Testimony is based on a real-life case against a professor at UCLA suspended in 1952 (without pay) after being observed through her own window kissing another woman. Can you say invasion of privacy? Sorry, I digress.
Testimony’s main character, Gen, is based on the very real professor Martha Deane. I don’t know if Gen’s personality was entirely her own, or if it was borrowed from Professor Deane, but to me, Gen seemed as real as you or me. I could hear her voice in my head as she taught, as she had drinks with Fenton and tried to live life under the social-police radar. My heart broke for Fenton, and there were a few times I just wanted to pour him a drink and tell him it would get better. All of the characters stood in their own limelight – sharply crafted, finely tuned in their own ways and each with their own struggles. Ruby became a favourite of mine too.
The homophobia of that time period was written as an appropriately tense undercurrent that dominated the entire landscape of the novel. You couldn’t help feel the danger underlying every decision, every conversation and almost every character. Over this dark skeleton, the author built a highly readable tale that stays with the reader long after the last word of the acknowledgements has been consumed.
This is a novel that should be required reading. For everyone. This is a novel that should be an award-winner.
Blue McCarron has a Ph.D. in social psychology. She teaches and writes while living reclusively in an abandoned motel in the middle of the California desert with her Doberman, Bronte. A minister’s kid, she has an imprisoned felon for a twin and a broken heart from grieving over her lost lover, Misha. When a body is found trussed up in a public freezer and widow Muffin Crandall claims she killed an intruder in self-defense and then did some dumb things, including freezing the corpse for five years, Muffin’s brother Dan hires Blue to free his much older sister by analyzing her. It is apparent to Blue and forensic psychiatrist Rox that Muffin’s story is a hoax. But who is Muffin protecting? Who wants her dead? And, maybe more important, will Blue ever resolve her love for Misha and love again?
Complete with commentary by a Rastafarian Greek chorus in the form of ex-felon BB the Punk, the witty, suspenseful lesbian-detective thriller is hard to resist.
“Blue” is a different sort of book. I don’t mean the genre, it’s a murder mystery, but what is different from anything else I’ve read this year is that Blue doesn’t seem to follow genre conventions, and that’s refreshing and perplexing at the same time. We have a main character with an unusual profession, who lives in an unusual place with a very unique past and a delightful dog with great taste in music, if a poor sense of timing. In fact, all the characters in this novel are stand-outs. You are given the information you need to know, and not a word more. And that is both different in this genre and highly refreshing.
You might think you know where this story is headed, but trust me when I tell you…nope. All of the characters have very clear motivations, they are all true to themselves and their ideals and so very full of surprises.
The plot will keep you guessing, the editing is great and can we just take a moment to admire that cover?
This book gets my highest recommendation. Find it at the Bywater Books website. Read it. Ponder it when you’re done. Roll it over in your mind like a full-bodied red wine for your mind.
My idea for Words For Wednesday-Crime Words didn’t seem too popular, so I’m going to try something a little different. What Is? Wednesday. I’ll be sharing a variety of definitions, explanations and photos that explain what something is, usually with a literature or “readerly” angle. Should be something of interest for all readers…eventually! Today we’re starting with…
Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development. Identified varieties, many of them defined by word count, include the six-word story, the 280-character story (also known as “twitterature“), the “dribble” (also known as the “minisaga“; 50 words), the “drabble” (also known as “microfiction“; 100 words), “sudden fiction” (750 words), flash fiction (1,000 words), nanotale, and “micro-story“. (definitions credited to Wikipedia)
Do you have a favorite piece of short fiction? Tell us about it in the comments below!
I woke up and found myself surrounded by sand, and hot air. Every breath was like inhaling fire. I slowly circled, praying for something familiar. The mind-melting heat fizzled as my blood turned to icy sludge in my veins. There in the impossibly blue sky hung a blue and green orb – Earth. That familiar ball in the sky, as much as it should not have been there at all, was the only break in the landscape. There was no indication of safe refuge, no trail through the sand. Another rotation revealed a difference in the shades of sand. One place was darker than the rest. It might have been a trick of the light or a misfiring synapse in my brain borne of desperation, it didn’t matter. Anything was better than sitting in the endless sand waiting for death. I pulled the neck of my t-shirt over my mouth and walked toward it. I couldn’t tell how long the journey took, but the dark spot gradually drew closer, and in time, I could, at last, see it was upright and vaguely human-shaped. I’d like to say I walked faster but the truth was closer to a dehydrated shuffle.
Finally, I reached my goal. I thought it was someone standing in robes with their back to me so I reached out a hand, to grasp their shoulder.
“Help…” I could say no more.
My hoped-for rescuer turned and became my horror.
It looked like something that had once been human, only with all of its skin removed to showcase the muscles, bone and tendon.
So kind of you to save me the task of hunting you down I heard it rasp deep in my head.
It grasped my hair with a skinless hand, curled its fingers and peeled my scalp from my skull.
I screamed as my flesh was pulled from me as easily as you skin a banana, the pain beyond anything I can put into words. I dropped to the sand, every grain like daggers biting into my unprotected nerves.
When the blackness swallowed me, it was a relief.
I don’t know how I got here, in this too-white room. You’d like me to be lying, I know. You could drug me into compliance. But every word is true, and while I don’t know how, I know he’s coming for you next.
How would you like to be one step ahead of everyone else? How would you like exclusive sneak-peeks at fiction not widely available? What about insider-only behind-the-scenes peaks into an author’s inspiration?
You can get all this and more!
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She studied the body. It was face down in the mud, the back of the head soaked with blood, hair matted to the skull and hardened now. The back of the denim shirt displayed hoof-prints of various types and sizes. Each of the shoulders sported a large hoof print bigger than a plate.
“What can you tell me?” She asked of the crime tech who had joined her.
“Looks like my neighbour,” came the reply.
“About the prints,” the Detective sighed.
“Those there are sheep-prints,” the tech pointed with a gloved hand. “Those look like cow, some big paw prints there in the middle, and I’d say those on the shoulders are at least the size of a work-horse.”
The Detective straightened and eyed the dog, sheep, cow and a large work-horse a few feet away in a fenced-in pasture. Then she looked back down at the body in the mud. “Are you telling me those animals killed your neighbour?”
The tech straightened too before studying the animals, who gazed back placidly. “Well, I can tell you he’ll never mistreat them again.”
A few days ago, I talked a little about why I chose to build a fictional town for my Detectives Anais Quinn and her partner, Lorne Winters, rather than just have them live and work somewhere that already existed. I told you about the population of Sitka Cove as well as how it’s growing as a community. But growing pains are real in real communities, so of course Sitka Cove will suffer from growing pains as well.
With growth comes crime, and all sorts of cases for Detective Anais Quinn and her partner Lorne Winters to solve.
The challenge for me was not just to create a town that I could build future stories on, but to make the town sustainable enough that it could grow. In short, provide Sitka Cove with a future as well as my detective. Cue the research into successful settlements of the past and why they were located where they were, sustainable cities, and urban growth. It’s been a wonderful rabbit-hole to get lost in. Another challenge is how much of all this new knowledge to use. Ideally, I want to use enough to give my reader a sense that Sitka Cove could be a real place, run by a real Town Manager. In turn, how can I use the Town Manager as a useful character, instead of a pointless walk-on? (I’m leaning heavily toward the Town Manager being either a jogging buddy of my detective or perhaps a fellow poker player. It remains to be determined.)
I see Sitka Cove as more than just a place for people to do things on their way to do other things. Remember I told you last time that Sitka Cove sits on the shore of Lake Superior? The Northern end of town is the oldest part, the first settled end of town, that the locals call “Old Town”. Lake Superior has been reclaiming that land, the flood coming in a little closer every spring and not really receding. So Old Town loses a little more of itself every year. The people that live at this end of town are here because they can’t afford to move anywhere else. They tend to live hand-to-mouth and life is not easy in Old Town. The houses are run down, the roads are not kept up and Town Council can’t quite figure out how to fix the problems of Old Town. Crime festers in neighbourhoods like this. Drugs, theft, vandalism…all stem from a lack of hope. Gangs are born in this environment, fed by frustration, and grow quickly in the absence of community leadership.
At the other end of town, there is growth. A new college has been built – clean, shiny and full of promise. It will keep the younger Sitkans closer to home while it teaches them skills they will need to make a living without going South. Without going “away”. Part of the college’s mandate is also to give older residents new skills. Re-educate them in new fields so that they have more choices, so they can be a productive part of Sitka Cove’s growth and future. Not all of the citizens buy into this, of course. Many call it “political bullshit”. They are too jaded to see anything but the rest of their lives spinning out exactly as it has for all their lives.
But Body In The Bush is not simply about disheartened and frustrated people taking out their frustrations on one another. It is more than just an investigation into who the dead man is under the pine trees. It is the story of finding one’s way back home again. Finding family, and love, and hope, and shining a light on the future that is full of possibility. But before you think the characters are going to break into song, remember this is a mystery. Sitka Cove is peppered with people that might live beside you. Or me. Conspiracy theorists, paranoid people making their way through life by playing on the mistakes of others, people just trying to make a living off the land, the lake or each other. People who want a better life, but just don’t see how they can have one. Folks who make poor choices, who are desperate, judgmental, angry, addicted or simply tired of feeling powerless. Body In The Bush is their story as well.
I can’t wait to bring you Body In The Bush! These edits are going far slower than I like. Have you ever read a book that featured a fictional place that left an impression on you? Shout out in the comments and share it with us.
There is a town held fast by the powerful grip of fear – of one man. No one dares to stand against him until a secretive, mysterious stranger comes to town looking for medical help. They just want to be patched up and leave town, but the raging infection and a stunning brunette doctor won’t allow that. When enforcers start dying one by one, suspicion starts to fly as thick as the dust on the street. But no one suspects the stranger. One day, there is a showdown between the stranger and the man who rules the town with fear, and only one of them will be left standing.
This is a tale of secrets, hope and the bravery it takes to stand up to cruelty.