This Week’s Monologue of Menace: Tony’s Wake up Call.

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Wake up, Tony.

You hear that sound? That’s the safety lock being pulled back on my Semi-automatic Glock nineteen, perfect fit in my tiny hand. Feels nice.

Remember the time we spent at the gun range? You teaching me the basics. Me scared like a kitten visiting a lion’s den. But I’m doing fine today. No tremble in my hands. No sweating.

What were the big three again?

One: treat every gun as if it were loaded. Don’t worry, this one is.

Two: gun always pointed in a safe direction. In this case that means away from me.

Three: Finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Oh, I’m ready.

And four: Don’t point at anything you’re not willing to destroy.

And then there’s the proper stance: elbow slightly bent, leaned forward to absorb the weapon’s recoil. I’m ready, motherfucker. Are you?

Remember how spooked I was when you bought me the gun for my birthday. Too scared to touch it. You told me I needed it, living in this shitty neighborhood. Never know who’s going to be lurking in the bushes late at night, watching, waiting. You never know what kind of harm some creep like that can do if you’re not ready for him.

But now I’m ready. Because now I know the creeps don’t only come with crowbars and handmade shivs. Sometimes they come with big smiles and shitty lies that almost make sense. And sometimes they get busted coming back from office parties that didn’t happen. Because they forget their cell phones at home. Wake up, Tony. I really need to empty a few rounds in your skull. But I’m waiting until you’re wide-awake because I need you to know why.

Want to be thrilled in under an hour? Check out some short crime reads that give you plenty of time to get back to the cubicle.

For fans of slasher films, there’s The Sweetest Kind of Chaos. 

Will a smooth-talking hustler get what he wants or what he deserves? Find out in Watching the Cards.

Gun-toting high schoolers learn a deadly lesson in Oedipus Shrugged 

Want dark noir based on a classic Prince song? Check out It Might Be Little But it’s Loud.

How about dark noir based on a classic Steely Dan song? We Can’t Dance Together.

Revenge killing suburbia? Why not? Liar’s Lemonade.

How about revenge killing in the rural south? Good Times There Are Not Forgotten

Nothing to Kill or Die for. A hit man takes an odd assignment: Save John Lennon.

Mutiny on the Pimp Wagon. Skullduggery on the high seas.

Read this piece with your ears

The transition from journalist to crime novelist

Bruce DeSilva's Rogue Island

dread lineA lot of people think that daily journalism must be a great training ground for novelists. I tell them that, for the most part, it is not.

As someone who worked as a news reporter and editor for forty years before writing crime novels, I was never comfortable with the bad writing habits and journalistic traditions that make most news writing unnecessarily turgid and tedious. In fact, I spent my career at The Providence Journal, The Hartford Courant and The Associated Press rebelling against those traditions and the editors who enforce them.

I wanted to write about real flesh-and-blood characters, but most news stories are populated by stick figures identified by little more than name, age and job title. I wanted to set my stories in real places, but most news stories use street addresses in lieu of a sense of place. I wanted to write yarns with beginnings…

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This Week’s Monologue of Menace: How I Got the Scar (excerpt from Kiss the Ladies Goodnight)

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In this excerpt from Kiss the Ladies Goodnight, Legato’s toughness gets tested by a young suburban punk named Tolliver who’s not too eager to answer questions. “All right, tough guy,” Tolliver said. “Tell me about the worst beating you’ve ever taken.”

Legato sat in front of the guy, then pointed to a small scar under his left eye. “How about I tell you about this. See the scar?”

Tolliver smirked. “Yeah, I see that. What, you get that from some mugger or maybe the bully from Brooklyn high school?”

Legato shook his head. “When I was a kid, there was this guy on the block, never knew his real name but they called him Tweaks. Every block had one. Dude used to sniff glue day and night, lived for the shit, dug through dumpsters to find an extra tube. That guy. The neighborhood joke, everybody laughed at his sorry ass – the way he’d twitch and stutter. The way he’d get lost in mid-conversation if you asked him how he was doing.

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“Then he moved up to heroin and the shit wasn’t funny anymore. He started robbing people, hiding in alleyways with a tire iron. He’d be in and out of prison and some days you’d see him with bloodstains on his collar that he wouldn’t explain.

“One day I come home from school, hearing screams in the hallway as I walk up – Mama’s screams. When I get there, Tweaks is there, this baseball bat in his hand and Mama’s laying on the floor, arms up, bracing for a swing. Then he looks up, staring at me, kind of laughing, but it’s hard to tell with Tweaks. He raises the bat over Mama, says to me, ‘You better talk some sense to your mother. You hear me? I need money and this is not going to get it!’ He shows me this tiny wad of cash. He stares into Mama’s eyes. ‘Come on, lady! You got more than that!’ Mama was shaking, kept whimpering ‘no’ over and over. She’s looking at me, she’s looking back at Tweaks and I’m scared. Daddy was gone by then, no man in the house. So Mama had a gun, kept it hidden under the bathroom sink. I scampered away, straight to the bathroom, hoping I could get back before it was too late. I was going to shoot this guy, right between the eyes if I had to. I was going put down Tweaks before he put Mama down.

“But then I got back into the living room, that revolver shaking in my hand like an egg timer. I aimed it at his chest, but there’s something about holding a gun and aiming it at somebody. Tweaks started laughing, then came after me with his hand out. He may have been out of his mind, but he knew I didn’t have the heart. I was only twelve, could barely pee straight. And I was talking about shooting somebody? I tried to take aim at his chest again, but I lost my nerve. He turned around, raised his bat and started to swing for Mama’s head. And I fired three shots, two went through his ribcage, sent him to the carpet, shaking like a marlin somebody plucked from the river. The third shot? It went into a mirror off to my left side. A splinter came back and got me just under the eye.” He pointed to the scar again.

The punk said nothing.

“You ready to cooperate with me, Tolliver?”

“Yes, sir,” he mumbled, back erect now, almost respectfully. No more jokes.

This Week’s Menacing Monologue: Daddy’s Little Girl

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This Week, Rochelle has a few words for Daddy’s new girlfriend.

 

Here’s the thing. You’re not the first. It started with Linda, Dad’s first “friend” after the divorce. She was nice, kind of pretty. But not his type. The chemistry between them was off, a little awkward. She was kind of bookish, a little too nerdy for Dad.
 
Then came Stella. Tall redhead, good cook, really into fitness. But here’s the thing with Dad: he’s not a fitness kind of guy. And never will be. Nice try, Stella, but no.
 
Next was Sarah. Sweet lady, but the whole Wiccan thing? I don’t think so.
Janine was a wild ride — big drinker, motorcycle, too many tattoos. Dad thought it could work anyway. It did for a weekend. But Dad needed stability. And Janine needed a team of therapists. So their splitting up was the best for everybody.
 
Then we get to Julie.
 
I warned him. I told him the thing with Julie would end the wrong way. That things would go sour and she would leave him all broken and sad. He didn’t listen.
 
“Hey, who’s the grown-up, here?” he’d say. And he’d laugh and laugh until everything crashed into an ugly mess just like I said it would.
 
God, he was impossible that week. I’d never seen Dad like that before. Weak and helpless, sliced up into a million different pieces that would never be Dad again. What Julie did was beyond crappy. And I’m sure you’d never repeat it.
 
But if you ever did, here’s the thing: I will hurt you. I’m serious. I know I look small and seem innocent. But I will take my aluminum bat and I will track you down and I will find you. And I don’t care if I have to scale your backyard fence and slip into your bedroom window at two am. I will get you. I will wake you up to the worst beating you’ve ever had.
 
I will hit you and hit you and hit you until you are bruised and bloody and maybe even choking on your own teeth. And I swear you will regret the second you ever thought it was a good idea to break my Dad’s heart.

 

Oh, another thing: Would it be okay if I called you Mom?

This Week’s Monologue of Menace: What a Real Punch Sounds like

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In this week’s monologue, Kimberly tells us what violence really sounds like.

Do you know what a punch sounds like? A real punch. Not that cartoony snap you hear in the movies. None of that Hollywood horseshit, John Wayne socking out an injun.’ I mean a real punch. A real fist meeting a real face. Or a jaw or a forehead. It’s kind of a dull thud, no snap to it. No echo. That was the first surprise.

I’d been working out at a boxing gym. Never cared for the sport — not like the old man — but hey, exercise, stress relief, why not?

Why stress relief? It started with this new girl at work. Julianne. Something about her, it was like she was born to be hated, made for that very purpose. Legs too long, hair too blonde. And the attitude. The way she skipped around my boyfriend like a kitten sizing up a bowl of milk. So sweet. So guileless. But not really. You could see the plans dancing around those Bambi eyes. I’d go to the gym and picture her face tattooed on the speed bag.

Alan would always say he didn’t notice her. And she wasn’t his type anyway. He knew how to say what I wanted to hear, I’ll give him that.

Problem was he knew how to say what everybody wanted to hear. Jodie in human resources, Kelly in shipping. He was good with the words, knew how to soothe, knew how to seduce, couldn’t clear his throat without it sounding like a come-on. It was just part of the package.

It took about a week before the grapevine started buzzing. I spent days with my ears slammed shut. Just didn’t want to know about what everybody else seemed to know. About Alan. About Julianne. I’d take my aggression to the gym after work and make that speed bag rattle like a snare drum. Till the Monday morning it happened…

Soon as they stepped into the conference room, I knew. I could smell her on him and him on her. Alan’s eyes darted from corner to corner, searching for a way out before the questions even began. I just knew.

“Morning!” Julianne whimpered, proud of it, unashamed. She had won. She leaned over for a glazed Krispy Kreme. Bad move.

Her face was right there, like a doe in the rifle scope. Not just ready for it, asking for it. The victorious smirk, the cinnamon-flavored lip gloss. Right. There.

But my aim was off. And my fist found the wrong face. Alan had lurched forward, a white knight coming to the damsel’s defense. But the white knight was clumsy and stepped into a hard right hook meant for somebody else.

Or maybe not. Maybe my aim was perfect. You see, Julianne just pissed me off. But Alan broke my heart.

So I broke his nose. With a hard and heavy right hook, I shattered everything. Everything he was, everything he thought he was, every God damned thing that made him the prize stallion of that place — his swagger, those fancy Italian shoes, that weekend of lies in San Diego — everything came crashing down to the conference room floor too fast and too loud.

And that’s what a real punch sounds like.

Excerpt from my novella Kiss the Ladies Goodnight

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He we are, Copperheads! Your chance to launch into the Jake Legato PI series has arrived! The adventure begins with this novella (only 99 cents on Amazon!). Look for Book Two in August!

Check out an excerpt:

After a quick stop in the men’s room, Legato found the office, knocked twice and heard an uneasy chirp. “Yes?”

“I’m here for the interview?”

“Come on in,” she said, voice relaxed now.

The detective in Legato had Cicely pegged seconds after strolling inside. She was the girl every guy sat next to in high school but never noticed. A sweetheart, eager to please. Always does her homework and yours too if you ask nicely. Yearbook committee, school dance planner, honor roll. But you forgot her name days after graduation.

He took a seat, gave her timid hand a shake. “Jake Legato, nice to meet you”

“I’m Cicely Russo, the manager here,” she answered, eyes aimed at the desk. She forced a grin and asked, “So, what do you think of Bootsie’s so far?”

“I could handle working here, if that’s what you mean. Don’t know much about it.”

“Not much to know, I suppose. It’s a… strip club,” she said, kind of embarrassed by it all. “I got in touch because Andy told me you needed a job.”

“Yeah, tells me he’s had enough of Minnesota weather and would love to get back to San Diego.”

With Cicely reaching into a stack of resumes, Legato stole a glance. Her thick, jet-black eyebrows reminded him of the olive-skinned Greek girls from Astoria he’d see working in diners and run-down family owned coffee houses.

But Cicely gave off a different vibe. Her Maria Callas eyebrows slashed against pale Minnesota skin like skid marks in the snow. And she seemed to be hiding behind somebody else’s face. A gawky introvert in disguise.

Legato. That’s a nice name,” she said. “Puerto Rican? Dominican?”

“Italian.”

She lifted her gaze from the papers, eyes narrow. Maybe aimed at his wide nose – or focused on his mocha-tinted skin. “Italian? Really?”

He choked back a groan and answered the question she was too polite to ask. “Half-Italian, half-black.”

Cicely grinned the awkwardness away. “Andy speaks highly of you. He says you’re a good friend. Somebody he could always trust.”

“I like to think so.”

But her face curled a little, signaling more awkwardness on the way. “He also says you left the police force under… complicated circumstances.”

“You could say that.”

“Could you tell me more?”

“I could. Or I could tell you about growing up in a Brooklyn neighborhood with bars on the windows and a school with metal detectors at the door.”

“That’s nice, but what I wanted –“

Legato leaned forward, time for the sweet talk Big Trick recommended. “What you want is somebody who speaks the language your customers understand. Am I right? Somebody who can keep this place safe even if that means slapping around a little. I’m guessing that matters more in this place than a spotless record.” Playing the tough guy New Yorker role to a Minnesotan was always an option. Sometimes it even qualified as sweet talk.

The lady fought off a schoolgirl’s blush and said, “Can you start tomorrow?”

“What time do you need me?”

“Ten in the morning. We’ll train you for a while, start you as soon as you’re ready.”

Legato reached for a handshake, but three bangs at the door froze them both.

Cicely’s eyebrows lifted. “Yes?”

A woman’s voice aimed for a scream, but couldn’t get there. “The police need you! It’s… they need you.”

She gathered Legato’s papers. “Just a second, Tammy. Jake, I look forward to –“

Three more knocks, louder, almost angry. “Cicely, it’s… Please!” Now the voice was soaked in sobs. Cicely raced to the door, opened it to find somebody crouching there like her legs had given out. A stripper clad in a robe, crying.

Cicely kneeled, mouth open, gasping. “What is it, Tammy?”

Tammy sputtered words that almost made a sentence. “Cassandra. Because the… police and. They called and she’s…”

Cicely turned to Legato, her face now slack. “We’ll… talk tomorrow,” She gave him a flaccid handshake then repeated, “We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Knowing a thing or two about the delivery of bad news, Legato recognized her shattered look. And he knew that too many words was always a bad idea at those moments. “Thank you,” he said, warm hand on her shoulder, another move he’d learned from his detective days. Contact always made the news less awful.

But Cicely pulled away from the contact, shuddering, eyes scanning the hallway for answers. And Tammy didn’t move at all.

So he slipped away, took a seat at the bar and nodded to Big Trick. “Whiskey, neat.”

And he drank. With every sip, the tortured squeals coming from Cicely’s office slowly faded into somebody else’s problem.

Legato tried to piece everything together. Was Cassandra a dancer? Was she dead now? And who killed her?

He was detecting again, a habit he needed to break. That’s why he had to take off, pull himself away from the bar – even if it meant leaving behind a half-full glass of whiskey on a night he really needed it.

***

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