The Road to Paradise: A New Twist on Family Values

the road to paradise

 

 

The Road to Paradise by Max Allan Collins (Brash Books, November 2017) is the second sequel to The Road to Perdition, which was an award-winning graphic novel and a superb motion picture starring Tom Hanks. Collins is an MWA Grand Master and a multiple Shamus-award winning author.

When I began reading The Road to Paradise, I only knew that the author had co-authored mysteries with Mickey Spillane and had written the Dick Tracy daily and Sunday comics for the Chicago Tribune. I also knew he had written the Ms. Tree comic books and was a fellow member of MWA Midwest. I hadn’t yet read The Road to Perdition nor seen the film.

I lived I Oak Park, Illinois, in the mid-1970s when a mob hit man murdered crime-boss Sam Giancana in his Fillmore Street home, less than six blocks from me, so I was instantly intrigued by this novel’s opening scene where the Outfit similarly slays Mad Sam DeStefano. Not only did I regularly hang out at the Big Top restaurant in Berwyn (at the corner where the cities of Cicero, Chicago, Oak Park, and Berwyn intersect) with lots of people associated with Mad Sam, but I also met two of Momo Giancana’s three daughters when I managed O’Hare convention hotels. Unfortunately, Collins momentarily lost me when we left that familiar road to focus on Michael Satariano, formerly Michael O‘Sullivan, at the Cal-Neva in Tahoe. If I had read the previous Road books (both Perdition and Purgatory) before reading The Road to Paradise, I wouldn’t have confused Connor Looney with Mooney Giancana. Nevertheless, Collins kept me reading until I could piece together who was who and who did what to whom and where and when and why.

The Looneys were Irish bootleggers in Moline in the 1920s. Michael O’Sullivan, Sr., Michael Satariano’s father, went to work for them as their “Angel of Death” enforcer after serving during WWI. He considered himself still a soldier. Soldiers killed enemies. It was easy for him to emerge from one war to fight in another.

When Connor Looney murdered his wife and youngest son, Michael Senior declared war on the Looneys and the Chicago mob. He took his surviving boy along to drive the getaway car while he robbed banks and sought revenge for the death of his wife and his other son.

After Michael Senior’s death in Perdition, Kansas, Michael is adopted by the Satarianos. He grows up in DeKalb, Illinois, and falls in love with Patsy Ann O’Hara. He enlists in the Army and is a sniper on Bataan when war is declared, He’s already a trained killer, and he kills more than fifty enemy Japs. He becomes the first medal of honor recipient of the second world war when he loses an eye saving the lives of his captain and General Wainwright. He’s sent home to make speeches and act like a hero during War Bond tours.

If you want the whole story, read The Road to Perdition and The Road to Purgatory before you read The Road to Paradise. I bought all three books but read them in reverse order, beginning with Paradise. They do work as stand-alones, if you pay attention to the back-fill and can keep it straight. I love all three novels so much I’m now attempting to get my hands on everything Max Allan Collins has written.

It’s easy for me to identify with Michael because I once lived in Chicago and Oak Park and Berwyn and Cicero. I received my masters in educational psychology from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and still live nearby. I was a hotel and resort manager in Chicago and Atlanta and Florida during the seventies, and I personally encountered some of the real-life mob figures featured in these novels.

And, like Michael Senior, I believe in revenge, an eye for an eye. I do not believe in turning the other cheek.

Is the son of the Angel of Death a saint or a sinner? Can even a merciful God forgive him for killing so many?

I highly recommend The Road to Paradise to anyone who loves a good mystery, a great story, or who simply wants to learn more about history. It’s a wonderful tale of revenge, redemption, and family (no pun intended) values.

 

Advertisements

Great Mystery, Superb Suspense

The Other Girl

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler (St. Martin’s Press, August 22, 2017) is a great mystery story, expertly crafted.

Miranda “Randi” Rader and Jake Billings, police detectives in rural Louisiana, investigate the murder and mutilation of a college professor. Before Miranda became a cop, she’d been a victim herself of kidnapping and attempted sexual assault. Evidence found at the murder scene leads her to believe the professor, who is also the college president’s son, was the man who abducted her and another girl fourteen years ago.

Spindler builds suspense by piling up more and more evidence that points fingers at the wrong people, including Randi. Is someone trying to frame her for murder? Who? Why?

No one seems to believe Randi (Miranda), except her partner Jake and her best-friend Summer. She’s removed from the case and suspended from the department. She has to hire an attorney because she’s about to be arrested for murder.

Things go from bad to worse. Miranda learns Summer has an inoperable brain tumor and is going to die. Randi’s brother informs her their estranged mother is in the hospital recovering from a heart attack.

And when she and Jake fall in love, it only complicates things even more.

There’s an old saying among suspense writers that when your protagonist is hip-deep in alligators, you should throw a back-biting poisonous snake into the mix to add excitement. Spindler does that in The Other Girl, only she throws in more than one. Miranda doesn’t know (nor does the reader) she’s about to be bit in the butt until the snake strikes.

Great mystery, superb suspense. The Other Girl is a page-turner you won’t be able to put down until the very end.

 

Supernatural Noir

the corpse and the girl

 

John Urbancik’s style is spellbinding. He’s a consummate craftsman. His writing seems like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Stephen King, with maybe a little Richard Thomas thrown in. Maybe some Lewis Carroll, too, to make it even more surreal.

The Corpse and the Girl from Miami (Dark Fluidity, 2017) is a mystery within a mystery. It’s noir and a supernatural thriller all in one.

And, despite everything else, it’s also a love story.

It’s set in Boston, MA, not in Miami. There are some displaced Floridians (Ofelia, Mr. Maker, Armando Luis Salazar) prowling the New England darkness one unusually stormy night, but they have no special love for Bean Town. Neither does The Corpse.

Imagine waking up in a cemetery with three bullet holes in your chest and no pulse. You have no remembrance of who shot you or why. You can’t even remember your name.

Piecing together his identity and solving the mystery of his murder turns into a herculean task for the dead man. There’s another walking dead man and a burgeoning cast of characters, some of whom may be aligned with powerful supernatural forces, to complicate the plot.

No one tells the truth. Ferreting out who killed whom, who is working for whom, and who’s a good person and who’s a bad person keeps the reader turning pages.

If you like a good mystery in an urban fantasy with supernatural elements, you’ll love The Corpse and the Girl from Miami.

Two Nights is a double treat

Two Nights Reichs

 

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs (Bantam Books, July 2017) introduces Sunday Night, a traumatized ex-cop on a mission to find a missing girl and save her life.

Although Sunnie Night allegedly lives in Charleston, SC (actually on Goat Island, just offshore), the first half of the story takes place in Chicago. As a Chicago native, I followed Sunny around the city waiting for the author to make an obvious mistake. She didn’t, which means either she was familiar with Chicago from book signings or she did her research.

I love the brilliant images Reichs creates: “Across Lake Shore Drive, the city hummed with all the notes of a midnight symphony.” Made me wonder if she didn’t listen to Gorden Jenkins’ Manhattan Tower while writing this novel.

The action, however, doesn’t remain in Chicago. Sunnie follows the alleged kidnappers to LA, to Washington, DC, and then to Louisville, KY.

Sunnie has a nasty a scar over one eye. Some asshole stabbed her in the eye with a knife, and she had to shoot and kill him in self-defense. That’s why she was forced to leave the Charleston PD: they wanted to stick her on permanent desk duty after she’d killed an unarmed citizen (he had no gun and the knife didn’t seem to count) and she wanted back on the streets but they wouldn’t let her back with only one eye.

So she quit.

Sunnie has other scars, too, though the others aren’t quite so visible. Scars from the military. Scars from her own childhood.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s unusually tall for a woman?

The title refers to Sunnie and her twin brother Gus — Sunday and August Night. Gus is black and Sunnie can pass for white. Although twins, they look as different as day and night. Their mother was a white immigrant from Ireland and their father was an African-American preacherman. There are other meanings to the title, but you’ll need to read the novel to learn what they might be.

Sometimes the tension becomes so taut it’s almost painful, as if there’s literally a ticking timebomb that will explode any minute now. The author doubles the tension by running parallel mysteries that threaten to intersect: the current mystery Sunnie and Gus must unravel and the mystery of what happened to them as children.

Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. Highly recommended for mystery and thriller lovers.

 

The Birth of a Book

bookcoverimage-cs-12-25-16

After weeks of final revisions and consideration of comments and suggestions from beta readers and editors, I receive the page proofs of the typeset novel for one final review. I’m promised  ARCs shortly after the beginning of the new year, and then I can—at last–hold a printed copy of the book in my hands and feel, as well as see, the child of my imagination made flesh. I will sniff the paper and the ink, run my fingertips lovingly over the cover and interior pages, and cry real tears.

Birthing a book is a joyous occasion. The conception, as always, may be a labor of love; but the delivery is nothing but pure time-consuming painful labor.

Next comes the really hard part: introducing the child to the world and analyzing each ohh and ahhh or worrying when others don’t see the same beauty and potential in my offspring that I see each time I look.

Here are the vitals:

6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
340 pages

$14.95 for Trade Paperback; $3.95 for Kindle version

2AM Publications
ISBN-13: 978-0937491195
ISBN-10: 0937491195
BISAC: Fiction / Psychological

Megan Williams returns to Twin Rivers after five years in a mental hospital to take final revenge on the men who raped and mutilated her. But the tiny Illinois town has grown into a bustling Chicago suburb near the end of the Metra line, and Megan isn’t the only serial killer now leaving dead bodies littering the streets. Can Megan keep her sister safe and still exact her revenge? Or will Megan’s actions make Susan, Tim, and Elsie targets? The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, is a fast-paced psychological thriller unlike anything you’ve read before. Not for the faint-hearted or squeamish, this is the story of what happens when a girl who was brutalized and left for dead gets a second chance at life.

Her picture is at the top of this page. Isn’t she lovely?

I’ve named her “Megan’s Story.” Megan is The Girl Who Lived.

You’ll get a chance to meet her on March 2, 2017.

If I sound like a proud parent, it’s because I am. Although two major NY publishers asked to adopt her, I wouldn’t let them. I chose 2AM Publications to be Megan’s god-parent.

Until Megan is old enough and strong enough to survive in the world by herself, I prefer to keep her close to home. I know how cold and cruel the world can be.

If you read Megan’s story, you’ll meet unscrupulous people who’ll do anything for a thrill or to make a quick buck. You’ll see people cut into pieces and discarded like trash. You’ll witness seductions and murders and know what it’s like to be incarcerated in jail cells or mental institutions. You’ll feel a silenced automatic pressed against the back of your head and realize how horrible it is to feel hopeless and helpless.

But you’ll also discover love and, perhaps, even find redemption.

I know I shed a tear or two while reading Megan’s Story.  All of my beta readers claim they did, too.

When I wrote Spilled Milk, the prequel to The Girl Who Lived: Megan’s Story, I wrote it as an obituary. I wrote The Girl who Lived as a birth announcement.

Please welcome Megan to the world of the living.

And join me for her Christening on March 2, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Model for Whodunit Writers

everything-you-want-me-to-be

https://www.amazon.com/Everything-You-Want-Me-Be-ebook/dp/B01D8VHOY2/

 

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia (Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, January 2017) should be subtitled “The Curse of MacBeth.”

Wabash County Sheriff Del Goodman investigates the tragic murder of Hattie Hoffman in rural southern Minnesota. Hattie, the daughter of Del’s closest friend, wanted to be an actress and had starred in a high school production of MacBeth the night she was murdered. When Hattie’s mutilated body is discovered the day after the play opens at the high school, the town of Pine Valley—a small farming community where everyone knows everyone else—is mortified. Everyone is suspect and anyone could be the murderer. Who killed Hattie Hoffman and why? The whole town wants to know and so does the reader.

Told in flashbacks from multiple points of view, the answer unfolds over the course of Hattie’s senior year at Pine Valley High. Literature geeks will love the literary references to Jane Austen novels and Thomas Pynchon and Tim O’Brien from Hattie’s Advanced AP Senior English class, taught by Peter Lund. As we watch the forbidden relationship between Lund and Hattie develop, we begin to piece together possible scenarios for murder.

Mejia fleshes out her characters well, making each come alive. We become silent voyeurs peeking into the windows of tortured souls not so different from our own. Hattie and Del and Peter become us, and we become them.

This story is a cautionary tale of what might happen when, after acting parts to please others for most of one’s life, one decides to be true to one’s own self. Telling the truth can be liberating, yes; but it can also prove deadly. The truth isn’t always the best policy, nor does it always set you free.

This story is also an expertly-crafted whodunit, a mystery that grips the reader and won’t let go. Every crime writer should study this novel to see how a whodunit should be done.

Brilliantly plotted, perfectly executed, this novel rates 5 1/2 stars.