Monday, November 26, 2018



                                                                  A Touch of Terror
                                                                        Chapter 1 

            Every time the bomb rattled in Dane Kanter’s trunk, icy neurons fired through his bloodstream. 
            With each sharp turn in the road, his heart stuttered with anticipation.  He winced at every creak from the back of his Honda Accord.  He’d been gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his arms ached. 
             It was pure greed that had put him in this situation, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway at five in the morning, heading toward Los Angeles.  A college dorm prank that turned into the scariest drive of his life.
            Why had he ever considered taking the envelope from that stranger in Tijuana?
            Traffic was light on this portion of the winding road, but his brain throbbed with every  turn.  The ocean waves peeked out of the morning fog to his left as the sun seeped through the tree line to his right. 
            A fine mist was spitting on his windshield as he manually engaged his wipers every thirty or forty seconds.  The road glistened and he felt his tires hydroplane on the sharp turns.  Everything seemed to conspire against him.  Even the city planning wouldn’t cooperate.  His gas gauge had been on empty for twenty miles, but this stretch of quiet road lacked a gas station. 
Just trees and asphalt and the continuous threat of an explosion to keep him company.
            Dane kept imagining ways to rectify the situation  .  He couldn’t abandon the car, the Mexican had made sure of that.  A detonation device was strapped to his chest and the bomb would explode should he move even thirty feet from the driver’s seat.  A code-locked keypad secured the chest strap and only one person knew the proper code to detach the strap.  One wrong sequence of numbers and Dane’s worries would disintegrate.  Along with Dane.
            The ”low gas” warning light blinked on and he almost    puked at the sight.  He was being monitored with a GPS device and a miniature camera was attached to his dashboard for surveillance.  A gas stop might be tolerated, but a prolonged stoppage like running out of gas on the side of the road would only expedite the explosion.
            Plus there was the deadline.  He’d been given eight hours to get to his destination.  At eight hours and one minute he became extinct.  There had to be a way of getting rid of this device without exploring the next world, but nerves and rain and wet roads kept him focused on just one thing.  Get to the drop and have the detonator removed safely. 
            He wiped a patch of sweat from his forehead, then squinted as the road curved around a sharp bend and he saw flashing lights swirl against the trees to his right.
            “Shit,” he muttered.  Less than a mile ahead was a road block, with white and green SUV’s parked on each side of a single-lane bottleneck of cars.  He thought about turning, but saw it was Border Patrol vehicles.  It was rare to see a road block this far north.  But Dane was a pasty white teenager with blond surfer hair.  He should be of no interest to them.  Unless he acted suspicious. 
            He tried to control his breathing as he approached the line of cars waiting for inspection.  Even in the morning chill, his hands were clammy around the steering wheel.  There were three cars ahead of him; the first was waved through by the green-uniformed Border Patrol Officer after he bent to inspect the contents of the small sedan.  The line crept forward as each car received a quick glance and a wave of an arm. 
            Finally, it was Dane’s turn.
            With his window open, he rolled the car forward, expecting the officer to wave him through without stopping. But the guy held up a hand and Dane nearly dropped a load in his pants.  That’s when he looked at his side view mirror and spotted the German Shepherd sniffing at the back of his car.  Another officer was pulling on the leash to restrain the dog.
            “Are you carrying any weapons with you?” the officer asked.
            The question surprised Dane and he stammered.  “N-no, of course not.”
            The dog was sniffing so hard Dane could hear him puffing at the base of his car.
            “Would you please pull the car over to the side of the road?” the officer asked.
            That was it.  There was no chance he could survive an inspection.  And the Mexican was hearing everything.  Seeing everything.  He could detonate the bomb remotely at any moment. 
Dane’s heart pounded like a jackhammer. 
            There was no choice.
            He slammed on the accelerator.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018


David Baldacci is a tireless advocate for adult literacy.  He and his wife Michelle have raised millions for the cause.  It’s hard to imagine anyone so devoted, but it makes sense.  His Amos Decker and Will Robie series are the epitome of literature.  Sure, he’s a thriller writer, but the cadence in which he writes is very rhythmic.  You can get lost in his stories and almost forget there’s a plot to pay attention to.
Baldacci was also way ahead of his time.  His 2009 thriller, The Whole Truth, foreshadows the fact that the Internet has made it possible for disinformation to sound so convincing and to spread so fast that facts become irrelevant.  This was a decade ago.
“It's ironic,” Baldacci told Bookpage Magazine. “I think we have less truth today than we had 50 years ago," he says, adding, "You can go onto social media and throw out percentages and figures and they can be a total lie, but people believe them."
In The Whole Truth, Nicholas Creel is the head of the world's largest defense contractor and he hires a "perception management" company—the so-called PMers don't just spin facts, they make stuff up—to re-ignite Cold War fears about the Red Menace, driving nations toward the edge of WWIII.  Ten years ago this could’ve been considered farcical had a master writer like Baldacci not delivered the story with a deft touch.

The disinformation campaign that propels The Whole Truth begins with the release of a grainy amateur video showing a Russian man recounting the horrors that he and his countrymen are suffering at the hands of the Secret Russian Federation police. By the way, that man is an actor. The entire world buy it—and nations buy trillions of dollars worth of Creel's weapons. The scenario is not far-fetched, insists Baldacci, who says he got the idea for the book by talking to real people in the perception management business.

Politically, Baldacci considers himself an Independent, but he pays attention to the news and decides to use his fiction to mold his thoughts into place.  It’s amazing just how much he got right a decade ago.  We can only hope that his 2017 release, The End Game is not nearly as accurate as The Whole Truth was, otherwise I’m staying under my bed at least until the Midterms.  

Friday, January 19, 2018


Different is bad. 

Have you seen the new models of cars that came out for 2018?  Look similar to last year’s models?  Of course.  Have you noticed the plethora of sequels in your local movie theater? Of course.  The reason is partly capitalism at it’s finest.  Feed the masses a familiar theme and they will flock to the store for it.  It’s why there’s a Starbucks on every corner of the globe.  Think about it, when you’re traveling and there’s a coffee shop nearby, do you opt for Benny’s Cafe, or Starbucks?  My guess, you’re going to Starbucks.  Why?  Familiarity.  You know exactly what you’re going to get and who knows what’s available at Benny’s.

This theme can easily be transferred to books.  You want a thriller, James Patterson.  You want a legal thriller, John Grisham.  But increasingly the most creative stories are being told by independent authors with independent thoughts and no Big 5 Publisher to tell them how to change their story to make it more appealing.  That’s code for more cliché.  More familiar to readers.

Now that may seem like a huge generalization, but not so fast.  If you’ve heard the accomplishments of people like Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, EL James, Amanda Hocking, or John Locke, you’ll realize publishers weren’t knocking down their door for their novels.  Their stories were different, edgy, in EL James’s case, pushing the envelope between romantic thriller and pornography.  But it was different.  And when different becomes popular, it becomes mainstream and it changes the landscape in good way.

Back in the early ‘80’s I was living in Seattle when a friend of mine invited me to go see this band called REM.  They were playing in a bar in front of 300 people.  I loved it.  I’d never heard this type of music before.  It was hard to characterize.  It was different.  Outside of the fact that Michael Stipe spent the entire concert with his back to the audience, it was great.  And maybe REM had a record contract, but it was with a small record company that left them alone to do whatever they wanted.  The results were magnificent.  There are dozens of bands who’ve gone on to imitate Peter Buck’s jangly guitar from Gin Blossoms to Nirvana.  It changed everything.

All of these examples come from creative people who were unbridled to do whatever their hearts desired.  Hugh Howey imagined a post-apocalyptic society living one-hundred and forty stories below the surface of the earth.  Creative.  John Locke created an anti-hero in Donovan Creed.  A quirky Ex-CIA hitman who straddles both sides of the law to accomplish his goals.

Where is the future of creative fiction coming from?  I don’t know, but I’ll bet an Indie author is working on it as we speak.