Tag Archives: Cleveland

A series of grotesque murders ravages an institution for juvenile delinquents

Suffer the Children, by Lisa Black. Kensington Books. 320 pages. Hardcover $26.00.

This latest addition to the Gardiner and Renner Thriller series finds the skilled and dedicated forensics specialist Maggie Gardiner in a highly claustrophobic, menacing situation. She and her Cleveland police force colleagues – Jack Renner and his partner, Riley – visit an advanced multi-purpose institution to investigate what turns out to be the first in a series of murders. 

The Firebird Center for Children and Adolescents is a state-of-the-art juvenile detention center, part school and part prison. The inmate-pupils are grouped by age, by learning skills, and by social redeemability. Most, but not all, are victims of abuse, and too many are capable of abusive behavior. Few will ever be normal, but they might be able to stay out of trouble and lead productive lives. In some, sharp intelligence is warped toward brutal psychotic behavior. These are high-risk kids, to put it mildly.

They have psychological switches that go on and off, affecting behavior in unpredictable ways. They are master manipulators who can act normal.

They live in a controlled environment run by security personnel, therapists, and educators with special training. The institution’s leaders are constrained by delicate legal issues and marginal budgets.

Lisa Black, photo by Susan M. Klingbeil

Maggie’s task – discerning, collecting, and interpreting forensic evidence – is one center of interest. The other is how well Ms. Black uses Maggie’s reactions as a lens to enlighten readers about the nature of Firebird, including the personalities of individual children and staffers. Seeing what goes on there, even short of murder, is a harrowing experience. The admirable motives and skills of the professionals seem buried under a cloud. The inmates and the jailors share a no-win situation, and Lisa Black shows us why.

Are various children killing one another? Is a junior mastermind serial killer committing these horrendous crimes? If so, who is it? How are the victims chosen? Where will the evidence point? What will the motive be? Is it anything beyond blind, ungovernable aggression? . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 10, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 11 Naples and  Bonita Springs editions, and the October 18 Charlotte County edition, click here: Florida WeeklySuffer the Children

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

A trio of gruesome murders raises questions about Wall Street shenanigans

Perish, by Lisa Black. Kensington. 320 pages. Hardcover $26.00.

This is Ms. Black’s third Gardiner and Renner novel, and there are some signs that it might be the last. I hope not. These thrillers are so reliably macabre, so brimming with fascinating forensic detail, and so well-crafted that I’d hate to see this odd couple break up. This one begins with a bang and never lets up.

Cleveland forensic expert Maggie Gardiner has never seen a body so decimated. The gorgeous leader of the Sterling Financial operation has been pretty much shredded. Although blood is all around, the clever killer has left no trace of his (or her) entrance or exit. Nothing has been stolen. Nothing revealing has been left behind. The kind of forensic evidence that is Maggie’s bread and butter just isn’t there. No break-in. No furniture tossing. The most curious item is a suspicious statement, in plain view, of a $600,000,000 Panamanian account in Joanna’s name.

Lisa Black

How did this young woman put together such a fortune? Did she make enemies in the process?

Secretive Joanna Moorehouse’s lacerated throat seems a gruesome icon of the cutthroat world in which she has become a major player. Who would want her dead? Those who lost their homes by being conned into taking out unaffordable mortgages? Or who had supposed fixed-rate loans turned into adjustable ones? Perhaps. How about her business rivals? Or maybe members of the firm who might ascend to the throne? Did she dump her boy-toy?

Working with the police team of Jack Renner and Tom Riley, Maggie needs to find the answer. Sorting through the possible suspects connected with Sterling Financial means sorting through the intricacies of their work practices. To open readers to this world, which echoes the situation leading to the 2008 financial collapse, Ms. Black gives us an amazingly readable lesson in the shoddy business of bundled mortgage derivatives and related financial chicanery. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 25, 2018  Naples and Palm Beach editions of Florida Weekly, click here:  Florida Weekly – Perish

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Imperiled newspaper industry sets the stage for desperation and doom

Unpunished, by Lisa Black. Kensington Books. 320 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

This is the second title in Ms. Black’s Gardiner and Renner Thriller series, following That Darkness. It is a fascinating tale of serial killings linked by their setting: a large (but shrinking) Cleveland newspaper. Like all of Ms. Black’s novels, it is loaded with engaging forensic analysis. When the copy editor of the “Cleveland Herald” is found hanging above the print area assembly line, investigator Maggie Gardener quickly concludes that what looks at first like a suicide is certainly a murder. unpunished

It is the first of four, linked for the most part by crime scene and method. Strangulation precedes the pretense of a hanging. The victims are connected to the newspaper, and the newspaper is in trouble with or without them. Is someone trying to destroy the newspaper, or destroy those responsible for its likely demise? Is the perpetrator a stranger or an insider? The murders suggest that the killer has easy access and familiarity with work routines.

Unpunished offers three centers of interest. Primary is Maggie’s pursuit of forensic evidence leading to a suspect. Next is the detailed presentation of the newspaper industry’s seemingly irreversible decline, caused by a complex, toxic mixture of cultural and technological change. And finally, we have Jack Renner – a vigilante killer who is also an officer on the Cleveland police force.

Maggie knows Jack’s hidden history, and the reader knows that Jack has assassinated a teenage psychopathic killer who knew how to beat the system. What the system can’t handle, Jack Renner will take on. Maggie has an odd respect for Jack’s sense of justice, and he has a hold on Maggie that keeps her silent about his doings.

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Seems as if the newspaper is up for sale. Only a large influx of money can save it – or at least postpone the inevitable. Those who are in the know are frantically working to secure some benefit from the coming changes. One is doing disguised insider trading, buying stock shares like crazy, assuming the takeover will foster a spike – a profit that will ensure his survival after the inevitable crash.

Another is falsifying circulation numbers to keep the purchase price of the newspaper up and to make sure a deal goes through.

Soon, however, the new owners will insist on shrinking the staff. Which jobs are at stake? Where can one go when the whole industry is collapsing? . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the January 25, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Unpunished

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Cape Coral investigator/crime writer launches a new thriller series

That Darkness, by Lisa Black. Kensington Books. 336 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

Forensic thriller author Lisa Black has launched a new series with a new lead character and a new publisher. Continuing to work as a crime scene investigator and latent printed examiner for the Cape Coral Police Department, Ms. Black places her new series in Cleveland, the setting for her earlier Teresa MacLean series and another two-part series before it. Billed as “A Gardiner and Renner Novel,” this series launch develops through alternating scenes, the narrator sometimes standing behind (and entering the mind of) forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner and sometimes taking us into police detective Jack Renner’s frightening consciousness.  thatdarkness-FINAL

Both are working the same crimes, but the nature of their work is in sharp contrast. Or is it?

Jack Renner is a vigilante with a badge. He has made it his mission to assassinate psychopaths who can beat the legal system. He is saving lives and, in his own mind, making the world safer by ending the lives of those rapists, killers, child abusers and other criminals who have escaped justice. He will bring the needed justice.

Jack is capable and dedicated. He has developed a system and created the isolated, hidden chambers where he can mete out this justice. Being part of a police department gives him access to information that is invaluable for his goal. In fact, it has been his experience as a policeman – a witness to the routine failures of the system – that has led him to his own personal madness. If that’s what it is.

Maggie is a dedicated, experienced scientist-technician who is very good at her trade and who enjoys her role in the crime-fighting profession. She is motivated by her own curiosity and by the magnitude of the crimes that she is assigned to investigate. Like Jack, her work takes up way too much of her life.

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Readers will suspect early on that Maggie’s pursuit of evidence to find and convict a serial killer will lead to suspecting someone on the inside of the law enforcement system. Watching the pieces fall into place that will lead her to suspect Jack is made possible by Ms. Black’s masterful handling of plot, character, and scientific method. Beyond these centers of interest, the author has crafted a work of fascinating psychological depth.

Author Lisa Black is quite self-consciously a debunker of the glamor mythology surrounding CSI-type television dramas. In her books, we encounter a true authenticity of forensic Q & A. – the careful collection, examination, and evaluation of physical evidence. No miracles. No glamor. Just hard work and perhaps a special kind of trained intuition. In this regard, “That Darkness” is one of her best. The work sometimes may be tedious to Maggie, but the process described never becomes tedious to the reader. Rather, it is magnetic. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 27, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 28 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – That Darkness

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Forensic workplace becomes crime scene in dazzling thriller

Close to the Bone, by Lisa Black. Severn House. 224 pages. Hardcover $28.95.

The seventh title in Ms. Black’s Theresa McLean series of forensic mysteries packs a wallop that will knock you out. Because the pattern of killings reveals a common denominator connecting the victims, we not only have a serial killer on the loose but one whose crimes will bring readers an unusual and fascinating intimacy with the workings of evidence collection and handling. Someone is after Theresa’s colleagues. They have knowledge that he needs, and he will kill to get it. In fact, he has killed to get it. CloseToBoneCover

When Theresa returns to the Medical Examiner’s headquarters late one night, she discovers a blood trail that leads to a dead deskman. Another deskman is missing. The word “Confess,” scribed in blood, is positioned over the corpse.

Don’t feel sorry for me when I claim that this is a difficult book to write about. It is so well-crafted, tightly knit, and intelligently plotted that it is difficult to address its virtues without giving away too much and spoiling it for other readers. However, I will soldier on:

Another victim is soon discovered, leading Theresa to find a link to a yet another murder, this one ten year’s old, of a records secretary. By now it is clear that Theresa’s colleagues are on the killer’s list. How many? When does her number come up?

One thing is becoming clear. People who handle crime evidence – collect it, log it in, examine it, safeguard it, and interpret it – are in big trouble until the killer is apprehended.

What Ms. Black does so very well is take us through all the processes of the evidence journey. It is not the field so glamorously distorted in television drama. We learn about fingerprints, DNA, weapon identification, and changes in analysis and documentation brought about by digital technology. We see the immediate environment: lighting, storage cabinets, gurneys, and the layout of the workplace from deskmen’s desk to the property department to the autopsy suite.

We sense something like moral shadings in the odors of chemicals and decomposition. Throughout, Lisa Black’s descriptive powers are spellbinding. We learn: “The only nightmare-inducing items in the morgue’s basement were the plastic quart containers which looked like take-out soup but which were actually tissue sections of past victims. They would be kept for five years and then destroyed.”

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Theresa, the ultimate professional, is kept busy processing this unique crime scene and waving away the police who keep leaving their own evidence (fingerprints, etc.) all over, complicating her work.

Just at the right time, the killer is revealed – but he is far from apprehended. With this revelation, it becomes clear how he has such an intimate knowledge of the workplace, its personnel, layout, and procedures. He has been after a particular piece of evidence – a piece of custom diamond jewelry. Why he needs it relates to the ten year old murder case that had been solved via a confession. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 20, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, the November 26 Fort Myers edition, the November 27 Bonita Springs and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, and the December 4 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here Florida Weekly – Close to the Bone 1 and here Florida Weekly – Close to the Bone 2

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Chemistry is king in an explosive forensic thriller

PriceOfInnocence

“The Price of Innocence,” by Lisa Black. Severn House.  240 pages.  $28.95.

This sixth entry in Ms. Black’s Teresa MacLean Mystery series, is one of the best. The author sets the excitement bar high with a risky beginning. Just as Teresa, Cleveland forensic specialist, finishes her note-taking at the site of an apparent suicide, the building explodes! That’s starting a novel off with a bang. Can the thrill thermometer be kept in the high (danger) range? Somehow, Lisa Black manages to do just that.

The Bingham is an older building recently repurposed for lavish downtown apartments. However, the economic downturn has left it with many vacancies. There are also some unusual tenants on the ground and basement levels. One of these is the Medical Examiner’s Office, for which Teresa works. Now, “the relevant items from every homicide . . . had been buried, at best, or disintegrated at worst.” Was this explosion a purposeful act aimed at destroying evidence and records?

A peculiar chemical odor, also experienced during Teresa’s investigation of other crimes, suggests the nature of the explosive, eventually linking it to chemicals also used in meth labs.

The next day, Teresa is sent to investigate a likely suicide in a mansion on the edge of Lake Erie. A uniformed policeman is also assigned to the case. They discuss the Bingham building investigation and the proximity of the explosion to the office/laboratory of a wealthy entrepreneur-inventor named Lambert. Then Teresa pursues her inspection and evidence collection and Officer Davis goes outside. Suddenly she hears loud noises and finds a lifeless Davis on the ground – shot twice.

Events, violent and otherwise, continue to pile up, and unexpected connections among those involved lead back twenty-five years to a fire – possibly a crime – at a Cleveland State University student housing facility.

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

At the police officer’s funeral, Teresa meets the handsome accountant David Madison, a man recently disgraced by his wife’s sexual liaison with a teenaged student. David is at first a sympathetic character. His romantic overtures toward Teresa are successful, even though she remains on guard, wondering about his connection with the murdered policeman.

More and more threats and murders seem connected to a Cleveland State group of friends a generation back.  But where is the hard evidence? Teresa doggedly pursues it, though there are many distractions and false trails. Some of these are the inevitable stuff of crime solving; some result from the intentional misdirection of Teresa’s efforts by others. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the February 5, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 6 Bonita Springs and Naples editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Black’s Innocence 1 and here: Florida Weekly – Black’s Innocence 2

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Telling details build suspense in forensic investigation

Blunt Impact, by Lisa Black. Severn House. 224 pages. $28.95.

This is the fifth title in Ms. Black’s Theresa MacLean series, and they keep getting better and better. The main character grows more interesting, the forensic detail more intriguing, and the suspense more intense. When an attractive young woman, a cement “finisher” on a massive downtown Cleveland construction project, is found to have fallen to her death from the 23rd floor, the first question is whether her fall was accidental or was she pushed. Theresa’s forensic detective work makes a case for murder, and now the questions are by whom and why. bluntcoverimage

What’s most curious is that this was not a workday incident, but something that happened in the middle of the night when the site was closed and secured. What was she doing up there in the first place?

The deceased, Samantha Zebrowski, seems to have been well-liked by her co-workers, but co-workers and supervisors are the most likely to have access to the site after working hours.

Because “Sam” was well-known for frequenting neighborhood bars and often leaving in male company, one could conjecture that such a late night encounter led to violence. However, other possible motives come up as the investigation continues and further evidence is processed.

Perhaps her death was orchestrated as a symbolic act by a crazed member of the protest group whose members didn’t want what they considered to be an inhumane penitentiary in the heart of the city.

There are a lot of perhapses. And there is another center of narrative interest that connects to the primary one. Sam’s eleven year old daughter Anna witnessed the crime. In fact, Anna witnesses a lot of things. This sensitive, perceptive, and lonely child is a wanderer. She regularly sneaks out of her bedroom window, climbs down a tree, and explores the city. Though warned not to, “Ghost,” as she is nicknamed, puts herself in the way of danger. Readers get to know her well, as many of the novel’s chapters are presented through her point of view.

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Ghost’s description of the man who struggled with her mother partly shapes the investigation. What drives Ghost to participate in the investigation – in fact, to conduct her own – is a sense of responsibility and, now that she has no mother, to discover her father. The stories she has been told about her father have only confused her; they’ve been lies meant to protect her. Obviously, the reader is also hooked on these questions: who is Ghost’s father? Did he have reason to murder Sam?

The investigation is pursued by Theresa with the assistance of her cousin Frank, who is a police detective, and Frank’s partner, Angela. The interaction among these three along with the larger workings of a major city police department and legal system brings in a great deal of procedural detail. Still, it is the details of the forensics work that is so strongly appealing. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 10, 2013 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the April 11 Bonita Springs edition, and the April 18 Naples edition,click here Florida Weekly – Blunt Impact 1 and here Florida Weekly – Blunt Impact 2

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Dorothy Mills hits a home run with baseball novel

“Drawing Card,” by Dorothy Seymour Mills. McFarland. 265 pages. $25 trade paperback. 

Dorothy Seymour Mills

Sitting down with a new book by Dorothy Mills is always a rewarding experience. In her latest, she mixes two of her areas of expertise – historical fiction and baseball history – to provide an unusual and provocative novel. The protagonist, Annie Cardello, is a young woman of Sicilian heritage whose youthful passion is playing baseball. 

Readers will be familiar with the common meaning of “drawing card,” a person or attraction that lures people to a place of entertainment. In her short career in baseball, Annie Cardello, her last name shortened to its first syllable, earned the nickname “Drawing Card” as she was skillful and colorful enough to be a drawing card for her team and for her sport. 

Mills’ portrait of teenage Annie adroitly playing women’s baseball in a Cleveland area industrial league is vivid and exciting. The character’s enthusiasm is delightful. However, in fictional Annie’s time there was far less of a future in this kind of athletic pursuit than there is today. She had no place to go with her talent. No way, that is, to be true to herself.

The man with the power to open professional baseball up to women, Judge Landis, would not honor contracts between female athletes and the clubs and leagues he ruled. It’s easy to think that if had ruled in favor of women players, it would have been smooth sailing for the best of them. Of course, it would not have been. However, Annie takes the judge’s ruling hard. She swears vengeance. She feels that something within her has died.

Ms. Mills carries Annie’s life forward through the years of the Great Depression and the decades that follow. She marries into an upper-crust family, primarily to be in a position to support her own family. However, her husband, John Smith, turns out to be an uncontrollable abuser. By the time that they make a trip to her ancestral homeland of Sicily, Annie needs to be free of him – and she manages to manipulate his demise. The years that follow are ones of subservience to the influential Smith family and of mounting frustration. They are also years in which self-justification and guilt war within her.

Late revelations about money left for Annie without her knowledge only complicate her situation, as that money is owed to someone who would threaten her life and the lives of those around her to get what he wants.

Annie’s personal story is set into larger contexts in various ways. The most risky is the author’s decision to include time travel. We meet earlier incarnations of Annie’s competitive feminist spirit in ancient Greece (as Demetra) in the late Middle Ages (as Demona) and protesting the first modern Olympics held in 1898) (as Stamata). This is an interesting way of universalizing Annie’s dilemma, but it takes attention away from Annie herself. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the May 30, 2012 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 31 Naples edition, and the June 7 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – DrawingCard 1 pdf and here: Florida Weekly – DrawingCard 2 pdf

See also: https://philjason.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/dorothy-mills-throws-strikes-in-book-on-baseball-history/

And https://philjason.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/613/

And https://philjason.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/book-beat-54-naples-literary-news/

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

A forensic field day in Lisa Black’s Cleveland

“Trail of Blood,” by Lisa Black. William Morrow. 432 pages. $24.99 hardback; $7.99 mass market paperback.

Cape Coral writer Lisa Black has designed a rousing story with two timelines. One story tells of a serial killer operating in Depression-era Cleveland. The killer’s trademark? Beheading the corpse and (sometimes) removing other body parts from the victim’s torso. In today’s Cleveland, two corpses show up. One is a decayed body that turns up in an abandoned building about to be demolished. It seems to be the work of the infamous Torso Killer of the mid-1930s. What’s especially intriguing is that the torso proves to be the remains of a Cleveland policeman. The other body, newly deceased, looks like the work of a copycat – a Torso Killer wannabe.

The narration begins with the present-day perspective, though moving back and forth between forensic scientist Theresa MacLean’s investigations of both crimes. Once the investigations are well underway, the second time line opens up, following policeman James Miller as he investigates a crime at 4950 Pullman – the very place where he is found dead over 75 years later. From this point, Lisa Black develops the timelines in alternating chapters, bringing them closer together while doubling the novel’s suspense and interest.

In this way, the reader discovers two versions of Cleveland, two states of forensic science, and two stages of the railroad industry (an important element in the setting and plot). Ms. Black’s interest in fictional speculation about an actual series of crimes has brought her the challenge of creating, for part of her novel, an effective period piece. She has proven to be more than up to the task.

The killer (killers, actually) had done a fantastic job of covering his tracks. In spite of the title (which ultimately takes on an unexpected meaning), the blood trail is almost nonexistent. One great pleasure of this book, the third in Ms. Black’s Theresa MacLean series, is the detailed yet gripping presentation of the forensic investigation. The author, an experienced forensic professional, knows exactly what is possible and probable in such matters and shuns the spectacular and improbable overreach of those popular forensic-based television shows.

A primary question that Theresa has to solve: how does the killer move his victims from the crime scenes to the locations where they are discovered without being seen? Without leaving a clue? Related questions: What is the meaning of the dismemberments? How, in an act of extreme bravado, does he pull off yet another murder at a scene swarming with police officers who expect it?

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the August 10, 2011 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 11 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Lisa Black (2). For pdf files, click here Black pdf – 1 and here Black pdf – 2.

For additional reviews of Lisa Black’s work, including her earlier books as Elizabeth Becka, click on the following links:

https://philjason.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/book-beat-64-elizabeth-becka/

Ft.Myers magazine – Lisa Black

Florida Weekly – Lisa Black

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors

Lisa Black: Top Talent in Top Form

With “Evidence of Murder,” Cape Coral author Lisa Black leaps to the forefront of contemporary mystery novelists. Her protagonist, Cleveland forensic specialist Theresa MacLean, introduced in last year’s “Takeover,” is a new star in the firmament of crime solvers. LisaBlack-2

When Ms. MacLean’s cousin, Detective Frank Patrick, asks her to help him investigate what seems to be a missing persons case, Ms. MacLean complains that she has “a building full of dead people” to examine. Soon enough, however, the missing Jillian Perry turns up dead. Though preliminary findings suggest suicide, other factors cast suspicion on that hypothesis.

To read the rest of this review as it appears in the September 3-9, 2009 edition of the Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Lisa Black

Bonus material: The following capsule biography and interview where prepared for newspaper publication but not used. You get it here exclusively on Phil Jason’s Web Site. See also: Elizabeth Becka and Ft.Myers magazine – Lisa Black

About Lisa Black

 Clevelander Lisa Black started writing fiction in grade school, and she kept on writing longer and more complex stories through high school and college. Shortly after graduating from John Carroll University in 1985, with a B.A. in Political Science, she completed her first full length novel. After too many years as a secretary for a gerontological institute, Black sought a change. She returned to college and earned a B.S. in Biology from Cleveland State University in 1993. After an internship at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office, she was hired full time in December of 1995.

at Cleveland Public Library

at Cleveland Public Library

 Several years later, having become an experienced forensic scientist, Black moved to Cape Coral when her husband persuaded her to escape the Cleveland weather. She began working for the Cape Coral Police Department in 2000, and she also became more and more occupied with her writing, which now drew on the material she had learned as a forensic specialist. As Elizabeth Becka, she published two novels: “Trace Evidence” in 2005 and “Unknown Means” in 2008.

The vagaries of the publishing business led this well-reviewed writer to change her publisher and her writing name. Lisa Black brought out the hostage thriller “Takeover” late last year, and now we have “Evidence of Murder,” officially released on September 8.

PKJ:  Do you outline?

LB: I don’t outline formally, but I’ll jot down a sequence of events. I have to know what’s going to happen from the beginning to the end, with all major plot points. And once I start, I keep myself to some sort of word count schedule, with time off only for vacations and major holidays. I have a fear that if I stop, I won’t be able to start again.

PKJ: Do you stop to polish sentences, paragraphs, chapters? Or do you push through an entire draft and then revise the whole thing?

LB: I’ll stop to polish something if I notice it, or go back and add or change something if it’s vitally important, but otherwise I like to go from start to finish and then revise the whole draft, usually twice.

PKJ: Do you do journal work? Character studies? Any kind of practice or warm-ups?

LB: No, I’m terrible! I should do all of that and I don’t. I’m trying to make myself do more prep work to make my characters deeper and more real, and to reduce rewriting (which I loathe).

PKJ: What parts of the writing process do you enjoy the most? — or find just plain hard work?

LB: I enjoy plotting it all out in my head beforehand. I’ll have this and that, but I still need a reason for this to happen…and you think and you go to work and you exercise and buy groceries and think some more and eventually it comes to you. Rewriting is plain hard work, which is why I loathe it. It’s also stressful because I find it impossible to know if my changes are making the book better or worse.

PKJ: Aside from forensic matters, which you already know plenty about and must keep up with on the job, what kinds of research have been necessary in your writing?

LB: I try to go to the places in Cleveland where my scenes take place, and I read books. I read a few books on hostage negotiation for Takeover, on the history of video games for Evidence of Murder, and on America during the Depression for the upcoming Past Crimes.

PKJ: You’ve been living, working, writing in Cape Coral for quite a while now. Any chance readers will see this town, or SW Florida, show up in a Lisa Black novel?

LB: It would be fun to bring her here on vacation. The differences in the climate alone would give me plenty to write about.

PKJ: Any hobbies or causes that you’d like to share with readers?

BL: Write to the troops with www.anysoldier.com! Otherwise my only hobbies are working out, reading, and going to Cleveland to visit my 90 year old mother. I’m very boring, I guess.

PKJ: What started you on the path to joining the mystery writer fraternity/sorority?

LB: I think it’s genetic. My grandfather was a juvenile probation officer. My grandmother read mysteries, my father read and tried to write them, and they’re all I’ve read for as long as I can remember.

PKJ: Most readers read for fun; many writers read to learn from other writers. What have you learned from the work of others?

LB: I learned from Jeffrey Deaver to stick to the story. I learned from Tami Hoag to have lots of emotion. I learned from Patricia Cornwell to have conflict from every facet of the character’s life. I don’t remotely succeed in putting these lessons to use in my writing, yet, but I’m working on it.

PKJ: How do you get into the heads of your villains?

LB: The villain is simply someone who wants something really, really bad, and isn’t going to stop at anything or anyone to get it. While the hero has all sorts of rules and conventions and other duties to deal with as they’re trying to solve the situation, and the villain doesn’t. So I look at things from their narrowly focused point of view, because their narrow point of view is what makes them scary.

PKJ: What’s worked for you regarding networking with other writers?

LB: A subgroup of Sisters in Crime called the Guppies (Great UnPublished). We have an email digest where we support each other and discuss questions about writing. That’s how I found critique partners, who were (and still are) invaluable.

PKJ: What are you working on now?

LB: A novel based on a true story about a serial killer who preyed on Clevelanders during the Great Depression.

Leave a comment

Filed under Authors and Books, Florida Authors