No, I don’t need Khaki trousers

If you’re online a lot–including social networking–you’re probably used to the fact that if you ever mention (or think about) a product, you’ll suddenly see dozens of ads for that product. At present, Facebook is deluged with ads for toilet paper. Gosh, I wonder why? Those who checked out these ads, unfortunately, found that the projected ship dates were in June.

Writers see ads others don’t see because we’re always researching something. For the novel in progress, I checked on the kind of Khaki a middle-aged person might wear in the early 1950s. Now, Khaki ads are showing up on Facebook, on news sites, and everywhere else I’m going on the Internet. At least, on Facebook, you can make the ad go away if you say you’ve already bought the stuff.

(We go through a lot to bring you the most accurate books on the planet.)

When I was researching hitmen, I started seeing ads for contract killers until finally the FBI called up and asked if I wanted to kill anybody. I said “no” and they said, “fine,” but I wonder if they’ve really gone away. No doubt the NSA scoops up my telephone calls and searches for words like “rub out,” “concrete shoes,” and “kick the bucket.”

Some writers share Facebook accounts with their spouses and get in trouble when these kinds of ads appear: “Honey, why are we suddenly getting ads for brothels?” The proper response to that is “Somebody hacked into our account.”

When writers talk on forums about their research, they wonder how many watch lists they’re on for researching nefarious stuff for their novels. While the famous writers can visit the police department and learn everything they want to know, little-known writers are stuck with Internet searches.

“Honey, I got a letter from the FBI and they told me you want to know how to kill your spouse by putting a pinch of something in his/her coffee.”

“Don’t worry, sugar, I saw that in a movie called ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ when I was a kid. The FBI has me mixed up with somebody else.”

“Whew.”

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection, Widely Scattered Ghosts, is free on Smashwords during the company’s “give back” sale.

 

 

The Jane Hawk novels by Dean Koontz

Koontz is a careful and literate writer who knows how to create complex plots, maintain suspense, and decorate his scenes with weather and landscape imagery that synchronizes with the moods and plights of his characters.

The five-book series about a rogue FBI agent concluded with The Night Window, a book I’ve been looking forward to while patiently waiting for it to come out in paperback.

Hawk, who left the FBI after her husband’s death was ruled a suicide that she believed was murder, began a long trek to clear his name. Law enforcement is after her because they believe she’s operating off a “frontier justice model” and the people who killed her husband–a huge and secret group that’s slowly taking over the country–are after her. Everyone who’s after her is also after her child whom she has to keep hiding. By the time one gets to The Forbidden Door, it’s apparent that Hawk has nine lives and/or the skills of James Bond.

According to the Booklist starred review, “The spectacular finale to Jane’s story…will hit series fans with all the impact of a carefully calibrated hammer blow.”

Yes and no.

Had there not been so many co-opted law enforcement agencies, leaving nobody trustworthy to whom Hawk could turn over her evidence of the conspiracy, the book might have ended with a satisfying black-ops style gun battle after which the authorities take over and put the conspirators in jail. Hawk would then be interviewed on The View and other programs.

However, lacking that, the book–which still includes the nastiness of the bad guys in a tangled plot which look like lose-lose for Hawk–seems less explosive and interesting than the earlier books because there are few (if any) bad guy/Hawk confrontations. Hawk’s time is spent trying to ferret out who the conspirators are and how to expose them in a believable way.

The ending works because the how to tell the world about the conspiracy problem is aptly solved. Nonetheless, I felt a little let down because the focus became more about hacking into databases and less about kicking the shit out of the bad guys. And then, too, I kind of like Hawk and now she’s ridden off into the sunset forever.

Malcolm

Fun whodunnits from Coulter and Ellison

If you like police/FBI procedurals that aren’t jammed with weapons/ship/helicopter specifications of the kind you’ll find in the Tom Clancy (and similar) books, may I suggest Catherine Coulter? Her on-going “FBI Thriller” series began in 1996 with The Cove and continues through 23 books to Labyrinth which came out in July.  The also co-writes “A Brit in the FBI Thriller” series with author J. T. Ellison.

I think I’ve read all of the FBI thrillers from the beginning and find them consistent. While some of them include some pretty nasty crimes, they are not gory. They focus on a married couple, Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock who are equally skilled and usually work together on cases. Sherlock is a crack shot and Savich is a computer geek with a search engine called MAX that he uses to help track down the bad guys. He’s also very intuitive, and that adds a nice wrinkle to the stories.

The Brit series features Scotland Yard agent Nicholas Drummond who first appeared in 2013 in The Final Cut.  The most recent book in the series is The Last Second.  As part of a special team, Drummond often finds himself back across the pond helping out in cases originating in the U. K.

I like the original FBI series the best because I’ve been reading it for quite a while and have watched the characters grow and mature and take on new kinds of assignments. A new reader, however, will find the two series similar in style. With few exceptions, the books can be read in any order.

From the Publisher’s Description for Labyrinth

“If there’s one thing that readers can count on in a Coulter novel it is that she always delivers amazingly eerie and complex thrillers” (RT Book Reviews), and Labyrinth is no different. With white-knuckled pacing and shocking twists and turns, this is another electrifying novel that will sink its teeth in you.

From the Publisher’s Description for The Last Second

From New York Times bestselling authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison comes a riveting thriller pitting special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine against a private French space agency that has the power to end the world as we know it.

I’ve enjoyed the original series for years and have found the Brit series equally engaging. Perhaps it’s also your cup of tea.

Malcolm