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

Blog, book review, Books, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Review: BLUE BILLY by Laura Ellen Scott

Description:

Turn the Living into Corpses

I am the dirt. I am the grave.
I don’t meditate nor drink. I don’t write manifestos.
I turn people into bodies.

So begins the confession of a boogeyman that no one believes in. As he settles into the abandoned Magic River Café, Blue Billy doesn’t care that it has deteriorated into a derelict, filth-ridden shack on the banks of a rancid backwater. This is his home, now. Or it could be, if it weren’t for three women out to prove that he is real.

Crocus Rowe is a parolee with anger issues, who finds herself on the run after she assaults a professor over his unspeakable crimes. When the professor winds up in a refrigerator submerged in the ironically named Magic River, things look bad for Crocus, whose first call is to Alma Bell, a memoirist and much-maligned Blue Billy “expert” from New Royal University’s notorious Crime Writing Program. Haunted by the unsolved 1992 murder of her best friend, Alma will go to any lengths to prove that Blue Billy is responsible. And then there’s Tara Rowe, Crocus’s damaged cousin. As one of Blue Billy’s rare survivors, she’s endured years of experimental therapy and exploitation to become the person she is today: Blue Billy’s stalker.

Children still whisper “Blue Billy” around the campfire, but if Crocus, Alma, and Tara can uncover the truth behind New Royal’s darkest mystery, they may just put an end to the legend, once and for all.

My Take:

In BLUE BILLY, the third book in Laura Ellen Scott’s New Royal Mysteries Series, she has created a monster that is equal parts myth, local legend, and deranged psychopath. As has become a tradition for Scott’s novels, she assembles a cast of quirky, damaged, dysfunctional characters to resolve the essential crime mystery, a thread that strings all three installments of the series together. And she does it with the expected attention to detail of which nightmares are made and carefully crafted exposition that often makes one’s skin crawl. A deviation from the previous parts of the series, this one ventures into the country where the natural decay of nature has intersected with the demise of what was once a recreational hot spot. There is a scene that involves a submerged refrigerator that I guarantee will haunt you afterward.

But this gritty, visceral story is as much about relationships as it is a series of unsolved murders. Crocus and Tara, cousins who share as much disappointment in their lives as DNA, must resolve enough of their past issues to join forces with Alma, a self-proclaimed expert, in exposing a demonic presence that has plagued the surrounding community. It’s no Sunday picnic at the riverside where the drama draws to its climax where the survival of the trio demands destroying their shared nemesis that no one else believes exists.

If you haven’t yet discovered Laura Ellen Scott, Blue Billy is a great place to start. Even though it is part of a series, it stands on its own, though it will compel you to dive further into the weird world of New Royal, Ohio for more of the background.

About the Author:

Born and raised in the tiny Northern Ohio town of Brimfield, Laura Ellen Scott was named after the classic noir film and song, “Laura,” so it makes sense that she enjoys writing dark, quirky fiction in the tradition of Tom Robbins, Kelly Link, and Robert Altman. She started out writing short fiction, and her stories can be found in places like Ploughshares, Pank, Mississippi Review, and Wigleaf, but it wasn’t until she received an out-of-the-blue email from the great Dorothy Allison (BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA) that she started writing novels. That email said, among other things: “Damn you are good. You are just seriously satisfyingly good.” Eventually, Allison would blurb Laura’s first novel, DEATH WISHING (Ig Publishing, 2011), a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

These days she is an author with Pandamoon Publishing, and her latest novel, CRYBABY LANE, is the second book in the NEW ROYAL MYSTERIES, a series set in a fictional college/prison town in Ohio. The first book in the series is THE MEAN BONE IN HER BODY (2016). The second book is CRYBABY LANE (2017). Book 3 is titled BLUE BILLY, coming 5.11.22. Prior to launching the series, Pandamoon published Scott’s THE JULIET (2016), a western/mystery about a cursed emerald lost in Death Valley.

Scott is a term full professor in the English Department at George Mason University, and she divides her time between Fairfax, VA and Great Cacapon, WV.

Blue Billy is available at Amazon as of 5.11.22.

Uncategorized

Books I’m Reading

books

I’ve read two manuscripts in the past week and have started to read a friend’s newly published book. The two manuscripts are very different in genre but I enjoyed both immensely. I’m only a couple of chapters into the third story, but enjoying it as well.

The first of the manuscripts is a novel by Deek Rhew titled “122 Rules”. It will be published sometime this year and I look forward to promoting it and reading other people’s opinions. What is genuinely unique about it is the blending of genres and the strength of the female characters. Deek’s an interesting person. I’ve spoken with him a few times. He has a warped sense of humor and a different perspective on the world that comes through at times into his writing as he points out the irony in his characters’ situations. The book is anything but a typical crime, detective, police thing. It blends in a healthy dose of suspense along with some of the attributes of a good spy thriller. Yet it is told in an entertaining and memorable manner that lingers days after and one recalls some of the more unusual aspects of the story.

The second manuscript is a Regency period romance novel titled Love’s Misadventure by Cheri Champagne. Generally I’m not a huge fan of romance novels but there have been exceptions that I’ve read over the past few years. I still follow the postings of a couple of my friends from FanStory, Margaret Snowdon and Phyllis Stewart. The previous writes romances set in Victorian England. The latter writes quirky situation romantic tales set in contemporary times. Cheri’s novel is atypical of the romance genres and includes a lot of adventure that kept my attention throughout. It is well written and a pleasure to read. Despite the time period in which it is set the lead female character, Anna, is strong willed and drives the plot. The main male characters are noble while there are some vile, unsavory villains as well. It will be one of the easiest books for me to promote. It has a little something ror everyone, containing all the elements of a good bodice ripping tale while filled with the political intrigue of spies. The key characters are kidnapped in an effort to punish another main character. There’s a lot to like about it making it an enjoyable read.

Both manuscripts have sequels coming, by the way.

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The recently published book I’m diving into is titled Norma Jean’s School of Witchery. It is a Young Adult novel from my friend Rose Montague who I have previously named an honorary Panda since she knows many of the other Pandamoon Publishing authors though she is working with another small publisher. Besides that, she is really great person to know and always willing to promote the work of other authors.

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A little over a year ago, she published a YA novel titled Jade, which I  read, enjoyed and posted a review around a year ago. The novel is not your typical supernatural triller. Jade is a complex character with many intriguing abilities and an alternative lifestyle. The Sequel, Jane, was published about a month ago and is on my reading list for when I finish her present novel.

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The reason I’m reading Norma Jean’s School of Witchery first is kind of selfish. Rose told me there is a character in the book named Elgon. It’s not everyday that a guy named Elgon finds a namesake. Now you might be thinking that some people will do anything to get a Five Star Review, right? But seriously, Rose has an engaging writing style that I have enjoyed previously and I expect nothing less than an outstanding story from her with this book.

Judging from what I’ve heard from other people who follows Rose’s writing, Jane should be read prior to Norma Jean’s School of Witchery because there are a couple of spoilers contained in the latter. Oh well, I’ve made my selection and prioritized the reading list. I’ll post a review when I finish.

#DeekRhew #122Rules #CheriChampagne #LovesMisadventure #RoseMontague #NormaJeansSchoolOfWitchery #Jade #Jane #Reading #NewBooks #YA #Regency Romance #Crime #Suspense