Thursday, 27 April 2023

LJ Sellers

Even though I write fiction—30 novels so far—I’m a feature news junkie. I ignore most reporting about everyday crime, but I love the quirky stuff, especially chain-of-event stories. Some are so interesting or unbelievable that I scour the details and can’t stop thinking about the circumstances. When that happens, I know the crime or character belongs in my next book. Certain stories about social or cultural events hit me the same way, and when those things occur around the same time, I start asking, What if...?

For AfterStrike, the inciting article was about a woman who’d been hit by lightning. At first, she thought she was unharmed, so the ER doctors released her, unconcerned. But over time, her memory started to fail, and she experienced headaches, nerve pain, and mental fog. Medical experts kept telling her she was fine and that her symptoms were likely caused by stress. Sound familiar? Eventually she lost her job, her health, and her spouse. But in time, she found a support group (Lightning Strike & Electrical Shock Survivors), which helped her recover, at least emotionally. The group, which holds a yearly convention, is fascinating in itself, and I knew I had to explore her journey.

That compulsion was solidified a few months later when I read a second article about a lightning strike survivor, then met (and danced with) a man with no arms. As a child he’d climbed an electrical pole, and his limbs had been blown off by an intense shock. Clearly, the universe wanted me to tell their stories.

AfterStrike by LJ SellersAround the same time, a headline in a prominent news magazine caught my attention. The subtitle about how a “family bloodied itself to pocket six million” sucked me in. I absorbed every fascinating detail, wondering how anyone could get caught up in such a scam. I’m dying to share some specifics—such as the scary bag of tools the patriarch carried—but I also don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it yet. Some of the suspense builds from not knowing those oddities until the end.

To develop a thriller plot, I started bouncing those ideas off each other to see how they could interact. I considered writing about the support group as amateur detectives, but quickly rejected the concept. I wanted the story to be a standalone...and intensely compelling. The more I plotted, the more I realized I needed a law enforcement character. Why not bring in an undercover FBI agent my readers’ already love? So halfway through, Agent Dallas gets involved and cranks up the heat.

The story is set in my homeland, the Pacific Northwest, with scenes in Portland, Oregon, and Tacoma, Washington. But the location isn’t particularly relevant. Crime and fraud occur everywhere, and so do lightning strikes. In fact, there are around 240,000 lightning strike incidents every year around the world, with 2,000 deaths. Another unexpected detail: Several members of the LS&ESS group have been hit twice.

With a multiple timeline structure, AfterStrike is the most challenging novel I’ve written. Readers also say it’s my best work, and the response has been amazing. In addition to enjoying the story for its own sake, I hope people will come away with more compassion for those around them who might be suffering in silence from shocking invisible injuries.

L.J. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mysteries—a four-time winner of the Readers Favorite Awards. She also pens the high-octane Agent Dallas series, the Extractors series, and provocative standalone thrillers. Sellers also writes thriller scripts, including the true story of how she rescued her grandchildren from a dangerous cult in Costa Rica. She resides in Eugene, Oregon, where many of her 30 novels are set.

Shocking True Details Make Great Fiction
L.J. Sellers
Monday, 17 April 2023

David Baldacci photo by Allen Jones

"Book banning and book burning...unfortunately, have a long shelf life. And readers know neither has ever had good historical outcomes, quite the reverse."

I was born and raised in heavily segregated Richmond, Virginia, the old capital of the Confederacy. I grew up with people who, to this day, believe the “old ways” were best, and we should make all due haste to return to them. What perhaps saved me from a similar fate was reading. I would go to the library and learn about folks who didn't look, speak, learn, or pray like me, but we shared the common core of humanity.

When I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I didn't realize it was just the warmup for Huck Finn, and his momentous acceptance of choosing an eternity in hell over ratting out his friend, who happened to be a Black slave. Harper Lee continued my education with To Kill A Mockingbird, but her “savior” story had limitations and suffered from what I would term “blinder boundaries” of a white person writing about the Black experience in America. However, Native Son by Richard Wright, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin brought it all home for me and fueled my escape from a life perspective that still engages far too many.

Baldwin Ellison Wright © Montage JA : Ulf Andersen / Aurimages via AFP

James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright © Montage JA : Ulf Andersen / Aurimages via AFP

My belief is that readers are more far tolerant, curious, open-minded, and willing to change their minds when presented with compelling evidence than are nonreaders. Those who embrace books have a firm context within which to place and measure current events. Two such examples are book banning and book burning, which, unfortunately, have a long shelf life. And readers know neither has ever had good historical outcomes, quite the reverse.

Opening a book for me is a welcoming invitation into the author's imagination. As a reader I longed to be a writer, the one whose imagination others would be invited to visit. When I write a book, I give readers a template only. And a book is never depleted to zero until the last reader experiences it. The half-life of uranium has nothing on books!

Next time you open a book, appreciate the work and discipline that went into it. And then sit back and commence to lay your own imprimatur on the story—it's a way to keep books alive forever, which should be our sacred duty.

David Baldacci on Reading for an Open Mind
David Baldacci
Friday, 14 April 2023

Mystery writer Anne Perry passed away on April 10, 2023, at the age of 84, at a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a decline in health and a heart attack in December 2022.

Perry published her first book, The Cater Street Hangman, in in 1979. It featured detecting duo Victorian police officer Thomas Pitt and his eventual wife, Charlotte Ellison, and launched an accomplished mystery-writing career that would go on to span four decades, put 26 million copies of her novels into print worldwide, and earn Perry an Edgar Award (for best short story “Heroes” in 2000), the Premio de Honor Aragón Negro award, and inclusion in The Times “100 Masters of Crime” list.

Despite her well-earned fame as a novelist, Perry’s true-life association with crime often threatened to overshadow her career accomplishments. Born in London as Juliet Marion Hulme in 1938, she was 15 years old and living in Christchurch, New Zealand, with her family when she was convicted in the murder of Honorah Parker, the mother of Perry’s childhood best friend, Pauline Yvonne Parker.

The Cater Street Hangman by Anne PerryThe crime and the trial was much sensationalized at the time, with a media focus on Hulme and Parker’s intense attachment to one another and the gruesomeness of Honorah Parker’s death by bludgeoning. Hulme served 5 years in prison as a juvenile, and was given a new identity upon her release. She eventually moved to Scotland, then, in 1967, to California in the United States, where Perry fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

Perry had already enjoyed success as a mystery writer for more than two decades, when in 1994, her past came to light around the time Peter Jackson’s film based on the real-life crime, Heavenly Creatures, was released. Perry found herself once again reluctantly in the media spotlight. In a 2003 interview for the Guardian, she said, “It seemed so unfair. Everything I had worked to achieve as a decent member of society was threatened. And once again my life was being interpreted by someone else. It had happened in court when, as a minor, I wasn't allowed to speak and I heard all these lies being told. And now there was a film, but nobody had bothered to talk to me. I knew nothing about it until the day before release.”

Perry’s own work often dealt with themes of morality, revenge, and repentance. In addition to her long-running (32 novels) Charlotte and Thomas Pitt historical series, she authored a Daniel Pitt spinoff series (featuring the couple’s grown son). The sixth installment of Daniel’s adventures, The Fourth Enemy, hit book shelves in the United States just a day after Perry’s passing.

Perry was also the pen behind the much-beloved Hester and William Monk series set in Victorian London, beginning with The Face of a Stranger (1990), for which she completed 25 books in all. Her readers always looked forward to her annual Christmas books, and enjoyed the writer’s other series, including her WWI series, and her most recent, featuring Elena Standish, a photographer pre-WWII, which Perry began in 2019 with A Death in Focus.

There is moment in Standish’s second book, A Question of Betrayal, in which Perry pehaps says it better than anyone else: “Pieces of our lives being chipped away reminds us of our own fragility, and how precious life is."


Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Series
The Cater Street Hangman (1979)
Callander Square (1980)
Paragon Walk (1981)
Resurrection Row (1981)
Rutland Place (1983)
Bluegate Fields (1984)
Death in the Devil's Acre (1985)
Cardington Crescent (1987)
Silence in Hanover Close (1988)
Bethlehem Road (1990)
Highgate Rise (1991)
Belgrave Square (1992)
Farrier's Lane (1993)
The Hyde Park Headsman (1994)
Traitors Gate (1995)
Pentecost Alley (1996)
Ashworth Hall (1997)
Brunswick Gardens (1998)
Bedford Square (1999)
Half Moon Street (2000)
The Whitechapel Conspiracy (2001)
Southampton Row (2002)
Seven Dials (2003)
Long Spoon Lane (2005)
Buckingham Palace Gardens (2008)
Betrayal at Lisson Grove (U.S. title: Treason at Lisson Grove) (2011)
Dorchester Terrace (2012)
Midnight at Marble Arch (2013)
Death on Blackheath (2014)
The Angel Court Affair (2015)
Treachery at Lancaster Gate (2016)
Murder on the Serpentine (2016)

Daniel Pitt Series
Twenty-One Days (2018)
Triple Jeopardy (2019)
One Fatal Flaw (2020)
Death with a Double Edge (2021)
Three Debts Paid (2022)
The Fourth Enemy (2023)

Hester Latterly and William Monk Series
The Face of a Stranger (1990)
A Dangerous Mourning (1991)
Defend and Betray (1992)
A Sudden, Fearful Death (1993)
The Sins of the Wolf (1994)
Cain His Brother (1995)
Weighed in the Balance (1996)
The Silent Cry (1997)
A Breach of Promise (alt. title: Whited Sepulchres) (1997)
The Twisted Root (1999)
Slaves of Obsession (alt. title: Slaves and Obsession) (2000)
A Funeral in Blue (2001)
Death of a Stranger (2002)
The Shifting Tide (2004)
Dark Assassin (2006)
Execution Dock (2009)
Acceptable Loss (2011)
A Sunless Sea (2012)
Blind Justice (2013)
Blood on the Water (2014)
Corridors of the Night (2015)
Revenge in a Cold River (2016)
An Echo of Murder (2017)
Dark Tide Rising (2018)
Elena Standish Series Death in Focus (2019)
A Question of Betrayal (2020)
A Darker Reality (2021)
A Truth To Lie For (2022)
The Traitor Among Us (forthcoming, 2023)

The World War I series
No Graves As Yet (2003)
Shoulder the Sky (2004)
Angels in the Gloom (2005)
At Some Disputed Barricade (2006)
We Shall Not Sleep (2007)

The Christmas stories
A Christmas Journey (2003)
A Christmas Visitor (2004)
A Christmas Guest (2005)
A Christmas Secret (2006)
A Christmas Beginning (2007)
A Christmas Grace (2008)
A Christmas Promise (2009)
A Christmas Odyssey (2010)
A Christmas Homecoming (2011)
A Christmas Garland (2012)
A Christmas Hope (2013)
A New York Christmas (2014)
A Christmas Escape (2015)
A Christmas Message (2016)
A Christmas Return (2017)
A Christmas Revelation (2018)
A Christmas Gathering (2019)
A Christmas Resolution (2020)
A Christmas Legacy (2021)
A Christmas Deliverance (2022)

Tathea (2000)
Come Armageddon (2002)

Timepiece Series (young adult novels)
Tudor Rose (2011)
Rose of No Man's Land (2011)
Blood Red Rose (2012)
Rose Between Two Thorns (2012)

Other Books
The One Thing More (2000)
A Dish Taken Cold (2001)
I'd Kill for That (2004, co-written by multiple authors)
Letters from the Highlands (2004)
Heroes (2011)
The Sheen on the Silk: A Novel (2010)
The Scroll (2014)

Short Story Anthologies
Death by Horoscope (2001, edited by Perry)
Much Ado About Murder (2002, edited by Perry)
Death by Dickens (2004, edited by Perry)
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Biblical Mystery Stories (2005, edited by Perry)

Anne Perry (October 28, 1938–April 10, 2023), Dies at Age 84
Mystery Scene