Monday, April 25, 2011

Mitch Malone Mondays - Douglas Corleone

Kevin Corvelli and I may share some interesting common traits. Okay, I’m not raking in the bucks as an attorney but neither is Kevin. He is the featured character in to two legal thrillers penned by Douglas Corleone, an attorney himself. Kevin’s first adventure, ONE MAN'S PARADISE, won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. His second book, NIGHT ON FIRE, continues the journey of discovery and redemption and comes out tomorrow. That’s right, you heard it here on Mitch Malone Mondays first. Let’s get to the gritty details. Kevin, you live and work in Hawaii. This can’t be a tough place to work? It’s all beaches and babes…How do you find time to work?

Well, Happy Hour doesn't start until 3 or 4 p.m., so that leaves me a solid six or seven hours a day to draft motions, make court appearances, and hustle up some new clients. That said, the surroundings -- the beaches, the palm trees, the sunsets -- they all disappear when I'm in a courtroom defending a client. And when I take on a high-profile case, I might as well be hunkered down in Tent City, Iowa, during a tornado. Turns out, where I am isn't nearly as important to me as who I am.

As I mentioned above, the babes and bikinis would be distracting. In NIGHT ON FIRE, your client is a woman on her honeymoon. Why do you decide to defend her when she is obviously guilty?

I'm a lawyer, Mitch. It's not my job to determine whether my clients are guilty; that's for a jury to decide. My job is to represent my client to the best of my ability, and in a criminal trial, that means doing whatever necessary within the bounds of the law to create a reasonable doubt in the minds of the twelve men and women in the jury box. If you're hinting that I had an ulterior motive in taking Erin Simms on as a client, well... Maybe you should find a gig with one of the tabloids, Mitch.

I understand. When I write a story, I’m unbiased. I just print the facts. You are an attorney. What makes you investigate your own cases? Don’t attorneys just sit in their office and look up case law? Couldn’t you just hire a PI? Or maybe fly a certain crime beat reporter like me out to Hawaii to help investigate (and get out of the snow in April)?

I have a full-time investigator named Ryan Flanagan. Flan and I work well together, but I'm not the kind of lawyer who can just sit back in an air-conditioned office barking orders. Once I left New York, I vowed I'd turnover every stone in every criminal case I took on, and that's just what I do, even if it occasionally puts me in harm's way. I owe that much to my clients. As for flying you out to Hawaii, Mitch, in case you haven't heard, reporters are not my favorite people in the world. Don't take it personally.

How can anyone not like reporters? That last comment doesn’t have anything to do with this question. My research tells me you left New York under some troubling circumstances. What were they? Have you been able to hide in paradise?

It's no secret that I fled New York after my client Brandon Glenn was murdered at Riker’s Island only a few days before he was vindicated. Was I able to hide? Well, I'm still talking about it, aren't I? I realize now what I should have realized then, that the media will never allow the public to forget the Brandon Glenn case. That fiasco will follow me every step of my career, it'll chase me during every high-profile case. I'll never be able to put it behind me; it'll follow me to my grave.

By media, he’s meaning those TV show news people. Thankfully, I’m not one of those. Thanks Kevin for joining me today and give my best Douglas Coreleone. Don’t forget you heard it here first. Buy NIGHT ON FIRE, hot of the press, by visiting Kevin’s author’s website:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kevin Corvelli hates reporters but shares secrets of his success as an attorney with Mitch Malone on Monday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

17th Century guest writes in to Mitch Malone about sexual prowness. Check it out.

Mitch Malone Mondays - M.E. Kemp

Today my guest is from the 17th Century and we couldn’t communicate the way we usually do so had to use another method which was a damn nuisance, I say. I couldn’t grill her as I would like. I’m also not sure of the cousin business but have only started looking into my lineage recently. So here is the letter. Some parts have made me a bit uncomfortable. Hetty is a bit “forthwith’ as you will see. She promised to check in so leave a comment at the bottom and I will time-travel them to her and back so my response time may be a bit slow!

To Mitch Malone in the 21st century
From Hetty Henry, 17th century

Thank you for your letter, Cousin Mitch and I'll do my best to answer your questions. First I should introduce myself. My name is Mehitable Henry but my friends call me Hetty. I am a widow, true, but this enables me to control my late husbands' properties on my own. I run a mercantile business quite profitably, thank you, and I have no plans to marry again. If I married I would lose control of that business to my new husband.

But that doesn't mean I don't like men. We're not a Victorian society, you know, we are much closer to the Elizabethan, we Puritans, and you know how lusty the Elizabethans were. Yes, I would say we are a lusty peoples; we enjoy lots of good food, more drink than you could handle -- I challenge you to down one of Mr. Sparke's Specials from his tavern in Ipswich. It's made of rum, beer, molasses and bread crumbs. Even our ministers drink prodigious amounts of liquor at their ordination dinners, as you may tell by looking at the tavern bills. As for sexual contact, well.... If I like a man I bed him. We are lusty there, too. Why, my friend the blacksmith brags that he "had" the miller's wife four times in one afternoon; I'm not making this up. If you can match that, Mitch, I'd really like to meet you.

I have a partner in my detection work, a young minister. His name is Increase Cotton but I call him "Creasy." He's related to the famous Mather family -- it's his cousin Cotton Mather who sends us out to do his dirty work for him. (Ministers are political leaders as well as religious in our community, so people turn to them in times of trouble.) We make a great detective team because Creasy has the training to ferret out the guilty secrets of the human soul and I have the contacts and wealth to gather information. We have been called "two nosy Puritans," but it is our duty to keep the community safe, and being "nosy" is necessary to detecting, as you know. We try to keep our relationship on a professional level, although sometimes we fail -- we're not Saints, after all. (A little joke there; the Saints were the Pilgrims.) On our last case, which I call in my report: DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER, Creasy and I found and read aloud a packet of steamy hot love letters. We were very close to an indiscretion upon the murder victim's lush bed when we were interrupted by a loud banging upon the door by that officious prig, Constable John Phillymort. Phillymort - that's French for "dead leaf" - and it's a good description of the man, always going around quoting the Bible while he arrests innocent people.

I know my report seems to indicate many women of loose morals in Boston, but you must remember that the dead dancing master was a Seducer; he took advantage of his women pupils. It's always the woman who suffers, isn't it? In my time a woman's good name is really all she has -- unless you're the widow to two rich husbands, of course. It's easy for a woman to fall in love with a practiced libertine, as was the dancing master. The husbands are often away at sea for months, so when a handsome man flirts with you... well, nature takes a hand. (I rather regret I never met the dancing master, myself -- I was away on business.) Not that Francis Perkney deserved murder, I don't believe that at all. Everyone deserves justice, no matter how poor or how rich. Creasy and I made sure the man received justice for his death, even though I put my own life in danger setting a trap for the killer. After that close call, I need a vacation. I think I'll head for old Cape Cod for some sun, sand and murder. Care to join me, Mitch?

Your Obedient Servant, Sir, I Remain
Mehitable Henry

Interesting letter from Hetty. Not sure what she means by that obedient servant remark. See what I mean about being a little outspoken? Makes you want to run out and grab the DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER, doesn’t it. Go ahead and check it out at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mitch Malone Mondays - John Desjarlais

Mitch Malone here and I’m happy to help out W.S. when I can but she is taking advantage when she’s off cruising and having fun. Somewhere you have to draw the line. However, I don’t want it to be said that I’m unprofessional. I’ve got a dynamite author her with a Latino main character that is hot. Reminds me of another dark-haired beauty but I don’t want to get distracted. Today’s guest is John Desjarlais whose newest book is slated to be out any day now. It’s called “Viper!” Where did you get your inspiration to write about the main character, Selena? She sounds hot!

Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz was a minor character in my first mystery, BLEEDER. The story takes place in rural Illinois where there’s been a large influx of Latino laborers for agricultural operations such as slaughterhouses and canneries. With all the unease among the townspeople about so many poor and ill-educated immigrants, I wanted to balance this by portraying a positive, well-educated Latin character that cared about this issue. Since my protagonist, Reed Stubblefield, had been injured in a school shooting, I also needed a local insurance agent to assist him with disability claims. So I invented Selena, a thirty-something second-generation Mexican-American insurance agent from a well-to-do family in Chicago, a Loyola finance major. When she first walked on the stage in those cherry high heels, with that attitude and driving that fast car, I knew she had a story of her own. She insisted on a larger role in BLEEDER.

Cherry high heels. Hmmmm. Do you find it hard to write about a woman, being in her head?

This was the most challenging writing I’ve ever done. Not only did I need to get the ‘woman’ thing right, I had to get the “Latina” thing right – all the cultural stuff: family, customs, language, the works. I interviewed Latinas and subscribed to Latina magazine. I read several books (aimed at this growing U.S. population) about the struggle to acculturate to New World realities while holding to tradition and Old World expectations. I browsed blogs and web sites by Latinas, to overhear their conversations about dealing with a bicultural identity and being a woman in a man’s world. I sent pieces of the work-in-progress to a Latina who checked the language (she’s a professional translator) and who made sure I was accurate and respectful with all the cultural material. I knew I was getting it right when she once wrote, “I am SO into Selena!” What a relief to hear her say that.

I’m not exactly very religious but you’ve included that aspect. The Catholic Church figures heavily in this book especially with Selena being on the All Souls list. What prompted you to include that?

I’m a relatively new convert to Catholicism and so I am fascinated by all the details of Catholic faith and practice that I never knew as a faithful evangelical. I was casting about for a premise to begin the sequel to BLEEDER and noticed this practice of placing a “Book of the Dead” in the sanctuary around All Souls Day for families to record the names of loved ones who had died over the year so they could be remembered and respected. Well, if you’re a mystery writer and you hear a phrase like “Book of the Dead,” you sit up straight. What if there were names in it of people who weren’t dead, but they were being killed in the order in which they were listed?

At the same time I learned about the Mexican holiday that runs nearly concurrently, “The Day of the Dead.” It’s a fiesta where Mexican families decorate home altars with flower garlands, special breads, candles and photos of deceased relatives. They give candy skulls to children and have picnics in cemeteries where they call out insults to a female grim reaper figure called “Lady Death,” saying “Hey, you old baldy, you missed me this year!” It’s all very light-hearted and is loosely connected to old Aztec customs and folk beliefs. Anyway, I knew that Selena’s name had to be on the list (the last name) and that she’d be the protagonist of the sequel.

I also had the idea that a local girl visionary would claim that a “Blue Lady” appeared to her announcing the next death in the list. While some in the Mexican-American community would believe it was Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico (whose apparition in the 16th Century led to the conversion of millions of Aztecs and stopped the slaughter of human sacrifices), others believe it is the Aztec goddess of Death. So the “Catholic” and “Aztec” religious aspects worked into the story quite naturally.

Many times when authors include religious items in their works, many people are turned off. How do you balance the religion in a fast-paced thriller?

I’m not sure it is a matter of ‘balance’ so much as a matter of ‘blending’ in a way that is both subtle and necessary to the story. It isn’t so much another added ingredient in the stew (much like it shouldn’t be compartmentalized in one’s life); it’s in the very aroma of the whole pot. If it is something forced, extraneous or – God forbid – preachy, then a reader may feel manipulated. The reader might suspect that the story has a hidden agenda of proselytism. People are rightly ‘turned off’ when the spiritual material is handled poorly, whether it is in-authentic or inaccurate or in-your-face.

All of this material in VIPER, however, is natural and an organic part of the story and characters. My story premises – the Book of the Dead and the mysterious “Blue Lady” - are necessary to the criminal investigation aspect of the story. As for characters - Mexicans still identify themselves strongly as Catholic even if their practice isn’t exemplary – it’s part of the culture. For example, Selena is not a deeply devout Catholic but she still goes to Mass with her family dutifully and she has santos y virgencita figurines around her house. By habit, she crosses herself when passing a church. She doesn’t pray the rosary, but her faith-filled godmother gives her one as a gift and Selena carries it with her. I think she’s newly intrigued by the mercy, majesty and – ahem – mystery found in the fullness of the Catholic faith.

No one was ‘turned off’ by Dan Brown’s inclusion of religious elements – except for every educated Christian who knew Brown got everything wrong, and it was insulting. I think the book served to reinforce some prejudices against the Catholic Church and caused some who were poorly catechized to derail. When a writer deals with religious material, it must be dealt with honestly.

The mystery genre is full of religious characters and themes, and one reason may be that the genre is a good place to explore the ‘higher mysteries’ of the human heart. It looks closely at our deepest desires and fears, it faces the mystery of death and undeserved suffering squarely, and is concerned with justice. Done well, it fully examines the mystery of what it means to be fully human. It tries to make sense of the frightfully short dash between our birth date and departure date on our tombstones. How ‘religious’ can you get?

Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael stories and GK Chesterton’s Father Brown stories are instructive in this regard, Andrew Greeley less so. As Emily Dickinson said, ‘Tell ALL the truth, but tell it slant/ Success in circuit lies.”

Will there be other Selena mysteries and if so what can we expect and when?

Yes. I’m working on the third story in the series and I hope to have a draft completed by the end of summer 2011. I’d expect it might be published in Spring or Summer 2012.

After several life insurance clients die in rapid succession, Selena De La Cruz learns their policies were recently sold to a "life settlement" broker for their cash value, with the full death benefits converted to bonds and paid to third party investors. Though such a practice is legal, Selena suspects the clients were murdered to guarantee a high return on the ‘death bonds.’

I’m in a research-and-outline stage at the moment.

Thanks for having me as a guest, Wendy! Your readers can find me at and my blog, and they can email me at

Thanks, John. Can't wait to read Selena's story.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mitch Malone Mondays - Gerald M. Weinberg

Today I get to pick the brain of a techie, Jerry Weinberg also know as Gerald M. Weinberg, author. I've got some great questions for him on problems I've been having with some computer systems so I'm going to jump right in. You don't mind if I call you a geek do you.

Jerry: Why would I mind such a flattering compliment?

You have tons of books out in both fiction and nonfiction. What made you decide to write fiction after a successful career in consulting and writing computer and self-help novels?

Jerry: Actually, I decided to write fiction long before I published any nonfiction--I just didn't sit down and write any. That's not completely true. I wrote one novel and threw it away (actually, I kept a copy, but I'm afraid to look at it today.

Then a decade later, I wrote another and actually sent it to a publisher. The editor sent me a 5-page, single-spaced letter telling me in great detail what I needed to do to improve the manuscript. I was devastated, not understanding that if an editor takes the time to write you a 5-page letter, he must like the book very, very much. Certainly, later in life when I did some editorial work, I never wrote even a three-page letter to the best submissions.

So, I shut down my fiction for another two decades, until I was rich enough to afford rejections. I received some helpful feedback, and was wise enough just to learn from it and keep writing. That's where I am today-writing and learning.

"The Aremac Project" intrigues me for a number of reasons. I live in the Midwest and about three hours from Chicago. You have terrorists blowing up things? Tell me about that.

Jerry: I was born in Chicago, and when in high school (Senn High), I cut school
rather regularly and explored the city, up, down, and sideways. I knew how I felt about landmarks disappearing (not because of terrorists, but because of greedy developers), so I figured it would be a great way to extort money from the city, with (intentionally) killing anybody.

You say they have a machine that can read minds. Boy, I would love to have that when I'm interviewing the police chief and he doesn't want to give me any information. Does it come in a handheld model? With all your skills, could that be possible?

Jerry: Shortly after The Aremac Project was published, I received an email from a professor out West who was trying to build such a machine. In the book, and in his lab, the Aremac (backwards camerA) pretty much fills up a room, but the history of technology shows how electronic ware gets smaller and smaller rather quickly. When I started programming computers, I worked with the largest computer in the world (at that time). I had about 10% of all the computing power in the world literally under my thumb. The machine filled a large room, and now I can hold a million-times more powerful machine in the palm of my hand. So, yes, an Aremac will be built, and then it will be miniaturized. We just don't know the exact time scale.

The two main characters are grad students and one of them has a life threatening side effect from this invention. Should they be messing around with this stuff unsupervised?

Jerry: Well, they are supervised, but their supervisor is an arrogant, stupid, jerk.

Now in a just a second we will get to my computer questions, but first I want people to know where to find all your books: Now you all go check out the books, about my computer....

Jerry: Yes, about your computer. You bought it yesterday? Yes? Well, it's obsolete, so scrap it and buy one that's up-to-date. Thanks for the interview.