book review, Books, Crime, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, suspense, Thriller

It’s Getting Creepy Out There – Review: MILE MARKER ZERO by Benny Sims

There’s a thin line of desperation between fame and infamy, where being a number turns deadly.

Description:

Tired of never achieving his goals, an aging blue-collar worker’s rage at the world reaches a boiling point. After a lifetime of failures, disappointments, and shattered dreams, his job has proved a fast track to nowhere. His wife left him for a younger man and his emotionally distant son has disappeared from his life. What’s left of his life has been hollowed out leaving him invisible, forgotten, and unimportant in a world where the American dream is on life support if it ever existed at all.

Tired of never achieving much of anything, he’s determined to change all that, taking charge of what’s left of his life. He sets an ambitious goal and develops a clear plan to achieve it. For the next year, he will kill one person a week, becoming the world’s greatest serial killer.

His morbid adventure zigzags across the country conjuring emotions ranging from happiness to heartache, to physical pain, to fear, and to anger. Week by week, as the highway miles mount and the body count of unsuspecting souls rises, he gets closer to his goal, but circumstances threaten to halt his progress. Will you be this week’s victim before the road ends at mile marker zero?

My Take:

Mile Marker Zero by the award-winning mystery/ suspense/ thriller author Benny Sims is a perfect book for the Halloween season. It checks both the creepy and disturbing boxes, guaranteeing a skin-crawling experience. But it’s not because it’s populated by ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires, or zombies. Instead, the main character is a monster in the guise of an easily ignored retiree. It will leave you to wonder about the strangers who pass you on the sidewalk or in the supermarket aisles. Could the guy that follows you, maybe a bit too closely, harbor some unknown evil inside? What about that strange-looking character sitting across the aisle on the city bus or commuter train? The car behind you, the headlights you see in your rearview mirror, is someone waiting for you to exit so they can take advantage of you while you top off your tank?

Mile Marker Zero is about a goal-oriented serial killer. How’s that for words you don’t usually use together? The main character’s self-appointed mission is separating countless, nameless, undeserving innocents from those who happen to cross his path, sneaking up on them when their only mistake was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He has prepared in advance, learning the best techniques to make it quick and bloodless – because he hates the sight of blood. He carries a calendar with him to keep track of his adventures, creating a weekly ritual around his Sunday morning breakfast and a cup of coffee at whatever diner he comes to in his latest theater of operations. Always before, he has been the perennial loser but as a retirement gift to himself, he decides to spend what money he has saved accomplishing something for once: killing one person each week for an entire year while crisscrossing the country to perplex and evade any authority that might have picked up his scent.     

I don’t know if you can read this book without shedding some tears, whether for the numerous innocent victims or the plight of those in the peripheries who suffer the consequences of the main character’s methodical carnage. We learn something about his past, his family, who, and what was important. And this is what makes Sims’ achievement singular in my estimation. Not only are we seeing events through the eyes of a deeply disturbed individual but also, at times we find we share some common ground. And that is what is most disturbing. Could there be a monster within each of us that, given the right circumstances and conditions, might appear in a moment of greatest weakness?  You have a cold-blooded killer who can be completely relatable in an eerie way that might remind you of someone’s grandfather – or yourself. What’s worse is he offs a few people that maybe deserve it. If you can maintain detachment from the lack of humanity contained in his acts of murder, he serves as an anti-hero with some odd standards but standards, nonetheless.

Certainly, there is commentary lurking in the background of this story about how screwed up our modern world has become and how unimportant other people can become to us, making them completely disposable in lieu of serving some overall mission. It begs to ask whether we should be less isolated and more aware of what is going on in the lives of those around us? After reading Mile Marker Zero you will consider what goes on in the minds of those we’d rather ignore? How often do we encounter a potential serial killer while never once suspecting? All it takes is for someone or something to flick the invisible switch that unleashes the unimaginable. How many of us have unwittingly had a brush with death courtesy of some interruption that distracted some self-made grim reaper?

When you turn the final page of this one, with the story concluded, you wonder if the main character ever put even half of his effort and focus on other pursuits over his sad lifetime, perhaps he wouldn’t have adopted such a psychotic plan.

The book releases worldwide on 10.19.22. Pre-orders are available from Amazon.

About the Author:

Benny Sims has always loved the art of storytelling. He can trace that fondness to reading Jack London’s “The Call Of The Wild” when he was in the second grade and listening to his great uncle tell war stories from his time as an artillery cannoneer in North Africa and Italy during World War II.

He was born and grew up in middle Tennessee, but his family moved to Benton, Illinois when he was fourteen years old. It was there that his teachers noticed his aptitude for writing, and encouraged him to pursue it. He attended college at Murray State University in Kentucky, where he studied journalism. His Journalism 101 professor saw his ability and affection for writing and fine-tuned his ability to tell a story. This ability helped him serve as a writer for the university’s newspaper and yearbook.

After college, he landed a job as a sports writer and editor with a small newspaper near his hometown in Tennessee. After a couple of years there, he accepted a job with the aerospace industry in nearby Huntsville, Alabama. He recently retired and moved to Foley, Alabama.

Thanks to a large family that threatened to disown him if he didn’t develop a well-rounded sense of humor, he intentionally puts something funny in most aspects of his life, whether it’s writing a blog post about how comedians were his heroes as he grew up, or by giving his niece a high school graduation gift of a check for $114.64.

As a former athlete, he’s a fan of most sports. But since he lives in Alabama, he has to declare a love for college football or risk getting kicked out of the state. He considers himself a bit of a trivia nerd with a weird ability to remember the names of obscure musicians and songs from decades ago. One of the greatest mysteries of his life is how this ability hasn’t enabled him to land a high-paying job as the host of Jeopardy.

Among his favorite accomplishments in life, aside from getting “Code Gray” published, is teaching himself to play the guitar and attaining the rank of second-degree black belt in karate. He likes to warn people not to antagonize him because he knows karate, jujitsu, judo, and several other Japanese words.

Along with his novel and blog posts, his writing credits include a self-published novel titled “The Protester,” and a short story that was published on the Huffington Post. His hobbies include traveling, fishing, reading, going to the beach, and writing…preferably at the beach.

Learn more about Benny Sims and his writing on his website.

book review, Books, Crime, Dee Rommel Mysteries, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, Publishing, suspense, Thriller

Another Mystery Solved, One Less Day

Description:

A powerful family will stop at nothing to protect its secrets…

Famous astrologist Agnes Sants-Mekler, a member of one of Maine’s elite families, pleads guilty to murder. Her gifted, pre-teen son, Zar, says she’s lying and he wants Dee Rommel to prove that – in nine days.

Former policewoman Dee Rommel, not yet thirty, is dealing with a permanent, life-changing injury sustained while part of Portland’s police force. Her medical leave is up; she’s made a contested decision to delay her return to the department and continue working with her godfather, PI Gordy Greer. Dee discovers the police are content with Agnes Sants-Melker’s confession, but her intense curiosity – and need for justice – compels her to dig deeper to find the truth. As she sifts through the evidence, misdirections, and deceptions she finds that trusting the wrong person is unraveling a more devious plot – and leading to a life-threatening confrontation.

9 DAYS is the thrilling second installment in the award-winning Dee Rommel Mystery series.

My Take:

Dee Rommel is a tenacious, badass, justice-seeking, sleuth who is recovering from a life-altering injury and amputation of her lower left leg she suffered while a member of the Portland, Maine Police Department. In 9 DAYS, the sequel to award-winning, crime, procedural, mystery, noir, suspense, thriller 10 DAYS, Dee has one less day to break the case wide open and prove the innocence of a famous astrologist who has just confessed to murder. This book checks all the boxes for me: a witty female protagonist, a fast-paced, page-turner of a plot with unexpected twists and turns along the way as Dee peels back the convoluted layers of well-kept secrets to expose the dysfunctional, darker side of a prominent New England family.

With each installment we see this fascinating protagonist grow. Not only does she mature in her new role as a private investigator, which still isn’t quite official yet, but also we are allowed more glimpses into her private life and the obstacles she deals with daily due to her injury, and how she overcomes the what life had put in her way. Her life is more than survival. It’s learning to thrive. Selbo uses this connective tissue to bind the first and second books in the series, along with a returning cast of favorites. We expect it to continue as Dee’s character is further developed. As the series counts down to an inevitable mystery that Dee must solve in a single day, I wonder what sorts of mysteries are ahead and how many criminals the seedy side of Portland, Maine will throw at her. It’s not like the small city is renowned as a hotbed of crime, but it is a large enough community to share many of the same problems bigger cities face. There are hints in the first two books, though, about some of the directions Dee’s story may take as she struggles to reclaim the life she had before a notorious local bad guy robbed her of it. And for that reason, I will continue to follow this series to its conclusion and recommend you do the same. Although 9 DAYS stands alone well as a story and the plot points are resolved by its conclusion, you should start with Book 1 of the series and join me on this wonderful reading journey.

Author Bio:

Jule Selbo grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and academic in film history. Her mystery/romance FIND ME IN FLORENCE (Pandamoon Publishing, Fall 2019), inspired by the art, beauty, romance, and history of Florence, Italy was written while working with students in Florence, Italy, and was awarded FIRST PLACE in the Chatelaine Awards for best women’s fiction/romance. Her book BREAKING BARRIERS, based on the life of 18th-century scientist Laura Bassi was released in April 2020 and is a finalist for the Goethe Award. Her historical fiction book, DREAMS OF DISCOVERY – BASED ON THE LIFE OF JOHN CABOT, was released Fall of 2018 by Mentoris/Barbera Publishing. She is an award-winning American screenwriter and playwright with work in feature film, television, and animation. She has worked with filmmakers and producers such as George Lucas, Michael Newell, Aaron Spelling, and Roland Joffe as well as with all the major Hollywood studios; produced credits include projects for Disney, Columbia Pictures, Paramount, and Universal.

She has also written for theater, with productions in New York and regional theaters around the United States).

As an academic, she has contributed to numerous journals with essays on the History of Screenwriters, her book (co-written/edited with Jill Nelmes) WOMEN SCREENWRITERS, AN INTERNATIONAL GUIDE delineates the rich past of female screenwriters from the 1890s to today. Jule was co-editor for eight years of the successful “Journal of Screenwriting” (Intellect Press) and has written extensively on film history, screenwriting, and film genre. She holds writing seminars around the world and is a script consultant for production companies and writers in Hollywood. As a professor in the Cinema and TV Arts Department at California State University, Fullerton, she has written two books on Screenwriting Structure that include information on the business of screenwriting: SCREENPLAY: BUILDING STORY THROUGH CHARACTER (Routledge) and REWRITE: FIRST DRAFT TO MARKETPLACE (Gardner); her book is FILM GENRE FOR THE SCREENWRITER (Routledge) explores all the main film genres, their components and uses for film narratives. She has been an invited guest lecturer on film genre and screenwriting at New York University, Moscow’s film school VGIK, Oxford Bridges University in Oxford, England, Bournemouth University in the UK, Disney Writers Program, Emerson College in Boston, and other venues and is a member of Screenwriters Research Network. She has earned her Ph.D. with her work in Film Genre, its historical components, and how a knowledge of film genre can be used by the screenwriter in the constructive stages of a screenplay.

For more information visit www.juleselbo.com

Purchase your copies of 9 DAYS, 10 DAYS, and FIND ME IN FLORENCE

Amazon, Books, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, Publishing, Writing

Review of 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery #1 by Jule Selbo

As a father of three, two of them daughters, I struggled to find heroic stories to read to my girls. It was easy to find such fare for my son, but there was a gross absence of children’s books that offered a brave female with whom my girls could identify. And so I fabricated a few stories to tell them at bedtime. But the experience made me acutely aware of gender bias. And it has not been limited to children’s books. Gratefully, that is changing in all age groups, largely due to the explosion of great female authors who are unafraid to buck the system and create strong female protagonists in genres that in the past have been dominated by male main characters.

I had the great fortune to read an early version of 10 DAYS by Jule Selbo. Honestly, it read like a finished work with nothing major that I saw needing to be addressed, which didn’t surprise me. Selbo is a highly competent writer with oodles of experience as a playwright and she wrote numerous screenplays while working in Hollywood. Recently she has become an award winning novelist as well. 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery #1 is her debut foray into Crime Mystery fiction, a genre she loves reading.

10 DAYS’ plot is solid, engaging, and compelling. The pacing feels perfect, building suspense toward a thrilling climax. Selbo’s cast of characters, even the minor ones, are authentic, well-developed to the point that some will become your friends while others will feel like enemies. The protagonist, Dee Rommel is, in a word, remarkable on so many levels that she is destined to become a fan favorite. She is a quick-witted badass in ever sense of the word with a burning desire to find justice for the wronged. It often compels her into risky, ill-advised, confrontations with bad guys as she champions her friends and family. And she does it all without toting a gun.

What Selbo accomplishes more than adequately establishes bedrock for the series yet to come. She creates an endearing female noir private investigator with whom most of us can identify. Selbo pays homage to genre archetypes while venturing into some largely uncharted territory, allowing the reader to share Dee’s dilemmas as well as overcoming the pain of her daily routine. We cheer for her because she’s just the kind of heroine who could easily be a sister or cousin. Her strong, overriding sense of justice and loyalty to her friends and family drives her always, even against mounting odds as her principal foil is fully revealed and fleshed out.

The book releases to the public worldwide on August 11, 2021 in eBook and print, so you don’t have long to wait. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect crime fiction novel, but this one will rank on everyone’s list. It checks all the right boxes and appends a few more in the process. I can’t wait to read the sequel. And yes, this thriller deserves to be made into a movie. So, take note, Netflix.