Out of Xibalba and teen thrillers in the new Tor Maddox series: Unleashed, Embedded, and Mistaken. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange WorldsFlights of Fiction, You’re not Alone, and Winter’s Regret.

Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.

Liz invites you to follow her as LizColeyBooks on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and visit her website at

Author links:


Two Giveaways

You could win an ebook copy of Liz Coley’s
Tor Maddox #1: Unleashed! Just

leave a comment below and the winning
name will be drawn on
Sunday evening,
June 28th. This drawing is open internationally

and the prize will be sent out after July 28th.

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)

You can also enter the drawing to win a
hardcopy set of all three full-length books in the
Tor Maddox series. Enter the drawing here.


Tor Maddox Four Book Covers


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Book Review: Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin

Saints of the Shadow BibleSaints of the Shadow Bible
Inspector John Rebus #19
Ian Rankin
Back Bay Books, February 2015
ISBN: 978-0-316-22457-4
Trade Paperback

When the Cold Case Group in which Rebus has been working is eliminated, he lucks out by being taken back with a spot in CID, albeit with a demotion.  Reduced from DI to DS, he now is subordinate to his long-time protégé, DI Clarke.  Of course, that doesn’t stop the old dinosaur from acting like he always has.

Rankin introduces a couple of surprises in this novel, the first being having Malcolm Fox, Rebus’s standing nemesis, as a co-investigator working together.  It comes about because Fox is performing his last assignment with the Complaints looking at a 30-year-old case involving the group known as the Saints of the Shadow Bible because they each swore fidelity to protect each other on a stand-in for the holy book.  Rebus had joined the group as a young DC soon after the arrest of a snitch who eventually got off on a murder charge through police mistakes.  This was in the Old Days, when anything went and they made their own rules.  The Solicitor General recently pushed through a retraction of the double jeopardy rule and was looking to resurrect the murder charge.  Rebus volunteers to assist in Fox’s efforts and the two learn to trust one another, leading to cooperation in another more recent investigation involving an auto accident and the murder of the Minister of Justice.

As with the rest of the series, Rebus shines and errs, but his character and ability always comes through.  The author has no need of our praise, but deserves accolades nonetheless.  The complexity of the plot provides Rebus with the chance to outthink everyone, but the surprise is that Fox rises to the occasion as a real CID detective.

Highly recommend.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2015.

The Truth About Fiction — One Writer’s Confession

A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor. Her nonfiction book credits include Nurses On Our Own, the true-story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners.

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Twitter: @PatriciaSkalka


Do you base your characters on real people?

It’s a great question, and one that readers often ask. The last time I was presented with this query, I immediately responded: No, never. And then I paused. Well, actually…I said, and then went on to explain how my dear friend Ruth had both urged me to write my first mystery (“What are you waiting for?” she said) and also inspired one of the principal characters in the book. Ruby Schumacher of Death Stalks Door County is tall and independent and a force with which to be reckoned. Much like the real-life Ruth; in fact, there’s even an echo in the two names.

Much as I insist that my characters are made from whole cloth, the truth is that I can’t help but be influenced by the people I’ve met and known throughout my life. A way of speaking, an idiosyncratic action, even a particular physical characteristic will make its way from the real world into the fictional one I am creating. Not because I’m lacking in imagination, but because the world is so rich in good material that I’d be remiss to ignore it. And sometimes because putting a person in a book keeps their memory alive.

In my new book Death at Gills Rock, a group of crusty elderly men gather at the Woodlands Sawmill to share local gossip and drink homemade cherry wine made by the proprietor, a burly man who serves his guests Death at Gills Rockcrackers and fish spread. I’ve been to just such a place in the real Door County. The owner died several years ago and the “social club” has slowly faded from the scene, but in my book, the proprietor will forever man the wood stove, the scent of burning pine will always hang in the room and the sour cherry wine will continue to flow from the Jim Beam bottle that the mill operator brandishes to his visitors.

From now on, when a reader asks if I base my characters on real people, I’ll give a more nuanced response. One that reflects the truth: that as much as I write to create a work of fiction, I sometimes unwittingly write in homage to those who have shaped and influenced my life. I do so to keep their memory strong in my own mind, and because they deserve to be shared with the world.