Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 Top Reads - U.S. Crime Thriller Novels

Further to my post of December 17, 2016 (in which I listed my "2016 Top Reads: U.K. Crime Thriller Novels")  this post focuses on my "2016 Top Reads" U.S. Crime Thriller Novels. I have grouped books in my own fashion, alphabetically, and when possible, by the same publisher. There are debuts, stand-alone novels, a books which are part of a series. I did review the last two titles in the post, and hope you will read my reviews. 

This is not a "Best Books of 2016" list. My passion for the crime thriller genre is enormous. I hope you like my choices, and I encourage you to buy these titles, and support writers and publishers so more books may be written and published! 

If you click on a title, that will take you to its listing.  When you click on the author and/or the publisher, that will take you to their Twitter account.

Also, since this is my blog, I have added a title which I should have appeared in my  2016 Top Reads - U.K. Crime Thriller Novels list.  That title is OPEN WOUNDS by Douglas Skelton,which Luath Press published in the U.K. back on March 31, 2016.  However, the book was published here in the U.S. on September 30, 2016, and was nominated for the 2016 McIlvanney Prize (Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award).  And so, once again....


THE EX by Alafair Burke (HarperCollins, January 26, 2016)

THE OTHER WIDOW by Susan Crawford (William Morrow, April 26, 2016)

WHAT REMAINS OF ME by Alison Gaylin (William Morrow, February 23, 2016)

HARD COLD WINTER by Glen Erik Hamilton (William Morrow, March 8, 2016), Van Shaw Novels, Book 2

DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, June 21, 2016)

THE LOST GIRLS by Heather Young (William Morrow, July 26, 2016)

THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam/Penguin Random House, October 6, 2016)  Maggie Hope Mystery Series, Book 6

WALK INTO SILENCE by Susan McBride (Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing, December 1, 2016) Jo Larson, Book 1

WEDDING BEL BLUES by Maggie McConnon {Maggie Barbieri} (St. Martin's Press Paperbacks, May 31, 2016) Bel McGrath Mysteries, Book 1

THE DARKEST STREET by Alex Segura (Polis Books, April 12, 2016) Pete Fernandez, Book 2

THE ENGLISH BOYS by Julia Thomas (Midnight Ink , July 8, 2016)

HEART OF STONE by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street Books, June 7, 2016) Ellie Stone Mysteries, Book 4

QUIET NEIGHBORS by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink, April 8, 2016)

THE HATCHING by Ezekiel Boone (Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, July 5, 2016) The Hatching Series, Book 1

DARK FISSURES by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing, December 6, 2016) Rick Cahill Thrillers, Book 3

THE EMPRESS OF TEMPERA by Alex Dolan (Diversion Books, September 13, 2016)

STRONG COLD DEAD by Jon Land (Forge Books/Tor Books, October 4) Caitlin Strong Novels, Book 8

THE SPECIAL POWER OF RESTORING LOST THINGS by Courtney Elizabeth Mauk (Little A Books, October 1, 2016)

MIDAIR by Kodi Scheer (Little A Books, August 1, 2016)

DON'T YOU CRY byMary Kubica (MIRA/Harlequin Books, May 17, 2016)

WE ARE UNPREPARED byMeg Little Reilly (MIRA/Harlequin Books, August 30, 2016)

OPEN WOUNDS by Douglas Skelton (Luath Press Ltd., September 30, 2016) Davie Mccall Series, Book 4

SINCE SHE WENT AWAY by David Bell (Berkley Publishing, June 21, 2016)

UNDER THE HARROW by Flynn Berry (Penguin Books, June 14, 2016)

DEAD SOULS by J. Lincoln Fenn (Gallery Books, September 20, 2016)

THE PASSENGER by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster, March 1, 2016)

THE VANISHING YEAR by Kate Morretti (Atria Books, September 27, 2016)

WHAT WAS MINE by Helen Klein Ross (Gallery Books, January 5, 2016) ***My review

INK AND BONE  by Lisa Unger (Touchstone Books, June 7, 2016) ***My review

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016 Top Reads - U.K. Crime Thriller Novels

Although I only was able to review two books in 2016, I did read quite a few. This post is the first of two, and is devoted to U.K. Crime Fiction|Thriller Novels of 2016. While I have chosen to compile a "2016 Top Reads" list, in order to encourage other fans of the genre to purchase and read these marvelous books, I have not, and I could not, arrange them in order of "the best books of 2016."  It would appear obvious that since I've gone to the trouble of doing this post that I love them ALL!

I've listed them in groups, alphabetically by author,  and grouped by publisher when possible. If you click on a title, that will take you to its listing. When you click on the author and/or the publisher, that will take you to their Twitter account.

There are two titles, HIS BLOODY PROJECT by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse Publishing) and THE LIE by C.L. Taylor (Sourcebooks) which technically were published in the U.K. in 2015...BUT I did not read them until they were published here in the U.S.. The links here are for the UK versions, but all of the titles have U.S. publishers/editions. There is only one title which was published solely in a digital edition when I read it, SAVING SOPHIE by Sam Carrington (Maze, HarperCollins UK).


THE WIDOW by Fiona Barton (Penguin Books UK16 January 2016)
U.S.: THE WIDOW (Berkley Publishing Group, February 16, 2016) 

TASTES LIKE FEAR by Sarah Hilary (Headline Books, 7 April 2016)

THE WOLF ROAD by Beth Lewis (The Borough Press, 30 June 2016)
U.S.: THE WOLF ROAD (Crown Publishing, July 5, 2016)

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker, 30 June 2016)
U.S.: THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 (Scout Press Books/Gallery Books, July 19, 2016)

THE WOMAN IN BLUE by Elly Griffiths (Quercus Books, 4 February 2016)
U.S.: THE WOMAN IN BLUE (Houghton Mifflin, May 3, 2016)

A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED by William Shaw (Hodder & Stoughton, 19 January 2016)
U.S.: A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED (Mulholland Books, January 19, 2016)

THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE by Louise Beech (Orenda Books, 30 September 2016)
U.S.: THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE (Orenda Books, December 1, 2016)

IN HER WAKE by Amanda Jennings (Orenda Books, 22 March 2016)
U.S.: IN HER WAKE (Orenda Books, July 1, 2016)

A Suitable Lie by Michael J. Malone (Orenda Books, 15 September 2016)
U.S.: PreOrder => A SUITABLE LIE (Orenda Books, January 1, 2016)

THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh (Orion Books, 11 February 2016)
U.S.: THE DEFENSE (Flatiron Books, May 3, 2016)

THE SISTER by Louise Jensen (bookouture, 5 July 2016)
U.S.: THE SISTER (bookouture, July 5, 2016)

LOVE YOU TO DEATH by Caroline Mitchell (bookouture, 13 November 2016)
U.S.: LOVE YOU TO DEATH (bookouture, November 13, 2016)

THE STEPMOTHER by Claire Seeber (bookouture, 19 July 2016)
U.S.: THE STEPMOTHER (bookouture, July 19, 2016)

WILLOW WALK by S.J.I. Holliday (Black and White Publishing, 10 June 2016)
U.S.: WILLOW WALK (Black and White Publishing, May 5, 2016)

THE LONDON CAGE by Mark Leggatt (Fledgling Press, 29 June 2016)
U.S. ebook edition: THE LONDON CAGE (Fledgling Press, June 22, 2016)

THE PERFECT GIRL by Gilly Macmillan (Piatkus Books, 22 September 2016)
U.S.: THE PERFECT GIRL (William Morrow Paperbacks, September 6, 2016)

HIS BLOODY PROJECT by Graeme Macrae Burnet (Skyhorse Publishing, October 18, 2016)
U.K.: HIS BLOODY PROJECT (Contraband/Saraband Books, 5 November 2015)

THE DARKEST SECRET  by Alex Marwood (Sphere Books, 30 June 2016)
U.S.: THE DARKEST SECRET (Penguin Books, August 30, 2016)

BLACK NIGHT FALLING by Rod Reynolds (Faber & Faber, 4 August 2016)

THE LIE by C.L. Taylor (AvonBooksUK, 23 April 2015)
U.S.: THE LIE (Sourcebooks, June 7, 2016)

A DEADLY THAW by Sarah Ward (Faber & Faber, 1 September 2016)
U.S.: A DEADLY THAW (Minotaur Books, September 27, 2016)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hold On Until The Light Returns

My first thought upon waking was, "It is very dark." I rise several hours before dawn. My sleep is troubled--it has been for years--and consciousness is a break from the nightmares which accompany Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This time of year, as the days shorten and the nights lengthen, has often placed me in a deep depression and high states of anxiety. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I seek out extra therapy, sessions and make sure that, no matter how cold it is outside, I bundle up and get out in the sunshine for the light and the Vitamin D.

When I thought, "It is very dark," I was not only referring to the science of the Northern Hemisphere approaching its winter solstice. It is a very dark time in the United States of America as we watch the surreal but all-to-real parade of the President Elect's cabinet choices. His "diplomacy" has already imperiled us. I was sensitive to the misuse of the acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder after the election, i.e. "PTSD" standing for Post-Trump Stress Disorder. But, oh, do I understand.

I want to share a key factor about how I have survived through over two decades of being a person who has mental illness.  While I wish it were otherwise, the mental health system in this country is light years behind being what it needs to be to serve all the people in this country who have mental illness. Strides have been made, but I fear and believe that many social services are going to be cut by the next administration.

So how do you hold on when your brain is telling you that everything is awful, that it shall always be this bad, that you will never feel good again?  You hold on. You do everything in your power to make healthy choices to get you through this bout until the sun shines inside you again.  You rely on yourself, because sometimes support networks (family, friends, mental health providers) may not be able to reach you as you stumble around in the dark, through the real long night of the soul.

Self-reliance is a very American ideal. Pioneers settling land had to be self-reliant until they were joined by others and able to form communities. Immigrants still have to be self-reliant, until they too are joined by others.  My relatives came to New York from Ireland and were lucky enough to find support within the Irish-American community.  My Great Uncle Frank was the youngest of ten brothers and grew up in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. He had no way of earning a living so he decided to immigrate to American.  He got off the boat in New York in 1927 at age nineteen.. He was a wiry but very wee little man. All he had were the clothes on his back.  As he made his way through out of the docks, he was stopped by a cop of horseback who said, "You there!  Where do you think YOU'RE going?"  My Uncle Frank told me he was terrified, and thought he would be placed on the next ship heading back to Ireland by this police officer who seemed the very image of Fionn mac Cumhaill.  Frank managed to sputter out that he had only just landed in New York.  The giant cop leaned down, and Frank thought he was going to get a lashing with the cop's truncheon.  Instead, the officer said, "So you'll be needing a job then, lad?  You go right around that corner, walk up to number 12, and tell them Officer Murphy sent you and you need a job."  My Uncle Frank followed those orders, and worked as a longshoreman for the next four decades.  Frank had help, but until that moment when Officer Murphy offered the lifeline, Frank was on his own.

When it is dark, you need to hold on until the light returns. You need to find out what will help you cope. I do not mean to imply you are alone, as in not another human being cares about you. But when I am suffering from depression and/or anxiety, it feels as though I am alone. Some days coping means staying in my nightgown and robe, cuddling my dog, and binge watching television episodes of "House Hunters International." This year I'm not doing as badly, so I have a list of what I must do to stay strong:

  1. Set a regular wake-up and sleep time. I get up at 6:00 a.m., and am in bed by 10:00 p.m.. I may have risen earlier or had trouble falling asleep at night, but having specific points for waking and sleeping keep me on track.
  2. Pay attention to nutrition and eat healthy. I have survived months of depression subsisting on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Now I take the time to cook simple but health-giving meals, full of vegetables, some protein, and healthy carbohydrates. I also make sure I eat at regular intervals. I limit my caffeine to one cup of coffee in the morning. 
  3. Limit stress. This is far easier to say than to do. Some of these are measures which I use constantly, and some are temporary fixes. When I wasn't feeling well at the beginning of the month, I deactivated my Facebook account since I couldn't bear to read one more political story, or read one more person's dire predictions of "THE FUTURE." I did not read the news or watch the news on television.  My usual arsenal:  I pray. I get out and walk. I do breathing exercises. I listen to music which feeds my soul. I do puzzles. I watch comedy shows. I look at funny animal videos on YouTube. I have two wonderful dogs. I stay in touch with the people I love. I need to direct myself because stress will enter your life no matter how vigilant you are. So I build up my coping skills, and gird myself with happiness and relaxation.
  4. Reminders that, "This too shall pass." I am a history buff, and so I read about people who had to survive atrocities, and who were able to hang on. I have many examples in my family history of people who managed to cope through terrible times and were able to move on to happier, richer periods of life. Post inspiring quotes around your home where you can see them. Watch inspiring movies like "The Shawshank Redemption." You will make it.
Do not dwell in or on the darkness. The light shall return.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Starting Over, Again and Again

On December 8, 1980, I was studying for finals at Wesleyan University. My underwhelming scholastic performance coincided directly with the fun I had been having socially. I had enjoyed a fantastic first semester of college. I was seventeen, and had been assigned to live in an off-campus co-ed house which we dubbed "The Rude House." I formed many close friendships which remain vital all these decades later. 

Wesleyan wasn't merely a top-level liberal arts college.  It was "liberal" politically. Jimmy Carter had lost his bid for re-election, and some old television star with big hair was going to be President of the United States.  I had been so upset that I too young to vote in the election.  However, I could not but help look forward to finally turning eighteen-years-old this December, and being excited and optimistic about the future because I was young.

You cannot get along with everyone in a college residence. One guy irked me but we had one huge passion in common.  We both were Beatlemaniacs.  Although it had been over a decade since the legendary and iconic band had broken up, and we had been seven-years-old, "H" and I were as passionate about The Fab Four as the fans were on  day The Beatles landed at Idlewild (February 7, 1964). The Beatles and their music helped Americans heal from the collective horror and grief experienced after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. H and I and all our classmates were born during the Kennedy Administration, and actually grew up with The Beatles as the soundtrack of our childhood.

We both had found comfort in their beautiful music, and were obsessive about all facts having to do with The Beatles. We could never say who our "favorite" Beatle was. We each flip-flopped about whether it was John Lennon or Paul McCarthy. H. and I were extremely excited because John had released his seventh studio album, "Double Fantasy," in late October after a five-year break from the music scene.

John was the "bad boy," possessed of good looks, irreverent wit, and sex appeal. Raised during World War II in Liverpool, John had a primal wound because his mother Julia had left him to be reared by his Aunt Mimi. There was no post-war economic boom in England as there was in the United States, no upward social mobility.  John was "an angry young man." Thankfully, instead of becoming a criminal, he became a working class hero. Lennon threw his broken heart, anger and passion into making music. After The Beatles broke up John and his wife Yoko Ono relocated to New York City. He went on to record six studio albums. As a peace activist, Lennon protested the Vietnam War so Richard Nixon tried to have him deported from the U.S.. Lennon fought to remain for years (he got his "green card," document of permanent residency in 1976). 

On October 9, 1975, John's own birthday, Yoko gave birth to their son Sean. John left the public forum and the music scene so he could be a stay-at-home father.  I  have wondered if being the primary caregiver to his little boy helped heal his wound from his own childhood.  He doted on Sean, and the photographs and home movies from Sean's birth until the autumn of 1980 are genuine artifacts of love.  And once healed, he returned to his life's passion, and began making and writing music again. 

We were all young and deeply in the process of discovering who we were.  The lessons we learned in our classrooms on all the great areas of humanities, arts and science made our minds open to the fact that life is finite and you have to choose what you will and what you won't spend time doing. 

On the evening of December 8, 1980, we students and new friends gathered as a pack in one cozy bedroom on the third floor of "Rude House," laying around in piles with our textbooks and notebooks. I think we realized that we were lucky to be in college, that we better not mess up that status, because after student life came "Life."

There was a knock on the door. H. walked into the room, and I saw his eyes scanning the room. Then  he walked over to where I sat and said, 

"John Lennon's been shot."

I thought H was playing a horrible practical joke on me. Yelling at him, I told H he was the biggest jerk in the world, and that he was mean and cruel.  H was red-faced, and walked over to our friends portable radio, turned it on and said, "Listen."

It was true. We gathered around the radio, until the announcer said that John Lennon had died on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, My heart broke. I spent the rest of the night crying, and brought my guitar over to the Center For The Fine Arts along with some candles and sat out in the cold Connecticut night singing every Beatles song I knew.

When the world feels as though it has ended, and that we cannot possibly face what is ahead, it's important to recall that human history occurs cyclically. We don't seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.  I would never suggest turning a blind eye or deaf ear to current events. There's always a chance to change something through our actions, maybe something so small and slight that we won't be able to see its positive effects for days, years, or decades. 

We cannot overlook the atrocities,  nor can we stop trying to prevent evil. But, alas, in "Life," we cannot always change the course of history. So turn inward, to your own life, and figure out how you will remain strong by embracing your passions, creating good art, by healing yourself, by holding your loved ones as close as you can, and appreciate being alive. Gird yourself with love so that we may fight what's to come.

"Our life together
is so precious together"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

We All Can Do Something

Today I am focusing on what can be done and not, as I have for the past twenty-six days, on what has happened, what is happening, and what may happen. I've never been able to play Emperor's New Clothes, to pretend and to deny when bad events are occurring.  However, the immense amount of bad news and fear has had me paralyzed by well-informed futility syndrome.  

I first heard this term while watching Bill Moyers (Moyers & Co.) on PBS in April 2013. His guest was environmental activist Sandra Steingraber.  During the course of their conversation, Steingraber said,

"Well-informed futility is an idea that psychologists hit upon in the 1960s, specifically to explain why the people watching television news about the Vietnam War came to feel more and more futile about it. Whereas people who watched less television felt less futile. So it seemed like a paradox, right? The more informed you are, you think of knowledge as power.
But in fact, there is a way in which knowledge can be incapacitating. And so the psychologists went further and now have applied this to the environmental crisis and point out to us that whenever there's a problem that seems big and overwhelming, climate change would be one, and at the same time, it's not apparent that your own actions have any meaningful agency to solve that problem, you're filled with such a sense of despair or guilt or rage that it becomes unbearable.
And so my response to that is basically what the book Raising Elijah is all about. So I try to take well-informed futility as my starting point and let people know that there is a way out of this. But because we can't -- I can't honestly tell you that the problem is less bad than it is, the response has to be that we scale up our actions. So the problem is huge. And so our actions have to be huge as well."
There is no time to waste, no time to be paralyzed with fear.  So today I propose we each take one step forward. One way we all can make a difference and do something proactive is by becoming an organ donor. Perhaps some people view this as unpleasant, maybe even morbid. I think people dying because they need an organ transplant and there are no organs available is far more lamentable.  
I am an organ donor.  I urge you to become an organ donor too.  Here is a link to  the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, about OPTN (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network).   To quote from this web page,
119,642 people need a lifesaving organ transplant (total waiting list candidates). Of those, 77,102 are active waiting list candidates. As of 10:25 p.m. today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wrapped in Her Love, Then, Now and Always

On October 25, 2001 my beautiful Grandma, Kathleen, died at age ninety-five. She was love, kindness and generosity personified.  We each were so blessed to have her in our lives and as our matriarch.
My grandmother came to the United States in October 1930 with her younger sister Nellie.  She was twenty-four and had been in domestic service for ten years. She and Nellie had been working in a great house in England, Grandma as a cook, and Nellie as a housemaid.  Their eldest sister Mary invited them to come to New York.  My grandmother was a vegetable cook at a Schrafft's restaurant in Manhattan. She lived in Sunnyside, Queens with her sister.  They both met their future husbands at the same a parish tea dance in 1931, and both were married before the end of that year. Grandma and my Grandpa, George, were married for nearly fifty years before his death in February 1981. They raised four children, and had eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

I grew up in a house that was just a few blocks from my grandparents' home in Bayside, Queens. When I was a toddler, Grandma would jostle me on her knees and repeat nursery rhymes.  She gave me such a gift by imprinting me with the combination of love and the music of words. She doted on me, but she did not spoil me. Can you really spoil a child with a tremendous amount of love?  She had the wisdom of allowing me to "help" her in the kitchen. "My" kitchen drawer was filled with a small wooden spoon, jelly jar tops, white cardboard separators from Lipton tea boxes, crayons, and string. There was a stool in the corner of the kitchen so that I could sit and watch her prepare and cook meals yet remain out of harm's way. I felt useful and content.
Grandma taught me about resilience, determination and strength. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1940's. Her mobility became quite limited within a few years. My Grandma was a remarkable homemaker. She raised four children through the Great Depression and World War II. She was homebound when my mother was still a girl in the early 1950's. Necessity was the mother of invention in terms of how Grandma cleaned and cooked. Housework was a lot of physical labor then. There were no amenities like a dishwasher. The family clothing had to be starched and ironed. I remember how she would bring the laundry up from the basement and hang it on the pulley-operated clothes line which hung from the back of the house to the back of the garden.  I loved to hand the wooden clothespins up to her. She had so much upper body strength. She was raised in rural Ireland and was very much a country woman. With her disability, the closest she got to nature was standing on the back stoop of her home. As my own body has broadened, I take pride and comfort in seeing how similar my appearance is to hers when she was in her fifties. My mobility is limited too, but I have a clean home.  I love doing the laundry. Tasks have to be performed, and I'm a good problem-solver like my Grandma.
When she was eighty-two, Grandma could no longer live on her own without assistance. She spent the last thirteen years of her life in a Catholic nursing home. She amazed me by finding the positive aspects.  Grandma made sure she was in her wheelchair and the first one downstairs when the dining room opened for meals. She made friends with the servers, and that ensured that every day she had one of her life's greatest pleasures: a piping hot cup of coffee. Grandma was a devout Catholic woman.  She prayed the Rosary and had a special devotion to The Blessed Mother.  Mass was held daily at the nursing home, and Grandma attended.

My Grandma didn't dwell on what she couldn't do, but on what she could.  "At least I have the use of my hands," she remarked after one of the other women on the hall had a stroke. She used those hands to hold ours tightly.  "I have my eyesight," she said, despite being legally blind. When she looked at me, or anyone she loved, she really saw you, down to your soul. "I can still hear," she asserted. My mother and I would visit her on a Sunday afternoon, and Grandma would have golf on the television.  Mommy and I were stunned when a player made a fantastic shot, and the gallery began applauding. The applause of the spectators came out of the television at such a loud volume that we thought we might lose our hearing. Then we three generations of women burst out laughing.
When Grandma died fifteen years ago, I grieved. I also pushed on because when life presents challenges, that's what you do. I miss her every day, and she still is teaching me about life and how to live. I recall that the priest who celebrated her funeral Mass said that she was now "in a place where there is no pain, and where there is no judgment."  For me, that place existed here on earth wrapped in her love.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Unthinkable

Trigger Warning: This is an essay about sexual assault.

Twenty five years ago, about six weeks after my father died in February 1991, I went out with a new girlfriend on a Saturday night to a club. We met up with her best friend from college, and he introduced us to some of his buddies. Although I was unaware, one of his friends took a particular interest in me. It felt good to be out with other young people, to be dancing, to be alive.

At some point the man slipped rohypnol into my glass of water.  I began to feel oddly, and I asked my girlfriend to help me get home. The man offered to help her get me home, and she said, "Sure." She didn't realize I had not had alcohol that night., and assumed I was drunk. The three of us got in a taxi  and drove to my apartment building. They helped me into the building, into the elevator, into my apartment, and onto my bed.  Then, as they both left, I remember saying one thing to her: "Lock the door behind you." That's the last thing I remember. The drug the man gave me made me lose consciousness. 

The man made sure the door was left unlocked. He came back into my apartment. The man raped me. The man strangled me. I do not recall any of this. This is peripheral amnesia. The trauma the man inflicted made my mind block the horror from my conscious mind to protect me. 

When I came to in the morning, I was laying on my bed. I wasn't wearing any clothes. I hurt all over my body and inside. The man was kneeling at the end of my bed, and was naked, and the man looked angry and savage. 

My instincts told me that I had to get the man out of my apartment. I got out of the bed slowly, and pretended that my legs were trembling because I had had "one too many last night." I made a lame joke. "I am such a lightweight."  I faked a laugh.  My voice was so hoarse. My throat ached so badly.

I said, "Gosh, I have such a bad hangover.  How are you feeling?"  

The rage left his face, and he slipped on his Nice Guy mask. 

"I think I had too many shots of Jager last night," the man said. He used his fingers to smooth down his hair.  I put on my robe so I would not be naked. The man pulled his clothes from the floor and began to dress. I kept talking, speaking to keep me alive.

"Would you like some coffee?" I asked my rapist. 

I walked out of the bedroom to the kitchen.  The man followed me into the other room.  

"It would just take a few minutes."  I turned on the kitchen faucet and let the cold water run. I was a few feet from my front door. Then I turned my head to see where he was. The man was sitting on my sofa, and putting on his Hush Puppies.  

"Nah, I should roll," he replied.  I was leaning with my back to my kitchen stove and hoped that the man would go now. Blood pounded in my temples.  Everything seemed too bright and too loud to me. I could hear that I was breathing very quickly, from fear, and thought that the man might notice that. I had to act as if I were normal, as if everything was normal,when nothing would be normal ever again.

"Yeah, okay," I said as casually as I could, like we had had a one-night stand, like we had met at the club and I asked him to come home with me, like I had consented.

He picked up his jacket which had been hanging over a chair.  The man walked over to me, and then he was in front of me, a full foot taller than I am.  The man looked into my eyes and the man said, "This was fun. We should do this again."  I felt the vomit rise up into my throat. I swallowed. I moved to the front door of my apartment and turned the deadbolt lock. "Oh, sure," I said. I opened the door and I prayed he would leave.

He kissed my cheek, and then the man walked past me out the door.  He had a smile on his face. I kept the door open door so that I could watch the man walk down the hall and get on the elevator. Then I closed and locked the door. I walked into my bathroom. I looked in the mirror and I saw the bruises around my neck. I splashed water on my face. I recalled hearing that you shouldn't shower after, after what had happened. 

I sat on my living room floor. I needed help.I phoned a close childhood friend who was an A.D.A.. She had been at my father's wake and funeral the month before. I told her what the man did. She was shocked, but she kept her composure. 

"What do you want to do?" she asked. 

"What should I do?" I said.

It was 1991.  DNA testing was in its early stages. She told me that if I called the police, they would say, "Sweetheart, if you can't remember what happened, how are we supposed to know?"  It would be a case of my word against the man's. She said that if the police did investigate, and found enough evidence for the D.A.'s office to prosecute, the man's criminal defense attorney probably would bring out my personal life and my sexual history.  In essence, I would be placed on trial, not the man. 

I thought of my mother and how Daddy just had died.  How could I bring more pain to her?  I thought of my job.  What if my bosses found out?  I tried not to think of my father, who would have been heartbroken that he could not protect me from the man.  I decided not to phone the police. I did not go to the hospital and have a rape kit done. I did not speak up. I did not report my rape.  

I hurt inside, so I went to my gynecologist the next morning.  She wept while she examined me because of the pain and the damage the man caused me.  She tested me for STD's, and she gave me The Morning After Pill. I hadn't even made the connection that I might have caught something or become pregnant because what happened, what the man did, was not sex. 

I survived.  There has been no justice. There has been a lot of pain, and rage. There is depression and anxiety. I have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.  But I'm alive. 

It sickens me that rape culture has become worse in many ways.  So I fight. I write about this, I talk about this, even if it makes people "uncomfortable."  I speak truth to power.

So listen up:  There is no way I am going to stay silent when a man who thinks he can do whatever he wants to do to women, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted several women, who says whatever he wants to say about women, who thinks he is better than women because he is a man, who believes he is above the law, is running for the highest office in the land.  

I didn't survive my rape and attempted murder by the man so that we as a nation could allow this man to become President of the United States.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer's Happy Memories

Jones Beach Water Tower

My father's favorite season was the summer, due in no small part to his birthday falling on August 14th. He grew up in Queens, New York, and learned how to swim in Jamaica Bay.  He taught me how to swim, and so many other lessons during the summers. Daddy worked long hours as a CPA, and also went to school nights to get his MBA in the early 1960's. Often he wouldn't get home until after the late evening news.   But in the summer, he would rush home earlier from work to my mother and me for supper by 5:30 p.m. so we could then go on our favorite excursion.  We three would get into the huge blue Chevy sedan, and while Daddy was driving, it seemed as though the car itself knew our destination: Jones Beach. Our car windows would be rolled down, and  my father would comment about how invigorating the air felt after working all day in the piping hot city. The trip was about a half hour, and  we would catch that first scent of salt in the air minutes before arriving. I can hear Daddy saying how much he loved "the cool breeze coming off the water."

Once our car passed through the Jones Beach Toll Plaza, my mother and father would encourage me to tell them what landmarks we would be coming upon as we made our way to the parking at West End I.  As a preschooler, I already had an excellent memory, and enjoyed showing it off to my parents.  I was awed by the Jones Beach Water Tower, and believed it to be some sort of mystical temple. While the architecture was quite different from our parish church directly across the street from our home, I thought the water tower was another type of holy place. My adoration for Art Deco began that day, and I remember Robert Moses in my prayers.

After a long hot day, this excursion refreshed us body and soul.  Once we parked, my mother would dress me in a gray zippered sweatshirt, a miniature version of the one Daddy wore. We walked past the empty shuffleboard courts and the closed concession stands. I would run ahead on the boardwalk, and then stop and wait for my parents. I don't know who was more excited about getting their toes in the sand, my father or me.  He held my hand tightly as we would walk up to the very edge of the water to feel the ocean rush up and over our feet and then flow back out again. I would turn around and my mother would be smiling at us.  She never learned how to swim, but she still felt the joy of our communion with the water. I thought my Mommy was the most beautiful woman in the world, and she was radiant. Then my parents would walk with me on the beach, one on either side of me, and would enact the ritual of lifting and swinging my small body in the air.  I felt thrilled and delighted and treasured. We would stay until just after sunset which would fall around eight o'clock.  My father would carry me back to the car. I would struggle to remain awake on the ride home and look out the window at the night sky, convinced that the moon was following us, but ultimately surrender to sleep.  I felt such perfect sweetness and security then. When I am sad that my father has died or that time has marched on and left some painful imprints, I go to these memories and know that I was so loved.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Too Great A Burden To Bear

My heart has been broken again and again in the past year by national and global events. I write this in an effort to understand events which are incomprehensible.  

Tonight people gathered to watch fireworks in Nice, France to celebrate their national holiday, July 14th, and to mark the occasion when the French people took the power out of the hands of the tyrannical and created a free republic.  The New York Times article reads Scores Reported Dead in Nice, France, as Truck Plows Into Bastille Crowd. At least eighty people have died, and many more are injured. 

On June 12, 2016 at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida forty-nine people were murdered and fifty-three people in the deadliest mass shooting in United States history and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11. Orlando Gunman Attacks Gay Nightclub, Leaving 50 Dead (The New York Times)

This month our country's legacy of racial inequality has yielded the murders of innocent black people by police officers -- Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5th, Philandro Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota on July 6th.  One week ago, Thursday, July 7th, there was a peaceful demonstration in Dallas, Texas at which people protested these latest deaths of black people at the hands of police officers. Micah Johnson a black man who had been discharged from the U.S. Army in 2015 after serving in Afghanistan, armed himself and went to this demonstration   He wanted to kill white police officers in retaliation for police brutality against black people.  Five Dallas Officers Were Killed as Payback, Police Chief Says (The New York Times)

When President Obama addressed the nation on Friday, July 8th, he said,
"Last year, we put together a task force that was comprised of civil rights activists and community leaders; but also law enforcement officials. Police captains, sheriffs," he said. "And they sat around the table, and they looked at the data and looked at best practices."
"There's some jurisdictions out there that have adopted these recommendations," he continued. "But there are a whole bunch that have not."
One of the jurisdictions hailed by Obama's task force was the Dallas Police Department - the same agency that the president would mourn 24 hours later after five officers were killed in a stunning attack in the city's downtown. That attack came at the tail end of a peaceful march organized to draw attention to the police use of force.  
The irony at the heart of the Dallas police deaths after a Black Lives Matter march, (The Washington Post)
I have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (and this is not the time to explain what caused it).  In order to survive both the traumas and the effects of my illness, I have had to withdraw from the world at times.  There is a time for righteousness and to demand justice.  I applaud people who are out there on the front lines at this moment, who are doing something, and/or saying something because all of this murder, violence and terrorism has to stop.  However, I am unable to do anything right now because all of this news has paralyzed me. I have gone to ground.

Three years ago I watched Bill Moyers television program "Moyers & Company" on the night he was interviewing Sandra Steingraber.  (The episode is titled The Toxic Assault on Our Children,)  She was discussing the environmental crisis and climate change. She also said,
"Well-informed futility is an idea that psychologists hit upon in the 1960s, specifically to explain why the people watching television news about the Vietnam War came to feel more and more futile about it.  Whereas people who watched less television felt less futile. So it seemed like a paradox, right? The more informed you are, you think of knowledge as power. 
But in fact, there is a way in which knowledge can be incapacitating. And so the psychologists went further and now have applied this to the environmental crisis and point out to us that whenever there's a problem that seems big and overwhelming, climate change would be one, and at the same time, it's not apparent that your own actions have any meaningful agency to solve that problem, you're filled with such a sense of despair or guilt or rage that it becomes unbearable.
If you need to take care of yourself because all of this hurts too much, then do so.  You do not have to prove your worth as a human being by watching the news or by engaging in social media.  Focus fully on your life at present. You may need to save yourself first before we all save the world together.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Reading Countdown to the Anthony Awards at Bouchercon 2016! #15in15 Week 5 #11 STONE COLD DEAD

This is the fifth week of Reading Countdown to the Anthony Awards at Bouchercon 2016. Now there are 11 weeks (75 days to be precise) until the 2016 Anthony Awards are presented at the Bouchercon XVLII World Mystery Convention.

This week I suggest you read the fifth nominee alphabetically in the Best Paperback Original category, James W. Ziskin's STONE COLD DEAD.

STONE COLD DEAD, James W. Ziskin's third novel in his Ellie Stone Mystery series, was published on May 12, 2015 by Seventh Street Books. This historical fiction crime fiction series features Ellie Stone, a modern "career girl."  The debut STYX AND STONE began in 1960, and Ellie had returned to New York City because her academic father had been attacked.  In STONE COLD DEAD it is December 21, 1960.  Ellie is now working as a reporter for a newspaper in upstate New York.  Darlene Hicks, a fifteen-year-old girl, has gone missing.  By New Year's Eve Darlene's frantic mother Irene Metzger contacts Ellie for help.  Irene says local police believe Darlene has run away with a boyfriend, and aren't pursuing any leads.  Only Ellie can help find Darlene.

James W. Ziskin pulls off a crime fiction novel hat trick.  Ellie Stone is a woman protagonist who, in any time period, is fully developed and fascinating.  The early 1960s are drawn to perfection, so much so that the reader's nostalgia is quickly replaced by the reality of what "the good old days" truly means. Then there is Ziskin's writing.  His novels are tightly plotted, the pacing on point,  the suspense is taut, the characters are solid, and the prose is so enjoyable.

James W. Ziskin's STONE COLD DEAD was nominated for a 2016 "Lefty" (Left Coast Crime) Award for Best World Mystery Novel. The novel also is a  finalist in the Best Paperback Original category for a 2016 Barry Award.

You can order a copy of STONE COLD DEAD through these links at IndieBound, AmazonBarnes & Noble, or at your local independent bookstore.

Note:  HEART OF STONE, the fourth Ellie Stone Mystery, was published on June 7, 2016.