Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lillian Saxton #1: Excerpt #1

Lillian Saxton made her debut in Wading Into War when she hired private investigator Benjamin Wade to find a missing reporter with knowledge of her brother’s whereabouts in Europe torn apart by World War II. Now, Sergeant Lillian Saxton, U.S. Army, stars in her own mission.
Sergeant Lillian Saxton receives a cryptic message from an old flame: meet me in Belgium and I’ll not only give you the key to the Nazi codebooks but also information about the man who murdered your brother.

Lillian conducts her missions for the Army with panache and confidence, even when bullets start to fly and enemy agents zero in to kill her. She’s more uncertain of how she’ll react when she sees the man who broke her heart or how she’ll get out of Belgium when the Nazis launch their invasion.


The door opened a crack. Half a face peered out. She made eye contact and the person’s eye widened in surprise. He grunted and tried to close the door quickly. She rammed her shoe in the space and prevented it. Next, she slammed her shoulder into the door. Taking the other person by surprise, she flung the door open, banging him in the face.
Lillian Saxton stormed into the room. A distinct odor, a new one, met her. She recognized it but had no time to determine what it was. The man had quickly recovered and was moving towards her.
She recognized him as Brown Suit in the instant before his fist flew at her. It came from her right side. She raised her right arm to deflect the blow while, at the same time, pivoting on her right foot. She used his momentum in her favor. His fist met air and he momentarily lost his balance. That gave her time to crash her left fist on his face.
Years ago, when Lillian had joined the Army, she knew her size and weight would never prevail for long in a fist fight. Lillian felt confident in her abilities if her opponent was a woman. When fighting a man, however, she knew her size and weight meant she needed to end it as quickly as possible. Speed and dexterity were her greatest allies. She knew her blows couldn’t end fights with a single thrust, so she honed her ability to rain multiple blows on her opponents.
Her left fist landed on Brown Suit’s jaw. She brought her knee up a second later and smashed his chest. Finally, with her right arm now free from deflecting his one swing, she placed her hand on the back of his neck and shoved him downward.
Brown Suit toppled to the floor on his hands and knees. He held his head at such an angle that Lillian knew she had stunned him good. She took a step back to regain a proper fighting stance.
His hand shot out and clipped her ankle. She lost her balance and stumbled backward. She reached out for something to stop her movement and found only air. Lillian backpedaled a few more steps, her thick heels clogging on the wooden floor. A few more feet and she hit the back of a couch. This stopped her backward movement and gave Brown Suit time to stand.
He charged.
Still not quite on perfect balance, Lillian gambled. Brown Suit expected to body slam her. In response, she fell to the floor, landing on her back. A few puffs of air escaped her lungs but she was rewarded by the surprised look on his face as he sailed over her, arms outstretched.
Lillian rolled over and got to her feet. Brown Suit hit the wooden back of the couch and fell to the floor again. A grunt of rage erupted from him but she didn’t press him nor did she move closer. His hitting her ankle told her he knew how to fight. Better to get a good handle on her surroundings than to risk another swipe at close quarters swipe.
The interior of the apartment was spare. The couch she had met. Only a coffee table fronted it. The large room had a small kitchen off to her left. A modest wooden table and chairs were to her immediate left. On the far wall was a door that likely led to the bedroom.
Lillian looked around for a weapon. She found none. Not even a plate or a knife on the counter. Only a radio. She judged it too heavy for effective use.
Brown Suit now stood opposite her. His hair had fallen in his face and he swiped at it. A stream of blood coursed from his lip. The red spot left by her fist was already starting to bruise.
“You’re an interesting one,” he said. “How did we miss you?”
We? Lillian didn’t have time to think about that now. She studied his face, watching his eyes and his body for the next move. What she saw took exactly one second to process. It was a subtle change in his expression. A relaxing of his grimace. And a slight shift of his eyes to a spot behind her.
She ducked. In the same moment, she swept her leg out behind her. It met something solid. Another person’s leg. She heard a cry of surprise from that person—a man. She hoped her action might give her a precious few seconds to readjust to this new scenario. Two to one. Not good.
The other person lost his balance and fell. He landed almost directly on the seat of one of the kitchen chairs. The momentum and his weight cracked the wood. It gave way and splintered into pieces.
It also gave her a weapon.
She reached out and grasped one of the broken chair legs. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted Brown Suit was reaching his hand into his suit pocket. Chances were good he wasn’t trying to be gentlemanly and offer her a tissue.
Holding the chair leg like a baseball bat, she swung. With his hand buried deep in his suit, there was nothing he could do. The wood connected with Brown Suit’s face. He crumpled to the floor.
Not waiting a second, Lillian pressed her advantage. The other man was now on his knees. She recognized him as the man reading the newspaper in the lobby. Unfortunately for her, Newspaper Reader had already drawn a pistol and was bringing it to bear on her.
She shifted her grip on the chair leg from a baseball bat to a fencer’s grip. She extended her arm and jabbed at the gun hand. Newspaper Reader, having just witnessed Lillian swing with two hands, was momentarily surprised at her action.
He swatted away the chair leg. That was exactly what she had hoped for. She wanted him to think that was her only move.
It wasn’t.
Lillian let the shattered chair leg leave her grip. She leapt into the air and brought her leg around in a roundhouse kick. The thick heel of her shoe found its mark. Already on his knees, the man huffed in pain and crashed to the floor.
She landed on both feet. In a single movement, she kicked the pistol across the room. She pivoted and assumed another fighting stance just in case either man had more fight in him.
They didn’t.
And that’s how Honeywell’s men found the situation when they stormed into the room, guns drawn.

Lillian Saxton #1 will be published May 2016. Check back often for more excerpts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review Club: February 2016

Well, I didn't get a chance to finish a book review for this month's edition of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club (Book Launch activies), but that doesn't others were not successful. Click on the icon and head over to Barrie's site to get the full list of reviews.

Click icon for more book review blogs @Barrie Summy

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Today is Book Launch Day for ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE.


Benjamin Wade Returns!

May 1940, the last days of the Great Depression, and private investigator Benjamin Wade isn’t exactly rolling in the dough. He doesn’t even have a secretary. So he’s in the unenviable position of taking any client that walks in his office.

Elmer Smith, a local farmer, has a problem: all of his chickens are scheduled for slaughter. He’s desperate to save his livelihood. He got a court injunction to slow the process, but time is running out.

Instead of laughing Smith out the door, Wade suppresses his pride to take the case. It seems like a simple, straight-forward paycheck. He zeroes in on a central question: What really happened the night police chased someone through Smith’s farm? Wade isn’t the only one asking that question, but he could be the only one who might die for it.


You can read Chapter 1 here.

Available from:

[Other venues arriving shortly.]

Monday, February 1, 2016


(As a treat, here's Chapter One of ALL CHICKENS MUST DIE: A Benjamin Wade Mystery. It goes on sale tomorrow at Amazon and Kobo. Other venues forthcoming. The paperback will arrive later this month.)

Chapter One
Do you know how embarrassing it is to be a private eye without a secretary? It means that every potential client sees you sitting in the outer office, typing your own reports and notes, and not in your main office with your feet on the desk, whiling away a hot summer’s day looking at the Houston skyline. It would also have meant that clients such as Elmer Smith and his chicken problems would have been turned away and I never would have learned that a secret society existed here in Houston that had, as its one rule, the obligation to avenge any wrong done to any member, real or imagined.
Why I didn’t just type my reports in my own office, I’ll never know. I think, honestly, I wanted to convey the impression that I did, indeed, have a secretary. I didn’t have one—yet—but I was actively looking for one. I had placed a classified ad in all the local papers and I had been interviewing many of the candidates over a few weeks. I found the decision to be extraordinarily difficult. I wanted the perfect combination of beauty and ability. To date, that type of woman hadn’t walked in my door.
That didn’t stop other types of women from waltzing in and looking for a job. This was May 1940 and the effects of the Depression still permeated the economy. It made me feel a little bad when I had to turn away a few applicants because they were not quite the type I was looking for. If you had put a gun to my head, I’d have admitted that the way a woman looked was pretty important. I’m running a small business and the first thing clients see is the secretary. She needs to be a knockout.
Martha Weber was sitting in the interview chair when Mr. Smith rang the front bell. I’d faced men with guns, but for some reason, that day I didn’t want to face a potential client without a secretary.
“You want to make five bucks?” I said.
Martha looked at me with wariness. “What do I have to do?”
“Pretend to be my secretary.”
She frowned. “So, I have the job?”
“No, but I’d like you to pretend to be my secretary for that potential client out there.”
“Why don’t I have the job?”
I winced. That was an argument best discussed among other men. Only they could understand the importance of an attractive secretary for private-eye business. Martha had the typing skills in spades. But her looks were on the homely side. She looked like she belonged in a school or public library, not at the receptionist/typist for a private investigator firm.
“I have a few other applicants, and I need to give them a chance, you know?”
“I’m a great typist. I can even do some field work, if you need it. Did I tell you I’m pretty good with a gun?” She said the last with a bit more emphasis than was necessary.
The doorbell rang again. Work wasn’t flowing as I would have liked. I was in a dire position of having to take almost everything that came through the door. I desperately didn’t want any potential clients to leave.
I gave her a double take. “Double my offer. Ten dollars.”
Martha looked at me sidelong. “You really got it?”
Sure, I just won’t get any gas for a week. “I’ll get the client to make a down payment.”
“You’d better.” She rose from her chair. “I’ll be right back, Mr. Wade.” She winked at me and sashayed out of my office. Seeing her from behind, I had second thoughts about doing this. What if she blew it?
Through the closed door, I heard soft murmuring then Martha’s shape through the frosted glass door. Didn’t every private eye have doors with frosted glass?
The door cracked and Martha stuck her head in. “Mr. Wade, there are two gentlemen here to see you.”
Two gentlemen? I rarely got pairs of potential clients. “Please send them in…” I paused and my eyes raced across my desk until I found her file. “Miss Weber.”
She narrowed her eyes. I shrugged. I cinched up my tie and sat up straighter in my chair.
The first man who walked in I didn’t recognize. He wore, of all things, denim overalls. The hat he held in his hands looked nicer than his entire wardrobe, his pressed shirt notwithstanding. I pegged him for a farmer and quickly dreaded needing to take any job to pay the rent. I wasn’t up for some sort of cow theft.
The second man, on the other hand, I knew. Burt Haldeman was a lawyer, a shyster if you ask me. He was the kind of man who used his size and bulk to get his way when his words failed him. Half the time, that’s what happened. His tie only reached halfway down his gut. Not flattering, but his looks were enough to land a semi-slob like me in Life magazine.
I stood and came around my desk, extending my hand to the lawyer. “Burt, how you doing? What brings you in my door?”
“Good to see you again, Wade,” Haldeman said. “I see you landed on your feet after that little incident.”
I cleared my throat. “Sure did.” I pivoted and introduced myself to the farmer.
He took my hand, his leathery, hard skin felt like some sort of moving beef jerky. “Elmer Smith.” He was looking around, clearly out of his element.
“Please, gentlemen, have a seat.” I indicated the two chairs opposite my desk. To Martha, I said, “Thank you, Miss Weber. That will be all.” She rubbed her thumb and index finger together in the universal sign of money.
With their backs to her, Haldeman and Smith were unable to see Martha. I smiled and nodded once, then gestured her out.
I sat and leaned my elbows on the desk. “What brings you into my office?”
“Chickens,” Smith said.
I looked to Haldeman for confirmation. He nodded in assent.
“Chickens,” I said. “I can’t say I’ve ever had a case involving chickens.”
“Judging from how long you’ve been doing this little job,” Haldeman said, “I’d have to agree with you. But, nonetheless, we are here on account of chickens.” He reached into his suit and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He shook one out, put it between his lips, and lit up. “Tell him, Elmer.”
The farmer cleared his throat. I got the impression he wasn’t used to speaking in public. “Well, you see, Mr. Wade, the agriculture man, the health inspector man, wants to condemn all my chickens and kill’em all.”
I waited for additional details. Smith, his mouth a thin line with almost no upper lip, sat there as if he had just spoken a fact, like the color of the sky or the humidity level in town that day. Turning to Haldeman, I raised my eyebrows. “Burt?”
Haldeman smiled. “It’s true. Mr. Smith’s entire brood of chickens has been declared unsanitary by the health inspector. They’re scheduled to be slaughtered in the next few days. I got Judge Briscoe to put a temporary injunction on the slaughter, but we’re running outta time.”
“I’m still not seeing where I come in.”
Smith frowned. “Ain’t it obvious? I need you to investigate that bastard inspector and figure out why he’s trying to kill my livelihood.”